Friday, 8/10/12

NYT 4:38 
LAT 7:55 (Gareth) 
CS 5:40 (Sam) 
CHE (not this week)  
WSJ (Friday) 11:48 (pannonica) 

John Lampkin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 10 12 0810

Today has been one of those days that provoke too, too many HARRUMPHs. Misbehaving computer peripheral. Irksome webhost. Too much down-time. (On the plus side, I had extra couch time with Gary Krist’s book, City of Scoundrels.) I have no blogging groove tonight.

Good stuff: SHOOTOUT, which I mistyped as SHOUTOUT. (Harrumph!) HARRUMPH. “NO REASON…” SALARY CAP, TWENTY-ONE, “I’LL GET IT,” LASER BEAM focus, THE ROYAL WEDDING (hmm, was this puzzle constructed last April?), “TAG, YOU’RE IT.” I’m okay with the intersection of two …IT answers because they’re both fresh and fun.

Favorite clues: [“Rock”], GEMSTONE. The crossing combo of [Belts in which stars are seen?], KOS, and [Stars in which a belt is seen], ORION.

Entry that I’ll bet John Lampkin has a beautiful photograph of: LUNAS, the [Pale-green moths], or possibly the SETAE that are [Caterpillar bristles]. Or a luna moth caterpillar, perhaps. He’s a terrific nature photographer.

Lowlights: Assorted partials (OR TEA, A HOME, A TEE), the awkward-sounding NOT DO, repeaters SETAE and ROANS.

I used to be bugged by TERP ([Comcast Center athlete, briefly]), short for University of Maryland Terrapin, but constructor Erik Agard is a TERP so I can’t be mad at the word anymore.

Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “One For the Ages” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 10

We just might have to create a new Orcas Award category: Best Execution of a Title. In this puzzle, the phrase “one for the ages” here serves as an instruction, as the solver must substitute the letter sequence O-N-E for the letter sequence A-G-E in four familiar terms (thus, ONE is used in place of all the AGEs). The result is four wacky new phrases that get clued accordingly. Great idea!The four theme entries certainly qualify as “wacky:”

  • 17-Across: A “stagecoach” becomes STONE COACH, a [Private tutor for director Oliver?] . I bet there’s a saucier clue for this one that could involve actress Sharon.
  • 29-Across: The “baggage claim” section of an airport becomes a BAG GONE CLAIM, a [Terse assertion about a missing suitcase?]. It’s noteworthy that the substitution here splits one word into two. It’s consistent with STONE COACH in that makes more words out of fewer words, I suppose, but still it feels a little unlike the others to me.
  • 49-Across: The contemporary sport of “cage fighting” becomes the (likely less violent) CONE FIGHTING, or [Jousting with dunce caps?].
  • 64-Across: A real “page-turner” of a book becomes a PONE TURNER, a [Short-order cook who specializes in fried corn bread?].

The puzzle does have a certain OOMPH to it, and not just because that term for [Get-up-and-go] appears right in the center of the grid. I like how the clues for the crossing ALPACA ([Highlands beast]) and APE ([Lowlands beast]) relate. On a personal note, the references to the ARNO River and the [Venus de] MILO were nice, as I have seen both in person within the past two weeks. Other interesting entries include AT HOME, ALAN ARKIN, TAKE AIM, and the [1985 Ron Howard film], COCOON.

Okay, time for my guesses in today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month. The letter-substitution-for-wacky-phrases gimmick suggests Tony Orbach, but Tony’s puzzles often have a lot of musical entries and/or clues. Here there’s OH SUSANNA, the [Stephen Foster song], but nothing else seems especially musical. The playful fill suggests Doug Peterson, and the inclusion of WRESTLES might be a subtle tribute to fellow crossword blogger-slash-constructor-slash-cool kid, PuzzleGirl. But Doug just had the Sunday Challenge, so it seems it would be a little too soon for another appearance. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a Randy Hartman puzzle or something from one of our Patricks (Blindauer or Jordan). Hmm, let’s see…how about:

1. Tony Orbach.   2. Patrick Blindauer.   3. Randy Hartman.

One point for me! It may be a bronze, but it’s still a medal! Name That Constructor Stats After 10 Puzzles: 2 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 11 points total so far; score to beat = 15.5 points.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dog Days” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 8/10/12 • “Dog Days” • Fri • Quigley • solution

Disclaimer: Not certain if there’s more to the theme than I’ve comprehended, so my write-up may be more flawed than usual.

