Friday, July 4, 2014

NYT 4:03 (Amy) 
LAT 5:27 (Gareth) 
CS tk (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 4 14, no. 0704

NY Times crossword solution, 7 4 14, no. 0704

This 66-worder is pretty easy (for a Friday NYT), despite having plenty of fill you haven’t seen in a zillion other crosswords. I’m partial to these bits:

  • 17a. [First-century governor of Britain, whose name was Latin for “farmer”], AGRICOLA. The agric- bit is hinted at by the clue. I would drink Agricola. Sounds refreshing.
  • 34a. [“While we’re on the topic …”], “BEFORE I FORGET…”. That’s a great answer.
  • 35a. [Marked by hostilities?], BATTLE-SCARRED. I like this staggered stack of 13s in the middle, seamlessly integrated with smooth Down fill.
  • 49a. [Automaker that introduced heated front seats], SAAB. Bravo! Three cheers for the engineers at Saab. This week when it was 59 damn degrees during the daytime, I used my heated seat.
  • 52a. [Cork bar], IRISH PUB. I would go there.
  • 55a. [Cause for complaint], PET PEEVE. My pet peeve is lame fill. I’m not alone. Read what Trip Payne said in this interview. (Key excerpt: “In terms of crosswords, my #1 rule has always been: It’s All About The Fill. Of course you want a great theme and clever clues, but the second you resort to weak entries, you’ve lost my interest. A lot of people are willing to “justify” weak entries because they’re “necessary” to pull off a wide-open grid or an ambitious theme; I don’t agree with that. With enough work, and perhaps a willingness to pull back a little from the original concept, you can pretty much always avoid poor fill. Look at Patrick Berry: his themes are great, and you’d have to inspect his puzzles with a microscope to find a weak entry anywhere. That’s not magic — he just has high standards and a willingness to put in the work to make his puzzles as good as they can be.” YES.
  • 4d. [“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” writer], ELIOT. T.S. Eliot—and that reminds me, I am way behind on reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch!
  • 8d. [Upstanding one?], BIPED. Cute clue.
  • 12d. [Not-so-fast food?], ESCARGOT. Man, I was drawing a blank when I had the first five letters and pondered ESCAROLE. One could argue that snails move a lot faster than escarole, you know.
  • 15d. [Send-off for the dear departed?], “HAVE A NICE TRIP!”
  • 30d. [Columbian Exposition engineer], FERRIS. He made that first Ferris wheel, you know, right here in Chicago. Or for Chicago, at any rate. Holy cats, that thing was huge.
  • 31d. [Addictive analgesic], METHADONE. 
  • 34d. [Call from home], “BATTER UP!”
  • 43d. [“Never trust a woman who wears ___” (line from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”)], MAUVE. Ha! I like this clue, though I needed the crossings to get the answer.

I pulled out my trusty loupe to look for weaknesses in Patrick’s fill, but I wasn’t able to find any. Fresh and interesting clues on top of good fill make for a satisfying solve. 4.33 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140704

LA Times

Today’s offering is a fairly simple, holiday-appropriate puzzle. I quickly figured that the starred answers all fit the pattern [American ___] but that the American is left out. When I got to the bottom I found the missing AMERICAN!

We get a pretty broad spectrum of American culture high and low:

  • [*Admirals Club carrier], AIRLINES
  • [*Rose variety], BEAUTY
  • [*Centurion card issuer], EXPRESS
  • [*Entertainment phenomenon since 2002], IDOL
  • [*TV show that had a 50th anniversary celebration in 2002], BANDSTAND
  • [*Line of 18-inch dolls], GIRL – a toy I’ve heard of, but know little about…
  • [*PBS cultural documentary series], MASTERS – a 3rd TV show, more highbrow, and one I haven’t heard of (not exactly something that’ll export well…)
  • [*Armed forces support group], LEGION.

muricaI’m going to say that EDER/LUTENIST is a rough cross. I guessed correctly, but it turns out the other letter I considered, A, is a valid way of spelling someone who plays the lute. The corner in general was a bit iffy, difficult answers are fine, but there’s a lot of awkward/crossword-esey stuff over there… There’s not a lot more I’d like to say: I admired [Cork, essentially] for TREEBARK for its economical misdirection. I didn’t know TIEPOLO.

