Thursday, 10/13/11

Fireball 5:20 
NYT 4:42 
LAT 6:48 (Neville) 
CS 4:39 (Sam) 
BEQ 7:32 (Matt) 
Tausig 6:29 (pannonica) 

Bonus puzzle! Matt Gaffney has created a crossword in honor of Joon Pahk’s Jeopardy! run. You can catch it over at the Island of Lost Puzzles.

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 10 13 11 1013

Perfect theme for movie buff John Farmer: B-MOVIES play a double role, also meaning “movie titles to which a B has been added.” The Spike Lee joint becomes DO THE BRIGHT THING. Never saw East of Eden so BEAST OF EDEN doesn’t resonate much with me. Streep and Redford make way for Ali and Foreman’s BOUT OF AFRICA (this was my favorite of the theme answers—is it not perfect?). Moe, Shemp, and Curly Howard cue up HOWARDS BEND. And earworms—songs that get stuck in your head—relate to SINGIN’ IN THE BRAIN (my runner-up favorite).

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t get this puzzle to load in the applet. Must have something to do with the 16×15 grid—though I’ve seen odd-sized puzzles work in the applet before.

Good vibe throughout the whole puzzle. I liked the heathenish PAGANS, the graffiti TAG, the “double dribble” clue for BIB (nothing to do with basketball no-nos), the [] clue for the INCHES symbol, and the word FESTER (though I had that word starting with a V for the longest time—curse you, Nordic Olaf/Olav confusion!). Overall, this crossword sort of felt like a Wednesday puzzle from the old New York Sun, smooth but moderately challenging.

A mild boo to the clue for 40d: FLAB, [Undesirable roll]. Hey, some people relish a soft and welcoming roll of flesh. This clue should, if you ask me, be limited to ONION BAGEL usage.

Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Capitalists”

Firebal; 2(35) answers

I feel like we just had a hidden-world-capitals theme, maybe in the NYT. This one limits the sandwiching phrases to people’s names: ELI MANNING, FRANKIE VALLI, RADOVAN KARADZIC, ADAM MANSBACH, and HENRI GAULT. I’m pleased to say I pulled #3 and #4 together without much trouble (and #1 and #2 were easy), but I’ve never heard of #5. French food and I have nothing in common, except where it comes to dessert crepes and croissants.

Favorite clue: 24d: 24d. [End of an 11-letter palindrome with the middle letter “t”] is I’M MAD. “Dammit, I’m mad” is a great palindrome.

Nothing else really leapt out as “meh” or “wow” stuff, and nothing seemed unfair—though I could see people who don’t know TruTV and who are rusty on their Serbian spelling trying RADOHAN and TRUTH. Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sounds Like a Yes” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 13

Today’s crossword from the always-terrific Doug Peterson has 3.5 theme entries, each of which starts with homophones of the yes vote, “aye” (thus, the start of each one “sounds like a yes”):

  • 20-Across: The [Ken Follett WWII spy novel] is EYE OF THE NEEDLE. I’ve never read it, but the title felt familiar enough that I only needed EYE OF T- to get it. (Yes, “Eye of the Tiger” went through my mind, but I quickly saw it wouldn’t fit.)
  • 38-Across: I DREAM OF JEANNIE was a [Sitcom set in Cocoa Beach, Florida]. Only needed the I DR- here.
  • 51-Across: The [Oft-quoted soliloquy selection] is AY, THERE’S THE RUB. The AYTH- start had me somewhat flummoxed at first, but it sorted itself out soon enough.
  • For a little while there, I thought 39-Down, EINSTEIN (clued as a [Name synonymous with genius]), was supposed to be a theme entry too. But it’s not, of course, since: (1) the other theme entries have four words, the first of which is the homophone, whereas this is a one-word entry where the first two letters form the “aye” sound; and (2) the eight-letter entry in the symmetrically opposite location is [Supermodel Gisele] BUNDCHEN, and no matter how you badly you mangle the pronunciation of that surname you just can’t get it to start with an “aye” sound. (BUNDCHEN is a terrific entry, btw). So let’s just call it a half-theme entry that adds a nice little touch to the whole package.

Name haters—those who have little regard for proper names in crosswords—won’t like some of the fill, but I, for one, loved it. There’s Glenn BECK, Alfred MOLINA, Lynn SWANN, DEMI Moore, GOMER Pyle, ZACH Galifianakis, the stunningly beautiful Marisa TOMEI, some lady named ONO, CARLA from “Cheers,” Daryl HANNAH, Franz KAFKA, General Stuart JEB, ALEC Waugh, and our ol’ buddy BERT from “Sesame Street.” Most of those names are right in my wheelhouse, though, and undoubtedly that affects my reaction.

