Monday, 7/12/10

BEQ 5:45
NYT 3:18
LAT 2:54
CS untimed

My eyeballs and eardrums are tired. We spent the day at the Museum of Science and Industry with my sister-in-law’s family and we closed the joint down. When the giant Tesla coil makes lightning, my god, is it loud. Imagine, if you will, a gigantic electrified vuvuzela on steroids. Lots of cool new permanent exhibits there now—if you haven’t been there for a year or more, it’s worth another trip. Just bring earplugs.

Freddie Cheng’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 23I have a few reservations about this puzzle. First, there’s a lot of fill that seems out of place in a Monday puzzle. TANTALUM? (That’s the [Element with the symbol Ta].) STELAE? (Not-often-seen plural form of a crosswordese word, [Upright, inscribed stone tablets].) BIMODAL? ([Having two methods], neither of which yields a familiar word?) GERANIUM is plenty familiar, but this is more of a Saturday clue: [Flower also known as a cranesbill]. And LEADY! The word dates to the 14th century, but has it been used much since then? When a clue such as [Like some old water pipes] fits the LEA*Y pattern, aren’t 99.9% of solvers going straight for LEAKY?

Then there’s the way the theme plays out. There are four types of “special offers”: TRIPLE MILES, THREE FOR ONE, FREE REFILLS, and NO MONEY DOWN. Okay, the first two both include that 3 business, which is needless repetition, and one of them stretches the bounds of belief. Where is the supermarket that has three-for-one offers? That’s buy one, get two free? Unheard of, at least in my experience. Buy one, get one at half off, that’s more typical; or a BOGO, buy one, get one free. TRIPLE MILES for an airline, FREE REFILLS for a diner—those work. Do car dealerships offer a lot of NO MONEY DOWN deals for new vehicles? And to tie it all together, we get a partial at 52d: [“What ___!”] A DEAL. I could do without the partial.

Going back to the fill, can you have plural LYES ([Corrosive alkalis])? KIOWA is clued as a [Midwest tribe]; but they’re more of a Great Plains tribe than a Midwestern one. Coastal types may bundle us all together, but the Great Lakes part of the Midwest is so different from the Kansas/Nebraska/Dakotas vibe.(Honest.) BALMORAL, the [Scottish castle for British royals], is a name I wouldn’t have known 5 or 10 years ago. Monday!

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 24What a cheerful theme to start off the week!

  • 17a. A SMILEY FACE is a [“Have a nice day” emoticon].
  • 60a. [Blackbeard’s flag] aboard the pirate ship is the JOLLY ROGER. It’s not jolly, but the word JOLLY is thematic.
  • 11d. [Shakespeare’s women of Windsor] clues MERRY WIVES, which isn’t much of a stand-alone phrase.
  • 28d. [Bar discount times] clues the odd plural HAPPY HOURS. If you talk about multiple happy hours, you may have a drinking problem. Ask you doctor.

I don’t care for the doubling of two-word bits in the upper left corner—AS IF and OR SO feel like overkill together.

In the bottom center, the JOLLY/OLLIE/LOLL/BLABS combo makes me want to be a blob lolling about. (This isn’t about Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog.) Get some BOFFO GORILLA TORPOR going there, if you know what I mean. Maybe burrow down into a HIDEY HOLE.

15-Across amused me. An [Elephant gone amok] is a ROGUE, and I’m picturing Sarah Palin “going rogue” and stampeding about the savanna, trumpeting all the while.

Updated Monday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Famous and Fulfilled”—Janie’s review

Being famous is one thing; being fulfilled at the same time—feeling content with oneself and satisfied in one’s accomplishments—is quite another story. Today’s theme fill is made up of the names of five famous folks whose first names (which also happen to be nouns) can take the suffix “-FUL.” This leaves them as adjectives, and lexically, if not literally—well, see the title if you need more of an explanation. Randy does a great job, too, with the grid, stacking the first two and the last two pairs of names so that they overlap each other with eight letters. Today’s guilty parties are:

  • 18A. ARTFUL TATUM [Cunning jazz pianist?].
  • 20A. FAITHFUL HILL [Loyal country singer?].
  • 36A. GRACEFUL KELLY [Elegant and charming actress turned princess?].
  • 54A. WILLFUL SMITH [Stubborn rapper turned actor?].
  • 59A. JOYFUL BEHAR [Very happy comedienne and TV host?].

