Thursday, 7/8/10

BEQ 7:55
Fireball 6:43
LAT 3:30
NYT 3:28
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 10This is one of those puzzles that is both themeless and 100% themed: Each and every answer has an EVEN number of letters, as does each and every word in the clues. So there are no 3s, no 5s, no 7s—just 4s, 6s, 8s, and 10s. The clues don’t use the words a, the, for, or and, and those are generally useful little words.

This crossword is also a good bit easier than yesterday’s NYT. Do you think the two should have been switched?

The fill contains some splendid answers and some woeful ones. First up, the best:

  • 14a. JUAREZ is the [Sister city of El Paso]. I know this mainly because crossworder Monica Krausse is in El Paso.
  • 19a. GELATI are [Desserts in Rome]—or desserts at the Paciugo chain of gelato joints. I like the fondente extra dark chocolate, personally.
  • 24a. REDGRAVE is [“Georgy Girl” star Lynn]. Vanessa has an odd number of letters.
  • 44a. I actually do like DAN’L here. Dan’l Boone, Dan’l Webster. [Relative of Thos. or Wm.] puts me in mind of Jas., the traditional abbreviation for “James.” My family was listed in the phone book under my dad’s name when I was a kid, and a family friend assumed my dad’s real name was Jasper.
  • 12d. LA TRAVIATA is your [Venice premiere of 1853].
  • 30d. [Rudy Giuliani turf] is the BIG APPLE. Bloomberg has 9 letters. Why not [Giuliani or Koch turf]?

And now, the worst (look, all those words have an odd number of letters):

  • 17a. UNBENT is [Straight].
  • 39a. TESTINGS are [Laboratory sessions]. Why do only one testing when you can do a few testings? (Ouch. Generally the noun form is “test.”)
  • 48a. FEEL WARM feels weird, at least with the clue [Suffer from high humidity, e.g.]. Can you think of a clue with even words that connotes the feverish version of feeling warm?
  • 1d. [Tropical avians] are ANIS. Crosswordese.
  • 6d. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of [Bygone pitching star Johnny] SAIN.
  • 35d. LESS OF is basically a 6-letter partial, no? [Thinks ___ (disesteems)]. I disesteem the answers in this section of the post.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “What’s the Sense?”

Region capture 8Peter toys with the quote theme concept by featuring a meaningless quote, which is actually more fun than your standard quote/quip theme. It helps, of course, that I love tough puzzles and Peter keyed the clues to a Saturday NYT level. The theme entries play along with that, as having one word of the intentionally meaningless quote doesn’t lead you to the other words. Well, unless you remember the Chomsky quote, which I’ve seen before but forgot.

The line is “COLORLESS / GREEN IDEAS SLEEP / FURIOUSLY,” and it’s 100% grammatical. But something can’t be both colorless and green. Ideas don’t have colors. Ideas can’t sleep. And it’s quite difficult to sleep furiously. This sentence is discussed in LINGUISTICS classes.

Hardest clues for me:

  • 14a. [London writer of fiction] is EDEN. I had to poke around Google for a few minutes post-solve to understand this. Jack London wrote a book, Martin Eden, whose protagonist is a struggling writer.
  • 15a. [Free-range animals’ places] clues LEAS. I am pretty sure you will never see the word “lea” on the packaging of any free-range meat. These free-range animals are ranging more freely than that.
  • 57a. [Hockey player who’s often in the penalty box] is an ENFORCER. Sports, meh.
  • 68a. [Opposite of set] is ROSE, in terms of the sun’s apparent movements. I was thinking of Jell-o setting.
  • 70a, 29d. Two French administrative departments’ capitals, CAEN and LYON? Pfft.
  • 22d. [Antepenultimate Greek consonant] is PHI. One of these days, I should learn the order of the letters in the Greek alphabet. How many of you have that memorized?

