Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NYT 3:33 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 
CS 5:04 (Sam) 

Richard Chisholm’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 6 13 #0306

Today’s theme is contrived phrases that contain three O’s in a row.

  • 18a. [Lacks pizazz], HAS NO OOMPH.
  • 26a. [Overly partisan], TOO ONE-SIDED.
  • 47a. [Animal on display], ZOO OCCUPANT. Occupy Zoo Street!
  • 61a. [Inuit, maybe], IGLOO OWNER.

OOO? Eh.

Likes: PAPA DOC (who doesn’t love cruel despots in their crossword?), BLEW OFF, SWISH, “OH, WELL.

Lots of blah fill here, if you ask me, and with 42 theme squares (not so high at all) and 78 words, I’m not sure what accounts for things like CORFU, DEL, SHAD, AERO, LT GEN, ALFA, TARA, BOS, IRMA, plural HUHS, SID, DEB, BOOLA, OAKEN, ETUDE, TAO, NEO, and I GET.

Did you all enjoy the puzzle more than I did? I was underwhelmed. 2.9 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Kitchy Jokes”

Ben Tausig / Ink Well crossword solution / “Kitchy Jokes” 3 6 13

The title is knowingly spelled “kitchy” rather than “kitschy” because the theme consists of kitchen-related answers made by adding a sound to a familiar phrase:

  • 17a. [Chef’s note-to-self after dispensing soup with a measuring cup?], GET LADLE. Playing on “get laid.”
  • 28a. [Platonic utensil that clashes with the other utensils?], MIXED META FORK. Mixed metaphor.
  • 46a. [Dishware emblazoned with the Ten Commandments?], MORALITY PLATE. Morality play.
  • 62a. [Cookware gorgeously adorned?], GRAND POT. Grandpa.

Zippiest fill and clues:

  • 16a. [Encourages with chicken taunts, say], EGGS ON. “Come on, you coward! Lay that egg!”
  • 50a. [Portmanteau in pitching], SLURVE. Uh, slider and curve? This one’s new to me.
  • 8d. [Cinnamon candy], RED HOTS. Nasty little things.
  • 29d. [U.S. transit system that spans two states and a district], DC METRO. Virginia, Maryland, D.C. I am looking forward to buying a new Metrocard in New York on Thursday.
  • 31d. [About to fall], ON THE ROPES.
  • 33d. [Name that would be super easy to clue if this puzzle were in Korean], KWON. [Tae ___ do] is also an easy clue, but where’s the fun in that?
  • 34d. [Hold from the top, as a basketball], PALM. Among the very finest of “palm” definitions.
  • 35d. [Big name in golf carts], EZGO. Never heard of it. Have never golfed, but would love to tool around in a golf cart. Can this be arranged?
  • 47d. [Lame, with an accompanying hand gesture], L-SEVEN. One hand makes an L with the thumb and forefinger, the other hand makes a 7, and together they make a square which is what you are.
  • 57d. [Queer initialism], LGBT. Sometimes expanded to LGBTQ or LGBTQI, I think. Maybe to LGBTQIJFK.
  • 58d. [Like Steve Jobs, partly], ARAB. Lebanese or Syrian? Answer: His dad was of Syrian descent.

Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “City Planners”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 6

Today’s puzzle takes (somewhat) famous people with surnames that are also the names of familiar American cities and given names that can also be nouns. It then swaps the first and last names to form nouns that appear to derive from those American cities. Check it out:

  • 17-Across: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson reverses to JACKSON JOE, or [Mississippi mud?] (“mud” and “joe” as in coffee).
  • 31-Across: Guy Madison (someone who both has never been in my kitchen and starred in the 1950s television series, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok) swaps to MADISON GUY, a [Wisconsin fellow?].
  • 48-Across: Pro basketball great Earl “the Pearl” Monroe reverses to MONROE EARL, a [Louisiana aristocrat?]. If, like me, you haven’t heard of it before, it might have something to do with the town having a population of about 50,000. It may be familiar to Louisianans (and maybe Arkansans too, as it’s close to the border), but that’s about it.
  • 64-Across: Folk singing legend John Denver swaps to DENVER JOHN, a [Colorado bathroom?]. There’s gotta be a bathroom-related joke that plays off “Rocky Mountain High,” but darned if I can think of it now.

