Thursday, 10/20/11

Fireball 12:04 
NYT 5:40 
LAT 5:39 (Neville) 
CS 7:42 (Sam) 
BEQ 7:12 (Matt) 
Tausig 6:26 (pannonnica) 

Rerun announcement from yesterday: A little advance heads-up from the Times gang: The Friday episode of Patrick Berry’s New York Times Crossword Contest Weekstravaganza will be an unusual one in that it’ll only be available in the newspaper and as a .pdf to print out. No applet, no Across Lite, no smartphone/iPad version. Plan ahead if you’re not usually a newspaper/.pdf person or don’t have a printer. (Man, it would be great if someone could figure out how to port the puzzle to .jpz.)

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword: contest day 4

NYT crossword solution, 10 20 11 1020

Well, the applet doesn’t like my solution, but I have all the right answers. I went with GRAY in the BLACK/WHITE rebus squares, but what I see at XWord Info is yin-yang symbols. You know what? There’s no yin-yang symbol on my keyboard. How did you fill in those squares on your computer or on your paper copy? And what do the electronic forms of the puzzle accept—a B? a W? both?

I always like a two-way rebus, and this is a good execution of the concept. Eight BLACK/WHITE reversible squares in symmetrical locations. WHITENER meets BLACK BART. LAMPBLACK meets January WHITE SALES. BLACKADDER meets WHITEWASH. BLACK AND WHITE meets both WHITE MATTER (I wanted GRAY MATTER) and BACK IN BLACK, with a nice double-double rebus action in the middle of the grid. LILY WHITE crosses KAREN BLACK. JACK BLACK and an EGG WHITE and VANNA WHITE and BLACK ANTS round out the rebus theme.

This puzzle’s got a lot more theme action going on, and rebus themes tend to rein in the more freewheeling fill in the rest of the grid. The fill here actually felt smoother to me than some of the stuff in the Monday to Wednesday puzzles (maybe the high word count—78 is unusual for a Thursday puzzle—helped here). So I’m not sure at all what to look at in this puzzle in terms of this weekend’s meta answer.

4.5 stars.

Patrick Berry’s Fireball crossword, “Common Sort”

Fireball 2(36) answers: hot!

I won’t hassle Evad about changing the coding for the star-rating system, but I’d like the record to show that I’m giving this crossword six stars out of five. I love this sort of bend-your-mind-a-new-way puzzle! The Down answers are normal, but the Across answers—every last one of ’em—are ORDERED FROM A TO Z, i.e., the letters are sorted into alphabetical order. I won’t list all the sorted-into-proper-spelling answer words, as Peter does that in the answer .pdf.

The puzzle started hinting at the gimmick right away with the obvious AHAB/BALSA cross that wouldn’t work, and was further poked at by ELISE/LUAU. The times when a letter happened to fall in the same spot both orthographically and alphabetically tried valiantly to veil the gimmick but eventually I just started filling in Downs and the jig was up.

Plus! There’s an anagram theme, as each of the four longest Across answers has a pair of clues and two answers. I didn’t figure out 18a: CERTIFIED, just RECTIFIED. Got 35a: GET BEHIND and may or may not have thought about BENIGHTED. Got 42a: AS I RECALL/CLEARASIL easily. And AILNORSTU at 59a looked like a familiar batch of letters (a common Scrabble rack, plus 2?) but I didn’t spend enough time to figure out either of its answers. Sort of like a vowelless crossword, you can end up with answers you don’t understand here, but if the crossings are solid, you go with it.

Now, the fill and clues here didn’t really need to do as much work as usual, as the twisty letter-sorting gimmick kept me busy and smartly entertained. I imagine it’s hard to construct a puzzle like this, but I’d love to see more variations on the theme. I like that getting a few letters from Down answers doesn’t make the Across answer too obvious, because you aren’t sure what order the letters would be in if unalphabetized. More, please!

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 10 20 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 10 20 11

A 70-word puzzle on a Thursday – that’s something you don’t see every week. I just see three theme entries that begin with homonyms:

  • 16a. [Sniveled, “But I don’t wanna!”] – WHINED IN PROTEST. Seems sort of in the language.
  • 29a. [Treated like royalty] – WINED AND DINED. Great entry.
  • 47a. [Take care of every last detail] – WIND UP LOOSE ENDS. I’ve heard of tying up loose ends, but not so much winding them up.