I think this is a terrific set of theme fill, and the adjectives more or less well-matched to their subjects. Graceful Kelly seems particularly apt; joyful Behar is funny to me because she’s so acerbic, and “very happy” is not the description that comes to mind when I think of her—nor willful for Mr. Smith. But for the purposes of the puzzle, the clues and fill are spot on.

While the cluing as a whole is perhaps too straightforward, the grid’s corners, with their 3 x 6 columns in the NW and SE corners (and double stacked plus triple-columned sixes NE and SW) gave Randy a chance to show off some. Fave fill from these areas includes SHTICK and SPHINX (try saying that rapidly!); CALIPH, CHALET and CACHED; ARAFAT, ASIANS and ATTLEE; LATVIA and LA CASA.

We get a nice pair of trios with TROIKA [Three-person team] and TRIUNE [Consisting of three]. And I like the way ALS is clued as [Capp and Capone], and ERMINE and ERMA sit next to each other in the grid. The aural build in the clue and then the fill give the puzzle just a little goose.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 25After solving, I read Brendan’s post wherein he says he was striving for the smoothest 64-word fill he could get. Hey! It didn’t play like a 64-worder. The crossing chemicals ESTER and STYRENE felt blah, but overall the puzzle came across as a 68- to 72-worder, with bright and shiny fill. Look at that—only two 3-letter words, there in the middle, and they combine to make a single word: LEA+DER.


  • 14a. OBAMACARE = [Reform enacted on 3/30/10].
  • 22a. ONE CAN HOPE = [Phrase of wishful thinking]. This is one of those rare things people say where “one” sounds much more natural and familiar than “you.”
  • 49a. SNOB APPEAL = [It’s cultivated by indie labels].
  • 57a. “ME SO HORNY” = [#83 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop]. I’m pretty sure I’ve never even heard the song, but the title phrase has absolutely entered the vernacular.
  • 59a. PROVOLONE cheese = [Deli purchase]. Yum.
  • 1d, 4d. COCAINE = [Sherlock Holmes’s vice] and IMOGENE = [“Your Show of Shows” comic Coca]. I like the surprise of Coca/COCAINE combo.
  • 10d. APESHIT = [Completely crazy]. I was stuck in that corner until this answer came to me off of the H.
  • 15d. ERECTED = [Threw up], as in “threw up a building on that spot.” I had EGESTED, which shared 5 letters with the right answer. Oy! I like clue trickery.
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16 Responses to Monday, 7/12/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    The first fight was between Clay and Liston and the second between Ali and Liston. If both fights had occurred when Ali was still Clay would the clue still be correct? If a woman becomes famous, gets a divorce and takes back her maiden name, is it fair to continue to refer to her by her former married name if the clue is wife of ______ (her new husband)? Does the notoriety of a particular name make a difference?


  2. The LEADY/SAD crossing cost me about 45 seconds to fix after my first completion was rejected. I surmise that many of the unusually high Monday times had something to do with this. Check. The. Crossings.

  3. daveH says:

    I thought the theme was a different theme – starting out with the three-business as you noted, then (thinking of Elmer Fudd from yesterday) the mispronunciation for “Free Refills”. “No Money Down” just didn’t fit at all.

    Interesting question, Steve. How would you feel about a clue, “Husband of Norma Jean”? Seems like solver ire would be context-sensitive.

  4. ===Dan says:

    Steve, since the person in question, the opponent, currently is named Ali, then it should be fine to use that name in reference to something he did in the past–even under a different name. But the fact that the name was on the bill makes it entirely unimpeachable. I think “CLAY” would have been acceptable too, since, as you say, that was the name on the bill for the first fight.

