Wednesday, October 2, 2013

NYT 4:24 
Tausig untimed 
LAT 6:01 (Matt) 
CS 6:09 (Dave) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 2 13, no. 1002

I feel like most of Paula “rhymes-with-ganache” Gamache’s puzzles in recent years have been themeless, so I was surprised to see her name atop a Wednesday puzzle. The theme answers convert an -NCE word into a soundalike -NTS word:

  • 17a. [What Ali Baba found on the treasure in the cave?], PRINTS OF THIEVES. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a movie title.
  • 27a. [Sign of a failed practice?], LOSING PATIENTS. At least they’re not being “lost” to death.
  • 43a. [Puzzles as gifts?], PRESENTS OF MIND. For the mind. Of the mind.
  • 58a. [Be startled by singing monks?], JUMP AT THE CHANTS.

The theme’s all right, no great shakes.

Highlights in the fill and clues:

  • 39a. [Bar from Mars], TWIX. Is there a gluten-free version of the Twix bar yet? How about the Kit Kat?
  • 42a. [In need of some manscaping, say], HAIRY. Heh. I was going to link to a picture of a hairy man, but didn’t realize I had Google’s “safe search” turned off and the second link was a Tumblr blog full of bare-naked men exposing their 1-Acrosses. I leave further Googling to your discretion. Anyway, the clue amused me.
  • 4d. [1940 Disney film], FANTASIA / 50d. [Hippo’s wear in 4-Down], TUTU. Nice combo.
  • 29d. [Toupee alternative], PLUGS. Hair plugs! Another follicularly related clue.
  • 39d. [Party in the parking lot], TAILGATE. I have never tailgated. True story. If I take the bus down to the Museum Campus and walk to the Soldier Field parking lot, can I crash a tailgate party?

Could do without OONA, AGIN, OBE, PAH (although I appreciate the word’s existence when playing Lexulous or Scrabble), and HST.

We are lucky that 33d. [Cesspool], SUMP, was not cross-referenced to 63a.

3.5 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Just Browsing”

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 10 2 13, “Just Browsing”

Are you like me? Did you solve the whole puzzle and gaze and the long answers, trying to figure out what the theme was? I was looking for hidden words and whatnot.

  • 17a. [Baller’s wheel decorations], CHROME RIMS.
  • 28a. [Met VIP, e.g.], OPERA DIRECTOR.
  • 46a. [Category for some research vessels], EXPLORER CLASS.
  • 61a. [Tourist area where one might drive past the game], SAFARI PARK.

Chrome, Opera, Explorer, and Safari are all internet browsers. Speaking of which, can someone tell me why I invariably type that word as “browswers”?

Zippiest fill and clues:

  • JET LI; NATE Silver atop his new employer, ESPN; TE LLAMO (39a. [“I’ll call you,” on Telemundo]); EGO-SURF; MASTER YODA; EAGLE SCOUT; SKYY.
  • 34a. [Caesarean section?], GAUL.
  • 12d. [Patron of puking outside Irish pubs before noon, casually], ST. PAT.
  • 39d. [This club has one], TYPO. “Club” for “clue.”

New to me: 69a. [Hot, as a former lover, in slang], EXXY. Have you seen this one?

Other unfamiliar names:

  • 3d. [___ Rebellion (19th-century Rhode Island Republican insurrection)], DORR. Wasn’t this just in another crossword last month?
  • 10a. [Trans-Siberian Railroad city], OMSK.

Solid theme, plenty of spunk. Four stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy crossword, “SET Backs” – Dave Sullivan’s review

This one had me scratching my head for a while, until it dawned on me that the words of these four three-word phrases end with the letters SET:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/02/13

  • [Gives no respect] was TREATS LIKE DIRT – hmmm, there’s a more familiar phrase that works here as well. Moving on…
  • [1999 Kubrick film] clued EYES WIDE SHUT – I’m thinking Nicole is much happier with Keith Urban, don’t you?
  • [9Lives mascot] was MORRIS THE CAT – a neighbor had a orange tabby named Morris that ruled our street.
  • [Reverses, as some jackets] clued TURNS INSIDE OUT – I remember that a fleeced jacket lining turned inside out was the basis of many a Halloween costume when we were young.

