Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NYT 3:33 (Amy) 
AV Club untimed (Amy)  
LAT 4:39 (Gareth) 
CS 8:40 (Ade) 

Michael Maurer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 26 14, no. 1126

NY Times crossword solution, 11 26 14, no. 1126

The name of the game is to take phrases with military applications and redefine them with entirely different contexts:

  • 17a. [Potato?], MASH UNIT. Mobile Army Surgical Hospital Unit in the more customary definition.
  • 24a. [Ebb tide?], SHORE LEAVE. Sailors on vacation.
  • 34a. [Inoculation order?], PRESENT ARMS. This one’s cute. Keeps “present” as a verb.
  • 49a. [“Clean out your desk!”?], FIRING LINE. I hadn’t realized that this one was specifically a military term… though what else would it be?
  • 58a. [1983 sci-fi drama … or a possible title for this puzzle], WAR GAMES.

Interesting bits I rather liked:

  • 14a. [Wet missile], SPITBALL. Throwing “missile” in with the military stuff is a nice choice.
  • 19a. [“Bewitched” spinoff], TABITHA. I was a kid when I watched the original show with its kid Tabitha, and I even tried watching that short-lived spin-off. Pop culture right up my alley.
  • 30a. [Most of the symbols on a traditional slot machine], FRUIT. Good clue.
  • 3d. [“Pay attention!”], “LISTEN UP!” Almost went with LOOK HERE.
  • 6d. [Like the toves in “Jabberwocky”], SLITHY. Is this about mimsy borograves?
  • 8d. [Signature Obama health measure, for short], ACA. This three-letter abbreviation is so mainstream now, I’m surprised we don’t see the entry in significantly more crosswords. Certainly it should soon outpace SDI, TVA, and other governmental TLAs that are past their peak.
  • 9d. [Some microphones], LAVALIERES. No idea why I know this word, but it’s pretty, isn’t it?

Things I was not fond of include LEM, OSIER, -IOR, STS, BIREME, and ALTHO. Not a giant parade of horribles and for that I am grateful.

Four stars from me.

Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Open Up!”

AV Club crossword solution, 11 26 14 "Open Up!"

AV Club crossword solution, 11 26 14 “Open Up!”

Timely theme, as Thanksgiving’s arrival heralds the onset of the Christmas season, and many kids dig advent calendars that help them count down the days till Santa comes. We always had the ones where you peel open the little door for that date and reveal a picture hidden beneath. The best advent calendars, of course, are the ones where the doors open to little compartments containing goodies. In Tyler’s cruciverbal ADVENT CALENDAR with TWENTY-FOUR DAYS‘ worth of doors, the doors are black squares that hide a letter that spills over from an adjacent answer. Taken together, the 24 doors spell out WHOOPS, NO CHOCOLATES IN HERE. Aw, man! Disappointing. I haven’t had any chocolate in, like, two days.

I did have to piece together the hidden phrase in order to fill in all the doors. 19a. [Saturns, e.g.] are SEGAS, old game consoles. 18d. [“Moral __” (“Adult Swim” show)] is OREL. 23a. [Ethically killed] is HALAL; it’s not about defensible homicide. And the crossing of 13a. [Italian hero from Japan?] and 1d. [Italian __ (Subway sandwich)] had me befuddled for a long time—MARIO of Nintendo, and whatever a BMT sandwich is. Great clue for MARIO, especially with the subway/hero sandwich mislead.

The door squares belong to the following words: 1 WREST, 2 HOMED, 3 MARIO, 4 OREL, 5 PUTT, 6 SEGAS, 7 NICEST, 8 OREM, 9 DISC (could maybe have been DISK, so I needed the door’s letter to nail this one down), 10 HALAL, 11 OGRE, 12 TALC, 13 STENO, 14 TOLL, 15 TETRA, 16 TATE, 17 EDEN, 18 SANS, 19 IAGO, 20 ESPN, 21 TEETH, 22 CREE, 23 ENSOR, 24 EUROS.

A couple more nice clues:

  • 33a. [She has better hair than her ex-husband], IVANA. I kinda wanted MEDEA, and I kinda want Donald Trump to marry a Medea next.
  • 31d. [Booth souvenir], TAN. I wanted a ticket STUB here. 30a is also a booth clue, but we have tanning and toll booths, no ticket booths.

This 14×11 puzzle is unusual in that it’s not square, it’s smaller than the typical 15×15, and every single square is filled in with letters. I’d love to hear from Tyler about how he constructed this one. It seems … quite difficult. Brain-breaking, even. I wonder if it was a manual labor or if brute computing force helped pull everything together.

4.5 stars from me. I appreciated the added challenge of figuring out the puzzle’s secrets.

Matt Scoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  141126

LA Times

We have a subtle theme today. Last words of phrases end in plural forms of “to take off” – parts, goes, splits, leaves. First two answers are very good and the other two solid. This is a well-executed early-week theme. The answers are:

  • [Titillating passages], JUICYPARTS
  • [“You’re the Top” musical], ANYTHINGGOES. Fred Astaire, no wait, Bing Crosby and… someone in the film – my mom’s fond of the song so I guess I should link to it.
  • [Indulgent desserts], BANANASPLITS
  • [October tourist attraction], FALLLEAVES. I don’t understand this clue at all…

My favourite parts? YOTEAMO is a cut above most foreign answers. MERCUTIO adds a touch of eyebrow to the longer answers. [Fatigued action figure?], GIJOE is a good choice to build that corner around and aptly clued too.


