Wednesday, 1/27/10

BEQ 5:33
Onion 4:34
CS untimed (J)/4:27 (A)
NYT 4:10
LAT 3:46

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 6My reported solving time differs from what the applet shows. That’s because the return key got stuck before I started the puzzle and spent some time transfixed by the speed with which the highlighted blank word whooshed through the grid. Yes, I’m like a magpie.

The theme is phrases made of state names and the anagrams thereof. Two are state first, two are state last:

  • 17A. [What helps pay the governor’s salary in Austin?] is TEXAS TAXES.
  • 26A. DIAL FOR FLORIDA sounds stilted. The clue is [Try to telephone some snowbirds?].
  • 42A. KNOW RYE, NEW YORK is also stilted. It’s clued with [Be familiar with a city near White Plains?]. Shout-out to Paula Gamache!
  • 54A. [Some film work Down East?] is MAINE ANIME. Hayao Miyazaki could really do something fantastic with Maine’s lobsters and forests.

Let’s spotlight multi-word and compound answers, shall we? “IT’S TOO LATE,” “GLAD TO,” and “BE STILL” are things you might say. The N.Y. TIMES has been a [Daily since 1851, briefly]. WRAP UP and PONY UP are in opposite corners; for [Pay], I started with POP FOR instead of PONY UP. BABYSITTER is an [Occasional role for a 30-Down, maybe], 30D being an AUNT.

Overall, there’s plenty of nice fill. Some people—the ones who weren’t big fans of Rhoda in the ’70s—may grouse about 6A: GROH/[Actor David of “Rhoda”], but that name is forever in my head. The worst entry is the fun-to-say IBLE, a [Suffix with convert]. Above it is the [Common rhyme scheme] ABAB. Can you IBLE an ABAB?

Daniel Finan’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 4Each of six rhyming word pairs in this theme starts with a different category of plant, ergo NURSERY RHYMES, or “rhymes for plants grown in a nursery.”

It’s a well-thought-out seven-piece theme, but it didn’t grab me like kudzu tendrils. No FLOWER POWER, when plenty of people plant flowers they bought at a nursery, though? The large number of (shortish) theme entries fragmented the grid into lots of small sections with 23 three-letter answers. Those include some solid threes (MAR, JIF, AHA, GYM, NUB, RYE) and shortenings (PEC, UKE, BIZ), but also plenty of abbreviations (GED, MSS, plural G.E.’S, LAA, GAO, au courant GPS, SMU), crosswordese (ORT, EKE, FER, Mauna LOA), and foreign words (MER, EAU with a Wisconsin clue, ORO). Stay tuned for highlights after this message from our thematic sponsor.

Theme entries:

  • 17A: [Longing for a fronded plant?] (FERN YEARN). Not crazy about YEARN used as a noun. Yearning is the noun.
  • 21A: [Zinfandel, but not sake?] (VINE WINE). Sake is brewed from rice, not grapes, and grapes grow on vines. Sake is apparently not really a wine even though it’s sometimes called “rice wine,” as it’s brewed more like beer rather than made from fermented fruit. (So saith Wikipedia.)
  • 23A: [Oxygen emanating from a lawn?] (GRASS GAS). Anyone else have dope and flatulence on their mind now?
  • 55A: [Steep, e.g.?] (HERB VERB). Isn’t HERB, like GRASS, slang for marijuana? HERB VERB could be clued by the less botanically minded as [Mellow out] or [Have the munchies].
  • 57A: [Like areas above the timberline?] (TREE FREE). Tree Brie, tree glee, tree ski…
  • 61A: [Group devoted to small, woody plants?] (SHRUB CLUB).
  • 37A: [Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle’s title] (NURSERY RHYMES). The meaning of “nursery rhymes” is reinterpreted as rhymes for categories of plants grown in the nursery.


