Thursday, 11/25/10: Happy Thanksgiving!

NYT 5:01
Fireball 12ish minutes and really quite wrong
LAT 5:25 (Jeffrey)
Tausig 7:52 (Jeffrey)
CS untimed (Janie)
BEQ 9:36

Hey, everyone! If you’re American, have a lovely Thanksgiving! (And if you’re not American, well, respect the feast.) I have pecan pies in the oven, so my puzzle discussion will be minimalist.

Bill Thompson’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 19I play a lot of Lexulous on Facebook, which is like Scrabble but with a different layout of special squares and a different tile distribution. Like Scrabble, though, there is but ONE of each of these letter tiles: Z, X, Q, K, and J. Those five letters stand alone as words at the end of MALCOLM X, GENERATION Z, SPECIAL K, L.L. COOL J, and AVENUE Q. Nice and Scrabbly, in a true sense of the word!

With a word count of 74, this almost hits the cutoff for themeless puzzles. And it could almost pass for a themeless, with all those lively 7s, 8s, and the 11.

Less savory fill includes ETHYNE, partial A NIT, suffixes and prefixes (OON, KER, STRATO), plural abbreviations (MLS and CCS—first of all, the plural of mL is mL; second, did you know that 1 cc = 1 mL?), Spanish ROSAS and ERES TU, legalese abbreviation RESP, comparative INANER, and crosswordese ELIA and OTO. But these were largely offset by fill like QUAIL, AKIMBO, EELSKIN, and SLIP-UP.

Oddest clue: [Viewing with elevator eyes], for OGLING. Never heard “elevator eyes” before. Are those the eyes you use to look someone up and down?

Patrick Blindauer’s guest Fireball crossword, “Funny Money”

Region capture 18Yeah, so I mangled this puzzle. In my defense, I was worn out from making stuffing (first time!) and trying to rally for the pie-making effort. Somehow I made [1964 remake of the Akira Kurosawa film "Yojimbo"] into AFRICAN QUEEN, sans “The” and sans chronological logic (or any other logic). The AF worked, but for everything else, I inserted two letters and wondered what the hell currency symbol looked like an I superimposed on an R, or a T on a C. Took forever to figure out SILENT B, and I had to Google that damn horse’s name for SIRE, so I gave up trying to reconcile the two mismatched letters per square that weren’t the {IS}-squished-into-$. D’oh! Looked at the answer PDF and saw that it’s FISTFUL OF $S, which makes perfect sense with the other {IS}/$ answers.

Very cool puzzle, and a meaty challenge. I just wasn’t quite up to that challenge tonight. Can’t brain today, I have teh dumb.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LAT Nov 25 2010Theme: 7D. [What the perimeter answers in this puzzle literally create] – ELECTRIC CIRCUIT

Other theme answers (counterclockwise): ELECTRIC ____

  • 1A. [Racer's privilege] – POLE
  • 5A. [Group of contestants] – FIELD
  • 10A. [Heart, basically] – PUMP
  • 13D. [Kind of nap or tie] – POWER
  • 39D. [Common observer] – EYE
  • 58D. [Bach's instrument] – ORGAN
  • 73A. [Make it official] – SIGN
  • 72A. [Rhythmic element] – METER
  • 71A. [Spelunker's aid] – LAMP
  • 52D. [Machine with bits] – DRILL
  • 32D. [Summer cooler] – FAN
  • 1D. [Brahms's instrument] – PIANO

One line review for those in a hurry: I got a real charge out of this inventive theme. Other stuff:

