Friday, July 12, 2013

NYT 4:48 
LAT 9:08 (Gareth) 
CS 6:07 (Dave) 
CHE  (last week’s; link goes to 5 July post) untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 12 13, no 0712

This will be a distracted review, as I am watching Sharknado while solving and blogging. It’s delightfully, whimsically implausible. Fun for the whole family!

Okay. So. A 72-word themeless grid, but with a theme. DRIVERS are people [who should follow the advice in the sounded-out answers to the starred clues]. Oh, good gravy, the clue has to spell out “sounded-out” for us? In a Friday puzzle? KEY PURE ICE UNDER OWED sounds sort of like “Keep your eyes on the road,” but I figured that out without reading the entire revealer clue. Sheesh. It’s cute, this theme, but the “you’re probably too dumb to figure this out on your own” clue put a damper on the fun, I thought.


There were some bits I didn’t like so much, but there are too many sharks in the air for me to concentrate and recall what they might’ve been. Overall, I liked the puzzle and it was an excellent Sharknado viewing companion. 4.25 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “For Rangers Fans” – Dave Sullivan’s review

This puzzle ain’t about hockey, folks. It’s four theme phrases where the first word can precede “ranger”.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/12/13

  • [Oklahoma Sooners’ rival] is TEXAS LONGHORNS – funny when I think of a sports team named Rangers, I think of hockey, not baseball.
  • [Cause of a blackout] clues POWER OUTAGE – my nephew had a Power Rangers-themed birthday party last year (he was 7). Knowing nothing about the show, we found the games he played with the kids amusing. He also spent a lot of time with his knuckles on his hips puffing out his chest in (what we assume) is a typical Power Ranger pose. Either that, or he just liked to show off.
  • [Father Mulcahy on “M*A*S*H,” for one] was an ARMY CHAPLAIN – some of my favorite college memories are watching this show in our dorm rec room. This site says that Army Rangers are the “best-trained soldiers in the world.” Based on what criteria? Is there an annual competition for soldiers?
  • We finish with an upmarket literary reference [Wooded area mentioned at the start of Longfellow’s “Evangeline”] is FOREST PRIMEVAL – here’s the opening stanza:
    This is the forest primeval. 
    The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, 
    Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, 
    Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
    Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms. 
    Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean 
    Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

    When I think of “forest rangers,” I think of Yogi Bear cartoons.

Straightforward theme, nicely executed. My FAVE today was the 25-cent word VITRIOL clued with another [Vituperation]. My UNFAVE was the questionable phrase GET A TIP clued as [Be the recipient of some handicapping info]. As far as crossword-worthy phrases go, “get a job” maybe, but not a tip.

Enjoy the weekend folks, it looks to be much drier weather up here in Vermont, finally!

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

It feels like a long time since I last saw John Lampkin’s by-line? Great to have you back John! He has given us a clever, subtle (no revealer!) theme for us today. There are five two-part answers each ending in some sort of written work; only in the original phrases, that second part didn’t refer to a written work but had some other meaning. The clues are shifted “wacky-style” to be interpreted as though the second part referst to a written work. I did find that aspect quite loose though: three of the five refer to short works – COLUMN, PIECE, PAPER; one is long – BOOK; and the fifth is usually acted out – PLAY. I’m guessing such variation was necessary to have a workable theme though, so I’m OK with it. The answers are:

  • 17a, [Article about a bottle of whiskey?], FIFTHCOLUMN. Originally a column of soldiers, now a newspaper column. Fifth changes meaning too.
  • 41a, [Autobiography?], IBOOK. I’ll bet this was the seed answer! I’m not 100% sure what an IBOOK is, I think it’s an iBook, and it’ll be an absurdly overpriced Apple marketing coup of some sort…
  • 62a, [Essay for grammar class?], PERIODPIECE. A period piece is typically a play set in a particular historical period, although I have heard it applied to books… PERIOD changes meanings to refer to a full stop.
  • 11d, [Report on the site of the Humpty-Dumpty tragedy?], WALLPAPER. “Humpty-Dumpty tragedy” is an amusing turn of phrase!
  • 34d, [Drama about Trigger?], HORSEPLAY. Very close to the real phrase “horse opera” that…

I had a strange entry into the puzzle: TItO/OTT – two baseballers for this baseball non-fan. Luckily both crossword regulars, although I misremembered the first, and it was only when I had TIFTY that I realised my error! I found the puzzle uniformly tough for a Friday although I can’t put my finger on why post-solve… There are a few couple of mini-themes going on here! Apart from the baseballers, we have crossing anatomical idioms with COLDFEET and KNEEDEEP. There are also BERGS and ICECAP connected by the clecho [Antarctic phenomen(a/on)]. Lastly we have the short Spanish triumvirate of ESA, REY and UNOS. That was less elegant, although the crossings are more than fair. I don’t think there’s ever been any hard and fast rule about how many words from one foreign language are too many?

