Thursday, 5/26/11

Tausig untimed 


NYT 7:12 


BEQ 6:30 


Fireball 4:54 


LAT 5:43 (NLF)/4:32 (ALR) 


CS untimed (Sam) 


Ashish Vengsarkar’s New York Times crossword

5/26/11 NY Times crossword answers 0526

A(shis)h, who doesn’t appreciate a wicked twist in a Thursday puzzle? That extra minute it took me to root out a typo didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this puzzle’s theme. Ashish goes chromosomal here, interpreting a set of “his and hers” towel embroidery as XY AND XX. In the other four theme entries, the letters HIS and HERS you expect to find are replaced by XY and XX:

  • 17a. Hispanic Heritage Month gets XYPANIC HERITAGE. (This is where my typo was. Had XYSANIC and couldn’t figure out what the 3d clue meant, so I second-guessed the C instead of the S in CAST. Should’ve been CAPT. Cook.)
  • 21a. “TRUST ME ON TXY.”
  • 48a. [Foiled bites?] of chocolate are Hershey’s, er, XXHEY’S KISSES.
  • 58a. THE WRIGHT BROTXX is my favorite theme answer because it gender-bends the flying brothers with an XX chromosome.

I feel like we’ve seen a puzzle or two in the past, maybe in the Sun, that used X and Y chromosomes singly, but don’t recall ever solving a crossword with XX/XY action. Fresh, surprising, makes you work to figure things out.

Other remarks:

  • 16A. AMIDOL? Never heard of it. “Fetch me a Midol; I’m bloated”?
  • 28a, 8a. Sonia Sotomayor’s “WISE LATINA” descriptor makes for a good split entry.
  • Favorite entries include WACO TX, SHEESH, SHERWIN Williams (there’s a store not far from me), and ANACONDA.
  • 64a. How do you like DO LIKE? Seems a rather informal verb phrase. “Why don’t you do like your sister and clean up after yourself?”
  • 43a. [Conrad of old films]? No, the NAGEL I know is the name signed to those ridiculous stylized prints of women. Those were big in the ’80s, as attested by the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album. College students, please tell me you don’t still see Nagel prints in the dorm.

4.5 stars.

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

5/26 Ink Well crossword answers, "Dark Day"

Nifty theme this week. What happens in a SOLAR ECLIPSE? The SUN gets blotted out by darkness thanks to the moon’s meddling ways. In this puzzle, the word SUN is hiding four times behind three-block bars of blackness. The clue numbering treats those blacked out squares like regular white squares, so what’s visible appears to violate the crossword rules flagrantly.

  • 18a. [“Bless you!”] and “GESUNDHEIT!” are things people say after someone sneezes.
  • 23a. Hey! There’s a SOLAR ECLIPSE coming on June 1. Don’t get too excited about seeing it from North America, though—it’ll be visible only from the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska.
  • 37a. “YOUR SHOE’S UNTIED” is a [Hoax line that’s funniest when used on people wearing velcro].
  • 55a. [People who perform great deeds without getting credit] are UNSUNG HEROES.
  • 61a. SUNNI ISLAM is a [Religious branch with Sharia Law].

What look like 2-letter entries and unchecked squares are actually parts of answers that cross the eclipses. So what looks like the 2-letter 22-Down is actually the 3-letter 19-Down—to NAP is to [Be out during the day?].

Oops, I missed a square. Pretend there’s a D in square 45.

Toughest bits:

  • 41d. [Nine, in old Rome] is the Latin NOVEM with a hidden N. Usually that sort of clue is for a Roman numeral.
  • 45a. [First word uttered in the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”] is “D’OH.” I might have been amused if the answer were THE.
  • 6d. [Cheap record store purchase] is the two-word answer USED CD.
  • 29d. [Go down a green circle, say] clues SKI. I know of black diamonds. I lack the skills for navigating even the most sub-black-diamond slope.

Favorite answers/clues:

  • 4d. [Source of self-satisfaction?] is a VIBRATOR.
  • 42d. The THEREMIN is an [Instrument on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”]. And no, I didn’t notice the doubling up of the “vibrate” word root in these two until just now.
  • 56d. It’s crazy, but I like the nutty clue for the Italian number SEI (6): [Number in a half-carton of uova].
  • 57d. HUMOR is an [Important human sense].

