Thursday, 11/10/11

NYT 5:14 
Fireball 7:something 
LAT 4:11 (Neville) 
CS 6:07 (Sam) 
BEQ 2:42 (Amy) 
Tausig 6:53 (pannonica) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 10 11 1110

Quick post, because it’s almost 10:00 here and the Fireball is also on my docket tonight.

Didn’t we just have some crossword clue that used a lowercase “L” instead of a capital “I”? Was it a New York Times puzzle? Was that foreshadowing? The theme clues here look like they start with capital “I” but the answers go with “l” words. [lago] is LAKE IN SPANISH rather than Othello’s undoing. (Anyone else fill in ITALIAN and screw up that whole corner for a while?) [lon] is ACTOR CHANEY rather than a charged particle. [lams, say] clues FLEES FROM PRISON, not a pet food brand. [lamb’s place] isn’t poetry, it’s PASTURELAND. And the [Feature replaced in four clues in this puzzle] is that CAPITAL LETTER, I. The attentive applet solver will have noticed that 32a and 51a each have a capital I with serifs, distinct from the “l” in the theme clues. I don’t think the newspaper and Across Lite versions will have that aid. In any event, neat theme idea. Have we had a puzzle in which the all-too-common “rn”-looks-like-“m” kerning issue plays tricks on us?

Highlights: WEAK LINKS. My kid was a big fan of NED’S Declassified School Survival Guide, but the Nickelodeon show ended 4.5 years ago so I’m a little surprised to see it here. It never reached the level of fame of a Hannah Montana or iCarly.

Weak links: I wasn’t loving the fill. 43a: AH ME, clued as [“Such is life”]? Bleah. Nobody says that. The entry was rescued in last Saturday’s Newsday puzzle with a clue referring to Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” in which it’s a refrain of sorts. The RIT STN LENA ARNO L-BAR -ICAL LAHR stuff didn’t do much to enhance the solving experience.

3.25 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest crossword, “Palindromes: More Than Half Off!”

Tough puzzle, what with the theme entries being really sketchily clued. The theme answers are beginnings or ends of palindromes, and it would be much too easy if the clue gave you the other end, wouldn’t it? So Peter provides the word and letter counts and tells you where any capital letters fall, and the rest is up to you.

Now, that’s only step 1. Step 2 is to figure out Peter’s secret palindrome, with a “Xxxx xxx x xxxxx” pattern, and email your contest answer by Sunday afternoon. I haven’t figured that out yet. As for confirming whether your grid is correct, you’re on your own—hey, it’s a contest! When I finished the puzzle and didn’t get the happy pencil, I used the “check all letters” tool in Across Lite (forgetting that, like the Matt Gaffney weekly contest puzzles, there should be no way to check your answers). But instead of having a locked solution, the puzzle checked my solution and declared every single letter to be wrong. So my answer grid is all X’ed out. Luckily, I also have Black Ink, which displays a little red X above each letter rather than crossing it off. And then there’s Antony Lewis’s Crossword Solver, which opens the puzzle with a cleanly filled grid. Yay for options!

Four stars for the puzzle thus far. Jury’s still out on the meta portion.

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (4:11)

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions 11 10 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions 11 10 11

Just say yes to this puzzle that just says no.

  • 17a. [Symbolic gifts] – LOVE TOKENS.
  • 22a. [Exasperate] – DRIVE TO DRINK.
  • 35a. [Soother for men] – AFTERSHAVE TONIC
  • 45a. [Indigenous language] – NATIVE TONGUE
  • 56a. [President’s option, and a hint to the puzzle theme…] – POCKET VETO

Okay, that’s a cute little hidden word theme. Four letters, including a V? That’s non-trivial, and POCKET VETO is a real thing (and just after Election Day). I think all of the phrases are entertaining, though I’m a little surprised that turning to alcohol made it into this puzzle. (Just a little – it is supposed to be an idiom and not literal – let’s hope.)

Five theme entries usually means there aren’t many sparkling filler entries. ONCE OVER isn’t bad, and neither is NITWIT. It’s not everyday you see a TRI-COLOR ink cartridge in a crossword, but I am quite familiar with it from paying way too much to refill my printer.

