Thursday, 8/2/12

Fireball 5:08 + 3 
NYT 4:25 
Blindauer 8:15 (Matt) 
Tausig untimed (Jared) 
CS 4:58 (Sam) 
LAT 5:27 (Neville) 
BEQ 7:09 (Matt) 

Patrick Blindauer posted his monthly puzzle for August on the 1st. Have you done it yet? Available in .puz and .pdf formats here. Matt Gaffney’s review appears below.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Chew on This”

No solution grid for you this week—it’s another contest puzzle. I am no Meta Queen (I rarely figure out all of the Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest metas) but dang, this meta fell easily for me. The Fireball puzzle likes to be the toughest thing out there, but on the contest front, this is nowhere near as tough as an MGWCC.

Related question: How tough was last year’s Alzheimer’s contest puzzle by Merl Reagle? Wondering what we’re in for this September.

Xan Vongsathorn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 2 12 0802

How delightful! A rebus theme with symmetrically located rebus squares that wallops you with a surprise at the end. Have you ever played “Duck, Duck, Goose”? (Minnesotans call it “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck,” which is just silly.) This puzzle is like that. DUCK, DUCK, DUCK, DUCK, DUCK… GOOSE!

I caught onto the theme quickly with PEKING {DUCK} (in Chicago, head to Uptown’s Sun Wah Barbecue for good Peking duck, no reservations necessary) and enjoyed finding the other colorful phrases throughout the grid (SITTING {DUCK}, LAME {DUCK}, {DUCK}WALKS, and DAISY {DUCK} were my favorites). As a big fan of the “Rikki Tikki Tavi” cartoon as a kid, it was not crazy to guess MON{GOOSE} for [Animal in a Kipling story], and what do you know? It fit perfectly. Adorable rebus switcheroo.

Highlights: ONE (slightly arbitrary) SCOOP of ice cream, ON THE DOT atop “NO, REALLY?,” Willy WONKA, “SHOULD I?,” PLEATHER, and “OY VEY.”

Lowlights: OX-LIKE? Really? TWO-D is never fun to see ([Like a plane, for short] would be 2D or 2-D, and not two-D). Partials include SO A, GOT A, and ERE I.

Vocab of the day: OBLATES are [Monastery residents who have not taken monastic vows]. An oblate sphere is flattened at the ends, and guess what? Oblate the geometrical adjective is unrelated to oblate the religious noun.

4.5 stars. Gotta love a rebus puzzle that has a twist ending.

Patrick Blindauer’s August Blog Puzzle, “Capital Punishment” — Matt’s Review

I Needed This Puzzle’s Theme Explained To Me By The Constructor Afterwards, And It’s More Of An “Overarching Concept” Than A Theme Per Se: As Clued, Each Of The 76 Answers In The Grid Is Capitalized.

The Name's Del Monte, Anakin Del Monte

I’m Not Sure How Difficult This Is To Achieve, But Judging By Patrick’s Chosen Title I Assume It Was A Punishing Experience. Per The Puzzle’s Author The Most Difficult Clue To Put In CAPS (69-a) Was ENERO At 65-a, Since Months Aren’t Capped In Spanish. But They Are In Song Titles, So [“Día de (sic) ___” (Shakira song (sic))] Works.

Close Call: ANET At 47-a Is Clued As [“Without ___” (Grateful Dead album(sic))], But Wikipedia, And Amazon List It As “Without a (sic) Net,” Lowercase “a.” But But But: The Album Cover Itself Capitalizes The A, So Our Hero’s Concept Survives Intact.

Wikipedia Is Without A Clue

And Here’s A Subtlety: Each Word In Every Multiword Answer Is Capitalized. For Example, All Nine Words In The Interlocking Quartet Of MIGHTY APHRODITE, SUGAR RAY LEONARD, STANLEY KOWALSKI And FAIRBANKS ALASKA Get Caps. I’ve Noticed That Patrick Is Especially Good At Tying Up Potential Loose Ends Like This In His Themes.

