Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fireball 7:22 (Amy) 
NYT 3:57 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:09 (Amy) 
LAT 4:24 (Gareth) 
CS 9:23 (Ade) 

Patrick Berry’s Fireball contest crossword, “What’s Left?”

Fireball crossword solution, 5 21 15 "What's Left"

Fireball crossword solution, 5 21 15 “What’s Left”

I was jotting down meta notes while solving the crossword, and it didn’t take long to put together my solution. Heading into weeks 4 and 5 of Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, you know what? I appreciated having a puzzle I could figure out without anguished hapless attempts being part of the process.

It didn’t take long to uncover some rebus squares, which soon began to sort themselves into sets. From top left to bottom right, they are SO FA NW DO SW (three notes and two directions thus far) HEART TI SE MI SPADE CLUB RE. DO RE MI FA SO __ TI, we’re missing LA. NW SW SE, missing NE. HEART SPADE CLUB, we need the DIAMOND. What’s left is those three missing items, which almost sort themselves into Neil Diamond, but no. Diamond nela? No. Lane diamond or diamond lane? Those weren’t ringing a bell for me, so I Googled diamond lane and received a Wikipedia article about road lanes marked with painted diamonds to restrict traffic. Okay, I’ve certainly seen those; I just never knew that they had a name that pertained to the symbol. Interestingly, Peter Gordon’s write-up of the solution says “Combining what’s left, you get DIAMOND LANE, which is what’s left on a highway, and also the answer to the puzzle.” That extra level of aptness doesn’t apply for Illinois drivers, as our highways do not have diamond lanes (nor do we have the term “HOV lane”).

A few things:

  • 28a. [They burn marks], CON MEN. Terrific clue.
  • 41a. [A high muck-a-muck may have many], {TI}TLES. If you ask me, “muck-a-muck” (or “muckety-muck”) is sorely underused.
  • This clue combo is nice: 12d. [“They’re gaining on us!”], FASTER and 13d. [Chasers may follow them], SHOTS.
  • 31d. [Maroons’ constructions], RAFTS. People who’ve been marooned are called maroons? Or is this about the Maroons?

4.5 stars from me. A dozen rebus squares plus a neat meta, but with a hint of crosswordese with ANIMA and SHOAT (which, sure, they’re more tough vocab than crossword junk).

Jim Quinlan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 27 15, no 0527

NY Times crossword solution, 5 27 15, no 0527

This theme is hard to sum up cleanly: “add NT, or maybe T or TNT, to a word to make a mashup between a word and a negative contraction that can be clued as a made-up two-word phrase.”

  • 18a. [Singer DiFranco should heed a warning], ANI MUSTN’T. That’s ANIMUS + TNT. Ani mustn’t what?
  • 23a. [Jazz players are incapable], CATS CAN’T. That’s CAT SCAN + T. Cats can’t what?
  • 35a. [W. never existed], BUSH WASN’T. Bushwas + NT. Or maybe it’s BUSHWA + SNT, because bushwa, an old slang term for “nonsense, rubbish,” isn’t the sort of word that takes a plural. The A changes its vowel sound from base word to theme answer here.
  • 49a. [Calculus disappears], MATH ISN’T. Mathis, as in Johnny, + NT. Technically, “math isn’t” is a complete sentence, but seldom do we use “isn’t” to mean “no longer exists.” And with ISN’T and WASN’T being the same word in different tenses …
  • 55a. [Singer Perry opted out], KATY DIDN’T. Katydid + NT.

The theme would be better if the theme answers were constructed in a consistent manner. But they weren’t, and if 35a is based on plural BUSHWAS, that introduces another level of inelegance.