I love the idea for this theme, but MADISON GUY and MONROE EARL feel too weak to me. The former doesn’t work because I’m sure only a small segment of solvers will know Guy Madison. The latter seems awkward (even though Earl Monroe is widely known) because Monroe, Louisiana, is so small. JACKSON JOE and DENVER JOHN work just fine, but apparently there aren’t many other good entries to complete the theme.

Luckily the fill compensates to some extent. I like the vertical stack in the middle: BAD LIE, IDEA MAN, and I’M SURE are all great, though I might have preferred a gender-specific clue for IDEA MAN. To me [One who thinks outside of the box] suggests women are less capable of doing so, which is just plain wrong. [He thinks outside the box] would have been just fine.

Other nice stuff included NARROW TIE, the Austin Powers-related FEM-BOTS and MOJO, ON TAP, MOOLA, and Pat SAJAK. The elephant in the grid, I suppose, is GRAWLIX, the know-it-or-you-don’t [Word for the symbols “@#$%&!” used in comic strips]. I suppose you either love it or hate it. And if it’s the latter, you might well speak in grawlix.

Favorite entry = TOP BANANA, the [Head honcho]. Favorite clue = [Raspberry relative] for BOO.

LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 

Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

This is puzzle gave me serious de ja vu from Monday’s NYT by Ian Livengood. Ian’s puzzle featured phrases whose last word ended in homophones for “ROW”, whereas today’s phrases all end in “d + long o”. The theme entries are short – there are 3 7’s and a 9. One refinement on Ian’s theme is that today the theme parts are all discrete chunks. We have:

    • [__ Sam: 49ers mascot], SOURDOUGH. Not the angle I’d have gone with, but vive l’difference! Also, can we start calling Sam Donaldson this?
    • [Lake Geneva water fountain], JETDEAU. That’s some high-falutin’ French! I’d look askance if it were non-theme fill, but in the interests of this theme I think it’s fun and it works. Plus it’s quite inferrable!
    • [Fun Factory clay], PLAYDOH. Fun answer!
    • [Mystery man], JOHNDO. Another!
    • [Olympic sport since 2000], TAEKWONDO And Another!

I’m guessing it was the short themers that led Robin Stears to design the grid the way they did. There are some serious chunks of white in the top-right and bottom-left, but the other two corners are all “blacked up”. If you didn’t spot it, all the non-theme answers are 6 letters or shorter, so there can be no confusing what’s theme and what isn’t. Some constructors are more relaxed about such distinctions, though this has been known to cause solvers to assume that, e.g., central 7’s are bizarre non-theme entries. Who am I to judge?

The tough-to-fill corners were handled most deftly. There’s little that I object to, COTTER (“Welcome Back Cotter” could be a sitcom about old crossword-ese?) and some nice bits like CHILIS, DECAF and FAROUT (a pleasant surprise for a right-edge answer!) More controversially, EJECTA has only 3 entries in Matt Ginsburg’s Clue Database. I’m guessing it has breakfast test concerns attached to it, but c’mon it’s a fun word isn’t it!? I’m not too familiar with the symptoms of the [Infant ailment] COLIC. Do they include vomiting? If so, I applaud Robin for taking that ball and running with it! I’m a bit more familiar with colic as an equine syndrome. Horses are physically incapable of vomiting so no tie-in there (they can be “refluxed” with a long tube of course). If the crossword didn’t put you off your breakfast I bet this paragraph has!

I realise this a perennial kvetching of mine, but, whereas I enjoyed those wide-open corners, the closed-in ones made me frown. I don’t see any advantage in using rare letters if they don’t result in fun answers like JOHNDOE or SKYPE, or if they result in unneccessary awkward answers… To get a Q in the top-left 3×3 square we have: HOI (half a phrase with no other clueing options), QVC (abbr.), HQS (plural abbr.), OVO (uncommon prefix), ICU (abbr. but to be fair used as though it were a real word. Its opposite corner has a Z in the words: NEZ/ZOO plus ONO, DOO, EON. NONEED.

Four-star theme, less 0.3 for those two corners.

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21 Responses to Wednesday, March 6, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    Prices just went up on the MetroCards. Plus, they’ve introduced a “new card fee.”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If they hadn’t put a December 2012 expiration date on the MetroCard in my wallet, I could avoid that new card fee. Bastards!

