Thursday, 5/24/12

Fireball 7:09 
NYT 4:41 
LAT 7:00 (Neville) 
CS 6:46 (Sam) 
BEQ 4:28 (Matt) 
Tausig untimed 

Kevin Wald’s Fireball crossword, “Exodus Setting”

Fireball solution, 5 24 12

Cool theme. Where’s the “Exodus Setting”? I’m thinking Egypt, the Red Sea … I’m out of ideas. 59a contributes MOUNT SINAI, which provides the recipe for the theme: MOUNT “S” IN “AI.” Indeed, each theme entry’s original phrase has an AI and there’s an S stuck in there. Didn’t see that until I was into my fourth theme answer. If you caught on faster, you’ve earned a cookie (but you’ll have to obtain said cookie yourself).

  • 17a. SKIPS BASIL, [Doesn’t follow a pesto recipe properly?], skips bail.
  • 29a. WAS IT A MINUTE?, [Question to someone who measured an itty-bitty angle?], “wait a minute.”
  • 37a. BRAS IN TEASERS, [Indications that an upcoming episode will feature lingerie?], brainteasers. This is the one where the extra S jumped out at me.
  • 43a. NURSE’S ASIDES, [Comments heard by the audience but not the patient?], nurse’s aides.

Favorite clues:

  • 26a. LENTO, [Played with a particular sloth?]. Not a fan of musical terms as crossword fill, but this clue’s visual makes up for that.
  • 61a. DONE, [“Clean plate club” member’s shout]. I like the clue (my paternal grandma was a feared enforcer for our local branch of the club) as much as I hated the club. You know what? I was done when all of the sauerkraut was still on the plate. So sue me.
  • 13d. WOW, [“Great googly moogly!”]. Doc Brown in Back to the Future, right?
  • 57d. ADJ., [White, powdery, or addictive: Abbr.].


  • 5d. REST MASS, [It’s zero for a photon]. Wha…? Is this the same as resting mass? It’s not a term I’ve ever encountered. Joon, help me out here.
  • 35a. NO-NO, [Perfecto’s less-difficult cousin]. My husband is guessing perfecto just means “perfect game,” but he hasn’t heard the term before. Once again, we see hints of Peter Gordon’s baseball fixation. Meh.

Four stars.

Derik Moore’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 5 24 12 0524

Neat theme, but without a road atlas, most of these would have been blank if not for crossings. Luckily, familiar cities start to look like themselves even when you don’t know what the clue means—I had something like LOSA*G**** at 11d and filled in LOS ANGELES without knowing why. Each theme answer is a city found at the CROSSROADS of the two interstate highways whose route numbers appear in the clue. The interstates I’m most familiar with are 90, 80, and 70 running east/west (except in Chicago, where 90/94 has a definite north/south orientation), 55 running southwest from Chicago, 35 heading south from Minneapolis to SAN ANTONIO, and … that’s about it. 94, 88, 81 … no, wait, 81 is that CTA bus route number I saw yesterday.

The map goes like this:

  • 17a. BIRMINGHAM, 65 + 20.
  • 40a. ATLANTA, 75 + 20. So 20 runs parallel to 70 and 80 but down south? Is there a 10 south of 20?
  • 4d. MEMPHIS, 55 + 40. I don’t know how 55 finds its way to Memphis. Checking online … holy cow! Memphis is southwest of Chicago, almost due south of St. Louis. I always feel like Tennessee and Kentucky are off to the east, and parts of them are but parts are west of the Windy City. (Pardon my old Kentucky ignorance, Neville and Byron.)
  • 11d. LOS ANGELES, 5 + 10. Okay, so there’s the 10. And I gather 5 is the westernmost of the north/south routes.
  • 28d. SAN ANTONIO, 35 + 10. Yep, that’s pretty far south.
  • 30d. OMAHA, 29 + 80. So Omaha must be three odd-numbered highways west of I-35.
  • 44d. DETROIT, 75 + 94. Passed through en route to Toronto last summer, but I don’t know which highways we took. Our Lady of GPS takes care of that stuff.
  • 62a. CROSSROADS, a 1969 Cream hit that (without checking YouTube) doesn’t ring a bell.

Well! This has been educational. I usually do appreciate a geography theme, and it would have been fiendishly difficult to put these cities in their proper map orientation so we won’t deduct points for LOS ANGELES holding up the puzzle’s east coast.

