Wednesday, 1/26/11

Onion 3:48 


NYT 3:41 


LAT 2:48 


Fireball untimed 


CS untimed 


Red alert! Red alert! Trip Payne’s got a new “Squeezeboxes” puzzle posted at Triple Play Puzzles. “Squeezeboxes #2” comes in easy and hard versions, and you know which one I printed out, right? (Haven’t looked at it yet, but #1 was a delight and a challenge.) In a Squeezebox variety crossword, each square has at least two letters wedged in.

David Murchie’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 1/26/11 0126

I’ve been reviewing my favorite crosswords from last year (and polling the Team Fiend co-bloggers for theirs) and one had four phrases beginning with the words KEEP, IT, SIMPLE, and STUPID. Today’s NYT has the same theme concept, but the phrase is CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR and the first and last Across answers tie it together with a NEAR MISS. Nice! I like the fill for the most part, too (though ELENI can go away).

Look how colorful the theme entries are:

  • 20a. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS are clued as [Alien abductions, e.g.]. I forget the taxonomy of close encounters. Can you go beyond Close Encounters of the Third Kind? If you mate with an alien, is that an encounter of the fourth kind?
  • 26a. [“All kidding aside…”] clues “BUT SERIOUSLY.” Now I’m sad that tonight’s State of the Union address probably does not include the line “But seriously, folks….”
  • 43a. I don’t see a lot of NO SOLICITING signs these days—can I put one on my phone?—but my grandma had one on the front door back in the day. It was a mighty fancy word to read back when I was 5.
  • 51a. CIGAR AFICIONADO is a [Magazine opposed to the Cuban trade embargo]. You know, people buy a lot of cigars in Key West, which is about 90 miles from Cuba’s shore. The signs boasted “Cuban seed.” So…they’re not Cuban cigars at all. Those wouldn’t be legal. What’s the selling point, then?

Five more clues:

  • 3d. [You might wait for it at a stoplight] isn’t the GREEN, it’s your left-turn ARROW.
  • 49d. [Magazine jobs] clues EDITS as a noun. There are light edits and heavy edits, and individual changes are also edits.
  • 9a. [Place for scrubs] is the BENCH on the sidelines. If you’re wearing scrubs in the hospital, please get off the bench and take care of your patients, m’kay?
  • 44d. [Adam’s apple site], 6 letters, R in the third spot, must be THROAT, right? Except when it’s LARYNX.
  • 39a. [Ring around the collar, say] is dingy DINGE. Not a common word in that form, is it?

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “And the Nominees Are…”

Wait, what? This week’s regular Fireball comes out Wednesday night, but Peter’s annual Best Picture Oscar nominees puzzle comes out the day before? I had assumed the Oscar puzzle would just wait a day, but it appears Peter’s ego will not permit the appearance of slowness. Dagnabbit, the Oscar puzzle has always been released on the day of the nominations, and thus shall it ever be.

The grid is 23×21 squares to accommodate all 10 movie titles. The two with numerals have numerals in the grid, though their crossings are fairly arbitrary phrases with numbers. The shorter movies are wedged two to an entry, and the last title gets a preceding AND to make the symmetry work out just so.

The fill includes some impressive stuff, such as OBIE AWARDS, BEE SEASON, and BABY PHAT. Either I learned this word via this puzzle, or I learned it in the movie Backdraft and forgot it—a PROBIE is a [New fireman, familiarly]. (Psst, Peter, the generic term is firefighter.)

I wasn’t expecting to be blogging two Fireballs this week, so I’m done with this one.

