Friday, November 29, 2013

NYT 5:09 (Amy) 
LAT 5:46 (Gareth) 
CS 5:55 (Dave) 
CHE 5:32 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:21 (pannonica) 

Ned White’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 29 13, no. 1129

This post-turkey themeless includes a small mini-theme: Sylvester the 1a PUDDY TAT voiced by 58a MEL BLANC. There is also a bunch of food, none of which seems appetizing after eating Thanksgiving food and pie all day (KELLOGGS, JEWISH RYE, MINT JELLY crossing JULEP, COCOA, GYROS, and a CORN COB).

The overall solving vibe was one of partials, pieces, abbreviations—not full words. PLASM is officially a word, but plasma is markedly more common. Abbrevs ETD, ISR, NRA, ASU, TENN, URL, ALTA, USOC, initials EAP. Shortened REORG, DTS, and LINC ([Tod’s sidekick on “Route 66”]??). Prefix ROBO. Partials (and phrases that feel like partials, especially when piled together in a heap) include the three-pack of FOR IT, I DON’T, and RUN TO crossing their friend A FIRST. “I don’t run to a first for it,” I don’t. ALAR and ACTA, too? You might expect to swallow a heap of crossswordese, abbreviations, and partials in a tight, difficult-to-fill grid, but this puppy is a 72-worder, as loose as a themeless grid gets.

Seven more things:

  • 17a, 20a. [One with a game collection] pulls double duty for a HUNTER and an ARCADE, but I fail to see how a video arcade is a “one.” It’s a place.
  • 32a. [“That is so obvious!”], “NO DUH!” My favorite answer here.
  • 33a. [What corned beef is often served on], JEWISH RYE. The loaf has always been circumcised, which is how you can distinguish it from gentile rye.
  • 53a. [Labor leader?], HERCULES. The twelve labors of Hercules.
  • 31d. [French body of law?], SENAT. It’s a legislative body, but I’m not sure that the phrase “body of law” is quite deceptive enough to merit a question mark here.
  • 38d. [One shot in a cliffhanger]. J.R. EWING. That was 33 1/2 years ago. Guess what? We know who did it. It was Maggie Simpson. (Anyone else chewing on JREWING as a verb in the grid? When’s the last time you jrewed?)
  • 47d. Creator of bad apples?], ALAR. I like my question-marked clues to have a funny payoff. “It’s a chemical! That was banned! For being a carcinogen!” isn’t funny. Also, Alar stopped being used on food crops in 1989. It’s almost as sadly outdated as the SLA. Remember the olden days when it was just zoological crosswordese, [Winglike]?

2.8 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

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

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/29/13

Quick write-up today, friends in town for the holidays. Each theme entry ends with a synonym of jalopy (or, if you wish, rattletrap):

  • BUZZER BEATER – huh?
  • ORANGE CRATE – I guess if it were a go-kart, you might be able to take crate literally.

Mark Feldman’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

A cute theme idea – phrases that begin “letter hyphen word” have their initial letter replaced with a homophone of that letter. The eight(!) theme answers aren’t rofl hilarious, but I still had fun trying to figure them out. The theme answers are as follows:

  • 17a, [Call from a collection agency?], OWE RING (O-RING)
  • 18a, [Questionable alliance?], WHY AXIS (Y-AXIS)
  • 23a, [Social attire?], TEA SHIRT (T-SHIRT)
  • 39a, [Sheep transport?], EWE BOAT (U-BOAT)
  • 41a, [Message from the captain?], SEA NOTE(C-NOTE)
  • 49a, [Suggestion from one waiter to another?], QUEUE TIP (Q-TIP)
  • 61a, [Hive workers?], BEE TEAM (B-TEAM)
  • 18a, [Lasik ray?], EYE BEAM (I-BEAM)

Other highlights included BOHEMIA, the whimsical EEDIOT, the parallel pair from ancient Greece of THEBES and CRETE. A third ancient Greek reference that I was ignorant of was ATREUS. Another name I was unfamiliar with was AKIO Sato. I was also most pleased to see BMI clued as [Ratio involving ht. and wt.] – the weight-watching abbr. is IMO the most familiar of the BMIs but ’til now has been largely ignored in favour of the “ASCAP rival”.

