Friday, October 25, 2013

NYT 6:52 (Amy) 
LAT 8:15 (Gareth) 
CS 6:49 (Dave) 
CHE 4:54 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 15:55 (pannonica) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 25 13, no. 1025

This puzzle struck me as a Saturday-hard puzzle, but they say Will Shortz likes to put crazy themeless grids on Friday where more solvers will see them. So here’s Martin’s double-quad-stack-plus-a-central-15 puzzle and you know what? As much as I am predisposed to grouse at such puzzles, I kinda liked this one.

Notes on the $15 footlongs:

  • 1a. [Wiped the floor with], MADE MINCEMEAT OF. Love it.
  • 17a. [Western daily], LOS ANGELES TIMES. Free advertising!
  • 34a. [One may be tapped out], MORSE CODE SIGNAL. Is the “signal” part arbitrary (with “message” being equally valid), or is this in-the-Morsey-language? I am not up on my telegraphy lingo.
  • 55a. [It’s not word-for-word], FREE TRANSLATION. I didn’t know this term, but it makes sense. Those modern translations of Dante and Beowulf fit, I presume?
  • 56a. [Old French epics], CHANSONS DE GESTE. Just GESTE is more common in crosswords. This version looks much fancier.

Notes on the remainder:

  • 1d. [1970s-’80s sitcom setting], MEL’S Diner from Alice. I went with another CBS show from that era first, guessing WKRP but soon realizing those grid-hostile letters were unlikely to anchor four 15s.
  • 5d. [What Hamilton called the wealthy], MONIED MEN. And then he became a monied man himself, adorning the $10 bill.
  • 7d. [___ Arden Oplev, director of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”], NIELS. A change-up from the usual Bohr clue.
  • 9d. [Gershwin biographer David], EWEN. Never heard of him. How else are you gonna clue EWEN?
  • 50d. [Sinatra’s “Meet ___ the Copa”], ME AT. Clued as a two-word partial because of MINCEMEAT. Other partials in this puzzle include A COP, GET SO, PAS DE, and the unattractive OR HE.
  • 32d. [Second-greatest period in the history of something], SILVER AGE. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this. Some people say we’re in the golden age of TV, with terrific cable and Netflix offerings supplementing the worst of the network dross. When was TV’s silver age, then? The M*A*S*H ’70s, the Cosby ’80s, the Seinfeld ’90s, the Honeymooners ’50s?

3.8 stars.

Matt Skoczen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “States in Full” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 10/25/13 • “States in Full” • Skoczen • solution

Cute idea: take a name/phrase beginning or ending with a two-letter word which happens to also be a standard abbreviation for one of the United States and expand that abbreviation to the complete name, yielding one of those wacky fabulations that themed crosswords are well-known for. Speaking of expansion, this grid sports not a westward but a southward one, weighing in at 15×16 squares, and all of the themers are vertical entries.

  • 3d. [Probe the Pine Tree state?] SEARCH MAINE… me). Oh, that’s right. Forgot to mention that each theme clue uses the state’s official nickname.
  • 7d. [Gem State magician?] THE WIZARD OF IDAHO ( … Id).
  • 8d. [Vocational school at the Aloha State?] HAWAII TECH (hi-… ). It seems that both the Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA) and the Hawaii Technological Institute (HTI) have both demurred from officially embracing such nickname.
  • 33d. [Hoosier State regulation?] INDIANA LAW (in-… ).
  • 29d. [Slasher-film effects in the Heart of Dixie?] ALABAMA GORE (Al …).

安倍晋三 安倍晋三 ユタ州から

As per usual, I’ll note in passing my brumotactillophobic tendencies when it comes to theme and non-theme material. To wit, I’d have been happier if 14a [D-Day beach] UTAH were not in the grid.

The good and the bad:

      • Some medium-length stunning acrosses: ROAD RAGE, DEPRAVED, ALLEY-OOP, WHEATIES
      • … offset by some tragic material , especially near the center of the grid: NE’ER, DCCC, AFBS, IOTAS, AERATE (but HAZY is very nice indeed).

