Thursday, 4/5/12

Tausig untimed 
NYT unfinished 
Fireball 8:20 
LAT 5:31 (Neville) 
CS 5:07 (Sam) 
BEQ no review this week (contest) 
Celebrity untimed 

Once again, I’m putting up the post hours before the NYT, LAT, BEQ, and Celebrity puzzles launch. Feel free to rate the puzzles you’ve done and party in the comments lounge. If I lived in Mountain time, I could go to bed early every night; but on vacation, I’m not sitting by a computer in the evening until a couple hours after the NYT puzzle comes out.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Substitute Parts”

Ink Well crossword solution, 4 5 12 "Substitute Parts"

Unlike the recent NYT “MOVING PARTS” theme, “Substitute Parts” doesn’t anagram PARTS, it substitutes body parts to join in the BODY MODS trend:

  • 17a. BODY MODS, [Decorative physical  changes, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]
  • 25a. “CHAIRS AHOY!,” [“Steer port, captain, for thar be places to sit at last!” {HIP}]. CHIPs Ahoy cookies are the base phrase, with HAIR substituted for the HIP.
  • 35a. FREUDIAN SNAIL, [Phallic-looking gastropod? {LIP}]. Freudian sLIP.
  • 50a. MAX LEGROOM, [Airline’s selling point for tall passengers? {HEAD}]. Max HEADroom.
  • 59a. HANDY ANT, [Bug who’s always ready to help? {ARM}]. ARMy ant.

I’m partial to that FREUDIAN SNAIL. And anyone who tried to hang out in the Marriott lounge at the ACPT is familiar with the concept of “CHAIRS AHOY!”

Five more clues:

  • 8a. ELIJAH, [Prophet with a taste for Manischewitz, apparently]. Is this a Passover seder reference?
  • 31a. A.F. OF L., [Early 20th-century union of unions]. American Federation of Labor.
  • 47a. SOS, [Letters addressed to airplanes?] from people stranded in an isolated area.
  • 1d. TABITHA, [“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” protagonist]. We would also have accepted [Crossword master Brendan Emmett Quigley’s baby girl].
  • 6d. [Noted scholar of nothing] is BUDDHA. As in his devotion to nothingness, I reckon.

3.5 stars.

Pete Muller’s Fireball crossword, “10+”

Pete Muller's Fireball crossword answers, 4/5/12

The plus sign in the title should be read as “cross” and the 10 means that 10 answers cross OVER THE LINE by having the word CROSS spill over the grid’s edge. (1) AMERICAN RED Cross, (2) SIGN OF THE cross (good clue: [Religious movement] sounds like a sect rather than a physical motion), (3) cross YOUR HEART (kudos to Pete for using “your” rather than the stilted “one’s” so often found in crosswords), (4) cross OVER THE LINE, (5) cross-STREET, (6) cross-EXAMINED, (7) crossWORD (tricky clue: [Times square?]), (8) GET Across (the only one in which the excluded cross is part of a word rather than a free word or discrete part of a compound), (9) SOUTHERN Cross, and (10) DOUBLE-cross. Lovely symmetrical grouping of terms beginning and ending with CROSS, with locations required to touch the correct edge. It didn’t really feel like a puzzle with 10 theme answers restricting the constructor’s options in filling the grid.

Speaking of the constructor, Pete Muller’s launching a new monthly crossword contest on May 1, with prize drawings for people who get most of the meta answers. Check out Muller Monthly Music Meta. (Music! Oh, no. I’m doomed. Though Pete assures me the first puzzles will be easy.)

Favorite fill: CHUNNEL, some band I’ve never heard of with the great name FUNHOUSE. Clue that stymied me the longest: [Answering to] for BENEATH. Finally figured out that an employee who answers to you is BENEATH you on the corporate ladder.

4.5 stars.

