Thursday, 10/4/12

Fireball 6:15ish 
NYT 4:55 
LAT 5:51 (Neville) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 6:17 (Sam) 
BEQ about 8 minutes (Matt) 

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 4 12

If you ask me, the Notepad message is entirely unnecessary. I found the answers that had a SUN or MOON hiding in a black square, and then I read the circled letters from top to bottom and they spelled out ECLIPSE. Did you actually make use of the Notepad hint this time? I did not … but I only belatedly realized that the SUNs and MOONs share squares and there’s one orb going across and the other for the down answer.

  • 17a. [Ceremonial military outfit], DRES(s un)IFORM. By the way, your clue numbers from here on out may not match mine, if you used the PDF or solved the puzzle in the actual newspaper. The IFORM part has a clue number, 18, in this online version.
  • 28a. [Dairy Queen treat], CHOCOLATE (sun)DAE.
  • 45a. [Hides, in a way], GOE(s un)DERGROUND.
  • 61a. [Omits], LEAVE(s un)SAID. This one’s harder to see, with the two real words in the grid.
  • 10d. [Movie with a 9-year-old Best Supporting Actress winner], PAPER (Moon).
  • 21d. [Targeted launch], (moon)SHOT.
  • 48d. [Work after work?], (moon)LIGHT.
  • 44d. [Image on the “E.T.” poster], FULL (moon).

The theme is not astronomically correct, right? The sun and moon can’t both be hidden by eclipses simultaneously?

Likes: chocolate sundaes, HOOSEGOW, GEENA Davis (love her because she started a research organization to promote gender balance in entertainment for kids—which is clearly needed. Pixar really hadn’t noticed that every one of their movies had a male protagonist until this year? Pixar really didn’t think it was an issue?), MR. MIYAGI, ICE MACHINE, and DAVID SPADE. Could’ve done without: ABLARE, Spanish CERO again, Portuguese ELA, crosswordese OSIER and ADAR, the gruesome clue for HANG, and ADD, AD IN, and TV AD all in quick succession (yes, they’re all entirely unrelated, but they don’t look good together).

3.75 stars.

Patrick Berry’s Fireball crossword, “A Show of Ands”

Fireball crossword solution, 10 4 12 “A Show of Ands”

Neat theme! As you would expect from Patrick Berry in the Fireball venue. Three squares, in symmetrical spots, contain an “X&Y” answer running across and an “X AND Y” answer going down:

  • 22a. [Ms. Brown, e.g.], PLAIN M&M
  • 33a. [Award for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”], BEST R&B SONG. Not the VMA for Best Female Video, nope.
  • 50a. [Company whose logo is a green square], H&R BLOCK.
  • 13d. [Law written in stone], COM{M AND M}ENT.
  • 28d. [Gofer], ER{R AND B}OY.
  • 36d. [Pharmaceuticals that remain undeveloped for lack of potential profit], ORP{H AN D R}UGS.

Highlights: My favorite fill here includes IMPASTO, LOST TRIBE, DOUBLE-U, NEWSGIRL, SHOOK OFF, LEVITRA, “hail, fellow, WELL MET,” and DON PARDO. Favorite clues: 27a. [Closeted homosexual’s opposite-sex companion, in slang] for BEARD (do lesbians have BEARDs too?); 54a. OPERA [“___ has no business making money”: Rudolf Bing].

Most awkward zone: Where the southwestern rebus square sits above woefully obscure geographic answer ULAN [___-Ude (Buryat Republic’s capital)]. Now, we all would have gotten ULAN if the clue were [__ Bator (Mongolia’s capital)]. That Siberian republic has under a million people.

Four stars.

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 10 4 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 10 4 12

Today’s crossword is brought to you by the good folks at Volkswagen. Das Auto.

  • 20a. [Game with a windmill, usually] – MINIATURE GOLF. I have played my share of minigolf, but never have I actually played the stereotypical windmill hole. Have I even lived? What am I doing with my life?
  • 31a. [Uncle Remus rogue] – BR’ER RABBIT, who ranks high on the list of references I have made to my calculus students that they don’t get
  • 41a. [Insect honored on a 1999 U.S. postage stamp] – DUNG BEETLE… ew. Dung. “Put this on your mail,” they told me. “It’s commemorative,” they said.
  • 53a. [Literally meaning “driving enjoyment,” slogan once used by the maker of the ends of 20-, 31- and 41-Across] – FAHRVERGNUGEN. No, I couldn’t spell this without the crossings.

I’m honestly surprised that VWS wasn’t tucked into a corner of the grid for those who didn’t recognize the model names or the classic slogan; that seems like something that a non-trivial number of solvers would appreciate. But I know that you had it figured out!

