Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fireball 10ish minutes 
NYT 6ish minutes 
AV Club 5:30 
LAT 6:14 (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 

Bizzy-bizzy-bizzy! Amy’s three reviews will be short. Expect sentence fragments.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 25 13, #0425

Theme: 50a is “PRESTO CHANGE-O!” and that doesn’t mean to change an O in each theme answer, it means to change PRESTO by scrambling the letters. Ergo, WHAT’S OPERA, DOC; H. ROSS PEROT; AIRPORT SECURITY; and LOBSTER POT.

Best fill: MISFIT, WHO CARES, CRABAPPLE (mine isn’t blooming yet but when it does, that is my favorite fragrance).

Toughest spots for Marbles crossword tournament solvers: Our round 1 and 2 finalists finished this puzzle first in round 3. And the next three finishers all had errors! So the sixth finisher became the finalist from round 3. At least one wannabe lost out because of the 4d/13a crossing. [France : chateau :: Spain : ___] clues CASTILLO, and [Be errant, say] clues MISS—but CASTELLO/MESS was attempted as well. And 33a: LUANA, [Child actress Patten of “Song of the South”]—whoa, not a big famous name. Disney stopped releasing the movie once they realized it was kinda racist, so a great many people have had no opportunity to see it, much less familiarize themselves with its cast. Good gravy.

Three stars.

Sam Donaldson’s Fireball crossword, “Two for One”

Fireball answers, 4 25 13 “Two for One”

Hearty 19×19 grid with a two-for-one theme: Five sets of twins whose names have the same number of letters must appear conjoined in their squares. 25a has Gemini’s CASTOR and POLLUX squeezed in, and both letters count in each crossing Down answer. (See the CP in EPIC POEM, for instance.) LUKE and LEIA from Star Wars, Marge Simpson’s sisters PATTY and SELMA, the twin characters on Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Suite Life on Deck, ZACK and CODY (real names, Dylan and Cole Sprouse), and Lisa Kudrow’s Friends roles, PHOEBE and URSULA (who was on Mad About You too). Nifty concept for a rebus theme, executed perfectly. TRIMSPA, HERETIC, and DERRIERE in one corner. US STEEL

Outside of the rebus zones, look at that fill, man: DECLASSÉ, SNOW MELT and LAND MASS, IGGY POP, HERETIC, DERRIERE, US STEEL, PUMP UP, good stuff. The Downs crossing two-fer squares even give us CUZCO and ACAPULCO, plus DEER XING and ANTEATER.

Tough bits: ART CAR = [Street-legal form of expression]. Wha…? That T crosses a term from statistics class: [They check means], T-TESTS. Rebused 53d: ST. MALO, not easy.

Fave clue: 38d. [Land of Oz], ISRAEL. Where writer Amos Oz lives. Funniest clue: 54a. [Definite no-no for a French Orthodox Jewish vegetarian], PORC. Also a no-no for a French Muslim vegetarian.

4.75 stars. What’s wrong with this puzzle? Is there anything wrong with it? There’s a little tough fill, plenty of tough Firebally clues, lots of zippy stuff, and a cool two-fer rebus dealio.

Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Hand-chosen”

AV Club crossword solution, 4 25 13 Tyler Hinman, “Hand-chosen”

I don’t watch The Big Bang Theory and I have not yet explored all of the internet, so I was unaware of the Rock Paper Scissors variant called Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard. Tyler’s theme answers end with those five words and the clues explain what beats what:

  • 17a. [Genre at Woodstock (breaks 38-Across and crushes 51-Across)], PSYCHEDELIC ROCK.
  • 23a. [Translucent supply for an artist (covers 17-Across and disproves 62-Across)], TRACING PAPER.
  • 38a. [Break a basic kindergarten commandment (cuts 23-Across and decapitates 51-Across)], RUN WITH SCISSORS.
  • 51a. [Troupe behind “Super Troopers” and “Beerfest” (eats 23-Across and poisons 62-Across)], BROKEN LIZARD.
  • 62a. [Children’s author? (vaporizes 17-Across and melts 38-Across)], DR BENJAMIN SPOCK.

Three 15s and two 12s means 69 theme squares, and yet the fill’s pretty darn solid. Have you heard of “the War on Fill”? Tyler is firmly in the camp that preferences good fill over any other crossword-constructing feat. I can’t say he’s wrong.

Fave clues:

  • 2d. [It’s a big butte and I cannot lie], MESA. Ha!
  • 31a. [Outdoor company acronym whose first letter stands for a misspelled word], KOA. Kamping!
  • 60d. [Boring shade], ECRU. Yes. Let’s have judgmental clues for boring entries.

