Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fireball 6:50 (Amy) 
NYT 5:18 (Amy) 
LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 
CS 11:09 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:32 (Matt) 

Victor Barocas’s Fireball crossword, “Live It Up!”

Fireball crossword solution, 11 20 14: "Live It Up!" with Victor Barocas

Fireball crossword solution, 11 20 14: “Live It Up!” with Victor Barocas

Yet another nifty theme from Victor, and from the Fireball venue. 61a. [Advice taken literally by 18-, 24-, 39-, and 51-Across?] is SEIZE THE DAY, and “day” in four languages is “seized” by phrases to transmogrify them into goofiness:

  • 18a. [Sexy Arabian flying expert?], HOT SAUDI ACE. Hot sauce + Spanish dia.
  • 24a. [Number of times a parrot acted in a foreboding way?], POLLY OMEN COUNT. Pollen count + Hebrew yom.
  • 39a. [Those in charge of exhorting the bluegrass band to play?], HEAD BANJO URGERS. Headbangers + French jour. That accidental ANJOU in the middle had me trying to finagle some sort of BURGER but that would entail double use of the U.
  • 51a. [One reason that schools are filthy?], PTA GRIME FACTOR. Prime factor + German Tag.

We seldom see puzzles that incorporate multiple foreign languages into a theme. I approve. (Of the theme, not the seldomness.)

Five more things:

  • 9d. [Brand that uses freeze distillation to raise its alcohol content], BUD ICE. Is that a thing? I have escaped awareness of it.
  • 1d. [Seat in the famous photo “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper”], I-BAR. Oh, yes. The skyscraper ironworkers lined up on the beam, feet dangling 850 feet above the ground.
  • 37d. [Large set for the General Sherman], TREE RINGS. I gather the General Sherman is a tree, or a tree stump? Yes, a giant living sequoia.
  • 70a. [Cartoonist Barry who wrote “What It Is” and “Cruddy”], LYNDA. Lynda Barry is great. I believe Ira Glass was a cad to her when they broke up eons ago.
  • 54d. [One who makes the first cut?], MOHEL. A better mohel joke than in last Sunday’s NYT puzzle.

4.25 stars from me. Keep ’em coming, Dr. Barocas.

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 14, no. 1120

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 14, no. 1120

The Z’s in this grid can be traced with one’s sword to make a big letter Z, the mark of 44d. ZORRO, [Subject of this puzzle]. Apparently 4d. [With 29-Down, first story to feature 44-Down (1919)] was THE CURSE OF / CAPISTRANO, which doesn’t ring a bell (there’s a SoCal mission bearing that name). And Zorro’s “real” name is DON DIEGO DE LA VEGA (5d. [With 37-Down, real name of 44-Down]), insofar as any fictional character can have a real name.

There are a few answers in this puzzle that I’m not sure I’ve seen in crosswords before:

  • 20a. [What Set committed when he slew Osiris], DEICIDE. Mythologically speaking, that is.
  • 24d. [Petroleum ether], BENZINE. Not the same thing as benzene. Much less popular, too.
  • 55d. [“The Waltons” grandpa], ZEB.

And then there are the answers I’ve seen in too many crosswords: NEZ, ERNE, AVEO, AZOV, ERG, OTOE, INKA, ALEE. They’re not illegitimate, they just have zero ability to please or surprise me.

Five clues of note:

  • 1a. [Century, for one], FONT. Tough clue for 1-Across!
  • 40a. [Like Baha’i houses of worship], NINE-SIDED. The  Bahá’í  Temple you can see from Evanston Hospital is stunning.
  • 22d. [Lift others’ spirits?], BARTEND. Lift them and hand them over in exchange for money.
  • 43d. [Little green ones come from Mars], M AND M’S. Gorgeous clue. Alas, the candy uses an ampersand, M&M’s, and not the word AND.
  • 49d. [Goat sounds], MAAS. Serpico writer Peter Maas would be a better bet here, given that none of the crossings are names. I just never see “maa” given as the goat’s sound anywhere but crosswords.

3.25 stars. The theme’s cute but the fill probably left a lot of solvers floundering around looking for footholds. (P.S. NAZI? There will be those who find that a most unwelcome word in their puzzle.)

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

LA Times 141120

LA Times

Slightly curious synonymizing going on today. All the hidden words are TROUBLEMAKERS, or more specifically terms sort of used to describe naughty kids… BRAT in JOBRATINGS; DEVIL in SEASIDEVILLA; IMP in IMPRETTYSURE; and SCAMP in CIRCUSCAMP. Not sure what a CIRCUSCAMP is exactly, but I’m sure all you ‘Muricans do, so I’m not going to go Google.

