Friday, 1/29/10

NYT 5:32
BEQ 5:13
CHE 4:55
LAT 3:56
CS untimed
WSJ 8:08

Drop by the Island of Lost Puzzles to find the Thursday and Friday LAT puzzles in Across Lite. (They’ll be there until Cruciverb, which has been hacked by nefarious malfeasants, is back up.)

If you’re in Northern California, don’t miss Silicon Valley Puzzle Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. Saturday features workshops about crosswords (Mark Diehl on crosswordese; a panel of constructors moderated by Andrea Carla Michaels, with Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman, et al.), sudoku, logic puzzles, kids’ word puzzles, and more. On Sunday, there’ll be competitions (crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords, and puzzles for kids).

Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3All righty, then! Lots and lots of cool words, interesting phrases, and Scrabbly goodness abound in Doug’s 70-word puzzle. Here are 20 of my favorites:

  • ZINFANDEL (1A: [Red choice]) and ZIPPO (1D: Diddly]) kick things off with a Z in the first square. Gotta like a crossword that boldly announces where it’s going in 1-Across.
  • 15A. IDA LUPINO is clued as [“The Hitch-Hiker” director, 1953]. I always like to see her clued as a director rather than an actress. Very few women made a go of it as directors in ’50s Hollywood, but Lupino did. She specialized in melodramas, I once learned in a film class.
  • 23A. Sure, I no longer go by the moniker Orange here, but I’m still partial to citrus. KEY LIMES are [Dessert fruit] with the hidden plural in the clue.
  • 26A. [Many reality shows] looks like it wants a plural, sure, but the answer’s the collective TRASH TV.
  • 29A. FANDOM, rhymes with “random.” [Star followers]. Please don’t let them be following the Jersey Shore TRASH TV cast.
  • 38A. You wanted [Spare part?] to be RIB, didn’t you? It’s a bowling PIN.
  • 47A. ZANZIBAR! Best place name ever. [It merged with Tanganyika in 1964], forming the portmanteau Tanzania. Also a Billy Joel song, performed here: Zanzibar.
  • 53A. RUSTLED UP. Great verb phrase! Très colloquial way to say [Managed to obtain].
  • 60A. TYLENOL PM is [What might come as a relief at night?]. If you don’t have pain or a headache, just take some generic Benadryl and get the exact same sleepy-time med Tylenol PM combines with acetaminophen. Your liver will thank you.
  • 62A. Full name for ELIOT NESS—[Noted Volstead Act enforcer]. That’s Prohibition, right?
  • 2D. IDIOM is clued with an example: [Hit the ceiling, say].
  • 3D. SPOILER ALERT! [Spoilers, often] are NANAS, or grandmothers.
  • 14D. Read this clue out loud: [Four for for, for one]. 44441? It could be a TYPO, the kind where your fingers automatically type a different common word.
  • 21D. [Loud drill bit?] is a clever clue for the response to a drill sergeant: “SIR, NO, SIR.”
  • 23D. The KAMIKAZE is a [Vodka cocktail]. I forget what else is in a Kamikaze. I remember these from college. The upside-down Kamikaze is when you lean back in a chair with your head upside-down and someone pours a Kamikaze into your mouth.
  • 25D. [Electronic gag reflex?] is your reaction online to a gag, or joke: LOL.
  • 27D. [The Jimi Hendrix Experience, e.g.] was a TRIO. See also: the Police, Rush, the Dave Clark Five.
  • 31D. [‘Übermensch” originator] is that goofball NIETZSCHE. Always fun to navigate the spelling of that name, ain’t it?
  • 43D. Most Insane Clue of the Day: [4.184 petajoules] is a MEGATON.
  • 55D: [Digs cash?] isn’t about mining, it’s the cash you pay for your digs: RENT.

Good stuff, eh?

