Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fireball 9:27 (Amy) 
NYT 5:42 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:18 (Amy) 
LAT 3:34 (Gareth) 
BEQ 5:31 (Matt) 
CS 4:55 (Dave) 

Trip Payne’s Fireball crossword, “Seeing Double”

Fireball crossword solution, 11 21 13 “Seeing Double”

Trip is mighty proud of what he pulled off in this crossword. The grid may not look like anything special, but the wild thing is what’s going on in the clues. You know those times when you read a clue and you want a particular answer and it turns out to be wrong, but then the clue recurs in the same puzzle and this time the answer fits? Here, that happens 39 times, because Trip didn’t want to do the work of writing 78 different clues. He just wrote 39 clues and used each one twice. Which means, of course, that he had to tread gingerly everywhere in the grid to ensure that the words would all work plausibly with another answer’s clue.

You can’t get the full effect without solving the puzzle yourself, but here are a few of the clues:

  • 20a, 59a. [What a reference librarian might search through], ARCHIVAL COPIES and LORE. (I was stuck in that upper right corner. Didn’t have either musician, had ARCHIVAL CO— and used Google’s autocomplete search option to consider the various alternatives. Yeowch.)
  • 9d, 12d. [Composer who was an accomplished pianist], CHOPIN and IVES. Did I mention that this corner was tough? I had the N and no other crossings and was stuck.
  • 14a, 11d. [Musical act whose popularity was highest in the 1980s], ASIA and SADE.
  • 21d, 25d. [European literary giant], IBSEN and BLAKE.
  • 24a, 55a. [What you might say to someone you’re picking up], LIE and HOP IN. Different kinds of “picking up.”

Other pairs are BRAVES and MINNESOTA TWINS (’91 World Series), SCENT and SMOG (they hang over a city), DUTY and IPOD (charging), DINNER and SEDER, DISHY and RACY.

It’s sort of a mind…freak while solving the puzzle to try to work the crossings and narrow down your options, when just about nothing is a gimme. If you knew the ’91 World Series teams, that would give you a leg up; I did not. It was a little bit like solving a Newsday “Saturday Stumper” with indirect, oblique clues that never quite deliver you straight to their answers. Challenging, and an interesting twist on the usual task of answering clues.

Now, it wasn’t particularly fun or funny for me (few wordplay clues, mostly ordinary vocab in the fill), so I won’t give this insane puzzle the maximum rating. But I’ll give it 4 2/3 stars.

Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 21 13, no. 1121

This is a cozy and supportive 15×16 crossword. (The grid is one row taller to accommodate a centered 14-letter answer in the middle, plus the grid needs to be long enough to cover your feet.) The theme is DOWN COMFORTERS15d. [Some bedcovers … or, literally, what the four unclued answers are]—and there are four comforting remarks filling the long Down entries. NOT TO WORRY, the puzzle assures us. IT GETS BETTER. THIS WILL PASS, really. THERE, THERE. This is exactly the theme I needed this evening. Thank you, Mr. Markey.

My main trouble spot was 27a. [401(k) employer matching contributions, e.g.]. I had the first N, I had that G, I thought “well, that’s a little odd, but sure, NEST EGGS fits.” It’s the awkward NONWAGES. And I wanted 7d: [Say so] to be ASSERT rather than ASSENT, and got no help from 23d. [Harvard University Press’s ___ Classical Library], LOEB. My secondary trouble spot was 1a. Pen denizen], which wanted to be a PIG ([Mojo] can be POWER, sort of, can’t it?) or HOG, but turned out to be a CON in the state pen crossing a mojo CHARM.

Everything else seemed well-pegged to Thursday level and was neither too easy nor too hard. BOOK A TRIP, SPONGEBOB, and COPY-EDIT livened up the otherwise journeyman fill.

