Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fireball 18:44 (Matt) 
NYT untimed (Doug) 
LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 
CS 8:36 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:48 (Matt) 

Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 25 14, no. 0925

NY Times crossword solution, 9 25 14, no. 0925

The Head Fiend is a bit under the weather, so this is Doug filling in. Feel better soon, Amy.

Fans of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest might’ve had a leg up in solving this one. The “ten three-letter body parts” were part of a wicked-cool meta (that I didn’t crack) that ran during the last week of August. Alex V. hid the ten body parts in symmetrical Across answers. (Please refer to the grid pic because I’m not listing them for you.) It might have been fun to put them in their actual body positions. TOE at the bottom, HIP in the middle, JAW near the top, etc. But this works, and it makes it easier to find them all.

Patrick Blindauer did something similar back in 2006, but El Blindito hid them diagonally. Check out this blast-from-the-past Fiend review. You’ve come a long way, Amy!

I thought the cluing was tougher than usual for a Thursday. I didn’t race through the grid. Let’s look at few entries & clues:

  • 17a. [Golden girl?], SACAJAWEA. Yikes. This had me stumped for a bit. Tricky clue. Sacajawea is on the gold-looking dollar coin (do they still make those?), so I guess she’s “golden.” Even though I know my español, I had UNO entered for 2d [Argentine article], and that wasn’t helping the situation.
  • 3d. [Howard Cunningham, informally], MR. C. Are you smart enough to solve a Mr. C crossword? Then check out this review of a vintage Happy Days coloring book and match wits with The Fonz. You can print out the puzzle and a few pages for coloring. Aaayyyy!
  • 21d. [According to legend, at age 2 he identified a pig’s squeal as G sharp], MOZART. Love the entry. Love the clue. Good stuff.
  • This may or may not be related to the SPALKO entry.

    This may or may not be related to the SPALKO entry.

    46d. [Villain in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”], SPALKO. Huh? I don’t know if that’s a first name, a last name, or an anagram of a real name. I’d be shocked if anyone didn’t get this completely from crosses.

  • 36d. [Overnight, maybe], RUSH. Tough clue. I liked it.
  • 42d. [Literally, “northern capital”], BEIJING. D’oh! I so should have known this. I missed a question related to this in my trivia league a couple weeks ago, and I later remarked to my opponent that “jing” probably means “capital.” And then I still tried to jam HELSINKI into the grid just now. Well played, Mr. Vratsanos.
  • 48a. [Enterprise, for one], SPACESHIP. I’m not a Trekkie (or is it Trekker?), but I’m going to call a 15-yard penalty on this one. “These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.” OK, it’s technically a spaceship too, but this clue went *clunk*. We’ll have to ask the Trek folks if this clue makes up for it …
  • 47a. [TV character who says “Captain, you almost make me believe in luck”], SPOCK.

So how did you like the puzzle? I enjoyed some of the gnarlier clues and fun trivia. Not enamored of SEIZER, but JA RULE is cool. Peterson out.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140925

LA Times

I got the revealer before I had any theme answers completely filled. I guessed PULLEDMUSCLES would be short muscles at the beginning and ends of answers – pulled apart. [*Hobby shop purchase], MODELTRAIN disabused me of that notion, they’re “pulled” across two words of the answer. [*World Wildlife Fund symbol], PANDABEAR has a single AB; [*Florida city with over 400 miles of canals], CAPECORAL has a PEC, and also a COR though not across two answers (the heart is largely muscle tissue); and [*”Movin’ Out” choreographer], TWYLATHARP has a LAT. Nice concept, as these shortened muscle names all get frequent play in crosswords. There aren’t too many more options: GLUTE doesn’t really make anything, and neither does QUAD, unless the beautiful NAMAQUADOVE is known to Americans!

Other stuff:

  • [Kenyan’s neighbor], SOMALI – not on good terms!
  • [John of England], ELTON. Clip addressing his confusing assumed surname!
  • [Batteries for mice], AAS. Not an answer to be proud of, but the clue is wonderful!
  • [Ones working around the clock], HANDS is another beaut of a clue.
  • [“Because we’re worth it” sloganeer], LOREAL. When did it stop being “you’re”?
  • [Novelist Shaw], IRWIN. Guessed IRene off the IR!

4 Stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Seeing Eye to Eye”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.25.14: "Seeing Eye to Eye"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.25.14: “Seeing Eye to Eye”

Good morning, everyone!

I hope all is well with you as we’re quickly heading towards the end of another week. Today’s crossword, written for our viewing and solving pleasure by Ms. Lynn Lempel, is a puzzle that’s definitely in agreement…in a certain way. Each of the theme answers are two-word entries in which the last letter of the first word and the first letter of the following word are both the letter “I.” Aye aye, mateys! (Yes, I realize International Talk Like a Pirate Day was last week, but felt like saying that anyway.)