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Dull Day on Campus”

Region capture 1

The risk you run when you build a theme around dullness is that the theme may be dull. The four theme entries begin with words/phrases that mean “dull” and they’re…dull. The BLAND-ALLISON ACT is not well-known in most circles, is it? I never heard of it before. DRY MEASURES and BORING TOOLS are…dry and boring. The irony (or whatever) of that does not substitute for entertainment. (Hmph!)

The clues try to jumpstart things by clueing these phrases as if they were topics that professors droned on about. But three of the four “classes” are not courses you’d encounter at your typical college. Economics, sure. But History of Free Silver, Home Ec, and Soil Mechanics? Maybe the NO-INTEREST LOANS clue should’ve referred to a course in Unsound Banking Practices.


  • 32A. MANX is a [Little-used Gaelic language] and a tailless cat, and a fun word to say. I wonder if it’s been trademarked by anyone. The Spanx people should have a Manx line of men’s control garments.
  • 36A. “CHEESE IT, the cops!” [“Run away,” in old gangster slang]. I learned this one from a bare-bones Mac version of Yahtzee a good 15 years ago. There was a “Cheese it, the cops!” button to hide the game.
  • 18A. The LARYNX is a [Musical organ?] you use to sing.
  • 23D. What is [Shakespearean actor Kenneth] BRANAGH up to these days?
  • 25D. “Jack” is slang for money, so European [Union jack?] is EUROS. Nothing to do with the British flag called the Union Jack.
  • 27D. [Pull the plug on] isn’t the figurative “kill” or “discontinue.” It’s the literal DRAIN, as in pulling a bathtub plug.

Tough clues eliciting random factoids that I don’t think about much:

  • [River called Hiddekil in the Bible] is the TIGRIS.
  • [Celestial marriage practitioners] are MORMONS.
  • TETHYS is the [Mother of the Oceanids].
  • DNA is a [Molecule that can form supercoils].
  • And an [Eastern Catholic] is called a UNIATE.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 2The grid’s widened to 16 squares to accommodate the grand unifying answer, 38A: THE WALLS HAVE EARS—[“Be careful what you say,” and a hint to a feature shared by this puzzle’s perimeter answers]. Indeed, every answer around the outer WALLS of the puzzle contains an EAR, never once having any hearing-related meaning:

  • [Poet Edward and a king] LEARS, Anne MEARA the [“Like Mike” actress], EARN, NEAR-MISS, APPEAR, SWEAR, A BEAR, YEAR, TEAR AWAY, and the does-that-still-exist [Shoe. co. founded in Venice Beach], L.A. GEAR

So the stealthiness inherent in the saying “the walls have ears” is embodied in the puzzle—just because the you can’t see the “ears” lurking behind the wall doesn’t mean they’re not eavesdropping on you. Cool theme.

I’m not sure how much the presence of those repeated EAR chunks constrains the task of filling the grid, but I suspect the fill was A BEAR (70A: [Tough test metaphor]) because of the surprising rash of crosswordese here. SNEE, 4-letter Western towns ELKO and OREM, ALOP, EMEER, and ENA? Those are all a bit much, but A BIT MUCH is itself a terrific entry (8D: [Adequate, and then some]). Other highlights:

  • 19A. JAIME is [Lindsay’s “Bionic Woman” role]. I love pop culture clues that summon up the TV and music of my childhood. (SADA [Thompson in the Theater Hall of Fame]? Aw, c’mon, clue her as [Kristy’s mother on “Family”]!)
  • 28A. MAYHEM is a word I love. [Chaos] is not as fun to say.
  • Double “Casey at the Bat” references: 3D: AT BATS are [Casey’s turns], and 28D: MUDVILLE is [Casey’s team].
  • 12D. I’m also fond of the word ANATHEMA. (A secret attraction to words with a hidden HEM?) It’s an [Object of loathing].
  • 23D. HONOLULU is a [Frequent Pro Bowl site].

