Wednesday, 5/11/11

Onion 4:05 


LAT 3:24 


NYT 3:18 


CS 7:01 (Sam) 


Tausig untimed 


Bonus crossword this week! Francis Heaney is a contributor to The Final Edition, a satirical imagining of the final edition of the New York Times, and he’s constructed “The Final Crossword, by Willy Shortz.”

Sample clues:

  • 35a. [Old detergent brand that might still be available somewhere; I don’t feel like checking], 5 letters
  • 18a. [Sport I plan to spend all my time playing now that I don’t have to crank out this goddamn crossword every day], 8 letters
  • 73a. [Crosswords aren’t supposed to repeat any words, but you know what? Screw it. This is the same word as 23-Across]

The puzzle’s even got a theme, Will’s purported [Parting sentiment to my readers], parts 1-4. Hey! I should actually solve this puzzle now. Looks like a hoot. If you’re tickled by Francis’s breed of satire, also check out his brilliant and funny literary parody collection, Holy Tango of Literature.

Jonah Kagan’s New York Times crossword

5/11/11 NY Times crossword solution 0511

I’m not well-versed enough in mathematics to explain to you how the numbers in the FIBONACCI SERIES relate to the GOLDEN RATIO (that’s the phrase spelled out in a spiral path by the circled letters). And while I knew that a NAUTILUS shell and the pattern of seeds in a SUNFLOWER have a mathematical perfection to them, I didn’t know the ARTICHOKE and INNER EAR belonged in the same category.

If this theme left you wanting more, do scroll through this site documenting a bunch of things in nature that use Fibonacci numbers. The stuff about flower petals, pine cones, and leaf patterns kinda blew my mind. Another site mentions that the inner ear’s cochlea is a golden spiral. And artichokes follow a spiraling blah-blah-blah like many other plants. So the theme is subtle and mathy, with a cool botanical slant to it. I like it.

Coolest new answer:

  • 20a. TED TALKS are [Popular online lectures about “ideas worth spreading”]. I’m fond of lexicographer Erin McKean’s TED talk. Erin talks about moving beyond the printed hardcover book incarnation of “the dictionary,” and she left working on the New Oxford American Dictionary to found an online dictionary site called Wordnik.

Least familiar word:

  • 51a. LOGIA are [Sayings of Jesus]. Loggia, on the other hand, is actor Robert of Big.

The fill’s pretty good overall. I presume that the GOLDEN RATIO squares are placed in a mathematically dictated arrangement that hews to the FIBONACCI SERIES/sequence, but I don’t love the mutedness of the puzzle’s visual aspect. Four stars.

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword

5/11/11 LA Times crossword answers

Hmm, I don’t think Mike checked the database before he constructed his puzzle, or he’d have unearthed Kevan Choset’s 7/14/05 NYT puzzle with the same theme. Kevan had MATT LEBLANC in place of Mike’s CHENIN BLANC, but the rest of the theme was the same, including the vertical orientation. Here’s Mike’s version:

  • 3d. [Stuffed chicken dish] = CORDON BLEU. The blue stripe of the tricolor flag.
  • 5d. [Loire Valley grape] = CHENIN BLANC. I prefer this more directly French phrase for the white stripe to MATT LEBLANC.
  • 25d. [Paris nightspot] = MOULIN ROUGE. Red stripe.
  • 31d. [Its colors appear in proper sequence at the ends of 3-, 5- and 25-Down] = FRENCH FLAG.

Fill I liked:

  • GODLINESS (no mention of cleanliness here), a suitably French SOUFFLE ([Puffed-up fare]), HONORIFIC, STAY PUT, and NIRVANA.

Fill I could do without:


Word I learned for the first time:

  • 32d. LUNIK, the [Soviet moon program].

