Saturday, March 1, 2014

Newsday 6:27 (Amy) 
NYT 5:25 (Amy) 
LAT 3:53 (Andy) 
CS 3:15 (Amy) 

Attention, ACPTers! There’s still time to get in on the Cru dinner on Friday, March 7. Details here.

Attention, constructors! Jeffrey Harris, crossword editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is looking for some smartypants puzzles. Here’s Jeffrey’s call for submissions:

Submission rates for the CHE crossword have dwindled quite a bit recently, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind people of the venue. You can visit the Chronicle site for a detailed spec sheet (scroll down to below the list of puzzle links), but here are the bullet points:

  • We accept 15×15 (or occasionally 15×16 or 15×14) crosswords with scholarly themes—literary, scientific, etc. Constructors are encouraged to send theme queries before filling a grid, and filled grids before writing clues.
  • The pay is $150 per puzzle, which I believe is only behind the Times and Fireball in open-submission pay rates for that size.

Since submissions are low, turnaround time will be quite fast.

(Amy here.) The CHE has run some really fabulous puzzles with intricate, tricky themes, as well as puzzles with more straightforward scholarly themes. It’s a boon to constructors to be able to submit themes for approval, too, rather than creating an entire puzzle only to be asked to rework the theme. Show us what you’ve got!

Ian Livengood and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 1 14, no 0301

NY Times crossword solution, 3 1 14, no 0301

Hey! We just had another puzzle by Ian and his crossword-construction pupils two months ago. I figured we were a year away from the next one, but either the class was super-productive or the course is happening more than once a year. Lots of super-crispy fill, as we typically see any time Ian’s name appears in the byline. I’m partial to these bits:

  • 1a. [1987 #1 hit with the line “Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán”], “LA BAMBA.” Such a catchy tune. Anyone else in the mood for marinara sauce now? Pro tip: Top Ritz crackers with mozzarella, melt the cheese, dip in pasta sauce, and enjoy. Tastes like chicken parmigiana, I’m telling you.
  • 15a. [Samsung Galaxy Note rival], IPAD AIR. “Rival”! As if. I picked up an iPad Air for myself on the way home from a trivia competition. I earned it.
  • 17a. [Forward to some followers], RETWEET. I probably retweet more than I tweet. #lazytweeter
  • 18a. [Curt chat closing], KTHXBYE. Can I get a ruling on the proper spacing, if any? Is it “k thx bye” or “kthxbye”?
  • 42a. [Modern device seen on a bridge], GOOGLE GLASS. Had so many crossings, I didn’t even need the clue. The “bridge” in question is the bridge of the nose.
  • 49a. [Den delivery], LION CUB. Seldom seen in the grid, not too fancy, but utterly familiar and way cuter than the average 7-letter word.
  • 67a. [Like some stockings], FISHNET. See also: 28d. [They sometimes lead to runs], SNAGS.
  • 6d. [Welcome message to international travelers], BIENVENUE. Wilkommen!
  • 21d. [Novel groups?], BOOK CLUBS.
  • 30d. [Italian brewer since 1846], PERONI. If your local Italian restaurant doesn’t stock this, ask them what ails them.

My favorite clues:

  • 8a. [Throwback], ATAVIST. Been seeing “throwback” each Thursday in social media, when people post old photos of themselves and call it Throwback Thursday, or #tbt.
  • 38a. [Four roods], ACRE. “I’ll take Medieval Units of Measure for $1,200, Alex.” So, so many boring, stale clues for ACRE. The medieval angle is fresh!
  • 40a. [Pawnbroker, in slang], UNCLE. This is insane. Never heard it in my life! Learned something new.
  • 55a. [They’re game], FOWL. Bawk, bawk.
  • 59a. [Sack dress?], PAJAMAS. As in the dress/apparel you wear when you hit the sack. Toughest clue for me to parse.

Outdated clue: 57d. [Modern posting locale], WALL. Facebook quit the whole Wall thing a year or two back and moved to Timelines.

