Friday, 2/12/10

NYT 7:36
BEQ 4:39
LAT 4:06
CHE 3:59
CS untimed
WSJ 8:20

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday!

Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5This puzzle doesn’t break the record for low word count (it’s got 66 entries) or blocks (it’s got 26, not Kevin’s prior record-breaking 18), but it’s noteworthy for its tough-to-achieve quadruple stacks fo 15-letter answers. Has there been another puzzle with two quad stacks and a ninth 15 in the middle? I don’t recall one, but my memory for such feats is not the best.

I’m not sure why Will scheduled this one for Friday. Isn’t it rather Saturdayish overall? None of the 15s was an instant gimme for me, and even with some Downs in place, they didn’t fall boom-boom-boom-boom as one might hope.

My eyeballs are plumb tuckered out from my new glasses, so I’ll just go through some of the fill quickly:

  • 17A. Which [Seminal naturalistic work]? Why, THE DESCENT OF MAN, of course. I cannot give you any background on this one.
  • 19A. [Main character?] is a TAR, as in a sailor on the bounding main.
  • 25A. [Tir a ___ (bow-and-arrow sport: Fr.)] clues L’ARC. Nope, French archery is not in my wheelhouse.
  • 33A. I love this one. “YOU KNOW THE DRILL” is a [Routine statement?].
  • 41A. [What the ugly duckling really was] usually clues SWAN. This time it’s CYGNET, a young swan.
  • 42A. JAR is a [Tipping point?] at places like Starbucks where there’s a tip jar on the counter.
  • 53A. TELLS IT LIKE IT IS is a solid phrase; clued with [Doesn’t hedge].
  • 54A. Good clue for REAL ESTATE AGENT: [A lot may be on one’s mind].
  • 55A. Simultaneously lively and out-of-nowhere: EDMONTON ESKIMOS. They are [13-time Grey Cup winners]. What is that for, hockey? Is this a curling squad? Fill us in, Crosscan.
  • 23D. I would’ve guessed JOULE had a French first name. [Physicist James who contributed to the laws of thermodynamics] was apparently British. Who knew?
  • 28D. WALL-E is the [Animated character who likes “Hello, Dolly!” songs]. That Pixar movie was made before Kevin joined the company. I believe he worked on hair and textiles in Up (and my whole family was excited that I know someone whose name was in the credits of a Pixar movie).
  • Bowling! 29D: [Lane pain?] is a SPLIT, but 10D: [Spares] is not related to bowling—it’s SETS FREE.
  • 31D. [Sci-fi’s Chief Chirpa, e.g.] is nothing I know, but with a W in place, EWOK was the obvious choice. (Star Wars saga.)
  • 34D. OP ARTIST is a term? I had no idea. It’s a [Creator of some illusions].

You know what’s cool about this quad-stacked grid? Hardly any 3s. Just six 3s going Across, and none going Down.

Updated Friday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Warren Piece”—Janie’s review

From that punny title to the most enjoyable execution of the theme, to the quality of the non-theme fill and cluing, today’s puzzle is a treat from start to finish. This “piece” is loaded with synonyms for the creatures who live in breeding grounds known as a “warren.” There’s an interesting history of the word’s usage in that link, btw. Today you’ll find the variation on the theme as the first word in the theme-phrases. And they would be:

  • 17A. HAREBRAINED [Idiotic], i.e., “having no more intelligence than a…” I wonder if Bugs would take offense at that…
  • 11D. BUNNY SLOPE [Destination for a new skier]. Please wear a helmet, no matter how gentle or innocuous the challenge seems.
  • 28D. RABBIT EARS [They used to sit on top of TVs]. But I suppose “all-digital all the time” has put an end to that!
  • 53A. CONEY ISLAND [Brooklyn Beach]. Home of the Nathan’s Hotdogs, the Brooklyn Cyclones (a minor league baseball team) and the Cyclone roller coaster. There’s somethin’ for ev’ryone, so c’mon down!

