Friday, February 22, 2013

NYT 7:42 
LAT 5:05 (Gareth) 
CS 5:19 (Sam) 
CHE 7:08 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 12:42 (pannonica) 

If you’re attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in a couple weeks—whether you’re a first-timer looking to meet congenial people or you’re looking forward to seeing old friends—you’re invited to the annual Cru dinner. Mike Alpern has organized a buffet dinner at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott (the ACPT’s host hotel) with appetizers, pasta, sandwiches, salad, and mini desserts. The cost is $40 per person (crazy NYC prices plus crazy hotel prices, whaddaya gonna do?) but the location is horribly convenient. Menu and reservation details here. Please pass the link along to anyone else who’d be interested.

Congratulations to Jeffrey Krasnick (member of Team Fiend) on his first published crossword! Jeffrey and Doug Peterson teamed up on an Orange County Register puzzle (edited by David Steinberg). Click here to view page 15 of the paper, then click on the puzzle to open it in a new window, and click the printer icon to print out the puzzle. What a surprise that Disney is mentioned in the clue for 1-Across.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 2 22 13, #0222

Is it just me or is this a Saturday puzzle in sheep’s clothing? Every section of this grid posed a challenge, and I further mangled the southeast corner by trying BILBO and then FRODO for 49d: [Lord of the ring?]. BOXER! (Although sometimes the boxer is milady, not milord.)

Toughest clues:

  • 5a. [Aids in keeping up with the daily grind?], garbage DISPOSALS.
  • 38a. [Group that might perform 16-Across] (which is SAUL), ORATORIO SOCIETY. I wasn’t aware such a thing existed.
  • 42a. [Pros in power: Abbr.], EES. Electrical engineers.
  • 48a. [Now, in Italy], ORA. Also Italian for “hour.”
  • 49a. [“Live at the Apollo” airer], BBC. Raise your hand if you guessed BET first.
  • 54a. [All-day sucker?], APRIL FOOL.
  • 63a. [Aforetime], ERST. Never seen “aforetime” before.
  • 1d. [General Reno for whom Reno, Nev., is named], JESSE. We all wanted JANET, didn’t we?
  • 6d. [Creta, e.g.], ISLA. So Creta is Spanish for Crete? And what it used to be is excreta?
  • 11d. [“Mrs.” in a Paul Gallico novel title], ARRIS. Huh?
  • 13d. [Auto suggestion?], SEDAN. Not sure how “type of auto” corresponds to “suggestion.”
  • 24d. [Getting in gear], ACCOUTERING. It is a word, yes, but in a form that’s seldom seen.
  • 47d. [Puts soft rock on?], TALCS. Didn’t realize “talc” also worked as a verb.
  • 50d. [They get nuts], BOLTS. Hardware!
  • 53d. [Characteristic dictator], GENE. Gene Hackman is typecast as a tyrant. (No, actually, genes dictate characteristics/traits.)


40a: STARS AND STRIPES is a regularly appearing 15, isn’t it? The good clue, [Frequent American flier?], freshens it up.

Feels arbitrary: TEN HORSEPOWER—I don’t have a motorboat, so for all I know this is totally “in the language” in boating circles. And OATMEAL CEREAL—we have the hot cereal called OATMEAL, and we have cereal that’s made with oats, but what is OATMEAL CEREAL? Quaker’s Oatmeal Squares cereal sure doesn’t look like oatmeal.

As quadruple stacks go, this one’s not bad. The crossings NYES, A RAT, AT ME, and MSGS aren’t great, but I’ve certainly seen worse fill elsewhere.

The Saturdayish challenge kept me engaged. Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

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

CS solution, February 22

The theme itself is not especially remarkable: five expressions beginning with containers that start with the letter B. But the theme entries themselves are fresh and lively, and in my book that counts for much more. Here are the theme entries:

  • 17-Across: An [Extremely amusing experience] is a BARREL OF FUN. Like the ACPT, coming up in only 14 more days. Good grief, I better get to practicing!
  • 22-Across: The [Gift to the glum] is not a “basket of fruit,” as I suspected, but instead a BASKET OF CHEER. I’m not sure how a basket full of laundry detergent will make someone feel happier, but I ought not look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.
  • 35-Across: Life is like a [Gift for Valentine’s Day]. It’s a veritable BOX OF CHOCOLATES. And that’s all I have to say about that.
  • 45-Across: A fun term for a [Jalopy] is a BUCKET OF BOLTS. That’s a great description of the 1988 Chevrolet Beretta I once owned. 
  • 52-Across: One term for a [Clever repertoire] is a BAG OF TRICKS. Mine has been shrinking over the years.

