Tuesday, 5/25/10

Jonesin’ 3:32
LAT 3:00
NYT 2:58
CS 6:03 (Evad)

There are a couple new bonus puzzles at the Fiend forum:

Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 21Oh, dear, again? Another brands-of-bar-soap puzzle? I’ve seen versions of this at least three other times, I think. It’s a fine theme, yes, but it treads well-traveled ground. It’ll be new to newbies, and to the zillions of solvers who pay no attention to themes, but I…sigh. Here’s how it plays out:

  • 39A. SOAPS are [Afternoon fare…or a hint to the ends of 20-, 33-, 41- and 52-Across].
  • 20A. On a phone, a [Keypad precursor] is a ROTARY DIAL.
  • 33A. [Ghana, once] was called the GOLD COAST. Ivory Coast has Frenchified its name to Cote d’Ivoire.
  • 41A. FLESH TONE is a [Body suit shade, perhaps]. You know how some people find the word “moist” gross? I feel that way about “flesh.”
  • 52A. [One of two in a Christmas song] is a TURTLE DOVE.

What? There’s no phrase ending with SOUTH OF FRANCE, my preferred brand of French-milled soap? Ripoff!

Five more clues:

  • 53D. [River to the Ubangi] is the UELE. There’s not much to say about it, judging from Wikipedia.
  • 5A. [Crosswise, on deck] = ABEAM. Nautical crosswordese! Is this actually a common word among sailors? Dictionary tells me the word applies on airplanes, too.
  • Hat tip! 26D: [Tip, as a hat] clues DOFF, while MA’AM is 30A: [Term of address from a hat-tipper].
  • 46A. SPOT ON means [Absolutely perfect].

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Vocabulous–a little of this, that and the other”

Region capture 18I kinda wish Matt would make themeless puzzles more often. Perhaps he’s one of those people who can’t help coming up with themes and is thus compelled to make themed crosswords. Come on, who’s with me? Let’s march on Matt Jones’s house and demand more themelesses.

And while we’re at it, maybe we can demand harder clues, because this one took me only as long as a Wednesday NYT. I liked the fill, even if the clues lacked bite. Highlights:

  • In the Long Names Department, we have EDIE FALCO astride BEN VEREEN, and also Krist NOVOSELIC.
  • BUSINESS END is a terrific answer, idiomatic and rich.
  • The SECRET SANTA is fun, and the ARROW KEYS are pragmatic.
  • 28d. [Vowel inclusion with a disclaimer] is “SOMETIMES Y,” as Y is a vowel in a word like rhyme but not so much in yard.

Things I did not know:

  • 53a. [Former wrestler Lex] LUGER? I pay no mind to wrestlers. To me, a Luger is a pistol that I may well have shot as a kid, or someone riding a luge in the Olympics.
  • 17a. I’ve heard of The Screwtape Letters but had no idea SCREWTAPE was a [Title C.S. Lewis demon].

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 20This theme is simple yet fresh: Take two people from the same professional arena who share a first name and describe them with an apt in-the-language phrase, like so—

  • 20a. Baseball players [Robinson and Thomas?] are BALLPARK FRANKS.
  • 37a. [Owens and Henry?] are a COUPLE OF BUCKS. The other two theme entries tie more specifically to the pair’s careers, whereas this one is simply “two guys named ___.”
  • 54a. Musicians [Garfunkel and Tatum?] are both PERFORMING ARTS.

I like the theme, but if the middle phrase were a better fit with the other two theme answers, I’d love it.

Five more clues:

  • 15a. [Dedicatee of Beethoven’s “Bagatelle in A Minor”] is ELISE. I have no idea if Für Elise is this piece or a separate work.
  • 29a. [Where the buffalo roam] feels like a mismatch with LEA. I picture English cows roaming in a LEA, but buffalo are out in the prairie, the grasslands. Technically they’re one and the same, more or less, but who ever heard of the American West having LEAs?
  • 62a. [Sweden neighbor, to a Swede] clues NORGE, meaning “Norway.” Norge was also the name of a dry cleaner or laundromat in my town when I was a kid.
  • 1d. BIG BEN is the very familiar [Nickname of London’s Great Bell], which I have never heard called the “Great Bell.”
  • 37d. [Bargain for reduced charges] clues COP A PLEA. Somehow, I was thinking only of bargain prices and reduced rates.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Middle Weights”—Evad’s review

Mr. Ashwood-Smith gives us three 15-letter theme entries that have a unit of weight (TON) in their exact middle:

  • GOES OUT ON STRIKE – “Goes out on a limb” is a more familiar phrase to me, but that, alas, is only 14 letters.
  • BRIDGE TO NOWHERE – ex-Governor Palin makes it into our CS puzzle two days in a row, this time with her support for the “Alaska boondoggle” $398m Gravina Island bridge.
  • MOSQUITO NETTING – not as colorful as the other two entries; is this used outside of movies set in Africa?

