Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NYT 4:14 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT untimed (Gareth) 
CS 11:13 (Ade) 

Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 25

NY Times crossword solution, 4 30 14, no. 0430

37a. [Epic battle in technology … or a hint to four crossings in this puzzle] clues MAC VS. PC, and I’ve circled the letters where MAC crosses figurative swords with PC in the grid. The puzzle largely played like a themeless, since everything besides 37a is straightforward.

Highlights in the fill:

  • 16a. [Bada Bing!, on “The Sopranos”], STRIP CLUB. There’s a documentary about male strippers in Dallas that’s coming out in two months, you know.
  • 22a. [Sitcom set at a Vermont inn], NEWHART. Bob Newhart’s guesting on The Big Bang Theory this Thursday night.
  • 47a. [Like Muddy Waters’s music], BLUESY. Muddy Waters has shuffled off his mortal coil, but Buddy Guy is still touring vigorously in his late 70s.
  • 50a. [Stick in a purse, maybe], LIP BALM. I don’t have a pop-culture tidbit for you here, but you could do worse than using Avon’s Moisture Therapy lip balm. No waxy feel, no fragrances/flavors.
  • 61a. [Winning advantage], TRUMP CARD. Do not partake of Donald Trump’s pop culture.
  • 10d. [Movies, TV, hit songs, etc.], POP CULTURE. If you know a non-crossworder who digs pop culture, get them the brand-new book Star-Studded Crosswords. These are easy 13×13 puzzles edited by Stan Newman (disclosure: I worked on the puzzles too) for the Daily Celebrity Crossword app, and the fill is guaranteed to be worlds easier than that found in most newspaper crosswords (the Stan-edited Newsday crosswords don’t have dreck either). There will be no ARAL or ANOUK in the Star-Studded puzzles.
  • 12d. [Wee bit], SKOSH. Fun word.

So some of the juiciest fill was partially thematic, with a PC hidden within. Good job choosing lively theme entries, Zhouqin! I kinda like the near-duplication of ONE-ALL and ON CALL, identical in five of the six slots.

Now, themes that lock down a lot of real estate tend to suffer in the fill, and I was not enthused by ANOUK, ACR, O’SHEA, AS RED, REO clued as an ancient car, and ARILS. Speaking of ARILS, an artist gathered MRI images of produce and flowers and the results are mesmerizing; here are the ARILS of a pomegranate as seen by MRI. Six groaners in an NYT puzzle is pretty good, but personally, I’d like to see a few less.

Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword,

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 4 30 14 "Many Happy Returns"

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 4 30 14 “Many Happy Returns”

48a. [What you’ll get if you take the correct deductions from the original phrases in 17-, 34-, and 64-Across] is a TAX REFUND, and it’s earned by deducting TAX, REF, and UND from three familiar phrases to create these theme answers:

  • 17a. [Alternate logo for the University of Iowa?], BIG YELLOW I. Joni Mitchell had a song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” Here’s an Iowa Hawkeyes big yellow I magnet.
  • 34a. [Tool that Superman’s archenemy uses to help hang paintings?], LEX HAMMER. Lex Luthor meets a doctor’s reflex hammer.
  • 64a. [Malia’s command to the family dog when it’s time to return to Pennsylvania Avenue?], “HOMEWARD, BO!” “Homeward Bound” is both a song title and a familiar phrase.

I like the deductions-leading-to-TAX REFUND angle. I personally am not waiting for a refund from the IRS; I sent them a check with the tax money I had used over the last year instead of giving it to them up front. I don’t quite get the excitement about tax refunds—they often mean you could have had more money throughout the past year, but instead gave an interest-free loan to the IRS.

Foreign vocab in the grid:

  • 20a. [Beethoven’s Third], EROICA. Did you know that was Italian for “heroic”?
  • 44a. [Number of starters in the Baseball-Bundesliga], NEUN or nine, in German.
  • 53a. [Texas oil company whose name comes from the Spanish for “treasure”], TESORO. Did not know the oil company.
  • 1d. [French cleric], ABBE.
  • 30d. [Colombian snacks], AREPAS. Well, technically, this is an English word meaning exactly what it is—corn pancakes from Colombia and Venezuela. I need to try one of these. … Okay, I’m back after spending 10 minutes poking around the web looking for a good local place to try arepas. Someone remind me that Melao Latin Cuisine is where I need to go—and soon. Maybe for my anniversary this weekend?
  • 65d. [Call for Lionel Messi], OLE. Messi is an Argentine fútbol star who plays for FC Barcelona, so there is probably plenty of olé business.

Now, I would ream a Monday newspaper puzzle for having six foreign words, but Ben’s puzzles are meant to be more challenging and they’re not for beginning solvers, so this is fine. But ABBE and NEUN feel a bit like foreign crosswordese, and OLE is in the puzzles so, so much.

