Wednesday, September 18, 2013

NYT 4:55 
LAT 3:49 (Gareth) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:47 (Dave) 

Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 18 13, no. 0918

It’s moderately surprising to see a rebus theme on a Wednesday, isn’t it? The puzzle took me a Thursdayish amount of time, but perhaps it landed solidly in Wednesday territory for the rest of you.

And since I wasn’t expecting a rebus in a Wednesday puzzle, I raised an eyebrow when I had PENI* for 5d. And then 13d was DONG! Good gravy. Plus, the puzzle asks us to pitch a TENT in the five rebus squares. It’s surprising that 71a: ERRORS wasn’t clued [Boners] just to put a capper on that nonexistent sub-theme. (This paragraph brought to you by my inner 14-year-old.)

Here are the rebussified answers:

  • 23a. [German greeting], GU{TEN T}AG.
  • 25a. [Transcription, e.g.], WRIT{TEN T}EXT. Uh, a text is a written work. This is as redundant as “ATM machine” and “PIN number.”
  • 38a. [Adage regarding skittishness], ONCE BIT{TEN, T}WICE SHY.
  • 54a. [A little less than 100%], NO{T ENT}IRELY.
  • 61a. [Inventor’s award], PA{TENT}. The first of the Across theme answers not to break the TENT across two words.
  • 5d. [Atoner], PENI{TENT}.
  • 7d. [What a constant channel-surfer may have], SHORT AT{TENT}ION SPAN.
  • 11d. [Plant with fluffy flower spikes], KIT{TEN}TAILS. Never heard of these, and usually I’m pretty good when it comes to wildflowers of the Midwest. “It is uncommon throughout its range,” which means that even Midwesterners can be excused for not knowing it. Oof, this crosses a German phrase. I predict that square will be trouble for many solvers.
  • 40d. [With skill], COMPE{TENT}LY.
  • 55d. [Arm of the sea?], {TENT}ACLE. Ooh! Great clue.

Remarks on five other things:

  • 20a. [Get an ___ (ace)], A ON. Aon is a huge global insurance (etc.) company whose name is on Chicago’s former Standard Oil Building/Amoco Building. It’s a British company (which I had not known), which explains the Aon logo emblazoned on my son’s Manchester United jersey.
  • 46a. [“Charlotte’s Web” rat], TEMPLETON. Never have read that, or seen a movie version. I would have gotten this answer faster if it were clued by way of the Templeton Prize.
  • 70a. [The “cetera” of “et cetera”], SO ON. No. No, no, no. “Et cetera” can be swapped for “and so on,” but cetera is Latin for “others” here.
  • 10d. [“Ben-Hur” theme], VENGEANCE. I had no idea.
  • 42d. [Green vehicle, briefly], ECAR. 24-Down says it best.

3.8 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

Minnesota’s Zhouqin Burnikel has a locally-inspired puzzle for us today. The TWINS are of course Minnesota’s baseball team and the puzzle tells us that each pair of intersecting starred answers is a famous twin. It’s a refreshingly unusual execution – incorporating down answers, asymmetric placement of theme entries, and variation between the thematic content occupying half the answer and being the whole answer. The four twins are as follows:

    • Biblical twins [*Edward Cullen’s rival for Bella’s hand, in the “Twilight” series], JACOBBLACK: Jacob, crossing [*Biblical birthright seller], ESAU. I had no idea on the JACOB fellow’s surname.
    • Actresses [*She played Michelle on “Full House”], MARYKATE crossing [*”High Crimes” actress] ASHLEYJUDD.
    • Greek mythology’s [*Brother of Helen of Troy, some say], POLLUX crossing [*Source of an age-old medicinal oil], CASTOROIL
    • Former first children [*Beach Boys title girl], BARBARAANN: Barbara (I’ll spare you the ear worm – that song can linger for weeks if you aren’t careful!) crossing [*”Today” correspondent __ Bush Hager], JENNA. I didn’t know the Bush daughters were twins, but then it’s not like I paid much attention to them.

A very dense theme, and one that sprawls throughout the grid, making it – I can only imagine – a bear to fill! That said the theme is mostly well-contained, with even a few furbelows in PARASOL, POLKA, INXS, NIKITA and ROADSIGN. Strangely, the worst area fill-wise is the most innocuous-looking: the constricted centre features YSER, KTS and the we’re-pretending-this-is-a-suffix-then answer IOR.

Culture shock clue of the day was [Image to identify on a driver’s license exam] for ROADSIGN – we have those on our learner’s license test… Another interesting cultural titbit was [How traditional Chinese brides dress] for INRED.

In conclusion, this was one of my favourite LA Times themes in recent memory, 5 stars less 0.5 for the infelicities to accomodate it: 4.5 Stars.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Show Me the Show-Me State” – Dave Sullivan’s review

The abbreviation for the “Show Me State” (Missouri) is MO, and it’s “shown” (read “inserted”) four times within multi-word phrases:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/18/13

  • “Lads and lasses” becomes [Headline about a sticky situation at a boys’ school?] or LADS AND MOLASSES – not sure what the “headline” part of the clue is referring to, but I like the end result.
  • A “tennis pro” in Missouri becomes [Ad for racketeers?] or TENNIS PROMO – I like how the clue plays on the term “racketeers,” as swingers of rackets (or is it racquets?)
  • “Kitty Hawk” becomes [Feline hairdo?] or KITTY MOHAWK – another cute entry. On Million Second Quiz last night there was something about this town becoming incorporated as recently as 1981 I think.
  • The directive “Repeat after me” becomes [Quick correspondence instructing a do-over?] or REPEAT AFTER MEMO – the only clunker in the bunch, imho.

