Friday, 10/15/10

NYT uh, I forgot how long this took me
LAT 5:13
BEQ-DQ 7:44
CHE 3:43
CS untimed
WSJ 7:24

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

FriOct15WentzOoh, I loved this puzzle. It made me gnash my teeth. It made me roll my eyes and then unroll them because I was wrong to roll my eyes. It entertained and surprised me.

The biggest surprise was that, yes, Will Shortz allowed [Joint] to clue a marijuana joint, a.k.a. SPLIFF. The party vibe continued with the two-part BOOZES / IT UP and a bowl of BBQ CHIPS. At first I feared that the [Party bowlful with zing] was going to be SALSA DIP, but yay! No neeed to roll my eyes after all.

Hot-stuff fill abounded:

  • Conversational morsels include “YOU GOT IT” and “OKEY-DOKE.”
  • Idiomatic English is all over this puzzle. Nobody ever goes to “an opera”; it’s always THE OPERA. Don’t be a WET RAG (or a GASBAG, my wrong turn here); it’s more chill to be LAID-BACK. SNOOKERS is a great verb, though the the past-tense “snookered” is, I think, seen in the wild much more. WHACK JOB, STUCK-UP, BREAK-IN, FACE TIME, and an IN JOKE are all great, too. I’m not even holding a grudge against the spelling not being WHAKK JOB, which proved to be an elusive typo to root out.
  • Oh, dear. O.J.’s money-seeking book, IF I DID IT, is here. Did you all remember this one? I like how every other letter is an I…which in Latin is ego, right?
  • And on the lighter side, there’s David Leisure’s JOE ISUZU character.
  • Let us not overlook the humble yet so tasty EMPANADA. There’s a place in Lincoln Park that sells both savory empanadas and dessert varieties. Hot bananas and chocolate inside a deep-fried pastry shell? To die for.
  • So far I’ve spotlighted a full quarter of the entries in this puzzle. Dang! That’s way more than a handful of terrific answers. It is, in fact, a boatload. A boatload plus one: I forgot about “BY JOVE.”

Favorite clues:

  • 9d. [They're normal: Abbr.] clues STDS as an abbreviation for “standards,” but I like to think the puzzle’s telling us that sexually transmitted diseases are normal. See also 29a: [Thing picked up at a water cooler]. Is it THE CLAP? No? Just a RUMOR.
  • 47a. [___ Spring] clues IRISH. That soap, it’s made for a man. Friend of mine once asked about one’s reaction to Irish Spring in a multiple-choice quiz. Do you: A. Take a shower to wash the stank of colonialism off ya. B. Get out a knife and start carving the sh*t out of it. C. Shout “The girls like it too!”
  • 64a. ODENSE, in Denmark, is a [Port named for a Norse god]. (Thor, obviously.) I ask you: Who doesn’t love trivia that combines geography, mythology, and etymology?
  • 30d. Fresh clue for ORCA: [Cousin of a blackfish]. There are several kinds of fish called the blackfish, but it’s also another name for the pilot whale. Who knew?
  • 48d. An IN JOKE is [What only a select few might get].

Two mystery people, plus a nickname that threw me:

  • 63d. Crosswords taught me that DOC is a [Nickname for Dwight Gooden]. Dammit, so is DR. K. Don’t remember seeing that one before.
  • 58a. This [English composer/pianist Lord] business? I had no idea. 54a was either SANTA or SANTO, I wasn’t sure about 50d, and I had absolutely no idea that there’s anyone named JON Lord. Apparently Mr. Lord was in Deep Purple back in the day. Conrad’s Lord Jim kept poking his head out, and I was thinking JOB, JOE, and JO[any letter].
  • 56d. FRED? Did any of you watch that Nickelodeon “Fred” movie on TV a couple weeks ago? It was by turns halfway charming and all-the-way annoying. Anyway, FRED is clued here as [Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew].

Alrighty, Wentz, make us some more themelesses a lot like this one, packed with juicy wordbombs. (Pretty please.)

Kelsey Blakley’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7

Is it just me, or was this puzzle uncommonly challenging for a themed LAT crossword? The theme entries incorporate an extra L, changing a word ending in Y to a word ending with an -LY adverb (though in one case, the original -Y word was already an adverb). Why? Just for the “L” of it.

