Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NYT 3:49 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT untimed (Matt) 
CS 8:40 (Ade) 

Mike Buckley’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 21 14, no. 0521

NY Times crossword solution, 5 21 14, no. 0521

Change two parts of a phrase into homophones and clue the resulting goofy phrase:

  • 17a. [Freestyling pilot?], PLANE RAPPER. Plain wrapper.
  • 28a. [Music forbidden in Germany?], BANNED LIEDER. Bandleader.
  • 44a. [Top?], WHIRLED PIECE. World peace.
  • 59a. [Throaty dismissals?], HOARSE SHOOS. Although I’m not sure the exclamation SHOO properly takes a plural, this one was my favorite. *rasping* “Shoo … go on … get outta here” *cough, cough, wheeze*

I like the theme all right, but I didn’t reach it before PASHA/ESTOP/ASLAN/TEA URN had a chance to alienate me. TEA URN?? That one is such an oddball, it has only one prior in the Cruciverb database—same clue, 2008 LA Times puzzle. And after partaking of some of the theme, then I hit BEWIG, and the never-heard-of-it ARMCO. That last one was clued 43a. [Steel giant founded in 1899], though it hasn’t been called Armco for 21 years. “AK Steel was listed #1 on the Mother Jones Top 20 polluters of 2010; dumping over 12,000 tons of toxic chemicals into Ohio waterways.” Distinguished! Now, the A in ARMCO crosses the familiar ACS, air conditioners, but that clue befuddled me. [Friedrich units, for short] sounded like some peculiar units of scientific measure. An air conditioner manufacturer?? Not ringing a bell. That A was my last square to fall.

Granted, the longer fill includes GIRLS’ DORM, RED SCARE, BREATHER, RIPTIDES, HONEYBEE, and TV VIEWERS, and those are all good. But unfortunately, my eyes were drawn more to the ESTOP/BEWIG/ARMCO/ERSE business, and my overall vibe was that of an unsatisfying solve. Three stars from me.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Gareth Bain’s LAT puzzle — Matt’s review


LA Times crossword solution, 5 21 14

Matt filling in for Gareth today, since he wrote this puzzle.

I’ll ruin the surprise and give the revealer first: LEADER OF THE PACK it reads across the center, clued as: [1964 Shangri-Las hit … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme found in 17-, 24-, 47- and 59-Across]. And sure enough, each first word of theme entries can precede “pack”:

  • 17-A [Barbra Streisand’s “Funny Girl” role] = FANNY BRICE. Fanny pack.
  • 24-A [“The Situation Room” host] = WOLF BLITZER. Wolfpack.
  • 47-A [Like reptiles and amphibians] = COLD-BLOODED. Cold pack.
  • 59-A [Shine-minimizing makeup layer] = FACE POWDER. Face pack? Is that a thing? No clue; I’ll look it up. Googles reasonably well.

With its nice 15-letter revealer I was surprised to find that this theme hasn’t been done before, so points for originality. Highlights:

***Interesting grid: we have the five theme entries, four long (8- and 10-letter) downs, and then nothing at 6, 7, or 9-letter range. With so many short entries things are bound to get a little crosswordesey at times, and here we’ve got some ETE-ENTS-EFT-ELHI-AGAR action. But weighed against JUDGE DREDD, LAY AWAKE and SWEETIE PIE and those five theme entries, that’s not bad at all.

*** Best of those 3-, 4- and 5-letter entries: KABUL crossing KAFKA at the first letter, PHAT, WALTZ, THE U.K., CHUG, CHIEF, TLC, OSCAR and CONDO.

*** Often an English vibe from our South African constructor, and here we’ve got FAB clued as [British Invasion adjective], the aforementioned THE U.K., [“__ Been Thinking About You”: 1991 Londonbeat chart-topper] for IVE, which could also have been clued Englishly (though tougher) in reference to this genius, [House of Lords members] for PEERS. But no credit for thinking Shaw (GBS) or OSCAR Wilde were English.

***[Longtime Delaware senator] is of course Joe BIDEN, who was elected to the U.S. Senate two weeks after he was Constitutionally eligible (i.e., he turned 30).

3.75 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Going Out on Top”

Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword solution, 5 21 14 "Going Out on Top"

Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword solution, 5 21 14 “Going Out on Top”

Words that mean “finished” appear at the top of the Down theme entries, and there’s a clue acrostic aspect too:

  • 3d. [Content of Cliven Bundy’s last widely televised screed], OVERT RACISM. Over.
  • 30d. [Turkish snack made with lamb or chicken], DONER KEBABS. Done.
  • 9d. [Dish brought along on an outdoor excursion], PASTA SALAD. Past.
  • 26d. [Animated film partly set in the office of a dentist], FINDING NEMO. Fin, French for “finished.”
  • 69a. [There is an important one spelled out by the last characters of this puzzle’s clues, starting from the top], NOTE. It spells out “Dear solver; Ben Tausig’s crossword will cease production as of July. Thank you for everything!”

Tanks for the memories, Ben!

