Thursday, 8/4/11

NYT 5:12 
Fireball 4:37 
LAT 5:29 (Neville) 
CS untimed (Sam) 
BEQ 6:32 (MG) 
Tausig 5:46 (pannonica) 

Happy birthday to President Obama! My son and I saw him in his ginormous limo in the motorcade going to his birthday-eve fundraiser/concert at the Aragon Ballroom here in Uptown tonight.

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 8 4 11 0804

This is, I think, the second time I’ve seen a theme that uses the bars of black squares in a meaningful fashion. WENT/BARHOPPING spans two entries, hopping over a bar in the grid. The other theme answers—INFIELD SIN/GLES, STREET PI/ANO, SPA/CE OPERAS, SAL/AD DAYS, and ROCK CA/NDY—similarly go barhopping. Note that the answer words that are interrupted by bars of black squares are also varying types of bars (not all places to mingle): singles, piano, space, salad, and candy. I am pretty sure I have never encountered the term STREET PIANO, nor seen such a thing in the public way. (Now, subway buskers with pianos, that’s a different story.) Apparently there’s an ongoing traveling art installation involving street pianos, but it hasn’t made it to Chicago.

That ROCK CANDY clue is fairly dry—[Sugar in large crystals]. A few days ago, Will tweeted the following: “An innocent NYT crossword clue I wrote for ROCK CANDY: Something hard to suck on? Test-solver Frank caught it before it ran. [Whew!]” Ha!

I wasn’t thrilled with a lot of the no-theme fill. “Moneybags” with an S is much zippier than a utilitarian MONEY BAG. GINNED has other familiar meanings; I didn’t know it could also mean “schnockered on gin.” NOELLE without a famous association, boring FOAM PAD and TRIODE, the ECK-FOYLE-GALT trio of non-household names…

3.5 stars. I like the concept of barhopping, but am left wanting a bit more from the whole puzzle.

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

LA Times crossword answers, 8 4 11

LA Times crossword answers, 8 4 11

We’ve seen a lot of co-constructed puzzles by this pair as of late. I think we can presume that Don did the left side and C.C. did the right side – you’ll see why.

  • 17a. [*Informal survey] – STRAW POLL
  • 29a. [*Young starlet’s driver] – STAGE MOM
  • 45a. [*Jeweled fashion accessory] – DRESS PIN
  • 4d. [*Ominous salutation] – DEAR JOHN – best of the theme entries
  • 11d. [*Fresh dairy product] – SWEET MILK – is this a thing? The internet says that it is not buttermilk. I guess this makes sense, but I would just call it milk.
  • 22d. [*Garage fluid] – GEAR OIL
  • 28d. [*Retro ’80s British indie rock genre] – TWEE POP – never heard of it.
  • 35d. [*Be of one mind about] – AGREE UPON
  • 41d. [*Astral wildflower] – STAR LILY

Wait for it…

  • 62a. [Repeated words in a drill sergeant’s marching order, and a hint to how the first and second word, in turn, of each starred answer would be touch-typed] – LEFT-RIGHT (one take!)

Maybe this wasn’t that special to me because I solved it on the computer. (And also because I have bad typing habits – my right hand is always too far to the right.) Some of the theme entries were fun (STAGE MOM), others were kind of meh (AGREE UPON). Were there no really long answers that could fit this mold? Something with LOLLIPOP in it, maybe? Ten entries out of 78 – that’s a lot of thematic content, but it feels a little more like a construction feat than a theme. (But I like this one much more than the T bit in yesterday’s NYT puzzle.)

These entries are the only long ones, so the rest is pretty run of the mill. Clues:

  • 3d. [“The Smartest Guys in the Room” company] – ENRON – define “smartest.”
  • 33a. [Six-sided state] – UTAH – irregular hexagon!
  • 10d. [Online novice] – NEWBIE – this has moved offline, hasn’t it? It’s still online, I don’t question that, but people use it in the “real world,” yes?

Can you tell that I’m not too excited about this puzzle? I guess it didn’t do much for me. 2.8 stars.

