Thursday, 5/5/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/04" plug="thursday-5511" puzz="Fireball" anchor="fb"]7:10[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/04" plug="thursday-5511" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]9:23 (! Neville)/4:22 (Amy)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/04" plug="thursday-5511" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:47[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/04" plug="thursday-5511" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]6:08 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/04" plug="thursday-5511" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]8:18 (Matt)/3:45 (Amy)[/time_hdr]

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword

5/5/11 NYT crossword solution 0505

You see those ungainly letters in the blank grid, the big J and the oversized lowercase r? Those provide the missing “Jr.” from each theme entry’s name: KEN GRIFFEY, HARRY CONNICK, ROBERT DOWNEY, and SAMMY DAVIS. The black-square J and r are accompanied by weird dashes above the J and below the r, without which the grid would have required the skills of a Patrick Berry to fill cleanly.

Cute theme idea, and presumably not a tough one to pick up on given the level of famousness the quartet of theme guys possess.

I like the two corners with stacked 9s and the central zone that squeezes 6s and a 7 in between HARRY and ROBERT. On the down side, that middle section does contain NO ACT, I’M MAD, and a lengthy prefix (DODECA-).

26d is WILMA, the [TV mother of Pebbles] on The Flintstones. Wilma! I just saw a cute Fred-and-Wilma clip on Facebook today, courtesy of puzzler Eric LeVasseur. The cartoon clip doubles as a great anniversary card.

Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 40″

Fireball 2-16 answers

Okay, I’m dragging my heels on blogging this puzzle because I really just didn’t find it fun to solve. There’s some great stuff in it, sure, but the overriding vibe was “needlessly obscure trivia you might find in a Newsday ‘Saturday Stumper.’” Like [Dickenliz was one]—maybe if I’d devoured Elizabeth Taylor obituaries or been old enough to care about the Taylor/Burton marriages at the time, I would have appreciated this clue for “IT” COUPLE. But not only have I never seen that portmanteau name before, but that answer crossed two weird things. FIST is [Rock icon?] why? And how on earth should anyone other than a baseball nut be expected to know the first name of a former manager of the Seattle Mariners? Given that DAN and DEN are plausible substitutes for DON, I wasn’t sure it was something-COUPLE. (Also! There are probably dozens of Dons who are more famous than Mr. Wakamatsu, plus it’s a verb and a common noun.) And why is TSO clued that way? Okay, Peter’s answers PDF says FIST is because of “rock, paper, scissors” and that Chinese restaurants serve “Romeo and Juliet.” Say what? No, they don’t! I’ve never seen that. If you’re gonna put TSO in your puzzle, forget about being Mr. Super Original with the clue; that’s just obnoxious. And enough with the baseball! If there’s a third year of Fireball crosswords and the puzzles will have just as much baseball content, you know what? I would be less inclined to renew. The real baseball season is only a few weeks old, but in Fireball Land, it’s always baseball season, unremittingly. Peter, don’t lose sight of the fact that your audience isn’t just baseball fans. Please.

And SISTERS clued as a 1973 De Palma movie I’ve never heard of? Feh, I say. Feh! If nobody else has ever clued SISTERS that way, there is a reason. BERZERKISTAN is funny but you know what? Never heard of it. Must’ve missed that year(s) in Doonesbury.

All right, moving on to the things I did like: the FOOD BABY, the never-heard-it-but-like-it-anyway FAUXMOSEXUAL, the LATE NEWS, POST-ITS, Steve BUSCEMI, STAR TREK II, and a TOYS “R” US KID. All of that entertained me (though the obscure trivia clue for STAR TREK II again alienated me).

Three stars because the puzzle got on my nerves so much.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

5/5/11 LA Times ccrossword answers

I found this puzzle terribly difficult – like New York York Times Thursday difficult. Is it just me, or are we getting harder LAT puzzles these days? Maybe it’s just Julian’s puzzles. [Instantly...] clues AT THE DROP OF A HAT, but it also hints as to what’s going one in each of the other 15-letter answers. The word HAT has been dropped off of each of these entries.