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers 1/27/11 Matt Jones

Yay! One of the theme answers made me LOL, for real, out loud. I love it when a crossword makes me laugh. The theme is presented straightforwardly enough—GEL INSERTS for your shoes, the letter trio GEL inserted into various phrases to crazy ’em up:

  • 17a. [Cold pill to swallow?] is a SNOW GELCAP. Now, if you could combine Sno-Caps chocolate nonpareils with medicinal gelcaps, I would take any medicine you gave me.
  • 23a. [Story of a philosopher’s basketball career?] is HEGEL GOT GAME. Funny! But it only evoked a smile.
  • 36a. [Headline after the cherubs throw down their halos and go on strike?] clues IT’S ANGEL OUTRAGE. Eh, that doesn’t sound like a headline. Headline writers tend to drop the little words like IT’S.
  • 47a. Oh. Dear. GEL + Hostess snack cakes = GELDING DONGS, or [Male horse parts rendered useless?]. That cracked me up. The Onion crossword will go straight for the “penis” meaning of DONG, while the daily newspapers’ crosswords shyly stick with [Doorbell sound] or [Vietnamese currency].

Favorite clue:

  • 41a. [More fabulous, perhaps] means GAYER.

Most pointless trivia clue—but it taught me something I didn’t know:

  • 28a. [Initials shared by the presidential runners-up of 1928 and 1956] are AES. Adlai Estes Stevenson vs. Eisenhower, yes. Googling…to Wikipedia…Al Smith of New York, seldom-used middle name Emanuel. Ooh, that’s not fair trivia. He didn’t go by “Alfred E. Smith.”

Least often seen answers:

  • I didn’t recall seeing WELLESLEY (6d: [Seven Sisters college in Massachusetts]) in a crossword before. It shows up twice in the Cruciverb database, in a NY Sun from 2003 and a CrosSynergy from 2008.
  • The O-CEL-O [3M sponge brand] has one appearance in Cruciverb.
  • And the winner is…TEAM A! That’s [One side of a scoreboard, generically], and not really a term I’ve ever run into. Totally contrived answer, or solid? Zero hits in Cruciverb despite the vowelosity don’t speak well of its validity.

Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 1/26/11

Surprisingly easy puzzle for a Wednesday, but still fun. I suspect comic book geeks would sputter that these aren’t a coherent set of superheroes, these theme entries, and that key figures were omitted while lesser ones were included. For those of us who don’t pay much attention to comics, though, the theme played out more like “Guess the comics superheroes based on either recognizing their alter ego’s name or just working the crossings.” Here’s how I tackled the theme:

  • 17a. [Diana Prince’s alter ego] is WONDER WOMAN. Ooh, is the theme going to be all about Wonder Woman, or famous fictional heroines?
  • 31a. I headed straight down to [Britt Reid’s alter ego]. Ooh! He’s one of the Green ones. There are movies, now or soon, for both, I think. Counting the squares…OK, this one is GREEN HORNET, not LANTERN. (What’s that wheezy sound? I think it’s a comic book fan hyperventilating at the extreme wrongness of not distinguishing between the little Green men.)
  • 37a. [Steve Rogers’s alter ego] is…what? I have no idea. Crossings…third letter is P, answer is long, is this CAPTAIN AMERICA? A few more crossings to confirm…yup.
  • 48a. [Linda Lee Danvers’s alter ego] is SUPER…something. GIRL or something else? Come back to it later.
  • 56a. [Reed Richards’s alter ego] is…working the crossings…that FANTASTIC one, what does he start with? MR. FANTASTIC? OK.
  • Circling back up to those 48a crossings…yes, SUPERGIRL. Whatever.
  • 24a. Something-MAN, the crossings say. Where’s the clue? Oh! [Peter Parker’s alter ego] is SPIDER-MAN, of course.

Superman and Batman, meanwhile, are pouting in the corner, arguing over which of them would prevail in a fight and wondering if they could each take Robert A. Doll for leaving them out of this puzzle.

