Thursday, April 28, 2016

CS 8:12 (Ade) 


Fireball 12:25 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:33 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:47 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


BEQ 8:33 (Ben) 


Andy Keller’s Fireball crossword, “Picture in Picture” – Jenni’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 6.44.10 PMThe NW corner of this one had me stumped for a good four or five minutes. Eventually I just started putting words in to see what made sense. Good thing Black Ink tells me I’m correct or I’d still be staring at it.

This is Andy Keller’s FB debut and it’s a good one. “Picture in Picture” pretty much tells us what we’re looking for. The theme answers are nonsensical phrases with a one-word movie title wedged in the middle of a two- or three-word movie title.

  • One old delivery person who doesn’t joke around? A SERIOUS MILK MAN
  • Tale that would scare a Slinky? TOY GHOST STORY
  • Spiritualist passed on the way downstream? MYSTIC UP RIVER
  • Battles fought by important testifiers? STAR WITNESS WARS

This was one of those puzzles that didn’t offer me a decent foothold until I worked my way down to the SE, where ENTEBBE, RECESS and SINUS got me something to work with. The first theme answer I got was STAR WITNESS WARS, down at 56A, and that helped a lot. I figured the “spiritualist” clue had to be MYSTIC RIVER and then I was rolling along – until I got back to the NW. 1a is “Minor planet discovered in 2003.” The only “minor planet” I know is Eris (well, and Pluto, but let’s not go there.) That was clearly not right. I was pretty sure that Mr T was Muhammed ALI’s bodyguard (5d) which meant our minor planet ended in A. That didn’t help. I’d filled in enough of the NE to have MILKMAN at the end of the 17A theme answer, and I tried to work my way backwards. I knew the inserted movie was MILK but couldn’t come up with the surrounding movie name (and indeed I’m not familiar with A SERIOUS MAN.) I was also expecting the same pattern in all the theme answers, with the outer titles being two words, and this one is three.

Finally, I stuck SCAMS at 1D for “Stings” and left ALI in place at 5D. The Boolean operator at 4D had to be either AND or NOR; NOR gave me SERIOUS, which matched the clue, and I finally remembered CAROL for the 2015 movie at 14A. There is one more movie I hadn’t heard of at 2D: “Emma Stone film loosely based on ‘A Scarlet Letter’ ” and that had to be EASY A (I may not know the movie, but I sure do remember the book) and I had SEDNA for the minor planet and the happy news that I had correctly finished the puzzle.


I really like this theme. I like a puzzle where knowing the theme helps you figure out the theme answers without really giving them away  – they still require some thought, and the payoff is a funny little phrase. I do think SEDNA is pushing it especially at 1A, especially in a section with three movies and two other proper names (SAMPRAS and ALI) but Peter doesn’t call them Fireball puzzles for nothin’, and we know what we’re getting into when we subscribe. This time the challenge was in the fill, not the theme, and that’s OK.

A few more things:

  • More movie goodness with 12D, “Role for Benedict Cumberbatch” – KHAN, in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, which I have not yet seen. I have two weeks off work coming up (knee surgery) and that’s on my to-do list.
  • Apparently the opposite of my extra large eggs are PEEWEE. I don’t think Wegman’s carries peewee eggs. Now I want some.
  • A few minutes of Googling has not told me what card game is being referred to in 40D – “Extra cards taken by the highest bidder.” The answer is WIDOW. What’s the game?
  • “Red brown-bagger, perhaps” is a great clue for WINO.
  • I’ve heard the Beatles song “Rain” (“Paperback Writer” B-side at 53D) but didn’t actually realize that was the name.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: SEDNA. Need I say more?

Kurt Krauss’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 28 16, no 0428

NY Times crossword solution, 4 28 16, no 0428

It’s been awhile since I blogged a puzzle that involved entering answers backwards. You know what? I have a knack for backwards spelling, and I love themes like this. The quartet of 7s that radiate out from the center square all begin with NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST, and the answers in the appropriate zones of the grid are all entered in those directions. The top half of the grid  (roughly), every Down answer goes NORTH, or upwards. Bottom, standard SOUTH and Down. Left half, WEST and backwards. Right half, EAST and standard Across direction.

