Thursday, 6/23/11

Fireball 11 minutes 
NYT 5:23 
LAT 5:38 (NLF)/4:00 (ALR) 
CS 8:52 (Sam) 
BEQ 4:02 
Tausig untimed (pannonica) 

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 6 23 11 0623

As rebus puzzles go, this one felt a little joyless. Six squares containing OIL means a dozen terms containing OIL, and they’re really not a fun batch. OIL TANKER/OIL CAN, OIL TYCOON/OIL PAINT, OIL RUB (what? at a spa? really?)/OIL PUMP, OIL SPILLS/OIL RIG, FISH OIL/OILSKIN, SESAME OIL/OLIVE OIL? Reading the clue for 70-Across/CLEAN UP, I see that the OIL can be “cleaned up,” or removed from the answers without messing up the clues. (Completely missed that aspect while solving.) Yes, an OIL TYCOON is also a TYCOON, and both FISH and FISH OIL are [Fatty acid source]s. I’m not sure this wordplay find is actually fun, though. Either an OIL CAN or CAN is a [Garage container], but neither is particularly interesting. The foodie one is near, though—both OLIVE OIL and an OLIVE are in Greek salad, and SESAME (seeds) and SESAME OIL are Asian cooking staples. (Originally I had OLIVES/SESAMES here and it took me a good 45 seconds to figure out I needed an OIL square.)

Highlights in the fill include the CABOOSE to PIE HOLE continuum, MOLOTOV, the tasty GRANOLA PRALINE crossing, and “NO DOUBT” (which I bet Ian originally clued as Gwen Stefani’s band).

On the down side, with 13 theme answers, the rest of the grid is left in a thankless supporting role. There’s so much in the Scowl-o-Meter log tonight—LEK, TAI, OISE, ULAN, SI SI, partials A BAT and IS ONE, ESA, OONA, plural OLES, RESEE, UNHAT, and SILAS.

Two and a half stars for the overall experience plus another half star for the spot-removal gimmick, so three stars in all.

Patrick Blindauer’s Fireball crossword, “Making Faces”

Fireball 23 answers

Yep, five stars. For inventiveness, freshness, and sheer challenge.

I had the letters all filled in correctly but had to spend some time figuring out what was to go in 36- and 54-Across. Opposites? What? The first square in each is a colon (:), as the Down crossings need the letters COLON in rebus squares. The second square is a hyphen (-), as NON-U and HOW-TOS are both hyphenated. (This one’s a bit of a mind-screw as we normally disregard things like hyphens and apostrophes when entering crossword answers.) The last square needs an opening parenthesis in “DUDE (LOOKS” and a closing paren in “LIKE A LADY)“.

The result, if you have not filled in the crossword with a keyboard as I did, is :-( and :-) — two emoticons expressing opposite feelings. How cool is that? (Very.) When I was trying to figure out the third special squares, the “Making Faces” title definitely helped me make that last leap.

The clues throughout the puzzle were tough (my goodness, the TAJ/AXIOM/JAM/LEX area alone took forever), and I think that even without the special squares this would’ve taken me about as long as a Saturday NYT puzzle. It didn’t help that I don’t really know the lyrics to the Aerosmith song and that I forgot the title had parentheses.

Highlights: RIPE OLD AGE, the NATHAN hot dog clue, the vocabulary-word clue [Sternutation] for SNEEZE, and the TRIX ingredients clue (this actually helped me with that crazy-hard section).

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 6 23 11

It’s a straightforward Thursday – no question marks in the long entries’ clues.  Should be an easy time, right?

