Friday, January 4, 2013

NYT 4:53 
LAT 4:57 (Evad) 
CS 5:38 (Sam) 
CHE m:ia 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 4 13, 0104

I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve seen a themeless puzzle from Kahn (“Kaaaaahhhn!!”—solvers’ cry that one year at the ACPT when David’s Puzzle #5 was a killer), though we used to see more of them. We’ve also had, I suspect, fewer of the famous-person-died tribute puzzles in the last year or two, which was another Kahn turf. This was a reasonably enjoyable, reasonably smooth, reasonably difficult Friday puzzle. It’s a 72-worder that strives to set no records—just to provide a solid experience for the solving audience.

Best stuff:

  • 17a. MAINSTREAM MEDIA, [Target of some political attacks].
  • 33a. SEUSS, [Noted trisyllabic metrist]. Intriguing clue. Here are some examples of Seuss’s writing composed in regular three-syllable chunks.
  • 35a/36a. [Snow __] GEESE, [Snow __] PEAS.
  • 40a. [Planes are studied in it], MATH.
  • 59a. “WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?”, good.
  • 65a. [Danish man’s name with a line through the second letter], SØREN. Just read a New Yorker article about Danish TV shows—they’re all the rage in Britain, and Charles and Camilla watched an entire series while staying in Scotland. The Killing, that show that angered so many of its viewers, was a remake of a Danish series. I also learned that the Brits love the guy who plays Troels, but the New Yorker did not tell me how to pronounce “Troels.” I’m imagining “trolls” and it’s not doing much for me. Anyone know Danish here?
  • 3d. ADIRONDACK CHAIR, lovely 15. 
  • 7d. PRESSES THE FLESH, good.
  • 11d. Twain’s PUDD’NHEAD WILSON, [1984 novel whose title character likes to collect fingerprints]. Never read it but have always loved that title.
  • 57d. [Brest milk], LAIT. Stop snickering. We are merely speaking French here.

Worst stuff: NIP AT and SET AT are phrases I see far more in crosswords than anywhere else. ONER—you can’t even play that in Scrabble, and Scrabble allows all sorts of woefully obscure little words. Plural XENONS—do scientists actually refer to more than one individual atom by the element name in the plural? AWNS also rather crosswordesish. REHID is rather roll-your-ownish.

Am I the only one who’d never heard of TECH DATA ([Fortune 500 microcomputer firm]) before?

3.75 stars. Puzzle gets the job done.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Evad’s review

Frequent Foreign Fiend Forayer into Formidable Phenomena, Gareth Bain, brings us a weighty theme in today’s Los Angeles Times puzzle. Indeed, as most of us have made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, Gareth actually packs the pounds on to four otherwise svelte entries, by adding the suffix TON:

  • The unsuspecting BEER CAN, becomes [Center of Swiss Oktoberfest celebrations?] or a BEER CANTON.
  • Ay, matey, instead of walking the GANGPLANK today, we’ll send [Tiny sea thugs?] after you, or GANG PLANKTON.
  • My favorite entry, [More equitable church official?] adds weight to THE FAIRER SEX to get THE FAIRER SEXTON. True story for me (and since Gareth is a doctor, I know he’ll allow me to venture into the TMI zone): I run with a woman from my running club named Jayne Sexton (who I’m hoping doesn’t read this blog). When turning 50 a few years ago, I had my first colonoscopy (here’s the TMI part) and the attending nurse’s nametag read “Jayne.” Since she had a mask on and I was already heavily sedated, I didn’t recognize her and said, “Oh I run with someone who spells her first name the same way.” She replied, “Oh, do you mean from the [name of club we both run with]? That’s me!” So now when I run with her I try to stay behind her so as not to give her a view of anything that might remind her of that procedure!
  • The old-fashioned BUMPER CAR become [Cigarette buyer’s bonus?] or BUMPER CARTON.

Being an old COOT [Rail family bird] myself, I felt very much at home with old-time entries like OLDIE, AGAR, BUN, OATER and even GO BALD (which is what is happening to me!). Hoping though, I won’t need a SKIN GRAFT any time soon. Had trouble right off the bat with [RR sched. listings] with ETAS and then ARRS before the correct STAS, but otherwise the puzzle fell easily for me. I have one nit on the [Craftsman tools seller], though. They may be sold at K-MART, but they are the trademark tools at Sears, at least here on this side of the Atlantic.