I don’t even remember how I cottoned to the theme. Possibly where 1a GRANT‘s central A worked with a backwards BRA (3d. [Hidden means of support?], nice clue), and 13a AURIC‘s U didn’t mesh with 2d BIN as well as its I did. After filling in the backwards-ERGONOMIC/STEGOSAUR corner, I wondered if the entire grid was flipped—but then 6a ROPE and 14a SENAT pointed me towards the variations. And then having WEST END and NORTHER in place, running WEST and NORTH, did much to explain the theme’s functioning to me. From there on out, it was just fun rather than mystifying. (The weirdest part, really, was the inclusion of palindromic OTTO and ANA.)

A couple clues of note:

  • 1a. [50s president], GRANT. Without the apostrophe, that’s fifties, as in the currency, and not the ’50s decade.
  • 46d. [Gable part], BUTLER. For the longest time, I figured the answer was some architectural/carpentry term, but no. It’s Clark Gable as Rhett BUTLER.

How’d the puzzle treat you? Me, I’m giving this one 4.9 stars.

Peter Wentz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Extreme Measures” — Jim’s review

Perfect title for today’s offering from Peter Wentz.

At first glance of the grid, it’s hard to tell where the theme entries lie. The corners are fairly wide open, but the middle’s pretty choppy. As you go along you encounter the clues that have a “unit of measurement” in common. How, you might then wonder, do these entries connect?

The answer is that Peter’s taken words that end in a standard unit of measurement and repurposed them. The first half of each word is then used to suggest what is being measured.

WSJ - Thu, 04.28.16 - "Extreme Measures" by Peter Wentz

WSJ – Thu, 04.28.16 – “Extreme Measures” by Peter Wentz

  • 17a [Hunting gear’s unit of measurement?] CAMO MILE. As in, a mile of camouflaged clothing.
  • 36a [Revealing bathing suit’s unit of measurement?] SPEEDO METER. A bit of a cheat that the METER in the original word is there because it’s measuring something (speed in this case). But this one is laugh-out-loud funny, so it gets a pass. If your SPEEDO is measured in METERs, something is horribly, horribly wrong.
  • 62a [TV room’s unit of measurement?] DEN OUNCE. I think of a DEN as a place of quiet, where one can work or study in peace. But I know the crossword convention is that it’s where the TV is. Anyhow, this one doesn’t work quite as well because how do you use OUNCEs to measure a DEN? But I like it anyway.
  • 10d [Church service’s unit of measurement?] MASS ACRE. This one is darkly funny. It was the last to fall for me as I’ll go into below, but I will admit that it elicited a chuckle. Maybe others won’t agree with me on that.
  • 24d [Old flame’s unit of measurement?] EX POUND. Another funny one as I imagine a bitter EX might be inclined to discuss their former partner’s weight.
  • 37d [Floorboard’s unit of measurement?] PLANK TON. That’s a lot of flooring.

And that’s a lot of theme material! Also note that SPEEDOMETER crosses not one, not two, but three other themers, which probably accounts for the choppiness of the center. But on the whole, it works.

We have a distance, a distance, a weight, an area, a weight, and a weight. Would’ve been nice if there were six different things being measured, to include time, volume, density, and/or pressure perhaps. But you can’t have everything. And that probably would have been at the cost of some humorous or clever entries, if it was even possible.

And this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I love when constructors give us new ways to look at old words. So the theme plus the Thursday-level cluing makes for a really fun time.

OTOH, my fun came to an end in the NE corner where I stared dumbly at all the blank squares for minutes. I was utterly stymied from the O in ODE (21d) to the R in OAR (34a). The entire NE was empty for me for about as long as it took me to do the rest of the puzzle.

