Thursday, 10/7/10

Fireball 8:03
Tausig 8:24 (Jeffrey)
NYT 5:21
LAT 3:56 (Jeffrey)
CS untimed
BEQ 3:25

Stand Alone, Inc. has a crossword solving app for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. (For phones with the Android operating system, there’s Shortyz.) Starting next week, the Onion A.V. Club crosswords will be available via Stand Alone (they’ve been in Shortyz for a while already). I believe pretty much all the main crosswords available in Across Lite can be accessed in Stand Alone (as they can in Shortyz for Droid)—the BEQ blog puzzles are there, too, and Ink Well, along with the NYT (if you subscribe). Stand Alone’s site doesn’t appear to list all the puzzles available, but I know Shortyz offers L.A. Times, Newsday, CrosSynergy, the assorted Sunday puzzles, etc., and I suspect Stand Alone goes the same route. So if you’re a smartphone- or iPad-using puzzle junkie, check out your Stand Alone and Shortyz options.

Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 7This is a groovy puzzle, ain’t it? A HEXAGON has six sides, and the other six theme entries in this puzzle begin or end with a SIDE—and all of those SIDEs appear along the left and right sides of the grid, thanks to the 90° angles those entries follow. You see what Patrick did here? Rather than having a set of four theme entries that either begin or end with SIDE, he assembled six of them that can bend to put the SIDE on the side, and matched up symmetrical pairs of bendy answers. That’s a horrible explanation of a cool crossword twist.

The theme:

  • 1d-19a. A SIDEWALK SALE is an [Outdoor retail promotion]. In the electronic versions of the puzzle, the 19a clue field is replaced by a dash.
  • 7a-13d. THE FAR SIDE is Gary Larson’s [Cartoon featured in 23 best-selling books].
  • 30a-33d. [In America] means STATESIDE. Weird word, that. Shouldn’t it be “states-side”?
  • 34d-47a. To SIDESWIPE is to [Graze, in a way].
  • 55d-69a. [Southwestern rattler] is a SIDEWINDER.
  • 58a-61d. The MOUNTAINSIDE is [Where marmots and chamois live]. The chamois is a “goat-antelope species,” Wikipedia tells me. Read all about Rupicapra rupicapra. Bonus mention of the oryx!

Now, this puzzle took me a long time for a Thursday puzzle, but longtime applet whiz “zachugly” (anyone know his/her real name?) finished in 3:04. Yowza!

Highlights:

  • 14a. I LOVE L.A. is a [1983 Randy Newman song]. Was he joking?
  • 16a. [Brazier] is not at all the same thing as a brassiere. It’s a grill, like a HIBACHI.
  • 4d. HECKLE is a weird-looking word. [Disturb a stand-up routine] is a solid clue for that.
  • 7d. Insane Clue of the Day: [Number that looks like the letter yogh] is THREE. I had a college class in medieval English literature, but I don’t remember the yogh. It was sometimes a Y and sometimes a GH.
  • 20d. Did you know the LHASA APSO was a [Type of terrier]?

The clue for 28d: Richard ROEPER is [Critic who's a real thumb-body?]. Well, except that his run on At the Movies ended in 2008. The “thumbs up/down” shtick is protected by a trademark held by Roger Ebert; the thumbs are returning to TV on a new PBS show that will include a fresh batch of critics reviewing new movies; Roger will spotlight old movies.

Anyone else hit the skids right at 1a? [It began commercial service in '76] clues the SST. A rather “meh” answer to be parked in such a prominent location. See also: ACTE, RHEO, IRR, DES, EOE. Lots of short, blah entries, but the showiness of the SIDEwinding answers makes up for them this time.

Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “Vwllss Crsswrd”

Region capture 6Ooh! I love me a good vowelless crossword, I do. Now, I found this one to be a good bit easier than most of the puzzles in Frank’s Vowelless Crosswords book. Most of the ones in the book, if I recall correctly, took me twice as long as a tough Saturday NYT crossword, if not longer. This vwllss Frbll Crsswrd (“Furball!”) took me only as long as a tough Saturday. And I didn’t use the copy of the puzzle that provided the enumerations of with-vowels answer lengths.

The answer sheet Peter Gordon included with the puzzle lists the spelled-out versions, so refer to that if you have any mystery entries.

