Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NYT 3:29 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 
CS 5:36 (Dave) 

Jared Banta’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 22 14, no. 0122

NY Times crossword solution, 1 22 14, no. 0122

It’s Fairy Tale Theater time:

  • 20a, 23a. With 23-Across, giant in fairy tales], HANS CHRISTIAN / ANDERSEN.
  • 35a. Story mapped out in this grid, from lower left to upper right], HANSEL AND GRETEL.
  • 52a. Publishers of 35-Across, with “the”], BROTHERS GRIMM.
  • Two corner rebus squares include the words WITCH (9a. [2010 Jennifer Aniston movie], THE S{WITCH}, 13d. [Broomstick riders], {WITCH}ES) and HOME (61a. [Do-it-yourself libation], {HOME} BREW, 54d. [In the house], AT {HOME}). The path of circled letters winding through the forest/grid spell out the BREAD CRUMBS dropped to try to find their way home. Spoiler alert: The plan didn’t work because birds ate the crumbs, and the kids were very nearly cooked and eaten by the witch.

You will note that the theme clues do not specifically associate Andersen with the “Hansel and Gretel” story. Perhaps because he did not write one? This list of 168 Andersen tales has nothing by that title. Although that list is not comprehensive; Michael Sharp tipped me off to an 1823 Andersen story, “The Pancake House,” with a Hansel-and-Gretelish plot but sans bread crumbs. (Highlight: “… and she could hardly understand what he was saying, for he already had his mouth full of pancakes.” Yes!)

So … I’m not really sure why this puzzle was made (and then accepted) with HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN in the grid. Strange, right?

Five more things:

  • 1d. [Criticize severely], LASH AT. “Lash out at,” sure. LASH AT? I’m not sold.
  • 38d. [Record again], RELOG. Re-no.
  • 63a. [Bad marks for a high schooler?], ZITS. Hey! Look! It’s not ACNE this time, it’s ZITS. I erased my RAMSES because I figured 63a had to end in an E.
  • 33d. [Weigh station wts.], TNS. Really? Because “ton” is so much longer, it needs an abbreviation?
  • 11d. [Emulate Jack Sprat], EAT NO FAT. Not quite a crosswordable phrase, if you ask me. The nursery rhyme vibe fits with the fairy tale vibe, though.

I’m going with 2.5 stars, what with the perplexity of having an author in the puzzle’s theme when he doesn’t seem to belong there. Plus fill like HIST, LET US, A BEAR, TWO-ROW, INURE, CAEN, ARTOO, plural TALIASH-BEAM, and the aforementioned bits? Yes.

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

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 1 22 14 "Unfiltered"

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 1 22 14 “Unfiltered”

Spam! Who doesn’t love Spam? Salty, canned pork product, beloved in Hawaiian cuisine? It’s the other kind of spam, the junk email, that inspired this theme:

  • 16a. [MRS. HAtty-Cyphert you will amaze at your w*ste line goes invisible vvith these rev/olutionary ___] WEIGHT LOSS PILLS. Yes, I have seen the “two v’s for a w” thing in spam. Trying to evade spam filters looking for certain key vvords/phrases.
  • 26a. [Ern a ___!!  Finally PhD in under 2 weeks at], DEGREE FROM HOME. 
  • 44a. [Good day sir, I am Joseph Komalo, son of a ___. I wish to transfer 1,594,976 ZAR ($14.9. million USD) direct to you account], NIGERIAN PRINCE. My latest spam from someone with a Nigerian-sounding name comes from a .ru Russian domain. Really, Russian spammers? You’re getting in on the Nigerian spam?
  • 59a. [Bonjour cockzilla, want to ___? Woman scream at this more than luxury present], GROW YOUR MANHOOD. Now, we all know that these products are not going to work, right? But apparently there are enough insecure guys responding to these offers that the penis-enlargement spam will continue forever.
  • 37a. [Feature of this puzzle, and where the theme clues ought to have ended up], SPAM BOX. I call it the spam filter rather than the spam box; your mileage may vary. The upper right corner of the grid also has a “SPAM box” in the circled squares.


  • 14a. [Scrap], DEEP-SIX.
  • 19a. [Cute Mexican salamander (get on this, Buzzfeed)], AXOLOTL. Buzzfeed specializes in listicles full of cute or funny pictures/GIFs. Like this one contributed by a user. Or this feeding-time axolotl video.
  • 55a. [“Word”], “I GOTCHA.”
  • 47d. [Minecraft, e.g.], PC GAME.

Lowlights: Well, there’s some blah stuff in here. ITT, ORR, ARNE (thankfully, not clued as composer Thomas Arne), awkward TO SHAME, ETHENE, DHOLE ([Indian wild dog]), APO, MNO, ADZE? Eh.