4.25 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword (Gareth’s Review)

“LA Times crossword solution, 25 04 13”

Here it is. Jeffrey Wechsler’s encore after the NYT. As a theme type, it isn’t my favourite (although I’ve made a few myself). Each 15-letter answer answers to [Pop]. I don’t know why answers in this particular theme-type always have 15-letters answers, but they do… Each of the four [Pop] answers refers to a different meaning of [Pop] which is something. They are:

  • 17a, CARBONATEDDRINK… In some parts of the States.
  • 26a, PUNCTURINGSOUND… As in Pop! Goes the Weasel when you puncture it.
  • 43a, WARHOLSARTSTYLE… Pop Art.
  • 56a, TOOTSIEROLLITEM… A Tootsie Roll is some sort of American snack food. I’m not sure how something can be a “Tootsie Roll item.” Let’s see. A “tootsie pop” appears to be a sucker filled with the same filling as a tootsie roll, which seems to be more of a sweet than a “snack food.” I still don’t quite understand TOOTSIEROLLITEM though.

The first, most-obvious thing I’d like to mention about the rest of the puzzle is the fifth non-theme fifteen, EXTERIORCAMERAS, which crosses all four theme answers. It’s a legitimate answer, which is impressive, purely from a construction point of view.

My hardest corner was the top-right: PUNT crossing WPA and ETTA. I first tried jUNk, but ETkA made no sense, and a junk isn’t flat-bottomed isn’t it? Then I worked backwards from ETTA being the most likely answer and went through the alphabet for the P… WPA is apparently the Washington Project for the Arts. Google didn’t help me much for ETTA, but IMDB suggests “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” as the western. It is suggested she is the lover of the latter… Obscure clue?

An olio of other comments:

    • 1a [Dot-__ printer], MATRIX is old school, before laser and inkjet printers…
    • One sign I’ve done too many American crosswords: [Brand with a Justice For Potatoes League] required no crossings to reach OREIDA, and my answer was based solely on “potato”!
    • 48a [“Sooey!” reply] OINK. I think I learned this from some old comic short story, but don’t ask me to name it. I’ve spent some time on pig farms and I never heard that once… I’m guessing it’s old-fashioned and/or American. And does it work?
    • 6d [Second word of Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”], XANADU. “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree…” That’s as far as I can recite.
      Heck even Coleridge couldn’t remember it all and he wrote it… It’s echoed by the clue at 62a, [First word of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride”. I am aware that that poem exists, but have never read it, so I needed about every crossing…
    • Another curious clecho is 1d, 4d, and (stretching a bit) 54d. And it echoes the repetitive nature of theme, which I guess is cute…
    • 28d NUMEROLOGY. Ugh. Can we at least have pseudo-science in the clue?

Well-made grid. Slightly blah theme. 3 Stars?

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

In a rush so 140 words or fewer: BEQ plays a game of Chutes & Ladders today, with three LADDERs and four CHUTEs filling the grid’s circled squares. Cute idea, and some nice tricks to conceal them (like golfer FRED DALY, whose name conceals a backwards LADDER). The others were diagonal, which makes filling the grid tough, but he still snuck in AD SPACE, HEREDITY, IN SHREDS, ITALY and KUGEL.

4.20 stars.

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30 Responses to Thursday, April 25, 2013

  1. Jeff M says:

    Think it took me longer to understand the theme than to finish the puzzle.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Just last week I read a new book called “Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South” by Jim Korkis. It goes into great detail about the movie and whether it truly is “kinda racist”.

    That meant I was one of a tiny handful of people solving the puzzle who could have known LUANA. Checking, it was in the book six times. I still needed all the crossings. Good luck to the other 99.999% solvers.

    Still liked the puzzle.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, cheated on LUANA. Too tired to figure it out, and finishing the puzzle was like an itch that needed to be scratched. Sad to cheat on something like that… Is there no famous LUANA?

    It took embarrassingly long to come up with AIRPORT SECURITY… I was thinking passports, visas, money exchange… I think I ‘ve learned to repress it.

    Looking back at it, I like it, in spite of my hiccups.

  4. Martin says:


    Although it’s inventor originally dubbed it Rock-Paper-Scissors-Spock-Lizard, The Big Bang Theory made the huge improvement that is Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. Tyler got the order right. Just say the names a few times, repeated quickly, and you can see that Sheldon’s improvement is inspired.

  5. andrea carla michaels says:

    i have to say Sam Donaldson’s puzzle is easily the best one I’ve done in years!!!!
    It is up there with Byron’s JULIE/JULIA/JULES puzzle for me as favorite puzzle of all time. Gave me hour(s) of pleasure!!!!!!!!!

