Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fireball 4:44 (Amy) 
NYT 4:09 (Amy) 
AV Club ?? (Amy) 
LAT 4:34 (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
CS 5:47 (Dave) 

Peter Wentz’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 68”

Fireball crossword answers, 11 28 13 “Themeless 68”

I thought of Peter Wentz this afternoon when a Fall Out Boy song came on the radio (mind you, I would not have known if the dashboard screen didn’t display such info). That’s the other Pete Wentz, the one who plays bass but is probably terrible at making crosswords. Whereas Peter W. has a knack for making a wild themeless:

  • 1a. [Salty snacks that were endorsed by “Macho Man” Randy Savage], SLIM JIMS.
  • 15a. [Utterly], TO THE MAX.
  • 32a. [Gangster on “The Simpsons” voiced by Joe Mantegna], FAT TONY.
  • 35a. [Unsophisticated dullard, in slang], MOUTHBREATHER. I’m going to drop “mouthbreather” and switch to “unsophisticated dullard.”
  • 39a. [Doesn’t shoot for the stars], AIMS LOW. A worthy goal!
  • 42a. [Convenience store implements], SPORKS.
  • 46a. [Dope], PINHEAD.
  • 57a. [2004 chart-topper by Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx], SLOW JAMZ.
  • 8d. [Annual Austin media festival, as it’s often styled], SXSW. South by Southwest.
  • 12d. [Product that produces a geyser when combined with Mentos], DIET COKE.
  • 13d. [Quick size-up], ONCE OVER.
  • 21d. [Doesn’t just sideswipe], T-BONES. Fresher as a verb than as meat.
  • 34d. [“Would you look at that!”], “OH, WOW.”
  • 44d. [First one out in “The Contest”], KRAMER. The classic Seinfeld episode in which the foursome vied to be the last one to refrain from engaging in the art of self-love.
  • 45d. [Very smart], SNAZZY.

That’s a lot of fill calculated to make me a happy solver. The Wentzy/Gordonian vibe also brings cluing flavor, of course. Every single one of these answers could be clued in a stale and boring way, and often is.

  • 1d. [Restroom array], STALLS. And such a lovely array.
  • 7d. [Make teary-eyed, in a way], MACE. Ouch!
  • 30d. [Beneficial compost pile residents], WORMS.
  • 51d. [Onetime Lance Armstrong backer, for short], USPS.
  • 56d. [Its D.C. building has the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society”], IRS.
  • 58d. [Rooms with bumf], WCS. That’s a Brit term that’s short for “bum-fodder,” apparently. “Useless or tedious printed documents,” the dictionary says. Is that fodder to emerge from the bum or fodder for wiping the bum? I am unclear.
  • 59d. [Patriot missile interceptor, at times?], JET. New England Patriots football vs. the New York Jets.

4.5 stars, man. MOUTHBREATHER anchoring the puzzle? Good times.

Almost every week, I am thankful for the Fireball crossword. (It doesn’t come out every single week. And there have only been a couple Fireballs that I have disliked over its entire run.) If you like good and fresh and smart and usually challenging puzzles too, and you’re reading this but don’t subscribe to Fireball, you can sign up here. Peter Gordon also produces another puzzle, Fireball Newsweekly, which I’ve enjoyed this year (I use it to keep sharp for an online trivia league). FB Newsweekly is going biweekly (aww…) but will surely still be good despite coming less often. It’s time to pledge for the 2014 FB Newsweekly Kickstarter deal. Twenty puzzles next year provided Peter raises $10,000 in all—meaning he will be able to pay himself about $500 per puzzle and retain the copyright on his work. A lot more appealing to the constructor than making $100 for a puzzle and signing over all rights, no?

Loren Muse Smith and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 28 13, no 1128

Nifty theme: That Samuel L. Jackson movie is rendered literally with some snakes sitting atop airplanes in this 14×16 grid.

  • 15a. [Joe Louis, to fans], THE BROWN BOMBER. There’s an ASP in CLASP above the BOMBER.
  • 34a. [One interested in current affairs?], HANG GLIDER. ASP in RASP above the GLIDER.
  • 42a. [Gang Green member], NEW YORK JET. ASP in ASPIRES over the JET. This clue meant nothing to me and there was an unfamiliar name lurking in a key crossing point. 40d. [Horror film director Alexandre ___]?? Who? I went with a MET crossing AMA but it’s a JET (which, after all, is a plane) and AJA.
  • 61a. [Cult classic whose title is depicted four times in this puzzle], SNAKES ON A PLANE. ASP in HASP on the PLANE.

