Thursday, 5/27/10

NYT 4:32
Fireball 4:29
LAT 3:40
Tausig untimed
CS 5:43 (Evad)

Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 9All right, I’ll give this puzzle credit for finding a way to break the rules but still follow them. Normally, unchecked squares like the fifth square in 1-Across are verboten, and this crossword’s got 12 answers with unchecked letters. But those unches are aligned in two columns, and their letters spell out two 6-letter words that go together. I’m not sure that BETWEEN THE LINES (6D: [Where to look for hidden words in this puzzle’s fifth and eleventh columns?]) accurately describes where those unches are, though. What lines are we supposed to be looking between, exactly? The hidden words are DOUBLE and SPACED, but again, I’m not sure that double-spaced accurately describes either the hidden words or the Across answers that contain the unches. Is it that the letters in DOUBLE and SPACED are sort of double-spaced, since there are blanks between the letters?

The 10 long answers (8 to 10 letters each) are a great batch. To wit:

  • 17A. [Japanimation character with a line of school supplies] is HELLO KITTY. Did you see the recent NYT article explaining that Hello Kitty is on the wane? This would have been a hipper crossword answer a few years ago.
  • 25A. EATS DIRT, ouch, is clued as [Takes a spill]. I think tripping and falling face first is eating dust, though, and eating dirt is nonphysical humiliation.
  • 47A. [Total witch] clues a SHE-DEVIL. Not crazy about that clue.
  • 56A. Brilliant clue—the WINE CELLAR is [Where cabs wait?]. Cabs = cabernets.
  • 11D. LICORICE is a [Food that usually comes in red or black]. The real stuff? In black? I do not want.
  • 33D. A [Sellout] in a good way is a SMASH HIT.
  • 34D. A HOTHOUSE is a [Breeding ground].

Other highlights, comments, etc.:

  • 9A. [Look like a creep] is a terrific clue for OGLE. If you are among the many who rhyme this word with “boggle,” would you do me a favor and rhyme it with “Vogel” instead? Thanks so much.
  • 59A. [“Ahhh, O.K.”] is what you probably say to yourself while working a crossword. “I SEE.”
  • 8D. [Remains here?] Where? Down there, in that CRYPT.
  • 12D. Thank you, crossings, for showing me the way to EPISTLES. [The New Testament has 21] of them.
  • 15D. The Upper Peninsula is such a cheat. [Mich. neighbor] is WIS., but Wisconsin abuts the U.P. and not any part of mainland (“mitten”) Michigan.
  • 49D. [There’s one at the end of this clue] references that letter E at the end of “clue”: a VOWEL.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 17”

Region capture 5I could do without the APSE, UNLET, ESSES, and TSETSES, sure, but there remains much to admire here. The FIVE-SECOND RULE! Now, that is a great crossword entry. And with the World Cup just around the corner, French soccer legend ZINEDINE ZIDANE is timely—plus, how awesome is that name? Fun to say, Z.Z. initials.

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 38A. If you gotta have TSETSES, a clue like [Flies over the equator?] very nearly makes up for it.
  • 62a. I love this animal’s name: [Pangolin, e.g.]. It’s also called the scaly ANTEATER. How many mammals have “horny scales”? Armadillos have their “bony plates.” They didn’t get the memo about mammals having furry exteriors.
  • 3d. I saw [Dizzying designs] and my longtime-solver reflex was to drop OP ART in there. But lo! There’s room for 10 letters, and it’s the full name OPTICAL ART for a change.
  • 20d. [Low-quality] clues ONE STAR. How timely! I just read Roger Ebert’s one-star review of the new Sex and the City movie. I saw the previews and cringed in revulsion. And I watched the TV series! But this…I don’t know what this is.
  • 28d. [Stickie] clues my second-favorite answer in this puzzle, POST-IT NOTE.

I was perplexed by 45d: [Like] clues PLEASE. It took a trip to the thesaurus to see how those relate to each other. “Do as you please” = “do as you like.” I never really thought of that “please” as being a verb that the “you” is doing.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “It’s Not Hard (Ask Your Doctor)

Region capture 6I helped Ben come up with the title for this puzzle, and I couldn’t be more proud. The theme involves E.D. (that’s erectile dysfunction, as any viewer of televised sports is well aware): each theme entry is afflicted with E.D. by having those letters inserted into them. (And the title’s accurate, because the puzzle really is not all that hard.) Here’s how it plays out:

  • 18a. [Assessment on Almodóvar films?] is PEDRO TAX.
  • 23a. To [Write off adhesive as a business expense?] is to DEDUCT TAPE.
  • 38a. [The blogosphere, under royal power?] is the UNEDITED KINGDOM.
  • 53a. [Nobleman who never has enough?] is EARL GREEDY.
  • 11d. [Two-wheelers in the rain?] are WET MOPEDS.
  • 33d, 66a. [With 62-Across, possible slogan for Burlington, Vermont (where Phish formed)?] clues WEED BUILT THIS CITY. I firmly believe that the Starship song “We Built This City” is among the very worst rock/pop songs of all time. It’s right up there with Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days,” which, if you haven’t listened to it lately, you may not think of it as truly abysmal. But it really is.

