Friday, 9/10/10

NYT 5:26
LAT 5:14
CHE 2:51
CS untimed
WSJ 7:59

Will Shortz finally made it into the editorial content of The Onion. Hah!

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 4Oof. I felt fine when I was writing about those other two puzzles, but now my  innards are roiled so I’ll limit my write-up of this fresh Friday puzzle to…17 hits:

  • 9a. [It’s all ivory and no ebony] clues C MAJOR. Piano note or key or something. All crossings for me, baby. Musical terminology and I, we’ve never gotten along.
  • 15a. [NyQuil ingredient?] is a CAPITAL Q.
  • 17a. [“Speak of the devil”] clues a sort of awkward “OH, IT’S YOU.”
  • 30a. Say what? OSMIC [___ acid (microscopic staining compound)] is unknown to this medical editor. Gimme your hematoxylin-eosin, sure, but I don’t know OSMIC acid.
  • 31a. “HOW D’ YE DO?” is clued as a [Hayseed’s greeting], but I think “howdy-do” and “how d’ya do” sound more hayseedy.
  • 41a. Wha? “BIG POPPA” is a [1995 platinum rap hit that starts “To all the ladies in the place with style and grace”]. It’s by the late Notorious B.I.G. and no, I don’t know the song.
  • 52a. This is bogus. ZALE isn’t a [Big name in retail jewelry], Zales (no apostrophe) is. Zales is owned by the Zale Corporation, but that is not remotely a household name.
  • 65a. The instrument called a DULCIMER means [Literally, “sweet song”].
  • 8d. SQUISHY! Great word, fun clue: [Like a wet Nerf ball].
  • 12d. Whoa. MARLBORO in a puzzle a day or two ago, and now JOE CAMEL, the [Much-maligned mascot]. Cigarettes are busting out all over. Could you open a window, please?
  • 14d. I’m pretty sure some people will find REDNECKS ([Hillbillies’ cousins]) to be offensive.
  • 33d. [Fist bump] is my preferred clue for DAP.
  • 37d. COOL KIDS might be a [Nerd-rejecting high-school group]. I like to think that those jocks end up reporting to the nerds at work.
  • 42d. [Victorian’s greeting] means “greeting from a person in the Australian state of Victoria,” or “G’DAY.” Other spoken-word answers in the grid include OY VEY and HA HA HA.
  • 44d. An OBSEQUY is a [Funeral rite]. Dictionary says the singular is obsolete, replaced by plural obsequies.
  • 51d. [Orange dwarfs] are K-STARS. If you don’t know how to spell Salma HAYEK’s last name, you might be stuck on what letter goes with this star.
  • 60d. I don’t get why GET is the answer to [Confound]. Is it supposed to be something like “you really got me there” = “you really confounded me there”? That seems like a reach. Anyone?

Clive Probert’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Still Science Fiction (For Now)”

Region capture 2Five staples of sci-fi that science has not (yet) realized are the theme entries in this week’s uncommonly easy CHE puzzle:

  • 17a. [Unrepeatable experiment of 1989] clues COLD FUSION. I have no idea what the “1989” reference is about. Did real scientists attempt cold fusion in ’89?
  • 19a. MIND CONTROL is the [Government’s power in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”].
  • 33a. [Process that went wrong in “The Fly”] is TELEPORTATION. If my son could pick one superpower to have, this is it. Me, I want to fly.
  • 51a. ANTIGRAVITY is apparently an [Ideal spacecraft-propulsion method].
  • 54a. [The grandfather paradox implies that it’s impossible] clues TIME TRAVEL. The what paradox? This. Click the link if this interests you.

I was recently asked about editing some crosswords aimed at a sci-fi audience. Alas, I am out of my league when it comes to the arcana of science fiction. I read sci-fi in junior high and high school but didn’t stick with it. Luckily, Probert’s theme doesn’t demand much sci-fi knowledge, as the crossings are so much easier than usual.

