Thursday, 5/19/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="Fireball" anchor="fb"]10:09*[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]5:23[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:48 (Neville)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="Tausig" anchor="bt"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/05/18" plug="thursday-51911" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]4:20 (Amy)[/time_hdr]

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 5/19/11 0519

Short-form blogging for me tonight, as I think I’m coming down with the bug my kid has.

Rebus theme is CRUSHED {ICE} and there are six {ICE} rebus squares in all with three letters crushed into the space for one. In each one except the final CRUSHED {ICE}, the ICE is split across two words one way and kept intact the other way. (E.g., THR{ICE} meets PUBL{IC_E}NEMY, S{IC_’E}M meets D{ICE}Y.)

Highlights: “BIG MONEY!,” RAPPER crossing PUBLIC ENEMY (with the two entries being clued together—bold for the Gray Lady’s crossword given that PUBLIC ENEMY could be clued as the FBI’s most wanted criminal), American cycling legend Greg LEMOND, and a WETSUIT.

Four stars.

Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

LA Times crossword solution 5/19/11

How about a connect-the-dots puzzle where the finished version actually looks like the real thing? Or did you even need the clues to figure out what was going on here? You can find something A LITTLE BIT FISHY in this DEEP BLUE SEA of a puzzle. How the circles represent TINY BUBBLES as well as the outline of the fish (which is given by the letters A-J) is just beyond me, but I like the song, so it’s all right. For me, this fish is an example of the right way to do an artsy puzzle – pick a simple image that everyone will recognize. That’s how you get a payoff. I just kind of wish it were less obvious.

It’s a nice and simple Thursday puzzle, with a clear visual theme. I like a number of the longer (and shorter) entries – HAS A BEEF, SPINAL TAPS, TE DEUMS, DRY GIN, a cleverly clued HARD C and ST. BASIL. However, major points off for REASSESSED. Yes it’s a real word, but it’s just awfully blah compared to the other long entries. From someone as talented as Peter A. Collins, it just feels like a cop out to me. And an even bigger boo to the [Very wide shoe] at 45a. EEEE simply shouldn’t be in this puzzle – replace it with NEED and the right hand side looks much nicer to me.

How do you feel about the clue at 1a. – [Ones minding their peas in queues?]? The answer was clearly PODS, but should soundalike phrases really get the question mark? If I read you the clue aloud, it’s helpful, but if you’re reading it to yourself, you really don’t need it. I feel like we should reserve this “?” for clues where by itself the clue would mislead you. In this case it’s just pointing out that the clue writer is (admittedly quite) clever. Am I the only one with this opinion? What does this “?” add?

Let’s end on a positive note, since I had not intended to be so hard on a puzzle I liked – my favorite clue was 12d. [Way to relocate a king] – CASTLE. Chess! I kept thinking about abdicating and guillotines, neither of which are quite right. Final score: 4 and a quarter pounds of fish out of five. (I need more leeway than five ratings – who can I see about this?)

Richard Silvestri’s Fireball crossword, “What’s What?”

Fireball answers 5/19

It took some staring to figure out the theme: The second “word” in each theme entry is actually three words signaling a substitution you need to make to a letter in its clue. [Lit up a hag?] clues SMOKED (F IS H), and the British “fag” = cigarette is intended here  (replacing “hag” in the clue). 61a changes “snow” to “know” and clues FRENCH (K IS S). at 10d, “cense” becomes “dense”: COMPACT (D IS C). 25d turns “in tine” to “in line” for WAITING (L IS T). Interesting, intricately wrought, not at all obvious theme.

The clues for the fill kinda bugged me. The last letter I filled in was the E where 19a: MINE meets 13d: PREP; neither clue pointed me to the answer at all (your mileage may vary) and Peter didn’t explain PREP’s clue on his answer sheet. In the opposite corner, I Googled a couple things (hence the asterisk on my solving time). I had no idea what 60a was. [Vice president before Adlai] is LEVI? I forgot there was an Adlai Stevenson before 1950s presidential candidate AES II, so I didn’t even look far enough back in the Wikipedia list of VPs. Brain fail! Also Googled the IRIS tagline at 64a. Managed not to Google 1d: [Mitnagged's counterpart]; the crossings gave me HASID but I’d never seen the word Mitnagged before. Have never seen the term ARDENT spirits. And the LEANER, a pitch that results in contact—this is about baseball, right? New to me.

