Thursday, 9/15/11

NYT 5:27 
LAT 5:56 (Neville) 
Fireball 17:20, 1 error 
CS 5:46 (Sam) 
Tausig 6:52 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:04 (AR) 

Sometimes we grouse about themes or fill or clues that don’t quite meet our standards for what we want in a crossword. You know what, though? No matter how clunky or stilted that one section of a puzzle blogged at Crossword Fiend may be, it never does seem to use an answer word to clue itself, does it? (That actually happened in a USA Today crossword on Wednesday.) And for that, we are grateful to editors Will Shortz, Rich Norris, Peter Gordon, Patrick Berry, and Ben Tausig, plus the CrosSynergy team, Matt Gaffney, and Brendan Emmett Quigley.

Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 9 15 11 0915

Sam! Oh, man. I don’t know how to break it to you. I like your puzzle, but your daily CrosSynergy crossword reviews are definitely funnier. I know, I know—the Thursday puzzle isn’t supposed to be all giggles. It’s about the challenge. And you brought the rebus challenge: The theme is that HOUSEs have been built in rebus squares in all four CORNER LOTs in this grid. Eight solid HOUSE+6 or 6+HOUSE phrases frame the other 7-letter answers in the corner neighborhoods. The empty grid looks like it’s for a themeless puzzle thanks to the low word count of 72. Apologies for the HOUS rebus squares in my answer grid. The applet doesn’t like to show 5 letters in a square. Wait, why am I apologizing? Totally not my fault. Tough puzzle here. Took me longer than the typical Thursday puzzle, and I’m not alone in that—the applet shows assorted solving whizzes also on the slower side. Now, what makes the puzzle hard? I’ll pick five things besides the rebus twist:

  • 61a. I’ve never seen the word YACHTIE before, I don’t think.
  • 31a. There was an [Emmy-nominated sitcom of the early 1970s] called ARNIE? It lasted for two seasons and ended when I was in kindergarten. Any of you watch it?
  • 55a. The IMF of DSK fame was the [Org. employing Ethan Hunt in film]? Or does Mission: Impossible have a different IMF?
  • 34a. [Waiter] really wanted to be SERVER but it’s the roll-your-own ABIDER. “Abider! Check, please.”
  • 2d. The jumbo telescope observatory place is ARECIBO Observatory, but I plunked in PALOMAR and mangled that corner.

Hot spots: THE ONION, CUL DE SAC, the inclusion of ANIMAL {HOUSE} and {HOUSE}BROKEN, exclamatory “NOT THAT!” (gasp!), RUNAWAYS, and NON-UNION clued as [Lacking bargaining power, maybe]. I also like Alfonso SORIANO, just because he plays for the Cubs and I’ve seen him play, though I couldn’t tell you if he’s any good and I wouldn’t know him if he walked up to me wearing a Soriano jersey. And then there’s the NERF clue, [Big name in balls], which sounds like it belongs in the @FakeWillShortz Twitter feed (which has an as-yet-undisclosed author). 3.75 stars.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword answers 9 15 11

Los Angeles Times crossword answers 9 15 11

The SILENCE of the Lambs gets the spotlight in today’s puzzle – it’s the […1991 Oscar-winning film] suggested by the circled letters. Of course those circled letters have been shaded red below – the color of a nice Chianti.

  • 14a. [Corner-to-corner lines] – CROSSWALK
  • 18a. [Brand with a cuckoo mascot] – COCOA PUFFS
  • 34a. [Recall aids] – MNEMONIC DEVICES
  • 55a. [Disapproval] – THUMBS DOWN
  • 60a. [Nassau Coliseum NHL team] – ISLANDERS

I really really wish that each of the circled letters were silent in both directions, but instead they’re only silent in the across entries. Would it be harder to construct? Absolutely. But I think it would be a much tighter puzzle. As it is, these are just five long entries, each with a particular silent letter, plus an entry to tie it together. Making up for this, though, is the fact that it’s a 74-word puzzle. None of the theme answers are bad choices, plus we’ve got nice long entries that aren’t part of the theme:

  • 1d. [Salad veggie] – RAW ONION. I think ONION would suffice, but it’s true – you normally don’t see cooked onion in a standard salad.
  • 2d. [“Spamalot” co-creator] – ERIC IDLE of Monty Python fame. I love Spamalot – I’d urge you to see it, but the national tour ended a few months ago.
  • 7d. [Having a mug like a pug] is a painfully obvious clue for DOG-FACED, but that’s still a fun entry.
  • 37d. [Trump has an elaborate…] COMB OVER! I expected COIFFURE, but this is even better! This was good for a big laugh mid-solve.

