Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BuzzFeed 5:54 (Ben) 


CS 9:15 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:52 (Derek) 


LAT 3:22 (Derek) 


NYT 3:46 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:49 (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 22 15, no 1222

NY Times crossword solution, 12 22 15, no 1222

In a venue with titles for daily crosswords, perhaps this puzzle would be called “One Singular Sensation” … although there are four themers besides the SINGULAR revealer. Words that are officially only used in the plural sometimes get singularized when used as an attributive word modifying a noun that follows:

  • 18a. [Kids’ event that goes into the wee hours], PAJAMA PARTY. See also: pajama top, pajama bottoms (you wouldn’t want to have an item of sleepwear called “pajamas bottoms”).
  • 24a. [Something in a movie star’s frame?], SUNGLASS LENS.
  • 39a. [Atypical … or like the first word in the answer to 18-, 24-, 51- or 62-Across], SINGULAR.
  • 51a. [Certain wrinkle remover], TROUSER PRESS. See also: pant leg. Anyone else ever wish you could buy the left and right sides of a pair of pants separately? Mix and match?
  • 62a. [Sidestroke component], SCISSOR KICK.

Interesting theme idea, executed well.

Five other notes:

  • 23a. [Lay’s product], CHIPS. I’m a traditional Chicagoan. I prefer Jay’s potato chips. Not sure how widely they’re distributed (and still sad that they got bought out and closed their South Side chip plant).
  • 38a. [Symbol for water potential], PSI. I have no idea what “water potential” means. Is this physics?
  • 12d. [Mantra of the Little Engine That Could], “I THINK I CAN.” All four 10s here—LEAP SECOND, IT’S UP TO YOU ( 29d. [Line of latitude]—great clue, though maybe a tad hard for a Tuesday), and GUITAR HERO—are excellent.
  • 26d. [Marshy valley], SWALE. Kicking myself that when I passed a sign in a nature preserve alerting me to a SWALE, I didn’t take a selfie with that uncommon (not quite crosswordese) word for the Crosswordese Selfies Twitter account. My local swale looked like dry, low ground but the sign said it fills in with water in rainy times.
  • 34d. [A little night noise], SNORE. Has Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ever been recorded with an all-snore orchestra?

Four stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “No Whey!” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.38.44 PMI have been hinting at it for the last few weeks, but for those of you who don’t know yet, I am a UPS driver. This month has been torture. Only a couple of days left until the rush is over. I will say, though, that for me crossword puzzles are a relaxing diversion, a comforting constant when times get stressful. Even blogging has helped; a sort of “diary” to voice, even vent, some otherwise lonely thoughts. How very helpful!

But enough about me! This week’s Jonesin’ has a punny quip for our amusement. The quip, contained in several long answers, is below:

  • 18A, 20A, & 36A [Observation from one person to another] I NEVER SEE YOU GAG EATING COTTAGE CHEESE
  • 54A & 57A [Response to the observation] WELL, IT’S NEVER “A CURD” TO ME

Insert rim shot here! (Or a groan!) Get it? It’s never “occurred” to me! Hardy har har! Actually, it’s a pretty good little quip. I smiled! Always amazing in a crossword setting to make it funny and symmetrically grid friendly. A robust 4.2 stars this week! A high rating also for quite lively fill. Here are some examples:

  • 30A [Last name in cartoon skunks] LE PEW – As much as I hate and loathe Disney, I love Looney Tunes! The amorous skunk makes everybody laugh!
  • 35A [Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tony] GWYNN – I put in OLIVA first, but that was obviously wrong. Tony Gwynn was a gifted hitter, and he died way too soon. He is one of many cautionary tales to young baseball players who might be considering chewing tobacco. He should still be around flashing that big smile he always seemed to have!
  • 43A [British artist Lucian] FREUD  – If you say so! Is this someone I am supposed to know, or just a fresh alternative to the usual psychoanalysts?
  • 4D [“In My Own Fashion” autobiographer Cassini] OLEG – Another FAMOUS crossword celeb!
  • 6D [Cholesterol-laden burger topper] FRIED EGG – Love burgers with this. Probably why I am fat…
  • 21D [First name among early “SNL” regulars] GILDA – Another talent taken way too soon. Died of cancer at only 42.
  • 47D [Yuppie’s German car, slangily] BEEMER – Call me a Yuppie, then, cuz I want one! After years of flopping around in a rough riding “package car,” I want a smooth riding toy when I retire!
  • 50D [UPS rival] FED EX – BOO!
  • 55D [1950s Hungarian leader Nagy] IMRE – Again, if you say so! Likely needed to make the theme answers work!

