Thursday, 7/1/10

Fireball 7:49
BEQ 6:59
LAT 3:45
Tausig untimed
NYT untimed
CS untimed

So, last Wednesday I skipped the crossword in United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, because they run the subpar Greg Bruce puzzle. My return flight on Sunday was cancelled so I ended up on AirTran. “Hey, the magazine will have a different crossword! At last, a silver lining in the travel clouds.” But no. It was not to be. Here’s the theme in the AirTran Greg Bruce puzzle, “An Apple a Day.” (And no, I didn’t spend any time doing the puzzle. I tore out the page someone else had filled in.)

  • 32a. [Jamboree] clues GALA. GALA apples are a kind of apple.
  • 67a. [Squirrel away] clues STORE. The Apple STORE is a retail outlet that has nothing to do with fruit. Its symmetrical partner in the grid is the unrelated TONER.
  • 68a. This one’s not in bold like the other theme clues, but it’s opposite GALA and FUJI is a kind of apple, too. [Filmmaker] is the tricky clue; Fuji is a brand of camera film.
  • 57d. PINK LADY is [A woman's cocktail] and a kind of apple. Symmetrical partner is the unrelated DEAF-MUTE.
  • 64d. [Buffalo suburb, ___ Park] clues ORCHARD, and apples grow in the apple ORCHARD. Across the grid is the unrelated REACTOR.

So that’s a theme square count of 28 in a 17×17 grid, and the longest answers are the two 8-letter entries. We have three kinds of apples, an apple-related word, and the Apple Store, so the thematic consistency is nil. And the theme isn’t symmetrical. The grid is symmetrical, however, with those 60 black squares and a word count of 104.

Clive Probert’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 9It’s not the first time we’ve seen a theme like this, with words placed in proximity to other words to represent a missing preposition, but it’s still fun, as such themes usually are.

  • 1a (14a). [With 14-Across, breakfast order?] clues EGGS, which appears over EASY at 14a. People who don’t mind runny yolks order eggs over easy.
  • 16a (8a). [With 8-Across, world's oldest subway system?] is the LONDON UnderGROUND.
  • 34a (42a). [With 42-Across, bogey?] clues ONE over PAR.
  • 45a (42a again). [With 42-Across, birdie?] in golf is ONE under PAR. Yes, ONE is an entry twice in this puzzle, pairing with PAR both times.
  • 70a (67a). [With 67-Across, dreaded words from a cop?] clues “YOU ARE under ARREST.”
  • 69a (72a). [With 72-Across, motto of a fitness trainer?] might be “MIND over BODY.”

I like the theme placement, with the entries stacked in all four corners and in the center of the grid. But overall, the grid felt choppy.

Eight clues:

  • 15a. Whoa, really? LEI is clued atypically as [Romanian "dollars"] instead of the floral necklace of Hawaii.
  • 19a. [Pontiac, for one] was an OTTAWA Indian.
  • 31a. [Away from the mouth] of a river is UPRIVER. If you know your anatomical lingo, you may have wanted to shoehorn ABORAL in here.
  • 43a. Crosswordese! COPRA is a [Coconut oil source], the coconut meat.
  • 59a. PIUS II was the [15th-century pontiff who was the only pope to write an autobiography].
  • 68a. [Actor Moody of "Oliver!"] is/was named RON. Am I the only one who’s never heard of the guy?
  • 1d. [Result of a certain med. test] clues EEG, but that’s just plain weird. You know what an EEG (electroencephalogram) is the result of? EEG (encephalography). And it’s weird to call the tracing of brain waves a “result of a test.”
  • 4d. Great Word Alert! SYBARITES are [Lovers of luxury].


Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Attention to E-tails”—Janie’s review

Monday’s “Pigtails” gives way to today’s “E-tails”—and what a great group of theme phrases Patrick has put together by adding a final (“tail”) “E” to the last word in well-known base phrases. It’s said that God (or to some, the Devil) is in the details. Between the base phrase, the new phrase and the cluing, look how well Patrick excels in that department:

