Wednesday, February 12, 2014

NYT 3:49 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 
CS 5:10 (Dave) 

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 12 14, no. 0212

NY Times crossword solution, 2 12 14, no. 0212

The theme includes those three big letter T’s made of black squares as well as the three 15s with T.T.T. initials:

  • 16a. [Triumphing], TURNING THE TRICK. Say what?? I have never, ever, not once, heard this usage. “Turning tricks” means having sex with paying customers. Is this “winning” sense of the words at all common enough to merit having it sprawled across a newspaper crossword? I did some Googling and couldn’t find a reference that supported this. I’m sure one of you will have better luck.
  • 33a. [Traditional pre-Christmas activity], TRIMMING THE TREE.
  • 53a. [Testifying accurately], TELLING THE TRUTH.

These phrases are not particularly colorful or fun or interesting, so I do not find much cleverness to the theme.

And the grid pattern, built around those big black T’s, locks in a lot of long answers that cross the theme answers with a lot of short junk in the midst. I simply did not enjoy the puzzle. While SHEESH, SHAR-PEI, HIGH NOON, and STRIKE ZONES are zippy, there was an underlying mood of despair. LETHAL AGENT and TOE TAG and HARA-KIRI? That’s three death answers. And AGED OUT, or 52a. [Became too old for foster care, say], evokes sadness too. I also was nudged out of the happiness zone by fill like SHUTTLER, HOI, POS, TKO, CLIC, TOTIE, SST, O COME, EPI-, -ENE, PDT, and AD REM.

There will be those who are enchanted to find the big T’s drawn in the grid, yes. But me, I am left grousing that the last three NYT puzzles with a visual twist have all been letdowns; Liz Gorski remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of the grid-art world in my book. Two poinT Three stars from me.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Stuff of Nursery Rhymes” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four things (“stuff”) that you’d find in a popular nursery rhyme:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/12/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/12/14

  • [“Jack Be Nimble” obstacle] was a CANDLESTICK – also an obstacle for New England bowlers.
  • [“Little Miss Muffet” dish] clued CURDS AND WHEY – I know some people eat whey as a protein supplement, but I’m afraid curds on their own would be rather disgusting, unless salted. Is cottage cheese just curds or has it been processed in any additional way?
  • [“Three Blind Mice” chopper] was CARVING KNIFE – I’m not as familiar with this rhyme, something about “see how they run,” but then I get lost on the rest (which must include something about a carving knife).
  • [“Jack and Jill” burden] was a PAIL OF WATER – fetched from the top of a hill, no?

I found this theme a bit odd, not sure if I’m missing some connection between these four objects, other than their mention in four different nursery rhymes. Why not WATER SPOUT or LITTLE LAMB? Row 4 had an old-timey vibe with K-TEL preceding VHS, but I did like the all-consonant action of BMWS and CNBC. I was about to call foul on the the entry for [Sold-out Broadway shows] for SROS, thinking you can’t pluralize it like that, but it ended up being HITS instead. Never mind.

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

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 2 12 14 "Outsourcing"

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 2 12 14 “Outsourcing”

Interesting theme that plays with language. Various phrases like “desk job” are redefined as if they are jobs specifically focused on the the key word.

  • 1a. [With “job,” what a 56-Across might do], DESK / 56a. [See 1-Across], WOODWORKER. Hand-crafting desks, not shuffling papers.
  • 5a. [With “job,” what a 37-Across might do], RUSH / 37a. [See 5-Across], MUSIC PRODUCER. Producing records for Rush, not hurrying.
  • 9a. [With “job,” what a 25-Across might do], HACK / 25a. [See 9-Across], PROGRAMMER. Computer hacking, not doing a slapdash job.
  • 17a. [See 66-Across], MANICURIST / 66a. [With “job,” what a 17-Across might do], HAND. Shaping and polishing fingernails, not [crude reference redacted].
  • 46a. [See 55-Across], DRUG DEALER / 55a. [With “job,” what a 46-Across might do], BLOW. Selling cocaine, or blow, not [crude reference redacted].

The occupational terms occupy the five longest Across slots, and the short partner words are in the top row and two random spots near the bottom. The deviation from symmetry is okay because you can’t have two symmetrically placed sets of five items in a single grid unless the two center answers cross in the middle square. I liked the redefinition theme—it’s a category that Merl Reagle has long trafficked in, but with a fresh all-in-the-grid angle.


