Friday, 10/1/10

LAT 4:52
CHE 4:46
NYT 3:57
CS untimed
WSJ 8:09

David Kahn’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 11Now, how are we supposed to keep straight who Muhammad Ali fought in the “[noun] in [place]” bout? Two opponents with 7-letter names starting with F? Gimme a break. So the Rumble in the Jungle was in then-Zaire and Ali fought George Foreman. The other famous boxing match is featured in this puzzle:

  • 40a. An ALI/FRAZIER FIGHT is the [Memorable 10/1/75 event]. We don’t see a ton of 35th anniversary puzzles, but what the hey.
  • 7d. A much livelier entry is [40-Across, familiarly]: the THRILLA IN MANILA.
  • 16a. BOXING is the [40-Across activity].
  • 67a, 62d. [With 62-Down, 40-Across loser's nickname] is SMOKIN’ / JOE. I swear to you that I have never heard this nickname. My folks didn’t follow boxing in 1975 (or any point thereafter).
  • 11d. That 3-letter JOE does have a partner in the opposite corner of the grid. [The Louisville ___ (40-Across winner's nickname)] clues LIP. This nickname screams baseball to me. Why? Louisville Slugger = baseball bat, Leo the Lip = baseball’s L. Durocher. Never sounds like Ali to me.
  • 3d. The PHILIPPINES is [Where the 40-Across was held]. If you have trouble spelling PHILIPPINES, just remember that the country was named after Spain’s King Philip, who didn’t have a fancy double-L spelling in the anglicized version of his name. And maybe he pines for the archipelago, I don’t know. Philip pines. “Phillipines” is just goofy.
  • 27d. [40-Across winner's nickname] is also THE GREATEST. Why not combine the nicknames? “The Greatest Lip Louisville Has Ever Seen.”
  • 71a. Not paired symmetrically is TKO, or [40-Across ending, for short].

Yes, October 1 matches up, but I grieve the loss of a themeless Friday puzzle. This here is a Wednesday puzzle with a dense commemorative theme. Remember what I just said yesterday about looking forward to the Friday and Saturday puzzles? Yeah. Because they’re themeless.

What else is in this puzzle?

  • Some good-lookin’ 7s and 8s in the fill. GODZILLA!
  • 63a. Never heard of this IRONHEAD [Nickname for racer Dale Earnhardt Sr., so called because of his stubbornness]. Good gravy. Really? Five separate entries devoted to nicknames for athletes in pastimes I don’t respect as sports? Hmph.
  • 18a. Oh, and let’s throw in some sports slang while we’re at it. BOPPER could be clued with relation to Jerry Lee Lewis, The Big Bopper, but no. It’s a [Big home run hitter, in slang]. I was in Wrigleyville during the Sosa era, but I sure don’t recall hearing this term bandied about.
  • 21d. MOONEYES are apparently [Silvery fish]. Rather vague clue, isn’t it? Not that a more specific one would lead me to the answer any faster.
  • Not wild about the short fill here, which is un-Kahnlike. Partials! (AN A, SO I, IT’D.) Abbreviations! (ASST, AGR, SPF, plus PSS, YRS, and SRTAS in the plural; maybe NCR). Prefixes/suffixes! (INE, AER.) Crossword staleness! (LENI, DELE, ONER, ANTE.) And foreign vocab (ETE, DEO). And is MOOGS a proper plural?

Julian Lim’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Square Measures”

Region capture 10Some of us don’t store the three-letter abbreviations for the various TRIG FUNCTIONS in our heads much past junior year of high school. But here they are, parked in rebus squares and testing our recall. The neatest find is CSC (cosecant) lurking within GEORGE {C. SC}OTT and a GRAPHI{CS C}ARD. The other five abbrevs (SIN, COS, TAN, COT, SEC) form reasonable syllables with vowels in the middle, but the CSC combo is trickier to pull off.

Did anyone else try filling the 5-letter space for 53d: [Opposite of luxurious] with SPARE? It works perfectly! Except that the E’s crossing makes no sense then. Turns out it’s SPAR{TAN} crossing OC{TAN}E, as there is no such crossword-worthy thing as OCEE (certainly not anything that means [What premium gas is high in]), and the TAN needed to come out somewhere.

