Thursday, 10/11/12

Fireball 8:20 
NYT 3:32 
LAT 3:37 
Tausig untimed 
CS 5:26 (Sam) 
BEQ 9:05 (Matt) 

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 11 12, 1011

Whoa! I was thinking that the theme was something we’ve seen before—a word with an ABCABC letter pattern precedes a longer ABC___ word. But when reviewing the completed grid, I realized that this one fills the blank with an XYXY or XYZXYZ letter pattern, so that syllabically, each theme answer is full house (three of a kind and a pair):

  • 19a. CANCAN CANTATA, [Bach work performed at the Moulin Rouge?].
  • 37a. CHICHI CHIHUAHUA, [One spotted at the Rodeo Drive Taco Bell?]. Is there, in fact, a Taco Bell on Rodeo Drive?
  • 51a. BERBER BERNINI, [North African counterpart to an Italian Baroque sculptor].

Nice find, Byron.

Now, of course, I am wondering if the Berber people are susceptible to beriberi.

This 68-word grid sprawls out enough to include some long, themeless-grade fill. BLOW POP is fun; EXECUTRIX, TUXEDOS, TAX CODES, ZORRO, and UTILIZE are Scrabbly; A-LISTER feels fresh; I live on the NORTH SIDE and no longer have any THIN MINTS in my freezer (but I do have a box of Tagalongs, and no, I’m not sharing). Lots of geography here (MARIANA Trench, MONTANA, ANGOLAN, MOSCOW, Idaho, ORAN). WINTER SALE doesn’t quite feel like a “thing” to me, though, and TRAM STOP feels a little ad hoc.

The lesser fill includes partials A TO and DE LA; ENO, TRI, IDI, NISI; plural ECRUS; and partialesque ON A STAR.

Four stars.

Jeremy Horwitz and Byron Walden’s Fireball crossword, “Beyond Comparison”

Fireball 10 11 12 solution

I would’ve made faster progress with this puzzle if the theme clues hadn’t been so long. When I’m speed-solving, I don’t want to stop and let the mouse hover over a clue long enough to make it appear in a pop-up, and I don’t want to scroll all the way to the end of the clue (in Black Ink solving software) and then have to scroll all the way back to read the other clues. So 17a’s clue read [Hockey Hall of Famer Mark back when he had...] in the clue column, and [Hockey Hall o...pre-K classmates?] above the puzzle, which was no help in figuring out what preceded MESSIER. [Hockey Hall of Famer Mark back when he had a worse cough than his pre-K classmates?] puts the CROUPIER (as in having a more croupy cough) right there. MESSIER then cycles from being a Frenchy noun at the end of an answer to being the comparative word at the start of the next themer, MESSIER RAINIER. Mount Rainier gets more drizzly in the next answer, RAINIER TANGIER, and then the Moroccan town becomes a comparative in TANGIER CROUPIER. Fun theme, though.

Fave fill: THE FAR SIDE cartoon, EVIL DEAD II. Trivia I didn’t know: An ICE AX ws the [Weapon used in the murder of Leon Trotsky]. Word I’ve not encountered before: EXPOSIT, or [Spell out]; exposition is, of course, quite familiar. Tricky clue for DRYS; [Nation's allies] means Carrie Nation’s allies in the drive for Prohibition.

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Nose for News” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, October 11

Stop the presses! Today’s crossword features four two-word terms, the last word of which can double as a synonym for a newspaper article:

  • 20-Across: A BANK ACCOUNT is a [Deposit site], of sorts.
  • 57-Across: FIFTH COLUMN refers to [Clandestine attackers] so effectively clandestine that I’ve never heard of them. Wikipedia tells me the term refers to any faction’s silent effort to undermine a larger group from within. Here’s the story behind the term’s origin: “Emilio Mola, a Nationalist General during the Spanish Civil War, told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a ‘fifth column’ of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican government from within.”
  • 11-Down: A [King or a queen] can refer to many things, but in this puzzle it refers to a CHESS PIECE.
  • 29-Down: A COVER STORY is a [False alibi]. This one’s on the borderline for me, as “cover story” also has a direct newspaper connotation that none of the other theme entries has. That makes it feel inconsistent to me.

The theme is fine, though I might have kicked it up a notch by twisting the clues into references to newspaper stores–like [Newspaper report on the teller's side of a holdup?] for BANK ACCOUNT or [Newspaper report on a local board game tournament?] for CHESS PIECE. But maybe that’s being a little too cute.

