Wednesday, 2/8/12

NYT 3:30 
LAT 5:27 (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 6:16 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 2 8 12 0208

The last theme entry I filled in was 25a, and it actually made me laugh out loud. Each theme answer doubles the S at the end of the first word, thereby changing the phrase’s meaning entirely. Your BASS RELIEF is a throat lozenge, you can DISCUSS THROWERS, there’s no karaoke at a SINGLESS BAR, and you need to buy a BUSS TICKET for the kissing booth. And then! At 25a, [Cause of a sexual harassment complaint?] is the MID-ASS TOUCH. I read all five theme entries to my husband and he was stony-faced for four of them, then cracked up (cheeky double entendre not originally intended) at the MID-ASS TOUCH. It’s more outrageous than you’d expect in a Times crossword, and it packs a visual punch. Nice work, Lynn!

Two delicious long answers in the fill lend more oomph: GOES BANANAS and “OF COURSE NOT!” I also like the FRAUD and SCAM combo as well as the U.S. OPEN/Arthur ASHE pairing. The rest of the fill is relatively ordinary (STYE beside URALS?), thanks to the five theme answers and two long Downs locking up a lot of the grid.

4.25 stars, .5 of which belongs to the MID-ASS TOUCH giggle.

Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Wayback Wednesday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 2 8 12 "Wayback Wednesday" Longo

Hoo boy, this was a tough one for me. I was never a big Elvis fan, so while the long theme answers were easy enough, I struggled with all the fill-in-the-blank bonus Elvis content.

  • 18a. [Rock-and-roll superstar who had 17 #1 hits in the 1950s and ’60s: 2 wds.] = ELVIS PRESLEY
  • 23a. [Nickname of 18-Across: 2 wds.] = THE KING
  • 38a. [1960 musical film starring 18-Across: 2 wds.] = G.I. BLUES
  • 44a. [1956 #1 hit for 18-Across: 3 wds.] = LOVE ME TENDER

Those weren’t so hard, but oof! Most of the rest of the Elvis content made me work through the crossing answers to figure out the missing words. That was a tough process when some of the missing Elvis title words intersected others. Luckily, most of the thematic entries today are regular words, which you can work out from their context even if you don’t know the song titles.

  • 5a. [“___ of You” (1958 hit for 18-Across): 2 wds.] = I BEG
  • 9a. [“I Feel So ___” (1961 hit for 18-Across)] = SAD
  • 12a. [1958 #1 hit for 18-Across] = DON’T
  • 27a. [With 6-Down, 1957 #1 hit for 18-Across] = TEDDY Bear
  • 35a. [“Good Luck ___” (1962 #1 hit for 18-Across)] = CHARM
  • 53a. [“___ Me” (1964 hit for 18-Across)] = ASK
  • 55a. [Middle name of 18-Across] = ARON. Hey, I knew this one!
  • 56a. [“___ Now or Never” (1960 #1 hit for 18-Across)] = IT’S
  • 6d. [See 27-Across] = Teddy BEAR
  • 10d. [“Stay ___, Joe” (1968 western film starring 18-Across)] = AWAY
  • 20d. [Jerry ___ Lewis (rocker who was part of the “Million Dollar Quartet” with 18-Across)] = LEE. Another one I knew!
  • 44d. [“I’ve ___ You” (1970 hit for 18-Across)] = LOST

Sixteen thematic answers is a ton in a giant Sunday puzzle. But in a wee 13×13 grid? Intense Elvosity.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Mad Scramble” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 8

Today’s crossword has two great features and one very significant drawback. The good stuff: a neat theme concept and high theme density. The drawback: a healthy dose of Crosswordese. Did the high points more than make up for the Crosswordese? I’m still deciding.

