Thursday, 4/26/12

NYT 7:08 
Fireball 6:17 
LAT 4:46 (Neville) 
CS 6:17 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
Tausig untimed 
Celebrity tba 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 26 12 0426

You know what? So deep is my Broadwaymusicalophobia that I froze solid upon reading the clue for 1-Across. [With 40-Across, a chorus line ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Turned out to be IT’S / A SMALL {WORLD} AFTER ALL, the chorus from that chintzy little Disney ride’s song. But it’s Thursday, not Tuesday, so nary a hint of Disney appeared in the clue.

The theme is “Small {WORLD},” with WORLD rebus squares in five places in the grid but not, it bears noting, in symmetrically placed answers. That further ramped up the overall difficulty of the puzzle. One of the 10s is just a CANDY APPLE while the other is A WHOLE NEW {WORLD} (bringing Disney movies to the Disneyland ride party). But the next longest rebus answer is FIRST {WORLD} WAR, which has no Disney tie-in. The rest of the globes are in OLD WORLD, SEAWORLD, the [1970 Hugo Award-winning novel by Larry Niven] called RINGWORLD, MTV’s “The REAL WORLD,” WORLD BANK, WORLD WIDE WEB, and WORLDLY.

Other tough spots included the OIL-PROOF boots, the phrases TOSS DOWN and ROOT CROP, and the astronomer’s TRIPOD. I could see the right middle giving some people fits, if they’re not up on their Indian food (RAITA), the “OL’ MAN River” apostrophe, or their French (“il PLEUT“), but those were much easier for me than entering a puzzle I feared would require knowledge of Broadway musicals in general or A Chorus Line in particular. I didn’t even really see the clue for 60d: HAB. Whoosh! [Old Testament book before Zephaniah]? A previous crossword taught me of Habakkuk’s existence but I don’t know that I’d seen the abbrev before. Other crosswords taught me that some Canadian NHL team is nicknamed the Habs. I think it’s the Montreal Canadiens but I could be wrong on that.

Four stars. Also? A caramel apple is infinitely superior to a CANDY APPLE with that evil hard red shell.

Doug Peterson and Sam Donaldson’s Fireball crossword, “Single Ladies”

Fireball 4 25 12 answers

Based on the title, I knew there’d be a “put a ring on it” aspect to the theme. Not that I’ve ever actually listened to the BEYONCÉ song in question—but it was inescapably a huge pop sensation so I’m well aware of it anyway. The Across theme answers put a ring on it by having the first or second word of a real phrase followed by an O from the crossing Down word, and then having that O read as RING in the new phrase that’s what the clue points to. So 20a: [Giving a piggyback ride to a legendary king?] makes no mention of Bea Arthur, looks like BEAOARTHUR, and is read as BEARING ARTHUR. Isn’t that clever? (Answer: Indeed, it is.) A scouting merit badge, when single-ladyfied, is the verb phrase MERIT BADGERING. (Cute to have a CIG right before MERIT, which is a brand of tobacco sticklets.) “Her majesty,” HERRING MAJESTY, fancy fish. Harper Lee, HARPER LEERING. (That last one threw me off because I think my cousin Heather calls herself a harpist and not a harper.) Musician terminology notwithstanding, I love the fresh twist on the rebus puzzle concept.

Sam and Doug, I want to know: Did “Singles Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” inspire the theme, or did you come up with the O/ring bit first and apply the Beyoncé touch later (or at Peter’s suggestion)? I’d love to hear a little about the development of this puzzle.

