Thursday, 5/12/11

Fireball 7:15 


NYT 4:38 


LAT 4:05 (NLF)/3:03 (ALR) 


CS 5:24 (Sam) 


BEQ 5:24 (Amy) 


Do you like old news? I’ll bet you do. Just read for the first time Will Shortz’s 2001 Ephemera News article about the history of crosswords and his collection of crossword memorabilia. Did you know there was a Crosswords pinball machine back in 1959, and that Will’s got one in his basement?

Patrick John Duggan’s New York Times crossword

5/12/11 NYT crossword answers 0512

In this twist on a subtraction theme, four different bigrams (2-letter chunks) have been deleted from familiar phrases, and those 8 letters spell out IDENTITY. Thus, the stolen letter pairs suggest IDENTITY THEFT. Here’s what’s left post-larceny:

  • 17. CASUAL FRAY used to be casual FrIDay.
  • 26a. GLOCK SPIEL began as a glockENspiel.
  • 51a. SICK AND RED (sick and TIred) is supposed to evoke chickenpox, but I dunno. Red spots ≠ overall red.
  • 59a. Hockey penalTY boxes become PENAL BOXES in jail.


  • 21a. [Face down] managed to trick me into thinking of adjectives like prone rather than a verb like OPPOSE.
  • 4d. I needed plenty of crossings to know who was clued with [He killed Chuck Norris in “Return of the Dragon”]. None other than BRUCE LEE.
  • 7d. [Inspired stuff] is the AIR we inhale.
  • 12d. [Those in front of lenses] had me thinking of photographers rather than the IRISES in our eyes.
  • 38d. IPOD trivia I didn’t know: [Gadget whose name was inspired by “2001: A Space Odyssey”].
  • 44d. [Blue ball] is the royal blue TWO ball on a pool table.

53d. [FedEx alternative] clues DHL. It was either that or UPS, right? I was discombobulated recently when a British book I ordered on Amazon was shipped via a service called Ensenda. Never heard of it! An unmarked white van pulled up in front of my house and a burly man disembarked with my package. Maybe he is Mr. Ensenda.

Four stars.

Tom Heilman’s Fireball crossword, “Before and After”

Fireball 5/12

Took me a while to grasp the theme in this 17×17 puzzle. OPEN AND SHUT CASE connects the other four theme entries thus:

  • 19a. CRIMINAL LAW -> criminal case + case law.
  • 32a. COLD-SENSITIVE -> cold case + case-sensitive.
  • 57a. MENTAL HISTORY (not really a familiar term to me) -> mental case + case history.
  • 74a. BEST WESTERN -> best case + Case Western (Reserve University).

Elegantly wrought, but/and subtle.


  • 52a. IN DRAG.
  • 30d. [ER VIPs] are RNS. Admit it: You put MDS first, didn’t you?
  • 20d. The Marlin Jr./Coral Jr. clue for the clownfish NEMO.
  • 46d. SO IT SEEMS.
  • 53d. This [Depression cure?] clue obscures the capital-D Great Depression to trick us. The answer is the NEW DEAL.
  • 13d. BON SOIR!
  • 41a. [She copulated with Uranus] is the randy clue for GAEA. See what Neville says below about GAEA/GAIA.

Four stars. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing that really grabbed me by the collar and shook me either, or made me laugh.

Mangesh Ghogre’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

5/12/11 LA Times crossword solution

I did a little digging on Mangesh around the Internet, and I learned a few interesting things. He’s an Indian citizen who was first published in the LA Times over a year ago. He’s also a writer and an investment banker – he seems like a really smart fellow! It’s no wonder that someone like Mangesh came up with this clever puzzle:

  • 17a. [8?] (ate) – HAD DINNER
  • 26a. [2?] (too) – EXCESSIVELY
  • 50a. [1?] (won) – TOOK THE GOLD
  • 62a. [4?] (for) – IN FAVOR OF

What’s going on here? These are all FIGURES OF SPEECH, at least in the sense that these are numbers (figures) with homophones that clue the entries. That’s a pretty cool tie-together entry, and I like that the clues are all powers of two. I do wish they increased or decreased as I went through the puzzle, but alas, sometimes symmetry dominates entry flexibility.