In each case, the hidden word is the first part of a longer word. The only inconsistency is that FIN needs more than one letter to complete its word, but that is entirely unimportant. The acrostic message, that is what’s important. Ben is starting a professorial job this fall, and so Ink Well is drawing to a close. Hopefully his client alt-weeklies will pick up another indie puzzlemaker’s wares and keep the good times rolling. Thanks, Ben! It’s been a great run, and we’ll miss your weekly creativity. (The American Values Club crosswords Ben edits, and occasional constructs, will continue. Yay!)

Five things:

  • 33a. [Actress Lupino who lived in Malibu], IDA. I am proud that the “Malibu” ending was a contribution I made as a test-solver. When the acrostic says “last characters” and there’s a quotation mark after a movie title ending with a U, and the final exclamation point is part of the acrostic, well, ideally there aren’t quotation marks. Thank you, random star-map website, for including Malibu among the places Lupino lived.
  • 35a. [Aging process for sherries and ports], SOLERA. This word was new to me. I don’t age a lot of sherries myself.
  • 18d. [Wintertime conveyances for, I guess maybe, LL Cool J], SLEDS. How else do you propose getting a J at the end of this clue? I was amused.
  • 36d. [Philip who studied at Bucknell and Eli who studied at NYU], ROTHS. Another tricky final letter needed in a clue.
  • 52d. [Get rid of, as a show you saved from TV], ERASE. Another tough clue-ending letter, V.

Four stars. Keep your eyes peeled for some ambitious Ink Wells in the closing weeks!

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “In Your Hair”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.21.14: "In Your Hair"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.21.14: “In Your Hair”

Happy Hump Day everybody!

I mentioned yesterday that I hoped today’s puzzle matches the fun that yesterday’s offering from Ms. Lynn Lempel provided. After opening the document and seeing that Mr. Doug Peterson was the author of today’s grid, I just knew we were in good hands. In this fun puzzle, five theme answers are multiple-word offerings in which the first word can be followed by follow the word “hair” to form a commonly-used object or phrase. (Sorry.  Thanks, Gail labman.)

  • ROLLER DERBY: (17A: [Sport with jammers and blockers]) – AWESOME CLUE!!! One of the first teams I ever identified with, regardless of sport, was the famous roller derby team, the T-Birds!
  • PICK AND CHOOSE: (24A: [Show selectivity]) – The number of hair picks I’ve owned throughout my life? At least 10.
  • CLIP ART: (39A: [Premade images inserted into documents])
  • EXTENSION CORD: (51A: [It’s often attached to Christmas lights])
  • BAND TEACHER: (63A: [Instructor well-versed in instruments]) – What’s your favorite hair band? I have to personally lean towards Def Leppard.

Could the best entry in the grid also be the goriest? If so, then BLOODSHED is your winner (35A: [Slasher film staple]). Not sure if so many slasher films feature that as much, nor if there are that many slasher films being made period. Bet in a few years you’ll see a rash of them being made in Hollywood. Right next to that entry was another really good-looking answer in MOROCCO (47D: [Casablanca’s home]). When I was very young, one of my best friends growing up was Filipino, and always never got how the country was spelled Philippines, with a “ph”, but the demonym was FILIPINOS, with an “f” (3D: [Natives of Quezon City]). Loved the cluing/mislead to LIMO (29D: [Long way to go?]), though that reminds me that I never went to my high school prom, and instead of taking a limo to the after party, I took the “A” train in New York. Didn’t necessarily go out of high school with a bang.

Had a couple of “one letter then a word” entries intersecting with I PASS (15A: [Bridge player’s phrase]) and UPENN (7D: [Ivy League member, for short]). Have most times heard of the University of Pennsylvania as Penn and not as U Penn, like schools such as UMass and UConn are. Don’t think I’ve ever had JELL-O after dinner in my life (11D: [After-dinner jiggler]), but I know I’ve had a JAR of Nutella by my side a few times while chowing down at the dinner table (11A: [Nutella container]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: POOH (37D: [Bear who craves “hunny”])– In the sports world, Pooh is the nickname of former NBA player Jerome “Pooh” Richardson, a guard from UCLA who was the first ever draft pick of the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves when they took him as the 10th overall selection of the 1989 NBA Draft.

Have a good rest of your Wednesday, and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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26 Responses to Wednesday, May 21, 2014

  1. OSXpert says:

    Is PLAIN WRAPPER a thing? I was able to get it from the clue, but its not really a term familiar to me, and google sort of confirms that. I enjoyed the rest of the themers.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “Plain brown wrapper” is very much in the language, and it’s featured in at least one song title, book title, and album title.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m with you — never heard the phrase at all, and it doesn’t Google well at all. Confounding that, for a theme with 4 entries, this one made the cut.

  2. Martin says:

    Yeah, plain wrapper is, or was a common enough phrase… usually to be found in the back of those ancient “Men Only” “Stag World” type of publications. When “gentlemen” (or women) ordered various “marital aids” (ie: sex toys), the manufacturers would always assure discretion by shipping in a plain (brown) wrapper. Eventually whole plain wrapper became a bit of a joke, usually meaning that somebody had something embarrassing to hide.