Highlights elsewhere in the puzzle:

  • 14a. [Bacon, lettuce, and tomato, e.g.] are foods. They are sandwich fixin’s. And they are NOUNS. No matter how much some people would like it, bacon simply isn’t a verb.
  • 29a. [Bad at enduring hardship] is an interesting clue for SOFT. Now, that answer word is duplicated in the clue for 28d: [Soft & ___ (deodorant brand)], but if SOFT and DRI were cross-referenced, it would be…boring.
  • 11d. Some SCOTSMEN are [Kilt wearers]. You know what I want to know? What percentage of men in kilts are wearing underwear beneath the kilt.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 3I may have been abducted by aliens while solving this puzzle. Really? A solving time nearly double that of the CHE puzzle? That can’t be right! But I had trouble putting the theme entries together even though the first theme answer gave away the trick, and I had a few wrong turns that derailed me. (Yes, I know trains don’t make turns and vehicles that do make turns don’t get derailed.) Each theme entry contains a word—the first word, in fact—that has lost its final -EY and thus picked up a new meaning:

  • 20a. [Faultfinding brother?] is a MONK ON ONE’S BACK.
  • 29a. [Debris in the hayloft?] sent me awry. First I thought the initial BA- began the word BALE, and then I thought the final -LE was BALE, but there’s no BALE in it. Then I thought of BARNeys that might be involved, and I thought of the old comic strip character Barney Google, which sent me off into musings on what sort of search engine “Barn Google” would be. Then I remembered the Barney from The Simpsons, Barney Gumble. Finally, The Flintstones‘ Barney Rubble clawed his way to the surface of my brain and BARN RUBBLE made it into the grid. See? That was probably a solid minute lost right there, at 29a.
  • 38a. If you’re [Impervious to chutzpah?], you’re GALL-PROOF. Galley proofs are typeset but not laid out in book-size pages yet.
  • 50a. [What Michelle Kwan might do in a financial emergency?] is HOCK SKATES at the pawn shop.
  • 59a. TURK IN THE STRAW is clued as a [Haystack-hiding Ottoman?].


  • 42a. [Jordan was part of it: Abbr.] tricked me. Now, the UAR (United Arab Republic) was Egypt and Syria, not Jordan, but that didn’t stop me from entering UAR in the grid. D’oh. It’s the NBA that Michael Jordan was part of.
  • 68a. [Blow without distinction?] is that ordinary fellow, JOE Blow.
  • 47d. [One taken in] isn’s someone who’s been arrested or someone who’s been duped—it’s a BOARDER taken in who is renting a room in a house.

Mystery bits:

  • 46a. [Dona __ pacem: grant us peace] clues NOBIS. Now, I know ora pro nobis (“pray for us”), but couldn’t put this NOBIS together without every crossing.
  • 58a. [Basso Berberian] clues some dude named ARA. Ara Parseghian and the constellation Ara, I know. I don’t know this Berberian at the gate.
  • 54a. [Pretense] clues POSE but I had PLOY or maybe RUSE in mind and had trouble putting POSE here.
  • 49d. Given my woes with 54a and 58d, I had a helluva time with [London classic, with “The”]. SEA-WOLF? Okay, then.
  • 63d. [Ohio State basketball coach Matta] is named THAD. You know who’s a lot more famous? That Thad-somebody, the Coast Guardy guy the government put in charge of the BP oil spill.

Did this puzzle knock you down, too, or is it just me?

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Who Turned the Lights Out?”—Janie’s review

What’s the opposite of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”? I guess that would have to be the first words of Ray’s hardly colorless theme phrases, which explore the varieties of absence (or serious reduction) of light. Some people have a PHOBIA, an [Irrational fear] of places that aren’t lit up, but from the looks of things, that wouldn’t be Ray, who whistles away and winningly taunts us with:

  • 17A. DARK COMEDY [Grimly satiric entertainment]. Think of the original (British) version of Death at a Funeral or The Ruling Class or plays by Joe Orton. The Brits really do excel at this genre. I love the stuff.
  • 27A. SHADOW BOXING [Practicing pugilism]. How did shadow boxing come to called that? “It all comes down to the concept of fighting an imaginary opponent.” Thank you, Boxing Forum, for the explanation.
  • 44A. BLACK RUSSIAN [Vodka cocktail]. Here’s a little recipe in case you’d like to try this out at home. But since it’s made with a liqueur, isn’t this a little “sweet” for a cocktail (which I think of as a before-dinner drink)? Then again, maybe I’m getting my mixology mixed up. It’s the White Russian that’s the after-dinner variety. The Big Lebowski anyone?
  • 59A. NIGHT FEVER [1978 hit for the Bee Gees]. Disco. Yikes. There’s a whole era that I was alive for and totally missed (making it a real pocket-of-vulnerability in my pop-culture puzzle-solving ability). Not much better with the next decade either, so it took me a few passes to correctly fill in “IT’S A SIN” [1987 Pet Shop Boys hit]. (“TSK, madam,” she said, giving herself a [Condescending cluck].)

