Friday, November 1, 2013

NYT 5:15 (Amy) 
LAT 5:26 (Gareth) 
CS 6:02 (Dave) 
CHE 4:58 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 19:33 (pannonica) 

Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 1 13, no. 1101

I didn’t even go trick-or-treating today and I’m beat, so let’s get right to what I liked best and what I wondered about (all mixed together) in this 70-worder:

  • 1a. [Common catch off the coast of Maryland], BLUE CRAB. Nice. Presumably the crab would prefer not to be caught.
  • 18a. [Dickens’s Miss Havisham, famously], JILTEE. That’s a word?
  • 20a. [Challenge to ambulance chasers], TORT REFORM. Excellent entry.
  • 22a. [Arcade game prize grabber], CLAW CRANE. That’s what those are called?
  • 24a. [Fiacre, to taxi drivers], PATRON SAINT. Fiacre? What kind of name is that? Taking nominations now for the patron saint of crossword constructors. LEOI, perhaps?
  • 43a. [Classic kitschy wall hanging], VELVET ELVIS. Or, as I like to say it, Belbet Elbis.
  • 46a. [Slip for a skirt?], FALLEN HEM. That’s a thing?
  • 47a. [“Billy Bathgate” novelist], E.L. DOCTOROW. You can’t spell E.L. Doctorow without “el toro.”
  • 54a. [Pre-W.W. I in automotive history], BRASS ERA. No idea what this is. To the Google! Apparently this is what came before the Vintage era.
  • 9d. [Tourist attraction on Texas’ Pedernales River], LBJ RANCH. I hope they serve LBJ PBJs. Does Pedernales rhyme with los federales?
  • 26d. [Singer who once sang a song to Kramer on “Seinfeld”], TORME. He thought Kramer had a cognitive disability, but he was just weird.
  • 34d. [Orange garnish for a sushi roll], SMELT ROE. Does not taste like oranges. Similarly, taramasalata is pink but tastes nothing like strawberry cream cheese. (I learned one of these the hard way.)
  • 35d. [Fox hunt cry], HALLO. We would also have accepted [“Hi,” in some of Amy’s texts, for no real reason].
  • 40d. [Prompt a buzzer on “The Price Is Right”], OVERBID. I watched some of the Halloween episode at the gym. Host Drew Carey was in a vampire get-up, and the “models” were made up as zombies and shambled about the set. Prizes included an orange car, a black car, orange and black power yard tools, and a walking tour of the “haunted” Tower of London.
  • 44d. [Massive, in Metz], ENORME. I believe the French city of Metz is put in clues to trick people into thinking the answer will be German (and similarly, I suspect the German Cologne is used to trick people into thinking of French).

Four stars. Velvet Elvis is my patron saint.


Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Remote Control” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Five phrases where the final word is the name of a button on a remote control:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/1/13

  • [Measure of strength] was HORSEPOWER – does your remote’s POWER button turn on multiple devices? I’m into electronics and I have rarely figured out how to set my remote to accomplish this, given the variety of devices that are involved in bringing a TV signal to our home in the sticks.
  • [Inning ender, perhaps] clued DOUBLE PLAY – I guess this is one of those fancy remotes that have DVR or DVD buttons on them?
  • [Off-ramp] was a HIGHWAY EXIT – this typically gets you out of a MENU or GUIDE screen.
  • Speaking of MENU, we next have [Restaurant handout] or a DINNER MENU.
  • Finally, [It may lead to an arrest] was a POLICE STOP – again, this seems more of a DVD/DVR function than a TV or satellite/cable box.

Seemed like a bit of a choppy grid, and I’m assuming this is because we have an extra theme entry in the middle. What’s your opinion on that tradeoff? I find myself increasingly in the better fill, less theme camp, if that’s the choice to be made. The crossing between ASHLEE Simpson and the LEU currency unit (at the E) was a bit rough going, but I sussed it out. Funny, as a life-long Cape visitor, I had YARMOUTH before FALMOUTH. I never realized before that they differ by just the first and third letters. I also wondered why EXTRAS was clued as [Mob scene cast members], until I realized this wasn’t “the Mob,” but “a mob,” and another great example of Matt Gaffney’s recently-discussed post about masked capital letters.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Family Plots” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/1/13 • “Family Plots” • Feldman • solution

Not a fancy theme, but a well-wrought one, and in the Chronicle’s wheelhouse. Narrative literary and dramatic works whose titles incorporate a family member.

