Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fireball 14:53 
AV Club 5:16 
NYT 3:44 
LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 
BEQ 22:46 with two words wrong (Matt) 
CS 6:27 (Dave) 

Barry Franklin and Sara Kaplan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 4 13, no 0704

We’ve got a date-specific puzzle for Independence Day:

  • 17a. [One of the first five 49-Acrosses], THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  • 24a. [One of the first five 49-Acrosses], JOHN ADAMS.
  • 36a. [One of the first five 49-Acrosses], JAMES MONROE.
  • 49a. [See 17-, 24- and 36-Across], PRESIDENT.
  • 57a. [Date on which 17-, 24- and 36-Across died], THE FOURTH OF JULY.

How fortuitous that the word lengths matched up symmetrically (although plural PRESIDENTS would have been a touch smoother).

Anyone else find themselves filling in THOMAS and JOHN and EDWARD I ([English king nicknamed Longshanks]) and thinking the theme had to do with these traditional English male first names?

Favorite mislead: 11d. [Pilot’s place], GAS RANGE. Having just seen the National Gay Pilots Association group marching in the pride parade, I was picturing a shirtless airline pilot who clearly works out a lot rather than a flame on a kitchen appliance.

Favorite clue: 36d. [Chain stores?], JEWELERS. Where you can buy gold chains.

Didn’t quite know:

  • 3d. [“Today” show host before Gumbel], BROKAW. Dang! That must’ve been over 30 years ago. Checking … Indeed, Tom Brokaw left in ’81 and Bryant Gumbel began in ’82.
  • 2d. [Home to North America’s only year-round ski resort], MT. HOOD, in Oregon. I don’t ski and I’ve never been to Oregon.
  • 34d. [Baseball umpire’s ruling], NO CATCH. Baseballese is not one of my primary languages.
  • 18d. [Sport practiced in white attire]—wanted this to be CRICKET, but when the crossings told me it ended with -TS*, JUJITSU popped out.
  • 39a. [Professor Bobo of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” e.g.], APE. You don’t say.
  • 41a. [Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance], TUSCANY. I thought it was the birthplace of Tuscan cuisine. Renaissance? You don’t say.

Still, it was pretty easy for a Thursday puzzle, no? If July 4 were a Tuesday this year, this could have run then too. 3.5 stars.

David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review

LA Times

Any combination of three unique letters can be arranged exactly six ways. I have a puzzle sitting in an editor’s in-tray using the exact same gimmick as David Steinberg, but with different letters, so maybe-spoiler warning for 12-18 months’ time! The trick is rather subtle, so depending on how you solved the puzzle you might have got handy circles pointing out the other 5 arrangements of DRY. I liked the four down, two across arrangement of theme answers, which I haven’t seen too often; David’s revealing answer, TUMBLEDRY, is also great! Let’s do the whole list-the-theme-answers thing now:

    • 9d, [Monster product], ENERG(Y DR)INK. Fun, modern answer! Unlike the answer, I find energy drinks themselves tend to be overpriced and to be avoided though…
    • 11d, [33-year “60 Minutes” regular], AN(DY R)OONEY
    • 17a, [fate of one with a cause, perhaps], MART(YRD)OM
    • 25d, [Pie preparation], PAST(RY D)OUGH
    • 30d, [James Brown nickname], M(R DY)NAMITE. Another good ‘un: look at that crazy opening sequence of letters!
    • 64a, [Not leave hanging? (or a hint to the circled letters)], TUMBLE (DRY). I didn’t mention that earlier but it’s also a very clever clue. My parents’ one-year-old dog has discovered that it’s great to lie against the tumble-drier on a winter day!

So six theme entries and 60 theme squares is way up there on the upper end of the scale: you’d expect a few compromises and fairly conservative filling, right? I’d count ENZYME as a great scrabbly entry though! INSYNC, TRISTAR, and ANYHOO were also nice touches! In the negative column… err… RETAG and ESL? I’d be hard-pressed to condemn those two and they’re about as bad as it comes… AJA has been singled out for abuse occasionally as a cheap way of including a “J”, but it doesn’t appear often enough to be annoying and who doesn’t like a bit of Steely Dan in their puzzle occasionally?

I’d say with its dense theme, interesting entries, clever revealer, and expertly-filled grid, this is at least 4.25 stars!


Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I’ll Second That!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A quip to celebrate the Fourth of July is featured in today’s CrosSynergy puzzle by constructor Bob Klahn:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/04/13

  • IF YOU

Cute idea to repurpose all those ordinal numbers, even including “second” in the title of the puzzle. The advice itself is a bit old-fashioned; I knew a “fifth” was an amount of alcohol, but wasn’t sure how much. I see here that it’s 1/5 of a gallon, or 4/5 of a quart, but has been superseded by the “metric fifth” which is the common 750 mL amount held in most wine bottles today. Fun solve and clues otherwise as is to be expected from this constructor, here are a few of my FAVEs:

  • Alliterative clues: ROIL was [Make muddy], [Futuristic fantasy] was SCI FI, [Forest feline] clued LYNX, [Minotaur’s milieu] for CRETE, [Business burdens] for WORKLOADS and [Conical clay cooker] for OAST. (There were more as well.)
  • Rhymes: [Haze or daze] for FOG, [Way to sway] for FRO and [Way to stay, for Jay, say] was UP LATE (Jay Leno).
  • Palindromes: [Madam Adam] for EVE
  • Paired clues: [“Jamaica ___” (1939 Hitchcock film)] for INN beside [Jamaican music that gave rise to reggae] for SKA, AREA for [Turf] above [Turf collective] for GANG
  • Play on sounds: [Sheep date?] (not “cheap”) for RAM

As a past native of Boston, I enjoyed seeing my once local PBS TV station WGBH ([Boston station that produces most of PBS’s prime-time television programming]). Anyone who watched Downton Abbey will recall this as WGBH is the American sponsor of Masterpiece Theater. I also learned that a “nunchuk” is the remote game controller for a Nintendo WII console. Really nothing not to like here, the partial ACT IN and the abbrevs. SSE and AFR were fine ways to ensure the quality of the surrounding fill.

Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “Double or Nothing”

Fireball 7 4 13 answers, Frank Longo “Double or Nothing”

I thought this would be a variety crossword in which either two letters or no letters appeared in each square, but it’s a different riff on the “Double or Nothing” concept. Here, every set of double letters in the Across answers gets entered into a single square, and then in the Down crossings, that square is considered blank and the Down answer passes silently over the blanks.

So we have RIGH{T T}HI{S S}ECOND, INHERI{T T}H{E E}ARTH, N{O O}N{E E}LSE, SHOR{T-T}ER{M M}EMORY, and REA{L-L}IF{E E}XAMPLE. What I didn’t realize while solving is that all of these doubled letters hit at the junction between two words—an extra fillip of elegance.

36d: [Like Haití vis-à-vis la República Dominicana] clues OESTE, or west, with two double-letter “nothing” squares stretching the entry to 7 squares. The other Down answers with double-or-nothing crossers are ALY KHAN, John RAE, APE, ILE (that was fiendishly hard to figure out—[Porto Rico, e.g.] apparently signals a French answer? Wouldn’t have guessed that “Porto” was French), OLDE, DNA, and MOO.

Other tough bits (in a uniformly challenging puzzle):

  • 4d. [Reply to the obvious], YA THINK? I was mystified when I had YATH in place.
  • 14a. [PDF alternative], EPUB. Peter explained this one on the answer PDF: “EPUB, short for ‘electronic publication,’ is an open publication standard for e-books. Files using this standard are given the extension .epub.”
  • 29d. [Dated, once], OLDE.
  • 37d. [Energy Star mark on a product, e.g.] ECOLABEL. Ecolabel? Is that what they’re calling it now?
  • 62a. [“___ dommage”], C’EST. I wanted QUEL. Would it be quelle, though?
  • 58a. [Digestive aids], BILES. In the plural? Hmm.

Disappointing nuggets: NARY A, plural BILES, boring ETONS/ESSO. On the other hand: GOOD FRIDAY, BACCHUS, THE METHOD (…THEME THOD?), YA THINK, IN PROGRESS, and SESAME OIL are all terrific.

4.75 stars. A head-banging challenge.

Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Celebrity Bodies”

American Values Club crossword answers, 7 4 13

In this 16×15 puzzle, the theme is famous people whose last names are generic bodies of water:

  • 18a. [Singer who was part of Odd Future], FRANK OCEAN. He’s an R&B singer-songwriter who’s one of the first men in hip-hop/R&B to come out as gay. He won two Grammys this year and had four other Grammy noms.
  • 23a. [“Love to Get Used” rock singer from Philadelphia], MATT POND. Never heard of him. Not so famous, but between the puzzle’s title and FRANK OCEAN, POND was kinda obvious despite not being a common surname.
  • 25a. [Talk show host who played Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray”], RICKI LAKE.
  • 30a, 52a. [With 52-Across, singer known as the “King of Country”], GEORGE / STRAIT.
  • 57a. [“South Park” character modeled after and voiced by Trey Parker], STAN MARSH. Our only fictional character in this theme.
  • 61a. [Fifth-greatest guitarist of all time, according to Rolling Stone], JEFF BECK. Wha…? Dictionary says beck means “mountain stream” and is “chiefly British.”
  • 68a. [Director who named his two dogs after “Transformers” characters], MICHAEL BAY.

All the theme answers are last names in the singular, so no River Phoenix or Joan Rivers.

New to me: 6d. [Event where an app might be conceived], HACKATHON. And evidencing my apparent lack of fluency with English terms from French, 53d. [Up to date] is AU FAIT but I needed lots of crossings.

Cutest clue: 41d. [Guardians of sewers?], THIMBLES.


Four stars.

Brendan Quigley’s website cryptic — Matt’s review

Cryptic from Brendan today. I kicked its ass on the upper half and it returned the favor on the lower.

1-a was an elegant gimme anagram [Arty, perky, quirky singer (4, 5)] = KATY PERRY, and that blew the whole thing wide open. Last to fall up there was the subtle [Fool with pronounced strokes] for PUTZ (putts). Also good was [Friend in war, among nearly 1000, gives rousing cry] for TALLYHO! That’s (thou – u contains ally).

Top half done in about 5 minutes; bottom half took another 20 and I still missed two words. Brutally clever and obvious in retrospect were [Police operation seizing former lover’s lurid photos] = SEXTING (sting contains ex), [Got out of the top bed and exposed a falsehood] = DEBUNKED, and [Retracted not too much information] for DATA (a tad reversal).

Around minute 15 I was totally stuck, but then remembered that I hadn’t seen a hidden word yet. I believe it’s a cryptic rule that there’s got to be at least one? And there was: [It tells you where to go in Bizarro World] yielded ARROW, after which the SW slowly fell.

The two words I missed? ASIAGO clued as [Big cheese following the East Run] (that’s Asia + go) and SOUP from [Very positive appetizer] (so + up). These are both, as Henry Hook’s cryptic fans often label his work, diabolical. The syntax is so cleverly split that with ???A?O I knew it had to be either ASIAGO or Romano, but couldn’t make either one work. The SOUP clue is so diabolical that I’m not sure I’d’ve gotten it even with the S. Both totally fair of course, and I internally cursed myself when Reveal All revealed how blind I’d been.

I love Cryptic Thursday. More, please!

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33 Responses to Thursday, July 4, 2013

  1. Sara says:

    Have to agree about the relative easiness: we constructed this back in 2011, when July 4th was on a Tuesday!

  2. John E says:

    Ashamed that I was in Portland years back and visited Mt Hood in July…..and remarked that it was crazy that people were still skiing….and still missed it in the puzzle. I think it was the MT that got me.

    I thought this puzzle was rather challenging – I couldn’t fill more than a couple words in the top-half – the bottom half came together easier. Lots of fun though!

  3. MTHOOD was the first thing in the grid for me, as I’ve been a life-long skier, and I’m also fascinated by state high points (Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon). This was definitely on the easier side for a Thursday, and in fact it became my new record for fastest Thursday puzzle at 9:02.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Does everyone who grows up in the US know this fact, that three major, early presidents died on the same day and it happened to be the 4th of July? I have not computed the odds, but it does seem quite remarkable to me!

    It took me a while to get a foothold but once I tumbled to the theme, it fell quickly. Nicely done! Very little junk, and many facts and factoids.

    Happy Independence Day, y’all. Coming from a place where freedom is but a dream, I thank my lucky stars on a daily basis, and especially today, that it’s a foundation of my life and my children’s lives. I never take it for granted.

    • Papa John says:

      It may interest you to know that Jefferson and Adams died on the same Fourth of July, a few minutes apart — Monroe died a few years after. They had each signed the Declaration of Independence fifty years earlier.

      • Huda says:

        Amazing! I really need to find myself a good book on American history. I learned it from the distance of a French education and have read bits and pieces, or sometimes the lives of individual figures. Maybe I just need a good textbook.

        • Brucenm says:

          Huda, Henry Steele Commager, and Richard Morris (the father of my law school colleague Jeff Morris) are excellent, readable historians. And my dear friend Will Randall (Willard Sterne Randall) has written biographies of many major American figures. They are fascinating and readable, but maybe a bit dense and detailed for your purposes.

