Thursday, 2/4/10

Fireball 6:57
NYT 6:15
LAT 3:01
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 30Is it Thursday in NYT land? Yes? Then you kinda have to expect some befuddlement. Matt likes to stretch the envelope and poke some holes in it, so Thursday is a good day to find one of his puzzles. This time, he pairs seven 7-letter answers with their next-door neighbors and lists their clues together in no particular order. But to help the solver, Matt and Will tell you right off the bat that these word pairs are anagrams of each other:

  • 1A/8A. [World records? * Natural seasoning] clues SEA SALT and ATLASES, not in that order.
  • 15A/16A. [Division division * Cut] clues ABRIDGE and BRIGADE, not in that order. Once I figured out where BRIGADE was, the anagram aspect helped me suss out its partner answer.
  • 17A/18A. GRIEVED and DIVERGE mean [Was sorrowful * Separate].
  • 41A/43A. THICKEN and KITCHEN are clued with [Coagulate * Galley]. Kitchen is never my first thought for galley—first proofreading, then a ship, then a boat’s kitchen.
  • 67A/69A. With JoePa (PATERNO), I wanted the partner word to be PRONATE (to walk with the weight shifted to the outside of the feet) but got PROTEAN instead. Clues: [Longtime Penn State head coach * Versatile].
  • 71A/72A. [Moderate tempo * Done] clues ANDANTE/AT AN END. Did you find the two multi-word theme answers to be tougher, too?
  • 73A/74A. [Like St. Petersburg in 1914, 1924 and 1991 * Drift aimlessly] clues RENAMED and MEANDER.

14 x 7 = 98 theme squares? Whoa! That’s a whole lot.

Toughest clues, best clues, tricky stuff, cool stuff:

  • 22A. [Where Joe gets a six-pack?] is the GYM, where he works on his abs.
  • 46A. SHED is clued as [Radiate, as light]. Do people talk about light sources literally shedding light on things, or is “shed some light” strictly metaphorical?
  • 51A. Did you know [Tailor’s chalk, typically] is TALC? Reasonable (but wild) guess that proved correct.
  • 27A, 56A. [Big mouth] pulls double duty as the clue for both MAW and YAP. Love both words!
  • 2D. Crosswordese river + trivia! [River that was the ancient dividing line between Rome and Carthage] is the EBRO in Spain.
  • 5D. Here’s one of those “word illustrated by examples that distract us from the right path” clues: [Always or forever] is an ADVERB.
  • 7D. You know Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss? [Dr. Seuss, informally, and others] clues TEDS. Ouch! Needed three crossings…or maybe it was four.
  • 10D. LIVE BAIT can be a [Worm, often].
  • 12D. Crosswordese puppeteer Tony SARG is clued as [America’s Puppet Master]. ROVE is also four letters long, and I briefly considered it. But that’s an anachronism now, isn’t it?
  • 31D. Am having trouble feeling that BANS and [Blacks out] are fully interchangeable. Example, anyone?
  • 33D. ETHYL is an [Antiknock additive]? If you say so.
  • 47D. [Link letters] aren’t the LPGA, they’re the HTTP at the start of a URL.
  • 52D. I know what a CAFTAN is but [Cousin of a boubou]? Wha…?
  • 55D. [Tough hit for an infielder] is a LINER. Baseball, schmaseball.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “University Row”—Janie’s review

Once again, seems like ages since we’ve seen the Peterson by-line and (once again) it’s a welcome addition to the puzzle day–even if the puzzle (like this one) doesn’t draw from the freshest theme territory. Still, the result is solid and it’s entertaining as well. Today, the first word of each of the theme phrases is also the name of a “university”; each is found by itself, in its own “row” in the grid; and two use all 15 squares going across as well. The institutions of higher learning saluted today appear as a part of:

  • 17A. DUKE OF EDINBURGH [Title held by Prince Philip]. Mr. Queen…
  • 26A. BROWN MUSTARD [Spicy condiment]. I start to salivate just thinking about it. Mmmm. With knackwurst and sauerkraut.
  • 48A. RICE KRISPIES [Breakfast brand with a trio of mascots]. Another peppy clue/fill combo: Snap, Crackle and Pop! Haven’t thought about those guys in a looong time. (Hold the brown mustard, please…)
  • 63A. TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS [Ancient wonder dedicated to a Greek goddess]. And the other six? Here’s a little refresher.

There isn’t a lot of longer fill of the non-theme variety, but between the fill and the clues there is lots of “play.” Note the symmetry (and the directional opposites…) in the vertical placement of LIE DOWN [Recline] and SPOKE UP [Made one’s feelings known]. And see how “U” holds the third square in the words that fill out those columns in TRUMPET [Dizzy Gillespie’s instrument] and CRUSADE [Fight for a cause]. Whether by design or chance, these elements add cohesion to the creation.