  • 16A. ["Bug off!"] – SHOO. You can use an electric zapper. ZZZFFFTTT!
  • 17A. [Tiny colonists] – ANTS
  • 18A. ["Camelot" composer] – LOEWE/19A. ["Camelot," e.g.] – SHOW
  • 20A. [The Wallendas don't use one] – NET. I blog without a net.
  • 34A. ["Hulk" star Bana] – ERIC. Me like puzzle! Me smash!
  • 36A. [Three-time U.S. Women's Open champ Berning] – SUSIE. Golf. 1968, 1972, 1973.  Why not use Quatro? Because she is Suzi.
  • 50A. [Unlike Miss Manners] – RUDE. I guess if your name is Miss Manners you are typecast in this role.
  • 4D. [Dinner duo?] – ENS. Two letter “N”s in the word “dinner”. Always watch for these.
  • 6D. [Trying to settle a score, for short?] – IN OT (overtime). Apple hater: INot
  • 33D. [__-Wan Kenobi] – OBI
  • 49D. [Cloak-and-dagger gadget] – SPYCAM. Everyone has one of these nowadays.
  • 57D. [Cause of some floating, briefly] – ZERO Gravity.
  • 60D. ["Your time __!"] – IS UP. Awesome themes can lead to iffy fill. Worth it? Yes.
  • 67D. [Undergrad degs.] – BS’S. Ditto.

Ben Tausig’s “In Other Words” crossword – Jeffrey’s review

Tausig Nov 25 10Theme: Redundant redundant phrases

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Book club selection or, with a comma in between, "new"] – RECENT NOVEL or RECENT, NOVEL
  • 26A. [Like a reasonable deal or, with a comma, "comely"] – PRETTY FAIR or PRETTY, FAIR
  • 35A. [Basketball violation or, with a comma, "repulsive"] – OFFENSIVE FOUL or OFFENSIVE, FOUL
  • 50A. [Thing bestowed by a constitution or, with a comma, "OK"] – LEGAL RIGHT or LEGAL, RIGHT
  • 59A. [Worst team's privilege in next year's draft or, with a comma, "premium"] – FIRST CHOICE or FIRST, CHOICE

One line review for those in a hurry: Original theme with five solid choices.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Beating device] – WHISK
  • 14A. [Fancy French mayo] – AIOLI. I tried Dijon.
  • 20A. [Mescaline source] – PEYOTE. Mescaline or 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine is a naturally-occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class used mainly as an entheogen. Would have been a gimme if 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine would have been in the clue.
  • 21A. [City of 13 million that is NOT the largest in its own country] – DELHI. Mumbai is bigger.
  • 30A. [Benito Juárez's state] – OAXACA/22D. [Hip-hop's Das ___] – EFX. I had a T at this crossing.
  • 41A. [Con's handles] – AKA’S. As known as’s. Doesn’t really work as a plurals.
  • 42A. [Source of the sample in Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"] – ANNIE
  • 44A. [Hebrew bible bigwig] – ADONAI. He is never referred to as a “bigwig” in Shul.
  • 64A. ["___ Mis" (theatrical staple, for short)] – LES. Second time this week.
  • 67A. [Spring collection agcy.] – IRS
  • 68A. [Playground game stalemate resolutions] – RE-DOS. Also known as Windows 1.0
  • 4D. [Dealt with, as a hangover] – SLEPT OFF
  • 5D. [Strong, as bud] – KINE/11D. [Yellow Teletubby] – LAA LAA. These seem to go together.
  • 9D. [Winter walking peril] – ICE. It was for me this morning. Almost slipped a couple of times.
  • 12D. [Like 13-Down's look] – GOTHIC/13D. [The "Mistress of the Dark"] – ELVIRA
  • 25D. [Brigitte Bardot's "Don Juan (___ Don Juan Were a Woman)"] – OR IF. Icky partial alert.
  • 36D. [Hair removal brand] – NAIR. Hair removal gets too much play in crosswords.
  • 38D. [Fresh out of the can, say?] – ON PAROLE. Good one.
  • 39D. [Like cracker and Kraut, e.g.] – UN-PC. Yikes.
  • 43D. [Dutch crossword puzzle city] – EDE. That’s the way to do it. Admit defeat and accept the crosswordese like a man.
  • 45D. [Connection for a dime?] – DEALER. I don’t get it.
  • 60D. ["What should ___ doing?" (volunteer's question)] – I BE. Icky partial alert.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Talking Turkey Day”—Janie’s review

