Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jonesin' 4:22 
LAT 3:01 
NYT 2:56 
CS 6:13 (Sam) 

Do you like oversized 23×23 crosswords? Or semi-naughty themes? Or Caleb Madison’s work? Or crossword theme contests? If I know most of you, the answer is “all of the above.” You’re in luck! Caleb’s “Skinema” puzzle is available as a premium for American Values Club Crossword subscribers, or for a stand-alone $5 fee. The contest deadline is Thursday, February 14, and the top prize is $50 plus a four-year subscription to the AV Club puzzles. Details here.

Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 12 13, #0212

Hey! Can it really be? An early-week puzzle that leaves it to the solver to figure out what the theme is? We don’t see too many themed puzzles without titles that don’t club us over the head with a theme revealer that explains all the mysteries. Here, the theme is car parts and they’re found in other contexts at the end of each theme answer:

  • 20a. [1991 film that earned John Singleton a Best Director nomination], BOYZ N THE HOOD. Dang! I spelled BOYZ right but went straight for IN and ran out of room at the end.
  • 29a. [What a blind man mistakes for a snake, in a fable], ELEPHANT TRUNK.
  • 44a. [Test at a football tryout], FORTY-YARD DASH. I tried FIFTY.
  • 54a. [Singer of the 1975 #1 hit “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”], FREDDY FENDER.

Our British Empire solvers are grumbling that the theme lacks a BONNET and a BOOT. And for all I know, in England a dashboard isn’t a dashboard and a fender’s not a fender.


Things that underwhelmed me: 8d. [Like Olivia Newton-John’s last name] clues HYPHENED?? Never seen that one before. Lots of shorter fill in the dull VEIN, including INGE ENS ESS DEO OLDE ALPE ASET NTEST TYNE ADAIR UTE LYS and 53d: [Singer Terence ___ D’Arby]/TRENT. However! I am amused to learn from Wikipedia that Darby (he began without an apostrophe) legally changed his name to Sananda Maitreya in 2001, after a series of dreams. That’s plain goofy. But his young sons have Mingus and Elvis as their middle names, and that’s awesome.

The theme is solid but I’m not sure what shaped the fill in this 78-worder. Can’t help feeling the fill could have been smoother. 2.9 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Oh, You Kid”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 12

The title of today’s puzzle had me thinking we were going to see some little ones in the grid. But instead the emphasis is really on the first two words of the title. We take five common two-word terms (all of which have a U as the second letter as the first word) and swap an O for the U:

  • 17-Across: “Sure-handed” becomes SORE-HANDED, [Like someone who has been knitting all day?].
  • 25-Across: An [Heir in a downpour?] would be SON-DRENCHED, not “sun-drenched.”
  • 37-Across: The [Vehicle for transporting double agents?] is a MOLE TRAIN (not a “mule train”). I liked this one best because it’s the most “transformative.” That is, a “mule train” is a team of mules, not a locomotive (or, if your prefer, choo-choo train). Changing “mule” to “mole” also changes the meaning of the second word (well, more so than is the case for other four theme entries, anyway).
  • 52-Across: A “bunny rabbit” turns into a BONNY RABBIT, a [Cute Scottish cottontail?].
  • 62-Across: The [Cotton fiber bazaar?] is not a “bull market” but a BOLL MARKET. I really wanted this to be BOLT MARKET, but I knew it couldn’t be since BOLTS, the [Fabric units], crossed at the first L.

There isn’t much to be said about the theme, and the same goes for the fill. I did like the two corners of triple 7s, and those entries were the best of the lot. Those who love partials have a lot to like here. There’s ON RYE, OH SO, A DEAR, A SEC, and ON ME. Fans of Crosswordese will appreciate SHOAL, LST, GIRO, ASTA, ATLI, and EPOS.

Favorite entry =PIGSKIN, a [Football, slangily]. Favorite clue = [Time-out spot, usually] for the CORNER. The most intriguing clue, it should be noted, was [New coin of 2002] for the EURO. Would [New coin of 1866] be a good clue for NICKEL?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Free to Be”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 2 12 13 “Free to Be”

The themeless bug bit Matt again and he’s freestyling this week. The puzzle’s got a lot of juicy fill bound together with some “Wait, what?” fill. First up, the goodies:

  • 18a. [Debate attack], AD HOMINEM. If you disagree with my review of the puzzle, you’re obviously a troglodyte.
  • 27a. [Sinatra song with many lines starting with “this time”], “DIDN’T WE.” Never heard of it, but the entry looks kinda cool.
  • 62a. [Clean version of a song], RADIO EDIT. As in Cee Lo’s “Forget You,” or the cuss-less version of Drake’s “The Motto.”
  • 1d. [Lollipops and peppermints and such], HARD CANDY.
  • 5d. [Anchor that stayed put for many years], CRONKITE. You weren’t fooled into thinking of ship anchors, were you?
  • 8d. [“Autobahn” group], KRAFTWERK.
  • 31d. [Deck diversion], CARD TRICK. Crossworder Ben Bass boggled my mind with a bunch of card tricks at LaGuardia after the ACPT two years ago.
  • 38d. [Scrape covers], BAND-AIDS.
  • 43d. [It may clash with the rest of the suit], LOUD TIE.

For 60a: [Grocery store number], did anyone else have **IT**ICE in place and jump from “grocery” to WHITE RICE? Yes, I know rice isn’t a “number” and UNIT PRICE is.

I was markedly less fond of these oddballs:

  • 13d. [More lively], SPARKIER. Does anyone use that adjective?
  • 44a. [“If you asked me…” follow-up], I’D SAY NO. Not lexically chunky enough to stand on its own in the grid. If you asked me if you should include this in your grid, I’d say no.
  • 56a. [Con artist’s cube], LOADED DIE. I’ve never encountered this in the singular.

