Wednesday, 1/25/12

NYT 3:35 
LAT 3:03 
Fireball 9:52 
CS 6:45 (Sam) 
Onion untimed 

Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 12

Wait, what’s this? A rebus puzzle on a Wednesday? Well, I’d say it’s of Wednesday difficulty, but if you don’t catch onto the rebus right away it might wallop you like a Thursday puzzle.

So, Gareth interprets TREE RINGS, those botanical [Indicators of age], as ample reason to put tree names inside the rings in the rebus squares:

  • 17a/18d. GOSP{EL M}USIC and {ELM}ER
  • 21a/10d. COLD {AS H}ELL and WAB{ASH}
  • 56a/40d. E{YEW}ITNESS and KAN{YE W}EST
  • 62a/48d. {FIR}ST AID KIT and MIS{FIR}ES

I’m delighted to find that COLD AS HELL lurking in the puzzle. That and KANYE WEST, FIRST AID KIT, and GOSPEL MUSIC are great answers on their own merits, rebus or no.

I like ELMER the bull crossing a STEER (only one of them has testicles but I’ll let veterinarian-in-training Gareth clarify who’s got what).

Also in the plus column, we have the BLOB, HAMID Karzai, BLURB, I RECKON, and NOSHING. I could do without IONA MUS BAI SEI OSH ESTER STYE ANGE SIG TSE TREO HOI TAY ADIA—that’s a whole lotta ugly.

4.25 stars for the theme, minus the demerits for the ugly stuff … let’s call it 3 2/3 stars in the end.

Nancy Salomon’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 1 25 12

Three phrases that end with words that are also beverages are clued as if they really are about the drinks:

  • 19a. BEAT TO THE PUNCH = [Outdo other guests seeking a party drink?]. Because who doesn’t want first crack at any raspberries that may be floating in the punchbowl?
  • 36a. GET A FAIR SHAKE = [Order one so-so ice cream drink?]. How can this be possible? You got ice cream, you got milk, you got yourself a good shake. (Oh, right. Fast food shakes with high-fructose corn syrup are fair at best.)
  • 53a. TURN ON THE JUICE = [Activate a dispenser for a fruit drink?]. Now, this one didn’t work for me. “Who ever says ‘turn on the juice’?,” I asked out loud. My husband and son both liked it, so maybe I’m off base here.

I like the upper right corner of this puzzle. Are you UP A CREEK? Are you in the DOGHOUSE? There are other good 7s and 8s in the grid, including SOW’S EAR, GOOD TO GO, FANTASIA, ROSE HIPS, and a FAST ONE. By using a three-piece theme, Nancy left herself room to have some fun with the rest of the grid. Mind you, it’s not all fun and games—we also contend with ALAR, NOT A, -IER, EUR., and ERGOT the [Rye fungus].

3.5 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “And the Nominees Are…”

Fireball 3(2) answers

Wait, we get Peter’s annual day-of-Oscar-nominations puzzle and a regular Fireball puzzle a day later? This is too much crossword, too much! In order to fit the nine nominated films (including one with an overlong title, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Peter had to expand to a 21×21 format as well as taking a few liberties: THE TREE OF LIFE WAR HORSE is one entry, the overlong title splits into two entries, and the final one takes the cheat of reading as the last entry in a list, AND HUGO.

Despite making this puzzle in however many hours on Tuesday, Peter pretty much filled it with his usual grade of answers and clues. Interesting fill includes AVASTIN, EARL SCRUGGS, STILETTO, ONE GIG, AIRHEAD, PIKACHU, and OREO O’S. The amount of ARNE/MCC/L-BAR stuff isn’t overwhelming.

Favorite clue: [Garage ___ (McMansion part, maybe)] for MAHAL.

Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

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

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 25

The game continues: can I identify the crossword’s theme and constructor without looking at the puzzle’s title or byline? I have 2.5 out of 4 points heading into the Wednesday puzzle, so let’s see how it goes today.

