Friday, August 9, 2013

NYT 5:38 
LAT 5:03 (Gareth) 
CS 6:15 (Dave) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 9 13, no 0809—wow, yep, another ridonkulously smooth Berry puzzle

Now, I’d give this one 5 stars if I didn’t find the word EWERS boring and if there were even more zippy answers that we would all remember oohing and aahing at months from now. But even with that caveat, let’s call it … 4.92 stars. A true Berry smoothie, which is what I think we should call the typical Berry puzzle that knocks us out with its high quality.

This struck me as a little bit tougher than the usual Friday puzzle, possibly not out of place on a Saturday but it would be a shame to hide this puzzle on Saturday where the “I stop at Friday” people would never see it.

What’s nuts is that as I started to list the highlights in the fill, I noticed that they had terrific clues. So: highlights in the fill and/or clues include the following:

  • 15a. [Fighter getting a leg up?], KICKBOXER.
  • 39a. [Dread Zeppelin or the Fab Faux], TRIBUTE BAND. Fun names, neither of which was familiar.
  • 50a. [Country whose flag is known as the Saltire], SCOTLAND. “The Saltire” is new to me.
  • 54a. [Bubble handler?], THE FED. Financial bubble.
  • 55a. [Foundation devoted to good works?], ART MUSEUM.
  • 58a. [Bag lady?], KATE SPADE. Handbag designer.
  • 1d. [Broadway musical with two exclamation points in its name], OH! CALCUTTA!
  • This trio that echoed around my head: 18a. [Page on the stage], GERALDINE. Thought it meant page of the script because of 27d. [Bad line readings], FLUBS and 11d. [What to do when you have nothing left to say?], EXIT.
  • 31d. [Hand-held “Star Trek” devices], TRICORDERS.
  • 33d. [Sea creature whose name means “sailor”], NAUTILUS. I wanted MARINERO (“La Bamba”!).

Or, okay, fine, maybe it’s more like 4.97 stars. This is a mighty fine themeless crossword puzzle, folks. If we could have one of these every weekend, or maybe two or three of them, how great would that be?

Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

This puzzle wasn’t for me. I’m sure you all figured out today’s theme: 5 descriptive answers clued as [Crash]. Many of the different definitions seemed to be quite similar; for instance a computer crash and a stock market crash are not all that different. The biggest disappointment though was waiting for GROUPOFRHINOS (or at least a synonym of appropriate length) which didn’t make an appearance. The five definitions of [Crash] are:


73 Theme squares is always going to be a battle to fill, and Matt Skoczen has battled manfully. The grid design he chose allows two long answers, Mr. Skoczen uses this opportunity to inject OOMPAHPAH and BIGLEAGUE into the grid; I wasn’t familiar with the latter answer, but it was interesting to learn and inferrable!

Outside of the two 9-letter answers, there are no others longer than 5, which can make things feel a bit rote. As I said, it’s clear Matt Skoczen has wrestled with this beast of a grid, but the puzzle still gives way around the edges. The two most obvious answers are STERE and ESKER, both endangered species in today’s crosswords; still, make a note, because they do occasionally rear their heads. We also get some eccentric abbrs.: PREF, ECCL, and OPP stand out.

Two more things. Firstly, [Beachgoer’s download] for EBOOK? Is this a real phenomenon in America these days? I’m not Secondly, I need help with LBAR: I’ve never encountered any ?BARs outside of US crosswords and I get awfully muddled. TBAR I’ve learned to fill in reflexively when I see “ski” (except when it’s very occasionally J!). The others I’m no good at differentiating: I think there are H, I, L, and Z, there may be more… I was contemplating NBAR today! Are they used differently, because they’re seriously tricksy! And let’s not even get started on ?BEAM, ?SLOT, and ?NUTs!

OK, so as I said this puzzle wasn’t for me. Definition puzzles always seem to have long entries and high theme-letters-counts for very little payback. I’ve had puzzles published with this level of theme, and I’m fairly sure you can find answers as bad (probably worse) in mine too; but as a solver I just didn’t have much fun – 2 stars?


