Thursday, 4/28/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/27" plug="thursday-42811" puzz="Fireball" anchor="fb"]8 minutes[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/27" plug="thursday-42811" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]8:25 (Neville)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/27" plug="thursday-42811" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:39[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/27" plug="thursday-42811" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]5:16 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/04/27" plug="thursday-42811" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]untimed (Matt)[/time_hdr]

Today the Chicago Tribune ran a story about last Saturday’s notable LA Times crossword by Michael Wiesenberg—by none other than LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris. Check it out.

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

4/28/11 NYT crossword solution 0428

The puzzle commemorates the ROYAL WEDDING, which is imminent. I just read that only 6% of Americans actually care much about the wedding, but then many other commemorative crosswords probably also target a small number of avid fans. Like that Woody Allen theme a couple years ago—what percent of Americans are truly Woody Allen fans? It probably isn’t more than 6%.

Anyway. The theme also includes PRINCE WILLIAM, KATE MIDDLETON, KING AND QUEEN, and the occasional scattered quasi-related entry like ALTAR, Q.E. II, O.B.E., POOL, GONDOLA, and GEORGE. And BAMBA. Who knew it was a wedding song?—45a. ["La ___" (traditional Mexican nuptials song)].

The single most obscure answer in the puzzle is 24d: [French river or department]. EURE?!? Presumably it was originally EURO crossing TON, but the European duplication posed by 27a: EURAIL nudged the constructor or editor to go with EURE. Would you rather take the dupe or the obscurity? I do like the WEBINAR crossing—kind of a woeful word, but it’s fresh and newish.

I like the 10-pack of 7-letter entries in the fill. Markedly less fond of DAAE, AUER, LYS, and PERI. Perhaps a different grid design with a higher word count would have polished the short stuff, even at the cost of all the 7s.

Three and a half stars. The theme works fine, such as it is, but I think the “bonus” thematic words tend to detract from it. OBE, a palace POOL, and a GONDOLA for honeymooners? Those don’t add anything useful to the theme.

Joe DiPietro’s Fireball crossword, “Turnaround Time”

This one’s in PDF form only, not .puz (though the .jpz and .ipuz file formats would probably handle the cluing tricks just fine). The list of Across clues includes several that have numbers found at the end of Across answers, not the beginning, and they’re all cross-referenced to Down answers. Those Acrosses, of course (!), run backwards; each of the reversable words is a palindrome. If you take the time to mark the linked Across and Down answers, you see that they’re laid out meticulously—though the “turnaround” Acrosses aren’t sited symmetrically, if you go one square southwest from the leftmost “end” of those answers, you get the beginning of the accompanying Down. Isn’t that lovely? So in the key entries, you go forward, turn around and come back the way you came, and then head south.

I like how each reversible word has two clues. RADAR is Cpl. O’Reilly one way, and RADAR / BEACON the other. [Thing that goes around] is the highly awkward stand-alone word ROTATOR (but I’ll give the awkwardness a pass because how awesome is it that the word ROTATOR…can rotate? So cool), flipping over for ROTATOR / CUFFS. The Honda CIVIC is a car that can turn around, pointing the way towards CIVIC / PRIDE. PULL UP is the oddball reversible two-parter, flipping to PULL-UP / BAR. Last but not least, LEVEL is somehow a Swedish vodka brand (??) but also part of LEVEL / OFF.

Five stars for a memorable twist and smooth execution.

Jonathan Porat’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

This is one of those “squish two things in the same set together to make a new thing” themes. I like these themes when we get fun phrases, but I felt like these were a little dry.

  • 20a. [Lawyer after too much coffee?] – WIRED ESQUIRE
  • 36a. [A day at the spa?] – GLAMOUR TIME - my favorite, because the clue’s a real phrase.
  • 43a. [George, Abe et al.?] – MONEY PEOPLE
  • 57a. [Place to find both parts of 20-, 36- and 43-Across] – MAGAZINE RACK

Thumbs up for using well-known magazine titles, but unfortunately these don’t lend themselves to hilarious entries. Maybe I was just put off by the fact that I had to work from the bottom up I kept getting stymied up top. For me, 8:25 is far to long to spend on a daily LA Times puzzle – I think Jonathan Porat was out to get me with a slew of pitfalls. Here are some traps I fell into:

  • 8d. [Cancel, slangily] – SCRUB, not SCREW.
  • 7d. [OPEC founding member] – IRAQ, not IRAN. The Q didn’t work with the E I had in SCREW.
  • 21d. [Bit of sediment] – DREG, not GRIT.
  • 30d. [Zap] – LASE, not TASE.
  • 54d. [Island nation near Sicily] – MALTA, not CRETE. Admittedly, I should’ve known better.