Ugliest answer: 9d: RAMAL, [Of a branch]. Checked two dictionaries, which have the noun ramus (plural rami) but not any adjectival form of the word.

Favorite clue: 53a: DOORNAIL, [Carpentry item in a common simile]. (See also the crossing 50d: TACKS, plural of tack, smart as a.)

Cereal of which I was not aware: 47a: OAT Chex. I know Rice, Wheat, and Corn Chexes but not this Oat.

Nice juxtaposition: ALAMO next to SAN ANTONIO.

There’s a fair amount of blah filler, such as BESOS, SSTS, STN, ON AN, and I’M A. And also some ick filler—HAIR clued as [Common drain clogger]. Blurgh!

3.85 stars.

Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 24 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 24 12

It’s a boxer rebellion in today’s puzzle:


We’ve seen this theme many times before, and we’ll see it time and time again in the future. Four distinct meanings here, so it’s well conceived.

Otherwise, I found this to be a tricky puzzle for a variety of reasons.

  • [Pilgrim to Mecca] – HAJI? Sure, HAJJI, or even HADJI (Jonny Quest, anyone?), but this deserves a sp. var. or something similar.
  • [It gets into a lather] – RAZOR. Oh, this was quite clever.
  • [Former Heathrow-based flier] – BOACBritish Overseas Airways Corporation. Sure.
  • [One of the Marxes] – KARL Marx is certainly a Marx, but not a Marx brother. Oi.
  • Crossing KRUPP with ORLOP? We’re not feeling very kind today, are we?
  • [St. that turned 100 in February] – ARIZona. St. stands for state here, not saint as I had thought.
  • The lower right corner here is a real mess. Three abbreviations and two frumpy foreign words in an isolated corner isn’t fun, especially when it looks like a strain to get a Q into the grid. That explains it – it’s a pangram. NO-NO. Writing a pangram is no excuse for this corner or the alternate spelling at one across. This makes me want to stop blogging this puzzle right here, so I will.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hidden Accounts” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, May 24

61-Across of the latest from Martin Ashwood-Smith says that a TALE is the [Account hidden inside 17-, 35-, and 53-Across]. Look carefully and you’ll see the T-A-L-E sequence spanning two or three words in all three answers:

  • 17-Across: The [Green variety of sapphire] is an ORIENTAL EMERALD.
  • 35-Across: The [Tools for drillers and fillers] are DENTAL EQUIPMENT. That’s a nice clue, because my first thoughts went to oil rigs and cement workers.
  • 53-Across: To [Get schooled, in a way] is to BE TAUGHT A LESSON. That “BE” sticks out like a sore thumb to me, but it’s consistent with the clue (“Get” requires the “BE” in the answer; if the clue was simply “Schooled,” then TAUGHT A LESSON would be correct). This one’s also unlike the others in that it has four words and not just two.

Leave the thematic nits to the side, however, and you have a very nice grid.  The highlight is DRAMA QUEEN, the [Prima donna], but I also liked AT BEST, NAUSEA (what Breakfast Test?), and Vince LOMBARDI. Many rare letters make an appearance (but the puzzle’s not a pangram–I stopped counting after seeing no C’s, but it looks like there’s also no J). The only entry that felt funny to me was LEAKAGES, but the more I think about it, the more I kinda like it. At first, it felt a little gross. But now, I find it’s really gross, and that makes it much better.

Given my upcoming visit to Paris in a couple of months, I found the French lessons helpful. But wow, there’s a lot of French here: BON APPETIT, EAUX, POTAGE, A LA, TETE, and ETATS. Mercy! (Merci?)

Favorite entry = DRAMA QUEEN, of course. Favorite clue = [Thoughtful gift?] for E.S.P.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Windows XP”

BEQ 5/24/12 answers

Brendan expresses himself cruciverbally with seven XP words:

  • [Booze brought to a barbecue, often] = SIX-PACK
  • [Wrap around a wrap] = WAX PAPER
  • [Pioneering quantum theorist] = MAX PLANCK
  • [Anarchy in the U.K. punk band] = the SEX PISTOLS
  • [Stance on tariffs, say] = TAX POLICY
  • [Crease in a fabric folded under each side] = BOX PLEAT
  • [Man-on-the-street interviews, for short] = VOX POPS

And EXPO as a bonus/straggler, but going down.