10d. [Insect known for “enslaving” a related species] is the AMAZON ANT. Those six-legged bastards! They should be nicer.

With a word


Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “High and Mighty”—Janie’s review

1954 was the year that John Wayne appeared in the movie that gave him his theme song: The High and the Mighty; it also won Dmitri Tiomkin an Oscar for his score and an Oscar nomination for the title song. Patrick’s puzzle has nothing to do with this… Instead, look to 70-Across for the key to understanding the title: [European acme, and word hiding in this puzzle's 5 longest answers] ALP. And here’re the phrases where the mini-peaks are peeking out:

  • 17A. TRIAL PERIOD [Testing time for a recent purchase].
  • 23A. PEDAL PUSHERS [Certain slacks]. a/k/a Capri pants or clam diggers, these below-knee to mid-calf togs were sported by female cyclists, hence the name.
  • 38A. PERSONAL PRONOUN [You is one]. Love this seemingly grammatically-incorrect clue.
  • 50A. DECIMAL POINT [Feature of 3.14]. True whether “3.14″ refers to pi or some very obsolete version of MS-DOS…
  • 62A. CENTRAL PARK [Strawberry Fields locale]. Imagine!

While the theme fill is also the longest fill, Patrick manages to get two 10-letter entries into the mix as well, with TERRA COTTA [Flower pot material] and ON THE LOOSE [At large]. I was struck, too, and delighted by the assonance provided by ORB, OAR, ORAL, OREM, ORRIN and TOROS. Nice, huh?

That last word reminds me that the animal kingdom get a bit of a shout-out with CROC (and its vividly descriptive clue [Snappish one]), [Dog's dinner] for ALPO (and not CAT…), ANTLER [Half of a rack] on a deer…, and even BEARS (though this is clued as [Chicago franchise, with "the"] and BOA (though today it’s an [Item worn around the neck]—which, come to think of it, doesn’t necessarily refer to a feathery accessory…). Can’t mention these creatures, though, without also citing PETA, the [Antifur org.].

Headliners from the worlds of pop culture and pop trash to world role-models include CHER ["Believe" singer], LATOYA [One of the Jacksons], PAUL (Sir Paul, [Ringo's Beatle buddy], [Tony Orlando and] DAWN [("Knock Three Times" group)], ASTAIRE [Dancer Fred in "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle"]; TRIPP [Linda in 1990s news]; and [1983 Peace Nobelist Lech] WALESA. Sports references in today’s grid: [Defensive tackle Warren] SAPP, a baseball ERROR [Dropped pop-up, e.g.], crossword stalwart ENOS [Former Cardinal Slaughter] and basketball’s YAO [Ming from China]. Someone I’d never given a second thought to in fact has a most interesting biography. A pharmaceutical chemist. Do check out this link to ELI, that (aural but non-floral) [Lilly native to Maryland]. There was a life well-lived indeed.

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 12This puzzle gives the old HEAVE-HO to a HO that can be excised from various phrases:

  • 18a. [*Ancient Chinese cote occupant?] is a MING PIGEON. (Homing pigeon – HO.)
  • 25a. The famous “Who’s on first/What’s on second” comedy routine feeds this one, which retains the baseball setting but changes the player. W’S ON FIRST is an [*Observation after a Bush walk?]. Well played! This also evokes, for me, the “born on third base but thought he hit a triple” line, which Jim Hightower used in reference to W’s dad.
  • 36a. Captain Hook’s henchman SMEE gets in crosswords far more than the Captain himself. Here, he is used to produce CAPTAIN OK, the [*Nickname for a so-so Navy officer?].
  • 50a. A BAMBOO SOT (bamboo shoot) is a [*Habitually drunk panda?]. I know very little about the substance abuse proclivities of pandas.
  • 57a. [*Kenyan healthcare worker?] clues R.N. OF AFRICA, which is the Horn of Africa – HO.
  • 42d. [Dismissal, and a hint to how the answers to starred clues were derived] is HEAVE HO.

I like the way the HO-less words don’t just lose a syllable. WHO and HORN become initials. HOOK turns into the two-syllable OK. Shoot-into-sot changes consonant and vowel sounds. Only 18a lops off a HO syllable.

