Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jonesin' 3:25 
NYT 2:56 
LAT 3:02 
CS 3:18 (Sam) 

Barry Franklin and Sara Kaplan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 2 19 13, #0219

Did it take you a while to suss out the theme here? I had the whole puzzle filled in and stared blankly at the six longest entries. Sounding out the ends and then the beginnings eventually took me to an inquisitive place:

  • 18a. [Construction on the Colorado River], HOOVER DAM. Who?
  • 23a. [DNA modelers], WATSON AND CRICK. What? (I pronounce that closer to “whut” than “watt,” personally, but the dictionary certainly also includes a “watt” vowel sound for “what.”)
  • 29a. [Sainted king who inspired a carol], WENCESLAUS. When? (Yes, we know some of you are “hwen”/”hwat”/”hwere”/”hwy” pronouncers. I know it bothers you. Pretend it doesn’t, just for 10 minutes.)
  • 41a. [Lycanthropes], WEREWOLVES. Where?
  • 45a. [Publicly funded residential complex], HOUSING PROJECT. How?
  • 55a. [Lawman at the O.K. Corral], WYATT EARP. Why?

We seem to have a Hooker here, a puzzle that leaves the solver to figure out the theme with nary a theme-revealing hint to be found. Fancy!

I liked seeing LET IT SNOW in the grid, though I do have a loathing for the song after that one holiday season working in a mall and it did confuse me when WENCESLAUS popped up. Two Christmas carols … in February?

The inclusion of six theme answers and four 9-letter Downs may have constrained the fill a tad more than I like. BAHIA ALTE EELY EERO PAPAW KILOJOULE OWAR FOTO A BEND? I dunno, a lot of those seem like a stretch for a Tuesday grid. Yes, I solved it in a regular Tuesdayish amount of time, but then I learned of BAHIA and EELY and Man O WAR from all those old crosswords over the years, and I don’t know that a newer solver will pounce on those.

Three stars from me. The fill kept striking me as a little off while I was solving.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Ob Course”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 2 19 13 “Ob Course”

The theme isn’t “how you pronounce things when you hab a cold,” nor is it obstetrical in nature. Matt’s added an OB- prefix to change words’ meanings:

  • 17a. [Thieves who take X-rated DVDs?], OBSCENE STEALERS.
  • 34a. [Fascination with Dre, Eve and Wiz Khalifa?], RAP OBSESSION. I know that “rap session” is a dictionary-grade phrase, but has anyone under the age of 50 ever used it unironically?
  • 42a. [Jamaica or Puerto Rico, if you’re drawing a map?], OBLONG ISLAND. True geographic story!
  • 60a. [Debt to ducts?], TUBAL OBLIGATION. I’m convinced that this TUBAL OBLIGATION is to the oviducts and probably relates to the doctor’s charge for the tubal ligation.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 1d. [Zooming noise], WHOOSH.
  • 25d. [Skirmish], TUSSLE.
  • 9d. [Spanish actress often seen on “The Love Boat”], CHARO. Charo! Hoochie-coochie!
  • 11d. [Pinky’s partner], THE BRAIN. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? “We would also have accepted [What Obama’s administration plans to map over the next decade].
  • 5d. [Add sparkle to], PUNCH UP.
  • 31d. [Less like thou?], HOLIER.
  • 44d. [Symbols called “snails” in some languages], AT SIGNS. Snails!

New to me: 23a. [Really untrustworthy looking], SKETCH. I know sketchy and I know skeevy, but I didn’t know anyone had lopped the Y off the end of sketchy.

Overall rating, 3.75 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Thorny Issue”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 19

As you can see from the screenshot to the right, the very last entry I placed in the grid was the ROSE at 50-Down. It was only then that I realized the theme, as it appears in the clue: [Flower with cultivars sharing their names with 20-, 25-, 42-, and 47-Across]. Even with that clue, I had to look up the definition of “cultivar” and do some Googling to fully grasp the theme: each of the four answers referenced above is the name of a cultivated variety (“cultivar”) of roses. By any other name, they still smell as sweet:

  • 20-Across: AMERICAN BEAUTY is the [Spacey/Bening Oscar-winning picture] that features way too many good acting performances to list individually. Thematically, says Wikipedia, it is “a hybrid perpetual rose, bred in France in 1875, and originally named ‘Madame Ferdinand Jamin.’ The cup-shaped flowers, which are deep pink and strongly scented, appear in flushes over a long period.” You’ll sometimes find five spades in flushes, too. 
  • 25-Across: PRETTY IN PINK is the [Description of Molly Ringwald’s character at the prom, in a 1986 movie]. I forget what the movie was called. According to one website, the “flowers [of a Pretty in Pink] have a creamy white base that’s laced with various pink colors of the softest kind. It’s a very lovely rose flower color combination.” That’s what you call an unbiased account.
  • 42-Across: YANKEE DOODLE is the [Pony rider in a patriotic song]. He was dandy at it. High Country Roses describes it in various incomplete sentences: “Very large, urn-shaped buds open to flowers shaded from yellow to apricot-pink. Very fragrant and double, with over 70 petals. Vigorous, tall rose, reaching 5 to 6 feet with glossy, disease resistant foliage.” About the best compliment you can pay to a bud is to call it urn-shaped.
  • 47-Across: AGATHA CHRISTIE is [Miss Marple’s creator], but that’s not exactly a mystery. Yet another site, Heirloom Roses, describes the Agatha Christie rose as having “beautiful rich, pink Hybrid Tea shaped blooms that are lightly fragrant. A strong growing disease-resistant climber with outstanding dark-green, glossy foliage.” Give me a disease-resistant climber any day.

I needed a few crossings before feeling confident about [Chinese statesman] Sun YAT-SEN, and the -ANCE suffix nearby looked too awkward to be correct. The only other spot that had me pondering for a while was figuring out the answer to [Formicary maker]. Unfamiliar with “formicary,” I considered the possibility it was, in turn, a car, a drug, and a building. Alas, it’s an anthill. Had the clue read [Anthill maker], maybe I would have come to ANT a little more quickly. (Given my previously confessed case of myrmecophobia, however, I’m excusing myself from not knowing “formicary” before now.)

The rest of the grid was smoother sailing than 1970s yacht rock. Lastly, I should note that 3:18 is a personal best solving time for me on any 15×15 crossword. If I can keep up that kind of pace, can I finally crack the top 200 at the ACPT in 17 more days? Here’s hoping!

Favorite entry = BARHOPS, or [Tours the taverns]. Favorite clue = [Stay neutral?] for IDLE.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 2 19 13

Whoops! It’s 9 pm and I forgot to blog this puzzle. Was out all morning and early afternoon, and then I worked, and here we are. (Sorry, C.C.!) Quickly, then: Theme is MIDDLE CHILD, and “TOT” appears in the midst of COME TO TERMS, ROTTEN TO THE CORE, HOT TO TROT, and NO NEED TO THANK ME. Solid theme.

The grid looks mighty fancy for a Tuesday with those stacked 7s in the corners. BACARDI, ADMIT IT, AMNESIA, PREMEDS, BOOKEND, and INKLING are quite nice.

I kinda dispute the clue for PREMEDS: [Docs-in-training] should only cover those who get admitted to med school. You know how many people are PREMEDS who eventually change their major and never even apply to medical school?

The tradeoff for the five-part theme and corner 7s is that we have stuff like MOTET, ESSO, LAA, AH ME, IN E, and ISTS. Overall, let’s call this one 3.25 stars.

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16 Responses to Tuesday, February 19, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    I loved the aha moment of figuring out that theme! I’m giving it an extra star just for that.

    I happen to know quite a few Watsons (being married to one), including the one of WATSON AND CRICK fame. It’s a hoot to envision him in the company of King WENCESLAUS, WYATT EARP and a few WEREWOLVES, living in a HOUSING PROJECT by the HOOVER DAM…

    The more I think about it, the more I love this puzzle.

    • Dan F says:

      And CRICK’s son is a puzzlemaker… Congrats, Barry and Sara!
      (Huda, would you email me? I’m going to be in Michigan this spring and I bet we could have a great chat about crossword cognition and whatnot… danfeyer at hotmail)

      Amy, a “Hooker”?? Is there another definition besides the one I’m thinking of? Something to do with HH and his distaste for revealers?

      • Huda says:

        HH says:
        February 12, 2013 at 6:38 am

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

        Thank God!


        Amy Reynaldo says:
        February 12, 2013 at 8:43 am

        I propose that we call such themes Hookers in your honor.