Unusual/tough spots:

  • 5d. [Little Bighorn conflict], SIOUX WAR. Should probably be more familiar to me than it is.
  • 25a. [Base of a certain pole, figuratively], LOW MAN. Basically a partial extracted from “low man on the totem pole,” no? Can LOW MAN stand alone?
  • 47a. [Cottonwoods], ALAMOS. I count this as crosswordese.
  • 21a. [Flower feature], CALYX. It’s such a pretty-looking word.
  • 31a. [Some radios], AMS. “Hand me those AMS, will you?” Er, no. Mornings, sure. The professional group your local TV news weather person may be part of, the American Meteorological Society, sure (you’ve seen that “AMS” logo by the meteorologist’s name, haven’t you?).
  • 24d. [Small antelope], ORIBI.
  • 48d. [Canadian-born comedian once featured on the cover of Time], SAHL.
  • 49a. [Tennis’s Mandlikova], HANA—followed by 51a. [Classic toothpaste name], IPANA. Really? HANA IPANA banana fo-fanna, anyone?

Kitchen-savvy people, tell me if 1d. [They may be cast-iron] is kosher for POTS. Are there cast-iron pots, or only pans? I know there is some distinction, and “cast-iron pot” doesn’t trip off the tongue at all.

3.33 stars from me. The fill didn’t rise to the theme’s level.

Updated Thanksgiving morning:

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

Before I jump into today’s CrosSynergy puzzle, I’d like to express my thanks to the community of solvers and constructors who gather here. The puzzles and the comments continually challenge and impress me and keep me on my toes. A veritable cornucopia of clever constituents this community is, and I’m grateful for it being a big part of my daily life.

So we must move from that positive note, to a negative one, as we deal with a decidedly un-Thanksgiving theme in today’s puzzle. Patrick gives us four eight ten things that end in either begin or end with NO and trusses them up with a revealer at the end.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/28/13

  • [Former California congressman] was SONNY BONO – more famous as the husband of Cher and father of Chaz.
  • [Female voice part] clued MEZZO SOPRANO – I suppose if Patrick was going for all names here, he could’ve chosen Tony, Carmela, Meadow or Anthony, Jr.
  • [Red hot chili pepper] was a SERRANO – I wonder where it lies on the hotness scale–at least less than the recently-anointed Carolina Reaper we spoke about the other day.
  • [Alternative to a spinet] clued UPRIGHT PIANO – I used to have a Baldwin spinet piano, an upright is what Rowlf the Dog sometimes plays on The Muppets.
  • And our revealer, [Nancy Reagan’s antidrug slogan, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] clued JUST SAY NO – all First Ladies choose a cause, and Nancy’s was the antidrug campaign. Michelle’s I believe is combatting adolescent obesity.

Sort of a light theme as I can think of a few other things that end in -NO, such as casino, oregano, cappuccino and volcano, but perhaps something light is a good counterweight to the heavy meal most of us will enjoy later today. But as I say that, I’m just now noticing 4 more -NO entries, symmetrically placed, so I believe they are thematic as well: ERNO and DUNNO across the top and STENO and NANO along the bottom. Any others I missed? Funny how many other entries end in O: TOTO, ELO, REO, PLO, ARLO, PORTO and IT SO, but that may be just a byproduct of all the theme material. Hope you enjoy time with family and friends today and spend a bit of time reflecting on what you are grateful for.

Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Retiring Number One”

AV Club crossword solution, 11 28 13 “Retiring Number One”

Leaving in an hour for an early Thanksgiving dinner, so 10-minute post.

“Looking out for number one” means looking out for yourself, so “I” is the key here. That letter is “retired” from the theme answers:

  • 17a. [“The Mariana Trench sucks,” and so on?], PACIFIC SLANDERS. Love this clue. (Pacific Islanders.)
  • 23a, 38a. [With 38-Across, goes on and on about a tropical getaway?], PRATES OF THE / CARIBBEAN. (Pirates of the Caribbean.)
  • 55a. [People who might just tase a potato if the microwave is broken?], POLICE CHEFS. Ha! (Police chiefs.)
  • 63a. [Coach’s cliché … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM. Holy cats! I didn’t catch this when I solved last night, but the three words that have lost an I are all team names. New York Islanders (hockey), Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball), Kansas City Chiefs (football). I liked how the puzzle played out without the team theme, but it’s super-smart with it. Well done, Caleb.

