Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Jonesin' 6:03 (Derek) 


LAT 6:42 (Derek) 


NYT 4:25 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 16 17, no 0516

Welcome to another edition of “Tuesdays Gonna Tuez.” The theme answers here are made by anagramming the name of a state with one extra letter added to the mix, to make a (somewhat) familiar phrase. The added letters spell out REOTN, so there’s no apparent rationale to using those five states or those five letters, and the resulting phrases have nothing in common other than each having two words.

  • 17a. [WASHINGTON + R = Intimidation tactic], WARNING SHOT.
  • 24a. [MISSOURI + E = “No fooling!”]. “I’M SERIOUS.” Not an idiomatic, dictionary-grade phrase, just “I’m + [adjective].” We dock a couple points for the grid also having I LOSE crossing this and I DIG below it (and then two more points off for I LOSE and I DIG not being good entries).
  • 33a. [MARYLAND + O = Period in which nothing special happens], NORMAL DAY. This is not an idiom, just “[adjective] + day.”
  • 45a. [NEBRASKA + T = Mortgage specifications], BANK RATES. Snooze.
  • 52a. [CALIFORNIA + N = Majestic beast], AFRICAN LION. I thought the “African” part was extraneous, but apparently there’s a single Asiatic lion species in Gujarat.

So, the theme didn’t do much for me. It would be better if there were some consistency among the states or the resulting phrases, or if added letters gave some meaning.

Besides the “I” dupes, there are two UP phrases (POSTS UP, which is otherwise a great piece of sportsy fill, and SENT UP).

Five more things:

  • 5a. [Outer protein shell of a virus], CAPSID. Have seen the word before, but couldn’t remember the letters without the crossings. Certainly this is tough fill.
  • 21a. [Smoked marijuana], USED POT. This is a contrived phrase, and somehow I’m wishing the clue were [Thrift-shop cookware purchase, perhaps].
  • 50a. [Prince William’s mom], LADY DI. No, she had the title of princess before she conceived him. You wouldn’t use [Prince Charles’s mom] to clue PRINCESS ELIZABETH, would you?
  • 3d. [Professional headgear that’s stereotypically red], FIREHAT. Is … is that a thing? Most dictionaries don’t include it at all. Merriam-Webster has the two-word fire hat (meaning a firefighter’s hat), while Urban Dictionary has the one-word firehat as meaning the head of the penis, but it’s only gotten 5 up-votes since 2008.
  • 11d. [Get dog-tired], POOP OUT. I’m parsing this instead as POO POUT. Feel free to tweet your poo-pout selfies to @Amy Rey!

Grid’s got plenty of “Why’s this in a Tuesday puzzle?” fill, as usual. 2.75 stars from me. No extra credit for lowering the word count in an early-week themed puzzle.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 311), “Ascending Order”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 5/16 (No. 311) Graphic by Gorski

A tribute puzzle to a celestial object. Full disclosure: my initial response to this puzzle was on the tepid side. After all, there’s a thematic four-letter word that’s repeated four times. Dullsville. Makes for too predictable a solve. Count me out. But then… as I really looked what went into fleshing out the theme in a literal way—the, in fact, superb theme set (with two grid-spanners) and the way it’s gridded—I found myself genuinely won over by the aesthetics of this puzzle and its visual punchline. And… there are a slew of first-class mid-range entries to sweeten the pot. “GEE!” Bottom line: I really like this puzzle. And what do we see in “ascending order”? Our four vertical themers tell the tale.

  • 3D. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON [Hardly ever]. Here’s a backgrounder on the various understandings of what constitutes a BLUE MOON. And here’s a link to the Rodgers and Hart song of the same name, in its 1934 Manhattan Melodrama movie debut. Worth it for the historical notes alone, on the song’s origins, evolution and staying power. (And then, of course, there’s the BLUE MOON Brewery.)
  • 5D. HARVEST MOON [Neil Young’s twentieth studio album]. Released in 1992, and “follow up” album to 1972’s Harvest. Here’s a link to the title song (which, somehow, I thought was called “Because I’m Still in Love with You”…). “Shine On, HARVEST MOON,” otoh, is the Nora Bayes/Jack Norworth song my dad used to sing me to sleep with. From The Flying Deuces, here’s an unlikely version danced by Stan Laurel and sung by Oliver Hardy. (And then, of course, there’s the HARVEST MOON Brewery.)
  • 24D. MOON LANDING [“Out of this world” event of 1969]. “That’s one small step for…”
  • 10D. MOONRISE KINGDOM [2012 Bruce Willis film … and a hint to the puzzle theme that ascends across the four longest vertical answers]. I wish the clue let the solver do a little more of the “putting it together” part, but other than that: a perfect payoff (and rather a decent movie, too!).

