Thursday, 2/2/12

Fireball 9:39 
LAT 5:58 (Neville) 
NYT 4:31 
Celebrity untimed 
CS 5:06 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 

Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 2 2 12 0202

A quote theme! We get one or two of those a year from Will Shortz & Co. And that’s plenty if you ask me, though this particular quote is perfectly fine: Confucius said,”REAL KNOWLEDGE IS / TO KNOW THE EXTENT / OF ONE’S IGNORANCE.” This is more eloquent than Donald Rumsfeld’s line about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.

The quote thirds are linked by two vertical 15s, IN ALL LIKELIHOOD and BEETHOVEN’S NINTH—both nice. And I like the clue for the old sketch comedy show, SCTV—John [Candy used to be seen on it].

The puzzle lost me when it came to the rest of the fill, though. ORBED, ONE-A, French UNIE and REGLE and TRES, suffix/prefix –IAL and DYS– and TACHO-, WOOER, successive partials A LET and I THE (the latter crossing A IS), AREEL (one of those a- words I never encounter outside of crosswords), ERI, [Mushroom stem] STIPE, EELERS, RANEE, and half a poodle FOO. Seeing more than three or four such answers in one grid tends to make me cranky. With a 45-square theme, I’m not quite sure what pushed the constructor into these compromises—is it the two vertical 15s locking down still more real estate?

2.5 stars. Seldom a fan of quote themes so I tend to deduct points for the theme, and then the fill wasn’t as smooth as I’d have hoped.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 47”

Fireball 3(4) answers

I swore at this puzzle. When I’m editing crosswords, and there’s some godawful obscure proper noun that just can’t be excised from the grid, I make sure that it’s all gettable via the crossings. A whole bunch of tough clues crossing gibberish? No, no, no. That’s not good puzzle-making. 17a: [Song in “The Book of Mormon”] clues HASADIGAEEBOWAI. I had to Google the show to find out how to parse that: “Hasa Diga Eebowai.” Beg pardon, Peter, but how many of your solvers do you think have seen the show? It’s in one pricey theater in one city, no? Are musical theater fans in the habit of buying the album for a show they haven’t seen yet? V. irksome.

The other 15 was probably equally infuriating to anyone who doesn’t have a TV-watching kid in the house. My only problem with DR. DOOFENSHMIRTZ was that I wanted there to be a C in -schmirtz because that would be a better German spelling. But at least I know the “Doofenshmirtz Incorporated” jingle and I know the cartoon character, so I could work this one out.

41a. [Former province of Portugal with the westernmost point in continental Europe] is ESTREMADURA. Are we supposed to know this? It’s not even a place name Portugal still uses! Really, now.


  • 20a: CPR is an [Abbreviation that saves nine syllables]. All crossings, people. But interesting clue.
  • 63a. [Showcase error] on The Price Is Right is an OVERBID.
  • 64a. [Japanese for “fire bowl”]—etymology! I thought it would be a ceramics term, but it’s a HIBACHI, which makes sense.
  • 34d. COME OFF IT!
  • 62d. [It might get pussy], as in “filled with pus,” clues a ZIT. Absolutely gross. I rather like it. I could do without the surface reading of “heh-heh-heh, he said ‘pussy,’ heh-heh.”

Three stars. The ARIDLY STOLIDER combo didn’t help matters.

Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 2 12 "Top 40 Thursday"

This week’s pop music theme is Rihanna. Including the short bonus answers along with the longer song titles, we have this collection:

  • 15a. [2007 #1 Rihanna single featuring Jay-Z] is UMBRELLA.
  • 19a. [“Raining ___” (2010 Rihanna song)] clues MEN.
  • 21a. [2010 #1 Rihanna single featuring Drake: 3 wds.] is WHAT’S MY NAME.
  • 31a. [Rihanna’s first #1 single] was SOS.
  • 32a. [“We ___” (2006 Rihanna song)] clues RIDE.
  • 33a. ALL [“___ of the Lights” (Kanye West song featuring Rihanna)].
  • 35a. [“If I ___ See Your Face Again” (Maroon 5 single featuring Rihanna)] clues NEVER.
  • 36a. [2011 #1 Rihanna single featuring Calvin Harris: 3 wds.] is WE FOUND LOVE. I don’t recognize the name Calvin Harris yet.
  • 41a. [2009 #8 Rihanna single featuring Jeezy] clues HARD.
  • 44a. [2008 #1 Rihanna single: 3 wds.] is TAKE A BOW.
  • 7d. [Rihanna has won four of these awards]? Gotta be the GRAMMYS.
  • 10d. [“Te ___” (2010 Rihanna single)] AMO—that’s Spanish for “I love you,” right?
  • 11d. ‘PON [“___ de Replay” (Rihanna’s chart debut)].
  • 34d. [“Music of the ___” (Rihanna’s debut album)] clues SUN.
  • 47d. [“You da ___” (2011 Rihanna single)] clues ONE.