Updated Friday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “This and That”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 4

Today’s puzzle re-imagines four common expressions beginning with “this” or “that” as the answers to hypothetical questions:

  • 17-Across: [“What’s the Italian word for love?”] Why, THAT’S AMORE.
  • 22-Across: [“Why won’t you be grading these questions?”] Easy. Because THIS IS NOT A TEST.
  • 43-Across: [“What’s in the biography you wrote about me?”] Lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll–because THIS IS YOUR LIFE
  • 51-Across: [“What are you wearing over your shoulders?”] Oh, THAT’S A WRAP.

I’m partial to themes that have us re-imagining common terms as something else through their clues, so I’m giving today’s puzzle some big thumbs up. The non-theme fill is equally satisfying, with TIME SLOT, DECAF, MIDWAY, LOIS LANE, and Sandra Day O’CONNOR among the highlights. I didn’t know [Keystone Kops producer Mack] SENNETT, and I rather stubbornly held on to NEWBORN as the [Recent delivery] over NEONATE. But otherwise the voyage offered smooth waters.

The presence of both STARTS IN and PUTS IN gives us fodder for the ongoing debate of “when is a repeated word a duplication?” Remember, Crossword Construction Principle #12 provides that a grid should not have repeated words unless they are part of the theme. Some factions argue that principle is limited to key words (i.e., it does not apply to prepositions), while others take a more absolutist/purist approach by decrying any duplication to any extent. As with much in life, I take a middle ground: I can forgive prepositional duplications like the one in today’s puzzle because in my mind, the IN’s are different: STARTS IN is short for “starts in on” but PUTS IN is short for “puts into.” That makes them different enough, I think, to go easy on the duplication. But I admit I’m making up this rule right here and now. Is there another basis for distinguishing them? Are you very concerned with duplications like this when they have nothing to do with the theme?

Favorite entry = LOIS LANE, the [Role for Teri Hatcher or Margot Kidder]. Favorite clue = [The Bucs stop here] for TAMPA, a great clue for 1-Across. A sign of great things to come!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “But First, a Word From Our Sponsor” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 1/4/13 • “But First, a Word From Our Sponsor” • Fri • Long • solution

To a base phrase, an AD is prefixed, and the wacky result is clued.

  • 23a. [Be clingy when not traveling in space?] ADHERE ON EARTH.
  • 34a. [ZIPs?] ADDRESS CODES.
  • 52a. [Family-expanding document?] ADOPTION CONTRACT.
  • 69a. [Guidance counselors?] ADVICE SQUAD.
  • 85a. [The Emerald City, in the Oz books?] ADVENTURE CAPITAL.
  • 103a. [Retype with the shift key down?] ADJUST IN CASE.
  • 117a. [“No sense is so uncommon as common sense”?] ADAGE OF REASON. –Anonymous.

Fine theme, although I’m nearly certain it’s been done before, not to mention variations such as inserting the ADs into “regularly scheduled programming” and who knows what else. The results are mostly entertaining and the original phrases are good, though I found two—Here on Earth and just in case—to feel less solid because they weren’t stand-alone nouns. Option contract, too, felt ever-so-slightly off, perhaps because it’s more commonly referred to as simply an “option”?

The non-sponsored fill is generally robust, with some decent mid-size stacks in the corners, longish fill such as NFL COACH, ETHERNET, the cross-referenced neighbors DB COOPER and AIRLINER, ALOE VERA near NEONATAL, though I’m not sure if connecting those latter two is recommended.