Glad to find a theme that didn’t reveal itself immediately; it helped that SET in the title was capitalized. I enjoyed many of the clues in the fill around the theme entries as well–[They’re hung on courts] had me thinking of trial courts, but we’re talking basketball here, giving us NETS. Lots of entries that could be considered a bit risqué if considered as a whole–ASS, MOONED and the clue of [Butt] for RAM seemed like a mini-theme to my prurient mind. I wondered if all of Shakespeare’s plays were five acts, supporting the clue [First fifth of a Shakespeare play] for ACT I. Nothing really to carp about in this one, so I’ll leave it there.

Oh, and congrats to Patrick on his new GIG as part of the American Values team! Looking forward to his puzzle this week in that venue.

Gareth Bain’s LAT crossword — Matt’s review

Matt here, filling in for Gareth because he wrote today’s puzzle. Although I once had to self-blog in a pinch and it was fun for me and entertaining/novel for solvers, so that ought to be a once-in-a-while thing on Fiend.

I didn’t have the Across Lite file handy and so was forced to solve on the LA Times website, which I don’t often do, and it was quite a pleasant experience. I had to watch a 30-second Charmin ad, but that seems fair and sponsored crosswords are cool with me. And then the interface, done by Arkadium, was easy to use and attractive.

OK, on to the puzzle. The four (somewhat unnecessarily) starred theme entries were:

17-a [*Shopper’s aid] = GROCERY LIST. I had GROCERY CART at first, and was ready to chide the South African Gareth here because we call it a “shopping cart” here in the States, not a “grocery cart”!

11-d [*Phone that can’t be tapped] = SECURE LINE. Good entry.

29-d [*Angler’s equipment] = FISHING ROD.

64-a [*Stop-action film technique] = FREEZE-FRAME.

And then the revealer at 39-a, which is AHEAD: [In the future, or, when spoken with a long starting vowel, what the last words to the answers of starred answers can have]. My goodness, let’s unravel that. I started trying to say “grocery lie-st” (rhymes with heist) which led nowhere, and the I in SECURE LINE is long anyway. Got it on the second try, though — say the letter “A” before those words and they make other words: the A-list, an A-line dress, an A-frame house, and super-juicer A-Rod. So they can all be said to have A as their head, or AHEAD.

I’m lukewarm on the theme; the idea of those four having an A-head is clever, but the revealer itself was on the clunky side and the payoff phrases were just OK (A-Rod and A-list are good, A-frame and A-line not too energizing). So I’ll give the theme a thumbs-sideways.

The fill gets a solid thumbs-up, however: ZOUNDS (I had ZOINKS in there are first, clue was [“Gadzooks!”]), ZIP GUN, my home state of VIRGINIA, DANNON, ICARUS (wonderfully clued as [Hot wings did him in]), TEHRAN, QUIZ NIGHT, SAMURAI, and infamous THUG John GOTTI. Very little dreck, though the last two letters of TANIA crossing TINO and AITS might cause trouble.

Good example of an excellent clue rescuing a meh entry: ISSO clued as [“That ___ last year!”]

Fun one, and that’s the important thing. 3.80 stars.

Patrick Blindauer’s October website puzzle, “Curves Ahead”—Matt’s review

I hope you like the letter S, because that curvy thing is the key to this month’s typically intricate Blindauer.

“Curves Ahead” is the title, and the theme entries are defined simply by the letter S. At 17-a it yields SYMBOL FOR SULFUR,
at 30-a it gives us DOWN ON A MAP, at 48/52-a we get DOLLAR SIGN PART, and at 59-a it stands for SUPERMAN’S LETTER.

I think I type “But wait, there’s more” every month I blog the Blindauer…but wait, there’s more! Circled squares spell out the meta instructions: SEEK TEN EXTRA ESSES.

