Thursday, 7/7/11

Fireball 6:36 
NYT 5:45 
LAT 5:06 (NLF) 
CS untimed (Sam) 
Tausig 6:03 (pannonica) 
BEQ 4:13! 

Thanks to Joon, Jeffrey, and Sam for blogging the Wednesday puzzles! I’ve gone so far north, I’ve lost my Verizon data access on my phone. And while the cabin has wi-fi, I didn’t get logged in until this morning. On the plus side, the marshy edge of the bay is beautifully soothing, and my kid and his cousins are having a blast in the water. But the sun! There is too much of it. Then again, it’s better than the ridiculous thunderstorm we drove through last night.

Caleb Rasmussen’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 7 7 11 0707

Pfft. My browser crashed when I was half done with the NYT post. You know what? I’m on vacation and it’s time for s’mores by the fire pit. It’s a pity, because what I had was both articulate and enthusiastic, and now you’ll get the squooshed version.

Bonus points for a fresh visual shtick riffing on the popularity of violating those NO U-TURN signs. Everywhere a U shows up in this puzzle, the words make a turn, so two crossing words’ back ends trade places. Each corner has a pair, such as RECUR and SHOULDER looking like RECULDER and SHOUR.

Since NO U-TURN has two U’s (in symmetrical spots!), that central entry turns twice (though it never makes an actual U-turn), mucking up the lovely pair of GOOSEBUMPS and GESUNDHEIT.

OSSIAN is a bit tough, while BALLER and BYE NOW and I’M NO FOOL are super-fresh. Barely noticed the handful of abbrevs and partials while solving because the U-turns kept me busy. Fun puzzle! I’m giving it 4.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 42″

Fireball Themeless 42 answers

Does it make a mini-theme if the constructor includes two answers with a similar structure, both from the hip-hop arena? BUBBA SPARXXX and OutKast’s SPEAKERBOXXX both end with a trio of X’S, and it definitely helps the solver to have seen the name and title before as these answers do not have intuitive spelling.

Unfamiliars:

  • I have heard of the James Patterson character Alex Cross (thank you, Entertainment Weekly book reviews!) but didn’t know there was a book called I, ALEX CROSS. I can’t say I’ve seen the term SEAL RING before—dictionary tells me it’s a historical thing, a ring used to impress sealing wax. And I don’t know that I’ve seen the word form PRIGGERY before. Jiggery-pokery, yes.

Likes:

  • The two-word phrase GAMBLE ON, clued simply with [Play]—as in “play the ponies.” Did you want something along the lines of gamboling here?
  • GARAMOND, the font named after a type designer. We just had a less distinguished font name, TAHOMA, in another recent crossword.
  • THAT’S AMORE” usually gets the mere FITB treatment, ["That's ___"]. Promotion time!
  • I like the word CATHOLIC in its [Universal sense]. Rather ballsy for the Roman Catholic church to plunk that word right in its name, isn’t it? “I’m telling you, this thing’s gonna take off. Especially with the right name. It’s all about marketing, Peter. You gotta name it to claim it.”
  • VANNA WHITE, full-name action.

The Scowl-o-Meter remained at bay while I solved this puzzle. A solid 4.25 stars.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 7 7 11

LA Times crossword answers, 7 7 11

All rise – court is in session!

  • 17a. [Fine print in Yogi's contract?] is BEAR CLAUSE – we’re in for legal puns. Vic Fleming, did you have a hand in this? No, I’m sure Marti’s well capable of handling this.
  • 25a. [Court allegations requiring consideration?] are ATTENTION PLEASPlease and pleas both stem from the Latin placere, so I call shenanigans here – too similar in meaning for my taste.
  • 42a. [Product liability problems for WIlly Wonka?] are CHOCOLATE TORTS – not to be confused with the Malt-ese Falcon from Tuesday’s puzzle.
  • 57a. [Vague religious law?] – Benedict XVI is a LOOSE CANON Pope on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules. (Coming to theaters this summer.)
  • Bonus entry! 40a. [Courtroom cover-up] - ROBE – that’s not a jagged edge at all.

