Wednesday, 12/9/09

BEQ 5:18
Onion 4:40
NYT 4:04
LAT 3:09
CS untimed

Edited to add: Head to the forum’s Island of Lost Puzzles for Joon’s new themeless puzzle (available in Across Lite and PDF). I’ll blog about it tomorrow. And if it looks like I’m forgetting to cover it in the Thursday post, I hope someone will remind me. For me, the puzzle’s difficulty level landed between Friday and Saturday NYT.

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Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

The Region capture 15anagram theme’s described by the central theme entry, NEW WORLD ORDER (38A: [Shake-up in the global balance of power…and a hint to the circled letters]). In each of the other theme answers, the letters in WORLD have a new order:

  • 17A. SWORD LILY is another name for the [Gladiolus]. If you simply must engage in a swordfight, please use glads.
  • 23A. [They’re usually aimed at heads] clues BLOW-DRYERS. (“Blow-driers” is also an acceptable spelling.) “Usually”? Where else might you aim one? Oh, right—at wet clothes you’re trying to dry.
  • 53A. [Need a nap] clues FEEL DROWSY, which feels a tad iffy in the “in-the-language stand-alone phrase” department.
  • 63A. [It’s done outside a lab] clues FIELDWORK.

I lost about 20 seconds looking for my typo (SHEK Silverstein!), but felt more hampered by the northwest corner of the puzzle. The 1D/2D combo hit me with a one-two punch: I have never found reason to use the word HASPED ([Latched, in a way]) outside of a crossword; the verb form is archaic, one dictionary tells me. And EDWINA [Currie who wrote “A Parliamentary Affair”]? The only Edwina I’ve known is my friend Kristin’s late cat. Edwina Currie was a member of Parliament who went on to write the novel in the clue in 1994; prior to that, she poured orange juice on a political opponent. I rarely know the 22A: [Rome-to-Belgrade dir.] type of clues; this one’s ENE. 28A: [Areas between hills] is DALES, but could just as easily have been DELLS or VALES. And then 5D: [Some cold ones] clues SUDS, as in brewski.

I’m not sure which dictionary gives a verb definition of IRE; the 64D clue [Tick off] is definitely not a noun, but I think IRE is. Who’s got a book that verbifies IRE? (This question is dedicated to Joon, who crusades against IRED whenever possible.)

Toughest clues not previously mentioned:

  • 24D. [Unwritten rules] are ORAL LAW.
  • 6D. AXILLA is the anatomical name for your [Armpit]. But not for mine. Mine’s anatomical name is “the vale of freshness.”
  • 42A. [New Jersey’s Fort ___] clues DIX. Fort Dix is a military installation, not to be confused with the residential burg called Fort Lee, which FTLEE crossword answers have made my default 3-letter N.J. fort.
  • 59D. Everyone knows the [Year the Vandals sacked Rome], right? No? I’ll give you a hint: It’s between CD and D. Does that narrow it down? No? Okay, it’s CDLV, or 455 in Roman numerals.
  • 34D. [Something a doctor should do] is, first off, NO HARM. How solid an entry is this? I feel like it’s crying out to be half of “no harm, no foul.”

Hey, what can get the phantom smell of PINE-SOL (20A: [Spic and Span competitor]) out of my mental nose? You’d think an anagram-themed crossword would make my world fresh and sparkly, but this particular one didn’t quite move me.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 18Spam subject lines get more bizarre every month, as spam filters get better at detecting straight-up “ADD MORE INCHES” come-ons. That spam header is the inspiration for this theme, in which the other three long answers have an INCH inserted. (My gosh, this whole write-up sounds riddled with double entendres, and that COCK at 5A, a [Bad thing to block, in bar slang], is not helping matters.) The other three:

  • 20A. RADAR PINCHING is clued as [Tweaking a “M*A*S*H” character?]. Gotta love that Radar and his fondness for quaffing Nehi. A radar ping is a little pinging sound emitted by radar equipment.
  • 34A. [Sealing victory by not moving?] clues STATIC CLINCHING. Static cling is the reason fleece PJs come out of the dryer wearing socks and underwear.
  • 42A. SUMMER FLINCHING is a [Midyear reaction by those who forget their sunglasses?]. I wanted SQUINTING in there, though when your eyeballs head out into bright sunlight, you may have a full-bore flinch.

