Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fireball 6:20 (Amy) 
NYT 4:24 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:48 (Amy) 
LAT 5:31 (Gareth) 
BEQ 9:18 (Matt) 
CS 10:11 (Ade) 

Sam Donaldson’s Fireball crossword, “What’s in the Box?”

Fireball 5 29 14 crossword solution, "What's in the Box?"

Fireball 5 29 14 crossword solution, “What’s in the Box?”

Sort of a quirky rebus-meets-Schrödinger’s-cat theme: PANDORA in the middle is clued 25d. [Noted box opener (that, curiously, will tell you what to put in six of this puzzle’s boxes when read with the enumeration 1 3/2 1)], so we read that as “P” AND/OR “A,” and that’s what goes in the rebus squares. The Acrosses include the PA (that’s P AND A), while the Down rebused answers include P OR A for both ways you read those clues.

  • 17a. [“The greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” according to J. Edgar Hoover in 1969], BLACK {PA}NTHER {PA}RTY. This crosses 5d. [In the washer, perhaps], SOAPY or SOPPY, as well as 10d. [Affirmative response], YEA or YEP.
  • 33a. [A necessary component], {PA}RT AND {PA}RCEL. The crossings are 24d. [You might turn to one to see the light], LAMA or LAMP, and 36d. [Canadian isl. clock setting], AST (Atlantic standard time, used in Prince Edward Island) or PST (Pacific, Vancouver Island).
  • 55a. [Settle one debt by incurring another], ROB PETER TO {PA}Y {PA}UL. Crosses 47d. [Some footwear], PUMAS or PUMPS, and 58d. [Common home machines, for short], PCS or A/CS.


Touches of elegance: Each of the long themers contains two of the P/A squares. The P-or-A clues don’t stretch things too far—the LAMA/LAMP “see the light” business surely amused Sam to no end (don’t know if that was his clue or Peter Gordon’s, mind you).

SOPPY is a little weird, though. I would say “sopping wet” and not “soppy” for the “wet” sense of the word. There’s dictionary support, mind you, so clearly people have used SOPPY that way enough for lexicographers to take note.

Highlights in the fill include PANASONIC, JALOPY, CALLOUSED (I prefer the no-O spelling), the FRANKFURT book fair, CUTESY, WINDSOCKS, PARFAIT (no idea why that’s a [Glacier product]), and PHYS ED.

Never heard of 3d. [Radio reporter Jaffe], INA. I do know who Ina Garten is.

4.5 stars. Nifty theme, Sam, and mostly smooth fill.

Anna Shechtman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 29 14, no. 0529

NY Times crossword solution, 5 29 14, no. 0529

What does the symbol # mean? It’s got several uses:

  • 20a. [#1], TIC-TAC-TOE BOARD. If you don’t mind playing at a bit of an angle, that is.
  • 33a. [#2], POUND SIGN. As in “I bought 12# of sugar,” or “press pound to return to the main menu.”
  • 43a. [#3], SPACE MARK. In proofreading, that’s the symbol for “insert space.” I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it called a “space mark” but what else would you call that?
  • 52a. [#4], TWITTER HASHTAG. This one bugs the ever-living daylights out of me. The # symbol by itself is a hash sign, utterly meaningless on Twitter without a word or phrase following. It is the # sign plus word/phrase that is a bloody hashtag. Furthermore, the hashtag has blown free of its Twitter roots, and can be found on Facebook and in both written and oral communication. “Twitter hashtag” sounds rather quaint now.

Cute theme idea with the “number”/# double meaning in the clues. I almost wish it were [# #1], although that would give away the game. But when else can you use two pound signs in a row? (The Jimmy Durante emoticon includes ###.)

