Wednesday, 10/31/12

NYT 3:25 
LAT 3:30 (Gareth) 
Onion untimed 
CS 5:54 (Sam) 

Hello, people with electricity and internet access! Now’s our chance to talk smack about our friends in New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states. They’ll never know!

Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 10 31 12 1031

This puzzle would have been a lot easier if the theme entries had included “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, / Wool of bat, and tongue of dog.” But no. We get assorted other ingredients in the Macbeth WITCHES’ STEW. TOOTH OF WOLF, SLIPS OF YEW, BLIND-WORM’S STING, and LIZARD’S LEG?? At least we were spared the horrifying and bigoted ingredients.

Toughest parts, aside from the theme answers: [Peter __, general manager of the Met], clues GELB. How familiar is he to people who’ve never attended an opera at the Met? I’d never heard of him. With about 20 proper names in the grid, there were likely a number of trouble spots for the solving audience. STOA crossing SABU, ADZ crossing TANYA and OZAWA, ABOU and SEL crossing ONE-A, SOO and ERO crossing the WORM in the middle theme answer, DIDO and ALCOA crossing the nonspecifically clued prefix IDEO, GELB and SOR crossing LOLITA and BRECHT.

Favorite answer: PROBOSCIS, clued as [Notable nose]. You know why, right? It’s because of a childhood fascination with the proboscis monkey. It is not because tapirs have proboscises.

2.8 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 10 31 12 Ben Tausig

Fun theme—four kinds of booze lose their last letter because the bartender’s cutting off customers who’ve already had too much.

  • 17a. [Triumph duly blessed by a Rabbi?], KOSHER WIN. Kosher wine. Anyone else wondering who Sherwin is and why he needs to be knocked out?
  • 25a. [Gore going for more of an L.A. surfer chick look?], BLONDE AL. Blonde ale. Al Gore in a tan, blonde, female version is scary, especially if he keeps the beard.
  • 36a. [Bartender’s denial, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], “I’M CUTTING YOU OFF.”
  • 48a. [Gathering for whole grain enthusiasts?], WHEAT BEE. Wheat beer.
  • 56a. [Soldier who loves his rubber duckie?], BATHTUB G.I. Bathtub gin.

Least likely to appear in a daily newspaper crossword:

  • 9d. [Georgia O’Keeffe painting comparison], VAGINA. Although technically, the paintings are more vulval, aren’t they?
  • 44a. [Jackasses, in slang], D-BAGS. The D is short for douche. I remember fondly the time my grandma was looking all over the apartment for her douche bag. Had something to do with the doctor’s instructions relating to a pessary. One seldom hears about the literal D-bag these days.

Never heard of 24d: ARTUR, [African-American Davis who spoke at the 2012 RNC]. Apparently he was a Democratic congressman supporting Obama four years ago, but now he’s left Alabama and gone Republican.

Reasonably smooth fill throughout. 3.5 stars.

Sheila Welton’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 10 31 12

First off, thanks to two anonymous angels who provided me with puzzle files to blog from.

I think this is Ms. Welton’s debut so congratulations on that score! As I solved this puzzle I was wondering, “why?” Why do such a list-y type theme? I had forgotten that you people are celebrating that weird holiday Halloween today—it makes for a good reason to celebrate MONSTERs. The answers make for a fun collection, don’t they? Nevertheless, there were one or two nits that bothered me: I count 4 from Greek mythology (CHIMERA, CENTAUR, MINOTAUR, SPHINX) and 3 not (NESSIE, GODZILLA, GRENDEL) which I found a bit jarring. I guess Greek mythology is a good source to mine for monsters, though. I mean, ECHIDNA didn’t even make the cut; neither did HYDRA, or CERBERUS… (I’m sure you all can come up with more.) The second is that 6 monsters are (or were originally) singular, whereas CENTAUR is a singular member of a race of (mythological) beings. This is probably my pedantic streak kicking in… Sorry. To close off the rambling theme discussion, I also found myself wondering if any Americans planned to get dressed up as the listed monsters? Will this puzzle influence any of your wardrobe choices?

This is a tough grid for anyone to take on. Lots of theme entries mean that they have to be distributed throughout the grid and so your fill is always being restricted. There are two very awkward answers (but only two!) as a result: RAVELED – which desperately wants a prefix (although it does evoke the story of the MINOTAUR); and INUTILE, which desperately wants to ditch its prefix.

On the other hand, despite no really long entries at all, there were quite a few entries that put a smile on my dial: MEXICO, TWADDLE, SHIATSU (if you massage a toy dog is it a shih-tzu shia-tsu?), GALILEO atop ORIGAMI and ZIPGUN (though I’m trying to remember what exactly one is… Dictionaries suggest exactly what the clue says. Doesn’t sound like a venture that ends well).

