Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fireball 9:44* (Amy) 
NYT 5:16 (Amy) 
LAT 13:14 (Gareth) 
CS 10:00 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:13 (Ben) 

Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 7 15, no 0507

NY Times crossword solution, 5 7 15, no 0507

We had Earth Day back on Wednesday, April 22, and here’s a puzzle with a GOING GREEN (59a. [Reducing one’s carbon footprint … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]) rebus theme. There are seven squares containing ECO in both directions, and since they’re not in symmetrical locations, that makes the rebus a little tougher. The puzzle was tough overall, with difficult fill and clues.

Here are the ECOs:

  • 19a. [Swimming or riding a bike, for most people], S{ECO}ND NATURE / 1d. [Seattle-based insurance giant], SAF{ECO}.
  • 23a. [1932 Ford featured in “American Graffiti”], DEUC{E CO}UPE / 9d. [Toon foil?], WILE {E. CO}YOTE.
  • 39a. [Gelid], IC{E-CO}LD / 33d. [River to the Rio Grande], P{ECO}S. [Gelid] isn’t household vocab in most places.
  • 51a. [___-Roman], GR{ECO} / 37d. [Some New Orleans music], ZYD{ECO}.
  • 52a. [Miami area, informally], DAD{E CO}UNTY / 32d. [Fundamentalist Christian], PENT{ECO}STAL.
  • 58a. [La Sorbonne and others], {ECO}LES / 52d. [Gentility], D{ECO}RUM.
  • 66a. [Logs], R{ECO}RDS / 57d. [Make beforehand, as a dinner dish], PR{ECO}OK.

Boy, was the northwest corner of this puzzle hard to break into. The top two Acrosses there are clued 1a. [Rishi, in Hinduism] and 13a. [___ Perelman, prolific Russian science writer], and I don’t usually encounter two factual things clearly clued that I just haven’t heard of before. I mean, I’ve seen RISHI as old crossword fill, but not as a clue for SAGE and I really didn’t know what it was getting at. And YAKOV Perelman? I guess I’m not up on my Russian science writers, no matter how prolific they are. Throw in a rebus square before my rebus radar has gone off, and boom. 1d. [Seattle-based insurance giant], SAF*?? Totally lost until the crossing 19a gave me the rebus in SAF{ECO}. And then it was off to the (slow) races.

Other tough spots:

  • 50a. [Alabama’s Wilson ___], DAM. Is this thing famous? Took a while to get the crossing, 40d. [Certain readout, for short], LCD for the D.
  • 69a. [Wind-related], EOLIC. We all wanted AEOLIAN, didn’t we? Not sure I’ve seen the EOLIC form before.
  • 72a. [“I Wish” rapper ___-Lo], SKEE. My son’s never heard of him. He had one hit single, in 1995. Whereas Skee-Ball is still getting hits in places like Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Busters—both a classic reference and a current one.
  • 11d. [Knockabout, e.g.], SLOOP. Never, ever heard this nautical “knockabout” usage. I hate nauticalese in my crosswords, man.
  • 29d. [Insect’s resinous secretion], LAC. Hey! It’s the sort of crosswordese I know from back in the day.
  • 48d. [Memory imprint], ENGRAM. Tough vocab.

Paul Hunsberger’s Fireball crossword, “Carat Top”

Fireball crossword solution,  "Carat Top" 5 7 15

Fireball crossword solution, “Carat Top” 5 7 15

Oy, I did not care for this one at all. Everything plays normally except for the top middle section, where some answers seem too long for their spaces, but it’s not altogether clear if you put two letters into a single square or what. Turns out 4-Down through 10-Down are all 1 letter too long, and the first letters extend outside the grid. You’ve got LUCY IN THE SKY / WITH DIAMONDS as a theme entry, and NEIL, HOPE, and BASEBALL aptly appearing in diamonds (as they can all precede d/Diamond). Plus seemingly random 64a. [Author of the 1976 memoir “A Book”], ARNAZ (why wasn’t it clued in connection to the theme?) and that plus the “Carat Top” title is supposed to make us think of famous carrot-top/redhead Lucille Ball—but no, we don’t get BALL outside the grid, we get her fictional Lucy RICARDO‘s name. Who could even tell she was a redhead on black-and-white TV? Come on, now. Don’t dis Ms. Ball.

