Thursday, 8/26/10

NYT 5:39
Fireball 4:32
LAT 3:56
Tausig untimed
CS untimed
BEQ 8 minutes with 3 blanks

Henry Hook’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 12Now, why would you go with IBERT crossing BUDGE when INERT is a common word and NUDGE sorta fits the BUDGE clue? Hmph. Yes, N and INERT are boring, but I typically forget about the existence of Jacques IBERT, whose name I have encountered only in crosswords. I gave up after a minute of checking the grid for a mistake and Googled 25a: ["Angelique" composer]. I will concede that BUDGE is a slightly better fit than NUDGE for 26d: [Move slightly], but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who wound up with the N.

Sigh.

So. The theme in this 16×15 wide load is [Where to see X's and O's], and the three 16-letter answers to that clue are the plural FOOTBALL DIAGRAMS, the not-in-the-language-as-a-”thing” END OF A LOVE LETTER, and the game show HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. Am I missing something more?

Highlights, midlights, lowlights:

  • 47a. [Fluffy stuff] clues LINT, but once it packs into the belly button, it ain’t so fluffy anymore.
  • 51a. Jacques IBERT is more familiar to me than POINCIANA, the [Bong Crosby hit in which "your branches speak to me of love"]. Okay, you see that typo? I was just thinking to myself, “If branches are talking to you, I want to know what drug you’re taking because it must be fun.” And then I saw the Bong. Make that [Bing Crosby hit in which "your branches speak to me of love"].
  • 58a. [Rice on a shelf] is writer ANNE Rice on a bookshelf. Now, that is a great clue.
  • 59a. ["There's many ___ 'twixt…"] clues A SLIP. Huh? Google tells all: The rest of this old English proverb is “…the cup and the lip.”
  • 9d. SEA LEVEL is clued [It's affected by global warming]. I’m thinking very few NYT readers will complain about this clue, but when the crossword hits syndication land? All bets are off.
  • 13d. A FIST is a [Symbol of revolutionary power]. “Fight the power!”
  • 20d. Hmm. “GOT ONE“? As in a [Fisherman's jubilant cry]? I’m gonna say…no. Now, if the clue referenced mosquitoes or flies, maybe I could buy the answer.
  • 31d. [Season on the Seine?], 3 letters, gotta be ETE, right? Nope. It’s SEL, French for “salt.”
  • 44d. I like this clue: [V as in Versailles] clues CINQ. The V is the Roman numeral 5.
  • 48d. Kicking it literary here: AHAB is the [Captain with a "regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe"].
  • 57d. [Nebraska rival, for short] is OSU. I’m guessing it means Oklahoma State University here, but Ohio State might also qualify.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 26″

Region capture 9You know me—a themeless puzzle that takes me this long just makes me wish the clues were wilier. But there are so many cool answers and cool clues here, I forgave the puzzle for letting me go early. Highly enjoyable crossword this week. It might even be in contention for my favorite themeless puzzles of the year.

Favorite fill:

  • GANJA meets some JERKWATER town. The football PRO BOWLERS can’t escape FROU-FROU. SOUTH SIDE HIT MEN lends Chicago flair (but not from my side of town). TIA CARRERE is pop culture in my generational sweet spot. The KIA RIO usually shows up in halves in crosswords, and we rarely (if ever) get to have a MANI-PEDI. Oh! And let us not forget the V-NECK T-SHIRT with its two separately-pronounced letters and massive 5-consonant collision in the middle.

Brilliant clues:

  • 15a. [Václav Havel has three] OBIES, not just three instances of the letter V in his name.
  • 49a. CIDER is a [Press release?] in that it’s released from cider presses.
  • 57a. [Missionary position on Sunday?] is the church PEW. Although in remote areas, the missionary might be doing the preaching up front.
  • 61a. [Pickup shtick?] is a pickup LINE.
  • 24d. The ABC show LOST can be clued as a [2004–10 Fox TV series] because its star is Matthew Fox.
  • 40d. [Time management most definitely doesn't work for it] clues NEWSWEEK. Time magazine’s management works on Time.
  • 43d. Charles SCHULZ is the Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and [Woodstock artist].

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 10

Sixty-six theme squares is a lot but not ridiculously so. Having the theme occupy 14 entries, though, is kinda crazy. The middle Down answers spell out HIT THE and the other dozen theme entries are words that can follow “hit the…” in very familiar phrases. Did you know there were so many “hit the ___” options in our vernacular? Wow. Things you may “hit” include the SACK (zzzz), GAS (vroom), TRAIL (bye), PAVEMENT (though “pound the pavement” sounds better to me), BRAKES (screech), ROOF (arrgh!), DECK (whoosh), BOTTLE (hic), BULL’S-EYE (impressive), SKIDS (wah-wah), HAY (zzzz), and SPOT (ahh).

