Thursday, 10/18/12

Fireball 4:32 
NYT 4:19 
LAT 3:45 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:02 (Sam) 
BEQ 5:22 (Matt) 

Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 18 12 1018

Hey! It’s a puzzle by Not That Sam Donaldson. For my money, Crossword Sam Donaldson is #1; Emily Cureton’s crossword drawing of newsman Sam Donaldson as a fetus because AMNION and SAM DONALDSON were in the 2/21/08 NYT puzzle (sadly, not available on Emily’s website, but you can enjoy others) is #2, and ABC newsdude Sam D. is dead last.

This Sam’s theme is inversion of “blank in the blank” phrases. [Bit of riding gear on a truck’s flatbed?] clues SADDLE IN THE BACK (back in the saddle), for example. HOLE IN THE ACE, DARK IN THE SHOT, HAY IN THE ROLL (a [Baking hazard at a manger?]), and doped-up GRASS IN THE SNAKE round out the theme. Not every phrase is flippable; BUCKET IN THE DROP, for instance, is nonsensical. But! STRAW IN THE TURKEY could well be clued as [Means of sucking out the giblets?]. Alas, it’s 16 letters long.


  • The top row is a delight. ANYHOO, JOE PESCI
  • 16a. [Money for a ride?] isn’t cab fare, it’s an AUTO LOAN.
  • Nice clue for XTC at 54a: [1970s-’90s band with a euphoric-sounding name].
  • 68a. [Ones cast in “Wicked”] aren’t Broadway performers, they’re witches’ SPELLS.
  • 5d. OIL SLICK gets a great clue: [Film about the sea?].
  • 25d. BOTOX! I’m driving someone to get 31 Botox shots in her head on Friday. This helps with her migraines.

Did not know 7d: JANA, [Actress/country singer Kramer], nor 55a: [Novelist Mary __ Russell], DORIA.

Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 56”

atomic Fireball, 10 17 12

Hey, hey! Check out 34a: [2010 Deb Amlen humor book subtitled “A Totally Non-Hormonal Analysis of Male Behavior”]. That’s the book that looks like a Hershey bar, IT’S NO T.P., MS., IT’S YOU. I mean, IT’S NOT PMS, IT’S YOU. Deb writes more than just the NYT’s Wordplay blog, you know.

Top 10 13:

  • 17a. [“Jeopardy!” winner of 2011] … hmm. JOON PAHK and ROGER CRAIG don’t have 6 letters. The answer is WATSON, the IBM machine that beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.
  • 27a. [Columnist Savage who coined the word “santorum”], DAN. This clue is not going to appear in a daily newspaper crossword any time in the next decade, minimum. If you have somehow avoided hearing about this in the past, I beg of you, do not Google/Bing it.
  • 39a. [Gripe], KVETCH. Yiddish words are so fun to say.
  • 47a. [Where some balls are strikes], bowling ALLEY. There was a bit on episode 3 of Go On (the ex-Chandler Bing show) involving shrieking that “the baby is coming!” just before the ball return crowns.
  • 53a. [Putting through the mill, e.g.?], MINI GOLF. On Facebook, Jordan Chodorow said this was “Oryx award contender for best clue,” and then Andrew Ries said it was a “contender for themeless of the year, maybe.”
  • 3d. [Malaysian oil and gas company], PETRONAS. I view this as educational trivia. I know Kuala Lumpur has the giant Petronas Towers, but not that the namesake was a gas/oil firm.
  • 7d. [Breakfast item with 22 grams of fat], SAUSAGE MCMUFFIN. Terrific entry. I’ve never eaten one of these McMuffin things. Am I missing anything?
  • 33d. [Top of the morning, on weekends?], T-SHIRT. Yup. In case you’re waiting for another “Bing,” we’re fresh out.
  • 36d. [Wishy-washy answer], YES AND NO. Do I like this clue, and am I disappointed in the answer? Yes and no.
  • 38d. [What a shipping magnate might operate?], UPS STORE.
  • 41d. [Runway designer’s material], TARMAC. Now that would be a rigorous challenge for the Project Runway contestants.
  • 43d. [They’re usually drawn at night], BLINDS. Because that’s when the lighting is best for that sort of art.
  • 45d. [Prepares for sale, as an apartment], STAGES. Super modern clue.

