Friday, January 31, 2014

NYT 6:39 (Amy) 
LAT 7:30 (Gareth) 
CS 4:49 (Dave) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:34 (pannonica) 
CHE 5:21 (pannonica) 

Chris McGlothlin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 1 31 14, no, 0131

NY Times crossword answers, 1 31 14, no, 0131

Hey! This puzzle took me a Saturdayish amount of time. I approve. I hate a weekend whose themeless puzzles aren’t challenging enough.

I don’t always approach a puzzle with stacked 15s with a happy heart (your mileage may vary—if you love triple stacks, you probably ought to buy Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Triple-Stack Crosswords), but I liked how this one turned out, with the exception of the ONE’Sie in the bottom row. Good stuff:

  • 1a. [“No more wasting time!”], “LET’S DO THIS THING.” Contemporary, casual language.
  • 26a. [Parked cars], VALETED. The dictionary may not reflect the indirect usage I’ve heard—”Did you valet the car?” meaning “Did you hand the keys over to a valet who then parked the car?”—but I bet it will eventually. It already knows the usage in this clue.
  • 45a. [Musical instrument for a geisha], SAMISEN. I believe I learned this word from crosswords, mostly themeless ones, but it figured into Memoirs of a Geisha too (with the shamisen spelling).
  • 56a. [Numbats], BANDED ANTEATERS. I pieced the answer together from the crossings despite having never heard of a numbat before. Apparently it is a small Australian marsupial that eats termites. (The word wombat derives from the same family of Australian languages.) Numbats! “You numbat! Watch where you’re going!”
  • 59a. [Washington report starter], “I CANNOT TELL A LIE.” George Washington, not Washington, D.C.
  • 1d. [Caribbean capital, to locals], LA HABANA. Entirely unfamiliar but still somehow gettable. Habanero peppers help. This is part of what gives the puzzle a Saturday vibe. Numbats, La Habana…
  • 4d. [Trash talk], SMACK. If you talk smack about someone, you’re trash-talking.
  • 8d. [Immobilized], HOG-TIED. Colorful phrase.
  • 11d. [Texting ta-ta], TTYL. “Talk to you later.” Fresh and modern.
  • 9d. [Needing], IN WANT OF. Sure, the phrase looks boring, but to me it evokes Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in a want of a wife.”
  • 22d. [Practice test?], BAR EXAM. In order to practice law, you gotta pass that test. I like the clue.
  • 23d. [Square things], GET EVEN. I hope plenty of solvers asked themselves, “What things are square here?”
  • 36d. [“Live más” sloganeer], TACO BELL. Great entry.

The least savory answers are LEU (54a. [Romanian capital], meaning currency) and ELP (58d. [Grp. with the 1971 gold album “Pictures at an Exhibition”], Emerson, Lake & Palmer). We have one partial (A RAIL), foreign AMICI and ANANAS, a few abbreviations—but no glut of bad stuff and plenty of interesting stuff.

Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Six-Act Puzzle” – Dave Sullivan’s review

As the title implies, we have six theme entries that (roughly) rhyme with ACT + one more word:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/31/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/31/14

  • [Lost consciousness] was BLACKED OUT
  • [Dirtied the floor with] clued TRACKED IN – this phrase feels a bit incomplete without an object here.
  • [Retreated] clued BACKED OFF
  • [Ate between meals] was SNACKED ON – Frito Lay hopes we all will be doing a lot of that on Sunday!
  • [Laughed hysterically] was CRACKED UP
  • [Attached, as carpet] was TACKED DOWN

Happy to see that last word be different in each case–ON/OFF, UP/DOWN and IN/OUT. I guess your mileage will vary depending on how close these “-ACKED” words rhyme with “ACT.” Nice challenge for the constructor to stack two theme entries on top of each other, separated by just one row, although that one-two old-timey punch of DOLOR and IPANA shows a bit of the strain of this. I really enjoyed the longer downs of MALADROIT ([Clumsy]) and the high Scrabble valued PEACH FUZZ ([Adolescent boy’s first beard, slangily]), and thought the fill in general was above par, particularly with the theme density.

Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just for Clicks” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/31/14 • "Just for Clicks" • Fri • Kelly • solution

WSJ • 1/31/14 • “Just for Clicks” • Fri • Kelly • solution

Your standard hidden word theme, announced at the oddly-located 108d [Clickable item found in the seven longest Across answers] ICON. Obviously, these are modern, computer icons and not, for instance, the gilded Russian Orthodox antiquities.

