Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fireball 8:04 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:55 (Amy) 
NYT 4:33 (Amy) 
LAT 5:40 (Gareth) 
BEQ 7:19 (Matt) 
CS 4:57 (Dave) 

If you’re looking for crosswordy artwork to decorate your home or office, you might like this print of a Merl Reagle puzzle in the Sunday LA Times.

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 24 13, no. 1024

Terrific theme, provided you don’t mind being pulled this way and that:

  • 36a. [Unwelcome reversal … or a title for this puzzle?], BOOMERANG EFFECT.
  • 5d, 6d. [With 6-Down, mutual relationship], TWO-WAY TEERTS, or STREET backwards.
  • 9d, 10d. [With 10-Down, critical comments], NEGATIVE KCABDEEF, or FEEDBACK.
  • 37d, 38d. [With 38-Down, one who may give you a lift], ELEVATOR ROTAREPO, or OPERATOR.
  • 46d, 47d. [With 47-Down, means of getting home, maybe], RETURN TEKCIT, or TICKET.

I am quite fond of answers that have to be entered backwards, so this theme was right up and down my alley.

Let’s look at what else is in this puzzle:

  • 17a. [Danced to Julio Sosa music, say], TANGOED. Never heard of Julio Sosa. Is he Dominican like Sammy Sosa? Nope, Uruguayan. And apparently his band really took off when they hired a bandoneonist. Well, sure. Who doesn’t love bandoneon music? (Apparently, it’s big in Argentina, Uruguay, and … Lithuania??)
  • 21a. [Like the women in a famous Rubens painting], SABINE. Because nobody wants to see [“Rape of the ___ Women”] (the title of paintings by various artists) in the clues. The various notable women named Sabine are not quite American-crossword-ready; tennis player Sabine Lisicki is probably the best bet.
  • 28a. [Trap], PIEHOLE. As in “Shut your ___.”
  • 50a. [Blazing], AFLARE. This is one of those found-mainly-in-unabridged-dictionaries words that we rarely encounter in the wild. Let’s give it more use. “The discussion continued with tempers aflare.”
  • 57a. [Contemptuous one], FLOUTER. Roll-your-own type of -ER ending.
  • 3d. [Karina in many a Jean-Luc Godard film], ANNA. In college, I took a class on the French New Wave film movement. Her name’s familiar but I don’t think I’ve seen any of her movies.
  • 13d. [Head of the Seine?], TETE. I wanted this clue to lead us to a French word for “toilet.” I chanced upon an unusual word for “toilet” in the dictionary this evening: donnicker.
  • 26d. [Something made in a chocolate factory?], AROMA. Hell, yeah. I used to work several blocks from the Blommer chocolate factory, and when the wind was from the northwest, BOOM. The air smelled like fresh-baked brownies.

Four stars. I don’t love all of the fill, but the theme engaged my limbic system in a good way.

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Heisenberg Uncertainty”

AV Club crossword solution, 10 24 13, “Heisenberg Uncertainty”

So apparently at some point during the run of Breaking Bad, the Walter White character adopted a “Heisenberg” persona, a reference to the Heisenberg of uncertainty principle fame. I haven’t made it past the pilot episode yet, so don’t ask me.
Is there a meaningful connection between the Heisenberg principle and this theme? You tell me, quantum mechanics people.

  • 1a, 67a. [With 67-Across, emulate Walter White, or what you can do four times in this grid without alerting the authorities], MAKE METH.
  • 7d. [“Breaking Bad,” e.g.], SERIALIZED DRAMA.

There are four squares, which I’ve circled in my answer grid, where the letter can be changed to another one to turn a 4-letter word into METH, and you won’t alert the authorities by doing so because the letter changes create valid alternative answer words in the crossings too:

  • 1d. [Baseball team that made about $300 million from Bernie Madoff], METS.
  • 20a. [People who don’t mingle much with the general public], SOMEBODIES –> HOMEBODIES.
  • 22a. [School subject that’s pluralized in the U.K.], MATH.
  • 11d. [Like acres and acres of real estate, say], EXPANSIVE –> EXPENSIVE.
  • 59a. [Screen door material], MESH.
  • 34d. [Was part of an exchange], CONVERSED –> CONVERTED.
  • 57d. [B-side of Kiss’s “Detroit Rock City” that became the A-side], BETH.
  • 55a. [Desperately trying to get a handhold], SCRABBLING –> SCRAMBLING.

