Thursday, 1/21/10

Fireball 6:06
NYT untimed—Heads-up: You might want to solve this one on a PDF to appreciate its visual feature (by Liz Gorski); I’ll post the PDF link in a separate post promptly at 10 pm Eastern
LAT 3:23
CS untimed
Tausig untimed

And another heads-up: This Sunday’s NYT crossword will have a special feature described in the Across Lite version’s title bar, and Jim Horne recommends solving it on paper rather than online/on-screen for maximum enjoyment. I have no idea what this means specifically, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

File0211You get to see my handwriting for a change—I printed out the PDF, fired up the Pentel Twist-Erase 0.9, and got cracking. Felt like a toughish Thursday puzzle, but I wasn’t watching the clock so I don’t know how long I spent on it. There was definitely some erasing going on, which you can see if you look closely. Like 58A, [Green mold in the fridge], starts with LIM-? I went straight for the LIMBURGER, but it turned out to be LIME JELL-O.

The theme interprets the phrase CUTS CORNERS—[What this puzzle's theme does?]—by lopping off the corner squares and leaving a vacant anti-rebus of {NOTHING} in their stead. The outermost rows of the puzzle are all theme entries, all the time:

  • 1A. ["Don't take offense at that"] clues nothing PERSONAL.
  • 9A. [Was free] clues the past-tense phrase COST nothing.
  • 64A. Nothing DOWN is a [Loan lure, maybe].
  • 65A. [Daring person's cry] is “HERE GOES nothing!”
  • 13D. Nothing FANCY means [Free of bells and whistles].
  • 38D. [A nominal fee] is NEXT TO nothing.
  • 15A. ["Swish!"] in basketball is the sound made by a sunk shot that is nothing BUT NET. This is my favorite theme answer.
  • 47D. ALL OR nothing is a [Betting option].

I like the “nothingness” of the eliminated squares. In the applet and Across Lite, I’m betting those corner squares are just regular ol’ black squares, which is less elegant. Thanks to Jim Horne for letting me know about the PDF option for this one.

Highlights:

  • 16A. AGAMEMNON is an awesome name. AGA + MEM + NON? He’s a tad like Ooxteplernon, the god of short fill. He had a [Major role in "Troy"].
  • 18A. NODS gets a baseball clue, [Affirmations to pitchers]. Not necessarily daily affirmations.
  • 22A. [Stick on a pub wall] is pretty accurate for a CUE stick, but the clue made me think of darts and then my brain was stuck on the pub wall by a dart. (Hit the bullseye, though, so lots of points for the brain.)
  • 41A. Vocabulary! [Brevipennate bird] is an EMU. Brevipennate…briefly feathered? Ah, dictionary clarifies: “short-winged.” Can this word also apply to people with short arms?
  • 55A. Trivia! KOOL is a cigarette [Brand at a checkout counter that's also the name of a Phoenix radio station].
  • 56A. [Seven-footers' jeans sizes, say] would be TALLS. I have a friend who’s only about 5’9″ but it’s all in the legs. She’d love it if 36″-inseam pants were widely available for women. (If you know great sources for tall women, pass ‘em along.)
  • 3D. Sleep medicine! REMS are rapid eye movements or [Bedtime phenomena].
  • 20D. Ted SORENSEN is [Author of the 1965 biography "Kennedy"]. Not to be confused with conservative lawyer Ted Olson, who has teamed up with David Boies on California’s Prop 8 case on same-sex marriage rights. I liked this answer when I thought it was about Ted Olson. Those Scandinavian names all sound alike.
  • 26D. Fifty?!? I had no idea. The NEREIDS are [50 mythical sea nymphs]. Always fond of nereids, naiads (river/waterfall nymphs), dryads (tree nymphs), and oreads (mountain nymphs).
  • 35D. [Things with xings] are RRS, or railroads. Love the clue.
  • 36D. Who’s CAUDILLO? [Authoritarian Spanish leader], that’s who. Needed every single crossing. That’s the sort of name you expect to pop up in a Saturday puzzle.
  • 39D. Who doesn’t like an EMERALD? Clued weirdly as a [Ring rock].

