Thursday, 12/31/09

NYT 5:25
LAT High 3s? Low 4s? I forget exactly
CS untimed
Tausig untimed

Frank Longo’s New York Times crossword

Picture 6Frank Longo! It’s about damn time we had another one of your crosswords in the Times. You must have more lucrative places to sell your work these days because we’re not getting nearly as many of your puzzles here.

The rationale for the rebus gimmick here is brilliant: THREE LITTLE PIGS explains concisely that the rebus squares contain three little pigs:

  • 17A. CHAIRMAN OF THE {BOAR}D is a [Person making firm decisions]. The rebus crossing is CO{BO AR}ENA, the 12D: [Detroit venue for sporting events and concerts].
  • 22A. TO EACH HI{S OW}N is clued with [“Different strokes for different folks”]. If you solved this puzzle on the applet or in Across Lite rather than on paper, does your puzzle also have SHAT at 25D? Yeah. That’s {SO W}HAT, or [“Big deal”].
  • 55A. {HOG}AN’S HEROES is a [1960s sitcom set at a camp]—a P.O.W. camp, to be specific. The [Thick-shelled seafood selection] is a QUA{HOG} at 37D.

I was half looking around the remaining squares for a {SHOAT} rebus square, heedless of the “THREE LITTLE PIGS = 3” equation.

Toughest clues:

  • 5A. HAMLIN was [Vice president after Breckinridge]. (Not Myra B.) Hey, look, there’s a slice of HAM in there.
  • 15A. [Dreadful, old-style] is UGSOME. I simply must start using this word!
  • 29A. I’ve never heard of SASHA [Vujacic of the Los Angeles Lakers, who’s nicknamed “The Machine”].
  • 67A. Marilyn MONROE is the [“Niagara” star, 1953]. Never heard of the movie, but I love the poster.
  • 70A. [Pachacuti’s people] are INCANS. You know, that’s TIN CANS short a T.
  • 71A. [Be in a certain mood?] clues WERE, which is a form of the verb “to be” in the subjunctive mood. The R was one of the last squares I filled in, as [[Mumble, mumble]] doesn’t sound like GRR to me and I was trying to think of a porcine rebus to complete GR*.  GRR is a grumble, not a mumble.
  • 4D. SOILAGE is clued as [Green crops cultivated for fodder]. I didn’t know this word the last time I saw it in a crossword, either.
  • 5D. [Snorts of disdain] clues HUMPHS. “My humphs, my lovely lady lumphs”?
  • 40D. The three-word PUT ON ICE looks like it should be a Serbian town, doesn’t it? Putoniće. The clue is [Shelve for a while].

Another quibble: We’ve seen 30A: BRAS clued as [Cup holders] before, but the bra cups are the holders, of boobs. No cups are being held. A non-quibble: I don’t know LON Kruger from Adam, but it’s nice to have a break from Lon Nol and Lon Chaney. I could do without LEN Wiseman, though. The [“Live Free or Die Hard” director Len] is only 36, the punk. Also directed two Underworld films and wound up marrying his star, Kate Beckinsale.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Yucky Charms”—Janie’s review

Today is the last day of the first decade of the century (and the millennium), so as we embark on the new one, it seems like a fitting time to wish all of you who may be reading a very happy, healthy, prosperous, peaceful new year. And if it means you pull out amulets or observe any rites or traditions to help ensure those good things (Hoppin’ John, anyone?), why, have at! Doug as given us a wordplay-grid full of lucky–make that yucky–charms to help ensure that we smile as we leave this decade and year behind us. Shifting the L → Y:

  • Lemon chiffon pie → 17A. YEMEN CHIFFON PIE [Popular dessert on the Arabian peninsula?] Sweet–on many levels!
  • Rack of lamb → 34A. RACK OF YAM [Orange Thanksgiving display?]. It’s probably best to enjoy this before indulging in the Yemen chiffon pie.
  • Iron lung → 43A. IRON YOUNG [Baby robots?]. Um. I love the clue and the result, but I’m not overly comfortable making light of an iron lung… Or maybe it’s that I’m not accustomed to black humor in a CS puzzle. It is the dawn of a new decade after all, so maybe I’d better get with the program!
  • Local anesthesia → 60A. YOKEL ANESTHESIA [Jed Clampett’s pre-surgery procedure?]. Oh, this one is perfection and in the humor-delivery department, a great complement to 17A.

