Wednesday, 3/7/12

Fireball 6:52 
NYT 4:15 
LAT 3:42 (Jeffrey -paper) 
CS 4:24 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 
Celebrity untimed 

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 7 12 0307

Okay, I confess I don’t know the Xavier Cugat song and don’t know if the SERPENTINE phrase, “MEET ME ON THE CONGA LINE,” is part of the “ONE TWO THREE KICK” song. Or maybe I know the song, if it’s the standard conga-line-at-the-wedding-reception song, but never had a clue that there were these words…or that title. Do you think DANCE CLASS is part of the theme, or is SERPENTINE by itself as a bonus answer?

If you’ve never seen the old Alan Arkin/Peter Falk movie The In-Laws, you gotta see the classic “Serpentine!” scene. Right here. Be sure to watch to the end of the clip.

I like the two goofball rhyming (sort of) answers, NO-TELL MOTEL and ECO-FREAKS. And WEIRD AL! I know the term HOT MESS, which is an awesome crossword entry, but didn’t know it was a Southern thing; I thought it was more of a black thing. Never see Dirty Jobs anymore, but I’m still fond of Mike ROWE.

I’m less fond of the ucky bits of fill, which push their way to the fore. ARIE AURAE ATEA ESOS EDAMS TRA BRAE INO EEN ITO NNW EOE? Without the ambitious longer answers, we might have been spared some of the clunkier fill, but then we would have had to go without the NO-TELL MOTEL and the HOT MESS. We can’t have that. Trade-off worthwhile? Maybe so.

There are two famous people named CECE. One is gospel singer Winans, and the other is [R&B singer Peniston]. You’ve got to give her credit for not changing her last name when she went into show business because it always makes me snicker.

3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Triple Stack”

Fireball 3/7

Cute! That’s not often a word that’s thrown around when you talk about Peter’s crosswords, but this is cute. The title is “Triple Stack,” which to crossword nerds connotes a stack of three 15-letter answers. But Peter marked the 100th birthday of the triple-stacked OREO cookie (two cookie layers, one creme layer) with a triple stack of OREO rebus squares in the dead center of the puzzle (facilitated by left/right symmetry, allowing three different answer lengths). BALTIM{ORE O}RIOLES, B{ORE O}N, and REST{ORE O}RDER all have OREOS in their exact middles. See? Cute.

I mistyped the first theme answer as BALTIMORE OREOS at first. Do they have those? They should. With orange creme filling. And wings.

Lots of nice fill surrounding the plate of cookies, including INAUGURAL SPEECH, Tony Bennett’s DUETS II, IF I MAY, SASHIMI, BOMB THREATS, and BARN RAISING. I reckon there are plenty of zingy Gordonian clues, but I solved the puzzle this morning and don’t remember the clues. What were your favorites?

4.5 stars. The theme isn’t big, but it has a whole pile of cookies in the middle of it.

Erik Agard’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Wed Mar 7 2012

Theme: Loose lips sink ships is an American English idiom meaning “beware of unguarded talk”. The phrase originated on propaganda posters during World War II. The posters were part of the general campaign of American propaganda during World War II and were part of a campaign to advise servicemen and other citizens to avoid careless talk concerning secure information that might be of use to the enemy. The British equivalent used variations on the phrase “Keep mum”. [Wikipedia]

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [1981 Richard Pryor film] – BUSTIN’ LOOSE
  • 24A. [Band whose frontman passes through the audience in a plastic bubble, with “The”] – FLAMING LIPS . Really? Ok, then.
  • 46A. [“Everything but” item] – KITCHEN SINK
  • 58A. [Jolly Roger fliers] – PIRATE SHIPS
  • 60A. [The word, as suggested by the saying formed by the ends of this puzzle’s four longest answers] – MUM

Who doesn’t love a World War II saying?

We love accountant’s department:
11A. [One doing serious crunching in 29-Down] – CPA
29D. [Busy mo. for 11-Acrosses] – APR

It’s in a song title so it must be a real word department:

  • 50A. [“Don’t __”: 2005 R&B hit] – CHA

Crossword trash talk department:

  • 5D. [“The Brady Bunch” girl] – JAN. This is the year I finally finish ahead of my nemesis JAN at the ACPT.

You’ll never mix these up again department:

  • 11D. [It’s measured in alarms] – CHILI/50D. [Country that’s nearly 25 times as long as its average width] – CHILE

It’s a puzzle. No strong feelings about it. *** stars.

