Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NYT 3:33 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 3:24 (Gareth) 
CS 5:49 (Dave) 

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 10 13, no 0710

Cute puzzle. The theme hinges on the way punctuation changes meaning:

  • 20a. [“Really?!”], “THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!”
  • 37a. [“Really”], “EVERY WORD IS TRUE.” Meh.
  • 55a. [“Really!”], “WELL, I’LL BE DAMNED!” My favorite theme answer this month.

Now, I’m pretty sure this answer is factually wrong. 25a. [Macs run it], IOS? No. Macs run varying OS X versions. iOS is on iPhones and iPads, which are Apple products but they’re not Macs.

Highlights: BEAT THE RAP, NOT BY A MILE, LIZARD, the CRABBY SULKER (SULKER alone is meh, but I liked the CRABBYness echo).

I wonder if Mr. Sessa originally had MAMBA clued with reference to KOBE Bryant, whose nickname is the “Black Mamba.” Instead, we have [Venomous African snake] and [__ beef].

I like that the theme is three long answers, nothing more. The fill is smooth. I like it when the fill is smooth. 4.25 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Flicks Off”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword solution, 7 10 13 “Flicks Off”

Have you ever thought about how many movies there are with 3-letter titles? Ben has cut those flicks out of longer phrases and put them elsewhere in the puzzle:

  • 17a. [Podiatric policeman?], WART OFFICER. Original phrase is “warrant officer.” The RAN is next door (19a. [1985 Akira Kurosawa film based on “King Lear”]).
  • 24a. [Wrestler with a “shell shocker” finishing move?], PAIN TURTLE. “Painted turtle.” TED is to the left (23a. [2012 Seth MacFarlane film about a talking bear]).
  • 37a. [“The eating of omelets is hereafter punishable by death,” e.g.? (See byline)], EGGS EDICT. The BEN is found in the byline: “Ben (1972 Phil Karlson horror film with a theme song by Michael Jackson) Tausig.” I never saw the movie and I really don’t know the song, but I did read the related novel in my youth.
  • 55a. [Heated discussion about crabs?], VD ARGUMENT. “Valid argument,” ALI (58a. [2001 Michael Mann biopic]).
  • 64a. [Sound of fright that lasts all through Hanukkah?], EIGHT-DAY EEK. “Eight Days a Week,” SAW (63a. [2004 James Wan horror film that launched a franchise]).

I haven’t seen any of these movies, actually, but am familiar with all five. Interesting theme concept, not the sort of simple theme that populates so many daily newspaper puzzles.

Top five:

  • 36a. [Six games, if one player loses all six], SET. Nicely timed right after the conclusion of Wimbledon.
  • 71a. {[The horror!]}, GASP.
  • 3d. [Band featuring Rush Limbaugh], AM RADIO. Radio bandwidth, not rock band.
  • 12d. [Most evidently just back from a Miami vacation, say], TANNEST. We in the pale community would also have accepted REDDEST.
  • 25d. [Hippie’s odor], INCENSE. Why? What were you thinking?

Four stars.

Joel D. Lafargue’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LA Times

I didn’t really notice the theme until I finished. What he have here are phrases ending in four synonyms for “wand”, i.e. a long, thin piece of (especially) wood. The first answer uses the term completely figuratively, but the rest are all wands more or less. This somewhat lessens the theme in my book, but your mileage may vary. At the least we have fun theme phrases, and, in essence, most themes are just a device to string together a bunch of colourful phrases anyway:

  • 20a, [Member of a “joint” military group], CHIEFOFSTAFF
  • 28a, [Franklin invention], LIGHTNINGROD
  • 46a, [Make a relay race connection], PASSTHEBATON
  • 55a, [Cocktail accessory]. SWIZZLESTICK.Isn’t that a fun answer?!

The grid was conservative, but with some interesting touches: the scrabbly answers BURQA, ENZYME and SKYPE are the most obvious; but I also liked the addition of some interesting one word answers: DEVILISH, LOBSTER, PROFANE and TREFOIL.

I came across one unknown today, the name PAU Gasol, who seems like he’ll be back… The two Paus I do know are the town in France that’s famous for its Grand Prix and T’Pau the band whose biggest hit was “China in your Hands”. Other answers that may be unfamiliar to some less experienced solvers include MOIRE, the religious building mini-theme of STUPA and MANSE, ESSE (often found with an “in” in front), and Prince ALY Khan.

So-so theme, but with a grid peppered with interesting answers: 3 stars.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Unappetizing Appetizers” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme entries that end with an appetizer that no one would want to start a meal with:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/10/13

  • A [Top dog] is the BIG CHEESE – living here in Vermont now, I’ve learned a lot about the cheese making process. In fact, we recently bought a goat cheese kit and hope to make a batch of chèvre later this week.
  • [1969 Peter O’Toole movie] clues GOOD-BYE MR. CHIPS – true, those “chips” were not an appetizer.
  • [Early life, some say] is the wonderful PRIMORDIAL SOUP – I might change that “some” in the clue to “most”–does Creationism have a large following these days?
  • [Incoherent speech] is a new term to me, WORD SALAD – what kind of dressing would you put on that?