3 Stars

Patrick Blindauer’s website puzzle, “Downs Only” — Matt’s review


A recent trend in crosswords is the uptick in people who solve using the Across or Down clues only. Peter Gordon has even organized a small group of entrants at next month’s Lollapuzzoola who will compete in that tournament solving that way. The main motive seems to be the sheer challenge of it, though it’s also a fun method to make a very easy puzzle more difficult.

Fitting then that Patrick Blindauer, one of the main forces behind Lollapuzzoola, has titled his July website puzzle “Downs Only” and given the solve exactly none of the Across clues. And the three long downs are clued only as [DOWN]! They are LIKE A BEAR MARKET at 3-D, DRINK REALLY FAST at 7-D, and I’m not sure exactly what at 13-D. Oh wait, this file’s not locked so I can check it and see: it’s ON TOAST, AT A DINER (instead of what I had, which was ON COAST, AS A DIVER).

I’m not familiar with that diner term, which makes that entry a bit tough I would say, since you get no Across clues to work with (though every Across answer is a familiar crossword entry).

Amusing and fun. Try solving some easy crosswords this way if you enjoyed it. 4.00 stars.

Stanley Newman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Continental Chemistry” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 7/4/14 • "Continental Chemistry" • Newman • solution

CHE • 7/4/14 • “Continental Chemistry” • Newman • solution

Not too difficult to ascertain the drift of this puzzle’s theme from its title. Chemical elements with namesakes that are geographical regions in Europe, i.e. the Continent.

  • 19a. [Element name derived from the Latin for “France”] GALLIUM (Gallia).
  • 21a. [Element named for its discoverer’s Scandinavian birthplace] HOLMIUM (Holmia, Latin for Stockholm).
  • 33a. [Element named derived from the Latin for Russia] RUTHENIUM (Ruthenia, which more specifically (or less specifically, depending on how you look at it) correlates to Rus, corresponding to territories in what are now Belarus, the Ukraine, and of course Russia.
  • 49a. [Element name derived from the Latin for “Copenhagen”] HAFNIUM (Hafnia).
  • 51a. [Element named for the German state where it was discovered] HASSIUM (Hassia, Latin for Hesse).
  • 18d. [Element named for Marie Curie’s homeland] POLONIUM (Polonia (Latin)). Ah, if only polonium was inert instead of highly radioactive, for then one could describe it as being neither a borrower nor a lender.
  • 27d. [Element named derived from the Latin for “Paris”] LUTETIUM (Lutetia).

Okay, not just a theme about chemical elements. Not just a theme about demonymic chemical elements. A theme about European demonymic chemical elements. Seven of them in a 15×15 grid. Pretty hermetic stuff. Where else would a puzzle with such a theme find a home but in the CHE?

Turns out that all of the names derive from Latin, but only some of the clues state this explicitly. Guess that helps to avoid elemental tedium.

Clues and fill with chemistry/physics aspects: 17a [Litmus-paper color] BLUE; 23a [Exclusion-principle physicist] Wolfgang PAULI; 43a [Heat unit on a gas bill] THERM; 11d [Like most nitrate salts in water] SOLUBLE; 24d [Measures of a current’s flow] AMPERES. Honorable mentions: 27a [State of uncertainty] LIMBO; 3d [Cataloger of the “original 48” constellations] PTOLEMY.

On the geographical/continental side, we see:

EUROPEAN: 4a [Obstacle surmounted by Hannibal’s army in 218 B.C.] ALPS (in the course of attacking Rome!); 13a [United Nations Day mo.] OCT (not a European organization, but its origins are strongly identified therefrom); 1d [Infamous family cited by Machiavelli] BORGIAS; 34d [Locale of much European offshore drilling] NORTH SEA; 45d [First carrier to offer commercial transpolar flights] SAS.

