Friday, September 6, 2013

NYT 5:03 
LAT 3:26 (Gareth) 
CS 5:58 (Dave) 
CHE 5:38 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:01 (pannonica) 

Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 6 13, no. 0906

A lovely themeless from the power duo of Brohug. The whole thing is packed with lively words and phrases with interesting clues. My top 10:

  • 1a. [Old Hollywood low-budget studios, collectively], POVERTY ROW. Entirely unfamiliar term to me.
  • 15a. [Wine bottle contents in Hitchcock’s “Notorious”], URANIUM ORE. Didn’t know this, either. Thought it would be some wine varietal.
  • 17a. [Dessert often with cream cheese icing], CARROT CAKE. I need me a gluten-free carrot cake, dang it.
  • 32a. [It was dissolved in 1991], WARSAW PACT.
  • 60a. [The goddess Kali appeared on its first cover], MS. MAGAZINE. Neat trivia.
  • 62a. [New Jersey childhood home of Whitney Houston and Queen Latifah], EAST ORANGE. Pop culture trivia if you like it, New Jersey geography if you don’t.
  • 12d. [Press production], APPLE CIDER. Not a printing press. I bought some cherry juice at Trader Joe’s today and mixed it with equal parts raspberry lemonade and water. Mmm, mmm, good.
  • 25d. [Substance that citrus peels are rich in], PECTIN. I liked this because I learned yet another new thing.
  • 42d. [Baseball’s ___ Line (.200 batting average)], MENDOZA. In Lexulous (a Scrabble variant on Facebook), my Mendoza line is 350 points. Any less than that and I’m disappointed in myself.
  • 58d. [“A defeat for humanity,” per Pope John Paul II], WAR. Nice echo of the Warsaw Pact at 32a. Poland, freedom vs. communism, etc.

See? I think some folks believe that when I criticize fill that’s unfamiliar to me and suggest it’s too obscure, I’m just being a dim philistine. But there are indeed things I’m pleased to learn in crosswords. When I criticize something I’ve never encountered before, trust me, I’m not the only solver looking askance at it.

The 39a. [Onetime TV music vendor] K-TEL is still around. Check out their website!

Constructor Liz Gorski was just telling me that LPGA (18a. [Ironwoman org.?]) is sorely underused in crosswords compared to PGA. Nice to see it here with a tricky clue.

Tons of nifty fill, a boatload of interesting clues, no junk fill? 4.33 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Loafer’s Lament” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Have I mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of quip themes? Well, if not, let this be the first time. Instead of four or five themed AHAs, we just have one long one, which is an all-or-nothing shot. Today’s CrosSynergy’s Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) quote was more on the nothing side of that “or”:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/06/13


Though the sentiment of the quip is cute (and certainly appropriate for a cartoonist known for his depiction of a child’s imaginary world, far from adult responsibilities), most of the quote consists of dull combining words, without much pizzazz. The entire first line is just a preface, really, and was just something to get through to get further into the quote. Lest you think I’m too grumpy today, I did enjoy a couple of entries I think I’m seeing for the first time–UCLAN for [Golden St. collegian], which made me think of the Wu-Tang Clan) and LAY SISTER for [Certain woman of the cloth] crossing at the common L. For the latter, if you are a layperson, can you truly be said to be “of the cloth,” which I assume is reserved for those who are ordained in some way?

Not so big a fan of REWET, HET UP and EROSE, so I’ll give that my trifecta the multiple UNFAVE award today. Maybe I am kinda grumpy, huh?

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I just took a massive 18 seconds off my record Los Angeles Times Friday time! Was it as easy for you as for me?

Part of the easiness was the theme. Inventions whose names are >inventor< >invention< are re-imagined as though the invention is a verb, which is then converted into the past tense. Such a beautiful, tight concept, a real wish-I’d-thought-of-it puzzle theme! The one negative is that some of the verbs are decidedly transitive – PETRIDISHED… gossip, RICHTERSCALED… the mountain – they sound slightly awkward without a direct object. As I was saying about easiness, I found these answers a lot easier to figure out than most Friday “pun” answers; after I got the first one, they practically filled themselves in; that isn’t a complaint, more of an observation.

The 65(!) squares of theme answers are as follows:

  • 18a, [Physicist got all wound up?], TESLACOILED. Tesla Coils
  • 29a, [Mathematician got ready for a shower?], MOEBIUSSTRIPPED. This clue would’ve been more amusing in a racier venue! Moebius Strips.
  • 36a, [Seismologist rose to new heights?], RICHTERSCALED. The Richter Scale
  • 44a, [Physicist made an opposing move?], GEIGERCOUNTERED. Geiger Counters
  • 61a, [Microbiologist spread some gossip?], PETRIDISHED. Petri Dish. If the litany of male inventors was getting to you, you can take some comfort in the fact that the most common Petri dish variant, the Agar plate, was invented by technician Fannie Hesse!

