Monday, January 4, 2016

BEQ 5:59 (Amy) 


CS 9:44 (Ade) 


LAT 2:58 (Amy) 


NYT 3:15 (Amy) 


WSJ 3:56 (Jim) 


Herre Schouwerwou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 4 16, no 0104

NY Times crossword solution, 1 4 16, no 0104

The theme is six phrases with P.F. initials:

  • 18a. [Gifts for guests], PARTY FAVORS.
  • 27a. [Friendly scuffles at sleepovers], PILLOW FIGHTS. That’s two arbitrary pluralizations to match letter counts of other themers.
  • 48a. [Not good with large sums of money, in a saying], POUND-FOOLISH.
  • 62a. [Real name of the Pillsbury Doughboy], POPPIN FRESH.
  • 3d. [“The Wall” rock band], PINK FLOYD.
  • 35d. [Small frosted cake], PETIT FOUR. So small. Smaller than a chocolate truffle, often.


P.F. possibilities not included here: Princess Fiona from the Shrek tales, my hometown Park Forest (population half that of Natick!), “Pac-Man Fever,” Paul Feig, pinky finger, Pope Francis, poker face … clearly there is a huge list of Possible Fill here. The six chosen by the constructor are all solid, zippy enough, though there is no other overriding theme connecting them.

Five more things:

  • 14a. [April is the only month that has one], AN I. Eww. Please don’t let this open the floodgates to ANL, [April and July are the only months that have one]. Also, “they have one ‘an I'”? Does not work.
  • 24a. [Alternative to Spot or Rover], FIDO. I loved Patrick Blindauer’s clue in his January puzzle (get it via the Play tab here): [Common dog name that isn’t actually common at all, now that I think about it]. Watch for Matt Gaffney’s Blindauer write-up on Tuesday.
  • You take the puzzle’s worst piece of crosswordese and you give it a cross-reference clue on a Monday?! 34a. [Poems featuring 39-Across], EPOS, with 39a being HEROICS. As 59a opines, PFFT.
  • 29d. [___ Young, singer with the #1 country hit “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young”], FARON. I’ve seen the name before but still needed every single crossing. Your mileage may vary.
  • 10d. [What the numbers 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 are in] feels like a weird clue for REVERSE. I would have said they’re in descending order, personally. Or Arabic numerals.

Overall assessment: I probably would have liked this puzzle better with just four crisp theme answers and smoother, more Monday-friendly fill. Six themers is fine, but only if you can avoid fill like EPOS, PSIS, NEGS, and IDEO-. 3.4 stars from me.

Andy Keller’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Believe I Can Fly” — Jim’s review

Appropriate title for today’s puzzle, because I flew through it. Didn’t stop to suss out the theme until it was all over four minutes later.

Another new name in the byline today. Is this a debut? “Andy Keller” anagrams to Lady Kernel, by the by.

Very simple theme, but cleanly executed. Our themers are five phrases which feature a bird at the beginning. The birds aren’t directly involved in the phrases, though, and none were harmed in the making of this puzzle (in case you were wondering).

WSJ - Mon, Jan 4, 2016 - "I Believe I Can Fly"

WSJ – Mon, Jan 4, 2016 – “I Believe I Can Fly”

  • 17A [Places for lookouts] CROW’S NESTS
  • 25A [Last public performance] SWAN SONG
  • 34A [“Clown Prince” of the Harlem Globetrotters] MEADOWLARK LEMON
  • 49A [1933 Marx Brothers film] DUCK SOUP
  • 57A [Hazards for the unwary] BOOBY TRAP

When I hit 34A and typed in MEADOWLARK LEMON, I got a warm, fuzzy feeling. So timely and wonderful to see his name highlighted at the center of the grid. When I got that answer, this puzzle was a win, no matter what happened in the rest of it.

George “MEADOWLARKLEMON passed away a week ago Sunday at the age of 83. I remember seeing him, Curly Neal, and the rest of the Globetrotters when I was a kid, and was just amazed at their skill and humor in defeating their patsy opponents, the Washington Generals. At the time, I don’t think I knew it was all staged, but it was so much fun to watch.

