Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fireball untimed 
NYT 4:36 
AV Club 7:15 (pannonica) 
LAT 4:50 (Gareth) 
BEQ 4:01 (Amy) 
CS 6:09 (Dave) 

Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 13, no. 0509

This is a cute theme, with the intentional rule-breaking of the central message of sort-of-unchecked squares—if you read BETWEEN THE LINES in the middle row, you see Pat’s HI MOM greeting to a WONDER WOMAN, a LEADING LADY. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, the theme concludes.

Boy, I really hope this Sunday’s theme is not Mother’s Day, because we’ve already had two such puzzles this week.

After I finished this puzzle, I IMed with pannonica. I wrote, “Holy cow, I didn’t know that was a word.” She replied, “BINAL?” I said, “Or that that was a person.” She replied, “HSI?” I’ve been doing a lot of crosswords for a lot of years, and I have an excellent memory for words. And yet! To encounter two unknowns in a single non-Saturday puzzle is a surprise, and not a pleasant one. 50a: [Twofold] clues BINAL (not in the MWCD-11, and with a tough clue for the B crossing, [Space maker]/TAB), and 60d: [Confucian scholar Chu ___] clues HSI. (Cue the brigade of “I like learning new things” remarks.) Now, I did know that 24d: [100 lbs.] could clue CWT (abbrev for “hundredweight), and that 67a: [Northern duck] partnered well with SMEW, but I’ll bet those were news to a lot of solvers.

Likes: L’CHAIM, IT’S USELESS, VOICE COACH, CUZ clued as [Explanation that doesn’t explain anything, informally].

Five more things:

  • 48d. [Dark circle], AREOLA. “Mom, you look tired. Your eyes have areolas around them.”
  • 64a. [Title parent in a TLC reality series], KATE. That is so 2007-2011. I forgot that show even existed.
  • 1d. [Government rep.], AMB. I tried AGT first, which was making 14a: [Teen woe] look like … GONO?
  • 21d. [Personal letters], SWF. As in “single white female” in a personal ad. If you haven’t looked at personals lately, I beseech you, don’t start by looking at Craigslist. A blogger I follow on Facebook likes to spotlight appalling Craigslist booty-call ads. The mind boggles.
  • 35d. [Title boy in a 1964 Disney film], EMIL. I think he was with some detectives. Have never seen the movie.

3.5 stars. The BINAL/HSI business really took me out of my puzzle headspace and into the “Are you kidding me?” headspace.

Matt Gaffney’s Fireball crossword, “Temp Work”

Fireball 5 9 13 solution

Okay! So this is kinda crazy, the clue numbering in the PDF version of the puzzle. 32-Across is FREEZING POINT, and all the numbers above it are higher, while the numbers below it are lower. And the theme answers above it are made by melting the ice, while the theme answers on the bottom have frozen our liquid H2O:

  • 48a. [Name for a storm in which romaine lettuce, Parmesan, and croutons fall from the sky?], RAIN CAESAR. (Based on “Hail Caesar.”)
  • 46a. [The Tiber or Lake Como, for example?], ITALIAN WATER. (Melted Italian ice.)
  • 15a. [Kill off moles in your mob organization?], ICE THE PLANTS. (Water the plants.)
  • 10a. [Precipitation from a grape soda cloud?], PURPLE HAIL. (Purple Rain, which is an awesome album and an indelible part of my first year of college.)

This is not a contest. There is (probably) no meta. I wonder if this is an idea Matt had for an MGWCC puzzle but he couldn’t get a key part to hide itself, so he sold Peter on the puzzle idea instead.

I wanted 10d: [Reward for performing a chin-up?] to be a firm PEC and wondered at the question mark, but then I checked the crossing. [Mezzanine section?] had to be ZEES rather than CEES, and your chin-up reward is a gross little PEZ candy released from its dispenser. You ever see anyone buy refill packs of Pez candy just to eat ’em out of the package? I didn’t think so. Smarties, they can stand on their own two feet and don’t need a dispenser gimmick.

I like the two-fer in movie trivia: [Film that lost out to “Places in the Heart” for the 1984 Best Original Screenplay Oscar] clues both EL NORTE (filmmaker Gregory Nava had lovely things to say about Roger Ebert at his televised memorial service) and SPLASH.

The theme would be only a little less clever without the backwards numbering adding the “above/below freezing” aspect and the placing of the central answer at entry 32, with 32. [degrees Fahrenheit, for H2O] cluing FREEZING POINT. The solve would have played out the same in the .puz format, but without that added soupçon of thematic elegance.

Four stars.

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Too Easy” — pannonica’s write-up

AV Club • 5/8/13 • “Too Easy” • Walden • solution

This would have been an excellent puzzle to appear in the extra-wide 16×15 format because—spiting the title—the five theme entries each contain a sequence of three Es.

