Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jonesin' 4:15 (Derek) 


LAT 3:45 (Derek) 


NYT 3:06 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:03 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 354), “Weather-ing Heights”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 3/13 (No. 354)

Mashing up climate change and the title of Emily Brontë’s only novel, we get a shout-out today to various meteorological conditions. A vertical shout-out at that, deriving from the “heights” part of said title, no doubt. Leave it to Liz to find the perfect pun for the occasion! This is an easy theme, perfectly executed (the cluing goes a long way to keeping things from being too easy) and smooth-as-can-be to solve. Sweet.

  • 3D. [Poem by Robert Louis Stevenson]. “WINDY NIGHTS. B/c “THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE” was never gonna fly. But this evocative little verse sure does. So much mood in so few words. And the meter only reinforces it. Makes me want to curl up right under that counterpane…
  • 5D. [Cash reserves for emergencies, say]. RAINY DAY FUND. A good thing to have. Not to be confused with SLUSH FUND
  • 18D. [Track on Tina Turner’s “Foreign Affair” album] “STEAMY WINDOWS. Um, I believe the corollary is, “If the van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin'”… The song is new to me, but that Tina is timeless.
  • 27D. [Faith No More song with the lyric “not the only way to fry an egg”] “SUNNY SIDE UP. These are not your grandmother’s fried eggs. Or who knows? Maybe they are! ;-) Faith No More also new to me. Really like the fresh approach to cluing this (tasty) fill.

In addition to the range of themer sources, also like that there appear to be some bonus entries that comment on the weather. In the EAST, March has definitely come in like a lion—two serious storm and SNOW events in the first week of the month; and yet another nor’easter today, with New England bracing to take the hardest hit. So it seemed most appropriate to see that [Leonine greeting] ROAR combo in the grid. And then, doubly-warming to encounter [Spain’s Costa del SOL] (SUN Coast) peeling off of the first “S” in “SUNNY SIDE UP.” Daylight saving time just kicked in. Can MAY be that far away?

[Culinary heroes?]

Long and strong horizontal fill like SANDWICHES and SCHMOOZERS also up the ante today. Again, especially because of the smart clues they’re paired with: [Culinary heroes?] and [They can work a room], respectively. And we get a healthy serving of some good mid-range fill as well: NEEDED and DEEDED, SLICES and [Cut IN HALF (bisect)], ORDAIN, ARTURO [Maestro Toscanini] and (my fave) “NOT YOU!” with its perhaps questionably sincere/”mean girls” clue [“I was referring to someone else!”]. Clues with attitude! Only combo that made me scratch my head was the [Theatrical villain] MEANIE pair. I know a MEANIE can be a villain, but how does “theatrical” factor into the picture specifically? All theories welcomed.

Foodie mini-theme: EAT IT, HAM (though not as clued—I know!), hero SANDWICHES, eggs SUNNY SIDE UP, SLICES [Pizza triangles], SODA, NOGS, TASTE [Try the wine], PECAN [Popular pie]. “YUMMY!” (Um, though probably not in combination…)

New word: shootie, as in [Narrow, for a shootie] AAA. For them as also didn’t know, a shootie is the fashion word for a woman’s ankle boot (shoe boot). Fave clue? [Fiddle sticks]. At first, all I could see was “Fiddlesticks!” which, seemed fitting, being positioned next to the “Fiddle-dee-dee!” exclaiming [Miss Scarlett O’HARA]. But no. These are BOWS—for violins, violas, celli and bass fiddles. D’oh.

And with that, I leave you for today. But not without a heartfelt “thank you” to Angela for filling in for me for the last two weeks. Her positive and incisive takes on the puzzles go a long way in my book, and I’m so very grateful that she was able to step in. Team Fiend rocks! Oh—and Death Valley was devastatingly beautiful. Wow. Till next week, folks: keep solving!

Ned White’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “See Food” — Laura’s write-up

WSJ - 3.13.18 - White - Solution

WSJ – 3.13.18 – White – Solution

Remember that kid in the lunchroom who would inquire politely if you liked seafood, then when you said, “yeah, sure whatever,” he’d open his mouth full of half-chewed cafeteria slop, and yell “SEE! FOOD!”? Or am I the only one whom he harassed with that brazen bit of tomfoolery?