And I don’t see any bad fill. (Some of you will point out the presence of a Roman numeral, but I don’t mind those.) The way I see it, we’ve got a slightly incomplete theme filled like a themeless with too many words in it. There’s no bad taste in my mouth – I like fava beans – but it’s still just not quite right. 3.7 stars from me.

Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “Vwllss Crsswrd 2” (without enumerations)

Fireball 2:31 answers

There’s not really a ton to talk about in reviewing a vowelless crossword, is there? You either love the challenge and dive right in, or you’re just not that into it. Me, I like it. I had SeRViCeS on the brain instead of SeRVeRS, so I mucked up one square in 21a. It took me forever to tease out the DeDiCaTeD part of DDCTDSRVRS, too. In 8d, “WHaT HaVe i DoNe To DeSeRVe THiS?” gets crunched down to a 15 without its vowels. The other 15 addled me for a bit because I was thinking the preposition “in” was in there, but it’s “into” in THRoW oNe’S HaT iNTo THe RiNG. 29d speaks the way 8d does: “NoW iS NoT THe TiMe.” The one bit that grated was 53a. A multivitamin is a dietary supplement, if you ask me. DieT SuPPLeMeNT doesn’t sound in-the-language enough to me. A cursory Google search suggests that you find “diet supplement” in crap websites pushing weight-loss products, whereas “dietary supplements” comprise all sorts of vitamins, minerals, nutriceuticals, and so on. 4.5 stars. KP ‘M CMNG! Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Red Cross” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, September 15

The best way to describe this crossword’s theme, I thought, would be through a doctored image.  Unfortunately for you, neither my artistic skills nor my computer tech skills are very developed.  So you’re stuck with the rather primitive version to the right. Here’s what’s happening: the letter sequence R-E-D crosses the letter sequence R-E-D at five symmetrically placed locations in the grid.  So instead of a single “red cross,” we get five of them.  As an added touch of elegance, each of the crossing entries have the same length:

  • The 15-letter entries are at 38-Across and 7-Down: SHATTERED DREAMS, the [Dashed hopes], and PREFERRED SALARY, the [Topic at a job interview].  At some interviews, the two terms may be closely related.
  • There’s a 9-letter pairing in the northeast, where 22-Across meets 10-Down: OFFERED UP (clued as [Given, as a sacrifice]) crosses AIREDALES, the [Wiry-haired woofers].  A pox on those that would offer up Airedales as a sacrifice!
  • Another 9-letter cross is in the southwest, as 55-Across meets 34-Down: The FIRE DRILL ([One reason a school will empty out]–the other being because the cafeteria is serving four-day-old tuna casserole) meets STARRED IN, clued as [Headed the cast of].
  • In the northwest corner we have two thematic 5-letter crossings at 20-Across and 4-Down: BARED and DARED, one clued as [Stripped] and the other as [Showed courage].  Seems to me like either clue would work for either word.
  • Finally in the southeast we have 59-Across and 54-Down: REDDY (the [Helen who sang “Delta Dawn”]) and RE-DID, clued as [Made over].

The R-E-D sequence is common enough to yield several possible theme entries, but this remains a pretty impressive feat of construction.  Only RE-DID strikes me as a clunky choice.  Granted, the two 15s and FIRE DRILLS may be the only interesting theme entries in the lot, but at least the other six don’t trigger the Scowl-O-Meter. With 75 squares devoted to the theme, there’s not much room for dazzling fill.  Heck, with 75 theme squares it’s hard to get fill that isn’t choppy or sloppy.  With that constraint in mind, one has to admire the smooth fill here.  It led to a relatively quick solving time (the only puzzle I completed in less time today was the NYT).  The questionable stuff is limited to DE-RAT ([Get rid of rodents]) and A-DEE, the cleverly clued [Chick chaser?].  I really liked SAD EYES, the [Basset hound feature], though I now can’t get this song out of my head.

The only thing I would change is SIB to SIS.  At the cost of changing BEARS to SEARS, you’d have a grid with both BRO and SIS, a little lagniappe for the solver.

If the title was missing, I could totally see this as a Matt Gaffney contest puzzle: “This week’s contest answer is the name of a charitable organization.”  And I could see me taking a wild guess with something like “The Human Fund.”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Shades of Change” — pannonica’s review

Tausig • Ink Well • 9/16/11 • "Shades of Change" • answers

“Shades of Change” isn’t a phrase particularly familiar to me, but its meaning is clear enough. Each of the four theme entries started out as a hue, and the base color, which appears at the end, is anagrammed to form one of those wacky phrases we often see in themed puzzles.