I might’ve liked the way the gimmick played out better if the three 7-letter Acrosses below RICARDO were more straightforward. 4a. [Fictional shipwreck survivor found floating in a coffin], ISHMAEL—could’ve gotten if I Googled that, and now you know that I never finished Moby Dick—twice. 15a. [Took] is Saturday Stumperously vague for FLEECED. And 18a. [Lack of starch?], LAXNESS—I use “lax” way more than I use “laxness.” 7d. [Hail Mary endpoint?] in the middle of those Downs—one of three question-marked clues in this 3×7 section of grid. Really? If you have a tricky gimmick, play fair in the surrounding area or you risk locking solvers out. I don’t have the patience or the energy to spend a ton of time on a puzzle before I blog it, and despite using the check-letter and reveal-letter functions a bit, the puzzle still took me inordinately long in that one little section. It was, like, 5 minutes for everything else, 4 minutes for those 21 squares. Unfun.

Three more things:

  • 29a. [Mammogram discovery, perhaps], CYST. Well, actually, the mammogram will show BIG SCARY THING, while ultrasound will reveal that said thing is just a CYST.
  • 48d. [What Bolivian president Evo Morales herded as a boy], LLAMAS. Well! Not every country’s president can boast of proficiency with camelids.
  • 1d. [Montecristo neighbor], ELBA. The Count of Montecristo and the Earl of Sandwich should have put their heads together and come up with some more tasty treats.

Okay, so you have fictional Lucy RICARDO in the sky of the puzzle, with diamonds. I think the idea could have been conceived differently and better, or that the sky zone should have been more penetrable. Three stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “I Need a Drink” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 11.54.40 PM

I’m not a huge fan of IPAs (more of a Flemish Sour Ale guy, personally), but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t entirely love this week’s BEQ.  Hoppy beer was all over this puzzle, showing up at 52D as well as inside four otherwise well-known phrases:

  • 17A: Movement of a copter’s landing area? — HELIPAD SWAY
  • 50A: Excerpts from a James Clavell novel? — TAIPAN LINES
  • 11D: “No bet from me, trout!” — I PASS, MINNOW
  • 25D: Thing that bothers ballet choreographer Marius? — PETIPA PEEVE

The last of those theme clues really irked me this week.  I had figured out the gimmick that was going on and had enough of the across clues to fill in the IPA and figure out it was a modification of pet peeve, but I don’t have enough choreographer knowledge to get Petipa on my own.  For sports names like 27D‘s ERIK Spoelstra, I’m fine with that as a clue since I’m not a big sports person and other solvers are, but this one just felt a smidgen too obscure.

did like some of the fill, though.  36D‘s SLAV was a nice reminder that it’s almost time for Eurovision, and other random things like Peach MELBA (1A), KING SIZE (37D), and AKITA (24D) were all nice. Overall, though, this puzzle lacked the usual flavor I get from BEQ’s puzzles.

3/5 stars

Gareth Bain’s LA Times crossword – Ade’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 05.07.15

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 05.07.15

Good day, Los Angeles Times crossword go-getters! It’s Adesina (Ade) filling in today for your fearless leader, Gareth, who himself provided us with today’s grid, with the theme turning out to be “fun with anagrams.” Each of the three theme answers are multiple-word entries, and the first word of each all happen to be anagrams of each other.

    • CAPITOL BUILDING (17A: [Washington landmark])
    • OPTICAL ILLUSION (38A: [Escher’s “Relativity” is an example of it])
    • TOPICAL STEROIDS (61A: [9-Across treatments])No kidding, I first typed in “CALAMINE LOTIONS,” and was staunch with that answer for about a couple of minutes. It made sense, I tell you!! Right?! Also with this entry (topical steroids), I’m trying to hold my tongue with delivering any Barry Bonds jokes right now! It’s HARD!

