Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jonesin' 3:59 
NYT 3:22 
LAT 2:52 
CS 7:19 (Dave) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 6 13, no 0806

What a perfect Tuesday theme. Gather up some words that mean “steal,” find phrases that begin with those words in other contexts, and clue them as if everything is felonious:

  • 17a. [Make off with some raffle tickets?], TAKE CHANCES.
  • 23a. [Make off with some kitchenware?], POCKET KNIVES.
  • 39a. [Make off with some vehicles?], COP CARS.
  • 50a. [Make off with some cash?], PINCH PENNIES. Least effective thief ever, am I right?
  • 60a. [Make off with some gym equipment?], LIFT WEIGHTS.

I always like a Lynn Lempel puzzle, and this one’s no exception. Highlights in the fill:

  • 29d. [Doing the job of an attack ad], DEMONIZING. My eye is breaking that word into three components, cryptic crossword style. Somebody give us a clue for this word that splits it into a DEMON I ZING.
  • 9d. [British royal name since 1917], WINDSOR. Baby Prince George is a member of the House of Windsor. Formerly called Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, until the English turned against the Germans in WWI.
  • 43d. [Type who wears tight-fitting jeans and thick-rimmed glasses, maybe], HIPSTER. Does this apply equally to the female of the species?
  • 3d. [Pad of drawing paper], SKETCHBOOK. My husband does lovely things with a sketchbook.

4.25 stars. Very good example of how a Tuesday puzzle should look and feel.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bar Exam” – Dave Sullivan’s review

After I solved this one (and that was after getting “this close” (holding thumb and forefinger up) to giving up in the middle left around SINECURE), I panicked a bit as I was unable to relate the theme entries to each other or the title. Finally, I noticed each one is three words beginning with the initials B.A.R.:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/06/13

  • [Heading for cover] clues BEATING A RETREAT – my ear wants “fast” or “quick” before retreat.
  • [Lush dessert] is a BABA AU RHUM – two problems with this one; the first was mine in parsing the clue as “desert” not “dessert,” but the second is that I wonder how many are familiar with this cake and its from-the-French (I’m guessing) spelling. Most would just call it a “rum cake,” no?
  • [Defensive strategy against an NFL pass receiver] clues BUMP AND RUN – does the defensive player do this? I’m thinking the offensive player is the one running after bumping another player, but football isn’t my strong suit.
  • [Broadway hit for Judy Holliday] is BELLS ARE RINGING – I was having trouble with reading last night, I guess, as I parsed this one as Jennifer Holliday and I was trying to fit And I’m Telling You in there.

Kind of an odd premise for a theme, and other than “bump and run,” the phrases didn’t leap out at me. SINECURE ([Nice work if you can get it] is certainly a great word, but hard to see when I was having trouble with baba au rhum as well as the simple TREES for [Ashes, e.g.]. (I was thinking of cricket matches.) My FAVE entry was [Prop on a Chuck Barris game show] for GONG, as it made me smile thinking of the Unknown Comic. And I also enjoyed the crossing of [Popular winter footwear brand] for UGGS with [Clash of heavyweights] for SUMO as I tried to imagine those guys in fleecy footwear when competing. I’ve never seen the monogram GRF in a puzzle before, I guess because Ford served for a shortened term and was never elected to office by the Electoral College.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Series Enders”—Janie’s review

xwn 8:6:13

Crossword Nation solution 8/6/13

I’m gonna take a wild stab here and say that I bet this week’s was a BUMPIER solve than the last few. But I’ll also guess that with its crazy-quilt of cultural references, high-brow and low- (not only in the theme fill but throughout the grid), it was one of the more satisfying ones as well. As we’ve often heard said, your mileage may vary (YMMV), but for me this puzzle delivered a multitude of highlights. Some directly, some by association. But let me start with the themers and not get too far ahead of myself. And let me start in the middle of them, with the reveal, which is…

