Thursday, 7/12/12

Fireball 8:01 
NYT 5:35 
BEQ 4:40 (Amy in 2007) 
LAT 4:39 (Neville) 
CS 4:16 (Sam) 
Tausig tba 

Pawel Fludzinski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 7 12 12 0712

Neat theme: [difficult things to be “between”], in idiomatic phrases, are spelled out in the grid in multi-part answers. There’s A ROCK AND A / HARD PLACE, SCYLLA AND / CHARYBDIS, and THE DEVIL AND / THE / DEEP BLUE SEA. My favorite is 10d/33d because The Police song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” rewarded me for learning what Scylla and Charybdis were from reading Homer’s Odyssey in ninth-grade English. (Bonus points for the song’s mention of Mephistopheles, also learnt in high school coursework.)

Now, I’m mildly troubled that while the “between” is the key point of the relationship between the things in the theme answers, the puzzle’s grid doesn’t have any sort of “between”-related difficulty. How brilliant would it have been to have a difficult answer appear in the row between each phrasal pair? But alas, two pairs have no space and the other has five rows with that THE in the center, so the theme is just a collection of these nifty idioms.

While I see some blah answers in the grid (ABASER, ETNAS, REE, IDEATE, ESSEN), my solving experience was one of enjoying the journey. Cannot believe how long it took me to figure out 10d/33d with the CHA*Y part in place; should’ve been much quicker there. Clues I liked:

  • 21a. [Dion who didn’t sing with the Belmonts], CELINE.
  • 29a. [Drill sound?], “TEN-HUT!”
  • 52a. [It might be used for tracking shots], BAR TAB.
  • 61a. [Look accompanying “Is that all you got?”], SNEER.
  • 25d. [What Fred Astaire danced with], EASE.
  • 40d. [*Boy, am I in trouble now!*], GULP.

Missteps: Thinking that Pro Bowler ASANTE Samuel was a pro bowler rather than a football player. Typoing TEN-HUT as TEN-HUR (I blame all Ben-Hur) and thus trying to figure out why HATCHER was a [Kind of job] (psst, it’s a HATCHET job). Missing the word “anagram” in 21d’s clue, [Roman numeral that’s an anagram of part of Caesar’s boast] and trying to make a four-letter Roman numeral out a string of consecutive letters in VenI VIDI VICI. IDIV??

Overall gestalt rating, 3.7 stars.

Mike Shenk’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 53”

Fireball 7/12 answers

Tough puzzle. I wonder if Mike originally submitted this to Peter Gordon for the Post Puzzler but the BALLSIER PORN stepped over the bound of Washington Post vocabulary standards so Peter suggested the Fireball route, or if Mike intended it for Fireball all along.

Clues that worked me over the most:

  • 39a. [Land of Oz], ISRAEL. Land of novelist Amoz Oz! No Wizard of Oz, no Australia.
  • 30a. [Line of type], HYPHEN. It’s a rather short line segment compared to the en and em dashes.
  • 22a. MIA the missing Bronx Zoo cobra? Zero recall of details here, other than sensing that the cobra had a Twitter feed.
  • 45a. [One may be bitter], ENEMY. Not ENDER, which I had for a while. Is that even a thing? Am I conflating “bitter end” and “dead-ender”?
  • 49a. [Oceania commoner], **OLE… hmm, is Hawaii ever considered part of Oceania? HAOLE fits. Durrr! PROLE, from George Orwell’s Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • 52a. [Hawaiians call it “kukui”] is not at all helpful when you’re not sure you’ve ever heard of CANDLENUT. A.k.a. Aleurites moluccana.
  • 12d. [Its motto is “In hoc signo vinces”], SIGMA CHI. Sigma Chi, of course, is the fraternity whose chapter president, Vince, needed cash fast so he put his neon beer sign in hock.
  • 13d. [Likelihood that a randomly chosen U.S. state has a name with exactly six letters], ONE IN TEN. The “six” part threw me off. Got the answer through crossings and tried multiplying 10 x 6 and getting 60 states and being confused. Nevada, Oregon, Kansas, Hawaii, Alaska… I can’t get the sixth one. See! I’m still confused. 50 states, 5 have 6 letters, ergo 1 in 10.
  • 29d. [Bark features], MASTS. Was thinking of tree bark and barking dogs rather than the boats called barks.
  • 46d. [Royal for 21 years], BRETT. Baseball? George Brett? Not royalty?