Other Enjoyable Fill: DEL MONTE, SINATRA, FAR EAST, BISCAYNE, Intersecting Commercial AA’s At AAMCO/MAALOX, FLOJO and JETSON. Mystery Fill: Swimming Coach NORT Somebody And Musician Gunther SCHULLER. I’m Sure They’re Both Very Good At What They Do, However.

Another Novel Concept From Patrick, Perhaps Written With A Wink To Those Who Complain, Frequently With Justification, That Crosswords Lean Towards Containing Too Many Proper Names. An August Effort In Two Ways.
Updated Thursday morning:

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Man in the Middle” — Jared’s review

Tausig Ink Well 8/2/12

Here’s what happens in this crossword puzzle: Ben takes a common phrase, inserts “HE” (that’s the “man” referenced in the title) somewhere in the phrase (not necessarily directly in the middle, it should be noted, which you couldn’t necessarily be faulted for assuming based on a literal interpretation of the title), and re-clues appropriately.


  • 17a. [Bodily organ with no definite structure, function, or truth-value at all?] – POSTMODERN HEART (postmodern art). Postmodernists assert that there is no such thing as objective reality, preferring to recast everything as merely a narrative within a context. They also say things like “The end of man (as a factual anthropological limit) is announced to thought from the vantage of the end of man (as a determined opening or the infinity of a telos). Man is that which is in relation to his end, in the fundamentally equivocal sense of the word. Since always.” See also: deconstructionism, post-structuralism, semiology, and yes, post-postmodernism.
  • 29a. [Unexpected remedy?] – WEIRD HEAL (Weird Al, who I’m sure you like if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t.)
  • 44a. [[Witches haunt this sidewalk]?] – PED HEXING (Ped Xing.)
  • 58a. [Gangsta’s tiara?] – STREET HEADDRESS (street address.)

Unfortunately none of these induced a smile nor any other outward or inward signs of pleasure.  Here are three possible reasons why:

  1. There was a similar theme within the past week or so, except instead of always inserting “HE” we were to insert various synonyms of “man” which was more fun.
  2. Ben set a very high bar the past two weeks and I’d do well to remind myself that it is not reasonable to expect that he always reaches those heights.
  3. The theme has nothing to do with the Olympics which is all I really care about right now.

Favorite clues:

  • 21a. [Story “shapes”] – ARCS
  • 37a. [Something a wrestler might hold] – TITLE
  • 19d. [Wait before going?] – HOLD IT

Interesting entries:

  • 2d. [Question to the cutest pup in the world, yes you are] – WHO’S A DOG. This really wants a “good” to be in there.
  • 28d. [Like, so cute] – PRESH (as in “precious”). I’ve never actually heard anyone say this but it does have some google cred.

Clues that would have been a lot more clever had Ben found a way to phrase them such as to hide the capital of the operative word:

  • 36a. [It ships with most Apples] – OSX (That’s the name of the operating system on Macs)
  • 50a. [Clinton’s Socks, e.g.] – PET

Clues that could have read for me as [Insert appropriate letters here to make associated crossings work]: 5a, 16a, 23a, 24a, 25a, 66a (SMITS, CHAN, RAH, LEO, JIL, BTEN)

2.9 stars

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ford Display Only” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 2

Name That Constructor Month continues. Yesterday I got off to a good start, grabbing two points for naming the constructor on my second guess. Let’s see if I can build on the early momentum.

Okay, the theme is easy enough. We have four two-word terms where the last word is also the name of a Ford model:

  • 18-Across: One [Emergency exit] is a FIRE ESCAPE. The Ford Escape is billed as a “compact crossover SUV” and is analogous to the Mazda Tribute.
  • 28-Across: [Byrd’s journey to Antarctica, e.g.] was a POLAR EXPEDITION. The Ford Expedition is the SUV model that replaced the Ford Bronco, the model well known for its durability in low-speed highway police chases.
  • 49-Across: [Hernando De Soto, e.g.] comes to mind when you think of a SPANISH EXPLORER. The Ford Explorer is the SUV that’s larger than an Escape but smaller than an Expedition. Somehow you’re supposed to keep that straight. (Hey, I just noticed that the clue uses De Soto, the old Chrysler model! Don’t know if that was intended, but I like it.)
  • 64-Across: The [Feature of a torn-out coupon] is its RAGGED EDGE. The Ford Edge is yet another SUV, this one described as a “mid-size crossover.” Car models are getting to be like coffee orders, aren’t they?

