Friday, 3/16/12

NYT 5:55 (Gareth) 
LAT 5:59 (Gareth) 
CS 5:10 (Sam) 
CHE m:ia? (pannonica)
WSJ (Friday) untimed – Matt 
Celebrity untimed 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

NYT crossword answers, 3 16 12 0316

Gareth here today; Amy’s with the rest of the word nerd herd at the ACPT, so who’s left to hold the fort? Muggins. (Actually, I volunteered.) I’m recently unemployed after 7 years of being a varsity student, so it’s not like I don’t have time at the moment!

Today’s crossword is by Joel Fagliano, who made quite a splash at the recent Orcas. This 34 block / 70 entry themeless played more like a slightly tough Wednesday than a Friday for me. 5:55 is among my fastest Friday times ever. That said, I don’t think difficulty should come into things when it comes to judging the merits of a crossword puzzle. This puppy is chock-full of answers that plain delighted me.

I started with 7A, SPACEJAM, a gimme because of the year, I actually watched that on the big screen. The top-right filled itself in in short order, from there it was the tiny constricted middle, bottom-left, top-left, bottom-right, where, as you can see, I finished at RAMEN.

Have a look at the stacks in the top-right and bottom-left, 3X8 and 1X9 might not sound the most impressive, but there’s not a 3-letter answer to be found there, which makes it quite a chunk of white-space! The top stack has the aforementioned SPACEJAM, plus COCACOLA and OKAYOKAY. PRICELESS is perhaps not as cool, but completely legit, and provides common letters that allow the downs to all be good solid answers, ECOL excepted. CAYENNE is also a fun answer. It makes me think of my nextdoor neighbour growing up, who called it “canine pepper!”

The bottom-left stack is no less impressive MASTERKEY (with a smart clue, “Super item?” referring to an apartment super), ALPHABET, CIAAGENT (possibly a bit adjective/nouny, but it looks cool), and HENNESSY. The last entry has perfect bottom-of-the-grid letters (E’s, N’s, Y’s) without being boring and staid like say RESTLESSLY. Crossing it is TOKENS, clued as the singers of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. It was originally written by South African Solomon Linda, as Mbube, meaning “Lion” in Zulu, in 1939; he didn’t copyright it at the time.

Elsewhere, I like the symmetrical pairings of G answers GAGGIFT and GANDALF. I wouldn’t get Gandalf a gag gift if I were you! My older brother read Tolkien to me when I was quite young. Because of this, I have a rather strange mental association of balrogs and ratels. There was a photograph in a wildlife book that made one look a lot bigger and scarier, and somehow because the balrog was scary, they got linked. Weird! BANANASLUG was only vaguely familiar to me; it must be one of the coolest names for a sports team though! The one answer I had no clue about was DAVEEGGERS. From his Wikipedia page, he appears to be a recent popular author.

4.5 stars.

Marti Du Guay Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LATcrossword answers, 3 16 12 0316

Gareth again. I don’t know anything about Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s background… Is she a Southern belle? The theme is a clue/answer reversal theme with a tricksy twist, which will soon become clear:
The clue for 20A, DANTESINFERNO, “*Hail” is actually “Hell”, but is spelt in such a way as to mimic a Southerner pronouncing it, thus “Hail.”

  • 28A “*Tar” (Tire) GROWWEARY
  • 39A “*Tin” (Ten) SAWBUCK
  • 48A “*Poe” (Poor) FLATBROKE (Which made me think of this song, The Kindness of Strangers, sung by an Australian, but pronouncing poor as poe…)
  • 58A “What you need to get the starred clues to fit their answers” SOUTHERNDRAWL
  • What did all y’all think about this? Did it work for you? I thought it was a nice gimmick, and it took a bit of puzzling before the “a-ha” fell. I also liked that each answer has a different altered vowel sound. The entire grid is pretty dreck-free IMO (your mileage may vary.) One answer that was awkward was 5A, IDENT : “Can I see some IDENT. please” said the 10D BOUNCER, not.


    • 23A “Club with very little loft” is ONEIRON “In case of a thunderstorm, stand in the middle of the fairway and hold up a one iron. Not even God can hit a one iron.” Lee Trevino
    • 27A “Bouquet __” is GARNI. I suppose I should look up such things. Er, Wikipedia says it means “garnished bouquet” and adds that it is a bundle of herbs tied with string and added to soups and the like, but removed before serving.
    • 42A “Lunch, say” EAT is duplicated at 56A “Had a slice of humble pie” ATECROW. The latter is one of the nicer answers in the grid; in the context of the theme, I’m trying my darnedest not to imagine someone from the Ozarks called Zeke literally eating crow. Clearly my darnedest isn’t good enough!
    • 43A “Norsk Folkemuseum setting” OSLO. Hard to come up with interesting clues for OSLO! Here the tip-off is Norsk!
    • 12D JOE “Break fluid?” Very clever, unique clue!
    • 21D “Northeastern natives” ERIES. Wasn’t paying attention and put in CREES, they’re prairie natives, so they’re more Northwestern.
    • 33D “Coal-rich region” SAAR. It was an semi-independent country for a bit after WWII
    • 38D “Someone to admire” CLASSACT. It’d be utter toadyism to suggest Amy Reynaldo here now, wouldn’t it?
    • 49D “Mitt Romney’s alma mater: Abbr.” BYU. Brigham Young University. Named after the early Mormon leader.
    • 57D “CD Alternative” TNOTE. “Certificate of Deposit”
      4 stars. 

      Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Warm” – Sam Donaldson’s review

      CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 16

      Greetings from Brooklyn, New York! I’m here for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It starts tomorrow, but a lot of us arrived on Thursday. You can’t contain all of the fun and camaraderie into one weekend, after all. If you’re on site now or will be at the tournament this weekend, be sure to say hello. Several of the Fiend Team will be in attendance, most of us matching wits against an all-star lineup of constructors. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing how Dr. Fill, Matt Ginsburg’s crossword-solving software, does on the tournament puzzles. My prediction is that fewer than ten humans will have a higher cumulative score than Dr. Fill.

      I certainly won’t be one of them. I hope to finish at or better than my overall ranking from last year, which I think was somewhere around 285. More importantly, I want to solve as many puzzles as I can without errors. Errors really kill your scores, so my mantra this year is to be slow and steady. If I can solve six of the seven puzzles accurately and put up a good fight against the traditionally difficult Puzzle #5, I’ll be happy.

      The highlight of the tournament, oddly, isn’t the tournament. It’s the people. Crossworders are among the most genuine, smart, funny, and warm people you’ll ever meet. Speaking of warmth, (that’s what professionals call a “segue,” kids!) today’s puzzle, from Fiendster Doug Peterson, features four terms ending with words that are synonyms for “warm:”

      • 17-Across: LEGAL TENDER is a [Phrase on bank notes]. “Love me tender” is a phrase on a mash note.
      • 27-Across: This one stumped me for a little while: the [Chocolate candy with a fruity, syrupy center] is a CHERRY CORDIAL. I’m not much into cherry-flavored candies, so maybe my own mental block was what slowed me down here.
      • 46-Across: POINT PLEASANT is a [New Jersey beach community] to which I’ve never been. Should a pilgrimage there be on my bucket list?
      • 61-Across: FOUR-OF-A-KIND is a great poker hand. Heck, [It beats a full house]. The probability of being dealt a four-of-a-kind in a five-card poker game is .0002400960, which translates to a 0.024 percent chance. (That means if you played 10,000 hands–10,000!!–you’d get just over two four-of-a-kind hands on average.) The probability of a full house, on the other hand, is .0014405762–not good, certainly, but about six times more likely than a four-of-a-kind!

      So many great items in the fill. I loved AFTER YOU ([“Please go ahead”]) and FOOTSIE ([Game usually played without shoes]). (That FOOTSIE clue is just awesome.) I also liked AGE-OLD, EPIC POETRY, NOME ALASKA, ARMFUL, BLITZ, and OPENS FOR ([Plays onstage ahead of]). My favorite clue was [Excalibur, for one] for CASINO. Given my affinity for Las Vegas I’m a little red-faced that I kept thinking of the sword and not the casino!

      Patrick Merrell’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”

      Celebrity crossword answers, 3 16 12 "Sports Fan Friday" Merrell

      • 15a. DANICA PATRICK, [First woman to lead the Indy 500: 2 wds.]
      • 31a. RACE CAR DRIVER, [15-Across’ occupation: 2 wds.]
      • 48a. GODADDY DOT COM, [Website that 15-Across endorses: 3 wds.]

      Other assorted answers are related to motorsports. We’ve got the OVAL track shape at 20a, car TIRES at 38a, SPED at 55a, the [Honda Indy Toronto anthem] “O CANADA” at 5d, a LAP at 6d, a FERRARI at 8d, and 23d: REVS an engine.

      Now, what this puzzle doesn’t have is a ton of sports content. You’ve got the racing theme, but as far as requiring the solver to know names and terms from baseball, football, basketball, etc.–this “Sports Fan Friday” is a good bit friendlier to pop-culture buffs who aren’t much into sports.

      Joon Pahk and Amy Reynaldo’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Passportmanteaux” — Matt’s review

      WSJ (Fri) • 3/16/12 • "Passportmanteaux" • Pahk, Reynaldo • solution

      The shoe is on the other foot this morning — joon and Amy have blogged my puzzles so many times here, but now it is I who blog them (speed-blog, actually, since I have to post my contest puzzle and then get out on the road to the commitment that’s keeping me from the ACPT this year. Grrr…).

