Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fireball 5:16 (Amy) 
NYT 5:09 (Amy) 
LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 
BEQ  untimed (Matt) 
CS 12:37 (Ade) 

David Phillips’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 24 14, no. 0724

NY Times crossword solution, 7 24 14, no. 0724

Love this theme! 23d-57d. [1966 Rolling Stones hit … or an instruction to be followed four times in this puzzle] clues PAINT (IT) BLACK, and the IT has been painted black in that the I and T appear in two black squares between PAINT and BLACK. (Your clue numbering may differ from what’s in the .puz file.) There are three other blacked-out ITs in phrases, and the crossing answers also span the blacked-out I and T. This is an unusual way of using the black squares, and I was delighted when I figured out how to work this puzzle.

  • 20a-22a. [“Looky here!”], CHECK (IT) OUT. The crossings are 5d-25d. [Went around], ENC(I)RCLED and 6d-26d. [Men’s formalwear feature], COA(T)TAIL.
  • 59a-61a. [Not worry about something annoying], LET (IT) SLIDE. Crossings 41d-67d. [Don Quixote’s love], DULC(I)NEA and 37d-68d. [One of the Wailers of Bob Marley and the Wailers], PETER (T)OSH.
  • 4d-39d. [Hit 2012 Disney film], WRECK-(IT) RALPH. Crossings 29a-32a. [Flight setting], STA(I)RCASE and 35a-36a. [Greater part of Turkey], ANA(T)OLIA.
  • PAINT (IT) BLACK’s masked crossings are 47a-49a. [Interrupts, as a broadcast], CUTS (I)NTO and 52a-53a. [Chosen people], SELEC(T)EES.

Isn’t that nifty?

Five more things:

  • 16a. [___ Highway, classic New York-to-San Francisco route], LEE. I have never, ever heard of this. It skirted Illinois to the south. You’d better know that [Jeremy of “The Avengers”] is Mr. RENNER if you don’t know LEE.
  • 5a. [Game similar to euchre], ECARTE. And what’s euchre? I reckon it’s a game similar to écarté. Both are card games I’ve never encountered anyone talking about. I think they are mostly played by the tiny people who live inside the crossword squares. As you can imagine, their playing cards are nearly microscopic.
  • 7d. [Picked locks?], AFRO. Did you know: The afro pick/comb dates back at least 5,500 years.
  • 66a. [California county between San Francisco and Sacramento], SOLANO. Not sure I’ve heard of this, either. It’s got two crossings of thematic answers (-NEA and -OSH), one Kipling/’70s TV name (60d. [Rikki-tikki-___] TAVI), familiar STELLA, crosswordese SLOES (55d. [Dark-skinned fruit]), and one outdated abbrev (SDI, 66d. [Reagan’s Star Wars program: Abbr.]). Lucky for me, I didn’t have trouble with SOLANO’s crossings. Woe to anyone who doesn’t know the California counties (this one’s biggest city is Vallejo, population 115,942—say what?? it’s roughly the 49th most populous city in California) and feels iffy about any one of these crossings. I’ll bet some seasoned Thursday solvers fell prey here.
  • 11d. [Pebbles, e.g.], FLINTSTONE. Plus DINO down below! Know your ’60s cartoons.

Despite the possibly deadly crossings in this puzzle, I did enjoy untangling the theme. 4.25 stars from me.

Andy Kravis’s Fireball crossword, “Sour Notes”

Fireball crossword solution, 7 24 14 "Sour Notes"

Fireball crossword solution, 7 24 14 “Sour Notes”

DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, and TI get moved all around, with each one taking another one’s place in a familiar phrase and thereby creating silly things in this 14×17 grid:

  • 16a. [Emily Litella’s one-story house?], “NEVER MIND” RANCH. Michael Jackson dwelt at Neverland Ranch. Nobody in Chicago seems to live on a ranch.
  • 18a. [Short nap while hiking rugged mountains?], SIERRA REST. Sierra Mist is a clear pop.
  • 24a. [One who removes toe jam?], FOOT-TIDIER. Eww! Foot soldier.
  • 38a. [Courthouse snoozefests?], LAME TRIALS. Time trials, as in the Tour de France.
  • 47a. [Patterned lower leg?], DOTTED CALF. Fatted calf is a cow, not a lower leg.
  • 57a. [Got some cash for the team nicknamed “Big Blue”?], SOLD GIANTS. Red giants, stars in the sky.
  • 62a. [Ones who say “Everything will be fine, my deer”?], FAWN COMFORTERS. Down comforters.