        HH says:
        February 12, 2013 at 11:35 am

        I’ll second that.

        (PS. I’ll email you)

        • Dan F says:

          Thank you Huda. Whoops, didn’t realize I’d missed a day…

          That seems unnecessarily confusing, since there are about eleven other attributes I’d ascribe to a Hook puzzle before “lack of redundant revealer”…

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            It alludes to Hook’s blog comments rather than to his puzzles, which typically (for the Globe) have titles that serve as theme hints. He’s mouthier than anyone else on this site when it comes to deploring the use of theme revealers (note: “mouthier” is not an insult in my book).

  2. AV says:

    Very enjoyable puzzle. The 6 theme answers and the 9-letter downs made this a 4.5-star puzzle for me! The 0.5 point deduction? I too was in a Tuesday state of mind, so BAHIA eluded me for a while, and the HOYLE/ALTE crossing had me running down the alphabet (although I should know HOYLE well). Of course, since I cannot rate a puzzle in half points, the duo received a 5-star in my rating!

    eta: Yikes, I forgot the PAPAW/PATES crossing as well.

  3. RK says:

    How many do you think will even notice a theme? It’s a pretty clever one which will largely go to waste I’m afraid.

    Or maybe I’m I’m wrong.

  4. Sara says:

    As usual, Amy’s (mostly) right: six hefty theme answers were way too much to allow our beginner’s constructing skills much leeway on the fill (however, the long verticals just kind of happened, actually). In fact, Will redid the whole northwest, which Amy seems to have liked (the original verticals were TIGHTKNIT and CLASSACTS).

    Still, we’re really happy with the theme and are glad that Will thought it was worth printing.

    That’s a whole lot of sucking up for two paragraphs, but now let me veer off: The issue of the pronunciation of “what” nearly had a Yoko-Ono-like effect on the creative team of Franklin-Kaplan. I’m from the northeast, and I say “waht” – perfect rhyme with WATSON. Barry’s from the west coast, and he says “wuht” and wanted to use something that started with WATER. You can see who, er, won, but I’m already discerning endless silent “I told you so”s cross-continent this morning.

    • David L says:

      I’m with you on WATSON and what — a perfect rhyme for me. The one that doesn’t work for me is WEREWOLVES. I have always pronounced the first syllable to rhyme with ‘fear,’ not ‘scare.’ M-W gives a bunch of different pronunciations, including those two.

      And I spell the king’s name Wenceslas, which seems to be a common alternate version, so that confused me for a while.

      • HH says:

        “WEREWOLVES. I have always pronounced the first syllable to rhyme with ‘fear,’ not ‘scare.’”

        Clearly you missed the haywagon scene in “Young Frankenstein”.

    • Papa John says:

      Good job, Sara! Pass that on to Barry, will you?

      This has to be one of the best early-week puzzles – ever! I didn’t find anything in the fill that raised an eyebrow. If you guys did sacrifice the fill for the theme, I didn’t notice. The theme is excellent. I’m glad there was no revealer, even if I did have to go the extra yard to figure it out. Like Huda, I enjoyed the aha moment.

    • pannonica says:

      From New York City (but not with an identifiable, exaggerated NYC accent): ‘what’ is for me wət (generally—it reverts to ‘waht’ if special emphasis or inflection is desired) which rhymes neither with ‘Watson’ (wät-) or ‘water’ (wȯ-). If that symbol doesn’t reproduce for ‘water,’ it’s close to the sound for ‘Watson,’ but produced with a slightly more rounded mouth.

      Werewolves = ‘where’ for me, but I can see the rationale for /ē/

      Ditto on David L’s spelling of Wenceslas. ’salright? ’salright!

  5. sbmanion says:

    When I was in college, I was playfully mocked for my “hard a” sound (Niagara Falls), which was dramatically opposite from the soft a of Bostonites. Watson sounds like watt to me. Even water would be much too soft for my ear. In fact, I can’t think of anything that is spot on for “what.” Were, on the other hand, is a perfect fit for me.

    This did not stop me from enjoying the theme or the puzzle on the whole, which I thought was superb. I also liked that all the theme words were “misspelled,” which added an additional layer of cleverness.


  6. Susan Hornstein says:

    Did I miss the stunning conclusion of the limerick contest from Thursday? Who won?!?!

Comments are closed.