Thursday, 7/15/10

Fireball 7:08
NYT 4:58
LAT 3:24
BEQ 3:14
CS untimed
Tausig—see Friday post

Brendan Emmett Quigley and Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 6Today’s secret word is hidden at 66-Across, which happens to lie outside the grid below 63-Across. The invisible last letters of the six Down answers that cross it spell out SECRET, and all those theme entries whose clues allude to 66-Across are about “secret ___” things:

  • 17a. The Batcave has a SECRET ENTRANCE.
  • 21a. Your [anonymous Valentine sender] is a SECRET ADMIRER.
  • 23a. SECRET SANTA is a [participant in a gift-giving activity].
  • 35a. Elections use a SECRET BALLOT.
  • 40a. [After 66-Across, classic 1911 children’s book, with “The”] clues SECRET GARDEN.
  • 49a. A SECRET AGENT is a [spy]. Russian or Iranian or American?
  • 53a. I think of Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History rather than a generic SECRET HISTORY that’s an [exposé subject].
  • 58a. SECRET FORMULAS are [Marketing gimmicks].

Cute gimmick, this secret SECRET that modifies the eight theme answers. If you don’t figure out what’s going on before tackling the Down answers that need the SECRET endings, oy, you’re going to be struggling. 33d: [Person who doesn’t know how to quit], starts with WORKA, but WORKAHOLIC is one letter too long to fit? Not to worry—just jot that C down in the invisible square below the grid and everything will work out fine. (I’ll bet there are some solvers who do that in puzzles that don’t call for it, just because the answer they think of won’t fit.) The other SECRET crossers are as follows:

  • 56d. AMA(s), [Member of a Latin trio].
  • 57d. [Tessellation piece] is a TIL(e).
  • 41d. To [Dig up] a body is to DISINTE(r) it.
  • 54d. At last! A 4-letter European river clue actually requires a 5-letter river, the SEIN(e), for the [River that’s the site of Javert’s demise in “Les Miserables”].
  • 48d. AT RES(t) is clued as [Still].

Five more clues:

  • 43d. The nonspecific [Labor grp.] clue points to ILGWU as well as a more specific clue would have, for me. Looking it up…International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
  • 3d. WOTAN is [“Der Ring des Nibelungen” war god]. Also known as Woden, Odin, and the guy Wednesday is named after.
  • 19a. [Popular headlights] clues XENONS, meaning xenon headlights rather than a plural of the element xenon.
  • 26d. Trivia clue! ORONO is [Chief Joseph ___, after whom a Maine college town is named].
  • 31a. [Options at a gym] clues YOGAS. You might have your regular yoga, your hardcore yoga, and your bikram (hot) yoga.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 23”

Region capture 7That whole northeast corner was fighting me, SCRIM, TREVI, RENAL calculus (that’s kidney stones, not math), JOEY RAMONE, an OMANI, and TESS? They and their crossings eluded me for so long. It all came together in the end, though. Hooray!

Freshest fill: MUFFIN TOP, the who’s-that? ANDY PANDA, JOEY RAMONE, “IT’S A SHAME,” SpongeBob the FRY COOK, ad VENTI LATTE (hasn’t that been in another crossword with its near-twin VENTILATE?).

Favorite clues:

  • 41a. [Film that includes raw footage?] is a NUDIE film.
  • 60a. Did you know RIGOLETTO was [based on Victor Hugo’s “Le roi s’amuse”]? I’m making a mental note of that.
  • 13d. [2001 Wimbledon champ] Goran IVANISEVIC is a cutie. This one’s actually more of a “favorite people in the puzzle” item than “favorite clues.”

Overall assessment: Good challenge, one that may knot you up and possibly even REKNOT you.

Updated Thursday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Going to Pieces”—Janie’s review

UH-OH!” [“Looks like trouble!“]. When someone is “going to pieces” s/he’s coming apart emotionally, like Peter and Gordon or Patsy Cline, who would “fall to pieces“. When something is “going to pieces” it’s coming apart by virtue of a… by virtue of the first word in each of Sarah’s theme phrases—where they have no connection to destruction but where they intensify or add some specificity to the phrase’s underlying meaning. To wit:

  • 20A. RIP-ROARING TIME [Blast]. Makes for very fresh fill. This one and its theme-mates are making their CS debuts as well as what appears to be their (major) published-puzzles debuts.
  • 39A. SPLIT-LEVEL HOUSE [Residence where floors are separated by about half a story]. Something like this.
  • 54A. TEAR AROUND TOWN [Move hastily about a municipality].

