Thursday, 11/1/12

Fireball 8:40 
NYT 5:00 
LAT 3:25 
Tausig untimed 
CS 4:38 (Sam) 
BEQ 6:05 (Matt) 

No Fireball puzzle this week. Blame Sandy. Glad that Peter Gordon’s electricity is back on (Long Island); hope full internet access follows soon.

Announcement! Patrick Blindauer’s website puzzle for the month of November (“For Blockheads”) is posted now, and his latest suite of puzzles, Puzzlefest IV, is available for preorder. For both, visit Watch for Matt Gaffney’s review of “For Blockheads” tomorrow.

George Barany and Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 1 12 1101

It didn’t take too long to see that the theme answers were 15-letter words or phrases proken into three chunks with each instance of a C hidden in the black squares. “The Black Sea/C?” I pondered. Nope. The bottom row spells out BLIND {C}ARBON {C}OPY, which is the (mostly) email thing wherein you cc: people “blindly,” so that the other recipients don’t see that you’ve copied them. The “bcc:” function is also handy for addressing a large list of people but (a) keeping their email addresses private and (b) eliminating the idiocy of a bunch of “reply all” replies that hit 40 people’s in boxes. I don’t know whether the fact that carbon’s chemical symbol is C is supposed to be a factor here.

Our bcc: theme answers include the 1/4/9a: BLA{C}K SOX S{C}ANDAL, [sports news of 1919]; 17/18/19a: ELE{C}TRONI{C} GAMES, [Toys “R” Us department]; 34/37/39a: THE I{C}EMAN {C}OMETH, [Fredric March’s last film]; 45/47/48a: EXTRA{C}URRI{C}ULAR, [like some student activities]; 64/67/69a: JESSI{C}A FLET{C}HER, [role that garnered 12 consecutive unsuccessful Emmy nominations, 1985-1996], for Murder, She Wrote; and 73/74/75a: BLIND {C}ARBON {C}OPY, [“invisible” part of a distribution list … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme].

A novel theme concept, to be sure. The theme occupies six full rows of the grid (90 squares including the blind C’s), which puts heavy constraints on the rest of the fill. So we get lots of partials and fragments, abbreviations and awkwardnesses. I could do without pretty much all of the following: DES, AARE, IED, LALLY, AREAR, EAL, SAR, O SOLE, E FOR, ONE R, ESO, DUM, ASE, LES, A DEEP, SOHIO. When the theme answers are broken into awkward-looking chunks (BLA ELE THEI OMETH URRI ULAR AFLET!), it would be wonderful if the rest of the fill looked more like actual words. My eye tried to fill in other black squares with C’s. ASECTETRACADEEP, anyone?

2d mystified me. LALLY [__ column (construction piece)]?? I know the name Lally Weymouth, and I used to have a neighbor named Lally. But this, I have never heard of.

Three stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “That’s the Spirit!”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 1

Alcohol puns are fun, especially after you’ve had a few. This puzzle features four of them. Pace yourself; you really shouldn’t read more than one per hour:

  • 17-Across: A “wry sense of humor” turns into a RYE SENSE OF HUMOR, [What a comedian who works in a bar might possess?].
  • 25-Across: A “smoked-filled room” becomes a SMOKE-FILLED RUM, [What you get when you put a lit cigar in a glass of Bacardi?].
  • 45-Across: “Urban renewal” changes to BOURBON RENEWAL, [A refill of Jim Beam?].
  • 58-Across: A “jury of one’s peers” turns into a JURY OF ONE’S BEERS, or [Brewery evaluators?].

Notice the beer’s at the end–smart move. Liquor to beer, you’re in the clear. Beer to liquor, never sicker.  Maybe it’s the booze talking, but there’s a lot of neat fill here. SEXIEST jumps out at me, maybe because it’s right there in the center. But there’s also SPEAKS UP, TOSSPOT, SPAGO, CRUSADE, and John CLEESE.