Each note’s removed once and added once. I appreciate that the Fireball’s electronic file delivery means that the size of the grid can change to accommodate a theme. This is too much theme for a 15×15, and not enough for a 21×21. It fits in a 14×17, though.

Six more things:

  • 6a. [Only surname shared by two different Best Actress Oscar winners], HEPBURN. Nobody dares to get a SAG card with that surname anymore, do they? They’d only suffer in the inevitable comparison.
  • 33a. [Shots of Jameson?], PORNOS. Blech. Jenna Jameson’s a porn actress and Jameson is also an Irish whiskey you might drink a shot of. Andy says his next PORNOS clue will reference Andrea Dworkin’s activism.
  • 46a. [Shoe brand whose name is an acronym of a Latin phrase], ASICS. Gotta look this up! Anima sana in corpore sano, which translates as “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” ASICS is, of course, a Japanese company. (Now, Latin scholars: Isn’t mens sana “healthy mind,” and anima sana perhaps “healthy soul”?)
  • 64a. [Triangular sail on a clipper ship], SKYGAZER. Pretty, but I sure didn’t know the term.
  • 5d. [Scare the bejeezus out of], TERRIFY. Any time you can work “bejeezus” into a clue, I’ll be appreciative.
  • 32d. [Babylonian goddess of ocean waters], TIAMAT. Nope. Who knew this one? Don’t be shy.

4.33 stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140724

LA Times

We have a narrowly-defined little three-part theme here by Jeffrey Wechsler. Each of the theme answers follows the pattern [birdname][body part] [second part]. That 3 x 13 letter examples can be found all with the same quirk makes for lively theme fodder. The answers themselves are the bendy [Adjustable light source], GOOSENECKLAMP, [Donald Sutherland film role], HAWKEYEPIERCE (going the film rather than the sitcom route to make things a little trickier!) and [Carpentry connection], DOVETAILJOINT.

The grid is well-balanced but most of the longer answer are quite prosaic, with a lot of one word answers plus things like SILENTN and RAILAT. SAYSWHO is a punchy answer. For the most part, the shorter fill is carefully considered, which is the bigger issue IMO. Lastly, I’m not a fan of the clue [Giant with power] for MELOTT – it seems far too vague, although I got it easily enough thanks only to crossword experience!

3.75 Stars

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


Musicians of various kinds turn into leaders of various kinds in today’s BEQ:

18-A [“Ultraviolence” Tibetan religious leader?] = LAMA DEL REY. Instead of Lana Del Rey.

29-A [“Holy Diver” Indian queen?] = RANI JAMES DIO. Instead of Ronnie James Dio.

37-A [“Happy” Egyptian king?] = PHARAOH WILLIAMS. Instead of Pharrell Williams.

45-A [“Pinball Wizard” Indian prince?] = RAJAH DALTREY. Instead of Roger Daltrey.

59-A [“Push It” sovereign of Brunei?] = SULTAN PEPA. Instead of Salt-N-Pepa.

And at 1-D/58-D, [Leader of Iran who does ’50s covers?] = SHAH NA NA. Instead of Sha Na Na. Who played at Woodstock. Who let that happen?

Pretty funny, and cool that he (with a little help from his fellow crosswords and music fiend Francis Heaney) found six that work nicely.


***At 5-D we have [“Rebel Without a Cause” costar] = SAL MINEO. He’s one of those celebs whose both first and last name show up in crosswords a lot, but we don’t often see it in full like here.

***At 12-D there’s a nice clue I haven’t seen before for ACE [It may be worth one in the hand].

***Some bawdy BEQ at 39-D and 41-D: [Places to park your butts] = ASHTRAYS, and [Big trunk] is the dubious but humorous crossword entry LARGE ASS.

