Thursday, June 13, 2013

NYT 5:30 
Fireball 4:33 
AV Club untimed 
LAT 4:22 (Gareth) 
BEQ (contest puzzle, no review today) 
CS 6:05 (Dave) 

Hey! “Happy bloggiversary to me. Happy bloggiversary to me. Happy bloggiveeeeeersary, dear meee. Happy bloggiversary tooooo meeee.” June 13 marks the 8th anniversary of Diary of a Crossword Fiend. It’s been a helluva ride. Glad you are all here!

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword answers, 6 13 13, no. 0613

I have been a Mac person since the early ’90s, but have a laptop running Windows 8 for easy access to Crossword Compiler, which is still (!) Windows-only. Windows 8 on a touch screen is great for quickly getting through a menu-heavy program (such as Compiler) faster than with an endless series of mouse or touchpad clicks. However! Those weirdos at Microsoft failed to build in a way for a laptop Windows 8 user to disable that on-screen keyboard that pops up whenever it thinks I might want to enter text. It’s irritating to have the virtual keyboard obliterate a third of my screen so often, when my laptop has a keyboard right there. Pfft! I tell you.

David’s theme is WINDOWS 8, 65a. [2012 software release … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues]. There are eight (8) of those starred answers, and each one starts with a word that can precede “window:”

  • 17a. [*Some vacation travel], CAR TRIPS. Car window.
  • 41a. [*Caboose], REAR END. Rear window.
  • 29d. [*Like Linux], OPEN SOURCE. Open window.
  • 30d. [*Frozen daiquiri ingredient], CRACKED ICE. Cracked window. Is that cracked open for a little air, or with a crack in it?
  • 6d. [*What makes bread rise?], POP-UP TOASTER. I just call it … a toaster. Pop-up windows are on a computer screen.
  • 22d. [*1965 hit that ends “My baby don’t care”], TICKET TO RIDE. Ticket window. Here’s the Beatles song.
  • 11d. [*Area with the world’s highest tides], BAY OF FUNDY. Wikipedia tells me it’s rivaled by Ungava Bay, which I presume is right next to Quebec’s UNGAVA peninsula hardly any of us knew when it was in the puzzle the other day. And aren’t bay windows nice?
  • 12d. [*Bushes were once found there], OVAL OFFICE. Oval … window? Is that a thing? I thought I knew my ear anatomy, but apparently not.

Without further ado, six more clues:

  • 28a. [Tay and Fyne], LOCHS. Not Scottish lakes I’m too familiar with. Not sure I’ve ever heard of Fyne, in fact. They are across the Atlantic from the Bay of Fundy.
  • 4a. [Its logo’s letters have a stripe running through them], ESPN. Interesting clue.
  • 3d. [“Hop-o’-My-Thumb” figure], OGRE. This is one of those stories that entirely escaped my consciousness as a child.
  • 62d. [Palazzo Alfieri’s locale], ASTI. Not your usual Italian wine region clue for ASTI.
  • 46a. [English word derived from Tswana], TSETSE. Whoa. Imagine seeing the clue, [English word derived from French]. It’s really rather nonspecific, isn’t it? Maybe Gareth can tell us if English has borrowed any other words from Tswana (which is spoken in Botswana).
  • 53d. [Political commentator Paul] GIGOT. This is also a common noun, “a leg of mutton or lamb.” Not familiar with Mr. Leg of Mutton here.

I found this puzzle a bit on the tough side for a Thursday, especially given the lack of a tricky rebus or backwards gimmick. How about you?

Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Some Men Are Islands” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Well, contrary to John Donne’s premise that No Man Is An Island, constructor Tony Orbach has found four men who share their last name with that of an island:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 06/13/13

  • [“Live Free or Die Hard” actor – in the Atlantic?] clues JUSTIN LONG – no idea who the actor is, but I have heard of Long Island, home to the Hamptons and crossword editor Peter Gordon I believe.
  • [Dedicatee of a 1962 pop hit – in the San Francisco Bay?] is JOHNNY ANGEL – had to do some serious online sleuthing for this one as I had never heard of Angel Island, but I see here, it’s the largest landmass in San Francisco Bay and has a census of 57 inhabitants (as of 2000).
  • [“On The Road” protagonist – in the Atlantic?] clues SAL PARADISE – strange juxtaposition of Beat generation author Jack Kerouac with this resort island in the Bahamas.
  • [Clothing designer – in New York Harbor?] clues PERRY ELLIS – Ellis Island upon which stands the Statue of Liberty.

