Thursday, July 25, 2013

NYT 5:55 
AV Club 5:05 
Fireball 6:50 
LAT 3:54 (Gareth) 
BEQ 9:02 (Matt) 
CS 7:45 (Dave) 

People of Earth! Lollapuzzoola is two weeks from Saturday. Can you get yourself to Manhattan on August 10? If so, then you’ll want to register for the funnest crossword tournament in existence. (I’ll be there with invisible, silent bells on.) And if NYC isn’t in your plans, have no fear! You can compete in the At-Home Division for a mere $10. Some of my favorite constructors are making puzzles for Lolla this year— Patrick Blindauer, Kevin Der, Aimee Lucido, Mike Nothnagel, Tony Orbach, Joon Pahk, Doug Peterson, and Zoe Wheeler. Brilliant and clever and funny people, right? Lolla puzzles tend to have interesting twists to them, so if you only like boring puzzles, don’t even bother.

Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 25 13, no. 0725, crazy cool puzzle by Patrick Blindauer, check it out

Hey! Look at that. A well-executed hardcore rebus theme. Patrick offers us two DOUBLE FEATUREs, pairs of 12-letter movie titles with the same starring actor, running alongside one another in the same Down answers. Jack Lemmon was in GRUMPY OLD MEN and Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT (haven’t seen either one, but both titles are quite familiar). And Frank Sinatra was in the original OCEAN’S ELEVEN (I’ve seen the Clooney remake and its sequels) and GUYS AND DOLLS (it’s a musical, so most likely I haven’t seen it). The crossings are entirely ordinary crossword answers, and that must’ve been a fiendishly difficult accomplishment. Well done, Patrick!

Favorite clues:

  • 16a. [“I was wrong … big whoop”]. SO S{UE} ME. “Big whoop” should be in more crosswords. Or maybe NOBIGWHOOP. Make this happen, somebody.
  • 54a. [Horny devil], SATYR. I went with SATAN at first, thinking of the sort of horns that stick out of the head. But no, this clue is using “horny” in the lascivious sense. Have we seen this in a non-indie crossword before?
  • 5d. [Keeps one’s mouth shut?], HUMS. Remember the Crash Test Dummies song, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”?
  • 6d. [Beverage introduced as Brad’s Drink], PEPSI. Trivia!
  • 45d. [Brew whose name is an article of clothing when read backward], STROH’S.
  • 62d. [Org. whose motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity”], FBI. Look, they made a tiny acrostic!
Granted, there are some crossings of the double features’ crossings that are less than ST{EL}LAR—”Let’s give IT A GO,” AGAZE—but they are not beyond the pale. We’ve certainly seen much more dreadful fill in puzzles that don’t even have a thematic payoff to offset it.

4.9 stars.

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Spoonerette’s Syndrome”

AV Club crossword solution, 7 25 13 “Spoonerette’s Syndrome”

Folks with Tourette’s syndrome may be inclined to cuss, and folks who make spoonerisms swap initial consonant sounds. Combine the two and you get this:

  • 20a. [“Oh hell no, that farmer de-husking corn just started convulsing and speaking in tongues!”], HOLY SHUCKING FIT. The HOLY is not spoonerized. In each theme answer, the final two words are what’s spoonerized.
  • 32a. [“Damn, look at all those unpedigreed dogs!”], WHAT A MUTT BUNCH. The Google ads atop this “butt-munch” dictionary definition are for a booty-shakin’ video and Munch reproductions, classy combo!
  • 41a. [“Hey, asshole, go convert from vectors to pixels before stepping up to the plate!”], YOU BAT RASTERED. I don’t really know what rastering is all about, but back in the day, graphic designers with fancy monitors used the term.
  • 53a. [“If you turn into a zombie, stay out of the damn boondocks — brains are better in the city!”], DON’T BE A HICK DEAD. I don’t care for this “a dead” phrasing. Are the zombiephiliacs using that language now?