“To be or not to be …”

      • (18a) TWOFER-type clues: 12d [Corn units] EARS, 19a [Corn unit] KERNEL; 23a/64a MIAMI/HEAT. 24d [Whence the line, “A little more than kin, and less than kind”] HAMLET (ooh, >teeth-suck<) / 8a [Ethan who played 24 Down] HAWKE.
      • New to me: 15a [Kansas State campus site] SALINA, though I know of Salinas, CA thanks to J Steinbeck.
      • Most distracting clue: 2d [Wind in a pit] … oh, it’s just OBOE. Phew.
      • Favorite clue, by process of elimination: 57d [In gear?] CLAD.

Fun, fine puzzle. Not ugly.

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Sweater Issues” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme entries that end with something bad that can happen to a sweater:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/25/13

  • [Insomniac’s supply] was SLEEPING PILLS – I believe “to pill” (in the sweater sense) means to roll up into a small ball.
  • [Handles for kitchen compartments] clued DRAWER PULLS – this is something our cats do a lot when we’re wearing woolens and they are sitting on our laps.
  • [Cozy and comfy vibes] were WARM FUZZIES – cute phrase; though I get the imagery here, I’m not sure how a “fuzzie” (or is that FUZZY?) is a sweater “issue.”
  • [Sites serving brewskis] was a WATERING HOLE – I’m thinking moths here.

Rather unusual theme; I guess PILLS was my favorite given how distant the original phrase association is to a “sweater issue.” Given all the global flak around Edward Snowden, I thought [Surrpetitiously records conversations, say] for WEARS A WIRE was particularly timely. MALL MAP and FRESH SLANT were also ELEGANT, or [Swanky], which was my FAVE today. I also enjoyed the triple-Z action in the center of the grid. Have to award an UNFAVE to FIR TREE; they’re just firs around here.

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Scare Tactics” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/25/13 • “Scare Tactics” • Fri • Gale • solution

In time for Halloween, some phrases have been ENHANCEd (115a) with a spooky BOO at the beginning, so that each ADAPTS (1a) to a new, LOONIER (118a) incarnation.

  • 23a. [Silverware that has a full operating system installed?] BOOTABLE SPOON (tablespoon).
  • 42a. [Job for some Tampa Bay cheerleaders?] BOOSTING RAYS (stingrays).
  • 47a. [Dishes ordered like “ham AND cheese NOT mayo”?] BOOLEAN CUISINE (lean cuisine). Wonder if the original clue had “omelet-plain AND (chicken-salad-sandwich AND wheat-toast NOT mayonnaise NOT butter NOT lettuce NOT chicken-salad) AND cup-coffee.”
  • 64a. [Full tally of baby’s footwear?] BOOTEE TOTAL (teetotal). Have never been comfortable with that spelling—invariably reminds me of Boötes—but have learned to accept it.
  • 84a. [Ruling family enjoying great prosperity?] BOOMING DYNASTY (Ming Dynasty).
  • 90a. [Bright-footed seabird’s slip?] BOOBY MISTAKE (by mistake). Comparatively weak, this one, though I like the quasisynonymical feel of the new answer.
  • 107a. [Job for an ensemble’s manager?] BOOKING OF CLUBS (king of clubs). Finish with a flourish!

As with mechanisms of this type, the predictability of the location and character of the added letters drains some life from the solve. Despite this liability, the radical changes wrought by the introduction of the trigram (which is credit due the constructor’s discernment) injects a greater amount of vivacity to the puzzle.


