Tuesday, March 8, 2016

CS 9:12 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 6:51 (Derek) 


LAT 3:15 (Derek) 


NYT 3:24 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 16, no 0308

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 16, no 0308

The theme is FUR COAT, 60a. [Wrap “worn” by 17-, 22-, 37- and 48-Across?]. Each of those answers is a phrase whose starting and ending letters are circled and spell out assorted mammals. This is a standard puzzle theme concept, but I’m entirely squicked out by the “kill them for their skin” angle inherent in the FUR COAT concept. I reckon a lot of vegetarian and anti-fur solvers will find the theme idea most unpleasant.

David being David, this Tuesday puzzle has a word count of just 74, with corners full of stacked 7s. The kid knows how to wrangle a grid. The fill’s mostly smooth, and I enjoyed filling in MESHUGA, JUNIPER, ST. JOHN, and STALEMATE.

Three more things:

  • Surprised to encounter MAME crossing MAMIE in this grid.
  • 10d. [Stampeded toward], RAN AT. This is quite possibly my least favorite verb phrase that’s frequently seen in crosswords.
  • I feel like 63a/65a should be a thing. Not sure what an ARMHOLE BLASTER would do, but it should be an actual object.

4 stars for the overall grid, 2 stars for the theme’s unpleasantness. (Your mileage may vary wildly.)

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Freestyle by the Numbers” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 7.57.23 PMA disclaimer in my email for this puzzle said that 1-Across may not be in the correct “tense” at the time of solving! It actually took me awhile to figure out what was going on there, but it turns out Matt has reached a milestone!

  • 1A [What did Yours Truly do on March 10th, 2016?] TURN FORTY

Welcome to the forty-something club, Matt! Well, anyway, come Thursday! Me, I had more trouble with 30!

The puzzle is a freestyle by the blurb; I don’t get what “by the numbers” means, unless it is referring to a slightly more than usual smattering of numbers in the clues. If I missed something clever, please let me know! Puzzle slightly challenging, but I had a nap this weekend, so I got it in under 7 minutes despite some entries that were totally unfamiliar to me. Here are some of those entries, among others:

  • 18A [1999 Kevin Smith comedy] DOGMA – I had one incorrect square, which was the A here. I spelled LEACHED with three Es!
  • 19A [Old Peruvian currency] INTI – Really? I’ll have to file this one away somewhere!
  • 20A [Like some early 20th-century abstract art] DADAISTIC – Is this a word? I’m sure it is, but I had DADAESQUE in there, and it is just as much a word too!
  • 52A [“Things done,” in legal terms] RES GESTAE
  • 54A [“The Killing Fields” Oscar winner Haing S. ___] NGOR – I have seen this name before, but usually it is the HAING in the grid!
  • 61A [Cultivated land] TILTH – OK, come on! Oh, wait, it IS in my dictionary … !
  • 62A [Those who signed up] ENROLLEES – Yes, I put ENLISTEES in first!
  • 1D [“From Russia With Love” Bond girl Romanova] TATIANA – Played by Barbara Bach, who is married to Ringo Starr. Just watched most of these Bond movies until they took them off Hulu!
  • 9D [Long-running CBS sitcom of the 2000s] YES, DEAR – Never saw it!
  • 38A [Shorefront] COASTAL – This tripped me for a bit, until you realize the clue is in adjective form!

We will let the obscure entries slide since it is almost your birthday, and with turning 40 comes a slew of other issues that you’ll soon find out about! 4 stars today! You have set the bar for your 50th! Until next week!

C.W. Stewart’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 8.02.21 PMGot this one done in just over three minutes! Getting ready for Stamford … !

