Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Jonesin' 3:37 
NYT 5 minutes (paper) 
LAT 3:13 

Severin Nelson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 23 13 #0423

I solved this puzzle last Thursday and it actually took me a couple days to notice two more theme entries. I wonder if I’m particularly dense or if they eluded enough other solvers that asterisking the theme clues would have been useful. The theme is the four seasons, which is apt because the Upper Midwest is currently locked in a death struggle between winter (snow!) and spring, while it’s fall defeating summer in the other hemisphere.

  • 8a, 71a, 1d, and 54d are all clued [One of the four seasons], and the answers obviously are (going clockwise) SUMMER, AUTUMN, WINTER, and SPRING, in a logical order.
  • 32a. [Nicolas who painted “The Four Seasons”], POUSSIN. I don’t know this painting. Am I a philistine?
  • 48a. [Antonio who composed “The Four Seasons”], VIVALDI.
  • 7d. [Bill who co-owns the Four Seasons hotel company], GATES. Little-known trivia?
  • 57d. [Frankie of the Four Seasons], VALLI.

Yes, I missed seeing the 5s for days. Did everything jump out at you?

The grid has 80 words, two more than the usual cap of 78. The fill is surprisingly rough for an 80-worder with 48 theme squares (which is not a small theme but also not a huge one). My eyes goggled at 44a: [City south of Kyiv], ODESA. I’ve never seen a 5-letter transliteration for that city before. But Google Maps shows me the Kyiv/Odesa combo, and also the Cyrillic-alphabet version. Wikipedia suggests the two-S spelling is a transliteration from Russian and the one-S from Ukrainian (“Russian: Оде́сса; or Ukrainian: Одеса”). Who knew? This certainly is not common crossword fill.

The fill also requires a smattering of French: NOTRE, TRISTE, ETÉ, and RIRE, and if you don’t know your French painters or your [Laugh, in Lille], good luck to you in getting the first vowel in RIRE. (One of the Chicago Marbles Crossword Tournament finalists missed that letter.) Also the Latin RES.

Also rough-edged: The preponderance of word fragments and partials. OSSE-, PTERO-, -ITE, -ENNE, -OON, I AT, IT A? Too much! Plus more than 20 capitalized names of people and places—these render a puzzle far more challenging to solvers who don’t love to be quizzed on names.

The theme is all right (though perhaps a hair too subtle for a Tuesday offering?) but the fill was surprisingly difficult for a Tuesday puzzle. 2.5 stars.

John Verel and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 4 23 13

This puzzle focuses on just one season, the one that is clinging to Minnesota as if its life depended on it—winter. (No sooner did the rain wash away last week’s 6″-8″ of snow than another big winter storm warning landed.)

  • 17a. [O’Neill drama set in Harry Hope’s saloon], THE ICEMAN COMETH.
  • 28a, 30a. [With 30-Across, drama based on ’70s presidential interviews], FROST/NIXON.
  • 40a. [Drama about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine], THE LION IN WINTER.
  • 52a. [With 54-Across, “Viva La Vida” rock group, and what 17-, 28-/30- and 40-Across each is?], COLDPLAY or COLD PLAY. It’s a bit of a cheat to split Coldplay’s name in half, of course. It took me a while to see that “cold play” referred to playwrights’ works of art; I thought of Frost/Nixon and The Lion in Winter as movies rather than their play predecessors.

Plusses: The inclusion of “The” in two play titles; nobody loves a “with ‘The'” clue. The four long Down answers—SPEAK FREELY, ALMOST DONE, HAND IN HAND, BLEW ONE’S TOP. The wake-up-our-eyeballsness of a grid with left-right symmetry. (If only the puzzle had six-way symmetry like a snowflake.)