I couldn’t figure out the theme until hitting the very end at 66-Across, where we’re told that an APPLE CART is a [Thing that might be upset…and what is “upset” in this puzzle’s scrambled theme]. Indeed, the other five(!) theme entries are (nonsensical) anagrams of “apple cart:”

  • 17-Across: First up is an APP CARTEL, an [Illegal software-selling ring?].
  • 25-Across: Next, I recommend avoiding the CARP PLATE, the [Chinese restaurant fish dish?]. Everyone who orders it seems to complain.
  • 30-Across: An APT PARCEL is, quite simply, a [Fitting Package?]. Not much you can do with that clue-wise, I suppose.
  • 46-Across: You know what they call a [Snow cover in Switzerland?] It’s an ALP CARPET. {tap, tap} Is this thing on?
  • 52-Across: A TRAP PLACE is [Where to put the mouse catcher?]. Since I hadn’t figured out the theme when I hit this clue, I wanted something involving a “cat.”

What’s most remarkable is that there are so many anagrams of “apple cart” that can be fashioned into kinda-sorta real terms. They may not trip off the tongue (TRAP PLACE feels especially forced), but they work. With six 9-letter theme entries clogging up a fair amount of grid space, it looks like Tony was forced into a comparatively closed grid. Note that the only way to break into the southwest and northeast corners is through just two squares, both of which are theme entries.

As mentioned, the other significant compromise is an abundance of tired crossword terms. Crosswordese roll call, count off now: ELIA, OTRO, ITAL and ITALO, SRAS, ORO, RIA, ALEE, NES, ARR, ESL, and SLA stand out. If you wanted to include other foreign words, there’s TASSE, UNO, and LAS, but to me these don’t have the same “overused” feel that I get from the others. It’s hard to have 20 fresh three-letter entries in one grid, granted, but this still felt a tad excessive.

One other nice feature in the puzzle that merits mention: I really liked the longer entries, especially TV STATION and POP TART. MADE A STOP is also terrific, though the clue, [Dropped in somewhere along the way] felt a little off to me. But I don’t want to make it sound like I had seconds of the CARP PLATE–overall I found the puzzle a fun workout.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times puzzle – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword Feb 8 2012 solution

Miss me yesterday? I’ll be here Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.

Theme: Sit on It, Potsy!

Theme Answers:

  • 17A. [*Vaudeville headliner] – TOP BANANA
  • 24A. [*Count Basie’s theme song] – ONE O’CLOCK JUMP
  • 39A. [*Too-small quantity] – DROP IN THE BUCKET
  • 50A. [*1959 Monroe classic] – SOME LIKE IT HOT.
  • Nobody’s Perfect!
  • 63A. [What many sports cars lack, and, in a way, what the ends of the starred answers are] – REAR SEATS. I guess “REAR” is referring to the lat word in the answers. My Chevy Cruze has a back seat, but since I’m nearly 6’4″ I wouldn’t recommend trying to use it when I’m driving.

Things you might not know:

  • 32A. [Marbles competition] – MIBS. Always stay behind the hog score when shooting at the MIBS.
  • 32D. [Year Elizabeth I delivered her “Golden Speech”] – MDCI – M=1000, D=500, C=100, I=1 : 1501. It was on CNN – Crier News Network.
  • 45A. [“My love __ a fever, longing still”: Shakespeare] – IS AS. This answer IS AS a four-letter, two-word partial.
  • 51D. [NFLer until 1994] – LARAM. Vinnie “Boom-Boom” LARAM played for the Houston Oilers from 1991-1994, when he went to the Ottawa Rough Riders. He was then traded to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1997.
  • 62D. [GPA reducer, usually] – CEE. If it increases your GPA, stop keeping track.

Random sentence created from long answers: On TWIN PEAKS, the TIMBUKTU ICE MAKER was a BOMBSHELL.

*** stars.

Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 2 8 12 Heaney

Francis’s theme takes the titles of the first five books in George R.R. Martin’s series and changes one letter in each of them, cluing them accordingly:

  • 14a/15a. A Game of Thrones becomes A GAME / OF TYRONES, or [George R.R. Martin novel about rival Powers?]. Tyrone Power was a movie star back in the day.
  • 23a/25a. [George R.R. Martin novel about British invaders?] takes A Clash of Kings into the pop music British Invasion with A CLASH / OF KINKS.
  • 37a/40a. [George R.R. Martin novel with copious profanity?] clues A STORM OF / F-WORDS, with F-words replacing Swords.
  • 45a/47a. [George R.R. Martin novel set in a dangerous swamp?] clues A FEAST / FOR CROCS (not Crows).
  • 55a/65a. [George R.R. Martin novel featuring a sadistic (but twinkle-toed) surgeon?] is A DANCE WITH DR. / AGONY, splitting Dragons into two words before changing a letter.