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m sure I’ll bore everyone by using this Forum for self-therapy, but my ambivalence over the cultural milieu celebrated in puzzledom is reaching a crisis point, and the last few days have just intensified this. I thought Sam’s puzzle was fantastic too. But I haven’t the foggiest idea who Zack & Cody, and the Suite life are; I thought I had finally encountered every possible Simpson clue in in puzzles, but not Patty and Selma; and although I know about Friends I never watched it, and don’t know about Phoebe and Ursula (though I do know about Courtney Cox and Lisa Kudrow :-) I actually managed to fill all those in from the crosses — but that *other* crossing — I finally decided to go with Arm Car, which sounds no less meaningless than Art Car, and M tests.

    I also loved Jeffrey’s NYT, but it’s just as well that I didn’t go to one of the Marble tournaments, because I unaccountably took forever in the NE with Misfit, Donned, Ted (Ted Turner???) etc. I did finish it correctly after guessing Luana and rail, but couldn’t come up with [fence]rail for eons.

    I think I’ll invent the term “Coldplay clues.” by analogy to Martin’s “Sea Anemone” clues. If I say that so many clues which bother others seem to me totally straightforward, even easy, it sounds like I’m attacking or deriding others, and that’s not my point. But I am amazed that anyone would even comment on Poussin, Sochi, St. Malo, and myriads of other clues and topics. I had this (semi-actual) dream that after Van Clliburn’s death, someone would publish a puzzle based upon competitors in the Cliburn Piano competition (or if you wanted to make it a total gimme, just the winners.) But I’m not holding my breath. So I’m either going to have to abandon puzzles, or struggle through an endless, dreary morass of Coldplay clues.

    • Matt says:

      If you hang around the comments area of this blog, you might get the idea that everybody gets all the clues in all areas– but that’s a skewed impression. For example, for me, science and math (and Maleskan crosswordese) are gimmes. But, at the other end of the spectrum, I stopped watching TV about five years ago, so clues about anything more recent draw a complete blank. I think of those blanks as part of my personal puzzle-solving experience, and my reaction to looking up the occasional reality-show clue is “I’m glad I didn’t know that one.”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, the only way you can dodge all contemporary pop culture clues is to stick to the puzzles in the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. I believe you can solve hundreds and hundreds of them at I would sooner rip out a fingernail than solve hundreds of those old puzzles, but that’s just me.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        I don’t insist on, or even want to dodge all of them; I’m perfectly happy to learn new things, but I would love to see greater balance, or a different balance between pop culture and other kinds of culture. It does seem to me that a large preponderance of purportedly themeless puzzles (perhaps excluding my favorite Fri & Sat NYT style) are actually themed to Rock bands and People and TV Guide Magazines, and everyone so takes it for granted that they don’t even notice. There are only 13 Cliburn winners; what would be so bad about a puzzle themed to them? The point of that remark is the mixture of disdainful amusement and outrage it will evoke. Well, that’s how I feel about a great proportion of the puzzles we actually have.

        • HH says:

          “There are only 13 Cliburn winners; what would be so bad about a puzzle themed to them?”

          Because I prefer theme answers that SOMEBODY would recognize.

          I must point out that, back in the days when I also edited these silly things, I received a submission — Sunday size, 140 answers — in which EVERY, EVERY, EVERY clue was a fill-in-the-blank quote from Shakespeare. Preferring not to lose the audience, I rejected it.

          • Bruce N. Morton says:

            Of the choices I offered, the word SOMEBODY suggests that *disdainful* is the option that fits best.

        • Art Shapiro says:

          I’d welcome such a puzzle, Bruce, although not all the winners have gone on to notable careers.

          The perpetual movie clues are at best discouraging. The last movie I went to was in 1989, and I remain astounded that folks pay good money to sit and get bombarded with loud advertisements before the movie starts. Then the product itself is nothing but thinly-veiled product placement scenes. And why these self-promoting “celebrities” are worthy of my knowledge remains obscure.


          • Bruce N. Morton says:

            Very true, Art (re not all have gone on to distinguished careers.) There’s the Brazilian Jose Feghali — very nice man, but a flash in the pan as a pianist. And then there’s André Michel Schub — it’s a testimony to the kindness and sensitivity of the NY musical establishment that he gets referred to as ‘André Michel Schlub.’ But I recently heard the first winner, the great Ralph Votapek, from 1962, now in his mid 70’s, give a terrific performance of Prokofiev 3 in Massachusetts. He eschewed the big international career for the academic life at Michigan State University, but still plays brilliantly.

