Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NYT 4:08 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 
CS 5:43 (Matt) 

Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 9 13, no. 1009

Nice find—Two of 42a: [Author Philip K. __] DICK‘s sci-fi stories adapted into movies have 30-letter titles that split perfectly into 15/15.

  • 17a, 20a. [With 20-Across, story by 42-Across on which the movie “Blade Runner” is based], DO ANDROIDS DREAM / OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? (You can see why the title was changed for the movie.)
  • 54a, 59a. [With 59-Across, story by 42-Across on which the movie “Total Recall” is based], WE CAN REMEMBER IT / FOR YOU WHOLESALE. (Ditto.)

Unusual structure for a theme, the stacked pairs of 15s supplemented by that little 4 near the middle.

Do note the middle section’s Across answers: BUMP SAMPLED DICK. If you are concerned about a lesion, gentlemen, see your doctor about sending a sample of it to the lab for diagnosis.

The down side of stacked 15s, of course, is the risk of unsavory Downs and neighboring fill. I was not pleased by the reemergence of 3d. [Christine ___, heroine of “The Phantom of the Opera”], DAAE—a name I know only from crosswords, and fortunately from rather few of them. Partial A VOTE and I’M NO, the RUHR, roll-your-own REPEN (64a. [Put back in the fold]), DSCS (19d. [Mil. awards]), IVAN I (15a. [First in a line of Russian grand princes])? Eh.

On the plus side, I liked COMMIE, PIG OUT, Lily TOMLIN (though the clue, [“One ringy-dingy” comic], didn’t give me the answer), and the rare crossword 6-letter river, the DANUBE.

Bird facts: The PEWEE (51d. [Bird that’s as small as it sounds]), also spelled peewee, is named after the sound it makes (you can listen here) and not its size. It is an entirely different creature from the PEWIT (also spelled peewit or Northern lapwing), which was in another puzzle recently.

3.5 stars overall. Fresh and unexpected theme, slightly uneven fill.

Updated early Wednesday afternoon CAT, although it’s morning Stateside:

Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 131009

I’ve contemplated a “piece of hair” theme before, but gave it up because I couldn’t get it to go anywhere! Congratulations to Mr. Wildenberg on seeing it through. The first clever thing I didn’t think of was the revealer: SPLITHAIRS, which is a solid idiomatic phrase to build a puzzle around! I also didn’t come up with STRAND! Other options not seen here include HANK and RINGLET. Anyway, the theme answers are all solid, unimpeachable choices. We have:

  • 17a, [1949 Olivia de Havilland film], THEHEIRESS
  • 25a, [Home of the Clinton Presidential Library], LITTLEROCK
  • 36a, [Bead in a necklace], CULTUREDPEARL
  • 49a, [Sam’s Choice, e.g.], STOREBRAND
  • 59a, [Nitpick, and what this puzzle’s circled letters represent], SPLITHAIRS

This puzzle has a near-themeless grid design of 34/74. Some of the shorter fill is a tad on the rough side, but it’s mostly a solidly-filled puzzle. The most unusual corner of the grid is the top-left; does TITHE / ETHEL / THEHEIRESS / RASHES / THESES / HEHHEH count as a mini HE theme? It made that area more fun to solve in any case!

Let’s switch to bullets and look at some individual answers:

    • 10a, [Credit card bill nos.], APRS. I have no idea what this is getting at. Looking through a list of possible APRs, I’m going to with “annual percentage rate.” Am I right?
    • 19a, [Kathryn of HBO’s “Oz”], ERBE crossing 10d, [“Wheel of Fortune” buy], ANE. You rarely see an unfair cross in the LA Times, but I’m willing to bet this one’s going to cause a LOT of problems. The down clue can be any of the five vowels, and if you don’t know Ms. Erbe yet – Arbe, Orbe and maybe even Urbe are going to look plausible! A more specific clue for ANE would’ve gone a long way to avoiding this.
    • 33a, [Pope of 903], LEOV. Did he do anything of note?
    • 35a, [Van Cleef & __: French jeweler/perfumer], ARPELS. Don’t know them myself, but they seem legitimately famous. I’m not up on my jewellers I’m afraid….
    • 53a, [Blackguard], CAD. The “ck” of “blackguard” is silent FWIW. It’s a fun word to say and use!
    • 57a, [Course for Crusoe?: Abbr.], ANAG. Curses, foiled again! Like Amy, I never seem to see these ANAG clues coming! Well-played!
    • 62a, [Actor Jared], LETO. I’m told he isn’t ugly. See right.
    • 12d, [Autodialed electioneering tactic], ROBOCALL. Great, modern answer!