  • 17a. ["Don't tell a soul!"] – KEEP IT UNDER YOUR (HAT)
  • 31a. [Spout nonsense] – TALK THROUGH ONE’S (HAT)
  • 41a. [Moonlight, say] – WEAR MORE THAN ONE (HAT)

This puzzle just wasn’t making sense to me with the HATs missing. “Why does this end with YOUR?!?” I asked myself regarding 17a., with most of the first ten letters missing. It’s quite clever – and fortuitous to find three 18-letter phrases ending with the word HAT.  Here’s what tripped me up:

  • 1a. [Some graphic work] isn’t comic books or something similar, but EROTICA. That could have pictures, but it doesn’t have to.
  • 8a. [It often involves x's] is a great clue for ALGEBRA. Had me stumped!
  • 22a. [Wroclaw's region] – SILESIA. I don’t understand the clue, and I won’t respond to it. (Historical Polish geography, it seems.)
  • 38a. [Carl's sweetheart, in "Up"] is ELLIE, but I didn’t see that movie.
  • 49a. [Event with a queen] is a PAGEANT. I still had the royal wedding on the mind. Fun fact I learned from Wikipedia earlier today: Prince William doesn’t usually use a last name, but when he does, it’s Mountbatten-Windsor. I wonder if that’s on his drivers licence?
  • 65a. [Suffering terribly] parses to IN AGONY, not IN A GONY. Reader challenge: What’s a GONY?
  • 22d. [Display of links] is the passe SITE MAP. Imagine a site map for Amazon. Or Facebook. Yeah. Good luck with that.
  • 42d. [With no end in sight] – it goes ON AND ON and on and on; this is a strange entry to look at without the spaces in place.

There it is again! BLOOP – the most fun you’ll get out of saying a baseball term in a crossword. More fun with AT HEART, HAN SOLO and a number of the entries I listed above – they were fun but hard, just like this puzzle. An oh so tricky 4 stars from me – knocked down for some ugliness with SSNS, GER., ULT, ALLA and STYE.

BLOOP, Neville.

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Double Vision” – Sam Donaldson’s review

I’m on my way to Kansas City this morning (more accurately, Overland Park, Kansas) so I can speak on partnership tax issues at the Kansas City Estate Planning Symposium tomorrow. That’s right, partnership tax issues for estate planners. Don’t you wish you were in the audience? Anyway, this particular organization really knows how to put on a first-rate conference, so I’m looking forward to the trip. Since I’m unsure of wifi access on the road, this and other posts for the next few days may be a little abbreviated. I have a feeling you’ll like that more anyway.

So let’s get to it. This one’s all about clones, but I found it refreshingly original. Hamel serves up four common but colorful terms for duplicates, all clued simply as [Double]:

  • 20-Across: SPITTING IMAGE. The original doesn’t spit–it’s the double that expiates.
  • 32-Across: CARBON COPY. Hopefully the other elements like hydrogen and nitrogen copy too.
  • 41-Across: DEAD RINGER. It’s better to be the living one.
  • 52-Across: IDENTICAL TWIN. Okay, three of the four theme entries are colorful. That’s still a pretty good percentage.

The puzzle gets off to a nice start at 1-Across, with [Word following grand or identity] as the fresh-feeling clue for THEFT. [What a feminist might burn] is an evocative–if maybe somewhat dated–clue for BRA. NICE GOING is cheerful fill, but HIRELING, the [One working solely for compensation], feels a little awkward. Otherwise, I think the fill is pretty smooth.

