Thursday, 11/3/11

Fireball 5:47 
NYT 3:27 
LAT 8:24 (Neville) 
CS 5:45 (Sam) 
BEQ 3:53 (Amy) 

Parker Lewis’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 3 11 1103

My Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday NYT solving times all fall within a narrow range. Did anyone else have Wednesdayish times for the two puzzles that are supposed to be easier supposedly easier Tuesday and tougher Thursday puzzles? No? Just me?

Parker Lewis’s theme interprets “X in a Y” phrases literally by putting the word for the thing that’s in another thing inside the word/phrase for that other thing. (That is a crystal-clear explanation, right?) So “needle in a haystack” nicely splits the second compound word as HAY NEEDLE STACK. There’s also a “kid in a candy store,” rendered as CANDY KID STORE. CHINA BULL SHOP and HAND HELL BASKET round out the theme, which is based on four incredibly familiar yet lively sayings. I don’t care that handbasket and haystack are single words while china shop and candy store are two words. The theme felt completely consistent and fresh while solving.

I could do without APERS (that’s on my Scowl-o-Meter list) but at least it’s got a new (if a little weird) clue: [Chimpersonators?].  The rest of the fill is fine, with bright spots like LONGNECK beer bottles and BEST BUDS.

Let’s do a survey among those of you who are crossword constructors and professors: Do any of your colleagues also make crosswords? I know one school in this puzzle has at least two constructors on faculty: 18a: [California’s Santa __ University]/CLARA. The Santa Clara math department boasts both Byron Walden (now the proud dad of a baby boy) and Jeremy Horwitz.

Four stars for the puzzle.

Peter Gordon and Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “No-Lose Situation”

Fireball 2(38) solution

We had Patrick Berry’s crossword riff on hangman in the Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle last weekend, and now there’s Peter and Frank’s offering. This one teaches us that when playing HANGMAN, you’d be a fool to make the answer word be the Twain story title, THE CELEBRATED / JUMPING FROG OF / CALAVERAS COUNTY. I gather that there are not enough unused letters in the title for the guesser to make enough wrong guesses to be hung before getting the last correct letter. If you start with the gallows in place, KQWXZ would get you to draw the head, body, and three limbs, but every other letter would be a hit.

My question about this puzzle—in a 15×16 grid with left/right symmetry—is “Who the hell plays hangman with a seven-word phrase to be guessed?” Maybe Peter only plays hangman with phrases, I don’t know.

Highlights in the fill: The OLD NORSE language/FORT HOOD/PAYLESS Shoes stack. The [Thanks for Tom Hanks, maybe?] clue for USERID. The other language clue, [No language], for JAPANESE, spoken in no/noh drama. The random pope + Roman numeral SIXTUS I, who makes me want to create a new variation on the Watusi, called the Sixtusi.

3.5 stars. It’s excellent from a fill-and-clues standpoint, but I feel the need to dock it for the bizarreness of the seven-word hangman answer.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 11 3 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 11 3 11

There’s there’s a a lot lot of of double double talk talk going going on on in in this this puzzle puzzle:

  • 17a. [Much-feared economic situation] – DIP DIP RECESSION
  • 24a. [Sightseer’s option] – DECKER DECKER BUS
  • 42a. [It both aids and hinders] – EDGED EDGED SWORD
  • 56a. [Optimal design for clinical trials] – BLIND BLIND STUDY

In actuality, each of these is a double-something, like a double-decker bus. I think this is rather clever, especially for a puzzle in the LA Times, where there are some extra restrictions on tomfoolery as compared to other publications.

A HOECAKE is what some Southerners call a johnny cake – a cornbread variant, in case your still trying to figure that out. I wanted this to be a hotcake, making it really difficult to grab onto the theme quickly. And while AOL does have an ONLINE AD or twenty, I don’t like the clue. AOL is a service, a computer program or a website. Sometimes it has ads – depending on the flavor of AOL you’re talking about. but the OL of AOL is Online, so this smells fishy.

Favorite clue: 51a. [Cold ones] – BREWSKIS. It’s so obvious looking at it afterwards, but it was tacky and cute before I solved it. But between ALDO, APPL. and REDI, I was not a fan of the NW corner. I’m surprised that I’m not the only one who remembers that terrible MSNBC weekend show that Connie CHUNG hosted with hubby Maury Povich or her not-as-bad CNN show.