I think I have a handle on the theme–four expressions ending with words that are baseball-related verbs:

  • 20-Across: PERFECT PITCH is the [Ability to identify any tone heard].
  • 28-Across: A BROADWAY HIT is a [Successful New York City stage show].
  • 39-Across: The [Civil War action also known as Manassas] is the BATTLE AT BULL RUN. (I originally had BATTLE OF BULL RUN, and that gave me some fits with the crossings–resulting in a time that some would consider slower than Manassas molasses.
  • 57-Across: My favorite entry of the group, TELEPHONE TAG is a [Series of unsuccessful attempts to connect]. It’s my favorite, but it’s also the only entry where the baseball-related term doesn’t get an entirely different connotation in the theme entry. The others turn the verb into an unrelated noun. To be entirely consistent, I think the “tag” should have been something like NAME TAG or PRICE TAG (those don’t work here, obviously, because they’re not 12 letters long, but you get the point).

I like how the order of the theme entries suggests how the action at a baseball game typically unfolds–there’s the PITCH, which then gets HIT, causing the batter to RUN the bases unless the fielders can make the TAG. That’s a nice extra touch.

But oof–who made this? It doesn’t strike me as the regular style used by any in our normal circle of CrosSynergy constructors. Did The Godfather add some new talent to the stable? If so, I think I should get a pass on this one. But “Newbie” is not my final answer. Let’s see if I can suss this out.

Doug Peterson, a big baseball fan, would be an obvious choice given the theme. But I’m saying it’s not him because (1) he had Monday’s puzzle, and (2) Doug would use more multiple-word entries in his fill. In fairness, the theme entries take up 61 squares (well above normal), and that may explain why nothing else in this puzzle is longer than six letters. (Some of the entries struck me as a bit odd–things like CHIRR, LACTI, UDO, ABASH, AITCH. That doesn’t call to mind any particular constructor, however–I just noticed it. That and the flood of abbreviations, prefixes, and suffixes: ESTAB, CTS, WIS, CIRC, AVI, ENE.)

I started in the northwest, and I found it touch to get some momentum. Naturally, then, I thought it could be Bob Klahn. But there was no alliteration in the clues, and nothing that appeared to be playfully evasive. So I rejected that idea. Looking back, I made that section harder than it was. I kept thinking the answer to [Firemen's apparatus] had to be a singular and not a plural because “apparatus” is singular (even though “firemen’s” is obviously plural). So I kept resisting HOSES as the answer even though I was kinda-sorta sure that was what I was supposed to write down. That probably psyched me out enough to make the whole corner trickier than it really was.

I’ve already mentioned the theme density, so maybe that’s a sign that it’s Randall Hartman or Randolph Ross. Constructors whose first names start with RAND- are known for having a lot of themage in their puzzles, right? Okay, maybe not. But its the best I can do. I’ll go with Hartman as my first guess, Ross second.

Rats, it was Sarah Keller! I’ve considered her earlier this week, but for whatever reason I didn’t think of her today. I guess that means I’m one for two today, bringing the total to only 3.5 points out of a possible six. Let’s hope I do better in the last two days this week!

Aimee Lucido’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Onion AV Club crossword solution, 1 25 12 Lucido

Well-executed theme. Various phrases that end with words that double as collective nouns for groups of animals are clued as if they are actually about those animals.

  • 18a. A bunch of butch [Lions without lionesses?] are a GAY PRIDE.
  • 24a. [Ants without pants?] is a funny clue for NUDIST COLONY. Aren’t all ant colonies nudist, technically?
  • 38a. [The ocean's B-team?] is the SECONDARY SCHOOL of fish-athletes.
  • 49a. [Group of wounded crows?] clues BLOODY MURDER. Now, BLOODY MURDER feels a little incomplete without a preceding “scream,” but we’ll let that pass. Have you seen the video of the crow that goes sledding on a snowy roof?
  • 59a. [Group of unfriendly wolves?] is a COLD PACK.

