Thursday, 4/8/10

NYT 4:51
Fireball 4:50
LAT 4:16
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7You know, I just bought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but I still haven’t read it. That’s scarcely an impediment to solving this puzzle, though, as LEWIS CARROLL’s poem “Jabberwocky” (from Carroll’s follow-up, Through the Looking-Glass) is part of the cultural literacy of anyone who’s addicted to wordplay. The answers to the starred clues are words from “Jabberwocky,” and the clues give the meanings of those coinages. Really? Those words have specific meanings? Now, that I did not know. Here’s the set:

  • 1A. BRILLIG means [4:00 in the afternoon].
  • 8A. GIMBLE means [To make holes], as with a gimlet (not the cocktail version).
  • 19A. GYRE means [To go round and round].
  • 24A. The BANDERSNATCH is a [Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws].
  • 52A. WABE is a [Grass plot around a sundial].
  • 64A. The portmanteau SLITHY means [Lithe and slimy]. How come EEL isn’t clued as [Slithy swimmer]?
  • 65A. BEAMISH means [Smiling radiantly], and apparently this word had been used for centuries before Carroll.

Assorted Alice-related answers pepper the grid:

  • 47A. CAKE (with “Eat Me” written on it) is a [Wonderland food for Alice]. And a food for me, please and thank you.
  • 20D. The MAD [___ Hatter] is a key character.
  • 29D. [“Curiouser and curiouser!,” e.g.] is a vocal CRY. Now, why is 53D: AHOY clued as [Stern cry?]?

Cool theme there, and timely because the Tim Burton movie is out now. (Not so timely that it comes off as a product placement promoting the movie, fortunately.) All righty, what else of note is in this puzzle? This:

  • Tough crossing with 46D: REALIA, or [Objects employed to show everyday life], if you weren’t sure about BEAMISH or the 61A: [Variety of grape], SULTANA.
  • 14A. Ah, yes. The [Form of writing of ancient Crete]. I filled in the LINEAR part promptly but waited for 7D to tell me if it was LINEAR A (yes) or LINEAR B (no).
  • 30A. That ratio is wack. Who wants the OREO to be [It’s 71% cookie, 29% creme]? I say 50/50 would be an improvement.
  • 31A. [Chucklehead] is a great word, and IGNORAMUS is right behind it.
  • The 6-letter city names! C’mon, who doesn’t love those? We have LAHORE (5D: [Pakistan’s so-called “Garden of Mughals”]), its rhyme MYSORE (38A: [Indian tourist city]), and also LISBON (40D; [Departure point for explorer Vasco da Gama]).
  • 39A. YARD SALES gets a good clue: [Means of unloading?]. Admit it: You were worried the answer was going to be LAXATIVES, weren’t you?
  • 59A. The ARAPAHO were [Some buffalo hunters of old].
  • 9D. Move over, “Dies Irae,” there’s a new IRAE in town! It’s [___ caelestes (divine wrath: Lat.)], for a change.
  • 11D. B-GIRL is clued as [Old-time floozie]. Now, I looked up the definitions of both words and I don’t think they’re equivalent.
  • 15D. [Browner] is a thing you use to brown food, a FRY PAN. Meh, I don’t care for the clue.
  • 34D. “Does a bear s— in the woods?” You better believe it! [Bears do it] clues S…ELL. As in bears and bulls, the stock market pessimists and optimists.

Jascha Smilack’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6I think this marks the constructor’s debut, for two reasons: (1) I don’t recognize the distinctive name, and (2) I had no idea where the clueing wavelength was, whereas I can recognize the characteristic touches of a Donna Levin or a Dan Naddor. The theme-revealer was way down at the end: 67A: [Word to add to 20-, 37- and 54-Across to make sense of the answers] is HORSE. Actually, the three 15-letter theme answers make perfect sense without HORSE—it’s the theme clues that mystify. Like so:

  • 20A. DODGING THE DRAFT (horse) is clued [Uneasy about a farm team member?].
  • 37A. AFRAID OF THE DARK (horse) gets [Uneasy about a long shot?] for its clue.
  • 54A. [Uneasy about an aquarium fish?] clues CHICKEN OF THE SEA(horse).

