Thursday, 5/31/12

Fireball 7:15 
NYT 5:15 
LAT 4:59 (Neville) 
CS 6:12 (Sam) 
Tausig untimed 

No BEQ post Thursday since it’s a contest puzzle. What I can tell you is that it was a 12-minute puzzle (plus a minute for the meta) for Matt, 7:30 (plus a bit for the meta) for me. Was it Brendan’s last contest that had the nearly impossible meta? He’s going easy on us this time (except for the toughness of the crossword proper). Good luck Thursday morning, folks.

Newsflash! On June 1, Patrick Blindauer will post his monthly crossword. It’s a PDF only (meaning that Patrick has once again done something creative that Across Lite can’t accommodate). Matt Gaffney will be blogging the puzzle Saturday, so hop to it on Friday if you can.

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 31 12 0531

I just learned something. Those cute round boxes that I store Christmas ornaments in aren’t hat boxes. No, ma’am. They’re BANDBOXES, a word that’s been in the English language since 1631 and refers to a squat cylindrical box (originally wood, now cardboard, I think) that was initially designed to hold neckbands. Well! You can see why they needed to devise this container. Who doesn’t want to keep a bunch of neckbands in tiptop shape?

BANDBOXES runs down the middle of the grid and is clued as [Cylindrical cardboard containers apropos for this puzzle]. The word’s boxed in by six ELO rebus squares just inside the perimeter of the grid. ELO by itself shows up in far more crosswords than the band’s musical legacy would merit. Here, it’s put to use in MELON BALL and HELOISE, CHEESE LOG and FELONY, MEL OTT and VELOUR, OCELOT and LIE LOW, ”FEEL OK?” and RELOCATES, and COUNSELOR and ANGELOU. Nice set of rebused answers with a good bit of (cheesy, melony) flavor. Crosswordese ELO trapped inside crosswordese MEL OTT!

Other nice fill: SHIATSU, J-jargony NEWS HOLE, TRAIL MIX, SLOSHY, Dorothy Parker’s SHARP WIT, and WHOOPS.

You know what damn near killed me? Figuring out the Roman numeral that provided the second letter of [1960s singer Sands]. EDIE? No, MDDI is nonsense. Implausible ECIE making Columbus a centenarian? No. EXIE? Nonsense. EVentually the V became aVailable to my brain, and this EVIE whom I don’t know (apparently she’s still singing) crosses MDVI, 1506. I kept trying baloney letters and clicking “done” on the applet. Good job, me!

Four stars, even though I’d never heard of BANDBOXES. Four stars for the puzzle, two stars for my knowledge today.

Patrick Berry’s Fireball crossword, “Spelling Trouble”

Fireball solution, 5 31 12

Nifty theme, with two-way double-rebus action. It’s a letter one way and a blank the other way because for each answer to a starred clue, A {BLANK} TILE IS / NEEDED TO / PLAY IT IN / SCRABBLE. So our four starred answers are JUJUBE (only one J in an English Scrabble set), KAYAKED (one K), PUPPETS (two Ps), and CYCLIC (two Cs). Where another answer crosses one of those blighted letters (I’ve circled ‘em), just play a blank: WET {BLANK}ET, DRAW A {BLANK}, {BLANK} OUT, and the first part of the instructions.

Favorite morsels:

  • Mary Richards and Sue Ann Nivens’ WJM and Woody BOYD from beloved sitcoms of yore. (I’m not talking about you, FLO.)
  • 54a. AZALEA, [Shrub that does well in dry soil (and whose name comes from the Greek word for "dry")]. Etymology! The Greek root is not one I knew: azaleos.
  • 65a. III, [It's 150° from X]. Roman numeral math meets clock geometry! 180° from 10:00 is 4:00, and each hour is 30°, so either III or V solves the problem.
  • 5d. ODE, [Salute using feet?]
  • 27d. OSSO, [Radio, per esempio]. Radio = the radius, a bone.
  • 49d. ARABIC, [Source of alcohol?]. Etymology! Many of the best al- words come from the Arabic language, ranging from alchemy and alcohol to algebra and algorithm. Also coffee, elixir, guitar, lemon and lime, monsoon, sofa, sugar, tarragon, zenith, and zero. You know you want to open that link in another tab and spend some time perusing it later.