  • 75a [Team whose logo shows Chief Wahoo] INDIANS. This has been in the news (again) lately. (The original image dates from 2001.) Do not see also: 98a
  • 88a [Mississippi Delta bottom-dwellers] MUDCATS. Mudcats!
  • 92a [Like Helvetica] SAN SERIF [sic]. Big flaw there, much worse than “ice tea.”
  • 97a [Bird named for its golden plumage] ORIOLE. New information to me, but rather obvious in retrospect, especially to crossword solver and anyone with basic knowledge of Romance languages. Good to learn.
  • 1d/73d [Monastery figures] ABBOTS / MONKS, but the latter shares the etymology with the clue word. Yet THUG and APE, close to each other, have distinct clues with similar senses (67d, 68a).
  • 42d [Connection from one bank to another] BRIDGE. Pretty sure this isn’t how a bridge loan works.
  • [80-Down collaborator Brian] ENO, [63-Across collaborator David] BYRNEMy Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981), most prominently.

Cute theme, high quality and good variety of clues, a few more FITBs and quasi-partials than I’d like, but ultimately a good puzzle. My solving time is on the long side, probably because I solved it after I should have gone to bed.

Jacob Stulberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LA Times

One of the main arguments against quote themes is that they have only one pay-off. If you don’t like or have already encountered the quote, the entire theme is a big chunk of blah. Today the quote is AHENISONLY / ANEGGS / WAYOF / MAKING / ANOTHEREGG. I hadn’t heard that quote before and found it most interesting philosophically / biologically. It’s by the 17th century author SAMUEL / BUTLER whose oeuvre I haven’t read.

Mr. Stulberg’s name is not one with which I am familiar. I’m going to assume this is a puzzle debut. If so, I’m impressed with the grid design, it’s offbeat arrangement facilitating the unusual theme answer breakdown. The actual answers are more functional than fun, with very few multi-word phrases; I don’t think that is such a big deal, BTW. I didn’t know BASINET (my medieval armour knowledge mostly comes from RPGs and DND), but learning things are part and parcel of doing crosswords! No demerit. I also didn’t know the current TV series TREME.

The one thing I would’ve changed personally is the walled-off middle-right area. I think that I shun partials more than most, but I’d have tried to excise USIN. As a first attempt to refill that section I came up with SAC/UNO/TONTO/UNIT.

One more short remark [Tee sizes: Abbr.], SMS. Over here that’s what a text messages is ubiquitously referred to as. Is the abbreviation so unfamiliar that a contrived plural is a fairer angle? I’m going to assume so.

Nice quote find: 3.5 Stars.

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44 Responses to Friday, October 25, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    SILVER AGE: I didn’t hesitate to use this word because I already knew it from the Pet Shop Boys song “Silver Age”. In this particular song the term was referring to an era in Russian history commonly called by this name…if you’re a Russo-phile, which Neil Tennant (the singer) is. Anyone interested can hear the song on my Facebook page.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

    • ahimsa says:

      Thanks for the extra info on top of a great puzzle! I’ll have to look up that song.

      I know Silver Age from a completely different context (I’m sure I’m in the minority here). It’s the name of one of the four yugas (ages) in Hinduism – Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. These aren’t direct translations of the Sanskrit names but these terms seem to be commonly used.

      I think the Greeks may have had a similar system of ages? (but don’t ask me which came first since I’m terrible at history)

  2. pannonica says:

    Silver Age is definitely a comic book appellation.

    • Davis says:

      Agreed. I grew up a comic book nerd, and I remember hearing about the golden age and silver age of comics all the time.

  3. Davis says:

    I have to say, that top quad stack was killer. I burned through most of the puzzle in record time, and then struggled to get enough crosses to break into that stack. I spent twice as long on that stack as I did on the entire rest of the puzzle.

  4. Bencoe says:

    EWEN Bremner played Spud in Trainspotting, among other parts.

  5. Martin says:

    FYI my submitted clue for NIELS (one of the top stack crossers) was “Physicist Bohr”. That would have probably helped a lot of solvers on the top stack.

    As for actor EWEN Bremner from “Trainspotting”… yeah, I had thought about using him, but was worried that many solvers may have mixed him up with the other more famous EWAN who starred in the same movie.


