Thursday, 7/28/11

NYT 6:38 
Fireball 5:23 
LAT 6:17 (Neville) 
CS 5:54 (Sam) 
Tausig 6:04 (pannonica) 
BEQ 6:07 (MG) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 7 28 11 0728

Rather a tricky rebus puzzle, as there’s also a topsy-turvy aspect to it. There are seven symmetrically placed Across answers with {UP} rebus squares in them. The Down answers that intersect the {UP} squares are actually Up answers. 3-Down is PAUPER, as in The Prince and the Pauper, but it’s backwards and rebused so it looks like RE{UP}AP if you read in the conventional downward direction.

Now, the Across rebus answers, they all use the word UP as such. The Down-is-Up answers mix things up. There’s also NO{UP}, or UPON (one of only two UP words with an UP aspect); {UP}NERP, or PRENUP (the most confusing part of the grid for me until the light finally dawned, and of all the ways to clue that crossing TOR, good gravy, an obscure actor is the least friendly); T{UP}S, or SUPT. (Hello! Tup is the word for a ram making whoopie with a ewe); STES{UP}, or UPSETS; S{UP}OS, or SOUPS; and {UP}HW, or WHUP.

The inclusion of A CUT ABOVE and TOP THIS is mildly confusing, as they seem faintly connected to the theme, but I think they’re just randomly coincidental here.

Fill I could do without: ODER, AH SO, BRAE, TOR, ALERO, SSSS, OTERO, TSETSE, RAREE. RAREE! Been a while since its last appearance, hasn’t it? Or did we have it in the last few months and it felt like it had been gone from puzzles for years?

I liked the challenge of the upwards answers and the find-the-next-rebus square hunt, but some of the fill left me unenthused. 3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Time to Begin”

Fireball 2-28

This week’s theme is hidden HEBREW MONTHS, with Tishri, Nisan, Elul, and Adar lurking within the otherwise unrelated theme answers. Those theme answers are lively, but I have no particular affinity for Hebrew months. And I’m not sure why the puzzle’s running now, two months before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). And why these four months? Is there a rationale beyond “because Peter could find good phrases that hid these ones but none of the other month names”?

The stacks of 7s in the corners are pretty good, particularly VIVALDI and P.W. BOTHA. There are some bizarre clues. Of all the ways to clue ESSEX, you go with the whaleship that inspired Moby-Dick? Never heard that tale.

Favorite clues: The ones for VIVALDI (trivia I think pannonica referenced in a Crossword Fiend post a few weeks back), LIONESS, and BRA.

3.875 stars. (Peter doesn’t like it when I give puzzle ratings to the nearest tenth, so I’m moving to the nearest eighth. Or maybe the nearest thousandth. I haven’t quite decided.)

John Dunn’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review

LA Times crossword answers, 7 28 11

LA Times crossword answers, 7 28 11

Dear John,

  • 69a/1a. [Spend time frivolously] – MONKEY / AROUND… grumble… why are we starting cross-referenced? Why is the start of this answer in the lower right but the end in the upper left? This makes me think that the entries go around the puzzle. So misleading. I have nothing positive to say—flip these entries!
  • 16a. [Breakfast option] – SOFT-BOILED EGGS. Who eats more than one of these at once? (I’m still unhappy from the first entry.)
  • 24a/51a. [Presley hit with "glue" in the lyrics] – STUCK / ON YOU - Okay, I like that clue, and this split isn’t terrible.
  • 38a. ["A Clockwork Orange" star] – MALCOLM MCDOWELL, whose name I remembered right once I had the theme figured out.
  • 60a. [End the chat room suspense, in a way] – MEET FACE TO FACE. Warning: This could end with you on To Catch a Predator!
  • 17d. [Like this answer's position, and what can follow the starts of [the above]] – IN THE MIDDLE. Ha! Nice visual element, and yes, it legitimately follows the beginnings of each of the other theme entries. Cool concept here.

