Tuesday, 7/31/12

NYT 3:28 
CS 5:16 (Sam) 
LAT 4:39 (Neville) 
Jonesin' untimed 

Michael (“Rex Parker”) Sharp’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 31 12 0731

Another day, another Batman reference in the Times crossword. This time it’s comics-as-literature Professor Sharp at the helm. HARVEY (“Two-Face”) DENT, SAINT NICK, CHICKEN SCRATCH, and RING-A-DING all end with words that connote minor damage sustained in COLLISIONS, which is a fancy word for CAR CRASHes. (And why isn’t CAR CRASH tied to the theme? Why is it just hiding over there like a large man behind a light pole?)

I like the mixed bag of theme entries—comic books, holidays, a colorful idiom, and Rat Pack slang. CHICKEN SCRATCH is juicy enough to warrant pushing the grid to 16 squares wide (to accommodate those 14 letters, centered). Am I the only one who holds off on completing D*N* when the clue is something like [Minor car damage]? I always want it to be DING, I’m always waiting for the DING, and it’s almost always DENT. I appreciate DING making the cut here.

Likes: COMPADRE, VICTROLA, CHURN OUT, VOCAB, and CESAR [___ Millan, TV’s “dog whisperer”]. I love that Cesar. Also nice to spice up a boring science suffix with a clue like [Suffix with spermato-]. Dislikes: What is a name like MOYER ([Jamie ___, oldest pitcher in major-league history to win a game]) doing in a Tuesday puzzle? I reckon it hurt Michael to have ELHI in his grid.

I should’ve had a faster solving time but I had a typo. Yes, I know the king was not known as HENRY O, and I know the director is not SPOKE LEE. Scanning for a typo, of course I started at the top of the grid.

53a: [Runner Sebastian] COE should be a little more familiar to people now that he’s addressed the world at the Olympics opening ceremonies. Seb, as they call him, is the chairman of the London games. Coe : London :: Romney : Salt Lake City?

Four stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Opening Act” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, July 31

Today’s puzzle features three 15-letter entries that begin with AC- and end with -T (thus, we are “opening” the word ACT three times over):

  • 20-Across: The [1992 country hit that catapulted line dancing into the mainstream] was Billy Ray Cyrus’s second greatest hit, ACHY-BREAKY HEART. Financially, his greatest hit was his daughter, Miley.
  • 41-Across: The [Bank calculation] isn’t TRANSACTION FEE, OVERDRAFT CHARGE, or MORTGAGE POINTS, but ACCRUED INTEREST. Over the years, I have accrued interest in many activities, but it never seems to show in my bank account.
  • 56-Across: If it’s [Within a stone’s throw], and if the stone is awfully small, then it’s just ACROSS THE STREET.

This grid reaches the conventional maximums for daily puzzles with 78 answers and 38 black squares. That’s usually a sign of constraining theme entries or some really juicy fill, but I don’t see much of either here. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the puzzle (the prefix ISO is as bad as it gets, and that’s hardly awful), but by the same token there’s not much there to make it pop. I did like TEXAS TEA, the [Black gold] I’m sure most people in my age cohort recognize from the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies.

The real highlight here was the use of duplicate clues, first with [Santa ___, California] for both ANA and ROSA, and then with the consecutive appearances of [The Emerald Isle] for both EIRE and ERIN at 62- and 63-Down, respectively.

Favorite entry = HIGH LIFE, the [Time of extravagance]. Favorite clue = [Jellied delicacy] for EEL. It’s often the unique clues for common crossword terms that entertain me most.

Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 31 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 31 12

Time to play the name game again. Do you know all four of the gents hinted at by this puzzle’s theme entries?

  • 17a. [One may spoil the whole bunch] ROTTEN APPLE
  • 24a. [State capital near the Comstock Lode]CARSON CITY
  • 38a. [Handy guy to have around, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme found in 17-. 24-. 50- and 52-Across] – JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
  • 50a. [Monetary assets] – CASH IN HAND
  • 62a. [Substitute player] – BENCH WARMER

The theme’s perfectly fine for a Tuesday. All well known people and phrases, so no complaints from me.

Did you see the CORGIs (also: corgwn! Welsh!) in the Queen’s sketch in the Olympic opening ceremony? So adorable! Yes, that was my first thought upon approaching that corner of this puzzle.

I just went to Google to determine if DO A CAMEO is a legitimate phrase. I stopped typing after “do a” and I got the barrel roll treatment. It seems to be popular enough in headlines, but there was a big question mark over my head while solving as I tried to figure out the beginning of that answer.

