Thursday, 9/13/12

NYT 4:18 
Fireball 10:40 
LAT 6:43 (Neville) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 6:32 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:12 (Matt) 

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 13 12 0913

Okay, I finished the puzzle but I haven’t yet pieced together the theme. Something about eggs and French eggs. There were Q and A clues with numbers. Let’s take a look:

4a. [Q1] WHY / 13a. [Q2] ARE / 19a. [Q3] FRENCH / 35a. [Q4] OMELETTES / 49a. [Q5] SMALL? 11d. [A1] BECAUSE / 26d. [A2] ONE EGG / 54d. [A3] IS AN / 55d. [A4] OEUF. “Because one egg is an oeuf” is a pun on “because one egg is enough.”

So that’s the joke. Why are the pieces labeled [Q1] and [A2] instead of [Part 1 of the question] and [Part 2 of the answer]? What entitles this theme to do away with thematic symmetry? It’s not as if the joke is so clever, so fresh, that it simply had to be the centerpiece of a crossword, even if it didn’t break up into symmetrical chunks. If you Google the phrase ”because one egg is an oeuf,” you get over 2,000 hits—and if you go traditional with “un oeuf” in the punch line, you get over 7,000. I’m mystified. Does any of this make sense to you?

I was surprised to see the lowercasing in the 7a clue, [Ignores the teleprompter]. Apparently it is Times style not to adhere to the trade name’s CamelCase, TelePrompTer.

I am sweet on the CASH COW, ARETHA Franklin, PAY DIRT, “YES, BUT,” U.S. MAIL, [Is in low power mode] as a computery clue for SLEEPS, SCOOPED as a journalistic verb rather than an ice cream parlor verb, and SWEET ON. The 24a: RIAA clue is good, too: [Fighter of pirates, in brief]. And who doesn’t like language-trivia clues like 30a: [Only Semitic language that's an official language of the European Union], MALTESE?

The Scowl-o-Meter was triggered by 41a: [Currency exchange premium], AGIO. Been a while since I saw that one in a crossword.

2.9 stars.

Frank Longo’s Furball crossword, “Vwllss Crsswrd 3″

Fireball crossword answers, 9 13 12

Huh? What’s that? “Furball” is not the correct expansion of the vowel-free “Frbll”? If you say so.

I felt like I was flying through Frinko Lange’s latest vowelless puzzle. Until … ouch. Took me a lot longer to wrestle the bottom right into shape, particularly 53a. [Plans on getting even] just refused to yield its truth to me until I peeked at the enumeration in the other copy of the puzzle. Ah, HaS a SCoRe To SeTTLe. I was stuck on the last letter of 35d (ReTuRN PaTH, yes?), and NoT Too HoT, CoCoNuT oiL, and the continent were also elusive. I know, I know: How could I be stuck on the continent when the number of possibilities is only 7? I was thinking of South Africa’s Robben Island instead of aNTaRCTiCa‘s Roosevelt Island.

Clues of note:

  • 18a. [One of millions in the Oxford English Dictionary], CiTaTioN. There are around 600,000 words defined in the OED. Do you suppose the total number of words in the OED (in entries, definitions, and citations) tops 1 billion?
  • 1d. [Smelled like a dog], SNiFFeD. Uh, as opposed to how people smell things? I don’t know about you, but I do sniff if I’m trying to smell something.

I am partial to the answers that are extra-condensed (like JuiCe CoNCeNTRaTe) owing to their preponderance of vowels. You’ve got your PXS, or epoxies, and NDQT, or inadequate, both more than half vowels.

Some weeks back, Patrick Blindauer mentioned an iPhone/iPad app called Word Cracker, which was free for a day. I downloaded it and like the game (although they really should spell Antigua & Barbuda with a G and not a Q, like the font). They give you the consonants and you have to slide the vowels into place to make a real word. If you like vowelless action, check out Word Cracker.