I hate to be the guy saying, “That’s it?” but it seems a little lacking for a Thursday theme. This looks like a Monday theme stuck into a Saturday LA Times grid , but with a baby step down in fill quality. Let’s focus on the fill:

  • 7d. [Flooring joint] – TONGUE AND GROOVE. Seems like a good name for a nightclub, too. Hey, wouldn’t you know it? There’s a Tongue and Groove ‘joint’ in Atlanta! I had thought at first that this entry would be another theme entry, but it’s not. Not bad fill, but carpentry isn’t my bag exactly.
  • 1a. [Composes, as a telegram] – TAPS OUT. I honestly can’t believe that a wrestling clue wasn’t used here. Remember when telegrams were relevant? That’s right – the 1985 movie Clue. People still watch wrestling on TV – maybe not as much as in the 90s, but they still do.
  • 14a. [Warranty contract fig.] – SERIAL NO. – if you have a bike, make sure that you’ve got the serial number written down in case it gets stolen – I speak from recent experience!
  • 46a. [Beatles nonsense syllables] – OB-LA-DI. Those who play Matt Gaffney’s contest crossword probably nailed this one toot sweet.
  • 53a. [He voiced curmudgeonly Carl in “Up”] – ED ASNER. He gets this clue a lot now. Gone are the days of Lou Grant clues.
  • 33d. [Storage for jewel cases] – CD TOWER. Just one letter off of CN Tower.
  • 11d. [Stare at the ceiling, maybe] – not DAYDREAM but LIE AWAKE. That’s… a bit creepy. Have the decency to close your eyes, insomniac!

I feel that this puzzle was lacking ? clues – where’d they go? Like I said, this played more like a more basic themeless for me. Did this strike you as a late-week puzzle?

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “City Pairs” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, October 20

Take two words that can follow the name of the same United States city, then connect those two words with the helpful conjunction, AND.  Repeat three more times and, voila, you have the theme for today’s crossword:

  • 17-Across: The [Boston pair] is TERRIER AND GLOBE. The Boston Terrier, of course, is a dog breed.  Wikipedia says that, like many Bostonians, Boston Terriers are “small and compact with a short tail and erect ears. They are intelligent and friendly and can be stubborn at times.”  The Boston Globe is the newspaper best known as the home to a Sunday crossword constructed in alternate weeks by Henry Hook and the team of Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon.  The Globe may contain other things, too.
  • 27-Across: The [Buffalo pair] is NICKEL AND BILL.  Too bad there’s not a “buffalo dime” (there’s not, is there?), because NICKEL AND DIME would have been a neat theme entry. Buffalo nickels are collectibles minted from 1913 to 1938. “Buffalo Bill” can be a reference to William Frederick Cody (known as “Buffalo Bill”) or to a professional football player who plays for the Buffalo Bills.  Because another football team appears later in the puzzle (and in plural form), I think the intended reference was to Mr. Cody.
  • 44-Across: The [Denver pair] is BOOT AND OMELET. That darn BOOT was the BANE ([Cause of misery]) of my solving experience.  By my computations, 24.67% of my solving time was devoted to figuring out the first and last letters in BOOT.  The crossings obviously didn’t work for me–the B comes from the [“University Challenge” airer, informally, with “the”], which here is the BEEB.  I’m guessing that’s short for The BBC.  I haven’t seen or heard of “University Challenge,” but I kept wanting The BEER. Perhaps I brought too much of my own college experience to the table here.  The T in BOOT was the end of SIGNET, clued here as the [Seal on a ring].  For some reason, I kept reading “seal” as a verb and not as a noun. But who am I kidding–even if I had read it correctly I probably still would have entered random letters waiting for the “Congratulations” message to pop up.  When it finally did, my only thoughts were, “Whew, glad that’s over” and “What in blazes is a Denver boot?  Turns out it’s another name for what I know simply as a “boot,” a wheel clamp used in lieu of towing an illegally parked car. Wikipedia says they’re called Denver boots because the Mile-High City was “the first in the country to employ them, mostly to force the payment of outstanding parking tickets.”  Now a Denver omelet, on the other hand, is a breakfast or brunch entree I know all too well.
  • 58-Across: The [Miami pair] could have been LeBron and D-Wade, or even Crockett and Tubbs.  The latter pair is somewhat close, as the answer here is DOLPHINS AND VICE.  The Miami Dolphins are the (allegedly) professional football team based in South Florida, and Miami Vice was the television home to Messrs. Crockett and Tubbs.

Highlights in the fill include TURNING PRO, the O.J. Simpson murder trial judge LANCE ITO (nice to see his full name for a change!), Little BO PEEP, and GOOBER. I used to play the OBOE but didn’t know it was a [Tuning note instrument].  Wikipedia says that “Orchestras frequently tune to a concert A played by the oboe. According to the League of American Orchestras, this is done because the pitch of the oboe is secure and its penetrating sound makes it ideal for tuning purposes.” Secure and penetrating. Just like the people who play it (or used to, anyway).