Once again, we have a puzzle with a sports mini-theme: [Boxer Sonny] LISTON is here; also SUMO [Giant grapplers’ sport], whose practitioners are decidedly STOCKIER [More heavyset] than even those you’ll see in the NFL; TARP [Infield covering]; AARON [Hank with 755 homers] (and who occasionally played the infield); and [“Baseball Tonight” channel] ESPN.

If traveling’s more your speed, you might want to try out either the ISLE of [Wight, for one] or even sunny, scenic CORFU [Island in the Ionian Sea]. I always associate the former with the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” and the line “Ev’ry summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear…”

It’s a legitimate word, but OUTLEAP [Jump farther than] has a clunky sound to me. (Ditto PRE-COOK [Boil ahead of time, say].) Someone who [Stumbles]/FALTERS, however, is not likely to outleap you. Another word I want to touch on is SANKA [Decaf coffee brand]. Its etymology was mentioned on the radio just the other day by grammarian Patricia T. O’Connor and when I heard the explanation all I could say was, “Well, of course.” It’s the combination of the French for “without,” sans, and “caffeine.” Am I the last person on the planet to know this?

Before closing, let me lift a glass of ASTI [___ spumante] and toast the new year. Cheers–and may it bring you all that you want it to! Y’all come back next year!

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Picture 7Have we seen Bill Thompson’s byline before? I don’t see his name in the tags at my old blog, so this might be a debut. This puzzle made me envy PuzzleGirl because Thursdays are her bailiwick at L.A. Crossword Confidential, and I would’ve relished the chance to do long-form blogging about this puzzle.

The theme entries are tied together by starting with things you might CATCH—and the theme was tough to pick up on before finding the theme-revealing clue for CATCH because you CATCH nouns, but the catchable words double as verbs or adjectives in the theme answers:

  • 18A. “COLD AS ICE, willing to sacrifice our love…” (Who doesn’t have a guilty pleasure spot in their musical tastes for Foreigner?) It’s clued as [Impossible to get close to]. I hope you don’t catch a cold.
  • 26A. To WAVE A WHITE FLAG is to surrender. Catch a wave—did you see any of that big-wave surfing competition in Maui the other week?
  • 43A. “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” is the famous [“Jerry Maguire” catchphrase]. Do we care that CATCH is hiding in “catchphrase”? I say no. Some folks like to catch a show on Broadway when they attend the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. (Feb. 19-21! Time to book your flights and reserve your room at the Marriott.)
  • 57A. [Right-click result, often] is a POP-UP MENU. Baseball players catch pop-ups?
  • 65A. The last Across answer is CATCH, a [Verb associated with the beginnings of 18-, 26-, 43- and 57-Across].

In the fill, I liked DIET COKE, my caffeine delivery method of choice. Nice to see the brand name instead of the blander entry DIET SODA or DIET COLA. I’ve developed a fondness for the crosswordese [Wooden shoe] called the SABOT because it’s the root of the word sabotage. 1D is JAZZ, and I like a crossword that jazzes things up with letters like those.

I shouldn’t like a two-word partial like I RANT, but it’s so aptly gettable as the key words of Dennis Miller’s book title. I don’t mind the “I” duplication in the clue, but that will probably keep IRANT from taking the place of the almost-always-misclued IRANI in crossword grids.

Speaking of duplications relating to the first-person pronoun, did you know that the prefix IDIO- ([Personal: Pref.]) is etymologically related to IDIOT ([Nincompoop])? The idiot is in his or her own private world.

