Thursday, 2/25/10

NYT 6:01
Fireball 5:20
LAT 3:30
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Constructor T Campbell has crafted a 50×50 crossword, the Ubercross Fiddy, that follows the rules of American crosswords. That means no 2-letter words, no unchecked squares, and a symmetrical grid that’s really quite pretty. There are minor duplications of parts of entries, but no two entries are the same—that’s 768 distinct answers, people. The clues (and some of the fill) have that Onion/BEQ/Tausig vibe, so this is not your grandmother’s crossword unless your grandmother is kinda young and hip. ($14.99 for a hard copy, three 11″x17″ sheets. That’s the format on which I solved it when I edited this gargantuan crossword and it wasn’t too ungainly.)

Holden Baker’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 2It’s Thursday, and you know what that means: Don’t be surprised if a rebus lurks in the midst. This time, it’s {TIN}, and there’s no apparent rhyme or reason behind the placement of the rebus squares. They’re not in symmetrical locations, and they’re not found within the longest answers. That {TIN}SMITH at 44A—the [Artisan whose work is featured in this puzzle?]—well, his work is all over the place. I like that the {TIN} rebus refers to the metallic element tin in exactly one place, where it anchors the rebus theme.

Here are the other answers with rebus action:

  • 1A. [Antiaircraft missile] is a S{TIN}GER.
  • 6A. [Au ___], 4 squares? I filled in *AI* and waited for the crossings to distinguish between au LAIT and au PAIR, but I’ll be damned if those crossings didn’t demand au GRA{TIN} instead.
  • 22A. [Picnics, e.g.] are OU{TIN}GS.
  • 38A. A CRE{TIN} is a [Clod].
  • 39A. I grumbled at this clue because [Title role in a 1950s TV western] is the sort of thing that’s not remotely in my wheelhouse—my knowledge of TV westerns derives solely from crosswords. I had no idea RIN {TIN} {TIN} of crosswordese fame was in a western. ’50s TV dog? Sure. Character in a ’50s western? No idea.
  • 49A. [Well-defined] clues DIS{TIN}CT. I tried using DIRECT here, but a ringing sound that started with E looked (and was) all kinds of wrong.
  • 66A. {TIN}Y TIM is a [Literary invalid]. Isn’t “invalid” a horrible word? “Sorry, you’re no longer valid. Your humanity has been revoked.”
  • 68A. I thought [It’s not good for conducting] was looking for a material that’s a poor conductor of heat and electricity, but no. It’s the {TIN} EAR that’s deadly for a musician.
  • 2D. The [“Sleeping” sensation] you get when your foot falls asleep is sort of a {TIN}GLE.
  • 9D. {TIN}ES are [Parts opposite some handles], as in forks.
  • 11D. [Happy hour order] clues a MAR{TIN}I.
  • 24D. The answer crossing RIN {TIN} {TIN} also has two rebus squares. [In a generous manner] clues UNS{TIN}{TIN}G.
  • 30D. [Actor John} AS{TIN} is the father of actor Sean Astin and the ex-husband of Patty Duke Astin.
  • 32D. I, {TIN}A is crossword constructors’ favorite [1986 showbiz autobiography].
  • 45D. The [“Eeny-meeny-miney-mo” activity] involves SELEC{TIN}G someone. We would also have accepted the clue [“Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish” activity].
  • 52D. [Bell sounds] are {TIN}KLES. So are bathroom #1 sounds.
  • 62D. [1960s event] is a SI{T-IN}.

What is that, 18 answers with the {TIN} rebus in ’em? There’s your rhyme and reason: They’re there to see how many can be packed into the grid. Why, they’re packed in there like sardines in a TIN.

Some of the fill and clues landed on the tough side:

  • 17A. The ILIAD was the [Inspiration for “Troilus and Cressida”]? You don’t say.
  • 20A. [When said three times, a yuletide song] clues “LET IT SNOW.” I was trying to summon up a 9-letter word. Also? I’ll go on the record as being done with snow and ready for the onset of springtime.
  • 23A/19A. [With 19-Across, borderer of four states] clues LAKE / ERIE. Those four states are…let me see here…Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York, with bonus province Ontario? Yep.
  • 46A. Did anyone get this without any crossings? FT. DODGE is your [County seat on the Des Moines River].
  • 64A. [Scratch] is moola is dinero is cabbage is KALE.
  • 6D. [Neighbor of Liberia] is GUINEA. Time to refresh my Africa geography knowledge with map  quizzes!
  • 37D. I know of Steve DAHL and Roald DAHL and Arlene DAHL, but less so [Gary who invented the Pet Rock] DAHL.
  • 51D. I always want [Termagant] to be a bird, a cross between a tern and a ptarmigan. It wants to be a SCOLD.
  • 59D. ERIK is [Senta’s suitor in “The Flying Dutchman”].

