Monday, June 9, 2014

NYT 4:02* (pannonica) 
LAT 3:33* (pannonica) 
CS 14:42 (Ade) 
BEQ 4:45 (Amy) 

Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 6/8/14 • Mon • McCay • 6 8 14 • solution

NYT • 6/8/14 • Mon • McCay • 6 8 14 • solution

The four theme answers mine the old Wacky Wordies puzzles from Games magazine, one specific style of them in which the spaces between letters are increased. As such, we take the answer clued by the words and combine it with a literal interpretation of the typography—an adjective describing the enhanced spacing—to constitute a familiar phrase.

  • 20a. [ T e l e p h o n e   h a n d s e t ] WIDE RECEIVER.
  • 28a. [ C o r s e t   p a r t ] EXTENDED STAY.
  • 48a. [ A r m y   u n i t ] LONG DIVISION.
  • 58a. [ T h r e e   s t r i k e s … or a description of the theme clues] STRETCHED OUT.

Before I assess the theme proper, a note on typography. The aspect modified here is properly called tracking and is properly done (in the computer era) by adjusting that setting. Prior to that it would have been done by a trained typesetter. A small problem can arise when trying to emulate the effect ‘manually’—namely, it tends to be done incorrectly. Sure, it’s a snap to add a single space between letters, but the key is making the spaces between words look proportional as well. A common error is to simply forget and use a ‘normal’ single space between them; this seems to be what’s been done in the NYT’s on-line app. The next most common error is to add another single space to the regular space between words—that is, effectively, to have two spaces between words. However, this isn’t quite right and the eye tends to have a little trouble separating them; this is how the Across Lite version is formatted. Finally, the best emulation is to use three spaces between words. It strikes the sweet spot visually, as two spaces are too few and four are too many. (Compare this to James Thurber’s assessment of the proper number of martinis to have.) I cannot easily tell if the PDF file of the puzzle uses three spaces or has had the tracking value adjusted; in either case it looks better than the other two versions.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Wacky Wordies, and this theme tickled me. It certainly isn’t hardcore W², just a gentle and consistent snippet appropriate for a Monday. However, I’m very torn regarding the revealer. On the one hand, it’s an inspired choice for explaining what’s going on. On the other hand, it’s noticeably different grammatically from the other three. Those are all noun phrases, the noun modified by an adjective. STRETCHED OUT is an adjective phrase (though OUT is clued as a noun, as per the others). It’s … ah … the odd one out.

Short notes:

  • Do not care to see STOA as one-across on a Monday.
  • Contemporary-ish clue for 16a POLAR, referencing the somewhat novel phenomenon North America experienced this past winter.
  • Was going to criticize 49d [Features of some daring sweaters] for V-NECK as not being adequately descriptive, as it’s the deep or even plunging versions that are ‘daring’, but it seems the category is understood to include those styles. It sill feels a little off, but the constraints of terse cluing sometimes result in niggling shortcomings.
  • 39d [Antiquated] OLD STYLE, which is also a common designation in typography.
  • 6d [Singer Clapton] ERIC. Just singer? Gah.
  • 46d [ ___ scale (earthquake measurer)] RICHTER. A conversation in the Piano World Forum:

    Borut – Originally stated by Benedict (several times, if I remember correctly):
    Quote: Sviatoslav Richter never played any scales.
    I’ve heard differently: According to former teacher of mine who managed to slip in his otherwise closed morning rehearsal at the day of the recital many years ago in Zagreb, Richter did nothing else [/b] but played scales, for almost two straight hours, much to the frustration of my teacher, a student of piano at the time.

    It continues for a bit.

  • Feel kind of blah about both WAS and ARE in the grid, but perhaps I’m being MOODY.

Good but not great Monday.

*Keyboard still misbehaving—second replacement supposedly on its way.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/9/14 • Mon • Gunderson • solution

LAT • 6/9/14 • Mon • Gunderson • solution

Five theme answers, four arranged in a windmill pattern, a shorter one in the center.