  • 20a. [When to say night-night] - BEDDY-BYE TIME
  • 28a. [Ohio Stadium purchase] - BUCKEYE TICKETS
  • 42a. [Advance sale teaser line] - NOT YET IN STORES
  • 47a. [Dubious Himalayan headline - and phenomenon in 20-, 28- and 42-Across] - YETI SIGHTING

Oh, a hidden word theme with a tying-together entry. That’s – not that unusual. But four letters? Also, not that unusual. I guess the Y makes it a little tricky? Some might not like the split in the third theme entry – I don’t mind it since that’s a fun phrase. I can’t come up with other entries that fit this pattern off the top of my head, so at least it’s exhaustive. I guess when I think of this as a puzzle with with four fun phrases that happen to have a theme, I like it a little more. That’s a fair way to judge this, I believe.

Can’t argue with YO-YO MA in a puzzle, and I like BOO-HOO andUPPITY side-by-side. ADWEEK and TITMICE are nice, too, though I can’t imagine reading a magazine about ads. That just seems silly, especially if I’m paying money for it. TAG END was a new phrase for me, but it was intuitive, despite my wishes for NYAD to be NYAN. (If you don’t know what nyan cat is, take a stroll over to http://nyan.cat – but not at work.) Nothing else really stood out – this seemed like a very theme-heavy themed puzzle to me.

When Four-Letter Words Attack!—Look at the southeast corner - ISAO and OENO are stacked atop each other. That did not sit well with me. However, the grids I came up with to replace it aren’t that great either. Is it possible to finish this part of the grid where all si four letter words seem fresh? Maybe it’s just me, but four letter words just aren’t that interesting after so many puzzles.

Three-and-a-half stars for four-letter words.
Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fast Breaks” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy Washington Post crossword solution 6 23 11

I confess to liking the “broken word” gimmick.  No, it’s not original, but it’s certainly less trite than the standard “add-or-subtract-a-letter” gimmick.  Klahn finds four two-word entries that have the letter sequence F-A-S-T as bookends.  Thus, in each of these entries, the word “fast” is “broken” by a bunch of other letters:

  • 17-Across: The [Christmastime dessert in Portugal and Brazil] is FRENCH TOAST.  I like the trivia-based clue for what is normally a breakfast entree in North America.  I suspect that in some parts of the United States it’s still referred to as “freedom toast.”
  • 31-Across: Check out the advertisement for FAIRY DUST: [Think happy thoughts and it will help you fly].  Fine print: Use only as directed.  Results may vary.  Not recommended for women who are nursing, who are pregant, or who may become pregnant.  Side effects may include bleeding, nausea, dizziness, and insomnia.
  • 38-Across: [At maximum capacity] is FULL BLAST.  For a select few rock bands, that’s “11″ on the amp.
  • 54-Across: The [Collar that probably won't stand up] is a FALSE ARREST.  Terrific clue!

It’s a Bob Klahn puzzle, so we’ll get to the other great clues in a second.  But we must first pause to admire some juicy fill like EASY MARK, SAT DOWN, TELLS ON, and LAND HO.

Thanks for indulging me.  Now to the clues of note:

  • A lot of alliteration here, what with [Toulouse toodle-oo] for ADIEU, [Wacky Williams] for ROBIN, [Frodo foe] for ORC, [Music medium] for FM RADIO, [Kashmir cash] for RUPEE, [Grab grub] for EAT, the elegant [January gemstone] for GARNET, [Pastel purple] for LILAC, [Concave cooker, or is it convex?] for WOK, [Comic caper] for ANTIC, and…well, you get the idea.  A little alliteration goes a long way, so this puzzle is a bit over-seasoned with it for my tastes.
  • [Omission periods?] is a fun clue for ELLIPSES, though for some reason [Periods of omission?] sounds a tad craftier to my ear.
  • I tried BAIT for the [Stuff in a trap], but, in my defense, this was before I looked to see the constructor’s name.  The answer here is LINT (as in the “lint trap” or “lint filter” in a clothes dryer).
  • [Superman's sandwich?] may be a gimme clue for HERO, but it is still entertaining.
  • Speaking of entertaining easy clues, I liked [He ran, then ran from, Iran] for the SHAH.
  • I can’t say I fully understand this one, but [Milky wheys, e.g.] as a clue for SERA looks pretty dang clever.

