Thursday, 3/31/11

Fireball 7:50 


NYT 4:37 


LAT 8:31 (Neville) 


CS untimed 


BEQ 5:29 (Matt) 


Jeremy Horwitz and Tyler Hinman’s New York Times crossword

3/31/11 NYT crossword solution 0331

Baseball pitchers are not my forte so my brain turned off when I was reading the theme clues. Hey! Brain! Wake up. You know three of the singers as clued. (True story: I needed many, many crossings to fill in KENNY ROGERS because I totally missed the 1980 “Lady” singer part of the clue.)

Anyway! Brilliantly conceived puzzle. The backstory is reported in the Thursday Times. (I think this NYT article won’t count against your 20-a-month limit if you click on it from a blog—though I clicked on the link from Deb Amlen’s Wordplay post and it sure as hell counted against my NYT limit. Scary: “The link is coming from inside the house!”) Long story short: Last fall, San Francisco Giants pitcher BRIAN WILSON recounted his lifelong dream of being in an NYT crossword (to which my response was, “Ha! The other Brian Wilson is so much more famous than you, you don’t have a chance”), and Tyler and Jeremy worked out a theme in which four baseball pitchers on World Series–winning teams share their names with singers. The kicker is the elegant central answer that unites all eight dudes: PERFECT PITCH is something they “have all strived for.”

Not only does the theme play out well, but Tyler and Jeremy also squeeze in a lot of cool fill and fun clues:

  • 7a. PEDICAB , a [Way around Shanghai]. Also a way around Wrigleyville in the summer.
  • 18a. [Saved, as a seat?] clues SLIPCOVERED. I need a new couch—two slipcovers have been exhausted by now and the whole enterprise needs to be replaced.
  • 24a. AIR KISS, great answer!
  • 52a. [Creamy dish] RISOTTO, yum.
  • 60a. Another creamy dish, COLE SLAW. I like the sweeter type.
  • 62a. TAI CHI CHUAN—nice to have the fill name instead of just [__ chi]. I call foul on the clue, though. [Dojo discipline] smacks of Japanese martial arts, while tai chi is Chinese. Not the first time a crossword has muddled together the dojo/sensei/Japanese stuff and the Chinese stuff.
  • 55d. [1970s sitcom that ended with the title character in Congress] is MAUDE. I had NAB instead of NET at 71a for a while, so I gave RHODA political aspirations first. Whoops.
  • 56d. [“Ni-i-ice!”] and “SWEET!” are used in much the same ways. However! I believe the spelling for the way Jeremy shouted this word repeatedly at the ACPT while playing Peter Gordon’s “Celebrity” game is an emphatic “Noice!”

I just noticed that the grid’s taller than usual—16 squares high by 15 wide. Now, I ask you, how is Brian Wilson ever going to learn that Saturday crosswords tend to have a lot of 15s, not 16s, if you put his name in a puzzle with a 15×16 grid?

Trip Payne’s Fireball crossword, “Cuckoo Crossword”

Trip Payne's Fireball "Cuckoo Crossword" answers

Yay! Peter Gordon’s April Fool’s Day tradition continues: What was called a “Wacky Weekend Warrior” at the N.Y. Sun each spring and a “Something Different” variety grid puzzle at Trip’s Triple Play Puzzles site has been christened the “Cuckoo Crossword” in its Fireball incarnation. I love these puzzles! The fill is totally bogus. Well, 90% bogus. Some of the 4- and 5-letter answers are normal. But most of the fill is just nuts. You play fast and loose with what constitutes a passable phrase, and you can really cut down on the overall word count. Did you get a load of that gloriously wide-open grid? It’s a 54-worder with 22 blocks, with a two quadruple-stacked groups of 15s.

These puzzles are always a hoot if you can get your mind wrapped in the right frame. I happened to finish filling in 1-Across last. “GORGONZOLA what?” I wondered. Oh! GORGONZOLAESQUE, a cheesy shout-out to Byron Walden’s 2005 ACPT finals puzzle. I’m glad that was my last answer because it made me laugh, and what a nice way to finish a crossword.

  • Second favorite answer: NO OBIES. Looks like NOOBIES in the grid.
  • Third: QUISPER, or more like that sugary cereal from my childhood.
  • Fourth: E-SLAY. It is only modestly more ridiculous than some of the other E- answers that show up in crosswords periodically.
  • Fifth: RIGMA, a [Role lead-in]. As in rigmarole.

