Thursday, 12/9/10

Fireball 5:36
NYT 5:24
LAT 5:03 (Jeffrey)
Tausig 7:45 (Jeffrey)
BEQ 4:24
CS untimed

Byron Walden and Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 10All right, this puzzle’s tougher than the typical Thursday puzzle. (It is, isn’t it? Or was it just me?) The theme is straightforward and yet complicated: There are six compound words or two-word phrases. If you split them in half, each word from the first half can combine or compound with the word SMOKE while the second half partners with FIRE. Here’s a roadmap:

  • 58d. SMOKE is a [Word that can combine with the starts of the answers to the six starred clues].
  • 71a. FIRE is a [Word that can combine with the ends of the answers to the six starred clues].
  • 22a. [*Dramatically expose] clues BLOW OPEN. Two verb phrases: blow smoke, open fire.
  • 24a. A HOUSEBOAT is a [*Home near a shore]. A smokehouse is where you cure your meats and whatnot, and a fire boat is handy for putting out fires on other boats. I mixed myself up here by thinking of a firehouse and wondering what a smoke boat was.
  • 54a. HOLY CROSS is the name of a [*Massachusetts college]. “Holy smoke! Don’t get caught in the crossfire!”
  • 59a. [*1975 Southern rock hit stereotypically requested at concerts] is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “FREE BIRD.” “Free Bird! Free Bird!” (Raise your lighter here.) Smoke-free, a Pontiac Firebird.
  • 11d. [*Porch feature] is a SCREEN DOOR. Smokescreen, fire door.
  • 34d. [*Hillbillies’ put-down] is WHITE TRASH. (Them’s fightin’ words.) White smoke feels a hair arbitrary, like a random color + noun pairing, though one school of thought holds that the papal conclave’s white smoke signal, sent up when a new pope is chosen, is a more distinctive white smoke. Trash fire also feels sort of arbitrary to me, though I guess it’s a “thing.” So my least favorite theme entry yields my two least favorite smoke and fire phrases. Hmm.

It would be too restrictive to limit SMOKE to appearing after theme words and FIRE to appearing before them, but it was not so simple to figure out where the various smokes and fires belonged. There may be such a thing as too much work to do after filling in a puzzle. (Some solvers, I’m sure, prefer the extra thinking over something like folding, cutting out, or punching holes in the grid, or playing word search after finishing the crossword.)

How about a dozen other clues?

  • 19a, 44d. [See 44-Down] and [With 19-Across, U.S.C.’s marching band] clue SPIRIT OF / TROY. Ooh, I didn’t care for this at all. We’re supposed to know the names of marching bands, are we?
  • 20a. [Five Jacksons], meaning five $20 bills, are $100, or a C-NOTE. Superb clue, with its evocation of the Jackson 5.
  • 39a. [Miller products?] is another fabulously misleading clue. Arthur Miller wrote plays, or DRAMAS. I wasn’t tricked into trying LAGERS, but I wanted something in the grain/flour category.
  • 47a. [Classification for some popular Spanish music] is a clue I’ve never seen for ORO, or “gold.”
  • 62a. The [Pro team?] are the ones who vote yes, the YEAS.
  • 65a. [Tropical vegetable also known as elephant’s-ear] is a clue I’ve never seen for TARO.
  • 6d. [Dos that are don’ts?] are COMBOVERS. As much as people mock combovers, I witnessed a tonsorial choice today that was worse: A man had painted his hairless crown golden yellow in an attempt to blend it in with his dyed golden blond hair. I had to look twice to make sure he wasn’t just severely jaundiced.
  • 10d. POTPIES are tasty [Baked entrees]. Mmm, potpies. Anyone have an easy recipe for chicken potpies?
  • 29d. ANATOLY is the name of [Late Soviet diplomat Dobrynin]. Nope, that name doesn’t ring a bell.
  • 30d. [Italian poet who was the subject of a Goethe play and a Donizetti opera] isn’t DANTE, it’s TASSO. Raise your hand if you had DANTE first.
  • 40d. MORAL DUTY is a [Kantian concern]. Nope, didn’t know that.

Lots of interesting clues. I don’t know how many came from the mind of Will Shortz et al. and how many were written by Byron and Caleb—but I do know that both constructors write cool clues.

