Thursday, 9/16/10

Fireball 4:13
NYT 4:00
BEQ 3:56
LAT 3:53
CS untimed
Tausig untimed

Joey Weissbrot’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5

Thanks, arthur118, for the heads-up on which grid was here before.

Darn those Brown University crossword society kids and their cultural knowledge! This theme was one I needed plenty o’ crossings to get through, as the theme clues were mostly not giving me any help whatsoever. You, dear reader, are likely to have more classical music savvy than I, and you probably flew through these tidbits:

  • 16a. [Site of a memorable 1989 impromptu performance by 50-Across] is not LA SCALA or THE MET, no. It’s the BERLIN WALL.
  • 22a. A STRADIVARIUS instrument is the [Prized possession of 50-Across].
  • 50a. Who? ROSTROPOVICH, that’s who. You know, MAURY POVICH would fit that space too. (No, I didn’t put that answer in.) Mr R. is the [20th-century master of the circled letters]. Did you have to go back and look at those letters to find out that he plays CELLO, or did you know that?
  • 59a. I looove to see AZERBAIJAN in the grid. It’s the [Birthplace of 50-Across]? Okay, I’ll take your word for it.

If there is a reason that the circled letters ascend from left to right, I don’t know it.

What else is in this puzzle? Let’s have a look-see:

  • 1a. I realize that a JOINT can be a [Dive], but you can also have much classier joints that aren’t dives at all. Let’s say there’s a nice jazz club in your burg. It’s a happening joint, but not at all a dive like the roadhouse that attracts all the Harley riders.
  • 13a. The first name Spiro is the best clue that the answer to [First Greek-American vice president] is AGNEW. He’s only half-Greek, actually. His dad changed the name from Anagnostopoulos. What does that name mean? “Up agnostics town”?
  • 18a. Not a common crossword answer at all, [Lake ___, head of the Blue Nile] is TANA.
  • 30a. Le La LOI is [What le gendarme enforces]—the law enforced by the cop, in French.
  • 31a. [Joyful damsel’s cry] is MY HERO. I prefer a modern fairy tale in which our plucky damsel is the one doing the rescuing, and the handsome prince (or perhaps another damsel, though the damsel-in-distress trope is so played out) is so grateful that she saved him.
  • 35a. [Approval indicator] is a SEAL. In certain Inuit cultures, the highest sign of approval you can give someone is to deposit a large aquatic mammal at their doorstep. (If you insist, you can pretend the answer pertains to the phrase “seal of approval.”)
  • 43a. Bowling! [Its symbol is “X”] clues a STRIKE. Was your first thought the periodic table of elements, or mathematics, or a treasure map?
  • 4d. Italian! NEL [“___ mezzo del cammin di nostra vita”: Dante] is from the Divine Comedy, and it has to do with finding yourself in the middle of the road of your life.
  • 5d. TWITTER! This [Forum for 140-character messages] just got a little more entertaining today with the addition of @SteveMartinToGo.
  • 9d. The XFL was that [Former sports org. with the teams Hitmen and Rage]. That entire league seemed like an ad for steroids and inflated masculinity, didn’t it?
  • 10d. SHARI LEWIS is/was a [Puppeteer with 12 Emmys]. JIM HENSON only has 9 letters.
  • 28d. Apparently [“Bullitt” has a famous one] refers to a CHASE SCENE. Never saw it. But that entry, it’s a great one.
  • 39d. [Early Fox rival] doesn’t mean Fox News, Fox TV, or the Fox tribe. It’s 20 Century Fox, rival of movie studio RKO.
  • 40d. Interesting clue for YEN: [Its symbol is a “Y” with two horizontal lines through it].
  • 56d. Making a hedge MAZE would indeed be a [Big garden project].
  • 60d. The oddest of all oddballs in this puzzle is ZAX, a [Slate-cutting tool]. Here’s what one looks like.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 28”

Yep, arthur118 is right; this is not Joey Weissbrot's NYT puzzle.

Yep, arthur118 is right; this is not Joey Weissbrot's NYT puzzle.