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Roman Sestet”—Janie’s review

Back on January 10th, we had a puzzle from Patrick Blindauer called “Take Ten” that asked us to add the Roman numeral “X” to several well-known phrases. Today, Randy, too, uses Roman numerals–I through VI to be precise–but each of his are naturally occurring and at the end of the name or event in question. The “sestet” we get is made up of:

18A. WORLD WAR I [Event ended with the Treaty of Versailles]. Armistice, the end of the fighting, occurred on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The less-than-perfect Treaty of Versailles however, a pact between Germany and the Allied Powers, was not signed until June 28, 1919. Note how the first three letters of this fill sit atop the last three of

20A. ARTICLE II [Part of the Constitution that creates the Executive Branch]. Need a little refresher on the seven Articles of the Constitution? Here ya go! Yesterday marked one full year since Barack OBAMA [November 2008 winner] became President of the United States, so inclusion of his name in this puzzle seems a most fitting complement to this theme phrase. (In case anyone didn’t know, HAWAII is the [Birthplace of ... ].) And back in November ’08, Obama and Biden made apt examples of INS [Successful candidates]. McCain and PALIN [Author of "Going Rogue"] did not.

25A. SUPER BOWL III [Joe Namath's finest hour]. And not one of the Colts’. They were still in Baltimore then. Alas. The less said, the better.

42A. POPE ADRIAN IV [Only Englishman to head the Vatican]. Nicholas Breakspear’s papacy was brief–only five years, ending with his death at 59 (probably of quinsy which is something like acute tonsillitis…). Hadrian the Seventh is a 1904 novel by Frederick Rolfe (and a juicy 1968 play by Peter Luke) that explores the idea of yet another Englishman’s papal elevation. In this story, our hero honors his countryman, the aforesaid Nicholas Breakspear, by adopting his papal name. His papacy, too, is foreshortened (by assassination).

49A. SURVIVOR V [Reality show that took place in Thailand]. Have never seen this or any of the shows in the Survivor franchise. Not the one set in Panama or Palau or the Pearl Islands either. They’ve got a way to go to catch up the Super Bowl (which plays edition XLV in February), but Survivor XX starts the very next week… Set your TiVo now! Oh, and again–the first three letter here sit atop the last three of

55A. EPISODE VI [It's otherwise known as "The Return of the Jedi"]. More my speed… Yes, it was the third Star Wars film to be released–but chronologically it’s the end of the road.

In addition to all this strong theme fill with its wide range of interest-piquing topics, I also liked REAR-VIEW [___ mirror], the ["Lucky" aviator]/LINDY combo, and seeing DANCERS clued as [Characters in "A Chorus Line"]. I far prefer to see the “-ERS”/occupation ending attached to legitimate occupations than in words like APERS [Copycats] or E-MAILERS [Online correspondents]–but I know such words come with the territory.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9Those “hidden word in the middle of a phrase” or “hidden word at the outer edges of a phrase” themes tend not to thrill me, but this one is partly salvaged by the final unifier, BREAK THE ICE—the word ICE is “broken” across two words in various phrases.

  • 17A. [One that creates a current in the current] is not an easy clue for ELECTRIC EEL.
  • 28A. A GENETIC ENGINEER is a [DNA researcher].
  • 50A. [Fitness staple] clues AEROBIC EXERCISE. Do not want!

The GENETIC ENGINEER is joined by some other scientific fill. 21A: AMYL is clued as [___ alcohol: fusel oil component]. I think I saw another “fusel oil” reference in a crossword in the last year, but…meh. Crosswords seem to be leery of referencing the street drug AMYL nitrite, aka “poppers.” I daresay more solvers would have heard of that than amyl alcohol. Then there’s 30D: NITER, clued as [Compound in some explosives]. 62D: ACID—also a street drug!—is clued scientifically as an [Alkali neutralizer].