For me, the welcome affirmations of the theme raise this puppy to four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Hey, Mr.!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Here’s another constructor whose grids are pretty recognizable–interesting theme entries with high density (five today) and unassailable fill are the hallmarks of puzzles Ms. Lempel’s puzzles. Today we have five phrases where the first word is a famous Mister:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/21/13

  • [“No dawdling!”] clued RIGHT AWAY!” – have you found your Mr. Right?
  • [Casual caffeine-fueled gathering] was COFFEE KLATCH – Mr. Coffee is a brand of coffeemakers. Now talk amongst yourselves, I’m getting verklempt.
  • [Teddy Roosevelt prey] was BIG GAME – my mind goes to Sex and the City when I think of Mr. Big.
  • [Jimmy Carter, once] was PEANUT FARMER – who knew that peanuts could have bad enough eyesight to require a monocle?
  • And, appropriately, our last entry in which we say goodbye for today was [Nabisco cookie brand] or CHIPS AHOY!

Pretty wonderful theme and great examples. Even with five theme entries, Lynn still found room for I DON’T GET IT (which was my experience with yesterday’s puzzle!) and CARICATURE. A VALIANT effort which rates a rare five stars from this reviewer.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Convention Centers” — Matt’s review

Quick review here since I’m a bit pressed for time: Brendan takes a septet of cities around the country and imagines what trade associations would hold their conventions there:

17-a [California setting for the National Puzzlers’ League convention?] = EUREKA. What you shout after solving a puzzle? Not an NPL member so if there’s a deeper meaning it’s over my head.

21-a [Florida setting for the Up-and-Coming Filmmakers convention?] = HOLLYWOOD.

26-a [Texas setting for the Wedding Florists Society convention?] = GARLAND.

35-a [Virginia setting for the Associated Press convention?] = NEWPORT NEWS.

44-a [Colorado setting for Rock Climbers United convention?] = BOULDER.

53-a [Iowa setting for the League of Sofa Manufacturers convention?] = DAVENPORT.

59-a [Alabama setting for the American Cellphone Association convention?] = MOBILE.

Works for me. Best clue: [Draft pick with a weak body] for BUD LIGHT. Also dug [Like haunted houses vis-à-vis normal houses] for EERIER, and fill like OUR HOUSE, NO EXIT, ONE GIG, HITACHI and NON-EVENT.

3.75 stars.

MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

The revealer, CRAZYMIXEDUPKID, sounds like something I may have vaguely heard somewhere before. Google suggests it is the name of a few songs I haven’t heard of, but didn’t conclusively prove its in-the-language-ness either way, so you’ll have to supply more in the comments. The theme phrases contain four of the five alternative arrangements of KID, leaving out IKD. I guess that’s a minor demerit, but the more important thing was that answers present are all interesting. We have:

  • 18a, [*Filet mignon dish named for a goddess], STEA(K DI)ANE. I’ve never encountered this here, but Americans seem quite enamored by the dish.
  • 24a, [*Emergency supplies], FIRST A(ID K)IT
  • 40a, [Troubled youth literally hiding in each answer to a starred clue], CRAZYMIXEDUPKID
  • 52a, [*Pipe-smoking royal], OL(D KI)NG COLE
  • 63a, [*Fictional rank above Padawan], JE(DI K)NIGHT

The rest of the puzzle was very conservative; not many long answers out side of the theme and not much in the way of big splotches of white. That may have been a contributing factor to my unusually fast time. That and the fact there are very few non-Monday answers: PERI and ELON are somewhat crossword-esey names (but if you’re a long-time crossword solver they’re gimmes) and TEMPI is a tricky plural, but otherwise everything is very familiar!

Assuming CRAZYMIXEDUPKID works, 3.5 stars.


Brendan Quigley’s AV Club crossword, “Hot Soup”

AV Club crossword answers, 11 22 13 “Hot Soup”

Sex-related soup puns are the name of the game, and yet there is no mention of the movie Tampopo.