4.25 stars for the neat theme.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Peters Out”

Fireball 2:19

I couldn’t figure out the theme until I read the puzzle’s title again. “Peters Out” means that the last names of famous Peters enclose the theme entries:

  • 17a. BOLD STYLE (which seems a hair iffy as a lexical chunk unto itself) has Peter Boyle.
  • 24a. Fictional SERIAL KILLERS, Sellers.
  • 35a. FAT-FREE MILK, Columbo‘s Falk. Does any person (excluding those whose job is to package and sell milk) call it that? I call it skim milk.
  • 43a. GROUND WAVES, which I’ve never heard of but are radio waves transmitted without bouncing off the ionosphere, embrace Peter Graves.
  • 52a. JACKIE GLEASON, hobbity director Jackson.
  • 66a. TOP FINISH (which also feels iffy to me), reggae star Tosh. “Top finisher” sounds perfect, but “top finish” sounds off.

Goofballiest clue:

  • 47d. [Good name for a sommelier] is SHERI, sounds like “sherry.” Needed that crossing theme answer to know if it was SHARI or SHERI.

Most violent answer:

  • 11d. GLUE STICK. Really. My son’s classmate just got suspended for throwing a glue stick at another pupil.

3.5 stars. Easier than many Fireball crosswords. I like the theme density but wish that Peter-holders 17a and 66a had been zippier.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

5/26/11 LA Times crossword solutionPreviously on Diary of a Crossword Fiend: “12d. [Eloi predator] – MORLOCK. Usually we see Eloi in crossword grids (what with the vowels and all), but this time it’s reversed.”

Hey, it’s a clue-entry reversal puzzle where all of the theme clues sound the same. Oui, oui!

  • 17a. [We] – PERSONAL PRONOUN
  • 23a. [Wie] – GOLFER MICHELLE
  • 33a. [Oui] – FRENCH YES
  • 50a. [Wee] – EXTREMELY SMALL
  • 57a. [Wii] – NINTENDO CONSOLE

Now perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Self, this seems awfully familiar!” If you can remember crosswords from just over two years ago, it should – we saw a reversal on this in the New York Times in February 2009: Puzzles like this don’t really feel “Thursdayish” to me, though I can see how the trickiness of the clues brings it to that level.

I liked a good chunk of the fill here: TAX HIKE, BELL LAP, ON HIRE and CRUELLA are all winners for me. I think I’M ON IT, I MEAN IT and SO I SEE are also great fill, but I don’t care for the I and IT repetition. CXIX (119) is a definite lowlight in the fill; these Xs do nothing for me.

Let’s talk clues:

  • 4d. [Frozen Wasser] – EIS. That’s German ice. Wasser is capitalized because that’s how German nouns roll.
  • 52a. [Ford Field team] – the Detroit LIONS, a freebie for Rex Parker.
  • 30a. [Amateur golfer’s score, perhaps] – LIE. Now that’s not your average golf clue for the entry LIE! I had PAR since bogey wouldn’t fit.
  • 41a. [Nyctophobic fictional race] – wait a second, it’s ELOI! Rich Norris, you’ve done it again with continuity!

Next time on Diary of a Crossword Fiend: 38a. [Golfer Michelle]… Oh, Rich!

(That’s pure speculation, folks. Happy early Memorial Day!)

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Can You Hear Bee Now?” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Spoiler Alert:  If you have not yet solved this puzzle, stop reading now and take the time to solve it yourself.  This is a terrific easy puzzle, and you’ll want to try it out yourself.  Go ahead, we’ll wait.  We’ll still be here when you’re done or get stuck.  Seriously.  Now shoo!

Welcome back.  See?  Here as promised.  Now, on with the regular write-up.  Orbach replaces the “M” sound in four common phrases with a “B” sound, then clues the wackiness that ensues.  Thus, it’s not “Can you hear me now?” but “Can you hear bee now?”  Here are the four theme entries:

  • 17-Across: To [Crow without doubt?] is to BOAST DEFINITELY, a play on “most definitely.”  Note that this isn’t a simple letter substitution where the B replaces the M–the replacement is phonetic.  Is “phonetic” the word I want there?  I’m not sure.  Oh, heck, let’s just move on.
  • 27-Across: A VIRGIN BARRY might well describe an [Unopened White album].  For some reason I initially thought this was a reference to a Beatles’ record.  There aren’t many instances where you can play with the “Virgin Mary” and get away with it, But Orbach does so nicely here.
  • 45-Across: [Yogi Berra’s stand-up routine?] would be a CATCHER’S BIT (from “catcher’s mitt”).  I like the clue-entry pairing here because I can totally see Yogi Berra playing an amateur night at the local comedy club.
  • 59-Across: The [Dirty rabbit owner’s chore?] is BUNNY LAUNDERING, a play on “money laundering.” Maybe it’s the bunny, but this struck me as the cutest of the theme entries and a nice payoff at the end.