Favorite clues and entries:

  • 12d. [Frequent Hollywood villains, unfortunately] is a great clue for ARABS.
  • 6d. [Poles at the North Pole, say] would be EXPATS.
  • 14a. [Oaf] is a LUMMOX. LUMMOX is a great word, and I encourage you to all use it more often.
  • 36d. A COP is a [Five-O member]. Anyone else looking forward to seeing Lost‘s Daniel Dae Kim on the new Hawaii Five-O series? I am. Do you think the role calls for much shirtlessness? And how often do you suppose casting directors get Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Day-Lewis mixed up?

Nathan Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7Thursday’s LAT theme is fishy puns—four unrelated noun phrases in which one word gains a syllable to become a kind of fish:

  • 17a. [Price decrease for a stout-bodied fish?] is a GROUPER DISCOUNT.
  • 25a. [Habitat for orange fish?] clues ROUGHY HOUSING. Did you know that the orange roughy has brick red scales when alive, yellow-orange when deceased? And that it’s a member of the appetizing slimehead family, with “mucus-filled canals”? True story!
  • 45a. [Road for Minnesota’s state fish?] is WALLEYE STREET.
  • 57a. [Verdict for a tropical fish?] is a SNAPPER JUDGMENT.

There’s nothing in particular unifying these four entries other than the piscine puns.

More clues:

  • 1a. [Cooling units, briefly] usually clues ACS (air conditioners). This time, it’s BTUS, the British thermal units used to measure AC output.
  • 15a. [Pat’s partner] means Pat Sajak’s Wheel of Fortune partner, VANNA White.
  • 32a. [Text receivers] are CELLS, the cell phones that get text messages.
  • 35a. MIB means Men in Black, the [1997 Smith/Jones film, briefly]. More recently, people have been calling Jacob’s brother on Lost “MIB” because Jacob wears off-white while his brother is always a Man in Black. Which is also what they call Johnny Cash, but without the abbreviation.
  • Greek mythology! The ARGO is 44a: [Ship of Greek myth]. POSEIDON is 38d: [Greek sea god]. And ARTEMIS is 44d: [Huntress daughter of Zeus and Leto].
  • 24d. [Jumper cable?] that holds someone jumping from a great height is a BUNGEE cord.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ready … Aim …”—Evad’s review

Three synonyms for what happens when a bullet leaves a gun:

  • FIRE IN THE BELLY – there’s a warning phrase when a torpedo or bomb is armed and ready to be released that is similar to this, isn’t there?
  • DISCHARGE PAPERS – gah, discharge. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
  • SHOOT FOR THE MOON – this has a sense of firing closer to the original than the other two entries.

What no TASE or ZAP? Odd choice of a theme idea, imho. Who wants to be reminded of words that are synonyms of shooting something? I like my puzzles to divert me from thinking about words like “discharge” and “fire.” (You can tell I’m not a video game fan, unless it’s non-violent ones like Myst, Bejeweled or Ms. Pacman.)

Anyway, let’s see if there’s some fun to be had lurking in the non-thematic entries:

  • “Steve’s co-host at the 82nd Academy awards” was ALEC Baldwin. (The Steve was Steve Martin.) I didn’t find them nearly as funny as I had hoped they would be, nor in the same league last year’s host, Hugh Jackman. Who’s ready to start a “Bring Hugh Back!” letter-writing campaign to the Academy?
  • So who remembers Chuck BARRIS in the “Gong Show”? My favorite bits were the Unknown Comic, Jaye P. Morgan’s lewd comments and the zany Rip Taylor. Aah, the golden days of daytime TV.
  • Another throwback to 70s TV with MESSY describing “Oscar Madison’s room.”
  • Enjoyed the double-V (is that then a W?) of VERVE (“Energetic quality”).

See you tomorrow!

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16 Responses to Thursday, 5/27/10

  1. pezibc says:

    After the first pass the grid was still nearly pristine – on Wednesday, ouch.

    Caught and cracked the theme fairly quickly (relatively speaking) but all those letters (including the 15) weren’t much help with the crosses. I get the ‘BETWEEN THE LINES’ even if less than perfect. I’m completely okay with DOUBLE SPACED; its a double-space down to the next block. Pretty cool.

    With 39A MOTEL and 35D INTERNET, lots of problems in that corner. I really wanted HOT HOUSE and knew that SHEL had to be right and eventually sussed it out.

    Some nice clues with 22A, 27A, 42A, 50A, and 24D.

    Love the licorice – the real thing, not the kid stuff.

    Don’t think that I’ve ever seen SPRUCE stand alone like that. Always associate it with -s -ed -ing up. Went and took a look at the word after I was done. Very nice.

    Have never heard of K’NEX.

  2. Plot says:

    A relatively easy Thursday for me, though it took me a while to get hellokitty because I initially filled in St. Jude for 3D. It wouldn’t have surprised me if there was some crazy anime character whose name started with HEJL.