So much so that I eventually clicked the “Show Mistakes” button, which of course didn’t help since I had everything correct, but I just had no answers in that corner. I kept thinking the church service unit of measurement would start with AMEN-, didn’t know the actor TYRESE Gibson nor the “Mad Men” role TRUDY nor the trivia that CUSTER was at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox nor that 8d [Multiple choice list] would not be MENU but ABCD instead (grumble). The rest of the words were clued challengingly. In retrospect I should have realized that [Senators’ home] was OTTAWA and that would have helped a lot. What did work was that I finally sussed out 30a [Objective for a grammarian?] did not mean a GOAL, but instead a CASE. This lead to MASSACRE and so on, but it was a tough slog in that corner.

Great theme aside, we have the unusual situation where some non-theme fill is longer than some theme entries. We get MAMA CASS, FELT GOOD, MCGOVERN, RED SONJA, as well as GLACIER, MRI SCAN, ODDS ARE, and JACK TAR (didn’t know this one).

A few things had me scratching my head:

El Capitan

  • 63d: The online version of the puzzle has the clue [Stopping poin] for the entry END. The pdf has it as [Stopping point].
  • 57a: As I said, I never heard the British term JACK TAR for a sailor [Salt].
  • 1d: [El Capitan runner] made no sense to me until I looked it up to write this post and had a “duh!” moment. I’ve been to Yosemite and gazed at El Capitan and can’t imagine anything or anyone running atop it. I figured there was some other place (in Spain, perhaps?) which was also called El Capitan. Turns out we’re talking operating systems here. Despite my years of using only MACs, I couldn’t see this (maybe because I’m still using “Lion”).
  • 34a: [Shell competitor]. I still need an explanation on this. I thought a shell was a type of boat. Why is an OAR a competitor of a shell?

And let’s finish off with some favorite clues:

  • 4a: [Bookstore section, often] is CAFE. Ha! Fooled ya!
  • 45d: [Dolls with extra arms?] is GI JOES. Apparently, you can buy the arms separately!
  • 56a: [Polo goal] is ASIA. “Marco..!” (Aside: Is there a connection between the swimming pool games Marco Polo and Water Polo? Also, there ought to be a swimming pool game called “Marco Rubio” in which one person shouts “Marco!” and the others deliver canned, memorized speeches until the first person gets bored and swims away.)

Summing up, Peter gives us an outstanding puzzle with a clever, re-parsing theme, good fill and crunchy clues throughout. That FELT GOOD!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Nair-Do-Well” — Ben’s Review



After last week’s disappointing puzzle, this Thursday’s BEQ feels back on track.  Lather up for some slightly odd theme answers that make more sense once the revealer’s fully known:

  • 17A: Songwriting attribution for Mr. Porter? — COLE CREDIT
  • 22A/27A: “Those who pay dues can use the outhouses”? — MEMBERSHIP HAS/ITS PRIVIES
  • 42A: Secret Serviceman assigned to Gore? — AL GUARDIAN
  • 48A: Subject of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Booty”? — THE END OF ZELDA
  • 59A: Some smooth calves…and an alternative title to this puzzle — SHAVED LEGS

I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on wordplay-wise with the first few clues I cracked (COLE CREDIT came pretty easily, as did AL GUARDIAN), but the SHAVED LEGS reveal cleared everything up.  Giving each of these off-kilter phrases a LEG up gets you COL(LEG)E CREDIT, MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVI(LEG)ES, (LEG)AL GUARDIAN, and THE (LEG)END OF ZELDA.  This was a clever theme, with a nice range of places LEG was removed from, and source phrase variety.

