Monday, October 21, 2013

NYT 2:51 (Amy) 
BEQ 5:55 (Amy) 
LAT 2:40 (Amy) 
CS 5:48 (Dave) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 21 13, no. 1021

This week’s Monday NYT theme gathers phrases that begin with synonyms for “flee”:

  • 17a. [John Cusack thriller based on a Grisham novel], RUNAWAY JURY. Is that anything like a runaway truck or train? Split that first word into two words for the theme: “run away.”
  • 28a. [Newly famous celebrity], BREAKOUT STAR. Another split-into-two theme piece.
  • 47a. [Stipulation that frees one of liability], ESCAPE CLAUSE. No split required.
  • 62a. [Part of a ski jump just before going airborne], TAKEOFF RAMP. Did not know that had a name. Third one to split in two, “take off.”

I’m mildly put out by that 3/1 split in the theme entries.

POGO STICK, QUAFF, and BAND-AID are delightfully lively entries. But is anyone going to remember that they were there when 66a is something very few of us have heard of? (And in a Monday puzzle!) This FUMET, this [Strong, seasoned stock, in cookery]? I Googled it. Apparently it’s a fish stock (Emeril’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 lb of fish bones, without the heads so don’t even think about sneaking your stash of bony fish heads in there) or a game stock. I also checked the dictionary. There’s an unrelated second definition that usually goes with the plural fumets. It means “the excrement of a deer.” So tuck that one away in your memory just in case it comes up in another puzzle in another 20 years. (The Cruciverb database includes over 100,000 entries. FUMET has never shown up in any of the indexed puzzles since 1997. Maybe it’s a Maleska-friendly term?)

I was curious about how this wildly unfamiliar word was accepted for a Monday puzzle, so I checked the constructor’s notes at Wordplay. Gary reports that Will Shortz asked him to change the fill in the southwest corner, which is not the FUMET corner at all! And that Will also was unfamiliar with that word, but was okay with it because the crossings were easy. Okay, then…

3.25 stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Planet Hollywood” – Dave Sullivan’s review

The first four planets in our now-eight planet Solar System appear in four film titles ranging from 1948 (yikes!) to 2011:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/21/13

  • [1948 Ava Gardner comedy] was ONE TOUCH OF VENUS – I wonder what the other “touch” was?
  • I haven’t seen the [1998 Bruce Willis thriller] which clued MERCURY RISING, but at least I’ve heard of it.
  • Another obscure (to me, anyway) film, [2011 computer-animated Disney adventure] was MARS NEEDS MOMS – did they have enough Dads already? You learn a lot about nature as a beekeeper, and this time of year the (female) worker bees are now ejecting the male drones, since they are unneeded during the winter and just take up space and precious honey reserves. Maybe Mars operates like a bee hive?
  • [1955 sci-fi classic] was THIS ISLAND EARTH – if “classic” means popular, I missed this one as well.

I like the fact that they are all movie titles (tying nicely to the puzzle title “Planet Hollywood”), and that they were the first four in order, as opposed to just a random set of four of the eight. I did have trouble with titles I wasn’t familiar with–I had SHORE for [Summer camp treat] instead of (what now looks much better) S’MORE, and since I wasn’t sure of the last letter of the book that follows Micah in the bible, I couldn’t see the last word (MOMS) of the Disney title. The long PERFUMERS and CHEERLESS both lack a bit of oomph that I like to see in my medium-length fill. Overall a decent if not stellar (heh heh) effort.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 10 21 13, “Themeless Monday” solution

A lattice of 15s anchors this grid:

  • 17a. [Somewhat], TO A LESSER EXTENT. Not necessarily. “You aren’t scowling, but are you angry?” A “Somewhat” answer would not have any connotation of TO A LESSER EXTENT.
  • 37a. [#1 single with the lyrics “Take me by the tongue / And I’ll know you”], MOVES LIKE JAGGER. Did you see last week’s “Moves Like Jagger” Fireball crossword by Peter Abide? It had anagrams of words in Rolling Stones songs.
  • 59a. [“Doesn’t matter to me”], “WHATEVER YOU LIKE.”
  • 3d. [Begins at the top], STARTS OVER AGAIN.
  • 6d. [One whose instincts are never right?], KNEE-JERK LIBERAL. “Right” = “right wing” here, not “correct.”
  • 10d. [“Slow down”], “ONE THING AT A TIME.”

Only one of the 15s is pop culture or specifically contemporary and BEQish; the other five are completely in-the-language phrases.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Coffee bean], KONA. There are coffee beans called Kona? Wikipedia tells me that Kona coffee is from the Coffea arabica tree, which is cultivated all around the world.
  • 20a. [Lay people?], ENRON. Kenneth Lay.
  • 50a. [Bellyful?], FLAB. Heading to the gym after I finish blogging this puzzle, I swear.
  • 46d. [Košice native], SLAV. Mismatch in specificity here. If you’re from Košice, you’re Slovak, and Slovaks are Slavs. The clue’s too specific.
  • 54d. [Maker of the Gator utility vehicles], DEERE. Did not know that; fresh clue.

Favorite fill: MYRIAD, AZTEC, DOLOR, and APERCU are all great words.

3.9 stars.

Erik Agard’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 21 13

Really a lovely Monday theme here, simple but not stale. Two words that differ only in the location of the letter S—at the start of one, the end of the other—are combined into a plausibly clueable phrase:

  • 17a. [German cars bought by Riyadh residents?], SAUDI AUDIS.
  • 21a. [Cafeteria carriers gone missing?], STRAY TRAYS.
  • 54a. [Streamlined onion relatives?], SLEEK LEEKS.
  • 59a. [Stories you’ve heard a bajillion times?], STALE TALES. Love “bajillion.”
  • 10d. [Out-of-tune string instruments?], SHARP HARPS.
  • 27d. [Neato water sources?], SWELL WELLS.