My only real hitch here was having BEST CRY in lieu of BEST IRE for too long. Really slowed me down in getting the bottom quad-stack of 15-letter answers.

Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword solution 3/31

Hey, here’s a timely puzzle that knocks it out of the park. Each of the four theme entries begins with a piece of BASEBALL equipment, and today is Opening Day.

  • 1a. [One way to reach a superhero] is the (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na) BATPHONE! I love this entry and the fact that we have a long theme entry at 1-Across. Off to a great start.
  • 23a. One [2008 Republican hopeful] was MITT ROMNEY. He did not jump out in my mind, unfortunately. I guess I’ve already started to think about 2012.
  • 34a. A CAP PISTOL is a [Roll-fed toy]. Do they still make cap pistols, or are they un-PC now?
  • 46a. The [Musical about rock’s 4 Seasons] is “JERSEY BOYS,” which I really want to see. I was sort of curious why the numeral 4 was used in the clue, but apparently it was sometimes styled that way. Wikipedia lists a host of ways to spell Frankie Valli’s last name (-ey, e, y…) – you’d think he was Muammar Gaddafi!

This puzzle took me a long while – it played like a 74-word themeless for me. I don’t mind that, though, when there are nice entries like the ones we’ve got here. All of the theme entries were superb, and I’m a big fan of VALENCE, ELEVENS, and REDEYES side-by-side in the NE. [Hefner garb] actually was PAJAMAS, which I had originally written off as too obvious. My desired answer for [Burlesque act], though it fit the pattern of _A_DANCE, was not right – it was FAN DANCE. You can imagine what I wanted.

Cool clues you might not’ve noticed:

  • 51a. [Trial site, perhaps] – LAB. Score one for Team Misdirection.
  • 16a. [Lower, for now] – ON SALE. Score another point for Team Convince Neville it’s a Verb.
  • 3d. [Crime of betrayal] – TREASON. Ha! Didn’t fall for any romantic leads on this one.

Back next week – keep playing jai ALAI!

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pronoun Pairs”—Janie’s review

(Here’s a link to Randy’s puzzle.)

This puzzle makes nice use of a familiar gimmick—you know, the one with the hidden/embedded word. Four theme phrases each contain (as advertised) a pair of pronouns. Side by side pronouns. Not an easy trick to pull off in lively phrases. Even harder to pull off in a consistent way, and in that regard, this theme set is a mixed bag. Concessions have to be made, however. The four “Pronoun Pairs” promised in the title are: object pronouns me and you, subject pronouns he and she, object pronouns them and us, and possessive pronouns her and his. The phrases you’ll find ’em in are:

  • 19A. “NAME YOUR POISON” [Bartender’s invitation]. Love this colorful phrase. Not wild, though, for the way that the object pronoun is part of a possessive pronoun and (much as I love the phrase) wish a “youth” or “young” entry could have been found. (Hmmm. Or were we to have discovered subject pronouns you and I? No, no—they’re not an adjacent pair.) On the topic of “naming one’s poison,” Randy looks to be offering up the sociable SANGRIA [Potable served with paella] and for the more INTENSE [Type A, perhaps] drinker, CHASERS [Drinks served after drinks]. Bottoms up! But try not to get SMASHED [Drunk as a skunk].
  • 30A. SAT ON THE SHELF [Remained unsold]. After which it was sent to T.J. Maxx…
  • 37A. FACES THE MUSIC [Accepts one’s punishment]. Another especially strong phrase. Also like the way them spans two words.
  • 52A. WEATHER HISTORY [Background information for a meteorologist]. Not keen for the phrase itself (which is very much in the language—for meteorologists), but it does deliver the goods.

I’ve already mentioned several of ’em, but this grid is loaded with 7-letter fill—14 in all. Note those triple stacks NE and SW and the paired stacks on the flip side, for starters. Among the better clue/fill combos (and take a look at how playful the cluing is): [Dorm duos] and ROOMIES, [The inside track] LANE ONE, [Creatures on a slide] and AMOEBAS (not KIDDIES…), [Tie up] and ENSNARL, [Used one’s crayons] and COLORED, [You don’t want them to have a crush on you] and PYTHONS, and [They might call a strike] and UMPIRES.