Pretty solid puzzle otherwise, given the high theme density. AFEW/ALOT/ATON may be one too many for some. MERESPECKS and SEASIDEVILLA are more collocations than discrete terms, but solid nonetheless. ALTEAM is not in my bailiwick, but I’m sure we’ll hear from sports people that it isn’t a real phrase… My other big unknown (other than CIRCUSCAMP) answer was [Actor Dullea] KEIR. Not sure which is the first and which the last name either…

Clue-wise, [Presley’s “(Marie’s the Name) of ___ Latest Flame”] goes to incredible lengths for a simple pronoun! SAS is the [Sweden-based carrier] again – it’s never the crack British troops for some curious reason…

3 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle — “Broken Records”


Classic BEQ theme today: four famous album titles are broken among two words in a nonsense phrase:

17-A [Hotel offerings for those who drag their feet? (Nirvana)] = LAST-MINUTE ROOMS. In Utero. Nice find.

25-A [Proms in old Japan? (Radiohead)] = KABUKI DANCES.

42-A [Tier of battery parts? (Beck)] = CATHODE LAYERS. Odelay. Mellow Gold is better.

54-A [Target eschewers? (Lady Gaga)] = K-MART POPULATION. Art Pop.

Good theme. Solve was tough because I kept making mistakes, the most amusing of which is: when I looked at 13-D I had ?Y?T and assumed it was NYET. But the clue read [Android, e.g.] and so the answer was SYST. Then, at 36-A I again had ?Y?T and said to myself, “Surely, this time it must be NYET.” But the clue read [Uber competitor] so I realized the answer was LYFT. According to Crossword Compiler, there are seven possibilities for this pattern: CYST, GYNT, MYST, NYET, RYOT (??), SYST and XYST (??). I guess this old version I use doesn’t have LYFT yet.

Best clue: [Sprint relay?] for TEXT. Best fill: RUM CAKE, ZUMBA and ZULUS crossing you-know-where; and PBJ and J-BAR crossing also at you-know where.

4.10 stars.

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Play Time”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.20.14: "Play Time"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.20.14: “Play Time”

Hello there, crossworders! I hope you all are doing well and have done all your Thanksgiving shopping by now. Well, the main course, at least in today’s crossword, brought to us today by Mr. Raymond Hamel, is a huge dish of types of plays. Each of the four theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word is also a word that can precede the word “play.”

  • SHADOW CABINET: (20A: [Opposition party appointment in the UK])
  • PASSION FRUIT: (28A: [Popular juice flavorer])
  • POWER FAILURE: (45A: [It may be caused by a curious squirrel]) – Thanks for the mental image Raymond!!
  • SQUEEZE BOTTLE: (56A: [Bicyclist’s “canteen”])

First off, what a lulu CINZANO was for me (43D: [Italian vermouth brand])!!  Couldn’t get that for the life of me and just guessed at the end.  It might make me look into getting a bottle and seeing how it tastes.  If it’s to my approval, then I’ll want to see this entry more often in grids. Does anyone want to look up WASPS on Urban Dictionary and see what it stands for, especially if you don’t know already (32D: [Stinging insects])? I’m not saying you should, but get ready to experience some shock if you haven’t come across its slang meaning before. Loved CROWDS OUT (34D: [Pushes aside]) and TO AND FRO as really lively entries (9D: [Swaying motion]). Latest earworm alert comes from ARRIVAL, and one of the more famous verses in a hip-hop song, from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five hit, Message II (Survival): “In jail they got a game and they call it survival, they run it down to you on your first ARRIVAL, they tell you what you can and what you cannot do, so if you ever go to jail watch your…mmm-mmm!” (37A: [Airport debarker]).  Just in case you’re not familiar with the song, here it is.  It should sound familiar to you…well, at least for those who like old-school hip-hop and/or actually were alive in the early 1980s.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SOL (40D: [Scale note]) – I hope there are some WNBA fans out here, because that’s where I’m going today in this space. The Miami SOL was a franchise that existed for only two seasons in the WNBA, from 2000-2002. Miami’s only playoff appearance came in the 2001 season, when they lost in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Liberty. Of course, the team name plays off the Spanish/Portuguese word for sun, sol, paying a tribute to the large Hispanic community in the Miami area. My apologies that I did not use this space to talk about former NHL player and Stanley Cup champion Mike RICCI (36A: [“Penelope” star Christina]), who had one of the more distinct noses in NHL history, because it was often broken. Also, he had a million-dollar smile to boot!

Mike Ricci

See you all tomorrow!

Take care!