Okay, now that I’ve sobered up a little, I see the grid’s not perfect. Most notably, there’s FER, though I confess the clue ([Not agin]) is so annoying it’s cool. Other awkwardness involves BARO, ORO, TRY A, AGHA, URSA, and TAC. In isolation or in smaller numbers, any of them is perfectly fine. But the collective effect does weight the puzzle down a tad. Now would you mind keeping it down in here?

Favorite entry = THE TAB, made even better by the cool clue, [It may be picked up in a restaurant]. Favorite clue = [Bitter end?] for NESS. Usually one clues an entry so as to avoid making it into a suffix, and [Noted loch] or something bland like that would have done the trick. But I’ll take the suffix form if it has a more interesting clue like this! Honorable mention to [It’s brown and bubbly] for COLA. That clue seemed so gross to me I actually skipped to another clue rather than try to figure it out. Chalk it up to the perils of a juvenile mind.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 1 12

What are CABLE TIES? That’s another term for zip ties, the phrase I’m more familiar with. The theme answers contain a circled cable channel name (or abbreviation) that ties together two words in a longer phrase:

  • 17a. [“All Summer Long” singers], BEACH BOYS. I know HBO, but the song title doesn’t ring a bell. (Cue Martin Googling assiduously until he finds evidence that I have previously written about the song title.)
  • 22a. [Ibsen classic], A DOLL’S HOUSE. I’ll call this one inconsistent with the others on two counts. First, nobody calls it “SHO,” we call it Showtime. Second, to match the others, people would have to call it “S.H.O.” by pronouncing the letters separately. Does anyone do that? Because they should stop. Although I confess I do like to pronounce its rival premium channel as “hə-bō.”
  • 38a. [Early Shakespearean tragedy], TITUS ANDRONICUS.
  • 48a. [New England order], CLAM CHOWDER.
  • 61a. [Wire fasteners, and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters], CABLE TIES.

Note to Crossword World: The BODEGA is not merely a [Barrio food store]. In New York, the term is used for small convenience stores in any neighborhood. Pretty sure the Upper East Side is no barrio. Sadly, while Chicago has plenty of these shops, hardly anybody calls them bodegas. They’re just convenience stores or mini-marts. I want to make bodega the universal term. (Note: Dictionaries have not gotten the memo from the people of New York, and they tend to think bodegas are specifically Hispanic-oriented.)

I like the 8s, TRASH CAN, SAUCEPAN, HEADACHE, and BANKROLL. Could do without the awkward STEP A ([Process start]), and the uninspired OTARU, AGASP, ALLYN, OST, MIMIS, ENNIO, AT IT/NOT IT, etc.

2.9 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Against All Odds”—Matt’s review

Because he’s a HUGE Phil Collins fan, Brendan has written a crossword with “Against All Odds” as its theme: at three places in the grid, the trigram ALL rests on top of the trigram ODD, so one might say that these are ODDs that lean against ALLs, or “against-all odds.”

OK, slightly forced on the syntax there but let’s run with it. Lots of good long entries, including four of the five long themers: MATZOH BALL, DODD-FRANK, FALLS OUT OF FAVOR and THAT IS ALL, close to another Phil Collins song. I’ll ding him .10 stars for CODDLED EGG, which I’ve never heard of and will assume is something he learned visiting his English in-laws; let me look it up. Yes, appears to be a Brit thing. Slightly odd that TODD is not a long theme entry but unavoidable while keeping symmetry in 1 15×15 grid, so we’ll dock him only a symbolic .05 for that. Actually let’s give it back since he recently did an “Even Steven” puzzle and now he’s twinned it with an “Odd Todd.”

Other good non-theme stuff: HOLDS AT BAY, SHARON TATE, the whole NW corner, HARD C, CREOLE, LA PAZ and B-DAY. Sweet clue likely inspired by the constructor’s bedtime reading to his infant daughter: [Animal in the children’s book “Guess How Much I Love You?”] = HARE.

4.15 stars.