Better living through chemistry:

  • 25d. [Ingredient in solvents], HEPTANE. If you say so.
  • 58d. [Molly, initially], MDMA. Molly is slang for the club drug Ecstasy.

3.75 stars from me. Plenty of zippy clues (e.g., BEAR = [Hairy gay man, as it were], TEBOW = [Former NFL quarterback Tim whose name became a dictionary-recognized verb in 2012]) and a solid theme, offset a tad by the likes of ABBE, HEPTANE, ADLAI, and ECLAT.

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140430

LA Times

Disclaimer, I looked this puzzle over for Steve when he was developing it. Although I only half-remembered it, it still meant for a very fast time!

The theme takes four idioms for losing control emotionally and then ties them to entities for whom the idiom could literally be true. Idioms in general make for a strong theme with a broad appeal provided you can find an interesting angle like this one here. I only noticed it now, and not in December, but all the entities aren’t real (sorry Virginia). On the whole, this is a very elegant concept indeed for me! FWIW, I dug up the draft Steve sent me and I see Rich changed Steve’s clues from “shouldn’t” to “might”. We have:

  • [What an angry mermaid might do?], GOOFFTHEDEEPEND
  • [What an angry Santa might do?], HITTTHEROOF
  • [What an angry Humpty Dumpty might do?], GOTOPIECES
  • [What an angry witch might do?], FLYOFFTHEHANDLE

Both long downs are very nice: CATSCRADLE and especially the mythological PROMETHEUS. The latter does result in the compromised section featuring ITINA, the tough name TIEGS, ATH and RASA. I don’t think any of those are beyond the pale on their own, but it is the one rough area in the grid.

Favourite clues: [Color of Death’s dart, in “Venus and Adonis”], EBON and [Chips-to-be], POTATO

Great theme! 3.75 Stars.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Range Rover”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.30.14: "Range Rover"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.30.14: “Range Rover”

Happy Wednesday everybody!

One of the things that I want to do before too long is to go mountain climbing. Although that seems unlikely since I’m woefully out of shape, Ms. Levin helped me somewhat realized my dream, at least somewhat. This mountain-climbing exercise of a grid featured four theme answers in which the first word is the name of an American mountain range.

  • CASCADE EFFECT: (20A: [Unforeseen series of events brought on by a single act])– All of that because of dishwasher detergent?
  • WHITE RABBIT: (35A: [Waistcoat-wearing lagomorph in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”])– Any time “lagomorph” can be used in a sentence is the right time to use it.
  • ROCKY BALBOA: (42A: [Loser to Apollo Creed in their first bout])
  • OLYMPIC MASCOT: (59A: [Atlanta’s Izzy or Sochi’s Bely Mishka])– Names of Olympic mascots can do better than these, right?!

This was so enjoyable, especially because of the cosmopolitan nature to it. There’s some geography to fill in, with MACEDONIA (34D: [Balkan region]), ESPAÑA (23A: [Madrileño’s country]) and GENOA (62A: [Birthplace of Christopher Columbus]). Also different ethnicities represented, with AGHAS (2D: [Turkish top bananas]) and ASIAN (66A: [Like small-eared elephants]). By the way, who knew that small-eared elephants were chiefly found in Asia? Nice little factoid. To continue the cosmopolitan theme, there’s BOCCE (1D: [Lawn bowling, Italian style]), POLENTA (9D: [Grits’ Italian cousin]), YIN YANG (43D: [Symbol on the South Korean flag]) and the reference to Olympic mascots! I think topping off the global nature of the grid is the amazing fill, and the amazing song, C’EST SI BON (11D: [Eartha Kitt hit that’s “so good”]). The fill was so good in this one, that a little-known American soccer league made it into the grid!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NASL (52A: [Tampa Bay Rowdies’ assn.])– The Rowdies, along with nine other teams, play in the modern iteration of the North American Soccer League, which was founded in 2009. But the original NASL began play in 1968 and ran until 1984, when the league dissolved. The NASL was responsible for the first soccer craze in America when Brazilian soccer legend Pelé signed with the New York Cosmos in 1975. Other European soccer greats, though past their prime, also signed on to play in the league to increase its prestige, including German defender Franz Beckenbauer (nicknamed “Der Kaiser”), British midfielder George Best and Dutch attacker Johann Cruyff.

Bonus “sports” moment: MAD DASH (5D: [Frenzied race])– In the sports world, “Mad Dash” is the term used to describe St. Louis Cardinals catcher – and crossword favorite – Enos Slaughter scoring from first base on a single in the bottom of the eighth inning to score the winning run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Slaughter was on first base with two outs and the game tied at 3-3, when teammate Harry Walker lined a base hit to left-center field. Slaughter was running with the pitch and did not stop until reaching home, blowing past the stop sign flashed by the third base coach. The Cardinals won the Fall Classic, while the Red Sox would go another 57 years without a title.

Thanks so much for your attention, and I’ll see you again on the new page of the calendar tomorrow. Take care!


