Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NYT 4:36 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:22 (Amy)  
LAT 5:13 (Gareth, paper) 
CS 10:31 (Ade) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 28 15, no. 0128

NYT crossword solution, 1 28 15, no. 0128

This theme is all over the place. It’s song titles broken into chunks, cross-referenced clues all over the place, various chunks included in more than one song. There’s an IVEGOT YOU UNDERMYSKIN. ALL YOU NEEDISLOVE. JUSTTHEWAY YOU ARE. IWANTTOTAKE YOU HIGHER. Is that it? Okay, so the ALL and ARE are isolated by themselves, but appear in only one song. Each one has YOU in the middle(ish). It feels slightly like a quote theme with the multi-word portions jammed together.

RAHRAH IWANTTOTAKE YOU APIECE. That one threatens violence.

I’ve only heard of two of the four songs in the theme. Note that “Just the Way You Are” was also a huge hit more recently for Bruno Mars.

63 theme squares, yes? And so we find ourselves with ERES, ILO, KAI, HAIR COMB (! as opposed to …?), A WET, ODAS, IPSO, NITA (could’ve been NIBS or NITS beside EMMA and EPIC), ORLY, and A ROW. I like the GRAPE-NUTS IMPOSTER and THE JETS, though.

I’m not getting this clue for ELK, 7a. [Popular game?]. What on earth is “popular” doing in the clue? To trick you into thinking of popular board games or card games when actually it’s about hunting game animals with no particular degree of popularity?

Props for a fresh theme concept, but the dense cross-referencing action in the clues didn’t make for a very fun solve. 3.5 stars from me.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I’M A Wanderer”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.28.15: "I'M A Wanderer"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.28.15: “I’M A Wanderer”

Happy Hump Day, everyone!  Hope most of you in the NYC area enjoyed your snow day yesterday. Now back to work (or wherever your destination is for today), and back to crossword puzzle solving.  Today’s grid, offered up to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, presents to us four theme answers in which the letters “IMA” appear consecutively, and shift over by two squares from the first and second theme answer, and from the third and fourth theme answer. Oh, and the ear worm created by the grid’s title and the hit song “The Wanderer” from Dion doesn’t hurt also!

  • IMAGINARY LOVER (20A: [1978 hit for the Atlanta Rhythm Section]) – It was a hit, yes, but I’m sure a few people thought the lyrics were a bit creepy. Imaginary lovers never turn you down.
  • DECIMAL POINT (25A: [Feature of Melvil Dewey’s book classification system])
  • GUESSTIMATES (42A: [Figures in the ballpark])
  • SANDS OF IWOJIMA (48A: [1949 WWII movie starring John Wayne])

The first question I have for all of you is who in your life is your BFF (1D: [Soul sister, slangily])? Yes, guys, you can use the term BFF…though I wouldn’t, personally. I’d probably stick with “bro for life” as an equivalent. Second consecutive day seeing ALTIMA in the grid (5D: [Nissan model]). Loved the appearance of MNEME, as well as its clue, as I now am enlightened as to where the word mnemonic originated from (46D: [Muse who inspired Roy G. Biv]). Actually, after starting the grid with BFF, I pretty much jumped around the puzzle, until getting DECIMAL POINT helped me to build the middle of the grid. Speaking of that middle of the grid, there were a lot of answers starting with the letter O: ONSET (30D: [Beginning]), OINKS (32A: [Porcine utterances]) and OBESE (37A: [Like Jabba the Hutt]). Also, ONE TO ONE branches off of obese heading down (37D: [Directly corresponding]). I think the old slogan for was, “It’s all about the O.” Guess you can say that a little bit with this grid as well.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ADAM (3D: [Famous rib donor]) – Our Super Bowl themed “sports…smarter” moments continue with the person who kicked two game-ending, game-winning field goals in the Super Bowl, current Indianapolis Colt ADAM Vinatieri. While a member of the New England Patriots, he kicked a 47-yard field goal at the end of Super Bowl XXXVI to defeat the St. Louis Rams and secure New England’s first Super Bowl. Two years later, he kicked a 41-yard field at the end of the game to defeat the Carolina Panthers in the Big Game. By the way, I was at that first Patriots’ Super Bowl win in person (XXXVI), sitting at the 50-yard line in the second level of the Superdome in New Orleans. Who knew then I was witnessing the birth of the Patriots’ eventual dominance in football?