4 stars.
Gareth, leaving you with an easy-listening tune, SAN Miguel.

Jeffrey Harris’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Special Measures” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/29/13 • “Special Measures” • Harris • solution

Ah, it’s one of those no-frills, didactic type themes. I like them, though they may not be to everyone’s taste. The CHE is a good venue. This week we have a collection of deceptive measurement units.

  • 18a. [Unit of energy (not potential)] ELECTRON VOLT.
  • 34a. [Unit of volume (not distance)] BOARD-FOOT.
  • 43a. [Unit of distance (not time)] LIGHT YEAR.
  • 52a. [Unit of energy (not power or time)] KILOWATT-HOUR.

Okay, it starts off imposingly with the “potential” metric, which is probably the least familiar of all. But there’s a payoff—the last themer recalls the first’s “energy” misdirection, and it’s doubly deceptive (neither “power” nor “time”). I think we can safely blame the tyranny of ratios here.

Does it matter that two of the four are units of energy, making for (by one measure) an unbalanced distribution of types? Possibly. BOARD-FOOT could have been replaced by POUND-FOOT for a third, but LIGHT YEAR is probably the most famous of the group and jettisoning it in favor might further erode the crossword’s accessibility. Short answer: let sleeping dogs lie. That’s one sleep-dog.

The theme may be a little dry, but the ballast fill is quite good. Eight-stacks in the upper left and lower right: TAX EXILE / CLEVERER; RARA AVIS / ALARMING – I especially liked the odd-looking ~XEX~ and ~RAAV~ segments. Of course it would have been much spiffier with triple-stacks, but constructing puzzles can entail a lot of agita-stymies.

  • 1d/55d [Org. created under Nixon] EPA / OSHA.
  • 1980s! 21d [“The Facts of Life Character”] TOOTIE, 50a [Arcade game that takes place on a pyramid] QBERT (technically, Q*BERT).
  • Favorite clues: 27d [It may contain nuts] TOOLKIT, 9d [Sharp product] HDTV.
  • Impressionism! 59a [1889 work painted in an asylum] IRISES (Vincent van Gogh); 33d [“Sunday in the Park With George” inspiration] Georges SEURAT (specifically, at least titularly, Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte – 1884, completed in 1886).
  • 37a [One of the Decade Volcanoes] ETNA. There are sixteen of them.
  • Bonus content? 36a [“Measure __ …”] TWICE.

Good puzzle. How many blog-pents do you think it deserves?

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “True or False?” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/29/13 • “True or False?” • Fri • Jones • solution

… in which tacf is ticfion and vice-versa. In the fheme till, Ts are are replaced by Fs and Fs by Ts, or maybe it’s the other way around.

  • 23a. [Delivery from the stump?] TREE SPEECH. Having misspelled the crossing OLEO as OLIO and not yet wise to the theme, I tried to make it TREE SPIELS.
  • 25a. [Tornado?] WIND FUNNEL.
  • 42a. [Like an NBA newlywed?] TALL IN LOVE. Meh.
  • 46a. [Makings of a very boring mosaic?] SINGLE TILE. My favorite clue/answer combination of these.
  • 60a. [Apologetic words from a ditch digger?] EXCUSE MY TRENCH.
  • 70a. [Things that keep Captain Hook awake at night?] CROCODILE FEARS. Heh.
  • 84a. [Touchdown setting in a parking-lot football game?] GOAL-FENDER.
  • 87a. [Pot that makes smokers clumsy?] FUMBLEWEED. Somehow seems kin to WIND FUNNEL.
  • 108a. [Computer that handles return processing?] TAX MACHINE. Eh.
  • 110a. [Words to an origami crane from its creator?] I FOLD YOU SO. Cute, not as stilted as it may seem at first. Nice way to end the run.

Not the most dynamically exciting of themes, but more entertaining than not. Well made in that there are no extraneous Fs or Ts in the relevant answers.

  • 56d [Blunder] ERROR, 59d [Blunder] GOOF, 78a [Careless mistake] SLIP, not to mention FUMBLEWEED.
  • Gooshy cluster: 50a [Think the world of] ADORE just below 42a TALL IN LOVE; 52a [Object of admiration] IDOL.
  • Nifty that ARC DE Triomphe is just one letter (and one arc, graphically) away from ABCDE. (65a, in the center)
  • Least favorite answer: 82d REDENY [Disavow again]
  • Favorite clue: 8d [Happy companion] DOC.