Not too difficult as themelesses go, but I liked this one anyway thanks to all the sparkly fill. To wit:

  • 1a. [Sound added to a hybrid or electric car so that it’s not silent] is a VROOM TONE. Knew the concept but not the term. My hybrid has no vroom tone but luckily, I haven’t run over any blind pedestrians yet. Speaking of blind folks, last weekend at the Apple Store there was a employee on the sales floor with a white cane. I believe that to be the first time I’ve ever seen a blind person working retail.
  • 56a. [A recluse has a lot of it] clues my favorite answer in this puzzle: ALONE TIME. ALONE TIME is awesome especially for people with kids. If you ask me, a right to ALONE TIME should be enshrined in the Constitution.
  • 61a. [Tall beer glasses] and certain boats are SCHOONERS. I’ve always been fond of the word, and learning that its etymology is unknown makes it cooler.
  • 5d. MANOLO BLAHNIKS and Jimmy Choos and Christian Louboutins are all [Pricey pumps]. Boy, I hope Lady Gaga’s meat ensemble didn’t strap raw flesh onto the outside of $500 shoes.
  • 8d. [Name from the Latin word for “birthday”] clues NATALIE. I do grumble about most of the name etymology clues in the Saturday Newsday puzzles, but when there are familiar cognates (Italian buon natale, English neonatal), this shtick works better.
  • 11d. [Yellow inflatable] clues a BANANA BOAT. Not to be confused with a SCHOONER. Hey, what do you call the dessert dish you serve a banana split in?
  • 26d. [Asia, for example] is a rock SUPERGROUP containing individuals from various other bands. “Heat of the Moment” was their big ’80s hit. Remember the 16-screen video? Mullets!

I was not a fan of GOLDEN SOMBRERO. Baseball slang that even my husband doesn’t know? We get it, Peter. You love baseball. Some of your solvers love baseball, too. And then there are the rest of us, who often have no idea what obscure name or term from baseball is going to work in one of your puzzles.

Never heard of YouTube’s “FRED,” portrayed by Lucas Cruikshank. It is quite possible that my son knows the name, though.

David Kahn’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 6The clue that explains the theme briefly confused me. 58a: SPORTS BARS are [Places where you can watch (and whose end can follow the ends of) the answers to starred clues]. Say what? What it means is that the other five long answers are sports things you might watch on the TV in a sports bar, and their second words can be ___ bars:

  • 17a. [*Powerful punch] is a RIGHT CROSS. Not one of the first few punches I would think of. (Crossbars.)
  • 26a. [*Where the tight end is positioned, in football lingo] is the STRONG SIDE. Husband confirms that “strong side” and “weak side” are offense and defense (or vice versa?), but I’ve never encountered these terms in sports. Uh, who is tuning in specifically to watch the STRONG SIDE? (Sidebars, to an article or in a courtroom.)
  • 50a. [*Shot pioneered by Wilt Chamberlain] in basketball is the FINGER ROLL. I don’t know about you, but I needed lots of crossings to get this one. (Roll bars, as seen in certain vehicles.)
  • 11d. [*2010 St. Andrews competition] is called the BRITISH OPEN in the U.S., but it’s just “the Open” across the Atlantic. (Open bar is free, whereas when there’s a cash bar, you’re buying your drinks.)
  • 25d. One [*Wimbledon event] is MEN’S SINGLES. (Singles bar!)

Not crazy about some of the fill here. Plural SALS and OLINS? Crosswordese TOR and SNEE? Abbrevs? Fragment OOP? Seems as though the sextet of theme entries didn’t leave much room for fun fill.

Am sleepy now. Good night, all!

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Graveyard Duty”—Janie’s review

What a sweet anagram puzzle this is. The key is in the title and its matching clue at 58 Across, [Graveyard duty (and a hint to the starts of 17-, 23-, 36-, and 46-Across)]— which would give us LATE SHIFT. If you shift the letters in late, you get such rangy and lively fill as:

17A. TEA LEAVES [Fortuneteller’s reading material]. Because TAROT CARD wasn’t gonna cut it.

23A. LEATHER NECK [Devil dog]. Both are slang for a United States Marine. Name (of former) derives from the stiff leather collars that used to be part of the uniform. “Devil dog” nickname goes back to WWI and (purportedly) the Germans’ take on the U.S. Marine. Also a name for these puppies

36A. TALE OF TWO CITIES [Charles Dickens novel, with “A”]. Makes for good late-night reading.

46A. ALTERCATION [Scene]. Coulda been ACT DIVISION, but wasn’t. Sneaky clue here. That’s a plus.

Although the show is taped in the late afternoon, “The Late Show” with Jay LENO [O’Brien’s predecessor … and successor] airs at 11:30 p.m. and is a mainstay for night owls. Then, for an interesting take on the late shift as a labor phenomenon, you might want to read or at least take a look at Kevin Coyne’s A Day in the Night of America. It’s a book I read when it came out in ’92 so, no, I don’t remember lots about it—only that I knew I wanted to hold on to it.

Before I really saw the anagrams (and it was slow goin’ for me in that department) I thought the theme might literally have to do with death-related words (though I was finding no connection among the theme fill to support that idea). As a result, I’d marked both NÉE [Born] and STIR [Show signs of life] as “bonus fill” representing the flip side. Ah, well. Never mind. Still, the clues make for a nice pairing.