This is a holiday puzzle stuffed with delights. Not only do we get five theme entries that give us a “Pilgrim’s progress” tribute to the day, there’s some fine ‘n’ lively non-theme fill and cluing for balance. Re: the theme fill—be sure to note the way the first two and the last two “stack up” in the grid. That’s always a handy trick to pull off (though the CS constructors always make it look like a piece o’ cake). So, when we’re “talking turkey” about “Turkey Day,” we’re talking about:

  • 20A. PLYMOUTH ROCK [Landing place for the Pilgrims]. Or the landing place as handed down by traditional lore. In case you’ve been livin’ under a rock, however, lemme remind you that the Pilgrims arrived in what is now Massachusetts in 1620. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • 24A. PURITAN [Like the Pilgrims, religiously]. Seems that a Puritan was also known as a Precisianist… For more on the sect and its place in the religious reform movement, this Wiki article has a thing or two to say.
  • 38A. MAYFLOWER [Vessel of the Pilgrims]. Fourth-grade-humor warning: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? (I leave it to you to figure this out. If all else fails, see last word of clue…)
  • 56A. SQUANTO [Native American who helped the Pilgrims]. By all accounts, rather an extraordinary man, even if his intentions were controversial.
  • 60A. THANKSGIVING [National day of gratitude, first observed by the Pilgrims in 1621]. And a day that may now be fraught with emotional baggage as families gather together and (perhaps less than comfort-making) family dynamics kick into high gear—but it’s a day I hold dear nonetheless. There is much to be grateful for. On so many levels.

And much to take pleasure in where the remainder of the puzzle is concerned. Someone encountering the words WRONG WAY, for example (the understated [Bad sign to see when flying down the highway]), demonstrates a decided lack of ACCURACY [Precision]. I do like, too, how these two words are precisely symmetrical to one another in the grid.

The grid has lots of 7-letter fill helped out in no small way by those triple 7-columns NW and SE. Highlights of the fill include DIMPLES [Golf ball features], ENCLAVE [San Marino or Vatican City, for example], CASINOS [Slots' spots], the romantic SINGS TO [Serenades]; ASKS FOR [Requests] and [Hanna-]BARBERA (animation company)]. Huckleberry Hound, Quickdraw McGraw, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, etc., etc., etc.—all Hanna-Barbera creations.

We get two foreign language pairs, that should be on any solver’s “go to” list: the basic OBI [Tokyo tie] and ENOKI [Edible mushroom of Japan]; and REI [Portuguese king] and ANOS [Years, in Portugal]. Gotta work at practicin’ what I preach. Enoki is a word I always have trouble retrieving…

Totally new territory today? [Cat] CORA [(president of Chefs for Humanity)]. Had never heard of Ms. Cora (making this a nice, fresh clue) nor the organization. But given the day, it’s a most apt inclusion in the puzzle and the perfect way to raise my awareness.

However, wherever you celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “From A to Z”

All right, so this puzzle took me longer than a Saturday NYT. Part of that is that I made two missteps—first entering clue 1′s answer in the space for 1-Across (insted of putting the missing clue letter in square 1 and putting clue 1′s answer elsewhere), and then crossing off a clue whose answer I had not yet put in the grid, mightily vexing myself when I had two clues remaining for three answer spaces. So I call the puzzle hard, or hard-medium at best. Tyler Hinman also solved the puzzle pre-publication, and he told Brendan it was easy. So my “hard” + Tyler’s “easy” = the stated “medium” difficulty level.

I really enjoyed the solving experience, though. I like the extra challenge of having to figure out where to place the answers, and puzzles that ask you to use letter-pattern recognition skills engage me.

