Thursday, 4/7/11

Fireball 6:03 


NYT 4:19 


LAT 5:59 (Neville) 


CS 10:11 (Sam) 


BEQ 4:06 (Amy) 


Henry Hook’s New York Times crossword

4/7/11 NYT crossword solution 0407

I didn’t have the foggiest idea what the theme entry at 19a was going to turn out to be. What [Churchill subject, with “The”] could possibly begin with the letters IRFI. 30a proved even harder, as a clue like [Rodgers and Hart song, with “The”] quite often wants a title I’ve never heard of. It was only when I had enough crossings in 36a, which was clued extra tough, that the theme’s gimmick fell into place: that [George C. Scott movie with a rock band namesake, with “The”] refers to They Might Be Giants, and the “The” is omitted from the grid entry Y MIGHT BE GIANTS. (Never, ever knew there was a George C. Scott movie, but I’ve known the band TMBG for over 20 years.) Aha! Terrific way to turn the “with ‘The'” convention on its head.

The other theme answers are:

  • 19a. {The}IR FINEST HOUR.
  • 30a. {The}RE’S A SMALL HOTEL. See? A song I’ve never heard of. It doesn’t even sound like a plausible song title!
  • 48a. [Hit movie of 1991, with “The”] gets you LMA AND LOUISE.

Love the theme! Four and a half stars for the theme, but there’s some fill that pulls the puzzle down to a solid four.

Let’s see, what else have we got here?

  • 7a. TORTONI is a [Rum-enhanced dessert] that is not, I don’t think, found on most Italian restaurant menus.
  • 14a. [Original “Spy vs. Spy” cartoonist Prohias] is named ANTONIO. Mad Magazine.
  • 16a. [Straight As in chemistry?] clues ARSENIC, whose chemical symbol is As. Ha! If you’re not up on your chemical elements and their symbols, you clearly need to spend more time playing Sporcle’s science quizzes.
  • 55a. BONBONS! Want. [Chocolate treats] always welcome here. (Hold the OLESTRA.)
  • 58a. The DORSEYS are/were [Big band brothers]. So many other options would fit here: Doobies, Ramones, Allmans (Allmen?), Osmonds…
  • 6d. Did you know: The [Capital of Brandenburg] is POTSDAM.
  • 8d. OREOS are the [Topic of Weird Al Yankovic’s “The White Stuff”].
  • 37d. [Its coat of arms includes a marlin and a flamingo] clues the BAHAMAS. I first thought of sports teams and Florida. But wait: What sport do the Florida Flamingos play?
  • 44d. Urban clothier FUBU has been a [Clothing company since 1992].
  • 50d. Who? [Pierre who wrote “Pecheur d’Islande”] is Monsieur LOTI. Know the name only from crosswords, and only vaguely.

Did you notice that this themed puzzle has just 70 entries? That’s a lower word count than the maximum allowed for a themeless (72). Lots of 7s here, plus a couple 9s in the fill.

Weak spots:

  • RETASTE crossing RSTU, ALERS, partials AN ERA and OH SAY.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers 4/7/11

Well, ‘allo, ‘allo everyone! Feel like you’re on the wrong side of the pond for today’s puzzle? Let’s give this a go and see what’s up in this crossword:

  • 20a. [*Not exactly a nightie] – FLANNEL PYJAMAS. Take a look at this, guv’nor! We’ve got a spot of British spelling with a Y instead an A in PYJAMAS.
  • 24a. [*Scales are part of it] – PIANO PRACTISE. This one gave the theme away to me, as I had already written in the S in PRACTISE.
  • 33a. [*Reinforced road traveler] – STEEL-BELTED TYRE.
  • 43a. [*Headquarters] – CONTROL CENTRE.
  • 51a. [Spin, as a cue ball, or how to answer each starred clue in this puzzle?] – PUT ENGLISH ON IT. This is really cute, and yet, it doesn’t sit right with me. I’m American, and I speak English. I really want this clue to reference something British, because English isn’t really specific enough. I can’t come up with a cute phrase that works like this with British in it, though. Is that a fair enough reason? Am I being too picky?

