Thursday, February 6, 2014

AV Club 6:02 (Amy) 
NYT 5:13 (Amy) 
Fireball untimed (Amy) 
LAT 3:53 (Gareth) 
BEQ  about 10 minutes (Matt) 
CS 5:26 (Dave) 

A local TV station in St. Louis interviewed Patrick Blindauer about his crossword career. Patrick gives excellent interview—thoughtful, articulate. Watch it here.

Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Get Back in There”

AV Club crossword solution, 2 6 14 "Get Back in There"

AV Club crossword solution, 2 6 14 “Get Back in There”

Okay! Billed as 4 out of 5 on the difficulty scale, this one took me as long as a typical BEQ “Themeless Monday” and longer than the standard NYT Thursday puzzle. I hereby declare it to be exactly as hard as I would expect a 4 to be.

Francis puts his derriere in a bunch of phrases to change their meanings entirely:

  • 17a. [Debate team’s consensus about rules for counterarguments?], THE REBUTTAL DEAL. BUTT in “the real deal.” Is that a colloquial phrase or a specific title?
  • 23a. [Spat between priests who wore the same garment to a party?], CASSOCK FIGHT. That’s an ASS in a cockfight. Anyone else mistakenly try to make the priestly garment a Cossack?
  • 38a. [Some really bad Dodge collisions?], DIRE STRATUS HITS. TUSH inside either the phrase “dire straits” or the band Dire Straits.
  • 48a. [Restore the patriotic eagle Muppet after he was wadded up?], UNCRUMPLE SAM. Your RUMP is in Uncle Sam.
  • 59a. [Credit card purchase a little kid was forbidden to make, but made anyway?], TABOO TYKE CHARGE. That’s a BOOTY in “take charge.”

Only the Muppet one brought me amusement here.

Top clues:

  • 20a. [Brother from another mother, perhaps?], IN-LAW.
  • 10d. [Show that recently added Sasheer Zamata to its cast], SNL. She’s all right.
  • 33d. [The “it” in “Because it’s there”], MT. EVEREST.

Favorite fill: AIRSICK BAG, SYRACUSE, LOUD SHIRT (always best with a finely coordinated necktie), HOT MEALS, SLEIGH RIDE.

Did not know: 45d. [Inept barbarian created by Sergio Aragonés], GROO (yikes); 7d. [How salsa may be danced], ON TWO (I don’t exactly know what that means and no, I have never salsa-danced).

Fill I was kinda surprised to see in a puzzle by Francis includes EPH, IGA, ALAR, partials IT A and TO ASK, SOYA, PLYER, and LAH. 69 theme squares and six colorful 8- to 10-letter fill answers come at a price, but it’s not an overly steep price.

67a. [Bean used to make natto] clues SOYA, which is crosswordese for “soybean.” Have you seen natto? An intrepid blogger named Steve tried to eat it and documented the experience here (note: some crude content).

3.75 stars.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 2 6 14, no. 0206

NY Times crossword solution 2 6 14, no. 0206

In this 16×15 puzzle, several words we borrowed from are spelled phonetically (presumably not echoing exactly the received Japanese pronunciation) in English words:

  • 18a. [*Blubbered?], WAS SOBBY. What the spicy condiment wasabi sounds like, but with that Z sound in WAS added.
  • 25a. [*What happened after Mr. Onassis contacted A.A.A.?], ARI GOT TOW. Arigato, “thank you.” Ari got no grammar.
  • 35a. [*Imaginary overthrow of the government?], PSEUDO COUP. Sudoku, but with the syllable accents all out of whack.
  • 47a. [*Give a Dust Bowl migrant a ride?], CARRY OKIE. Karaoke.
  • 57a. [Language that gave us the words heard phonetically in the answers to the starred clues], JAPANESE.

Most unusual entry: 2d. [Gravely ill: Fr.], ALAMORT. Maybe the French is three words, à la mort? The one-word version appears in some English dictionaries. Last seen, Cruciverb’s database tells me, in two themelesses: a 2003 Friday NY Sun puzzle by BEQ and a 1999 Saturday NYT by Nosowsky. So it’s tough fill for sure. The French cue is helpful.

