Monday, May 5, 2014

NYT 3:34 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:10 (pannonica) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 
BEQ 5:14 (Amy) 
CS 8:42 (Ade) 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 5/5/14 • Mon • Lempel • 5 5 14 • solution

NYT • 5/5/14 • Mon • Lempel • 5 5 14 • solution

Zippy crossword to start the week. 61-across plays revealer, referencing a famous trope: [Why this puzzle is like “Seinfeld”?] IT’S ABOUT NOTHING.

Not the puzzle inandofitself, but the four remaining theme answers, which the astute solver will notice each contains a series of circled squares. When filled in properly, those sequences comprise a synonym for “nothing.” So in a literal sense, the remaining parts of the theme answers are about nothing. Superficially analogous to container clues in cryptic crosswords. As a welcome bonus, the inner words all span across the two words of each theme answer.

  • 17a. [Instruments played at theaters during silent films] WURLITZER ORGANS.
  • 23a. [Singer with the 1963 hit “If I Had a Hammer”] TRINI LOPEZ. Short for Trinidad.
  • 36a. [First president to live in the White House] JOHN ADAMS.
  • 55a. [Ha-ha producer in a sitcom] LAUGH TRACK. I prefer naught; call me Bartleby. A sort of callback, or perhaps a presentiment, of the revealer. Can’t recall if the program had a laugh track.

The grid felt distinctly cluttered with compressed, curtailed, and initialized fill. From USB/UAW at the outset to GTO/ECO– at the finish. Within, there are the likes of AMT, GMT, INIT, AKA, BYOB, IBMS, RPM, ECON, TUX, ALG, TPK, and so forth. Just looked up what GTO stands for; I correctly intuited that the GT stood for Gran Turismo, but the O is the new-to-me Omologato—Italian for “homologated.”

  • 14a [Political commentator Colmes] ALAN. Who? Is this an appropriate ALAN for a MON (58a)?
  • Flashy down in the northwest, SQUIRMY, but it doesn’t sufficiently atone for that aforementioned USB/UAW combination. The thematic WURLITZ… suggest that options may have been limited.
  • Obsolescent clue at 37d [Area code lead-in] ONE, as there are fewer and fewer land lines. Mobile telephones don’t require that prefix, as all dialled calls include the area code. Non-international calls, that is.
  • Tried FLAGGER prior to FLAGMAN (10d).

Good theme, but too much flittery, annoying stuff for an unqualifyingly enjoyable solve. Fortunately, writing about crosswords is not a zero-sum exercise.

Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 5/5/14 • Mon • Christian • solution

LAT • 5/5/14 • Mon • Christian • solution

I’m liking this trend of Monday puzzles with fewer theme entries and better overall fill. Just three today, of 14–15–14.

  • 20a. [Where to see stars in school] ASTRONOMY CLASS.
  • 37a. [Where to see stars in the service] MILITARY UNIFORM. A later-week—more difficult—clue might have chosen “in a parade.”
  • 53a. [Where to see stars in theaters] HOLLYWOOD MOVIE.

Incidentally, I count 7 unique S-T-A-R-S in the grid, Boggle-style, NO LIE (43a). Nine, if returning to a square is allowed.

A solid sextet of long down entries: TO-DO LIST, OLD SCHOOL, GLOSS OVER (featuring a very literal clue, [Like some conservative teaching methods]; another early-week concession), IN DEMAND, ALLEY CAT, DRY CLEAN.

  • Even though there’s some less-than-stellar fill—e.g., abbrevs. ST PAT and NDAK, Latin partials et ALIA and rara AVIS, non-Latin partials pince-NEZ and new-AGER—none of it is even close to horrific.
  • That said, THY | LEO |LAIC, ALS | ALTO | DDE and SLOE | RUE | ERG are not the prettiest of rows.
  • 33d [Rotary phone part] DIAL; 55d [Abbr. on a phone’s “0” button] (or at its finger hole) OPER. 18a [Sacred] HOLY; 25a [Of the flock [LAIC. 43a [“Honest!”] NO LIE; 28d [“That’s a good point”] TRUE.
  • 24a [Summer zodiac sign] LEO. Hey, that’s stars! And galaxies. Represents the Nemean lion from Herakles’ first labor.

Good Monday crossword.