Music action:

  • 15A: HOLE is the [Courtney Love band]. Let us not make reference to the unfortunate juxtaposition of fill above this.
  • 18A. OMAR is the first name of [The Mars Volta guitarist Rodriguez-Lopez].
  • 23A, 60A. I WEAR is a partial lyric from Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are,” and ALL A is from a Biggie rap.
  • 41A. [Metal rocker Ronnie James] DIO is/was in one of those bands I can never remember.
  • 8D. [“Ol’ Man River” composer Jerome] KERN is kicking it old school.

Favorite fill: MRS. DASH. Favorite clue: [It takes balls] for CANNON.

Robert E. Lee Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 14The theme can be described as “Mr. Cruel”—Three male names end with synonyms for “cruel.” Theme answers:

  • 17A: [Bassist for the Sex Pistols] (SID VICIOUS). Not the name his parents gave him, so we have one stage name
  • 36A: Muttley’s evil master in Hanna-Barbera cartoons (DICK DASTARDLY). One cartoon character, fictional. I can totally laugh just like Muttley.
  • 59A: “The Wonder Years” star (FRED SAVAGE). And one real name. Child actor–turned–director.

The theme entries, two 10s and a 13, occupy the minimum number of squares you’d generally expect to see in a themed 15×15 puzzle. It’s got 78 words, the maximum. The combination of low theme square count and high word count should make for a puzzle with smooth fill and no tortured abbreviations or plurals. Perhaps the worst entry here is 14A: As vertical as possible, as an embedded anchor (APEAK); as nautical words go, this one’s pretty unfamiliar to non-sailors. But nothing else jumped out at me, so yay. OK, maybe 66A: Fish basket (CREEL), that’s a little crosswordese-inflected.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 1A. [Hurts with a horn] clues GORES. My sister’s husband and kids all play horns, so I needed all the crossings here. Couldn’t get tuba-related damage out of my head.
  • 16A. [Charm] clues MOJO. Great word!
  • 21A. [Uncommonly big] is what OUTSIZED means. Nice to have a Z or two in the fill.
  • 57A. JETS are [Fast fliers]. Raise your hand if you went on crosswordese autopilot and filled in SSTS here. I know I did.
  • 3D. [St. John’s athletes until 1994] were the REDMEN. The team is now called the Red Storm, and I commend them for changing their name. Wasn’t the Red Storm one of the plagues of Egypt?
  • 11D. [Nonsense] has many synonyms, including FOLDEROL. TOMMYROT would also fit here, but not HOOEY, POPPYCOCK, or BALDERDASH.

For a Crosswordese 101 tutorial on the word APOGEE (47D: [Orbital high point]), click over to my L.A. Crossword Confidential post Wednesday morning.

Updated Wednesday morning

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Furry Tale”–Janie’s review

Imagine Elvis reading to little Lisa Marie; something from the Brothers Grimm. Does he read her a fairy tale? No. This is Elvis, thank-you-vurry-vurry-much; he reads her a furry tale. And the “furry tale” in question? Well, the main characters are all covered in today’s theme fill, with:

  • 17A. BABY BOOMER [Generation Xer’s progenitor].
  • 25A. MAMA CASS ELLIOT [Rocker born Ellen Naomi Cohen]. “ The lady came from Baltimore…” (so to speak).
  • 43A. “PAPA, DON’T PREACH” [1986 Madonna hit]. Mostly listened to/heard Madonna in the course of aerobics classes (nearly 20 years ago…). From the “Blond Ambition” tour, there’s some very angsty/aerobic choreography to go along with the angsty lyrics.

