Saturday, February 22, 2014

Newsday 5:39 (Amy) 
NYT 4:38 (Amy) 
LAT 2:57 (Andy) 
CS 6:17 (Dave) 

Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 22 14, no. 0222

NY Times crossword solution, 2 22 14, no. 0222

Evan is quickly establishing himself as a themeless constructor in the Quarfoot/Wentz vein—on the young side, on the saucy side where fill is concerned, and simpatico with my puzzle preferences.

Evan is part of the indie wave of crosswords, with a new site offering a new crossword every other week. He’s got a bonus puzzle today, a meta contest puzzle. I test-solved it and thought it was impossible and dumb and not for me, until I muscled through the meta and came up with the right answer and became fond of the meta. I’m going to say it’s at about a Week 2 level on the MGWCC difficulty scale—I can solve it but it takes some effort. (Note: Avoid if you cannot tolerate swear words in your crossword.)

Highlights in the NYT grid include:

  • 15a. [Feared sight on the Spanish Main], PIRATE SHIP.
  • 17a. [Like some parents], STAY-AT-HOME.
  • 21a. [Composer of the opera “Rusalka”], DVORAK. Not the most crossword-friendly collection of letters, so it’s nice to see Dvořak get a little love in the grid.
  • 33a. [Art that uses curse words?], BLACK MAGIC. 
  • 39a. [Peak transmission setting of old?], MT. SINAI. The Almighty transmitting those tablets to Moses atop the mount.
  • 42a. [Fall apart], COME UNDONE.
  • 65a. [“Bummer”], “WHAT A SHAME.”
  • 67a. [Whip wielder], DOMINATRIX. This vocabulary is actually on the tame side compared to the Devil Cross puzzles.
  • 12d. [First drink ever ordered by James Bond], AMERICANO. That’s coffee, right?
  • 34d. [One getting messages by word of mouth?], LIP READER. If you rely on lip reading in part or whole and cannot abide animated movies as a result, take advantage of those closed captioning devices at the movies and catch more of the jokes than the folks with perfect hearing do.
  • 56d. [“Good ___ A’mighty!”], GAWD.

Lots of juicy fill, the payoff for going with a 72-word grid rather than a harder-to-fill diagram. On the down side, we also get ERNS, DE ORO, APSES, RESOW, partial I SHOT (though who doesn’t appreciate a Johnny Cash reference?), SNEE, and AREAR. Seven of those is more than my arbitrary gestalt cap of four, but it’s better than having a dozen.

Clue it took a little thinking to understand: 46a. [Split second?], PEE. The letter “pee” is the second in “sPlit.”

Four stars from me for this one.

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 2.22.14 by Barry C. Silk

LAT Puzzle 2.22.14 by Barry C. Silk

Well, anything I solved after than Patrick Berry NYT themeless yesterday was going to be a letdown.* But as I’ve said before, Barry Silk’s puzzles just JIVE with me. This puzzle is exactly what I like about Saturdays at the LA Times: zippy, but not too challenging. It’s like a crisp, delicious lemon sorbet after a beautiful filet mignon.

Let’s start with the four 10×3 stacks. Nearly everything in them is great. My favorite entries there are USS ARIZONA, WHO CAN IT BE?, US NATIONAL, MONTESSORI, AZERBAIJAN (in typical Silk/Scrabbly style), RODEO DRIVE, MARIONETTE, and STRESS MARK. Also quite good were CLOSED IN ON, LIGHT SPEED, and LEAVE ALONE.

For those of you counting along at home, that’s 11 out of 12, which is awesome. The bad entry is MOGEN DAVID. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve only ever seen the Star of David written as “Magen David.” From what I can tell, MOGEN DAVID is a New York-based wine company. Either this should have been clued as (Var.), or as the wine.

OK, enough griping, because this puzzle was lovely. Can we talk about ZOOT SUITS and GENIUS BAR? A blast from the past, symmetrical to a timely entry. Got a little ALANIS action going on, and even the vowels come together nicely in the good-looking entry UTAHANS. Better BONE UP on SENOR GRIEG before you solve next week’s puzzle, or else you’ll be AT SEA.

