Friday, 11/5/10

NYT 5:38
LAT 4:00
CHE 2:55
CS untimed
WSJ 6:16

Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword: Contest!

Region capture 3The Friday NYT puzzle has a contest! Figure out the answer and e-mail it in, and you might be one of 25 lucky winners to get an NYT crossword book. It took me less time to suss out the contest answer than to fill in the crossword, so if you ask me, this contest is a good bit easier than most of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest meta puzzles.

Will Shortz would love for people to have to solve the contest independently and not just send in the answer they found on a crossword blog. So I’m not telling you what the answer is, and I’d appreciate it if there were no hints or dead giveaways in the comments. (Feel free to moan that you’re stuck or gloat that you figured it out—but be nonspecific.)

Solving the crossword itself doesn’t give anything away, though, so I’ll go ahead and talk about the puzzle.

By the way, the applet notepad truncated the note. You’re to send your answer to, and the prize book is The New York Times Little Black and White Book of Holiday Crosswords.

Favorite entries and clues:

  • 7a. CLARA BOW, the “It” Girl, was an [Early film star who wore lipstick in the shape of a heart].
  • 24a. [Non-union?] plays around with the usual meaning of this adjective and clues UNWED. Saturday, I’m attending a wedding/union that cannot, alas, have the legal term marriage applied to it.
  • 38a. I read [Top-level commands, collectively] as having military ramifications, but they’re nothing more than the MAIN MENU.
  • 45a. [Measures of volume] are DECIBELS to most people, but in crosswords, you find SONES instead.
  • 52a. [Iberian city that lends its name to a variety of wine] is OPORTO, which port is named for. If the answer were 5 letters long, it would’ve been JEREZ or XERES, the namesake of sherry.
  • 1d. [“You played well”], sister. GOOD GAME.
  • 25d. [Subject of a 1980s surrogacy case] is BABY M, and I just saw a reference to this recently. I still needed the crossing to get past the word BABY and fill in the last letter. Now, this is interesting: the erstwhile Baby M is now a grad student writing her dissertation (19a: DISS, [Reqmt. for giving someone the third degree?]) on surrogacy and the law.
  • 30d. The KRONE is a [Coin with a hole in it]. It looks like play money to me.
  • 34d. The SEAHORSE is a [Fish whose male carries the eggs]. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans has plenty of cool seahorses on display.
  • 35d. The [Starting point?] when using a computer for the first time is pressing the “ON” BUTTON. Weird entry. I don’t recall seeing it in a crossword before, but I suspect plenty of people call it an “on” button rather than a power button.
  • 36d. This is absolutely not a favorite clue or answer. I’m just writing that NUCLEONS are [Bundles of bound quarks] to help me remember it because such things have a way of weaseling into crosswords more than just the one time.
  • 38d. I was proud of myself for piecing together [Something from which something else is taken away]: MINUEND. So, 10 is the minuend in “10 – 4,” but I sure can’t tell you what role 4 plays.

If you’re still mulling over the contest, good luck to you!

Clive Probert’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Home Chemistry Set”

Region capture 1I don’t know about you, but for me this puzzle was the easiest CHE outing in months. The theme entries’ clues run along the lines of [____ in our home chemistry set], and the answers are household materials that fit the bill. Naphthalene’s in MOTH BALLS. Acetone’s in PAINT REMOVER and many nail polish removers as well. LYE is sodium hydroxide, although a dictionary tells me lye is KOH rather than NaOH. WHITE VINEGAR provides acetic acid, and good ol’ sodium chloride is TABLE SALT.

Aside from the theme and the octet of 7-letter answers in the fill, not much jumped out at me in this week’s Chronicle crossword. Hmm.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 2

Cool theme: Prominent websites play the “Before and After” game with assorted noun phrases. Like so:

  • 17a. You add eBay to a bay window and you get an EBAY WINDOW, a [Favorable time to place an online bid?].
  • 27a. [Online networking site trainee?] is a MYSPACE CADET. Any theme entry that riffs on space cadet is all right in my book.
  • 44a. [Detective’s job concerning a personal online relationship?] is a FACEBOOK CASE. I’ll bet plenty of divorces involve snooping into Facebook accounts.
  • 58a. [Spinner seen in an online video?] might be a YOUTUBE TOP. Did you know paperclips can be manipulated into spinnable tops? It’s true. I saw it on YouTube.

I appreciated the theme a lot more than the fill. In addition to a few Crosswordese Greatest Hits (ERNES, ANOUK, ABOU, TARO), there are some real clunkers.

