Thursday, 12/8/11

NYT 4:46 
LAT 5:38 (Neville) 
CS 5:46 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:20 mg/4:15 ar 
Tausig 7:48 (pannonica) 

Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 11 1208

Cute theme, though to tell you the truth, I enjoyed the crackling fill more than the theme. The theme answers are self-clued by sounding out the two circled letters in each theme answer, though you’re not so likely to have just those two letters filled in and be able to use them to solve the theme answers, are you? It’s sort of a C D B!-style gimmick in which the kind of phrase we’d usually expect to see in the clue lists gets promoted to the grid:


  • 7a. The circled NE is pronounced like “any,” cluing EVEN ONE.
  • 18a. An MT (empty) is an ITEM TO RECYCLE.
  • 35a. NV is envy, the GREEN VICE.
  • 52a. Elsie (LC) the Borden cow is a COMMERCIAL COW.
  • 62a. If it’s EZ, it’s easy, A BREEZE.

Highlights in the fill:

  • 28d. PRIZE FIGHT has a great clue: [Struggle over a purse].
  • 6d. [Epiphanies] are real EYE-OPENERS. Don’t get can openers mixed up with these.
  • 33d. I’m more familiar with the medical usage of PAROXYSM, but it’s also an [Emotional outburst].
  • 37d. Back when my parents were dating, my Chicago-born-and-bred dad might’ve used this word to describe suburban neighborhoods lacking sidewalks: BARBARIC. Positively [Uncivilized].
  • Do you like the sonic echo between HOT WARS and GOT WORSE?
  • 60a. PROSTATE! You don’t see this puppy in the crossword too often. Welcome, manly little gland.
  • 59a. GUYANA: It’s everywhere this week. In a Tuesday puzzle by Julian Lim and in the Tuesday comments, where Julian tells us that his mother’s from Guyana. It is a [Neighbor of Suriname] on the northern coast of South America.

3.75 stars.

Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (5:39)

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 12 8 11

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solutions, 12 8 11

Don’s here today (without C.C. Burnikel) to provide us with some Thursday fun—and OH, snap! He delivers!

  • 17a. [Evian, in Evian] – EAU MINERALE
  • 23a. [Thankfully credit] – OWE EVERYTHING TO
  • 35a. [One way to serve beef] AU JUS
  • 50a. [Sweet treat with an exclamation point in its name] – OH HENRY! CANDY BAR
  • 56a. [Classic noel] – O TANNENBAUM

Five theme entries, including two spanners. That’s nice and dense. Not a tricky theme to suss out, so most of this puzzle’s difficulty comes in the form of cluing. [Place for a large umbrella] is a PATIO – it’s a big umbrella on top of a table. We’re not looking for a rack, stand or Hagrid’s hut. [Plastic choice] now seems obvious for VISA, but at the time it seemed far off for me. KNIEVEL jumped out at me as the likely right answer for [1999 Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee], but I couldn’t spell his name, as usual. And HACKNEY fits in where BLACK CAB wouldn’t.

SPONGES and SOPS UP share an S. Though I’m not one for gratuitous clue linking, this seems like a nice opportunity for a pair. That S could’ve been an M for MOPS UP. Someone use this for a split personality-type theme, please.

Clue dispute: [More than words] – PHRASE. I argue that a phrase is just words, not more than words. It’s a group of words. Can someone explain this to me? I’d love to not be right about this.

I’ll say it again: no more NLER, please. Ick. 4 Stars from me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No Men Allowed” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, December 8

Today’s CS puzzle salutes the maxim “Ladies first” by featuring four theme entries that start with words used to describe women:

  • 17-Across: A LADY FINGER is a [Common item in a trifle cake’s layer]. Other common items are custard, fruit, jello, and whipped cream. Uh oh, my sweet tooth just awakened.
  • 27-Across: The [First trip of a ship] is its MAIDEN VOYAGE. You never forget the first.
  • 47-Across: Say what? The [“Offspring” produced when a basic bit of matter splits in two] is called a DAUGHTER CELL?  Okay, if you say so.
  • 61-Across: A GRANNY KNOT is a [Tie that’s easy to undo]. Interesting to see the similar UNLACE elsewhere in the grid.