Then, back to those pronoun pairs. You know I love bonus fill—so, didja notice the possessive/subject bonus pair? They share a “W”: EWER and WII….

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “At the Sky Mall”—Matt Gaffney’s review

This was fun and, as promised, easy to solve (took me 5:29 in Across Lite). Brendan comes up with five products from those airline in-flight catalogs that’d be most appropriate to purchase at 30,000 feet:

  • 17a CLOUD COVER is a {Blanket sold at the Sky Mall?}.
  • 25a STARBUCKS is {Money accepted at the Sky Mall?}. One of these things is not like the other, but you gotta pay for this somehow.
  • 37a AIR GUITAR is an {Instrument sold at the Sky Mall?}.
  • 52a MOONLIGHT is {Lamp sold at the Sky Mall?}.
  • 61a SUNGLASSES are {Drinking cups sold at the Sky Mall?}.

The grid looks much more wide open than its 78 words, and highlights include GNOCCHI + ITALY, I LOST IT, FIESTA, TRIUMPH, G-SUIT, WAR CRY, CANUCKS and Roy ORBISON. I think 69-across has a semi-error, as hydrogen doesn’t get its numerical aquatic due. The clues for DEW and MARX are nice, which are {Drops on the ground} and {“Time wounds all heels” comic} respectively.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a 5-star Thursday everyone!

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20 Responses to Thursday, 3/31/11

  1. Not only were all the pitchers on World Series-winning teams, but all the musicians recorded #1 hits on the Billboard charts. This would exclude DAVE STEWART’s Oakland teammate BOB WELCH from consideration, as his musical double (a former Fleetwood Mac guitarist) only reached #8 with his best single.

  2. Dan F says:

    At 10 pm Central: eleven ratings on the two puzzles, eleven “5”s. Awesomeness all around. “Cuckoo Crossword” is an apt title because that grid is cuckoo-bananas. Everyone notice Trip’s clue for 1-Across?

  3. Plot says:

    Brilliant theme! I had only heard of 2 of the 8 singers/athletes, but none of the names had tricky or unconvential spelling so it was easy to guess the answers. Had UNWINDS instead of UNLOADS at first, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.

    Forgot that AFD is coming up, so today’s Fireball was a welcome surprise. Kevin, if you’re reading this, I expect you to take Trip’s grid and make a regular crossword out of it by the end of the year :)

  4. joon says:

    wow, and double-wow. happy solving!

  5. Howard B says:

    Two puzzles that made me a happy and cuckoo camper. Tylemy Hinmawitz, great unifying theme.
    Trip, yours is insane(ly fun). 1-A clue and answer alone were worth the price of admission, although QUISPER was also distinctly quisp.

  6. Al Sanders says:

    Dan, as soon as I saw that clue, I knew there had to be a ZOLAESQUE reference coming, and when I solved it I immediately yelled, “Oh, good God!” :-). But I’m still not sure what “GORGONZ L ESQUE” means?

    I think Trip first debuted the “Something Different” puzzles back in Stan Newman’s Crossworders’ Own Newsletter and I’ve enjoyed them greatly ever since. Great puzzle from Tyler and Jeremy as well!

  7. Tuning Spork says:


    Aah. This is the Trip Payne puzzle we’ve been Jonesin’ for ever since the Sun went dark.

    And don’t get me started on KENNY ROGERS. When he was with the Mets… **shudder**

    And I don’t think that Trip is old enough to remember the Quisp and Quake rivalry. Now that’s research.

  8. Jamie says:

    My lucky Thursday – two great puzzles from the NYT/Fireball. (Haven’t tried the LAT yet). The NYT was a mite tough for me since I can hardly name a baseball player let alone know which ones are pitchers, so I had to just go on the musical clues and crosses. Still, it was elegant, I understood the theme, and the fill wasn’t half bad either.

    The FB was a blast. I thought I was a goner after the first tentative pass including having to work out the roman numeral clue, but then I just got in the groove and enjoyed every minute of it. (All 15 of them – I’m no Amy.)

    I’m a miser when it comes to giving puzzles 5 stars, but I really thought these two deserved them. They are definitely memorable standouts. Way to start the second quarter!