Tougher clues:

  • 18A. GABON is an [Equatorial African country].
  • 53A. [Baroque composer Jean-Philippe] RAMEAU is not among the 10 most famous European composers. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Verdi, Puccini, Haydn, Chopin, Stravinsky—all better known than this Rameau, no?
  • 2D. The [French card game similar to whist] is ECARTE or, if you include the accents, écarté.
  • 13D. [Mahdi, in Islam] is a REDEEMER.

Updated Friday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Writer’s Bloc”—Janie’s review

I always enjoy seeing what can be done to ordinary, everyday phrases by adding or removing several letters or even, as is the case today, by removing a single one. The title gives us the hint to the missing letter–and it’s “K.” Specifically, the final “K.” Today we get six theme phrases, and that letter vanishes from the end of the first word in half of ’em and from the end of the last word in the other. At:

  • 3D. packrat → PAC RAT [Deceitful lobbyist?]. Is this clue perhaps redundant?…
  • 18A. “Dock of the Bay” → DOC OF THE BAY [Chesapeake-area physician]. Looove this one. I got it pretty early on and knew, as a result, how the theme would work. In a puzzle with strong theme fill, this is the strongest.
  • 28A. buck-naked → BUC NAKED [Scandalous Tampa headline?]. Funny. And I love the way that initial “B” is shared (going down) with BARES [Reveals]. Very nice indeed.
  • 43A. crock pots → CROC POTS [Vessels for cooking some big reptiles?]. Best and funniest image of the lot!
  • 47D. pet rock → PET ROC [Tamed behemoth of myth?]. Love the word “behemoth” and the color it brings to the clue.
  • 56A. “Take your pick” → “TAKE YOUR PIC!” [Impatient words to a photographer?]. All right already!!

All in all, I have great ESTEEM [Admiration] for this creation and find that between the solid fill-and-cluing, there’s little to DETRACT [Diminish, with “from”] from its strengths. I like the geo-political entries: the very current MYANMAR [Renamed country between India and Thailand], SLOVAKIA [European nation since 1993] and the more settled, stable IBERIA [Spain together with Portugal]. Oh–and there’s the topographical ARARAT [Turkey’s tallest peak], too. That’s where Noah’s ARK [Biblical refuge] purportedly came to rest.

I liked the scientific GENOME [Organism’s set of inherited material], the poetic LENORE [Poe title heroine who “died so young”] and (because it brought back memories of art-projects-past], the “crafty” DIORAMA [Student’s shoebox scene]. STAMINA [Fortitude] was a fine word to see in the grid, and best of all: the edgy DEBUNKED [Exposed as false].

There’s a nice proximity in the grid of (near-)homophones PRAY [Entreat] and PREYS ON [Hunts, catches and eats]; and I think my favorite clues would have to be [Delivered in a way] for BORN and [It often comes between partners]. Not BAD BLOOD–or not in three letters anyway. No, the correct fill keeps everything upbeat here. AND. It’s nice to see the “common” words get the uncommon touch. That’s the kinda detail of construction that keeps the solving experience lively.

Myles Callum’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Brainstorming”

Region capture 5Brr! My building’s boiler is uncharacteristically sluggish this morning, when the outdoor temps are in single digits. My fingers are cold. They do not much like typing when they are cold. So: cursory blogging!

The theme entries are phrases with embedded IDEAs. RIDE A BROOMSTICK feels a little too contrived to be a solidly in-the-language crossword entry, but the others are solid.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Central Processor”

Region capture 12The theme is Steve JOBS’ Apple IPAD, which is called into duty as a rebus square in the middle of the puzzle. OM MANI PADME HUM is a mantra,and a DYNAMIC IP ADDRESS is some computery thing.

Freshest fill: VOCODERS. Most impressive vocabulary word: [Caducity], cluing AGE. Dictionary says it’s an archaic word for the infirmity of old age or senility, or a poetic/literary word for frailty or transitory nature.