The need for symmetrical theme entries prevented it, but I would have preferred to see the women aging gracefully from top to bottom–DAUGHTER then MAIDEN then LADY then GRANNY. But that simply would have made a good puzzle that much more elegant. As it was, this puzzle was fine. I love how METEORS are streaking down the center of the grid, and the clue ([They may be seen in nighttime showers]) is likewise cute. I also liked SASHAYED, clued as [Walked showily]. For some reason I got that one with few crossings. “Sashay” is a fun word that should use more often in ordinary conversation. Naturally, this tax professor liked TAX HIKE, the [Pol’s hot potato]. Regardless of one’s political views, it’s fascinating to see how the scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts (should it ever come to pass) is portrayed as a “tax hike” when in fact it would simply be a return to pre-2001 tax rules and rates.

I struggled a little with [Retail duds], the clue for FLOPS. I read “duds” to mean “clothes,” so that answer came more slowly than it should have. My favorite clue, though, was [Great assets in war] for ACES. (When playing the card game war, aces beat every other card in the deck.) The fill was typically Lempelian, and by that I mean “smooth as silk.” The biggest faults are probably ETTE, ERSE, and RTE, and those are hardly significant transgressions.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “The China Syndrome”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 391 answers

Ni hao, everybody—Brendan goes historical on us today, using ancient Chinese dynasties as the bases for four puns:

  • 17a. [Je ne sais quoi capturing mid-14th to mid-17th century China?] =THAT TOUCH OF MING. A bit before my time (1962) but I’ve certainly heard of the movie (That Touch of Mink).
  • 27a. [White girls in mid-7th century China?] = HONKY TONG WOMEN. The Stones should play this next time they’re in Shanghai.
  • 48a. [Spears and such from 200 BCE China?] = HAN HELD DEVICES. My fave of the 4—and that’s BCE, not to be confused with BEQ (though he could proclaim himself one of the “Crossword Jesuses”).
  • 64a. [Chinese denial dating back to 1046 BCE?] = SAY IT AIN’T SO, CHOU.  From when Shoeless Joe Chou fixed the Chinese World Series 3,000 years ago. They thought of everything first!

Six observations:

  1. 4.00 stars on the theme. Solid with some laughs.
  2. Took me 8:20, which makes this a medium. Who’s with me in wanting more tough puzzles from Brendan?
  3. At 78 words, there are no shots taken from 3-point range (7-, 8- or 9-letter fill).  Let’s see how he did from closer in: LAMAZEGET BYHOLLAZAIREDO UP. Not too shabby—but we put you in the game to sink shots from beyond the arc!
  4. I had to guess on the SIRI/SAM crossing. I guessed WIRI/WAM.
  5. Excellent clue for OER: [“Thou knowst the ___-eager vehemence of youth” (Homer)].
  6. Poignant clue: [Amy Winehouse’s haircut] for POUF. R.I.P.

Xie xie for the puzzle, BEQ, and have Chinese for lunch today, everyone!

Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, “Sell High” — pannonica’s review

Tausig crossword 12/9/11 • "Sell High" • solution

I suppose some might say this was a ‘spliffy’ theme.

The bookending acrosses call it out: 1-across [With 67-Across, store that often won’t discuss its stock] HEAD | SHOP, thus named because they sell stuff that messes with one’s head, which introduces the burning question, why aren’t liquor stores called liver shops? Coffee bars, bladder shops? Et cetera. Each theme answer ends in a word that would ostensibly be offered for sale in such an establishment.

  • 17a. [“You’re Beautiful” singer] JAMES BLUNT. Had to look this up to see what it was.
  • 29a. [Flexible fee system] SLIDING SCALE. For, you know, weighing things.
  • 43a. [Event with expensive TV ads] THE SUPER BOWL. Not particularly fond of that unnecessary definite article. Viable alternatives of the same letter-length include College Bowl, singing bowl, and perhaps Liberty Bowl, incense bowl.
  • 60a. [They’re generally not supposed to cite Wikipedia] TERM PAPERS. Though it would be nearly unavoidable if it was a term paper about Wikipedia.

This puzzle didn’t feel particularly difficult, so I’m at a loss for why it took me a relatively long time to complete it. Despite those two large L-shaped blocks near the center, the grid is tight enough, and flows well enough. Triple nine-letter vertical stacks in the northeast and southwest, but the fill that populates them isn’t jaw-dropping.