Other Brit bits:

  • 61a. [Bathroom across the pond] – LOO. Idea for a theme entry: Loo Diamond Phillips. I don’t want to know what the clue is – something with a screwdriver?
  • 41a. [“___, ’tis true, I have gone here and there”: Sonnet 110] – ALAS. Little known fact: Shakespeare was a crossword constructor. “Alas, ’tis true I have gone here” was actually his clue for 61-Across.
  • 19d. [Lad’s sweetheart] – LASS. That’s pretty British, though I tend to think Irish or Scottish first.
  • 45d. [Polish goal] – LUSTER. This wasn’t LUSTRE – I was disappointed.
  • 48d. [Broke down, in a way] – SPELT.

Crossword newbies: Learn ISAO Aoki, the vowel-heaviest Japanese golfer ever to win the US Open. (The Jack he beat in 1980 was Jack Nicklaus, of course.) This chap always pops up when you least expect him to, so keep your eyes peeled! (Not to be confused with Eero Saarinen.)

My ??? moment of this puzzle came in at P-TRAP. I knew that it was U-TRAP, but the crossing made no sense. Mr. Happy Pencil confirmed that P-TRAP was right, though. Apparently it’s a U-bend and a P-trap. In addition to keeping your dropped jewelry from being lost forever, P-traps keep nasty sewer gases out of your home. Delightful.

Loos and sewers – it must be time to wrap this up. Cheerio and all that!

Updated Monday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sesame Seeds”—Sam Donaldson’s review

I think this was one of those puzzles where I could have shaved a minute or two off my time if I had uncovered the theme before I was done. The five long across entries are all full names, but what do they have in common? The puzzle’s title, “Sesame Seeds,” practically gives it away, but it still took me a while to figure it out. I kept looking for some kind of wordplay, like anagrams of “sesame.” Finally it hit—the first names of these five people are also names of muppets on the television show, Sesame Street. For someone like me who grew up on the show, it’s a little embarrassing that it took me so long to get this. In my defense, I have never heard of two of the theme entries, and one of the five muppets featured in this puzzle was also new to me:

  • 17-Across: The [Golfer from Johannesburg] is crossword celebrity ERNIE ELS, and Ernie is probably my favorite Sesame Street character. My adoration of Ernie led me to bathe with a rubber ducky (until reaching a suitable age of maturity, of course—though I confess it was pretty tough throwing it out last year).
  • 23-Across: The [Admiral who was Nixon’s Chief of Naval Operations] was ELMO ZUMWALT. Okay, the Elmo on Sesame Street tickles me (and Katy Perry), but this Elmo Zumwalt guy is completely new to me. Granted, there aren’t many famous people named Elmo. Still, I might have preferred the talented crooner Elmo Shropshire.
  • 38-Across: The [President who served non-consecutive terms] is GROVER CLEVELAND (ALEXANDER). Grover is the muppet that looks like a blue Soupy Sales. I like the Wikipedia description of him: “Self-described as lovable, cute and furry, he is a monster who almost never uses contractions when speaking or singing.” Is that not cute?
  • 54-Across: The [Tony-winning actress from Melbourne] is ZOE CALDWELL. Double strike-out for me here, as I know neither Ms. Caldwell nor the muppet named Zoe. That’s Zoe over there on the right. According to Sesame Street’s website, “Zoe joined Sesame Street in 1993 (Sesame 25), after the creators decided to address the show’s gender gap and add another female character. Zoe is a great role model for girls – she’s strong, personable, and she’s not afraid to jump into the action and get her tutu dirty!” As for Zoe Caldwell, I knew I was doomed when I saw the first words in the clue. The Tonys reside so far outside my wheelhouse they need a passport to visit (and yet AUNTIE [Mame, for one] came easily to me).
  • 65-Across: [“The Wizard of Oz” actor] is the courageous BERT LAHR, and Bert on Sesame Street is Ernie’s roommate, not to mention an inspiration to the thousands with unibrows and floppy arms.

As if five theme entries with proper names were not enough, we have other notable figures in the grid. There’s AHAB, the [Melville captain], dancer AGNES de Mille, ANTONIO [Banderas of “Matador”] (and, regrettably, “Original Sin”), [Andy Capp’s wife] FLO, [Baseball pioneer Buck] O’NEIL, [“Foucault’s Pendulum” author] Umberto ECO (the book’s in my rotation of things to read), composer LEROY Anderson, and even CINDY, [The youngest Brady girl]. That’s certainly more people per capita than your typical 15×15 grid.