Got it? Baby, Mama, Papa? We’ve got the (furry) Bear family here, so the only one missing is:

  • 58A. GOLDILOCKS [Girl associated with this puzzle’s theme]. And without whom, there’d be no story!

A little ANALYSIS [Critical examination] of today’s puzzle shows us that there’s much to like. If someone tells you, “You RULE,” then we know you must [Be extremely cool, in slang]. You may even AMAZE [Render speechless] others you encounter. (A MAZE, on the other hand, is a [Puzzle whose solution is a line]). By the same token, there may be the person or situation with the power to FAZE [Blow the cool of] even the coolest customer. Won’t you feel like a MORON [Dunderhead] then?

There’s also that NE corner with its nice cluster of (pretty hard-scrabble) geographical fill: ARAL, the [Asian “sea” that’s really a lake] (and that’s drying up…); the always-challenged (by overpopulation, AIDS, etc.), sub-Saharan [Zambia neighbor]; and the equally-challenged (though for different reasons…) IRAQ [Where the Tigris and Euphrates meet]. But what ELSE is in that corner? The lovely [Light blocking] OPAQUE and omg, TABU, the [Fragrance from Dana] that probably ought to be taboo. But then what would teenage girls do for their “first fragrance”?

Have you ever seen “Cash Cab“? TAXI is clued in relation to it today […venue]–and that looks to be a first here. I think I’m glad I rely mostly on the subways and buses. I can just see me being ejected in the middle of a rainstorm.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Post-Doctoral Work”

Region capture 19

The theme entries begin with a multidisciplinary team of fictional doctors:

  • 17A. “WHO WOULD’VE THUNK?” sounds a tad off to me. “Who would’ve thought,” “who woulda thunk,” no? Dr. Who specializes in, um, time travel? Martin will know.
  • 22A. DOOM AND GLOOM gives us Dr. Doom. Comic book? Not sure. Sounds like a psychiatrist to me.
  • 41A. Agatha Christie’s EVIL UNDER THE SUN presents Dr. Evil, who specializes in vexing Austin Powers.
  • 52A. Didn’t know the Radiohead song HOUSE OF CARDS. Dr. House is a TV physician who specializes in being ornery but insightful.
  • 60A. NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS gives us Dr. No, whose specialty is vexing James Bond.

Favorite clues/answers, trouble spots, etc:

  • 16A. [Busy sound?] clues MOAN, as in a sound one might make when one is getting busy.
  • 21A. I like WONKY. Is this now also used to describe policy wonks? I vote that it should be.
  • 71A. No idea why SEMI is a [Dance for juniors, for short]. Semiformal dance? My high school had a junior/senior prom, if memory serves. No junior SEMI.
  • 8D. DEV Patel rescues DEV from being clued as an abbreviation.

I liked the overall Scrabbliness of the fill, most notably in the BJORK/MAJOR/ALEX/WONKY/THUNK upper section. The theme is most lively—five non-boring phrases tying in five non-boring characters. Not a clunker in the bunch, really. No “well, I liked four of the five”—they’re all equally juicy.

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18 Responses to Wednesday, 12/9/09

  1. Trip says:

    IRE as a verb can be found in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, and probably other places.

  2. joon says:

    whoa, so it can. now i feel stupid(er than usual), because i’m 99% sure that’s one of the many dictionaries i checked when i first went on the anti-IRED crusade (in addition to being one of the hardbound dictionaries on my bookshelf).

    ah, okay, this is strange: when you search onelook for a verb ending with -ED, it automatically looks up the root word for you. so if you look up, say, ameliorated, it will give you the definition for ameliorate. for whatever reason, it doesn’t do that with IRED. the only hit is wiktionary, plus various acronym options.

    okay, i’m over feeling stupid and onto terribly confused. my hardbound unabridged (based on RHUD 1st edition, i’m told) does not list IRE as a verb. the OED does, but lists the verb form as both obsolete and rare. so why is it popping up in MW11? is it a “new” word?

    if anybody could shed light on this, i’d be very grateful. in the meantime, i’m glad to be able to stop crusading, even if it means going around for the rest of the day with foot firmly in mouth.