Most unsavory intersection: Between 55A: NUKEM/[Duke ___: video game hero] and 44D: A-BOMBS/[WWII enders]. Those “war enders,” of course, entailed nuking cities with hundreds of thousands of residents and killing over 150,000 civilians. Usually I can overlook an A-BOMB/H-BOMB entry, but combining a positively slanted clue with something that sounds like “nuke ‘em” went too far.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords: “Themeless 2″

Region capture 10There are those who say these Fireball Crosswords are too wickedly hard. Last week’s “Themeless 1″ did grind to a halt until I Googled one short answer and boom, I was off to the races. As Peter promised, this week’s puzzle is easier than last week’s, though it’s still a toughie, with challenging vocabulary and names we don’t typically encounter in crosswords.

High-end vocab:

  • 1A. KAKISTOCRACY is [Government by the worst people]. I figured it was -CRACY or -ARCHY, so I filled in the Y at the end. Then I thought it was CALISTO- or KALISTO- and had that L for a bit, but eventually had enough crossings for the [Big diamond] to get KOH-I-NOOR and the K.
  • 20A. [What vecturists collect] is subway TOKENS.
  • 29D. [Fictional frugivores] would be fruit-eaters like The Time Machine‘s ELOI. Fresh clue! Fresh like strawberries. Which are [Red, perhaps], when RIPE.
  • 31D. Math vocabulary: ASYMPTOTE is a [Line that a curve infinitely approaches].
  • 46D. What’s a pronucleus? Well, a [Pronucleus's place] is in a GAMETE. (Not in the kitchen.)

Names, names, and more names:

  • 13A. ANTONIO PROHIAS is a [Mad man], I think from Mad Magazine. Needed all the crossings to piece together that surname. Even with a more detailed clue, this is absolutely a “know it or you don’t” name that will force many solvers to derive it from the crossings.
  • 65A. [Owner of the Baltimore Orioles] is PETER ANGELOS. What I said about 13A holds true here.
  • 5D. Horse names! [Determine, to Decidedly] is a SIRE. Or maybe these are show dogs. I haven’t heard of Determine or Decidedly.
  • 11D. CIO-CIO SAN is a [Noted spinto soprano role]. Never saw the word spinto in my life.
  • ANDREI, the ASTORS, muse ERATO, bald LES Grossman, the IOMEGA company, and EVA GABOR round out the names category, along with the place names PRAGUE, IWO, and RENO.

A few of my favorite clues:

  • 59A. [Ball player's wear, maybe] is the TUX worn by someone attending a formal ball for fun.
  • 1D. [Hang] clues KNACK, as in “I’m getting the hang/knack of these Fireball puzzles.”
  • 41D. [Nam vet's kid, perhaps] is a Gen XER.
  • 53D. TUMS are a [Stomach roll?].
  • 54D. [Canning tool?] is an AXE, as in firing or canning someone by giving them the figurative axe. Conan O’Brien’s staff is getting $12 million in severance pay from NBC, and Conan’s AXE is accompanied by another $33 million for him.

Favorite fill includes that kooky KAKISTOCRACY, tasty POTATO PANCAKES, the animated rodent movie G-FORCE, and CRAWDADS. I also liked the cop-speak detective-novel lingo. DOERS are [Perps], and I can hear NYPD Blue‘s Sipowicz using the word. [Took out] as in “slew, offed” = ICED.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Verbal Contracts”

Region capture 1The theme entries feature “verbal contractions,” or elisions of the vowel in to in assorted phrases:

  • 17A. “Early to rise” contracts to EARLY TRIES, or [First attempts?].
  • 28A. “MEAL READY” TWEET is clued [#dinner RT @chef: time 4 food"?]. This one plays on “meal ready to eat,” the military’s portable MRE food rations.
  • 41A. APPEALS TREASON (“…to reason”) is clued as [Attempts to get a higher court to overturn one's espionage conviction?].
  • 56A. “Played to win” becomes PLAYED TWIN, or [Shared a role, like Mary-Kate and Ashley?], the Olson twins.

Mystery person: 19A: ANNI [Albers of the Bauhaus school]. Runner-up: 30D: WHOMSO, or [Anyone, formally].

Non-mystery person: the Filipino star boxer in the 54A clue. TKO is a boring abbreviation answer, but the current clue—[Decision for Manny Pacquiao]—juices it up.

Good long fill includes the 10-letter Across answers (that look like theme entries but aren’t) CAST A SPELL and ROLE MODELS, plus the six-pack of vertical 8s that are silky smooth. Really, would you look at those 8s? All familiar words or phrases, with the aforementioned ANNI the only crossing that puts up a fight.

