Thursday, 6/30/11

Fireball 5:33 
NYT 4:15 
BEQ 6:44 (MG)/4:13 (ALR) 
LAT 5:56 (NLF)/3:45 (ALR) 
CS 6:08 (Sam) 
Tausig 7:14 (pannonica) 

David Poole’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 6 30 11 0630

Unusual theme—a group of familiar abbreviations are spelled out with words that are entirely unrelated to the abbrev:

  • 16a. The missile known as an ICBM gives us “I SEE! BE EM.” I hope I’m the only one who’s now hearing a voice in my head exclaiming “I see B.M.!”
  • 25a. Q.E.D. sounds like “QUEUE, EYDIE!”—though I’m not sure anyone ever barks “Queue!” as a command to someone. Unusual string of six vowels (including Y): UEUEEY just plain looks wrong in a grid, but there it is.
  • 40a. The pesticide DDT yields “DEE DEE, TEA?” I’d rather not think about beverages and pesticides in the same moment.
  • 56a. I would like this one better without the questioning tone in the clue. URL -> “YOU ARE ELLE.”
  • 71a. This one’s cute. Perhaps the “CAGEY BEE!” once worked for the KGB.
  • 50d. Tying these all together is the word ACRONYM, but sticklers reserve that term for pronounceable words that are formed by the initial letters of other words. For example, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus is what scuba means, and nobody pronounces that “ess-cue-you-bee-eh.” KGB is merely an abbreviation, unless you know a way to smoothly pronounce “KGB” as a word rather than as “kay-gee-bee.”

There is some lovely stuff in this puzzle. I like BLUFFS clued with [They may be called], and SPAMALOT, ERSATZ, SUZY Q, ALAN BALL, and MARS BAR are tasty, if not all chocolaty. The LILA/LILAC echo is pleasing, too.

There’s also a smattering of Scowl-o-Meter fodder, such as EASEFUL (dictionary calls it “poetic/literary,” and I can’t say it looks familiar), DLI, LEM, one-L ENROL, and EVO.

As a childhood fan of Saturday Night Live‘s early years, I’m always pleased to see LARAINE Newman pop up. Would you believe I just read about one of her comedy appearances this week on Twitter? Yes, she is still out there, and probably a good bit funnier than Victoria Jackson.

3.75 stars.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 6 30 11

Seven theme entries here – and it’s a sing-a-long:

  • 20a. [*13th in a literary series of 26] – M IS FOR MALICE, by SUE Grafton
  • 29a. [*Me.-to-Fla. route] – I-NINETY-FIVE
  • 35a. [*Benjamin] – C-NOTE
  • 39a. [*Blue Light Specials store] – K-MART
  • 43a. [*The Boss's backup] – E STREET BAND – RIP Clarence Clemons; THE BOSS was an entry on Tuesday, but you probably didn’t need that help, did you?
  • 53a. [*All men have them] – Y CHROMOSOMES
  • 52d. [When spelled out, word that follows the beginnings of the starred answers in a memorable kids' show theme song] – M-O-U-S-E

That’s right – it’s the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club!  This was pretty fun(icello), even if the show was last on the air in the ’90s. I personally don’t mind a theme based on a show that’s not part of present pop culture, especially if it’s a quite well-known one like this.

Some great fill in here:

  • 8d. [Dartboard area] – BULLSEYE
  • 38d. [Decisive downfall] – My my, at WATERLOO Napoleon did surrender
  • 41d. [1980s sitcom set in rural Vermont] – NEWHART, which as you’ll recall was really all set in Dr. Bob Hartley’s mind
  • 45d. [Payment for cash] – ATM FEE

And some things I’m not as fond of:

  • 4d. [Argonauts' island refuge] – CORFU, which I know from crosswords
  • 61a. [Blakley of "Nashville"] – RONEE, which I didn’t know at all

I’d give it 4 stars even. Happy Fourth a little early!

