Thursday, September 19, 2013

NYT 5:01 
Fireball 5:01 
AV Club 4:11 
LAT 6:05 (Matt) 
BEQ 7:49 (Matt) 
CS 5:44 (Dave) 

Thursday night is NBC’s two-hour finale of Million Second Quiz. Tune in to see if Team Fiend’s Andy Kravis wins the $2 million big prize or must be content with over $300,000 in winnings. (Slight chance that he will actually lose his seat to a challenger and go home empty-handed, but he is a really strong trivia player so I don’t predict that.)

Michael Blake’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 19 13, no 0919

I was disappointed by this theme until I realized that it wasn’t made-up phrases starting with C and ending with Y but rather, familiar phrases with the C-and-Y coating:

  • 17a. [Ability to survive freezing temperatures?], COLD MASTERY. An old master is more or less a Renaissance painter.
  • 24a. [Selected a certain fabric softener?], CHOSE DOWNY. Hose down (unless it uses the lotion). Public service announcement: Fabric softener is a tool of the devil, people. Bad for the environment, possibly bad for human health.
  • 35a. [Sprite who helps you find a shopping vehicle?], CART FAIRY. I’d like the cart fairy to push the cart, put things in the cart, empty the cart onto the checkout conveyor, and schlep the bags to the car. Let’s make this happen.
  • 50a. [Super-choosy about timepieces?], CLOCK-PICKY. Hmm. Is “lock pick” a thing? Yes, it is.
  • 58a. [Like M&M’s … or four words to describe 17-, 24-, 35- and 50-Across?], C.AND.Y COATED.

The corner 7s and their crossings are reasonable. Eight remarks:

  • 38a. [One shouldn’t have a big head], BEER. I poured Diet Coke into a Guinness tulip glass and it didn’t form a big head of fizz. Is the shape of the glass magical?
  • 55a. [___ Pince, librarian at Hogwarts], IRMA. Didn’t know that one. Irma P. Hall is my favorite IRMA.
  • 57a. [Anesthesia option, for short], EPI. Short for epidural, I assume, but it’s not a shortening I’m familiar with despite having had an epidural. More often, I hear “epi” as short for epinephrine.
  • 64a. [FedEx form], AIR BILL. Yep.
  • 4d. [“___ Nut Gone Flake,” celebrated 1968 Small Faces album], OGDEN’S. Whoa. Entirely unfamiliar to me. And you?
  • 9d. [Modified, as software for a different platform], PORTED. As in “ported to the Mac OS.” Not sure I’ve seen this usage in a crossword before, but it is certainly quite familiar.
  • 11d. [“Here, you needn’t do that”], ALLOW ME. Cute answer.
  • 44d. [Entice with music], TWEEDLE. Haven’t seen this word and usage before. Here’s what a dictionary/thesaurus page says.

Four stars.

Gareth Bain’s LA Times puzzle — Matt’s review

Matt Gaffney here filling in for Gareth, who wrote today’s LAT, where -ARK becomes -ORK:

  • 18-a [Governor’s pet projects?] = STATE PORK (from “state park”)
  • 29-a [Utensil that gives you ideas?] = CREATIVE SPORK (from “creative spark”)
  • 43-a [Bully’s secret shame?] = FEAR OF THE DORK (from “fear of the dark”)
  • 56-a [Say “Come in, Orson!” e.g.?] = QUOTE MORK (from “quote mark”)

“Fear of the dork” is my favorite from this set. Slight ding for the “quote mark” base phrase since it’s outGoogled tenfold by “quotation mark.” Maybe “quote mark” is more common in Gareth’s native South Africa? Could be.

Tricky solve for me; had ???KET for the clue [Hoops score] and confidently entered the incorrect BUCKET. Other wrong turns: had ERODE in there for [Take out] but it turned out to be ERASE; in the same area, had DOUBTS for [Causes to quail] instead of the correct DAUNTS. I’d heard of “quail” used as a verb but couldn’t recall what it meant.

