Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fireball 7:33 (Amy) 
AV Club 6:56 (Amy) 
NYT 5:01 (Amy) 
LAT 3:54 (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
CS 6:07 (Dave) 

Linkfest!

Matt Gaffney is making a meta murder mystery crossword suite. You can buy into the project at Kickstarter; if Matt garners $5,000 of pledges by January 3, the pledges will be collected and the puzzles will be sent out. The victim in the mystery is “Daphne Pratt,” an apt rhyme.

Merl Reagle wrote an article for the Washington Post about Arthur Wynne and the other important early names in crosswords. Merl’s also got a 100th anniversary book of his crosswords; not sure what content is in there besides the puzzles and accompanying cartoons by Zits cartoonist Jim Borgman.

Patrick Berry’s Fireball crossword, “One Good Turn Deserves Another”

Fireball 12 5 13 solution, “One Good Turn Deserves Another”

What better way to close out the 2013 Fireball series than with a twisty Berry puzzle? The answer grid looks entirely straightforward, doesn’t it? Patrick’s theme is lurking in the clues. The squares I’ve circled mark the places where two intersecting answers do-si-do and continue in the other direction. 14a. [Shocking] clues LURID, turning south at the R; 3d. Large vessel] clues ARK turning east at the same R. The other beginning/end combos work as ordinary crossword fill—LURK and ARID are both regular words. Similarly, what looks like MODESTY crossing TRAVELED is MODELED ricocheting off TRAVESTY, and CONGRESS/CARATS yields to CONGRATS and CARESS. (This gimmick is much easier to make sense out of than the game app Patrick created, Spellet—those words involve a lot more angles. The orthogonal moves in this puzzle reminded me of Spellet, though. If you like word games and understand geometry, check out the Spellet iOS app.) Taken together, the pivot letters spell out ROTISSERIE, and a rotisserie does indeed make a lot of turns.

There’s a street on Chicago’s North Side, Sheridan Road, that moves like the theme answers. It’s a northbound thoroughfare that gets absorbed into the Inner Lake Shore Drive, turns to the west at 3900 North, travels a few blocks to 1000 West and then turns due north. At the latter intersection, it’s Sheffield to the south, Byron to the west, and Sheridan to the north and east. People get so confused trying to find a North Sheridan address number when they’re on West Sheridan, I tell you. “Take Sheridan two more blocks, then turn right at Sheridan.” The theme answers make a helluva lot more sense that that.

Favorite fill: SKEE-BALL; ["Lucky Guy" playwright] EPHRON (did you ever notice that Nora Ephron is N. Ephron, and a nephron is a filtering unit of the kidney?); 66a. [Award for which winners get to give a five-word acceptance speech], WEBBY.

How giant a list of word pairs do you suppose Patrick worked through to devise this puzzle? And how did he come up with the clever idea? 4.5 stars. Not much else to it, but the twist is a neat one.

Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 5 13, no. 1205

Good Thursday trickery theme: The word CONFUSION is split into “CON” FUSION and clued as 34a. [Puzzlement ... or a hint to getting the 10 words on the perimeter of this puzzle]. Fuse the prefix “con” to those 10 words and the clues make more sense—but what appears in the grid are entirely valid words without the “con.” So this is a con game:

  • 1a. [Like a satellite dish], CAVE. Concave.
  • 5a. [Court disaster?], TEMPT. While “tempt fate” is roughly parallel to “court disaster,” being held in contempt of court is a bad thing legally.
  • 10a. [Call or email], TACT. Contact.
  • 62a. [Pageant, e.g.], TEST. Contest.
  • 63a. [Repentant], TRITE. Contrite.
  • 64a. [Peace], CORD. Concord.
  • 1d. [Simultaneous], CURRENT. Concurrent.
  • 13d. [Title seeker], TENDER. Contender, as in a boxing title bout.
  • 44d. [Be patronizing], DESCEND. Condescend.
  • 45d. [Call up], SCRIPT. Conscript.

Among the better fill, we have NBA DRAFT, BATTEN DOWN, THE SINAI, and IN LA-LA LAND. Aren’t those great?

In the category of lesser fill, there’s the Roman numeral CMI, a RIBBER, LAR (57d. [Choreographer Lubovitch]), and ULNAR.

Worked the crossings to fill in ATOMIST (11d. [Democritus or Leucippus, philosophically]) and ELEAZAR (43d. [Nephew of Moses]). And also an unfamiliar MAE (24a. [Clarke who played the bride of Frankenstein]).