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 5 12 0405

It’s 11 p.m. and I want to go to bed. But I don’t have a clue what to put in those white squares inside the checkerboard center. Yes, I understand that the long theme answers all related to checkerboard patterns, but … okay, Erik Agard to the rescue via Facebook chat. I had the wrong initial, ADELE F instead of ADELE H, and #%&$ ARIOSO instead of ARIOSE (and I assure you, [Songlike] has been used to clue ARIOSO in the NYT puzzle before, per the Cruciverb database). Mighty hard for that “most of the letters in CHECKERBOARD” bit to jump out at you when you have more than one of those quasi-unchecked squares wrong despite being a really good solver. So you add a C, E, R, and O in those middle unnumbered squares and you spell out CHECKERBOARD in the checkerboard of squares in the middle. I call bullhockey. Plus, there are some real stinkers in the fill, plus the GAME OF CHESS (awkwardly worded) is tied to a CHECKERBOARD.

Among the uglier words in the grid: THOLE, LEUMI, BY LOT, ELKIN ([Stanley who wrote “George Mills”], which is a book I’ve never heard of), SLA (does it remain newsworthy nearly four decades later, or is it a mere footnote in history?), AGA, variant AERY, ENNA, D-TEN, and a bunch of other short blah answers. Feh.

Star rating time! This gets 2 stars for rage, 2.25 stars for the damaged fill, a very grudging 4-ish stars for the gimmick if only it had had clearer answers feeding into it. I think it averages to 2.75 stars. Ambitious idea, but the execution fell short. What did you think about the theme?

P.S. I looked up Stanley ELKIN in Cruciverb. Past clues over the years (just a handful of clues, mind you) have told us he’s a satirical novelist who wrote “The MacGuffin,” “The Magic Kingdom,” and “Mrs. Ted Bliss.” What do you know? I haven’t heard of them, either, and none of them provided any help with today’s clue. Wikipedia tells us “although he enjoyed high critical praise, his books have never enjoyed popular success.” See? That’s why I didn’t know his name.

Updated Thursday morning:

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


Solution to CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, April 5

At 24-Down, we learn that EGOS are [Narcissists’ interests (one of which can be found in each of the puzzle’s longest answers)]. Two things stand out about this revealer. First, that’s a lot of S’s in one clue–it’s kind of a tongue twister. (Go ahead and say it aloud five times fast, then notice how those around you think you’ve sprung a leak.)

Second, it’s unusual for the revealer to appear so far north in the grid. We’ve come to expect the revealer as the very last Across or Down entry. Sometimes it appears along the grid’s equator, and once in a blue moon you get a revealer at 1-Across. But NNE of the grid’s midpoint, starting in the fifth row? That feels a little random.

Back to the theme–there’s an EGO hidden in each of the theme entries:

  • 18-Across: LEG OF LAMB is a [Roasted Easter dinner main dish]. My family was always a Ham-at-Easter group. In the recent past, it’s been Taco-Bell-at-Easter. I’m not sure what it will be this weekend, now that I’m trying to eschew fast food. Big salad, anyone?
  • 26-Across: I love PRICE GOUGING, [Grossly overcharging for goods or services], as a crossword entry. In real life, of course, I’m firmly against it. (Diary of a Crossword Fiend: Your Home for Controversial Opinions.)
  • 45-Across: The [Hanks/Ryan romantic comedy of 1998] is YOU’VE GOT MAIL. It’s original title was When Harry Met Sally Online.
  • 59-Across: The VEGO-MATIC was famous pitchman Ron [Popeil’s legendary food processor, first sold in 1963]. My favorite Ronco product was the GLH-9 Hair in a Can spray. I always found myself captivated by the ads. It’s the same curiosity that has me slowing down at the scene of an accident.

Once again we get QUEER clued as [Odd or strange in nature], and I remain curious whether contemporary usage of the term has co-opted the word such that now a reference to “queer” as “odd” or “strange” is perhaps offensive. I’m still thinking it through, but in the meantime I would certainly avoid any reference to “odd” or “strange” in a clue for QUEER just to be safe.

There’s a mix of good and bad in the fill. I liked SODA JERK, GAMBLE, NON GRATA, and IT’LL DO, among others, but, oy, that equator! ASTR(!), CTS, and ABAB??? Then there’s OLLIES and TALI and SITU (oh my!). And don’t forget LST and TRET. Eww (that’s with two W’s for the record, not two E’s).

