Thursday, 3/25/10

NYT 4:43
Fireball 4:37
LAT 2:58
Tausig tba
CS untimed

Don’t miss the tribute to Dan Naddor at the Wordplay blog. The sweetest part: Dan’s wife Tracie set up the chairs at his memorial service in a 15×15 array…with 36 black chair covers in a pattern with rotational symmetry.

Dan Naddor’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 18Some of the marketing clichés used to advertise sales are woefully inappropriate for certain businesses:

  • 17A. BLOWOUT TIRE SALE would be an [Odd sign at a Michelin dealership?].
  • 36A. [Odd sign at Victoria’s Secret?] is LINGERIE HALF OFF. What’s envisioned here—a one-cup bra?
  • 56A. [Odd sign at Men’s Wearhouse?] clues ALL SUITS SLASHED. Geeze, if there are gashes in the suits, they’d better be selling them for $10.

The late Dan Naddor capitalized on the smallish theme (45 squares) by constructing a 70-word puzzle with 26 6- to 8-letter answers in the fill. Look at that diagonal swath of white space in the middle 7 rows—the crossing answers are, if not especially sparkly, still eminently acceptable (one partial, A HOME, with a super-familiar FITB clue). Many of the 3s are “meh,” but all thoses 7s and 8s buy a lot of forgiveness.

Among the high-end and/or difficult stuff, we have these:

  • 52A. ESTIVAL means [Summerlike]. Vernal means springlike. Autumnal’s meaning is obvious. And the Latinate word for wintry is…what? Pop quiz!
  • 61A. [ABC daytime staple since 1997] is THE VIEW. At 45D, [61-Across, e.g.] is a TV SHOW.
  • 63A. PCS, or personal computers, are clued as [Program holders]. I don’t think of my computer as doing a lot in the way of holding.
  • 1D. Oof! [Physical expense] clues the LAB FEE you’d pay for your bloodwork, I gather. I feel like “lab fee” is what science students pay for the lab section of their class, but I suppose the term applies to fees charged for lab work.
  • 3D. [Who wrote “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted”] clues LAO-TSE.
  • 5D. The AAU is the [Jr. Olympics sponsor]. Amateur Athletic Union?
  • 12D. GOLD LEAF is a [Bookbinding decoration].
  • 18D. A WET RAG is a [Symbol of limpness].
  • 19D. SAAB is a [Car whose name is an acronym]. I believe it stands for “Swedish Automobiles Are Boss.”
  • 25D. Ancient NUBIA was a [Nile Valley region]. The Aswan Dam created Lake Nasser, which flooded much of the region.
  • 38D. The NAUTILUS is so cool-looking and geometrically pleasing. It’s a [Spiral-shelled creature], a little squid-like thing with a shell. Did you know that cephalopods are part of the phylum Mollusca? I took a college bio class on invertebrates but have zero recollection of this.
  • 50D. What the…? Who? ELIHU? [Electrical pioneer Thomson]? Elihu Yale is usually the go-to ELIHU in crosswords.
  • 51D. DATER is clued as [Antique dealer, at times]. “SWAD seeking furniture restorer for friendship, long-term relationship.”

After I finished the puzzle, I glanced at the grid and MANATEES jumped out at me from 44A: EMANATES. Is this a well-known wordplay riddle? “What 7-letter verb becomes an aquatic mammal when you move the first letter to the end?”

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “How Do You ‘Do?”—Janie’s review

Ray’s title question is not a bit of politesse uttered at an introduction but an inquiry into the way you style your hair. His four themed answers are the names of reasonably well-known guys each of whose first name is also the name of a hair style: two name styles (traditionally) worn by men, two by women. Looking at the ladies’ ‘dos first, the “hair club” fellas are:

  • 20A. BOB NEWHART [Stand-up comic with a “button-down mind”]. Before his own successful TV shows, Bob Newhart recorded some verrrry funny comedy albums and appeared as a guest on other people’s TV shows–like Judy Garland’s. Here’s a nice little clip of Bob with Judy in which his-‘n’-her deadpan wins the day. And here’re all sorts of variations on a bob cut.
  • 29D. FLIP WILSON [’70s TV variety show host]. The beauty part of this one is that as the character “Geraldine,” Flip‘s hairstyle was, yes–a flip. Cute, eh?

As for the gents, we have:

  • 11D. BUTCH DAVIS [Head football coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels]. Was able to get this one only from the crosses. College football is not my sweet spot (let alone the coaches…). And
  • 53A. BUZZ ALDRIN [Second man off Apollo 11]. Now here’s where the theme fill lets us down some. Darned if I can find anything that really differentiates a butch cut from a buzz cut. They’re both reeeeally short cuts, but different? Omma don’ think so. I guess a butch can be slightly longer than a buzz, but it seems that that decision is between a man and his barber. I know. I’m splitting hairs… But hey, that’s what I’m here for!

My favorite non-theme fill is plenty plentiful and includes grid-opposites AMNESIA [Memory loss] and NET LOSS [Schedule C figure] (it may not be kosher to repeat the word loss, but it works for me with this particular combination); WET HEN nicely clued as [Mad bird?] (as in “mad as a…”); GROTTO [Lourdes attraction] because it’s a lovely word; “TOP HAT” [Astaire/Rogers musical] because the movie and the fill are swanky; and VALENTINE [Card received in February]–because it’s nice to receive a valentine any time. Like March 25th!