  • 23a [ __-state area] TRI. Growing up, it never occurred to me that there could be tri-state areas apart from NY-NJ-CT. Wikichitlán mentions (no term paper, this) about a dozen other notable ones, then lists many others based purely on geography rather than significance.
  • Do not understand the clue for 21a GAY [Prideful, perhaps?].
  • 61d [Nation with diamonds: Abbr.] With the R and A in place, I assumed it was RWAnda, but it was intead the Republic of South Africa, RSA. It seems Rwanda hasn’t a significant diamond industry.
  • Oh, of course the pietistic Ned Flanders is a graduate of ORU (Oral Roberts University). 7d.

Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo:

  • Nifty trivia at 25a [Company owned by former fascist Ingvar Kamprad] IKEA. He’s also very thrifty, from what I hear. Favorite clues: 32d [Line on a letter to Mickey Mouse] ANAHEIM, CA. Seeing “letter” and”Mickey Mouse,” I couldn’t help but think of the spelled-out closing number from the television show [link to video not included—you’re welcome]; symmetrical partner 12d [Like some ties] SCORELESS.
  • Did not know if 45d was going to be BAD GUY or BADDIE; neither, as it turned out: BADMAN. The crossing of abbrevs. 10a and 10d—UCSD and UFC—was unwelcome. That’s University of California, San Diego and Ultimate Fried Chicken Fighting Championship.
  • The plural AMMOS (3d). Also, nothing can save the blah partial WAS A, not even invoking Ice Cube.


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30 Responses to Thursday, 12/8/11

  1. Doug says:

    I finished it and came here for the theme, which I completely missed while trying to make a sentence like ANY EMPTY ENVY … Well, I got close.

  2. Aaron says:

    Good stuff, but that NW corner had me stuck for a really long time, thanks to ADOREE, the sort of unguessable early century fill that I hate to see in a crossword.

  3. Gareth says:

    Simple, elegant theme. Mostly easy lively puzzle. Surprised PROSTATE made the cut! Lotsa stuff I don’t know was crammed into the top-right: AVEMARIA as clued, LARAIDER (I’ve seen it once in another crossword I think?), plus ROY (went with REY, then RAY), ALEX as clued and EMAC? That’s just a spiteful entry: I bet 98% of people today will have typed or written iMAC. with two roll-your-own type entries: ITEMTORECYCLE and EVENONE. So that was about ten minutes of sorting out for me right there!

  4. Gareth says:

    Au Contraire! Neville – for me most of the difficulty came from only definitively knowing the second theme entry. The first was inferrable, and the third I think I’ve seen in another crossword or two… I prefer Liz Gorski’s version of this theme: (I realise they were conceived independently)

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I wanted Cavort before PRANCE in the NYT, otherwise it went smoothly enough: the EYE-OPENERS were COMMERCIALCOW and ITEMTORECYCLE. And now I have Schubert’s AVE MARIA in my head….The LAT was fine too, not many HACKNEYed PHRASEs! I always wait to see if the Daisy going to be UPSY or Upsa, preferring the former, and would have opted to clue WIE as the second word in O TANNENBAUM, which is now in head too!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Thanks, Gareth, for the link to the older Gorski puzzle… O, OH OHO what a gal!

  7. Karen says:

    I had FROLIC at 1A of the NYT, supported by that R. And I kept wondering if there were such a thing as chicken LOX.

  8. Tuning Spork says:

    I had CRUISE at 1-A and CLEANER at 1-D for a while.

    About half of my solving time was in that NW corner. Then, for some reason PRANCE popped into my head, building on the suspicion that 5-D was CNET. Then it was just running the alphabet for the third “?” in
    (bee tea, sea tea … em-ty!), and the corner finally fell.

    Fun stuff. 4 stars from me.

    Smile and a thumbs up —-> :-)b

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Wow, I’m the *only* one to 5-star the NYT today? And it got two 1-stars??

    I thought it was very original and well-executed. What am I missing?

  10. pannonica says:

    Neville, I had the same reaction to PHRASE in the LAT.