      So let’s have a look at their co-authored WSJ puzzle, “Passportmanteaux”: they’ve taken country names whose cabooses form the engine of a second word, and clued them accordingly. We have:

      • 23a. [Comfortable middle class in western Europe?] = LUXEMBOURGEOISIE. I think it’s the richest country in the world, so being part of the Luxembourgeoisie isn’t such a bad deal.
      • 31a. [Fashion outlet on the Red Sea?] = DJIBOUTIQUE. Nice one.
      • 48a. [Crazy for Transylvania vampire lore?] = ROMANIACAL. Who doesn’t love some vampire lore?
      • 56a. [Peons in Eurasia?] = ARMENIALS.
      • 65a. [Like a debauched party on the Black Sea?] GEORGIASTIC. It’s a raucous Caucasus Caucus joon & Amy have got going on. Azerbaijan next?
      • 74a. [Like minor sins in eastern Europe?] SLOVENIAL. No Azerbaijan. But Slovenia is supposed to be lovely.
      • 84a. [Behemoth of the Gobi Desert?] MONGOLIATH. Everything’s big in Mongolia. It’s the Asian Texas.
      • 98a. [Octogenarian on the Gulf of Guinea?] NIGERIATRIC. Could be either Niger or Nigeria from the answer only, but only the second one fits the clue.
      • 112a. [Stewed chicken dishes on the Cape of Good Hope?] SOUTH AFRICASSEES. Perhaps our Fiendmaster while Amy’s in Brooklyn is eating this for dinner tonight. I understand Gareth is blogging this from Johannesburg? Or maybe Cape Town.

      Fun theme, especially for geographyheads like myself. Notice how perfect the one-word title is, and you’ve got to dig its pluralizing X.


      Just a little crosswordESE (14-d) to counterbalance it; we get to REUNE with our old friend RANEE down south, for example. But she’s not so bad to hang out with on occasion.

      Top 3 clues: [It may bear the cost] for TAG; [Bar fight?] for TRIAL; and [Plus sign?] for GOOD OMEN. I also liked [Army of the Valley soldier] for REB, since I live in that valley.

      Good luck in Brooklyn, A & j! And everyone else. Hope to see you there in 2013.

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    11 Responses to Friday, 3/16/12

    1. Nina says:

      Hi Gareth – I enjoyed your write-ups. I’ve done NYT and LAT so far today, so I don’t know where it belongs, but starting with your 17A bullet for LAT, the rest of the list is from some other crossword.

    2. Josh Bischof says:

      I’m with Gareth on the NYT. A very breezy puzzle (7:25 for me, which is one of my fastest Friday times) but so much goodness. The NE and SW stacks are indeed fantastic, and I like PRICELESS, if not so much for the word itself, for its clue. The NW and SE corners are no slouches, either. Lovely looking grid, too.

      I like the balance of the two pairs of long down answers, each one containing a name and something sports-related. Ditto on those NE and SW corners: a reference to drinking in each one (perfect for Friday) and a movie reference in each.

      There’s really no garbage anywhere in the puzzle; for me, the only weak answer was CYS. But one clunker is a small price to pay for a puzzle full of great fill like this.

      If this puzzle were rated on its Friday puzzleness alone, it’d definitely merit five stars, but I think the 4.5 rating is perfect.

    3. Gareth says:

      @Nina: Fixed now. This post got moved, and part of the CS and Celebrity puzzles got garbled in the process from what I can see.

    4. Grant says:

      The only theme answer I got without sussing out from the crossings was “Poe” meaning flat broke. Made me think of a po boy sandwich…the rest not so much. I guess my Michigan tongue doesn’t speak southern, even with an Uncle who lives in Dallas :)

    5. Grant says:

      Oh, and congrats to Amy and Joon for their WSJ crossword this week!

    6. Daniel Myers says:

      Fancied the balrog clue as well, Gareth, though w/o your particular associations. I suppose you’re well aware that Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein.

    7. larry says:

      Really enjoyed the portmanteau creations of Joon and Amy in the WSJ puzzle.

    8. arthur118 says:


      What a brilliantly conceived and executed puzzle from Amy and Joon!

    9. Evad says:

      I agree, Arthur…I’m sure it was enjoyed by BRAZILLIONS!

    10. joon says:

      thanks, matt and friends for your nice words about our WSJ puzzle! those of you with extremely long memories might have already realized that this puzzle’s inception was a casual comment by amy in this blog post from december 2010.

    11. Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m a little late to the blog! Thanks for the kind words, folks. I was delighted that Mike Shenk scheduled the puzzle for ACPT weekend because if it had instead run the following Friday, I’m pretty sure I would have run into exactly zero people who would mention the puzzle. It was a hoot to get congrats and feedback in person amongst My Tribe.

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