Regardless of your view on proper names, though, there’s  other good stuff here to admire. I love the Zs floating at the top, and WE LOST, SEW ON and BYE NOW add some spice in the equator and southern hemisphere. In the clue department, my favorite was [Cabinet member?] for a FILE folder.

Tom Heilman’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 10 13 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 10 13 11

Didn’t know what to expect from this puzzle? Well, you got a little bit of everything – it’s a MIXED BAG. Each of the five other longest entries contains a scrambling of the letters B, A and G. And Tom Heilman knows what he’s doing – he covers each possible permutation exactly once. I’d say that this puzzle’s isomorphic to S3, the symmetric group of six elements, but that probably wouldn’t endear me to anyone!

  • 17a. [Cher title words before “my baby shot me down”] – BANG BANG
  • 23a. [Lawn invader] – CRABGRASS
  • 32a. [Olympics opening ceremony VIP] – FLAG BEARER
  • 42a. [Place to keep thyme] – HERB GARDEN. Oh, it’s a bad pun clue that I love.
  • 50a. [Evoke something from the past] – RING A BELL, a la Pavlov, perhaps.

Did you try JIGGLE for JOGGLE? Who says joggle when jiggle will do? IN EDGE was clearly wrong, though. Upsetting, though, was that alternate spelling ENROL that I’m yet to see outside of crossword puzzles. Any day now it’ll come up… yeah, right. RISE UP and LAID UP in the same puzzle doesn’t thrill me, especially after having a conversation with another constructor recently about duplicating the word UP, where we decided it was best not to.

Enough griping – there were some great entries in this puzzle. WHAM-O, the [Frisbee maker], rang a bell, though I’m wondering if they converted a second M into the hyphen. It looks like that A should be long to me. And KGB SPY in the lower right corner is a marvelous entry, clued fairly with [Former CIA agent counterpart]. I like entries with few vowels, and this one does not disappoint. GENERA is a lovely Latin plural. BALDISH – [Somewhat spotty on top?] – now there’s a good use of -ish. Makes me think of George Costanza from Seinfeld.

Mandatory baseball clue:

  • 58d. [National, before moving] – EXPO. The Montreal Expos moved to DC and became the Washington Nationals. The fact that this was a baseball clue did not dawn on me until a few moments after I had filled in EXPO.


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “In Loving Memory”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 375 answers

Have you read Brendan’s classic essay “10 B****hit Themes”?  If you haven’t, consider doing so now.

With today’s crossword, Brendan declares the TRIBUTE PUZZLE to be #11 on this list.  I know this because he clues it at 20-across with [Crossword genre that has been beaten to death].

The timing works, but I’ll still assume he wasn’t “inspired” by my or Kevin Der’s recent Steve Jobs tribute crosswords.  I’ll just assume that. Anyway, the other theme entries are STRAINED CLUING, INCOMPLETENESS, and RANDOM ANSWERS, the last one apropos since the most cruciverbally useful movies/songs/whatever from the honoree’s oeuvre are normally used in the tribute puzzle, not the most famous.

Seven observations:

  1. Took me 7:32.
  2. 12-d, 50-d and 51-d are all funny touches to the theme.
  3. Nice clue for 40a.
  4. I dig the clue for 42-a a lot.  Looks like it’s going to be random gobbledygook but it’s just AUNT.
  5. Lots of multiple word entries: WAR BRIDE, ON SPECHEY ZEUSRED DUSTTHE O.C.ALL INSAW IN and BEAR CUB.
  6. I can’t stand tribute puzzles either and believe they should be banned.
  7. Check out my tribute to Joon’s recent game show run here:

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a no-b****hit Thursday, everyone!

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

Tausig Ink Well crossword 10/14/11 • "New Order" • answers

The instructions in the revealer at 38-across are a little confused, but the gist is readily understood. [Like the letters of one word in 17-, 27-, 45-, and 60-Across – and what the words themselves can be] TWISTED. Hence, anagrams:

  • 17a. [Book about a retiring shepherd?] A FAREWELL TO RAMS (“A Farewell to Arms).
  • 27a. [Skip lectures and such?] RESIST COLLEGE (Sister college).
  • 45a. [Body parts that allow some coastal ducks to fly?] WINGS OF EIDERS (“Wings of Desire,” which happens to include Peter FALK (7d) in the cast).
  • 60A. [Coffee?] POT OF THE MORNING (Top of the morning!’).

