Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NYT 3:50 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 6:50 (Derek) 
LAT 3:56 (Derek) 
CS 13:00 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 2 15, no 0602

NY Times crossword solution, 6 2 15, no 0602

I picked up on the embedded HERO after I filled in the second theme answer, and was expecting to have two more such phrases and then a HERO revealer at the bottom. Turned out that the revealer occupies the fourth theme answer slot:

  • 20a. [Problem caused by ocean storms], BEACH EROSION.
  • 34a. [Bar order for the whole table], PITCHER OF BEER. Because PITCHER OF MARGARITAS would only fit into a Sunday puzzle.
  • 43a. [Pick up basics], LEARN THE ROPES.
  • 57a. [Sub … or a literal hint to 20-, 34- and 43-Across], HERO SANDWICH. They’re not heroes in this part of the country, they’re just subs.

Solid early-week theme, and good use of the word “sandwich” as a descriptor of what’s going on with the letters. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you told me the basic theme’s been done before because it’s not breaking new ground, but hey, it’s Tuesday.

CHEESE PIZZA is a terrific entry, but its crossing names are likely to vex many. If they’re lucky, they’ll make a mental note of the names (EZIO Pinza, opera and musicals in the early/mid 20th century, if memory serves; EZER Weizman; the Hyundai AZERA) for future reference, because they will see these names again if they keep doing crosswords.

Okay, raise your hand if you noticed that 40d. [___ tide], NEAP is just above the black squares touching TIDE, clued as 61a. [Name that completes the old slogan “Dirt can’t hide from Intensified ___”]. I don’t enjoy cross-referenced clues, but here is a clear case where x-refs were indicated.

Three more things:

  • 28d. [Farming prefix], AGRO-. I always fill in AGRI- for that sort of clue. Agriculture, agribusiness … much more common than, say, agronomy.
  • 41a. [Gas stations on turnpikes, say], OASES. In Illinois, we don’t have turnpikes, we have tollways and expressways. And here, a highway oasis isn’t a gas station, it’s a place that has a gas station off to the side of a larger building with a bunch of fast food places, a convenience store, and public bathrooms.
  • 6d. [Become less sensitive (to)], INURE. I had lunch with Matt Gaffney and Joon Pahk on Saturday, and Joon used the word “inured.” Matt asked if anyone other than crossworders actually used the word. I said sure, but only with the I spelling and not the E spelling seen more often in crosswords. I added that enure makes me think of enuresis, which is bedwetting. One or both of the guys came up with a cryptic crossword clue for ENURESIS, something like [Get used to female sibling wetting the bed].

3.4 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 209), “Curved Bridges”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 6/2/ (No. 209)

Crossword Nation 6/2/ (No. 209)

IM(very)HO, you’d have to be a true CYNIC not to appreciate the many levels this puzzle succeeds on. It has a solid theme with a lotta lively fill to it, there’s a lotta theme density (65 squares), the remainder of the longer fill is equally lively and we get some nifty clues to add to the pleasurable mix. The idea behind the “curved bridges” of the title is more fully developed in the central reveal at 32D. [Rainbow shape (it’s the puzzle’s theme!)] and that’s ARC (arc as opposed to “ark,” which was constructed by NOAH [Genesis boat builder]). Then, you’ll notice that the letters A-R-C “bridge” each of the two words of the theme fill. The first word of each phrase ends with “-AR,” the second begins with “C-“—all of which makes for a lovely embedded-word theme, a type of puzzle that should be on every solver’s radar. Here’s how Liz does it:

  • 17A. TWO-YEAR CONTRACT [Cell phone plan option]. Okay. This is the driest of the themers, but hey—it’s a grid-spanner, so I gotta give it points for that!
  • 23A. SMEAR CAMPAIGN [It might damage one’s reputation]. Great fresh fill. And, as we slide into presidential campaign season, ever so timely (alas!).
  • cub39A. BEAR CUB [Furry youngster]. Love the way the ARC reveal crosses the central “R” here; and also love how nicely the puzzle’s shout-out to URSA Major and Minor resonates with this fill.
  • 50A. LUNAR CALENDAR [Schedule that revolves around the moon]. Ooh. Another goodie. With a smartly-worded clue, reminding us (or me anyway…) how the moon revolves around the earth.
  • 57A. CLEAR CONSCIENCE [It might help you sleep at night]. Usually. But somehow I fear that any of those folks who engage in a smear campaign somehow manage to sleep quite well. Oh, right—because all’s fair in love and war…

