Wednesday, May 6, 2015

AV Club 5:52 (Amy) 
NYT 4:35 (Amy) 
LAT 4:12 (Gareth) 
CS 8:28 (Ade) 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 6 15, no 0506

NY Times crossword solution, 5 6 15, no 0506

There are four SEASONS (35a. [Noted quartet]) and each one (provided you say AUTUMN rather than fall) has six letters. Those four seasons appear in a ring/diamond in the grid, making for quadrants that include some triply checked letters. This 72-word grid has, as far as I can tell, just these 31 theme squares, so it almost plays like a themeless since only one of the Across or Down answers is themed. With IN ESSENCE the longest answer in the puzzle, we get one of those quasi-themeless puzzles packed with 7-letter answers—the sort of grid that tends not to excite me. I like those zippy 9- to 15-letter phrases and names more than your RAILCAR and NOTATES and ALUMINA type stuff.

Five more things:

  • 16a. [Longtime “General Hospital” actress], ANNA LEE. I knew exactly which actress the clue was looking for—the old woman who played matriarch Lila Quartermaine—but spaced on what her name was. Not super-famous, but lovely.
  • 17a. [Place for a “Don’t Mess With Texas” buckle, perhaps], GUN BELT. I tried SUNBELT first.
  • There are three four five INs in the puzzle: IN ALL, IN SHAPE, GET IN ON, IN ESSENCE, and partial IT’S IN. Really? My limit is two, maybe three if the surrounding fill is great.
  • 2d. [20,000 pounds], TEN TONS. What? No. You can’t just arbitrarily combine a number and a unit of measure. FIVE WATTS. SIX OUNCES. NINE ERGS.
  • 44d. [Judeo-Spanish], LADINO. Neat word. You owe it to yourself to read a little on this Romance language if you’re not already up on it.

EEEE and IIII? Ooooh. Not keen on either entry.

3.33 stars from me.

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Clear Your Mind”

AV Club crossword solution, 5 6 15 "Clear Your Mind"

AV Club crossword solution, 5 6 15 “Clear Your Mind”

Okay, I’ve completed the 17×17 grid and the theme answers instruct me to ERASE ALL ANSWERS / WHOSE CLUES DON’T / START / WITH THE LETTERS / IN THE WORD “FORGET.” Well, now, that’s a lot of extra work to do after finishing the puzzle. Let’s get to it.

Space space space space space, etc. … through the Acrosses, now back through the Downs to add back in the entries whose clues start with F, O, R, G, E, or T. We end up with 20 entries in the grid, and they intersect in pairs. Highlight the letter where the unforgotten words meet and you get BLANK SLATE.

Read from top to bottom, left to right, the intersection letters spell BLANK SLATE.

Read from top to bottom, left to right, the intersection letters spell BLANK SLATE.

I guess that’s neat, but I’d like this better if it were presented as a meta puzzle without the instructions that leave so little brainwork to be done to reach the final answer. The crossword itself had a little lively fill—DREAM JOB, RAISE MONEY—but generally was less Heaneyesque than usual (DYERS, JILTER, AGARS, ERTES, EL AL, singular DREG, etc.). I wonder if the awkward SET OF TWO was meant as a hint to connect each crossing set of FORGETtably clued answer words for the meta?

Four things:

  • 83a. [Decide to get Outside more?], RENEW. Magazine RENEWal clues are always fun.
  • 4d. [Baby ___ (daughter of “Dog the Bounty Hunter”)], LYSSA. Wow, that was all crossings for me.
  • 41d. [New Jersey city near Staten Island], RAHWAY. Raise your hand if you’re not from Joisey and tried RAMAPO first.
  • 75d. [Where you are, from your perspective], HERE. I disagree. Right now, I am way over there.

3.9 stars from me.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I Got Lost at the Cineplex”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.06.15: "I Got Lost at the Cineplex"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.06.15: “I Got Lost at the Cineplex”

Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is more fun with puns, as the theme answers are well-known movies are given a a new look when the lone letter “I” that is in the title is removed from it. Very clever.

  • GONG MY WAY (17A: [Instruction from a demanding orchestra percussionist?])
  • FORGET PARS (23A: [Advice to a rookie golfer?]) – If only rookie golfers could forget pars and head for birdie and eagle land so quickly.
  • THE SOCAL NETWORK (37A: [LA TV station?]) – My favorite pun of the lot, for sure!
  • JUST MARRED (45A: [Barely scratched?])
  • SCARY MOVE (57A: [Double backflip in FMX?]) – Do you know what FMX stands for?! Thanks to working on the X Games for a few years, that was a slam dunk. (It stands for Freestyle Motocross, by the way, the riders are the modern day Evel Knievels.)

