Friday, 12/31/10

NYT 5:20
LAT 4:36
CS untimed
WSJ 14:30 (Jeffrey)
CHE (?) tba

Oh! I forgot to mention to Team Fiend that tomorrow’s another road-trip day with an early start. I don’t think the Chronicle of Higher Education is publishing a puzzle this week, and lately the Wall Street Journal crossword hasn’t been posted the night before. So those might be sitting there all lonely on Friday.

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword

12/31/10 NY Times crossword answers

12/31/10 NY Times crossword answers 1231

Hey! What an awesome middle entry this puzzle has: “STICK IT TO THE MAN.” We here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend are strongly in favor of that. Sticking it to 35a is the Cyndi Lauper song “TIME AFTER TIME” but you know what? That phrase is also just a phrase, so it’s not clued as the song even though I am so fond of the ’80s ballad. I never watched THE WIRE, though, so I don’t feel at all put out that 7a is clued as [What something may go down to} rather than as the late cable show.

Caleb works in two famous initial + last name people, J.J. ABRAMS and P.T. BARNUM. Other names include JEANIE (the Stephen [Foster girl] with the light brown hair, I think); MULAN (the Disney movie and first Asian Disney heroine); the full name of female boxer LAILA ALI, whose name sure does include a lot of As, Ls, and Is; Brian ENO; and the French song bird ALOUETTE (I initially misread the clue and thought we were looking for a famous “gentile” of song and was guessing it would be a Fiddler on the Roof character).

BROMANCE is a beaut. MAPQUEST looks good in the grid but…isn’t it played out? Haven’t we all been burned by MapQuest directions enough times that we’ve moved on to Google Maps? I love WIDGET and was surprised to see it clued as a [Thingamajig] rather than a handy-dandy tool on a computer.

5d is PIES. Don’t get me started on PIES. Had a wonderful Key lime pie on Monday night, and have been stymied in the search for a decent piece of pie ever since. Had a slice of Key “lime” pie today that (a) lacked any lime flavor and (b) was topped not with meringue but a squiggle of hard “whipped cream.” I have taken to forming new compound swear words to describe that pie. But then tonight for dessert, my husband and I went to a place called Better Than Sex—dimly lit, with bordello-red walls and a menu heavily freighted with innuendo. Anyway, we shared a velvet couch and the Cookie Nookie Pie; the pie was, while not an exemplar of Key lime pie, a mighty tasty dessert.

Favorite clue machinations:

  • The slight visual change from 14a to 15a: [Foster girl] to [Poster girl]. (JEANIE, TEEN IDOL.)
  • 10d. [Freaks (out)] clues WIGS. Much fresher than a noun clue for WIGS. See also 34d: [Freak] for LOSE IT.
  • 20d. [Like M&M’s] clues the word OBLATE. A spheroid that is flattened at the poles is said to be OBLATE. Doesn’t the clue make geometry terminology come alive?
  • 50d. [It may stick to your ribs] clues barbecue SAUCE.

Could I do without fill like IPSA, BOL, NIS, and ORRS? Sure, but none of them posed any real problem for me, and the overall zippy youth of the puzzle was a hoot so I didn’t mind the blah grout that held the cool bits together.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

12/31/10 LA Times crossword answers

12/31/10 LA Times crossword answers

The theme entries have all lost their initial ST. So there’s an EEL HELMET instead of “steel helmet,” and an ORE DETECTIVE, AMP COLLECTOR, and UMP SPEECH. Why did the ST go away? Because I’m NO SAINT, that’s why. Now, there’s no explanation for why ST and not SAINT goes away, but let’s roll with it.

I wasn’t sure where we were going with 22a. [Times for cool heads], *RISES, hmm. IRISES doesn’t make sense. Oh, BRISES! Wow, don’t get a lot of circumcision action in the crossword. Aaaand the answer is actually CRISES.

Zingiest entry: KID ROCK. Read a nice interview with him in Entertainment Weekly about a month ago.

If it’s a daily newspaper crossword, you know what a BONG is, right? Yup, a [Loud ringing sound]. Not any sort of water pipe for smoking pot, no, sir.

Coolest Shakespearean word: Macbeth was the Thane of CAWDOR.

Clue that most looked to be about aliens: [Alp-Öhi’s granddaughter in an 1880 novel] proved to be HEIDI, the Swiss girl of fiction. Never read it. “Alp-Öhi”?

