Thursday, 11/29/12

Fireball 4:48 
NYT 3:30 
LAT 3:48 
Tausig untimed 
CS 6:57 (Sam) 
BEQ 5:45 

If you are reading this Thursday night and you haven’t peeked outside at the full moon, go now! The bright object above the moon and a little to the left is Jupiter. My first time knowingly seeing it.

Sharon Delorme’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 11 28 12, #1128

I don’t get what makes this a Thursday puzzle. Word count is 74, not 78, and there are those stacked 8s in the corners. But the theme and everything else in the puzzle struck me as being of Wednesday difficulty and plainness. The theme is antiperspirants, brands of which include Secret, Ban, Degree, and Sure:

  • 17a. [The library in an old mansion may have one], SECRET PANEL.
  • 25a. [’60s protest sign], BAN THE BOMB.
  • 35a. [Extent to which you may do as you please], DEGREE OF FREEDOM. Is that a thing? It isn’t ringing a bell as a cohesive phrase.
  • 48a. [Having firm control], SURE-HANDED.
  • 60a. [Reassuring words … or a hint to 17-, 25-, 35- and 48-Across], DON’T SWEAT IT. Great reveal for a theme that didn’t knock me out.

In the fill, I’m keen on LOCAL RAG, “MAKE IT SO,” PIN BOY, and MASON. I like MASON because my grandpa and several generations of men before him were brickmasons, and because [Foundation layer] can mislead the solver into thinking of strata-type layers rather than the people-who-lay-bricks sort of layers.

Could do without -IER, TRI-, ONE K, NCR, SRO, ESSEN, AGUES, ARA, PASEO, ASTR. (although! see the top of my post for Wednesday night’s astronomy tip if you missed it), ENA, ALLA, ACR, EDOM, and AUD. That’s a lot of short ugly stuff.

13d: ENROBE is clued with [Get dressed]. I know the dictionaries are all over that aspect of the word, but when do you ever encounter this word? You probably encounter it in one place: discussion of items enrobed in chocolate. [Coat, as with chocolate] would be an easier clue, if you ask me. Also? Yes, I can disrobe chocolate-coated candy. I can strip a Kit Kat bar down to wafers and cream filling like nobody’s business.

On that note, let’s sign off. Three stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 57”

Fireball answers, 11 28

In my imagination, Peter Gordon is the grandson of the grande dame of crossword construction, 98-year-old Bernice Gordon. I’ve not been a big fan of her NYT puzzles in the last few years, but I loved this profile of her in her university alumni mag. /digression

In the comments on Wednesday’s post, a few people raved about the last Across answer in this puzzle: EPIZEUXIS, or [Rhetorical device that “Location, location, location” is an example of]. Peter, Peter, Peter: This is a really nice themeless you’ve got here. In my list of top fill, there’s B.S. DEGREES, APOLLO XII, R.E.M.’s “RADIO SONG,” the pretty word CISTERNS, DAN JANSEN‘s full name, lively GROSS OUT, IN A MUDDLE, LIME GREEN, TABLE TENNIS (and in a puzzle that isn’t trying to garner acceptance by Will Shortz!), STUDS TERKEL, and the UV INDEX.

I would have thought Selena GOMEZ‘s entrée into crossword grids would be her first name. If you ask anyone under the age of 25, she is far, far more famous than the murdered Tejano singer from almost 20 years ago. Plus! She’s single again, having just broken up with younger “man” Justin Bieber. Peter has kids in the house, so I reckon he’s well-versed in all the Disney Channel stars.

How is it that I don’t recall any [1976 Styx hit] called “LORELEI“? Here’s a YouTube of it, and it does not sound even remotely familiar.

I don’t know about you, but this puzzle was easier than I had expected it to be. But no less fun. And nothing that annoyed me while I was solving. 4.5 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “One Per Puzzle”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 29

This puzzle adds a PER to four common two-word terms to create four new, whimsical terms that get their own special clues:

  • 17-Across: “Severance pay” becomes PERSEVERANCE PAY, a [Worker’s bonus for stick-to-it-iveness?]. Nice one!
  • 27-Across: A “pep rally” expands to a PEPPER RALLY, an [Exuberant gathering for jalapeno lovers?]. Ah, so we can look for the PER  at the start or end of the first word!
  • Not so fast! Next is 46-Across: “Honey bee” turns into HONEY BEEPER, a [Means of keeping in touch with your sweetie?]. So in order for everything to work, the last theme entry better have the PER at the front of the second word or else either the first theme entry (with a PER up front) or this third one (with the PER added to the second word) will be inconsistent with the others.
  • Whew! 59-Across works! “Exhaust fumes” becomes EXHAUST PERFUMES, [Additives to improve the smell of auto emissions?]. That kind of attention to detail is a signature feature of a professional crossword. While we have come to expect it, we should still pause once in a while to appreciate it.