I didn’t notice right away, but this grid is 15×16—extra room to include the six long theme entries and the two short ones.

I betcha the Friday puzzle will be a bit easier than the Thursday creation.

Peter Gordon’s final 2010 Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 35”

This puzzle is the last Fireball for this year, the 50th puzzle sent out by Peter Gordon. If  you never got around to subscribing but you’re good enough at crosswords to be doing the Thursday NYT crossword, you ought to sign up to subscribe to Fireball 2011 (I think the link’s for the 2010 subscriptions, so hold off on sending money ’til the new year). Peter says “The puzzles are hard. How hard? If you have to ask, too hard for you.” I say if you’re here because you worked the Thursday NYT, you can handle the Fireball challenge.

This will impress those of you who haven’t been doing the Fireballs: Peter says “If you did all the crosswords, you encountered 3,704 clues, and there was just a single repeated clue/answer in the year.” If you roll your eyes with every new appearance of [Black and white treat] or [Earthenware pot], you’ll enjoy the challenge of figuring out the answers to clues that aren’t on autopilot. Stale crosswordese and clunky abbreviations are also kept to a minimum, too—Peter’s standards for fill are like Patrick Berry’s. So the 50 Fireball puzzles of this 2010 were mostly a joy to solve, and I look forward to next year’s resumption of Fireballing.

Region capture 11Highlights in this week’s puzzle:

  • 10a.  like PO-MO, short for postmodern.
  • 34a. Scrabbly QUATORZE JUILLET means “14 July,” which is the date of Bastille Day. Helps to know your French numbers and months here.
  • 52a. MR. ROARKE! From Fantasy Island! Ricardo Montalban at his pre-Khan finest.
  • 61a. [Thing bitten by an onychophagist] is a NAIL, as in a fingernail or, heaven forbid, a toenail. Onycho- is the prefix for nails, and I recognize it from medical terminology. The -phage part has to do with eating. Anyone got a good cure for nail biting? Anyone?
  • 3d. [Facial spot?] isn’t just a blemish, it’s also a place to get a facial: a DAY SPA. Great clue.
  • 19d. [Tart tart] clues LIME PIE, though I haven’t heard of a “lime pie” other than Key lime pie. I have it on good authority that there is no Key lime pie as good as that served in the Florida Keys, so I plan to have a slice in Key West later this month. I’m fine with never eating it anywhere else, as I don’t like lemon or lime pies anyway.
  • 24d. A [Keep] in the middle of a castle is a DONJON. The word’s a variation on dungeon and has nothing to do with Don Johnson.

In the “Say what?” category, we have these:

  • 33d. AL SCHACHT, an old baseball coach? Never heard of him.
  • 58a. I know Garfield’s nemesis ODIE, but this other ODIE, [“The King and ___” (old cartoon featuring a lion and a skunk)]? No, never heard of it.
  • 34d. [Hawthorn hedge, to a Brit] clues QUICKSET. Well, I know you can use ice cubes instead of cold water to make your Jell-o quick-set but…
  • 27d. [Heavyweight boxing champ ___ Charles] was/is named EZZARD? Hang on a minute, that’s not a name!

Kurt Mueller’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LAT Dec 9 2010Theme: M-MA-MAX-MAXI-MAXIM

Theme answers:

  • 16A. [M] – JAMES BOND’S BOSS
  • 25A. [Ma] – MRS. KETTLE
  • 51A. [Maxi] – LONG SKIRT
  • 62A. [Maxim] – PITHY PRINCIPLE

One-line review for those in a hurry: Clue/answer flip-flop taken to the Max and beyond.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Magic] – MOJO/1D. [Goya subject] – MAJA. I put a “D” in square 1. I hate starting off wrong.
  • 67A. [Instrument on which Jake Shimabukuro can play “Bohemian Rhapsody”] – UKE. Really? Wow.
  • 3D. [Crackerjack] – JIM DANDY. And I don’t care!
  • 26D. [One who lifts a lot?] – KLEPTO. Oh, those wacky KLEPTOS.
  • 30D. [Boil over?] – RECOOK. Cutesy clue attempting to save lousy “RE” entry. Mostly successful.
  • 40D. [Lover of Yum-Yum in “The Mikado”] – NANKI-POO
  • 48D. [Hercule’s creator] – AGATHA Christie and Hercule Poirot. I read all of these PT (pre-Twitter).
  • 53D. [Chance to see what you missed the first time] – RERUN. Now this is acceptable RE.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Just Teasing” – Jeffrey’s review