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Rebel, Rebel”

BEQ 377 solution

This is a complete crossword: nicely executed and humorous theme, wide-open grid crammed with engaging fill, and clever clues the constructor put evident effort into.

Brendan has inserted rebel CHE Guevara into his five theme entries, with results that range from :) to LOL. They are:

  • 16a. [Result of the old sawing a lady in half routine?] is CHEST ELSEWHERE.
  • 20a. [Eggy bun served to an inmate?] is CON BRIOCHE.
  • 34a. [um…don’t make me type this one out…] clues GO ON A TEACHER.
  • 46a. [Kid who carries your briefcase?] is an ATTACHE BOY.
  • 53a. [The kids who grew up on cereal?] are collectively known as GENERATION CHEX.

Six observations:

  1. Took me 7:12.  No way Amy can touch that. (5:08.—Amy)
  2. 19a is an outstanding clue.  So is 23d.
  3. The grid is 14×15, which I again failed to notice until well after I’d solved. It’s hard for me to keep getting upset at non-square grids when I can’t even identify them.
  4. The fill in this puzzle is outstanding: ENDED UPIN A SEC and SAY NO TO are the first three acrosses. Other standouts: JIMMIENICE ONE, I DO NOT and GROK.
  5. I didn’t put ESNE at 30a. Did you?
  6. 33d: My cats wouldn’t even bother crying over it. They’d just get started with the lapping-up process right away.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a CHEery Thursday, everyone!

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

Tausig Ink Well crossword 10/21/11 solution

This 16×15 puzzle’s theme is explained by 5-across and 65-across, each theme answer contains THREE | PAIRS of letters.

  • 18a. [Presidential limo windshield material] BULLETPROOF GLASS. Bang, bang, bang; LL, OO, SS!
  • 36a. [Black magic object] VOODOO DOLL. Stick, stick, stick. Considering this is a Tausig puzzle, I should say prick, prick, prick. See also 42-down.
  • 41a. [Is a little embarrassed] FEELS SILLY. Erm, ha-ha-ha…? (Incidentally, “a little embarrassed” itself also contains three pairs.)
  • 56a. [Anticapitalist movement since September 2011] OCCUPY WALL STREET. Sit, sit, sit. The seed entry?
  • 3d. [Portrayer of Deangelo Vickers on “The Office”] WILL FERRELL. <silence>, <silence>, <silence>.
  • 26d. [Clerks, e.g.] BOOKKEEPERS. Sum, sum, sum. Famously has three consecutive paired letters, which has begotten subbookkeeper.

Six substantial themers, not including the revealer(s), is quite a lot to fit into a roughly daily-size grid, and the surrounding fill is admirably not particularly worse for it. Smooth and varied, with an acceptable amount of scowl inducers (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials).

Notes, good and bad:

  • Fun start, with toothy and fearsome JAWS launching across, gloopy and fearsome JABBA heading down.
  • 17a [Good to go] is A-OKAY, which I would more readily write as A-OK. “Okay” and “OK” have subtly different senses and applications, in my mind. Don’t know how many other people feel this way, or care. 40-across, OKIE, echoes this fill.
  • 21a. [Fast food helps expand it] is not SPRAWL but BELTLINE, which strikes me as off. “Waistline” feels more common and better-sounding. It’s difficult to do a direct Google search comparison because all of the top returns for BELTLINE refer to Atlanta’s metropolitan transportation system (and those of some other locales) of that name.
  • Composer action! HOLST (clued with his birth name, Gustavo, rather than the more familiar Gustav) and Franz LISZT, whose birthday bicentenary—as ArtLvr mentioned yesterday—is being celebrated in just a few days, 22 October 2011. Also, Franz Schubert’s crosswordesy “The ERL King” (at 44-across).
  • Sexy action! 45a [Bedroom item for children … or adults] TEDDY crossing 42d STRAP-ON [Role-reversing device, potentially], which is symmetrically paired with the possibly phallic [Western cactus] SAGUARO.
  • Playing to the Chicago Reader’s demographic, OLLIE is clued as a [Basic skateboarding  trick] rather than, say, Stan’s partner in comedy or former marine-cum-political commentator North.
  • It isn’t much of a repetition, but the overlap of  13d [“That __ easy”], WAS, and 39d [Words in the chorus of the Jackson 5’s “ABC”], AS EASY, didn’t sit so well with me.