It felt like every section of the grid had one or two narrow openings; indeed, it was like solving four or five mini-puzzles instead of one larger crossword. The two long Downs, SHORTAGES and LIFE FORCE were not especially sparkly, but keep in mind that each intersects three theme entries. So it’s not like there were a ton of options there.

Favorite entry = FLAK, the [Criticism] that may come my way after folks check out this weekend’s Orca Awards post. (Honorable mention to the dour NO LOSS, clued as [“He won’t be missed”].) Favorite clue = [Promise, for one] for OLEO. [I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, for one] would have been less tricky, but I liked the trap posed by the chosen clue.

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Best Picture Mash-Up” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/22/13 • Fri • Gale • solution

No clever title pun here, just a businesslike description of the theme, which is to slam together the names of two Best Picture Oscar winners and wittily clue the new phrase.

  • 23a. [Posh lodging with thousands and thousands of rooms?] TITANIC GRAND HOTEL.
  • 33a. [Meteorologist who inexcusably neglected to say we needed umbrellas?] UNFORGIVEN RAIN MAN. In Cherbourg, no doubt.
  • 49a. [Scorcese, to his cinephile fans?] THE ARTIST MARTY. Ha! Cinephiles would say auteur. Probably.
  • 67a. [Small village with an ocean view?] HAMLET ON THE WATERFRONT.
  • 84a. [Police unit patrolling the Loop?] CHICAGO PLATOON.
  • 99a. [How the British addressed Pocahontas, using her adopted name?] MY FAIR LADY REBECCA. That factette I did not know. Nor did I know that it was Powhatan custom to have more than one name; hers included Matoaka and Amonute. But! Following the puzzle’s conceit, I can’t help thinking of Pocahontas Gandhi, although only one film was a winner, let alone a nominee.
  • 111a. [Extensions to a condominium building?] THE APARTMENT WINGS. Am also now thinking of [Where one’s clothes may end up after a drunken night out?] OLIVER THE APARTMENT!

Anyway. It’s a cute, timely theme, necessarily relying on shorter titles, with a preponderance of names (e.g. Marty, Rebecca, Chicago); there’s no other way to pull off the idea in a puzzle otherwise, and it drastically reduces the pool of available choices from over 80 to … uhm … well, I’m no MATHLETE (3d). So it’s well done. Nice touch with a tangential bonus at 87d [Recognition from the Academy, familiarly) OSCAR NOD. Mhmm.

In case you’ve been wondering, both M*A*S*H (1970) and Up (2009) were nominated for the award, but neither won.

Long downs include the militaristically clued [Training excercises) MANEUVERS, ICELANDER, RULERSHIP, and BALKAN WAR. Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that all four were clued in that manner, but perhaps it isn’t so far off, with the possible exception of [Björk, for one].

* * * INTERMISSION * * *

Now to enumerate answers that can be tied to well-known films, without being too tenuous (or tedious). MR MOM (obvious, in clue), RIO (as in, The Road to), TOTO (obvious, referenced in clue), OTIS (in clue), FIRM (think Grisham), NELLIE (in clue), IT’S PAT (clued appropriately in context of the Razzies), ARSENIC (and Old Lace?), Jill ST JOHN (in clue), Ray LIOTTA (in clue), 117d (in clue; also the last clue in the puzzle).

Production Credits:

  • Double-feature clue [Caucus call] for 103d and 105a: YEA, AYE.
    25d [Co. unit] DIV, and its sequel, 102d [Co. units] DEPTS.
  • EDS and EILEENS, all actors. Nice touch. (110a & 92d)
  • 36d [Travelocity’s mascot, e.g.] GNOME.
  • From the aCAP™emy: ARA Parseghian, OCAS, ALBS, -ARONI, MKT, ARR, A SHOE, IN NO, IN A, OTO-, HOT IN, ON ME.

    Notice the reduction in dentition.

  • Things That Were Completely in My Wheelhouse That I Didn’t Need Any Crossings to Confidently Fill In: 27a [Aardwolf, for one] HYENA (albeit one that has adapted to a primarily insectivorous diet), [Wombat’s cousin] KOALA (very close cousin; the genera are the only two members of the suborder Vombatiformes), 93a [Vitus Bering, for one] DANE (primarily because he oversaw the expedition in which the zoologist and naturalist Georg Steller took part).
  • ICE-T and ICELANDER too much of a duplicate?
  • Favorite clues: 44d [Feathered flier] ARROW, 100d [It includes pitching changes] YODEL.

