Thursday, 4/29/10

NYT 5:05
Fireball 4:51
LAT 3:56
Tausig untimed
CS untimed (J)/3:37 (A)

Today is picture day! Here’s a photo from April 17’s Chicago Crossword Tournament.


Front: Anne Erdmann, Amy Reynaldo, Katje Sabin. Rear: Bob Petitto, William Hall, Scott Orman, Marty Howard. (Photo courtesy of Marbles: The Brain Store.)

The event raised $735 for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (yay!). Midwesterners, keep April 2011 open for next year’s Marbles Crossword Tournament.

David J.W. Simpson’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 6The theme entries describe this puzzle’s gimmick (a.k.a. “the curious property of this crossword”): EACH ANSWER HAS AN / ODD / NUMBER OF LETTERS. Indeed, the entries are all 3s, 5s, 7s, 9s, and 15s. Aside from the 33 letters of theme description, the rest of the fill is themeless (overall word count: 72) and yet 100% thematic (odd number of letters). Simple, yet still challenging.


  • 1A. I didn’t know [Rattlebrains] was a word. It means DODOS.
  • The flip side of this dodo medal has an Athenian owl. It was my dad's, and my mom just gave it to my son on his birthday.

    The flip side of this dodo medal has an Athenian owl. It was my dad's, and my mom just gave it to my son on his birthday.

    23A. JAMES II is a cool-looking entry. He’s the [King with a statue in Trafalgar Square]. Not the King James of King James Bible fame (that was I).

  • 28A. [“Interest paid on trouble before it falls due,” per W.R. Inge] is WORRY. Interesting quote.
  • 32A, 32D. Intersecting Z 9s: ZEN MASTER is a [Spiritual guide] and ZONKED OUT means [Totally beat].
  • 42A. Did you know that the GECKO is a [Lizard that chirps]? I didn’t.
  • 64A. British and American English sometimes feel like distant cousins. [U.S. term for a British “saloon”] is SEDAN. I had no idea the limeys called sedans “saloon cars.” And with no bar! No swinging doors! I took a SEDAN for a test drive yesterday and loved it—the Ford Fusion Hybrid is a smooooth ride. It will be mine, oh yes.
  • 8D. TAE KWON DO has been an [Olympic sport since 2000].
  • 30D. Nice clue for OSAGE: [County name in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma].
  • 33D. This one was hard to assemble in the grid. [For the reason stated] is TO THAT END, but I had “thereto” bouncing around in my brain and blocking TO THAT END.
  • 35D. [Gun, for one] is a RHYME in that the words “gun” and “one” rhyme with each other. The clue got me.
  • 48D. I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” to my son a few months back. POE is [Who wrote “I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him”].
  • Nice pairings of GENES and DNA, and the dictionary ENTRY and USAGE.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 5I’m a little foggy on the rationale behind this theme. NIGHT OWLS are 54a: [Hard-to-see critters lurking in 20-, 28-, 33- and 43-Across]. But…night owls are people who stay up late. They’re not well-camouflaged birds. Though that part of the puzzle doesn’t make sense to me, the theme entries are good and I like the overall clueing of the fill.

Each of the theme entries has an embedded OWL split among two words:

  • 20a. [Indoor gardener’s tool] clues a GROW LIGHT. Dude! I’ve only heard of these being used to foster the development of marijuana plants.
  • 28a. [Big drinker’s “secret”] is a HOLLOW LEG. I love that idiom.
  • 33a. [Tutor’s charge] is a SLOW LEARNER.
  • 43a. [Golden retriever?] is a tricky yet accurate clue for YELLOW LAB. A golden retriever is a specific dog breed, not the same as the Labrador retriever. But “golden”-coated Labrador retrievers are called YELLOW LABS.
Athenian owl medal (there's a dodo on the other side, I don't know why)

Athenian owl medal (there's a dodo on the other side, I don't know why)

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 10a. [They’re full of beans] clues PODS. The idiom “full of beans” means lively and spirited, but Sajdak’s chasing legumes here.
  • 17a. [What the hyphen in an emoticon represents] is a NOSE. I recently saw a degree symbol as a nose— :°)
  • 24a. [__ Vandelay, recurring fake “Seinfeld” character who turns out to be a real judge in the final episode] is my favorite clue ever for ART. Yes, there are plenty of ways to clue ART without leaning on a TV character’s fake alter ego, but this is delightful.
  • 2d. [Start of an opinion] is “I, FOR ONE…” and it looks weird in the grid. IFO RONE?
  • 10d. [Course for a budding DA] is a good clue for PRELAW. I wonder how many college students have specific aspirations to be district attorneys.
  • 11d. “OH, WELL” are [Words of resignation], but not the “I quit” variety.
  • 25d: [Talk like thish] and 46d: [Talked like thith] clue SLUR and LISPED, reshplectively…I mean, rethpectively.
  • 38d. Isn’t this a fancy answer? The [1973 landmark case] is ROE V. WADE.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords “Themeless 14”

