Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fireball 9 minutes, no meta 
NYT 6:31 
AV Club 4:50 
LAT 4:14 (Jeffrey, paper) 
CS 5:19 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:02 (Matt) 

No Fireball writeup until after the contest deadline Sunday, when Matt will regale us with the story of how the meta is so easy, once you know where to look. (I may be looking in the wrong place so far.)

Speaking of contests… One week ago, we had an impromptu crosswordese limerick contest. The winner is JanglerNPL, with this elegant evocation of APSE (…or is it ARSE?):

A prudish young solver from Crete
Had a puzzle he left incomplete.
He said “Don’t blame me,
I had A _ S E,
And the clue there was ‘Place for a seat’!”

Congrats, Jangler! I can mail Ben Tausig’s Crosswords from the Underground to if you give me your address, or deliver it to you at the ACPT.

Honorable mention goes to Janie’s limerick, which delights while making the Scowl-o-Meter overheat:

a LEI-wearing SALT known as SMEE
could KEBAB wheels of BRIE on his SNEE.
still, he couldn’t touch UTA,
who carved OGEEs from GOUDA –
but only while sailing ALEE.

Thanks to everyone for playing along! Limericks make any discussion thread better.

Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 2 21 13, #0221

Oddly presented theme today, where anyone solving like me encountered cross-referenced clues for parts 2 and 3 of the central theme phrases before reaching part 1. 32d. [With 21- and 25-Down, lacking refinement … like this puzzle’s grid?] clues ROUGH / AROUND THE / EDGES. Each edge of the puzzle has a 7- or 8-letter word that includes the letter string ROUGH in it.

I probably added a minute or two to my solving time by entirely mismanaging 1-Across. [Dust Bowl phenomenon] is crystal-clear, and yet I expanded the concept of “Dust Bowl” to encompass the general Oklahoma region without reference to a particular time period known for a terrible DROUGHT. So I plugged in TORNADO, since that worked with the O of 7d: ONE-HIT. When I filled in HOT AS at 6d, though, I changed 1a to DERECHO, despite knowing of no connection between that straight-line storm and the Dust Bowl. Suffice it to say, I got nowhere in that corner for far too long. RED ALE, [Traditional Irish brew], and OLDIES, [Radio format], resisted me too. 7d. [___ wonder (Tone Loc or Crowded House, e.g.)] clues TWO-HIT?? Quick, everyone! Name two hits by either artist, without looking up the info. (And so nobody else points this out: Yes, once you’ve figured out the theme means the longer answers around the perimeter include ROUGH, DROUGHT should be readily apparent. I blame Fireball meta distraction for shutting down my brain.)

So it felt like a Newsday “Saturday Stumper” in that corner. The rest of the puzzle was more pliable, but still on the tough side. In particular:

  • 14a. [“Verrry interesting!”], WELL, NOW.
  • 27a. [Last Pope Paolo, numerically], SESTO. That’s the ordinal number for “sixth,” I’m guessing. This is not the sort of Italian that everyone knows despite not speaking the language.
  • 35a. [Hierarchical level: Abbr.], ECH. Also spelled “yech” or “yecch.”
  • 8d. [Apiarist’s facial display], BEE BEARD. I hear those bee beards and bee outfits can be quite heavy.
  • 10d. [Offenbach’s “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour,” e.g.], DUET.
  • 12d. [Unwillingness to yield], ADAMANCE. Usage maven Bryan Garner frowns upon this word, which has been attested back to only 1954. “Stage 2” means the word is not at all well-accepted yet, and you can’t use the word and expect not to trigger educated people’s usage Scowl-o-Meters.
  • 37d. [One is named for the explorer James Ross], POLAR SEA. Is this a true lexical chunk, a term that generically applies to both Arctic and Antarctic seas? Feh.
  • 38d. [Mass junk mailers], SPAMBOTS. Unusual to see “junk mailers” without any hint of email/online action.

My favorite fill includes HASH OUT, SPAMBOTS, the fun-to-do ULULATE, UNION REP, and the fun-to-say SLOUGH (the verb ends with an F sound).

I might have enjoyed the theme a little more if the ROUGH around the edges was manifested by synonyms for ROUGH rather than longer words containing those letters. THOROUGH, BOROUGHS, TROUGHS, and DROUGHT are a little dry, especially the latter. SESTO, ECH, RES, RAMA, TROI, GNP, and EDY were also arid. 3.33 stars from me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Back One’s Good Name”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 21

Today’s puzzle has a very clever title. The theme involves taking four common two-word terms and reversing the letters of the second word to form the surname of a famous person:

  • 17-Across: A “candied yam” becomes CANDIED MAY, clued as [Actress Elaine, wooed with chocolates?]. You know Elaine May as the director of Ishtar.
  • 28-Across: The “middle ear” becomes MIDDLE RAE, the [Second of three kids in actress Charlotte’s family?]. You know Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Garrett on two television shows, Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.
  • 47-Across: “Quick draw” morphs into QUICK WARD, the [Sharp actress Sela?]. You know Sela Ward from countless crosswords (maybe even more than Ms. Rae?) and CSI:NY
  • 62-Across: “County Cork,” the second most populous county in all of Eire, becomes COUNTY KROC, the [McDonald’s bigwig Ray’s place of origin?]. Note that Ray’s a bit different from the other three individuals mentioned in the theme–he’s the only guy and the only one not in the entertainment business. I’d submit that “County Cork” is also the least familiar of the four base terms. All of this combines to detract from the theme’s tightness.

