Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NYT 4:20 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 3:42 (Amy) 
LAT 3:02 (Amy) 
CS 12:17 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 6 15, no. 0106

NY Times crossword solution, 1 6 15, no. 0106

My solving time is slower than it ought to have been. I blame the fingerless gloves (it is COLD in the Midwest!) for ruining my typing accuracy in the puzzle.

The theme is DNA, 62d. [Molecule hidden in 4-, 11-, 23-, 25- and 29-Down], and yes, those five entries contain those letters split across two words:

  • 4d. [Fierce way to fight], TOOTH AND NAIL. Here, there’s a third word untouched by the hidden DNA. The mole is a strong contender for the title of Least Attractive Animal, Tooth and Nail Category.
  • 11d. [Cheerful disposition], GOOD NATURE. “Good-natured” has got to be far more common than this noun form, no?
  • 23d. [Comoros or Barbados], ISLAND NATION.
  • 25d. [Gap subsidiary], OLD NAVY.
  • 29d. [Wilson and Hoover, but not Eisenhower], BRAND NAMES. Terrific clue.

Solid but stolid theme. Now, Deb Amlen just mentioned to me that the puzzle has a visual aspect. What, the black squares in the middle are supposed to be a double helix? That is way too subtle, especially in a Tuesday puzzle.

Four more things:

  • 12d. [“Ouch!”], YOWIE. Yow, yeow, owie, ouch, ow, yeowch … these are all things I’ve heard. “Yowie” is sounding highly implausible to my ear.
  • 6d. [Sign up, to Brits], ENROL. That is one of my least favorite verbs in crosswordese.
  • 31d. [Image often accompanying the phrase “Legalize it”], POT LEAF. A fresh entry.
  • Do we need two spoken phrases with forms of the same verb? 22a is WE DID IT and 66a is the blah I DO TOO.

3.5 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 188), “A Change of Clothes”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 1/6 (No. 188)

Crossword Nation 1/6 (No. 188)

Greeting, solvers—and happy first new Crossword Nation puzzle of 2015. Seems only fitting that the change of year should be met with “a change of clothes,” no? (Whether ya need one or not…) Of course the “change” in the title is your hint that this may be an anagram puzzle. And, lo and behold … it is. Six articles of clothing get the anagram treatment—and as a bonus, two of ’em are palindromes as well. Sweet.

  • 17A. EBERT BERET [Topper designed by critic Roger?]. Although his widow states there are several pictures of her husband wearing a hat, I was unsuccessful in unearthing any. The exceptions in this blog post notwithstanding. But, dang—no beret.
  • 22A. PAC CAP [D.C. lobbyist’s headgear?]. Another hat. Had me thinking all of the themers might involve “headgear.” But no. Our first palindrome, too. Oh, and that PAC is the acronym for political action committee.
  • 28A. ESCORT CORSET [Tight squeeze for a prom date?]. Too many letters for HUG. But still… this one took some cogitatin’ to understand. It’s hard for me to believe that many young men (willingly) corset themselves. Even for prom. But that’s the image this clue/fill pair ultimately conjures up. So this one strikes me as kinda goofy (not in an entirely positive way…). And perhaps a tad forced. These days there is far more fluidity where the idea of what’s “gender-normative” is concerned (like guys in corsets), but until solving, I hadn’t given any thought to the idea that women might play POLO. Seems the “sport of kings” is also very much a [Horsewoman’s game]. Live and learn.
  • 43A. RUSTED DUSTER [Tin Man’s corroded housecoat?]. Hmm. Some more gender-bending, I guess. A duster that’s a “housecoat” is a ladies’ garment. This is more like the kinda duster I think the Tin Man might have in his closet. Gender-bending is fine. But today I feel like it’s in competition with the anagrams for the focus of attention. Which may be confusing for the solvers. The newbies especially. Then again, I may be “the minority report” here! (Perhaps what I know about theatre song-writing may be at odds with what I see emerging in the theme development of this particular puzzle. A good song will have a dramatic purpose, yes—but it’s only about one thing. Today’s theme veers a bit too much for my likes. All anagrams; some gender-bendy, some not. What’s the take-away here?)
  • 49A. ARB BRA [Wall St. trader’s undergarment?] And palindrome #2. Also love the way those consonants are sandwiched in by the bookended “A”s.
  • tosca55A. TOSCA ASCOT [Neckwear worn at a Puccini premiere?]. Once again, Google Images failed to turn up the image in my head—this time of a commemorative-type ascot, one with, say, the image at right woven in.

Kind of an odd and arbitrary collection of “clothes”: two hats, two undergarments, a bathrobe and a piece of neckwear… It’s the anagrams that holds them together—but I’m not convinced they make for the strongest possible theme set. And … if I had my druthers, I’d prefer to see the same consistency in the cluing that we get in the fill: all “descriptor followed by article of clothing”—or vice versa. Since the fill sticks to a fixed pattern, I’m not sure I appreciate the “why” of mixing things up where the clues are concerned. Once again—and where all my critiquing is concerned: your mileage may vary…

Far more happy-making is much of the remaining fill and clue/fill combos. I’m practically ECSTATIC about CREAM CAKE and TOY TRUCKS; and I warm to OUTPOSTS as well. Major props too, to the witty [Gifts for semi-serious kids?] for toy trucks. It’s not that these kids are predisposed to PBS over Nickelodeon, it’s that they have a passion for semis—you know, like the Hess truck.