Pet peeve: what’s with all the “one (who)…” clues you see in crosswords these days? I think it’s something Will Shortz started, but you see it everywhere now. In this puzzle we have [One who’s always on the go?] for NOMAD, [One on a pedestal] for IDOL, and [Like one who forgot the Dramamine] for SEASICK (plus [Find one’s voice] for PIPE UP). Crossword editors: perhaps one could temper one’s usage of this stilted construction!


3.75 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Detective Work” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme entries that end with something a detective might do:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/19/13

  • A [Showstopper] is a HARD ACT TO FOLLOW – for some reason, this entry reminds me of the old Mae West line, a a hard man is good to find.
  • [It’s a long story] clues SHAGGY DOG – I enjoyed this idiomatic use of the phrase.
  • [Lid application] was EYE SHADOW – to “shadow” someone is to follow them, particularly in a sleuthing sense, which makes this another great entry.
  • [Hiking path] clues WILDERNESS TRAIL

Good stuff here, tight theme and execution. Other nice stuff were the long crossers, The Beach Boys’ BARBARA ANN and BRIDESMAID. My nit with this puzzle though was the obscure (at least to me) short names–Benjamin ORR of The Cars (where’s Bobby when you need him?), Jazz trombonist Kid ORY (“Hick’s tail?”), Sir KAY of the Round Table (maybe “Silent knight character?”), and SIG Hansen of “Deadliest Catch” (I got nothing here). One of these kind of entries is my limit in a daily puzzle.

Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Final Projections”

AV Club crossword solution, 9 19 13 “Final Projections”

Ben sent this one out as a 1 on a 5-point difficulty scale, but 4:11 is Wed/Thurs NYT zone for me so I would call it at least a 2. The theme is … baseball throws? I think. I’m not sure.

  • 17a. [Graph of a normal distribution], BELL CURVE. Curveball.
  • 29a. [With gloves off], BARE-KNUCKLE. Knuckleball.
  • 42a. [Item that causes toons to hop around (P.S.: Maybe don’t Google it, it’s kind of gross)], JUMPING BEAN. Beanball? Dictionary says yes, that’s a pitch at the batter’s head. Not sure why “toons” is in the clue. Cartoon characters swallow jumping beans or something?
  • 57a. [Retro, and a hint to 17-, 29-, and 42-Across], THROWBACK. The back of each phrase is a kind of baseball throw.

Five Eleven things:

  • 20a. [“Pinky promise!”], “I SWEAR.” Fun answer.
  • 32a. [Played tonsil hockey, say], WENT AT IT. Did you know “went at it” applied to sucking face as well full-out mutual groping?
  • 36a. [Cherries ___] JUBILEE. Sigh. I miss fresh cherries. They went out of season abruptly a couple weeks ago and I wasn’t ready for it. My 2 lb-a-week habit came to an end.
  • 64a. [Former Red Sox shortstop whose first name is his father’s name backwards]. NOMAR Garciaparra. Wasn’t he a Cub for a while, too?
  • 3d. [Purple drank-drinking rapper], LIL WAYNE. I once edited a medical review article about drugs including purple drank. All the other substances had solid references in the bibliography, but purple drank’s citation was Wikipedia. Had to chase down Wiki’s newspaper source instead.
  • 12d. [Where one might pee on a nice-smelling cake], URINAL. Matt G was just complaining about “one” clues. Given that “one” is really not gender-neutral here, I would agree that “a guy” works better.
  • 27d. [Cross the t’s and dot the i’s, in slang], ICE IT. New to me.
  • 28d. [Abbreviation before an annoying chain message from your grandmother], FWD. My mom is a grandma, but we taught her from the start of emailing that one should delete the FWD list of addresses. The other day, she forwarded something to me strictly to mock the huge list of FWD addresses her friend had left in place.
  • 42d. [Subject of a Maroon 5 simile], JAGGER. The hit song is “Moves Like Jagger.”
  • 49d. [“One sec, gotta pee”], BRB. Deb Amlen can confirm that I use “brbhtp” for this purpose.
  • 51d. [Those back in town, per Thin Lizzy], BOYS. ’70s song.

Lots of fun stuff in this one, and while the basebally theme didn’t resonate with me, the theme answers themselves are all zippy. Four stars.

