Thursday, 9/6/12

NYT untimed 
Fireball 6:02 
LAT 4:14 (pannonica) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:00 (Sam) 
BEQ 7:54 (Matt) 

Any volunteers to blog the Onion crossword I never got around to on Wednesday? And how about Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword? Update: Onion review now here.

Ben Pall’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 9 6 12 0906

I didn’t time myself on this one because you know what? A hand-written speed-solved grid is an ugly thing, barely legible.

Neat conceit here: merge adjoining cells because those pairs of neighboring answers share a word. JOINT is part of PIZZA JOINT, which I understand, and ROTARY JOINT, which is an anatomical term I don’t recall learning. (Another name for it is pivot joint, which also doesn’t really ring a bell. Bear in mind that my medical editing is more lungs than bones.) CIVIL UNION—whoa! It just hit me that the adjoined-square words are thematic! CIVIL UNION partners with a TRADE UNION. BREAK APART pairs with BREAKDANCE, and SPLIT SECOND cozies up to SPLIT HAIRS. You see how 2d and 3d form a UNION as the answers merge, just as 19a and 22a form a JOINT? And the 54-Acrosses start together but then SPLIT, like the 33-Downs BREAK from each other? Fancy.

I didn’t love all the fill (BARI SAENS ESSE ADANO) but did like ARANTXA Sanchez-Vicario, EZRA POUND, INSECT crossing ANT, and SO TO SPEAK. Most perplexing clue: 23a: [Free] for LEISURE. You mightn’t find these together in a thesaurus, but they can substitute for one another in “__ time.”

4.5 stars. A memorable new visual trick joins the ranks of Thursday rule-bending gimmickry.

Pete Muller’s Fireball crossword, “No Strings Attached”

Fireball 9/6

You’ve tuned in to Pete Muller’s new(ish) project, Muller Monthly Music Meta, haven’t you? Each month, a new MGWCC-style meta challenge, always with a musical bent (and, much to my delight, it’s mostly been rock music rather than opera and classical). You can check out the pre-September puzzles if you missed out on them the first time around.

Pete’s Fireball crossword is timely, landing as it does during the thick of US Open play. The rebus gimmick is described by 48a: TENNIS RACKET (and the other long Across, SERVICE CALL, hints at tennis too). There are TEN NI’S in the grid, and if you connect them, you’ve drawn a RACKET (grip in the lower right corner, head forming an oval to the northwest).

The fill contains a modicum of zip—{NI}NTENDO, internet TROLLS, S{NI}DELY Whiplash, HUSTLED, TV REMOTE, and the singing NI’s SHA{NI}A and ALA{NI}S  (YAN{NI} doesn’t sing, does he?). Favorite clues include [It might cause frantic hand-waving] for WII, [Mass consumption?] for sacramental WINE, [Drop on a sweater] for a BEAD of perspiration, [Gamboling mecca?] for LEA, [North pole figure] for TOTEM (a wooden pole in the northern reaches of North America), and [Language that gave us the word “husband”] for NORSE. Mildly surprised to find both [Away]/ROAD and ASK AWAY.

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 6

There’s goodness oil over in this Doug Peterson crossword. The theme involves replacing OIL for ALL in four common terms:

  • 20-Across: The classic sitcom All in the Family becomes OIL IN THE FAMILY, the [“Dallas” premise?]. The clue really makes that one shine.
  • 35-Across: “Ball clubs” switch to BOIL CLUBS, to [Sterilize irons in a golf bag?].
  • 45-Across: A “tall order” becomes a TOIL ORDER, like [“Get back to work!” or “Coffee break’s over!”]. This was the first theme entry I tried to complete, and I kept wanting TOIL OR DIE. I guess my workplace is little more somber than most.
  • 55-Across: Here, one doesn’t “fall on one’s face,” but one with a [Halloween mask made out of gum wrappers?] would have FOIL ON ONE’S FACE. Here too, the clue really saves the answer. That’s great imagery.