Other remarks:

  • 5a, [Batter like the wind], BUFFET. A fun word to say. After being battered by two succesive baseballers I was almost expecting this to be a batter who was very quick at running…
  • 19a, [Bar in the shower], LUX. Unilever soap bar. I’m told this brand is not so common in the States anymore, but here it’s ubiquitous, probably the “Cadillac” soap brand. There is another clecho, in 29a, [Bar in the kitchen] for OLEO.
  • 37a, [Hardly a back rd.], TPKE. I’m sure I learned this as TPK in previous crosswords! I have no way of knowing which form is more common IRL!
  • 42a, [Unwanted growth], WEED. Well, most of the time. If you’re a stoner and the weed is Cannabis sativa
  • 44a, [Beaver’s expletive?], DAMN. I assume this is a pun and that because beavers build dams, if they could speak, it would be apt for them to swear by saying “damn!” The somewhat plausible alternative, as I haven’t watched the show, is that Beaver Cleaver used the expletive in the sitcom.
  • 46a, [They can make good impressions], SEALS. I’m certain this one refers to wax seals and not seals at the aquarium, because despite many being accomplished performers I’ve yet to see one impersonating a penguin…
  • 48a, [Start to get going], STIR. 57a, [Get going], HOPTO. Is another clecho.
  • 68a, [King with a notable nape], LION, 69a, [King of Spain], REY and 70a, [Den piece, SETTEE.] A three-in-a-row clecho! Maybe I’m stretching a bit to bring in the third clue, but lions + den?
  • 50d, [___ Rouge], KHMER. This clueing angle certainly makes KHMER the most gettable, but it refers to a regime estimated to have executed around a million of its countrymen… I’m not usually in favour of censoring crosswords, but something like [Cambodian majority] steers clear of that whole aspect…

A good idea for a theme, plus the clueing today was a treat, with Klahn-like clechoes abounding! 3.5 stars.

Lastly, John Lampkin has a few bonus treats for us today, around the subject of 71a, ANTS. As we have learned previously, John is an accomplished photographer, and today he has taken one of an interaction between an ant and an ambush bug (see yesterday). He narrates as follows “An ambush bug had just finished consuming a fly. The ant has climbed on top to groom the bug, cleaning up the residual goo.” What astonishing patience and careful observation must be required to take such a shot!

Secondly, John has sent us one of his classical compositions. The accompanying text was as follows: “The sound clip is a movement from my woodwind quintet, “Insects: a Musical Entomology in Six Legs” called ‘March of the Ants.’ It is performed by the Austin Chamber Ensemble, one of the groups that co-commissioned the work.”

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just Do It” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/12/13 • “Just Do It” • Fri • Harrison • solution

Although the theme is obvious enough to obviate the need for a revealer, in a flourish one appears in the central across spot: 68a [What you’ll find at the end of each of this puzzle’s longest answers] HAIRSTYLE.

More specifically, each of those answers is a “before-and-after” style mashup, with the B and C parts forming the hairstyle (or “do,” as per the title). The clues are presented wackystyle, with no reference to coiffures.

  • 23a. [Profit share for an understaffed work group?] SKELETON CREW CUT (crew cut).
  • 36a. [Youngster making headlines?] FRONT PAGE BOY (pageboy).
  • 98a. [One shadowing an outgoing president?] LAME DUCK TAIL (ducktail).
  • 115a. [Dreidel in a single guy’s pad?] BACHELOR FLAT TOP (flattop). “Bachelor pad” is the more natural phrase, and “flat” is more of a Britishism, so perhaps the clue would have been better with something like “chap’s” instead of “guy’s.”
  • 15d. [Noisy quarrels about a colorful crop?] INDIAN CORN ROWS (cornrows).
  • 50d. [Greeting from a Bond villain?] GOLDFINGER WAVE (finger wave).

Fine theme, executed well. As far as hairstyles can be seen as gendered, there’s an adequate variation among the themers. Crudely, male: CREW CUT, DUCKTAIL, FLATTOP; female: PAGEBOY, FINGER WAVE; unisex: CORNROWS. As far as I can tell, the GOLDFINGER of 50d is the only mashup in which the A and B parts are actually one word.