In addition to this exemplary theme set, we get quite a bit of exemplary non-theme fill: two nines and six more sevens. And it’s more than that there’s not a clunker in the lot; it’s that all of it shines—and that’s sayin’ somethin’. Those nines? BOOMERANG and (“Everyone into the mosh pit!”) SLAM DANCE. Wow. Just great. The clue for the former made me sit up and take notice: [Outback hunting tool that might make a comeback?]. First of all, loved the punny use of “comeback”; but then I got to questioning how a boomerang could be a hunting tool and if so, how it would return to the thrower. Thank you, Wikipedia. It seems there are two kinds of boomerangs. Who knew? (Liz, apparently, hence the conditional in the clue.)

(More than one) [Papery light fixture]

(More than one) [Papery light fixture]

The sevens? SPYCAMS (which has no connection to ZICAM…); PERUGIA, because really, what’s not to love about an [Italian city that hosts an annual chocolate festival]? (and I’m not even a chocoholic!); WARMS UP; LARAMIE; LANTERN; and ADULATE [Put on a pedestal] (what I want to do with this puzzle, apparently…).

As for clues I haven’t already addressed, add to the list [Cherry-filled pastries] for TARTS (for its sensory appeal—and because I am a bit of a foodie) and the punny (but non-foodie) [Dover soul?] for BRIT.

To end on a pun of my own device, this was a genuinely smile-making solve for me. IAMB a happy camper!

lat 060215Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Nice puzzle.  The theme answer at 23D explains the theme:

  • 4D [*Round before the Elite Eight] SWEET SIXTEEN
  • 6D [*Ball carrier’s maneuver depicted by the Heisman Trophy] STRAIGHT ARM
  • 23D [Pundits…and what the first words in the answers to starred clues literally are] TALKING HEADS
  • 26D [*Two over par] DOUBLE BOGEY

This is a nice theme.  You actually get to the punch line before the last theme answer in the list above, but the payoff is still in the lower right corner, where it should be.  I believe I did solve it last, so I’m nitpicking.  When I hear the phrase TALKING HEADS, I think of David Byrne and his band before I think of politics! Enjoy this classic video from the concert film Stop Making Sense:

Some observations:

  • 1A [Tostitos dip]  SALSA – I prefer queso…
  • 15A [Universal donor’s group] TYPE O – A nice entry.  Don’t see this much.  ABO (blood typing system) seems much more common.
  • 28A [Home of the Raiders] OAKLAND – Maybe not for long…!
  • 5D [Biblical mount] ASS – My wife (and I) thought this referred to an actual mountain!  Nice misdirection.
  • 12D [Drooly toon dog] ODIE – Aren’t ALL dogs drooly? Who doesn’t like Garfield and Odie!
  • 39D [Cool weather clothes] SWEATERS – Or June clothes, as it was in the 40s this morning here in Indiana!  Was just in DC for the Indie 500 and the Post Hunt and it was 90 degrees!  SOOO ready to move…

Again, nice puzzle. 3 stars.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 9.16.33 PMMatt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “They’re All Here” – Derek’s write-up

Not surprisingly, another stellar puzzle.  Not an overly complicated theme, but a splendid solving experience.  Time a little slow, but I haven’t slept hardly since Saturday night.  It was a long drive back from DC; got in at 3am!

The entry at 39A explains the theme: [Gang of characters seen in the four longest answers] AEIOU. The theme answers all contain all five vowels:

  • 17A [Wire worker] PIANO TUNER
  • 59A [Live through a hot day with no A.C., say]  SWEAT IT OUT
  • 11D [When college transfers often begin] JUNIOR YEAR
  • 30D [Neighbor of South Africa] MOZAMBIQUE

Nice.  Simple.  Neat.  And clean.  Enjoyed the timely entry SEPP [FIFA president Blatter], in light of all of the World Cup bribery scandal all over the recent sports news recently.  One of the major advantages of the indie crossword scene: I assume the total process from construction to editing to publishing is WAY shorter, so slipping in timely entries is easier and should normally be fresher in the solver’s mind as well. 