The theme is straightforward enough and has its entertaining moments, but it’s the fill and the clues that elevate this puzzle to four- or five-star status. Among the highlights are SNOOKI, MANOLO Blahnik, RAT FINK, DORITOS, GRAPE Ape, I’M OFF, and ANXIETY. As for clues, I loved [View finder?] for EYE, [Cut and paste, say] for EDIT, the contemporary [Brooklyn hoopsters] for NETS, [Pinata payload] for CANDY, and, most of all, [Glum drops?] for TEARS. Attention to lively clues really makes for a terrific solve.

Time for today’s installment of Name That Puzzle, where I try to guess the puzzle’s title. Oil for One and One for Oil comes to mind as a possibility, but that might be a bit long. I don’t know, but perhaps editorial constraints require shorter titles for the CS puzzles. (I could see where newspaper editors would strongly prefer shorter titles.) So I’m leaning toward Oil’s Well. It’s shorter, it serves as another example of the theme, and it plays on “oil well.”

Turns out the title is “That’s Not All.” I can see where this is a better title since it specifically mentions “all,” whereas my title only indirectly hints at what’s happening. Regardless of the title, though, this is a great puzzle.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Interpol” — Matt’s review

Quadrennial hijinks from BEQ today, as he conceals the surnames of the four men on the major parties’ presidential tickets in nonsense theme entries:

17-a [Flee the vicinity of “So Sick” R&B singer?] = RUN AWAY FROM NE-YO.

24-a [Bad thing for a Hogwarts student to suffer from?] = WIZARDRY ANXIETY.

43-a [Surgeons who have never done a rhinoplasty before?] = NOSE JOB AMATEURS.

57-a [Crazed Man U fans, perhaps?] = RABID ENGLISHMEN.

A short set of names (6, 4, 5, 5) so Brendan had some leeway in the themers, which he used nicely (funny, Scrabbly and natural-sounding phrases). Thumbs-up.


I had the A in ASTROS (clued as [Texas Leaguers?] but wanted it to be AL EAST or AL WEST. Are the Rangers in either of those? Hell if I know — I stopped watching baseball in 1998 when the Orioles lost the ALCS 4-2 to the Indians, losing every game by exactly one run. Now I just watch tennis.

46-d [Flinch] is BLENCH. Not a word I knew; tells me that its synonyms include “flinch,” “bleach” and “blanch.” Not much etymological drift from the Anglo-Saxon root in that grouping.

59-a [“Parks and Recreation” star Ansari] = AZIZ. Funniest person on the show. Anything he says is funny.


4.00 stars, 1.00 for each of the four politicians hidden herein. Of course, they’ll all claim credit for 1.25 stars apiece, because that’s their nature.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Criminal Acts”

This week offers a straight-up trivia theme: Five musicians/groups who ran afoul of the law.

  • 17a. [Band arrested in 2012 for “hooliganism”], PUSSY RIOT.
  • 24a. [Composer threatened with arrest in 1940 for adding a major seventh chord to the national anthem], STRAVINSKY. I don’t know what a major seventh chord is, but his version does sound odd to me.
  • 35a. [Musician arrested onstage in 1967 for “indecency”], JIM MORRISON.
  • 48a. [R&B singer arrested in 1993 for an “overly suggestive stage performance”], BOBBY BROWN. He probably thought it was his prerogative.
  • 58a. [Rap duo arrested in 1990 for an “obscene, lewd performance”], 2 LIVE CREW.