  • 18a. [*Welathy executive’s plane] PRIVATE JET.
  • 35d. [*Ordinary-looking gal] PLAIN JANE.
  • 63a. [*Cheese with a bite] PEPPER JACK.
  • 3d. [*Pizza Hut rival] PAPA JOHN’S. No relation to our regular commenter, I assume.
  • 39a. [*Preparation using crushed Bartletts, say] PEAR JAM, which is not so common these days. Here in the early 21st century the rock band PEARL JAM (still) has a lot more currency, so looking at this central entry alone, a solver could be forgiven for thinking it’s a drop-an-L theme …

… and not a PJ initial theme. Oh, and there’s a revealer: 65d [Magazine mogul, familiarly, known for dressing in the sleepwear hinted at the answers to starred clues] HEF, as in Hugh Hefner. Wow, is that a tortured clue/revealer or what? Is it worth it? A mere trigram with a rather tenuous connection to the theme? I don’t feel it is.

Not only that, but there’s a lot of other grid frass, more than I prefer to see on Mondays: -OLA, OTOE, ERNES, J AS, ESE, ETO, POI, SOL, TRA, ERSE, ERTE, and more. Oh, and I never see any value in AYN Rand.

Some decent mid-length non-theme fill sprinkled in: OBJECTED, EPICURE, PRECISE, TAP DANCE, SCALPED, ARAL SEA, DEAREST.

Nothing particularly stellar here, nor is the crossword completely [Lacking zip] VAPID, just a bit too blah for a Monday. Seeing as it’s 6:04am and I’m still in my metaphorical pyjamas, I’ll just get back in bed.

* You know what this is about.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Here Comes the Sun”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.09.14: "Here Comes the Sun"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.09.14: “Here Comes the Sun”

Hello once again, and welcome to a new week!

If you want a very crunchy, challenging start to your Monday, then this offering by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith is the perfect solve for you. If you prefer things more easy-breezy to begin the week, then look somewhere else! First off, the theme, in which each of the theme answers have the word “sun” embedded within the entry. Second, unlike this theme, which incorporates the sun, the weather right now here is anything but sunny, as it is raining cats and dogs! A blah way to start the week!

  • GOES UNDERGROUND: (17A: [Hides out])
  • COMES UNGLUED: (29A: [Flips out])
  • DRESS UNIFORM: (41A: [Parade attire, perhaps])
  • TUFTS UNIVERSITY: (56A: [Massachusetts campus]) – It pays to know your constructor’s tendencies! Looked at this clue, and knowing that I’ve come across answers in Martin’s grids before that have incorporated the city AND state name in an answer (e.g. San Antonio, Texas), I thought, “What if this clue had the word ‘college’ or ‘university’ in the answer?” Started with University, saw there would be five letters remaining to fill, and immediately thought Tufts. Once a couple of down crossings jibed with it, then I was off and running.

A quick review: Man, some answers had me cracking my brain, none the least of which was the one I ended the puzzle with, ALTE (34A: [Old, in Berlin]). Having that cross both AVUNCULAR (11D: [Genial, like a certain male relative]) and MINARETS (12D: [Mosque towers]) wouldn’t do too many non-German speakers any favors. If those answers didn’t throw you for a loop, then CARNAUBA lurked in the southwest to give you another challenge (35D: [Wax source]).

Major props for having LION (10D: [Detroit gridder]) cross LAMB (10A: [Gentle farm animal]). Very apropos, especially with the clue for LION, as the Detroit Lions, given their recent history, usually start seasons as Lions and end each season like lambs! It’s the long way of saying that they haven’t been reasonably any good for about 15 years.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LA RAM (31D: [Former West Coast NFL player])– I have had RAM in this space before, so this is somewhat of a repeat on here, which I try not to do. But instead of talking about the team’s origin, like I did before, I’ll just mention a couple of former L.A. Rams who parlayed their time near Hollywood into acting/performing arts careers after their playing days ended. Remember the ’80s television series Hunter? Fred Dryer, the lead actor who played a detective, Sgt. Rick Hunter, played defensive end for the Rams from 1972-1981. Also, Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, who appeared on episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Dream of Jeannie and The White Shadow, played defensive tackle for the L.A. Rams from 1963-1966. In addition, Grier, serving as a bodyguard to Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, was the man who wrested away the gun from, and then subdued RFK’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, on that fateful night inside of the Ambassador Hotel in June of 1968.

Take care everybody, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 6 9 14 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 6 9 14 “Themeless Monday”

This 62-worder looks pretty before you fill it in, and it’s got a handful of goodies, but in general I will find a 62-worder less fun to solve than a 68- to 72-word themeless.

