Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NYT 4:12 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 4:29 (Gareth) 
CS 5:16 (Sam) 

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 13 13, #0313

What we have here, folks, is a miniature Merl Reagle pun puzzle by Joe DiPietro:

  • 17a. [Lady paid for one insect?], MADAM BOUGHT A FLY. Madame Butterfly.
  • 26a. [Rodent that lets air out of balloons?], DEFLATER MOUSE. If you gotta have a roll-your-own word like DEFLATER, you have to put it to work in a pun rather than pretending it’s a word people go around using. (Die Fledermaus.)
  • 44a. [Spanish rum cake?], BABA OF SEVILLE. The change from Barber of Seville to BABA is rather more slight than the other puns.
  • 57a. [Headline after one of Becker’s Wimbledon wins?], BORIS GOOD ENOUGH. Boris Godunov.
  • 64a. [Each of this puzzle’s long Across answers sounds like one], OPERA.

I feel like we really don’t see many pun themes in the daily-sized puzzles. It can be a fun change of pace to let your inner Merl out once in a while.

Seven more clues:

  • 20a. [One of the Baldwins?], PIANO. I wonder if a Baldwin piano has been on 30 Rock with Alec B.
  • 50a. [Site of some Chicago touchdowns], O’HARE. Airport, not football stadium. That would be Soldier Field or, as locals call it, Soljerss Field.
  • 60a. [Grp. created at the Baghdad Conference, 1960], OPEC. Hey! Fresh clue for an old answer.
  • 1d. [Word after flood or floor], LAMP. Good lord, this one gave me fits. I had the LA part and was stuck until the crossings bailed me out. Only LANE and LAND came to mind.
  • 13d. [Poet best known for “The Highwayman”], NOYES. I knew this only from crosswords until my son was studying the poem for reading. Man, that is one dark poem!
  • 25d. [Like St. Augustine, in 1565], FOUNDED. St. Augustine the city/settlement in Florida, not St. Augustine the person.
  • 30d. [Stock answer?], MOO. No matter what the farmer asks, the answer is the same.

I like the theme all right, although the fill’s ELIA, URSA, OLEO, EEO, OJAI, SERA, AONE, and AGEE did not do much for me, and the long fill is mostly fine rather than “wow!” 3.5 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Clubhouse Division”

Ink Well crossword answers, 3 13 13 “Clubhouse Division”

Baseball season is right around the corner, and Ben splits some MLB team names with other letters that expand the teams into longer phrases. Ooh! Maybe “Expansion Teams” is a title I should have suggested to Ben when I test-solved this puppy. Does that work? Does baseball have expansion teams? I honestly don’t know.

  • 18a. [What an electroencephalograph shows], BRAIN WAVES. Atlanta Braves.
  • 23a. [A-lists, hopefully], REPORT CARDS. Cincinnati Reds.
  • 38a. [Certain spring training matches, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], SPLIT-SQUAD GAMES.
  • 52a. [They match for residency], MED STUDENTS. New York Mets.
  • 59a. [Ironically titled Lennon/Ono album], TWO VIRGINS. Minnesota Twins.

Top fill: “I’M RICH!,” “VA-VA-VOOM!,” ORBITZ, FONZ, “GET A ROOM!,” and that [Extremely goofy duck-billed creature], the PLATYPUS.

Interesting clues:

  • 5a. [Roasts], RIBS. Both verbs pertaining to poking fun at someone else’s expense, and also both meats.
  • 22a. [It’s a lot less slimy if you roast it, actually], OKRA.
  • 47a. [Golfer Cheyenne Woods, to Tiger], NIECE. What’s this? Tiger’s an only child, I thought. Wikipedia explains that his dad had three kids from a previous marriage.
  • 63a. [They might make you scratch your head], LICE. It’s because they’re confusing.
  • 66a. [Cutting line?], SCAR. I still can’t believe my kid fit through my C-section scar. It hardly seems possible.
  • 9d. [Strike supporters?], HAWKS. As in air strikes as part of war.
  • 24d. [Kayak alternative, transportation-wise], ORBITZ. Both are travel booking websites. Only one is a boat.

The strangest answer is 50d: ESPERS, or [Telepaths]. People with ESP are ESPers? I had no idea.