4.33 stars from me. I enjoyed figuring out the theme and working through the perimeter answers.


Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Cash on Demand” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Three phrases that end with a slangy term for “cash” and a revealer to tie them up like a bow at the end:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 12/05/13

  • [Dish traditionally served on Simchat Torah] was STUFFED CABBAGE – also a decent side for Thanksgivukkah, no?
  • [Car lifting device] clued a BUMPER JACK – I’m neither familiar with this term (I just call it a “jack” or a “car jack”), nor “jack” as a slang term for money. I guess I don’t know jack about this.
  • [Future macaroni, e.g.] clued PASTA DOUGH – I like the idea of dough in school hoping to graduate one day as macaroni.
  • And, wait for it, our revealer: ["Jerry Maguire" demand, and this puzzle's theme] was SHOW ME THE MONEY

According to this site, there are at least fifty slang terms for money (I think my favorite is the old-timey “simoleon” and notably, “jack” is not listed), so to just choose three here, and one that’s not as familiar (to me anyway) as some others, seems a rather weak theme constraint. What I did particularly enjoy this one were the parallel fill entries that peppered the grid: [Twin in Genesis] by [Genesis brother] (ESAU and SETH), [Sound like Woodsy] and [It's said to be wise] (HOOT and OWL) and finally, [XXX material] and [X-rated] (SMUT and EROTIC). My FAVE though, was the Aussie greeting of G’DAY MATE. Runner up was the [Relative of Wednesday] from The Addams Family, Cousin ITT.

Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Tech Insiders”

AV Club crossword solution, 12 5 13 “Tech Insiders”

I figured out the first theme entry without much trouble, but then the other three were entirely mysterious until after I finished solving the puzzle and set to work unraveling the theme. Tech company names (which I’ve circled in my grid) are inserted into familiar phrases or words to radically change the meaning. The tech companies were a fairly broad mishmash, which made it hard to pin down what letters had been inserted, and the base phrases and new phrases had nothing else unifying them.

  • 17a, 28a. [With 28-Across, bragging comparison to a rock legend by a certain user of Find-My-Revolutionary-Comrade.com?], MAO LOVES LIKE JAGGER. The Maroon 5 hit “Moves Like Jagger” with web portal AOL inside.
  • 35a. [Psychic who can sense where the water drains?], BASIN TELEPATH. “Intel inside,” familiar ad slogan from a chip maker. Basepath from a baseball field.
  • 44a. [Knighted comedian who makes fun of Gordon's and Bombay Sapphire?], SIR LOL GINS. Awkward, yes? Cell phone company LG inside sirloins.
  • 59a. [Playful yappers adopted by Darth Maul?], SITH PUPS. Printer/computer maker HP, sit-ups.

Ben labeled this one a 3.5 on a 5-point difficulty scale, but I found it to be among the harder AV Clubs. Just me?

Did not know: 4d. [Vietnam-era radar plane, in U.S. military slang], WILD WEASEL. This crossed three theme answers and slowed me down in piecing those together.

Faves:

  • 51a. ["High-five, dude"], UP TOP. Don’t leave me hangin’.
  • 51d. [Not at all covered in paint, as a paintball player], UNHIT. Good clue saves blah answer.
  • 44d. ["God fuuu...dging darnit"], “SON OF A…”
  • 9a. [Popular vibrator], RABBIT. This was probably a gimme for a lot of people and a complete mystery to the rest.
  • 37d. [Jack's connection], LAND LINE.
  • 12d. [Embrace with minimal bodily contact], BRO HUG.

3.75 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Wise Guys” — Matt’s review

The three wise men hide in today’s BEQ, bringing wacky new phrases:

10-a [With 20-Across, "Only think about a Belgian tennis player!"?] = JUST IMAGINE HENIN. The tennis player is Justine Henin, winner of seven grand slams (including two U.S. Opens in 2003 and 2007).

39-a [Spell-casting president?] = MAGICAL COOLIDGE. From “Silent Cal” Cal Coolidge.

51-a [Writing an ode to a gorilla?] = HOMAGING KONG. From Hong Kong.

So that works, and there are three of them, which makes sense.

Best fill: FENG SHUI, ICE SKATE, ANG LEE, GNOME, CHILI. Best clues: [Fucking ready?] for ERECT and [You shouldn't take it literally] for IDIOM. Problematic: [My wife's third most-hated band (behind Big Country and Phil Collins solo)] = R.E.M. I don’t mind anyone hating Phil Collins or even R.E.M., but Big Country? You can’t be serious.