With a modest 43 theme squares, the fill should have room to sparkle. A lot of the 7s are indeed nice—VAN GOGH, CROUTON, SASHIMI, TINY TIM, COLGATE, and TWISTED are all good to see. There are also some abbrevs, foreign words, fragments, and a random Roman numeral—TVA, EPI-, OESTE, STA, GSA, -ITE, OLA, CDL, and QTS are in the debit column.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Rose from slumber, old-style], WAKED. This word is likely more familiar to many of us as synonymous with “held the visitation at a funeral home.”
  • 17a. [Ancient marketplace], AGORA. Man, this used to be in puzzles so often, and now it’s surprising to see it pop up.
  • 25a. [Winter recreation vehicle], SKIBOB. Not sure I’ve ever heard of this thing before.
  • 8d. [Tamiroff of “Anastasia”], AKIM. He’s not very famous, but how else are you gonna clue AKIM? We don’t have a lot of famous AKIMs to work with here.
  • 53d. [Often-punted comics character], ODIE. Punted? Hey, there are laws against such animal cruelty.

2.5 stars from me. The theme isn’t stale, no, but it needed more consistency in approach.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hold Your…”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.27.15: "Hold Your..."

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.27.15: “Hold Your…”

Hello there, everyone! Getting ready for a reporting assignment later today at the moment, so I’ll get more detailed with this grid later on. In the meantime, today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, contains four theme answers – two going across and two going down – in which the last word also could be a word that comes after the phrase, “Hold your… .”

  • BABY’S-BREATH (17A: [Plant in many floral arrangements])
  • COUNCIL FIRE (53A: [Ceremonial feature at a tribal assembly])
  • HIGH GROUND (11D: [Ethically superior position])
  • SHOE TONGUE (28D: [Sneaker component])

Again, will get back to you as soon as possible with a more detailed review, as I’m getting ready to talk with members of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, as they’re getting ready for the FIFA Women’s World Cup that starts in less than two weeks. I don’t think there’s a player on the team whose name is as crossword-friendly as a former US national team player, Mia Hamm, but I’ll be investigating the player’s crossword worthiness all day today…as well as doing my job!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: COOKE (29A: [“You Send Me” crooner Sam]) – When I get back, I’ll also talk to you a little about one of the biggest troublemakers in the National Hockey League today, Minnesota Wild forward Matt COOKE.

Hopefully, I’ll see you in a few hours with an update to this blog! Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday!

Take care!


Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “AVCX Themeless #2”

American Values Club crossword solution, "AVCX Themeless #2"

American Values Club crossword solution, “AVCX Themeless #2”

Caleb, who just graduated from Yale, has crafted a 72-word themeless. It’s an unusual grid pattern, with 18 answers of 8+ letters. I like the fresh stuff a lot, but am less fond of a few answers that are padded with short words.


  • 13a. [One Direction member who went in another direction], ZAYN MALIK. 
  • 30a. [“Fifty Shades of Grey,” originally, in the “Twilight” universe], FAN FICTION.
  • 44a. [Controversial sousveillance method], BODY CAMERA. “Sousveillance” is new to me.
  • 61a. [“A big fucking deal,” per Joe Biden who didn’t know his mic was on], OBAMACARE. A fresh clue, to be sure.
  • 65a. [Pair made for posing], YOGA PANTS.
  • 6d. [Be altruistic, in a way], PAY IT FORWARD.
  • 15d. [Male makeup portmanteau], MANSCARA. Entirely new to me. Now, guyliner, that’s old hat.
  • 21d. [Kindred shamanic creature (I think mine is a lemur)], SPIRIT ANIMAL. I have not settled on a spirit animal, but it ought to have wings and not be a bat.
  • 24d. [Term for a people], DEMONYM. I like atypical demonyms, like Liverpudlian and Monegasque.
  • 55d. [“What if ___ milk is just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?”], SOY. Fun clue.

Also did not know: 39d. [Heroin balloon, in slang], YAM50a. [“To Pimp a Butterfly” rapper], LAMAR.

The phrasal answers I didn’t care for were BE SORRY, IN ONE WAY, BY RAIL, and AT NIGHT. These felt cobbled together to make the grid work, rather than being solidly crosswordable phrases. Also unfond of: ALERO, boring; ORE CARTS, exceedingly dull; KGS as a plural that oughtn’t be used, because in metric you don’t pluralize unit abbreviations.

3.9 stars from me. Difficulty level landed right between Friday and Saturday NYT level, which is a good place to land.