The good stuff:

  • 16a. [Web developer?], ARACHNID. Nice clue. Didn’t fool me.
  • 17a. [Schoolyard taunts], NAME CALLING.
  • 24a. [“No time to look at this, sorry,” initially], TLDR. Or, more accurately, tl;dr. It’s what people comment when the article/post they’re commenting on required more mental effort than they can call on. “Too long; didn’t read.”
  • 28a. [“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a ___” (Picasso)], CHILD. Great quote.
  • 37a. [Returned the favor], RETALIATED. I like the clue’s faux niceness.
  • 40a. [It can get you free drinks], REWARDS CARD. I don’t get free drinks with my store rewards cards, but I do get drink coupons from Southwest Airlines thanks to my SWA-branded credit card.
  • 5d. [Connection made during an interview], EYE CONTACT. Also important to have a firm handshake. No limp-fish handshakes, no knuckle-breakers.
  • 23d. [Leia vis-à-vis Luke], TWIN SISTER. Their story is where Star Wars meets Flowers in the Attic.
  • 29d. [“Lord of the Rings” elf], LEGOLAS. Pretty-boy Orlando Bloom.

STENO NOTES just felt weird (although anagrammatic), SLATEFUL is awkward, and RESINY, SHIELDER, and REDYED leaned heavily on affixes.

Mystery item: 35d. [Effie ___ (Sam Spade’s secretary)], PERINE. Not ringing any sort of bell at all.

Three stars.

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12 Responses to Monday, June 9, 2014

  1. Ethan says:

    Will must be hurting for Mondays. This had to have been accepted as a Tuesday/Wednesday and was pressed into service as a Monday because the queue was empty, right?

  2. pannonica says:

    11:18pm EDT: date/coding fixed.

  3. Alex says:

    I still see issues with the dates: in the green header I see two lines:

    1) June 8, 2014 – – 2 comments
    2) Monday, June 9, 2014

    • pannonica says:

      Not sure what the green header is in your browser (the post title? it’s black for mine), but as far as I can tell there isn’t anything incorrect. At Fiend, the next day’s post (with that day’s title) appears the evening before. Comments are date-stamped when they are actually received (Central Time).

  4. Bencoe says:

    Yes! I’ve never managed to get under two minutes on the NYT iPad app before today. Too hard with just my index fingers typing. Just made it.

  5. pannonica says:

    nb: Contrary to suggestions elsewhere, the factor is tracking (or ‘letter spacing’), not kerning. The former is a uniform metric, the latter is idiosyncratic to particular letter pairings, and can vary greatly. Word spacing may be adjusted separately as well.

  6. Ethan says:

    That was a terrific NYT Monday, I thought. A nice, gentle way to start off the week, and a great, clean puzzle with good fill. Only STOA and EEN are minuses.

  7. David L says:

    In the BEQ, I had SETUP instead of SEWUP at 32d, which gave me a somewhat unlikely kind of card at 40a…

  8. Bencoe says:

    Just did the BEQ. I feel like the top half was typical BEQ themeless, smooth and good. But the bottom half–man there was a lot of crosswordese and bad stuff. SLATEFUL? Probably my least favorite BEQ puzzle in memory.

    • Brucenm says:

      From the “that’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate” department — I liked the bottom, and it went in fairly smoothly, but not the top, especially that obnoxious LOR-E, TL-R crossing, which was a total crapshoot. Neither my most or least favorite BEQ. I had the same reaction to “stenonotes” that Ben had to “slateful.” It does seem to me that the phrase following names should be “etalii”, not “etalia”. I’ve never been 100% sure exactly what a “jumper” is, yet I do know that they look nice on women. :-)

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Fun Monday puzzle in the NYTimes; easy enough that I could solve it Downs-only, but then I had to see the Across clues to fully appreciate the theme.

    3 spaces makes sense: you start with some letter sequences separated by a single space …LLLSLLL… and then insert a space between each pair of successive characters, including the space: …_L_L_L_S_L_L_L_… and “_S_” is just three spaces “___”. FWIW the print version seems about right for “army unit”; the other three theme clues punt the issue with line breaks.

    Thanks for the “Richter scale” snippet. Maybe the keyboard is misbehaving because Richter practiced too many scales on it?

  10. Papa John says:

    My favorite (NOT!) Picasso quote is, “There are only two kinds of women in the world: goddesses and doormats.”

Comments are closed.