  • 17A. [What Hamlet said when he spotted a yahoo?] “AY, THERE’S THE RUBE!” Somehow I suspect Shakespeare would have appreciated this immensely, too. If you need a reminder, it was originally “rub” and the source is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. (Notice, too, that LEAR today is clued not in connection with Will’s King…, but as ["Maude" creator Norman].)
  • 26A. [Lady who loves vacuuming?] HOOVER DAME. Hah! Named for Herbert and not J. Edgar, at one time the dam was both “the world’s largest hydroelectric power generating station and the world’s largest concrete structure.” Now, remember how on Tuesday I mentioned my affection for Avenue Q? Well, today Patrick gives us not only PURPOSE ["Avenue Q" song about the meaning of life], but in creating Hoover dame, puts me in mind of another song from the show, “My Girlfriend in Canada.” This may not be to everyone’s taste/sense of humor, but ya just don’t see this in a lyric everyday, so here’s the closeted (puppet) Rod singing way over-zealously of his (non-existent) “girlfriend” and their passion:
    Her name is Alberta,
    She lives in Vancouver.
    She cooks like my mother
    And sucks like a Hoover.
    Well, it’s not like I didn’t warn ya…
  • 47A. [Aversion to vaqueros?] COWBOY HATE. Never!
  • 60A. [Trio floating down the river?] THREE MEN IN A TUBE. Another one that made me laugh out loud. But, please, not in white water!!

That fresh and smile-making theme-fill finds its match in the non-theme fill (and cluing), too. Behold:

  • HOLY GRAIL [Vessel at the Last Supper] What? No Monty Python reference?! Actually, yes: ERIC [Idle or Ambler]… Oh, and there’s another tie-in, namely LANCE, clued with reference to ["Camelot" nickname, on stage]. And let’s not forget that Sir Lancelot was one of the knights who participated in the quest for the Holy Grail.
  • AIRHEADS [Dolts]
  • BABIES [They get changed a lot]
  • YES!” [Repeatedly, a famous Meg Ryan line]. What a fine take on that oft-seen word. Context is everything! (Everyone knows that Patrick is referring to the movie When Harry Met Sally, right?)
  • PORE [Hole in the largest organ of the body]. (Everyone knows that Patrick is referring to our skin, right?)
  • NIK [Beat back?]. As in beatnik
  • And finally, working off the shared “Y,” the cross of YAK [Chat] and YUKS [Hearty laughs]. Today’s puzzle gave me several.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 22″

Region capture 10I did the puzzle last night, but was too sleepy to blog it. And then somehow the morning largely disappeared on me. (I blame grocery shopping and weeding.)

Top ten clues/answers:

  • 24a. I like FORTY-SIX as an answer because it’s got an X and because once you’ve figured out the __TY-SIX part, there are still three options (FOR, FIF, SIX) to choose from. Who the hell knows Andy Pettitte’s jersey number? Michael Jordan was 23, either ORR or OTT was 4 (I know this only from crosswords), William “Refrigerator” Perry had a big number, and Chad Ochocinco is 85. That’s about it for my knowledge of players’ numbers.
  • 32a. Didn’t realize [Sherman line] was referring to a verbal line rather than a physical one. “WAR IS HELL” had a good “aha” moment.
  • 38a. For sheer insanity, let’s pay heed to AGAKHANIV, or AGA KHAN #4.
  • 58a. Didn’t know the words, but remember the UNION LABEL jingle.
  • 60a. [Vicious group] means Sid Vicious’s SEX PISTOLS.
  • 3d. [What every mudder loves?] is the SLOP, in horse racing. Know this one only from Seinfeld. “His mudder was a mudder. His fadder was a mudder. This baby loves the slop.”
  • 10d. Split’s in Croatia, and [Split end?] is a great clue for the ADRIATIC Sea.
  • 39d. The KNESSET is a [Mediterranean diet?] of the legislature kind.
  • 49d. “Game” is an adjective here, not a noun. [Game to play in bed with pretty much anyone?] clues EASY.
  • Okay, so I only had nine.

Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 11Theme: Donna Summer’s “HOT STUFF” is among my favorite songs from the disco era, and the other theme entries begin with “hot ___” words:

  • 16a. [Tennis legend nicknamed "Rocket"] is ROD LAVER. He had a nickname? Before my time.
  • 23a. [Mighty Mouse's archenemy] is OIL CAN HARRY. Who? Never heard of him. How about you?
  • 33a. [1983 film that won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song] is FLASHDANCE. Ah, ’80s music and cheesy film!
  • 38a. [Stray hunter] is a DOG CATCHER.
  • 51a. [Deli side] is POTATO SALAD.
  • 61a. [1979 song for which Donna Summer won a Grammy, and a hint to the puzzle theme found in the answers to starred clues] is HOT STUFF.