TWO A? Usually we just see ONE A, so I wrote that in instead. It made getting “NO HELP” pretty literal – I had no help. That’s a pretty common phrase on the Wheel; occasionally you hear it on the Clock Game on The Price is Right. Alex Trebek has a habit of saying [“No HARM, no foul”] when all three Jeopardy! players give an incorrect response, but I disagree with him, as it throws off relative scores which are key to wager for Final. But I digress.

AEC stands for the Atomic Energy Commission, which hasn’t been a thing for over 35 years. Not that that makes it less relevant or anything; that’s just to make me feel better for not knowing about it. Don’t worry; I do know what an H-BOMB is.

That’s all for today – CHEERIO!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Mangificent!”

Jonesin' crossword solution. 7 31 12 "Mangificent"

No, that’s not a typo in the puzzle’s title. It’s a hint: Just as switching the N and G will get you “magnificent,” the theme answers need to swap their N and G sounds to reveal the original words and phrases.

  • 15a. [Bruce Wayne’s status during speed dating sessions?], BAT-SINGLE. Bat signal.
  • 22a. [Cowboy philosophers?], RECKON GUYS. Recognize.
  • 36a, 39a. [Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s wife’s refusal?], I WON’T BE IN GOURD. “I won’t be ignored,” which I believe is Glenn Close’s menacing line in Fatal Attraction.
  • 49a. [Scrub down a Beatle?], LOOFA RINGO. Lou Ferrigno! When do you ever see wordplay based on Lou Ferrigno’s name?
  • 60a. [Malady brought on by incorrectly plugging in appliances?], PRONGOSIS. Prognosis.


  • 19a. [Marinade alternative], DRY RUB.
  • 1d. [Sanford of “The Jeffersons”], ISABEL. Clue written before her costar, Sherman Hemsley, died.
  • 6d. [Part of a Mr. Clean costume], BALD CAP. I don’t own one.
  • 9d. [Wherever, colloquially], TIMBUKTU. As in “Mapquest had me driving all the way to Timbuktu.”
  • 24d. [The last palindromic one was 2002], YEAR. Stay tuned for 2112, folks.
  • 38d. [“Seriously?!?”], “OH, COME ON!”
  • 50d. [Malt liquor size], FORTY. “Forty” doubles as a noun, as in “I’m drinking a forty.”

Oddest-looking crossing: YOANNA meets partial NBA ON.

3.5 stars.

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17 Responses to Tuesday, 7/31/12

  1. rex says:

    Three stars!

  2. Huda says:

    I think this is, hands down, Michael’s (aka rex parker) best NY Times puzzle. The theme was fun and it took a while to uncover it. And that CHICKEN SCRATCH in the middle was terrific!

    But the SW killed me. I think if you don’t know that RING A DING is a rat pack expression for having razzle-dazzle, that corner becomes quite tough for a Tuesday, with SCRIMS, MOYER, COINOP all taking some thinking. The rest was a breeze and very enjoyable. I liked the juxtaposition of CHURN OUT with HUNG ONTO, and NOISILY on top of CHICKEN SCRATCH…

    This GEEK smiled at the scientific notes scattered through the puzzle, with ANATOMIC crossing T-CELL, and with spermatoCYTE, COSINE, even NADIR… I was half expecting NEXT GEN sequencing to show up!

    My Quick & Dirty Index rates this as Medium-Challenging. But the Olympics can distort the early returns, so Medium is possible.

    Congratulations, Rex!

  3. Travis says:

    Yes, how dare they reference a record set 2 months ago. I want my baseball trivia from 80 years ago as crosswords intended.

    Kept staring at LICIT not buying that it was a real word. Than I realized it was illicit without the ‘il’. Still wasn’t convinced it was a real word.

  4. Jared says:

    I enjoyed being exactly on michael’s wavelength for this puzzle. I correctly wrote in the answers to 41d and 42d with either 0 or 1 crossings which is actually something for me.

  5. Gareth says:

    Very nice NYT, very Grabowski-esque! I don’t know why, I always think of her as the best at compiling a list of synonyms (although today’s aren’t quite) and repurposing them into fun phrases, this is up there! I sol-ed at “large man behind a light pole”. Was just the other day wondering why CESAR was never “Millan.” No more wondering for me then! Remember reading about that “surfeit of lampreys” – think the more precise cause was slightly more banal, off lampreys that led to dysentery?