Oh, crikey, this one’s going to be tough. Let’s see–a straightforward theme with no letter insertions, substitutions or deletions. There’s some really nice fill here, like OH DARN, SUPER EGO, SOFT SELL, ARSENIC, SIT WELL, and FOXY. But nothing that seems to scream the signature style of any one constructor. I’ll roll the dice with these guesses:

1. Donna Levin     2. Raymond Hamel     3. Alan Arbesfeld (he’s quickly becoming my default third choice!)

Rats! Gail Grabowski! Looking back, I should have included her in the mix. I have found myself on her wavelength for the last few puzzles, and this one felt within my wheelhouse, even though I’m not a car guy.  Oh well. Maybe better luck tomorrow.

Favorite entry = RE-GIFT, to [Pass along, as a present]. Favorite clue = [Team neckwear] for the YOKE on a team of oxen.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 8 2 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 8 2 12

We’re living in a material world in today’s crossword grid.

  • 17a. [Easter song title critter] PETER COTTONTAIL
  • 28a. [Rich chocolate dessert with a crust]FRENCH SILK PIE
  • 33a. [Under-the-sink cleaners] – STEEL WOOL PADS
  • 41a. [Dessert sometimes colored with beet juice] – RED VELVET CAKE
  • 54a. [Important trial figure, or what you’ll be when you read this puzzle’s other four longest answers] – MATERIAL WITNESS

We have two desserts in here; I can’t help but think that this is where this puzzle started. It’s a cute theme. The theme entry lengths really create an interesting grid shape, don’t they? This isn’t your USA Today puzzle (thank goodness).

PSST – what the heck is ENOW? An archaic version of ‘enough’? Oh, it is? Well that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Yes, with so much thematic material, IT’S NO surprise that the rest of the fill is short and uneventful. (20+ 3-letter words – oh my!)

[Raymond Burr’s TV sleuth] gives you a chance to remember IRONSIDE instead of Perry Mason. But the most clever bit in here for me was [Answer to “How do you Yanks spell ‘travelling’?”], which is of course with ONE L.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Movin’ On Up”—Matt Gaffney’s review

Sherman Hemsley of “The Jeffersons” fame passed away last week, spawning many thousands of “Movin’ On Up” references across the internet. But of lo these many online quipsters, only Brendan Quigley has translated this sad but timely reference into cruciverbal form.

ain't nothin' wrong with that

And literally so: in each of Brendan’s three theme pairs, the word ON has been removed from the lower entry and inserted into the upper, with wacky consequences. They are:

17-a [Something that will clean out your little one?] = BABY COLONIC, which was “baby colic” until the ON moved up from…

24-a [Revolutionaries’ ship?] = COUP CLIPPER, which was “coupon clipper.”

Next set: 31-a. [Beautiful wild ass?] = GOLDEN ONAGER, which was “golden ager” before the ON moved up from… 42-a. [Pastries from a Scottish archipelago?] = SHETLAND PIES, not “Shetland ponies.”

Last set: 49-a. [Cover the cost of mailing an envelope?] = DONATE STAMP, which was “date stamp” before stealing the ON from… 59-a [Apply a Camel?] = not “button your lip,” but BUTT YOUR LIP.

70 theme squares is an awful lot, but Brendan still got to show off in the fill: DO BATTLE, FILM CLIP, GROUP A, NO EXIT, P-TRAPS and even his own alma mater UNH. Best clue: [Longtime ally of Jordan] isn’t a country but the great Scottie PIPPEN, longtime teammate of Michael Jordan.