Where are those extra S’s? While solving, one couldn’t help but notice that several clues — nine, to be exact — contain an extraneous S:

14-a [Word with water or jest] = SKI (should be “jet”)
21-a [Bosom or zoom] = NOISE (should be (“boom”)
36-a [Hen-speck] = NAG AT (should be “henpeck”)
54-a [Pupils stake part in it] = SIGHT (should be “take”)
56-a [Sporty scar from Japan] = MIATA (should be “car”)
5-d [Hole-masker] = AWL (should be “hole-maker”)
25-d [“Go Your ___ Sway” (Fleetwood Mac hit)] = OWN (should be “Way”)
31-d [Smother, maybe] = NUN (should be “Mother”)
60-d [Bygone ostrich skin] = MOA (should be “kin”)

But that’s only nine — where’s the tenth? Why, it’s right there in front of you, formed by the pattern of black squares in the middle of the grid. Ha!

What can you say? A master at the top of his game. Most constructors would have ended the puzzle with the S-definitions theme, and the wide-open grid plus that big S formed by the black squares would’ve made this a well-above average puzzle. But this is a Blindauer, so there are two extra levels, and everything is executed with elegance and precision.

Obvious 5-star puzzle, in my view. Bravo.


The author writes to tell me that the big S in the middle wasn’t the intended “meta-answer” after all! It was just decoration. I’d missed the extra S in 45-down (UGH clued as “Sew!” instead of “Ew!”). Oh well — still a nice puzzle!

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25 Responses to Wednesday, October 2, 2013

  1. Sarah says:

    NYT – 1 star rating due to

    – Theme that failed to excite me, and I’m not seeing the consistency (some of the words to me do have different sounds): negative 2.5 stars
    – Two dozen or so poor entries with nothing yelling themeless puzzle to me outside of FANTASIA (6th French word in 2 days?????????); also, that NE corner is atrocious, and not due to the grid constraints. – negative 3 1/2 stars
    – Cluing that to me felt more Thursdayish/Fridayish; didn’t feel calibrated. The handful of relatively obscure proper nouns isn’t helping. negative .5 stars

    • Gareth says:

      I do see your point re the NE – CLAN/HOBO/NEEDY is one alternative, there are probably others.

      (I realise this means there’s going to be a free-for-all to redesign the corners of MY puzzle when the LAT review comes out…)

    • lorraine says:

      Fantasia is an incredibly famous Disney movie. The word itself has an Italian etymology, not French; it means a musical composition with a free form and often an improvisatory style. I can certainly see how younger people might not have heard of the movie, but it’s not an obscure foreign word that no one knows. Both usages (the movie AND the musical form) are fairly well-known, I would think, and certainly fair game for a Wednesday puzzle.

      • Davis says:

        There was a re-release of Fantasia back in 2000, so it’s not even particularly old.

        The musical form of that name was unknown to me until your comment–fun stuff, though I have my doubts about how well-known it is to anyone who’s not a music aficionado.

    • Matt Gaffney says:


      Thanks for sharing your rationale for 1-starring the NYT today. I can tell you from experience that it’s frustrating when solvers 1-star a puzzle with no explanation, so I do appreciate you sharing your reasoning.

      Having said that, it’s a pretty harsh scale you’re using there. You might notice that yours was the only 1-star rating this puzzle got out of 22 raters, and that, by your own math, you end up with a score of -2 stars for this puzzle.

      Since there is no such rating, and this puzzle, while not stellar, was certainly not grievously awful, this suggests that you might seriously need to consider recalibrating. It’s not fair to the system if a small number of people are rating puzzles on an extremely brutal model as you are here.

      –Matt Gaffney

    • Lois says:

      I believe that Sarah is completely wrong about the pronunciations. They are consistent, and I don’t think there’s a regional variation. The whole point is that “nts” is pronounced exactly the same as “nce.”

