Thursday, March 27, 2014

NYT 6:40 (Amy) 
AV Club 6:13 (Amy) 
Fireball 3:50 xword (Amy) 
LAT 4:57 (Gareth) 
BEQ 18:48 (Matt) 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 

Jean O’Conor’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 3 27 14, no. 0327

NYT crossword solution, 3 27 14, no. 0327

I had to stop the timer on this puzzle and go complain to someone about the rebus aspect that I wasn’t getting. You know what my problem was? It started with the clue 20a. [Best seller about shipwreck survivors]. Where it says “shipwreck,” I was envisioning a plane crash à la Lost. (I blame CNN.) (Not that I’ve been watching CNN in the last two weeks; I haven’t. But I hear they are to blame anyway.) So the answer is LIFE OF {PI} but it took Deb Amlen reminding me that I have surely heard of a shipwreck story with a “Life of __” title. Um, yes. And then I was also thinking that 47a. [Where to find “Yesterday” on the album “Help!”] had to be either SIDE A or SIDE B. Turns out it’s SIDE {2}. That didn’t help me either.

So, here’s the theme:

  • 10a, 66a. [With 66-Across, back to the beginning … or a description of 21- and 48-Down?], FULL / CIRCLE. That had me thinking of things like “to and fro,” but 21d and 48d each had 3 letters (which turned out to be 3 rebus-friendly spaces).
  • 21d. See 10-Across], {PI} {r} {SQUARED}. The formula for the area of a circle.
  • 48d. See 10-Across], {2} {PI} {r}. The formula for a circle’s circumference.

Now, the symbol for the radius is a lowercase r, but in the crossings for the {r} squares, we need a capital R: 24a. [September through April, in a culinary guideline], R MONTHS. (Who remembers if the time it’s safe to eat oysters in the R months or the R-less months? I think it’s that summer months have gross oysters. But what about in the Southern Hemisphere, where November through February would be the counterparts? And what about in non-English-speaking countries. Too complicated. Better to skip the oysters altogether, if you ask me.) 58a. [“The Godfather” parts I, II and III, e.g.], R MOVIES? Feh. Better to clue two unrelated movies that famously have an R rating—like The King’s Speech, with its controversial F-word R— rather than a trilogy that have a helluva lot more in common than their MPAA rating.

And both {PI} crossings don’t work if you fill in the Greek letter π: 20a. [Best seller about shipwreck survivors], LIFE OF {PI}, 20a. Best seller about shipwreck survivors], MAGNUM, {P.I.}.

28a. [Settled up] is {SQUARED} AWAY, and 47a. [Where to find “Yesterday” on the album “Help!”] is SIDE {2}. Fair enough.

Bright spots:

  • 38d. [Southernmost state], TASMANIA. An Australian state. Nice mislead!
  • 4d. [Shirker of one’s duties?], TAX EVADER. Duty = tax. Wednesday was See Your Magical Accountant Day! Deb and I and two of our crossword friends all visited our accountants today. We are not evading, no, sir.
  • 8d. [Do-si-do whoop-de-dos], HOEDOWNS. Yee-haw!

Most unsavory crossing: Where the only-in-crosswords FOUR-H and ONE-A meet up with nary a digit to be found. (1-A and 4-H are standard everywhere but crosswords.)

Best clue save of a crosswordese name: 56d. [Abba not known for singing], EBAN. Erstwhile Israeli statesman Abba Eban had no pop hits, to my knowledge.

3.75 stars. You know what would have been nice for the theme to have, maybe? Some hint that geometry formulas were involved, as opposed to just cross-referencing FULL and CIRCLE. That felt a little too tangential to me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Mix It Up!” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Anagrams are the order (or the reorder?) of the day:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/27/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/27/14

  • [A headline about a zebra after a shave?] clued STRIPES / PERSIST – yeah, I would say one would need more than a razor to remove stripes from a zebra.
  • [Performance venue for live sneezing?] was ALLERGY / GALLERY – or an exhibit of histamines through history?
  • [Tales with the most happy endings?] clued ROSIEST / STORIES – I wonder if the clue uses “most happy” so as to not duplicate the -EST superlative in the entry?
  • My FAVE by far was [Gave a Huggies “Hallelujah!”?] or PRIASED DIAPERS – has anyone ever written an Ode to Nappies?

