Thursday, 12/6/12

Fireball 7:09 
NYT 5:11 
LAT 3:24 
Tausig untimed 
CS 4:15 (Sam) 
BEQ 6:45 (Matt) 

Jill Denny and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 12 6 12, 1206

It is not often that two people team up to make a crossword and have such portmanteauable names. For example, whaddaya gonna do with Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo? Whereas here, we have a fine puzzle from Jilf Chenny. Jilf Chenny have built a science rebus theme: The {PH} SCALE has BASES at the top (and, aptly, that answer is at the top of the grid) and ACIDS on the low end (this answer is in the bottom row). WATER is at a neutral pH point in the middle of the puzzle. Assorted answers contain a rebused {PH}: There’s PHNOM Penh crossing a TOP HAT, SOPHOCLES crossing also-Greek CHOREOGRAPH, PHONE and PHANTOM, TRIUMPHED and APHID crossing PHILOSOPHIZE, the PHILS [N.L. East team, informally] crossing those [Futuristic weapons], PHASERS, and modern PHISH crossing the thematic PH SCALE.

Can I tell you how many non-rebus baseball team nicknames I considered at 44a? Lasers and the Lils?? Tasers and the Tils? Masers and the Mils? Ooph! [Donahue and others] would have given it away.


  • STEAMIER … PULSATES. HAN SOLO. WALLENDA. OB/GYN clued as [Delivery person]. TACH right there at 1-Across with a [Needle holder] clue—you groaned and prepared to fill in ETUI, didn’t you? And when that didn’t work with the crossings, you wanted PINE. At least I went that route.

I can forgive fill like AEC, OMOO, and ITAR when the puzzle’s got plenty of challenge to distract me from the little ugly bits. Nicely done, Jilf Chenny! 4.4 stars.

Pete Muller’s Fireball crossword, “Connect the Dots”

Pete Muller’s Fireball crossword answers, “Connect the Dots”

Nice twist on the “connect the dots” crossword theme. Instead of connecting the dots afterward to draw a picture, you connect the dots to spell an aptly depicted word that serves as the clue for seven answers. The circled letters you connect spell out BOLT in a lightning zigzag, and the seven otherwise unclued answers, some of which read rather more like clues for BOLT, are MOVIE DOG (in a Disney animated film from 4-5 years ago), NUT FILLER (as in hardware nuts and bolts), LIGHTNING STRIKE, the lovely verb SKEDADDLE, a DOOR LOCK, the verb SCARF (as in scarf down/bolt down a meal—and this one took me the longest to make sense of), and runner USAIN Bolt. Nifty theme, deserving of 4.5 stars easily.

Fill highlights include RAGWEED, SCREWBALL, and PISTACHIO.

Top three clues:

  • 55a. [It can be spun or surfed], WEB.
  • 49d. [Rom-com and zom-com, for two], GENRES.
  • 51d. [Breed first brought to the U.S. by Helen Keller], AKITA. Who knew?

I had a hell of a time in the northeast corner. [Bristles] has a lot of meanings besides TEEMS (with). [“Lipstick and Candy and Rubbersole Shoes” singer] LAROSA? Crossings all the way. I had GRR for [“Throw me a bone!”] until that answer appeared at 40d, and this one had to become ARF. I drew a total blank on [He and Walt constituted the “Rolls-Royce Backcourt”]; is this EARL Mr. Monroe, Earl the Pearl? [River of the Congo] proved to be EBOLA, namesake of the virus. And the Oscar-nominated song ALFIE also leaned on crossings.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 6 12

Is this Zhouqin/C.C.’s second solo publication? I think so. This erotic puzzle has EROS hidden in four theme answers:

  • 17a. [Typically pink-flowered bloomer], CABBAGE ROSE. I’d love to receive a bouquet of roses that smelled like cabbage. Can this be arranged?
  • 23a. [Gateway Arch architect], EERO SAARINEN. Nice to see Eero get his full name in the grid for a change.
  • 37a. [Key Egyptian artifact unearthed in 1799], THE ROSETTA STONE. The THE is needed for the theme, and fully appropriate.
  • 49a. [Postwar reception], HERO’S WELCOME. We usually see the plural heroes’ welcome, don’t we? No matter—the singular is attested as well.
  • 60a. [Tools of the mischievous god hidden in 17-, 23-, 37- and 49-Across], BOW AND ARROW. Eros = Cupid.