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31 Responses to Thursday, 1/21/10

  1. Mel Park says:

    Two related questions before things get started for Thursday: Is 10 pm Eastern when the next day’s NYT gets posted? I have subscribed to the online NYT crossword since the inception of the service and I also get the newspaper delivered on weekends here in Memphis. I do look for the new puzzles almost every evening but was never sure of the time it is posted online. Also, I have presumed that when I download each day’s puzzle from the links at Cruciverb or your site, Orange, that I’m being verified as being a paid subscriber. Is that right?

  2. Wow. In AL the corners are simply black squares, so there is no hint that they mean “nothing.” I spent a LOT of time trying to figure out how, e.g., how “COST” (9A) could mean “was free.” But other than that techincal issue it was a terrific puzzle.

  3. Martin says:

    Amy,

    I’m glad I solved this one in AcrossLite. Those empty corners are a huge spoiler. Of course the puzzle was designed to be solved with the empty corners so I wouldn’t claim that the pdf detracts from the intended solving experience. But the extra challenge made the aha moment even sweeter.

    CAUDILLO is a what, not a who. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s a title, not a name.

  4. Alex says:

    So let’s see … we’ve had a corner rebus, an amen corner rebus, rounds the corner … all by Liz. I think we need to hop on a few more of these before she does. KITTYCORNER in the center with a CAT rebus in the corners? CORNERSTONE with a ROCK rebus? FOURCORNERS with an IV rebus? We can do this, people! (Unless, as is likely, Liz has already written these puzzles and had them accepted)

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I tried PLAIN at 13D, but it turned out to be FANCY — so I thought for a short while that we were looking for opposites. It didn’t take long to get the whole thing, though, even in AcrossLite. NOTHING BUT NET made no sense to me, and neither did the DCCAB, so I just left them because nothing else was a word. “Swish”, in early childhood, meant urinate!

  6. Nancy says:

    I figured out the nothingness of the puzzle fairly early on. Worked it in Across Lite but even though I had the theme I had trouble understanding how having “nothing” associated with the black squares equaled “cutting” corners. Now that I see the pdf the “cutting” makes a lot more sense.

  7. Nancy says:

    I don’t know if Alex has seen Liz’s “Catty Corners” original needlework design. Liz is a very talent needlework designer, as you can see from the examples on her website: http://primroseneedleworks.com The direct link to the page with Catty Corners: http://primroseneedleworks.com/crosswords.aspx

  8. Doug says:

    The penny didn’t drop until I saw the PDF. Had SALINGER for Sorenson (and next to the impossible NEREIDS) and DIAMOND for Emerald (next to impossible CAUDILLO) so these messed me up for the longest time.

    Cool little puzzle though!

  9. Elaine in Arkansas says:

    ouch. The SW defeated me, even after I removed DIAMOND. I also had small errors that kept me from the theme 36A answer. After the simple Wednesday, this felt cruel! LIME JELL-O was my first answer, and that SE corner went so quickly that I had quite a spell of false hope.

    This is the kind of puzzle that convinces me I Do Not Belong in Crossworld!

  10. David says:

    Didn’t know the words SLOVENS or VOILE so had an error where they crossed. Otherwise a fun solve.

  11. Gareth says:

    In AL, had several theme answers that seemed to be opposite to their clues, and so took until almost the end of the puzzle to get what Liz Gorski was up to. What I love most was the actual {NOTHING} phrases chosen, each one is a winner, which is the real art of this puzzle.

    Looked mighty strangely at SLOVENS though knew VOILE so didn’t get me. CAUDILLO was also a tough entry, but I don’t see anything in the least objectionable about either entry. In a way, they actually add interest to the puzzle.

  12. PhillySolver says:

    I caught the rebus very early and the BUTNET. Was making for a great time when off of the leading S, I joined Doug in dropping in Salinger which allowed one cross and a some spinning wheels, but I found relieve in the OASIS. I had toile for a bit and a few other missteps including trying some version of salmonella for the mold. Lovely puzzle!

