Monday, March 18, 2013

NYT 2:49 
LAT 3:07 
BEQ 4:36 
CS 7:02 (Sam) 

Daniel Landman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 18 13 #0318

I don’t know about you, but as a medical editor, I know the central theme revealer quite well. SI UNITS (38a. [Basic physical measures … or a hint to 17-, 27-, 48- and 63-Across]) come from Le Système International d’Unités, and pretty much the whole scientific world is on board with using SI units. The American Medical Association Manual of Style notes, “However, in the United States, most physicians and other health care professionals use conventional units for many common clinical measurements (eg, blood pressure), and many clinical laboratories report most laboratory values by means of conventional units. Accordingly, some biomedical publications, including JAMA and the Archives Journals, have adopted an approach for reporting units of measure that includes a combination of SI units and conventional units.” SI ≠ metric, as our standard blood pressure reading is in mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) and that’s metric, but not SI. (No idea what the SI version of a BP reading is.) If not for being a medical editor, though, I don’t know that I would ever have encountered the term prior to finding it in the middle of this Monday (!) puzzle.

So. The theme: Four phrases have S.I. initials, SEMINOLE INDIANS, STATEN ISLANDER, SECRET IDENTITY, and SPLIT INFINITIVE. I am here to tell you that you can blithely ignore the [Stickler’s grammatical no-no] rule. This is English, not Latin, and our finest writers have been splitting infinitives for centuries. (Also? You can start a sentence with “And” or “But,” you can end a sentence with a preposition, and no hellmouth will open up and swallow you if you should use the singular “they.”)

Not crazy about the fill in this grid. Too many “meh” bits like ARRS, STET, TRA, ECRU, RIGA, SSTS, RCPT, IGER, ILE, ELAN, ESSE, and RAN AT that are not really in common usage outside of crossword puzzles. And 8d: [Ruling house of Monaco], GRIMALDI—where did that come from? It’s surprising to see all of these populating a Monday grid. Working on the Daily Celebrity Crossword’s editorial team has attuned me so keenly to what “easy fill” really means … and this ain’t it.

2.75 stars from me. I’m okay with the SI UNITS theme idea, but I think I’m an outlier and that a great many very smart, well-read solvers will be looking askance at that and wondering if they’re the only ones who don’t know it. (They aren’t. They have lots of company.) The scientists among us will be all “Oh, of course, SI units, yes,” but most people aren’t scientists. The theme would go down easier if the fill had really sparkled, but the UPTURNED STARTUP didn’t bring quite enough zippy friends to the fill party.

Updated Monday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let Her In”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 18

Oof, sluggish solving time this morning. I’d blame it on St. Patrick’s Day, but the closest I came to celebrating was having an extra Coke Zero and the closest I came to wearing green was spilling some salad on my shirt. I guess I’ll just chalk it up to a lethargic Monday morning start.

The theme involves inserting a HER into four common terms. It proved to be a bit tricky, however, because one never knew whether to expect the HER at the start of a word, the end of a word, or somewhere in the middle:

  • 17-Across: “Spa treatment” becomes SHERPA TREATMENT, or [Physical therapy for a Himalayan guide?]. Fortunately, the typical sherpa doesn’t mind if the cost is high.
  • 27-Across: “Wedding ring” expands to WEDDING HERRING, a [Pickled fish served at a bridal party?]. That theme entry’s reminiscent of one from a Fireball puzzle Doug Peterson and I made last year, HERRING MAJESTY. Trust me, it made sense in the context of that puzzle.
  • 45-Across: A “cub reporter” becomes a CHERUB REPORTER, or a [Journalist who investigates little angels?].
  • 60-Across: “Saturated fat” expands to SATURATED FATHER, a [Dad caught in a downpour?]. Saturated fat has this tendency to cause expansion, doesn’t it?

I knew I was having an off day right away in the northwest corner. Seeing four squares for [Wine choice], I went with REDS without hesitation. Alas, I was oh-for-four on those squares, as the answer proved to be PORT. I got a little closer with UH NO as the answer to [“That’s a negative”], but that turned out to be UH-UH. And RUER doesn’t exactly trip off this writer’s tongue as the answer to [One with qualms]. So yeah, that corner was a hot mess for me.