On the not-as-hard side, we have 55A. I love the clue [Is too cool] for the verb ROCKS. 56A is OLD YELLER! That’s a [1957 tearjerker]. Awkward to cross this with OLDE, but I like the [___ English 800 (Miller brand)] because I think I learned that brand from a beer-can jigsaw puzzle when I was a kid. (Also Schaefer!)

Updated Thursday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Fall Inside”—Janie’s review

For those of you in the mid-Atlantic states especially–who have endured this year’s record-breaking winter weather–today’s theme may have special resonance. The title implies, and as Tyler confirms at 55A: [It comes down on you, and it can be found inside 20-, 35- and 42-Across] PRECIPITATION. Get out your brollies if (like many of us this very morning…) you find yourself amidst:

  • 20A. “IT’S NOW OR NEVER” [“Last chance”]. Fresh fill and clue here and I especially like the spoken language feel. (Ditto the overachieving “OH! OH!”/[“I know! I know! Pick me!”] and “TOUGH”/[“Too bad for you”] combos).
  • 35A. THAI LANGUAGE [Laotian or Cambodian vernacular].
  • 42A. EXTRA INNINGS [The tenth and beyond]. Omg. Spring training began last week… Still, always nice to see a mention of EMINENT [Well-known and respected] ORIOLE players [Jim Palmer or Cal Ripken, Jr.].

While I don’t think these are the most “exciting” theme phrases in and of themselves, neither are there lots and lots of alternatives. Given the constraints of the gimmick, in fact, they’re very good indeed.

Of the puzzle’s longer fill, I particularly like BEAR CLAW [Sweet breakfast choice], and seeing a shout-out to the prolific and challenging and highly rewarding-to-experience [“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” playwright Tom] STOPPARD. AILERON is not only a [Hinged wing part], it’s also the inspiration for a sleekly designed coffee table that bears its name.

Yesterday we saw [Zorro’s mark] for zee. Today, ZORRO himself emerges, reminding us [He often leaves his initial behind]. I enjoyed seeing that name in proximity to ZIPPO, well-clued as [Lighter that sounds like nothing?]. There’s more scrabbliness in FAJITA [Taco Bell offering] and DOJO [Where a sensei teaches]. This clue and fill make an apt real-life complement to the sci-fi JEDI [Yoda trainee, eventually] pairing.

[Time on the job] is a STINT; if you’re [Hard on the job] you’re SLAVING. If your job involves [Covert ___] OPS, it could be you work for the CIA [Org. whose website has a “Break the Code” game for kids]. Can’t get ’em started too young, eh?

New to me is LOFT as something that […might be set up in a dorm room?]. Am thinking this may be short for “dormer” and not “dormitory,” but darned if I really know. Also, ESP is clued as [What Zener cards test for], though I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of “Zener cards”… If you’re anything like me, here’s the 411.

Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 3

The theme entries are three phrases that don’t quite feel “in the language” to me, but each is composed of three words that can follow HEAD in utterly familiar phrases and compound words:

  • 17A: [Detectives assigned to unsolved mysteries?] are COLD-CASE HUNTERS. The headhunter with a nasty head cold is a real head case.
  • 38A: [Intermission queues?] are RESTROOM LINES. The Hummer made headlines for having lots of head room in the headrest area.
  • 61A: [Shower gifts for brie lovers?] could be CHEESEBOARD SETS, with a wooden board and itty-bitty cheese knives. Never, ever eat headcheese while leaning against your bed’s headboard with your lover, wearing dorky headsets. You’ll both look silly and nobody likes headcheese crumbs in the sheets. Plus? Probably not an aphrodisiac.
  • 65A: HEAD is the [Word that can precede each word in 17-, 38- and 61-Across].

I love any mention of Alexander CALDER, the 3D: [Mobile maker]. My first instinct with this clue was something like MOTOROLA or NOKIA or LG or SAMSUNG, none of which is 6 letters long. Calder’s mobiles and stabiles are prominently displayed in Chicago, notably at the Sears/Willis Tower. I think the Museum of Contemporary Art has a few examples, too.