Region capture 7So, Peter sent out a questionnaire with this week’s puzzle. I voted “1,” the puzzles have been way too easy. Dagnabbit, I want supra-Saturday crosswords! This one was Thursday-NYT difficulty, not Saturday-plus. It would have been a quicker solve if I’d ever heard of TOMARAYA or TOM ARAYA or TOM A. RAYA, whoever the [Bassist and vocalist in the thrash metal band Slayer] is—I wasn’t sure the big-eyed toon would be REN so that R was the last square to fall.

Without further ado, highlights from the Land of Clues and Answers:

  • 5a. [School of hard knocks?] is a DOJO.
  • 9a. [Its motto translates to “Fraternity, Work, Progress”] clues NIGER. Crazy-obscure trivia! I rather like it. See also 11d: [It’s called Shamo by locals] for the GOBI DESERT.
  • 17a. BATMOBILE, great answer.
  • 19a. SLAP ON THE WRIST, also a great answer.
  • 23a. ST. BARTS, great entry.
  • 47a. KISS AND CRY AREA from ice skating competitions, great answer.
  • 56a. METROCARD, another great entry.

Good stuff, but it didn’t make me  work hard enough.

Mystery clue/answer: 1d: [With, in Catalan] clues AMB, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before. That’s a Catalan word? And it means “with”?

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Page Breaks”—Janie’s review

Take a tip from the title: today Bob “breaks” the word “page” so that it bookends his four two-word theme phrases. Note the asymmetrical split (P/AGE), and as always, savor those “d’oh”- and/or groan-inducing clues (for both the thematic and non-thematic material).

19A. PROPERTY DAMAGE [Handwriting on the wall, perhaps]. Great clue, using to fresh effect a phrase that’s ordinarily heard when acknowledging that the inevitable is under way/about to occur.

34A. PORK SAUSAGE [ It contains everything but the squeal]. Omg… I do find this to be a most [Macabre], almost SCARY clue. Fabulous.

42A. POWER OUTAGE [It’ll leave you “delighted”]. Groan. And if you do run the risk of being “delighted,” you may want to have some kind of battery-operated [Light object?] LAMP on hand.

57A. PRIVATE MESSAGE [It’s for your eyes only]. Ah. The most straightforward clue of the lot.

Now let the list of fine clue/fill combos begin:

  • [It was backloaded from the kitchen] AUTOMAT. Can you say “Horn & Hardart“? Do you remember Horn & Hardart?…
  • [Participant in a bull session] (Shades of Monday’s puzzle by Donna Levin) MATADOR.
  • Then we get people who are both [High-class] UPSCALE and [[Uncultured] BOORISH. Why do I think there are times when even the most boorish person will say “YES, DEAR” [Words from one who loves, honors, and obeys]? Rhetorical question.
  • [Ship of fuels] OILER. Groan.
  • Looking towards Asia, we get Afghanistan’s [Khyber Pass city] KABUL, and [Tongue blending Persian and Hindu], URDU. While spoken primarily in Pakistan (the other side of the “Khyber Pass”), there are some 4,000,000 speakers of the language worldwide. Oh, and on the subject of language, it was news to me that CRAYOLA took its name […from the French for “oily chalk”].
  • There’s a nod to classical mythology and Arthurian lore by way of (the non-Australian) [Down under river?] STYX, [Greek ship turned into a constellation] ARGO, and UTHER [ ___ Pendragon (King Arthur’s father)].
  • If your [Dietary stipulation] is NO CARBS, then ix-nay on the [Elbows on the table?] PASTA, whether or not it’s been prepared [Tender but still firm] AL DENTE.
  • The [Class clown at times] is an APER; [Ape kangaroos] makes a verb of “ape,” so that’s HOPS.
  • Clues with repeated words or sounds? [Grim Grimm guy] and [Bookbag book] for OGRE and TEXT; rhyming clues? [String thing] and [Hound sound] for KNOT and the melancholic BAY; sequential repeat-word clues? [Paper patcher] and [Position paper] for TAPE and ESSAY, and [Fish stick?] and [Fish sticks?] for the non-comestible POLE and RODS.

