Wednesday, 7/7/10

NYT 4:41
Onion 3:48
LAT 3:00
CS tba

Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 4Checking the calendar…yep, it’s Tuesday night and this puzzle is dated Wednesday, July 7. Is it just me, or is this a Thursday puzzle scooching up a day?

The theme is puns based on dead European male composers:

  • 17a. “BIZET, SIGNAL!” (busy signal) is clued [Command to a French composer at an intersection?].
  • 30a. [Command to a Hungarian composer at the piano?] is the exhortation, “PLAY, LISZT!” (Playlist.)
  • 46a. [Command to a German composer on a baseball diamond?] is “THROW, BACH“! (Throwback.)
  • 61a. “HAYDN, GO SEEK!” is the [Command to an Austrian composer on a scavenger hunt?].

Did you happen to notice that answer up there at 1-Across? [Veracruz’s capital], that’s JALAPA. Population <300,000. I sure didn’t know this one.


  • 11d. ABS OF STEEL! When I had ABSOF— in place, all I could think of was a prime example of tmesis with expletive infixation. Wasn’t seeing that ABS/OF word break. These abs are a [Hard core?].
  • 29d. [1939 title role for Frank Morgan] is WIZARD OF OZ. Crosswords give Bert LAHR all the love.
  • 33d. Why not cross the Hungarian composer with TOKAY, the [Hungarian wine]?
  • 12d. POOL is a [Game involving banks], as in bank shots off the edge bumpers and into the side pocket.
  • 5d. On the golf course, PUTTING is a [Green skill]. I suspect some people will be at a loss here, what with the P coming from JALAPA.
  • 45d. “MAIS OUI” is [“But of course!,” in Marseilles].
  • 8d. For the mathy crowd, there’s a SINE WAVE, clued as [Symbol of simple harmonic motion].
  • 43a. Interesting excerpt in this clue: SAKI is the [Author who famously ended a short story with the line “Romance at short notice was her specialty”].

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 5If you TRY something, you take a crack at it, a stab, a shot (so violent!). Have a go at it. Make a bid. Or do whatever verb it is you do with an essay. The theme entries begin with those TRY synonyms: CRACK OPEN, BID ADIEU, STAB IN THE BACK. GO WITH THE FLOW, SHOT DOWN, ESSAY TEST.

Nine clues:

  • 9a. [Hekzebiah Hawkins’s daughter] is the fictional SADIE Hawkins.
  • 16a. [Phillips et al.: Abbr.] made me think of screwdrivers and Mackenzie Phillips, but the gist here is East Coast prep schools: ACADS. like Phillips and Exeter.
  • 38a. [Like “Beowulf,” e.g.: Abbr.] clues ANON., as in written by an anonymous author.
  • 41a. [When doubled, a number puzzle] clues KEN, as in ken-ken.
  • 42a. [“__ Swear”: 1959 Skyliners hit] is completed by THIS I.
  • 5d. [Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief] is golfer Retief GOOSEN.
  • 24d. [The Dardanelles, e.g.] are not a Motown girl group but a geographic STRAIT.
  • 42d. TWIDDLE is a great word. It means to [Move about absently, as one’s thumbs].
  • 46d. [One half of a tiff] is “HE SAID.” Another half is “she said.”

Updated Wednesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Going with the Grain”—Janie’s review

When Donna talks about “going with the grain,” she’s not referring to the way one cuts fabric but (pretty much) to those “amber waves of …” Each of the three theme phrases (15 letters all) ends with a word that names a grain. And let me not forget to add that each of the phrases is a stand-out in its own right, imoo. See if you don’t agree:

  • 17A. LIKE WHITE ON RICE [As closely as can be]. This one is making its CS debut and possibly its major puzzle debut as well. The etymology of this (yes) genuinely colorful “Southernism” is sketchy at best, but it’s been around for decades at least. Its meaning would derive from the fact that rice and its color are inseparable. Well, white rice anyway… Now back to that “pretty much” qualifier in the first paragraph. I always thought of rice plants as being green, but it seems that the ends of the long-grain variety would qualify as “amber,” too.
  • 37A. CATCHER IN THE RYE [Holden Caufield’s titular “position”]. Funny clue. Am not sure that I’d ever thought about the title in relation to baseball… Also enjoyed seeing AWRY and its jaunty clue [Wonky] in the mix.
  • 57A. SOW ONE’S WILD OATS [Indulge in reckless, youthful behavior]. Why does the name “John Edwards” come to mind?…

Anyway, here’s how (long-grain) rice, rye and oats look in the field:

This puzzle derives much VIGOR [Energy] from its non-theme fill (and clues) as well. First of all, there’s some implied bonus fill. We get another grain in the grid, and that’s CORN [Tamale necessity]. And where in the U.S. does it grow in abundance? Same place as that [“Field of Dreams” setting], IOWA. All those grain fields require some tending, of course, and therefore some [Tilling implements] or HOES are provided. With good field (and LAWN) maintenance you’ll be pest-free, but should you see one, please make the midway the only place you actually whack-a-MOLE.