  • 45a. [Words from one asking for a smack?], KISS ME. Smack on the lips.
  • 4d. [“Jump” group], KRIS KROSS. The NYT recently had KRISS KROSS clued as a variety puzzle; note the extra S.
  • 6d. [Geller who beefed with the Amazing Randi], URI. I like any reference to the Amazing Randi, and “beefed” as a verb is fun.
  • 26d. [Widely televised ’90s courtroom spectacle], O.J. TRIAL. Did you see the various memes during/after the Super Bowl mentioning O.J.’s friend’s white Bronco? “Last great run by a Bronco was in 1994.” This, when the Denver Broncos were having a hard time scoring.

Lowlights: CITEE, A AND M with its ampersand spelled out, crosswordese beastie AGAMA (23d. [Insect-eating lizard]), the WAH/OLA/OON trio.

Did not know:

  • 45d. [Creative spelling for some hip-hop collectives], KREW. 
  • 46d. [Bill W.’s partner in founding AA], DR. BOB.
  • 2d. [MTV musical honors show held in the Netherlands in 2013], EMA. European Music Awards. This is the awards show where Miley Cyrus appeared to light up a joint on stage.

3.75 stars.

Jeff Chen & Jim Horne’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140212

LA Times

This is a difficult sort of a puzzle to review – a stunt puzzle where each answer has at least one “H” in it. It also has 49 black squares, far more than the norm, and almost normal symmetry, except for those 2 cheater/helpers squares in the top-middle (either side of “who”).

This O'Keeffe painting refers to 7d, not 48d. I promise.

This O’Keeffe painting refers to 7d, not 48d. I promise.

Despite the extreme difficulty of filling this grid, the result is a puzzle where, apart from going “yep, that one has an ‘h’ too” each time you fill an answer in, there isn’t a lot going on in the puzzle, interest-wise. A few of the 7s were nice: WHATTHE, MADDASH, and HAWKEYE; I assume these were seed answers. There are also inevitable short-fill issues, handled as well as you’d expect with Jeff Chen’s byline on the grid, but there was still plenty of ADISH/HEPT/OTHE type action going on.

2.5 stars. Extremely impressive grid-filling, but the result is inevitably uninteresting as a crossword puzzle.

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24 Responses to Wednesday, February 12, 2014

  1. wreck says: :

    do or turn the trick

    definition | in Spanish | English synonyms | in context | images

    WordReference English Thesaurus © 2014
    do or turn the trick
    achieve the desired result,
    attain success,
    be successful,
    get sth done,
    manage to do

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      That site appears to be largely an attempt to siphon off eyeballs from real dictionary sites in order to garner ad revenue for the site owner. I try to avoid clicking on it when I’m looking for solid info.

  2. Martin says:

    FYI: the letter T was not formally used in the English alphabet until an act of the British Parliament in 1714. Kudos to Peter Collins for celebrating its 300th anniversary.


  3. bob stigger says:

    I can’t say as “turning the trick” rings a bell, but the past tense “turned the trick” is certainly familiar to me — but mostly from my youth; people younger than a certain age which I am not younger than seem not to use the phrase, and we elder statespeople have I suppose gotten out of the habit.

  4. sbmanion says:

    My first thought when I saw the phrase TURNING THE TRICK was that it was a reference to the card game bridge. I started playing bridge when I was 12 and if you want to become a good card player, play bridge and you will have a shot at being good at every other card game. Having said that it was a reference to bridge, I frankly don’t know why I had that thought. There is no particular coup or misdirection in bridge that I am aware of that would cause one to say “That turned the trick,” but I have this gut feeling that the relationship between the phrase and the game has something to do with a clever false card or stratagem that wins a particular trick.

    Here is an interesting article about the demise of bridge:

    I liked the puzzle. I never seem to be bothered by what is often described as bad fill, most likely because I usually only do the NYT and am not as conscious as others of good and bad fill.


  5. Tracy B says:

    While printing out the puzzles last night, I marveled at the synchronicity of the NYT and LAT publishing L/R symmetry grids featuring letter shapes on the same day. How cool!

  6. Angela Osborne says:

    The only time I’ve ever heard Turning The Trick was in reference to prostitution. I’m completely baffled by that clue. I knew “aged out” because I once wrote on article about teen homelessness where research showed that once a teen reaches 18 he is literally kicked out of his foster home and is out on the streets with no place to go. (Covenant House in NY has facilities for those teens where they learn how to transition from foster care to living on one’s own.

  7. Tracy B says:

    I noticed a little dupiness in the LAT grid that triggered my raised-eyebrow-o-meter (I rarely scowl): The clue for 24D is “Say what?” with the very nearby entry WHAT THE.

