Monday, September 9, 2013

NYT 2:36 
LAT 2:34 
BEQ 5:58 
CS 6:18 (Evad) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 9 13, no. 0909

The NFL season is underway and the ends of the theme answers map out a touchdown:

  • 18a. [Wage increase], SALARY HIKE. Hike the ball to the QB.
  • 24a. [Journalist’s credential], PRESS PASS. The QB passes the ball.
  • 36a. [“Observant of you to notice the error!”], GOOD CATCH. The receiver catches the ball.
  • 50a. [1960 John Updike novel], RABBIT, RUN. The received runs pell-mell toward the end zone with the ball.
  • 57a. [It may be composed to accompany a movie], MUSIC SCORE. With any luck, the receiver makes it into the end zone and scores 6 points. With even more luck, he or she will then do a little dance to celebrate. (And I say “she” because a friend of mine’s daughter, a 6th grader, plays football. She’s a lineman.)

Excellent theme.

I would like to take this opportunity to rebut a couple remarks at xwordinfo. Will Shortz, commenting on words like ROULADE and AGORA, says “A couple of hard words, if they’re interesting and useful, are not a detriment at all.” This, in a Monday puzzle with AMAH (27d. [Far Eastern housemaid])! That is absolutely a hard word for a Monday puzzle (hell, it’s hard for any day of the week for any solver who hasn’t done tons of crosswords and learned their crosswordese), and it is neither interesting nor useful. If you ask me, ALAI is in the same boat as AMAH.

Favorite entry: 39d. [Terrific, in slang], HELLUVA. It’s one helluva crossword answer.

4.25 stars for the theme, minus .25 for AMAH and ALAI besmirching the Mondayness.

Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Can You Be More Pacific?” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme phrases that end with a word that can follow PACIFIC. To wit:

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

  • [Rush to beat a deadline] was RACE AGAINST TIME – I had “race to the finish” first (which unserendipitously fit!). “Pacific Time” is what Californians are on (along with a lot of other mind-altering substances, if you read the reports of the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries there).
  • A clue I recall from another recent CS puzzle, [George Clooney role in three films] clued DANNY OCEAN – nice to find an “ocean” that isn’t a body of water.
  • [West African nation] was IVORY COAST – remember what I just said about “ocean” above? Well, forget it with this one; coast has the same meaning in this theme entry and in “Pacific coast.”
  • [Nassau Coliseum skater] clued NEW YORK ISLANDER – “Pacific islanders” are Hawaiians, Samoans, Guadalcanalians (sic), etc.

OK theme, pretty nice fill around them–I enjoyed ECSTASY, TIPTOE, Y’ALL and UP IN ARMS. The clue for MAYO, [It may be found in a club] bordered on the CUTESY, but I think was redeemed. I also enjoyed the mathy clue for ZERO, namely [Number that shouldn’t be a denominator]. That’s right, unless you want to rip a hole in the space-time continuum! As a beginning computer programmer, I would often get “division by zero” errors when I would try to divide a number by another one that didn’t exist due to a data problem. All that said, my ultimate FAVE has to be the very timely [Tennis player nicknamed “Rafa”] who plays in the Men’s Singles US Open final today.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 9 9 13 crossword solution. “Themeless Monday”

How many of you have heard of Zez Confrey? For 3d. [Zez Confrey ragtime standard], I needed to work the crossings heavily to come up with KITTEN ON THE KEYS.

The highlights were not as splashy as usual:

  • 18a. [Less-than-spectacular effort], B GAME. Whatever you do, don’t bring your D game.
  • 25d, 24a. [With 24-Across, 2011 NL MVP who recently got busted for being a steroid cheat], RYAN / BRAUN.
  • 12d. [“Nuh-uh”], I CAN’T ACCEPT THAT. It’s clearly not your A game.
  • 38d. [Verb class that includes love and hate], STATIVE. Didn’t know it; learned some grammar today.
  • 52d. [Ironic word in some obits], NÉE. “Born” being roughly the opposite of what the obituarized individual just did.

As for 59a. [Big trouble], DEEP WATER: Isn’t that clue defining HOT WATER rather than DEEP WATER?

I didn’t know 6d. [Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn] ORR, either. Crossword constructors are always on the lookout for hot new crossword-ready names. Hockey’s Bobby Orr and The Cars’ Benjamin Orr have been the go-to guys for ORR clues, and here a government worker has made the cut.