Highlights:

  • The 2×2 box of Zs where FIZZ (17a. [Bubbles]) and FEZZES (20a. [Tasseled toppers]) cross the double-plus-awesome SOZZLED (3d. [Drunk, in slang]) and HUZZAH (4d. [Old-fashioned "Way to go!"]). SOZZLED or HUZZAH alone would be fun, but together and crossing another pair of ZZ words? Great stuff.
  • 12d. FOOTSIE is an [Under-the-table diversion].
  • 1d. [Picaresque] clues RAFFISH, which is another word I love.
  • I would like there to be a pop trio devoted to glorifying a famous virologist. The JONAS SALK Brothers, anyone? 7d is JONAS, [With 56-Down, eponymous bacteriologist], and 56d is SALK. But he created the Salk vaccine against the polio virus, and he was a virologist. Not a bacteriologist. Most vaccines are against viruses, not bacteria.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Small Caps”

FYI, Jeffrey has resigned from the job of blogging the Wall Street Journal crossword to spend more time with his family at Disney theme parks. In other news, Jeffrey has taken a new position in which he’ll be blogging the L.A. Times puzzle on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as reviewing Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle on Thursdays. We wish him well in his new venture.

Region capture 13So I’m back on WSJ duty here. Today’s theme is a rebus, and eight squares contain three letters instead of one. That trigram is TAM. Now, the title of the puzzle is “WP08,” so the connection between the title and the rebus theme is crystal clear to all of you, right? I didn’t get it, so I Googled it and…I got nothin’. I can’t even make up a fake explanation that’s funny. “In Scotland, there’s a group of people with congenital pinheads, and they wear tiny little TAMs on their tiny little heads. WP08 is the name of the gene on which their mutation lies.” (Edited to add: Original Across Lite file had “WP08″ in the title field instead of “Small Caps.” In finance, “small-caps” are companies with small capitalizations, and that’s interpreted as “caps/hats that are small” for this TAM rebus theme.)

The long phrases that have a teeny part condensed into a rebus square include some lively ones. To wit:

  • 23a. [Gilbert & Sullivan's "Princess Ida" is written in it] clues IAMBIC PEN{TAM}ETER. Boy, was I confused when there was no way PENTAMETER would fit. I feared a Gilbert & Sullivan wordplay theme.
  • 61a. Will [Rogers catchphrase] is I NEVER ME{T A M}AN I DIDN’T LIKE. Seems weird to have a 23-letter entry condensed into 21.
  • 87a. ["Stop dawdling!"] clues the great GE{T A M}OVE ON!
  • 85d. [Their fruit is used in Worcestershire sauce] clues {TAM}ARIND. It’s good in chutney, too. Interestingly, this fruit can also be used in wordplay. Lop off the last letter and it’s a monkey called the tamarin. Lop off that last letter, and you get tamari sauce. Remove the end again, and you get the Biblical name Tamar. Then Tama Janowitz, a Scottish tam, ta (British informal “thanks”), and a handy T. And! Add an O to the end and you get a Mexican sodapop flavor, tamarindo.
  • 9d. RI{TA M}ORENO is a [2009 National Medal of Arts recipient]. She’s great, isn’t she?

I really am just completely befuddled as to why the theme exists. Anyone?

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29 Responses to Friday, 10/1/10

  1. john farmer says:

    “Now, how are we supposed to keep straight who Muhammad Ali fought in the “[noun] in [place]” bout? Two opponents with 7-letter names starting with F?”

    “I swear to you that I have never heard this nickname. My folks didn’t follow boxing in 1975 (or any point thereafter).”

    In 1975, you didn’t need to follow boxing to know. You just knew. These were things everybody knew. Heavyweight champs, the big fights…everyone heard about them. Very different than today.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    John, if you were a nine-year-old girl whose dad didn’t watch boxing, you sure as hell didn’t know what “everybody” knew. And now, 35 years later, what’s the point in knowing which time was Frazier and which time was Foreman? It’s all just violence pretending to be a sport anyway.

  3. john farmer says:

    I was exaggerating a bit with “everybody.” I’m sure my mom didn’t give a hoot about boxing back then either. But my point was that Ali’s fights were very big deals. There was a build-up for weeks or months, and even if you weren’t a fan, even if didn’t care, you still had a high probability of knowing about them if you were, say, an adult at the time. I wouldn’t think everyone remembers which fights were Frazier or Foreman, but both were household names.