Let’s finish up with some random observations:

  • I know NOTARY, and I know VOTERS, but VOTARY, the [Ardent supporter], was new to me.
  • Did you notice that ABE sits smack in the middle of the grid, one day after an entire puzzle built around the [Presidential nickname]?
  • The same G starts both GO BY and GO BAD. I think I’m not supposed to like that, but I kinda do. There’s other good short fill here too, like NO SIR and DO IN.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Taking Direction”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 329 answers

Brendan SCORSESE PLUS today with puns on film directors’ surnames:

  • 18a. LYNCHPINS
  • 27a. ALLEN GOOD TIME
  • 34a. AS THE CROWE FLIES
  • 44a. A COPPOLA WEEKS
  • 59a. BOYLE OVER

Somewhat inconsistent themage, since 18a, 34a, and 59a are precise homophones of the directors’ names and the other two aren’t. Plus they’re not really rip-roaring funny. On the other hand, there aren’t that many punnable directors’ names, so maybe Brendan did indeed maximize the potential of this idea. And there were five long theme entries, so a C+ does seem about right.

With so much theme material it was tough for Quigley to work his usual magic in the grid—imagine Lebron triple-covered in the lane trying to fire off some brilliance with six arms in his face. But a little of the light does indeed shine through: DEL MONTE, OLD LYME, SOLOMON, SHIITE, and AND YET are all nice.

Now let’s jump back to last week’s contest puzzle. BEQ’s instructions asked:

What famous person, currently in the news, is hinted at in this puzzle?

The puzzle’s theme entries—MOSQUITO NET, CAT O’NINE TAILS, REINVENT ONESELF, PHOTO NEGATIVE, and SWEET ONIONS—each conceal the letters T-O-N somewhere inside. One might say they contain a “middle TON,” which would lead one to submitting new Royal Family member KATE MIDDLETON as the correct contest answer. Cute and timely meta—B+ for this puzzle from me. Check out the full results and winners here.

Thanks for the puzzles, BEQ, and have an entertaining Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

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24 Responses to Thursday, 5/5/11

  1. jpdavidson says:

    I’m not sure if this is intentional, but did you pick up on the fact that the descriptions in the NYT puzzle actually seem to describe both Sr. and Jr.? e.g. Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. were both baseball stars, or at least players. The more I look at this though, the more I think it may be coincidence.

  2. Plot says:

    Fun NYT, but it was definitely more of a Wednesday difficulty. I’m still not sure why this wasn’t switched with Jeff Chen’s puzzle; did anyone think the U-turns were easier than the JRs?

    I had a tough time with the Fireball’s NW corner as well. I would really like to find out what a “Romeo and Juliet” is made of in Chinese cuisine. A thorough googling did not yield any results.

    Neville, I don’t understand your disdain for the SILESIA clue. Though, to be fair, Silesia is not just Polish; it also contains what we in the soft-sciences call “Old Czech territories” or “The O.C. territories” (don’t call it that).

  3. Zulema says:

    I think today’s NYT was easier than Wednesday’s, but I really enjoyed filling it in, or should I say solving it. I didn’t see the Jr in the grid (as usual) but SAMMY DAVIS was my first in and there was no room for the JR, so as soon as I got the next name I saw the pattern. Very, very enjoyable. Now, to fight with the Fireball.

  4. joon says:

    my solving time was certainly longer today than yesterday, but i think that’s just because of the clue difficulty, as this was an easy theme. but still, cool grid. very compartmentalized, as dictated by the black square constraints, but nifty.

    i thought the fireball grid was awesome but i wasn’t loving the clues. i loved them more than amy did, though, that’s for sure. never heard of FOOD BABY, ESCADA, SISTERS, PAT day, dickenliz, romeo & juliet (!?), or FAUMOSEXUAL and needed a lot of crosses to pull BERZERKISTAN out, but i still had fun.

  5. Neville says:

    Plot: Come on! Wroclaw meant nothing to me. On the plus side, the answer SILESIA – which I was unfamiliar with – made sense, which is a lot more than can be said for other references. I bet those more cultured than I knew it immediately. Of course, I do recognize its beauty from a constructor’s standpoint – 4 vowels, 3 easy consonants. In fact, I’d say that I understand more than you’ll… never know.

