Thursday, 3/29/12

Fireball 6:36 
NYT 17:49 
LAT 4:28 (Neville) 
CS 4:38 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 

Milo Beckman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 29 12 0329

Wow, it would be hard to conceive of a puzzle gimmick I’m less suited to. Rebuses filled with the spelled-out “do re mi” names of the notes? I don’t know notes. My ears don’t work that way. So I struggled through the rebus middle of this rectangular puzzle (it’s 14×16, no?), with my husband sounding out TWINKLE TWINKLE’s ending, which sounds like “NOW I KNOW MY ABC’S.” Ouch. It didn’t help that I’m quite drowsy.

Didn’t care for WOE in the grid and in the A{LA}S clue, and IKE vs ADLAI and RMN as DDE’s veep was a tad too much 1950s politics.

I suppose a fixed lineup of 14 rebus squares should make me forgive being bored overall by the rest of the puzzle, but the boring part was far less onerous to me than the musical part. I’m sure the puzzle will have plenty of 5-star proponents, but it was just such an unpleasant experience for me personally that I want to slap a 2-star rating on it. Shall we call it a disgruntled 3 stars from the puzzle’s least appropriate audience?

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 49″

Fireball Themeless 49 answers

I kept feeling like this was a themed puzzle despite the complete lack of a theme and the explicit title. I couldn’t tell you why.

I appreciated the inclusion of the jumbo-long clue for SCHTROUMPFS being included in Peter’s email. Always makes me grumpy to hit a jumbo-long clue in solving software that doesn’t make it easy to see the whole thing, so this approach worked for me.

Took a wrong turn with the kid-lit at 2d. Nine letters, starts with L? I went with LOIS LOWRY, only she writes YA fiction including a book I had to fetch from the public library for my kid last year. Isn’t there another Lois who writes for the picture-book crowd? The answer turned out to be LEO LIONNI, who wrote some picture books with animals, I think. Not sure we ever had any of them.

Didn’t know TEST-FLIES was a verb. Like the pop-culture 15s, NOTES ON A SCANDAL and HOTEL CALIFORNIA. Could do without the crosswordese-guy-full-name-for-a-change EZIO PINZA, as stars of the 1940s are not my especial favorite. Tough and clever clue for PRETZEL: [Knot in the stomach?]. The short stuff in this puzzle tends to the dry side (STE ENID PSIS LEI STETS PISA OTT? Not.) and overall I wasn’t too excited to be solving this puzzle, which knocks it down to 3.5 stars for me. I just hope someday I win a trivia match because of SCHTROUMPFS because it isn’t really doing much for me today.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Character Style” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 29

Although I’ve never owned a pair, I’ve always liked overalls. And the sight of a cute girl on overalls made Teenage Sam giddy with, well, you know. So I’m willing to concede some personal bias here, but I really liked this puzzle.

The theme centers around four cartoon characters (all of the male persuasion, alas) known for sporting overalls:

  • 17-Across: ELROY JETSON is [Hanna-Barbera chracter who wears overalls].
  • 24-Across: BOB THE BUILDER is the [Kidvid character who wears overalls].
  • 49-Across: STEWIE GRIFFIN is the ["Family Guy" character who wears overalls]. As far as I’m concerned, any puzzle with a Family Guy reference starts with 4 stars as the default, not 3.
  • 59-Across: ROGER RABBIT, he’s our man, the hero of our nation. Oops, wrong Roger. Mr. Rabbit is the [Toontown character who wears overalls].

Those who like their crosswords to stick to wordplay may not like this one so much, but as someone who enjoys the occasional trivia theme, I found it snappy (ten minutes of thought and that’s the best overalls joke I can make, folks). Heck, I would have been even happier if the clue for BOTANY BAY had referenced Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan instead of the [Historic inlet by Sydney, Australia]. But I guess only so much pop culture can come into our crossword on any given day.

