Wednesday, 2/3/10

Onion 5:20
NYT 4:17
BEQ 4:12
LAT 3:06
CS untimed
bonus 19×19 Fireball 7:26

Kristian House’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 27Around these parts, daily repetitions of 20A and 39A aren’t met with “BUT WHY?” (13D/57D) so much as “No.” “I don’t want to.” “Can I watch TV?” “Can I play Wii?” No! You know why? BECAUSE I SAID SO. You will BRUSH YOUR TEETH and DO YOU HOMEWORK! (The household does not place an emphasis on [Parental order #2], PICK UP YOUR TOYS.) So I like the theme—easy enough to piece together with the aid of crossings, accessibly familiar phrases.

The fill bounces between “ooh, I like that” and “meh.” In the plus column:

  • 48A. JAY-Z, Mr. Beyonce Knowles, is the [Rapper with the #1 hit “Empire State of Mind”]. I haven’t heard the song, but they say it captures New York nicely.
  • 61A. I like the crosswordese English place name TYNE—[Newcastle upon ___, England]—because my kid played with a boy from Newcastle upon Tyne at a D.C. hotel pool last summer.
  • 62A. Good mislead—[One of a Disney septet], 5 letters starting with D? Must be DOPEY, right? Nope, just a generic DWARF.
  • 5D. SKY-HOOK is Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar’s trademark shot].
  • 7D. “NO DUH!” [Slangy “That’s obvious!”] is the clue.
  • 9D. Casually spelled SEE-THRU is clued as being [Like a sheer nightie].
  • 43D. WIZARDS looks great in the grid. They’re clued as [Some Hogwarts students].
  • 56D. Good clue for IOWA: [Where James T. Kirk was born and raised] in Star Trek. The T is for Tiberius, of course.

In the debit column:

  • 48A. Not-so-common abbreviation INQ. is a [Govt. investigation].
  • 59A. ROWEL is clued as a [Wheel on a spur]. A word I know from crosswords. See also 22A: EWER/[Vessel by a basin].
  • 65A. Variant SAREE is clued with variant spelling [Ranee’s wrap].
  • 21D, 51D. Rivers that flow through Crosswordland! The YALU is a [River to Korea Bay], while the ISERE is a [River of Grenoble]. Really, one crosswordese river is enough in one puzzle.
  • 26D. Really? Didn’t know ACTO was [Part of a Spanish play].
  • 47D. [Patisserie artisans] had me dreaming of French baked goods and then…ICERS? That’s like “drink your Ovaltine” in A Christmas Story.

I’m not familiar with the phrase AD WAR. Or am I? It’s clued as 50D: [Exchange of TV smears, maybe]. Is this in terms of political campaign commercials? Hooray for Illinois’s primary election today, because now the TV ads, mailers, and robo-calls will stop for a half year.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “B Boys”—Janie’s review

What’s this? A shout-out to breakdancing? No. Not today. Instead the alliterative title tells us to expect alliterative theme fill. And that’s just what we get: four “boys” whose first and last names begin with “B.” Blindauer’s buddies are:

  • 20A. BURT BACHARACH [“Magic Moments” composer]. Lyricist: Hal David.
  • 28A. BOB BARKER [TV game show host for 35 years]. 35 years of “The Price is Right,” but some 50 years in the industry. Between 1956 and 1975, he was also the host of “Truth or Consequences.”
  • 44A. BILL BIXBY [“My Favorite Martian” star]. I never took to this show and was only peripherally aware of Mr. Bixby’s name, which I somehow tend to confuse with jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke…
  • 53A. BUSBY BERKELEY [Director/choreographer of “Gold Diggers of 1935”]. And that’s just the tip o’ the iceberg professionally. He was famous for those overhead shots of his chorines, turning his choreography (in effect) into a dazzling human kaleidoscope.

I found this to be a rather easy solve–and a fun one, too, enhanced as it is by the “Z-factor.” Not only is there the sound of it in the name Busby, there’s also its appearance in such fill as ZOMBIE [“Dawn of the Dead” being] and ALL ABUZZ [Discussing excitedly]. I also like the “K” that joins PRANK (clued-by-example with [Short-sheeting a bed, e.g.]) and SNARK [Make catty remarks]. This is the first time I recall, however, seeing snark as a verb. I’m more familiar with its adjective form of snarky.

