Wednesday, 2/17/10

Onion 6:07
BEQ 5:03
Fireball 4:51
LAT 4:01
NYT 3:14
CS untimed

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1The theme doesn’t quite cohere for me. GLOBAL WARMING appears in the ring of circled squares, with the G pulling double duty. The Notepad tells us that this phrase is “suggested by” the three theme answers, which are food dishes with a cooking term in their names. LONDON BROIL, BAKED ALASKA, and ROAST TURKEY do not at all evoke GLOBAL WARMING for me. Now, if the theme entries had been MELTING ICECAP, CLIMATE CHANGE, and BLIZZARDS IN D.C., that would make sense. I’m also not thrilled with the inconsistent placement and part of speech for the cooking terms. (Edited to add: Ohhh, I see. London, Alaska, and Turkey are places on the globe, and those cooking words also signal warming.)

Favorite fill:

  • 6D. BAD BLOOD is [Enmity] and a Neil Sedaka song in the ’70s.
  • 11D. FANTASIA is the artsy [1940 Disney film].
  • 33D. [“Shoot!”] clues “DANG IT!” The clue also points to 34D: ASK.
  • 35D. A [Nassau native] is a BAHAMIAN. Also a Long Islander, no?

Less familiar business:

  • 29D. [Camus’s “Lettres a ___ Allemand”] clues UN AMI: “Letters to a German Friend.”
  • 47D. DORIC columns, sure. But [Column with a simple capital] seems more Fridayish to me.

Crosswordese in the plural:

  • 62A. ACERS are clued as [Ones who try to put things past you?]. Aw, the question mark in the clue got my hopes up that we were in for something good here.

Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 2Quickly, because there are too many puzzles to get through before my ACPT vacation—The theme is “familiar phrases reinterpreted as if common nouns were the famous people whose nicknames are those nouns.”

  • 23A. [Puts on a Jayceon Taylor hip-hop CD?] clues PLAY THE GAME. I presume rapper The Game’s given name is Jayceon Taylor?
  • 26A. [Dwayne Johnson’s oversized head?] is DOME OF THE ROCK. He is, of course, The Rock. DOME OF THE ROCK is an Islamic shrine in Jerusalem.
  • 44A, 47A. Apparently the real name of Jersey Shore‘s “The Situation” is Mike Sorrentino? [Capitalize on Mike Sorrentino’s reality TV celebrity?] clues MAKE THE MOST OF/ THE SITUATION.

I had to ask Across Lite to pretty please tell me that one last square, the J in:

  • 34A. [Rapper with “The Shining”], J-DILLA.
  • 30D. [Nicole Richie’s ill-fated ex], DJ A.M. With the D*AM in place, I wasn’t thinking of spelling out all four letters individually. And here I thought I should get credit for knowing that Nicole and Joel Madden just got engaged, but are already parents together. Now I need to know her deceased exes?

Updated Wednesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “DNA Land”—Janie’s review

Martin got me but good with this one. Oh, I completed the puzzle without too much difficulty, but darned if I could figure out how the the title related to the theme fill or what I was even to make of the theme fill. Quirky phrases—but what was it all supposed to mean? And then… and then… and then at last the light dawned. Major head-slap. How about you? Did you catch on to the gimmick as you were solving? Or like me, did you look at:

  • 20A. “RISE TO VOTE, SIR!” [Get up and enter the booth, man!”];
  • 39A. O.J. NABS BOB’S BANJO [Dole’s instrument swiped by Simpson?] First of all, HOMER and BART came to mind long before O.J. And second of all, is there nothing that man won’t try to make his own?! And
  • 58A. WE PANIC IN A PEW [Our reaction to pastor’s scary sermon]

and say, “Wtf?” I wanted to contact the NSA [Code-cracking org.] (was that the “DNA” connection?) to help me make sense of everything. And then… and then… (!!) palindromes!! Ni-i-i-ice.

And terrific non-theme fill to boot. What a lovely start to the puzzle with AGNUS [“___ Dei”]. This translates from the Latin as “Lamb of God.” The very next word, thank you very much, is LAMB or [Gentle one]. Initially I thought that the answer to [Hightails it] was going to be LAMS…, but this turned out to be RUNS.

The longer entries are especially fresh and rangy: CAT’S CRADLE [Children’s string game], TERRAPINS [Diamondback reptiles], IN THE WIND [Imminent] and VENERATION [Profound respect]. The shorter ones ain’t so shabby neither: MENSCH [Good guy] and SPIEL [Sales talk] being two faves. Those are two words you’re likely to hear in the vicinity of the EDER [River of central Germany]. Ooh—and HAMPER Picnic basket]. Looks tempting, no? That sumptuous spread and the SEA AIR [Beach atmosphere]…

OB’S are [Delivery room docs]. And while I’d not known that the word BREECH means [Rear], I did know that a breech birth (simply put) is one in which the baby’s position is reversed in the womb, so that the baby is delivered “rear” first. Not the happiest kinda way for mom to deliver…

We spend a little time on the west coast of Africa by way of ACCRA [Capital of Ghana] and [Sierra ___] LEONE. Across the Mediterranean from North Africa lies Italy, where [Caesar’s subjects] were ROMANS and [Ovid’s 52] was LII. Am still searching for a map of the [Perfect world] known as UTOPIA…

I know Martin wasn’t intentionally APING [Mimicking] his CS colleagues, but we do have some more fill-recycling here today, with the recently-seen ALOE, LALO and EASE. Yesterday we had the clue [___ Ste. Marie], so today’s [Sault ___ Marie] shoulda been a slam dunk.