  • SUNNI ISLAM: (17A: [Religion of most Arabs])
  • BALI INDINESIA: (28A: [Popular tourist destination of Southeast Asia])
  • SKI INSTRUCTOR: (47A: [One who relies on a lift to work])
  • HOPI INDIAN: (64A: [Arizona mesa dweller])

My first thought that I have about this puzzle is actually a little bit of self-aggrandizement, as I was almost ecstatic that I got/knew POTATO after seeing its clue without needing any crossings (44A: [Yukon Gold, e.g.]). I’m pretty good when it comes to types of potatoes, you know. There have been a few times recently where I’ve had trouble sleeping, but I usually turn to the Vicks product, ZzzQuil, to help with that and have never had SOMINEX (9D: [Deterrent to tossing and turning]). We might need to have a night out at the bar after doing this puzzle because of the presence of both ALE (10D: [Draft pick, maybe]) and PINT (57D: [Pub purchase]). So this is the first grid in a long while in which a king has been mentioned along with his succession number, as opposed to a queen or a pope, as we have the appearance of HENRY I (4D: [English king crowned in 1100, who also ruled Normandy]). Of all of the answers, probably my favorite fill in the grid was LION’S SHARE (30D: [Majority]). All of the theme answers were very strong, and the solving experience was pretty smooth from my end. It’s enough to make you do a JIG when finishing (41A: [Irish folk dance]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MASON (13D: Dixon’s line-drawing partner]) – Every March, millions of people who end up doing office pools love to try and see if they’re able to pick the correct upsets as well as correctly identify which team will become “Cinderella,” making an unforeseen deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Well, the 2006 NCAA Tournament saw the emergence of the ultimate Cinderella, as George MASON University (Fairfax, VA) came from relative basketball obscurity to reach the Final Four. In MASON’s four wins to reach the Final Four, it defeated three prior national champions: Michigan State (first round), defending national champion North Carolina (second round) and top-seeded Connecticut (Elite Eight).

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

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Opening Acts” — Matt’s review


Quintessential Quigley: add bands to the front of phrases to get wacky new phrases. I mentioned in my review of Byron Walden’s AVCX puzzle yesterday that I could’ve guessed with 60% confidence that he had authored that puzzle even with a blank byline; for today’s BEQ, I could’ve guessed the author with 75% confidence.

They are:

20-A [Waste management headquarters?] = REMOVAL OFFICE, R.E.M. plus Oval Office. I got this one with just RE??????????? and felt good about myself because of it.

27-A [Did some presentations without thinking?] = BLURTED TALKS, Blur + TED Talks. This one I had trouble with, since I put BLURRED SALES in (blurred somehow I got from “without thinking, and I had ITSY instead of ITTY for [Really small, to a kiddie]). I assumed for a while that “red sales” was something I hadn’t heard of, but eventually sorted everything out successfully.

44-A [Emerging demonstration?] = NASCENT RALLY, Nas + centrally. Different from the first two, since you have to add a space.

53-A [Soccer star David committed a hand ball?] = BECKHAM FISTED, Beck + ham-fisted. Here you add a hyphen.


***41-A [Ice Bucket Challenge cause: Abbr.] = ALS. Good timely clue.

50-A [“Everybody Hurts” singer] = Michael STIPE. Echoing 20-Across.

Best clue: [One doing the lord’s work?] = SERF.

4.10 stars.

Frank Longo’s Fireball Crossword “Vwllss Crsswrd 5”


That’s “Vowelless Crossword 5” if you’re not familiar with this variant, and I traditionally have not been much of a fan. I don’t think I’ve even solved a full one, but one of the virtues of crossword blogging is that you have to put your views into words, which may mean challenging those views. So let’s see if a wizard like Frank Longo can nudge me towards digging consonant-only puzzles. Short answer: yes, he was mildly successful in doing so.

First observation: you get a nice little aha moment on almost every answer, since you’re not used to seeing even the most mundane word written without its vowels. For example RESPONSE RATES [Percentages of people who send back surveys, say] is not a thrilling phrase, but it was still fun to figure out from RSPNSRTS with an (8,5) enumeration.

Speaking of which, Fireball editor Peter Gordon sends you two versions of the puzzle, one with those enumerations and one without. His note that “Solving without the enumeration makes it much more difficult” was enough to convince me to use them.

More intricate entries are also amusing to parse: it took me a long time to get a 6-letter entry clued as [Seeing red] with an enumeration of (3,2,2,4). It turned out to be FIT TO BE TIED.

Also cool that he started with SMTHJZZ at 1-D [Specialty of Spyro Gyra and Kenny G].

My other big observation is that, after solving the puzzle, I wasn’t left with any entries that I couldn’t figure out, and it was fun to unravel the last few head-scratchers. They were NHLLWD for [Not consecrated] which was UNHALLOWED and the crazy-looking DNTCNTNT for [“That’s very unlikely to happen”]. Am I going to tell you the answer to that one? Don’t count on it.