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15 Responses to Friday, November 29, 2013

  1. sbmanion says:

    I put in AS IF I instead of I DON’T, which hurt me minimally, sailed through the NW and SE and spent more than half my time on the NE.

    Tough fun puzzle for me.


  2. Donald says:

    “The loaf has always been circumcised, which is how you can distinguish it from gentile rye.” I hope that this remark is not intended as humorous. Mutilation of a human being without their consent is deplorable.

    • Lighten up! Jews can joke about anything, and this link gets you to some of the best on the subject you mention. Also, this page is as good as any as an introduction, complete with pictures, to the legendary “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy’s” ad campaign for JEWISH_RYE. Staying with our mini-Chanksgiving theme, I wonder how direct the link is between the word “bagel” and YIDDISH. And yes, we have bagel jokes too (left as an exercise to the reader).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      This puzzle blog takes no official stance on the intactivist issue. That said, if you want to slice the crust off your bread, we have no objection.

  3. Animalheart says:

    Well, Amy, I liked the NYT a lot more than you did. For me, it had a nice Saturday gnarliness to it. And if PUDDYTAT and Sylvester had had the same number of letters, I might never have solved it…

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Quite an assortment of foods– has Jewish Rye ever met Mint Jelly or Mint Julep? Gyros, to my mind, would go better with the Rye than with the Mint Jelly, which always struck me as an odd invention.
    Plasm gave me fits and made the NE unnecessarily rough.
    I liked the clue for JR Ewing.
    Carrel was a blast from the past. I used to practically live in one, and I haven’t been in a carrel in ages. I recently recalled a scientific realization that I made in a carrel in a university library in Beirut that changed the course of my life. I should go look at the stacks of the Medical Library across the street from my office and see how many cartels are occupied these days.

    • Gareth says:

      CARREL means nothing to me. The clue was no help and even after reading your post I have no idea… I was almost convinced I had made a mistake somewhere, somehow… I’m off to google.

      • ahimsa says:

        I just saw the word CARREL not long ago. A recent episode of The Simpsons had a brief shot of the “Lisa Simpson Study CARREL” (or something like that) in the school library. For those who don’t watch the show, Lisa loves school and studying.

    • sbmanion says:

      When I was in college I worked one semester at Widener Library, Harvard’s imposing main library, which contained some magnificent maps and a Gutenberg Bible:

      It wasn’t until I worked there that I realized that there were 10 non-apparent underground floors to the building (called “the stacks”). I specialized in shelving Egyptology books because they were huge and therefore there were not nearly as many to a cart. When you went down into the stacks, there were countless carrels, most of which had been commandeered by students who stored all their research books right there. I often wondered if anyone had ever maliciously taken off with books from someone else’s carrel. Think of a writing surface connected to a double decker bookshelf and you have a typical carrel in my experience.


  5. Jan says:

    I was wondering if a J-REWING was some kind of technical term, say for the camera shot at the end of North by Northwest, which was in my brain from a comment on Facebook. Had to laugh when I came here to see the explanation. Even though I watched Dallas when it aired (and taped it on VHS tape to send to an expat friend in Portugal where they only got Knight Rider reruns) I still didn’t get it when I got the “Thank you for playing”.

  6. Zulema says:

    I came here to say that I found the NYT very gnarly, but I see Gary C. said it first. I was also non-plussed by the question mark in the clue for SENAT, which seemed to me quite straightforward.

  7. Zulema says:

    24 hours later I am here having just solved the CHE puzzle (no, it didn’t take me two days). Found it a very interesting and truly entertaining puzzle, which I think I like better than the jokey ones. I’d also like to add that I think Jeffrey Harris a worthy successor to Patrick Berry in this venue.

  8. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Those units in the CHE puzzle are products, not ratios. Light-year = (speed of light) × (year), and likewise the others.

    And 33D:SEURAT reminds me that some years ago one of the Boston museums advertised an Impressionist show with a purported URL that was something like www.seurat………………….com :-)

    NDE (better late than never)

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