    I anyone’s interested in bygone kitch (such as the above), I highly recommend James Lilek’s site. Google him, he’s IMO “work-safe”.


  3. Martin says:

    Re TEA URN: as you may imagine TEA URNS are way more common in the UK than North America. Definitely OK by me (ex Brit).


  4. David R says:

    I nominate the Tausig for the most depressing crossword of the year.

  5. Bencoe says:

    Same solving experience as Amy, in the same time, with the same last square, for the NYT.

  6. Gareth says:

    ARMCO barriers are well-known to this F1 fan! However, I expect I’m in the minority in that regard! I’d have thought ASLAN being a major character in one of the most popular series of children’s novels ever is fair game though?

  7. john farmer says:

    One day in the middle of the last decade my wife and I were up in San Francisco having lunch at Ghirardelli Square. I had grabbed a local paper — the SF Weekly, I believe — and found a puzzle to do. It had a fresh, fun vibe to it and was like no other crossword I’d done before. That was my first Ink Well.

    Around that time the “VV” puzzles were made available online. The current blogs weren’t here yet but word got around. Ben’s puzzles were a big hit.

    The world of crosswords has never been the same. Though not alone, Ben was at the forefront of making puzzles relevant to a whole new generation of solvers, and in showing puzzle-makers that you can create new markets for your work if you’re enterprising and good at what you do.

    Lucky for us the AVCX puzzles will continue. Thanks for all the great Ink Wells over the years, Ben, and good luck with the new gig at Stony Brook.

  8. Maikong says:

    Ade —

    JELL-O, years and years ago, used to be a dessert. Throw a can of fruit cocktail in it and dessert was made. UGH!!! At age 77 I still refuse to eat any gelatin concoction!

    Always enjoy your reviews.

    • ArtLvr says:

      JELLO was something my college roommate made regularly in the wee hours, as the cheapest snack around. She’d use hot water from the tap, set the mixture on the sill outside the window in winter, and it jelled! I rarely want to look at one, to this day….

  9. Gail labman says:

    For crossword “In Your Hair” by Doug Peterson ; Ade said that the word would be followed by Hair – however all these words come after Hair – roller, band, extension, pick.
    Grew up having Jello as dessert in our family in the 40s & 50s. Liked ‘kind of’ and ‘kimono’.
    It was a good and humorous crossword clue solve for this oldster! Got to chuckle a lot!

    • Gareth says:

      Strange, here jelly, as it is known, is almost always a pudding. When else would you eat it? Except as a main meal of sorts during convalescence.

  10. Papa John says:

    If there is ever any doubt about how the NYT thinks about its crossword puzzles, this notice I received by email should make it clear:

    “Dear Crossword subscriber,

    We wanted you to be the first to know that Premium Crosswords is now the new, improved New York Times Crossword. As the go-to source for the most enriching and entertaining crossword on the planet, we’ve always set the bar high. So exactly how have we made the best crossword in the world even better?”

    Is that a trick question?

    • Lois says:

      I feel that way about the entire Premium campaign. Not only are four nice puzzles a month to be withheld from the regular subscriber, but the regular newspaper will be missing some news commentary as well. It’s hard for the Times to try to turn an extra dollar and still make its regular subscribers feel as though they still have something valuable.

  11. lemonade714 says:

    Another really fun puzzle from Gareth, though I think of a FACE PACKS as a mask.

  12. Avg Solvr says:

    Thanks Ben for all your puzzles. Will miss them greatly.

  13. Lois says:

    I enjoyed the NYT puzzle very much. I thought the theme answers were funny, and the fill was a mix of enjoyable and gettable. I thought that ERSE (56d) was fine, and the case for it was in the clue – “language that gave us ‘smithereens.’ ” I didn’t like one little language clue, however: 15a, “say ‘somethin’, say”: ELIDE. This might be standard terminology, I don’t know, and I’ve seen it before in puzzles. But when “something” is pronounced as if it had no “g,” actually nothing is elided. It’s just a different nasal sound, pronounced with the tongue against the back of the upper teeth (an “n” sound) instead of with the back of the tongue against the soft palate (ng). There is no separate “g” that is usually pronounced and now missing. There is one sound instead of another sound, with nothing elided but something replaced.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Exactly right. There is no such thing, linguistically and phonologically, as “dropping a ‘g’,” as Lois explains. This is a different phenomenon from “gonna” used in place of “going to,” which is an actual elision.

  14. NY Expat says:

    So far this year:

    – Colbert Report is ending
    – Hot Doug’s is closing (look it up, non-Chicagoans)
    – Ben Tausig is ending his crosswords

    I’ll just be here in the corner sobbing, thanks.

    Seriously, Ben, thanks for all the great crosswords, and best of luck on your new endeavors!

    PS: As a member of Generation X, I have to point out that most Boomers (1946-1964) would have had kids after Gen X (1965-1979). My initial solve was “Gen Y”.

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