You see why this took me longer than the typical themeless Fireball. Things I didn’t know + mental blocks = cruciverbal doom.

The fill is incredibly smooth, which is no surprise because Shenkian and Berryesque have a good deal of overlap. Fave fill: PREWASH, FLAMENCO, OH PHOOEY, SIGMA CHI, PHONE TREE, THE ALAMO. I also liked learning/guessing that MOLES were [Earthworm eaters]. Never thought of worms having natural predators other than birds.

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

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

CS solution, July 12

Each of the four longest Across answers begins with a word that can follow “cross:”

  • 20-Across: The [Lawyers’ group] is a BAR ASSOCIATION (crossbar, the horizontal part of a football goal post).
  • 26-Across: [News items, perhaps] describe CURRENT EVENTS (cross-current, literally one current flowing across another, figuratively a conflicting tendency or movement).
  • 42-Across: [One who records judicial proceedings] is a COURT REPORTER (cross-court, a basketball pass or a tennis shot that spans the length of the playing surface).
  • 50-Across: The [“Star Trek” catch phrase] is BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY (cross beam, a beam that spans from one support to another).

Notice that in all but one case, the “cross” term is more interesting than the entry in the puzzle (the one exception is BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY, which is more interesting than CROSS BEAM). In a perfect world, the puzzle entry should be the more entertaining term, since that’s the one solvers are chasing down. If we assume the theme is intended to help solvers in sussing out the longer entries (a fair assumption here given that the puzzle’s title provides a pretty direct hint as to the theme), the longer entries should be the pay-off.

To navigate this puzzle successfully, a solver must have a firm handle on two things: proper names and Crosswordese. On the proper name front, we have Erykah BADU, Jacob RIIS, Jean ARP, Tami HOAG, TEENA Marie, NAT Turner, ANOUK Aimee, Deborah KERR, Leonardo DICAPRIO, ESAI Morales, ANNE Murray, and Julia ORMOND. (I’m leaving off EDGAR because it was clued with reference to the writing award and not with reference to Mr. Poe directly.) I like proper names in my puzzles, but 12 of them in a 74-word puzzle feels a little too crowded.

As for Crosswordese, there’s SRTA, THOS (couldn’t decide if this abbreviation of Thomas should have been in the proper name paragraph or this one–for balance, I stuck it here), Eso BESO, ALEE, ESSE, OLEO, BANC, ACCT, ABBES and ERE. Between this list and the proper names, you’ve got nearly 30% of the grid’s answers.

On the positive side, I liked TIE-DYERS, SHOT AT, ACTS ON, PACKET, and CSI:NY. I even liked the partial NEED A, because I very much agree with the clue, [“I ___ vacation!”]. Favorite entry = AIRBRUSH, to [Alter a magazine cover photo, in a way].

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Chasers”

BEQ 7 12 12 solution

Matt’s on the lam right now so this review is coming from me. Matt’ll be back blogging the BEQ next week if we nab him.

This one’s a rerun of BEQ’s Onion puzzle from the week of October 15, 2008. Guess what? I blogged it already. What a time-saver! I refer you to my 2008 write-up.

Solving the puzzle anew this week, I still didn’t know the [Intel processor] XEON at 69a. Cute theme, but there’s some weird fill along with XEON. Q AS, T’PAU, MARL, ARMA, U NU, YRLY, SAONE, all sorts of TLAs. I appreciated seeing this, THO.

