Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fireball 7:41 (Amy) 
NYT 4:52 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:19 (Amy) 
LAT 4:51* (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
CS 5:22 (Dave) 

Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 13 14, no. 0313

NYT crossword solution, 3 13 14, no. 0313

13d. [Kid’s art activity … or something seen four times in this puzzle’s solution?] clues COLOR BY NUMBER, and in four symmetrical spots, a color (RED, BLACK, GREEN, TAN) appears beside a number (SIX, EIGHT, THREE, ONE). The color and number phrases are mostly solid, though “EASY ONE” feels a hair contrived to me. I’m also curious to know if COLOR BY NUMBER is familiar to the rest of you; “paint by number” is what my mind goes to. Amazon has some color-by-number books, though; I don’t recall those from my childhood. Who wants a coloring book that’s all bossy?

Region capture 25I finished the puzzle as if it were entirely themeless, save for the long revealer clue that I didn’t read all of while solving because the full clue was truncated. Things I liked include CORDELIA, OP-ED PAGE, RATED X, TORPOR (love those -or nouns), KEEL OVER, geographic ENCLAVE (though exclaves are cooler), and thematic RED TAPE, BLACK OPS, EIGHT-BIT (despite the spelled-out number), and PAR THREE. I also like to say OCH; I should absolutely use it more here in the blog.

Could have done without KTS ([Gold units: Abbr.]), which I suspect is not pluralized in most standard usage; 24k gold, 24 kt., sure, but 24 kts? Also in my “och!” category are ON CD, ESPO, RYN, NAGEL, IN ESSE, NEED A, and ANENT. I prefer the van Rijn spelling for Rembrandt, personally.

3.5 stars.

Jeremy Horwitz’s American Values Club crossword, “Bye Bye Birdie”

AV Club crossword solution, 3 13 14 "Bye Bye Birdie"

AV Club crossword solution, 3 13 14 “Bye Bye Birdie”

Surprising trivia theme for me, as I only knew one of the three had this feature (or lack thereof). “Bye Bye Birdie” refers to “flipping the bird,” and our three thematic people have suffered traumatic injuries to the MIDDLE FINGER (27d. [With 56-Down, what the starred entries lost part of]):

  • 25a. [*Chicago mayor (working at Arby’s)], RAHM EMANUEL. I knew this one. The loss of the middle finger’s end may have spurred him to develop his verbal cussing skills.
  • 30a. [*”Star Trek” actor (invading Normandy)], JAMES DOOHAN. Scotty! I never knew about the finger thing. Did they hide it on the show or write it into his back story?
  • 63a. [*Jam band guitarist (chopping wood)], JERRY GARCIA. Not on his strumming hand, I hope?

Jeremy is a huge trivia maven and he loves pop-culture trivia, so it isn’t at all surprising that he came up with this theme.

This 11×21 grid sure does have a lot of 3s in it, doesn’t it? Thirty-four of them? Meh. Five things:

  • 1d. [Maker of a dish Patton Oswalt called a “failure pile in a sadness bowl”], KFC. Google your way to the YouTube video of that comedy bit if you haven’t heard it (provided you’re okay with swear words).
  • 5d. [Unit inserted through the vagina, briefly], IUD. Well, yeah, but there’s more to it than that. If it doesn’t make it through the cervix, it’s not going to work. Don’t know why cervix isn’t in the clue instead.
  • 68a. [Arthur whom The Smoking Gun claims was “a truck-driving Marine”], BEA. More trivia? I don’t know the story here.
  • 53a. [“___ to Be … You and Me” (1972 Marlo Thomas gender stereotype-fighting album)], FREE. If the rest of the puzzle had been nothing but ANIL and OLEO and VIRNA LISI, it would still get one star just for this clue.

3.75 stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Board Meetings” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Rather unusual (well unusual if you’re not a carpenter, that is) theme which is revealed by 67- and 69-Across: [Description of the last word of the puzzle’s four longest answers] or WOOD JOINT:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/13/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/13/14

  • [Where team owners might sit at a ballpark] was a PRIVATE BOX – I read here that a “box joint” is similar to a “dovetail” or “finger joint,” and it’s used to join to boards at the corner of a box.
  • [Pre-race warm-up circuit at Indy, say] clued PARADE LAP – completely new phrase to me, but I’m not a fan of the NASCAR circuit, so no surprise there. A lap joint is used when two board overlap, such as with a cabinet.
  • [Last bit of a stogie] was a CIGAR BUTT – I’m afraid to even look at what a “butt joint” is, hope I can find something other than NSFW entries. Here’s one. Two pieces of wood do not interlock and are just “butted” together with glue or nails.
  • [Headdress once donned by Benedict XVI on formal occasions] clued PAPAL MITER – so has Pope Francis eschewed this fancy headwear? A “miter joint” involves two beveled pieces of wood joined at an angle. I believe there’s a tool called a “miter box” that cuts these pieces at the correct angle.