Brilliant, right? It’s a sly twist on the CLINTON/BOBDOLE gambit, with covert drug-making operations right in the grid.

Fave four:

  • 5a. [Opera unfortunately not by 18-Across, because that would make me look brilliant (it’s by Puccini)], TOSCA. 18a is VERDI, clued [See 5-Across if you want, though it’s irrelevant to this famous Italian opera composer]. Cross-referenced clues irritate so many people, but a smart play on the convention is welcome.
  • 4d. [Magazine whose 2013 cover models have included Janelle Monáe and Serena Williams], ESSENCE. I’m a fan of both the singer/composer/musical auteur and the tennis player/fashionista.
  • 27d. [Verb or adjective, e.g.], NOUN. The words verb and adjective are nouns.
  • 46d. [Riverdale student that two hot girls are constantly fighting over for no clear reason], ARCHIE. Have you heard of the new Afterlife With Archie comic book? I believe Jughead is the first to become a zombie.

And I also wanted to mention these:

  • 41a. [One running a “Big Store”], CON MAN. No idea what this “Big Store” business is about.
  • 45a. [Tywin Lannister’s brother], KEVAN. He’s Tyrion, Cersei, and Cersei’s twin brother/lover Jamie’s uncle, apparently. See also: Constructor Kevan Choset. Also see also: 48a: EDDARD Stark. We don’t usually see two Game of Thrones names in one crossword.

4.5 stars from me. Incredibly elegant theme.

Updated Thursday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Heading to Court” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme entries that end with a type of court:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/24/13

  • [Sweet autumn vegetable] is something we’re seeing a lot of around here this time of year, or BUTTERNUT SQUASH – a “squash court” is something like a racquetball court, but I think it’s played with a different type of ball and racquets. Hopefully it hurts less when the ball hits you as I still have some welts from playing racquetball in college.
  • [They call the White House home] clued FIRST FAMILY – I’d like a definite article in there, what do you think? Anyway, “family court” is where I believe divorces, adoptions and other legal family matters are handled.
  • [Popular takeout choice] was CHINESE FOOD – I’m not a big fan of this cuisine, too much grease for my tastes. A “food court” is found in a mall.
  • [Classic TV character portrayed by Bob Keeshan] was CAPTAIN KANGAROO – a “kangaroo court” flaunts traditional judicial practices, as described here.

I like how “squash” in the first theme entry is not related to the game, but the others are pretty similar to their “court” meanings, which make them less interesting. ACTS AS IF for [Pretends] seems a bit off to my ear, can you substitute one for the other in a sentence? (I want “to be” after pretends, but that can’t follow “acts as if.”) OMNIBUS is a great entry, although I’d clue it without referring to a DC’s Latin motto ([“Justitia ___”]), since it has an English language sense of a compilation of written works. I’ll leave you with [How confident crossword solvers solve] for IN PEN; this solver uses a keyboard, so does that make me less or more confident than pen-solvers?

Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Pressed Into Service”

Fireball crossword solution, 10 24 13 “Pressed Into Service”

Various words that connote being condensed are condensed into 2-letter rebus chunks in this theme:

  • 21a. [Like some orange juice], FRESH-{SQ}{UE}{EZ}{ED}.
  • 37a. [Combined, as two existing songs], {MA}{SH}{ED} UP.
  • 47a. [Like many canned goods], VACUUM-{PA}{CK}{ED}.
  • 4d. [Stuck, perhaps], {JA}{MM}{ED} TIGHT.
  • 38d. [Like many dead bugs], {SQ}{UA}{SH}{ED} FLAT.

That’s 17 two-letter rebus squares smooshed into our five symmetrical theme answers. Well done, Mr. Hilger. The worst rebus crossing is RUERS, but everything else is solid.

37d: MANICURED is clued with [Performed a hand job], and 39a: BRA with [One girl’s two cups?] (if you don’t know the “Two Girls, One Cup” reference, suffice to say that it is repulsive fetish porn involving the drinking of excrement by naked women). I know I am not alone in despising Peter Gordon’s proclivity for sniggering Beavis and Butt-Head-style crudeness. I suppose there are solvers who appreciate the juvenile humor, but I can’t help thinking that the “despise” crowd is much, much larger than the “appreciate” crowd. These clues always take me out of the solving headspace and distract me with their grossness. And you? Come on, Peter, you’re better than this.

