Thursday, 5/6/10

Fireball 5:17
NYT 3:38
LAT 3:36
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Dan Naddor’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 21If this puzzle had a title, it could be “The Cheshire Cat,” famous for its grin. Each theme entry has an added GR in it, turning assorted phrases into silly nonce phrases. There are seven theme entries, stacked in pairs at the top and bottom and in a trio in the grid’s center. Here they are:

  • 18A. To [Barbecue comfortably?] is to GRILL AT EASE.
  • 20A. [“Are your Southern breakfast vittles satisfactory?”] clues GRITS OKAY? The base phrase is more a statement than a question, isn’t it? The clue is so awkward, it works marvelously. “Vittles” = win.
  • 32A. [Marvelous golf club?] is a GRAND IRON. I like that the fodder is a single word, andiron.
  • 35A. [Purple outfit?] clues GRAPE SUIT. I can’t be the only one who, whenever APE SUIT is in the crossword, wishes the U were an H. [Purple output?] would work then.
  • 37A. [Rules regarding tile setting?] could be GROUT LAWS. Another one where the original is a single word.
  • 54A. “Eat crow” turns into GREAT CROW, or [Big black bird?]. Those things creep me out.
  • 56A. [Passenger gorging on fried chicken and potato chips?] is a GREASY RIDER, playing on the classic movie (…which I haven’t seen) Easy Rider.

I like the corners, stuffed with lively 6s and 7s like PO’BOYS ([N’awlins sandwiches]), KEWPIE ([Kind of doll]), the IN-CROWD ([Clique]), and MT. SINAI ([Name of many hospitals and cemeteries]). The word count is 72, so those long answers take things into themeless-fill territory.

This puzzle was easier for me than yesterday’s, surprisingly fast for a Thursday NYT crossword.

Tougher spots:

  • 23A. [When doubled, a #3 hit of 1968 or a #1 hit of 1987] clues “MONY, Mony.” All right, who sang the ’87 version? I should know this. All I can think of is Eddie Money.
  • 28A. [Jeans brand] clues GITANO. Retro flashback! My mom ponied up the money for me and my sister to wear Gloria Vanderbilt, Sasson, Jordache, and Calvin Klein jeans. The boost in style cred was much needed.
  • 44A. [“Little” title figure in a Beach Boys hit] is ST. NICK, and boy, I don’t know this song at all. Neither does my husband.
  • 58A. [Grossglockner, for one] is an ALP.
  • 62A. If you didn’t watch the show, you’re sunk here. The ROSSES are the [Family of George’s fiancee on “Seinfeld”]. See also 38D: ROSARIO, [Karen’s maid on “Will & Grace”].
  • 21D. [Snarling] traffic is TYING UP traffic.
  • 27D. [Patisserie offering] is the French spelling, TARTE.
  • 37D. GRANGER is a [19th-century farmer].

Worst bits:

  • 17A, 46A. -ICS, [Suffix with robot]. -ASE, [Enzyme suffix].
  • 5oA, 9D. Partials: I THE [“___ Jury”]. OH TO [“___ be in England”: Browning].
  • 51A. [Silents star Nita] NALDI, best known to hardcore crossworders.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords puzzle, “Themeless 15”

Region capture 22Aw, Peter’s not planning to toughen up the puzzles. Mind you, this was tougher than a Sunday CrosSynergy or a Saturday LAT, but I filled in three of the long answers without even seeing their clues. That doesn’t usually happen. I liked 1-Across all right, but I got GRAVEDIGGER right off the bat and so many of the crossings followed it into the grid, so the two answers below it tumbled too.

What I liked best:

  • 38A. STABILE is the stationary counterpart to a mobile, which is “kinetic art,” so the STABILE is [Nonkinetic art?]. Alexander Calder created plenty of mobiles, but you gotta love his stabiles too, like the Flamingo in Chicago over by the Federal Building.
  • 64A. [“He left it dead, and with its head / He went galumphing back” source] is “JABBERWOCKY.”
  • 24D. A wacky [Nut] is a MESHUGGENER.

