Thursday, 7/29/10

Fireball 10:25
NYT 4:25
LAT 3:10
BEQ untimed (whoops, timer didn’t start itself)
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

Region capture 26Quickly, because I’m expecting company in a bit—

The theme is MIDDLE / SCHOOL, and the four longest Across answers have the names of universities hidden within them:

  • 18a. [Golf groundskeepers’ tools] are SAND RAKES, with DRAKE University of Iowa lurking inside.
  • 22a. MILE HIGH STADIUM, the Denver [Broncos’ home, once], has Pennsylvania’s LEHIGH University.
  • 47a. This theme answer isn’t remotely “in the language” for me because I do not speak hockey. The CENTER ICE CIRCLE is a [Place for an N.H.L. logo], and RICE University of Texas is inside it.
  • 53a. “STAY ALERT!” means [“Keep your eyes open!”]. Connecticut’s YALE University sits here.

Lots of cross-referencing in the theme clues, which can befuddle the mind. It’s Thursday, so a certain degree of befuddlement is expected, but not too much.

A few other clues:

  • 51a. [Roseau is its capital] clues the Caribbean nation of DOMINICA. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.
  • 49d. CIRCE is the [Sorceress on the island of Aeaea], which I can’t pronounce.
  • The ugliest crossing prize goes to OLAND-meets-ALULA. Warner OLAND is your Charlie [Chan portrayer in film] and no, he wasn’t Asian. [“Be-Bop-___”] clues A-LULA and I swear I’ve never heard the song (I know it only from crosswords). Am I missing much?
  • 21d. CINQ, or “five,” is [Quitting time in Quebec, maybe].
  • 11d. YUKS IT UP is the answer to [Has some laughs]. Just “some”? Sounds like a lot.
  • 55a. BOONE is the [Battle of Blue Licks fighter, 1782]. That’s too early for Dan’l Boone, isn’t it?

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords puzzle, “Themeless 24”

Region capture 27Holy mackerel, that’s a lot of stuff I don’t know smushed into a single grid. Baseball owner of yore, O’MALLEY, and baseball player RON Hassey? Don’t care about them, never heard of them. EXPO ZARAGOZA, a.k.a. Expo 2008? Gimme a break. ORE is a Settlers of Catan card? Yeah, whatever, I’ve never played the game. Never heard of EMO-journalism or the Julie Christie movie PETULIA. Didn’t know AMEX publishes Food & Wine. The ABCOULOMB is a unit of measure I’ve never heard of; there aren’t many words that begin with ABC. Aerosmith’s drummer is Joey KRAMER? Didn’t know HOKE (back-formation from hokum) was a word.

So getting the grid filled in (despite the puzzle having burned down much of my wheelhouse) was no mean feat.


  • 8a. Hey! I’ve been to both Christiansted and Frederiksted in ST. CROIX. Paul Krugman lives part-time in Frederiksted, you know. A cognate crosses this answer—Penelope CRUZ’s last name and CROIX both mean “cross.”
  • 55a. New(ish) Crayola color JAZZBERRY JAM is a cool answer, though of course nearly all the colors introduced in recent years are wholly illegitimate and I do not accept them as rightful inhabitants of the box of 64.
  • 8d. Dining/etymology trivia! SPAGO is the [Famed restaurant whose name is Italian for “string”].

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “K Study”—Janie’s review

Today’s puzzle is a great example of the really fresh results that can be obtained with even a very familiar kind of gimmick. The gimmick? Substitution. In each of the four two-word theme phrases, Patrick changes the final “L” of the second word (a four-letter one in each case) to a “K.” But here’s the beauty part. Further tightening up the theme set, each of those words ordinarily ends with a “double L.” Here’s how he does it:

  • 17A. Wailing Wall → WAILING WALK [Stroll through a bunch of banshees?]. (Or maybe even a particularly emotional group of tourists at the Wailing Wall…) We get a strong visual and aural image here that engages me from the get-go.
  • 11D. Window sill → WINDOW SILK [Spider web in a wall opening?]. ‘Nother strong visual here.
  • 28D. Pepper mill → PEPPER MILK [Spicy dairy product?]. Oh, I see—so this must be where jalapeño pepper cheese comes from….. (I’d like to see how contented the demand to produce pepper milk would keep ELSIE, that punnily clued [Beast of Borden].)
  • 62A. Sitting Bull → SITTING BULK [Junk mail in a pile?]. Groan. (That’s a good thing.) Here, for the record, is Sitting Bull sitting. And here’s Sitting Bull standing… (In neither does he appear to be carrying much in the way of excess bulk…) Also, Sitting Bull is someone who had a [Home on the range?], i.e., a TEPEE.