49D: DIET RC, or [No-calorie soda], looked all kinds of wrong. If the Royal Crown folks already had Diet Rite, why create a DIET RC? And why sweeten it with Splenda? That stuff is gross. I have only had RC Cola a handful of times since childhood…but back in the ’70s, the bottles had cork bottlecap liners and you had to peel ’em off to see if you won something. Then they switched from cork to stretchy gray plastic and it wasn’t the same.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword #8, “Themeless 6”

Region capture 4At the ACPT, Peter told me he’d made the first 10 puzzles before he started sending them out. So if you think this week and last week’s puzzles are a little easier because Peter’s responding to feedback and pleas, that’s not the case. So here’s my plea: Peter, keep having at least one total killer each month. Maybe four a month would evoke grumbles, but one? Just label it “Killer 3” and solvers will have their expectations in line with reality. Nobody wants to feel dumb when a puzzle stymies them, but if they’re expecting a formidable challenge…


  • 36D: [Dick lover of the comics] for TESS Trueheart, who loved Dick-with-a-capital-D Tracy.
  • 46D: [Zone alternative] for ATKINS, as in The Zone and the Atkins diets. I wrongly assumed the answer would be about basketball defense.


  • The intersecting names I did not know or was just barely familiar with, ZAZA and ZACK Greinke. Thank goodness for ZOLA helping me out in that corner.
  • Two Broadway clues (with familiar answer names, at least) and a racehorse—things like this tend to burn my wheelhouse to the ground. At least the tennis and football names were more familiar to me.


  • LADIES’ ROOM is clued as [Where you can’t stand to go?]. Peter probably hasn’t spent as much time in the women’s room as we women have. All too many women insist on standing or squatting or hovering above the loo, lest their sainted thighs contact undisinfected hard surfaces. Those women tend to splatter all over the damn seat, ruining things for everyone whose backsides are not too precious to touch toilet seats. If there is a hell, then the hoverers will occupy the ninth circle.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Hairy Situation”

Region capture 1Does this title make anyone else think of Jersey Shore without body wax?

The theme is SPLIT ENDS, and the word ENDis split in the theme answers:

  • 17A. [Backing group at the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show] is the E STREET BAND.
  • 24A. [Aura] clues ENERGY FIELD.
  • 52A, [Chips, pudding, etc.] are ENGLISH FOOD. You know why this doesn’t feel quite as “in the language” as Thai food, soul food, Italian food, or Mexican food? Because there’s little non-English craving for English food. “English cuisine” sounds even goofier, doesn’t it? I mean, I’ve had amazing English cuisine, but it wasn’t stereotypically British in the least.
  • 62A. [Sean Combs, to Jennifer Lopez] is an EX-BOYFRIEND. This is the most colorful of the theme entries. I’m not sure if it’s at all marred by the other E before ND. I didn’t notice that while test solving.
  • 37A. The unifying SPLIT ENDS are described as a [Dry hair problem] and omigod, yes. Frank has his work cut out for him at my salon appointment this Sunday.

Zippiest fill:

  • NBA JAM, AL QAEDA ([Adam Yahiye Gadahn’s group]…and I will confess to thinking it was something along the lines of Beastie Boys, but that’s an altogether different Adam), the crazy VOCODER with a “Mr. Roboto” reference in the clue, THE PILL, and the EGG TOSS (not clued in relation to the Pill).

Favorite clue:

  • 50A. [Time when people got super into metal?] clues the IRON AGE.
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18 Responses to Thursday, 2/25/10

  1. mike says:

    is the 50×50 a pangram?

  2. joon says:

    yeah, troilus and cressida are classic star-crossed lovers. i think she’s trojan and he’s greek, and her uncle pandarus is the go-between or something. the only thing i remember disTINctly about it is that he lent his name to the word pander.

    i suspected a rebus was in the air when i filled in everything around square 2, but i couldn’t work it out right away and moved on. OU[TIN]GS broke it for me, but it was still a challenge to find them all. nice puzzle.

    i always forget about GUINEA at first, but at least when i do get it, i remember guinea-bissau and equatorial guinea immediately thereafter.

  3. Martin says:

    The show was a vehicle for a famous dog, and not the other way around, by the way.

    Rin Tin Tin (1918-1932) was a real dog, saved in France as a puppy by an American soldier and brought back to LA. He had an illustrious career in movies and radio and died in Jean Harlow’s arms.

    He is buried in Paris’s famous pet cemetery (where I have been among his visitors), and there is a small movement to repatriate him.

    He was the first in a line of Rin Tin Tins, carefully bred to take over his entertainment duties. I think the ’50s TV show, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, starred Rin Tin Tin IV. Last I knew, Rin Tin Tin X was touring to raise awareness of pet adoptions.