As you probably know, 65 theme squares is no picnic to fill, and having two 15’s and a 13’s in the middle five rows is especially challenging! You aren’t going to get away without some collateral damage.

There are actually some fun longer theme answers though: STOPTHAT (very un-Canadianly rude though), INLOVE, CANINE, HECTOR, ELNINO and the short OHHI. This is offset by the following list of clunkers: the (defensible) prefixes INDO and SERBO, nautical jargon ALEE, ELHI, AHOP, SST, ERST and the gimme-for-me, but only known for a few roles, Canadian actor NEVE Campbell. None of those are particularly bad, andd there are surprisingly few abbreviations, which often end up being over-represented in puzzles such as this!

Most of the joy for me was in the theme though, which really spoke to the science nerd in me! I just can’t help giving this puzzle 4.5 stars, although I anticipate not everyone will be as enamored!

Finally, does anyone want to play a game with me in the comments? How many more theme answers can we come up with? I’ll start the ball rolling with [Painter-turned-inventor wrote software?]


Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Academia Nuts” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/6/13 • “Academia Nuts” • Fri • Fisher • solution

Shameless confession: this puzzle’s title pun hardly ever fails to garner a giggle or smirk from me; I seem never to tire of it. Much the same way I could look on the shelf of my old office, see the spine of Hall’s “American Weasels,” and imagine it was filled with information about my colleagues.

Back to the puzzle at hand. In this instance, the “nuts” of the title works as an anagram indicator, À LA (109d) cryptic crossword cluing. In each theme entry the first part is an American institution of higher education (it is reminiscent of a CHE theme, as is today’s LAT offering) and the second is an anagram thereof.

  • 23a. [Spirits from a Massachusetts university?] BRANDEIS BRANDIES. Minimal rearrangement required.
  • 32a. [Resin layer on fiberglass from a New York university?] COLGATE GEL COAT. Am currently researching methodologies techniques for a wood-staining project, so the anagram phrase didn’t seem so unusual. Also could apply to nail polish. Cute coincidence (?) that COLGATE, a major toothpaste brand, lies under 29d [Dentist’s detection] DECAY.
  • 42a. [Vernacular used at a South Carolina college?] CITADEL DIALECT. A subcategory of militarESE (81a [Argot suffix]? Missing the definite article here. See also 16d [Recruiting slogan that replaced “Be All You Can Be”] ARMY OF ONE. See also also 20a & 21a ALL TOO | AS ONE; seems kinda duplicatey.
  • 59a. [Seasoning from an Indiana university?] BALL STATE TABLE SALT.
  • 70a. [Car dealer’s event at a New Jersey university?] SETON HALL SELL-ATHON.
  • 88a. [Landing spot at a New York university?] ADELPHI HELIPAD. Really like this anagram.
  • 98a. [Short-tailed rodent from a Massachusetts college?] AMHERST HAMSTER. Perhaps that would be a better mascot than the current one, Lord Jeffery Amherst.
  • 111a. [Feature of a pro wrestler from a Pennsylvania university?] BUCKNELL BULL NECK. “BULL NECK” is not a phrase that comes readily to my mind, and is not an image I particularly care for in my mind’s eye.

Definitely an East Coast BIAS (93a), even a Northeast one. Indiana’s BALL STATE is the greatest outlier, with the southern but coastal military academy the CITADEL giving it a run for the money. Fun puns, entertaining theme.

Extracurricular activities:

  • Fooled by 1-across [Rock blaster], putting in TNT and then immediately realizing it could just as easily be AMP, which was quickly confirmed by checking the crossing at 1-down damn it’s a cross-reference to 96-across 2-down MYRNA Loy.
  • Self-referential clue: 119a [119-Across, for example] ABBR., which obviates the need for an abbrev. in the clue to signal that the answer is an abbrev.!
  • Too much baseball! Proper name OMAR Quintanilla (49a), 6d [Avoided a tag, maybe] SLID, 121a [Carlos Zambrano pitch] SINKER with another proper noun. Surely one of those could have been clued differently. Conversely, 54a MEL isn’t clued as famed Giant Ott, 118a ACE doesn’t mention pitching, et cetera.
  • I must be hungry. At 56d, [Caesar conquered them] elicited “croutons” for me, not GAULS. And at 25d [Angel’s opposite] BRAT, I wondered how awful angelwurst would taste.
  • Did not know First Lady LETITIA Tyler at 107a. In fact, didn’t even consider that the generic-sounding John Tyler of the clue indicated president number ten.
  • Who? 91d [Golfer Gene] LITTLER, 40a [John of TV’s “Homicide”] SEDA, 38d [Paul of “American Graffiti”] LEMAT.
  • Just the right amount of abstract clues which require some crossings. Examples: 50a [Appearances] MIENS, 55a [Pocket] EARN, 43d [Clarifying words] I MEAN (not ID EST), 104d [Benefits] SAKES.
  • Oldie-but-a-goodie clue: 34d [What you will] ESTATE.