I don’t believe they say this sort of thing at the awards show in question, but it seems appropriate at this point to cite 11a [“The results __”] ARE IN. Yes, it’s a partial. Nevertheless, an enjoyable puzzle.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 22 02 13

I’ve had RAZZPUTIN in my “amusing wordplay” text file for a long time, but kudos to Ed Sessa for the creativity to build it into an actual theme! Great work Ed! It’s a real zed-stravaganza today with “S” sounds changed to “z” sounds all spelled with a double “z”. The theme answers are:

    • 18a, [North African prison wear?], CONFEZZES. In the process, the single word CONFESSES becomes two words.
    • 37a, [Lint depository?], FUZZPOT. I’m hope everyone has a strong stomach like me! No one disgusted? Good!
    • 59a, [Really short haircut?], MICROBUZZ
    • 3d, [Dogcatchers?], MUZZLEMEN. Zuki, our SPCA’s driver and sometime dog-catcher appears somewhere in this post!

  • 33d, [Ride a Russian statesman?], RAZZPUTIN. Also, I’m not used to ride being used in that sense!

Unknownest answer: [Scout leader], DENDAD (but inferrable!) . Most nostalgic answer: [Nancy Drew books pseudonym], KEENE. I devoured those books as a kid, though I can’t remember much in the way of details… Answer everyone got wrong the first time: [Old ski lift], JBAR. Yup, that’s always TBAR, except when it’s not! The “It’s always clued that way” moment of the day: [Camping org.] for KOA is never [Ukulele wood, perhaps]!

I’m giving it a solid four stars. Cos who doesn’t like wacky plus Scrabble?!

Tracy Bennett and Victor Fleming’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Colonial Faςades” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/22/12 • “Colonial Faςades” • Bennett, Fleming • solution

I usually dig on the didactic crosswords, I suspect more so than other solvers typically do. Whether it’s etymological esoterica, scientific arcana, or literary marginalia, it usually appeals. The Chronicle’s puzzle plies such territory more frequently than those in other venues, and this week’s offering is one such creature.

Alas, this one failed to engage, principally because nearly all of the theme answers—the pivotal ones, anyway—were entirely mysterious to me. The revealer is entopic, located in the last long across spot: 57a [Colonial writer whose synonyms included 17, 20, 35/36, and 53 Across] BEN FRANKLIN. Hence:

  • 17a. [“Mr. Saunders” whose almanac became a bestseller in colonial America (1732–1757)] POOR RICHARD. Well of course I knew that one, though not the surname.
  • 20a. [“Woman” whose letter in “The American Weekly Mercury” lampooned a rival publisher (1729)] MARTHA CAREFUL. Factette: some periodicals have Mercury in the name because Mercury (aka Hermes) was, among other functions, the messenger god, the bearer of news and tidings.
  • 35a & 36a. […”[W]oman whose speech criticizing the colonial judicial system was reprinted in several newspapers (1747)] MOLLY BAKER.
  • 53a. [“Widow” whose letters in the “New England Courant” poked fun at colonial life (1722)] SILENCE DOGOOD. In all caps, that looks way too much like “dog food.”
Bonus content: 22a [LIke well-written aphorisms] PITHY, 24a [Newspaper coverage] INK.

If you’re interested in Franklin and his pseudonymous shenanigans, this web page may be of value. I don’t know why I failed to feel enriched by the knowledge imparted by this puzzle; perhaps because it seems as if I will never, ever have occasion to regurgitate such information? Perhaps I was traumatized by trying to read Franklin’s unexpectedly stultifying autobiography?

On  the bright side, the ballast fill is quite engaging and there are many playful clues. Nadir: 55d [WTO forerunner] GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Favorite clue/fill: 39d [Given something to eat?] HAND FED. Most overreaching clue: 27a [Long line at the dentist?] FLOSS. Other highlights include DUMBBELL, HANGS OUT, TOLTEC (yes, I’m still enthralled), ROOM TEMP. Most higher-ed vibey clue and answer: 2d [1989 Premio Bancarella winner] Umberto ECO.

On balance, average puzzle.

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17 Responses to Friday, February 22, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    A little bit of trivia re 38-A from Wiki:

    The Oratorio Society of New York is a non-profit membership organization which performs choral music in the oratorio style. The Society was founded in 1873 by conductor Leopold Damrosch, and it is New York City’s second oldest cultural organization. The Society had a prominent role in the building of Carnegie Hall, and it has premiered many new choral music works over the years.