The grid sports 20 three-letter words, but the four sets of stacked six-letter entries in each corner are nice. No one’s a fan of ANIL, the [Indigo dye source], LLANO, the [Grassy plain], ASE, the [Enzyme suffix], or REDO, but any grid with BFF, the [Closest pal, in texting], ONE-HIT, TULANE, and SPRAWL isn’t all bad.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Places, Everyone”—Matt Gaffney’s review

It’s a contest puzzle, folks! I solved it, I entered, but I can’t talk about it right now. Good luck!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 38”

Fireball 2:12 answers

I always like a quasi-mini-theme where two answers echo each other with overlapping letters. Peter does that with the first and last Across answers, MORTADELLA and BORDETELLA. This puts me in mind of other pairings: (1) My grandma’s old friends, Sam and Della, and salmonella bacteria; and (2) Old Byron Walden puzzles (both in the Sun, I think) in which (a) BARRY ZITO and BAKED ZITI shared the BA-ZIT parts and (b) HAZMAT SUIT and KAZ MATSUI were stacked.

Aside from the sausage/germ combo, nothing much leapt out at me in this puzzle. The long fill’s good, but some of the shorter stuff (ESSES crossing ALEE and VIS, AUER, CDLI, ROSCO, ISO) feels like it’s not up to Peter’s usual snuff.

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41 Responses to Thursday, 4/7/11

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    Great gimmick – unexpected! Plus, Tortoni was one of my dad’s favorite desserts, and I always love a Weird Al clue.

  2. John E says:

    Very clever puzzle by Mr Hook. And very rich fill IMO.

    But FUBU? Really?

  3. john farmer says:

    They Might Be Giants probably got the name from the George C. Scott movie but the term goes back to Don Quixote.* Who knows who Cervantes took it from.

    Quite the novel theme. Had me scratching my head for a bit. YM___ and not Yma Sumac?

    * The cross-generational pop-cult references can be amusing. I remember reading a blogger who was shocked to learn that “My Generation” was originally a song by The Who and not Green Day. How could “my” generation not be his generation? Give it some time, and everything old is new again.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    THEre’s just one problem in the NYT — Key’s opening, 29D, is always “O SAY, can you see…” without the H added by Mr. Hook!

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @John E: Henry Hook’s in Brooklyn, I’m in Chicago. I think people in big American cities have been seeing the FUBU logo around for years. Interesting corporate history:

  6. joon says:

    i loved henry’s theme. almost laughed out loud when i worked it out. never heard of the song, but still highly enjoyable.

  7. Plot says:

    Well, 99% of the time, common words like “the” are superfluous in crossword clues, so I’ve trained myself to avoid reading them in order to save time. Clearly, today falls in the 1% category. Had to really work the downs on this one, and didn’t fully get the theme until after I finished. Was pleasantly surprised though; it definitely brought back positive memories of BEQ’s “You’re solving… with what?”. Some soon-to-be-classic clues as well. This could be one of the only times that something involving arsenic is funny (Not sure if Arsenic and Old Lace counts; that’s a bit before my time).

  8. John E says:

    It’s all good, Amy – it’s probably in Toronto too but I haven’t seen it.

    BTW, I used to get off at the Grayslake stop when I was in the burbs of Chicago….

  9. Dan F says:

    I did laugh out loud when I grokked the “The” theme about halfway through the puzzle. Any theme that messes with crossword conventions (or crosswordese) is a big winner in my book.

    Excellent CS puzzle again today. Almost makes me want to try Puzzle Solver again once the .puz well runs dry. (Almost.)

  10. Started with the IR for the Churchill entry and immediately thought of the term he made famous shortly after WW2 ended, “IRON CURTAIN.” That entry fell one space short of the answer needed, and I had to fill all the crossings to get the gimmick.

    By the way, ISAO Aoki finished runner-up to Nicklaus at the 1980 US Open at Baltusrol, not the other way round.

  11. Neville says:

    Did I say beat? I meant lost to. I’m just full of nonsense. Thanks, Brent!