So I have nothing bad to say about a puzzle that highlights MEADOWLARK LEMON. Actually, there probably isn’t much bad to say about the puzzle. FAX MODEM makes for pretty dated technology, but it’s interesting in a crossword. ANECDOTE is another nice long Down. SPEAK UP makes for a colorful entry at the center of the grid.

A white-tailed KITE

The NW and SE corners are solid, mid-sized open areas with good entries like MARK-UP, NEWTS, RUSSET (my favorite type of apple), WILBUR, PULPIT, and TRYSTS. I didn’t remember the name ARCARO which slowed me down a bit, but it was easy enough with the crosses. Oh, here’s the only nit for the puzzle: A KITE. One, it’s a partial; two, it’s a bird but not part of the theme set. Still, doesn’t bother me none, because MEADOWLARK LEMON.

This is a very nicely constructed puzzle — a simple theme, yes, but I think about just right for a Monday. Let’s close it out with a few minutes from the man himself:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up

BEQ crossword solution, "Themeless Monday" 1 4 16

BEQ crossword solution, “Themeless Monday” 1 4 16

Overall, didn’t much care for this one. SQUAD GOALS is awesome, and I like PAUL PIERCE and PETER LORRE in that middle section. IN THE HOLE is great, too.

But the clue for SCHLONGED (a great topical word) clanged—33d. [Failed big-time, vulgarly]. Should be [Beaten big-time, vulgarly], if you believe linguist Ben Zimmer. It’s not that Trump said Hillary schlonged—he said she got schlonged. (This was my first time Googling ben zimmer schlong—the search results were surprisingly unobscene!)

Never heard of WSJ columnist HOLMAN Jenkins, or Colorado’s SAWATCH Range (I know Utah’s Wasatch Range).

Generically plural ALFS seemed off. UEY, MENLO, TSETSE, EN LAI, plural BPS, TRIODES, PCT, TYPEE, ENLACE, BREADLESS … meh.

3.3 stars from me.

Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

LA  Times crossword solution, 1 4 16

LA Times crossword solution, 1 4 16

The theme revealer is LOOSE ENDS, 52a. [Final details to take care of … and, literally, what the last words of 20-Across and 10- and 29-Down can be]. Those three themers end with words that can follow “loose”:

  • 20a. [Canadian flag symbol], MAPLE LEAF. Loose-leaf paper/binder.
  • 10d. [Preface to Bush Sr.’s “no new taxes” promise], READ MY LIPS. Loose lips, such as may sink ships.
  • 29d. [“America’s Got Talent” host since 2009], NICK CANNON. Loose cannon. You can’t control me!

The theme is of modest size—two 9s and two 10s, 38 theme squares. I’d like to see glass-smooth fill as a result. We do have a smattering of crossword triteness in the grid, though—EMIR, ETON, AERIE, GLEN, ELAN, ULNA, and SSR all feel like they’re overrepresented in crosswords vs. real life. BEEFCAKE, LAVA LAMP, FROLIC, COGNAC, these are all nice.

3.4 stars from me.

Ian Livengood’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Travel Rearrangements for Two”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.04.16: "Travel Rearrangements"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.04.16: “Travel Rearrangements for Two”

Hello there! How’s everybody to begin the week? Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Ian Livengood, is a slick one, with each of the four theme entries being two-word answers in which each word is an anagram of a city – all world capital cities – in each of the countries mentioned in the pun-filled clues.

  • ANIMAL MAIL (17A: [Filipino creatures receiving Peruvian letters?]) – Manila, Lima.
  • SOLO SAUNAS (30A: [Norwegian-built, one-person Bahamian steam baths?]) – Oslo, Nassau.
  • PAIRS PLAZA (46A: [French figure skating event held at a Bolivian fountain site?]) – Paris, La Paz.
  • MINKS UNITS (63A: [Belarusian furry creatures in Tunisian condos?]) – Minsk, Tunis.