Patrick Blindauer’s May Crossword, “X-Rated” — Matt’s review


With the usual caveat — that this is a Blindauer, so I might be missing some crazy extra layer — it looks like Patrick has gone relatively easy on us with his May puzzle. Which is not a bad thing.

The three long theme entries replace the letters TEN with IO, which stand for “10.” Those letters play normally on the down crossings.

They are:

17-A [Special affection] = IODER LOVING CARE
39-A [Sales tacks it on, at times] = EXIODED WARRANTY
61-A [Where the firm in “The Firm” is located] = MEMPHIS, IONESSEE

Nice, wide-open grid with a bunch of marquee fill: PEP TALK, STEAM ROOM, the late, great Sam KINISON, WAIT LISTS, MADE NOISES, AND THEN, SKIPS CLASS, SPARE ME, I WISH, OH YES and PINATA.

I should mention that the April Blindauer just won Crossword of the Month at my blog, beating out some especially tough competition. That puzzle was wickedly complex and multi-layered, so I don’t mind at all that he’s thrown us a (relative) softball for May. My brain enjoyed it.

4.IO stars, of course, keeping with the theme.

Updated Monday morning:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 5 5 14 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 5 5 14 “Themeless Monday”

Lots of goodies in the grid today:

  • 1a. [Serving of Meat Loaf], POWER BALLAD.
  • 17a. [New wave #1 hit with the repeated line “That ain’t working”] MONEY FOR NOTHING. Some radio stations won’t play this Dire Straits because of its F-word. Not that F-word. The other one.
  • 25a. [DJ’s flub], DEAD AIR.
  • 58a. [Airport connection?], WI-FI HOTSPOT.
  • 1d. [Fruit drink brand named after its main ingredient], POM. Pomegranate juice.
  • 12d. [Post historian?], PHILATELIST. Post = mail, philately = love of postage stamps.
  • 38d. [“I’m as surprised as you are”], “WHO KNEW?”

Just a handful of other notes:

  • 28d. [“Thirteen Ways of Looking ___ Blackbird” (Wallace Stevens)], AT A. Never read the poem before now. I’m partial to this perfect line: “It was evening all afternoon.”
  • 29d. [Thunder thighs], BLIMP. Would rather clue BLIMP as the dirigible and not with name-calling.
  • 51d. [Crossword clue, for short], DEF, short for “definition.” I hate calling the clues “definitions.” So often, a crossword clue is not a definition at all. For example, [“I’m as surprised as you are”] for WHO KNEW, [Garbage collection, maybe?] for BOX SET of music, a FITB like [___ Mode (Prius button)] for ECO, or [Michel Martelly is its president] for HAITI. None of those clues is a definition of the answer. They’re clues. Now, a cryptic crossword clue will contain a definition/synonym along with the wordplay portion of the clue.

3.75 stars.


Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Between Black and White”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.05.14: "Between Black and White"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.05.14: “Between Black and White”

Good day everyone, and welcome to a new week!

There definitely aren’t gray skies in the air to start the morning here, but doing this grid may leave you thinking there might be some lurking. There’s four shades of gray in this puzzle by Ms. Lynn Lempel, with four of the theme answers ending with words that can come after the word “gray.” The reveal clue is the fifth theme answer.

    • JAMES BEARD: (17A: [Longtime New York chef and writer who hosted the first food program on TV])– When I grow out my goatee (as it is right now), I’m definitely sporting some salt and pepper hair on this whiskers. From “graybeard.”
    • CRY WOLF: (37A: [Raise a false alarm])– Maybe the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves should change their name to Gray Wolves and see if that turns around the franchise’s fortunes. From “gray wolf.”
    • PICNIC AREA: (11D: [Luncheon on the grass spot, maybe]) -To be honest, I can’t tell you/remember the last time I had lunch (or any other meal) at a picnic area or sitting on the grass in the park. Maybe that drought will end this coming summer. From “gray area.”
    • MAJOR SCALE: 28D: [C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C, for one]) -From “grayscale.”
    • GRAY MATTER: (58A: [Brain substance, and a hint to the ends of 17- and 37-Across and 11- and 28 Down])