  13. Evad says:

    Was thinking at first that the center explainer entry would be that the puzzle HIDES NOTHING, but I like CUTS CORNERS as well.

    Other puzzles of this genre are Peter Gordon’s FOUR CORNERS puzzle (with the 4 state abbreviations of UT, CO, NM and AZ positioned in the puzzle corners as they are geographically) and a rejected puzzle by Amy and me with HOSPITAL CORNERS in the middle, with HOSPITAL spelled out with 2 letters in each corner running clockwise from NW to SW.

    It’s definitely a fertile theme seed!

  14. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks for providing the pdf version, Amy. Another elegant Gorski construction (I suppose that’s a redundant phrase).

    I should have tumbled to the theme more quickly by solving on paper, but I was 100% sure that 1-Across was PARDON ME after I had the P from PIG OUT and the O from OOM. (PIG OUT was my entry into the grid since, sadly, I can relate all too well to the clue.) My error even gave me the R for REMS, so I was 101% sure I had 1-Across right. I am learning that when it comes to crosswords, I can never be more than 99% sure of anything until I see the Happy Pencil in Across Lite or confirm my paper answers on the applet.

    Amy (and other speed-solvers), I am curious: Do you remember the first answer you wrote in this grid? I suppose my real question is, when it comes to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, do you start at 1-Across and 1-Down just to see if you happen to strike gold, or do your eyes wander around the clues looking for blanks or other words that jump out as familiar? I’m not a speed solver, but I almost always do the latter. This time I thought I’d start in the NW just for grins. Didn’t work for me, obviously, so I’m curious about your technique.

  15. joon says:

    sam, the first thing i put in the grid was E__DED for 2-down. then STE, OOM, A NOTE, and tried to work the crossings to figure out OUI/NON. AGAMEMNON was a big help as soon as i noticed that clue.

    i always start in the NW even since i switched to paper solving. i can usually get a toehold there. on a super-tough puzzle, i might have to wander fairly far afield before getting any traction; fireball #2 certainly treated me that way, with totally unfamiliar answers spanning the grid’s top two rows. but even there i plugged in -OCRACY, OPT IN, ROTORS, AHI, YANK, and SSS without too much trouble. the trouble came later when i returned to the NW and found it as intractable as ever.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Mel, the NYT puzzle comes out at 10 pm Eastern, except on Saturdays and Sundays when it’s 6 pm Eastern. I think the NYT’s servers know if you’re currently logged in as a paying customer, and that the NYT links don’t work for nonsubscribers.

    Sam, I believe my first answer in the Gorski was DCCAB, though I wasn’t sure Busey was in that. It worked with the CDS and OCHS and SCAPULA(S/E) crossings, so I had confirmation pretty quickly.

  17. John Haber says:

    I got the theme relatively quickly, although it didn’t occur to me that it’d look different in print, so I must admit to having wondered what distinguished the corner black squares from others, beyond the central entry (which took me a long time).

    I think of Liz’s puzzles as having clever themes and relatively straightforward clues, but this truly challenged me. Besides the central theme entry, I ran into all sorts of obstacles. I had TOILE for the fabric, say, which then didn’t make sense running across. I didn’t recognize the phrase HERE GOES NOTHING.

    But mostly it was trouble moving toward the NE. I couldn’t remember for sure if the spelling were SORENSEN or SORENSON, and of course the Zorro reference across couldn’t decide it for me. I wasn’t dead sure of how to spell NEREIDS. I wavered on Xings, which could also have been STS (as in pedestrian crossings). I did ultimately guess right on these.

    Still further toward the corner, the combo of SCAPULAS, TAMARINS, NOTHING BUT NET (new to me), SHAMU, and DCCAB was a killer. I eventually pulled the first two out of memory and then kind of guessed my way into the others since “nothing but net” looked like it might make sense. Still, it was a lot of white space to face in a block, and I never did recognize DC CAB or understand the tank reference. Ultimately, I was just left with an unresolved error down by SLOVENS. On the other hand, while I wanted the Spaniard to be Franco, I didn’t need all the crossings before I thought of CAUDILLO.