  • 9D: [“Riders of the Purple Sage”] author (ZANE GREY). My grandma read some Zane Grey. Westerns are not my cup of tea, but you gotta appreciate a full name as a crossword answer, especially one with a Z in it.
  • 38D: [Winter wonderland creator] (SNOWFALL). It’s a lovely word unless it’s January, there’s no end in sight to winter, and you are so over snow.
  • 46D: [Bring to a boil?] (ENRAGE). Love the clue.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 5Honestly, the theme doesn’t wow me—three felonious puns—but overall the puzzle was a hoot. Deb’s a fun cluer. First on the docket, the theme:

  • 17A. [The farmer got busted for ___] BREAKING THE PEAS. Who is arresting the farmer for this?
  • 36A. [The mathematician got busted for ___] DERIVING DRUNK. Busted by the cops, or just by her colleagues?
  • 57A. [The symphony conductor got busted for ___] INCITING VIOLINS. Wait, isn’t that part of the job?

Favorite clues and stuff I had to work for:

  • 6A. Who? RAAB [___ Himself (“Jackass” regular)] is not a name I recognize.
  • 14A. Whoa. [Fir genus] is ABIES. That guy’s Irish Rose is livid that she was passed over.
  • 20A. [It might be held by a nut] clues BOLT. Perfectly sensible clue if you’re thinking of hardware nuts and not edible or maniac nuts. The [Rear end]/SEAT should’ve made ABIES and BOLT easier…but it didn’t.
  • 28A. Yay, ED WOOD! He’s the [“Plan 9 From Outer Space” director]. Johnny Depp was terrific in Ed Wood.
  • 49A. [It’s not a cheap shot] clues the pricey BOTOX injection.
  • 53A. Kate WINSLET is clued as [Actress Kate recently voted “most desirable body” in a Daily Mail poll]. I hope it’s her curvier, less bony incarnation that won.
  • 61A. I still don’t understand this clue. [It comes before the river] = TURN? Why?
  • 1D. In national security circles, [Chatter without intelligence?] is probably not called BABBLE, but in everyday discourse that’s a fine definition for it.
  • 5D. [It doesn’t hurt to do it], to ASK.
  • 10D. [They’re driven]. Who? TYPE A’S, that’s who.
  • 44D. An EXIT is a [Way to go] when you’re leaving.
  • 48D. SUISSE is [Like some chocolat]. YUM!
  • 54D. The NILE is the [Baby Moses river]. “Baby Moses” is striking me as a funny phrase.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Check List”—Janie’s review

There is so much that’s good to talk about with this one that I won’t tell you how once again I didn’t process the theme until after completing the puzzle… No, let’s start instead with the theme fill. Here’s the deal: it’s made up of four fresh and colorful phrases, the first word of which can be followed by the word “check.” So here’s your “check” list:

  • 17A. [Pleasant position, from a Marlowe poem] BED OF ROSES → bed check. Wow. Had no idea that the source of this phrase could be found in “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.” Didn’t even know I knew the poem, but I did–and I bet you do, too. It’s the one that starts, “Come live with me and be my love…” Marlowe was talking about literal flower beds (though presumably not about a ROOF-TOP [… garden]), but the phrase has morphed to its metaphorical meaning.
  • 29A. [Bragging rights provider] CLAIM TO FAME → claim check.
  • 45A. [Out for the night] SOUND ASLEEP → sound check. Terrific clue here as it could be talking about an out-of-the-house overnighter or even just being out-of-the-house ’til the wee hours. But no. This is about being dead-to-the-world and in the arms of Morpheus.
  • 61A. [Series decider] RUBBER GAMErubber check. I don’t play bridge, but I’d heard card-players speak of playing a rubber of bridge. I didn’t know, however, the rubber game referred specifically to “the third and final game.” Baseball has borrowed the phrase to refer to any tie-breaking game, such as game seven of the World Series. A rubber check, of course, is one that bounces… You don’t wanna be writing (or receiving) any of those.