I like the theme entries’ commonality: all three phrases begin with words that relate to uneasiness, and each one’s last word can combine with HORSE to make a familiar term.

Where did this puzzle slow me down more than usual for an LAT puzzle? I had TINTED instead of TINGED for 4D: [Colored a bit], which kept me from seeing 20A for too long. I don’t know 6A: [“Iron Chef America” ched Cat ___] CORA at all. 44A: [“Flowers for Algernon” author Daniel] KEYES’ last name didn’t come readily to mind. I didn’t have 67A when I reached 50A: [Where Caligula repeatedly tried to seat his 67-Across]. Caligula wanted his HORSE in the SENATE? That’s nuts. 1D: [Call before the game] is HEADS, as in “Heads or tails?” for the coin toss. 27D: AD FEE also didn’t come to mind for [Newspaper revenue component]; feels stilted. At 53D, [Bogart’s “High Sierra” role] is apparently EARLE. Usually an LAT crossword progresses on automatic, but I actually had to do more back-and-forth work with the crossings.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 11”

Region capture 8Yep, it’s another PG themeless on the easy end of the spectrum. I kinda miss the killer puzzles—don’t you?

No big stacks of long answers this time. Instead, there are three 15s linked together by SOVEREIGNTY (my son just informed me the other day that Illinois’s state motto is “State sovereignty, …” uh, I forget the other half. Federal union? “National union,” that’s the other part. No, Illinois’s governor has not proclaimed April to be Confederacy Rah-Rah Month.


  • 1A. JUGHEAD! I see this [Moose pal] from the Archie comics every time I go to the post office. Scroll down here to see the slaughterhouse sledgehammer guy in the WPA mural—he’s wearing a Jughead-style cap, which seems incongruous as he’s poised to whack some cattle.
  • 37A. We see ORCA in the puzzle plenty often, but seldom clued as the [1977 film with the tagline “Terror just beneath the surface”]. I saw that movie in the theater! Mm-hmm, can’t be surprised about Sea World tragedies after that.
  • 38A. This one’s my favorite. [Like the clue to 38-Across] clues SELF-REFERENTIAL.
  • 26D. A quinquennium is five years, so [Two quinquennia] make a DECADE.
  • 30D. WILLIE MAYS looks good in the grid. He’s [Barry Bonds’s godfather].
  • 47D. SEDONA is a resort town in Arizona as well as the [Kia minivan] my sister drives. Their license plate is their last name backwards, so of course I think of the van as their ANODES.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “E.T.”—Janie’s review

What a mixed ride I had with this one. The theme is easy enough to discern, though it has nothing to do with aliens. It’s simply four phrases in which the first word begins with “E” and the second with “T.” But for those initials, there’s nothing the phrases have in common; nor, as a group, do they have any particular zing (although one has a “Z” and three have an “X”). Not IMHO [Cyberspace “It seems to me”] (or “in my humble opinion”…). No, (with the exception of one particular pair of words) the gold in today’s puzzle is in the non-theme fill.

Okay, so first the theme fill:

  • 17A. ELIZABETH TAYLOR [She played Rebecca in the 1952 “Ivanhoe”].
  • 27A. EXPRESS TRAIN [Commuting option].
  • 49A. ESTIMATED TAX [Predicted payment base on probable profit]. Uh, is this Patrick’s way of reminding us that April 15th is but one week away?…
  • 63A. EXPERT TESTIMONY [Courtroom presentation from a pro]. I think this is my fave of the theme fill.

