Thursday, 11/8/12

NYT untimed 
LAT 3:09 
Tausig untimed 
CS 4:04 (Sam) 
BEQ 13:20 (Matt) 

Damon J. Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword

Psst, Cynthia: Hi! Great to meet you today over lunch. You’ve got a great daughter (but you knew that already).

NYT crossword solution, 11 8 12 1108

If you’re going to meet a reader of your crossword blog, it might as well be one who skips the puzzles before Thursday. I did suggest that the Monday through Wednesday puzzles could be rendered more challenging by skipping the Across clues altogether. And didn’t I hear that Trip Payne likes to solve the Friday and Saturday NYT with Downs only?

Today’s theme is a MAN rebus, with the 12th MAN rebus square appearing in TWELFTH {MAN}, which is apparently a football term? Let’s see: [Home-field advantage] or, as my husband says, the fans. Never heard that one before. Most of the MAN squares actually mean “man” in at least one direction, but the ARMANI SUITS/MANES crossing is simply using that trigram. “MAN, OH, MAN,” MANLY MAN, and MAN-TO-MAN, on the other hand, use two men apiece. And is it totally nuts to have three rebus squares in that upper left corner or what? ARAL and HARI aren’t exciting fill, but they’re certainly valid and who would have expected such solid fill in a little section with three rebuses?

Trouble spots:

  • 5a. [“Sweetheart” of “Jersey Shore”], SAMMI. I know there’s a Snooki and a J-Woww, and a The Situation and maybe a Mikey D, but Sammi? Not ringing bell. Might be because I’ve never actually seen the show.
  • 18a. [“NFL Live” host Trey] WINGO. If you don’t know TWELFTH MAN, you might not know this either. I didn’t.
  • 19a. [Mrs. Albert Einstein] was named ELSA. You don’t say. Not an easy crossing, where ELSA meets the OUSE, a [Yorkshire river].

It’s been a long day of computer malfeasance, so I’ll sign off now. 3.5 stars. Ambitious theme with plenty of lively MAN-filled phrases and words, surrounding fill less enchanting (as you’d expect).

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What’s That Noise?”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 8

Today’s mailbag question comes from Ellen in Ojai, California: Dear Penthouse Forum, I always had this thing for the guy who delivers pizza to my house. I never knew he liked me, until last night when I ordered my usual–meat lover’s extreme with extra sausage–and didn’t realize until he was at my door that I didn’t have any money. How was I going to pay him? We gazed intently at each other, and right there, right then, I knew what I was willing to do to get that pizza….

Whoops, wrong mailbag! Let’s try another one, this from Eli in a former SSR: Why are your solving times so much slower than everyone else’s on this blog? Doesn’t that tell you something? Thanks for the encouraging word, Eli!

Over the years, I have made frequent reference to my comparatively slow solving times. I suspect I’m allowed to stay here in no small part because I’m the token slug. I make readers feel better about their own solving times. Think of me as the Mendoza solver.

I’m a few steps slower than the others around here in no small part because of my tendency to wander off on various tangents while I’m solving. Take today’s beaut from Doug Peterson, for instance. I can’t type the letters to AAMCO, the [Transmission repair chain] without humming the “Double A (beep beep) M-C-O” ditty to myself. And yes, visions of telephone booths with trap doors run through my mind (as does this theme song) as I enter GET SMART as the answer to [Agent 99’s series].  And I can’t just enter A WORD as the answer to [“I’d like ___ with you”] without pausing to think of some other possible answers like TO SNUGGLE and others I can’t really mention here.

It goes on. I simply have to pause to admire one of the theme entries, ROYAL RUMBLE, the [Majestically named pro wrestling event held annually since 1988], because I’m 92.2% confident (Nate Silver reference) that Doug used this theme entry just because he knows of my affection for professional wrestling. I can’t just plunk down the answer after having only the first letter in place and move on–no, I have to admire it (and the fact that it intersects HOGAN, though this one is clued as [Colonel Klink’s nemesis] and not as [First two-time winner of 46-Across]). Wait, did I just admit to knowing that?