A puzzle that brings a smile is always welcome!

Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.43.36 PMFor those of you who don’t know, I am a UPS driver by trade. The rush is almost over!

This Tuesday LAT edition is nice and simple, which is nice after the weekend brain busters. The theme answers all have a hidden letter sequence, which is revealed at 58-Across:

  • 17A [“Calm down”] TAKE IT EASY
  • 23A [BBC nature series with the episodes “Jungles” and “Mountains”] PLANET EARTH
  • 37A [Adorable] AS CUTE AS A BUTTON
  • 45A [Delayed flight, e.g.] LATE ARRIVAL
  • 58A [Warm cupful … and, literally, what’s hidden in the answers to 17-, 23-, 37-, and 45-Across] A SPOT OF TEA

Sometimes the simple themes are the neatest. Finely executed. I will rate is a solid 3.9 stars. Another smooth LAT with good quality fill. Some notes:

  • 30A [Inventor Howe] ELIAS – The Elias Sports Bureau is another famous Elias. They have TONS of obscure stats. They are quoted on ESPN a lot, and are a good twitter follow!
  • 34A [“Dexter’ network, briefly] SHO – For Showtime, of course. I am going to give another Netflix recommendation; this entire series streams there now. I have seen the first three seasons or so, and it’s quite good.
  • 52A [“You’re ___ 30 seconds!”: backstage warning] ON IN – According to xwordinfo.com, this is more common than I would’ve thought. Only once clued without using a fill in the blank clue!
  • 65A [Thin nails] BRADS – Better than chanting at two famous people named Brad!
  • 18D [Rock’s Jethro ___] TULL – I think, after scouring iTunes, that I have heard Bungle in the Jungle, but that is about it. Were they named after the famous British agriculturalist? Or just a coincidence?
  • 22D [Relating to roughness or smoothness, say] TEXTURAL – Not used much, but I like it!
  • 25D [Austin ___: Tennessee university] PEAY – Pronounced “pee,” every once in a while they make a post-season basketball tournament!
  • 47D [Figure of speech] TROPE – Another not so commonly used word, and I like it too!
  • 50D [String quartet instrument] VIOLA – No clue for actress Davis? She won an Emmy!

A tightly executed puzzle. Very fun. See you for next Tuesday’s edition!

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Little Help” — Jim’s review

If yesterday’s wrapping extravaganza was too much for you, help is on the way. Today’s puzzle is awash in elves, though it must be said, they’re not all the helping kinds of elves.

Each of the theme answers has the same clue, [Place with elves]. The answers are HOGWARTS SCHOOL, MIDDLE EARTH, KEEBLER TREE, SANTA’S WORKSHOP.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 10.45.23 PM

HOGWARTS SCHOOL and KEEBLER TREE both sound a little forced and unnatural—at least, not as natural as the other two. So a minor deduction for that.

WSJ - Tue, Dec 22, 2015 - "A Little Help"

WSJ – Tue, Dec 22, 2015 – “A Little Help”

The solve proceeded rapidly though not as quickly as yesterday with tougher clues like 1A [Day after dimanche] for LUNDI, 64A [Ranch menace] for PUMA and 21D [Ryan’s love in “Love Story”] for ALI. Hadn’t seen that one before. Also, 27D [Copper capital of the late 1800s] for BUTTE and 22D [Stick for breaking] for CUE. But crossings were fair, so no complaints here.

The long Downs are particularly nice today. GO EASY ON (41D) is good, but preposition-ending phrases are never as compelling. The other ones are 5D [Helen Reddy anthem] I AM WOMAN, 10D [Many a future actuary] MATH MAJOR, and 36D [Surprise for the unwary] BOOBY TRAP. Triple-S DRESSES and SEASONS round out the list of long Downs. Fun stuff!

Lots of OHs and NOs: UH OH, O’HARA! OH NO, PHONO! WHOA! Missing: Yoko ONO.

There is more Christmasy goodness in the clues but I won’t list them today.  At left is a picture of ARUBA, because winter. If I were a KEEBLER Elf, I’d consider changing TREEs.

