Friday, 1/7/11

NYT 5:16
LAT 4:51
CHE 4:37
CS untimed
WSJ 7:19

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 1/7/11 Joe DiPietro 0107

I very nearly had an unsolvable square or two in the southwest corner, and I had to back into the northwest corner in order to find a foothold in that zone. So there was a touch of Saturday-grade fear but then it all came together for me. Whew!

Tons of interesting long fill, plus some Scrabbly midsized fill and no shortage of twisty clues. I give this one an unreserved thumbs-up.

Let’s begin with the “eek!” squares. I had SUES FOR at 53a ([Seeks]) instead of RUNS FOR, and didn’t know the 48/49/50d trio. With the aid of those wrong letters, 48a: [Palindromic girl] was looking impossible. EVE, AVA, NAN, or ADA? Eventually I saw that [Indirect lines] could be ARCS rather than ESCS, which meant 50d also began with an A, though I don’t know what ANNO [___ mundi] means. (“Year of the world”?) A*NO was most likely to be ANNO, right? So the operatic [Puccini’s “O Mimi, tu piu non torni,” e.g.] is a DUET. Those of us who don’t know opera could be excused for suspecting ARIA here, which would nudge us towards NAN instead of the correct ADA.

Favorite answers, favorite clues:

  • 8a, 47a. [Didn’t go out] = SAT HOME, while [Stayed out?] = SLEPT. I like Klahnesque clue pairs.
  • 15a. If you [Iron-deficient?] and do not own an iron, your clothes may be CREASED in rumpled ways.
  • 17a. RICKETY = [Unstable].
  • 33a. The quote from Dante’s INFERNO makes for a lovely clue.
  • 45a. Isn’t KLAXON a cool word? Means a [Loud horn]. Ai-YOOO-gah!
  • 59a. You solve a lot of crosswords, right? So when you see a clue like [Bristles], all you need to know is: “Five letters or seven?” Plural of SETA or plural of ARISTA, and with an S or an E? Wrongo. It’s the verb, SEES RED.
  • 2d. I have an IRISH LINEN ([Overseas fabric spun from flax]) hand towel I never use. I also have a cotton one with info about Irish writers printed on it. I swear to you that I’m not making this up: It lists The Importance of Being Ernest under Oscar Wilde.
  • 4d. TAKEN TO TASK is nice—three words, two K’s.
  • 8d. I like the entry SILENT I, but that clue stinks. [Carriage part?] means that it’s pronounced “carrage” but…it’s not. It’s either a short I sound (according to the dictionary I checked) or maybe a schwa. You could say it has a SILENT A, but not a SILENT I.
  • 9d. Geography! The ARABIAN SEA.
  • 24d. I didn’t know this. The GREAT PLAINS region is [known as “the Prairies” in Canada].
  • 38d. Old-fashioned golf club names are so droll. The [Spade mashie] is better known now as the SIX-IRON.

I could do without E-NOTES, ESTERS are boring to non-chemists, and that ANNO clue nearly killed me—but overall, great puzzle.

Gary Whitehead’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Mental Breakthroughs”

Chronicle of Higher Education crossword solution 1/7/11

Ah, this is a neat theme! The sort we used to get a lot of in the New York Sun. “Thinking outside the box” is represented by having the first or last letter of a famous thinker’s name protruding beyond the grid’s edge, and having the eight overhanging letters spell out THINKING clockwise from the top. It’s all tied together by 71a: [What this puzzle’s grid represents], which is THE BOX. Because it is a box, 15×15 squares in area. The academic/CHE slant comes from having the overhanging names all be noted thinkers in various fields.

The Across Lite file I downloaded Thursday evening says “see Notepad” in the title bar, but there’s no AL notepad entry. Fine by me—I suspect it just explained the theme a bit. Right? There’s nothing more that I missed seeing?

