Thursday, 6/9/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]8:03 MG/5:28 AR[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="Fireball" anchor="fb"]4:56[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]4:00[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]6:04 (Neville)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/06/08" plug="thursday-6911" puzz="Tausig" anchor="bt"]untimed[/time_hdr]

Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 6 9 11 0609

Excellent puzzle from Joon. The theme takes familiar phrases ending with J-words and gently modifies the pronunciation to give you Z-words instead:

  • 17a. Orange juice becomes ORANGE ZEUS with a “fake tans” clue. Famous orange people outside of Hollywood include Donald Trump, John Boehner, and the Oompa-Loompas.
  • 24a. A phone jack becomes “PHONE ZACH.” I am charging the batteries in my shiny new set of cordless phones with Bluetooth capability right now.
  • 38a. CONSERVATIVE ZOO plays on Conservative Jew.
  • 48a. Blue jeans, BLUE ZINES.
  • 59a. Cookie jar, COOKIE CZAR.

See what these all have in common? Crazy spelling shifts. All the J- and Z-words rhyme but are spelled differently. I like the consistent inconstancy.

Lively fill includes the DOBRO guitar, Joon’s BYLINE, the band WEEZER, USAIN Bolt, TIME ZONE (and I don’t know how people in China call the other end of the country on business—do they have 9-to-5 workdays that begin hours before sunrise in one end of China? Or do East and West have staggered start times?), OSTRACIZE, and a land called HONA-LEE.

Never heard of a VESTEE and could certainly do without RELET.

Interesting new tidbit of knowledge: TICO is a colloquial term referring to a native of Costa Rica, clued via analogy to New Zealand/Kiwi. One of my cousins is married to a tico and another is engaged to a tico, and yet I did not know this word.

4.5 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 41″

Fireball 2:21 answers

I loved this puzzle. Smart, interesting, fresh, and blissfully giving the Scowl-o-Meter a break for the week. Peter even threw an extra row into the grid at no extra charge.

Idiosyncratic listing of highlights:

  • REBOOTS with a misleading clue
  • CARAVAN with a Brit clue
  • N’DJAMENA, my favorite capital with an apostrophe
  • The use of “preantepenultimate” in the THOSE “…were the days” clue
  • HAY FEVER with a clue word ([Pollenosis]) I’ve never seen before
  • MANATEE, because I’ve seen manatees up close
  • CROWBAR as a verb
  • DENSELY populated cities (like mine)
  • Showy can-you-remember-your-French-spelling BOEUF BOURGUIGNON
  • I Love Lucy‘s VITAMEATAVEGAMIN followed soon after by JELLO SHOTS
  • AVERY FISHER Hall (not Arsenio)
  • AHA clued as the ’80s band with, inexplicably, a 2009 album release
  • Quaint old word NAPERY
  • BONGO, one of the top world-leader names of all time

Rather easier than I was expecting, truth be told, but I had such a good time solving the puzzle that I don’t begrudge it its dechallengification.

Pretty close to 5 stars.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 6 9 11

Thanks to Amy for stepping back in while I was on a little vacation. My ferings – er, fingers – seem to have forgotten how to type while I was solving on paper in Kentucky; maybe it was the theme of this puzzle, though!
  • 20a. [Choir members during the sermon?] - SINGERS WAITING, instead of SINGING WAITERS. The ERS and ING swap positions. Fault! 61d. [Rev.'s speech] is SER., which is right in the theme entry clue. None of that, please.
  • 24a. [Grocery employee dealing with a shortage of shelf space?] - STOCKER STUFFING. I like this image. Wait – this time it’s not plural. Double fault – this is not going well for those who expect strict themes.
  • 47a. [Top sellers sealing the deal?] - CLOSING PITCHERS. Back to plural.
  • 53a. [News-hound's sign-off?] - ROVER REPORTING. Cute again, but back to singular again, too.
I don’t understand why the change in number each time was necessary. Sure – two were singular and two were plural, but this bothers me on some minute level of crossword judgment. It is a great theme, but the execution is less than perfect.
Names:
  • Richard DYSART, of L.A. Law – not Harry Hamlin (who fit in the grid) or Corbin Bernsen (who didn’t). Looks like he was also in Pale Rider. Not sure if you could clue him any other way.
  • Toots SHOR (I kid you not!) is the New York restaurateur with a self-named lounge. It was a celebrity hotspot like the 21 Club. Fun fact: Shor himself once outdrank Jackie Gleason at his establishment.
  • YASIR Arafat is the Peace Prize winner, but I bet you’ve heard of him.
My favorite clue was at 9a. {Finish the doughnuts?] - GLAZE. I’m a sucker for question-mark clues. And doughnuts. Three-and-a-half doughnuts for this puzzle from me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “That’s Fine” – Sam Donaldson’s review

