Tuesday, 1/11/10

Jonesin’ 3:56
NYT 3:30
LAT 3:00
CS untimed

Hot news (via Eric Berlin): The Wall Street Journal is launching “the Saturday Puzzle,” featuring a Cox & Rathvon variety cryptic (like their erstwhile Atlantic Monthly puzzles) every 4 weeks, a Patrick Berry variety crossword every 2 weeks (along the lines of what Patrick has at A-Frame Games), and an acrostic by Mike Shenk (WSJ crossword editor) every 4 weeks. Sweet! It remains to be seen if the puzzles will be available online, or if the WSJ will offer puzzle subscriptions for less than the $100+/year the paper costs. I hope so.

Patrick Blindauer and Rebecca Young’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3I can’t believe how much time I blew on 24A. [Bird known for making baskets]…hmm, what birds start with L and end with Y?  Is it EATS INTO and an LI**Y bird or EATS AWAY and LA**Y? LAR*Y? LARJY could work with that crossing. (RFK, not JFK, is the [___ Bridge, connecting Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx].) LARRY? What kind of bird is a larry? Ohhhh…Larry Bird, the basketball legend. D’oh. Well played, crossword makers. In case I didn’t feel mocked by falling for that, MYNAS are [Mocking birds?], just to remind me.

The theme entries change a “yoo” sound to an “oo” sound, to humorous effect:

  • 17A. [Germy dessert, to a five-year-old?] is COOTIE PIE. Cutie pie + “eww, you’ve got cooties.” This is the metaphorical cooties we’re talking about, of course, and not lice.
  • 30A. The Family Feud game show turns into FAMILY FOOD, or [Grub consumed around the dinner table?]. That’s figure-of-speech grub, meaning food, and not the insect larva kind of grub.
  • 46A. FOSSIL FOOL is clued as [One who’s daft about archaeology?]. Plays on fossil fuel. No arthropodal interpretations here.
  • 64A. Beauty mark becomes BOOTY MARK, or [X, to a pirate?], marking the location of the pirate’s buried booty on a map. Or maybe a rump tattoo on a pirate—could go either way. Maybe pirates are traditionally fond of the Greek letter chi.

Besides the avian LARRY snafu, I also slowed myself down at 71A. [Prefix with phone]? Surely that’s TELE, right? Wrong. MEGA.

I like those 6×4 corners. Highlights:

  • 47D. [“And I’m the queen of England”] clues “OH, SURE.” While we’re conversing, 19A: [“Hello, Don Ho!”] clues ALOHA. Now, that’s just silly. There’s a high degree of silly in this puzzle.
  • 69A. [Good name for a lingerie salesman?] is TEDDY.
  • 67A. The BASE is what they call [Hard-core followers, in politics].
  • 59A. Do Starbucks regulars all know this? VENTI fits [Twenty : English :: ___ : Italian]. I believe the venti cup is bigger than 20 ounces, though.
  • 5D. Is this zoologically accurate, [Monkey’s uncle?] = APE? Is this an evolutionary thing?
  • 39D. STAGE MOM’s a great answer. [Parent in the wings, perhaps]. Not bird wings! Theater wings.
  • 40D. To [Play to the balcony?] is to SERENADE, if you’re Romeo or Cyrano de Bergerac. Wait, did either of them sing?

Updated Tuesday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Bit by Bit”—Janie’s review

In addition to being a brilliant lyricist/composer, Stephen Sondheim is a master gamesman and puzzle constructor, so it’s more than appropriate to bring him into a discussion of today’s theme. In his song “Putting It Together” from Sunday in the Park with George (pointillist Seurat…), Sondheim’s hero tells us that “the art of making art is putting it together–bit by bit.” I don’t know if Tyler knows the show or the song, but he seems to have gleaned the song’s message and put it into this puzzle. The five theme-fill answers all have the same clue: [BIT]. Each, of course, represents a different meaning of the word. “Bit by bit” the parts add up to a well-wrought whole, and they are:

  • 17A. DRILL PART. Like these–or like Drillbit Taylor?…
  • 23. CHOMPED DOWN ON. This is the only verb phrase in the lot. When I saw chomp emerge, my mind went to chomping at the bit. Wrong…
  • 39A. SOUPÇON. That’d be French for “just a tad.”
  • 46A. COMEDY ROUTINE. Here’s Steven Wright’s first appearance on “The Tonight Show.”
  • 59A. ZERO OR ONE. Being somewhat technologically and mathematically challenged, this one did not come naturally for me. Had trouble in the SE generally, in fact. But I learned something, too, namely that when it comes to the etymology of “bit” in this context, the word is a contaction of binary digit. D’oh.