Four stars. I don’t really know what SPLIT-SQUAD GAMES are (the team splits in half for practice and that needs a name?), and stuff like AGAR and ADZE are unexciting, but Ben writes such fun and fresh clues that they elevate the entire proceeding.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Old”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 13

Days later and I’m still feeling pretty pleased with myself for finishing the dreaded Puzzle #5 in last weekend’s ACPT, a first for me in five years of competing. Puzzle #5 was constructed by Patrick Blindauer, the guy behind today’s puzzle. Whereas last Saturday’s tournament puzzle took me nearly 28 minutes of sweating to get it complete, today’s puzzle felt like a casual stroll (and that was fine with me).

Today’s theme requires the addition of a single letter to the starts of three common 14-letter terms, and the added letters, read from top to bottom, spell O-L-D:

  • 17-Across: “Liver and onions” becomes OLIVER AND ONIONS, an odd combination clued as [Kitchen bulbs with a Twist?]. Had I paid more attention to the capitalization of Twist I think I could have glommed on to this one sooner.
  • 38-Across: An “air conditioner” changes to LAIR CONDITIONER, [What a den mother uses after shampoo?]. Lair conditioner is important–you don’t want to cross paths with a bear having a bad hair day.
  • 62-Across: As fun as it is to “e-file one’s taxes,” it’s substantially more fun to DEFILE ONE’S TAXES, or [Taint a return?].

We’ve seen plenty of grids with three 15-letter theme answers, but it’s rare to see them with stacked sevens in the corners–that’s what gives this grid the Blindauer touch. Not surprisingly, there’s some great stuff in those sevens, like PRE-NUPS ([Marriage contracts, briefly]), HOLES UP ([Hides away]), ARMOIRE ([Ornate wardrobe]), OFF-LINE ([Disconnected, in a way]), and SUBLETS ([Rents from a renter]). Many of the clues are playful. I liked [Nice nose?] for NEZ, [Po land?] for ITALY, and [Hot spots for dates?] (the food) for OASES. It’s odd to see RENT at 13-Down given the aforementioned clue for SUBLETS, but to be honest I only see that now.

Favorite entry = I GUESS, clued as [“Suppose so!”]. Favorite clue = [13-piece suit?] for the SPADES in a deck of cards.

Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword

I’ve just completed a 12 hour, 1,000 kilometre car journey. That may have an impact on my solving experience.

It’s a well-trodden gimmick this, and one that I confess I don’t usually enjoy too much as a solver. There have been exceptions. I also admit to making a puzzle or 3 in the genre myself. Long answers are all definitions of the clue [GREEN]. The puzzle’s a few days off for St. Patrick’s Day. Has Rich started celebrating early? I like CONSERVATIONIST and THECOLOROFMONEY more than VILLAGECOMMON and PUTTINGSURFACE, as the phrases are real, even if the second doesn’t correspond to “GREEN” in its “in-the-language” sense. One quibble, GREEN is THECOLOROFMONEY only if you’re American… I guess that that’s 99% of solvers though.

Despite four long across answers Mr. Wildenberg got in several good’uns in the down fill. My favourite was FRUITFLY, and with its clue, made my science nerd heart sing! Also nice: SETBACKS, DARKAGES, FSCOTT and RINGTONE (though [Cellphone customer’s creation, perhaps] felt weird and stilted as a clue to me).
Clue of the puzzle is [First word of “Greensleeves”] – in full it opens “Alas my love you do me wrong / to cast me off so discourteously”. Such a beautiful, haunting song, and it’s over 400 years old! Here’s Roger Whittaker belting it out! Hey! I just noticed, there are more “greens” in the clues for ECO, TEAL, and ABC too!

3 Star theme + a half a star for a better than average grid! I’ll leave you with a trivia question riffing off 31d: What was Marilyn Monroe’s surname at birth?

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17 Responses to Wednesday, March 13, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I agree, nice change of pace. Even though I suck at puns, I actually got these.

    I’d like to register a complaint about the clue for ALLELE: “Gene arising through mutation”. Not right. This word is often subtly miscued in the puzzles. The gene has always been there. It’s not like the mutation gives birth to a whole new gene. The mutation leads to an alternative form of an existing gene, or else is inherited right along with that gene.