Love the clue [Drop cloth?] for PARACHUTE, and wonder whether a canvas or plastic drop-cloth has ever substituted as a kind of make-shift parachute. Think I won’t try it myself to find out… In the clue department, I was somewhat asleep to the oft-seen trick of [Tower’s letters]. Of course that’s the tow company’s letters, AAA, and not, say, “Fresno” painted on that city’s beautiful landmark water tower.

There are some nice tie-ins to be found among the clues and fill, like the humorously clued, non-business related [Japanese middle managers?] for OBIS and then (even though they go around different part of the body) SASHES, clued today as [Beauty pageant bands] (for what are obis if not sashes?). Ray gets a bit literary, including IAMB, a most basic [Sonnet part] and [Sonnets and such] for POESY. And we also go a little Nordic, with both IKEA, that [Scandinavian chain] from Sweden, and OSLO (Norway) [Scandinavian capital].

In addition to the examples above, the two “X”s of TEX-MEX brighten things up as does TIME LIMIT and the rhyme-y [One who’s back in the pack] for ALSO RAN. Not bad for a puzzle that promised a dark experience!

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Put Options”

Region capture 5(Jeffrey’s on vacation this week and next, so I’m blogging the WSJ myself for two weeks.) Put options are a thing in stock trading, but here the financial term is reworked in service of the theme. You have to put an option word, OR, inside various phrases (and inside words) to create new phrases with altered meanings:

  • 23a. CRITICAL MORASS is an [Unmanageable muddle of reviews?]. This one’s tied for my favorite theme entry. I like the shift from “critical mass” to a MORASS.
  • 34a. [Mythical mutant who looses evils?] clues GIANT PANDORA. Yeah, I like this one a lot too. I’m picturing a giant Pandora who looks a lot like a giant panda.
  • 48a. To [Drive out evil tariffs?] is to EXORCISE TAXES. This is part of the Republican plank, of course. I like this entry.
  • 61a. [Guild of African poachers?] might be the IVORY LEAGUE. Better for academics than sports, right? Good wordplay action here.
  • 71a. [Statue of Liberty’s crown?] is a PANORAMA HAT. I like this one too.
  • 84a. “Spring fever” is a great base phrase. [Prequel to “The Endless Summer”?] is SPRING FOREVER.
  • 96a. [Like florists by the end of Valentine’s Day?] is BORED OF ROSES.
  • 113a. A STORAGE MANAGER might be a [Warehouse foreman?]

Can you tell I really liked the execution of this theme? The “put options” thing is a sop to the captains of finance who read the WSJ, and doesn’t excite me as a rationale for the theme. But the before-and-after phrases are generally lively, and some amusement is to be found in the “aha” moments. The three-stacks of 8-letter answers in the corners are cool, too.

Fifteen more clues:

  • 1a. [Info-gathering reporter] is a LEGMAN. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass regularly mentions his legmen (and legwomen), as seen here, but he gives them code names like Wings and Spartacus. Gee, my bosses never gave me nicknames.
  • 7a. I was briefly vexed when [Man of many words] demanded a 7-letter name and not ROGET. It’s Noah WEBSTER.
  • 87a. HENRY is clued as a [Bald boy of the comics]. Old comics.
  • 121a. If red-headed means “having red hair,” then sure, [Lightheaded?] can work for BLONDE. Cute clue.
  • 14d. [Macedonian, for one] is a BALKAN. So are Montenegrins, Albanians, Greeks, and Bulgarians, among others.
  • 19d. [Errol Flynn’s birthplace] is TASMANIA?!? I had no idea.
  • 29d. A SPIN DRYER is a [Load-bearing device?] in that it bears loads of laundry.
  • 62d. [Result of replacing the goalie with a forward] is an OPEN NET in hockey. Now, Canadian Jeffrey would’ve known that one. I had to work the crossings.
  • 63d. [Protester on horseback] isn’t a generic term (“We’re having a ride-in! Wear your protest Stetson.”). It’s Lady GODIVA.
  • 79d. [Halter feature] refers to the NOOSE that’s part of rope used to lead a horse. It’s not, luckily, part of a halter top.
  • 80d. [1963 film set in Bodega Bay] is THE BIRDS. I don’t know where Bodega Bay is, and you know what else? I can’t ever watch that Hitchcock film again. It creeped me out too much.
  • Three oddball clues/answers in a row: 81d. [Dirigible pilot]/AERONAUT, 82d. [Hogarth, for one]/ENGRAVER, and 84d. [Kelp bed inhabitant]/SEA OTTER.
  • 100d. [It may have locks on it] clues a CANAL. Locks are used to facilitate the movement of a boat between two water systems with different heights.
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23 Responses to Friday, 9/10/10