Also found it amusing that the [Sweet, custard filled treat] that is cream cake (and not the cream PUFF I initially entered…) is a different species entirely from that [Fruitcake], which in fact clues WACKO—a peppy way indeed to get the puzzle goin’ up there in the NW corner. Also a great way to continue the fun down in the opposite corner, where [Fruitcake] now clues KOOK. (The centrally located BATS, however, is not clued as [Nutso], but more straight-forwardly as [Flying mammals]).

There’s more NW/SE balance, this time in the “avidity” department, as [RARIN‘ to go (gung-ho)] is matched by the EAGER [All fired up] pair. And we get a nicely sequential “jazz” pair with [Jazz combo] cluing TRIO and [Jazz gp?] cluing Utah’s membership in the NBA .

It’s the start of a new year—and after weeks of holiday treats, one doesn’t need to be literally OBESE to feel that s/he is [Ready to practice some girth control?]. (Did you know that “weight loss” was the #1 New Year’s resolution for 2014?…) And please: no IPECAC syrup!! No, it’s that even if we’re a bit overfed and physically exhausted in the wake of all the celebrating, we get the new beginning, a time of promise, of being REBORN in the sense of being [Spiritually energized]. I like that. May this good spirit carry you far into the months ahead.

That said, “CIAO” for now, all!

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Transformer Transformation”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.06.15: "Transformer Transformation"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.06.15: “Transformer Transformation”

Good morning once again, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, produced for our consumption by Ms. Sarah Keller, takes us down Anagram Avenue, as each of the four theme answers are anagrams of the word “transformer.” This puzzle would have been so much better if, in one of the non-theme entries, there was a entry that also was the name one of The Transformers in the ’80s animated series (e.g. Bumble Bee, Optimus Prime, Soundwave).

  • FARMERS TORN: (17A: [Growers in a dilemma?])
  • REARMS FRONT: (29A: [Gets ready again for battle?]) – Reading that clue was a mouthful in itself.
  • ROM TRANSFER: (45A: [Computer storage relocation?])
  • RANTER’S FORM: (60A: [Paperwork for disgruntled customers?])

Definitely, had a much easier time of it than with yesterday’s puzzle. Very timely clue with SCOTSMEN, given that the vote in Scotland pertaining to possibly becoming an independent nation just took place last September (8D: [Some want to separate from England]). Two of the fills I really liked were right in the middle, with PARAGON (35A: [Ideal]) and NABOKOV (38A: [“Lolita” novelist Vladimir]). Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I checked how much FIBER I was/am getting in my diet (31D: [Essential for a healthy diet]). Guess I have to change that soon, huh?! We have a full name present with KATE MOSS, and the width of the actual squares which contain her name is probably the same measurement as her waistline at her thinnest, which was really, really thin (39D: [London-born supermodel]). We have some Italian geography in play with GENOA (42A: [Birthplace of Columbus]), which allows me to make the perfect transition to the “sports…smarter” moment, which also has its roots in Italia!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROSSI (6A: [Martini’s wine partner]) – Those that are fans of the United States Men’s Soccer Team will know that probably the biggest weakness on the team is a lack of a center forward/striker that can put the balls in the net. That might not have been a problem if Teaneck, New Jersey-born soccer player Giuseppe ROSSI chose to play for the United States in international competition than Italy, where his parents were born. Rossi and his father moved to Italy when Giuseppe was 12 to join the youth team at Parma. Rossi has played with European club teams Manchester United (England), Villarreal (Spain) and Fiorentina (Italy), his current team. On June 15, 2009, Rossi scored two goals against the United States in the group stage of the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa.

See you all on Hump Day, and thank you very much for the time!

Take care!


Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 6 15

LA Times crossword solution, 1 6 15

58a. [Box of Lego bricks, e.g., or a hint to the last words of 20-, 26- and 50-Across] clues CONSTRUCTION SET, and those other answers are as follows:

  • 20a. [Guideline for standard operating procedures], POLICY FRAMEWORK. That’s a familiar thing?
  • 26a. [Weightlifter’s practice], BODYBUILDING.
  • 50a. [Frequent feeling of culpability], GUILT COMPLEX.

So, I think these are following a logical progression—first build a framework, flesh it out into a building, then expand that into a complex (although there are plenty of “complexes” that are single buildings, such as multi-unit apartment or condo complexes). Fairly dry material, though BODYBUILDING and GUILT COMPLEX are lively.

My likes in the fill include MARAUD, STAY PUT, BUY TIME, and the literary crossing of the ILIAD and the INFERNO. I was always a sucker for Alexander Calder’s MOBILES, too; Chicago has had some notable ones.