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Convertible”

So, the crossword isn’t that hard at all. It’s the meta that gets you. If you can figure it out by April 11, you’re in the contest drawing to win BEQ’s new crossword book. And if you can’t? You’re out. I’m out. Matt Gaffney, King of the Meta, didn’t figure it out either, and neither did Brendan’s test solvers. We shall not speak of right or wrong answers in the comments–but if you too are stumped, know that you are not alone.

Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 5 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 5 12

A simple theme gets a current sporting event hook today.

  • 17a. [One confirmed with Times changes] – COPY EDITOR
  • 23a. [Offensive blueprint?] – PLAN OF ATTACK
  • 36a. [Beetle Bailey’s boss] – SERGEANT SNORKEL
  • 49a. [Tonality indicator] – KEY SIGNATURE
  • 58a. [Tournament that begins today (and collectively, the words that begin 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across] – THE MASTERS

I like the two long down entries in this grid – LOOK-ALIKE and FARM SYSTEM. My favorite clue here was [Potter’s practice] for MAGIC, which was clearly a reference to Harry Potter. Getting an answer like that straight away makes me feel clever; it doesn’t come too often!

The connection between NEEDLE and FRIEND is far too tenuous for my liking for them to have linked clues. I don’t see any value added here.

The somewhat vague [First name in architecture] for EERO Saarinen gave me flashes of IEOH Ming Pei, which gave me trouble at the ACPT. I won’t be forgetting that any time soon, it seems.

Fun fact of the puzzle: TUNA are rather [Fast-swimming fish]; indeed they can swim over 40 mph! That means that a single tuna could swim about a mile in the time it took Dan Feyer to solve this puzzle. Perhaps we need to start having biathlons with crosswords and swimming? I think we’ll need a bigger hotel.

Liz Gorski’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 5 12 "Top 40 Thursday" Gorski

So, I struggled mightily with La Liz’s NYT crossword today, and her Celebrity puzzle has an Usher theme I drew a complete blank on too. Luckily, the crossings are all easy.

  • 15a. U REMIND ME, [Usher Grammy-winning single of 2001: 3 wds.]
  • 21a. SHE DON’T KNOW, [Single from Usher’s 2010 album “Raymond v. Raymond” featuring Ludacris: 3 wds.]
  • 39a. CONFESSIONS, [Usher Grammy-winning studio album of 2004]
  • 49a. U GOT IT BAD, [2001 #1 single from Usher’s “8701” album: 4 wds.]

The only Usher song I know is last year’s hit, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” I’m sensing a common thread in the titles of Usher singles: grammatical infelicities or, at a bare minimum, “U” for “You.” Wikipedia tells me that this is not a consistent trait for Usher’s singles, though.

I’m seeing a hidden sub-theme here, with food. PITAS stuffed with OATS, PARSNIP, TOFU … and SUGAR. Yum!

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37 Responses to Thursday, 4/5/12

  1. Gareth says:

    What Amy said: Although I forced CHECKERBOARD in there removing my ARIOSo in the process…

  2. ethan f says:

    meh. had to look up solution — I had “checks” in the center white squares. You were right with CHECKERBOARD Gareth — it’s ARIOSE not ARIOSO.

    nice idea. failed on execution… At the least the checkerboard should have been outlined so it was clear the white squares on the edge of the board were part of it.

  3. Howard B says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle-within-a-puzzle aspect, but then again I also enjoy pattern-matching style puzzles.
    What I did was leave ADELE- blank because I had no idea what that letter was, then I took a bit more time to figure out the middle. I also tried both the O and E for ARIOSE to see which would work better. The reveal for me was seeing the ordered B-ARD at the end, with several letters beginning with C at the top. The rest, as they say, is history.

    This was an original, ambitious theme with some serious constraints in the grid. It would have been amazing, if only it had somehow been designed so that all words into the grid were connected to the word not just by an initial, or more intuitive (see the clue for D-TEN). This way the solver would have less doubt and blank squares, leaving a more fillable, chewy center to enjoy.

