Thursday, 11/11/10

NYT 5:42
Tausig 7:52 (Jeffrey)
LAT 4:56 (Jeffrey)
BEQ 3:47
CS untimed

Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword

This puzzle, once it’s filled in, looks horribly wrong. Unless you drop it, that is, and find yourself looking at the theme entries from a different angle. All six theme entries are made up of insane sequences of letters, but when you rotate the grid you get passable capital letters spelling out something that corresponds to the clue. Like so:

Region capture 5

  • Region capture 820a. The mystery item is an [*Antimicrobial bit in mouthwashes (90 degrees)]. Pre-rotation, that’s NHZUHOZ, but turn your head 90° to the left and see the ZINC ION with fat, stocky I’s.
  • 22a. The next answer is UOZHU, with echoes of the constructor’s name. Turn it and you see CONIC, [*Like wizards’ caps (90 degrees)].
  • 35a. The song title “TURN, TURN, TURN” tells you what to do with the theme answers.
  • 43a. SNOISSIWNOOW flips 180° to become MOON MISSIONS.

Region capture 7

  • 59a. Keep rotating past 180° to 270° (or just tilt 90° the other way) for the last two. [Marriage, say (270 degrees)] is a ZOHZC or UNION.
  • 61a. ZOHZOOZ! Yes, I order plenty of restaurant items with NO ONION. Actually, I say “no onions,” with the plural, to be inclusive of white onions, green onions, Vidalia onions, and onions of all kinds.

What a mind-bending gimmick! I love it and I hope Mr. Zhou has more crazy crossword concepts floating around in his head. I printed this one out from the applet, which I almost never do (but did just last week for the Nothnagel contest)—I just had to show my husband this puzzle. He pronounced it to be insane (but in a good way).

Region capture 4Bonus points for the theme jacking up the Z count to 11. (Nigel Tufnel would approve.) Highlights in the fill include a tornadic VORTEX, a SHIH-TZU dog (I once photographed a sign taped onto a light pole—someone had completely lost their Shit-Zu), a PONZI scheme, a KOSOVAR from Kosovo, the Iranian city SHIRAZ (also a wine and a college classmate of mine) a good SHOUT-OUT, and the fun-to-say SOZZLED.

The bonus points are partly offset by the grievous bits of fill. The worst offenders are TAIS, AT YA, TWO HR., an OWER and EMOTER with some DOZERS, unfamiliar names ZORN and GUNN, and everybody’s favorite crosswordese [Biblical dry measures], the OMERS. Oh, and the bastard hybrid IT’S I, a [Formal/informal response to “Who’s there?”] that blends “it is I” and “it’s me.” I was so knocked out by the theme (and so busy turning my head this way and that) that I didn’t much notice the cruddy fill. The crossings for the worst words tended to be better and those clues were pliable enough—so I didn’t struggle much with anything outside of the theme answers.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times puzzle – Jeffrey’s reviewLAT Nov 11 2010

Theme – Oh, Behave!