  4. Martin says:

    Toyota made a Cressida, but no Troilus. It sounds like a Toyota model too. They’re probably more careful about naming cars for tragic characters today. But Troilus doesn’t die in the play, so they could do worse.

  5. Mel Park says:

    Thanks for the great blog on the NYT, a good puzzle. Thanks for reminding me that ITINA is a crossword favorite because my mind went into a fog there. I got the rebus early. I really enjoyed the double RIN{TIN}{TIN} and UNT{TIN}{TIN}G. Everything was in place except where I could not get past seeing a 3-letter [… showbiz autobiography] as TRU (forget the date as that was no help to me) and where I had bells that TINGLE rather than TINKLE. Grr.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    Mike at 10:07, hilarious comment.

    I got 7:43 on Fireball. The last minute of that was figuring out the letter in the 8 box.

  7. Gareth says:

    ITINA clued me in on the rebus. An impressive achievment achievement in cramming indeed.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    This morning I checked ACPT C finalist Barry Haldiman’s site to confirm what I remembered: Kyle Mahowald holds the record for most rebus squares, at 22. However, Kyle’s were 2-letter rebuses (IN), and I’m guessing it’s a bit harder to include 18 3-letter rebuses. Kyle’s puzzle had four long entries containing three or more INs apiece, plus other INs in asymmetrical places.

  9. joon says:

    today’s puzzle has 10 rebus squares, not 18 (although there are 18 rebus answers). 22 IN rebus squares sounds like a lot, but matt ginsberg’s “going all in” NYS puzzle from april 6, 2007 had a whopping 43, with the upshot that all 78 answers contained a rebus. the symmetrically located SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and WINING AND DINING contained four rebus squares each.

    loved the fireball this week. right in my wheelhouse (5:30 in across lite, and i’m betting dan is at least two minutes faster).

  10. Ben Bass says:

    Hi Orange (and everyone).

    For whoever’s interested, I posted a lengthy Brooklyn tournament recap on my site. You can find it here.

  11. Jim Horne says:

    You can see a list of rebus puzzles sorted by number of rebus squares on XWord Info.

    Amy is correct that the NYT record for a 15x is 22. Two recent Sundays have 28 (David J Kahn’s “Making History”) and 35 (Trip Payne’s “Roughly Speaking”) rebus squares.

    The other extreme of that list is also interesting. Scroll down to the bottom to see the puzzles with just a single rebus square.

  12. Jim Finder says:

    Fireball: Amy, I remembered TREADWAY mainly because you also named him Mr. Handsome after your appearance on the show.
    I had to wonder for a while how PRETEENs could once have been bar mitzvahs. Then enlightenment came; they all were preteens; it’s the age, not the ceremony that makes a bar mitzvah.
    A few too many “famous” names for my taste, but enjoyable as always.

  13. *David* says:

    Chekov’s son an actor in his own right was just identified today in Vancouver as the dead body they found in the park. Pretty creepy with 13D on the CS today.

  14. BethW says:

    Dang, got interminably stuck in NYT’s SW corner. So rusty already?

  15. Rob says:

    I got a kick out of the doubleshot of Margaret Cho, in the same physical location in today’s CrosSynergy (60D) and LATimes (61D) puzzles… the clue was a bit spicier in the CS puzzle… :)

    And it was a bit sad diving into the CS right after reading the news about Andrew Koenig…

  16. Gareth says:

    FB: All but 4 squares in 19 minutes… Realized I wasn’t going to get those four so threw in the tile… I was correct. CARLSJR+BLEDSOE/OLDS+TREADWAY. Intersections of American stuff I’ve got no idea about happen… But yes mostly more normal difficulty! Thank you Amy for more details than I ever wanted to know about LADIESROOM’s… Better not point out the millions of bacteria floating around in every square millimeter of air or they’ll go insane!

  17. joon says:

    you oughta know TREADWAY by now. karen m tracey put TYTREADWAY (full name) into a themeless sun puzzle right before the sun set, with (i think) the exact same clue. and he was the answer to matt gaffney’s meta a few weeks ago. and our hostess has a leetle crush on him. (dreamy eyes, i’m told.)

  18. Zulema says:


    This is definitely going to be TMI for some, but for germ-worried Japanese women, there are special squatters mixed in with Western toilets in public facilities, and there are instructions on how to use them: facing the back wall, not as if they had seats.

    Just back from two weeks of being frozen. I sat through one dinner in a completely unheated restaurant. They couldn’t understand how I managed in NY. In my nice warm apartment, pray?

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