Wednesday, 12/12/12

NYT 3:22 
LAT 5:14 (Gareth) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:23 (Sam) 

Note to solvers: On Crossword Fiend’s “Today’s Puzzles” download page, we’ve switched the days for Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle and the AV Club puzzle. Look for the Ink Well puzzle and its review on Wednesdays, and the American Values Club (hold the onions) crossword and review on Thursdays.

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 12 12

Fairly snoozy puzzle for a Wednesday. This one marks the 50th anniversary of a classic movie. The “X would have been Y years old today” (where Y = multiple of 10 or 50) puzzle and the “famous person X died last week” puzzle are other popular commemorative themes, generally a puzzle packed with trivia bits that fit together symmetrically. This one’s got PETER O’TOOLE, who starred in the DAVID LEAN movie LAWRENCE / OF ARABIA, which won BEST PICTURE. DAVID LEAN needs another 9 to balance him out, so we have the WORLD WAR I setting. 54 theme squares in all, not bloated like some commemorative/tribute puzzles are.

Now, the movie’s anniversary is actually the 16th, the 11-Down clue tells us. I am glad we aren’t getting a giant “all things Lawrence of Arabia” puzzle on Sunday, 12/16.

Also? I commemorated 12/12/12 a few days ago. I bought a dozen eggs.

I never see ULTRAS as a noun outside of crosswords. I want to combine it with the prefix it crosses to create a master race of exquisitely balanced EQUIULTRAS. You’d join my cadre, wouldn’t you?

I am frightened by the crossing of HOBBIT and EBOLA. Does Peter Jackson mess with the Tolkien source material by infecting dwarves with hemorrhagic viruses? I heard something about that.

Top entries: HOBBIT PROZAC, ESCHEW, SCARE UP. Dullest entries: ENNA ABO ATAN MEA ERN. Most surprising entry: RETOP, or [Apply another layer of asphalt to]. Raise your hand if you didn’t try RETAR first. Anyone? … anyone? Second most surprising entry: EGBERT, [Ninth-century Anglo-Saxon king]. Where is his tribute crossword, huh?

Still waiting for LILO to just once get clued as the tabloidy nickname for Lindsay Lohan. I may be waiting a long time for that one. (See also: SCARJO.)

2.9 stars.

Marti Duguay-Carpenter and Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

Today’s puzzle is not by your regular Crosswordcorner duo, DonCC, no, today marks the first (I think?) by a new collaborative byline; Ms. Duguay-Carpenter is, along with being an LAT construction regular, also a CC habitue, so it makes sense. It’s one of the longest bylines I’ve seen, though not as long as Andrea Carla Michaels and Ashish Vengsarkar! Anyway, a really cute, timely theme idea. If like me you’ve spent the whole day writing the date on forms then you’re quite aware that it’s 12/12/12, even if you write your dates wrong, like you Americans have the habit of doing… So the puzzle is revealed at DAYMONTHANDYEAR, and the three other answers BIGTENTEAMCOUNT (cute touch), NOTESINANOCTAVE, and CENTURYBEGUNMCI are all definitions of “12”. The third answer was rather inelegant to me, since it refers to dates.

Like most puzzles with four spanners, there isn’t a whole lot of interest in the surrounding puzzle. “Martini with a [sic] onion” is an interesting clueing angle for GIBSON. “Bad news upon arriving at home?” is a clever, if transparent misdirect for YEROUT. AMUSERS is the most wince-worthy answer, though it’s redeemed somewhat by being followed by SCREAMS, with the clecho-y “Ones who make you chuckle/guffaw” clues.

