Thursday, August 29, 2013

NYT 5:17 
AV Club 4:22 
LAT 6:20 (Gareth) 
BEQ 9:06 (Matt) 
CS 5:08 (Dave) 

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 29 13, no. 0829

All righty, this is a really neat puzzle. There’s an EYE in the center of the storm/grid, and the grid swirls around it. There are four cyclonic theme answers as well as four answers that are completed by the word EYE, and the fill goes in the direction of the storm, swirling around the vortex in the middle. Fancy!

  • 17a. [Exonerated boxer who is the subject of a Bob Dylan song], HURRICANE CARTER, backwards.
  • 29a. [___ and the Waves (“Walking on Sunshine” band)], KATRINA, backwards. As in New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina.
  • 41a. [Walt Disney World’s ___ Lagoon], TYPHOON.
  • 55a. [Minor-leaguer whose team is named after a Coney Island roller coaster], BROOKLYN CYCLONE.
  • 34a. [Piercing gaze], GIMLET {EYE}.
  • 35a. [Ingredient in a witch’s potion], {EYE} OF NEWT.
  • 7d. [Giant Ferris wheel on the Thames], LONDON {EYE}.
  • 43d. [Enlightening experience], {EYE} OPENER.

Somehow it did not take me long at all to figure out that some answers needed to go into the grid backwards. 15a. [Arabian Peninsula land], NA**? OMAN works if you go backwards (NAMO). And then the 4a. [Feudal V.I.P.], DR**, announced itself as LORD backwards (DROL). It didn’t trouble me that sometimes an adjacent pair of answers went into the grid in opposite directions. Luckily, my backwards spelling skills are pretty good too.

Trouble spots: Well, first I tried an I in the center square, and that didn’t take. So I tried changing the K to a C in square 31; no dice. Then I tried EYE in the middle; still no dice. The first letter of EYE, E, worked for the software and confirmed the rest of my grid was correct, but then I went back and put EYE in again because it looks better. “E OF NEWT” looks terrible. Did you know 31a. [Superman’s dog] was named KRYPTO? I did not. The crossing 27d. [Med. readout] could be EKG or ECG and mean the exact same thing (electrocardiogram), but I wagered that kryptonite —> Krypto.

Favorite clues and fill:

  • 8a. [Made ends meet?], RHYMED (DEMYHR). Backwards, it’s more obvious that it’s also an anagram of Mr. Hyde.
  • 51a. [Resident of an elaborate underground “city”], ANT.
  • 2d. [Hustling is the same as cheating, according to these authorities], THESAURI.
  • 3d. [Where to work out], AT THE GYM. [Where I’ll be tomorrow morning].
  • 9d. [Terre in the eau zone?], ILE backwards (ELI). Sounds like “tear in the ozone” layer.
  • 37d. [Green, juicy fruit], HONEYDEW (WEDYENOH).

Five stars from me. This puzzle is sheer madness, and I like it.

Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Can’t Put Into Words”

AV Club crossword solution, 8 29 13 “Can’t Put Into Words”

I like this theme. The sorts of abbreviations used in texting are spelled out loud and redefined.

  • 18a. [*Myopia? (“Not sure”)], EYE DECAY. IDK = I don’t know.
  • 40a. [Slang language for the abbreviations sounded out in this puzzle’s starred clues], TXTSPEAK.
  • 64a. [*Noted jazz singer’s condiment brand? (“Very, *very* funny”)], ELLA MAYO. LMAO = laughing my ass off.
  • 13d. [*Cockney greeting to the hole where he gets his water? (“Very funny”)], ‘ELLO, WELL. LOL = lots of love, if you’re British prime minister David Cameron. Laughing out loud.
  • 38d. [*”Come make us honey!” (“Just a sec”)], BE OUR BEE. BRB = be right back.

Clever theme. This 16×15 grid is jam-packed with juicy fill, too. A Girl Scout Cookies THIN MINT, HAN SOLO, Simpsons action hero MCBAIN, OH YEAH, HOLY SHIT, and the following entries made my highlights roster:

  • 6d. [Photo messaging app often used for embarrassing selfies], SNAPCHAT.
  • 22d. [Gesture of embarrassed disappointment], FACEPALM.
  • 27d. [CEO who co-founded Twitter], BIZ STONE.
  • 39d. [“Game of Thrones” actor famous for dying in most of his movies], SEAN BEAN.
  • 55d. [Swinton of “Moonrise Kingdom”], TILDA.

I did not know but could piece together WE DA BEST, 67a. [Slangy brag from DJ Khaled]. Perhaps Bruce can tell us who DJ Khaled is.

Super fresh, Caleb, just what we expect from you. 4.5 stars.