Note: Lollapuzzoola is this weekend – say hello if you see a goofy 23-year-old! Also, I’m taking next week off here for an exciting move to Kentucky for graduate school, so I’ll see you all in a week and a half.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 43”

Fireball 8/4

Nothing in this puzzle compares to “SMOOTH MOVE, EX-LAX.” Now, that’s a fun entry.

Other interesting fill: ASTRODOME, ENEMY MINE, SHAWARMA, PUTTANESCA, and SARDONYX (that’s from sard + onyx, not “sardonic”).

No idea why anyone should care about TEX SCHRAMM (NFL teams have general managers?) or some old football player named HUARTE.

Oh, look, a clue for POKER that evokes nautical clues! 49d: [You might catch a boat on the river while playing it].

It’s late and I’m tired so I’m signing off. 3.75 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Head Waters” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, August 4

Too bad today’s theme doesn’t hold much water, as all of the theme entries start with words that can follow WATER (thus, I suppose, each could have a “head” of water):

  • 17-Across: The [Symbol of treachery] is a SNAKE IN THE GRASS.  At first I thought the theme was expressions that begin with names of notable rivers.  But unless there’s a Bottle River or a Cannon River, I’m pretty sure that’s not it.  (Too bad, because the more restrictive constraint would have been more interesting.)  Instead, the reference is to a water snake, not to be confused with the cottonmouth.
  • 28-Across: The [Homemade firework] is a BOTTLE ROCKET.  My water bottle is just to the side of my keyboard.  I just started a new exercise regime that has me drinking what feels like an excessive amount of water.  I wish I could find the reliable diet that would allow me to swap Coke Zero for water.
  • 44-Across: The [At-risk front-line troops] (the rare double-hyphen!) are CANNON FODDER.  Evocative image, though also an unpleasant one.  I like water cannon images much more.
  • 59-Across: We’re told that [Economics has a “law” of these market forces], and they are SUPPLY AND DEMAND.  The clue feels a bit awkward; wouldn’t [Market forces] be sufficient?  Is the extra verbiage adding something that I’m not appreciating?  In any case, the water supply is often in high demand this time of year.

There’s quite a confluence of personalities in the northeast, with Bobby ORR, a socialite named ELSA Maxwell (I hear you should have the coffee at Maxwell’s house), baseball’s Ned YOST, and both Martha and Rod STEWART.  Lurking just beneath them are DANTE and Thomas EDISON.

But I’m even more intrigued by the symmetrical alignment of comestibles in the center, with a BANANA, JIF peanut butter, an EGG, and an ECLAIR.  The breakfast of champions!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Inscribed Figures” — pannonica’s review

Ink Well crossword 8/5/11, "Inscribed Figures" answers

In geometry, to inscribe a figure is to draw within it (so as to touch in as many places as possible), such as “a regular polygon inscribed in a circle.”

The figures in this puzzle are more properly called figurines, but we can’t spoil a little bit of inspired wordplay, can we? 60a is the revealer: [Souvenirs from Russia, and this puzzle’s theme] NESTING DOLLS. I was surprised to learn that the first matryoshka set was created as recently as 1890. Each theme answer begins with letters D-O and ends with L-L.

  • 18a. [Area that honors art patrons] DONOR WALL. My brain was lazy here and made me fill in HONOR WALL, which led to some consternation, as I thought I was seeing in 6d yet another variant of  hadjis, in this case “hahjis.” Cost me the better part of a minute to uncover that error. Hah! gee…
  • 20a. [Counterpart of a noted alter ego] DOCTOR JEKYLL. I was surprised to learn, sometime post-college, that the name is properly pronounced with a long e.
  • Ah, the centerpiece! 39a [Military policy from 1993–2011] DON’T ASK DON’T TELL. I’m surprised that such an au currant and enticing 15-letter fill has only appeared in the NYT twice before (according to XWord Info), both times in 2005. Also surprisingly, the acronymic DADT has not graced her grids at all. Oh, oops. This isn’t a Times puzzle. Anyway…
  • 64a. [Frequently ruthless school gym sport] DODGEBALL. Evocative clue, for sure.

