If you haven’t gotten around to subscribing to the Fireball Crosswords series and you like tough puzzles, I encourage you to sign up now! Editor Peter Gordon handed out advance copies of this week’s Fireball (a themed puzzle by Julian Lim) at the ACPT and I gotta tell you, it blew me away. I’ll be giving it a 5-star review tomorrow.
Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword
A crossword solver who views the puzzle on a computer screen is at a decided disadvantage when it comes to reading really long clues. So I didn’t quite know what the full clue was for 54-Across, and had to download the puzzle in the Across Lite .puz format and then open it in Black Ink in order to copy and paste the following:
- 54a. [Speaker of the Latin quote hidden in the answers to the starred clues … and the English-language quote hidden in the answers to the double-starred clues]. It’s JULIUS CAESAR.
The answers to the *-marked clues hide “Veni, vidi, vici” within:
- 20a. EVENING DRESS
- 27a. VIVID IMAGE
- 48a. SID VICIOUS
The answers to the **-marked clues hide I-don’t-know-what within:
- 14a. THEIR
- 16a. ADIEU
- 64a. VISIT
- 66a. CASTE
He die, sit cast? Heir die is as? Oh! “The die is cast.” Its Latin equivalent contains some crosswordese: Alea iacta (or jacta) est.
Certainly an unusual theme. When’s the last time you saw a bilingual hidden word theme? Never, right?
The fill is ambitious considering that there are eight theme entries. Highlights include METRODOME, DRAGON (aww, why’s it clued as the two-word DRAG ON? I like to see a DRAGON in the grid!), the city/state combo AKRON, OHIO, PERCHANCE, and PROVIDENT.
Favorite clue: 6d: [The Earl of Sandwich, for one] is an EPONYM because sandwiches and the Sandwich Islands were named after him.
Most troublesome spot for me: 9d: [RX-8 carmaker ], 5 letters, ends with A? I filled in ACURA and then that corner wouldn’t yield. Doofus! It’s HONDA. Wait, why is this [Fountain items] answer starting with an H? It wants to be MALTS. D’oh! It’s MAZDA. Third time’s the charm.
Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Add-a-letter themes are fairly commonplace, but add-a-4-letter-word themes are markedly less familiar. Matt takes his marching orders from the phrase GET BENT and gets a BENT into each of the theme entries:
- 17a. [Box set containing a side of teriyaki sauce?] is a BENTO CD. OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- 20a. [Chinese revolutionary who attacked Dan Quayle in a debate?] combines one-time VP candidate Lloyd Bentsen and Sun Yat-sen into SUN YAT-BENTSEN.
- 36a. [Philosopher Jeremy’s “the greatest happiness comes between two slices of bread” food?] clues a BENTHAM SANDWICH.
- 55a. [Actor Jim of “Moulin Rouge!” getting his car restarted?] clues BROADBENT JUMP, merging Britain’s Jim Broadbent with the broad jump.
- 60a. [What the theme answers can do] is GET BENT.
- 7a. [Armistead Maupin output, casually] clues the fresh phrase GAY LIT.
- 19a. [Wine that used the slogan “…on ice. That’s nice.”] is some sort of ’70s white wine called RIUNITE. I remember the commercials well. Do they still sell this stuff?
- 3d. [Jimmy Kimmel’s cohost, once] was BEN STEIN. He looks like he’s got a BENT in there if you’re not looking closely.
- 9d. [They may be strapping] clues YOUNG LADS. Yeah, that phrase may not quite rise to the level of a crosswordable unit of meaning. But I like the fact that strapping is pretty much always bound to young lad. It means “big and strong,” but who ever calls, say, Stallone-as-Rocky Balboa or Schwarzenegger or The Rock “strapping”? Maybe they did when these guys were lads. I’m not tall enough to be strapping, but I’m stronger than I used to be. Don’t mess with me.
