Thursday, 9/23/10

Fireball 4:52
BEQ 4:23
NYT 3:56
LAT 3:25
CS untimed
Tausig untimed

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

Screen shot 2010-09-22 at 9.25.28 PMThat’s odd. This is clearly a Liz Gorski puzzle. Erudite classical music theme? Check. Visual aspect? Check. Although Liz might’ve expanded it to a Sunday puzzle, giving the circle room to be rounder and less octagonal. And yet the byline reads “David J. Kahn”!

Kahn’s theme circles around WAGNER‘s RING CYCLE, the second part of which is “Die WALKÜRE.” It’s been conducted at the Met by James LEVINE, and the OPERA GOER hears SOPRANO and BARITONES singing the parts. (I quibble that there are more soprano parts than baritone parts, so the singular vs. plural split there is weird.) The circled letters spell out DAS RHEINGOLD, but before I peeked at the Notepad for a hint, I was eyeballing those letters clockwise and counter-, and I wasn’t finding a plausible phrase. The Notepad made me split the DAS out as a beginning word and boom, there was the RHEINGOLD. LOGNIEH R. SADD? IN GOLD DASRHE? I tell ya, I was mystified.

I like that the fill includes 10 more 7-letter answers that aren’t part of the theme.

Tougher clues:

  • 32a. SVEN [___ Kramer, 2010 Dutch Olympic gold medalist in speed skating] isn’t obvious if you’re not Dutch or a speed skating fan (and my gosh, have you seen the Venn diagram for that? There’s massive overlap between the Dutch and speed skating aficionados). What the…? SVEN is a Scandinavian name, not a Dutch one.
  • 39a. [Bottom line], 3 letters, ends with M? I had HEM for the longest time, but the answer is SUM. HOPRANO? ENTIRED? Oy.
  • 57a. ELSTON is clued as [Yankee ___ Howard, 1963 A.L. M.V.P.]. New York baseball players from before I was born who are not crosswordese? Not in my wheelhouse. Now, if ELSTON had been clued as [Diagonal thoroughfare in Chicago], I’d have had it in an instant. (Lincoln and Clybourn aren’t 6 letters long.)
  • 9d. [Mudder's fodder] is the HAY that a racehorse may eat. Remember the Seinfeld exchange? “Exactly, this horse loves the slop. It’s in his bloodlines. His father was a mudda’, his mother was a mudda’.” “His mudda’ was a mudda’?” A mudder loves the slop, and fodder is food.
  • 10d. [Pac-Man centers] are the ARCADES where you camn play the game and not anything at the center of the Pac-Man screen.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Rear-Enders”

The “enders” of the theme entries double as “rears”:

  • 1a. SKI BUM
  • 18a. JUMP SEAT
  • 25a. HILARY DUFF
  • 32a. BIKINI BOTTOM
  • 42a. PIRATE’S BOOTY
  • 51a. I THINK I CAN
  • 61a. TURN TAIL
  • 71a. SHE-ASS

What, no ninth theme entry in the middle, CIGARETTE BUTT? How much do you want to bet that Peter considered beefing up the theme square count from 72 but couldn’t abide the compromised fill that would result? I like the surprise of “I THINK I CAN” changing it up from a two-word term, the pop-culture freshness of BIKINI BOTTOM, and the grocery-store freshness of PIRATE’S BOOTY. (If you like kale, try this snack’s green cousin, Veggie Booty, which I pronounce exclusively in a Belizian accent.) SHE-ASS is pushing it, but that’s the only remotely dim spot in a fun theme.

There are some really nice touches in the fill despite the meaty theme. Each corner has three-stacked 6s intersecting longer fill. Plus there are cool entries like IRON MIKE Tyson, MEET UP (which is rapidly transitioning into a one-word noun, thanks to meetup.com and the sort of gatherings it facilitates), PERONI beer from Italy, AT DUSK, and the “no, thanks, I’ll pass” radio option of LITE FM. Does every major city have a station that bills itself as “Lite FM”? Chicago does.


Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Odds-On Favorites”—Janie’s review

Lemme come right out and say it: I’m very confused about the theme fill. I get the first and the third entries (synonyms for the word “odd” begin the phrase), but that one in the middle has me scratchin’ my head. Before goin’ any further, however, let me also add that the theme fill is excellent (all grid-spanners) and this beautifully open grid (even the “enclosed” center has that triple 7-column feature at its core) is loaded with loooong non-theme fill of the liveliest, most satisfying sort. So while this was a mixed bag of a solve (where understanding the theme is concerned), it’s a pleasure to “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive” so to speak. The theme fill:

  • 17A. STRANGE GOINGS ON [Unexplained phenomena]. ETs, UFOs and the like…
  • 38A. OUT-OF-THE-WAY SPOT [Little known area]. Help, please. Where’s the synonym for “odd” here? Something that’s out-of-the-way isn’t necessarily “odd.” Should I be focused only on out (as in “odd’ man out?). No matter. I have to question fill that requires a lot of ‘splainin’. Or maybe there’s something very obvious here that I’m simply blind to (and it wouldn’t be the first time!).
  • 58A. WEIRD AL YANKOVIC [Singer known for his song parodies]. The guy is funny. Imoo. If you haven’t checked in with him recently (or ever) you may want to take a look at the impassioned, highly produced “Eat It” and/or, from a Tom Snyder late-night appearance, a more basic “Another One Rides the Bus.”

But where long, strong entries concerned, the best is yet to come. If, for example, you’re an AFICIONADO [Devotee] of fine fill, you’ll see what I mean. First, we get a passel of plosives with such goodies as PASS THE BAR [Become a lawyer], PERPETRATE [Commit, as a crime], PASTA SALAD [Cold noodle dish], and PIGTAILS [Pair of braids]. Even OK CORRAL [Noted shootout site]. On the softer side, there’s SOLACE [Ease of mind], SEDATE [Tranquilize] and AURORA [Light show in the sky].

There’s 9-letter fill by way of REST STOPS [Some highway areas] and AT ANY TIME [Whenever], and then that terrific trio of sevens going down at center: WAR HERO [Honored soldier], ACTED IN [Was a cast member of] and NEW WAVE [Tradition-breaking].

Some fave clue/fill combos would have to include:

  • [Greedy sort] for HOG as it ties into [Lion's share] for MOST, since it’s the hog that often gets the most
  • [Runs from the pianist?] for SCALES. Runs, here, is a noun and not a verb.
  • [Like a romantic dinner] gives us the lovely FOR TWO.
  • And [Hoo preceder] yields YOO. As in Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. I don’t think the documentary was in wide release, but it’s now available on DVD. This superb film about Gertrude Berg—”the most famous woman no one knows”—will remind you about human potential and all one can accomplish (and generously do for others). But be warned: this first recipient of the Emmy Award for best actress sets the bar mighty high.

John Pounders’ Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 9I don’t quite get the theme here. Assorted colloquial phrases that end with that? Oh, I see: They all have the same clue words with different punctuation:

  • 20a. ["Oh, yeah?"] clues “SURE ABOUT THAT?”
  • 36a. ["Oh, yeah!"] clues something I have never said: “I LIKE IT LIKE THAT!”
  • 53a. ["Oh, yeah ..."] clues “I REMEMBER THAT.”

I am seldom enthused about themes that use the same clue for different entries. I like the variations “oh, yeah” in the clues, but the answers feel like a hodgepodge of phrases.

Crosswordese on parade:

  • 34a. [Angler's accessory] is a SEINE. Is this commonly known? I feel like the Seine as a river is more broadly familiar to people, but then I’m expecting the American masses to know their European geography, and don’t those polls always reveal that too many Americans are utterly clueless about such things? Just not a word, SEINE, that I ever heard my dad use when talking about fishing.
  • 42a. An ARETE is a [Sharp ridge] of a mountain.
  • 51a. [Willow tree twig] is OSIER. Like ARETE, it’s old-school, won’t-die crosswordese. I’m hereby inventing a new rule of thumb: No more than one of these words per puzzle. (The same category includes OGEE, APSE, ORIEL, ISTLE, INGLE, and ESNE.)
  • 55d. [Pout] clues MOUE. This word, like ROUE, is super close to qualifying for inclusion in the old-school, won’t-die crosswordese category.

Other clues:

  • 11d. SKITTISH is a wonderful word. [People-wary, as a horse] captures its meaning, though the wording feels awkward. “Busy as a beaver,” “people-wary as a horse.”
  • 30d. [1969 Super Bowl] is a fresher clue than [Afternoon hour on a sundial] for III.
  • 46d. A BIHARI is a [Native of NE India]. Bihar is a state in India; Patna is its capital. Bihar’s next to Bangladesh.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “No Comparison”

Region capture 10The only Nobel-winning scientist well-known for humorous writing is RICHARD FEYNMAN, so 16a was pretty easy for me. I didn’t know the quote, though. “PHYSICS IS / TO MATH / WHAT SEX IS / TO MASTURBATION.” As an acquaintance of mine recently tweeted, “People who spell it ‘masterbation’ shouldn’t be allowed to do it.”

