Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fireball 6:41 
NYT 5:54 
AV Club 5:11 
LAT 4:11 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:04 (Matt) 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 5 30 13, no. 0530

Were this a CrosSynergy or Newsday puzzle, the title would be “East to West” and the theme answers would all begin with an E and end with W. But since this is the Thursday NYT, EAST TO WEST is in the grid and the theme answers are written from right (east) to left (west):

  • 17a. [Tidal movement], WOLFDNABBE. Ebb and flow.
  • 23a. [Firm last words?], WEIVRETNITIXE. Exit interview.
  • 37a. [Take one's licks, in a way], WORCTAE. Eat crow.
  • 51a. ["Be careful!"], WONTISEODYSAE. Easy does it now!
  • 60a. [How 17-, 23-, 37- and 51-Across run (in two ways)], EAST TO WEST.

Cool theme, Julian! Overall, the puzzle was pretty tough even when I’d figured out the backwards thing. Clues that slowed me down:

  • 14a. [Polyunsaturated fat source], OLEO.
  • 28a. [Triple, quadruple or more], SOAR. Wasn’t reading triple and quadruple as verbs.
  • 67a. [Hook up with], TIE TO. I was thinking of the slangy “hook up with” sense, which makes that answer smack of 50 Shades of Grey.
  • 1d. [Big game], BOWL. Super Bowl, Rose Bowl. I was thinking BOAR or BEAR.
  • 6d. [Possible coup instigator, for short], CIA.
  • 8d. [Men of steel?], ROBOTS.
  • 22d. [Actress Balaban of "Last Chance Harvey"], LIANE. Didn’t see it, never heard of her. Guessing she’s related to Bob B.
  • 26d. [With 41-Across, co-creator of Captain America and the Hulk], JACK KIRBY.

Likes: AMBLE on your daily constitutional; BIGOTRY clued as [Homophobia, e.g.]; TAIWAN clued as [One of the so-called "Four Asian Tigers"]; idiomatic HELD WATER.

Grumbly bit: Right at 1a, we get BAHS clued as ["Humbug" preceders]. That plural … it’s making me hear “Bah, bah, humbug.” And now I’m getting a LOS LOBOS “La Bamba” earworm. Sing it with me!

4.25 stars.

Sam Donaldson and Doug Peterson’s Fireball crossword, “Play-ful Replies”

Fireball answers, 5 29 13

Doug and Sam are pretty much the two most easy-going, mellow, fun constructors out there, so it makes sense that they’d partner up for a whimsical look at recontextualizing famous Shakespeare lines:

  • 22a. [Reply to "Mark Antony, dost thou require any of my Spock accessories for the costume party?"], LEND ME YOUR EARS.
  • 30a, 65a. [With 65-Across, reply to "O, Richard, what will ye give to complete thy chess set?"], MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE. Because, apparently, he is a total noob when it comes to chess and calls the knight a “horse.”
  • 47a. [Reply to "Lackaday, Lady Macbeth, what shouldst be said to the cursed dog to make it leave the castle?"], OUT, DAMNED SPOT.
  • 73a. [Reply to "Perchance, Hamlet, is this barbecue spice mix what ye seek?"], AY, THERE’S THE RUB.

Sometimes I groan to see a puzzle larger than 15×15 because it’s going to be a slog. But when you have a 17×17 that’s constructed by these gents and edited by Peter Gordon, you are in for a treat that keeps your interest instead of boring you.

Top five nine:

  • 1a. [Mary Jane alter ego?], GRASS. I wanted GANJA. We also would have accepted MRS. SPIDERMAN POSSIBLY.
  • 25a. [Douche spray], EAU. Douche is French for “shower,” of course.
  • 46a. [It "sounds like a bunch of Italian chefs screaming risotto recipes at each other," according to Aristotle Onassis], OPERA.
  • 84a. [Closing bid?], ADIEU.
  • 6d. [Silver in psephology], NATE. Psephology is the statistical study of elections and trends in voting, of course. (And yes, I just looked it up.)
  • 8d. [Former circus-themed breakfast cereal from General Mills], KABOOM.
  • 32d. [Large monitor], KOMODO DRAGON. Lizard, not computer screen.
  • 33d. [Explorer Marquez], DORA. Dora the Explorer!
  • 61d. [Author of "Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression"], SHIELDS. Brooke Shields. And then Tom Cruise sniped at her on morning TV, saying that the pills that healed her are a lie.

Smooth, fun, interesting puzzle all around. 4.5 stars.

Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Summer Blockbusters”

AV Club crossword solution, 5 30 13 “Summer Blockbusters”

These big summer movies are “blockbusters” in that each of them busts a block in the grid:

  • 20a. [Zack Snyder superhero reboot (June 14)]/21a. [Zack Snyder superhero reboot Part II], MAN Of STEEL.
  • 60a. [Guillermo del Toro movie about massive human-controlled robot weapons (July 12)]\64a. [Guillermo del Toro robot weapon movie Part II], PACIFiC RIM.
  • 3d. [Sofia Coppola film about fashion thievery (June 14)]/33d. [Sofia Coppola fashion theft movie Part II], BLING rING.
  • 8d. [Gore Verbinski TV serial reboot in which Johnny Depp's performance seems kind of racist, with "The" (July 3)]/30d. [Possibly racist Depp movie Part II], LONE rANGER.
  • 9d. [Final installment of a Todd Phillips bro comedy franchise, with "The" (May 23)]/26d. [Bro franchise finale Part II], HANgOVER III.
  • 24d. [Baz Luhrmann romance that scores a story from the 1920's with hip-hop, with "The" (May 10)]/67d. [Hip-hop-scored Baz Luhrmann movie Part II], GREAT GAtSBY.
  • 29d. [M. Night Shyamalan sci-fi film starring members of the same immediate family (May 31)]/61d. [Shyamalan all-in-the-family movie Part II], AFTER eARTH.
  • 38d. [James Mangold superhero film that will be the sixth X-Men movie in twelve years, with "The" (July 26)]/56d. [Sixth X-Men movie Part II], WOLvERINE.

The letters that fall in the blocks are FIRRGTEV. Unscramble these and you get … GET FIR RV. This ties in to Caleb’s cinema theme, obviously.

Business interlude: If you buy a $15/year subscription to the AV Club crossword and include my name at checkout when you submit your order, I will get 3 months added to my subscription. If four of you do this, it’s a free year for me! These are good puzzles. Do it. Sign up. Unless you’re stodgy and intend to remain that way.

Also, the AV Club Xword team is having a theme contest over at Reddit. If you submit one of the winning themes, you’ll get a 1- or 2-year free subscription to the puzzle. If you’re great at cooking up themes but don’t want to build a grid…

Likes:

  • The bilingual Spanish/German clues, 15a. [Number of noches de Janucá]  and 6d. [Number of Nächte in Hannukah]. I had no idea what Janucá was until I got ACHT and realized I needed OCHO noches. (Did you know: When Spanish-speaking people type in laughter, they generally type “jajajaja” instead of “hahahaha.” I like to pronounce it as if it’s German.)
  • SHENANIGAN; BONUS TRACK; FIVE W’s; the should-be-a-pair of SMOOT and STOAT.
  • 2d. [Schwarzenegger character who says "Crom laughs at your four winds. He laughs from his mountain."], CONAN the non-O’Brien Barbarian.

Four stars. That’s a half star per movie in the theme, you know.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Boffo Battles” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Not sure what makes the following battles “boffo,” but constructor Bruce Venzke depicts four classic battles in today’s grid in an x VS. y format:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 05/30/13

  • [Economic class struggle] clues RICH VS. POOR – reminds me of the TV miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man starring Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte.
  • [Major 2000 political brouhaha] clues BUSH VS. GORE – yes, that brouhaha was boffo! It also introduced the phrase “hanging chad” into the American lexicon.
  • [Classic ethnic conflict] is GOOD VS. EVIL – a bit curious about the “ethnic” term in the clue; I think of this conflict in more biblical/human nature terms and not related to ethnicities, but any sociologists out there, please enlighten me!
  • [College football rivalry since 1890] is ARMY VS. NAVY – not unlike the now-defunct Blue vs. Gray game.

Did you notice that each side of these battles was four letters long? That allowed the constructor to put the entries in a “pinwheel” fashion, allowing some serious Zed action (there are 4 by my count) in the unconstrained center. I wonder which is the more common abbreviation for the latin “versus”–VS. or just V.? Certainly the latter is used in court cases (e.g., “Roe V. Wade”) but certainly I’ve seen VS. as well (“Kramer Vs. Kramer”?). My FAVE has got to be that central SHAZAM, which I intend to say at least once today (but likely well outside of earshot). The only German WWII vessel I’m familiar with is the U-BOAT, so my UNFAVE entry is the E-BOAT. I see here that the E comes from the British designation of “enemy,” whereas the U version was for “undersea” (or “untersee” in the original German).

Peg Slay’s Los Angeles Times crossword

La Times Crossword
130530

Peg Slay is a name I haven’t come across before. If this is your debut, then congratulations Peg! Like Dan’s NYT (earlier this week), there’s no revealing answer; in this case, I find this puzzle’s letter addition interesting in of itself. Each answer has an AL tacked onto the first word’s end. Except in the case of POST, the pre- and post- al words aren’t related in anyway. In the POST answer the original POST’s meaning isn’t the same as POSTAL, it still feels a bit weaker than the others because of it though.