Top five clues:

  • 45a. [One might fall off while you're going down] clues a SKI.
  • 65a. PACE is clued [Slow people might be asked to pick it up]. So much better than a clue like [Tempo] or [Walk back and forth].
  • 4d. [Mike's counterpart in candy] is IKE, as in Mike & Ikes. A nice switch from Eisenhower, Ike Turner, and Kyle’s little brother on South Park.
  • 41d. [Try to reproduce, say]…hmm, what could that be? Good ol’ COPULATE.
  • 63d. [The T in GTL, on "Jersey Shore"] is TAN. The G and L are gym and laundry. Notably absent from the lifestyle is reading.

Four stars.

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16 Responses to Wednesday, 1/25/12

  1. Jan (danjan) says:

    I solved Gareth’s puzzle on paper ahead of the Killingworth tournament, and even though I later found an error (LALOS for DALIS), I really liked it. Of course, the rookies at the tournament were a little thrown, but the winner finished it in under 5 minutes. (It just took me nearly 4 to do it online, for the second time.) And it was cool that our tournament had an international connection!

  2. Doug says:

    I loved the cleverness of tree “rings” and the awesome COLD AS HELL entry. Great puzzle!

  3. Howard B says:

    COLD AS HELL plus the intersection of KANYE WEST / EYEWITNESS at the YEW is just the kind of quirkiness that keeps me solving these with a fresh perspective. Nicely done, Gareth.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    In the Fireball, Roger DePont’s extrapolation of D-Day to H-HOUR was even twistier than unorthodox! If Peter Gordon ever takes over from Will Shortz, I’m sunk!

  5. sps says:

    Fun, unexpected puzzle today for a Wednesday. I got hung up at the end trying to fit Eliot Ness where EYEWITNESS went (which would have made it RUN ONTO instead of RUN INTO). Couldn’t figure out what kind of tree an LI was supposed to be…Then it hit me that it was KANYE not CANYE and the WEST was won.

    Jan, how was the tournament?

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Me too – congrats to Gareth on a tree-mendous Wednesday!

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    @sps – The tournament was great! There are pictures and more information on the Killingworth Library Association facebook page.
    My fellow library board members weren’t sure what to expect; one of them figured that the person who finished the first puzzle in about three minutes had probably just given up!

  8. Greg says:

    In salomon’s LA Times puzzle there is an error. TSA is not a safety org but rather a security org. The FAA is a safety org. A nuanced but important distinction.

  9. pannonica says:

    I hope it goes without saying that I had no idea about the Jersey Shore clue in The Onion puzzle, but I humbly offer “Gin, Tonic, Lime” as an alternative.

  10. Howard B says:

    Had to (partially) pass on the Fireball this week. Being out of the film loop this year, with the combined movie theme answers, and the additional unrelated clues with a Hollywood vibe or celebrity-name slant to them, I started to find myself just really struggling through with lots of guesswork, so I actually stopped partway through solving. That’s not my usual style.

    It was just one of those rare examples where I can acknowledge the quality and originality of the puzzle, but where it’s simply not my thing. Can’t blame Peter for my cinematignorance this year;).

  11. linda says:

    I so agree–it is called the First or Second Battle OF Bull Run. Hose would match with apparatus. etc, etc. these along with your other comments on the WP puzzle–i would say it was not a very good puzzle.

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    Amy, the Fireball is by Roger DePont, not Peter Gordon.

    Howard, I feel your pain. The Fireball took me just over an hour (1:00:49) while using check a couple of times, as I’ve heard of not a single one of those movie.

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Spork, I have SO little patience for silly constructorial pseudonyms.

  14. jefe says:

    @Sam – The CS puzzle has a 5th theme entry – STONESTHROW.

  15. Bananarchy says:

    Aimee Lucido is quickly becoming one of my faves. Simple but fresh theme, and well executed. 4.5 stars.

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    @Amy, D’oh! I didn’t notice that.

Comments are closed.