Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jonesin' 3:55 (Derek) 


LAT 4:32 (Derek) 


NYT 3:19 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:34 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (Angela) 


Bruce Greig’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 18, no 0306

The five theme entries are familiar(ish) phrases that are [animal + method of perambulation]. Three are birds—CHICKEN RUN, TURKEY TROT, and everyone’s least favorite GOOSE STEP (Nazis? North Korean army? Has any good group ever made a habit of the goose step?)—and the other two are a mammal, BEAR CRAWL, and an amphibian, FROG MARCH. FROG MARCH is awfully violent, too. Not a pleasant Tuesday theme at all. Besides the taxonomic unevenness, there’s also the fact that four are movements and one … is a movie named after an enclosure for barnyard fowl.

Note to newbies: Start with a 78-word grid. Don’t try to show off with a lower word count and corners with stacked 7s, because that’s mighty hard to pull off if you’re not a seasoned grid wrangler. You end up with lots of hard and/or bad fill, and with a simple, early-week theme, that’s a bad combination. A French plural at 1-Across? Stop! Back up. No. ABBES isn’t the sort of word you’d expect people to know. See also: OSMIC crossing BOSONS for the science crash course, oddball plural ABACI, [Cockney greeting] ‘ELLO, ERGS, OARED (nobody uses this word, really), [Wind that typically brings warmer air]/SOUTHER (say what?!), SOMA, ACEY, ROONE, ETES, LOGE … Take a look at the Monday NYT by Lynn Lempel. 76 words, 11/12/12/11 theme set, no wide-open expanses in the corners (see how the Tuesday grid’s central 9 forces those stacked 7s?(, much smoother fill. If you design a grid that’s easier to fill, you can fill it with easier vocabulary too.

Three more things:

  • 2d. [New York’s Spanish Harlem and others], BARRIOS. I couldn’t get NEIGHBORHOODS to fit into 7 squares. Apparently Spanish Harlem’s being pounced on by gentrifiers these days.
  • Other animal content in the puzzle: ASP BOARS EAGLET, ALFALFA clued as cattle or horse feed, EGG, PURRING (albeit clued via an engine). These do battle with the scientific OSMIC BOSON ERGS OZONE MRI.
  • 11d. [Sports & ___ (Trivial Pursuit category)], LEISURE. When’s the last time you played Trivial Pursuit? It’s probably over 20 years for me.

2.75 stars. It’d have been nice to see four themers in a more flexible grid with smoother fill.

Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dropping the Ball” — Laura’s write-up

Sports! Four kinds of plays in the down (which is also a kind of play) entries:

WSJ - Krauss - 3.6.18 - Solution

WSJ – Krauss – 3.6.18 – Solution

  • [3d: *They may follow alley-oop passes]: SLAM DUNKS (basketball)
  • [9d: *Passes made in desperation]: HAIL MARYS (football)
  • [17d: *They may lead to header goals]: CORNER KICKS (soccer, or what the rest of the world calls football)
  • [31d: *They’re made in an attempt at a base hit]: DRAG BUNTS (baseball)
  • [33dR: De-emphasizes, and a hint to the starred answers]: DOWN PLAYS

Very nice symmetrical set. But like all athletic phenomena, it could use more curling. We got more o’ the sports in the fill, too, what with [40a: Golf’s Ernie]: ELS and [48a: Street on the ski slopes]: PICABO and [21a: Muhammad Ali’s boxing daughter]: LAILA and [27d: Peg for Jordan Spieth]: TEE and [65a: Bruce of “Enter the Dragon”]: LEE, who was a martial arts master as well as a movie star. And you could consider [26a: Woodland walker]: HIKER to be a kind of sportsperson as well (at first I thought, MOOSE?).

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but [55a: Catalog found in cabins]: SKYMALL — really the only reason I ever deigned to spend time in airplanes — declared bankruptcy in 2015. There’s still a website, but it is only a tawdry, ersatz, useless imitation of its former glory marketing tawdry, ersatz, useless things to people trapped in 21B on USAir 256 LGA-DFW.

Skymall Cat Portrait

Your cat is super pissed that you commissioned a portrait of her as a 17th-century noblewoman

The Skymall catalog could reliably cover the time from boarding, waiting for everyone else to board, the safety demonstration, “cross-check” (whatever that is), taxiing, takeoff, ascent, and sometimes, with an efficient crew, to my first miniature bottle of generic Chardonnay — and even longer if my seatmate tolerated a running commentary on the toaster-like device that could cook both two hotdogs and two hotdog buns at the same time, the remote-controlled drink and snack pool floaty thing, the sonar mole discourager, the solar-powered cooling hat with built-in fan, the life-size YETI statue, various things for your cat that were displayed with a picture of a cat that looked like it wanted to do anything but be in the cat-bed-thing or do the cat-playing-thing or eat the cat-food-thing or poop in the cat-pooping-thing, a clock that tells not time but day, the travel vest with like 50 pockets, weird wraparound things to train your head, the paper-towel-holder-slash-USB-hub, the appliance for distilling liquor that is “for entertainment purposes only” (yeah, right), and the $85,000 ORCA-shaped personal hovercraft. I was browsing around on the internet for some kind of BuzzFeed listicle of the “27 Most Ridiculous Skymall Products” and found not only said listicle (with — be still my heart — 28 products listicled), but a listicle of listicles! Let’s pour one out — that is, out of our personalized his-and-her wine carafes — for our dear, departed Skymall.