Whew, I’m exhausted just thinking about all these carpentry terms. Moving on to the fill, I do wonder about [Last’s correlative, in a phrase] or NOT LEAST. Not sure that passes the lexical chunk muster, but it’s an interesting clue nonetheless. The IDID sequence in SAID I DO amuses me, as does the AE action in SAMBAED. Finally, isn’t a [Wrinkle remover] just an IRON and not an IRONER? Or are we talking about the wielder of said iron? I guess I would call them a cleaner, or in most cases, my husband, instead.

Jacob Stulberg’s Fireball crossword, “E Pluribus Unum”

Fireball crossword solution, 3 13 14 "E Pluribus Unum"

Fireball crossword solution, 3 13 14 “E Pluribus Unum”

Terrific theme: 38a. [Queen’s English feature? … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme],  the ROYAL WE, suggests using WE where you’d normally expect to see I.

  • 17a. [Woolen fabric under laces?], TONGUE TWEED. Tongue-tied, with the letter “i” changed to a WE.
  • 59a. [Unhip character at a Renaissance fair?], SQUARE WENCH. Square inch. Ren fair participants are by definition geeky, no?
  • 11d. [Lumberjack’s comment at quitting time?], ENOUGH SAWED. Enough said.
  • 25d. [Kidnaps Dolph Lundgren and Lena Olin?], TAKES SWEDES. Takes sides.

Five clues of note:

  • 19a. [“Imagine painting all the statues in the world in the color of the sky” tweeter], ONO. Would you believe my first answer was JLO?
  • 21a. [Drives off the wall, perhaps], SLUGS. No idea what this refers to. Anyone?
  • 53a. [Body art?], NUDES. Art depicting the body, sure.
  • 13d. [Flame-throwing fireman, often], CLOSER. I had STOKER, of a furnace or engine. Baseball again? Gordon, you disappoint. Too many baseball clues. 49a, 57d, possibly the mysterious SLUGS, and this? Maybe two baseball items per puzzle would be a good limit.
  • 27d. [Spit in the food?], SKEWER. Good one!

Solid fill, tough but mostly interesting cluing with a few surprises along the way, solidly executed theme with a great revealer/raison d’etre. 4.33 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Bottoms Up!” — Matt’s review


Three pairs of theme entries today in which the lower entry hands its ASS over to the upper one:

17-A [Mass serving when the wine runs out?] – CHRISTIAN BASS ALE, from actor Christian Bale. Add the ASS.
20-A [What desperate druggie crossword puzzle makers will use as inspiration?] = OPIUM FOR THEMES, from “opium for the masses.” Lose the ASS. Great pair of entries.

41-A [Ropes wolves?] = LASSOS LOBOS. From Latin rock band Los Lobos. Add the ASS.
44-A [Spellcaster from Stockholm?] = SWEDISH MAGE, from “Swedish massage.” Lose the ASS. This is a nice pair of theme entries but their clues are too straight-definition for a theme this fun.

60-A [Sneak previews of next year’s evangelical garments?] = CASSOCK TEASERS. From “cock teasers.” Add the ASS. Isn’t it “cock tease” instead of “teaser”? But no, Google favors Brendan’s version.
68-A [Agency that handles alien affairs?] = E.T. MANAGEMENT FIRM. From “asset management firm.” Lose the ASS.

Nice theme and well-executed, with all six entries somewhere between decent and excellent.


***Six entries taking up 76 squares — wait a second, he snuck another non-standard grid size by me, 16×16 in this case. I rail against unusual grid sizes but then I don’t even notice them myself until I blog the puzzle.

***Anyway, six theme entries taking up 76 squares is still a lot for a 16×16 grid.
Nice stacked sixes in the Oregon and Virginia sections: BLASTS-RUNWAY-INTERN and AT BEST-LIOTTA-EASE UP. Also dig TASMAN and ON SALE. But I would’ve changed CHIMES-ENE-TUN to CHIMPS-EXP-TUX.

***54-a is [Abalone so-called from where it comes from and what it looks like]. OK, so I’m told I should be willing to learn from crossword entries, and I must admit that a SEA EAR sounds intriguing. Let’s see what it looks like. It looks like an ear.