I don’t remember every skit from HEE HAW, but the one mentioned in its clue today, for some reason, was one I definitely remembered from the show (25A: [Country variety show that featured the skit “Lulu’s Truck Stop”]). I feel like Deb Amlen, the New York Times Wordplay blogger, should be on here to talk about the clue for ALIEN, as I believe she’s the biggest Doctor Who fan I know (56A: [Doctor Who, notably]). I started watching the series for the first time about a year back and watching the episodes in which David Tennant played the Doctor, and I liked it much better than I would have expected. But instead of TV aliens, I usually stick with watching classic animation more often, so definitely was heartened by the appearance of HANNA (42A: [Huckleberry Hound co-creator]). Of all the memorable songs done by REM, the one that’s in my head as we speak is “Everybody Hurts,” which I need to get out of my mind ASAP (5D: [“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” band])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ARNE (35D: [“Rule Britannia” composer]) – Did you know that current U.S. Secretary of Education ARNE Duncan was a captain on the Harvard University basketball team in the 1980s and played professional basketball in Australia afterward? Just in case you were doubtful of his basketball skills, here’s Duncan showcasing his moves on the hardwood during a celebrity All-Star game last year.

Have a good rest of your Hump Day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Michael Dewey’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat150506Today’s theme is explained at BREAKINGEVEN. This translates to E… …VEN, EV… …EN, and EVE… …N, in order. EASYBAKEOVEN is an excellent answer. EVILQUEEN is the second. EVERLOVIN is not a Ricky Nelson song I know: the man had 18 top 10 Billboard singles by my count, but that one only hit #16. Maybe you all know it better than I?

It’s a pretty minimal theme, 42 squares, so (even with opening 12s) there is space for the constructor to play. MCJOB, NETBOOK, UPTOYOU, DROPIN and QUASAR are shorter than most answers in fill highlights reels, but they’re excellent choices to include.

On the other hand in a 4×3 area like the bottom-right, there is no justification whatsoever for resorting to a univ. abbr. like ORU. Few if any solvers care that much about a Z. AGENA is the type of difficult, hard to guess, answer you want to restrict to having at most one or two examples of in your puzzle. Here it crosses the strange name of mister EVIGAN. I can see this stumping a good number of people – I think that’s a fairly clear example of a bad cross.

2.5 Stars. Gareth leaving you with a song relating to [Nyctophobe’s fear], DARK.

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14 Responses to Wednesday, May 6, 2015

  1. steveo says:

    NYT: Thought it was tough, but it kept moving. Slapped my forehead when I realized that I finished without thinking about the circled boxes. Probably could have improved my time with that.

    Yeah some awkward fill. 3 1/3 sounds fair to me.

    I had SUNBELT too, which I though was (much more) hilarious (than gun belt).

  2. Martin from Charlottesville says:

    Amy, I thought embedding the four seasons as Joe did was a constructing tour de force. It limited the words he could use for the rest, of course, but I was willing to give up something to get that. I liked RENT OUT, GIT, GET IN ON, WILDCAT, SHIRR, and ME FIRST.

    I don’t find TEN TONS or the clue for it to be arbitrary. The clue was basically an elementary school level math equation: [20,000 pounds] = TEN TONS. If TEN TONS were clued [Whole lotta weight] I would agree with you. A trickier version would be [2,2046 pounds] = TEN TONNES. The metric ton is 2,204.6 pounds.

    If numeric answers have to be like ONE HUNDRED WATTS, EIGHTEEN HOLES, NINE INNINGS, etc. then the puzzles are going to be more boilerplate-like and thus the poorer for it.

    By the way, guess what used to be the size of Coca Cola and Pepsi bottles? SIX OUNCES. Pepsi and Coke offered 12 ounce bottles in 1934 and 1955, respectively, according to this story:

    • dr. fancypants says:

      I don’t find TEN TONS or the clue for it to be arbitrary.

      But why not [12,000 pounds] = SIX TONS or [4,000 pounds] = TWO TONS? If the only response is “that’s what fit with the surrounding fill”, then that is the very definition of “arbitrary”.

      If numeric answers have to be like ONE HUNDRED WATTS, EIGHTEEN HOLES, NINE INNINGS, etc. then the puzzles are going to be more boilerplate-like and thus the poorer for it.