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Coming Around Again”—Janie’s review

Tonight Earth’s annual journey around the sun comes full circle, and in honor of that occasion today’s puzzle gives a shout out to objects that have the capacity to do the same—come full circle, that is. Two are spheres (there’s a ball and the world); one a ring with spokes (a wheel). All find themselves at the end of the phrases they’re a part of—which also happen to be song titles. Pump up the volume to enjoy:

  • 20A. [1966 hit by The Cyrkle] RED RUBBER BALL. Given the theme, the group’s name is particularly apt. And, wow. Only learned when I went to youtube for the clip that Paul Simon is one of the song’s co-writers (with The Seekers’ Bruce Woodley). But it makes sense. The emotionally-sharp lyrics and the sound of that melody and harmonies tell the tale.
  • 39A. [1980 hit by ELO] ALL OVER THE WORLD. ELO! That crossword-friendly name! Looks like this is a day for learning new trivia: this song was featured in Xanadu, a kitchy movie from 1980 starring Olivia Newton-John and, yes, Gene Kelly… The link to the song will take you to a clip from the movie—which came out one year before the music-vid-saturated MTV hit the airwaves (but somehow presages its arrival from the looks of it).
  • 59A. [1969 hit by Blood, Sweat & Tears] SPINNING WHEEL. Omg, I think I actually wore out my vinyl copy of the album this was on. Love that brass!

Bonus fill (related to the music industry) may be found in BILLBOARD, the [Magazine with the “Hot 100”] and where each of the titles above found a home at one time or another. Both “Red Rubber Ball” and “Spinning Wheel” peaked at #2; “All Over the World” at #13.

There’s quite a bit of long fill in the grid, but my favorite entries are HIGH NOON [Zero hour for marshal Will Kane], the vertically-running VERTICAL [Standing], SHABBIER invitingly clued as [Looking more lived-in], and FOOD CHAIN [Eating heirarchy].

Baseball gets a tiny (though not EENSY [Itsy-bitsy]) shout out with SHORTSTOP [Wide-ranging infielder] and ASTROS [Team in the largest city in Texas] (“Class?” “Houston!”); and for those whose interests run to things more horticultural, there’s PETAL [Flower part in a sachet] and its AROMA [Bouquet]. (Nice, too, how those words are stacked up there in the SW corner.)

Fave clue? Hands down, the punny and perfect [Homer’s Achilles spiel?] for the ILIAD. Running a close second is [White sail holder?] for MAST (something that SALTS [Landlubbers’ opposites] know only too well).

My blogger’s/solver’s wish for 2011? That the CS team find some way to prevent so much repeated fill from “coming around again” in any given week…

Now forgive me for sounding like even more of a nag, but if you’re drinking tonight, please don’t drive. (Seeing BLIND SIDE [Lane changer’s danger] in the grid reminds me…)

And whether you’re drinking or not, celebrating en masse or more intimately, Happy New Year, one and all. To a glowing, healthy and productive 2011!

Derek Bowman’s “Doubling Back” Wall Street Journal Crossword – Jeffrey’s ReviewWSJ dec 31 10

Theme: Double letter squares in reverse alphabetical order
26 (!) Theme answers:
23A. [One protected by Offissa Pupp] – KRAZY KAT/4D. [Pancreas product] – ENZYME
24A. [1982 Dudley Moore/Mary Tyler Moore drama] – SIX WEEKS/10D. [Early autos of which Jack Benny had one] – MAXWELLS
25A. [Of a small egg] – OVULAR/16D. [Escalate] – REV UP
51A. [Moves quickly from hiding] – DARTS OUT/41D. [“Hotel Rwanda” faction] – TUTSI
54A. [Drive shaft production] – TORQUE/43D. [Title holder] – MARQUEE
55A. [Fungi produce them] – SPORES/39D. [Foxy one] – SEXPOT
63A. [1980s attorney general] – EDWIN MEESE/54D. [Heartless character] – TIN MAN
74A. [Sheaf makeup] – STALKS/68D. [High-pH substance] – ALKALI
75A. [Vijay Singh, for one] – FIJIAN/59D. [Setting for two Eastwood movies] – IWO JIMA
76A. [Nickname of Doctorow’s Billy Behan] – BATHGATE/73D. [“Well, golly!”] – OH GEE
106A. [Sticks, in a way] – KNIFES/102D. [Words before “Pretty” and “Fine” in song] – I FEEL
107A. [Black-and-white] – SQUAD CAR/85D. [2010 event featuring vuvuzelas] – WORLD CUP
108A. [Cryotherapy treatment] – ICE BATHS/100D. [Election year event] – DEBATE

More than one line review for everybody:
Talk about saving the best for last! This is a tour-de-force. Not only does the puzzle have the theme answers in reverse alphabetical order, with appropriate crossings, but the rebus squares are symmetric, down to the NM right in the middle of the grid!! And none of these answers seem forced. The fill is very clean as well. Bravo, Derek Bowman!

