Friday, 2/26/10

NYT 5:38
CHE 4:17
LAT 3:42
BEQ 3:42
CS untimed
WSJ 7:45—blogged by Jeffrey in the next post

Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5I don’t recognize the constructor’s name. If this is your debut, Josh Knapp, congrats!

I’m ridiculously sleepy so it’s list time:

  • 1A. THE WHO were the [Releaser of “1921” in 1969]. Huh?
  • 13A. Drag racing’s PEEL OUT (also doable when the stoplight turns green) is clued [Participate in drag?].
  • 15A. SANSKRIT is the [Source of the word “avatar”].
  • 21A. Ah! CHESHIRE, as in the Cheshire Cat, is [Lewis Carroll’s birthplace].
  • 31A. MEXICAN STANDOFF is a colorful phrase meaning [Stalemate].
  • 35A. BOY MEETS GIRL is the [Start of a traditional love story]. I like the “traditional” in the clue because “boy meets boy” and “girl meets girl” might be considered nontraditional.
  • 36A. The CRIBS meant in [They rock, sometimes] is probably not the MTV variety of CRIBS. Not sure I’ve ever seen a rocking crib; cradles and bassinets, sure, but not cribs.
  • 40A. How the hell did I remember the name LAU for [“The Art of Hitting .300” writer Charley]? Answer: From doing crosswords.
  • 41A, 43A. In the grid, these look like two kinds of fits: HISSY FIT ([A diva may throw one] and HOO FIT. But the latter is HOOF IT, or [Not splurge on a 48-Across, say], 48A being a CAB RIDE. In New York for the ACPT, I had three CAB RIDEs (two with an airport terminus), about 3 miles of hoofing it, and six subway rides, only one of which reeked.
  • 47A. Tough: SIL, short for Silvio, was [Tony’s consigliere in “The Sopranos”].
  • 1D. TENOR SAX is clued as a [Band member with a bent neck].
  • 3D. [Tennis’s Clijsters and others] clues ELKES. I know Kim Clijsters but not Elke.
  • 6D. Mel OTT trivia! [Target of Durocher’s “Nice guys finish last” sentiment]. Did not know that.
  • 15D. Actors waiting for their [Big break] don’t want a SCHISM.
  • 22D. [What Greece has that Germany doesn’t] is…bankruptcy? No, a HARD G sound.
  • 24D. Not astronomy: FAN MAIL is a [Means of reaching the stars].
  • 29D. Really? MAY is a [Period named for an earth goddess]? I had no idea. Maia is the daughter of Atlas and mother of Hermes.
  • 33D. I love ‘FRAID SO, or [“Yep, unfortunately”]. Puts me in mind of my dad’s favorite “no, I’m a frayed knot” joke.
  • 38D. “IS IT ME?” isn’t Biblical like “Is it I?” It’s just a [Question of introspection]. If you’re wondering if that oniony smell is you, it probably is.
  • 44D. Interestingly playful clue for OBESE: [Very upscale?]. We don’t use “upscale” to mean “getting a high reading on a scale,” but it’ll float.
  • 50D. [Utah Stars’ org.] is the ABA. I choose to believe that the Utah Stars are a group of lawyers belonging to the American Bar Association.

Insanely smooth fill for a 66-worder (and from a not-so-established name in the construction biz), and lots of zingy fill and clever clues. This one’s a winner.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gym Dandy”—Janie’s review

In the “too-soon-old-too-late-smart” department: appreciation for “P.E.”–or Physical Education (or Phys Ed)–as part of a well-rounded curriculum. Happily, Patrick gives us a good workout today, placing five theme phrases in the grid. Not only do the words in the phrases begin with the letters “P” and “E,” there’s also a six-letter overlap shared by the first two phrases and the last two (as one phrase sits atop the other in the grid). Here’s how he does it:

  • 17A. PRIVATE EYE [Spade, e.g.]. So that’s Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. As a [Highly skilled], most ADEPT tec, he wisely knew when and how to [Pay attention] LEND AN EAR.
  • 21A. PONY EXPRESS [Old West conveyance]. This was back before FedEx. Waaaay back.
  • 36A. PRIMARY ELECTION [Occasion for some initial casting]. Of ballots. Not of fishing lines or of roles in a movie or play…
  • 54A. PUBLIC ENEMY [“Fight the Power” hip-hop group]. Time flies when yer havin’ fun. As part of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, this was released in 1989. You can do the math…
  • 58A. PHOTO ESSAY [Very visual narrative form]. Because sometimes one picture is worth a thousand words.

