Wednesday, 6/22/11

Onion 5:53 
NYT 5:12 
LAT 3:22 
CS 6:20 (Sam) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 6 22 11 0622

Quick review, as I’ve been out since morning and now it’s bedtime.

Neat concept, with the theme entries explaining that THE FIRST LETTERS / OF EACH / CLUE GO / FROM A TO Z IN ORDER. With a 78-word grid, that’s three full sets of 26 letters for the clues. I’m curious to know if any other puzzles have built on that triple-the-number-of-letters-in-the-alphabet coincidence. The clues are weird, but hey, there’s a reason for it. And no, I didn’t notice the alphabetical run of the clues before the theme entries tipped me off.

The grid’s a little wider than usual, 16×15 squares. It felt like a Thursday puzzle to me—and apparently to many others, judging from the beyond-a-Wednesday solving times I see populating the applet.

I bet 6-Down: OMASUM was a flat-out gimme for another crossword constructor, Gareth Bain. Why, he was just mentioning earlier today that he’d felt a pregnant cow’s fetus via a rectal excursion. I’m pretty sure he is better acquainted with the digestive system of 1d: CATTLE and other ruminants than 99.5% of crossword solvers.

The fill’s a little funky, with oddball verb forms like FLURRIED and ADORNING and the term ODOR-FREE. I bet 20a: ARTOIS is more broadly familiar to solvers via the beer Stella Artois than as a [Historical region of France], but I sure don’t have a good beer clue that starts with H (Stella’s not very hoppy, so…).

3.5 stars.
Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Noodling Around” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Time to get your carbs on, as today’s puzzle features four expressions with last words that sound like the starts of various pastas:

  • 20-Across: The [Pasta served during a military exercise?] is DRILL RIGATONI, a mash-up of “drill rig” and “rigatoni.”
  • 27-Across: The [Pasta large enough to feed a clan?] is FAMILY MANICOTTI, the result of mixing “family man” with “manicotti.”
  • 44-Across: The [Pasta dispensed from an aerosol container?] is SPRAY CANNELLONI, a pairing of “spray can” and “cannelloni,” a pasta that I knew had two Ns but which I forgot had two Ls.
  • 51-Across: The [Pasta that spouts from the plate?] is FOUNTAIN PENNE, a combination of “fountain pen” and my favorite pasta shape, “penne.”  (It seems so much better at holding sauce, and it’s very easy to eat with a fork.

Lots of interesting possibilities that wouldn’t quite work as theme entries: KUNG FUSILLI, BOBA FETTUCCINI, JUST SAY GNOCCHI, LASER TAGLIATELLE, NOT SO FARFALLE, and POP A ZITI.  Sorry about that last one, but my inner ten-year-old loved it.

The theme was fine, but the fill really wowed me.  I loved CANDY MAKER (though the clue, [Willy Wonka, for one], had me trying CHOCOLATIER first) and the [Disney film that introduced Herbie], THE LOVE BUG. Five discrete sections of the grid had some juicy fill.  There’s a BONER in the northwest, GOLLUM and WIFI in the north central, NEXT TO and the one, er, next to that, ELMO, in the northeast, NAIL UP in the far west, and ICED IN over in the east.  Usually we’re happy with just two or three great entries, but this puzzle has almost as many good entries as it has carbohydrates.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

6 22 11 LA Times crossword solution

5-minute quick review:

Theme is 58d: STP, with five phrases that have those initials. SWEETENS THE POT, SHOT TO PIECES, and STOP THE PRESSES are all terrific. SHORT-TERM PROFIT surely is a “thing” but not one I ever talk about. SURE TO PLEASE seems a hair shy of reaching the “lexical chunk” bar.

Interesting fill: AX JOB, “LET’S GO,” PYTHON, TUSH. Add-a-prefix, add-two-endings awkwardnesses of the day: RE-EXPOSE and EYERS. Unusual-as-a-crossword-answer but still solid phrase: HAVE UP. Strange clue of the day: [Brittle cake grain] for OAT. I once had a crunchy oat cake thing England, but such things barely exist in the U.S., do they? Clue made me think of moist cake somehow turned brittle. Odd.

Three stars.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 6 22 11 Ben Tausig

Given that three of the theme answers differed from their base phrases by lopping off a -CH, I figured that’s what the theme was. It turns out that the theme is really “change \ch\ or \tch\ sound into \t\ sound”:

  • 18a. [What a fugitive uses to hide his head?] is an ESCAPE HAT (hatch).
  • 20a. [Nickname for a demon doing comedy?] is THE WICKED WIT (Witch).
  • 37a. [Cute animal fawned over by murderers, whoremongers, idolaters, and liars?] clues HELL’S KITTEN (Kitchen).
  • 53a. [Mentor to fruit salad chefs?] is a PITTING COACH (pitching). That reminds me: I have cherries in the fridge.
  • 58a. [Polite request to an assistant on a home improvement project?] clues “BIT, PLEASE” (the sassy “bitch, please“).