Clues/fill of note this week:

  • 15A: ___ Repulsa (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” nemesis) — RITA (Who’s getting played in an upcoming movie by Elizabeth Banks.)
  • 25A: One nicknamed Trip, often — III (This one took me a second to ken, but also explained why I have a friend who goes by Trip)
  • 40A: Alternative to Java or Python — PERL (Is Perl still being used for major coding operations these days?  I’d love to see languages like DJANGO get clued this way.)
  • 55A: “___ Frome” — ETHAN (I love the summary of this book from The Toast.)
  • 5D: Some old synthesizers — MOOGS
  • 11D: “Sit on a potato pan, ___” — OTIS (Palindromes!)

A huge step up from last week, with a fun theme and lots of equally fun fill.

4/5 stars.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spring Cleaning” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.28.16: "Spring Cleaning"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.28.16: “Spring Cleaning”

Good day, everybody. Though we’re about to hit the merry month of May, it’s definitely not feeling like spring time here in New York City. However, Ms. Lynn Lempel may have gotten us in the mood to do some spring cleaning today in her puzzle, as each of the theme entries starts with a word (or letters, if the entry is a one-word answer) associated with doing some cleaning.

  • SPONGE CAKE (17A: [Madeline or ladyfinger, basically])
  • SOAP OPERA (25A: [Tangled TV tale, typically])
  • RAGTIME (38A: [Syncopated music genre])
  • WATERGATE (50A: [Building synonymous with scandal])
  • BUCKET LIST (61A: [Agenda for hoped-for activities])

No lie: I had the capital of ARMENIA, Yerevan, in my mind for the past couple of days, just because of its unique name (28A: [Nation between the Black and Caspian Seas]). And today, I come across the country. So if I think about Ouagadougou now, will Burkina Faso be an entry in the grid a few days later? We shall see! Initially had “pick at” instead of PECK AT, which might mean I’ve gotten that phrase wrong all this time (49D: [Eat unenthusiastically]). Loved the clue and the fill of PIPE DREAM (2D: [Vain hope]). Getting ready to head out for lunch, and I think I’m going to take the bus and check out the SCENERY in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn (43D: [Theater background]). Most people take that bus to head to the one and only Ikea store in the area, so I guess I might stop in there as well.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GARNER (18D: [Acquire]) – Nicknamed “scrap iron” for his hard-nosed play on the field, former Major League Baseball second baseman Phil GARNER was a three-time All-Star who won a World Series with the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979. In that postseason in 1979, Garner batted .417 in the sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, then batted .500 in the World Series, as both he and World Series MVP Willie Stargell each had 12 hits in the Fall Classic against the Baltimore Orioles. Garner became a manager after his playing days ended, and he led the Houston Astros – one of the teams he once played for – to the World Series in 2005 as its skipper.

TGIF tomorrow! Hope you all have a great Thursday!

Take care!


C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160428

LA Times

Vertical theme today! CROPSUP is the revealer, and sure enough, between the two part theme answers, running backwards – or up since they’re vertical – we find four CROPS – OAT, RICE, CORN and RYE. Want some rye? Course you do! They’re all Poaceae, an additional consistency, though not one contained within the revealer. Theme entries are a nice set: ANITAODAY, LECTURECIRCUIT, HOUSTONROCKETS and ABBEYROAD.

There are also nice pairs of long acrosses: IAMSODEAD / STATUETTE and PEANUTOIL / ATLEISURE.

Best clue: [Uncle relative] for IGIVE.

4 Stars

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34 Responses to Thursday, April 28, 2016

  1. chris says:

    i loved the NYT today. definitely a bit disorienting at first, but once i got my bearings, things fell quickly.

  2. Howard B says:

    Struggled like heck to keep track of directions, made a ton of errors while solving, and loved the whole thing.

  3. janie says:

    NYT — flat out loved it.

    but here’s a little backstory on SARDI’S. it’s been “…a fixture in the heart of the theatre district since its founding in 1921 as “The Little Restaurant” by Vincent Sardi and his wife, Eugenia. Six years later it was renamed “Sardi’s” and moved down the block to its current location at 234 West Forty-Fourth Street.” (The quote is from Oxford University Press’s Savoring Gotham; the “Sardi’s” article was written by yours truly [she humbly humble-bragged…]). truth is, the restaurant was known as SARDI’S almost from the get-go — but the name was *officially* changed only when it moved in ’27.

    all of which is a bit tmi for any clue!! ;-)

  4. Evad says:

    The NYT was one of my SEVAF of the year.

