Friday, 12/28/12

NYT 4:14 
LAT 4:37 (Gareth) 
CS 7:00 (Sam) 
CHE tba 
WSJ (Friday) 13:25 (pannonica) 

It’s time to announce the Fireball Crosswords contest winner! I admired the submissions of Jefe, the domestic goddess, Jeff Chen, Phil, and Bob Stigger, but have to give the edge to Xan for his evocative and perplexing explanation: “I didn’t subscribe to fireball crosswords because this is what they do to the brain. I did not want such a memory to persist, so I resisted. But now there is nothing to lose. The apocalypse can claim my body, but I want fireball crosswords to destroy my brain. fruit roll up. kittens on a string. i see a rhinoceros“. The abandonment of the shift key and utter deterioration of sense? Most pleasing to the judge. Xan, send me your address and I’ll send you that advance copy of Blazingly Hard Fireball Crosswords.

Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 28 12, 1228

I just lost a half an hour to a humidifier battle, so let me be quick here. Lots of zippity-zoo in this grid: I like JUST SAYIN’ (which has either been in a BEQ puzzle or been oft uttered by BEQ) atop ENCHILADA atop JERUSALEM (which is the title of a cookbook I’ve seen praised—Israeli and Arab recipes together). I am a product of the ’80s NEW WAVE music era. GOING APE is usually shorter in puzzles (GOAPE). CANDY BAR, clued as [One coming from Mars?]. “WHAT A SHOT!” “YES, MASTER.” JEJUNE SCRAWL. SCHNAPPS. PARANOIA clued by way of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart.” NAME-DROP. GEN-XERS. TAKES TEN clued as [Chills briefly]. The fireball-friendly Ford PINTO clued as an [Old car with ignition trouble]. A hen’s CLUCK clued with [It gets a chick’s attention].

Weak spots: Few and far between. Partial AND I. French ARME, [Sabre ou pistolet]. Assorted abbrevs (UVA, HRH, OCT, THU, PGA, ADA, AKC, SRS). These items did not vex me while I was solving. Instead, I kept getting surprised by another splashy entry at every turn.

4.25 stars. Could be a lot worse. Just sayin’.

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sign Language”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 28

Today’s puzzle, I think, re-imagines various “signs” as posted notices bearing designations, directions, or commands (you know, “signs”). Let’s see if that description works:

  • 17-Across: SKI AREA BOUNDARY might well be a [High sign?]. As I’m not a skier, I’ll leave it to those more qualified to determine whether this is a familiar, “in-the-ski-language” term. Is “SKI AREA BOUNDARY” an actual sign one might see, or is it just a description of such?
  • 25-Across: The [Pound sign?] is WEIGHT LIMIT. We know the pound sign as the keypad button with the tic-tac-toe grid, but here the “pound” has a different meaning. From what I understand of the theme, I like this one the best. 
  • 43-Across: TAKE A NUMBER is the [Minus sign?] (“take” as in “take away” or “subtract”). 
  • 55-Across: The [Call sign?] is PUBLIC TELEPHONE, a sign you would be looking for if you wanted to make a phone call.

I think I’m missing something more elegant here, because to me the execution of the theme feels inconsistent. TAKE A NUMBER is a real sign that one might see at, for instance, the DMV or the butcher shop; the same is true of PUBLIC TELEPHONE (if they even exist in this era of cell phones). But I’m not sure that’s true of SKI AREA BOUNDARY. And WEIGHT LIMIT usually has more information on the sign (namely the actual weight limit, usually in pounds). If I’m not missing anything, then the theme entries appear to lack the desired cohesiveness. But experience suggests I’m just not seeing something that many readers will find obvious. Oh well.

Three rivers course through this grid–there’s the ARAL, the URAL, and the BLUE NILE, the latter more familiar to me as an online jeweler. I made a number of errors that slowed me down, including (but not limited to): I WILL instead of I’LL GO as the [Volunteer’s offer]; GUSH instead of EMIT for [Spew]; CHURCH instead of CHAPEL as the [Wedding site]; CONK instead of ZONK for [Pass (out)]; and ADDS instead of SUMS for [Totals].