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30 Responses to Thursday, November 20, 2014

  1. Nice to see my U of M colleague Victor Barocas (with honorific acknowledged) on the ingenious Fireball theme. Carpe diem, indeed! Plus very fair assessment of the Timothy Polin puzzle, for which the overall theme emerged rather early but there were a lot of non-inferable details that needed to be worked out from tricky or difficult crossings (second half of the story title was evocative of the swallows of CAPISTRANO). I have used petroleum ether (aka ligroin) in my research for over 40 years, and have never ever heard it referred to as BENZINE. Flabbergasted to learn from that the word has been used previously in 1996, 1984, and 1973. Get me some ACIDS and maybe we could etch it out of crosswords forevermore.

    • Bencoe says:

      George, I don’t mean to pretend I know more than you about chemistry (I don’t). But I have heard the term BENZINE a couple of times. In Richard Feynman’s autobiography, for instance, he talks about how he would put BENZINE on his hand and light it on fire to impress his friends. It burned too fast to hurt him, until he was older and had more hair on his hand, at which point it would burn like a wick on his hand hairs.

    • Justin Weinbaum says:

      Yes, good work Victor! Very, very nice theme idea. (from another ex-UMN colleague)

  2. Richard says:

    INKA has been used only 7 times so I would not include it in a list of words used too frequently, unless you think it is a word that never should be used. (I would not argue against this position, by the way. particularly since the only way I think it can be clued is in reference to Jimmy Durante.)

    I would add OLE to your list, since it is the biggest offender in terms of frequency of use.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Didn’t we just see the Zorro theme in another puzzle? Unfortunately that made the solve less interesting, but that’s not the constructor’s fault, and it was basically a nice puzzle, so I think I will refrain from rating it.

    I don’t get {Displayed conspicuously} for “oozed.”

    The Fireball was creative for sure, but I’m not sure if it was brilliantly creative or weirdly creative. Or both. The theme entries were appealingly goofy, so I think its a thumbs up. Unlike your completed grid, my grid did not have the circles locating the days, but I did find them. I wonder if the circles appeared in some versions but not others.

    I don’t get {Scout watcher} for “boo.”

    Complaints based on pronunciation have proven slippery, tricky and controversial, but somewhere recently — (I can’t find where) –there was a clue based on the notion that “adieu” and “ado” are homophones. (The clue was something like {Homophone for a synonym for ‘farewell.’} That clue is so far off base, it should be prosecuted for being AWOL and dishonorably discharged. They are not pronounced remotely the same. [EDIT — maybe a Matt G. But of course, he is from Staunton, pronounced Stanton. :-) ]]

    • ArtLvr says:

      Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird” watched Atticus’ daughter Scout…and rescued her from the attacker.
      And I think the “ooze” was used in “My Fair Lady” for the pseudo-linguist who oozed his way around the ballroom, trying to place Eliza’s native language? Hungarian!

      • Brucenm says:

        Thanks. I read Mockingbird years ago, but had totally forgotten that.

      • pannonica says:

        ArtLvr: I don’t think that’s a good example of OOZE as clued in the puzzle; it’s describing overall movement. Consider instead a phrase such as “he oozed charm”, which makes you imagine it’s coming out of his pores.

        addendum: helpful Ngram chart.

        • ArtLvr says:

          You’re right, pannonica, that’s a better example — but Rex Harrison doing that snarky patter song in the movie is one of my favorite moments of all time! It might even have been “oiled his way around the floor”. I didn’t look it up…

  4. dave glasser says:

    Thanks, last week’s AV Club, for teaching me Zorro’s full name!

  5. Gareth says:

    Figured out all the theme answers at DON. Still, the slashed Z added a nice extra layer. The AVEO clue is only correct if you ignore the fact it is still sold outside of the United States…

  6. CY Hollander says:

    I’m surprised people have rated the NYT so low (perhaps it’s because of the other Zorro puzzle that Bruce mentions, which I apparently haven’t seen). I thought it was a fun theme: instead of simply laying your pen to the side and saying “Done” (or however you ordinarily like to mark a puzzle’s completion), you slash a Z into it with your rapier!

    Sadly, I did not really earn that swashbuckling conclusion, as I finished with a stupid mistake in the top left: assuming that the Nuremberg clue was looking for some first name that I didn’t know, I didn’t give enough attention to it, and guessed that Century was a FOrT.

    Re 24D: I realize that the times have passed me by, but I still hew to the old-fashioned notion that the verb ought to come first in a verbal phrase; thus a bartender TENDS BAR (and a fund-raiser raises funds, and a skirt-chaser chases skirts).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Okay, skirt-chaser isn’t even analogous. It’s as if you’re including sexist language just to provoke all who don’t care for it.