  • [1a: Gluten-free breakfast offering from General Mills]: CORN CHEX
  • [15a: With 65-Across, it’s made with grounds in boiling water]: COWBOY
  • [23a: It may be topped with cream cheese frosting]: CARROT CAKE
  • [37a: Nutty Chinese restaurant dish]: CASHEW CHICKEN
  • [51a: 1-Across, for one]: COLD CEREAL
  • [65a: See 15-Across]: COFFEE
  • [68aR: Bygone army fare, and a way to describe the starred answers]: C-RATIONS

I didn’t quite grok the theme at first, and parsed the revealer was some variety of dried cranberries called CRATIONS (instead of craisins). The Wikipedia tells me that the C-Ration “was an individual canned, pre-cooked, and prepared wet ration.” The inclusion of the word wet in that definition makes it seem even less palatable (better, though, than moist). The contemporary equivalent of the C-Ration is the MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Fiend readers who are veterans, or currently serving, what’s your take on the MRE? Serviceable? Is it like backpacking food, i.e. when you’re just freaking exhausted it tastes like heaven? Or do you never want to go there again?

[35a: “Hmm…”]: LET ME SEE about the fill. Got a few more food-related entries with SEAR, TEA, ICEE; got some art with PIET and MONET; got some colloquial expressions with Austin Powers’s OH BEHAVE (would also have accepted YEAH BABY), OH SURE, and IS IT EVER. I personally would’ve clued [59a: Patsy]: STOOGE as [Curly, for one], but that’s my cultural milieu.

Carl Worth’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 13 18, no 0313

Today’s theme revealer is KEY WEST, clued as 41a. [Florida island … or a hint to 17-, 24-, 52- and 65-Across], and those four themers all have a computer key on the “west” side of a longer phrase:

  • 17a. [Change one’s approach], SHIFT GEARS. 
  • 24a. [Metallica hit with the lyric “Sleep with one eye open”], ENTER SANDMAN.
  • 52a. [Micromanager], CONTROL FREAK.
  • 65a. [Series of puzzles for group solving], ESCAPE ROOM.

Lovely set of theme answers here, crisp and fresh-feeling. It’s not the first time this theme concept’s been done (see also: Caleb Madison’s 2/18/10 NYT, with two overlapping themers), but it’s done well here, and the KEY WEST angle for the reveal is new.

I’m not keen on seeing APSE and ORONO in early-week puzzles, but overall the fill’s really smooth. I think this is the constructor’s debut, so I’ll look forward to seeing more of his work.

Three more things:

  • 14a. [What you might do to a turtle that’s withdrawn into its shell], POKE. What?? Why? Why would you do that? If the turtle is inside its shell, it has its reasons. Leave it be!
  • KEY WEST. I’ve been there! During what was possibly the coldest weather they’d had in years. It was around Christmas time and we were lucky to get temps above 60. There was no swimming at the beach, too cold. The Hemingway house, long walks, exploration, and food (I remember only lunch at Ana’s Cuban Café and amazing Key lime pie at My Blue Heaven). I’d definitely go there again, but I would not road-trip there from 10 hours away.
  • 35d. [Poetic rhythm], METER / 61d. [Keats or Yeats], POET. Noticeable overlap, would have been simple to clue METER in a different way.

Four stars from me.

Rich Proulx’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Our constructor is making a case for the metric system in today’s puzzle!

  • 20A [113-gram sandwich, more or less] QUARTER POUNDER – There’s no way this burger has 4 oz of meat!
  • 24A [About 1.8 meters deep] SIX FEET UNDER
  • 46A [37.9-liter topper, roughly] TEN-GALLON HAT
  • 54A [Proceed another 1.6 kilometers or so] GO THE EXTRA MILE – Used to these units after running a lot of races!

Cleanly done, and not too complicated. Why DON’T we switch to metric? They have been saying that since I was in the first grade, but Americans don’t like change much! 4.2 stars for this one.

A few things:

  • 31A [Watch pocket] FOB – The little pocket is the fob? I thought it was part of the pocket watch. (It is!)
  • 64A [Arnaz with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame] DESI – How did he get TWO and Kermit only has one??
  • 4D [Counties across the pond] SHIRES – They at least use the metric system over there! It looks like only Myanmar and Liberia are with the US in not going metric. It makes no sense!
  • 33D [Tall, skinny sorts] BEAN POLES – Like my oldest son!
  • 56D [Magneto’s enemies] X-MEN – Is there a new X-Men movie on the horizon? I hope so! Those superhero movies seem to be the most popular these days.