Have a good day, everyone, and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!


Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Fun Buttons”

AV Club crossword solution, 1 28 15 "Fun Buttons"

AV Club crossword solution, 1 28 15 “Fun Buttons”

So apparently an AVX puzzle billed as 2/5 on the difficulty scale will play like a Weds/Thurs NYT puzzle for me. It’s not a MTWTF-NYT scale at all. Or maybe the theme is easier if you’re a gamer and know what to anticipate in the theme entries. 37a. PLAYSTATION is the [Device with a controller design suggested by the (aptly placed) four other longest answers in this puzzle], and TRIANGLE MAN, GENERATION X, SQUARESPACE, and STONE CIRCLE (that’s a thing?) refer to the iconic buttons on the PlayStation controller. I have used the X button for navigating Netflix from within our PlayStation but have never played a PS3 game requiring the other buttons.

Solid theme, though it doesn’t particularly resonate with me.

Six more bits:

  • 23a. [Star slugger on the last Cleveland Indians team to win a World Series (1948, yikes)], AL ROSEN. Your 1948 does not impress me. #Cubs
  • 36a. [Online black market named for a Greek market], AGORA. Have not heard of this one before. Nice to have a modern clue for that entry.
  • 67a. [Say something cringeworthy], ERR. Weird clue. Saying something inappropriate is seldom described in “err” terms.
  • 10d. [Cleared, as a suspect at the police station], FREE TO GO. Seems solidly in-the-language to me. Nice one.
  • 13d. [Airer of Canadian Football League games, briefly], TSN. For real? We’re being quizzed on Canadian cable channels now? I wonder if that’s the channel I saw curling on in a hotel room once.
  • 45d. [Cigarette company’s claim (gee, thanks)], LESS TAR. “We’re still going to put some tar into your lungs. You’re cool with that, right?” Love the clue.

Crosswordese representation: ECLAT, EMOTES, LEA, ELY, ESTES, AMAS.

3.9 stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat150128Was it just me, or was this a very easy puzzle. This is the fastest time I’ve recorded on any puzzle, including Mondays, since my first forays into paper solving three weeks ago.

The theme is conceptually simple: OUTEREDGE is interpreted to mean phrases in an EDGE sandwich. The three theme answers all use different configurations: E/DGE, EDG/E and ED/GE. The answers themselves are of the “solid but not scintillating” variety:

  • [Fraternal meeting place], ELKSLODGE
  • [“The Cask of Amontillado” writer], EDGARALLANPOE
  • [Where to read candidate endorsements], EDITORIALPAGE

For such a low-density theme the fill is little rickety: small corners with UDON/AARE, ONEL/UNE/LEVELA, RRS, DIR and ERDE all seem a little… slapdash? Changing the two middles to say SEWER/EROS/AIR and RRS simply to say REB would be editorial changes I’d have considered.

There were some nice choices in the longer fill: UNKINDWORD, SLOEGIN, PIGPENS and UVLAMP. ORANGEADES is ungainly but certainly defensible as an answer. I wonder if the opening CLUE/CREW is a subtle Jeopardy! reference?

2.75 Stars

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27 Responses to Wednesday, January 28, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    Here’s some evidence — the cost of Colorado hunting licenses — that elk are popular game :
    “Non-resident elk licenses are $586.00, non-resident deer licenses $351.00, non-resident mountain lion licenses $351.00.” Simple economics would indicate elk are THE game to kill.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Where is it written that hunting license prices are set by supply and demand?

      It feels gross to discuss which animals are the most popular to shoot dead.

      • Bencoe says:

        It seems more likely to me that they want people to kill deer and mountain lions, to reduce the population, but elk aren’t in danger of overrunning the ecosystem, and so cost more to kill. (Strict vegetarian for 16 years.)

      • Martin says:

        Hunters like elk because they make very impressive mounts and the rest is tasty. Prices of everything reflect supply and demand.