Hot stuff in the fill (the sort of stuff that tells you the constructor is under 30):

  • 10d. [“It’s Raining Men,” for one], GAY ANTHEM. Quick! Name three more songs in that vein. Does “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” qualify?
  • 11d. [The place to be], WHERE IT’S AT.
  • 27d. [It might pop in the post office], BUBBLE WRAP.
  • 34d. [Writer with the most combined Tony and Oscar nominations], NEIL SIMON.
  • 36a. [Sleep with, in slang], SHTUP. Filthy Yiddish! At least one dictionary labels it “vulgar slang.” (I don’t object to it in the crossword.)
  • 45a. [“Not in a million years!”], “HELL, NO!”

Literary clue I liked: 56d. [___ Bradstreet, America’s first published poet], ANNE. She had many children but still lived a life of the mind during Puritan times. If you haven’t heard of her before, read up.

There were also some unfortunate bits in the fill, such as AH SO, ETNA, IN REM, ERNE, NEUE, STYES, ESTO, TREN, ESAU and ISAO, IONA, TELEO- (that’s [Complete: Prefix]), awkward partial A AND ([__ E (TV Channel)], ERTE, RIEL, E. LEE, ENOS, partial OR AS, and partial NO I. I could look past three or four such answers in a grid, but over 15 can be deadly. The theme and the sparklier fill has to toil hard to overcome this much unexciting fill. Perhaps a little more breathing room—a 74- to 78-word grid rather than a 72-worder—would have nudged many of these cruciverbal styes out of the way.

3.75 stars, weighted heavily by the colorfulness of the good stuff.

David Steinberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140529

LA Times

After yesterday’s FIRELANE, it seems this week will be “themes with elements out of Gareth’s frame of reference”. The theme is CHESS moves, two of which I never knew had names – PIN & FORK – although reading their articles I am familiar with both concepts; I just didn’t know they had names! With two additional downs along with the four across answers (or two additional acrosses along with a pinwheel arrangement, you decided which are extra!) the density is impressive! The revealer’s clue is [Game where the ends of the answers to starred clues are commonly heard]. That last word “heard” seems off, but maybe I’m overthinking things: people definitely say “check”, “checkmate” & maybe “castle”, but I can’t imagine someone announcing “opening”. Possibly the clue is just meant to mean “these are terms used in describing chess”, but I find it poorly worded.

The theme answers themselves are:

  • [*Aperture], LENSOPENING.
  • [*Words said between courses], KEEPYOURFORK. Never heard anybody say that in my life!?
  • [*It can be a painful reminder], REALITYCHECK. Great answer!
  • [*Sister’s symbol], SORORITYPIN.
  • [*Part of a class act], SCHOOLMATE.
  • [*Place to see shell decorations], SANDCASTLE.

With 6 theme answers, the non-theme parts are always going to be a bit subdued. What’s commendable is that I can’t see a single answer I’d think twice about including in a puzzle. Not one! That’s always impressive, but with so much theme today especially so!

Other remarks:

  • [Diet guru Jenny], CRAIG. No personal experience with her, but generally diet guru and snake oil salesman tend to be synonyms.
  • [Slender slider], SKI. Wow that clue made no sense to me while solving!
  • [Seed-bearing organ], OVARY. Plant ovaries… The ovaries I cut out are seedless.
  • [Southernmost Ivy], PENN. I’d never have guessed that! I think of Pennsylvania as quite far north!
  • Fast-growing school’s need, perhaps], ANNEX. Outside-of-the-box clue!
  • [God with a vulture symbol], ARES. Was trying to come up with something Egyptian!

4.5 Stars. Solid theme, exceptional grid!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Getting Head” — Matt’s review


BEQ crossword solution, 5 29 14 “Getting Head”

Hide your kids, since today’s BEQ has both a filthy, degenerate title *and* theme! Brendan takes base phrases, adds a slang word for “toilet,” then clues the wacky new phrases. Like so:

  • 19-A [Women’s wear illuminated on stage?] = SPOTLIT SKIRTS. Slit skirts + pot.
  • 24-A [Baste some turkeys?] = FLAVOR THE BIRDS. For the birds + lav.
  • 41-A [Team that will win everything for years to come?] = LOOMING DYNASTY. Ming Dynasty + loo.
  • 46-A [Choral piece played in the present?] = CANTATA FOR NOW. Ta-ta for now + can.

