Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NYT 3:10 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:33 (Amy)  
LAT 4:03 (Gareth) 
CS 8:59 (Ade) 

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 1 14, no 1001

NY Times crossword solution, 10 1 14, no 1001

Nice and easy Wednesday puzzle—I feel like Wednesdays have been beating me up in recent months, but this one played easier than Tuesday’s puzzle.

The theme is 61a. INSIDE DOPE, [Lowdown … or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 53-Across], and those other four answers have DOPE split across two words, D/OPE, DO/PE, D/OPE, and DO/PE, a perfect split of the splits.

  • 17a. [Genre of Verdi’s “Jérusalem”], GRAND OPERA. Liz’s professional love of classical music extends to her fellow strings player, 66a. [Violinist Leopold] AUER.
  • 24a. [Guacamole base, in British lingo], AVOCADO PEAR. I’ve heard it called alligator pear but not avocado pear. People! It may be pear-shaped but it is not a pear. You don’t buy a dozen egg-pears or chicken-pears, do you?
  • 36a. [Used a crowbar on, say], PRIED OPEN.
  • 53a. [Robert Redford’s “great” 1975 role], WALDO PEPPER. Saw Redford in one of those Avengers movies the other night. His colorist does a lovely job of making him look ridiculous, with his hair unchanged while his face has aged 40 years.

Solid theme.

Five more things:

  • 21a. [“Fist of Fury” star, 1972], BRUCE LEE. I’m not big on punching but this is a terrific entry.
  • 27a. [Making the rounds?], IN ORBIT. I just looked up the plot of the Eddie Murphy movie Norbit to see if his title character was a DOPE. The movie sounds dreadful and garnered plenty of Razzie nominations, and yet did well at the box office.
  • 51a. [Boorish], UNCOUTH. I need to use that word more often.
  • 8d. [Lexicographer James who was the O.E.D.’s first editor], MURRAY. Never heard of him! But I don’t mind learning about lexicographers.
  • I checked out Will Shortz’s notes on this puzzle at Wordplay, and I’m dumbfounded. One of the entries he wanted edited out of the grid because it was “unappealing” was DELPY?? Julie Delpy, star of the acclaimed 18-year Richard Linklater trilogy with Ethan Hawke? Before Sunrise in 1995, Before Sunset in 2004, and Before Midnight in 2013 were all great films (still need to see the third one!) and I would have loved seeing DELPY in the puzzle. Hacking the name out of the grid seems … uncouth.

Four stars from me. An open grid without woeful fill + a solid theme + the original authorial intent to include DELPY = win.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Questionable Beginnings”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.01.14: "Questionable Beginnings"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.01.14: “Questionable Beginnings”

Good morning, all!

As a journalist, I definitely have had the concept of the five W’s beaten down into my skull over the years by professors, professionals in the field, etc.. In today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, we’re presented with the five Ws as well…in a way. Each of the first syllables of the five theme entries phonetically sound out each of the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why).

  • HOOTENANNY: (17A: [Folkies’ tuneful gathering])
  • WATSON AND CRICK: (27A: [Duo noted for DNA research]) – This was probably the toughest entry to try and find a word whose beginning sounds exactly like “what.” We’ll take the watt-sounding Watson, though!
  • WENDY: (37A: [Darling girl of literature])
  • WEREWOLF MOVIES: (43A: [“The Howling” franchise, for example])
  • WYCLEF JEAN: (58A: [Haitian-born politician and Fugees alum])

For better or worse, the first thought that I had after this puzzle was the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” ad campaign with FABIO as the pitchman (48A: [Long-maned model of romance cover fame]). Some people might say to me that IT’S A LIE that I thought of that first, but I indeed I did…sadly (22A: [“Don’t believe that!”]). I just noticed the synonyms of WEAK (34A: [Lacking juice]) and TAME right next to each other near the center of the grid (39A: [Domesticated]). Of all of the hotels and inns that I’ve stayed at over the years (and I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels and inns), I have never stayed at a HOJO (16A: [Hospitality nickname associated with orange roofs]). Not sure if I’m missing too much if I never make it to a Howard Johnson anytime soon. Love the fill of OLE MISS in the grid, and, if you’re a sports fan, you might want to take notice of the school’s football team right now, as they have a chance to be something real special this season (5D: [“Rebel Yell” university, familiarly]). Speaking of sports…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WRONG WAY (37D: [Nickname for aviator Corrigan]) – No one likes a sports blooper more than I do, and what I’m about to present to you is probably the most memorable sports blooper in professional football history. On October 25, 1964, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall recovered a fumble by San Francisco 49ers running back Billy Kilmer, but then proceeded to return the fumble the WRONG WAY, running into his own end zone instead of his opponents’. Once reaching the end zone, he threw the ball into the air and out of bounds, and that resulted in a safety and two points for the 49ers instead of the six points and a touchdown he thought he had scored for his team. Here’s the video, as well as the famous broadcast call of that play…

See you all on Thursday! Have a good one until then!