So, too, do SAFARI [Serengeti expedition] and FAUNA [Lions and tigers and bears] (oh, my!). Except you won’t see any bears on your safari as Africa is virtually a bear-free zone. Interesting, no?

I like the use of the sequential [Warning] clue: once for ALERT, once for the classic CAVEAT. I don’t believe MAE WEST, the saucy [Actress who said “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before”], would have ever been caught dead in [Long johns] DRAWERS—unless they were very, very lacy. You know, FANCY pants [Gussied up]—SWANK [Ritzy]. And she were accessorized with a TIARA. Now there’s a picture for ya!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Lollapa-Zoo-La”

Region capture 7Lollapuzzoola Lollapalooza turned into a Chicago-only event a few years back—which is not to say I’ve gone. I can’t do concerts anymore, alas. Last month’s lineup included a number of animal-named bands: Rocknoceros, Peanut Butter Wolf, Recess Monkey, Mimicking Birds, Wild Beasts, Deer Tick, Miniature Tigers, The Dodos, Minus the Bear, Frightened Rabbit, Felix da Housecat, GRIZZLY BEAR, and WOLFMOTHER. Brendan’s Lollapa-Zoo-La festival gathers those last two plus GORILLAZ, FLEET FOXES, CAT POWER, and DANGER MOUSE. Out of all these bands, the only ones I’ve heard of are the last four, which didn’t play at Lolla ’10—but the theme wasn’t that hard once I saw that animal names were included in each theme entry. In fact, this is among the easiest of Brendan’s blog puzzles, if you ask me—I seldom get below 4:00 on any of ’em.

TOY DOG ([Poodle, e.g.]) is not, as far as I know, the name of a band. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were an obscure local band, though.

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

Region capture 8The “wise moves” are the moves of the letter Y. The Ys aren’t really moving so much as moving in and altering the meaning of a phrase:

  • 20a. [Drape that’s so ugly it’s kind of great?] is a hipster’s IRONY CURTAIN.
  • 36a. [Commitment to cognac?] is BRANDY LOYALTY. (The two Ys in LOYALTY were, of course, already present in the original phrase.)
  • 54a. I like how Ben changed “Here’s Johnny!” into HERESY JOHNNY, clued as [Depp, starring in a movie that defiles the Pope?]. (And here’s another preexisting Y in the original phrase.)
  • 4d. [Fake ID?] could be a PHONEY CARD.
  • 31d. [Pool hustler who pushes people around?] clues BULLY SHARK.

Favorite fill/clues:

  • 30a. [Coffee shop hardware] is the MACBOOK you bring with you, not the espresso machine.
  • 32a. CICADAS can be [Bugs that emerge septendecennially], or every 17 years. Others are on a 13-year cycle or…some other number of years. You still hearing the occasional cicada in your neighborhood? I am.
  • 8d. VICTIM is clued as [One may be unfairly blamed]. I deplore victim blaming.
  • 13d. [Mama’s boy?] is her SON. Hey, I got a cute wedding invitation in the mail last week. The formal wording of the invitation informs guests that Mr. [insert full name of 3-year-old] invites us to the wedding of his mothers, [insert two names here]. I guess he’s a “mamas’ boy.”
  • 44d. I wanted the answer to [One may be deciduous] to be some kind of tooth. D’oh! It’s a FOREST of trees that can lose their leaves.
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17 Responses to Thursday, 9/16/10

  1. arthur118 says:

    Deleted by poster

  2. joon says:

    i guessed BERLIN WALL and STRADIVARIUS. worked the crossings for ROSTROPOVICH, which is a name i’ve probably heard but i don’t even know his (her?) first name. (MAURY POVICH is a letter short, btw. and the first puppeteer i thought of was TONY SARG, which is also too short for 10d.) i’m a little curious why CELLO was in circled letters instead of just being at 36a (say). i do like ZAX for scrabble-related reasons. actually, the whole grid was pretty darn scrabbly.

    ANGLEE is only an adjacent-key typo away from ANGLER, ANGLES, or ANGLED.

  3. ktd says:

    Mstislav ROSTROPOVICH will probably be familiar to a few generations of classical music-minded solvers. This seems like one kind of theme that is seen less and less these days in puzzles, general trivia about a famous person. Do others agree?

  4. Aaron says:

    Personally, I hate puzzles like this, that pass a pop cultural bit of trivia off as the theme. That meant most of the puzzle came from the downs and the crosses, which was already plenty hard, given the frequent use of proper names (and esoteric ones, at that). Felt far harder than a regular Thursday, and hey, I wanted a gimmick in those circles. Oh well! That’s what they make other days of the week for!