Though I pretty much sauntered through this grid, there were no real major hang-ups that I had. Also, there were no more B.J. and the Bear references in this grid, so that’s a victory, at least to some crossword solvers. (I did get remember and get Evigan in yesterday’s grid without any trouble, though. I’m not sure a person under 35 should have gotten that readily, but I did. I’m an old soul.) We have a different way to clue ANNE, and I had no prior knowledge of her (and her dominion) yet just decided to plop down “Anne” anyway and hoped it was right (1A: [____ of Cleves]). How about the back to back tongue-twisting clues with WOULD (14A: [“How much would _____ a woodchuck chuck…”]) and ESAU (16A: [“____ Wood sawed wood”: tongue twister opening])? The only time I’ve seen/heard the line with ESAU is in crossword puzzles, I believe. Always appreciate when constructors put parts of their personal lives, in one way or another, in a grid, and our veterinarian has POOCH (26D: [Shelter resident]) and ASPCA adjacent to each other here (27D: [Shelter org.]). Would you hold it against me that I’m a born and raised New York City kid (Brooklyn) who didn’t know the original name of John F. Kennedy Airport, IDLEWILD, until about six months ago (39D: [New York Airport name until 1963])? This easily could have made our next part of the grid, because the plot of land that JFK is on now used to be a golf course. But our winner today for the next part of our blog is…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RED BULLS (9D: [Popular energy drinks])For those who are not familiar with my blogging style, I usually take one non-themed clue and expound on it by giving it a sports slant, given my background as a sports reporter. I chose to go with soccer with today’s entry, as the New York RED BULLS are one of the original founding franchises of Major League Soccer, America’s top-level soccer league that has been in operations since 1996. The Red Bulls were originally called the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, but in 2006, the team was sold to the Austrian energy drink company Red Bull, hence the team name they have today. Like a good number of New York sports teams, the Red Bulls are actually based in New Jersey (Harrison, NJ). Oh, and in a strange bit of coincidence, my next sporting event that I’m going to cover is a Red Bulls game, as they take on the other New York-area team, expansion team NYC FC for the first time this Sunday. I’m hearing that that rivalry might be called the Hudson River Derby. I like that name, and like it much better than any moniker that has “Big Apple” in it.

Here’s hoping you didn’t mind this review, and thank you for the time you’ve given me today in this cameo appearance. Take care, everyone, and enjoy the rest of your Thursday!


Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sound Reasoning”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.07.15: "Sound Reasoning"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.07.15: “Sound Reasoning”

Good day, everyone! We have fun with homophones in this crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith. In the puzzle, each of the four theme answers are puns of common phrases and terms, with the last word in each of the terms switched out with a homophone. Each of the last words also happen to rhyme as well.

  • TAKES IN VANE (17A: [Stores the weathercock?])
  • BOUNDING MANE (27A: [Feature of a charging lion?])
  • FEEL ONE’S PANE (46A: [Check for a broken window?]) – I know my parents had to do that a couple of times after I accidentally threw objects (mostly footballs and baseballs) onto the windows of the apartment!
  • RAISING CANE (61A: [Grow a sugar crop?])

This might be only the second time that I’ve seen the whole name of CARL SAGAN in a grid (11D: [“Cosmos” host]). Although, now with Neil deGrasse Tyson hosting the reboot of the series, you can throw people for a loop if the same clue was presented (Sagan or Tyson). I’m pretty sure a few people would not be too enamored with ILLER, but I didn’t mind…too much (22A: [Greener around the gills]). Can’t say that I’m familiar with ZOT, or the comic that it references (59A: [Recurring sound effect in the comic “B.C.”]). I haven’t come across Shakespeare in a while in a grid, so nice to see CASSIO in there (5D: [Object of Othello’s jealousy]). Lastly, this puzzle has me wondering the last time I was one the receiving end, or gave out a NOOGIE (48D: [Playful knuckle rub]). Sadly, I probably was on the receiving end of that many more times than I dished them out!!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: COX (63D: [“Friends” actress Courtney]) – Former Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves manager Bobby COX was part of the most recent class that was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. His Hall of Fame career was defined by his second stint as manager of the Atlanta Braves, between 1990 and 2010. The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 and won the World Series in the strike-shortened 1995 season. Cox was also known for getting into many arguments with umpires, as he owns the Major League record for most times ejected from a baseball game, with a whopping 158 ejections.

It’s TGIF tomorrow! Have a good rest of your Thursday, everyone!