Please release me from this catpod

Elizabeth Gorski’s Crossword Nation Puzzle “There Was a Mixup at the Oscars … Again!”—Angela’s write-up

Hey, everybody. PuzzleGirl here with you again while Janie enjoys the last of her vacation. Let’s try to not screw anything up while she’s gone, okay?

Today’s theme is Oscar-inspired. I think I’ll pass on these films though. They sound a little weird. Probably because one of the title words is an anagram of an actual movie title word:

  • 20a. [Film that explores Freudian fantasies about Castro?], FIDEL OF DREAMS (Field of Dreams).
  • 30a. [Film about an online periodical that brings its readers to tears?], THE CRYING E-MAG (The Crying Game).
  • 38a. [Film about Ernie’s woes on the golf course?], ELS MISÉRABLES (Les Misérables).
  • 53a. [Film about a television show that has viewers in stitches?], BROADCAST SEWN (Broadcast News).

Obviously, this puzzle was smooth and silky. Just like we all knew it would be. Other than theme answers, none of the acrosses really stood out to me. But here are my thoughts on some of the downs:

  • 5d. [“On the Road” author], KEROUAC. Not a fan of this particular book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but I recall feeling quite bored with it.
  • 6d. [Some Norwegian kings], OLAFS. I am, however, a fan of Norwegian kings (being of Norwegian descent and all). I just wish there were only one way to spell OLAF(V)!
  • 7d. [Frumpish], DOWDY. To me, this is a great word. I just hope it’s never used to describe me! (Although, honestly, I’m at the age now where I don’t care all that much.)
  • 12d. [“Big Little Lies” airer], HBO. Love this show. PuzzleDaughter and I are watching it together and we have two episodes left. I read the book so I know how it ends, but she doesn’t. It’s killing me not to tell her.
  • 26d. [Hoax], SHAM. I had the incorrect SCAM at first.
  • 32d. [Tom Petty’s “YER So Bad”]. Such a loss for the music world. I wasn’t introduced to Tom Petty until my first year in college (1983). But I did pretty quickly fall in love with “Damn the Torpedoes.” (My favorite Tom Petty song is “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” in case you were wondering. Oh my my. Oh hell yes!)
  • 34d. [Ore. neighbor], NEV. This one had me totally stumped! I only think of Oregon as neighboring Washington, California, and Idaho!
  • 41d. [Consecrates], BLESSES. I entered ANOINTS first. That’s a thing, right? And it’s sort of related, right?
  • 47d. [Fitbit locale], WRIST. I was just thinking about my Fitbit today. I lost the charger for it, like, six months ago and still haven’t found it. I decided today that I should just get my act together and order one. I mean, all my steps don’t even count if I’m not wearing my Fitbit!
  • 54d. [Painter who appeared on “What’s My Line?”], DALI. I have to tell on myself here. When I saw “What’s My Line?” I read “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and was super confused.

And there you have it. Another Liz Gorski gem. Thanks for letting me hang out with you these last couple of weeks. With any luck, Janie will be back next time!

Bill Zagozewski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

This is another new byline for me, but the thematic subject matter is something I am quite familiar with!

  • 20A [Have things finally go one’s way] CATCH A BREAK
  • 36A [Mosquito-borne disease] YELLOW FEVER
  • 42A [Engage in hard-nosed negotiations] PLAY CHICKEN – This is not what this means, at least not how it’s used in the Midwest. Just my opinion!
  • 56A [Make an annual clock adjustment … and what the end of 20-, 36-, and 42-Across may literally have] SPRING AHEAD

We all all familiar with the terms spring break, spring fever, and spring chicken. As mentioned above, when someone is “playing chicken” I get a connotation that they are seeing who will blink first, which I suppose IS a business tactic, but I have never seen it used in that sense. Perhaps it is just me!

Around these parts (north central Indiana), Daylight Savings Time is still a sore subject. A whole couple of generations grew up without it, so when there was a push to start implementing it again, there was stauch feedback. But understand: Indiana just two days ago reinstituted Sunday alcohol sales after 200 years, so change is not something Hoosiers accept well AT ALL. (I can speak freely about Hoosiers, since I am from Illinois!). This them is also quite timely, as the clocks do indeed spring forward this coming Saturday night/Sunday morning. As is usually the case, I have to get up early this coming Sunday, so the loss of an hour of sleep will be more acutely felt! A nice puzzle by Bill, though. A solid 4.2 stars.