As you expect from Mr. Quigley, there’s lively fill—”WE NEED TO TALK,” SQUISH, GIZMO, JUST SO. And he reins in the rocker urge by cluing KISS as the band but QUEEN as [Hive's leader].

The clue blanks were well-chosen, too. [_itterbug, e.g.] takes a J but could just as easily have been L. ["_uite" (2 wds.)] would be weird if it were “Suite” but “Quite” works. [_esty]—zesty, testy. [_onch portrayer]—my generation says “Ponch! Officer Poncharelli!” and looks for Erik ESTRADA’s spot, but…conch? It wouldn’t strain credulity for there to be a conch character on SpongeBob SquarePants.

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15 Responses to Thursday, 11/25/10: Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. Bruce S. says:

    Have a nice holiday if you celebrate it.

  2. joon says:

    cool puzzles in the NYT and fireball. i’m glad i’m not the only one who thought the FB was tough.

    happy thanksgiving!

  3. Jim Horne says:

    I didn’t find the FB tougher than usual but it did have one feature I especially love — I thought I had the theme figured out twice and both times I was wrong, before the light finally came on the third time. That always makes me happy. (Reading the title would have helped. Not sure how I missed that.) “Comb back” was a good use of that particular gimmick. Even “Let the air out” fooled me. And if you must have EELS in your puzzle, the Princess Bride reference is the way to go. Bravo, Patrick and Peter.

  4. Bruce S. says:

    I agree with Jim. The Fireball took me about the same length as usual. Slower than most other people, but not a big difference tonight for me. It was a really fun solve.

  5. Evad says:

    Same here on the FB…once I saw the YOG$/SAND$ crossing I was off to the races. Just another reason the FB $ one of my favorite solves of the week!

  6. ePeterso2 says:

    NYT – Enjoyed all of it despite being thrown off course for a while by the T in GET since the clue for the crossing GO TO IT is “Get started”.

  7. Matt says:

    Fireball was a tough one for me– I had no idea what the trick was until more than halfway through. Then the lightbulb came on with the two movie titles at 27A and 46A. Still tough, even knowing the trick, but managed to finish.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Given my AFRICAN QUEEN snafu, I had SIQEN*B for [Comb back?] and kept splitting it into SI*E/N*B in my head. If only I’d done the NYT before the Fireball!

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    FB usually takes me 20-25 minutes, but did this one in 16:46. Once I recognized FISTFUL OF DOLLARS it was a treasure hunt. Got stymied by all the proper names I didn’t know for a bit, but it eventually fell like a Friday.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    8:15 on the BEQ. Happy Snowy Workday everyone.

  11. Jeffrey — What day in October do we return your greetings, without the snow of course?

  12. Jeffrey says:

    Second Monday in October (your Columbus Day).

  13. I liked the FB puzzle, but I have one minor quibble: when I write a “$” I draw the “S” part first and finish with the “I.” So to have it appear in the grid as IS seemed a bit off. Still, wished I’d thought of that.

  14. joon says:

    jeffrey, i think {Connection for a dime?} is probably related to drugs. like, a DEALER is somebody who connects you with a dime bag? i don’t know. kids these days!

    amy, the BEQA2Z as originally written was unsolvably hard for me, but easy for all of brendan’s other test-solvers. among the clues i could not answer was ESTRADA, even with all the other letters in place. the only things i know about ESTRADA are 1. erik and 2. CHiPs. apparently ponch is the name of his character. who knew? (that’s your cue to say “everybody but you.”)

    on the fireball, i got the theme very early (PRISMS was clearly right for 1d), but even so it felt like the puzzle was putting up a fight at every step. loved it.

  15. KarmaSartre says:

    On the Fireball, I started drawing in the $’s with two vertical lines, and trying to make sense out of I S I. Took me a while to drop one of the I’s. Did we elliminate one somewhere along the way? Great idea BTW.

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