Favorite five:

  • 21a. [High sign?] is the EUPHORIA you may have if you’re stoned.
  • 43a. HENNA is a [Temporary tattoo dye]. I was just talking about henna tattoos last week with my son’s dentist, who was sporting one.
  • 66a. Kristy [McNichol’s “Little Darlings” costar] is Tatum O’NEAL. Ah, movies from my early adolescence.
  • 9d. Surprising trivia: [Setting of the oldest continuously operational synagogue now under the U.S. flag] is ST. THOMAS, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • 23d. [Quad locale] is the THIGH where your quadriceps muscle is, not a college campus.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9The late Dan Naddor crafted a theme in which words that can fill in the blank in “shoot the ___” appear at the end of unrelated phrases:

  • 18a. [*Second most populous city in Michigan] is GRAND RAPIDS. Shoot the rapids in your canoe if you dare.
  • 24a. [*1980 biopic about boxer Jake La Motta] is RAGING BULL. Shooting the bull is the same as…
  • 35a. …shooting the breeze: it’s chatting. [*Beachgoer’s relief, perhaps] is an OCEAN BREEZE.
  • 48a. DREAMWORKS is the movie [*Studio co-founded by Spielberg]. I had to look up “shoot the works.” I use “wad” in the phrase to express the same concept.
  • 54a. [*Phenomenon near the autumnal equinox] is the HARVEST MOON. Shoot the Moon is an Albert Finney movie I liked and the card game it’s named for.

Five clues:

  • 4a. [“My Life on the D-List” comic Griffin] is named KATHY. I just read her memoir, Official Book Club Selection, and enjoyed it. (Don’t judge me. Yes, you. I see you there, arching your eyebrow at me.)
  • 1d. [Whitewater figure] is STARR because prosecutor Kenneth Starr was so fond of whitewater rafting. You should see that guy shoot the rapids!
  • 2d. I was afraid [Prepare for more pictures] would be something woeful like REPOSE, but it’s RELOAD, as in reloading film in your non-digital camera. It’s been years since I’ve seen anyone loading film.
  • 9d. A SEAM is a [Line of pants?]. That clue is just plain weird. Why the question mark? Is it playing on some other familiar phrase that is completely escpaing me at the mo?
  • 12d. My favorite clue: [Notre Dame’s locale] is the state of INDIANA, where the University of Notre Dame is located. No Hunchback, no Esmeralda, no City of Lights.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “PintoS”—Janie’s review

Ah, “PintoS.” Not these or even these, but the wordplay type. That’s where a word’s initial “P” is changed into “S.” And with that fine bit of WIT [Drollery], Martin presents a new twist on four old phrases—three of which sound as natural the phrases they’re based on. All in all, this makes for a pretty durned successful set of theme phrases. See for yourself:

  • 17A. [Fed up with other people’s trash?] SICK OF THE LITTER. Oh, this is wonderful. The entire meaning of the base phrase (pick of the litter) is absent. None of the other theme fill is as successful in that regard, though each has something to recommend it.
  • 29A. [Activity involving U-boat hopping?] SUB CRAWLING. While I find the new phrase a tad iffy, that clue does a great job of setting it up. And the whole concept is funny. Just hope everyone’s wearing scuba gear… (which may even be how some folks go pub crawling…).
  • 47A. [Service that lets you buy a PlayStation quickly?] SONY EXPRESS. Cute. Seems Sony has some extended service program called “Sony Express Ship Extended Service.” (I wonder if it gets delivered by Pony Express…)
  • 61A. [Reviews for psychics?] SEER ASSESSMENTS. And when those are “reviews for psychics by psychics,” then they’re seer peer-assessments, right?

ASTONISHES [Knocks for a loop], TAKING BETS [Bookie’s activity] and SVENGALI [Evil hypnotist of fiction] all add to the quality of the longer fill, IMHO [Bit of chat room shorthand]. Ditto ATELIER [Artist’s studio] and IN FOCUS [Clearly viewable].

There’s a bit of serendipity in the SW corner where ASIA [Everest’s continent] crosses ASSAI [Very, to Verdi] at the former’s final “A.” First, there’s that playful clue for assai, but then notice the anagram and the way assai = asia + s.

