Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fireball 9:58 (Amy) 
NYT 5:23 (Amy) 
LAT 4:54 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:11 (Matt) 
CS 14:48 (Ade) 

Luke Vaughn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 3 14, no. 0703

NY Times crossword solution, 7 3 14, no. 0703

The center row has MOUNT ST. HELENS clued with [It left parts of itself in 11 states in 1980], and there are 11 rebus-square chunks of {ASH} strewn throughout the grid. For a moment, I hoped that each instance of ASH would somehow match up with a state abbreviation or something, but that would be mighty hard to pull off in a puzzle with 11 rebus squares.

Four of the {ASH}y answers are on the long side. W{ASH}ING {ASH}ORE and ON {A SH}ORT LE{ASH} each have two rebus squares, while TEX{AS H}OLD ‘EM and {ASH}LEY OLSON have one apiece. There is only one spot where the {ASH} pretty much means exactly that, in {ASH}EN. The rest of the time, it’s just three letters that fit into various words or phrases.

The last square I filled in was a rebus square, where 52a. [Licks], THR*ES meets 53d. [One-named singer with the 2003 hit “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)”], *ANTI. I briefly considered THROES and … OANTI?? And then {ASH}ANTI and THR{ASH}ES presented themselves to my mind, luckily.

Given the plethora of rebus squares, it did not surprise me to find some fill that underwhelmed me. -OON, DSO, AREOLE, ESSENE, MAH-… I could dispense with any and all of those. (Not necessarily in an 11-rebus-square puzzle, mind you. I’ve never made a rebus puzzle.)

Three more things:

  • 24a. [French cop], FLIC. Dredged this one out of the memory vault.
  • 40d. [Illusion creator], OP ARTIST. I know the term Op art, but never much considered the possibility of OP ARTISTs. (It’s legit. And those artists’ work will hurt your eyeballs.)
  • 51d. [Deadly constrictors], NOOSES. I thought the clue was looking for some sort of snake, but no. Dismal. Grim.

3.9 stars.

Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Easily Swayed”

Fireball crossword answers, 7 3 14 "Easily Swayed"

Fireball crossword answers, 7 3 14 “Easily Swayed”

Boy, did it take a lot of effort to fill in all the squares in this puzzle. If I hadn’t made sense out of the theme, I would have been unable to finish. As 57a tells us, the [Theme of this puzzle] is PENDULUM SWINGS, and the other long answers in this 13×17 grid must be read by swinging pendulum-style from left to right, left to right, with decreasing amplitude. So:

  • 16a. [Like 57-Across] clues FOSDTSDEIOEIMR, which is read with the first F, last R, second O, second-to-last M, third S, third-from-last I, etc., to spell out FROM SIDE TO SIDE.
  • 20a. [Like 57-Across], NNEPTALUERPO, or NONPERPETUAL. (Whoops, neglected to include this one in the original write-up.)
  • 30a. [Like 57-Across], DMNSIGNHIII, or DIMINISHING, like the distance the pendulum swings with each successive swing.
  • 42a. [Like 57-Across], OCLAIGNTLIS, or OSCILLATING.
  • 50a. [Like 57-Across], BCADOTHRFNKA, or BACK AND FORTH.

Trippy! With physics! It SPELLBINDS!

I did Google one thing—40d. [“Truth, even ___ its innermost parts” (motto of Brandeis University)], UNTO—before I sussed out the back-and-forth vibe. That was one of a number of difficult clues that intersected with the crazy theme answers. 41d. [Instruction with restorative powers?] for STET38d. [___ Talks (lecture series with the slogan “Inspired Jewish ideas”)] for ELI58d. [Actress Seydoux of the 2013 Palme d’Or winner “Blue Is the Warmest Color”] for LEA? Now, DAP was a gimme (17d. [Fist bump]), but I questioned it when it made two long answers look totally nuts.