Top fill:

  • 21a. [“Wouldn’t miss it!”], “I’M THERE!”
  • 5d. [“Here we go again!”], “OH, BROTHER!”
  • 34d. [Kind of shop], MOM AND POP.

The worst the grid has to offer is ELEA, -DROME, ADIA, and the woeful “OH, ME.” Just four moderately groany answers in a Krozel puzzle? I’ve struggled to appreciate the fill in many of Joe’s crosswords, but this one’s pretty solid. Lots of wide-open corners here, and while two of the corners are nearly cut off from the rest of the puzzle (with OH BROTHER and MOM AND POP the only routes in), the clues allowed me to move through the puzzle without hitting dead ends.

Seems like we rarely see ADHD (25d. [Condition treated with Adderall, in brief]) in the grid. It’s not as depressing or awkward as CANCER or GONORRHEA or DEMENTIA, so I’m not sure why we see it so rarely. (Two appearances in the Cruciverb database, 2010 CHE and 2012 LAT.)

Four stars. The theme is goofball and Thursday is a good day for that sort of thing.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Gotta Go!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

As in most cases, I try to guess what the theme entries will have in common after reading the title of a puzzle. Today, I at first briefly considered a bit of potty humor was in store. But, fret not Sunday Breakfast Test adherents! We have four phrases that mean It’s the Time We Have Say “So Long!”, all clued as [“Gotta go!”]:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/06/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/06/14

  • “IT’S BEEN REAL!” – nice colloquial phrase there.
  • “SO LONG FOR NOW!”, which could alternatively been clued as [“Ta ta!”], or just “ta” if you’re a fan of BBC’s Eastenders.
  • “SEE YOU AROUND!” – yeah, I’ll buy that one too, although “YA” instead of “YOU” might be the more common variant.
  • “I’M OUTTA HERE!” – yes, “outta” instead of “out of.”

Nice job! I’m wondering if Jay Leno’s departure from the Tonight Show has anything to do with the timing of this one. I’ll leave with a clip from Johnny Carson’s last show, which I’ll always hold dear to my heart:

So long, folks!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Fireball crossword, “Following Directions”

Fireball crossword solution, 2 6 14, "Following Directions"

Fireball crossword solution, 2 6 14, “Following Directions”

My solve wasn’t actually untimed, but I don’t remember what the timer showed last night when I solved the puzzle, and I inadvertently closed the puzzle and lost the timer. Probably in the 5- to 6-minute range.

Directional words are represented by the direction certain words appear in the grid:

  • 20a. [Certain mind game, literally], YGOLOHCYSP. Reverse PSYCHOLOGY. Remember Ben Tausig’s 3/16/06 NYT puzzle with that same answer, plus MSICAR, EGAGTROM, and three other “reverse ___” words?
  • 52a. [Moves on a hobbyhorse, literally], SKCORROCKS. That’s “ROCKS back and forth.”
  • 3d. [Assert passionately, literally], RAEWSSWEAR. That’s “SWEAR up and down.” My favorite of the theme answers.
  • 30d. [Put on airs toward, literally], TAESONRUOY. This is “turn YOUR NOSE up AT.” I’m not sure why the AT also travels up here. It feels a hair off base to me.

Five more things:

  • 14a. [It was 5431.4 for “Spock’s Brain”], STARDATE. Is the decimal for a month?
  • 17a. [Tour de France reporter’s spot], PRESS CAR. Didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s plausible.
  • 30a. [Teammate of Rusty and Cleon], TUG. Ugh. Old baseball first-names-only random trivia, crossing the oddball backwards AT in 30d and a tough clue for 32d: [Storage units of cell messages?], GENES. I might have spent a solid minute trying to piece together TUG. Peter Gordon! Not everyone is a baseball obsessive. Would it kill you to throw in a “McGraw” assist instead of an “eff you if you don’t love baseball” clue?
  • 59a. [“Annoying” YouTube character], ORANGE. Never heard of it. Here’s one video. “Hey, Apple.” That orange is annoying.
  • 10d. [What a # symbolizes to a proofreader], SPACE. As in a space between two words. I knew this one. I wonder if newbie proofreaders think it’s called a hashtag.