      • Brucenm says:

        Yes, and I recall, Adams’ last words are reported to have been “Jefferson still lives” or something of the sort. He was correct, but by a few minutes, as you say.

  5. Matt says:

    Nice puzzle, one little nit: Heart:Pump is not an analogy, the heart is a pump.

    • sbmanion says:

      Analogies have been eliminated as one of the subsections of the SAT. The typical way to help students get better at analogies is to have them form a sentence that describes the relationship between the prompt words as in “Heart is a type of Pump.” The fact that it is a pump does not prevent it from being part of an analogy.


  6. The Nunchuk is not the remote game controller for the Nintendo Wii, it is a game controller. The primary controller is the Wii Remote, frequently shortened to just “Wiimote”. The Nunchuk is an optional, secondary controller which attaches to the Wii Remote. Many games use just the Wii Remote, and many games use the Wii Remote + Nunchuk combination, but it’s impossible for a game to use only the Nunchuk.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Loved Nucky’s Fireball, and I think I was the first to register a rave yesterday evening.

    Perhaps the AV Club is not as awful as my rating. But more and more, I am coming to see this Forum as an opportunity for us little people to send a message to constructors and editors as to what we personally do and do not find appealing, even acceptable in puzzles. It would be hard for me to imagine a puzzle that I would find more annoying than this AV Club. I liken it to reading a two-page memo in Russian. I could do it, with a slovar to look up lots of words, but I wouldn’t find it enjoyable, and would do it only if I *really* wanted to know what it said. The entries which I consider total BS include: 18, 23, 25, 30, 38, 52, 57, 61, 66, and 68 a; and 3, 6, 9, 33, 58, 60 and 63 d. That is way too much to give up to be able to find any enjoyment in a puzzle. I did waste my time looking them all up, but that’s just what it was — a waste of time. The closest thing to a flash of appreciation I did have was 41 d, {Guardians of sewers}. Perhaps that could have been worth a one-star bump up.

    This is not just a generational thing. There are several very young constructors whose work I like a lot, and where I have a positive reaction when I see the person’s name, particularly David Steinberg, (and others). I liked today’s LAT and many of his other puzzles.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, you really should not renew your subscription to the AV Club puzzle if you never like them. An older gentleman who doesn’t like the sort of fill the AV Club team uses does not have a chance in hell, I don’t think , of swaying Ben Tausig and his contributors. Some of your complaint items are utterly mainstream pop culture (The Incredibles, a country singer who has cranked out 60 #1 hits in his 32 years in the business, Will & Grace MP3 music files??). It’s not the puzzle that’s beyond the pale—it might be your antipathy to all of pop culture that is. Which means you will hit a few things you loathe (simply because you neither know them nor respect them in the slightest) in the NYT crossword, but you will be at sea in the AV Club puzzles. Why put yourself through that?

      • Brucenm says:

        Amy — many of the AV Club puzzles I *do* like very much. I am not antipathetic to all pop culture, though perhaps to some of it. Upon reflection, I think I have heard of George Strait.

        • Brucenm says:

          One that comes to mind is Aimee’s “Walk of Shame” puzzle, and several of Byron’s, and and some of Ben’s and others besides.

    • Brucenm says:

      8d was funny too.

  8. Brucenm says:

    One thing that never ceases to puzzle me about puzzles is how the canon for acceptable content becomes established. So far as I can see, there is one and only one American “classical” composer from the 20th century who is an acceptable crossword entry — Ned Rorem — and he appears ad nauseam. This feeds my suspicion that for all the grumbling about crosswordese, people *want* to see the same thing over and over again. They find the repetition and familiarity soothing, reassuring, like those who enjoy returning to the same vacation spot every year.

    Rorem is a good, interesting, somewhat well-known composer, also an interesting writer; still alive, I think, probably about 90. A random, off the top of my head, very partial list of composers in the same category — mid 20th century, excellent, equally distinguished but not top tier composers might include Paul Creston, Leon Kirchner, Kent Kennan, William Schuman, Peter Mennen, Norman dello Joio, Charles Wuorinen, Alvin Etler, Henry Cowell, Morton Feldman, John Harbison, Gunther Schuller, Leo Sowerby, etc. etc.