Cool theme.

Alas, spreading theme answers throughout so much of a grid often means tolerating some undesirable fill:

  • 35a. [On Vine St., say] = IN L.A.
  • 61a. ILL AT [__ ease], boring partial. Now, 55d: ["__ lid on it!"] is a livelier partial, not least because PUTA is a bad word in Spanish.
  • 11d. Abbreviation ICEL. is blah, but I do love its clue: [Eyjafjallajökull's country: Abbr.]. Is that volcano still going strong?
  • 53d. Attila the [Hun king, in Scandinavian legend] is ATLI.
  • 54d. [Dutch town] is the Dutch word STAD, not a Dutch place name.

Better things:

  • 38a. NETFLIX is a [Retailer offering video streaming] as well as DVDs through the mail.
  • 47a. ["Indubitably!"] is a fun clue for YES.
  • 4d. If you KNEEL, you [Get down to earth?].
  • 12d. LESS is [More, some say].
  • 17d. I sure didn’t know there was a [Shaker on the kids' show "Blue's Clues"] named MR. SALT, but it’s a fun (and gettable) entry.
  • 18d. I hope someone close to BERNIE, the [Convicted Ponzi schemer Madoff], does this crossword and lets him know his criminality has been immortalized in puzzles.

You know what fresh answer I needed all the crossings for? WEE PALS, at 20a. This [Morrie Turner comic strip about ethnically diverse kids] is not one that ran in the newspapers we took when I was a kid; I think it’s in the Milwaukee paper and…seldom funny, from what I’ve seen.

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

Region capture 11Distinguished monuments may have inscriptions carved in them that use the character V in place of the letter U. Why, here in Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center bvilding used to be the Chicago Pvblic Library. Ben takes that U-V business as his inspiration for this week’s theme, in which the U’s become V’s that actually mean V, not U:

  • 17a. [Park in Biden's spot?] clves TAKE VP SPACE.
  • 41a. The Bud Bowl ad becomes BVD BOWL, or [Vessel for underwear?].
  • 66a. BEAV BRIDGES are [Segues in a '50s-'60s sitcom?].
  • 11d. [Person with a weird butter bean fetish?] is a LIMA PERV. Hah!
  • 40d. [Copies of a Sean Penn flick?] are MILK DVDS.

Well-execvted theme, no? I like it because my grandparents (the ones who did crosswords) liked to joke about the pvblic library, pronouncing the V.

Highlights, etc.:

  • 21a. THE WAVE is clued as a [Fun way of moving through a crowd?].
  • 31a. Leave it to Ben to find a way to clue the implausible partial I EAT: ["___ Your Skin" (1964 cult horror film)]. It’s so out there, it works.
  • 48a. MALI is the [Site of the Sundiata epic]? Who knew? My college French prof was from Mali but he failed to teach me about the existence of this epic.
  • 55a. KFC ["___ No Longer Permitted To Use Word 'Eat' In Advertisements": Onion headline]—sure, this clue duplicates the word “eat” that’s in 31a, but the combination of the two clues compels me to link to the Chicago Tribune’s Kevin Pang and his KFC Skinwich experiment. (Seriously. Click through and read that, and be sure to scroll all the way to the end.) My husband wants that sandwich now.
  • 60a. [What party fouls are] is BAD FORM.
  • 67d. VAG is [Modern anatomical slang]. Mm-hmm, that’s right. Nope, you’re not going to see this answer in the daily newspaper crossword for  many, many years.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Have a Look”—Janie’s review

With the invitation suggested by the title, Lynn gives us four opportunities to use our eyes, as each theme phrase ends with a synonym for something we “look” at—making this a most “visual” kind of puzzle indeed. What is it that you’ll see?

  • 18A. “OUTTA SIGHT!” [“Awesome!”]. If you’re taking in something like, oh, the Grand Canyon or Yosemite…, that sight may truly be outta sight.
  • 27A. WINDOWS VISTA [Microsoft offering with a Home Basic or Ultimate option]. I’ve been on a Mac for the last six years or so and have no immediate plans to return to a home PC. Did Vista predate Windows 7 or did they come into the world together? The word vista tends to conjure up those “Scenic Vista” signs one sees on the roads that traverse the national parks.
  • 47A. MINORITY VIEW [Opinion protected by the right of free speech]. Because I had the N, the R and the Y in place, my first fill here was CONTRARY VIEW. Close but, uh, no cigar… And once again, I’m also seeing highways with signs that now say “Scenic View.” I’m reminded, too, of the time I visited an old family friend who was a painter of some (Baltimore) renown. This was in Cape Ann and he was working by the sea. I remember how flattered I felt when I heard him say, “I’ve been painting a picture. It’s of you!” I also remember how embarrassed I felt when I realized he’d said, “I’ve been painting a picture. It’s a view!”
  • 60A. PARTY SCENE [Milieu for revelers]. I’m getting a picture of Animal House

We also get a SHREWDLY inserted bonus item today courtesy of that [Kids’ guessing game]. I SPY, anyone?