A clever theme this Tuesday, with a nice reveal at 60-Across:

  • 17A [Motorist’s headache] FLAT TIRE
  • 23A [Enjoy, with “in”] FIND PLEASURE – I was thinking this phrase STARTED with “in,” but then I realized it obviously doesn’t!
  • 30A [Recap on a sports crawl line] FINAL SCORE
  • 42A [Kids’ introduction to a full school day] FIRST GRADE
  • 46A [Red-carpet movie event] FILM PREMIERE
  • 60A [“Chestnuts roasting” spot … and a hint to a divided word found in the answers to starred clues] OPEN FIRE

Obviously the first 5 theme answers have an asterisk in the original puzzle. And they are all phrases wrapped by the letter F-I-R-E. There is variety; some start with just F and end in IRE, some start with FI and end RE, and one starts with FIR and ends with an E. Perhaps a cleaner execution would have been to make the breaks all the same, but the theme works nonetheless, and there are six theme entries, so that makes it quite a bit better. While solving, I did notice that they all started with F, but past that, they seemed to have nothing in common. The theme reveal at the end is still quite nice. 3.9 stars for this nice, easier level Tuesday puzzle.

A few notes:

  • 54A [Either of two Henry VIII wives] ANNE – As in Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves.
  • 62A [Election surprises] UPSETS – As in Trump winning! Who else is looking at Canadian real estate?
  • 24D [“___ Theme”: “Doctor Zhivago” song] LARA’S – This sounds like it should be a soap opera theme song. Also the melody of Somewhere, My Love.
  • 44D [7UP rival] SPRITE – I don’t drink much Sprite anymore, … unless it is mixed with vodka and maybe some cranberry juice!
  • 57D [Swimming event] MEET – I will be attending some swim meets in the near future. Have to work on my swimming; my triathlon goal is a long way off since I can barely swim!!

Until this Saturday’s challenges! Have a great week!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 249), “The Twilight Zone”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 3/8 (No. 246)

Crossword Nation 3/8 (No. 246)

No need to fire up the iconic music we associate with the television show whose name this puzz re-purposes. Still, where the puzzle’s pleasures are concerned, there were times when solving did become “a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.” Because it’s Liz’s imagination that has conjured up the visual element that defines the theme–and clarifies the meaning of the title. All of those circles contain the trigram SUN, which we encounter in a four-part, vertically-descending pattern. Are you getting a sinking feeling? No need for that either! “Submitted for your approval…”:

  • 3D. SUNFLOWERS [Symbols of happiness to Van Gogh]. And that was a guy who needed all the happiness he could get!
  • 5D. TUFTS UNIVERSITY [Massachusetts campus]. “RATS!” This is the only themer in which the circled letters fall in two different words. But… Liz had limited options, and this has to be more accessible/better fill than (British) poet Philip Larkin’s (The) WHITSUN WEDDINGS
  • 8D. HOT FUDGE SUNDAES [Fountain treats]. 5-Down’s delectable, matching grid-spanner. Re-purposed from last month, but delectable nonetheless. I’m imagining one with one of those FROTHY lattes.
  • 30D. SETTING SUN [Romantic postcard image (it’s the puzzle’s theme!)]. Not sure I’d characterize the SETTING SUN as being a uniquely “romantic postcard image”—because that seems kinda limiting to me. I get the gist; I just think beautiful sunsets (and beautiful sunset postcards…) belong to—and communicate to—everyone, not merely people who may be enamored of one another. Here’s one of my faves:

Not for lovers only…

But lest you think it’s my goal to SCATHE [Review harshly], be of good cheer. Yes, I have my nits to pick (lotta proper names today, e.g.), but the strong parts of this puzz far outweigh the weaker ones. For starters, that cross at center of the verb DIVINES and APRICOT [Chutney fruit]. I always appreciate it when a clue vividly contextualizes the fill, and this does. Ditto [Frosting utensil] for SPATULA or the gallows-humor [Final transport] for HEARSE. All of this keeps the puzzle, well, lively. Ditto, for aural reasons, the placement above HEARSE of [Author Zora Neale HURSTON]. (Or the way VERSE abuts …UNIVERSITY.)

laa-laaFrom a construction standpoint, I admire those NE and SW corners, which give us five-word clusters of six-letter fill, including HILARY (Swank..), Teletubby LAA-LAA, ON A PAR, DIRECT, CHALET and the previously cited HEARSE and FROTHY. TOASTS is there, too, and I love the misdirection in its clue, [Lifts one’s spirits?]. So this is about raising one’s glass of, maybe, bubbly, and not about elevating one’s mood (though, depending on the occasion, the former could, potentially, lead to the latter…). Nice, too (from a clue-placement pov), that the very next clue/fill pair goes the opposite direction with [Let the air out] and DEFLATE.

