Saturday, December 13, 2014

Newsday 7:41 (Amy) 
NYT 5:26 (Amy) 
LAT 3:53 (Andy) 
CS 9:48 (Ade) 

James Mulhern and Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 13 14

NY Times crossword solution, 12 13 14

Lots of fresh stuff in this puzzle:

  • 17a. [Become ripped], LIQUOR UP, aptly crossing TEQUILA, 3d. [1958 #1 hit whose only lyric is its title word].
  • 9d. [Celery topped with peanut butter and raisins], ANTS ON A LOG. Gross.
  • 14d. [What keeps order at a concert?], SET LIST. Can you guess the musical artist given a copy of their SET LIST? I got 22 of 25 on this Sporcle quiz.
  • 28d. [Kebabs sold curbside, say], STREET MEAT. I have never, ever heard this term, but it’s colorful. Chicago has too many ridiculous laws against sidewalk vendors. We lack the readily available street meat NYC has.
  • 38d. [Comics boy with the given name Scooner], SWEE’PEA. “Scooner”? I had no idea.
  • 39d. [Modern request for contact], “HIT ME UP.”

And who could overlook those BUTTOCKS, the 1a. [Cheeky couple?] mooning us right from the start.

Less savory are the plural STUS, plural abbrev ALTS, no-longer-relevant LONI Anderson, and the very weird WIFE clue, 45a. [Bachelor’s least favorite radio station?].

Four more things:

  • Unexpected clues for ONO and IDA5d. [Mackerel variety on Hawaiian menus] and 31a. [Ballerina Rubinstein who commissioned Ravel’s “Boléro”], respectively.
  • 11d. [Mass-over-volume symbol] is RHO, which I certainly did not recall from physics class. And then 59d. [11-Down’s shape] clues PEE, as rho looks like P. It doesn’t look anything like urine, though. Urine has no shape; it takes the shape of whatever is holding it. (BUTTOCKS and PEE in the same newspaper puzzle?)
  • Odd to have two two-part answers connected via cross-references. There’s BAD / EMS (my favorite crosswordese spa town of 1980s puzzles) and MORE / OR LESS.

Four stars from me.

Pawel Fludzinski and Michael S. Maurer’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 12.13.14 by Pawel Fludzinski and Michael S. Maurer

LAT Puzzle 12.13.14 by Pawel Fludzinski and Michael S. Maurer

Much of this puzzle felt very Maleska-era NYT. I think the only feature of this puzzle that placed it post-1994 was a clue featuring Samantha Bond as MONEYPENNY. Often, proper nouns or current slang serve to bring the puzzle into the present, but there’s very little of either in the puzzle (which I suspect, dear readers, elated a not insignificant subset of you). There were certainly opportunities to put in fresh clues (see, e.g., AVATAR, SATIRICAL [The Onion, at least], OSAGE [August: Osage County having recently adapted into a film], even the most recent actress to play MONEYPENNY, Naomie Harris — etc. etc.), but I didn’t see any attempt to do so.

That said, there’s much to like about this puzzle. First of all, the construction: 64 words with dense white blocks in each corner intersecting other impressive stacks. A few standout entries in each of those corners, I think: LYONNAISE and EMANUEL AX are gorgeous 9s, though quite challenging if you’ve never heard of them. WORK TABLE feels lexical though I haven’t seen it many places, and stacking it on EUPHEMISM is nice. ATOMIC AGE is a lively phrase, as is MONEYPENNY. Much of the rest of the fill held my interest as well: entries like TEAM SPORTS, CRIME STORY, FIELD TEST, POSTMASTER, SO THERE, and TRADE ON held the grid together nicely.

A couple more entries I liked, but that I suspect others did not: DOS-A-DOS [Back-to-back, in Bordeaux] has occasional applications in English, and is the origin of the square dancing term “do-si-do.” This clue makes it seem like the phrase was chosen at random from a French-to-English dictionary. I also liked seeing NEISSE (the good old [German/Polish border river]), even though it and its counterpart the ODER are crosswordese chestnuts and even though its significance is largely limited to the study of World War II.

Then there was some fill that I did not enjoy. E.g., D’ARC clued as [Bois ___] rather than [Jeanne ___], ELOI, NCOS, OLEIC, ROTA, AS FIT, MDV, AT ‘EM, VAN (fine, but clued Maleska-esque-ly as [Matinee idol Johnson]), DRI, A NAP, EENY, and TASS. None of these individually is awful, but they added up noticeably. To be fair, it’s difficult to completely avoid dregs when you’re working with such a dense grid, and frankly I thought the good fill far outweighed the bad in this 64-worder. Mostly I just wish the clues had been more interesting; if so, this could have been a great puzzle.