Look at some of the other great fill Lynn’s woven through the grid. No WUSS [Wimpy one] he, we get instead LOVER BOY [Real Romeo], which is just a treat to see in the puzzle. So is WRAITH [Ghostly vision] and COPYCAT [Perpetual follower]. Had trouble parsing that clue as I was complicating things by trying to think of words the come after “perpetual,” and MOTION was too short… Thumbs up, too, for the altruistic PITCH IN and the scrabbly SQUEAK and KERNEL.

I like the way Lynn crosses NAYS [Dissenting votes] with SAY “YES” [Give the go-ahead]; and sadly (cue up the SIGHS [Sorrowful sounds]), that PATSY [Swindler’s easy mark] is often the same person who will [Get a bad deal at the store] OVERPAY.

Amy here—I likely won’t get to the BEQ puzzle until the afternoon. But while I’m here, a link: enjoy this newspaper profile of Lynn Lempel.

Updated Thursday evening:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “From A to Z”

Brendan has made a variety puzzle of a type devised by birthday boy Will Shortz. It looks like a cryptic, but the clues are straightforward. It’s just that each clue is missing its first letter. Put those first letters in the appropriate numbered squares in the grid, and you’ve got a 26-square head start. Mind you, you still need to figure out (1) the answers to the clues and (2) where each answer goes. Yay! I like variety grids that make you work to figure out where the answers fit.

But! With all those unchecked squares, you might run into trouble. Seriously, Brendan? CHAKRAM? [Xena's weapon] from Xena: Warrior Princess? I had C*A*R*M and narrowed down the first blank to being H, L, O, or R. Never heard of this chakram. It has a long history, sure, but if you didn’t pay close attention to Xena and don’t make a habit of studying weapons, you’re S.O.L. here.

Aside from that (grr), I liked the puzzle and found it pretty easy. The other answers I didn’t know off the bat, I could piece together from the available spaces in the grid.

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18 Responses to Thursday, 8/26/10

  1. Bruce S. says:

    Finding that N sent a 5 minute Thursday NYT time (excellent for me) to an 8 minute time (still happy with that).

  2. Rex says:

    I was wondering how in the hell I could Ever be a minute faster than you on any puzzle ever. Now I know. IBERT is my new hero (despite my never having heard of him before tonight). Oh, and I somehow mind-melded with you and made the point about the “N”-for-”B” theoretical substitution in my write-up. In case you smelled plagiarism…

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yeah, I was under 4:00 when I clicked “done”. “Iiiiibert!” is my “Khaaaaaaan!”

  4. Bix Beiderbecke says:

    Can’t mention POINCIANA without giving props to pianist Ahmad Jamal. (Wiki)” He worked as the “House Trio” at Chicago’s Pershing Hotel. In 1958 the trio released the live album “But Not for Me” which stayed on the Ten Best-selling charts for 108 weeks. Jamal’s well known song “POINCIANA” was first released on this album. ”
    The song “Music, Music, Music”, on the same album, is one of the happiest things I’ve ever listened to.
    “Poinciana” Ahmad Jamal:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f28V_xoEpMM

  5. Plot says:

    Once again, I noticed an error after already posting my NYT solving time. I was so sure that there was an error in POINCIANA that when I checked the solution and saw that it was correct, I barely skimmed over the rest, thus overlooking the iBert/iNert error. Clearly, I should have looked at the entire blog post beforehand. I also made an error on last week’s Globe puzzle, so Mr. Hook has a 2-0 lead…for now.

    I would now like to forgo further attempts at modesty so that I can brag about my latest personal achievement. I’ve been close a couple times in the past, but I’ve never quite pulled it off until today. To my astonishment, my solving time for Wednesday’s Newsday puzzle was faster than Dan’s. I feel like a basketball fan who sinks a blindfolded half-court shot at the intermission; That enlarged sense of pride lingers, even though there was clearly a lot of luck involved.

    So, I’m going to blissfully ignore the other puzzles I got pwned on so that I can have my little moment in the sun before coming back down to earth.