Fave cross: the pair related to/by the thought process–PREFER [Think best] and DEEMED [Considered]. There are two nice stacks in the grid, too: OMOO atop MOOS, and DAZE atop DAZS.

A note on the grid: it almost looks like it’s divided into seven discrete areas, but I did find that the longer theme-fill bridged these areas really smoothly. Ditto the longer fill NE and SW. “Understatement of the year” would go to [Important parts of parachutes] as the clue for RIP CORDS. Uh, yeah. Am also fond of the lively fill in those substantive NW and SE (quadruple) columns of 6-letter words: TRYSTS [Encounters of the close kind]; AFLAME [Burning]; PEER IN [Look through a keyhole] (though that definition more accurately suggests PEEK IN to me…). To all this, I say [“Way to go!”]/”HOORAH!”

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme: The first three letters of four two-word phrases are synonyms (roughly) for JABBER. Four wildly divergent things are unified by nothing other than the short words hidden at their starts, so until you hit 40-Down (the unifying JABBER) there’s a lot of “What the heck is going on here??” I liked the surprise that lay in wait. I liked the theme answers for being mostly the sort of things that are never included in crossword grids. And I liked the fill’s use of less common letters (V, Y, K, J) to avoid staleness.

Theme entries:

  • 16A: [India’s first prime minister]/JAWAHARLAL NEHRU. Isn’t that fun to spell? (The answer is yes.) I have never used JAW as a verb but have seen it in crosswords plenty. “Talk at length, chatter,” says my dictionary (New Oxford American’s Mac widget). Anyone ever have a Nehru jacket?
  • 22A: [Washington wine region]/YAKIMA VALLEY. Nowhere near as famous a wine name as Napa Valley, but YAKIMA is more fun to say. YAKking tends to be pejorative, no? Dictionary says: “talk at length about trivial or boring subjects.” Oh, like this blog! (If you don’t like crosswords, that is.)
  • 43A: [Chicago ‘L,’ e.g.]/RAPID TRANSIT. To RAP is to “talk or chat in an easy or familiar manner,” possibly talking all night.
  • 51A: [Part of a twill suit]/GABARDINE JACKET. When I was a kid I thought gabardine sounded horribly stodgy and old-fashioned. I think that steel blue suit I rocked in the ’90s was gabardine, though. To GAB is to “talk, typically at length, about trivial matters.
  • 40D: [Talk on and on, and a hint to the three-letter starts of 16-, 22-, 43- and 51-Across]/JABBER.


  • 33A: [Malice]/VENOM. These are both awesome words.
  • 39A: [Iraqi, for instance]/ASIAN. Technically, everything from Turkey and Israel on east is in Asia. It’s just not all East Asia, you know? I like the clue’s off-kilter angle.
  • 3D: [Honeymooner, probably]/NEWLYWED. How long had the Kramdens and Nortons been married? Why was that show called The Honeymooners?
  • 6D: [Polygamous household group]/HAREM. I haven’t watched the HBO series Big Love, but that’s exactly where my mind went with this clue.
  • 23D: [Quaint complaint]/ALAS. Oh, thank goodness it was ALAS and not, say, AH, ME. I went off on that Tuesday LAT answer in Facebook yesterday. Who says “ah, me”? Nobody, that’s who! I want to obliterate that answer from crosswords.
  • Va-va-voom: 24D: [Medalworthy behavior]/VALOR is just one of the V words in the middle of the puzzle. VELDT, VENOM, VALUE, VIED.
  • 34D: [Tony’s portrayer on “NYPD Blue”]/ESAI. My husband and I were watching the new sci-fi series Caprica the other night. ESAI Morales plays a dad who’s a Taurian, meaning he’s from the planet of…Taurus? Tauria? I don’t now. Caprica sounds like a Buick, doesn’t it? I think it’s another planet. Not sure why the place names sound like signs of the zodiac.
  • Dan Naddor did it! He found a trivia fact about crossword constructors’ favorite car that freshened up the clue. 45D: [Last Olds off the line]/ALERO. I checked Wikipedia and sure enough, it was the last Olds off the assembly line. You know what’s sad? They saved the very last car and put it in a museum. Because isn’t that how Oldsmobile should be remembered, with a dorky compact car?

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “And the Nominees Are…”

Crap. I clicked a button in WordPress and the Fireball write-up vanished, never to be retrieved. What did I say? Here’s a summary: Peter’s annual Oscar puzzle (constructed as soon as the nominations are out) up-sized to a 19×19 to accommodate 10 nominees for Best Picture. He bundled them together in the theme entries in list form so they could adhere to crossword symmetry (and because one film,UP, has only two letters). DISTRICT 9 gets its numeral with a 9 AM crossing.