If today’s post seems under-researched, it’s either because: (1) they always seem that way; or (2) I’m flying to parts unknown on a plane unexpectedly without WiFi, and by the time I have internet access I’ll be too tired to research the things I don’t know. I’m always a little concerned when an airplane’s WiFi system breaks down. It makes me wonder what other electronic functions are disabled, and that’s not very comforting at 30,000 feet. So with some nervousness and embarrassment, I give you today’s CrosSynergy review.

As the puzzle’s title would suggest, Grabowski gives us a total of four names and expressions ending in particular particulates:

  • 17-Across: The [Pseudonym of an 1800s French feminist noted for scandalous behavior] is GEORGE SAND. This was completely new to me, but I suppose it’s safe to say that her work went against the grain.
  • 30-Across: To [Fail] is to BITE THE DUST. I’ve always enjoyed this expression, but I’m not entirely sure I understand the metaphor. One who falls might well “bite the dirt,” but in what context is someone or something biting dust?
  • 47-Across: To TAKE A POWDER is to [Flee to avoid unpleasantry].  I believe this derives from the expression, “Pardon me, I need to powder my nose.” There’s an apparent correlation between unpleasant situations and the oiliness of one’s nose.
  • 63-Across: The [Cosmetic company founder] is MARY KAY ASH. I always assumed Mary Kay was a full name, like pro golfer Luke Donald or “The Simpsons” producer Al Jean. I’m aware that some people don’t like names or trivia in their puzzles, but learning little factoids like this is part of the entertainment I derive from solving crosswords.

I like how the theme entries balance with two names and two colorful expressions. Highlights in the fill include SIDE BET, the [Secondary stake], IPSWICH, the [Massachusetts town famous for its clams], and DIET RITE, the [Soda brand].

On the suboptimal front, SLEEP LAB, the [Site where shuteye is studied], feels a little contrived to me. Two other entries struck me as awkward: my answer to [Like bumper-to-bumper traffic, mostly] would be STOP-AND-GO, not just STOP-GO, and I grew up thinking the [Giggle] was spelled TEE-HEE, not TE-HEE (why short-change the T and not the H?). Finally, I wasn’t a fan of AME, the [Soul, to Sartre]. I get that it’s crossword-friendly with its 2:1 ratio of vowels to consonants, but I can’t imagine anyone finds it very entertaining.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “LBJ”

BEQ #339 solution

Matt solving time: 8:03 (with theme foreknowledge, yet Amy will still beat me)

After solving this puzzle you’d probably guess that Brendan had the title first and conjured the theme entries up second.  But no!  He bounced some theme entries off me yesterday afternoon on Gchat, and then we spent a couple of minutes titlestorming.  I was impressed this morning to discover that BEQ had come up with “LBJ,” a title so perfect that it looks like it came first.

The theme is a change-a-letter, that old standby, wherein the theme L’s become J’s (no extraneous non-changing L’s in theme entries, a delicate touch).  So we have:

  • 19a. [ATV that requires you to say a Hail Mary before starting the engine?] is a JEEP OF FAITH.  I used to own a car like that.  Lots of dealmaking with the higher power.
  • 24a. [What "bupkes" means, literally?] is NOTHING TO JEWS.  Excellent.
  • 41a. [What stalkers do?] is JERK IN THE SHADOWS.  I bet there were less skeezy ways to clue this, but I did laugh.
  • 51a. [Two people Rickrolling at the same time?] is HYPERTEXT JINX.  Scrabbly.
  • 63a. [Overpowered Minute Maid dispenser?] is a JUICE CANNON.  Scary image.  I’d have phrased it [Way too powerful Minute Maid dispenser?] since “overpowered” has its own meaning.