Five clues and/or answers:

  • 14a. [MC with “Still da Baddest”] is TRINA. I don’t know her.
  • 22a. [Batshit Cruise] refers to the oceangoing party boats that take ecotourists to the islands where guano is mined, right? No, it’s TOM.
  • 2d. [Top opening] made me think of attic windows, tank turrets, and nostrils rather than an ARMHOLE in a top you wear.
  • 3d. I was trying to remember what those hovercraft skateboards were called in the Back to the Future movies, but the [Conveyance for Marty McFly] is the DeLorean TIME MACHINE.
  • 25d. [Whatever-it’s-called] had four valid possibilities that fit most of the crossings, so I had to use a couple more crossings to hack it out. THINGAMAJIG could also be the other permutations of thing(a/u)ma(jig/bob).

3.5 stars. I wasn’t crazy about fill like XXO, OOLA, TETS, IS AN, I SAW, and STETTED, but I liked the theme and I liked the 11-letter Downs and answers like MLK JR and KOTEX.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, 6/22/11

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    [Half of a Belgian beer name]?
    [Home brew alternative, with Stella]?
    [“Have a Stella ___,” Stanley said to Blanche]?

  2. Howard B says:

    You know, the NY Times was offbeat, kind of strange, and I actually appreciated its intentionally awkward quirkiness. Once I uncovered the alphabetical hint in the grid, it was fun to see the twisted clue phrasing. Some of the clues were particularly difficult due to this constraint (hello, ARTOIS), but I guess it just struck me in the right mood.

  3. Dan F says:

    Joe DiPietro did something similar. I saw that one in a “Will’s Favorites” compilation (before getting hooked and solving every puzzle in existence) and thought it was super-cool. This one might be even a little cooler because of the extra theme material and the way the theme clues fall so naturally. Other cluing – not so natural, effecting a Thursday difficulty, but that’s what you get with this constraint…

  4. joon says:

    i thought this was a really cool puzzle. at first i was utterly baffled why it was 16×15, because the long theme answers are 15 each and the central 6s could be symmetrically placed around a block in the center. after giving it some thought, i decided it’s probably because of the theme clue constraints. almost any other word can be clued however tortuously you need to make the gimmick work, but the theme clues really can’t because they’re cross-referenced. in fact, the fact that the first one goes {Including 38-, 41-, and 60-across, …} instead of the usual {With …} was a significant tipoff to me that something funny was going on. so the fact that the two central 6s could be clued as {Second …} and {Third …} is kind of neat, but it means they absolutely had to be the 19th and 20th across answers. since the first 15 has to be the 9th across answer, the last 15 has to be the 30th (starting with D). that can all be done in a 15×15, but the 16th column has to be there in order to get the right word count. without it, the total word count would be only 72 … maybe you could get 74 if you tried hard enough.

    anyway, it’s a interesting construction exercise. the puzzle was pretty tough to solve and i’m rather curious why it wasn’t a thursday. the tortured clues were generally more difficult than the wednesday norm.

    edit: i see that i’ve been beaten to several of my observations on this puzzle. well, this won’t be the last time i’m three minutes slower than dan.

  5. John Haber says:

    I liked the theme a lot, and I definitely didn’t know OMASUM. The bottom took me longest, perhaps because I first guessed that “count” and “let” led to “down.”

  6. Lee Glickstein says:

    In 2005, David Liben-Nowell and I collaborated on this idea for a New York Sun puzzle, “Made to Order,” in which the clues were alphabetized with 3 clues in alpha order per letter, rather than 3 runs of A to Z.

    Martin Herbach (I believe) christened this category of puzzle Stupid Constructor Tricks.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    OK, so Lee/David and Joe DiP. both used the same alternative version of today’s gimmick. I knew it felt familiar but had no specifics. Lee and David’s puzzle was published June 8, 2005—five days before I started blogging about crosswords! I just discovered that Barry Haldiman’s site includes an index of Sun crosswords by author, with title included—if you’re ever racking your brain to track down an old Sun puzzle, try that page.

  8. Daniel Myers says:


    Reading that first paragraph of your post has now thoroughly convinvced me that you CCs (Cruciverbal Constuctors) out there speak in a tongue completely alien to me, which is fine, as I’m keen on foreign languages.

    My only comment anent the puzzle befits an inhabitant of Laconia: ‘Twas Fun!

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    OOPS!–Orthographical errata due to – failed – attempt at multi-tasking: *convinced – *Constructors

  10. Wes says:

    I liked this puzzle a lot, but I hated the crossing of STE and TMI, which was the only square I couldn’t fill in. Even after looking at the answer I had to do some googling to figure out that ‘ste.’ stands for ‘suite’ and TMI for “Three Mile Island.” Come on, I know there are more accessible clues for both of those letter combinations!

  11. J. T. Williams says:

    I can’t seem to get the Tausig to load again. Had trouble with it last week too. Is the server down? :/

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @J.T., I don’t know. I forwarded the Google Groups e-mail to you—anyone can sign up here to receive the Ink Well and Onion crosswords on Tuesday each week.

  13. Martin says:

    Server is back. Had some internet upgrade issues.

Comments are closed.