    But overall I liked (most of) this one.

  4. janie says:

    >”At the least the checkerboard should have been outlined…”

    this is where the pdf version becomes the solver’s friend. though i ordinarily solve on acrosslite, am so glad this is now a regular alternative!!

    ADELEH was no problem, but that ELKIN/ENNA cross was a head-scratcher — and the last to be filled in. like howard, sussed out CHECKERBOARD fill-in-the-blank style — which gave me a lovely “aha” moment indeed.

    two thumbs up from me!


  5. ktd says:

    MOIL really bothered me. I spent a lot of time looking at it thinking it should be TOIL.

  6. Martin says:

    Very clever puzzle from Ms Gorski today!

    As for ADELE H, this was a real gimme for me, since “The Story of ___ H” is quite a common clue for ADELE anyway.


  7. ArtLvr says:

    What Howard said — I’d nearly quit on the centerpiece when I suddenly saw the BOARD! LOL.

  8. cyberdiva says:

    Well, I finally gave up and came here to find out what I was missing. I wasn’t aware that ARIOSE was a possibility, so I left ARIOSO. And I had no idea about the square at the end of the 4th row in Battleship. So CHECKERBOARD eluded me. I kept looking for ways in which the main large answers were related to each other or to anything else. That’s what I thought I should be looking for, according to the note. How do those clues make up “the puzzle’s theme” except for GAMEOFCHESS? I suppose in retrospect that QUILTDESIGN could be a checkerboard (or just about anything else!), but SHOWERSCENE? PRESELECTED? Frankly, even in the case of QUILTDESIGN and RACINGFLAGS, I think I’d only think of CHECKERBOARD if I were **looking** for CHECKERBOARD, rather than those answers leading me to it. Blech.

  9. Andrew Greene (530nm330Hz) says:

    And here I thought it was about my usual conundrum of whether to shave or not… CHEEK OR BEARD?

  10. Alex says:

    Time to renew calls for the NYT to release a .jpz of all its puzzles alongside the usual formats. A .jpz would have been able to outline the checkerboard and allow for an additional across entry that would allow the solver to fill in that pattern.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @ktd: Yes, this is the second puzzle I’ve done in a week that had MOIL instead of TOIL. I think the other one was that hotel-copy USA Today puzzle I did. It’s not a word I encounter, well, pretty much anywhere else.

    @Martin: I bet the FITB “Story of ___ H” clues are going to go nearly extinct. The singer Adele is so phenomenally famous and talented, with an appeal that crosses radio formats. “Rolling in the Deep” charted in the categories of Hot 100, pop, adult contemporary, rock, dance club, alternative rock, Latin, and R&B/hip-hop. (Who does that?? I can’t believe she didn’t plow through the country charts too.) And she’s got many decades left in her career.

  12. Martin says:

    I always remember that it’s “The Story of Adele H.” because her father is Victor Hugo. It’s sort of a big deal.

  13. Matthew G. says:

    Didn’t have any problem with the checkerboard itself, but totally bit the dust on ELKIN/MOIL/ENNA. I’ve seen MOIL/ENNA once or twice, but not often enough to have them cold. Never heard of ELKIN. Adding to the problem was that I guessed SDS instead of SLA, and thus put MOLD instead of MOIL, thinking that “work hard” meant to MOLD something into shape. It could make sense that way. But then I couldn’t figure out ENNA. Long story short, I finished with four incorrect squares right there.

    Like most have said, I admire the concept of the puzzle but the execution was not satisfying at all.

  14. rex says:

    Re: ADELE H—To quote Jon Stewart: “Yeah, yeah, we all have Wikipedia.”

    The fill-in-the-blank Truffaut clue for ADELE hasn’t been in the NYT in over a decade. The only “common” clue for ADELE is [Fred Astaire’s sister]. At least, until recently.