    Struggled mightily with the NW of the FB as well, and gave up on both SEDNA and CAROL. Fun theme, tho.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Stunning puzzle! I got a foothold with SENAT and THESAURUS, then worked to get ROGETS and finally saw it needed to be backwards. Loved EASTMAN and reversed WESTEND. Must admit the logic escaped me for quite a while though…

  6. huda says:

    NYT: I think TURNSTILE is the keystone to the whole puzzle. The pattern looks like a Turnstile, and it changes orientation. Once I worked the part that looks straightforward (confusingly so for the challenge in the NW) and then saw turnstile, the penny dropped…

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Oooh. I hadn’t noticed that. Very cool. LOVED the puzzle. I thought for a while that all the Downs would run backwards, and then got stuck in the NW with JABBA and finally figured it out when I put in EASTMAN and WESTEND. Great puzzle. SO much fun.

      I saw a FB message from a West Coast friend who did the puzzle last night saying he had a hard time until he figured out “what was going on.” I’m glad he didn’t say any more than that; since it’s Thursday, I always assume there’s *something* going on.

    • Papa John says:

      I’m not sure what pattern you may be seeing that looks a turnstile, but the note with the Across Lite puzzles says, “In the print and Web versions of this puzzle, the black square in the center of the puzzle contains an image of a compass rose.” The cardinal directions in the fills radiating from that central square seems to be the “keystone to the whole puzzle”, no ?

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      “penny dropped” – ISWYDT (though it must have been decades since turnstiles had penny fares) ;-)

    • Norm says:

      I think TURNSTILE is just a coincidence. Yes, the arms on a fare gate rotate, but (in my limited experience) there are usually more than four, so they don’t really mimic the points of the compass.

  7. Lise says:

    I loved the NYT, but as it turns out, when I have to write words backward my brain wants me to write the letters backwards and for a while I had difficulty remembering how to make a ‘J’ :-). Loved STEGOSAUR, TURNSTILE, AURIC and many others. Thanks for a great puzzle!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    WSJ – very tough! But CUSTER was a given, because of T. J. Stiles’ book “Custer’s Trials: Life on the Frontier” — a Pulitzer Prize winner.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Great NYT. If Howard made a ton of initial errors, I made about 10 tons. It took me a while to see that the directions followed a simple rule, but I eventually got it.

    I generally liked Andy Keller’s FB and commend him on his debut. I was seriously Ojai’d in the NW though. sedna, carol, easya . . . I did wonder, though, that inasmuch as each theme entry used two films, (albeit familiar ones), did we really need more unfamiliar ones in the NW?

  10. David L says:

    Oh dear. I didn’t enjoy this one at all. Backward spelling is not of my talents, so filling in the answers on AcrossLite was a chore and a half, and I made lots of mistakes that I had to root out as I was going along (solving on paper would have been much easier).

    Apart from that, there was a lot of tired short fill: ENO, ASAP, NOTI, ADE, ARIL, ELEM, PES, ERS, IVE, and, best of all, HEL.

    NORTHER seems dubious. Only 410,000 ghits (taking a cue from yesterday’s discussion), and the first is for a “Finnish melodic death metal band.”

    Well, enough. Not my cup of tea, clearly.

    • ktd says:

      Agreed, David–I saw that last answer and thought “what the HEL?” ;-) Nevertheless, a terrific work of construction. After I finished I studied the grid for a few minutes thinking “how did he put this together?”