I really liked the literary germ of this idea, but I suppose I’d prefer either all fictional or real men instead of a mix of two and two. The fill is generally smooth as well, my FAVE being the entry FANG ([Menacing tooth]), which brought memories of old Phyllis Diller stand-up routines, where she refers to her (fictional) husband by that name. On the other hand, I’m a bit underwhelmed with WHELM, can one just be whelmed, or does it have to be the over- or under- variety?

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LA Times

The base concept is simple: the first answer of five two-word phrases begins with a place where one might play a sport. Julian Lim has strengthened his theme by adding another layer. Each phrase is clued “?” style as though it were referring to the sport in question. Two other strong points of the theme are the high density and the use of stacking to facilitate said density.

  • 17a, [Tennis player’s meal request?], COURTORDER
  • 20a, [Ping-pong player’s etiquette?], TABLEMANNERS
  • 36a, [Runner’s music choice?], TRACKRECORD. Hmm… A tad bulky to run around with a record player, so an amusing visual!
  • 53a, [Golfer’s bank advance?], COURSECREDIT
  • 58a, [Football player’s map?], FIELDGUIDE

With a central 11, your options are two very long downs or a black-square-heavy grid. The former is obviously preferrable, but not always possible. Mr. Lim managed to fit in the really fun answer TOUTDESUITE and NEVERENDING and dealt deftly with the rest of those two huge corners formed by his grid choice. Until recently, I didn’t realise the former was French, and spelled it TOOTSWEET. I even went as far as to send in a puzzle with TOOTSWEET in it! The only frowny answers were RESAND and ARENA, the latter because it overlaps with the theme. On the other hand, there’s also BARCARS, RUNARISK and AMERIND!

Other highlights for me were MIYAGI in the hemmed in middle and the clue for LAURIE back in the top-right wide-open corner. A Bit of Fry and Laurie is one of my all-time favourite shows! I’ve been trying to come up with a cunning way to link to them! Now I don’t have to! Let’s see… The Australian Soap skit is a classic!

An extra-effort theme and an expertly filled grid? Sounds like about 4.2 stars to me!—Gareth

Francis Heaney’s AV Club crossword, “Your Table Is Ready”

AV Club crossword solutionm 6 13 13 “Your Table Is Ready,” Francis Heaney

If you are a bit squeamish about the sometimes-naughty content in the American Values Club puzzles, or if you’re not attuned to the recording artists that appear there, you are missing out on Francis Heaney’s primary crossword outlet. We seldom see his puzzles in the newspaper venues, but his work ranges from quite good to superb. It is likely worth the $15 a year just to be sure you don’t miss any Heaney puzzles—and Byron Walden’s puzzle output has mainly been in the AV Club of late. Which is not to say that the rest of the AV team isn’t also worthy—but if you are an unregenerate crossword snob, you really should subscribe. Because people were already tossing around the phrase puzzle of the year yesterday in reference to this one.

Francis’s theme involves the periodic table of elements. In 15 squares (I think I found them all), the Across answer uses numbers and the Down answer uses the 1- or 2-letter symbol for the chemical element with that atomic number. 72a: AT NO is clued [What various elements of this grid become in their crossing entries: Abbr.]. I’ll give a few examples:

  • 1a: [Movie-based Broadway musical featuring Allison Janney in Lily Tomlin’s role] is 9 TO 5. Element number 9 is fluorine, or F, which is the first letter in 1d: FOAL. And element 5 is boron, B, in 4d: BASED.
  • 6d is LIM{Es}OR{Be}T. Es is einsteinium, element #99, which gives us “99 PROBLEMS” at 22a. And Be is beryllium, #4, part of the number-packed Chicago song “25 OR 6 TO 4.” The song in turn intersects with manganese #25, the Mn in O{Mn}IS, and carbon #6, the C in {C}C’D.
  • 44a is the Beatles tune WHEN I’M 64. Element #64 is gadolinium, the Gd in MA{Gd}A.
I did have to look up a few elements to get the puzzle nailed down. I was blanking on what musical could occupy FTOB and figured it out when I saw that F was 9. And I was stuck at 51d: [Gargamel’s cat]. I think that might be a Smurfs reference, and I knew the crossing was 54 40 OR FIGHT but didn’t know what element ws #40. Zirconium, Zr, the cat is A{Zr}AEL. Wha…? Okay.

Insanely clever trick, no? And executed perfectly. The only fill I wasn’t pleased with was AZRAEL, but the rest of the fill is excellent (although OONA Chaplin of Game of Thrones will, uh, not be on the show next season), and the clues are flawless too.

