Friday, December 20, 2013

NYT 3:55 (Amy) 
LAT 5:37 (Gareth) 
CS 6:18 (Dave) 
CHE 4:48 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 12:42 (if only I’d solved it 22 seconds faster!) (pannonica) 

SoCal event alert: Constructor, editor, high-schooler, and Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project head David Steinberg will be speaking at a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the crossword this Saturday at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Center library. Event details here.

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 20 13, no. 1220

NY Times crossword solution, 12 20 13, no. 1220

Three 9-letter answers, two 8s, and everything else 7 and under—not my usual favorite sort of themeless grid, but Ian managed to fit in lots of fun stuff, both in the fill and the clues:

  • 1a. [Locale that often includes a wet bar and large-screen TV], MAN CAVE.
  • 8a. [Picture with a number], MUG SHOT.
  • 15a. [Where it never gets above zero degrees?], EQUATOR.
  • 16a. [One going around the bases?], USO TOUR.
  • 20a. [Where a bud hangs out], EAR. Ear buds. See also: MAN CAVE.
  • 34a. [Draft pick?], SAM ADAMS. The single most popular beer in a number of states.
  • 61a. [Controversial 1715 measure of Parliament], RIOT ACT. It’s not just a figurative thing that’s read to miscreants.
  • 68a. [“The Hangover” co-star], ED HELMS.
  • 4d. [TV game show on the Discovery Channel, 2005-12], CASH CAB.
  • 7d, 43d. [Unreal], ERSATZ and PHANTOM.
  • 11d. [Edward Murdstone, to David Copperfield], STEPDAD. Ha! I was reading this as the magician and wondering who Murdstone is. It’s the Charles Dickens character, not contemporary famous magician.

Did not know there’s such a thing as TAR OIL (31d. [Distilled pine product]). Not so sure about the crossword-worthiness of “IT WORKS” (65a. [Infomercial testimonial]). Aside from those bits, everything flowed smoothly, and the puzzle felt easy. How did you like it?

Four stars from me.

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Quadruple Doubles” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A two-letter string is repeated four times in a row:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 12/20/13

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/20/13

  • [Chocolate snack scam in Africa?] was LESOTHO HO HO HOAX. I wonder what possible scam there could be around Ho Ho’s? Skimping on the creme filling?
  • [Rangoon matriarch was successful?] clued BURMA MAMA MADE IT. Burma, as we all know, is now referred to as Myanmar by the ruling junta there.
  • [Conversation with a granny from Acra?] was GHANA NANA NATTER. To “natter” is to talk casually about something, here I guess it’s a noun.
  • [Marketplaces that sell rum cakes in Havana?] clued CUBA BABA BAZAARS.

Nice consistency that they all began with a country name; however, seeing BURMA as one of them was a bit off-putting. I also thought having that same one end with two words (MADE IT), made it a bit of an outlier as well. But the gods of crossword symmetry (and grid-spanning entries) are cruel even when on their best behavior. I liked the “BOOK ‘EM Dano” remembrance from the old Hawaii Five-O shows (do they say it in the current remakes? I’ve never seen it.) I have to admit to some problems in the SW, having CHOP before CLIP as the gridiron illegal block. Not knowing ANGIE Harmon from Rizzoli & Isles (nor even the TNT drama!), as well as the somewhat random [Bridge combo] of TEN-ACE (why bridge and not blackjack?), made that little area pretty tough.

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

CHE • 12/20/13 • "Duel Personalities" • Feldman • solution

CHE • 12/20/13 • “Duel Personalities” • Feldman • solution

One-across evokes the idea of adversaries, but it’s unrelated to the theme answers, which are very straightforward. Ten paces straight forward? You’d have to consult with some historians to know.

  • 20a. [Gunfighter who dueled with Davis Tutt in 1865] WILD BILL HICOCK.
  • 30a. [Vice president who dueled with Alexander Hamilton in 1804] AARON BURR. Still meaning to read that copy of Gore Vidal’s Burr that’s sitting on the shelf.
  • 38a. [Secretary of State who dueled with John Randolph in 1826] HENRY CLAY. So, old Henry didn’t have cold feet.
  • 51a. [Naval hero who dueled with James Barron in 1820] STEPHEN DECATUR.

So, all in the 1800s. Good times back then, good times. Of the eight people invoked I’m familiar with only four, but that’s probably more a reflection of my ignorance than their notoriety, or lack thereof.

What, tell me, what, I ask you, is going on with those black blocks in the grid? They’re gigantic and I can’t see any graphical significance to them. Are they supposed to resemble 19th century pistols, with flintlocks? Somehow I don’t think so. The T shapes, I suppose, could be imagined as an overhead view of duelists starting out with their paces, but again I doubt this. Though they are expansive, those long blocks don’t sever the crossword as much as one might at first think; the grid follows a sinuous path with adequate girth through the middle. Nevertheless, they are attention-getting.

En garde!