And those were just my trouble down entries. Ugh – never heard of CAR-X, but at least it made sense. There are also 6 Xs – though I usually love the high Scrabble letters, the bank in the NE takes away just a little bit. (Yes, this is a pangram. No, I won’t give it points for that.)

Some fun bits I did like: NEAR MISS, FACE UP TO, MADE IT clued with [Is living the dream], and the timely [April concern] for TAXES.

And my “huh” for the puzzle, which might not have been yours, came at 3d: [Printing extras] – OVERS. The internet tells me that these are extra copies that a publisher prints. I thought it might be when you go into the margin – just another time I was wrong on this puzzle. Hopefully I’ll have better luck at the NYC DASH puzzle hunt this weekend – hope to see you there or hear about your exploits around the country afterward!
Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Squeeze Play” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Here’s a puzzle that would make Bob Vila dance the Bohemian Polka. Jordan finds four phrases that are “squeezed” by a boa constrictor; that is, they all begin with B-O and end with A. Here they are:

  • 20-Across: The [Italian entree also called farfalle] is BOWTIE PASTA. I’m partial to penne, myself.
  • 32-Across: The [Samba relative] is the BOSSA NOVA. When I was a kid, I thought this dance was called the “Boss of Nova.” This was not my only problem with dancing as a kid.
  • 39-Across: The [Pricey tableware] is BONE CHINA. It should be expensive; after all, it can’t be easy to scrounge up the number of bones required to make a simple plate.
  • 51-Across: [Mumbai, before 1995] was BOMBAY, INDIA.

As themes go, this may not be the most compelling, but bonus points for the clever title. The best thing going for this puzzle is the fact that the grid is a pangram but i didn’t notice it until after I was done solving. Usually one can smell a pangram because of a forced entry that faciliates the use of a rare letter. But this grid was so smooth that, while I noticed the rare letters in play, it never occurred to me that all 26 letters could be lurking in the grid.

Other items of note:

  • I love the sassiness of CAN IT, the imperative clued ["Hush up!"], this sits directly in the center of the grid.
  • As nontheme fill, OBJET D’ART, the [Aesthetic curio], is, well, a real work of art.
  • I can’t say I have seen the word CARBARN, the [Building for buses], before. I know such structures as “bus barns.” But I don’t get out much.
  • [Go like a kangaroo] is an interesting and evocative clue for BOUND. Anyone else try BOUNCE at first, only to get frustrated by the lack of white squares?

Overall, I think Jordan squeezed a lot of good stuff into this puzzle.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Where There’s a Will”—Matt Gaffney’s review

Today’s BEQ puzzle is a contest so I can’t blog it. But good luck!

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27 Responses to Thursday, 4/28/11

  1. ktd says:

    I’m not watching the royal wedding…but I’m happy it inspired a Thursday puzzle I could solve in under 5 minutes–I won’t see a time that fast again for a very long time :-)

  2. ArtLvr says:

    re NYT “The single most obscure answer in the puzzle is….” DOWEL! Pls explain how this fits with Bounty holder? A wooden ship constructed with pegs?

  3. joon says:

    DOWEL isn’t an obscure answer at all. the clue is tricky, though. it must be a reference to bounty the paper towel brand.

    i don’t really understand the PURIM clue, though. does it always occur in march? i thought it was in adar, which might be moveable relative to the solar calendar.

    easy puzzle—more like a CS daily than a thursday NYT—but i liked it well enough. i thought it was pretty nice to have those dozen or so extra theme(ish) answers.

    joe’s FB was really neat. not quite as mind-bending as i thought it might be, but very cool and well-crafted.

  4. Michael says:

    Can we please ban Christine DAAE from crosswords? I realize she’s so attractive that constructors can’t resist her vowel-rich charms, but two appearances in three months (after basically 13+ years without her name) is just too much Christine. Also wondered about EURAIL and EURE. Would rather not see either dupe or obscurity, but I’d go with dupe if I had to take a pick.

  5. Geographic obscurity alert: two of the NYT theme answers are names of Virginia counties — PRINCE WILLIAM (DC suburbs) and KING AND QUEEN (east of Richmond). Unsurprisingly given its history, the Old Dominion has a plethora of jurisdictions named after English royalty.