And now I’m falling asleep, so I’ll leave off here tonight and see you in the a.m.
Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Like a Rock”—Janie’s review

Ray has given us rather an earth-bound theme today. By design. He’s telling us what it is to be “like a rock.” Thus, the first word of each of his four two-word phrases can be used to describe “rock-ness”: it’s something that’s usually compact, hard, solid and firm; and the phrases these words begin are:

  • 20A. COMPACT DISC [Cassette tape successor]. I still love my CD player. The cassettes have pretty much gone by the by (ditto the LPs), but not the compact discs. Yes, they can be played in/on my computer, but I still enjoy having a dedicated player for my serious listening.
  • 11D. HARD KNOCKS [Lessons from a tough school]. My dad, one very astute business man, but who was not college-educated, used to say that this was his alma mater.
  • 29D. SOLID STATE [Like some lasers]. These are not two concepts I ordinarily link together but, for the unscientifically inclined, Randy is not trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Read all about it!
  • 58A. FIRM RESOLVE [Perseverance].

There’s a soupçon of a Gallic feel in the grid with CROISSANT [Bakery purchase] and ELÈVE [French student]–whom I imagine stopping by the boulangerie en route to école for a just-baked treat. (Something that’s JUST OUT, though not “of the oven,” is [Brand spanking new]).

I question the “-er” at the end of [Goldbricker] for SLACKER. It complicates the word, as a “goldbrick” is by definition a slacker, no?

How much more I like the crosses at the NW and NE corners. At the former, BASK [Take in rays] meets BOSC [Variety of pear]; at the latter, “Q” sans “U” meets at the junction of SHAQ [O’Neal nickname] and QATAR [Doha is its capital].

I don’t have A LOT to add except to say that while both DEFROCKED and its clue [Kicked out of the priesthood] were not especially enjoyable to contemplate, I did like the CAR CHASE/[A long segment of “The Blues Brothers”] combo. Ditto the tip o’ the hat to G&S with [“Lord High Everything ___ ] ELSE [” (title in “The Mikado”)], which also features “The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring TRA-LA” [Musical syllables].

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme reminds me of half of Tyler Hinman’s Onion theme from yesterday. Here, the last part of five phrases/compounds can follow the word life:

  • 17A: [Hunk] is a DREAMBOAT with a lifeboat.
  • 23A: [Upstages a performer, e.g.] clues CRAMPS ONE’S STYLE. You know, I had really hoped the theme would somehow unify DREAM and CRAMPS. But no, we get a lifestyle after the lifeboat.
  • 39A: [Becomes less leery] is what LOWERS ONE’S GUARD means. Is the lifeguard with the lifeboat a DREAMBOAT?
  • 49A: [Gets a single, double, triple and homer in one game] is HITS FOR THE CYCLE. Life cycle.
  • 62A: [Spiritual existence, and where the ends of 17-, 23-, 39- and 49-Across can go] is AFTERLIFE.

It troubles me a tad that DREAMBOAT is a word, not a phrase like the three theme entries after it, and that life cycle is a phrase while lifeboat, lifestyle, and lifeguard are single words. Do you pay attention to such things too?

Other clues:

  • Men with weirdly spelled 4-letter first names include ERLE Stanley Gardner (14A: [First name in mystery]) and 15A: IMRE, [’50s Hungarian premier Nagy].
  • 16A: [Kind of police gun that doesn’t use bullets] is a RADAR gun measuring speed. I had the second A early on so I didn’t put TASER here, but needed the crossings to make progress.
  • 19A: [Thus follower] clues AND SO. Say what? This makes no sense to me. Aren’t they roughly synonymous rather than being things said in sequence? “Thus, and so…” sounds insane. Is this Palinspeak?
  • 21A: [One of a Latin trio] is VICI. Not AMAT! Veni, vidi, vici is Caesar’s “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
  • 34A: [Pat, for one] is an NFLER. New England Patriots.
  • 44A: [Jam causes] are LOGS, not CARS as we so often see in the crosswords.
  • 58A: [’50s-’60s TV Earp portrayer] is O’BRIAN. Crossings all the way! Hugh?
  • 59A: [Congo river] is, oy, the UELE. Not so familiar to Westerners, is it?
  • 60A: [Fireplace shelf] is a HOB. Didn’t even see this clue, which is good, because I wouldn’t have gotten the answer.
  • 69A: [Baltic dweller] is a LETT of Latvia. Anyone know any Latvians? Do they use this word at all?
  • 2D: [Boot in the field] is an ERROR. Who uses “boot” to mean ERROR? Is this a generational thing, or just a word-in-the-dictionary-that’s-fair-game? I checkedMerriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and it’s in there with a very specific meaning, a ground fielding error in baseball, something like that.
  • 32D: [Firefighter, at times] clues HOSER. Is “hoser” still a Canadian insult?
  • 36D: [Mekong River dweller] clues LAO. Three letters, southeast Asia setting, the answer is probably LAO.
  • 49D: [Civic engineer?] clues HONDA, which makes the Honda Civic.
  • 53D: [The great horned owl has prominent ones on its ears] clues TUFTS. I wonder how many solvers had entertaining wrong answers here.
  • 56D: [Dieter’s catchword] is LO-FAT. No, it isn’t. It’s “low-fat.” I would like to see this entry vanish from crosswords altogether.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “What’s Left”

Region capture 23“What’s left” over is either leftovers for tomorrow or table SCRAPS. 49d: [What may go to the dogs – and what the letters dropped from the foods in 18-, 25-, 32-, 42-, 50, and 57-Across spell] is S-C-R-A-P-S, and those letters come from these answers:

  • 18a. [Gangsta armed with an iPad?] is an APPLE CRIP. (Apple criSp.)
  • 25a. [“Hard starboard! It’s Shakira!”?] clues HIPS AHOY. (Chips Ahoy.)
  • 32a. [Prisoners who keep forgetting mealtimes and exercise hours?] are CON FLAKES. (CoRn flakes.)
  • 42a. [Raised specifically to be a jockey?] clues SHORT-BRED. (ShortbreAd.)
  • 50a. [Esq. trained in conflict negotiation?] might be a BEEF ATTY., short for “attorney.” (Beef Patty.) I see BEE FATTY in the grid, personally.
  • 57a. [The best tropical wood available?] is PRIME TEAK. (Prime Steak.)

If you served me a dinner of prime steak, beef patty, apple crisp, Chips Ahoy cookies, shortbread, and corn flakes, I’d eat a lot of tasty carbs and have plenty of meat SCRAPS left over.

Clues to mention:

  • 53a. [West Coast sports conf.] is CALPAC or CAL-PAC or maybe CAL PAC. Never heard of it.
  • 1d. [Made one’s inattention obvious, in a way] clues SNORED. Yes, that’s more obvious than YAWNED.
  • 8d. [Pants descriptor] is CAPRI. My current favorite pants descriptor is “dropped crotch.” I kid you not: the new dropped-crotch pants are all the rage in the fashion world. Here are some for men and some dropped-crotch Capri jeans for women. Do you want to look like somebody’s great-grandpa with an adult diaper on? Then these are the pants for you! I find myself snorting out loud when I behold a picture of these, and I fervently hope that the trend makes it to the streets of Chicago so I can snort at these pants in person.
  • 46d. [Polite interruption words] are “IF I MAY.” I like this.
  • 51d. [give every1 a super quick update on what ur doing at the moment (w/ a lot of abbrs) because u only get 140 characters, and that’s really not e] clues TWEET. I didn’t count ’em, but I bet there are 140 letters and characters and spaces in that clue.
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16 Responses to Thursday, 5/6/10

  1. joon says:

    another remarkable puzzle from the atelier of dan naddor. seven theme answers, 72 word grid, lively fill… and he made it look easy. that should make me happy instead of sad, but *trails off awkwardly*

    the western area of the fireball wrecked me. didn’t know spanish fly, pete of babyshambles (whatever that is), IRMA, and especially MESHUGGENER. having DATA SERVER and, um, SERT for the dr seuss bet didn’t help. ultimately i sorted it all out except i had no idea what to put in MESHUGGE_ER/TO_. i’ve seen meshuga used in clues before, but i had no idea there was this longer noun form, and my yiddish declension skills are evidently not up to snuff. as for TON, who knew that kip was a unit of weight? i’d only seen it used as britslang for sleep or a nap. i’m not sure why i thought a kip would be half of a craggy peak, though. :)

  2. Gareth says:

    This is an unbelievable achievement! 2 double stacks and a triple stack is just insane to pull off! And then you realize it’s a 72 worder… And The non-theme fill is hardly affected, in fact it’s got lively long entries well. Gobsmacked!