I won’t ignore the not-good fill in this one: SOGS, ONE B, NO EAR, LALAS, ROTA, ENTR’, BARO-, RESLATE, OLIOS (which I’ll not I don’t dislike as much as most of the crossword blogosphere), AT. NO., RNAS, and NEDS. That’s a lot of junk, but frankly the puzzle went so smoothly that I didn’t care. Hope that opinion’s not too EDGY for you!

Even with the junk, 3.9 stars. Until next week!

*I wrote this review before solving Evan Birnholz’s NYT puzzle for today. That puzzle — not a letdown. (67-Across? In my NYT puzzle? It’s more likely than you think!)

Updated Saturday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Movie Mash-up” – Dave Sullivan’s review

This seems to be a hard theme to describe correctly, but let me try. Two movie names are adjoined and the first word of the second movie is attached instead to the first movie and reclued as a “mash-up.” Let’s see if that works out:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/22/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/22/14

  • [Headline about an escaped yeti?] clued BIGFOOT LOOSE – so the first movie was “Big” and the second was “Footloose.” The “foot” of “Footloose” was attached to “Big” making “bigfoot.” So far, so good.
  • [Tiny floating toy in a man-made nest?] was BIRD HOUSEBOAT – kind of stumped on this one. I’m familiar with The Birdcage, but is there a movie called “Birdhouse” or just “Bird”? Oh, and there’s this as well.
  • [Extremely short one-act?] was SEVEN-WORD PLAY – ok, back in familiar territory. “Seven” is a film (stylized as “Se7en” in some promotions I think) and so is “Wordplay.” So the “word” of “Wordplay” is attached to “Seven” giving us “seven-word” as a description of a short act.
  • [Ocular affliction for an iced dessert lover?] clued FROZEN POP EYE – contemporary entry of “Frozen” mashed up with “Popeye,” which was remade with Robin Williams back in 1980. I wonder if there is a Robin Williams connection with other movies in this set (other than “The Birdcage,” which actually has nothing to do with the theme, so never mind!)

Challenging theme, what do you think of the set that Tony chose to mash up? I found it remarkable that the two long crossing down entries were both bellicose in nature–[Order given when taking no prisoners] was SHOOT TO KILL and [Engage in battle] or CROSS SWORDS. Lots of nice compound entries in the fill–MR. BIG, TOO BAD, PEN NAME and London’s THE TUBE. I’ve been reading a lot about EBOLI, Italy recently, particularly as described by Carlo Levi in his famous book, Christ Stopped at Eboli. Despite the town’s poverty, better there than Ebola, huh?


Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 2 22 14 "Saturday Stumper," Doug Peterson

Newsday crossword solution, 2 22 14 “Saturday Stumper,” Doug Peterson

Either I am keenly attuned to Doug’s mental wavelength or the clues in this one were markedly easier than in most Stumpers. What say you?

I didn’t hit a bunch of “Wow, fun!” bits like I did in today’s NYT—the fill is a tad drier than Doug’s usual delights. To wit: AREA RUG, DISHRAG, SHINGUARD, and HATPIN. These things are fairly devoid of the capacity to delight, no? Where the zippity-doo-dah comes in is in the clues, with the trademark obliqueness:

  • 1a. [Way down], MANHOLE. “Way down” could also mean “very far down,” or stairs, elevator, etc.
  • 33a. [Familiar product line], AS SEEN ON TV. Spoken/written line, not “line of products.”
  • 36a. [Mark on a bouncer?], NSF. “Not sufficient funds” stamp on a bounced check. Whatever banker came up with that phrasing should be shot for the infelicitousness of the wording.
  • 37a. [Low notes], SINGLES. Currency notes, not musical notes.
  • 57a. [Crawl past, perhaps], OUTSWIM. Front crawl, not baby locomotion.
  • 3d. [Swift creation], NEST. The bird called a swift, not satirist Jonathan Swift. Obscured capital letter (or lack thereof), a classic ruse in the cluer’s arsenal.
  • 25d. [Dancer’s topper], ANTLER. Santa’s reindeer, not a ballerina.
  • 31d. [One with large calves], WHALE. Not bodybuilders. Baby whales are called calves.
  • 49d. [Field trip?] ERROR. Baseball error on the part of a fielder.
  • 50d. [Pan, in part], GOAT. Greek mythology’s Pan, not a pan in the kitchen or a negative review.
  • 51d. [Stinging remark?], “OUCH!” Not a barb, but the response to being stung by a gnarly bug.