Solid puzzle keeping the Christmas spirit alive. If you need more elfin goodness, check out the pics of the dad who turned his kid into an Elf on the Shelf.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 238), “Secret Santa“—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/22 (No. 238)

Crossword Nation 12/22 (No. 238)

Just in time for Christmas, a shout-out to St. Nick in a peppy two-pronged thematic approach. First we get three 13-letter, season-related phrases, and then (in those circles) we get season-related sounds cascading from (and about) those phrases. All of which makes for a happy-making solve—and perhaps a welcome break from hands-on prep for the big event that finally comes into focus (for many…) on Thursday eve. So let’s see what we have here. Part the First:

  • 20A. BOUGHS OF HOLLY [You’ll deck the halls with them]. “Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!”
  • 36A. “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” [Ecumenical greeting]. Perfect for Hannukwansmas.
  • 54A. JOLLY GOOD SHOW [What Santa puts on each year, with “a” (complete the puzzle to reveal seasonal refrains in the circles)].

And here’s where Part the Second comes in. Elegantly pealing off of the HO within each of the themers, more HO-HO-HOing by way of:

  • 26A. [Table d’TE]. For Père Noel, no doubt…
  • 33A. “HOORAY!” [Jubilant cry].
  • 41A. UPSHOT [Outcome].
  • 61A. [“China Men” author Maxine HONG Kingston]. Love seeing her in the grid. And where women artists with a unique voice/vision are concerned, ditto [“Selma” director AVA DuVernay]. (Of course, [“I don’t do drugs, I am drugs” speaker] Salvador DALI weren’t too shabby neither!)

And I’m especially pleased to say that this timely gift of a puzz is a container for many more gifts throughout the remainder of the grid. First I’ll mention the clue/fill pairs that give us a holiday-point-of-view of some otherwise familiar entries. So that would cover [How plum pudding is sold] and IN CANS, [Bubbly choice] and MOËT (because New Year’s is just around the corner…), and [“So that’s where you hid the presents!”] for a descending “OHO!”

Then, did you know that the Oscar-winning MR. MAGOO had a first name? QuincyAnd that it’s “Quincy“? Man, the great (and, yes, arcane) stuff we get to learn from solving puzzles. Today, though, I’d have to say that my fave is related to the “fainting couch.” Say what? Yep, the fainting couch, as in [Uses a fainting couch] SWOONS. Here’s a nice little backgrounder on that item. And I may have learned it at one time, but I’d completely forgotten that the work of PAVLOV (in conditioning/stimulus-response) earned him a Nobel prize. I may have also learned that Edison was born in OHIO, but I’d definitely forgotten that fact, assuming that he was a lifelong Joisey boy…

I also gotta love a puzzle that makes symmetrical entries of Richard Strauss’s lyric opera ARABELLA and [Country star Trisha] YEARWOOD, that includes ACADIA [“Evangeline” setting] and SVELTE, and MOOLAH, MOLARS and MOJITO. I also SAY “YES” to some terrific cluing: the possibly misdirectional [One whose services are on the house?] for ROOFER, [Back biters?] for those aforementioned MOLARS (and not PEOPLE YOU JUST CAN’T TRUST), and [A few choice words?] for ORS. Choice clues all.

Finally, lotto crossword glue of the, um, spirited sort, what with ALE [“Pale” brew], MOËT [Bubbly choice], [Brandy fruit] PEAR, OENO- [Prefix for wine], and MOJITO [Rum-and-mint drink]. All of which makes me wanna say, “Cheers, dears!”

So—”Cheers, dears!,” no matter how or if you celebrate the HOLIDAYS. Keep solving (in your spare time…), p’raps encourage a new solver with a Crossword Nation gift subscription—and we’ll do this again next week!