Like any “warren” worth its name, this puzzle is crammed…with vibrant fill and clues. Among my faves today:

  • ADELAIDE, a [“Guys and Dolls” gal]. She’s been engaged to Nathan Detroit for 14 years, and lovin’ the lug as she does, is waiting to hear the words “MARRY ME” [Merger proposal?].
  • [Call at home] is a STRIKE, since “call” here is a noun and not a verb. The same parts-o’-speech-play applies to [Leaves in hot water] where TEA and not JEOPARDIZES or IMPERILS is the correct fill.
  • TENK? What’s a TENK? The crosses told me that the fill was correct, but it all comes down to the parsing. That [Race of a little over 6 mi.] isn’t a TENK, it’s a TEN K…
  • [One who didn’t want the Yanks to win]… MOI?… Oops, wrong “Yanks.” Correct answer: REB. Back to those other “Yanks,” that [Youngest player to hit 500 HRs, familiarly] is A-ROD (Alex Rodriguez).
  • Love the SPATE [Torrent] of “K” words” KENOSHA [Wisconsin city on Lake Michigan], the beautiful BACK-FLIP [Gymnast’s move], FAKE [Phony] and HOKUM [Nonsense], which relate so nicely to our pal DEBUNKS [Exposes as untrue] (we had debunked almost two weeks ago).
  • It may be time to EVALUATE [Assess] your life if you find yourself IN A RUT [Unhappy with the daily grind]. Or maybe it’s the “grind” of your caffeinated beverage and it’s time to invest in a MR. COFFEE [Brand of home espresso maker]. Is Mr. Coffee still a HOT ITEM [Product that moves fast]? Probably not since the day when the Yankee Clipper was pluggin’ it.
  • If you HIT ON [Make a pass at] someone who returns the favor, who knows? It may lead to a TRYST [Secret meeting] or two. Perhaps at a HOTEL, which is not just a [Conventioner’s quarters]. (Hmmm… some of those “conventioner”s may be engaging in trysts of their own…..)
  • Anaïs NIN is neatly clued as [Palindromic diarist] and that [Vegas opening] has nothing to do with Wayne Newton or Cirque du Soleil, but to the name of the town itself, so the correct fill is LAS. My one NIT, a very [Small complaint] is the repeat of OPENS [Uses a key on] in the fill. I’ll live. This puzzle is beaut. End of story.

Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6This theme took me way too long to figure out. Did it keep you guessing too, or am I reaching a new nadir just in time for next week’s ACPT?

The first theme entry I filled in was the last one—and the constructing team saved the best for last, but I started there so it was all downhill. The theme takes a phrase with an EE word and changes it to an EA word. Making a Japanese beetle into [Yoko?] the JAPANESE BEATLE is terrific. The other three, STAINLESS STEAL, STOCKING FEAT, and POTATO PEALER, are more of a stretch in meaning. Nobody would call a french fry machine’s alarm a PEALER, would they?

Favorite bits:

  • 1A. [Big theme park star] is SHAMU from Sea World. Yes, it’s more of a theme park than an aquarium. I think. I’ve never been there.
  • 2D. HERS is clued [Bierce defines it “His”]. Does this mean what he thinks is his is really HERS, or vice versa?
  • 51A. We don’t see BRALESS in the puzzle too often. The clue, [Without means of support?], almost wants to be “without visible means of support,” which is definitely in the language.

Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Washington Square”

Region capture 7The title is a playful wink at the theme: Washington was the U.S.’s first president, a box is a square, and PRESIDENT’S BOX is at the center of the grid. Liz has constructed a president’s box of sorts in the grid itself: the surnames of 12 presidents appear at the edges of the puzzle, and five others make a symmetrical…something in the middle. Do the five in the center have an architectural purpose?

I had a terrific “aha” payoff when I reached the middle of the puzzle and PRESIDENT’S BOX. I’d filled in at least five or six presidents’ names by then, but only OBAMA, the [Port north of Kyoto] at 105D, had jumped out. Knowing the theme then helped with the remaining border answers. I blanked on the Sex and the City costar until I started thinking of 5-letter presidential names and got Cynthia NIXON (19D). And unknown-to-me 1947 NFL player Frank REAGAN (14A) came along with a few crossings. 52D: [Puncture] gets you Franklin PIERCE. 33A: [Wild parts of Australia] gets you either George BUSH. I wanted 111A: [Cross, in a way] to be SORE, but it’s Gerald FORDing a stream. 132A: [DiMaggio’s love] is Marilyn “James” MONROE.

