Thursday, 5/10/12

NYT 9:58 
LAT 7:24 (Neville) 
CS 4:46 (Sam) 
BEQ 7:18 (Neville) 
Tausig untimed 

No Fireball post today since this week’s puzzle is a contest puzzle. (I’ve filled the grid but haven’t figured out where to go in my search for the meta answer.)

Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 10 12 0510

I give the theme concept an A but the unfamiliarity of 17a had me saying “No, no, no!” and wanting to give the whole thing the boot. You know what dictionary at OneLook.com has 17a in it? Just Wordnik and Urban Dictionary (both of which include user-submitted content rather than lexicographer-vetted definitions). See? It’s not a word we all know, and yet there it is, anchoring the theme as the first theme entry most solvers will encounter.

So: The theme concept hinges on 69a: JUMP, and the circled letters form words that follow “jump.” You can leave those circles blank and the Down crossings work fine; you have to JUMP over the “jump ___” words/phrases. Jumpsuit, jump seat, jump rope, jump ball, jump bail, jump ship. Those all work great. It’s that SUITEMATE at 17a, clued as [One sharing an apartment], that grates. I gather that SUITEMATE generally means “roommate in suite-format student housing, sharing common areas but not bedrooms,” and I don’t know that the “apartment” in the clue is truly equivalent. So even though I understood the theme perfectly fine, it took me two and a half extra minutes to grapple with the SUIT letters. I first searched for synonyms of “roommate” and found nothing but housemate that fit the ****EMATE pattern. Then I used OneLook to search for “jump ????” and that’s where the suit finally jumped out at me. Awkward, man. Awkward.

Favorite clues: 27a, SAWMILLS, [Facilities housing large planes?], and 12d, SIRI, [Phone voice?]. I never use Siri on my iPhone. Surely I’m not alone?

Best fill: KABUKI, QUISP [Breakfast cereal with a propeller-headed alien on the front of the box], REPO MAN, and STAR DATE. I’m also partial to the ESKIPMOS, MOOTORLIST, Pete SBAMPRAS, and all those mangled 3/4-letter answers crossing the circled squares.

4.5 stars for the concept, -85 stars for SUITEMATE’s clue. What does that average out to, about 4 stars?

Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 10 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 10 12

There’s a beastly theme in today’s puzzle, and it tells a little story:

I HOUNDED him about never playing Ping-Pong with me. I CROWED over my string of victories at the rec center. I always thought he’d WEASELED out on me in fear. So I BADGERED him into a game. What a mistake! I DUCKED to avoid his smashes, and I couldn’t touch his serve. In the end, the score was 21-0. I got SKUNKED!

This smells like a rejected NYT puzzle to me, what with the Ping-Pong theme. It might also have been sitting around for a while, as the change was made from 21 to 11 point games about a decade ago. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things, in and of themselves.

HOOP SKIRT gets a cute clue: [Dress that makes a slow dance difficult]. [One trying to keep her seat, maybe] sounds like someone who’s being shoved aside at the lunch table, but it’s cluing INCUMBENT.

["Heavens to Murgatroyd!"] livens up  OH DEAR! a little more, and DADDY-O is nice.

I’ll be honest with you – the remainder of this puzzle just wasn’t that fun for me. There were a lot of “crossword names” like FREEH, AOKI and ROEG. Look at the abbreviations, too: LSTS atop LSATS, ICU, PSS, ILA, URL; SCUBA I like. The rest isn’t grand either. It pains me to not be able to be more positive about this puzzle, so I’ll just cut things short here to avoid any more negativity.

Updated Thursday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pearls of Wisdom” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, May 10

Did today’s puzzle leave you feeling clammy? Each of the four theme entries begins with a word that can follow “pearl:”

  • 18-Across: The [Impromptu concert] is a JAM SESSION. And I’m willing to bet a nickel that Pearl Jam has engaged in at least a couple of jam sessions over the years.
  • 28-Across: An ONION BLOSSOM is a [Deep-fried vegetable treat at many state fairs]. If you’re dieting, have your onion blossom made with a pearl onion.
  • 49-Across: HARBOR LIGHTS is the [Song covered by Elvis Presley, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, Sammy Kaye, and others]. Heck, you could list all the others and I still wouldn’t know the song. Pearl Harbor, on the other hand, is very familiar.
  • 63-Across: The [Sci-fi role for Buster Crabbe] is BUCK ROGERS, a character created by the author Pearl Buck. Or not.

I like to think that MINI, the [Leg-fancier's preferred skirt style], is a continuation of the theme, as Minnie Pearl was one of my favorite television performers growing up. Yes, I’m the one nine year-old boy who liked Hee Haw.

