Friday, September 11, 2015

NYT 4:54 (Amy) 
LAT 5:40 (Gareth) 
CS 6:10 (Ade) 
CHE 5:38 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Fans of suburban New York crossword tournaments, two announcements:

First, the Oceanside Library on Long Island is hosting its first crossword tournament on Saturday, October 3. Details here.

Second, the Pleasantville tournament that Will Shortz often hosts will not be held this fall.

Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 15, no 0911

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 15, no 0911

Nice stacked pairs of 15s crossing stacked 10s, eh? WATERMELON SEEDS atop the great STEPPED ON THE GAS, crossing full-name CHE GUEVARA and CEDAR FALLS (which I wouldn’t expect people to know, actually; its claim to fame is that it’s home to University of Northern Iowa, with six March Madness appearances in the past decade or so). Then there’s the great THIS IS SPINAL TAP over a POLICE CONSTABLE, crossing STAY-AT-HOME and STUNT PILOT, both excellent entries.

The grid may be a little heavy on proper names for the folks who consider such fill to be an unfair trivia quiz. (For the record: I like names in puzzles and consider them fair game.) I just learned via a Sporcle quiz the other day that 38d. [Great Britain’s first prime minister] was WALPOLE. Timing! I have never, ever heard of 36d. [Montana town at the north entrance to Yellowstone], GARDINER. Population 875! If you’ve never visited Yellowstone, I’ll bet you’ve never heard of this wee town, either. (It’s way smaller than Natick.)

Five more things:

  • 37a. [Twisted here this is], SYNTAX. A most Yodaesque clue.
  • 57a. [___ de Moine (Swiss cheese)], TETE. Never heard of it. “Head of the monk”? Gross! Who wants to eat that?
  • 5d. [Lethargic], TORPID. I love that word. Need to describe more crosswords as torpid.
  • 32d. [Original publisher of nearly all Agatha Christie novels], COLLINS. (1) Some people find it unseemly for constructors to include their last name in the grid. I think Frank Longo once had a LONG O sound in one of his puzzles. Doesn’t bother me. (2) The publisher merged with Harper to form HarperCollins. (3) I’d have gone the Collins glass route myself. A Tom Collins is delicious!
  • 52d. [Round pounder], PEEN. *snicker*

Least liked fill: Suffixes –ETTE and –URE, Walmart fragment WAL, ERLE, REL.

Gestalt rating: Uh, I dunno, 3.8 stars?

Todd McClary’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Wheel Around”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.11.15: "Wheel Around"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.11.15: “Wheel Around”

Good morning, everyone! Wishing you all a very happy Friday. Today’s crossword, presented to us by Mr. Todd McClary, is a very clever grid in which each of the first three answers contain, within the entry, the four letters to “TIRE,” but rearranged. From the first answer onward, those letters actually rotate, so that the last letter of the four in the first answer becomes the first letter in the following entry and letter quartet. All that leads to the reveal, in which the rotation is complete.

  • ROMAIN DE TIRTOFF (17A: [Russian-born artist who used the pseudonym Erté])
  • ONE MORE TIME (30A: [“Play it Again”])
  • WIRETAPPING (46A: [Audio surveillance method])
  • ROTATED THE TIRES (63A: [Did some automotive maintenance, or what you’ve done in the answers to 17-, 30-, and 46-Across (and finished in this answer)])

Again, the cleverness of the theme execution shouldn’t be understated, despite the easy solve. I grew up with Ren and STIMPY being one of the more popular cartoons out there, but never managed to watch an episode (20A: [Ren’s cartoon character]). Actually didn’t watch any of those MTV animated series until my older brother really got into Daria. Wasn’t a bad show actually. Our last real scorching day this summer came on Labor Day, so it doesn’t look like I’ll be ordering a GELATO anytime soon (59A: [Frozen dessert]). This grid also had some modern technology sprinkled in, with both WEB APP (24D: [Internet-based program, informally]) and IPHONE, something that I’m getting closer and closer to ordering because of the shortcomings of my Droid that I possess (18D: [Apple product]). Interesting to see that we have Erté in a clue and the similarly-looking ÊTRE as an entry (58A: [Raison d’____ (reason for being)]). Yes, it means absolutely nothing, but just wanted to point it out anyway!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NUGGET (42D: [Gold panning find])  – For those who are natives of Colorado and are sports fans (though you don’t have to be from Colorado), who you think was the greatest Denver NUGGET of all time? Alex English? Lafayette “Fat” Lever? Dikembe Mutombo? Dan Issel? This isn’t more of an informational “sports…smarter” clue than it is a survey. But, I can tell you that the Denver Nuggets are one of the four American Basketball Association (ABA) teams that ended up merging with the NBA. The Nuggets original name when they started out in the ABA was the Denver Rockets.

