Tuesday, December 29, 2015

CS 8:08 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:00 (Derek) 


LAT 5:12 (Derek) 


NYT 3:39 (Amy) 


WSJ 14 something (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


BuzzFeed 15×15 puzzles are on break this week.

Jeff Stillman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 29 15, no 1229

NY Times crossword solution, 12 29 15, no 1229

The theme is generic praise phrases given specific (and mostly apt) contexts:

  • 18a. [Compliment for a fruit-of-the-month club?], NOT BAD AT ALL. This one’s a bit tenuous, because “bad” can describe pretty much anything, not just fruit past its prime.
  • 24a. [Compliment for a planetarium?], STELLAR.
  • 29a. [Compliment for an airline?], KEEP IT UP. That IT would work better for an airline pilot, no? An airline has more than one plane to keep aloft.
  • 46a. [Compliment for a steakhouse?], WELL DONE. I know a number of people who would consider that an insult in a steak context.
  • 50a. [Compliment for a GPS manufacturer?], WAY TO GO.
  • 60a. [Compliment for a charcoal seller?], YOU’RE ON FIRE. Although if the charcoal is already burning, who’s going to buy it?

So the theme works okay but not great.

What stood out for me here is how much of the fill seemed misplaced in a Tuesday puzzle. If you haven’t been doing crosswords a lot already, these could be tough: ABA, MEADE, H-BOMB, AMATI, ELL, NEA, STAD, EIRE.

Five more things:

  • 5d. [Like some beach volleyball teams], TWO-MAN. How many of us actually picture men playing beach volleyball? The most famous volleyball players in the country are three-time Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings.
  • 25d. [Brazilian dance popular in the 1980s], LAMBADA. Are we not allowed to forget this word yet?
  • Make it two more things. Oof. I am coughing way too much.

3.25 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Middle C” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 5.55.52 PMYes, as the title says, there is “no need for piano lessons here.” Each them entry has a “C” added in the middle of a common phrase. These are pretty punny!

  • 16A [Why I have to drive close to see what’s on your rear window?] IT’S NOT A BIG DECAL
  • 35A [Indifferent travel slogan for a Bolivian capital] SUCRE: WHY NOT?
  • 41A [Guy with a self-referential Renault 5?] NORMAN LE CAR
  • 57A [Give the recent harvest report in a few words?] RECAP WHAT YOU SOW

The regular phrases are “it’s not a big deal,” “sure, why not,” “Norman Lear,” and “reap what you sow.” Very well done. A highly entertaining puzzle! Lots of observations:

  • 4A [The beginning of greatness?] HARD G – These clever clues for HARD or SOFT consonants always get me at first. But I like them!
  • 6D [Comedian Riggle] ROB – This guy is funny! He is a regular on Fox football pre-game telecasts.
  • 8D [Affleck film that earned a 2003 Razzie] GIGLI – Arguably one of the most famous bad movies ever made! And yes: it is on Netflix!
  • 14D [Gertrude Stein’s ‘The Autobiography of Alice B. ___”] TOKLAS – I think there was a movie with this name in the title. Starred Peter Sellers.
  • 18D [Traitor Vader] DARTH – I gotta go see that new movie before someone spoils it for me!
  • 23D [“___ Wedding” (1994 sleeper hit starring Toni Collette)] MURIEL’S – I’ve not seen this either. I’ve added it to my Netflix queue!
  • 38D [“Spare me the details”] TMI – If you have to say this, I’m sorry for you…

Another cool puzzle from Matt! 4 stars even.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 2.20.20 PMI am not familiar with Mary Lou Guizzo, but I like today’s puzzle. A whopping SIX thematic entries! Seven if you count the explanatory pun at 68-Across! Let’s get right into them since there are so many!

  • 17A [Kansas City baseball color] ROYAL BLUE
  • 36A [Tavern with a view] ROOF-TOP BAR
  • 43A [Dilapidated ship] RUST BUCKET
  • 61A [Bucking ride] RODEO BULL
  • 11D [Tour de France wheels] RACING BIKE – I just bought a bike this past summer; going to attempt a century ride next year!
  • 29D [13th-century English friar/philosopher] ROGER BACON – Don’t know this fella; I know Sir Francis Bacon.
  • 68A [“We Have The Meats” fast food chain, and a homophonic hint to the six longest puzzle answers] ARBY’S – Homophonic as in “RB”s, as the longest entries have the initials R.B.