So I think it’s my wandering mind, more than anything, that keeps me from clocking faster times. But I’m fine with that. First and foremost, this whole crossword thing is about entertainment. And it’s the little diversions like those listed above that allow me to enjoy this craft even more.

But back to Doug’s very fine puzzle. The theme involves expressions that end with “noisy” words:

  • 17-Across: One who is [Handing down punishment] is LOWERING THE BOOM
  • 27-Across: The [Black Tuesday disaster] refers to the stock MARKET CRASH. Other market crashes tend to happen whenever I make a new investment.
  • 46-Across: ROYAL RUMBLE. (See supra.)
  • 59-Across: A [Baffling problem] might be a TOUGH NUT TO CRACK. And yes, Inner Beavis noticed both “nut” and “crack.”

I loved the fill in this one. I’ve already mentioned GET SMART, but we also have RUN D.M.C., PRESS KITS, FARMYARDS, I SPY, RUBIK, TUPAC, BRASS HAT, ARTIFACT, and RHEAS (okay, maybe not that last one). I didn’t know CALEB Carr, author of “The Alienist,” but I guess Caleb Madison isn’t quite famous enough yet to find his way into a puzzle clue.

Favorite entry = PAY STUBS, the [Employees’ check attachments]. Favorite clue = Hands down it’s [Run out of clothing?] for STREAK. (And hey, if you’re streaking, you really should keep your hands down.)

Brendan Quigley’s website crossword, “Themeless Thursday”—Matt’s review

BEQ 11/8/12

I don’t solve many themelesses these days, but if they’re all this fun then maybe I should get back into it. Tough clues like [Printer’s blues] for CYANS and [Spraying sounds] for RAT-A-TAT-TAT sent this one well over 10 minutes for me.

Started off well in the NW corner, where I MUST BE OFF, NATE SILVER and STEAK DIANE all fell quickly and I thought I’d wind up with a solving time of 7-8 minutes. [Baby room?] for UTERUS at 3-d was cute, and I’m only right now understanding the clever [Hip joint?] for IN SPOT (a spot that’s popular, or “in,” like a nightclub). Without the ? on that one I would’ve had no chance.

Things slowed down a bit in the NE corner; knew Lawrence KASDAN but had CLOGS for CYANS which in retrospect was stupid since papers jam on a printer, they don’t clog (as far as I know). The “var.” tag on SWORDMAN also tripped me up; took a while to understand that the more common word is “swordsman.” Then things slowed to a crawl in the center, where I needed every letter to get Ruth ETTING and almost every letter to get the nice [Construction paper?] for DEED.

Bottom left took a loooong time; had the -ROCK, -ABLE and -TION of the three long downs but couldn’t make them work (thought the first might be KID ROCK, but it was ALT-ROCK) and the excellent entry TRAC II evaded me for a long time. Unusual letter combinations + tough clues = difficult!

Bottom right was the last to go; I had RED SUN instead of RED SKY for most of the solve; did an internal “d’oh!” when the penny dropped and ORIOLE PARK and GOOGLE PLAY revealed themselves.

I liked this one a lot — the tricky cluing and many multiword answers made this like solve like running though a mental minefield. 4.5 stars and I’ll have to visit Brendan’s site more regularly on Mondays.

Robert Fisher’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 8 12

Usually, I am no fan of puzzles with this type of theme—the theme clues are all the same key word and the theme answers are the sorts of phrases you might see in clues for the key word, rather than in-the-language phrases unto themselves. I really liked how this one played out, though—the theme answers would all be excellent, non-dictionaryish clues for the word [Fly]. OBSERVER ON A WALL (as in “I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they have that conversation”), SWATTER’S TARGET, SPIDER’S INVITEE, and OINTMENT SPOILER are all much less obvious than, say, [Member of the order Diptera] or [Aviate]. They all point towards the bug sort of fly (as opposed to where jeans have a zipper, to aviate, etc.) but in lively ways, rather than touching on different meanings of the word. Each theme entry had a decent “aha” payoff when it was pieced together via crossings.