  • 17a. [Mentioned with a yawn?] clues DULLY NOTED.
  • 23a. [Tightfistedness scale?] turns the misery index into a MISERLY INDEX.
  • 53a. [Like a centaur?] is PARTLY ANIMAL.
  • 64a. [Old enough to know better?] clues HARDLY BOYS.

Aristotle worked me over. 49d: [Aristotle's first element of tragedy] is MYTHOS, but with a few crossings in place I went with PATHOS. This summary of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy doesn’t use the word MYTHOS. It says the first element is the plot. Not knowing MYTHOS delayed my discovery of the neighboring BUMS/YUL and theme entry 53a.

Favorite clues:

  • 8d. [Tip of Massachusetts] isn’t geographic, it’s Tip O’NEILL!
  • 13d. FEDEX is a [Fly-by-night co.?] of the best sort.
  • 18d. The idiom NO SOAP is clued with ["It'll never wash!"]. Soap, wash…cute.
  • 41d. Tooth ENAMEL can be a [Plaque holder?]. Don’t forget to brush and floss!
  • 21a. Boring OVOID gets a sweet clue: [Like jellybeans].

Best fill:

  • The S.S. MINNOW, ABOVE PAR, LAB TESTS, the WARPATH, BEWILDER, and DADDY-O.

Crosswordese we haven’t seen much of lately (and hope not to see again too soon):

  • 58a. A THOLE is an [Oarlock pin] on a boat.
  • 70a. [European coal region] clues the SAAR.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Loose Ends”

Region capture 8What an intricate theme! Eight familiar phrases are tied together in sequence by the eight hidden theme entries that join the end of one answer and the beginning of the next theme answer. The in-between answers are clued, too, with the clues appearing in parentheses at the end and beginning of the appropriate entries’ clues. Wait, let me try to state that in an even more roundabout fashion. No, let me just show you instead:

  • 22a. [...dream) Ray Charles chart-topper (Speedy...] nominally clues HIT THE ROAD, JACK. The “Speedy…” part goes with the beginning of the following clue, “…mammal,” to clue the JACKRABBIT at the end of 22a and beginning of 35a.
  • 35a. [...mammal) Illegal blow in boxing (Old lottery...] clues RABBIT PUNCH. A PUNCHBOARD is an old lottery device and takes us to:
  • 40a. [...device) Clue, for one (Pheasant or...] clues BOARD GAME. Then GAME BIRD, followed by:
  • 62a. [...quail) 1990 Gibson/Hawn film (News...] is BIRD ON A WIRE. UPI is a WIRE SERVICE.
  • 79a. [...agency) Tennis court boundary (Sharply batted...] gives us the SERVICE LINE. A LINE DRIVE is a baseball thang.
  • 104a. [...baseball) Prime radio broadcasting hours (Subject of an H.G. ...] is DRIVE TIME, and H.G. Wells wrote The TIME MACHINE.
  • 107a. [...Wells book) Drill press or lathe (Handyman's...] is a MACHINE TOOL. TOOL BOX points you towards:
  • 124a. [...carryall) Huge blockbuster (Producer's...] is a BOX OFFICE SMASH. And the […Producer's] […dream] is to have a SMASH HIT, which brings us full circle.

I admire this theme. The cluing format was mystifying at first, but it was satisfying to piece the puzzle together, especially at the end when the final loose end is tied up, explaining why the title is “No Loose Ends.”

One flat-out mystery answer for me:

  • 8a. [Hemispherical pearl] is a MABE. I have only the faintest sense of having seen this word before. Perhaps in a crossword 10 or 15 years ago?

And a mystery clue, sprung on me right at 1-Across:

  • 1a. [Bahla Fort setting] clues OMAN. O man, that’s a tough clue. Googleable, sure, but unfamiliar.


Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Special OP’s”—Janie’s review

Today’s “Special OP’s” have nothing to do with covert government operations, but everything to do with the sly insertion of the letter sequence “OP” into four familiar phrases. The base phrases are solid; the theme phrases sparkle. Behold as:

17A. Silent era → SILENT OPERA [Show with unsung songs?]. I’m trying to imagine, too, an opera performed completely in mime. Or viewing a Das Rheingold DVD at home with the sound off and the subtitles on. Kind of a goofy idea, I guess.

23A. Ming Dynasty → MOPING DYNASTY [Rulers with depression?]. Funny concept. Sounds like a job for Prozac…

51A. Co-ed housing → COOPED HOUSING [Fowl dormitories?]. Probably a place where there’s a good bit of fowl “play,” too. Where else would all those chicks come from? (Rhetorical question…)

59A. Brick wall → BRICK WALLOP [Big blow with a building block?]. Where the effect of a big blow’s impact is concerned—and as the saying goes—“Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s gonna be bad for the pitcher.”

What else do I like in this puzzle? Well, either by PLAN [Scheme] or by luck, Patrick has managed to include some pairs that balance each other both by their grid symmetry and their content. First, there’s the governmental duo of SOCIALISM [Marxian system] and COLONISTS [Passengers on the “Mayflower,” e.g.] whose efforts in withstanding harsh challenges in the New World led eventually to the democratic system that has defined the United States. Then there are the athletes, André AGASSI [1992 Wimbledon champ] and LORENA [Ochoa of women’s golf].

They’re not symmetrical in the grid, but there’s a great world geography pair in NAIROBI [Capital of Kenya] (really—the political capital and not monitary capital) and MONGOLIA [Landlocked land with a festival called Naadam]. (What do you suppose the CALAMARI [Seafood selection] would be like in Mongolia? Another rhetorical…) A [Spot on TV] is a PSA (public service announcement) which, along with paid commercials, represent a range of ADS [Madison Avenue products]. Keeping things light, TRA-LA are [Skipping syllables]; to [Gambol] is to ROMP.

S AND L is the fill for [Financial inst.]; BANKS, on the other hand is the [“Mary Poppins family]. We also get a pair of folks who are best kept in separate corners: the RAT [Unfaithful person] and the [Sap] SUCKER. Oh, and another flawed type would be the BAD SEED [Wayward offspring]—the kind who makes you say, “YIKES! [“Omigosh!"]. EVIL [Wicked] kid… What went wrong in the NURSERY [Baby’s room]?”

Love the triple 6-columns SW and NE with OODLES and C-CLAMP and EPONYM. There are other lively sixes as well, like STOICS and SPIGOT and “SO SOON?” And I’m very keen on the two “word(s) before” clues: [Word before bag or chest] for ICE and [Words before nose or hair] for BY A.

So how do I really feel about this puzzle? A-OK [Thumbs up response] by me!

David Quarfoot’s Brendan Quigley’s blog’s crossword, “Themeless Friday”

Region capture 9Yay, another themeless! Yay, the return of David Quarfoot! Yay, cool fill!

Boo, me taking about twice as long to do this puzzle as Howard B. and Eric M. I don’t know what my problem was. On the bright side, I did enjoy the puzzle while it was thrashing me. I had one typo, the location of which is evident in my answer grid. I assure you it was not a matter of having OLSON TWINS instead of OLSEN TWINS. I never, ever remember the spelling (who’s got a good mnemonic for that?) so I relied on the crossing, but typed HRR instead of HRE. Holy Roman Rempire? No. Adjacent-key typo, grr.

Favorite entries:

  • WASABI PEA, a cheesy Disney IMAGINEER, and a KAYAK ROLL (don’t order this at a bakery—too much fiberglass) are stacked up beautifully in the top left corner.
  • The opposite corner’s stack is also lovely, if a bit less colorful: A.L. CENTRAL, BIOSPHERE, and an ALL-ACCESS pass.
  • OIL LEAK would have been a dull answer a year ago, but it has some currency now. OLSEN TWINS, WIKIBOOKS (which is what, exactly? have never seen it), “A MAN, A PLAN…,” THE EAST crossing OESTE, an IRS TAX FORM, PHONE TREE, SILENT B, and the after-my-time CARE BEARS.

That is an awful lot of cool answers. Not as many as Pete Wentz’s puzzle, but the Wentz was cuckoo for cool answers.