  2. Huda says:

    NYT: My Quick & Dirty Index (which I have not updated in a while) puts this puzzle at Medium-Challenging for a Friday (or Easy for a Saturday). But for me, it was a toughie.

    Still, I greatly admired the construction, the way it felt literally woven with the stack of 4 x 15-mers crossing the long Downs (11mers and 13mers). But that meant if you can’t get a foothold, you’re in trouble for quite a while.

    That manly NW corner, with the JOCK hanging with EZRA, SAUL, JESSE and OZAWA was not budging. I had JOCK and KALE and nada… Finally, the SW took pity on me, and I worked from the bottom up.

    That clue for GENE cracked me up. Although I wish it were true, and a single GENE dictated a trait or a characteristic. My (scientific) life would be a lot easier, but may be not as much fun. And I also got a chuckle out of the cluing of APRIL FOOL. Learned a lot too, including who coined Global Village, the use of ACCOUTERING and how JOSHUA TREE was named.

    So, humbling, yet instructive and fun! Thank you MAS.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    ARRIS requires you to imagine the initial apostrophe, cockney-style: “Mrs .’Arris Goes to Paris.” The character is a non-U Miss Marple!

  4. sbmanion says:

    My family had a cottage on Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. My father would not buy a boat with a motor because he did not know how to swim and did not want his kids to stray out into the “big lake.” My uncle and his family started to camp with us and one year my uncle bought a 40 hp. motor. We thought it was the biggest motor imaginable. This prompted my father to buy a 10 hp motor so that we could at least use our boat to go into some of the good fishing areas. Prior to that, we were only permitted to row. I laughed when I saw the horsepower reference.

    I really liked the puzzle. I also put in Bilbo in the SE, which was the last section to fall. I am never bothered by musical allusions (speaking here of ORATORIO SOCIETY) even though my musical shortcomings keep me from being a top solver, but I always wonder how solvers would react to a comparably obscure clue/answer from the sports world.


  5. HH says:

    Re this Sunday’s Oscars — Does anyone else want Quvenzhané Wallis to achieve such a level of fame and success that she becomes an answer on “Wheel of Fortune”?

  6. bananarchy says:

    Love the OCR crossword format, with the puzzle blurb and constructor bios. David Steinberg is quickly becoming a major force in the cruciverse.

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    I suppose I wasn’t for a moment tempted to put Bilbo or Frodo for NYT 49D because I knew that it would be arrantly incorrect. The true lord of Tolkien’s rings is actually Sauron – you know, the “dark lord”. It has always puzzled me – so to speak – that the trilogy bears that title.

  8. Howard B says:

    Have to say, the NY Times cluing and grid were very fresh and enjoyable to work through. A lot of unexpected wordplay and fill.
    Although – ARRIS, SAUL, and those top two answers in the stack were unknown to me, and so completely sunk me on this one. Touché, Martin.

  9. Martin says:

    Oatmeal cereal is widely available in Canada and the UK. For example, Heinz makes it for babies:

    It was the third image hit on Google.


  10. Evad says:

    I got OATMEAL CEREAL, but couldn’t put my head around ACCOUTERING. Is it related to the French accoutrements? Having that cross LAE and CAL was a bit unfair imho.

  11. RK says:

    Too much trivia jammed into the small NW area was a breaker. Of course, if you knew one or two of those names it was no prob. Rest of the puzzle besides the SW (I knew Rene Russo and Orkan) was a struggle but doable, but it didn’t feel rewarding for some reason.

    • Chris P. says:

      NW was my undoing also. B.M.O.C. in the clue for 1A made me think the entry would be some time of abbreviation, so JOCK never occurred to me. CRUET and KALE (as money) are out of my wheelhouse; I’m familiar with OZAWA, but that was a tough clue; and JESSE, EZRA, and SAUL were also not within my typical range. I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle, but walked away from it feeling frustrated.

  12. RK says:

    RAZZPUTIN for the total win!

  13. Gareth says:

    Sorry. I had the LAT blogpost up on time, but it didn’t appear??

  14. Trey Roth says:

    One of the things that I enjoy about the WSJ Friday puzzle, in addition to the fact that I can get late Thursday afternoon, is that is both challenging and fair. It is rare that we get two “reaches” that one cannot find a way to back in to. This week’s offering was a little more than I could handle and I ended up checking out a few clues on the old I Pad. Still, it was worth looking forward to and made my Friday afternoon in Buffalo a bit more entertaining. By the way, the winters here are way over exaggerated as to how much snow the general populations gets… South of the city, a totally different situation… but people who choose to live there know that and are willing to deal with it. Hope Gregg in DC concurs!

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