Fave five eleven:

  • 30a. [Part of a date that might lead to future dates], PIT. We’re talking about the fruit called a date, not a social occasion.
  • 53a. [Judy Garland, to some gay men], ICON.
  • 2d. [Not a total lie, anyway], TRUTHY. Like many political claims. (Its partner across the grid is HONEST.)
  • 6d. [Erstwhile group for Paris Hilton], A-LIST. You never hear about her anymore.
  • 11d. [Sports site that broke the Brett Favre harassment story], DEADSPIN. Lively entry, memorable story. Were it not for Deadspin, we would never have known that Brett Favre sexts in Crocs.
  • 18d. [Like Jesus or Ashley Tisdale], SEMITIC. Tisdale’s Jewish via her mother.
  • 28d. [Skill that keeps the rim of the bowl clean], AIM. Please do lift the seat, because only a really short guy can reliably avoid seat splattering.
  • 33d. [IM shorthand while running to the bathroom], BRB. “Be right back.” Fresh entry, fun clue.
  • 34d. [2008 documentary about agribusiness], FOOD INC. Lively entry.
  • 38d. [Promptly canceled 2012 ABC series], GCB. Original title, Good Christian Bitches. Tough sell to evangelicals, I reckon.
  • 39d. [Marshmallow-and-chocolate treat that some people apparently microwave], MOON PIE. I make microwave s’mores myself.

Four stars.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 9/6/12 • Thu • Gunderson • 9 6 12 • solution

…And I’m lost in the window
I hide on the stairway
I hang in the curtain
I sleep in your hat
And no one brings anything
Small into a bar around here.
They all started out with bad directions…

“9th & Hennepin,” Tom Waits (1985)

40a. [They lead you astray … and what the starts of 20-, 24-, 52- and 60-Across are?] WRONG DIRECTIONS. The compass points, that is.

  • 20a. [Prickly undergrowth] THORNBUSH.
  • 24a. [Prop for a safety briefing] SEAT BELT.
  • 52a. [It’s often a tough cut] STEW MEAT.
  • 60a. [Verbally overwhelm] SHOUT DOWN.

The good: directions appear in the typical order of recitation: NORTH, EAST, WEST, and SOUTH. At least, that’s the sequence I’m most used to. The bad: aside from the grid-spanning revealer in the center, each of the theme entries is quite short, either eight or nine letters, and rather uninteresting. The ugly: said revealer—as I not-so-subtly-suggested with the introductory lyrics—would have been better phrased as “bad,” instead of “wrong”, directions. Sure, both words are commonly used as anagram signals in cryptic crosswords, but in this puzzle there really isn’t anything so wrong about the directions. Hmm… as I type this I’m feeling less sure of the assertion and am beginning to think I’m splitting invisible hairs. I just wanted to complete the trio. Oh well.

Moving on, then!

The rest of the puzzle is workmanlike, stolid and adequate, but again not exactly inspired. Some notes:

  • Good 5×5 sections in the thornseat and shoutstew corners, although the letters are not particularly Scrabbly.
  • Before you cry foul at 49a [Bob Marley genre] SKA, recall that reggae pioneers the Wailers did indeed start out as a SKA band in the early 1960s. The clue might have better served with an “early” modifier, but it’s legitimate.
  • Can never remember if Don Juan’s mother is named INES or INEZ. (69a)
  • Good long non-theme downs: [Nitwit] LAMEBRAIN, [Grumpy friend?] SNOW WHITE.
  • 21d [Slangy “Don’t worry about it”] NO BIG is new to me, though I’ve heard “no big deal” and “no biggie.”
  • Gratuitous cross-reference: 68a [2-Down, for one] STATE. (2d is UTAH.)
  • Crosswordese spelling variant, in the wild! 23a [More than te-hee, online] LOL. All right, not exactly in the wild. Quasi-feral?

 Okay puzzle.

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21 Responses to Thursday, 9/6/12

  1. Martin says:

    Great puzzle! Made even more challenging (for me) by solving it on my iPhone app… no double squares in the grid to make the gimmick easier to suss out.


    • Huda says:

      The thing about solving on line is that you have no idea how often this joining/splitting is going to happen, since you don’t have the hint of the location of the blended squares. But it also made it more fun to discover the echoed letters.