  • 17a. [Bedroom product allowed in the post-DADT military?] NAVY LUBE. See, that’s the kind of slightly risqué clue and entry that I expect from an Ink Well puzzle. I maintain that the edition from two weeks ago was an aberration of excess.
  • 27a. [Hip-hop producer tooling around with a Dalmatian in the window?] FIRE ENGINE DRE. That’s Dr Dre, well-known to crossword solvers. Despite the clue’s long-windedness, I’m not sure that it accurately clues the ‘fire engine’ component, although it’s inferable.
  • 45a. [Style of music à la U2?] SHAMROCK GENRE. Well, I had a personal problem here. Since I’m not a fan of U2, I couldn’t help parsing the entry as ‘sham rock…’ and was momentarily confused about the mechanics of the theme.
  • 61a. [Slogan for a down-and-out Indiana city trying to attract creative types?] COOL GARY. Whew! Long clue for a short entry. I only skimmed it. Something about madeleines?

Straightforward theme, unassailable, but the actual theme entries didn’t much wow or amuse me. The good news is that the ballast fill is fairly clean, varied and interesting. Observations:

  • Longest non-theme fill are JOAN MIRÓ and Amedeo AVOGADRO. Loved them both.
  • Some mis-fills:
    • Had CNN instead of TNT at 5a for [“Franklin & Bash” station]; this led to 5d coming out as CRUDGE  rather than TRUDGE. I kind of like “crudge”…
    • 24a. [Oil-changing need] RAG, not PAN. I wouldn’t say a rag is a necessity, but it sure comes in handy. Perhaps I’m just biased toward panny things.
    • 63a. [It might have “karma” written on it] TIP JAR. Had ZIP CAR, which kind of works for the clue, too.
  • Similar cluing gives the puzzle a touch of cohesion, which I appreciate: 18d [Shakespearean king who partly inspired Kurosawa’s “Ran”] LEAR; 67a [Prog band who partly inspired “This Is Spinal Tap”] YES. Although Lear constitutes a much higher percentage of Ran than Yes does Spinal Tap.
  • Really didn’t care for TOGAE. In general I don’t have a problem with Latinate words having the -e pluralization, but for some reason togae numbers among the relative few I don’t wish to see.
  • Did not know 42a AVISO as a [Dispatch boat]; was only familiar with it as a notice.
  • Cute clue at 1d, [Sheets and Folds] for BENS, enjoyed it even though I’d never heard of baseball player Ben M. Sheets.
  • 7d. [Austin Powers-era vehicle] THE MINI. “The” ? In my experience, that definite article isn’t commonly associated with it, as a name. Austin Cooper, yes. Mini Cooper, yes.
  • MTVVJS. Whoa.

Average puzzle. Some highs, some lows.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Ad Block”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 367 solution

BEQ crosses over to the dark side today, putting the letters AD in three black squares:


Five observations:

  1. I first had MACS for 19-d, then changed it to MICS once I got DEBIT, then was told by Across Lite that it was MICE.  NSWERA sounded plausible for a baseball cap brand, though if I’d noticed NEW ERAMICE I certainly would have changed it.
  2. BREAK-UP SEX!  Great entry.  Never had it.  Sounds terrifying.
  3. Top 7 fill, besides that one: WAUGH, timely SOLYNDRA, LAY TO WASTETURN REDPHD’SB-TEAM and CLARK.
  4. [Treatment plants?] for ALOES is new to these eyes.
  5. 25d. [Changing ___] had me stumped for a long time, even with T??LE.  The kind of thing that goes in your crossword when you’ve got a newbown.

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

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20 Responses to Thursday, 9/15/11

  1. Karen says:

    In the NYT, for the all time funniest movie I was thinking of the Marx Brothers, so I had ANIMAL CRACKERS in the upper right for a long time before I realized the theme.

    Worst crossing–baseball somebody BEANE and baseball somebody SORIANO. I guessed lucky.

  2. pannonica says:

    IMF “Impossible Mission Force”

    At least that’s how it was back in the days with Peter Graves and Barbara Bain.

  3. kludge says:

    I do remember the show ARNIE, but I was a few years older, a third-grader when it ended. The star was an actor named Herschel Bernardi. Don’t remember too much about him but his boss was played by an actor named Roger Bowen, a familiar face who played Col. Henry Blake in the film version of M*A*S*H. OK, Wikipedia tells me Herschel Bernardi was the original voice of Charlie the Tuna.

    Also wanted “DieTaRY SuPPLeMeNT” in the VWLLSS and had more than one mistake on that one.

    Now thinking that the thing about ARNIE was the he was a balding leading man, which maybe was a big deal at the time, and part of a mini-trend since James Coco had a series as well.

  4. Jamie says:

    Count me among the folks who hate vowel-free crosswords like this Fireball.

    “WHaT HaVe i DoNe To DeSeRVe THiS?” sums it up nicely.

    It’s a gimmick and has been done too many times. I say this with confidence, having seen three.