Looking past the theme, we have lots of fun clues and solid, 7-heavy fill here. A few of my favorite clues:

  • 44a. BLAB, [State secrets]. Verb clue, not noun. Tricksy.
  • 6d. CART, [Icon on every Amazon.com page]. Like the clue for SPLAT, not remotely a definition found in the dictionary, and yet so right. And the EGGO Froffles clue, the Dangerfield EPITAPH. Clues like these are a zillion times easier to come up with in the era of Google and Wikipedia, and yet relatively few crossword clues go off the deep end like these do. (Some of you may not know of Peter Gordon’s interest in publishing only new clues, or at least in not repeating a clue throughout the course of a year. Think of how many times you’ve seen clues for, say, ERIE that tread the same turf year in and year out in all the crossword venues you patronize—how many answers are flat-out gimmes because their clues are so familiar—and you’ll know what a significant difference it makes in the experience of solving Gordon-edited puzzles. They’re not easy for beginners, that’s for sure.)
  • 26d. SANK, [Made, as field goals]. Basketball lingo, not the usual SANK definition.

No idea what 45a: [Pitchout, e.g.] means. LATERAL… as a noun? A lateral pass of some ball?

Five stars. Cool gimmick, likely to be remembered some time from now.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Compass Points” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, April 26

There are six theme entries here. The 15-letter Across entries, WETS ONE’S WHISTLE and WORLD SERIES GAME, start with W (west) and end with E (east). The two Across entries in the center, WHIPSAW and ECLIPSE, follow suit because WHIPSAW starts and ends with W (west), while ECLIPSE starts and ends with E (east).

The same gimmick runs in the Down entries, where here they stretch from north to south. The two 15-letter Down entries, NOT SOLD IN STORES and NETWORK PROGRAMS, start with N (north) and end with S (south). Plus, the two central Downs feature NESSMAN (starts and ends with N) and SIERRAS (starts and ends with S).

That’s a pretty original theme. Fold in the fact this grid takes up 80 theme squares, and it goes from neat from impressive.

Other favorite tidbits:

  • JINX, clued as [Put the whammy on], is a fun way to start at 1-Across.
  • RONCO, pitchman Ron Popeil’s company, is the [Big name in kitchen gadgets seen on infomercials].
  • The multi-word (or hyphenated, at least) entries like AT DAWN, I BET, IN SYNC, OVER IT, and OLD-TIME.
  • My favorite clue was [Present day, for short] for XMAS. I saw it coming from a long way off, but I still liked it a lot.

Another short write-up attributable to being on the road right now. Hopefully I can pause for a longer writeup tomorrow.

Stephen J. St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 26 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 4 26 12

This is about as meta as they come, isn’t it?

  • 17a. [Frustrated crossword solver's cry] – I HAVEN’T GOT A CLUE!
  • 34a. [Frustrated crossword solver's cry] – COULD BE ANYTHING!
  • 43a. [Frustrated crossword solver's cry] – IT’S A MYSTERY TO ME!
  • 61a. [Relieved crossword solver's cry] – FINALLY! ONE I KNOW!

Great theme here, and nice execution saving the FINALLY! for the end. If the puzzle had been harder, I’d have thought the puzzle were talking about itself. Maybe this is prep for tomorrow’s puzzle? Nah. Probably Saturday’s puzzle.

Rejected theme entries:

  • IS THAT A THING?
  • THAT’S DEFINITELY NOT A THING
  • I’M DECLARING A WAR ON FILL
  • WHO WROTE THIS BLOODY PUZZLE?
  • THAT’S NOT IN MY DICTIONARY
  • I CANNOT ABIDE ‘GNAR’ OR ‘GNARS’
  • I’M GOING BACK TO THE USA TODAY

Let’s take a tour through the STAND-OUTS in this puzzle:

  • 5d. [Holdup] is a deceptively easy clue for BANK JOB. I was thinking along the lines of “Hey! What’s the holdup?” – but I suppose if you’re in line when a bank job starts to happen, you’ll end up waiting for a while.
  • 52a. [Two-time Bond portrayer] is Timothy DALTON. Really? Only two? The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill – that’s it. He had been offered the role before, though, and Pierce Brosnan picked up after him.
  • I LOST gets a spot right by GLOAT – that’s how you link clues!
  • 13d. [Short online posting] convinced me that it was the ugly ENOTE or something similar, but instead it’s a harmless little TWEET.
  • 22d. [It has defs. for 128 characters] – ASCII. I’m sure that some solvers got thrown by this one. ASCII is the encoding system for the English language (as well as numbers, punctuation, and some technical mumbo jumbo) that a computer uses.It’s pretty highfalutin stuff.