A brief tour of the solar system and ancient mythology:

  • 10d. [Exclamation from Colonel Pickering], a character from Pygmalion, is “BY JOVE!” Jove is another name for Jupiter, king of the gods in Roman tradition. Plus, the four gas giants of our solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are called the Jovian planets.
  • 24a. [Nuevo ___: Peruvian currency] is SOL, which is Spanish for sun. Before 1985, the currency was just called the sol, and was actually named after the solidus, an Ancient Roman coin whose name meant solid. In 1985, though, they switched to the inti, which took its name from the Incan sun god of the same name. The nuevo sol became the standard in 1991 and is currently worth about 36¢.
  • 29a. [Dig up] means UNEARTH, and we live on Earth! You probably already knew that bit. Earth doesn’t take its name directly from a god or goddess, but crossworders know that the Greek goddess of the Earth was Gaea/Gaia, the Mother Titan whose third letter must be gleaned from the crossing.

Color me young, but [Fifties, say] seems a little old for MIDDLE AGE. Seems like the US Census agrees – they say 35-50; the OED begs to differ and lists 40-65 as the middle age. Mangesh’s background shows with TABLA, the [Indian drum], which is in the section right under SULFA, the [Bacteria-fighting drug] that I also got from the crosses. Also unfamiliar (though I’ve seen it in crosswords) was ELEMI, a [Varnish resin]. Don’t confuse this with the Peter Yates film Eleni.

I’ll leave you with my favorite two clues: 28d. [Food chain] – IHOP (where’s the ?) and 34a. [One who brings out the inner child?] – that’s MOM.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “When the Saints Go Marching Out” – Sam Donaldson’s review

You can drop a hint, drop everything, drop a line, drop acid, and even drop dead. This puzzle drops saints. More precisely, it drops the letters S-T from the starts of three familiar phrases to form wacky new ones that get clued accordingly:

  • 20-Across: The [Lead followers?] are ORE DETECTIVES, based on “store detectives.” I like the trickiness of this clue, because I suspect most solvers will read the first word as “leed,” not “ledd.”
  • 37-Across: The “steel-belted radial” tire gets changed to an EEL-BELTED RADIAL, clued as a [Michelin made of morays?]. This clue, however, feels like it’s trying a little too hard to make a so-so entry seem funnier.
  • 52-Across: The [Guide for makeup artists?] is AGE DIRECTIONS, a play on “stage directions.” This clue doesn’t seem to work very well either, for makeup artists are not exclusively concerned with making actors look older or younger than they are (at least that’s how I read the clue).

Why are the top and bottom theme entries both plurals? Delete the “S” from the end of each one and you still have symmetrical theme entries. Since the middle entry is in the singular, I think it would have been a tad more elegant to have all of the theme entries that way. If one entry had to be plural in order to get symmetrical pairs, it would be tolerable. But when both are unnecessarily in the plural form, it feels a bit awkward.

Okay, I’m starting to sound WHINY [Always complaining]. There are some nice touches in this grid. The 10-letter entries, OEDIPUS REX and ONE AT A TIME, are impressively stacked with the polar theme entries, and the four long Downs, HORSEHAIR, TYPEFACE, GLENGARRY (where’s Glen Ross?), and ALL-STARS are all appealing. Highlights in the short fill include GO BAD (clued as [Turn sour]) and, my favorite, OOZY ([Leaking]).

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Sorry, Joke’s Over”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 5/12 answers

(Note from Amy: Matt’s clue numbers are from the Across Lite version. My grid is from the .jpz/Crossword Solver version, so the clue numbering doesn’t match the write-up. The “over” words lack clues and numbers, unless their first square happens to also begin a Down answer.)

A 16×15 grid from the Quigmonster today, so you know he’s planned something special.  It’s a visual GAG (35-Across) entitled “Sorry, Joke’s Over,” and that’s meant literally.  The three theme entries each separate a synonym for “joke,” placing it atop the rest of the answer.  Hence, the Joke’s Over:

  • 19-a/16-a.  (RIDDLE) OF THE SPHINX
  • 39-a/35-a.   (GAG) ME WITH A SPOON
  • 63-a/62-a.  HAVE ANOTHER (CRACK)

I like this kind of literal/visual theme (maybe T Campbell can tell me what it’s called) and it’s well done here.  In his introductory notes, Brendan ominously warns:

Heads up: this puzzle works best in Crossword Solver, Java or PDF. Across Lite solvers, beware.