Brendan Quigley’s Thursday website puzzle, “Say When” — Matt’s review

What will it be in this Thursday’s BEQ — Sex, Drugs or Rock ‘n’ Roll? Answer: sex, the world’s most awkward subject.

And not your standard missionary, within-the-confines-of-the-marriage-bed variety, either! No ma’am. Brendan uses the base phrase SAFE WORD, defined at 9-a as [pre-agreed cry to stop the action in the bedroom when things get a little too crazy]. The WORD half of that is in the SW corner, clued as [___ that can follow 9-Across in both entries in 19-, 28-, 45-, and 55-Across]. Complicated, as sex sometimes is. Let’s see what’s at those four entries:

19-a [Maid’s profession] = HOUSEKEEPING. Amusing mistake I made here: I had HOUSECLEANING, which doesn’t fit but I figured there was some rebus action happening. There’s an old piece of wordplay that asks: what’s the only common word that fits the letter pattern ***CD***? That would be ANECDOTE, and when I saw that pattern at 5-d I knew I needed only a quick glance at the clue there to show me HOUSECLEANING was right. That clue was [Storyteller’s dream] so in ANECDOTE went with confidence. Oops! It was BOOK DEAL. Quite a coincidence there.

28-a [In computer science, a characterization of every possible solution to a problem] = SEARCH SPACE. If you say so.

45-a [“Red light” area in Amsterdam, say] = SEX DISTRICT. I bet the SAFE WORDs are unpronounceable there; Dutch is a rough language.

55-a [Coastal force] = HARBOR GUARDS. Doesn’t Google real well, but at least it’s inferrable. When I was in Toronto in 1992 I saw a sign that said something like TORONTO HARBOUR DEFENCE CENTRE. Three of the four words were spelled in Canadian, and the fourth was a Canadian city. I felt like I was in a foreign country.

So the eight words in those themers can each follow SAFE, making them “safe words”: safe house, safekeeping, safe search (on Google, e.g.), safe space, safe sex, safe district (so no jerrymandering required to thwart the will of the people — convenient!), safe harbor, safeguards.

Cool idea, dinged a wee bit since two of the four theme entries don’t quite roll off the tongue. But it’s a pretty restricted set so we’ll give the theme a grade of B.

Let’s observe some BEQ fill magic: ZIDANE, SO THAT, ON DUTY, TYBALT, the aforementioned BOOK DEAL, and we’ll finish last with the NICE GUYS, who finish last anyway so they don’t mind. Symmetric and echoic OILY/LILY is cool, too.

3.95 stars.

Matt Skoczen’s Fireball crossword, “Say ‘Aah'”

Fireball crossword solution, 9 19 13, Matt Skoczen: Say “Aah”

The theme is not astonishingly ground-breaking or anything, but I just plain loved this puzzle. It’s my favorite crossword all week. (Score one for indie crossword venues, yet again. Have you noticed how long it’s been since an NYT puzzle garnered a 4-star average here? I think it’s 3 1/2 weeks now.) Interesting fill, fun clues, a few genuine smiles while solving? It’s a winner. I give it 4.5 to 4.75 stars—I reserve 5 stars for a puzzle that is innovative and/or memorable, whereas this is merely excellent.

Matt, I’d love to hear why you opted for Fireball rather than submitting this winner to the NYT.

The theme entries play on homophones with a double-A in them:

  • 17a. [Tale about making flatbread?], NAAN FICTION. (Nonfiction.)
  • 35a. [Piccolo player painters?], CAAN ARTISTS. (Con artists.) Ha! James Caan played Brian Piccolo in 1971’s classic tearjerker TV movie, Brian’s Song. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, actually, but it has been super-familiar pop culture since I was a little kid. For the longest time I thought this answer would have FLUTISTS in it somehow, and when the penny dropped, it was a fine solving moment. Kudos to Matt and/or Peter for coming up with this potential Clue of the Year.
  • 56a. [News reports about Swedish imports?], SAAB STORIES. (Sob stories.)

Perfect little theme, leaving ample room for delicious, Gordon-grade fill free of junk or obscurities.

My only quibble here is that SBARRO ([Rival of California Pizza Kitchen]) and California Pizza Kitchen occupy entirely different zones of the restaurant industry. One’s a mall/storefront joint with slices of pizza and counter service, while the other is a sit-down restaurant with fancypants pizza options and a liquor menu.