Robyn Weintraub’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat150527Today’s theme uses a familiar concept borrowed from cryptics. The revealer is CRAZYEIGHTS, which for me recalls spring vacations with my parents. The CRAZY in CRAZYEIGHTS signifies anagram (or scramble, for those who freak out if the word anagram isn’t used in a very narrow way), and the five letters of EIGHT are found in various combinations spanning the middles of four theme answers. They aren’t contained in discrete words because, well, you try and form discrete words out of EIGHT! That means the possible theme answer choices are quite large, and allows Ms. Weintraub to choose some interesting entries. We have:

  • [Oscar-nominated song from “The Little Mermaid”], KISSTHEGIRL. About my favourite Disney movie as a kid. You know you want to click this link and sing a long with Sebastian!
  • [Tie the knot], GETHITCHED.
  • [Jewelry alloy], WHITEGOLD.
  • [Alertly eager], BRIGHTEYED.

I admire the grid design, which takes care of the stress placed on a grid by five theme answers with a central 9. You have big corners with only one theme answerwhite-gold-wielder involved, and then a constricted middle where all the theme entries run over each other.

Other remarks:

  • [Passé movie rental need], VCR. Boy did I mis-parse this first time round. I thought it meant “a passé rental need in the movies”, which is a weird thing for there to be a word for!
  • [Steve Martin film based on “Cyrano de Bergerac”], ROXANNE. Was there a red-light involved?
  • [Half of a Billy Idol #1 song], MONY. Tommy James calls dibs!
  • [Super Bowl highlights], ADS. Only in America, could the highlights of a sporting event be the advert break!
  • [“The Starry Night” painter], VANGOGH. I have an odd feeling of deja vu!
  • [Measure discussed on the EPA’s SunWise web page], UVINDEX. Snazzy answer that!
  • Strange two-fer: [Word from Homer], DOH and [Post-Trojan War epic], ODYSSEY.
  • [Fight temptation], RESIST. For some reason, I wanted RACIST here first!

Clean fill, interesting theme answers: 3.5 Stars.

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6 Responses to Wednesday, May 27, 2015

  1. Phil says:

    Amy – You’re forgetting Akim Bo, he of the notoriously crooked legs and arms.

  2. PJ Ward says:

    Loved FB! I didn’t threaten the meta but I learned a lot and really like the construction.

    AV was also a fun one for me. Pair made for posing was my favorite clue.

    Not blogged here but I also enjoyed Tim Croce’s Club 72 offering from yesterday.

  3. Gary R says:

    There were so many ways that the NYT theme answers were inconsistent that it’s hard to consider it a “theme.” We have a clued word/name with a contraction involving the word “not” attached, which results in a familiar word/name with some additional letters (TNT, T, SNT, NT, and NT) appended. So that far, there’s consistency.

    But there’s that variation in what letters are appended, variation in whether the clued answer is a word or name, variation in whether the resulting familiar thing is a word or name, and at least a couple of variations in vowel sounds (the “I” in ANIMUS, the “A” in BUSHWA and maybe the “U” in BUSHWA – I’d pronounce it like “OO” in boot). Overall, it seemed like an interesting idea that just had a lot of potential problems.

    That said, I thought most of the fill was pretty good. Even some of the abbreviations, foreign words, etc. that Amy cited, I thought were clued in interesting ways. In the end, I enjoyed solving the puzzle and wasn’t really bothered that much by the issues with the theme.

  4. Martin from C. says:

    Re: NY Times,

    Amy’s comment, in part: “35a. [W. never existed], BUSH WASN’T. Bushwas + NT. Or maybe it’s BUSHWA + SNT, because bushwa, , an old slang term for “nonsense, rubbish,” isn’t the sort of word that takes a plural. The A changes its vowel sound from base word to theme answer here.”

    “Warn’t,” an old Southern slang term for “wasn’t”, would have come in handy here: BUSH WARN’T –> BUSH WAR.

    A search for “warn’t” in “Huckleberry Finn” in the archive found 294 hits. “Warn’t” is not in but is in the Merriam Webster online dictionary.

  5. Harry says:

    Loved today’s LAT!! Robyn had great fill, without the usual banal clues.

Comments are closed.