        I recently saw an elk buck standing on a ridge in Washington state. It was one of the most regal animals I’ve ever seen. It was a an amazing scene. I’m not a fan of shooting them but I have friends who consider bringing one home strapped to the roof of their car a major goal in life.

  2. Martin says:

    Ditto Martin’s comments!

    -MAS (the “other Martin”)

  3. dook says:

    All four songs are quite famous. The Four Seasons version of I’ve Got You Under My Skin wasn’t a smash, but it was a hit and the song is probably the most well-known of the four (Cole Porter) though through versions by other artists (Frank Sinatra). Ike and Tina Turner also had a hit version of I Want to Take You Higher. The most famous version of that song is certainly its live Sly performance at Woodstock. All You Need is Love was historic in that it was the first time a live performance was broadcast around the world and that was the recording of the song, with a small audience, including many notables, singing along.

  4. David L says:

    Not my favorite puzzle, but I learned something: I always thought that LOGY, a word I became aware of late in life, meant ill, lousy, under the weather, but checking with various dictionaries shows that indeed it means slow or lethargic. So that’s good.

    I also learned that the thing I used to use to tidy up my appearance is called a HAIRCOMB. And yet if you say COMB people will generally know what you mean.

  5. Brucenm says:

    I wasn’t very fond of the puzzle either, but I confess to wondering which two Amy hasn’t heard. Except for the Sly & the Family . . . offering, which I’m only vaguely familiar with, I consider the other 3 incredibly famous — even to me. 10’s on a 1 – 10 fame index. Of course I’m a Billy Joel fan, and even practiced “Piano Man” and a few others to be able to make myself vaguely useful at parties. I think Bruno Mars is terrible, and wonder what in the world others see in him. Who ever says “hair comb”?

    • David L says:

      Bruce, it occurs to me that perhaps some people say ‘hair comb’ to distinguish it from a ‘tooth comb’ — you know, as in going over something with a fine tooth-comb.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Beatles and Billy Joel, super-familiar. (I enjoyed eavesdropping on the Billy Joel concert at Wrigley Field last summer. He’s coming back this August and I know exactly the spot in Kenmore Avenue where the acoustics are pretty decent.) The other two, unknown to me.

    • mitchs says:

      Do you use your hair comb before or after putting on your leg pants?

  6. Gareth says:

    I think I enjoyed it more than most… For me, Sinatra’s version is the first I think of ito IVEGOT/YOU/UNDERMYSKIN. I don’t think I’ve even heard the Four Seasons singing it…

  7. JohnV says:

    My ear work is the Schubert Wanderer, if you please. Sheesh.

  8. JohnV says:

    That would be ear “worm”, of course.

    • Brucenm says:

      John — now you’ve got me terminally curious. I’ve performed the Schubert Wanderer Fantasy several times over many years, (including at one of my end-of-the-year recitals at the conservatory), and I’m not getting the connection with the song. I’m wondering if you meant the Schumann Fantasy, which of course does repeat several times that “Clara,” diatonically descending theme — la, sol, fa . . ., mimi re — (A, G, F . . . EE, D.)

  9. Zulema says:

    I almost didn’t bother with it when I saw it was all about songs I didn’t think I knew, but the crossings all worked and it turned out I had heard of most. One couldn’t have helped coming across them, and this puzzle solved itself and very quickly indeed, to my disappointment. I like to spend more time with a Wednesday. But I liked it.

  10. Adam Nicolle says:


    13d. [Airer of Canadian Football League games, briefly], TSN. For real? We’re being quizzed on Canadian cable channels now?”

    Haha! Being Canadian has its advantages. Also, kudos to Iceland.

  11. placematfan says:

    I’m finding it difficult to recall a puzzle this elegant getting so low a rating.

    Few indeed must be the people who scan a puzzle’s clues, notice a bunch of cross-referencing, and with a hand involuntarily have to fan their faces suddenly aflush at the prospect of a puzzle solve that mirrors the act of filing, or indexing. I’d wager that a good number of otherwise well-themed puzzles are turned down by editors just because the theme included too much cross-referencing; solvers tend not to like it and editors tend to avoid it.