The whole puzzle was a delightful solving experience for me. The only “meh” note was 58D: PEAN/[Hymn of praise: Var.], but the rest of the fill was smooth and contained grace notes like The Beatles ROCK BAND, ALTER EGO, PEP TALK, “LET’S NOT,” the RED SOX, and a testy “YES OR NO?” My favorite clues include 120A: [Discriminating type?] for AGEIST; 108A: jewelry [Setting item] for GEM (not a table setting); 20A: [They take a lot of hammering] for ANVILS; 28A: [Ring around the collar?] for a neckTIE; and 39A: [Eve, to Yves] for SOIR, French for “evening.”

Assigned reading: Speaking of Liz Gorski, don’t miss her Crossword City blog post today. She provides a timely discussion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and doesn’t even mention that the needlepoint copy of the speech’s text in the photo is her own work. She uses it as a springboard to explaining why it’s silly to get excited about crossword pangrams. Key point: “If I am faced with the choice of using EXT or EAT in a puzzle (and I knew that the “X” in EXT would make it a pangram), I’d use EAT any day of the week and clue it ‘Take sides?’ EXT is last-resort, painted-in-a-corner fill; it’s an abbreviation that’s uninteresting, static. The ‘X’ isn’t “missing” from my puzzle. I chose not to use it.” Well said, Liz.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Snowpocalypse”

Region capture 8Snow idioms get clued  in occupationally specific contexts: Quilters get BLANKETED, a baker is ICED IN, bookies are COVERED, punk rockers get SEVEN INCHES (referring to 7″ records, I think), foot doctors get A COUPLE FEET, the maids get a DUSTING, zombies are BURIED (but probably don’t stay buried), and the sloppy secretaries are WHITED OUT. Cute concept, executed well.

Most interesting fill answer: NEW ME, a 52D: [Person who’s undergone a change, self-descriptively]. Don’t recall seeing that in a crossword before.

Alan Olschwang’s 2/12 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “First Up”

Region capture 9

I don’t know what’s going on with the CHE crossword scheduling. On 1/29, I blogged the puzzle listed on the CHE webpage as the 1/29 puzzle. The next one’s dated 2/1 online, but the Across Lite file says 2/5, and it wasn’t posted by Friday morning last week so I never blogged it. This one says 2/8 on the webpage, 2/12 in Across Lite—and today’s 2/12 so I think this is the current puzzle. Yes? The 2/8 was making me think it was an old puzzle.

Basic trivia theme: The first ___ up in space, x 6. GUS GRISSOM was the first to go up twice. First American, ALAN SHEPARD. First American to orbit the Earth, JOHN GLENN. First American woman, SALLY RIDE. (I screwed myself up by putting SALLY RAND here!) Russian YURI GAGARIN, the first man in space from anywhere. MAE JEMISON, first African-American woman. Who was the first African-American man to go up in space? Guion “Guy” Bluford, following Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo-Mendez, also black. The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova, whose name is too long to fit in a 15×15 puzzle.

I don’t know what QUBO, an unknown-to-me [Children’s programming channel], is doing in the grid. It’s not in pursuit of a pangram because there’s no Z in there. Weird.

I had YEOW for the 52A: [Cry of pain] instead of YELP, which gave me all sorts of trouble in that zone. SLUMMY is [Far removed from uptown]? We don’t use that idiom much in Chicago’s Uptown, which is equally affluent and slummy, depending on what block you’re on. Some blocks are both, actually. This section would’ve fallen faster for me if I’d known that PRIDE was [“The possession of fools”: Herodotus].

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31 Responses to Friday, 2/12/10

  1. Deb Amlen says:

    This is a mind-blowing grid. Well done, Kevin!

    Had a tough time with the AZOLE/OZONE crossing, and knew the physicist was JOULE, but couldn’t remember how to spell it. Needless to say, the west was the last to fall for me.

    Had heard of Op Art, but not OP ARTIST, which I guess makes sense. For awhile, I wanted it to be B. S. ARTIST, but I figured that was pushing it.

  2. Dan F says:

    There’s never been a puzzle with two quad stacks, let alone the extra one in the middle! Very impressive and every bit as “record-breaking” as the 18-block or 52-word puzzles, imo. But I’m a little obsessed with the quadruple stack. :)

    I could probably name a half-dozen Canadian Football League teams, but was not aware there was something called the EDMONTON ESKIMOS.