Finally, I was stumped by the [Member of Rwanda's largest ethnic group].  It’s HUTU.  Who knew?

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Wipe That Smile Off Your Face”

BEQ 343 solution

(Matt Gaffney’s away from his computer this morning, so you get Amy again.)

It took me a while to figure out what the theme was, as I scoured the theme answers looking for hidden smiles. Aha! It’s the “wipe” in the title that’s key. Each theme entry begins with a paper towel brand: SCOTT HAMILTON, BOUNTY HUNTER, VIVA LAS VEGAS, and SPARKLE MOTION. What’s Sparkle? Is that a cheaper brand? Here’s a rant about Sparkle’s move to the “pick-a-size” half-sheet perforation. Me, I’m partial to Bounty select-a-size. Hell, I find many uses for the quarter sheet, personally, but there’s no perpendicular perforation to facilitate that.

Smooth puzzle, no trouble spots. Favorite clue: [Closing material] for VELCRO. Favorite fill: OXYGEN BAR, SUN STUDIO.

Four stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Beyond Belief” — pannonica’s review

Ink Well crossword answers, "Beyond Belief" 6 23 11

Heathens to Betsy!

  • 17a. [Without a prayer, and like 24-, 34-, 46- and 56-Across] GODLESS.

The four referred theme entries suffer from deistic expurgation. That is, a god or goddess—identified parenthetically—has been removed from the original phrase and the new one is clued. In this light, my exclamation isn’t accurate, as a heathen is someone lacking an Abrahamic god and the missing entities are not of that ilk. But I said it anyway. And deistic has a specific connotation too. *sigh*

  • 24a. [Museum wing dedicated to small change? (Roman, war)] PENNY(mars)HALL. Director and actress Penny Marshall is probably most famous for the role of Laverne De Fazio in television’s Laverne & Shirley.
  • 34a. [Movie featuring performers who croon into cans? (Greek, marriage)] SINGIN IN T(hera)IN. Singin’ in the Rain is one of the all-time most famous musicals in filmdom, if you like that sort of thing.
  • 46a. [Determine the geological origin of, say? (Rome, sun)] (sol)ID AS A ROCK. A simile that’s stood the test of time. More than one popular song has borne the title “Solid as a Rock.”
  • 56a. [Ave. in a ghost town? (Greek, war)] EMPTY ST(ares).  «crickets»

The theme is clever, but the execution is far less than stellar. Let’s dissect*:

  • Awkwardness and clunkiness abounds, both in the clues and the answers. Worst offenders are the abbrevs. in 56a and the phrasing of 46a, so the theme quality goes downhill as the puzzle progresses.
  • Three major deities, one lesser (Sol).
  • Three of them are four letters, one is three. Better to have them all four letters, or have greater variation.
  • Three ♂, one ♀. For stronger consistency, have two and two, or all of the same gender.
  • Mars and Ares are essentially the same entity. With only four theme answers, more variety would be welcomed. Why not include supernatural beings from Norse (e.g. Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, et al.), Hindu (Shiva, Kali, Rama, et al.), or another mythos? I find it hard to believe that a couple of working entries couldn’t be found among them.
  • “Empty stares” doesn’t feel like much of a phrase to me. Sure, there are over 46,000 hits in a Google search, but all of the ones that come up first relate to an obscure (?) Pennsylvania band with that as a moniker.

On the plus side:

  • The location of the dropped name varies nicely among the answers. Both Mars and Hera come from the middle (the former at the beginning of the second word and the latter straddling the third and fourth. Sol would have been at the beginning and Ares at the end. It would have been too much to expect the position to progress through the themers (i.e., beginning, middle of two, spanning three and four, end).
  • As long as it’s only Greeks and Romans, I appreciate that there are two of each.