I’m happy to say the liveliness is not limited to the theme fill but can be seen elsewhere in the grid with the likes of HOOPLA and [Ballyhoo], ECLAT and [Splash]; ANIME [Japanese cartoon art]; ADONIS and [Male arm candy]; PEACH and [Juicy fruit]; STAR [One who takes the lead] and [“Ad astra per] ASPERA[“], the Kansas state motto meaning: “To the stars through difficulties.” So they glorify challenges there. Which is very much in keeping with the American way. Particularly in the heartland.

There isn’t a lot of long non-theme fill, but I do like WRITES TO [Corresponds with]. When was the last time you received (or wrote…) a snail-mail letter? I received one the other day and nearly fainted—but I loved it. While I’ve thrown out a lot of old letters, I still have a collection that goes back some 40 years. A friend told me of a collection he’s transcribed: his grandfather’s letters home (to Indiana) during WWI. What a gold mine that is.

The other long fill? Refreshing ICE CREAM [Words before bar or cone]. As we make our way towards mid-summer, ice cream is a lovely way to cool off. Soon enough it’ll be really cool and once again we’ll be coping with sweaters of WOOL [Yarn for a winter garment] and pulling out the SLED [Downhill conveyance] to make the most of that first snow…

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 8Real and metaphorical roadways are clued as if they have specific occupational relevance:

  • 17a. [Routes to work for a bell ringer?] are TOLL ROADS, as bells toll.
  • 32a. [Routes to work for a water company engineer?] are MAIN STREETS, as in the big pipes called water mains.
  • 41a. [Routes to work for a window treatment installer?] are BLIND ALLEYS, as in mini-blinds. Hey, blind alleys have dead ends, so it would be a challenge to use it as a route to anywhere other than the end of that alley.
  • 59a. [Routes to work for a diet guru?] are FAST LANES, although diet gurus are more inclined to tell you what to eat rather than not to eat at all.

Now, none of these work in a literal fashion. Main streets are not so called because they have anything to do with water mains, for example. So this is a “suspend your disbelief/work with me here” theme.

Five clues:

  • 16a. [Mayflower employee] is a MOVER who works for the Mayflower company, which has moving vans and crews of movers. Not the pilgrim ship called the Mayflower.
  • 25a. [View from la costa] is AGUA. La costa is “the coast” in Spanish.
  • 62a. [Unlucky fisherman’s catch, in comics] is a TIRE.
  • 63a. [It’s hard to run on it] clues EMPTY, as in “running on empty.”
  • 34d. [Up in the air] can be literal, as in ALOFT, or metaphorical, as in IFFY.

Mr. Quigley’s blog crossword, “Eat My Shorts”

Region capture 9Edible apparel is the name of the game: SPAGHETTI STRAPS on a tank/cami, JELLY BRACELETS from the ’80s (replaced of late with shaped rubber bands called Silly Bandz, apparently, that kids in my son’s school appear to have had zero interest in), and the SANDWICH BOARD Brendan wears in a photo on his blog.

For Brendan, a “really easy puzzle” means it hits Wednesday NYT level. Brendan, can you shoot for a Monday Newsday level, the sort of puzzle that the hotshots hit 2:00 on paper or 70 seconds online? I don’t know if you can. I think you might fall asleep mid-cluing trying to write such basic, obvious clues.

Gotta run now—

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18 Responses to Thursday, 7/15/10

  1. It should have been a tipoff that SECRET was not merely thematic but an actual word in the puzzle when I tried to figure out a four-letter French river ending in IN. I struck ALIENS out completely at 63a. at that point and, as you noted, I struggled finishing the SW corner.

    I was going to say something about Greasy NEALE (51d.) — but I’m pretty sure I did so in a previous reply on this site two or three years ago. So I’ll refrain.

  2. joon says:

    really cool theme, made slightly less cool by the fact that it was only last week that BEQ’s blog puzzle had an outside-the-box gimmick of a similar sort. it’s just unlucky timing; who knows how long this one was in will’s hopper.

    ELP got me. nasty.

