Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fireball 5:49 (Amy) 
NYT 5:30 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:18 (Amy) 
LAT 4:27 (Gareth) 
BEQ  (Matt) — contest, so no review 
CS 20ish (Dave) 

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “For ABBA Fans”

American Values Club crossword solution, 2 13 14 "For ABBA Fans"

American Values Club crossword solution, 2 13 14 “For ABBA Fans”

In this week’s installment of Amy Usually Disagrees With the Posted AVX Difficulty Level, I don’t know why this is a 4 out of 5. I would call it a 2.5 to 3 (tough Wednesday to easy Thursday NYT scale).

The ABBA theme features 6-letter words broken in half with their halves swapped:

  • 20a. [UNICEF spokesperson who’s gotten their money back?], REPAID AID REP. I was thinking the theme would be palindromes but the clue didn’t fit with REPAID DIAPER.
  • 27a. [Butt of first daughter Helen Taft’s bathtub jokes?], HER FAT FATHER. Helen’s papa was hefty president William Howard Taft. What are bathtub jokes?
  • 42a. [“Interested in verse? You should read ‘The Bells'”?], “POETRY? TRY POE.” Lovely!
  • 50a. [Explanation for what happened at Chappaquiddick?], TED WAS WASTED. That reminds me of a torn sign I once saw—instead of “POSTED NO TRESPASSING KEEP OUT,” it just had the right side reading “TED PASSING OUT.”

Zippiest fill: 61a. [Prepares to exit the stall, say], ZIPS.

Less literally zippy fill includes KISS ME and a salaciously clued OH GOD (31a. [Outburst in congress?], a FULL GAINER in diving, Barbie’s friend MIDGE, AMY ADAMS, banned-in-California-Illinois-and-other-states SHARK FIN, and JOE ISUZU.

Did you know 46a: CRISCO was a [Pantry item that can be turned into an emergency candle]? I did not. I also don’t stock Crisco in my pantry.

Favorite clues:

  • 15a. [Many people go to the mat for him], ALLAH. At Muslim worship time.
  • 16a. [LaBeouf who’s done some heavy lifting], SHIA. Lifting as in wild plagiarism.

Solid fill for a themed 72-worder, no? Four stars from me.

Parker Lewis’s Fireball crossword, “You Gain Some, You Lose Some”

Fireball crossword solution, 2 13 14 "You Gain Some, You Lose Some"

Fireball crossword solution, 2 13 14 “You Gain Some, You Lose Some”

Well! I solved the puzzle without actually reading the theme clues or figuring out how they work. Let’s take a look at them and find out what elevates this above being a simple Monday theme:

  • 17a. [14-Across + 3-Down – 29-Across + 52-Down – 21-Across], MORE OR LESS. AMORE + PORTAL – PTA + TESTS – ATT. So that’s AMORE PORTATESTS.
  • 37a. [29-Down + 55-Across + 6-Across – 57-Across + 60-Across – 43-Across], PLUS OR MINUS. PLUGS + DORM + DIVE – DVD + NUTS – GET. PLUGS DORM DIVE NUTS.
  • 61a. [29-Down + 6-Across + 3-Down – 6-Down + 27-Down – 10-Down], GIVE OR TAKE. PLUGS + DIVE + PORTAL – DSL + KEY – PULPY. PLUGS DIVE PORTAL KEY.

So the letter math works, and all three phrases connote adding and taking away. That’s solid, but I would have enjoyed the theme more if it weren’t so easy to solve the crossword without the slightest attention to the theme clues.


  • 10a. [Juicy ___ (Jelly Belly flavor)], PEAR. My favorite flavor. Please do not give me any. They’re not good for the teeth.
  • 64a. [Vaper’s device], ECIG. Freshest fill I’ve seen all week.
  • 27d. [Trump card, e.g.?], KEY. As in a hotel key card at a Trump property.
  • 38d. [“Today I Am a ___” (Valerie Harper book)], MA’AM. A 2001 book about being a woman in her 50s.
  • 40d. [Syst. in which the dyne in the standard unit of force], CGS. No idea.
  • 46d. [“What we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t,” according to Erica Jong], ADVICE. Great quote.

The inclusion of about 15 short theme answers plus the three long ones accounts for the overall blahness of the fill—ATT, PSI, plural abbrev DRS, DEE clued as a letter, APERY, OATEN, EELER, STET, AREAR, CLI, IT IS SO. We’ve certainly seen clunkier fill in other puzzles with smaller themes, so this is far from the worst. And I like RETOUCH and that secret ADMIRER close to Valentine’s Day.