3.75 stars. The needlessly arcane/oblique clues got on my nerves and distracted me from the theme.
Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Ooh!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Today’s puzzle is a tribute to Arnold Horshack, one of the Sweathogs on the 70s sitcom, “Welcome Back Kotter.”  Horshack was famous for sitting in the front row of class and eagerly shooting his hand into the air when he knew the answer to a question.  “Ooh!  Ooh!  Ooh!  Mr. Kotter!,” he would exclaim.  Similarly, this puzzle features expressions with two “ooh” sounds:

  • 17-Across: The [Ramen brand name] is OODLES OF NOODLES.  I wish Ore Ida would make a super-sized bag of potato treats called “Lots of Tots.”  Or that Wonder Bread would sell hamburger rolls at Costco (“Tons of Buns”).
  • 27-Across: The [Rural alarm sound, maybe] is COCK A DOODLE DOO.  I may live in a city, but one of my neighbors has a few chickens and at least one rooster.  The rooster always crows at 5 pm.  You can practically set your clocks by it.  I grew up thinking roosters crowed in the morning, but somehow this one has been set for ringing in the afternoon.  I do wish it had a snooze button.
  • 45-Across: The [Provocative dance] is the HOOTCHY KOOTCHY.  My dictionary defines it as “a deliberately sensual form of belly dance, typically performed as part of a carnival.”  I don’t think the carnival they have in mind is the one where I can win a stuffed panda by tossing a ring around the neck of a Coke bottle.  I’ll spare you the image of a carny performing a sexy dance.  Oops, maybe I didn’t.
  • 60-Across: [Taking every point, in hearts] is SHOOTING THE MOON.  True story: to pass the time in my third year of law school, some classmates started a year-long hearts tournament.  Every time you played a complete game, you got 4 points for winning, 3 points for finishing second, 2 for third, and 1 point for last.  The winner was the person with the most total points at the end of the year.  I played close to 200 games of hearts that year and I don’t think I finished in the top 20.  But I became pretty good at hearts, so there’s something to be said for the last year of law school.

Had the byline been omitted from the puzzle, I think I would have needed two chances at most to guess that this was a Blindauer construction.  Most of what I consider to be his signature features are here.  There’s the fresh clues with a bit of a pop culture slant ([Batman and The Joker, e.g.] for FOES and ["The Biggest ___"] for LOSER jump out, but there’s also TABITHA, the [Daughter of Samantha and Darrin on "Bewitched"], and BO DEREK, the ["Orca" actress].  (It can’t be a coincidence, by the way, that BO DEREK is the answer to 10-Down.)  And I would be remiss if I neglected to single out my favorite: [Repeated word in (MAZDA) commercials] for ZOOM.

Then there’s the unexpected fill, especially the initial-heavy group of C-CLAMPS, B DALTON, and ST. CLOUD (the four consecutive consonants undermined my confidence for a while).  The Q and the Z in this grid don’t sit in their familiar resting points at the starts of words–instead they’re an unexpected late treat in BANQUO, FAQ, BIZ, and OZARK.  In short, the puzzle has that fun, almost irreverent spirit that permeates practically all Blindauer puzzles, making his byline one of the most anticipated in crosswords.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Lost in Translation”—Matt Gaffney’s review

Straightforward theme from BEQ today: seven symmetrically placed theme entries begin with the classic Japanese video game translation ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US:

  • ALL WET
  • YOUR SONG
  • BASEBALL SEASON
  • ARE WE THERE YET
  • BELONG TOGETHER
  • TO BE SURE
  • US ARMY

Read about the history of this phrase here.