FIFTH COLUMN wasn’t the only thing new to me. I also didn’t know KELPIE, the [Water spirit of Celtic myth]. But I confess that I’m not up on my water spirits. A more embarrassing error was having MIDAS as the [King of Crete] instead of MINOS. Um, oops.

What’s with all the hogs in this puzzle? [Sounds from a hog] for OINKS, [Hog homes] for STIES, and [Hog meat] for PORK. Is it a thematically-related bonus? Maybe it’s because hogs have a keen sense of smell, like one with “A Nose for News?” In any case, way to ham it up.

Favorite entry = SCUFFLE, the [Dustup], but props to HIJACKED, JOKERS, GINKGO, and MOCCASIN. Favorite clue = [A geisha may tie one on] for an OBI. [Mass-produced answer?] felt like it was trying too hard as a clue for AMEN.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “InnerVision” — Matt’s review


Rebus today from BEQ, the keyword being ESP:

20-a [Free] = ALL EXPENS(ES P)AID
25-a [Treasure map phrase] = X MARKS TH(E SP)OT
44-a ["A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood" speaker] = GEORG(E S. P)ATTON.
49-a [Be letter perfect] = MIND ON(E’S P’)S AND Q’S

This rebus set should be an example in university-level crossword classes. Notice how differently the keyword is split each time: ES/P, E/SP, E/S./P (!), and (E’S/P’) (!). Very cool variety; much rESPect. The downs are RIC(E SP)OON, the Helsinki suburb of (ESP)OO, which I’ve been to if you care, the (ESP)YS and GO(ES P)AST. Interestingly on that one: if you just put the E in Across Lite because you forgot how to insert multiple letters (hit INSERT) it’s still a viable phrase (“go east”).

Top 3 fill: big fat JABBA at 1-a, TEED OFF, and the double-barreled ART / ALEXAKIS. Who is now 50 years old, wow.

4.25 stars: nicely-executed rebus, Scrabbly grid.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Crooked Numbers”

Ben Tausig Ink Well crossword solution, “Crooked Numbers” 10 11 12

Subtle theme that you may well miss altogether if you skip past the clue for 52a, [They swing up and down in this puzzle's theme answers]. POLLS! The letters POLL are found traveling down or up in each of the vertical theme answers:

  • 3d. [The 47%, as it were], HOI POLLOI. Poll results are trending downward.
  • 27d. Options for tackling very dirty dishes], BRILLO PADS. Poll on an upswing.
  • 14d. [Latin American pilaf dish], ARROZ CON POLLO. Oh, no, another downturn!
  • 9d. [Film about packaged food?], CELLOPHANE. (Clever clue. You wanted it to be something like Food, Inc., didn’t you?) Poll’s looking up.
  • 33d. [Tragic lunar module], APOLLO ONE. Poll’s heading down again. What will the next numbers show? (Side note: The use of Roman vs. Arabic numerals in NASA missions was just discussed on the Cruciverb-L mailing list this week. Apparently both Apollo 1 and Apollo I were used, but NASA has never used the crosswordy APOLLO ONE.)

Preferred bits:

  • 13a. [Larry, e.g.], STOOGE.
  • 20a. [Riot ___ ('90s punk rocker)], GRRRL.
  • 24a. [Heteronormative census acronym for cohabitators], POSSLQ. “Person of opposite sex sharing living quarters” but not married. When the Census folks came up with that, I’m pretty sure they had no official way of recording same-sex couples.
  • 8d. [Aide to Hillary], SHERPA. Secretary of State Clinton does a lot of climbing in the Himalayas, of course.
  • 12d. Hostess snack], SUZY Q. I can never keep straight the spelling of the snack cake vs. the Creedence Clearwater Revival (et al.) song “Susie Q.”
  • 22d. [IM option], GCHAT. My kid uses gchat now, along with text messaging and hanging out in a forum with his friends. Did you know?: Google Talk is the name Google uses for what the rest of us call gchat.

Four stars.

Jeff Crandall’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 10 11 12

The theme is four things that can be defined as [Pound]:

  • 17a. BEAT WITH A HAMMER. Not the head, please!
  • 25a. STRAY DOG SHELTER. Wasn’t sure if it was DOG_S___ or DOG’S___, and that insane 31-Down was no help.
  • 43a. MEASURE OF WEIGHT. Ehh. “Measure of weight” sounds clumsy to me. “Unit of measure” and “unit of weight” sound better. The 13-letter SIXTEEN OUNCES would have been nice.
  • 58a. BRITISH CURRENCY. Needed the crossings to distinguish between BRITISH and ENGLISH.