A nice, simple, yet well executed theme. Nice lively fill as well, with minimal crosswordese. Some notes:

  • 2D [All-You-Can-Eat-Pancakes chain] IHOP – I’m getting hungry now…
  • 4D [City near Stanford University] PALO ALTO – Supposedly one of the most expensive places to live in the country. I’ve never been to the San Francisco bay area. Someday soon…
  • 41D [Museum overseers] CURATORS – What does a curator actually do? It seems easy!
  • 43D [All-Star Phillies catcher Carlos] RUIZ – OK, I consider myself highly aware when it comes to sports, and even I think this might be a tad obscure for an otherwise easier puzzle. But what other RUIZ could you cite? Maybe Rosie RUIZ, the marathon liar?
  • 58D [“Jeopardy!” host Trebek] ALEX – Are you all getting ready for the online quiz next month?

3.7 stars today. A good, simple, yet tight theme and not too difficult. Bravo!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 239), “These Folks Can Carry a Tune”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/29 (No. 239)

Crossword Nation 12/29 (No. 239)

What a sweet send-off to 2015. A tad CORNY? Yes. But is it [Mawkish]? Nah. Just a terrific way to give a shout-out (or a sing-out…) to the tune that Guy Lombardo (inadvertently, it seems) made inseparable from the ringing out of the old and the ringing in of the new. What we get today are the names of three prominent-type folks (widely separated by time and fields of endeavor) whose names “carry” (in those circles) one word of the title of the song that’s the focus of this cruciverbal tribute. Oh, and we also get the full name of the poet who penned those words. As I said: sweet!

  • 17A. SAMUEL ADAMS [Founding Father and former Massachusetts governor]. 18th century. It’s probably serendipitous, but it’s especially nice that the circled letters here alternate “every other letter” style.
  • 26A. WILLIAM CONGREVE [“The Way of the World” playwright]. WILLIAM CONGREVE! Wow. Very high-profile late 17th century Restoration playwright. Not every day that you encounter this man in your puzzle. And a grid-spanner to boot. Great entry, (said the theatre major…).
  • 43A. ROSEMARY CLOONEY [“Tenderly” singer]. 20th century. And if you don’t know this great Great American Songbook vocalist (<sigh> okay—and George C.’s aunt…), get thee to YouTube posthaste. She could really carry a tune. And she’s a matching grid-spanner, too. (Sometimes-aspiring Songbook interpreter Lady GAGA makes it in here, too. Though “Poker Face” is not exactly the kinda material that we’re talking about…)
  • 57A. ROBERT BURNS [Poet whose classic work is hidden in this puzzle…]. 18th century. A short life, but creatively rich. Prolific in his poetry and in fatherhood. Per Wiki: “Through his twelve children, Burns has over 600 living descendants as of 2012.” (Also like that the puzz includes more poetry allusions by way of the [Frost lines] VERSE pairing [so that’s Robert Frost and not these].)

All of which gives us: “AULD LANG SYNE.” (Not to be confused with Allan Sherman’s “Old Lang’s Sign”…)

Such a tight theme and yet so broadly illustrated. I just love that. What else do I love? For starters, there’s the long-fill, clever and non-automotive clue combo of GOLF LESSON and [Date with a driving instructor?]; or the fine fine-arts LANDSCAPES [Some J.M.W. Turner paintings] pair. New Orleans’s lively, iconic BOURBON Street gets some attention; ditto [“Clytemnestra” choreographer Martha] GRAHAM—so jazz and modern dance also contribute to the fine-arts mix today. And there’s also TORSO clued as [Sculpture garden figure]. Full disclosure: with the T in place, the first thing that came to mind was TROLL… “NOT SO!”…

Am happy enough for the clue [Pedicure target] as I didn’t adore seeing TOE NAIL in the grid; all I’m envisioning are clippings—and suspect I’m being way oversensitive! And then there was that piece of arcana [“He was a wise man who invented beer” speaker] yielding PLATO. This claim may be in ERROR. Neither Snopes nor this site support it. (But it sounds good, no? Kept thinking it could be said about/tied in to our theme-pal SAM(UEL) ADAMS…) Mostly I liked the juxtaposition of highbrow PLATO crossing the beloved (but, let’s face it), lowbrow Gomer PYLE.