My favorite entries included the following:

  • The missing-only-one-vowel DR. PHL.
  • The LTTL RVR BND of “Reminiscing” fame. Man, I loved that song. Have a listen here. Not many songs of that era (late ’70s/early ’80s) include mentions of “Glenn Miller’s band” and “the Porter tunes.” Don’t recall “Take It Easy on Me” at all, from the title; “Lonesome Loser” was a hit, though.
  • That PDTRCN who is Dr. Spock, not Mr. Spock. [Spock was one] definitely made me think of Mr. rather than Dr.
  • TRND WRNNGS! If you’re a fan of tornadoes safely confined to your TV set, check out the new season of Stormchasers on Discovery. Starts next week.

My least favorite answer is 2d, JRNL F MDCN. I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone refer to a generic “journal of medicine” in all my years (20-plus!) in the medical publishing arena. The New England Journal of Medicine, sure, but that uses capital letters and nobody calls it “Journal of Medicine.” They’re just medical journals. (Unless you’re in Bangladesh.)

I don’t know about you, but I thought working this puzzle was a hoot. Sure, there are no twisty clues, but the “aha” moment has extra oomph when you have to figure out what the vowelless words you’ve entered actually are. Thanks, Peter, for turning the Fireball reins over to Frank for a delightful Vwllss!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “What’s in a Name?”—Jeffrey’s review

Tausig Oct 7 10Theme: Eponyms (mostly)

  • 18A. [*Wheel inventor] – GALE FERRIS. Actually, he stole the idea from a caveman, but patents hadn’t been invented yet. Does anyone have a patent on patents?
  • 26A. [*Toilet tinkerer (coincidentally)] – THOMAS CRAPPER. It appears the term came first. So, not really an eponym. With that name, what other business could he go into? Disney tour guide?
  • 34A. [*Tobacco importer] – JEAN NICOT. Nicotine. His family must be so proud.
  • 42A. [*Fitness pioneer] – JOSEPH PILATES. Does that mean there isn’t just one pilate?
  • 55A. [*Plastic container magnate] – EARL TUPPER, who invented Tupperware with his partner, Eugene Burp.

Stuff I didn’t know:

  • 16A. [Philadelphia producer who once dated M.I.A.] – DIPLO
  • 35D. [Gathering of the Juggalos group] – ICP. Juggalo is a name given to fans of Insane Clown Posse (ICP). Okay, it is official. Any three letters can be combined to form an answer.
  • 37D. [Legendary Houston rapper who overdosed on "purple drank"] – DJ SCREW.  With that name, what other business could he go into? Disney tour guide?

Stuff I knew:

  • 38A. [1980 Olympic silver medal hockey letters] – CCCP. Any Canadian who remembers 1972 can recall this.
  • 50A. [Like some genuinely scary roller coasters] – RICKETY. Are there fake scary roller coasters? They are all scary to me. Genuinely.
  • 53A. [Give a new form, as Play-Doh] – RESHAPE. Yummy!
  • 60A. ["___ You Want Me" (1981 Human League duet)] – DON’T
  • 62A. [Ulrich who co-founded Metallica] – LARS
  • 63A. [Bed intruders?] – STDS. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Somewhere, the breakfast test is weeping.
  • youppi2

  • 1D. [Mr. Met and the Phillie Phanatic, e.g.] – MASCOTS. Youppi!!!
  • 2D. [Case that may be open and shut in court] – ATTACHE. The type of clue that fools the newbies.
  • 3D. [Comedian Red] – SKELTON. Not to be confused with Redd Foxx. Except by joon.
  • 4D. ["Green Eggs and Ham" character] – SAM I AM. Answer, I knew.
  • 8D. [Nissan SUV] – XTERRA. I’m looking at new cars. Despite being nearly 6’4”, I was surprised to see I fit in a Nissan Versa comfortably. Any other suggestions, tall solvers?
  • 13D. ["We're off ___ the wizard ..."] – TO SEE. Muppets with Brooke Shields!
  • 28D. [Station where Larry King will host his final show this December] – CNN. No need to read past King.
  • 34D. ["Gigli" actress, to fans] – JLO. Were there any fans of Gigli?
  • 40D. [Board's place, usually] – DEEP END. Swimming pool, not office.
  • 46D. ["Just what I needed ..."] – GREAT. Oh, look, a sarcastic clue. Great.
  • 51D. [Group concerned about minorities, in a way] – KLAN. That clue took a nasty turn.
  • 56D. [Group whose tours always have a really quiet crowd: Abbr.] – PGA. Not at the Ryder Cup.