      • HH says:

        Then what does a windbreaker do?

      • CY Hollander says:

        Yes, skirt-chaser is not really analogous; it was just the next similar word I thought of and I threw it in to be humorous. While I don’t think of skirt-chaser as a sexist word (I’d hear you if we were talking about referring to women generally as “skirts”, but in context, the expression describes someone who pursues anything with a skirt—the objectification thereinvolved is part of the word’s connotation), I didn’t say it to provoke you and it’s not worth quarreling over, so consider it withdrawn.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      “I’m surprised people have rated the NYT so low…”

      Maybe, like me, people felt it was more trivia quiz than puzzle. And the NYT site drew the Z for you after successful completion.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Papa John tried to post a link that provides a clearer understanding of what goats say. (Hint: It isn’t “maa.”) Enjoy! This is one of my all-time favorite YouTube videos:

    • Papa John says:

      Hey! I’m being “misquoted”. That’s not the link I sent to you. Show the one where the goat is actually saying “Maa” and not some shabby translation.

      “Bob”, indeed — what goat has a friend named Bob? Even if he did, which is unlikely, why would he ask him for help? It’s all nonsense.

  8. Bencoe says:

    Thanks for the song, Ade. Grandmaster cuts much faster!

  9. Linda says:

    Re: the goat video: I have to come down on the side of “Bob” and “Help” because the goat is clearly closing his lips at the end of each word. If you try that yourself, you see that closing the lips produces a “b” or “p,” while leaving the mouth open at the end of the word would produce a “ah” as in “bah” or “maa.”

    Trust me. I teach public speaking.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      This is my favorite blog comment of all time.

      • Lois says:

        But there was a “Brain Games” show on the National Geographic Channel showing that our brains often supply sounds or words that are quite variable depending on suggestion. A lot would depend on the words at the bottom of the screen. As far as the claimed bilabial consonant “b” or “p” at the end of the goat sound, the goat would have to reopen his mouth immediately at the end of the sound with a little explosion or aspiration to get something very clear there. The way I perceive the sound without seeing the subtitles (Papa John’s version), the mouth only closes some time after after the expression of sound.

        • Linda says:

          Lois: I just watched the video again, and thinking back on glee club or other choral ventures all of us have probably had, am still quite sure about the “b” or “p” ending the word. The “ah” part of the word is what you refer to, and you are right, as pronounced with the open mouth. But closing the mouth shuts off the syllable, just like the glee club does when the conductor indicates they should all stop together right now, and produces an element of closing off sound even if not opened again. That closing off of sound provides the ear with a closed word instead of an open one. Interesting comment about the “k” sound as possible in a couple of languages, although that is produced farther back to also end the word.
          For sure, projection, suggestion, and expectation are always issues to take into account when assigning meaning!

          • CY Hollander says:

            Lois: I just watched the video again, and thinking back on glee club or other choral ventures all of us have probably had, am still quite sure about the “b” or “p” ending the word. The “ah” part of the word is what you refer to, and you are right, as pronounced with the open mouth. But closing the mouth shuts off the syllable, just like the glee club does when the conductor indicates they should all stop together right now, and produces an element of closing off sound even if not opened again. That closing off of sound provides the ear with a closed word instead of an open one.

            I believe Lois is right about this one: if you close the mouth and don’t reopen it with that little burst of air she mentioned, if you’re still making sound in your larynx when your lips close, you get an M, not a B or P (still a closed syllable, but not the same one), and if the humming ceases before or at the same time as the lips close (which is what she says she saw in the goat video), then they don’t affect the sound.

          • Linda says:

            For Cy: We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I hear ya’ on the burst of air/”m” thing, but if the intent of the goat is to say “Bob” or “help,” that may be the best the goat can do given his/her biological mouth configuration. At least that’s what the goats I have interviewed have indicated, but just on background.

            ((*_*)) Linda

  10. pannonica says:

    Found this (extracted):

    • Danish mæh
    • Dutch mè mè
    • English naa
    • Finnish mää
    • French bêê
    • German maehh maehh
    • Greek maehehe
    • Hebrew meh meh
    • Hungarian mek-mek
    • Italian bee
    • Japanese me-e me-e
    • Portuguese —
    • Russian me-e-e
    • Spanish beee
    • Swedish määk määk
    • Turkish me-e-e me-e-e
    • Urdu meh

    And then of course there’s the strangely explicable Goat Simulator game.

  11. Greg says:

    I liked 29 Across (“Initial offer?”): Cain. A lot.

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