Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NYT 3:53 
LAT 3:23 (Gareth) 
Tausig untimed 
CS 6:05 (Dave) 

sample “No Holds Barred” grid

Two announcements: First, after day 2, Crossword Fiend team member Andy Kravis is in 2nd place on the Winners’ Row on NBC’s Million Second Quiz. Whoo-hoo! Go, Andy!

Second, Jonesin’ puzzlemaker Matt Jones has just launched a new Kickstarter project, “No Holds Barred Crosswords.” For as little as $5, you can get 25 freestyle/themeless crosswords in a new format—with cryptic-style bars between entries rather than black squares. So every single square has a letter in it. The sample grid at right has four 15s framing a central zone in which triple-stacked 9s intersect. Pretty.

Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 13, no. 0911

So we march from WARM to COLD in a word ladder at the ends of the theme answers:

  • 16a. [Endothermic], WARM-BLOODED.
  • 23a. [Birth place], MATERNITY WARD.
  • 37a. [Life-size likeness of Elvis, maybe], CARDBOARD CUTOUT. Great entry.
  • 47a. [A fan might need one], EXTENSION CORD.
  • 58a. [Unaffected by emotion], COLD-HEARTED.

It would have been niftier to go from HOT-BLOODED to COLD-HEARTED, but HOT and COLD don’t lend themselves to the word ladder game since they have different letter counts.

I wonder what’s the longest letter count for a workable word ladder. I usually see 4. Can a word ladder be made from 6-letter words?

I don’t mind finding FORT MYERS, Florida, in the grid, but the clue seemed weird. 3d. [Popular retirement spot]? If you asked me to name five Florida cities that were retirement destinations, I wouldn’t have Fort Myers, population 63,000, on my list. And there are all the people who’ve retired to Arizona and the Vegas area. The median age is 32, compared to a median age of 51 in the Florida town where my in-laws retired to. Do the demographics lie, people?

Five more things:

  • 34d. [Splits the tab], GOES DUTCH. Great entry, that. No insult implied to the Dutch.
  • 18a. [Mike and ___ (candy)], IKE. Ooh! I need to borrow this IKE clue. It’s more fun than Ike Turner, more modern than Eisenhower, and more familiar than other semi-famous people named Ike.
  • 20a. [Humorist Frazier frequently found in The New Yorker], IAN. Just read his latest Shouts & Murmurs piece. I’m wondering how on earth the man can still be writing about interacting with a 4-year-old. His wife’s Wikipedia page says they live with their two children, and she’s 59, so … I’m thinking the kids are grown and not fussing about walking around the mall with Dada.
  • 28a. [“___ Place”], PEYTON. Wondering how familiar this is to solvers under 50, and whether solvers over 50 are actually more likely to know Peyton Manning. Also, it wouldn’t have been hard to change the entry to Bears legend Walter PAYTON. Just sayin’.
  • 44a. [Resident of Riga], LETT. Really? Crossing LEM and near ORT? Wasn’t expecting to see any of these entries in a Blindauer puzzle. Five long theme answers remove a grid’s flexibility—and I’m betting this puzzle has been in the Shortz pipeline for years, because Patrick really does set high standards for himself.

3.5 stars.

David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

The theme today is FORD cars. Unusually, three of the four models in the theme are or have been available here; I say that because, in general, the models of car available in South Africa and the United States are mutually exclusive. I have long mourned the fact that I can’t use the Ford Ikon, the Hyundai Atos, the Chery QQ or the Renault Clio for instance. Sorry, back to the puzzle. It’s a bit of flat concept, in my opinion, as you could do the same for pretty much any marque.

As with most themes of this nature though, if you use the theme as a means to include interesting long answers, you’re most of the way there. Today, I really liked FUSIONCUISINE, a fairly hip answer. FOCUSGROUP is also a modern phrase, and FIESTABOWL is just fine. However, the first answer, FLEXSCHEDULES, doesn’t ring a bell to me, and doesn’t google all that well either. I’m more familiar with the word FLEXITIME; I’m not going to act as judge, jury and executioner on the phrase though, feel free to leave your own input in the comments below.

I really liked the four longest downs today. LHASAAPSO looks goofy in the grid with its opposing A’s. CUNEIFORM is a fun bit of ancient history to include. We also get FINICKY and SCRUBUP.

VEH was the big clunker in the grid, although whether it being semi-thematic helps or hinders its cause I’m not sure. It’s in an area that’s deceptively tricky to fill. It’s walled off from the rest of the crossword, with only a single-entry point, BUT it also has FORD running across the bottom of the grid.

3.25 Stars. Not my favourite theme, but plenty of interesting answers kept my interest. I’ll be leaving you with a song. I was very much pop-music obsessed as a pre-schooler in the early nineties. Strange, but true. So I recall MARC Cohn’s brief period of fame well, especially this song that went all the way to number 121 in the US charts! There was a music video, but I cannot seem to find it…

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Boxing Day” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Reading the title, I first thought we might have a rebus puzzle on our hands, with days of the weeks “boxed” into one square, but instead we have 3 definitions of the word [Punch]:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 09/11/13

  • FRUITY BEVERAGE – yes, and perhaps spiked with alcohol if you’re at a high school prom.
  • TOOL FOR PIERCING – my mother used a punching tool when she did leatherwork as I was growing up. She made mainly handbags as I recall. Does the crossword-friendly awl perform the same function?
  • JUDY’S COMPANION – we’re not talking Garland or even Judge Judy here, but the Punch and Judy puppet show.