But look at some of the really good pop-culture-based stuff Patrick’s filled his grid with:

  • HAIRSPRAY [John Waters film of 1988]. The musical of the Broadway production is pretty darned good, but this is the real McCoy.
  • BETTY BOOP [Grim Natwick‘s cartoon creation]. Not sure who has the cooler name–Ms. Boop or Mr. Natwick. “Grim.” Wow.
  • LEHRER [Songwriter Tom or newscaster Jim]. Each represents the best in his field.
  • FIONA [“Paper Bag” singer Apple]. Holy moly. She sang this on the Today Show. At holiday time. Ho-ho-ho. Not. She’s an original though, and I like that. Her sister is vocalist Maude Maggert, who tends to sing from the American songbook. Her voice makes her a bit of an original as well.
  • KARL [Malden of “Patton”].

There are also some nice, tricky clue/fill combos, such as [Give a wave?] for PERM, [Sight seer?] for EYE and [People providing arms?] for ESCORTS.

But I was made a bit uncomfortable by the inclusion (and crossing no less) of POLIO and SPASTIC. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive; or shallow and too caught up with the concept that [“Life] IS A [cabaret, old chum…”] (or certainly the solving of a CS puzzle…). There’s no DISHONOR [Shame] intended and I’ve no expectation that every bit of the puzzle will be MERRY [Full of good cheer] and project a [Radiant glow] AURA. With darker fill, I’m just more at ease with combos like STYX [Rock group with the same name as a mythical river] (associated with death…) and [“Dies] IRAE [” (hymn)] (that’s part of many masses). Or the geopolitical-linguistic KGB [Cold war org.] and [Da’s opposite] NYET together. Or both “NAE!” [Highlands “Hardly!”] and SAY “YES” [Consent]. But, of course, that’s all imoo (in my obnoxious opinion)…

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Zee Change”

Region capture 5The theme’s not about “zee change of life.” Think “sea change” pronounced with a Z sound instead of an S sound, as in the following five:

  • 17A. [Warning sign when sea levels are high?] clues CAYS CLOSED. This one plays on “case closed.” I pronounce CAYS like the word “keys,” but “kays” is also an attested pronunciation.
  • 25A. [Female deer with venomous bits?] are LETHAL DOES (lethal dose).
  • 35A. I have a lot of fleece jackets. FLEAS JACKETS would be an [Itchy way to keep warm?].
  • 49A. Scary Spice of the Spice Girls turns into SCARY SPIES, or [Agents who hardly manage to make themselves inconspicuous?].
  • 60A. [People chosen to get plenty of vitamin A?] are those chosen people, the CARROT JEWS (carrot juice).

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 34A. PHD is the [Graduate degree held by boxer Wladimir Klitschko]. Who knew?
  • 28A. LOOFA is the [Shower object at the center of Bill O’Reilly’s 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit]. Also known in this setting as “falafel.” (See also 36D: FAVA BEAN, [Alternative to a chickpea, in some falafels].)
  • 11D. MARMOSET is fun to say. It’s a [Certain New World monkey].
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27 Responses to Thursday, 4/8/10

  1. Steve says:

    53D: Stern, as in the rear of a ship.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Steve, I understood the clue—I was commenting (however obliquely and nonspecifically) on the cry/CRY duplication.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    And if you don’t know Jabberwocky, this puzzle was in a foreign language. Utter fail.

  4. joon says:

    not only could i rattle off jabberwocky in my sleep, just last weekend it occurred to me that the made-up words in it could make a nifty puzzle theme. i guess i was right, because this puzzle was pretty cool. or at least, i had fun as soon as i got enough crosses to make BRILLIG manifest itself. too bad JABBERWOCKY itself couldn’t fit into the grid.

  5. Will Nediger says:

    “Irae caelestes” gets 2 Google hits that aren’t about the crossword, presumably because it’s in the nominative plural – i.e. “heavenly wraths,” which I can’t envision ever being used. Even the singular, ira caelestis, gets only a couple hundred hits.

  6. Rick Narad says:

    Even though I entered “Oreo” immediately, I liked having an original clue.


  7. joon says:

    Yep, it’s another PG themeless on the easy end of the spectrum. I kinda miss the killer puzzles—don’t you?

    not in the least. the killer puzzles were killer because they were chock-full of long answers i’d never heard of, and that just wasn’t fun. the last couple of freestyle fireballs have had really nice grids that are relatively obscurity-free; i wouldn’t have minded seeing the cluing a notch tougher, but even this one had one area where i was doing some guessing: VEAL/ABBE/BONNET, one unfamiliar name and two word uses i was not at all familiar with (medallion and BONNET).

    wasn’t the PRISON RIOT clue amazing, though? cooler heads… brilliant!