  • Beefy quadruple six-stacks in the upper left and lower right corners, chock full of interesting letters and fill.
  • Love the not-exactly-synesthetic clue at 12d [“You listen up!”] for LOOK HERE. Maybe we can call it sensory entanglement, or is that too much the same thing?
  • 33a [Omelet option] HAM. Clue feels weird to me. “Option”? Welll, yes, but …
  • Insider geekiness at 59a: [Like the number of answers in a crossword, usually] EVEN.
  • Favorite fill: 39d [“Barbaric” cry in a Whitman poem] YAWP. “The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he complains of my gab and my loitering. / I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable; /I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” – from “Leaves of Grass” (52).
  • 6d [They may be necessary] EVILS. Like, oh, ILEA, SDAK, and ODO, perhaps?
  • 2d [Having achromatosis] ALBINO, but only because ALBINIC didn’t fit. ALBINO can function as an adjective as well as a noun.

Average crossword, but too dry, even for me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Finding the Good Within” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/20/2013 • “Finding the Good Within” • Fri • Gorski • solution

A 21×21 Gorski holiday puzzle and the grid doesn’t describe the shape of a fir tree? No matter, she’s probably pulled that old chestnut out before. This time around, we receive a puzzle studded with rebus angels. I’ve circled the relevant squares.

  • 23a. [He was a true Renaissance man] MICHEL(ANGEL)O.
    6d. [Celebrity supercouple] is the portmanteau BR(ANGEL)INA.
  • 33a. [Sidecar ingredient] OR(ANGE L)IQUEUR.
    12d. [Navy’s air show squadron] BLUE (ANGEL)S.
  • 43a. [Heart-wrenching #1 song of 1960] TEEN (ANGEL). The “teenage tragedy song” is an entire subgenre, if not an entirely uncreepy one.
    38d. [One-named neo-soul singer] D’(ANGEL)O.
  • 69a. [Tony winner for playing Richard Nixon] FRANK L(ANGEL)LA.
    51d. [Home of the Kings] LOS (ANGEL)ES.
  • 71a. [Wheelchair-bound presidential adviser of film] DR STR(ANGEL)OVE. Erstwhile wheelchair-bound.
    48d. [1933 Mae West movie] I’M NO (ANGEL). Cinema crossing!
  • 93a. [Colorful aquarium swimmer] (ANGEL)FISH.
    89d. [Citris hybrid] T(ANGEL)O.
  • 102a. [On-air preacher] TELEV(ANGEL)IST.
    105d. [Pasta variety] (ANGEL) HAIR. aka capellini.
  • 118a. [Best-selling memoir of 1996] (ANGEL)A’S ASHES.
    92d. [“On the Pulse of the Morning” poet] MAYA (ANGEL)OUnée Marguerite Ann Johnson.

That’s 8 rebus spots, for 16 theme answers, and there mostly though not exactly symmetrical. My favorites are the ones that don’t read “angel” in the containing names and phrases, especially DR STRANGELOVE and ORANGE LIQUEUR. Tack on the two long verticals that comprise Column 11, down the middle—CHRISTMAS | GREETINGS—and that’s quite a lot of material.

Additional holiday cheer:

  • Did I mention chestnuts before? 90a [Prepares chestnuts] ROASTS; 122a [Words before “open fire” in a holiday song] ON AN. If you’re compelled to include an icky partial in the grid, best to dress it up in appropriate togs. Too bad for ON OR about at 76d.
  • 49a [Winter air] NOEL.
  • 1a [Yuletide dinner slice] HAM. Ya, that’s a small stretch, but it shows the solver where the puzzle’s coming from.
  • 65a [Moves like thick eggnog] OOZES. Yum?
  • 74a [Snowman’s coal chunks, e.g.] EYES.
  • 97a [“… join in __ reindeer games”] ANY. Eesh.
  • 16d [Santa suit color] RED.
  • 67d [” … deep and crisp and __”] EVEN. Specs for snow, as per the carol “Good King Señor Wenceslas.”
  • 115d [Bob Cratchit’s youngest son] TIM.

Mixed bag, wouldn’t you say? But it keeps the festivities light. [Makes merry], you know (59d, HAS FUN).

Favorite clue: 104d [Primary concern] VOTES, though I had VOTER at first. Least favorite fill: 95d [In a hackneyed manner] STALELY. Favorite fill from which to shamelessly link to a beloved song: 94d [Onetime capital of Persia] ISFAHAN

The grid has some rough spots, in the form of the usual crosswordese, partials, abbrevs. and the like, but not nearly enough to drag the puzzle down noticeably. I did think the symmetrical pair near the center of EOSINE and OLEFIN was a bit clunky, though. Some personalities and geographical locales that might give some people pause.

Fun, fine, timely crossword.