Very good execution on the theme, even if the clues had to be wordy at times. Actually didn’t catch on for a while as to what was happening with the themes. Very fitting that there was EXIT VISA in the grid, given all of the different world cities cited in this puzzle (40D: [What’s needed to leave some countries]). I definitely don’t wait until only the winter time to slather on the LOTION, as I pretty much do that every single day (11D: [Winter skin soother]). The proper names in the grid were no problem, getting both PASCAL (46D: [French mathematician Blaise]) and AMANDA pretty easily (12D: [Bynes of Hollywood]). There also was ERNIE, and usually, you see his last name as an entry instead of his first (67A: [Els who won the 2012 British Open]). Oh, and then there’s LAURA, who I’ve seen many more times on That ’70s Show than on OITNB (32D: [Prepon on “Orange Is the New Black”]). Actually, I’ve never watched an episode of OITNB. Yes, you can start throwing tomatoes at me right now for not having done so.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELI (8D: [QB Manning]) – Which NFL team drafted Ole Miss quarterback ELI Manning as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft? If you said the New York Giants, you’d actually be wrong. It was the San Diego Chargers, owners of the No. 1 pick that year, that drafted Eli first overall, but the Manning patriarch, Archie, balked at his son possibly playing in San Diego. Three selections later, the New York Giants drafted NC State quarterback Philip Rivers, and the two teams then engineered a trade to swap the quarterbacks.

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

Take care!


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16 Responses to Monday, January 4, 2016

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: yes, totally agree with the review…

  2. Michael says:

    To add to Amy’s list, I was also looking for a PROUD FATHER in there…

    • ArtLvr says:

      Could have added PASTA FAZOOL? Nice debut, Andy!

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      I don’t want to go too far down this road looking for PF celebrities — but Peter Fonda seems like a can’t miss.

    • sbmanion says:

      If a novice solver took a wild guess at one of the themed entries, would it be a PF FLYER? Did any of you ever wear them?

      I owned a pair of PF Flyers when I was young as well as some Red Ball Jets until I graduated to the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star hightop, the de rigueur sneaker for the aspiring jock. At its peak, the All Star was worn by 90% of basketball players.


  3. Zulema says:

    There is a problem with singulars and plurals, to wit: “Burrito alternative” is a TAMAL, more than one would be TAMALES. The other example is EPOS, which is clued as “Poems.” EPOS is singular, one poem, one epic, one oration. This is more egregious, since many people do say TAMALE probably. But just because EPOS ends in an S is no excuse.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Tamal is the Spanish singular. In English dictionaries, you can find tamale as a singular, back-formed from tamales. I didn’t bother checking on EPOS, but was semiconsciously thinking that’s usually clued as a singular.

    • Gary R says:

      Most all of the Mexican-Americans I know (including my wife) use “tamale” as the singular form – not to suggest that this is correct (I’ve heard some “Spanglish” from my wife that leaves locals in Mexico scratching their heads). But I had no problem with that particular clue/answer.

  4. Adam says:

    NYT possible revealer: P AND F [Disney cartoon featuring two inventive stepbrothers, for short]

  5. Andy Keller says:

    Jim – yes, today’s WSJ is my published debut. I am excited and flattered to join this wonderful community as a constructor.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Congrats and well done! I will refrain from saying that your puzzle is “for the birds”.

      Any relation to Sarah Keller who had something like 50 puzzles published in the NYT?

  6. Dave S says:

    Re: today’s CS – Washington Nationals fans describe the “W” that adorns the team’s batting helmets as curly, not curvy (65 down).

  7. Joshua Kosman says:

    Genuine, not rhetorical, question about today’s NYT: Is it really the case that any pair of initials can make a theme this way, even without any kind of relevant revealer? Is PF simply one of the 26^2 possible grids that could be filled this way? That feels dicey to me, but what do I know.

    • DJ says:

      I was informed about a year ago that the NYT is not looking for any more initial puzzles. I guess this one slipped through the cracks

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      @Joshua: It *is* dicey. Maybe you could do it without a revealer as a rationale if the set were tighter—for example, famous actors who share initials. (Though that’s a little dicey too.) This theme just felt incredibly random.

      @DJ: This one was accepted nearly a year ago. On the Wordplay blog, the constructor writes:

      Here is what Joel had to say: “This sort of theme type can often be underwhelming, but your version of it works for a couple reasons. First, you have six theme examples, some of them interlocking, which is very impressive. Even better, though, you’ve chosen lively and fresh theme answers…The fill was very clean and easy, which was another reason we said yes.”

      I disagree that the fill was “very clean and easy.”

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    If you like anagrams, don’t miss Ian’s “Travel Arrangements?” To be able to come up with several double capital city anagrams, and then give them plausible clues is amazing.

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