Three stars.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Mumble’s the Word” – Sam Donaldson’s review

I like crossword titles that serve as additional theme entries. Here, -BLE is added to the expression “Mum’s the word” to get a brand new saying. Likewise, the four theme entries in today’s grid reconstruct common phrases into wacky variations after a -BLE addition. The results are pretty remarkable:

  • 21-Across: The [Fight between gangs in Hades?] is a DEMON RUMBLE, a play on “demon rum,” the Prohibitionist term for alky-hol. Yes, I had to look that up because, no, I was not alive during Prohibition.
  • 49-Across: [Tripping over a conch, for example?] is a BEACH BUMBLE, from “beach bum.” That’s catchy.
  • 3-Down: The [Sound from a bird of paradise?] is a HOLY WARBLE, building off “holy war.”
  • 29-Down: To [Support Flintstone’s friend?] is to BACK RUBBLE, a variation on “back rub.” This is my favorite of the group. Barney Rubble is Fred Flintstone’s neighbor, best friend, and keggling buddy.

Why wasn’t a theme entry made out of “ho hum?” I’m guessing it’s because it would be too hard to find another eight-letter theme entry. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s the only possible reason.

The grid offers an above average number of rare letters, and that always makes things more interesting. Highlights in the longer fill included NEW FACE, the [Emerging celebrity], and SELLS BIG, clued as [Excels in the marketplace] (though my first attempt was SELLS OUT). I like the imagery of the BEADY eyes and the Krispy Kreme GLAZE. ABJECT, clued as [Utterly hopeless], is a nice word for a not nice situation.

But what’s [Hardly handsome] (or UGLY) here is CLUBBIER, clued as [More socially exclusive]. Seriously? Why not change GLAZE to GHOST, CRISS to CANIS, and BEADY to TEDDY so that you get Downs of CHUBBIER, TAOS, SENSE, and EDIT? Yes, you lose a “Z” and two of the more interesting terms identified in the prior paragraph, but you also ditch one of the more awkward entries we have seen in some time, and the replacements are solid if not spectacular. What do you think–are GLAZE and BEADY worth having CLUBBIER in the grid?

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 5/12 Matt Jones

It took me a while to see what this theme was doing, and it doesn’t quite hang together for me. Entities that double as things you would call a rude person or people at a public event—and a non-person thing?

  • 18a. [Missouri NFL player, or the reckless fan who kept headbutting me?] clues ST. LOUIS RAM. The reckless fan would have to be in that Missouri city as well.
  • 20a. [2008 horror movie, or the sound from across the theater that kept breaking my concentration?] clues ONE MISSED CALL. I don’t get it. First off, I’ve never heard of the movie. Second, what is this MISSED CALL “from across the theater”? Wouldn’t a completed cell phone call in a movie theater be far more distracting than a missed call? And if it’s just ONE call, how on earth is that it “kept breaking my concentration”?
  • 39a. BUTTHOLE SURFERS is indeed a fresh and lively crossword answer. It’s clued as [Gibby Haynes’ band, or the crowd participants who got in my way at the concert?], so the a-hole SURFERS in question must be crowd-surfing.
  • 60a, 65a. [Unpunctuated Chris Rock Broadway play, or someone who blocked my view?] clues THE MOTHERFKER / WITH THE HAT. Now, The Motherfu**er with the Hat out-Googles The Motherf**ker with the Hat, so the spelling choice here may be rather arbitrary. And “unpunctuated” doesn’t really describe Matt’s expurgated title, as the asterisks aren’t punctuation marks. That said, people who wear wide or tall hats to the movies, the theater, or a concert are indeed worthy of being cussed out unless they sit in the back row.

Five more clues:

  • 23a. [“Kill Bill” tutor Pai ___] MEI was a mystery to me. Maybe I should see that pair of movies.
  • 67a. [Master Cleanse, e.g.] is a DIET, not a drain cleaner.
  • 3d. CELERY is a [Snack in nearly every episode of “Wonder Pets”]. I have no idea what Wonder Pets is. Ah, a TV show for preschoolers that began after my kid was in school. Matt has a couple preschoolers in the house, so he may well watch nearly every episode.
  • 41d. [Location of flowers in a V. C. Andrews title] is THE ATTIC. Gotta love a creepy book with teen incest that has been read by junior-high kids for decades. Just read Wikipedia’s plot summary and wow, I really don’t remember 96% of that book.
  • 48d. [“Beavis and Butt-Head” laugh] is properly spelled “HEH, HEH.”