So we’ve got pure-synonym law puns – not bad at all.  Mix in some well-clued fill, and you’ve got a nice puzzle – all on the tail of the Trial of the Year. (Seriously, though – that’s more than enough about Casey Anthony.) Good clues:

  • 11d. [Team with a lot of pull?] - OXEN – cute, but perhaps on the easier side.  They get tougher!
  • 20a. [Body in a belt] - ASTEROID was somehow easy for me, even off of just the first two letters. (That could’ve ended right poorly.)
  • 45d. [Prom dress] - TUXEDO! Dress wasn’t meant in the ladylike sense, and that threw me for a loop.
  • 50d. [Chorus line] - ALTO, though I was think along the lines of “shoo bop, sha wadda wadda, yippity boom de boom.”
  • 58d. [Writing on an urn] is an ODE, even if it’s not physically on said urn.

What made ’50s and ’60s pop acts DUOs more often than any other decade? I can think of a lot of groups from that time period with three or four members, too. And NILS clued as [A lot of nothing] leaves me with nothing but a grimace – I’d rather see COOL, ALPO and NOLO (courtroom!) in that section.

Judgment is 3.75 stars for the PLAINTiff – next case!

Updated Thursday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Trunk Show” – Sam Donaldson’s review

I decided to print this crossword out and take it with me to an appointment where I knew there would be some down time. As I grabbed the paper from the printer, I paid no attention to the fact that my printer was so low on toner that entire streaks of the grid and clues never printed. The top half printed better than the bottom half, so the grid was more or less fine, but 25% of the Across clues and easily 50% of the Down clues were either missing entirely or too hard to read with any precision or confidence. It turned out to be an interesting solving experience, as I was left to guess at many of the crossings, especially at the bottom.

Now that I see the complete version on my computer, I see that I didn’t do too badly. I couldn’t get ELAINE, the [May of Hollywood], because the clues for 6- and 7-Down didn’t print at all. I managed to get A-ETA for 6-Down and was tempted to write ALETA, a little Crosswordese nugget that I knew I should have known. That would have been the right answer, as it was clued [Prince Valiant's wife]. I only had T-L for 7-Down, with no clue to work with at all. TEL didn’t seem right given the -INE ending to ELAINE, and I couldn’t think of any other options. Turns out it was TAL, but I don’t feel too bad because the clue, [Chess champion Mikhail], wouldn’t have meant anything to me anyway.

I had no clue (literally!) for 55-Across, but I had the AB- in place. Sadly, I could not read the clue for the corresponding Down entry, so I had to guess. I went with ABA, making the crossing GOADS, which seemed viable to me. Alas, the clue for 55-Across was [Blood-typing letters] and not [Org. for blood-sucking professionals], so the answer was ABO (meaning the crossing was GOODS, clued [Merchandise].

Like I said, it was an interesting challenge to solve a puzzle with about two-thirds of the clues. Speed solvers looking for ways to increase the difficulty of easy puzzles are welcome to use my low-toner printer to add this extra wrinkle.

Oops. I suppose I should discuss the theme, just in case you missed it. 38-Across, the central Across entry, is clued [Joyce Kilmer poem and this puzzle's theme]. The answer is TREES, and the four other theme entries are two-word nouns where the second word is a type of tree:

  • 17-Across: The [Pastor's assistant] is a CHURCH ELDER. The elder tree is also known as a “Sambucus,” which I happen to think is a terrific name.
  • 24-Across: [Some evidence left by a smoker] is not YELLOW TEETH, BURN HOLES, or AWFUL STENCH, but CIGARETTE ASH. The ash tree’s real name is “Fraxinus,” which sounds like the name of a pupil in Slytherin.
  • 46-Across: Where I grew up, the answer to [Chew choice] would be KODIAK, SKOAL, or COPENHAGEN. Here, it’s SUGARLESS GUM, the recommended choice from four out of five dentists surveyed (the fifth one is just a money-grubbing louse).
  • 56-Across: The [Powerful toxic defoliant] is AGENT ORANGE. Between this reference to our fearless leader’s online nom-de-plume and the answer to 11-Across, SAM, one could accuse Keller of pandering to us. (That’s a joke, just to be clear.)

It seems like there’s never a RESTROOM in your grid when you’re looking for one, so it’s nice to have the [Road stop convenience] so readily available in this puzzle. I’m not sure how I feel about it abutting AERATES, but, hey, it could be a lot worse.

Brendan Quigley’s blog contest crossword, “Elementary, My Dear”

It’s a contest puzzle, so no answers, no spoilers, no nothing. Gotta figure out the theme yourself if you want to enter Brendan’s contest. The prize is a copy of The Penguin Classics Crosswords Book, which includes puzzles by all sorts of lovely constructors, including but not limited to Brendan, me, Joon Pahk, Patrick Blindauer, and many more.