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    In the CS, at 71-A I had ?E?D. I quickly read the clue [No longer working] and, completely missing the [abbr.] part and thinking of a device of some kind, typed in DEAD. Then I thought of it refering to a person and laughed out loud.

  13. Gareth says:

    NYT: What a lovely in-joke! I usually like the idea of having to wrestle out the theme to make sense of the answers.. Got it with the first answer (though quite a long way into the crossword), but still battled to see the third answer, and the second I hadn’t heard of, so still lots more struggling to lay this one down! Anyone else think of rock albums first at 52A? Favourite answer: FUBU, which lots of the “cool” kids used to wear back in high school. I never would have put it in a crossword though, and would have expected to be told to remove it if I did! Happy that Will Shortz chooses not to excise such things! Finished at the mysterious clue for WELL crossing the SHAW I haven’t heard of, with a side order of ODILE that I can never remember except for the “OD” part!

  14. Gareth says:

    LAT: Was a complete mindf@$&!! That’s how I normally spell things!!! Somehow didn’t notice anything was amiss. This despite having to normally having to deliberately spell these words incorrectly in other puzzles! The rest of the puzzle was tougher than most LATs for me too. Neville, hand up for staring at PTRAP! Also, CCH!?

  15. HH says:

    “This could be one of the only times that something involving arsenic is funny…”

    Point taken. Cyanide, however, is always funny.

  16. Evad says:

    With Plot on this one, very reminiscent of the MOAH BEQ from last year’s ACPT. Excellent idea, particularly since we tend to gloss over the “The” in a clue–I didn’t even notice that all four theme entries mentioned it. It didn’t help that I thought it was OUR FINEST HOUR instead of THEIR.

    Gave this one five stars, due to the big bang AHA at the end.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Spork: Some zombies are actually excellent workers. You’d be surprised.

  18. sbmanion says:

    One of the all-time clever themes. I had the IR in the Churchill quote and thought it might be some sort of play on how he mouthed his words. Then with the opening Y in place on the next one, I thought that it might be some play on spelling. A few moments later, I experienced one of the best AHAs I can remember.

    Thank you, HH


  19. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m no doubt being Hooked, as it were, into making this [Minor Criticism] but a NIT – in this metaphorical sense – is not the criticism itself but a perceived erratum on the part of the picker.

  20. Matt says:

    @Daniel Meyers

    Well, we all know that what HH really thinks about nit-picking couldn’t be published in a family newspaper.

    And I agree with all the positive comments above about the theme. Weird-looking clumps of consonants at the start of the theme entries had me wondering for quite a while– and with Mr. Hook, there’s lots of possibilities.

  21. Jan (danjan) says:

    FUBU was a gimme for me, even though “my” generation includes Weird Al and HH. I think once you’ve heard of it, it sticks.

  22. Gary says:

    Amy – re: 58A, note that it’s clued Big Band brothers (with a capitalized Band) – so I don’t think the Doobies et al. qualify.

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    @Matt—Do we all? I don’t or didn’t, or am taking it under your advisement. I thought the puzzle was fun as well. Another nit, Matt: The orthography of my surname.:-)

  24. joon says:

    loved the CS puzzle today and i got almost as big an “aha” out of it as with the HH NYT. and sam, literally the only thing i know about soupy sales is that {Sales pitch?} = PIE, i guess because he liked to throw pies? anyway, now i know that he looks like grover, so that’s two things. did i ever tell you about when grover cleveland spanked me on non-consecutive occasions?

    i want to like the LAT, but the theme didn’t really work for me either and i was extremely unhappy with the fill (CCH, PTRAP, DYNEL was rough for me, and ENARM is probably my least favorite thing in the grid). also, what is SPELT doing in this puzzle? it seems like it should be doubly thematic, right? but it doesn’t even get a *, let alone a theme-related clue.

  25. Matt says:

    @Daniel Myers

    Oops. Apologies. My odd personal combination of ‘bad speller’ and ‘good crossword solver’ apparently collided head-on.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Gary: In the NYT’s online applet, it’s [Big band brothers], lowercase B.

  27. Gary says:

    @Amy: Interesting – I downloaded from the Times’ site to Across Lite, and it was capitalized there. Without the capital B, you’re right – lots of possibilities.