Top fill includes BOB SEGER (ugh), TRUE GRIT, the DATING POOL, a Midwest-crucial ICE SCRAPER, and MT. SHASTA. On the other end of the desirability spectrum, we have the ALAI/ALBS combo, STENO, plural abbrevs SRS and ASSNS, literally the plural abbrev PLU, and [Plural medical suffix] OSES. There’s maybe a little more foreign content than usual—French NORD, TOI, and ETE, and German SIE and DER. At least TOI and SIE are roughly synonymous (SIE is formal, TOI is informal).

22d. [One that stands to prevent a strike] isn’t a labor activist, it’s a bowling PIN. Nice clue.

3.33 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Arty Collection”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 6

The four theme entries are all two-word terms with the initials R.T., making them an “arty” (“R.T.”) collection:

  • 17-Across: A RADIAL TIRE is a [Michelin offering]. Today’s trivia question (answer at the bottom of this review): We all know the Michelin Man, the mascot for Michelin who appears to be made of a stack of white tires. “Michelin Man” is not, however, the mascot’s name. What is his one-word name?
  • 55-Across: The [Knights’ gathering spot] is the ROUND TABLE. This way, everyone is equal and no one can easily reach for the salt shaker. 
  • 10-Down: RUBY TUESDAY is the [Rolling Stones hit of 1967]. The song inspired the name for a restaurant that soon became a chain of casual American restaurants that would span much of the east coast.
  • 24-Down: A [Motion picture’s length] is referred to as its RUNNING TIME. I typically find that running time is inversely proportional to my enjoyment of the film. I blame the large diet coke that’s only ten cents more. (Two notable exceptions currently in theaters: both Skyfall and Lincoln seemed to zoom by even though both clock in over 2.5 hours. Check them out!)

Not the flashiest of gimmicks, to be sure, but at least the fill has a good dose of fun spots. I liked NO ONE, ALL-STAR, RASPUTIN, CHESS SET (funky string of consecutive S’s), SAYS OK, and LANKY.

I struggled with CAR PARTS, not because of the clue ([Batteries and bumpers]) but because I was sure that GAZE was answer to [Rubberneck] instead of GAPE. You try to come up with an answer when your grid reads CAR Z????. I’m also not sure that either [Welcome sight?] or [Without threads?] required the question marks in their clues, though I guess I can kinda see why they were added. (They are the clues to OPEN ARMS and NUDE, respectively.)

Favorite entry = NOT UP, a short description for one who is [Still sleeping]. Favorite clue = [Cubs’ clubs] for BATS.

Answer to today’s trivia question: The Michelin Man’s real name is Bibendum. Yes, his name sounds like a rimshot.

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

A puzzling paradox: Brendan’s website is still free, even though he erected a mighty paywall on it today.

How does one explain this? Answer: the paywall is in the puzzle grid, where three PAYs bisect it down the central column of black squares.

The ol’ letter-in-a-black-square trick has been around long enough now that you’ve got to do something clever with it to impress, and I think this qualifies. The PAYwall is a nice visual image, and the 8-letter fill that forms it is more killer than filler: SHAPES UP, CALIGULA, PINBALLS, ONE-PARTY, ABERDEEN, DAVIS CUP, BASE CAMP, AVE MARIA, ALAN LADD, BIG SISSY, SAD STORY, PAPELBON and PLIMPTON (which, curiously, can be clued to either George or Martha).

Is this also a subliminal message to solvers that they should hit Brendan’s tip jar? It does say PAY PAY PAY!

The solve itself was easy: took me 6:45 and never got hung up on any area. The theme trick revealed itself within 30 seconds because there were only 7 letters for [Roman emperor who made his horse a senator].

Another very good puzzle on a day overflowing with them. 4.5 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Shaking Things Up”

Ink Well crossword solution, 12 5 12 “Shaking Things Up”

Someone remind me next week to switch to blogging the Ink Well on Wednesdays and the AV Club on Thursdays, will you? Thanks.