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

Ink Well crossword 6/30/11 "Music Swap" answers • 6 30 11

So the Monday New York Times puzzle had a “mix tape” theme and this week’s Ink Well is described by 36a [Personalized album, and this puzzle's theme] as MIX CD. A technological advance, of sorts. Speaking of technology, how does the mechanics of this theme compare to that of the Times? The earlier puzzle contained the letters T-A-P-E “mixed up” (i.e. scrambled, but still consecutive) within each of four long entries. This puzzle works differently.

  • 18a. [Silicon valley fish farm product?] GOOGLE CODS.
  • 23a. [Prince song about the effects of low tide?] WHEN COVES DRY.
  • 46a. [What a budding preschool artist feels?] TRACING PRIDE.
  • 54a. [Wheat fields?] DOUGH CROPS.

What do they have in common, aside from tortured cluing and strange answers? Having unfortunately gotten 23a first, I wrongly assumed that a variety of spoonerism was being employed because the base phrase is obviously “When Doves Cry.” That assumption was close, but no utensil. There is indeed a swap going on in each of the themers, but it’s the letters C and D that get “mixed,” regardless of whether they are located at the front of words, as they just so happen to be in WHEN COVES DRY. To play it out, the original versions of the remaining three are Google Docs (a cloud-based word processor), trading price (a stock market term), and cough drops.

The concept is good, but in execution it seems to fall flat more than it shines. The first two entries are stronger. Both “trading price” and TRACING PRIDE seem slight, and I don’t necessarily associate tracing with preschool activities. DOUGH CROPS, in addition to being the only theme answer to feature a significant pronunciation change, is also questionable because wheat is so far removed from dough: the grain wheat is harvested and processed to produce flour which is then combined with water (and usually yeast and salt as a minimum) to create dough.

The rest of the fill for the most part avoids overuse of crosswordese, abbrevs. and partials (my so-called CAP Quotient™), but there are a lot of names, many of which I didn’t know.

  • [Thomas Hardy's fictitious __ Heath] EGDON; [B-movie actress Peters] LUAN; [Raspberry award winner and Travolta wife Kelly] PRESTON; [Retired golf star Lorena] OCHOA; ["Six Feet Under" brother] NATE; ["Mom, Inc." star] RIPA. I did recognize a couple after filling them in.
  • The familiar ones were (16a) ELIA, (39a) ANN, (25d) DRED, (30d) NEMO, (32d) TONI.

Some appealingly interesting long fill, including PEACE SIGNS, TOOTSIE POP, OSCAR NOD, BEER NUTS, HABANERA. Decent variety of letters though not an exemplar of scrabbliness. It’s neat that in the crossing of 10a and 11d (DVDS, VLOG) the “V” stands for “video” in both answers. The most unusual answers, for me, were 4d TENANTRY [Renter's association] and 40d SURAH (also spelled Sura) [Qur'an chapter].

The cluing is workmanlike rather than lively, and that’s my assessment of the entire puzzle: average, nothing to go gaga over, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a dross worc.

Aimee Lucido’s Fireball crossword, “Poof!”

Fireball 6/30 answers

Hey, wait a minute. This grid isn’t square! It’s 14×17, accommodating six theme entries without squishing them too close together and having compromised fill. The theme is VANISHING CREAM, and the CREAM in 16a vanishes one letter at a time as it progresses through the subsequent theme entries. CREAM, CRAM, CAM, AM, A. (What do you call that sort of word grouping?)

Can’t say I’ve heard of CAM NEWTON or AM I THE MAN, but I didn’t find any of the crossings to be unfair and none of the clues were intransigent. I commend both this puzzle and the LAT for  including a full Sue Grafton book title (A IS FOR ALIBI), rather than the “[letter] IS” fill-in-the-blank answer we see so often.