  3. Aaron says:

    Solving this in Across Lite was unfortunate, as was thinking that 65-Across was simply a synonym for SECRET, since HIDDEN worked for some of the clues, too.

    Oh well. I like the gimmick, even though I should’ve solved the puzzle about ten minutes faster than it took me.

  4. LARRY says:

    Tried IAGO and LEAR for 48 across before AHAB came to mind.
    And Paul O’Neill a multiple all-star??
    Finally, couldn’t figure out what 62 across: ELP was referring to? Google to the rescue: Emerson, Lake and Palmer (IMO an awful rock band).

  5. Gareth says:

    Whew, glad to see these two names together on Thursday and not Saturday!

    Funny, I got the first part of the theme, that each word was {SECRET} ___ pretty quickly, but took an age to twig onto the second, totally awesome part, that the bottom-left has an extra row!

    ILGWU is completely nuts, amazed I ended up with the right string of letters!

    Emerson Lake and Palmer had me for a while – deliciously cunning misdirect for ELO, which isn’t a supergroup (Though Jeff Lynne is in another supergroup)… this fact didn’t stop me even though I >KNEW< TBSP was right!

  6. pannonica says:

    I have the misfortune to share a monogram with that particular supergroup. They even reincarnated briefly with a different P drummer (Powell).

    The only thing I didn’t care for in an otherwise fun puzzle was both terminal crossings for the somewhat obscure proper noun ORONO. If you aren’t a gearhead, GT_ could be nearly anything and IW_N can be completed with either an I or an O.

  7. davidH says:

    Really loved the theme – figured out the “Secret” part way before the off-the-grid word; that was like a little bonus prize! My only complaint (and this might just be a common crossword-ese thing that I’m unfamiliar with) is the spelling of RYN – I have always known it to be RIJN – never once encountered the other spelling. How can you have a variant spelling of a famous person’s name?

  8. Tony O. says:

    Not sure who this Quigley character is, but I really enjoyed Patrick’s latest collaboration.

  9. ===Dan says:

    @davidH: Do you think “Christopher Columbus” would have liked that name? Moreover, the digraph “IJ” is often considered a single letter in the Dutch alphabet.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Quigley and Blindauer on a Thursday screams “something’s weird will be happening here”. Fun stuff.

    Anyone else find the CS supereasy? First time I broke 3:00 (2:45 on paper) on that puzzle.

  11. pannonica says:

    Damn, Martin. I was hoping I hedged enough by including “somewhat,” but it’s somewhat indefensible.

  12. janie says:

    really loved this nyt. since i’d entered AMO at 56d, it took a while for me to “see” 66a — even after i’d written SECRET to the side of my grid, once i’d caught on to (a part of) the gimmick.

    great goin’, guys!


  13. Will Nediger says:

    ELP is much, much better than ‘ELP clued as [Aid, to Eliza Doolittle], as it was last month. But then, I have a weakness for prog rock.

  14. joon says:

    no, jeffrey, i found the CS exactly as easy as every single other weekday CS (non-klahn division). pretty much every one takes me between 2:20 and 2:40 in across lite. the only super-easy one recently was from wednesday, june 23 (nancy salomon, “voice your choice”).

  15. John Haber says:

    BEQ is always a killer for me, because of his age-group interest in pop culture, and I could hardly get started. At the end, the SSE with the alternate spelling RIN, ENYA, ILGWU, “squarepants,” the misdirection ELP, and (the ultimate killer for me) LAD MAG finally left me with a missing letter.

    But in between great two-part theme. Like others, I got the first part quickly but didn’t expect to find the secret SECRET actually clued. Nice. It also threw me that, at first, I wanted RIJN and thus wondered if the whole bottom didn’t fit. When that turned out not to be so, I was less inclined to look for a trick in the SW.

  16. cyberdiva says:

    Ow, this NYT hurt! I got the “secret” pretty quickly, but didn’t carry it far enough. And it didn’t help that I have no idea what LADMAG is (a porno mag for teenage boys?) and the only Greasy in the football hall of fame that I know is Bob, and he doesn’t spell his last name that way. I also had never heard of ELP, nor the people whose names apparently make up this so-called supergroup. Other than that….

  17. ePeterso2 says:

    ELP was brilliantly clued. Enough with Eliza and Jeff Lynne already! You see, it’s all clear. It was meant to be here … from the beginning.

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