Fave clues would include [Engaged in reverie] for MOONED–because that definition seems to come from a very different time in the word’s usage; [Leaves on the plate?] for SALAD, which is one that solvers should remember as constructors will want to get you with the verb/noun confusion. (Sometimes we see [Leaves in a cup/bag?], which would be TEA… Same trick.) Then there’s the very literal [Window shopper’s buy] and PANE; and the one that really had me scratching my head: [No. 1 finger material] and FOAM. Ohhh. This is what he meant!

Finally, we have two ways of saying “good-bye” today–one that we saw a few days ago, CIAO (clued here as [Foreign farewell]) and another that’s clued as a greeting [Hawaii hi] but may be used both coming and going, and that’s ALOHA.


Region capture 19

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords puzzle, “Themeless 10”

This is the easiest themeless to date in Peter’s series. Smooth fill, lots of names, nothing obscure, no truly wicked clues.

Most surprising fact: CELINE DION worked with R. Kelly (28D: [“I’m Your Angel” duettist with R. Kelly]).

Best use of Shakespearean language: 15A: [A midsummer night’s dream team player] is an ALL-STAR baseball player. Honorable mention: IAGO is clued as 33A: [Character who asks “And did you see the handkerchief?”].

Names besides CELINE include ALLEN IVERSON (split in two entries), SARAH SILVERMAN, KARA Dioguardi, EVAN Lysacek, the skiing MAHRE brothers, Benicio DEL TORO (why aren’t we calling him Benny the Bull?), and MITT ROMNEY.

Lotsa sports here. I wonder if Peter has ever made a crossword with zero sports content.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 20I’m embarrassed by how long it took me to figure out how to interpret the theme clues. I mean, it was before I finished the puzzle, but I wandered past two partly filled theme entries before I figured it out at the third one. Four identical letters are to be read as “four _s,” and a sound-alike word clues the answer:

  • 20A. [CCCC?] = four Cs = foresees = TELLS THE FUTURE.
  • 39A. [AAAA?] = four As = forays = MILITARY ATTACKS.
  • 56A. [TTTT?] = four Ts = forties = CHILLY FORECAST.

All right, that’s cute. I like the concept and the execution. It’s sort of a reversal theme—the theme answers aren’t all the sort of phrases that could be entries in a themeless, but they could all be used to clue FORESEES, FORAYS, and FORTIES if those were answers instead.

“Forepees” (PPPP?) should be a word, for when you go to the bathroom one last time before leaving the house. And “forewise” (YYYY?), for those with great foresight, the ones who always say “I told you so.”

4D is a STALACTITE, or an [Overhead projection?] in a cave. I was just looking at some bacterial “snottites” in a photograph of a sulfurous Mexican cave featured in National Geographic. Nature does bizarre things to adapt to a high-sulfur, low-oxygen environment, people.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword

Region capture 22The theme entries are all, sometimes surprisingly, TRADEMARKed terms, and each contains a hidden TM (™). I had no idea Chicago’s MAGNIFICENT MILE was a trade name. GOT MILK, yes. BARTMAN, I scarcely remembered the existence of. And People’s SEXIEST MAN ALIVE, well, that’s a classic. They were smart to trademark that.

HOT MESS contains a hidden TM too, but it’s not a trademarked name. A HOT MESS is a [Self-destructive-but-weirdly-more-appealing-for-it type]. Google tells me that a search related to “hot mess” is “britney spears mess.”

That’s all the time I have today, folks. I have a date with my accountant and haven’t yet pulled all my papers together.

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6 Responses to Thursday, 3/25/10

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    5:51 on Fireball in Across Lite. 54-down is a great reference.

  2. miguel says:

    Q: Winter A: Hibernal

  3. joon says:

    dan’s theme was terrific. took me a long time to see it, but it’s both simple and very, very clever. some of the short fill was iffy, but all the long stuff was really good. and i wouldn’t be surprised if amy has a story about the time she saw some inappropriate bodily fluid EMANATE from a MANATEE. btw, wordplay is a must-read today.

    whoa whoa whoa. 3:51 on the fireball. wha happen? so many long gimmes. hey, these proper nouns are actually famous people! still some amazingly great clues in here, though. and i think if i were going to pay for a fireball answer (i didn’t), it may well have been ALLEN IVERSON, though this is not exactly his shining hour.

  4. SuperBowlXX says:

    I really enjoyed Dan’s puzzle. It gave me a good laugh, especially at 36A. At first I thought CPUS was cheating a little, since I always thought the C stood for “Computer,” which is in the clue for 42A. But no, CPU stands for Central Processing Unit.

  5. janie says:

    in case folks here haven’t seen patrick merrell’s post about dan naddor in the nyt‘s wordplay blog, it really is worth the visit.

    here’s thelink:


  6. John Haber says:

    I thought I was done for with Thursday’s when the first two clues were both sports, plus a crossing, and do even sports fan worry about boxing and junior olympics? At the end, I had no idea bout C_MANCHE crossing _AU. (I presume the Organization for African Unity doesn’t sponsor children’s sports.) But left a sour taste.

    The rest, I guess, was fine, and if I had to learn about a TV SHOW and ATARI, the crossings were fine. But I was a physics major and can’t tell you ELIHU is either, so I’m none too fond of that one.

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