So that’s vulgar but clever. Highlights:

***At 37-A I had ?A?E for [Money from ticket sales] and put TAKE, erased it and put RAKE, then finally got GATE.

***Some big chunks of black in the grid (44 black squares, way over the normal limit of 38). Mostly necessary with the very awkward 13/13/14/14 theme lengths. But only 74 words, so still wide open-ish. Best fill: BEST CASE, HANGTIME, GAS GRILL, GLUTEI, FRODO, CAIRO. And MATT, of course. Brendan makes sensual love to a Scrabble set in the NE and SW corners (JXZX, but also LANS + HAJ).

***Favorite three clues: [“The sky is the daily bread of the ___” (Emerson)] = EYES, [Pampered ones rarely get them] = LUVS, and [Crazy in the coconut] for DOTTY.

4.00 stars.

Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Playing Tag”

AV Club crossword solution, 5 29 14 "Playing Tag"

AV Club crossword solution, 5 29 14 “Playing Tag”

This theme goes a step beyond the NYT’s in exploring hashtags:

  • 17a. [“You guys, I really wouldn’t mind a stalker #___”?], FOLLOWME. Hmm, big difference between craving attention and welcoming a stalker. But if you wanted someone to literally follow you on the street, you might say this aloud. In reality, it’s just a plea for people to subscribe to one’s social media postings.
  • 25a. [“Just dropped off Nana at the airport #___”?], LATERGRAM. Apparently #LaterGram is a hashtag used on Instagram for pictures that are markedly older than “this instant.” I am barely on Instagram and do not understand its ways. Between Nana and SLAV, though, I was motivated to Facebook a wedding picture of my great-grandparents because it’s #tbt (that’s Throwback Thursday, the social media thing of posting old photos on Thursdays with the #tbt tag).
  • 40a. [“Oops, accidentally picked out Parcheesi at Toys ‘R’ Us #___”?], SORRYNOTSORRY. This one is used to say something bitchy and then not apologize for it. I don’t quite understand its uses, but it appears to be rather popular among vapid people and the youth.
  • 52a. [“I figured out how to imitate the speech of teenagers right away! #___”?], INSTALIKE. I surmise this is an Instagram tag. It appears on Twitter as well, where people tweet their Instagram photos. #instalike seems to keep company with a crapload of other hashtags … and I see that an #instainsta tag exists. *head asplode*
  • 63a. [“I don’t have the right equipment to make coffee this morning :( #___”?], NOFILTER. I think this pertains to Instagram photos taken without digital photography filters (like the ones that make photos look like washed-out Polaroids from 1976), but for all I know it means “I speak plainly and bluntly without a filter of politesse.”

So the theme plays with literal misinterpretations of common tags mainly in Instagram and Twitter? It doesn’t resonate with me because too many of the tags are things I have either not seen before or not quite grasped. #amtooolddammit

Three more things:

  • 21a. [Where to find a grunion or a hydra], SEA. Grunion is a delicious word, isn’t it? Rendered cooler by the way grunions can walk on land. If you’ve never seen them flipping around on the beach to spawn (surely the grunion is the inspiration for the cocktail known as Sex on the Beach?), take a gander.
  • 36d. [Language of the Delaware people], UNAMI. I don’t recall ever seeing this language name before.
  • 18d. [Actress Chaplin of “Game of Thrones”], OONA. Descended from Oona O’Neill Chaplin, unsurprisingly. She appeared in 11 of the 37 episodes before she was, like so many others, killed off. Hasn’t been on for a year. Somebody needs to cast her in something timeless, stat!

There are some word duplications in the puzzle. SORRYNOTSORRY echoes [Not unusual]/NORMAL, [He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, to Harry Potter]/VOLDEMORT, and [Creature whose back is NOT filled with water but, rather, fat]/CAMEL. (Common short word showing up in a bunch of clues plus one answer likely bothers relatively few solvers.) There’s also “GOT ME” duping FOLLOWME and MAD MEN duping ARMY MEN.