The first four of these are excellent, the last three are acceptable.  XP isn’t a horribly rare bigram in English but it does give us Scrabbly fill, so thumbs-up on the theme.

Six things — er, six points:

  1. I started off with two mutually-reinforcing mistakes: DINAR instead of DUCAT for [Old gold coin] crossing EXHIBIT instead of the correct OMNIBUS for [Big collection]. I had the IB in what I thought was EXHIBIT and didn’t see how it could be wrong.
  2. YOKEMATE is really a word! If you pronounce it with four syllables instead of two it could pass for Japanese.
  3. 16×15 grid. They’re getting so common now that I notice them right away since I’m always checking. Amy and I have an ongoing debate about whether letting asymmetry and 16×15 grids slide will produce a slippery slope at the bottom of which lies…wait for it…two letter-words. I say that in five years we’ll all have the same casual attitudes about 2-letter words that we do now about symmetry (even I violate that one all the time) and grid size. Time will tell, but you heard it here first!  It’ll start with OX, OZ, QI, and other coolness.
  5. This is one of the easiest BEQ’s in recent memory, as my solving time (4:28) will attest.
  6. Easiest clue: [African river that runs through ten countries] for…well, you know. Does that count the new South Sudan? And, moving westward, who’s going to be the first to put AZAWAD in a crossword? BEQ, I bet. And don’t overlook its crossword-friendly capital.

Thanx puzzle, Brendan! 4.25 starrage.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Shower Scene”

Ink Well crossword solution, "Shower Scene" 5 24 12 Tausig

We’re not talking about Psycho or that awesome coed-group shower scene in Starship Troopers here. No, sir. It’s a baby shower that’s lurking behind this theme. Five familiar phrases begin with things commonly given (maybe?) at baby showers, and they’re clued as if they’ve got something to do with that merch:

  • 17a. BOOTIE CALL, [Decision about which small socks to purchase?]. Now, this theme answer made me think, “Ah, so you change the spelling of a familiar phrase and get a baby product.” Turns out that no, Ben was merely going with the less common variant of “booty call,” as used in the title of a 1998 pop song by a British-Canadian girl group, said song having never gained any traction in the U.S. Meh.
  • 24a. SWING VOTE, [Democratic way to decide which rocking device is best?].
  • 34a. BOTTLE SERVICE, [Milk container delivery option?].
  • 46a. CRIB NOTES, [Info jotted down about baby beds?].
  • 53a. FORMULA ONE, [Premier breast milk alternative?]. Now, bottles are a common baby shower gift, but I don’t know that formula is given as a gift. I come from a pro-breastfeeding family so I haven’t seen it done.

Freshest content:

  • 12d. FACETIME, [Apple alternative to Skype]. Last week I was talking to a relative on the land line when my iPhone signaled me that her husband (who was in the room with her) was trying to FaceTime us. So I shut off the iPhone. Nobody wants a sneak attack video call.
  • 5a. FRACK, [Extract gas, in a way]. What the frack?
  • NAS and BIGGIE‘s feud gets into cross-referenced clue action.
  • 26d. INSEAMS, [Measurements from the crotch down]. How often is “crotch” in the dailies’ crosswords?
  • 33a. PIMP, [Playa]. MEH. I prefer “pimp” as a verb meaning “render more spiffy.”
  • 10d. DSM-IV, [American Psychiatric Association handbook]. DMS-5 (no more Roman numerals!) comes out in a year. Am I the only one who can’t see the DSM-whatever abbrevs without thinking of Prince’s “D.M.S.R.”?
  • 52d. ICP, [“Gathering of the Juggalos” band, for short]. Insane Clown Posse.

2.9 stars. That BOOTIE bugged me.

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27 Responses to Thursday, 5/24/12

  1. NYT nitpick: I-55 and I-40 cross (and briefly run together) in West Memphis, Arkansas — and I-29 and I-80 do the same in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Same metropolitan area as the ostensible answers, but in different states in both cases.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    From the Montreal Gazette blog:

    Expos fans will remember the call by long-time Montreal play-by-play man Dave Van Horne when Dennis Martinez pitched the only perfect game in the franchise’s history on July 28, 1991 in a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    “El Presidente. El Perfecto.”

    5:00 minutes into this video:

  3. Martin says:

    Neville: BOAC was a very big airline, up until the creation of British Airways.