  28. Daniel Myers says:

    @Matt–LOL–Quite alright. I’m not the best speller either especially when it comes to the American variant of English. I was born and raised on this small archipelago to the west of Europe where we spelt certain words a tad differently.

    All of this brings me back to ArtLvr’s point, which is not a nit. Even I knew that the start of the national anthem, certainly as Key wrote it, was “O Say”. Here’s the original manuscript for those interested, penned whilst this country was at war against said tiny archipelago:

  29. HH says:

    So you’re assuming that, in the middle of a war zone with bullets and bombs flying all over the place, Mr. Key had the presence of mind to spell it right?

  30. 530nm330Hz says:

    I was so proud of myself for sussing what was going on fairly early, that I wrote on the top of the page “Me is clever today!”

    (With “the”, of course.)

  31. Daniel Myers says:


  32. pannonica says:

    So you’re assuming that, in the middle of a war zone with bullets and bombs flying all over the place, Mr. Key had the presence of mind to spell it right? –H²

    (a) if anything, it would have been quicker to write it without the H (no offense)
    (b) I believe the “O” spelling was the prevalent and preferred contemporary spelling, all lofty, you know. Or perhaps that’s merely psalmic vinegar?
    (c) Exhibit A

    However, I loved the theme. Have actually seen the George C. Scott film. Am currently reading Edith Grossman’s lauded translation of Quixote.

    p.s. I may have to turn in my crossword-lover membership card for admitting this, but have been underwhelmed by both Jankovic and TMBG since the 80s.

    p.p.s. O sorry, Daniel Myers. Didn’t see your comment and link. Seems we’re wavelengthing yet again.

  33. Daniel Myers says:

    Trouble thyself not, O pannonica, two Keys are far, far better than one. Yes, we seem to have some sort of cryptic cruciverbal correspondence. I love “wavelengthing” and am (O so sorry) going to steal it from you for future use. Thanks to you, I now have that old Van Morrison song in my head!:-)

  34. Lois says:

    Whether Big band brothers or Big Band brothers, normally only the Dorseys would fit, out of all the others Amy cites. But I understand now that in the case of the misdirecting, proud to be sadistic Henry Hook, “normally” would be just another case of misdirection! Anyway, it looks as though some people had a lot of fun today.

  35. Gary says:


    Gotta disagree. Big Band is a genre/category of music – and there, I agree, the Dorseys are an obvious choice (maybe there are others I don’t know of). But there are lots of big (in the sense of “popular”) bands, including the Doobie Brothers and the Allman Brothers Band.

    I’m guessing the clue was originally written with a capitalized “Band,” and was not intended to be misdirection.

  36. Ladel says:

    The comment count says it all today about this wonderful, inventive, fresh Thur puzzle.

    Lincoln Ctr tonite to see War Horse.

  37. Tony O. says:


    Millions of versions of this song in the world (including one by my father, also on youtube) but here’s Billy Eckstine singing “There’s a Small Hotel”:

    For the record, this is before my time, too!

    Tony O.

  38. Erik says:

    I remember ISAO as OASIS backwards without the S.

  39. Howard B says:

    Loved this theme, which twists conventions. Had a hell of a time with that second theme answer, since Broadway isn’t my strength, it was an unknown, and this one was really hard to parse in its the-less form. That and DORSEYS were the main sticking points, but I enjoyed discovering this one. Original stuff.

  40. Meem says:

    I hope HH has had fun today reading the amount of cruciverbalist commentary his puzzle has stirred! I loved it. Got the deal at Churchill and was off to find the rest. I keep wondering if there is something I fail to see in “rstu”? HH: how did you get stuck with that?

  41. Jamie says:

    Dear HH:

    Ignore Meem. The RSTU clue was great! I knew that one immediately!!

    Seriously, I needed all the help I could get on this puzzle. It was a great idea. I’m not a big fan of crosswords with stuff outside the grid; I think constructors like them more than solvers do. But this was more evil: it was right in front of my eyes (with “The”) and I of course completely missed it, just as you meant me to, you sadistic SOB.

    Your puzzle was the first one I solved on paper, nowhere near a computer. (Well, since C.E. – computer era). Now I feel like Sam blogging the CS on Wednesday: my time today was so long that I can only show remarkable improvement in days to come.

    Dan F had better watch his back. I am only 640% slower than he is, and closing in slowly.

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