  15. Angela Osborne says:

    I immediately thought the white squares in the center would be a cross probably because I’m getting ready for Easter. (and with the squares around it filled in, it did look like a cross.) For me, a terrible crossworder, this was an easy puzzle. Words I didn’t know: Massif, SLA (I’m old enough to remember it was about Patty Hearst, but couldn’t remember the letters and Elkin, but eventually filled them in.

  16. Martin says:

    Another clue akin to Martin’s is “___ Hugo, 1975 Isabelle Adjani role based on a real-life story” from 1/31/2008.

  17. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The Martins love their Adele H and will continue to defend her as crossword fill until their dying days. Meanwhile, everyone who wasn’t watching French films in 1975 (I was 9 at the time) will stick with the current British singer (and/or the Astaire sister a great many of us know only from crosswords).

  18. Deb Amlen says:

    But it published perfectly. I just needed to say that.

  19. Jenni Levy says:

    I get how the GAME OF CHESS and RACING FLAGS are connected to CHECKERBOARD. I’ve never seen Psycho, so I suppose it might be a checkered curtain, but what’s the connection to PRESELECTED? And are QUILT DESIGN and JOCKEY SILKS included? I solved the puzzle but remain confused.

  20. Martin says:

    Rex wrote:

    “The fill-in-the-blank Truffaut clue for ADELE hasn’t been in the NYT in over a decade. The only “common” clue for ADELE is [Fred Astaire’s sister]. At least, until recently.”

    But is has been in other crosswords:

    ADELE: in 09 in the LAT:

    “”The Story of ___ H”: 1975 Truffaut film”

    ADELE H:

    1 Sa NYS 08 Oscar-nominated title role for Isabelle Adjani
    1 Th Rea 98 Truffaut’s The Story of ___
    1 We LAT 09 “The Story of ___”: 1975 Isabelle Adjani film
    2 Tu >1 04 1975 title role for Isabelle Adjani
    1 10 Title character of a 1975 Truffaut film
    1 00 Truffaut title character


  21. Gareth says:

    Dr Levy et al.: Preselected and shower scene are not theme entries. The two downs are though.

  22. Martin says:

    Amy wrote:

    “The Martins love their Adele H and will continue to defend her as crossword fill until their dying days. Meanwhile, everyone who wasn’t watching French films in 1975 (I was 9 at the time) will stick with the current British singer (and/or the Astaire sister a great many of us know only from crosswords).”

    I think you may have missed my point Amy. I have no great love for the clue either. I was simply pointing out that ,IMHO anyone who is a crossword solving enthusiast should (hopefully) be familiar with the movie referenced clue. It’s not that obscure.

    I agree that the current British singer is the best clue for ADELE right now. Incidentally, I don’t think I was even born when “Fred’s dancing sister” was dancing in the movies. Does that mean that this clue is equally unfair?

    Yes… I realize that Adele Astaire was featured in several movies, whereas the ADELE H clue, references only one movie, which obviously makes it a harder clue. However, I think one’s age should have little bearing on this particular issue.


  23. Martin says:

    I had the same reaction to the notion of preferring a clue. I don’t choose the clues; I’m just expected to know the answers.

    The other commonish ADELE clue is Jane Eyre’s charge.

  24. pannonica says:

    Had no problem with ADELE H; know the film, even if Truffaut is far from my favorite. Neither Ms. Astaire nor Ms. Adkins—despite their inappropriate aitchlessness—would have been troublesome either. The Eyre ward, would have missed.

    ELKIN also no problem; quite familiar with the name if not the works.

    MOIL and ENNA got me initially, as TOIL and ETNA. The latter, obviously, was not double-initially, as was the former. Or should I say first?

    Anyway, I thought the center gimmick was fine (and no need for an outline) especially once I realized it was longer than CHECKERED. Total solving time as 6:06, which is just a little above average for me on a Thursday.

    I do agree with Amy, though, that it’s mentally jarring to think of (the GAME OF) CHESS being played on a CHECKERBOARD rather than vice-versa. Shades of ex-Nat!