I do love a good vowelless crossword, and there aren’t a ton of them out there once you’ve finished Frank’s book of them (currently available at a bargain price of $3.18 on Amazon!). So I’m giving this puzzle 5 stars and hoping for more vowelless puzzles soon.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Adult Entertainment”

Ink Well crossword puzzle answers, 9 13 12 “Adult Entertainment”

This week’s Ink Well theme is for mature audiences only—mature animal audiences. Each theme entry swaps a word that also refers to a young animal for a grown-up animal of that species:

  • 1a, 73a. [Petting zoo pet with a prostate issue?], WHIZ GOAT. “Whiz kid” is about wizardry more than whizzing.
  • 22a. [Sly canine working in the E.R.?], TRAUMA FOX. A trauma kit is, well, I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I reckon it is more extensive than a first-aid kit.
  • 27a. [Winged assistants of private eyes?], BIRDS WITH DICKS, “dick” being slang for private detective. The original phrase is relevant to the movie The Crying Game.
  • 48a. [Australian clergy member with multiple vaginas?], KANGAROO BISHOP. Joey Bishop was a member of the Rat Pack. And no, I do not know the term for a baby rat.
  • 54a. [Grizzly who runs ahead to make sure there aren't any traps?], BEAR SCOUT. Aww, I wish the BSA would call their adult male leaders Bear Scouts.

Things that were new to me:

  • 5a. [Emergency preparedness needs], GO BAGS. I gather these are bags packed with everything you’d need if you had to evacuate in a hurry, but it also seems like a great word for urinary catheter bags.
  • 10d. [Buttery lobster preparation], SCAMPI. I didn’t know you could scampify larger crustaceans and not just shrimp.
  • 12d. [Common black-and-white cat name], OREO. Had no idea.
  • 13d. [Modern lecture franchise], TED X. I know of the TED lectures, but not the X part.

Five faves:

  • 20a. [Japanese candy sticks], POCKY. I think of them more as cookie sticks. But Pocky! Yummy little snackies.
  • 9d. [Chatting or sleeping in English class?], GERUND. Great grammar clue.
  • 11d. [Call Ralph on the big white phone], BARF. Wanted HURL here.
  • 57d. [Shameless "Jaws" ripoff from 1977], ORCA. Yep, saw that one on the big screen.
  • 63d. [Made do?], SHAT. Made doo, more like.

3.5 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 13

Today’s game of Name That Puzzle should be pretty easy, since 27-Down tells us that ANTE is the [Poker payment (and word that runs up in 1-, 8-, 10-, and 21-Down)]. That is, you’ll see the letter sequence E-T-N-A in those four answers, and since they’re Downs, it appears that A-N-T-E is running up the grid in each case. That makes me nearly certain that the puzzle’s title is Ante Up (and if it isn’t, it ought to be). So let’s get that part out of the way right now.

Yes indeed, the title is “Ante Up.” I really admire the execution of this theme. The grid has only 68 answers (well below the typical 72-answer minimum for themed puzzles), and that stacking of JIGGLING, CAN OPENER, and DONE TO A TEE in the northwest is terrific. This more than makes up for my having no clue about one of the theme answers (in fact, it was the last letter to fall). Say, that reminds me, we should mention the theme entries:

  • 1-Down: [Barack Obama's secretary of homeland security] is former Arizona governor JANET NAPOLITANO. You don’t see many puzzles where 1-Down is a theme entry; that’s a cool effect.
  • 8-Down: Ah, the mystery place. The [Scottish town once popular with elopers] is GRETNA GREEN. Come again? Gretna Caesar’s ghost, I needed practically every crossing for this one.
  • 10-Down: VIETNAM VETERANS are the [Dedicatees on a Washington wall].
  • 21-Down: [Elm, Fleet, and Main] are all STREET NAMES.  I happen to be blogging about this puzzle from an office location on Main Street in lovely Kansas City, Missouri. I don’t think that gave me any kind of edge in solving the puzzle, but it is a neat coincidence. Another fun fact (or, if you were unimpressed with the first coincidence, “Here’s a fun fact”): I think I learned from The Big Bang Theory that the most common street name is “Second.”

While I do prefer hidden word gimmicks where the word consistently straddles two words (that’s only true in two of the four theme entries here), and while I tend not to like fill such as INI, YEE, GPO, LET AT, NORN (that’s San’s customer on Cheers), I TO, and NAES, I can easily overlook these things because the theme concept, the fun stack in the northwest, and the lower word count far outweigh. What say you?