On the flip side, we have a six-letter abbr. in ECCLES. A lot of the rest of the puzzle is fine, just not sparkling. It doesn’t make me say, “Wow!” (Uh-oh – back away from the keyboard, disgruntled Neville. This is a fine puzzle!)

  • In Soviet Russia, 6-Down fills in you! (YAKOV Smirnoff’s old bit)
  • Cute having A LA and LIKE with the same clue of [Styled after] – that adds a little to two common entries
  • “Houston, WE’VE had a problem” gets the real Apollo 13 quote correct! Per Wikipedia, “the filmmakers purposely changed the line – and the character speaking it – because the original quote made it seem that the problem had already passed.”

Not bad. 3.8 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Kiddie Lit Litany” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 10

Yesterday’s puzzle (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE TRAVELING BACKWARD IN TIME AND THUS SOLVING THE DAILY PUZZLE IN REVERSE ORDER) was a tribute to the inventor of the sax. Today’s puzzle is a tribute to MOTHER GOOSE, the [“Author” with characters who share the surnames of 17-, 29-, and 48-Across]:

  • 17-Across: TANYA TUCKER is a famous country singer. [Her first hit was “Delta Dawn”]. Perhaps she is a distant cousin to Little Tommy Tucker, the Mother Goose character. And perhaps they both learned at a young age to sing for their suppers.
  • 29-Across: Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and NATALIE COLE, the [“Jump Start” singer], can sing a merry old solo.
  • 48-Across: Old Mother Hubbard and her malnourished canine companion are classic Mother Goose characters who share the surname of L. RON HUBBARD, the [“Battlefield Earth” author]. As cruel as Old Mother Hubbard may have been, she’s not in the same league as the parents who pranked their kids by telling the kids that they had eaten all their Halloween candy.

The nine-letter Across entries, MESSIANIC and CEDAR DECK, are unusual if not especially jazzy. I’m a bigger fan of the open mid-section featuring both a LONG A and a TYPE B. Other highlights included AD COPY, PAIR UP, and LEAKY. There’s a contingent of “Huh?” and “Meh” stuff too, though, like  [Historic actor Edmund] KEAN, ANNEAL, ESSO, and RLS (known to those with an eye for detail as Robert Louis Stevenson).

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “It Might Get Loud”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 383 answers

I’m tempted to write a two-word review of Brendan’s puzzle today that fits the pattern S*** SANDWICH. I’m slightly bitter since I had about 80% of this idea in my head to run on my contest site tomorrow—the 11×11 grid, the relevant line, and even noticing that NIGEL TUFNEL is exactly 11 letters (and that DAVID ST. HUBBINS isn’t). I abandoned the idea when I couldn’t come up with a clever riff on the key line; fortunately, Brendan did find a clever riff and wrote a puzzle around it. “Such a fine line between clever and stupid,” as another quip from the movie goes.

It’s 11/11/11 tomorrow, so Brendan and I were both naturally thinking of “These go to eleven” from the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.  Here’s the clip (that’s Rob Reiner as the documentary maker, and Christopher Guest as the uncomprehending lead guitarist of “the world’s loudest band”).

The five circled letters in Brendan’s puzzle (shaded in the Crossword Solver grid depicted here) spell the word THESE, and they end, traveling diagonally and backwards, at the 11 square. Clever! Wish I’d thought of it. And this is an example of *good* use of circles in a puzzle grid.

11 observations:

  1. Just noticed from re-watching the clip above that Guest actually says the words “eleven…eleven…eleven.” That’s tomorrow’s date!
  2. In addition to NIGEL TUFNEL at 3d., BEQ also put another reference (to this same clip) at 8d. (MARSHALL AMP) and yet another at 24d. (“ONE louder”)
  3. And there’s GUEST at 31d and TAP at 25a.
  4. And there’s another ref at 12a. Yes, Spinal Tap had their rock dots/metal umlaut over the “n.”
  5. 18d has a nice clue: [Step up to the barre?] for PAS.
  6. 35d is a nice “clue rescue”: [Tragic ending?] for the mediocre CEE.
  7. 37d: Mitt Romney’s wife is ANN? I wonder how many other famous both-end-in-a-double-letter couples there are.
  8. It’s hard to come up with 11 valid observations on a small crossword.
  9. Did I mention that tomorrow is 11/11/11?
  10. Well, it is.
  11. And there’s your kicker entry, ELEVEN, at 41a.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and here’s a classic Spinal Tap song for everyone (with 30a: Ed BEGLEY on drums; yet another Tap reference he snuck in there!).