Seems a bit odd to have “ET TU” [Rebuke to Brutus] in the same puzzle with CAESAR and then to clue Caesar as [Salad variety], but I s’pose that’s what keeps things interesting!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “We Interrupt This Program…”

Region capture 11This fun, fresh theme interprets the familiar phrase in the puzzle’s title as TV show titles that are interrupted before you get to the end. The clues allude to both the original show’s plot and the theme entry’s twist on it:

  • 17a. Gossip Girl is curtailed to GOSSIP GI, a [Drama about an anonymous soldier who blogs about juicy military scandals?].
  • 25a. The Odd Couple is shortened to THE ODD COUP, a [Comedy about a government takeover that’s alternately well-organized and absurdly sloppy?].
  • 34a. How I Met Your Mother drops down to HOW I MET YOUR MOTH, a [Sitcom that gives the backstory on getting to know a bug?].
  • 48a. American Idol becomes AMERICAN ID, a [Reality show in which psychoanalysts compete?].
  • 57a. China Beach turns into CHINA BEA, a [Drama about actress Arthur’s trip to Asia?].

I’m not crazy about that last example, but the first four are perfect and entertaining.

Other highlights:

  • 14a. [Virtual adoption] gets you a CYBERPET. My son does not have a cyberpet, but he did lose his first real pet yesterday. Bugsy, the bug-eyed goldfish, rest in peace. (Luckily Frenzy and Brian still look healthy. Bugsy had dropsy, the poor thing. Did his name doom him?)
  • 2d. A BYO is a [Restaurant that may charge a corking fee, for short]. If you bring beer, do you avoid the charge?
  • 5d. UPPITY means [Putting on airs].
  • 10d. [Options for those dealing with personal demons?] are EXORCISMS. Don’t try this at home, kids.
  • 32d. WINTRY MIX, that blend of snow, sleet, and rain, is a [Forecasting term coined in January 1996]. Wow, would that feel good right about now. Chicago has a South Carolina humidity today, though luckily not the heat.

Toughest clue:

  • 36d. [Abraham’s father] is TERAH, and this is one of those Old Testament names I’ve never seen before.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Technological Breakthrough”

Region capture 12Clever gimmick/theme, though the ambitiousness of the theme is accompanied by a few compromises (nobody’s excited to include ASTRUT, SLEEKEN, LEASER, and NBAERS, are they?). The Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince Who Is Again Known as Prince recently proclaimed that “THE INTERNET is completely over” and thus he will not make his new album available for download. The Internet: It’s like MTV, no longer relevant or hip. So saith Prince. Anyway, Brendan interprets that by putting Internet letters over other letters in selected squares. 1D is AMERIND, but to work with the first three Across intersections, .GOV is included in the AME squares for {GA}MS, {OM}IT, and {VE}NA. The other corners have an added .COM over the HAI of THAI, .NET beside the IDO of PERDIDO, and .EDU below the TRO of TROD.

I like the two spoken phrases, “OH, HI” and “I MUST SAY” and “YEAH, YOU.” I like FO’C’SLE (also spelled FO’C’S’LE, but I feel two apostrophes is plenty for one word) because it’s crazy. I like the Smart (hidden capital S in the clue) MINICAR, EL NOR{TE}, DIE HA{RD}, and a WATER BED. I’m not crazy about SUSAN B. as an entry because it’s basically a 6-letter partial, but on the other hand, it’s SUSAN B. Anthony, and I like her history and her dollar coin. I like [Giant head?] as a clue for SOFT G, and I like PHOOEY even though the cartoon clue didn’t quite resonate.

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19 Responses to Thursday, 7/8/10

  1. Johnny SAIN is actually part of a famous poem involving him and his pitching teammate Warren Spahn on the 1948 National League champion Boston (pre-Milwaukee pre-Atlanta) Braves, who apparently hadn’t much pitching depth. While not verbatim of the original poem, the line that has remained in the memory of many is: “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain.”

  2. Jumping Frog says:

    ANIS are in SAIN

  3. sbmanion says:

    First we’ll use Spahn
    then we’ll use Sain
    Then an off day
    followed by rain
    Back will come Spahn
    followed by Sain
    And followed
    we hope
    by two days of rain.

    Original doggerel shortened as noted by Brent. Sain was great in 1948, the year the poem was coined, but Spahn was and still is the all-time winningest left hander.

    Outstanding if somewhat easy puzzle by John.


  4. Agree the NYT would have been a good Wed. it is a very easy Thursday.

  5. Tuning Spork says:


    [Fall in love, e.g.]
    [Come down with SARS, e.g.]
    [Bask in sunlight]

    This one’s not all even-lettered words, but a cute clue might be [Have the fuzzies].