Pete Muller’s Fireball crossword, “Both Sides of the Fence”

Fireball 11 1 12 solution

Great two-way rebus theme—each rebus square plays PRO in one direction and CON in the other. Five theme answers contain both a PRO and CON letter sequence, and then there are 10 other rebused answers crossing them and taking the other stance. Thus:

  • 38a: PROS AND CONS crosses NEOCON and MAC PRO.

My favorite bits, mostly in the cluing department:

  • 20a. [Image tattooed on Arnold’s chest] for BARR. Mind went straight to A. Schwarzenegger rather than Tom A.
  • 30a. [Caused to kvell] for MADE PROUD. I love the word kvell, and I can even use it correctly despite shiksa status.
  • 6d. NO MAN’S LAND, great fill.
  • 27d. [Fuliginous] = SMOKY. New vocabulary! (Cue Martin Googling assiduously to prove that the word fuliginous is not actually new to me.)
  • 50d. [General indicator?] for a STAR on a general’s uniform.
  • 55d. [New Newfs, e.g.] clues PUPS. A Newf is a large dog of the Newfoundland breed.
  • 63d. [River that borders two countries named after it], CONGO. Before I figured out there was a rebus in this square, I was parsing the clue backwards and wondering if this was a Gordonian clue for ECO, and if there was an Eco river dividing Ecuador and Colombia that took its name from the start of the country names.

No delight from STYE, ORONO, EADIE, ARAL—but the puzzle was mentally engaging enough that I didn’t focus on the minor detractions. Most of the fill’s super smooth, despite the constraints of 10 rebus squares that contain two different trigrams for Across and Down. 4.66 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Adios Articles”

Ink Well crossword solution, 11 1 12 “Adios Articles”

In this theme, the Spanish singular and plural articles (masculine and feminine) are removed from four phrases. Well, really, the letters that spell the articles are removed.

  • 1a. [Growth on a singer/actress who’s not as fresh as she once was?], J. LO MOLD. The “el” in Jell-O mold has been lost.
  • 19a. [U.S.-Oz journeyers?], TIN AMERICANS. “La,” Latin-Americans.
  • 36a. [Carrier for criminals in disguise?], A.K.A. AIRLINES. “Las,” Alaska Airlines.
  • 56a. [Reality show about vast waiting areas full of sick people?], THE BIGGEST E.R. “Los,” The Biggest Loser.
  • 68a. [Language of the words dropped from 1-, 19-, 36-, and 56-Across], SPANISH.

I was disappointed that the second half of the theme lost the Latino vibe that J. Lo and Latin-Americans brought to the fiesta.

Likes: The DOWAGER Countess, GANJA, HOLLA, AIR PILLO insoles, and “MOVING ON…”

Mystery word: 66a: CALANDO, [Decreasing, in musical scores]. Haven’t seen this one before.

In the “Really?” category: 14d. [Domestic boarding spot?], CAT SPA. Is that really a thing?

3.25 stars.

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22 Responses to Thursday, 11/1/12

  1. Martin says:

    LALLY (column) has appeared three times, including two years ago. So you heard of it.

  2. Matt says:

    Well, it appeared in the NYT once this time, once in 2010 and once in 1998, years before Crossword Fiend started. So we’re really talking one time, in 2010. You don’t really expect Amy to recall every unfamiliar word that’s appeared one time in a crossword, even two years ago, do you? She encounters hundreds of such words per year.

    • ArtLvr says:

      I remember writing a comment in 2010 (chez Rex) re RPI’s late great benefactor Ken Lally, whose donation of $15 million launched Rensselaer’s business school, the Lally School of Management & Technology. An entrepreneur himself, he was also instrumental in getting an early program for start-up companies underway.
      As to the blind carbon copy, with the missing C’s hidden in black squares, you could also connect the device with carbon black…

    • Martin says:

      No, I don’t think any less of Amy for forgetting LALLY. (Her comment then was nearly identical to today’s, btw.) But “I have never heard of” is clearly an incorrect statement in this blog post, and I always assume that Amy appreciates learning of inaccuracies in her posts. Journalistic integrity and all that.
      -insert grin smiley-

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        One thousands pardons. I should have said “LALLY is straight-up crappy, forgettable fill” instead of speaking to its obscurity.