Seven theme answers, the original phrases containing a day of the week, appear in order, beginning with Monday. For each, the day has been replaced in the grid with a breed of dog, but the clues make no concession to the alteration; there isn’t the pretense of a “wacky” interpretation. I’ll go ahead and (accurately, in my opinion) use the charged term schizophrenic, because there is an apparent environmental disconnect.

As best as I can see, there’s no rationale for the substitutions. It’s almost as if the theme is derived from the title rather than vice-versa, which I assume is the typical genesis. Even for cases where the title presumably precedes the mechanics, the two components feel to be essentially on even ground; not so here, where the nuts-and-bolts of the theme are subservient to the (unsurprisingly) most apt of titles.

None of this detracts from the feat of constructing a puzzle with such lengthy and chewy theme entries.

  • 23a. [Critic who offers opinions after the fact] PUG MORNING QUARTERBACK (Monday).
  • 38a. [1967 #1 with the lyric, “Who could hang a name on you?”] RUBY BULLMASTIFF (Tuesday).
  • 55a. [Morticia’s daughter] PINSCHER ADDAMS (Wednesday).
  • 71a. [It’s three days before Easter] MAUNDY GOLDEN RETRIEVER (Thursday).
  • 88a. [1940 screwball comedy based on “The Front Page”] HIS GIRL SHIH-TZU (Friday).
  • 101a. [Conan O’Brien and Larry David wrote for it] BEAGLE NIGHT LIVE (Saturday).
  • 122a. [1999 Pacino film directed by Oliver Stone] ANY GIVEN BOSTON TERRIER (Sunday).

Breakdown: ((two film titles, one song title, one television show title), one television show character), (two relatively generic phrases). Make of that what you will. Of the dogs, PINSCHER seems different from the others in that it’s more generic and could refer to a Doberman pinscher, a miniature pinscher, an affenpinscher, an Austrian pinscher, or a German pinscher. Much more trivially, there are two “versions” of the BEAGLE recognized by the American Kennel Club: 13-inch and 15-inch.

Other notes:

  • African geography! 22a [Where the Blue Nile begins] ETHIOPIA, 66d [Northernmost country in Africa] TUNISIA (north of parts of Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and all of Cyprus). The latter is part of a nice seven-stack. Actually, I really like all of the significant stackings in the grid:SMUSHED / SASHIMI / TUNISIA; the fresh WHATEVS / LIMITER (okay that one not so much) / FESTERS (not clued Addams-style); PIT STOPS / ETHIOPIA; SLEEPIER / HYDRO-SKI [Seaplane attachment).
  • Margay

    MARGAY, Leopardus wiedii

    Non-theme dogs! 45a [“The Muppet Show” dog] ROWLF. 75d [Dog’s cover] RELISH; pfft! everyone knows that HOT (97a) dogs should be garnished with only mustard and sauerkraut, and occasionally diced onion.

  • A cat! 86a [Cat also known as the dwarf leopard] OCELOT. You know, I’ve never heard that name, but it seems to be in use. Never mind that it derives from a pre-Colombian Mexican word for “jaguar” (or that the Spanish colonizers called jaguars “tigers”…). And also never mind that in Asia (where leopards actually live, as opposed to Central and South America), you can find the leopard cat. OCELOT = Leopardus pardalis; leopard = Panthera pardus; leopard cat = Prionailurus bengalensis.
  • Timely [Fodder for an opponent’s campaign ad], for which I first filled in FLIM-FLAM rather than the better FLIP-FLOP. (33d)
  • Another mis-fill at 9d [1940s USSR secret police]; had NKVD not NKGB.
  • Favorite clue, though not favorite fill: 133a [When rights may be outlawed] ON RED.

Enjoyable puzzle, despite the prevailing sense of randomness.