  • 23a. [“Give Peace a Chance” group] PLASTIC ONO BAND.
  • 38a. [The Green Mountain Boys captured it in 1775] FORT TICONDEROGA.
  • 47a. [Chip component] SEMICONDUCTOR.
  • 68a. [Declaration after a successful campaign] I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED, which often appears piecemeal in crosswords from the original Latin incarnation, VENI, VEDI, VICI.
  • 92a. [Texas’s state dish] CHILI CON CARNE.
  • 100a. [Lyrica and Valium, for two] ANTICONVULSANTS.
  • 116a. [Aid for some surfers] WIFI CONNECTION.

st_nicholas_stockholmAdmittedly not the most heart-stopping theme concept, but the execution of it is superb. Every one of the seven answers is lengthy, interesting, and wholly in-the-language. There’s much variation in word count: two are one-word, two are two-word, two are three-word, and one—the centerpiece—is comprised of six words. Three present ICON intralexically and four offer it spanning words. Further, two pairs of the themers overlap for seven letters, tightening up the grid both technically and impressionistically.

The final theme answer reminds us of the context. See also, in the top center: 20a [Right-click result, often] POP-UP MENU.

  • Newfangled stuff I didn’t know: 85a [Singer Grande] ARIANA; 79a [Headey of “Game of Thrones’} LENA; 101d [Harry Potter’s uncle] VERNON (not so new, but I’ve so little interest in the whole phenomenon that any but the broadest details are beyond my ken).
  • I MIGHT, A TOAST, HAS A GO AT, AS IN, A TAD—not too many of those, whew. Conversely, these are much better: I LOVE IT, LEAVES OUT, SETS TO, AT HOME, AT ONCE, et cetera.
  • No duplication with 10d [Place with a wet floor] SEA and 65d [Hub for Alaska Airlines] SEATAC, which derives from “Seattle-Tacoma.”
  • Plural abbrevs.: SEMS, AGS, , MPS, WACS. Not sure why that last one seems less irksome than the others. And you know, MPS is all right too. Shortened plurals MEDS and REPS are ok, but [One with DPL plates] AMB makes up for them.
  • 30a [Snuggeries] DENS. Snuggeries!
  • Can’t parse 1d [Monitor, in a way] TAP.

ram1976I could go on, grazing and browsing, but the gist is that the fill has typical crossword diversity. What really helps the puzzle to cohere beyond the realization of the theme is the considered and sensitive editing, principally clue resonance. Since Marie Kelly is Really Mike, I have no qualms here about possibly slighting the constructor. Some highlights include:

  • 31a [Superbowl III champs] JETS, 50a [1990 World Series champs] REDS.
  • 24d [Winery worker] TASTER followed by 29d [Before, in Burgundy] AVANT.
  • 11d [Rustic hotels] INNS, 104a [Rustic hotels] LODGES.
  • Clever clue 33d [Perilous drops?] ACID RAIN, paralleled by 51d [Takes a dip] SAGS.

Taken altogether, an above average puzzle.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Backwaters” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 1/31/14 • "Backwaters" • Feldman • solution

CHE • 1/31/14 • “Backwaters” • Feldman • solution

Watery locales—real places—comprised of two words, the second literally an aquatic feature, but clued with an ostensibly different sense.

  • 17a. [Stolen mattress parts?] HOT SPRINGS.
  • 25a. [What happens when a leaner gets jostled?] HORSESHOE FALLS.
  • 44a. [BBC station?] ENGLISH CHANNEL.
  • 55a. [Storage site for masses of ice?] GLACIER BAY.

Maybe my expectations are too high, but this theme seems rather flimsy to me. It’s essentially just “water places”—nothing much holds them together, gives them a shape.

Let’s first examine the “backwater” part. That is, the back part of each phrase that’s the literal water component. SPRINGS: coiled solid structures, though they share the potential leaping quality of some aquifer outlets. FALLS: an object drops due to gravity, just like the falls section of a river. CHANNEL: a band of frequencies through which information runs, compared to a waterway path. BAY: a compartment of a larger structure, typically with three sides, versus an analogous aspect of a shoreline. To my mind, none of these homonyms are radically different in meaning, which isn’t to say that the dual senses are precisely the same; it’s a matter of degree.