4.25 stars, minus .2 for that TUG clue and ARA.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “X Word” — Matt’s review

A tweet from this morning:


And she’s right: this is a very successful add-a-something puzzle since its theme entries are so nice:


19-A [Titled Australian anteater?] = DAME ECHIDNA. We’re adding the Greek letter chi to base phrases, I should’ve mentioned. This one’s great because “echidna” is a nice word; base phrase is “Dame Edna.”

25-A [Spartan guttersnipe?] = GRECIAN URCHIN. From “Grecian urn.” I wasn’t familiar with the word “guttersnipe” but I like it.

40-A [“Olympic athletes are having sex?!?”] = SOCHI FUCKING, WHAT? From “So fucking what?”. Only now do I realize that this is a 16×15 grid; this must’ve been his seed phrase, then.

52-A [Red wine messiah?] = CHIANTI-CHRIST. From “antichrist.”

64-A [“Greetings, Mexican street band!”?] = AVE, MARIACHI. From “Ave, Maria.”


*** 29-A has [Mahmoud’s PLO predecessor] for YASSER Arafat. I would have clued it referencing this guy.

*** I forgot to save my time but it was close to 10 minutes. Tough one. Did not know KOMBU in the Dakotas and it took me a ridiculously long time to come up with Grecian Urn as the base phrase up there, even though your only two choices are Urn and Formula.

*** At 38-A [Spicy haddock spread] is AIOLI. I remember when that used to be an exotic Scrabble-only word; now my town of 25,000 has a restaurant named Aioli.

*** BEQ-quality fill: WHERE AM I?, ACUITY, MASH-UP, TOTES, RFK. BEQ-style fill: PORN, RODMAN, AIN’T I? and GODDAM. Not to mention a few of those themers.

4.25 stars. Better than your average add-a-thing theme.

Jill Denny & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140206

LA Times

The essence of the puzzle is simple and cute: TOP/DOG points to the fact that POMegranate, LAByrinth, PUGnacity, CHOWderhead all start with dog breeds / dog breed nicknames. The grid has unusual symmetry to allow all the theme answers to start at the top. I’d say it’s a very nice theme by Jill Denny and the mister up to here.

There’s a lot of “bonus” stuff going around too though: LEADEROFTHEPACK fills in the unused bottom of the grid – a sort of second, not-quite-so-apt revealer, which is a bit distracting. I think the piles of “cheater” squares are meant to make the black squares form some sort of stylised dog; I may be way off base here though – I see a vague head, and that’s all, but I ask myself what could be the reason for all those squares other than an attempt at grid art?

Outside of the theme, there isn’t too much going on good or bad. The overall effect for me was on the flat side, as you’d expect of a grid with 50 black squares.

Sometimes with themes less is more: 2.75 Stars

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27 Responses to Thursday, February 6, 2014

  1. Brucenm says:

    NYT — Silly but funny.

    One of my most prized possessions is a one page, well authenticated letter written and signed by Victor Hugo, with the salutation ‘Madame,’ which begins “Mon beau pere est a la mort.” (My stepfather is gravely ill.) [‘Accents graves’ needed, but I don’t know how to get them.] I got it from my father who obtained it in Paris in the 1930’s. We never learned who the addressee “Madame” was.

    • Huda says:

      Wow, that is amazing, Bruce! So cool.

      Here it is, accented : “Mon beau père est à la mort”

      At death’s door, basically. But it strikes me as pretty old fashioned. Very surprised to see the expression on a Thursday

      • ArtLvr says:

        The gender of French nouns can be tricky, but with “mort” you can have either — “le mort” is the corpse or dead person, while “la mort” is death!

        • Brucenm says:

          Right. Also “la tour” is a tower (as in la Tour Eiffel), and le tour is a tour or trip around, (as in le tour de France.)

    • Cole says:

      Isn’t beau pere in this instance more likely “father in law”? Hugo’s father outlived his mother…

  2. musicguy595 says:

    I did not know LILT until today, and it was in both the AVC and the Fireball! Great puzzles, both of them. The Fireball theme especially, a great a-ha moment.

  3. Avg Solvr says:

    Laughed at CarryOkie and Patrick Blindauer’s comment about Oreos.

  4. Francis says:

    Salsa footwork can be danced in two ways. In both styles, you step on beats 1, 2, and 3, but the “break step” (when the left foot steps forward or the right foot steps back) can come on either the first or second beat. So you can either dance salsa “on one” or “on two” (and you want to make sure that you and your partner agree on which one you think you’re doing).