I had no trouble with LEES as [Wranglers’ rivals] at 21-Across, but sure enough that step flummoxed me when I got to [Wrangler rival] at 55-Down. With an L in the first square, I was sure the answer had to be LEES again, and that just did not compute. I felt like Nomad on Star Trek. “Error! Error! Does not compute!” I left that section thinking it would make more sense upon my return, and it did–a minute or so later I saw the answer was LEVI.

Otherwise it was just a typical assortment of misfires. TALK instead of TELL for [Fail to zip your lip], FEAT instead of GEST as the [Daring exploit], and my personal favorite: CERBERUS instead of ST. PETER for [Gatekeeper addressed in “Sixteen Tons”]. I also kept wanting TEMPURA instead of TEMPERA as the [Poster paint]. Maybe I should get an early lunch….

Favorite entry = LOP-SIDED, something [Unevenly balanced]. Favorite clue = [Level or bevel] for TOOL.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 3 18 13

I missed my chance to meet 8d: OPHIRA EISENBERG at the ACPT because they forgot to call my name for the coveted “2nd Place Midwest” trophy, and she was the trophy dispenser and color co-commentator. (I was late to the event anyway, but she should have called my name and made people clap for me in my absence.) Anyway, the 15-letteredness of Eisenberg’s name was a topic of discussion in crossword circles, so here she is, felicitously crossing the brand-new GOOGLE GLASS.

Favorite clues:

  • 2d. [City that is home to Africa’s largest ice rink], NAIROBI. Not a big ice hockey continent, I imagine.
  • 12d. [One making a clean sweep], JANITOR. There should be a sports team called the Janitors, who would feel extra pressure to sweep all game series.
  • 36d. [xkcd superfan, probably], GEEK. Have a look at xkcd if you’re new to it.
  • 38d. [Puzzle-within-a-puzzle], META.
  • 42d. [Flower that took its name from the French word for “tobacco”], PETUNIA. Did I know that? If I did, I quite forgot it.
  • 50d. [Dirk DeJong’s nickname in a 1924 Pulitzer-winning novel], SO BIG. I just learned something about the Edna Ferber novel that I have known pretty much only through crosswords. Would not have guessed that the title was a character’s nickname.

I wasn’t particularly knocked out by this one. Making a mental note of 48a: [British chessmaster Raymond] KEENE, new to me but newer than Carolyn Keene. Not so pleased with plural PDRS (copies of the Physicians’ Desk Reference), ETES, ESAI, STET, RET, NCO, SRTA, UPI, PARD, ELL, and plural TETLEYS. 3.33 stars today.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 3 18 13

Sorry the LAT review is late—pannonica was off for the day and I had two appointments. Man, it kills me when commenters complain that posts are “late.” The presence of three other puzzle reviews for the day means nothing, right? It’s hard out there for a pimp volunteer crossword puzzle reviewer. (We appreciate your understanding when life gets between us and our crosswords.)

I wish 17a. [2012 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee] BARRY LARKIN had been the last theme answer because I had the more common STA instead of STN at 10d, and BARRY LARKIA was no more unfamiliar to me than BARRY LARKIN. (Who??) The other KINFOLK (people with KIN in their last names) were more familiar to me—ALAN ARKIN, Sen. TOM HARKIN, and ELLEN BARKIN. If I’d hit BARRY after those three and the KINFOLK revealer, boom, LARKIN, no problem. Sports fans were probably delighted by his prominent spot in the puzzle, but I really don’t think I’ve ever heard of him. Poet Philip Larkin, yes.

Love the elective 9s, IN A PICKLE, LOSES TIME (which makes me think of Edward Norton’s character in Primal Fear rather than timepieces), AER LINGUS, and HEAT WAVES. Heat! I miss it. Icy precip and temps in the 30s in Chicago today. Had to scrape ice off the car windows this morning. Spring break, take me away!

A lot of the fill had an older-puzzle feel to it. STENOS, SAL, CANA, YSER, OTIS, DICTA, EFT? Ooft. But “OH, ROB!” is decades old and still delicious, and I also liked the KAL-EL/CAPES superhero riff.