Hot stuff:

  • The 7s in all four corners, particularly LIMEADE, TWIN BED, LIP-SYNC, and GRANDPA.
  • REDRUM! REDRUM! 59a: ["The Shining" mantra] is murder backwards.
  • 47a. [Mozart is on some Austrian ones] is a more interesting EUROS clue than usual.
  • 44a. [Call from a crow's nest] is a very literal CAW from a crow rather than “Land ho!” from a sailor in a ship’s “crow’s nest.”

Lackluster stuff:

  • Lots of lame 3s, 4s, and 5s: ITE, ERSE, TAS, AKINS, STA, EDE clued as a word ending, ERI clued as an airport abbreviation, RIATA, OTT, HOR., EDT, TRAN, and FTS? Meh.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Anybody Home?”

Region capture 12Plus-sized puzzle (17×17) to accommodate a Dave Attell quote, “IF YOU GO TO / GERMANY AND GET / DRUNK, AT SOME POINT / YOU’RE GOING TO LOOK / UP ‘HITLER’ IN THE / PHONE BOOK.” Luckily, Hitler changed his name from Schicklgruber and modified the spelling of Hiedler, sparing generations of Schicklgrubers and Hiedlers from mocking. Everyone who does bad things should first change their name to something original. Like Stalin, “man of steel”—he began life with the Georgian name Dzhugashvili.

Not much else to say about this puzzle. Quote themes! Meh.

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

Region capture 13Intersections are found where two things CROSS, and that’s 1-Across, the [Word that can precede the first word of the twelve starred entries in this puzzle]. Twelve! That’s a whole lotta theme entries for one 15×15 puzzle. What’s more, the black squares play a role in the theme, too: the big plus sign in the middle is a CROSS.

The words that follow CROSS appear at the beginning of all these answers: WORDPRESS (the blogging platform I use), TIE-DYED, EYE DROP, HAIR NET, PEG LEGS, WINDSOCKS, OVER THE HILL, BOWHEAD, BAR NONE, STREET SMART, TOWN CAR, and POST-SEX. Only the last of these feels iffy as a crossword entry. The theme entries contain, what, 101 squares? Some are where two theme entries CROSS so the theme square count isn’t quite that big, but my goodness, that is a lot of theme material.

Not all of the fill sparkles, but you have to swallow a little SIG., -OMA, and RAX to get so many theme entries to work. Surprisingly smooth fill overall. This puzzle does not make me CROSS at all.

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19 Responses to Thursday, 7/1/10

  1. foodie says:

    Amy, I too thought the cluing of EEG was weird. Then, in thinking about it, I came around a bit. It’s an electro encephalo graph, so one can say that the graph is a way of depicting the outcome of the test. The electrical activity itself is of course the intrinsic brain biology. What do you think?

    I wanted CAUDAL and then CAUDATE (meaning close to the tail). Of course that went nowhere and I really liked UP RIVER.

    Fun and easy thursday.

  2. Jan (danjan) says:

    This morning, I read a review of a local hotel, where the reviewer mentioned she spent “a few sybaritic days”. I had to look up the meaning. Having SYBARITES in tonight’s NYT made me laugh, after, of course, wondering what the heck that word was that I looked up this morning.

  3. ktd says:

    So many 3-letter answers! Seeing EEG GAR GSA in the top left corner was a bit rough on the eyes, despite it being a theme area. URUguay is a nice timely answer–I think they can beat Ghana to make the semis.

  4. Josh Gibson says:

    How about this:
    33a. 41a.[Raccoon relative chewed the scenery]

    ELECTION 30d [Run for it]
    Does this clue pass the replacement test?

  5. joon says:

    clues that refer to the answer with a pronoun don’t need to pass the substitution test. that said, i’ve never been a fan of using this convention with a clue written in the imperative. why is the puzzle telling me what to do? it’s not the boss of me.

    actually, on second look, the ELECTION clue seems off to me anyway. you don’t run for an ELECTION; you run for office. nor could you really say that an ELECTION is a “run for it”; that would be a campaign.

    loved SYBARITE and NOISOME and the theme. was not a fan of the high black square count, the raft of crappy 3s, or the obscure clues for LEI and RON.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    In addition to astronomical word and black square counts, the Greg Bruce puzzles also regularly contain unchecked letters:

    http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com/2009/09/01/games-4/

    Ick!

  7. Martin says:

    joon,

    You don’t run for an election. But you do run for election.

    Many here know I’m not fond of “kind of” or “it” clues. They require the solver know cluing conventions, which seems against the spirit of American crosswords. But they’re kosher and easy enough to spot, so I rail no more.

