Friday, 5/14/10

NYT 5:14
CHE 4:38—I suggest you solve this one on paper (long theme clues)
LAT 4:27
BEQ Marching Bands 5:09
CS untimed
WSJ 8:29

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5Is this really just a 64-word puzzle? It plays more like a 68- or 70-word puzzle—lots of excellent fill, relatively little clunky fill. I was too busy noodling through the twisty clues to notice the  puzzle’s dimensions.


  • 1A. [Its workers aren’t behind closed doors] because they all work in open cubicles. They’re in a CUBE FARM. I nearly put TUBE FARM, working my way backwards and contemplating unheard-of agricultural options.
  • 17A. [Places for some flicks] of the cigarette are ASHTRAYS. I considered NIGHTIE for 5D (the [Often red item of apparel turned out to be a FIRE HAT), which nudged me towards NOSEGAYS for 17A. So wrong!
  • 26A. Best clue I’ve seen for AMINO: [Acid head?].
  • 27A. The [Singing group] that sings like a canary consists of a bunch of STOOLIES, ratting out the bad guys. Stoolies would be a lovely name for an a cappella group.
  • 34A. Dictionary trivia! SET [occupies 25 pages in the Oxford English Dictionary].
  • 46A. I love MOPED because it can be the past tense of the verb “mope” as well as the [Fuel-efficient transportation] with a motor and pedals.
  • 48A. “SO THERE!” is a [Cry when rubbing it in].
  • 51A. I like [Play an ace?], as in an air ace, as a clue for AVIATE. Given the low word count, I can swallow AVIARIES (12D: [Zoo sections]) being in the same grid.
  • 56A. HOLSTERS are [Places to store barrels?], if they’re gun barrels.
  • 1D. [Washing-up place] is the COAST where things wash up (tar balls in the Gulf of Mexico, alas), not a basin where you might wash up.
  • 13D. Aha! A prison SENTENCE is the [Follower of one’s convictions] in court.
  • 25D. Great answer—”TOUCH ME” is a [1969 hit for the Doors].
  • 31D. Another favorite entry—the ONCE OVER is a [Cursory cleaning, say].

Potential trouble spots, less familiar words:

  • 29A. Crosswordese ECU is here. [It was worth three livres].
  • 39A. I forget if I learned SCREE ([Mountainside debris]) as crosswordese or in Intro to Geology.
  • 49A. [Hippodrome competitor]  is a TROTTER, a sort of racing horse. Chicago chef Charlie Trotter would probably appreciate getting the crossword fame too, you know.
  • 53A. [Currency that replaced pounds in 1964] clues LEONES, the currency of Sierra Leone.
  • 55A. ERNEST [___ Evans, aka Chubby Checker]—really? I had no idea Chubby Checker wasn’t the name on his birth certificate.
  • 6D. Oh, crosswordese cousin AGAR, is there anything you can’t do? You’re a [Clarifying agent in brewing] as well as an ice cream thickener?

Other notes:

  • ONE-NIGHT BEAVER BIKINI? Barry, Barry, Barry.
  • 9D. The ABBOT is clued as [One giving prior consent?]. Does this mean the ABBOT gives consent to the priors at the monastery? Not really clear on that.
  • 52D. The fragment MAH is clued as the [Start of a Chinese game], mah-jongg. This is my pick for worst entry in the whole puzzle, and it’s not 100% awful. It’s gettable.

Steve Atwood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Prefixes and Suffixes”

Region capture 6Many root words can be modified by adding prefixes or suffixes. What Steve Atwood does here is add one of each to form two words—and then he mashes them together into one mutant word:

  • 16a. [Word that could mean “not entirely disobedient” or “headed for the metro”] is SUBWAYWARD. “Not entirely disobedient” is sub- + wayward, and “headed for the metro” is subway + -ward. Nifty, eh?
  • 19a. [Word that could mean “before Samuel Johnson’s 1755 book” or “related to fortunetelling”] clues PREDICTIONARY.
  • 35a. [Word that could mean “force vacationers to vacate” or “one who takes alternate routes”] is DETOURIST.
  • 54a. [Word that could mean “sparsely filled with settlers” or “added a certain punctuation mark to”] clues SEMICOLONIZED.
  • 60a. [Word that could mean “become too small to see” or “similar to a family vehicle”] is MINIVANISH. This one feels a little inconsisted because “vanish” doesn’t really contain a suffix.