Finally, let’s close this write-up with the incantation in Row 14: DIPSO | ADIEU | IRAE… dipso, adieu, irae… dipso, adieu, irae…

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33 Responses to Thursday, 10/20/11

  1. ktd says:

    The applet will accept BW or WB in the rebus squares. Terrific concept!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    My take before, on a two-way NYT rebus, was that you got a Happy Pencil if you entered the first three letters of the across answer –but not this time! BW or WB? Too random! It would have been more enjoyable if the afore-mentioned convention had been followed…

  3. Jim Paget says:

    The .puz file, used by Across Lite and the iPhone Crosswords app, expects “BW” in the rebus squares. I had to examine the .puz file in a hex editor to determine this.

    If I were solving on paper and pencil, I’d divide each rebus square diagonally and write “BLACK” in one half and “WHITE” in the other, so that each across and down clue is correct if you stop at the diagonal line. For instance, consider the square where “KAREN BLACK” (across) meets “LILY WHITE” (down). I’d draw a diagonal from the NW to the SE corner, and put “BLACK” in the SW half and “WHITE” in the NE half of the square. Unfortunately the digital formats do not permit one to do this.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Good gravy, you can fit 10 letters into a single crossword square? You must have tiny printing, @Jim Paget!

  5. I decided to write in the rebus corresponding with the across word, and I just remembered that the down words used the opposite (so I wrote in BLACK in all of them except for the ones in the top and bottom rows and the one on the right-hand side of blackandWHITE).

  6. Mmmm…gravy. I gave up trying to put any rebus letters in there. Got the rebus from the LILYWHITE/KARENBLACK square. Good puzzle, and I think I have an idea where PB’s goin with this contest.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    I just put a little scribble in the rebus squares and it was accepted. Paper is very forgiving. 3 great puzzles today.

  8. joon says:

    i put a diagonal line and filled in half the square (the one that corresponded to BLACK). that seems to have worked; as jeffrey says, paper is very forgiving.

    the FB was a real workout. loved it!

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    I put all Bs in the squares, then all Ws. Then I put BANDW in the center and said “aw, screw it.”

    12:12 :-)

  10. Dan F says:

    Maybe because it’s late and I’m cranky, but neither PB puzzle wowed me. The NYT was clearly going to be a rebus based on the grid, and it’s one that’s been done before (though not as smoothly). And I liked the extra challenge in the FB, but what’s the point? Four pairs of nine-letter anagrams? I’m definitely cranky that it took me 2.5 minutes to notice the revealer down the middle, but that’s on me!

  11. Gareth says:

    Today’s LAT played out quite nicely for an easy themeless! Only struggled a bit where TONGUE/WHINEDIN in met: tried TOgGlE/WHINEing… Not a big fan of the idea of DECLAWing CATs myself… 9D is wrong: that’s his twin brother antEROS, though you’re forgiven if you can’t tell the difference… WERELIVE/CDTOWER/WETKISS/PILEIN were favourite entries!

    Feel embarassed I thought that the entries in today’s NYT were EITHER black or white, despite the central entry. Convinced myself of BLACKSALES, BLACKWASH, WHITEBART, JACKWHITE,KARENWHITE and WHITEANTS. Light only dawned when read the blog. Feel free to mock liberally. (Ignore 5:13 – that’s the LAT.)

  12. Pauer says:

    I went with G for Gray, then I circled it.

    FB was flat-out brilliant, I thought.

    I’m going to go through Berry withdrawal next week!

  13. Karen says:

    For the NYT I started with BLAC rebused into all the squares. When that wasn’t accepted, I changed them all to W and that worked. Rowan Atkinson’s BLACK ADDER was the light bulb for me.

    That Fireball was insane! I think I went through about 3/4 of the across clues, not matching hardly any crossings, before I finally twigged onto the gimmick. I only got one of the anagrams, at 59a. I agree with Amy that it was a lot of fun.

  14. Howard B says:

    In the Times applet, either B or W was accepted; I had a random mix of Bs and Ws in the rebus squares, and it was accepted.

    I’m torn on the Fireball. I loved the theme, and can’t even imagine how they pulled it off. So 6 stars on that. But I was only able to decipher 1.5 of the theme answers after solving (1/2 credit for ‘Soul Train’, but not its anagram). So the theme answers were really lost on me. I’m not a very strong long-word anagrammer (>7 letters), and the clues just didn’t help there. So the major point of the puzzle was just cranking out Down answers and hoping for the best. The”a-ha” moment of finding the theme was great – solving the thing was really a chore.
    So very polarizing. I don’t know what to rate it. 6 stars, with the 6th an asterisk?