    Fireball was also relatively easy, but I got lucky in that both of the 14-letter entries were gimmes. Never heard of a PALE in that context though; in hindsight, I suppose that could have been inferred from the word ‘palisade’.

    Man, it’s great to finally have a premium NYT subscription. I’ve shied away from the comment section in the past because I often couldn’t access the puzzles until a day or two after they came out and I didn’t want to get spoiled. That shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    “Beyond the pale” is where you’ll find the connection to fence posts, otherwise rare?

  4. LARRY says:

    Amy – Suddenly my link to the Times puzzle doesn’t work, even tho the puzzle page shows me logged in. Any ideas?

  5. Howard B says:

    My favorite kind of Times puzzle, a rule-breaker with quirky answers. HELLO KITTY, that SHE-DEVIL… I knew there was something simister in those little beady eyes ;).

    The theme is loosely self-referential; the theme letters themselves are perfectly double-spaced in relation to the grid.

    Fireball was also easier than normal, but chock full of fun stuff. Couldn’t remember how to spell that soccer/football player’s first name beyond the Z at first (ZINE? ZENI? ZITI’s already in there…), then remembered it after a few crossings. Top-left was tricky.

  6. Evad says:

    Yeah, re the FB, I had FOOT RATE and DATE LINE first, leaving me with RALES (?) and TANE. Switched TANE to TAME (“Beat in a way”…made some sense to me in terms of beating to submission, not unlike to CANE someone!) and DATE LINE to DATE TIME, leaving me with RATES for those fence poles. I just chalked it up to a definition of RATE I wasn’t familiar with….I never caught the dupe between FOOT RATE and RATES, or I would’ve finally stumbled on the right entries.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Agreed, the NW corner of the Fireball was toughest… The LAT play on fishes amused me, especially with the TICKER pain on WALLEYE STREET needing an ANODYNE of late!

  8. joon says:

    amy, was august of 2008 timelier for HELLO KITTY? that’s when my first accepted crossword ran. it turns out that HELLO KITTY is the only common word, phrase, or name that contains the norse god LOKI.

    liked the NYT puzzle, but yeah, it was easy. my fastest thursday ever on paper. i saw where the CRYPT clue was going, but something strikes me as ungrammatical about it. what part of speech is “remains here”?

    fireball was easy too. ALPHA RAY was my first answer in the grid; probably helped me to break open a tricky NW. i never even saw the zidane clue; once i had the last six letters, i just dropped his whole name into the grid. until just now, i thought CONDI might be a board game that you store in the same cabinet as rummy. we used to play rummikub, but it wasn’t all that fun. i have more than a cabinetful of games, but that’s no longer one of them. mystery answers: THE VALET, RINGDOVE.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon: Yes, 2008 was better. The NYT hadn’t informed us that HELLO KITTY was on the wane then.

  10. Papa John says:

    What the heck is “fireball” that you’re all talking about?

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Papa John, it’s Peter Gordon’s own brand of crosswords. Mostly tough(ish) themelesses, mostly by Peter himself. If you want one more good puzzle a week, sign up at the Fireball Crosswords page. For $10.61, you get all the 2010 puzzles. (Whether Peter will continue in 2011, I don’t know.)

  12. John Haber says:

    I thought the theme was layered, clever, and fun, but for me this was one of the hardest Thursdays ever, after a quick race through the NE and then fairly quick through the SE. Since there are fewer crossings and more three-word answers, you had to be on the right cultural wavelength, and obviously I’m not. Never head of HELLO KITTY or KNEX, say.

  13. Martin says:

    Newsday glitch of the day: clues say TWA/ADDS, answers says TWO/ODDS.

  14. John Farmer says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT, the kind of word- and grid-play that is the kind of change of pace I like to see, and the reason I enjoy Thursdays especially. It seems to have VEXed some people, based on reactions I’ve read. Not sure why. The DOUBLE SPACED theme seems clear enough. I also disagree that there are unchecked letters in the grid. The way I look at it, there are none. Every letter is part of two answers. That’s standard.

    The Times zipped by quickly, but the FB was a tough slog for me. I knew ZIDANE’s name but couldn’t spell it, needed nearly every cross. I guessed the wrong letter with GAMMARAY, which held me up. I still am not sure about FOOTPACE (not a word in my vocab) instead of FOOTRACE at 1-A. Another trouble spot for me was LARAM. The “e.g.” in the clue didn’t register, and the four in the Fearsome Foursome are all five-letter answers (GRIER, JONES, LUNDY, OLSEN). I had tried a couple of them before I finally got it. In any case, the long answers were very lively. Good puzzle.

    The clue in the LAT that stopped me was “Somber film genre.” I knew the answer was NOIR but I didn’t write it in first pass. I just don’t think of film noir as somber. It is, sure, but I would probably use other adjectives before somber. Anyway, the fish have nothing to be somber about. Better to be in an LAT puzzle than in the Gulf.

  15. Michael says:

    Not to take anything away from Josh’s solid effort, but Trip Payne had a similar theme on October 27, 2001. Both are brilliant in their own right.

  16. Plot says:

    Speaking of Trip, he just posted a new 17×17 themeless on his website. Good stuff, as usual.

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