Nice theme execution here, which is no surprise from this most proficient constructor. I enjoyed the medium-length long fill as well: BYSTANDER, ANCHORMAN, LARCENY and PERGOLA are all interesting and unusual words. My FAVE goes to the band DEVO, whom I remember fondly from my college days. Let’s turn the clock back to 1980, shall we?. Really nothing to complain about in this one, so I’ll leave my UNFAVE award on the shelf until tomorrow.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Consuming What You Can’t Stomach”

This 17×15 puzzle has familiar phrases “consuming” HATE. You know how some people have recently embraced the concept of “hate-watching” TV shows they don’t like but can’t miss? And you might well hate-read Fifty Shades of Grey (coming soon: the sudoku adaptation Enslaved by Sudoku, and I am not kidding) or Dan Brown.

  • 19a. [Monthly compendium of writing so vile you can’t put it down?], HATE-READER’S DIGEST.
  • 40a. [Club for guys who enjoy mocking terrible movies?], THE HATE-WATCHMEN. I forget what The Watchmen is/are. Comic book series/characters, I believe.
  • 68a. [Genre that’s so obviously, transcendently bad you have to hear more of it?], EASY HATE-LISTENING.

The theme works, it’s fresh, and it’s somewhat amusing, which makes it a win in my book.

Six more notes:

  • 23a. [Protect from heat, as a dog?], SPAY. Good clue.
  • 31a. [She may lay a new chick every day], HEN. A chick gestating inside an egg.
  • 32a. [Almost certain R-rating earners], PENISES. In the indie crosswords, we can go beyond PENI*.
  • 50a. [Super Mario Bros. 2 character who spits eggs], BIRDO. No idea. Is she a hen?
  • 61a. [“The Master” director, casually], PTA. Paul Thomas Anderson.
  • 10d. [1965 movie in which Sophia Loren and Paul Newman are both really nice on the eyes], LADY L. Never heard of it, but I appreciate the two-gender eye candy offering. Ben is very good at eschewing sexism and not just catering to the dudebro solver. How many racy clues in Peter Gordon puzzles don’t squick out female solvers? Too few.

Four stars from me.

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17 Responses to Wednesday, September 18, 2013

  1. Bencoe says:

    Nope. This played like a Thursday for me, with the extra detriment of not knowing it was going to play like a Thursday. Very surprised to see the rebus. Loved TEMPLETON though! Made me remember his “smorgasbord” song from the movie.

  2. John says:

    I decided that EST (as in when your company was “Established” ) and WRITTEN TEST (a stenographer’s test maybe?) were fine responses, but other than that I like this one a lot – a rebus simple enough for me!

  3. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Typo: KIT{TEN}TAILS should be KIT{TENT}AILS.

    Thanks for a good albeit juvenile laugh re PENI*/DONG/ERRORS; I noticed the first (which is how I got the theme, since there’s no way to get from “atoner” to schm*ck) but didn’t make the connection with the other two. The pen: it en’t mightier than the sword.

    Otherwise, refreshingly off the bea{ten t}rack for a Wednesday, but it really needed some entry or title to tie it all together, else the fivefold {tent} is just a random word with a convenient letter sequence…


    • Jeff Chen says:

      Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh, both Amy and Noam.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        Thanks. I see that PENI? also matches “pen in”, as in “corral” (4 of 7 Shortz clues, 2002-2013); Maleska twice clued it as a partial: “Take _____ hand (write)” in 1985, and likewise in 1982.

  4. pannonica says:

    Weirdest solving moments of the day:

    Tausig: 59d [Arctic giant] WHALE. Whales as a group are found throughout the world’s oceans, from polar to temperate to tropical. Many species migrate throughout. There are of course some whose ranges are restricted; for instance narwhal and beluga (neither exactly a giant, as far as whales are concerned) are in fact found principally in Arctic waters.

    CS: 20a [“Shoot!”] DRATS. Drats, plural? Whats?

    • Evad says:

      I can hear some character on TV saying “Oh, drats!” but not sure from where.

      • pannonica says:

        Rats, nerts, yes. Drats, no, notwithstanding “some character on TV,” and various old texts I found on Google ngram, each of which have turned out to be OCR errors—for “draw,” “draws,” “draff” [possibly a ligatured “draft”], “decus,” “times” (!), et cetera.

  5. Animalheart says:

    The German greeting tipped me off to the rebus early on, so it was a very swift solve for me, but 70A has to be the worst clue of the year.

  6. Sarah says:

    No one knows what BIRDO is. He/she is the most sexually confused video game character out there. Has changed genders several times.

  7. Dan M says:

    I know rebus puzzles are tough to construct but I really don’t get this particular one. No revealer means just a bunch of words crossing with “TENT” in them, what exactly is the point of this puzzle?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I can only conclude that the DONG and PENI* answers really did intend to lead us to the erection-related “pitching a tent” slang. The Gray Lady is turning into the (Fifty Shades of) Grey Lady?

  8. The theme might be “sharing a TENT.”

  9. Mike Hawkins says:

    I’m guessing Ben Tausig is Canadian? “Watchmen” is a comic series by Alan Moore, and subsequent movie. “The Watchmen” is a Canadian band I’ve never heard of.

  10. Today’s puzzles reminded me of this MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle which, when solved, yielded the clue phrase “Why yes, the answer you’re seeking really is PENISES”.

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