I didn’t know NOMAR Garciaparra, husband of Mia Hamm. He’s on ESPN these days, but he played for the Red Sox, A’s, Dodgers and Cubs. That explains why I don’t know him. Running parallel is the GREBE, which I might’ve seen in real life before after checking out a picture, but it was a foreign name for me again. This was a dark time of puzzle solving for me, but I’ve learned two words, which is always a plus. Loved this puzzle.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Staff Additions”

Ink Well crossword solution, 4 26 12 "Staff Additions"

Hi, Carmen! (Carmen is an Ink Well solver and Diary of a Crossword Fiend reader who sent a lovely note of appreciation to Ben and me yesterday. She made my day and Ben’s.)

The “Staff Additions” theme adds the notes from the “every good boy deserves fudge” mnemonic, EGBDF, to the front of familiar words/phrases, with the letter being pronounced separately each time:

  • 20a. EBOOK OF THE DEAD, [Zombie's Kindle purchase?]
  • 28a. G-SUIT CASE, [What astronauts carry their clothes in?]
  • 38a. B-BOY TOY, [Trinket for a breakdancer?]
  • 48a. D-BAG PIPES, [Plumbing for a total tool?]
  • 55a. F-WORD PROCESSOR, [Joe Pesci's computer chip?]

My favorites here are 48a and 20a.

Highlights in the fill include DIME A DOZEN, SCROOGE, TAX EVASION, and HAN SOLO. My favorite clues are:

  • The stacked combo of 62a and 66a. [Role for Tina] Fey is LIZ Lemon, while [Tina's partner] was IKE Turner.
  • 23a. [Biblical withdrawal method practitioner], ONAN. Yes. Back in the day before the [__ even keel] fill-in-the-blank clues for partial answers took over, ONAN was clued as the Biblical seed spiller and that always seemed so alien to me (something I knew only from crosswords). I think the story is that he pulled out so as not to impregnate some one (wife? brother’s wife? I can’t keep up with these soap operas, honestly) and thereby failed in his procreative duty (although I must warn younger readers that pregnancy can result with the not-so-effective withdrawal method) and thus was killed. Somehow this biblical tale morphed into prohibitions on masturbation and birth control.
  • 4d. SCROOGE [___ McDuck]. Just heard on public radio the other day that someone calculated, based on the average height of ducks and the extrapolated size of Scrooge McDuck’s room full of gold, how much money Mr. McDuck had. I think it was tens or hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • 22d. [Chase scene locale in "Die Hard," "Jurassic Park," and others], air DUCT. True confession: I have never been inside an air duct. And you?
  • 47d. ["I'm ___, Indiana Jones, and Bladerunner. I'm Fuckin' Over It!": shirt Photoshopped onto Harrison Ford], HAN SOLO.

In the debit column, we have 40d: OOP, 58d RE MI, 30d: ULT—just a few little ugly bits. Not enough to spoil the solve. 3.75 stars.

Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 26 12

This is Adam’s second celebrity obituary crossword in two days—yesterday was Dick Clark and now we have a rock musician:

  • 27a. LEVON HELM, [Drummer and vocalist who left us last Thursday: 2 wds.]
  • 15a. ELTON JOHN, [Knighted British singer who wrote a song about 27-Across on his 1971 album "Madman Across the Water": 2 wds.]
  • 31a. BAND, [Group featuring 27-Across, with "The"]
  • 44a. WOODSTOCK, [1969 rock festival at which 27-Across performed]

Wikipedia tells me Levon also played mandolin, guitar, bass, and double bass. The Band was a rockabilly/roots rock sort of band and fairly influential at their peak, though I can’t say I could identify any of their songs.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Neologisms Coined on ‘The Simpsons’”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 4/26 Simpsons Neologisms