Updated Friday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Still Hungry” – Dave Sullivan’s review

On a rather shaky bus en route to NYC for the 6th annual Lollapuzzoola, so I’ll try to keep this one short. Three phrases that, taken literally, imply that we might be guilty of self-cannibalism (I know, weird huh?, but funny, I promise you!):

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/09/13

  • [Refrain from speaking] clues BITE YOUR TONGUE – constructor Matt Gaffney and I might have some tongue if we end up having dinner at the Carnegie Deli tonight. The clue reminds me of a cute one, [Refrain from piracy?] for YO HO HO!. I’m thinking it came from either Vic Fleming, Patrick Merrill or Manny Nosowsky. Please help refresh my memory in the comments if you recall this better than I do.
  • Our second course on today’s menu is [Grieve inconsolably] or EAT YOUR HEART OUT – perhaps with a nice Chianti and some fava beans, no?
  • Dessert consists of [Recover from a defeat] or LICK YOUR WOUNDS – I think of dogs doing this, is there any scientific basis for it reducing the amount of time it takes the wound to heal? Are they onto something? Should we start trying it instead of bandaids?

Despite its gruesome nature, I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. My only concern was the use of YOUR in the theme phrases instead of the more typical ONE’S. Which side of that fence do you lie on? My FAVE award goes to three vowel-heavy and fun words, PAEAN, YOOHOO and AUGURY, especially if you count that final Y in the last one as another vowel. I also enjoyed seeing [City on the Seward Peninsula] for NOME resting against [Klondike Gold Rush destination] or THE YUKON. Not much not to like, but I’ll award my UNFAVE today to the partial AT A, which I suppose could’ve been clued as the now bankrupt airline.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “IRA Contriibutions” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/9/13 • “IRA Contributions” • Fri • Quigley • solution

The notriously not shy Quigley acts retiring here. Undeniably a theme tailored for the Wall Street Journal, involving as it does the idea of a financial instrument, the Individual Retirement Account. Accordingly, the letters I-R-A are “contributed” to original phrases, radically altering them.

  • 23a. [Imported Portuguese dessert wine?] MADE(IRA) IN AMERICA.
  • 40a. [Thoroughfare past Mark Twain’s New York burial place?] ELM(IRA) STREET. Enjoyed the crosswordese cameo of Elmira, but others may feel differently.
  • 43a. [With 69-Across, Notorious B.I.G. song about dancer Shearer’s fiscal woes?] MO(IRA) MONEY | MO(IRA) PROBLEMS. Torturous clue. Those MOs need apostrophes for the original, elisive mo’ for more. Wonder if this was originally clued referencing the more contemporary actress MOIRA Kelly.
  • 92a. [Musical with sheiks and emirs?] AVENUE (IRA)Q. My favorite themer here.
  • 95a. [Motto written on an armored breastplate?] CU(IRA)SS WORDS. CUIRASS seems to straddle the line between CUSS and CRASS, but the mechanism of the theme makes it clear which is correct. Perhaps the uninitiated solver who happened to fill in this answer before the others might be momentarily confused?
  • 114a. [“This Turkish note should be given to Xena’s portrayer”] L(IRA) IS FOR LAWLESS. A bit awkward, but huge kudos for the winking crosswordese triple-whammy: (1) mention of XENA; (2) allusion to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone detective novels, with the convenient title formula of “x is for y,” where x is a letter of the alphabet and y is a word beginning with x; (3) inclusion of LIRA.

Fine theme, but my least favorite was the two-parter, both because its asymmetricalness is anomalous (see 122a) in the context of the themers as a group, and because the base phrase—despite the fiscal flavor—seems the most tenuous of the bunch.

Cashing out:

  • Dupe with 77a [Fueled up, so to speak] ATE, and 51d [Had thirds] OVERATE.
  • I’d always thought 125a LEMON SOLE was the description of the preparation of a dish, in the manner of sole amadine, but it turns out to be the name of a species, albeit a misnominal one.
  • Also took the opportunity to learn both that 91d ASTOLAT is a place from Arthurian legend, and that “Sto Lat” is a Polish folk song equivalent to “Happy Birthday.” How these facts bear on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld town of Sto Lat, I have no idea.
  • Further did-not-knows: 9d SENTA [Berger of “Major Dundee”], 120a LUNN [Sally __ (sweet bun)], 19d [Cherub] AMORETTO. Wonder how long AMARETTO was attempted, for surely it was the first choice.
  • 85d [Arctic flyer] is not a TERN or PTARMIGAN, but a SKI PLANE. However “Skip Lane” seems as if it would be an excellent name for, oh I don’t know, a sports reporter? An incompetent private detective?
  • Favorite clue: 54a [Leaf producer] NISSAN. Not the first time it’s fooled me, either.
  • Moments of brain freeze: at 47-across, misreading the clue for NUIT [When la lune shines] and attempted CEIL [sic]; for 3d [Square quartet] I couldn’t see the simple SIDES and kept trying to smush FACES. Also, the FOUR FRESHMEN didn’t fit.
  • Favorite crossing fill: DROSSY / THINGY (98d/124a). Others may understandably disagree.
  • High CAP Quotient™ with a lot of unsavory crosswordese, a preponderance of yicky 3- and some 4-word abbrevs., and so forth. I won’t list any, save for the IN A TUB partial at 41d.