3.75 stars.

Daniel Landman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 13 14, no. 0213

NY Times crossword solution, 2 13 14, no. 0213

It’s Thursday and you know what that means: Always suspect a rebus. This time, it’s MAD:

  • 15d. [1963 movie with the tagline “Everybody who’s ever been funny is in it!”], IT’S A {MAD}, {MAD}, {MAD}, {MAD} WORLD. Never seen it. But IMDb tells me that Sid Caesar was in it, and he just died today so it’s accidentally timely. And as an impetus to make a MAD rebus, this is alright. (If you object to “alright,” please insist on “all mighty,” “all ready,” “all ways,” and “all most” too. For consistency’s sake.)
  • The 15d rebus squares cross AR{MAD}A, NO{MAD}, LADY {MAD}ONNA, and {MAD}RE. Then each corner has another rebus square in a random spot.
  • 1d. [Carrier of plates?], AR{MAD}ILLO / 16a. [Title girl in a children’s book series set in Paris]. {MAD}ELINE.
  • 25a. [Sportscaster who lent his name to a popular video game series]. {MAD}DEN / 25d. [Caused a stir], {MAD}E WAVES.
  • 48a. Woman], {MAD}AM / 45d. [Musical middle name], A{MAD}EUS.
  • 60a. [Corona alternative], SA{M AD}AMS / 56d. [Arabic name meaning “highly praised”], AH{MAD}. I would have thought sportscaster Ahmad Rashad would get the clue over the less specific etymology clue.

I like that only the movie title used MAD to mean the word MAD; it’s just a string of letters in a word or name in all the other rebusized answers. More elegant than having a mix of the two.

I’m left wishing that the grid weren’t a tight 72-worder, given how much of the surrounding fill was underwhelming. While I am fond of AKIMBO, I CAN’T LIE, ED O’NEILL, BON MOTS, my mom’s name CLAUDIA, and Chicago Bulls legend His AIRNESS, there were also three somewhat contrived phrases: KEEN EAR, ILL FAME, and SORE ARM all feel like adjective+noun rather than dictionary-grade phrases. On the plus side, their presence makes me think that the constructor handcrafted this grid rather than letting a word list and auto-fill do the heavy lifting.

Five more things:

  • 29a. [Wash. neighbor], OREG. This is the Old GPO abbrev for Oregon. The Associated Press uses Ore., which is likely far more familiar to your eyes. OREG makes me want to have shorthand names for everything on my spice rack. A little bas, a little thy, some marj and tarr, a sprinkle of cinn and caye.
  • 31a. [___ the custom (traditionally)], AS WAS. *nose crinkles as if she smells something*
  • 42a. [Almond ___ (candy brand)], ROCA. Unbeknownst to the manufacturer, we have genericized this. Crossworder Matt Ginsberg, creator of the AI crossword solving program Dr. Fill, has been kind enough to share the insanely delicious roca his wife makes. Boy, was I disappointed a couple Christmases ago when I bought name-brand Roca for myself. It was stale.
  • 6d. [River through Pomerania], ODER. It’s a good thing I filled in the northwest corner last instead of first, as hitting ODER sooner would have put me in a mood.
  • 11d. [Italian actress Cardinale], CLAUDIA. There’s also supermodel Claudia Schiffer, a household name since the ’90s. Usually we see clues for foreign performers when there isn’t any American (or world-class household-name celebrity) alternative.

3.5 stars from me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Interlinks” – Dave Sullivan’s review

The title “Interlinks” can be taken literally to mean “links” (in this case the letters URL) have been shoehorned into phrases.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/13/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/13/14

  • The American League’s Cy Young Award gets “interlinked” with the clue [Prize for a kinky kid?] or CURLY YOUNG AWARD – “kinky” in the sense of “with curls,” not sexually adventurous.
  • I believe I’ve seen an ad for headphones sold by Beats By Dre, but here a “Dr.” is added and then interlinked as [Beats a beefed-up G-funk rapper?] or BEATS BURLY DR. DRE – very contemporary entry; one wonders if the G-funk doctor wrote his own steroid prescriptions to beef up?
  • Ricocheting back to colonial days, Cotton Mather becomes [Pitcher of chintzy bathroom accessories?] or COTTON MAT HURLER – fancy transformation there, as Mather was split into two words. Are cotton mats necessarily “chintzy”? We have one in front of our shower and it seems quite stylish to me.