Now, each of the anagrammed words in its original form can ostensibly be associated with the word TWISTED: arms, Twisted Sister, desire, top. See what I mean about the instructions being a bit muddled? It should have specified the original words. “Like the letters of one word…” = they have been twisted; “…and what the words themselves can be” = references the same words, still post-modification.

Beyond that technicality, I found some other aspects of the theme problematic. Working up from the bottom, I posit that a top doesn’t twist but spins instead. Twisting involves torsion and—unless the top is made of some sort of floppy or plastic material—it’s going to rotate, in rigidi, around a central axis. Next, a slight editorial recommendation: The clue for 45a is undeniably clunky and it could be streamlined just a skootch by replacing “body parts” with “appendages.” It isn’t much, but every little bit helps, no?

I would never subject you to a photograph of Dee Snider.

Finally, we come to SISTER COLLEGE. My immediate and unflinching association is to the institutions known collectively as the Seven Sisters: Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, Radcliffe, Bryn Mawr, Barnard. And, in my experience, they aren’t ever referred to individually as a “sister college,” but rather “one of the [Seven] Sisters.” I realize that that’s a mouthful, but it’s how I feel about it. However, there is support for Sister College. “Colleges that are paired are referred to as sister colleges, and have a ceremonial and symbolic relationship to one another.” This is most commonly seen, but not exclusive to, venerable institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, and Yale. There also seems to be a trend for transnational relationships, akin to sister cities.


Oh yes, the rest of the puzzle. That was pretty good, especially considering the volume of themic material, 63 squares. I must, must start with one-across: what’s SNUS? A report of recent events, but that isn’t important right now. Actually, as clued, it’s a [Chewing tobacco relative] originally from Sweden. It appears that it’s growing in popularity, so much so that American companies have started to produce it and, predictably, reformulated in a way that “may diminish some of the ‘possible benefits’.” [additional quotes mine]

Residual observations:

  • Nice 10-letter downs, UNAMERICAN and EQUESTRIAN.
  • Got 5a [Chrome alternative] SAFARI right away thanks to last week’s Jobsian Gaffney crossword. With its stacked and topical neighbor [Natives who greeted Christopher Columbus] ARAWAK, I was put in mind of SARAWAK, which along with Sabah constitutes the Malaysian territory of Borneo (Brunei and Indonesia’s Kalimantan make up the rest).
  • Some clever cluing:
    • 11a [It might be slung during a race] MUD. Political race, that is. Could also have repeated the clue from 60a [Coffee?], but why dilute the theme?
    • 37a [Wasted word?] HIC!
    • 32d [Change Shape?] EDIT. The capitalized word shows we’re talking about Shape magazine, aimed at the amoeba demographic.
  • Musical crossing of ADELE and DEVO.
  • Downer vibe with the triumvirate of WOE, DOLORS, and DEMONS, the last clued as [Troubled person’s problems].
  • Is 59a REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) well-known enough to be clued generically as [Outdoor store]?
  • 28d [Things __ and do] clues the partial TO SEE. Strikes me as strange without a following phrase “in [location]” or at least ellipsis. However, there seems to be ample evidence via Google for the phrase as a stand-alone. Who knew?
  • Had XERS for GEN-X at 31d [Marketing category after boomers]. And why isn’t “boomers” capitalized?

Fairly smooth fill overall, but the inconsistencies in the implementation of the ambitious theme soured the experience.

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26 Responses to Thursday, 10/13/11

  1. larry says:

    Alas, poor joon! I knew him Horatio.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Well, we know he’s not poor…

  3. john farmer says:

    Joon’s not done yet, with the ToC coming up, and he should have no regrets (except maybe that shout-out for GMW, which may be suddenly a little too popular with certain types). It’s been a ton of fun watching the action lately. A great performance!

    Glad you liked the themers, Amy. The last one I liked enough to think it was worth stretching the grid to 16. In defense of the FLAB clue, I’ll say that some may relish that roll of flesh, yet others do not. I was thinking that would come across in a self-referential way, not as a value judgment of others. As for onion bagels…well, I’m a poppy guy myself.

    Not all puzzle ideas end up as puzzles. This one hung a louie at the Sporcle sign and became a quiz instead. It’s ’20’ Questions. Not for vicenarians only.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    Fireball: “Nothing seemed unfair” – disagree. The cutesy cluing is getting more and more annoying on these. Three unknowns in the theme answers, and the crossing clues are no help. I’m on the fence with continuing in 2012.