  8. John Farmer says:

    And all these years I thought the OREO was 100% cookie! Actually, I was reading somewhere that nickels are 25% nickel, so by same token the Oreo cookie is 71% cookie. Nice clue. Words that weren’t Carroll coinages but sound like they could have been: IGNORAMUS, DOODLE, REALIA, KHAKI.

  9. LARRY says:

    Maybe it’s time to have a leave of absence for OREO. A couple of days ago it was an ingredient in some truffles – I googled it and got the recipe and even a video of how to make “delicious oreo truffles” (UGH!!); and now we get the percentages of cookie to creme. Enough with the junk food.

    Amy – I always thought “B Girl” was short for “Bar Girl”, i.e., a young lady who made her living in bars getting men to buy her (watered) drinks. I don’t think that’s the equivalent of “Floozie”, which I understood to mean a “cheap” or “low class” woman. But clearly a Floozie could work as a B Girl.

  10. Evad says:

    So can we assume an OREO Double Stuf cookie is 45% creme filling and 55% cookie?

    Failed utterly in the SE today, had ADVISE for ADJURE and have never seen the word REALIA. As for the grape, if it’s not a common varietal in wine production, I’m outta luck.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    The LEWIS CARROLL puzzle was so satisfying and gratifying! I almost SOB with joy when someone brings off one like this… We’re used to automatic go-to reactions to a clue like “Put away” seeking food answers, eat up or gulp down, — thus JAILED is a good treat! My last fill was sheer grope at the M for MYSORE, since TOM Waits was unknown. Whew.

  12. sps says:

    Pretty quick puzzle for me due to the fact that my daughter and I just recited Jabberwocky yesterday in the car—there’d been an assembly at her school with a performer who acted out the poem, which she remembered from having been Alice in a play a few years ago.

    Loved the FB, as always. Peter’s good, ain’t he?

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Larry: Exactly. Selling drinks to make a living ≠ being promiscuous or immoral.

  14. John Haber says:

    I got the Jabberwocky clues pretty easily, but this was a hard puzzle for me, what with things like “wadi,” REALIA, and LAHORE, plus some less than obvious clues like the Buffalo hunters.

    The story itself says to look for meanings, explaining “portmanteau” words as combinations (like “lithe and slimy”), and there are great notes in Martin Gardner’s “The Annotated Alice.” That said, I am not convinced by the definitions here of BRILLIG and WABE.

  15. Sara says:

    girl:floozie as boy:stud

    the whole subject annoys me.

  16. Jan (danjan) says:

    Evad – I agree with your arithmetic. I like Oreos, but I avoid DoubleStuf like the plague; the filling is basically Crisco and sugar. I also avoid the reduced fat version, though, having broken a tooth (which was probably already cracked) on one (less fat=harder cookie). Anyway, I liked the new clue for our triple-decker crossword fave!
    edited to add: just checked my email; Martha Stewart’s Daily Cookie is Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwiches!

  17. Gareth says:

    Really battled in the top-left and bottom-left. For the latter, I blame not wanting to write in SULTANA – me and my dictionary define SULTANA as a small yellow-brown seedless raisin. RAISIN ≠ GRAPE. Or is there something me and my dictionary are both missing? No excuses for the top-left though… Tough theme as even though I knew the theme words I was more than a little sketchy on some of the meanings….

    CS: Is PB making a tribute to a recently deceased S. African neo-Nazi? Hope not, though it’s quite weird synchronicity!

  18. KarmaSartre says:

    I found the Fireball easier than your average Ogden, but very pleasing throughout, and I just now got the medallion bit while reading joon’s commment.

  19. SethG says:

    @John Haber, those definitions are straight out of the story itself, provided by Humpty Dumpty. The relevant part is here.