Tausig Dec 8 2010Theme:  Now you “T” it, Now you don’t. 33A. [Letter that, as it appears in the middle of this grid, can precede the first words of the starred entries] – TEE

Theme answers:

  • 15A. [*”At the Movies” critic] – REX REED (T. rex)
  • 17A. [*Dangling accessories popular with Japanese girls] – CELLPHONE CHARMS (T cell). I’m not up on my dangling accessories popular with Japanese girls. Is there a list somewhere?
  • 56A. [*Solve an apparently impossible problem, as it were] – SQUARE THE CIRCLE (T-square)
  • 3D. [*The sun, essentially] – BALL OF FIRE (T-ball)
  • 11D. [*It’ll make you a man] – BAR MITZVAH (T-bar). Gimme. First it will stress you out learning your maftir.
  • 25D. [*Certain garment replacement] – SHIRT BUTTON (T-shirt)
  • 26D. [*Joint surgery compounds] – BONE CEMENTS (T-bone). I’m not up on my joint surgery compounds. Is there a list somewhere?

One-line review for those in a hurry: T-riffic mix of grid design and inventive theme answers justify 16 consecutive three letter answers. 31A. [“Nice!”] – OOH

Other stuff:

  • 11A. [“Ain’t Too Proud to ___”] – BEG. Makes my job easy.
  • 40A. [The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz earned the last one of 2010] – RBI. Obscure fact alert!
  • 53A. [Playing chords, say] – STRUMMING. More ukuleles, anyone?
  • 68A. [Former Cleveland Orchestra director George] – SZELL. Obscurer fact alert!
  • 1D. [Noted musical birth of 1685] – BACH
  • 2D. [Source of furniture you’ll throw out in three years] – IKEA. I believe the correct clue is [Source of furniture you should throw out in three years]
  • 8D. [Spelling or quilting contest] – BEE. Spelling bees are on prime-time TV and crossword puzzle tournaments aren’t? Why, I ask? Why?
  • 10D. [Old English letter still used in Icelandic] – EDH. It may be cold here but at least we’ve got EDH!
  • 18D. [Bandmate of John and Nico in the Velvet Underground] – LOU
  • 34D. [Vowel sequence in a kid’s song] – EIEIO
  • 49D. [Deadly 2003 hurricane] – ISABEL. You never hear about a benevolent hurricane.
  • 51D. [Declaration of arrival] – I’M HERE. I hope you aren’t ISABEL.
  • 61D. [Foreign pump name] – ESSO. The correct clue is [Domestic pump name]. HESS is a foreign pump name. Signed, Jeffrey Canadian.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Stock Options”—Janie’s review

M.O. for today’s theme: four 2-word phrases; first word is one that can precede a word in the title. Taking “stock” of the “options,” it appears the former is the word in question. Tyler gives us a good, solid set of theme phrases and the “stock” set is livelier still.

  • 17A. [Vacation spot on the beach] SUMMER HOUSEsummer stock. Now there’s an appealing combo. Had the opportunity last August to visit a friend’s modest and perfect summer house on Fire Island. Can you say “bliss”? Then, (a hundred years ago…) before I joined Actors’ Equity (the union), spent many summers in North Conway, New Hampshire, performing non-Equity summer stock. Wotta training ground! (The theatre itself and the town are featured in John Sayles’s Return of the Secaucus 7).
  • 27A. [Spotted animal with a distinct call] LAUGHING HYENAlaughing stock. This laughing hyena seems to be the laughing stock of his caretakers… Not sure I really like this, but that is one crazy laugh. Whatever the joke was, apparently he GOT [Was able to laugh at] it.
  • 46A. [Alarmist in a kids’ book] CHICKEN LITTLEchicken stock. Hmmm. The first part refers to the character who declared, “The sky is going to fall!” But I’m getting the image of our constructor at the 2009 ACPT finals as he’s trying to make sense of 41A. in Patrick Berry’s puzzle, [Items in stock], and the fill BONES. Now seeing chicken stock, I get the sense the “cooking lesson” paid off…
  • 62A. [It’s not exactly rocket science] COMMON SENSEcommon stock. As I’m not particularly literate in the jargon of matters financial, common sense told me find a link defining common stockCommon sense also tells me you won’t find a BANANA BOAT [Recreational sea craft] in a USED CAR LOT [Where to try to avoid lemons] (but I do love the symmetrical placement of those two colorful entries).