  • 37A. FINAL FOUR [March Madness quartet (and a hint to the puzzle theme)]. But surprise, surprise—the theme has nothing to do with sports. Instead, this FINAL FOUR comes from…
  • 17A. COMPOUND W [Blemish-zapping over-the-counter product]. And no, the blemishes in question are not zits, but, well, warts. Not a pretty thought, to be sure—but context is everything. Especially when the next hint to the theme is to be found in…
  • velazquez pix20A. POPE INNOCENT X [Religious leader in a 1650 painting by Diego Velázquez]. When a classic of the art world can follow a wart remover (and both have a legitimate reason to share the stage), I think you get my drift about the way high-brow combines with low-. (Think of this as a “preview of coming attractions,” btw.) Even better, notice how these two stacked themers overlap in the grid—by a healthy seven squares. This, of course, will be true of the pair that follows as well. Starting with…
  • 54A. AND SOMETIMES Y [Phrase that follows a string of vowels]. Did you know this phrase plays into the hook of Freeez’s 1983 song “I.O.U.”? News to me. And the song was covered lots, too. Also news to me… But do check it out. As a mainstream phenomenon, music videos were a pretty new medium 30 years ago (but who’s counting?). And are you seeing the FINAL FOUR thematic pattern emerging? In case it’s still in doubt, the last entry brings it home with the oh-so up-to-the-minute…
  • jhbpz60A. WORLD WAR Z [2013 Brad Pitt film about a zombie pandemic] (not to be confused with Contagion, the 2011 Matt Damon film about a global-virus pandemic). So whaddaya think? Can JON HAMM give B.P. a run for his money in the competition for looks-and-talent? (Certainly, where the former asset is concerned, both leave poor POPE I X in the dust—though he would have the upper hand where DOGMA is concerned…)

So the titular “series enders” are the FINAL FOUR of… the alphabet: (the scrabbly) W, X, Y and Z. And given the particular way they’ve been called out, I’d say this makes for one very tight theme—and one eclectic group of theme phrases.

The puzzle does have its share of less-than-ideal (if still legit!) fill in places (lookin’ at you, ABBR, APOC, OOM, STA, ALG…) but sometimes there’s just no easy way around this. And with a theme that’s as well put-together as today’s (in concept and execution), neither should the baby be thrown out with the bathwater: the bigger picture becomes more important. Which is why I keep going back to citing those high-brow/low-brow cultural references Liz has laced through the puzzle: at the one end (in addition to Velázquez and His Holiness), there’s Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE, RUDYARD Kipling, Sylvia PLATH, Brokeback Mountain‘s ENNIS Del Mar, and (in another realm) for the physical scientists out there—LEPTONS; at the other (move over Messrs. HAMM and Pitt [and WW Z]), Ed Norton’s wife TRIXIE, DESI Arnaz, Sue Grafton’s C IS for Corpse and (given how long the show that made her popular has been running on B’way [25 years, but who’s counting?]…) probably even The Phantom…’s Miss Christine DAAÉ.

This puzzle’s other main asset? As I suggested at the beginning, caucusthe way a given word will trigger a memory, an association that brings it into higher relief. Again—YMMV. My mom lived in SARASOTA for many years, and in my visits down there I came to really love and appreciate the beauty of the Gulf Coast. Despite its political usage today, the sight of the word CAUCUSED took me right back to the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland. I first encountered the word ROUÉ as a 13- or 14-year-old in the Oscar Hammerstein lyric, “Eager young lads and roués and cads will offer you food and wine.” (“You are Sixteen,” The Sound of Music). Ooh. They sound interesting! And even the more earthbound N. DAK., that [State next to Minn.], brought back memories of the Coen brothers’ classic Fargo.

So, once again, I’ve gone on at length… and once again, I leave on a high note, saying “NICE ONE!” about this week’s puzzle—and looking forward to the next!

Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 6 13

Great theme—three disparate things are bundled together because the same pop artist painted them all.

  • 17a. [“A revolution is not a dinner party” leader], MAO TSE-TUNG. Great quote.
  • 28a. [It’s “M’m! M’m! Good!”], CAMPBELL’S SOUP.
  • 46a. [Actress born Norma Jeane Mortenson], MARILYN MONROE. Wait, Mortenson?? I’d always heard her original name was Norma Jean Baker. Here’s some background, though I don’t see an explanation of the Jean/Jeane discrepancy.
  • 60a. [Artist born 8/6/1928 who painted 17-, 28- and 46-Across], ANDY WARHOL.

So today would have been Warhol’s 85th birthday.

Highlights in the fill include the long entries DE GAULLE, CLOUD COVER, TRY AGAIN, and OUTWEIGHED.

Similar to Lynn Lempel’s NYT today, this puzzle’s got an excellent theme, interesting long fill, and no Scowl-o-Meter action. Four stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Tee Off”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 8 6 13 “Tee Off”

Matt takes the T off the front of a few song titles for this week’s theme:

  • 17a. [Elvis song about a whirlpool-loving grizzly?], EDDY BEAR. Sure. Bears in the river, looking to catch salmon, lurking by the eddies in the stream. You ever watch that live stream of video from a river in Alaska, where the bears are doing just that?
  • 21a. [2008 Mariah Carey song in dire need of painkillers?], OUCH MY BODY.
  • 35a. [Cyndi Lauper song that’s full of regret?], RUE COLORS. No allusion to the “Colors” in the clue.
  • 55a, 59a. [With 59-across, Taylor Swift song about medicine leaking during a jam session?] EAR DROPS ON MY GUITAR. Hah!