Brendan’s theme today is explained clearly by his title: “Neologisms Coined on ‘The Simpsons.’”  So we have:

  • [*Fine, acceptable] is CROMULENT. Sounds like a word, which, as I recall from the show, was the whole point.
  • [*With 39-Across, the French] is CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEYS. Yeah, I dare you to say it to his face!
  • [*Producing pleasure through the violation of taboos] is SACRILICIOUS. Mmm, sacrilege + delicious.
  • [*Increases] is EMBIGGENS. Sounds dialectical.
  • And [*Expression of frustration or anger] is, of course, D’OH!

Five observations:

  1. I’m going to go ahead and call 5-d a great entry even though I’ve never heard of it. Evokes idyllic seaside images.
  2. At 16-d, congrats to BEQ for finding an alternate clue for SKEE.
  3. I learned from this puzzle that Roseanne BARR is running for president, that MEH is not a “Simpsons”-coined word despite internet rumors (which I’d read and found suspicious), and that ANN Romney has supposedly not worked a day in her life (unless you count, you know, raising five kids).
  4. [Bit of mayo?] for DIA at 47-d is excelente. Note that months are not capitalized in Spanish, so the clue doesn’t stumble there.
  5. Can’t let a BEQ go without a star fill roundup: U OF A (which looks like UEFA, the soccer org.), PHISHNYNYCASINOSO BE IT! and LONG A.

Thanks for the cruciverbal cromulence, Brendan!

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25 Responses to Thursday, 4/26/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, the Habs are the Montreal Canadiens. And their mascot is Youppi!

    It’s a world of laughter
    A world of tears
    It’s a world of hopes
    And a world of fears
    There’s so much that we share
    That it’s time we’re aware
    It’s a small world after all

  2. Doug says:

    Thanks for the nice write-up, Amy. I came up with the title and the idea to add “RING” to some phrases. Sam kicked it up a notch with the excellent one-way rebus concept. We had to leave some good entries on the cutting room floor (CAPERING COD, BORING DEREK, etc.) because we wanted to avoid having any extra Os in the grid.

    Full disclosure: I’ve never listened to the song either.

  3. Howard B says:

    Great stuff, Doug and Sam! Fireball made my (puzzle) night. Heard the song a bunch O’ times, and so the title helped, but still did not immediately give away the theme.

  4. Sam Donaldson says:

    Picking up where Doug left off: After settling on the theme entries, we each made a grid with the goal of having no extra Os and using BEYONCE as a revealer. I was pretty proud of my grid…until I saw Doug’s. In comparison, mine was a hot mess. Since Doug had made such a great grid, I took the lead on the clues. As usual, Peter made significant improvements to both the grid and the clues.

    Full disclosure: “Single Ladies” is among the most played tracks on my iPod.

  5. Bananarchy says:

    Hadn’t even noticed the O exclusivity – nice touch. Just subscribed to FB puzzles for the first time last week (I’ve known they’re good for a long time, but I haven’t been a good enough solver until now!), and this was a great puzzle to kick things off. Thanks S & D!

  6. Gareth says:

    Applause! So much win!

    So far there are two five star ratings. I’m guessing the other one was from our first commenter!

    Loved the theme revealer! Loved learning the word “Hebdomadally” (just in time! I’m sure it’s in Joon’s “Guess My Word” queue!) Loved seeing that RAITA got a NYT outing (it was nixed from my rebus puzzle, but the surrounding words were easier here (I think, you seem to disagree…)!) Loved WORLDWIDE[WEB] – it feels so old-timey all spelled out! Loved the clue “Result of rampant inflation?”

    I took 4 minutes to solve the bottom-left: ANEEL/OLD[WORLD]/UNHINGE were easy, the rest was frack-hard! “It might come off the shelf” was another brilliant clue!