Five more clues:

  • 15a. [Land purveyor] clues the trademarked term REALTOR. I was horrified to learn this morning that two of the three dictionaries in my house document the “ree-luh-tor” pronunciation. I didn’t have the heart to check whether the “liberry” pronunciation has also been documented by the dictionaries.
  • 30a. [Aromatherapist’s supply] is a good clue for OILS.
  • 47a. [XV years before the Battle of Hastings] is MLI, 1051, 15 years before 1066, which is when the Battle of Hastings took place.
  • 61a. [Bis plus one, to a pharmacist] clues TER. Why?? Doctors don’t use this word. They use “t.i.d.,” short for the Latin phrase ter in die, meaning “three times a day.” It would have been so, so easy to change 61a to TEL, abbreviation for “telephone” or [__ Aviv], making the crossing APPEALS instead of APPEARS (both equally fine words).
  • 3d. ANNA LEE was the [“General Hospital” actress] who played wealthy matriarch Lila Quartermaine. She died a few years ago.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Silver Linings”—Janie’s review

In this nifty little “added letters” puzzle, Bob has augmented four well-known phrases (mostly) by inserting in their midst (“lining” them with, if you will) the letters “AG”—the periodic-table symbol for the element “silver.” Some of the before-and-afters are gold. Here’s how he does it:

  • 20A. AS GOOD AS {AG}NEW [No worse than Ford’s predecessor?]. And we’re off and running. For folks who may have forgotten the Maryland Governor who was plucked from obscurity to share the winning ticket with Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election (and then have his own fall from grace in 1973), read all about ‘im.
  • 34A. TAIL F{AG}IN [Dog a Dickens dirtbag?]. Maybe even tail ‘im in a car with tailfins
  • 40A. LICK {AG}ING [“Stay young forever!” ad copy?]. Love the “after,” but this is the only theme answer whose base is a single word and not a phrase. Feels like the weak link in an otherwise strong theme set.
  • 53A. NONSTICK P{AG}AN [Hardly an adherent polytheist?] Funny concept; funny before-and-after combo. Though it’s clued today as [Poster person], I sure do love the apt appearance of IDOL and the way it peels off from the “I.”

My inner third-grader also liked the less-than-refined feel of BURP clued as [After dinner report?] (there’s definitely a tie-in with EATEN and [Word with worm or moth] here) and SLIME clued as [Muck or guck]. Need to wash away the latter? That’s why there’s LAVA (the “pumice-powered” hand soap) [It cleans up big-time grime] and it’s been around since 1893.

Bob provides two ways of making an exit: one can either [Go quietly, with “away”] or [Disappear, with “away”]—SLIP or MELT. Then we get a pair of superlatives, by way of ACME [It’s as high as you can go] and OPTIMA [They’re the best].

VERDI [“Macbeth” composer] wrote an opera about a man who would be KING, but whose checkered present got him all fouled up. He probably shoulda stuck to the [Checker double-decker] designation and called it a day…

[José’s huzzah] OLÉ will have to suffice to mark my delight in the “WAKE UP!”/[“Get a clue!”] pair. And the clue I hope you got? The not-so-easy to parse [Whatever hits this satisfies] for THE SPOT. Yep. Spot on.

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6 Responses to Wednesday, 1/26/11

  1. Karen says:

    I wasn’t parsing the 40A in the CS properly. I wondered why lick a gin(seng) would make good ad copy.

    Onion crossing O-Cel-O and Gotti did me in. (Is this Gotti a mobster?)

  2. Rex says:

    AV Club puzzle contains the best answer of the year so far. Last theme answer. Perhaps the only answer to make me literally LOL mid-solve.

    I am one of the sputtering comic book fans underwhelmed by the LAT theme.

  3. john farmer says:

    Alfred E. Smith

    Wasn’t TEAM A that TV show starring T Mr.?

  4. Neophyte says:

    Interesting Onion clue 28a. [Initials shared by the presidential runners-up of 1928 and 1956] are AES. Of course, whenever a 1956 election is mentioned in crosswords, I always remember the Happy Days episode which mentions Adlai E. Stevenson. I thought it was such an odd name as a kid that I’ve never forgotten it.

  5. Aaron says:

    NGAIO crossing KAI and OCELO? Put on me on TEAM B, if you wish, but I call foul.

  6. Pauer says:

    Catching up on these, and in the FB Oscar Nom puz you wouldn’t want “firefighter” in the clues since THEFIGHTER is a theme answer. At least, I wouldn’t.

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