Thursday, 7/22/10

Fireball 6:35
NYT 5:09
BEQ 4:24
LAT 3:32
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

For kicks, go here and plug in your name to generate an anagram. I used the full name on my birth certificate and got LAZY, SNAKY MEN.

Jeremy Horwitz’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3Note: If you do this puzzle in the paper, I think that central square probably has a number in it, meaning the clues following it have different numbers than the online clue numbers alluded to here.

Ah, the good Reverend Horwitz has put together a pop-culture trivia theme for us. Haven’t seen his byline much since the N.Y. Sun folded. The applet’s Notepad provides the clue for the center square (which I will henceforth refer to as Paul Lynde):

  • {These two clues are for the center square — Across: [Shortest title of any #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (Britney Spears, 2009)]Down: [Length of the eight runners-up to the Across answer, all of which are answers to starred clues in this puzzle].} The answer is 3. Now, I sure didn’t know Spears had a song named “3,” but I was able to count the letters in the other eight songs:
  • 5a. [*Jackson 5, 1970] is “ABC.”
  • 22a. [*Usher feat., 2010] is “OMG.” “Feat.,” if you don’t know, abbreviates “featuring.” You’re likeliest to see this with rap or R&B songs.
  • 45a. BEN is by [*Michael Jackson, 1972]. It’s about a rat. Now, where are the paeans to pigeons?
  • 59a. [*Frankie Avalon, 1959] is “WHY.”
  • 12d. Again with the King of Pop. Three 3-letter songs! [*Michael Jackson, 1987] clues “BAD.”
  • 32d. [*Edwin Starr, 1970] is “WAR.” What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Hunh!
  • 34d. [*Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, 2008] clues “LOW.”
  • 54d. [*Rihanna, 2006] gives us “SOS.”

You may be thinking, “Wait just a minute. Only 25 theme squares? What a colossal rip-off!” Don’t lose sight of these extenuating factors:

  • Those 3-letter theme entries are the only 3-letter answers in the whole puzzle.
  • You get a rule-breaking 1-letter answer (your Paul Lynde) that is further a rule-breaking number rather than a letter, but it’s not exactly unchecked because it has both Across and Down clues. So it’s rule breaking that doesn’t leave you hanging.
  • Plus, it’s a themeless-grade 68-word grid. Okay, call it 70 with the Across and Down 3. Still, a 70-worder has enough long fill to make it as a themeless. And look at those four 9×3 stacks that fill up most of the white squares:
  • There’s the ONE O’CLOCK GUACAMOLE break in ISLAMABAD.
  • While REEXAMINE and UNDIVIDED are solid but not so zippy, MT. EVEREST is cool.
  • Then there’s IRENE CARA‘s full name, the two-word MOBILE BAY, and the fun EMOTICONS ([They often begin with colons], great clue).
  • Last but not least, CLEOPATRA and ALABASTER are a great combo atop POTENTIAL.

Least familiar answer: [Small anchors] are KEDGES. Wait, and also most of the songs.

Worst fill: Stacked crosswordese ORANT and SABOT; Roman numeral LXIV, [Year of the Great Fire of Rome].

Most phonetically  minded clue: [Like the first of May or the end of June?] clues NASAL, because the M and N sounds are both nasal. Let me tag this as a best clue. Was this yours, Jeremy, or the editor’s?

Colorful fill, <9 letters: BOOBOOS, “TIME WAS…,” HUBCAP (also with a great clue mislead, [Covering for some nuts]), MELLOW.

Jeremy, thanks for a fresh approach to “How can I bend the rules of crossword construction?” It was fun.

Patrick Blindauer’s Fireball crossword, “It’s Your Call”

Region capture 2Patrick found another pair of words that’s well-suited to the classic CLINTON/BOBDOLE theme. The central entry accompanies the theme answers BOTH SIDES / OF THE COIN, and it spells out your coin-toss options. You can fill in HEADS and have the crossing clues all work, or you can use TAILS—your call. Except it’s really Patrick’s call—HEADS doesn’t get you the Across Lite happy pencil, but TAILS does. I squeezed both letters in there on my copy.