      I wholeheartedly disagree. Allowing [random number] + [plural noun] is a recipe for lazy construction (like this grid right here). You’ll never see a Patrick Berry puzzle with fill like TEN TONS, and his puzzles are (a) anything but boilerplate, and (b) second to none.

    • sbmanion says:

      TEN TONS did not bother me as I was inclined to think that it was not arbitrary. However, I googled the expressions “______ tons” from two to ten and they all have a similar number of hits (around 400,000), suggesting that any particular number of tons is indeed arbitrary. However, 400,000 is a lot of hits. I did not try to parse it further by bringing into play the convention that single digit numbers are spelled out and double digit numbers are expressed numerically. Also, the first google entry that popped up for “ten tons” was a reference to a song lyric and there did not appear to be any idiomatic phrase(s).

      I had a higher opinion than the consensus as to the overall quality of the puzzle.


      • Papa John says:

        I agree, it wasn’t all that bad. It was a smooth solve with few new clues for oldies, like “Peculiar sundial numeral” for IIII. I mean, if you gotta use Roman numerals, at least come up with a neat way to clue them. The arrangement of the seasons within the grid and the centered revealer is impressive, especially for a midweek puzzle. The debated arbitrariness of TEN TONS meant nothing to me because it was easily solved. I didn’t fall for the SUN BELT trap because the G for GUN BELT was already in place. EEEE for “Extra wide shoe sped” appears in many, many puzzles. I’m not sure why it should be singled out for this particular puzzle. It is what it is, not terribly flashy, but suitable for an easy-solve puzzle.

        Once again, I sense a harsher critique for early/midweek puzzles, which I don’t think they deserve. I think these early-week puzzles should, primarily, be easy solves. When they include extras like the unique placement of the themes in this puzzle, that’s a bonus that helps to mitigate the rest of the fill.

        • Gary R says:

          It seems to me that an early- or mid-week puzzle should have answers that are accessible to “most” solvers and preferably, “in the language.”

          TEN TONS did not bother me. While I see that it is arbitrary in one sense, it is also well-defined – if the solver knows that 2,000 pounds is a ton and can do very simple math, then it is clear that 20,000 pounds is TEN TONS.

          On the other hand, I was bothered by some un-natural plurals in the puzzle. Does anyone actually have occasion to say or write UNRESTS or MATTES? (Mattes, perhaps in the context of framing pictures, but not as clued.)

          Also, does anyone use the word NOTATE(S)? Note, notation, annotate – yes, but not notate.

      • dr. fancypants says:

        However, 400,000 is a lot of hits.

        It’s not–in fact, it’s hardly any. You cannot trust the number Google reports, as the initial number usually reflects substantial overcounting (via hits that are all within the same site).

        I searched “TEN TONS”, and Google reported 320,000 hits. But when I clicked through the results pages, it cut off at 422 sites. So there are 422 sites on the Internet (at least, of sites indexed by Google) that use the term “TEN TONS”.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I understand that there were many constraints in creating the pattern of the seasons in exactly this order. That was cool. I felt that the price was having to use many ‘Wheel of Fortune” letters. This is especially true in the North with the EEEE, REFER, FREES, STEEPEN and ENE all hanging together. A few Z’s and X’s would have been great.
    I say this knowing that I have never constructed a puzzle, and admire anyone who can.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Me too — I found bright spots in spite of the theme constraints! My favorite was KNOTTY, because of a student reporter ages ago who printed a quote saying I’d explained a “naughty” problem. Very amusing to this day…

  4. Francis says:

    That’s not exactly a correct explanation of the last step of the meta; the A, W, and L of BAWL, for instance, should have been erased when you erased 2-, 3-, and 4-Down. So instead of finding intersections to read the answer phrase, it’s all that’s left in the grid.

  5. Bitsy says:

    My favorite thing in Francis’ puzzle was cluing “kill your darlings, so to speak” for EDIT.

  6. ML Perry says:

    The meta on that AVC puzzle would have been so much easier for me if I hadn’t read part of the instructions as: “…with the letter S”. (that meant to me that the last line should have been something of a hint for the solution – clugy, I know!) Taking out everything but clues beginning with “S” left an awful mess. Thanks for the correction to my thinking.

  7. Gareth says:

    GUTHRIE! To my delight, a copy of “Bound for Glory”, his autobiography, turned up in a box destined for our charity shop. I never thought I’d find it over here, but what do you know?

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