Ably executed theme with some interesting fill? 3.5 Stars


Randall Hartman’s CrosSynergy puzzle, “Second Grade” — Matt’s review

Straightforward theme from today’s CS: the second word of each theme entry can precede the word HILL to form a phrase:

17-a [California racetrack] = SANTA ANITA
27-a [Conviction of the devout] = ABIDING FAITH
42-a [Lovable bigot of ’70s TV] = ARCHIE BUNKER
55-a [Wheel clamp] = DENVER BOOT

Forming Anita Hill, Faith Hill, Bunker Hill and Boot Hill; nothing earth-shattering, but it works. I wasn’t too familiar with BOOT HILL but now that I’ve read the Wiki page I’m glad to know it.

The grid has a little ARAOONAESESRIARNEL (in particular that NW section should certainly have been reworked), but not too much. On the good side we’ve got TOM CRUISE, AS I RECALL, CLOSE IN ON, ISUZU, AGASSI, PREZ and MALAGA.

Top cluage: [Place to find a date?] for OASIS and [Cover story?] for ALIBI (I had the incorrect ALIAS at first).

3.25 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword, “Raised a Few Degrees”

Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 10 9 13 “Raised a Few Degrees”

This puzzle isn’t about thermostats, it’s about academic degrees. Three degrees are extracted from one phrase and added to the answer above in this 15×16 grid:

  • 17a. [Job postings that list spoiling kids as a desired skill?], GRANDMA OPENINGS.
  • 21a. [Piece of erotic fiction?], HOT TALE. Yesterday I ordered a singular tamal (Spanish plural is tamales, English “hot tamale” ignores Spanish convention) at a Mexican restaurant; pineapple/pecan filling, yum!
  • 40a. [Rich, non-vegan novelty flavor of a popular hipster beer?], BUTTER PABST. It’s like Harry Potter’s butterbeer, only more hipsterish.
  • 45a. [Vehicle for a “Sesame Street” vampire?], COUNTING CAR.
  • 61a. [Bubblicious marketed as a post-nursing treat?], BABY GUM. Extra soft for the toothless.
  • 66a. [Introduce a criminal boyfriend to one’s family?], BRING HOME THE CON.

The original phrases, of course, are grand openings, hot tamale, butter pat, counting carbs, “by gum,” and bring home the bacon. The results of moving the degrees around provide an adequate amount of surprise and humor. Theme works for me.

Six more things:

  • 4d. [Elton John single before “Crocodile Rock”], HONKY CAT. Say wha…? I do not know of this song. Makes for a great crossword answer, though.
  • 14a. [French Persian’s utterance?], MIAOU. Persian cat, not Iranian person in France.
  • 55a. [“Don’t shit where you eat,” e.g.], ADAGE. Much more interesting clue than [Old saw] or [“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” e.g.].
  • 76a. [Ronald, Ernie, O’Kelly, Rudolph, Vernon, or Marvin of soul music], ISLEY. Didn’t know any of these first names, but sure, the Isley Brothers are famous.
  • 8d. [One in 10th: Abbr.], SOPH. Sophomore in tenth grade. Clue looked mystifyingly mathematical, no?
  • 13d. [Like Jesus or baked dough], RISEN. If you don’t know one, you might get the answer from the other part of the clue. Isn’t that helpful?

Four stars.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, October 9, 2013

  1. Sarah says:

    I find it very bizarre for the entries to have to be stacked. While I find it nice to have the theme entries stacked (highly unusual for any themed crossword), I find the fill to be very bad (ASOF, AVOTE, STAEL (curiously next to STEEL), IVANI, ETTA, CALLA, ABLEST, etc…

    Note to self: Don’t try this in your own crossword puzzles.

  2. bananarchy says:

    Loved the NYT, great debut Jason!

  3. Bencoe says:

    Wow. Never before has a puzzle been so completely in my wheelhouse. I’ve read pretty much everything Dick wrote; I own most of his work and within the last month alone have probably reread 2 or 3 of his novels for pleasure. Fastest recorded Wednesday ever.

  4. Jenni says:

    Rex made the same comment about “ringy-dingy”. How old are you people? Younger than I am, apparently, and I watched Laugh-In in pajamas because it was on after I should have been in bed, but my parents liked it so much they let me stay up to watch it.