  3. joon says:

    the grey cup is the trophy awarded to the canadian football league champions. of course, i didn’t know this team. toronto argonauts, saskatchewan rough riders, … i think that’s it. (eta: okay, so dan beat me to it. and he knows four more CFL teams than i do.)

    THE DESCENT OF MAN’s author is also celebrating his 201st birthday today.

    overall, just an amazing puzzle. i wish we’d see kevin’s byline more often!

  4. foodie says:

    This puzzle is like a diamond– very beautiful, and very hard.

  5. Mel Park says:

    Wonderful NYT. My feeling is that it is at a Friday level. The stacked 15’s are common words that can be discerned once the crossings began to be made, much like an acrostic. It was the short answers that eluded me. I guessed at AZOLE and that turned out right. I have not seen WALL-E so the clue was lost on me. The rest just fell into place.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    As someone (me) wrote somewhere (on this site) some time ago (last week):

    “Speaking of Canadian football, at the Grey Cup game in November, the Montreal Alouettes came from behind to defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders, 28-27… I’m betting the Super Bowl won’t be as exciting.” The game wasn’t bad, but I was right.

    BC Lions
    Edmonton Eskimos
    Calgary Stampeders
    Saskatchewan Roughriders
    Winnipeg Blue Bombers
    Hamilton Tigercats
    Toronto Argonauts
    Montreal Alouettes

    The Lions play in BC Place stadium, which will hold a little event you may see on TV tonight.

    Awesome puzzle.

  7. So sure it was Dan JENSEN I left JER unexplained.

    TWO quad-stacks of 15s? Truly astounding!

  8. ktd says:

    ORIGIN OF SPECIES will also fit where THE DESCENT OF MAN is. Thanks a lot, Darwin!

    Also thought “nitrogen compound” would be AMINE (NH3), or maybe AMIDE (CONH2), but no, that’s also too easy. From a linguistic and scientific standpoint, an AZOLE–a ring of five atoms, one of which is nitrogen and a second of which is also not carbon–is more exotic.

    1-Across had me reaching back to my high school calculus class–couldn’t get Taylor Series out of my head for a while.

    Awesome stuff Kevin–truly a gift for all us geeks out there.

  9. janie says:

    one beautiful puzzle! filled it in from the bottom up, working right to left. go figger. but having the words at the end of the long phrases made it “easier” (in the sense of more logical) for me to see what was required at the start.

    since i didn’t need to finish this one in the morning — or call on google… — this felt like a good, (really) challenging friday.

    put me in the “wow” camp.


  10. Martin says:

    This grid is not possible.

  11. Spencer says:

    I’d say Friday difficulty — if you get the 15s. It took me only 19:15, which is reasonable for a Friday for me, and I’m currently #47 out of 155. The amazing thing to me is that I spent at least 5 of those minutes on the central-west portion of the puzzle, maybe more. The rest of the puzzle was, comparatively, a breeze. The top fell in the first few minutes, then I came down the east and the bottom fell almost as quickly. I filled in the center almost one letter at a time, and then stared at the west until I finally had to Google ANKA (which really should have been a gimme) and finally Google told me that JOULE’s first name was really James (I, too, thought he was French) and the rest fell down pretty quickly after that.

  12. Jim Finder says:

    Another tour de force from The Brass Rat … bravo!

  13. Gareth says:

    I’m with Martin – this is not possible. Especially considering how for the most part it’s clean as a whistle! And has some really cool choices among the 9 15’s. But definitely pushing Saturday for me; I think difficulty becomes a lot more personal when there are so many long answers… Found bottom 4 quite easy, though no gimmes, put down DAYBREAK, guessed the ORGANS part, and the downs there were mostly quite easy. Top stack a little tougher though not crazy tough… ORIGINOFSPECIES fits but was obviously wrong, didn’t stop and think further at that point. STAINLESSSTEELS seemed to fit, but also seemed so obviously not a word! Eventually realized how useful it’d be if you were trying to make 4X15 stacks. The crazy tough parts for me were the middle and middle-right, though suspect own stupidity largely to blame. Found AZOLE/ALLA (AZOTE/ATLA??), JANSEN/JAKE and WALLE/OWS (why couldn’t I parse this!) crossings quite tough, not impossible but certainly did a lot of staring.