    All of these are roughly on the same level of distinction as Rorem, but I am sure that the appearance of any of them in a puzzle would elicit anything from mild grumbles to howls of protest. (We saw Roy Harris recently, who is, if anything, more distinguished than those on this list, and he did elicit a grumble.) It is the complete asymmetry and disproportion which bothers me, not the appearance of some pop culture. How many did I list? I count 13. We sometimes find that many rappers, rock groups and song titles in one puzzle. We are expected to know literally, hundreds of rock, rap, pop, etc song titles. But the13 members of my list above are only among the greatest American composers of the 20th century. You can’t expect our puzzles to be trashed up with *them.* I wonder if it’s possible for a rock group or rapper to be too obscure to be accepted into a puzzle. That’s a serious, not a rhetorical or a sarcastic question. I wonder if a rock group or rapper has ever been rejected by an editor on the grounds of being too obscure. — Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, ETLER is the only one who stands a chance—he’s got a 5-letter name! However, his list of works is a teeny fraction as long as Rorem’s, and he didn’t win a Pulitzer (which jacks up crossword-worthiness) as Rorem did. Does anyone else on your list have a Pulitzer? What I do know is that their fame is not mainstream among the American public. Can’t you just be content with being classier than the rest of the country and give up expecting everyone to embrace your particular passions?

      There are plenty of obscure local rappers who don’t show up in puzzles. Just as good constructors know better than to include ETLER, they know better than to include a Chicago rapper who hasn’t broken out nationally. Personally, I would have questioned including TODD POND in Caleb’s puzzle, but the last-name-equals-body-of-water theme does make the last name much more gettable. Wouldn’t expect to see TODD POND as a non-theme answer.

      • Brucenm says:

        Amy & Pan, Thanks for responding to my table pounding. Pan — sure there are plenty of other composers, including all the ones you mention. Carter (who died recently at 105) Barber and Ives I consider much *better* known than Rorem. I’m a huge John Adams fan (listen to Harmonilehre, if you haven’t) but he’s even more specialized than most of the ones I mentioned.

        Amy of my list, I know several who have won a Pulitzer: certainly Leo Sowerby, Leon Kirchner, Charles Wuorinen, Gunther Schuller, I think John Harbison. Perhaps a couple others. I honestly didn’t look it up; it’s a recollection. There are also several wonderful female composers who have won Pulitzers: certainly Ellen Taafe Zwillich, Shulamit Ran and Jennifer Higdon. If Joan Tower hasn’t, she certainly should have.

        • pannonica says:


          • Brucenm says:

            Pan, Interesting that you know La Monte Young. As you know he’s interesting as a precursor of minimalism, and obvious influence on Reich, Glass and others, and a fascinating composer in his own right.

          • pannonica says:

            Perhaps someday I’ll be able to afford a copy of The Well Tuned Piano.

            (Riley too, of course, but also as collaborator.)

    • pannonica says:

      Brucenm: I’d add Elliott Carter, Samuel Barber, Charles Ives (bit on the early side), Harry Partch, John Cage, John Adams, La Monte Young. Pretty sure CAGE and IVES have made the big time, crosswordwise.

      And I concur with Amy; there are more rock bands and rappers than you can imagine.

  9. Thanks for the great write-up, Gareth! I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle and look forward to solving your anagrams puzzle. Happy Fourth, everybody!

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Loved Brendan’s cryptic! Not a false move in the whole thing. Took me 10 or 11 minutes, with most of the struggle happening in the southwest, as Matt experienced. SOUP was the last to fall.

    MILLER LITE was the toughest to parse—I filled it in but didn’t see how it worked for a while. ILLER + L(arge) inside a MITE. SWEAR WORDS (WEAR/don inside SWORDS) was also tougher to parse.

    Did not know OLD SMOKEY was a term for the electric chair. Gruesome.

    Fave fill: KATY PERRY, MILLER LITE, ROBOCALL, SWEAR WORDS, SEXTING. Brendan’s brain has far more cool words, phrases, and names in it than most people’s.

  11. says:

    Amy.. It would be Quel dommage.. Because dommage is masculine.

  12. Martin says:

    Nobody else thinks PREK in the CS should be PERK?

  13. copyace says:

    Got the answer TOP SEED, but not sure how — who is Sandra Fleck? How does that become an anagram of the answer? Is my pop culture knowledge missing something? Agree the top half was much easier than bottom.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Actress Sandra DEE and a fleck that’s a SPOT, backwards.

      • copyace says:

        Thanks, Amy! Was fixated all evening on this being a fictional character’s name or something like that — never thought to separate the two.

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