Three stars for theme oddness.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Infestation”

Ink Well crossword answers, "Infestation" 5/12

Various phrases have become infested by bugs, causing their meanings to metamorphosize:

  • 18a, 38a. [What Bubbe uses to play Ms. Pac-Man?] is THE JOYSTICK OF YIDDISH. Leo Rosten’s classic book, The Joys of Yiddish, plus a tick lodged in it.
  • 20a. [Certain successfully missionized Africans?] are CHURCH BANTUS. Church bus (a lively base phrase) with an ant infestation.
  • 55a. [High, but not for long?] clues BAKED BRIEFLY. That’s yummy baked brie with a fly stuck to it. Ick.
  • 60a. [The year MCMXC, technologically?] was a BEEPER ANNUM. The Roman numerals for 1990 signal the Latin ANNUM. Per annum plus a bee.


  • The Merl Reaglesque stacking of theme entries at the top and bottom.
  • The smooth 11-letter answers—ASTRONOMERS and FALSE STARTS—that aren’t part of the theme. (Minus a half point for both being plurals.)
  • 16a. HAS A COW is clued with [Ignores Bart Simpson’s advice of 15 or 20 years ago].
  • 21d. RETRO is clued {Like the ’90s, now [sigh]}. Indeed. The ’80s have been retro for years already (sigh).
  • 2d. [Men who can’t move directly forward] in chess are BISHOPS. One could probably make a case that the clue can apply outside of chess.
  • 10d. To CAT-SIT is to [Watch Whiskers]. Nice entry.

Mystery answers:

  • 5d. [“C’mon, I’m trying to concentrate!”] clues SHHH. Huh. My dictionary lists SH and SHH but not the SHHH spelling.
  • 4a. [Utah MLS club] is RLS. Uh, Real Salt Lake? Yes, indeed.
  • 53d. [“Whenever you’re ready,” in internet slang] clues ADN. Apparently it means “any day now.”

Three and a half stars.

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37 Responses to Wednesday, 5/11/11

  1. Howard B says:

    Didn’t finish, had one error. Had TEA TALKS, unfortunately, as a guess for TED, as I’ve never heard this term, and could not find my error in ESTA (for ESTD). TEA (almost) seemed to fit better than TED, maybe for topicality, I dunno.

    Other than that, this is a clever theme that blends art and mathematics. Very nice :).

  2. See

    The Fibonacci series is a series of integers such that the sum of two consecutive numbers is the next member of the series. Thus: 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,…..

    The ratio of any member of the series to the one before it approaches the golden ratio as the series goes on to infinity..

  3. John E says:

    Overall clever theme, including the nuance of “GOLDEN RATIO” being written into a spiral. I struggled with the crossing of IOLANI and LAROSA, and didn’t know SARA Bareilles. I used to give and receive NOOGIEs with my brothers – bonus points for including that one!

  4. Martin says:

    The only thing I’d add to what Retired_Chemist said (and linked) is that the theme is really the Golden Ratio, which is just a number (1.61803…) that pops up often in nature as well as classical architecture. The Fibonacci series tie-in is interesting but peripheral — a sort of Stupid Math Trick. As the wikipedia article admits, many of the supposed natural appearances are probably bogus. That said, it’s one of the top 10 irrational numbers for sure if only because so many early mathematicians and philosophers believed in its sacredness.

    It’s a great nerdy puzzle.

  5. bertie says:

    @Martin: the golden ratio + fibonacci sequence connection is a deep and beautiful fact about mathematics, not a Stupid Math Trick. Some of the other aspects of the connection are the listed in the very Wikipedia article you mentioned. Read up before you speak up.

  6. Martin says:


    No offense meant. Yes, it’s cool. I’ve thought so for over 50 years. In fact, one of the first computer programs I wrote, in 1965, determined phi to 100 places using the Fibonacci series. That was quite a feat on an IBM 650, by the way.