I also want to take note of some clues for some very short fill. Very short fill that we tend to see a lot. Because a witty or well-worded clue can make all the difference in the way the fill is experienced, and Liz has a real gift for breathing fresh life into what can be the otherwise overly-familiar. So, here’s to you: [Sea wriggler] EEL (and [Debussy’s sea] MER); [Water tester] TOE (and the MER, in which to test it…); and [Third degree?] PH D. That last one took me right back to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and George’s identifying himself as an “ABMAPHID” [sic]—one who holds a Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a Ph. D.

And did I know that [The “I” of I.M. Pei] stood for IEOH?! The name has appeared in several puzzles in other venues (typically end-of-week puzzles), but darned if I remembered it… More to the point: this nonagenarian (middle name Ming) never ceases to amaze! He turns 99 on April 26th. Holy moly! Thank goodness for the crosses, though, cuz that name was not coming trippingly across this tongue (so to speak)!

Which brings me to the end of my thoughts (on the puzzle…) for today. Feel free to chime in with yours, keep solvin’, and come back again next week!

Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Poker Party” — Jim’s review

ANTE (1a) up and put on your poker face, because it’s time to play.  NCS is here with a poker-themed puzzle.

(By the way, I am of the belief that Nancy Cole Stuart is yet another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk, but the name resists any anagramming effort. The best I got is “You can rent talcs!” Little help? Anyone?)

WSJ - 03.08.16 - "Poker Party" by Nancy Cole Stuart

WSJ – 03.08.16 – “Poker Party” by Nancy Cole Stuart

  • 17a [Poker activity for an architect?] SCALE DRAWING
  • 33a [Poker activity for a nasty person?] NAME CALLING
  • 40a [Poker activity for an Amish man?] BARN RAISING
  • 50a [Poker activity for a kidnapper?] BLINDFOLDING

So we have well-known two-word phrases in which the second word is also a poker term. The clues then relate poker to the origin of the two-word phrase.

I gotta say, the clues don’t make much sense to me. How is a BARN RAISING a poker activity for an Amish man? If an Amish man plays poker (are Amish allowed to gamble?), is raising the stakes called a BARN RAISING? I’m just not seeing it.

The theme entries are fine, but it’s the clues that try to tie poker to something else that are simply opaque to me. I’m not getting any surface sense from any of them.

Maybe we’re supposed to imagine a friendly game of four people gathering for their weekly poker party. The architect DRAWs (to SCALE), the nasty person CALLs (NAMEs), the Amish guy RAISEs (a BARN), and the kidnapper FOLDs (BLINDs?).

Wouldn’t it be better if RAISING came before CALLING? I’m no poker aficionado, but once you CALL, isn’t the hand over?

So there you have it. The theme didn’t do much for me. What about the rest of the grid?


Lots of longer Across answers like PLEASING, ADELAIDE, SATURN, OBERON, TRANCE, and FORGER. I like SATURN (at 23a [Its moons include Titan and Rhea]) atop OBERON [Puck serves him], but feel OBERON should’ve also got an astronomical clue such as [Moon of Uranus].

There are no Downs longer than 7-letters, but we get six of those: ERASURE, OLEANNA, AL GREEN, AIR FARE, AT FIRST, SARGENT. Those are all nice except for OLEANNA which I only know from crosswords.

The 3×6 stacks in the East and West are good as well. I especially like I CHING next to NUANCE next to GEIGER.

I haven’t had a musical conclusion in my posts in a while. Seeing as how OBAMA is at 5a and AL GREEN‘s “Let’s Stay Together” is in the clue at 9d, I’m obliged to close with this little tidbit:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bowl-o-rama”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution. 03.08.16: "Bowl-o-rama"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution. 03.08.16: “Bowl-o-rama”

Good day, everyone! It’s fun with bowling with today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross. In it, the clues, and the way they were written, lead to puns which also allude to what you would see at a bowling alley.

  • SPARE MOMENT (17A: [The exact time when the second roll in a frame is successful?])
  • HEAR A PIN DROP (19A: [Listened to the sound of a good roll of a bowling ball?])
  • LUCKY STRIKE (36A: [Fortunate roll of a bowling ball?])
  • SPLIT DECISION (52A: [“Should I go for both the 7 and 10?,” e.g.])
  • EXPRESS LANE (57A: [Place to go for a quick bowling game?])