I like the self-shout-out in the SHAKE clue, [DQ order].

David, please get cracking on more of your themelesses! They’re always a treat.

Oh, if you downloaded the puzzle without reading the BEQ interview with DQ, hop back and devour that. The money shot is this quote:

“The biggest problem in themed puzzles is boring reuse of the same tired ideas. In themeless puzzles, it is the obsession with low word-count grids and stacks of 15-letter entries. These Always Lead To Boring Phrases And Disgusting Crosses. I don’t know how many more overly inflected white square chunks (-ER, -ERS, -ANT, -ING, RE-, etc.) I can take. I simply won’t solve the puzzles of certain constructors anymore.”

Now, if you have signed yourself up for the task of blogging the crossword, it’s not easy to say “Screw it, I don’t even want to do this puzzle,” but I tell ya, the super show-offy grids do tend to make me groan with dismay. I expect not to enjoy the puzzle, and I expect to find crappy fill. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, but in general…no, I don’t care for those puzzles. I will do them, and then I will explain what I don’t like about them.

Granted, the show-off/constructor stunt puzzles definitely have their fans (among them Will Shortz), but their detractors are legion too. Thanks, Quarfoot and Quigley, for an enlightening discussion.

Neville Fogarty’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Where Credit’s Due”

Region capture 10Neville’s theme is that rare thing in crosswords, a forensic literature lesson. Neville assembles the writers who are famously suspected of having written some of the works attributed to WILLIAM / SHAKESPEARE. “Shakespearean” has a good ring to it, but what would the adjectives be for EDWARD DEVERE, CHRISTOPHER / MARLOWE, and FRANCIS BACON? I propose (in complete ignorance of whether scholars have already taken care of this) Deveresque, Marlovian (whoops, that one’s been done), and Porky.

I do appreciate the scholarly themes Patrick Berry fosters in the CHE crossword. I often don’t know half of the theme answers, but I like the educational opportunity the puzzles afford us. (In a way that I don’t appreciate, say, a theme answer that involves learning an obscure nautical term. CAT TACKLE!)

Today’s Big Mystery Answer is a short filler entry. HOO? 6d: [Sutton ___ (British archaeological site)]. Sutton who? The site of two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries and a ship burial, that’s who. HOO means “spur of a hill.” I didn’t know hills had spurs. See what I mean about this puzzle venue? Never heard of this HOO, but it’s more interesting to learn about than, say, a town of 11,000 in Scandinavia of no particular note.

Today’s Wordplay Clue is 40d: [Author who used the pseudonym “Alcofribas Nasier,” an anagram of his full name]. RABELAIS! Let’s see…the leftover letters are ACOFR NSI. François? Gotta love any author who’s into anagramming.

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24 Responses to Friday, 10/15/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    I couldn’t decide between SPLIFF and SCLIFF, so I left it blank. Is that a different Poe than Edgar?

    SE was tough for me.

    Steve

  2. LARRY says:

    How about HONEY as a verb, meaning to use cajolery on?

  3. sps says:

    I was OK with HONEY (altho that took a while to see) but DRK threw me, too, as I’d always heard Gooden referred to as Doc. NIce puzzle, with some knotty sections (or is that “naughty”?).

  4. Evad says:

    Got stuck in the NW with NO JIVE for BY JOVE…the puzzle was definitely skewing me toward more current idioms with SPLIFF. Fun one!

  5. Anne E says:

    Man, this one was brutal! Was doing OK till I got to the NW… but then at one point I had all of the following errors in there at once: PAROLED instead of EXHALED, NO JOKE instead of BY JOVE, NACHO DIP instead of BBQ CHIPS, ART OPERA instead of THE OPERA (yeah, I know, dumb!), QUAD instead of TETR (also dumb) and REO instead of RKO (yet again not especially brilliant). This led to the clearly impossible K _ _ QP for “Sporty ride”… yeah, you’d think some alarm bells would have gone off a bit earlier, but I’m so car-model-challenged that, no, they didn’t. Took what felt like forever to clean THAT mess up. Nice work, Peter Wentz!