- 33d. THE MIDDLE is the name of an [ABC sitcom with Patricia Heaton]. My husband and I started watching it and Modern Family at the same time. Only Modern Family took.
Frank Virzi’s Los Angeles Times crossword
While I’m not wild about the fill here, I do like the TV show mash-up theme. The one-word shows included in the theme range from classic ’50s series to contemporary shows:
- 17a. [Family line of bar makers?] could be a SOAP DYNASTY. Soap ran from 1977 to ’81 and was a goofball version of a prime-time soap, and Dynasty was an overblown ’80s prime-time soap (’81-’89).
- 24a. [Windfall of chicken pieces?] is a WINGS BONANZA. The sitcom Wings aired ’90-’97 and Western Bonanza spanned three decades (’59-’73).
- 37a. [Glasgow girl under a spell?] is a BEWITCHED LASSIE. Bewitched was on from ’64 to ’72 and I grew up watching reruns in syndication. Lassie lasted from ’54 to ’74.
- 47a. [Frat guy with a spatula?] clues HOUSE FLIPPER. (House, 2004-present; Flipper, 1964-67). Now, “flipping houses” means buying them cheap and selling them at a quick profit, so the clue felt a little jarring. The other theme entries aren’t phrases that already have meaning in the language. Minus five points for this one.
- 58a. [Unwanted grass at the Cotton Bowl?] clues DALLAS WEEDS. Dallas preceded Dynasty (’78-’91) in the same genre. Weeds is a Showtime series starring Mary-Louise Parker (2005-present). Plus 100 points for the clue’s “grass” echo of the marijuana that’s central to Weeds.
With the exception of the “wait, house flipper is actually a thing” issue, this theme works great. I like the use of TV shows covering a 57-year span—there’s something for everybody here, except for the people who have not watched TV since before 1954. And the theme phrases work pretty well. Something like SOAP FRIENDS would just be weird, pushing it too far.
Eight more clues/answers:
- 32a. [Lloyd or Paul of Cooperstown] clues WANER. I guess it’s better to clue WANER as a name than as a strange “add -ER to a verb” noun (see also: 42a. HOERS/[Clod choppers]) , but I’ve never heard of Lloyd or Paul Waner.
- 34a. [Teachers College advanced deg.] clues ED.D. EDD is more often clued as Edd Byrnes or Edd Hall.
- 10d. [Michener novel set in Japan] is SAYONARA. I know that so much better as the Japanese word for “goodbye.” It’s a Michener novel?
- 11d. LIAM NEESON makes for a terrific entry. He’s known as the [“Michael Collins” star], among other roles.
- 18d. [“Who touches a hair of __ gray head …”: Whittier] clues YON. I wondered what that was all about and Googled up John Greenleaf Whitter’s poem, “Barbara Frietchie.” Frietchie was a elderly Unionist who taunted Stonewall Jackson’s troops by waving a Union flag as they passed and said to shoot her gray head if they must but to leave her flag alone. So Jackson reportedly said “Who touches a hair of yon gray head / Dies like a dog! March on!” I didn’t know the poem or the story, so I’m glad 18d prompted me to look them up.
- 38d. Too bad the answer to [Like some machinery nuts] isn’t, say, ODDBALL or MECHANICALLY INCLINED. The nuts aren’t enthusiasts, they’re pieces of THREADED hardware.
- 47d. HAITI is a [Greater Antilles nation]. The Lesser Antilles spin out east and south from the Virgin Islands on, while the Greater Antilles are the bigger islands from Cuba to Puerto Rico (passing through Jamaica and Hispaniola).
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Spider Man”—Janie’s review
Ah, that poor beleaguered spectacle now-playing in New York, Spider-Man: Turn on the Dark. If only it had been put together with the care and imagination of today’s (perhaps unintended) tribute puzzle. Still, each of the four men found in the grid’s longest entry spots is a “spider man” SORTA [In a way, in a way]. Just how is revealed in the clues:
- 17A. [Writer of “Kiss of the Spider Woman”] MANUEL PUIG. Have never read the novel, but it was the basis of both a superb independent film and Broadway musical—with the requisite awards awards to go with ’em.