Four stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Xzibit A”

Jonesin’ crossword answers, 4 23 13 “Xzibit A”

Hip-hop’s Xzibit is exhibit A here, and Matt gathers (or concocts) four other phrases with the XZ letter combo:

  • 16a. Place to find zebras in New York], BRONX ZOO. Real place.
  • 31a. What one undecillion contains], THIRTY-SIX ZEROES. Contrived phrase.
  • 39a. 85003, 85004 and 85007, for example], PHOENIX ZIP CODES. Contrived phrase.
  • 57a. Bond villain played by Christopher Walken], MAX ZORIN. In A View to a Kill.

Nice to throw in another Bond name, LAZENBY. I also like MYLAR, DITZY, pretty PHLOXES, MR. ROBOTO (“domo arigato”), HOHOS, and ABUELA. TEN TONS, LIFE’S GOOD, and I GOT STUNG are semi-contrivances, but I still like the latter two.

Four clues:

  • 36a. [Last word in a 1978 #1 song title], OOGIE. As in “Boogie Oogie Oogie.”
  • 59a. [Miss Montana?], HANNAH. As in the fictional Hannah Montana.
  • 1a. [“The Simpsons” small businessman], APU. Could’ve been MOE, too.
  • 2d. [Blender setting], PUREE. Am I the only one who always enters PU**E for the blender setting just in case it’s PULSE this time? It’s a blender button, but of course better clued in other ways. (See also: AVOW/AVER, EVICT/EJECT, SEE RED/SEETHE.)

3.5 stars.

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28 Responses to Tuesday, April 23, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    Don’t forget ENDUES!

  2. sbmanion says:

    I did go to Woodstock, but arrived late Friday (lucky to be coming in from the West), and missed the iconic opening act:


    Not a voice for all time, but did anyone ever capture a moment better than he did?
    RIP, Richie Havens.

    In Niagara Falls, it was always POP, never SODA.

    I liked the puzzle and thought it was slightly tough for a Tuesday.


  3. Martin says:

    Odesa is the official spelling for the simple reason that it’s in the Ukraine and, as the review mentions, that’s how the Ukrainians spell it.

    To a Ukrainian, an insistence on spelling it Odessa is tantamount to preferring the “good old days” when they were effectively a colony of Russia. Russian domination of Ukraine goes back way before the Soviet Union, and they are very sensitive about westerners continuing to use the Russian-derived transliterations for their cities, like Odesa, Kyiv and Lviv. Odessa, Kiev and Lvov are all based on Russian spellings.

    This is the fourth appearance in the Shortz era, and the second in a row on Tuesday. I just litzed a Weng-era puzzle with Odesa, which was a sort of guerilla Cold War shot.

    • David L says:

      But the Ukrainians don’t spell it “Odesa.” They use that funny old alphabet of theirs. The question is how to transliterate it into the Roman alphabet. My inclination would be to pronounce Odesa a little differently than Odessa, but I don’t know which is closest to the native pronunciation. In any case, I don’t see why we should be obliged to change the traditional English spelling because they have displaced Russian with Ukrainian. Unless you also want to change the English spelling of Munich, Florence, Vienna, etc etc.

      • Martin says:

        You’re not obliged to change any spelling. You can continue to call Beijing Peking if you’d like. But Ukraine asked the world to adopt the “Odesa” spelling and the State Department complied.

        My point is simply that it doesn’t make sense to call a crossword for using the official US diplomatic spelling. Rex went further and mocked the spelling. Whatever.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it even though I totally see what Amy did not. I thought the theme was a very interesting combination of factual names of seasons and how they have fascinated people in different facets of life– different types of music, visual arts, and even the travel industry (and I love the Four Seasons hotels usually. Had no clue who the owner was!). All of this done symmetrically. Can’t beat that.

    I personally don’t care about the 80 words. Might be a slippery slope, but as a solver, it does not change my experience. But I appreciate knowing about these boundaries and I find it reasonable that a critic should ask whether stretching the limits was justified.

    The French for me made it easy, but I confess that if this were, say, German, I’d be screaming. But the only real offender in my book was all the prefixes and suffixes. Just. too.many.