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20 Responses to Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  1. Evan says:

    I just did something I probably haven’t done before and may not do again for a long time — I finished with a faster time than Amy (at 3:59), and it wasn’t even on my own puzzle! All the stars aligned, I guess. Some of the long answers were auto-fills for me, like seeing –UMPC— and correctly predicting it was going to be TRUMP CARD before reading the clue.

    Thought the theme was cute. I couldn’t understand why AS RED had a question mark in its clue — it’s pretty literal, isn’t it?

  2. Gareth says:

    Why no ARAL? I’d like think to Americans get taught the lakes and seas of the world in geography?

    • Howard B says:

      Somewhat, Gareth, but unfortunately, this American’s knowledge of geography has sadly come more from Sporcle, crosswords, and a globe that I owned in my early years, than from my overall education.
      On the plus side, I did once have a Spanish instructor that required the class to learn all countries, capitals, and major rivers, landmarks, etc. of South America. So that’s one continent.
      That explains my weakness in most things geographical. Back to puzzling.

    • pannonica says:

      You mean the people who think Africa is a country?

    • Bencoe says:

      Why no Aral? Because the Soviets and Uzbeks destroyed it through decades of diverting and draining its water supply.

  3. ahimsa says:

    NYT: I loved it in spite of ARILS. And thanks for the link to the MRI! I like ARILS even more now that I know that’s what pomegranate seeds are.

    LAT: I saw a literature sub-theme in the long downs. You know, PROMETHEUS Unbound by Percy Shelley (or, if you prefer, Frankenstein; or, The Modern PROMETHEUS by the Mary Shelley) and CATS CRADLE by Kurt Vonnegut.

    What? :-)

    • ArtLvr says:

      Seeds of pomegranate? I spent ages yesterday in googling “acai date palm” where you can learn more about various palm fruits than you ever thought possible. A few are even toxic!

  4. Steve Blais says:

    Thanks for the write-up Gareth!

    The change from “shouldn’t” to “might” was a request from me to Rich, since he made the correct observation that, while a witch shouldn’t “fly off the handle” (which was my seed entry) as it would presumably lead to bad news for her, a mermaid could “go off the deep end” without any danger. I had wanted to keep the fictional character motif going, but oddly enough neither one of us could think of one for whom literally going off the deep end would be a bad idea. Narcissus was the best I could come up, but the connection there was tenuous at best.

    I’d be interested in knowing if anyone can think of a fictional character (general or specific) for whom going off the deep end would lead to trouble.


    • ahimsa says:

      Tantalus, maybe? He was placed neck deep in water and given a burning thirst. But the water receded whenever he tried to drink. Perhaps the idea of being in water over his head, and thus drowning, would work.

      But that would end the eternal punishment of being thirsty forever (and hungry, too, since fruit was above his head, just out of reach). So, it’s not clear whether it would be worse.

      Or maybe Andromeda? Wasn’t she chained to a rock with the tide coming in? Being in the deep end would mean drowning before Perseus (forgot his name, had to look it up) could rescue her from the sea monster.

      PS. And these examples are just being in the DEEP END, not going OFF THE DEEP END so maybe neither of them works.

      • Bencoe says:

        I’m having a hard time coming up with a literal meaning for “going off the deep end”. Does it mean leaving the deep end or entering the deep end? For the former, perhaps Moby Dick couldn’t leave the deep end without getting beached. For the latter, presumably anyone who couldn’t swim wouldn’t want to enter the deep end. So I’ll go with Moby Dick.

        • Tuning Spork says:

          I always assumed it’s the deep end of a swimming pool and, for someone who can’t swim, “going off the deep end” would put them dangerously “out of one’s depth” and becoming overwhelmed, confused, “at sea”, with no experience or preparation to do anything that would appear to be rational to an observer.

          Something along those lines, anyway. Or not.

      • pannonica says:

        Just to be persnickety, ahimsa, Tantalus’ situation with the fruit was analogous to the water. They were within reach, but whenever he made to retrieve one, a breeze would blow them tantalizingly just out of reach.

        As for the more relevant deependant issue, I haven’t any ideas at the moment.

        • pannonica says:

          Perhaps Ophelia?

        • ahimsa says:

          Thanks for adding those details about Tantalus and the fruit. You’re right — the fact that they drew out of reach as he tried to grab them was part of the punishment, just like the water receding whenever he tried to drink. I just didn’t type it all in.

    • sandirhodes says:

      Jack Sparrow?

      • Bencoe says:

        I definitely agree that is the figurative meaning for “going off the deep end.” The literal by-the-numbers definition is where I’m unclear.

  5. Linda says:

    Could be that “going off the deep end” refers to going off the edge of the pool or the diving board into the deep end, which could land a beginner in hot water (or at least out of the shallow water). That lets out oceans and lakes, but makes sense.

  6. sbmanion says:

    My first thought was King Lear. I think of going off the deep end as being in over one’s head situationally or emotionally.


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