David J. Kahn’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth

LA Times 131220

LA Times

I couldn’t care less about this round-number obsession that has led to the spate if “meta” crosswords. In Robert W. Harris’ puzzle last week, we learnt that ARTHURWYNNE created the crossword puzzle(*). David J. Kahn’s puzzle is something of a sequel. We are told that his puzzle had a SYMMETRICALGRID, was DIAMONDSHAPED, and was published in THENEWYORKWORLD (I’m sure I was one of many who had “Times” here initially). We also get nine clues/answers taken directly from that puzzle:

  • 1a, [*A bar of wood or iron…], RAIL
  • 35a, [*A talon], SERE
  • 62a, [*To govern], RULE
  • 27d, [*An aromatic plant], NARD. Not a common answer these days, although found in the Bible.
  • 35d, [*Part of a ship], SPAR
  • 36d, [*A bird], DOVE
  • 39d, [*The fibre of the gomuti palm], DOH. Not a fibre I know. I appreciate the spelling. This “er” trend in the US must post-date the puzzle.
  • 53d, [*A pigeon], DOVE. I assume this means Mr. Wynne duplicated some answers. I’ve done that by accident on plenty of occasions!
  • 55d, [*Opposed to less], MORE

Some more crossword answers that post-date the puzzle:

  • 14a, [Dashiell Hammett dog], ASTA.
  • 33a, [Spice Girl __ B], MEL.
  • 34a, [Pianist Templeton], ALEC. I didn’t know him. He was 3 in 1913 FWIW.
  • 61a, [Youngest Wilcox child in “Howards End”], EVIE. Another name I didn’t know.
  • 12d, [“Wheel of Fortune” buy], ANI.
  • 24d, [Two-time Oscar winner Wiest], DIANNE.
  • 31d, [Baby Ruth maker], NESTLE. Nestle itself was established in 1866 Wikipedia informs me.
  • 38d, [“This Is 40” director Judd], APATOW.
  • 43d, [“__ Lot”: King novel], SALEMS.
  • 46d, [2002 Alice Sebold best-seller “The Lovely __”], BONES
  • 49d, [Pop’s __ Vanilli], MILLI
  • 52d, [Putin put-down?], NYET

4 Stars

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22 Responses to Friday, December 20, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: echoes of Patrick Berry! I actually love the midsized words. They minimize the junk fill and greatly increase smoothness. I hit MAN CAVE right off the bat and thought this is going to be good! And sure enough, IT WORKS!

    I enjoyed the little exercise-and-relaxation vibe–You first ride your BICYCLE, and then you go hang out in a HOT TUB, nice and INERT, and let it SOOTHE your aches. The best path to DETENTE.

    I chuckled as I entered DUCK. Our family just decided that we are making Peking Duck for our Christmas Eve dinner. Among other dishes. The combination of food is actually crazy, with Chinese, Moroccan, Ethiopian… People voted for what they love and are volunteering to make it. Could be amazing… or not… What would Jesus think?

    • Bencoe says:

      Your question intrigued me and made me wonder what the likely diet of Jesus would have been. Salted fish and unleavened bread and wine I knew, but what else?
      According to research on the dietary habits of that time and place, they would have had, apart from salted fish and the occasional lamb at a feast, a mostly raw plant-based diet based on legumes, whole grains, fruit and nuts. Lentils, chickpeas, sorghum, figs, pomegranate, and olives would have been common then as now. Also, people used honey, olive oil, wine vinegar, herbs and spices to flavor. Not too bad, but hardly a traditional Christmas feast by modern standards!

  2. Tom says:

    Longtime lurker here. I hope you all enjoy the diversion my colleagues and I put together (with big help from a well-known friend of the crossword community). It’ll go out at noon EST tomorrow (Friday), and I think you’ll know it when you see it. :)

  3. Sarah says:

    CS: TEN-ACE is actually TENACE, which according to my dictionary, refers to “a pair of cards in one hand that rank immediately above and below a card held by an opponent, e.g., the ace and queen in a suit of which an opponent holds the king”

    Usually, this is A-Q, K-J or Q-T, but some people refer to A-J and K-T as tenances as well.

  4. Ethan says:

    Anybody know who did the puzzle on Google’s homepage today?

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Google used to be like an older brother. Now it’s more like Big Brother.

    About how many puzzles does Amy rate 5 stars a year? If she remembers any 5 star NYT older that 3 years or so maybe she could list a few so I can try them at the archive.

    Should I be expected to know either VAYA or VARIG?

    • HH says:

      To do Times puzzles, you’re expected to know everything.

    • Gareth says:

      VAYA Con Dios is a pop standard. It’s also a Spanish greeting. Thirdly, it’s also a Belgian pop group that I adore, but who are unheard outside of Europe and South Africa. I assume they mean one of the first two. Have a listen to the band though. Time Flies

      • pannonica says:

        I’d say words of parting more than a greeting. It’s analogous to the French adieu.

        • Gareth says:

          Sorry. That was just a brainfart. It means “go with God.”

          • pannonica says:

            As did I. Don’t know where my head was. Obviously, the Spanish adios is the analogue—the cognate!—of adieu in French. Vaya con Dios is a more poetic farewell.

            I’m losing it, coming and going. Shalom-aloha, peace and love, vaya con brio.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Wasn’t much into Time Flies but did like Vaya con Dios by Les Paul and Mary Ford.

        Vaya con Dios.

  6. Pete says:

    Considering he was just born, Jesus probably just nursed.

Comments are closed.