    May be this will help (with apologies to those who are well versed in biology): If you have 2 plates in your kitchen cabinet (like the pair of genes in your DNA) one from each parent, and they are similar except there is a red dot on the one you inherited from mom and a blue dot on the one from dad, they would be allelic variants of the same plate. The red dot is a distinguishing feature, a variation on that plate, but the plate did not arise through that dot. Said dot is simply a characteristic (inherited or acquired) which may or may not affect how well the plate works (e.g if it was a crack rather than a dot, it would be functionally relevant).

  2. Die Fledermaus and Boris Godunov were complete mysteries to me, so the NYT theme didn’t really do it for me. All I could think of for the last one was (Mikhail) Baryshnikov, which is not an opera and is way too far away phonetically from BORIS GOOD ENOUGH.

  3. Captain Pedant says:

    Is anyone else troubled by the clue for OPERA: “Each of this puzzle’s long Across answers sounds like one”? The answers sound like the titles, not like the actual pieces of music.

    More substantially, Die Fledermaus is technically an operetta, not an opera.

    Even so, I liked the puzzle.

    • HH says:

      “The answers sound like the titles, not like the actual pieces of music.”

      Maybe if you sang them?

  4. Mike says:

    I thought this puzzle theme was great. Nothing like a little old-fashioned wordplay. Very well executed and enjoyable, especially for a weekday.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, I enjoyed today’s offerings – especially the punny operas…

  6. Zulema says:

    Again my always and ever complaint about AGORAE. It’s a Greek word, they don’t have it in Latin, and the E ending for Plural would be correct if it were Latin, but it is not. For our usage it should be AGORAS or, with the Greek plural, AGORAI. Otherwise, enjoyed the puns and the puzzle very much.

    • ethan says:

      Zulema: you are right only if we consider the word as Greek. But to the extent that it’s been co-opted by English, it’s an English word [and note that when it appears it’s not clued as “Marketplaces: Gr.” or some tag to indicate it’s a foreign-language word and not a foreign-derived English word], and English words of Greek origin often take Latin plurals in English.

      Best example: octopus. Two widely used plurals in English: octopuses (a typically English formation, adding -es to a singular ending in -s) and octopi (a Latin, not a greek, plural form). The “proper” Greek-style plural would be “octopodes” which no one uses. Ditto agorai.

      • Zulema says:

        Ethan, what I said was that the plural in English or American should be AGORAS. The pretension of the final E as if it were Latin is what I deplored. However, if you are going to use an E it should be an I. And yes, I prefer OCTOPUSES also. We have no argument.

  7. Meem says:

    I agree that it felt as though Mr. DiPietro was channeling his inner Merl. And then along comes Patrick’s puzzle continuing with the puns. Is it National Take a Pun to a Puzzle Day?

  8. jane lewis says:

    baseball definitely has expansion teams – neither the marlins nor the rays existed 25 years ago (more like 20 years ago but i’m not going to look it up). i don’t know how long many years it takes for a team not to be considered an expansion team but, when i started following baseball regularly 30 years ago the rays and marlins did not exist.

  9. Gareth says:

    Not a opera-fan by any stretch of the imagination, but Joe’s puns were delightful! 5-Stars from me and no quibbling!

  10. Martin says:

    Zulema, I can’t argue with your logic about the plural “agorae”, but all the dictionaries I’ve glanced at so far support either: both “agoras” and agorae”, or just “agorae”. Random House 2, which I think is still Will’s main dictionary of reference, only sanctions “agorae”.

    Interesting point, regardless :)


    • Zulema says:

      I won’t tell you what I think of RH 2. You are correct about what it says. The editors must have thought it was Latin or had no thoughts at all. I am for AGORAS, though I was never for SENORS. I remember that one very well many years ago, and also TEATROS (sic) in Italian. I’m afraid dredging all that up will not garner me many friends.

  11. Martin says:

    The editors would simply have had ample citations in their files to justify the “ae” plural entry. The same would apply to the other dictionaries.

  12. Joan macon says:

    Gareth, I expect your long car trip is what made you label your review “New York Times” when we know it was really “Los Angeles Times.” I think her birth name was Mortensen,(Mortenson?) although I have heard it was something else on her birth certificate. Rest up!

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