  • 20a. [1935 memoir by Clarence Day] LIFE WITH FATHER. Was popular, and lasting, enough to be referenced by Merrie Melodies in 1945 for Life with Feathers, which marked the début of a then-unnamed Sylvester the cat.
  • 25a. [1892 play by Brandon Thomas] CHARLEY’S AUNT.
  • 36a/38a. [… 1897 play by Anton Chekov] UNCLE | VANYA.
  • 43a. [1900 Novel by Theodore Dreiser] SISTER CARRIE. I have never come to a conclusion as to whether this is worth reading, well over a century later.
  • 52a. [1951 Novel by Daphne du Maurier] MY COUSIN RACHEL. Author is probably best known for The Birds and Rebecca, both made into films by one A Hitchcock.

Interestingly, all but Sister Carrie had successful incarnations as theater pieces, not just the two that were originally written as plays.

Long fill: acrosses stacked with themers: ISOMETRIC, LEAKINESS, both strong; downs: SNOWSHOE [One may be made from a tennis racket] – would have preferred that the clue read “improvised from” as there is genuine craftspersonship involved in making such footwear, and VOIDANCE, which is what you did when you were at a Voidoids concert.

  • Amused and pleased by the duplicity of PA | PA vertically in the northeast corner, and the horizontal ONE | ONE in the southeast.
  • Worst row: 11. ALA, IED, SPF.
  • Beyond that, not much notable in the fill or clues. Merely workpersonlike.

Solid but not particularly exciting crossword.

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Make it Official” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/1/13 • “Making it Official” • Fri • Stone • solution

Solved this late last night and don’t know if my lengthy solving time reflects the puzzle’s difficulty or my sleepiness, or a combination of both.

For the theme, various phrases are “made official” by introducing a REF to them. That is, the letter sequence R-E-F is inserted to create a wacky new version. Two things: First, since the trigram isn’t in the same place (beginning, end, or exact center) each time, the answers are less of a gimme for the solver, though occasionally a gratifying little burst occurs. Second, no revealer to spell out the mechanics of the theme, again offering the solver a greater degree of discovery and perhaps satisfaction.

  • 22a. [Everybody likes Junior more than his sisters?] PEOPLE PREFER SON (people person).
  • 33a. [Bitter lines repeated in a song?] ACID REFRAIN (acid rain).
  • 46a. [Merchant taking back a damaged pillow?] DOWN REFUNDER (Down Under).
  • 63a. [Suffering a loss, without a doubt?] SURE BEREFT (sure bet).
  • 65a. [Make prohibitions more refined?] RAREFY BANS (Ray-Bans).
  • 79a. [Result of a successful pharmacy visit?] REFILL GOTTEN (ill-gotten).
  • 95a. [One who just says no?] DRUG REFUSER (drug user).
  • 108a. [First job when editing a book?] CHANGE OF PREFACE (change of pace).

Not a bad bunch of answers, and even the clues aren’t overly contrived or tortured.

Quick tour of some other puzzle highlights.

  • Good medium-length fill throughout the grid: eights and some sevens. 49d [Asset for a sports official] FAIRNESS touches obliquely on the theme. Spiffy vertical seven-stacks in the northeast and southwest corners.
  • Got two month abbrevs. in your grid? See if you can tie them together. 13d [When the NFL’s postseason ends] FEB, 32a [When the NFL’s season starts] SEPT.
  • Speaking of football, there’s an undeniable underlying mentality among the clues, whether or not they actually have anything to do with the sport: 25a [A TD nets six] PTS, 26a [Cowboy’s equipment] LARIAT, 29a [Bills manager, for short] CFO, 39a [Blow the whistle] TELL (okay, not football-specific), 41a [Lang. that gives us “blitz”] GER, 56a [Colt’s mouthpiece] BIT, 59A [End for Canton] -ESE (home of the NFL Hall of Fame), 72a [Running back Armstrong] OTIS, 74a [Home of college football’s Cyclones] AMES, 89a [Bolden of the Broncos] OMAR, 100A [St. Louis player] RAM, 101a [Jet stream heading] EAST, 3d [Falcons’ spots] NESTS, 5d [Block component] CELL, 6d [Buccaneers’ score] TREASURE, 8d [Warren Moon’s jersey number] ONE, 9d [Gridiron component] BAR, 17d [PLay clock units] SECONDS, 20d [Making a 60-yard field goal, e.g.] FEAT, 48d [Sporting individual?] WEARER (Not Football-Specific), 68d [Punters, e.g.] BOATMEN, 80d [Signaled a timeout, say] (again, NFS) GESTURED, 81d [Try to tackle] ADDRESS, 82 [Home of college football’s Wyoming Cowboys] LARAMIE, 88d [Kicker’s aid] TEE, 90d [Game with a lot of drives] GOLF, 97d [Stadium worker] USHER (NFS), 98d [Reacts to a bad call] (NFS).
  • Consecutively: 54a [Arid expanse of western Asia] ARABIA, 55a [Arid expanse of eastern Asia] GOBI. Bonus: their locations are correct relative to each other in the grid. But, do these clues dupe 66d [Right Guard rival] ARRID, the anti-perspirant? (That’s another football reference, by the way.)