Interesting theme idea, and it led to some wide open corner areas which I enjoyed. Had trouble parsing WALL-E for a while ([Robot in a 2008 film]), as that movie had left my short-term memory bank and still hadn’t made it to my long-term one yet. The geek in me enjoyed having that crossed by another computer, HAL, from a movie that has definitely hit my long-term memory bank, or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. As I often go by Evad, I enjoyed [Game that’s a backward time piece?] or NIM, which is MIN backwards or a “piece” of time. Our once neighbor in Brookline, MA was a Peace Corps volunteer in CAPE VERDE (at age 53!), so seeing that entry in the grid reminded me of her.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Taking Direct Routes” — Matt’s review


I appreciate the artistic and engineering skills required to write this BEQ, but the solve itself was a tough slog. The kicker is MAKE A BEELINE FOR, and there are two snaking lines of grid-spanning squares that take an extra B on the down. For example, at 17-Across we have [Crossword legend Jacobson] for MAU(R/B/)A, ignoring the extra B on the Across, with [Cardamom or caraway] for HE(RB), using that B on the down.

So again, I can see that this is a clever idea for a puzzle and writing it required a lot of skill, but the solve was made sloggy by a few factors: 1) the B’s precede the other grid letter in some cases, but follow it in others, so they’re not consistently placed; 2) the B-squares aren’t straight or symmetrical, so figuring out where they are is tough (and since “make a beeline for” implies a direct line, you’d expect that the B-lines would be straight); 3) the clues were too tough for a puzzle with a tricky solving gimmick like this. Like [Back piece, for short] is brutal for TAT when all three of those squares are B-squares (I had LAT at first).

It took me almost 20 minutes, and I still have a few mystery squares; I have what I guess is NBCTV for [“Community” network] but it crosses [Add some kick to the punch?] for BLACE? Does anyone say “NBC TV”? And whatever BLACE turns out to be needed an easier clue.

3.00 stars, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others liked it much better. And yes, I had enough sleep last night and have already had coffee and I still could barely solve this one.

UPDATE, 12:40 PM: Alright, I missed the point of BEQ’s puzzle and it goes from “dislike” to “strong like” now. You’re supposed to put a line of 15 B’s on the line between the third and fourth rows and also one on the line between the 12th and 13th rows. That takes care of all my objections, so go ahead and make up for the 3-star rating I gave it.

Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Draw Swords”

AV Club crossword solution, 3 27 14 "Draw Swords"

AV Club crossword solution, 3 27 14 “Draw Swords”

This is Brendan’s day for demonstrating that he has a twisted and creative mind that can find new angles for crossword trickery. In this puzzle, the title should be read as “draw ‘S’ words,” and there are three (very) long entries that have a 9-letter word that traces an “S” shape:

  • 3d. [-], 5d/[DirecTV device (with sword drawn)], SATELLITE RECEIVER. The SAT-ELL-ITE part zig-zags left-right-left and the RECEIVER continues down from the E.
  • 8d. [“I at least need a hint here …” (with sword drawn)], 34d. [-], GIVE ME SOMETHING TO GO ON. SOM-ETH-ING takes the S shape. And yes, MEGTOGOON looks absolutely nuts in the grid.
  • 25d. [Indie band with the classic album “If You’re Feeling Sinister” (with sword drawn)], BELLE AND SEBASTIAN. SEB-AST-IAN.

I’m not sure if these three entries are supposed to look like four swords with handles or if they’re just long things with an S-shaped part.

Five more things:

  • 56d. [Self-deprecating Internet abbreviation], FML. “Fµck my life” is what it means. As in “There was a knot in my shoelace and by the time I got it fixed, I’d missed the bus. And then it started to rain. FML.”
  • 35a. [Norwegian real estate billionaire Thon], OLAV. Pro tip: If “Norwegian” is in the clue and you need a 4-letter name, it’s either OLAV or OLAF.
  • 29d. [Like the papaya in Thai som tam salad], UNRIPE. My mother-in-law is a big fan of underripe fruit. I like to wait out the fruit a bit myself.
  • 56a. [Forty-niner’s offensive material?], FOOL’S GOLD. Pyrite, mistaken for gold sometimes during the 1849 Gold Rush. This is not a football clue.
  • 42d. [Show featuring Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello, briefly], TMNT. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of course.

4.5 stars for the unexpected nature of the theme angle.


Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  140327

LA Times

Today’s puzzle is subtler than most LA Timeses. It has a very nice revealing answer in THESECRETGARDEN. The garden in question is crossword staple EDEN, spanning at least two words of the other long answers. It’s a good thing Mr. Harrison went Old Testament, because GETHSEMANE would be a bastard to use in the same way! For once, I actually had to figure out the theme to finish: I was stymied at CLOSE??NDFUND, parsing it as CLOSE ??ND FUND, which made no sense. [“Behind the Candelabra” co-star], DAMON meant nothing to me and neither does [Dove competitor], CAMAY. Of the themers [Mad man?], ALFREDENEUMAN is also a top-drawer answer. [Specific gravity], RELATIVEDENSITY and [Publicly traded investment company with a limited number of shares], CLOSEDENDFUND (hadn’t heard of it, but it seems to be pretty concisely defined in the clue!) are more dry, but unimpeachable as answers.