Jacob Stulberg’s Buzzfeed crossword, “That’s Where I Want To Be!”—Ben’s review

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 6.50.56 PM

After solving today’s Buzzfeed puzzle, I was a little disappointed that the title did not point to a theme centered around Monty Python’s “Finland”. As it turns out, there’s a slightly more desirable place being hinted at by the theme clues :

  • 20A: Anthropomorphic superhero team named after Renaissance painters — NINJA TURTLES
  • 28A: Capital of a state with the same name — CHIHUAHUA CITY
  • 45A: Say “Do you know who I am?” after being called out for cutting in line, e.g.  —  COP AN ATTITUDE
  • 52A: Where you might find the starts of 20A, 28A, and 45A — BEVERLY HILLS

I’m a little sad that there wasn’t a way to fit Troop Beverly Hills into the puzzle (since of the films with 52A in the title, it’s my favorite), but this was a nice subtle theme that made for a nice solve:  That said, there were a few clues that felt like they were missing details that would have made them a little nicer from the perspective of this being a Tuesday puzzle.  I would have loved a better ARETHA duet to be referenced for 14A (“Whitney’s duet partner on ‘It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be'”), since I had never heard of the song, and that’s not enough to really get me to Ms. Franklin.  “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” I would have known in a heartbeat.  Similarly, I thought 49D‘s “Actress who plays Tammy II on ‘Parks and Recreation'” could have included MEGAN Mullaly’s last name to give an extra nudge to someone who’s not as familiar with the show.

Enough complaining – here are some clues I liked:

  • 18A: Word on a big red stamp that I imagine the president owns — VETO (I too have imagined this.)
  • 34A: ___ wave (music genre that’s just you hitting a tuning fork once) — SINE (a nice bit of misdirection – I was totally trying to figure out if this was somehow an example of new, non-, or mono-wave.  As it turns out, I just know too many -wave subgenres.)
  • 4D: Keep from bleeding — STANCH (I just learned that I’ve been mentally mixing up STANCH and STAUNCH.  For some time, it appears.)
  • 11D: Like your butt — SMELLY (YOU DON’T KNOW ME, CROSSWORD.)

Clue that sent me down a YouTube wormhole: the theme this week mostly made me look to see if there was a place I could stream Troop Beverly Hills.  Alas, no, but knowing the movie, it’s probably somewhere on cable as we speak:

The cluing felt a little off for a Tuesday puzzle, but the theme was good.

3/5 stars.

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Breaking Even”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.22.15: "Breaking Even"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.22.15: “Breaking Even”

Good day, everyone! Today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, splits up even numbers, as at least one letter at the beginning of the word and at least one at the very end of the word can combine to form an even-numbered DIGIT (68A: [One surrounds each answer at 20-, 31-, 42-, and 54-Across]).

  • TWIST TOBACCO (20A: [Old source of nicotine]) – Two
  • FINEST HOUR (31A: [Triumphant time]) – Four
  • SAINT CROIX (42A: [Island off the Caribbean]) -Six. “Sports…smarter” bonus: The birthplace of current San Antonio Spurs player and future NBA Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
  • EXTREME RIGHT (54A: [One end of the political spectrum]) – Eight

Should I allow myself to think immaturely and mention that there’s both BOOB (15A: [Dimwit]) and MIRACLE BRA both in the same grid (10D: [Victoria’s Secret support garment])? Don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “miracle bra,” or, if I had, I haven’t heard it for a while. You know a grid is meaty, literally, when you see OFFAL as part of the fill (23D: [Butcher’s scraps]). Oh, and speaking of meaty, hello MEAT MARKET (29D: [Singles bar, in slang]). Fun solve.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ERIE (55D: [One of the Great Lakes]) – Some of the current stars in the National Hockey League, before they reached the big leagues, played in the minors for the ERIE Otters, a junior hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). One of the pros who used to play with the team is current Edmonton Oilers player Connor McDavid, considered by many to be the next superstar in the NHL.

Thank you all for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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19 Responses to Tuesday, December 22, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    So, Liz’s puzzle has HO HO HO hidden in the grid … and so does Tom’s. ‘Tis the season.

    Liked the NYT theme, and execution. Well done! The vertical 10’s are excellent. Like the clue references too. Wasn’t crazy about DEPTS … not sure if ‘deans’ would have been an improvement (one partial elsewhere, ASI a second). Tom has put out some excellent puzzles the past couple of years.

  2. DLand says:

    “All-snore orchestra”: Is this close enough?

  3. Matt says:

    I’ve never heard of ‘water potential’, and (it says on that sign over my desk) I’m a scientist. Something to do with plant physiology, according to the Internet. But not quite the same as ‘chemical potential of water’, I guess. And I’m a bit surprised at the n(n+1)/2 clue– well-known among those for whom it is well-known– but otherwise rather obscure, I would think.