  • 22a. [African bird with a downturned bill] BEE-EATER. An F would make BEEFEATER, but it wouldn’t fly for a cryptic.
  • 27a. [They employ joe as a plumber] COFFEE ENEMAS. Which is more arduous to endure, a coffee enema or “Joe the Plumber” (remember him? sorry)?
  • 37a. [Newsweek’s last one ran 12/31/13] DEAD TREE EDITION. Was “Newsweek” chosen for the three Es? We hardly knew ye.
  • 45a. [Particle in conductive metals] FREE ELECTRON. Which reminds me about something, which I’ll address below, while trying to tie together an underlying political (of which I approve) sentiment in the puzzle.
  • 54a. [Like some omelets] THREE EGG. Too many for a six-inch pan, by the way.

For what it’s worth—which is not much at all—four of the five theme answers have an additional E, making four in total for each.

Genuine double (i.e, two) Es in the grid: ANNÉE, DEEMS, PEED. Incidentally, I felt so proud of myself for sussing out the vibe of 67a [Filled one’s head with waste] and plopping in SHAT, only to see that pride flushed away when the correct answer PEED made its mark. See also 57d [“Sucks for me!”] CRAP.

The aforementioned political undertones: 34d and 35d have a double-duty (I tell you, it’s infectious) clue, [Many a politician], for LIAR and BOZO.


  • Overtly and suggestively risqué content: 69a (see?) [Vibrator target, perhaps] G-SPOT, 4d [Beat the rap … or something else?] GET OFF, 9d [It runs out of the crotch] INSEAM, 41d [Climactic announcement?] I’M COMING.
  • Single letter action: 1a [Churchillian gesture] V SIGN, 17a [Cervical opening?] SOFT C, 20a [Kindle downloads] E-BOOKS, 63a [Supplicant’s opening] I PRAY (Apple doesn’t own this yet?), 69a [Vibrator target perhaps] G-SPOT, 5d [U-shaped pillow] NECK REST.
  • 10d [Rude wedding gift for vegans] STEAK SET. Is this four (or eight) steak knives, or something else/more?
  • 43a [Blondie drummer Burke] CLEM. Does Eef Barzelay’s band CLEM Snide lack currency or sufficient hipster exposure?
  • Most meta moment: 39d [First name in jazz (Not specific enough? Oh yeah? 8-Down)] ELLA, 8d [“Screw you” alternative] BITE ME.

Good puzzle, tricky enough in a few places to trip me up.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Homework” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith gives us three theme entries today that begin with a slangy synonym for “home”:

CS solution – 05/09/13

  • [Car transporters at times] clues FLATBED TRAILER – small demerit in that “flatbed” is the entire word and “flat” is just part of it
  • [Falsify, as a CV] clues PAD ONE’S RÉSUMÉ – funny how the French use the Latin CV (curriculum vitae), and we use the French!
  • [Takes a stand] clues DIGS IN ONE’S HEELS – when one “digs in,” I see it as more stubborn than just taking a stand, more like refuses to be persuaded

Fun theme, but I wish there were at least one less ONE’S in the set of three theme entries. (Reminds me of what I might find in Martin’s stacked themelesses instead.) I did learn a new entry today, so my FAVE award goes to [007 nemesis] or SMERSH. I see here the word is a portmanteau of the Russian phrase “Death to Spies.” The longer down entries, ARPEGGIO, STREET CRED, and STEADY WORK are all close runners-up. My UNFAVE was the disappointment of seeing the abbr. LT. GEN not long after filling in SGT. One shortened ranking per puzzle, please!

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword

My question on filling in the revealer: What’s a DIRECTIONFINDER??? Apparently this. I didn’t know about such things. Kinda cool! As highlighted in the answer grid, the themers have embedded directions. Hiding such long answers is no mean feat! CHICKENORTHEEGG, SHEASTADIUM and FIGURESOUTHOW are all good to great answers! NEWESTIMATE is the one clunker, IMO a bit adjective/noun, although I can’t think of any better substitute…

The grid design is unusual. Rather than a typical 37/38-78 arrangement, Mark Bickham has placed 3 pairs of helper squares, but the grid has a low word count of 74. The grid is high in 3’s but also in 6/7 letter answers especially at the corners. There are some fun answers among those: NOCARBS, BOXCARS, TOSHIBA, LABRAT and BBGUNS – even if half of those are plural they still make for a colourful puzzle! While I’m here, the idea of a NOCARBS is medically stupid. Because proteins and fats provide relatively equal and more energy, the only way this can work as a diet is to induce a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a serious medical condition, why do that to yourself???