Disappointing parts of this puzzle:

  • This space left intentionally blank.

4.75 stars.
Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Relatively Speaking” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS, May 31 solution

Four two-word terms get house guests, as KIN is inserted into each:

  • 17-Across: “Flag football” becomes FLAKING FOOTBALL, a [Cause of some gridiron blunders?].
  • 28-Across: Good ol’ “cat naps” become CAT NAPKINS, the [Mealtime help for messy felines?].
  • 49-Across: The “name tag” you get to wear on The Price is Right becomes NAME TAKING, or [Identity theft?].
  • 61-Across: Why just “pump gasoline” when you can have PUMPKIN GASOLINE, [Fuel for Cinderella's coach?].

Like many families, this one is a mixed bag. In three of the four theme entries, KIN gets added just before the last letter in one of the words, but in the other case it’s simply appended to the end. That kind of inconsistency detracts from the theme’s appeal. And in my opinion, FLAKING FOOTBALL seems a little too nonsensical or contrived; the others I can sort of imagine as being real, if goofy.

But there were also things I very much liked. The whole African mini-theme in the grid’s midsection (KENYAN crossing EGYPT crossing BIG GAME, the [Much-sought safari sightings]) is terrific. TABASCO adds some zing (of course), and I also liked LINEUP, REBUKE, and ANYONE. And hey, any grid with two unforced Q’s can’t be all bad.

Favorite entry = PIANO TUNER, the [Person making some key adjustments]. Favorite clue = [Got ready to blow out some candles, say] for INHALED. Apparently former President Clinton never had a birthday party while in college.

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 31 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 5 31 12

Let me just say this right here and now. This puzzle has reaffirmed my faith in newspaper daily puzzles. Solid, well-executed theme. Quality fill. Fun clues. We’ve had a few icky puzzles here and there across the board over the past few weeks – I think this is a solid sign of a return to form.

  • 17a. [*Ongoing saga] - SOAP OPERA
  • 29a. [*Focaccia-like treat] – PIZZA BREAD… mmm… pizza bread
  • 43a. [*Kitchen extraction gadget] - JUICE PRESS
  • 56a. [*Barely find room for] – SQUEEZE IN
  • 65/1a. [Time-Life Records product... and, in a way, what each of the answers to starred clues is] – BOX/SET

Each theme entry is a two-word phrase in which each word is a type of box. That by itself isn’t just outstanding, but the selection of phrases is great. Real phrases. Vastly different boxes. A few Zs. It just works.

At first I couldn’t believe that we’d have BOX/SET in the grid in reverse. That just seemed… sloppy. I considered that it was done to control the X. 8-letter entries starting with X aren’t as easily found as ones that start with T. But I think it was more than that – it hides the payoff of the connect entry until the end. (Unless you’re like me and skip ahead to that last across entry. Spoiler alert.)

Just look at this grid. Let me give you a quick tour:

  • In the upper right we have TEAR OPEN. Here’s something I learned yesterday: if you’re given a nice looking envelope that you have to give back to someone, don’t just tear it open with reckless abandon. Of course, if they hadn’t added extrea tape, it would’ve been easier to open neatly.
  • Working our way around clockwise, we have ["My Cousin Vinny" star] Joe PESCI. Now I’m in the mood for grits. Dem’s hominy grits.
  • I love the last name IBANEZ, but I didn’t know it from the clue [Spanish writer Blasco ___]. I’m glad the blank was in place to tell me I was looking for a last name; it let me play Hangman with a little more strategy.
  • Sit on it, POTSIE!
  • I think TRUE GRIT is a grit entry no matter which film version you refer to – the classic 1969 one John Wayne or the [2010 Coen brothers Western]. It was a book first, though! Where’s the literary love?
  • Crossing that is NEMESES (a fun plural), which is clued as [They're unbeatable]. The word comes from Nemesis, the Greek goddess of retribution, especially against hubris. Pride goes before destruction and all that, right?
  • LEFT JAB crosses JACK WEBB. This is great
  • Oh, you liked this puzzle too? I HEAR YA!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Labor Movement”

Ben Tausig Ink Well crossword, 5 31 12 "Labor Contractions"

If you’ve been through birthing classes or you’ve labored, you’ll have a keener appreciation of this theme. Me, I went to a partial series of birthing classes (key message from nurse-instructor: “No one has to suffer. You can have an epidural.”) and had an emergency C-section before finishing the lousy classes, so contractions are a thing I know mainly from TV and movies. Anyway—the theme entries contain contractions in the circled squares, and those contraction words move CLOSER TOGETHER in the grid, just as uterine contractions get closer together timewise.

