Thursday, 12/2/10

Fireball 6:59
NYT 3:55
LAT 4:40 (Jeffrey)
Tausig 10:26 (Jeffrey)
CS untimed
BEQ 5:29

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 5I’ll call this puzzle a quasi-Gehryesque creation: The theme’s structure has as much impact as the theme’s content. The theme or gimmick, whatever you want to call it, is that there are nine pairs of 7-letter words (that’s a whopping 126 theme squares) and each pair of answer words shares a clue. Since you have no way of knowing which 7-letter possibility will go in the left spot and which in the right, you are forced to rely heavily on the crossings. While I love the theme concept and density, the puzzle falls apart for me in the crossings. Egad, there is some fusty crosswordese in those spots! I fear the Downs took me too much out of the zone that the cool Acrosses created. And a Gehry crossword‘s “Look what I made!” thrill needs, for me, to be accompanied by wit and entertainment and not by distracting blah bits of fill. I expect some fervid disagreement with my assessment.

Here are those Across word pairs:

  • 1a, 8a. [Orient] is the noun FAR EAST and the verb SITUATE.
  • 15a, 16a. [Ace] is an AVIATOR and, in a deck of cards, a ONE-SPOT.
  • 17a, 18a. [Lower in stature] clues the verb DEGRADE and the preposition BENEATH.
  • 34a, 38a. [I, for one] is a PRONOUN and a Roman NUMERAL. Ah, very good (but probably easy for long-time solvers). I bet a number of people considered something like ELEMENT, thinking of I as the symbol for iodine.
  • 40a, 41a. ENTENTE is diplomatic [Understanding] and EMPATHY is emotional [Understanding].
  • 42a, 43a. [Tire] clues WEAR OUT and a rubber tire that’s been given a new tread, a literal RETREAD.
  • 60a, 63a. [Loose] is LIBERAL and AT LARGE. Excellent, not overly obvious.
  • 65a, 66a. [Mean] is the noun AVERAGE and the verb SIGNIFY.
  • 67a, 68a. GETS MAD and botanical or insect ARISTAS (a noun I have seldom seen outside of crosswords) are [Bristles].

The bits that lost me were the flock of ERNES near the suffix ERN, partials A PAT and ON OUR and AS A (I’ll give you a pat on your ASA), old-school crosswordese ARTEL, ugly trade name AGFA, ONER, AGA, and EWERS. I actually liked the GOLGI body, the African geography of NYASA ([Lake bordered by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania]), and the medieval vibe of WOTAN and ETHS, though I could see some folks grouping those with the other answers in this paragraph. Oh, hey: Some of you know 20-something crossworder Jonathan Brown, who’s taking a couple years off from reading this blog while he’s in the Peace Corps in Lichinga, Mozambique. Why, that’s right near Lake Nyasa (aka Lake Malawi, Lake Niassa, Lake Nyassa). “Lake Nyasa? Oh, sure. I know someone out that way. Teaches math.” Speaking of puzzlers in southern Africa and the crosswordese in their lives, constructor/blog pal Gareth Bain recently reported his encounter with an AGAMA in South Africa. See? Sometimes we think things are crosswordese just because we don’t live in Africa.
Time- 4:40

Pancho Harrison’s LA Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LAT times Dec 2 2010Happy Hannukah/chanuka/channuka/Hanukah!

Theme: Amusing job assessments

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [“So I hear your job as exercise class instructor is __”] – WORKING OUT
  • 29A. [“So I hear your job as a burlesque dancer is __”] – TAKING OFF
  • 46A. [“So I hear your trash removal business is __”] – PICKING UP
  • 62A. [“So I hear your scuba diving business is __”] – GOING UNDER. Too bad. The other three jobs are going so well.

One-line review for those in a hurry: “So I hear my part-time crossword blogging is FILLING IN.”

Other stuff:

  • 21A. [Ancient Andean] – INCA
  • 22A. [Davenport shopper, probably] – IOWAN. A shopper in Davenport, not one buying a Davenport. Unless they are shopping at “Davenport’s Davenports.” How’s that business going?
  • 37A. [Big, outmoded piece of equipment] – DINOSAUR
  • 38A. [Paris pronoun] – TOI/28D. [Of a pelvic bone] – ILIAC. Oops, I put TON/ILNAC, which is half right.
  • 39A. [Accountant, at times] – AUDITOR. Indeed. My accounting business is ADDING UP.
  • 41A. [Airport safety org.] – TSA. You never hear about these people, do you? Those guys are LOOKING UP and in and through and under and…
  • 49A. [Dollar sign shape] – ESS. What about the line?
  • 55A. [Disease attacker] – DRUG. I first had Doug. Go get those diseases, Doug!
  • 65A. [“Got it, Daddy-o!”] – I DIG. Why is “cool” always cool but “groovy” stopped being groovy in 1970?
  • 68A. [Frosty’s button] – NOSE. One of my two favourite December time shows (along with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
  • 4D. [Yellow ribbon site of song] – OAK TREE
  • 9D. [“__ a chance!”] — NOT
  • 10D. [Bionic beings] – CYBORGS. What would the $6,000,000 man cost today?
  • 22D. [“Everybody is __, only on different subjects”: Will Rogers] – IGNORANT. I know nothing about this.
  • 24D. [Watching “Avatar,” say] – ESCAPISM. This clue/answer combo seems off.
  • 31D. [Caboodle partner] – KIT. Poor caboodle, never able to make it on its own.
  • 34D. [Artist __ Hals] – FRANS. Proof that there are no famous FRANSes.