So a tight construction all in all and I liked that the helper entry for TON was in the center of the grid as well. Here’s what else I noticed:

  • A couple of nice 10-letter entries crossing 2 theme entries each: the unusual “Air current caused by a racecar” for SLIPSTREAM and “Illuminates, in a way” for SWITCHES ON. (Hard to come up with a clue for SWITCHES ON without using the word “on,” isn’t it? Do you “illuminate” a lamp or the room it is in?)
  • TO NO END (“Excessively”) was hard to parse wasn’t it? I had TOO MUCH at first.
  • Sympathy for the EU in the puzzle as well: ILS (“They, in Calais”), ICH (“I, in Munich”) and DER (“German article”).
  • Who doesn’t love to see puppets in their puzzle? KUKLA finds his way into ours today–can you pick him out in this picture? (Hint: he’s not the human.)
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17 Responses to Tuesday, 5/25/10

  1. pezibc says:

    If I didn’t know there was a theme I would have missed it – but like the puzzle well enough. 6:46 is good for me and that was after burning time at 1A. FIRE was the logical best answer for me, so had to run through the crosses to get going.

    Liked STUNT MAN and SALARY.

    Question: Given that answers are readily available on multiple websites within minutes of puzzle availability – why lock the solution on us?? I’m sure there is a reason; not so sure if there is a good one.

  2. Wes says:

    Anyone else find the juxtaposition of 51- and 59-Across a little alarming? I’m surprised Shortz let that one slip by.

  3. Gareth says:

    Second day in a row where I finished the NYT considerably faster than the LAT. This WILL change on Wednesday though…

    I’m sure we just had the “SOAPS” theme a couple of weeks ago, was it in the LA Times? Which is unfortunate. Didn’t notice the theme while flying through the puzzle… Afterwards looked at it and said to self “Soaps, again??” Without notice 39A. This despite only DOVE being sold in South Africa (to my knowledge. We do have LUX which is way harder to shoehorn into this theme!) Very conservative grid BTW, about as conservative as is allowed under Will Shortz’s rules. Works to make a faultless if somewhat blah early week puzzle, though.

    LAT: Same experience – great idea, would’ve been even better if 2 were like 1 and 3. “Bagatelle in A Minor” is familiarly known as “Fuer Elise.” I only know this because I had to try write a clue for FURELISE…

    @Wes LOL… Didn’t see that… Subliminal messages!

  4. Ladel says:


    Shortz never would have missed that. Come to think of it, have you ever seen him and Superman in the same room? I’m just sayin’…


  5. joon says:

    the jonesin’ blew my mind. wow, what a great puzzle. NOVOSELIC on TECH-SAVVY on ARROW KEYS? SECRET SANTA crossing BUSINESS END? man. the fresh stuff is so good that i’m entirely willing to overlook corners like CVS next to HE A next to RRS.

    cool theme in the LAT. i hate plural names in a grid, but this is a very clever twist. i’m with you on the not-quite-as-tightness of the middle entry, though. what else could it have been? JUMPING JACKS? UNPAID BILLS? EASY MARKS?

    as for the soap theme… isn’t IVORY COAST tailor-made for this theme? it’s two soaps in one! also, it’s going to be awesome when côte d’ivoire shocks brazil and portugal to win the group of death.

  6. Angela says:

    Nuke Iran? Reminds of the hours we students spent looking for hidden anti-war messages in song lyrics during the Vietnam War. Except “Nuke Iran” is much scarier that “make love, not war.”

  7. Jeffrey says:

    I’m with joon on the Jonesin’. One of my favorite puzzles of the year.

  8. Martin says:

    Another error in today’s Newsday. The answer key wants SHAVES/CAMEOS while the clues want SHAVEN/CAMEON.

    That’s not somebody being sloppy with quote marks.

    Maybe you should blog the daily Newsdays so we can vent communally.

  9. Dan F says:

    It’s probably somebody changing a letter in the grid, but neglecting to change the clues. The absence of Mr. Happy Pencil denied me an “official” time of 1:14.

    I, too, would love more freestyles from Matt Jones (especially since his alt-weekly colleagues don’t go there, BEQ’s blog excepted of course). I said “wow” several times while solving that one.

  10. joon says:

    hmm, did that one on paper so i never noticed. but yes, i had SHAVEN/CAME ON.

  11. Alex says:

    Should we start a communal Newsday blog? I took http://ndxword.blogspot.com but am not doing anything with it …

  12. Alex says:

    (I think Akismet ate my last comment)

    Is there any interest in starting a Newsday blog? I won’t do it myself … but maybe with help.

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Alex, I rescued your first comment from the spam filter. It was just you and the post from our friend Colonic Irrigation over there.

    Hey, if anyone wants to commit to blogging the Sunday through Friday Newsday puzzles here, you’re welcome to join Team Fiend. Alex, maybe you and someone else can split ’em.

  14. joon says:

    better idea: don’t blog it every day. just when there’s something worth writing about, which is about once a month. although the sundays are usually pretty solid, if easy.

  15. Jeffrey says:

    I’m good for sharing the Newsday puzzle.

  16. nicholas says:

    on Jonesin’:

    this week’s puzzle was rather bland, and let’s not forget to point out that this is the second time in a month he’s used “ben vereen”, and that he’s used “aha” in the last 5 puzzles, with this week’s exception being “oho”. this is also the second time in a month he’s used Edie Falco as an answer.

    however, i’m still celebrating how entertaining the Formal Pranks puzzle was a few weeks back…

  17. Mike says:

    For the LA crossword: ‘buffalo’ might refer to a kind of a fish that is found in Lake Albert Lea, which is located in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

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