R.I.P.  WWII vet and Hall of Fame composer Robert Sherman: There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. Feed The Birds.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Color Me” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 7

The submission specifications for one of the major daily crossword outlets has this to say on the subject of themes: “In general, avoid clichéd themes (colors, animals, etc.), although a new approach to an old theme will be considered.” I always remember this because one of the first crosswords I ever made had a color-based theme, and this language dissuaded me from submitting it anywhere. Looking back, it was not a great puzzle, so I’m glad this publisher’s specs saved me from additional embarrassment.

I mention this, of course, because today’s Sarah Keller crossword has a color-based theme. Here, each of the three theme entries uses a color to describe one’s appearance in certain “extreme” situations:

  • 20-Across: One who is [Extremely exasperated] is BLUE IN THE FACE. As are the Smurfs and members of the Blue Man Group.
  • 38-Across: One who is [Extremely jealous] is GREEN WITH ENVY. Better than being green with nausea or green from the over-consumption of asparagus.
  • 55-Across: One who is [Extremely pale] is as WHITE AS A GHOST. I know that’s a common saying, but who’s to say ghosts are “white” as opposed to “transparent?” Is there a better solution to “white as a ___?”

Does the additional constraint on the theme (colorful terms used to describe people in “extreme” states) constitute enough of a “new approach to an old theme?” I’m not convinced it is, but that’s not to say the puzzle was bad or no fun to solve. To the contrary, it was nice, for once, to plunk down 13-letter answers with only one or two crossings in place.

I got distracted by the unusually large number of partials (IS SO, IT AS, ONE EAR) and by the similar entries ILONA and ALANA. There seemed to be a lot I didn’t know, like VICUNA, the [Llama relative], the aforementioned ILONA [Massey of old movies], and ALSACE-Lorraine (a former province of the German Empire, it appears). Despite this, I managed to solve the puzzle in under five minutes, a good time by my standards.

It seems that for every great entry in this puzzle, there’s something pretty ugly. So while SOUTHPAW, TALK SHOW, MAZEL TOV, IN TACT, and TEA BAG are great (especially the clue for that last one–[Small sack of leaves]), I cringed a little with ESE, EELY, OUSE, ACHS, OLA, and BAERS. With only three theme entries consuming 39 squares, I would have expected somewhat smoother fill.

Liz Gorski’s Celebrity crossword, “Wayback Wednesday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 3 7 12 Gorski "Wayback Wednesday"

It’s Gorski two-fer Wednesday!

This is a particularly timely “Wayback” puzzle, as Monday was the 30th anniversary of John Belushi’s untimely overdose death. On Facebook, movie critic Roger Ebert linked to a 1984 column he wrote after the publication of Bob Woodward’s book, Wired. Ebert is a recovering alcoholic, and his perspective on Belushi’s sad addiction is a good read.

Here’s the more upbeat theme:

  • 18a. JOHN BELUSHI, [Star of the first four seasons of 48-Down]
  • 30a. BLUES BROTHERS, [With “The,” 1980 musical comedy film starring 18-Across]. Remember the scene where there’s a car chase through a shopping mall? That mall had already gone bust before the movie was shot, but still it sat in Harvey, Illinois, for decades. Demolition finally began this winter.
  • 44a. ANIMAL HOUSE, [1978 film about a fraternity starring 18-Across]
  • 11d. DAN, [Aykroyd who was 18-Across’ costar in 30-Across]
  • 48d. SNL, [NBC sketch show featuring the Not Ready for Prime Time Players]

Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword answers, 3 7 12 Quigley

True confession: I solved this one last week (part of my PuzzleSocial Crosswords work—you all know that you can solve the Onion puzzle and BEQ’s two weekly blog puzzles in that Facebook app, right? The other puzzles under the “AV Club” label are MGWCC, Jonesin’, Ink Well, and a new Patrick Blindauer puzzle.) and completely, utterly missed seeing the drug theme. Yes, I saw the drug terms in the theme clues, but I didn’t link them to the answers until this morning.

  • 17a. [Assume blame for selling heroin?] clues HOLD THE BAG. I guess “bag” is heroin slang? I know “skag” but not “bag.” Maybe it’s a unit of measure?
  • 22a. [Christmas classic by Bobby Helms about crack?] clues JINGLE BELL ROCK. Crack = rock cocaine.
  • 35a. [Bing results for the phrase “pot dealer”?] clues WEB HITS. A hit of marijuana is one puff rather than a purchasable unit of measure, right?
  • 46a. [Toy shaken to find out where to buy coke?] clues MAGIC EIGHT BALL. Eightball is cocainy but I don’t know any details. I may be thinking of speedball, which is a coke/heroin combo if I recall correctly.
  • 54a. [Acid that helps you learn how to play “Free Bird”?] clues GUITAR TABS. One can obtain tabs of LSD.