Highlights included CARDBOARD, LETTER A, BERSERK, SANK IN, and DORKY. QUEER is clued as [Out of the ordinary], for which there is ample dictionary support I’m sure. Still, I wonder if the modern usage of “queer” as a label through which some people identify themselves has usurped the traditional definition to the point that now it’s offensive to use “queer” to mean “out of the ordinary” or “unusual”–as if one person’s preferences are “usual” but those of someone else are “unusual” as opposed to merely “different.” I dunno, maybe I’m over-thinking it.

I’m just now seeing the X, J, Z, and Q in the top three rows of the grid. A nickel says this grid’s a pangram. Hold on–let me check. … Yep. You owe me a nickel. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–pangrams are nice only if I don’t notice them until after I’m done solving. Here the insertion of rare letters didn’t impede the flow of the fill. Nice work.

Elizabeth A. Long’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 3 29 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 3 29 12

This puzzle is literally for the birds.

 

  • 4a. [*Get down] – SWALLOW
  • 7d. [*Escapade] – LARK
  • 26d. [*Golfer's coup] – EAGLE
  • 39a. [*Dupe] – GULL
  • 35d. [*"Network" Oscar winner] – FINCH
  • 43a. [*Simpleton] – LOON
  • 58d. [*Peacenik] – DOVE
  • 71a. [*Rogers Centre baseballer] – BLUE JAY
  • 31d. [Ford spanning 50 years, or a hint to the four intersecting pairs of answers to starred clues] – T-BIRD

Look at all of the T shapes in this grid – a keen visual aspect. A lot of birds clued otherwise. This seemed rather easy for a Thursday – the theme presented itself straight away in the northern portion of the grid. Nothing too ground-breaking about the entries themselves, though.

I’d like to hear more about the DERANGED REPOMAN – he’s likely NON GRATA in most parts. Those are the stand-out entries from where I sit. WEE-UNS is kind of cute, innit?

I knew the ["SNL" castmate of Jane...] Curtin, GILDA Radner, but LARAINE Newman is a new woman to me. Seems like she’s had a fair number of one-off roles on various TV series over the past 30 years or so.

The penultimate column is ALOE FLOES EELY, and that’s putting me to sleep, so that’s BYE from me tonight. ALOHA!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “A Little Work”

BEQ 3/29 solution

“A Little Work” is the title of Brendan’s puzzle today, and to solve it you need to do that both literally and figuratively. It’s a rebus theme, with that familiar work unit the ERG squeezed into four boxes:

  • 17a. [1975 album by 50-Across] = ANOTH(ER G)REEN WORLD.  That’s Brian ENO at 50-a.  His name is so useful that even when he should be in clues he’s not!
  • 26a. [Katniss Everdeen's story]  = THE HUNG(ER G)AMES.   Nice. Had to be the seed entry, right?
  • 47a. [Site of a 1972 break-in]  = WAT(ERG)ATE HOTEL.    Daniel Ellsb(erg), call your office.  Wait, wrong building.
  • 62a. [Pledge of Allegiance phrase] = ONE NATION, UND (ER G)OD.  Brendan wrote this puzzle with his hand over his heart.

These cross, in order, CL(ERG)YWAT(ER G)UNS(ERG)EANTS and BE(ER G)UT.

So this is a decent rebus, but ERG isn’t really the most exciting keyword to use since it can’t be split in too many ways: it’s got to be the full ERG or ER/G every time, since nothing useful starts with RG. Even with that limitation it would have been nice to see something starting or ending with the keyword; onelook.com tells me that ERGOT is the only realistic choice (ERGONOMIC would be a challenge to fit in there), but a -BERG surname could have been doable, like Stefan EDBERG. So I’ll ding BEQ a little for those points; that said, I’m being pretty nitpicky since the ERG words Brendan chose all range from very good to excellent in their own right, especially THE HUNGER GAMESBEER GUT and WATERGATE HOTEL.

Regional highlights: the upper-left is crazy Scrabbleland, and the Z-crossings of AZALEAS/DANZIG and CORAZON/STANZA are elegant. And who doesn’t love BOOLEAN? 4.18 stars.