74 words – but a fair number in the corners are 3-letter words, which saddens me, but I’m okay with that. I would rather trade fixing 69a/1a.’s positions for four more words. Cool words:

  • CHURLS – can we see this word more often in life in general, please? It has an oozing connotation that’s almost onomatopoetic.
  • DEO gratiam habeamus is [Kentucky's Latin state motto], and since I’m moving there right after Lollapuzzoola 4, this is pretty cool.
  • PARADOX, which is of course two dox.
  • NO FUN, like the 69a/1a. issue.
  • ACCT. NO. is the Asst. D. A. of the financial world.

Hey, remember how 1a. is linked to 69a., but 69a. is the first part of the answer? Yeah, me too.

Odd bits of the huh or who’s that nature:

  • Czech this out: A blog dedicated to [80's tennis great] HANA [Mandlikova]!
  • ILONA Massey?
  • How is PEPSI “informal” – because it should be PepsiCo?

In all: This is a pretty solid concept brought down a little by 3-letter words and a lot by not understanding which way one reads English. I want to be able to give this puzzle more than 4 stars for the concept, but the 1-Across sketchiness takes this down to a 3 for me. Sorry, John.

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Don’t Bug Me!” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, July 28

Break out the fumigators!  This crossword is riddled with pests, as the four theme entries are all two-word nouns where the first word is a type of insect (or arachnid):

  • 17-Across: The [Spot for antique vendors] is a FLEA MARKET.  There was a time in my youth, honest to goodness, when I thought a flea market was the souvenir stand for a flea circus.  I kinda wish I was right about that one.
  • 26-Across: I liked the clue for BEETLE BAILEY, [Comic strip character whose eyes are never seen].  ANDY CAPP would be another possible answer, and isn’t there a Doonesbury character that also fits this description?
  • 46-Across: The [Primate with a prehensile tail] is a SPIDER MONKEYSpider Monkey, Spider Monkey, does whatever a Spider Monkey does.  Can he swing from a web?  No he can’t, he’s a monkey.  Look out!  He is the Spider Monkey!
  • 65-Across: I didn’t know that a CRICKET BAT is [Sports equipment typically made from willow].  But given my lack of knowledge about all things cricket anyway, I’m not surprised.

Anyone else creeped out by the fact that we have a BEDSPREAD in the grid among the bugs?  Fortunately, the rest of the grid does not appear to be infected.  TEXARKANA and its two rare letters are always a welcome sight, and another X lurks on the opposite end of the grid (though only in this puzzle would one see ODIE so close to SEXY).  Other highlights include MADE UP, IN A BIT, and the TV network A AND E.  I also like GETS OLD, though that’s also an apt description of entries like ANIL and ANNEE.

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

Tausig Ink Well puzzle "Twin Sets" 7/29/11 answers

It took a while for me to break into the theme entries, but once I got wise to the game, completing the puzzle was like being swept away by floodwaters; it was hard to keep up without drowning or being smashed against rocks.

Each of the four long themers, of thirteen and fourteen letters, consists of the same word repeated as an alternate rendition of a well-known phrase.

  • 20a. [1980s sitcom starring twins Jean and Liz Sagal]. TROUBLE TROUBLE = Double Trouble. Never heard of it. Personally, would have preferred a clue for Stevie Ray Vaughn’s backing band from the same era.
  • 25a. [Like David Bowie and Anne Heche] SEXUAL SEXUAL = bisexual. Knew I was in trouble when ‘heterochromic’ didn’t fit. Besides, I didn’t know if Anne Heche had eyes of two different colors. Besides besides, I didn’t know she was bisexual. Whatever.
  • 46a. [Cheaters] TIMERS TIMERS = two-timers. They hang out with srebbats.
  • 54a. [Person with multiple passports] CITIZEN CITIZEN = dual citizen. Not secret agent. I’m sure the watch company Citizen makes models with two time zones, but I stray too far.

As you can see, each original phrase has a different word or prefix: double, bi-, two, dual. That’s to be expected in a well-constructed theme. I enjoyed the theme, how they looked strange as the letters dripped in, the aha! moment, and the exhilaration of rapidly completing them.

What I didn’t like was a good chunk of the regular fill.