It’s refreshing, isn’t it, to have clues that begin “Oh hell no” and “Hey, asshole”?

Favorite clues:

  • 1a. [Places I tend to leave with about fifty more pictures of red pandas than I entered with], ZOOS. Yes, indeed.
  • 19a. [From ___ (best way to watch a tornado)], AFAR. Gotta be up close for a sharknado, though. With a chain saw. Gareth sent me a poster for Slothcano, which I would also watch.
  • 31a. [Mia’s palindromic counterpart in pro-eating-disorder communities], ANA. ANA = anorexia, Mia = bulimia. Dreadful, sad stuff. But it’s an in-touch-with-social-issues clue for ANA.
  • 39a. [Herman who said “The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is”], CAIN. Remember Herman Cain? Even with pizza in the clue, I needed lots of crossings
  • 59a. [Band whose videos you probably remember better than their songs], OK GO. Treadmills! Paint and a Rube Goldberg contraption! Couldn’t tell you the song titles or recognize them if you played them for me.
  • 1d. [Braff with a much-derided Kickstarter campaign], ZACH. “I have Hollywood connections. Poor me! Please give me money to make a movie. Oh, and once you’ve been suckered into giving me money, I can land more investors. Those investors will actually get their money back, unlike you poor saps.”
  • 13d. [Segregates the whites, say], SORTS. Laundry, people.
  • 42d. [Side-___ (something that’s apparently highly newsworthy to the Huffington Post)], BOOB. HuffPo is an anti-journalistic, linkbait whore of a website. The quieter corners have solid (if unpaid) content but the main stuff? Tabloidy.

I don’t know about this one. 18a. [Place for buying toga party supplies?], AGORA? Togas are Latin/Roman, agora is Greek. Are frat boys so ensconced in Greek life that they shop at agoras?

Four stars.

Matt Skoczen and Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

We have a well-worn, early-week puzzle theme in today’s LA Times offering by Matt Skoczen and Patti Varol. Where it shines though is in the execution. I thought the choice of FALSE phrases was both interesting and unexpected. I don’t think I need to explain the theme to you, we all know the drill! The revealing answer is FALSESTARTS, and each theme answer begins with a word that fits the pattern “FALSE ___”. The theme answers are:


  • 18a, [*Union VIP], LABORLEADER


      . False labor is a great choice of phrase!


  • 24a, [*You might sleep through it], ALARMCLOCK

. A false labor is a type of false alarm…



  • 39a, [*Self-esteem essential], POSITIVEIMAGE

. False positives are negatives measured as positive by a test, affecting its specificity.

  • 49a, [*1998 Sandra Bullock film], HOPEFLOATS. False hope.


The puzzle was typically filled, in that it had a few interesting longer answers and not many annoying short ones. I liked MOTHBALLS, especially clued as a verb. Its partner WADEBOGGS elicited a more neutral reaction, but the many baseball fans were probably happy to see him! Of the other longer answers, CRATCHIT adds a touch of the literary and MINIBAR (look but don’t touch!) and NAWLINS (Knew how to say it, but not how to spell it!) were also fun!

Some more bullets:

  • [John of England], LOO… and Commonwealth countries
  • [S.A. country], ARG. That’s South America not Southern Africa or South Australia (the last one is a state so doesn’t have countries within it…)
  • [Peas, at times], AMMO. Simple clue, but I liked the out-of-the-box angle
  • [“That’s ___!”], ANONO. This is, of course, what one yells when one identifies a work by Yoko…
  • [Change in Albania], LEKS. Surprisingly uncommon answer in crosswords… I’m pleased to have it make an appearance!
  • [Word shouted at church], BINGO. Another good out-of-the-box clue!
  • [Sch. with a Mesa campus], ASU. ASU makes its second appearance of the week. I’d suspect a conspiracy, only I was the instigator of the first instance

As I said, I appreciated the execution of this theme, and the puzzle was well-filled. 3.8 Stars.