I was also thrown in the SE by OKEMO [Vermont ski resort]. The only name that was coming to mind for me was STOWE… and I don’t know that I ever really knew that [President Polk’s middle name] was KNOX. I barely remember that his first name was James… Nice, though, how one presidential name crosses another: that [37th first family] gives us the NIXONS.

Other duos that caught my eye: [“Despite that…”] cluing “YET…” and [Besides that] cluing TOO; and the [Pigs’ place] pair, once for POKE and once for STY. Then there’s also that really nice homophonic crossing of EERIE [Creepy] with ERIE CANAL [It connects Albany and Buffalo].

Some fave clues today would have to include: the somewhat unsavory [Lint locale] for NAVEL; the literal [It’s often stuck in the corner] for STAMP; and [Marks up] for EDITS (because my first thought here had to do with price-raising activities…).

Only got PADAWAN [“Star Wars” student] from the crosses, but again, this led me to another happy discovery: Wookiepedia–”the Star Wars encyclopedia that anyone can edit”! Its opposite number in the grid is LIE FLAT, and while I have no trouble with the phrase, [Don’t lean] doesn’t feel like the right clue. I guess it’s talking about a package or something that shouldn’t be propped up against the wall. But when I think of things that should lie flat, I think of sheets of paper (or even some tresses…), so [Don’t curl] is the direction I’d go with this one. Fwiw…

And do those black Ts top and bottom in the grid STAND IN FOR [Serve as] the constructor’s signature? Do tell.

Allan Parrish’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 4What, no ODDITIES or NICETIES in the theme? Four theme entries end with varied spellings of that -TIES sound:

  • 17A. STRIPTEASE is a [Burlesque act].
  • 35A. BOARD OF TRUSTEES is a [University governing body].
  • 59A. DAVID ORTIZ is [Baseball’s Big Papi].
  • 24D. ICE TEAS (and yes, many of us prefer to spell it “iced tea” even if we’re not really pronouncing the D) are [Summer coolers].

It’s a simple enough theme, though perhaps not all that obvious. I had to stop and think about the theme after I finished filling in the grid. The overall vibe was fresh. Things I liked:

  • 23A. CONAIR is not just an overblown action movie; it’s also the [Pioneer in pistol-grip hair dryers].
  • 1A. The [Rating for many HBO shows] is indeed TV-MA.
  • 33A. I like the word FEALTY, meaning [Allegiance] but having a Middle English vibe.
  • 55A. John MCENROE is that [“You cannot be serious!” tennis great].
  • 67A. I always like a [___ Kong] clue. KING or HONG? It’s HONG.

66A required lots of crossings to reveal itself. [Simultaneous equation variables] are the three-word X AND Y. Not crazy about that as fill.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Freestylin'”

Region capture 5I was jonesing for a themeless when yesterday’s BEQ puzzle wasn’t themeless, and here’s Matt to the rescue. Only he’s using his editor Matt Gaffney’s preferred terminology of “freestyle.”

Highlights? Oh, just a few:

  • The triple-stacked 9s up top. PIXIE DUST (I wanted FAIRY DUST but “fairy” is in the clue, [It gets sprinkled in some fairy tales]), “ANY DAY NOW,” and TV judge MILLS  LANE.
  • 62A. [Newsman Sam] DONALDSON, because of crossword constructor and Fiend guest blogger Sam “No Relation” Donaldson. Am looking forward to meeting Sam at the ACPT, when the Fiend crew will be going out for dinner together. We will all have to remember to bring our membership cards.
  • 30A. The [Academy Award-nominated song from 1991] is “BE OUR GUEST,” sung by Lumiere the candlestick, who was portrayed by Jerry Orbach.
  • 36A. To DIG  DEEP is to [Do some serious soul-searching].
  • 39A. The verb tense of SEES THINGS feels weird. “Seeing things” would be much zippier. [Hallucinates] is the clue.
  • 51A. Order a round of LABATTS, [Canadian beer orders].
  • 4D. IDLE HANDS are the devil’s workshop and the name of a [1999 Devon Sawa/Seth Green horror/comedy].
  • 5D and 6D: Sheena EASTON and Bob DYLAN, together again. Love that juxtaposition!

Word I didn’t know but could piece together: a XYLOPHAGE is [Any wood-eating insect]. Xylem and phloem are wood and bark, respectively. And a xylophONe makes sound with wood—never pieced together that sense before now.