Okay, so each of the theme phrases ends in “K.” Do four Ks make a “K Study” (or even a “case study” for that matter)? Oho, our constructor is ahead of us and has woven five more ’em into the fill. That’s a lotta Ks for one 15×15 and no small accomplishment. We find ’em (and their crossing fill) in KODAK [Polaroid competitor], ICKY [Gross], KNEES [Cap site] and SKOSH [Smidgen]. (Went looking for the Dockers “just a skosh” ad, drew a blank, but did come up with the John Pizzarelli Trio playing a song by the same name. Nice.)

Patrick also gives us a foody mini-theme starting with ATE IN [Used one’s dinner table, say]. And what did one dine on? Coulda been a spicy BURRITO [It may be full of beans]; coulda been some spicy ETOUFFÉE [Crawfish dish]. Or if one has been overdoing of late, perhaps one FASTED [Abstained from eating]. My first fill there was DIETED, but then the F and the A emerged. I erased the E, which left me with FA_TED. Right next to that bean-filled burrito. Referencing the clue helped put me back on track…

We get the word “boxer” in two different clues, once as [Boxer Ali] for LAILA and, in a lovely piece of misdirection, once as [Boxer’s warning] for “GR-R-R.” Caveat canem! And we have two references to time, with WKS for [Calendar units (abbr.)] and CEN [Fivescore yrs.]. 5200 wks. in a cen.

Besides the fine fill already mentioned, BESIDES [In addition] has a beautiful complement of 7-letter fill in ALLEGRO [Quickly, in music], TITANIA [“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” queen], MEMOIRS [Autobiographies] and MIRAGES [Delusions in the desert]. At six, DAIBLO [Maleficent’s pet raven in “Sleeping Beauty”] and LILACS [Purple bloomers] ain’t too shabby neither.

So, all in all—clues and fill—what’s my take on this puzzle? “SUPERB!” [“Outstanding!”]
Updated Thursday afternoon:
Whoa! The day disappeared on me. I went out for breakfast but then on the spur of the moment opted to swing by the car dealership to order my dream car, and then it turned out they’d just gotten my dream car on the lot and wow, does it take a long time to actually buy a car. Next thing I knew, it was closing in on 4 p.m. and this poor blog has been sitting here all day, patiently waiting.

So, super-short posting ’til I get caught up.

Doug Peterson and John Doppler Schiff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 28The theme is “competitions redefined.” Interesting enough, not a theme that’s been done to death, one that makes you think about words a little differently.

Lots of fresh fill—”WHO, ME?” Yes, you. You with the X’S AND O’S and the X-RAYS, the bodybuilder’s RAW EGGS, ZONK OUT and its opposite concept WIDE AWAKE. Fun clues, too. Well done, Doug and New Guy Who Co-Authored This Puzzle!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Check Marks”

Region capture 29The theme is, I think, fully contained in the circled squares. Those spell out the last names of four people named Mark, and the circled squares are laid out to make big check marks. Writer TWAIN, actor HAMILL, painter ROTHKO, and Dallas Mavericks owner CUBAN. I was looking for SPITZ down where CUBAN is, but the 3-letter wine bar order had to be ZIN or CAB, and ZIN not only didn’t fit, it didn’t make for a famous Mark Z*N**.