Where Martin truly distinguishes himself, though, is in the inclusion of one seriously inspired piece of bonus fill. Thank you ever so for the palindromic [“The] ABA [Daba Honeymoon“]. Now that’s just perfect.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword #7, “Themeless 5”

Region capture 3Easiest Fireball themeless to date, no? I find myself with not much to say about it.

Favorite answer: Sesame Street‘s MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS, though the MR. part isn’t ringing a bell. Runner-up: The GREAT WHITE NORTH, which is Canada’s nickname and the name of that Bob and Doug McKenzie comedy sketch. ‘Take off, eh?”

The three spaced-out Across 15s are bolted together by the vertical 15 in the middle. There are six other answers in the 8- to 10-letter range, but no swaths of stacked long fill. I like to bundle the long fill together in the corners, personally.

Least familiar answer: THE D.I., or a [1957 film in which Jack Webb plays a marine sergeant]. Anyone ever hear of this movie, or see it?

Pete Mitchell’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7(Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)

THEME: “Play (Volley)ball!”—Three phrases start with words that are also volleyball hits

Theme entries:

  • 20A: [How some scary things go] (BUMP IN THE NIGHT). I’m not wild about BUMP IN THE NIGHT dangling out there without its prefatory GO. BUMP is the standard underhand volleyball move, isn’t it?
  • 29A: [Not subject to change] (SET IN STONE). That’s rock-solid. A volleyball player SETs by hitting the ball upwards with both hands up high.
  • 47A: [Some stilettos] (SPIKE HEELS). Jump up and smash the volleyball over the net for a SPIKE.
  • 54A: [Activity that involves the first words of 20-, 29- and 47-Across] (VOLLEYBALL GAME).

What all is in this puzzle? This:

  • 23A. [Nous minus moi?] (TOI). That’s French for “us minus me = you.” Speaking of French arithmetic, there’s also 8D: [Quatre + sept] = ONZE. That’s 4 + 7 = 11.
  • 46A. [More work] (UTOPIA). That’s Utopia, written by Thomas More in 1516.
  • 52A. [Not quite oneself] (OFF). I fear I will be a little OFF this weekend. Am not feeling that competitive fire in the crossword belly.
  • 63A. [Tobacco unit] (LEAF). Not at all an expected clue for LEAF. The clue had me thinking of CHAW.
  • 25D. [Leans, as a ship] (LISTS). Anyone else use this word when your own body is leaning to one side? I do. I tend to LIST as I walk down the hallway to my kitchen.
  • Aw, man! 45D. [“Star Trek” defenses] (SHIELDS) duped me. I know that PHASERS are offense, not defense, but still. The PHASERS messed me up here.
  • 53D. [Canine woes] (FLEAS). Your canines are your eyeteeth, of course. And you go to the dentist when your eyeteeth have FLEAS.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Do or Die Time”

Region capture 4This one’s my favorite of today’s puzzles. The title, it turns out, gives away the rebus theme: In exactly symmetrical spots, five rebus squares contain DO in their Across answers and DIE in their Downs. “Do or die” is 100% in the language, and it’s timely because this week’s ACPT is “do or die time” for participants. There’s no arcane alternative rock fill, no deadly crossings, no lame or forced fill. I don’t give the 5-star rating to many of Brendan’s puzzles (on the leaderboard at his site), but this one is deft and has a delightful theme gimmick.

The rebus answer pairs are: KING{DO}M COME crossing IN{DIE} FILM, ALL {DO}NE crossing SAN {DIE}GO ZOO, SU{DO}KU crossing TI{DIE}ST, AB{DO}MEN crossing INGRE{DIE}NTS, and IN GOO{D O}RDER crossing the terrific entry YO-YO {DIE}TS.

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18 Responses to Wednesday, 2/17/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    I suppose a question mark creates a sufficient breadth of possibilities that almost anything is justified, but how does an acer “try” to put things past you? If he does, he is an acer. If he doesn’t, he is not.

    I was not sure if it was TOOT or TOUT. I never even noticed the circles until reading the blog.


  2. Martin says:

    You know that Alaska, Turkey and London are places, right? They’re even on my globe. And the “cooking terms” all involve applying heat (and are used metaphorically to describe hot weather). You’re grading on a tough curve.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Happens we have a small town named Nassau to the east of Albany NY too. I wasn’t aware of it until there was much confusion when someone asked if I knew somebody else there and I wondered why I should know anyone on an ISLA so far away! Agreed, this GLOBAL WARMINg DEVISAL didn’t do much for me either — besides, the preferred term is now “Climate Change”!

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin: Totally missed the place names piece, so fixated was I on the steak, ice cream, and turkey.