***We’ll give Brendan a .1 ding at 43-A, where [When you’ll be arriving, briefly] clues ETA, where A stands for “arrival.” Penalty!

4.10 stars.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Magically Delicious”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.24.14: "Magically Delicious"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.24.14: “Magically Delicious”

Hello hello everyone!!

Today’s crossword puzzle was a fun one by Ms. Donna S. Levin, although it brought back some bad memories. In it, the end word of four theme answers are shapes found in Lucky Charms cereal. The reason this brought back bad memories is because I thought of the one time that I had Lucky Charms when I was young. I HATED IT!!!!!! Ever since, there’s only one cereal for me: Corn Chex.

  • BLEEDING HEART: (20A: [Attribute to a liberal, in the eyes of a conservative]) – If you’re expecting political commentary in this space, move on!
  • SUN MYUNG MOON: (32A: [Unification Church founder])
  • PIGS IN CLOVER: (41A: [Porcine equivalent of contentment])
  • HOLLYWOOD STAR: (55A: [Film industry A-lister])

Those two first theme answers were definitely meaty, and that doesn’t include the possible political overtones that come with both of those answers – depending on if you thought of them that way when seeing the clues and/or its answers. I didn’t have those thoughts, because I was too busy for 15 seconds staring in awe that the entire name, Sun Myung Moon, was in a crossword grid! Well done! Elsewhere, the intersection of ZORI (18A: [Thong sandal]) and GARN (8D: [Senator Jake who flew on a 1985 space shuttle mission]) was pretty lethal, and that “R” might have been tough for some people to get. Loved seeing ICEBOUND (3D: [Like a ship trapped in the Arctic Ocean]) and ARIGATO, especially since Styx is now stuck in my mind now, which isn’t a bad thing (9D: [“Domo _______, Mr. Roboto”]). I had to dust off/look up my old Christmas songs to remember the tune to the Christmas song which references a HA’PENNY (5D: [Old English coin that will suffice, according to “Christmas is Coming”]). So now I’m thinking Christmas in July…which is perfectly normal!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: U.S. OPEN (47D: [Tourney win necessary for a Grand Slam in tennis])– Here’s a question/mystery that sports fans easily could inquire about: Why in the world is the headquarters of the International Tennis Hall of Fame located in Newport, Rhode Island? Well, it might be because the first U.S. Open was held there, in August of 1881. The U.S. Open was held in the Ocean State until 1915, when the tournament was moved to the Forest Hills section of Queens. Outside of a three-year period in which the tournament was held in Philadelphia (1921-23), the tournament has been held in New York City ever since, with the tourney moving to its current location of Flushing Meadows in 1978. (That year was also the year the U.S. Open first went to hard courts, as it was a grass court event from 1881-1974, and a clay court event from 1975-1977.)

See you all on Friday, and thank you so much for your time!

Take care!


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43 Responses to Thursday, July 24, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Very clever! A definite aha moment!
    In the process of solving, I started to make my own puzzle. For a while I thought that the word “AROUND” was missing and that it was going to be going around a bend. So after CHECK I went south and then east and wrote AROUND. Note that the letters ARO are actually correct! I can’t recall now, but I found another spot where “Around” fit, both by meaning and in the space. But of course it was not sustainable… It was sad to let it go but I loved the moment of insight when I finally got the theme, which made up for my disappointment at having to dump my flash of genius…
    Yeah, I agree with Amy, SOLANO was news to me and that LEE/RENNER intersection was no fun .
    We’ve had a great run of NYT puzzles this week!

  2. Andrew says:

    Fireball: Liked the puzzle fine, but totally Naticked at the 45-A/32-D crossing. Two mythological goddesses crossing each other is sure to be deadly for some solvers, like me, who aren’t really that up on mythology. I guessed “E,” and was wrong. That was a bit of a “sour note” for me :)

  3. Avg Solvr says:

    A tad proper heavy and Renner/Lee/Pnin is a train wreck, but this NYT is the most enjoyable puzzle I’ve done in recent memory. Entertaining, engaging and extremely rewarding when the well designed theme is finally figured. Thanks, Mr. Phillips.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      LEE could’ve been changed to LEU (Romanian currency unit) RENNER to RUNNER. Problem solved, a unnecessary natick disposed of.