  4. KarmaSartre says:

    25 or 6 to 4

  5. Jim Horne says:

    Odds are, KarmaS will remember this too:

    Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
    Didn’t get to bed last night
    On the way the paper bag was on my knee
    Man, I had a dreadful flight…

  6. The rest mass of a particle is essentially a measure of how much energy that particle has in an inertial reference frame where it’s at rest. For photons this doesn’t make sense since there is no reference frame in which they are at rest, but we still say they have zero rest mass (Wikipedia gives a more precise definition).

    For all other particles, the rest energy E_0 and the rest mass m_0 are related by everybody’s favorite equation E_0 = m_0*c^2 (c being the speed of light, of course). The total energy of a particle in a given inertial reference frame is given by the sum of the rest energy and the energy from its momentum. It is this total energy, summed across all particles, which is always conserved in particle collisions, even if mass is converted to energy or vice-versa.

  7. John E says:

    NYT was probably the most fun puzzle I have solved in a while – really creative idea and well executed.

  8. Jared says:

    The 5 is the westernmost of the *long* north/south routes – it goes all the way from mexico to canada (and is the only one that does so).

  9. larry says:

    I found “ramal” in my old unabridged dictionary.

  10. Gareth says:

    Like Amy (and I’m guessing most of us) played the “figure out US cities based on word pattern game.” I confess I actually found it quite entertaining. Biggest mix-up was ABBAS for ASSAD, leading to BULGES not SURGES and obscuring DETROIT. Thank you Sam SNEAD for sorting it all out!

  11. Cmm says:

    NYT: was completely lost until the SE corner filled out… I attributed “Crossroads” more to Eric Clapton than Cream but maybe that’s just contributible to youthful ignorance… RAMAL and the center really threw me for a loop ( didnt help I had NONETS as octets before figuring out ION)

    Loved the theme once I figured out what it was, but as noted it was more about cross clues and major cities than knowledge of the interstate highway system… Kept trying to fit CAMDEN into the 55 + 40… (I live near Philly and it would fit if the theme wasn’t Interstates) looking at a map I’m wrong, but they’re close

  12. Matt says:

    Not much of a fan of the NYT theme– here in the DC area we have the Beltway (495) which intersects with everything. Liked the FB, but found the difficulty uneven– getting the bottom tier (and figuring out the theme) was a lot harder than the rest of the puzzle.

  13. pannonica says:

    Crossroads was the title of Eric Clapton’s relatively early and significant retrospective boxed set (1988), but the song is also strongly associated with Cream. It’s of course a Robert Johnson (“The King of the Delta Blues”) song. All of the ’60s blues bands were covering his seminal compositions, and Cream’s version of “Crossroads” (sung by Clapton rather than Jack Bruce) was notable for—among other things such as musicianship—preserving the line about Johnson’s friend Willie Brown.

  14. John Haber says:

    I thought the theme made it challenging for a Thursday, since I had no idea what was coming till I found, from crossings, which Cream song we were onto. I appreciated the challenge.

    Can’t say I heard of Thang Long or RAMAL, but that came quickly. Slowest were BESOS and the quadrant needing getting the song, then last of all the bit around the Wilde quote.

    Amy, there’s no such phrase as “resting mass.” The phrase “rest mass” came about because as objects move faster, they get increasingly harder to accelerate further to the point that they can never reach the speed of light. From a traditional definition of mass as inertia, or resistance to change in motion, relativity thus had people talking about mass of ordinary matter increasing with velocity, to the point that it would have to become infinite at the speed of light. This didn’t apply to light, which always moves at the speed of light relative to any observer, since its rest mass is 0, and anything times 0 is still 0.

    In time, physicists largely ditched the phrase, speaking simply of rest mass as “mass” and of particles gaining in energy. Mass was seen thus as an intrinsic property of elementary particles, not what’s observed in ordinary situations of atomic orbitals. This, too, ran into trouble as people struggled to find a relativistic version of quantum mechanics, in which answers kept coming out as infinity. They ended up redefining mass as what was observed, a process called renormalization.

  15. Matthew G. says:

    Yep, there’s a 10 south of 20. And a 90 north of 80. Major east-west Interstates are given two-digit numbers ending in 0, with the first digits increasing as you move north (50 and 60 were skipped, for some reason, perhaps reserved for future use). Major north-south Interstates are given two-digit numbers ending in 5 (well, and 5 itself), and the first digits increase as you move east.