  • 37a. I have never seen an abbreviation for zodiac before, but here’s ZOD., clued as a [Coll. of 12 signs]. Usually coll. means college but I think it’s collection here.
  • Some plural abbreviations are plausible, but 22d: DECS., or [Winter mos.], is grievous. So is 56d: SEQS., or [Movies with “II” in their titles: Abbr.].
  • 14a. [Eliza’s greeting] is the Cockney-inflected ‘ELLO.
  • 38a. BORA is half of the name Tora Bora ([Afghanistan’s Tora __ region]), and none of us would know of it were it not for Osama Bin Laden hiding out there some years back.
  • 4d. Just once, I would like to see SOYA clued with some allusion to being a primarily British term. Who in the U.S. calls it “soya”? (Harrumph.) [Milk source]? How about [Milk source in Manchester]? Anyone?

I do like ANECDOTES, EAVESDROP, HIPPY/[Wide-haunched], and Albee’s ZOO STORY. I want to like QUIP but it comes with SEQS., so I just can’t.

Updated Friday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Goin’ Crackers”—Janie’s review

You might want to solve this one with a glass of milk or juice nearby. Bruce has given us four solid and terrific theme phrases today whose last words name kinds of crackers: animal, cheese, graham (named for cracker-developer and dietary reform advocate Rev. Sylvester Graham) and Ritz (the only brand name in the themed batch). Here’s how they’re being served up:

  • 17A. POLITICAL ANIMAL [One who thrives on the stump]. Political junkie? One who follows those who thrive on the stump. Remember It lives on as As for those animal crackers, here’s Shirley Temple singing about them as they appear “in my soup.” Best lyric? “When they’re inside me where it’s dark / I walk around like Noah’s ark.” (“Soup” gets rhymed with “goop,” btw—slang for a “rude or ill-mannered person.”)
  • 27A. CHUCK E. CHEESE [Mouse mascot of a pizza chain]. That’d be this guy at the left. I don’t have kids, but my friends who do have always considered this place a veritable godsend… Cheese crackers? These were always popular in our house. Cheez-Its especially—and those cheese crackers with peanut butter.
  • 48A. MARTHA GRAHAM [American choreography pioneer]. A goddess, pure and simple. See above for more on the cracker that’s so wonderful to dunk in milk.
  • 62A. PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ [1929 Irving Berlin song]. Beautiful fill. And look—though clued as [Jaunty greeting]—the now-defunct HI-HO (Cracker and one-time Ritz competitor) gets into the grid as well. Then, whether you prefer the sublime Astaire or the sublimely ridiculous Boyle and Wilder, do have a look at both of these classic renditions of Berlin’s classic.

Crackers not to your PALATE [Sense of taste]? How about a CUPCAKE [Hostess product].? Or a visit to NOLA [Emeril’s restaurant]? That name is an acronym for New Orleans, LouisianA. And given the chef’s propensity to “take it up a notch,” you can be sure there’s a lot of heat in the food there. Maybe not the best choice for someone with a [Peptic problem] ULCER… (Didn’t Britney Spears have an investment in a here-today-gone-tomorrow restaurant of the same name in NYC several years ago? Oh, no— that was Nyla, for New York, Louisiana—for about six months in 2002…)

Other lively fill is to be found in CAVORT [Prance and dance about] and GET HOT [Go on a winning streak] either of which may be enhanced (or not…) with a touch of SOMA [Happiness drug in “Brave New World”]. That boost might be better put to use during an experience that TORMENTS [Frustrates] one.

I like how TRACKERS (who may be [Bounty hunters at times]) rhymes with “crackers” and how this word ties in to PURSUE [Follow up on]—because that’s what trackers do.

Cutest clue/fill combo today? That has to go to [Cutesy term for a can?] and TUSHIE. It’s the end!

Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Celebrity Pets”

Region capture 5What an easy 21×21 puzzle. If I hadn’t had clumsy typing fingers this morning, I might’ve gone below 6 minutes. Dan Feyer finished in just 4:04. See? Frightfully easy crossword.

The theme is puns on famous names (sort of) replacing part of the name with an animal sound. Now, they’re all clued as pets, and I ask you: Who has a pet sheep? BAA BAA WALTERS is a fine pun as puns go, but sheep are not pets.

Dagnabbit, I wrote about all the theme entries and WordPress logged me out and the auto-save didn’t actually save all I’d written this time. Alas, I don’t have time to recreate it right now. Loved CHAIRMAN MEOW, was lukewarm about the rest. Fill is fine, particularly the corners full of 7s and 8s, but I wish the clues had been tougher overall.

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23 Responses to Friday, 11/5/10

  1. janie says:

    got the puzzle quite easily — and thought it was a very clever concept/execution indeed. a reasonably smooth friday solve — plus which we got a nothnagel double-header.

    all works fer me!


  2. ktd says:

    4 is the subtrahend! :-)

  3. Jeffrey says:

    *Gloat* – All those Gaffney’s must be helping.