Four solid theme entries with good clues.  That’s enough for a good puzzle.  But Orbach goes the extra mile and gives us a grid with lots of rare letters.  We have the requisite J, K, X, and Z together with two Qs, two Vs, five Bs, and six Fs.  Scrabble-icious!  And apart from the interesting letters, there are some great entries like MOUSE TRAP, the [Kids’ board game with a Rube Goldbergian device] (if “Goldbergian” is not a word, it should be).  I also like STINGRAY and TOTEBAGS.

And finally there’s some nice touches in the clues, like [Garden man] for ADAM and the nicely vague [Like some doghouses, for short] for PREFAB.  I only wish the puzzle put up more of a fight, as there were many entries I didn’t even notice until this write-up because I didn’t need the crossings to confirm much.  A wonderful puzzle on all levels!
Updated Thursday evening:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “At Full Tilt”

BEQ 335

Oh, sure, the one Thursday Matt Gaffney begs off from blogging the BEQ puzzle (he is hard at work on a book with over 100 [!] puzzles) turns out to be the day my router ist kaput. Aside from my phone, I was internet-free all day. There may in fact be a way to solve Brendan’s puzzle on my Droid, and I could laboriously blog from my phone, but there would be no way to easily refer to the puzzle while blogging. So here we are, after dinner.

Theme: A [FULL] rebus square in the three longest Across answers plays as just the letter F in the intersecting Down. I don’t know why that’s the case. The title, “At Full Tilt,” doesn’t seem to explain it to me. If you “fill” the FULL square completely, then you wouldn’t expect to have an F still showing.

Nice to see LINDA HUNT in the grid, and QUARTZ and TEEN ANGST. I got the vapors from the blasphemy inherent in the answer “OH, HECK,” though.

Bollixed things up for myself at the start by having NO-HIT instead of NO-RUN at 14a. Baseball! I shake my fist at you, o vexatious sport.

3.9 stars.

Edited to add: Commenter jpdavidson points out that the word FULL appears at a tilt, diagonally down and to the left. So the middle FULL has its U in OUR and its L’s in OLGA and ANAL. Re-rate! 4.6 stars.

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41 Responses to Thursday, 5/26/11

  1. pannonica says:

    Shouldn’t that be AsXYh’s NYT puzzle?

    Maybe if it were Sunday-sized it could include a Klinefelter themer.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pannonica, you read my mind!

  3. pannonica says:

    The puzzle runs close to the edge(s—35d) too, with …HERITAGE, SHEESH and SHERWIN.

    Did ARGUE have to be so close to [HIS] AND [HERS]?

  4. john farmer says:

    The FB theme was indeed puzzling. Another look and you’ll find a couple of other Peters in there.

  5. pannonica says:

    I see “Glick,” but… Dombs? Doobs? Dos? Dobs? etc.


  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    None of the Down clues are asterisked as theme entries.

  7. pannonica says:

    (I don’t subscribe to the Fireball, so I was just working from the write-up.)

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m really “yeah, but”-ing John, not pannonica. Where are these other Peters you’re claiming, JF?

  9. john farmer says:

    19A and 63A. Those two got the * treatment. And PAIN at 15A almost qualifies.

  10. Gareth says:

    Yeah, Neville my appreciation of the LAT was a bit impaired by my memories of that NYT, which I really really liked! “Next time on Diary of a Crossword Fiend: 38a. [Golfer Michelle]… Oh, Rich!” – You’ve completely lost me… huh???

  11. pannonica says:

    john farmer: Ooh, those little guys are sneaky (unless they were asterisked too*) and good!

    *as you indicate, but Amy… didn’t notice?

  12. John E says:

    Re: Today’s NYT – 30 minutes of painful puzzle solving – could only get one or two sections to fall quickly. Lost of things I’d never heard before – not an avid reader of Sonia Sotomayor’s court transcripts. Felt like a Friday, although in retrospect it was a clever theme.

    Curious – what are people’s thoughts on 57D? I have seen XED out, but EXED seems like a stretch. I’ve heard EXED out (not sure this is how it would be spelled) as nouveau slang for quitting a computer application, but not for “delete”.

  13. pannonica says:

    re: CS: Actually, all four of the themers change spelling.

    <can of worms>
    In my book, “Mary” and “Barry” aren’t even close to being rhymes.