My last square was POTAUFEU/LOA. I assume [Extended break from svc.] LOA is meant to represent “leave of absence”, although last time I guessed at an abbreviation didn’t work out so well. Do people use this??? It smacks of desperation to avoid [Mauna ___].

Ambitious theme and some nice answers, my favourite was the themer CHICKENORTHEEGG. 3.75 Stars!


Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “It’s Getting Hot in Here” — Amy’s retro-review from 8/26/08

I only have a couple minutes to blog about Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club puzzle. The middle theme entry is HELL ON EARTH. The two long theme entries contain EARTH divided among the words in those phrases, WEAR THE TROUSERS and the perfect SORRY TO HEAR THAT. “Where’s the HELL?” you ask. Why, it’s sitting directly on top of the EART portion of EARTH, that’s where. HELL is hiding in 14-Across, SHELL, above the top theme entry, and in MITCHELL at 55-Across. I’ve circled ’em for you in the grid image.
Weird answers I didn’t know:

The AFL is [New York Dragons org.]. What the HELL is the AFL? Ah, I see: Arena Football League. I didn’t know that was ever abbreviated.
ZEREX is a [Prestone competitor]. While I give props to any company that packs its trade name with a Z and an X, I must dock the company 10 points for not making itself a household name.
[Romance novelist Ashworth] is named ADELE. Who?

Apple’s ICHAT (or iChat) allows for instant messaging. I rarely use it. Have we seen ICHAT in the grid before?

Time! Cool theme structure, Brendan—it’s been a while since I’ve seen one along these lines.

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35 Responses to Thursday, May 9, 2013

  1. Brendan says:

    Fireball: RAINCAESAR and PURPLEHAIL. ITALIANWATER and ICETHEPLANTS. the forms of water are flipped like the numbers in the grid.

    The backwards numbering was really disconcerting, though. Made the puzzle harder just out of unfamiliarity.

  2. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Unless HI MOM counts as an entry, today’s NYTimes offering is a puzzle with normal symmetry but odd word count!

    The grid for Matt Gaffney’s puzzle reminded me at first of the PENTOMINOES puzzle of last June – though today’s grid also has some 3- and 4-block groupings.


  3. Evad says:

    Can someone enlighten me on the difference between a SMEE and a SMEW? I first had YEE for the poison source…

    Excellent Fireball today, Peter and his constructors are on quite a roll lately. Definitely worth the price of admission.

    • Gareth says:

      Smee is Captain Hook’s number two.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        And SNEE is a dagger or “dirk,” possibly from The Mikado. SNEW apparently is not a word, though it should be a past tense of “snow.”

        • Matt says:

          …or a partial, “What’____ ?”

        • Daniel Myers says:

          Actually, SNEW IS an entry in the OED as a questionably obsolete form of SNOW, present tense.


          Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 347 It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke.

  4. Gareth says:

    Now can someone enlightment me what MONO is??? I was tempted by AGT/GONO, and it was my last square. Went with the correct choice, but still have no idea!

    Today’s Mother’s Day theme seemed more elegant, but I have the same reservation as yesterday…

  5. Martin says:

    SMEE is also a type of duck.

    MONO = mononucleosis


    • Gareth says:

      What!? I considered and quickly rejected that it referred to that! Was not expecting an STD clue in the Times, considering most of the time STD pretends to be merely [Norm: Abbr.]. In fact, I just looked through 62 STD clues and not one mono or any other disease reference!

      • janie says:

        it’s always been my understanding that STDs involve genital contact; MONO is transmitted mouth to mouth. though recovering from the disease (a virus) is not to be taken lightly, was actually thinking how mild — almost retro, these days — mono seems as a requirement for a teen’s “sexual experience” merit badge…


        (and, oops — didn’t mean to replicate martin’s explanation…)

        • sbmanion says:

          I wish that mono had been a badge of sexual experience in my case. When I was a junior in college, I played in an intramural touch football game in a sleet storm. I couldn’t get traction with the rubber (no pun intended) spikes I was wearing, so I played in my bare feet. I was unable to shower until more than two hours after the game.

          The next thing I knew I had mono. You can get a serious or a mild case. Mine was serious. I lost 19 pounds in four days (168 to 149) and it took me almost 10 years to get the weight back. The only thing that saved me from having to drop out of college was that my junior year was the year of the strike over Cambodia. Harvard gave every student the chance to take “pass” that year instead of a grade and I had no choice but to take that option.

          Mono is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, a member of the herpes family of viruses, which also include chicken pox and shingles.


          • Bencoe says:

            You can get mono from standing next to someone who has it, from what a doctor told me once. He thought I had it, and I protested, “But I haven’t kissed anyone lately!”

    • John from Chicago says:


      No -MAS.

      Oh, those are your initials?