  7. Gareth says:

    Fun theme entries in the NYT! Very similar theme to yesterday’s LAT. Funny that it runs “one day harder” in the NYT. I would’ve finished relatively quickly, but I put in something else after PRESTO. Bizarrely, although I refused to give it up, I cannot for the life of me remember what it was…

  8. Martin says:

    Just wondering how contemporary some of the examples cited really are. For example how ancient is “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” by today’s standards? About as passe as ETM referencing “Peyton Place” in the early ’80s. Or how about modern day puzzle references to rap stars who were in their heyday over two decades ago. I’m fine with all of this… but for the most part it doesn’t score that high on the “hip-o-meter” ;)


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Actually, Disney is still airing the reruns of both “The Suite Life” and, I think, “Suite Life on Deck.” So there are still plenty of opportunities to be grossed out by 12-year-old boys who look 10 hitting on 15-year-old girls as if it’s at all appropriate. So I think today’s 8-year-olds (and their parents) know the shows/characters nearly as well as the 8-year-olds of 2005 did. Zack and Cody aren’t “hip” but they’re still mighty familiar names in households that have ever tuned into the Disney Channel in the last 8 years.

      • john farmer says:

        My son’s only 7 1/2 and maybe everything will change in six months, but I never heard of “The Suite Life” and Zack and Cody were complete mysteries to me. I may not be the best to judge TV though. I more or less gave up on the whole thing about the time they canceled “Then Came Bronson” (exceptions: news, movies, some sports, and “Jeopardy!”).

        Pop culture adds a lot to crosswords — not a complaint — but there are a couple of issues with it regarding what people are expected to know. One is generational; unless something is huge, a 20-, 50-, and 75-y.o. are likely to have highly varying degrees of awareness about who or what pops up in a puzzle. Another is the fragmentation of culture today; we may get the same 500 channels, but the 8 or 10 that I watch may not be the 8 or 10 that you watch; there’s a lot less common ground in pop culture than there once was when everyone had a lot fewer choices.

  9. Alex says:

    I just want to echo Gareth’s thoughts on the NUMEROLOGY clue. Numerology is fun and all, but boy, even with a question mark and quotes around “science” I don’t like that clue.

  10. Martin says:

    Chutes and Ladders? Is this an Americanized version of the ancient Snakes and Ladders game that the rest of the world plays?


  11. Martin says:

    … apparently yes… I just checked. But why change a classic?


    • Gareth says:

      You beat me to it… Next thing you know they’ll be messing with Ludo and giving it some cheesy name…

  12. pannonica says:

    LAT: Really liked the ETTA Place misdirection clue, and I don’t feel it’s at all obscure.

    SOOEY. I’ve long assumed it derived from Latin. The pig family is of course the Suidae (from Sus). I suppose, though, it could be a warning to the pig that he or she will be sent to the nearest Chinese restaurant to be part of chop suey (Chinese (Guangdong) jaahp-seui odds and ends, from jaahp miscellaneous + seui bits). But in the end, I don’t give a sou.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      A++ post, Pan. I vaguely remember about Suidae. *Very* amusing, and also informative post.

  13. Amy L says:

    Some explanations to help Gareth learn our language:
    WPA is probably the Works Progress Administration. During the Depression (the 1930s one, not the current one) the US government sponsored an incredible number of wonderful art projects all over the country. Various agencies were in charge, and their names often changed–I think the WPA started out as the PWA (Public Works…..). You still can see terrific murals in post offices and reliefs on government buildings from that time. Also, a number of fantastic photography projects were done on government funding and they’re still quite well known today.

    I can still recite the first three stanzas of Paul Revere’s Ride. I memorized the whole poem in the 5th grade. If anyone wants to hear it, give me a call…….

  14. Joan macon says:

    Let me echo Amy L. as to the WPA: I think she is right. I also remember the CCC, which was the Civilian Conservation Corps, in which young men with no jobs were recruited to build playgrounds and campgrounds in public parks and state parks. I also can recite Paul Revere’s Ride and Kubla Khan, the result of an outstanding English teacher in high school. And finally, my grandfather, who lived on a farm after he retired as a doctor in a small town in Kansas, used to go out and call “Sooey! Pig, pig, pig!” and the pig would come running for its dinner. I am constantly surprised and pleased at the variety of knowledge readers of this blog share with each other. Keep it up!

  15. Gareth says:

    Sorry if I didn’t spend enough energy tracking down the mysterious WPA. I looked through a few lists and “Washington Project for the Arts” seemed most likely… Works Progress Administration doesn’t really sound as though it’s involved in any way with murals

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