The rest of the fill is strong and varied, with few entries registering on my Scowl-O-Meter. (Yes, I have one, too.) The vertical and horizontal stacks in each corners are especially impressive. Look at the panoply of interesting words, including CHORIZO, ALGEBRA, BHOPAL, NEOPHYTE, DAIMLER! I didn’t even  mind the partial A NEEDLE ["It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of __" (Matthew 19:24)] An up-to-date quality in BIRTHER and the cluing of LIANE [Hansen who retired from NPR last month] and ALTA [ __ Vista (search engine that still exists)]. I liked the Holy Land abutment of JIHADS and ADONAI, not to mention the quasi-bookends JIHAD and ALGEBRA, both from Arabic. SOMBRERO and NAKED EYE are additional highlights. For the puerile-minded, there is SEX [Group activity, at times] and POO [Crap].

Finally, 19a [Little auk]. The clue isn’t describing just any smallish auk (most crossword solvers will know that an AUK is a diving seabird, some will know that the great auk is extinct), but names a species. I knew this, but I didn’t know it was also called a SEA DOVE. On the other hand I did know the other, other name dovekie and the related guillemot. (Incidentally, the typographic symbols appearing on either side of crickets, above, are guillemets.)
_____
*(peeve: never, never ever pronounce  it /dī·sekt/ in my presence. I can barely stomach that in the wider world, but I hold the Fiend readership to a higher standard in such matters.)

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23 Responses to Thursday, 6/23/11

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Getting the first letter of a word is always helpful, unless the clue is [Apple product].

  2. pannonica says:

    iKnow!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Isn’t “Joyless” a bit harsh? The cross of REALITIES with OIL SPILLS is sobering, yes, but it’s worthwhile dealing with some stone-cold truths even in a puzzle, including the ensuing CLEAN-UP… (oil)well done, Ian!

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Same here with the SESAMES/OLIVES crossing. Took me almost nine (lazy) minutes (and finally re-reading the 70-Across clue) to find that “error”.

    And, just to note, “sesames” is synonymous with “sesame seeds” as a Chinese dish staple, in the context of NYT crosswords, per Will’s past clues:

    SESAMES (36)
    1 Th NYT 09 Chinese chicken flavorers
    2 Th NYT 08 Bun toppers
    1 Fr NYT 06 Chicken flavorers in a Chinese restaurant
    1 We NYT 96 Cracker seeds
    1 Fr NYT 95 Benne seeds
    1 Sa NYT 08 Some oilseeds
    1 Sa NYT 03 Bagel toppers
    1 Sa NYT 93 Tasty seeds

    Can’t call it an unfair crossing, though, since 70-Across does specifically mention that there are 12 “oil” entries.

    Too bad this puzzle didn’t run on April 20th, the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion (or the 21st, a Thursday, when the containment/clean-up began). Though, perhaps it was that anniversary that inspired Ian to write the puzzle?

  5. Gareth says:

    The fact that the with OIL version is mostly a more specific example of the sans OIL version (e.g. oil tycoon vs tycoon) makes the wordplay aspect a lot less impressive. The OIL rebus only used with stand-alone OILs while consistent also detracted from things somewhat. That said the non-theme fill was a lot of fun!

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    @ Neville

    I tried filling the LAT southeast corner. Getting anything decent required changing DURATION to DART TEAM (better) and PURRS to the plural name BARRS (not better). But, on the whole, I think it’s a cleaner fill even if it’s, technically, no more “fresh” than the original.

    http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm73/Tuning_Spork/version.jpg

    P.S. DURATION could also be changed to SARATOGA quite easily, but I haven’t tried it.

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    I liked the NYT, but I also got hung up on the SESAMES/OLIVES pitfall (pun somewhat intended).

  8. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, I agree with your overall assessment, but what have you got against SILAS (aside from the fact that he’s one nasty character)? I haven’t come upon that as a clue all that often–indeed, I had to think for a minute before I realized that my brain was only half awake and that the answer was SILAS and not SIMON.

  9. Matt says:

    I agree that the FB was spectacular, but also a bit over the line in obscurity– I had to look up the crossing of ALLNUT and DUDE… But still, a great puzzle.

