Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fireball 8:17 (Amy) 
NYT 4:45 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:32 (Amy) 
LAT 5:30 (Gareth) 
BEQ 5:15 (Matt) 
CS 5:40 (Dave) 

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 16 14, no. 1016

NY Times crossword solution, 1 16 14, no. 1016

Not your usual visual effect here—the theme is DOTTED I (36a. [Lowercase letter illustrated six times in this puzzle?]), and the letter I appears in the grid exactly six times. In each case, the letter O appears directly above it, “dotting” the I with a big circle as if it is a fifth-grade girl. The six Down answers that contain the thematic OI are 5d: DO IT, 9d: A MOI, 29d: SPOIL, 32d: COINED, 43d: BORZOI, and 46d: VOILA. The grid sections involved in this OI-play have stacked pairs of 8s and 4×6 chunks in addition to intersecting the O and I in that central theme answer, DOTTED I.

It wasn’t the most fun puzzle to solve, but I can respect the theme.

What else? This:

  • 8a. [Cartoonist who said “I don’t read or watch TV to get ideas. My work is basically sitting down at the drawing table and getting silly”], Gary LARSON. Didn’t know that quote.
  • 26a. [Coll. units], HRS. Really had to work the crossings here. Damn you, Carleton, where the typical class earned you 6 credits. No hours there.
  • 30a. [Gets ready to play, say, with “up”], LACES. Does not apply to sports in which you don’t need to wear lace-up shoes, such as spelling and competitive crosswording.
  • 33a. [Hunt’s production], CATSUP. Hunt’s brand ketchup.
  • 34a. [What some waiters never see?], GODOT. Literary!
  • 59a. [Not shoot for the stars, to put it mildly], AIM LOW. Favorite fill in this puzzle.
  • 60a. [“I’m not the only one!”], “YOU DO TOO.” Eh. Weird echo with 65a: ET TU.
  • 27d. [Tech, e.g.: Abbr.], SCH. So Tech/tech is a noun meaning “school” here? Not sure I get it.
  • 43d. [Russian wolfhound], BORZOI. The finest publishing houses are named after exotic animal breeds, no?
  • 51d. [Fist-bumps], DAPS. Have you seen the cute viral video of the toddler who meets her dad’s identical twin for the first time? It ends with a baby/uncle dap.
  • 55d. [Kennel club reject, no doubt], MUTT. Actually, no! The Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show is opening up the agility competition to mixed-breed dogs this year.

3.75 stars.

Bruce Sutphin’s Fireball crossword, ‘Sylly Strings”

Fireball crossword solution, 1 16 14 "Sylly Strings"

Fireball crossword solution, 1 16 14 “Sylly Strings”

Near as I can tell the title is a gentle hint at the syllable swapping in the theme answers. Why “Strings”? I don’t know. Each theme answer flips two syllables in the first word, with spelling changing as needed to make a new word:

  • 18a. [Strong desire for glittery couture?], SEQUIN JONES. Quincy Jones, with the Quin- and -cy sounds swapped.
  • 28a. [What you see when the Invisible Man moons you?], ZERO CHEEKS. Rosy cheeks. I pronounce the number as “zeer-oh” rather than “zee-roh,” but either is valid.
  • 35a. [Bird that rises from a high-protein side dish?], QUINOA PHOENIX. Joaquin Phoenix. Terrific find! I bet this was the germ for the puzzle.
  • 42a. [What to eat when carbo-loading before a certain cardio workout?], TAE-BO PASTA. Bowtie pasta.
  • 55a. [Prizes for cool cats?], NEATO AWARDS. Tony Awards.

Interesting theme with a number of surprising word changes, and most intriguing clues. Pretty much a standard Fireball theme, in other words—well conceived, well executed, not boring.