Five stars. Such a cool concept with a high level of difficulty on the construction front, and Francis stuck the landing.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 63”

Fireball crossword solution, 6 13 13 “Themeless 63”

Ooh, next week is another Fireball contest puzzle, by Dave Sullivan. I hope I can figure out the meta. Dave almost always figures out Matt Gaffney’s metas, even the hard ones at the end of the month, so I just hope his Fireball meta is accessible to the likes of me.

Peter’s themeless this week contains a wealth of juicy fill. I didn’t know SQUADOOSH, but it is certainly a fun word (it means “nothing,” along the lines of “squat”). Look at the 8×4 corners, and the 5×6 corners. Super-duper smooth FRIJOLES, LEGALESE, ANECDOTE, and PORKPIES make up the loveliest corner. BELL LABS with its three L’s, UNTIL NOW, SLOVENIA (clued [“Zdravljica” is its national anthem]), and TYNE DALY, also quite good.

Elsewhere in the puzzle, we have three more full names—KANYE WEST (or Yeezus, as we apparently are to refer to him now) and JACK BLACK, both Scrabbly, and ED ASNER. Plus a MOOD RING and MANKINIS. Note: Mankini and manikin are anagrams.

4.5 stars. I might’ve liked the cluing to be a bit harder, but that’s my only complaint—that I  didn’t spend more time with this puzzle.

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74 Responses to Thursday, June 13, 2013

  1. KarmaSartre says:

    Congrats Amy. You are appreciated more than you know . . .

  2. Howard B says:

    Congrats!!!!!!!! (That’s 8 punctuation marks). In celebration of this occasion, we have a NY Times puzzle containing an 8 for you.

    I recorded a big, juicy Did Not Finish on this one. See that 3×3 top-left corner? It contained too many ‘?’ clues, —TRIPS (what kind of trip can that be with the vague clue?), and one movie I did not see nor hear of, providing no entry into that little section to break into and complete the puzzle.
    Ah well. Tomorrow is another grid.

  3. RK says:

    Happy Anniversary!!!

    Didn’t see the theme in the few I looked at it. Thought it would revolve around 8 or the software.

  4. Jim Horne says:

    It’s impossible for me to be objective about this puzzle, of course. Windows 8 was created by me and a few of my friends. Well, to tell the truth, also a whole bunch of people I don’t even know. Our team is getting rather large by now.

    Anyway, thanks David. Crosswords are lousy with iReferences to products from that Cupertino fruit company so it’s nice to see something from Redmond for a change.

    Windows 8.1 comes out in a few months. (Free upgrade, Amy!) I’m very excited about that but I do realize it would be more of a challenge for constructors.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Congrats Amy. You’ve made yourself indispensable to many people, something that not many achieve. We should all be more appreciative.

  6. Brucenm says:

    There’s an error in Ben T’s “Full Titles” puzzle. The clue for 1a should have read {Yank making $ 30 million for sitting on the DL, taking drugs and hitting on female fans in the front row}.

  7. Evad says:

    Re today’s Fireball, I had never heard of the Italian-American term SQUADOOSH before today. I found this usage on the Urban Dictionary:

    Tony Big Knuckles was supposed to stop by the house with some canoles and lobster tails. But instead, all he brought was squadoosh, so I put him in the closet.

    I suppose it’s a good thing that I’ve never heard this term.

  8. Sarah says:

    Absolutely love the CS title and theme.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Many happy returns on the Bloggiversary! We’re all grateful, and wish you extraordinary longevity.
    I too liked Some Men are Islands: fun to learn about that Angel Island….

  10. Gareth says:

    Happy blog-iversary!!! Thanks for all the edification!!!

    Standard theme concept but a wonderful revealer and impressively clean grid and theme arrangement!

    There aren’t too many words from Tswana, which probably has more speakers in South Africa than Botswana… Tsamma melons, the tsessebe antelope (which needs to be in more crosswords!), tilapia, there may be a few more. Remember, they weren’t the first people in the region that English people came across, so they already had names for most things before meeting them.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks for the good wishes and the lowdown on tilapia. Tilapia! Who knew? Thanks, too, for being part of the Crossword Fiend blogging team.

  11. Jeffrey K says:

    8 years, over 13,000 puzzles reviewed!

    Thank you Amy, for letting me be part of this awesome community you have created.

  12. sbmanion says:

    Congratulations, Amy. Wonderful, extremely well-written and informative.