  • Icky partial dead-center across ["Snap into __ Jim!" ("Macho Man" ad line)] A SLIM. Long-winded clue for unsavory [sic] answer, given pride-of-place in the grid.
  • 40a. [Pirate's refrain] YOHO. Yoho? Come on. Everyone knows that fictional pirates always say “Yo ho HO (and a bottle of rum).” Yo-ho might, however, be a good name for little bottles of Yoo-Hoo approximately-chocolate drink.
  • 60a. [March tourney] NCAAS. Are the NCAA men’s basketball finals really referred to as the NCAAs?
  • 62a. [Apocraphyl fiddler] NERO. Was really thrown by the misspelling, thinking it might be related to chlorophyll, which got me thinking about fiddlehead ferns, and then—casting farther about—fiddler crabs. “Apocryphal”
  • 25d. [Circus __ ] SEAL. Doesn’t seem much of an in-the-language term to me.
  • Needlessly obscure clue for 15a [UK guitarist/singer Kate] NASH. Yes, I fell into the trap of thinking Kate BUSH, but there are plenty of other Nashes to choose from, even if some of them may be too tired and overused in crosswords. I appreciate that the Tausigs—like the Onions, BEQs, and others—are “edgier” than the major outlet puzzles, but this felt too far. Besides, she may be more well known as a pianist than as a guitar player, though I’m just being grumbly at this point.

On a brighter note, there was some sparkly fill as well as some clever cluing.

  • The former: JETTISON, ANALYSTS, ACTUALLY, CHATTEL, SUDOKU, FLACK.
  • The latter: [You pay them to mess with your head] ANALYSTS; [One working with feet professionally] POET; [Grab coffee, perhaps] MEET UP; [Sending a message indirectly?] CCING (not ICING—yes, I know).

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “P.O. Boxes”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 353 solution

The PO-PO are swarming around BEQ’s house today.  No crime has been committed, though — it’s a rebus where each of the five theme entries contain two PO cells.  Check it:

  • (PO)LE (PO)SITION is the classic video game.
  • GREGG (PO)(PO)VICH is the coach who has led the Spurs to four NBA titles in the last 15 years.
  • (PO)UND FOR (PO)UND is SRR’s boxing autobio.
  • HIP(PO)(PO)TAMUS is a big animal with a wide yawn.
  • (PO)T(PO)URRI is the classic Jeopardy! category.  And candle scent.

Five strong theme entries — all familiar except the book, but it’s easy to guess and makes sense and a pun once you’ve got it.  Extra (PO)ints for the two entries where the rebus cells are adjacent, and for putting the extra one across the middle.  Rebus bonus, is what we call that in the business.  Title is exact but gives the game away right off the bat — come on, BEQ, how about “5-0 in the House”?  We can handle it.

Five random observations:

  1. I got 37d with just the (PO) in square 2.  Aw, yeah…that’s why the whole puzzle took me just 6:07.
  2. QADDAFI opposite NA(PO)LEON in the grid.  This puzzle has a gangster subtheme!
  3. Do you think anyone has ever ANTEED an ENOL at the scientists’ poker game?
  4. 10 is a lot of rebus cells for a 15×15.
  5. AW, GEEZ, this puzzle’s fill is Scrabbly.

4.05 stars is what I say.  Your opinion may be higher or lower, and feel free to let Brendan know by hitting “rate it.”  Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a pleasantly overproductive day, everyone!

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15 Responses to Thursday, 7/28/11

  1. joon says:

    why those four hebrew months? well, for starters, i think those are the only four that goyim are likely to have heard of. they’re certainly the only four i could name. though admittedly i know ELUL only from crosswords—it used to be my nemesis. and actually, LITTLE LULU was by far the toughest theme answer for me, so i guess maybe it’s still my nemesis. oh, maybe i know one more: tisha b’av is the tishth day of av, right? meaning av is a month? somebody jewisher than me, help me out here. anyway, i think it’s a perfectly good theme, although i don’t know why it’s running now. but it’s a good thing i’ve heard of TEANECK, or i’d be rolling my eyes right about now (, peter).

    alan’s puzzle had a neat gimmick and some great theme answers, enough to overcome the weak fill, i think. i wasn’t distracted by A CUT ABOVE or TOP THIS, but they’re great fill.