Least gettable clue: [Vedic drink for an immortal soul] for SOMA. I know SOMA as the drug in Brave New World, the biology word, and the Soma cube puzzle (my dad had the blue plastic one in the ’70s). Apparently it’s also a prescription drug, plus the SoMa neighborhood south of Market in San Francisco.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “The Big Ten”

Picture 8It’s New Year’s Eve, and 2010 is right around the corner. That year is “The Big Ten” of this puzzle’s title, and the Roman numeral X (10) is inserted into five phrases to generate the theme entries. There are 12 Xs in all in this grid, so I hope you weren’t trying to extract a theme rationale from all the Xs. A Mars Bar becomes a Marxist hangout, MARX’S BAR. Mortal foes become attractive but MORTAL FOXES. The Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive turns into a TEXT OFFENSIVE. If you have a late period, you may wonder if you’re pregnant; a LATEX PERIOD might be a [Time of pregnancy prevention?] via condom. The automotive PALE AXLE is goofy; it’s pale ale plus an X.

Other X business includes XERXES, XANAX, XTC and XXL, a MANX cat, and KIX cereal. I like the clue for LOL: [[What you just typed was very amusing]]. Really, that’s all LOL means. It rarely indicates that the LOL-typer has actually laughed out loud. Also, it is unlikely that anyone who types ROFL has actually rolled on the floor in hysterics. In my taxonomy of online remarks, LOL is analogous to a smile in real life, while ROFL and ROFLMAO are akin to a quiet laugh and a guffaw, respectively.

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25 Responses to Thursday, 12/31/09

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    I enjoyed the little pigs rebus! The juxtaposition of Maestro OTTO Klemperer over HogANS HEROES (in which his son played Col. Klink) was a nice touch, too.

  2. Howard B says:

    Loved the rebus (I almost always love rebuseseses…rebi), but I had to come here to have the clue for WERE explained. D’oh! Now I see the light. Thanks much, Amy.
    Also loved UGSOME, though I had to convince myself that it was correct.

  3. Al says:

    I spent at least a minute on the 64-D/71-A crossing. Horrible clues for those two, but otherwise I thought the puzzle was great.

  4. Jon S says:

    Unlike some fellow crossword solvers, I really enjoy the rebus puzzles, and look forward to that moment when I realize there aren’t enough squares for an answer, and it’s Thursday.

    I wish there was some way to remember the vice president after Breckinridge, but well realize that would be pointless, kind of like trying to remember the director of “Live Free or Die Hard” – I know it’s sometimes necessary to use those obscure answers, but I still find them, uh, ugsome.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    “Ugsome”! Well played, Jon.

  6. John Price says:

    Jon S, I completely agree – there is nothing more satisfying than figuring out a rebus. Although I always screw up the NYT applet and hit the + key the wrong number of times, and end up spending many seconds trying to correct it.

    Al, I still really don’t understand how “Be in a certain mood?” clues WERE. That was one of my sticking points, along with entering SEMI instead of DEMI for 58 Down.

  7. Gareth says:

    Yay! Two rebus weeks in a row! Although when I got to the “there’s only letters left to write in BOARD at 17A” point, which was pretty quickly, I vacillated, reasoning there was a rebus last week, so there can’t be another one so soon… Beautiful construction, and in fact the first Longo I’ve had in 9 months solving the NYT!! Loved how all of the pig squares were either using 2 words or part of 1 word rather being stand-alone words – there must be a more succinct way of putting that! Try to parse 22A was probably the hardest thing in the puzzle.

    SOILAGE was completely foreign to me, not to mention very similar in spelling to SILAGE… I am a City slicker, but after doing a course in “Pasture Science” last year, was at least expecting to have heard of the stuff… The definition sounds a lot like what were called “fodder crops.” Typing it in wikipedia, the search suggests articles on vacuum cleaners and vulvo-vaginal health – no thanks… I’m guessing it’s an American term??

  8. Matt says:

    Lovely puzzle. I worked my way first from top to bottom without getting the rebuses– then got the hint and worked my way back from the bottom to the top filling in the blanks. Last to fall was UGSOME, where the ‘3 little pigs = 3’ equation persuaded me that it was the right answer.

  9. Evad says:

    To John Price, if you consider mood in the sense of a verb inflection, WERE is a subjunctive mood form of the verb BE.

  10. Sara says:

    Gareth, as American as I am and as enthusiastic as I am about both green crops and vulvo-vaginal health, I have never heard of SOILAGE either.