Steven St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 8 03 10

In today’s puzzle, Mr. St. John goes sans revealer, meaning the theme’s sole attraction is its 4 theme entries. In three, a single “C” is added to phrases beginning with answers starting with l’s to create wacky ones. It climaxes with the fourth answer, where a c is added to both words of the phrase. The phrases didn’t really delight me>me> today, but I’ve said before I find the appreciation of any individual wacky answer to be very unpredictable, hit and miss, with solvers, so I’m sure you plenty of you guys got a kick out of ’em. They are:

  • 20a, “Problem for French Open tennis officials?”,CLAYONTHELINE. Yup, true that.
  • 30a, “Challenge for an aspiring vascular surgeon?”, CLOTSTOLEARN. You know, I can’t imagine vascular surgeons spend much time learning clots. There’s a chicken fat clot and a strawberry jam clot, but I can’t think of much relevance to vascular surgery.
  • 38a, “”Come on-a My House” and “Hey There”?”, CLOONEYTUNES. Yup. LOONEY to CLOONEY is an interesting transition.
  • 49a, “Daily chore for Travolta?”, CLEFTCLEANING. A slightly disturbing image to end on, almost as bad an image as a “strawberry jam clot”.

It may not look it, but this is actually a 72-worder, which means it’s eligible to be a themeless! Considering that, it’s a pretty smooth grid, although not an overly pizzazzy one. 10a, “2011 NBA MVP Derrick”, ROSE is echoed by 53a, “St. __: Rose’s Minnesota home town on ‘The Golden Girls'”, OLAF. For once an old-timey TV-show reference I was familiar with! 3d, “Burglar alarm alternative”, WATCHDOG is probably the zippiest of the answers. I can’t remember if its symmetrical partner, 35d, “Command from Captain Kirk”, ENERGIZE, was really said or not. Okay, 38d , “Elegant fabric”, CHIFFON is also a fun word. To be honest, it’s no mean feat to have even a few answers like this in this grid and have as a little dreck as Steven St. John has, it’s just hard to delight over as an achievement. Lastly, 43d, “First name in circumnavigation”, NELLIE is Bly and not “the Elephant”, but I’ll leave you with the latter. I still feel for the girl of that name in my primary school class, who had the misfortune to be prematurely tall…`

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39 Responses to Friday, 8/10/12

  1. Huda says:

    It was hard to get going, but once it started rolling, it unfolded reasonably well. CETERA is a total unknown to me. Easy to remember once you hear it, though.

    Loved MIMOSA. I always think of the flower first, and cluing it with “touch-me-not” or the “sensitive plant” would be in keeping with the nature sub-theme. Very cool, rapid movement of the leaves when touched. Mimosa, for some reason, always triggers thoughts of the South of France (there’s A NEAT IDEA!). Why am I here working all summer instead of being there? HARRUMPH.

    We need to devise a “Fresh to Stale” Ratio for puzzles. This one has a very good one!

  2. joon says:

    so many missteps on this one. GUNFIGHT at 1a. GOOD IDEA and then NICE IDEA at 60a. FOALS at 22a. DUD at 28a. i’m amazed i unraveled it all. i thought the cluing was very saturday, but i see i’m the only one.

    lots of fresh stuff here. against that, practically the whole NE corner was cross-referenced, and i abhor the word ORIENTATED and its utterly superfluous fourth syllable. TUM… what is TUM? is that like TUMMY but formal? i normally like john lampkin’s puzzles more than this.

  3. Huda says:

    Joon, yes, I found it surprising but the early index of difficulty suggests that it might come down on the Easy or Easy/Medium side for a Friday. I too had many false starts and resisted ORIENTATED. Actually wanted Reoriented, but it wouldn’t fit. But I believe ORIENTATE is the British preferred version? I’m guessing we’ll get enlightentated on the subject before too long.

  4. sbmanion says:

    I had GUNFIGHT, FORGO and THERE YOU GO AGAIN, but got back on track with ERSATZ and finished reasonably quickly in spite of those errors. fun puzzle.


  5. pannonica says:

    Rather than GUNFIGHT, I erred with SHOWDOWN, which had a lot more staying power because there are so many letters in common with SHOOTOUT. FOALS as well, like joon. The concretion of cross-references in the northeast kept me away from that area until the latter stages of the solve.

  6. Sophronisba says:

    I had SHOWDOWN, too, for the longest time.