Take care!


Francis Heaney’s AV Club crossword, “The Hugger Games”

AV Club crossword solution, 10 1 14 "The Hugger Games"

AV Club crossword solution, 10 1 14 “The Hugger Games”

I had to print this out to really make sense of the theme, as seeing a small subset of the clues in the solving window made it tough to see the gestalt of it all. Four 12-letter phrases/words can be parsed as a trio of nested 4-letter words, like so:

  • 19a. [Something that gets grabbed in a friendly competition (and a group hug involving Tributes #3, #5, and #9)], RAFFLE TICKET. That’s 18a TICK sandwiched inside 13a FLEE hugged by 68a RAFT.
  • 32a. [Like people in a group hug, presumably (and a group hug involving Tributes #7, #8, and #11)], GETTING ALONG. TING in ET AL in GONG.
  • 42a. [Quality something has if you can put your arms around it (and a group hug involving tributes #4, #10, and #12)], CORPOREALITY. ORAL around PORE, inside CITY.
  • 57a. [Kind of arena that might host the Hugger Games (and a group hug involving tributes #1, #2, and #6)], PLEASURE DOME. SURE in LEAD in POME.

Kudos for finding hug/Hugger Games ways to clue the long entries, and for even coming up with this unusual way to represent a group hug. And did you notice that the fill is pretty damn solid, despite the inclusion of 48 letters of long themers and 48 letters of short “Tribute” themers? Francis excels at concocting elaborate and imaginative themes and at filling grids and at writing lively clues. Here are some of my favorite clues:

  • 15a. [It may precede sex or surgery (Tribute #4)], ORAL.
  • 21a. [New Jersey area code, in ancient Rome (oh, did you want to do Roman numeral math? That’s what I thought)], CCI. 201. I pretty much never want to do Roman numeral math and deal with those clues only when the crossings don’t provide all the letters.
  • 23a. [Exams with a “Logic Games” section, for some reason], LSATS. Back when I took the GRE, it had a logic puzzles section. The material was all easier than what I cut my teeth on as a kid doing Dell puzzle magazines and I got a perfect score in that section. It was fun, but not challenging enough.
  • 1d. [Pressure felt when getting really high?], G FORCE. Not drugs but aeronautics.
  • 8d. [Surface of a cube?], DESK.
  • 17d. [Like you after drinking Red Bull, according to commercials, in scientific terms], ALATE. Dreadful little bit of crosswordese, but Red Bull gives you wings, which makes you ALATE.
  • 53d. [“There’s ___! Oh, shit, fire hydrant, sorry”], A SPOT. Yes, it’s a partial, but this resonates strongly for any city driver in a congested area.

The theme didn’t bring me a wild “aha” moment, but the crisp cluing kept me entertained. 4.25 stars.

Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Timees 141001

LA Timees 141001

When I got to [Many a bus. address…], I didn’t see the full stop, so I couldn’t understand why it wanted to be POBOX! The theme phrases are all two-part answers of the pattern P… …O. It’s a pretty broadly defined theme, which is fine if it yields good answers! Today’s collection are pretty solid, though not “ooh” inducing. We have:

  • [System with a Porte de Versailles station], PARISMETRO. Doesn’t seem to have been used before! I’ve been trying to compile a list of classic train songs, so I should probably link to this fluffy bit of New Wave!
  • [Instrument using rolls], PLAYERPIANO. Didn’t know that name, but apparently it’s another word for a pianola… The rolls refer to the paper that is read and translated into music by the instrument
  • [In the U.S., it has more than 950 stations], PUBLICRADIO. Had PIRATE first…
  • [Pasta sauce ingredient], PLUMTOMATO

What else? GINA/ILENE could be a tough cross for the less crossword-ese literate. I had GENA first before encountering Ms. Graff. The clue for [Knighted golf analyst], FALDO made me expect someone I didn’t know: he did play the game for a bit before turning to commentary! [Childhood ailment, typically], MUMPS – there’s a vaccine now, I heard! The clue for [Obvious flirt], OGLER strikes me as… off. Flirting and ogling strike me as different activities; the latter more… menacing.

3.5 Stars

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24 Responses to Wednesday, October 1, 2014

  1. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but Liz Gorski set a neat little trap at 53-across. With the last three letters firmly locked in from the crossings, and the INSIDE_DOPE theme already sussed out, I instinctively added the required D and O and then helplessly scoured my memories for Redford movie roles ending in DOPER. Of course, I loved seeing GRAND_OPERA and found “Jerusalem” to be an interesting choice for an example. Essentially the same plot and much of the same music were also packaged by Verdi as “I Lombardi,” which is not by any stretch of the imagination based on any putative autobiography of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach.

    • huda says:

      George, I totally fell for that trap, in that same sequence.