This puzzle gives more support to my theory of “Rich Norris preps us early in the week for late week puzzles.” (Still developing the name.) CASE in point: 64a. [Lucie’s dad] – DESI Arnaz. I pointed out Lucie’s presence in Tuesday’s puzzle here on Crossword Fiend, and here she is again. Props to Rich for giving a wink to the solver and a freebie to us regulars.

What’s this? EVER I crosses EVER AFTER? Tut tut. Seems as though the former could readily be changed to OTERI or UTERI, which don’t repeat a word. Though maybe that portion of the grid was edited by AL HAIG; he is in control now, after all. We also have DEER and DEERE, which aren’t so related, but still they look so bloody similar.

Oh, insert some topical political comment about last night’s debate and DEREG. here; that nearly put me to sleep and it’s got me nodding off again just thinking about it.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hirsute … Not” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 4

Four bald guys walk into a crossword puzzle. One of them says to the other three, “Is that it? Four bald guys?” The others nod. So the first one continues, “Why us? Aren’t there tons of bald guys out there?” The others shrug their shoulders.

Determined to find a purpose to the puzzle, the first one keeps at it. “Okay, I see BALD at 6-Across, clued as [Word that describes 20-, 27-, 49-, and 56-Across]. It’s cute that the puzzle is thus “BALD on top,” just like us. But there has to be something else, right?” The others say nothing.

Oops, I just realized this joke has no punchline. I need something quick. Okay, here goes: So the first guy says, “Why the long face?”

It’s not comic gold, but it’s the best I can do with what I’ve been given here. Let’s take a look at the bald guys:

  • 20-Across: The [Former heavyweight champion] is GEORGE FOREMAN. I don’t own his grill, but friends tell me they really are great.
  • 27-Across: Is the most interesting thing about PATRICK STEWART that [He guest-starred as a gay opera director in a 2003 “Frasier” episode]? Does this factoid even make the top 100 on the list of “Interesting Things About Patrick Stewart?” The top 200?
  • 49-Across: The [Emmy-winning former talk-show host] is MONTEL WILLIAMS. I never watched his show much, but I always liked him. I’ve always suspected he and Louis Gossett, Jr. were separated at birth. Bet he’s never heard that one before.
  • 56-Across: The [Former BNA star who has a majority share in the Charlotte Bobcats] is some guy named MICHAEL JORDAN. Whoever he is.

Two errors slowed my solving time considerably. First, I kept thinking that the [American desert] we call MOHAVE was spelled MOJAVE. I see now that it isn’t, but it should be. MOJAVE looks cooler. Anyway, having SLIGJ- as the start to an answer really confused me. Rather than toss the J, though, my strategy was to delete the SL- up front even though I was reasonably sure of the crosses.

Second, I wanted NONFAT for [Like some yogurts]. I had the O right, and since I had no idea about Gertrude BERG of “The Goldbergs,” I figured BALD was some word ending in -AND and ROWS was something ending in -ONS. Ugh, that was a hot mess.

Favorite entry = BLADDER, a [Football’s inner lining]. I feel like I could have gotten along fine without knowing that. But I welcome peculiar body parts into my crosswords. Favorite clue = [Losing ventures?] for DIETS.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle (+contest from last week) — Matt’s review

Before we look at today’s BEQ, let’s quickly review last Thursday’s puzzle (left unblogged here because it was a contest). Brendan asked solvers to find a two-word phrase in the news. The three theme entries all contained the letters FIS:


The trick was: the letters C-A-L shot downward from the S in each of these three, creating a visual FISCAL CLIFF, which was the contest answer. Click here for an illustrative solution grid and to read the author’s full contest write-up. I liked this meta; it was easy, timely, and provided a funny little aha moment.

On to today’s puzzle, which sports a straightforward theme: two-word phrases where both words start with RE-. REveal REst? OK:

16-a [Protestant movement] = RELIGIOUS REFORM. I think this clue is a bit off. If the answer were THE REFORMATION then that works, but the concept of “religious reform” is not Protestant Reformation-specific.

22-a [Gagging, e.g.] = REFLEX RESPONSE. I thought this one sounded a little un-phraseworthy while solving, but it Googles pretty well.

37-a [2012 sportsworld controversy] = REPLACEMENT REFS. Excellent entry, most likely the seed.

46-a [Label started by Frank Sinatra] = REPRISE RECORDS. Also excellent.

56-a [Syllabus content] = REQUIRED READING, which was one of the categories when 12-year-old Neville Fogarty went on “Jeopardy!”

So that’s not a bad theme, and I wonder how many other bigrams could yield five reasonable two-word phrases like this? Not many.

With five long theme entries there wasn’t much room for your standard Quigley fill magic, but let’s see what he could do: FIRE SIGN and CAPSCREW are nice, but then there are no 6- or 7-letter entries in the grid so the rest of the fill can’t shine as much. TEVYE and D-LIST are good, though, and RYDER gets a nice, timely clue: [Cup most recently won by the Europeans].