Two final points. First, to my surprise, there’s such a word as NITERY. It’s a [Cabaret, casually]. Guess I need to get to more cabarets. Second, was anyone else hesitant to write in VET as the answer to [Tabby's doc] given that it crosses the second V in VIETNAM VETERANS? I realize this “vet” is short for veterinarian and not veteran, but I kept thinking there was something wrong with it. There’s not, of course, but I wonder if I’m the only one who hesitated on that.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Call Me, Maybe” — Matt’s review

I didn’t notice this puzzle’s subtitle while solving, so I spent the solve wondering what in tarnation the theme could be. It’s music trivia: Brendan gives us the working titles of six famous albums, whose final names we must enter into the grid. They are:

it's hard to look right at you, baby17-a [... "Remember the Zoo"?] = the Beach Boys’ PET SOUNDS. #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums.

20-a [... "Don't Be a Faggot"?] = the Beastie Boys’ LICENSED TO ILL. Probably a smart change.

29/46-a [... "Automatic Changer"?] = the Rolling Stones’ LET IT BLEED. Probably a smart change.

36-a [... "Sheep"?] = NEVERMIND. That’s Nirvana, for everyone under 30 or over 70.

54-a [... "The Two Americas"?]. = U2′s THE JOSHUA TREE. Great album of course, but I still wish Big Country had dethroned U2 for the all-time “brooding, bombastic, melodramatic, Celtic rock champions” award.

59-a [... "Everest"?] = ABBEY ROAD. Have you seen the Abbey Road Crossing Cam? Every few minutes someone imitates the album cover.

So you’re probably thinking: Really? A BEQ music theme where I’ve actually heard of every theme entry?! But Brendan hasn’t lost his musical edge: he had to pick all very famous albums for this theme, since it doesn’t make any sense if you’ve never heard of one of the theme entries. That explains the safe choices.

Noteworthy:

39-d is an interesting choice of clue for an outstanding entry: [One of the "Elements of Style" authors] = E.B. WHITE. He’s also known for writing two extremely famous children’s books, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, but BEQ went the other way.

From the BEQ personal experience file, perhaps? [Buy some flowers for the wife after forgetting date night, say] = ATONE, and [Saves roughly $80,000 in wedding costs, say] = ELOPES. I don’t think Brendan and Liz eloped, but that’s an awfully specific number!

21-d [Its largest newspaper is Navbharat Times] = DELHI. First, full credit for cluing this without a “deli” pun. Second, I don’t know what “Nav” means but “Bharat” is the Hindi word for “India.”

27-d: No “Toddlers & Tiaras” reference for TIARAS? You could have snuck a Honey Boo-Boo reference in for free! OK, either way.

3.85 stars from me. Agree or disagree?

Gary Lowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution 9 13 12

Los Angeles Times crossword solution 9 13 12

This puzzle’s out to pop you a new one.

  • 17a. [*"Karma Chameleon" band] – CULTURE CLUB
  • 25a. [*Space traveler] - STAR SHIP
  • 52a. [*It's not good to meet with it] - FOUL PLAY
  • 64a. [*Used car selling point] - SINGLE OWNER
  • 39/40a. [Kid's toy... the first word can precede the first word of the starred answers; the second word can precede the last word of the starred answers] – POP/GUN

Here’s a fun twist on the “word precedes the first word of each starred entry” puzzle. In fact, it’s a welcome twist on the “word precedes either word of each starred entry” puzzle.

Some [Birds do it] – LAY EGGS; this reminds me about the riddle in which a rooster lays an egg on the top of a roof; which side does the egg roll down? [Middle Aged?] is clever for FEUDAL, like the Middle Ages. [Kings shoot them] - PUCKS. Not the Sacramento Kings (basketball), but instead the Los Angeles Kings (hockey). Tricky, tricky!

Hard stuff: GITANO, it seems, is a [Jeans brand]. TINEA is indeed a [Dermatologist's concern]; don’t do a Google Images search. GREGG stenography is a [Shorthand system] named for John Robert Gregg. Sometimes I think I don’t understand funogrufe at all.

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25 Responses to Thursday, 9/13/12

  1. leslie says:

    The NYT puzzle – I loved this! Why are french omelettes small? Because one egg is “an oeuf” (enough) I thought it was a great payoff.

  2. Joshua Bischof says:

    I thought the NYT puzzle was great. Why the Q1/A1, Q2/A2 format? Because it’s a Thursday puzzle. It’s supposed to have that extra level of trickery, something that takes the brain a little extra time to unravel. I like how the parts of the question and answer are spread throughout a grid with lots of themeless-esque corners. And there are lots of great clues, too.