All these are from good to very good, plus there are five of them, so a thumbs-up on the theme from me.

I was surprised to see the word count and black square count at the limit (78/40), since I’d guessed I was solving a 74-worder.  The many theme entries give it a wide-open feel.  Brendan is known for his three-pointers (fill with 7, 8 or 9 letters) but in this game he punished relentlessly with 10-footers instead: ADHD, FTW, AD FEE, AJAX, PICNIC and JAPAN are all nice.

Some good clues in there, too.  I’ll pick one: [Out-of-style do?] for DOST at 47-a.  One more: [Spun wax]for DJED at 35-d.

4.17 stars from me.  Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a JoyfuL Thursday, everyone!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Music Industry Connections”

Ink Well crossword answers: "Music Industry Connections"

This terrific theme plays the “before and after” game with rappers whose names end with a letter pronounced as itself, merging them with familiar phrases that begin with that same letter:

  • 17a. [Long Island holiday honoring a famous local MC?] might be CHUCK D DAY, merging Chuck D and D-Day.
  • 29a. [Cardigan worn in the video for "Cop Killer"?] is an ICE-T TOP.
  • 48a. The A Team joins M.I.A. in M.I.A. TEAM, [Entourage of a British/Tamil rapper?].
  • 62a. [Biography of a member of NWA?] clues EAZY-E BOOK. If he released his memoir, surely it would be available for Kindle and Nook.
  • 11d. [Snazzy outfit for the singer of "Regulate"?] clues WARREN G SUIT. Never heard of him; apparently his biggest hit was in ’94. Given name Warren Griffin, ergo he did not create his hip-hop name in honor of Warren G. Harding.
  • 25d. Combine L.L. Cool J with the Jewish dating site and you get L.L. COOL J DATE, or [Dinner and a movie with the lyricist for "Mama Said Knock You Out"?].

Note that (1) there are six theme entries, (2) all are rappers, and (3) the clues all point you towards the rapper and the phrase. Consistency! Good.

Five clues:

  • 1a. [Part of Minnesota's MOA] is MALL, as in Mall of America. I was there once, but it was before Marbles: The Brain Store had opened up shop.
  • 36a. [Private member?] clues WANG. Private privacy levels do tend to vary, don’t they?
  • 57a. [Pipsqueaks] are SHRIMPS. The seafood’s plural sounds better without the final S, doesn’t it?
  • 30d. [People often file out during them] is a solid clue for movie CREDITS.
  • 34d. [Gathering of the Juggalos band, for short] clues ICP. The Juggalos Gather where Insane Clown Posse plays.

4.5 stars for excellent theme execution.

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31 Responses to Thursday, 6/9/11

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    Highlight of the week: Fireball 12-D. Haven’t seen that sketch in decades, but it only a couple of seconds to get that beautiful 15-letter answer with no crossings. :-D

  2. jim hale says:

    This puzzle was painful. Too many obscure words. Never heard of Tico, Honalee or vestee.
    I don’t mind learning new words that are interesting, but these weren’t. It was a slog to get through it, and when done it left me empty.

  3. D_Blackwell says:

    I will never ever consider USAIN to be “lively fill”.

    I did like HONALEE. No telling how many times I will play Puff the Magic Dragon tonight.

  4. Dan F says:

    16 letters, Spork. Extra puzzle for free! I can’t remember the last time I figured out a crossword answer but couldn’t spell it – which happened to me with the Julia Child dish. Once BOEUF appeared I knew what it was going to be, but I had to wait for crossings on those Frenchy vowels…

    Liked Joon’s a lot as well! So z-z-zippy.

  5. Eric Maddy says:

    Nice puzzle, Zoon.

  6. Gareth says:

    Delightful twist changing the sound plus changing the spelling to something nutso!

    Liked the LAT more than most it seemed, so to have an S, still fun theme! DYSART was all crosses!