  • 18a. [Soup that might accentuate your bust?], PUSH-UP BROTH. You can pronounce “broth” with the same vowel sound as “bra” or (as I do) with the “aw” sound instead of “ah.”
  • 24a. [Stud who got his looks from eating instant noodles?], RAMEN GOD. I think this one’s a pun on “Roman god” but I’m not sure.
  • 32a. [Food-sex act with hot beef, yes, but also MSG and some mint and lime for garnish?], PHOLLATIO. Pho + fellatio.
  • 40a. [Japanese soup that serves as an aphrodisiac?], MISO HORNY. Play on the song “Me So Horny.” Very smooth pun.
  • 50a, 58a. [With 58-Across, add some spice to your relationship with clear soup?], CONSOMMÉ / THE MARRIAGE. Once you’ve had the soup, you’re ineligible for an annulment.


  • 26a. [2013 viral music video by Ylvis], “THE FOX.” If you haven’t seen it, do click through. It’s fun. Ylvis are two Norwegian brothers with a comedy show.
  • 3d. [People who might eat horse?], DRUG MULES. Horse = heroin.
  • 36d. [Chant sung while waving a Real Madrid scarf], OLE. “Oléeeeee, olé olé olé.”
  • 29d. [Keg size that pours about 50 beers], PONY. So when someone says they want a pony for their birthday, it’s more achievable than you may have realized.

Lows: RELAP, OLAV I (which could be OLAF I) crossing an unfamiliar LEVIN at the V (at least LEFIN isn’t a familiar surname).

Did not know: 34d. [Franz Ferdinand’s first hit], “TAKE ME OUT”; 63a. [Talk show host Mark formerly in the Reagan administration], LEVIN.

3.5 stars.

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21 Responses to Thursday, November 21, 2013

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    Whoops – didn’t see that Thursday was tabulated already. I gave a rating (a rare 5) to what I thought was the Wednesday CS. Any possibility of clearing the rating grid?


  2. Abide says:

    Fireball was amazing. Took a while to get a foothold, and at least an hour to complete. Did you miss the theme?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There’s a theme beyond the double-clue thing?

      • Giovanni P. says:

        Look at the long entries in this one.

        Not a bad construction at all by Trip, but It didn’t knock my socks off–the difficulty I had in solving this one might have contributed.

        • Jeff H. says:

          I also didn’t pick up on the theme entries at first, but once I noticed TWINS and CLONES at the end of the lower two, that got me COPIES in the NE, which was the last section to fall. Agree that without those theme entries, the double-clue gimmick could seem somewhat unsatisfying; with them, it’s that much more impressive.

  3. Evad says:

    Expected to see a reference to Dan Savage in today’s NYT commentary. Here’s one of the more famous of the videos accumulated by his “It Gets Better” project:

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I started with PIG at 1A and POWER at 1D and that NW corner wouldn’t budge. So I solved from East to West and it all came together. I got the DOWN COMFORTERS relatively early, it made me chuckle, and it helped immensely.

    THIS WILL PASS felt off– the THIS TOO SHALL PASS is what I definitely wanted. What this puzzle really needed: HANG IN THERE. But it is a little too long, and there are already 2 THEREs in there…

    I don’t love that OBAMA clue– at all… And if you google ” NON WAGE” you find it associated with the word “Labour” spelled the British way, and it mostly shows up in academic articles. All this detracted from an otherwise very clever and friendly theme.

  5. Brucenm says:

    I’m back to being frozen out of the LAT and CS puzzles. Anyone else having the same problem? The ad screen which normally precedes the arrival of the puzzle appears as a blank rectangle, but the ad never starts. A couple times, the screen headed “today’s puzzle” eventually appears, but nothing happens — the ‘download the puzzle’ invitation does not appear. The screen stays blank where the puzzle should be. (And I did walk away from the computer a couple times to give it 20 minutes or so to change its mind.) This started again yesterday.

    That disease seems to be chronic, ready to reappear unexpectedly just when I thought it had been cured. Maybe it’s because I had chicken pox as a kid. That joke reflects my level of understanding of the causal chains affecting computer behavior.

    As I say, I wonder if the same thing is happening to anyone else.