***At 11-A [Denver’s altitude] is MILE. When they legalized pot there recently I thought of making a pun-filled crossword (mile-high city, etc.) but soon found that all the good ones had already been used in newspaper headlines, so I shelved that idea.

4.20 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LA Times  140313

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by the prolific Jeffrey Wechsler includes phrases with LAW spanning two of the answers’ words. This is tipped off by the answer LAWBREAKERS. With a basic theme like this, it’s good to have interesting theme answers. I liked seeing NILLAWAFERS in full, even though as a foreigner, I only know them from crosswords. IFEELAWFUL has a great clue [Flu sufferer’s complaint]. I was trying to come up with some presenting complaint, but the letters wouldn’t play ball! The theme answers are:

  • 17a, [Cookies named for their flavor], NILLAWAFERS
  • 28a, [Flu sufferer’s complaint], IFEELAWFUL
  • 34a, [Fib], TELLAWHITELIE
  • 40a, [Washington county or its seat], WALLAWALLA
  • 55a, [Ones often in custody … and what 17-, 28-, 34- and 40-Across are?], LAWBREAKERS

The asterisk next to my time is because I had to do the 26-letter shuffle to find the final answer, the crossing of VERISM and VFW. That square would’ve been blank at the ACPT. I didn’t know either, but I guess you could infer the former from the root veritas, eventually…

I liked how Mr. Wechsler maximised the narrow top-right and bottom-left corners. We get LIFEOFPI/OVERTURE/PERGOLA in one corner and TOAMOUSE in the other. Otherwise, the main thing I’m interested in knowing is if Superman is stereotypically AKIMBO to other people? This is news to me, but I don’t pay much attention to him.

3.25 Stars

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Thursday, March 13, 2014

  1. sbmanion says:

    Of all the sports/games that have appeared in the NYT crossword, the most consistently poorly clued have involved golf. For the past few years, however, there have been very few that missed the boat.

    Today’s Not too HARD golf hole is the first tone deaf effort in quite a while. Why not say LONG? A 250-yard par three is perhaps the hardest golf hole. With today’s players hitting the ball 300+ yards off the tee, the second shot on a par four is usually less than 175 yards. And forget about par fives, which most pros and even single digit handicap and long-hitting amateurs can routinely hit in two. Par fives are the easiest holes.

    I haven’t checked the tour stats, but I would wager that par threes play the most over par over a year.

    I recognize that a par three is perhaps the easiest (i.e., least embarrassing) for a duffer, but it does not alter my view of the clue.

    Fun puzzle in any event although I treated it as a themeless.


    • Jonesy says:

      While I do agree with you generally from a golfer’s standpoint, if you remove the pars from each hole and look at all golf holes as a bucket, you would undoubtedly classify the ‘easy’ holes as par threes. It’s only in the context of under/over par where par 3s become the hard holes…

      • Gareth says:

        Exactly. A looked at it askance at first, but then it made sense once I realised what you just said.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Who looks at a golf hole as a parless bucket? In general, and for the average golfer, a par 3 is easier if it’s short. Longer ones can be as hard or harder than par 4s or 5s.

  2. Bencoe says:

    The Van Rijn spelling is much closer to the actual Dutch. The Dutch have a letter which combines I and J into a single symbol and sounds like a long I. Don’t know where this spelling with the Y came from.

    • Bencoe says:

      Okay, reading up on that. Ij is not considered a single letter by the Genootschap Onze Taal, the Dutch language officials, although I saw it many times in Holland as a single connected symbol. However, in primary education it is often substituted for “Y” because it is much more common. So this probably accounts for the “Ryn” variant spelling, although it’s still wrong–Rembrandt signed his paintings with “v. Rijn”.

      • Gareth says:

        I was discussing “ij” with my Dutch colleague the other day. “Official” Dutch uses y with an umlaut or ij, but many dialects, including those in Belgium use a y. Afrikaans also favours the y.

        • Bencoe says:

          That’s true, you do see “y” a lot more often in Flanders. It’s interesting you see it in often in Afrikaans as well.
          In Holland, you usually only see the letter “y” when it is combined with an “e”‘ as in “Leyden”. Invariably it is the “Ij” which is used there; I never saw the y with the umlaut. Perhaps that is used in the Eastern and Southern part of the Netherlands, which have a stronger Germanic influence?

  3. Jonesy says:

    Also on the AV club puzzle, a little visual addition — those blocks of 5 squares (two in the center and one on each side of the bottom) look like hands with a middle finger… can’t imagine this was unintentional.