3.33 stars.

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19 Responses to Monday, March 18, 2013

  1. RK says:

    Is the WSJ AcrossLite link no longer available? It’s not even listed at Cruciverb now.


  2. Howard B says:

    I can tell you that in my experience commonly working with metric units, conversions, etc., I simply have never encountered this term. That term, crossing a name that I conveniently managed to forget, made this a rare instance of a puzzle in which the grid was fine, but one answer frustrating enough to cloud my experience. (I know that the theme itself lends the letters SI, this is how I finally resolved the difficulty). Usually I take the whole puzzle gestalt into account and don’t let a crossing or answer that throws me off affect the experience ;).

    Just to reveal the theme with a ‘?’ hovering over my head was particularly frustrating. Now I know this was a chasm of ignorance for me – I’m always thankful to learn something (and this was a very helpful thing to know!), but that central answer was a rather unpleasant find on a Monday. The learning something new part, much more pleasant.

  3. Chia says:

    I am surprised at your comment that most people who aren’t scientists wouldn’t know about SI units. In Singapore where I’m from, all secondary school students learn about SI units in science class, regardless of whether they go on to become scientists. While we may not always use SI units in our daily lives, in my view they are certainly not esoteric scientific knowledge.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Clarification: Americans who aren’t scientists. I think the term “SI units” is used much less than “metric units” in U.S. pre-college education.

      • Howard B says:

        I think that’s accurate. Metric units themselves are common knowledge, and they are taught at a very early age here as well, but named as the “metric” system. If “SI units” are the internationally known term for the system, then it’s good that we are made more aware of it in the U.S.

        Of course, that did not help today, but it will for the future ;).

      • Chia says:

        Amy, I see now what you mean. In my mind, units are either SI or not. Sometimes I call a unit “metric” only because other people call it that. Admittedly, I don’t actually know what makes a unit “metric”, and now I have to go look it up. Interesting how different educational systems emphasize on quite different things!

    • Gareth says:

      I can confirm it’s the same in South Africa. SI units are a big part of the science syllabus here. I wonder if it’s not only a geographical gap, but also one of age, though? Maybe it’s something introduced into syllabi in recent times?

  4. Papa John says:

    Amy, I agree with splitting infinitives but the use of a conjunctive at the beginning of a sentence still rankles, if for no other reason than it’s redundant, unnecessary, a waste of breath and ink. It’s the same with the redundant pronoun, as in. “The generals, they wanted war.”

  5. Zulema says:

    Gareth is right about age being a divider here.

  6. John E says:

    When I think of SI, I think of Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford and Tyra Banks….

  7. Jeff Chen says:

    SI UNITS would have come as second nature to me twenty years ago in grad school. Then again, I mostly remember building all sorts of crazy sh*t and throwing things off buildings. Ah, wild and crazy mechanical engineers…

  8. Matthew G. says:

    I think most people know the individual units encompassed by the term SI UNITS. What many people, myself included, did not know is the term SI UNITS itself.

  9. David says:

    I love this blog. I really do. However, I don’t see why the LAT crossword is always given short shrift. It’s always late, an after thought, or not there at all. Just sayin’.

  10. Ruth says:

    I chuckled at every one of the theme answers in Gail Grabowski’s puzzle–marveling that adding a HER in unexpected places gave such unexpected results! Nice job!! (I don’t think it’s merely that I’m easily amused. .)

  11. janie says:

    if you’ve never listened to “ask me another,” check out this past week’s edition. you’ll hear OPHIRA EISENBERG and acpt’s katie hamill (who finished 23rd this year!):

    and though you won’t hear him on air this time, puzzler john chaneski is a regular member of the “ama” creative team.


  12. David says:

    I owe Amy an apology. I’m the one who complained about the LAT being late. I was pissed at having to go to jury duty, and I unjustly took it out here. If, Amy, you want to want to clue “slimeface piece of shit dickhead who should burn in hell” in a future puzzle as “David” I will completely understand.

    • pannonica says:

      And I owe Amy and all the blog readers an apology for being indisposed and giving late notice. She was just too polite to be explicit.

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