Hardest to understand: 7d. [Danza, e.g.], ARTE. Eventually I figured out danza must be Italian for “dance,” and ARTE, of course, is “art.”

Didn’t love all the shorter fill, but how often do I?

I found this one markedly easier than the Friday puzzle. I’ve heard that Will Shortz likes to run showy grids, like quad-stacks, on Fridays so that a larger audience will see them. Difficulty-wise, though, I’d have swapped these two. Four stars from me.

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 3.1.14 by Mark Bickham

LAT Puzzle 3.1.14 by Mark Bickham

I really enjoyed this puzzle. I really enjoy most of Mark Bickham’s themeless puzzles, in fact.

Right away in the NW, H.R. PUFNSTUF is an attention-grabber. That answer alone crosses the lovely PONTIAC FIREBIRD and STREET CRED. FLESH is clued as the bygone Crayola color, which is a fun reminder of racism in consumer culture. UVEA might strike some as crosswordese, but it’s a real thing, honest.

There’s lot of stuff that feels extremely “in the language” in this puzzle too. PRIMETIME TV, ABOVE IT ALL, IN A NUTSHELL, and the often-partialized END OF AN ERA are all good long phrases. From the batch of long answers, I also really liked PRAIRIE DOG, LOAN SHARKS, X-RAY VISION (when did this become such a common crossword entry?), and the only single-word long answer, MINESTRONE. The only long answer that didn’t really strike my fancy was POLITICAL LEADER, which is still a fine entry. None of these left me saying “I’M BORED.”

Other fill of interest: RUPIAH, FESS UP, HOT TUB, WIRED (clued as the magazine), URBAN (the papal name). Bad stuff: A LAP, API-, UIES, NUIT (although I like the clue of [Gaspard de la ___]), SEI, SITU, ENE. Not too bad, and I didn’t mind the compromise in order to get an interesting grid and fill. Overall, 3.75 stars. Until next week!

Updated Saturday afternoon:

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 3 1 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 3 1 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Busy day, behind schedule, need lunch, gotta hit the road soon, quick thoughts:

Easier than I was expecting for a Stumper.

Likes in the fill: MISSPEAKS, DRY-ERASE, BIALYSTOK, MAN-TO-MAN, ANTON EGO (a flat-out gimme for me), Muppet WALDORF.

Unexpected clue: 22a. [Every US president to date], SON. Technically, yes. Though that was not their most salient feature. (Maleness in general may be.)

Smooth fill. Four stars.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Bearing Arms”

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, 3 1 14 "Bearing Arms"

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, 3 1 14 “Bearing Arms”

Amy here—Dave was called out of town.

The theme is PACKING HEAT, or [Bearing arms, and a hint to what’s inside 16-, 23-, 34-, and 47-Across]. Each of those answers contains the letter sequence HEAT in a non-heat context:

  • 16a. [Invading, say], ON THE ATTACK. Neutral phrase, not thrilling.
  • 23a. [Like pelicans, dietwise], FISH-EATING. Blurgh. Not a fan of clue words like “dietwise,” and FISH-EATING feels flat and awkward.
  • 34a. [Duke Ellington classic], TAKE THE A TRAIN. Nice.
  • 47a. [Illicit memory aid], CHEAT SHEET. Lively.

I don’t get it, Martin. You’ve got the title field available in this venue, so why not call the puzzle “Packing Heat” and put four phrases in the theme instead of five? Granted, it makes a little bit of a punch line as a revealer. Maybe cut out one themer and put two on top and one on the bottom with the revealer? Because the five long answers appear to have been hell on the fill. While HOT COCOA and ICED TEAS make a lovely pair, the Scowl-o-Meter kicked into gear with LACS, plural abbrev RTES, partial ON OUR, old ATCO, LESE-majesté, plural exclamation NAHS, alphabetical trio GHI, crosswordese [Glacial deposit] ESKER (when I encounter an answer that I used to see much more often in crosswords but haven’t seen in awhile, it throws up a red flag), crosswordese STEN, and terrible “AH, ME.” Is it not plausible that with one fewer theme answer, we might have been spared most of these?