The fill’s got a touch of the dull (APSE, STYE, NEAP, SOYA, ELLS) but overall is quite smooth. I’LL SAY, TAKE ON, FLIMSY, and CONFLATE were my favorite entries in this batch.

4.25 stars for a fresh take on a usually flatter theme type.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Original Take”

Ben Tausig Ink Well crossword solution, 11 8 12 “Original Take”

What’s more original than taking? This theme offers a quote stolen from 65a: BANKSY: “THE BAD ARTIST IMITATES. THE GREAT ARTIST STEALS.” Just about the only clue that Ben didn’t steal from someone else is [Beginning of a quote from 65-Across]. He lists the original sources for the clues on a Tumblr page. And yes, it took Ben a lot longer to research previously published clue possibilities than it would have taken him to write his own clues, since he wasn’t just auto-cluing from a database.

Question 1: Is it still stealing if you provide the attribution?

Question 2: Is the puzzle more entertaining than the usual Ink Well because Ben curated a good set of clues from many other great minds?

Question 3: Did you notice that it didn’t feel like a standard Tausig puzzle?

My answers: (1) Borrowing with attribution is better than sheer plagiarism, but absolutely less creative than coming up with your own material. (2) I didn’t notice a real difference. The main difference from the usual Ink Well is the flatness of a quote theme building up to a single “aha” moment, rather than having to muscle through understanding how Ben’s theme works. (3) Mainly because there was a quote theme.

Three stars. As stunts go, this one is pretty unnoticeable unless you (a) look at the Tumblr page or (b) recognize some clues as your own work (or remember them from previous puzzles).

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22 Responses to Thursday, 11/8/12

  1. ktd says:

    “Twelfth man” is definitely legit as a football term (and it is unique to football, being the only major North American sport with 11 men per side on the field). Seattle is famous for having the loudest home crowd in the NFL–I’m going to guess that Damon Gulczynski may be from there.

    • Texas A&M has the most famous 12TH MAN tradition in college football. During the tenure of coach Jackie Sherrill, the kickoff unit consisted entirely of student body members not otherwise on the roster — literally getting the crowd on the field.

  2. Evad says:

    Tough to find all twelve men in this one and fail with SAMMI, WINGO and SAW IV. Oh, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing this in my head all day…

  3. Howard B says:

    Great theme, tough to pull that off. Also a nice reveal at the end. Common (American) football phrase for the influence of home crowd support.
    However, the difficult cluing and the multitude of not-so-common names in this puzzle outside of the theme (Einstein’s wife, Jersey Shore)? Man, oh, man. That really hurt the experience quite a bit. So a mixed bag here. Any effort that challenges us is appreciated on its merits, though.

  4. Jason F says:

    How do expert solvers keep track of all these rivers?

    I was so proud to have remembered the 4-letter Yorkshire river that ends in E. Heh. Turns out both AIRE (my unfortunate answer) and OUSE fit the clue.

    Liked the theme, but there were a lot of unfamiliar answers I had to get entirely with crosses.

    • Gareth says:

      I wanted to be OISE… I took it out and put it back in many times as it didn’t seem to help any of the other answers… (I checked, the OISE is in France FWIW)

  5. David L says:

    In the CS, was anyone else puzzled by “Handing down punishment” as a clue for LOWERING THE BOOM? I’ve always taken that phrase to mean something else — loosely, to put an end to something in a definitive way. For example, when Obama won Ohio the other night, he lowered the boom on Romney’s chance of winning.

    Or have I had it wrong all these years?

    • Sam Donaldson says:

      David L, I’m only familiar with the meaning used in the clue. But I’m hardly an expert on etymology (from the Greek etumologi or etumon, meaning the “true sense of a word”).

    • Doug P says:

      According to one online dictionary, “lower the boom” means “Scold harshly or punish severely; also, put a stop to something. ” So either one would work.

      Glad you liked the Rumble, Sam! PuzzleGirl’s not the only crossword/wrestling fan.

  6. Papa John says:

    Tough puzzle, to be sure.

    Wingo? Is that really somebody’s name? Am I un-manly because I’m not into sports?

    Am I missing something? Isn’t 67A the twelfth man and 55A is actually the eleventh man? In what order are the rebuses to be counted that makes 55A the twelfth man? Can any of the rebuses be considered the twelfth man?