  14. Mike D. says:

    Just curious, has anyone else out there ever submitted a puzzle only to see its theme (or some very close variation) appear in print before hearing a response? Today’s puzzle marks the third time this has happened to me in the last few months. I guess I’m just too slow with my ideas!

  15. pauer says:

    Hi Mike,

    Welcome to the club. What we *really* need is a new letter of the alphabet to add.

  16. pannonica says:

    I want to change the name to “alphabetagam.”

  17. Matt says:

    I struggled with the NYT a bit because I tried to make ‘HERSHEY’ and ‘SHERWIN’ into XXXXY and XXRWIN, respectively, but to no avail. Otherwise, a cute puzzle.

    The Fireball was relatively easy, except for figuring out the theme… which took me as long as doing the puzzle.

  18. Gareth says:

    Miked: All the time. The funniest was the time i emailed my puzzle to the lat first thing in the morning, then solved the exact theme with 3 of 4 identical entries in the nyt. My version actually went on to be published (I asked Rich Norris about the situation first!)

  19. joon says:

    loved ashish’s puzzle. nice gimmick, super-scrabbly, and really fun to put all the pieces together. i also enjoyed the juxtaposition of HISPANIC HERITAGE and WISE/LATINA. all in all, basically a perfect thursday.

    the tausig was also more or less a perfect thursday. i was bemused to notice that if you unshade those SUN squares, the grid goes back to looking like a normal symmetric crossword grid. really neat idea. i’ve seen several puzzles that have “used” the black squares before, but not to occult white squares! that’s two five-star puzzles today.

    i actually thought the fireball was the toughest puzzle of the day. this isn’t usually a surprise, but i seem to be in the minority today. the bottom half went fine, but having MICRO instead of MILLI made it very difficult for me to see both BOLD STYLE and SERIAL KILLERS. i was also thinking the latter would have something to do with the wu tang clan because of ghostface killah.

    re: LAT theme, in addition to that 2009 NYT puzzle, BEQ did a puzzle last fall with “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WE?”, MICHELLE WII, and NINTENDO WII and the kicker THIS LITTLE PIGGY. and there was a sarah keller CS from just this january with WE SHALL OVERCOME, WII FITNESS GAMES, WEE WILLIE WINKIE, and OUI MADEMOISELLE. so i feel like this is a pretty tired theme at this point. throw in the annoying clue/answer reversal and the odd decision to clue LIE using “golfer” with GOLFER MICHELLE sitting right on top of it, and the whole thing left me kind of grumpy.

  20. Lois says:

    Mary has a wide variety of pronunciations depending on region, and they were often discussed in the linguistics and speech classes I attended several decades ago. I suppose that there are some variations of Barry as well.

  21. Howard B says:

    I really enjoyed the theme of the Times puzzle (Well done, Ashish!). What gave me fits was the Sotomayor reference – I do read the news, try to keep current, and yet I had completely missed that story about her and had to look up the reference post-solve. That really hurt. (–SE LATINA?).

    AMIDOL and a couple of the other less common clues/names actually made the puzzle as difficult as uncovering the theme. So for me it was a tag-team of a theme challenge and tough fill/clues here. And yet it never reached a frustration level, just challenging and enjoyable.

  22. ArtLvr says:

    I really got a kick out of the NYT chromosome puzzle, as I actually spent part of one summer doing karyotyping in a lab in DC at the dawn of such research! (This was to establish whether there were any detectable abnormalities which might correlate with heart defects in newborns, and the results were as negative as successful planes before the Wright Bros.)… The only hitch I had in the fill was a Conrad Bauer floating up from my subconscious before NAGEL appeared: google tells me I could have been thinking of a jazz trombonist!

  23. *David* says:

    Need to give a timely and cool shout-out to the Tausig, really enjoyed the theme even though I kept on forgetting where the SUNs were during solving.

  24. Umberto says:

    Cool NYT for the weekend lead-in. Made me not want to finish too quickly, always a nice feeling!

  25. Ladel says:


    The speed solvers don’t get it, it’s the same feeling you get from a good read, you just don’t want it to end.

  26. Umberto says:

    Slow, yet steady works for me.

  27. John Haber says:

    I thought it was very hard in a good way, with a tricky theme but also some hard fill. Say, I found the clue for Hershey’s hard and the top two long theme fills both not rolling off my tongue, PABA and AMIDOL are of course both a little technical, LARUE and NAGEL aren’t that common, and “slippery” had me stupidly putting in EEL. (The moth didn’t come to me without crossings.)