I went on a Disney tour a few months ago. The tour guide’s name was Summer Rose. With that name, what other job could she have? I forgot to ask if she invented flowers.

Donna S. Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jeffrey’s review

LAt Oct 7 10

Theme: Let’s get meta – A crossword puzzle about crossword puzzles

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [*Stand firm] – PUT ONE’S FOOT DOWN. An across down answer.
  • 29A. [*Find by chance] – COME ACROSS. An across across answer.
  • 37A. [*Utility company network] – POWER GRID. 15×15 grid here. With both black and white squares.
  • 49A. [*1990s-2000s kids' show starring a pooch named for its color] – BLUE’S CLUES. The clue answer has clue. My head hurts.
  • 64A. [Where this grid's starred answers' ends have particular relevance] – ON THE PUZZLE PAGE. Hey, grid is in the clue and in an answer. Across and Down are also given away. And it is on a puzzle page. What gives?

Coming next – a Sudoku about crossword puzzles. Try that.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [The Bob Hope Classic component and others] – PRO-AMS. Weirdly worded clue. Oops, I said clue again.
  • 7A. [Privately, to a lawyer] – IN CAMERA. On camera is the opposite of private. Therefore, in and on are antonyms. Right?
  • 16A. [Robin's band] – MERRY MEN. Led by Batman.
  • 7D. ["This tape will self-destruct in five seconds" fictional spy org.] – IMF. Cue the music!
  • 11D. ["Frankly, __ ..."] – MY DEAR/12D. [Poker face's lack] – EMOTION/23D. [Lovey-dovey] – AMOROUS. This puzzle has taken a romantic turn. Isn’t that 20A. [Amiable] – SWEET?
  • 38D. [WWII female] – WAC. My mother, for one.
  • 47D. [Two, for one] – INTEGER. Two and one, for two.
  • 50D. [Artist known for spatial impossibilities] – ESCHER
  • 51D. [Part of QE2: Abbr.] – ELIZ. I was at her hotel last week. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. She wasn’t there.
  • 66D. [The London Zoo has one] – ZED. London, England. The answer works for London, Ontario, but there’s no zoo there. So I guess it doesn’t work. Across or down.


Updated Thursday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “You Know the Drill”—Janie’s review

Will has given us a synonym theme so, as the title says, “You know the drill.” Today, the first word of each of the two-word phrases is another “drill”-related word. And not of the dental variety. More like the [Learning system]-known-as-ROTE variety. There’s quiz, test, oral and examination—each of which may be prepared for with drilling. I cannot FEIGN [Pretend]. With the exception of the first one, I found the theme phrases (and the theme…) to be a bit more functional than fun. Here’s what we get:

  • 17A. QUIZ SHOW SCANDAL [1950s event that shamed Charles Van Doren]. Great fill here. This cautionary tale was the subject of Robert Redford’s award-winning film Quiz Show. The “scandal,” for folks who may not know, was the revelation that some popular quiz shows, most dramatically “The $64,000 Question,” were in fact rigged. (That’s a little over half a million in 2010 $$…) This Wiki article should bring you up to speed if all this is new news.
  • 29A. TEST PATTERN [Video signal calibration tool]. It might look something like this.
  • 46A. ORAL SURGERY [Dental procedure]. Well, I wasn’t entirely accurate about the absence of the non-dental use of the word “drill.” It’s here by implication as sometimes those nasty procedures do involve a drill…
  • 61A. EXAMINATION COPY [Textbook provided by a publisher to faculty for review].

All work and no play, however, makes Jack a dull boy, so after all the studying required for those various tests, Will has also tempered the fill with references to recreational outlets: soccer, by way of “OLÉ! OLÉ!” [World Cup chant]; baseball, with the SOX [Fenway Park players, for short]; GRECO[-Roman wrestling]; LAILA [Boxer Ali] (boxer Mohammed’s little girl…); and a [Skating place] RINK for ILYA [Hockey player Kovalchuk].

He’s also leavened some of the more direct clues with some more punny, playful ones, like [Set a spell?] for HEXED and [Thole mate?] for OAR.

