Thursday, 3/11/10

NYT 4:38
LAT untimed
CS untimed
Tausig untimed
Fireball untimed

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 1This’ll be on the short side because that cold virus is winning by a landslide.

Theme:

Three incantations appear in the grid: HOCUS POCUS, ABRACADABRA, and OPEN SESAME. Running diagonally from Seattle to Miami in the grid is the phrase SAY THE MAGIC WORD, and that magic word appears in the circled squares, spelling out PLEASE. Isn’t that cute? I like the double meaning of “magic word” here.

Toughest fill and clues:

  • 22A. [Some brothers and sisters] in frats and sororities are ZETAS.
  • 24A. [Lab monitor?] is a LEASH that a Labrador retriever might wear.
  • 28A. Ron CEY is the [Former Dodgers third baseman whom Chris Berman nicknamed "Born in the U.S."]. As in “born in the U.S.Cey?”
  • 33A. TAMMIE [__ Green, 1987 LPGA Rookie of the Year] must be the most famous TAMMIE out there. Don’t recognize the name.
  • 40A. Misread [Ancient Britain] as [Ancient Briton] and couldn’t figure out how to make ANGLE fit. Answer’s ANGLIA.
  • 51A. CANEA is the [Former capital of Crete].
  • 12D. [Equipment that comes with sticks] clues DRUM SET. Of course.
  • 29D. Who-what? Never heard of EMA [__ Savahl (couture label)].
  • 44D. Not so difficult, but an unusual entry: ONE-ONE is [New Year's Day, datewise], as in January 1.
  • 50A. A teacher’s [Lesson writer?] might be a piece of CHALK to write on the chalkboard with.


Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “V-Six”—Janie’s review

If, because of the title, you thought this puzzle would have an automotive theme–after all, there’s CYLINDER right there at 3D clued as [Engine chamber]–you’d've thought wrong. Instead, Patrick has given us another peppy “add-a-letter-to-the-familiar-phrase” exercise (the letter “V”)–with a twist in the last of the theme fill, where he adds two of ‘em. “Two V or not two V,” here are the answers (and throughout, note that clever cluing):

  • 17A. Alley cats + V = VALLEY CATS [Felines that are, like, totally from San Fernando].
  • 25A. Yard sale + V = YARD SALVE [Ointment for newly mown grass]. “Aah,” I imagine those cut blades sighing, “That feels so much better, doesn’t it?”
  • 38A. Archie Bunker + V = ARCHIVE BUNKER [Fortification for files]. I really like the complete change of meaning this added V gives the new phrase.
  • 51A. Gray area + V = GRAVY AREA [Crater in one's mashed potatoes, say?]. Something like this.
  • 61A. Say “uncle” + V = SAVVY UNCLE [Hip relative?] Cool.

Once again, we have a puzzle with some discernible sub-themes. First there’s what I’m calling “Pre-K,” which is brought to us by TYKE [Small fry] (though not NIÑO today, as it’s clued in relation to the weather pattern and not as a stage of development for a male child), “DOES SO!” [Retort in a verbal volley], and [Final word of "I'm a Little Teapot"], OUT. For anyone who needs a refresher where this childhood lyric is concerned, here ’tis.

The other mini-theme goes by “Actors and Their Roles,” and that covers:

  • [Bruce of "Enter the Dragon"] LEE
  • [Antonio's "Evita" role] CHE
  • [Peter who was the voice of Anton Ego in "Ratatouille"] O’TOOLE
  • [Burt of "Smokey and the Bandit"] REYNOLDS; and one role sans actor with
  • ["Cheers" bartender Sam] MALONE.

There’s a tip o’ the hat to some of the ladies, too, with STUNNER [Beauty] JACLYN (Smith) [ "Charlie's Angels" costar of Farrah and Kate]; AMYS [Sedaris and Poehler], two very funny women; and the literary O’HARA, or [Scarlett of fiction] (whom we saw last week as well).

I’m also fond of the world history/geography fill of ETRUSCAN [Ancient Italian] (which hearkens back to Carthage, the “ancient African city” we saw earlier this week) and KRAKATOA [Volcanic island near Sumatra].

[Wd. like "where" or "when"] is ADV. So, too, is FISHILY, an adverb which I do look at [In a suspicious manner]…

Completely new to me: [Nen whose signature pitch was called "The Terminator"] for ROBB. Coulda fooled me. And did, apparently! I took more delight in the “J” of CAJOLE [Sweet talk] and the stylistic range of vocal music represented in the NE with ["Believe" singer Groban] JOSH and ETTA [James with four Grammys].

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Favorite clues: 13D: [Project done to a tee] for TIE-DYE and 46D: [Hams are often seen on it] for EASTER.

For more on the puzzle, this viral blogger refers you to PuzzleGirl’s L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword #10, “Themeless 8″

fireball 10What the? I lost what little I had written about this puzzle.

No real trouble spots here, though not knowing 1A: MAGDALEN meant that the northwest corner was the last part I filled in.