Here are the yin/yang crossings:

  • 24d. [Compelling word] is MUSH if you’re a dogsledder or MUST.
  • 31d. [They’re held by caddies] gives you TEES on the golf course or TEAS in the kitchen.
  • 32d. [Prevents from making further progress, in a way] could be TRIPS or TRAPS.
  • 39d. [Some drinks] is nonspecifically pointing to ALES and ADES.

Five favorite clues:

  • 33a. [You might have broken it while fooling around in the backseat of your parents’ car] refers to CURFEW. What was your first thought?
  • 41a. BRAT, short for bratwurst, is a hot [Dog’s cousin].
  • 53a. [Word repeated 15 times before the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” movie line] in When Harry Met Sally is Meg Ryan’s “YES.”
  • 74a. Pete TOWNSHEND was a Keith [Moon rock partner].
  • 11d. [Cup holders] clues BRA STRAPS.

And honorable mention for one clue I don’t remember from that movie (didn’t read the book). I do remember the guy rubbing roach powder on the typewriter’s puckered sphincter, and I remember the mugwump jism facility, but this I did not recall: STEELY DAN is the [Sex toy in William S. Burroughs’s “Naked Lunch”] (37d). Wikipedia elaborates: “Being fans of Beat Generation literature, Fagen and Becker named the band after “Steely Dan III from Yokohama,” a strap-on dildo referred to in the William S. Burroughs novel The Naked Lunch.” (Apparently the novel title sometimes has “The,” sometimes doesn’t.)

Pete Muller’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 4Okay, this theme is far more interesting than the usual “word is scrambled into non-words contained in the midst of longer phraes” theme. Instead of doing this with a 5-letter word, Pete trots out the 7-letter PLASTIC for anagramming, and uses RECYCLED PLASTIC as the descriptive impetus for the theme:

  • 17a. [State of the Union, say] is a POLITICAL SPEECH.
  • 25a. One [Military tradition] is using HOSPITAL CORNERS when making one’s bed.
  • 46a. [Looney Tunes genre] is SLAPSTICK COMEDY.
  • 60a. RECYCLED PLASTIC is [Useful waste, what’s literally hidden in 17-, 25- and 46-Across].

Highlights in the fill:

  • 21a. CABOOSES are [Rear ends of a sort].
  • 51a. ISAO AOKI is a [Japanese golfer in the World Golf Hall of Fame]. How else are you going to get the deliciously nutty AOAO sequence into a puzzle?
  • 23d. WASABI is a [Horseradish relative].
  • 39d. SO-CALLED is clued with [Of questionable repute]. This clue doesn’t quite match up in my mind.
  • 48d. A MEASLY tip is [Like five per cent, to a server]. I’m usually a 20%-er.

Classic crosswordese!

  • 26d. An ORIEL is a [Cantilevered window], a bay window.
  • 30d. [Bivouac] clues ETAPE.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Capital Sums”—Janie’s review

Wow. Bravo to Patrick for the innovative gimmick that dictates today’s theme fill and for the overall freshness of the puzzle. This one’s a treat.

Each of the three grid-wide theme phrases is a European capital. But you have to do some summing up to get to the name in question. CONSTANTS, as we are reminded, are [Unchanging entities]—and each of the theme phrases has several, including one (a single word) in the GRID [Crossword diagram]. Here’s how the geography adds up:

  • 17A. [England’s capital city, as a sum?]. England’s capital city? London—which may be seen as Lon + don. Or, for the purposes of the fill: CHANEY PLUS PUT ON. Get it? Lon Chaney plus a synonym for the verb don. (I tried to use PARDO for the latter, but that was before I fully GRASPED [Came to understand] the method behind the constructor’s madness).
  • 36A. [Poland’s capital city…?]. That’s War + saw, which = BATTLE PLUS DATED. Gummed myself up to no end by not checking a cross. Initially entered GAZED, but could see that that “G” was a problem, so changed it to “D.” Neglected, however, to question AZOZ (or, without “stars,” how dazed could be synonymous with saw…). D’oh. And the moral of the story is……
  • 55A. [Spain’s capital city…?] Mad + rid, or INSANE PLUS CLEAR. Clearly!

The constants? Not only the repeated plus, but each of the capitals is six letters long, each breaks down into two 3-letter components and Patrick treats the second part of each as a verb. Consistency is a beautiful thing sometimes.