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25 Responses to Friday, 1/29/10

  1. ArtLvr says:

    This Doug Peterson puzzle made me very happy, even if it took a long time and a lot of figurative head-scratching. I knew SEPOY, for example, but couldn’t think of the word until I got ASTHMA. Wanted CHUG for GULP. BUTYL was brutal. And “Appropriate game” was my fave clue…

    It’s so cold I might try a PORT, ZINFANDEL or KAMIKAZE… is there a drink called FROG?

  2. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Many thanks for the link to the LATs!

  3. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    Finally gave up on the NW after feeling so, so proud of myself as I popped SEPOY and Sir KAY and even ZANZIBAR into place; The Untouchables are The Unforgettables for me… and I had PINE TREES and OMSK, but they just got me nowhere. Kinda wanted “Diddly” to be the clue for SQUAT….but no.

    Not bad for a Friday, at least for this Old Lady.

    Thanks for the link. I was all flustered when Cruciverb would not come up.

  4. LARRY says:

    Amy – The LAT puzzle for 1/29 has a NOTEBOOK entry that reads “3:56”. Any idea why?

  5. Evad says:

    I thought the NYT excellent, both the cluing and fill was a joy. TYLENOL PM just isn’t going to come up in any computer-generated puzzle. After Byron’s ACPT final 1-A ZOLAESQUE, I always look for a Z in that first square. Had ZILCH before ZIPPO, but fixed it with OMSK.

    Electronic gag reflex? is probably going to get a few askance looks, but I thought it inspired.

  6. Will Nediger says:

    Rameau is pretty great, though. RIYL Vivaldi.

  7. Howard B says:

    Poor Cruciverb. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?
    Hoping they get things back up and running there.

    And to whomever’s messing with things, please go and take your virii, denial of service attacks, packs of Vermicious Knids, or whatever other junk you have running elsewhere. It’s just not worth the hassle. Thanks.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Larry, that’s my solving time. I just erased the grid and resaved the file to post it.

  9. Martin says:

    Lively fill and cluing from Doug today!

    Incidentally, Evad said:

    “TYLENOL PM just isn’t going to come up in any computer-generated puzzle.”

    Sure it is. While I’m not talking about Doug’s puzzle specifically, as long as the constructor has the word in his (or her) database, the word can be used in the crossword.

  10. Evad says:

    That’s true, Martin. I guess I meant that the default word lists that beginning constructors have wouldn’t include an entry like that. Since cruciverb is down and I’m blocked from Jim Horne’s site here at work, I can’t see if that has been used before.

  11. Spencer says:


    Reminds me of a dystopia I read several times, long ago, Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. Wikipedia says

    Stand on Zanzibar is a dystopic New Wave science fiction novel … first published in 1968. … a sprawling narrative that presents a complex and multi-faceted view of the story’s future world. Such information-rich chapters were often constructed from many short paragraphs, sentences, or fragments thereof – pulled from sources such as slogans, snatches of conversation, advertising text, songs, extracts from newspapers and books, and other cultural detritus. The result is reminiscent of the concept of information overload.

    Its title refers to an early twentieth century claim that the world’s population could fit onto the Isle of Wight (area 381 km²) if they were all standing upright. … [T]he 7 billion people whom he projected would be alive in 2010 would need to stand on Zanzibar (area 1554 km²). Throughout the book, the image of the entire human race standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a small island is a metaphor for a crowded world where each person feels hemmed in by a prison made not of metal bars, but of other human beings. By the end of the book, some of that crowd is (metaphorically) knee deep in the Indian Ocean surrounding the island.

  12. Martin says:

    Evad, today is the first time TYLENOLPM has been used in a NYT crossword, according to Jim Horne’s (most excellent!) site. I’m not sure if it’s the first time ever for a crossword, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. Great entry!