Gotta love “¿Qui es mas macho?” battles between various professions. You should hear what the pathologists say about heart surgeons:

  • “They’re just tying pieces of spaghetti together.”—Pathologists on cardiac surgeons. And also:
  • “It ain’t cancer unless we say it is.”—Pathologists emphasizing their importance, because don’t a lot of people think, “Oh, they must not have people skills since they chose a profession where they don’t see patients”?

Not crazy about I’M AMAZED as a crossword answer, but even with the uninspiring 3s crossing them, those stacked 8s in the corners are great. Favorite entry: ROCKY V, with its unusual letter pattern. I took German back in the day, so I also liked 7d: ["___ Deutsch, bitte" ("In German, please")] as a clue for AUF. I gather AUF has become a Heidi Klum-related verb in discussions of Project Runway, but I don’t watch the show.

Did you notice that the puzzle’s only 14×15?

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

This week’s theme is fraternity-related puns. Is this the time of year when pledges rush frats? I went to a Greekless school, so I don’t know such things. Here are the puns:

  • 17a. [Random, casino-based way of deciding whether to admit a pledge?] is RUSHING ROULETTE, playing on “Russian roulette.”
  • 28a. [Make the wiseass pledge look foolish?] clues HAZE A REBEL. This builds on the song, “He’s a Rebel.”
  • 48a. [B.O. and week-old Miller Chill?] are FRAT SMELLS (“fart smells”). I just learned of the existence of a Sweet Farts series of kids’ chapter books. Gotta love the title, Sweet Farts: Rippin’ It Old-School. I like that title better than the pun at 48a.
  • 60a. [Red Stripe drinking game?] clues KEG STAND JAMAICA, playing on “Kingston, Jamaica” in a rather tortured pun formation. I don’t think people were doing keg stands when I was in college. A handstand over a keg, drinking straight from the keg upside down? Is that the gist of it?

A few more clues:

  • BLOGO by itself in the puzzle would be terrible. But 37a is clued as a [Prefix with 35-Across], and 35a is SPHERE. Yeah, that’ll work. Playful approach to language.
  • 10d. The JOEY [Russo with the '90s catchphrase "Whoa!"] was Blossom’s brother, played by Joey Lawrence, on Blossom. Mr. Lawrence is on a new show with Melissa Joan Hart. Anyone planning to watch that?
  • 25d. DR. EVIL is the character [To whom the "Me" in "Mini-Me" refers].
  • 50d. [Leave that asshole zookeeper behind forever, provided you can find a way into the sewer] is not the standard clue for ESCAPE.
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17 Responses to Thursday, 9/23/10

  1. joon says:

    felt like a bit of déjà vu today—uncanny similarities to last thursday’s puzzle. classical music, specific person/performance, circled letters, unusually easy cluing for a thursday. check. this was a pretty great puzzle, though, with not too much compromised fill to support a ton of theme. AROW is the only ugly thing in there. and there’s some fun other stuff, like NUCLEIC/ACIDS and ROTH IRA.

    SVEN kramer was big news in vancouver—he’s the world’s dominant long-distance speed-skater, and was tipped to win three golds. he won the 5000, but was disqualified in the 10000 final (despite finishing with the best time) because his coach signaled a lane switch during the wrong lap. it was a monumental fiasco.

    hey, speaking of a ton of theme, how about that fireball? i didn’t even notice SKI BUM and SHE-ASS. wow.

  2. Zulema says:

    Amy,

    The singing voices refer to 17A, that is, to the whole “Ring Cycle,” not just 11D. Loved the puzzle though I am not a friend of 44D or his works; yet because of the particular singers in the circled-lettered work, I hope to be one of the 35A’s in the audience.

  3. ktd says:

    I love, love, love the Ring Cycle theme, but one could argue that the theme would be tighter if somehow David Kahn could have included “Siegfried” and “Gotterdammerung” (parts 3 and 4 of the cycle) and left out answers like SOPRANO etc. which can apply generally to any opera. Major points for getting DAS RHEINGOLD to make the Ring!