The corners of Bob’s grid are especially nice, too, with the triple seven-columns in the NW and SE, and the triple sixes in the NE and SW. Felt really thick getting bogged down in correctly parsing “LA BOHÈME” [“Rent” basis] (the musical, dummy, the musical!); and also liked seeing SIDE-LONG (and not something related to the routing of automobiles) for [Roundabout]; ACADEMIC/[Ivory tower inhabitant], with its correlative IDOL/[Pedestal percher]; NEWS DESK/[Anchor’s post] and its punny complement in [It’s noose-worthy]/LASSO; [Humbert Humbert’s honey] for LOLITA; ‘”OO-LA-LA!” for [Cancan cry] (and “OOF!” for [Winded grunt?]–so this refers to a sound and not to an overworked gofer); and the non-political UNPLUG for [Remove from power?] (with its possibly political complement ENABLE/[Give power to]).

More goodies (by way of cluing especially):

  • [One with a support staff?] Not RAHM or PREZ, but FLAG.
  • [Cookie that predates crossword puzzles]/OREO. By one year! Oreo, 1912; crosswords (starting with Word-Cross anyway…), 1913. (And Hydrox predates the Oreo by four years. Hah!)
  • [Veiled oath?]/”I DO.”
  • [Five-finger discount]/THEFT.
  • The triple-rhyming [Rock from a sock or a shock]/REEL; and doubles, [Preserved or reserved]/ON ICE, [Land of Blarney and Killarney]/ERIN and [Flyin’ Hawaiian]/NENE.
  • The alliterative [Bread bun that’s boiled and baked]/BAGEL and [Hairy Himalayan humanoids]/YETIS.
  • The multiply-intertwined [Kind of flat]/CONDO beside a different kind of [Pay-to-stay] place, INN, beside (repeat word in clue) [Offers to pay]/BIDS. Then… CONDO (the afore-mentioned [Kind of flat]) sits atop ALP, clued “structurally” as… [Swiss high-rise?] (cute!); and the next clue is another with a repeat word, this time [Swiss tongue] for GERMAN. The very next word across in the grid is a repeater from yesterday, AGED, but while yesterday’s clue was the direct [Like geriatric patients], Bob’s is a masterpiece of misdirection: [Sat around for years waiting to get drunk?].

I found this to be a very challenging and rewarding solve. How about you?

Amy here. I’m with Janie on the delightful challenge of the clues, but I take exception to the LOLITA clue. A friend recently penned a blog post about rereading Lolita, and you know what? Lolita wasn’t his “honey,” she was the child he molested for two years.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Stuffy Nose”

Region capture 7Quickly:

Theme is phrase that start with *OLD words pronounced by someone with a stuffy nose. Golddigger becomes GOAD DIGGER, sold sign (is that a “thing”? is it a sign that says a show is sold out?), cold comfort is CODE COMFORT, told tales is TOAD TALES, and bold-faced turns into BOWED-FACED. None of the theme entries knocked me out.

Highlights: CILANTRO. The word SPOONER clued with a spoonerism. [Sheik, e.g.] clueing a CONDOM brand, with LATEX cross-referenced to it. Boston [Globe position] is a newspaper EDITOR.

Lowlights: PRO-TAX and EXEC clued in a politicized fashion. Plural abbrevs GTS and AFBS. WARM is clued as a [Stove setting], but my stove’s burners do not have any sort of setting labeled “warm.” SUSIE clued as [Corey Feldman’s spouse].

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18 Responses to Wednesday, 1/27/10

  1. John Price says:

    I should mention that my time was actually 3:28 and not 3:06 as the applet shows. Has anybody ever had time inexplicably taken off their score in the NYTimes rankings?

  2. Karen says:

    I believe the turn/river are poker terms (Texas Holdem) referring to the fourth and fifth cards of the hand, which are held in common by all the players.