      • Norm says:

        LEU is rather ugly crossword-ese. RENNER was a mystery to me, but LEE was the only logical choice once I had R*NNER.

      • pannonica says:

        Or simply generate a more accessible clue for LEE.

        • Norm says:

          Truth. Levi’s competitor?

        • Avg Solvr says:

          Never heard of the last name RENNER so LEE was not the only logical choice for me. LEU may be ugly crosswordese but it enables RUNNER thus eliminating a name cross, crosswordese of a kind itself. Pannonica’s suggestion is also good one. I’m a bit surprised that Mr. Shortz allowed that problematic cross in an otherwise fine puzzle.

          • Avg Solvr says:

            I forgot to add that I didn’t know PNIN so I wasn’t only missing the “e” in RENNER which is I why I suggested a change to RUNNER: it enables one to complete the puzzle without having to know LEE or PNIN. As such, pannonca’s suggestion doesn’t really help with the problematic three names cross.

      • john farmer says:

        Jeremy RENNER is one of the busiest and most popular actors working today. He has a couple of Oscar noms, starred in a Best Picture (Hurt Locker) and another Best Picture-nominated film (last year’s American Hustle), is the lead in the reboot of the Jason Bourne/Aaron Cross franchise, and plays Hawkeye in the monster-hit Avengers series. Not an obscure name at all; you may want to get to know him.

      • Until the New York Times starts accepting three-letter amino acid abbreviations that every beginning biochemistry student commits to memory, LEU will have to remain crossword fill of last resort. I agree with others who have pointed out the underlying problem was with the way LEE was clued. RENNER is completely fair game, given his prominent role as star and co-star of several recent Hollywood hits, but adding the hint of “palindromic” to the clue should seal the un-Naticking of that particular cross.

    • Howard B says:

      Same here. This was an amazing puzzle, as much fun to uncover the theme as it was to traverse the grid.
      The difficulty was as much in the unrelated clues and fill as the theme itself.
      Themes such as this are my favorite kind; original, mysterious, and still fun to uncover once you’ve found the trick.
      But the LEE clue on that LEE / RENNER crossing, and SOLANO, just brutal. I think the clue was the issue here. Other Saturday cluing such as THEATER really made it a tougher go. I’m fine with that :).
      I never thought I’d find myself thanking Peter Tosh for bailing me out. He helped me uncrack this one.

      • john farmer says:

        My thoughts about RENNER above (still surprised so many people apparently don’t know him).

        About SOLANO: I’d say that’s obscure (though the crossings were easy enough for me). I live in Calif. and in a past job used to work with county governments, but the name still didn’t ring a bell. We have lots and lots of counties here.

        • sbmanion says:

          For some reason, I have always enjoyed movies in which the actors travel long distances under trying conditions, such as one in which prisoners escape from a prison in Siberia and travel by foot across mountain, desert, etc. to reach asylum in India.

          I have watched Jeremy Renner at least 10 times in the opening scene from The Bourne Legacy. It is not a usual practice for me to watch the same movie or scene more than once, but that scene is the exception.

          Renner, Matt Damon and Robert Downey, Jr. are three of my favorite actors these days.


  4. Finn says:

    Big fan of NYT and Fireball today! Haven’t felt so satisfied doing two puzzles back-to-back like that in a while. Never thought DULCINEA would bail me out like it did today, but that’s where I figured the NYT out. A great debut.

    Have to disagree with Amy: the PORNOS clue was excellent. Can’t say I’d be pleased to see Dworkin in a puzzle. Also, yeah, those two goddesses crossing tripped me up, but Macbeth helped with HECATE. Man, first Cervantes and then Shakespeare? Quite the day to know your classical literature.

  5. Gareth says:

    Fantastic gimmick! Perfect interpretation of PAINTITBLACK and so much fun to unravel!

    I’m fairly confident the clue for PETERTOSH is incorrect, despite what Wikipedia might claim… The Wailers were Tosh, Wailer and Marley. When they broke up, Marley formed Bob Marley & the Wailers, another band featuring Marley, but not Tosh or Wailer. Great full name to include in the puzzle though!