    • huda says:

      Yeah, I too was surprised by both of these clues. And it doesn’t say so on my desk, but I think of myself as a scientist, enough to love the line from Ghostbusters…
      Sometimes, I feel that the science clues in the NYT are more wiki-derived and retroffited than other areas… But maybe it’s because I don’t know diddly about many other areas.
      All this makes me curious, is there like a panel of experts that gets consulted, or is it all about the constructor and Will’s taste in cluing? There are people who test solve, right?

      • David L says:

        Ditto on having no idea about ‘water potential,’ and I too am a scientist, or was… I thought PSI meant pounds per square inch and that the clue was a mangled reference to water pressure.

        I agree with you about the generally poor quality of science cluing in the NYT. It’s nice that they try, I suppose, but I wish they would show evidence of actual understanding rather than recitation of dictionary or wiki definitions.

        Overall, though, I thought this was a nice puzzle. For those who are interested, here’s the Bonzo song Trouser Press. A reminder of many happily wasted hours of my youth.

    • Martin says:

      I’d never heard of water potential either. But I was very impressed with the PSI clue, as it follows “Water, potentially” and thus had the punny aspect as well. I don’t know who came up with the pair of clues, or which one might have been modified to make them a pair, but I enjoyed learning about that element of plant physiology.

      The problem with, “I’m a scientist…” is that scientific jargon is so localized within one specialty. In this case, I’m sure a small group of soils engineers would consider this clue a gimme while someone in any other field would find the clue as obscure as everyone else. I love learning obscure things (it’s a curse) so I was happy but I admit it’s a bit odd on a Tuesday.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        The bigger problem is that “I took plenty of science classes in high school and college” gives people a good amount of scientific literacy, but this “water potential” business is not something we learned in bio, chem, physics, etc. At least taking high school physics introduces OHM—this particular PSI is rather obscure.

      • john farmer says:

        I like the “Water, potentially” clue. But if ICE is water that has reached its potential, I’d say a lot of water just isn’t trying hard enough.

      • Papa John says:

        I wish either Martin or Amy would have answered huda’s question and said who test solves for Shortz I know the names of a few people who work for him, gratis, but I’m not sure what each individual does.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Martin H is, in fact, one of Will’s test solvers. He used to complain about NYT clues on the Internet but now he gets his criticisms out of the way before publication. Nancy Schuster and Evie Eysenburg are also on the test-solving squad, to the best of my knowledge, and I think it’s just those three. Frank Longo does the fact-checking. No idea how many are getting paid for this work.

          • Martin says:

            There’s a clue in today’s puzzle that was changed. xwordinfo has the old clue. Just sayin’.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Martin, why don’t you tell us the current and previous clues instead of sending people to compare and contrast two sets of over 70 clues?

          • Martin says:

            I’m in a backwoods area with minimal connectivity (using my phone) but it’s the LEAPSECOND clue.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Re all snore orchestra — not that I know of, but when I was at music school, we did form a group which played string quartets on kazoos. It takes more than 4 kazoo performers (kazooists?) to play a string quartet. For one thing, you need coloratura sopranos and a deep basso, who can reach the cello’s low C. There is the breathing and exhaustion factor, so performers of the same line need to be able to spell each other to catch their breath. And there are the double stops and chords on the string instruments. But we took it seriously and tried to play musically, though it would sometimes degenerate into laughter.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Ben, re: the BuzzFeed theme: I think it works better without TROOP, since Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua all have the place name at the beginning of the movie title.

  6. The n(n+1)/2 clue brings to mind the famous anecdote about the great mathematician Gauss; while you can easily locate it on the internet, this version is from memory (well over half a century ago). When Gauss was still in grade school, the teacher, in an attempt to create busywork for the students, asked them to sum the integers from 1 to 100. Very quickly, Gauss gave the correct answer, 5050. When asked to explain, he pointed out that 1 + 100 = 101, 2 + 99 = 101, 3 + 98 = 101, etc., until 50 + 51 = 101, so the answer would be 50 x 101.

    (p.s. I wrote this relatively early in the day on Tuesday, but for whatever reason, it never posted … now trouble-shooting with different computer/browser/etc.)

  7. Brady says:

    In the Jonesin’ puzzle solution, should there be a few bits of punctuation added to have it actually make sense, i.e.:

    I never see you (gag), eating cottage cheese.

    Otherwise, it just plain looks wrong.

Comments are closed.