4.25 stars for the construction and highlights, 2.5 for the cluing and lowlights, which averages to roughly 3.4 stars. Until next week!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 12 13 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 12 13 14 “Saturday Stumper”

So many nifty clues in this puzzle, and nothing that made me gnash my teeth—so it was an enjoyable solve. Random notes on things I was fond of or have something to say about follow:

  • 11a. [Maldives is its smallest country], ASIA. Island(s) nation. Smallest in area (less than half the size of Singapore or Bahrain), smallest in population (smaller than Brunei and Bhutan). As sea levels rise, the Maldives’ land area will shrink. It’s an existential crisis, climate change.
  • 15a. [Bingbot, for one], WEBCRAWLER. “Bingbot” is new to me.
  • 16a. [Series in the DVD Martinis and Medicine Collection], M*A*S*H. Love the clue.
  • 18a. [Tenoroon relative], OBOE. Let me guess: it’s tenor crossed with bassoon, and not a relative of octoroon?
  • 20a. [British coronation anointment vessel], AMPULLA. I’m more familiar with the tinier ampule.
  • 40a. [Salsa ingredients?], MAMBOS. Without the question mark, MANGOS would work.
  • 53a. [Subject of the 2010 documentary ”Between the Folds”], ORIGAMI. Don’t know the doc but the title suggests the subject well.
  • 6d. [They’ve been banned from the US since ’62], HAVANAS. Cuban cigars.
  • 7d. [Mars brand], TWIX. Delicious! Skip the little Santa Claus-shaped Twixes, though. The chocolate shell is overly dominant and the proportions are all off. Not enough cookie/caramel forward notes. Specialty sizes of Kit-Kats are similarly disappointing.
  • 10d. [Literally, ”citadel”], KREMLIN. Foreign etymology, nice.
  • 30d. [Film-inspired eatery chain, familiarly], BUBBA GUMP. Wonder if this has been in a cryptic crossword with a clue generating BUB, BAG, and UMP.
  • 43d. [Cash in a jukebox], ROSANNE. “Quarters! Too long. Johnny! Too short.”
  • 49d. [Exhibited exhilaration], LIT UP. Nicer phrase than the answer I originally had here, LEAPT.

Suffix –FUL is the first thing in the worst thing in the grid, and it has very little company. I would have made that YUL Brynner crossing DIY, personally.

4.25 stars for this 70-worder. This SMOOTH TALKer is smooth.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Do You See What I See?”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.13.14: "Do You See What I See?"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.13.14: “Do You See What I See?”

It all started with 01.02.03, and it ends today on 12.13.14 (unless there’s a thirteenth month that I don’t know about). I hope you’re all doing well, and also hope you enjoyed today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke. In the puzzle, each of the four theme answers all start with words that also have to deal with sight and vision.

  • WATCH CHAIN: (17A: [It keeps the time from getting away])
  • LOOK MAGAZINE: (27A: [Picture-heavy publication, 1937-1971]) – If I go back to my old apartment and search my father’s old room, I’m sure there’s a Look Magazine laying around somewhere.
  • WITNESS STAND: (48A: [Spot for testifying])
  • PEER REVIEW: (63A: [Process of evaluation by colleagues]) – Here’s hoping my peer review at the end of the year among my fellow Fiends and Fiend bloggers goes OK for me.

Of all the earworms caused by doing crossword puzzles on here, I thought “Super Freak” from last Sunday’s Challenge wouldn’t be topped, but seeing AGENT today has caused me to rethink that, as I love the song referenced in its clue (14A: [“Secret _____ Man” (Johnny Rivers hit)]). Also love seeing BRONX ZOO, and I’m sure Scrabble lovers would have drooled over the X and Z right next to each other (10D: [6,000-animal New York City attraction]). And as a New York City guy, seeing Bronx Zoo cross TIN PAN was just amazing, and would lead me to believe the constructor either a) is from New York City, or b) is fond of popular Big Apple spots in general (22A: [______ Alley (New York music scene name of yore)]). Or it could just be total coincidence, of course. I’m pretty much a straight crossword guy and never have gotten into SUDOKU, though it’s not because I don’t like it (56A: [Number puzzle]). Maybe one day I’ll buy a Sudoku book and give it a whirl. Speaking of giving something a whirl, that’s exactly what I’m doing for the “sports…smarter” moment coming up in…3…2…1…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CANI (34D: [“What more ____ say?”]) – Is there another way to clue this partial? Well, let sports give it a try. Ruben Garcia Calamache, known simply as CANI, is a Spanish professional soccer player who currently plays for Villarreal in La Liga, the highest level of professional soccer in Spain. As a member of Real Zaragoza in 2004, Cani won the Copa del Rey, the cup competition amongst Spanish football teams, as they beat international power Real Madrid 3-2 in extra time. Unfortunately, Cani was sent off in the game, as he picked up two yellow cards in a two-minute span in the second half.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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19 Responses to Saturday, December 13, 2014