Time- 10:26

Ben Tausig’s “Banned Can” crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Tausig Dec 2 2010Theme:  37A. [Potent alcohol + caffeine choices recently forced by the FDA to change their formula, and this puzzle’s theme] – FOUR LOKOS (LOKO is hidden in circled letters in each theme answer)

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [“I Ran (So Far Away)” band, with “A”] – FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
  • 22A. [Utopia, pejoratively] – CLOUD CUCKOOLAND. More unknownness
  • 54A. [Appalachian peak] – LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN
  • 60A. [Stealth object in fantasy games] – CLOAK OF DARKNESS

One-line review for those in a hurry: Never having heard of Four Loko, combined with 41 three-letter answers, leads to unsatisfying experience.

Other stuff:

  • 16A. [Online video site] – HULU. I never link here because they won’t let Canadians access it.
  • 41A. [Musician Buckley who died swimming in Memphis] – JEFF. No idea. What I can’t get JEFF, the whole thing is doomed.
  • 58A. [Cry when hit by a sibling, perhaps] – MOMMY/56D. [“$#*! ___ Says” (CBS sitcom)] – MY DAD. Nice parental crossing.



Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 34”

Region capture 6I was just in the midst of completely forgetting about blogging the Fireball puzzle I solved earlier this evening when Joon mentioned it in a comment. Yes! It is pretty danged wonderful. It’s pegged to just the difficulty level I tend to enjoy most—Saturday NYT rigor but not a killer that makes me question my aptitude.

Lots of starkly unusual and interesting fill, plus clues that make you think. Among the brightest spots in the fill are these answers:

  • MAN ONE: Man alive! I could not figure this out for the longest time. The clue—[D.A. offering in a murder trial, perhaps]—abbreviates “district attorney,” which is your cue that the answer is curtailed too. (Didn’t think about the abbreviation until after I had the answer, alas.) Short for “manslaughter in the first degree.”
  • QUETZALCOATLUS?!? That’s a dinosaur name? I had no idea. The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, sure.
  • ZWEI UND ZWANZIG is twenty-two in German. (Similarly, “Neun und neunzig Luftballons” means “99 balloons.” Luft is “air,” not “red,” but translating the Nena song to “99 Air Balloons” would sound stupid. (What’s really crazy is that we expect German language surprise fill from Matt Gaffney, not Peter Gordon.)
  • NORA EPHRON is a solid and familiar first/last name combo. But the clue! Those were Harry and Sally’s last names?
  • DAEDALUS, father of Icarus. It’s a cool name, no?
  • TWEEZES is fun because of its clue, [Disconnects, as a unibrow].

My favorite clues:

  • 36d. [Brewer constituent] made me think of beer or maybe tea, but an ARIZONAN is a constituent of Governor Teresea Brewer. No, wait. Wrong Brewer. Jan Brewer! Teresa Brewer lives on in crosswords and was, I dunno, an actress and/or singer back in the day.
  • 32d. [Founders] looked to me like a plural noun, but no, it’s a verb here: GOES UNDER. Unexpected.
  • 5a. [Hog’s little cousin?] is a MOPED because a “hog” is a big ol’ Harley Davidson motorcycle.
  • 10a. [Target of a slugger’s swing in the strike zone?] is a SCAB, if you envision a strike-breaking scab getting punches thrown at him by somebody. For once, something that looks basebally in a Peter Gordon puzzle turns out to have nothing to do with the sport.
  • 28a. The ACLU is clued with [One of its concerns is LGBT rights]. Yes, indeed! I donated to the ACLU this fall because that’s what my best friend registered for as a wedding gift, and boom, today the Illinois legislature passed a bill authorizing the legal rights attendant on civil unions for same-sex couples. Thanks for your help, ACLU of Illinois! “This time, it’s personal.”