So, too, are Patrick’s choices in today’s non-theme fill. PASTRIES [Napoleon, Danish, et al.] (yum!), GAMING LAW [Statute that concerns wagering] and EXISTENT [Not imaginary] lead the list of longer fill. Then, to complement that “X,” there’s that double “Z” in FRIZZY [Tightly curled, as hair]. Not sure I concur with that particular clue. I think of this uncontrolled look as frizzy and this as an example of tight curls.

[Superlatively stagnant] is a [Powerfully effective] POTENT clue for STALEST. Other clues that made me take note include [Returned call?] for ECHO, [“Make a beeline, feline!”] for “SCAT!” [Dance that famously requires two] for TANGO, and [Schoolteacher’s security] for TENURE. So benign, and here I am thinkin’ STUN GUN, PEPPER SPRAY, VOICE ALERT. Did you know I live in New York City?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Going Braless”

Region capture 5Brendan goes BRAless today, with five theme entries that have had their BRAs deftly removed:

  • 17a. [Loogie mfr.?] is a SPITTING CO., short for “company.” I don’t like a theme answer with an abbreviation that’s usually not even pronounced as its abbreviation. “Spitting cobra” isn’t quite as familiar as I’d like a base phrase to be.
  • 24a. [Passport from Paris?] is a FRENCH I.D. (“French braid”).
  • 35a. The Braun brand of coffee makers becomes U.N. COFFEE MAKER, or [Java provider for a country club?]. I like the “country club” play.
  • 49a. [Displaying total calmness?] clues ZEN-FACED (“brazen-faced”). The base phrase feels not quite in-the-language to me. Brendan, I hope you tried like hell to get ZEN HUSSY in there but just couldn’t get it to work. I’m no fan of gendered insults like “brazen hussy,” but ZEN HUSSY amuses me.
  • 56a. [Popular doctors?] are IN SURGEONS (“brain surgeons”). I do so many untitled crosswords (NYT, LAT) that I often fail to take BEQ’s titles into account. So when this was the first theme entry I completed, I was contemplating a play on “insurgents” after first thinking it would be INSURE-something.

I’m slightly bothered by the curtailments leading to three abbreviated things (CO., I.D., U.N.) and two straight words.


  • 2d. [Drake, e.g.] isn’t just a male duck. He’s also a RAPPER. This is the sort of pop culture literacy Brendan’s solvers do well to have.
  • 10d. The [“Tourgasm” comedian] DANE COOK makes for a good crossword entry, but boy, do people scorn him.
  • 36d. [“Open 24 Hours” maybe] is a NEON SIGN. So often, crosswords clue NEON with relation to “lights,” but I much prefer the “signs” connection. I encounter far more neon signage than non-sign neon lights.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Satisfaction”

You know how scratching an itch, whether dermal or metaphorical, is so satisfying? Hence the puzzle’s title. The theme riffs on the phrase “scratches an itch” by using another meaning of SCRATCHED: [Erased, like part of 18-, 24-, 51-, and 57-Across] (37a). In each of the other theme entries, an ITCH has been SCRATCHED, or deleted, from the original phrase:

  • 18a. [Period of time when bar snacks are discounted?] might be THE WING HOUR, with Buffalo wings. (“The witching hour.”)
  • 24a. To QUIT BING might be to [Switch to Google?]. (“Quit bitching.”)
  • 51a. HELL’S KEN could be a [Mattel doll for Satan?]. (“Hell’s Kitchen,” a New York neighborhood.)
  • 57a. [Final push for a 1.0 grade average?] is a LAST D EFFORT. (“Last-ditch effort.”) My college required a minimum GPA of 2.0 in order to graduate. Wouldn’t you think a 1.95 should be able to graduate after paying all that tuition?