Still, an above-average puzzle.

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12 Responses to Friday, August 9, 2013

  1. Davis says:

    Curious, I thought this puzzle was easy for a Friday. But that might just be because I’ve done a lot of Berry puzzles, and because his grids are usually right in my wheelhouse.

  2. Gareth says:

    “This struck me as a little bit tougher than the usual Friday puzzle” – I’m in the Davis camp; I finished this six seconds off my fastest Friday of 2013!

    Can’t deny how amazing this puzzle is in terms of fill standards, even if one starts to plain expect it from PB (1/2?)! Don’t get the objection to EWER at all; it’s like objecting to BUTTERCHURN because it’s old-fashioned… Saltire came up in the LL Heraldry 1-D (about the only question I got right!) My personal unknowns were: OHCALCUTTA, KATESPADE, and that particular GERALDINE. NAUTILUS and TRICORDERS were the answers that sung to me, although the former was obscured temporarily by having hAIrCLIPPER…

    PS: It should be noted that despite Amy’s hard Friday assessment, she still finished 45 seconds faster than me. Normally she finishes >6 minutes faster though…

  3. Brucenm says:

    Another superb, top of the line instance of my favorite puzzle type by PB I. Amy, I think the correct rating is actually 4.96 stars. Since I have to be a little contrary, I found it neither on the difficult, nor the easy end of the Fri. curve — closer to the middle. I would like to resurrect the Unit of Difficulty I introduced a few years ago — the Byron — though, regrettably, we see fewer Byron Saturdays than we used to. I think he has been otherwise occupied for the past couple years. I thought this puzzle rated about 0.94 Byrons.

    Don’t know who Kate Spade is, but the name seemed to ring a bell. I assume “tribute band” is a real expression, not an arbitrarily made up one. My understanding is that the title Oh! Calcutta, (not sure where the two exclamation points go), is a corruption of the French ‘O quel cu tu as.’ And the music, (some of it, at least) was written by a one-time acquaintance of mine, Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach). I’m not sure that fact is widely known, or that Peter would want it to be.

  4. Matt says:

    Fine NYT. Would have been typical Friday time except for 19A ‘Comfortable’– I had ATEASE rather than ATHOME. And yes, I knew that the answer to 5D was almost certainly ANIME, but when you’re bound and determined to be wrong, it’s hard to argue. Once I got ATHOME for 19A, I finished the puzzle easily.

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: Yesterday, two little things happened to bracket my day and make me smile– in the morning, a tropical plant which is difficult to grow finally carried a bloom (amazing smell!) and in the evening, I saw Patrick Berry’s name on the puzzle.

    The SW fell quickly thanks to KATE SPADE. The NW was stubborn because I had that tip of the tongue feeling but could not get OH CALCUTTA for a while. Once I did, then it unfolded. And I chuckled at the irony of something having Pacific in its name and being headquartered in OMAHA. The English Channel clue for the SEINE is also SNEAKY. I learn a lot when I do a PB puzzle– he teaches in this offhanded way that feels perfect.

    A piece of art– and one of the little joys of life.

    • Brucenm says:

      Huda, the Seine flows into ‘La Manche’ at Le Havre.

      • Huda says:

        Exactly! We learned that by rote. I think of it with a little singsong in my head.
        That English Channel stuff is heresy!

        • Brucenm says:

          Right. “We” didn’t like one little bit the way the English claim that expanse of water as their own. :-)

  6. Evan says:

    (NYT) Strange experience for me-first 3/4’s felt very easy for a Friday, then I banged my head against the NW for a while. “Oh! Calcutta!” was tricky

  7. Howard B says:

    Enjoyed and appreciated the NY Times today. It hit one of my weaknesses hard though, in that I kept running into Stumper-like geographic clues all over the place (OMAHA, SCOTLAND, ASCOT, SEINE, CAPRI) – I think because of my own (regrettable) weakness in the subject, it felt like a more significant feature of the puzzle then in reality.

  8. RK says:

    Agree with Amy on NYT but I did finish without too much of a struggle somehow. As always, if you know the trivia asked in a puzzle it becomes much easier. Enjoyed the WSJ as always.

  9. Zulema says:

    Such a civilized puzzle by Patrick, but they always are. If there was slang, I must have missed seeing it. Didn’t know TRICORDERS. OHCALCUTTA was almost a gimme, and it’s meaning and composer I thought were well-known. Shows our age(s)?

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