Good puzzle. The deliberate (but perhaps not noticeable to some) football-imbued insanity of it all makes it that much more entertaining.

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Fabulous theme! Basically, words beginning with “sub” occur in the grid sans sub. They are then clued as though the SUB is a separate word meaning “submarine” and the second part is considered on its own, often but not always changing meaning from when it occurred in the original single word. I loved the feeling of initial bafflement followed by satisfying a-ha moment, the clues themselves, and also the impressive variety of answers John Lampkin chose!

  • 17a, [*Dive, surface, dive, surface, etc.?], (SUB) ROUTINE. A subroutine is a largely obsolete computer term from the days before object orientation, where code consisted of a number of lines.
  • 18a, [*Lab growth below sea level?], (SUB) CULTURE
  • 30a, [*Underwater speaker?], (SUB) WOOFER
  • 40a, [*Story line for “The Hunt for Red October”?], (SUB) PLOT
  • 41a, [*Hatch?], (SUB) ENTRY
  • 42a, [*Underwater lateral surface?], (SUB) SIDE
  • 46a, [*Position on naval warfare?], (SUB) STANCE
  • 62a, [*Sonar reading?], (SUB) HEADING
  • 65a, [*Message from beneath the surface?], (SUB) MISSIVE
  • 4d, [*Scenery for “Operation Petticoat”?], (SUB) SET
  • 66d, [Prefix for the answers to starred clues, and word needed for those clues to make sense], SUB

Wow that’s a lot of theme answers!!! And yet there were still other enjoyable titbits to be found. CAPSIZE, MAKESDO, ASISAID and VICHY are good on the top. There’s also [How some singles play], HARDTOGET anchoring the centre of the puzzle – my experience is actually impossible, but that didn’t fit…

There were a few tough foreign words, [Sonora, por ejemplo] ESTADO, [German finale], ENDE, and [Bivouac] ETAPE, although that is considered English. I didn’t know weirdly spelt [’50s-’80s pitcher Jim “Kitty” __] KAAT and I’m not sure who uses [3,280.8 ft.] KIL instead of km??? But mostly not too compromised, especially considering the all-consuming theme!

4.5 stars. Top-drawer puzzle!

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19 Responses to Friday, November 1, 2013

  1. sbmanion says:

    I had a few gimmes including VELVET ELVIS and SHTETLS, but generally found the puzzle to be very challenging. I thought the SW corner was borderline. As it turned out, I guessed correctly, but I wonder how many were guessing at the second and third letters of the Italian word for nothing. I could have guessed Lori or Lora and Duse or Dusa on the downs. I used to get hammered on the NYT Forum when I objected to foreign words crossing names, so I will just note, not criticize.

    TORT REFORM has occasionally knocked ambulance chasing lawyers out of the park. The most noteworthy in my experience was the mid’70s reform in New York that created no fault and eliminated lawsuits except for serious injuries. Modern TORT REFORM is not really directed at what I consider to be true ambulance chasers, attorneys who advertise to try to get hundreds of claims and then get as much out of each one as they can, usually not that much. The TORT REFORM movement is really directed at high-priced lawyers who are seeking huge amounts in big cases. The reformers want a cap on damages. The true ambulance chasers would have little or no chance of getting these cases in the first place.

    Some of the cases that I have seen in my lifetime, particularly those related to asbestosis, were obscenities committed by the companies involved in the asbestos industry. If you ever get to read about some of these corporate actions, you will probably not favor tort reform that protects conscious criminal malfeasance by industries.


    • Brucenm says:

      Steve, hope you are convalescing smoothly from your cholecystectomy. Good luck. You should be back on the racquetball court in a week or so.