3.5 stars.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 9 13

Sorry for the delay, folks—I was hoping that pannonica’s technical difficulties would resolve in time for her to blog this puzzle, but it was not to be. So, a quick take on the crossword.

Shhh… This is not one of those noisy themes:

  • 20a. Gentle leader’s quality], QUIET STRENGTH.
  • 37a. Devout petitions kept to oneself], UNSPOKEN PRAYERS. In the language?
  • 58a. Behind-the-scenes investor], SILENT PARTNER.

URIS, RAES, and URSAE skew a tad crosswordeseish to me, but the fill is markedly less old-feeling than I expect in a McInturff puzzle. That may be the perk of a modest three-piece theme. I wholeheartedly approve of themes that are less technically ambitious and allow the fill to breathe.

Four stars.

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8 Responses to Monday, September 9, 2013

  1. Sarah says:

    AMAH’s meh…but crossing MEIR…OOPS!!! ASAH/SEIR, ABAH/BEIR, ACAH/CEIR, ADAH/DEIR…no shortage of sensible options. Not that I’m saying bad crossing are unusual in the NYT.

    The worst crossing is SHEEN/ASHTON…HOW can you not cross-reference that??????????

    • Gareth says:

      “HOW can you not cross-reference that??????????” Because it works way better as an Easter egg. I do get your point that if you don’t know MEIR and haven’t learned AMAH (which can also be AYAH, the form I’ve seen it in most outside of crosswords) you’re a bit stymied. That said, I anticipate most people, especially older people who were around when she was prime minister, will find her name a gimmie.

    • Lois says:

      Nothing wrong with the crossing of SHEEN and ASHTON, because SHEEN was clued as a familiar word, not as a proper noun. In fact, thanks for pointing out the cute crossing to me, Sarah, because I didn’t get the joke about ASHTON Kutcher, who replaced Charlie SHEEN on “Two and a Half Men.” But that is an internal joke, and wouldn’t be OK with cross-referenced clues. Are you being ironic? Why are you calling it the worst crossing in the puzzle because of a lack of a cross-reference, when you just complained about crossing a tough word with a proper noun? A crossing of these two words with a cross-reference might be nasty to those who never even heard of this TV show, although the crossing could be guessed at correctly.

      • Matt says:

        Yeah, like… me. For what it’s worth, clues referring to specific actors in specific current TV shows qualifies as ‘popcult’, and I’d have to work my way around them.

  2. Martin says:

    “How many of you have heard of Zez Confrey? For 3d. [Zez Confrey ragtime standard], I needed to work the crossings heavily to come up with KITTEN ON THE KEYS.”

    Holding hand up high: “ooh, ooh,ooh, me, me, me!” … in a NYT of mine from way back:

    Although I think Will may have changed my original “Zez” reference.


    • Brucenm says:

      Of course. (I get flagged so often for all the things I *don’t* know that I feel compelled to respond.) Zez Confrey was a major figure in the history of ragtime (though some would derisively refer to his compositions as “novelty rags”.) He created a lot of piano rolls, many of which are still available. “Kitten on the Keys” is a wonderfully pianistic composition — it exploits the purely technical resources of the piano much more thoroughly than Joplin. It features both boogie-woogie and stride effects in the left hand, and complex chords with internal figurations in the right hand; cross rhythms, adventuresome harmony. Really quite an excellent piano piece. Doesn’t sound a thing like kittens to me, so far as I can recall.

      He was prolific and composed many more pieces than Joplin. Another of his well-known compositions is called “Dizzy Fingers” which features rapid right hand arpeggios and scale figurations. It was considered quite a tour de force in its day, though it’s quite accessible to anyone with a decent, light-fingered right hand technique. To me it’s unfortunate anyone would consider him arcane or objectionable in a puzzle. I think he deserves a higher place in the history of a very American musical genre than he has been accorded.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Somehow I wanted BEQ’s last entry DEEP WATER to be Deep Doodoo, but it didn’t fit…

  4. Jeff Chen says:

    Fair comments, Amy. AMAH isn’t strange to me because that’s what I (and many other Asian peeps) call grandma, but it’s esoteric for most others. I sentenced it as a misdemeanor, not a felony. Time served plus one month probation!

    I don’t mind ALAI at all since JAI ALAI is pretty well known outside the U.S. And for whatever reason, Miami. Go figure. But it does feel a bit too heavily leaned upon in crosswords.

    Nice to have a reasonable discussion about these matters.


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