Challenging puzzle overall.  In addition to having to work to unravel the theme, there’s some difficult fill and tough clues. And also some clever clues. Let us commingle them all:

  • 9a. [Frankfurter who knows how laws, but not sausages, are made?], FELIX.
  • 14a. [Biding time?], EVE. Huh?
  • 20a. [Bubbling pools in Yellowstone], MUDPOTS. Huh?
  • 24a. [Frenchies and Swissies, e.g.], DOGS. Huh?
  • 62a. [Character at a wrap party?], MUMMY. Ah!
  • 2d. [Drip conduit], IV TUBE. Clue confused me.
  • 3d. [He and Prymaat have a daughter named Connie], BELDAR. Took me forever to remember the name of Dan Aykroyd’s Conehead character!
  • 8d. [Setting of the former Phillips U.], ENID, OK. Having APING instead of DOING for [Impersonating] slowed me down here. (APE is hiding at 39d instead.) Phillips University didn’t change its name, it closed down in 1998. Not a lot of colleges close up shop.
  • 19d. [Rummy potations, perhaps], NOGS. Beurk! (That’s French for “eww.”)
  • 32d. [“It’s a long story”], “DON’T ASK.” Excellent fill.
  • 36d. [Secret location?], UNDERARM. Secret brand antiperspirant.
  • 53d. [Many a mag page], ADVT. Awk./unfam. abbr. This is the worst fill in the puzzle, but the rest is pretty darned solid.

4.5 stars. Love the theme, really like the overall fill and cluing.

Updated Thursday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “CD Players” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I guess this is two initial week at CrosSynergy; yesterday we had “KP Duty” and today we have “CD Players,” although today’s theme is a bit tighter in that the CD’s in question are all initials of famous people (and perhaps, by the title’s implication, “players”):

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/16/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/16/14

  • [CD player in romantic comedy] was CAMERON DIAZ – another flashback–didn’t we just comment on how much work she’s had done on her face with questionable results? You do enough of these puzzles, and everything seems to become a flashback!
  • [CD player in the courtroom] was CLARENCE DARROW – famously defended Tennessee teacher John Scopes, who was accused of teaching evolution in his high school class in 1925.
  • [CD player in country music] clued CHARLIE DANIELS – his band is most famous for this.
  • [CD player in TV drama] was CLAIRE DANES – that drama would be Showtime’s Homeland, which is a fan favorite in this household. In fact, we watched an episode from season 2 just last night (which we have on DVD).

A “player” in the urban dictionary sense is a man who takes advantage of women by making them believe he cares for them more than he does. Since we have 2 men and 2 women in the mix here, I’m thinking that’s not the intended meaning of the word in the clue. Another sense of “player” is a person who impersonates a character on TV or in a movie or play. Here I would think the C.D.’s would actually be the character’s name and the theme entries would be the actor’s real name.

Do I detect an anti-Canadian bias? My heart will go on.

That might have been a fun concept as you’d have to figure out who the C.D. was when entering the actor’s name in the grid. But that’s not what’s going on either, so I guess I’ll just have to settle for “player” being a person with these initials.

The short fill felt a bit old-timey to me; what with your ASTI, ESAU, OH ME, ALAI and the homophonic IDI and EDIE. I did enjoy the Scrabbly ECZEMA (which I keep wanting to put an X in somewhere), LINDA LAVIN (who plays Sean Hayes’s mother on Sean Saves the World) and GUTTER BALL. In the “new to me” category, I have [“The Truman Show” director Peter] WEIR. Given that Sochi is just a few weeks away, I would’ve preferred a reference to figure skater Johnny.

Caleb Madison and Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Rap Mixes”

AV Club crossword answers, 1 16 14 "Rap Mixes"

AV Club crossword answers, 1 16 14 “Rap Mixes”

I don’t know what the theme is, so let’s lay out and see if I can’t figure it out:

  • 16a. [Hearty meal from Nairobi? (“Stronger”)], KENYA STEW. Oh! There it is. Anagrams. With a word space outside of the grid, the Kanye West jumped out at me. “Stronger” is one of his songs??
  • 27a. [Places that certainly call for standing up while you go? (“Work It”)], SLIMY TOILETS. No idea. Time to Google “Work It.” It’s by Missy Elliott—see, the first theme answer gave me the impression that the first and last names would be anagrammed separately, but this one changes that “rule.”
  • 43a. [Game resulting in smashed windows at the senior center? (“Juicy”)], RIOTOUS BINGO. Notorious B.I.G. Not a first name/last name sort of name.
  • 57a. [One who can recite pi to a thousand places? (“Tical”)], MATH DEMON. Looks like a play on Matt Damon, but no. The Mamond? The Mad Mon? Made Month? Googling the song … Method Man.

The inclusion of song titles was helpful to me only in giving me something to Google. I don’t know my rap oeuvres.