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you tomorrow

Take care!


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “It’s Totally Absurd!” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 9/11/15 •  "It's Totally Absurd!" • Gorski • solution

CHE • 9/11/15 • “It’s Totally Absurd!” • Gorski • solution

Well, here’s a theme that undeniably plays to the Chronicle’s demographic.

  • 35a. [1952 tragicomedy featuring the tramps 19 Across and 56 Across] WAITING FOR GODOT, one of the archetypal works of Absurdist theater. (Pronunciation stress on the first syllable, incidentally.)
  • 1a. [*Start of a word ladder whose first and last “steps” are characters in 35 Across] DIDI.
  • 19a. [Character whose pet name is 1 Across] VLADIMIR.
  • 66a. [*End of the word ladder] GOGO.
  • 56a. [Character whose pet name is 66 Across] ESTRAGON.
  • The word ladder plays out in the first and last rows: DIDI, DIDO, DODO, TODO, TOGO, GOGO.
    • 5a. [*Queen abandoned by Aeneas] DIDO. Literary clue, versus, say, the pop-folk singer.
    • 9a. [*Caucus-race proposer in Wonderland] DODO. Literary clue, versus, say, a biological or historical one.
    • 64a. [*Commotion] TO-DO.
    • 65a. [Burkina Faso neighbor] TOGO.

Obviously, the pet names are reduplicatives of sections of the character’s full names.

Strange blend of factual theme plus wordplay theme, but I suppose one must seize the opportunities one encounters. I’d say it works here.

Ordinarily, I’d moan about 40-across and 43-across: a random Roman numeral stacked above a Morse code clue?! This time I give it a pass, as they weirdly echo the characters’ pet names: 40a [XL × LV] MMCC, 43a [When doubled, a Morse code M] DAH.

The fill is choppy, though, with plenty of three- and four-letter abbrevs. and initialisms, plus crosswordese and partials: I LEDET AL, RTES, TGI, EIN, ORA, ORAN, AGRA, INT, WMD, ASE, -OSE, ANEMO-, ROTC. The word ladder components unfortunately emphasize the choppiness.

  • 16a [Something cordoned off at a swim meet] LANE. Nathan LANE played ESTRAGON in the 2009 Broadway revival.
  • 17a [James who wrote “Knoxville: Summer, 1915”] AGEE. Orchestrated by another celebrated Samuel – Barber. Closer to home with this crossword, both AGEE and Beckett had notoriously atrocious handwriting.
  • Just a handful of midlength fill, two vertical pairs of stacked eights ORIENTED, DIMAGGIO, AMARETTO, I CHEATED.

Interesting and well-executed theme burdened with less-than-stellar ballast fill, resulting in a vaguely disappointing solving experience. Perhaps that’s a metafictional aspect of the puzzle, so who knows?

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deconstruction” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/11/15 • "Deconstruction" • Stone, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 9/11/15 • “Deconstruction” • Stone, Shenk • solution

Simple theme, two-word phrases for which the second word gets ‘DE’ prefixed.

  • 21a. [Rare emotion for commuting drivers?] TRAFFIC DELIGHT (traffic light).
  • 30a. [Never-ending punishment for a bad executive?] PERPETUAL DEMOTION (perpetual motion).
  • 45a. [One who determines the features of the next iPhone?] APPLE DECIDER (apple cider).
  • 61a. [Highway engineer’s task?] ROAD DESIGN (road sign).
  • 63a. [The mane, say?] PONY DETAIL (pony tail).
  • 74a. [Breakdown at the adobe factory?] BRICK DELAYER (brick layer).
  • 88a. [Making a store sale feel really cheap?] BARGAIN DEBASEMENT (bargain basement).
  • 101a. [Routing mishaps at FedEx?] PACKAGE DETOURS (package tours).

Not a glamorous theme, but it does the job. Some of the reworked words (decider, detail) are unrelated etymologically to their forebears, while others are more or less obviously associated. The prefixes display the various meanings associated with de-: reversal, intensification, and from/off. Finally, no DE- words among the non-theme fill (though there are a smattering of appearances within the clues).