    I enjoyed this puzzle despite DAAE (which I’ve never seen before and hope never to see again). I’ve never read either story and hadn’t heard the title of the second one. I guessed it with few crossers from the title of the movie, since I know the musical that forms the basis for the title. And, of course, once you get the 15s the rest falls easily.

    I enjoyed the titles, which are amusing, and the 12-year-old pleasure of getting 42-Across into a puzzle. Very Beavis-and-Butthead.

  5. Huda says:

    Just last night, I made a comment about puzzles that elicit consensus in rating and others that trigger more of a mixed reaction. My guess is that today’s NYT is in the latter category. If you know these titles, it’s fun and easy. If you don’t then the crosses are not optimal. I had to tackle one bit here and on patch there and watch it coalesce by dint of determination. But it was nice to recall the top title, after the fact, and learn the bottom one.

    Off to gay Paree today. Sadly, it will be short.

  6. Matt says:

    PKD is one of my favorite authors, so this was easy and fun for me. It’s… a bit odd, though, considering that he was borderline psychotic, that two of his titles have exactly thirty letters, and that both exactly divide in half. Hmm, indeed.

    • Daniel says:

      OMG, I had exactly the same thought. Exactly.

      In any case, I knew one title and learned the other. I forgive the odd fill for the NEAT feat of the grid. An exceptional Wednesday experience for me.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Great puzzle, totally in my wheelhouse, about one of the great creative writers, indeed, one of the great, original, brooding creative minds in any field. Some really fresh, original entries and clues. Stacking the two 15’s was brilliant. I’m thinking a constructor can’t get a computer to do that. You have to figure it out for yourself. 5*.

    Amazing that people don’t know “One ringy-dingy. Two ringy dingies. Is this the person to whom I am speaking?” (Well, people are always amazed, if not outraged, at the things I don’t know . . .)

    Amy — “Bump sampled Dick” indeed. I’m shocked, I tell you — shocked. That’s up there with jokes about the Peter Bent Hospital in Boston. You can probably roll your own jokes. E.g.

    I was in a car accident today and had to go to the hospital.

    Peter Bent?

    No, even worse than that.

  8. Tracy B. says:

    Best NYT debut I’ve seen in quite some time. I’m thrilled to see some good genre fiction titles appearing in the NYT—the well-known movie connections and the impressive, serendipitous feat of symmetrically stacked 15s should nullify any complaints about accessibility of those entries to the non-SciFi set, in my opinion. I solved it in about 10 minutes, feeling some satisfaction that someone was speaking to my interests instead of making me identify yet another 19th-century opera. I’m glad Will liked this one, and I can’t wait for more from Jason Flinn.

  9. Amy L says:

    For those who don’t remember how much fun it was to kick Dick Nixon around, Lily Tomlin was popular during his presidency. She was always trying to get “Mr. Milhous” on the phone. The Ringy-dingy clue was a gimme for me and a great memory.

  10. Gerry Wildenberg says:

    Thank-you Gareth for all the nice things you said about my Split Hairs puzzle.

    I agree with the comments about 10-Down needing an explicit vowel to complete AN_ . My submitted clue was tricky but definitely explicit: The 2nd of February. As a composer I don’t always agree with the editorial changes which, TTTT, are usually an improvement over mine but not always. And we (i.e. composers) do not get to comment on the final recluing.


    • Gareth says:

      I agree that almost always editorial changes are for the better, and often radically so! It doesn’t stop those few times when they aren’t from being a touch exasperating…

  11. HH says:

    “62a, [Actor Jared], LETO. I’m told he isn’t ugly.”

    Compare the photos from his latest movie.

  12. Karen says:

    I was able to get the Dick titles right away too. I particularly preferred We Can Remember It For You Wholesale as a much tighter story than the bloated Schwarzenegger movie, with some nice thoughts about the nature of reality (one of Dick’s motifs). OTOH, Blade Runner was a much better movie than Androids, although I should go back and reread that one some day.

  13. Jason F says:

    Thanks for the comments about my puzzle today (both positive and negative). I continue to learn a lot from reading this blog.

  14. bonekrusher says:

    Way to go Jason! Incredibly ambitious debut!

  15. Tim Harrod says:

    Tausig: the Across Lite file I downloaded had a pair of circles in the wrong place. In 40-across, the “TT” was circled instead of “BS.” I solved it well enough, but I scratched my head all day until the above review went up.

  16. Chris Wooding says:

    LAT: Gareth’ s mention of “LEOV” is probably a joking reference to the fact that Leo V was only pope for one year – and THAT was during the Saeculum obscurum…

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