The THINKING people are as follows:

  • 10d. T for Alan (T)URING of Turing test fame.
  • 12d. H for George (H)EGEL.
  • 44d. I ends BERNOULL(I). Is this one Daniel? Dictionary lists three notable scientific Bernoullis.
  • 62a. N as in Richard FEYNMA(N).
  • 50d. K as in Max PLANC(K).
  • 56d. I as in PAUL(I), whose first name I don’t remember. I know this guy mainly from crossword clues for PAULI. Dictionary says…Wolfgang! The clues usually cite his Nobel Prize for physics, though this puzzle does not.
  • 62a. N as in Friedrich (N)IETZSCHE. I am, I am, I am Superman, and I know what’s happening.
  • 17a. G as in (G)ALILEO Galilei. Famous on a first-name basis, much like Cher.

Tough to clue 11d in a crossword, as his status is in flux. RAHM EMANUEL is currently the [Former Chief of Staff in the Obama White House], being replaced by Bill Daley, but he could become equally famous for replacing Bill’s brother Richie as mayor of Chicago, with an election on February 22, but he could always lose that election and then where does that put him? Does he stay here or supplant Bill Daley in the White House or plot a return to Congress or what?

So, RAHM EMANUEL is one highlight in the fill. Others include OXYMORON, LISA LOEB, and BAZAARS. If you click that link, you’ll get the music video for New Zealand’s crossover pop hit “How Bizarre.” Do you know that when I started typing how biz in the YouTube search box, all the autocompletion options were misspelled? “How Bizaar” led “How Bizaare” and “How Bizarre” wasn’t in the top 10. *shaking head sadly*

Didn’t know there was an AHL that was the [Manitoba Moose’s org.]. Wait, this is the American Hockey League? What are the Canadians doing in it? More to the point, why’s it called the American Hockey League? The Canadians need to lobby for a change. AHL is joined by a number of other TLAs (that’s three-letter abbreviations, you know) and four-letter abbrevs in this puzzle: MLA (scholarly!), TBS, CSA, GRE, NSEC, TSP, EPA, SEN, GIGO, and CTN.

And then there’s TESLAS, the unit. You know Nikola T. is spinning in his grave because Turing played the role of the T in this puzzle and not him. “ESLA would be so easy to fit into any grid!” he’s saying.

Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 1/7/11 Gary Steinmehl

This isn’t your typical add-a-letter theme because there are five different letters added—the vowels, in order, dramatically altering the meaning of the first word in each phrase. Like so:

  • 20a. [Proof of quartz sales?] could be your AGATE RECEIPTS. “Gate receipts” are the box-office take for a concert, sporting event, or what-have-you.
  • 30a. [Brewery’s best?] clues ELITE BEER. “Lite beer” is most decidedly not the brewery’s best effort.
  • 38a. IRATE MOVIES builds on a not-quite-in-the-language phrase, “rate movies.” You can rate lots of things (including crosswords! coming soon to a blog near you), but “rate movies” isn’t really a lexical chunk in its own right. It may be salvaged by the clue: [“Mad Max” and “Twelve Angry Men”?], two irate-titled films.
  • 46a. [One of many at a Syracuse University football game?] adds an O to “range top,” which I think is synonymous with “stovetop,” to make an ORANGE TOP. Though who calls the shirts football fans wear “tops”? Jerseys, t-shirts, shirts, not so much “tops.”
  • 58a. Is “pending cases” a lexical chunk in legal circles? Add a U and get UPENDING CASES, or [Making a mess at the warehouse?].