There are many more goodies within, but before signing off, just want to note how much I like the grid’s open corners and the way they allow for those stacked sevens and five-columns. I do like ’em. A lot.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Extreme Makeover: City Edition”

Region capture 8When I test-solved this puzzle, it killed me. It took about twice as long as usual, and I usually tear through anagram puzzles. The original theme clues only narrowed things down to the general region, and do you know how many cities there are in, say, the Midwest? Or the South? A lot, I tell you. So you get the eased-up version in which the theme clues specify the state. (You’re welcome.) Here they are:

  • 16a. [New slogan for a Michigan city trying to seem a little more crazy?] is DOTTIER DETROIT. The “Extreme Makeover” is the anagramming of DETROIT into DOTTIER.
  • 22a. [New slogan for an Arizona city trying to emphasize strong elementary school math programs?] is TUCSON COUNTS.
  • 32a. [New slogan for a North Carolina city trying to draw in visitors for tours of its old distilleries?] is DURHAM HAD RUM.
  • 41a. [New slogan for a California city trying to advertise its wild playground basketball games?] is NO REFS FRESNO.
  • 53a. [New slogan for a Texas city trying to spread the word about its cheap ammunition?] is RELOAD LAREDO.
  • 62a. [New slogan for a Washington city trying to get more foodies to move in?] is LET’S EAT SEATTLE. Is that the invitation “Let’s Eat, Seattle” or the comma-free exhortation “Let’s Eat Seattle”?

The grid’s not too pretty, with those theme entries on alternating lines and those 6-letter city entries butting up against three-block bars. You end up with a lot of 3-letter entries in the process.

Tougher spots:

  • 14a. HEAVE is clued as a [Sailing maneuver].
  • 36a. [Utterance after being thrown for a loop] clues “UMM…”
  • 49a. IBANEZ is an [Electric guitar maker]. This crosses three other proper names, including 45d: [Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da ___] SILVA.
  • 7d. SADHU is a [Hindu mystic].
  • 30d. [1″ No. 2, say] is a pencil NUB.
  • 63d. [“You get the picture”] clues ETC. As in “Each theme answer contains a city name and an anagram of that name. TUCSON can be scrambled to make COUNTS, et cetera, et cetera.”

Favorite bits:

  • 9d. TET gets a fresh clue:  [It last was celebrated in Vietnam on February 14, 2010].
  • 23d. [One-night stand souvenir: Abbr.] clues an STD. At 42d, however, [You might pick some up after landing at de Gaulle] refers not to STDs but to EUROS. 59d: ITCH is unrelated ([Desire, so to speak]).
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20 Responses to Thursday, 4/29/10

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    Today’s NYT puzzle was the final puzzle in the 6th annual Canton (CT) Library tournament. I was glad it was on the hard side; there were a few of us bunched up after the first three puzzles. Guess who won! Thanks to Alice Dutton for running the tournament, and to Will Shortz for providing the puzzles.

  2. joon says:

    i feel bad for david simpson. i’d like the puzzle a lot more if matt gaffney hadn’t beaten him to the punch with his contest puzzle from a few months ago, but since i did recently solve that one, i wasn’t as interested in today’s. but that’s not david’s fault at all, and in fact i bet he constructed this before matt made his. to be fair, today’s grid is a lot cleaner, although there was less “theme.” and with a 72 wc, maybe i should just pretend it’s a freestyle with a quirk rather than a themed puzzle. but i was expecting something a little knottier, i think; this was my fastest thursday ever.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I did this week’s Fireball before the NYT — what a relief, the NYT! The Geico GECKO of TV ads sounds quite chirpy in a soft British accent, or is it Aussie? Last square here was a giggle, needing to repair the first letter of my 9D REHYDRATE for Parch, from an R to the D, because of having initially guessed that 9A Fix, in a way, would start with RE- as in reset. DEBUG, not REBUG! I think there’s an opposites idea here for someone. Unparch?

    The RHYME answer to Gun, for one, at 35D didn’t even make me blink. I’m getting used to those self-references, like hard or soft G for Start to groan?

    Very much enjoyed seeing the photo of the Chicago Seven, thanks for posting…

  4. pezibc says:

    I like a puzzle that messes with my head. Incorrect entries of NOT for NOI, ROAST for TOAST, DENYDRINK for DEHYDRATE, and —OFSQUARES for —OFLETTERS caused my brains to rattle. A -1 bummer.

    Liked WADDLES and nice job with the J as well as the Z.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    As God is my witness I thought Colorado was on CST. Mount Cisti sounded good to me. :-)

  6. Anne E says:

    A very rare sub-3 minute Thursday for me, so on the easy side in my book, but with lots of clues/entries that caught me up a bit. Nice work!

    I liked “waddles” too. For some reason I’ve had a male mallard duck in my yard a few days this week. This is weird because there’s no water in or anywhere near my yard, nor is there even one female duck. He’s been duckily waddling about, very entertaining. I’m quite curious about what (if anything) is going through his ducky brain that makes him think my yard is the place to be.