Did not know: 41a. [“2010: Odyssey Two” computer], SAL. The cruciverbal world is ready for a megastar named Sal to hit the big time, as our SAL cluing options are generally not too exciting or current.

3.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Chemists, Beware!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Cute quip which plays with the phrase “to make up something”:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/22/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/22/14


It’s fun to think about what atoms might lie about. “So you think the Higgs boson is the smallest elementary particle, do you?” Or, “We’re certain that Heisenberg was wrong.” Anyway, I must include a picture of [Radio Shack’s TRS-80 computer],

Note slot where 5-1/4 floppy disk would be inserted!

which I found very appropriate to the science-y theme today. A bit confused about the [End of a successful war] entry–is this a particular war, or any war? The V in V-DAY, I’m guessing, stands Victory, but I only know of V-E DAY and D-DAY. ASAHI, YERTLE and PAMPA might be a bit difficult for beginning solvers, but were fun encounters for this solver.

Kurt Krauss’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140122

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Kurt Krauss is summed up by BREAKSFREE. There are four more answers all of which split FREE between their first and last letters. All three ways to do this are represented. It’s a basic theme, and I’d have liked to see some interesting answers. These were kind of just there, outside of FREDASTAIRE. FRICASSEE is the sole one-word answer, which at least occupies the central position. The answers are:

  • 17a, [*Genealogist’s tool], FAMILYTREE
  • 24a, [*”Top Hat” leading man], FREDASTAIRE
  • 34a, [*Stewed chicken dish], FRICASSEE
  • 50a, [*Most serious or least serious], FIRSTDEGREE
  • 58a, [Escapes, and, literally, what each of the answers to starred clues does], BREAKSFREE

The central nine forces the “big” corners. Such corners often make for some interesting answers; the ALFALFA/SEALION/LOMBARD corner was nice, the others were more pedestrian. It was mostly pretty cleanly filled: I did frown at OTE, LEOVI, the cross of SSA/SIETE (recognizing that maybe SSA is something known to every single American), OFID. The most egregious thing in the puzzle was JAX/JAW: an L, M, P, or S would improve that square markedly without the need to change anything else. [Petting zoo critter] for LLAMA struck me as curious. I’m sure llamas are indeed found there, but they’re ornery animals that are fond of spitting and biting – it seems a risky choice.

2.75 Stars. Maybe you all found it more to your taste, but it was a bit on the humdrum side for me.


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13 Responses to Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked the sense of whimsy in this puzzle, the telling of a story, visually. I agree that it did not come off perfectly, but I always give extra points for experimentation with new ideas (not just in puzzles— science, technology, food, design…).

    It’s unfortunate that Hans Christian Andersen did not pen that story, or at least had no breadcrumbs in his tale. I imagine that in most people’s minds, he would be thought of as the author, so there is a little slight of hand there. The other part of the experiment that I felt did not come off perfectly is that the rebus is inconsistently used– the HOME stands for home in both directions, but the WITCH stands for witch in one direction and not the other. Still, the various elements– the theme, circles and rebus, all had a coherence I liked.

    Oh, and early on, based on the circles and the giant and the ascending nature, I wanted JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, also not by HCA.

  2. pannonica says:

    Tausig: Predictably, I was okay with DHOLE, especially as there’s a prod at the crossing 21a [Dole out] ALLOT. Be thankful it wasn’t CUON! On the other hand, not only is TO SHAME awkward, the clue [Humiliating way to put] contains a dupe which embodies a similar syntax.

  3. Jeffrey K says:

    What’s wrong with ARTOO?

  4. Ethan says:

    V-DAY can certainly stand by itself. Recall Langston Hughes’ poem “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?”

  5. Mike D. says:

    Ever since I could drive, the Maine driver’s license had the slogan “Where America’s Day Begins” at the top. The state recently changed the look of the ID and did away with that slogan, but it is ingrained in my mind to think of Maine and not Guam when hearing that. I had to pause for quite some time there to try and fit Maine into those four boxes…

    • janie says:

      >it is ingrained in my mind to think of Maine…

      ditto! does guam’s now carrying the distinction of “where america’s day begins” invalidate my 2003 membership [everyone’s membership for that matter…] in the “sunrise from mount cadillac club”?


      guess the text on the club’s card can be amended to say that the cardholder had “witnessed the rising of the sun…before it was seen from any other place in continental america.” here’s hopin’!


  6. Zulema says:

    I knew it was GUAM immediately, but I don’t know how I knew. And a question, is the constructor the composer or a different Jared Banta?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Zulema, I looked at the constructor’s notes at Wordplay last night. He is indeed a new film composer, but I don’t know if he’s the one you’re thinking of.

  7. Zulema says:

    He must be the one, there would not be two by the same name. He’s been a composer since he was a child, I understand.

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