Updated Thursday morning

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

While solving this puzzle, I was feeling utterly underwhelmed by the theme and wondering why on earth David Poole had decided to make it and further Rich Norris to publish it. About eight times in ten (conservatively), when I’m feeling underwhelmed by a theme, it’s because I haven’t noticed all of it. That was the case today. I noticed all the guys with the surnames ending in double-consonants. Pretty thin soup for a crossword, yes? What I didn’t notice was that they’re all members of subphylum Vertebrata. That narrows things down a whole heap! That there are enough surnames you can do that with makes for a basic but pleasing theme. One thing that does make things uneven is the breakdown of said vertebrates: mammal, mammal, mammal, mammal, bird. It’s never ideal when you have an “odd man out” in your puzzle. Still I’m guessing that the constraints of this puzzle require it. I don’t know of any people that use the surnames LIZARDD, FROGG, OLMM, CODD, TITT, or HOATZINN for instance. It’s also worth noting that all five theme answers are male, which is consistent, but liable to raise some hackles.

Of the five puzzle people, the first two were very familiar to me, the middle vaguely so, and the last two not at all known. My interest in most modern television shows and the NFL is minimal so I’m not holding this against the puzzle. For completeness our human menagerie is:

  • 17a, [“Django Unchained” co-star], JAMIEFOXX
  • 24a, [“Malice N Wonderland” rapper], SNOOPDOGG. He’s currently going by the name Snoop Lion. The consensus at Wikipedia is to keep his article at Snoop Dogg, because rappers are notoriously fickle when it comes to stage names.
  • 35a, [“This Boy’s Life” memoirist], TOBIASWOLFF
  • 50a, [Sal Romano portrayer on “Mad Men”], BENJAMINBATT
  • 59a, [Super Bowl X MVP], LYNNSWANN. If this puzzle were catering to me alone, it would have had off-spin bowler Graeme instead, but it isn’t. A second point, that’s a rather uncommon first name, shared by my grandfather, who wasn’t overly fond of it; his second name, Sarrel, was nearly as problematic. What I’m saying is, if you’re weighing up baby names LYNN might not be the best choice.

Central 11’s notoriously create grid design challenges, in this case the big top-left and bottom-right corners. We get MUSER in the top-left, which is minimal compromise. The grid in general was a bit high on abbrs. (11 by my count), but they were mostly of the common, in use type, so not really much of a blemish.

Onward to the bullets:

  • 1a, [Window sill coolers], PIES. I know this trope from comics, TV etc., but I’ve never encountered it in real life.
  • 14a, [Spots teens don’t like], ACNE. Clever wordplay, although I’m not sure it’s going to prove original if I looked it up in the Clue Database.
  • 42a, [It involves checks and balances], BANKING. See above.
  • 54a, [Kitchen gadget], DICER. You put RICER in first didn’t you? I did. It slices, it dices, it even rices!
  • 9d, [Cuttlefish cousins], OCTOPI. You can point me to all the dictionaries you want, but that doesn’t mean I have to like this non-standard plural!
  • 18d, [Bit of dangly jewelry], EARBOB. Not familiar with this word, but earrings are another area I’m no expert in!
  • 32d [Spotty pattern], POLKADOTS. My favourite non-theme answer!

I enjoyed the theme more after the puzzle when I fully understood it, although the uneven breakdown grated slightly. The rest of the grid was entertaining too.

3.5 Stars

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Compliments of the Chef” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Three idiomatic phrases are clued more literally in a culinary sense:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/29/13

  • [What the rowdy chef did?] was STIRRED THE POT – my guess is that this entry was the theme’s inspiration, as it is far and away the best of the triplet.
  • [What the unsanitary chef did?] clues DISHED THE DIRT – I’m a bit confused on the cluing with this one–the prior one used the word “rowdy” which refers to the entire idiom “stirring the pot,” but this one makes no mention of “gossipy” which dirt-dishing is all about.
  • [What the educated chef did?] was TAUGHT A COURSE – so who is getting the instruction here? A student or a meal? I like the idea of a college for food, with “courses” like “How to Look Good on a Plate” and “How to Keep Fresh when Sitting Out on the Counter for Too Long.”

The inspiration for this seems to come from a good place (my guess again is that first entry), but the set doesn’t seem to hang together well for me, and only loosely relate to each other by having some term in them relating to cooking. To me, the star of today’s show was the above par fill and cluing, starting with my FAVE of [World of Persians and Siamese], which wasn’t the Far East, but CATDOM. As the owner of two of these denizens, I do agree cats seem to be in their own world sometimes. Other fun clues were [Rhine whine] for ACH, [Sub station?] for DELI, [Brainiac] for EINSTEIN and [Working by itself] for ON AUTO. I was a bit surprised to see that CHAD is a neighbor of Libya; for some reason I think of Chad as being farther to the west.