    • Bencoe says:

      True, I doubt most people remember EWEN Bremner’s name anyway. I was just responding to how else it might be clued. “Physicist Bohr” seems too obvious for the end of the week (probably why it was changed), but it definitely would have helped a lot of solvers. Still, I felt the 15s were strong enough that once many of the spaces were filled in they became obvious, so not every cross should have been needed. Particularly enjoyed MADEMINCEMEATOF as the banner entry.

    • Davis says:

      Aha, I was wondering what sadist chose to clue NIELS in this manner, rather than as Bohr. I should have guessed it was Will.

  6. Evad says:

    Anyone else fall for the misdirection (intended?) of GONE for “I’m ___” (Friday declaration)? Guess I should’ve been thinking of TV shows instead of the workweek.

  7. Matt says:

    There was also a ‘Silver Age’ of Russian literature. And… let’s see… I agree that the top band was ‘way harder than the bottom band, and I tried GONE before ACOP, and never heard of EWEN, and… ISS?? What am I missing?

  8. Brucenm says:

    My name is Friday; I’m a cop.

    Not just an amazing puzzle by MAS, but a great one — very much in my strike zone and wave length. I whizzed through it, under the par time. Proves that all those other puzzles were flukes. :-) Highest rating. Or, as I guess they say in Canada — full marks.

    The Chanson de Geste is a standard genre in French literature referring to medieval epic poetry recounting heroic deeds. Every French lycéen has studied and can recite large chunks of “La Chanson de Roland,” or “Roland, le Vaillant Paladin” (the valiant knight) the most famous Chanson de Geste. It recites the story of the Battaille de Roncevalles in 8th century Charlemagne France.

    “Free translation” as opposed to a literal translation is a common expression, especially relating to translations of poetry.

    David Ewen’s “GG, His Journey to Greatness” is a standard (probably *the* standard) biography of Gershwin. Straightforward but clear and readable.

    The Silver Age in Russian poetry and literature is the standard expression to describe the end of the 19th through the early 20th century, perhaps analogous to the “gaslight era.” I would have just clued it as such, not as “second best” anything. Don’t know a thing about the comic books. Also don’t know a thing about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or this Niels.

    I agree “Morse Code Signal” is a bit arbitrary, but you read usages like “We picked up a faint Morse code signal.”

    The “What’s he to Hecuba” quote is a crucial passage in Hamlet’s soliloquy when he steels himself for revenge. Priam mourned the loss of his wife Hecuba, and Hamlet is thinking “I shouldn’t just sit around and do nothing.” (That isn’t formulated in Harold Bloom lit crit style, but . . .)

    AH became a monied man in the more orthodox sense too. His mansion in the farms and fields of the Bronx was valued at $20,000. (Say 3 Mil in modern terms.) But none of that helped him in Hoboken.

    Great puzzle.

    • Martin says:

      Thanks Bruce. Despite its flaws, this maybe my favorite of the puzzles I’ve had published in the NYT.


      • Brucenm says:

        Martin, I doubt that you remember this, but I sat at your table at Stamford in my very first ACPT tournament. I was very impressed that you had wrinkled, dog-eared sheets of pencil-filled graph paper, triple stack puzzles, folded in your pocket. And the rest is history. But who knew what would ensue.

  9. Huda says:

    NYT: fabulosity! And talk about an open floor plan!
    This is the kind of puzzle that makes me wish I were better, knew more. I did well in the bottom half and had a hard time getting into the top. I cheated with EWEN, then guessed at WARFARE, and took off from there.
    Amazing construction.

  10. I’m in the minority in that I broke the top 15s first.

    I’m in the minority, too, in that the entire puzzle took me ~45 minutes, more than double –and almost triple– my typical Friday time. I almost gave up, but I slogged my way logically through the French and unknown propers in the bottom 15s.

    Martin made mincemeat of me.