Wide-open corners with lots of 7s; TRIP HOP, POP-UP AD, SUMATRA, and JERGENS my favorites among them.

Toughest crossing: 8a. [Godzilla, e.g.], KAIJU meets 12d. [Katy Perry single that’s either homophobic or wry commentary, depending on whom one asks], “UR SO GAY.” Don’t know the song but surmised that it would be a U in UR and KAIJU. The 2007 song was not a hit. But! Wikipedia says the song was “styled in the genres of trip hop.”

4.25 stars.

David W. Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Today’s puzzle features a pretty basic definition theme; this isn’t my favourite theme type, but you knew that. The four definitions form a familiar set of homophones. The definitions in the first two answers [Wright], WILBURORORVILLE and [Rite], CHURCHCEREMONY feel a lot more natural than those in the second two – [Right], STARBOARDATSEA and [Write], EMULATEANAUTHOR.

The rest of the grid was impressively clean: a few of the harder answers were on the crossword-esey side, but I have no issue with that. I didn’t know [Norfolk, Va., campus], ODU (apparently that’s Old Dominion) but US Univs. are a weak spot of mine! I can never keep them straight! Again, not a demerit, just an observation. Another learning point for me was [John of “Necessary Roughness”] STAMOS – I thought he disappeared after “Full House”!

There were only two long down answers, both somewhat colourful: LESSTHAN and COLDCUTS. The latter also had a clever clue, [Ham at a party, say], which disguised the plural and also had me thinking of the wrong ham… I also liked [Rover’s turf] for MARS.

The the theme didn’t excite me, but the puzzle was otherwise very good! 3 Stars.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Fowl Language” — Matt’s review

Six phrases feature sounds made by fowl today from BEQ:

17-a [Popular dashboard application for management of Twitter accounts] = TWEET DECK

61-a [Intercom] = SQUAWK BOX

9-d [Betray impatience during rush hour] = HONK THE HORN

11-d [Entertainment with only a small window to enjoy it] = PEEP SHOW

24-d [Malpractice suit figure] = QUACK DOCTOR

38-d [Devour rapidly] = GOBBLE UP.

Seems appropriate. Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Thanksgivukkah, everyone! I’m thankful that BEQ was born.

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19 Responses to Thursday, November 28, 2013

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Really a tough time with this today especially in the center-west, from CALYX down to IPANA. Some unfair crossings in my opinion (BIKO/ORIBI, SAHL/IPANA, even AJA/ALAMOS).

    But knowing Jeff’s penchant for things geeky, I so wanted the “cult classic” to be MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 which celebrates 25 years today and has a history of Thanksiving Day marathons (including one today!). Alas, only MYSTERY SCIENCE fit into the puzzle before I abandoned the idea. :(

  2. bob stigger says:

    Amy, cast iron pots are available in nearly any size you can imagine — Dutch ovens, casseroles, you name it. Most of them are enameled so they don’t have the lovely dark patina of a cast iron skillet.

  3. Tracy B. says:

    Yeah, that Fireball wowed me! I will definitely renew my subscription. Reliably excellent puzzles.

    NYT: I did put PANS in at 1-Down and felt POTS was less apt when I got it. Overall, though, the puzzle unfolded in just the right way. It wasn’t too quick to reveal itself, but neither did it frustrate. I liked the odd sizing of the grid too. Nice work by this team, and a great debut for Loren.

  4. sbmanion says:

    Fun puzzle for me. Felt like a themeless.

    As a life-long Steven Seagal fan, I can stand up to anyone in the category of “who likes the lamest movies?” My family and I saw Sharknado on Neflix last night and I must say that both Sharknado and Snakes on the Plane were lame even by my exceedingly low standards. Sometimes a movie hits the zeitgeist at exactly the right moment and develops a following. If you see it outside the zeitgeist window, it is infinitely harder to find the humor.

    Caddyshack will always be the funniest movie I ever saw. My friends and I were literally laughing so hard we had to gasp for air. I saw it a year ago again and wondered what the big deal was.

    C’est la vie.

    I knew ORIBI immediately because I play animal hangman with my kids, who now insist on ever more unusual names for animals, and that was a recent choice (they didn’t know it).


    • Brucenm says:

      Steve, did you forget about Airplane? Blows Caddyshack out of the water.

    • joon says:

      well this is a funny little discussion. my all-time favorite movie is the largely forgotten zucker brothers classic, top secret!. i still have an unfortunate habit of alluding to those jokes in conversation as if everybody else has that movie memorized.