I don’t know what more I should say, so I’ll turn it over to you.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Only Fair”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 12

51-Down tells us that SO-SO is [Only fair, or an alternative title for this puzzle?]. That’s because the five theme entries are two-word answers where each word begins with SO-. Like SO:

  • 20-Across: SONIA SOTOMAYOR is the [Obama appointee of 2009]. She was promoted from the Second Circuit to the United States Supreme Court.
  • 33-Across: One who [Butters up] another also SOFT SOAPS another. I’m familiar with this use of “soft soap” only from crosswords. In my other world, “soft soap” is a brand name, not a verb.
  • 37-Across: Here’s one that was entirely new to me–a SOUR SOP, apparently, is a [Custard apple’s cousin]. I lived in Washington for 17 years, and as a result I thought I knew my apples. But the longer you live, it seems, the more you realize the less you know.
  • 43-Across: A [Loser] is a SORRY SORT and not, as I first guessed, a SORE SPORT. (Hey, I didn’t see the theme until later.)
  • 51-Across: To be [Like funeral music] is to be SOLEMN SOUNDING. Kinda easy to tell when the wheels started coming off the list of theme entries, isn’t it?

Didya see how Martin managed to stack three of the theme answers in the middle of the grid? It’s this kind of signature maneuver that make me wish this puzzle had run during Name That Constructor Month back in August. If he’s not making triple- and quad-stacked 15s, he’s doing something freaky with the theme entries just to let you know that a master is behind this puzzle.

I had AIR as the [Balloon filler] at 1-Across, but that turned out to be GAS. The mistake was something of an omen, as I fell into a few traps along the way (see the SORRY SORT / SORE SPORT flub above, and toss in AM TOO and I’M NOT as the [Schoolyard comeback] before tumbling to IS NOT). Oh, and I also has NCAA as the first answer to [Home of Duke U.] instead of N. CAR. If only [Chestnut horses] were AOANS instead of ROANS. (If they were, of course, they’d appear in crosswords more than OREOS.)

Is SPLAT really equivalent to [“Kapow!”]? To my ear, splat is the sound of a bursting water balloon, while kapow is the sound of Batman hitting one of the Penguin’s henchmen.

Favorite entry = IDIOT LIGHT, the [Dashboard warning, colloquially]. Favorite clue = [Waxworks?] for EARS. Love me a good gross clue.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Eastern Bowl Game”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword solution, 12 12 12 “Eastern Bowl Game”

The title doesn’t refer to a football game. Nope, it’s about soup. Asian soup, in particular. The circled letters spell out four Asian soups.

  • 21a. [Racism’s cousin], XENOPHOBIA. Pho is not for me. Beef stock and I broke up decades ago.
  • 23a. [“Closing Time” band], SEMISONIC. Omigod, the whiny song. “I know who I want to take me home.” Guess what, bub? She doesn’t want to take you home. You’ll be leaving the bar alone. Miso soup is one of a handful of items I will eat at a Japanese restaurant.
  • 37a. [Small taste or, pronounced aloud, a hint to this puzzle’s theme], SOUPÇON. I love this word.
  • 48a. [Jon Stewart or Mark Twain], PSEUDONYM. Never had udon noodles.
  • 54a. [Bee locale], SACRAMENTO. Don’t care for instant ramen, have not experienced fancy restaurant ramen. 

I really like the elective 9s here: JAM-PACKED crossing JUMBO JETS (and not at a J, surprisingly), DOUBLOONS crossing HOME ALONE.

Fave clues:

  • 19a. [Fleetwood Mac’s “cocaine opus”], TUSK. You don’t say.
  • 31a. [Film in which Joe Pesci does not curse], JOE PESCI. Although Macauley Culkin gives him ample reason to, particularly in the Home Alone 2 sequel.
  • 4d. [Hitchcock film that ends with a nun saying “God, have mercy”], VERTIGO.
  • 31d. [One of fifty shades of grey, say?], HUE. Steamy!

Mystery items:

  • 61a. [Frau in a really dark Brothers Grimm story], TRUDE. I wonder which dark Grimm tale this is.
  • 35d. [Big name in outdoor equipment, for short], EMS. I guess I don’t buy much outdoor equipment.