  3. Gareth Bain says:

    Not sure why I found this puzzle difficult, but I did… Clever theme, though also like the short two entries better. Could do without NYTIMES crossing KNOWRYENEWYORK though. Is that allowed?

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Yes, I’ve had some time taken off by the applet occassionally. But it’s always been in the 3-to-7-second range, never 22 seconds.

    Rye, NY is home of PlayLand Amusement Park. My favorite place when I was a kid.

  5. joon says:

    i guess it’s allowed, but i, too, looked askance at NY crossing NEW YORK. overall, though, fun theme. geography + anagrams = win.

  6. joon says:

    i think a “sold sign” is a sign placed in front of a house or condo that’s been sold. not the same thing as a “sold out sign” in front of a box office.

    i’m torn about LOLITA. it’s still one of my favorite books, but the more i think about the subject matter, the grossed-outer i get. so beautifully written, and yet so disturbing. and of course, the fact that it’s written from humbert’s POV makes it easy to accept dolores as impossibly knowing and sexually mature despite her age. but egads, she is the prey, not the predator.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon, did you read the post I linked to? I think you’ll find yourself largely in agreement with my friend.

  8. Martin says:

    I know Rye, New York. The Playland amusement park was one of my heavy-duty teenage date hangouts. I love roller coasters and to this day it’s hard to say how much of that is a flashback to the anticpatory thrill of the situation.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    NEW YORK WONKERY was another possibility. Also NOMINATES MINNESOTA.

  10. Phil says:

    Humbert Humbert is the archetype of the unreliable narrator. There can be no weight placed on his description of Lolita, it’s all a self serving rationalization of the fact that he’s a pedophile. I cringe whenever I hear “Lolita” used to describe someone as sexually precocious.

  11. Steve Manion says:


    Here are some poker terms relating to the deal that could conceivably appear in a crossword without being too obscure:

    A “spit” game is any poker game in which the players use common cards–hold’em being the most ubiquitous example. In hold’em, five cards are turned up, 3 of them all at once (the FLOP) and then (as Karen noted) a fourth card (the TURN) and a fifth card (the RIVER).

    In 7-card stud, the players are dealt three cards initially, two down and one up. The up card is called the DOOR CARD. Subsequent cards are dealt out one at a time and are usually called STREETS, 4TH STREET, FIFTH STREET, SIXTH STREET. Vitually all games (including stud) call the final card the RIVER although in the old days (pre-hold’em mania), we used to refer to the last card as simply the down card).


  12. ArtLvr says:

    Many thanks to Karen for reminder of the poker terms, turn and river. I see Steve added more, but I’m not sure I’ll remember all of those…

    Despite the justifiable Lolita-clue quibble, Klahn’s puzzle was my great fave today!

  13. zifmia says:

    Was no one else bothered in Washington Post by 15A “Toad of Toad —” (A.A. Milne)

    A.A. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh.

    Mr. Toad of Toad Hall is from the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

    Both wonderful books that have been Disney-ized, but not the same author.

  14. joon says:

    from wikipedia:

    Toad of Toad Hall is the first of several dramatisations of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. It was written by A. A. Milne, with incidental music by Harold Fraser-Simson.

  15. zifmia says:



    I’ve read both the Pooh stories and the Wind in the Willows several times and never realized there was a connection.

    Never thought of googling the full phrase “Toad of Toad Hall” because I knew exactly what it meant (to me), i.e. a character rather than a title.

  16. Jan (danjan) says:

    Thanks, joon, I didn’t know that – was originally struck by the seeming error.

  17. Latka says:

    Always nice to see a Klahn puzzle in the daily lineup, though the ‘Lolita’ clue was cringe-worthy. I’m guessing there’s a chance he never read the book.

  18. Monica Daniggelis says:

    Attn: Daniel A. Finan
    Sir – I have a 16 letter phrase for what you can do with puzzle 0318 in today’s El Paso Times. The clue is:


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