4.20 stars is my opinion; express yours by clicking “rate it” above!

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35 Responses to Thursday, 8/2/12

  1. Huda says:

    This is what crossword blogs are for! I got the rebus easily enough, completed the puzzle and thought: hey, there’s no such thing as a DUCKBERRY! It must be GOOSEBERRY! So, I did the switch, but I had nooo idea there was such a game! So, I was scratching my head about the last minute switcheroo… Now it makes more sense! Thanks Amy.

    First time I ate PEKING DUCK was in PALO Alto! A million years ago, in a very cute little restaurant that was run by a Chinese American couple who had quit their Berkeley faculty jobs and started the place. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Then we got to know a scientist in San Francisco who was also Chinese American and had a partnership in a restaurant in China town. He invited us to that place for an amazing meal including Peking Duck. Even better! Finally, to cap it all, I went to China in the late 80’s, and ate at a restaurant in Beijing where everything was made of DUCK, and you ate every part of the DUCK. I mean even the beak showed up at some point. Some of the dishes were fantastic and others not so much. But it was such a cool experience!

    Great puzzle, that brought back food memories! Perfect!

  2. John E says:

    Loved the NYT today. It was funny, I was doing an old book of crosswords this afternoon and came across one by Paula Gamache where the rebus square was “DOG” – I saw the first DUCK and thought to myself “How unoriginal”. Sure enough, I fell for the GOOSE square, thinking for whatever reason that this was a tribute to our web-footed friends. Also, never heard of PLEATHER so that P really threw me off until I figured out EGOTRIP. Just lots of fun overall!

  3. Huda says:

    I asked my husband, who’s born and bred in the USA, in NOLA to be specific, whether he knew what DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE was, and he said: “No, it must be Yankee thing”. I wonder if that’s true, or if he has simply forgotten.

  4. RK says:

    Got a kick out of Oy Vey and thought Iceskate was toughish and clever. Pretty fun puzzle.

    Was reading about Amy’s book and noted that Thursdays can be rhebus or theme day so I was not surprised by this time!

    Off to LA.

  5. To this Minnesotan, “Duck Duck Goose” seems silly to me. Are we really the only ones who use “grey duck?” Though it’s funny this puzzle comes along now, as I had considered a similar theme for my upcoming birds book; this is quite a good execution by Xan. Great final ‘aha’ at the end.

  6. Martin says:



  7. pannonica says:

    Blindauer: I would observe that the cover artwork reproduces the title in all caps, although it’s readily apparent that the indefinite article is significantly smaller, i.e., a small cap, which is functionally equivalent to a lowercase letter.

    Small caps are also seen in the band name (save for the terminal D in “Dead”), though not in the other words of the title.

    The lesson is, one cannot rely on graphical design as an arbiter of orthography.

    edit: I checked the (incomplete) listings of albums on the band’s official website but it was inconclusive, as capitalization was inconsistent among the releases.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I feel almost relieved that Amy has troubles with the MG metas too. I don’t mean that as Schadenfreude, just that it tells me that I’m not suffering from some unique affliction. Incidentally, Amy, I have an almost pathological disaffection for what I call Horse Prancing in the Olympics. All those pompous, pretentious, self-important types bopping around in their silly little hats, as if the fate of the world depended upon it. More extreme, I’m sure, than your dislike of sailing. As I say, I’m sure my attitude is pathological and excessive. It’s not the horses — I like them. They seem to be interesting, enigmatic creatures.

    Martin, I keep trying to get over shock at reports such as yours re a SF News Anchor, and Gore Vidal. Why would I expect big market journalists (so-called) to be any better educated than law students? Myra Breck was one weird book, but very funny. I was never sure to what extent it was supposed to be taken seriously. What I remember best was the academic scandale generated by his book about Lincoln. Also his on – air battles with William F. Buckley. . .

    I loved the OK puzzle, and thought the OK’s were pretty standard repertoire. Otto was one of the 3 or 4 great conductors of the mid-20th century, and Werner was widely described as his son.