Highlights:

  • 14a. OLES! That’s pronounced “oh-leez,” if you didn’t know. I went to college across town from the Oles and we made fun of them. You know what their sports fans are wont to chant? “Um yah yah!,” that’s what. Wikipedia’s St. Olaf College article tells me the “Um Yah Yah” fight song is in waltz meter and trash-talks Carleton College. If it’s not obvious, this answer was a total gimme for me.
  • 29a. [Bean dip?] is a cute clue for a NOD of the head.
  • 48a. Most surprising clue ever for BLT: ["Giant ___" (Claes Oldenburg sculpture)].
  • 31d. I reckon [Easy-to-digest form of energy food] is a new clue for GEL. Anyone else have GOO? I was thinking of GU.
  • 45d. I like TEEING UP, but I could do without the leering clue, [Threesome activity before stroking balls].
  • 64d. Didn’t even see this clue while solving, but I like the approach. [What someone with pagophagia compulsively eats] is ICE. That’s way better than what people eat on that My Strange Addiction show, like pottery, glass, cigarette ashes, or Comet cleanser.

You know what quartet of words bug me? GAPE (32d: [Be star-struck, perhaps]) and the other three GA** words that could often be substituted. I’m always asking myself if I need GAPE, GAZE, GAWK, or (less commonly) GAWP. This is worse than OLAF/OLAV and SEE RED/SEETHE, I tell you.

Four stars.
Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Just One of Those Days” – Sam Donaldson’s review

A simple but fun theme today, as Ross celebrates four occasions known by a certain day of the week:

  • 20-Across: [October 29, 1929] is the day of the stock market crash, what is commonly thought of as the start of the Great Depression.  It’s known as BLACK TUESDAY .
  • 28-Across: SUPER SUNDAY is [When the professional football season ends].  Hmm.  I know it as “Super Bowl Sunday” and not just “Super Sunday.”  There’s a Super Tuesday, yes, but just a Super Sunday?  I’m less convinced.
  • 44-Across: The [Peak time for on-line shopping after Thanksgiving] is CYBER MONDAY.  That brings us to today’s quiz question: In what year did the first “Cyber Sunday” take place?  Ten points if you nail it exactly, and three points if your guess is within two years either way.  (The answer appears at the end of this post.)
  • 55-Across: The [2003 Lindsay Lohan film] is FREAKY FRIDAY.  Perhaps this song was on the soundtrack.  (If you clinked on the link, I’m sorry.)

The long Downs, PICAYUNE ([Paltry]) and CORN ROWS ([Braided hair style]), are terrific, as are IN A KNOT ([Entangled]) and SHTICKS ([Comedy bits]).  I like the clue for NAPE, [Place to pick up a puppy], even though I have seen it before.  The [Light Carriages], SHAYS, was new to me, and ADDER crossing REDID ain’t pretty, but otherwise I have no complaints.  A solid 3.5 stars, as Amy would say.

Quiz answer:  According to Wikipedia, “The term made its debut on November 28, 2005 in a Shop.org press release entitled ”Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping.’ … [T]he term was coined based on research showing that 78% of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving….”

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

BEQ 345 solution

BEQ throws a BBQ in today’s puzzle, or at least a BQ: those are the initials of the five theme entries:

  • BEAUTY QUEEN (very good)
  • BUSINESS QUARTER (probably a thing)
  • BE QUIET!  (very good)
  • BURNING QUESTION (excellent)
  • BLOCK QUOTES (good)

So that’s decent themage, given a kick by the BEQ/BBQ tie.  The fill is up to Brendan’s usual high standards: QDOBATREE TRUNKNKOTBSWEE PEAin full, SUCH AS and I SHALL are worth mentioning.  Here are my top four clues:

  • 1a. [Quick dismissal] for NAH.  Had the first two letters and still thought it might be NAP.
  • 51a. ["Will Jennifer An(n)iston ever find Mr. Right?," e.g.] for BURNING QUESTION.
  • 28d. [TV boy who attends the Little Dipper School] for ELROY Jetson.
  • 62d. [Lines at a self-checkout] for UPC.

3.93 stars is my numeric opinion.  Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a great holiday weekend, everyone!