I also enjoyed seeing OLLIE [Stan’s comedy partner] (as in Stan Laurel and Oliver [Ollie] Hardy); [Game for pint-sized players] as the clue for T-BALL; [Spot of illness?] for the one measly MEASLE; SPIKE, a [Sudden increase] (in fever, for instance, brought on by the aforementioned “illness”); GO NUTS [Freak out]; and “HOLA!” or [“Hi!” in Hidalgo]. (There’s a little and totally charming Off-Broadway show by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, btw, called Dear Edwina that features a catchy, clever tune called “Hola, Lola!”) And who doesn’t like being reminded of the tasty product made by [“Famous” cookie guy] AMOS or the compelling films featuring [Actor Gyllenhaal] JAKE? Rhetorical questions.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1The theme is a quote theme. Eh, quote themes are usually rather dull ventures. What PuzzleGirl said at L.A. Crossword Confidential is a fair representation of my feelings about quote puzzles.

The morning’s half gone, so I’ll leave it at that and move on.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 3”

Region capture 2Peter’s back with another Saturday-NYT-grade themeless puzzle. (Yay!) The fill is good, but it’s the clues that really shine.

Top 4 answers:

  • 8D. MATRYOSHKA DOLLS are those Russian nesting dolls. [They nest]. With the final LL in place first, I suspected a GULL of some sort.
  • 62A, 46D. Ah, the SCHMALTZ/SHORTZ crossing is fun to say aloud. One is a noted [Puzzling guy] and the other is chicken [Fat].
  • 13D. The LEGOLAND theme park is a [Place chockablock with blocks]. We’ve never gone. Would it be worthwhile to make the schlep to Schaumburg?

Top 12 clues:

  • 1A. [Give a hand to?] clues STIFF-ARM.
  • 22A. [Fit to serve?] is EDIBLE. (Not ONEA, luckily.)
  • 26A. [Blue preceder or follower] is NILE: the color Nile blue and the river called the Blue Nile.
  • 47A. [“Hair” piece] is a SONG in the musical.
  • 55A. [Scourge of surfers] is ADWARE, not jellyfish or dangerous ocean currents.
  • 7D. [Angry reaction] clues RISE, as in “get a rise out of” someone.
  • 11D. [Having hives, say] is APIAN, as bees have hives.
  • 21D. [National income source] is RENTALS—National is a car rental company.
  • 33D. I was just showing my son the Fibonacci sequence in his math book yesterday, so I knew the [Fibonacci sequence starter] is ONE. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55… This has something to do with the swirly pattern of a sunflower’s seeds, but I don’t know what.
  • 34D. [Tete-a-tetes, e.g.] are SOFAS like this as well as one-on-one chats.
  • 45D. [It can be grave] clues an ACCENT mark. No relation to the VANDAL who’s a [Tombstone toppler, say] at a grave site.
  • 55D. [Fox Indian] is not SAC! No, it’s APU, the Indian émigré on Fox’s The Simpsons.

Top 1 grumble:

  • 3D. [Some Kurdish speakers] are Iranians. Are they IRANIS? Can someone show me a solid, current reference that proves IRANI = Iranian in educated discourse?

Updated Thursday evening:

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Doubly Painful”

Region capture 3Like the title says, “Ow, ow!” Each theme entry contains two OWs:

  • LIL BOW WOW is the [Young rapper who was Snoop Dogg’s protege, formerly].
  • “HOW SOON IS NOW?” is the title of that [1985 Smiths single with the line “I am human and I need to be loved / Just like everybody else does”]. Holy cats, that’s the title? I know the song but had no idea that’s what it’s called.
  • In basketball, a three-point shot is delivered “FROM DOWNTOWN.” [NBA announcer’s “threeee!”] is an equivalent exclamation.
  • BROWN COWS are [Root beer floats made with chocolate ice cream]. With vanilla, they’re black cows…though isn’t the black cow likely to be a lighter brown than a brown cow?


  • The [“L.A. Woman” refrain] MOJO RISIN’ is an anagram of…Jim Orison? No, wait. Mr. Mojo Risin’ anagrams to Jim Morrison.
  • [Lightning-fast Bolt] is runner USAIN Bolt.
  • [Directed to the video of Will Shortz’s duet with Whitney Houston (http://tinyurl.2g9mqh), say] clues RICKROLL’D. You know what that is, right?
  • SANDRA OH is a [“Grey’s Anatomy” actress]. She had a great motorcycle-helmet scene in the movie Sideways, and it’s great to see her full name in the grid.
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18 Responses to Thursday, 2/4/10

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    I didn’t notice the descriptive text until after completing the puzzle in AcrossLite. That seems like an awfully severe spoiler given it’s a Thursday.