    On the other hand, the Sotomayer clue was a gimme for me. I don’t read court transcripts, but the conservative media singled it out of context for endless derision, to the point of driving me up the wall.

  28. Karen says:

    The Tausig was definitely my favorite. Happily I got the Solar Eclipse pretty early, so I was prepared for the dark suns. But I was surprised finding the clues that started in the black squares. Pretty memorable gimmick.

  29. pannonica says:

    Hey, is Peter No One in that Fireball?

  30. Howard B says:

    Funny, even with the title hint, I could have stared at the Fireball for a decade, and I would not have figured out the theme. (I’m not especially fond of celebrity name puzzles or themes, can ya guess?). Even so, that was clever and many of the clues were a little devious. I just solved it as a themeless, knowing I wasn’t on the same wavelength, themewise. And that’s OK too.

    But thanks go to this site for showing me the light :).

  31. jpdavidson says:

    Re BEQ – the FULL does actually appear in the puzzle, going diagonally and down to the left. This is where the “tilt” comes from in the title.

  32. Roger says:

    SHEESH from Ashish-great!!

  33. Dan F says:

    I’m glad I didn’t spend too long trying to figure out the Fireball theme after solving, and instead went to the answer key with its helpful underlines. How could Peter resist that theme?

    Agree that the NYT and Ink Well were great gimmicks. Re BEQ: Amy, you missed the -ULL branching off at a tilt (to the southwest) from the ends of the three long answers. So it’s not exactly a rebus. [sorry, jpdavidson beat me to it]

  34. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Thanks, jpdavidson and Dan F! Post updated.

    Forgot about the existence of the Fireball answer page this week. NERO and MAAS? Alrighty then.

  35. Jan (danjan) says:

    Our Indiana friends the BARRYs rhyme their last name with Mary, and pronounce it in a way similar to how I say berry.

  36. pannonica says:

    Mary, marry, merry (Merrie), Murray. All different.

    Morrie too, but I think I say that the same as Maury.

    Maori also different.

    Myri– as in myriad or myriapod different still.

    (For me, Barry rhymes with marry.)

    Moray different. Moiré also.

    Icosidodecahedron also pronounced differently.

  37. There may in fact be a way to solve Brendan’s puzzle on my Droid

    Yep—I strongly recommend the Shortyz app for Android phones. It’s free, and it can automatically download most of the major crosswords that are offered online: NYT, LAT, WaPo, BEQ, and more (NYT requires a username and password, as you might expect).

  38. andrea carla michaels says:

    Is it too late to rave about TOny’s adorable CS puzzle? (I covered my rave for As(XY)H, that WISE LATINA, on Rex’s blog…)
    CS puzzles don’t get enough love and this one was truly adorable.

    It was even a pangram, 2 Qs even!!!!
    (Almost 2 Xs…My only mistake was putting in ExED for EKED for 47D Scratched (out) but then wondered what an OXIE was!)

    I loved starting out with J in JEDIS and JABS, punchy from the get-go. INSTIGATE was wonderful

    The phrases were adorable, esp BUNNY LAUNDERING…it sounded like a kid with a cold.

    I almost had a malapop, I saw 20A SOF- and started to write in an A before I read the clue (Delicate) but then 7D WAS SOFA a minute later!

    You do know, however, that the clue for APEX should have been Acme, no???!!!

    Only quibble CARIB is a bit IFFY, but Tony is (pre)FAB!!!!!!!!! wonderful wonderful.
    Thank you for recommending it, @Orange!

    PS about PS…I loved PSST and then later on PSAT in a parallel PSosition!

  39. Garrett says:

    The clue ‘Reciprocal of siemens’ for OHMS in the Fireball is extremely obscure. After all, I was an electronics tech in the military years ago and I did not recall it. Did not like MUDPIE. Did not like TOPFINISH. And a SNELL is not a fishhook attachment! It is a type of hitch knot used to tie the line onto a hook. The line is the attachment– or more correctly, the hook Is. FEH is made-up, IMHO. Meh.

  40. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Garrett, FEH isn’t made up, it’s Yiddish. Even the dictionary says so. Now, MEH—that’s made up via “The Simpsons.” But it has entered the language to a degree.

  41. Garrett says:

    My AED iPhone dictionary and my Wikipanion apps do not have ‘feh’. Surprised about ‘meh’ — I’ve seen you use it. So, OK. — I’ve taken note.

    “FAT-FREE MILK — Does any person (excluding those whose job is to package and sell milk) call it that? I call it skim milk.”

    Grew up drinking and calling it Non-fat.

    Some interesting comments from Pannonica.

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