  3. Gareth says:

    NW: Also last to fall. Dittos for HASPED and EDWINA, though because it wasn’t American geography I managed to work out ENE (but then wrote NNE – still puzzled as to how!!) Though to the mix I had PINESOL, which to my knowledge isn’t sold here! Also the clue for LIONEL was kinda weird, to me.

    Elsewhere, I also had the sack of Rome down to between CD & D, but it still ended up as “wait for the crosses.” NOHARM I always associate with the cosmetics company Innoxa (I just googled it – it’s South African and doesn’t operate at all in the US – did not know this). Their motto is “First do no harm” – which always struck me as patently weird (I’m guessing it refers to testing, but still.)

    BTW, in the Onion, how do you (plural) feel about the fact the INCHES were all added to “INGS”. Does this translate into: a) Added tightness or b) Repetetiveness. Me I’m gonna sit on the fence here, which I guess is why I’m asking.

    IRE: Neither my Concise Oxford (South African edition) or my Webster’s New World Dictionary have it as a verb. Interestingly the Oxford gives it a “poetic” tag; it’s never clued that way in crosswords, to my knowledge anyway.

  4. Gareth says:

    Ah, was trying to work out how that “Gravatar” works without requiring a log-in. See it gloms onto your email address. Very clever.

  5. Bruce S. says:

    I wrote LEE in first off. It made the NINE for Maris hard to figure out initially. I then recalled DIX and was good to go. I am also suprised how much DIF has been showing up lately in several puzzles. I have never heard anyone say that. I must be hanging out with the wrong people.

  6. Karen says:

    I think you can also use the BLOWDRYER on your AXILLA.

  7. Red State Democrat says:

    LA Times puzzle 12 down Steely Dan album AJA

    Deacon Blues.

    Steely Dan

  8. Zulema says:

    “Do no harm” obscure? It’s the first fiat (a negative one) of the Hippocratic Oath.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Zulema, “do no harm” is completely familiar, but without the “do,” it feels to me that “no harm” is just dangling there.

  10. John Haber says:

    IRE is also noun only in RHUD, but I don’t mind. Even as a noun, it’s a little stilted in modern speech, and I’d probably edit it out of a ms. It’s become crossword fill we’re just used to, like the ARAL Sea. Yes, EDWINA and SWORD LILY were unfamiliar enough to make that corner a bit harder. In fact, there the theme helped. I actually got around last to the SE, but go figure. Maybe, speaking of parts of speech, because of VISE as a verb.

  11. Zulema says:

    The “do” was in the clue. How could they have clued it by adding (“with do”) again? I am not really arguing with you, referring more to a comment by someone else.

  12. Martin says:


    Since we’re on the subject — “do no harm” is far from the first fiat. It comes after giving money to your teachers and performing to the best of your ability. It comes before not performing abortions, leaving surgery to barbers and not having sex with your patients or any women or men living with them.

    The Hippocratic Oath is not very nice.

  13. Zulema says:


    My son was read something at a ceremony, undoubtedly fashioned for the occasion, not specifically called the Hippocratic Oath, but an oath nevertheless, which I, perhaps erroneously, remember as starting with the “do no harm” precept. They also pledged allegiance to the flag, etc., since this was a State institution, though not an elementary school.

  14. KarmaSartre says:

    janie — In the “never knew” category: teenaged girls have a “first fragrance”. Thanks.

  15. Martin says:


    The Doctor (he is never called Doctor Who, only “The Doctor”) specializes in saving the universe. Time travel is one of his tools. A young female companion is another.

  16. jim hale says:

    That puzzle sucked. Hope not to see one like it in the forseeable future

  17. Crosscan says:

    Dr Doom is the Fantastic Four’s nemesis.

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