  9. cyberdiva says:

    I enjoyed the NYT puzzle a lot, especially after I realized that there was a rebus. When I got to the Kipling animal clue, I already had MON, and I thought, MONDUCK??? No way. It must be MONKEY. I had no idea what KEYBERRIES were, but then again, there are so many things I don’t know that this didn’t stand out. I was near the end of my solving when I suddenly thought of GOOSEBERRIES/MONGOOSE, and it was only then that I saw the Duck Duck Goose connection.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I don’t know a thing about the game, so today’s NYT didn’t make much sense to me. I got the goose first, then a couple ducks, so I figured that they must get equal time, so I was searching for more geese, which slowed me way down.

  11. Pamela says:

    Merle’s Alzheimer puzzle was tricksy but not impossible. The answer came to me around 2 AM. I’d like to think that if I’d posted right then and there I might have been a contender in the non super solver category.

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What is Merle’s (Merl’s?) Alzheimer puzzle? Or am I suffering from the aforementioned affliction?

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce: Link in the announcements post below this post.

  14. Gareth says:

    Hah! Finished with a wrong square as I didn’t spot the great punchline to this puzzle, so I convinced myself MONDUCK and DUCKBERRIES was legit…It’s not a common expression in South Africa, though I have heard of it. Also, if you’re tired of using google or yahoo, try! I loved the clue for DUCKWALKS. Classic rock image of either Berry or Angus Young doing the duckwalk!

  15. Erik says:

    i have made a lot of silly mistakes but perhaps none more embarrassing than MONDUCK.

  16. Gareth says:

    Loved the LAT’s theme – who’d have thought to come up with phrases in the middle!

  17. Pauer says:

    Yeah, the theme started as an all names concept but quickly loosened up once I realized that was impossible. It was still pretty damn hard to make, but the flexible nature of cluing allowed me to fashion a version of my original concept, at least. I don’t see an easy grid fix for ANET, so I’ll switch the clue to [“___ Full of Tails” (fishing book)] when I get back to STL. Über-obscure, sure, but whaddayagonnado?

    Glad that most solvers seemed to enjoy the challenge. Wonder if I can fill a grid with all verbs … Hmm.

  18. Jenni Levy says:

    I actually had time to do the puzzle last night before Amy had the blog post up. I loved it. I went merrily along filling it in, got to monGOOSE and burst out laughing. Absolutely wonderful.

    I thought the clue for EGOTRIP was a bit edgy and I’m kind of surprised no one mentioned it – I liked it and *I* don’t think it was at all out of bounds, but I kind of expected that it would raise someone’s eyebrow. Or something.

  19. Xan says:

    As a bonus, each duck in my puzzle is a SITTING DUCK in the game. I’m still not sure what the right way would have been to make this point without blowing the GOOSE punchline. Will did not like my clue for 1-Across and decided to clue it straight. I like the result but I would like it even more if there were a way to draw out the fact that in the game, ducks are the ones sitting. (without being too convoluted or confusing).

    Would [One of several represented in this puzzle?] do it? I dunno. The goal is to keep you wondering what that means until you find the GOOSE, at which point it is supposed to become clear. If the clue worked, it would help push people to not stop at MONDUCK. They would know they were missing something if the clue for 1-Across still didn’t make sense.

    Is it even worth it? Maybe the straight clue is better. Or maybe there’s a perfect clue that I just didn’t work hard enough to find!

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Xan: I’ve never thought of the people sitting in a circle as “ducks,” much less as “sitting ducks.” I think tying that answer to the game would have confused me rather than adding to the theme’s fun.

    Nobody should stop at MONDUCK! It isn’t even a word. Neither is DUCKBERRIES. Shouldn’t solvers wonder at a rebus crossing of two woefully obscure terms they’ve never heard of, and ask why Will Shortz would have accepted a puzzle like that? If it feels weird and wrong, maybe it is.

  21. Xan says:

    Thanks, Amy, that settles it for me.