4.30 stars. Tough to rate these of course (since it’s my first one I’ve completed, IIRC), but you can tell this is done skillfully and after a few minutes my “this is gonna be a slog” feeling ebbed as I got used to and eventually embraced vowellessness. Next time one lands in my inbox I will most likely solve it.

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20 Responses to Thursday, September 25, 2014

  1. Gus Grissom says:

    It could be the SPACESHIP (i.e. Space Shuttle) Enterprise.

  2. Alex B. says:

    I’m stunned that 17-Across in the NYT is spelled that way, especially crossing 18-Down (though I guess technically it’s triple-checked)

  3. john farmer says:

    You could say there’s one three-letter body part that’s missing, but the JANUS answer gets close enough.

  4. pannonica says:

    Nice detail that the hidden word locations are also symmetrical.

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    I think today’s NYT exemplifies two things about crossword puzzles:

    1. How level of difficulty is too often determined by the solver’s knowledge base
    2. Why most people don’t bother with them

  6. Evad says:

    I wonder why these weren’t rebuses which would obviate the need of a note and make the discovery process a bit more enjoyable? I didn’t even bother to find the 10 parts when I was done or notice that they were symmetrically placed.

    I struggled mightily with the Frbll this week, going with the non-enumerated clues. I gave up with just four missing squares–I couldn’t see IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN and SUBTENDING in the SW nor SELF-SUSTAINED crossing DON’T COUNT ON IT and DIAGNOSTIC TOOL in the SE, but everything else slowly emerged from the land of no vowels. I enjoy this challenge almost as much (but not quite) as the Wacky Weekend Warriors that Trip and Peter also offer annually.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Good grief. Jarule? Sarah Ramos? I was feeling self-congratulatory for having heard of Jayzee, but I had no idea where to go from there, so that region was a non-starter, let alone finisher. Not very enjoyable. The vowel-run clue was pretty neat in retrospect, though. I didn’t notice or know about the 3 letter body parts. Apparently there was a Notepad. I’m not sure they would have helped or added much.

    • Papa John says:

      As you must know, you’ll get little sympathy on this blog for not knowing a rapper’s name, but it was unknown to me, too.

      You seem to have one up on me regarding the vowel run. The clue, “Series of watering troughs?” completely eludes me.

      The theme did not engage me, at all. Like many others, I’d guess, I didn’t bother to find the body parts, again leaving it up to Shortz and aids to ensure they’re all there. They didn’t assist in any fill. Solving was uneven, with lots of backing up and frowning when some fill revealed itself. All told, it was an unsatisfying solve for me.

      • Brucenm says:

        The expression “watering trough” uses the 5 vowels in order — c.f. some single words like “facetious.”

        We both get chided for not knowing rappers and rock groups. I didn’t bother commenting on Nijinsky, who was a leading figure in arguably the most celebrated musical event of the 20th century, at least the early 20th century. He was the choreographer for the Stravinsky’s *Rite of Spring*, the occasion of the famous riot, so wonderfully reproduced in the movie *Coco and Igor*. Ah, the relativity of obscurity. To my mind, he is obscure like Picasso, or TS Eliot, or Franz Kafka are obscure. But they show up more often in crosswords.

    • David L says:

      The notepad proved crucial to me, since I put in SACAGAWEA and figured there was some rapper GAR___E that I’d never heard of. But then I realized there had to be a JAW in the puzzle somewhere, and JARULE rang a tiny, distant bell somewhere in the back of my brain.

      Sarah RAMOS is completely unknown to me, but gettable from crosses.

      I thought the cluing in that section had a Friday/Saturday vibe to it. CIGAR for ‘thick smoke’ is clever but not at all straightforward.

  8. Norm says:

    Thanks for explaining NASCENTRALLY in the BEQ. For the life of me, I couldn’t parse it, since I was trying to make it fit the two-word pattern. I did find one reference to the Pike’s Peak Climb as an “ascent rally” but that seemed too obscure even for BEQ (and it used rally in much the same sense as the grid entry).

  9. Jason F says:

    Interesting that 3 of the 4 BEQ themers work as two words sharing a common ending/beginning component:


    NASCENT CENTRALLY also fits this pattern but unfortunately is gibberish, leaving me very confused until I read the post (thanks!)

    • pannonica says:

      Isn’t that merely restating the the mechanics of the theme? Am I missing something?

      • Jason F says:

        When I was solving the puzzle, I thought the theme was x+y y+z so the TED is repeated in BLUR/TED TED/TALKS. As explained above, the theme is really band+x, so just BLURTED TALKS.

        I simply found it interesting/confusing that 3 of the 4 answers work pretty well if you double the central component.

      • Brucenm says:

        I didn’t get the BEQ at all. 0%. I gather Blur, Nas and Beck are all rock bands.

        • pannonica says:

          Blur is a band, Beck is the nom de stage of Beck Hansen (a child of Fluxus-involved parents), Nas is the name of a rapper/producer whose given name is Nasir something.

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