Wednesday, January 9, 2013

NYT 2:54 
LAT 4:19 (Gareth) 
CS Just over 4 Minutes (Sam) 
Tausig untimed 

The Boston Globe’s Sunday crosswords by Henry Hook and Emily Cox/Henry Rathvon are going subscription-only with a new $10 annual rate (that’s 19.2¢ per puzzle). Visit CRooked Crosswords to sign up to receive the puzzles via email each week. (You see what they did there? The C and R from Cox and Rathvon, plus Hook’s “ook.”) The puzzles are available in both .puz and .pdf formats, and the answer grid is provided. If you like to solve on a mobile device, have no fear—both the CRUX app and the Stand Alone Crosswords app will support the subscription service. The usual Puzzle Pointers links will work through January but after that, access is for subscribers only.

David Ben-Merre’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 9 13, 0109

This theme is perhaps a little hard to describe succinctly. It’s basically a phrase interpreted in two ways that are opposite each other:

  • 18a. [Did or didn’t agree to end the illustrators’ strike?], DREW A LINE. Did agree = the illustrators were free to draw lines. Didn’t agree = “drew a line in the sand” and didn’t cave on negotiations.
  • 20a. [Did or didn’t dilute the prom bowlful?], ADDED PUNCH. Added more punch and diluted … punch that was already liquored up? Didn’t dilute it = added the punch of more liquor? Not clear on whether punch is diluted by adding more pure punch or by adding booze.
  • 33a. [Did or didn’t perform a New Year’s ceremony?], DROPPED THE BALL. Did = dropped the giant crystal ball in Times Square. Didn’t = oops, dropped the ball on that and didn’t do it.
  • 54a. [Did or didn’t play a good round of golf?], SHOT SUBPAR. Did = shot below par. Didn’t = shot a subpar/lousy round of golf. Not sure SUBPAR can mean “below golf par.”
  • 60a. [Did or didn’t participate in the Boy Scouts outing?], TOOK A HIKE. Did = went on a hike. Didn’t = “took a hike/flyer/powder” and refused to take part in the hike.

Is that how things made sense to you? Was 20a any clearer to you than to me?

Interesting theme in that it plays with multiple meanings of words (polysemy) in a way I’ve not seen before in a crossword.

By the way, if I have a typo in my solution grid, I don’t know it—the applet opted not to transmit any data when I clicked “done.” It likes to think that sometimes I’ve randomly severed my internet connection. I don’t know why.

When you read 49d: [One of a deck pair], were you picturing a couple deck chairs? It’s a deck of cards, and a JOKER.

Some of you may have been perplexed by 17a: [Plant used as ground cover]. VINCA! I do not recall if the ground cover in my front yard is vinca major or vinca minor, just that the common name is periwinkle. VINCA comes from the Latin pervinca. Go ahead, guess what that means. Periwinkle morphed its spelling from the Old English peruince. Also? When I was a kid, my sister and I rebutted my mother. That Crayola color was not, as Mom said, “periwinkle blue.” It’s “perwinkle purple.” This concludes my ruminations on VINCA.

Did not know ABA was [Part of a terza rima rhyme scheme]. Did you?

[Head shot accompaniers] is a nice clue for BIOS. I have never had a professional head shot, not being of an actorly/modelish bent.

I’ve got nothing else to comment on in this puzzle. Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Material Girl Material”—Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 9

Everybody is Burning Up over today’s crossword, a tribute to MADONNA. Who’s That Girl, you ask? She’s the Angel from La Isla Bonita better known as the [Singer whose hits include the starts of 17-, 29-, and 64-Across and 11- and 28-Down]. Wow, five theme entries and MADONNA for a revealer? Oh Father, Cherish is a word I use to remind me of this puzzle.

Let’s get Into the Groove through a recap of the theme entries, as it might shed a Ray of Light:

  • 17-Across: A MUSIC VIDEO is a [Promotional clip] you don’t see as much these days. That’s right, they’re no longer en Vogue.
  • 29-Across: RAIN MAN is the [Tom Cruise film of 1988], It taught me that Judge Wapner comes on at 3 o’clock.
  • 64-Across: If you say the SECRET WORD you would be a [Money winner on “You Bet Your Life”]. If you win, Take a Bow.
  • 11-Down: HOLIDAY INN is a [Hotel chain founded in Memphis]. It’s the home of many a Bedtime Story.
  • 28-Down: A FROZEN ROPE is another term for a [Hard-hit line drive] in baseball. I remember hitting one once on a plot of land that Used to Be My Playground.

Did you notice the four seven-letter entries in the middle row and the middle column? BOOTLEG RED WINE LICKING BORSCHT. I think I saw that in a Madonna video. The other long Across entries are semi-thematic too, as one could say Madge often WENT WILD when wearing that pointed bra with the WARHEADS on the front. (For you younger solvers, that’s where Katy Perry got the idea.)