  10. sps says:

    FB was awesome and terrifically difficult. I had those last six rebus squares staring at me for a good fifteen minutes. I didn’t know the song, thought Blimp was in the military but couldn’t remember the rank, was pretty darned sure HOW-TOS was somehow misspelled…It was an oil slick of a puzzle for me. But otherwise wonderful clueing—I love clues like 33D and 41D where you learn something new about someone you already know (tho I tried, oh I tried, to make Tanya Harding fit it 39A).

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Spork: People carp every time SESAMES is in the puzzle. Joon and I are working on a new puzzle and that’s a fill option, but I just don’t know if I can go there! It may be a necessary evil (though evil it is).

    @cyberdiva: I forgot about SILAS Marner (which makes it a fine entry) and was thinking it was a name that could only be clued via the Dan Brown character (which would be yucky).

    @sps: I remembered Blimp’s rank and put COLS in right away. That messed me up pretty good.

  12. Gareth says:

    Amy: what about deane? silas is pretty much the deane of crosswords (which is less illustrious than it sounds)

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I could do without Silas Deane—pretty sure I learned his name from crosswords, not from U.S. history.

  14. Doug P. says:

    Five stars for the Fireball. One of the best “ahas” I’ve had in ages. PB2 is a mad genius.

  15. *David* says:

    My favorite clue by far on the CS and for the week was “Ouija literally?”, had to do a double take on that one appropriately enough.

  16. john farmer says:

    I found the FB solve quicker this week than most. Very creative puzzle from PB, one of the best at finding new themes and gimmicks. Not sure how the puzzle would have worked without that Aerosmith song. Nice find. One quibble with the rebus is that : requires the letters COLON to be pronounced in the Down answers, the – and () are silent.

  17. Todd G says:

    Anyone else find it fitting that the first theme entry in Fast Breaks was a breakfast item?

    I accidentally clicked the link for today’s syndicated NYT crossword…and it turns out to be Paula Gamache’s ICE rebus puzzle. You know what they say about oil and water not mixing (not even in crosswords, I guess).

  18. joon says:

    re: fireball, doug said it best. great aha, and PB2 = mad genius. hilarious gimmick, and deliciously knotty to unravel the clues and fill, too. puzzles like this are why we shouldn’t toss 5 stars around willy-nilly.

  19. Neville says:

    Tuning Spork, I think I prefer your grid, BARRS & all. Thanks for sharing!

    I also had the SESAMES/OLIVES S-OIL issue. I mean no offense to Ian, but I was expecting something more along the lines of Xan Vongsathorn’s PEST CONTROL / ANT puzzle.

  20. John Haber says:

    Like Amy and Joon, I wasn’t wowed by the theme, and like Amy I found a fair amount of ugly fill. On the left, I kept thinking that USH, UNHAT, and RESEE surely exist only a puzzle. On the right, I didn’t know or care for MATILDA or SILAS, and I recognize LEK only from crosswords. OLES would have felt acceptable but a little tired even in the singular. Thinking of MOLOTOV as “eponymous” was amusing, though.

    I couldn’t make sense of PIE HOLE, and I was sure I’d a mistake, but I’ve found it online.

  21. pannonica says:

    Predictably, I know the ethological meaning of LEK, not the economic one.

  22. Matt Gaffney says:

    In the Fireball — which I 5-starred with a quickness — I’m solving the puzzle and no theme emerges…the feeling came over me like a horror movie where everything is just…too…quiet…and you know some scary bastard is about to jump out with a chainsaw. Seeing Patrick’s name on the byline is like knowing the movie was based on a novel by Stephen King…I knew something bizarre and imaginative was about to happen, and I had to find out what it was…

  23. Pauer says:

    Thanks, gang. I sure was surprised by the reaction to this one, since I thought that Across Lite’s failings would sour the experience for some. Looks like it wasn’t an issue, which is great!

    Big thanks to Peter for all of his help, too.

Comments are closed.