A few notes:

  • 15A [Tra-__: refrain syllables] LA-LA – I actually think I would prefer a reference to the movie La-La Land here!
  • 48A [Dress-for-success accessory] POWER TIE – I started writing POWER SUIT until I ran out of letters!
  • 4D [Crossword solver’s choice] PENCIL – Ah, yes, only puzzle solvers can speak to great lengths about which pencil/pen is the best to use! I learned about the Pentel Twist Erase 0.9mm that way, and it is my go to device! I also have come to LOVE a good fountain pen recently.
  • 28D [Rich boy in “Nancy” comics] ROLLO – I had to look this boy up the last time I saw his mention in a puzzle! This takes me back to when I was a kid!
  • 32D [French dispatch boat] AVISO – A tad tough for a Tuesday, perhaps.
  • 45D [Political fugitives] EMIGRES – Another slightly tough word like 32D, but the crosses are all pretty easy, so it will fly!

Still have to make my travel plans for the ACPT, but I am going!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “An Increasing Problem” – Derek’s write-up

A clever quote is the subject of this week’s Jonesin’ puzzle. Quotes seem to me the hardest to work with,  since everything has to be symmetrical in some way. The method Matt used in this puzzle is not uncommon; he used the quote’s author as a “theme” answer. The one-liner states THE ADVANTAGES OF EASY ORIGAMI ARE TWO-FOLD! Nice and clever, and sure to elicit at least a small groan. I am not familiar with this comic, but this quote is in this very YouTube clip!

Funny stuff. Easier puzzle, but that is good as I have had a busy week, and it is only Tuesday! Solved in under 4 minutes; the LAT took nearly 5, but that was solving one-handed on my MacBook while eating! A solid 4.5 stars this week.

A few more things:

  • 14A [“SNL” alumna Cheri] OTERI – I keep looking her up when I see her name in puzzles I blog, and according to imdb.com she IS still working, just not in anything I have ever seen! She was part of a bang-up cast on SNL, and did many famous scenes with Will Ferrell, who is now a bona fide superstar. I am a Cheri Oteri fan, if you couldn’t tell!
  • 31A [Shingle replacer] ROOFER – Hardest job I ever did. Makes every part of your body hurt. Worse job I ever did was corn detasselling. I have not, however, yet worked in a slaughterhouse, which I am sure is waaaaaay worse.
  • 65A [23rd of 50] MAINE – I would have thought Maine entered the union before 23rd!
  • 9D [2012 AFTRA merger partner] SAG – The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged with the Screen Actors Guild in 2012. I learned something!
  • 24D [Jake Busey, to Gary Busey] SON – He has been in a few things I have seen, but he is not as recognizable as his dad. At least not yet!
  • 42D [ __ Cooler (“Ghostbusters”-themed Hi-C flavor] ECTO – They still sell this flavor?! That movie is over 30 years old!!

Have a great week everyone!

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10 Responses to Tuesday, March 6, 2018

  1. DH says:

    Never heard of “Frog March”. I wanted to put in “Perp Walk”, but that wouldn’t do. Violent? Really? Perhaps, but better than a shootout. An arrest is better than a takedown, IMO. In the end, I had one unfillable hole – the “S” crossing “Bosons” and “Osmic”, so I’m with you on that one.
    Did people ever really buy stuff from the Skymall catalog?

    • Lise says:

      That was a fascinating list of catalog items. I have never seen the catalog, since I haven’t flown since 1991 and back then I would occupy myself with the book I had brought or with curling up in the fetal position, hoping that the pilots were healthy and that the laws of physics still worked.

    • Amy L says:

      My brother told me he liked looking through the Skymall catalog for its fun value so the next time I flew I opened it. The first thing I saw was a “beautiful” end table that doubled as a dog cage. I laughed really hard and realized I couldn’t look at anything else.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      There’s an elaborate geocache called the Necropolis of Britannia Manor in Austin, TX, created by Lord British, a former video game designer (the early Ultima series of games, e.g.). In order to find the geocache, you have to undertake a hunt all around Austin looking for clues. Once you make it to the final location (part of his property and within sight of his manor house/pseudo-castle), you’ll find it’s decorated with all kinds of creepy, macabre items, some of which I’m sure I’ve seen in a Skymall catalog.

      BTW, the geocache is fantastic fun. Highly recommended. Here’s a video of someone looking for and finding the cache.

  2. Papa John says:

    Believe it or not, today is National Oreo Day.

  3. Steve Manion. says:

    I recalled seeing goose stepping in the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. I looked it up on Google and there are apparently over 70 countries that march in that style:


    It is obviously infamously associated with the Nazis.


    • Papa John says:

      Thanks for the link, Steve. I’ve been under the misconception that it began with the Roman Imperial Guard. It’s interesting that it caught on so quickly by so many countries.It’s an awkward gait.

  4. doug says:

    Re: SkyMall (oops, WSJ) –
    I laughed pretty hard at Laura’s description of the airplane experience with Skymall catalogs. At first I couldn’t get my head out of the Sears Catalog which was often found in outhouses not too far from cabins, but it didn’t have enough letters. When I realized it applied to the cabin in the big airplane, I had the big revelation. Not too surprisingly, I haven’t ridden in the big airplane since 9/11.

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