Thursday, August 22, 2013

AV Club 8:55 
NYT 4:50 
LAT 4:30 (Gareth) 
BEQ 5:59 (Matt) 
CS 5:41 (Dave) 

Attention, tough puzzle fans! If you are not subscribing to the AV Club puzzles but you love challenging crosswords, spend a buck to get Tyler Hinman’s puzzle this week before you read my review below and encounter spoilers. It’s a nifty crossword.

Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 8 22 13, no. 0822

14-Down aptly describes today’s theme: a {CALL}BOX can be a [Roadside fixture], and CALL is rebused into single boxes in this puzzle.

  • 1a. [Stop threatening], {CALL} THE DOGS OFF.
  • 12a. [“How to Marry a Millionaire” actress], BA{CALL}.
  • 38a. [Audition rebuff], “DON’T {CALL} US, WE’LL {CALL} YOU.”
  • 66a. [Singer known as La Divina], {CALL}AS.
  • 67a. [Extremely tight], TOO CLOSE TO {CALL}.
  • 1d. [Homer’s Muse], {CALL}IOPE.
  • 28d. [Reminisce about], RE{CALL}.
  • 22d. [Rogue], RAPS{CALL}ION.
  • 55d. [Class starter], ROLL {CALL}.
  • 56d. [Sound of derision], CAT{CALL}.

Really a lovely batch of rebus entries here. Some of the fill is terrific, too—I HAVE NO IDEA, ST. PAULI GIRL, SPÄTLESE (24d. [German wine made from fully ripe grapes], num). And some of the fill is not—APSOS, N. CAR., FES (10d. [Moroccan city known as the Athens of Africa]), APHIS (13d. [Black fly, e.g.]), TOR, URIS (39d. [“O’Hara’s Choice” novelist]?? Not the usual URIS clue novel), UTO. Not to mention the mystifying MONGST and the contrived HAD A/C. Never heard of  54d. [Ruben ___, Phillies Gold Glove-winning shortstop], AMARO, either.

My only complaint about 3d. [Two-time Olympic running gold medalist ___ Gebrselassie], HAILE, is that the last name was in the clue rather than the grid. My husband is a huge distance running fan (and a good runner too) and I can also spell Meb Keflezighi and Khalid Khannouchi.

Lots of foreign vocabulary in the puzzle:

  • French: 21a. [___ de Guerre (French military award)], CROIX; 56a. [Pooch, in Paris], CHIEN; 5d. [Place ___ Concorde], DE LA. 
  • Italian: 59a. [“Ti ___” (Italian lover’s declaration)], AMO; 64a. [Number of colori on the Italian flag], TRE; 48d. [Verdi opera], OTELLO.
  • German: 24d. [German wine made from fully ripe grapes], SPATLESE.
  • Spanish: 49d. [Hoy día], AHORA.

Cue the complainers who point out that they’re looking for a crossword with English words in it, not a language quiz.

Despite the muck in the fill, I liked the rebus theme itself. So a cautious 4 stars from me.

Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Get Down!”

AV Club crossword solution, 8 22 13, “Get Down!” by Tyler Hinman

Tough one from Team AV Club this week—Tyler creatively interprets the club music phrase DROP THE BASS (59a. [Get a club track going, and what to do elsewhere in this puzzle]) by dropping the letter sequence BASS from each theme answer, leaving blanks that allow the Down crossings to work out right.

  • 17a. [Dog whose name comes from the French for “low”], BASSET HOUND. Or _ _ _ _ ET HOUND, if you prefer.
  • 23a. [Sample-handler, at times], LAB ASSISTANT.
  • 37a. [Shit-for-brains], DUMBASS.
  • 50a. [Obama nominee with a host country], AMBASSADOR.

If you leave the BASSi in place, you end up with nonsense like GUSM, SODBORS, and TVB in your grid. You don’t want that. Take out each BASS and you discover a 2-letter answer near the middle, UH with two blanks.

Tyler drops a DIME A DOZEN and a Columbus hockey BLUEJACKET in the grid for color, too.

I like a good MEME but didn’t know either of the memes in Tyler’s clue, 42d. [Bad Luck Brian or Scumbag Steve]. Google-image-searched ’em, don’t care for either one. I rely on my kid to relay all the worthwhile memes and he hasn’t shown me these ones.

4.5 stars from me. Fun to have a crossword puzzle that tells you not to fill in all the squares, eh?

Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times

Nice tight letter-change theme from Jeff Stillman today! Four answers change from “amp” to “ump.” Of the four, I only found POSTAGESTUMP to be a tad forced. The last two were my favourite: the complete reversal in meaning of CHAMP to CHUMP is neat; the last answer is a fitting crescendo, even if it conjures up the horrible image of Donald Trump! Here is the list of theme answers for completeness’ sake:


  • 17a, [Glowing sugar cube?], FLUORESCENTLUMP
  • 26a, [Campaign to raise mailing fees?], POSTAGESTUMP
  • 44a, [Easy strikeout victim?], BATTINGCHUMP
  • 57a, [Wedding song for Ivana or Marla?], THELADYISATRUMP

 We have another conservatively filled grid today; the puzzle’s rather short on colourful phrases, but there are a few nice longer words ,like BOTANY, BALLET, HUMERI and NAUSEA. On the other hand, this puzzle doesn’t fill itself contrived answers and other crosssword crutches and that alone goes a long towards a happy solve! The worst bits were the two partials APIE and TOA (I think I dislike partials more than most solvers though, so I’m trying not to let my own bias get in the way here), and the awkard word forms of TUNINGS, PHIS, RPMS and EYER. ATILT and ERST aren’t the greatest either.

The strangest clueing angle of the day was [Eighth-century pope] for PAULI. I’d have thought physicist Wolfgang was a few orders of magnitude more well-known myself! I also didn’t know [Jude Law’s “Cold Mountain” role] INMAN, although I do Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal. Probably more people know the former INMAN though, just not me! Lastly, is it true that FANTA is nowhere near as ubiquitous in the States as it is here in South Africa, where, after Coke itself it’s the most common fizzy drink and found in every supermarket fizzy drink fridge? Apparently its Pepsico equivalent Mirinda is even scarcer?

Funny theme answers! 3.5 stars


Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “There’s No Comparison” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Pretty simple theme idea today, removing “AS A” from well-known expressions that epitomize an emotion or quality:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post solution – 08/22/13

  • [Evidence of a dried-up printer cartridge?] clues WHITE SHEET – I first thought the base phrase was “white as a ghost,” funny how a sheet is a typical Halloween costume to represent a ghost.
  • [Gathering of quilters with a looming deadline?] was BUSY BEE – I’m hoping this doesn’t happen frequently; quilting bees should be fun and not stressful.
  • [Computer accessory designed for a library?] is a QUIET MOUSE – I’ve never owned a computer mouse that made even a squeak, so this seems superfluous to me.
  • [Successful spree for a shopaholic?] clues HAPPY LARK – again I went the “clam” route here first. Are larks typically happier than clams? Discuss.
  • [Snazzily dressed political big shot?] is a SMART WHIP – given the state of Congress these days, we could use a smart whip or two to get something done!

Two other phrases seemed to want to be part of the theme–HOT DISH and WET MOPS, but they weren’t clued with question marks, so I guess not. A couple of “props” found their way into clues–[Driver’s prop] was a TEE and [Popeye’s prop] was a PIPE. I suppose even SCAPEL could’ve been clued as [Surgeon’s prop] instead of tool. RISQUÉ for [Somewhat off-color] was my FAVE and E-MAG, which I have yet to run across outside of crosswords was my UNFAVE.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “With a Twist” — Matt’s review

Nice add-a-four-letter-word theme from BEQ today. It’s Brendan, so you’d expect that four-letter word to have something to do with Sex, Drugs or Rock ‘n’ Roll, and this one has to do with the second (alcohol). Our constructor adds a LIME twist to four entries with the following results:

20-a [Magnificent version of “My Way”?] = SUBLIME STANDARD. From “substandard.”

26-a [Crafty five-line verse?] = SLICK LIMERICK. From “Slick Rick.” Is that Rick James? I’ll check. No, it’s this guy.

44-a [Dead giveaway that somebody’s been eating cheap fast food hamburgers?] = PINK SLIME LIPS. Gross. From “pink slips.”

53-a [“I say, old chap, I’ve sold my last copy of that newsweekly”?] = TIME’S GONE, BLIMEY. From “Times gone by.”

Nice set. Quality fill includes: LAB MICE, EVEN IF, ALABAMA, KLEPTO, PAWNEE and INVESTMENT. He made up GRAB A SPOON, though it still has a goofy charm when clued as [“Ice cream is served!”].

Three favorite clues:

16-a [Inability to appreciate R.E.M.?] = APNEA. Was thinking music all the way up until A?NEA.

35-a [War winner] = ACE. As in the enthralling card game of War.

1-d [Short game?] = CHESS. That’s Nigel Short, England’s greatest player of all time. When Nigel won the right to challenge Kasparov for the world title in 1993, Kasparov quipped: “My opponent will be Short and the match will be short.” Garry backed that big talk up by trouncing Nigel 6-1.

4.20 stars.

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20 Responses to Thursday, August 22, 2013

  1. Plot says:

    Just wanted to point out a small error is in the clue for 13D. A black fly is an actual fly; a couple African species are notorious for causing river blindness. A blackfly is an alternate name for an aphid. It’s very nitpicky, but the space does make a difference. Common names are not monitored as strictly as the scientific names, but English-speaking entomologists have come to the consensus that you put a space between ‘fly’ and the adjective if it’s a true fly. If it’s not, you always omit the space (e.g. butterfly, dragonfly)

    The error didn’t bother me at all, but the entomology professor who taught me this rule will be solving the puzzle in the future, so now I can direct him to this comment and prove that I’ve actually learned something :)

    • pannonica says:

      It bothered me too during the solve, but I couldn’t put finger on exactly why. Or I didn’t make the effort to think about it strongly enough.