Did not know: 38a. [Brit’s billfold] is a NOTECASE. News to me; Martin probably carries one and actually calls it a notecase!

Three stars. I liked the revealer’s punch line, though it was no mystery what the theme was given that there’s also a gun-suggestive title.

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16 Responses to Saturday, March 1, 2014

  1. arthur118 says:

    The Newsday 4.5 rating was posted in error; sorry.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I love how contemporary this puzzle is… you’d never mistake it for even a 2012 puzzle, with GOOGLE GLASS and iPAD AIR, and then there is all the other techie stuff with chatting and posting and retweeting. DVD CASE sounds downright medieval… Really cool! And a very easy Saturday.

    Tamarind (Date of India, in Arabic) is awesome stuff and a great way to clue PAD THAI.

    I’m surprised that the ATAVIST was not clued as a modern story telling App. See

  3. Gareth says:

    NYT: Without a theme, a crossword will be judged by the number of fun answers that its author(s) can cram in… This was bursting at the seams in all of the corners! Nice one! LAT was slightly more staid, but still some very nice “stacked” answers!

  4. David L says:

    The NW corner killed me. I congratulated myself on getting RETWEET, and I had APES, BATE, ASEA, and BIENVENUE — and ground to a halt. Eventually I googled for Tina Turner’s real name. I was thrown off by the clue for LABAMBA, since I only know that song in the old Richie Valens version, and (lame admission) I didn’t know there was a thing called the IPADAIR.

    This is what happens when Will lets a bunch of young whippersnappers make a crossword.

    • pannonica says:

      Those lyrics appear in the 1959 Richie Valens version as well as Los Lobos’ cover.

      • David L says:

        The only lyrics I know to La Bamba are “ya ya ya ya La Bamba, something something something…”

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Ha! The Spanish words appear in the “something” bridge.

          • pannonica says:

            The entire song is in Spanish!

            (edit: Well, the lyrics. The music, not exactly.)

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Okay, so what on earth does “la bamba” mean in Spanish? This seems like something we should all know. I’ve got the capitan and marinero, but I’m lost on the bamba.

          • pannonica says:

            It’s the name of a dance. Don’t know if it has another meaning.

            The “ya ya ya ya” of David L’s reckoning is “Para bailar [la Bamba] …” = “to dance the Bamba …” [“… you need a little bit of grace”]

  5. Tracy B says:

    LAT: You had me at HR Puffnstuf… sigh. Nice way to start the weekend.

  6. Bencoe says:

    Whatever happened to Tony Dance?

  7. Lawrence Knowles says:

    Re: one of the NYT clues, I tried to drive north north east from Akron expecting to arrive in Toledo, but ended up in Buffalo.

  8. Martin says:

    Hey, ESKER is a totally legit in-use word. I’ve seen it used frequently in reference to climate change… especially regarding retreating glaciers. It may be a little hard for an early-in-the-week puzzle…so fair comment.

    -Martin Esker-Smith

  9. Bob Bruesch says:

    L.A.Times fans: I’m stumped! What does STREETCRED mean??????? And, for the uninformed, “La Bamba” is a drinking song that, some say, came from sailors on shore leave (“Yo no soy marinero” = I’m not a sailor – but I still can dance!)

  10. Spencer says:

    Re: “Uncle” for pawnbroker. Google search found a 1924 newspaper article from “The Carroll Herald”:,1649362 titled “Pawnbroker has long been known as ‘Uncle'”.

    It puts forth two theories: that it derives from the Latin word “uncus”, or hook, because pawnbrokers “used hooks to lift articles pawned”, or that it was used as a euphemism (“I got the money from my [rich] uncle”).

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