Ten more clues:

  • 5a. [One usually includes an aria and a recitative] clues SCENA. Crossings, I thank you.
  • 10a. [Rhode Island’s motto] is HOPE. How nice to have state-motto action in a crossword that isn’t an arcane bit of Latin trivia.
  • 25a. [“One Good Cop” actress] is Rene “My First Name Is Spelled Like a Boy” RUSSO. Really? That’s the clue? A 1991 movie hardly anyone remembers, if they even heard about it in the first place? It grossed $11 million.
  • 68a. [City where de Gaulle was born] is LILLE. That’s why they called him the LilleHammer. Wait, I’m mixing up my Tom DeLay and my Norwegian Olympic sites with my nicknames for French statesmen.
  • 69a, 72a. [Cameo, maybe] is a small ROLE in a movie (but bigger than 21d: EXTRA, or [Hollywood “spear carrier”]), while ONYX is a jewelry [Cameo material]. More of that Klahnesque double-meaning clue action I like.
  • 10d. [Place to chill] is a HOT TUB. That’s chill as in “chillax,” not chill as in “cool down.”
  • 31a. The LIMBO is clued with [People bend over backwards for it]. Gotta love a tricky clue that is actually quite literal.
  • 53d. WESSEX is the [Setting for many Thomas Hardy novels].

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Putting It Together”—Janie’s review

Yes, our constructor is a great lover of musical theatre; but no, this is not his Stephen Sondheim tribute puzzle. Instead Patrick gives us a nifty syllable/addition theme, where the parts deliver something larger than the whole. Here’re the component parts of the word (as it’s spelled out in the clues) [CON] + [JUG] + [ATE]. Remember the TV rebus-game Concentration? Now imagine the “plus” signs between the pix below and a final “equals” sign, and behind the game board for the final word today you might see:


Putting it together, so to speak, it all adds up to [CONJUGATE], or


Pretty cool, no? I also like those triple 6-columns that flank the puzzle’s midsection. MOTIFS [Recurring musical themes], ONESIE [Baby shower garment] and ZERO IN [Focus on, with “on”] being among the stronger fill there. And I like the social ON A DATE [Out, say] and the way it runs between those two sections.

While there’s something firm in the tone of [“Have] I MADE [myself clear?“], you won’t hear anyone SNAP AT [Become testy with] anyone today—and no one is being “TSK”ED [Reprimanded with a click]—with either of the politely conversational entries “DO TELL!” [“I’m all ears!”] or “IT IS SO!” [“You speak the truth!”].

Other fave fill would have to include SWOONS and its height-of-infatuation clue [Goes weak in the knees], and the lovely GODSEND [Unexpected blessing].

Musical entries come to us by way of UKES [Music makers in Maui], []BLAZE [of Glory” (#1 hit for Jon Bon Jovi)], [“War] IS A [Science” (“Pippin” song)], []STOP[! In the Name of Love”], and ELLA [Fitzgerald who sang “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”]. [They’re on the beat] is a cheeky piece of misdirection, referring not to people with a good sense of rhythm but to your friendly men and women in blue, our neighborhood COPS.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Welcome ’11”

Wall Street Journal crossword answers 1/7/11 Welcome '11

Thanks to Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle this week, I quickly figured out that the ’11 being “welcomed” was a Roman XI inserted into each theme entry:

  • 22a. The song “Sixteen Tons” turns into SIXTEEN TOXINS, or [Oleandrin, anthrax, botulin, snake venom and a dozen others?].
  • 33a. Designer Vera Wang yields VERA WAXING, or [Film’s Miles getting a spa treatment?].
  • 49a. Flash Gordon’s nemesis Ming the Merciless adopts XI to give us [Getting stony-hearted folks to mingle?], or MIXING THE MERCILESS.
  • 66a. [Result of feeding the wrong-side down?] is WHITE FAXING, playing on Jack London’s White Fang.
  • 77a. I loved this one! OXIDE ON A GRECIAN URN is a [Rust problem at the antiquities museum?].
  • 93a. [Records set in the delivery room?] clues BABY MAXIMA (“baby mama”).
  • 110a. [Sprite waving the Stars and Stripes?] is an AMERICAN PIXIE.