    • mmespeer says:

      A while ago I was having problems with viewing pages and a helpful commenter suggested I go to Firefox Help. Don’t know if you are using Firefox, but if you are, it might help to Reset. Good luck.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    The Shortzian-era began 20 years ago today, with the first New York Times puzzle edited by Will. Crosswords would still be around without him, but it is hard to imagine what Crossworld would look like. Would there be blogs and tournaments?

    Happy anniversary, Will!

  7. Gareth says:

    NYT: Interesting collection of phrases. Struggled mightily in the area either side of DOWN. Only vaguely heard of a down comforter… Had ARm, ASSErT (Hi Amy!) and less explicably SPONGEBOy (d’oh!). Didn’t know FOWLES or NONWAGES or that particular LOEB either… SO as I said, that area was mucho tough for me!

    • Brucenm says:

      The clues for 4a and 6d were meaningless to me, so I went with “arm” and “moco.” John Fowles is an excellent novelist. I recommend The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus. His first novel, The Collector, (which I interpret in an eccentric and unusual way), may be more widely known, since it was made into a movie with Samantha Eggar. Not a bad film, but in my view, misses the point of the book.

      • Huda says:

        Wow, I forgot that movie. It was disturbing, now that I recall.

        • Brucenm says:

          Yes, it *was* disturbing, and the book even more so, especially in my eccentric interpretation. Believe it or not, I was actually moved to write an essay about the book, published narrowly and locally. I won’t try to bore everyone with a summary except to say that I do not regard the characters as merely stick figures — an evil, psychotic abuser and an innocent, naive victim, but rather I saw their relationship as much more nuanced and complex. Caliban and Ariel, perhaps, but only if one understands that those Shakespearean characters are much more ambiguous and complex than they are in the popular consciousness (which was one thing I focused on in my piece.) I even suggested allegorical evocations of modern society ( which I won’t to into here.) As you can see, I was much engrossed by the book and the movie.

  8. Brucenm says:

    The Fireball was definitely unusual, distinctive and challenging — (positive, desirable features) — though I thought some of the double clues were stretched almost to the breaking point. The Chopin-Ives corner was actually my first and easiest section, followed by the bottom. Ives was not only a fine pianist but also a genuine baseball and football star at Yale. And he was not only an insurance executive (generally known) but also a major creative mind in that field, having devised novel and original ways of using insurance contracts as financial planning and hedging devices, which had great influence on the later evolution of the insurance industry.

    But regrettably, the puzzle was a DNF for me. I never did get the 4 x 4 square in the extreme NW. And here’s the punchline of this post: Why is {What you might say to someone you’re picking up up} a clue for “lie.” (I’m censoring some of the more exotic thoughts bouncing around in my head.) Does “lie” mean “recline” or “mendacity?”

    • Bencoe says:

      Mendacity, like “I’m rich” or “I’m the world’s greatest lover”.

      • Brucenm says:

        Oh OK. Thanks. I get it

      • Howard B says:

        The LIE clue was odd for me too, but overall, this was one of the most amazing puzzle feats in recent memory – the imbedded ‘clones/copies/twins’ (note the plural) theme made it all the more impressive, and I actually did find it fun to solve.
        For me, breaking in was the key, using trial-and-error. Attempted to find a pair that had a more limited range of possibilities, with different lengths, then trying fill until things fell into place.
        End result was about an 8 minute solve time, with the NE falling last due to the unknown IVES.


  9. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Google suggests it is the name of a few songs I haven’t heard of, but didn’t conclusively prove its in-the-language-ness either way, so you’ll have to supply more in the comments.

    A search of Google Books showed that crazy mixed-up kid is listed in the Shorter Dictionary of Catch Phrases.


  10. Davis says:

    I hate to be so picky about such a cool puzzle, but the MACINTOSH CLONES entry (as clued) in the Fireball puzzle bugged me just a little. There hasn’t been such a thing as a Mac clone since the late 90’s. The closest thing currently are the bespoke “Hackintosh” systems you can find on eBay, or that you can make yourself if you’re so inclined.

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