I liked it mostly – 4.2 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Isn’t That Special” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword Solution, November 3

Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that can follow “special” to form a familiar two-word noun:

  • 17-Across: The [Judge’s command], usually barked while pounding a gavel, is ORDER IN THE COURT. A “special order” is one made by a viewer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
  • 25-Across: It’s nice to see the refreshing clue [Pizza provider, perhaps] for DELIVERY BOY instead of the usual [Male role in an adult film]. (You can send your hate mail by “special delivery.”)
  • 43-Across: The [Toxic defoliant used in the Vietnam War] was AGENT ORANGE, and there was likely more than one “special agent” involved too.
  • 54-Across: A [Background performer, often] is a SESSION MUSICIAN. One performing during a “special session” of Congress might have to be prepared for a long set.

SESSION MUSICIAN strikes me as a little less “in the language” (and a little less interesting) than the other three theme entries. But the others hold up well. FLEW SOLO and BRA SIZE were distinctive answers, and I liked the homage to the What’s My Line? panelist, Bennett CERF. C CLEF was an unusual answer for 1-Across, but I loved the crossing at 1-Down. [Corporal punishment?] was a nice clue for CHOW.

A solid puzzle? Absolutely. But special? Ehh….

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Around the Horn”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 381 answers

Brendan riffs on the ESPN show (or the baseball term) “around the horn” in today’s crossword. He finds five words/phrases bookended by HORN:

  • 19a. [Germany’s last noble family] is HOHENZOLLERN. Visited their awesome castle in ’92, still have the brochure!
  • 27a. [White as a sheet, perhaps] is HORROR-STRICKEN.
  • 34a. [Trafalgar Square figure] is HORATIO NELSON.
  • 42a. [Going-nowhere state] is a HOLDING PATTERN.
  • 52a. [Penetrating film genre] is HARDCORE PORN. I am unfamiliar with this term, as are you.

Six observations:

  1. Five theme entries, but 50 black squares. Life is full of trade-offs, and that’s what you get when your theme lengths are 12-14-13-14-12.
  2. I was all ready to tell BEQ he’d made a mistake at 51-Across, since MAYO is Spanish for the month of May. But then I realized that the language here is Portuguese.
  4. 61-Across clue: Awwwwwww!
  5. If you’re in 54-Down (OSLO), you’re also in 44-Down (NORand 21-Down (EUR)! No wonder he linked them.
  6. 10-Down is a nice clue, too.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and be sure to listen to Brendan on HOWARD STERN today, everyone! (Just kidding; at 11 letters, it’s impossible to squeeze him into this grid).

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16 Responses to Thursday, 11/3/11

  1. Neville says:

    Dear Leader just informed me that a similar (oh, who am I kidding – nearly identical) puzzle to the LAT puzzle was a 2009 ACPT puzzle, which is before my time as a “competitive” solver. New to me – maybe not new to you! Hunch: Most LAT solvers weren’t at the 2009 ACPT ;)

  2. Dan F says:

    Yeah, I had major deja vu with the LAT theme! No harm though, there were two new themers and plenty of wacky fill to keep it interesting.

    I thought for a few seconds that the Fireball theme was going to be THE CELEBRITY GAME FOR IPHONE NOW AVAILABLE FROM FIREBALL INDUSTRIES.

  3. joon says:

    i’m not a professor, exactly, but i do teach at a university, and … er … there is somebody else who constructs crosswords there. jascha smilack is, i think, a grad student…? no, apparently he graduated last year. well, just me then. oh! milo beckman is now a freshman, i hear. i haven’t met him (yet).

  4. Parker Lewis says:

    Hi again Crossworld,

    It’s great to be back again so soon after my debut in August! In elementary school, I was first introduced to Wacky Wordies and I’ve always been partial to that kind of visual wordplay. This puzzle began with the phrase ‘right between the eyes’ which I imagined as EYERIGHTEYE. After a lot of brainstorming, I came up with these four theme answers. I originally tried to used an A at the start of each entry (ANEEDLEHAYSTACK) but I think it works far better without. After placing my theme answers, I tried to find some interesting entries for the four 8-letter downs. I like BESTBUDS and LONGNECK (which I associate with the Land Before Time series) but I admit ASCENDED is pretty weak. I really wanted to change it to FRIENDED (a la Facebook) or to SHREDDED but filling that top middle section was very tough. I first had SPLATTER in the top right, clued as ‘What blood might do in horror movies’ which I guess was a little too graphic. Will asked for a rewrite due to some blah fill in a few corners. I resubmitted with several different options and this is the result! He suggested NOMATTER but I chose to go with SQUATTER even though it necessitated the ugly QEII.