    N_,M_R_, please.

  5. gareth says:

    (Took +- a minute to process submit – time is when hit the button)

    Also took some time figuring out that I can only put HOUS in my rebus squares and not HOUSE…

    Doing a Thursday when you think it’s Friday makes it a lot harder! Not looking for a theme, and that grid is plausibly a themeless. I’ve seen this done several times with other words, and the entries weren’t that interesting for me. The rest of the puzzle is pretty rock solid though… Spent another 3-ish minutes fighting with 6 squares the TI/AN/TO crossing NOTTHAT and SORIANO… (Aside: I have put ARECIBO at 2d before, the puzzle didn’t make it though. Weird case of deja vu! Made it a total gimme, which probably puts me in the minority…)

  6. Anne E says:

    I also thought the grid meant it would be a themeless, and plunking in PALOMAR for 2D for my very first entry didn’t help – ugh! Other wrong turns up in that corner included UBOAT and TBILL. Not one of my finer moments.

    Put me on the list of those not fans of vowelesses (hmm that is NOT a word :-). Love Frank’s work, but that was the only book of his I didn’t snap up.

  7. HH says:

    @Karen — D’jever notice, when Entity X compiles a list of the “all-time (adjective)-est (plural noun)”, “all-time” is limited to Entity X’s time on Earth?

  8. sps says:

    I remember watching Arnie when I was a kid, mainly because it was on before Mary Tyler Moore. If I remember correctly, Arnie was a blue collar worker. His wife was played by Sue Ane Langdon, a name you sometimes see in xwords because of the odd spelling of her middle name.

  9. kludge says:

    I remember him being an office worker. Turns out we are both right, he was promoted upstairs from the loading dock, which was the big premise of the show.

    Enjoyed Brendan’s puzzle even though at one point I had the right side of the theme entries as NOTHER DAY, MILLION and BY NOW

  10. John Haber says:

    I like rebuses and a challenge, so I definitely liked the puzzle better than others. (I held off on the observatory, but once I had a crossing letter it was a gimme for me.) Still, the E was harder for me because of ARNIE and YACHTIE (as well as the Ethan Hunt reference), and I am not sure I care for either. (I’d tried “yachter” but that didn’t seem to account for “informally.”)

    I also had confidently entered UBOAT (which is what gave me ARECIBO) and was perplexed when I had to change it. I couldn’t fine EBOAT in RHUD either, although I can find it online. So that, too, wasn’t a fave.

  11. Greg says:

    The fact the puzzle was themed was hinted at by 35 across. The HOUSES rebus has been done (in ’94), however this was a touch different given the middle clue. Can’t believe people don’t know Alfonso SORIANO. Crossing 2 baseball clues is fair for American crosswords.

  12. Tom Grubb says:

    Again, the appropriate answer in French for the clue “When the French toast?” is “en ete” (in summer), NOT “etes”. In fact, one rarely sees the French word for “summer” in the plural, as in the sentence “I spend my summers abroad”, translated into proper French as follows: “Je passe l’ete a l’etranger”, NOT “je passe mes etes, etc.”. American x-word creators need to consult with experts on the French language before giving a misleading clue (or answer), s’il vous plait.

  13. joon says:

    i think it was peter gordon who once pointed out to me that there’s absolutely no reason a typical educated american would need to know the french word ÉTÉ in the first place. awkwardly pluralizing it just makes it that much worse as crossword fill.

    vous ÊTES, on the other hand, is a conjugation of the verb être, and therefore a word you would learn on day 1 of french class (and also appears on sign maps in “vous êtes ici”). it still kinda stinks for american crosswords, but it’s miles better than ÉTÉS if you ask me.

    for a quick 10 points—why did matt gaffney list CLARK as among his favorite entries in today’s BEQ?

  14. john farmer says:

    Because Matt Gaffney’s alter ego is CLARK Kent? Or maybe this?

    I wonder the reasons why Peter Gordon thinks a typical educated American might need to know words with the vowels removed. ;-)

  15. Jeffrey says:

    So how would you say “I spent many summers abroad”? I was only born in Montreal, so what do I know?

  16. Harry says:

    Boo-boo in LAT 15D, clued as “words,” but is singular, wish.

  17. Gareth says:

    Harry, one wish consists of many words.

  18. KarmaSartre says:

    As far as I can tell, the earth is still rotating on its axis. I had some concern that if YANNI ever appeared in a BEQ puzzle, everything might just end.

  19. Matthew Clark Gaffney says:

    Mock Yanni if you must, but tell me this isn’t epically beautiful (have a glass of red wine beforehand if necessary):

  20. joon says:

    okay then: it isn’t epically beautiful.

    (also, 10 points to john.)

Comments are closed.