Favorite entry = SOAP SCUM, the [Bathroom cleaner target]. Favorite clue = [Beat at the wrists] for PULSE, with an honorable mention to [Urban, for one] for POPE

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

Our Friday regular, Ms. Du-Guay carpenter gives us a typical, solidly-made LAT Friday. The letters AGE are added consistently to the last word of four phrases creating “wacky” answers. The last one’s new “-age” word has a different pronunciation, but other than that nothing to fault. I personally found the resulting phrases a little dry, but I’ve said before that “wacky” is highly personal and I fully expect most to enjoy the puzzle…

  • 17a, SLEEPINGPILLAGE, “Somnambulist’s icebox raid?”
  • 27a, ONEMANBANDAGE, “Personalized gauze?”
  • 47a, CHICKENOUTAGE, “Big problem at KFC?”
  • 63a, MIDNIGHTMASSAGE, “After-hours spa service?”

I can’t be bothered to try and link everything together coherently, so here’s a list of other entries that caught my eye:

  • 14a, “Volkswagen brand”, AUDI. News to me. I thought it was a separate automaker. Apparently it’s been a VW brand since, oh, 1965… Ok then.
  • 25a, “Work requiring oversized shelves, briefly”, OED. That’s a novel way to clue that answer!
  • 56a, “Array in many an NBA game”, TATS. Are basketballers stereotypically tattooed? I missed that particular trope…
  • 1d, “Commercial building with a conical roof, traditionally”, OAST. Another offbeat clue.
  • 9d, “Rum concoctions”, COLADAS. This answer seems a bit (forgive me) strained without a qualifying “Piña” to me
  • 11d, “Burlesque accessory”, FEATHERBOA. Very nice entry.
  • 28d, “Graham __, co-founder of the Hollies”, NASH. With messrs. Crosby and Stills they later founded a law firm
  • 57d, “Monthly acct. update”, STMT. I don’t remember seeing this abbr. anywhere before, but I can see how it’d be handy.

That’s all I’ve got for you, I’d call it a 3 star puzzle, you?

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “13 Will Be Different” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 12/28/12 • “13 Will Be Different” • Fri • Jones • 122812

Don’t know if the title also makes reference to something else, or is merely descriptive of the theme. 121-across elucidates the mechanics: [The eight longest answers in this puzzle each have 13 unique ones] LETTERS. What the (reatively) concise clue fails to mention is that those eight longest answers also consist of thirteen letters only; they could have, for instance, been longer and repeated a few letters. But no, they are true heterograms.

  •  23a. [Pure chance] LUCK OF THE DRAW.
  • 28a. [Where Dick and Lynne Cheney met] CASPER, WYOMING. But LYNNE CHENEY makes me see CHEYENNE…
  • 45a. [Like lightsticks] GLOW-IN-THE-DARK.
  • 54a. [Manager of the Orioles] BUCK SHOWALTER. I had BU(E)RT for quite some time, before I was heedful of the theme. Inhibited my solve of the center section.
  • 84a. [Setting for the Irish Derby] COUNTY KILDARE.
  • 88a. [Harassment with a mouse] CYBERSTALKING.
  • 104a. [Supernova] EXPLODING STAR.
  • 115a. [Skeptical comment] I HAVE MY DOUBTS.

All of the theme answers are solid, in-the-language, except perhaps 104a, which seems—ironically—a bit insubstantial. Similarly, of the two longest non-theme answers, VOCAL COACH feels a bit … nothing. MR MICAWBER, on the other hand, is quite good.


  • 14d [Pay what’s owed] PONY UP. I only recently learned the origin of the phrase: “said to be from slang use of L. legem pone to mean “money” (first recorded 16c.), because this was the title of the Psalm for March 25, a Quarter Day and the first payday of the year (the Psalm’s first line is Legem pone michi domine viam iustificacionum “Teach me, O Lord, the ways of thy statutes”). This quote is from the Online Etymological Dictionary, but I picked up the information from Mark Forsyth‘s Etymologicon (which is excellent little-room reading, by the way).
  • Unliked partials: LEARN TO, A TREE, AS WE, IT TO, AT AN. Not-so-thrilling mini-phrases: NOT REAL, I CHEATED, PILED IN, COULD I.
  • NAHS, RAH, AAH, BAHS. (32a, 7d, 33d, 61a)
  • Favorite clues: [Like some buildings and jeans] LOW RISE, [Reason for buying a rug?] ALOPECIA.
  • 57d [Emulated Arachne] WOVE, 13a [Web designers] SPIDERS.
  • Sneakiest clue: 82a [Sound from pigs?] SHORT I.
  • 47d [Treasury offerings until 1980] E-BONDS. Egads, zounds!
  • 120a [Beat in a hot dog contest] OUTEAT, but I considered OUTSKI.