Other stuff:
15A. [Canine cap] – CROWN this one!
21A. [Red-hot] – ON A TEAR. This puzzle is definitely ON A TEAR.
22A. [Soprano Fleming] – RENEE
26A. [“She Believes ___” (Kenny Rogers song)] – IN ME
40A. [Prime minister before Harper] – Paul MARTIN crossing 36D. [Canadian singer Vannelli] – GINO. When I think about those nights in Montreal…The Canadian constructor acknowledges his country.
80A. [Rhoda’s portrayer] – VALERIE Harper, prime minister after Andrea MARTIN.
95A. [“Isn’t ___ bit like you and me?” (Beatles lyric)] – HE A
8D. [“Touch Me in the Morning” singer] – ROSS
15D. [Put on a camp uniform?] – CROSS DRESS. Great clue and answer.
33D. [Lindsay’s role on “The Bionic Woman”] – JAIME. Loved that show.
50D. [Jessica Simpson’s little sister] – ASHLEE
75D. [Unpredictable] – FLUKY. Nothing FLUKY about this puzzle.
80D. [Way past one’s bedtime, say] – VERY LATE. I watch Times Square at 9:00pm and never make it to midnight, Pacific Time.
105D. [Rocker Joan] – JETT
109D. [Agcy. co-founded by Michael Ovitz] – CAA. I wonder if Derek clued it as Canadian Automobile Association.
And with that, the final crossword has been blogged for 2010. On behalf of all of Team Fiend, I hope you enjoyed the 1,821 reviews at the world’s most prolific crossword blogging site. Until next time, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the pencil! Happy New Year!!!!

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16 Responses to Friday, 12/31/10

  1. Howard B says:

    NY Times gets my award for “Best puzzle solving experience while experiencing food poisoning”. Been out of the puzzle world for a couple of days here, and so this was a nice, crunchy one to stumble back with. Forgot about SAMI, that was tricky. Loved the two long crossing entries.

    Hopefully will try the other Fridays tomorrow. Have a happy new year, all, I’m going back to bed ;). (Sorry about the key lime pie experience. The good ones are sublime, the bad ones, well… you know that already.)

  2. pannonica says:

    I think that the poor ones might be sub-lime.

    I also think I need to be tas(er)ed.

  3. Matt says:

    Very nice puzzle. OBLATE (flatter at the poles) is paired with PROLATE (pointier at the poles), and SSTARS are pretty obscure– they don’t even appear in conventional renderings of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.

  4. Evad says:

    Was considering some form of STINKS TO THE MAX for “Be revolting”…wondered what kind of entry would start XOWAY…but if any constructor could find one, it would be young Caleb. Nice comeuppance for missing out on being referenced by name in Joe Krozel’s NYT yesterday.

  5. Lloyd Mazer says:

    WSJ was posted last night :–b

    and is a very neat puzzle.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Sure is Lloyd! Consider it blogged.

  7. Lloyd Mazer says:

    Good review of WSJ Jeffrey. I usually litz and upload the wsj the night before – unless I fall asleep too early. There is no consistency to its availability on the wsj site.

  8. Meem says:

    Caleb’s puzzle killed me. A big, fat DNF. Had fun with Gareth’s puzzle. Ump speech was my favorite. But I don’t understand no saint. Gareth? And agree thoroughly that the WSJ was exceptional. Thank you Derek Bowman! Happy New Year to all.

  9. Evad says:

    PSA from your webmaster, this site may be unavailable for a few hours this afternoon while I take some needed downtime to upgrade to the new release of WordPress. Fear not, the whole Scooby family will be here waiting for you in 2011.

  10. Jan (danjan) says:

    @ meem:
    No Saint: each theme entry hast lost its beginning ST, which is the abbreviation for saint.

  11. Dan F says:

    One little blot on the awesome WSJ puzzle: [Mitra of “Boston Legal”]’s name is spelled RHONA, not RONA…

    The rest of the puzzles were great today too. I wanted STICK IN ONE’S CRAW for the NYT, which also fits the clue but isn’t nearly as much fun. Thanks Team Fiend and happy new year all!

  12. Evad says:

    Looks like we’re back up and running on the latest version of WordPress. Send me a shout at evadnavillus [at] if anything seems amiss after the upgrade.


  13. Howard B says:

    Forgot to award bonus points to Caleb for the floating Tetris pieces in the grid. I can’t comment on construction, but I can appreciate some good ol’ tetrominoes. (What, no 2×2 square?).
    Great WSJ puzzle as well – had a heck of a time with the proper names in there, but the theme squares were great fun to discover.

  14. Meem says:

    Thanks, Jan (danjan). Big, fat doh! I was hearing the ST as an abbreviation for street, not saint.

  15. Daz says:

    TIME AFTER TIME is also a 1979 movie, on IMDB at .

  16. pannonica says:

    Daz: Christopher Reeve wasn’t in that fun little movie. The three stars were Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen, and the excellent David Warner.

    I suspect you’re thinking about Somewhere in Time, which was released a year later. Like the former, it featured time travel, romance and fantasy (but no H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper). I can also see how Jane Seymour ≈ Mary Steenburgen and Christopher Plummer ≈ David Warner.

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