Had a little trouble getting started with this one as I first entered EJECT then EVICT at 1-Down, where EXPEL [Boot out] lives. But ONION SKIN [Translucent type of paper] came easily. Back when “air mail” was (relatively) very costly and used judiciously for only the most important domestic mail and for overseas mail, using onion skin stationery was de rigeur.

Traveling par avion… and heading east around the globe, we first encounter the NILE BASIN [Drainage area of the world’s longest river]. Then as we continue east, we’re going to meet up with an ARAB population (though probably not [Aladdin, e.g.]…) and an OMANI (the punnily clued) [Muscateer?] or two. (Yesterday we learned that Oman is […the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula…]. Still farther east is India, where NEHRU was the […first prime minister] and where they don’t pretend not to have a CASTE system of [Societal division].

In Patrick’s last CS puzzle, [Tiff] clued spat. Looks like he’s droppin’ the gloves again today as [Arguments] now clues SPATS, which are times when folks may SNAP AT [Speak sharply to] one another.

Lotto playful cluing today, so here’s a tip o’ the hat to [Growing room?] for ACRE (seens two days ago, but defined by its square footage); [Canon powder] for the non-ballistic TONER (unless of course you’re hurling your printer at someone or something…); [Heads overseas?] for the five-letter TÊTES (and not the shorter LOOS or WCS…); and [They do book reviews] for CPAS.

Back to the theme, remember: mens sana in corpore sano. A sound mind in a sound body. Do get some exercise. But don’t OVERDO [Take too far]!

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6This puzzle could be titled “Ch-Ch-Changes,” David Bowie style. Each theme entry undergoes a CH change, with a CH added to the end of the final word to alter the meaning.

(Have a listen if you like: David Bowie \”Changes\”)

Theme entries:

  • 20A. [Taking pictures of potatoes and pasta?] clues SHOOTING STARCH. Mmm-mmm, carbohydrates.
  • 30A. [Trapdoor in an Old West saloon?] is a COWBOY HATCH.
  • 40A. The HOT DOG BUNCH is a [Group of show-offs?].
  • 54A. [Spiel from a maestro?] could be an ORCHESTRA PITCH.


  • 38D. PUBLICAN is a [Tavern keeper], especially in England.
  • 4D. KEMOSABE is a [Friend in old Westerns?].
  • 11D. HERCULEAN means [Requiring superhuman effort]. Still haven’t seen the Disney animated Hercules movie, and now my kid’s a little old for that.
  • 10D. Who doesn’t like a little “cuchi-cuchi” with their crossword? CHARO is the [“Cuchi-cuchi” entertainer] and, they tell me, a solid guitarist.
  • 30D. [Crunch’s rank] is CAP’N. I have a box of his cereal atop my fridge right now. It’s almost gone. And I hardly ever let my kid have any of my sweet cereal. “These are Mom’s Corn Pops, honey. Back off!”

54D slowed me down. Wow, really? A Friday L.A. Times clue that forces me to use the crossings? Usually the challenge level is lighter. [Wheeling’s river] is the OHIO. Wheeling, West Virginia? Not the best-known place. I was halfway expecting an obscure English river.

Scott Atkinson’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Middle Names”

Region capture 7Cool theme concept and execution: Find famous people’s last names that can be split into two familiar English words (the first part being a verb) and make three-word verb phrases by sandwiching the surname between its two components. Can you think of other names that lend themselves to this treatment? Scott Atkinson (who had another byline this week) came up with this quartet:

  • 3D. FILL FILLMORE MORE is [Give additional food to the 13th president?].
  • 5D. PUSH PUSHKIN KIN is [Shove a Russian author’s family around?].
  • 18D. DUN DUNAWAY AWAY is [Press actress Faye for payment until she flees?].
  • 10D. ROCK ROCKWELL WELL is [Successfully put future illustrator Norman to sleep?]. “Future” because rocking a grown man to sleep is creepy; see also the otherwise brilliant and funny Robert Munsch’s kids’ book, Love You Forever.