Four stars.

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

Tausig Ink Well crossword "Opening Numbers" 7/7/11 • answers

Only three theme entries, but they’re substantial and there is much lengthy and interesting  fill throughout the puzzle.

Each of the themers starts with a familiar object, slaps on a numerical prefix, and clues the new phrase. The prefixes, of course, are sequential.

  • 17a. [Portable form of imaginary meat?] UNICORN ON THE COB. Certainly it’s a fantastic object, but then again, any type of meat “on the cob” is bizarre to imagine. On the other hand, there is this:
  • 38a. [Arctic beast subject to mood swings?] BIPOLAR BEAR. An oldie but a goodie; probably the seed entry.
  • 58a. [Kid's wheels used for extreme stunts?] TRICYCLE OF ABUSE. Walking—or perhaps pedaling—a fine line here, as the clue guides the solver away from a much less acceptable, but probably more immediate, image.

I found these three answers inspired but not exactly satisfying. Wacky, familiar, then weird. It’s hard to find fault with long fill entries such as SHISH KEBAB, ORDINARY JOE, GEORGE W BUSH, or the paired stacks of sevens in the NW and SE corners (ENSNARE/MOHICANS, EMULATE/NON-ACID, OVERSEE/SEERESS, REVISES/SEETHES).

Some examples of fresh cluing:

  • 29a. TIKIS [Cheesy bar carvings]
  • 32a. SEXT [Blue note?]
  • 45a. VIBE [XXL alternative] Those are magazines.
  • 46a. GYM [Place where it takes months to get guns?] Despite the lack of a waiting period.

All this goodness comes with a price, though: far too many abbrevs., often bunched together. In the northeast WAC is alongside WTO and neighbors TED, which intersects IED. The southwest has TSA/RCA, the fairly obscure Japanese-American rock guitarist James] IHA, and then BCE. In those same area, I appreciate the symmetrical acrosses of WWW and AAA. There are many others throughout the grid, but my least favorite is NIC [Neighbor of Hond.] for Nicaragua.

Despite these various slights, the good outweighed the bad and the puzzle was enjoyable.

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20 Responses to Thursday, 7/7/11

  1. AV says:

    Beautiful NYT – great theme, lovely execution. Amy, you are a tough grader – this one was a 6 on my scale! :-)

  2. joon says:

    i loved both the NYT and FB. once every three or so years sounds about right for a “turning” gimmick, and this one hit the spot. all of the U-including phrases were good or better, and i like the goofiness of some of the entries that seem to be in the grid, like NO UMPS and BELL CUFF. BRURON is far from mellifluous, though.

    the NE corner of the fireball was insane. i had GAMB____, BUBBASPAR___, and _____CROSS before i finally said, “screw it” and guessed XXX. then SPANX and MR FOX seemed pretty obvious and it all fell. but egad, those clues were … what’s beyond outrageous? nutrageous? loved the challenge, though.

  3. john_price says:

    Loved the NYT, but spent seven minutes looking for my mistake before I realized I had “SWEARS ON” instead of “SWEARS IN”.

    I also greatly enjoyed the LAT’s dual reference to the ENGLISH HORN / COR ANGLAIS, which is most notable to me because Paul McCartney holds one on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and which I think sounds nicer than an oboe. I always think ALAR is AGAR, and was pleased when the latter showed up after I first had it in place of the former.

  4. anna says:

    in the FB, was i the only person who put THELOVEBELOW in at first, instead of SPEAKERBOXXX? same number of letters!

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Loved it! That frustration of “NEBU__ has to be NEBULA but it doesn’t fit!!!” Huge a-ha when it dawned!!! I am amazed at how I couldn’t get KRAMER with ?RA?ER. That area was where I got bogged down!!

  6. Evad says:

    Loved the NYT theme as well–great way to treat a common phrase literally.

  7. Matt says:

    NYT and FB both excellent. Got stuck in the NE corner of FB, and looked up MRFOX– once I saw that ‘X’, it was easy to fill in the rest. And the double turn in NOUTURN was pretty neat.

  8. Karen says:

    Once the Tausig is blogged, could someone explain 45A to me?