  6. Evad says:

    I was afraid too today was confirming a whole week of Batman-themed puzzles. Nice set of phrases which have nothing to do with what can happen to rear ends. Liked the longer fill too–particularly the one-two POW of CHURN OUT and HUNG ONTO. Nice work, Rex!

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I actually thought this was a very good Tues. NYT, with a nice theme. One could complain about the obnoxious crossing of a Batman opponent with a talking bear, but it was gettable from the theme, and furthermore, to paraphrase a wise man, I suppose that to someone who knows it, it’s not BS.

  8. RK says:

    Sorry about that typo Amy.

    I didn’t know “scrims” or “docent” (yeah, I’m not well read) but I guessed right.

    Anyone see the documentary Wordplay? Any good? Happened upon it yesterday and it seemed interesting.

  9. dfan says:

    I thought the NYT was terrific. It didn’t have any particular crazy features, but it felt exceptionally well-crafted. As I went through it, I kept encountering cool answers and not encountering crosswordese.

  10. Matthew G. says:

    Jamie MOYER is a gimme to even the most casual baseball fans. He was famous for being old before he was old.

  11. Daniel Myers says:

    “He never smiled again and died of a surfeit of lampreys.” is how I remember, from school or childhood, the apocryphal phrase commemorating the demise of regal Henry. I’m unsure of its provenance.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    RK: Yes! Go watch Wordplay! I suspect many readers of this blog got into crosswords after watching Wordplay. And look for a curtseying B Division champion who followed that up by starting this blog.

  13. Martin says:

    I had lamprey once, in Portugal. It’s a very “meaty” fish, which is why it’s so popular in those places (and times) where it’s appreciated as food. It was appreciated by royalty and aristocrats in medieval Europe as a meat substitute for Lent. Lamprey was always prepared in a pie, simulating venison or other quadruped.

    The Romans also loved lamprey. The rich Roman kept lampreys in a fishpond to assure a supply of fresh ones. One famous Roman was childed for crying publically at the death of a lamprey he had promoted to the status of pet, when he hadn’t cried at the deaths of his first two wives. Another ordered a slave, who had broken a wineglass at a banquet honoring Caesar, to be feed to the lampreys in his pond. Rather than take it as a sign of ruthless strength, Caesar was grossed out. He made the slave a freeman, had all the wineglasses broken and ordered the fishpond filled.

    Lampreys are very primitive vertebrates, surviving 400,000,000 years, before fish evolved jaws. They are used in research because they have giant axons, large enough to be injected with interesting chemicals, that were lost in all other vertebrates. As far as I know, no recipe calls for injecting flavorings into the lamprey’s giant axon.

  14. Huda says:

    Yeah, lamprey’s are good for science… we’ve studied them in our lab. I had an evolutionary biologist in the lab who liked to study key nodes of divergence during evolution to figure out how various genes and their functions evolved, and we were studying endorphins and wanted to see what lampreys did with that! So, he would drive up to a station in Northern Michigan to collect lampreys– they live in the Great Lakes where they have caused a lot of damage. While in the lab, one of them sealed its mouth over the opening that allowed the efflux of the circulating water in their tanks and caused a big flood. So, not my favorite critters! And ugliest things you’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t eat them on a bet.

  15. Martin says:

    Lamprey is usually cooked in its blood. That was the bit I had to overcome, but it was really not bad.

    The lamprey’s even-more-primitive relative, the hagfish, is one I haven’t been able to sample. Hagfish are really disgusting. Their defense mechanism is the ability to turn water into slime at an amazing rate. A five-gallon bucket with an angry hagfish will become gel in a minute or so. The slime clogs the gills of any fish unlucky enough to try to eat a hagfish. They also enter wounded fish through the anus and eat them alive from the insides. Lovely lifestyle.

    They are so primitive that they don’t have a spine. Their endoskeleton consists of a skull. Very interesting living fossil. They exploit their spinelessness by literally tying themselves in knots. After sliming an enemy, they form an overhand knot behind the skull and slide the knot down the body to the tail, freeing themselves of the slime cocoon. They leave it as a present for the would-be predator and escape.

    Japanese and, especially, Koreans eat hagfish. and Korean cuisine uses the slime as a culinary foam. Maybe someday.

  16. Huda says:

    Ewww… All very ANATOMIC and ANAL…

    CHICKEN SCRATCHing is way more refined.

  17. rex says:

    Thanks, all. Feedback here and elsewhere has been interesting and useful, and it’s taken my mind off of how bollixed my vacation plans got today.


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