Seven clues:

  • 31a. A GEODE can be a [Show-and-tell rock]. My local rocks/minerals/crystals shop sells break-your-own geodes.
  • 34a. ESG is an [Influential South Bronx band made up of the Scroggins sisters]. I couldn’t even tell you their genre. Wikipedia tells me they’re funk, no wave, post-disco, and post-punk, and that their last public performance was as the Estrojam festival, which is a terrific name for pretty much anything.
  • 65a. NEL is clued as [Educational philosopher Noddings] rather than via “Nel blu dipinto di blu.” If you don’t know Nel Noddings, you can read up a bit at Wikipedia.
  • 11d. [Subway performance aid] clues BOOM BOX. Great answer. The next clue is [Luau performance aid], for UKULELE. Probably best not to try busking in the subway with a ukulele.
  • 27d. GOATISH means [Lustful; also maybe prone to eating garbage]. Or both.
  • 52d. [Condom material] is most commonly LATEX. Why, I was just talking about this at a kid’s birthday party last week. (To a woman! The kids were off playing.) She was allergic to bananas but didn’t know that latex can be a cross-allergen, and she thanked me for the information. (Other tropical fruits can cross-react with bananas or latex, too.) So if bananas make you itch, consider polyurethane in lieu of latex. This has been the Crossword Fiend Health Education Moment for the day.
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29 Responses to Thursday, 7/22/10

  1. Jeffrey says:


  2. ajaxfam says:

    All I have to say is that Will Shortz’ anagram name is TROLLS WHIZ.

    Oh, and thank goodness I have a teen-age daughter when puzzles like today’s NYT are published.

  3. Plot says:

    MILD VODKA PINT (using my middle initial)

    Nifty themes for the NYT and fireball puzzles. Regarding my NYT solving time; that does not include the time I spent reading the notepad info so there should be an extra 5 seconds or so on there. I would argue that the four 9×3 stacks in the NYT are an even more impressive feat of construction than the fireball theme, since the fill was relatively fresh and each stack was sandwiched by theme entries.

  4. Aaron says:

    This is my least favorite NYT puzzle in quite some time. Obscure fill, frivolous theme, stupid “cheatery,” and a very frustrating slog. ::shrug:: They can’t all be winners.

  5. Nice to see YOGI and BOO BOO make a joint appearance in the NYT puzzle.

  6. rick says:

    At 8A: PINCH, 8D: PEDAL, 23A: LEAF.
    Looking for ANO something at 20A.

    That corner ate up 20 minutes by itself.

  7. Sara says:

    ANAL SPARKLE LEAN! Thanks. I’m going to be playing with this all day.

  8. Dear Arch Relaxing Brain Death says:

    Curious, the puzzle is unlocked. Way surprised to meet up with Mr. Happy Pencil! I think this puzzle was born to make me happy… Always like music themes, and it worked pretty nicely as a themeless too! 3Xlong geography answers too! Funniest mistake – going “I know that date!” for 20A and writing in LXVI and completing confusticating myself in the process. Strangest mistake 26A: had ARIA. TIMEWAS and DEBORAH as clued were also highlights. Like Bruce also liked the touch of having both YOGI and BOOBOO(S) too!

  9. John Farmer says:

    On PB’s puzzle, a couple of other theme-related answers: FIFTY-FIFTY, CHANCES ARE. I thought that song might be Chantilly Lace, and I suspected a rebus … but not to be. The HEADS / TAILS coin flip was even better. Very cool puzzle.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    Do not sneer at ORANT and SABOT! I needed these to get through the NYT ordeal…

  11. Angela says:

    Finally! A Thursday puzzle I breezed through – but only because I knew the names of the hit songs! (I “got” the theme right away when I spotted 36-A but only because I knew Spears hit “3”. Now if only I could finish Saturday puzzle….

  12. John Haber says:

    I’m amazed I finished, since it was daunting for me even to start. Hardest Thursday for me ever. The theme was not good for me, since it’s exactly the kind of pop music I despise and tune out. I couldn’t have told you any of it. There was a ton of other trivia and proper names as well, with things like IRENE CARA crossing CECE. It’s ironic that the crosswordese SABOT was a gimme that I relied on. (I knew it from French anyway.)

    In other words, I hated it more than any puzzle I can remember, but if it suits you, fine. I’ll give it credit that my last corner to fall, the SE, held me up with the punning clues for ATTIC and HUBCAP (though also the trivia CLEOPATRA and the obscurity of the clue for ALABASTER and the crosswordese SHAG).

    Can anyone explain why “kids” = TADS?