Lots to like:

  • 26A [Drink in the morning] MIMOSA – Of course I filled in COFFEE.  Mimosa’s are delicious with a nice hearty brunch!
  • 42A [“Mystery!” host Diana] RIGG – I didn’t realize she hosted this.  A nice fresh alternative to an Avengers reference.
  • 54A [“-__: Cyber”] CSI – Another fairly new entry.  This show has been on since, what, March?
  • 64A [Alberta NHL-er]  OILER – I had FLAME in at first, so these two wrong entries with nice misdirection added to my fairly leisurely time.  The Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers are both in Alberta. Also on my bucket list: visit the huge Edmonton Mall!
  • 7D [Infomercial inventor Popeil]  RON – Ronco!!
  • 25D [Blog with the tagline “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women.  Without Airbrushing”]  JEZEBEL – Never heard of this site.  Don’t know why I would have heard of it.  Looks interesting, though…
  • 39D [They may be unwillingly shared on airplanes] ARM RESTS – This conjures up a mental picture of two elbows shoving each other on a plane.  Usually by siblings!
  • 47D [Hot topic of the 1992 presidential campaign] NAFTA – I’m old enough to remember this, and it’s long enough ago to make it slightly challenging.
  • 56D [“Just doin’ my job…”]  I TRY – Liked this a lot.  Clever.

3 stars.  Only because it’s not too hard.


Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “On the Rocks”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.31.15: "Mix Tape"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.31.15: “Mix Tape”

Hello once again, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, is definitely not a neat puzzle, at least when it comes to how it is served to you at the bar. Each of the five theme answers are puns derived from common phrases, with the trickery being created by adding ICE to those answers. “Ice, ice baby!”

  • NOTICE A BAD IDEA (20A: [Recognize that someone’s suggestion isn’t going to fly?]) – From “not a bad idea.”
  • DORMICE ROOM (27A: [Quarters for fuzzy rodents?]) – From “dorm room.” The creepy mammal that was an unwelcome guest in our living quarters once while I was in college was a bat, during my junior year living off campus. One of the scariest moments of my life!!
  • OFFICE KEY (35A: [Way into the workplace?]) – From “off key.”
  • MALICE DE MER (48A: [Evil doings at sea?]) – From “mal de mer.”
  • JUSTICE DESERTS (55A: [Headline about an AWOL Supreme Court judge?]) – From “just deserts.” Oh, the possibilities of all the jokes that could be made right now about this one.

A melancholy start to the comment, as I want to start off with MEARA, the comedic legend who recently passed away (18A: [Stiller’s comedy partner]). According to Michael Sharp (Rex Parker), she was a crossword fan who once wrote to him after he blogged about one of the New York Times puzzles. How awesome is that?! RIP, Anne Meara.

This was much more of a challenge for me than it should, as GRANADA didn’t come for me until the very end (1D: [Site of the Alhambra]). I’m also trying to remember the last song I sang during a night of KARAOKE (11D: [Bar entertainment]). I’m pretty sure it was Rob Base and EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two.” So I guess with everything that’s surrounding Bill Cosby these days, we’re only going to see his characters that he has played on TV and movies over the years in puzzles and not his name, like today’s CLIFF entry (21D: [Dr. Huxtable]). Speaking of the Huxtables, the actress who played Mrs. Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad, was my school’s commencement speaker during college graduation.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DRAFT (43A: [Selection process]) – The month of June is when three of the four major American professional sports leagues hold their amateur DRAFT, as Major League Baseball (June 8-10), the National Basketball Association (June 25) and the National Hockey League (June 26-27) all will conduct their annual selection of amateur players to professional teams in June of 2015.

See you all at the top of the hump for Hump Day! Have a great day/evening!

Take care!


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18 Responses to Tuesday, June 2, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I had 2 long answers: BEACH EROSION and URBAN SPRAWL and was sure that the theme was going to be about things (places?) that change size… So, it took some readjustment of expectations to think of an embedded word as the theme. Once I did, I thought it was well done.