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    “Habs” is short for “habitants”, as the French Canadian settlers called themselves.

    Bruce

  8. frobozzz says:

    Sam -

    Re the CS puzzle themed “Compass Points”

    The middle of the first long theme answer – “wetoneswhistle” – also includes the string “NESW”.

  9. pannonica says:

    Tausig: Matt, Forbes magazine has been calculating their list of wealthiest intangibles—the Forbes Fictional Fifteen—for about a decade.

    Celebrity: The Band was indeed a very influential group, representing an alternative to the excesses of the psychedelic era. Five members, all superb songwriters, with three excellent lead vocalists. It’s unlikely that genres like Americana would be in the public conscience (such as they are) were it not for the Band. Also, I’d venture that the character of indie and mainstream rock would also be quite different.

  10. Dan F says:

    No other O’s! Wow, I missed that. Kudos, Sam & Doug! (Going up against Doug in a grid-making exercise seems as foolish as going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line…) oh, LATERAL is indeed a football term – in general, a backward toss; a pitchout is a play where the QB tosses it to a RB who’s running around to the outside.

  11. Matthew G. says:

    I’m surprised at the lukewarm ratings for today’s NYT puzzle. I thought it was a much better than average rebus. The WORLDs are literally small, and they’re scattered asymmetrically so that picking up the rebus doesn’t make the whole thing stupidly easy thereafter (which is the problem with most rebuses). Why the 2 and 3 star ratings from so many people?

    As for the Fireball, it’s better still. I was actually thinking last night, while solving it, that Peter Gordon has succeeded in his mission to make his puzzles better than the NYT by deliberately observing certain rules (always a title, never repeating clues, etc.).

    I sometimes get the feeling–as a non-constructor–that those of us who are really into clever cluing are looked down on by the crossword elite, for whom the sparkling of the grid is the most important thing. Whether or not that’s true, Peter is passionate about great clues, and I’m a big fan.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Matthew G: I loooove great clues! A shoddy word can be rescued by a clever clue (in a good puzzle–in a lesser puzzle, the clever clue is merely wasted on a disappointing answer). Twisty Klahn/Walden clues, twisty NYT themeless clues, twisty Fireball/Onion/Tausig/etc. clues—love ‘em! I’m more drawn to the way Saturday NYT clues are written than Newsday “Saturday Stumper” clues–the latter tend to be oblique and keep you guessing for a longer period of time with less of an entertained “Aha!” when you finally get the answer. In general, my favorite clues are the ones that have tricked me successfully and the ones that tell you something surprising about the answer.

  13. Matt Gaffney says:

    Wait, I was thinking CROMULENT meant “very good.” Didn’t mean to sound snarky on my last sentence in the BEQ puzzle review.

  14. Martin says:

    The LAT’s “Like non-hydrocarbon compounds” (INORGANIC) is pretty bad. Hydrocarbons are organic, but most organic compounds aren’t hydrocarbons. It’s like cluing ANIMAL as “Like non-crucifers.”

  15. Sam Donaldson says:

    Thanks, frobozzz. In my haste, I missed another impressive layer to the puzzle.

  16. pannonica says:

    BEQnits*:
    • 46a [Place for a boat's name] AFT. Aft is an adjective or adverb, so this clue was at best muddy.
    • 73a [Mambo kings?] REYS. In Spanish, the plural of rey is reyes, so unless the question mark is doing secondary duty to indicate deliberate mistranslation and irony at ignorance, the fill is problematic.
    • Never heard of SKEE-Roll, though the internet confirms that it definitely exists. Is it regional vis-à-vis Skee-Ball?

    *not to be confused with beignets.

  17. Martin says:

    pannonica,

    Actually, AFT is worse than that. The boat’s name is on the stern. The stern is the outside surface of the rear of a boat. Aft describes the inside rear. Same with aircraft. It’s the aft lavatory. You wouldn’t want to use one on the stern.