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “The En is Near”—Janie’s review

“The en is near,” but you’ve no reason to repent—or make a dash looking for dashes… It is incumbent on you, however, to augment four familiar (mostly two-word) phrases with an additional “EN”—sometimes attaching it to the start of first word, sometimes to the start of the last. Today’s guilty parties? They’d be:

  • 17A. LUNCH ENCOUNTERS [Brushes with brown-baggers?]. Funt clue. Enjoyed having to decide whether “brushes” was a noun or a verb—and also just how the theme would play out. For a while I entertained the idea that there was a dropped-letter twist going on, so that those “brushes” might occur at luncheon counters
  • 27A. ENDIVE BOMBER [Crop duster, at times?]. This gets me thinkin’ of North by Northwest… Duck and cover, Cary!!
  • 46A. ORANGE ENTRÉE [Macaroni and cheese?]. Third orange this week, but there’s been a fresh approach each time. Gotta love that. Ditto Prokofiev playing the piano transcription of his march from The Love for Three Oranges… Notice, too, the way the pronunciation of “tree” changes to “tray” with the addition of that extra syllable. Because of the simplicity and poignancy the of song that forms the base phrase, Doug accomplishes this even more successfully (and humorously) with the last theme item, which, in its own right, is an
  • 60A. ENTRY TO REMEMBER [Noteworthy diary section?]. “Dear Diary, Tonight I saw a little show called The Fantasticks that had such a sweet opening number—a little folk ballad called ‘Try to Remember‘”… (Do check out the link. A constructor of note has posted a thoughtful comment.)

There’s so much lively fill in the remainder of the puzzle as well—with a bit of a theatrical bent to it, too. For starters, poised symmetrically in the grid are [Arthur Miller drama set in Salem, with “The”] CRUCIBLE and OPERETTA [Gilbert and Sullivan production]. Then we get a double-dip of Shakespeare, with [“Much] ADO [About Nothing”] (my fave of the comedies) and LEAR [King of tragedy]. (Among the tragedies, I go with “the Scottish play.“) And while PLAY is in the grid, today it refers to a [Quarterback’s call]. Still, the word itself ties in nicely to that [Auditioner’s goal]/PART combo—perhaps for a role in something by Jean-Paul SARTRE [“No Exit” dramatist].

From the cinematic and broader world of entertainment, there’s Star Trek‘s UHURU [Crewmate of Spock], [“Pulp Fiction” actor Ving] RHAMES (Ving being short for Irving; Rhames for Rameses…), [“The Green] HORNET[” (60s superhero TV show)], SESAME [Oscar the Grouch’s street], the [“Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Everybody Hates Chris”]/SITCOM combo, and let’s not forget [Lady] GAGA. Really enjoy the way that entry shares its second “G” with the final one in GAG [Comedy bit].

I co-opted play for my own purposes, but it really does belong in the “sports-related” column—right there with ALI [“When We Were Kings” boxer], EVEL [Stunt biker Knievel] and (present with first and last name) MEL OTT [Polo Grounds slugger]. I have to say that with this puzzle, Doug made a good solid hit himself!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Thursday”

Region capture 7What a treat to have a second themeless from BEQ this week. Let’s take it on list style:

  • 1a. BALAAM’S ASS? Oh, yeah. Might have to dock Brendan a point for crossing this answer with ANAL, though.
  • 15a. I HAD NO IDEA! Good stuff.
  • 19a. Always appreciate a good DOUBLE ENTENDRE and “That’s what she said” bit.
  • 25a. [“Raiders of the Lost Ark” setting] is TANIS? Never heard of it.
  • 37a. Apparently MULLETS are making a bit of a comeback. Wouldja do me a favor? Carry scissors, and if you find yourself beside a mullet, slip behind it and *snip snip*. No party in the back.
  • 50a. I thought this was spelled HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, but I guess I can go with YA.
  • 29d. They say ‘TIL, with the apostrophe replacing UN, is unnecessary and dorky, and that the word till is perfectly serviceable. I say ’til is useful because till is also a noun meaning the money drawer. Nobody is taking ’til from me.
  • 39d. I’ve always liked the Tunis/TUNISIA combo. Too bad other countries don’t call their capital cities Armen, Alger, and Indones.
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19 Responses to Thursday, 12/2/10

  1. Filled in five minutes, and sorted out SIGNIFY for another two. That was one where I didn’t know all the crossings (AGFA especially) and could not discern the meaning of “mean” as a result. But this is all sound and fury from me, and I know what that signifies…

    I didn’t mind the “Gehryesque” theme, even if the crossings were rough in places. I expect such a puzzle every now and then, and the game of figuring out which two meanings were intended for each matched clue pair was a good test of grammatical chops.