  13. Howard B says:

    Nice Fireball theme, with the bonus theme answers as John said.
    Not a fan as much of the Times theme, only because a Britney Spears song I didn’t know anchored the whole shebang. But I loved the rule-breaking concept and the overall fill.

    Didn’t care for my name anagram generator’s choices as they didn’t make much sense. Prefer with the middle initial, WORK HARD, BRAIN. Now if only it would listen to me.

    Without the middle initial, an ACPT conventiongoer last year quickly came up with BRA HANDIWORK – I have to give her crazy credit for that one. Never would have seen that. This is why I love that crowd :).

  14. Ladel says:

    I gave up and decided to sort my socks, polish my bowling ball, and have a short beer.


  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Greetings to everyone from Orem, Utah!!!I hadn’t realized until this trip that Provo-Orem-Salt Lake is basically a megalopolis.

    Along the way I had a great visit with KarenUSR in Santa Fe. Karen is a wonderful hostess, incredibly knowledgeable about Georgia O’Keeffe, and many other things, and multilingual besides, in case you didn’t get it the first time. She even brought me some puzzles. So I haven’t done any recent puzzles, but Joe di P’s, a couple Sats. ago (July 10?) was terrific. A Killer, almost an Orca.


  16. Mastodon Farm says:

    Can anybody tell me how to view the notepad entry for clues like today’s center square on the Crosswords iPhone app? I can see the message that says “These two clues are for the center square:”, but not the actual clues. Thanks.

  17. Martin says:

    I’m “Brain the charm.” I’ve been called a lot worse so I must say that this is a very polite anagram generator.

  18. pannonica says:

    Wouldn’t “charm the brain” be nicer?

  19. ===Dan says:


    Mastodon Farm,
    Is the notepad window fully opened? The notepad entry starts with that message, but then there’s a blank line followed by:

    Across: Shortest title of any #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 [Britney Spears, 2009]

    Down: Length of the eight runners-up to the Across answer, all of which are answers to starred clues in this puzzle

  20. Martin says:


    Considering it could have gone with “an err ham bitch,” I’m happy either way.

  21. Jeff Taylor says:

    Oh someone was kind enough to e-mail the blog about merv g’s crossword show. I love opening painful memories. enjoy your watch.

  22. Dan F says:

    Loved the Fireball – many clues seemed trickier than in Peter’s freestyles. Afterwards I thought, that’s a really weird way to clue FIFTY-FIFTY… oh! Needed many crossings for STEELY DAN, even though I had heard of the “Naked Lunch” coinage…

    I already knew my best anagram was Fine Delayer (not that site’s suggested FAIRY NEEDLE), but with my middle names? ENJOY CHEESE OF PHILANDER. Don’t tell my girlfriend.

  23. sbmanion says:


    I completed everything in the puzzle and knew many of the songs. However, it never dawned on me that the center square was 3. I was expecting a letter, but frankly did not try to solve the puzzle within a puzzle. I treated the whole puzzle as a themeless, so I enjoyed it.


  24. joon says:

    middle names, plural? is one of them STEELY?

    liked both of the rule-breaking puzzles today. i didn’t know any of the songs except for the three jacksons, but the freestyle-quality fill was great. and the FB was a real treat. tough, tough clues and a cool theme = fun workout.

  25. pannonica says:

    A CANNIER PEN or the more atmospheric PENANCE RAIN. Including middle initial, we get NEAR PINNACLE. I used the anagram generator at wordsmith and chose from the exhaustive lists.

  26. sps says:

    I think I’ll sign my posts with my anagrammed name from now on.

    (sounds like a bad boxer’s nickname, doesn’t it?)

  27. Samuel A. Donaldson says:

    I was a little underwhelmed with the NYT, too, but I suspect that is the reaction one would expect from A DULL, MEAN SO-AND-SO.

  28. Jeffrey says:

    Sam wins.

  29. Jan says:

    My anagram name gave me a gender change: JONATHAN BURN. Thought I’d also check a couple more:

    Sarah Palin: A SHARP NAIL
    Hillary Clinton: ONLY I CAN THRILL

    There are lots of funny anagrams at . My favorite is laxative = exit lava. :D

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