  25. cyberdiva says:

    Gareth, I agree that SHOWERSCENE and PRESELECTED are not theme entries, simply because they don’t fit, now that I know the theme. But the note at the start said that “the puzzle’s theme” will help with the center fill. My question is how are we supposed to know the puzzle’s theme, unless we already know the puzzle’s theme? The two that you rightly claim are not theme entries are the same length as the entries that ARE. There should be a way to distinguish the theme’s entries, especially if they’re supposed to help us fill in the middle. Grrrrr.

  26. Martin says:


    The unusual center of the grid is clearly part of the theme. For some, it made the puzzle rather easy because it was so obvious. With many of the long entries alluding to a checkerboard pattern and a checkerboard in the center of the grid, it seems reasonable to ask the solver to figure out the theme.

  27. Martin says:

    BTW, the pattern is called checkerboard. Never chessboard. It’s the checkered flag.

    I don’t see that using a chess game is a flaw in any way. (I think the observation that GAME OF CHESS is awkward is fair. I wouldn’t call it a major flaw but I see the point.) The common board for the two games is the original checkerboard pattern.

    Of course, in British English that would be draughtsboard pattern. Maybe Martin will tell us what Canadians say.

  28. john farmer says:

    I liked the novelty of the NYT theme, and I thought it was a good move not to clue the middle section. After all, the pattern was right in front of us. It did take a while to figure out — I was thinking CHESS-something instead of CHECKERBOARD — and eventually I got it.

    I actually stared longer at the Fireball grid trying to come up with a Beanie Baby name and a cookware brand, and also wondering how GETA was “Convey.” CHUNNEL came up in a recent sporcle quiz and some Brit commenters mentioned they’d never heard the term. Maybe it’s just us furriners who call it that. Anyway, excellent puzzle from Mr Muller.

    Back to the checkerboard, ELKIN was somehow a gimme; though maybe a tough name, I didn’t think unfair. Likewise with ADELEH. Fwiw, Fred’s dancing sister never made it to Hollywood. The two Astaires were big names on Broadway (she apparently a bigger star than he). Fred went west and made movies, Adele went across the pond and got married. He’s the one everyone remembers. GAME OF CHESS, btw, sounds natural to my ear. (FLAGS OF RACING, say, would be awkward.)

  29. John E says:

    SLA is a pretty common abbreviation in business operations / contracts for “Service Level Agreement”. Also known in pension circles as “Single Life Annuity”, although that version is probably less familiar.

    BTW – I prefer the “High Anxiety” shower scene to “Psycho”.

  30. Jenni Levy says:

    Um, OK, but I agree with Cyberdiva that you can only figure that out in retrospect. Not my favorite Gorski.

  31. ArtLvr says:

    Fireball was easy-ish this time, which cheered me… My thought on the British usage wouldn’t be draughts but chequers, but I can’t look it up: écheque in French? Never mind — I’m stuck between two computers at present, each accessing about half of what I need! Very tiresome, much moil.

  32. pannonica says:

    “BTW, the pattern is called checkerboard. Never chessboard. It’s the checkered flag.” – Martin puts the origin of “checkerboard” to 1775, “chessboard” to the 15th century.

    Agreed that the pattern is called checkerboard (and that’s what characterizes the theme), but I still say it’s strange to think of chess being played on a checkerboard.

  33. Martin says:

    Keep in mind “checkerboard” is American English, so the history is not surprising.

    And as you say, checkerboard is the unifying theme. I think of chess being played on a board that, too, has a checkerboard pattern.

  34. jefe says:

    Since no one’s answered it yet: During the seder, a cup of wine is poured for Elijah, and the door is left open for him. Read more here:

  35. ArtLvr says:

    I rather like the phrase “having a checkered past”…

  36. HH says:

    “My question is how are we supposed to know the puzzle’s theme, unless we already know the puzzle’s theme?”

    Complaints like this are the reason variety cryptics never caught on in this country.

  37. don says:

    I am happy to have nailed this one, despite grumblings here too. Stanley Elkin deserves some praise or vindication or something: The Magic Kingdom and The Living End are great books. Time for a revival!

Comments are closed.