    My only problem, which I wouldn’t call a problem, is that the next time Gaffney asks me to list 5-star puzzles, I can certainly say “that perfect pitch one;” How on earth can I describe the FB?

    “The one where Trip sounds like he tripped and none of the answers meant anything?” “That Gorgonzolaesque one”?

  9. D_Blackwell says:

    Amy. Glad that you liked the solution grid for the bowling theme crossword. It was cool to do.

    Though it was well received at the time, I don’t think that I ever posted the final solution grids for Ben Pall’s brilliant ‘Die” crossword from Sunday, 5 December.

    I wound up with PDFs with two sizes of grids. One was ‘Christmas ornament’ size, which was what got things rocking with that puzzle. The other was NYT sized, about ‘earring’ sized, but both were ‘Christmassy or festive in color choices.

    We made a number for ourselves, but sent out many more ‘ready to make’ than anything else. They were a big hit. At any rate, the bowling grid reminded me that 95% of the work for the page was done but sitting in an abandoned directory. I’ve cleaned it up and posted it.

    Ben Pall Rocks

    PDF – Full size (13.5MB). (11mm squares (1555px; x 1985px; total size) (Christmas ornament size when completed.) (13.5MB means nothing to me (near instant), but it might be a problem for some – you’ve been warned.

    PDF – Half-size (4.0MB) (750px; x 957px; total size). (Earring size. (I can see maybe 50px; smaller being a slight improvement – everything is a judgment call.)

  10. Jamie says:

    *Ahem.* Way to end the first quarter.

    As you were.

  11. Gareth says:

    NYT: Just like you, I initially zoned out on the clues. If I hadn’t, I would’ve filled this in a lot quicker! 3 were flat out gimmes, and Eddie Fisher is vaguely known to me. Sweet-ly done puzzle, great long answers too!

    PS: I don’t have to worry about no stinking limits… I use PC Lab PCs!

  12. Anne E says:

    I was impressed enough with the concept of the NYT, but when I got to 19D I just went, “ooooh”. And GORGONZOLAESQUE… ooohing and laughing at the same time. I’m old enough to remember Quisp, so that was a laugh-out-loud moment as well. Great work all around!

  13. janie says:

    ditto on all the seriously well-earned kudos delivered to tyler, jeremy and trip.

    another highlight of steve salitan’s (also timely and terrific) lat opening day puzzle — that FAN DANCE. where would all those players/teams be without an adoring fan or three?

    re: eddie fisher. some may also recall that he was carrie fisher’s father (and debbie reynolds’s husband). he was also a very close friend of mike todd (liz taylor’s husband #3). ms. fisher has quipped (something to the effect) that “when mike todd died, [her father] rushed to elizabeth taylor’s side. later he moved to her front.”


  14. sps says:

    Coincidentally, I was in the store yesterday and had a brief chuckle when I noticed a huge display–honest to goodness–of Quisp cereal (flying saucer shapes). Almost bought one to show the kids (who wouldn’t have been interested) but couldn’t remember what it tasted like and I don’t eat that much cereal as it is. I kinda remember that my sister liked Quisp so I automatically decided that I liked Quake…

    Great, great puzzles today.

  15. mitchs says:

    This was my first attempt at a “Cuckoo” puz. Will admit to a few cheats with the “check” function, but loved it. What everyone else has said about the NYT/Fireball one-two punch!

  16. Jeffrey says:

    Echoing the double 5-star puzzles today.

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    “But I’m still not sure what “GORGONZ L ESQUE” means? ”

    OK, that’s the best comment I’ve ever seen on Crossword Fiend.

  18. Evad says:

    I’m just now getting that EREN should be parsed as ‘ERE N. You’d think the alphabet would be a strong suit, but I was thinking literature (or James Bond movies).

  19. sps says:

    MG–Just caught that. I thought Al just had a weird typo…Al, you’re the best!

  20. ArtLvr says:

    I loved the Cuckoo Puzzle and also the NYT with singers I barely remembered, amazed that they had baseball counterparts. I’d note (pun) that today is also the B-day of the Father of the Symphony, prolific Papa Haydn, born 31 March 1732! He liked jokes too, even put some in his music to make the audience giggle , e.g. the “Surprise” Symphony! That was #94 out his unsurpassed total of 106 symphonies.

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