A very smooth solving experience, one where you could be on the beach and GET A TAN while doing it (43D: [Lie in the sun, perhaps]). While at the beach, you might spot a STUD or two playing volleyball as well (54D: [Retired Churchill Downs racer]), though if you actually saw a horse on the beach, that may be a little weird…especially if it was playing volleyball. Loved some of the down fill, from the longer variety in SAVE FACE (22D: [Manage to avoid embarrassment]) to the four-letter cheek with MY MY (31D: [“Well, whadya know!”]). Here’s a new slogan I thought of just now: “METE: It’s what’s for crosswords.” (35D: [Apportion, with “out”]). And you can’t forget to have meat (well, mete) without the cheese, and that’s taken care of with ASIAGO (10D: [Smooth or crumbly Italian cheese]). Only thing that really slowed me down was having Earl instead of CARL (25D: [Kasell on “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”]),which found me in a little spot of bother as I was getting ready to polish off the puzzle. Also stupidly had caret for a few seconds instead of FACET (49A: [Diamond feature]). Definitely went LA LA on that one (60A: [Land for loonies]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FLO (40A: [Olympian track star ___ Jo])– “Flo Jo” was the nickname of the late track-and-field great Florence Griffith-Joyner, who is widely considered the fastest woman of all time. Flo Jo won three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, including in the 100 and 200 meters. She still holds the world record in both races, setting the 100-meter record in July of 1988 and the 200-meter record at the Seoul Olympics in September of 1988. She was hounded by skeptics constantly who thought she had taken performance-enhancing drugs during the 1988 season, though she never failed a test. Griffith-Joyner died in her sleep due to an epileptic seizure in 1998.

Thanks for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!

Take care!


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22 Responses to Monday, May 5, 2014

  1. Ethan says:

    Today’s daily Bad Fill Shaming Parade is significantly padded with things that don’t belong there. Just because something is an abbreviation doesn’t automatically make it bad. No way you can convince me that TUX is bad fill. Just because it’s short for another word doesn’t mean it’s not a common word in it’s own right, unless you also think that BIKE is bad fill because it’s short for BICYCLE and PIANO is bad fill because it’s short for PIANOFORTE.

    I know what a USB is and I have no idea what it stands for. When the abbreviation is more familiar than what it stands for, it’s not bad fill. It’s just not. The reviewer even admits not knowing what GTO stood for. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of classic cars or ’60s pop has heard of GTO so what exactly is the problem? And AKA and BYOB are in everyday speech. This isn’t Scrabble, no reason for pearl-clutching because we pronounce them by spelling them out. The reviewer is sneaking these words into the list of bad fill hoping the casual reader won’t notice and will think “Wow, that’s a lot of bad fill!” Nope, not buying it today. It’s a good puzzle, folks. Well-conceived and well-filled.

    • pannonica says:

      Universal Serial Bus.

      More to come.

      edit: more: At no point did I decry all of those entries (and I could have included others in the list) as intrinsically bad fill. The implication was that en masse they created a woozy, alphabet-soup sensation during the solve. The explicit critique: “The grid felt distinctly cluttered …” That’s the grid.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it, especially the revealer. It was definitely worth the price of admission.
    And TUX is a good, in the language abbreviation. But I do think that grid designs that involve a lot of 3 letter words (especially crossed) come at a price. Things feel rather choppy. I understand that this is a price one had to pay sometimes. But starting with USB crossing UAW made it hard to give this a 5 star, which I would have otherwise.
    I liked the juxtaposition of TINMINE and FLAGMAN–industrial corner. And WAFT is such a good word.

  3. ethan f. says:

    For once, disagree with you on the fill, which was zippy and scrabbly for a monday, I thought. One of the better easy puzzles in a long time, I thought.

    • Brucenm says:

      Your post triggers a question which has been in the back of my mind for years. — re the word ‘scrabbly.’ It’s used by many posters here, obviously in a laudatory, not pejorative sense, but I’m not positive what it means. Does it refer to the game of Scrabble, and, in particular, to high point value letters?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Bruce, there are two Scrabbly angles. The first is that fill does tend to feel fresher with a TUX or QTIP than an ERA or OREO. The common letters are so heavily leaned on in making grids work, it’s a relief to get some zippy words that don’t show up often in crosswords.

        The other angle is that some constructors, whether shooting for a pangram (all 26 letters used) or not, like to take the opportunity to squeeze those Scrabbly letters (Z, Q, X, J, K) into tight places just for the sake of having those letters in the grid. Matt Gaffney uses the term Scrabble-f*cking to describe that. When there’s a little section of the grid that has SQMI crossing QED, or AZO crossing ARIZ, that’s Scrabble-f*cking. The fill would be much better if the constructor removed the high-Scrabble-value letter and strove for the smoothest fill possible instead.