And that additional strong fill? There are two sixes: the foodie PEANUT [Brittle or butter variety] and the phrasal LOOK TO [Rely upon]; and then six terrific sevens, namely: DIMMERS and EMBLEMS, ENTREAT and EMPEROR, and (my faves) PUNGENT and FINESSE.

There are a pair of question-marked clues that may warrant a bit of attention for the less experienced solver, as both contain the word “leader” a/k/a crossword cluing code for “word that can precede …” or “prefix.” Today we get one of each: [Noted leader?] is not cluing the four-letter former leader BUSH (père or fils), but the four-letter word DULY, as in the idiomatic phrase “DULY noted”; nor is [Leader of liberals and conservatives?] looking for the five-letter OBAMA, but is instead completed with the five-letter prefix ULTRA- (as in ULTRA-conservative or ULTRA-liberal). But I’m hoping you already figured that out (and will fault me for jane-splainin’!). ;-)

Fresh theme, elegant execution, evocative themers, some great support from the non-themers plus some twisty cluing—my kinda puzz. Hope it resonated as strongly for you, too. Keep solving and come on by again next week!

(Kinda going from the sublime [this pic] to the ridiculous here, but [you know my tendency to go for the obvious…]: “When the MOON hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s [Love, Italian-style] AMORE!”)

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Placeholders” — Jim’s review

Our theme answers have clues that seem a little off until you get to the central revealer, INNER CITY, clued as [Densely populated area, and a hint to the capitals in the starred answers].

WSJ – Tue, 5.16.17 – “Placeholders” by Dan Fisher (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [*German forest’s upper limit] TIMBERLINE
  • 25a [*Latvian colonel’s superior] BRIGADIER
  • 49a [*Italian constellation in the night sky] ANDROMEDA
  • 58a [*French analogy] COMPARISON

As I said, the clues didn’t quite match until I realized that the capital of the given country is hidden in the answer. Then it became easier for me to read the clue without the country at first, and then go back to see if I knew an answer that contained the country’s capital. This worked well and made the rest of the puzzle fall easily.

This theme’s been done before by Ian Livengood in the NYT, but not with the little cluing twist. And some of Ian’s theme answers didn’t exactly contain “inner” cities (TEFLON DON, for example, in which the city appears at the end of the phrase). Like Ian’s puzzle, today’s puzzle contains world capitals; this serves to tighten the theme up a bit and give consistency.

Plenty of good fill in the puzzle despite the fairly wide open corners. Nothing stands out as extra-sparkly, but it’s all solid, good stuff. My favorite entry happens to be GAMUT—I just like that word. Favorite clue: 31a‘s [Code name?] for MORSE.

One entry perplexed me: 4a‘s OAK TAG with the clue [Strong cardboard]. Is this a regional term? I’ve lived my life mostly on the west coast and have never heard this phrase, but it appears to be synonymous with what I would call poster board.

Despite that question mark for me, this was a good Tuesday outing.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Mystery Letter” – Derek’s write-up

Not quite as cute as last week, but what would be?! This one is pretty clever, though. How good are your spatial relations?

  • 18A Visually controlled tennis move? [go the opposite direction] OPTIC SERVE
  • 31A Suddenly shut up when collecting pollen? [tilt uppercase on its side] ZIP IT IN THE BUD
  • 39A Actor/sportscaster Bob and family, Stretch Armstrong-style? [flip over lowercase] RUBBER UECKERS
  • 54A Annual reports, completely vanished? [turn to a positive] YEARLY GONE

So to get from optic nerve to OPTIC SERVE, you have to change the S (South) to N (North). The Z in 31A appears when you tip an N on it’s side. A lower case “u” looks just like an upside down “n,” and the N (No) in NEARLY GONE is turned into a positive Y (Yes) to get the theme answer. It took me a while to figure out the last one; must have been a long day! 4.4 stars for a nice, original idea.