NAME is the [Top line of a form, often] and Tyler offers up one or three today, including: [Atheist Madalyn Murray] O’HAIR, SHEENA [Scottish singer Easton], [“Living Free” lioness] ELSA, ABEL [Explorer Tasman], Roger [Federer’s arch rival, in tennis] Rafael NADAL, [“The Day the Earth Stood Still” alien] KLAATU (by all means, see the original), [Jessica of “Fantasic Four”] ALBA, Meriwether LEWIS—who was William [Clark’s partner] in exploration, Sir GALAHAD [Holy Grail retriever], EMIL [Pianist Gilels], and [Dionysus’s dad] ZEUS.

Entirely new to me: BRATZ [Brand of teenaged dolls]. Not only are there dolls, there’s a movie, there’re albums, video games, a TV series. Some franchise!

Today’s most self-referential clue/fill pair: [Number of consonants in this answer] for ONE.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Mind Games”

Region capture 12Okay, so the theme entries are IMAGINARY FRIEND, GHOST RUNNER, and FANTASY BASEBALL. I have no idea what “ghost runner” is. Wikipedia to the rescue! It’s a baseball term used in schoolyard games with teams of, it says, fewer than four players. I hated baseball and softball as a kid, so how on earth would I have ever encountered this term? Meh.

Favorite entries: SPAETZLE noodles, GODSENDS, NAIROBI, and YUK IT UP.

Less savory fill:

  • SMEARIER beside HANDIER. That’s adjacentier than I’d like for two -IER words.
  • Many of the 3-letter answers.
  • ANIL clued as [Deep blue] rather than as a plant source for indigo dye. Not only is the answer crosswordese, but the clue feels misleading. Ooh! Did you know: It’s añil, not anil! I never knew that ’til now.
  • NOT THERE? There’s no “there” there. “Not all there” would be great, though.
  • RESODS. Re-sigh.
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17 Responses to Thursday, 12/9/10

  1. ktd says:

    My hunch is that SPIRIT OF probably went in first, seeing as the entry needed to end in F for FIRE, and the clue could have been ___ St. Louis. But, seeing as that makes an 8-letter partial, someone must have figured that the complete, yet more obscure, SPIRIT OF TROY made for a better answer.

  2. TASSO took a while but not because DANTE stood in the way. Had OSU and SOSA pretty solidly so DANTE was ruled out.

    Whether a ONE K is a short race depends on one’s perspective. 100 M is 90% shorter, e.g. Also depends on one’s physical condition… :-)

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Caleb writes to report that he clued the Acrosses (and Byron the Downs) and that 20a, 39a, 47a, 62a, and 65a were his. See? That kid has chops, all right.

  4. Martin says:

    I’m not sure what the age limit on Japanese girl is, but guess how Elaine and I know whose phone is whose?

    What do you think those tiny holes on your phone are for?

  5. Erik says:

    I think it’s common knowledge that the USC team is the Trojan. If you know that, “Spirit of Troy” is a cool answer.

  6. NYT musings:

    SC’s marching band is also one of the most famous in the college ranks…though I prefer the master showmanship of Florida A&M’s Marching 100 any day.

    ANATOLY Dobrynin was a longtime Soviet ambassador to the USA. In fact, that answer caused me to change the [Miller product?] from DRAFTS to DRAMAS.

    I also loved the C-NOTE clue.

  7. Quentinc says:

    Apologies for a post irrelevant to today’s particular puzzles, but I thought you’d all find this story in the NY Times interesting. Given the complete blank I draw as to almost all popular culture clues or answers relating to anything after the late ’70’s, I think I know just how H.M. must have felt.