  4. Gareth says:

    More bite than a typical Monday. Fantastic theme & execution, though! I knew WURLITZERORGANS, though not immediately. TRINILOPEZ brings fond memories, one of my mother’s favourite singers and also one I featured as a long down in my very first LA Times crossword! IMAGINE is one of the mostly nauseatingly insincere songs ever written…

    • john farmer says:

      Gareth, the most nauseatingly insincere song of all time is “I Write the Songs.”

      “Imagine”? Idealistic, sure. But insincere? No.

  5. Gareth says:

    LAT: The following has lain untouched in my incomplete theme file for years…
    “They see stars

    Glad to see someone managed to figure out how to turn that concept into a puzzle! Great work, Kevin!

  6. sbmanion says:

    My family drove the 15 or 20 miles up Niagara Falls Boulevard from Niagara Falls to Kenmore hundreds of times in the ’50s and ’60s to visit my mother’s sister and her family. The route went through North Tonawanda and the WURLITZER plant was visible from the highway. I think it was the headquarters for Wurlitzer’s operations. Fond memories.


    • Brucenm says:

      Excellent, interesting Monday puzzles today.

      Steve, my memories of the North Tonawanda Wurlitzer plant are not a deeply etched as yours, but I visited it during my years as a graduate student at the University of Rochester, and have subsequently visited the Wurlitzer Museum in the same venue.

      Rudolph Wurlitzer was a fascinating, high-energy high-achieving, character — businessman, corporate manager, musical innovator, tinkerer. He was best known for his huge fairground organs and theater organs, and nickelodeons, but he was also an important and underappreciated innovator in piano technology. He tried several different designs for soundboards — pentagonal, hexagonal, different woods, different laminated constructions. Not all of them were successful, but he built some excellent pianos with a huge, ringing middle register, especially in the 1930’s. He essentially invented the spinet piano as a small, living room instrument, and (I think) achieved great financial success with it. Wurlitzer was bought out by Baldwin a couple decades (?) ago and exists no more. But I think the buildings in North Tonawanda are still there.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Neat notes on Wurlitzer, Brucenm! I found another innovator of musical instruments just last night — Peter Blanchette, who came up with several new varieties of guitars/lutes/harps in the 1980s, especially the archguitar. Those crosses would probably be fun to find in a crossword puzzle!

  7. Bencoe says:

    Re: “Money For Nothing”
    There is a radio edit of the song which doesn’t include the offending verse; however, it still contain’s that verse’s chorus, so you get the unpleasant effect of two choruses back to back after the previous verse.
    The song is based on a conversation Mark Knopfler overheard at a department store between two workers watching a Boy George video.
    I don’t think it should be called “new wave”, though.

    • Gareth says:

      Yeah, until today, when I found the original version on Youtube, I’d only ever heard the version you describe: on radio, on VH1, on my brothers Dire Straits best of CD and I think his Brothers in Arms tape (memory is getting hazier there as I was probably pre-school). So this whole controversy was always very confusing to me! I agree it’s nowhere near New Wave, in the British sense of the term. There is an American sense meaning “any British music of the 1980’s regardless of style” that was used for marketing purposes though…

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        The song is rock, but the video was daringly New Wave with its fancy computer graphics! No nutty hairdos, though.

        • Bencoe says:

          Awesome headbands instead! A friend of mine in college had bushy curly hair and would wear a headband on his bike. Our creative writing professor used to call him “Dire Straits” because of Mark Knopfler’s look in that video.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Small nit to pick in Blindauer’s puzzle at 41D with the clue “Bit holder” and answer “REIN”: The reins do not hold the bit — they are attached to rings on the headstall which may also hold a bit, or else a noseband if there is no bit (as in a hackamore bridle). Pfui.

  9. pauer says:

    Ok, I’ll issue a full refund (and make it [Bit attachment]).

  10. pannonica says:

    Damn. Was hoping for at least one comment on the image.

  11. Bencoe says:

    “What are you doing, Dave?”
    “I’m doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, HAL.”
    “My god, it’s full of AAREs!”

    Also, though I’ve seen that movie many times, never noticed how bad Keir Dullea’s teeth were before.

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