Though I love sports, can’t say that I love seeing NBAER at all, as I’ve never heard that term used before by a former NBA player, broadcaster, administrator, etc. (38A: [Cav or Mav]). Initially typed in “I’m beat” instead of I’M DEAD, and the former probably makes more sense since the latter would appear to be said more by young children who just got into big trouble with their parents (2D: [Comment from an exhausted person]). We had our share of Asian geography today with SYRIA (6D: [Turkey toucher]) and TAIPEI, a place where one of my close college friends calls home now as we speak (44D: [Chiang Kai-shek’s capital]). I’ve been invited over by him a couple of times to fly over and go, but I’m sure that going to RUN me a pretty penny in terms of getting a plane ticket (37D: [Seek a seat]). Oh, and going back to fill I didn’t like (as well as the clue), what about IES (56D: [Pant attachment])? I’ll definitely pass on that!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ADLER (49D: [Freud contemporary])  –Because of my one and only visit to Germany, my favorite German football (soccer) team to root for is Hamburger (Hamburg) SV, and the team’s current No. 1 goalkeeper is German-born René ADLER, who has also made 12 appearances for the German national team.

See you at the top of the hump tomorrow!

Take care!


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22 Responses to Tuesday, March 8, 2016

  1. Mary says:

    I anticipated that the hypersensitive PC police would object to David Steinberg’s theme and was not disappointed. One could argue that “fur coat” refers only to the natural outer “skin” of the animals whose names are hidden in the squares with circles and thus only describes an inherent trait of these animals. But it’s much more characteristic of our times to find a slight where none was intended.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Mm-hmm. And the animals randomly chosen are just any old mammals that have fur. No bear, no lion, no dog, no horse. Just your everyday MINK and SABLE.

      The phrase “PC police” says so much about the person using it.

      • DGKelly says:

        Sad to see the poison of our public discourse creeping into this fine blog. I wish it could just be about crosswords.

      • Richard says:

        I don’t know about this. Without the bogeyman of the “PC Police,” how will Mary be able to summarily dismiss your opinion AND any potential criticism of her own opinion with only 9 keystrokes?

      • Mary says:

        I’m not sure what you are implying about me or my beliefs, Ms. Reynaldo, but if you’re trying to lump me in with the right-wingnut, Faux News-watching, climate change-denying crowd, nothing could be further from the truth. Those who know me know that I am a Bernie Sanders supporter and proud, vocal Progressive / Liberal. You are the first person I can recall who has ever hinted that I am a conservative, if in fact that is what you meant to imply.

        I respect your crossword-solving skills and marvel at the speed with which you complete them. I myself love puzzles but prefer to complete them at a leisurely pace. In fact, I’m often kidded that my utter lack of a competitive spirit in all endeavors is a mark of my soft-hearted Liberal point of view! I read this blog for its analysis of the puzzles out of a desire to become a better though not necessarily faster solver.

        What I object to is what I consider to be excessive political correctness in some of the crossword puzzle critiques I read on this blog—that is all. But this is your forum, so you have a right to shape its content and tone. I’ll refrain from commenting any more.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Thanks for your response, Mary. I prefer to err on the side of sensitivity, as too many people have borne the brunt of insensitivity over the years. I never like to add to their burden.

          I also don’t eat mammals and have a lot of vegetarian or vegan friends and relatives. If we have a theme with a MINK in it, I’d rather learn something about its habitat or behavior than focus on fur coats.

    • Martin says:

      This points out why “PC” is never a good accusation to make. It really doesn’t mean much beyond insulting beliefs in the most trivializing way.

      That said, I also found Amy’s reaction quite predictable. I understand and respect those with a Vegan perspective, but am always puzzled by those who are fine with raising chickens for food but consider raising minks for fur immoral. Yes, there are alternatives to wearing fur but there are also alternatives to eating meat. PETA people are consistent but the vast bulk of objectors are not.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        PETA is also consistently misogynistic.