Tough challenge with a novel mind-bending twist. 4.5 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Outside Interests” — Matt’s review


In this week’s puzzle, Brendan wraps a word inside the letters INT, then uses it to form a wacky phrase from a base phrase:

18-A [Determined lean-to?] = INTENT HUT. From “ten-hut.”
20-A [Just-add-water Olympic wreath?] = INSTANT LAUREL. From “Stan Laurel.”
40-A [Deep mark left by crooks?] = INDENT OF THIEVES. From “den of thieves.”
58-A [“Goodnight Moon,” e.g.?] = INFANT FICTION. From “fan fiction.”
61-A [Vehicle at Fort Knox?] = INGOT CART. From “go-cart.”

Works for me. Highlights:

***Timely clue for EMMA: [Actress Watson who recently graduated from Brown]. With a degree in English literature.

***[Alaska native] at 9-D has to be INUIT, especially if the pattern you’ve got is ????T. Except when, as here, it’s ALEUT.

***[Like some women in magic acts] = SAWN. Well, they’re not really sawn, but you get the idea.


4.00 stars.

Greg Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140703

LA Times

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this precise trick done before, but I can’t remember when. Eight answers are starred and these are made up entirely of 2-digit USPOSTALCODES. The selections are CO/ME/NE/AR, FL/OR/ID, MI/ND/GA/ME (can that be singular? I guess.), ME/DE/CA/DE (fun answer!), NE/CT/AR, WI/ND/VA/NE, DE/AL/AR/MS, and CO/AL/MI/NE. Twenty of the fifty states are represented, with Delaware, Main and Nebraska getting much exposure. The two 6-letters themers are shorter than several non-themers, but there’s no confusion as stars are used to highlight the theme answers.

The theme is expansive and sprawls everywhere. That means you’re probably going to have to aim for “solid” in the rest of the answers. RIBROAST & TBONE form a toothsome twosome. [Like the days of the week, in Span.], MASC has an interesting clue to save what would be otherwise one of the weaker answers in the grid. Another nice clue is [AI game competitor], BOT in FPS’s; IMO that’s its most frequent usage, but I don’t remember seeing it clued that way until now!

Well-made puzzle. 4 Stars

P.S., not sure what’s with all the low ratings. Are people tired of postal code crosswords? Feel free to air your grievances below…

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Use the Proper Name!”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.03.14, "Use the Proper Name!"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.03.14, “Use the Proper Name!”

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you and hope you all in the East Coast stay safe with Tropical Storm Arthur bearing down quickly.

I’m sure many of you have done a crossword or 25 when cooped inside the house when a storm has arrived, and today’s crossword by Ms. Lynn Lempel, depending on where you are and when you did the puzzle, is the latest crossword done while looking out and seeing the raindrops smacking on your window. It’s a celebrity puzzle, of sorts, with standard phrases clued as if they were referring to actions taken to celebrities (using their last name).

  • PITCH BLACK: (18A: [Talk up Jack for a film role?])
  • ALARM BELL: (24A: [Scare Joshua at a concert?])
  • BUFFALO HUNT: (37A: [Flummox Helen on a movie set?])
  • LAND GRANT: (54A: [Get Amy for the gospel choir?])
  • PAGE TURNER: (60A: [Summon Ted at a media meeting?])

A little bit more of a difficult puzzle for me than I would have imagined. Sadly, I’m not the best with kid’s literature, so ELOISE was tough to parse (15A: [Plaza hotel dweller of kiddie lit]). Initially typed in “tell a lie” instead of TELL A FIB (3D: [Mislead, in a way]), and REF was actually a little misleading, since you see most refs on the field of play instead of what its cluing suggests (28A: [Guy on the sideline, familiarly]). Definitely did MANGLE parts of this grid on my way through, but did get it done (48D: [Botch badly]). There was some fill I really liked, including CAB FARE (1D: [Cost of getting to the airport, maybe]), which I’m going to have t shell out on heading to LaGuardia when I have to fly to Dallas, Tex. on Saturday.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EMERSON (30A: [Transcendentalist author of “Self-Reliance”])– While I don’t relate to this EMERSON that much, one Emerson that I do relate to, at least in the sports world, is Australian tennis great Roy Emerson, who won 12 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, all in the 1960s. Those 12 titles stood as the record for most Grand Slam singles triumphs until Pete Sampras passed him, winning his 13th major at Wimbledon in 2000. Sampras ended his career with 14 Grand Slam tities, and the two other players with more titles than Emerson are Roger Federer (17) and Rafael Nadal (14).

Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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29 Responses to Thursday, July 3, 2014

  1. Charles flaster says:

    Loved this one. Brilliant use of the rebus especially with straightforward answers——thrashes,gnash, stashes, slash, ashen. etc…
    Got stuck on 26A. Had irk and then ire for go off.Thanks for a great puzzle.

  2. Martin says:

    Great puzzle. At first I thought it was dedicated to me.

    -martin ASHwood-smith

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    (…I’ve never made a rebus puzzle.)

    Didn’t you? I seem to remember a few years you co-wrote a rebus puzzle with the revealer HOSPITAL CORNERS, and that it was rejected by Will Shortz because he had rebus puzzles up the wazoo. But maybe I’m confusing that with someone else’s puzzle.

    Today’s is an excellent one, though.

    • Evad says:

      Very good memory, TS. Yes, Amy and I collaborated on that one and it was rejected for the reason you state (but not in so many words, WS was his usual gracious self when rejecting it).

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Pretty sure Dave did all the heavy lifting on crafting that grid! He’s very clever that way.

  4. Avg Solvr says:

    NYT was an ash kickin’ puzzle.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Ash eer delight…

  6. Norm says:

    What a great Thursday! A very clever rebus in the Times; lovely puns from Lynn; and Brendan raising (lowering?) the bar on what you can get away with in an indie puzzle [1A made me go 63A]. LAT not getting good reviews, but that’s my evening commute on BART puzzle, so I’ll reserve judgment. Have a safe and happy Fourth everyone.

    • ArtLvr says:

      I iked the LAT, especially the clue “Tom Wolfe coinage for the ’70s”, but I can see where purists might object to some teensy internal repetitions… Hard to avoid!

    • Martin says:

      October 6, 1996 NYT is a great Sunday with the same theme. Sadly, the archive doesn’t go back quite that far but you can find it on xwordinfo.

  7. CY Hollander says:

    Had today’s NYT crossword been created by Matt Gaffney, the 11 ASH mounds would have been geographically correct (within the limits of a 15×15 grid), but you can’t have it all. I still enjoyed it. Really wanted the volcano to be Mt. Washington, but I guess there are no active volcanoes by that name.

    My one slight issue with the puzzle was the MANNIX/FLIC crossing, which was more or less a Natick for me, though I did guess the right letter. No doubt Mannix is part of pop culture for those old enough to remember the show, but he was unbeknownst to me.

    BTW, is it only me, or is there suddenly way too much bold lettering in the comment section here?

  8. Mike says:

    No comment about G spot and oh God in the same puzzle?

    • pannonica says:

      I initially tried DEPOT with DO BIG crossing. Pretty sure the misdirect was intentional.

  9. Doug P says:

    I was in 5th grade and living in Montana when Mt. St. Helens blew. They closed the schools for an “Ash Day,” which was the coolest thing ever. We were supposed to stay home and out of the ashy air as much as possible. So of course my friends and I spent the entire day outside playing in the ash.

    • Papa John says:

      I can’t resist telling you about Mt. St, Helen’s.

      I live in Morton, Washington, just twenty miles due north of the mountain. We were one of the first to be hit by the May 18th eruptiojn. My wife, daughter and I had returned home about 6:00AM (we used to party hardy), about two hours before the eruption. We had just moved into the home we were building and were still using a portable toilet. My wife felt the urge and went outside to use the toilet. Her stirrings awoke me and I turned to look out the window. There were strange splashes in the beaver pond and, in my half-awake state I thought it must be hail. Then I realized that the sky was a brilliant, clear blue. At that same moment, my wife yelled, “The mountain blew!” The splashes in the pond were small rocks from the initial blast.

      I grabbed our daughter and we all assembled outside. We could see the ash cloud rolling, westerly, across the top of Peterman Hill, to the south of us. Our first thought was that it was going to miss us. Boy, were we mistaken! In a flash, the cloud ascended on us, turning the day into pitch blackness, the darkest I’ve ever seen. We stumbled back into the house, to find out what we could on the radio, but our power had gone out. I pulled out our emergency battery radio but it was unable to pick up anything. (We later learned that the ash actually blocked out air-borne transmissions.) An unearthly silence had fallen all around us, as the ash fell. The eeriness of the situation was made all the more strange by the flashes of lightening without thunder. It was one of the most frightening experiences in my life.