Whew! That’s a ton of thematic material for a 13×13 crossword. Fifteen Rihanna clues! And I don’t really know any of her songs well enough to recognize them. Maybe that one with Eminem, but that’s about it.

Lots of non-Rihanna pop culture in this puzzle, too. Where it intersected with Rihanna songs I don’t know (which is most of ’em) or other names/title words I didn’t know, I ran into trouble. In the coming weeks, you’ll see less of that type of crossing in the Celebrity puzzles—if it’s a word that can be clued as it’s commonly known or as a fill-in-the-blank (FITBs) song title, you won’t see as much of the latter. This puzzle has Vinessa SHAW crossing Ace HOOD (I don’t know either of them) and a bunch of pop-culture FITBs like WYE [__ Oak (indie-rock duo featuring Jenn Wasner)] and USE [“___ Somebody” (Kings of Leon song)].

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (5:58)

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 2 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 2 2 12

This puzzle is brought to you in part by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on CLIMATE CHANGE, the [Environmental concern… and what’s happening in 17-, 23-, 45- and 53-Across?].

  • 17a. [Tropical roadside area?] – HOT SHOULDER
  • 23a. [Roughly, San Jose’s population acting friendly?] – WARM MILLION. But be warmed! They’re only acting friendly.
  • 45a. [Sentiments from a hepcat?] – COOL REGARDS
  • 53a. [Polar exploration] – COLD PURSUIT

We’re just taking the opposite of each temperature and swapping it. No hilarious results here, but the theme is executed right nicely. We’ve got some cute corner entries like COCA-COLA, DIES IRAE and BONSAI. Plus, there’s MAN TRAP just right of center. Fun stuff!

However, I can’t overlook the party foul at One Across. Now some One Across snobs will just flat out poo-poo the blah [Blood typing system] ABO as the puzzle lead-in. I don’t mind that, but 37-Down is [Rare blood type: A NEG.]. Don’t tell me that’s kosher. I bet the upper left could’ve been reworked to avoid that nastiness.

Here’s a fun name crossing – wait, did I just type that? At 15-Across, there’s a [Name that means “pretty”], and that’s BONNIE, as in “My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth”… er, “Smileth.” That’s paired with 15-Down, [Clod] – BOZO. That’s enough of an etymology there. Please don’t name your child Bozo. Less delightful was seeing ESAI and ESAU in the same puzzle. You take the good, you take the bad. Still, another fun puzzle from the Don & C.C. Power Team.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Afterthoughts” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 2

The five theme entries are two-word terms with the initials “P.S.” For an added touch, 20-Across tells us that the vowel sequence, A-E-I-O-U, represents the [Second letters of this puzzle’s five theme answers (seen in order)]. I’m not sure this extra touch really adds anything to the puzzle, but it is a bonus of sorts. The five “afterthoughts” are as follows:

  • 17-Across: PALM SUNDAY is the [Easter preceder].
  • 23-Across: The [Hockey attempt that only the goalie may stop] is a PENALTY SHOT.
  • 39-Across: The [Pilfered programs of a sort] are PIRATED SOFTWARE.
  • 51-Across: The POODLE SKIRT is indeed [Typical sock hop attire]. When was the last sock hop, sometime in the 1960s? Don’t get me wrong, I like this entry (it’s probably the most interesting of the set). But “typical sock hop” struck me as odd wording because I’m not sure sock hops themselves are all that typical anymore.
  • 63-Across: Great clue for PUPPET SHOW: [Entertainment requiring a hand or two]. Inner Beavis considered several possible answers.

I dunno, maybe another layer would have made the theme more satisfactory. If, for instance, the second-letter-vowel sequence happened in both the first and the second words or if both words contained only the one vowel and no other vowels, then perhaps it would have felt like there was more there there. There, see?

The 57 theme squares required some sacrifices. NT WT, the [Food pkg. info] for “net weight,” is never one of my favorite entries. There’s OP CIT, ASST, SHA, EOE, E-LIST (good thing Kathy Griffin’s not that low!), ESTAB, and the duo of IRAE and ARIE. None is bothersome by itself, but the cumulative weight of them in this grid is noticeable. None of the Downs have more than six letters, but at least some of the non-theme Across entries are interesting. I liked BEATS ME and IRON BARS best, and HELP UP made for interesting shorter fill.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Crash Test”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 407 solution

This puzzle hit home for me, as several frustrating computer issues have darkened my door over the past year. Brendan immortalizes five signs you may need to call in the computer guy/gal:

  • 1a/72a. SAD MAC

Five observations:

  1. When I saw what the theme was going to be I immediately looked to see where BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH would fit. Score!
  2. Good fill roundup: IPHONEAND ALLWENT BADMIAMIKYOTOKROC. Shortish list for a BEQ, but with 58 theme letters in the grid you get fewer chances to showcase mad fill skills.
  3. Best clue is at 27d: [It frequently gets lit] for WICK.
  4. The theme entries are all familiar except PC LOAD LETTER. Not that I’m complaining about not being familiar with a scary computer message.
  5. At 33a, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” is a classic Ramones song—once you know the title, you also know 50% of the lyrics!