 Good grid, good cluing, good puzzle.

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14 Responses to Friday, 12/28/12

  1. Torbach says:

    While patting myself on the back for having made it into work today through the deserted-of-natives streets of New York, I decide to check in at the ol’ Fiend and am shocked to find that, at Noon, there are no comments. By the time I roll in most people are solving and commenting on next week’s puzzles and today’s are a distant memory so, I feel obligated to say something now! I really enjoyed the freshness of today’s NYT – congrats to Ashton. My one misstep (well, other than having put LOSING IT before GOING APE) was having briefly decided that the ever-popular SAUTE PAN was the more appropriate implement to be handled on the range than the SAUCE PAN. Thankfully – and not surprisingly, given my tortoise-solving speeds – I did decide against the crossing ATHE being some crosswordese that was unknown to me.

    Happy New Year!

  2. J. T. Williams says:

    I don’t usually rate the puzzles, but had to give this NYT 5 stars. Had a NOT TOO HOT time because I kept exclaiming WHAT A great puzzle! with splashy answer after splashy answer. Excellent!

  3. Milo Beckman says:

    Today’s NYT is my idea of a perfect themeless puzzle. Look at the longest answers:


    Not a single weak entry in the set, and no poor fill anywhere in the grid to make up for it. I’m amazed by this construction. 5 stars for sure.

  4. Meem says:

    What Milo said! Thanks Ashton (and Will).

  5. Nick says:

    “’13 will be different” means that 2013 won’t be identical to 2012 (last WSJ of the year.).

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Excellent NYT *and* LAT. I’m becoming a huge fan of Marti D – C, though I don’t know a thing about her. Today’s LAT was a typically elegant, smooth, slightly quirky, with a minimum of repetious stuff we see over and over again.

    I don’t know Double A either. Is this a debut? A great one, if so.

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone else have the experience of being temporarily frozen out of Amy’s Site (i.e. this site)? I get the ominous message “Safari can’t open this site because the first letter of the address is incorrect”). Which it isn’t — it’s the same link I always use. That goes on for up to a few hours, then eventually, all is forgiven, and I get on uneventfully.

    • Lois says:

      Well, that might have caused the delay in the comments.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, I had a weird thing the other day when I tried to load the site, and Safari (and other browsers) lopped off the “http” and left the URL beginning with “://” and not working. My husband poked it until it fixed itself. Hmm. Weird.

      • Martin says:

        Amy this site is offline (“address incorrect”) on my iphone, even though the address is correct. It works fine on my PC (same IP address). This has happened once before… however it seemed to fix itself a day or two later.


  7. Earl says:

    I’ll grant that the NYT grid was great, but the overall solving experience was just okay for me- not nearly as much trickery in the cluing as I would have liked. I’ll take an average grid with great cluing over this any day.

  8. Huda says:

    NYT: A Patrick Berry vibe on this one… and in my book, that’s the ultimate compliment.

  9. sbmanion says:

    SKI AREA BOUNDARY is an actual sign you might see. In some ski resorts, you can go into back country or into an area that is not totally safe from avalanches. My nephews have skied such areas, but I never have.

    Excellent NYT. Once again it was easy for me–that’s four in a row after a long series of harder than usual ones.

    I am not a big follower of volleyball–I watch it during the Olympics and that is about it. Setter is certainly a common term in volleyball, but I have it in the back of my mind that there is another term at least at the college or Olympic level that is given to a relatively short woman player. Am I dreaming or is there such a term?


  10. sbmanion says:

    Answering my own question, the position is LIBERO. This player never gets into the front row, which prompted me to associate it with a relatively small player:


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