The ballast fill and cluing is strong but not spectacular. Nothing too long, nothing too fancy. Lengthiest non-theme answers are the sextet of ANTARES, ACERBIC, APRICOT, MAUDLIN, SLOT CAR, and LUCIFER.


  • 30a [Legalese, for one] LINGO, but I had ARGOT at first. Speaking of legalese, 83d NISI was new to me [Not yet final, in law].
  • 10d, 108d [Little Italy neighbor] BOWERY, SOHO.
  • SO-SO; MY, MY. (55a, 78a)
  • Favorite clue: 7d [Group of waiters] LINE.

Average puzzle.

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19 Responses to Friday, July 12, 2013

  1. Cindy Lou Who says:

    “you’re probably too dumb to figure this out on your own”

    That would be me. Still took me a couple minutes. Do I get half a cookie for solving the crossword itself?

  2. sbmanion says:

    Fairly tough puzzle for me. I guessed correctly on DICOt/tSR, but considered it to be pretty close to an unchecked square as the first letter of a company abbreviation could be any letter.

    My other difficulty was the certainty that WARTORN was correct.

    I guessed DRIVERS without any knowledge of the phrase and did not try to sound out the phrase at the end. I always read about Matt’s puzzles, but don’t have time to solve them.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Are you possibly mixing up Matt Gaffney of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest and Matt Ginsberg? The guy with the metas is Gaffney. The guy with the oddball NYT puzzle gimmicks is Ginsberg.

      • sbmanion says:

        Yes, thank you. I always read the Tuesday column that Joon usually writes, but I never do the puzzle. I do tend to conflate the two Matts. Sorry, Matt.


      • sbmanion says:

        The irony is that I am pretty sure I recently emailed Matt Ginsberg to congratulate him on the fact that a bridge program he developed was mentioned favorably in a nationally syndicated column. His program found a superior line of play over that chosen by world class players on two difficult hands.


        • Matt Ginsberg says:

          You must have sent that email to Matt Gaffney! Someone else did tell me about that column, though.

          • sbmanion says:

            I feel like I am in an Abbott and Costello Who’s on First skit.

            Here is the Matt Ginsberg I wrote to. I think he is on the cruciverb mailing list.



          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Odd. The Matt Ginsberg in Steve’s bridge link has the same biography as crossword constructor Matt Ginsberg! What are the odds of giving your kids the same names, Matt? And living in Oregon?

          • Matt Ginsberg says:

            Well, that guy on the Bridgebase web page is certainly I, even if I never did get the message. But I’ll pretend I got it to avoid the mistaken/confusion identity thing.

            Thanks for the email!

        • Martin says:

          Matt Gaffney is also the editor of the Jonesin’ crossword, constructed by Matt Jones.

          I guess Matt is the new Patrick.

    • Brucenm says:

      Steve and I are clones on this one. I guessed (wrongly) dicoN / Nsr; and I slightly object to “war worn” which I don’t think is an actual phrase at all, just an invented combination of words, unlike the familiar “war-torn.”

      But the gimmick *could* have functioned as a Matt Gaffney style meta, if the puzzle were drafted without the revealer, but with the starred clues, and the title had been “addressee of the warning” or something of the sort.

      • Daniel Myers says:

        I had war-torn at first too, ere I twigged the theme. But WAR-WORN is most definitely a word, first used by Shakespeare according to the OED, followed by Sir Walter Scott and Washington Irving amongst others.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        That would have been an easy Week 1 MGWCC meta. Much tougher if you had to find the five words without any asterisking help!

        I thought we all picked up monocot/dicot in high school biology, but perhaps I was more botanically inclined than the typical kid.

        • Brucenm says:

          Yes, I do think that was my own blind spot. It’s funny, I can still remember most of the phyla, classes, orders, many of the families and lower tiers on the classification schemes. I think I was better with the animal than the plant kingdom, though.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: Started like gangbusters right at square 1, and filled quite a bit for a Friday, but then hit the wall in a couple of places, including that DICOT/TSR intersection. I definitely need to brush up on my botany.

    But I amazed myself by parsing the drivers advice correctly. I usually suck at puns or whatever this is– when one needs to loosen up about pronunciation… I guess Amy’s not impressed. But I reserve the right to be impressed with myself even when no one else is!

    Interesting hybrid puzzle- a minithemed themeless.

  4. Papa John says:

    Amy, I think next week is Shark Week on Discovery.

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