  11. janie says:

    i’m lovin’ UGSOME a lot. its “dreadful” connotation, makes me think it’s now related to things that make ya go “ugh!”


  12. david H says:

    loved the whole thing – got “Hamlin” almost right away, and for some reason “The three little pigs” just came to me almost immediately. I have to take (faux) issue with this rebus, though. First of all, the “Three Little Pigs” in the story are all male – I have never seen a version with a sister in there … yet a “SOW” is included in the rebus. Humph. Also, a BOAR is an adult, uncastrated male pig – perhaps he’s the one playing the piano in this picture,

    the other two look like sopranos to me.

    Sows, Boars, and Hogs are all adults, aren’t they?

  13. Evad says:

    I’m thinking Frank meant “little” in the sense of squeezing the names of the pigs into single squares, not that they were little types of pigs.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sara made me laugh.

    David H, maybe the sow, boar, and hog are of small stature. Adult runts. Then again, if the THREE LITTLE PIGS are mature enough to be constructing their own houses, perhaps they are not so young. Just little in the wolf’s view.

  15. Barry G says:

    Great puzzle. I took “cup holders” to mean holders that are made of cups (since a bra is composed of two cups and a strap, right?).

  16. janie says:

    >I have never seen a version with a sister in there …

    i wrote the lyrics for a “fractured fairy tale”/revisionist version of the story (for family audiences). my male collaborators and i decided on having one female pig and two males. it was “revisionist” in that it became a story about learning to live with one’s ostensible enemies (our pigs, having inherited money from their about-to-be-slaughtered mother, escape the pig farm and use the money to buy property — in wolf territory — where the response to these new neighbors is “not in my backyard.”) sort of babe meets a raisin in the sun meets warner brothers cartoons, where everyone learns something and all’s well that ends well.

    ya mean ya missed it when it toured?!


  17. Sara says:

    janie, no you tube link? Please!

  18. janie says:

    no youtube link. ca n’existe pas. quel fromage…


  19. John Haber says:

    I perked up, too, on seeing Frank Longo’s byline again at last. I love rebuses, too, and this was especially interesting and tough in how it varied among the three little pigs. I got this one very slowly and only through finally getting long bottom entry explaining it.

    Besides the many toughies mentioned by others, such as SOILAGE, mumble, and the names (and a director named Wiseman to me immediately demanded Frederick), I also went astray in all sorts of ways. I wanted an Italian place _ST_ to be Asti, the steps to start with “first off,” the Bell to be “baby,” FORE_ to be “foreleg,” and PUT_E to be “put aside.” I almost tried “rapt” instead of AGOG as well. I actually was sure at the end that UGSOME couldn’t be a word but couldn’t locate my mistake in crossings. But nice to have the Thursday challenge.

    (t)INCAN would be a good basis for a cryptic clue.

  20. Dan F says:

    I can attest that Janie’s “Three Little Pigs” musical is fantastic, having accompanied a production years ago… :)

    Funny NYT writeup, and I was in no mood to laugh after getting the news in the next post down. Just saw [N.B.A. coach Kruger] in a 2002 puzzle that I’d done earlier yesterday. Wish Longo’s syndicated Sunday puzzles were available in Across Lite, even though they’re easy…

  21. janie says:

    thx for the kind words, dan! and yes, the news about dan naddor is very unhappy-making indeed.

    >maybe the sow, boar, and hog are of small stature. Adult runts.

    pig-mies, perhaps?


  22. Sam Donaldson says:

    Late to the party, but Amy deserves kudos for “My humphs, my lovely lady lumphs.” That’s pure gold.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Thanks, Sam!

  24. Sparky says:

    Watched The Thin Man last night and Asta is a wirehaired terrier not a schnauser. That was just plain wrong. Forgive me for being fixated.

  25. Joan macon says:

    Actually, there is a children’s book called “The Fourth Little Pig” in which she saves her brothers and then goes out to see the world. As a retired primary teacher, I have it somewhere but can’t put my finger on it right now.

    I love being able to make remarks so long after the original puzzle appeared and know that maybe someone actually sees them. Thanks to all!

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