  8. HH says:

    “Many here know I’m not fond of “kind of” or “it” clues. They require the solver know cluing conventions, which seems against the spirit of American crosswords.”

    But doesn’t the entire crossword inherently require the solver to know how to solve it? When’s the last time you saw a crossword with complete instructions?

  9. janie says:

    i was gonna make martin’s point about the usage for “run for election” — but also wanted to add that i’ve encountered this kind of cluing in the puzzability “common knowledge” puzzles. i’ll have trouble parsing these clues, only because they feel stretchy. but i usually like being stretched!

    ;-)

  10. Martin says:

    Henry,

    Most instructions for American crosswords are things you can figure out yourself. (Amy titled them “Tips, Tricks and Techniques…”) British crosswords are impossible unless clue conventions are explained to the solver.

    The exceptions in American crosswords are “‘kind of’ means ‘word that can proceed’” and “‘it’ can be the clued subject.” Of course, in your puzzles we must add “I may be 1 and O may be 0.”

  11. ePeterso2 says:

    I think you missed the overarching meta-theme. If you put a FUJI and a GALA in a nuclear REACTOR, they turn into a DEAF-MUTE covered in TONER, which you can sell at a STORE to a PINK LADY.

  12. Ashish says:

    I really hope that after the United-Continental merger, they will keep Longo’s Continental puzzle for their magazine!!

  13. Gareth says:

    Yup – wanted to shoehorn ABORAL in, never heard of RON,the clue for EEG is weird and SYBARITES is the coolest word in the puzzle! Liked the theme execution a lot; it did make for a weird grid, but I still liked it a lot! The two top entries were favourites!

    Was I the only one who found PB’s CS a lot chewier clue-wise – 7 minutes is longer than it takes me to get through most Klahns! Great stuff! With the P and the O in place was expecting the Avenue Q song to be about pr0n like that other one…

    LAT: Anyone else have DREY instead of TREE? It doesn’t seem to ever come up in crosswords BTW – Ginsburg’s database has a single entry from 1981! But I can remember learning it in early primary school under “X lives in a Y”??? Mucho confused! Never heard of AKINS or OLMOS, doubt they’re going to stick though…

    You know I can still see why a puzzle like that Hemisphere one would appeal to a lot of people, way more than say a Fireball which is of course the reason it exists. There are a lot of casual solvers for whom the most important thing is solveability. I’ve come across a lot of “solved puzzle = good puzzle” ideology!

  14. John Haber says:

    I dislike “it” clues, too, and that one grated on me.

    My first look at the puzzle came up with two unfaves: lots of three-letter entries and cross-references. But a cute enough theme to justify it. I didn’t recognize COPRA or the play with Ottawa/Pontiac, but at least crossings were easy enough. The EEG was a bit unusual, but I think it passes.

  15. ktd says:

    Following the discussion of in-flight magazine puzzles with interest. I seem to recall one airline runs Cox/Rathvon crosswords (American, not cryptics)–does this ring a bell? Also thought Brendan E. Quigley contributed to in-flight magazines. Hard to believe United doesn’t have the means to even syndicate a half-decent puzzle–what are all those bag fees for? ;-)

  16. ePeterso2 says:

    US Scareways runs the Cox/Rathvon puzzles in their in-flight mags.

  17. Alex says:

    I really hope that after the United-Continental merger, they will keep Longo’s Continental puzzle for their magazine!!

    I have questions.

    (1) Does Frank actually write that crossword? Does he merely edit it? I also see the name “Donna J. Stone” associated with those puzzles (apparently the King Features Syndicate “premier” puzzle).

    (2) Would it be worth adding that puzzle to Crossword Butler? It wouldn’t be all that difficult (thanks to pages like this).

  18. Frank says:

    About the King Features “Premier Crossword”: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ashish. Yes, I actually do write that crossword. Donna Stone used to write it. I took over in early 2004 and have written every one since.

    Its target audience is definitely not elite solvers like most of those who would, say, be posting on this blog. The themes, fill and clues all have to be kept on the order of “ridiculously easy” (no gimmicky themes and short, direct clues), and as such tend to hold very little interest to the likes of this crowd. It’s actually quite a challenge for me to keep the puzzles very easy and yet still try to maintain some level of interest. Anyway, this is undoubtedly the reason you don’t hear too much about this weekly Sunday puzzle.

    Cheers.

    –Frank

  19. ePeterso2 says:

    I just found that you can get all of the Cox/Rathvon puzzles from US Airways online for free: http://www.usairwaysmag.com/puzzles/

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