Favorite things:

  • 32a. [Year book writer of note?], ORWELL. The “year book” in question, of course, is Nineteen Eighty-Four. Another potential Clue of the Year.
  • 46a. [One who might help you get very high?], SHERPA. Anyone else read the recent New Yorker article about the Western climbers and a conflict with Nepali Sherpas?
  • 51a. [Jodie Foster’s real first name], ALICIA. Trivia! Trivia that I didn’t know.
  • 60a. [Cream-of-the-crop Cremona craftsman], AMATI. Crapload of crazy (cr)alliteration.
  • 11d. [Sinbad and others], STANDUPS. I love the comedian/actor Sinbad, but I was quite certain this clue was about Sinbad the Sailor.
  • 29d. [Little Dipper School attendee], ELROY Jetson. Didn’t know it, but with a few crossings it became inevitable.
  • 41d. [Low bow], SALAAM. Love this word for some reason. Not a thematic play on “salom,” which isn’t a thing.

Okay, Matt. Get to work on more great crosswords.

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28 Responses to Thursday, September 19, 2013

  1. Michael says:

    Neat theme idea with fun examples and some unusual letter combos: YID, OWM, DYC and YEK among others. OGDEN’S’s proximity to PORTED teleported me back to the early 2000s by way of a prolific nom de plume of the NY Sun era. Mr. Porter, come out of retirement!

    I was also taken aback by the use of EPI as an abbreviation for epidural. My first reaction was, “Huh? Epinephrine for induction of anesthesia? Um, no, thank you. My blood pressure is already high enough!” Then I saw the explanation in Amy’s write-up. We never do epis for women in labor. But we do do epidurals for expectant mothers all the time. I’m curious as to the source of that “misnomer.”

    • ArtLvr says:

      re EPI — I took that for the EpiPen: Wiki says “An epinephrine autoinjector is a medical device used to deliver a measured dose (or doses) of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) using autoinjector technology, most frequently for the treatment of acute allergic reactions to avoid or treat the onset of anaphylactic shock. Trade names for this device include EpiPen, Emerade, Twinject, Adrenaclick, Anapen, Jext, Allerject, and Auvi-Q. The EpiPen was originally derived from the ComboPen, a product developed for the military for treating exposure to nerve agents.”

  2. Judy Isvan says:

    I think a tulip glass, a champagne glass, or any glass with a larger top than bottom cross section will have less head thickness than a straight sided cylindrical glass, just due to more area available for bubble spreading. If that’s true, then a narrower-topped glass should collect more head, like some old beer tankards seem to do. Of course, this needs more study. Enjoyed the puzzle, Rex hasn’t posted yet, so I came over here…

  3. Martin says:

    There are many citations for “epi” as an abbreviation of “epidural.” Here are a couple:
    A medical abbr. list.
    A nurse’s anesthesia guide.
    Here’s a paper that uses it.

    The abbreviation is avoided in hospitals because it can be misunderstood to mean “epinephrine.” But online discussions like “To epi or not to epi” and this one and this one show the term is common in less formal settings.

    Finally, the medical supply industry thinks it a pretty good abbreviation, judging from products like Epi-fix, Epi-Guard, Epi-Max, EpiFuse, Epi-Flex, Epi-Kit, Epidrum, Epi-Sling and the entire Epimed line.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      While your use of Google is impressive, surely you must give some credence to Michael Shteyman’s comment above yours? When it comes to medical terminology, I will give the edge to someone working in medicine to an IT guy with the Google.

      • Bencoe says:

        I hear the medical abbreviation “EPI” all the time…but virtually always in the phrase “EPI-pen”, where it stands for epinephrine.

  4. Martin says:

    I posted a few EPI citations but I musta said something bad because it’s in moderation limbo.

    • Gareth says:

      Put that many links in a post and the spam filter kicks in… I fished it out.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You posted more links than a spammer, Martin.

      Thank you for working so hard to prove that I am ill-informed. We can always count on you for that.