    My point is that, for the solver less steeped in math than we are, the theme can be approached without having to understand the added complexities of any sequence. The constant we call the Golden Ratio was the wonder it was to the Greeks who knew nothing of that particular property. I’m just trying to make the theme accessible to a wider audience.

  7. HH says:

    “I’m just trying to make the theme accessible to a wider audience.”

    By introducing the word “stupid” … sounds like something I’d’ve done.

  8. pauer says:

    Luckily, most people don’t do every puzzle on the planet or remember puzzles from 2005, so I think the LAT theme is juuuust fine. I’ve done a 180 on this since I started making these things, but if I’ve got an idea and I see it’s been done before does that mean I shouldn’t make my puzzle? Just knowing it’s been done makes me feel less creative and I’m also suddenly in a quandary about plagiarism, perceived or not, so I’ve stopped checking the database. It’s a tool, but one that most solvers don’t even know about. I say let the editors decide what’s too similar and too soon.

  9. Meem says:

    Thank you, Pauer. I do know about the database and am saddened that some commenters seem to use it to “handcuff” constructors. I was not doing puzzles regularly in 2005 so LAT theme was fine and a good diversion.

  10. Victor Barocas says:

    I try to be positive, but the inclusion of “golden ratio” as a spiral struck me as trying to do too much, and I think that the puzzle would have been significantly better without it and with the more interesting fill that omitting it would have allowed. To each his own, I suppose.

  11. joon says:

    i thought the NYT theme was great. it’s really more about the GOLDEN RATIO (or PHI) than it is about the FIBONACCI SEquence (nice use of “informally” in that clue to justify SERIES instead—the two are interchangeable in english, but not in math), so that’s what i took martin to mean when he said “stupid math tricks.” still, math themes are few and far between, and this one was both interesting and visually appealing.

    i wish i could say the same about the other puzzles i did today. kevan’s tricolor puzzle, in addition to being 6 years earlier than this one, at least had a raison d’etre (it ran on bastille day). today’s LAT just seemed arbitrary. also, never heard of CHENIN BLANC.

    on the larger question of when is a theme too similar, too soon, i agree with patrick that it’s ultimately an editor’s decision, and 6 years later in a different publication seems fine. but i have to admit, if i think of a theme and i see that somebody else has already done it, i do think that’s a good reason not to construct it. then again, i’m not nearly as prolific as patrick, so maybe that’s a luxury i have as a dabbler that high-volume constructors don’t enjoy.

    i really, really didn’t like the CS theme. none of the made-up phrases were funny to me, and i thought the clue for BEACH BUMBLE was particularly inapt. nothing i can find has support for BUMBLE as a noun. and DEMON RUM didn’t ring a bell to me, either. as for CLUBBIER, i haven’t worked out a complete alternative, but i think a better fix would be to keep the middle section as is and just go with CLUBBING, which is a nicer answer than CHUBBIER. that bottom section doesn’t look too tough to fill with …BUMBLE crossing …BING.

  12. Alex says:

    Oh, man, FIBONACCI SERIES hurts my ears. It was tough typing it just now.

  13. Daniel Myers says:

    In re the FS, here’s a cutesy intro for tyros:

  14. David L says:

    13D in the Onion: IBM is not the maker of the ThinkPad. Not since 2005, anyway, when Lenovo (a Chinese company, boo hiss) bought out IBM’s PC business.

    The theme in this puzzle baffled me too.

  15. Jeff Chen says:

    Just the other day, I was thinking at my bridge club, “My cards are almost a perfect fit for partner’s hand. If I only had one fewer heart, and I were clubbier.”

    Ba-BAM, Sam!


  16. Jamie says:

    I thought Joon knew everything. I am dashed! Chenin Blanc is a common type of wine. I haven’t tried it, but I have heard of it. Way more than I have heard of the Fib&^%$!i series. I know constructors tend to be math or music types, but I don’t like their tastes imposed on the rest of us.

    It was fun to watch the geeks get all excited about it though.

  17. Jamie says:

    P.S. I did Heaney’s “last” crossword. Fun.