  4. Plot says:

    Fell behind again, but today I had the resolve (and the spare time) to blitz through the past few days of puzzles. I was afraid of ‘puzzle fatigue’, but I think the nonstop solving got me into a rhythm. With the exception of Monday’s BEQ (I think I spent at least 5 minutes hopelessly staring at the grid) my times were equal or better than usual; I actually broke a personal record with my first under-two-minute Jonesin’ puzzle. So overall, my little puzzle-thon had some interesting results; The next time I fall behind, I might try it again and see how many I can handle before my brain starts to malfunction.

    Anyways, today’s puzzles were both fun solves, partially because of my initial low expectations. I was hoping for a themeless Fireball at first, but since I didn’t figure out the theme until I had finished, I essentially got what I wanted.
    With the NYT, I thought that the constraints of the ring would lead to extensive crosswordese, but the fill was surprisingly high-caliber. A few people might have trouble with the Aran/Walkure crossing, but that’s par for the course on a Thursday.

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Found this a very easy Thursday puzzle – deep knowledge of the theme is not needed to solve, and the clues all felt very straightforward. Toughest answers for me were ELSTON and FLEER in the bottom-right. I also enjoyed the piquant long-entry-heavy grid though! Re SVEN – there are no famous SVENS!!! Have also had it a grid of mine so I am very much aware of it! “Clue Database” gives me Nykvist, Hedin, Utterstrom, Birkerts and Gustafson – who are these people?? So Sven Kramer’s at least current and from what Joon says deserves some of the SVEN limelight. It’s like ZEKE only more so!

  6. Duke says:

    LIked the theme. Not difficult at all, though I am in NY and people are talking about the new premiere. Have some issue with “all over” clueing ANEW.

  7. Matt M. says:

    Fabulous Fireball — the fill and cluing were so good that, not noticing the puzzle title, I thought it was a freestyle! — and I think (though it’s not blogged yet) that the fill on the Cs today is also really strong. And Kahn is always one of my favorites. Good day of puzzles!

  8. JSM says:

    Eek. You know, sometimes I think I am well edu-ma-cated and reasonably adept at crosswords (although not nearly in the category of the likes of Amy et al), but then a puzzle like this NYT comes along and kicks my “tuckus” (not included in Fireball) and I just get so depressed. Ah well.

  9. Meem says:

    My fastest Thursday. As soon as I confirmed 17A with a couple of crosses, finished as fast as I could write. Joon’s observations are also mine.

  10. Ladel says:

    Tough puzzle for me to solve, I don’t allow any of 44D’s music in my house. I can not speparate his anti semitism from his brilliant work.

    Ladel

  11. John Haber says:

    On ELSTON, it is after all a New York newspaper. Calling it a thoroughfare in Chicago as a gimme (and I’ve been there often)? How about on Mars?

    I didn’t know that this opera opened the season, but of course that didn’t stand in the way of solving the puzzle easily for a Thursday. I first entered Valkyre, but that’s my own stupidity, and it worked out quickly.

    Always thought it was funny that extended works are called cycles, as if once they ended you had to start over.

  12. Frances says:

    Loved Peter Gordon’s Rear Enders. Fascinating new word-of-the-day, possibly even word-of-the-month, was “sigmatism.” The crossing of Spongebob Squarepants with The Bite Fight was too much for someone who doesn’t watch television or follow boxing, so I ended up with BIMINI BOTTOM….it sounded OK to me!

  13. Ladel says:

    Elston Howard brought honor and dignity to the NY Yankees uniform, if anything, he did it too quietly and too well to get the kudos he deserved.

    Ladel

  14. Jan says:

    CS: I don’t get the theme either for “Out of the way spot”. Just because a place is off the main route doesn’t make it odd.

  15. Karen says:

    My favorite pathologist description is (after a list of other doctors) they know everything and do everything, but a day too late.

  16. Scott says:

    My wife and I almost nailed the puzzle, but we went with “fiber” for 13a and completely overlooked “libel.” I guess I figured the question mark could be accounted for since it was material on a smaller level than, say tweed. Granted “Fevine” would be an odd name, but Kree seemed reasonable enough (certainly better than Klee) for a name we’d never heard of. I think I found the spelling of Walkure just confusing enough that I expected a nonsense name for the conductor.

  17. Jordan says:

    Re: BEQ

    “Advanced tests for high-schoolers” for AP’s?
    As Elfi Schlegel would say of a gymnast’s routine, “Major deduction there.”

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