Six more clues:

  • 59a. [Encyclopedia Brown’s real first name] is LEROY. This is, of course, the inspiration behind the 1973 Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Speaking of classic songs from the ’70s, we also have 1970’s Kinks hit “LOLA” at 68a and Devo’s 1980 hit “WHIP IT” at 44d.
  • 56d. Most disturbing image: [Treat for tired dogs], with no question mark, clues FOOT RUB. Now, that’s “dogs” as slang for feet, not canines, but I was picturing something entirely different.
  • 41d. [Its ruins are across the Tigris from Mosul] clues NINEVEH. That’s really Nineveh business, you know. (Sorry. Lame pun.)
  • 63d. For [One whose job is a grind], I anthropomorphized a MORTAR but the answer is a MILLER.
  • It’s a Seinfeldy puzzle today. 84d: [Bygone Chrysler] is a LEBARON, and [Friend of Jerry] pulls double duty at 18a: ELAINE and 76a: GEORGE.
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18 Responses to Friday, 1/7/11

  1. Martin says:

    This is 5771 AM in the Jewish calendar, counted from Creation. It’s a bit weird to use a Latin designation, but that’s what it means.

    According to the comments over at foxnews, this is taken much more literally by some non-Jews. Something about a theme park with dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

  2. pannonica says:

    re: AHL

    Some consider the continent (or even the hemisphere) to be America, so that’s okay by me. The AHL, I believe, is the equivalent of baseball’s AAA league, the highest echelon of the minors. NHL teams have AHL affiliates and players may be “sent down” or “called up.”

    Hmm. “foxnews” and “non-jews” rhyme loosely.

    [Premature minor complaint about WSJ removed]

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who found bottom-left to be a minefield. Knew CENTAVO (though initially wanted -ivo) but the ADA/RUN/STO squares were an enigma for a good 5 minutes! Tried that NAN/ARIA combo too. Growing up I had a world map puzzle that was called “Mapa Mundi/The World” so guess what lodged in my brain with that clue! Didn’t know ANNO in that context in any case so it didn’t matter…

    Also found the SILENTI clue confusing. I wanted it to be the E at the end. I guess that was the point though.

    But was a fun to solve themeless esp. the top-left and bottom-right stacks!

  4. janie says:

    am thinkin’ your small cotton towel may be so emblazoned as there’s a famous “tea scene” in …ernest [sic]. although i question if there are many other irish writers with the same claim to fame — enuf to fill a tea towel…

    joe’s really pleasing puzzle required the overnight treatment from me. filled in most of the sw to ne swath before i SLEPT; teased out the remainder this morning. held myself back for some time with CLAXON ‘steada KLAXON and SUGARS for ESTERS… nice to finally come out of it all IN ONE PIECE!


  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m on the same wavelength for once. Murderous SW. I tried Nan, Ava, Eve, etc. I tried to convince myself that “indirect lines” could somehow be “abcs”. (e.g. “begs for” and “Agni mundi” (vaguely suggesting “Agnus Dei.”) The heck of it, is I can hum the duet (or the proverbial ‘few bars’.) Nice puz., though, and great to see Joe di P back in print.


  6. *David* says:

    The CHE continues to put out some of the most innovative crosswords and is becoming my most sought after puzzle of the week. I was sitting on PLANC and saying something is very wrong before I got it and then was able to go back up top and fill in (G)ALILEO who I knew belonged in the NW.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    I misread and thought you wrote that Encyclopedia Brown was the inspiration for Whip It and Lola. Well two of the titles were: “Encyclopedia Brown Lends a Hand” and “Encyclopedia Brown Gets His Man”. But you were of course referring to “Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog”.

    I think I just created a BEQ Encyclopedia Brown puzzle.

  8. Rex says:

    That CHE puzzle is Fantastic. Letters of THINKING are in clockwise order from NW corner, all theme answers symmetrical. Gorgeous.

  9. Howard B says:

    The CHE Notepad in AL simply says “This puzzle should ideally be solved on paper.” I agree.

    The AHL is the next level down from the NHL, as pannonica said. They do have a long-established team called the “Rochester Americans”, if that helps. What NHL team would a team from Rochester, NY be affiliated with? The NY Rangers? Islanders? Well, the Florida Panthers, of course. Makes perfect sense.