I lost a little time by sticking with I NEVER as the answer to [Words suggesting a rare occurrence] instead of IF EVER. I never even bothered to check the crossing (obviously–since the answer to [Grant and Lee, say] might be many things, but NOES ain’t one of them), so I had to hunt all over after I was finished to find my error. Had this been the ACPT, I would have lost the 150-point bonus for a completely accurate grid. Always check every crossing!

There are some lovely entries here, as we would expect in a puzzle from Lynn Lempel. I liked BUS DEPOT, DRY UP, KINGSTON, and ___. The grid’s Scrabbly feel jumps out right at 1-Across with ZUMBA, but we also see three Xs, a J, and a couple of Ks.

Lots of echoing clues, like [It has its ups and downs] for YO-YO and [Org. that has its ups and downs] for NYSE. Then there were all the clues featuring duos: the aforementioned [Grant and Lee, say] for FOES, [James or Jackson] for JESSE, and [Some Shrivers and Kennedys, e.g.] for KIN. I liked these extra touches in the clues.

Favorite entry = MEAL PLAN, the [College student’s eating option]. Favorite clue = [Sings at a high level?] for YODELS.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “E.K. Jeez!” — Matt’s review

Warning: this puzzle is dirty dirty dirty. Filthy! If you might be offended by degenerate musings, please read no further.

Brendan today takes five perfectly innocent phrases where the last word ends in E, changes that E to a K, and winds up with five wacky and crass sexual references. Sounds kind of random, especially since the title is fine but isn’t really an “aha! So that’s the idea” revealer, but it still somehow works:

16-a [Primed putz?] = LOADED DICK, not loaded dice.

23-a [Identify one’s member?] = NAME YOUR PRICK, not name your price. You’re supposed to name it? No one tells me anything.

36-a [Singularly impressive bust?] = THE AMAZING RACK, not “The Amazing Race.” Note that it’s a 14-letter entry that spans the grid, which tells us we’re looking at a rectangular grid.

46-a [Does some porno editing?] = CUTS TO THE BONK, not cuts to the bone.

57-a [Pleasure yourself after a Brazilian?] = WAX AND WANK, not wax and wane.

So again, this theme works even without a title revealer. We can accept the randomness of the letter shift while still appreciating its raunchy beauty. I can also appreciate WHAT A WEEK!, DAMON DASH, CHESS and of course YOLO. And since the puzzle was already R-rated Brendan couldn’t refrain from cluing PERU with a reference to Lake Titicaca. 4.00 stars.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 29 12

This theme is not for me. Camping? I’ll pass. [Campground sound #1-#4] are SIZZLING STEAKS, BABBLING BROOK, CRACKLING FIRE, and RUSTLING LEAVES. I get the last three, but what’s up with that first one? The first thing a camper does is bring a cooler full of groceries? Unless the camper is encountering a steer in the woods, hunting it, and butchering it, the idea of camping with steak just sounds wrong to me. (Okay, the idea of hunting steer in the woods is also wrong.)

I was underwhelmed by the fill in general here. APIA meets PABA (though at least PABA got an accurate clue, [Early sunscreen ingredient], that reflects its absence from currently available sunscreens), ON AN, AOUT and UTES and its anagram TUES, BREA, ATTA, ADZ, ANNI, CESTA, K-STAR, NERI, NES, ITAR, EOE … eew.

Odd clue: 32d. [British travel feature, in the past?], DOUBLE L. Huh? Was it spelt “travell” in England back in the day? I know that the inflected forms double the L in British usage (e.g., canceled vs. cancelled, traveler vs. traveller, jewelry vs. jewellery). Daniel Myers surely can explain this in full.

Love, love, love this clue: 5d. [Mount Everest?] for CLIMB. Isn’t that great?

Three stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “iMovie”

Ink Well crossword solution, 11 29 12 “iMovie,” by Ben Tausig

Simplistic theme here: Movie titles whose only vowel is I.

  • 17a. Film that preceded “New Moon”], TWILIGHT.
  • 24a. Posthumous Michael Jackson concert film], THIS IS IT.
  • 35a. Film that brought Brad and Angelina together], MR. & MRS. SMITH. You gotta count the ampersand as a symbol here and not AND. Of course, computer-based solvers probably had to put A or AND here.
  • 47a. Tarantino film with two volumes], KILL BILL.
  • 56a. 1990s comedy film about an Italian restaurant owned by brothers], BIG NIGHT. For my money, this movie has the single best fight scene ever: Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, on the beach, slapping at each other and tussling like children. (The single best shower scene is in Starship Troopers: a coed bunch of young military recruits in the communal showers, looking fit and merely … getting clean.

Highlights: RALLY CAP (great term, dumb thing), “YOU FIRST,” coveted A AVERAGE, chopstick-fly-catchin’ Mr. MIYAGI, BESTIARY, SASHIMI.