  6. Matt says:

    Lots of oopsies for me on this one, finished in a Saturday-ish time– notable ones were CRACKPOT/WHACKJOB and HUEY/FRED. Yeah, I know, Ebenezer Scrooge, not Scrooge McDuck. I suppose I should have looked it up.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Like Anne, NW was my Waterloo — had the CHIPS and BOOZES, but could not see BBQ! Ended up stuck on “Forget it” rather than YOU GOT IT, with “Trysts” for QUESTS (I don’t do role-playing.) BY JOVE, wish I’d thought of that phrase! Quite a fab puzzle anyway.

  8. Howard B says:

    A puzzle that starts off with BBQ CHIPS, SPLIFF? YOU GOT IT. That’s just insanely good. It appears someone had a case of the munchies while constructing this. And by a “case” I mean more of “a multi-pack container” than “an occurrence”. Epic struggle at times, and I loved it.

    My rough spots were JON crossing HONEYS, and of all things, trying to figure out “THE OPERA”. I couldn’t get anything to fit in there for the longest time, until the crossings fell. Once it did, I still was surprised that it was correct. Also originally had DOC for DR.K, as a long-time Mets fan. That didn’t help matters.

  9. janie says:

    ’twas that nw corner what did me in. had artlvr’s experience of simply not being able to see BBQ.

    the gray lady, as it turns out, looks to have had her first SPLIFF courtesy of matt ginsberg two summers ago. this hardly seems like a habit-forming condition! (though we do find this to be a J-filled grid…) all in all, though, it does seem like she’s saying “tgif!”

    one beautiful puzzle!!

    ;-)

  10. Will Nediger says:

    Such a great themeless.

    Speaking of great themelesses, there’s a guest puzzle by David Quarfoot at BEQ’s blog, so if you don’t normally go there in Fridays you should visit today.

  11. joon says:

    one of the best puzzles of the year, themeless or otherwise. there are, what, twenty amazingly great entries? i have some saturday puzzles in the queue that i’m pretty proud of, but i’m hoping that tomorrow won’t be one of them, because just about anything is going to look bad in comparison.

    i, too, had trouble in the NW, with ___CHIPS and ___GOTIT and JOE ISUZU. i had NO JOKE for a while, until i discovered the IN JOKE in the other corner and realized it couldn’t be right. but what else has a J in the middle?!?

    oddly, i had almost as much trouble with the LAT. i too had PATHOS for MYTHOS (and WAR ROOM for WARPATH, and ORB for GOD), but the bigger problem was carlos MENEM (of argentina) instead of carlos PEREZ (of venezuela). that held up the SW corner for a long time, especially because EDIE and EMIT seemed to confirm it. end result: my slowest friday LAT ever. cool theme, though.

    neville’s CHE was a treat. i won’t spoil it because it hasn’t been blogged yet, but it was my fastest paper CHE. good stuff.

    off to check out the BEQ/DQ special.

  12. Neville says:

    I guess it’s no wonder now why WS recently rejected a themeless of mine with WHACKJOB at 1-Across – this gem was already in the queue! I’ll echo a sentiment of Rex – a shame that the maximum length was 8 letters, but a great puzzle still. I think that the puzzle gets a lot harder when you keep the fill clever and on the mid-length side, as figuring out a clever answer doesn’t give you as much help elsewhere.

    Joon – glad you enjoyed my CHE puzzle & that I could help you set a new record. I’ll be back later after it’s been blogged to share an insight or two myself.

  13. Meem says:

    Many of the errors already noted…no joke/paroled/quad. But finally untied the knots. Though it fell quickly, I was lukewarm about the LAT theme. But liked Patrick B’s “Special Ops.” And once I figured out what was going on in WSJ, thought it was fantastic.

  14. joon says:

    amy, the leaderboard over at BEQ’s is still for thursday’s (medium) puzzle, not the DQ special. i don’t think anybody zipped through this one in 3 minutes. dan feyer posted a 6:10, so … yeah. i wouldn’t put it past howard or eric to post a super-fast time on any puzzle, but this was definitely hard.

    oh, and maybe WIKIBOOKS is related to noveller?