  5. Brucenm says:

    You’d think I would come to terms with how out of sync I am with the world. I thought the NYT was one of the more original, varied, unhackneyed, thoroughly enjoyable puzzles in recent memory. (Actually 46a, sync, as clued was my least favorite entry.) Gang Green is a very familiar moniker for the Jets. Would you have objected to “Monsters of the Midway”? Alexandre Aja is a young French director who has done some interesting horror films, and I’m not a fan at all of the basic slasher genre. (Others have expressed approval for the puzzle too. I don’t mean to suggest I’m the only one.)

    The Fireball ???? Well I’m trying to avoid dumping on puzzles. But does anyone really know what Catan resource means? bumf? Randy Savage’s snack? Shore Thing? Fat Tony? Slow jamz? Kirkman? Mouthbreather? (That’s funny, at least. And the geyser clue was interesting. Maybe I’ll try it.) Everything was gettable, but a slog.

    I should register that I also liked Caleb’s AV very much, especially since I have dumped on some of his earlier puzzles.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’m off to cook.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Settlers of Catan is much loved and respected in the board game community, Randy Savage is a pro wrestler who would endorse macho junk food like Slim Jims, “Jersey Shore” was a huge hit (though I grant you I didn’t know the punny title of Snooki’s book), and the universe of “Simpsons” characters is well-known to the many millions of diehard fans (and even the less hardcore fans who have watched the show a few times in the last TWENTY YEARS), and mouthbreather is entirely familiar. Didn’t know Jen Kirkman, bumf (though the bum shines through), or “Slow Jamz.” But Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show is well-known for “slow-jamming the news,” with Brian Williams singing the news in a smoky slow jam style; President Obama even guested and slow-jammed the news one time. Not entirely relevant to the 2003 “Slow Jamz” rap/singing collabo, but that song has been called one of the top 20 hip-hop songs of all time, and it was nominated for a Grammy. Fair game for a puzzle. Don’t forget, Bruce, that popular culture includes the word “popular” for a reason. Lots of people know that stuff.

      • Brucenm says:

        I grant you all that — my reactions are totally subjective. I didn’t think it was an awful puzzle — just one that I didn’t enjoy very much, though I did finish it. I would have included ‘sxsw’ as another of the utterly mysterious entries. I looked up Settlers of Catan, and it sounds like something I might enjoy. I like board games — Othello (Reversi), Risk, and especially the Civilization series.

        • joon says:

          do you mean avalon hill’s civilization/advanced civilization? if that kind of game tickles your fancy, definitely check out settler of catan. it’s the best (still) of a newer (1990s-present) generation of board games, more popular in europe than here, that take great ideas/game mechanics and strive to make the games 1) playable in an hour or two, instead of a whole day, and 2) retain their enjoyment value over many, many replayings. catan has been around for almost 20 years now, and while there are lots of great games, it’s still the gold standard.

          happy thanksgiving!

      • Bencoe says:

        The only thing I didn’t recognize at all on that list was Jennifer Kirkman, as well. Would rather have seen Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
        I also put New York Mets instead of JETS. I know virtually nothing about football, but I know how popular it is and think it’s perfectly fair. The things I kicked myself about afterwards were the obvious need for a type of plane there, given the theme, and the fact that the Mets don’t use green as one of their colors. I presume the Jets do?
        I just don’t like football–the people at my local trivia night always make fun of me because those are the only easy questions I miss.

  6. Gareth says:

    Love it when a puzzle seems to be entirely themeless until you get to the revealer and then it smacks you upside the head! Great punchline, Jeff & Loren! Kudos on your NYT debut, Loren! I’m not sure what’s with the South African mini-theme of BIKO and ORIBI, but it’s nice to have an advantage some days… PS: Clue on KLAXON was too funny!

  7. pauer says:

    Giant-balloon-sized thanks to all of the bloggers, solvers, constructors, and editors in Crossworld. What a wonderful community of word freaks!

    (Oh, and the long downs in the CS puz were intended to be thematic, as well, though the NOs come at the front instead of the end.)

  8. pauer says:

    Yep. :) There was also PORNO in the east at first, but I couldn’t get a symmetrically placed entry so it had to go.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Congrats to Loren on the debut! Many happy returns…

  10. Funny, I thought the toughest crossing in the AVXW was the J at KAIJU/JERGENS. I didn’t know the Kate Perry song, but at least the U was inferrable. The J? Could have been pretty much any consonant. I guessed B.

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