    Did you ever do a Chicago tournament writeup, Amy? I missed it if so. I meant to say a lot earlier, congrats to the three winners and to everyone who came and had a good time. Also congrats to Amy, and the Marbles staff, for putting another fun, extremely well-run tournament! It was also good to see my ACPT buddies Kent and Bob and Scott and Ben (great performances/judging, guys!), and people from last year’s Chicago tournament, and to meet new crossword fans.

    Marbles staff were talking about moving to a larger venue next year, which would be great, and I encouraged them to think about acquiring whiteboards too — it would have been exciting to have them this year since all 3 finalists finished within the same 45 seconds or so.

  7. Angela says:

    I surprised myself by solving a usually difficult (for me) Thursday puzzle with ease.
    But will someone please explain the connection between “Gun” and “rhyme”?

  8. Evad says:

    “Gun, for one” is a RHYME because “gun” rhymes with “one.”

    Another cute clue of this ilk is “Toys for tots, e.g.” cluing TYPO…what’s even cooler is that the Y and T are next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard making this particular typo very likely!

    And as joon has already mentioned, I did recall MG’s earlier foray into this “odd” territory, so it did make the longer theme entries easier to come up with.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    @Angela — The sound of One provides a rhyming word for Gun and vice versa. Fun too!

  10. joon says:

    congrats jan! (assuming my guess is correct)

  11. sps says:

    My money’s on Jan, too. Have you seen how her times have rocketed up over the last two years? It’s steroids, I bet.

    Ditto on the congrats!

  12. Howard B says:

    As soon as I vote that the Fireballs overall were slightly easy, along comes a puzzle with 2 squares that I cannot fill. Arrrgh! :)

    -E- for the toon (REN) was too vague, crossing two names that I had never heard of and cound not infer for any letter of the alphabet. In retrospect, REN’s probably the only toon that would fit, but I didn’t understand the ‘?’ misdirection and overthought it. A bit vague for a clue considering the crossings, and too much proper-namage in that area for my taste (DEBONT? Are you kidding? that’s either a stone-cold gimme for people or impossible). To each their own. The rest was smooth though.

  13. John Haber says:

    I had a slight difficulty getting started, given “rattlebrains” and perhaps the shape of the grid, but thought it easy for a Thursday. The theme was a little close to themeless for my taste, or at least to a gimmick that wouldn’t immediately impress me as a grid and that might appeal most to crossword maniacs who have written puzzles themselves. So by no means a fave, but perfectly fine.

  14. joon says:

    howard, i had the exact some problem with _E_. the other n-2 squares went down very fast, and then i found myself with a ? clue i didn’t understand crossing two absolutely ungettable clues. always a sick feeling. but i eventually did guess REN after about a minute.

  15. Jan (danjan) says:

    Thanks joon and sps. It’s more likely caffeine than steroids! I had never placed higher than third in those tournaments in the past, but now I’m going for 5 wins in a row, of course! To those reading this who have never gone to the ACPT: these local tournaments are a great way to see how it is to solve under the pressure of the clock, and then you know what to expect when you get to Brooklyn. They’re also wonderful for seeing your ACPT friends off-season!

  16. Martin says:

    “Gecko” is onomatopoeic, from a Javanese word that mimics the chirping.

    The Geico gecko has a Cockney accent. Doesn’t anyone watch Eastenders? I don’t know where Australian comes from. It’s not just you, ArtLvr. A Geico voice-over guy got himself canned for a crank call to some Tea Party organization and all the TV station have been assuring their panicked audiences that it wasn’t the “Australian gecko voice actor.” Americans have embarassingly bad ears for accents. I think of Peter Sellers doing an impeccable Missouri accent and feel shame.

  17. Quentinc says:

    The FB sure seemed harder than a Thursday NYT to me. With three impossible down answers in the northwest — AMB, TOMARAYA and DEBONT, that part was unsolveable for me until I Googled the two names. And though I’ve heard of T.G.I. Friday’s, [Friday] by itself did not say restaurant to me. The EDYS clue was also a mystery. I was at least able to figure these out once I got 19A.

    The bottom 2/3 was quite doable, but I’ve never heard of a KISS AND CRY AREA, and METROCARD? It’s been a while since I’ve taken a subway in NYC, but they didn’t have those back when I used to take the A Train!

  18. Wes says:

    Had ROAST for TOAST, which led me to put ARLES as the [Mini-section of an almanac], which kind of makes sense if you think about it. I’d never heard of UTA Hagen, so UTE seemed plausible enough.

  19. All I gotta say is TOM ARAYA … awesome. Everybody, get out your copies of “Reign in Blood” and crank it.

  20. Mitch says:

    Interesting tidbit: An earlier version of this grid was run in the print edition of the Chicago Reader. Ben misspelled TUCSON!

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