The closest thing to junk in this puzzle is ESTERS (meh) and MCCOVEY (some baseball dude I’ve never heard of). 4.5 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Check” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 18

The five 8- and 9-letter Across entries all have two words, and in each case both words start with the same letter. What makes it elegant is that those first letters, in order from top to bottom, spell C-H-E-C-K. That’s what gives us the “Double Check” referred to in the title. Check it out:

  • 17-Across: A [Near miss, e.g.] is a CLOSE CALL
  • 26-Across: The [Fad of the 1950s] is the HULA HOOP.
  • 38-Across: The [Surprise found in software and the spring] is an EASTER EGG. It’s especially surprising to find one in a synagogue.
  • 56-Across: The [Subway options] are COLD CUTS, assuming you’re in a Subway Sandwich Shop and not, you know, riding a subway like I kept thinking.
  • 67-Across: The [Coleridge classic] is KUBLA KHAN. In the poem, most of the action takes place aboard the SS Botany Bay..

With only 43 squares constrained by theme material, Patrick was free to flex his constructing chops. I like the results here. Often when a 9 appears at the equator, one’s forced to add a “helper” black square (when I do it, it’s a “helper” square; when someone else does it, it’s a “cheater” square) or the dreaded “Utah block” to make everything work; here, however, Patrick simply treats us to triple 7s in each corner. That gives us interesting entries like KARAOKE, RIO LOBO, ALL OVER, FACADES, and even LEONINE. (Part of a Zodiac sports score: “Aries 10, Leo 9.”)

Other highlights include STOKED, LENIENT, Walter MATTHAU near George CLOONEY, and both I GIVE and I WILL. I didn’t understand [10-percenter] as a clue for REP, but afterwards I figured out that this refers to the 10-percent cut taken by most talent agents, or “reps.” For a while I thought it was some reference to Republicans, but that seemed about nine percent too high.  Bazinga!

Favorite entry = GO TEAM, the [Words of cheer?]. Favorite clue = [Can’t help looking] for PEEKS. Nice way to describe the urge we all feel when we take a peek.

Rich Mausser’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 18 12

Neat theme: 63a: [Office purchase, and in a way, what can be seen in this puzzle’s sequence of circles] clues SWIVEL CHAIR, and the letters in CHAIR sort of swivel around in a clear sequence:

  • 18a. [Congregational divide], CHURCH AISLE. The R has swiveled around to the beginning of the circled squares.
  • 24a. [“Inside the NBA” analyst Barkley, familiarly], SIR CHARLES. Now the I has marched to the front of the R. (Great answer, too! I like Sir Charles.)
  • 40a. [Fix-it guide], REPAIR CHECKLIST. Not sure how lexical-chunkish this answer is. CHAIR’s A marches to the front of the line now.
  • 52a. [Woolly garment], MOHAIR COAT. And now the H circles around. That leaves one letter left to move, and when the C returns to the front of the line, we’re back to SWIVEL CHAIR.

LAST SUPPER and PRIVATE EYE are terrific fill, and I like SHUSH and OZARK too. Much of the remaining fill is fairly pedestrian—ESSEN, EWER, SISAL, ERLE, ROANS, CLAR., LACER?

3.25 stars.

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

Highly unusual crossword from Brendan today: there are no theme entries, yet the puzzle is themed. The title is “Even Steven,” and as the Notepad instructs us: When the puzzle is completed, read the letters in the even-numbered squares to find a quote from Steven Spielberg.

And it’s true: the even-numbered squares spell out “WHEN I GROW UP, I STILL WANT TO BE A DIRECTOR.