  • 19a. TIME’S UP, ["Put down your pencils!"]
  • 20a. YES MA’AM, [Polite assent to mom]
  • 37a. I’M OK, YOU’RE OK, [1960s self-help bestseller]
  • 58a. IF I CAN’T, [50 Cent single from 2003]
  • 60a. LET’S SEE, ["Hmmm ..."]
  • 66a, 67a. CLOSER TOGETHER, [With 67-Across, how the contractions in this puzzle move]

In the U.S., baby weights are given in pounds and 54a: OZS. (Technically, “oz” is both singular and plural, but OZS gets play in crosswords.) Before you know it, there’s 2d: NAMING, the [New parent's task]. And later on, the baby will 49a: TEETHE ([Develop molars, e.g.]). If the baby is actually an alien, it’s more likely to cause an abdominal 3d: TREMOR before it 7d: ERUPTS from the chest.

Favorite clues:

  • 15a. CAR ALARM, ["Eoweoweoweow-powpowpowpow-ooohweee-ooohweee-whooopwhooop-urnhurnhurnh" device]. Ben is an expert in urban sounds. (This is the clue some commenters singled out before I blogged the puzzle.)
  • 25a. AGRA, [City with the Taj Mahal and a lot of pollution]. Hey, I learned something.
  • 62a. TOASTS, [Moments when people might sit around tables and raise spirits?]. Not a SEANCE.
  • 10d. AMISH, [People whose best-known technology is buggy?].
  • 32d. TKO, [Ref's merciful decision, at times]. When a boxer hasn’t been physically knocked out but is clearly unfit to continue the bout, you may see the technical knockout.
  • 53d. ANSER, [Goose genus that sounds like a solution]. Fusty old crosswordese gets new life.

Top fill: 65a: SRIRACHA, ["Rooster sauce"]. There’s a rooster printed on the bottle of this Thai condiment.

4.25 stars.

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29 Responses to Thursday, 5/31/12

  1. Hold on tight to your dreams, everyone. And don’t bring me down.

  2. John E says:

    Wait, did Jeff Lynne die?

  3. Gareth says:

    This one was filled in a fun, lively manner, as you described! I had the same middle conundrum, only enlarged to include MUTI/OTOE. It was tough in a less than satisfying way. MUTI in my world is another word for medicine, usually liquid. ELO seems to get quite a lot of airplay on oldies stations here, never struck me as an answer to hate on… Loved having OCELOT in a puzzle! Maybe tomorrow we’ll get MARGAY and Saturday JAGUARUNDI for an Amazonian cats with cool names triple-play!

  4. Howard B says:

    Times, Fireball: Rebus-y and Scrabbly fun all in one day!

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved both the NYT and the Fireball, and love having a day off and time for puzzles!

  6. Brad Wilber says:

    Good good puzzles today!! I’m wading into the mix by putting my extra themeless puzzle for May in the Island of Lost Puzzles, so if you check it out I hope you have fun with it.

    Brad

  7. Jeffrey says:

    The car alarm clue is wrong. My dictionary says the proper sound is “Eweoeowoweoweo-poppoppoppop-ooooooohweee-ooooohhhweee-whooopoopoopoopwhooop-urnhurnhurnh”. Doesn’t anyone edit these things! Worst puzzle ever!!!

  8. John Haber says:

    It grated on me that we who do crosswords know that a band will be ELO. In other words, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen enshrining crosswordese as a theme, pun, and rebus, and that’s not right. As if to rub it in, one theme entry was, apparently, the only baseball player who ever lived.