I figured we’d be waiting until Thursday for the Oscar puzzle, but no, Peter likes to show off and get that annual puzzle out on Tuesday after the nominations are announced. The nominations came out at 7:30 Central and Peter’s puzzle arrived about five and a half hours later. (And a non-Oscar Fireball will arrive Thursday, per the usual schedule).

Favorite clue: [Heat setting] for MIAMI, home of the NBA team the Heat.

If you always liked Peter’s Oscar puzzles in the Sun but haven’t signed up for Fireball Crosswords, it’s not too late to subscribe and get this one.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 28The theme is SUPER BOWL / PARTY FOULS, and each theme answer is a football foul redefined as a “party foul.” CHOP BLOCK? I’ve never heard of that one. FALSE START, HOLDING, OFFSIDE, and DELAY OF GAME are more familiar, but their party-centric clues were difficult for me to make sense out of. The entire theme ran afoul of my wheelhouse, really.

46A: [Servicing]/IN AID OF didn’t feel too natural, an the ORGONE/I-BEAMS/FLEXES crossings (which crossed PELLE) were slow to emerge too. 65A: ALAINA [___ Reed Hall (portrayer of Olivia on “Sesame Street”)] was a complete unknown for me.

Highlights: I learned that ECSTATIC means [Literally, out of one’s body]. We have ZIPCARs ([Urban vehicular rental option]) in my neighborhood, but also Chicago’s own I-GO CARS, which is what I went with first (didn’t know they weren’t both national urban chains). I like the double Muhammad action: AISHA was [The prophet Muhammad’s favorite wife] and ALI [The prophet Muhammad’s cousin].
Updated Wednesday afternoon:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Sidelines: Adding on some extensions”

Region capture 29It’s rare to see a theme that hinges on the way letters are formed rather than on their sounds, meaning, or mere existence. I always dig such themes, though. The letters that have symmetry (like those in TOYOTA with left/right symmetry), the letters that can be flipped upside down (M to W, H), the letters that can be turned (N to Z), the letters that are formed by adding strokes to another (F to E, O to Q, P to B)—these kinds of letter play hit me just right.

So even though I had no idea that any “Man With a Van” existed (turning into MAN WITH A MAN by adding two downstrokes to the V), I loved this puzzle. The Jimmy Carter evocation where football player Vince Carter becomes MINCE CARTER…the MIAMI MICE, free of Don Johnson…the Favrey goodness of a Minnesota Viking reworked as MINNESOTA MIKING…and the adjective switch from venial sin to MENIAL SIN. I don’t necessarily love the theme entries themselves—I just love how they were derived.

Now I’m looking at NO THANKS and seeeing TOM HANKS with a reversal of the first three letters and one added stroke transforming the N into an M.

Highlights: The puzzle made me dredge up the name KIM WILDE. That “Kids in America” song was repurposed in the Jimmy Neutron movie about six years ago, so my son would know it too. Also liked screen CAPTURE (which I do several times a day to get the grid images here), the aforementioned NO THANKS, WATERSKI and SKOAL with neighboring SKs, and the inside-baseball clue for IDIOM, [Many a long crossword answer].

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17 Responses to Wednesday, 2/3/10

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Funny, especially when I wrote INFO at 31D and immediately saw it was POOP, which went with the kids’ theme… and at the other end of that theme answer I expected PICK UP YOUR ROOM until Jan Van EYCK changed it to TOYS.

    Did anyone try John ALDEN before getting ROLFE? Sometimes working backward isn’t a great idea! Anyway, thanks to Kristian for a very smooth pangram!

  2. Ron says:

    The L in ROLFE and ROWEL was ungettable for me, but otherwise, it was a good puzzle with a solid theme.

  3. SuperBowlXX says:

    Lots of black squares in this puzzle (42). Feels like that’s kind of pushing it. But, it’s got some pretty good fill and it’s made up for that fact that it’s a pangram with a bunch of K’s and Z’s.

    I’ve also heard of AD WAR, but I’ve mostly heard it as a plural, usually when people are talking about Coke/Pepsi AD WARS.

  4. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    OOPS. Found I had an error in my grid (I work on paper) with STY instead of SPA. Never even glanced at the Downs for the most part. Tried HALS before EYCK–despite knowing, at some level, that Franz was the first name. D’oh.