The top two rows of this grid are half boring, which I wouldn’t expect from Caleb or Brendan. ALEE CCII ACAD? Plus OBES, EWER, VEE, EMBARS … but on the zippy end of the spectrum, we have the portmanteau SEXILE (54a. [Force out, as one’s roommate during a dalliance]), GOYS (63a. [Non-“members of the tribe”]), A-HOLE, COIN-OP condom machines, WASABI (combined with SYLLABI, I’m now pondering wasabus as the singular of WASABI), and “TELL IT.”

3.75 stars. The theme entries are reasonably entertaining, though the anagram aspect would have been more fun for me if the rap content were more familiar to me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Drum and Drummer” — Matt’s review


Not being among the musically talented, I’m not quite sure precisely how today’s theme relates to drumming. Let’s figure it out together:

16-a [Drum along with an extreme metal genre?] = BEAT TO DEATH. Drumbeat.

28-a [Do an accompaniment on a snare?] = ROLL WITH IT. Drum roll.

44-a [Drum along with faux drumsticks?] = FILL THE AIR. Drum fill? Is that a thing? Appears to be this, but I’m in over my head here.

61-a [Drummer’s class on cymbals?] = CRASH COURSE. I’m guessing crash is when you hit all the cymbals as a finale. Not exactly, doesn’t look like.

So I’m not sure how tight this theme is, but maybe a drummer can fill in some details in comments.


***[Shithole] = STY, [Had breasts?] = ATE. It’s either BEQ or AVCX.

***At 38-d, [Ill-defined location] for GRAY AREA feels off. A gray area is a moral or legal ambiguity, not a physical location.

***41-a [Colgate competitor] = GLEEM. You know you put CREST there like I did.

3.75 stars.

Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

lat140116First off, a thank you to all you guys who had kind words to say about my puzzle yesterday!

Robin Stears gives us a very simple theme conceptually: five answers whose second parts end in a “long-o + K”. Where the puzzle excels, is in the choice of entries and in finding one or two unexpected ways to spell that sound combination! We have:

  • 17a, [“The Caine Mutiny” novelist], HERMANWOUK
  • 24a, [“Reward Your Curiosity” soda], VANILLACOKE. Is this still on sale in the US? It lasted about two years over here in the mid-2000’s. It was nice as things go!
  • 35a, [17th-century artistic style], HIGHBAROQUE. I didn’t know there were kinds of baroque! Nice to have the middle answer vary by having a different consonant, q, represent the “k” sound.
  • 48a, [Early Schwarzenegger nickname, with “The”], AUSTRIANOAK. Interesting trivia! I only dimly recalled this, and needed many crossings.
  • 58a, [People of good breeding], GENTLEFOLK. A minor demerit for this being the only one that is a compound word and not a two-word phrase.

Other talking points:

  • 20a, [Some NASA data-retrieval missions], EVAS. I wondered why Rich changed my clue yesterday to [Peron and Gabor]! It’s one of the subtler things an editor has to watch for, with +-76 words a day, it’s easy to have answers appearing consecutively and spacing out the different clueing angles is important!
  • 21a, [Invitation “S”], SIL. The S of RSVP: repondez s’il vous plait.
  • 22a, [Take the wrong way?], FILCH. A fun to say, but dirty-sounding word that!
  • 27a, [Fragrant resin], ELEMI. A bit of an old-timey goop this. I remember being excited encountering it in “The Citadel” by AJ Cronin, a medical novel set in the early 1900’s, when it’s use in medicine was on the wane…
  • 55a, [“___ Wiedersehen”], AUF. Not to be confused with “I’ll Be Back!”
  • 2d, [Cotton Pest], WEEVIL. Musical interlude.
  • 11d, [Veggie burger, to a hamburger], ANALOGUE. I thought Americans eschewed the “ue” spelling…
  • 13d, [“In your face!”], SOTHERE. Nice answer!
  • 32d, [Some like it hot], CHILI. Okay, who doesn’t???
  • 35d, [Revelation foursome], HORSEMEN. Another musical interlude.
  • 37d, [Nestle product introduced in 1948], QUIK. Over here, it’s only ever called Nesquik… So that was a confusing answer.

Simple, fun puzzle.
4 Stars

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25 Responses to Thursday, January 16, 2014

  1. Nanpilla says:

    I viewed it as the word DOT being over the I.