P.S. Bonus points to the one who correctly identifies which answer the picture on the right depicts…

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cheer Up” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Constructor Patrick Blindauer took the “Double Feature” idea from today’s NYT literally, as he also has today’s CrosSynergy puzzle in which six (!) theme entries feature the letters RAH (a “cheer”) trailing up the grid.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/25/13

  • [Risky funding source] clues LOAN SHARK
  • A [Boston pier since the 1700s] is LONG WHARF – I awaited the boarding of many ferries to Provincetown at this very place. There’s also a Marriott and the New England Aquarium there.
  • [“BUtterfield 8” author] clues JOHN O’HARA – I’m thinking the capitals at the beginning of this refer to the way telephone exchanges used to be communicated. Let’s see, BU-8 would be 288, no?
  • [Diagram with arrows] clues FLOW CHART – as a computer programmer, I’ve made many of these in my day.
  • A [Be alert] is LOOK SHARP – anyone have “look smart” like me at first? Anyone?
  • [Certain vacation plan] clues TIME SHARE

Another A-plus effort from Patrick; I am so happy there wasn’t a revealer in this one so I had to work a little bit to find the hidden theme. (It’s good to give the old noggin a bit of a workout to stave off Alzheimer’s, right?) I had some trouble getting much traction in this one–clues like [Bill since 1862] for ONE DOLLAR (I was thinking of a legislative bill) and HOOCH for [Sauce] had me guessing for a while. But again, this is a good thing, so I was glad for the challenge. My FAVE aspects of the puzzle were both the clever interpretation of the title as well as the theme density of six entries. My UNFAVE was HAE for [Possess, to a Scot], which was likely necessitated by so many theme entries so close together.

Brendan Quigley’s website crossword, “A Hard Puzzle”

One of the great advantages indie puzzle writers have over the newspapers is speed of publication. Brendan uses this edge today with a very timely theme, the painful saga of former New York congresscritter Anthony Weiner (rhymes with screener). As you probably know, Weiner was forced to resign from Congress over some dirty pictures of himself he e-mailed to a variety of ladies, but don’t you worry about him! He’s back and running for Mayor of New Amsterdam. But he hasn’t stopped sending the lucky ladies those pics!

Brendan’s theme entries are:

  • 17-a [Mr. Danger while doing some lewd on-line chats?] = CARLOS THE JAGOFF. When writing a crossword for last year’s Pittsburgh Crossword Tournament I learned that 1) “jagoff” for an obnoxious person is considered a local Pittsburgh word, and 2) that there is no sexual connotation to it when used as an insult. Anyway, it’s a pun on infamous assassin Carlos the Jackal, based on Weiner’s online alias, “Carlos Danger”.
  • 34-a [Confirmation that the dick pic is in fact Anthony?] = WE HAVE A WIENER.
  • 45-a [Realistic excuse why Anthony’s wife didn’t satisfy him?] = YOU’RE ONLY HUMA. As in Huma Abedin, Weiner’s wife.
  • 60-a [TV series about Anthony’s scandal-laden bid for mayor?] = SEXTS AND THE CITY.

I’d say that’s an excellent set, and again very timely. In a time crunch so I’ll assume you noticed all the nice fill and clues, but I’ll also add that this was a hard puzzle in two ways, since it took me over 9 minutes to solve.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Shakespeare’s Novels”

Fireball 7 25 13

Literary theme—novels whose titles come from Shakespeare’s works.

  • 20a. [“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of ___, of most excellent fancy”: “Hamlet” [1996 novel]], INFINITE JEST.
  • 32a. [“Hark, hark! the lark ___ sings”: “Cymbeline” [1943 novel]], AT HEAVEN’S GATE.
  • 48a. [“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more ___?”: “Twelfth Night” [1930 novel]], CAKES AND ALE.
  • 62a. [“How beauteous mankind is! O ___, that has such people in’t!”: “The Tempest” [1932 novel]]< BRAVE NEW WORLD. Pass the Soma.
  • 78a. [“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip ___”: “Julius Caesar” [1974 novel]], THE DOGS OF WAR.