  4. edithb says:


    I, too, was disappointed in the CHE puzzle which, to me, resembled one of those crosswords that get published in Enquirer- type publications. I don’t mean to be insulting but this one gave little pleasure in the solve.


  5. Art Shapiro says:

    I believe this is the first time in my life, after learning “minuend” and “subtrahend” many decades ago in second or third grade, that I’ve ever actually encountered the term. I was almost scared to fill it in.


  6. Evad says:

    Any other GOPHERs (for GAPING) out there? Really got me stuck in the NW for a while with that. Really enjoyed the workout this morning and the tie-in to yesterday’s puzzle as well. Thanks MN and WS!

  7. Duke says:

    OK – I officially don’t like that I can now check letters and reveal words on the day the NYT puzzle comes out. If its there, I am tempted.

  8. pauer says:

    Loved it. Curious to see how the contest will be presented in syndication (if at all).

  9. joon says:

    insanely clever idea. i could say i wish i’d thought of it, but there’s no way i’d ever have thought of it. i love it when constructors go outside the box like this.

    NUCLEON was a nice gimme for me (once i had the initial N). it just means a constituent of a nucleus, i.e. a neutron or proton. it’s possible to have bound quark bundles that aren’t nucleons—three quarks bound together form a baryon, of which the nucleons are merely the two lightest (and most stable) examples. a MESON, which shows up in the grid a little more often because it’s shorter, is a bound quark-antiquark pair. the most common example (in both reality and crosswords) is the PION, but i’ve heard of people putting KAON in crosswords too.

  10. Howard B says:

    This was great stuff from The Great Nothnagel(TM)(R)(K)(etc etc). Actually took a little bit to figure out the contest, and then it clicked.

    I agree with Jeffrey, in that solving the weekly Gaffney contest puzzles helped the thought process quite a bit.

    Bonus points for MINUEND and NUCLEON.

  11. John says:

    Both puzzles were ENJOYABLE! Good thing I figured out the contest answer, otherwise I’d be a laughingstock!

  12. zifmia says:

    LYE: Merriam-Webster thinks sodium hydroxide is reasonable for lye

    : a strong alkaline liquor rich in potassium carbonate leached from wood ashes and used especially in making soap and for washing; broadly : a strong alkaline solution (as of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide)
    : a solid caustic (as sodium hydroxide)

    Wikipedia’s entry has lye as a generic term (as in 2 above or the more general form of 1) that was historically potassium hydroxide (obtained from hardwood ashes) but now most commonly sodium hydroxide.

  13. Alex says:

    I think I’ll have to wait to talk about this because of spoilers, but let’s just say there was a very similar puzzle to this in Games Magazine a while back. It was reprinted in “Games Magazine Presents Will Shortz’s Best Brain Busters.” I liked it better the first time (not that there’s anything wrong with this iteration!)

    Someone will correct me if I’m wrong but I think this is only the second time the NYT has published the same constructor on back-to-back days … right?

  14. Jim Horne says:

    Mike is the eighth member of the Consecutive Constructors Club. David Kahn did it twice!

    Here’s the complete list from my old blog.

  15. Dan F says:

    You all can laugh at me, because I’m not seeing the meta answer! I won’t enter the contest since I don’t want the prize, but I hope I can figure it out and salvage my pride…

  16. Martin says:

    Helping out Jim Horne, here’s the list. You have to excuse these creative types when it comes to computer literacy.

    This is only the second back-to-back pair that didn’t include a Sunday puzzle. Not coincidentally.

  17. John Haber says:

    For some reason I had trouble getting started, and when I did, in the SE, I made errors and so I completed that corner last. I had “coop” for the farm shelter and “neutrons,” which of course are NUCLEONS but not the only nucleons, so that was dumb. Didn’t help that I didn’t know the preteen TV stars in that corner. Oh, well. My own fault it took me so long. Good puzzle.

    As usual, I opened the file in AcrossLite without saving it, just printing it to work in ink, so I guess now I better go find it online again and read the Notepad. Off I go!

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    Lovely meta concept and execution, Mike!

  19. Mike Nothnagel says:

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the kudos about the puzzles and the contest. These were fun to construct — glad they were as much fun to solve.

    Good luck, all!

  20. Jim Horne says:

    Thanks, Martin. I’ll never get the hang of these computer thingies.

  21. ePeterso2 says:

    Another hand up for NUCLEONS with no crossings. One of the first answers in this grid that I was sure of.

    I *think* got the answer to the contest correct. If I’m right, then some other folks out there are really gonna be mad … and if I’m wrong, then I’m just going to be very embarrassed.

  22. Jan says:

    Can someone explain the clue “Roseanne again”? I understand the answer is BARR, but why “again”?

  23. pannonica says:

    Jan: She’s gone back and forth on the single name approach, à la Cher, Madonna, Prince, Bob.

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