I guess I’ll give my UNFAVE to NO SOAP for [“Ixnay!”], as both terms seem mired in the distant past.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle — “Three-for-Two Special” — Matt’s review

Tough one from Brendan today (over 9 minutes for me in Across Lite). I kind of ignored the theme during the solve, like a tournament competitor, since I sensed that it might be complex. The idea is to insert AND into phrases, creating both a letter-and-letter phrase and a wacky new phrase. Tricky! Look:

18-a [Porn mogul standing next to an X-Man?] = T AND A KING BY STORM (taking by storm)

24-a [Treat with a rather kinky yet beautiful design?] = S AND M ART COOKIE (smart cookie)

41-a [Fruit from a certain grocery store presented as evidence?] = A AND P PEAR IN COURT (appear in court)

54-a [Cold hard cash from a financial institution?] = S AND L ICED BREAD (sliced bread)

62-a [Burglary on Dubya’s property?] = B AND E AT THE BUSHES (beat the bushes)

So that’s a cut above your standard add-some-letters theme. The answers are a little syntactically challenged, but nothing I couldn’t figure out (after the solve in a couple of cases, not during!).

71 theme squares, which is a ton, so we can forgive BEQ if he can’t work his standard magic in the fill. Let’s find our top 5 and see: OUIJA, PAGLIA, NADAL, YEOMAN, BO BICE (not Bob Ice). Nothing longer than six letters because of all that theme, but those are lively, as are WII U, CUT UP, CBGB and VAIO. Note the particularly fancy stepping required to fill the center-right section.

Favorite clue: [Bad to the Sorbonne?] for MAL.

4.33 stars.

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21 Responses to Thursday, August 29, 2013

  1. John from Chicago says:

    Sorry, but I’m with Rex on this one, which by my count on all the blogs makes it 2 against and 1,000,000,000 for.

    • RK says:

      I agree with Rex as well. While technically impressive, this puzzle kinda lacked the fun component. Still a feat of construction though.

  2. Gareth says:

    It took be a bit of staring post-solve to figure out the exact patterns behind the backward answer. I’m going to bet that most people who enjoy tough but fair puzzles, like myself, loved it. And all the extra layers to boot! I don’t want to know what it took to create this!

  3. Papa John says:

    I hope Deb and Neville provide another backdoor link to todya’s NYT puzzle because I am sitll unable to log in.

  4. Jeffrey K says:

    Loved it.

    You don’t know KRYPTO? Doug and I may need to hold an intervention.

  5. Matt says:

    Some early-morning vertigo with your coffee, Sir? I’ll just note that EYE is a palindrome, so it works as an entry in any direction.

  6. pannonica says:

    All right, I’ll be the first to—aptly, I think—call it a literal tour-de-force.

  7. Daniel Myers says:

    Droll that I didn’t get the hurricane, EYE of the storm motif until reading Amy’s write-up. Perhaps because LONDON EYE was one of the first clues I sussed, I was thinking Ferris wheel the entire time I was solving. Interesting that it works either way.

  8. Jan (danjan) says:

    I loved it! After solving, I went back to see if there was some logic to the backwards answers, and there is definitely a swirl pattern around the eye. Tour de force describes the puzzle perfectly.

  9. Daniel says:

    NYT was a joy to me this morning. Playful clues, wicked grid. It gaslighted me for ages. Even when I started to figure it out there were more layers to peel back. Genius!

  10. animalheart says:

    Hated it. I glommed on to the two aspects of the theme pretty quickly, but it just wasn’t my idea of fun to figure out which answers had to run backwards or upwards. I ended up just saying, “Life’s too short,” and tossing it aside. Sorry.

  11. pannonica says:

    Very polarizing, this one.

  12. janie says:

    did not have “fun” while solving. saw that some answers were in reverse but didn’t make much of it. *thought* i’d discerned both a pattern (of sorts) and the “why” of the EYE.

    but omg the “aha” that occurred when i went back to draw directional lines. nuthin’ arbitrary at all about which words read n–>s, w–>e, s–>n, e–>w.



  13. Bill says:

    Count me in the “liked it” camp, especially the multiple dimensions to the theme. One more dimension (pointed out in another blog) is that the center of the grid looks like a hurricane warning flag.

  14. Bencoe says:

    I found the gimmick in today’s BEQ harder to figure out at first than the one in NYT. Got the theme answers from bottom and worked upwards, BANDEATTHEBUSHES being the key to the whole thing.

  15. Hughb says:

    And timely on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, where both of those words appear in answers!

    • ArtLvr says:

      Also timely because of a news item today saying that Louisiana activist groups unhappy with repair of Katrina damage and coastal erosion have a lawsuit going in Federal court against 97 defendants, from oil companies to Gov. Bobby Jindal …

  16. Winnie says:

    Clever idea but I did not like it at all. There was no way I could make sense of this puzzle. I got the center eye immediately. However, a true cyclone, hurricane whatever you want to call it swirls in a distinctive pattern around the eye, not every which way as in this puzzle. Just too complicated for an elderly dyslexic person!! And no fun at all!!

  17. Richard says:

    The NYT was fascinating, but way too hard for a Thursday IMO. I had to cheat a little to get a foothold.

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