      I have further comments below after Brucnm about the French answer (one, I think) and the “French” answers

  2. Huda says:

    Been working like crazy because of a grant deadline this Friday, and guess what… Nobody home in the government. So, I’m jumping at the chants and doing the puzzle. I liked “presents of mind”, definitely my favorite type of present. Did not know AIDAN, so that got in the way of the NW but the cross- referenced FANTASIA was a big help.
    I’d add ON TIP TOE to Amy’s list of cool non- theme entries. And the way UCLA wa clued brought back memories of my youth, when I was a student and poor as a church mouse and I’d go by Beverley Hills and see all these mansions. My lab mate would mumble stuff in his beard, like “come the revolution”… Then he became an entrepreneur.

  3. Martin says:

    A very nice well-executed NYT. Pretty much a textbook midweek puzzle IMO.

    … and a zippy, original Ink Well too… from one of the league of bearded constructors ;)


  4. Gareth says:

    NYT: Loved Paula’s theme answers! Loved the x-ref of FANTASIA (my favourite Disney film growing up, for some reason) and TUTU. P.S., I’ve never heard of a “ganache” so I’m no closer to having a clue how to pronounce Ms. Gamache’s surname…

  5. Zulema says:

    About time to tell you I really enjoy your comments.

    SARAH, others have asked you to think before you condemn. You do have a right to your opinions, but you could have found out what FANTASIA was about (definitely not French and evidently a hole in your knowledge) before dismissing it as another foreign language intrusion.

    And I didn’t particularly like the puzzle, but that is neither here nor there.

    • Sarah says:

      I was referring to PRET, MAI and VOIR.

      • Brucenm says:

        Pret-a-porter appears in English language dictionairies (e.g. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, Tenth Edition.) The word “voir” standing alone does not appear, but the expression “voir dire”, does, thereby providing a familiar context for the word.

        • Lois says:

          Besides, when Sarah grows up and is called to jury duty, the English term will become familiar to her.

          Although obviously “mai” is much easier for people who know French, that month is important in history for France and the world, and no one should mind learning it in a Wednesday puzzle. The crosses might not have been completely helpful. I myself didn’t know “LeCar” – I never know cars – and maybe Sarah never heard of Laurel and Hardy, tsk, tsk. Pret-a-porter perhaps is as difficult for some as cars are for me, but it’s not such a hard English phrase, borrowed from French.

  6. RK says:

    Really liked PRINTSOFTHIEVES.

    (Making sure my Google safe search is in the locked position!)

  7. RK says:

    Nice LAT puzzle Gareth.

  8. Huda says:

    Gareth, the nuance you’re after is almost beyond me. I have an accent in English, that I’ve tried to eradicate with uneven success. For Paula’s name, I’m going with the French pronunciation. But you’re right, the French and English say Ganache differently. Check it out:

    So, now, I’m confused :) Thanks!

    Zulema, thank you! Back at you.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The English pronunciation on that page is how I’ve always heard it, Huda.

      Mmm, chocolate ganache.

  9. Steve Blais says:

    Good job on the LAT Gareth!

    I freely admit to being temporarily stymied by the theme. Couldn’t figure out what LIST, LINE, FRAME, and ROD all had to do with HEAD. And why would the A have to be elongated anyway? Then the light bulb went off with A-rod, and everything fell into place. Those “aha moments” are always fun!

    It’s also good when a proliferation of Z’s *doesn’t* compromise the fill :)


  10. Jesse says:

    My plan had always been that if I ever had a blog I’d call it Presents of Mind. Now it’s spoiled. Thanks a lot, Gamache.

  11. ahimsa says:

    Late comment here but I wanted to add my love for the LAT puzzle today. And just Steve said in an earlier comment, at first I tried to add HEAD to all the words! Finally, the light dawned. :-)

    Good job, Gareth!

    I liked the NYT puzzle today, too. I chuckled at the theme answers as I filled them in. I probably would have only rated it a 4 but I gave it extra stars for the image of dancing hippos that’s in my head now.

  12. Lois says:

    I should probably refrain from mentioning this, but with regard to Amy’s last remark about 63a in the NYT, there’s also 64a.

    On a better note, I want to say that I enjoyed this puzzle!

Comments are closed.