  2. Plot says:

    I should be Jewish enough to clear up the issues relating to the Fireball…

    I don’t believe the title, “Time to Begin” refers to the beginning of Rosh Hashanah; as Amy pointed out, that would not make any sense at this time of year. Since the ‘B’ is capitalized, I think it’s supposed to refer to the time as perceived by Menachem Begin (as well as lesser-known Israelis with the same surname).

    Joon, I think you have the right explanation for the choice of months. You’re also right about tisha b’av, though your translation is a hair off; tisha means ‘ninth’, but the ‘a’ is not a suffix that makes it an ordinal (tisha is modified from the cardinal ‘teysha’). Horribly nitpicky, I know, but I figure another member of the tribe will correct me if I don’t point it out.

    Now, a further reason that the other 8 months were omitted is that they are too scrabbly to fit inside common phrases: Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar-Beth, Iyar, Sivan and Tamuz. But that’s just me; I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else could think of a valid theme entry with some of those months.

  3. Plot says:

    Oops, I forgot to write what I actually thought of the puzzle itself. I didn’t actually figure out the theme until I had finished 80-90%, so I treated it like a medium Peter Gordon themeless, with one or two questionable entries outshined by some very novel cluing everywhere else (particularly 3d)

    Also, I have a serious bone to pick with today’s CS. It’s kind of early so I won’t spoil it for anyone yet, but it shouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out what I mean.

  4. Erik says:

    Who’s Scotti Shrite? Oh…

  5. anna says:

    i think i feel the same way about the fireball theme — good entries on their own, but the theme was arbitraryish. as always in the fb puzzles, though, the fill shone and was clued wonderfully.

    the thing that really got me was the clue for ALOU — yes, it’s an answer that’s been in 2398473287 other puzzles and it’s always nice to have a new clue for an old entry, but the clue was one big ?!?!? to me. is there anyone who actually knows that kind of obscure sports trivia?

    TEANECK is totally new to me, too. i think this whole puzzle would make a lot more sense to me if i lived on the east coast rather than west. it was all solvable and very enjoyable but there were parts of it that just weren’t meant for me, i think

  6. anna says:

    oh, ha, i just now looked at the fb answer pdf — TEANECK makes more sense now :)

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    I found my mistake in the NYT – before I got the rebus, I looked at the clue “Refill when you don’t really need to” and put TOPE. Thought it was a great clue for that bit of crosswordese! Ok TOP UP, that works, too.

    Plot – I see your issue on the CS.

  8. pannonica says:

    Is it 41d in the CS?

  9. pannonica says:

    Oh, pooh, Jeffrey. Okay, I retract that complaint.

  10. joon says:

    thanks plot. another bit of failed wordplay on my part. i see now from wikipedia that tishri is not the 9th month, so it’s not related to tisha.

  11. Lois says:

    Joon: I didn’t understand your second note. As Plot said, you were right, Av is a month. The Hebrew calendar has either 12 or 13 months, depending on whether it is a leap year. The extra month is Adar-Beth, a second Adar. But maybe you know all this. I think that Plot didn’t like your truncation of tisha for the Hebrew-English combo tishth. It’s true that Tishri is not related to tisha, but you didn’t say there was one in your first note.

  12. Gareth says:

    Clever, but tough NYT!! Played hunt for the error, which turned out to be two: TOPe for TOP(UP). At the time hadn’t got the rebus and though I frowned at NOe just shrugged and moved on! See 62A! Was convinced BOGGS or ADORE were the mistakes, but no. Also had RaNAT not RUNAT.

  13. Gareth says:

    PS no comment on the LAT’s 35d, David?

  14. John Haber says:

    There was fill I could live without, too. Indeed, hoping that the Thor H craft was going to be “raft” I looked for entirely the wrong rebus or gimmick before stumbling on the right one. But no question the unusual theme pretty much makes up for it.

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