I didn’t notice that the grid had no symmetry (and neither do the theme entries) until I had pretty much finished the puzzle. How about you?

I didn’t know any of the Martin titles beyond the first one, which has been coopted as the article-less Game of Thrones for HBO. I could guess at the original titles for everything except the Crows one, though. (I hope the feast for crows involves unharvested grain rather than eyeballs.)

Favorite clue: 18a, [Liquor that’s not hard] for a wiggly JELL-O SHOT.

Lots of names in the puzzle. MAE IONA MARV LIA GAIMAN IGNACE HOSNI LEO HHH ARGO ADAM {love the clue [___ and Steve (variation on a biblical pair)]} AVALON CEDRIC SERTAS and DALY makes 15. I didn’t know IONA ([Annie Potts, in “Pretty in Pink”]) or LIA ([Singer-songwriter ___ Ices]) at all.

Four stars.

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24 Responses to Wednesday, 2/8/12

  1. joon says:

    it’s only february, but somebody is going to have to boggle the mind to beat out MID-ASS TOUCH for best theme answer of 2012.

  2. Evan says:

    Agreed, Joon. It’s topped COLD AS HELL from the NYT January 25 puzzle.

    By the way, Joon, someone from my Philadelphia choir earlier this week told me she knows you quite well — small world!

  3. Lee Glickstein says:

    Congratulations and thanks, Will, for the first R-Rated clue in NYT history!

  4. Gareth says:

    MIDASSTOUCH = brilliant!!! Worth the price of admission alone. You can get one if you buy the deluxe BUSSTICKET!

  5. HH says:

    The only problem with MIDASSTOUCH is that it appears too soon in the grid. I (and I believe also Merl) would’ve made that the last theme answer, as the punchline.

  6. Grant says:

    I’m not a big fan of the Los Angeles Rams answer clued as NFLer until 1994.

    The Rams franchise still exists in Saint Louis. The Rams are still “NFLers” today. Nobody would clue the Dodgers as MLBers until 1957. Using the Oilers as an answer for a “NFLer until…” clue would work better as no team still uses the Oiler nickname. It was legitimately changed to the Titans after the move. A clue such as former California football team or relocated NFL franchise seems more appropriate.

  7. HH says:

    “I’m not a big fan of the Los Angeles Rams answer clued as NFLer until 1994. The Rams franchise still exists in Saint Louis. The Rams are still “NFLers” today.”

    But not in L.A., hence the validity of the clue.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    The answer APP CARTEL is so close to the reveal at the end that it wasn’t quite a surprise, but how amazing to rejigger it so many times! Liked ALP CARPET especially. I still watch Jeopardy at times since joon was on, and they’ve just had another young man who can suss out anagrams in an instant…

  9. Aaron (not the usual) says:

    I live in the Boston area and would be interested in a local tournament sponsored by Marbles.

  10. Martin says:

    The timing of the release of the Onion/A.V. and Inkwell puzzles was a bit delayed to avoid spoiling Ben’s Puzzle Social, so people might have had problems getting them early on Wednesdays in January. Ben has kindly made a slight change to his distribution, so that they now appear at 11:05 PM ET, Tuesday night, on my server. These are the files that are linked here in Today’s Puzzles, and are accessed by many other web pages and smartphone apps. Thanks, Ben.

    Henry (and Merl),

    The placement of MIDASS TOUCH is much more subtle, as befits the Times’ Tao of Puzzles. Zen and the Art of the Crossword? Some people are actually saying the intended reading must have been MIDAS’S TOUCH. This plausible deniability would be impossible if the entry appeared in neon lights.

  11. Jenni Levy says:

    For some reason FRAUD completely eluded me. I had TDS for Super Bowl Highlights and just couldn’t see past it. Sigh.