  5. Brucenm says:

    Holy Shucking Fit — Another brilliantly imaginative, hilarious theme from FH, along with the obligatory Danzigs, such as — 53 & 66a; 12, 37 & 45d. When I figured out the theme, I managed to solve it treating those entries as unclued, though after finishing, I did google to see what letter should go at the intersection of 53a and 45d — neko and groo. But you have to love the quote. And I have no idea what “EPS” and “club mixes” means. Something to do with a DJ “mixing” songs at a club??? All I can think of for eps is “earnings per share.” But how does he keep coming up with those amazing themes?

    And a phenomenal Fireball.

    • Bencoe says:

      EPS, or “Extended Plays”, are recordings which are too short to be LPS but too long to be considered singles.
      Club mixes are alternate versions of singles mixed to be played in clubs. Usually they are longer, with more instrumental breaks and bigger beats to dance to.

  6. David Halbstein says:

    I was confused by the NYT 32-down; “Words Always Preceding a Date”. Always? (“would you like to have dinner with me? Use by Friday night?). Sometimes, maybe, or often. Or maybe even “Words always FOLLOWED by a date …” but I think this is an oversight.

    • Jonesy says:

      I had the same thought — I think it should read “words always FOLLOWED by a date” as you mention. although it’s feasible that “use by” might be followed by something else… although the syntax/meaning would be strange for anything i could come up with…

  7. JohnV says:

    Got nothing with AV puz. Nothing.

  8. Jeffrey K says:

    Ignore Amy, Peter. Any mention of Rusty Staub gets 3 extra stars from me.

  9. Andy says:

    I had the same thought originally about 30d in the Fireball, but it should be parsed as “turn up [YOUR NOSE AT],” rather than “turn [YOUR NOSE] up [AT].” Fantastic Fireball and AV Club this week, as always.

  10. David L says:

    I liked the BEQ, but I’m baffled by “spicy haddock spread” for AIOLI. Aioli is garlic mayonnaise, basically, made with olive oil, lemon, and egg yolks and maybe some other stuff. But not haddock, or indeed any kind of fish, as far as I know.

    • Bencoe says:

      You can put it on haddock.

      • Huda says:

        I agree, I don’t think haddock is in the spread, it’s under the spread.
        It’s interesting what fish can handle as a counterpoint. In Lebanon there is a fish dish with a tahini- based sauce that is fantastic. Just thinking about it makes me hungry.

        • David L says:

          Oh, I see, thanks. So the clue could have been “spicy X spread” for X = haddock, lamb, baked potatoes…

          What also threw me off was the word ‘spicy’ — I don’t think of garlic flavored things as being spicy, so I assumed BEQ was talking about some sort of exotic fish pate.

  11. joon says:

    the LAT grid is definitely intended to evoke a dog. i thought it was very cute, although i don’t like dogs. (doges, on the other hand, i am all for.)

  12. pannonica says:

    LAT: “I think the piles of “cheater” squares are meant to make the black squares form some sort of stylised dog; I may be way off base here though – I see a vague head, and that’s all, but I ask myself what could be the reason for all those squares other than an attempt at grid art?”

    My interpretation is just that. The blocky ‘T” is the nose and philtrim, the curve below it is a smiling mouth, the ‘L’ shapes above it are eyes. The rest? I suppose they help to define the cartoonish face – in truth it looks like a cropped image of Mickey Mouse.

    Another quasi-bonus is the lap dog from 11a LAP UP, but I don’t care for such cross-pollination. I suppose the similarly centered TREAT at 37a is harmless enough.

    Incidentally, is the clue at 52d [Killer Birds, e.g.] APP an inadvertent mash-up of Angry Birds and killer app?

  13. Brucenm says:

    Also loved the BEQ, but what in the world does {“I completely agree, girlfriend”} for “totes” mean?

  14. andrea carla michaels says:

    Loved the dogface in the Chen puzzle!!! Super cute to have the dog names be the LEADERS of the pack, very clever on a ton of levels!

    Thank you, AMy, for posting the Patrick interview, I would have totally missed it!
    Practically a mini-master class in how to make a puzzle. How neat that an arts station thought it was worthy of so much time and attention to detail! Great profile of Patrick!

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