Take care!


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31 Responses to Thursday, May 7, 2015

  1. Martin says:


    Does “maharishi” ring a bell? Maha means “great.” As a maharaja is a great raja a maharishi is a great rishi.

    • Bencoe says:

      Yeah, I liked rishi, but world religion is very much in my wheelhouse. Might not be as interesting to others.

    • David L says:

      I can’t speak for Amy but I will confess that my knowledge of Sanskrit etymology is clearly not up to snuff.

    • Phil says:

      That’s about as helpful as when, as a lad, I tried to understand what my Grandpappy meant when he said great googely-moogely. Let’s see, a googely-moogely can be great, or possibly merely ordinary. Yup, that explained what a googely-moogely was.

    • Martin from Charlottesville says:

      Thanks for that.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, tough to do. I had to cheat to get YAKOV. Even though I kept that NW corner till last I still had trouble with it. But I admired the puzzle nevertheless. Some of the combos were really good– ECOLE and DECORUM; DADE COUNTY and PENTACOSTAL. Most of the crosses had at least one component that was fun– ZYDECO is great as is WILEY E COYOTE.
    I did not know from LAC, but ENGRAM was a gimme, for which I was grateful.
    In retrospect, I think the cluing could have been made a little easier and the puzzle would have been more enjoyable– There are other ways to clue SAGE and DAM and even YAKOV.

    No rating from you, Amy?

    • Bencoe says:

      Surprised it wasn’t Smirnov. What a country!

    • huda says:

      PS. Since I somehow got the revealer before doing most of the puzzle, I thought the rebus should be removing CO2 (or COO)– and it worked for PRECOOK- It seems apter that removing ECO… just being literal I guess.

      • Zulema says:

        I also thought it should have been CO2, but can’t even imagine the construction required.

  3. lemonade714 says:

    The name Dade County changed to Miami-Dade County in 1997. Is precook really a word anyone uses? Overall too hard for me.

  4. lemonade714 says:

    Gareth’s LAT with a 7 letter anagram inside three gridspanners was very nicely done

    My point was that while food gets to become pre-cooked, the act is simply cooking not pre-cooking. Would you say, I am going to precook the sausages, or I am going to cook the sausages and then serve them later? NBD, the word as a verb just does not flow for me

    • huda says:

      I say it, but I’m weird… :)
      So I did what I call “comparative googling” and
      a) it’s definitely acceptable
      b) but you’re right, it’s no very commonly used. It was not fair to compare it to “Cook” because that is so common and is also a name. So, I compared it to “Baste” and to “Preheat”. Huge differences. So, it might not jump at people very readily.

    • Gareth says:

      You will hear this on some cooking shows.

      • Martin says:

        There are two kinds of precooked. One is the one that’s been mentioned: precooked sausages or frozen dinners. This usage is synonymous with “heat and serve.” You don’t usually refer to something you cook in the afternoon to serve that evening as “precooked,” I agree, but it’s the term of art in the frozen-food aisle.

        The other use of precook you do find in recipes. It’s the partial cooking of some ingredient that will be further cooked in a subsequent step. Parboiling is a kind of precooking, but there aren’t specific terms for most other methods of precooking. For instance, in Chinese cuisine it’s common to fry, saute or steam ingredients briefly and complete their cooking when more ingredients are assembled. Most recipes in English would use “precook” for these cases.

  5. Matt says:

    I agree that the FB’s final trick was obscure– although it’s fair to note that the phrases ‘Lucy’ ‘in the sky’ ‘with diamonds’ do add up to a complete description of what’s going on– but I didn’t fully get it until reading the post here, despite the eventual appearance of Mr. Pencil. Also, I spent a lot of time trying to think of biathlon sports that start with ‘I’, which didn’t do much good.

    • Papa John says:

      >>>…add up to a complete description of what’s going on…<<<

      Actually, it doesn’t. If it were to say Lucy in the sky without diamonds it would be more accurate. The Lucy referred to – RICARDO – is not in the grid, nor are the diamond endings for NEIL, HOPE or BASEBALL.

    • john farmer says:

      I loved the Fireball, one of the great ha’s of the millennium.