    Also read 25A as MIDAS’S TOUCH. Don’t know what’s wrong with my brain today.

  12. King Midass says:

    Hats off to Lynn for getting this theme out there! It’s got me thinking about going on the SKINNYBITCH diet! Thanks, ArtLvr, for your kind words for my APPLECART anagrams on the same day as Lynn’s gem.

  13. Dan F says:

    Thanks, Martin and Ben – great to know when AV/IW will be available!

    Didn’t notice Francis’s asymmetry. Well, not *his*, his puzzle’s…

  14. Cyrano says:

    I have a stupid question regarding the LAT. Is the MEDE/IRENE crossing really that well known? I had never heard of either of those answers, eventually sussed out it must be E but couldn’t convince myself that IRENE was a castle until google explained. On the same day as HHH/DHOW in the Onion, I just found it a little annoying. Probably should just focus on the beauty of MIDASS and leave it at that.

  15. Andrew Greene says:

    I was rather surprised to see MIDASSTOUCH in the Times. In the AV club, I wouldn’t blink.

    I do object to WATT as being clued as an electrical unit. It’s not an electrical unit, it’s a power unit; it was named in homage to Watt’s steam engines, which were certainly not electrical. Sure, most people only see it on a light bulb, but the clue is WRONG! I know, ILLIN/WACK, specialist objecting to how most people think of the word, etc…. but it does rankle.

  16. Lynn says:


    In answer to you and the rest of the blogosphere…

    Actually, the genesis of this puzzle was innocent enough: to think of non-plural words that end in “s,” and then see if adding an s would create a different word ending in double s. I have no idea what started me on this line, but maybe it was FAUX PASS. (OK, I can already hear more snickering.)

    Well, along the way I thought of Midas. Which suggested only one base phrase–Eureka! I realized immediately that this was IT. It was the absolutely must-have answer for the puzzle. Call me ridiculously naive, but I didn’t even think of it as super risque given the context–just fun and funny. And I also never thought of Midas’s.

    However, there was a problem. I couldn’t come up with any other answers to balance it. The biggest drawback to singles bar was that “singles” isn’t singular like all the others. But at least the word morphed into something totally different that was clueable, if rather far-fetched. So I used it, though not really happily.

    I haven’t checked the clues I submitted as compared to the ones that were published, but I wouldn’t have used “lifeless” for ARID. It seems that life is amazingly abundant in all environments, as recent deep-ocean exploration has shown.

    Anyway, I’m glad that most of you enjoyed this one. It was one I ended up having a lot of fun putting together.


  17. Jeffrey says:

    @cyrano: You have a point on IRENE/MEDE. IRENE Castle is common in crosswords so I didn’t bat an eye over it. MEDE I wouldn’t have gotten with the crossing although I have likely seen it and forgotten it many times. I think E is the best choice if you don’t know either, but I’ve been vowel challenged before.

  18. Jan says:

    The NYT puzzle was one of the ones we all (120 of us) solved at the Westport Library. I did hear a few people say that they thought it was Midas’s. As for me, speed solving got in the way of appreciating all the theme entries. I did really like sing-less bars, though, Lynn. As people came out into the hall after turning in their puzzles, there was a fair amount of “Mid-ass touch, did you see that?” I think Lynn would have enjoyed being there!

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Mid ass touch is pretty damn funny. Great puzzle.


  20. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Does anybody actually understand the Fireball?


  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Bruce, I do. Am blogging it now for the Thursday post. I’d assume the .pdf answer attachment explains the theme, though.

  22. Amy Reynaldo says:

    … Huh. No theme explanation! Go figure.

  23. Noam D. Elkies says:

    @Lynn: Thanks for the back story! As for “lifeless” → ARID, that seems legit using the metaphorical sense of “arid”, e.g. [as defined in] “2 : lacking in interest and life : jejune“.

  24. jefe says:

    @Andrew Greene – I was going to say the same thing. Current is measured in Amps; watts are a unit of power. “Electrical measure” would be fair though.

Comments are closed.