- 27A. [Spider-Man portrayer] TOBEY MAGUIRE. Next in line (due in 2012), Andrew Garfield (of 2010’s The Social Network, among others).
- 44A. [Politician represented by a spider in the comic strip “Pogo”] RICHARD NIXON. New news to me. Cool. Can’t find a pic, but you’ll find the mention here. As president, he occupied the famous domicile that’s referenced in the (somewhat awkwardly worded) WHITE / [Color of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue] combo.
- 60A. [Singer backed by the Spiders from Mars] DAVID BOWIE. No lack of internet presence here…
Other combos that kept things lively for me include:
- Phrases ON FIRE [Burning] and GO INTO [Broach, as a topic].
- [“She’s] GOTTA [Have It” (1986 Spike Lee movie)]. Who’s that? “MY GIRL” [#1 hit for the Temptations].
- The short [Short punch] JAB.
- The bathed-in-secrecy base with what might be one of its big secrets [Area 51 craft] UFO.
- The longer SECLUDES [Surrounds with trees, say] and SAGACITY [Ability to make sound judgments] (which I somehow want to parse as Saga City…).
- The smooth and soothing BALSAM [Aromatic ointment].
- The reminder that YAHOO! began as [“Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web“…]. Jerry Yang. And David Filo. Hmm. Did you know that Yahoo! is an acronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle“?…..
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “pH Balanced”
The theme entries this week change phrases with P-words into phrases with PH-words:
- 18a. [Connoisseur of used tissues and old banana peels?] clues TRASHPHILE (trash pile).
- 24a. A [Condom?] can be a PHALLUS GUARD (palace guard).
- 39a. [Uncreative poseur?] is a ONE-TRICK PHONY (one-trick pony). Cute.
- 49a. [Belligerent game birds?] make up a PHEASANT ARMY (peasant army).
- 58a. BITTER PHIL (bitter pill) is clued as [Punxsutawney groundhog, sick of the same damn routine every year?].
It’s an effective sound/spelling-change theme. The entries alternate between having the PH word at the end vs. at the beginning. “Trash pile” isn’t too interesting, but the other four base phrases are.
Five more clues:
- 46a. [Parisian rapid transit letters] clues RER. Never seen this answer before, but then, I’ve never been to Paris. The RER rapid transit lines hook up with the Metro.
- 3d. [“Roots” protagonist] is KUNTA KINTE. I once cracked myself up by calling my son “Toby” and thus spurring him to insist otherwise. (He has a friend named Toby.) He had no idea what I was going on about. It’s like when his parents say “I saw something nasty in the woodshed.”
- 8d. [Words before a rebuttal] are “YES, BUT…”
- 29d. [Spanish peso] clues DURO. Apparently that’s an old Spanish coin. Who needs a duro when you’ve got a euro? Crossword constructors, that’s who.
- 50d. The HYENA may look like an [Extremely nasty dog-like creature], but it’s actually part of the Feliformia suborder of Carnivora, along with cats, mongooses, civets, and meerkats.
I made the exact same ACURA/HONDA/MAZDA mistake, in that order. Also had SWIMWEAR instead of SWIMCAPS for a while, so that slowed me down as well.
I’m going to assume that at least one person is curious about the ‘plus 1’ that I’ve attached to my reported time for the LAT. It’s a method I’m using to be more honest about my puzzle foibles. It means that I finished the puzzle in the reported time, but spent about 1 minute searching for an error that I was not previously aware of. In essence, this is a way of keeping track of how many times I would have an error if I had been solving on paper and didn’t have the happy pencil to conclusively let me know if the solve was clean. The error in this case was GRAM/TOM instead of GRAN/TON, because I only read the down clue.