I like the idea of “embedded links” and admire the time it must’ve taken the constructor to find phrases where the letters URL could be added. It’s funny though how the difficulty of Bob’s puzzles skews so much higher than all of the other CS constructors–this one took me 3 to 4 times longer than any other weekday puzzle I’ve done recently. Here are just a few clues that kept me at bay:

  • Starting at 1-Across, SCOTCH in the sense of [Put the kibosh on] is unusual, but fun.
  • Right below that, an interesting piece of trivia: AL GORE was [Tommy Lee Jones’s Harvard roommate].
  • I’ve never heard of a “barkentine,” but apparently it must be some type of boat, which has a KEEL as its “backbone.”
  • TOLL for [Bridge support?] is also good, as I (and likely you, gentle solver) were thinking of the pylons that keep a bridge up.
  • I was thinking SLICE for the alliterative [Pizza parlor pickup], but it was AROMA instead.

There are plenty of other clues to remark on–mention your FAVEs in the comments below.

Brendan Quigley’s website contest, “In the House”

No review today since BEQ has a contest up. Deadline is Wednesday. I’m saving it for the snowed-in weekend.

Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times 140213

LA Times

Hooboy. This is going to be fun. Anyone solving this puzzle experiencing deja vu? I was! After some post-solve Googling, I discovered that I solved and blogged a puzzle by Jennifer Nutt in October 2013 in the LA Times with the same revealing answer and almost the same theme! I’ll give Ms. Gelfand the benefit of the doubt that she either didn’t solve it (I don’t know that every constructor is actually a daily solver) or unconsciously plagiarised it (I’ve done that before, but caught myself before sending the puzzle in!). It is extremely embarrassing for Rich Norris though. It is sort of understandable, I guessm considering the number of puzzles Rich lays eyes on.

Anyway, in isolation, it’s a tight little theme: MIXEDGREENS tells us that each answer ends in an anagram of a shade of green:

  • [“Sommersby” actress], JODIEFOSTER. Forest green, also featured in the Nutt puzzle.
  • [Shortcut, perhaps], DIAGONALLINE. Nile green. Not featured.
  • [Freaked out], GONEAPE. Pea green. Also new.
  • [Measure used by navigators], NAUTICALMILE. Lime green. A repeat.
  • [Packaged produce buy, and a literal description of the ends of 17-, 28-, 39- and 49-Across], MIXEDGREENS.

The puzzle also featured a generally well-designed grid. I’d have been tempted to reconsider the top-left with AHOLE/AHORA . I also really wish the ECOL/ELAM/APA region had been reworked. WHIMSICAL and SNOWMAN would probably need to be changed though.

Other stuff:

  • I’m aware that SNOWMAN is kind of timely for you guys. I’m sweating like a pig (which is a terrible simile, while I’m here; pigs sweat minimally, which is why they need to wallow!) here with close to 100% humidity and night time temperature well into the 20’s (celsius).
  • MODEM, [Surfing equipment]. Slightly archaic, but I think some parties still use ’em.
  • EXLIBRIS, [Bookplate words]. Fave answer!
  • MURDER, [Geese:gaggle::crows:___]. Best neutral clue for an edgy answer!

Considered in exclusion from Ms. Nutt’s puzzle, this was very nice. 3.75 stars. However, I’m not adding a rating because with the snafu, I feel a little uneasy doing so.


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23 Responses to Thursday, February 13, 2014

  1. bonekrusher says:

    Question: Does anybody else have problems with Across Lite freezing when trying to load a second puzzle?

    If I have Across Lite already open with a puzzle loaded on it, when I double-click on a new puzzle, I will see the message, “Current puzzle not saved. Save before closing?” At that point, the application will frequently lock up, and I am unable to select No, Cancel, or Yes. At this point, I have to do a Force Quit and start anew.

    I’ve tried deleting Across Lite and reloading it, but nothing helps. I’m running Mac OS 10.9.1 Maverick on a Macbook Air with plenty of memory and processing power. This problem never occurred with my old MacBook. It only started when I got the MacBook Air and transferred all the settings over via Time Machine.

    If anybody has any thoughts, please let me know, thanks!

    • Huda says:

      bonekrusher, I often get that message to save first but I have not had the freezing problem. I use a Mac.

    • lorraine says:

      I get the message and i either save (if it’s a contest puzzle) or delete before opening another one. On occasion, i forget I have a puzzle open and open another one and am able to either, again, save or delete; I’ve never had the freezing problem either. I am running a macbook pro and am still running Lion (osx 10.7). There’s gotta be some glitch in mavericks, i’m thinking. I googled around for some answers; this is the best i could find. Good luck!