    And what the heck is oreITE? Oh, right! I should google it… All right…

    • Martin says:

      -ite is a common ending for ores, like cassiterite, the tin ore of crosswords.

      • Huda says:

        I would like to cash in my points from the other day, granted to me by Sam Donaldson, to pay for my dumb question :)
        Thanks Martin…

  5. HH says:

    “…nobody loves a “with ‘The’” clue.”

    Someday I’m gonna clue THE as [O’Neill play, with “Iceman Cometh”].

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, — No. But Nicholas Poussin is probably the most important pre – 19th Century French painter (notwithstanding having lived in the early 17th), and hugely important as an influence on later Neo-Classical schools.

    Even the Russians and Ukrainians I talked to when I was regularly in Moscow didn’t entirely agree on the differences in pronunciation of various sounds, especially including the palatalized ‘E’ sound, but in general, in Russia, there is more of a distinct “ee” sound. In Moscow, anyhow, “Kiev” came out closer to “KEE’F” and the Ukrainians more like K’EFF.

    I thought this was an abnormally easy Tuesday puzzle, and wondered if I had stumbled onto the Monday by mistake, but I guess that’s just a function of my background. (I even knew Tony LaRussa. Didn’t he previously manage in Chicago? the White Sox? I did wonder about “endues”, though.

    Amy I was interested that you solved this one on paper. I guess some people really are faster on the computer. It takes me about 3 times as long on the computer, despite the fact that I’m an excellent typist. (One of my fondest achievements was winning one of the full scholarships to the Strayer’s Secretarial School in D.C. as a result of an area-wide typing competition for HS students. So I turned my back on a promising career, in favor of using my fingers differently at another School.) But whenever I try to do a puzzle on the computer, I’m always typing somewhere other than I think I am; I tend to go down rather than across,I can’t figure out how to reset the cursor where I want it etc. etc. It’s an absolute mess and disaster, and I don’t see how anyone gets the coordination of it, or even would want to. But I guess that’s just me and computers.

    • Sparky says:

      Me too on computer solving. I am always going in the wrong direction. And the clue I want to reread is never visible. On my way over to LAT.

  7. Jeff Chen says:

    Hi all!

    Today’s LAT is actually by John Verel and Jeff Chen. It’s his crossword debut (and his idea, I just went along for the ride)! Any chance we could get him tagged?


  8. Gareth says:

    I was more than willing to forgive COLD/PLAY and irregular symmetry for such a great, tight theme! COLD PLAY is such an elegant reveal and tied it all together in a big bow! Couldn’t help giving it 5 stars!

  9. JohnV says:

    John Verel here. Thanks for the kind words and feedback. This was a lot of fun. Great working with Jeff, as you all well know.

  10. joon says:

    lovely debut puzzle in the LAT. splitting COLD/PLAY was necessary for the “punch line”, if you will; yes, the band is just coldplay, but the three dramas in the theme are to be interpreted as cold plays. great stuff.

  11. Doug says:

    What Janie & Gareth & Joon said. Great puzzle, John & Jeff!

  12. janie says:

    and apropos of mr. nelson’s debut, *great* theme development (imoo…) — a really fresh variation on what coulda been a too familiar theme (a point amy makes as well). though POUSSIN was new to me, this still felt comfortably tuesday-like to me, but man — bill GATES and the four seasons franchise?! who knew!


  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I gather a band called “Cold Play” is something I’m supposed to have heard of.

    • Mr. Paltrow says:

      Yes. 7 Grammys & 25 nominations. Over 60 million records sold. Not exactly an obscure indie band.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        (Gwyneth Paltrow is married to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, a Brit. I don’t really know the difference between Radiohead and Coldplay, and I blame the appeal of Headcold and Radioplay for that.)

  14. andrea carla michaels says:

    bravo to John V on his debut! jeff Chen is the best! Funny that there was WINTER in this one and the FOur Seasons in the other. Synchronicity!

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