  8. joon says:

    opposite experience here. i thought the NYT was pretty easy for a thursday, despite the byline. (i didn’t stop to work out all the SMOKE and FIRE compounds.) but the fireball killed me. i thought i knew baseball pretty well, but AL SCHACHT crossing MRROARKE was pretty mean. i guessed U, because ROURKE looks more like a name, but SCHUCHT didn’t look too hot. sigh. never heard of EASY ACES, EZZARD, DONJON, QUICKSET, or a sleeveless ERRAND either. or the 1932 french movie, of course, but at least that one was easy to guess.

  9. Ellen says:

    I knew Al Schacht, because he owned a restaurant in the Seagram Building that we went to for special occasions in the ’60s. My friend’s mother was concerned we were going to a place called “Al’s Shack.”

  10. Gareth says:

    Didn’t care for the cross-referencing clues in this puzzle so much…

    You said: “I wasn’t tricked into trying LAGERS”… neither was I, but I was tricked into trying DRAFTS and refusing to accept that that answer could be wrong. Ashamed to say took a very long time to get FREEBIRD!

  11. Matt M. says:

    Same as joon on the Fireball — a lot of stuff I didn’t know (which means I learned a lot, too). The puzzle took me longer than any puzzle I’ve done since, I think, Fireball #1 and I ended up with one wrong square since I just couldn’t untangle the section with sleeveless ERRAND.
    I really enjoyed the first year of Fireball crosswords and can’t wait for the next one.

  12. Matt says:

    Re: Fireball: Me too on complaining about the ROARK/SCHACHT crossing… and SLEEVELESS errand? BOOTLESS, maybe… Now Google informs me that, weirdly enough, bootless and sleeveless mean the same thing, wrt to errands. Pantsless errands, on the other hand…

    I should say, after complaining, that I really enjoyed the puzzle, enjoyed all the Fireballs, and intend to re-up for next year’s batch. Also, I think they’re rather tougher than Thursday puzzles, generally speaking. More like Friday/Saturday for me.

  13. Howard B says:

    Fireball – same exact issues as Joon and Matt – ROARKE meant nothing to me, since that pop culture just misses my frame of reference. ROURKE looked perfectly fine. (I’ve made the same mistake in puzzles before, too. Next time I’ll spell it right!). I’m a baseball fan and still did not know the crossing, unfortunately. Peter does like his names in the grid. They’re fun and fresh, except when you don’t know them and they cross ;). Also did not know POMO or ERRAND.

    Finally, thanks to Peter for an amazing, challenging year of puzzles. Especially the ones that stumped me.

  14. Susan H from NJ says:

    Here’s an easy potpie recipe:
    Cut up all your leftover chicken or turkey into bite size chunks.
    Add all your leftover gravy or pan juices. If you don’t have any, then mix up a packet of “Serv-a-gravy” or some such mix.
    Add some flour to thicken it up.
    Add a package of frozen peas & carrots.
    Put into a pie shell. Put other pie shell on top.
    Or put into a pan. Put mashed potatoes on top (then it’s more of a Shepherd’s Pie, or perhaps a pie of whatever you call people who tend to fowl…)
    Bake until golden brown and bubbly.

  15. Susan H from NJ says:

    Wow, this is the second time I’ve posted a recipe to a crossword puzzle blog. Sent Brian a pot roast recipe once…

  16. Mitchs says:

    Boy, a lot of lucky guesses in the FB, all the same unknowns as Joon, except for Ezzard Charles. He’s a Cincinnati guy and so am I.

    These are great puzzles. Always filled with aha moments – and the crossings that are beyond my ken (like the G in DONGON, my downfall on this one) I chalk up to learning something.

    BTW, these are almost always tougher for me than the NYT, even the Friday/Saturdays.

    Looking forward to next year, but not next week’s withdrawal symptoms.

  17. John Haber says:

    There were some definite obscurities in the Times, like SPIRIT OF TROY (whah?) or ORO (wasn’t able to verify that with RHUD), but I liked the theme a lot, although I wouldn’t want it repeated. I’d been annoyed at the themes that amount to associations with the first or last word of a theme puzzle as just plain lazy setting, but I took a while and smiled when I saw that this one pulled off the feat of combining them.

    My hardest section was the due south. In part, there were just a few too many cross-reference clues for my taste, and too many seemed all to lead me there. I’d also forgotten about Sonya (much less that she isn’t spelled Sonia) before the confession to the investigator.

    Duty isn’t how I think of Kant, but a lot of interpretations of him do.

Comments are closed.