        -insert irked emoticon-

  3. The Detroit Tigers last week became the first American League team since the 1919 BLA(C)K SOX to be shut out in consecutive World Series games.

  4. Paul Luftig says:

    It was fun to see a baseball related puzzle now that the season is over. Hiding the c’s made the puzzle a bit more difficult for me since I have become puzzle addicted only recently after many years of casual use. Keep up the light and witty tone.

  5. Huda says:

    Is this a new trend, using the black, supposedly negative, space as a cache? I remember it from the cool eclipse puzzle, but it seems like something else made use of that device lately (all NY Times since that’s primarily what I solve). Is this perception correct?

    Anyhow, my recent awareness of this as a possibility made it easy to tumble to the theme. I agree that it was interesting and it must have been hard to construct. Going from thinking: “Hey a letter is hidden behind those columns” to realizing it’s a “C” was immensely helpful in disentangling the puzzle. And I really appreciated that there are no visible C’s in the rest of the puzzle.

  6. David L says:

    Re mixing your drinks, the rhyme I learned when young was “beer after whisky, very risky; whisky after beer, never fear.” Which is the opposite of Sam’s admonition. I think the moral of the story is that we finds ways to rationalize our behavior no matter the outcome.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Re Fireball — I got this week’s and it was the fastest I’ve ever done one! Cheered me up no end!

  8. Christopher Jablonski says:

    I’m a Chicagoan who uses the word “bodega”–but I think I only picked up the habit from New Yorkers.

    Woah. Have you ever gotten comment deja vu? I feel like I’ve stated that fact on this very blog before.

  9. C says:

    For the LAT theme, I interpreted the hidden cable channels as being presented as how they are listed in TV listings so didn’t have an issue with SHO. With that said, after reading Amy’s take, the fact that the other cable channels are listed in the manner you would refer to them in speech while SHO isn’t was lost on me. It’s exactly for this different perspective that I enjoy reading this blog.

  10. Gareth says:

    NYT: Elegant! A shoo-in for a 5-star rating! Clever, different theme with a very big “AHA!” as the theme answers were making no sense to me whatsoever before BCC appeared! Appreciate the theme density, even considering the criterion for a theme entry is two C’s in appropriate places it’s pretty chock full! Fought to close out the puzzle as I’ve only vaguely heard of BLACKSOX… or ELECTRONICGAMES as a thing; LALLY wasn’t helping, neither was my insisting KETONE ended in ENE (that “double-bonded” red herring was dastardly!) and I also had lEiA for XENA!

    The revealer in the LAT was genius! Wish I’d thought of it! Top-notch choice of theme answers too! I wonder how many of those channels are available in Canada though? P.S., I’ve never heard of “zip ties” before, only “cable ties.” Is this another example of Americans speaking their own language?

    • Martin says:

      I learned “zip tie” from Amy today as well. It makes sense because the ratchet makes a noise similar to a zipper.

      Calling a zipper a “zip” is an example of Brits’ mangling the fine language we share with them. Which is it down there?

  11. George Barany says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments and astute analyses! I invite further comments via private email for anyone who is interested in more detailed discussion. Feel free to contact me at (bcc’ed if you like). GB

  12. Margaret says:

    Anyone else find the LAT similar to the Oct 14 NYT which also had the initials of TV stations as the theme? Another weird coincidence in cross-world.

    PS I refer to those fasteners as tie-wraps; not familiar with cable ties or zip ties. I’m on the West Coast, maybe it’s another regionalism.

  13. Chippy55 says:

    I must be out of touch with reality and vernacular. This guy Ben Tausig is so Liberal that he includes the word “shitting” in a clue. That isn’t the first offensive word, he must get his jollies off on the shock value, and this isn’t the first time I’ve read his shitty clues. I think I’ll pass on downloading any more of his puzzles. And by the way, where is LALLY anywhere on this puzzle?

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