So highbrow!

Since this theme is about quotations, let me quote from Matt Gaffney’s BEQ review just above this: In a time crunch so I’ll assume you noticed all the nice fill and clues. Did the puzzle in three sittings (there were interruptions) last night, so it’s fuzzy in my memory. But a very good and smart puzzle. Let’s call it 4.5 stars.

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42 Responses to Thursday, July 25, 2013

  1. Brucenm says:

    Screamingly funny AV by FH. It does prove conclusively that:

    {Francis, your mechanical man is really annoying}




    Heaney’s Bot Galls.

  2. janie says:

    oh, patrick — feels like it’s been a loooooong time since your last nyt puzzle — but oh, boy — was this one ever worth the wait. bravo!!


    • Francis says:

      I think I remember solving a draft of this puzzle before Patrick moved out of NYC, so you may not be the only one who’s waited a long time for it.

      • janie says:

        and what with your own avc xword, peter’s che-like fireball, etc., etc., today is one smile-worthy day for lovers of high-grade wordplay — high-brow or low-!


  3. Cindy Lou Who says:

    Just 4.9 for the NYT? A bit stingy. SYM was the only clunker for me. Didn’t mind IT A GO, but thought it unnecessarily clued “Let’s give _____”. Simply “Give _____” would have been simplest and smoothest.

  4. RK says:

    Really impressive NYT! Thank You Mr. Blindauer.

  5. pannonica says:

    HOV LANE was a killer for me. Super puzzle.

  6. Mac says:

    Wow – that is a perfect Thursday puzzle.

  7. Brucenm says:

    I join the chorus for PB II’s NYT, What a great puzzle.

  8. Evad says:

    What was also cool about PB’s NYT was that the rebus entries ran down the grid so that a solver could more easily read the movie titles than if they had been positioned (traditionally) as across entries. Bravo!

  9. Jeffrey K says:

    Interesting that this is actually a 15×17 puzzle, with double-stacked 12-letter theme answers. Still awesome.

    • Jeffrey K says:

      Is there another example of a puzzle like this? I.e. a rebus that could have been non-rebus with an expanded grid?

      • Jason F says:

        Wouldn’t the number of rebus squares per row have to be constant for this concept to work? In this puzzle, you would have some rows with 17 squares and others with 16.

        • Francis says:

          In this case, you can just imagine the extra column also has three black squares at the bottom or top. I’m pretty sure there are other examples of puzzles that could be expanded that way (certainly it’s a helpful way to visualize certain themes when constructing), though I couldn’t point you to one offhand.

      • joon says:

        the only one that comes to mind is actually also by patrick blindauer (and frank longo): the NYS puzzle from 11/20/2008. sam donaldson’s excellent fireball puzzle from 4/25/2013 comes close, but his rebus entries don’t span entire rows/columns of the grid, so it doesn’t quite have the same topography.

        • Jeffrey K says:

          Thanks, joon. Several people mentioned to me that they thought others exist but this is the first identified.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Well spotted; I didn’t notice that at all.

  10. Dook says:

    Loved the NYT today. And if you haven’t seen The Apartment, then see it today. Really. You will be very happy (file wise, that is :) ). I don’t understand the answer “panel” to comic role. Can someone explain?

    • HH says:

      Look again — the clue is “Comic part”, not “Comic role”. A comic strip is divided into panels.

  11. Brian Cimmet says:

    Amazing NYT puzzle today!

    Thanks, Amy, for the blurb about the upcoming Lollapuzzoola tournament. In case folks didn’t know — Patrick Blindauer, constructor of today’s NYT puzzle, is the co-host of Lollapuzzoola AND has a puzzle in that tournament this year.

    Join us on August 10th in NYC for Lollapuzzoola — or, if NYC can’t be part of your summer, join us remotely in the At-Home Division. Check it all out at!