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    Does anyone else think that the EURIAL / EURE is an unfair (or, overkill) crossing?

    I spent 3 minutes trying to figure (and finally pecking) out at one letter.

    Can’t those two just get married already so we can be done with them?

  7. cyberdiva says:

    I’m with Tuning Spork: “Can’t those two just get married already so we can be done with them?” Amen.

  8. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT, but felt it was a bit over the line on stale fill. PERI and AUER (and IDYL!) are very tired crossword entries and should go swim with the fishes, but DAAE and EURE seem OK to me– it’s Thursday, after all.

    And the Fireball was fun, with lots of off-beat clues. I was wary at first of the ‘turnaround’, but the theme didn’t obstruct straightforward solving.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks, joon — I didn’t think of rolls of paper towels on dowels, as mine are inside containers with serrated edges or upright on a spike… though it might be a dowel with only one fixed end at the bottom?

    And for Brent H — nice catch on Virginia’s counties, but of course the state itself was named for Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen! For Royal watchers, pro and anti, Kate is opting out of the historic Coach but at least she’s not going for the RIDE in the JZ puzzle!

  10. Howard B says:

    Not to be snarky, but no interest in this wedding. They may be a lovely couple, but this is really mostly tabloid fodder (What designer will she wear? What’s on the menu? etc.) and so not particularly pleased (or offended) to see it as a theme. That, with the cross-references, the extra theme content, and DAAE, made this one a non-event for me.

    Nothing personal, but just not enjoyable, and I do enjoy most puzzles :). To each their own though.

  11. Gareth Bain says:

    NYT: This puzzle was so not for me… Well constructed? I guess… but I don’t want to hear anymore about this topic and certainly was expecting to see it in the NYT. sigh.

    LAT: Really, really liked the idea of this theme and the first answer. The second two were a bit, as you (Neville) say: dry. ASMAD grated (but I’d probably use it as well, in a bind…), as did most of the scrabbly letters for some reason, which didn’t seem to actually be making for interesting answers in the main… Maybe I’m just grumpy after the previous xword and I’ll like it more in an hour…

  12. Jeffrey says:

    When you live in a city named after Queen Victoria and marketed to tourists as being the most British place in North America, you can imagine the Royal wedding gets some attention here. I understand Americans have not always been pro-British Royalty. Some little spat in the 1700s, I believe.

    But if I published a book and only 6% of Americans bought it, that would be 18,000,000 copies. I’ll take it.

    Harder will be finding 6% of solvers who prefer EURE over EURO.

  13. Sara says:

    What about

    WEBINAR
    ECLAIR
    PRINCE…
    TUN

    ?

  14. Karen says:

    I wouldn’t have realized it without ktd pointing it out, but fastest Thursday for me also.

    On the FB, I hadn’t noted the placement of the cross-referenced clues, so it didn’t add much elegance to my experience. I did notice that all the palindromes started under a black square, so they all had the across and down clues, and no numbers sitting out in the open grid.

  15. Ladel says:

    I wonder how much it costs the British treasury to keep their national pets in the style they require. Today’s puzzle?, feh, that’s a polarized meh.

  16. Jon Delfin says:

    Re the Fireball: I’m still kinda scratching my head about this one. Impressive grid (mostly; SCUBADOVE? Sigh), but what’s the reason for these phrases laid out this way? Maybe if he’d used reversals instead of palindromes, the turning around would have more spark, but the southern doglegging remains unjustified.

  17. Jamie says:

    Did this NYT get the worst rating ever? I think it did. Amy will weigh in if I am wrong. I’m curious why it got so many 2 stars. It’s a topical theme puzzle. It wasn’t worthy of the crossword Razzie.

    Full disclosure: I rated it 2 stars too. Lowest rating I have ever given a crossword. I think I was unfair. It wasn’t that bad; I just hated the theme. I don’t know why Will thought it cute to run a theme puzzle on some bland rich people who wear awful hats getting married.

    So, did you rate the puzzle on your complete boredom with the couple, or on its merits?

  18. john farmer says:

    I don’t get the rating either. I don’t do ratings myself, and I think they should be taken with a big grain of salt, but I’d guess this one’s got more to do with views of the royal family than with the puzzle itself.