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Who You With?” — pannonica’s review

Tausig crossword • 11/11/11 • "Who You With?" • answers

Phrases reimagined more or less as “relationship statuses,” for our social networking age.

  • Let’s come back to the first one later, ok?
  • 28a. [Narcissist’s relationship status?} DATING MYSELF. I feel the phrase is more commonly I’m dating myself…” or perhaps even “but I’m…” Nevertheless, .close enough for jazz.
  • 45a. [Casanova’s relationship status?] SINGLE PLAYER. Is that a “thing” as a stand-alone (so to speak)? Isn’t it nearly always a hyphenated adjective, as in single-player game?
  • 58a. [Married person’s relationship status?] UNION MEMBER. Easily the most cogent, and therefore best, of the themers.
  • Welcome back. 17a. [Groupie’s relationship status?] SEEING STARS. This one, despite having a solid original phrase, is problematic. In the relationship status sense, “seeing” is equivalent to dating, but a groupie “seeing” stars doesn’t really date them. Shame that SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS is too long for the grid.

So, I’m tepid on the theme, but I was impressed with much of the rest of the puzzle. Most notably the vertical triple-nines in the NE and SW:

  • YO LA TENGO | ONE DOLLAR | WATERFORD. I wouldn’t call Hoboken’s YO LA TENGO a “nerdy band.” Indie superstars, yes. Critical darlings, yes. Fakebook is a good album to start with. Normally, ONE DOLLAR is a questionable phrase saved by an excellent clue [Words under Washington]. WATERFORD isn’t as typographically outrageous as SWAROVSKI, but, hey, it’s good fill.
  • FRESH MEAT | INDIA ARIE | RAINSTORM. Frankly, I’m surprised that Tausig opted for the innocuous [Butcher’s offering] clue when he could have referenced raunchy college remarks, gory horror films, or perhaps even army drill sergeants. I can never remember how to spell  31-down’s name, what with crosswords being so chock full of dies IRAEs and lofty AERIEs. Irie, mon. And isn’t the dot in her name a little precious? Had 32d as _AI_STORM until I could determine if it needed an R-N or an H-L.

Other notes:

  • Stacked ABBA and SAAB look nice.
  • Was all set to assert that 21a [Domino’s ad character] NOID needed an “erstwhile” or “one-time,” but was shocked (and distressed) to learn that they’ve revived the bugger. Bonus trivia: he was originally voiced by someone named PONS MAAR. Wow. Also: “On January 30, 1989, Kenneth Lamar Noid, a mentally ill customer who thought the ads were a personal attack on him, held two employees of an Atlanta, Georgia, Domino’s restaurant hostage for over five hours. After forcing them to make him a pizza and making demands for $100,000, getaway transportation, and a copy of The Widow’s Son, Noid surrendered to the police.[5] After the incident had ended, police Chief Reed Miller offered a memorable assessment to reporters: “He’s paranoid.”[6] Noid was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, extortion, and possession of a firearm during a crime. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!  Chicago Sun-Times requires payment for access to the original article.)
  • 39a [Ancient Roman magistrate] EDILE. Yuck. Boo on NEGATOR too (26a). And L[en]GTH (40d).
  • 20a. EVAC. Don’t most “medical thrillers” take place in hospitals, in ORs (and sometimes ERs), and in laboratories? I think of operations (yes, cute misdirection) such as helicopter evacuations of the injured as parts of action or disaster movies.
  • Tausig-style suggestive content: 10d [Rock hard ones might be a turn on] ABS. Got to love those anti-lock braking systems, so sexy.
  • Completely unknown to me: 22d [“Harlem World” rapper] MASE. Born Mason Durell Betha, previously known as Murda Ma$e. Also an inspirational speaker.
  • Believe me, I tried to confirm that (24d ) SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) offers Danish Blue cheese, but could not verify it definitively. Looking at their meny, though, it seems likely.
  • The last four down answers—MOOG, UGG, MAP, EMU—taken together sound like some arcane incantation. MOOG, by the way, is pronounced with a long-o sound, the notorious Moog Indigo album notwithstanding.

Iffy theme, solid puzzle.