The grid looks weird because it’s a 15×16 with four black squares in the middle and a couple Utah-shaped chunks of black squares.

Don’t ask me why LOMBOK was my favorite answer in the fill. 40A: [Island east of Bali]/LOMBOK sounds like it should be in the African antelope/oryx family with the gemsbok and springbok, doesn’t it?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Mass Exodus”

Region capture 8This might be the easiest BEQ blog puzzle yet. But it’s labeled as “medium difficulty”? Nancy Schuster is Brendan’s difficulty calibrator and she and I must have wildly different wheelhouses, because a lot of Brendan’s “easy” puzzle strike me as definitely in “medium” range.

The theme is Old Testament plagues from above: flies, hail, blood, darkness, and boils appear at the start of the theme entries. What?!? No familiar phrase beginning with FROGS? The plague of frogs remains my all-time favorite of the plagues. I can’t say BLOOD AND THUNDER resonates with me as a familiar phrase, though; [Exaggerated melodrama] is the clue.

With the first and last letters of 53A: [Moon covering] in place, I decided it had to be a TUTU, which does pretty well cover one’s butt. Alas, the answer is TROU, as in the trou(sers) that are dropped when one moons the world.

Nice KAFKA clue at 47D: [Author who said “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us”].

NAOMI JUDD is a great full-name answer, and cell-phone NO SERVICE is, one might say, one of the modern-day plagues.

Not wild about the fill overall. REDRY crossing EASER, PFCS, ILEX, STS, ERN, OUSE and the only-in-bridge-and-crosswords-because-nobody-else-knows-it ONE NO. (The clue for the latter is [Stayman convention opening], which didn’t even tell me it had anything to do with bridge. Meh!)

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22 Responses to Friday, 2/26/10

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Re Josh Knapp’s NYT — wow.

  2. Joel says:

    This is one of the best themeless puzzles I’ve ever done. The fill is ridiculous, every word seems to be a winner. Amazing debut, Josh!

  3. Gareth says:

    Add me to the wow column… No, really: “Wow!” Didn’t realize it was 66-worder – double that wow. Almost everything’s a winner – that pretty much sums it up. Hadn’t heard of a MEXICANSTANDOFF but it’s a cool phrase!

    One quibble though… But it’s about a clue… ELKES. Ms. Sommer – fine we all know her by now, but Ms. Clijsters is not famous enough. From Wikipedia “achieved a highest ranking of 389 on 15 September 2003.” That’s insane!

  4. Evad says:

    Thanks for the SIL explanation–I couldn’t get SAL out of my head and wondered if FAERIES could be considered “very hot”? Also had GUY MEETS GIRL for too long.

  5. Doug G. says:

    “1921” from The Who’s Tommy double album, released in 1969, though it was “Twenty-One” in the musical as they moved the story’s timeline up a few decades…

  6. duke says:

    Liked the puzzle. Thought the Who clue was not cool. A minor song in Tommy. So many other songs to use that would not be the most obvious (eg Pinball Wizard) but still knowable (eg substitute, I’m free). The Who overshadowed the Kinks and I’ve never forgiven them. And, how could they continue once Keith died? Shameless.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Interestingly, the vibe at Rex Parker’s blog is blogger hate + some commenters agreeing. Will be interesting to see how many “hated it” reactions show up here and how many “wows” over there. Are some commenters sheep who follow the blogger’s lead? Are people loath to post contradictory opinions?

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Baa. I mean wow!

  9. joon says:

    i solved this while pretty tired last night, and i did it pretty fast but didn’t think too much about it. upon a second look, though, the fill is really remarkably clean and lively for a 66. all of the long acrosses in the middle are eye-catchers, and that helps a lot. so i’ll gave to go with the crowd here: great puzzle.

    i’m not sure i would have cross-referenced GIBBS to BEE GEE, because there are plenty of famous people named GIBBS (physicist josiah, football coach joe) and i don’t love plural name clues (although the fact that they are family makes it somewhat better). speaking of which: kim clijsters’s much-less-talented sister, who peaked at #389 in the rankings and retired at age 19? really? whoa.

    “the vibe at rex’s is blogger hate + some commenters agreeing” occurs way more often than i’m comfortable with.