  6. anon says:

    “missionary position on sunday?” is hilarious

  7. Gareth says:

    Two thumbs up for the LAT theme and its offbeat execution! Agree the fill was compromised but it didn’t feel unbearably so, unlike yesterday’s NYT, say.

  8. Anne E says:

    I missed that this was a 16×15, Amy, thanks for pointing that out! Loved that we got a geology clue for TERTIARY, and the clue for POINCIANA was entertaining. In poor Jacques Ibert’s defense, he’s a reasonably well-regarded classical composer, and I credit HH for putting him in there to trip up people who don’t read the clues in both directions. :-) Smooth Thursday, nice work.

  9. David L says:

    @Anne E: as one of the many who put N for B, I did the read the clues in both directions. Problem is, NUDGE is just as good an answer as BUDGE for ‘move slightly,’ IMO, leaving me with no recourse except to guess on the composer.

  10. joon says:

    i guess if it were anybody but henry hook, i’d say, “that’s not how you would clue INERT if one of the crossings is ambiguous.” but i don’t know henry’s proclivities as well as some others here. is he that evil? and even if he is, would will let him get away with it? anyway, i have only dimly heard of the composer but i went with the B over the N because of the above reasoning. overall, though, i’m one of the many who set a thursday speed record today.

    david: congrats! i did think yesterday’s newsday was unusually easy for a wednesday, so i was kinda surprised when dan turned up a 1:45 instead of a 1:20 or something. (i was solving on paper, so i was nowhere close.) today’s was also unusually easy, fwiw. any way you slice it, though, it’s an achievement to beat dan on any puzzle ever. i’ve been telling people that you’re my pick to win B (and juniors) next year. don’t let me down. i guess we’ll have to see what jeffrey harris has to say about it. as for the error in last week’s BG, was it square #1? if it’s any consolation, tyler wasn’t able to get it either.

    really cool puzzle from don. theme is fresh and deftly executed. i can forgive some bad fill for something with a payoff like this. hit the bulls-eye, indeed.

    ben’s cluing always leaves me highly impressed. sure, he can get away with a bit more than the staid newspaper puzzles, but he really makes it work. where else are you going to see onion headlines and queen lyrics mixed in with stuff like URTEXT and the epic of sundiata? i recommend the sporcle epics quiz. (i got 18/20.) ten thumbs up for this puzzle.

  11. John Haber says:

    If I were a composer named Inert, I’d definitely change my name. (Thanks for reminding me of Ahmad Jamal’s version. The answer didn’t feel familiar when I had it from the Crosby clue.)

  12. Anne E says:

    @David L, joon expanded on what I meant by my oblique comment. If it had been INERT, I don’t think that either Henry or Will would have clued that as a composer of a work few people are likely to have heard of (and if so, the down clue would have been clear-cut, I expect). There are tons of other clues for INERT that would result in unambiguity.

  13. David L says:

    @Anne E, joon: Thanks for the explanation. But you mean I have to engage in meta-reasoning about the constructor’s state of mind in order to figure out the right answer??? I’ve only just started doing puzzles seriously, so this is an example of ACA (Advanced Cruciverbal Analysis) that I hadn’t encountered before.

  14. David L says:

    And anyway, how you can be sure it wasn’t a double-bluff on the constructor’s part? Or would that be Thursday-inappropriate?

    Well, I’m kidding. Sort of. I see endless possibilities here.

  15. Anne E says:

    @David L: yes, I’m afraid ACA hits it right on the head. And when Joon says he went through this analysis in picking B instead of N… he means he went through it in about 3 seconds or so while blazing through this puzzle (note his comment about setting a Thursday speed record!). Think of it this way. INERT is a common word. IBERT is not. Because the clue is obscure… in this case at least… so is the entry more likely to be. On a Friday or Saturday, this might not be as true, but on a Thursday, probably.

    You too, can do this! Just keep solving and keep hanging out here, and enjoy the journey. Welcome to the world of “WHAT did that constructor mean???” :-)

  16. Daz says:

    Is it just a coincidence that Amy’s commentary re clue 51a in the Thursday NYT refers to a bong hit?

  17. Daz says:

    Duh. All I had to do was read the rest of that paragraph. It was foolhardy to think that Amy would allow a typo to slip in.

  18. Joan macon says:

    I was listening to “40′s on Four” today on Sirius radio and there was Bing Crosby singing “Poinciana” so it was the first fill for me. This was the first NYT Thursday puzzle I ever got without googling anything, although I fell into the nudge trap along with everyone else.

    And does anyone remember that Glenn Miller had a hit record with “At Last” long before Etta James? My discovery of crossword puzzles and satellite radio are two of the benefits of growing older!

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