Fill I particularly liked would have to include MUTANTS [The X-Men, notably], SAVORS [Relishes], CABALA [Esoteric rabbinical mysticism], WI-FI ["Hotspot" technology] (because I recently got both a Nook and a MacBook, so I’m simply more “hotspot” sensitive), and ["Life] IS BUT [a dream"]. Why this last one? Because even though it’s the last line of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and (apparently) the title of a Dion song as well, for me it recalled “Sh-Boom.” Yes, I’d remembered the lyric incorrectly (in the song it’s “Life could be a dream…”), but it was fun to hear it again. Give it a go!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Show Business”

Region capture 9The theme is a little unfocused. Each theme clue is a business that is central to a TV show, but some are hangouts and some are workplaces or, in one case, an airline flown by some characters. Yes, “business” describes all of those, but Oceanic Airlines, a café hangout, and a law firm don’t make for a very tight theme. Well, aside from all being businesses. Which is not to say it isn’t a fun theme, because it is (unless the solver crows “I don’t watch TV” in the haughtiest tone).

Anyway, Brendan included nine TV shows (in 10 grid entries). I’m afraid I have to dock him a few points for using SOPRANOS and putting its “The” in the quote, when THE OFFICE gets its definite article in the grid. Either BEQ chose all hit shows or I have watched too much TV since the ’70s, because there wasn’t a single theme clue that wasn’t a gimme. I think I slowed down a little with the “Wait, those are hangouts and these are workplaces…say what?” thematic drift, as I should have gone Monday-fast with 10 theme gimmes in the puzzle.

Brendan IMed me yesterday to see what I thought of 44d: ["Tain't nuttin', man"]. He didn’t tell me the answer, though, so today I needed all the crossings to get ‘S COOL. (EUNUCH is one letter too long.) I say if ‘SUP is OK for crosswords as an elision of “What’s up?” (and I believe we’ve seen that in the NYT crossword), then ‘SCOOL is OK too.

The fill has some blah stuff (UTILE, NO-CAL, ESAU, FAS, ERNES) but it’s largely offset by the “Hey! That was a good show!” nostalgia factor.

Brendan’s not much of one for repeating clues, but I’m making a mental note of his AVON clue: ["The Wire" druglord Barksdale].

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21 Responses to Thursday, 10/7/10

  1. joon says:

    sweet NYT puzzle. really clever idea. i’m glad i didn’t notice that 1a was SST (didn’t know it immediately, and later got it through crossings), but for such an unusual and fresh theme, with quite a lot of thematic constraints, i’d be willing to forgive such a thing.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    I ended at NYT’s 1A because I had SAS, so my last entry was the change to SST and the unfamiliar TOVAH. Otherwise it was fairly easy because I was thinking “rebus” on the right-hand side, as in STATESIDE and MOUNTAINSIDE, but the minus signs soon made me reconsider. Also, I’d just put my HIBACHI away till next year with all the rain lately.

  3. john farmer says:

    I haven’t done the NYT yet, but I did do the new monthly puzzle at Patrick’s website. Terrific!

    http://www.patrickblindauer.com/play.html

    I have to admit I’ve had a “green eggs and ham” attitude toward vowelless puzzles, but I did the FB this evening. What do you know … I liked it.

  4. Steve Salitan says:

    Patrick’s side-winding puz was a marvel. Since I was somehow (ha!) not in the <4% group of 3 who made it to the finals in P'ville, the joy in solving came Saturday under human conditions.–The twists and turns while tortuous, were all fair and delightful. The fill was superb, esp. considering how tightly packed the theme was. Kudos to Patrick!——-Frnk's "Vwllss" was my first foray into that solving arena. It was so much fun. Seemingly a dauntless task at the outset, the puzzle did fall, especially with the various crosses at trouble spots. A nifty grid for sure. Checking one's work is another story. Like looking at the Rosetta stone.–2 mind-altering puzzles indeed.–Thanks to both constructors.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    14a. I LOVE L.A. is a [1983 Randy Newman song]. Was he joking?

    One of my all-time favorite songwriters and, yet, to this day I don’t know if he was joking when he wrote “Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father”.

    Damn that bastard.

    I finished this one in 11:22. Or , so I tought. The middle was a bitch. “Quaker product”? Either OAT or OIL, right? No-o-o-o-o-o.