  18. Howard B says:

    On tougher puzzles, I’ll generally start at 1-Across anyway, just to be consistent and to keep from wandering around, *unless* it’s a puzzle that starts with several long answers crossing small words, in which case I try to piece together the smaller (3-4 letter words). Then I can try to play Hangman with thelong answers to crack that part of the puzzle. Failing that, then I’m much more likely on a hard puzzle to just find the first toehold that consists of a clue that has a fairly certain answer:
    ___ Lanka, for example, is a much better starting option than something like “Mercury, e.g.”, which might be CAR or GOD.

    Re:Fireball 2: Being a Mad reader and baseball fan in my formative years, 13A came to mind after a few crossings, as well as the baseball owner at 65A. This nicely offset my complete lack of knowing the long 1A and 60A answers. On this puzzle, I started by looking at 1A, taking a (lucky) stab at the -CRACY ending, and confirming the R, A, and Y were viable. That started me off in the top-right (NE) corner, and then went counter-clockwise from there. My math background eventually helped complete 31-D, which would also be nasty if you haven’t encountered it. The rest of the puzzle built around these anchors, and it did solve slightly easier than the first offering,

    @Sam: I find there is a lot more variation in tougher puzzles on what path you end up taking to solve. Depends on what you know, what hits you in the right spot, and a little luck. The most important thing is to find a toehold anywhere that you can work from. If you’re speed solving, that first toehold is crucial, and each solid answer you can fill narrows the possibilities for the crossings, hopefully making the remaining squares exponentially easier to fill. So break the ice wherever you can. Of course, if nothing in the whole grid evokes an answer, then you have to get adventurous and try some guesses out ;).

  19. Rex Parker says:

    “Until I googled one short answer”????????????????? Sorry, but that = FAIL. WTF??? Anyone can be “off to the races” w/ one good bleeping google. I have reread your “one google” comment about ten times now to make sure I read it correctly. Yeesh.

    My experience of week 2 sounds just like Joon’s. Locked out of top, but got a bunch of crosses and then … just died in the NW (also had EWOK for ELOI — no way I could know that was wrong; LES v. WES … I OMEGA vs. KOMEGA … $&%^ if I know). No hope. Joon, did you mean you couldn’t finish? “Intractable” makes it sound that way. When I brought up the issue of difficulty to Peter, I got a one line response: something along the lines of “I have heard from no one who couldn’t solve week 2.” Look, I can accept failure, but if *I* (a pretty good solver) can’t do your puzzle twice in a row (and I didn’t fail to solve a single NYT all of 2009), that doesn’t bode well for its wide appeal. If it’s just meant to be a niche thing for the country’s very best, then OK. But I thought the goal for solver interest was somewhat broader than that.

    I found week 2 as impossible as I found week 1. Grievous. Painful. Over-reliant on proper nouns of astonishing obscurity. I want to promote the puzzle, but can’t very well promote a puzzle I can’t do. I thought the glory of the Sun would return. So far, it’s not even close. I realize that’s crossword heresy, but … there it is.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yeah, I was on lockdown in the NE last week until I Googled the Beastie Boys and found MCA. Last week killed me (mind you, I give up and Google a clue only once or twice a year, so feeling stuck enough to Google is a rarity for me). But today’s Fireball felt like a Sat. NYT with some tough names.

  21. joon says:

    indeed, i couldn’t finish FB #2. i eventually googled the mad guy … and then the diamond … and then i still couldn’t solve KAKI_TOCRACY crossing _IRE. i did know IOMEGA.

    being beaten by a puzzle always rankles. i’m arrogant and insecure like that. so i don’t have very positive thoughts about FB #2 right now. i did complete (and enjoy) #1 very much, but i seem to be in the minority regarding the relative difficulty of the two puzzles.

  22. Jon S says:

    I really liked this puzzle, although DC CAB would never have come to me in a million years without the crosses. Any baseball clue is good with me. I also found SLOVENS and VOILE to be vexing.