And that, folks, will be a wrap for the year. As always, keep solving. And know that I’m wishing one and all a healthy and joyful and peaceful 2016!!

"We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet"...

“We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet”…

Daniel Landman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beastly Behavior” — Jim’s review

Daniel Landman’s puzzle today has brought out the worst in us. We’re all behaving like animals.

Daniel has taken some two-word phrases and re-purposed them. The first word is an animal that is changed into a verb, the second becomes a proper name. That’s a lot of wordplay, and it mostly works, but the puzzle has some issues.

Let’s look at the theme entries first.

WSJ - Tue, Dec 29, 2015 - "Beastly Behavior"

WSJ – Tue, Dec 29, 2015 – “Beastly Behavior”

  • 17A [Persistently follow the star of “Chelsea Lately”?] DOG HANDLER. I think this one has the most surface sense and is therefore pretty good…if you know who Chelsea HANDLER is. I didn’t before this puzzle, and now I’m not so sure that I want to.
  • 23A [Intimidate the “Silly Love Songs” band?] BUFFALO WINGS. I guess you can intimidate a whole band, but it seems unlikely. Also, I thought BUFFALO meant “steamroll” or “overwhelm”, but dictionaries I’ve checked say “intimidate” or “frighten”.
  • 31A [Intimidate a storied newspaper heiress?] COW PATTY. That’s two “intimidates” in a row. Why not go with “frighten” here. Also, PATTY Hearst? The Peanuts gang is in theaters. Why not [Frighten Charlie Brown’s friend?]?
  • 39A [Act like a cantankerous TV doctor?] APE HOUSE. I don’t care for APE as a verb. Does anybody ever use it that way?
  • 46A [Devour Sonic the Hedgehog’s fox friend?] SWALLOW TAILS. How many people know Sonic’s friend Tails? I do because my kids have always watched the shows and played the video games. But I’m guessing most people will know Sonic, but not his buddy.
  • 58A [Poke the 2002 Best Actress Oscar winner?] GOOSE BERRY. No issues with this one. It’s fine.


  • The animals are directly referred to in three answers (DOG HANDLER, COW PATTY, APE HOUSE), but the other three (BUFFALO WINGS, SWALLOW TAILS, and GOOSE BERRY) have nothing to do with their animals. Actually a SWALLOWTAIL is a critter (a butterfly), but to be consistent, it would have to refer to a SWALLOW (bird).
  • Some of the proper names are real people (HANDLER, PATTY, BERRY), one is a TV character (HOUSE), one is a cartoon character (TAILS), and one is a band name (WINGS).

Still, despite those inconsistencies, the puzzle could work. But the real problem is the sheer overwhelming glut of proper names in the fill. They are everywhere. Some are easy, some are not at all easy.

Proper names (not including the theme entries):

  • 15A [Silver of statistics] NATE
  • 20A [Lucy’s guy] DESI
  • 51A [Rival of Donald, Marco and Jeb] CARLY
  • Yukio MISHIMA

    57A [Tennis’s Savchuk] OLGA. She reached the third round of the Australian Open in 2006. Umm. Yeah.

  • 7D [Antonio’s “Desperado” co-star] SALMA
  • 10D [Japanese writer Yukio] MISHIMA. 3-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Not a name I knew, unfortunately for me.
  • 33D [Oldest child on “Bob’s Burgers”] TINA
  • 34D [Royals manager Ned] YOST
  • 40D [Rival of Bernie and Martin] HILLARY
  • 47D [Character found in picture books] WALDO. Good clue, but by this point in the puzzle, it was lost on me.

Other names:

  • 1A [City whose police cars bear witch silhouettes] SALEM
  • 14A [Amazon’s web traffic analytics subsidiary] ALEXA
  • 22A [1953 western that won an Oscar for cinematography] SHANE
  • 44A [“___ la Douce”] IRMA
  • 53A [School with a Salisbury Diplomatic Society] ETON
  • 41D [Air France destination] ORLY

Entries with proper names in the clues (that don’t need them):

  • 30A [Like Bert, for much of “Mary Poppins”] SOOTY
  • 11D [Grant Wood, e.g.] IOWAN
  • 27D [Don Knotts denial] NOOP. I’m sorry. What?

Just craziness. In a puzzle with a proper name-based theme, to have this many proper names in the fill is too much.