      Not sure a puzzle can do much more than that.

      Thanks, Paul and Peter.

  6. Papa John says:

    The NYT is one of the best rebuses in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. As Amy pointed out, the non-symetrical placement of the rebuses added just the right decree of surprise. I had an advantage for an early discovery of the rebus with SAF[ECO] because I not only own stocks but my car and house insurance is through them, too.

  7. Bencoe says:

    SKEE-lo’s hit “I Wish” was one of my favorite songs from that era. Kind of an anti-gangsta, anti-arrogance response record, about a short, nice guy in the hood who gets no respect. And a lot of fun. But I agree it isn’t the best fill, especially as a partial.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      It’s also sampled to great effect in Girl Talk’s epic mashup “All Day.”

    • pannonica says:

      Don’t know that, but I do know Fatlip’s “What’s Up Fatlip”, which—especially with the (Spike Jonze) video—has a similar sentiment.

      • Bencoe says:

        Nice. I hadn’t seen this before, although a big fan of both Jonze and the Pharcyde back in the day.

  8. Martin from Charlottesville says:

    NY Times: Started in the NW and was not finding any GOLDS, was not getting to YES, felt anything but SAGE, and I was just a …; but then later on realized it’s Thursday, we must be in Rebus-land!

    I liked finding a MERL in the puzzle; hadn’t seen one since last Sunday.

  9. pannonica says:

    NYT: 43a [Like some anteaters] for SPINY doesn’t really pass our muster, does it? I forget how we’ve labelled such misappropriated adjectives, but it’s one of ‘those’ clues, that we decry. Without getting too technical, spiny anteaters are echidnas, quite distantly related to what are commonly known as ‘anteaters’. While it’s true that they share certain dietary (formivory) and physical (tapered snout, long tongue, powerful forelimbs) characteristics, these are the result of evolutionary convergence. I’d venture that someone with a modicum of familiarity would refrain from calling aardvarks or pangolins ‘anteaters’—and they’re more closely related to anteaters stricto sensu. To wit, a sea cucumber is not a cucumber. If you require a less ambiguous adjective, [Like some fish] would not be an adequate clue for FLYING. The easiest remedy, I suppose, would be to change the clue to [Like some ‘anteaters’]; more subtly, it could be [Like some ant eaters]. Personally I’d look elsewhere and choose [Like most cacti] or [Hedgehog descriptor]. Sure, [Echidna descriptor] would fly, too. What goes around comes around. Off to curl up in a ball now.

    • Martin says:

      What you’re saying is that this would have been more formally correct as a “sea anemone clue.” “Kind of anteater” would have clued SPINY as a word that sometimes precedes “anteater” just as “Kind of anemone” may (correctly by convention) clue SEA.

      So why don’t I feel that this clue is wrong and really should have been a “kind of” clue? The worst thing about “Kind of anemone” is that, not only is a sea not a kind of anemone, but a sea anemone is not a kind of anemone either. Most “kind of” clues share this disconnect between entry and clue surface meaning.

      This is not the case with “spiny anteater.” Most dictionaries support echidnas being anteaters. One sense (and your preferred sense) is “member of Myrmecophagidae.” But a less formal yet accepted sense is “mammal that lives on ants.” In other words, your suggested quote marks really aren’t needed because the dictionary says so.

      But I did mull on this one for a bit, so I’m certainly not saying your point is unreasonable.

      • pannonica says:

        Crossword clues should not need to rely on Talmudic semantics to achieve validity. They should be tricky in less awkwardly defensible ways.

        p.s. We can go up to suborder Vermilingua here. Don’t want to exclude [Kind of anteater] SILKY.
        p.p.s. That’s Cyclopes didactylus.
        p.p.p.s. I don’t care for [Kind of anemone] to clue SEA, either.

  10. Hap says:

    The LAT might be one of the few sites in the world where you can weld with a blowrorch (67A).

  11. dr. fancypants says:

    100% agree on Fireball. It took me longer to do the top middle than the entire rest of the puzzle–and resolving that was more of a let-down than an “aha!”

  12. ahimsa says:

    NYT: I like it when rebus squares are not symmetrical. It makes it more fun to find them during the solve. So, am I the only one?

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