The answers are:

  • 20a, [Wrigglers' waterway?], CANAL OF WORMS. My favourite!
  • 33a, [Mail carrier's romantic activities?], POSTAL DATING.
  • 42a, [Fortress for summer shoes?], SANDAL CASTLE
  • 58a, [Collage of potpourri bits?], PETAL PROJECT

48 Theme letters is about par for the course these days; however, 4×12 dose up the challenge a tad, as the third and thirteenth rows can’t be used, and the theme answers are pushed closer together. So we don’t get pizzazzy longer downs, we get 3 plural 7′s and an -ED word. Personal fill highlights were YUCCAS at 1 across and COATI. The puzzle is dotted with low-level crossword-ese: EDDA, ENID, ALEE, ERATO, ABA, ARAL but nothing actually objectionable!

3 Stars. A solid theme idea, and I found the way the words change in meaning quite interesting. The rest of the fill is acceptable if not stellar. A fine debut though, and we look forward to seeing more puzzles, Peg!

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “OS/X” — Matt’s review

Quick review today for BEQ: change an S to an X and see what happens:

17-a [One who wanders about espousing socialism?] = MARX ROVER, not Mars Rover.

25-a [Country where tailless cats are forbidden?] = NO MANX LAND, not no-man’s land.

37-a [Highest swinger?] = PLANET OF THE APEX, not “Planet of the Apes.”

47-a [Admission rule for the lumberjack convention?] = AX REQUIRED, not as required.

60-a [Choice about whether to get a full Brazilian?] = WAX/NOT WAX, not Was (Not Was).

Three things:

1) Nice 5×5 corners in the NE and SW.

2) Extremely Skxzjabbly grid: 1 Q, 1 Z, 2 J’s, 2 K’s and no less than 9 X’s!

3) Good fill: IQ TEST, NO DUH, my wife’s favorite store TJ MAXX, WOOZY, KIX, XERXES, OPEN SEWER.

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40 Responses to Thursday, May 30, 2013

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: “since this is the Thursday NYT, EAST TO WEST is in the grid and the theme answers are written from right (east) to left (west)”.

    It’s also worth noting that they also all start with a W and end with E (or vice versa depending on how you read it), hence the “in two ways” in the clue. Once I got that revealer, I plunked the W and E in the right places and that helped a lot. And East to West is how I grew up writing, so that was fun to see.

    I poked along just fine except for the NE… I needed to cheat on ILER to open it up…Is it terrible that I never watched the Sopranos?

    Many tricky (fun) clues. Nice puzzle!

    • Huda says:

      And I just glanced at the review of the Fireball. That sounds hilarious! I wish I had done it first.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s also worth noting that they also all start with a W and end with E …

      That’s definitely implied in Amy’s write-up.

      • Daniel Myers says:

        Rather obliquely implied, I should say. An “as well” at the end of the first para would have made for crystalline clarity, but perhaps that wasn’t desired.

      • John from Chicago says:

        Actually, I thought Amy could not be more clear unless she were redundant. I always approve of redundancy for the sake of clarity.

        Didn’t notice that W-E thing until I read Amy. A nice little touch to this clever puzzle.

        But I didn’t care for it. Too many clues and answers did not agree with what I was drinking last night.

    • sbmanion says:

      Huda,

      I am saying this tongue in cheek, but yes it is terrible that you missed the Sopranos. Until the kids (including ILER) got too involved IMHO, it was the best show in the history of television.

      The acting was superb. Watch “Pine Barrens” or the episode when they found out that Big Pussy was a rat. I have always thought that this scene between Tony and Carmela as they are about to get divorced was the best gut level argument between a husband and wife that I have ever seen:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9oY7zpan18

      Tough excellent puzzle for me.

      Steve

      • Huda says:

        Wow, Steve, that’s quite an endorsement. And I just watched that argument between Tony and Carmela– pretty amazing acting! Even not having seen the show, I totally felt it.
        Darn, now I have to add this to my “to watch” list…

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Hopefully this puzzle will introduce JACK KIRBY to many. His influence on pop culture, even today is unmatched. Not just in Marvel Comics and the related movies.

    Take a look at his DC New Gods comics from the early 1970′s and compare to Star Wars. The hero turns out to be the son of the villain, Darkseid; there is a mystical Source – sound familiar?

  3. JohnV says:

    Hand up for Soprano void. Good puz, hard NE for sure.

  4. pannonica says:

    Perhaps I’m grumpy, or still aggrieved at yesterday’s NC Wyeth discussion, but a number of clues seemed either off or outright incorrect in some of today’s offerings.

    In the CS:

    68a [Boldness] for GRIT? Grit is “firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger” (m-w). It isn’t simply courage, which may work as a synonym for boldness; it is unyielding courage, which is different altogether. Tenacity. One can exhibit boldness that is merely bluster, which is the farthest thing from grit.