I thought the theme ok, but as yesterday, the fill was the real star in this offering. How can you not like a puzzle that offers RAPUNZEL, HOLY TERROR, GUINEA PIGS and DOG RUN? I’m a bit confused over the clue [Young bucks] for FAWNS. I’m thinking bucks are male deer and fawns are female, but maybe it’s another animal we’re talking about here?

Ben Tausig’s Chicago Reader/Ink Well crossword, “Gay Rights”

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 9 11 13 “Gay Rights”

In the theme entries, the word OUT shifts one word unit to the right:

  • 17a. [Drug paraphernalia for those who aren’t sure they want to go through with it?], BACK-OUT BOWL. The Outback Bowl is one of those branded college football bowl games, right? And in drug paraphernalia, I confess I am not actually sure I know what “smoke a bowl” means. The bowl of a pipe, or an entirely different thing? Surely one of you reprobates knows.
  • 26a. [Spools of sushi?], TAKE-OUT REELS. Outtake reels are film reels of clips that aren’t suitable for the finished product. I don’t know that sushi rolls really qualify as reels, though. Is there any Swiss roll or roulade action there, or just concentric rings of rice and seaweed?
  • 45a. [Unspectacular, unsuccessful batted ball?], BASIC LINE OUT. Basic outline.
  • 60a. [Criminal accomplice with a healthy complexion?], ROSY LOOKOUT. Rosy outlook. In point of fact, a number of abettors with pink cheeks actually have rosacea.

Let’s look at five other things:

  • 21a. [Amalfi Coast city], SALERNO. Remember Salerno Butter Cookies, the ring-shaped ones you could wear on your fingers?
  • 43a. [Half-asses], PHONES IN. “Phone it in” is so much more familiar to me than the “mail it in” that was recently in the NYT crossword.
  • 56a. [Attach to eat, like a newborn], LATCH ON. Or an older baby, if still nursing.
  • 3d. [Catholic official], VICAR. This didn’t feel at all sensible to me, but it Googles very well. For example, one name for the pope is Vicar of Christ. Can’t get more Catholic than the pope.
  • 12d. [Spork, alternately], FOON. That’s a new one on me, but it’s quite inferrable.


New name: 47d. [Weather Channel meteorologist Maria] LAROSA. A new alternative to old singer Julius La Rosa!

Four stars.

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13 Responses to Wednesday, September 11, 2013

  1. Alex says:

    Here’s a fascinating, if nerdy, blog post about word ladders showing that there are, in fact, some seriously long word ladders with six and even seven-letter words.

  2. Bencoe says:

    I lived in the Netherlands for 5 years and can assure you that the Dutch do indeed “go Dutch” at meals. They’re also terrible tippers. Usually they just round up to the nearest Euro, leaving only change. To be fair, their servers have a much better base wage than ours, but the lack of tips can make for truly slow and bad service.

    • Gareth says:

      It had nothing to do with the second-hand dagga smoke then?

      • Bencoe says:

        Nope! Actually the Dutch for the most part look down on “dagga” smoking. It’s something tourists and Moroccan immigrants do, to them. The Dutch just see no reason not to let other people have their fun, while taking their money.

  3. Gareth says:

    It was a slightly boring word ladder for me. I did like the somewhat fresh-feeling take of placing the words in long answers: plus MATERNITYWARD and CARDBOARDCUTOUT are great entries!

    I recently watched Michael Caine play Dr. Larch in “The Cider House Rules”, haven’t yet read the book though. Yes, I am a bit slow to watch films. Thumbs up for that extra-effort clue! Also really liked [Rack-it game]. Had slight personal disappointment when [Magic, e.g., once] didn’t refer to the card game I played as a tween.


    GO ANDY!!!!

  4. HH says:

    ” I’m a bit confused over the clue [Young bucks] for FAWNS. I’m thinking bucks are male deer and fawns are female, but maybe it’s another animal we’re talking about here?”

    Does are female, fawns are young of either sex (e.g. Bambi).

  5. Rob says:

    1A in today’s NYT can’t have been a coincidence, no?

  6. Tracy B. says:

    Re the LAT: Where I work, we do have flex time and flex schedules.

  7. Ginna says:

    Fawns are baby deer of either sex. Bambi was a male fawn.

  8. says:

    Here is a link to the names for male and female animals. The only one that immediately came to my mind that had different names for male and female babies was horse.


  9. Brucenm says:

    I liked Ben’s puzzle and inadvertently clicked 3 rather than 4. Since there are only 2 ratings, (and since I am sometimes a downdrag on his puzzles,) please take this into consideration.

    As a one-time would-be semi-pseudo-quasi reprobate — yes, hash (and other drugs) often are smoked in a bowl.

    During the 60’s, when I was spending 4-month summers in Naples, Italy, I used to take the aliscafo (hydrofoil) from Salerno to Capri, on a week day, when it was deserted, when the bay of Naples was crystal clear, and you could see all the way to the bottom as if in a glass-bottom boat, I would spend the day roaming around Capri (KAH-pree) as my private playground. One of my fondest, most world-historical achievements is that one day, fortified by a half-bottle — (well, OK, a bottle) — of white wine from the Grand Hotel Quisiana, I took the steep rock climb down to the beach, shed my clothes, (except for underclothes — please) — swam a few hundred meters to the entrance of the Grotta Azzura — the Blue Grotto — swam around it a couple times, and returned. Yes, my clothes were still there. How many people, at least non-locals, can say that have swum around the Blue Grotto? Excruciatingly fond memories.

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