I actually had an error when I finished. I had guessed the name MISHITA instead of MISHIMA which seemed like a good Japanese name (see my screen shot above). So 29A [Hyde Park sight] became PRAT instead of PRAM. An unusual thing to be seen in Hyde Park to be sure, but it is a British word, so I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

I need to wrap this up, but I have a simple fix for this puzzle: eliminate two theme entries. I’m looking at BUFFALO WINGS and SWALLOW TAILS. Just yesterday I said how I appreciated the WSJ sometimes having only three themers to allow the puzzle to breathe. Today we have six. And you can see the difference: a glut of proper names and things like NOOP and ORWE. Cut it down to four, spread them out, and enjoy the breathing room.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ming Collection”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.29.15: "Ming Collection"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.29.15: “Ming Collection”

Hello there, everyone! Thought I’d be walking with you from LaGuardia today, but actually now am speaking to you from Charlotte, North Carolina. With today’s puzzle, it would have been more fitting if I was in China…or in Houston, where former NBA All-Star Yao Ming plied his trade professionally in the States. Ms. Gail Grabowski adds the letters “ming” consecutively to phrases and creates puns with today’s grid.

  • TEEMING BOX (17A: [Post office rental filled to the gills?]) – Tee box.
  • WARMING BONNET (23A: [Fur-lined Easter hat?]) – War bonnet. Sadly, I’ll probably see a few war bonnets being donned by fans at the Washington professional football team’s game in two weeks, when that team plays in a Wild Card Round home playoff game in the D.C. area.
  • ZOOMING ANIMAL (48A: [Cheetah pursuing a moving target?]) – Zoo animal.
  • FARMING CRY (58A: [“Sooey!”?]) – Far cry.

Just finally settled in here in Charlotte and in the hotel, so can’t give you too much today here with commentary. Can tell you that the the paralleling entries of MUSCLE CAR (34D: [High-performance vehicle]) and TAE KWON DO were very nice, especially with the entirety of the phrase of the latter in the grid instead of having to fill in one of the words, as in almost all of the other grids that feature Tae Kwon Do (3D: [National sport of South Korea]). I’ll leave you with this: what’s your favorite NIRVANA song (25D: [State of bliss])? I’d have to go with “Come as You Are.” Yours?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ZEBRA (48D: [Striped equine]) – Will you get me get away with being short and unimaginative by letting you know that ZEBRA is a slang term for a referee, specifically an official that wears those black and white striped shirts? Actually, with the NBA officially moving away from that pattern with their shirts, you really only see those shirts, at least in the four major sports, in the National Football League and National Hockey League.

See you all tomorrow!

Take care!


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31 Responses to Tuesday, December 29, 2015

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Liked the theme, but I think it’s unfortunate that the first (as I solved it) themer – NOT BAD AT ALL – was the weakest of the set.

    In addition to the theme, I liked the two long downs – BARREL ROLL and TRAMPOLINE.

    To Amy’s list of misplaced Tuesday fill, I’d add 29-D KWAME Kilpatrick. I’ve lived in Michigan for the past 30+ years, so this was a gimme for me, but is Kilpatrick sufficiently notorious to be Tuesday fill? I’d like to think that George MEADE is at least as recognizable.

    • anon says:

      I’d guess that CAMRON was also in Amy’s unfinished list. Never heard of this person; needed every cross. (KWAME Kilpatrick was the other entry that was distinctly non-Tuesday.)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Hey, I knew both CAM’RON and KWAME’s names, and there are other Kwames of note. I didn’t learn of them from crosswords, whereas I’m pretty sure MEADE was scarcely (if at all) present in my US history learning. Meade and writer READE occupy the same corner of my head for “*EADE Names I Learned From Crosswords.”

  2. jj says:

    So is that pretty much it for the Buzzfeed puzzle? It was a valiant effort, but certainly wasn’t a game changer, and at times wasn’t even a particularly good puzzle. I mostly enjoyed the themeless puzzles and some of the themes, but the editorial style was so off-putting that it seems that the audience was either turned off or wasn’t there to begin with.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I don’t think it’s done done. In fact, I’ve heard that the 15 x 15 puzzles in the editor’s queue that have already been accepted will still run at some point, but it seems likely that, overall, the puzzles will change in someway — probably by getting smaller and more “novelty-ish”.