    • Papa John says:

      Your response was similar to mine. It is bothersome to fill out backward(ly?) in Across Lite but, after I got the swing of it, it wasn’t so bad. I, too, noticed the plethora of, as the say in these parts, “meh” fill. My biggest gripe was that the puzzle, per se, wasn’t all that challenging. The challenge was, of course, figuring out the gimmick of the backward fills. Once that was established it was a rather blah experience. As is so often the case in these kinds of puzzles, the construction process is more impressive than the finished product.

  11. Daniel says:

    SATRAP crossing ITALO and PES. NORTHER? Dislike.

  12. Mark says:

    This is braggy, but who out there remembers a quirky daytime talk show guest called “Professor Backwards?” His schtick was that he could instantly translate spoken words into their backwards orientation. In the late ’70s (decade, not currency designation) he was found dead in NY’s Central Park, the apparent victim of a mugger. I heard of that and immediately said,”Typical heartless New Yorkers no doubt ignored his pleas for “PLEH, PLEH.”” The next day on SNL Weekend Update, they made the same joke. Proudest moment ever.
    I’ve clearly lost a step, since it took me a long time to cotton onto the trickery in this puzzle.

  13. doug says:

    Re: WSJ – 34A OAR can refer to a rower in a shell in a regatta

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Oh! So the clue [Shell competitor] means a competitor in a shell. I would never have known that. That’s…still grumble-worthy. Is it common knowledge that a rower can be referred to as an OAR?

      • Martin says:

        I’m not sure how widely known the term is, but it appears in these puzzles fairly regularly. Recent OARS clues included “Rowboat rowers” (3/23/15), “Coxswain’s teammates” (12/9/12) and “Rowers” (5/21/12)” and OAR clues included “Henley crewman” (9/9/15) and “Athlete in a shell” (4/12/14).

      • Glenn says:

        Actually I had to look it up for myself, too. The clue is true in a literal sense in terms of the shape or form of the boat. There’s shell type racing boats that get sculled and then what they call the oar type (“Oar Board”), which is basically a paddle board (like for surfing), but has riggers on it that you can put the sculling oars on and push against with your legs so you stay on it as you go.

        Of course, Mr. Wentz would have to clarify what was meant exactly.

  14. Homer says:

    WSJ: I always enjoy your posts, Jim. My solving journey seems to often be similar to yours. The NE corner was last for me, as well, and show mistakes didn’t help me either, except it did confirm that at least I had the correct letters. I like the Marco Rubio game suggestion–very funny. Your interpretation of extra arms for GI Joe also made me chuckle. I took it as extra arms as in guns, knives, etc. Apparently you can buy the arms separately:

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks, Homer. My jokes usually fall pretty flat around here. Guess I need to send you another $5.

      I’m sure the clue meant arms as in weapons, but I decided to take it literally just for fun.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    I think the BEQ has an error in the clue for 57A – HIREE. Wouldn’t you expect that “one handing out jobs” is the hirer?

    • Norm says:

      Agreed. I think he may have been misled by the definition of hiree as “one who hires from a hirer,” but I believe that is using hirer in the sense of one who hires things out. If I rent a car from Hertz, I would be a hiree, but when I hand out jobs, I’m definitely a hirer. Small nit.

  16. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Jim, I was an oar on my high school 8. (i.e. eight person, or in those days eight man), shell. But I’m glad you explained {El Capitan runner}. I was completely throwing up my hands at that one. Not surprisingly, it turns out to be annoying, (to me) computer jargon, even though I’m on alert for such, and for Rock groups. The wsj theme entries were amusing, though. A tar is a sailor — (a salt) but I don’t know Jack.

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:


    Trip Payne, a great constructor and solver, now apparently retired, explained ‘Trip’ to me many years ago.

  18. CC says:

    Really enjoyed the Fireball this week. Fun theme.

  19. ArtLvr says:

    Did anyone giggle over FB’s 60A, PRII? — plural of PRIUS?

  20. sandirhodes says:

    WSJ — Im surprised no one mentioned that CUSTER crosses MASSACRE. Or the other way around …

Comments are closed.