  10. Doug P says:

    Wow! A stunning debut. Lots of “Oh, that’s a cool entry!” moments in this one. And the FAN MAIL clue is an instant classic. I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Knapp.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Duke — there are no minor songs on “Tommy”!

    Signed, Who fan (saw them live in 1989 and 2007…but not 1921)

  12. joel says:

    Quest.? in todays Patrick Blindauer CS puzzle..48 down “Dreams from my father” that book a novel? is our president a novelist?

  13. Howard B says:

    I really liked most of the Times puzzle, and if it’s cluing, that can either be Will or the constructor. The top killed me, and I thought the ELKES clue was especially unfair, and I’m not usually one to complain about such things. That hung me up for waaay too long. The clue for ‘THE WHO’ also seemed unnecessarily obscure, although Tommy is a milestone kind of work, granted. That stuff kind of skewed my outlook a bit. But the fill was just amazing.

  14. pauer says:

    Whoops! Pretend that said [“Dreams From My Father” Nobelist].

  15. Elizabeth O says:

    Agree with you entirely on the BEQ difficulty rating. I’ve been working my way through his “easy” archives since I got back from Brooklyn, and have yet to find a single one that I consider “easy.” Then this morning I decided to do the front page puzzle, even though it was rated “medium” so I assumed it would be impossible, and I found it easier than ANY of the (10? 12?) “easy” puzzles I have struggled through.

    Some folks are pushing back on the blogger hate over at Rex’s — a few are being quite forceful about it. But, without exception, everone seems to agree that ELKE Clijsters is not puzzle-worthy.

  16. Mark Brooks says:

    The NYT Friday crossword clue Releaser of 1921 in 1969 is The Who.
    1921 is a song off of the album Tommy.

  17. John Haber says:

    I’d delighted to have a new setter with a nice grid and fill, but I won’t join the wow faction at all. I’ll call it a really nice start, and let’s do better. The best part for me was the central long section. It was unusual in that one could get it with relatively few crossings and use it as a handhold. Nice construction.

    The down side was crosswordese mingled with obscurity. In fact, I’m guessing that the obscurity came from the editor trying to perk up clues for Elke, HRE,The Who, and Ott. (Lau, though, not at all familiar to me.) I’m finally learning to recognize the class of answers like HARD G, but it’d surely the fill that goes down easy for regulars and impossible for others. SIL also had me scratching my head. (I’d tried SAL first.) I’m not convinced that PEEL OUT as opposed to peel off is even English. So again, great debut, but not a great puzzle.

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John: You never peeled out when the light turned green, making the tires screech? Ah, you haven’t lived! I had SAL first too, until the crossing said SIL and I instantly pictured Steven van Zandt in his bad Sopranos hair. I can’t get too riled about an obscure song clue for THE WHO—the 1969 timing narrows it down a lot, especially with crossings leading the way. (My Who fan husband didn’t recognize the title “1921” right away, but now he’s accompanying himself on guitar.)

    I’m thinking nobody’s going with another non-Sommer clue for ELKE anytime soon.

  19. RichS says:

    Regarding “Very upscale?”, I read “scale” meaning size or magnitude, rather than the thing you weigh yourself on. Okay, maybe up + scale doesn’t make a real word in this sense either, but it sounds better to me this way.

  20. Jon S. says:

    Haven’t done much peeling out, but I can claim to have done a Rockford bootleg turn or two. Not in my car, of course.

  21. HumbleRookie says:

    I enjoyed Josh Knapp’s debut puzzle yesterday, and did OK with it, except for the NW corner. Gave myself a gentle whomp upside the head for not getting PEEL OUT. Didn’t get THE WHO either. Although I don’t know the song referenced, I should have been able to deduce the answer from letters I did have. And now, over to Rex Parker’s blog to check out the drama. I’m brand new at this crossword blog scene!


  22. HumbleRookie says:

    Oh, and Elizabeth–I, too, have been on the BEQ website quite a bit since the ACPT, determined not to let this brilliant constructor seriously stump me again. The “easy” puzzles? They’re not. He has an ACPT wrap-up puzzle that he calls “dirt easy.” Nuh-uh.,,although I did finish it in what seemed like forever. I’ll check out the front page puzzle in a bit and see if I find it easier, as you did.



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