This week’s theme does some anagramming, and the interesting twist is that the scrambled words originally had their letters in alpha order:

  • 17a. [*Training program for a 40-something porn star?], MILF SCHOOL. “Film” has its letters in alpha order.
  • 29a. [*Typical showing on the toilet?], BOWEL AVERAGE. “Elbow” is also an anagram of BOWEL, but its letters aren’t in alpha order like “below.” And now I’m thinking of a theme of body-part anagrams with BOWEL ROOM, but what other body parts can be anagrammed into different body parts?
  • 44a. [Like the order of the letters in the first words of the starred entries, before being shaken up], ALPHABETICAL.
  • 58a. [*Where earth-conscious French students study?], ECOLE GREEN. “Cee Lo.”
  • 11d. [*Sewer casino employee?], RAT DEALER. “Art.”
  • 35d. [*Offering discounts for the purchase of a dozen delicious mice?], OWL PRICED. “Low.”
Favorite fill: MLK, JR.; “LORDY!”; [Joyful announcement after hours of brutal pain and screaming], “IT’S A BOY!”; slangy RAWR, PERV, LOCO, OMG; “I’LL BITE”; CAKE MIX.

Favorite clues:

  • 55a. [Hug and pull into a big pile of strong men, say], TACKLE.
  • 25d. [Deal with problems in the bedroom, say?], REMODEL.
  • 31d. [Prepare, as one’s loins], GIRD. The answer is not OIL.

Four stars.

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17 Responses to Thursday, 12/6/12

  1. sbmanion says:

    We interrupt today’s comments for a tribute:


  2. Huda says:

    NYT: The NW felt hard, the rest fell pretty easily. And that’s in part because I couldn’t think of CHOREOGRAPH to save my life, but mostly because I did it last and it’s the only spot where the PH belongs to two words (TOP HAT) as opposed to making the sound F. The latter is my only nit with the construction. I liked the science theme, the arrangement of ACIDS, BASES and the neutral WATER and many great entries.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    What a morning of puzzles. I just gave three 5* and one 4*. Can’t remember doing that for a long time.

    Steve, I too was going to memorialize the great Dave Brubeck who took his final five. As an aspiring high school concert pianist, with no particular talent for playing jazz, I nevertheless loved and “learned” the entire album, with great enjoyment, even though I understood perfectly well that learning someone else’s album has little to do with playing jazz. I met him a couple times. He was a likable, approachable man; a serious composer — studied with Darius Milhaud — (which is probably pointed out in his obituaries, non of which I have read.)

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Me too, loved Brubeck and was unhappy when I lost some old records of his in a move. Oddly, I always think of him when hearing the cool jazz in favorite movie Bullitt, though the score was actually by Lalo Schifrin, whom we should also see more often in crosswords!

  5. Jerry says:

    I don’t get 22A. “Vixen feature” for ANTLER. To me, neither a fierce-tempered woman nor a female fox have antlers. Please enlighten.
    Thanks, Jerry

  6. Lemonade714 says:

    Actually this is the sixth solo effort from C.C.
    Jerry don’t you hate it when a clue/fill makes no sense and then it was so obvious. Been there.

  7. Gareth says:

    That fell right into my “Thursday rebus with a twist” sweet spot!

  8. Dennis Beaufort says:

    The clue for 6 across (Flexible, electronically) in the Gail Grabowski Washington Post puzzle of 12/6/12 is incorrect. No electronic component operates on AC. The clue should be “Flexible, electrically.

  9. AV says:

    Very cool NYT Jeff! 5-stars from me. Right on my wavelength, one of my fastest Thursdays.(Although I wanted PHotograPH somewhere!)

    And another BEQ brilliancy – thanks dude! (Note to self: Go pay!)

  10. Anoa Bob says:

    Thanks smanion for the Brubeck link. I hadn’t seen that particular performance before. I still have a vinyl LP of “Take Five”. It’s the third one. I wore out the first two! Pretty cool artwork on the cover too.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’ve been expecting Steve to weigh in on 31d of the BEQ {Pushes off the basketball rim, say} for TIPSIN.

    But if you push the ball off the rim, you’re guilty of goal tending. The word “off” suggests that a defensive player has pushed the ball off the rim, away from the basket, in which case it’s defensive goal tending, and the offensive team is credited with a score. If an offensive player pushes the ball “off” the rim into the net, it’s offensive goal tending, and the basket does not count. But in neither case was the ball “tipped in.”

  12. RK says:

    Really liked BEQ’s puzzle.

  13. sbmanion says:

    I just got back and did BEQ’s puzzle, which was superb.

    I agree with Bruce’s analysis. “Pushes” is hard to justify, although some NBA tip-ins have a slight push to them, especially those that don’t ever touch glass.


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