  5. Matt says:

    Liked both the NYT and the Fireball… I’d give them both around a 4.0. As usual, the Fireball skirts the edge of the ‘should I look that one up?’ area– not necessary in this case, as it turned out.

  6. Howard B says:

    Fill in the Times floored me. Nice theme.
    Can anybody here explain “Stew container” = AIRPLANE? That was a full minute of puzzling right there. I still can’t parse this one. Thanks, collective crossword community! :)

  7. ArtLvr says:

    STEWard or STEWardess, in a plane once, before “flight attendant” desexed them… Will look forward to more joon in three weeks!

  8. Jeffrey says:

    Neville: The Montreal Expos moved to DC and became the Washington Nationals.

    That should read: The Montreal Expos were cruelly stolen and senselessly relocated to DC where they claim to be the Washington Nationals. Only Youppi! remained behind.

    But I’m completely over it.

  9. HH says:

    “…TRIBUTE PUZZLE….he clues it at 20-across with [Crossword genre that has been beaten to death].”

    With only 13 letters, I knew it couldn’t be CLUE LISTING ALL OTHER THEME CLUES.

  10. John Haber says:

    I remembered from old movies the Three Stooges as Moe, Larry, and Curly. (Didn’t actually like them much.) So puzzled by Shemp, I looked online. If Wikipedia is right, Shemp replaced Curly, not Larry, so the clue is wrong.

    Nice theme. I guess I’m used to IASO, OTT, and ADANO by now from crosswords, but at some point you have to wonder if some people form bands (like ABBA) or title novels with crosswords in mind, figuring it’s the only way they’ll be remembered! (Never actually heard “earworm” outside a puzzle either.) You know, never heard steroids as ROIDS before. I hate to say what the entry makes me think of instead.

  11. Howard B says:

    Thanks much – I never had heard or associated ‘stew’ in that context before, and didn’t make the connection here. Consider those neurons connected now.

    Oh, congrats Joon – it’s been one heck of a run! Looking forward to the ToC!

  12. MD Solver says:

    Continuing the thread about the Tausig:

    The clue for 36-Across, “Letters at the end of a math dissertation, perhaps” could easily have dropped the “perhaps,” making the clue shorter. Why does it need to say “perhaps”?

    AFAREWELLTORAMS could have been about football instead of animals. Would have been, I dunno, a little less “blah” that way.

    Several of the clues were just anemic. Take SPF, clued as “Beach safety meas.” Just felt uninspired to me.

    45-Across could also have just been “What allows some ducks to fly?” That’s a cool 29 characters. The current version is 46 characters. I don’t need to read a darn novel every time I encounter a crossword clue.

    Mediocre puzzle all in all.

    47-Down: when was the last time anyone said ICEMAN? Feels like an entry that should be retired.

    TOPOFTHEMORNING feels like it should be TOPO’THEMORNING.

    QED is one of those words you see too often. Aren’t there any others?

    TOSEE is an unfair partial. “Things ___ and do” was kind of a boring clue.

    I’ve never been to an REI. I guess Google confirms it’s a large company, at least as largely as hundreds of others that appear in puzzles often, but I don’t see why I should accept that as a rationale for its inclusion.

    This one was not really my style, and riddled with errors and clues and content that didn’t show much effort. I got a lot of satisfaction from nitpicking it, from but solving it … not so much.

    And indeed, tops are really more turned than twisted. Speaking of which, why are twist-top beers usually the worst-tasting ones?

  13. Bev Morton says:

    No CS at the island?


  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It’s there now, Bev. Sorry, and thanks for the reminder!

  15. Bruce G. says:

    I do the puzzle late in the day, on paper no less. This one gave me a chuckle or two but also groans as I thought it was going to be bad puns. Like the pagans answer next door to Glinda; interesting touch.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @MD Solver: I don’t understand why you persist in solving a puzzle you don’t like, week after week.

  17. john farmer says:

    John Haber: The answer was a play on Howards, not Three Stooges. Moe, Shemp, and Curly were all Howards. Larry was a Fine, and he would not be fine as a clue for Howards.

  18. Howard B says:

    @MD: Your concerns are valid, but as said, adding little barbs like “riddled with errors and clues and content that didn’t show much effort” assumes the attitude of the constructor, adding commentary that’s probably unnecessary and diminishes your own points.

  19. Tom Grubb says:

    Let’s just say that I did not enjoy doing this puzzle, mostly because of the misworded clues. For example: 54A: Skin: Suffix (answer, DERMA). DERMA is also the root of many words referring to “skin” as in DERMAtology, DERMAtitis, etc. Why not clue this as “Skin: Root or Suffix”? Also, 62A: Film about earworms? (answer: Singin in the Brain). Earworms??? Why not “Film about tintinnitus” or even “ringing in the ears”?