    I’m no fan of the monarchy, but I’m surprised to see the negative reaction about this weekend’s wedding. There’s plenty in the news to get upset about — two or three wars going on, the economy in the tank, a nuclear meltdown, tornadoes, Donald Trump all over the TV. Two young people getting married is not the end of the world, folks.

  19. roger says:

    why not have one on OB’s birt-cert? for a thursday, one would hope for a bit more than this.

  20. joon says:

    there are a couple things not to like about the puzzle (EURE, i guess, and for whatever reason, people seem to really hate DAAE), but i imagine the low rating has more to do with (1) the not-really-thursdayness of it, and (2) strong animus towards the royal wedding itself. like john, i can’t really understand #2; i have no use for celebrities in general and royalty in specific, but nobody’s forcing me to read the tabloids or watch the network coverage, so i don’t. nevertheless, it is a significant and fairly rare historical event, and every educated american should probably know at least what these people’s names are (which is the only thing the theme asked of us, really). if the puzzle had been all about who designed the dresses and arranged the flowers, i might have found it to be an affront.

    i feel partly responsible for #1. if the BCPT hadn’t been last week, maybe this puzzle would have landed on the monday/tuesday slot that the straightforward theme warranted, and maybe people wouldn’t have felt deprived of their tricky thursday puzzle.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Nah, the wedding’s during the wee hours tonight in America, so the Thursday slot makes perfect calendrical sense. Would’ve been nice to jack up the clue difficulty to make it feel at home on Thursday despite the theme’s easiness, though.

    Next year, Joon, please do check on the scheduling of major pop-culture activities before you pick a date for the Boston tournament. :-S

  22. arthur118 says:

    If the Times was determined to have a tribute puzzle for the wedding, I am hard pressed to see what else could have been done with the theme to make it more acceptable.

    I gave it a two star rating also, which is all it deserved, but I don’t fault Mr. Cee.

  23. Meem says:

    I am disappointed that my friends on this blog cannot separate thoughts about the royal wedding from thoughts about the quality of the puzzle. The puzzle had huge theme density, was certainly timely, and was fun to solve. So what’s the puzzle beef?

  24. Jan (danjan) says:

    After reading the comments on this week’s contest from Matt G and today’s NYT, I can only conclude that the puzzle world would feel better about today’s puzzle if more solvers were coffee drinkers.

  25. Lois says:

    Joon:
    You might have seen the discussion of when Purim takes place at the end of the Times Wordplay blog for Thursday. (If you haven’t seen it, you probably wouldn’t be reading this either, as it’s already Friday.) Because twelve lunar months take less time than twelve solar months, the Jewish calendar adds a leap month every few years to maintain similar seasons for the holidays every year, unlike the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar uses the lunar calendar without such an adjustment. Muslim holidays are earlier every year, so they can eventually be in any season. One reason the Jewish calendar makes the adjustment is that there is a Biblical injunction to celebrate Passover in the spring; I think it is in Leviticus. So Purim (a month earlier than Passover) usually falls in March, but sometimes it falls in late February.
    To all others:
    What’s wrong with Eure? I see more obscure geographical clues and answers in puzzles all the time. It added a little difficulty to a gentle puzzle and yet was gettable.
    The only thing I didn’t like in today’s puzzle was the clue “Gels,” instead of “Jells,” for Hardens. It was more ambiguous this way but also a worse spelling, although this spelling for the verb appears in some dictionaries. Otherwise, I thought there were an amazing number of theme answers. And Purim was my favorite non-theme answer, because it’s my favorite holiday. Hey, there is a relationship! Purim is a dress-up day, just like a royal wedding day, and the story of Purim includes a royal wedding! Wow, good job, Gary!

  26. John Haber says:

    I’ve no problem with the theme, although I have zero interest in the royal family. Nice enough to have so many theme entries. Still, while I recognize the desire to get it as close as possible to the wedding, it did seem rather easy for a Thursday, since the long answers were virtual gimmes.

    And count me among those who don’t like obscure geography like EURE (and I’m a Francophile, just not a Maleska-phile) and utterly hated DAAE. It’s not that I hate the person, since I’ve never heard of her. It’s that I couldn’t believe I didn’t have a mistake.

  27. Pauer says:

    Finally checking in on yesterday, mostly to see the reaction to the FB. I thought it was pretty cool, but got myself stuck on 4 sqs in the SE. Looked again at lunch today and finished ‘er off. How would you have done it, Jon?

    And lay off DAAE, wouldja? It’s a major role in the longest running Bway show ever, so it’s far from obscure, IMO.

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