3.5 stars.

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fred Heads”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.29.14: "Fred Heads"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.29.14: “Fred Heads”

Hello everybody, and I hope you all made a smooth landing from descending the hump and made it to Thursday unscathed.

Unlike the movie, Freddy’s NOT dead! This puzzle, by Mr. Tony Orbach, takes the last names of famous people named Fred/Freddy/Freddie, and combines them with another word to form an entirely separate common term.

  • FENDER GUARD: (18A: [Tejano singer Freddy’s personal bouncer?]) – From Freddy Fender.
  • HUBBARD SQUASH: (24A: [Jazz trumpeter Freddie’s gourd?]) – From Freddie Hubbard.
  • EBB TIDE: (39A: [Broadway composer Fred’s laundry detergent of choice?]) – From Fred Ebb.
  • MERCURY RISING: (51A: [Rock singer Freddie getting up in the morning?]) – From two irons.
  • COUPLES ONLY: (62A: [Golfer Fred playing a solo round?]) – Very solid clue!!!

Fun puzzle, although this reminds me that I have to eat squash one day. Have never had it in my life. NEVER. I know, I’m weird. For those that have (which might be every single person reading this post), let me know your verdict of squash-eating. No Enya in this puzzle, but we do have a New Ager in YANNI (54D: [Greek new age musician who performed at the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, and the Burj Khalifa]). I know for sure he played at Madison Square Garden as well, as I got offered a free ticket to go to a show of his while he was in New York. I’m usually APATHETIC about going to live music concerts (11D: [Not interested in anything]), though that denial wasn’t an indictment on the music Yanni produces…umm, I think. Hand up for putting in NBC before BBC (1A: “The Office” network]). Watching the hockey playoffs the last two games, a lot of shots have been ON GOAL, and a good number of them have found their way into the net (9D: [Like accurate hockey shots]). Each team in the Western (Chicago v. Los Angeles) and Eastern Conference (Montreal v. New York Rangers) Finals put at least four goals in the opposing net in their last game. Here’s hoping for more of the same 1980s-like high-scoring action tonight!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ENDO (13D: [Plasmic opening)– This “sports…smarter” moment is an HOMAGE (8A: [Something a cover band might be paying]) to the upcoming FIFA World Cup, and one of the players that will feature in it, Japanese midfielder Yasuhito Endo. Endo has played in the most international games of any player in Japanese soccer history (142) and he’s known as one of the world’s best free-kick specialists. He’s not as well known as a couple of other Japanese stars because he plays his domestic soccer at home in Japan instead of in Europe, but you might be hearing from him before all is said and done if you tune in to the World Cup next month.

Thank you so much for hanging in with me while I had a longer than expected day at work and with a couple of stories. I’ll see you all on Friday!

Take care!


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32 Responses to Thursday, May 29, 2014

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    Did the NYT set a record for multi-lingual entries?

  2. Evad says:

    Re gay anthems, two others come to mind, one very recent:

    Well done, Sam & Peter!

  3. John says:

    NYT and AV Club synced up nicely, I thought.

  4. Gareth says:

    My favourite part of the NYT was the long downs! BUBBLEWRAP, NEILSIMON, WHEREITSAT. Very surprised given everything else that gets rebuffed, that Ms. Schechtman was allowed to use SHTUP…

  5. Ethan says:

    Other gay anthems:
    Lady Gaga – Born This Way
    Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out

    The one thing about the NYT that I didn’t like was the ESTO/SPOKE crossing. I had ESTA/SPAKE, since ESTA can also mean “this” and SPAKE is an archaic past tense for speak, which I thought matched the old-timeyness of the clue (“held forth”). Why wouldn’t you clue SPOKE as the spoke of a wheel to avoid that ambiguity? Totally unfair as is, IMO.

  6. Ethan says:

    Also, in linguistics (specifically morphophonology) # means “word boundary” which sounds better to me than SPACE MARK, but the number of letters doesn’t work out.