    Re: 11D (“unifying theme”, answer MOTIF), anyone versed in music will object to defining a “motif” as a “theme” because a “motif” is usually a fragment or the germ of the eventual, so-called “theme” which is an actual musical phrase or sentence. As usual, musical answers in Xwords receive misleading and uneducated clues. I fail to see why the NRA is “heat org.” and wonder if any woman would call the “top” of a two-piece swimsuit a “bra”? And finally, none of the movies whose titles are corrupted by the initial, added B are “B-Movies”. To the contrary, they were all first class and in the A-category. And I agree with the blogger above who objected to the clue “stew container” for the answer AIRPLANE. What????

    Just a word to Mr. Farmer: Please respect us crossworders. We read our clues very closely and expect that they be perfectly worded and responsibly defining of the answer.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Tom Grubb:

    1. Scleroderma is perhaps the best-known word in which -derma is a suffix. It’s a Thursday puzzle, not Tuesday, so why go with “root or suffix”? It gives away the store.

    2. “Ringing IN THE ears” duplicates two words in the theme entry. And c’mon, earworm is a great word! It’s on the newer side, yes, but it so perfectly captures what it’s like when an unwanted song is stuck in your head. (Think about “Copacabana,” hear the melodies and the disco beat, and try to forget it it. Like a persistent worm, isn’t it?) (P.S., it’s tinnitus, not tintinnitus. You may be thinking of tintinnabulation.)

    3. The clue doesn’t mention music at all, and motif has multiple non-musical definitions.

    4. “Packing heat” = carrying a gun, so “heat” connotes the National Rifle Association.

    5. You may have a point about BRA. Not sure I’ve seen a bikini top called a BRA anywhere but crosswords.

    6. John Farmer knows that the original titles aren’t B-movies. “B-MOVIES” is a play on words, because the theme entries aren’t real movie titles–they’re titles with a B added.

  21. T Campbell says:

    Clues that aren’t written the way you would write them are not the same as clues that are “misworded.” If DERMA is a suffix (it is: and MOTIF is a unifying theme in literature (it is:, for example, then they are worded correctly. Whether these words are also other things is beside the point. I’m not going to go through all your examples, but they all worked for me.

    I’m with Howard, and I’m addressing both MD and Tom here: a puzzle you do not like should not be assumed to be the product of laziness or disrespect. By all means, criticize away, but leave the constructors’ professional ethics out of it.

  22. MD Solver says:

    @Amy: Commenting on the Ink Well puzzles, even though I suppose it’s clear that I only occasionally like them, and that they aren’t especially made for me, is something I see as a critical duty in the service of the puzzle community. I ask this as an honest question: Is that so unreasonable, to be a critic of a constructor whose work doesn’t suit one’s taste?

    @Campbell and Howard: I acknowledge your point, and am making an effort to choose my wording in a way that balances sharp critique with fairness. But effort, based on my observations of the discourse on this blog, does seem to be fair game for value judgments. I don’t believe I am making this up.

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    So, what’s the purpose of being a critic of a constructor whose style you don’t like? Is it to get him to change his style to one better suited to your preferences? (Because the indie weeklies that buy his syndicated puzzle seem to be fine with it, as their readership tends to be younger.) Is it to get the publishing venues to drop Ink Well in favor of a different puzzle? (Then you should be writing to the papers themselves, and good luck convincing them that a person in another city really cares what crossword they’re running.) Is it just to express yourself? (I have no interest in gory movies; they’re made for an audience that doesn’t include me. I don’t go to film blogs to rail against the shortcomings of movies that are appreciated by a different audience.) There are worse puzzles out there, to be sure, but you seem dedicated to piling on Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzles. If I blogged the USA Today puzzles, would you be doing those puzzles every day and criticizing them?

  24. MD Solver says:

    I suppose those are good questions.

  25. klewge says:

    Just wanted to thank pannonica for posting that Lambert, Hendricks and Ross album cover. Jon just celebrated his 90th birthday last month at Lincoln Center and Annie has a regular Tuesday night gig at the Metropolitan Room. Dave of course is no longer with us. Now I can’t get “Twisted” out of my head.

  26. pannonica says:

    You’re welcome, klewge! Didn’t realize H was still alive!

    If you click on the image, you’ll see a neat little typographical video, which may or may not owe something to Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry—I have a feeling the editing style is a natural visual interpretation.

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