Thursday, 11/18/10

NYT 6:04
Tausig 7:49 (Jeffrey)
LAT 6:31
CS untimed
BEQ 4:04
Fireball 4:27

Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 36Did this puzzle take you a little longer than expected? That’s because the grid’s one column wider than usual, 16×15. And because the theme is not very useful in figuring out tough answers unless you take the time to count up every occurrence of a given letter in the grid—the QUADRUPLE PANGRAM theme means that each letter of the alphabet appears at least four times in the grid. (Vowels and common consonants show up extra times.) It’s a significant constraint on the constructor, which is why there’s no discrete theme entry apart from 43a. I’m guessing this feat has never been done before, at least not with passable fill and an explanatory entry.

As far as stunt puzzles go, this one was not my favorite—but also not packed with irksome fill, so it gets a modest thumbs-up for enjoyment.

I inadvertently plunked in USMA (US Military Academy) instead of USMC (US Marine Corps) at 73a, and let the [WW II group] fly as WAAS until the applet hollered at me and I fixed the WACS.

I also hit the skids with 61a: [Some child-care center sites, for short]. Y*CAS really has just two possibilities but I blanked on the YWCAS option despite a friend having worked there until recently. Another friend’s kid is in day care at the YMCA, which gave me a brain block. 62d: [Abraded] makes me think of bloody scrapes rather than general wear and tear, so WORE wasn’t coming to mind.

Peter tipped his hand in the 1-Across corner, where AJAX, LUXE, and XBOX provided four Xs right off the bat. I figured there would be a connect-the-Xs picture or something, but the four Xs soon enough tied themselves to the QUADRUPLE PANGRAM. I wonder how many solvers will be flipping to the O section of the dictionary to find out what “orthographically” means. [What this puzzle is, orthographically] hinges not on the “conventional spelling system” aspect of orthography but rather, “the study of spelling and how letters combine to represent sounds and form words.” Wait, no, that’s not at all what the pangram involves. Would “letter-wise” better reflect the meaning?

Tough stuff:

  • WHOA! WHOA!” as a unit, ZEKE as Isiah Thomas’s nickname (how did I not know this, when my own nickname in college was Zeke?), the [Hypothetical fundamental particle] called an AXION (never heard of it, I don’t think), SUGARING as a verb.

Things that would have stumped me, had I not learnt them from crosswords:

  • ADZ, YAZ, TUP, AALTO, INEZ, AKIM, AQABA.

Freshest fill:

  • AGGRO ([Annoyance, in British slang]), FRIZZ, KOOKY, DAZZLING, SQUAWK, “HEY, KID,” and the non-Onion A.V. CLUB.

John Doppler Schiff’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jeffrey’s review

LAT Nov 18 2010Theme:  BING – O. Add an O to phrases, with wacky proper-name results. Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Marx as a Druid?] – CELTIC HARP-O
  • 55A. [Well-dressed Swedish actress?] – FORMAL GARB-O
  • 11D. [Godfather portrayer turned shop owner?] – STORE BRAND-O
  • 25D. [Beatle in a bout?] – BOXING RING-O
  • 47D. [Its southern border is about seven times longer than its northern one] – IDAH-O

This one was a struggle for me. Stopped and started all over the place. The NW was the biggest problem, as I put NEW COST for 4 down and couldn’t see CELTIC for the longest time.

Other stuff:

  • 15A. [Lunch hr. end, often] – ONE PM. I like to take an early lunch, at 11 or 11:30 so NOON would be my answer here.
  • 21A. [Chants of a lifetime?] – MANTRAS. One in a Million Clue?
  • 23A. [Works] – LABORS. I want my “U” in labours.
  • 29A. [Built up charges] – RAN A TAB. Pay up already!
  • 31A. [Parts of personal music libraries] – MIX TAPES. I don’t think of this as a thing.
  • 37A. [First rabies vaccine creator] – PASTEUR. Louis was a busy guy, what with creating milk and all.
  • 40A. [Classic breath freshener] – SENSEN. Fresh number puzzle – SENSEN KEN KEN.
  • 42A. [Certain counter's woe] – INSOMNIA. Counting sheep. Does that really work? I count Sudoku rows. At least up to nine.
  • 51A. [Question of advisability] – DO I DARE? Yoda’s response – Dare I do.
  • 53A. [There are pins at the end of one] – LANE. Bowling. Does anyone still bowl?
  • 61A. [Bullwinkle nemesis] – BORIS. Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! 62A. [Stravinsky and a lab assistant] – IGORS. I’m always scared when I see Stravinsky’s monster.
  • 4D. [Discounted price] – NET COST. I wish I knew about financial stuff.
  • 5D. [Antonius Block's chess opponent in Bergman's "The Seventh Seal"] – GRIM REAPER. My favourite GRIM REAPER (and yes, I have one) is Death in “The Sandman” comics.
  • 9D. [Paraphernalia] – APPARATUS. I wanted APPARELLL. That’s just wrong on so many levels.
  • 10D. ["That's my cue!"] – I MON. I sing Reggae.
  • 30D. [Not charging for] – THROWING IN. I got an IPad thrown in with my new car. Yes, I picked a car for the accompanying puzzle solving device. It hasn’t come yet (The IPad; got the car).
  • 32D. [Safe place with a counterintuitive name] – PANIC ROOM. If I don’t have enough room, I panic.
  • 43D. [Distance on a tank] – MILEAGE. We do not call it kilometerage in Canada.
  • 52D. [HQs for B-2s] – AFBS. Ths answr is mssng stf. [spellcheckers have no sense of humour]
  • 58D. [Grille cover] – BRA. On a car. What were you thinking? Sheesh!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Quiet Start”—Jeffrey’s review

Tausig Nov 18 2010 Theme:  Add “SH” to phrases with wacky results

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Article with mall tips?] – SHOP-ED PIECE
  • 27A. ["The broth is finished!"?] – SHOUT OF STOCK
  • 48A. [Using the wrong aperture?] – SHUTTER FOLLY
  • 64A. [Marketing sector dedicated to women?] – SHE COMMERCE

Nothing laugh-out-loud funny to me.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Updates a blog] – POSTS. I knew this right away! Amazing!
  • 6A. [Does jack] – LOAFS
  • 11A. [Pronto] – PDQ
  • 14A. [___'s Razor (philosophical law of simplicity)] – OCCAM. Look for the easiest solution.
  • 16A. [Nation that finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup: Abbr.] – URUguay
  • 19A. [Miss Piggy, to Miss Piggy] – MOI
  • 21A. ["You break it by saying its name," e.g.] – RIDDLE. Hint to the answer – SH
  • 23A. [Richards with a short-lived reality series] – DENISE. Cliff? Michael? Can’t be Mary. Her show about working in a TV news office lasted a long time.  (Quiet pain – SHOW)
  • 25A. [Place for a spacer] – LOBE. An ear thing, I’m guessing.
  • 36A. [Soul singers often rocked it] – FRO. Huh? [Added 10 minutes later - oh! 'Fro. As in Afro. Never mind.]
  • 37A. [One of the writers of "Boom Boom Pow"] – FERGIE
  • 38A. [Remini and Rabin] – LEAHS
  • 40A. [Like many blues songs] – IN E. Again, where is the list of these?
  • 42A. [Biker's head cover] – DO RAG. A helmet would be safer.
  • 43A. ["To life!," to Jews] – L’CHAIM!
  • 45A. ["I, like, can't believe it"] – OMG. She’s a Valley Girl!
  • 51A. [Knight associated with some 2Pac rumors] – SUGE. Ted Knight? I am too old for this puzzle.
  • 69A. ["Only You" band, in the U.S.] – YAZ
  • 5D. [Soviet agcy. in 007 movies] – SMERSH. Together, let’s all say SMERSH!
  • 7D. ["The Art of Love" poet] – OVID. This must be after my time.
  • 8D. [He played Sal Frangione in "Do the Right Thing"] – AIELLO. Danny, buy a consonant!
  • 9D. [Opening routine, when the game is on ice] – FACE-OFF. Hockey to the rescue.
  • 12D. [Cardiac surgeon who is a best-selling author] – DR OZ. A wizard of a guy.
  • 13D. [Facebook time-waster] – QUIZ. Sporcle is the way to go.
  • 24D. ["Says who?"] – IS THAT SO? My response to half of these answers.
  • 26D. [Blew hot air] – BS’ED
  • 50D. [Lumberjacks, casually] – LOG MEN. By casually we mean only in puzzles.
  • 54D. [Start of a magic phrase] – HOCUS. The entire phrase is HOCUS CADABRA.
  • 61D. [Loughlin who played Jesse's wife on "Full House"] – LORI.  I liked her, but not the show.