I better stop here. Like a Virgin, I used up all my good stuff too early in the write-up. Next time I’ll try to Keep It Together. So I’ll just say I liked this one. Agree or disagree? You should Express Yourself in the comments.

Favorite entry = BOOTLEG, meaning to [Distribute illegal copies]. Favorite clue = [A drag to fishermen] for TRAWL.

Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

So what was the first thing you noticed when you started solving Mr. Wildenberg’s puzzle? I’m curious, because as a constructor, my eye was immediately drawn by the two pairs of (I thought) cheater squares either side of the central answer. According to the strict definition of the term though, they aren’t cheaters as they facilitate the revealing answers SILVER/LINING. That’s a novel way to include a 12-letter revealer isn’t it? Plus each crosses a theme answer locking down the options Mr. Wildenberg had. Basically though, it’s a pretty straightforward theme with the colourful SILVERLINING tying everything together. The first word of each answer begins with a word that can be preceded by SILVER. It should be noted that the SILVER-x phrases and the phrases use the second word in the same sense. That’s not a typical route, but I suspect a necessary one in this case. So:

18a,[The money follows it], DOLLARSIGN.

      “Silver dollar”. Clever clue.

23a,[Olympic hero], MEDALWINNER.

      “Silver medal”. You don’t have to win to be a hero. RIP Burry Stander who did his country proud with his 5th place in London!

35a,[Treat like a child], SPOONFEED.

      “Silver spoon”. Another Clever Clue.

50a,[Rapid rail transport], BULLETTRAIN.

      “Silver bullet”

57a,[Actor’s tryout], SCREENTEST.

    “Silver screen”

I hate to be that guy to complain about short fill (especially as I’m often that guy standing up and saying “hey, lighten up, it isn’t THAT bad) but… those top-right and bottom-left corners… APIN/EME/ASES and then UNA/EST/KENO/STEN/OSSO. The answers in the latter collection aren’t so bad considered individually but altogether felt a tad much. I think if I was into classical music I’d appreciate ASES more, but I’m not. And we did get the fun BIGGAME in that section. Also, there sometimes has to be a price for 7 answers and 61 theme squares. The rest of the grid seemed just fine: only ELSAS, ADEER (clued in a way I just don’t get, how does one run “like a deer”???) and the high-falutin’ French SIECLE are glaring at me. As a SILVER/LINING, the stack of shorter answers comprising PONG/FOGY/ENERGY were pretty cool, though!

Not too much else I’d like to highlight:

  • 32d, [Early computer language], COBOL is personally memorable because one of my brothers dropped out of his computer programming diploma because of his hatred for the language. He went on to get a BA in English and now works as a computer programmer. (I assume the odds of him reading this are pretty small. He’s not crossword literate)
  • 46d, [Sewer line], STITCH. I’m ashamed, the clue got me and I desperately tried STENCH! Ross Beresford had a list of Pavlovian responses crossword solvers should make to avoid well-worn misdirections… Lessee… Here you go!

That’s my rambling finished; feel free to disagree vehemently in the comments :).

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Tailwinds”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword answers, 1 9 13 “Tailwinds”

That’s a long I sound in the title—a snaky tail winds its way around to complete each theme answer. And those tail letters are also the names of snakes, just to take the theme from “neat idea” to “super-tight execution.”

  • 21a, 58a. [With 58-Across, what the end of 5-, 25- or 32-Down does], SNAKES AROUND.
  • 5d. [Lewis Carroll game involving letter replacement], WORD LADDER. The ADDER is the snake that snakes upwards in the column next to WORDL going down. ADDER is found in the movie title RED DAWN, a great answer in its own right.
  • 25d. Apollo [Creed’s trainee], Rocky BALBOA. The BOA appears in MALIA OBAMA, another great entry.
  • 32d. [Convenient jewelry closure], MAGNETIC CLASP. The ASP is a PSA reversed. This is where the theme finally (red) dawned on me—I was confused by BAL and WORDL but figured they were legitimate but just somehow entirely foreign to me. Then the CL had to mean CLASP, and I saw the snaking ASP and the shoe (or Ben’s mic) dropped.

Tough puzzle, I thought. But an elegant and inventive theme.

Fill in fine fettle: T.C. BOYLE (I miss the Coraghessan he used to use), LA CIE (the brand of my new external hard drive), WHAMMIES, GITMO, WOMYN, GET A JOB, AD BLITZ.

Mystery creature: 29a. [Lumpfish], SEA OWL. Wha…? Googling… Okay, the lumpfish, aka lumpsucker, is a fish that may be called the sea owl, I’m guessing because of its round face and big eyes, not to mention its overall lumpiness. “The sea owl has an adhesive pelvic disc.”—sentence you should be sure to work into your conversation this week. Tell me those things don’t look like Happy Meal toys. “Collect all four!”

4.5 stars. The lumpsuckers please me as much as the SNAKES AROUND theme.

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30 Responses to Wednesday, January 9, 2013

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Don’t miss the Tausig.

