Wednesday, 8/1/12

NYT 3:26 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:32 (Sam) 
LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 

Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 1 12 0801

Watching women’s gymnastics tonight, I wanted Olga Korbut to join the party in this puzzle, but there are only so many Olga K’s you can fit in one crossword. Clever rationale for the theme: The ’70s self-help book I’M OK, YOU’RE OK is what any of these three people might say upon meeting one of the others. OMAR KHAYYAM, OLGA KURYLENKO, and OTTO KLEMPERER are the O.K. trio. A disparate assortment—a Persian (pre-)Renaissance man, a contemporary Ukrainian actress, and a German conductor and composer whose son was on Hogan’s Heroes. (Disparate ≠ bad; better to have three people from entirely different arenas than to have two similar and one an outlier.)

When I had *IN**O*LER at 11d, I was really hoping for a WINE COOLER instead of a LINT ROLLER, which is an [Accessory for a fastidious dresser] as well as an item not found in my house.

For those disconcerted by the Batman references in the Monday and Tuesday puzzles (in the wake of the Aurora, CO, shootings), here is GUN CONTROL as a counterbalance. Great crossword answer, as are everyone’s favorite pioneering lexicographer, Noah WEBSTER; a lazy-day HAMMOCK; “TSK, TSK“; and PAYPAL. Love the word DODGY and the chocolate source CACAO, too.

Not sure I knew there was such a thing as a FUR SEAL ([Flippered fish-eater with a double coat]). I struggled with 9d: [“Idylls of the King” maiden], as the ordinary ELAINE spelling felt unlikely given the non-Seinfeld, non-Stritch clue. I almost wanted ELAYNE, which of course would be comic Boosler.

Seeing EEL near SUSHI in the grid evokes Tuesday’s discussion in the comments of lamprey eels as food. If Martin H. has never horrified you with his culinary reports, he will this time. Have Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern partaken of the hagfish?

Back to the Olympics. Four stars.

Norfleet Pruden’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 8 01 12

I’m blogging this on Tuesday; by the time you read this, I’ll possibly have started my first full-time job, as the vet at an SPCA, ulp.

I don’t think I’ve seen this name, Norfleet Pruden, before! I think I’d remember it, because its pretty unusual. If it is a debut, a hearty well done to you, sir.

I had no idea where this was going when I came to the first theme clue, 17a [One in a dozen difficult jobs], LABOROFHERCULES. It was a cleverly evasive clue for me. Once it emerged and the next two, 32a [One in a dozen old family lines], TRIBEOFISRAEL and 52a [One in a dozen constellations], SIGNOFTHEZODIAC. The theme is perfectly complete with 3 long answers, despite the trend towards more. The repetitive phrasing of these… dodectets? twelvesomes? Oh, wait. Way overthinking this, dozens (see above) (I know it seems implausible but I really couldn’t come up with “dozens”) … makes it more cohesive. One thing that’s slightly off-putting is that they’re in the singular but better-known as phrases in the plural. To have them pluralised of course would have necessitated a 16×15 grid, which would be pretty audacious for a debutant.

The four corners are surprisingly wide open, with the top-left featuring 3d [Sophisticatedly charming], DEBONAIR, and 4d [Like ammonia, chemically], INORGANIC (quite vague for a Tuesday, I was thinking of something like alkaline or noxious – I can remember making ammonia in Chem 1 and the fumes being enough to cause me to drop my burette – another one for the breakage book!) crossed by 22a [Strait of Gibraltar port], TANGIER, which I initially misinterpreted as having to be in Gibraltar. All three are single-word answers, but colourful nonetheless. Its symmetrical partner in the bottom-right is pretty good too. Less showy but still tricky to do are the four 6s and a 7 in the other two corners. It’s not one of the long answers, but if you’re going to have 10a [Big fishhook], GAFF stacking it on top of 16a [Fisherman’s gadget], LURE is pretty neat.

One answer, in that otherwise excellent top-left, was a bit de trop, IMO. 20a [Command from le général], ORDRE – yes, it’s inferrable, but I wouldn’t say it’s reasonable French crossword vocabulary. It’s up there in the lofty heights of ESEL, IMO. We have several resident Francophones, so I just thought I’d check: this clue is correct, oui?

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rack ‘Em!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 1

It’s the return of Name That Constructor, the game where I solve the puzzle and then take three guesses at who constructed it. I tried this gimmick a few months ago and it was fun, despite my mediocre performance. Just for kicks, this time I’m going to play it for an entire month.

Here’s how the scoring will work: I get three guesses per puzzle. If I get it right on the first guess, I get three points. A correct second guess nets me two points, and I get one point if I get it right on the third try. There’s only about a baker’s dozen constructors in the CS syndicate, so I have about a 25% chance each day just through random guessing. If we assume I would average two points per correct guess, then, I should score 15.5 points for the month. So 15.5 is the score to beat. Wish me luck!