  7. Gareth says:

    Exceptional theme density! Got rebus very fast at ILOVEYOU(MAN)! TWELFTHMAN is also a term in cricket (for the designated substitute). A lot of the names were hard for me; I also spent about half my time (+-6 out of 12 minutes!) pulling my hair out in the top-right! Once I figured out (MAN)TO(MAN) it toppled, but none of the other clues were helping my brain!

  8. Huda says:

    The existence of a rebus always messes with the mind, at least with my mind. I start doubting myself at every turn. Combining that with impossible names, that crossed at times, and the difficulty level goes way up, definitely detracting from the experience. Having never heard of the 12th man expression for home field advantage did not help my already sad situation.

    I had a “malapop” for M(AN)ET. I won’t even tell you where I thought it belonged…

  9. cyberdiva says:

    No, Sam, your times are much too good to make me feel even barely competent. I think you’re on the team because your times are respectable and your CS write-ups are a continual delight!! If only more of the CS puzzles themselves were as good!

    Evad, you beat me to it. I too had all twelve men (and was familiar with the expression “the twelfth man”), only to get tripped up on SAMMI, SAWIV, and WINGO. SAMMI and WINGO were totally unknown to me (and I suspect I’ll have forgotten them by the next time I need them), and unlike ELSA and SEGEL, there were no helpful crosses to get me through.

    Papa John, I was happy to see that there were 12 {MAN} rebuses, but like you, I wondered whether 67A should have been considered the 12th. Oh well….

  10. Peter Piper says:

    When the hell is the sunday cox puzzle going to be posted its thursday already. This sets a new record for TBA.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you had asked nicely, I might have posted the solution. (That puzzle is pannonica’s bailiwick, and she had no electricity last weekend.) But you know what? Quite honestly, when you throw a “when the hell” demand at me, it doesn’t inspire me to be helpful to you. Honey, vinegar, flies, etc.

      • Papa John says:

        Are these guys really being that rude and vulgar or are they trying to be funny — in a not-very-funny way? I’ve noticed that since the first guy asked about why the LAT critique was always so late in being posted, the complaints have grown steadily more abrasive. Is it just my tin hat sparking or could there possibly be a real conspiracy behind it?

        Either way, Amy, I think you’re playing your hand very well. Your replies seem to be going just the opposite way, from your first, rather brisk, response, to this most recent gentle answer. Before these brash inquiries should cause you to do anything impulsive, remember that most of us — I’d say 99% of us — are completely satisfied with the job you and your crew are doing. We need to acknowledge your efforts more often and say thank you. Keep up the good work

        On a different track, altogether, you seem to be in the loop on how some of our cruciverbalist friends are faring in the wake of Sandy. Zulema has checked in and a few others. You say pannonica is still without power. Do you have any further news about her and her family or other friends of ours?

  11. pannonica says:

    Tausig: Of course, BANKSY stole that quote from Picasso (who probably wasn’t the originator).

    • Papa John says:

      Oh, there you are! How are you doing?

      I began my reply to Amy earlier, today, and then got side-tracked. When I came back to it, you must have already posted and I didn’t see it until I posted my comment.

      Anyway, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying we’re glad to see you’re back with us.

    • Ben Tausig says:

      Yup. That’s the joke. The PDF version alludes to the theft visually. (Precisely as does the Banksy piece that I ripped off.)

  12. Zulema says:

    I know it’s a day later, but I felt I couldn’t nitpick before I finished today’s (Thursday’s) NYT and I finally did this Friday morning with help, after solving the Friday NYT, which I really enjoyed. The nit is with 35D and its grammar, of course. The clue says “a…collezioni, ” which implies singular. “Collezioni” is plural, “collezione,” is singular, whether it’s one of suits or anything else. Again we err on the simplest of foreign word forms.

    Will anyone read this?

  13. Zulema says:

    No problem, hope you enjoyed it. It does have two pieces of bread in it, and it’s in American usage, like zucchini. Collezioni is plain wrong, we don’t go around saying that.

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