    • Avg Solvr says:

      Good catch although the Wikipedia entry does get it right after first getting it wrong:

      “The original Wailers line-up disbanded in 1974 due to Tosh and Livingston’s refusal to tour. Bob Marley formed Bob Marley and the Wailers with himself as guitarist, songwriter and main singer, the Wailers Band as the backing band, and the I Threes as backup vocalists.”

      (Leaves to check out Wikipedia’s entry on Redemption Song.)

  6. Clay says:

    Euchre is a very popular regional game in the MI, OH, PA, western NY and Ontario – I have played cards all my life and had never heard of it until I moved to MI – it is probably the most popular card game here (besides poker – which is gambling, not card playing!!) – and I still had not heard of Ecarte.

    I like the NYT today, even though I had a hard time visualizing the IT’s in the crossings – and I had no chance with LEE/RENNER – and one would think that eventually I would actually remember PNIN (no excuse – just one of those novels that I can’t seem to keep in long term storage)

    • Tracy B says:

      If you move to Michigan you will be forced at some point to learn Euchre, or you will be ostracized. We host lucrative Euchre fundraisers for our chorus. It’s huge here!

      ECARTE though, only in the crosswords.

      • Huda says:

        I guess I’m in trouble, living in MI and not playing Euchre! But I had heard of it, and it always surprises me when I know something that Amy hadn’t heard of. Now I know why.

        I better get on it! Tracy B you might have to mentor me.

        • Bencoe says:

          I was going to make the same point–my parents are both from michigan originally and we played a lot of euchre, as we were a family of 4.
          This was a hard puzzle to do while jet lagged. I just saw Jeremy RENNER in American Hustle on the plane, though, so that was timely. He was also excellent in The Hurt Locker.
          Greetings from Frankfurt!

          • Jason F says:

            In a world where us Michigan folks have to know all the California towns and counties, isn’t it nice to have one up on the rest of the crossword world? Great puzzle.

  7. CY Hollander says:

    Yes, the LEE/RENNER crossing was a bit iffy, as were some of the SOLANO crossings. I’d like to say they came down on the side of “fair”, but it was close.

    Do others besides me use “meta” logic in making educated guesses? By that, I mean making use of knowledge/assumptions about crossword conventions, rather than the subjects of the clues themselves. The basic premise I rely on is that, other things being equal, a constructor will select his word choice and cluing to maximize a crossword’s accessibility to the broadest possible audience. For example, if I see R_NNER clued as a not-extremely-famous proper name, I dial down the probability of a U there, because there would be better ways to clue RUNNER.

    Do you think my premise is generally true, or useful? Is it a fair tool to use in solving a crossword or is it a dubious loophole that’s outside the spirit of the game?

    • Evan says:

      I use a similar logic in that I’ll often pick a letter that gives me a crossing where one of the words is something I’ve seen before. In this case, that strategy wouldn’t have helped if I didn’t know RENNER, because LEA, LEE, and LEO have all come up in many crosswords.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Right, but then the next question would be, was there a better way to clue it? Here my reasoning would run: an ambiguous crossing of two less-than-world-famous proper nouns is suboptimal. Therefore, if the constructor chose to clue them this way, he must not have seen better options. The same way I rule out U, since there would be better ways to clue RUNNER, I’d rule out A, I, and O, since there would be better ways to clue LEA, LEI, and LEO (two common nouns and a Zodiac sign/Pope). As the least clueable word, LEE remains.

        Doubtless, the method is fallible, but I feel it improves on random guessing.

        • Huda says:

          If I were clever enough to think it through as you do, I might still reach an impasse. Because I’d think that LEE is highly clueable, via Robert E.

          • CY Hollander says:

            Fair enough. Like I said, it’s a fallible method at best. Maybe it occasionally helps me, maybe I just imagine it does. In this case, I think you’re right: a Robert E. Lee clue would have been a better choice.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Or Bruce Lee. Or actor Lee Marvin, actress Lee Remick (less famous than Bruce and Robert E.). ___ Harvey Oswald. Lee tide. Lots of things that clean up that crossing for the non-knowers of RENNER. (Mind you, Renner’s got two Oscar noms and he’s been in movies with box-office power and movies with critical cred. We should all know him by now.)