I didn’t grasp the full effect of the theme while I was solving because the long theme clues were only partially visible while solving on screen. But even then, I liked the theme. It’s more elegant if you can actually read the full clues, mind you.
Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Rant and Rave”—Janie’s review

Yesterday’s homophones–sometimes called homonyms–give way to today’s synonyms. And what high-drama synonyms they are. The four cousins to “rant” and “rave” are rage, storm, rail and scream. Shades of The Snake Pit, no? (Many characters in that 1948 depiction of life in an insane asylum did [Bounce off the walls], I’m afraid, though I’m not certain that they actually ECHOed…) Each of these words is the last one in theme phrases that offer them a more neutral context altogether:

  • 17A. ALL THE RAGE [In]. What a simple, uncluttered, perfect clue. I love it.
  • 11D. DUST STORM [Windy weather phenomenon in the Great Plains].
  • 35D. THIRD RAIL [Dangerous subway track]. This is actually the most successful base phrase for my money, as rail here is entirely unconnected to anything having to do with turbulence or, um, high spirits.
  • 62D. “HE’S A SCREAM” [“That comedian had us rolling in the aisles”].

There’s a fine array of clue/fill pairs that work well with each other, and they include:

  • [Proclaim] STATE and [Proclamation] EDICT. An [Oktoberfest exclamation] is “ACH!”
  • To [Really relax, slangily] is to VEG OUT; the grid-adjacent SLEEP, by comparison, is described as something [New parents might lack…]. These clues/concepts feel a bit interchangeable (in a good way). As anyone who’s taken yoga can attest to, sleep is something that can be accomplished when you allow yourself to “really relax” and veg out is something (else) new parents wish they could take the time to do. Ah, well. Everything in time.
  • A [Parched feeling] is THIRST; [Moistens] is WETS; a [Southwestern gulch] is an ARROYO (a valley that has been cut by a stream]; it’s a place where you can almost see the water [Evaporate], or DRY UP.
  • [Israeli dance] is HORA; [Synagogue scroll] is TORAH.

Back on Tuesday we saw the word skimpiest in the grid, and I suggested that “Itsy-Bitsy…Bikini” might fill the definition-bill. Today we’ve another example that’d do just as well, and since turnabout is fair play, thank you, Gail, for cluing SPEEDO as [Beefcake beachwear].

Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7You’d think the theme would have become obvious once I had MAGIC JOHNS filled in, wouldn’t you? But the Magic Johnson connection didn’t dawn on me until I made my way down to the explanatory ON END (50d: [Upright, and what’s been removed to form this puzzle’s theme answers]). The ON has been removed from the END to form each of six theme entries. Even with that trick in mind, I still didn’t get the other five so quickly. Either the theme clues were hard or my brain is in low gear today.

I love the ON END theme revealer. ON END and NO END are often clued indistinguishably—”incessantly,” “constantly,” “without interruption.” So I kinda hate them both, and I’m glad to see one of them used for a grander purpose than filling a corner. The ON ends were docked from these theme entries:

  • 18A: [Underwear that never needs washing?] are MAGIC JOHNS. Except JOHNS ≠ underwear, even though long johns = long underwear. Is the L.A. Times afraid of both bathrooms and prostitute customers?
  • 20A: [Attack of Tolkien’s Ents?] is a TREE SURGE.
  • 32A: [Press watering hole?] might be a MEDIA BAR.
  • 44A: [English horn?] is an ANGLO SAX.
  • 56A: [Chest bump cousin?] is BELLY BUTT. That’s not a thing, but it should be.
  • 61A: [Fido’s greeting?] clues WELCOME WAG. I had a welcome mat stuck in my head.