Favorite fill:

  • 34d. [“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” follower], NIGHTLINE. Used to precede Kimmel, no? And does anyone else keep calling The Tonight Show “Kimmel” when they mean “Fallon”? No? Just me?
  • 38d. [Filled fare], SOFT TACO. Hate, hate, hate all those [Crunchy snack] clues for TACO. I think most people consider tacos a meal, not a snack, and I see a helluva lot more soft tortillas than hard taco shells at Mexican restaurants.

Four stars. Not a standout filled with marvels, but solid and scowl-free.

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34 Responses to Saturday, February 22, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Nicely done Evan! Love the clue for LAP DOG.

    … and ignore Amy re APSES. I’ve never seen an apse I didn’t like.

    But, seriously, there are two APSES within a couple of hundred yards from my apartment… so any more anti-apse sentiment will be greeted with pictures (apse pictures). ;)


  2. Gareth says:

    Loved the 1A clue! Just about worth it for that alone!

  3. Evan says:

    Thanks, Amy. I’d be honored to join the Quarfoot/Wentz ranks.

    I actually clued DVORAK to refer to the keyboard alternative to QWERTY. I didn’t do that because I felt it would be a tougher clue (though perhaps it was), but rather because I wondered if it would be strange to have a composer clue for the last name of DVORAK crossing the full name of ERIK SATIE. I guess it’s no big deal.

    And I wondered if I should have gone with the old bandleader ISHAM Jones instead of I SHOT — I figured the partial was a better choice, though I’m not crazy about it myself.

  4. Martin says:

    Evan: I think the ISHOT partial is just fine. I liked the clue too. IMHO you have enough names already in the grid.


  5. pannonica says:

    NYT: “12d. [First drink ever ordered by James Bond], AMERICANO. That’s coffee, right?”

    Probably not. While an americano is a coffee drink—espresso with hot water added after the brew—here it’s most likely the cocktail. Equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth, a splash of soda (i.e., soda water as per the comment discussion earlier in the week), garnished with an orange slice. It’s related to the resurgent negroni (equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, again with an orange slice). And also to the newly resurgent and trendier boulevardier, which is essentially a negroni with whiskey instead of gin.

    • Don’t know if it’s the first drink from the books or in the movies. I’d suppose the books, as it’d be absolute.
    • Also don’t know the first use of this name for the coffee drink, but I suspect it’s antedated by the cocktail.

    “… and catch more of the jokes than the folks with perfect hearing do.”

    More perfect?

    • Brucenm says:

      You have to get up pretty early in the morning to preempt Pannonica. The Americano was a wildly popular cocktail in the south of France, maybe 30 years ago. AAH — those were the days — lounging on the topless beaches in St. Trop., looking for Brigitte, sipping my Americano. :-) Campari is (to put it mildly) an acquired taste. Very bitter; almost impossible to drink straight, though some people do; but I developed a real taste for the Americano.

      Amy, I’m delighted to see your positive reaction to Dvorak. A truly great symphonist, probably underappreciated. I liked the cross with Erik Satie, and figured that anyone who didn’t could think of it as a mini-theme.

      Evan I liked the puzzle a lot. I was initially uncertain what I thought about the clue for 1a — it seemed to me a little off kilter (though I’m not even sure what a kilter is) — but I liked the association across the top in 1 and 11a. Liked 33a and 34d. I’m thinking that the clue for 63d could have been either {Tapping} or {Taping}.

  6. pannonica says:

    CS: “… but is there a movie called “Birdhouse” or just “Bird”? Oh, and there’s this as well.

    Yes, a 1988 Charlie Parker biopic starring Forest Whitaker and directed by Clint Eastwood. Whew, I thought the link was going to be to this notorious exploitation flick. Oops, that was kind of counterproductive.