  4. bob stigger says:

    I have to agree with Steve; there are many things one could say about par 3 holes generally, but not-too-hard isn’t one of them. Over the course of many decades, I have found that from easiest to hardest, the ranking of holes is: short par 4, par 5, par 3, long par 4. Course designers can’t protect their par 3 holes with length, so they protect them in other ways, generally by requiring great accuracy and ramping up the penalty for wayward shots. Your results may differ, but it is unlikely that par 3s will rank on the easy side unless you play every shot with a putter. Bob

  5. Mark M says:

    Thank you. Another terrible golf clue from the NYT’s. Add it to the pile from the last few years and see if we can get Will Shortz a test solver who understands the game and crossword puzzles. Over the years I have seen many of us on these boards and I am happy to volunteer.

    It can’t be this hard to clue par three, it just can’t.

    • Mike D. says:

      Couldn’t agree more with these golf comments. I work for the state golf association up here in Maine and part of my job is to do Course Ratings, in which we go out to golf courses and assess them by their difficulty so that handicaps can be applied fairly to all players. The only reason par 3s are generally considered easier is that for the high handicapper there is more chance of success on the hole because they only have to hit one good shot to do well, whereas on a par 5, they need to string together multiple shots for success. This is why par 5s are easier for any better players. There can be such a variance in how hard a par 3 plays that it’s far too general to say that they’re all easy holes.

      Look to the Monterrey Peninsula for example, with two of the most iconic par 3s in the world in very close proximity. #7 at Pebble Beach plays to just over 100 yards downhill and is a mere wedge for most players (on a calm day). Then take #16 at Cypress Point, at over 230 yards and over water, generally considered the toughest par 3 in the world. Both par 3s, but the relative difficulty is astronomically different. I agree with having this clue simply refer to the length rather than how difficult the hole plays.

      And don’t even get me started on clueing SIX IRON as a mashie niblick….

  6. sbmanion says:

    Hi Mike,

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Even Martin cannot rationalize calling a seven iron a six iron.

    Was there ever a harder par three than no. 7 at Pebble on the final day of the 1992 U.S. Open that Tom Kite won? One player in the last 15 groups hit that postage stamp in regulation. And to complete the circle, Tom used his spade mashie (six iron) and then pitched in his second shot with his jigger.


    • Gareth says:

      As above, par 3 means you should average 3 shots if you’re a pro, par 5 means you should average 5 shots. So, on average a par 3 is 2 shots easier than a par 5. It’s just because of the conventions of golf scoring that this fact is obscured.

      • David L says:

        I didn’t understand the comment from Jonesy above, but if your interpretation is correct, I’m not buying it. In what sense is a hole easier because it takes 3 shots instead of 5? Is the 100 meter sprint easier than the 200 because you only have to go half as far?

      • Jonesy says:

        exactly — they’re specifically called par 3’s because of a golf scoring convention… of all golf holes (forget about par for a second), the ones you’re likely to score lowest on (the ‘easiest’ ones) are classified as par 3’s… yes they’re usually also the shortest

        and if we ranked running races based on just finishing, i think saying the 100m is easier to finish than the 200m or the marathon is legitimate… it takes less effort & energy/uses fewer calories

        • David L says:

          I still don’t understand your point. I don’t see how a hole is easier just because you get a lower score. But we’re clearly talking at cross-purposes so I will say no more.

      • Mark M says:


        Par and average are two completely different concepts. Even the professionals do not average par, it is instead the “expected” score for an accomplished player per the PGA.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Somebody should do a quick check of sbmanion to see if he’s had a stroke. By the end of that comment, I don’t think he was even speaking proper English words.

  7. Gareth says:

    My typical version of the phrase is “colour by numbers”, anyway… great theme, especially where BLACKOPS ran alongside EIGHTBIT!

  8. Sean M says:

    Re: the Fireball, I think “Drives off the wall” for SLUGS is another baseball clue (so you can officially add that to your list). If you SLUG the ball, it might go all the way to the back wall and bounce off (nearly a home run but not quite).

    Edit: I should add, I loved the theme as well. Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, since I get both a new Fireball and a new AVCX in my email. :)

  9. Margaret says:

    Gareth, count me in for thinking of Superman with his arms AKIMBO. This is the pose I strike if I’m pretending to be a superhero.

  10. ahimsa says:

    Wow, I’m learning so much about golf from today’s comments! It’s not a sport I’ve ever played, or even watched, so a crossword blog is probably the only place I would ever read about it. :-)

    After about a week or so of not doing any puzzles (long story) it was great to do both the NYT and LAT today. Fun puzzles!