Now, without the drug aspect, you’ve got a set of five lively and interesting phrases that are entirely unrelated. Brendan could have skewed boring with his theme phrases, but that would be so unlike him. GARMENT BAG, TAB HUNTER, and IGNEOUS ROCK would have been much duller choices. (Yes, I know the druggy terms are all at the end so TAB HUNTER wouldn’t work.) Has Brendan ever made a puzzle with no zippy entries, just boring words and phrases? I bet he hasn’t done so in the last five years, if ever.

This week’s “Who what?” category includes two musicians I’ve never heard of:

  • 41a. [Singer with the 2011 single “California”] is EMA. Apparently those are the initials of Erika M. Anderson. Here’s the video of the song.
  • 45d. [London-based dubstep artist whose name is pronounced like a math operation] is SBTRKT. BEQ linked to one of his videos in the comments. His real name is Aaron Jerome.

Fave fill: SLINKY, AZIZ Ansari, LET’S GO, and—one of my favorite punctuation marks—the EM DASH.

Toughish puzzle, no? Four stars.

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11 Responses to Wednesday, 3/7/12

  1. Pete says:

    Most of what we white northerners think of as “black things” are really southern things. Blacks moved up north, got stuck in the ghettos, and retained much of their southern patois. We heard more southernisms from blacks than from white southerners, so we just assumed it was a black thing. Kind of like the great “back in the day” fiasco of ’08 over at Rex’s.
    I’m reminded of the time this pretty white woman moved up north from Atlanta and ended up working for my mother, who kind of took her under her wing. After this woman searched for a place to live for a week or so she voiced surprise that with all the apartment complexes about, not a single one had a vacancy. My mother suggested that she show up in person rather than just calling. Miracle of miracles, there were hundreds of vacancys. Just not for people who ‘sounded black’.

  2. Gareth says:

    Sure glad the LAT theme wasn’t a MGWCC! Would never have gotten it!

    Appreciated the NYT, for an offbeat, visual theme, but yes there were several frowny moments in the short stuff.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Sam, you might be thinking of WHITE AS A SHEET… before the days of decorator linens! BEQ’s 45D SBTRKT needs eludication, please? Yes, Liz’s NYT was lively and much fun. Fave clue: Green nuts!

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Pete: I absolutely picked up saying “back in the day” from my editorial assistant (a recent Northwestern grad at the time) in the mid/late ’90s. Was that originally a Southern thing that migrated north in the Great Migration? I do use the phrase in my blog posts, more so since the Fiasco of ’08.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ooh! A Rex Parker commenter mentioned that Mike Rowe did a TED talk. He talks about the meaning of down-and-dirty work, Aristotelian concepts, and more. Entertaining and thought-proviking:

  6. Josh Bischof says:

    The Fireball puzzle is excellent, not so much for the theme but for the ample goodness in the fill. Those long down answers–BOMB THREATS and BARN RAISING–are fantastic. TSUNAMI and SASHIMI are nicely balanced in the middle there. I also love the two 15’s, DUETS II, and the entire NW corner. My favorite clue is “Quadrennial Winter Delivery.” It’s a lovely piece of verbose misdirection. Great puzzle.

    I agree with ArtLvr that “Green nuts?” and the answer that it clues are the highlights of the NYT puzzle. It’s a fun puzzle, but there’s a lot of unattractive fill.

    All I can think about when I hear Mike Rowe’s name is his exhortation for us to check out his butt in that jeans commercial. No thanks, Mike. I’m good.

  7. janie says:

    from today’s “dining & wine” section in the nyt — the perfect fireball “go-with.” oreos for the diy-er — among other faves!

    bon appetit!


  8. maikong says:


    Back in the day – my day, a Vicuna coat created a big scandal for President Eisenhower, and should your travels take you to Alsace-Lorraine make sure you try the Choucroute Garnie (a sauerkraut, pork, and sausage casserole).

    Oh yes, Ilona shows up a lot in the ARPA puzzles! Ilona was a blonde, white as a sheet.

  9. Bananarchy says:

    An EIGHT BALL is a quantity of drugs (usually cocaine). Slang for 1/8 of an ounce. Not sure about BAG. I always understood it to refer to an unspecified quantity of any drug sold in a bag, but maybe it has a more precise meaning in the heroin world.

  10. Old Geezer says:

    While hinted at, thot you might mention “Mum’s the word!” as the conceptual phrase.

Comments are closed.