NON-EUROPEAN: 54a [About 30% of the world’s land] ASIA; 2d {Some lists of continents include it] OCEANIA in the same column as 36d [Ethnic group native to Easter Island RAPA NUI (located appropriately in the South Pacific; also, Rapa Nui is the name of the island and the language as well as the people); 40d [“Birds of America” artist] AUDUBON.

Vertical seven-stacks in each corner. Longish eights vertically near the middle that help to strongly interconnect a bunch of themers and integrate the puzzle as a whole, but the northwest and southeast regions are tenuously connected—at least they’re sizable, so that they are relatively easily solved despite their isolation.

My only real misstep was trying OOZE before SOUP at 45-across [Primordial __ ].

Good puzzle, but perhaps not for everyone. But isn’t that the archetypal CHE?

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16 Responses to Friday, July 4, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Smooth, smooth puzzle! Being from the UK originally, AGRICOLA was a gimme for me. Is he that well known to Americans?


    • howlinwolf says:

      Had to get it through crosses. “Not so fast food”…best clue in a first rate puzzle.

    • john farmer says:

      17A a gimme here too, but with my name it should be. A gimme as well for TAOS, where I happen to be for the 4th. With HAVE A NICE TRIP down the middle, seemed like an apt, if personal, mini-theme. Happy holiday, all.

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    “Not-so-fast food?” clue of the month?

  3. Mark says:

    Loved it – 5 star. Although when my Friday is faster than my Tuesday then it might be a tad too easy. I put that on the editor to calibrate the cluing, although in his defence there were so many entertaining clues that he probably didn’t want to sacrifice the enjoyment factor by amending all or any if it. PB is always amazing.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Wow! A chance to be agreeable. Superb, surprisingly easy NYT.

    I have a query: I have a solved contest puzzle by Matt G., with a meta, that was not one of his regular weekly Friday puzzles. The meta asked for the name of a celebrity chef, and (I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that) the theme entries gave slightly veiled instructions for identifying the person. I’m not sure where I obtained the puzzle; Matt must have posted a link to it. The instructions said to send in an answer by June 25, which I did, (I think (hope) correctly.) I haven’t seen any reference to this puzzle since I sent in my answer. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? (I bet Matt G. does.) :-)

  5. cyberdiva says:

    Avg Solvr: ESCARGOT is the French word for snail, a famously slow creature and a delicious food.

  6. sbmanion says:

    Harder for me than for many of you, although not exceptionally hard. I got off on the wrong foot with NEWTS instead of TOADS. I wanted the expression to be MARGIN FOR ERROR, so I hesitated at putting in MARGIN OF ERROR. I also confidently inserted YOU’RE OUT (thinking that maybe it should be YER OUT) instead of BATTER UP.

    In spite of my travails, I do agree it was a smooth, excellent puzzle.


  7. Tuning Spork says:

    Loved it, except for the fact that I solved it in under six minutes without even trying to race the clock.

  8. Papa John says:

    All week with no LAT.puz and now no WSJ.puz. Does anyone know what’s going on?

    • Papa John says:

      Got my answer for the WSJ — holiday hiatus. That also explains why my stock quotes are stuck on yesterday’s closing numbers. Duh! (I’m retired – I don’t have to have an excuse.)

      Still nothing re the LAT. I’m having cruciverbal withdrawals…

    • Avg Solvr says:

      From the WSJ puzzle blog: Puzzlers— WSJ will not publish a paper this Friday, July 4, 2014—This means no crossword. Stay tuned for early publishing of the Saturday puzzle and have a very happy holiday weekend!

  9. It’s hard to look at 12-Down and its ingenious clue without recalling the grade school joke that has as its punchline “Look at that S car go!”

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