  1. Martin says:


    RHO has been clued as a density symbol 19 times. I’m sure you recall that density is mass-over-volume.

    At least there’s no zero-over-zero in this puzzle.

    Ono is the Hawaiian word for the fish called “wahoo” in Florida. It means “sweet.” It’s a tasty fish as long as it’s fresh.

  2. Gareth says:

    Very difficult to break into – only longer gimme on first pass was TEQUILA. Once got traction played more like a Friday, but overall impression was a good Saturday with fun answers. Knew ANTSONALOG was something, but not what it was – so that clue sounded crazy! I second that [Bachelor’s least favourite radio station?] is weird, and needs more than just a ? to work. Some bachelors actively like the idea of a wife, for instance. The link is tenuous at best. My one error was BOLSHOY/YDA. Seemed plausible enough.

  3. roger says:

    8 Down–five days away from Hanukkah and THAT menorah has eight branches. Methinks not the best of clues.

  4. sbmanion says:

    Very hard for me. Every quadrant was a grind. ONEONONE, TEQUILA, GIJANE and APTEST were among the very few non-struggles for me.

    I am still amazed at the story some of my students recently told me. They go to a prep school here in the Phoenix area called Basis, which, in my view, places inordinate emphasis on academics. Most of the students take AP courses exclusively from the 9th grade on. For any of you who have high school students who have taken APUSH (AP US History), you can imagine how demanding a 5 AP course load would be. Anyway, one boy took 20 AP courses and scored 19 5’s and one 4 and nevertheless got rejected at Harvard.


    • Papa John says:

      Steve, as a retired educator I was perplexed by your extraordinary phrase: “…places inordinate emphasis on academics.” I know you’re a sports buff, but, surely, you’re not going down that path. What do you think should be the paramount emphasis for an institute of learning, if not academics?

      • Richard says:

        Based on my interpretation, Steve is not saying that academics is of less than paramount importance. I think he is raising the issue of the amount of academic pressure and/or load that should be placed on high school students. For example, my daughters went to a high school at which there was tremendous pressure to be accepted at the most prestigious universities. As a result of this pressure, there was a lot of cheating and undue anxiety.

      • sbmanion says:

        Richard is where I was coming from. I have not noticed the cheating, but I have witnessed the intense competitiveness. As a sidebar to that, the kids that I have been tutoring that go to the very demanding prep school do not seem to be doing as well as kids who are also bright, but go to less demanding schools. I have begun to question whether the students are afraid to admit that they are not perfect in an environment that places such a heavy emphasis on perfection. This can cause kids to panic when they do not know an answer rather than try to think of the question as a game. Perhaps crosswords would help.


  5. Gareth says:

    Top left in the LAT was brutally hard for me, but satisfyingly so: EMANUELAX was an age in coming, WORKTABLE wanted to be BENCH. TEAMSPORTS wanted to be some kind of SHIRTS (because polo, come on!). Didn’t know DOSADOS, but I should’ve guessed based on the repetition! ALBINOS was tricksy and SALSAS vague. Not sure why I couldn’t understand [Letter man]; I know why [Pop partner] meant nothing… All in all a cluster of disaster for me!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I had to cheat on a lot of the NYT… Wanted something like CHIPMUNKS at 1A, etc. Mostly not my cup of tea.

    • Zulema says:

      Not my cup of tea either, the NYT, but the LAT was, except for MONEYPENNY. It’s not a question of age but of what one’s cultural focus is or was. And leave Maleska alone, please.

  7. Kameron says:

    Amused that STREET MEAT doesn’t seem to resonate with a lot of people — it was my first entry! If I’m not mistaken, I first heard it in “Blade Runner,” and then again and again from there.

    One of the best foreign films to come out this year is called IDA — highly recommended (and available on Netflix!)

  8. Joan macon says:

    Is there really someone named Pawel Fludzinski?

  9. bananarchy says:

    Between the Folds is a beautiful film; highly recommended.

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