Lots of fun entries and clues in this puzzle. I liked TEXACO, WITHDRAWN, and RC COLA. On the clue front, I liked [Moral person?] for AESOP and [One who pontiff-icates?] for the POPE. The best clue-entry combination, however, goes to [What one's got to do on the disco 'round, oh yea] and BOOGIE. Trust me on this one: you absolutely have to watch this video of I Love the Nightlife, the song inspiring the clue. It’s a Perfect Ten on the unintentional comedy scale. And since I can’t top this video, I’ll just stop here.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Two States”

Ben Tausig/Ink Well crossword solution, "Two States" 5 10 12

Did you solve Caleb Rasmussen’s Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle last week (or read pannonica’s review of it)? When that appeared, I had already test-solved this puzzle, which makes its own play on the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment:

  • 38a. SCHRODINGER’S CAT, [Famous thought experiment with an animal said to be simultaneously 6-Across and 68-Across]
  • 6a. LIVE, [What the circled letters spell]
  • 68a. DEAD, [What the circled letters can also spell]

There are four circled letters. When you fill them in with L, I, V, E, your online solving program will tell you your solution is correct–but the letters D, E, A, D will also make for entirely valid Across and Down answers intersecting at those letters:

  • 17a. OLDER or ODDER, [More removed from what the kids are doing, say]
  • 2d. RILE or RIDE, [Get on someone's back]
  • 19a. HEIL or HEEL, [Dictatorial shout]
  • 12d. CHI or CHE, [Figure on many a college shirt]
  • 58a. MVPS or MAPS, [It may be hard to get them to fold]
  • 9d. VIM or AIM, [What a driven person may have]
  • 63a. BONES or BONDS, [Certain connectors]
  • 56d. PEAS or PDAS, [They might be compared to small brains]

If you’re solving on paper, of course, you could have a mix of LIVE and DEAD letters in the circled squares and it will take reading the LIVE and DEAD clues to get the full effect of the theme’s duality.

I imagine it was not easy for Ben to come up with those four sets of words that would work with dual clues for those very specific letter changes. The closed-off 3×4 corners are more pliable than the 4×5 ones that bleed into more answers. LIVE and DEAD are also in small, closed-off sections, which helps, and then there’s only the 15 in the middle to contend with. However! The corners with the circled square action also give us M.C. ESCHER and IPHONE APPS, and CINNABON lends an alluring aroma to the fill.

4.25 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Cosplay” – Neville’s review

BEQ 5 10 12

BEQ 5 10 12

Urban Dictionary explains cosplay better than I can: Literally “Costume Play.” Dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character (usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character). Six entries in this this puzzle are dressed up for Comic-Con:

  • 17a. [Play maker?] - THEATER DIRECTOR
  • 23a. [Light tone tinged with lavender] – LILAC PINK. Link is the main character from the Legend of Zelda games, for those not recognizing the name.
  • 31a. [Drink served by nurses?] - HUMAN MILK
  • 39a. [2002 Ryan Reynolds/Tara Reid comedy] – National Lampoon’s VAN WILDER. I don’t think I’ve seen any movie with either of these two people
  • 48a. [Random sampling] - SPOT CHECK
  • 57a. [It's full of assets] - MARKET PORTFOLIO

There’s a bonus entry with Slave LEIA at 22a, as well. It’s another great puzzle from BEQ, clue and entry-wise. Five quick thoughts

  1. Monday we had INSTAGRAM; today we have WENT VIRAL [Made it to the first page of reddit, probably]. Reddit is the website I think I understand the least, but this clue still made sense to me.
  2. Great clue alert: [Where you'll find yourself after cashing in your chips, with "the"] – AFTERLIFE.
  3. How many ‘A’s are too many in AAAH? AAAAH? AAAAAH?
  4. [Relentless attack] – SIEGE gave me trouble, as I thought it was SURGE. Tricky business!
  5. Neil Patrick Harris hosted the TONYS last year, and he’ll be back to do it again in a month.
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45 Responses to Thursday, 5/10/12

  1. rex says:

    O good, you had the same SUITEMATE problem I did—and I *had* SUITEMATEs in college (in fact, that’s probably the only reason I’m not still trying to fill those four circles in).

  2. Doug says:

    I had to cheat for SUITEMATE too. I thought the overall concept was very clever, but the JUMP SUIT/SUITEMATE combo was deadly. Killed the good vibes I got from the rest of the puzzle.