    46d [Coming-of-age ritual] MITZVAH. Not hardly. A mitzvah is a “meritorious or charitable act” (m-w), akin to a good deed. A bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is the rite of passage, but mitzvah by itself won’t suffice as a way to name it.

    More to come after the BEQ write-up is posted.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It was a mitzvah for you to clarify this.

      The BEQ review is late because Matt is catching up on sleep after his GRAND CAYMAN trip.

    • Martin says:

      A mitzvah is even more properly a “commandment,” one of the 613 that the Torah lists. (356 of them are things Jews should do and 257 are things not to do). “Doing a mitzvah” has come to mean doing something meritorious or charitable because many of the 613 have such a flavor, but nobody would call eschewing a cheeseburger charitable except maybe a cow.

      The connection between clue and entry is that the 13th birthday is the time that a Jew becomes responsible for obeying the 613 commandments. Before then you pretty much have a free pass because you’re not deemed able to understand all of them. Never mind that nobody but rabbinical students understand all 613.

  5. Maura says:

    @evaD Re CS: My print copy of The Washington Post clues 11D as “Classic ethical conflict.” Maybe the dreaded auto-correct invaded the editing of the version you used?

    • Evad says:

      That makes a lot more sense, let me check my copy again, perhaps I misread/wrote the clue in my commentary.

      Dave

    • Evad says:

      Yeah, my bad. I misread the clue when I was solving and transcribing for the commentary. Thanks for setting me straight.

      Dave

  6. Zulema says:

    Seems to me the clue ” Trattoria menu heading” 24D in the NYT would have worked better as “item.” I had VINI because it was a “heading.”

  7. joon says:

    so who else saw {Douche spray} in the fireball, 3 letters, and immediately filled in AXE?

    • Bencoe says:

      Ha!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Neologism alert! A friend’s 12-year-old son has decreed that “mangreasy” is the aptest word to describe the aesthetic of ads (or events or things) that are aggressively macho or dudely. As in: “The marketing on that Iron Gym thing is just so mangreasy.” People! We need this word. Use it, spread it, make it happen. My goal is dictionary in 5 years, urbandictionary.com in a month. Axe Body Spray is eminently mangreasy.

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, I went for AXE as well :-)

  8. Bencoe says:

    I guess I’m the only one, but whenever I go to the home page for this site now it takes me to a National Geographic magazine order form that I can’t get out of. Weird.

    • pannonica says:

      I’ve been having some problems too, getting shunted to the blog’s “page not found” page. Your unusual destination might have something to do with your browser’s cache. Try clearing it and see what happens.

  9. pannonica says:

    Okay, in the BEQ:

    30a [Snail trail] SPOOR. Have never heard that word in this specific context. Certainly a snail leaves a trail, and a spoor is the trail of an animal (or, metaphorically, a person), but to my mind spoor consists of prints, broken twigs and foliage, droppings, and other evidence. A snail’s slimy ooze isn’t a proper spoor.

    1a [Potato-filled treat] LATKE. Although it can be interpreted to mean “a treat full of potatoes” the clue strongly suggests that the comestible is stuffed with potato, like a pierogi or dumpling. Am I being too picky here?

    42a [They go well with omelets] OJS. Okay, that’s just a weird-feeling clue (and I recognize I’m being very subjective on this one).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Coincidentally, A Proper Spoor is the name of my band.

      • pannonica says:

        I could be mistaken about snail + spoor, but it seems quite wrong.

        • Gareth says:

          Spoor is from Afrikaans and can also mean railway (as in our railway parastatal Spoornet – now Transnet). Maybe BEQ is imagining snails running on miniature railway tracks ;).

          • pannonica says:

            “Hey, Mr. Choo-Choo. It’s easy to find you. Bastard! I don’t have to kill you now. You leave a slime behind you like a snail. Two beautiful shiny rails.”

    • Papa John says:

      As I understand it, a spoor is the visible trail of an animal. That would include snail slime, until it dries up. However, spoor is most usually associated with tracking and hunting.

  10. Jim Schooler says:

    Matt must be tired from his vacation.

  11. Zulema says:

    PANNONICA, I agree with you. HUDA, thank you. I particularly thought of American trattorias (not sic). AMY, I assume it’s all in good spirits, but yesterday the correction was to Yiddish, and the constructor agreed with me, the error having crept in afterwards.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Technically, I love your corrections for any language. How many do you read and write, again?

      • zulema says:

        There are many I dabble in, a few I can read. Write a very few. It’s more like working knowledge, as the academics call it. Our old friend Glickstein once said that I speak 17 languages but don’t know which one I am speaking at any one time. And there have been times when he is so right about that, only it happens more with single words.

        Correcting is an old bad habit I have.

Comments are closed.