This is a puzzle that would not have run in the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. If you know about the key phrase then you’ll get a laugh out of it, but if you don’t you’re left scratching your head. Will Shortz and Rich Norris would receive a lot of e-mails from vexed non-hipster solvers who don’t keep up with goofy video games (or goofy internet memes); Brendan’s solvers, on the other hand, will either be familiar with “All your base are belong to us” or secretly hide their shame at being unfamiliar with it. May a thousand independent crosswords flourish.

The upper-right of the grid is especially nice, I’m also at liberty to mention.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a well-translated Thursday, everyone!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Sounds Like a Problem”

Ink Well crossword answers, 5/19 "Sounds Like a Problem"

This week’s theme features five phrases that sound like environmental problems but contain a homophone for one of the original words:

  • 17a. Coral bleaching turns into CHORAL BLEACHING, a [Strategy for removing stains from sopranos' robes?].
  • 28a. Chemical waste is catalyzed into CHEMICAL WAIST, the [Result of using a toxic girdle?].
  • 34a. [Period of great 59-Down popularity?] clues ACID REIGN, building on acid rain. 59d is LSD, [Letters associated with Timothy Leary].
  • 43a. [Appearance of unwanted names in one's will?] is HEIR POLLUTION (air pollution). Now, I’m not sure how you’d wind up with unwanted names in your will. These middle three theme entries all involve pollution in their base phrases.
  • 55a. [What one achieves by building stages for the pope?] clues RISING SEE LEVELS, as in the Holy See. Rising sea levels join coral bleaching as the result of climate change.

Newest entry:

  • 14a. [Upcoming edition of a psychiatric bible, familiarly] clues DSMV, as in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders edition superseding the DSM-IV-TR text revision. Does this answer make anyone else think of Prince’s “D.M.S.R.”? Now, I should’ve fact-checked DSM-V when I was test-solving this puzzle because apparently the American Psychiatric Association is ditching the Roman numerals and calling the new edition DSM-5.

Three stars from me. The GIA/NIE/IANA category of blah fill also includes RNDS, ROM, ETO, ISL, OSH, and EMB. The inclusion of five theme entries can mean more of that ilk of short fill, alas.

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19 Responses to Thursday, 5/19/11

  1. joon says:

    LEANER is a horseshoes term. a toss (“pitch”) that results in the horseshoe leaning against the … whatever that metal stick is. hence contact. me, i thought the clue was going to be about a sales pitch (isn’t it always, when the clue says “pitch”?) until i had all the letters.

    sadistically difficult cluing and an abstruse theme that’s the opposite of helpful and more confusing than fun. am i a sicko for liking this puzzle? because i did, quite a bit.

  2. Plot says:

    I believe Peter’s clue for PREP refers to those sterilizing swabs that doctors use when they prep the patient for surgery. But I also needed all the crossings for that one; this was easily the hardest themed puzzle of the year so far. I pretty much DNF’ed on the SW corner. I had Shortie instead of Sheltie, and with no idea what the theme was, I couldn’t make any headway. Nothing was explicitly unfair about the puzzle though, so I can’t stay mad at it forever.

  3. Will Nediger says:

    About the PODS clue: interestingly (to me), I just wrote a mini-paper on question-marked clues, for fun. The upshot is that it doesn’t get the question mark because of the sound pun per se – it’s because the clue doesn’t work on a literal level (in other words, you’d never clue PODS that way if it didn’t happen to be a pun). Question marks are (basically) always used in those cases.

    There are also examples of question marks on clues that *do* work on a literal level, but they’re a lot less common. And yeah, those question marks do pretty much point out the cleverness of the clue writer.

  4. Dan F says:

    Big 5 stars for the Fireball. Agree with Joon, with the added point that most of the difficulty came not from baseball or obscure pop culture, but good old-fashioned wordplay.

  5. Doug P says:

    5 stars for the Fireball. Crazy hard, but ultimately satisfying. Loved it.

  6. John says:

    Fireball was tough but worth a go because a game without a challenge is boring. This one was excellent.
    Here’s a brainteaser link –
    http://www.iqtestexperts.com/brainteasers/

  7. Karen says:

    Also in the FB is the fourth theme answer, it’s good to know French. I mistakenly hit the ‘reveal all’ instead of ‘check all’ while I was struggling through the SW corner. Thanks for explicating the theme, it was making no sense to me at the time.