  8. Sarah says:

    As far as I know, we’ve covered 4 letters in the “every word in the puzzle contains this letter” theme: A (NYT, Newsday), B (Newsday), H (LAT) and O (FB). Can’t wait for the other letters, though I have a feeling some of them are nigh impossible (Q???????)

    The LAT’s theme constraints are utterly absurd, but for those constraints, it is rather clean, no?

  9. Cyrano says:

    I doubt this is the proper place for this post, so I apologize in advance, but does anyone have any idea what is going on with the “Year” of Puzzles? Did I somehow get booted off the feed or has it just gone even more AWOL? That combined with the Puzzazz-related delay in Kickstarter backers of Cryptic All-Stars getting the electronic version (paper versions have already been mailed) make me very hesitant to back anything having to do with Puzzazz in the near future. Unless I am missing something or did something wrong…anyway, a private reply is fine Amy or anyone who knows. Thanks and sorry again for posting this here…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Cyrano: A Facebook friend was complaining about the poor management of the “Year of Puzzles” project. He said, “Puzzazz said they’d give people puzzles, and they have in fact given people puzzles. Except that they’ve done so at a much much slower rate than they implied, and a majority of them have been written by the company founders, which I find very sketchy given how much the campaign revolved around outside contributors. It may simply be that many of the backers are new to puzzlehunting (the campaign certainly targeted newbies) and for them, any set of nonstandard puzzles is exciting. But my standards are higher. I also resent that the ‘updates’ I’ve received have spent just as much time, if not more, advertising other Puzzazz projects as giving me the puzzles I paid for. I feel like I spent $19 to get on an advertising list.” People tend to be much more forgiving when people get in front of their delays with explanations and apologies than when the explanation for delays only follows customer complaints.

      I only signed up for the paper “Cryptic All-Stars.” Love the book!

    • Dan Katz says:

      Cyrano: If you look under “Comments” on the Kickstarter page, you’ll find that several backers (and in my case, a backer-slash-contributor) have raised similar concerns. Roy has responded in that section (but not posted any official Updates for backers who haven’t checked there). You can decide for yourself whether you find his responses satisfying. I certainly have my opinion.

      • lorraine says:

        the kickstarter campaign stated on their page that “The biggest part of this [referencing the $9,973 target amount of the campaign] is paying the world-class puzzle authors who will make the individual puzzles.”

        Of the 7 puzzles delivered so far, only TWO of the puzzles have been created by “world-class puzzle authors”, Patrick Berry and Dan Katz. I didn’t pay $19 to fund puzzle makers I don’t know — I paid to get high-quality puzzles created by puzzle makers whose work I DO know and appreciate. Perhaps Roy Leban and Parker Lewis are, or will be, world-class puzzle makers. I don’t know. I do know the puzzles have been incredibly uneven in quality. Draw your own conclusions.

        Plus, aside from the funds raised by the Kickstarter campaign, they are selling the YOP on their Puzzazz site, which is where i found it, so there have been untold amount of additional funds given to produce what they said they’d produce for $9,973. I certainly won’t a) back another campaign by Roy nor b) purchase anything else off Puzzazz. I feel completely taken in.

  10. Cyrano says:

    Thanks for the replies guys. I couldn’t agree more with your ultimate sentiment Amy, namely if there is acknowledgment of a delay, I am much much more willing to understand. Otherwise I second everything your FB friend posted. And I would happily happily settle for a PDF of the Cryptic All-Stars at this point (I actually would have preferred it initially).

  11. Alan D. says:

    Tracy B. said: “While printing out the puzzles last night, I marveled at the synchronicity of the NYT and LAT publishing L/R symmetry grids featuring letter shapes on the same day.”

    I, too, marveled at it and it made me wonder if it were ever possible for the NYT and LAT to do some kind of meta thing where the two were linked somehow on the same day. I half expected the Newsday to have an “E” theme and the three puzzles would spell THE!

  12. Richard says:

    I had a different reaction than Amy to the three or four answers that could be called despairing because they refer to death. I actually liked this subtheme of sorts, seeing it as a sort of black humor. My reaction might be atypical though based on the ratings.

    • Lois says:

      The dark answers include NIHILIST, 7d, which was probably on Amy’s mind but not on her list. I had a love/hate relationship with those answers, which might have been my favorite part of the puzzle but also elicited a negative reaction in me. Anything referring to foreign movies is purely good, also.

  13. Harry says:

    One problem with the LAT puzzle. 61D “Hai” is not a Ginza greeting. It is Japanese for “yes.”

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