    And speaking of informative, I may have hit a new low today. I solved the puzzle pretty quickly as I got lucky in the NW corner, which was tough, but when I inserted Windows 8 (I bought a desktop recently for my son that has Windows 8), I thought the gimmick revolved around 8 rather than Window. I kept thinking that “eight car trips” is not idiomatic.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, Steve! I was stuck on 8 too.

      I have always appreciated your input here on sports, Buffalo, and standardized testing.

  13. Martin says:

    Congrats to Amy, David and JimH on all the 8’s.

    When I saw the Windows 8 graphic on the xwordinfo page for today’s puzzle I figured Jim put David up to this puzzle. How did he let that OPEN SOURCE thorn slip by? My only FruitCo. product is a Mac mini that runs some water pumps; I have Linux (Ubuntu) running on it so it’s not really a Mac. I hope Jim will forgive me.

  14. Jackie says:

    The AV Club puzzle is some kind of remarkable.

    It’s a contest – are we allowed to talk about it yet?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ben is cautiously OK with it. This puzzle is simply too incredible to hold off on, if you ask me.

    • Martin says:

      This great one from Francis Heaney reminded me of some of the Charles Deber puzzles that are among my all-time favorites. With updated fill and clues, of course.

      It’s clearly a POTY candidate.

    • Brucenm says:

      Even I thought it was an amazing puzzle, even though it contained so many of what I consider junk entries that set my teeth on edge (whatever that means). But an incredible idea, brilliantly achieved.

    • Evad says:

      My last entry was “25 or 6 to 4,” which translates to “Mn OR C TO Be.”

      Man, that was an incredible concept and execution. Congrats to Francis and Ben.

      And thanks too to Amy for providing such a warm welcome to us word geeks over the years…if anyone would like to experience some nostalgia, take a look at this, appropriately entitled “Great Expectations.”

    • Howard B says:

      Francis – This had all the elements of a great puzzle. Yes, there’s some nasty crosses and tough theme answers, but we were warned about the difficulty level. Other than perhaps knowing some Smurf trivia and classic-ish rock with unusual titles, there isn’t much in there that anyone should gripe about, other than our own knowledge gaps.
      PS – I’ve now had that song in my head since solving. Waiting for the break of dayayay….

      Amy, Evad, and all of Team Fiend – Thank you again for your time, effort and contributions to our little community. It’s all been appreciated.

  15. JohnV says:

    Congrats, Amy! Times puz easy here. Go figure. ARCtangent was obvious: Must. Get. A. Life.

  16. Martin says:

    Ditto on the anniversary congrats, Amy :)

    The NYT theme is an apt coincidence, eh?


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, Martin A-S! I like to think that Will Shortz took note of the blog anniversary and commissioned David to make a really cool puzzle with an 8 theme in honor of me. ;-)

  17. Byron says:

    Congrats on a great eight years. A mighty fine day of puzzles today to mark the occasion, too.

  18. pauer says:

    Congrats, Amy … and how nice of David & Will to write and publish a puzzle commemorating the event!

    The first 8 have been a blast–here’s to 80 more!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ack! No, not 80! I would like to retire from the blog well before I turn 126. Probably by age 100.

      (Thanks, PB!)

  19. Jeff Chen says:

    Congrats Amy! Here’s to eight more.

  20. Animalheart says:

    Happy anniversary, Amy!

    Can someone explain why ZEE is 90 degrees from N? I’m probably being dense, but thanks in advance.

  21. Andy says:

    My only regret about the last 8 years of Amy’s blog is that I wasn’t following for all of them. Happy blog-o-versary!

  22. sbmanion says:

    Physically rotate the N.

  23. Matt Gaffney says:

    Remember the April Fool’s Joke you pulled on the 5th anniversary, when you said you were shuttering the site? That wasn’t funny!!

  24. animalheart says:

    Yeah, I was being dense. Thanks, all.

  25. Thanks for the great write-up, Amy—and congratulations on 8 years of excellent puzzle reviews! I literally don’t remember much about life before your blog—coincidentally, I was 8 years old at that time. I’m glad this puzzle came out today (and that Windows 8.1 hasn’t been released yet!)!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thank you for your good wishes, David! Also, get off my lawn, kid!

      It’s so much more rewarding to write about great puzzles than mediocre or lousy ones, so keep bringing us good ones.

  26. John from Chicago says:

    I’m glad I dropped by today so I can wish Amy a Happy 8th! Eight years doing this is quite a commitment and an impressivre achievement. And I agree with Amy that the NYC was on the tough side for Thursday (though I often have more trouble with Thursday than I think I should).