The corners full of 6s and 7s are good. I’m particularly fond of YIDDISH, MAKES DO, and CROATIA.

I don’t recall 5d. OREO O’S, [Discontinued black-and-white cookie cereal]. And I needed the crossings to get 7d. [Main section of Venice], SAN MARCO.

I can do without 58a. Dictation taker, for short], STENOG. Or STENO. And how common is CHM as 46a. [Board head: abbr.]?

3.66 stars from me.

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23 Responses to Tuesday, August 6, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Yup, a pretty perfect Lympel…

  2. alex says:

    I wonder if Lynn clued them straight and Will changed them to “?” clues. Either way, great theme.

  3. John E says:

    HMO should be clued as “Seldom payer of Dr bills”, but I digress.

    These are the types of puzzles that make me enjoy my NYT crossword subscription – thought TAKECHANCES was the hardest and best of the 5 theme entries.

  4. Gareth says:

    I dunno, stealing raffle tickets is potentially as ineffective as stealing pennies! What a wonderful concept! When my flat was broken into a few years ago, I had my pathology knife pocketed, considering the size and sharpness I shudder to think what it went on to be used for…

  5. HH says:

    “Somebody give us a clue for this word that splits it into a DEMON I ZING.”

    Probably wouldn’t be a very good clue, since DEMON and DEMONIZING are basically the same word.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Couldn’t the clue have “devil” or something along those lines? [The devil I zing is making us look bad], only smoother than that?

      • HH says:

        It could, but it’s bad form if part of the wordplay has the same etymology as the corresponding part of the answer (at least, on this side of the Pond it is).

  6. David L says:

    I liked the NYT but I don’t understand COPCARS as an answer. “Cop” meaning “make off with” is not in my vocabulary. “Cop a plea” means (in effect) to confess to something. “You’ll cop it” means (in British English anyway) you will catch some grief for what you just did. “Cop a feel” means, well, you know. So “cop cars” means…?

  7. Howard B says:

    Slang, but it’s solid.
    Definition of COP
    transitive verb
    1 slang : to get hold of : catch, capture; also : purchase
    2 slang : steal, swipe

    • Daniel Myers says:

      Citations of this use from the OED:

      b. To steal.

      1879 Macmillan’s Mag. Oct. 500/1, I was taken by two pals (companions) to an orchard to cop (steal) some fruit.
      1931 D. Runyon Guys & Dolls (1932) viii. 163 Madame la Gimp does a little scrubbing business around a swell apartment hotel..and she cops stationery there.
      1932 J. T. Farrell Young Lonigan iii. 139 Johnny O’Brien ran home, and copped a piece of beefsteak from his old lady.
      1955 D. W. Maurer in Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. XXIV. 74 ‘Cop,’ he [sc. a pickpocket] says, and the duke man has the roll.

      • David L says:

        Thanks — that meaning is new to me.

        • HH says:

          So, I guess you’ve never copped a feel.

          • David L says:

            Dash it, sir, of course not!

            But I think of ‘cop’ in that sense as meaning ‘catch’ or ‘grab,’ as in the original sense in which copper became cop for policeman. I guess that meaning has evolved into a something closer to ‘steal,’ but as I say, that’s not how I think of the word.

  8. ktd says:

    House of Windsor notwithstanding, I was surprised recently to read that the new royal baby doesn’t actually have a last name (presumably neither does Prince William), but that he could adopt one of his family titles (e.g. Cambridge, Wales) as a surname. Can anybody explain this custom?

  9. Matt J. says:

    Original RUE COLORS clue referred to red or yellow + green for the stems and leaves, but the clue itself ran a little too long.

  10. Finn says:

    I quite enjoyed this, but I had a good “Curse you, Lempel!” moment upon writing in HIPSTER, as that’s the 1A of a themeless I just sent in (and it hadn’t been used in the Shortz era). But I also wrote in ziPCARS at first, which has now inspired me to go put that into a puzzle, so I guess we’re all good, Lynn.

  11. Matt J. says:

    Re Daniel M.:
    And then there’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._G._Alexander

  12. Rock says:

    In the CS, cafe alternative—-the
    I don’t understand this, so could someone explain it?
    Thanks in advance

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