      SW was the easiest quadrant, with mostly gimmes — niente, Orsino, cougar, E.L. Doctorow. Lori Petty was a very cool actress in *League of Their Own* and the unforgettable *Tank Girl* (which I actually do think will turn out to be prophetic, since it involves guerilla warfare over water.) You *do* know the Washington State Cougars, don’t you? Isn’t there a TV show about Pullman, Washington called *Cougar Town*? [That’s a joke.]

      I did get a little messed up trying to figure out what kind of Elvis we were talking about. (All I could think of was “silver”, despite having the ‘cant’ of vacant). Otherwise a pretty smooth, Friday. I too wondered about ‘brass era’ and ‘jiltee’, but if there is such a word, Miss Havisham is the most amazing one in all literature — a profound and troubling psychological study.

  2. Davis says:

    I liked everything but the SW: DUSE crossing ORSINO and NIENTE was just plain mean. I was down to OR?INO and NI?NTE and had to guess the final two letters—and I guessed wrong on both.

  3. HH says:

    “I watched some of the Halloween episode at the gym. Host Drew Carey was in a vampire get-up,….”

    I saw his entrance and thought, “Just a few years ago, nobody would’ve suggested that.”

  4. Matt says:

    NYT was Saturday+ level tough for me, although I can’t point to any particular entry that was especially obscure. Fwiw, I knew DUSE as crosswordese and VELVETELVIS was a gimme. Good puzzle.

  5. Howard B says:

    I never thought I would say this, but I was on Brad Wilber’s wavelength today. Just a wild, creative tour de force on this one, with some insanely tricky bumps along the way as expected.

  6. Zulema says:

    “Fiacre” was as far-fetched as anything I have seen here. I knew the word but the permutations that brought it to the entry in the NYT required truly gymnastic summersaults.

    • Bencoe says:

      And I always assumed the patron saint of taxi drivers was Christopher.

      • Huda says:

        A fiacre in French is the common word for a horse-drawn four wheeled carriage. I have seen it countless times (in French writing) but never knew it was named after a saint. So, at first the clue seemed very confusing, but when SAINT emerged, I figured the PATRON part.

        Just looked him up– St Fiacre gets around!

        St Fiacre is most renowned as the patron saint of those who grow vegetables and medicinal plants, or gardening in general.[8]

        Fiacre is the patron saint of the French commune Saint-Fiacre.

        From Wiki: Saint Fiacre is commonly invoked to help heal people suffering from various ills, based on his reputed skill with medicinal plants. His reputed aversion to women is believed to be the reason he is known as the patron saint of venereal disease sufferers. He was known for healing hemorrhoids, which were called “Saint Fiacre’s illness” in the Middle Ages.

  7. Tracy B. says:

    Is anyone else having no luck accessing the Cruciverb website? Even my email to the list has not gone through.

    Like others, I got naticked in the SW corner where an Italian word crosses a Hollywood and an Italian actress. It was only yesterday that I declared my fondness of foreign language words in the puzzles. That’s how instant karma functions.

    • Papa John says:

      Yeah, no Cru site. I got this message: “Table ‘./smf-cruciverb/smf_sessions’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired”.

  8. Gareth says:

    For me Brad & Doug = (usually) an easy themeless, but just Brad and I’m always in for a Saturday+ time. I get the feeling our proper names just don’t line up at all: my error was at the two ?’s in E??DOCTOROW were guesses and I came up with ETDOCTOROW. Shrug. I also didn’t know VELVETELVIS or FALLENHEM (or BRASSERA below) – those were somewhat inferrable though. The top was even harder; I didn’t know BLUECRAB, OILSHALE, or NONTITLE – which made that section tough , although again all were inferrable. PATRONSAINT was as Zulema said devilishly clued: initially PATROL seemed to emerge, but even with PATRON it didn’t lead to anything. CLAWCRANE was a mystery like for many others: I knew CLAW was going to feature somewhere, but the CRANE needed every cross. BEERCAN – devilishly difficult clue again. TORTREFORM also came under the brutally inscrutable clue heading for me. LBJRANCH needed lots of crossings, ditto WOLFE: in short that top-right was nearly too hard to solve. I’m sure all these unknowns are good entries so I’ll say well done on the puzzle, but completely out of my wheelhouse.

  9. Martin says:

    Gabriel Stone has to be Mike Shenk, no? They’re always top-notch crosswords and only appear in the WSJ. I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit trying to crack it. If it’s an anagram, it eludes me. Does anybody have any info?

  10. Martin says:

    I dunno if this means anything, but the Gabriel Stone is actually a thing according to Google. Early Dead Sea scroll mystery stuff etc.


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