  3. joon says:

    had not thought about the SUITEMATE difficulties, but i did notice that those letters are essentially uncrossed, so… yeah, that’s pretty brutal. for that matter, so is CAT {BALL}OU, perhaps, to those who don’t know 50-year old movies or memorize best actor winners. fortunately, i learned CAT BALLOU from crosswords a few years ago; BALLOU seems to find its way into a grid every year or so, and there’s no other way to clue it.

    very clever idea though, and i really enjoyed the puzzle.

  4. Bruce says:

    The problem with SUITEMATE is even worse since the circled letters play no role in the downward crosses, so there’s nothing to help one deduce the answer. If down answers containing circled letters were actual words (albeit not the clued answers found by jumping over the circled letters), then this would have at least given a solver a chance to get close enough to guess.

  5. granbaer says:

    SUITEMATE killed me, too. Finally googled ROOMMATES and found it. Also didn’t see the theme until I read the clue for the word JUMP. My time was abysmal, but once I got the theme I thought it was quite clever, except for the danged SUITEMATE.

  6. J. T. Williams says:

    At least you had something resembling a prayer on suitemate. Cat ballou on the other hand… no crossings of any sort, if you don’t know the movie, you’re dead…

  7. Gareth says:

    What Amy said, brilliant idea, but the jumped squares are all but unches (only checked by JUMP). I cottoned to it quick enough, but was left with two rows of 4 circled squares which took a long time to suss. Getting EUROPEANS wasn’t helped by my having AyER initially, nor by having USm. Like almost everyone it seems I’d never heard of the term SUITEMATE either, but eventually guessed it.

    Neville: in Pancho’s defense, a lot of casual players still play to 21… Loved “Heavens to Murgatroyd”.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    Took a little while to think of SUITEMATE, but the big stickler, as Joon noted, was CAT BALLOU. I had SEITE coming down (the reversal of IE not sitting well but, there are so many exceptions to the I-before-E rule, and it is in a forEIgn language, that I suffered it), and didn’t know of the NEUE Gallerie, which gave me CAI????O?. Five minutes staring at that one before I hit on it. Didn’t know until that moment that Lee Marvin was in it.

  9. Howard B says:

    I do love the puzzle-within-a-puzzle concept. Usually do. The fill was challenging as well.
    This is very close to a meta-puzzle, except with the final answer sort being a reveal at the end.
    However, the theme answers are as close to unchecked squares as you can get; and this gave me trouble at COURT****. I had to really work for the ‘SHIP’ end of it; not that it’s a bad thing, it was just a very different approach to solving a Times puzzle.

    Suitemate was a term I’d heard in college where they did have suites as well as rooms in dormitories. Outside of that, I’m not sure how often you might encounter that.
    I feel for those who are not familiar with CAT BALLOU, because the internet is their only hope today.

  10. Tuning Spork says:

    Great idea, btw, but I’m with Bruce. If the down answers had made real words (like if the first SUITEMATE crossing were, say, WEST clued as [Just out of the shower]), that’d've not only checked the themers more adequately, but would have been a super-duperly awe-inspiring construction.

  11. Deb Amlen says:

    Now I’m wondering if I was the only person who *didn’t* have a problem with SUITEMATE.

    Most of the dorms where I went to school were suites (at least back in the 1800′s, when I was there), and we referred to our roommates as suitemates all the time.

  12. Bruce S. says:

    I know the term SUITEMATE as well, but it doesn’t ring true at all to me with “apartment” in the clue. That is what took me forever for those 4 boxes. If there had been any “dorm” mention in the clue then it would have been no problem for me.

    That said, I thought the theme was terrific and enjoyed the puzzle very much.

  13. Rob says:

    What Bruce said at 12:16am.

  14. Dook says:

    I don’t know what jump ball means. Am I the only one?

  15. Howard B says:

    Here’s a jump ball between Vince Carter and retired crossword staple Yao Ming. Guess who wins it…

    Unfortunately, the intent of a jump ball doesn’t always pan out on lower levels of basketball. Especially if you have a 7-foot-5-inch high-school student taking said jump ball.

  16. Ray says:

    I have to say it. This puzzle completely stumped me. I hated it. First time in years I couldnt complete the puzzle.

  17. loren smith says:

    Deb – Maybe we’re the only two who didn’t have a problem with SUITEMATE. In grad school, my SUITEMATEs and I regularly went out together. Once, we were at a bar and ran into a UNC basketball player. We approached him and asked for his autograph. We said, “Just make it to our entire suite.” He wrote, and I’m not making this up, “Congratulations to the whole sweat.”