      • pannonica says:

        Perhaps they’ll honor it. Obviously, you can’t reason with a vending machine, but you may be able to explain the out-of-town situation to a booth operator. The fee is ostensibly to reduce casual disposal and proliferation of cards.

        • “You will be issued a new MetroCard at no charge if your card is expiring or damaged.”
        • “MTA produces nearly 160 million MetroCards each year at an annual cost of $10 million. Many of these cards are used once and then discarded, often ending up as litter in the system. By refilling and reusing your current MetroCard, you avoid the new $1.00 ‘new card fee,’ reduce MTA expenses and help the environment.”

        • HH says:

          “Perhaps they’ll honor it….you may be able to explain the out-of-town situation to a booth operator.”

          In New York? BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!

  2. Evad says:

    When I saw the built-in Apple feature, I just assumed it was IOS. I thought DOS was only in MS products, but perhaps that was just the MS-DOS version.

  3. Ethan says:

    I *think* that slurve is “slow curve” but now that you mention it, slider + curve is possible. I was never a pitcher.

    The contrivedness of the phrases in the NYT wouldn’t have bothered me if we had gotten the (?) on the end of the clues to signal that that was the constructor’s intention. As it was I felt sort of taken down a wrong path, and not in a good way. The first theme entry, HAS NO OOMPH, seemed like it was plausibly in the language, so I was fine. Then TOO ONE SIDED seemed like it was definitely over the line into contrived, but not so over the line that I could tell it was intentional. Then at ZOO OCCUPANT I was like, “oh, okay, they’re *supposed* to be contrived…I think…” Anyway, that’s what the question mark is for, is it not? Also if I were giving this puzzle a makeover I think I would consider putting a center entry with four O’s, like KAZOO OOPS (“Mistake made while blowing?”). As it is, the three O’s seem like kind of a low bar since four is possible. Come to think of it, five is possible, too. You could have COO O OONA (“What Charlie Chaplin might do on his wedding night?”). That couldn’t be a center entry without changing the dimensions of the grid, however.

  4. Jim says:

    Odd coincidenc. I do the NYT calendar puzzle (which is around 2 yrs old) each day and the theme today was 3 EEE in a a row.

  5. Jan says:

    Another odd coincidence – last week when I solved this week’s Mon-Thus on paper in preparation for hosting the library tournament, I got to the first theme answer on Monday, SCOTTTUROW, and thought, ok a 3-in-a-row letter theme! Nope, not until Wednesday.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    IGLOO OWNER? Really? Where do you buy them?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you build a house on your own property, do you not own the house (provided you didn’t borrow from the bank for the, uh, ice)?

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Amy — Don’t get the lawyers here started on the subtleties and convolutions of what it means to “own” a piece of “property.” “Bundle of sticks” theory; “rights” in “things”; carving out interests, etc. etc.

        Hope to see you in Brooklyn. Were you suggesting maybe not? Say it ain’t so.

  7. joon says:

    a few years back, there was a sun puzzle called “long vowels” with five theme answers, which were along the lines of SANA’A AARDVARK and HAWAII, I INDICATE. the O-themer was the straightforward SHAMPOO OOZE, which is at least as much of a thing as today’s themers.

    the CS theme didn’t work for me. never heard of guy madison, and MONROE EARL sticks out like a sore thumb because the other three cities are the capitals of the states in the clues. i also don’t feel like it’s particularly noteworthy to find people whose surnames are cities, given that these cities are all named after people. (and in the case of john denver, he even took his stage name after the city!) on the other hand, i thought GRAWLIX was cool. i’d seen that word somewhere, but couldn’t remember it without every crossing. but the crossings were all fair, so it was neat to re-learn it. who knew there was another GRA.L.X word?

  8. Evad says:

    Isn’t GRAVLOX something?

  9. Robin Stears says:

    Thanks for a great review! Did you notice “D’oh!” is pangrammatic?

  10. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: CrosSynergy, PHOENIX RIVER and MADISON OSCAR are both 12s. Though, that would make one fictional and three actually persons.

    Ooo, and HOPE BOB for center 7.

  11. klew archer says:

    I’ve actually been to MONROE, but mrs. archer is from Louisiana so I guess that proves Sam’s point.

Comments are closed.