Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NYT untimed (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:50 (Gareth) 
CS 5:57 (Dave) 

Two weeks till Christmas! If you’re looking for gift ideas for puzzlers in your life, or if you’re looking for recommendations to pass along to the folks buying you gifts, you could do worse than to peruse Michael Sharp’s suggestions. In fact, I’ve ordered Andrew Ries’s For the Birds Crosswords book for someone on my list.

Steve Savoy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 11 13, no. 1211

This was the third-round puzzle at last weekend’s crossword tournament in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It’s … a quote theme. Which means it’s a bit of a slog to work through the grid and try to piece together the words in the quote and the name of the speaker.

18a: [Start of a quote about creativity by 58-Across/39-Down] and the subsequent theme clues get you IF AT FIRST / THE IDEA IS / NOT ABSURD, THEN / THERE IS NO / HOPE FOR IT.—ALBERT EINSTEIN. It’s an interesting quote but the various chunks of it in the puzzle, viewed separately, all sound … absurd. HOPE FOR IT! I’m generally not a fan of quote puzzles, and I’m relieved that we see so few of them in the NYT nowadays.

My favorite wrong answer from the tournament entrants’ papers: 44d: [Like the potatoes in shepherd’s pie], MINCED. Picture, if you will, someone taking whole potatoes and cutting them by hand into teeny, tiny minced pieces. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but a potato’s definitely a rather large thing to mince. It’s bigger than a clove of garlic. (Correct answer: MASHED.) Speaking of mashed potatoes, my sister’s friend suggests taking your holiday dinner leftovers and layering them in a casserole pan with mashed potatoes on the top, and heating it up the next for an all-in-one leftovers dish. Let me know if it’s any good, will you?

Rather sassy to balance EINSTEIN with a BORDELLO, no?

Awkward fill includes AFTA, SUER, STER, SKAT, ENA H-TEN (24d. [Coordinate in the game Battleship]), ORT, and AER-. How many of you have ever played that 38d. [Trick-taking game], SKAT? It’s a game I never hear about outside of crosswords.

Hardest to parse: 5d. [End of an academic 28-Across]28a being URL—clues DOT EDU. This feels markedly less in-the-language to me than the dictionary-grade term dot-com.

2.9 stars from me.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Where Are They?” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four idiomatic phrases dealing with a location are where we “find” someone:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/11/13

  • [Where the husband who forgot his wife’s birthday was found?] was IN THE DOGHOUSE – I think the stereotype of the forgetful husband needs to be shared with the distaff half of couples as well, as it can’t only be husbands who forget birthdays.
  • [Where the employee accused of embezzlement was found?] was UNDER A CLOUD – I would like to see “of suspicion” added here; “on cloud nine” would be a better cloud phrase that indicates a location, imo.
  • [Where the girl who received a much-awaited marriage proposal was found?] clued OVER THE MOON – I think men can be “over the moon” over something as well (I guess I’m on the stereotype patrol today!)
  • [Where the student who couldn’t decide between prelaw and premed was found?] clued AT A CROSSROADS – oddly specific example of an instance of indecision.

Fun idea of repurposing idioms that are based on locations, but I might take the cluing a step further and actually put the protagonist in that actual location. (Something like [Forgetful husband’s sleeping place shared with Fido?] I mean.) As far as the fill goes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the verb “conga” in the past tense, so thought that -AED sequence of CONGAED looked very strange. I have a visceral reaction to seeing Cambodian’s Prime Minister Lon NOL in my puzzle, not unlike Idi Amin, as I don’t think having crossword-friendly letter sequences absolves them of their dictatorial rampages. A MOO as an uncommon partial, [“Here ___, there …” (“Old MacDonald” lyric)] wasn’t much better. LAKE TAHOE and BIKE ROUTE did help assuage things a bit.

Rick Papazian’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 11 13

This puzzle’s long answers all start with words than can complete “-ROOM” as signified by GETAROOM. They are PLAYMATE, DELIVERYSERVICE, LEGLOCK, and BATHTEMPERATURE (is that a “thing”?).

The puzzle has impressively “big” corners. PAVLOVS is a quirky answer, cool-looking in the grid with two Vs’s, but kind of limited in how it’s clued! I can see RHEBOKS being tough if you are American, especially as the variant spelling REEBOKS is used for the shoes. I don’t think I’ve actually seen one, they aren’t among the commoner antelopes. I saw rietbokke on the farm I was at last weekend. INLOVE? BEAPAL is a curious two-line story about the friend zone! CYCLOPS was also a particularly interesting answer.


Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Closeout Sale”

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 12 11 13 “Closeout Sale”

This is one of those “this word can follow both parts of each theme answer” themes:

  • 17a. [New York City skyscraper name], FLATIRON. Flatware = silverware/utensils; ironware = household things made of iron. (The latter is new to me.)
  • 26a. [Place in the office for giving away unwanted junk], FREE TABLE. Freeware = software that costs nothing; tableware = dishes/glasses/utensils collectively.
  • 38a. [Something from the whole gang], GROUP GIFT. Groupware = … hang on, let me look this up … software that facilitates collective work by a group; giftware = goods sold as gifts, rather vague. The category likely includes a lot of things prone to being regifted. “Oh, a vase! In a style that clashes with my design gestalt!”
  • 54a. [Chalk, e.g.], SOFT STONE. Not sure how in-the-language SOFT STONE is; feels a little like a random adjective + noun pairing. Software = computer applications; stoneware = a type of pottery/ceramics. I have some hand-me-down stoneware plates.
  • 65a. [Small telescope], SPYGLASS. Spyware = software that spies on users, v. nefarious; glassware = stemware, tumblers, old-fashioneds, etc.
  • 72a. [Goods, and what might follow either word in 17-, 26-, 38-, 54-, and 65-Across], WARE.

