Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NYT 3:16 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 3:04 (Gareth) 
CS unknown (Dave) 

Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 17 13, no. 0717

Will Shortz once explained that he doesn’t run many quip/quote themes because they have just a single “aha” moment. (And this is akin to my unfondness for those puzzles where all the theme answers have the same initials—those are a one-trick pony and the pony puts me to sleep.) This here puzzle features the following quip:


An elementary grasp of poetic meter is all you need to say “Wait, that doesn’t scan.” “Roses are red / Violets are blue / Pollen is bad / For my allerge.” That roughly maintains the meter of the first two lines, right? Provided you don’t mind moving the stress in “ALLergies” to another syllable.

If you solved this puzzle in an electronic form, you may well have been missing the clue for 32d. [Brontë heroine] is supposed to be there (EYRE), but the diaeresis apparently gave various software doodads a case of the vapors. (Pardon the technical lingo.)

Likes: CUDDLED, BUDAPEST, LET ME GO. In general, we’ve got ordinary Wednesdayish fill, nothing beyond the pale.

Two more things:

  • 49d. [End of a parental veto] clues I SAY SO. What, “because I say so”? If you ask me, “because I said so” feels much more natural.
  • 2d. [Game with Ping-Pong-like balls], KENO. I know keno only from crosswords. Have any of you actually seen this game in action, or played it yourself? Also, my husband has a Ping-Pong business trip this week. His company’s flying him and his teammate to New York to compete in the corporate Ping-Pong doubles national finals (they won the Chicago branch). Winning team plays the company’s European champion later this month. Last year’s world finals were in Paris but this year’s are in New York.

Three stars. I would have to be really knocked out to award a higher rating to any quip or quote puzzle.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Don Gagliardo & C. C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review


Don & CC give us a rare, all-vertical puzzle theme. The justification is BELLBOTTOMS, and each theme answer ends in a word that can form a phrase with “bell”. For variety, the thematic part is only the end portion and not a whole word. I bet quite a few of us were going “Drama bell? Drama bell!? Oh, Ma Bell!” at the end of the puzzle. Our entries theme today are:

  • 3d, [“Ally McBeal” genre], COMEDYDRAMA. MA BELL. With a whimsical 90’s example!
  • 9d, [Skunk, literally and figuratively], REALSTINKER. TINKERBELL.
  • 23d, [Harbor hauler], GARBAGESCOW. COWBELL. I will not be doing Blue Oyster Cult jokes. You’re welcome.
  • 27d, [Popular ’60s-’70s pants, and what can be found in 3-, 9-, 23- and 33-Down?], BELLBOTTOMS. It’s always nice when your revealer is also a lively phrase in its own right! It also reminded me of this soulful blues rock number!
  • 33d, [Pachyderm friend of Zephir the monkey], BABAR. BARBELL

I found the clues really straightforward in this puzzle, which also was low on hard names. Apart from the cryptic theme this could’ve run on a Monday! Don and CC managed to include quite a lot of interesting medium-length fill, though. My top entries were SAMEHERE, GENEVA, ITSABOY, TRAPEZE, ACTALONE and GOODOMEN. On the other hand there was a junky short O- answer minitheme: we have 3 partials ONA, ORI, ONEA and the historical ONI; to be fair, you’ll come across the latter a lot if you read about the history of World War II.

I was surprised to see 26d, AHSO in a puzzle by a Chinese American. Can someone who speaks Japanese (Martin H.?) confirm or deny that the origin is from Japanese “aa sou desu ka”, meaning “is that so?” My googling has been inconclusive either way… If it has an etymological origin then it is less inherently offensive, although plenty of the ways it is used would still be plenty offensive!

In conclusion, an interesting theme, with a somewhat lively grid. 3.5 stars.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Not So Long” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Happy Hump Day, folks! Today’s CrosSynergy offers us four phrases that can be clued with one short word, [Short]:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/17/13

  • STRAPPED FOR CASH – fun phrase, this often happens to us when we’re at a few local restaurants that don’t take plastic.
  • CIRCUIT PROBLEM – hmmm, not so fun, and a borderline phrase to boot.
  • LIKE SOME VOWELS – I guess so, but again not a great phrase to build a theme around. I suppose LIKE SOME MUNCHKINS would not be short enough to fit, eh?
  • ABBREVIATED FILM – I liked this one better as it’s an actual thing. I think of the Pixar cartoons that precede their longer (“feature length”) movies.

Not a big fan of this type of theme, nor did I think the theme entries were consistently good. Ah well, not every day will be a home run, huh? I did enjoy [Towered over] for DWARFED as I thought it echoed the theme nicely, so that was my FAVE today. I’m afraid I’ll have to CARP ([Grouse and grumble]) about ¡SI SI! or [Pedro’s emphatic agreement], which I doubt one would hear too often when traveling to Latin lands.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Sorting Letters”

The Postal Service sorts most of the country’s letters, true, but Brown does a lot of sorting too (including some express letters). (Click that link to peek inside a UPS sorting facility. It’s nuts!) In this puzzle, UPS is the 63d: [Company “sorted” in this puzzle’s circled squares], and anagrams of UPS appear in the circled squares.

  • 17a. [Bugs’s question], WHAT’S UP, DOC?
  • 23a. [“We’re screwed …”], GOD HELP US ALL.
  • 38a. [1980 ZZ Top hit], CHEAP SUNGLASSES.
  • 50a. [Transformer who leads the Autobots], OPTIMUS PRIME. Remember the Baracktimus Prime t-shirts back in ’08?
  • 61a. [Exposes oneself?], GOES PUBLIC.