3.9275 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Different Wavelengths”

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword solution, 10 4 12 “Different Wavelengths”

This puzzle’s theme is rather intricate and interlaced. Colors (clued as not-colors-at-all) partner with phrases in a way that’s reminiscent of a Wheel of Fortune “Before and After” category:

  • 1a. [Author E.B.], WHITE
  • 11a. [Communist], RED
  • 45a. [Sad], BLUE
  • 47a. [Unskilled], GREEN
  • 73a. [Jack of Tenacious D], BLACK
  • 18a. [After 11-Across, unprincipled video rental customer, or after 73-Across, one tampering with an FAA device?], BOX CUTTER. Red Box is a DVD vending machine system, and the black box records flight data.
  • 30a. [After 11-Across, use Photoshop to make people look less evil, or after 73-Across, boxer’s makeup artist?], EYE DOCTOR. Red-eye is that photography artifact, black eye’s a shiner/contusion.
  • 38a. [After 11-Across, magazine with zombie dessert recipes, or after 45-Across, guide to appraising a VW Bus covered in bears?], BOOK OF THE DEAD. Redbook magazine, Blue Book index of used car values.
  • 50a. [After 1-Across, what a Super Bowl–winning team might receive, or after 47-Across, hydroponic gardener’s decision?], HOUSE CALL. White House celebration with the winning team, greenhouse.
  • 63a. [After 11-Across, three serious citations in a soccer game, or after 47-Across, clever way to become a permanent resident?], CARD TRICK. Red card is more severe than yellow card in soccer, green card is for permanent U.S. residents.

Four RED phrases, one WHITE, one BLUE, two GREEN, two BLACK. Red is more popular, clearly. Or is it? Would someone with plenty of time on their hands please grab a dictionary and count the number of dictionary-grade phrases that begin with these five colors? And can you think of any other phrases for which the “Before and After” trick would work with two different colors (with both colors being clueable as a non-color)?

Hot entries: ALAMODOME, INSTAGRAM, I’D LOVE TO, and one of crossworddom’s most useful people, ALAN ALDA (check him out: two 4-letter names, both half vowels and half common consonants).

Did not know: 13d. [Beyoncé’s fashion line], House of DEREON.

The 3-letter answers in this puzzle possess a lot of ugliness, what with the 10 theme answers constraining matters: NUS EES UGO SUU TAE NYK AGA DER ADT KMS DAK? Ben has made many sacrifices to Ooxteplernon, the god of bad short fill. Ooxteplernon is pleased and will spare the puny earthlings from his divine wrath … this time.

When I test-solved this puzzle, I pointed out to Ben that 72a: THAIS was clued all wrong. [Many Theravada Buddhists]? What does it mean? The plural of Thai as the demonym referring to people of Thailand? No. No, no, no. This should be clued as [Noted role for soprano Géori Boué]. Opera! It’s classic.

3.5 stars.

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25 Responses to Thursday, 10/4/12

  1. Huda says:

    Amy, the way I read the theme is that it was depicting a solar ECLIPSE. So, the moon is passing in front of the sun. The “moon” is represented by a stack of 2 or 3 black squares that block the “sun”. So, in that regard, it is astronomically correct. But I’m not sure if the constructor intended it this way. If so, it would have been great to have had SOLAR ECLIPSE in the circles, but I realize it’s asking a lot.

    Where the Notepad helped is that it specified 4 events, which meant to me that the Moon and the Sun had a spatial relationship…

    Instead of GOE(s un)DERGROUND I had GOE(s un)DiaGnOseD… But I did like that the clue for this “Hide, in a way” resonated with the general theme.

    Very cool and original concept, well executed.

  2. Jim Horne says:

    Mostly repeating a comment I left on Wordplay because I don’t want this gimmick to get short shrift.

    I agree with [Huda, this time]. To me, this is very clearly a solar eclipse theme, since only in such an event do you see the sun and moon occupying the same visual space.

    I’ve only seen a total solar eclipse once, and I’ll never forget it. Probably the most amazing experience of my life, and beautiful beyond words. I understand why some people chase them around the world whenever they get the chance.

    I found the puzzle particularly clever in how it reduced that rare astronomical occurrence to a crossword grid. Well done, Bill Thompson.

    The next solar eclipse is November 13 but you need to be in Australia or New Zealand to experience totality. See you there?

    • Huda says:

      Jim, I was scratching my head thinking: has he ever disagreed with me? Or I with him? Then I realized that you agreed with someone else on Wordplay :) I’m glad that several people saw the theme in this way. I started to second guess myself after I posted.