  5. greene says:

    in french, it is “la loi”

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: When I got BERLINWALL I was expecting HASSELHOFF to fit at 50A… clearly I’m too lowbrow for this crossword!

    LAT: OK this is a cool theme! but was similarly confused intra-puzzle. Willing to forgive some of the dodgy stuff in the name of a double-themed puzzle! But TOR doesn’t seem iffy at all – remember studying them in high-school…

  7. ePeterso2 says:

    NYT – Guess what? If all you have is STR- for 22A, then STRATOCASTER (initial guess) fits. Was wondering if a guitar hero was going to appear elsewhere in the puzzle. Enjoyed this puzzle. Didn’t get the TANA/BANQUO (had TARA) nor AWRY/RKO (had AWAY) crossings.

  8. Howard B says:

    Heard of the theme name but wasn’t quite sure. The rest of the fill was pretty smooth though, and would have been a faster-than-average time, had a pesky Windows Update notification not decided to stop by and pay a visit in the middle of solving. It could have at least knocked first…

    Didn’t mind the theme, although I know I had major issues with a similarly themed puzzle quite a while ago, where the theme person was an opera singer I didn’t know, and every related answer was also a trivia factoid about her I didn’t know (her most famous opera, her nickname, and something else, maybe her favorite Lady Gaga song…). In this one, the other answers were more accessible even if you didn’t know the theme personality.

  9. Martin says:

    Did you notice the zax you linked was made by Stortz?

  10. Meem says:

    Talk about wheelhouse! I had the good fortune to meet Slava and his wife more than once. When I had enough crosses to confirm 16A, theme answers fell instantly. Thanks, Joey, for a classical music theme. Also found the crosses worked well when answers were not immediately apparent.

  11. joon says:

    i used to be a baseball fan and i liked GOLDEN SOMBRERO. it’s a very colorful term, both literally and figuratively. actually i thought this was one of the best fireballs. improbably, i’ve only ever seen MANOLO BLAHNIK in crosswords—it was in chuck deodene’s “slang terms for money” NYT theme earlier this year. but overall the FB didn’t have too many obscurities and the cluing was at a nice level.

    my inkwell .puz didn’t have a title (or author or copyright), oddly. it didn’t take long to figure out the theme, though. the IRONY CURTAIN clue is so great it’s … great. that’s not very ironic, i guess.

  12. Jeff L says:

    Strong side/weak side is definitely not offense/defense. The sides refer to the right/left of the center on the line. The strong side is the side of the line with more people on it (more protection/more blockers to try to run through), which means it is where the tight end lines up in a vanilla formation. On defense, they differentiate linebackers as the “Sam” (the strong-side LB), the “Mike” (middle LB) and the “Will” (the weak-side LB). This is pretty basic terminology to a football fan.

    The book/movie “The Blind Side” is named as such because the protagonist (Michael Oher, now on the Ravens) plays left tackle, one the most important lineman on the weak (or the quarterback’s blind) side.

  13. Zulema says:

    For the record, like Meem, I was delighted with the NYT puzzle.

  14. Howard B says:

    Agree with Joon, that I have heard the term ‘Golden sombrero’ term used before, although it is very baseball-centric. I don’t know the origin, but likely that ESPN and network sportcasters and other commentators possibly use certain colorful terms more frequently, dragging them into use where they previously were uncommon or didn’t exist. For me, Manolo Blahnik is a similar experience; a non-intuitive, crosswords-only name with a rough spelling, but for many people it’s a household name. Just not in our household.

  15. John Haber says:

    I appreciated the theme person, whose name comes easily to mind for me, as does the connection to the circled letters. (I’ve seen him perform and have had his recordings.) I’ve suffered through so many TV shows and dumb sports figures in crosswords that I figure something a little more upscale, like classical music, is overdue. One day there will even be a book that’s not for children or a rock band that a New Yorker would admit listening to.

    I didn’t know that he played a strad, or even that those could be cellos and not just violins, but the word is so familiar that it wasn’t hard to guess. The Berlin Wall anecdote wasn’t familiar to me, although guessable from crossings. On the other hand, the place name crossing ZAX and IN_ defeated me. I took the puzzle’s word for it that he was born there and more or less recognized the place name and could almost sound it out in my head but couldn’t spell it. The bits surrounding XFL and TANA (both arcane to me) were also hard, although doable.

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Anybody else notice that the LAT puzzle clued DESI as [Sitcom pal of Fred]? Wuss up wit dat?

  17. Meem says:

    Didn’t slow me down for an instant! Which is pretty funny assuming the reference is to I Love Lucy in which Fred’s pal was Ricky Ricardo (played by Desi Arnaz)! Nice catch!!

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