This is a terrific set of theme answers. The theme concept doesn’t have any inherent liveliness to it, but Ben selected five great phrases for this puzzle.

Five more clues:

  • 11d. [Axe wielders], GUITARISTS. Ah, that kind of axe.
  • 51d, 6a. [With 6-Across, big name in bad taste, in more ways than one], PAULA DEEN. If you’ve never read the reviews on the page with her English peas “recipe,” do click through. (The recipe calls for two cans of English peas and a half stick of butter.)
  • 34d. [___ Balls (erstwhile Hostess treats)], SNO. The once and future Sno Balls! tells me they’ll have Hostess snack cakes again starting next week.
  • 30a. [Rapper associated with Queensbridge, Queens], NAS. Those of you who grouse “Why am I expected to know every random rapper?” should be aware that Nas just funded a Harvard fellowship. “The Fellowship will provide selected scholars and artists with an opportunity to show that ‘education is real power,’ as it builds upon the achievements of those who demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with hip-hop.”
  • 52d. [Like some trans people, briefly], PRE-OP. Not everyone opts for surgery but yes, pre-op and post-op are valid categories.

4.25 stars.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, July 17, 2013

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    Well, to answer the poll question: as a college student in 1972, a bunch of us rented a car and drove nonstop from Delaware to Las Vegas for a computer convention. It was my one time in a casino, and I did, in fact, play Keno at Caesar’s Palace, where we were staying. It was a popular pursuit, from what I could tell; I have utterly no idea if it is still in the casino repertoire.

  2. The original .puz file for the NYT was just completely missing the clue for 32D, it wasn’t any kind of character encoding issue. Across Lite (on a Mac) refused to open it; Crossword Solver opened it just fine and displayed a blank clue. It seems they’ve corrected the problem now, and now the .puz file has the clue, diaeresis and all.

  3. Deb Amlen says:

    It actually was a character encoding issue of a sort. There is a new production thingy that is having the kinks ironed out of it as we speak, and due to software limitations, etc. etc., it dropped the 32 Down clue because it didn’t know how to handle it.

    We will be threatening it with a rolled up newspaper today, and hopefully it won’t happen again.

    Deb “Sounding Like I Know What I’m Talking About Is 80% Of My Job” Amlen

    • Brucenm says:

      Gee, Deb, I never realized you were a law professor. :-)

    • Sure, I definitely believe that it was a character encoding issue from the publisher’s perspective. But from the solver’s perspective, it’s not like the puzzle encoded the character using the wrong encoding — the .puz file simply said the clue was the empty string "".

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Dave S says he’s not a big fan of the Venzke construction, ” four phrases that can be clued with one short word, [Short]”, but I like it better than many others… CARP is apt, along with GORY details!

  5. cyberdiva says:

    Thanks muchly to Adam Rosenfield and Deb Amlen for info about the missing definition and the Across Lite problem, which affected PCs as well as Macs. I had used Across Lite just a short time before to print out this week’s Chronicle puzzle, so I wasn’t sure what to make of the problem I encountered with the NYTimes. I’ve been rather uneasy ever since the Times changed its handling of puzzles some months ago. There was talk at the time of the Times’ phasing out Across Lite, and I feared last night that perhaps that was what was happening now. I gather from what Deb has said that this may not be the case. I certainly hope not, since the alternative Print possibility produces an awkwardly arranged puzzle in an almost unreadable font size.

    As for quip/quote puzzles, I’ve liked some of them a lot, but this one seemed to me both pedestrian and a bit strained.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: I’m not too fond of puzzling over bodily functions, poetically or not.

    The inability to open the puzzle in Cross Lite led me to a systematic analysis– was it my laptop, was it Cross Lite in general or this puzzle in particular? I determined it was the latter and then found a way to trick it into opening, although I don’t know whether I actually tricked or it happened to get fixed at that very moment. You know how it goes in research– it’s always a good idea to remain uncertain.

  7. sbmanion says:

    I can’t think of any casino game in which the house has a greater edge than it does in KENO:

    I have played it in Vegas and at the Indian Casino here in Phoenix for extremely small sums, usually while having lunch. Keno runners will come to your table to sell tickets. I usually play 10 numbers, which is one of the least favorable odds propositions, but it gives you more action.

    Speaking of betting, I hate answers like TIE for horse race rarity. A tie in a horse race is universally and exclusively referred to as a dead heat. It is unidiomatic and disrespectful to refer to it as a tie. There are so many other games where tie would be both a rarity and idiomatic, pro football being the most obvious.

    I had some trouble in the SW on this one. I enjoyed it, my gripe notwithstanding.

  8. Martin says:

    “Ah so” may have originated with Japanese. They do say “ah, so so so” a lot, but it’s more like “un-huh, un-huh” than formal language.

    But “ah so” is so strongly associated with Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan and the racist stereotype of the inscrutable oriental that I always cringe a bit. But it’s in the language and, after 80 years or so, has really lost its racist connotations for most people. Will Shortz now clues it with sensitivity (“Mock Japanese reply,” “Facetious ‘I see’,” “Got it, jocularly,” etc.), which I think is a a fine way to deal with it. I prefer to see that sort of “I know it’s not really something Asian-Americans say” signal to a straight clue like today’s LAT, but it’s certainly very low on my list of bugaboos.

  9. Jim Hilger says:

    Check out National Lampoon’s “Vegas Vacation”. The Griswolds indulge in some Keno play, as I recall.

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