It’s snowing here today, but at least I am not on the east coast! Hopefully the weather is favorable next week for the ACPT!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “What Am I Doing Here?” – Derek’s write-up

It seems like the title isn’t quite descriptive enough, but it explains what is going on. Kind of. Each theme answer today has the word MY added in the middle. Perhaps a title like “My Word!” would be better? I could be wrong. And that is nitpicky, which I don’t like to do! Matt, as usual, comes with the funny:

  • 17A [Request in exchange for some ones, maybe?] TAKE MY FIVE
  • 65A [Sand down some menswear?] FILE MY SUIT
  • 11D [Demand for your favorite band to perform at a county gathering?] PLAY MY FAIR
  • 31D [Walked away from the poker table with cards face down?] LEFT MY HAND

Did I miss any? I still am not any good at the brainstorming phase of puzzle making, and I am hoping to take it up when I retire in about 13 years. At least that is the plan! But it seems as if this would be a fun theme to brainstorm. A solid 4.4 stars for Matt’s puzzle this week.

A couple of mentions:

  • 1A [1998 Apple rollout] IMAC – I will get one of these someday. Still rocking a PC as my desktop, but I LOVE my MacBook, and that is the only way to go, in my opinion. They even run Windows!
  • 33A [The Rock’s real first name] DWAYNE – As opposed to Miami Heat star DWYANE Wade.
  • 4D [Snake notable for its residue] CHEETOS – My 5-year-old loves these nasty things, but I will pass. Not a big fan of any cheese cracker/chip/snack food. The residue just reinforces this for me! God only knows what chemicals are in that orange garbage!
  • 47D [Meat that somehow sparked a 2017 Arby’s craze] VENISON – Yes, we were first in line to get one of these last November! And we don’t eat much red meat at all! I grew up eating a lot of venison, so it was interesting to taste test. Only ate half of one!
  • 49D [Pic taken alone, or together (as the name doesn’t suggest)] SELFIE – I hear that they are now banning selfie sticks in certain areas. I never had a chance to buy one!
  • 62D [Crafty website] ETSYThis site is not in my bookmarks list, but again, there may be a project for me to tackle here when I retire!

Have a great week!

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12 Responses to Tuesday, March 13, 2018

  1. jim hale says:

    An enjoyable solve. Can’t ask much more from a Tuesday. 4,5 stars for me

  2. MattF says:

    Note that the NYT has a few additional keys scattered around– alt, tab, and (I guess) caps lock.

    • Ed says:

      Yes — ALT, TAB and CAPS/LOCK are symmetrically placed, and in the same rows as the other theme entries. Very nice!

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    A very enjoyable solve.

    While us experienced solvers do gripe about crosswordese in early week puzzles, it also serves a purpose: new solvers need a (gentle) introduction to those words or they’re never going to be able to get the needed footholds in the harder puzzles.

    I think APSE and ORONO and OR SO are a perfectly reasonable amount of crossword-heavy words in this puzzle: not so much it detracts to any significant degree from the solve, and light enough that newer solvers can start the process of adding these to their xword vocab so that some day they find themselves here, bitching about those words.

    • janie says:

      ditto. these words are xword staples, part of the solver’s arsenal. not likely a newbie will learn them in later week puzzles, since s/he’s *probably* not doing those yet. and w/ a theme set as well-developed as today’s, i think it’s a fair trade off.



  4. Jim Peredo says:

    WSJ: My first guess at the revealer was K-RATIONS, but I quickly corrected that. I didn’t know the difference, so I looked it up. K-rations had fewer calories and were lighter to carry making them more suitable for emergency situations. C-RATIONS were more palatable but heavier.

    Their replacement, the MRE, came online in the 80s. By the time I was active duty in the 90s, I felt they had pretty good variety and were tasty. When they started including little goodies like tiny candy bars and oh-so-cute bottles of Tabasco, my opinion improved even more. Now they include flameless exothermic heaters, so you can warm up your food. Sometimes we would buy some for ourselves to take on family camping trips.

    Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach, and it’s true. The history and development of rations is interesting and telling. To learn about MREs and the current 24 varieties, look at mreinfo.com.

  5. Tracy B says:

    I think the cross-referenced MAINE entry elevated ORONO. It’s an elegant choice to find those felicities while filling (or place them intentionally, as the case may be).

  6. Yeah, that POKE clue was odd. It’s a crime to harass the turtles here in Florida, all 5 species are endangered. People leave them be, the only exception being when one wanders onto a road. People (of all types) stop their cars in the middle of the lane, sometimes in both directions, and get out to pick up the turtle and put it on the side of the road it’s heading to. I wouldn’t imagine many people elsewhere are much into turtle harassment these days either.

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