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31 Responses to Thursday, 3/29/12

  1. Howard B says:

    Times – just brutal. Can handle musically-inclined themes, can mentally recall notes, but I just don’t translate notes to DO-RE-MI well. Maybe just too used to A B C…G keys.
    I figured out each rebus square by just counting notes until one of them fit each Down clue. Clever idea, really interesting theme, but I had a similar solving experience. Just a tough nut to crack today.

    Liked the Fireball quite a bit; thought it was challenging, just frustrating enough, and still solvable. Except that unknown children’s author. But a Fireball wouldn’t be toasty enough without one complete mystery answer in there ;).

  2. I beat Howard today on the applet! A cause for celebration for me, even though I’m not up on my notes, either. Figured the middle contained rebus squares and left them for the end, and it was just a logic game at that point. Though looking at the times at the applet, I suppose I just lucked out with this one. Expect to be humbled this weekend by the themelesses…it’s been a weird week difficulty-wise this week, and I expect some ramped-up challenges tomorrow and Saturday.

  3. John E says:

    Coming within 3 minutes of Amy’s time on a Thursday is a huge accomplishment! I may have gone faster but the Shift-+ to enter multiple letters in a square was not working for me for whatever reason.

    Kudos for including mausoleum, evinces and muumuu. Never heard Oral Roberts referred to as ORU – anyone else surprised at that?

  4. David says:

    Howard, I had the same problem. When I started taking violin lessons as a young ‘un, that was the first song I learned how to play…and I learned the notes using A-G notation. That’s been ingrained in my head for so long, I couldn’t convert into doremi at all; I had to run through the notes for each square until I found the one that fit it’s respective down clue.

    I should that note that the above complaint does not reflect my opinion of the actual puzzle; it had very strong fill (especially in the NW and SE) for a puzzle with so many rebus squares.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, the NYT took me longer than the Fireball for a change… I wanted STar Power before SOLar, but once I caught on to the right rebus, it was super smooth sailing! Puzzle of the year competitor IMHO. Five stars.
    Fron the MAUSOLEUM to the MUUMUU, plus LEMMINGS to on-a-streak NUDE, copy cats’ MEOW and duelist’s GAUNTLET — hats off to Milo Beckman… Exquisite!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Didn’t Michelle Bachman go to ORU? One of those anyway, where she swore they taught her that the Founding Fathers were abolitionists, or at least John Q. Adams was! Wonder if Romney will think of her for his VP running mate, or Palin again? Boggles the mind.

  7. Gareth says:

    It’s surely not the puzzle’s fault I’m stupid and even after filling nearly all the grid I couldn’t see that those rebus squares in the middle were notes… Of course I did have HOW(DY). Still. It’s a clever and ambitious idea, but it feels incomplete with only TWINKLETWINKLE on the top… No mention of TRIPLEL? What makes that legit?

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Gareth, I wanted Little Star across the middle too at first, but couldn’t make it work… Triple L letters in the clue you questioned, not my favorite gimmick either, but somehow easier than a Soft C or a Hard G – or Silent P as in psoriasis? I’m nearly always slow to see those!

  9. Howard B says:

    David – agree on the fill as well; thought that the clues for surrounding fill were designed to be especially vague (no fill-ins, etc) to disguise the rebus, ramping up the difficulty for a Thursday. Will Shortz turned the dial up to 11 :).

  10. T Campbell says:

    QUEER– Sam, you’re not overthinking it, trust me. I’d accept “out of the ordinary in an earlier era,” but colleges teach “Queer Theory” and “Queer History” now, and they sure don’t mean “weird” when they do so. This is kind of like cluing GAY as “happy and carefree,” again without specifying that it’s an archaism.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Now why couldn’t *that* have been a competition puzzle??? Needless to say I loved it. If I had known this was coming, I would have played the Mozart ‘Ah vous dirai-je Maman” (i.e. Twinkle twinkle etc.) Variations at the talent show.