I wonder if THE JOE SCHMO SHOW was requested by one of Peter’s cruciverbal patrons. The show aired in 2003-04. What makes it crossword-worthy at this late date? Was the Season 2 DVD (released last year) a big hit or something?
Updated Thursday evening:

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “When I’m With You”

Region capture 2You can interpret this puzzle’s title as “when I is with U”: Each theme entry begins with a phrase in which a word containing an I, and Ben adds a U before the I to change the meaning:

  • 20A. [Conduits for toppings?] are SLUICES OF PIZZA.
  • 30A. [Dull crossword constructor's work?] is STATIC CLUING.
  • 40A. [Feeling regret about not trading one last stock?] is RUING THE BELL. At the NYSE, the closing bell signals the end of the trading day.
  • 55A. [Hotel room overlooking Love Canal?] is SUPERFUND SUITE.

Tough clues:

  • 58A. [Polish Holocaust hero Sendler] is named IRENA. Go read her inspiring story.
  • 60A. [Common exhibition space acronym] is MOCA. That’s the Museum of Contemporarary Art copying off of MoMA with the O. Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is abbreviated MCA.
  • 10D. The uncommon word HEMIC means [Blood-related].
  • 38D. [Condition for Homer Simpson and Michael Stipe] is ALOPECIA (baldness).
  • 46D. [S-word, often] is a PLURAL. Not the “S-word” that starts with S.
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23 Responses to Thursday, 3/11/10

  1. Jeffrey says:

    So I read all the speed solving tips on Wordplay this week by Dan, joon, Anne, Howard and others and started testing it out today. And look, my fastest Thursday ever in an Amy-esque 4:39. (Yes, I know you’re sick).

    Maybe there’s something to it. Look out B division!

  2. Howard B says:

    Feel better soon, Amy. Know how that is, and it’s not pleasant.
    Hope you’re back to 100% orangeness soon.

  3. joon says:

    amy: get well soon!

    jeffrey: i, too, had my fastest thursday ever, a time that i might describe as howardesque. not sure if it was reading the speed-solving tips, or just an unusually straightforward thursday. i was definitely in tune with the diagonal answer, which helped. i was pretty worried about TAMMIE crossing EMA crossing IAN, but it turned out to be right.

    john: cool theme! i didn’t realize it was your puzzle until i came here. in across lite, the title (which contains the extra instructions) is so long that it pushed your name and will’s name under my timer.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    @ Jeffrey, congrats on getting faster, but did you get it all right without help?

    I had to google the GUY (CEY) though I know he’s been used before. Nasty little crossing with second obscure person — I wanted another UMA (EMA?)

    Otherwise it was very good Thursday puzzle, with amusing theme and punch-line circles, plus some fresh fill too. i knew DEREK Bok, the ancient CANEA and ANGLIA, and also was able to figure out LUCRETIA, but the 9A clue “Gin runs” was unexpected for MELDS.

    My magic word would have been PRESTO, but the author’s was better!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Amy, best wishes for a speedy recovery from me too….

  6. mnemonica says:

    Did not know Canea, but knew the name La Canée from somewhere. (I looked it up after giving up; it seems to be another name for the same place.) The final E instead of A gave me TESTED for “took a sample of,” which I never questioned. Grr. You could call this my slowest time ever for a Thursday. I did like the theme, though.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    @ArtLvr – I was greatly helped by lots of music (MAME, ENYA, OH CAROL, YMCA, IAN, NEL) and sports (CEY, OTT, OWENS, BOSOX, KNUTE, MAV, ALI but not TAMMIE) that I knew. And I was born in Montreal in AOUT.

    I’ll no doubt come crashing back to earth tomorrow, but I’ll enjoy the rarefied air while it lasts.

  8. tmccormick4 says:

    I’m with @mnemonica: “canee crete” get more than a million Google hits, “canea crete” gets less than 100,000. Yeah, yeah, Google hits is not the best measure, but it’s pretty evil that CANEE gives TESTED which looks fine for [Took a sample of]. It took me 10 minutes to track this down, which I did only by looking at Amy’s answer.

    Then the cross of EMA = [___ Savahl (couture label)] and obscure golfer TAMMIE Green was horrible too (I’m usually pretty good with old sports trivia, but not her). It was one of those things where you had to know one (I knew neither) or just resort to Google. One could argue that TAMMIE is inferrable, but EMA Savahl doesn’t give much confidence as a cross (though not much would here).

  9. Gareth says:

    Yup! Cute conclusion to the theme! Also really like the grid design – very big white wedges!

    Amazed there aren’t any more famous Tammies! It’s a pretty common name, at least around here!

    Mistake: CAY/AMA, not too distraught about it though… Baseballer crossing weird fashion thing!

    Crosscan: I think it was just an easy puzzle? Count me as another fastest Thursday – although with an error so does it count? (after fastest Wednesday) – am expecting Friday to slaughter me!