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23 Responses to Tuesday, 1/11/10

  1. janie says:

    a smile-maker, that blindauer-young puzzle, but dang — got hung up with that fabulous [bird…baskets] clue, too. also loved the [“and I’m the queen of england”]/”OH, SURE”combo as it brought to mind a fave dorothy parker quatrain called “Comment”:

    Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
    A medley of extemporanea;
    And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
    And I am Marie of Roumania.

    written by one who knew…


  2. ArtLvr says:

    Gads, I had the same query re LARRY Bird making baskets! Also tried Tele before MEGA. I got a kick out of the theme… (looking back, A FEW could have been A FOO, except there isn’t such a thing.) More used to ATCHOO than AHCHOO in x-words? OOdles of fun anyhoo!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. M-W dictionary gives only ACHOO!

  4. joe burke says:

    I’m a little surprised that [Bird known for making baskets] didn’t have a question mark. It tripped me up, too.

    Nice puzzle, though. Only Tuesday and already a more interesting theme than this Sunday!

  5. Gareth says:

    Great Tuesday! Puns! Those first 2 had me thinking we were heading down the “Breakfast test? What breakfast test?” road with an creepy-crawly pun theme, but turned out was a lot pleasanter! Also totally fooled by LARRY, despite him being a bballer I actually have heard of!

  6. Matt says:

    Me too on the LARRY/RFK crossing. When it was the only blank space left, I just blinked and pressed a random key. Which, weirdly enough, turned out to be ‘R’… Just lucky, I guess.

  7. Barry G says:

    Yup, I ended the puzzle with the infamous LARJY bird thinking that it was an awfully obscure word for a Tuesday puzzle. 2 Seconds later, of course, I had the D’OH moment. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t get it right away, being a long time Celtics fan and all…

  8. ledfloyd says:

    i had the same thought process inre: LARRY. i was just about to google LARRY bird and then it hit me. maybe there is something to be said for not using question marks.

  9. HH says:

    Be forewarned — next time the clue might be “Bird known for dribbling”.

  10. mickbrown says:


  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    All right, I just jotted this one down as the first contender for clue of the year for 2010.

  12. Evad says:

    I thought this puzzle very kewl…thanks PB and RY!

    Ditto on the Bird clue…that one really had me scratching my head.

  13. Steve Manion says:

    I got a big kick out of reading the comments today. My first thought was that (as usual) Will was making a sports clue even simpler than it had to be. I never dreamed it could be deceptive and misleading.


  14. Jeffrey says:

    Me too on LARJY. I don’t think it needed a question mark. Compare it to:

    [Jordan known for making baskets] for Michael. It’s not the cluers fault we didn’t think of basketball. (actually, it is)

  15. Karen says:

    I drove past a billboard for OKEMO this past weekend and said ‘Hey, that’s probably a good crossword answer.’ Although I still couldn’t spell it properly.

  16. joon says:

    wasn’t expecting to have to work out a wordplay theme this early in the week, but it was pretty sweet. and the jonesin’ is my early favorite for freestyle of the year. chock full of jonesy goodness, and none of the “creative” short fill that he sometimes uses as a facilitator. plus, how rare is it that {Fencing sword} is something other than ÉPÉE?

    tyler’s puzzle isn’t my favorite genre of theme, but in the few CS puzzles he’s published so far, he’s already shown a real felicity for elegant cluing. it’s almost klahn-lite. so kudos to tyler for that. i wonder if he’d be a good solver, too?

  17. Jon S. says:

    If the puzzles lean towards sports clues, I’m all set. I got that “Hick from French Lick” clue right away. I found the puzzle to be pretty straightforward. Which leads me to believe Wednesday’s will be some tortuous thing, maybe even a particularly tricky rebus – but wouldn’t that be four weeks in a row, if that is the case?

  18. Mike Miller says:

    Hi–I’m an editor at the WSJ and wanted to answer your question about our new Saturday puzzles. They will be online at wsj.com/puzzles. (in the free part of the site that doesn’t require a subscription). The first one is fantastic–don’t miss it.

  19. joon says:

    that is fantastic news. i can’t wait!

  20. Aaron says:

    Matt’s puzzle is my favorite themeless in a long while. Nice degree of difficulty, excellent crossings for the most exotic or specific names, and what seemed to me to be a very Fresh fill; things I’d never seen before.

  21. ray says:

    Very helpful. Thanks. I’m curious though, is there any significance in coloring some lines and letters in the puzzles with the answers?

  22. Hi! Your post rocks and is a thought-provoker! :)

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