There’s long, strong fill in TWENTY-ONE [Blackjack target] and DRIVERS’ ED vividly/accurately clued as [Class in which the lesson might come to a screeching halt?].

JESTS [Kids around] and JOLT [Sudden blow] make for a strong NW corner—not only because of the “J,” but also because of the specific image-inducing clues. I also like how the “T” of the former creates the start of THE GRINCH [Seuss villain with a heart two sizes too small]. And that’s a grizzly if lively clue for the word that comes off the final “S,” too: [First in a series of slasher flicks] for SAW

Donna incorporates a little Old Testament mini-theme by way of EVE [First lady], ESAU [Seller of a famous mess of pottage] and MIRIAM [She left Moses in the bulrushes].

Finally, some fave clues:

  • [Bridge position] because at four letters and not EAST or WEST, the sea-faring HELM felt very fresh.
  • [Strawberry Fields benefactor], a fine way to celebrate Yoko ONO.
  • [Hit or miss?] because I missed for so long. VERB. Let the solver beware!

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 7Everything you wanted to know about ABSINTHE is found in this puzzle. I had the opportunity to try absinthe in Prague back when it was still illegal in the U.S. but I’m partial to beverages that, you know, taste good. Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. [Popular 19th century nickname for 51-Across, with “the”] is GREEN FAIRY. Never heard that term.
  • 21a. [French name for the ritualistic preparation of a cocktail made with 51-Across] is LA LOUCHE. Never heard of that, either.
  • 26a. [Psychoactive component in some formulations of 51-Across that allegedly caused hallucinations] is THUJONE. That doesn’t ring a bell, but the -ONE ending did. It’s the THUJ part that looks implausible.
  • 47a. [19th century poet who called 51-Across his “beautiful madness”] is RIMBAUD. Yeah, he was an absinthe tweaker.
  • 51a. [Spirit that saw the ban on its sale in the United States lifted in 2007] is ABSINTHE. Wait, ABSINTHE can see things? WIth the hallucinations, I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • 60a. [Author who felt tulips growing up his legs upon drinking his first glass of 51-Across] is OSCAR WILDE. Never heard that one, but it’s a peculiar image and I like it.

You’d think a puzzle whose theme was filled with so many “never heard of”s would have been really tough, but the surrounding and crossing fill behaved beautifully and gave me no trouble.


  • For sheer ballsiness (or ovariness), a shout-out to the Super Crosswordese Crossing of ADIT and ETUIS. The former is a mine shaft opening, though in the Onion, the clue (57d. [Opening at the end of a shaft]) looks lewd. The latter are 64a: [Ornamental needle cases]. I think the drug-abuse harm-reduction folks should provide heroin users with ETUIS for hypodermic needles. ETUIS and crossword books.
  • 43a. [Backpackers, frequently] are HIPPIES.
  • 66a. [Fist bumps] are DAPS. “Terrorist fist jab” is not the proper term.
  • 24d. [“You got chocolate in my peanut butter…” candy brand] is REESE’S. Mmm.
  • 31d. To [Put down in writing?] is to PAN something in a review.
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25 Responses to Wednesday, 7/7/10

  1. Martin says:

    Funny how people don’t know Jalapa but they know its pepper, the jalapeño.

  2. joon says:

    yep, thursday hard for me, too. but great fun.

    al! welcome back! long time no see time.

  3. pannonica says:

    Bumpers!? Rails, if you please.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    So I first thought the theme of the LAT was TRY CRACK.

  5. Jan says:

    I’m having a problem with the theme of one of the USA Today puzzles, but can’t find any website that discusses them. I hope it’s OK to ask here. The theme title is “Your place or mine?” and the three long answers are “Central American”, “Beginning of Time”, and “Storybook Ending”. I’ve racked my brain and even dreamed about this puzzle, but just can’t understand the theme. Can anyone help? It’s the 6-24 puzzle, by Phil Kaufman. Thanks!

  6. pauer says:

    Hm. Here’s the USAToday in question:

    I think it’s just BEGINNING, CENTRAL, and ENDING. Pretty weak, but when you’re dealing with such a low-quality puz in the first place (see ALULA, RENAL, STUPA, OTIC, NITER and ILIA) I guess it’s not surprising.