3.25 stars.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 11 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 7 11 12

Why’d it have to be snakes?

  • 20a. [Reggie Miller, e.g.] INDIANA PACER
  • 40a. [Last name of the start of 20-Across] – JONES
  • 26a. [Long-eared hopper] – JACKRABBIT
  • 69a. [Last name of the start of 26-Across] – RYAN
  • 48a. [Reign between the Qin and the Three Kingdoms] – HAN DYNASTY. This looks so much like HANDY NASTY to me, and I can’t get over it.
  • 5a. [Last name of the start of 48-Across] – SOLO
  • 53d. [Actor born 7/13/42 who played characters found in 20-, 26- and 48-Across] – HARRISON FORD

It’s a theme-dense puzzle, that’s for sure. I figure it ran today (instead of Ford’s birthday tomorrow) due to the puzzle’s lack of difficulty. I found it rather straightforward; did you? Still, David Poole’s done a nice job of spicing up the rest of the puzzle. NOTRE DAME and BALLERINAS are nice symmetric entries with French clues (Napoleon and Degas are referenced). Getting the former led to me to correct spelling of ENURE immediately. That one can be a crapshoot, but never tell me the odds!

I really like that SAAB is three rows just above SOB. Of course, you might just read down on the east side and get UGLY PALE S.O.B. That can’t be directed to Andre AGASSI, can it? The west side vertical entries – A.J. FOYT, DARROW and ICICLE are a nice set, too.

39d. [“Picket Fences” Emmy winner Tom] SKERRITT is a new name for me, making it a toss up between RNA and DNA. Fortunately I chose… wisely.


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25 Responses to Thursday, 7/12/12

  1. I remembered how to spell SCYLLA and CHARYBDIS thanks to Sting. And a note to “Usain” Barkin — one of the other theme entries is featured lyrically in the single hit of one-hit wonder Jon Astley…

  2. Huda says:

    I liked the theme, although Scylla & Charybdis did not come rolling off my tongue. But I’m rather ambivalent about the rest — I did not love starting 1A and 1D with intersecting sports abbreviations and then Hemi and Agri right nearby. And while I’ve been in labs for decades, Etna Burners are nowhere on my radar screen, whereas Bunsen burners certainly are. But HATCHET job and it’s cluing were excellent.

  3. Jim says:

    So, 44A is “Ale”. Why is ale “not hard to drink”?

  4. pannonica says:

    Jim: Because it isn’t “hard” liquor, i.e., spirits. Didn’t care for the clue, since it was pushing me toward POP or ADE.

  5. Erik says:

    the clues elevated the fireball puzzle to one of my top five themeless puzzles of the year so far. i’m not keeping a list or anything. but it’s definitely up there.

  6. John E says:

    I thought the NYT was a well constructed and thought-out puzzle that was very enjoyable to solve. Interesting that “Wrapped Around Your Finger” also contains the lyrics “Devil and the deep blue sea”.

  7. joon says:

    i think that ALE clue is fine, though obviously misleading. “(something) that’s (not hard to drink)” vs “(something that’s not hard) to drink”. english has these delightful ambiguities, and great crossword clues can take advantage of them. it’s like a paraprosdokian.

    neat puzzle, btw. yes, it would have been especially cool to have some kind of other “betweenness” element, but the six long theme answers were enough for me.

    erik, i loved the cluing in the fireball but the fill was only so-so. SIGMA CHI seems like it’s just two random greek letters to me. is this a particularly noteworthy fraternity for some reason? i have this vague memory that when i was an undergrad, ΣΧ was the only fraternity on harvard’s campus. but i don’t know if that’s true. CANDLENUT was also unfamiliar, and IRES always provokes my (singular) IRE.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    LOVED the Fireball–which turned out to be pretty much a perfect puzzle for me in every respect. A lot of stuff I knew instantly (e.g. 35d, 32a, 45d, 43d, 49a, even 48a) a lot of stuff I took immediate informed guesses at, all of which panned out. “One in Ten” seemed like a logical guess; I remembered from Michele, (who went to HS in Honolulu), about a kukui nut. Somehow even managed to take a flier on 55a. and 57a. There is one entry I don’t understand, though, 20a (arson). I don’t see how the parts of speech of the clue and answer match up. Isn’t that like the clue {Causing drowning} for “water”? Since it seems to be an OK part of the culture here, I will aver, avow, affirm under penalties of perjury that I was under 8.

