Wednesday, June 5, 2013

NYT 3:28 
LAT 3:33 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:47 (Dave) 

Mark Bickham’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 5 13, no. 0605

If this were a CrosSynergy or Newsday puzzle, it would have a title like “TNT” and be able to dispense with the somewhat-off-base BANG revealer (66a. [Sound suggested by the first letters of the words in 17-, 26-, 44- and 58-Across]). Those four answers have T.N.T. initials:

  • 17a. [“It just can’t be predicted”], THERE’S NO TELLING.
  • 26a. [“False!”], THAT’S NOT TRUE.
  • 44a. [“Later”], TILL NEXT TIME.
  • 58a. [Work containing 21 epistles], THE NEW TESTAMENT.

Whoosh! That was the sound of my head spinning at the discordant note struck by the fourth theme answer. Three spoken phrases clued with quoted phrases and … the New Testament. If the other three weren’t so, so similar in their feeling, 58a wouldn’t be so jarring.

As with yesterday’s NYT (are you seeing a trend here?), I was disappointed by the fill. While the four longest Down answers are great (SALES TARGET, THE DOORS, GUESS WHO, STAFF LOUNGE), so many other entries are partials (AM OF, I SEE A), foreign words/phrases (SES, BUENO, A MOI), awkward word forms or phrases (ONS, -UAL, OYS, I’M HIP, RIOS, RUER, PEN IN), abbreviations (NT WT—which is far more often seen as “net wt.” on packaging), or crosswordese (ERNE, ELIHU). I could overlook a puzzle’s inclusion of a handful of answers like these, but this just felt like too many undesirables.

2.5 stars from me.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “For Newbies” – Dave Sullivan’s review

So constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith claims today’s CrosSynergy / WaPo puzzle is “for newbies.” Do you agree? The idea is to find four phrases that have a synonym for newbie, namely TYRO, hidden within:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 06/05/13

  • [“Saturday Night” singers of 1975] are The BAY CITY ROLLERS. I read that this “tartan teen sensation” from Edinburgh got their name by throwing a dart at a map of the US and seeing it land near Bay City, Michigan.
  • [Dean Martin hosted many] aren’t cocktail parties as I first thought, but CELEBRITY ROASTS, instead.
  • [Packing component] clues STY ROFOAM PEANUT. A la Lays Potato Chips, can you just have one?
  • [Areas on many campuses] is FRATERNITY ROWS. Funny, I’d like to see this singular and the prior entry plural, but then we’d have a 16 and 13 instead of the requisite 15 over 14.

Stacking those 14s and 15s right over each other is a master stroke and demonstrates Martin’s comfort with the themeless stacks he is well-known for. My FAVE entry was the long YAKETY YAK, not to be confused with the theme song to the Benny Hill Show, Yakety Sax. I’m not as pleased to see the one-ZSA ZSA, so that would be my UNFAVE today.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 6 5 13

Gareth and editor Rich Norris make use of circled squares, which are not too commonly seen in the LA Times puzzle, to make the theme more obvious. 35a: [X Games activities, and, in a way, what can be found in this puzzle’s circles] clues EXTREME SPORTS, and there are names of sports to be found in the circled squares at the ends (extremes) of each theme answer:

  • 17a. [For example, to Juan], POR EJEMPLO. Polo.
  • 25a. [Idol worshipped in Exodus], GOLDEN CALF. Golf.
  • 49a. [Casserole holder, perhaps], SQUARE DISH. Squash, the only sport that isn’t a 4-letter word split 2/2 in this theme.
  • 58a. [Armchair quarterback’s speed?], SUPER SLO-MO. Sumo. Great clue and great entry.

No complaints about this theme. I like the mixed bag of theme phrases, each one entirely unrelated to the other three.

Lots and lot of sparkle in the fill—we enjoy a SMOOTHIE with KARL MARX as well as combining OPRAH with Dr. PHIL, BR’ER Rabbit crossing that patch of BRIARS, Miss MARPLE and JIHADS, TWO ON ONE.

Favorite clue: 39d. [Pro pitcher?], SALESMAN.

There were a few grumbly bits in the fill, but they were not so noticeable because (a) there weren’t a ton of them and (b) the theme and the sparkle provided enough value to more than offset the occasional wan answer.

I don’t love 50d. [“__ Dream”: Wagner aria], ELSA’S. But I saw Fast & Furious 6 last weekend, and I was wishing that Elsa Pataky’s part had been bigger. Does a supporting part in the last two movies in a massively successful franchise make her a solid cluing option for ELSA? She’s also married to Thor portrayer Chris Hemsworth.

Four stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Doubly Fun”

Ink Well crossword solution, 6 5 13 “Doubly Fun”

Reead the title as “double-E fun” and you’ve got the theme idea: double an E to change a word into two words:

  • 17a. [TV show about a Trojan War hero’s early years as a mobster?], ACHILLES: TEEN DON.
  • 26a. [Director who had to have “Life of Pi” explained to him over and over before he agreed to adapt it?], OBTUSE ANG LEE.
  • 45a. [Clique of cows who totally knew about this patch of grass before anyone else?], HIP STEER BAND.
  • 59a. [Particularly pisslike cheap drinks?], GOLDEN SLUM BEERS.

Not an A+ theme, but the humor in the theme answers and clues keeps it at an A-, at least.