    • Huda says:

      Yeah, I did not see the whole DOT string immediately, but when I did it kicked it up a notch. I also appreciated that these were the ONLY i’s in the puzzle.

      Oh and the revealer contributed to the theme in 2 ways, dotting an I and providing an I to be dotted…

      • Matt says:

        Me too. Didn’t see that -all- the ‘i’s in the puzzle were ‘dotted’, but that’s pretty impressive as well as proverbial.

  2. Martin says:

    Loved it. Dare I say “classic Thursday”?

    There… I dared ;)


    • JFC says:

      Dunno ’bout that. I don’t see much difference between this puzzle and Wednesday’s. I consider them interchangeable. This one might be a tad more obscure in its theme but only a tad (notwithstanding it might be more than a tad to Amy). But I think either could be posted for a Wednesday or a Thursday. So, if you amend your statement to “classic Wednesday or Thursday” we could agree (even though that might sound like a non sequitur).

  3. Brucenm says:

    As a Gary Larson fan, I used to send conceptual ideas to him, (or at least to a publisher’s address for him), including a waiver of any copyright claim. I wasn’t sure whether he read or paid any attention to my submissions, but I did see a couple of his cartoons which seemed to track closely ideas I had sent him. Serendipity, perhaps.

    My personal favorite of the ideas I sent him:

    Two of his animal characters in a forest– (I suggested the bears) — are looking at an amorphous brown mass on the ground. One is saying patiently to the other: “No, Carl, that’s Shinola.”

    The “Laws and sausages” clue is an allusion to a famous quote from Otto (!) von Bismarck. — No one should ever ask how his laws, or his sausages are made. Presumably in German.

  4. Matt says:

    Thought the FB was great. First tried AEROCHEEKS for 28A before getting the right answer.

  5. Bruce Sutphin says:

    Thanks for the write-up Amy. You are correct, the JOAQUIN/QUINOA discovery was the start for this puzzle’s theme. I had originally proposed a theme with just first names, but Peter suggested opening up the possibilities. I was very pleased with how this puzzle came out and appreciate the help from Peter. I am glad that people seem to like it.

  6. Jonesy says:

    The AV Club also had WINE YALL (split across the grid) for Lil Wayne as a themer.

  7. JFC says:

    Amy, that’s an interesting twist on the theme, even if it is wrong.
    The word DOT over each I is the more likely theme.

    The word DOT over each I also forms a T, which suggests that maybe Ms. Long had cross your T’s and dot your I’s in mind for the theme. Only her priest knows for sure.

    The NYT changed its Wordplay format today, relegating the comment section to barely readable. This is good news for Amy as many commenters there might now be tempted to go elsewhere to comment. I doubt any will go to Rex, as the two tones don’t play very well. But this Blog is more along the lines of Wordplay, with a tad more sass.

  8. Zulema says:

    The new space for Comments on Wordplay on my computer came out much larger than usual.

  9. Ben Tausig says:

    The fill in Brendan and Caleb’s AVCX puzzle was also constrained by a bonus contest, for which the rules:

    “There are five primary theme answers in this grid. In addition, there are several hidden answers that follow the pattern of the theme. After completing the puzzle, send a list of all the hidden answers you can find to One randomly selected contestant who finds the most answers will receive a prize.”

    No spoilers until next week’s AVCX email, but just wanted to explain why the fill didn’t sparkle as it might have.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Oh, right, I forgot. Downloaded the puzzle from the email last night but didn’t look at it till this morning, and forgot about the contest aspect mentioned in the email. Whoops!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      … And given my difficulty figuring out the theme answers, I won’t do a good job finding the hidden ones!

  10. Dave C says:

    Terrific Fireball. I seemed to remember a QUINOA/JOAQUIN connection from a past puzzle, and it was indeed done in an Onion AV offering from May ’12 (22nd or 23rd). TAEBO/BOWTIE was also a theme answer. Nevertheless, there were sufficiently different nuances in the two themes, and the cluing for all 5 themers today was wonderful.

  11. Alex says:

    Love the confluence of TAEBO PASTA in the Fireball with this week’s NPR puzzle.

  12. Robin Stears says:

    Thanks for a great review, Gareth! The inspiration for this puzzle was finding out how to pronounce Herman Wouk’s name recently. I’d always thought it was WOK or WOOK. And I enjoyed the musical interludes.

Comments are closed.