Minus one point for including some fill (IN ON, TOON) with ON ends.

Nine other clues:

  • 17a. [Noted cat suit wearer] is Bert LAHR, who wore the Cowardly Lion costume. Whether he also wore stretchy, skin-tight jumpsuits, I cannot say.
  • 34a. [Main ideas] are THEMES, but I had THESES for too long. Really mucked things up there.
  • 42a. [Colorado conqueror] is a whitewater RAFTER on the Colorado River.
  • 3d. [Without precedent] clues the great entry UNHEARD OF.
  • 12d. [Winchester weight] clues TONNE, so apparently Winchester is supposed to make us think of England. I think of Winchester rifles and Charles Emerson Winchester III from M*A*S*H.
  • 21d. I got in my own way here, too. [Miso bean] is SOYA, but I was thinking, “Mung bean? What’s another name for mung bean? It’s not SOYA.”
  • 45d. [1955 title role voiced by Barbara Luddy] is LADY, the Disney cocker spaniel.
  • 58d. [Michigan, for one] is my friendly neighborhood Great LAKE. I first thought of the state and the university, but not the cartoon frog.
  • 60d. [Hamlet’s kin], like 58d, made me think of the wrong entity. I thought of Shakespeare rather than small-h hamlet, a TOWN.

Wall Street Journal crossword, “Insurance Claims”—by Marie Kelly (“really Mike” Shenk)

Region capture 8I finished the entire puzzle without having a clue what the theme was. Eventually it dawned on me that SLIDING SCALE was the base phrase for the middle entry—the titular “Insurance Claims” are the HMOs claimed by each theme entry, changing them from familiar to made-up phrases.

  • 23a. [Distance between golfer Vijay’s blemishes?] is SINGH MOLE SPACING.
  • 29a. [Singer Johnny’s auto care product?] is CASH MOTOR OIL.
  • 41a. [Area where chefs get paid?] is DISH MONEY LAND. Aw, too bad Jeffrey isn’t blogging this puzzle. He loves Disneyland.
  • 63a. [Brew whose mascot is a jerk coming home lying down?] clues SLIDING SCHMO ALE.
  • 87a. [Barack’s chief of staff making a TV appearance?] is RAHM ON THE SHOW.
  • 101a. SHAH MOVED ICE is clued [Ousted Iranian monarch got a job hawking sorbet?].
  • 109a. [Title awarded to the student who does worst in algebra?] is MATH MORON OF HONOR.

I like how the changed phrases are so dramatically different from the originals. We get three people’s names (Singh, Cash, Rahm) disrupting regular words. “Matron of honor” and “single spacing” get the craziest changes.

Brendan Quigley’s blog variety puzzle, “Marching Bands”

I do always enjoy a good Marching Bands puzzle. I think the ones I solve in the Games family of puzzle magazines are usually by Patrick Berry, aren’t they?

My favorite part of solving this particular puzzle was the misstep I made. In band D, I had ART*CHO for the beginning of [It’s full of drawers: 2 wds.]. Why, look at that letter pattern! It must be ARTICHOKE HEARTS. Um, no. ART SCHOOL. Anyone ever notice that ART SCHOOL and ARTICHOKE have the same ART*CHO** pattern?

Overall impressions: (1) No crap in the fill. (2) Plenty of interesting multi-word phrases. (3) Good clues, some of ’em tough. (4) Wait, does anyone call the phenomenon BOND WOMAN? I’ve only heard Bond girl, but I’m certainly not opposed to jettisoning a “girl” designation for grown women.