  1. Howard B says:

    SQUISHY! :) After that, the NY Times puzzle could have been filled with nothing else but zeros, and I still would have been happy. Still an interesting puzzle though, to give credit where it’s due.

  2. jimbob says:

    The group of people who’d take umbrage at rednecks does not overlap with the group of people who solve crosswords.

    Osmic acid is used in electron microscopy.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Amy, sorry to hear your innards are a bit roiled! Yes, something that “can GET you every time” is confounding… I liked the NYT because I started off with Derek JACOBI for some reason — one of my favorite actors, not only in the great “I, Claudius” EPIC, but also as Brother Cadfael of Ellis Peters’ medieval mysteries… I found other parts of Wentz’ work way tougher, with mis-starts from Goofoffs for SHOWOFFS to Hus for ECK and Tacoma for YAKIMA.

    After ZLOTY and PESETA in that one, it was amusing to see LEK in the LAT, and another JOE. Dropping the -EY made a fun theme, and went much more quickly. Also, “DONA NOBIS PACEM” is probably familiar in many musical settings to choir singers — the one I remember best was a three-part round (like “Row, row, row your boat”) often sung very quietly as a closing benediction at the end of Episcopalian church services ages ago.

  4. RickS says:

    When I saw the clue for 41A I had to check the byline again, thinking that I’d stumbled across a BEQ puzzle.

  5. Gareth says:

    LAT: Similarly tough experience here… Battled to spot the theme, but even with the theme eventually in place TURK(EY)INTHE had me, never heard of that phrase! So although the whole puzzle was tough, that corner alone took more than 4 minutes – no traction, whatsoever! But ultimately solveable so yay for a hard LAT! BTW, this “Boomer’s kid” (doesn’t it usually take two?) is a Millenial (or at least a cusp!)

  6. Lloyd mazer says:

    For the want of a V, a double pangram was lost.

    I agree – the HOWDYEDO not very good. The rest of the puzzle – very chunky with lots of scrabbly answers. Easy for a Friday – even for me.

  7. Sara says:

    jimbob, I’m going to play devil’s advocate just to be a pain in the ass: you can come from an underprivileged Appalachian background (hillbilly) without also being narrow-minded and bigoted (redneck). I guess I could work myself up to being offended.

  8. Matt says:

    Well, I found it tough for a Friday, particularly in the NE quadrant… MEX? AZTECS? OSMIC? ECK?… Plus a few “I suppose so…” entries, popcult, clues that could have meant quite a few things. Even apart from the NE, it was rather tough for me, though I was able to push through.

  9. Duke says:

    Really liked the NYT, though had to look up Big Poppa. How d’ye do doesn’t do it all for me, tho. And ACE for Buddy? Not so sure.

  10. HH says:

    That news item on which the Onion based its “American Voices” piece answered every question I ever had about the ACPT crowd.

  11. Karen says:

    Actually I like HOW D’YE DO better than how d’ya do. The latter seems more…new yorkish.

    Also I want to thank the CS for giving some time to the radius bones.

  12. joon says:

    i thought this was a really sweet grid. i don’t think the clue was equating hillbillies and rednecks, so i can’t find it in me to be offended there. lots of crunchy (and SQUISHY) scrabbly goodness, though. i didn’t know how, exactly, OBSEQUY was related to OBSEQUIOUS, until i looked it up. has to do with “follow” or “comply with.” i guess obsequies were (are?) performed in accordance with some ancient prescription? anyway, cool word.