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Battle of the Bulge air assault division] – SCREAMING EAGLES. Appropriate for this Remembrance/Veteran’s Day.
  • 23A. [Doppelgänger] – SPITTING IMAGE
  • 34A. [It’s hard to get romantic with one] – NAGGING HEADACHE
  • 48A. [Reason to see a mechanic] – WHINING ENGINE. This one sounds a little odd. Am I WHINING?
  • 56A. [Admonition to one acting out the starts of 17-, 23-, 34- and 48-Across] – MIND YOUR MANNERS. Consider yourself admonished. One step before being reprimanded.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [U.S. dept. with a Race to the Top reform prog.] – EDUC. Do we really need three abbreviations in the clue to get the message that the ans. is abbr.?
  • 14A. [JV team member, perhaps] – SOPH. More abbr.
  • 30A. [Alice’s workplace] – DINER. Mel’s to be exact.
  • 32A. [Clue] – HINT. If the clue is clue why isn’t the answer ANSWER?
  • 40A. [Important no. to most car buyers] – MPG. If you buy  at 1D. [Gas acronym] – ESSO, it is l/100km (litres per 100 kilometers). No, I don’t know why. Only that lower is better.
  • 47A. [Teeny] – ITSY bitsy.
  • 53A. [__ Tunes] – LOONEY, for example 6D. [“__ Baba Bunny“: classic Bugs cartoon] – ALI
  • 8D. [Leia’s last name] – ORGANA. Adopted name.
  • 13D. [Uncle at 0001 Cemetery Lane, in ’60s TV] – FESTER. Snap your fingers!
  • 18D. [First name in shipping] – ARI. Onassis. Does anyone still remember him?
  • 19D. [Angular measurement device used in surveying] – ALIDADE. The word is Arabic for “you’ve never heard of it so head directly to the crossings.”
  • 26D. [Mineral with basal cleavage] – MICA. Not just any basal cleavage, mind you, but highly perfect basal cleavage.
  • 32D. [__ Hop: bouncing ball brand] – HIPPITY. I’m not as up on my bouncing ball brands as I should be.
  • 39D. [Callaway of golf equipment fame] – ELY. If you have to explain who he is, he isn’t really famous.
  • 44D. [Rollercoaster ride, e.g.] – THRILL/45D. [Former Disney chief] – EISNER. Makes you wish you were in Orlando.
  • 47D. [Part of a conspiracy] – IN ON IT. Six letters, three words. Beat that!
  • 49D. [Kind of salad dressing] – NO OIL. Five letters, two words. Not good enough.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Boosting the Mix” – Jeffrey’s review

Region capture 9Theme: Learning How to Pour Drinks

Theme answers:

  • 41A. [It deals with hard stuff] – BARTENDING EXAM
  • 17A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – GIVE IT A SHOT
  • 26A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – THAT’S THE SPIRIT
  • 54A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – CONCENTRATE



  • 48A. [9Lives rival] – MEOW MIX (check the title)

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Ibsen’s Gabler] – HEDDA. HEDDA Hopper was a gabber.
  • 6A. [Memorial at a Buddhist wat] – STUPA. What’s a wat? Who’s on First?
  • 11A. [Avril follower] – MAI. Janvier, Fevrier, Mars, Avil, MAI, Juin, Juillet, Aout, Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, Decembre. My English speaking spell-checker hates me right now.
  • 14A. [Drug at the center of some 19th-century wars] – OPIUM. Opium, poppy, Remembrance Day. Unexpected tie-in.
  • poppy15A. [Time for a tuck] – NIGHT. Shouldn’t that be tuck-in? Does anyone get a tuck-out? No covers for you! Wait, my wife does that to me every night.
  • 16A. [Does a DJ’s job] – EQS. Equalizing? Also known as mixing. Hey, wait a minute!
  • 19A. [Massage] – RUB. Aye, there’s the massage.
  • 20A. [Edible shellfish] – SCALLOP. So who was the first person who tasted it? And who was the first to think eating an egg was a good idea?
  • 21A. [From an ancient Greek city] – NEMEAN. I haven’t met too many NEMEANS lately.
  • 23A. [Boxing, to pacifists] – ANATHEMA. If they hate boxing why is “fists” in their name?
  • 32A. [Historic Memphis blues street] – BEALE.
  • 33A. [Place for those only interested in getting off] – EXIT LANE. No double entendres around these parts. Nope, none.
  • 35A. [Twice, “Notorious” band] – DURAN. My least favourite ’80s group. Twice.
  • 37A. [The Andrews Sisters’ ”Bei Mir __ Du Schön”] – BIST. Maybe if DURAN DURAN sang with the Andrews Sisters I would have liked them.
  • 44A. [Open and shut, e.g.] – ANTONYMS. What is the ANTONYM of ANTONYM?
  • 60A. [Short-lived and generally disastrous sports experiment of the early 2000s] – XFL. But it lives on in crosswords.
  • 2D. [___ fail] – EPIC. See XFL.
  • 3D. [Big-headed celebrity, so to speak] – DIVA
  • 5D. [Question on walking into a meeting] – AM I LATE. Yes, you are.
  • 6D. [Lose your cool with] – SNAP AT. Yes, you are!!!!
  • 9D. [Puts a half-assed effort toward] – PHONES IN. I think I’ll end here.
  • 13D. [0316038377, e.g., for “Twilight”] – ISBN. Did Ben enter the number randomly in Google and “Twilight” came up?? What luck.
  • 22D. [One may be knocked over continually by those goddamn teenagers in their goddamned pickup] – MAIL BOX. This puzzle is starting to scare me.
  • 28D. [One recognized at mid-season, often] – ALL-STAR. It just doesn’t pay to be good in the second half of the season. Seems unfair.
  • 35D. [“There’s a tarantula on your head”] – DON’T MOVE. Now I’m really scared.
  • 36D. [Word processing option] – UNDO. I did an UNDO on the last few answers. Everything’s ok now.
  • 39D. [Some bridge holdings] – TENACES. Ten ace is not a tenace. Queen Ace is.
  • 40D. [Country fully landlocked by one other country] – LESOTHO. South Africa is that one other country.
  • 42D. [Team of Queens] – NY METS. Ryan and Brian didn’t fit.
  • 45D. [Candy for which Rahzel once shilled] – TWIX
  • 47D. [Stunt biker Knievel] – EVEL. Well that’s one profession where the son won’t follow the father. Wait.
  • 51D. [“Believe ___ not!”] – IT OR. And how would you clue ITOR? Huh? Thought so.
  • 56D. [“Fortunate Son” band, to fans] – CCR. Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Updated Thursday morning:

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

Oh, now here’s another fun one. This is a mash-up / Venn diagram / before-and-after theme with a popular-internet-site twist. Patrick’s new look at an old technique, the utter plausibility of the “afters” and the overall strength of the non-theme fill help to ASSURE [Make inevitable] this puzzle’s success. Here’s how it all PLAYS OUT [Unfolds]:

20A. [Investigation into a social networking site?] MY SPACE PROBE. Or, to spell it out (this time only) My Space + space probe = [My [Space] probe] . Very cool. Imoo.

31A. [T-shirt advertising a video site?] YOU TUBE TOP. Thing is, no flies on those folks at YouTube (well, Google actually…). You know they have merchandise. No tube-tops, but they sure do have T’s. And infant-wear. And mouse pads. And…

42A. [Screen frame displaying an auction site?] E-BAY WINDOW. I guess any page on the site would qualify. A bay window can let a lot more light in however…

53A. [Group for fans of a social networking site?] FACEBOOK CLUB. What the world needs now. If you’re on Facebook, aren’t you already a member of the club? I’m so not a member (or a “Facebugger” as one of my [actual] friends calls it). And while I think that the phenomenon is phenomenal and a defining aspect of this part of the century (whose technology and impact cannot be lightly dismissed—or dissed), I was still grateful to read Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis in The New Yorker of the effectiveness of social media vis à vis social change. A terrific read.

In addition to this fine group of theme fill we get a bonus entry—something that links together all these “hyperlinks,” namely the WEB, that [Browser’s bailiwick]. Sweet.

What else do I like today? I’ll start with the 1A./1D. crossing of GRASP and GET. Both can mean “understand,” but Patrick mixes it up some, cluing them as [Clutch] and [Take vengeance on] respectively. Keeps things interesting! In that same NW corner is TYPE A [Competitive kind of personality]. This makes for a nice complement to the SE corner’s VIE [Compete]. We also find SLEDS there, for [Enjoys a snowy slope]. Snowy slopes can also be enjoyed with fill from the top: SKIS [Biathlon gear].

A [Diner dessert]? PIE. But note how it shares that “I” with DIETER [“The Biggest Loser” contestant]. Talk about putting temptation in one’s way… I suppose the dieter who gives in to temptation will soon become an ATONER [Penitent sort].

And how about SEXED UP [Made more alluring]? Take a listen. I think there might be a tie in here to “Love Zone” from [“Love Zone” singer Billy] OCEAN. Born Leslie Sebastian Charles, Mr. Ocean is from Fyzabad, Trinidad. Now there’s a place name for constructors’ word lists!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Play Grounds”

Region capture 10Where do you play various sports? The tennis or basketball COURT (JESTER), the cricket PITCH (BLACK), the running TRACK (LIGHTING), the football FIELD (TRIPS), and the baseball DIAMOND/boxing RING. Had you ever noticed that the phrase “diamond ring” consists of two athletic venues? I hadn’t.