Overall rating for this 70-worder, 3.5 stars.

Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 2 12 13

Hey, look! It’s another one of those themes that expects the solvers to figure out the common element themselves rather than putting an explanation in the theme revealer. These four phrases begun with words that double as synonyms for “candid”:

  • 17a. [Club used as a weapon, say], BLUNT INSTRUMENT. Nice echo in 16a: [He hunted with a club in the “Odyssey”], ORION.
  • 29a. [Kid-friendly comfort food], FRANK AND BEANS. I always heard it as “franks and beans.”
  • 48a. [Tests during which checking notes is allowed], OPEN-BOOK EXAMS.
  • 64a. [Candid sort], STRAIGHT SHOOTER. (See also 36d. [Target practice supply], AMMO.)

Did not know:

  • 3d. [Xbox battle game], BRUTE FORCE. But the non-brand-name phrase is, of course, familiar.
  • 33d. [African countries on the Mediterranean, e.g.], ARAB STATES. This isn’t a term I hear bandied about much.


  • 20a. [Nonagenarian actress White], BETTY. Do you know any other nonagenarian actresses?
  • Nice pairing here. 32d: [More like Felix Unger], NEATER and 12d: [Randall who played Felix Unger], TONY.

The lower right corner is overloaded with RST and AEIO. Look at it! AERO RIATA IOTA TEAS ASTI TARSI ATEAT STATES. It all blends together visually. The lower left is better with PUNKS and SNEAK, although nobody yearns for ERNE.

3.5 stars.

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20 Responses to Tuesday, February 12, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    It made me work a bit to figure out the theme; it has my hometown in it; it’s about cars, which is good for my state. So, I’m partial to it.

    GEEZ crossing the BOYZ, and OHOHOH, and the way it was clued made me smile.

  2. Cindy Lou Who says:

    wing = fender

    fascia = dashboard

  3. HH says:

    “Hey! Can it really be? An early-week puzzle that leaves it to the solver to figure out what the theme is?”

    Thank God!

  4. sbmanion says:

    Fun puzzle. I also inserted the “i” in “in” and wondered how I could be wrong.

    Amy, when people talk about an athlete, they will often say something to the effect of “he runs a 4.4.” They are always referring to the player’s 40-yard dash time. There is a .2 difference between “hand-timed” and “machine-timed.” Most high schoolers are hand-timed and their actual time is higher: a 4.6 time is actually 4.8.

    The fastest time ever recorded at the NFL combine was Bo Jackson’s 4.12. Anything under 4.4 is flying, although my favorite recent time belonged to a lineman who was 6’6″ tall, weighed 365 pounds and ran a machine-timed 4.85. Imagine Bo Jackson with the ball and this guy blocking in front of him. When a player make a feeble pass at tackling a runner, it is called an “ole move,” (oh-lay, I still cannot insert the accent), which seems apt for such situations.


  5. Gareth says:

    Freddy got Fendered…

    And I thought Frank and beans more usually referred to the same thing as “big Jim and the twins” ;)

  6. Huda says:

    I’ve been trying to decide whether you are an amazingly good barometer of solver’s views of the puzzle, whether your critique helps coalesce the opinion, or whether your specific rating also has an influence- or all of the above. I imagine we all vote based on our own feelings, but if I am teetering in between two stars your views can sway me (in spite of my contrary nature:). I value your opinion.

    So, I was wondering whether you’ve ever just noted your rating privately and watched to see how close people get? Inquiring minds…

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Huda, Interesting issue which I too have thought about. I generally enter my rating before reading commentary or comments to avoid just the sort of influence you are describing. Of course I have the previous ratings in front of me. The problem with that is that I sometimes fail to understand a puzzle fully, until the enlightenment of Amy’s review, and then realize that I would have, and should have rated the puzzle more favorably. (Sometimes much more favorably.) So my compromise is that if I suspect that there is something about a particular puzzle I’m not understanding, or an added dimension of some sort, I read before I write.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Hmm, interesting idea, Huda.

  7. john farmer says:

    Do you know any other nonagenarian actresses?

    Yes, I do. A couple of years ago I wrote about actresses and actors who were 90 and older. The only sisters to win acting Oscars, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, are both in their 90s. Two-time Best Actress Luise Rainer leads the pack at 103.

  8. sandirhodes says:

    This time, we almost made some sense of it, DIDNTWE girl?

    • HH says:

      Why was it clued as a Sinatra song? The only two versions to reach Billboard’s Hot 100 were by Richard Harris(!) and Barbra Streisand. And besides, wasn’t just about *every* song performed by Sinatra at some point?

  9. Peter Piper says:

    @John Farmer but are they still acting at 90+.?

    • john farmer says:

      That wasn’t the question. But among the women, I don’t know. Among the men, Eli Wallach, Mickey Rooney, Norman Lloyd have all done work in their 90s, and maybe some of the others.

    • john farmer says:

      One other note. When I was looking up the old actors and actresses a couple of years ago, there seemed to be a general trend: the women had been divorced or widowed decades before and had long since left the business, but many of the men were still married and often had worked into their 80s or later. Not sure what to make of that. Betty White (91) and Elaine Stritch (88) may be the exceptions (among them, Helen Hayes, Ruth Gordon, a few others from the past).

      And since it is that season: Emmanuelle Riva (85) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (82) star in Best Picture nominee Amour. She’s the oldest actress ever to be nominated for Best Actress.

  10. john farmer says:

    Anybody still here?

    I believe we have a winner for Peter P.: Carla Laemmle, niece of Carl (whom I’ve actually heard of), born in 1909 and at 103 still going strong. This has gotta be one of the more interesting bio lines in all of Wikipedia:

    Years active 1925–1939; 2001; 2010–2012

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