Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jonesin' 3:45 
NYT 3:04 
LAT 2:41 
CS 7:44 (Gareth) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Patrick Blindauer and Andrea Michaels’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 15 13, no. 1015

Straightforward vowel-progression theme:

  • 20a. [Subject of the book “Revolution in the Valley”], MACINTOSH.
  • 28a. [Person who works with dipsticks], MECHANIC. Many other people work with dipsticks, too. Do you? You can tell me their names. I promise I won’t tell anyone.
  • 37a. [People in this may have big ears], MICKEY MOUSE CLUB. The only theme answer with multiple words.
  • 45a. [Sioux shoe], MOCCASIN. Nice to see the full word for a change. Does anyone ever call it a “moc,” or is that one of those “99% of the time, it’s seen in a crossword” things? (Nice subtle rhyming clue, too.)
  • 56a. [Journalist of the Progressive Era], MUCKRAKER. I love a good muckraking.

Super-Scrabbly fill in spots: JIHAD above HEXED crossing JOSHUA and Snopes-debunkable HOAX, the last of two K’s in MUCKRAKER crossing KOKO, GEEKS and other K words, an X-ACTO knife.

The best word in the grid is BASILISK, 4d. [Legendary lizard with a fatal gaze]. Don’t cross me, people. I have basiliskesque skills. I am also a noted CURTSY (47d. [Girl’s show of respect]) specialist, and my curtsy has been immortalized on the silver screen. True story. Pop in the Wordplay DVD and watch the video loop on the main menu screen and you can watch me curtsy for hours.*

Four stars. Solid Tuesday offering with a good bit of zip.

* If you want to see me curtsy in person, it’ll cost you.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Too Punny for Words!”—Janie’s review

cn 10:15Today’s title is one that mustn’t be taken too literally. If anyone is able to find the words that are both funny and punny, that’d be Liz. By way of review, let’s start with the M-W definition of what a pun is. It’s the “usually humorous use of a word in such a way as suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.” Today’s themers conform to that latter part of the definition. As for those clues that end in question marks (not merely the ones associated with the theme fill), many of those are prime examples of the former. More on that later. First things first: the themers.

Liz has kept things very tight in the theme set, starting with the kind of puns she gives us. Each relies on the insertion of one letter to change the sound of one word to the sound of another. And today, it’s also the same letter in each case: “P.” Then, this letter is inserted into either the first or second word of a lively-in-its-own-right base phrase. Today, two are added to the second word—and these sandwich the two added to the first word. This is “balance.” Balance is good! And finally: each new phrase is really funny, conjuring up a fresh image to visualize or fresh idea to contemplate. Fresh and funny are good, too! Behold:

  • 20A. [Cybertrash generated by a California National Park?] in which Warner Brothers’ “Yosemite Sam” becomes YOSEMITE SPAM. For a little while I had SCAM… but not for long. Either way, whole concept is terrific. Though in these “partial government shutdown” days, I’m kinda wistful for some Yosemite spam
  • spock puppet28A. [Logical choices for a “Star Trek” marionette show?]. Funny. “Sock puppets” are turned into SPOCK PUPPETS. And yes. While a sock puppet is not a marionette, a marionette is a “puppet controlled from above…” Also, the base phrase and the new phrase are independent of each other. The final answer is not “Spock sock puppet,” so this clue and answer are well met. Though I did find this Spock puppet on line, it’s a separate creature from the Spock Sock Monkeys you can find out there…
  • 46A. [Angry bird?]. No, not a reference to the video game, but an answer that summons up Daffy, another Warner Bros. character, as “sitting duck” becomes SPITTING DUCK. I s’pose this could apply to Donald as well, but I always had the sense that Daffy was the one with the shorter fuse. Not to mention that his sputtering speech often flirts with making him a spitting duck even in his more temperate moments.
  • 54A. [Jack-o’-lantern’s going rate?]. Here “pumpkin seed” is transformed into PUMPKIN SPEED—so we’re talkin’ about that squash’s velocity and not what it’ll cost to purchase one at the farmers-market stand. High-concept fill and deeply silly as the idea is (which I make to be a good thing), not all that far removed from the apparent thrill behind this distance-based annual event