Next, the front end. HOT: stolen, versus describing a high temperature; certainly there’s a metaphorical correlation—a hot item is something you want to get rid of as soon as possible, whether it’s a potato or a car. HORSESHOE: an actual horseshoe, and something that’s shaped like a horseshoe. ENGLISH: demonym in both instances. GLACIER: a large mass of ice, twice. So that’s just one of the four that demonstrates notable difference in meaning. In this light, perhaps it would’ve been better if all four didn’t.

Now, the locations themselves. HOT SPRINGS: many places with this moniker, but the most well-known is Hot Springs, Arkansas – a geologic feature with dozens of component springs, a National Park containing them, and the nearby town that is the eleventh largest in the state. HORSESHOE FALLS: again, more than one place that goes by the name, the most famous by far is the Canadian component (=90%) of Niagara Falls. ENGLISH CHANNEL: joining the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, separating England and France. GLACIER BAY: an arm of the Pacific Ocean, the core of another National Park. Again, not much holds these together, and in this case variation isn’t a virtue. Two are freshwater, two saltwater. Three (or 2½, or 2.9) are part of the United States (or you could say relatively definitively that 3 are North American) and one is from Elsewhere.

And so I return to the notion that the theme isn’t much more than “water places.” And that’s rather limp, and it leaves me feeling all wet.


  • Long downs. STOCKADE, clued the CHE way as [Wall Street was built along one]; this may evoke for some solvers the notion that Canal Street was built along a waterway called a canal. 36d [Calorie-counter’s counter] SALAD BAR; fun clue, but the BAR part unfortunately reminded me of the nautical “submerged or partly submerged bank (as of sand) along a shore or in a river often obstructing navigation” (m-w), so while it isn’t a water place per se, it can be close enough in sense so as to provide a navigational solving hazard.

    Regarding the theme, I find the first of these connections vague and tenuous enough to be amusing, and the latter to be distracting.

  • 57a and 62a share the clue [ __ Nebula]. One is CRAB and the other is EAGLE. The former seems strong enough, but somehow the latter too vague, as a result the duplicate cluing, which I’d normally welcome, feels too forced.
  • Best Higher Education vibe™ clues: 41a GOTH [Battle of Adrianople warrior]; 8d EGG [Object in an apocryphal story about Christopher Columbus]. 
  • Debatable clues: 25d [The “H” of HR] HUMAN. 64a [Miller product] BEER.
  • Sorry, tongue removed from cheek now.
  • Can’t-decide-if-I-like-it-or-not section: bottom right corner. 63a [Suffix with contempt or corrupt] -IBLE, sitting atop 66a [Street __ ] CRED. Just try not to see CREDIBLE, I dare you.

Confusing, vaguely disappointing crossword.

Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140131

LA Times

I’m really tired, so this is going to be short, which is a shame. It’s a quirky theme using the well-worn coin sequence, but in a surprising manner. The four answers are PENNYSTOCKPHOTO, NICKELBACKTAXES, DIMEADOZENROSES, and QUARTERFINALCUT. As you see, they all begin with US coin nicknames, but then have additional phrases tacked onto them.

Despite 4 spanners, it has a wealth of delicious answers: TONELOC, the wacky looking OREOOS, quaint MIXTAPE, more contemporary DROPBOX and KINECT, LETSSEE. With so many good’uns and so much theme something has to give: there are a few difficult answers, but the big clunker is STETTED. I’m not sure that’s something that is said. Can you convince me otherwise?

4.25 Stars

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27 Responses to Friday, January 31, 2014

  1. Zulema says:

    I am surprised and very pleased about ANANÁS because most people around here call them PIÑAS, as in PIÑACOLADA. I was long detained by having entered “ModelTs” instead of SILENTS, messed up that section for quite a while.

  2. Brucenm says:

    And of course “ananas” is French as well as Spanish. It’s one of those words where native speakers differ as to whether they sound or elide the final consonant. (The same is true of some proper names, like “Chamonix.”) We were taught generally that it is “higher class” to elide the consonant, “lower class” to pronounce it. I imagine such judgments were rendered less apologetically then and there, than they would be here and now. (And perhaps there would be more hesitation *there* and now too.) But the same thing happens in American English, as for example in the word “Illinois,” which I have heard ending with “noise”. I don’t think they say that in Chicago, do they?

    I thought the puzzle was of average Friday difficulty, except for the SE which I found hardest. I too got stuck on “ModelTs” for a while.