    • Brucenm says:

      Funny, George. Here I thought the opera was about Vince. Actually, as you say, it was basically a translation into French of the libretto of the earlier opera, hence the accent on the ‘é’ of Jérusalem, but not the ‘e’ of opera, since the answer is English, not French (a slight but inconsequential misdirection right there.)

  2. ArtLvr says:

    “Avocado pear ” was familiar to me, but if you google you’ll see an odd discussion of why its fruit classification is “single-seeded berry”! Egads.

  3. Brucenm says:

    I had pretty much the same (favorable) reactions to the puzzle as Amy. I too am a great fan of Julie Delpy and am astounded brushoff of any sort for any reason. She is multi talented, smart, charming, attractive in every sense. She’s an excellent writer and director, as well as an actress. She was great in Before Sunrise, and she directed *2 days in Paris* (perhaps not quite as wonderful but interesting and entertaining). As an aside, she directed her own parents, playing her character’s parents.

    Amy, there is a very interesting book called “The Professor and the Madman” about the creation of the OED, focusing on Murray, and W.C. Minor, who was an inmate in a “lunatic asylum for the criminally insane;” an American, if I remember correctly, who made major contributions to the OED during his lifetime incarceration. These contributions, though are sometimes exaggerated and overstated — (he is sometimes described as having “authored” the book, which aside from being a horrible word, is grossly exaggerated.) But still, his contributions were substantial.

  4. Francis says:

    Hat-tip to editor Ben, whose clue-polishing chops are responsible for a number of those. I had considered cluing ALATE as [Getting ___ start] or something, but I felt like the grid had enough partials already and the crosswordese might be worth it if the clue was entertaining.

  5. Gerhard says:

    I don’t know why this bugs me as much as it does, but I hate how people often comment on this blog as if the NYT were the only puzzle being discussed.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: Who knew that Americans don’t call avocado pears avocado pears??? Not me. Learn something new every day. Now I know you don’t shorten that to just AVO ever, which is unfortunate, because it would so darn cruciverbally useful!

    • Martin says:

      I suspect Amy’s happy the clue had a Brit-signal (and the M-W does say “chiefly British”), but Liz Gorski mentioned the seed for this puzzle (pit for this puzzle?) was a sign for “Avocado Pears” she encountered at a market. I think we can assume this was an American market since she didn’t mention she was traveling. So we sometimes use it.

      Americans say that “avocados” grow on “avocado trees,” while (whilst?) Brits might say “avocado pears” grow on “avocados.”

      • Gareth says:

        They’re called avocado pear trees here!

        • Martin says:

          That’s just silly.

          Avocado green was all the rage for kitchen appliances in the ’70s. Did this take hold down there? (You might have to ask an elder.) Would the color be “avocado pear green”?

      • pannonica says:

        And we all are aware of the Nahuatl etymology, yes?

        • Martin says:

          It’s odd how much folk etymology this tree and its fruit has engendered. The Nahuatl ahuacatl became aguacate in Spanish. The leap to “avocado” came from confusion with abogado, “lawyer.” Go figure.

          “Alligator pear” is a corruption of ahuacatl and aguacate, influenced by the green bumpy skin.

          Avocado’s genus, Persea is the name of a mythological fruit, supposedly from Persia, that was usually spelled persica and usually associated with the peach, which is Prunis persica.

    • Winnie says:

      In New Zealand they are called “avos”.

  7. Brucenm says:

    I’m sorry, I still totally don’t get the AV puzzle. The puzzle was OK, and not too hard to fill in, but what does “tick sandwiched inside flee hugged by raft” mean? Or gong? Or ting? Or anything else in the puzzle? I actually went to one of the Hunger Games movies, partly in self-defense, but it made little impression on me, apart from liking Jennifer Lawrence. I remember that they traveled from place to place, for some reason, and that there was something about a circular pond or lagoon, sectioned off like the hours on a clock face, but I can’t remember what the significance of it was.

    • Francis says:


      • Brucenm says:

        Oh Ok. Thanks. That helps. I’ll try not to have a holy shucking fit over it. It’s very clever once I see the multiple layers of containment. I do remember that the players were called “tributes”, but I didn’t remember any of their names.

    • Mike says:

      I enjoyed the puzzle, but have a hard time with 1-down. G-Force has nothing to do with altitude, and if anything it goes down (to 0-G’s) once you get into space.

      • Martin says:

        The clue says “when getting” really high. It refers to the conditions during a rocket launch. Of course, it’s really wordplay but it holds up.

  8. Martin says:

    “Tributes” here are just 4-letter words that are fodder for the hugging (containment) game. They are named after the Hunger Games tributes, the participants chosen for those games.

  9. Francis says:

    Also, finding DELPY unappealing is completely derp-y.

  10. Linda says:

    I reviewed Delpy’s film, “Before Midnight,” and even though at the time we had a similar hair style, even my title said I wasn’t nuts about the film: Before Midnight has mom porn but little else.

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