  14. ===Dan says:

    An amazing construction! Not just that there were 9 fifteens, but also that nothing at all seemed overly forced. I found the puzzle easier to solve than the typical Friday, and found myself higher up in the solving-time distribution than usual… and when I verified my solution in the applet, the long answers helped me complete my typing within one minute for the first time.

    I wanted to write in AMIDE, but OZONE wouldn’t let me, so I didn’t get stuck.

    I’m pretty sure the puzzle ran today because of Darwin’s birthday.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    @ foodie said it perfectly: “This puzzle is like a diamond– very beautiful, and very hard.”
    I did it last night with two squares unresolved. The W in OWS/WALLE might have been H and I just didn’t know which. The other, first L in ALLA francese, I should have figured out — but I was stuck on ABLA or AVLA and couldn’t get past those. Kudos to Kevin! A real gem…

  16. duke says:

    real estate agent was immediate, so the bottom part came easily. Not happy with opartist or ashy. but lots of fun.

  17. Evad says:

    Tale of two puzzles for me, top and bottom fell very quickly, but the whole equator was a disaster for me. Had to come here for the AZOLE/OZONE crosser, and couldn’t let go of AGOG for ASHY, so I never saw the long phrase in the middle. And even after having seen WALL-E, don’t recall him enjoying “Hello, Dolly” songs (is that a genre?)

  18. Wow. That’s really all you can say about this one.

    As for this one running on a Friday versus a Saturday: I think Will ran it today since there’s a massive drop off in people who look at the Saturday puzzle, and he wanted to make sure people saw this grid.

  19. Martin says:

    I echo Bredan’s “wow!”

    Re: Will running this puzzle on a Friday rather than a Saturday: Yes, I think you’re right Brendan. I remember Will saying something about this a few years ago. When he’s running a crossword first (such as this), he will usually run it in the Friday slot, because the Friday puzzles get better exposure (ie: more solvers) than the Saturdays do.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I don’t like that clue for ASHY. It’s a perfect clue for ASHEN, but ASHY means grayish or ash-like. ASHEN means “pale with shock, fear, or illness,” as well as ash-like. ASHY is also used to describe brown skin when it gets so dry it looks ashy.

    I know Wall-E loved some old movie musical on VHS, but I couldn’t have told you which one it was and would never have guessed “Hello, Dolly!”

  21. Deb Amlen says:

    @Amy: Regarding Wall*E: The stumbling block for me was referring to “Hello Dolly” rather than the song titles themselves.

    The clue filled my head with the theme song, and once you have Louis Armstrong, Barbra Streisand and the staff of the Harmonia Gardens belting in your skull, ain’t nothing getting it out.

    The songs Wall*E actually hears in the movie are “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” and “It Only Takes A Moment”.

  22. Steve Manion says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. My college roommate was from Regina, Saskatchewan and I saw the Grey Cup with him one year.

    The thank you is because I have so thoroughly lost track of the CFL that I did not realize that the OTTAWA ROUGH RIDERS were no longer in the league. I always found it humorous that a league could have two names ROUGHRIDERS and ROUGH RIDERS that were so substantially identical. The OTTAWA team folded in 1994 or 1996.

    Bottom was a breeze and even though GEOMETRIC SERIES was an immediate gimme, the top and middle were both tough for me.


  23. Scot says:

    Amy, in the CHE puzzle, I believe Herodotus said, “Pride [not Price] is the possession of fools.” Or was that a typo on your part?

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    A typo, Scot—I had it right in the grid.

  25. LARRY says:

    Would someone please explain how “JELLO” is the equivalent of “Need for some shots”?

  26. Evad says:

    Read all about JELLO SHOTS here.

  27. LARRY says:

    Thanks Evad. At least I didn’t have a “DOH!” moment.

  28. Pauer says:

    Here you go, Larry:

    Now you have something new to try for your next big bash.

  29. Pingback: New York Times Crossword – February 12, 2010

  30. BethW says:

    I was thrown for a moment by the clue about “Blind Lemon,” only because there’s a local science fiction writer who sings and plays blues under the name “Bland Lemon.”

  31. Eric LeVasseur says:

    I can confirm that this is almost certainly the first case of double quad stacked 15s in a mainstream puzzle. I remember one or two SINGLE quad 15s over the years (both were 15×16 grids with the 15s in the middle), but even THOSE are extremely rare. And I’m not sure about this, but I think Frank Longo might have done a vowelless crossword with double quad 15s.

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