  23. Gareth says:

    Re FB2: I finished #1, but not #2. Despite that in general #2 was easier… 1A was a gimme and 15A too. Then crossed it with 3 and 4D… Within 5 minutes had 2/3 or so of the puzzle (After that time in #1 I had I think 2 entries!) – most of the top, all the middle and tendrils into the bottom. From then on it was working one letter at a time mostly, lol… Hadn’t heard of any of 3 bottom long answers! At sometime deep in the 20 minutes I was back to the top, which had 3 missing squares eventually had to google to get ANTONIOPROHIAS (missed SIRE and CIOCIOSAN) and guessed second C of that to finish. Didn’t help that I parsed ANTONIO as ANTON ?O… For me ANTONIOPROHIAS/CIOCIOSAN counts as 2 tough names crossing; though if PG is aiming for super tough crosswords I guess it is fair. Maybe.

  24. Quentinc says:

    @Gareth: 1A was a gimme?? Wow, I’m impressed! I love the fact that there’s a word to describe government by the worst (other than Bush-ocracy) but even after getting the crosses the answer meant nothing to me.

    @Rex — I’m with you! The only Mad magazine name I know is Alfred E. Neuman. And crossing it with the utterly obscure CIOCOSAN (Mozart operas only, please!) was cruel. The KOHINOOR diamond also meant nothing to me. I also don’t get ISE as being an ending to sonnet. Sonnetise? Sanitize? Sanitize what’s left of my sanity after not finishing the top of this puzzle.

    Amy: PETER ANGELOS, on the other hand, I think is much more widely known than the bizarre names at the top of the puzzle.

  25. Pete M. says:

    KAKISTOCRACY / KOHINOOR is an unfair crossing. It could be virtually any letter of the alphabet. I paid my $$ to be entertained… I’ll give these puzzles one or two more tries. If it continues in the painful/unfair range, I’ll write it off as a bad investment and move on, but I have no intention of subjecting myself to this punishment for a whole year. Peter G knows the difference between difficult-but-fair and obscure — it appears he elects to not apply his excellent editing skills to his own work.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pete, KOH has six hits in the Cruciverb database (from NYT, LAT, Sun, Newsday) with ___-i-Noor diamond clues. It’s one of the world’s most famous diamonds. It’s huge. It’s one of the Crown Jewels of the English monarchy. And it supposedly has a curse. The name’s also used by a brand of art supplies (technical pens, pencils, etc.). I don’t think it constitutes an unfair crossing the way that, say, KUMAON crossing a little-known *ATHY would. I call Fireball #2 difficult but fair.

    Edited to add: Plus another six Cruciverb hits for NOOR with a Koh-i-___ clue.

  27. Pete M. says:

    Cruciverb hits by themselves do not legitimize crossings. I have no problem with either entry if the crossing is gettable. Perhaps we’re supposed to know the names of British Crown Jewels, but it’s certainly not in my repertoire — perhaps I’m in the minority there. My issue is that if you don’t KNOW it, it’s in no way discernible. I’ll take the KUMAON/KATHY crossing any day… at least I’ve got a 50/50 shot of getting it right. I didn’t know CIOCIOSAN either, but at least it looked like a reasonable entry when it was filled in. Ymmv…

  28. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Pete, my unarticulated point was that the name’s been in enough crosswords by now that it’s not wholly unreasonable to expect solvers to have picked it up from crosswords even if they haven’t heard of it elsewhere.

  29. joon says:

    i’ll go ahead and say that CIO-CIO SAN is in a totally different ballpark from KAKISTOCRACY or KOH-I-NOOR (or ANTONIO PROHIAS). she’s the title character in the most frequently performed opera in america. heck, even i’ve seen it at a real opera house, and i don’t go to (m)any operas. i’m not saying that everybody has to know it, but she’s bigger in opera than crossword standbys AIDA and TOSCA, and i don’t hear any complaining about them. “utterly obscure” couldn’t be further from the mark.

  30. Pete M. says:

    I see your point, Amy. Interesting phenomenon, this self-legitimizing, isn’t it? I suppose the target audience is the multiple-crossword-per-day solver, which does tend to skew things a bit.

  31. Quentinc says:

    Joon, you’re right — “utterly obscure ” wasn’t fair (although I’d be willing to give you heavy odds that vastly more people know the names Aida and Tosca). My real problem with it is that the name is so bizarre, if you don’t know the opera it might as well be just 9 completely random letters. At least the “istocracy” part of KAK is logical (not that I’m defending that answer either).

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