    John ALDEN married the fair Priscilla (after carrying Miles Standish’s message.) John ROLFE married Pocahontas, carried her off to England, and was widowed…. Gotta keep those romances straight!

    I thought the fill in this puzzle was generally above average, though AD WARS don’t generally descend to smears; we save that for our political campaigns.

  5. Barry G says:

    Never heard of YALU and never would have gotten it had I needed to. Fortunately, I didn’t even see it until after I had successfully filled in all the crosses. Overall a enjoyable, if perhaps overly easy, puzzle. It helped that I am the father of a 5-year old and the theme answers are pretty much repeated verbatim around our house every single night…

    Oh — and I loved AD WARS! It made me think back to the days when Pepsi and Coke (as well as Burger King and McDonalds) first started targeting each other by name instead of just referring to “Brand X” or “the other guys.” My “favorite” has to be when Coke introduced its new formula, and a Pepsi ad ran showing a girl with a can of Pepsi wondering aloud why Coke would do such a thing. She then took an (obviously fake) sip of Pepsi and declared, “Now I know why!”

    And yes, ACTO is simply the Spanish word for “act.” Nice to have the Spanish version instead of the French for a change.

  6. davidH says:

    Forgive my literary naivete, but aren’t ALL Hogwarts students wizards? What, if any are the other kind? Are there Muggles there? Squibs? (No idea what I’m talking about here).

  7. Jeffrey says:

    There are also witches at Hogwarts.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Loved the CS — Blindauer’s B Boys puzzle, and Janie’s write-up. The LAT started well with the full name of the P.M. at 16A, but the balancing long answer at 51A was a bit of a let-down, having missed a fashion connection to the former by a thread!

  9. Deb Amlen says:

    @ArtLvr: I had ROOM instead of TOYS, and also tried SMITH and ALDEN before I got ROLFE.

    I was amazed that I got SKYHOOK, and not just from crossings. It’s apparently the only sports clue I know.

    In my house, we’re less a BECAUSE I SAID SO crowd, and more of a “Things I Never Thought I Would Hear Myself Say As A Parent” crowd, such as “No running with cheese! You’ll take an eye out!” or “I don’t care WHO wrote on the dog. Someone is cleaning that up!”

  10. Sheri says:

    Alas, I think that Esai (Morales) is the new must-have once-per-week answer in the LAT puzzle.

  11. Sara says:

    davidH: as Jeffrey says, there are also witches (which is what I put in before I saw JAYZ and switched it to WIZARDS). There is only one Squib, the caretaker, Filch. No Muggles.

  12. Spencer says:

    Maybe it’s my age, but YALU is in my brain, probably because I grew up during the Cold War (not the AD WAR). Wikipedia says “The Yalu River (Manchu and Chinese) or the Amnok River (Korean) is a river on the border between China and North Korea.”

  13. joon says:

    YALU is pretty familiar to me, too. and it’s not just because i’m korean; embarrassingly, i cannot name any rivers of south korea. not even the one that flows through seoul. (wikipedia tells me it’s the han, which doesn’t even sound familiar. but i should probably know it.)

    i’m glad sam has not yet reached the “but why?” phase. and he actually seems to enjoy cleaning up, although you have to do it with him and pretend it’s a big game. he’s also a very enthusiastic, if not exactly efficacious, toothbrusher. he’s not really at the homework stage yet, but i’ll keep you posted.

  14. Jon S. says:

    ROWEL – another word for my NYT “what the heck is that?” list. However, I’ve gotten so used to seeing EWER, it never throws me anymore. As a parent of a recalcitrant near-teen and a teen, the “toys” phrase has passed on, but the others are quite relevant. In fact, too relevant.

  15. *David* says:

    Onion had some interesting crosses and they all worked out with EPIPEN/NAT, PELLE/OWLERY. and ORGONE/INAIDOF. We get JOS A. Bank and PELLE Pelle, I thought I knew clothes but this is another world, Urban Outfitters anyone?

    As far as 67A, hats off to the newlywed, give me a call in five years.

  16. Evad says:

    Cute in today’s BEQ to have conservative radio personality Dr. Laura hovering near Man With A Man…bet sparks were flying there!

  17. Norm says:

    Thanks for explaining the BEQ. Got around to it today and enjoyed it, but had no idea what the title meant. My dumb.

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