As if those puns weren’t enough, we also get more (as promised) by way of the “question mark” clues. These are the ones that have more than one way of being read, where the constructor is telling us to think twice before responding. Along those lines, a [Ground-breaking event?] is not THE START OF A NEW BUILDING, but a QUAKE—as in earthquake. And it’s a pretty serious one that’ll actually break the ground at surface level, but they’re not all that uncommon. In betting, [Even money?] refers to “odds offering an equal chance of winning or losing, with the amount won being the same as the stake.” In the context of the puzzle, we’re talkin’ about labor laws and EQUAL PAY for equal work. Want a [Hollywood ending?]? Sorry, but in the world of puns, that’s the letter DEE—as in HollywooD—and not the image of the happy pair headed off into the sunset. The GI’s “NO, SIR!”-reply is that [Private address?] and not an unlisted street number or even APO.

We get another sound-alike pun with [Halloween costumes with a purr-fect fit?] for CAT SUITS. In that department, there’s this. And then there’s this. Either way, perfect, no?—with the former emphasizing the “purr” and the latter the “fit.” And finally, one more with a double meaning: [He’s beyond belief?], which isn’t describing someone whose actions are, wow, INCREDIBLE, but more like someone who’s questioning everything because he doesn’t complacently believe all that he hears—in other words, a SKEPTIC.

Hollywood ending...

Hollywood ending…

And that, friends, is a wrap. No—wait! This puzzle’s also a pangram. You’ll find every letter of the alphabet in the grid. Sweet! And that, friends, is a wrap. Til next week—happy trails!

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 15 13

It took me a minute or two of gazing at the theme answers in my completed puzzle to figure out what the theme is:

  • 20a. Put on trial, in the military], COURT-MARTIALED.
  • 32a. Fruity loaf], DATE BREAD. I still don’t think I’ve ever seen date bread. You can ask me out, but don’t ask me to eat dates.
  • 43a. Caption under a monkey covering its eyes], SEE NO EVIL.
  • 58a. End dramatically], GO OUT WITH A BANG.

Did you see it? COURT, DATE, SEE, and GO OUT WITH are all synonymous in the wooing/consorting sense. Yes, it is inconsistent to have three single words and one three-word verb phrase, but I liked the surprise factor when I finally figured out the theme.

Lots of lively 7s in the grid: DRACULA, ACROBAT, VILNIUS, OOH LA LA, and RIHANNA were my faves.

Did not know: 44d. [Oscar-winning “Casablanca” co-screenwriter Julius or Philip], EPSTEIN. They’re brothers.

Favorite clue: 30a. [One who hems but doesn’t haw?], TAILOR. Honorable mention: 60d. [Follow the game?], HUNT.

Least welcome fill: OREM, IRAE, MYRA, RAJA, DAW, IT A, I’M A, SET AT. The price that’s paid for having all those 7s?

3.75 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “A Little Diversion”

Jonesin’ crossword answers, 10 15 13 “A Little Diversion”

Diversionary tactics are the name of the game:

  • 16a. [Diversion tactic #1], “IS THAT A BIRD?”
  • 23a. [Diversion tactic #2], “LOOK OVER THERE!”
  • 36a. [Diversion tactic #3], “YOUR SHOE’S UNTIED.”
  • 46a. [With 56-across, diversion tactic #4], “YOU’VE GOT A SPOT / ON YOUR SHIRT.” Or “You spilled something on your shirt,” or “What’s that spot on your shirt?”

And when the target looks back at you, you’ve eaten the last cookie on the plate, hidden something in your pocket, or given someone a chance to sneak out of the room. Fun theme this week.

I wasn’t sure that singular WEEBLE (“Weebles wobble…” [Toy advertised with the slogan “but they don’t fall down”]) was kosher, but the Wikipedia article is for the singular. Highlight: “In theory, it is not possible to have a Weeble with a centroid that is too low to achieve a stable mechanical.” Science!


  • 3d. [Upstart business, casually], LITTLE GUY.
  • 9d. [German two-door sportscar], AUDI TT.
  • 33d. [Person who pedals stolen goods?], BIKE THIEF. Did you fall for the “Hey, this idiot used pedals instead of peddles” trap?

I also like 46d. [When doubled, essential oil used in shampoo], YLANG, although YLANGYLANGOIL would be an even better entry. Choo-choo train … we have the seeds of a theme here. I gave you two 13s; you provide a 15 and maybe a pair of shorter entries.

Unfamiliar but gettable: 6d. [Group formed by Duane and Gregg, for short], ABB. The Allman Brothers Band. They may have used the same barber as BTO.