Thanks for the puzzle, Brendan, and I hope no one here sees any of these theme entries today (outside of the puzzle)!

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18 Responses to Thursday, 2/2/12

  1. Mel Park says:

    The NYT did have my name in it and I didn’t know my name’s origin, even though I know miel is French for honey. Oddly enough, the near homophone, “Mehl”, is German for flour.

  2. Bananarchy says:

    Quote themes are difficult to construct and I’ve never heard a solver say a good word about them. What compels constructors to create them?

    Regarding the Fireball (which I didn’t solve, mind you): despite not having seen the show or living anywhere near Broadway, I have listened to the “Book of Mormon” soundtrack several times in its entirety; it’s marvelous. I would never have gotten that answer nor would I have known how to spell it. Poor form.

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: BEETHOVENSNINTH is one ear-to-ear-smiling answer. On the other hand I’ve long since realized that most crossword-ese words don’t bother me as much as partials, obscure foreign language and iffy affixes. A corner with TACHO/AIS/ITHE/IAL – that stinks. Not all of the answers on your list bothered me, but most did…

    @Bananarchy: BEQ had a bit on why he loves making quote themes. Alas I can’t find it.

    LAT: Climate change and judgment day too? Coincidence? It’s a conspiracy! Never heard MANTRAP used to mean that before…

  4. HH says:

    “Quote themes are difficult to construct and I’ve never heard a solver say a good word about them. What compels constructors to create them?”

    In my case, a deadline and lack of a better idea.

  5. MD Solver says:

    Brutal Fireball. Just carnage.

  6. Matt says:

    Only finished the FB by looking up 18D, giving ACTII, which filled the missing letters in three (!) problematical crossing words. I’m still kinda unhappy with the answer to 30A (Stormed, maybe) being SIEGED… ‘storm’ and ‘siege’ are rather different strategies, IMO.

  7. Bananarchy says:

    “In my case, a deadline and lack of a better idea.”

    Interesting. I wouldn’t have thought that a quote theme would be a go-to theme in a time crunch, since you’d be relying mostly on luck to find a quote that splits symmetrically and you have so little wiggle room in the fill. Myself, I like to be in control when the pressure’s on, but then who am I to question the inimitable Hook?

  8. Zulema says:

    What I liked about the NYT, was the way it solved itself, every crossing led to another crossing and they created an unusual gestalt for this puzzle (see what you miss by speed-solving?). My final letter entry was the F in FOO.

  9. joon says:

    matt! you have not seen office space? PC LOAD LETTER is a printer error message (warning: some adult language). the printer thing is kind of a running joke in the movie, culminating in this cathartic scene (even more adult language).

  10. pannonica says:

    CS: I don’t see the issue with “typical” vis-à-vis POODLE SKIRTs and sock-hops; it’s irrelevant whether sock-hops are common nowadays. “Typical” modifies “attire” in the clue.

  11. Papa John says:


    That must make me extremely knowledgeable about crossword puzzles. So, howcum I’m not better at them?

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Ah, thanks Joon! I don’t remember the first scene, but I definitely remember the second. We’ve all wanted to do that.

  13. “Brutal Fireball. Just carnage.” Well said.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    The Fireball felt like a parody of a Fireball.

  15. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m rarely a fan of quote themes either, and I’m afraid this is no exception. Yes, there is a NY Medgar Evers college, but I find myself wondering how many of this new generation of constructors actually know who Medgar Evers is.


  16. oeuftete says:

    The Fireball was brutal, but I didn’t feel so bad about it. Yeah, I needed all the crossings for 17A (but I got them all), and I guessed wrong on ARDEN (*ARWEN) on the 58A crossings, but I suppose I should know one or the other if I’m doing the most brutal crossword out there. And 27 minutes. 4 stars here.

  17. Howard B says:

    I did it. I 1-starred a Fireball. But I feel dirty about it. I don’t give out 1-stars here. Ever. Not for difficulty, for the double obscurity of the Mormon song (not the show) and a Disney cartoon I don’t watch. That’s dirty pool, Peter ;). Tons of other names in there didn’t salvage that. Not a harsh rater here, but as with 5 stars, extreme ratings are saved for such specific cases. But I know the next Fireballs will be generally amazing :).

  18. Matthew G. says:

    I’m another who loves the Fireball but hated this episode of it. I live in Brooklyn, and I called in December to order tickets to “The Book of Mormon” for my wife’s birthday. Want to guess when I was able to get tickets for? June. Towards the back of the theater.

    Re: the cartoon character — come on.

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