Five clues:

  • 1d. A nerve signal’s [Transmission part?] is a SYNAPSE. Nice mislead.
  • 5d. Don’t go to UNO [___ Chicago Grill] and think you’re getting the sort of food everyone eats in Chicago. We eat a lot of thin-crust pizza here.
  • 44d. SHADES are an [Accessory for Kanye West]. I was just reading that George W. Bush kept pronouncing the name “Conway” during his Matt Lauer interview. Who wouldn’t like a Conway West/Kanye Twitty mashup?
  • 46d. [Bridge opening], A HEART? Feels like an arbitrary add-an-article answer.
  • 51d. [Costumes made with bedsheets] wants to be GHOSTS but only TOGAS will fit.
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32 Responses to Thursday, 11/11/10

  1. Knowing today’s geographic arcana (BRAZOS, SHIRAZ) proved essential to my solving the puzzle quickly. When I saw that the answer to the first starred clue began in NHZ, I figured there was some alphabetic oddity and simply ignored the theme by solving down answers until I had to address it…which occurred at the crossing of SOZZLED and ZOHZC/UNION. Wonderfully clever idea.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    That’s an extremely clever theme.

  3. Al says:

    Loved this one. Usually I don’t stop to appreciate the theme when I’m on the clock, but I couldn’t resist turning the puzzle around to get the theme entries. In fact, you had to in order to check the crossings! I had to go back and write letters in more neatly before I finally comprehended ZINC ION. Great fun!

  4. Karen says:

    One of my favorite puzzles of the year. This would be a fun one to watch other people solve, between the cussing and the head turning. Hopefully I’ll remember OMERS for next time.

  5. Margaret UIO says:

    Awesome puzzle! There OUGHT TO be a prize for this one.
    Too bad Bill NYE and Peter GUNN weren’t invited.

  6. Anne E says:

    Looks like I’m in a minority of one here – I completely disliked this concept, possibly because I use lower case. :-)

  7. joel says:

    did anyone notice (care) that Andrew Zhou’s last name upside down is Noyz (noise)?

  8. Howard B says:

    Amazingly cool, my favorite kind of theme, one that twists your mind in unexpected directions.

    My only stumbling block was that I could not parse ‘ZINC ION’ correctly, no matter what direction I tried to rotate those #&$^ letters. I relied on crossings after failed iterations and readings of NIZCION, NO I NAZI, and who knows what else. I think my last attempt may have resulted in something close to SNOOZIN, which I took as a subliminal hint to finally get some sleep.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Anne, there are so few puzzles that are better done via keyboard rather than with a pen or pencil, but this is one of ’em.

  10. Anne, I agree with Amy. There’s no way I would have solved this one as fast on paper.

  11. pannonica says:

    I was delayed on the NYT theme because I was mentally rotating each letter, not the entire word. Lost at least five minutes overcoming that mental hurdle.

  12. Meem says:

    Not only do I solve on paper, I cross my Zs and my Hs sideways do not resemble Is. So this took a long time and many crosses. No love for this puzzle from me.

  13. john farmer says:

    I have to disagree with the paper vs. computer comments. Today’s puzzle was one that would have been much better to solve on paper. TURNing a piece of paper 90, 180, or 270 degrees to see the answers is a skill that even I could do as well — and as quickly — as the speed demons around here. Rotating a computer — not so easy. I was about to use some scissors to cut up my PC monitor, but Amy’s artwork up top has saved me the trouble. Whew.

  14. Gareth says:

    LAT:The theme idea is absolutely classic!!! And the clue for NAGGINGHEADACHE is brilliant!! Agree the validity of WHININGENGINE as an entry is a bit iffy… not sure what else is possible, suspect not a lot. Favourite non-theme entries: HAMSTRING and AGOUTI. Never heard of a SANDGLASS only an HOURGLASS, which appears to be the same thing. Huh? Knew ALIDADE, but that took a while to come to me… Felt on the tough side for a LAT Thursday, that’s a good thing!

  15. John Haber says:

    Fascinating. I liked it a lot, even though getting it took overcoming some real obstacles. The fill seemed to go quickly, but with holes that just happened often to be in theme words that eluded me.

    This was partly connecting I (which I enter without serifs) to H on its side and U (which I enter with a curve at lower right) into C on its side. And partly it was the unfamiliar BRAZOS, dog (which I misremembered as “shiatzu,” but that’s another word entirely), ZORN, and SOZZLED (which definitely had me doing a double take. The first of these actually left me with my only mistake, as I wavered between DEO and “Dei.”