  2. Tim H. says:

    Re: “Bathtub jokes,” an urban legend holds that President Taft was so immense that he got stuck in the White House bathtub. It is poorly supported.

  3. Brucenm says:

    I loved the NYT. Congrats to Daniel. (I think I’ve seen your puzzles before, but with apology, I’m not sure.)

    It’s a Mad x 4 World was a wildly funny, zany movie — with the big ‘W’ at the end. (Hope that’s not too much of a spoiler.) I was thinking that there was also a movie with Joan Crawford, or someone, called Mama Dearest, but that doesn’t seem to be the right title.

    I agree re “ill fame”, (when infamy wouldn’t fit), but the expression “sore arm” is so idiomatic and pervasive in baseball that it almost sounds like a freestanding noun, not a noun modified by an adjective, (cf “ill humor”, or even “bon mot.”)

    • pannonica says:

      Mommie Dearest was the biopic based on Joan Crawford’s daughter’s memoir of the same name. Faye Dunaway played Joan Crawford.

  4. HH says:

    “11d. [Italian actress Cardinale], CLAUDIA. There’s also supermodel Claudia Schiffer, a household name since the ’90s. Usually we see clues for foreign performers when there isn’t any American (or world-class household-name celebrity) alternative.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I would’ve preferred [Usual guardian of Case #1 on “Deal or No Deal”].

  5. Tracy B says:

    That whole Shia LaBeouf plagiarism business was news to me. Just read all about it and my jaw’s still in the dropped position. It’s apparently the case these days that I get my news mostly from the crossword puzzles, so the contemporary content in AV Club offerings is a blessing.

    Rebus puzzles rock my world, and today’s NYT was very fun for me.

  6. Lemonade714 says:

    I seldom enjoy rebus puzzles, which while they were once a creative concept, now seem a gimmick and an excuse to not create a real theme, but I totally enjoyed this one. The placing of MAD was skillful and the fill entertaining. I am becoming a real fan of Daniel’s work, as his LAT debut last month was also fun.

  7. CY Hollander says:

    I didn’t like the clue “Sonnet endings” for SESTETS, as not all sonnets end with sestets. (It’s also a bit of a stretch to call nearly half of something the “ending”.)

  8. Gareth says:

    ILLFAME is very definitely a bona fide phrase. A rather dated one, but a real one none the less. Loved the theme, especially the central area with its four consecutive MADs!

  9. joe o'neill says:

    Surprised there are no Klahn Komments. Or responses to your “funny why the difficulty of Bob’s puzzles skew so much higher” comment. As for the latter, I’d say they are …well…simply more difficult (and hence for me, by no means a master solver, more fun) and funnier than most others, as regards both clueing and the breadth and depth of the cultural “arcana,” both high and low, that they draw upon for answers: Albrecht Durer, Cotton Mather, Dr. Dre., Raoul, Oran, Pete Best, et al. Loved “bier” for “last stand” btw — my candidate for clue that most kept me at bay….and cleverest.

  10. WeThotUWasAToad says:

    Can someone enlighten me re the theme in Susan Gelfand’s puzzle today at Sometimes I have to stretch my brain a bit to catch on but this one’s got me completely befuddled. :P

  11. Sanfranman59 says:

    I solve the Crossynergy puzzle every day and have been tracking my solve times since 2008. My average solve time on Bob Klahn’s puzzles is 10:48. For all other Crossynergy constructors, it’s 5:35. So yeah, Bob is definitely a horse of a different color. Although I generally enjoy the challenge and word play of his puzzles, he sure messes up my stats! This one really chewed me up and spit me out. Solve time = 18:05. Ouch!

  12. susan superproofer says:

    CS: You might want to correct the typo in the second bullet, just for posterity’s sake.

  13. Jan says:

    Just curious, has Susan Gelfand or Rich Norris responded to the suggestion of plagiarism in the LAT 2-14 puzzle?

  14. Gail Labman says:

    Thank you so much Dave Sullivan for your solvings! We solve the Washington Post every day. Got 3 Posts today because of very deep snow here in Virginia. Wow!
    The humor in crossword puzzles is so good to find! I’m impressed! For instance: bridge support = tolls; curly young award; for Feb 15, flock leader = pastor; dance with a dip = salsa! Oh so funny & punny ! I could go on all day! Love these puzzles. Thanks Dave!

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