  • 53a [Film fans] CINEASTS. Would have appreciated a var. qualifier here. See Ngram.
  • Last square filled: crossing of 28a [Cal. column] T–U and 15d [Development period, perhaps] ONE–OUR. THU and ONE HOUR.
  • 93a [Sweater letter] ETA stacked above 98a [Sites for sweaters] SPAS.
  • Reflexive clue: 32d [Much of the WSJ’s first section] US NEWS. More venue-specific material: 40a [401(k) alternative] IRA, 8d [Billionaire Broad] ELI, 22d [Market corrections] DIPS, 46d [Stock dividend] PAYOUT, 56d [Market figure] SELLER, 75d [Bus. sch. course] ECON, 77d [Anticipating decline] BEARISH, 94d [Balance sheet listing] ASSET, 103d [Corp. honcho] CEO.
  • Coming-Home-2014-3Teensy typo (in both Across Lite version and .pdf): 60a [Before. poetically] ERE.
  • 16d [Most Nick at Nite programming] RERUNS, 52a [Sat through again] RESAW.
  • 67d [Sister of Venus] SERENA. Despite her very recent sororal  US Open victory, I wasn’t properly parsing the clue and tried SELENA first. Selene, or Selena is the Greek analogue to the Roman Luna.
  • Studious non-cross-reference: 29a [“Veep” carrier] HBO, 20a [Mother of Galahad] ELAINE.
  • Favorite clues: 86d [Standing] REPUTE, 73a [Resonant disk] GONG.

Overall clean fill, solid crossword.

Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 150911

LA Times

It’s a clue / answer reversal theme. The clue is PASS. The answers are FOOTBALLTHROW, MAKETHEGRADE, SKIPONESTURN, and MOUNTAINROUTE. It seems a cheap way of delaying the a-ha, stuffing PASS at the bottom; no wordplay or anything. I quickly went and solved that section and then went back to the rest of the puzzle though. On the plus side, the theme phrases are fairly natural and untortured. The theme still isn’t high on excitement factor.

Anyone open with PKGS and cross it at 1D with POWWOW? Just me? Okay then. CODS is an odd looking plural abbr. Anyone care to confirm its use in real life?

The puzzle makes up for things somewhat in longer answers like CONFAB, SLOTH, RANAMOK, BROWBEAT, TIRAMISU and NUANCES. They’re mostly one-word, but still nice vocabulary answers.

The ugliest area by far is ITOR/ORDO/YSER. Apart from that, only a bit of sporadic glue is to be seen.

2.75 Stars

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14 Responses to Friday, September 11, 2015

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: “57a. [___ de Moine (Swiss cheese)], TETE. Never heard of it. “Head of the monk”? Gross! Who wants to eat that?”

    Someone who enjoys drinking cappuccino, perhaps?

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Terrific NYT puzzle, though GARDINER was a head-scratcher!

  3. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT– TORPID is a great word, makes up for a little crosswordese.

  4. janie says:

    GARDINER is a town i stayed in — several nights — when visiting yellowstone three years ago. permanent population may be small, but *lotso* motels and tourist-focused business there. not that i immediately remembered its name, mind you, but that it felt like decidedly fair game. ya gotta go through it if you use the park’s northern end as your point of access or egress. it’s also the park’s only “year ’round” entrance. it was the first major entrance to the park and the (teddy) roosevelt arch there ushers visitors in.

    and really like the puzzle, too!


  5. Zulema says:

    Definitely liked the puzzle, especially because after I thought I would never solve it without help, I persevered and did. I started with SIMONIZE, a word I knew from ads? but not its meaning and figured that had to be it. The only toehold was PERON, but my solving method took a while to get there. A very satisfying crossword indeed.

    • Gary R says:

      I believe SIMONIZE is one of those words that started out as a brand name (maybe it still is) and became a verb in common use, not necessarily referring to the brand. Xerox (for photocopy) and FedEx (for overnight shipping) come to mind as other examples.

      • dr. fancypants says:

        There’s a great term sometimes used in trademark law for brand names that lose their distinctiveness (and thus their trademark rights) by overly broad use: “genericide”.

        To my knowledge, neither FedEx nor Xerox has reached that point yet. “Aspirin” is a well-known example of a trademark that suffered genericide. My favorite example is “zipper.”

        • Gary R says:

          I was aware of aspirin, but did not know zipper was originally a brand name.

          I believe Xerox got proactive about protecting their trademark – emphasizing in their advertising and other corporate communications that Xerox is a “brand” and photocopying is the generic term for the process. Johnson & Johnson made similar efforts around the Band-Aid “brand” of plastic bandages.

  6. David L says:

    Hmm, I didn’t care for this so much, although on reflection I’m not sure why. I didn’t like WALPOLE crossing WAL, then also OTTO/OCTO and DOVES/ICEDOVER — I guess these repetitions don’t break any rule but they struck me as inelegant.

    Why is ALTO “part of the range that’s widely accessible”?

  7. Zulema says:

    I’ll put in a good word for the Gorski CHE puzzle. Not disappointing at all.

  8. Dude says:


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