  18. Matt M. says:

    When I first visited my college, I thought people were talking about their “sweet mates” and that this was some collegiate slang for “really good friends.”
    I loved this puzzle, though had the advantage of being familiar with both SUITEMATES and CAT BALLOU (a fun movie)

  19. pannonica says:

    Another one killed by SUITEMATE. As others have said, the unmodified “apartment” wasn’t enough, especially in light of the sort-of non-crossing aspect. That crossing aspect is arguable because the JUMP+ element is part of the construction (which is how Amy was able to complete it). “Dorm” or perhaps “large apartment” would have helped.

    Enlightening to see another take on incorporating the Schrödinger’s Cat Gedankenexperiment into a 15×15 grid. Tausig’s was similar in concept (obviously) to Rasmussen’s with the LIVE/DEAD duality and superimposed squares. Interesting that both employed AIM/VIM as an element. Tausig’s has the nicety of putting the 15-letter name right across the center, while Rasmussen’s relegated it to the clues. The former describes a “box” with the locations of the four circled letters as the corners, while the latter collected them all in one place, as if they were physically in a box. I feel the one that appeared in the NYT has a slight edge in overall elegance, but both are good.

    BEQ: “Great clue alert: [Where you'll find yourself after cashing in your chips, with "the"] – AFTERLIFE.” Great, with that blatant repetition? Clever idea, but needed tweaking.

  20. Bruce N. Morton says:

    “Suite mate” is a very familiar expression to me, but I wasn’t thrilled with the “unchecked letter” aspect. I misread the “Irish cream” clue as “Irish ice cream” and wondered how the heck I was supposed to know brands of Irish ice cream. That’s my blunder, but it does highlight the “unchecked” feature.

  21. Sean says:

    Wanted to point out a blatant error in Pannonica’s comment above. Neither puzzle appeared in the NYT. Careless. Otherwise a useful comment.

  22. pannonica says:

    Whoops, I meant CHE for Rasmussen. We all need proof-readers.

  23. Jerry says:

    Did not like all the unchecked letters. I had HOUSEMATE (JumpHOUSE: believing the circle for the E was omitted) for too long. EuROPEans difficult to suss out. Kept thinking POLES was some sort of extremes. Now I know why unchecked letters are taboo.

  24. Gareth says:

    @Loren: Maybe with a Southern drawl “suite” sounds like “sweat”? It wasn’t one of the pronunciations covered here

  25. pannonica says:

    But why would anyone dedicate an autograph to a sweat?

  26. loren smith says:

    Gareth – what a fun theme. Thanks for the link! I once saw on 10.000 Dollar Pyramid (where celebrities try to elicit certain words from the cuees by saying leading words.) The word to be thought of was “enemy.” The celebrity said, “Foe.” The guesser said, “Five.”

    Pannonica and Gareth – I think it wasn’t a southern thing. I would guess that somewhere in his brain he knew it wasn’t spelled “sweet” so he chose “sweat.”

  27. pannonica says:

    Yes, that’s what I was trying to point out to Gareth. Questionable literacy.

  28. Erik says:

    Themes with unchecked letters are usually five stars if you know the words, and one star if you don’t. I’ve never heard of Cat Ballou, and despite having done little else in the past week besides watching the NBA playoffs, couldn’t pull ‘jump ball’ out of my head. So that sucked. It was a nice puzzle though.

    What even is a ballou? Do they have those in Yyouisiana?

  29. Karen says:

    I was okay with SUITEMATE, but had to look up CAT BALLOU. And then still had an error at the ESTELLE/NEUE crossing (an A looked plausible too.)

    I didn’t even realize that the Fireball was a contest today, just thought I was missing on the unifying theme. I did have to google at least one answer.

  30. Al says:

    Took me 4-5 minutes to come up with SUITEMATE, fortunately I was familiar with CAT BALLOU. I just wanted to add that the letters weren’t totally unchecked as there was an implied clue of “Jump ____” for each of them. But I’d call that about 1.5 checking at best as there was no help for individual down entries.

  31. D F says:

    Re: the Tausig – I am not able to follow the MVPS answer to “It may be hard to get them to fold”. Because an MVP in a sport may want to keep playing and not retire??? Not seeing it – any help?

  32. joon says:

    erik, catherine “cat” ballou is the name of a character. not lee marvin’s character, incidentally; jane fonda plays the title role.

    curious coincidence with the schrödinger’s cat (ballou) puzzles. ben’s has a much higher degree of difficulty since each of the two-way squares is two-way in both directions in addition to spelling out LIVE/DEAD. over at xwordinfo, jim horne calls these “schizophrenic” crosswords, but maybe we should call them schrödinger puzzles. it’s actually quite a bit more apt.