Wildly unfamiliar but the clue actually gives you all the letters: 49d. [Palindromic 1996 New York City Marathon winner ___ Catuna], ANUTA. Imagine if Judy Tenuta’s real first name were ATUNE.

Lots of names, places, and brand names in this grid. I enjoy that sort of thing but I know many others hate dealing with a preponderance of proper nouns.

3.75 stars.

Randolph Ross’ CrosSynergy crossword “Taking “Sides” – Gareth’s review

“Taking Sides”

Tough puzzle. Took me longer than last Friday’s NYT. Hard clues throughout. That despite a fairly easy to grok theme. FOR/AGAINST and PRO/ANTI occur in phrases where they’re not being used in that sense, except the clues have been changed such that they are…

  • [Supportive of ventriloquists?], FORDUMMIES
  • [Opposed to dividing one’s apartment?], AGAINSTAWALL
  • [Supportive of Hulk Hogan and friends?], PROWRESTLERS
  • [Opposed to a cap on wages?], ANTIFREEZE

Since the most obvious feature of the puzzle was its hard clues, I’m going to list some of those:

  • [Boston ___], POPS. I have no idea what that means and needed every crossing. (It seems to be an orchestra of some description.)
  • [Less experienced], RAWER. Wanted NEWER
  • [Give up, slangily], PUNT. News to me.
  • [Drive dangerously], CAREEN. Not “career.”
  • [Do, for example], NOTE. As in “doh ray me”.
  • [Link], SAUSAGE.
  • [Like some undergrad studies], PRELAW
  • [Fall through the cracks?], OOZE.
  • [Engine sound], PURR. Not ROAR.
  • [Collar stiffener], STAY. Not too sure what this refers to either…
  • [High-handed remark?], IRAISE. As in raising because you have a hand of high value.
  • [Blockhead], LUNK
  • [They may be drawn], LOTS.

That’s a lot of tricky points for a CrosSynergy!
4.25 stars

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13 Responses to Tuesday, October 15, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Fun puzzle, great design, some terrific fill. I loved the GRUB/GLAM start and the corners with 5×4 entries. Love NUCLEI– something I actually say in real life, being a GEEK and all.

    Is that how you spell MOCCASIN? It looks so wrong to me.
    Oh, I see.. it’s because the French spell it Mocassin. I guess they don’t know from Sioux Shoes. But they add A DASH of whimsy to their mocassins:


    • pannonica says:

      But their Esquimaux spelling is unbeatable.

      • Huda says:

        True :) it’s like it’s the plural of Esquimal…
        Esquimau was also an ice cream of my childhood. Was there such a thing in the US?
        I decided to google it and there is Eskimo Ice Cream which sounds authentic and incredibly fatty. What we ate was more like a Popsicle.

  2. David L says:

    Does it bother anyone else that the NYT theme isn’t quite a vowel progression, because the first vowel in MECHANIC is a schwa, not the E of met? So the letters progress but the sounds don’t. But it’s a nicely done puzzle otherwise.

    • pannonica says:

      It isn’t a schwa for everyone. Some people pronounce it the same way they do mechanism, though most likely with the second syllable accented.

      In fact, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone pronounce it \mə-ˈka-nik\

      • David L says:

        Honestly, I find that hard to believe. I certainly pronounce it with an initial schwa, and if I try to say “mechanic” like “mechanism” but switch the stress to the second syllable I get something very peculiar indeed.

        MW says something else: it gives the first vowel of ‘mechanic’ as the i of hit. Which also sounds strange to me.

        Well, very mysterious.

  3. Gareth says:

    Straightforward theme, but loved so much of the fill answers, especially BASILISK! And Andrea managed to get TWO Beatles references in too!

  4. Gareth says:

    Didn’t know the EPSTEIN clue either… I clued EPSTEIN as a Sweathog…

  5. Art Shapiro says:

    With respect to the CS, I was a bit surprised that Gareth had never heard of the Boston Pops. Presumably their long-time conductor Arthur Fiedler would not be familiar to you?

    And I thought the football-derived PUNT was pretty much in the vernacular now for giving up on something.

    I guess collar stays are relatively rare these days.

    That was an interesting theme and a better-than-average Cs.


  6. Joan Macon says:

    Amy, I have a really good recipe for date bread I would be happy to share with you!

Comments are closed.