    It makes me a little sad to see OASES clued with gas stations. I guess my early associations for the word are pretty idyllic and evocative of something lush and lovely after a trek in the desert. To me, gas stations are necessarily evils. I can’t wait for solar powered cars..

    Interesting conversation, Amy :) I say inure/enure because I study the biological basis of emotional resilience, especially in those individuals who are genetically vulnerable. For example, living in a more complex, interesting, slightly stressful but not too stressful, an environment during early life inures anxious individuals to later stress (through epigenetic mechanisms). I can’t think of a more fitting word.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Huda, that’s really interesting. Is there reading on the topic you’d recommend for a well-educated non-geneticist?

      • huda says:

        Not yet :)
        I keep thinking I should write something about the whole area of emotions, temperament, vulnerability, resilience, mood and addictive disorders. I was actually meeting with an scientific editor in NYC and she wanted me to write a scholarly book but as we talked she said that she could tell that my heart was in the direction of communicating with a somewhat broader audience. It was interesting that she picked that up even though I never said so. It’s because people ask me where to read up on this topic and I can’t seem to point them anywhere… So, thanks Jenni for reinforcing it.

    • David L says:

      OASIS for a highway rest area is a regionalism, isn’t it? I seem to remember coming across it when I lived in the midwest, but here on the boring east coast we just call them rest areas.

      But think about it, Huda, a highway oasis can conjure up the same romantic imagery. You’re driving along a wide, empty road across the endless flat prairie, the sun beating down, no human settlement in sight, just the occasional derelict barn. And then, shimmering on the horizon, you begin to make out a faint but familiar sign — Burger King! Salvation!

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    Did Liz change the clue for 35D, SLAMDANCE? Janie lists “Everyone into the mosh pit!”. My puzzle shows “Activity at a punk rock concert”. I loved the puzzle. I like Janie’s version of the clue better :)

    • janie says:

      oh — sorry about the confusion! that (“Everyone into the mosh pit!”) is simply my own editorial comment on the strong visual that seeing SLAM DANCE in the grid evokes. clue “style” here (or at least when i started blogging here…) uses brackets and bold, but i opted not to include [Activity at a punk rock concert] in my post.

      glad you liked the puzzle so much, too!


  3. e.a. says:

    jonesin’ gets a rare 5 stars from me. fun solve, beautiful grid, everything an easy puzzle should be.

  4. Dave S says:

    Just a quick head’s up – the CS solution is for yesterday’s puzzle.

  5. Gareth says:

    Curious. I assume CHEESEPIZZA is a thing in America then? Here if a pizza has no extra toppings it’s a Margherita.

    • pannonica says:

      Margherita is a higher-quality incarnation, more artisanal I suppose one could say. Better ingredients, less cheese. The run-of-the-mill “plain” pizzas (aka cheese pie/pizza) here have cardboardesque crust, industrial tomato sauce, and vinyl-like cheese (too much of it—and of course it’s also available with extra vinyl cheese). Buon gusto!

      • Avg Solvr says:

        I don’t think cheese pizza is a thing, at least in my neck of the woods. It’s redundant.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          If you don’t eat meat and you don’t want peppers, onions, and mushrooms all over your pizza, you generally order cheese pizza.

          Or you go to the fancier places, or the Neapolitan pizzaiolo places, and you can order a margherita pizza with big pieces of fresh mozzarella (vs. shredded mozz on a cheese pizza), sliced tomatoes (vs tomato sauce), and fresh basil (vs none).

        • pannonica says:

          Same for me, as I come from the NYC school of pizza. Was trying to be expansive for demonstrative purposes. Found this fairly good primer: ‘Cheese Pizza’ vs. ‘Plain Pizza’ vs. ‘Margherita Pizza’

  6. Gareth says:

    LAT: 4 x 3 section in the bottom-left: PACS/ACLU/SKU(???)/AEC and CEL. There must be at least 400 better ways to fill that corner in. Interesting that on cruciverb-l I asked for opinions on WAHL for a Monday LAT (and in the meantime found another way around), and here it is on Tuesday!

  7. Harry says:

    I had the same problem as Derek with 5D in the LAT. I kept trying to think of a mountain. LOL!!

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