    Or maybe it’s cryptic, since the central letters of American are ERIC, the beginning of Time is T and the end of Storybook is K; then just anagram to TICKER for the final “aha!” ;)

  7. John Haber says:

    Trying not to read any of the above, but wondering if anyone’s experiencing this. It’s hit me for four straight days with the NYT site and not only with puzzles. Basically, I’m barred access, but so far (till now) have gotten in by exiting the browser, clearing cache and cookies, and trying again.

    It can happen either when I go to a specific news article or the log-in page for puzzle and other subscribers. It usually happens after I’ve already just read another article without a problem. While news articles don’t usually ask for a log-in, I then get a screen asking that I log in. Either then or after trying username and password, I’m told that “For security reasons, your account has been locked” and to choose another password. If I try to click on the link to do so, I’m asked for my email address. Submitting that produces only “system error.”

    Conversely, if I go from the log-in screen without trying to do so, but rather with the Back button back to the index page for, say, world news, and then try to click on an article I previously read without logging in, I get the log-in message again.

    OTOH, at least most of the time, as I say, exiting the browser does it. But not this time. All told has happened about ten times now.

  8. NinaUWS says:

    Well, I goofed by having BAR for 16A in the NYT. You can have a sand bar and a bar band . . . it didn’t sit well with me to have the words in different positions, but I got stuck there. I am chalking it up to the heat!

  9. ArtLvr says:

    In the LAT puzzle, I got 16A ACADS okay but would note that in my day Phillips Academy Andover was always referred to as Andover, not Phillips! Teen-y nit.

  10. Meem says:

    ArtLvr, Think that the LAT 16 A acads refers to both Exeter and Andover. NinaUWS, bandbox: a cylindrical lightweight container for small articles of clothing. Visualize an old-fashioned hat box.

  11. Jan says:

    Thanks, pauer! I figured it was BEGINNING, CENTRAL, and ENDING, but they’re not really “places” except maybe places in a book or on a train route? If that was the intention, then yes, it’s very weak. But now you have me wondering how TICKER would fit the theme? :)

    I only did this puzzle because we were going on a trip and I wanted some extra puzzles to print out and take with me, since I’m always up-to-date with LAT and CS. Guess I’ll need to find another resource!

  12. Evad says:

    So what is a band box, then? Or is it a box band?

  13. sbmanion says:

    I am sure that a band box is also some kind of small box, but the usage I am most familiar is in baseball. A baseball field with small dimensions, like the old Ebbets Field, is often referred to as a bandbox.


  14. Ruth says:

    I’ve heard the (very old-fashioned) expression “neat as a band box” or “looking like he just stepped out of a bandbox” meaning perfectly tidy and put together. I don’t think there really is such a thing as a bandbox anymore.

  15. Martin says:

    Here’s a group of bandbox-making volunteers.

  16. John Haber says:

    Just for whining update, with enough attempts, I’ve been able to read all of the day’s paper, but am still effectively barred from puzzles.

  17. Martin says:


    Have you sent the Times a trouble report?

  18. Wes says:

    It’s a shame they couldn’t work in a reference to Mahler in a composer-themed puzzle – it’s his 150th birthday today.

  19. pannonica says:


  20. J Kess says:

    I thought that Esau bought the pottage, not sold it.

  21. Martin says:

    He did. The clue is wrong.

  22. I started by guessing the Mexican city at 1-across incorrectly. I ended with a 2-minute-plus Ripstein Rule fix. Needless to say, I had more fun with the Thursday puzzle…

  23. Tuning Spork says:


    I first saw your post last night and I was as clueless as you were as to the theme answers. I think Pauer is right that CENTRAL, BEGINNING and ENDING are the “places”, even though that’s a bit iffy, especially “central”. (“Center”, yes.)

    But, I also tried to make sense of the clues with BEGINNNING OF TIME meaning “T”, STORYBOOK ENDING meaning “K”. But I noted that it’s CENTRAL, which is less exact than CENTER, so went with “RIC”. I put them together and came up with TRICK. Thus, the “theme” was obviously all a ruse to confused us. ;-)

  24. Jan says:

    Tuning Spork,

    Love that solution! :)

    Is it possible to write to Phil Kaufman? Maybe through USA Today?

  25. Joan macon says:

    John Haber’s comments are interesting, as I have the same problem; not with crosswords as I haven’t figured out how to do them on the computer, but just with ordinary computer pages. My son thinks I have a problem with the computer, but I suspect the problem is me and I just haven’t got it yet. Oh well.

Comments are closed.