  11. Gareth says:

    BEQ: Medium except four impossible squares in the top-left. I guessed BEAR and ALAN correctly but UCLA, ECHO as clued plus THATTOUCHOFMINK (never heard of it) was a bridge too far for me… DNF. Shrug. I still don’t get how CHOU is tacked onto SAYITAINTSO either.

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Gareth — the full line is “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” which a kid said to Shoeless Joe Jackson when Jackson was suspected of throwing the 1919 World Series.

  13. Vega says:

    @pannonica, I’m gay and I attend Pride parades and am otherwise ful(l) of Pride.

  14. C says:

    @Neville, here is my attempt to justify the PHRASE clue. MANCHESTER MICKEY CUP MOUSE are words randomly grouped together and do not have much meaning when read left to right (or do they ;^)), “At sixes and sevens” are words, when grouped together are a phrase and have meaning and are, therefore, more than words. Best I could come up with.

  15. HH says:

    And, this may also have something to do with it:

  16. HH says:

    @Vega — Interesting. For years I’ve been trying to organize the counterpart Straight Shame Parade, but so far no takers.

  17. sharkonfire says:

    Amy, are you still taking feedback on the new LAT applet? Apparently it can’t display accented characters properly. The clue [___ Tome’] shows up as [___ Tom]. I had a hard time figuring out who Sao Tom was.

  18. Howard B says:

    Got stuck for a while in the Times, where my typo in the bizarre EMAC (IMAC) lurked just out of sight for way too long. Another interesting theme today.

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @HH: The Straight Shame Parade is televised all the time. Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of …, The Maury Povich Show, Divorce Court—these are just a sampling of shame-parade programming. It all lacks the verve of a good gay pride parade, unfortunately.

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @sharkonfire: Have passed that along.

  21. pannonica says:

    Vega: Oh, that. Can’t believe it slipped my mind! No slight, because I know it was and is important, but it does feel a little hokey to me. Apologies nonetheless.

    However, I’m ashamed of the lameness and poor design of the “official” rainbow flag. Studio 360 even made an attempt to improve as part of their occasional “redesign” series, enlisting professional designers and crowdsourcing. Unfortunately, the endeavor was flawed, in my opinion, because with few exceptions they didn’t deviate from the rainbow motif (and when they did, it was usually pink or lilac).

    Silly me, I was wondering about gay lions.

  22. Gareth says:

    @Matt: just when you think you know enough about Americans’ culture to solve their crosswords you get one like this…

  23. John Haber says:

    I liked it a lot and found it on the hard side for a Thursday. In part, that’s because the longest answers, and thus much of the puzzle, were the theme answers not so easily guessed. In part, that’s because I had some sticking points toward working them out, like MR AZ, ROY, PNC, and EMAC, which I can’t say I remember hearing about.

    I found the NW the hardest, too, in no small part because of ADOREE. And here I thought I was into film history, but doesn’t ring a bell. I wanted it to be Rene Clair, but that wouldn’t fit and is the wrong sex anyhow (and his most famous movies are early sound pictures).

  24. Will Nediger says:

    @Matt: I loved this one too. I don’t usually give ratings, but I just gave this one a 5.

  25. Mona Evans says:

    Just finished today’s L.A. times crossowrd (12/8/11). Please note that 58d is Ano, not Ana. It is Ano Nuevo State Park ( great place to see elephant seals during winter). That makes 66a scold, not scald. Probably just a typo……

  26. Vega says:

    @pannonica Studio 360’s redesign attempt: who knew!

  27. Lois says:

    Matt, OK, I gave it a five, because I admire it and for the bad reason that I finally got everything without Googling, after a really long time. The only negative I felt was that a lot of the stuff was really obscure. I’m also a film buff who never heard of Renee Adoree. But since I got everything in the puzzle, finally, it might have been gettable, for Americans, at least, from crosses and from rhyming etc.

  28. HH says:

    @Amy — Point taken. But I was hoping that after the Straight Shame Parade, I could organize the Abstinence Apathy Parade … especially after I came up with the perfect slogan — “Abstinence Apathy — We Really Don’t Give a F***!”

  29. Erik says:

    Missed the Tuesday comments thread. My dad is from Guyana!! Julian!! Ahhhhh!!

  30. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Erik, @Julian Lim: Are you two related?

Comments are closed.