"Matryoshka Dolls" by kikiponypow at DeviantART

Aside from the slightly odd DONOR WALL, all of the themers felt natural and very much in-the-language (yes, I have been to my fair share of museums and art openings), which added to the puzzle’s solidity.

I can’t say that the ballast fill is inspired, but it holds its own. Clever cluing elevates many of the otherwise pedestrian answers. Here are a few:

  • 68a. [Ironic thing to shout] QUIET. Typing in all caps is the equivalent of shouting, ironically.
  • 4d. [Change alot, say?] EDIT. Probably my favorite clue in the whole puzzle. Alots are kinda cute.
  • If you’re going to have partials in your puzzle, you may as well make them interesting. 17a [“…but __ without a cat!” (“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”] A GRIN; pretty difficult not to endear yourself to crossword people by invoking Lewis Carroll. 11d [“Trust me, __ scientist”] I’M A. This is a recent internet meme, right?
  • 54d. [Windows’ alternatives?] AISLES.
  • 43d. [Pot substance]. Having the T already, I fell for the misdirection (perhaps under the influence of 52d [Drug associated with Miley Cyrus] SALVIA and 71a [Smoker’s supply] STASH?) and filled in THC, when the correct answer is TEA. It’s amazing how thoroughly in-the-culture marijuana is, even to this person who has never inhaled any kind of smoke, aside from that from a campfire, accidentally, when the wind changes direction.


  • Most of the center of the puzzle:
    • I am so down on actor ESAI Morales (36a) these days, and it’s entirely the fault of crossword constructors.
    • 32d. [Qing general who fought in the Glazed Chicken Wars] is an attempt to vitalize TSO. Too precious by half.
    • 37d. [Future colony member] ANT EGG. Meh.
    • 46a. [Ship rope] TYE. This one’s been cropping up in puzzles far too often recently. So has LILT, which I’m happy to say is not in this particular puzzle.
  • Definitely nitpicking here, but 55a [As found] threw me because I always think of IN SITU as its literal translation, “in place.” While I was solving the puzzle, I entered some alternate phrase—which I can no longer recall—that seemed more accurately to fit the clue.
  • 21d. [Chillness] REPOSE. Yes, that’s chillness, not chilliness. I would definitely be happy never to see that word, especially since there are plenty of better and less grating synonyms extant.

With all the novelty matryoshka available nowadays, perhaps it’s time someone produced a set beginning with Wynne, running through Farrar, Weng, Maleska, and Shortz?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Finger Exercise”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 355 solution

Self-referential theme from BEQ today, wherein the kicker does double duty as a theme entry: what are the four longest words formed only from the letters in the top row of a TYPEWRITER?  They turn out to be REPERTOIRE, PERPETUITY, PROPRIETOR and…TYPEWRITER!  Spooky.  Googling reveals REQUIETORY (“a sepulcher: obs.”) and RUPTUREWORT (“a plant of the family Caryophyllaceae”) so it’s wise to stick with the four Brendan used.

Five observations:

  1. This puzzle took me 6:32, the last minute of which was spent on the tough SW corner.  TRAY was my breakthrough.
  2. 10a is a funny clue.
  3. All four “rare letters” in the grid are J’s.
  4. There’s so much good fill that I have to pick a Top Eight:  JOAN JETTJAPAN,NO OBJECTTHE COLTSSO HELP MEFULL STOPHOW’S THAT? and of course OPRAH.
  5. If you swap the placements of RHINE and RHONE then they’re reasonable geographic representations of both rivers vis-a-vis each other.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a PRETTY QUIET Thursday, everyone.

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24 Responses to Thursday, 8/4/11

  1. Don Byas says:

    NYT: GALT and FOYLE took me a while.
    Just noticed Anno Domini and Common Era in two of the hopping answers:
    26d. AD DAYS and 47a.CE OPERAS

    A soulful trumpeter who doubles on STREET PIANO. (I’ve never heard of the term)

  2. Matthew G. says:

    Can someone explain the clue on OPEN PLAN to me?

    Also, NO SOAP was a new expression to me.