    The two Mony Mony’s are sung by Tommy James and the Shondells and Billy Idol respectively.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: Fireball

    “I filled in three of the long answers without even seeing their clues.

    I got GRAVEDIGGER right off the bat and so many of the crossings followed it into the grid, so the two answers below it tumbled too.”

    Amy, in some ways you and I are very different people.

    I still haven’t solved this one. Grr. It’s even harder than the first one. And all this after I gave Ogden Porter a thumbs up on his cute “how’m I doin'” survey.


    Gareth, don’t forget that septuple stack at OMELETS. Pure delicious poetry.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Grrrreat NYT puzzle by Dan Naddor! (Does he really have an atelier? Would a log set in his fireplace be a GRATE LIER?) Much fun, especially the last one — Greasy Rider! LOL

    As for Pete Gordon’s Fireball, I needed help: it was more than a a tad too hard last night, and I didn’t think I’d benefit from keeping it on the burner till another day dawned…

  5. Howard B says:

    The MONY MONY remake was Billy Idol’s sort of one-hit comeback in ’87. A little more attitude and snarl than the original, but essentially the same song done up ’80s-rock style. Still fun, and still spun by your local wedding party DJs. Ask for it by name (twice)!

  6. Mitchs says:

    Agree that Fireball was easier than hoped for/expected. The longs all came pretty easily – the tougher solves were in the SW and NE.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Who are you callling a firefighter?


    and gotta have the link to MONY MONY.

  8. Karen says:

    I had TORTE instead of TARTE and couldn’t figure out the error. Is this a German/French issue?

  9. Evad says:

    Re the Fireball, I got stuck in the west as well. Kept thinking about aphrodisiacs for “Spanish fly,” which I’m sure was Peter’s misdirecting intent. The “facility” in the computer clue had me thinking something a computer could do, not a building…guess I was thinking too hard on that one. Funniest moment was having just the CO in place for “Quicker picker-upper?” I plopped in POOPER SCOOPER (which unfortunately fit like a glove).

    Didn’t care for the “odd job” ATTENDER, but it’s a small price to pay for such a wide open grid.

  10. Anne E says:

    I agree with every word in joon’s first paragraph. These are bittersweet.

  11. ePeterso2 says:

    Dropped-crotch pants should be a signal to us that the terrorists have already won.

  12. SethG says:

    Gitano? There are billboard ads all over the Twin Cities right now for Duluth Trading Company’s Ballroom Jeans. The tagline: “Crouch without the ouch!”

  13. Jason says:

    No mention of the LA Times giving the answer “HETUP” for the clue “excited”? Seems woefully obscure to me, and the crossword tracker only shows it as having been used 4 times(including this one). Very frustrating!

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jason, in the Cruciverb database, there are 21 HET UPs and and 59 HETs, mostly clued along the lines of [Riled (up)]. I’ve been seeing it in crosswords for so long, I actually find myself using it occasionally! It’s right there with APACE, two notches better than IN A PET.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    P.S. Jason, I’d never seen Crossword Tracker before. It doesn’t go back too far, but it’s fun to plug in truly woefully obscure words that have recently appeared in the USA Today and Universal crosswords. No surprise here: Those words tend to get used in those venues far more than in the other puzzles (e.g., NYT, LAT, Washington Post).

  16. NinaUWS says:

    In NYT, I was stuck with REV instead of REW for a while . . . And I didn’t know the St. Nick song either–got it from crossings.
    I don’t love the spelling of TREF for nonkosher food . . .
    Otherwise a good puzzle.

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