  12. Matt says:

    Great NYT puzzle– from initial ‘there’s some extra-letters-fitting-into-less-space trick going on here’ to the reveal, to working out the details– it all works well. I got snagged on AGAPE/AGAZE, but maybe that’s just me.

    • Jason F says:

      Not just you – I spent too long wondering how UPI could possibly be the answer to the crossing clue!

  13. The Snacking Dead says:

    Perfect NYT: I felt I was in the presence of master builder and a wit. And a cinephile to boot. Couldn’t ask for more.

  14. jane lewis says:

    guys and dolls has a great score but the movie is way too long and marlon brando was really not cut out for a musical.

  15. Francis says:

    Incidentally, Amy, I read that last theme entry as “Don’t be a hick (while you’re) dead”, like “It’s not awesome to be a hick while you’re alive, but you definitely don’t want to be a hick dead.” But I see how the “walking dead”/”hick dead” parallel encourages the way you read it.

  16. Papa John says:

    Amy — unless you’re being funny — a satyr has horns. Indeed, the image of Satan was patterned after the Greek horny devil.

    The NYT was tough to begin with, but it almost filled itself after the movie names were parsed. The mechanics of filling in so many rebus squares with Across Lite can be distracting, if not outright annoying.

    I remember Saturday matinees that were double features, a serial short and a dozen or more cartoons — all for a quarter and a nickel for a Halloway bar. Good times…good times…

  17. cyberdiva says:

    What can I say? I went from being depressed at how little I had entered in the NYTimes puzzle to OMG!! 6 stars.

  18. JohnV says:

    Wow! PB on fire!

  19. animalheart says:

    I don’t invariably do the Thursday puzzle, but a five-word post by Harris Reuben on Facebook (“Holy moley! Blindauer rocks!”) clued me in that it was going to be special. And he was right. Amazing puzzle! Thank you, Patrick. And thank you, Harris!

  20. Brucenm says:


    since I appreciated your response to the question I put forth yesterday — doesn’t the word “lekking” refer to the mating dances that birds perform??? (I seem to remember that from somewhere.) Hence the answer to your question is “leks”. I’m taking a flier. (Yuk Yuk)

  21. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Neat Thursday puzzle. Presumably oriented with the theme clues Down rather than Across to accommodate online solvers, who can’t easily fill the rebus squares with one letter on top of another.

    Crash Test Dummies? Bah. Here’s the locus classicus.


  22. sbmanion says:

    Better than Phil’s last round in the Open. One of the all-time greats.


  23. pauer says:

    Thanks for all of the lovely comments. It has been a while since my last NYT puz, it’s true, and I’d forgotten what a rush it is to get so much feedback about one’s work! My Refresh button is probably exhausted.

    Looking back at my manuscript/drafts of this puz, I see that I was initially planning 3 sets of features and even had a pair of 15-letter Heston movies to use, but I couldn’t get them to work. So I went with the revealer down the center, instead. I also see notes about bonus theme answers in the corners (ROCKY/RAMBO and TWINS/HOFFA) but those didn’t pan out, either, I guess. And yes, the theme did start out horizontally but got flipped around so that the letters would be easier to read in Across Lite.

  24. John E says:

    Patrick B – wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. It must be incredibly difficult to strike a balance between a challenging puzzle to create and an enjoyable crossword to solve – this is a great example of a work that finds that optimal balance. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  25. bonekrusher says:

    Holy cow. One of the greatest crosswords ever created. Up there with the 1996 Election Day crossword

  26. Ari says:

    What an amazing NYT puzzle today. I also got caught on the AGAPE/AGAZE crossing, and HOVLANE was a killer, but when realizing that it was right, had the grand aha satisfaction. Just wanted to note (didn’t see anybody else mention it) that it was great to see “So sue me” which is a classic line from Guys and Dolls, in the song “Sue Me.” The lyric is, “So sue me…sue me…what can you do me? I love you!”

  27. Greg says:

    Let me add my voice to the chorus of praise. That must have been mind-blowingly difficult to construct.

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