The real stars of this puzzle are the 10-letter Downs: JON BON JOVI, the [New Jersey rocker featured in the 12/12/12 Hurricane Sandy relief effort], and RAISIN BRAN, the [Breakfast cereal name that is not trademarked]. The same can be said of “corn flakes”–the terms are merely descriptive of the ingredients and thus not eligible for a trademark. The names “Kellogg’s Raisin Bran” and “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes,” on the other hand, are trademarked. (Thus ends today’s lesson in basic intellectual property.)

Other highlights in the fill include IN TWO, OR NOT, HAS ON, GET GO, OMG, SAMOSA, SANKA, and SNOG. It was interesting to see two common Asian leaders, a RAJA and some AGAS, in the same grid. That’s HUGE. Or VAST. Or, like the clue for both, [Immense].

Favorite entry = ICEPACK, the [Old-fashioned hangover cure]. Favorite clue = [Blog outcry] for OMG. We haven’t seen that particular outcry here for some time.

Ian Livengood & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Start with

  • 17A. [*Squeaker] – CLOSE SHAVE

then use a

 48D. [Tool used to give the starts of the starred answers a 17-Across?] – RAZOR

to remove, one by one, a letter in the first word of the other theme answers:

  • 23A. [*Fall in with the wrong crowd, say] – CLOSE ONE’S WAY
  • 39A. [*Kobe, notably] – LOSE ANGELES LAKER
  • 50A. [*”Voilà!”] – LOS AND BEHOLD
  • 61A. [“Cantique de Noël,” in the States] – LO HOLY NIGHT

Pretty nifty stuff there.

Fact of the week:

  • 34D. [Sch. whistle blower] – PETE ACHER. Pete was the world’s first referee to use a whistle, at Wagar High School gym class in 1879.

 22D. [“I feel I should tell you,” briefly] – FYI:

Speaking of LOS ANGELES, did you know that if you go a little south to the home of  56A. [Daughter of King Triton] – ARIEL (Disneyland), you can find another newspaper with a weekly crossword, the Orange County Register.  Today’s issue features my publishing debut, co-constructed with Doug Peterson and edited by David Steinberg. Thanks to both!  Now, where is my key to the Constructors’ washroom?

 Tip of the week:

13D. [“No __ Till Brooklyn“: Beastie Boys song] – SLEEP

 If you get no sleep till Brooklyn, you will not do well at the ACPT.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Sports Medicine” — Matt’s review

Busy time for me so express BEQ review today. Dude took sports phrases with a medical term in them; sports and medicine are both extremely broad fields of human endeavor so not too surprising some words would do double duty between the two: SCAN THE FIELD, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE, SHOT STOPPER, INSURANCE RUN. OK, so that works, though it doesn’t thrill.

The fill thrills: timely ORCAS, SEESAW, CARMAX, CASH CARD, RSVP, SO I SEE, IN A SENSE, GAELIC, full name TED CRUZ, RED SEA. The EROSE/ARTERIOLE crossing is a small blot, but otherwise typical BEQ magic, this week on a slightly larger (17×17) canvas.

3.75 stars.

Francis Heaney’s AV Club crossword, “Bribery”

AV Club crossword solution, 2 21 13 Heaney “Bribery”

The theme wasn’t hard to figure out thanks to the circled letters and the puzzle’s title. “Cross my palm with silver” is the standard old request for a bribe; I’ve never seen the genericized plural CROSS PALMS / WITH SILVER that describes the theme, but it’s not horrible. The circled letters have an embedded PALM crossing an AG (chemical symbol for silver). Now, if you’ve never heard the old phrase before, then I imagine this theme was befuddling.