      I too have only seen one total solar eclipse and it’s breathtaking. Maybe time to use up those frequent flyer miles and head to Australia… (I wish).

  3. Jeffrey says:

    What Huda and Jim said. This is my favorite theme of the year.

  4. RK says:

    Liked the NYT theme as well. The notepad helped me although I may not have needed it. Didn’t see where it specified four events as Huda wrote. Think the notepad said something like seven times.

  5. Tonci says:

    I have to say that Fireball crossword is insanely well crafted: interesting theme, colorful non-thematic content, 7×4 corners, and if ULAN (reasonably common, if somewhat obscure, fill) is the only thing you can complain about, constructor obviously did his job well!

  6. D F says:

    CS – Sam, you were correct to begin with; the desert is properly spelled MOJAVE.

    • M says:

      Is it that absolute? I don’t think it is, unless you’re producing new material for the U.S. government. The Board on Geographic Names spelled the desert MOHAVE until 1933. You can pull up a scan of the decision card for the spelling at Old references to the “Mohave Desert” aren’t automatically “improperly” spelled now. MOHAVE is simply an older variant based on the actual etymology, and the Hispanicized MOJAVE is the preferred spelling at present.

      • D F says:

        Very little if anything in language is absolute. But good judgment is knowing the difference between “can” and “should”.

      • M says:

        I agree with your axioms. And for the CS puzzle specifically, cluing MOHAVE as [American desert], while not wrong, was not good judgment.

  7. Evad says:

    Big fan of today’s NYT. Thought initially just the sun was being eclipsed by the black squares, but fun to find that the moon was also there blocking it out. Nice way to reinterpret some of the dark squares in the grid.

    I thought the revealer in the circles and the Notepad entry were superfluous–it would’ve been more elegant IMHO to have omitted them.

  8. Howard B says:

    Great NYT theme, fun solve all the way through.

    Fireball was almost as much fun. Strangely perplexed by the tie-in of Ms. Brown to PLAIN M&M – turns out it’s an ad character that I’m disconnected to completely – had no idea those characters had names associated with their colors. Did not like that one much, since it stymied me – fought through it though, and loved the theme. Shows that you don’t need a ton of special squares to make a clever theme work :).

  9. Gareth says:

    NYT:Bill Thompson’s theme idea was mad genius!!! And you deserve a star for putting Mr. Miyagi in your puzzle alone toO!

    LAT: Yeah, miniature golf around here is never so spectacular… maybe a few metal things, a moat or two, and a pipe that spits the ball out somewhere! Never heard of a VW Rabbit – Fox yes, not rabbit – or that slogan (which needed every. single. cross. all the while not believing I was making something real. I even checked if it wasn’t written right to left!) Guess I’m a little young for the puzzle? Still, another interesting category theme! Re dung beetles, my alma mater has a whole laboratory devoted to them – we’ve got lots of kinds over this way!

    • Gareth says:

      FWIW, Wikipedia suggests that certain VW Golf models were marketed as Rabbits only in the States and Canada. And further Wikipedia delving suggests the Fox I’m referring to was a derivative of the Citi Golf, a Golf model derivative and only available in SA.

  10. Karen says:

    I learned about BEARDs from fiendster T Campbells comic. IIRC, it was to describe the female date of his no-longer-lesbian character. So, complicated.

  11. Sean P says:

    There’s only so far one can nest replies, so I can’t answer Joon directly. However, the SOLARECLIPSE puzzle I remember solving was certainly either this year or last, and it had the exact same gimmick as today’s NYT – apparently black squares that in fact contained the word SUN. (There was no MOON element, and it did not spell ECLIPSE).

    I know it was as recently as this because I recall solving it in the same house where I’m living now.

    The grid was wonkier than today’s; the false black squares were included in addition to an otherwise standard-looking grid. I believe as well that it was NOT a rebus, but rather the letters S-U-N were each dedicated to a square. That’s why it looked so wonky.

    I have no particular way of figuring out what this puzzle was, so I’m hoping someone has a better memory than me.

    • pannonica says:

      I don’t have information relevant to the eclipse dilemma, but I can mention that although the reply nesting disappears at a certain level, you can still “reply” to the (a) preceding comment and have it appear as the last or most recent nested comment.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Sean P — it’s probably this Ben Tausig from last year:

    • Sean P says:

      Yes! Brilliant detective skills, Matt, that’s the one. I thought I was going crazy! Unusual to see a theme like this done twice … far more unusual than an eclipse itself, I’d imagine.

    • joon says:

      oh, nice. now i feel bad about forgetting about that puzzle; i liked it quite a bit when it came out. the thursday NYT was quite a bit trickier, since the eclipse squares were better-concealed as ordinary-looking black squares (as opposed to big three-block bars that seemed to create 1- and 2-letter answers in the grid).

Comments are closed.