    I get that you don’t like boxing. I hope you’re not saying that 35 years later is too late for a tribute puzzle.

  4. sbmanion says:

    It is difficult to appreciate how big an athlete can be in one era when that athlete’s sport is no longer popular. How many of you know Dan Patch?

    I am 61 and with apologies to Jackie Robinson, who was before my time, Muhammad Ali is indisputably the iconic athlete and I dare say the iconic human of my generation. The puzzle was a Wednesday, but the Thrilla in Manila, the last of sports’ greatest trilogy, was much more than just a fight.

    Steve

  5. sps says:

    I knew all the trivia (and remember the fight) but it just wasn’t a fun puzzle, let alone a great Friday…

  6. I’m with John Farmer on this one, Amy. When Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks the first time (I think I was ten), one of the three major networks of the late 70s carried the fight live, ESPN or pay-per-view not yet being in existence. Spinks defeated Ali and it sent shock waves through even some casual sports fans.

    As Steve rightly points out, boxing is no longer a sport that commands such an audience, and I’m inclined to think that’s a good thing. But Ali carried with him a cachet similar to Michael Jordan in his prime, probably even more so. I share Amy’s wish for a Friday themeless, but a tribute puzzle to “The Greatest” and one of his great opponents is an appropriate subject even if the day of the week chosen wasn’t optimal.

    I gather that a similar tribute puzzle to Saturday Night Live (which turns 35 a week from Monday) is unlikely, being so close on the calendar…

  7. Duke says:

    I know little about boxing and could care even less. But I knew all these answers (except Louisville Lip!). This was general knowledge at the time. Hard to escape hearing about it. And Ali was so fascinating and charismatic. Watch both When We Were Kings and Soul Power documentaries for a glimpse.

  8. Karen says:

    My memory of Muhammed Ali is watching him light the Olympic Cauldron in Atlanta in 1996. His visible tremor was a powerful statement of the toll his body and brain took over the years.

    Thanks for the Lilly links, Evad. It looks as though his grandson is the one to thank for philanthropic work in my area; interesting to see business people promoting regulation.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Two excellent puzzles today: Scott Atkinson’s LAT and Ben Tausig’s vv–one of Ben’s best. Medium difficulty, both highly recommended here.

    Without entering into the boxing maelstrom, to me the NYT was one of those impressive feats of construction which yields an absurdly easy puzzle of no interest whatsoever to the solver, (at least this one). You might as well have asked me to write on a blank piece of paper the phrases and nicknames associated with the fight.

    Bruce

  10. joon says:

    i was -4 at the time of the fight (or is it -3? unclear if you’re supposed to truncate down, or towards zero), but i’ve certainly heard of every theme answer in the puzzle even though i’m no boxing fan. it’s american cultural history. ali wasn’t “the greatest” because he was regarded as the greatest boxer; he was regarded as the greatest athlete, period.

    i had the opposite experience to steve (smith): i thought it was really fun, even though it’s not what i was expecting on a friday. good thing, too, because the times had something of a losing streak going.

  11. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    A question of netiquette: If printing a comment in full caps is the equivalent of shouting, what is the equivalent of a diffident aside? I would use that style to point out that while Amy’s write-up may suggest that Jerry Lee Lewis was known as the Big Bopper, in fact, according to Wikipedia, Jiles Perry “J. P.” Richardson, Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959) was commonly known as The Big Bopper

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    You see, Bob? I’m just too young to keep those things straight. I’m delighted to find ways in which I am too young despite my ever-advancing years!

  13. Lloyd Mazer says:

    I just uploaded the wsj thanks to Mike Shenk. Still not on the wsj website.

  14. Meem says:

    Amy: Is your WSJ missing permanently? I thought the construction was very clever. Hope we get your comments.

  15. Evad says:

    Karen, you have janie to thank for the Eli Lilly link. She’s been doing the heavy lifting on the CS puzzles now for a while. You may start to see more of my CS commentaries in the upcoming weeks, but for now, I’m just handling the “Sunday Challenges.”