For added elegance, the second words all start with different sounds—AU, TR, L, T, H, W.

Despite the inclusion of six theme answers, the fill does not suffer. We have the shine of DON RICKLES, MOUTHGUARD, PORTFOLIO, and FLUCTUATE occupying big swaths, plus the coffee K-CUP for freshness.

I’m surprised to see ADELE clued as 52d. [Dancer Astaire] in a puzzle by a college student. Erik, did you originally clue this as singer Adkins?

Four stars.

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20 Responses to Monday, October 21, 2013

  1. Francis says:

    Well, here’s a alternate fill for that NYT corner that I found by hand in about 3 minutes: TWA/FATHOM/…FFRAMP/FINAL/SPINE going across, STAFFS/TRIP/THANI (partial: “It’s more ___ can bear!”)/WOMAN/AMPLE. Easy crossings or no, FUMET’s got no business in a Monday.

  2. jim hale says:

    I like learning words i.e. fumet and pap, through the easy fill. A fun way to learn and verify later with google.

  3. Davis says:

    I guess I’ll continue my grouchy habit of complaining about poorly clued entries in my spheres of expertise: “Judicial statements” in general are not DICTA. DICTA are those statements that don’t directly bear on the case at hand, and which are thus not legally binding–in contrast with the holding of a case. (Of course, part of a good litigator’s job is muddying the waters between holding and dicta.)

    Merriam-Webster nails it in sense 2.

    • joon says:

      how exactly does this distinction make the clue poor? are DICTA not judicial statements? the answer is allowed to be more specific than the clue, e.g. {Large felines} for TIGERS. that’s a perfectly fine clue even though “large felines” in general are not tigers.

    • sbmanion says:

      Wikipedia actually nails the concept of obiter dicta as well:

      One of the most famous cases of all time is Brown v. Board of Education. The issue decided was not the issue litigated. Very often, dramatic changes in the law are triggered by dicta from previous cases, which is probably the reason that there is so much of it.


  4. Bencoe says:

    Your secondary definition of the word “fumets” as deer droppings rang a bell for me, so I looked it up. Yes, indeed, in Madeleine l’Engle’s A Wind In the Door, the Wallace children discover there is a dragon in their backyard because they find its “fewmets”, or droppings, which resemble feathers.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Not to mention poor King Pellinore in “The Once and Future King”, eternally collecting fewmets from the Questing Beast.

  5. Brucenm says:

    “Fumet” is an *extremely* commonplace word for anyone who cooks at all seriously, on a par with, say, “roux” or “demi-glace,” It never occurred to me that anyone would object to it on Monday, or any other day. Even a Monday, February 29. Emeril may not use the heads when he makes his fumet, but I certainly do, and most real chefs do — heads, eyes and all. The main difference in making a fish fumet, rather than a meat stock, is that you do *not*simmer it a long time — maybe 20 minutes — rather than an indefinite number of hours.

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    Samuel Johnson defined what seems to be our word of the day thus:

    Fumette, a word introduced by cooks, and the pupils of cooks, for the stink of meat.

  7. Gareth says:

    Wow I thought I was being snazzy with one two-word synonym but Gary one ups me and does three!

  8. HH says:

    “[1955 sci-fi classic] was THIS ISLAND EARTH – if “classic” means popular, I missed this one as well.”

    Better you should watch this version —

    • Bencoe says:

      Yes! As someone who grew up a huge fan of MST3K, this is the only reason I know This Island Earth. My dad said he loved the movie when he was a kid, though, and that it had been really popular.

    • pannonica says:

      The alien from the movie is one of the most iconic from 1950s cinema, which was rife with sci-fi titles. I believe it was one of the inspirations for the house band in the Star Wars cantina scene.

      This Island Earth

  9. Lois says:

    Liked today’s NYT a lot. Couldn’t enjoy FUMET until now, though, because the crossings were so easy that I missed it. I do think that the novice might enjoy a hard cooking word on a Monday. The novice might know that word, anyway, if he or she likes cooking and not yet crosswords, even if I did not know the word. But it was filled in easily. PEEN was a bit hard for me, crossed by pop culture at 6a. But it was gettable.

    I would have preferred a different definition for CHOKER, though: short necklace, or close-fitting necklace, as I saw in one of the definitions online. It shouldn’t really be tight, I don’t think.

    I would think that the toughest thing for the novice would be the form I DUNNO at 8d. The novice might not expect such mischief.

    I thought it was a lively and interesting Monday.

  10. joon says:

    never heard of FUMET … or any of the four movies in the CS theme. i appreciate a tight theme, but isn’t there normally a higher standard of familiarity for theme answers?

    • pannonica says:

      One Touch of Venus is based on the stage play of the same name. Music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ogden Nash, book by SJ Perelman, so you can be assured it’s terribly witty and clever, and definitely worth knowing. The most famous song from the show is “Speak Low.” No comment on the film.

  11. Gareth says:

    Neat theme, Erik!

  12. Sarah says:

    Adding scrabbly letters to a puzzle DOESN’T guarantee your puzzle will be more lively. Case in point, NYT: PAP and PEEN are dead-end answers, and now I’ve though of PAP smears…ewww, gross. CHOKER is fairly emotionally charged too: will bring up some bad memories for those who have been involved in choking incidents.

    Fill for NYT was pretty good though historically

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