  9. Jenni says:

    Loved the NYT. Didn’t catch the “U” thing until I was done, so while I realized it had to be some kind of turn I was looking for something else – a description of the literal direction of the turn, or something. It was the shoulder/recur pair that gave it to me and then the rest of the puzzle fell very smoothly. Perfect Thursday fun.

  10. sps says:

    @Karen—They’re both magazines devoted to hip hop/urban culture.

  11. Jan (danjan) says:

    I loved the NYT puzzle too, but I had the same problem with SWEARS IN/ON. I didn’t swear, but it reminded me that this was the second puzzle in less than a week that had a neat gimmick that I got, but was foiled by one letter in the fill. I’ll get over it – I hope by next Thurs or Fri!

  12. sbmanion says:

    I remember some years ago when will Shortz announced that an upcoming Saturday puzzle had a gimmick, prompting some, including me, to be angry that we had been forewarned. I think the puzzle became known as the Gee puzzle because it featured a right turn. I was proud of myself that day because I did solve it and it turned out to have a then record low number of solvers.

    I saw a gimmick very early on today but never saw “the” gimmick. I found it very difficult because I did not realize that “u” triggered the turn.

    A truly superb puzzle.

    Steve

  13. David H says:

    Loved the puzzle – felt very proud of myself when I discovered the theme but – did anyone else notice that none of these were U-turns? A U-turn, as has been defined in countless other crosswords as a 180. These were left- and right-turns. Brilliant, nonetheless, and I am in agreement – great Thursday fun.

  14. joon says:

    of course i noticed, but i don’t mind the puzzle reinterpreting “U turn” as “turn when you get to a U” instead of “turn so that your path resembles a U”. that’s wordplay.

  15. Howard B says:

    NY Times – I needed to come here for the explanation, but I do love the theme. I just didn’t see it, as often happens to me on the visual puzzles. Nothing else I could do to comprehend, so thanks for the help. I finally dropped ‘U’s in my blank squares after a couple minutes of blank-stare struggling and it was accepted. Although I feel a little sad that I had to have it explained to me, it happens. Just not a visual learner, I suppose :).

    I really liked most of the FB, but that NE corner was unsolvable for me. Every clue in that corner was purely trivia-based (and so not inferable), and I went 0-for-trivia in the corner, needing Google to the rescue. Even knowing the X’s from the theme didn’t help. But a clever mini-theme nevertheless.

    Rough solving day here, better luck next time. Anyone else that had trouble, you’re not alone.

  16. Gareth says:

    Re the Tausig: Feel the need to point out my puzzle on your forum: http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=579. Sure not the first to do this theme (it’s a pretty obvious one), but I went one further…

  17. Tuning Spork says:

    Same here re: Fireball NE corner. Had GAMBLE ON and ?????CROSS, and guessed correctly at SEAL RING — though I’ve never heard of a ring with a Coat of Arms (or, Family Crest) being called a “seal ring”. Did a reveal for SPANX, saw that X and that 16-A must be EARP, and then the corner fell all kerblooey-like.

  18. john farmer says:

    Nothing wrong with the EARP clue — big role & movie — except that I can think of many other Earps (Costner, Russell, Fonda, O’Brian) before I’d think of Lancaster, and Lancaster had an even more iconic role in 1957: JJ Hunsecker, in “Sweet Smell of Success.” Could have used a crossing or two. Same for the Clooney role. Same for the rest of the NE, which had a load of know-it-or-not answers for one corner.

    Great debut in the NYT. I stared at the grid a long time there too, but the turns on U finally came into focus. Terrific work from Caleb R.

  19. John Haber says:

    I was impressed by the NYT theme and the work it took me. It took me a while to get the idea of turns to fit things in, longer to get why U-turn worked when things weren’t making U-turns! But great, and avoided my unfave of UIE as well.

    I was then fooled by both the SW and center. In the SW, one doesn’t have the handle I was expecting that, without turning, things wouldn’t fit. And then there was one of two TV channels and BALLER new to me (both hiss) plus the obstacle of the quote. The center had me expecting symmetry, so NO U TURNS got me looking to make “gesutu” into a word. That and more TV and ask.com, which I could swear wasn’t a search engine at all, and Jove, which I vaguely recognize but don’t think is available here, where Time Warner is getting a virtual monopoly (with challenge from Verizon fiber optics). But still a terrific challenge.

  20. Jordan says:

    Yeah, the NE corner of the FB was brutal.
    And I had Mr. Fox right away.

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