SMERSH!!

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “You’ve Got to Admit It”—Janie’s review

And what is it you’ve “got to admit”? You’ve got to ALLOW [Let] in the letters “I-T”—insert them into some very recognizable names and phrases. That’s how:

  • 17A. sting like a bee → SITTING LIKE A BEE [Hanging around and enjoying some nectar, perhaps?]. Funny image in that clue. I thought it might have something to do with the Greek gods, but no. Gives us instead a whole new slant on b-bars…
  • 27A. Cy Young → CITY YOUNG [Metropolitan kids?]. Nice how the theme phrase and and base phrase have nothing to do with one another. But what a phenomenon—the magazine specifically geared towards urban kids. Lotto cities have ‘em, so apparently they’re a boon to kids and their parents, too.
  • 44A. rat trap → RAITT TRAP [Snare for singer Bonnie?]. Hmmm. Guess that’s more “love sneakin’ up on [her]“…
  • 58A. Santa Ana winds → SANTA ANITA WINDS [Conditions at a California horse track?]. One does want to take them into account. Especially if they include Santa Ana winds

There’s something likable and lively, too, in the non-theme fill and clues: ZIP DRIVE adds some zip; GET SMART is smart, especially with [Sitcom with 86 and 99] as its clue. COGNAC [Fine brandy] does tend to conjure up Courvoisier, SNL’s Tim Meadows and “The Ladies Man.” [Devil, in Durango] may have us seeing red as it gives us DIABLO; and I was amused to see that the [Reptile house denizen] was neither a swift moving (possibly threatening looking) LIZARD nor IGUANA but a more plodding (and usually more “benign”) TURTLE. Why didn’t I think twice before entering TIARAS as those [Pieces for dress-up princesses]? This combo, too, feels very strong visually—and SCEPTERS just wasn’t gonna make it.

We get some gradations of timeliness with both ASAP [Right away] and SOON [Anon].

SNORKEL shows up today not as a verb but in its noun form, [Underwater breathing apparatus]. If you plan to use one, just make sure it’s on your own time or, at the very least, be careful if you decided to take a SICK DAY [Brief time off from work] to play hooky!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “TSA Screening”

Region capture 37The theme is puns, some with vowel changes and other with consonant changes, evoking the new TSA screening alternative of being felt up by a TSA agent:

  • 17a. PAT SOUNDS doesn’t really get a laugh. Plays on the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.
  • 19a. No idea what DOUBLE TOUCH is playing on. Double Dutch?
  • 35a. SOUR GROPES builds on “sour grapes,” but I don’t know that groping can be sour.
  • 52a. An Oriental rug becomes ORIENTAL RUB, but I’m not a fan of applying “Oriental” to Asian people these days.
  • 57a. Veal Oscar -> FEEL OSCAR.

The grid’s a skinny 14×15 so that even-number-of-letters SOUR GROPES can occupy the middle. Brendan was kind enough to donate that 15th column to Peter Wentz for his NYT puzzle. This is one of the fundamental laws of crossword physics, the preservation of rows.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 33″

Region capture 38No real “aha!” surprises in here, no really tricky clues. Answers I liked best:

CHACHI / ARCOLA for a ’70s pop-culture one-two; CLUB PENGUIN, which, thankfully, my kid is a little old for but his cousins love it; the brave CORAZON AQUINO; the classic CALVIN AND HOBBES; less brave PARIS HILTON, still a good full-name entry. Also like the non-S plural CHERUBIM.

Never knew there was an ASHKENAZ in the Bible. Never, ever heard of watchmaker ICETEK; wow, they’ve got some garish designs.

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26 Responses to Thursday, 11/18/10

  1. NYT: Beyond the QUADRUPLE PANGRAM theme, some of the clues appeared to me more on a Friday level than a Thursday one. Had it not been for the expected Scrabbly fill, the north-central and northeast sections of the puzzle would have been very daunting to complete.

    Very good solving experience despite the tough sledding, though. My only regret was that the famed Calvin and Hobbes Scrabble non-word, ZQFMGB, would have been perfect fill for this puzzle more than any other. (If you don’t believe in its existence, Google it.)