      • Martin says:

        I was actually responding to Michael. Neither of you are ill-informed, of course. I was confirming that doctors don’t call epidurals “epis” because epinephrine takes priority, but that other people do. No disrespect for either of you intended.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          If it’s a medical term and the clue is completely out of touch with medical usage, what good is it? It’s a terrible clue. Either clue it as a prefix, clue it as the much more familiar EPInephrine, or clue it as the woeful crosswordese finial. That’s right: I believe the Maleskan crosswordese option is *better* than the clue used here.

  5. Gareth says:

    Beautiful theme concept! Is “lock pick” a thing is one of the stranger questions I’ve heard asked recently… EPI was baffling to me too: I clung to CRI (constant rate infusion – although that isn’t exactly a typical anaesthesia option, propofol CRI is a thing

  6. Loren Smith says:

    Great puzzle, Gareth! I agree – FEAR OF THE DORK is the best. And funny! Liked PIPE UP and its clue.

    Matt – your “bucket” mistake reminded me of this. If you haven’t seen it, it is *really* worth watching to the end!

    Uncle Drew

  7. Mike T says:

    Michael Blake’s NYT – was an excellent puzzle. Very creative theme. I always wonder what was going through the constructor’s head when they looked at or heard something like CANDY COATED and turned it into C AND Y COATED.

  8. pannonica says:

    CS: Four theme entries that end with something a detective might do.

    More precisely, they’re all approximate synonyms for the same activity.

  9. Martin says:

    I’ll have none of these fancy 21st century fancy medical definitions of EPI. No, I’ll stick with my good ole ETM standbys straight out of Webster’s 2: “Finial”, or “Spire-topper”.

    What’s the point of arguing about medical jargon, when you can have the quiet satisfaction of knowing what the last couple of inches of a church spire was technically called a over a century ago?


  10. Bencoe says:

    Wow! Was really happy to see OGDEN’s Nut Gone Flake, one of my all time favorite albums, in today’s NYT. An amazing, upbeat psychedelic masterpiece and one of the first rock concept albums. Everything the Small Faces did was great…then they became the Faces, who were awesome too!
    I was not so happy to see the clue “should not have a big head” for BEER. As any true beer connoisseur knows, the amount of head desired on a beer varies from country to country (and with different styles) with the very best beers (Belgian) supposed to have a large, thick head of foam resembling a meringue.

  11. Howard B says:

    NY Times – loved the theme; fill was fresh and interesting, but some brutal spots (for me, the usual disclaimer that everyone’s experience is different).
    The combo of OGDENS, LACEUPS, and PORSCHE was big trouble for me in this one. 3 total unknowns that required all letters to fill. At least LACEUPS was intuitive.
    Always interesting how this works for each solver!

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Howard: I always appreciate how even and thoughtful your comments are. If only everyone were so reasonable!

  12. Huda says:

    I have mixed feelings about the NYT puzzle… I felt frustrated while solving it but admired it after I finished and figured out the theme. I think the first theme answer is inspired. COLD MASTERY is a word combination I can imagine seeing in a sentence. But CLOCK PICKY sounds contrived.

    We say Epi and Nor-Epi all the time around the lab, for epinephrine and not-epinephrine. So, I stared at EPI and its clue for a loooong time and was quite confused by its proposed use…

    • Gareth says:

      So your lab doesn’t use Eppendorf tubes? Those are also often called “epis” but probably spelt “eppie” although I’ve only used it in speaking… Which eppie has the epi in it? Could start to get well confusing!

      • Huda says:

        Never said Eppie for Ependorfs. May be it’s regional. The other epi we use is epigenetics, but we tend to say the whole thing. I guess that really says that in labs and medical settings the epinephrine meaning has primacy. But in the general public, people might not have that in the forefront of their minds, and abbreviate epidural that way.

        And a correction to my earlier post– noR-epinephrine rather than noT-epinephrine…

  13. Mark says:

    When I think of “old master” the old kung-fu movies come to mind. Even Miyagi(sp?) in Karate Kid could be considered one.

  14. Noam D. Elkies says:

    As in Tweedledee and Tweedledum? (NB the origin is not Lewis Carroll but a jibe at composers Handel [yes, that Handel] and Bononcini.)

Comments are closed.