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29 Responses to Thursday, 11/10/11

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    The NYT puzzle beat me up for a while. Should have gotten it sooner; I have a friend whose last name is IINO, and people are always reading it as LINO.

  2. Jamie says:

    Sorry folks but if I solved the Fireball, secret palindrome and all in under an hour, this one’s going to have more correct answers than Patrick Berry’s meta.

    Amy, I did the exact same thing – clicked check all in AL and it started marching around putting Xs in every square. Had to shut down AL to stop it and then fill in every square again. Can you link to Black Ink and Crossword Solver?

  3. Jamie says:

    That NYT was not NYT-worthy. If your entire theme is that a lower-case letter looks a bit like an upper-case letter in a certain font, go back to the drawing board and think of something more imaginative.

    Ah me.

    Edited to add: I have never published a crossword in the NYT or anywhere for that matter. Sorry if I was a bit harsh.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Re: Fireball

    But instead of having a locked solution, the puzzle checked my solution and declared every single letter to be wrong.

    Well, I had one correct square, at the EXIT / AXE crossing. Did you have EDIT / ADE? ’cause poison-ade can be a sticky mess when spilled. :-)


    Exited to add: @Jamie,

    Sorry if I was a bit harsh.

    Bah! That’s your charm. :-D

  5. Howard B says:

    The Times theme is actually clever, because it’s not simply L for I. It’s L-for-I where the substitution in the clue results in visual confusion with another one-word clue. That leads to the nasty situation in which the answer can be any possible description of that word and not a lexical phrase. So that increases the difficulty, to start. I found that interesting, although it’s not a theme type I prefer.

    The clue/fill connection awkwardness is what really made this tough. “Ain’t gonna happen!” does not equal NIX in this or the previous generation, for example, althuogh it is technically correct. It’s just not going to be in your top 10 answers even with the N in place. NEDS was the mystery answer of the day for me – no idea. Many other one-word clues added to the difficulty. (strip=UNCLOTHE).
    Much respect for the Weird Al clue reference to EBAY, although that’s not a song you would hear unless you’re a fan.

    So nothing bad in there, just very tricky, a little awkward and unexpected. For a Thursday, I’m OK with that. Except for NEDS :).

  6. Jamie says:

    @Spork: Exited to add: too funny.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Could have cried when the line of XXXXXXXX appeared in the Fireball. Not fair!

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jamie, don’t worry—the Fireball puzzle doesn’t have quite as many subscribers as the NYT crossword so your odds of winning are better.

    @Howard: Yes, I have never used NIX as an interjection.

  9. Jamie says:

    @ArtLvr: Oh. You waited until the entire Xxxxxxx secret code appeared? Darn.

  10. Tuning Spork says:

    The only time I’m ever heard NIX as an interjection is in Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”.

    Shifty Henry said to Bugs, “For Heaven’s sake,
    no one’s lookin’, now’s the chance to make a break”
    Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, “Nix, nix,
    I wanna stick around a while and get my kicks”

    That was the first song that my first band ever learned. As the lead screamer, it was my job to figure out the lyrics from the record, and the line had me stumped. I thought it was “Nick snitched” until my mother, a ’50s rock ‘n roller girl, told me it was “nix, nix”. I was 13 and it was the first time I’d ever heard the word.

  11. Jamie says:

    I agree with the posters so far – have never heard the word nix in the context of ain’t gonna happen. So I was amazed when I looked up nix in my free and mostly PG-rated online dictionary. See under, see also: Not Suitable For Work warning –

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m afraid I think that the incidental fact that a capital ‘I’ looks like an ‘L’ is beyond what should be considered a legitimate gimmick. I take Howard’s point that there is some cleverness to the fact that the clues have a meaning whether the first letter is a “L” or an “I” but it still doesn’t do much for me.

    Using ‘nix’ as an interjection (As in “NIX”–no way) is very familiar to me. I don’t know if it’s a regionalism, but having lived in almost all regions of the country (except the Pacific NW, I guess), I may have picked up lots of regionalisms.

    In the interest of full disclosure==When I studied grammar as a kid, an “interjection” was routinely referred to as an “ejaculation.” But I wouldn’t try using that term in any 8th grade class today! Not that 8th graders, or any other graders are taught grammar these days.