  20. Papa John says:

    Ah, a subject to which I may be quite qualified to discuss; to wit, floozies and b-girls.

    Although b-girls were long outlawed in the US before my time, there were plenty of them in the ports I visited while serving in the Navy. Most, but not all of them, were also prostitiutes, which I believe is the same for floozies, is it not?

    One particular Filipina b-girl, Felicita Durant, saved my skin by talking me into going back to my ship, the USS Kearsarge, after a two-day absence without leave. I had witnessed an unnessesary loss of life of some 400 individuals drowning in Manila Bay after two boats collided. Due to the utter incompetence of the Navy, many of those lost souls could have been saved but were not because ten of our helicopters (temporarily stationed at Subic Bay) had been stripped of their life-saving equipment, so that they could fly President Johnson’s guests on sight-seeing flights, while he was there to attend what was called The Seven Nations Conference.

    Felicity took me up into the hills surrounding Subic Bay Naval Station, where I watched my ship sail away. She fed me fried egg sandwiches and rice for the time I spent on that hillside, all the while telling me how stupid I was for not to getting back to my ship. In the end, of course, she did persuade me.

    When I finally got back aboard the Kearsarge, after hitching a ride on an E-2 Hawkeye, I was given a captain’s mast and sentenced to ten days restriction at sea. (The Kearsarge’s skipper was one VERY understanding guy!)

    B-girls…floozies…I love ’em all!

  21. Martin says:

    Anyone who believes an “old-time b-girl’s” duties were limited to pushing drinks needs to get out more — or maybe not.

    Here’s an article from 1959 on the B-girl’s “inevitable” advancement to prostitution.

  22. John Haber says:

    Thanks for reminding me on BRILLING and WABE, Seth. I guess it’s been a while for me!

    Gareth, RHUD has SULTANA as a raisin, and that’s how I remember it, too, so it was a hard clue, but MW11 has it as a grape grown for raisins, so I can’t really object.

  23. John Haber says:

    Interestingly, both RHUD and MW11 identify b-girls as women employed by a bar to socialize in order to induce men to drink more, not as prostitutes (their definition of “floozies”). However, I realize that in matters of common culture, memories like John’s or articles like that Martin cites may trump dictionaries.

  24. joon says:

    i recognized the distinctive name, but i couldn’t place it. then i checked: i’ve met jascha smilack! he’s a grad student here at harvard, and a member of the harvard college crossword society (co-host organization of this weekend’s BCPT!). congrats, jascha, on a fine puzzle, and a promising debut. i had quite a bit of trouble making sense of the theme and, separately, untangling the middle-left region, where the clue for JIG was absolutely unhelpful, i was stuck on HERMES for JACK, and i had written IF IT hollers instead of IF HE, because that’s how i remember the rhyme. (maybe my tiger wasn’t necessarily male?)

  25. *David* says:

    These creepy shapes with odd looking faces has discouraged me from posting, I thought clowns were scary.

  26. ArtLvr says:

    joon — I believe “if he hollers” harks back to the dark age when that wasn’t a tiger but the N word… Neat that you tracked down Jascha, & more congrats to him on his debut!
    Also, I agree with you on Pete’s Fireball — I just finished it too, having set it aside hours ago. I had some kind of Seal on the medallion, finally had supper and thus got VEAL! A word that’s probably rarish is GESTATES: that was another sticking point, plus Kennedy “colleague” would have been easier than “co-worker”, for ALITO.

    By coincidence, one of the books I’m reading right now is “Gideon’s Trumpet” by Anthony Lewis, the case accepted by the Supreme Court for review in 1962 merely on the basis of a handwritten letter from a Florida convict: he believed the Constitution promised even a poor man the right to an attorney when facing a felony charge, though in a state court. A landmark case, as it turned out, with all the ins and outs movingly depicted…

  27. wij says:

    Hated the Tim Burton movie.

    Johnny Depp says “borogroves” instead of “borogoves” and everyone calls the Jabberwock the “Jabberwocky.” Ugh.

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