  7. Brian says:

    I can’t remember the last time Dan Feyer didn’t know something, but I did.

    Of course, I only solved about half of Joon’s puzzle before I gave up. I’m sure it was wonderful, Joon, but this moron couldn’t do it.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    Oops, I stand corrected, Dan. 16 it is. And as for knowing the answer but can’t spell it: Rio de Janeiro kills me every time on Sporcle.

  9. Anne E says:

    Why, I happen to know the answer to this time zone question, having just had first-hand experience with it! In Kashgar, which is about as far west as you can get in China, and the rest of Xinjiang province, there were two time zones operating, Beijing time (the official time zone), and unofficial Xinjiang time, which was two hours earlier. Planes, etc., ran on Beijing time. Businesses opened/closed on Xinjiang time. Hotels specified checkout times as “12 noon Beijing time” or whatever. It was usually safest to verify what time zone you were talking about with the individual you were dealing with, and that’s what we did.

    Very surreal to have one’s watch (which I kept on Beijing time) and astronomical time so out of synch.

    Nice puzzle, Joon!

  10. sps says:

    One mistake in the FB that had me giggling: I had my Noncom in 61A wearing a CAMI (like a camisole) instead of CAMO (like camouflage). Oh well. Great puzzle, and congrats to Zoon as well for another awesome puzzle.

  11. Meem says:

    Joon had me laughing out loud!

  12. janie says:

    alas, my DOBRO was a DOBRA, because my magic land (a gimme, i thought…) was HANALEE. this detracted not one bit from my delight in the puzzle.

    nicely done indeed, joon!

    ;-)

  13. Howard B says:

    Dan, I had the exact same conundrum on the beef dish; knew it off the B but French is not my comfort zone. The crossings worked it out nicely. Nicer than if I attempted to cook the dish.

    Also a fun puzzle today, Joon.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Sam, I liked Gail’s SLEEP LAB. Not remotely contrived in the arena of sleep medicine—I edit sleep medicine papers from time to time, so it was a familiar term for me.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Some BEQ craziness: I have always known FTW to mean “for the win” (and by “always,” I mean “ever since I saw ‘for the win’ spelled out and stopped parsing it as a bizarre ‘f*ck the what’”). With Brendan’s clue for 20d, I filled in FML (“f*ck my life”) straightaway. I would have been perplexed to change 20d to FTW if not for a @KathaPollitt tweet I had read just minutes earlier: just learned FTW means “for the win” and not “f*** the world.” Or does it mean both?

  16. John Haber says:

    Wasn’t the puzzle for me at all. The jokes may or may not have worked for me, especially the “orange,” and while I recognized Zach I’ve been avoiding those movies. But there was just a lot of fill that didn’t mean anything to me, like SHEET PAN. And finally the mix of USAIN, WEEZER, OZZIE, and TICO defeated me altogether, although I did fill in TICO not knowing what it was and OZZIE not knowing who he was. I’d a blank for the first letter in WEEZER and a wrong letter at the end of USAI_, wondering if maybe it weren’t a nickname I’d never heard of for US AIR.

  17. Evad says:

    It’s funny, I recall better Lucy’s failed attempts at pronouncing the product after the alcoholic content starts to take its toll, so I was going for VITA VEGA VITAMIN or something like that. Had no idea what the “real” name was, so had to depend on a lot of crossers for that one! Lots of smiles from me today as well for the FB…have yet to do the NYT, but I see here lots of positive feedback, so looking forward to it.

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    Great, though tricksy puzzle, joon!—-oops, I mean zoon.