  10. Barry G says:

    This was an incredibly easy puzzle for me… until it suddenly wasn’t. CANEE looked weird, but TESTED seemed rock solid. And then I finally gave up trying to guess the crossings of the whole TAMMIE/EMA/CEY area. I suppose it would have helped had I gotten the pun on CEY’s name in the clue, but I didn’t. I finally stuck in AMA/CAY just so I could say I had finished the puzzle, but it left a definite taste of *meh* in my mouth.

  11. duke says:

    I didn’t see the instructions up top until I was almost done. Really didn’t like the obscure names. By the time i filled them in, i didn’t care about the answers. But the one thing I found really disturbing was clueing Sedaka for Oh Carol. It’s Chuck Berry’s song whether Sedaka covered it of not. And Sedaka probably made more money off it than Berry did. Stone’s did a good cover too. In the Berry documentary, there’s a great scene with Berry “teaching” Keith Richard to play to intro. Each time he plays it, its great and each time Berry says, “no, that’s not it.”

  12. janie says:

    seems the story is that neil sedaka wrote “oh, carol” for carole king, whom he was smitten with and who was an early-on colleague when they were young song-writers.

    this link has some background.

    ;-)

  13. Howard B says:

    Yeah, some evil crossings in the Times today, but with a cleverly executed theme.
    CANEA is old-school crosswordese from the early Maleska-era puzzles, where I think it appeared with some frequency. I started out puzzling on a few books from that era, so that word reached out from some forgotten portion of my mind, and the blind hope of that being correct was the only way I could resolve that crossing.

    So if that got anybody stuck, you weren’t alone, and nothing to worry about there. Live, learn, and move ahead :).

    @Joon: thanks for the -esque.
    @Joon, Jeffrey: Great job on the solve! Theme not so tough, but some of the fill was tricky. See, it does get easier!

  14. davidH says:

    I totally missed the theme of the NYT puzzle. I kept trying to read the circled letters in some pattern from upper left to lower right – I knew they spelled “Please” but not reading them that way – and couldn’t figure out why that was related in any way to the other incantations. Doh!.

    I am a big fan of Amy’s brother, David. As a point of coincidence, I have a sister named Amy as well, but neither of us is as funny as either of them.

    Amy – feel better!

  15. Jeffrey says:

    One thing I have to deal with is being lefthanded. Are any of the ubersolvers left handed?

  16. Mitchs says:

    No trouble spots in the Fireball???!!! Yikes do I have a long way to go to catch you super-solvers. (Having SHOP for 1 down didn’t help the NW.) I wound up with about half the thing solved started hitting REVEAL. Too many names/terms I didn’t know crossed by misdirection and ambiguity. Loved it, though. Ain’t love grand?

  17. John Haber says:

    Started way too easy for a Thursday, then became almost impossible and, basically, mere guesswork in the W and SW, with NEL and crossings like CEY, EMA, TAMMIE and MAV, KOMODO (and I’d forgotten OH CAROL, really really old and I hated Neil Diamond anyway). I was also tempted to try Ford for the car, which would lead to T bond instead of T bill.

    I can’t say this dual too easy/guesswork made me like the puzzle. Also too many other names, like SABU and ENYA, though at least that was unambiguous in crossings and she’s now crosswordese. And at some point we really have to retire Mel Ott. I guess the theme is nice, and I appreciate that if you have to rely on circled letters, at least they are symmetric. But not a favorite puzzle.

  18. Dan F says:

    Fastest Thursday for me too. Had the same problem as DavidH – I misinterpreted the note as referring only to the circles. Should have known that with the Farmer byline, that couldn’t have been the end of it…

    Yes, THE JOE SCHMO SHOW was mine! It was one of my favorite shows ever (and to my surprise, one of Peter’s as well) – a hilarious parody of reality TV, with one poor, earnest schnook thinking he was on an actual reality show… but every ridiculous character and plot point was scripted out and performed by improv actors (including pre-SNL Kristen Wiig). I’m taking ALIA and ANKA as bonus paid fill, since we discussed an “Arrested Development” entry too. Thanks, Peter!

  19. anon says:

    amy could you please post the fireball?

  20. Karen says:

    Like davidH I misread the instructions and missed the diagonal answer. I missed the CEY/EMA crossing, and also messed up NIL/NEL. I guess that NIL has a lot of other cluing options; NEL pretty much gets clued by blu or Dante’s first word; it means ‘in’ in Italian.

  21. joon says:

    anon, amy’s sick and hopefully resting. i’ll post the grid. but remember, peter attaches the answer grid (and some explanations) to the original email, so you can check your answers even without amy’s help.

  22. Joel says:

    Seems to me Will messed up the order of the puzzles this week. Tuesday’s puzzle was insanely hard (Thursday difficulty), Wednesday’s was very easy (Tuesday difficulty), and today’s was very easy (Wednesday difficulty). They were all enjoyable though, so no complaints here!

  23. Jim Finder says:

    Fireball was based more than usual on names, TV show names, athlete names, product names. How could I have ever run across those old Spike and TLC shows, which cross with other unknown factoids? Don’t enjoy trivia so much.

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