  6. Gareth says:

    LAT: Delightful theme! Loved the clue/answer pair for LOISLANE! Also a big “Thumbs up” to the entry OKSIGN. Love puzzles with wide open corners like this! One of Naddor’s best. Very Sad though to note we’re counting down probably the last few puzzles left in Rich Norris’ vault.

    NYT: Essentially a themeless with a curious feature here. I ended up at the theme-revealer pretty quickly and wrote in the answer, but knowing that all the answers are EVEN doesn’t affect your solving in any way, so… A themeless. A pretty good one though. CABLECAR, OPENLATE, NOSERING all fab answers. Clean too, no ugsome abbrs. or partials, only the 1 or 2 roll-your- own combos that you pointed out. One thing irked me a little – the clue for FEELWARM seemed rather off… The most puzzling thing though is the difficulty level, which as you said felt like straight Wednesday despite 0 3 letter answers. Yesterday felt like a hard Thursday! Don’t think the grids should’ve been switch, but the clues could definitely have been tweaked down/up for the two puzzles. Could’ve had 3 chewy NYT themelesses this week but ah well, still a delightful themeless grid! Toughest crossing: RENU/SURETE – ouch!

  7. Gareth says:

    Note: last 2 NYTs done in applet…

  8. pannonica says:

    Amy: On the BEQ, I saw it not as the letters being over-as-in-on-top-of but as over-as-in-my-cup-runneth-thus. The quartet are url extensions, after all. This interpretation avoids the problem of the wayward letters interfering with the crossing answers.

  9. LARRY says:

    And we should recall that a few years after that great ’48 season the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and later to Atlanta, where Hammerin’ Hank Aaron was their first big star.

  10. LARRY says:

    Re BEQ’s puzzle: Didn’t like Hong Kong Phooey or TRL. Too much obeisance to the kiddie set.

  11. John Haber says:

    RENU and SURETE was the hardest crossing for me, too, followed by SPERRY and ROCS, although last corner to fall was NE. And yes, easy for Thursday. I bet it’s a theme that some people will like much more than others, according to their interest in crosswords as a topic in their own right apart from, well, solving crosswords.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    I had the same idea as pannonica — I put the BEQ entries outside the grid, interpreting “over” as “over the boundary of the grid.”

  13. sbmanion says:

    John Haber,

    Did you originally have FLEECE instead of FLENSE, hence ROCS instead of ROSS? I only mention it because I put in FLEECE originally while thinking “I don’t think that’s the right word.”


  14. cyberdiva says:

    Well, I for one did NOT think yesterday’s NYT was difficult and certainly not as difficult as today’s. It took me a while today to get the lower left (I didn’t know FLENSE and got it right only because I guessed right on ROSS), and I was truly done in by the upper right. Part of the problem may have been that I had gone to an Italian restaurant last night, and the Desserts section was called Dulcis. So that’s what I put in for Desserts in Rome, which led to all kinds of problems. I also couldn’t remember whether Z was the only Scrabble 10-pointer or whether Q was as well. The only thing that stopped me from putting in QUEUES is that it would screw up DULCIS. And ZTILES never occurred to me. Sigh.

  15. Martin says:

    The BEQ was brilliant, of course, and ripped from the headlines no less. Pannonica, I agree with your interpretation too (“over” as in overflow was how I visualized them), but not everything after a dot is an extension. Those are TLDs. TLD is the lovely TLA for “top-level domain.”

    There are lots of TLDs. My favorite is for Saudi Arabia. It’s “.xn--mgberp4a5d4ar,” which is the ASCII version of “السعودية.”

  16. pannonica says:

    Martin, I guess you tld me! Somewhere I knew that, but somewhere else along the way I was seduced by the notion of an “extension” being so apt.

  17. John Haber says:

    Steve, I misspelled it FLENCE, hence ROCS. I didn’t know ROSS.

  18. Martin says:


    Yeah, it wasn’t much of an error to call them “extensions,” but the Cru Forum is not safe at the moment ’cause Amy and Dan are engaged in Battle Genitalia, so I was just passing the time here until it blows over.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, Joon has detonated a bomb that decisively ended the Battle.

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