        • Martin says:

          I did not know that. How odd.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Perhaps you don’t follow feminist writers as much as I do—it’s been talked about for years. Lots of ad campaigns objectifying nude women as pieces of meat. Take a look at Copyranter’s list of the 12 worst PETA ads. (I’ll give BuzzFeed credit for having listicles you can scroll through instead of slideshows with interminable clicking through.) You might also be appalled by the one that likens caged chicken to human Holocaust victims.

            PETA: Where animals are deemed more important than people.

  2. Richard says:

    DNF on the NYT because of the IGER/OTTOPREMINGER cross. I guess I should know IGER by now, but that’s a tough proper name cross for a Tuesday.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      You object to Otto Preminger? One of the great film directors of the 20th or any other century. Anatomy of a Murder, Advise and Consent, Laura, (some of my all-time favorite films), etc. etc. As I recall, he was also involved in highly publicized feuds with members of the Hollywood establishment.

      • PJ Ward says:

        My brother and I will watch In Harm’s Way whenever we see it on TCM. Awful movie, melodramatic, obvious model ships in the action, but we love it.

        So yeah, Otto was a gimme for me.

      • Richard says:

        I don’t object to him on his own, but I do object to crossing his name with a crosswordese name in an NYT Tuesday.

      • Sarah says:

        If he’s so great, why haven’t I heard of him?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Apparently you haven’t done many crossword puzzles. Preminger has been used to clue OTTO about 20% of the time that OTTO has appeared in puzzles in the Cruciverb database.

          • Sarah says:

            I was referring to more than a passing familiarity here. I know ANIL has something to do with blue dye, but I couldn’t tell you what the heck it looks like. Same thing here…I know this guy’s a director, but he hasn’t done anything noteworthy enough for me to see him outside of crosswords.

          • Lois says:

            Odd that Sarah thinks that nothing is noteworthy unless she has noted it or noticed it.

          • Sarah says:

            I never discussed noteworthiness, I discussed popularity.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I am sensitive to animal abuse, and I too dislike fur coats worn by human beings, and I sometimes have sarcastic, angry internal reactions to the people who wear them. But I wonder if you are not just overreacting, but misreacting to what you call the “kill them for the skin” angle. I don’t think that’s the angle taken by the puzzle at all; I think the angle is just the opposite. Let the coat of fur stay on the creature who needs it for winter warmth, not on some person showing off, parading up and down Broadway, Michigan Avenue, or wherever.

  4. Papa John says:

    FWIW, I doubt our antediluvian ancestors could have made the march out of Africa without the warmth of a good fur coat. Having said that, it’s time to move on and rely on minerals and plant fibers to provide the necessary protection against the elements and to cover our shame. (I’m still undecided about the use of cowhide for clothing and footwear.)

    Regarding Martin’s comment about raising chickens verses raising minks (and others), I would say it’s more about the way they’re raised and killed that touches on the morality of it.

    Amy, how about some ramification of PETA’s misogyny. It’s an aspect of that group that I haven’t heard before.

    While I have your ear, why did you say you don’t eat “mammals”? Are we to assume that means you’d eat fish, poultry or insects? Would you eat worms? How about eggs?

    I’m not sure how to understand your comment, “The phrase “PC police” says so much about the person using it”, but I think it’s meant to be derogatory, as opposed to edifying. Opponents of political correctness do have some salient criticisms, especially when it concerns the concept of free speech. I don’t believe the matter is as cut and dry as either side contends. Each incident must be evaluated in situ, as it were. In the case of today’s NYT theme, I don’t find it offensive or politically incorrect but, rather, a matter of fact – those are the furs raised for apparel. I can’t, for the moment, imagine Shortz or Steinberg are advocating cultivating or wearing fur.

  5. Lois says:

    I have such mixed feelings about today’s puzzle. It was actually a fun and interesting puzzle, but the fur angle is so freighted. I loved seeing Otto Preminger’s full name, although I sympathize with Richard, above. Preminger’s name, one I thought would live on forever, is not very current, and it is crossing another name, albeit a more contemporary one. I’ll just be grateful for myself and not worry about the young folk who are not up on their American classic films. And MAME crossing MAMIE is weird indeed, even though Shortz says he doesn’t care about such repetitions. Still, I think I underrated the puzzle at 3.5 stars.

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