  27. John E says:

    Hey Amy, congrats on the achievement and for all your hard work in putting this together daily. I always find your reviews to be entertaining and thought-provoking, and there’s always good banter in the responses.

    Thanks also to your blogging staff who also do a fantastic job (evad, Gareth, pannonica, Joon – I know I am forgetting someone). I don’t know who all has been there for the entire 8 year ride, but they are here now which is the key.

    Re: today’s NYT, for all the times IPOD or IMAC have found their way into puzzles, I suppose it’s only fair that Windows gets the same treatment. I really thought the northeast corner was top-notch construction – very challenging without a lot of junk (I’m willing to ignore OLE and OJO).

    • Jeffrey K says:

      There have been 27 bloggers besides Amy who have blogged here at least once.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, John E—and I enthusiastically second your thanks to the entire Fiend blogging team. I couldn’t keep the site going without them, and I love the variety of perspectives and backgrounds they bring to us.

  28. Brucenm says:

    My only problem finishing the puzzle was that I didn’t have the foggiest idea what number came after ‘windows’, and frankly I can’t think of anything that I care less about. But I assumed, therefore, that I couldn’t figure out the theme, and didn’t bother trying. But, anticlimactically, it turns out that the number didn’t even matter. So while I didn’t think the puzzle was awful, it was kind of a shrug. Nor do I have any idea what “Hop-o-my-thumb” is, but I figured he or it might have or be an ogre.

    As a great Asimov fan, I thought the ‘I Robot’ movie was much better than the critical reception it received, and thought it delved surprisingly effectively into fairly deep issues involving short-term harm weighed against projected long-term benefits, to explain how a robot could appear to violate the first law so blatantly.

  29. Huda says:

    I tried to send a message earlier but it disappeared in the flaky Internet system here. But I’m glad I’m overseas so I can say with certainty that your fame reverberates around the globe.
    You have so much to celebrate! Especially the selflessness and wonderful team spirit you have created in Fiendlandia. Fantastic!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thank you, Huda! I’m so glad you finally joined us here a year or two ago. I always appreciate your insights.

      Also, I was wondering if you and Noam could tell me if Ehud Barak’s Hebraic last name and Barack Obama’s Arabic first name are essentially the same name, or if they’re just coincidentally similar.

      • Lois says:

        They seem to be only coincidentally similar (just checking it out briefly). Barack Obama’s given name is related to the word and name “Baruch” in Hebrew, meaning “blessed,” similar to the name Benedict. It is most commonly a given name. Ehud Barak’s last name is a hebraization of his European name Broga, and apparently only sounds like Broga and has no related meaning. “Barak” in Hebrew means “lightning.”

        • Lois says:

          The “k” in Barak, as in Ehud Barak, is a different, unrelated letter in Hebrew from the (one) letter represented by “ch” in the name and word “Baruch” that is cognate to “Barack” as in Obama’s first name.

          Belated congratulations to you, Amy, for your wonderful blog and web page (with the other excellent bloggers).

  30. pannonica says:


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, p—and thanks for liberating my Sunday nights and Friday mornings via your blogging. Much appreciated!

  31. joon says:

    congrats to amy on the bloggiversary, and congrats to francis for an incredible puzzle. i had to do two table lookups: never heard of that chicago song and thought Mn might be 24, and i had never heard of this particular MAGDA, and i had really no idea about element 64. (tried MAYA even though i was pretty sure yttrium was lower on the table. or, i guess, higher, depending on how you look at it.)

    jim, if you want MS products to appear in puzzles more often, you should have a word with the marketing department. XBOX has been making inroads, and it’s a great little entry, but nowhere near as vowelicious as IMAC/IPOD/IPAD.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, Joon—and thanks for assiduously blogging the MGWCC week after week for five years! I would be hard pressed to blog all the week 4 and 5 metas I can’t figure out.

  32. Jeffrey K says:

    So who has David Steinberg in the pool for most New York Times crosswords in 2013? This is his 7th, leading the pack so far.

  33. Joan macon says:

    Amy, may I represent all of us who just do crossword puzzles and never try to create them and tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and all the comments from people who are far more intellectual than I? But I do think they don’t appreciate you any more than I do!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Many thanks, Joan! The commenters here are indeed ridiculously erudite on the whole.

  34. Dan F says:

    Belated congrats, and thanks, and what a great set of puzzles to commemorate the occasion!

  35. bonekrusher says:

    thanks for your wonderful blog, Amy!

Comments are closed.