    In the NE corner, I got LEASE almost immediately, but had TENANT as the cross at first and then RENTER before I finally came up with RENTAL. And HEE instead of HAR.

  7. Daniel Myers says:


    There seems to be a big battle between Brits and Yanks over who uses ORIENTATED. The Brits say it must be the Yanks, and the Yanks accuse the Brits. Apparently, nobody likes the sound of it!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I thought most of the cluing was fun, but was disappointed in the SLAM ___ because it should have been DUNK or something worth a jump around the grid. Turned out to be INTO. Ugh.

  9. Jared says:

    Huda, the “fresh to stale ratio” you suggest is automatically computed at Xword Info. Your intuition about this puzzle is right: it’s in the 85.9 percentile (61.3 for a Friday).

  10. RK says:

    Thought the NYT was one of their better more flavorful puzzles in a while.

    If anyone understands the theme answers in the WSJ could you please enlighten me.


  11. Gareth says:

    NYT:Really turboed throught this one! KOS/ORION clue pair was really inspired! A few more partials than I care for, but quite lot of good answers: you mentioned most of my faves. I have no idea what that “no backsies” reference in the TAGYOUREIT clue refers to…

    @Daniel: I was about to chime in with what you said, that I thought it was a US English thing.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    WSJ – Brendan has done this once before. Once again, it seems pointless to me. So I go along with @pannonica on everything except for what I consider an inappropriate use of the word “schizophrenic”.

  13. Bananarchy says:

    @Gareth: Never heard “no backsies” before, but I’m assuming it’s equivalent to “no returns” or “no returnsies,” whereby a newly tagged player may not tag their tagger so as to avoid two players just tagging each other back and forth.

  14. Nick says:

    @Gareth: No backsies means that if someone tags you, you cannot tag them “back”, you have to tag someone else. (Believe me, you don’t wanna play tag with only 2 people.)

  15. Howard B says:

    We used “No backsies” occasionally as kids, in that manner during games. It was usually a kid-enforced rule created on-the-fly, to prevent that sort of stalemate in any game where such things can happen. Or just to ineffectively avoid being tagged.

    By the way, ORIENTATED really bugs me. Feels like someone left a sad little @ behind by accident, just waiting to be adopted by a kind emailer.

  16. Jenni Levy says:

    On the LAT – Kirk definitely said “Energize”. That was the signal that it was OK to activate the transporter when they were leaving the ship – the correlate of “Beam me up”.

    And vascular surgeons frequently remove clots, so I presume they study them.

    Count me in the “liked the wacky answer” category. “CLOONEY TUNES” was my favorite but I enjoyed them all. Both the NYT and LAT seemed on the easy side for a Friday for me, but no complaint about that.

  17. Gareth says:

    I can remember playing my fair share of tag, but we don’t play it so complicated round these parts!

    Also I’ve got a free puzzle over at ILP:
    There’s also a new one by Tuning Spork!

  18. Gareth says:

    @Jenni: NYT on the easy side for me too, but not the LAT. So they didn’t say “Beam me up” but they did say “energize”. You’d think I’d know with the number of Star Trek episodes I’ve watched… Though a while ago. Re clots, I just found the answer was seeming to imply they learned clots rather than about clots. Probably way overanalyzing in any case.

  19. RK says:

    @Gareth Enjoyed the puzzle. Got hung-up on a couple of proper names though.

    Nobody can enlighten me on the theme answers in the WSJ?

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    RK: Have you not read pannonica’s review of the puzzle above?

  21. pannonica says:

    Amy: RK made that comment before the write-up was posted.

  22. Jenni Levy says:

    @Gareth, they said both, but in different situations. On the ship, ready to head down to the planet: Energize! On the planet’s surface, threatened by a costume-shop refugee: Beam me up!

  23. RK says:

    I tried to see if it was written up but didn’t see it.

    Strange that the WSJ would have non-sensical theme answers. Good puzzle otherwise.

  24. Huda says:

    Jared- Thank you for the link re the FF! I had no idea.

    Do you or anyone else understand the specifics of this: “The Freshness Factor is determined by subtracting the average count from 100”?

    Is the “average count” based on doing a frequency histogram that includes the incidence for each of the bins and then getting the median? Is there some conversion that lets you subtract from 100?