  13. joon says:

    yay, a CHE every week. life is good. indeed, pons and fleischmann (real scientists) claimed to have achieved cold fusion in 1989. their results were utterly irreproducible, and there’s general agreement that they fall somewhere on the spectrum between irresponsible science and an intentional hoax.

    i thought the LAT was pretty normal fare for a friday LAT. my solving time was unusually slow because i got hung up by reading the clues for 48-49d as 47-48d. ISRAELI and SEAWOLF would have been gimmes, but i couldn’t figure out answers that would start with B and I, respectively. THAD matta is pretty familiar to me; not so much THAD-somebody.

    agreed on the WSJ theme—great set of theme answers there. made for an enjoyable solve.

    fyi, the latest patrick blindauer puzzle from his website is spectacular. if you haven’t done it yet, i highly recommend it.

  14. John Haber says:

    I found it really hard, and for me C MAJOR was a gimme. I did fine in the NW but increasingly harder toward the bottom center and SE. Never did parse HOWDYEDO (expecting either plain HOWDY or HOW-DE-DO as in RHUD, both with wrong letter count). Didn’t know ECK or OSMIC, but at least those were gettable and plausible with crossings. But the two center across answers, one a rap song, plus a Gramma winner, K STARS, Salma, and Fiji rival all made me struggle. (I guessed Fiji was a camera, not a bottled water.)

    In the end it was the crossing of DAP (which I couldn’t decide might be RAP) and the the HOWDY variant that got me.

    Incidentally, when I took the PSATs they still added up to only 1600, and I didn’t know they’d added the third part as they have on the SATs. And am I mistaken, or has there been a real fun on self-referential answers like “capital Q,” “soft C,” “hard G,” and so on? For me, that’s rapidly becoming crosswordese, in a bad way.

  15. John Haber says:

    Sorry, meant to type “real run on.” Also misspelled “Grammy,” but I’m sure that sentence is easier to parse.

  16. Jeff says:


    Second, Patrick Blindauer’s website puzzle is incredible!

    The LAT was incredibly difficult today. Keep it coming!


  17. Meem says:

    Agree with Jeff. Was slower on LAT than NYT today. Felt a bit thick when C major was last fill in NYT. Of course ebony and ivory = piano!

  18. Joanna says:

    Slightly off topic – does anyone know of an android app that deals with acrosslite files? Would be nice to be able to crossword on the go, without needing to carry my laptop around.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joanna, that’s totally on topic! Download Shortyz. It’s free and it fetches most of the good crosswords—LAT, WSJ, Onion, Houston Chronicle (CrosSynergy), BEQ blog, Ben Tausig’s Ink Well, Philadelphia Inquirer (Merl Reagle), and Boston Globe. I don’t know if there’s a way to get the NYT or Newsday crossword on Shortyz, but the puzzles it does download should keep you plenty busy.

  20. Joanna says:

    Thanks Amy :) I should’ve clarified, I want an app that lets me load .puz files from the SD card or internal memory (so I can do the Matt Gaffney puzzles).

    Newsday works by default, NYT can be downloaded with a subscription, go to settings and put in your username/password.

  21. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What an annoying NYT. Two damn rap *songs*, not just rappers, one from 1995, crossing obsequy. (!?) Zale, crossing cool kids, which is totally unidiomatic, and sounds like it belongs in a different genre–to wit Trip’s amazing wide open constructions with almost no black squares. ‘Rednecks’ to me is clearly more offensive than ‘ah so’, which may also be offensive, but I think of as more harmless and amusing. howdyedo is totally unacceptable, to my mind, in a serious puzzle (and I first wrote that sentence much more offensively.) Don’t like hahaha. You don’t “visit” trees. Even the magnificent Elke Sommer couldn’t rescue this 7d. Oh well, I guess I just get on rants. It was the two rap songs that started me off.


  22. Robert Cooper says:

    Joanna, FWIW, you can do that with Shortyz as well. Just put your puz files in the “crosswords” folder on your SD card.

  23. Jan says:

    The LAT took me FOREVER! Got off on the wrong foot right off the bat in the NW with AURORAE instead of AREOLAE and EASE instead of FADE. But finally got it all with no help, so I loved it!

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