Thursday, 9/20/12

Fireball 7:35 
NYT 4:15 
LAT 4:17 (Neville) 
Tausig tba 
CS 6:43 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:35 (Matt) 

John Conrad’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 20 12 0920

This rebus theme doesn’t have another answer that provides a rationale for the existence of the rebus squares, but I think the pattern of black squares is meant to evoke the crosshairs of a rifle scope, as in “ready, aim, {FIRE}.” Yes? No?

The 12 rebusized entries start or end with the word {FIRE}, with FIRE AT WILL, LINE OF FIRE, FIREBOMB, SPITFIRE, FIRESTONES, and RING OF FIRE running across, and FIRE ALARM, RAPID FIRE, FIREARMS, BACKFIRE, FIREWORKS, and CEASEFIRE running down.

Looking beyond the theme, my favorite bits are AMUSERS (because my pet example of a hypothetical roll-your-own answer that abuses word affixes is REAMUSERS, which would be those [Comedians, e.g.] when they keep telling funny jokes), IMPETUS (only because it is making me want to remake Steve Miller’s “The Joker” with “the impetus of love” in lieu of “pompatus”), POMADES (because surely the collision of IMPETUS and POMADES is what made me think of pompatus), TINY TIM, LET IT BE, the pretty word LISSOME, and FOMENTS (which is a cool word). Oh! I didn’t see AMY in there, clued with [“Once in Love With __”]. The best Amy song, unfortunately, is the one that spells it “Amie” (by ’70s country rock band Pure Prairie League).

A 72-word grid with six rebus squares is no easy thing to fill, and so we find such fill as EER, IS AT, RETAR, ALIENEE, MDIV, BUL, EDO, ALG, ROTI ([French roast] as in meat, not coffee), and OSMAN ([Ottoman Empire founder]). The rebus action kept my brain engaged enough that the Scowl-o-Meter needle hardly budged at any of these answers, though. 3.5 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 55”

Fireball 9 20 answers

Long day –> short review.

Big unknowns: Chris Christie’s official residence, DRUMTHWACKET. (Great name, but who’s heard of it outside the tristate area??) Intersecting musicals in the southeast corner, ON YOUR TOES and LITTLE ME (“Wha…?” × 2). QUARTER QUELL (just watched the Hunger Games movie, haven’t read sequels). 39a. [Catalan article], UNS. 12d. [“Knuffle Bunny ___” (Mo Willems children’s book sequel)], TOO.

Hardest to parse later on: SIGNALEASE. “Signal ease? What’s that?” I’m asking myself. It’s SIGN A LEASE, of course, with a great clue, [Ink pad papers].

Other fine clues:

  • 15a. [Place for pitchers who play hardball], USED CAR LOT.
  • 18a. [Back], PUT MONEY ON, crossing 7d. [Play favorites?], BET. Almost had BET MONEY ON for 18a.
  • 6d. [One with a conflict of interest?], USURER.

Why did I know PETANQUE was like bocce? I blame crosswords. Liked SKINKS crossing SKUNKED, SLYTHERIN, OH SUSANNA, INNERSPACE.

Four stars. Would be higher if not for the wild unfamiliarity of those three long answers in the first paragraph.

Updated Thursday morning:

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

Brendan goes “Sideboob” on us today, hiding three boobs on either side of the puzzle grid. Apologies for the horrific Paint job on the solution grid, but you get the idea: to make sense of across answers touching the left side of the grid you need to enter YOYO, SCHMO and JERK along the left edge, and DOLT, DUNCE and GOOF to do the same on the right side.

The affected answers on the left are YIPPEE, ON A RUN, YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL, SUNRAY, CRIES (which leaves RIES without the sideboob, as in Andrew Ries), HIT THE PANIC BUTTON, MARC, OH! OH!, JIBED, ESPRESSO MACCHIATO, REOILS and KEENER.


Nice theme and nice grid: unaffected by the sideboobs are HANG LOOSE, NO-SHOW, NEW CAR and PFFT! Favorite clues are [Plot line?] for AXIS and [Gray area?] for ODES, referencing this fellow.

4.26 stars is my number, what’s yours?

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 20

Randy Ross leads us through some rocky roads in this puzzle, as each of the theme entries is a notable location with something “hard” in its name. To drive the point home, all of the clues make reference to the location being “hard” to find:

  • 17-Across: PEBBLE BEACH is the [Hard place to find on the California coast?];
  • 24-Across: FLINT, MICHIGAN, is the [Hard place to find northwest of Detroit?];
  • 39-Across: The ROCK OF GIBRALTAR is the [Hard place to find off the Spanish Coast?];
  • 50-Across: STONE MOUNTAIN is the [Hard place for tourists to find near Atlanta?] (this new Georgian from the Pacific Northwest contends it’s really a hill and not a mountain, but whatever); and
  • 60-Across: DIAMONDHEAD is the [Hard place to find on Oahu?].

The theme idea may not be the most innovative, but the wording of the theme clues and the overall theme density (63 theme squares!) elevates this puzzle comfortably above the average fare. I also liked several of the long Downs, especially IN LIMBO and BRAIN SCAN. At first, FAINT ODOR struck me as a tad arbitrary, but now I’ve come to like it quite a bit–it might be my favorite entry in the grid.

The non-theme clues were also quite strong. My favorite was [Average guy?] for one at the NORM, but I also liked [Prevention measure?] for OUNCE and (Volkswagen) [Beetle juice?] for GAS.

Alas, a lot of fill was just plain weird. I won’t call it “obscure” because my obscurity is your comfort zone, and I won’t call it “bad” because my ugly may be your mark of elegance. But I think most of us can agree that there are more than a couple of unusual entries here.