    I think in general, it has to be acceptable for a well-known name to appear in a grid, even if the name had changed subsequently. I think what would be an acceptable clue depends upon the circumstances, but the husband and the marriage would have to be well-known, and the clue should not suggest anything about the present. I’d have no problem if “wife of the 35th president” included “KENNEDY.”

  5. janie says:

    and in the lat, john gives us bonus fill with GRIN [ear-to-ear expression].



  6. John Lampkin says:

    Geez, my plan worked! Amy is cheerful. This may be the first time in my life I made a woman happy! Wow.

    Hey Janie. Yes, grin was intentional, and TEAR also was a sign of joy until it hit the cutting room floor.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Weirdest Monday NYT of the year. Had SAD first so LEADY followed but STELEE/BELMORAL seemed plausible. Not very Monday-ish.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    When I saw the clue for Ali/Liston, I was a little surprised because I thought that Ali had changed his name after the second fight (the famous “phantom punch” fight–query whether that was really a fight). I checked it out and it turned out it was after the first. My thoughts then turned to much married individuals like Elizabeth Taylor or Zsa Zsa and wondered if it would be ok to answer the clue wife of Burton with Todd or Fisher. I hadn’t thought of Marilyn Monroe, but I woould find it weird if the clue was wife of Kennedy and the answer was Onassis.


  9. Karen says:

    I took four minutes to find my error at STELEE/BELMORAL, partly because I get looking sideways at that LEADY clue. (And partly because I got a phone call while checking.) Never heard of cranesbill before; and I don’t remember tantalum.
    I’ve seen triple coupon days at the supermarket; maybe that’s what Freddie was shooting for.

  10. Martin says:

    In the BEQ, STYRENE crossing ESTER was my foothold for the northeast. The southwest was harder than need be because I was sure 35-Down was ADSORB but it wouldn’t fit. I still think the clue is wrong.

  11. ===Dan says:

    Steve, it seems to me that if the grid entry is the current (or final) name of the person, then it’s fair game for the clue to refer to some past event or status, as well as a current status. The person who was, at her death, known as Jacqueline Onassis was married to the 35th president. Wikipedia’s article begins “Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994) was the wife of the 35th President….” If the grid entry contains a former name (such as Jackie Kennedy) then I’d expect the clue to refer to some status or event when she used that name, and not a status that applied only later.

  12. bob stigger says:

    Dominick’s has occasional buy 1 get 2 free offers; Oscar Mayer hot dogs only a couple of weeks ago, for instance. But they charge so much for the one, it’s cheaper to buy 3 at Ultra Foods. A few years back they also had my all-time favorite grocery sign: BUY ONE GET O FREE. Sounds like everyday pricing to me. I suspect they intended to spell out a second “One” and didn’t proofread.

  13. Martin says:

    I know that Chicago and Ohio and Indiana and even Kentucky is the “midwest,” but isn’t it time to recognize that we implemented Manifest Destiny and it’s all in the eastern half of country? Look at a map, for gawdsakes. And Minnesota the northwest? It’s like these people are still fighting the Indian Wars.

  14. ArtLvr says:

    I’m glad I checked back here tonight! I solved the BEQ, but was watching an Antiques Roadshow as well and hadn’t figured out what that rare item at 17A really was — ha! Just a plain old CAN OPENER!

  15. ===Dan says:

    Martin, where do you think the lines would be drawn if using population weights? The Big Ten states probably should not be in the same region as the east coast. But as you suggest, the Kiowa lived west of there. I always have thought of MN and IA as midwest, probably because of the Big Ten. Now that Nebraska has joined the fold, I am comfortable with the clue.

    Come to think of it: at one point in the last decade or two I thought I heard that the NYT stylebook calls for “middle west” rather than “midwest.” The item is not part of Google’s “search inside the book” for the style guide, but the index thumbnail suggests that both are now acceptable, and should be capitalized (as in the clue). But there’s no access to a definition.

  16. Nosmo King says:

    Putting “Bill Clinton” next to the word “blew” in the CS clues was quite daring.

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