Since I haven’t begun using Crossword Solver yet I’m not sure if I’m missing out on part of the theme.  The rump theme clues are all simply clued {—} in Across Lite, so if there’s more to the mix I hope someone will let us poor AL users know in comments.

The grid is clean and interesting, the upper middle and bottom right being especially elegant.  I have a personal aversion to fill that’s the same length as theme, but JEANS JACKET and NOTHING MUCH are excellent enough to overcome that.  Also note SEE HOW, PVC TAPE, KLEPTO, YES I AM, and FREAKY (those three intersect around two theme entries!  Lovely).

The clues are punchy and full of obvious effort to infuse old entries with new punch.  See the symmetry twins 1-down and 69-down for examples.

4.27 stars from me.  Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a joke-filled Thursday, everyone!

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14 Responses to Thursday, 5/12/11

  1. joon says:

    oh hey, this was puzzle 4 at BCPT. that was an unexpectedly fast turnaround. still, cool puzzle. i really liked this one. {Blue ball} in particular had me laughing.

  2. Jan (danjan) says:

    I was also surprised to see this wonderful puzzle from the BCPT published so soon. I started the applet, and it took me a little while before I had a sense of déjà vu. Even knowing the gimmick, I was only a minute faster on the applet than I had been on paper in the tournament. Great concept, and original fill – I felt a sense of accomplishment both times!

  3. joon says:

    oh, that fireball! nothing earth-shaking here, but this was one of the chewiest, most enjoyable solves i have had in ages. and a very elegant theme, to boot. but the squeaky-clean fill and excellent cluing really made it shine. five stars!

  4. John E says:

    Just did a puzzle on Sporcle involving the Rugrats kids – haven’t thought about them in years before tonight.

  5. Evad says:

    Thanks for the FB explanation, I had no idea what tied those theme entries together. Very subtle. I agree with Joon, I was more impressed by the strong fill than the theme itself.

  6. T Campbell says:

    The three [joke]s hiding in the BEQ’s theme entries make it a synonym-themed camouflage, but the way they travel into unusual places make it a “Vector Three,” a type I’ve only hinted at so far.

    Eventually! Eventually!

  7. Gareth says:

    Great week of puzzle themes so far! Enjoyed both today’s LAT and NYT a lot! Mostly agree with Mr. Blindauer that independently conceived, duplicate themes are just fine (though inevitably doomed to not be as fun for the minority who does do both crosswords) , so don’t mind that someone ran more or less ran the same theme in the LAT in Dec ’10, with 1.5 repeated theme answers. Superfun long answers and agree with Sam, a great clue for 20A! (Also: love LOVE that title!)

  8. Matthew G. says:

    Thanks for explaining the Fireball theme. I had to come here to understand it. I agree with Joon — it was a really satisfying solve.

  9. Howard B says:

    Clever and subtle Fireball theme, even if I didn’t know what Case Western was. There’s been a lot of that on my end this week, lots to learn ;).

  10. Jan (danjan) says:

    Something I learned while looking at colleges with my daughter: Case Western is in Cleveland and was formed from the merger of two schools, one named after a man named Case, and one called Western Reserve College. The Western Reserve is an area in NE Ohio that was the western reserve of Connecticut. Who knew I’d go to Ohio and learn something new (to me) about my home state?

  11. joon says:

    my best friend from grad school went to CWRU. since our grad school is technically the leland stanford junior university (named for leland stanford, jr., the son of the school’s founders), we used to tease chad about whether it was worse to go to a reserve university or a junior university. he was quick to answer reserve—the weather in cleveland is a LOT worse than the weather at stanford.

  12. Garrett says:

    what the heck is MWAH and how is it a smacking sound? (Fireball 61A)

  13. pannonica says:

    Garrett: It’s the kissy thing.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    “I’m gonna walk right up to him
    and give him a great big kiss…MWAH!”

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