  2. Jason F says:

    “didn’t dilute the punch”: I feel that to fit the clue well, the action should not strengthen *or* weaken the punch.

    So, perhaps the punch in that case is non-alcoholic? If the bowl contains only punch, then adding more of the same does not dilute it.

    Or perhaps I am over-thinking it.

  3. I had the J in place from JAIL, so I put in JOKER with no hesitation.

    I’d like to see BIOS clued some day as something like [It boots a bootloader], but given the technicality and non-inferrability of it, I doubt it’ll happen in any mainstream puzzle any time soon.

  4. J. T. Williams says:

    Interesting info on the BG puzzles. Since they’re going to a subscription service, will that also eliminate the 6 week lag we have right now? Might be well worth the cost just for that.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s currently a 7-week lag. They’ve not yet ironed out the specifics, but it won’t be a zero-week lag. The rights revert back to the constructors after they’ve been in the paper, but they’re exclusive to the Boston Globe at the time of publication. Hopefully we will see a shorter lag soon.

  5. bob stigger says:

    No golfer would be pleased with a subpar round. Below par would be ambiguous. But since many crossword devices derive their humor from giving not-in-the-language interpretations to words and phrases, I don’t see that as a defect.

  6. pannonica says:

    Another who thinks the PUNCH dilution makes no sense.

    As for “periwinkle blue,” I can only think of Brad Pitt specifying a replacement caravan in Snatch.

  7. Gareth says:

    Loved the creative theme in the NYT. Vinca is also the original source of vincristine, the chemotherapy drug…

  8. Chaitanya says:

    I personally really enjoyed the wordplay in the NYT..

    Perhaps the Added Punch answer could have been better clued as “did or didn’t spike the prom bowlful”

  9. RK says:

    Loved the NYT theme. Really clever. See the dispute over dilute but I think it works.

    • David L says:

      Dunno, I’m not seeing it. I can’t see any way to interpret ADDEDPUNCH as diluting it. Putting more punch in the punchbowl just means more of the same, right?

      • RK says:

        If the bowl is spiked then adding punch would dilute it. It could also be said that adding alcohol to the bowl does thin the punch concentration, but the clue would’ve been better with spiked as someone else said.

        • David L says:

          I guess we have different ideas of what “punch” means. To me, punch is the alcoholic beverage itself, a mixture of wine and fruit juice and vodka and schnapps and whatever else you found in the back of the bar. So adding punch to punch doesn’t dilute anything.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I had to doublecheck to make sure I didn’t write the Cross Synergy review.

    • pannonica says:

      Me too! And by the way I’m so glad that that one wasn’t on my watch.

    • Evad says:

      Yeah, I think we should have “Guess that Fiend” month where commenters are asked to identify who wrote a particular puzzle commentary. I would’ve pegged all those Madonna references (including the “4 Minutes” at the top as well, what a coup de grace!) to you all along Jeffrey. Seems like I would start the month oh-for-one, huh?

  11. Zulema says:

    My favorite Wednesday in memory. XILEM, which came to me as soon as I wrote EXIST, and didn’t I learn that term in Geology class 49 years ago!? While solving I said “elegant,” then “cute,” then just savored the whole thing. Only non-speed solvers will understand the pleasure of it.
    The PUNCH entry should have been clued differently, Chaitanya’s suggestion works better.

  12. Peter Piper says:

    @ bob stigger I play golf and a sub par round could very well mean below par and that’s where every golfer would love to be.

  13. jonesy says:

    To clear up the “addedpunch” discussion:
    A) Assume the prom punch is spiked with alcohol.

    B) Either you did dilute (the alcohol portion of the punch) by adding more just normal punch to the bowl or

    C) you did not dilute the punch (the alcohol portion again) by “adding a punch” like you would say figuratively that a particularly strong alcoholic drink has an “added punch” – important to note that each answer is 1/2 figurative (or an idiom or something) 1/2 literal.

    • David L says:

      I know I should let this go, but: your explanation B only works if “normal” punch has no alcohol in it, whereas to me punch is by default loaded with booze, and if it’s not you call it “non-alcoholic punch.”

      OK, I’ll stop now, I promise.

  14. Daniel says:

    Every puzzle from David Ben-Merre is better than the next.

    Just kidding! Loved the wordplay!

  15. Jerome says:

    For those interested in word lists for their word games, I have created some at: Enjoy !!!

  16. Jeff Chen says:

    Clever NYT theme! Put a smile on my face.

  17. Huda says:

    Greetings from Beirut… Being jet lagged, the NYT both amused me and confused me at times, particularly around the PUNCH clue/answer. In the end, I accepted the idea that punch does exist in a non-alcoholic form (that my kids used to try to talk me into buying), and adding punch can mean diluting the alcohol content. But it’s definitely the theme answer that requires the most mental gyration, since punch was originally alcoholic. But more broadly, I loved the play on word and the originality of the theme.

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