    THX?

    THX?! 11:22 for real. 28:something to hunt down the error. **sigh**

  6. Duke says:

    I got the twist, but still don’t understand what the hyphens indicate.

  7. Tuning Spork says:

    The hyphens indicate: “look elsewhere for this clue”.

    The elsewhere, of course, being the adjoining corner’s clue.

    But didn’t we have this gimmick only a couple of months ago? I know Will said he was hurting for gimmicky Thursdays, but… I guess it’s all good. Nevermind. :-)

  8. Anne E says:

    I think zachugly is Zack Butler, who finished 2nd at ACPT in 2002 and 8th in 2004:

    http://www.crosswordtournament.com/2002/index.htm

    I’ve been benchmarking his times since I started benchmarking a year or two ago, and he beats me on a regular basis, including today.

    Liked this one a lot! Nice work, Patrick.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Anne, I accosted Zack Butler a few years ago at ACPT and asked if he was zachugly and he looked at me funny, so I’m doubtful. Maybe someone who’s never gone to a crossword tournament–because if he had, we’d know exactly who he is because he’d do very well!

  10. Steve Salitan says:

    Great work by Patrick Blindauer and Frnk Lng. Am still savoring both!

  11. Michael Morowitz says:

    Hi, I’ve been doing the A/V club crosswords on my iphone’s stand alone app for quite some time now.

  12. Meem says:

    What wonderful construction. Even the short fill was saved by great clues (e.g., 63D). Thank you, Patrick.

  13. John Haber says:

    No, I guessed SST almost immediately, partly because it’s crosswordese (though much more often crossing the ends of words to get plurals). My hard corner was with the HIBACHI, yogh, and so on.

    Clever theme. Didn’t dawn on me all that fast either.

  14. Zulema says:

    I know people here don’t bother about such minutiae since they don’t interfere with speed, but if “Lord and lady” leads to TITLES, shouldn’t it be “Lady”?

  15. Dan F says:

    The Vwllss was hard for me, but I just couldn’t break through the NW corner, for no particular reason (except the 3D clue which doesn’t match the idiom to my ears)… another problem was the crossing of HLVT and Little [Something] Band, neither of which I’ve heard of… and it’s hard to play Guess The Letter when you don’t have every letter!

    Thanks John for the pointer to PB’s latest (now in Across Lite! yay!). Which also reminded me to check out John’s blog puzzles. Couldn’t finish the most recent one!

  16. nanpilla says:

    First time doing a vowelless, and was feeling intimidated. It turned out to be so much fun. I did it without enumeration, and didn’t have any trouble. I’m guessing we were thrown a softball for our first time. I may just have to go out and get Frank Longo’s book.

  17. joon says:

    the BEQ actually has 11 TV shows in 12 entries. i don’t really watch any TV shows (unless you count football night in america), but somehow this was pretty easy. i guess the shows are all famous, and this stuff tends to seep into your consciousness. i knew 4 from having watched the shows a few times (MAD MEN, HOUSE, FRIENDS, THE OFFICE), 2 more from general exposure (LOST and SEINFELD), another was easily guessable (TAXI), and the others were easy from crosses.

    i found this to be among the easier vwllsss, but still very enjoyable. i didn’t time myself on any of the puzzles in frank’s book, but i knew there were a few that i absolutely shredded (and others that took me hours, or days). this one wasn’t quite shredded, but 6:50 on paper is definitely fast for a vwllss. my only hangup was repeatedly coming back to the colorado clue and thinking i would know it. i eventually needed every single cross, then was able to parse it. at least with LTTLRVRBND i knew i wouldn’t know it, so i didn’t bother trying.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    LITTLRVRBND was of course a gimme for me, the anti-joon. I found the vwllss fairly easy.

  19. Badir says:

    I really enjoyed the vwllss crsswrd as well. Only for me it was an easyish Friday in difficulty.

  20. Mike Nothnagel says:

    The other cool part about Patrick’s theme is not only does the bending of the theme entries put the SIDEs on the side, it also gives the grid six *angles* to go with its six sides, just like a hexagon. (Admittedly, the angles in a hexagon aren’t each 90 degrees, but still…pretty clever.)

    MN

  21. joon says:

    i’d be really impressed if he had worked 120° angles into a square grid.

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