    Gorski’s constructions are among my favorites, but she sure loses points with me for this. It’s an entire puzzle talking to the usual suspects.

  9. Martin says:

    LAT: SET/BOX didn’t strike me as sloppy. CAR and AUTOS with the same clue did, though.

  10. Martin says:

    Rooster Sauce, Huy Fong Sriracha, is not Thai. It’s 100% melting-pot American. It is loosely based on the Thai sauce with a similar name, but it’s about as Thai as franks and beans are German. In Sriracha, a town in Chonburi Province, Thailand, where homemade chili pastes are favored, natives do not recognize Mr. Tran’s purée as their own. .

  11. Matt says:

    @John Haber

    It’s just possible that Ms. Gorski is doing it deliberately:

    http://crosswordcity.blogspot.com/2010/03/myth-of-crosswordese.html

  12. Meem says:

    For those of us in Chicago, Riccardo Muti is not merely a conductor. Maestro Muti is Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Loved today’s NYT.

    Got a laugh out of the convergence of box set and bandbox!

  13. Dan F says:

    I’m currently performing the music of ELO seven times a week!

    Been catching up on the last week of puzzles, so these two were not the only fun rebuses I got to do today…

  14. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Dan,

    You’re playing at the Meadowbrook in Michigan, near Oakland University? Know it well. How long do you expect the run to continue? I expect to be visiting friends in Ann Arbor sometime within the next couple weeks, and I’ll definitely try to hear you, if the curtain is still up. (I was motivated by crosswords to make a movie pilgrimmage–(that one with Meryl Streep)–to hear ABBA songs, and I loved them. Maybe I’ll think as highly of ELO.)

    No dissent from me on today’s puzzles. The Fireball was a great, multi-layered theme, and I also loved Brad W’s crunchy. Elegant 15′s and smooth, literate fill. I don’t know the reference at. . .wait a minute. . .it hasn’t been blogged, so maybe I shouldn’t spoil it. I’ll just say that, assuming I’ve got the right letter in square 24, I don’t know the reference at 24d. I highly recommend the puz., though.

  15. mitchs says:

    Loved the FB. I wasted some time thinking about BLANK/SPACE as the dual rebus – had SPACEOUT at the top right.

  16. Ben Tausig says:

    Just wanted to brag on the best day of my life. My wife and I delivered our first child today, a beautiful boy who will probably be named Julius. He’s awesome. I timed today’s puzzle pretty good, right?

  17. Sam Donaldson says:

    Congratulations, Ben!

  18. Howard B says:

    Congrats, Ben!!!

  19. jefe says:

    Argh, circles didn’t show correctly in the facebook app version of Ben’s puzzle, which was otherwise fantastic. Congrats on the puzzle, the newborn, and the timing!

  20. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Ben,

    Eoweoweoweopowpowpowpowooohweee-ooohweee-whoopwhoopurnhurnhurnh

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Congratulations to you and the new mama, Ben! Yes, excellent timing. It’s good of the baby to cooperate with your publishing schedule. (He will be less accommodating when it comes to your sleep schedule. Babies, they’re tyrants. Adorable tyrants.)

  22. john farmer says:

    Looks like the contractions are over. Congrats, Ben. All the best to the new mom and welcome to Julius-to-be.

  23. Donna L says:

    Mazel tov, Ben! May the new little Tausig have a long and happy life.

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Cannot. Must have. I will. They would.

    Yep. John Farmer’s right. The contractions are over.

  25. Matt Gaffney says:

    When Ben introduces his new son to Amy, he can say…

    wait for it…

    (6,6)

  26. Martin says:

    Neonatal jaundice is so common and so easily cured today it’s nothing to be concered with.

    It was “Orange Julius,” right?

  27. joon says:

    ben, i was wondering if this puzzle had a personal message. fabulous! congratulations! i rate julius 5 stars.

  28. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Orange–Julius.

    Damn. Can’t believe someone got there first

  29. HH says:

    “Eoweoweoweow-powpowpowpow-ooohweee-ooohweee-whooopwhooop-urnhurnhurnh”

    Who’s writing the clues — Don Martin?

Comments are closed.