  7. Jeffrey K says:

    “AH SO, ETNA, IN REM, ERNE, NEUE, STYES, ESTO, TREN, ESAU and ISAO, IONA, TELEO- (that’s [Complete: Prefix]), awkward partial A AND ([__ E (TV Channel)], ERTE, RIEL, E. LEE, ENOS, partial OR AS, and partial NO I”

    How is that not the worst fill we have seen in a long time?
    Bizarro reviews today.

    One-and-a-half stars from me.

  8. Ethan says:

    OK, just did Fireball. Was the “stateside” qualifier really necessarily in the clue for CUTESY? Why couldn’t the clue have just been “twee”?

    NYT search results for “twee” – 2,570
    NYT search results for “cutesy” – 1,260

    “Twee” is not British.

  9. Matt says:

    FYI, the Fireball theme is a repeat of an old Cox and Rathvon variety cryptic theme. And SHTUP is quite vulgar, the Yiddish equivalent of the f-word.

    • janie says:

      >the Yiddish equivalent of the f-word.

      otoh, its doesn’t have the, uh, versatility of the f-word, and is frequently used jocularly — to keep things “clean,” in fact. and it also has spelling variants. sometimes you’ll see a “c” between the “s” and the “h”; sometimes there’s an additional “p” at the end, as in max bialystock’s production of she shtupps to conquer.


  10. Huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed it, because of the colorful fill. EPICNESS is being WHERE IT’S AT a few decades ago. And you can paint a picture with PANTSUITS made of BUBBLE WRAP. I’ll stop before I get to some of the other interesting entries…
    I was not bothered by the TWITTER HASHTAG, quaint though it may be, but then I’m no maven of the twittersphere.
    Lively and fun!

  11. sbmanion says:

    I was glad to see the mention of Neil Simon, whom I considered to be the best comedy writer of all time. Imagine the group of writers who wrote for Sid Caesar in his various shows: Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Woody Allen to name four. Is there any modern equivalent?


  12. Papa John says:

    The NYT threw me for a loop! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a DNF and, I tell you, it’s not a pleasant feeling.

    This blog is about as close as I am to any kind of cyber social network. I don’t Twitter or Facebook or anything else like that, online. Is this why I don’t understand how the solver is supposed to know how to read the clues to the theme – “#1” Thru “#4”? Is it “hashtag 1”? I don’t know. To me they mean “number 1”, “number 2”, etc., which adds nothing to my ability to solve the puzzle. When I filled 33 Across with POUNDSIGN, I was even more flummoxed. Even after reading Amy’s review, I’m still at a loss. If it was, indeed, a pound sign, then, it seemed to me, the clue should have read “2#” (which still doesn’t make complete sense). After that, I gave up on thinking what # meant and let the themes fill in with the crossings.

    There were many clue/fills that simply were beyond my ken. This is the first I’ve heard of a TICTACTOEBOARD. I had the “tic tac toe” part, but had to work the crossings to get the “board” part. A quick Web search informed me that actual boards are manufactured to play the game.

    HELLNO and SHTUP both seem out of place in a NYT puzzle. It doesn’t follow the established decorum. I’m still conflicted by finding these kinds of vulgarities in the Indie puzzles, but I guess it’s a sign of the times. There can be no doubt that our society, as a whole, has become more vulgar. By the way, that’s not a judgment, just an observation.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The theme clues mean “#” number 1, “#” number 2, “#” number 3, and “#” number 4. Four different senses for what the symbol “#” denotes.

  13. Zulema says:

    I tend to agree with Papa John as to the increasing vulgarity in the puzzles and also among people who ignore or forget the literal meaning or origin of such terms, such as the erroneous cluing of the vulgarity being discussed which forgets that this action can be performed only by a male. Obviously Bialystok did also.

    There is also the problem that some of us who would not use such words in a million years are forced to because it is in the puzzle we are solving. And yes, I am taking it very seriously and probably have no sense of humor.