    The NYT was a good hard rebus. I kept being surprised when the ices popped up.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    The Fireball deal was darned difficult, and I worked it out without understanding it until coming here, though I might have tumbled to it at 25D “In tine?” if I’d had more time! Not very satisfying, somehow… The NYT rebus was easier and more fun, the JZ not too hard but not so much fun, and the LAT’s was okay and sort of cute (in spite of the 4th century monastic)!! Having PREP twice was an omen, as I’m off to the dentist shortly…

  9. Pete says:

    Just a point of clarification: the circles in my LAT puzzle aren’t the “tiny bubbles”. The four letter O’s in the upper region of the grid (which are the the only O’s in the grid) — now, those are the tiny bubbles. They’re training up from the fish’s mouth. At least they’re supposed to be.

    Yeah, NEED in place of EEEE would’ve been an improvement. Now you tell me!

    - Pete Collins

  10. Jeffrey says:

    Well thanks for explaining the Fireball theme. I had no idea, and I agree with Amy , the cluing is too cute by half. 3.141 stars.

  11. Neville says:

    Yes, Pete – I just read this bit from PuzzleGirl at LA Crossword Confidential and had a facepalm moment:

    “Also, I first thought that the O’s in the clue for 57A referred to the circles in the puzzle, which seemed pretty lame. But now I see that it actually means the letter O’s up there in the northwest corner. That’s much more impressive. Especially because there aren’t any other O’s elsewhere in the grid.”

    I have to echo her sentiments – I completely misinterpreted that, too, and I can’t fault you for my stupidity! Now I understand the need for REASSESSED. Next time you have EEEE in a puzzle, though, send it my way first ;)

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    37-across is, I’m guessing, an inside joke from Patrick Blindauer: UNRIDABLE is an anagram of his last name (and it’s a legit word):

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unridable

  13. Jordan says:

    I liked the difficulty of the Fireball – the theme: bleh…..

  14. Gareth says:

    OK, I seem to be the first one to give it 5 stars but I LOVED the LAT. More complexity and layers than your typical LAT, but (as noted) a simple elegant image at the end of it, and pretty clean too with not to much compromise. Agree with you on REASSESSED and EEEE.

  15. Linda Stewart says:

    Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy 35 across clue “All alternative” is misleading since the answer is “BIZ”. BIZ is a laundry additive, not a stand alone detergent. It is something you would use *with* All, not instead of. That threw me because I was trying to think of another 3 letter laundry detergent. Obviously Patrick doesn’t do the laundry in his house .

    Linda Stewart

  16. bonekrusher says:

    Something cool about Paula Gamache’s NYT puzzle is how 8-Down’s “Black-and-white” clue lent itself perfectly to be POLECAT. That had me stymied until I figured out the theme and the proper answer, “POLiceCAR.”

  17. Howard B says:

    Really liked the Fireball concept, did not care for the execution.
    I could not honestly figure out the theme without help here, even knowing there was something going on in the clues. I just could not see it. The difficulty of some of the clues (I needed the help file for the ABLE/BAKER connection – yeesh!), along with some really obscure trivia did not help matters. As said, I really like twisty themes, but I just missed the boat here.

    Having said that, I can also see that if I grokked the theme earlier, I would have enjoyed this quite a bit more. I can definitely see the appeal :).

  18. Meem says:

    Matt and Pauer: Too cute by half on unridable. I stared at that word while solving, and now understand why!

  19. Garrett says:

    I helped a friend on this Fireball and thought the clueing for some parts of the grid was not only needlessly obscure or arcane but in some cases horrific. “Put in the mail” just does not bring me to ARMOR, though I get the jest. “the mail” implies to me U.S. mail. Clueing it as “Put in the mail?” would have been okay.

    Countenance does not bring me to ABIDE

    And I hate needlessly obscure clues for everyday words that force me to google. The clues for LEVI, IRIS, OVER, ARDENT, and ODIN were all like that. 8D describes this puzzle to me.

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