  18. John Haber says:

    TED TALKS threw me. Indeed, I thought of “sparring” for fighting and wondered if they weren’t “Red Talks” for some reason. Didn’t care for AINGE either. But I did like the theme (and did notice the “informally” for accuracy). I couldn’t have told you that a SUNFLOWER or ARTICHOKE fit it, so I’m glad to hear that the connection could be spurious!

  19. Gareth says:

    The NYT is freaking genius!! It had me at “Cephalopod known for its shell” and then the successive layers of theme arrived! OMW!! I had never heard of 61A until yesterday, when “Love Song” played on the radio while I was a captive audience, remarkably blah song!

    First time I’ve seen this, so the LAT was also great. I’ve done myself (it was rejected), and seen a couple of other people do too, a generic “French colours in phrases used in English” theme, but the additional French Flag bit was new and a great raison d’etre (sorry – Joon got too that one first anyway, OK the extra layer of Bastille Day is even cooler… )!

  20. Martin says:

    Hookishness aside, I consider Stupid Pet/Human Tricks a high point in the history of television, if not an acme of Western Civilization. I also categorize the universe as one of the better Stupid Math Tricks, so the fact that integer addition and division can recover (rad(5)+1)/2 is actually borderline.

    David L,
    I have pestered many editors about IBM PC/ThinkPad/laptop clues in the past few years, so I feel your pain. However, I must point out that by the “adverbs are the first to go” rule, the omission of “former,” “late,” “one-time,” and similar descriptors never invalidates a clue. Just as we know that Leonardo of Pisa is dead and Ali is no longer boxing, the editor and solver could quietly share the knowledge that the once bullet-proof ThinkPad now overheats if called to display full-screen video.

  21. Meem says:

    Oh Amy! A hearty thanks for the pointer to Francis Heaney’s hilarious puzzle. A fast solve means one has been following the NYT puzzle editor’s interests closely!!

  22. mitchs says:

    Anyone else having no luck with Across Lite today?

  23. David L says:

    @Martin: Thanks for the response. But PANAM and TWA are always clued as ‘former airline,’ not ‘airline,’ are they not? We all know that ‘painter of the Mona Lisa’ is a dead white male, so no further explanation is needed, but if you’re referring to the erstwhile manufacturer of an extant device, seems to me the clue ought to indicate that.

  24. Evad says:

    Doing the NYT parody, I’m reminded of how Lady Gaga wouldn’t allow Weird Al to satirize her new hit “Born This Way” (which ironically many think was a rip-off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”), so I’m happy to see “Willy Shortz” is much less insecure.

  25. AngelSong says:

    Is something wrong with the crossword server? I can’t get either the Onion or the Tausig puzzles :(

  26. Anne says:

    Can anyone tell me where I can get the latest Jonesin’ crossword? Thanks.

  27. Evad says:

    Hi Anne, now that Martin has litzed it, the link on our Today’s Puzzles page should work; if not, it can also be found here.

  28. Martin says:

    Looks like a Windows update hung my server. Sorry. It’s back so the Onion, Tausig and Jonesin’ links should be live.

  29. Evad says:

    AngelSong, I found the links to both of those also work on our Today’s Puzzles page.

  30. Martin says:


    Those links were the ones that were dead because of my hung server. Anne and AngelSong were correct.

  31. Evad says:

    OK, just wanted to be sure they knew we had links to them on that page. So many hidden gems on this site, if I could just get Amy to update the Sporcle quiz a tad more frequently…

  32. joon says:

    hey, i have a suggestion for that sporcle link. :)

  33. Anne says:

    Thanks to everyone. I’ve really learned a lot from reading this blog and your comments. I just can’t keep up with you!

  34. sandirhodes says:

    joon —

    I never heard of ‘varlet,’ but having most of the rest, I was able to determine the message, which gave me the letter I needed, and fortunately I had enough time left to force-feed the answer box to finish the puzzle.


  35. sandirhodes says:

    oops! Sorry for the spoiler!

Comments are closed.