But wait! There’s more:

  • Loved the way [Tied to to the train tracks, e.g.] perfectly evoked,without the need for any crosses, the answer IN PERIL, which is not so exciting inandofitself. (77a)
  • 59a PHOTOOP gave me multiple  pauses as I was filling in that area, before I sussed out the proper spacing.
  • Row Two is proposition central: IN TRAY, OVER IT, ON A ROLL.
  • Embarked on reading 100a last year, but had to return it before I could get fully immersed. [Repeated, an Iris Murdoch novel] THE SEAThe Sea, the Sea.
  • Icky partial title at 65d [“Assault on __” (1966 Sinatra movie)] A QUEEN, but it’s mollified somewhat with the neighboring flourish of QUINCE, complementing the Q structure. See also 119d [Frank’s second wife] AVA, and 99a [Hyundai model] ELANTRA.
  • Anyone care to enlighten me regarding 7d [Force feed?] DONUT? How about 120d [Pitbull offering] RAP?
  • Did you know that 44d GODIVA Chocolatiers call their little boxes ballotins? I certainly didn’t. It derives from the same word, meaning a ballot box, or the officer who is responsible for one.

4 out of 5 dentists agree that this was an enjoyable puzzle.

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15 Responses to Friday, January 4, 2013

  1. ktd says:

    If you can locate the xenons in your electron density map, you should have no problem solving your crystal structure.

    Science! ;-)

  2. Matt says:

    I read Pudd’nhead Wilson long ago, and it’s an entertaining read– Twain’s a wonderful writer.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Loved Gareth’s LAT. Straightforward theme, but superbly realized.

    {Descriptive of an unrepentantly cruel albino?} (4, 3, 6)

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Love the COAX/COMB cap on this puzzle. Brest Milk: coolest clue.

    I did not know PUDDNHEADWILSON and as it was emerging, I stared at DDNH in bewilderment. Sounds interesting, I need to read it. SEUSS, on the other hand, I know and love. My favorite is the Sneetches and Other Stories. I’ve read them so often with my kids, I can recite them. Now, when I hear about Congress, I think about the Zax:

    “And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
    “That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
    For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
    That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
    Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
    Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
    I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
    If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”

  5. Gareth says:

    Three hardest entries: ADIRONDACKCHAIR… We don’t have them here (I think), and it really wanted to be a something BACKCHAIR and I do mean really; SEUSS wanted to be SOUSA; I also couldn’t quite believe PUDDN was spelt in such a crazily elided way even though I recognized the name after many crosses; my initial answer: ASTUDYINSCARLET – also 15 letters alas! PS the date’s been transposed in your write-up Amy!

    A song to go with my LAT: Thanks for blogging it eVad!

    • Huda says:

      LOL, very funny song. Hey, the band is from the midwest, where people are less inhibited about GAINingWEIGHT.

      I like the new meta-analysis that showed that a little extra weight is not so bad for you. A TON on the other hand…

  6. Zulema says:

    I liked the PUDDNHEAD WILSON entry, though I had to think hard for a moment to remember the title (and his name). It’s a sad but humorous story about generally backward thinking. 120 years later, some things haven’t changed a great deal, only the subjects are different.

  7. C says:

    Good LAT today, I enjoyed the writeup as well. As to the very small nit expressed at the end, Sears owns K-mart which makes the clue viable, IMO.

  8. RK says:

    @pannonica Pitbull is a rapper I think and donuts are what the police always seem to be eating or so we’re told. That’s how I took it and laughed.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Hah, Gareth — I cracked up at your clue “Become unlocked”, & tiny sea thugs: GANG PLANKTON!
    Please keep ’em coming…

  10. sbmanion says:

    I did the puzzle last night and noticed that Mr. Happy Pencil did not appear, but I left to go to the movies with my kids–we were 4 of 10 people in the audience for the non 3D version of The Hobbit (better than I thought, but way too long)–before I could fix it.

    Here is my stupid rationalization. I put in PUDiNHEADWILSON. I sort of but not really knew the title and assumed that the correct spelling would be PUDDIN. The i left me with IAM, instead of the obvious DAM. But it never dawned on me that IAM was wrong because I assumed that the dog food brand IAMS had some relationship to building as in building strong bodies.

    Thus ends my perfect year early.


  11. bonekrusher says:

    39 Down (“Fortune 500 microcomputer firm”) was perfectly set up to trick us into thinking it was TOSHIBA. The T, H, and A that it shares with TECHDATA had very easy clues.

    I fell for it immediately.

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