  33. AV says:

    Wow, loved the puzzle – 5 stars for the unique concept. Agree that the semi-unchecked-ness added minutes to the solving experience, but holy smokes, how often do we see a new theme? Hence my *****

  34. Bananarchy says:

    I hereby second Joon’s motion to rename dualistic crosswords like today’s Ink Well “Schrödinger Puzzles.” Schizophrenia, from the Latin for “fractured mind” or “split mind,” roughly, is an unfortunate term, as it has given rise to the common misconception that Schizophrenia is in some way symptomatically related to split-personality disorder. This misconception, in turn, has led to the term’s appropriation for metaphors such as “schizophrenic crossword.” Considering the actual symptoms of Schizophrenia, “schizophrenic crossword” would be more apt as a descriptor of “something different”/”anything goes” type puzzles, but that would also be somewhat insensitive (funny how it seems more insensitive when used more accurately).

  35. pannonica says:

    Schrödinger is more mellifluous then superpositional.

  36. pannonica says:

    Has no one here actually seen Cat Ballou? It’s admittedly dated, but possesses certain charms. Lee Marvin takes a comic turn in a dual role, Jane Fonda is the mid-60s Jane Fonda, and the narrative is framed by co-troubadours (and crossword regulars) Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye.

  37. Ari says:

    Unhappy with this NY Times puzzle mainly because it is the final Thursday before the SoCal tournament on Saturday, and I felt inadequate after not getting SUITE!! I had suitemates in college and I still couldn’t come up with it. Apartment was really the wrong word to use. The only thing I kept thinking was HOUSEMATE and that Jump Hous was maybe a German indie film i’d never seen. :)

  38. john farmer says:

    @D F: I think “fold” in the MVPS clues means fail or give up, something an MVP is not likely to do. Not an easy task to come up with a single clue that works for both MAPS and MVPS. (Haven’t given it much thought but some play off the word “stars” may have been another option.) Cool puzzle. Interesting variation on the theme.

    “Cat Ballou”: an odd western. Always joined in my mind for some reason with “Paint Your Wagon,” another film starring Lee Marvin, one of the great tough guys in movies, gone very mellow.

  39. Tuning Spork says:

    I’ll third “Schrödinger Puzzles”.

  40. T Campbell says:

    Sometimes I just don’t know what you guys are talking about. I used “suitemate” at least a dozen times in the last two months (I’m writing a story set in college, but still).

  41. Howard B says:

    T, I think this is one of those terms that is very situational. I’ve heard and used it many times (and still was briefly thrown off in the puzzle by initially guessing HOUSEMATE), always in college housing-related parlance.

    Now if you’re removed a bit from college, and/or don’t live or know people living in such a configuration, I honestly can see never encountering that word in reading or casual conversation. It’s not professional jargon, not technical/scientific, its meaning is somewhat inferable, and yet it is a very specific descriptive element. I wonder what other words fit into such a description. Just kind of interesting.

  42. Jan says:

    Love the idea of Schrödinger Puzzles as a new crossword term – great idea, joon!

  43. Tuning Spork says:

    Howard, I’m a couple of decades removed from college, but I can confidently say that I’ve never before heard nor read the word “suitemate”. Students in on-campus dorms were “roommates”, and those in off-campus abodes were “housemates”.

    I lived in an off-campus apartment complex (two 3-story buildings, each with a row of units) where each all-above-ground unit was two stories with three bedrooms, accomodating six students. The sunken/below-grounds units were one floor with two bedrooms, accomodating four students. In your experience, would these be considered “suites”, but we just didn’t call them that? Might the use of “suitemate” be a regional thing?

  44. Old Geezer says:

    Schroedinger puzzles. Nice.

    What a Big12 ref might say after a turnover? Ball OU!

    Cat Ballou was an ok movie, but I saw it first run (very young).

  45. jefe says:

    Curses, doubly foiled by lack of circles on the Facebook app! Re. Tausig, had L/I/A/E where the circles would have been and was not seeing any possible error.

    Re. BEQ, didn’t pick up on the theme until checking BEQ’s site. Clue for 24D has a misspelling; “inagural” should be “inaugural”.

    IMO, SUITEMATE is a perfectly cromulent word. Lots of college dorms have suite-style housing. Dictionary.com has it dating back to 1923.

    Never seen Cat Ballou, but have heard of it. It was referenced in Casper, when Bill Pullman becomes a ghost and doesn’t remember who his daughter is.

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