Okay, so today’s puzzle pays tribute to pool, as the last word in each theme entry is an object associated with the game of pool (or maybe billiards or snooker):

  • 17-Across: To [Leave without notice] is to TAKE A POWDER. Some pool players apply some talc to the hands for a smoother shot.
  • 27-Across: The [Teeth replacement device] is a DENTAL BRIDGE. A bridge will help steady a long-distance shot if you’re a little too short to reach the distance yourself.
  • 47-Across: To [Handle responsibility, so to speak] is to CARRY THE BALL. The game can have up to 16 balls on the table at any one time.  In my case, all 16 are usually still on the table even after two or three shots.
  • 64-Across: The [Veggie tray item] is a CELERY STICK. The “stick” is also known as the “cue.” I had CARROT STICK originally, which slowed me down with the crossings. I like both carrot sticks and celery sticks on my veggies tray, but I’ll steer clear of the cauliflower, thank you.

Hmm. A theme based on pool, with DENTAL BRIDGE as a theme answer. That suggests to me a veteran constructor. There’s a lot of other sports in this grid too, with Don SHULA, Magic Johnson the NBA STAR, and TEE UP. So I’m thinking this puzzle was made by a sports fan. I’m tempted to guess Randy Hartman here because I know about his involvement in another sport, but we just saw a Randy Hartman puzzle yesterday so it would be unusual for his name to come up again so soon. The rare letters in ONYX, MATZO, and ENJOYS makes me think of Patrick Jordan, but here too we saw another of his puzzles very recently. This isn’t a Doug Peterson (no XENA and no baseball) or a Tony Orbach (only one musical clue), and I’m thinking it’s not Patrick Blindauer–the theme’s a little too straightforward. Okay, here are my guesses:

1. Randy Ross    2. Bruce Venzke   3. Alan Arbesfeld

Whew–I got two points! Nice way to start the month. But wait–it won’t take long before the swings-and-misses start piling up.

Favorite entry = HAMLET, the [Small village]. Favorite clue = [Followed Atkins, say] for DIETED.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 8 1 12 Deb Amlen

This was a tough one to figure out. The five longest Across answers all include an X in lieu of the word kiss, and it’s treated as a regular X in the Down crossers.

  • 17a. [Become friendly again], X AND MAKE UP. (Crossing 1d: [Dr. Seuss characters, with “the”], ZAX—I had no idea Zax wasn’t an individual creature.)
  • 25a. [Murderous mark from the Mafia], X OF DEATH. I never think of organized crime for this term, as “the kiss of death” is mostly used in non-Mob references.
  • 38a. [“Prepare to be destroyed!”], “X YOUR ASS GOODBYE!” Ultra-colloquial.
  • 54a. [Blab after a tryst], X AND TELL.
  • 63a. [1990s Seal single], X FROM A ROSE.

Tough stuff, fresh faves, etc.:

  • 15a. [Ding Dong relatives], Hostess HO-HOS.
  • 22a. [Pornographic manga with a name meaning “pervert” in Japanese], HENTAI.
  • 45a. [Online “holy crap!”], ZOMG. I’ve always liked “ZOMG.” I like to think it’s a portmanteau of zounds and OMG.
  • 46a. [Relative of an ostrich], EMU. One of Deb’s primary responsibilities as a New York Times blogger is controlling unwieldy emus.
  • 59a. [Sari state?], INDIA. Cute clue.
  • 7d. [One who receives alimony, informally], THE EX. Good use of the definite article.
  • 41d. [Screw up a bit?], BOMB. If a stand-up comedian screws up her comedy bit, she bombs.
  • 65d. [Like Anderson Cooper, finally], OUT.

Four stars.

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25 Responses to Wednesday, 8/1/12

  1. pannonica says:

    Fluent Ponderer?

  2. Jared says:

    Gareth, congrats on starting the new job!

  3. John E says:

    The top left of today’s NYT did a number on me – but I did learn some trivia about Werner Klemperer (“Hogan…”).

  4. Jared Hersh says:

    I haven’t heard of any of the three NYT theme answers but the very fun revealer made it worth it.

  5. Huda says:

    For some reason, the NYTimes felt very easy except for the Y in KURYLENKO. I did not know her name, not even remotely. And I could not parse BY A MILE, not by a mile. I just stared and stared at that crossing…

    That was such an insipid title, I’M OK, YOU’RE OK, I remember hearing it the first time and wanting to punch someone, just to prove otherwise. I’ve sort of gotten over it, though, so may be I could be OK.

    So, I will wait to rate until I get over my prejudice about that title and my synapse lapse at that Y.

    Amy, I loved watching the women win that gold medal. Amazingly beautiful. And it did bring OLGA closer to the surface.

    No more eel talk, please?