    I’m in the minority who really liked the NYT theme today. I’m a geography buff and I enjoyed the task of remembering which city was near each intersection.

  16. Sue says:

    The print edition of the Times ran a review of the film “On the Road” right beside the puzzle.

    As a fan of the road trip, I loved this puzzle.

  17. Howard B says:

    Just not a fan today. I had to come here to make any sense of the theme, as the revealer just didn’t give me enough information to get the ‘a-ha’ moment. I solved all the cities using pattern matching and gained no revelation. I don’t know any of the highways nor the song without direct reference to Clapton.

    It’s an original theme (always appreciated!) and a solid puzzle, but sometimes it’s just a matter of personal taste. I imagine that one who has done more extensive road traveling or has more U.S. geographical knowledge will gain much more from this one than I.

  18. john farmer says:

    2-letter words, Matt? Really? Are there not enough 3-, 4-, 5-letter words that people are already tired of? For every OX and OZ, you’ll get an AT, an IS, an ON, an OF, an IT, an OR…you get the picture. Wasn’t there a reason they stopped doing 2’s a long time ago?

  19. Mike D. says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT today. It brought me back to my elementary school days when I did a project on the Eisenhower Interstate System. For those not familiar, check it out:

  20. joon says:

    amy, sorry i’m late to the party, but fortunately, others have explained REST MASS adequately. indeed it’s a term from special relativity. i got a kick out of it, but i can’t remember seeing such a technical physics term in a crossword before. (little-used units, on the other hand…) i’ll add one thing to adam’s explanation: most people don’t know E_0 = m_0 c^2, but they do know E = mc^2. the key is that neither E nor m is an invariant quantity in different reference frames. this was hardly revolutionary for the case of energy (classical physics has kinetic energy, which depends on how fast something is moving), but very surprising indeed that even the mass of a particle depends on how fast it’s going. the smallest possible value of E or m comes in the reference frame where the mass is stationary, and those are known as the rest energy E_0 and rest mass m_0, making adam’s equation an important special case of E = mc^2. in some other frame moving at speed v relative to that rest frame, m = m_0 times 1/sqrt(1-v^2/c^2).

    i was also going to chime in on the pleasing systematic assignment of numbers to interstates, but i see that matthew G has already pointed it out.

  21. Martin says:

    I can’t resist a plug for my favorite humor site, I don’t think those responsible for this conservative “alternative” to wikipedia meant it to be a humor site, but they’ve nonetheless done us a great service.

    Here, relativity is a left-wing plot (apparently because it leads to moral relativism). The article on the theory of relativity includes this gem:
    The media-promoted equation E=mc², implausibly suggests a relationship between typically unrelated concepts of energy, the rest mass of a body and the speed of light.

    Don’t miss the related article, E=mc².

  22. pannonica says:

    Martin: Did not know about that site. Eye-opening and mind-closing.

  23. Gareth says:

    My favourite is the Conservative Bible Project – Yep! The same guys! They want to edit out or change the bits of the Bible that are too liberal. They don’t like the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” scene for instance. And yes we are heading into those dangerous areas for blogs, viz politics and religion, but some times it’s hard to resist.

  24. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Never thought my penchant for cruising the Interstates would be helpful in a crossword, so I liked today’s theme a lot. Caught on quickly as soon as I saw what looked like Birmingham looming in the NW, followed by Detroit in the SE. (Now I suppose it would have been *really* amazing if the cities showed up in their approximate geographical locations, but I guess that would be too much to ask.

    Also loved Kevin’s Mt. Sinai puzzle. I got the point about the added ‘s’ in all the theme answers, but I never quite glommed on to how to parse ‘Mount Sinai.’

    Some comedian’s (I forget whose) joke: BOAC = Better Off on A Camel.

  25. Old Geezer says:

    Re: LAT
    I agree about your SE corner review. But is it not true that QUE is NOT the largest province?

  26. Jeffrey says:

    Quebec is 595,000 square miles. Ontario is 415,000 square miles.

    Nunavut is 808,000 square miles, but it is a territory, not a province.

  27. pannonica says:

    Nunavut is one of the three Canadian territories, so Quebec is the largest province. Wikipedia.


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