    Looks like Will changed about 20 clues outright and slightly altered 15 or so more. A few clues I wish he kept were:
    Portmanteau pollutive for 10A
    Extra life, in video games and some pinball machines for 28D (Mario’s green mushroom!)
    Giggs of Manchester United fame for 29D
    Appropriate nickname for certain dinosaurs for 36D

    I do however like the new clues for 10A and 46A. 31D is new too but it doesn’t quite work for me, although Jobs does deserve the accolades.

    My favorite clues that were left unchanged are:
    First part of an IP address? for 3D – a bit unwieldy but I was playing off the phrase ‘very important person’
    Apt name for a crime boss for 23A
    They may ring or have rings for 30D
    Chimpersonators? for 66A – gotta spice up that trite entry somehow right?

    Glad I was able to work in JEM (what a great book), KNEX (I still have three huge boxes in my closet), and KENYA (I spent a semester there and became fairly fluent in Swahili which is how I originally clued it).

    Thanks for the comments and also to Neville F., ACME, and Finn V. for test solving! Hope to be back again in the future!

  5. Gareth says:

    4 X Great phrases, plus a theme that, though not hard to suss out, was exceedingly elegant = Win!!! Plus ASCENDED crossing the clue “One who’s enraptured, literally” is awesome! [I see our constructor wasn’t happy with it, irony.] Plus a new clue for ANTE – I didn’t think it was possible!!

  6. Gareth says:

    P.S. I’m all in favour of more modern references, but…
    Can we take a break from Harry Potter for a bit! Maybe some, I dunno, Pokemon?

  7. MD Solver says:

    Enjoyed the Fireball this week, but didn’t love it. Would have been a stronger revelation if either the phrase were shorter or if it was pangrammatic. As it was, I had to run through and think about every letter that was missing and then confirm that it wasn’t enough to hang the man. The clue for HUG was also a little awkward. Agree, however, that the fill and cluing overall were challenging and fun, as usual.

    I didn’t receive the Ink Well this week in my email. Is it on hiatus? Or is my spam filter acting up again?

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Just as well A was omitted from HAY NEEDLE STACK, etc. – cleaner that way! I also liked the double-whatevers in the LAT… Fireball I tried too late in the wee hours and got all but the correct name of the COUNTY: that was my HANG-up. Hugs anyway! USER ID was fun.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. I meant to recommend an old book, “To Hell in a Handbasket” by H. Allen Smith, the humor writer (“Rhubarb, the Cat Who Owned a Baseball Team” etc) — not the former Senator of the same name. It’s an illustrated autobiography about the life of newsmen in New York in the desperate 1930s, heavy drinkers all, and includes pals of Smith’s like the father of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Bitter-sweet entertainment!

  10. John Haber says:

    I liked the theme a lot, and ASCENDED didn’t bother me at all. For that matter, I found QEII more tricky in a good way than kludgy (although I do recall it more as a dated reference to an ocean liner than as how one would really refer to the queen of England). VERY was also nicely tricky, in that it took me quite a while to explain the fill to myself after I clearly had it. BEST BUD isn’t my idiom, and LONG NECK bottles are pretty obsolete around here, but there are always cultural differences.

    My hardest corner was the SE, since I’ve never heard of KNEL. Seeing A_T_ for starters, I also first tried ACT I. The combination had me staring.

  11. Anoa Bob says:

    I’m a professor (retired) and have snuck a couple puzzles by the editors (latest LAT/9/26/11) but don’t recall any constructor-colleagues over the years. Multiple constructors at one institution, let alone one department, would be quite rare, methinks.

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between being a teacher/professor-constructor and one’s field of study. Mine was psychology.

  12. Martin says:

    MD Solver,

    Inkwell and AV club email came Tuesday, as usual.

  13. Evad says:

    Parker’s puzzle was LONG THE MOST FUN I’VE HAD TIME.

  14. ant says:

    If you squint at the Fireball grid, you just might make out the pixelated character from the FROGGER video game.
    Either that, or I’ve started my weekend a bit early…

  15. Lois says:

    Dear Evad,

    You said yesterday to let you know if I have trouble voting, and I still do. You can vote for me for today’s NYT puzzle if you want – 4 stars, please – but I find it strange that no one else has written in as having a problem. I wish I would still be able to vote directly. We have an old Mac, operation system OS X.4.1.1 (the last Tiger).

    Thank you for your work.


  16. Evad says:

    Lois, I’ve sent you an email offline to see if we can get to the bottom of this.


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