  15. Jeff Chen says:

    I’ve been trying to make “starter themelesses” (doesn’t the word “themelesses” look odd?), to give reluctant solvers an easy entry into doing themelesseseses. My goal was to get to a Monday/Tuesday level of difficulty, but I didn’t quite get there.

    If you have any ideas, please let me know! It took me a while to break into themeleseeessseseses, so thought it would be great to give solvers a path into them.


  16. Todd G says:

    I’m guessing one of the AILNORSTU anagrams is SOUL TRAIN … a show you can be forgiven for not knowing.

    Given your request for more puzzles like Berry’s Fireball, I thought of a similarly twisted theme and am trying to fill the grid now. Wish me luck.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bite your tongue, @Todd! “Soul Train” is awesome and Don Cornelius is a legend. I just didn’t spend time working out the anagrams there.

  18. Ray says:

    I put the letter B in all but the W AND B entry at 36 across and it took it.

  19. David L says:

    Well, I put BW in some places and WB in others (depending on whether the WHITE part was down or across) and it DIDN’T accept my solution. So I beat the machine, right?

  20. Angela Osborne says:

    I thought I had it all figured out with “white sales” and “Lily white”and “Eggs whites” but got stumped with “Karen Black”. Although I filled in most squares and left the questionable ones blank, I eventually gave up. Never, ever thought of “Gray”. Shame on me!

  21. DBL says:

    RE: NYT

    Does “NER” strike anyone else as bogus? The others are all compound words. This one is a partial that makes a word when WHITE is put in front of it.

  22. Victor Barocas says:

    I do everything on paper and wrote “B/W” in the rebus boxes.

    I have a themeless that got rejected for being boring but might serve Jeff’s interests well if one made the clues accessible. I can be reached at if he wants to give it a shot.

    – VB

  23. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’ve been editing some Harvey Estes themelesses that are clued to the novice level (perhaps more Tuesday/Wednesday level) without being boring or lifeless. The CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge” puzzles sometimes land at no harder than Wednesdayish, too. It can be done with attention to smooth, accessible fill.

  24. backbiter says:

    This is where Angela becomes priceless! I’m imagining the write up. What a shit puzzle today’s LAT was.I actually thought it was a 70 word 30 square Saturday puzzle published by mistake in my newspaper. It wasn’t until 29 across I realized it was themed. 14 A: Warranty Contract Fig. Answer: Serial No. Really? Really? I love your puzzles Jeff, but not this one.

  25. joon says:

    backbiter, maybe you should be called tonguebiter. “shit puzzle”? seriously? that is not cool. neither angela nor any other respectable blogger would ever stoop to that level of discourse. “i didn’t care for this one” is how civilized adults discuss such things. and what is wrong with SERIAL NO., exactly? it’s far from the worst entry you’ll see in a crossword today.

  26. MD Solver says:

    For the record, I enjoyed this week’s Tausig.

  27. Stevehaze says:

    edited out by moderator. no speculation about the metapuzzle in the comments, please!

  28. backbiter says:

    Joon is right. I did misbehave this morning. I apologize if I offended anyone. Sometimes I don’t think before typing. BTW, Joon! Nice run on Jeopardy! What I’d really be interested in is the small stuff. Do you think the clickers are rigged at different speeds? etc. etc.

  29. larry says:

    I came upon the same solution as joon to the two-way rebus problem, since I solved the pzl on paper.

  30. Tuning Spork says:

    Ray Says:

    I put the letter B in all but the W AND B entry at 36 across and it took it.

    Hmm. Well, then, either the applet was updated to accept a wider variety of solutions or, more likely, I had a typo somewhere that I wasn’t aware of. Oh well. I solved it in 12:12 and nobody can prove I didn’t. :-P

  31. Tuning Spork says:


    You’ve overlooked a grave, puzzle-killing, fabric-of-the-universe-tearing error in the Tausig puzzle.

    The clue for 39-Down reads [Words in the chorus of the Jackson 5’s “ABC”]. I confidently typed in EASYAS only to discover, later, that the puzzle wants ASEASY.
    No, no, no! Michael never once sings “as easy” in any of the choruses. At first he sings, simply, “easy as”, and later he sings “it’s easy as”.


    In the name of all that is holy, and some things devilish, we must exhaustively research all “facts”, no matter how certain we think we are about them. How on Earth could Ben Tausig have allowed himself to be so, so, so heartbreakingly wrong? **shakes head in doleful disbelief**

  32. pannonica says:

    Tuning Spork: I avoid The Jackson 5 as much as is humanly possible. Easy as that.

  33. Jeff Chen says:

    No worries, backbiter, we all get cranky every once in a while. But thanks for coming to my defense Joon! Appreciate it.

Comments are closed.