Four favorite clues:

  • 1a. [Ones’ place, maybe], TIP {JA}R. Dollar bills, not math.
  • 13a. [America won one in 1972], GRA{MM}Y. The band, not the country.
  • 5d. [Fifth element?], RYE. As in the whiskey sort of rye, in the size of liquor bottle called a fifth. Great mislead.
  • 54d. Puzzle pieces three in from the edges?], ZEES. The letters three letters in from the edges of the word “puzzle.”

Four stars. Would be higher but I have to dock it for the two gross clues.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “October Revolution” — Matt’s review

Brendan uses the Glorious People’s Eternal Soviet October Revolution as his base phrase in today’s puzzle, cycling through the six permutations of the letters OCT in the theme entries:

18-a [“The Producers” character] = BIALYSTOCK. What a clever play/movie this is.

24-a [Some value meal selections] = DIET COKES. No thanks!

40-a [English muffin spread] = APRICOT JAM. This I’ll take.

41-a = FEAR FACTOR. I’m not typing this clue out. Too gross.

50-a [1939 Greta Garbo Best Picture nominee (it lost to “Gone With the Wind”)] = NINOTCHKA. Never seen it, but great entry anyway.

58-a [Very strong] = HIGH OCTANE.

Good set, hooked into a good title revealer, and timely. Mолодец.


***56-d [Red letters] = CCCP. Known to people 40 and older as those scary letters in Tom Clancy movies, on Russian rockets, and on the jerseys of the Soviet teams in the Olympics.

***40-a [Avant-gardist who owns the website]. LOL-ed at this because, like Brendan and every other constructor, I’ve scoured Yoko ONO‘s Wikipedia page for new clue fodder more times that I’d care to recall, and I’ve used the reference myself.

***Extremely Scrabbly grid: 3 J’s, 2 X’s and a Z, plus a bunch of Y’s, K’s, M’s and C’s.

***Good fill: MINNESOTA, X PRIZE crossing OSX, JONAH HILL, SCARJO, John LOCKE, KARMA and timely SOX. And all that with six theme entries!

Fun fun fun. 4.20 stars.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter & Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

It’s very impressive to find a six-letter sequence that can anagram four ways! In this case as SWITCHPLATES suggests, PETALS, STAPLE, PLEATS and PLATES are anagrams of each other. Unfortunately, the phrases were on the boring side for me. FLOWERPETALS is definitely used in the real world, despite the fact that in most circumstances PETALS would be just as precise. METALSTAPLE also falls into that category. KNIFEPLEATS is somewhat interesting, and adds a K too.

A mostly lively grid. One thing that bothered me (probably more than most solvers) was the entries in the closed-in corners. There are two 4×4 and two more 4×3 corners that should be a snap to fill without awkward answers… And yet we have the partial INSO in the top-left, and ITO and plural abbreviation TSGTS in the bottom-left. I’d have used BSIDE in place of TSGTS and gone from there myself…

Other remarks:

  • [Under-the-sink installation], PTRAP. Only vaguely aware of this term, but it seemed unusually fresh and lively for a shorter answer.
  • [Island near Curacao], ARUBA. As in the ABC Islands.
  • STOOP, [Small porch]. American English. South African English stoep entered into the language independently from the same Dutch route, as I understand it.
  • CATWOMAN, [Supervillain with a whip]. I thought she was a “goodie”!? Mind you I’ve never been particularly into Batman and derivatives.
  • NUDISTS, [Colony residents]. Neat clue!

3 Stars.

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16 Responses to Thursday, October 24, 2013

  1. Francis says:

    A “Big Store” is the kind of con game featured in “The Sting”, where a fake venue is set up and everyone except the mark is in on the scam:

    (For more cool details on that sort of thing, I highly recommend David Maurer’s classic book “The Big Con”.)

  2. Martin says:

    Yes, Heisenberg is appropriate for the meth theme of the AV, beyond the character’s alter ego. The quantum mechanics analog (the Copenhagen interpretation) would hold that 20-Across, for example, is both SOMEBODIES and HOMEBODIES, and you speak of the probability of observing one or the other. I’m hoping that Across Lite v3 for quantum computers will be able to visualize this better, along with support for Schrödinger’s Rebus, which causes so much consternation on many Thursdays.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Sheesh. OK — the AV Club sounds interesting and clever, so I won’t enter a rating, and hence no justification therefor. I might as well try to rate a puzzle from a different planet. Talk about being “expected” to know things that are total gibberish to me — e.g. 1, 10, 37, 41, 44, 45, 48, 60, 67a and 46, 54, 57d. I somehow slogged through crossings in the top, but the bottom was just too much.