A few notes:

  • 19A [Keeps from leaving the house, at times] SNOWS IN – Snow days are the best. I still want to move somewhere where I will never see snow again! I read somewhere that like 70% of the world’s population has never seen snow! I am definitely in the global minority!
  • 44A [It’s the “K” in K-Cups] KEURIG – We have one of these; it just doesn’t spit out enough coffee for me!
  • 10D [Beats by __ ] DRE – Invest in good headphones. These qualify. Parental tip for the day!
  • 24D [“One of __ days …”] THESE – A shout out to Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners from many decades ago!
  • 43D [Dr. __ (sketchy scientist who’s a supporting character on “Archer”] KREIGER – As mentioned on this blog before, a hilarious show!
  • 57D [“__ Can Cook” (former cooking show)] YAN – I have to share a story. When I was 19, I had just moved out and had no money. This show was on. I swear, to this day, I could literally SMELL the shrimp he was making! The original Smell-O-Vision: dire hunger pains!

Having said all that, I am now hungry. Have a great week!

Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I almost forgot about posting my puzzles! It has been a hectic couple of weeks. As an update, we are done moving, but we still are putting a bunch of stuff away! Plus, we have a son graduating from high school literally in two weeks, an open house to plan, I have classes to finish towards my Masters in Accounting, … whew! I am tired just typing this! We will get through it!!

Today’s puzzle has some circles (which I will denote in red, as usual), and a nice revealer at 62A:

  • 17A [Two-time Emmy winner for “30 Rock”] ALEC BALDWIN
  • 39A [San Francisco neighborhood] NOB HILL
  • 11D [Umami detectors] TASTE BUDS
  • 34D [Where to pick up “will call” tickets] BOX OFFICE
  • 62A [Unofficial means of communication, and a hint to each set of circles letters] BACK CHANNEL

Very nicely done! We have ABC, HBO, BET, and FOX hidden in the circles, only backwards! There are literally dozens of channels to have chosen from; it would have been slightly nicer to include all of, say, the broadcast networks, but I challenge you to find a phrase that has the consecutive letters SBC or CBN! (I am asking the wrong crowd; someone will come up with something!) This is still well done, so I will not quibble. 4.1 stars today.

Just a few mentions:

  • 15A [ __ pork: Chinese dish with pancakes] MOO SHU – I have had this once or twice. It’s not bad!
  • 20A [Vixen teammate] DASHER – There are too many reindeer with six-letter names that start with D!
  • 44A [Boo Boo’s pal] YOGI – I haven’t seen this cartoon in so long it took me a minute to think about who they were talking about!
  • 65A [Five Nations tribe] ONEIDA – Isn’t there a company with this name that makes crystal?
  • 24D [Annual Kentucky event] DERBY – Timely! This was just a couple of weeks ago. The Preakness Stakes is this Saturday. Another Triple Crown winner in the making?
  • 36D [Entry in a sudoku square] DIGIT – I find that some crossword people love these, others hate them. I am trying to get better at all types of logic puzzles of this sort. Head over to this site for a plethora of puzzles, including sudoku. If you find sudoku boring, try one of the many variants they have.

It’s almost ninety degrees here today! Wahoo!

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12 Responses to Tuesday, May 16, 2017

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: “I thought the “African” part was extraneous, but apparently there’s a single Asiatic lion species in Gujarat.”

    Subspecies, but yes. </oblig>

  2. MattF says:

    Yeah, today’s NYT had me checking my calendar. An OK puzzle, otherwise.

  3. Papa John says:

    I’m no expert on, or particularly a fan of, anagrams, but does it really matter if the resultant anagram word or phrase is idiomatic or if it even makes any sense at all?

    • MattF says:

      I think ‘cryptic’ rules apply to the relation between clues and answers in the theme entries of the NYT puzzle– if the non-anagram part of the definition in the clue could be used, all by itself, as the clue for the answer, then it’s OK.

      • Papa John says:

        Not sure where you’re headed with this, Matt, but thanks. I was actually asking Amy about her comment about a couple of theme answers not being idiomatic, which I take to be nits, even though she didn’t explicitly say so.

  4. e.a. says:

    NYT: IMMEAN is “I’m + [adjective],” but i feel like IMSERIOUS is a real idiomatic thing, no? i liked this theme

  5. Ethan says:

    The NYT review seemed extra cranky today. The theme was a little ho-hum but I loved the open corners for the most part. The NE is a real beaut with KID LIT, BABYISH, and LADY DI (sorry, I don’t share the reviewer’s deep concern about the timeline of Diana’s ladyhood), and I also enjoy DA BEARS, and POSTS UP was a great Shortz-era debut. With so many fill warriors gnashing their teeth about ambitious themes ruining fill, I would think a low-key theme with good fill would be more welcome.

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    I thought today’s NYT was clever, interesting and creative, and I liked it fine.

  7. Pat says:

    re: WSJ Oaktag is not really strong cardboard at all. It should be clued simply as posterboard.

Comments are closed.