    • Huda says:

      Yeah, I grew up eating ANANAS (the Spanish/French word is also used in the Middle East) and was happy to see it. The word Pineapple still trips me up. I always need to prevent myself from thinking Grapefruit. I think it’s because both are fruits named after other fruits that I don’t really think they resemble. I get the Pine, but where is the Apple? And where is the Grape? It messes with my mind. In fact, the worst dish I ever cooked was when I was a newlywed and wanted to surprise my husband with a dish from his childhood that I never had tried. I meant to cook a baked ham with pineapples, except I made it with grapefruit. Boy, was he surprised!

      • pannonica says:

        Grapefruit are supposedly named so because on the tree they tend to grow in clusters, reminiscent of grapes. More easily visualized, perhaps, because it involves just a single fruit, is the notion that (the surface of) pineapples resemble pine cones.

        But there’s no question, pamplemousse and ananas are much more fun.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce: “Ella Noy” or “Illa Noy.” I’m in the “Ella Noy” camp, either because I heard it wrong as a kid or because I come from Chicagoans who pronounced it that way. Only outsiders pronounce the final letter.

  3. Matt says:

    A little tough to get a foothold in the NYT, but once started it became more Friday-ish, maybe because of the stacks. A good, relatively straightforward puzzle, IMO. My first try at 10D was NSA, fwiw.

  4. David L says:

    Good puzzle with some tough spots. Can someone explain the clue for MARACA? What’s the connection with rumba? And why two?

    • Brucenm says:

      Maracas are a Latin American percussion instrument which come in pairs and are used in rumba music, and in other contexts. They are not struck against one another, like castanets; they are little pouches or gourds, with a handle and small pebbles (or perhaps seeds inside.) They are played by shaking them. As I understand it, you can vary the sound a bit depending on the way you shake them, and by damping the sound by holding them in contact with each other, or perhaps with your knee.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, Bruce. I knew maracas were a musical instrument, but I still don’t quite understand why they would be specifically associated with rumba. Seems kind of an arbitrary clue.

  5. Martin says:

    Nice puzzle (and stacks). Just the right “strength” for a Friday :)

    PS: thanks for plugging my “Triple- Stack Crosswords” book Amy!


  6. Tracy B says:

    No spoilers re the Fireball, but I think it needed a test-solve more than it got (and I do wonder if it got one). One natick’s acceptable; four are… annoying. Yes, the Fireball’s always high-quality, and they should be tough, and it’s possible I’m just cranky today.

    • Brucenm says:

      Tracy, I wasn’t going to be the first to say it, but I didn’t much like the FB either, though I wondered if some of the things I didn’t like could be related to the meta, which, as usual I don’t have a clue about. I think that rather than the term “natick”, which is a gimme for me, I’ll start calling them Danzigs” I’m sure Danzig is one of the 8,000 most celebrated rock bands on the planet, but here’s an alternative clue, a gimme:

      {Attorney Aaron, who represented the plaintiff Harry Tompkins in the most celebrated and important Civil Procedure case in American legal history} Wouldn’t *that* clue go over big !

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was a great puzzle. I like the way it looks, the contemporary content and the fact that it taught me some stuff. ADMIRAL comes from ARABIC? I did not know that.

    Occasionally someone will cause me to think: “Don’t be such a Wombat”. It’s now going to turn into a Numbat… It sounds, well, numb-er.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Unless the query was tongue in cheek, the clue “monitor” seems to relate to wire-tapping…

  9. Zulema says:

    HUDA, Admiral is Almirante in Spanish, ergo ARABIC. And BTW, ANANAS is also German for the same fruit.

  10. Zulema says:

    BRUCE, I’d forgotten that, thank you. What I really like about this puzzle is the kind of discussion it generated as opposed to yesterday’s discussion. Which reminds me that I wanted to disagree with SN about his belief in the appropriateness of AROD as opposed to ALOU. I hope we do have some standards.

  11. Alan D. says:

    I highly recommend this week’s “The Week” puzzle by Matt Gaffney. Schroedinger, anyone? And very timely, also.

    • pannonica says:

      What a horrible interface! I don’t care how good the puzzle is, I can’t suffer through that. (Don’t have a printer, either.)

    • Dan F says:

      Thanks Alan for the heads-up, but I wish you hadn’t spoiled the entire point of the puzzle!
      edit: Andy K wrote a good one this week too.

      • Alan D. says:

        I know, I’m sorry. But it’s pretty obvious from the clue what we’re looking at. Matt’s not trying to hide it.

  12. Ruth says:

    For a good look at some MARACAs, check out the youtube video of Hugh Jackman singing IGOTORIO (in The Boy from OZ). Nice look at Hugh Jackman, too!

Comments are closed.