  2. SuperBowlXX says:

    From a construction standpoint, this was pretty amazing. Not just 98 theme squares, but the fact that Ginsberg was able to stack a bunch of 7-letter answers on top of each other, have each pair of words be anagrams of one another, AND get them all to fit reasonably well with the down answers. That’s really, really impressive.

    From a solving standpoint, I thought it was more difficult than a typical Thursday. Some of the clues really threw me — like 62D (how does SPAR mean “Boom”?), 9D and 57D (never heard of TRICES or PLENA before).

  3. miguel says:

    In the Arkansas tradition, after drinking two quarts of Southern Comfort comes the wedding BANS/BLACK OUTS. Works for me.

    I have tried to thicken in the kitchen, but never roam roundly in the laundry room.

  4. Alex says:

    I remember Matt polling the C-L list a while back about what was the most theme squares anyone had ever seen in a crossword. Was this puzzle the reason for that query, Matt?

  5. Matt says:

    @Alex: In all honesty, I have no idea! I put some comments on the Wordplay blog about how I constructed this puzzle (tricking Crossword Compiler to do all the work, basically). But this puzzle didn’t strike me as all that theme-laden; it was more important to keep the anagrams interesting and the fill reasonably clean. See many of you later this month, I hope!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I never saw the explanatory heading until I came here, but figured it out at the THICKEN – KITCHEN. The top was bare until I got to ERR and went from there, filling downs.

    TED Geisel was my dad’s best friend, and Dad was best man at his first wedding! And I got a kick from St Petersburg RENAMED, having been there twice when it was Leningrad.
    The SWEDE was another that tickled me, as the gal I met most recently from Sweden is one lovely Tua-Lise, which sounds like the English for Beethoven’s “Für Elise”…

    The puzzle did SEEM a heck of a Herculean construction, but revealed itself quite smoothly once I got started. My favorite tricky clues were the one for MOTHS and HTTP.

    @SuperbowlXX — the boom of a sail on a sailboat can be called a SPAR.

  7. LARRY says:

    Spar is a collective noun that includes masts, booms and sprits.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    I guess BANS = [Blacks out] in the sense of being on a “blacklist”?

    Even though I read the notepad before starting, I went with BARS rather than BANS because I already had THICKER at 41-A having read [Coagulate] as an adverb, even though the dictionary says that usage is archaic.
    Took me 4:13 to find that “error” after I thought I was DONE. Not fair!

    Other than that, great puzzle.

  9. Gareth says:

    This one is just a wow. Incredibly clean yet so much theme! Had PAALAT @ 50D without noticing, making that quadrant nigh impossible for a good while. Only seen CAFTAN with a K myself, but only the C form has appeared in the NYT, strange. Also didn’t help that around here a boubou is a small shrike living in my garden. HOGAN only got because we met up with it recently… Also spent an awful lot of time puzzling out TALC/HTTP/BLIPS for some reason…

  10. Mel Park says:

    [Cousin of a boubou]? Wha…? Boubous are the kaftans that women wear in Sénégal. I only know it as a Oulof word (I’ve lived in Sénégal). It’s not in my Petit Larouse dictionary. Wait, I do have a Larouse Universel from 1922. There is an entry for boubou and it’s as I said before: A large flowing dress worn as an outer garment by Senegalese women.

  11. Zulema says:

    A very enjoyable puzzle to solve. BAN I connected more with an airline black-out dates.

  12. joon says:

    you wouldn’t believe how long i held myself up in the middle of the fireball because i had PEE instead of PRO for {Whiz}. well, that and RAS instead of TAS.

  13. John Haber says:

    I was impressed, too, and very much enjoyed it. HOGAN and CAFTAN were hard or unfamiliar for me, too. I’m surprised no one found SARG as unfamiliar as I or commented on the Anti-Spam Act. Somehow that one slipped right by me, maybe because junk mail seems not to have diminished.

  14. Matt Gaffney says:

    Fireball took me 10:31 in AL. The clue for APU was awesome and the grid was fun.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    There’s a LEGOLAND in California, too. My sister and family loved it.

  16. ===Dan says:

    I think the shared sense of “bans” and “blacks out” is “censors” as in text or body parts.

  17. Clever theme from Matt Ginsberg today — I figured out the anagram pairings without the hint, but the jumble of which clue fit which entry was an impressive curveball. I’ve solved about two dozen of his puzzles now and I have yet to find my comfort zone with them.

    With the tournament two weeks away, a friendly warning to contestants not on the East Coast: prepare for snow. We in Virginia are about to get socked with another 20-inch snowfall, and NYC may get some of this before the weekend is over. The El Nino pattern this season is causing repetitive snowstorms/nor’easters to occur…I wouldn’t be surprised to see significant snowfall on tournament weekend.

  18. Ellen says:

    Re snow: if someone’s plane couldn’t get to the ACPT, I wouldn’t be that upset

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