    Sorry for the geeky question, but I ask because it seems to me then that you could get the same score by having a lot of middling frequency answers, or having many never before seen answers coupled with some pretty common ones. Yet the feel of these two puzzles would be quite different.

  25. Papa John says:

    I read pannonica’s review of the WSJ but it’s not the least bit enlightening, which is usually just the opposite case. If I understand her, her only explanation is schizophrenia or no rationale. That’s hardly satisfactory. (No offense to you, pannonica. Actually, it’s comforting to know that you found the theme as opaque as I did.) After I parsed PUG and MASTIFF, I just looked for dog breeds and filled it in, not having a clue why. Fortunately, BEQ didn’t use his usual bewildering – for me — clues/fills for the theme crossers, so it wasn’t all that difficult of a puzzle.

    Do Brendan and/or Mike read this blog? If so, maybe one of them would be so kind as to fill us in. Has there been any other clarification offered on other blogs?

    Is there some arcane association between the days of the week and specific dog breeds? PUG = Monday? Are you kidding me?

  26. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Strange. One of the hardest Fri. NYT’s ever for me, especially the NE which I thought was going to do me in, though when “satire” finally hit me, I somehow got it together. What joon said, except that I’m sure that they were more like minor hiccups for him and seisms for me.

    I kept wondering what the difference was between a colt and a foal. (Actually I still wonder, though it turned out to be a red herring.) The whole puzzle was like pulling teeth, but a very nice puzzle indeed. Loved yesterday’s Fireball; sorry that there will be a (well – deserved) hiatus.

  27. cyberdiva says:

    I fell into the 1A trap twice: I started with GUNFIGHT and eventually decided that SHOWDOWN was much more likely, since it gave me possibilities for 1D, 2D and 3D. So clearly it must be correct, right? It was TUM that finally forced me to reconsider. I say “finally” because I was probably 70% finished by the time TUM occurred to me. Like several others, I too enjoyed KOS and ORION.

    I too thought the NYTimes was on the easy side for a Friday, but my time for “easy” is considerably more than what many of you would have for a killer Saturday.

  28. cyberdiva says:

    I was planning to add this remark at the end of my previous comment, but I forgot. Anyway, what’s with the ratings for the Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, which didn’t appear this week. Why then are there three ratings?

  29. Jeffrey says:

    CHE has 2 five stars and 1 one star. Quite a devisive non-existent puzzle.

  30. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Reminds me of the subversive types who would send out lists of law schools (with some ringers) to lawyers and judges, asking them to rank the top ten law schools. Several respondents ranked “Princeton Law School” between 4th and 7th best in the country. Princeton, of course, has no law school.

  31. pannonica says:

    foal (n.): a young animal of the horse family especially : one under one year
    colt (n.): a: foal; especially : a male foal; b: a young male horse that is usually not castrated and has not attained an arbitrarily designated age (as four years)

    – from

  32. Meem says:

    Slogged slowly, but successfully, through the NYT. Still hoping BEQ will reveal his seven dog day! And, Pannonica, in Chicago, your hot dog is adorned with yellow mustard, onions, day-glo green relish, sport peppers, and celery salt!

  33. pannonica says:

    …and a pickle spear and who knows what else, yes?

  34. Tuning Spork says:

    I’ve only heard it as “no tag-backs”.

    Thanks for the shout out, Gareth. Though, I wished you’d waited until I posted the revised version. It’s up, as of about two hours ago.

  35. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I too keep thinking that there must be more to the BEQ than I (and apparently others) have been able to discern.

    Spork, I’m looking for your puzzle at the link that Gareth posted. I don’t know your name, but the only puzzles I find there are ‘Bains’.

  36. Tuning Spork says:

    Bruce, Gareth linked directly to his own puzzle. Here is the Island of Lost Puzzles page. Mine is second from the top.

  37. Jordan says:

    I love BEQ, but I agree with the low star ratings on this WSJ puzzle. To me, it had no flow whatsoever.

  38. Martin says:

    For us it was “touch black, no back.” You obviously needed to be in contact with something black when invoking it.


    The only person I knew who said “orientated” was a Brit, the guy who asked to borrow a rubber and if I needed a fag on his first day of work.

  39. Erik says:

    just saw your TERP love, amy. thanks for the shootout!

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