Do you want to check your answers against mine? Here you go:

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16 Responses to Friday, 5/14/10

  1. pezibc says:

    -2 for me:(( Thought that the NW clueing was tricked up well beyond what was fun. CUBE FARM was new for me. I even had CUBEFA?? Guess I was thinking of Cubs FANS:(( – which seems stupid now.

    Rejected BEACH and much later got COAST – so close.

    Top clue for me is 49D ‘Its shell may be soft’. Thought CRAB right off, but CLAM came up just days ago, so I cleverly dropped in C?A?. Sure that they were right – they were both wrong. The most memorable trick clues are when the crosses come slowly and then the correct entry becomes obvious.

    CASHDEAL slowed 30D and SW.

    Got ONE NIGHT right off, so wasn’t tricked up with DRIVE INS or THEATERS; the crosses didn’t work. Would have been a big problem otherwise, because I had almost nothing else up there.

    Almost fooled on ‘Hippodrome’. CYCLIST fit – but knew that that is velodrome.

  2. Gareth says:

    Loved LOVED the puzzle; Found it very hard to get in. Eventual anchor bottom-left – COG/ONCEOVER/GYRATION.

    No idea about CUBEFARM… M was last letter.

    Tripped myself up in bottom-right putting in CLAM then CRAB @ 49D and RIAL @ 50D, but then I think that was the point…

    “ONE-NIGHT BEAVER BIKINI?” – With FATHERED and TOUCHME thrown in for good measure. Oh BEHAVE!

    Chubby Checker is a pun of sorts on Fats Domino.

  3. Evad says:

    I spend a good part of my day in a cube, but came here certain that I had CUBE FARM wrong and wondering how, as all the crossers looked solid to me. My only thought was it referred to someone who worked in an ice factory, but then I couldn’t figure out the “closed door” reference in the clue. As I think of it, it might be an older phrase used when cubes became the new offices–you don’t see anyone on “Mad Men” in a cube, but I’m not sure when they took over, probably in the late 80s?

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Very tough! I too had the SW first, then NE. The NW had __ FARM because I was thinking red Flannel…it was a fluke that I never erased the F. The COAST and two googles for RHYS and TOVAH cleared up that corner.

    The rest went well, after I exchanged my Taproot for ROOTLET, swapped Teach me for TOUCH ME and saw the TUTOR plus STOOLIES. ROTI for Indian bread rather than French entrée? Still a mystery, but it had to be…

    Thanks, Gareth, for the link between Chubby Checker and Fats Domino — LOL.

  5. Matt M. says:

    I thought the CHE was really great — clever and original. My favorite of the week, for sure.

  6. merlbaby says:

    this is sort of old news, but i wanted to thank martin and artlvr for coming to my defense on “andr-oid” in my may 2 sunday puzzle, which was called “once is enough.” i did it only because, as they said, “andr-” and “-oid” are legit starters and enders on their own, so i decided to connect them (although i generally loathe how answers like “andr-” and “astr-” look in a grid). originally i had “and r” clued as “r ___ (time off)” and “-oid” as “planet’s tail” or some such, so i wasn’t forced to go the “andr-oid” route, but i changed them at the last minute just because it seemed okay. first time i’ve ever done it, i think, and maybe the last.

    i also couldn’t help noticing that wednesday’s patrick blindauer puzzle, “jump starts,” was eerily similar to the very same “once is enough” puzzle mentioned above. mine had exactly the same kind of theme answers — three-word expressions where the first and third words are the same — but mine omitted the third word rather than the first. thus, i had HOME SWEET and patrick had SWEET HOME; i had TIME AFTER and patrick had AFTER TIME; i had SUNDAY BLOODY and patrick had BLOODY SUNDAY. just a coincidence, i know, but since it was only 12 days ago i thought someone might have mentioned it here.

  7. Jan says:

    The CS has another great theme answer right in the middle of the puzzle: 39A. “Circulatory opening in a building” is AIRVENT, which is includes all the letters in “rant” and “rave”. Cool!