Toughest clues:

  • 25d. [“Yeah, obviously”], DER. We would also have accepted DUH and DOY, along with the masculine German definite article.
  • 48d. [Like some Bach works], FUGAL.
  • 26d. [Electrical impedance units], OHMS. I fill this in with a crosswordese reflex, but if you asked me to explain exactly what all this means … well, it’s been a long time since I took physics.
  • 34d. [Nabokov novel about a Russian literature teacher], PNIN. This one I know primarily from crosswords.
  • 18d. [Lioness profiled in the book “Born Free”], ELSA. Hoary crosswordese to me. How many people under the age of 50 have any non-crossword-derived familiarity with this? See also: My ELSA Pataky paragraph in the LA Times write-up.

Four stars.

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25 Responses to Wednesday, June 5, 2013

  1. Sarah says:

    Felt same about 4th theme entry. Would have preferred if top 15 was in middle and two 12 letter theme entries were symetrically placed.

    JIBS/JETS crossing just screams scrabbly attempt. BIBS/BETS or LIBS/LETS would have been far preferred. West side of puzzle sure to Natick someone…PALAU/AMOF/AMOI/ROLF.

    Not digging crossing IN A TIE or ON A TIP..feel a little contrived and slightly too similiar.

    • Sarah says:

      Or even NIBS/NETS…tasty!

      • Neville says:

        Sorry, but I don’t see why JIBS/JETS needs replacing here. These are both words; what’s the problem? How is this a “scrabbly attempt?” It’s not as though the fill in this portion of the puzzle has been completely compromised to fit in three J’s, two Q’s and a Z.

        • Jeffrey K says:

          “For variety, try some of the lesser-used letters of the alphabet–J, Q, X, Z, K, W, etc. ”

          – New York Times specification sheet

          • Sarah says:

            Because JIBS is an obscurity. We don’t call them jibs. We call them SAILS.

          • Neville says:

            See also:

            “The clues in an ideal puzzle provide a well-balanced test of vocabulary and knowledge, ranging from classical subjects like literature, art, classical music, mythology, history, geography, etc., to modern subjects like movies, TV, popular music, sports and names in the news.” – New York Times crossword spec sheet

            I don’t know to whom you refer when you write “we,” Sarah, but I personally welcome terms from areas outside of my expertise. I’d like to think the general solving audience of the Times crossword is similarly open-minded. And certainly the crossings were fair on this one.

      • Lorraine says:

        i’m actually replying to your comment

        “Because JIBS is an obscurity. We don’t call them jibs. We call them SAILS.”

        No, JIB is not an obscurity. A JIB is only one type of sail, and has a very defined usage, just as spinnakers, mainsails, mizzens, etc., are all TYPES of sails but have clearly defined usages on a sailboat.

  2. John E says:

    NYT was kind of “meh” to me, but the plus was that I had not heard of the term ROLF, which led to reading about Ida Rolf and her work with the physically disabled. Very fascinating!

  3. pannonica says:

    There’s no there there.

  4. ktd says:

    I was easily 5 minutes or so over my typical Wednesday solving time on today’s NYT. I stumbled badly figuring out the theme. After entering THERES NO TELLING and THATS NOT TRUE I jumped ahead to 66-Across, but the clue had me thinking that the theme had something to do with words starting with the /th/ sound. As a result I couldn’t get TILL NEXT TIME for a few minutes until I realized BANG=TNT! Plus there were some clues that felt a bit tougher than Wednesday level (10/11D, 32D) and stilted answers like ON A TIP and RUER that made me pause to ask myself if those could really be the answer.

    Oh, and I had NAURU in place of PALAU for a bit which held me up. When you’re making that mistake, you know it’s not your day for crosswords :-)

    • Bencoe says:

      I was also way over my usual Wednesday time. Surprised to see how many people found it easy. I had tons of erasures and found the solve to not be smooth at all. A few things I had never heard of, like actress FENN. I liked the Julee Cruise/Mastroianni/Lynch soundtrack but didn’t care much for the show.

      • pannonica says:

        I believe you meant composer (Angelo) Badalamenti, not actor (Marcello) Mastroianni.

  5. Rob says:

    I thought ‘tsuris” was unusual for the NYT. The old NYSun puzzle was chock full of yiddish, but the NYT not so much.

  6. zulema says:

    Very dull NYT compared with last Wednesday’s felicitous offering, IMO.

  7. Andy says:

    I was surprised to see the clue for CHER in the LAT was [Chastity’s mother] rather than [Chaz’s mother].

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, Andy. I meant to mention that and forgot. It’s a factual clue—there was a Chastity whose mom was Cher—but it would be more enlightened to cite Chaz here.

  8. David L says:

    I thought CSNY (Tausig 54D) was oddly clued. “Down by the River” is an early Neil Young song (from Everybody Knows this is Nowhere). CSNY would perform it on occasion, but it’s not something they’re particularly famous for, and there are many other songs that they originated that would have made for a more apt clue — “Our House,” for example.

  9. Bonekrusher says:

    I got through the first two theme answers and thought, “Is the theme going to be SNOT?”

    But no. That’SNOT breakfast-worthy

  10. Martin says:



  11. ahimsa says:

    I liked the LA Times puzzle, and had no trouble solving it, but I was a bit surprised by one of the theme entries.

    Is “square dish” really a thing? And assuming it is, then shouldn’t the clue relate to some food that would usually be cooked in a square baking dish? (cornbread, brownies, etc.) I thought that most casseroles could be baked in any shape dish.

    The overall sports theme was cute so this is more of a question of what’s allowed (or what I’m missing!) than a complaint. Maybe editors are more lenient when theme entries have a Q? :-)

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