    Since I haven’t done any of the other puzzles, I haven’t read today’s comments. But I promise no clicks or horns today. I was dismayed, however that last night someone already hit on “neologism”. I was going to start the day off with a bang.

  9. pannonica says:

    But joon, ale is roughly on a par—or at least comparable—with “hard cider,” as far as alcohol content and context are concerned. That was the crux of my reservation about the clue.

  10. non-Anonymous says:

    Bruce, the one dictionary I checked referred to an adjective sense, as in “arson attack.”

  11. ArtLvr says:

    Fireball was neat! I liked the clues “Look down” and “Line of type”, among others…

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    I had ADE for ALE at first too, and even once I corrected it, I still didn’t quite suss the connexion with the clue. I promised myself I’d go back to it, but forgot. O wellaway! That’s the raison d’être of clues with question marks, isn’t it? I should have been ALERTED to the misdirection, right? YON? Fun puzzle!

  13. Gareth says:

    Hadn’t heard of the phrase SCYLLAAND/CHARYBDIS. I’ve heard the Police song several times, but never made out much of the lyrics… It was only a few years ago I made out “that book by Nabokov” in Don’t Stand So Close to Me. You mean you guys can actually hear what Sting is singing??? Still thought it a mighty fine phrase to learn, and in fact got CHARYBDIS by letter pattern quite quickly, knowing only it was from somewhere in Greek mythology.

  14. Howard B says:

    @Brent: Wow, that is pretty obscure! (The devil and the deep blue sea). “Rock and a Hard Place” was also a later, minor hit song by the Rolling Stones.
    – Getting name-checked with Usain Bolt…jeez :). About the closest thing we have in common is that I’ve been to Jamaica a couple of times. Did much less running there than Mr. Bolt, though.

  15. pannonica says:

    Not the same implication as the other phrases, but it does divide symmetrically.

    I thought most here would be more familiar with the Odyssey. It’s a venerable idiom as well. Surprised.

    Gareth: I assume you’re implying that you realize the referenced book is Lolita? Never mind that it’s Nabokov’s most widely known novel, it is appropriate to the (autobiographical) song.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I just discovered how delicious hard cider is, after not liking it years ago. It has the same alcohol content as beer, as pannonica mentioned, and yet a teeny fraction of beer’s purine content. Gout sufferers who don’t mind sweet drinks, give hard cider a try. Original Sin pear cider is particularly good.

    @Gareth, I knew what was in the lyrics to every song on the 1983 Police album Synchronicity because I had the record, and the liner notes provided all the words. Still waiting for CDs and iTunes downloads to reliably offer the same.

  17. Erik says:

    just did the la times puzzle. who is this HANDY NASTY that reigned over china for so long?

    joon – have to agree with you on SIGMA CHI. it was basically an eight letter version of EEG/EKG/ECG, the one i have to guess on every single time regardless of the clue. but there was also PORN in that corner, so all is forgiven.

  18. Howard: You solved this one faster than the applet’s resident fakers could type in their previously solved entries. The moniker fits.

    Gareth and Amy: Sting’s utterance of “shiny metal boxes” on “another suburban early morning” (from the song Synchronicity II) resonates perfectly during DC rush hour…though not so voluminously in Detroit.

    (I think I remember these lyrics correctly, as I’m avoiding a Wikipedia verification consult. Correction of lyrics or intended meaning welcome if necessary.)