  8. David H says:

    Very funny. I was asking my wife for help via AIM on this one – I was right in there with the BIKINI BEAVER GEISHA TOUCH ME, thinking it was a theme a-brewing, and when she texted “Behave” it didn’t occur to me that she was giving me an answer – just admonishing my bawdy humor.

    Used to work in a cubicle, never heard of Cube Farm though – the C was the very last letter. I thought of Tube Farm – like hamsters or gerbils or something. Also had CRAB then CLAM. Teener? Is that in the language?

  9. Martin says:

    The first citation of teener in both the OED and MW11C is from 1894, with additional citations in the OED though 1980. First citation of “teenager” in the OED is 1941, although they show “teenage” from 1921.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I had the same thought as I did the puzzle on the plane (alas not to Disney).

  11. Jan (danjan) says:

    Evad – late 80s might be about right for the onset of CUBE FARMS. I worked for an insurance company in the 80s, and when we moved to a new building in 1985, there were workstations with common walls, which was a new concept for us. I just read that this (only) 25-year-old building may be torn down. It’s been empty for a while, as a suitable tenant for the open floor plan has not been found.

  12. joon says:


    1. i had a pretty strong negative reaction to ANDR/OID, but i think it’s because it was confounding my expectations, and not in a good way. normally those {With blah-across, blah} clues split up the answer into whole-word pieces. so maybe you could have tried {Prefix that goes with [blah] to mean blah} instead.

    of course, the bigger issue is that neither ANDR nor OID is particularly desirable fill, as you obviously already know. i stick to the advice i first read in patrick berry’s book: when your grid contains a low-quality fill entry like an awkward partial or suffix, try to draw as little attention to it as possible by making the clue easy and forgettable. then again, i’m no merl reagle, and although i don’t think it worked out well in this particular case, i think it’s awesome that you try stuff that i couldn’t get away with.

    2. curious! you’re right that they are very similar themes, but as a solver i did not connect them. probably the reason is that patrick’s puzzle was unusual for its clue numbering, so that stuck out as the salient feature of the puzzle to me. so maybe they are more similar to construct than to solve, which is why i (and others, maybe) didn’t make the connection.

  13. John Farmer says:

    The CUBE FARM predated the late-’80s. Not that I want to admit it, but I worked in one the early part of that decade. When did they start? Wikipedia says maybe the 1950s. But they might have become “popular” sometime after that.

    The term CUBE FARM, btw, probably came about later than the ’80s. I don’t remember using that term till much later, at least. Wiki says the origin of the term is “lost.”

    The idea that the office is an alienating environment that crushes the human spirit didn’t start with the cube farm. Take a look at the pics of offices in these movies: The Crowd (1928) and The Apartment (1960).

  14. Martin says:

    We had semi-open offices in 1972. Walled areas were fitted with 6 cubicles. We called them six-packs. It was kind of fun.

  15. Mel Park says:

    I know it’s late Saturday and I’ve already done all of the Saturdays but here I am making a late meaningless comment on the Friday BEQ “Marching Bands” puzzle. No one is going to read this. So be it.

    I surprised myself in breezing through this format but I was stuck on the top line for a while. As a med school prof I really wanted the top line [1a Curving outward of the knees] to be GENU VARUM or some such (because that is a term that I always have to look up because I’ve never had lecture on that subject). I kept thinking that its equivalent, VARUM KNEE, begins with”VA” and VASE is a still life subject but that was nonsense. Reverting to common terms, the next thing that came to mind was KNOCK KNEED and then it’s opposite BOWL LEGGED, the obvious answer, finally dawned on me.

  16. John Haber says:

    I ended up with _OAST crossing _UBE FARM after otherwise finishing the puzzle and then wavered. Finally decided that COAST kind of made sense and neither BOAST nor TOAST possibly could, grinned, and bore it. But I’m ever so glad to check in here and learn that I got it right and what CUBE FARM means. I mostly thought WTF, not my favorite sensation.

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