    There’s some art form–can’t remember which–the critique of which often involves noticing what isn’t there (I’m not talking about Michelangelo’s remark on sculpting being about “chipping away at what isn’t supposed to be there” or whatever… but same paradigm). There’s a few things Gary didn’t do that impressed me.

    Firstly, he didn’t resort to using an esoteric theme song (Get it?!: theme song?!), which I imagine was a very tempting thing to do considering the constraints of gleaning four popular song titles that can be arrayed in symmetric triumvirate, and of which each pair must have symmetric placements of YOU. As familiarity goes, “I Want to Take You Higher” is the outlier: 500,000 YouTube hits (highest view count), as opposed to the others’ 5 million (“All You Need”), 7 million (“Skin”), and 500 million (the Bruno Mars cover). Nonetheless, I’d give “I Want to Take You Higher” a Bacon 3 on a scale of 7; i.e., either Kevin Bacon, someone Kevin Bacon knows, or someone who knows someone who knows Kevin Bacon, has heard this song. And that’s pretty good. In contrast, much of our ubiquitous crosswordese I’d give a Bacon 9 or Bacon 10 among nonsolvers. I think the grandest goal of the War on Fill is that crosswords quit sporting entries that are only sported in crosswords. Kevin Bacon should just quit acting and hire himself out to crossword editors as a Crossword Answer Quality Assurance Agent who spends his work shift on the phone calling people he knows and asking them if they’ve heard of certain entries, and, if not, would they mind calling someone they know and asking the same question?; and when end-of-day tallies reveal Bacon numbers of 9 and 10, grid revisions are at hand. Still, having said all that, I wholeheartedly disagree with any assertion that avoiding all crosswordese all the time is a viable endeavor.

    And while this grid does sport ERES and ODAS, NYS and NITA [Amy, the ARE is locked], what Gary didn’t do was to sectionalize the grid with, say, a black square on the E and/or S in GRAPENUTS (and corresponding black square(s) in the southeast), which would make for a grid that’s easier to fill but has less flow. To my eye, a grid with sections accessible only by one entry is ugly; and I appreciate constructor’s attempts to avoid it. The crosswordese are the price paid for the long-fill GRAPENUTS/CONSOLING, RUN ALONG/IMPOSTER, KON-TIKI/ONE STEP, TENSPOTS/HAIR COMB, and THE JETS/IMPEACH pairs which give an openness to the grid–which could easily have been an 80-worder. I’ve always wondered if a house layout that contains at least one continuum has a better psycho-emotional effect on a house pet than does a layout that contains only termini: If I were a cat who spent all my time in a limited space, I’d bet I’d be healthier if there were at least one room that had multiple access points, as opposed to a house where the only way to exit every room I entered was the way I came in. Those open house-plans seem to breathe better, and so do grids.

    Lastly, if a cross-reference-based theme CAN be sexy, it seems to me like this is it. This is not an unattractive puzzle, regardless of how unattractive be the abundance of “With such-and-such” cluing. I like how none of the cross-referencing goes backward. The first four theme answers begin each of the four theme entries, and then symmetrically populate the grid with an intricacy that took me a while to grok. Another blog uses colors to commendably illustrate said intricacy. Admittedly, I’m not so much a solver as someone who checks Fiend every day to look at the big beautiful black-and-white squares filled with interlocking goodness (am I alone?); so my appraisal of this puzzle lacks the post-solve ennui that an administrative assistant’s assistant likely feels after a bout of mailroom reorganization. But I gave Gary four stars for Beauty of Execution, and for making the unsexy sexy.

    • Gary R says:

      Okay, you’ve convinced me – I’m going to give it a four.

      Amy, is this a bad precedent – letting a commenter influence my rating?

  12. JohnV says:


    Re: Schubert, I was attempting a tongue-in-cheek, no musicology intended, other than my own fantasy to be able to play the Fantasy, way beyond my technique.

    • Brucenm says:

      OK — I guess I was overanalyzing. Sorry. That last movement is definitely a killer to get any where near full tempo, not to mention the left hand tremolos and scales in the incredible 2nd mov’t.

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