  16. kent brody says:

    That one looked like a Number 5 at the ACPT….

  17. Lloyd Mazer says:

    I gotta believe this theme idea came from his name ZHOU which has all four of the rotating letters and which rotates to COIN. He must have recognized this oddity when playing with the letters of his last name and parlayed it into a great and unique theme. Good job Andrew!

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Lloyd, from Jim Horne’s interview with Andrew Zhou at Wordplay:

    “I remember a few years ago getting a postcard reminding me of some upcoming appointment. I guess that in order to easily access my folder from the shelves, the receptionist wrote my last name in all caps vertically on the left margin of the postcard. This sat on my desk for few days until I stumbled upon it and wondered for a few seconds why the word ‘COIN’ was written on this postcard! That would be, of course, from viewing the postcard turned 90 degrees clockwise. Back then, this was only a curious observation.”

  19. Wes says:

    Terrific theme. One complaint: the OLY/NYES crossing is obscure and uncool (in my opinion).

  20. joon says:

    yeah, people have largely said what i’ve got to say. i had trouble with OLY/NYES but guessed right. my Z’s are crossed, my U’s have tails; my I’s are sans serif. so i had a devil of a time making out the 90°/270° theme answers—and all that is on top of the trouble i usually have trying to read my own handwriting. still, it was a pretty remarkable puzzle idea and i’m very impressed that it worked out. the ZHOU/COIN thing is pretty awesome too (only works if ZHOU is a down answer, though!).

    what happened to the fireball—did it not get blogged?

  21. Happy Veterans Day,
    Please honor America by checking out my Puns and Anagrams blog. God Bless us all. Except the Atheists.

    Puns and Anagrams

  22. Lloyd Mazer says:

    Amy – thanks for the reference to Jim Horne’s interview – never saw it.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The atheists can stay here, talk about puzzles, and pay homage to U.S. veterans.

  24. So can those of us who aren’t atheists. The high-quality puzzle discussions brought me here in 2006, and I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

  25. Martin says:

    I think the idea is atheists might not want to be God blessed. No lack of inclusion taken.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Hey, I checked out Ariel Nathanson’s “Puns and Anagrams” blog. I feared a site full of those sub-cryptic crosswords but instead found a visual delight! Mel Gibson anagrams to BONG SLIME, and both are depicted. JUDO is depicted with a deer in Jewish accouterments (though the Star of David earrings say “doe,” the beard and yarmulke say “stag”). The phrase “peanut gallery” gets a nutty art museum treatment. Cool stuff, Ariel.

  27. Dave G. says:

    Wow, an off topic discussion (re atheists). It’s like the old days.. :-)

    I for one am suffering from trans-pacific jet-lag, hence was defeated by this puzzle last night. I got the theme fairly quickly (which I think is way cool), but was unable to muster sufficient focus to hang with it last night. I did finish it just now and I think this is up in the top ten gimmick puzzles of all time.

    Mr. Zhou must have been a boy scout – Do a good turn daily.

  28. Hey Amy,

    Thanks for checking out the blog!

    I would also like to apologize for mentioning god/atheists/america on this thread – I’ve learned that my lame humor is even worse when channeled through the internet.

    Peas and Love,


  29. Meem says:

    After carrying this puzzle baggage with me all day (that would be called work) will grudgingly admit it was a constructor’s coup! But still this solver’s meh!

  30. Jenni says:

    I never comment when I agree because I solve late in the day and don’t like saying “me, too”, but I’m commenting now, so…

    I did NOT like this. I can appreciate that it’s a great construction, but I did not enjoy it. I don’t like puzzles-within-a-puzzle in general. I agree that it would have been better solved on paper, but didn’t realize that until I was almost done and I didn’t feel like bothering to print it out.

    So it’s like Wagner’s music, for me: cognitively, I understand that it is a marvelous piece of work, but I’d as soon not experience it again.

  31. Martin says:

    Congrats to Joon on being a nine-hole contest winner!

  32. Jan says:

    I don’t have access to the NY Times puzzles, but I’m so curious about this one, judging from the comments. Is there a website where I could print this specific puzzle, without paying for a subscription?

Comments are closed.