      Despite it flaws, I really like the BZF puzzle and appreciate Caleb’s efforts. I really hope he can successfully reinvent it in some way.

  3. Gary R says:

    Huda’s research made the NY Times Science Section today:

    Seeking the Gears of Our Inner Clock

    Pretty cool stuff!

  4. anon says:

    LAT: ERDA crossing DOERR = Natick.

    (Doesn’t look like there was much choice there, with the ARBYS revealer just two rows beneath the RODEO BULL themer.)

    • Norm says:

      DOERR was definitely not a Tuesday word. Thank goodness for knowing a smattering of Wagner, although I always forget whether it’s ERDA or ERTA and just had to guess today. Fun LAT otherwise. Six themers, not a clunker in the bunch (unlike the NYT), and a clever revealer. Excellent job!

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Inasmuch as I’m so familiar with Natick (patronizing restaurants there, and so forth), I call a Natick an Ojai.

    • Derek Allen says:

      I am a huge sports fan, so DOERR is easy for me. I keep forgetting not everyone knows baseball history that well. Having said that, almost anyone in the HOF makes it a little fairer. But probably not for an early week puzzle.

  5. Em says:

    Regarding BuzzFeed, I feel off-putting is putting it mildly. Being “hip” or “cool” to me is not lacing clues with expletives, or using entries that to me at least are sniggering, misogynistic, puerile and just plain gross. Am I the only one who felt that BuzzFeed served to diminish both this site, as well as the many stellar constructors who perhaps unwittingly contributed to this enterprise? Sorry, but I don’t see it as a valiant effort at all.

    • Papa John says:

      Words to that effect have been voiced here, before, as well as a counter argument defending BF’s editorial policies. It’s a big world. There should be room for everybody. May I suggest you simply ignore that part of the blog. It’s not worth getting your dander up about it.

  6. Joe Pancake says:

    “How many of us actually picture men playing beach volleyball?”

    All of us who watched “Top Gun” and its campy, homoerotic beach volleyball scene 800 times growing up.

    Playing, playing, with the boys…

  7. Tony says:

    If I want my steaks WELL DONE, I’ll go to Europe, where they apparently don’t know any other way. It’s actually weird that there, steaks are burnt to a crisp while I can’t even call the bacon rare.

  8. JohnV says:

    Re Buzzfeed. Did a couple, found them sophomoric at best. Too many competing, good puzzles to make room for this offering.

    • CC says:

      Completely agree. On the other hand, I actually like seeing them here, and if I don’t want to read about a particular one, I just skip that part.

      • John says:

        They had/have a target audience, I imagine you guys are not it. I am firmly in their target audience and consistently love the puzzles.

  9. Martin says:

    Just to be crystal clear my comment is about BuzzFeed and not the crossword. Firstly, Caleb is (or was?) to be congratulated for getting a brand new good-paying crossword in any major venue. Whether the crossword is (or was) my “cup of tea”, is irrelevant to me, because there is room in the crossword “world” for many different styles and tastes.

    No, my main problem was with click-bait sites such as BuzzFeed. Regardless of their content (and I don’t mean the crossword), I have found click bait sites to be a major source of browser hijacking viruses on my PC. Probably not deliberately from the sites, but various ads, that may or may not have been vetted properly.

    However, back to the puzzle, a site/paper has to be willing to stick with something for a reasonable length of time to build up a good “solvership”, failure to do so will lead to cancelation, from nervous execs, who are only concerned about the weelkly/monthly bottom line.

    People have a certain idea about what a crossword “should” be, and they will far outnumber the silent majority that may actually appreciate something different (to my taste or not).

    As is the norm, the negative people will always vastly outnumber the positive, when it comes to crosswords and complaints. The only exception is when a puzzle becomes well established, then people will resent the change, if the puzzle is dropped or replaced. Sad but true. That’s happening to Evan (stick with it!).

    I speak from experience, before I broke into the “big leagues” in 1990, I wrote puzzles for many smaller local newspapers, only to find out that you could be dropped on a whim, and if you made the puzzles remotely challenging, you were out the door too.


    • Evan says:

      Well, to the extent that I’m experiencing a “people resent change” response, it actually hasn’t been any worse than what I expected. I get some angry letters every now and then, but I’m not really that worried about it. Merl had his haters too.

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