    @Jeffrey: I guess you must have missed “Encyclopedia Brown Whips it Good”. I won’t spoil the ‘surprise’ ending. I think that one won the Newbery Medal for children’s lit.

  10. pannonica says:

    So, my gripe on the WSJ is 108a, the non-indicated nonstandard spelling of Suriname.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    New Oxford American says “also Surinam.” Mind you, a variant like “emeer” is completely absent from the “emir” entry in NOAD’s Mac widget, so I think “also” means “also pretty well accepted” rather than “also a spelling seen 100 years ago, but my gosh, it’s horrible and nobody uses it” or “this is basically a misspelling that picked up steam.”

  12. John Haber says:

    I’d the same experience as Amy: could not quite nail the SW, and then could not open the W and NW. Eventually in the SW I progressively hit on CENTAVO, then ARCS, then RUNS for, then DUETS, and only then STOUTEN and the Latin new to me.

    For the bigger gap, I finally pulled SISTINE out of somewhere, NETS and ISERE from there, and figured to my surprise that the obvious EDY had to be an acronym and not a name. Staring a while longer got me RICKETY, which finally cracked the rest for me.

    Even the other half was almost Saturday for me. I made the mistake of “lay up” for TAP IN. Perhaps it’d helped if I had spotted “lay up” in the clues.

  13. joon says:

    amy, you must not have been stuck in that SW as long as i was, judging from your solving time. but egads, the rest of the puzzle was tough too!

    the CHE is my favorite puzzle of 2011 so far. brilliant theme, and it didn’t hurt that 5 of the “thinkers” were physicists. that’s my kinda peeps, yo. mad props to gary and patrick for that one.

    while we’re handing out the kudos, the WSJ had a pretty delightful set of theme answers for a letter-insertion theme. OXIDE ON A GRECIAN URN, but also MIXING THE MERCILESS and BABY MAXIMA get extra points for cool base phrases.

  14. neophyte says:

    Forgive my naivety, but yesterday, I just stumbled upon the whole big wide world of crossword blogging as I was googling a clue. Two questions:

    (1) Is there a blog like this one (or Rex Parker or LA Crossword Confidential) that discusses the USAToday puzzle? These blog discussions are so educational and informative. And I no longer feel so ignorant getting stumped (or tricked) by the same clues that others in the comments mention… even though it takes me 3x as long to do the puzzles.

    (2) Is it possible to download the USAToday puzzles for Across Lite? I didn’t even realize until yesterday by reading this site that it was possible to download the LATimes and other crossword puzzles for Across Lite.

    I did read far enough into the Crossword Blogosphere that the USAToday puzzle is considered second-tier and an outcast. Didn’t realize that (but I understand some of the criticisms I read), but I have enjoyed doing the USAToday through the years. It’s what got me hooked on Crosswords.

    Thanks in advance, and happy 2011.

  15. Norm says:

    re LAT, yes, PENDING CASES totally legit.

  16. Matt Gaffney says:

    I’ll join in the chorus of praise for Gary Whitehead’s puzzle. The idea is highly clever and the execution is outstanding. You don’t always get both!

  17. Jeffrey says:

    Welcome neophyte:

    Many of us believe you can’t have an educational and informative discussion on the USA Today puzzle. Click on “Today’s Puzzles” up above for better choices. Newsday is at the same difficulty level (excepting Saturday) as USA Today, but is much better executed.

  18. Neophyte says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey. I’ve done the USAToday puzzles for so many years that I’d really rather not give them up. But since I’m not a crossword expert, I don’t always realize some of the inherent weaknesses of the USAToday puzzle. And by googling through the crossword blogosphere the past couple of days, I’ve learned much about crosswords that I never realized simply by reading the criticisms about those. Sometimes critiques of weaknesses can be as educational as affirmations of excellence. But OTOH, I’d prefer to dwell on the positive, not the negative. Thanks.

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