This is a clever concept. Normally a quote puzzle gets graded on the strength of the quote itself, but here the constraints were pretty strong: Brendan had to find a quote that’s funny and short by a famous Steven (and not a “Stephen” like King or Colbert because the phrase is “even Steven”). So the quote is only OK and the fill was somewhat compromised, but I’m still giving this puzzle 4.30 stars. The “even Steven” hook is cute and the grid must’ve been a bear to construct.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Fusions”

This is one of those themes that’s not meant for me. 26a: [With 32-Across, things formed by placing each word in each theme answer before its respective parenthetical style], MUSICAL SUBGENRES? Okay. But when I eyeballed the subgenres that came out of the theme, oy. Hardly anything I knew:

  • 17a. [History that goes way back (house, reggae)], DEEP ROOTS. Deep house and roots reggae?
  • 45a. [Like some headphones (pop, jazz)], NOISE FREE. Noise pop and free jazz—well, I’ve heard of the latter.
  • 51a. [D.C. Chinatown thoroughfare (funk, punk)], G STREET. G funk, street punk?
  • 63a. [Dominance achieved through culture (rock, metal)], SOFT POWER. Soft rock—hey! I know that one!—and power metal.

Seven things I liked:

  • 1a. [Bill Cosby ambulance comedy “Mother, ___ & Speed”], JUGS. Mid-’70s movie that I may have seen as a kid. Cosby plays mother, Raquel Welch is Jugs, and Harvey Keitel is Speed.
  • 50a. [One might shake the bed], SEAQUAKE. That’s an earthquake in the seabed.
  • 69a. [“OMG, yes!!!1”], TOTES! Slang for “totally.”
  • 71a. [Journalists’ scoops, slangily], GETS. Fresh clue.
  • 9d. [Sympathetic action?], PITY SEX.
  • 44d. [Electronics company with a super intense Nazi past], SIEMENS. They do good work with medical imaging equipment and hearing aids these days.
  • 64d. [And that’s the end of my artsy movie], FIN. French for “end.”

3.25 stars.

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10 Responses to Thursday, 10/18/12

  1. Evad says:

    Yay Sam! This one was a PARK IN THE WALK. Much fun, congrats.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    This was one of the quickest, yet most enjoyable, Fireballs in a while.

    Kudos, Peter Gordon. Whomever you are.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Agreed! Both the NYT and the Fireball were super, loved KVETCH…

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Re yesterday’s NYT (I think it was the NYT), didn’t anyone else wonder why it is intrepid to fear snot?

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: My favorite answer was GRASS IN THE SNAKE– Imagine the symptoms :)
    I must have a HEAD IN THE HOLE because the puzzle sent me off thinking about all kinds of phrases that would follow the theme. I agree, Amy, that many are nonsensical. Still came up with a menagerie of critters that ate the wrong thing:

    Others that came to mind:

    ROUGH IN THE DIAMOND (too long)

    Sorry, I’ll stop! Fun puzzle!

  6. Gareth says:

    Hardly Sam’s fault, but today’s Thursday was very Tuesday… Classy “big” corners with great answers like that top row you mentioned; Plus great clues like “The first to go on strike…” and the ones you mentioned… The whole puzzle had me smiling, especially the punchline answer (nods at Huda) GRASSINTHESNAKE!

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Doing Sam’s NYT and Fireball back-to-back was the best one-two combo of puzzles that I have solved in a long time.

  8. Alan D. says:

    “The dreaded Utah block” – that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while. Yes indeed, when you make a puzzle that has two of those in it, you’re not feeling very accomplished!

  9. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, everyone! As always, the puzzle benefited greatly from Will’s generous editorial guidance. My favorite clues are his! (I won’t divulge which ones are my favorite; I’m not one to construct and tell.)

  10. Steve says:

    Regarding Inkwell’s “Fusions” puzzle, you completely ignored 1/2 of the genres. Each of the theme answers goes in front of each of the parenthetical styles:

    1. Deep House, 2. Deep Reggae, 3. Roots House, 4. Roots Reggae
    5. Noise Pop, 6. Free Pop, 7. Noise Jazz, 8. Free Jazz
    9. G Funk, 10. G Punk, 11. Street Funk, 12. Street Punk
    13. Soft Rock, 14. Soft Metal, 15. Power Rock, 16. Power Metal

Comments are closed.