  22. Huda says:

    Am reading Amy’s book now in hopes of improving my late week performance, and tackling some of the real toughies you all put out there. And just like her last comment here, she encourages solvers to question themselves if things make no sense especially in both directions. It made me realize that I don’t do it enough, out of lack of confidence, thinking hey what do I know, it’s probably my own ignorance. And of course, that often is the explanation (sadly)… but I find it helpful to be reminded to first entertain other possibilities and alternative explanations. I should know that from doing empirical research, and teaching my trainees to do just this– use common sense, not get stuck on hypotheses, remain open to alternatives, keep some faith in the power of analytical skills. Interesting that I need to be reminded to use that same framework in puzzles solving! Thanks Amy.

  23. Jeff Chen says:

    @Xan: I tip my hat to you, sir. Fantastic puzzle; one that I wish I had thought of. Loved, absolutely loved the punchline (count me amongst the MONDUCK crowd).

  24. Jeff Chen says:

    P.S. I really liked OX-LIKE. CHICKEN-LIKE or BEAVER-LIKE don’t work for me, but OX-LIKE = yes.

  25. David L says:

    @Amy: As one of the many who stopped at MONDUCK/DUCKBERRIES, I can tell you that I knew for sure it was wrong, but I couldn’t see my way out. I think the problem is that the DUCK DUCK GOOSE thing is either completely familiar or utterly obscure, depending on whether you know it or not. Since I was in the latter category, I was convinced that the rebus square had to be duck, and if one goose had shown up amongst a gaggle of ducks, I don’t know that I would have known it was the right answer anyway.

    It’s a good puzzle, I agree, but the trick just eluded me.

  26. Tuning Spork says:

    Huh. I’m shocked that so many people don’t know Duck, Duck, Goose. I’d’ve figured that game was as ubiquitous as Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or 1, 2, 3, Red Light.

    Finished with MONDUCK / DUCKBERRIES, but didn’t get Mr. Happy Pencil. So, knowing that I had either a typo or an error, I looked at the strange crossing again and, a-ha! Loved it.

  27. ktd says:

    Re: Merl’s puzzle contest last year–I would rate it fairly difficult, but a lot of fun. I’m excited to hear they’re running a new contest this year and looking forward to seeing what Merl will come up with!

    Well done on today’s puzzle Xan, it was great filling in the DUCK squares and then reaching the bottom and realizing it needed GOOSE to complete the circle.

  28. Martin says:

    I’ll drink to a merger of the base and Minnesota versions: Duck, Duck, Grey Goose.

  29. pannonica says:

    Cold Duck?

  30. Martin says:

    If Gary’s around, he’ll like this: I just decanted a 1983 Lynch-Bages. It still has some fruit and ample structure. The great part is the price label on the bottle: $12.98. Even better, I got it when a chain here, Liquor Barn, had a 20% discount mixed case sale. I feel like my mother telling me about 5 cent loaves of bread, but if I only had a time machine.

  31. Noam D. Elkies says:

    I’m still waiting for the crossword puzzle that has *not one* proper name. Now That would be an Accompishment to Celebrate.

  32. Noam D. Elkies says:

    [accomp*l*ishment, of course; the “Edit this comment” link doesn’t work on this computer :-( ]

  33. Huda says:

    David, I was thinking about this issue, of simply not knowing the game and whether that would prevent us from following Amy’s advice. I was struck by comments from people who said that they first figured out the bottom, and got GOOSE based simply on the intersection of MON- and -BERRY, and then discovered DUCK elsewhere. It seemed almost the easier way to solve the puzzle (unless you knew the game). So, to me this makes the point that the DUCK was inhibiting the GOOSE, if you know what I mean. it’s the preconception that it’s a DUCK rebus, as opposed to a fowl, a bird, an animal rebus. And the insistence on DUCK comes from the fact that we had gotten it repeatedly. That’s the genius part of this puzzle, playing on our expectations. So, the trick for me is how to counter that, just as I have learned to counter other kinds of crafty misdirections.

  34. Old Geezer says:


    1, 2, 3, *whatnow?*

Comments are closed.