Very good puzzle.

Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Alternate Endings” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 9/6/13 • “Alternate Endings” • Livengood • solution

This 15×16 puzzle features a really inventive and clever theme. Multiple word phrases are reimagined as if the final word were a suffix appended to the precursor(s), then clued as per the resultant conglomeration.

  • 5d. [Disease that makes you say “aww” all the time?] HOWSWEETITIS. No Jackie Gleason reference here. (Stress on syllable 3.)
  • 10d. [J. Alfred Prufrock-like quality?] ELIOTNESS. Thomas Stearns. (Stress on 1.)
  • 15d. [Traveling south from Birmingham, perhaps?] MONTGOMERYWARD. <“Sweet Home Alabama” YouTube link would go here> (Stress on 2.)
  • 25d. [Chemical wood-treating agent?] CARPENTERANT. (Stress on 2.)
  • 40d. [Measured amount of a copper/tin alloy?] BRONZEAGE, (Stress on 1.)

Yours for $400 OBO! (ebay)

I like this theme so much because of the cockeyed but intellectual sensibility it conveys. No further gushing necessary.

  • Southeast corner is Scrabbly-SNAZZY. It’s also SWAYZE. Toss in some PAPAYA and the eponymous Fernand LAMAZE, why not?
  • 32d [Dangerous ocean creatures] RAYS, 36d [Dangerous ocean creature] ORCA.
  • If you’re going employ cross-referencing, it’s best in my opinion to have them nearby, such as: 38d [Uses a 43 Across] ROWS, and 43a [See 38 Down] OAR. The perpendicular arrangement might also suggest an OAR sticking out from a BOAT or a CANOE.
  • Boo! 44a [Buried treasure location, perhaps] ISLE, 70d [ __-de-France] ÎLE.
  • Favorite clues: 22a [Demo material] TNT, 37a [When a touchdown is expected, briefly] ETA. Bonus: they’re for blah short fill. Honorable mention in this category for 4d [Training ctr.?] STA.

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36 Responses to Friday, September 6, 2013

  1. RK says:

    Didn’t have the time nor patience to deal with the major trivia intersection at the NW. If I’d gotten WEEDEATER (Isn’t it a weedwacker?) or YMCA (Is that thought of as disco?) or gave it more time, but that corner is still less puzzle and more pop quiz. As such, I’ll take another puzzle for $50, Alex.

  2. Michael says:

    While I liked the overall crunchiness of the long fill, for some reason the old stand-bys stuck out more than usual at me today. I’m surprised Amy’s meh-o-meter slept through ORAN, ORK, ENYA, EWOKS, ESTER, EPEE, ONO, REBA and GST. Now I hope I don’t sleep through my 5am alarm this morning.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Michael, I liked the clues for ORAN (read The Plague in high school), ORK (watched Happy Days religiously as a tween), ENYA (I love trying to remember how Gaelic letters are pronounced), and EPEE (who knew it accounted for Venezuela’s only medal at the 2012 Olympics?), so the answers felt fresher.

  3. Gareth says:

    A number of great answers today! Favourite was the goofy URANIUMORE. PGA appears 3-times as often as LPGA, but a lot of that can be attributed to one being three letters. What’s weird though is how rare it is to encounter WTA or ATP, the tennis equivalents…

    Sorry to go off on a tangent but… there is another side to your argument Amy; not every person complaining about unfamiliar fill is as judicious. I see often (although not so much here) the complaint: I didn’t know this word, and it’s from an area that I don’t know a lot about or have an interest in – it shouldn’t be there! A good example of this is ERNE versus TERN. People who are completely ignorant about birds won’t realise that TERNs are a common group of birds with a world-wide distribution whereas ERNEs are an uncommon variant name for a species of eagle only found in Europe. There are shades of grey though: the inclusion of ELS and SNEAD are hard to argue against even if you only know them from crosswords, with a number of majors each. ISAO/AOKI has no majors to his name, but is in the Golf Hall of Fame nevertheless…

  4. Jim Peredo says:



    Could also have been clued:
    [Painter-turned-inventor suffered cardiac arrest?]