  6. Howard B says:

    NY Times was harder today, but I’m not on a celeb wavelength at all – though Mr. GRIFFEY was a gimme :). Really enjoying these visual grids though.

    Had the upper-left of the Fireball wrong, for the reasons already stated with no knowledge to solve them (FIST, ITCOUPLE and TSO), and never heard of the creepy but interesting FOOD BABY. Some great stuff in there, but the reachy trivia clues offsetting that with frustration. Learning new stuff is great, but that balance with tricky wordplay is an underappreciated art. Just a couple clue changes in this one could have made a great difference; the grid itself is great.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Neville: interesting about Prince William’s official surname, but in the TV clip of his university graduation ceremony he was called up to the stage as William Wales!

  8. Matt says:

    Enjoyed the Fireball, mostly– but like Howard B, found the trivia somewhat problematical, particularly the sports trivia. I got the upper left filled in (although without understanding the TSO/FIST clues) but missed the GAT/GRIESE intersection with a B instead of a G. Otherwise, an entertaining puzzle.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Neville, next year on Casimir Pulaski Day, I want you to bone up on your Polish history and geography. Did you know actress Leelee Sobieski shares her last name with a great Polish king of the 1600s? He helped Vienna out with that whole Ottoman issue. The entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was pretty cool, and I’m not just saying that because I’m 3/8ths Polish and Lithuanian.

  10. Stan Newman says:

    “There’s some great stuff in it, sure, but the overriding vibe was “needlessly obscure trivia you might find in a Newsday ‘Saturday Stumper.’” Like [Dickenliz”

    I must take exception to that characterization of my factual Stumper clues. Though I do use, for example, lesser-known facts about well-known people, I insist that the frame of reference of such clues be clear, that the solver doesn’t need to know the answer or be familiar with anything other than “general knowledge” to understand what is being asked. You yourself mentioned one such clue that you liked in a recent post, “Actress who was Miss Scandinavia 1975″ (Lena OLIN). You explained your analysis of that clue just in the way that I would expect an A-list solver to. Start with the assumption that the answer is a person you’re going to know (you know how picky I am with fill), then use the information you’re given in the clue, plus maybe a crossing letter or two, and make a good guess.

    I solve Fireball every week, so I’m very familiar with Peter’s editing/cluing style, I’d never use clues myself like first names of baseball managers (that only baseball fans will know) , “Rock icon” for FIST (which I didn’t understand, and would require knowledge of the game to understand), nor “Dickenliz” for ITCOUPLE (which I didn’t get either till I read Peter’s explaination). But I don’t object to Peter’s using it in this venue, in small doses. He does use his explanations to explain, after all.

    Stan

  11. Neville says:

    ArtLvr: That’s crazy and awesome all at once!

    Amy: I’ll start brushing up on my Polish history right away!

  12. pauer says:

    Just because you’ve never heard of something shouldn’t make it “feh,” I don’t think. I’d never heard of “Sisters” either, but it sounds like a cool movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters_%281973_film%29. Peter’s whole M.O. is to use never-before-used clues, and it always has been.

    I also didn’t know “Romeo & Juliet” (which seems to be this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuqi_feipian, but c’mon: “General” + 3-letters = who else?

    As for the baseball clue overload, some people probably feel the same way about my theater clues, except most word nerds seem to hate sports more than musicals. I’m sure that both of the solvers who like crosswords & baseball are happy to have a puzzle that finally caters to them.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Sam, in Canada there is a proposal to move all partnership year ends to a calendar year basis to avoid the deferrals resulting from nested partnership investments with staggered year ends taking advantage of differing provincial allocation rules resulting in an avoidance of all provincial income tax. This has been used as a significant tax savings through the use of Alberta trusts as well as the Quebec shuffle and truffle arrangements.

    Are there similar nexus issues between states?