  4. Tracy B. says:

    The AV was right on my “wavelength” this morning, as I’ve been experimenting with making quantum puzzles recently. Whenever I work an AV puzzle, I discover that I have breakfast-test sensibilities when it comes to drugs and profanity. I tend to dig the AV puzzles for the ambitiously sexy entries, along with the high percentage of contemporary culture references and the sometimes offbeat, fresh cluing styles. Anyway, despite the reminders in this grid of a mind- , spirit- and life-destroying drug I wish didn’t exist, I enjoyed its quantumness immensely. Lovely work here.

    I especially loved the NYT today. The grid is beautiful, worthy of study. Pete Collins is one of my favorites.

  5. sbmanion says:


    On squash versus racquetball: when I was in college in the late ’60s, the squash ball was very hard. It is now a much softer ball. It essentially does not bounce–at least not very high. At one time there was a summer ball (very soft) and a winter ball (very hard). I haven’t kept up with squash in years, so I am not sure whether these distinctions still exist. Dunlop used to make a variety of squash balls with different single dots on them, each colored dot representing a different level of hardness. The racquetball is harder and infinitely bouncier.

    The major difference between squash and racquetball is that in squash there is a tin on the floor of the front wall called a telltale–I forget if it is 12 inches or 18 inches high. The ball must hit the front wall above the tin. The squash court is smaller and the ceiling is not in play and it is very hard to play the ball off the back wall because of the lack of bounce.

    You frankly do not want to get hit with either ball. The squash ball used to hurt more, but I no longer think this is the case. When racquetball first became popular in the mid-70s, it was essentially a YMCA sport. The first players were mostly ex-football, baseball and basketball jocks looking for a new sport. It was very, very macho and the attitude of the players was “I own center court.” They frequently blocked their opponent’s view of the front wall and it was not unusual for a player to get hit 5 or 6 times in a game. This was never legal (obstructing your opponent’s view causes an avoidable hinder if you are hit and should result in a side out), but it was part of the culture.

    The major difference was that the first wood and later aluminum racquets did not allow the player to generate much speed–serves above 130 mph were rare. With the new longer, lighter composite and graphite racquets, top pros hit the ball at 185 mph and even decent club players hit it at 150 mph+.

    Racquetball became popular because it was easy to become pretty good. A good squash player will immediately become a good racquetball player, while the reverse is not necessarily true. I peaked as a low (very low) open racquetball player and very good age group open player. I beat the woman’s city champion in squash, but was never much better than a B-squash player.


  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: Neat theme: perfect for Thursday! One area, the middle-left, had me utterly stymied. I put a I in to make ????ERINGEFFECT obfuscating that answer, and the whole area below TANGOED and above TEASETS (excluding those) frustratingly held out for about 8 minutes alone. Anyone else have ABLAZE and AFLAME before reaching AFLARE? My home city has a Cadbury’s factory – the AROMAs from that place are likewise spectactular!

  7. Sarah says:

    NYT: Can anyone explain how NEGATIVEFEEDBACK fits into the theme? Is the word BACK supposed to be a hint to reverse the entry? Is it embodying the fact that to get feedback, you give it to someone and then they return it to you with suggestions?

  8. Bruce G. says:

    What the heck is an “ambit”?

  9. Huda says:

    I loved the NY Times theme and execution, including the mix of physical and more conceptual boomerangs.

  10. bananarchy says:

    Late to the party, I know, but I got behind on my solving this week. Amy, count me among those who appreciate Peter Gordon’s juvenile humour. Crudeness for the sake of crudeness is one thing, but Gordon’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink clues are always clever and original. Plus, I personally find that the distracting effect you mentioned, that of being taken out of your solving headspace, offers a novel and welcome challenge. Solve enough crosswords and you start to immediately see through most of the misdirection that constructors throw at you, but I find that surprising and suggestive phrases like “hand job” in a clue can be more difficult to see past and I usually have to do a double take. Of course, I realized pretty quickly that “hand job” was not actually referring to the sex act, but it still slowed me down and tripped me up more than most of the other tricky clues. for its sheer shock value. That goes double for the 2G1C reference. To each his/her own, though, of course.

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