  16. Jeffrey says:

    Ali’s greatest fight was against Superman. Despite the weird premise, one of the best comic books I ever read.

  17. Anne E says:

    I have exactly zero (no, make that negative) interest in boxing, and I knew most of this stuff too, just general osmosis. But I’m not particularly a fan of most tribute puzzles.

    I’ll share my own Ali tribute, though. A number of years ago now, I sat down at a commuter gate at O’Hare, and Ali was sitting there across from me (which I didn’t realize when I sat down). Every once in a while, someone would do a double take, notice him, and come over and say a few quiet fandom words to him, ask for an autograph, etc. During the hour or so I was sitting there, he was polite and gracious to every single person. His health clearly wasn’t the best, and he probably could have hidden himself away somewhere, but he took the time to be kind and responsive to everyone who stopped by. Very classy, I thought.

  18. Mike Shenk says:

    The title of today’s WSJ is “Small Caps.” I’m still trying to find out why the WSJ online folks haven’t posted the puzzle yet.

  19. Jim says:

    My print WSJ has the title “Small Caps” as in Tam.

    Jim

  20. Lloyd Mazer says:

    And thanks again to Mike for the title correction. Puzzle on my site has been corrected.

    Lloyd

  21. LARRY says:

    Amy – Don’t miss Ken Burns’s postscript to his baseball epic. There’s a terrific piece on the battle between McGwire and Sosa for the homer championship in 98(?)

  22. Howard B says:

    Not a boxing fan at all, but was fortunate enough to meet Joe Frazier some years ago when I was in college, as I was leaving Madison Square Garden with a couple of friends (forgot from what event). He was there with his brother, and one of my small group knew someone who worked at MSG, so that worker quickly introduced us.

    Joe didn’t speak that much at first, but they were extremely gracious and shook our hands (Although Joe wasn’t that tall, I think he was twice my width, and I could fit 2 of my hands in one of his!). When asked by the employee if they would mind a quick photo op, we were a bit hesitant and didn’t want to act the tourists, until Joe said quite clearly and with a broad grin, “Come on, I’m not afraid of you white people!”, and pulled us right in for the photo.

    They joked for a bit more and then we made our leave. Seemed like a really nice, down-to-earth guy, with a mischievous sense of humor. Glad to have met him once.
    I do wish I still had that photo, oh well.

  23. Alex says:

    I am very disappointed that no one has linked to this clip from The Simpsons. That’s where I learned the nickname “Smokin’ Joe!”

  24. Meem says:

    Lloyd Mazer, Mike Shenk, et al: So sad that we never got to talk about Small Caps. And very sorry that there was a spoiler post. (Need to include Dan Fisher in this thought.). Thought the rebus was great. Took a while to get it right, but then the solve was great fun. Not sure which one was best, but loved BVitamin crossing Fata Morgana!!

  25. John Haber says:

    Sorry, John, but to me who am getting old, it was just trivia. I actually got it all quickly except for the SW, where Frazier’s nickname meant nothing to me and defeated me, along with what didn’t feel right for the location of a speaker. FWIW, I think Joon’s description of boxing is dead-on.

  26. Martin says:

    I have one slightly used “WP08″ WSJ puzzle file for sale. I figure if postal errors, like the “inverted Jenny,” are fabulously valuable I should be able to get a few bucks for a cruciverbal misprint.

    I did wonder what that title meant, but was so happy that the puzzle finally appeared online that I ignored it.

  27. Jeffrey says:

    I got out just in time. I thought it stood for Weird Puzzle number 8. Fill in your own weird puzzles numbers 1-7.

  28. EsmesValet says:

    I’m a little late to be weighing in, but I’d just like to let the constructor know that I LOVED this puzzle. Yeah, it was kind of easy, but it was really fun. . .and whenever I finish a Friday in under 15 minutes I get a confidence bump, which is cool.

    ~NVA-W

  29. Josh S. says:

    So, I was so confused about the WSJ puzzle theme that I thought of the Tam Tam cracker, made by the Manischewitz company and marketed to Jews from New York City (like me) who couldn’t eat Ritz crackers because they used to contain lard (back in the 70s). I thought that maybe the “TAM” squares would make a hexagonal shape like their eponymous cracker?

    Otherwise, it was a pretty fun puzzle.

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