  • [Black-tie affairs], GALAS. I may have said this before, but here galas usually involve competitive swimming.
  • [Suffragist Carrie], CATT. For variety, here’s another Catt, Mike, being infamously steamrollered.
  • [“__ 13.5% BY VOL”: wine label phrase], ALC. Nice way to give suitable context to an otherwise iffy abbr.
  • [Teahouse floor mat], TATAMI. Hard answer if you haven’t learnt it from crosswords. Such answers are not negative unless overdone or poorly spaced, which is not the case here.
  • [Kiss guitarist Frehley], ACE. Uncommon ACE clueing angle. He also had a mildly successful solo career

3.5 Stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Play Ball”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.26.14: "Play Ball"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.26.14: “Play Ball”

How goes it, everyone?!

Hopefully you got some amusement from this puzzle today, authored by Ms. Lynn Lempel. That’s because each of the theme answers, five of them in this case, are phrases in which the first word is also a word that, when used in its verb form, describes an action that you can take to a ball. Let’s have a ball breaking this down a little, shall we?

  • ROLL A CIGAR: (17A: [Make your own Cuban])
  • BOUNCE A CHECK: (23A: [Risk being penalized by the bank])
  • THROW AN ELECTION: (39A: [Rig some votes, say])
  • HIT A SOUR NOTE: (51A: [Be poorly received])
  • KICK A HABIT: (63A: [Stop smoking or drinking]) – Habit that I need to kick now? Drinking a can of soda to help me sleep at night. Yes, it’s true.

I took a little while in getting what the mislead meant in BED SHEET was for, not association “double” with the bed size (10D: [What’s needed on the double?]). Was way more in tune (pardon the upcoming pun) with the mislead for ORGANIST (40D: [One pulling out all the stops?]). We have a Middle Eastern tinge to this puzzle, with both SYRIAN (9D: [Damascus native]) and OMAN (56A: [Nation on the Strait of Hormuz]), and a location not too far away from the Middle East in MALI (62A: [A southern neighbor of Algeria]). Outside of when there’s alternate programming on the air (usually sports), I don’t think I’ve watched CNBC for more than 10 minutes straight at any point in its existence (26D: [Network for financial goings-on])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BELLE (35A: [Charmer on the dance floor]) – One of the most feared hitters in the 1990s, former Major League Baseball outfielder Albert BELLE is mostly known for his play while member of the Cleveland Indians from 1989-1996. Belle was a five-time All-Star in his career and in 1995, he became the first player in MLB history to hit at least 50 home runs and at least 50 doubles in the same season. As great of a hitter he was, he also was famous for his cantankerous personality with teammates, the media, and even trick-or-treaters who reportedly egged his house one year, as he ended up chasing them down with his Ford Explorer. He also was suspended for using a corked bat in his career, calling into question the legitimacy of the numbers that he put up.

Thank you for the time, and you’ll hear from me again on Turkey Day!  Well, as long as I’m not already in a food coma by the time I get to the puzzle.

Take care!


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9 Responses to Wednesday, November 26, 2014

  1. Zulema says:

    Not just cute, but PRESENT ARMS made me laugh out loud (I will not use the texting abbr.) and since that doesn’t happen often, I am grateful to the constructor — and the editor too, I suppose.

  2. David L says:

    Well, I learned something today. I was all set to object, re 64A, that there is no B St in DC — the streets between A and C are Independence and Constitution Avenues. But then I thought it would be wise to check Google maps, and lo and behold there is an entirely separate quartet of A, B, C, and D Sts in Fort McNair, in SW DC. Who knew?

    I wonder if that’s what the constructor had in mind, though…

  3. Ethan says:

    I got deja vu doing this puzzle, and sure enough the whole PRESENT ARMS thing/reinterpretation of military phrases was done in the February 19 puzzle of this very year, also a Wednesday. Okay, PRESENT ARMS is the only repeat answer, but I still would waited a bit longer to run this puzzle.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Military commands (from the 2/19/14 puzzle) are a tighter theme set than today’s “assorted themes with some military usage” set.

    • Ethan says:

      I stand by my saying that Will should have put more than ten months between that puzzle and this puzzle, since the “star” wordplay answer is basically the same.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Oh, I don’t dispute that. My initial response was that if you have two similar puzzles, you should run the worse one first so the second one looks like an improvement … but these two are hitting similar average ratings so I can’t say which one’s better.

        I agree that similar themes need to be spaced out more, but Will recently reported to Cruciverb-L that he was going to be spending down the pile of old accepted puzzles. I can’t help thinking that the plethora of subpar fill is a factor of that—and that there may be other thematic duplications that get purged via publication too. (Will also said that he was more selective now, so I’m hoping that we’ll see better puzzles overall within a year (… though it might take longer than that for Tuesday puzzles). Here were the numbers Will shared about what’s in the pipeline:

        Here is the state of our inventory as of now:

        Monday: 40 puzzles on file, 4 older than a year

        Tuesday: 69 on file, 29 older than a year

        Wednesday: 55 on file, 14 older than a year

        Thursday: 21 on file, 5 older than a year

        Friday: 57 on file, 5 older than a year

        Saturday: 49 on file, 18 older than a year

        Sunday: 10 on file, 1 older than a year

  5. Billie says:

    Gareth – Yeah, I guess the clue/answer [October tourist attraction]/FALL LEAVES wouldn’t work in South Africa at all. In the U.S., we usually call autumn “fall,” and October is an autumn month. So the clue refers to taking a trip to see some spectacular fall foliage.

    • Gareth says:

      Yeah, I know October is fall/autumn. But given there are leaves falling everywhere, who’s going to specific places to see this precisely? Still very confused.

      • Bencoe says:

        For a couple of weeks, places with thick forests are tourist attractions. Miles of trees, all kinds of different colors, it can be pretty spectacular. When I lived in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, “leafer” season was a mini tourist boom each year.

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