September 03, 2009

Friday, 9/4/09

BEQ 6:02—Brendan's blog is here
NYT 5:35
LAT 3:38
CS untimed (J)
WSJ tba

Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

This grid is reminiscent of Doug Peterson's NYT and Newsday puzzles last Saturday, only with a few more black squares knocked out to accommodate vertical pairs of 15s along with the horizontal pairs.

The long answers:

  • 15A. ANTIDEPRESSANTS are part of a [Psychiatrist's arsenal], though the medical-specific equivalent of arsenal is the fun-to-say armamentarium. I started out checking to see if RORSCHACH TESTS would fit (too short).
  • 17A. ISOLATION BOOTHS? [They were used on old TV's "Twenty One"]. Cool answer.
  • 44A. Ooh, I do not like the clue for NATIONALIZATION: [Process associated with socialism]. Sure, it's accurate, but in a heated environment in which nationalization of health care is inaccurately presented as being "OMG socialism! It's the end of freedom!" it might've been safer to clue it with one of the nonpolitical definitions.
  • 47A. [Having no pressing needs?] clues CREASE-RESISTANT. I feel like clothing labels use "wrinkle-resistant" much more often, as a pair of wrinkle-resistant pants might well take a smooth crease up the leg.
  • 2D. [Rebel] clues the adjective INSURRECTIONARY rather than the more familiar adjective/noun insurrectionist
  • 3D. [Long-disproven scientific theory] is the PTOLEMAIC SYSTEM. I think I heard that it's presented as a valid option in certain Texas science curricula.
  • 12D. ENTREPRENEURIAL is a good, solid word. Clued here as [Launching a start-up, say].
  • 13D. The [Number of nights in old stories] is A THOUSAND AND ONE. Scheherazade is just as fun to say as armamentarium. Hard to squeeze into haiku, though.
The Zone of Trouble: This collision of four answers was the last to fall for me. 30A: [They have their limits] clues CITIES; I like the clue but was dumbfounded for a bit despite having CI**ES in place. The T was shared by STONE, or 28D: [Attack barbarously]; the N and E in STONE were not so easy to deduce. That's because the N was in fill-in-the-blank TISN'T, clued by way of ["___ beauty, so to speak, nor good talk...": Kipling]; the "nor" bit should have pointed me towards the negative in TISN'T, but it didn't. Then there's STONE's E, in LOYE, or 38A: [Ravel's "Ma Mere ___," a k a "Mother Goose"]. You up on your French goose-related words? If so, good for you. The final T in TISN'T and the second I in CITIES were part of HOIST, or 25D: [Jack, e.g.]; I had the playing card and "you don't know Jack" locked in my head and didn't think of the verb senses. So that whole pile-up of answers that weren't coming readily to me took a while to unravel.

That French word: Zut alors! What is BATTEAU doing in this puzzle?? 8A is clued as a [Small river craft: Var.] and it looks horribly, woefully wrong. To hear Wikipedia tell it, some nutty early Americans patented a "James River Batteau" with two T's, heedless of proper French orthography. So there's a rationale for allowing the word in a crossword, but anyone who's had a year of French likely cringed at the spelling. (The foreign language contingent may be happier with NEUE, 23A: [Modern, in Münster]—the plain form of the adjective is simply neu, but when it precedes a feminine noun (as in die Neue Deutsche Welle, or New German Wave of music). Spanish gets a turn too: TARDE is 43A: [Late, in León] and NENES are 29D: [Iberian infants].

Other remarks: COPSE is clued as 26A: [Little wood]. Surprising, isn't it, that spam of foreign origin has not yet resorted to using "copse" as a euphemism? 1D: [Part of a track team?] is a RAIL CAR; hey, I saw right through this clue. 4D: [Frameworks components] refers to window frames; the answer is SILLS. 7D: [Sponge skeleton parts] are SPICULES, and just this afternoon I edited a medical paper discussing pulmonary nodules with and without spiculation—SPICULES are little pointy bits.