  6. andrea carla michaels says:

    NYT puzzle was hilarious!!!!!
    I thought, wha? a list of names that are hard to spell???!!!
    Then I got to the reveal and WHAM!
    Fresh, funny, original!
    Shades of Letterman’s Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma.
    And Obiwan Kenobi bonus answer!!!!
    Ha, Doug, you rock!!!

  7. Jared says:

    Interesting that you’re praising Doug’s puzzle yet comparing it, in a way, to one of the most notoriously ill-received comedy routines of all time.

    The book is presumably as loathsome as we think it is but that shouldn’t detract from its inspired presence here as a theme revealer and raison de etre.

  8. RK says:

    Had trouble with the names in the NYT, not just the themed ones, but I thought the I’m OK answer was clever and I enjoyed a lot of the clues.

    LAT was harder I thought but not as fun.

  9. Huda says:

    Ok, Andrea and Jared, you’ve convinced me that the theme revealer was inspired. And tongue in cheek, of course. I did chuckle when I got it, before memories rushed in.

    That was very therapeutic. You guys are OK.

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    It sounds to me like a Wyatt Earp quote. (cough, cough) Sorry, someone jolly well had to go “out on a limb” and mention it!!!

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Hearty congrats to Gareth from me, too. Tried to post earlier, but it got lost!

  12. Matthew G. says:

    Five stars for the NYT puzzle from me. Surprised that it’s currently weighing in at an average of 3.5. I thought the revealer was just hilarious and that this was one of the best midweek NYT puzzles in some time.

  13. Lois says:

    Matthew G.: I think this puzzle might lose one star from some people because of the difficulty of the names. That’s what happened to me, anyway, but I came through thanks to my husband’s helping me out with the Bond girl actress’s name. Thought it would end in “a,” so I couldn’t get the accessory at 11d at first. Still had trouble with the spelling after he told me the name, as there is a tennis player named Kirilenko and tennis was on my mind. But I finally worked out the spelling of her name. So although I got the whole puzzle after that help, I was rather inclined to give it only four stars, after loving it a bit more while working on parts of it. 10d, Butler’s expletive, was an amazing clue with the ambiguity of the capitalization. Took me a long time to figure out why the answer was “damn.”

  14. Gareth says:

    Loved loved Doug’s punchline today. Kapow as they say in the Batman comics. Did find two squares, the UB of HECUBA, very tough. Re deb’s puzzle, didn’t know av club had rebi. Tasty! And she managed a batman theme answer to continue the run! And thanks Jared and Artlvr!

  15. Doug P says:

    Thanks for the nice comments, folks. I just wish someone had notified me that it was Batman Week!

  16. janie says:

    letterman’s “uma, oprah; oprah, uma” routine is actually based on the delectable thomas meehan short story “yma dream” that was published in the new yorker 50 years ago:

    you’ll need a subscription to read it online — but you can hear/see it online, delivered by the late, great anne bancroft at:

    enjoy! worth the time (imoo…)


    p.s. meehan, now in his late 70s, is also a screenwriter and the three-peat tony-winning book writer of annie, the producers and hairspray. not bad for an old guy, huh?

  17. john farmer says:

    From the FWIW dept.: If the author of “I’m OK, You’re OK” met the author of the “Hannibal” book series, they each might say “I’m Thomas Harris, You’re Thomas Harris.”

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    As we’re talking authors for the moment—A pause for the late, great Gore Vidal (October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012)—Back to regularly scheduled commenting.

  19. Martin says:

    I was watching the 10:00 PM news out of Sacramento last night. At one point the male anchor remarked to the female anchor, “So, you’ve heard of this Gore Vidal?”

    I moved the rotor back to San Francisco.

  20. pannonica says:

    Burr is already on my read-soon shelf.

  21. Daniel Myers says:


    My favourites are the novels Creation and Julian — But Burr is very, very good as well.


    That’s just the sort of thing Vidal would have found extremely amusing!

  22. Ruth says:

    Thank you for those links, Janie. I had heard that piece before and always knew Letterman was “borrowing” from it, which wasn’t a bad idea on the face of it–it’s extremely funny. Not quite sure how he managed to blow the delivery so badly, so that it is now legendary as a BAD moment in comedy.

  23. Sparky says:

    I didn’t think the book was so terrible. Transactional Analysis was quite catchy at the time. A very enjoyable solve to me.

    @TuningSpork. You probably already know, but there is a thorough and funny write up of eateries near Lollapuzzoola written by Tony Orbach to be found at the Facebook site for the tournament.

  24. pannonica says:

    DM: Myra Breckenridge and the underappreciated (or at least underread) Myron are both brilliant.

  25. Daniel Myers says:

    Agreed on Myra Breckenridge, pannonica. Number me, though, with those who haven’t read Myron…yet. I just ordered it. Thanks!

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