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon, I forgot I had blogged a Thursday BEQ and saw the posting of the Friday Themeless as a “crossword I forgot I was supposed to blog today.” Okay, I feel better knowing that the leaderboard didn’t reset.

  16. Evad says:

    Yeah, BEQ didn’t warn me about the special edition today to reset his leaderboard. Off to try it myself, looks like it’ll be another doozy!

  17. Neville says:

    Amy – just wanted to echo your sentiments about Patrick Berry and the CHE puzzle. When I came up with that theme, at first I figured that no one would take it – I’d never heard of Edward de Vere, and my hunch was that I was in the majority there. But, he was needed for the symmetry. (What luck that MARLOWE and SHAKESPEARE work out perfectly!) I’m glad that the CHE was able to give this puzzle a home, because I think it’s a different kind of straight-themed puzzle – one with a bit of a more interesting than usual.

    On another note, I was surprised how many of my clues were left either untouched or only slightly modified – I appreciate Patrick’s willingness to go along with many of my clues! The RABELAIS clue was a truncated version of the original – there was a reference to “Pantagruel” in the original, but that was much too easy :) Biggest surprise for me? Allowing the lesser-known “Botticelli” parlor game clue to stick. It is a favorite of mine (though I’m rubbish at it!)

    Glad you appreciated learning a thing or two, as did I with that revised HOO clue (instead of [Boo or yoo follower]) :)

  18. Jeffrey says:

    When a Patrick Blindauer puzzle is the least noticed puzzle of the day, you know something is afoot. I nominate October 15, 2010 for Most Awesome Puzzles on the Same Day Award for these 5 gems.

  19. Gareth says:

    NYT: Can’t really add anything more about this themeless – remarkable density of great answers! My two big missteps were some kind of CHILI for 1A and TOERAG for 35A (which doesn’t really match the definition…)

  20. joon says:

    neville, i loved your botticelli clue. and sutton HOO, for that matter. on the subject of RABELAIS, i tried to squeeze him into my anagrammed names theme, but his full name is 16 letters and i didn’t know at the time that there was anywhere to go with 15×16 grids. just as well, since i don’t think i had the chops to fill a grid with 15/11/16/11/15 theme answers.

    i’m going to start using the word baconian to describe high-cholesterol breakfast sandwiches.

  21. Neville says:

    Glad there’s another fan of Botticelli out there – perhaps that could be your next online gaming endeavor? I should’ve also mentioned “OOF,” which used to be the background on my cellphone (had to take the picture of the painting myself, since my phone is so 2007) – glad that P. Berry kept that full clue, because I like it more than the generic [grunt] we usually see.

    Also, I’m surprised you didn’t consider a mirrored linkage of FRANCOIS/RABELAIS – giving you a little more freedom with a pair of 8s. Still not an easy task with everything you had in that grid.

  22. John Haber says:

    This was really hard for me, another reminder that I’m out of touch with the real America, as they say. It was one of those puzzles with very separate quadrant puzzles, and I had trouble with them all. I still don’t know how I got it right.

    I had heard of Gooden as Doc, but never as Doctor K. I didn’t know JON Lord or HONEY in that sense (and here I thought I knew music). I can’t tell you how often I stared at SPLIFF wondering what mistake I’d made in crossings. But ultimately my stickiest part was the NW. I have no idea who JOE ISUZU is, am not into role playing games, wasn’t that familiar with sporty cars or Irish counties, had never heard of BOOZE IT UP, honestly thought of those things as BBQ-flavored potato chips, and thought BY JOVE was just an exclamation, on the order of “my goodness,” whereas “I swear” is a promise.

  23. calbright says:

    Meem, I too liked Patrick Blindauer’s “Special OP’s” theme (remove the OPs from silentOPera[Show with unsung songs?], mOPingdynasty[Rulers with depression?], coOPedhousing[Fowl dormitories?], brickwallOP[Big blow with a building block?]). But can anyone tell me why 66 across [Clue: Spot on TV (abbr.)] is PSA? I apparently have a hole in my brain about that one.

  24. calbright: a PSA is a public service announcement. And those of you who’ve clicked on my web link know I would love to do more of those. :-)

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