Favorite clue: [Chip ingredient] is the inedible SILICON. Favorite answer: MR. TOAD. Yes, he’s a literary character, but that neon nightmare of a slow Disney ride, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, gives him added pop-culture resonance. I also like SEE ALSO, which I like to use even though I am not a dictionary.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Trying New Things: Part One”

Region capture 30I test-solved the two-puzzle series that this crossword starts, but I figured out what was going on with the theme while working on Part One. Your biggest hint is at 1a: [*Noted Seuss protagonist with an upcoming birthday, and a hint to a two-part puzzle that begins this week (1)]. What Dr. Seuss character is named SAM? Well, there’s Sam I Am of Green Eggs and Ham fame.

There are a zillion starred clues that are single words or phrases consisting of ordinary words, and the clue includes the word count in parentheses. Why these particular words? Did you crack the secret? If you have no idea what’s going on in this puzzle, wait until next week’s puzzle and it will all make sense.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Thursday, 7/29/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Are you sure you’ve never heard Be Bop A Lula ?

  2. Had it been a Canadian arena would the answer be CENTRE ICE CIRCLE? Rice would be gone, but Centre College of Kentucky (one of the Carleton- and Gustavus-type baccalaureate liberal arts colleges) would have been in the answer, although not in the middle…or “centre”…

  3. pannonica says:

    This version of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” is the one that sticks in my mind. An early ancestor of Christopher Walken’s Lady Gaga rendition.

  4. Gareth says:

    First theme entry was MILE HIGH STADIUM – already had MIDDLE/SCHOOL and so thought the entries were going to be 3 word phrases with the middle a type of school. My toughest crossing was HOYAS/HARRAH last moment remember the former!

    Alula is also a bit on a bird or a fly, but I’d much rather have the Gene Vincent partial!

  5. Anne E says:

    Don’t know the original song(s), but I knew ALULA from the Dire Straits song, “Walk of Life”, whose first two lines are:

    “Here comes Johnny singing oldies, goldies,
    Be-Bop-A-Lula, Baby What I Say”

    I’ll spare everyone my sing-along version. :-)

    Anne, who needs to practice Sporcle’s Capitals of the World more – I always miss Roseau

  6. Red Dog says:

    In the FIREBALL, the baseball clues were my only gimmes. O’Malley’s move of the Dodgers to Los Angeles was one of the seminal acts of postwar baseball, putting the West Coat in the Big Leagues in 1958. … Ron Hassey was a great catcher of his era; not the best hitter (though he did lead all catchers in 1980 w/ a .310 avg), but always considered a very savvy receiver. He caught Len Barker’s perfect game for the Indians vs Blue Jays in 1981. And the second perfect game was ten years later: Dennis Martinez of the Expos, vs the Dodgers. He also caught every one of Bob Welch’s 27 wins in 1990 when the A’s pitcher won the Cy Young Award.

    You can always count on FIREBALL for weird words. ABCOULOMB is a great example. Wow. A basic unit of electrical charge. That is a new one for me.

  7. Jim says:

    Hi Amy,

    I couldn’t find your email address anywhere on the website, but wanted to mention this to you in case you wanted to put it up for the audience at large.

    Just found out about this:

    It is the first annual Pittsburgh crossword tournament–and it will benefit a good cause.

    I’m a huge fan, by the way, and have learned so very much from the site!



  8. Howard B says:

    Fireball was a big X for me. Think I had 2 errors. Could not parse the top long answer (1 word? 2-3 words?), and its crossings of ABCOULOMB/SPAGO were almost complete guesses (1 of 2 wrong). Fireball is always an entertaining challenge with lots to learn, but this one just had too many ungettable names crossing names crossing titles (for me) this week. Dug IRKUTSK and ORE out of my brain, but didn’t care for them in there. (Wasn’t a big Risk or Catan player, though I dabbled). Seemed like most of the puzzle was proper names. Just not my wavelength (see ABCOULOMB), but to each their own :). Better to be ambitious than dull, so much respect for that.

    Agree on Crayola colors though. I think Jazzberry Jam sits next to Soylent Green on the supermarket shelf. Weird.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    I agree with Howard. Fireball crossed the line to unsolveable obscurity for me.

  10. John Haber says:

    A big shrug for me. Besides the cross-refs, way too much sports. Even the theme has the slight drawback that, with asymmetric placement of the hidden words and the number of colleges out there, it felt easy on the setter.