    Since it seems to be part of the mores here to record times, let me say that I was done in about 6 Min. Fastest ever Thurs., I’m sure. First time I ever wish I recorded times online. (And I don’t know where that time would put me. If I knew how to look up the times, I would do so.) 16a came very quickly which immediately gave me the rebus. The slowest part was writing in the little letters. I didn’t even block out on 3d as I often would. In fact, if there was a weakness to the puzzle it’s that if the whole thing fell immediately into place, as it did for me, it became a too easy speed writing contest (which I’m not good at.) End of gloat.

    Back to the real world–let me say how much I enjoyed seeing everyone in Brooklyn, and how much renewed appreciation I had for such a congenial and mutually supportive group.

    Bruce

  12. cyberdiva says:

    I was about to sing the praises of today’s NYT puzzle, but ArtLvr beat me to it. So I’ll simply say “What ArtLvr said.”
    P.S. I went to rate the puzzle and was stunned to see that many people apparently rated it at three or lower. [Since discretion is said to be the greater part of valor, I've removed unkind speculations about the low scores.]

  13. Milo Beckman says:

    Hey all, Milo Beckman here.

    Really interesting feedback on this puzzle — everybody seems to either love it or hate it. At the moment I’m posting this it has an equal number of 5 star, 4 star, 3 star, and 2 star ratings. Fascinating. To those who liked the puzzle, glad to hear it. To those who didn’t, I’ve got a couple more coming that’ll hopefully be more up your alley!

    I have no particular stories to tell about the construction process, but if you have any questions please ask away! For starters, I’m always on the look out for a rebus on Thursdays so I had no idea how brutally difficult this puzzle was going to turn out to be…

    ~ Milo

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Too late to have second thoughts and edit. I hope my above post didn’t offend anyone. It was a bit (a bit?) narcissistic. But it reflects some of the frustrations I often feel about puzzles. Just before doing Milo’s puzzle, I tried to do a Ben Tausig where I counted 11 clues relating to rappers, rock songs and computer apps. And *last* year’s 5th puzzle (which I tried to do at home) was focussed thematically on groups and songs I had never heard of, rendering the puzzle totally unsolvable. As I said to a couple people, the theme might as well have been “Pakistani singers who record in Urdu”. So I hope my excitement at finding a puzzle that was apparently much easier for me than for most people doesn’t translate into Schadenfreude.

    Bruce

  15. john farmer says:

    Nice work, Milo. I’m definitely in the “love it” camp.

    Today is my son’s first piano lesson, so this felt like an apt theme for the occasion. Another first today: the first time I’ve ever clocked a time better than Amy’s. I’m with Bruce — it felt easier than usual for a Thursday. It helped catching on to where the puzzle was going early.

    Speaking of Mozart, Bruce, I guess you may have heard the recent news.

  16. Ian says:

    Re RG-xxxx in the BEQ puzz.

    RGIII — Future Hall-of-Fame QB for the Washington Redskins

  17. Papa John says:

    The clue for 66 Across is “Words sung to the beginning of 41-/39-Across”, giving us, NOW I KNOW MY ABCS”. I thought that phrase was the end of the Alphabet Song. Am I right?

    This devise wasn’t used in my school to teach the alphabet, so I’m not certain about how it goes. Truth is, I can’t sing it all the way through. I get the letters get mixed up with the melody, somewhere in the middle.