  5. Gareth says:

    Saw the geography… Nice theme idea, not sure that 20A works quite as nicely as the other two though… Are the circle of circles meant to represent a globe in 2D? Couple of crossers that was amazed to get right… ALONZO/GAO and UNAMI/BING… Never heard of bing cherries, but it feels like a should. Did like the enlarged chunks in the corners and top/bottom sides, though it did make for several partials…

    Bonus question: How does one use DEVISAL in a sentence anyway??

    P.S. meant to say yesterday, re Monday’s lack of lat in AL, if cruciverb is down, you can still get an Across Lite file using Alex Boisvert’s Crossword Butler…

  6. John Haber says:

    You probably are tired of how I dislike circled-letter themes, on the grounds that one can always choose letters to make any phrase one needs. So how lovely to see one with symmetrically placed circles, plus a pattern that itself evokes the “global” theme. Nice! I didn’t know DEVISAL either, but I’m sure I’ll live with it. I had one mistake to overcome, initially entering “utmost” from the crossings I had instead of ALL OUT. Not that it took long.

  7. Zulema says:

    I’d rather unlearn DEVISAL, it’s an ugly word. I couldn’t get the circled phrase till I came here, because I failed to connect the G’s. (Considering so many of us failed or didn’t see the circles, and this not being later in the week, the note should have said “starting and ending in square #27,” or maybe it’s just me. I kept trying to make sense of “warm-in,” as in “sit-in”).

  8. joon says:

    lots of puzzles i enjoyed today. maybe brendan’s was the best, yeah, but the NYT theme blew me away, and i really liked the cluing in pete’s LAT. i usually like byron’s puzzles but 3/4 of the theme left me pretty much dumbfounded. too hip for me, although at least i knew the rock. and i was also guessing at that J square, although i thought it was probably going to be a vowel. yuck.

  9. Jan says:

    I rise to vote for the CS puzzle! Crossword Utopia! It took a while to figure out the theme, but when I did, it took my breath away! Thanks, Martin!

  10. ArtLvr says:

    I changed my mind — think the NYT is rather awesome! The GLOBAL WARMIN (g) is an Ouroborus, or snake swallowing its tail, ancient symbol of infinity or wholeness of the universe. It’s in Wikipedia — and if you google “snake swallowing its tail” you’ll see a site with over a hundred images from art and literature through the ages!

  11. Favorite accidental entry: Fireball 22A, “EATERY of the Dead” (1976 Michael Crichton novel)

  12. Evad says:

    This may be very obscure to any save perhaps Janie who would remember the [title of show] show’s short Bway run, but ArtLvr’s comment reminded me of this (rated R for colorful language): (it starts with Susan at 1:28)

  13. Bill from NJ says:

    I saw The DI in the late 50s when I was a kid. Jack Webb was a big TV star at the time, playing Sgt. Friday on Dragnet and parlayed that fame into directing this movie. He played a cliche-ridden Drill Sargeant, charged by the Marine Corps to turn a group of green young boys into “men”.

    Lou Gosset played essentially the same role in “An Officer and a Gentlemen” with Richard Gere playing the role of the Troubled Young Man that Don Dubbins played in “The DI. The fact that the movies were made 25 years apart just shows how well those themes held up.

    The DI was made 50 years ago and was an old-fashioned movie then,

  14. LARRY says:

    Who knew that there was a “Butter Battle Book”, no less with critters called “YOOKS”? Leave it to BEQ to expand my universe.

  15. Jan (danjan) says:

    I recently saw an episode of Millionaire that had a Dr. Seuss question where the answer was the Butter Battle Book. I wouldn’t have gotten it right, and neither did the contestant, unfortunately for her.

    @Jan – I’ve noticed that you and I both post comments occasionally, and I was wondering if you might consider adding an intial or getting a gravatar? I’ve been posting my times daily for quite a while, and have been using “Jan” over in the rankings, so if you start doing that as well, adding more information would keep us straight. Thanks!

  16. cyberdiva says:

    Janie, thanks so much for putting me out of my misery. I had absolutely no idea what the clues had to do with “DNA Land.” Now that I see, I’m really impressed! I wish I could express my gratitude in a palindromic manner, but….

    Amy, you may have finished the NYT puzzle 15X faster than I did, but I saw the connection to the circled letters right away. Nyah, nyah, nyah. :-)

  17. janie says:

    cyber — my pleasure — and as you read, it had me baffled as well. to the extent that i was about to bring in the big guns (ask amy…). ;-) and thanks, jan, for speaking out about this terrific construction.

    evad — a brilliant clip! yes, i did get to see the show — but before its move to the great white way. it’s wildly self-referential, smart and funny — and i *loved* it.


  18. Garrett says:

    Janie, I was struggling with this puzzle in the middle North because I had written-in Oder rather than Eder, and breach rather than breech. I did not know 1D and had some other incompleteness when I decided to look at this blog. When I read your WTF comment I stopped reading so as to think a moment, stared again at the theme entries, and saw the palindrome. Totally missed it while I was fighting with the rest of the grid. Did not like breech for rear, but won’t soon forget it.

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