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    This morning’s Martin comments have been from Martin Ashwood-Smith. A request to Messrs. Ashwood-Smith and Herbach: Would you mind using your last initial when you post here? I thought these comments were from Herbach and feared he’d had a psychotic break because the exclamation points seemed so very un-Herbachian. Only site admins can click on the comment to see the poster’s e-mail address, so nobody else can tell you guys apart without skills in close reading.

  14. Evad says:

    Yes I had a similar run-in with a prior Dave who commented on the site, hence my “Evad” persona. Can I suggest one of you become Nitram? Or, use a distinctive gravatar.

  15. mickbrown says:

    The Dave Clark Five was a trio?

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Mick, last night I asked my husband to name some famous trios. First thing out of his mouth was “Dave Clark Five.” (Yes, he is both funny and annoying.)

  17. joon says:

    the dave clark five apparently had five members. ben folds five, on the other hand, really was a trio. ben folds explained the name thusly: “I think it sounds better than Ben Folds Three.”

    super puzzle from doug today. my favorite freestyle puzzle of the decade! great fill, great cluing.

    i’m familiar with the BLAND-ALLISON ACT, although i often confuse it with the sherman silver purchase act. but i have to agree that the CHE theme was a little… dull.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    I had a pet rock, but I don’t know where it went. Is there a site I can go to where we can be reunited?

  19. Alex says:

    So, Cruciverb seems to still exist, just not the index page. For instance, the page with the LAT puzzles is still there.

  20. Jan says:

    Loved the CS, especially “crocpots”. Lynn Lempel is my new favorite puzzle constructor!

  21. Sheri says:

    The key to the composer Jean-Phillippe Rameau in the L.A. Times Crossword puzzle is that he is of the BAROQUE period. Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Verdi, Puccini and Chopin were all composers of the Classical and Romantic periods in music. Stravinsky was a 20th century musical revolutionary. You are correct to list Bach and Handel in the Baroque period; others of this musical era would include Vivaldi, Telemann, Corelli, Purcell, Pachebel and Monteverdi. I did enjoy the “ear” theme. I love crosswords because I often learn something new. Was anyone familiar with the Mahdi in Islam (not being of the Muslim faith, that is)?

  22. joon says:

    i liked the CS theme. this isn’t exactly lynn’s fault, but i would have liked it even more had i not seen the same theme (with a couple of the same theme answers) last year in the NYT in a richard silvestri puzzle.

    by contrast, don G’s LAT puzzle had a really fresh theme. i’ve never seen anything like it. i can forgive some awkward answers for something that new and fun.

  23. John Haber says:

    It was the perfect Friday puzzle for me, with lots of clever fill and that feeling where nothing would get entered, but once I had a foothold, it budged. I, too, couldn’t remember the word SEPOY until it came from crossings and thus entered it last. (For some reason, I thought of “sapir,” but he’s a philosopher of language.)

    ZINFANDEL should have been my foothold, since it occurred to me right away, and I could even put it together with OMSK to make ZIPPO, but somehow nothing else moved. Then I saw the clue for NIETZSCHE, and I was running. Oh, “Tanganyika” was a pop song, too, and while not brilliant, practically anything is less schlocky than Billy Joel.

  24. Jon S. says:

    All those Zs in the NYT today did not make me want to snooze. SEPOY. Another word for my repository of puzzle arcana. Also thought IDA LUPINO clued as a director was unique. Where are all the women directors?

    Am I the only one who saw all the ONEs buried in the SE corner? I know there isn’t a theme there, but it feels like there was one trying to get out.

  25. Jan (danjan) says:

    The Martins aren’t the only ones with double identities. I hadn’t been sure how to point out that there is another Jan who occasionally, and in fact earlier today, posts comments. I’ve been posting my times as Jan on a daily basis for quite some time, and when I comment, I have my NYTimes screen name (danjan) noted as well. I’ve also recently added the floral photo. Perhaps the other Jan would kindly use a last name initial as well, and consider adding a unique gravitar. Thanks!

Comments are closed.