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21 Responses to Thursday, 6/30/11

  1. seahedges says:

    Didn’t like EVO? I was happy to find him here, a welcome change from old hat EVE and EVA.

  2. Gareth says:

    Really cute NYT theme!

    Also, re the LAT: how does TYSONS not make on your list of ugsome fill?? I have never heard of REPINE, but this one I suspect is a just a vocabulary lacuna…

  3. Evad says:

    I’m more familiar with CAM NEELY for the FB skater, thinking maybe he spelled it NEELEY. Cute theme from Aimee, wonder if she’ll be working with Tyler when she gets to Google?

  4. SaveDaveMcKenna says:

    “Easeful” should only be allowed once every 5 years or so.

  5. Matt M. says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT today… I liked the theme a lot and I thought the fill was very high-quality.

  6. Howard B says:

    NY Times was interesting. Not my favorite, but I liked figuring out what the abbrevs. would be as I filled in the crossings. ALAN BALL stumps me whenever I run into it. There’s so many potential 4-letter Alans running around the puzzle now.

    Yes, CAM NEELY is the correct spelling.

  7. AV says:

    Loved NYT today – 5 stars!

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    I can’t let 57-D ROBYN Hitchcock pass with out paying tribute to a fellow Wykehamist, and great, if a touch surreal, musician/songwriter. Though he predated me by well over a decade, he was a legend at the school when I attended. Here’s a great song of his regarding our alma mater:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf7MLz3sNdk

    Oh, and Amy, have you never been “half in love with easeful death”?

  9. Alicia says:

    I was amazed to see ROBYN Hitchcock appear! He’s one of my favorite musicians. (I go to Macalester, alma mater of LILA’s husband DeWitt, and thus plead all ignorance of you Northfieldians.)

  10. John Haber says:

    I liked the theme. ALAN BALL meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t remember Beatty, making the mysterious MESNE harder. (I guess it’s not the middle word in the handwriting on the wall!)

  11. bob stigger says:

    Alicia — another Mac-ite! I suppose the fact that our paths haven’t crossed could be attributed to my having graduated in 1971. Bob

  12. john farmer says:

    It must be Sue-Grafton-gets-her-full-title-in-the-grid-for-a-change day. Two down, 24* to go. (* Eventually.)

    I really enjoyed the FB from Aimee Lucido. Very cool theme. Last square was for ___ Guy. SPY and SLY seemed more obvious than SHY. Took a while to see. I went to St Olaf’s for my nephew’s graduation but OLES I didn’t remember. (Trivia: Jay Gatz was an Ole before he dropped out, moved east, and became the Great Gatsby.)

  13. joon says:

    i really liked the NYT today too. never seen anything like that theme before, and that always counts for something. i even liked EASEFUL, because it evoked keats’s “ode to a nightingale” (as daniel alluded to). EVO is a new one but looks like a damned useful addition to the ol’ word list.

    it’s hardly fair to compare them, but i liked the tausig MIX CD theme a lot better than the MIX TAPE one from the monday NYT. can you imagine making a mix tape in 2011? the other day tyler hinman tweeted that he was looking for a drive to read a 1.44MB double-density floppy disk. i got a kick out of that one.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    Hmm. Full Sue Grafton titles in two puzzles must rank as Crossword Synchronicity of the Year (CSY)… unless, of course, that Mister Ed quote puzzle was this year.

  15. Noam D. Elkies says:

    CORFU is entirely legitimate. RONEE, on the other hand, is no CORFU, just FU…

  16. Roger says:

    SIM? can someone explain? thanks, please reply to maxkatz6@gmail.com

  17. Tuning Spork says:

    Roger,

    SIM is Alastair Sim, who portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol”.

    Hope you return to read this, ‘cuz I ain’t about to e-mail ya ’bout it. :-P

    UPDATE:
    Aw, who am I kidding. E-mail sent. :-(

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Yeah, I sent the email.

  19. pannonica says:

    What kind of fiends are you?

Comments are closed.