Solid, if not entirely exciting, theme.

Top fill:

  • 3d. [Villain’s laugh], “MWA HA HA!”
  • 42d. [Philippine language], ILOCANO. Entirely obscure to most Americans, yes, but my mother-in-law speaks it so I like it.
  • 46d. [Trendy term meaning lots and lots of information], BIG DATA.
  • The ANN and ABBY cross-referenced advice-columnist sisters.

Did not know:

  • 18d. [Woody Guthrie’s “___ Koch”], ILSA.
  • 63a. [Early electronic composer Edgard], VARESE. I know the name from a record label, Varese Sarabande.

3.75 stars.

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18 Responses to Wednesday, December 11, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: while I don’t love quote puzzles, I’m grateful that this quote is about ideas and science and not some weak or tired attempt at wit. There are many EINSTEIN quotes I love, although I had not heard this one. I think the non-absurd sounding ideas may well be right, but they won’t transform the field.
    And this puzzle had a definite scientific/academic vibe, with NIH and AMA, DOT EDU, ANION and even INSIGHT. Again, a good thing. I’m biased, I know. So SUE me…

  2. Bencoe says:

    Never played SKAT or heard anyone say they did. Also don’t remember ENA from outside crosswords–although I haven’t seen Bambi since I was about five years old, I still remember Flower and Thumper.

  3. Martin says:

    “(DOT EDU) feels markedly less in-the-language to me than the dictionary-grade term dot-com. ” Dotcom is a thing while dotedu isn’t. But the clue doesn’t say it’s a thing. It says it’s the end of an URL.

    URL is one of those take-your-pick initialism or acronym words. “An URL” means you pronounce it as an acronym. “A URL” means you pronounce the letters (an initialism). I wonder if the Times style guide has a preference? The initialism/acronym line gets hazy with words like “jpeg,” which is a hybrid. I think that means the distinction is not long for this world.

    By the way, your friend has given you a working recipe for shepherd’s pie. Mine, with minced shallots sautéed in butter, turkey, gravy augmented with some madeira and a few diced carrots and frozen petit peas, then topped with mashed potatoes, is a highlight of our Thanksgiving leftover calendar. It comes after the turkey soup but ahead of the turkey pot pie and turkey tetrazzini in importance.

    • Huda says:

      My shepherd pie also has toasted pine nuts. The crunch they provide counteracts all the soft stuff.

    • Phil says:

      SDOTCOM is the end of a url, the end of my company’s url. It too is not dictionary grade, nor crossword appropriate.

  4. Amy L says:

    Big excitement yesterday: I finally watched a DVD I’ve had for a long time, “Dirty Ho.” It’s a Hong Kong chop socky movie. I don’t really have any idea what it was about but it did involve gold ingots weighing five taels. TAELS!!! Remember that word from the Eugene Maleska days? I love it when crosswordese turns up in real life.

    Does this happen to anyone else?

  5. pannonica says:

    ” … my sister’s friend suggests taking your holiday dinner leftovers and layering them in a casserole pan with mashed potatoes on the top, and heating it up the next for an all-in-one leftovers dish.”

    Christmas Tinner” — 9 layers of … well, you decide.

  6. Jeff Chen says:

    Def. agreed on SUER, STER, and especially the Maleskan ORT. But AFTA? Perhaps I have an unnatural fondness for that bracing sting. And the eye-watering. And the nose bleeds. Why did I use AFTA for so long again?

    I’ll have to try SKAT sometime. I’d have preferred STAT there, but who knows, maybe I’m not hip enough to delight in the intricacies of the game.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Just out of idle, OT curiosity, is an album called “From the Witchwood” by someone called “The Strawbs” — something that anyone has heard of?

    • Gareth says:

      Heard of the Strawbs, but don’t know their oeuvre. I’d probably recognise a few of their bigger songs if you named them.

      • Bencoe says:

        Yeah, they were an English folk rock band around 1970. Rick Wakeman was in them before he joined Yes, I believe…let me check…yes, according to Wiki Rick Wakeman was briefly in the band.

  8. Alan D. says:

    Re: LAT. I think there’s another dimension to the puzzle as the second half of the long answers can all complete ROOM-. So put ROOM in the middle of the answers and it completes the front and back ends.

    • Gareth says:

      Ah, that’s what I get for not reading the really small writing in the revealing clue! Well spotted Alan! It makes the puzzle far more impressive!

      • Alan D. says:

        Yeah, it really does.

      • joon says:

        even more impressive: you missed two theme answers, TEA TAX and MAP KEY.

        “room lock”, “room key”, and perhaps “map room” feel a little arbitrary as phrases go, but this is still a heck of a lot of theme.

  9. My office has a poster with the Oscar Wilde quote “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all”, very similar idea to the Einstein quote. When I pieced together the IDEA in 26A, I figured it was going to be a similar quote, but it still took some effort to piece everything together.

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