  3. Gareth says:

    Fabulous NYT theme!

    Also a nice LAT theme. No idea about TWEEPOP, but our cheese spread brands always have a SWEETMILK flavour, never been too sure what it was, but it tastes nice! That’s quite a feat to fit so many entries in, even of the shorter variety!

  4. Kvon says:

    I was left floundering in the NYT for a minute at the BAG/ARI/RMN section. Didn’t see the BAR connection in particular. Nice puzzle.

  5. Howard B says:

    You know, I didn’t notice the actual BAR commonality of the theme until I was done – it would have helped if I had picked up on that earlier. I thought that was elegant, and I always enjoy puzzles with blank clues to tease us. So there were some rough spots in there, but the whole experience was fun.

    Fireball was also tough, and there was some great fill in there as well. Never heard that central saying before, but it’s pretty bizarre and kind of retro-sounding. I had never seen SHAWARMA with that spelling so that was rough for me, and those football name answers were not nice. But I’ve come to expect a few nasties in there from Mr.Gordon, so overall I have to sya this one was a good challenge. Plus, PUTTANESCA and learning its origin for bonus fill points!

  6. joon says:

    loved both the NYT and fireball. other than a few oddball proper names, the NYT was a perfect thursday—excellent theme gimmick, deftly executed, lots of theme material, and (in typical kahn fashion) intersecting themers. great puzzle.

  7. pannonica says:

    Matthew G.: What is the clue for OPEN PLAN? (I don’t have a Fireball subscription.)

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I think it’s about an open floor plan in office space, rather than having the space subdivided into cubicles. Can anyone confirm?

  9. Matthew G. says:

    The clue for OPEN PLAN was {Office with a bullpen, e.g.}. Amy’s explanation makes sense, I guess, in which case it’s just a term I haven’t run into before.

  10. John Haber says:

    I didn’t notice till afterward why the first three answers that jumped the bar were themed either. I was instead looking to see if the breaks produced words. It was often tempting to see them, although obviously NDY isn’t one.

    I, too, had the bottom (RMN, etc.) last. I did know GALT, in part as “Hair” is back on Broadway. But no, I am not convinced there’s a term STREET PIANO.

  11. joon says:

    fyi, if you haven’t seen eric berlin & patrick berry’s double or nothing crossword monster, you owe it to yourself to check it out. the only difference between the two versions is that the easy version has instructions. still not easy, though!

  12. Karen says:

    I always thought a bullpen was part of a newsroom. But according to wordnik it is “An open area in an office with workspace for a number of employees.” (After the baseball definitions.)

  13. Daniel Myers says:

    STREET PIANO – The OED has an appropriate 1978 (1857 is the earliest) citation from an author I’ve actually read, though not this book:

    1978 L(en) Deighton SS-GB xix “Douglas stopped to give a penny to an old man at the handle of a street piano.”

    This type of SP always sports a “handle” and seems to be something quite different from the more modern one described here:

    I’d never heard of and have still never run into either type.

  14. pannonica says:

    True fact:* I went to school with a Pete Stroiano.


    (*total falsehood)

  15. Daniel Myers says:

    Truer fact:*–I went to school with a Managra

    (*Utter and obvious falsehood)

  16. pannonica says:

    Absolutely incontrovertible fact:*  My fifth grade teacher was Spilliam Wooner.
     (*no, really)

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    The above assertion crawls through the fax.

  18. pannonica says:

    Oh, that was a typo. The comma should have been a T.

  19. pannonica says:

    The above comment was another falsehood.

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    LOL–You win, pannonica!! :-) I cede to thy wit. I rue the moment I entered the lists in this tourney against such a renowned jouster…or is that jester? :-)

  21. pannonica says:

    I’m sure the rest of the blog readers are relieved!

    (lists, or tilts?)

  22. Daniel Myers says:

    Yes, quite! We now return to regularly scheduled commenting – and thank Amy for her indulgence.

  23. Jeffrey says:

    Now that we’ve settled that, thanks joon for the tip on the Berlin/Berry puzzle. 2/3 complete at this point and loads of fun. More of these, please!


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