Ten faves:

  • 1a. [Network that was like, Cumberbatch Shmumberbatch, we’re doing our own Sherlock Holmes show]. CBS. Elementary, with crossword stalwart Lucy LIU as Watson.
  • 14a. [Quaint “whooooo!”], RAH. I always like clues that own up to the cheesiness of words like RAH that show up in puzzles far out of proportion to their use in real life.
  • 28a. [It may put you off your stride], BUM LEG. Great fill.
  • 42a. [Ex-congressman Todd whose rape gaffe seemed like something the GOP would have learned from], AKIN. Topical proper-name clue for a common word. Usually this is the sort of cluing practice that I shut down.
  • 56a. [Paranoid city dweller’s item], GO BAG. This refers to the bags packed by doomsday preppers.
  • 3d. [Supercharger?], SHOPAHOLIC. Terrific entry.
  • 9d. [“___  Misérables” (movie musical starring Anne Hathaway’s tonsils)], LES. Can I get a fact-check here? Does she still have her tonsils?
  • 29d. [Mention that you have eaten the plums that were in the icebox, perhaps], LEAVE A NOTE. Dammit! I was saving those, Eliot.
  • 40d. [Parent of a young fabric factory laborer], SILK MOTH.
  • 51d. [“That merits a high five!”], “UP TOP!” Fresh fill.

Docking this a smidgen for the awkwardly worded central theme revealers, but still landing at 4.33 stars. Neat theme idea, executed well, with tons of fun in the fill and clues.

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22 Responses to Thursday, February 21, 2013

  1. David says:

    “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina”. But I still made the same TORNADO/ONEHIT mistake.

    • Dave C says:

      Bingo. I immediately recalled both Tone Loc hits, but didn’t have the guts to throw in a term I hadn’t previously heard, “TWO HIT WONDER”. So I absolutely dead-ended in the NW until RAIL gave me OLDIES, then FLEA and ADD UP TO, the O of which caused me to slap my ahead and come full-circle.

  2. JP says:

    Why no reviews today

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked the concept of the puzzle, using a common expression and then being literal about it. And getting the reveal definitely helped me with the NW, especially.

    Still, I really struggled with this puzzle. Doing it at 4:00 am probably didn’t help (Turkish coffee in the morning is necessary to boost my IQ above 90). I had all kinds of false starts–SeRape in lieu of SARONG, MitT instead of NEWT, hIes rather than GITS, spAM rather than EDAM (and then SPAMPBOT showed up–malapop)…

    Some of the cluing also threw me: For example, DROUGHT is the cause of the Dust Bowl, and “phenomenon” implies an occurrence that is not typically causal. So, a black blizzard is a dust bowl phenomenon, while the drought was a trigger.

    I liked the conversational tone here and there: SO WHAT, WELL NOW…

    Good puzzle, but a little rough around the edges…

  4. JanglerNPL says:

    Hey, cool! Thanks! I’ll be at the ACPT, so I guess just bring the book there :)

  5. Howard B says:

    Odd fill and really odd clues in that puzzle. TWO HIT is not a term I’ve ever heard, even if you can validate it. Just bizarre.
    By the way: Crowded House: “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and the lesser-known “Something So Strong” which still got significant video and airplay at the time. First one’s been covered quite a few times since, can search it if interested.

    I think despite the oddity of the fill, that was my favorite clue/answer. The rest of that puzzle just knocked me around all over the place as if it were a Saturday.

    • RK says:

      Neil Finn of Crowded House also had a hit with the group Split Enz, I Got You. Both are good songs, worth a listen, and many would probably recognize both.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    One of my favorite tricky words is SOUGH — which can be pronounced to rhyme with “slew” or “sluff” or “scoff” or “scow” or somewhere in between… See
    As a verb, you get the idea of rustling or sighing of tossed boughs in the wind. As a noun, you can get a drainage ditch many miles long, traditionally connected with mining operations. Anyone wish to try nailing these down further? Thanks!

  7. Gareth says:

    PETEACHER was the coolest answer of the day! And “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” the cleverest in-joke!

  8. Jason F says:

    The NYT actually ran on the easy side for me, but only because I happened to get the revealer very early based on a couple of letters and a very lucky guess.

    I’m curious whether folks who solve much faster than I do:
    (a) try to identify the revealer clue(s) and get that first, or
    (b) just follow their natural flow of solving ?

    • Dan F says:

      Generally (b). Though if a puzzle is Thursday-level or harder, often it will be more efficient to look for a revealer and suss out the theme earlier on.

  9. Francis says:

    Hey, don’t blame Eliot for William Carlos Williams’s plum-eating behavior.

  10. Huda says:

    I had an interesting uncle who used to say that some fruits are so wonderfully juicy, one should only eat them naked. My parents were scandalized that he talked that way in front of the kids.

  11. Diane says:

    Sorry, Jefrey…Perhaps there was a someone named Pete Acher, but most of the search engines I use hadn’t a clue. I read 34D (“Sch. whistle-blower”) as P.E. teacher–i.e., Phys. Ed. teacher.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Our job in reading Jeffrey’s reviews is to (a) ferret out the intentional mislead that amused him or (b) shake our collective groove thing when watching YouTube music videos he links to. This was a case of (a).

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