Nothing good or bad to say about the puzzles themselves. I was expecting an entry in the NYT that explicitly explained the theme, but I think it was worth scrapping that in order to fit that 5th TV combo in the middle.
Since it was difficult for me to read the long NYT clue as well, I assumed that the double-starred clues would hide “I CAME,” “I SAW,” and “I CONQUERED,” though how that last one could be “hidden” in another entry was something I couldn’t imagine. Interesting twist I think all the same.
Thanks for all the explanations! I didn’t have time to go back and look at the starred clues, so I missed the fun of VENI, VIDI, VICI and THE DIE IS CAST until coming here! As for ODENSE at 33D, I knew this as I’d just finished Steven Bach’s “Dazzler”, the bio of Moss Hart who wrote the film script for the hit musical “Hans Christian Anderson”, and I recommend it highly especially for the chapters on his writing and directing “My Fair Lady”!
Ditto Evad. Thanks, Amy, for sussing that one out for us! :)
HONDA, then MAZDA. Cars are a rough spot for me. I wasn’t initially too thrilled with this one since I could not see any of the theme while solving. But after I stepped back and played “word-search” with it to find the quotes, the theme worked itself out and I gained the full appreciation of it; so it was Good Will Hunting. Nicely done!
Ditto on this week’s upcoming Fireball–a real head-scratcher, but an incredibly satisfying solve once I figured the gimmick out.
loved the NYT. i guess i’m the only one who knew MAZDA? maybe it helped that i strongly suspected a Z because it was will nediger’s puzzle—but the phrase “mazda RX-7” was rattling around in my brain, so RX-8 pretty well triggered my hand to write MAZDA. still, i was going a bit too fast to notice the difference between * and ** (never seen that one before), so discovering the theme at the end was quite a treat. they couldn’t have run this last week for the ides? ET TU!
not as wild about the LAT puzzle. lots of odd little names, danglers, and abbreviations—entirely too many for anything approaching a smooth solve. CONF EDD ISU IZE AER ANE JONGG are all a bit weird, plus names like ORMAN ALBA DION BERNE (that last E looks so wrong) and yes, WANER. the waners were brothers on the 1920s-30s pirates. paul was one of the great players of his era, a legitimate superstar; lloyd is regarded by many as the single most undeserving hall-of-famer, who was probably inducted only due to association with his brother. he was actually a slightly below-average player over the course of his lengthy career. it would be something akin to enshrining billy ripken or mike maddux. the waners are probably best remembered for their nicknames, “big poison” (paul) and “little poison” (lloyd).
i was very excited about the fireball, not least the fact that i solved it only 45 seconds slower than dan feyer. i will say that for those who haven’t done it yet, it works better on paper than in AL.
The scans for puzzle 7 at the ACPT are finally up. I had a completely different error than I thought I’d done. I’ll get you next year, sps!
I couldn’t see any of the quotes in the NYT, I don’t know my Caesar all that well.
In the LAT, is mah-JONGG a standardized spelling? I thought there was another H in there.
Amy, thanks for turning us onto Sporcle – I just checked out the site and it’s a ton of fun. Cheers!
The Black Ink approach seems like a lot of work. If you position the mouse on the clue in the Across clues pane in Across Lite, the whole clue is displayed as hover help. Unless your screen resolution is set very differently than mine, it uses less than 2/3 of the width of the screen for the whole clue.
Martin, Across Lite for the Mac sucks. There’s no mouse-over pop-up of clues, and you can only have one puzzle open at a time. (I didn’t use Across Lite at all for the NYT. Just downloaded the .puz and opened it in Black Ink. Black Ink allows me to copy and paste individual clues, which Across Lite refuses to do. Black Ink also has the mouse-over clue pop-up you’re used to.)
PC users should strongly consider getting WX-Xword — the unfortunately named but terrific open source alternative to Across Lite. Clues are wrapped in the sidebar, which is the least of its features.