3.5 stars.

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22 Responses to Wednesday, 12/12/12

  1. Bobby says:

    “Ultras” or “Ultra” is often used to describe the radical fans of European football clubs. I’ve heard it used mostly to describe some Italian and German fan societies which eat, breathe, and sleep their club. Not that this helps with its inclusion in an American puzzle.

  2. Huda says:

    Peter Collins has a distinctive and recognizable style, but not everyone agrees with it. He seems to like nostalgia, and it depends on whether one feels nostalgic about the topic and finds it worth the walk down memory lane. I usually suck at such puzzles, but this one I aced because that movie is great. Also it’s part of my family history.

    LAWRENCE OF ARABIA was part of a coalition that captured Damascus away from the Ottomans in 1918. My grandfather was in charge of the Damascus garrison under the Ottomans and met with Lawrence of Arabia and was instrumental in the liberation. So, I appreciate a puzzle that commemorates that movie and that history.

  3. Steven St. John says:

    The write-up of the NYT crossword is missing a comma in the penultimate paragraph, making it appear that one of the best entries was HOBBITPROZAC. That would be a heck of an entry, probably clued either as: Tobacco pipe? or possibly: Second breakfast? ;)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I left the comma out intentionally. Maybe a little Prozac would have helped Frodo during the whole journey to throw the ring into the fires of Mordor. Maybe he would have realized that it wasn’t really his fight, screw it, go back to the Shire and chill out.

  4. Mike says:

    A classic crossword reference/clue/answer has passed away today. Ravi Shankar of Sitar and Raga Rock fame passed away at the age of 92. See link below for article.

  5. Peter Piper says:

    I thought there were only 8 notes in an octave. Someone please explain. Also why can’t I get the mon. LAT puzzle?

    • klew archer says:

      According to the Beastie Boys:
      Twenty four hours in a day
      Only twelve notes, well, a man can play

      Although according to the late Ravi Shankar there are apparently 22.

    • Billie says:

      The octave is twelve notes if you count the sharps and flats (the black keys on a piano).

    • Gareth says:

      I can’t tell you why you can’t get the Monday puzzle. I know that I can. Have you tried the Chicago Tribune’s Website? The LA Times website?

    • MM says:

      Tangentially related, I like how the three answer to 12 felt “wrong”. The Big 10 must have 10 teams, right? (Or 14?) An octave has eight notes, doesn’t it. The 12th century started in 1201, obviously.

      • Marti says:

        MM, thanks for picking up on that. It was totally intentional, and we discarded many entries that didn’t fit the “ironic” pattern.

        Gareth, yes, this is our first collaboration. D.G. is such a talented constructor, and it was a great experience to work with him on this one. I know he doesn’t read blogs, so that’s not just fawning praise!

  6. Pete says:

    Well, it’s late in the day and I’m happy to see my rating currently stands above the Mendoza line.

    – Pete Collins

    • Huda says:

      What’s the Mendoza line?

      • Pete says:


        Wikipedia says:

        The Mendoza Line is an expression in baseball in the United States, deriving from the name of shortstop Mario Mendoza, whose batting average is taken to define the threshold of incompetent hitting. The cutoff point is most often said to be .200,[1] and, when a position player’s batting average falls below that level, the player is said to be “below the Mendoza Line”. This is often thought of as the offensive threshold below which a player’s presence in Major League Baseball cannot be justified, regardless of his defensive abilities.

        – Pete

  7. Matt J. says:

    Re SPLAT vs. Kapow: Maybe if you were hit in the head by a fish.

  8. sbmanion says:

    I posted earlier today about Lawrence of Arabia. It never got published. I tried to repost and got a comment to the effect that my new post was a duplicate. It is most likely just my computer, but I am wondering if anyone else had this problem.


  9. Lemonade714 says:

    SJSJ, I love the HOBBITPROZAC imagery, thank you Amy.

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