    • Papa John says:

      Ah, I’m afraid you’ll just have to bite the bullet. No need to be too serious about it. Culture will go on, slipping back and forth through its times of coarseness and its times of refinement. Till her dying day, it was difficult for my grandmother to hear, let alone ever use, the word “leg”, because she was brought up to understand it to be the vulgar meaning of the more proper term, “limb”. The only time I ever saw my mother strike my father was in response to him calling my older brother a “jack ass”. She slapped his face. My macho father stood there, stunned, as did my brother and I. Neither the use of “leg” or “jack ass” will raise a brow in today’s society.

      That’s not to say, as the grande dame I know you to be, you can’t insist on your terms within your own milieu – “Cultural norms be damned! It’s my house!” My daughter was raised to understand that profanity had its place, not that the words, per se, were somehow, intrinsically bad. One place that it was not to be used was in grandma’s presence. It has to do with respect.

      In point of fact – are you saying that shtup means homosexual intercourse? Is that what you mean by “this action can be performed only by a male”? My online research didn’t specify that, but it sure indicated the extreme vulgarity of the word.

  14. Papa John says:

    Gareth — Growing up in a family accustomed to desserts, it was common to hear my mom say, “Keep your forks”, between clearing the table and serving dessert.

  15. Alex B. says:

    There was a SoCal constructors’ lunch a while back that David and Rich attended, in which Rich mentioned that he’d like to see KEEP YOUR FORK in a puzzle. I’m guessing that was the genesis of today’s LAT theme.

  16. mds says:

    Farmer +1

    I appear to be the only one for whom that stray “P” in the last Fireball themer was an utter elegance-killer. Fatal flaw. It’s a wonderful puzzle, otherwise.


    PS HELL NO and SHTUP are the best things in the NYT grid. Well, the best 7-and-under fill, for sure.

    • joon says:

      the stray P bothered me not one iota. a stray PA would have been inelegant, but not exactly fatal. i thought the theme was terrifically creative and keenly executed.

  17. ahimsa says:

    NYT: My biggest objection to SHTUP, actually, is not the vulgarity. It just seems so gendered. It does not seem like a word that a woman would ever use when talking about what she’s going to do with her partner (male or female). But maybe that has changed over the years?

    I plead the fifth on which words I have used myself. :-) Suffice to say that SHTUP is not one of them. Here’s an alternative from Salt-N-Pepa:

    Oh, and as far as GAY ANTHEMs, how about this song from Rocky Horror Picture Show?

  18. Zulema says:

    Papa John, absolutely not what I meant, but Ahimsa clarified what I meant by mis-clued. It is not an equivalent of the f-word because it is gendered, it would be an action performed by a male in the f-situation. It means “Push” but not quite an ordinary push. I can’t believe we are having this conversation!! And thank you for the “Grand-dame.” I know I am old, especially on this Forum.

  19. Ben Zimmer says:

    Amy rants: The # symbol by itself is a hash sign, utterly meaningless on Twitter without a word or phrase following. It is the # sign plus word/phrase that is a bloody hashtag.

    Pretty early on its history, “hashtag” slipped semantically from ‘# symbol + word/phrase’ to ‘# symbol itself.’ I noted this slippage back in 2011 and examined it more extensively for the Spring 2013 installment of “Among the New Words” in American Speech. It also came up on Language Log recently.

  20. lemonade714 says:

    Or what about changes to our world like OMG, LOL or making imply and infer synonymous> LANGUAGE .

  21. Amy L says:

    I want to add my two cents on the Yiddish word: yes, it is too vulgar for the Times crossword, especially when clued as a synonym for “sleep with.” Zulema’s comments were on the mark.

    On the other hand, Janie’s link to Max Bialystock gave me my big laugh of the day. When the word is used in such a silly fashion, it loses its vulgarity. Ordinarily, it is used to mean a man did something not very nice.

  22. trey says:

    where is my friday fix… the WSJ Puzzle

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