  6. Ethan says:

    Who’s JOE COOL? Is that the main character from Bazooka Joe? Because I thought his name was, well, Bazooka Joe.

  7. Martin says:

    JOE COOL is one of Snoopy’s alter egos from Peanuts.


  8. sbmanion says:

    I wonder if yesterday’s was the all-time record thread for Amy’s blog. The discussion brought back my fond memory of the CASTING THE STONE thread of many years ago in the NYT forum. I wondered if you can SNIGGLE for lampreys.


  9. Huda says:

    NYT: I like HI MOM in the middle, but I really wish that COMMODE were not a vehicle for spelling it…

    And though I’m all for Mother’s day, I do think that 2 pre-mother’s day puzzles are one or two too many.

    PS. Pannonica, yes that lone H was me yesterday. I’m not sure how it happened. Thanks for the sharp eye :)

  10. John from Chicago says:

    Huda, you prefer john over commode? Commode works for me.

    I’m waiting to see how Will works Mother’s Day into the themeless Friday and Saturday.

    Martin, what struck me was that this seemed more contemporary than yesterday’s and I was wondering if Will had this in mind when he left that comment on Rex’s blog.

    Surprised to see no comment here how Patrick made AMY the LEADING LADY.

    • Huda says:

      John would be better if it was clued say — Hancock, or a pope or something lofty that goes with ANOINT….maybe even John from Chicago could be used.

  11. Bencoe says:

    I think we can expect some sort of Mother’s Day message in the Friday and Saturday puzzles as well, and how that will work in a themeless is a good question.
    I also wanted Agt. for AMB. I think we’re conditioned to expect Agt. there, and acne for a teenage woe, so it’s nice to be surprised.
    I do remember BINAL from another puzzle, but HSI I don’t. In fact, I don’t think I know any Confucian scholars besides the master himself.

  12. Katie says:

    So glad to see that CS is back in the blog! Thank you, Dave!

  13. Zulema says:

    It was SWF that got me because I did not locate “personal” in the right slot in my brain. And thank you, STEVE, for explaining mononucleosis to all who thought it was an STD. My oldest daughter had a very bad case of it when she was 11 and the good news about it was the Heterophile test that showed it was not leukemia. This was a long long time ago. The virus stays with one forever. I had not thought of it as a “teen woe” ever.

    • Papa John says:

      The mono part of it is most often contacted during teen years, hence “teen-age woe”. You’re right, the virus is forever, although it can be dormant for many years.

  14. Martin says:


    MAS = Martin Ashwood-Smtth

    We have several Martins around here, so the initials are (or were) intended to minimize confusion .


    • Huda says:

      So, Martin, this is totally none of my business, so feel free to ignore. But, if you don’t mind, I’m wondering: is Ashwood-Smith one of those newly minted compound names (Mom’s and Dad’s) or is that an old family name you inherited as is? I’m interested because I used to read foreign books (e.g. English) as a kid/teenager, and would encounter the dashed names and wonder what the significance was, how it came about. It’s been decades and I never figured it out.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Hey, wow! I just encountered the “cwt” abbreviation in the Chicago Tribune. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) wholesale beef market report on Thursday morning showed choice beef carcasses rising 24 cents per hundred pounds per cwt to a record $204.91 per cwt above the previous record of $204.67 hit late on Wednesday.” I suspect sloppy editing is responsible for “24 cents per hundred pounds per cwt.”,0,3767296.story

  16. Martin says:


    It’s a family name… and you can imagine what the other school kids thought of it when I arrived from England, together with my (then strong) English accent. My grandfather told me that the name meant the same as “Cartwright”, because cart wheels were made out of ash… or so he said.


    • Huda says:

      Thanks Martin! The meaning is interesting, and it’s also interesting that this was something unusual when you arrived from England.

      I just discovered that if I search under “double-barreled names” I can find a fair bit of information (never knew that expression). Apparently, while historically the hyphenation required formal approval by the British powers that be, and was strictly upper crust, ” in 1862, Parliament upheld the right of any Englishman to call himself whatever he liked, making it easier for people to change their names for more whimsical reasons. Phillimore lists 93 Smiths who took on additional last names via hyphen, presumably, he says, because they wanted to be known by something “more euphonious and infrequent.””
      I don’t know whether yours is upper crust or more whimsical in origin, but Ashwood-Smith is definitely euphonious :)

  17. Martin says:

    You’re doing great Evad, we at CS really appreciate it.


  18. Martin says:

    Huda, my grandfather was a gardener and my great grandfather a fireman in London. Definitely not in Burks Peerage. However, my grandmother probably felt differently… a lot of the (so called) working class worshiped the aristocracy… much like most of Mississippi voting for the GOP.


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