      Unsure of what to do, we loaded all our animals – dogs, cat, chickens, ducks, geese and a goat, into the back of our Suburban and drove into town. The town still had electricity, so we were able watch the TV coverage in a restaurant/bar. The commentators were making jocular remarks about it, but, believe, no one in that bar was laughing.

      When the ash fall subsided, we went back home to one of the most dismal and discouraging sights I’ve ever seen. Ash had covered everything and crept into our still unfinished dwelling. It was bad, but we were alive and unharmed. During the event, I couldn’t help but think about the pockets of pumice, twelve feet deep or more, which I had seen in the woods. Would we be buried alive, like those poor souls in Pompeii? Luckily, nothing like that happened. Even after many more, smaller eruptions that followed, the ash was never more than a few inches deep.

      At that time, I was teaching part-time at a local college. The next day, Monday, I went into Morton to find out what the roads were like, to determine if I would be able to get to class I ran into some cops and they told me that all the roads out of Morton were closed, so I didn’t go to work. The following Wednesday, when I got to school, the dean of instruction was waiting for me, wanting me to fill out a chit, explaining why I had missed class. They were going to dock my pay. The media was still not taking the eruption very seriously. It wasn’t until they began to fully assess the situation and began to find bodies that the tone changed. The school’s attitude was no different, until they got hit by one of the later eruptions. They were closed for two weeks. When I returned, I went to the dean and asked him what he did with that chit I filled out. He said he still had it on his desk, somewhere. I asked him to find it and see what I had written. The question asking for the reason for the absence was a typical form format – check the appropriate box: illness, death in the family, etc. The box marked “Other” provided a space to write in the reason. I had written “F***ing volcano!!!”

  10. Dave C says:

    Don’t forget NNEPTALUERPO for NONPERPETUAL in the dizzying Fireball puzzle!

  11. ahimsa says:

    NYT: How could I not love a puzzle all about Mt. Saint Helens?

    I was not yet living here (Portland, Oregon area) when it blew in 1980. But my husband was. So he has memories of the ash fall problems that happened even approx. 50-60 (?) miles away — e.g., many cars with scratched paint and clogged air filters.

    LAT: Very cute idea! I enjoyed it.

  12. Jeffrey K says:

    I wasn’t living in British Columbia at the time but I have it on good authority that the ash did not stop at the Canadian border.

  13. Tinbeni says:

    Gareth: If the constructor had made a list of the 50 State “US POSTAL CODES” then crossed them off when coming up with the “Themes” … thereby using each postal code ONLY ONCE, I think the puzzle would have gotten higher ratings.

  14. Sam Donaldson says:

    Gareth: I know of at least one puzzle with a similar theme to the LAT.

  15. Margaret says:

    As far as the LAT goes, Liz Gorski did postal codes in October 2013 as part of her Sunday NYT Lincoln Highway puzzle (though I would have sworn it was more recent than that.) Her puzzle raised my standards for state abbreviation themes!

  16. Norm says:

    As long as we’re on the subject of postal codes, my all-time favorite was the Matt Gaffney puzzle that took the states of the Appalachian Trail as rebus entries IN ORDER from the bottom left to the upper right with AT as a rebus in the very middle. (I think I’m remembering this correctly.)

    • Margaret says:

      I think the Liz Gorski also went in order from one coast to the other, which… wow.

  17. Pauer says:

    Here’s the Sunday with today’s LAT theme that Martin referenced above:

    I wouldn’t call it great, but it is interesting to see how much things have changed since then. BATMEN is a fave. [Michael Keaton and others, filmwise]

  18. Eric Maddy says:

    I spent far too much time staring at today’s finished NYT grid wondering what “MOUNTS THE LENS” referred to before the light bulb went on….

  19. Luke Vaughn says:

    Thanks for the kind words! Was a bit surprised that the bad fill didn’t put people off more.

    And thanks for the amazing, well-told story, Papa John.

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