  18. joon says:

    ian, have you ordered your redskins offseason champs T-shirt yet? while supplies last. the amazing thing is, RGIII could actually turn into a hall of fame QB and the skins could still lose the trade.

    papa john: NOW I KNOW MY ABCS does come at the end, but the notes sung to those words are DO DO SOL SOL LA LA SOL, which are indeed the beginning of 41-/39-across. more succinctly, you could say that those notes are just 41-across. TWINKLE TWINKLE, on the other hand, really is just the beginning of 41-across. 39-across doesn’t get any of its lyrics into the grid (how i wonder what you are/next time won’t you sing with me/yes sir yes sir three bags full); i wonder if it feels aggrieved on that count.

    by the way, i liked the puzzle. it never occurred to me how hard it could be if you didn’t have the musical knowledge to drop all 14 notes in once you figure out what’s going on.

    as for the fireball, LEO LIONNI’s books are for very young children. sam liked swimmy and fish is fish when he was about 2, and sarah has just gotten into a color of his own. i think his zoology is not very good, but they are lovely books anyway. so yeah, that helped. felt like an easy-ish fireball to me overall, but a pretty good one.

  19. Matthew G. says:

    Agree that the NYT puzzle was very hard today. But don’t agree that it was non-excellent. I loved it!

  20. Papa John says:

    Thanks, Joon. I get what you’re saying.

  21. Lois says:

    I found the NYT to be quite hard, partly because the rebus was only in the middle. But that only added to my pleasure when I got it. Loved it!

    Good explanations by Joon and Arthur118 about the word “beginning.”

    Milo: The ratings are not equal any longer for each number of stars. And see how MANY ratings there are for this puzzle today!

  22. arthur118 says:

    Joon has clarified the NOW I KNOW MY ABCS clue but there still seems to be some confusion about the TWINKLE TWINKLE cluing.

    The clue at 41 across is, “With 39-Across, a familiar tune”, (n.b. tune). The “tune” is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, et seq which is DODOSOLSOLLALASOL FAFAMIMIREREDO and does indeed reflect a familiar tune, (with 39 across being the continuation of the song, “How I wonder what you are”).

  23. Amy …17:49
    Me ……9:37

    I shall savor this moment. :-D

  24. Tuning Spork says:

    Oh, two more things. Loved the puzzle, and I finally remembered to change back to “Spork” before posting.

  25. Lois says:

    Bruce N. Morton: It seems that in order to check some of the times for completion of the NYT puzzle, you can click on Daily Standings on the right. The times of the individual bloggers appear on top of this daily post, before the ratings.

  26. Old Geezer says:

    FWIW Dept:

    When ‘under God’ was added to the pledge, there was no comma added. The entire phrase reads “… stands, one nation under God, indivisible, …”

    In fact, it was meant to be added this way, without the pause that has come to be standard in its recital. However, I believe that most people of the time, who had to change what they knew by rote, subtly but not imperceptably gave just a slight hesitation while remembering to add the extra words. Thus the following generations deemed this the proper cadence.

    I always tried to get people to say it ‘correctly,’ but alas I was stymied at every turn.

    It’s just another thing I’ll never give up, but not argue about!

    :)

  27. oeuftete says:

    I was off to such a nice solving day… SCHTROUMPFS for the FB was no sweat, as the Smurfs were my cartoon of choice way back in the day, and the French name was always in the air in Canada (probably on a cereal box, where so much of my French vocab was learned). And ENO’s ANOTHER GREEN WORLD is well-known to me so I got the BEQ rebus right off the bat. Two nice times…

    Then the NYT killed me. Even once I got the theme, everything came slowly. Tough one.

  28. Will says:

    Loved the NYT Thursday puzzle! Saw that it had to be 14 x 16 to accomplish the theme. Would never have connected the two songs until now. Definitely Milo’s puzzle is one of the instant best-of-year puzzles in my view. I know some people don’t like rebuses, and we’ve seen musical note idea before, but this one had a great payoff for me.
    wijwij

  29. pannonica says:

    Those two songs, as well as “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” are famous for being the same melody, which as Bruce N. Morton mentioned, originates with Mozart.

  30. miked says:

    Bruce–

    Will this throw off the whole sequence of Kochel numbers that are used to organize Mozart’s work chronologically through his life? Thanks for the link, he is often my muse when making puzzles!

  31. jefe says:

    Sam, I guess you liked that puzzle (*puts on sunglasses*) overall.

    YEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH

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