In the “old-timey names to delight the old-timers” category: NAISH I haven’t come across before; EDWYNN I have, though the clue referenced a Keenan (Wynn) I haven’t heard of. I was initially thinking Kenan and Kel, which is spelled differently as it happens. He has an extensive filmography it seems.

Well, good night, all. When this post is published, I assume I shall be safely in the arms of Morpheus—provided this puzzle doesn’t give me nightmares!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Oh … Ow!”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 31

Here’s a trick that doesn’t offer much in the way of a treat–unless you like being handed SLEWS of five-letter-blocks, that is. The four theme entries are whimsical two-word expressions in the form of __OWING __OWERS, where the first letter(s) is/are the same. In each case, the “OW” in the first word makes the “oh” sound as in “Oh, so that’s it?”, and the “OW” in the second word makes the “ow” sound as in “Ow, I stubbed my toe!”

Since all four theme entries take that form, it becomes easy to plunk down the OWING and OWERS parts based off only one or two crosses. That helps in the solving time department, obviously, but I’m not sure it does much else. Check out the theme entries and judge for yourself:

  • 20-Across: One [Displaying rainfalls?] is SHOWING SHOWERS.
  • 34-Across: One [Dragging skyscrapers?] is TOWING TOWERS.
  • 41-Across: One [Bending arbors?] is BOWING BOWERS. Um, bowers?
  • 55-Across: [Running blooms?] are FLOWING FLOWERS. .

This theme brings to mind the old cluing trick of making solvers think of the homophone, like when [Arizona flower] is the clue for SALT, one of the major rivers in Arizona, or when [Meteor shower] is the clue for TELESCOPE. I like this trick very much, but I’m no sure the trick itself merits expansion into a theme like this.

Part of my problem might be from the staid clues. They’re all two words, and they’re all straight definitions. Maybe some element of whimsy in the clues would have helped. I dunno, maybe something like [Blooms running down the river?] or [Impounding the illegally-placed skyscrapers?] would have been more evocative. (Bad examples, I grant you, but you get the point.)

I’ve never heard of SNOOK, a [Thumbing-the-nose gesture, by a Brit], except as shorthand reference for a certain figure on Jersey Shore. But I liked all the rare letters in the grid, and the fill was otherwise smooth.

Favorite entry = JOHN LAW, a [Policeman, slangily]. Favorite clue = [Bossy remark?] for MOO.

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11 Responses to Wednesday, 10/31/12

  1. Huda says:

    Amy, I agree with everything you said, but I still loved it! I didn’t even do it perfectly– something got messed up in the Northeast (that poor battered Northeast…).

    But I loved having a WITCHES’ BREW for Halloween, and thought it was fun to learn about these other crazy ingredients! Like how do you know if a WORM is BLIND?

    And the puzzle was popping with ZANiness, like ZOWIE, SASHAY, and even UGLY in this context. Fantabulous.

  2. Sam Donaldson says:

    A list of witches’ brew ingredients that omits EYE OF NEWT and TOE OF FROG is like a list of cake ingredients that omits flour and eggs–what’s the use?

    Now back to my NITRIC, the [Seat of a carper].

    • Evad says:

      Sam, methinks thou protesteth too much. I found it interesting to discover there were many more ingredients in the witches’ brew than the popular ones. Talk about potent potables!

  3. Matt says:

    GELB is probably OK for ‘New York’ general cultural knowledge, along with the music director of the New York Philharmonic (GILBERT). I’d normally add the director of the Metropolitan Museum to that list, but it’s changed relatively recently from DEMONTEBELLO, who held the position for over thirty years, and the new guy isn’t really famous yet.

  4. Howard B says:

    > Now’s our chance to talk smack about our friends in New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states. They’ll never know!
    Hey, I heard that! When the power comes back on later this week, I’ll… solve a puzzle or something!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    My favorite today was the LAT, with its timely monsters — great choices! I have to admit to slight confusion in the Onion AV, where the early appearance of a rabbi/ KOSHER clue plus central revealer I’M CUTTING YOU OFF had me looking for a moyle for a bit… Never mind, loved the BATHTUB GI.

  6. Doug P says:

    Try anagramming the name of the LA Times constructor. I suspect Rich Norris is wearing his “Sheila Welton” costume today. Trick or treat!

    • Gareth says:

      It’s Halloween! True as bob though, I found a Sheila Welton on Facebook and Linked-in! Does she realize?

      • Doug P says:

        For years, I thought LA Times constructor Damien Peterson was a distant relative. Turned out to be “Editor’s Pen Name.”

  7. Gareth says:

    “Straaange brew kill what’s inside of you!” I was astounded when GELB/BRECHT proved to be correct!

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