Updated Friday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Going to Pieces"–Janie's review

Okay, solvers, time to fire up the Patsy Cline. While she may "fall to pieces" (and do notice how her often her voice "breaks" as she sings her lament), Martin has provided the perfect complement: three lively, grid-spanning phrases whose first word describes how things "go to pieces." And that would be by:
  • 17A. SNAPPING OUT OF IT [Waking up, in a way]. How can this not summon up Cher to Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck?...
  • 35A. BREAKING THE BANK [Winning big].
  • 51A. CRACKING THE WHIP [Acting like a slave driver]. DESPOTS [Harsh rulers] are usually slave drivers, and they're known for ISSUING [Publishing] harsh decrees. Subjects, take HEED [Pay attention...]! YES MEN [Toadies]—yer in bizness!
This puzzle also benefits from the many words and phrases with high-scorin' Scrabble letters: IN-BOXES; SAFETY RAZOR; JOSTLES (misleadingly clued as [Elbows], which has a complement in KNEE clued as [Joint with a cap]); the crossings of EWOK and AMOK, and AZURE and IZOD; and SKOAL. (I also really like the way NOLA [Vincent Lopez's theme song], ENOLA and SKOAL are interlocked.) Oh—and then there's also AKIO [Sony cofounder Morita]. He's not in the puzzle, but the combination of letters in Mr. Morita's first name did put me in mind of crossword-puzzle regular, golf champ Isao Aoki. Good names to remember!

DANCERS feels far too understated a response to [Astaire and Rogers]—who were perhaps the most elegant, innovative and astonishing dance team of their generation. (Btw, Jerome KERN and Dorothy Fields wrote the memorable songs in their classic Swing Time.) Still, I loved seeing the word and the shout-out (however muted) in the grid. Ditto PALE ALE, which also comes "trippingly off the tongue," and the poetic COMES TO PASS for [Occurs]. And how about [Reception helpers]? Not WAITERS, but (these days, what with digital transmission...) the more RETRO [Backward-looking] AERIALS.

Am not sure of what to make of GUN-FIGHTING [Dueling Old West-style] running down the middle of the grid, but I do like the way it crosses all three of the theme phrases—and when ya have 11 spaces and three fixed Gs, well, that's pretty amazing fill now that I look at it that way!

Barry Silk's Los Angeles Times crossword

Barry takes four words that begin with HUM and finds phrases that begin with the second part of the HUM— word, and mashes them together like so:
  • 17A. [Military vehicle arrangement?] is a HUMVEE FORMATION.
  • 24A. [Flower holder that carries a tune?] is a HUMMING VASE. In this case the HUM— word is...itself, in gerund/adjective form.
  • 43A. [Ordinary dinner bread?] is a HUMDRUM ROLL.
  • 56A. [Chemical that keeps the baloney out?] is a HUMBUG REPELLENT.
Well, those aren't too droll, are they? HUMDRUM and HUMBUG are great words, but the theme feels a little flat to me.
One clue/answer dupe cavil: 52D: OLDS is clued as [Cutlass automaker], but 49D: AUTO appears in the grid as a [Monte Carlo, e.g.]. Would've been easy to use "carmaker" instead and pick up some alliteration to boot.

  • 29A. [FDR predecessor] is HCH, for Herbert Hoover. He is not one of the presidents commonly referred to by his initials.
  • 5A. Hockey PUCKS are [Sports disks that can reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour after being struck]; and NHL players initially resisted helmets and facemasks why?
  • 35A. I didn't do the math (1066 + 45 = 1111) for [45 years after William I invaded England]; early in the M*** period, I figured, and I let the crossings bring me to MCXI.
  • 6D. I don't recall seeing U.S. FLAG in the grid before; it's clued as 6D: [Old Glory], plain and simple.
  • 21A. PITNEY didn't come to mind for ["(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance" singer]. Gene PITNEY was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and that song was on the charts in 1962.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "String Quintet"

Brendan's running another crossword contest: Finish the puzzle, in which the theme entries spell out a riddle, and send him the answer to the riddle. Correct responses put you in the running to win one of five copies of Brendan's upcoming book, Diagramless Crosswords. The crossword itself is pretty tough, but the meta didn't take me as long to figure out. You're on your own for both of 'em—I'm not giving away answers for a contest puzzle.