  19. joon says:

    thanks, friends! glad you enjoyed this one. and jim hale, thanks for chiming in with a dissenting opinion without being rude. sorry the puzzle wasn’t up your alley.

    when i filled this grid, i was most unsure about VESTEE. i didn’t know the word, but i couldn’t tell if it was because it was an obscure/dated word, or a perfectly common word that i don’t know because i don’t know anything about women’s clothing. it’s looking more like the former than the latter. oh well. i think i could have cleaned up that corner but it would’ve meant giving up on WEEZER. TICO is a word i know from sports (the costa rican soccer team is called “los ticos”), but i thought that was fine because the crossings were clean and i think it’s pretty interesting to learn informal demonyms.

    loved peter’s fireball even though i needed all 16 (!) crosses for VITAMEATAVEGAMIN. still don’t really know what that’s about, but okay.

    thoroughly stymied by the LAT, both in theme oddness, unfamiliarity of the base phrase SINGING WAITER(S), and the mysterious mr. DYSART who could perhaps have been DYEART (which looks like an almost-legit phrase). not really sure about CLOSING PITCHER(S) either. aren’t they just called closers, in both baseball and sales?

    the BEQ is a beauty, and yes, that is the perfect title. kind of interesting the way it complements the NYT theme, which would have been called “jay-Z” if NYT puzzles had titles.

  20. joon says:

    oh, and anne—thanks for the fascinating info about kashgar time. and i was gratified to see that i could keep you awake despite your jet lag for 3 minutes and 15 seconds. :)

  21. Duke says:

    I have never seen a felafel made with fava beans. Chick peas aka garbanzos are the traditional felafel bean.

  22. john farmer says:

    I never heard of VESTEE and at one point I had tried DICKEY (which sounds like it belongs in an Onion puzzle). In any case, the answer was easily gettable. I enjoyed seeing WEEZER, TICO, USAIN, DOBRO et al., and along with many of the clues the puzzle had a fun vibe to it. Nice theme execution, excellent work all around, and a bit more of a challenge than the average Thursday bear.

    The FB seemed a little quicker than usual, yet probably will clock in as the longest solve of the week for me, as it usually does.

  23. Tom Grubb says:

    I got the “Z for J” thing for sure when I spelled out “CONSERVATIVEZOO”, but it never really amused me much at all. Also, I tried solving the Press Crossword of 6/3/11 and found it strangely UNremarkable and unconventional (two-letter answers and answers involving word-roots of clues). Where can I find the solution? I hate an unsolved puzzle!

  24. Jeff Chen says:

    Loved the puzzle, Joon! Entertaining theme entries with a clever change of sound. I wasn’t huge on VESTEE either, but maybe because my fashion sense includes wearing jeans five sizes too big for me.

    What? They’re comfortable!

  25. Jbeck says:

    As much as I liked the BEQ, was I the only one bothered by NOOP and SISS?

    For Fireball…took a wild-a$% guess on the spelling of BOURGUIGNON which just happened to hit.

  26. Harry says:

    Another terrific one, BEQ!

  27. kludge says:

    Had trouble with both NOOP and SISS too but managed to fill them in correctly, unlike 23A where I fell for the surface reading and made up a word so instead of TUNED had LUNED for a while. Figured maybe it was some slang Francis and Brendan were hip to.

  28. Loved the NYT — even though you’re taking out my favorite letter, J, you’re inserting a Z, so it’s a nice payoff. Unfamiliar with CONSERVATIVE JEW, though the crossings made it gettable. Alternative 15 — THEWANDERINGZOO, which opens the door for some interesting cluing opportunites…

  29. Jan (danjan) says:

    I’ve been sewing and shopping for over 4 decades and have never heard of a vestee. Dickey or perhaps jabot, yes, vestee, no. So, I wish joon had reworked the WEEZER corner, (also never heard of them, but they seem to be fairer game). Will raise hand for HaNALEE, but I nailed the boeuf. So, one entry I could slam down faster than two of the best. Guess I still won’t be in the ACPT finals….

  30. John Haber says:

    Duke, falafel with fava beans is extremely common, perhaps predominant in America. The definition in RHUD even lists fava beans first, before chickpeas. In origins, the version with fava beans is from Egypt while chickpeas are used further into the Middle East.

    I forgot to mention that I didn’t recognize VESTEE either. So I guess I was definitely a dissenting voice on the puzzle.

  31. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I have never encountered fava bean falafel, just chickpeas. Maybe the Midwest’s falafel all has origins from east of Egypt? The New Oxford American Dictionary mentions chickpeas “or other pulses,” with no fava action.

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