  2. Art Shapiro says:

    That wine was a new one to me.

    Ruben Amaro was a typical 60’s Phillies’ infielder – great fielding ability and absolutely dismal batting average. His son is now the Phillies’ GM, and is widely considered to be responsible for the recent downfall of a previously championship-caliber team.


    • Bencoe says:

      Spatlese is a type of riesling, which I had entered first into the grid. Riesling is categorized based on how high on the hills the grapes are grown in the Mosel/Rhine valleys…the basic Kwaliteitswein is at the bottom, working up to the Eiswein at the very top. Spatlese and Kabinett are both good value wines when properly produced, which most Mosel rieslings are.
      Also St Pauli Girl…this constructor likes their German booze.

    • Zulema says:

      Too bad that he scapegoated Charlie Manuel and dismissed him in such a shameful way, instead of taking the blame himself. Ownership shares the blame as well.

      I have never encountered the spelling FES for the Moroccan city before.

  3. Gareth says:

    DNF in two corners today: didn’t know SPATLESE, CHIEN, AHORA; DEPAUL, STPAULIGIRL, AMARO. Shrug. “Cue the complainers who point out that they’re looking for a crossword with English words in it, not a language quiz.” I’m pretty close to doing this considering I had rare (for me) DNF partly because of three intersecting foreign words… de trop?

    Does nobody think ORIOLESNEST is a red truck answer? I mean it can be (almost any) bird’s nest…

    • Pete says:

      Oriole’s nests are essentially bags suspended from a branch, so not really a red truck.

      • Gareth says:

        I think you misunderstood. I’m referring to the fact that ORIOLESNEST, as an answer, is somewhat arbitrary, as most birds make nests and so it opens the door for BOBOLINKSNEST, WHIPPOORWILLSNEST, ANISNEST (handy that one!), THRUSHESNEST and so on.

        • Pete says:

          But Oriole’s nests aren’t arbitrary, they’re architecturally iconic (at least in my back yard). The “suspended” in the clue gave it the necessary specificity. Along these lines, I’d accept BROWNTRUCK as an answer for “where many packages come from”, the brown truck being iconic for UPS.

          Since my argument boils down to BROWNTRUCK isn’t a red truck, I win by tautology.

        • Gary R says:


          I think Pete’s point is that an oriole’s nest is quite different from most birds’ nests, in that it hangs down from a branch, like a sack, rather than sitting on top of a branch or in the crotch of a tree. The use of the word “suspended” in the clue makes the answer less than arbitrary. (I wanted “hornets’ nest” until I realized that “avian” was pointing me to a bird.)

          [Oops – Pete beat me to the punch.]

  4. Tim Harrod says:

    The Across Lite file of the AV Club puzzle doesn’t notify you that you’ve got it right unless you’ve replaced “BASS” with Xs in all the spaces. Having just typed “BASS,” mentally dropping the word while reading the down answers, I had to scan and re-scan the grid for a few minutes to make sure I had everything right. Thoroughly entertaining puzzle, though- homing in on the solution was quite the odyssey!

  5. Brucenm says:

    James VI of Scotland was, of course, better known as James I, King of England (actually the Unified nation of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.) But he was previously “King of Scotland” after the (involuntary) abdication of his mother, Mary. In fact, as I recall, he became titular King as an infant. I would have preferred that clue {King of Scotland} to {Scottish King}, but as an ancestral Scot, (substantially), I can hardly object to the actual clue.

  6. Evad says:

    Excellent workout, Tyler! That one had me scratching my head like a DUM—- for a long time!

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Please, someone — light a fire under the LAT people to get that site up to date for Mac users? I know I’ve been missing good stuff since last Sunday, except when Gareth kindly emailed me one. Help!

    • Papa John says:

      I contacted Kevin at C-List. He’s a busy man but he got right on it the last time this happened. Maybe he’ll make it all better, this time, so it won’t keep occurring.

  8. Huda says:

    Very mixed feelings about the NYT– excellent theme and theme execution. Some cool entries, but some of the fill felt like it needed reworking, even when not constrained by the theme. But I’m not a constructor. I just know that I got stuck in a way that’s rare on Thursdays.
    I liked learning about the German wines! Thanks Bencoe

    Fes? I thought it was Fez… I see it’s an acceptable variant.

  9. Joan says:

    Where can I get the LAT daily puzzles? Thanks in advance.

  10. sbmanion says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle, but the very first entry is something up with which I will not put. Isn’t “call off the dogs” the more common usage of this expression? I suspect that both are acceptable, but have only heard “call off” in my experience.


  11. Jeff says:

    In re: to NYT puzzle, anyone else bothered by 27A [Kind of jet] PROP … kind of airplane? yes. kind of jet? no.

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