  11. Evad says:

    Yeah, the FB was out of my league as well. I had SPANO for SPAGO (I know someone with the former as his last name, and it looked “string” like), so I was parsing the 2008 event as EXPOZA RANOZA, thinking they’d rhyme.

    Enjoyed the NYT a lot, had a hard time parsing RIO DE ORO, tho, and agree OLAND/ALULA was a toughie. Enjoyed the “Whiff” clue for MISS…kept thinking of something you would smell, instead of the baseball reference.

  12. Dan F says:

    Two errors here on the Fireball. Should have known that PRIME/LIES didn’t fit the clues well enough at 42A/35D, but A_COULOMB crossing French _ON was a big WTF. Though there can’t be that many cross-worthy French words that fit _ON.

    I wonder why we don’t see this freestyle grid design (four stacks of 7s, two marquee answers connected by a central Down) outside of Peter’s Fireballs… he sure makes it work well.

  13. Howard B says:

    Evad: Had SPANO here too. Seemed pefectly cromulent.
    Anne: I like that your avatar seems to be doing some sort of dance to Dire Straits. Can call it “the Knopfler”.

  14. joon says:

    i had a different error from everybody else. worked out the unknown JAZZBERRY JAM and EXPO ZARAGOZA (i know that’s a spanish city from following la liga), but had PETUNIA (which is at least a thing) crossing ANSO, which did not look right but i couldn’t rule out some kind of weird archaic word meaning something like “and so.” or even “an so,” with the old “if”fy definition of “an.”

    anyway, i agree with the general sentiment. too much obscurity. ABCOULOMB is an atrocity. it’s not in any of the dictionaries i checked, but according to wikipedia, it’s equal to ten coulombs, which would make the clue {Small charge} waaaay wrong, since a coulomb is already an enormous unit of charge. really, the problem is that it’s a unit from an obscure system of units used by neither scientists nor science students.

  15. Doug P. says:

    Bingo, joon! I had the same error in the Fireball. I managed to convince myself that ANSO meant something. And PETULIA looks all kinds of wrong. Believe it or not, ABCOULOMB was a theme entry(!) in a Universal puzzle last year.

  16. John Farmer says:

    In defense of the FB. I may be in the minority, but I liked it, even things I did not know.

    Weirdest thing for me was the AB- prefix on ABCOULOMB (a word in my dictionary), but the coulomb seemed common enough to intuit a few of the letters. I’m not a scientist or a science student, yet I’m not so sure the coulomb is “an enormous unit of charge.” It’s the equivalent of 1/3600 of an ampere-hour. Batteries are rated in Ah. A car battery might be 70 Ah, a D battery 4.5 Ah. That’s probably oversimplified a bit. But it doesn’t seem out of line to call a unit of 10 coulombs a “Small charge.”

    Clue for ORE was different, unknown, but I like to see new clues for common answers so that’s okay by me.

    Ditto, EMO-journalism. New term to describe reporters becoming part of the story (a practice much older than the term, actually).

    IRKUTSK was first thing that popped in my head for Risk territory, but I waited for a few letters before writing it in.

    OMALLEY is a big name in baseball. Bigger than Steinbrenner, historically (though not as famous). Certainly fair game for a themeless.

    Crossing of the two crosses, STCROIX and CRUZ, is a non-issue in my book. Those are two different things, and I think common sense trumps whatever rules about cognates you want to apply.

    JAZZBERRYJAM. First time I’ve seen that. Cool answer.

    Tough puzzle, good challenge.

  17. ajaxfam says:

    In hockey, it is really a stretch to say “CENTER ICE CIRCLE” – much more common are “CENTER ICE FACE-OFF CIRCLE” or simply “CENTER ICE”.

    ABUT and ADOZE in the same puzzle – sheesh.

    Liked the ENDOR reference – still waiting for HOTH or MUSTAFAR to show up at some point.

  18. Jan says:

    I enjoyed Brendan Quigley’s Check Marks puzzle, but what does ASA HEADS UP refer to? I can’t figure that one out, even with an Internet search.

  19. joon says:

    as a heads up.

  20. Jan says:

    Well, I thought that’s what it might mean – seems pretty lame?

Comments are closed.