      I had read the note recommending printing. As I started to solve and the SPLIT and JOINT etc. emerged, I thought we might have to do some sort of origami on the puzzle: cut stuff here and link it there… Just goes to show how we’ve come to expect just about anything from a Thursday.

      I think this was really creative. At some point, I thought that the trio in each of the themes would hold together in all directions– CIVIL TRADE, DANCE APART, but it would be too much to ask.
      Memorable puzzle!

  2. RK says:

    Tried it online, had no clue. Saw the pdf now and not too impressed with the gimmick. Good that someone is trying something new though.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      RK, I hope you noticed the depth of the joining/splitting theme, that it’s not just “lookit, I made double squares.”

      • RK says:

        Eh, it’s still pretty much just double squares. Many cute/clever words/themes could be used in this scheme. Double squares also make creating a puzzle easier. Then again, for me, very few gimmicks or themes impress me, but I’m no puzzle wizard or wizard at anythng and have never tried to create a puzzle so….

    • Huda says:

      RK, I tried to think of examples that would work. I’m sure they exist but it’s not easy, especially considering the grid requirements.

      • Michael says:

        RK, not necessarily easier to construct. Not only is the puzzle 16 squares wide by 16 squares deep, which typically adds at least 20 extra white squares, each of the four gimmick words is five letters long. Like Huda, I can’t think of any other examples that would fit theme requirements. With the exception of BARI, SAENS and ADANO, a 5-star puzzle.

      • Michael says:

        Also meant to say that, coincidentally, while solving, I initially had LOOCK at 36A (“Home security measure”) because I put GLOVE at the ends of 2D and 3D, thinking that 2D would be some kind of -ING LOVE … only to discover that LOOCK had moved downstairs to 40A.

  3. ARANTXA looks totally nuts, I’d have never of guessed the X there. Also the grid is 16×16 FWIW.

  4. Matt Gaffney says:

    I can’t enjoy Pete’s puzzle because Federer lost to that jackass Berdych last night. Not Pete’s fault, I know…

    • Lorraine says:

      you’re a tennis fan! please create a tennis meta! I’m sure to get it then!! Oh, and it was Fred who showed up to play last night, he of the 47,000 shanks, not Federer, who would have mowed down Berdy in 3.

  5. @ matt g
    How do you know it’s not Pete’s fault?

  6. RK says:

    Just happened to learn that Ben Pall, in 2009, was the youngest person, at age 14, to have a puzzle published in the NYT.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Loved Doug’s puzzle, “That’s not all” — very amusing and well done! The NYT was clever, but just an okay experience for me…

  8. Cyrano says:

    Forgive me asking here, but where have CS puzzles been the past two days? Am I missing something? I usually get the from the Cruciverb Island of Lost Puzzles page. Thanks for any response.

  9. Gareth says:

    Solved in AL (no printer). Not hard to cotton on to the gist of the theme even with out the big squares. It’s a brilliant concept and has great execution too! Reminded me of that Matt Ginsburg’s puzzle with I think 2X2 blocks in it? I battled most in the top-left. Actually, I spent fully half my time there: got BELLA and ANNT, AHAB and ACTED, then was truly mired. Wanted EVE for EEN, DEL (delegate?) for DST, LOOCK for LIIEN (that can’t be a coincidence!)

  10. Old Geezer says:

    Re: Tausig — I had several puzzles open at the same time. I started doing this one and was totally intrigued because I was trying to figure out the Mueller meta as I solved it. Imagine my surprise when, after NOT figuring it out, I found out it was the Tausig instead of the Mueller!!

  11. Joan macon says:

    What! No LAT today; so when and where will it appear?

  12. ArtLvr says:

    Glad you posted for the LAT, even if late… Agreed that NO BIGGIE would be okay, but not NO BIG!
    I did this one in the wee hours, never looked for the theme/anagrams. Silly me, since I’ve been re-reading lots of Colin Dexter mysteries featuring Inspector Morse, who is a nut for Brit xwords full of anagrams!

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