  2. joon says:

    this is pete’s 5th NYT puzzle. as soon as he becomes eligible for this list, look out.

  3. Jim Horne says:

    Joon, there’s a hidden option in XWord Info that lets you override the 10-puzzle minimum. This list of constructors with a minimum of 5 daily puzzles shows that you’re quite right. Peter Wentz leads the list — nobody else is close. Will Nediger is next. He has 13 published puzzles but I only count dailies, not Sundays, for Scrabble average, so he didn’t appear when the cutoff was 10.

  4. Will Nediger says:

    Wow, I didn’t think a quadruple pangram could be done with fill this good. Juicy stuff all around.

  5. Howard B says:

    I always appreciate these feats of construction – it must have been quite a difficult feat to pull off, and I greatly appreciate the effort.
    OK, that said, I sometimes have issues with a crossing I don’t know due to my ignorance etc. but I had the worry beads out on this one, big-time.

    I’m not one to criticize heavily, I usually leave that to others :).
    But honestly, I really disliked the fill and cluing in this one. Between the British slang, Isiah’s nickname, etc., honestly, I did not enjoy any part of this solve, although some of the fill was indeed DAZZLING – for me, that is a lot to say.

    The top corner alone took me half my solve time, between AGGRO, ASFAT(!), and blowing a tire on TKOD. I just had to walk through thorny fill all over the place to reach the end, and the clues just added pain all along the way. JQA, AGGRO, AALTO, etc. Any one would be fine, but there were just piles of it here to meet the puzzle constraints. I still say it’s quite a feat, but it just didn’t work for me here, and I enjoy almost every puzzle in some way.

    A great thing about these, however, is that everyone takes away something different from a puzzle, and has a different approach and opinion based on their own knowledge and experiences. Interesting to see today’s reactions.

    Peter, if you’re reading, congratulations on the construction. It’s still quite an achievement.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Howard, you have a remarkable gift for couching a “Hated it!” in positive terms. If you fill out performance evaluations for underlings, they must love working for you! You’re a terrifically generous spirit.

  7. joon says:

    jim, that’s pretty neat. i actually had the opposite reaction to amy, because i knew it was pete. saw AJAX, XERXES, XBOX, AXION, and thought, “well, there goes pete again.” i had no idea what he was trying to pull off until i’d done about half the puzzle and there was no theme. finally i got to the middle and the light dawned. “wait, TRIPLE PANGRAM doesn’t fit… omg, wow, really?”

    the NE corner was tough for me too, but i did crack it without having to count the letters and realize i needed another Q.

  8. Ladel says:

    @anybody

    what does the lifetime scrabble average mean?

    ladel

  9. Ladel says:

    amy

    in psychology it’s called: saving then killing, it’s a very useful social tool to soften criticism. to wit: so and so is a nice guy but…

    ladel

  10. ktd says:

    I was probably on pace for a 7 minute time or so until I hit the NE corner. spent about 10 minutes trying different things but it was late so I ended up not finishing. AS FAT seems unfair because it’s patently not in-the-language, but I guess I might have seen it if I had trusted myself with SUGARING and TKOD.

    AQABA and AGGRO…no idea whatsoever. Though I vaguely recall seeing AGGRO clued elsewhere in reference to the Aggro Crag, which was a feature of the Nickelodeon game show GUTS (memories from childhood!). QUICK for “Apt” never occurred to me, I was stuck thinking of synonyms for “fitting” or “appropriate”.

    “Stone work” for JFK is my favorite clue.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    re BEQ: For [Upper Crust] I had A-LIST-OCRAT which I really like as a word.

  12. Howard B says:

    That JFK clue is evil in a good way, and I do remember the Aggro Crag! (My sister especially liked that show…).

  13. Matt says:

    First Fireball that I had to look something up– crossing TAITO with SHIA and ICETEK wasn’t very nice, IMO. Overall, though, a good one.

  14. Christine Anderson says:

    Hey Kid(s)! I really liked all the Zs, Xs, Qs and Js — wasn’t crazy about “as fat,” and didn’t get that corner at all, something that hasn’t happened in years. Maybe I didn’t have enough Wheaties this morning.

  15. Howard B says:

    Amy, it’s like this: even if I don’t enjoy a particular puzzle for whatever reason,
    a) Nobody forced me to start solving it.
    b) Nobody forced me to complete it.
    c) It’s still a puzzle, and not something to dread in life – even a less-enjoyed puzzle is still usually a nice way to take a little break.