Least savory fill: LO-FAT. Who uses that?? Food may be labeled low-fat. Could also do without outdated UAR, ‘STRO, HASP (I know it’s a real thing, but it is in crosswords so, so much more often than I encounter it in the real world), I-BAR, and ET TU.

3.33 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Round Figures”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 1 6 15 "Round Figures"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 1 6 15 “Round Figures”

The theme is men whose names include no vowel other than O:

  • 73a. [Sign, or an alternate title for this puzzle?], OMEN/O MEN.
  • 28a. [PBS painter known for “happy little trees”*], BOB ROSS.
  • 30a. [Crack-loving ex-Toronto mayor *], ROB FORD. Rob Ford of Toronto! That’s a lot of O’s.
  • 58a. [Prime minister from 2007-2010*], GORDON BROWN. In the U.K.
  • 5d. [He played George Utley on “Newhart”*], TOM POSTON.
  • 9d. [“The Andy Griffith Show” co-star*], DON KNOTTS.

Pop culture for three, world politics for two—I like the mix.

Five more clues:

  • 36d. [Post-industrial workers?], BLOGGERS. Bloggers write posts, yes, but I’m not sure that “post-industrial” is quite apt enough. The blogosphere isn’t called the post industry, you know.
  • 40d. [Early oven manufacturer?], EASY-BAKE. A little too loose—that brand of toy oven was originally manufactured by Kenner and is now a Hasbro brand.
  • 10a. [Totally dominates], OWNS. This is one of those clues where you need the crossings to discriminate between OWNS and PWNS. I haven’t seen pwn much lately, though, so perhaps it has fizzled out?
  • 47a. [Gaelic music star], ENYA. She did, in fact, grow up in an Irish-speaking family. Enya is an anglicized spelling of Eithne, her given name.
  • 15a. [County of New Mexico or Colorado], OTERO. There are not a ton of good O***O possibilities. OUTDO and OUTGO are the best, and then there are other not-so-famous geographic names, prefixes, partials, and less familiar words like OVOLO.

The fill is mostly decent, and I like the interplay between OMEN and the theme set. 3.75 stars from me.

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10 Responses to Tuesday, January 6, 2015

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: “What, the black squares in the middle are supposed to be a double helix? That is way too subtle, especially in a Tuesday puzzle.”

    I found it quite noticeable, and welcome. As for its appearance as a Tuesday, those who don’t perceive it aren’t really missing anything—it’s just a bonus. I suppose it’s the same idea as detecting the presence of a theme itself (some solvers remain unaware of them); if it doesn’t significantly degrade the quality of the crossword overall, then it’s no big deal.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I loved it because of the evocation of the double helix in the pattern, which jumped out at me. I also loved some of the sciencey answers, including POSDOC ( they populate my lab and are womderful young, yet accomplished, scientists), GRAPH and I’m claiming GENIUS. I also liked the reference to the first family, ADAM, EVE and their descendant. Presumably the first unit with the complement of DNA we all share. Very nicely done!

    • Huda says:

      The theme makes me think of nature and its diversity. There’s a beautiful exhibit of very cool nature photos in Paris from an organization called Biotope (I had never heard of them until I saw the gorgeous photos). I though Pannonica and others here would know way more about the depicted critters than I do.

  3. PJ says:

    NYT: Theme – Bleah. Three letters spanning two words. With all the theme answers breaking as D NA, it lacked the “variety” of the recent LAT ESP offering. I did enjoy solving it, though. The double helix seems pixelated at best. It mainly provided dead ends to my usual solving pattern for a Tuesday. That’s not a bad thing. Ignoring the revealer makes it a very pleasant themeless Tuesday.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Anagrams are definitely a weak spot for me, but I did get it! Fairly amusing all in all.

  5. Matt says:

    The double-helix pattern in the grid is much clearer in the dead-wood version of the puzzle, where the four horizontal black rectangles on the lateral edges are not inked in.

  6. Zulema says:

    I just lost my post and it was long, so I’ll just say that the PDF version had un-numbered squares where Matt’s dead-wood version (and mine when I looked at it) had blanks. I couldn’t figure out what the extra meaning was. Well, there wasn’t any.

  7. Bencoe says:

    For the record, I didn’t notice the double helix either and it still seems a bit of a stretch.
    I use the phrase “taking advantage of his/her/my/your GOOD NATURE” when it seems appropriate.
    Cold would almost be welcome down here in Florida. It was in the 80s a couple of days ago.
    Is that Tosca poster a Mucha? I visited his museum in Prague over the summer.

    • janie says:

      >Is that Tosca poster a Mucha?

      ya know what? mucha woulda been my first guess, too — but it’s hohenstein, and this pic represents the first edition cover for the score. his poster for the premiere itself is also quite fabulous (and can be seen here).

      vissi d’arte, baby!


      • Bencoe says:

        Thanks! It sure does resemble Mucha’s style though. By the way, the museum was a bad experience, if anyone is thinking about a visit. The cashier wouldn’t take a bill from me because it had a small tear. I had to go get change and come back, then the museum turned out to be extremely small and mostly had reprinted posters instead of original art.

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