Interesting theme idea, although I’m not sure I see “cheese” and “chips” as appetizers the way I do “soup” and “salad.” (They’re more party-munching material.) Serviceable fill otherwise–I enjoyed SLIP INTO for [Don] (was first thinking of mafioso first, what does that say about me?), PIRANHA for [Fish known to bite the hand that feeds it] and learning that SHAMU is a [Name trademarked by SeaWorld]. My overall FAVE was the simple [Capital of Texas] for TEE. Nice way to add a bit of spice to a short common entry. My UNFAVE was NEATO! for [“Way cool!”]–these phrases went out with Leave It To Beaver.

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22 Responses to Wednesday, July 10, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    Honestly? I was thinking PATCHOULI.

    Ran is definitely worth watching. In addition to more overt cinematic virtuosity, there’s a great but sometimes subtle design element throughout: costume and color.

  2. Akil says:

    NYT: I agree that the play on punctuation is fun.

    I put I’LL BE DArNED which blocked me for a while from getting “NOT BY A MILE”. I really wanted “Not even close”, but that was, well, not even close.

    Some stuff for us old people in there– ZORBA, ANKA, ONO and YVES, on a TV with SNOW! Also, interestingly argumentative puzzle– ANYHOW, EVEN SO.

    ABLY executed!

    And re yesterday’s discussion– I like being one of the plebes (as in riffraff) who have never constructed or even tried, much less gotten published! I thoroughly enjoy my mediocrity in crosswords.

    • Huda says:

      And for me, when it’s late at night, I don’t get CRABBY, I just put down the wrong name… Well, it’s also my name, but not the one I usually use around here…
      This site does not sign me up automatically any longer. What happened?

      • Daniel Myers says:


        It hasn’t signed me up automatically for some time now. I assume it’s a way of preventing trolls and/or fussy commenting.

        • Evad says:

          The deal is that when we installed a caching plug-in here (based on our ISP pretty much threatening to drop us if we didn’t), that the cookie that holds your name and email for the comment form only has a life of about 30 minutes. The reason why is that if it was longer, those who still had that cookie active would not get a cached page, but would get the latest (server) version of the page, defeating the purpose of the plug-in.

          I’ve been debating making that cookie last a bit longer, perhaps a few hours instead of 30 minutes, if you guys think that would make a noticeable difference.

          • Evad says:

            I should add that if the caching plug-in ignored this cookie, commenters would not see their comments appear as soon as they were submitted, but would see an older (cached) version of the page instead. That’s the trade-off–we’d probably get a lot of duplicate comments since folks would think their original comment wasn’t submitted correctly (since it didn’t show up immediately).

          • Huda says:

            Dave, It would be nice, but if it’s likely to complicate your life too much and cause a lot of duplicates, it’s not worth it.
            Most people seem to handle remembering their name just fine– one spacey individual notwithstanding .

          • Evad says:

            No problem whatsoever, I’m willing to increase the cookie life a bit and we’ll just see how our ISP reacts. They usually give us some type of grace period to fix things if we end up taking up too much of our shared server processing capacity.

          • pannonica says:

            I suppose one could save a few keystrokes by instructing their browser to remember the username and e-mail address, or using a plug-in/service.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      If you every want to try, let me know! Glad to help out. In the meantime, I’ll be basking in the blinding glow of my own mediocrity.

      jeffchen1972 at gmail dot com

  3. sbmanion says:

    Fairly easy puzzle, but fun.

    I saw the Kobe Bryant connection (nice catch, Amy).

    I was not misled by the clue Zion’s site, but wasn’t crazy about it. I am not quite sure why. I have spent some time in Utah the past few years, but haven’t been to Zion National Park.

    I thought the theme was excellent.


  4. Gareth says:

    The sequence of answers in today’s NYT was just great!!! I can’t decide whether having NOTBYAMILE is good or interferes with the theme…

  5. TP says:

    Gareth:”This somewhat lessens the theme in my book, but your mileage may very.” Will it vary very much?

  6. Rob says:

    Two clues in the NYT tempted you to fill with ASHES or ASH. Today is the start of Cricket’s Ashes series. Coincidence?

  7. mitchs says:

    4 star Tausig, Fireball, AV Club…Wednesdays are getting good!

  8. CY Hollander says:

    I was very surprised to see “damned” in the NYT, and I’m even more surprised to see how few people have even commented on that. I know that the world has changed, and a lot more things are “fit to print” than there used to be, but the NYT is fairly conservative. Is the spelling out of (admittedly mild) expletives something that I should be taking for granted by now?

    • Gareth says:

      Shakespeare used “Out, Damned spot!” centuries ago…

      (FWIW, I used OUTDAMNEDSPOT in a LA Times a few months ago and it didn’t get much comment either)

      • CY Hollander says:

        Shakespeare wrote quite a number of things that would not be considered suitable for a family newspaper. But I’ll admit that the Shakespearean context of your entry does make it more genteel to my eyes.

  9. CJ Langert says:

    Tausig totally punked me this week. I managed to get EGGSEDICT and then PAINTURTLE and I thought that “Flicked off” simply meant a random number of letters being omitted from a common phrase. “Spain Turtle” produced enough results on Google that I thought I was on to something…

    …yeah, guess not. Well done, Ben.

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