Favorite clues:

  • 43d. [Super uncool org. despite having Wizards and Knights], KKK. Generally, crossword editors eschew letting this org. into the grid at all. I do not at all mind seeing them mocked.
  • 38a. [Unfortunately common wakeup time for baby Julius Tausig], TWO A.M. I do not miss the newborn months! But I am enchanted by Master Julius. The kid’s got panache.

3.5 stars.

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18 Responses to Thursday, 11/29/12

  1. janie says:

    gadzooksis — what a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous word!


  2. RK says:

    Was out walking , noticed the moon and the bright object to it’s upper left, and wondered what that was about. Thanks.

  3. Evad says:

    I enjoyed today’s NYT theme–even after I got the revealer, it took me a few seconds of sweating to realize what the other entries had in common. Too bad any AXE phrase would not have the extra E.

  4. pannonica says:

    I am shocked, shocked that EPIZEUXIS is not so well-known. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf indeed.

  5. Jeff M says:

    I think degree of freedom is a statistical term…I’ve never heard it used as clued.

  6. Victor Barocas says:

    We talk about “degrees of freedom” in mechanics all the time. A knuckle, for example, is a one-degree-of-freedom joint (one axis of rotation – you can only bend and unbend your finger as if saying “redrum”), whereas your shoulder joint has three degrees of freedom (three axes of rotation – you can can raise your arm in front of you to stand like Frankenstein, you can raise your arm at your side as if doing jumping jacks, and you rotate between the two positions). A trombone slide has no rotational degrees of freedom but one translational DOF since the slide can move in one direction relative to the rest of the trombone. Statisticians and some mathematicians will also use DOF routinely. I am not sure that in any of those context the clue would be quite appropriate, but that’s a separate issue.

    When I say the clue for EPIZEUXIS, I immediately thought ASYNDETON. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I suppose.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Ah, DOFs bring me back to my good old mechanical engineering days. DEGREES OF FREEDOM seems like a much better entry than DEGREE OF FREEDOM, but what can you do.

    • David Eisner says:

      Another Shining fan. I think of the three degrees of freedom of a shoulder joint in another way: You can pick a direction in space for your humerus bone to point , which accounts for two degrees of freedom (for example, it could be specified by a longitude and a latitude). Additionally, once you’ve selected that direction, you can twist your humerus around it’s axis (pardon the reference, but imagine a Nazi giving a heil salute to Hitler on the podium, and then doing a mezza mezza gesture with is raised hand, as if to say: eh, not the best speech I’ve heard). The degree of twist is the third degree of freedom.

  7. Gareth says:

    We don’t get those brands here: Axe, Mitchum, Mum, Yardley and others yes but not these. So even when I got to the revealer it didn’t reveal anything. I thought “degrees of freedom” was a statistics/biometry term. [as Jeff pointed out]

  8. Peter Piper says:

    Easiest NYT thursday puzzle ever in my recollection. Where’s the LAT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ll get to it.

      By the way, the funny thing about your previous rants, like “When the hell is the sunday cox puzzle going to be posted its thursday already. This sets a new record for TBA.”—the only way you would have gotten that puzzle online six weeks after it was published in the Boston Globe is by downloading the .puz file, WHICH CONTAINS THE COMPLETE SOLUTION. So if you were in a tizzy because you wanted to check your answers, that was entirely unnecessary. I suppose it’s possible that you were really hankering for a literate discussion of the theme and the overall fill and cluing, but you never really seem to mention the reviews themselves.

  9. Alan says:

    Re: the LAT travel clue – “British travel feature in the past?” refers to “travelled” which of course the Brits spell with two l’s.

  10. sbmanion says:

    My all time favorite puzzle was the one several years ago in which there were four synonyms for bragging: Fanfaronade, rodomantade,jactitation and braggadocio. I am spelling these from memory so I am not sure if they are all correct, although I do know that the number of letters in each (11) is correct.

    Anyway, I cannot think of anything I enjoy more about crossword puzzles than when I learn a new word such as epizeuxis. I tried to create several puzzles involving Greek terms with 11 letters such as Catechresis (sp?), but never did get one worthy of submission.

    Here is a site with some of those words,including paraprosdokian, which was a recent subject in one of the blogs.


  11. Chris P. says:

    I really liked the BEQ puzzle. My favorite entries were YOLO (I teach high school, and this is definitely some kids’ credo), WHATAWEEK, DAMONDASH, and THEAMAZINGRACK.

    I also really liked the Fireball. That SE stack is tremendous: INAMUDDLE, LIMEGREEN, and of course EPIZEUXIS. Other favorites were RADIOSONG, DANJANSEN, UVINDEX, and the two long downs.

    Looking forward to the weekend puzzles – T. G. It’s almost Friday!

  12. Ted says:

    Re: this week’s Tausig.

    21A and 49A are also part of the theme.

  13. T Campbell says:

    I’m betting the Inkwell review missed two “iMovies”– HITCH and CLICK.

    Edit: Oops, I mean “What Ted said.”

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