  19. John Haber says:

    I liked the theme, because I thought it was a nice find that the theme entries came out to the right, symmetrical number of letters. To me, “between Scylla and Charybdis” is pretty normal vocabulary. Besides, starting in might school must have read “The Odyssey” five times now as new translations come out.

    I thought of ALE right away but resisted entering it, because it felt, well, alcoholic, but lived with it. My only reservation about the puzzle is the two sports orgs crossing in the NW, which I didn’t care for at all.

  20. Jeff Chen says:

    Neat NYT! Agreed, it would have been great to see something clever between the two halves of the entries, but I enjoyed it as is. Plus, I’m always amazed to see interlocking theme entries like this when there’s so much constraint. Wow!

  21. Howard B says:

    @Brent: I run fast only with encouragement (such as when chased by people with sharp objects), and even then snail-slow by his standards. I assume Usain would only solve the Times faster under similar assistance (such as some given clues and answers), and possibly with said objects looming imminently behind. Then he would be slow by higher speed-solving standards. So there’s a strained comparison for you.
    In the end, he gets a few medals and endorsements. But we do get to enjoy our puzzles for a longer period of time.

    Aside – Many of us who have listened enough to Synchronicity II have had snippets of this randomly run through our minds as we endure a frustrating commute, I suspect. Just me?

  22. Gareth says:

    I’m as yet the only “5 stars” rater for the LA Times – puzzle was just so beautifully complete… all tied up with a bow if you know what I mean; I’m not sure that I do.

  23. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m familiar with and like The Police song, but what Sylla and Charybdis inevitably bring to mind are these lines from The Odyssey, and what a work out it is to translate the Odyssey, though ultimately rewarding:

    ἔνθα δ’ ἐνὶ Σκύλλη ναίει δεινὸν λελακυῖα

    τῷ δ’ ὑπὸ δῖα Χάρυβδις ἀναρρυβδεῖ μέλαν ὕδωρ
    τρὶς μὲν γάρ τ’ ἀνίησιν ἐπ’ ἤματι


    “Scylla yet dwells there making terrible moan.”

    (Some will recognise “δεινὸν”, here in the accusative, from our word dinosaur.)


    “Below the goddess Charybdis gulps down black water
    and thrice daily spews it out again. ”

    (Some might recognise “μέλαν” here from our word melancholy.)

    N.B-Translations are my own, done on the spot and with great liberty, which any real Ancient Greek Prof would disdainfully dismiss.

    PS–LOL -I know, I know: “I have only come here seeking knowledge that they would not teach me up in college”

  24. joon says:

    erik, i can at least resolve 1/3 of your uncertainty: EEG (electroencephalogram) is a brain reading, and ECG/EKG (electrocardiogram) is a heart reading. (EKG comes from the german spelling of the same word.) you are liable to see “scan” in the clues, but don’t get medical editor amy started on the inaptness of that word.

    neville, AGASSI is far from PALE, given that A) he’s spent zillions of hours on the tennis court, B) he hails from sunny nevada, and C) his father is iranian. but that still made me laugh. i’m surprised you didn’t know the elegantly mustachioed actor tom SKERRITT, who in addition to picket fences also played viper in top gun. i’m not saying that everybody knows him, but for a guy who’s way, way ahead of me in TV knowledge (see: learned league), that’s a surprising lacuna. then again, you were probably a toddler when picket fences was on and nonexistent when top gun came out.

    this talk of the devil and the deep blue sea is reminding me of the awesome carbon leaf song the sea. and yeah, that’s probably the last time i’ll be waxing nostalgic about both TV and pop music in the same blog comment. more greek mythology, please!

  25. ArtLvr says:

    I couldn’t finish the BEQ without help, but did admire the “ARMA virumque cano…” from Latin I ((I sing of arms and the man…) because I just reread Reginald Hill’s “Arms and the Woman” — must highly recommend this to everyone who appreciates British mysteries both bawdy and erudite, as well as unusually melodious!

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