So. That 31d, [Camera-to-telescope adapter], *RING? We can rule out BRING and WRING, which would be clued as regular words. O-RING usually gets a space shuttle clue. My first guess was P-RING crossing STRAY DOG’S HELPER (which would be dreadful). Turned out to be SHELTER crossing T-RING, and I don’t know how a ring can be shaped like a T. Or is it “T for telescope”? Meh. That whole section was pretty ungainly. ERNE, PONCA City (shout-out to constructor Patrick Jordan!), ENOCH, and RESAT?

Some clues I liked:

  • 16a. [Come again?], RECUR.
  • 13d. [Overthrows, maybe], ERRS. As in throwing a baseball too far, not as in deposing a ruler.

I kinda liked the double-”haw” action. 38d: [Opposite of hawed] is GEED, as in telling a horse to go left vs. right. I wonder if this is related to the cowboy’s “yee-haw.” 10d: [Haws' partner] is HEMS, as in “he hemmed and hawed.”

Nice fill includes FLAUNT, GONZO, HOO-HA, and PRANCE.

2.75 stars.

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21 Responses to Thursday, 10/11/12

  1. Todd G says:

    According to Taco Bell’s locator, there is no Taco Bell on Rodeo Drive. The closest one is on Beverly Blvd. near Beverly Center, in Los Angeles (not Beverly Hills) about 2 miles away.

  2. pannonica says:

    CS: When quite young, I somehow irrevocably conflated the FIFTH COLUMN and the Fourth Estate and I know it had something to do with reading about the Spanish Civil War but not having enough world history to understand it, and probably something else equally non-contextual about the press at around the same time. Anyway, the point is that seeing the two concepts in proximity is for me the intellectual equivalent of what I suppose a drug flashback is supposed to feel like.

    I know KELPIE from the dog breed, the Autralian kelpie—similar to the whip-smart border collies, reputedly with some dingo lineage in them.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: Very cool concept! The pop-pop-pop-bang-bang pattern of the them is truly unusual and fun to say. My absolute favorite is the CHICHICHIHUAHUA. I can totally imagine them and I will now remember how to spell CHI HUA HUA instead of trying to introduce fanciful variations into it.
    Some might complain that the theme has only 3 elements, but I feel that three can be plenty, especially if there is such great other material. The dominatrix EXECUTRIX was my favorite there– she probably has a CHICHICHIHUAHUA of her own… But if you scan the finished grid, it’s made up of real and in many cases very evocative words, making for a very lovely puzzle.
    Well done!

  4. cyberdiva says:

    Would some kind soul explain to me who or what ALISTER is in the NYTimes puzzle (56A)? The clue is “Top celeb,” but that doesn’t help me.

  5. Matt says:

    @cyberdiva.

    It’s the A-list (as opposed to the B-list, or even worse).

  6. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    @cyberdiva – An A-Lister is someone on the A List.

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Duh…A-Lister! I think I’ll never learn. [Beats head against computer screen several times.]

    Thanks VERY much, Matt and Bob, for your quick and helpful replies. I’m most grateful, though my bruised ego is not. :-)

  8. animalheart says:

    It’s an odd day when you get a Wednesday-level puzzle by a Saturday constructor on a Thursday… But it works. Great theme. (By the way, is it true that the scientist regarded as the father of Hawaiian lava studies is called Papa Pahoehoe?)

  9. Alex says:

    MUMU MUCHACHA? PAPA PANINI? YOYO YOHOHO? TAPTAP TAPERER?

    You can tell it’s a really tight theme by how awful the alternative theme entries are. Nicely done.

  10. Matt says:

    Good puzzles today. The NYT, Fireball and Tausig are all a bit underrated so far IMO.

  11. Andrea says:

    Did anyone else initially think “Dingo prey” was BABY? Or am I just a very bad person?

  12. ArtLvr says:

    I couldn’t “insert” the ESP into one space in the BEQ puzzle, though I ordinarily can do a rebus in an Across Lite format on my MacBook Pro with the combo of Alt plus Esc. Just using the first letter E was not accepted, so does anyone have a hint for me on this? Thanks…

  13. Michael says:

    Simple theme – yes, but the surrounding fill was some of the juiciest of the year. More Byron, plz.

  14. Joan macon says:

    So it’s Friday morning, where is the Thursday LAT solution????????

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