    “I’ve been reading a lot about EBOLI, Italy recently, particularly as described by Carlo Levi in his famous book, Christ Stopped at Eboli. Despite the town’s poverty, better there than Ebola, huh?”

    Or E. coli.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Can’t figure out 1a and 3d in Doug’s Stumper to save my life, and I don’t understand 37a, but the rest of it is challenging and pretty neat. I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler.

    • pannonica says:

      • N ZNAUBYR vf n na npprff cbvag gb cbvagf haqretebhaq.
      • N fjvsg vf n xvaq bs oveq.
      • Abgrf nf va onaxabgrf, ybj nf va inyhr. Gung bar’f n ovg bs n fgergpu.

    • ArtLvr says:

      I believe the 3d “Swift” refers to the bird group, especially the chimney swift which literally likes chimneys: Chaetura pelagica means wandering bristle-tail… As for “compelled” at 1d, it reminds one of the phase “made you look” currently airing in TV ads as a medieval “madest thou look” — but the sponsor escapes me!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Also in the Stumper, 37a must refer to currency denominations…

  9. sps says:

    Am I seeing things? Why is the PDF of the Monday puzzle where the PDF of the Saturday should be? I’m not saying that b/c I thought today’s NYT puzzle was easy. I literally did Monday’s 2/24 puzzle by Adam Perl this morning. And here I thought I was getting pretty smart…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      So when Deb Amlen goes on vacation, everything goes to pot at the NYT? You’re absolutely right. The PDF link at Wordplay has a 2/22 filename but that is the 2/24 puzzle.

  10. animalheart says:

    As soon as I saw the cross of musical gimmes (DVORAK and ERIKSATIE), I thought of you, Bruce. Those are things we usually have to pay for with corresponding “Grammy winner of 1993” clues, but not here. (Hey, even I know JIMI Hendrix…) Anyway, I liked the puzzle a lot. Lots of fresh fill and clever cluing. Congrats, Evan.

  11. Zulema says:

    In the NYT I truly disliked DE ORO, totally lame. Of course “dorado,” No. 1 translation of “golden” didn’t fit, so I put in a fancier translation, “Aúreo,” five letters. Then I thought it was too hard, even for a Saturday, and caved in with DE ORO.

  12. David L says:

    Not knowing more than a few words of Spanish, and those mostly from crosswords, I invented OROSO (fem. OROSA) for that entry, before reluctantly giving it up. It should be a word, though.

  13. Warren S. says:

    Doug Peterson Newsday Saturday :
    Always amazed how many clues yield “almost” answers. Started with Wagyu (beef) for 31 down.
    And what does “a la King” (42A) have to do with gruesomely?

  14. Bob Margolis says:

    Evan Birnholz over at Devil Cross says: Surprise! I’m breaking my “new puzzle every other Saturday” rule by publishing on an off-week, and also on a Friday. I wrote the New York Times puzzle for tomorrow, so I figured, why not have two? My schedule will get back to normal beginning next week — meaning, there will be a new puzzle on March 1, then on March 15, and so on.

    Check out his Puzzle No. 3, “Tech Revolution” contest puzzle–it’s a “spicy” metapuzzle– at

  15. Bob Margolis says:

    Nathan Curtis over at Tortoiseshell Puzzles returns today after a looooong “vacation” with his Snake Charmer No. 22 puzzle. You can try to solve it at

  16. Avg Solvr says:

    NYT: MT in MTSINAI when the clue has nothing to clue an abbreviation? Why the question mark after the clue “Big long distance carrier?” It’s unnecessary and misleading.

    Someone should make a puzzle consisting entirely of the most common words and clue them in such a way as to make the puzzle impossibly hard. They can call it The Chumper. :)

    • HH says:

      Particularly late in the week, no need to indicate an abbr. if it’s the typical way to write the word. Hardly anyone spells out “Mount Sinai”.

  17. klew archer says:

    I also found the Stumper to be easier going than usual, got the NW filled in pretty quickly and, while I didn’t exactly sail through the rest, was able to make continual progress, unlike the not-uncommon experience of staring at the nearly vacant grid with maybe one gimme filled in- I even checked whether the author was Les Ruff!

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