    How about this:

    [Ancient Greek inventor used his tool?]

    (Bah! It’s 17 letters!)

  5. pannonica says:

    15a. [Wine bottle contents in Hitchcock’s “Notorious”], URANIUM ORE. Didn’t know this, either. Thought it would be some wine varietal.

    It is an exotic varietal, but the problem is that with such an extended half-life, it’s impractical to age sufficiently. For instance, a ‘233 vintage has a of 704 million years and a ‘238 has one of 4.47 billion years, which means it’ll be ready to drink around the time our planet goes kaput.

  6. Amy L says:

    For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why Kali would be on the cover of US Magazine. Worried some over it, but finally made the correction.

  7. Brucenm says:

    {American composer visited a mall} (6, 7}

  8. Brucenm says:

    (American artist hit went deep} (or {hit a four-bagger} (7, 7)

  9. Tracy B. says:

    Meet me on the lea rig. My friend Ruth, a Scottish lass, sings this Burns classic beautifully a capella. Nice fresh clue for a bit of crosswordese. I’m IN LOVE with today’s LAT. Is this because I’ve been copyediting mathematical text for 20 years? I’d been wanting to put Moebius strip in a puzzle, and am pleased to see it be done. Such a nifty puzzle, lots of smiles for me. Hey, I accidentally gave it three stars instead of the 4 or 5 I was debating. Clicked submit by accident and gave it the default 3. I wish there was an undo or redo button.

  10. Tracy B. says:

    Oh, I’m playing. British logician dissected a sentence?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Venn diagrammed.

      Nice. Takes me back to high school English classes.

      • Gareth says:

        Wow, I had no chance of getting that! Very clever though! I did do sentence diagrammes when I was being homeschooled via an American syllabus. I don’t think those are part of our English syllabus…

        • Steve Blais says:

          I really really should’ve gotten that one :( In fact, I think it was one of my original candidates, but I couldn’t get another 14-letter themer. And “diagram” is strictly transitive anyway.

  11. Brucenm says:

    (Part of a famous double play combination consigned to Hell} (7, 6)

    (though there is some suggestion that this is the wrong spelling of the underlying expression.)

  12. Tony O. says:

    Could have used a spoiler alert for URANIUM ORE – “Notorious” is ruined! What a great movie – and puzzle!

    Just noticed, we have a CARROT, an APPLE and an ORANGE – edibles in 3 out of 4 quadrants. Some SAGE in the 4th so, the balance works for me. Hey, here’s lunch … happy weekend.

  13. Steve Blais says:

    I’m glad you all enjoyed my science-y puzzle as much as I enjoyed constructing it. Originally it had “only” four entries. RICHTER SCALED was not one of the original members, until I looked up “Geiger counter” on Wikipedia, thinking it was the instrument that was used to measure earthquakes. (Why I keep making this mistake I will never know.) Of course when I realized my error, and that it was the Richter Scale, I couldn’t resist ripping the whole thing out and starting over again, *after* looking up “scale” to see if it could be used as an intransitive verb. I agree a couple of these mini-sentences, though grammatically valid, don’t quite parse smoothly, but it was still a lot of fun for me. As an example of two themers I had to throw out because they were *not* intransitive verbs, try these:

    Swedish inventor held (something) dear (5, 6)
    Austrian physicist made (something) happen (7, 8)

  14. Brucenm says:

    I dunno. Ernst Mached ????????

  15. Huda says:

    NYT: Loved it, even though the center/NE area was not yielding for a while. Like Amy, I like learning as I go along, and the fact that some boring answers (EPEE) were clued inventively is greatly appreciated.

    I wanted the press to be OLIVE OIL because my father’s family used to own an olive grove.

    And the linking of the UAR formation to the Suez Crisis is nicely done. Not sure how causal the Suez Crisis was, but it definitely catalyzed sentiment in that direction. I recently discovered a photo of my father with someone who was critical (on the Syrian side) in mediating that union with Egypt, and then regretted. As a kid, I recall both the excitement and the disillusionment about the UAR.

  16. Martin says:

    They replaced the cable from my internet dish to my router and found a bad spot. Hopefully any problems with puzzle downloads are history.

    Amy, I’m not sure if you think the KTEL clue was inaccurate, but a careful perusal of the web site you linked will verify they haven’t run TV commercials for years. In fact, that K-TEL had a brush with bankruptcy and the new K-TEL is more of a shell, marketing old K-TEL stuff.

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