  11. Martin says:

    Amy, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it Scrabble Effing in the original grid… since the resulting fill is OK. But, it can only just be OK because the grid’s design has too many 3 and 4 letter words all scrammed into those small areas. Hence Will’s rejection.


  12. Martin says:

    “Scrammed” ? I meant “crammed”!


  13. Martin says:

    “Scrammed” can always be a word I guess. A more polite way of saying Scrabble ***king.

    – MAS

  14. sbmanion says:

    Very hard for me. I knew LOS ANGELES TIMES immediately, but almost every other long entry was tough and even when I had INTEREST for example, I still could not see SPECIAL–I was stuck on LOBBY as a verb.

    I knew CHANSON—I am pretty sure I read the Chanson de Roland in French, if that is indeed its correct name—but I could not think of DE GESTE.

    I could not see ECONOMIC because I was thinking that blockades are more like sieges and was stuck on something along the lines of ATTRITION.

    All in all, a superb puzzle that was not in my wheelhouse.


    • Brucenm says:

      Indeed — the correct name

      Bruce < – – – former Manhattan C-League hardball squash player (a pretty strong league, since the A's were mostly ex- Ivy League varsity players in their 20's and 30's now vacuuming up money on Wall Street, and the B's just a notch below that.) It was by far my best racquet sport, since I am (or was) lightening quick, but not fast. They destroyed the game for me when they went to the English soft ball, which turns the game into a dull aerobics contest, not a fascinating, billiards-like, strategic game. When you played it, you also had the feel of combat in a boxing ring, which I also loved. My home club was in the Grace building on the North side of 42nd St. off 6th. Ave. The club is long gone, of course. And yes — You can look in the dictionary, or a medical text, under "hematoma" and see vivid color photographs of the back of my thighs, courtesy of a 130 mph forehand. It's always partly my fault for crowding my opponent's right of way to hit, and partly his fault for not calling a let. (NOT a "hinder" as the say in racquetball.) We squash players always had a supercilious attitude towards racquetball — probably unwarranted.

  15. RK says:

    I’m curious if Martin intended to use chansons de geste or needed to.


  16. John from Chicago says:

    Martin AS, as I’ve noted here in the past, all stacks look alike to me (especially before filling). What I’ve said I liked about your stacks is that Rex doesn’t like stacks. Well, I think you’ve constructed one stack too many because Rex liked this one. I found this one harder than your usual fare. I used Ms. Check so much solving this one that she turned me in to OSHA for unsafe working conditions.

    I liked your original more than Will’s edit. Did he give you any reason for the changes?

  17. Jerry says:

    Amy asked, “How else are you gonna clue EWEN?”

    “What Ramen like”

    Thought is was a great puzzle, though the top quad stumped me for far too long.

  18. Martin says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Yes, I do have a vague memory. Ah, those were the days, graph paper, pencils and erasers!


  19. Lou says:

    Just finished xword puzzle in Oct. 28 NY magazine. Similar theme to WSJ-both had BOOLEANCUISUINE. Great minds think alike?!

  20. John from Chicago says:

    Well, since MAS won’t (or cannot) answer my question, I’ll answer it.

  21. ArtLvr says:

    I enjoyed Martin’s webpage, but can’t agree with those who objected to mincemeat and the partial “me at” clued as “Meet ___ the Copa”, as if they are repetitious. Visually, maybe, but in the first place, mincemeat these days often contains no real meat and even substitutes shortening for suet. And secondly, lots of words contain other 4-letter sequences without raising eyebrows, like “raising” and “sing”, “rest” and “restitution”. Piffle! It’s still a tour de force in my book!

  22. Martin says:

    “Well, since MAS won’t (or cannot) answer my question, I’ll answer it.”

    Hi John…. sorry for not getting to your question. I’ve been out/away for a few hours. anyway, I see you found the answer in the Xword info notes: Will felt that the center of the original puzzle was too blocky (with many short words) and closed off.


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