    There’s some ugly fill here and there, but it’s just rebar fill–fill that holds together the puzzle and that you forget is there because of the beautiful new concrete that Ginsberg just laid.

    Four stars.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Funny, that 15A “DONE TO A TEE” in Martin’s CS puzzle! I’ve only known the expression as Done “to a T” — meaning exactly right, as if fitting a T-square… Reference says “to a T”, also, “to a turn”. “Perfectly, exactly right, as in The description fitted him to a T, or The roast was done to a turn. The first expression, dating from the late 1600s, may allude to the T-square, used for accurate drawing, but some think it refers to crossing one’s T’s. The variant alludes to meat being turned on a spit until it is cooked to the proper degree. The variant was first recorded in 1780.” — But I did love seeing GRETNA GREEN in the same puzzle, shades of Agatha Christie et al.

  4. Daniel Myers says:

    Generally, I either love or hate Thursday puzzles and the sometimes outlandish trickery involved. This one, I loved A TO Z. – Pronounced “Zed,” bloody Yanks! :-)

    For anyone interested in the Urban dictionary controversy, or lexicography in general à propos the propriety of the use of the terms in crosswords etc., today’s Guardian has an interesting piece:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/sep/13/dictionaries-democratic-crowdsourcing

  5. ktd says:

    Re: InkWell
    On Sunday I went to a bar to catch the Patriots-Titans NFL game. I overheard the following snippet of conversation about Saturday night at a nearby table:

    Girl: “Yeah, I’ve had a rough morning so far.”
    Guy: “Did you ralph?”

    • HH says:

      Nowadays I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the reply was actually “Did you, Ralph?”

    • Martin (not Martin Ashwood-Smith) says:

      There are some great names for throwing up, but “ralphing” is genius. Not only does the sound of the word resemble the noise made, but in forming the word one’s mouth opens wide, as in the act.

      There are many colorful terms for throwing up. A quick Google search (without quotes “terms for throwing up”) yielded vivid words and phrases. I wouldn’t mind seeing “barking at the ants,” “speak Dutch,” or “psychedelic yawn” as puzzle answers.

  6. Martin says:

    Amy,

    TelePrompTer’s checkered history includes ownership by the New York Times! But it hasn’t made teleprompters (now a genericized trademark) in almost 50 years.

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Lately, I’ve been noticing more and more really screwy ratings. For example, today, out of 28 votes (at the time I’m writing this) for today’s NYTimes puzzle, there were only 9 total votes for 3, 4, or 5 stars, and 19 votes for 1 or 2 stars. Certainly the comments don’t reflect this exceedingly negative opinion, nor can I imagine why 6 people gave the puzzle a 1-star rating. I think perhaps the rating system either needs much better policing/verification or else it should be discontinued. It’s a pity, but at least for now it has lost its usefulness and its legitimacy. And it’s not just today’s puzzle–I’ve seen this with others as well, including a substantial number of ratings for a Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle a few weeks ago on a puzzle-less Friday.

    FWIW, I should note that I very much enjoyed today’s NYTimes puzzle and gave it a 4-star rating (the rating I give most often is 3-stars, and almost never 5 stars, so for me 4 stars means a definitely superior puzzle). I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, but 19 1- and 2-star ratings?????

    • Matt Ginsberg says:

      Thanks, cyberdiva! It’s always nice when someone likes your work (and to those who *didn’t* like today’s puzzle — including Amy — I apologize!). I certainly share your frustration with the rating stuff, but it’s also interesting feedback on the constructing side. Especially as a non-solver, I’m always interested in what people think.

      Yes, I really am a non-solver.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        OMG, A NON-SOLVER?!? I had no idea, Matt. How…unusual.

      • animalheart says:

        A non-solving constructor? That’s like a non-reading writer. How bizarre. (For what it’s worth, I chuckled aloud when the egg-joke became clear.)

      • Matt Ginsberg says:

        Yes, I am a non-solver. Dr.Fill is my revenge on all you guys who are so much smarter than I am.