    NYT: I, too, am more familiar with “paint BY NUMBER” than “COLOR BY NUMBER.” But the latter makes more sense for this puzzle since it makes the theme entries stand out. I’m impressed with all the folks who did this as a themeless. I needed the theme to help me out in several spots.

    LAT: This was easier for me than the NYT (one writeover – SWAmp before SWALE) but still lots of fun. All the theme entries were great. And I enjoyed the fill – PERGOLA, OVERTURE, LIFE OF PI, and TO A MOUSE were all great. VERISM was new to me but VFW was a gimme so I didn’t have to guess on the V.

    The AKIMBO clue made perfect sense to me. Superman often is showing standing like this –

    PS. I took so long to edit that I see someone else has already posted another link for Superman.

    • Bencoe says:

      I just posted on his blog the other day that I learned more about golf from crosswords than anywhere else. But all the golf talk today made my head spin.

  11. CY Hollander says:

    Wow, I totally missed the point of this theme. Didn’t notice at all that the colors were all next to numbers, figuring that the “number” part was a vague reference to the clue numbers in the boxes and not being very impressed. Now that I see the actual point, I like it!

    Elsewise, this played pretty hard for me—say a par 4. ESPo/DoNG was a Natick for me (guessed an I there), and I submit that that is a poor crossing (no way to make an educated guess if you don’t know at least one of the answers, neither of which is that common knowledge). And even after solving, I didn’t understand the clues for POOR and PAYOLA, though the latter made sense after I looked it up and saw the original meaning.

  12. Howard B says:

    Color by number was a pretty common phrase for me.
    Paint by number works as well (they often included miniature paint sets), but the color-by-number books were there to use with paint, crayon, food purees, or whatever artistic media you had on hand.

    • Bencoe says:

      Howard B=barkin? If so, I’d like to say that besides it being a pleasure to meet you, you really helped me calm my nerves before the ACPT division B finals. I was not ready for them mentally but after talking to you before them I felt a lot more prepared. Thanks!

  13. Keenan M says:

    NYT really beat me down today, i thought it was going to go well when I knew BRUNEI but then just struggled for the rest of the puzzle. Ouch.

  14. JFC says:

    I’m a little surprised that the golfers in this crowd didn’t bring in the concept of handicaps. That concept argues against a par three being the easy hole. It is also tied into how the course rates each hole in terms of difficulty, regardless of par. The rating of each hole appears on the scorecard. Not all par threes are rated the easiest and not all par fives are rated the hardest. On the other hand if you don’t understand why a par three is not necessarily the easiest hole, then you probably wouldn’t understand handicapping.

    • Mark M says:

      Just to add yet another wrinkle. That rating is not based on the difficulty of the hole. It is the hole(s) where a bogey golfer needs a stroke from a par golfer for stroke equity.

  15. hirschho says:

    Everyone is right. It depends on your definition of easy.
    If you think that easiest means most likely to get a par or better then par fives are easier than par threes.
    If you think that easiest means requiring the least average number of strokes then par threes are easiest.


  16. Greg says:

    I was a bit disappointed that 7D (“EDD”) was clued as “Teacher’s advanced degree.” How come you never see 50s flash-in-the-pan “Kookie” Edd Byrnes immortalized?

  17. Golfballman says:

    So I see that the sweetheart geniuses at the NYT still haven’t caught up to dst. In this age of technology you tell me what that makes them!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Does this mean the puzzle is available an hour early? Because that would be a feature, not a bug.

      And for the love of all that is good and chocolate, would it kill you to not bark your comments? It’s jarring. I even have a name for the ones you’ve posted grousing about “late” LAT write-ups: “Dance, monkey!” comments. The monkeys don’t take kindly to being bossed around and are liable to bite.

  18. Golfballman says:

    Sorry, guess I’m just testy because we are having a cold snap here in Fl.

  19. pannonica says:


    LAT: 5a [Art style emphasizing gritty reality] – anyone else with ASHCAN before VERISM?
    NYT: Wasn’t Culture Club’s breakthrough album titled Colour By Numbers?
    BEQ: OPIUM vs OPIATE / OF vs FOR? The original K Marx quote (in translation) is “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Is the version being riffed on for the theme here a common misquote?

    This comment 100% g*lf-free.

  20. Zulema says:

    Next day comment. This NYT completely threw me. As for “color” or `”paint by numbers” no self-respecting nursery school (as we used to call them) had that as a “kids’ art activity,” not even to teach them the names of colors or numbers. Paint by numbers was an activity reserved for people who were diminished in certain capacities, and I’ll stop there.

    Amy, your comment after Steve Manion’s final ditto had me howling with laughter. That’s a good occurrence at least once a day.

Comments are closed.