    REYS is one of a long line of anglopluralizations. They’re accepted by convention and drive actual foreign-language speakers nuts. Which is much of the fun for some of us.

  18. Milo Beckman says:

    @Matthew G: I rated the puzzle 2 stars, so I thought I’d explain why.

    I thought it was a pretty lazy/uninspired rebus — after coming up with the theme idea (which, while clever, is impaired by the split revealer) the rest of the puzzle seems to have been constructed on autopilot. The theme entries are inconsistent/arbitrary (WORLDLY is the only one without the “world” part separate; not convinced RINGWORLD is all too common; REAL WORLD could use an article). The grid shape could be easily improved to make filling easier or to remove those gross 3×3 squares. The fill is pretty universally bad, with that CRT/RAITA/OLMAN/PLEUT lineup being one of the worse stacks of answers I’ve seen in a while.

    Some clever cluing saved this puzzle from being a 1-star in my book, but I came into the comments to see why people were rating it so highly, honestly. Not meaning to be so negative, but by putting “WORLD” rebuses in five slots of a random grid shape and hitting autofill I was able to make a grid of about the same quality in around a minute.

    Sorry again for tearing this puzzle apart — just thought I should answer the “explain why you’ve rated it down” request!

  19. pannonica says:

    Guess I’d prefer a straitlaced ["Curious George" creators] or [Actor Fernando and others] for REYS. Rewatched The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie a few weeks ago.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I had no idea AFT couldn’t be a noun. My crossword nautical education has failed to make this clear to me, so when I was on a cruise with my family, we headed to “the aft,” not just “the aft stairs” or “the aft elevators.” Live and learn. (Have I ever mentioned my general distaste for nautical terms in crosswords? Given that most Americans don’t ever learn to sail, never work aboard a ship or other boat, and don’t read past-century nautical novels, it’s all sketchy. I bet only a minority of Americans ever go on a cruise and learn two or three boating terms. It’s niche terminology.)

  21. Howard B says:

    I was in the middle, ratings-wise on the Times. I love rebus puzzles, I admit that. Finding the rebus was challenging and fun, but some of the fill frustrated me from a cluing and answer view. I won’t even touch comments re: “lazy/uninspired” with a 10-foot #2 pencil other than to say I disagree with those assessments.

    Now that said, I don’t think there is any good way to “rate” puzzles, honestly, so a puzzle can simultaneously be an arbitrary ’2′ in some ways, and clearly a ’4′ in others. I base an ultimate ‘rating’ on how much I *enjoyed* solving, where fill (and theme where applicable) are components of the experience. Here I just kind of averaged things out.
    Whereas with the Fireball I gave a solid ’5′, because I smiled throughout it – when solving the normal fill, the theme, all-around puzzliness.

    So it’s not an exact science, or a science at all.

  22. Jeffrey says:

    I think we should just have 3 ratings:

    3 – Wow! I loved it and will remember that one forever!

    1 – Sigh! There’s [x] minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

    2 – Everything else

  23. joon says:

    amy, plenty of people have read conrad or melville, or even seen pirates of the caribbean. so nautical vocabulary isn’t that bad in my book.

  24. Bananarchy says:

    @Matthew G.
    As a (wannabe) constructor (certainly not the crossword elite, though!), I can tell you that cluing is just as important to me as the grid. In fact, since I don’t have nearly the grid-filling acumen as the pros, I often feel that solid clues are the only thing I have to offer. I too appreciate Gordon’s approach to cluing, and I try to follow his lead and learn from him as much as possible (along with Klahn, Reagle, Walden, etc). I probably miss the mark a fair amount of the time, mind you, but just know that there are constructors out there that really appreciate the art of cluing. After all, no matter how sparkly your grid is, if you don’t have clues you don’t have a puzzle!

  25. JoelF says:

    Amy, the clue for LATERAL in the Fireball is a football reference. A pitchout in football is usually a backwards pass from the QB to the running back, and a lateral is a backwards pass.

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