    So it’s perspective, and I don’t want anybody to lose that, even if something within that grid gets frustrating :).

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Well, that’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate. (Chicago expression, I think. Amy?)

    I loved this puzzle, although the derisive expression “stunt puzzle” is more characteristic of *my* reaction to some Thursday gimmicks. But I was absolutely blown away by this one. I believe that this is the first time that a quad axel..er..pangram has been achieved, at least in public. My understanding is that Matt Gaffney did a triple pangram, and it was widely applauded as a near impossible feat. I thought the fill was surprisingly lively given the extreme constraints of the theme. And any puzzle with a cameo by JS Bach is sure to garner my approval.

    Also surprisingly, given my usual position in the solving hierarchy around here, I didn’t find this at all difficult to complete. I was somewhere in the 5′s! Certainly not the NE with (Gulf of) Aquaba, tkod, quick, figs, etc. The only slight delay for me was in the SE where ‘whoawhoa” took me a few moments, and I had to change ‘garms” to “germs.”

    Well, enough with the end zone dance, for which I apologize, but it seems to be tolerated around here. Mostly I want again to commend the puzzle and Peter in the highest terms.

    Bruce

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Aqaba

  18. Gareth says:

    Well, it seems my blow-out was different to most peoples… Filled in most of the puzzle including NE without too much trouble (AQABA was a gimme, AGGRO is part of my normal vocabularly and didn’t take too long to change ASBIG to FAT.) North was a little thorny with RAVI/INEZ the only initial certainties and the area around QUADRU…, but where I was completely buried alive was the bottom-right, I made-up WHOAWHOA without too much trouble and put in INHOT. Apart from that all I had was LARA. Didn’t know TVPG or AVCLUB (outside of the crossword), and the clues for USMC and WACS were not at all helpful. The quotes around 57D are just weird and made the clue WAY harder than it needed to be (for me)… That was about 12 minutes of skull-crushing right there!

    But more importantly as everyone else has stated: HOW DID HE DO THIS??? REALLY??? HOW??? Even with the blocky grid and bits like JQA it’s insanity!!!

  19. Mitchs says:

    I know I’m gonna feel stupid – but can someone help me out by explaining 40A in the FB?

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Mitchs: Letters on a phone dial/keypad associated with the number 7.

  21. joon says:

    i thought it was a wonderful fireball. CORAZON AQUINO crossing ASHKENAZ and QUEER EYE is a major winner. CALVIN AND HOBBES, ditto. CLUB PENGUIN … i once spent 10 minutes watching my boss’s kid play this about 4 years ago. had no idea it was a big popular thing, or still around.

    mitchs: PRS are the letters on the 7 of old phones. (newer ones include the Q.)

  22. Mitchs says:

    Thanks Amy and Joon. Never before have so many IQ points done so much for so few.

  23. LARRY says:

    I never would have gotten the Northeast corner if I hadn’t checked the incidence of all the letters to see which ones didn’t have four appearances – turned out to be B, F, and Q. Which led to BASED, FIGS, and QUICK and Voila!.

  24. John Haber says:

    Howard and ktd hit on most of my difficulties, especially the killer NE. I also had trouble completing the JFK/JQA crossing, although it’s not unreasonable. Other trouble spots included the crossings of Michael of the Cowboys with actor Tamiroff and what might have been “hey lad,” say. I also had trouble in the SW not knowing TV PG and having first “chaw” for CHEW (and earlier still, “enact” for PHASE). Not sure why, but I’d have found GERMS a lot easier if “Bugs” weren’t in quotes. It had me wondering if I should know Bugs Bunny’s “real” name!

    I’d lean to Howard’s camp of admiring but not really enjoying it. Oh, well.

  25. Meem says:

    Swooned for the NYT. Knew something was up when NW was “xed” in! Knew Aqaba. Beginning of an aha moment. Worked around to pangram and then had to convince myself that it could even possibly be a quad! Only write over was chaw for chew. My hat is off to Pete Wentz for a good Thursday workout.

  26. Lloyd Mazer says:

    The theme actually helped me solve the northeast. I knew I needed another Q and that gave me QUICK and AQABA. Amazing construction – but some of the fill was so forced to hit the pangram that it was painful.

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