  2. joon says:

    i liked this one! all of the theme answers were at least somewhat interesting, and a handful were excellent. only one i didn’t know was ARISTAS, but with those letters, you can bet i’ll be committing it to memory. (i’m guessing ARISTA singular does not often get clued that way.)

    the penultimate fireball is incredible. i won’t say anything else about it until it’s blogged, but it’s pretty awesome.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Very happy with the NYT cleverness and the Fireball was just right for me, for a change! The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

    I’m still annoyed that I can’t get the USA Today stuff any more… I used to like warming up with the Word Roundup. There’s been a snafu on that website for over two weeks!

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    The NYT theme is clever. I also liked the Fireball, which took me 9:59.


  5. red dog says:

    Isn’t it amazing that Peter Gordon almost never resorts to crosswordese despite the super-challenging grids? I find that remarkable. Great Fireball, with lots of surprises. Fierce but fair, the best combination.

  6. Anne E says:

    Yeah, Matt, I was channeling you during the Fireball! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a Fireball theme answer (14 letters long, at that), with no crossings before, but yay for 23A!

    Count me in as one who liked today’s NYT as well, although I almost got derailed right at the start by wanting REBELS for 22A as my first entry, and thinking there was going to be some kind of nasty rebus going on here.

  7. The Puzzlers Progress says:

    Felt like an ordinary Thursday until I reached the Slough of Despond in the SE. I spent more than half my time there. BAH, BRIT, ANS, and ARISTAS were all I could see. Finished it without Help after I came up with SAYSO.

  8. Will Nediger says:

    ZWEIUNDZWANZIG was sweet. Somebody should put “kaksikymmentäkaksi” in a crossword. Anyone?

  9. joel says:

    In regard crosswordese animals, I have seen an ani in Costa Rica and a stoat in New Zealand and hope to see an agama some day

  10. Meem says:

    Really liked the clues and triple stacks in NYT. Also a reminder as to why learning English can be a challenge.

  11. Evad says:

    Really struggled with the FB last night–both of the long entries were just one letter after the other from the crossers. My only help was knowing ZWEI was 2 and UND was “and” and thinking 20 would start similar to ZWEI and then for the dinosaur, like Amy was familiar with QUETZALCOATL (though couldn’t spell it correctly to save my life) from all the Karen M. Tracey puzzles we did back in the NY Sun heyday. Haven’t read anything by NORA EPHRON, but certainly being familiar with her name helped a lot too.

    I agree all the crossers were fair and PG does an excellent job of keeping away from crosswordese and partials.

  12. john farmer says:

    Funny on the BT puzzle. I had never heard of FOUR LOKOS either. Then, minutes after the puzzle, I opened the Back Story page of this week’s Newsweek to read “What Was the Four Loko of 1708?,” comparing the drink with the Moscow mule, absinthe, and other libations of the past.

    I liked the FB too, and seemed to breeze through it more quickly than most. I may be in the minority on a couple of answers though. MAN ONE deesn’t have the same ring as MURDER ONE. Is that what they call it? Maybe I haven’t watched enough Law & Orders. I thought the German 22 was borderline — nice Scrabbly answer but sort of arbitrary. I liked the dinosaur (not one I’ve seen in any of my son’s dino books) and the Risk territory (I tried IRKUTSK first). Lots of other good stuff too.

    The NYT was a winner in my book.

  13. John Haber says:

    I liked the NYT a lot. One would have to depend on crossings even without the theme, since we’d still have seven-letter entries clued somewhat vaguely. The biggest impact of the theme on solving was making things into six mini-puzzles, but worth the effort.

    Naturally the hardest were where the crossings were the hardest or the connection to the theme clues hardest, which to me were the NE (ONE SPOT?, ETHS for “edhs”), the SE (NYASA, ARISTAS), and to a lesser extent the SW (SLAG OFF?).

  14. Jeff says:

    Big fan of the LAT puzzle today! Tickled my fancy.


  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    As a sometime Thursday grouser, I liked today’s a lot, and thought it was very clever. I wasn’t really troubled by the fill, except for that AGPA, or whatever it was, which didn’t do much for me. Sounds like someone lucked into a random assortment of letters which could get a clue. Moderate difficulty, though the SE was my last quadrant too.


  16. Howard B says:

    Fireball rocked. Learned some of the German numbers last year (forgetting some, regrettably), and it pays off! (Not just for traveling in Germany).

    MAN ONE was the toughest one there for me too. I don’t watch crime shows, I’m not a cop, nor do I play one on TV.

  17. Alex Allain says:

    The LAT puzzle made me smile too. There used to be a trash company in New Orleans whose slogan was to be, “Our business stinks, but it’s picking up,” so that one came quickly.

  18. Quentinc says:

    FB: I may be four days too late, but it’s never too late to grouse. :)

    Man One, even if that alien phrase may be used on TV for all I know (manslaughter is usually divided into voluntary and involuntary), makes no sense. If it’s a murder trial, then the charge is murder, which means intentional killing.

    Manslaughter is an entirely different category: a charge for killing someone without intending to.

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