      • Huda says:

        In the spirit of feedback, from a mediocre solver… I’m usually talkative, but wasn’t sure what to say or how to rate the puzzle today, because I’m of two minds. The yolk/joke is funny if you can hear it, which I couldn’t for a while because I enunciate too clearly even in my head. So I finished and had a HUH? moment. But when I got it, I laughed. So, that ended on the positive side. But I remain undecided about the Q & A format. It set up the expectation that Q1 and A1 should be paired, but it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the case. So, in the end, was this an extra dollop of Thursday games, or a way of disguising a quote puzzle? Is this OMELETTE missing an ingredient or does it have one too many?

        But I really hope we don’t lose the rating option. I think it’s helpful to see, even if some people seem unreasonable in how they rate. I think many people rate and don’t comment, so it may be a better sample of the range of opinions.

      • Jeff Chen says:

        BTW – your talk on Dr. Fill was the highlight of my (already exceptional) ACPT weekend. I hope you plan on making this a regular thing!

    • HH says:

      What’s so odd about a non-solving constructor? There are hundreds of thousands of non-constructing solvers.

      By the way, that makes two of us.

    • Sean P says:

      I have a number of passing concerns about the ratings system. A puzzle like this week’s Fireball deservedly receives high marks, but only five star ratings in total?? That doesn’t compute. Meanwhile, the MGWCC has its own post each week, which surely increases the stars it gets, but it also NEVER receives low ratings. I suspect that the New York Times gets a number of tough love star ratings, and that many puzzles are victims of trolls who come through and give one star. Now, with the new site design and the ratings function nested WITHIN each day’s post rather than available on the main page, it seems that the quantity of ratings is way way down. All minor issues that, for me, prevent the ratings from being a little more useful and equitable.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Sure it computes. The Fireball crossword has maybe 700 to 1500 solvers total, versus the hundreds of thousands who do the NYT. And I think the reason the MGWCC never gets low ratings is that (a) Matt Gaffney sets incredibly high standards for himself and (b) the people who do the MGWCC are the types who enjoy the meta puzzle, which always brings the solving experience an extra level of involvement/intensity/elegance.

        Luckily, trolls who drop 1-star ratings just to be obnoxious are limited to one vote per puzzle, so they can’t bring the average rating down too much.

      • Sean P says:

        The number of ratings for the Fireball doesn’t compute in that Fireball puzzles usually get much more feedback. I suspect this is partly due to the difficulty of Frank’s puzzles, partly due to random chance, and partly due to the decline in number of ratings with the nested voting system. In either case, it’s a brilliant, brilliant puzzle and it is disappointing that it didn’t get more love. (Here’s to hoping it was enjoyed in slnc by lots of people!)

        I enjoy the MGWCC very much. In fact, it’s one of my favorite puzzles on the market presently, even if it’s sometimes not exactly easy. However, the rationale that “the people who do the MGWCC are the types who enjoy the meta puzzle” is circular – the people who do the Times puzzle are presumably the types who enjoy the Times puzzle, too, right? Is MGWCC so far ahead of the pack that it never produces clunkers or even experiences mild deviations from stratospheric excellence? That I’m not sure about.

        And one-star troll ratings most certainly *do* bring down the averages. Not so much for the Times, which gets 20 or more ratings per puzzle, but for almost every other offering that’s around five or six ratings, it makes a huge difference.

        None of this is terribly important, as the ratings systems is obviously for fun. Just my two cents.

  8. RK says:

    Wasn’t crazy about the Q/As being linked especially considering A1 and Q1 can stand alone.

    I think some people may rate puzzles low if they find them too difficult. However, I can see this puzzle getting lowish scores as the scheme is kinda off-puttingly “tricky” and the rest of the fill is pretty average.

  9. Lois says:

    I loved the NYT puzzle. I found the puzzle difficult for a while, and then when I finally got Q & A (how could it take me that long), everything was fine. Aside from the other issues raised (theme answers not symmetric and whatever else was mentioned), some people don’t know French and would object that the punchline is in French. Too bad; some of us enjoyed it a lot. I had never heard the joke before and hubby hadn’t either. So I agree with cyberdiva about the puzzle, and am not quite sure why it had too many low ratings, in my opinion. But I don’t agree about eliminating or policing the ratings. They are fun, and how can you police them? You know that one of the people writing in over here a few months ago said he would always give puzzles using Roman numerals one star regardless of the puzzle. What can you do about that, give the same puzzle five stars to be fair? You just have to accept that each person has his or her own views and use your discernment when examining the ratings.

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