    Oh sorry, this isn’t the Diary of a Tax Fiend site. I keep getting them mixed up. Those guys are going to be confused by my Fireball comments.

  14. Zulema says:

    I finally went to Peter’s answers, and FIST is the representation of ROCK in the Game Rock, Paper, Scissors. That’s a game that never entered mine or my children’s radar.

  15. Dan F says:

    Yeah, I gotta object to this: “forget about being Mr. Super Original with the clue; that’s just obnoxious.” No, that’s why we pay Peter a premium for his puzzles. Granted, I couldn’t google up anything about the “Romeo and Juliet” dish, but I was interested to learn about the Kobayashi Whatever. I couldn’t care less about La Liz, but loved the aha moment of “Dickenliz?? … Dick ‘n’ Liz … wha? … Ohhh!” Is it not interesting to know that tabloids were portmanteauing celebrity names in the ’60s? I always learn things from Peter’s clues (and Stan’s “overly obscure” ones too).

    By the way, Don Wakamatsu is notable as the first Asian-American manager in the major leagues, but I totally understand the “too much baseball” complaint, even if I don’t share it.

  16. Gareth says:

    NYT: Loved the theme, always appreciate something a bit different, and this was well executed. I’ve never heard of the baseballer, but that’s no surprise! Also: I’ve never seen “>:(” and the clue for CSI = brilliant!

  17. Lois says:

    As Joon pointed out, today’s puzzle was highly compartmentalized, and that led to difficulty for those who didn’t know all the celebrities. I didn’t know Griffey. Worked Griffey out from the crosses, but could not figure out the first name. But if you knew all of the famous people, the long names should have been quite helpful in each compartment. So – for me, today’s was harder than yesterday’s in terms of how much completed (got two letters wrong yesterday). Yesterday’s took more time, not because of the theme answers but because of the others, but was more gettable eventually.

  18. joon says:

    stan brings up a very salient point—unlike every other crossword than any of us ever does, the fireball comes with an answer sheet that explains some of the clues. on the one hand, it partly justifies the preponderance of clues that i don’t “get” even after i’ve filled in all the letters. on the other hand, obviously it doesn’t do anything to mitigate how frustrating these clues are while i’m actually solving. there was no “aha” moment to be had for dickenliz in my case, and i am apparently not alone in thinking the connection between “romeo & juliet” and general TSO is incredibly weak, even if it’s true that “general in 3 letters” is probably TSO.

    i liked the rock icon clue for FIST quite a lot, because it actually made sense to me. but i would expect most people (obviously not all) to have some familiarity with rock-paper-scissors, so it seems fair to me. {Day at the races} for PAT is a lot worse, because there’s no punch line if (like most people) you don’t know who PAT day is. having the punch line explained in the answers is like somebody explaining a joke. if you have to do it, the joke isn’t going to be funny.

    neville: i contest your claim! FUNGO > BLOOP.

    sam: did you mean expectorate, rather than expiate?

  19. Matt K says:

    Joon & Neville: EEPHUS PITCH.

  20. AngelSong says:

    Is something wrong with cruciverb? I haven’t been able to get on all day.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Dan, I just can’t summon up any enthusiasm at all for a fresh TSO clue. That’s not much of a payoff, and when it’s mired in a corner that has other way-out-there clues, it just starts to look contrary for the purpose of avoiding clue reuse, rather than creatively ambitious. TSO is never going to be worth a clever clue.

  22. sandirhodes says:

    General Zuǒ Zōngtáng?

    EA Land, fmrly?

    Classical Jap. Band? (Classical Aust. Band?)

    Tesoro Corp?

  23. Sam Donaldson says:

    Expectorate, expiate. Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.

    Thanks, Joon! :)

    Jeffrey, most US partnerships are stuck with the calendar year already, mostly for the deferral reasons you mention. I’ll stop there, lest the conversation get too steamy.

  24. pannonica says:

    You mean that’s the expurgated version, Sam?

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