  13. Matthew G. says:

    Rex Parker didn’t like the NYT puzzle either. I guess I’m the only one who did. I thought it was a wickedly fun theme. Perhaps it has been done before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    The only way I can make NYT 30D work at all is to make “picking up things” a gerund phrase, but even then, it’s an activity rather than some sort of supposed ability. Am I not picking up on something here?

  15. Hugh says:

    STICKS NIX HICK PIX was a headline printed in Variety, a newspaper covering Hollywood and the entertainment industry, on July 17, 1935, over an article about the reaction of rural audiences to movies about rural life. It is one of the most famous headlines ever to appear in an American publication.

    –From Wikipedia

  16. Howard B says:

    @hugh: NIX is mostly commonly seen as a verb such as that example, and that’s fine.
    But tell me the last time you’ve heard anyone say “Nix!” outside of maybe a gangster movie. The clue was phrased as if it were a common usage. Just saying because it messed me up pretty awfully for a 3-letter word.

    That type of clue is to me a “5-legged cat”. It’s perfectly happy, it gets around just fine and there’s nothing wrong with it to speak of, but you can’t help but look at it and say, “something’s just a bit off there”. There were a few of that sort prowling around this puzzle, it seemed.

  17. Daniel Myers says:

    @Howard B—Quite right. I suppose the ESP clue can be included w/ the pentapedal felines in this puzzle.

  18. MD Solver says:

    “Meh” Tausig. Not terrible – decent fill, but inconsistencies in the theme. SLEEPINGUNDERTHESTARS doesn’t work because you don’t really “sleep under” someone, you sleep *with* them. And what’s a MENY?

    Calling a band “nerdy” seems off. A person can be nerdy, but a band?

  19. Hugh says:

    @Howard B: I guess it’s just generational. Maybe I’ve seen too many Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson gangster movies of the 30’s. But then, I have a complete unfamiliarity with most pop music of the past quarter century, too.

  20. ant says:

    I’m betting the Pig Latin “ixnay” is a lot more common than “nix” – with both the modern crowd and the older generation…

  21. pannonica says:

    MD Solver: see They Might Be Giants.

  22. Martin says:

    Unfortunately when I started solving today’s NYT puzzle, I actually read the theme clues as starting with small case els (and not capital I’s). So the revealer didn’t make any sense, since I thought: “Well, duh… I can see they’re lower case els, so what!”.

    Did this happen to anyone else?


  23. MD Solver says:

    How does a group get a name like Yo La Tengo anyway?

  24. Jeff Chen says:

    I don’t usually agree spot on with Rex these days, but I did today. I wish the reveal had been more… well, just more. Maybe if it had been “CAPITAL L”? Plus, the puzzle beat me up, beat me down, and then asked me why I was hitting myself. Ah, me.

    Which is worse by the way: AH ME or AH SO?

    Sam, thanks for the warning! I was just about to get into my WABAC machine.

  25. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Martin A.-S.: Yes, pretty much. The letters looked off, confirmed by the existence of serif capital i’s elsewhere in the clue list. I knew I was supposed to see them as capital i’s but they totally weren’t.

    @Jeff C: Well, AH ME is ridiculously antiquated and gets clued as if people might actually say it. People do actually say AH SO (right?), but it has racist overtones. Both are bad in their own special ways.

  26. Gary says:


    In Across Lite, where the default font is Arial, all the capital i’s in the clues are sans serif, so the theme clues didn’t look “off.” It didn’t make any difference for me, because by the time I caught onto the theme (at 47A – iamb is a sufficiently unusual word that the clue just looked like lamb to me) there was no question which four clues the reveal referred to.

    An unexpected benefit of this puzzle is that I’ve learned that I can change the font in Across Lite! I’m going with Times New Roman from now on – I/l and rn/m confusions have bothered me before (maybe it’s just my late middle-aged eyes?).

  27. Tuning Spork says:

    “Ah, so” has racist overtones?

  28. pannonica says:

    MD Solver: I stand by my “sleep under,” because it’s funny. For meny, see link. “Yo la tengo” means “I have it,” in Spanish; it’s in part a reference to baseball outfielders, but also kind of eureka-esque.

    Daniel Myers: That’s how I read it too.

    Tuning Spork: Think Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto, et al.

  29. Evad says:

    Excellent FB this week, my fave of the year so far.

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