Exhibits A through G: AEGIS, the [Protection] that I so desperately wanted to be REGIS; IPANA, [Bucky Beaver’s brand] and the official toothpaste of crossword puzzles; RYA, the [Scandinavian rug]; BAHAI, the [Faith that arose in Persia]; C.E.E.B., the [SAT producer]; the HOAR that is [Icy coating]; and NYACK, New York, the [Village on the Hudson River where painter Edward Hooper was born].

Fun story about NYACK: a couple of years ago I was commissioned to make a puzzle for a couple’s wedding program. I had NYACK in the grid (no, I wasn’t proud, but I just didn’t see any other alternative), and the clue made some reference to it being a city in New York. The clients loved the puzzle, but their only request was to ditch NYACK because they thought their guests wouldn’t get that it was a slang/accented term for “New York.” After I politely pointed out it was a real city, they were fine with it. But since then, I’ve always exaggerated the pronunciation of NYACK to make it sound like I’m saying “New York” in a Boston accent. Try it sometime.

Back to business: I need to guess the puzzle’s title, as Name That Puzzle Month continues. Given the consistency in the clues, Hard Places to Find would be a suitable title, as would the shorter Hard Places. I tried to think of some play on “between a rock and a hard place,” but I couldn’t make anything work–all of my efforts sounded way too tortured. So it looks like I’m stuck with the titles I offered above, though I’m not optimistic about my chances.

Hey, whaddya know? The real title is “Hard Places to Find.” Every once in a while, one’s first guess pans out.

Steven St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 20 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 9 20 12

Let’s see about these cruise clues:

  • 20a. [GM compact that replaced the Cobalt] – CHEVROLET CRUZE
  • 25a. [Teams of fliers] – AIRLINE CREWS
  • 41a. [“Vanilla Sky” actress] – PENELOPE CRUZ
  • 48a. [Ocean holiday] – PLEASURE CRUISE

Did this feel like a Thursday puzzle to you? It sure didn’t to me. Straightforward homophone theme with clean fill that would fly on a Tuesday for sure. That’s not meant to slight the puzzle; I just think it’s running two days too late. Looking at 11d, we see a BOOZE/CRUZE… don’t drink and drive!

1d/29a HIS/HERS are just clued as opposites, which frustrated me while solving, but I appreciate it now that I know there’s no great clue for the pair that doesn’t involve bath towels. We’ve got “Apollo 13” clues referencing RON Howard and Ed HARRIS. The top clue here has got to be [Sounds near the ears] – CAWS. They come from crows near ears of corn. And as for SARAN? [It’s a wrap]!

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17 Responses to Thursday, 9/20/12

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was a classic Thursday with a rebus. Once you tumble to it, it’s pretty clear sailing, but it was fun to see how many would show up and where. In this case the 4 corner placement and the regular siting of the others were very helpful . Interesting point, Amy, re the crossfire. If it was intentional, it would have great to have it even tangentially pointed out…

    It seems like the theme answers are all on the belligerent end of possibilities- ARMS and ALARMS, BOMBS,… the only friendly FIRE is FIREWORKS (although they can also be belligerent). I was thinking of friendlier, cosier- sounding options– FIREplace, FIREdup, FIREfly, campFIRE, woodFIRE…

    In case it’s keeping you up at night, there’s a reason that OSMAN and OTTOMAN are related . The name is actually OTHMAN, and the more casual pronunciation takes it towards the “S” sound. So, in a way, it should be the OTHOMAN empire.

  2. RK says:

    NYT didn’t light my fire. Heavy on the trivia. Feelin’ fired-up for Friday.

  3. Cole says:

    In AcrossLite it was a bit jarring to see F BOMB in my solved grid. I guess a cute fire icon would have looked better.

  4. Gareth says:

    I thought it was supposed to be a RINGOF{FIRE}? Quite a lot of very nice 7 answers including those not part of the rebus squares! Also quite a lot of junk. An inevitable compromise as always.

  5. Papa John says:

    When “Ring of Fire” came up a while ago, I meant to post this news item about it. I’ll do it now.

    Preparation H wanted to use the Johnny Cash classic in their advertising campaign, but his family, who apparently has control over such things, said no.

  6. Matt says:

    Really liked the FB. Hit the sweet spot just below “I’ll never finish this” by combining some truly peculiar and some more-or-less guessable entries.

  7. maikong says:

    Kudos to Sam for correctly naming the puzzle!!!!

  8. Old Geezer says:

    BEQ: Cheryl Ladd replaced Farrah Fawcett, therefore was not an original angel. However, her character was the sister of Fawcett’s character, so she had to exist during that first season, even though she wasn’t an angel, or seen.

  9. backbiter says:

    Regarding the CS. I must have had mud in my brain this morning. Pebble Beach? How is that hard to find? I knew there was a question mark, but that didn’t stop me from thinking “How the hell are these places hard to find?”. LMFAO! I feel like such an idiot now. Anyway, Go Sam! That’s five correct this month. Remember we gave you a curve. Give me three more big guy!

  10. backbiter says:

    I wanna add something to the above. I believe Sam needs more motivation. Sam, if you get me three more I’ll send you half of my winnings. Just message me where to send it, and I’ll do it! I mean this!

  11. Joan macon says:

    Where is the solution for the LAT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Here it is, Joan! Wednesday night or Thursday morning, whenever the last time I had edited the post was, Neville wasn’t done with his review yet. I forgot to check back in later Thursday, and Neville’s write-up languished in the Drafts folder until Friday morning. Sorry for the delay.

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