3.85 stars.

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times
131205

Today’s puzzle by Steve Blais features a simple, but elegant theme. There are three spoken-language phrases that correspond roughly to “search me”. I don’t quite get how the clue for all three, [" "], works in this context. I guess because they’re quotes with nothing in them they encourage the solver to exclaim “I haven’t got a clue!” etc. Still, that clue meant I had to work at those answers for the theme to emerge, which is effective in creating an a-ha moment. The answers, for completeness, are IMDRAWINGABLANK, HOWWOULDIKNOW, and IHAVENTGOTACLUE.

There are only three theme answers (but they’re all top-notch!) I do think this is generally a good approach to a theme. It allows plenty of space for other interesting answers! INAMBUSH, PANDERTO, OAKFLOOR, WHODUNIT (I thought it had two n’s, but that’s apparently the variant), BYANOSE, KAHLUA, CANAPE, and WALLE all made for an interesting grid.

A fun puzzle. 4 Stars.
Gareth

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14 Responses to Thursday, December 5, 2013

  1. Andrew says:

    Patrick’s Fireball is one hell of a puzzle. Compare it to P. Blindauer’s “Turning 100″ puzzle from earlier this week — certainly an above-average puzzle in its own right. But Berry transcends Blindauer’s feat by creating intersecting pairs that don’t result in gobbledygook (no KNOCEBOOK or FACKOUT, as seen in the Blindauer) but rather are real words. Then the added layer that the “pivot” letters spell out ROTISSERIE — fantastic. Puzzle of the year for me.

  2. Tracy B. says:

    Yes, this Fireball was a great way to finish the subscription year. The “extra” words (those unclued words formed by the two turning words) are good fill too. This and Sam Donaldson’s Sunday-sized “twin” puzzle earlier this year are standouts for me.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: A lot of fun! Seemed hard at first until you tumble to it, and then it opens right up.

    I had a busy day yesterday and read the comments late at night. This site is definitely an education, of sorts…

    Amy, re how I think of Scott (vs. Squat): this is closer to how it sounds in my head:
    http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=scott

  4. Gareth says:

    A beautiful, well-conceived theme! Some strange choices in the clueing though… ATOE as clued is terrible, as a partial it’s at least defensible. ONAN would be far better as the Biblical character IMO. OK, I take that back – I see now why ONAN is clued thusly: ELEAZAR/ONAN wouldn’t have been fair that way. As you were! I have a sustained objection that ULNAR is a >KIND< of nerve. Would you clue TIBIA as [Kind of bone]? I don't understand why it's lesser fill though…

    • Bencoe says:

      I like the idea of two Old Testament characters crossing paths. I think it’s fair even if you don’t know them because of the linguistic characteristics of Hebrew names–the cross square has got to be an “A”.
      I did not know ELEAZAR, even though I did my fair share of time in Sunday School and the sermons afterward.
      Liked the theme even though, or perhaps because, it was tough for me to get. Thought there was a strange rebus going on with “CONC” in the opening corner and didn’t get it until I got to the revealer…CONFUSION indeed!
      Hardest Thursday in a while, I thought.

      • Bencoe says:

        Oh yeah…haven’t seen much mention of this, but really liked the way BART was clued. Fresh Simpsons idea, which works well as a misdirect–or maybe not so misdirecting, since most of us probably think Homer Simpson when we hear “Homer” rather than the ancient poet.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Except when you figure ELEAZAR is a variant on Eliezer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliezer

        Why would it have to be an A?

        And who all knows the linguistic characteristics of Hebrew names?

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Got the theme with 1A and 1D, right off – rare for me. I liked it – went very quickly. Tuesday-ish time but much more fun.

    Loved the Fireball and completely missed the ROTISSERIE angle, which takes it from a really good puzzle to a great puzzle.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Re content of Merl Reagle’s book: A longer version (with pictures) of the story of Arthur Wynne and finding his daughter; 42 puzzles from 2002-2008, and 8 more earlier puzzles with a backstory on why they are special. A lovely collection.

  7. joon says:

    patrick’s puzzle was fantastic. but the schoenholz NYT has the same nice feature that all of the theme answers are legit words with or without the CON: CAVE, TEMPT, TACT, etc. i like that very much.

    amy, i struggled mightily with the “3.5/5″ avxw. and i didn’t get much enjoyment out of it, either. but i feel confident that the next one will be great, because most of them are great.

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