          • john farmer says:

            LEE should have been clued Jeremy Renner’s middle name. That would have cleared up everything!

          • CY Hollander says:

            Well, Bruce Lee is probably famous enough that almost everyone’s heard of him, but I’ve never heard of Lee Marvin and Lee Remick. Maybe they’re better-known than the Lee highway—but they partake of the same basic problem: you either know them or you don’t. Arguably Lee Marvin would be worse to clue this one with, since LEO makes a very tempting first name if all you have is LE_.

            Mind you, Renner’s got two Oscar noms and he’s been in movies with box-office power and movies with critical cred. We should all know him by now.

            Maybe so, but I still think a good crossword provides for people who don’t know a particular piece of pop culture.

            LEE should have been clued Jeremy Renner’s middle name. That would have cleared up everything!

            Ha, that would have been cute (but misleading).

          • Lois says:

            I was so surprised to hear that people nowadays don’t know Lee Marvin and Lee Remick! These actors are so vivid to me. I’ve seen Jeremy Renner a few times, but I found that area really rough and his name didn’t come to me at all easily. When it did, I still didn’t know that I’d seen him, and I still don’t remember his face.

            I have sympathy for CY Hollander’s remark that “I still think a good crossword provides for people who don’t know a particular piece of pop culture,” but the elephant in the room is that the theme of today’s puzzle is very particular pop culture, dating from the heyday of those same film stars. Yet it received a super-high rating on this site. And because I like and approve of the theme, from my youth (but I did not get it right away!), I’m more inclined to give it a high mark, though that might be unfair. So I don’t think there is often such a thing as a totally, blandly fair puzzle, and such a thing might be a bit boring.

        • CY Hollander says:

          I don’t think there is often such a thing as a totally, blandly fair puzzle, and such a thing might be a bit boring.

          To be clear, I’m not suggesting that every solver should know every bit of knowledge referenced in the puzzle. That would be rather bland, as you say.

          The beauty of a crossword is how the words, um, cross. I mean that the interconnectedness of the answers means a clue that might not be “fair” to everyone in isolation is fair in context. To take your example: if I had the letters P_INT__BL_CK, I’d stand a pretty good shot of guessing “Paint It Black” even if I hadn’t known the song.

          With good editing, I believe, a crossword can be arranged so that no square is dependent on possessing one of two, isolated pieces of knowledge. I think the NYT usually meets this standard, by the way.

  8. David L says:

    Apparently this isn’t bothering anyone else, so I have to ask: why is “Tango twosome?” DOS?

  9. pannonica says:

    NYT: Liked the gimmick, but was perturbed that there were a pair of 2×1 blocks (Rows 7 and 9) that weren’t part of the IT crowd. Seemed glaring to me.

  10. joon says:

    “[Babylonian goddess of ocean waters], TIAMAT. Nope. Who knew this one? Don’t be shy.”

    this is me not being shy. if you know one babylonian goddess (and, i readily admit, plenty people have no particular reason to know any), it should be … well, all right, ishtar. but tiamat next. fun puzzle. NEVERMIND RANCH is a winner. and {shots of jameson} is, if a bit icky, still an inspired clue.

    the NYT was great. i love how it seems to be an 84-word grid but it’s covertly a rather wide open 72. i don’t see any problem with non-IT black squares—the theme is PAINT IT BLACK, not BLACK IS IT. there aren’t any non-black ITs, so the execution is very consistent.

    • Bencoe says:

      TIAMAT here too.

    • Davis says:

      I’ll admit to knowing TIAMAT for entirely geeky reasons: the name TIAMAT was coopted by Dungeons & Dragons and by the Final Fantasy series, both of which I spent ample time playing in my youth.

    • Howard B says:

      Knew TIAMAT here, but had no idea about the “… Jameson” clue or the overall theme after solving, before reading all of it here.
      I’m oddly ashamed about that entire statement, in retrospect.

Comments are closed.