The rest of the puzzle was again very solid work, but there isn’t a lot to jump up and down about, either in joy or anger. A few miscellaneous remarks:

  • [Linebacker Manti __, 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist], TEO is a huge improvement on racer TEO Fabi, even if he’s mostly famous for his fake girlfriend rather than his NFL performances…
  • [Like right-lane traffic, usually], SLOWER applies to countries driving on the right only.
  • [“Rockin’ Robin” chorus word] is an aweseome clue for TWEET. Need a lyrics refresher?

3.25 Stars

Andrew Ries’s Fireball contest crossword, “Running Opposition”

No solution grid and no real write-up since it’s a contest puzzle. Beautifully filled grid, not a very hard crossword, but I haven’t yet cracked the meta. Wish me luck! And good luck to you! Final star rating in abeyance until I figure out the meta, but 4.5 for the smooth grid.

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30 Responses to Thursday, March 27, 2014

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    Hoo, tough crowd. I loved this a-ha moment. MAGNUM{PI} was the giveaway, and so “full circle” had to justify that. But Pi * r^2 wasn’t going there, so what the stick bundle is going on? Searching for the answer… 2Pi * r? Oh, right! It’s the same thing! Duh.

    There’s no rule that says you have to write letters in upper case, btw. Unless you’re solving in an applet. Then, you have no choice. But that’s not the puzzle’s fault.

    I coulda sweared “banister” had two Ns it. Then again, I coulda sweared “O’Conor” had two Ns in it.

    • john farmer says:

      For a moment I thought so too, but that’s Roger Bannister the miler.

      I also thought LISTON might have been a Clay poundee, but I suppose the pounding was mutual.

      Tricky puzzle today, and some nice stuff.

    • Brucenm says:

      Also the great Irish pianist/pedagogue John O’Conor. Sounds like we need another Ogden Nash poem re the letter ‘n’.

      Liston lost both fights — the first against Clay, the second against Ali — both under incredibly controversial circumstances. But you can win a boxing match and still get pounded some, as in at least the first of the two fights.

  2. Ethan says:

    Is Will Shortz ever going to start writing blurbs again about the puzzle on XWordinfo?

  3. Andy says:

    Ha! “Tangential!” That really struck a chord with me, Amy.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it…
    For a while I thought the single letters from FOUR H, ONE A, C SPOT, R MOVIES were going to get connected into a circle (but they were not placed right and they were all on the Eastern side).

    Am I the only one who put had -SPOT and put a G in there?

  5. pauer says:

    Thanks for the CS write-up, Dave. I think I have one more in the queue for that venue, from which I took my leave a few months ago. In its stead, I’ve started writing more for the Daily Celebrity Crossword and the American Values Club Crossword, and I hope to start submitting some easy puzzles to the NYT again soon.

    I’ve also been busy getting my latest Puzzlefest written and finalized (it’s got a collegiate theme this year and should be ready in a day or two). Interested parties can enroll in “Xword University” at for the opportunity to earn their Honorary Degrees in Enigmatology. :)

  6. Jesse says:

    Re: BEQ puzzle — [Add some kick to the punch?] is LACE. The B goes with the down clue to make BLED [Ran off the page]

  7. Dele says:

    Hi Matt,

    The Bs in the BEQ are indeed symmetrical, consistent, and in a straight line. Instead of writing them rebus-style, imagine shifting the top three rows up (and the bottom three rows down) and inserting a 15-square “b-line” in between to make the down entries complete.

    This doesn’t affect the across entries at all; they’re all clued straight without any Bs. 63A is LACE and not BLACE.

    • Matt says:

      LACE, got it. Knew I was missing something there.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I thought the puzzle was outstanding, and the revealer was spot on. Took a minute in the NW to catch onto the trick, but then I found the missing Bs led to a faster time than normal on a BEQ puzzle, since I always knew where the down entry would normally contain a B.

  8. Erin says:

    BEQ’s AV Club puzzle absolutely blew me away. What took me longer to see was that each of the “S words” also begins with the letter “S.” I’m afraid to look at it again for fear I’ll discover some new layer and my brain will break.

    • joon says:

      just one more layer—SATELLITE, SOMETHING, and SEBASTIAN are the only s-words in the entire grid. apologies in advance about your brain.

  9. Matt says:

    I completely missed the point of BEQ’s website puzzle theme today. You’re supposed to write a line of 15 B’s between the 3rd and 4th rows and the 12th and 13th rows. That’s very good.

  10. JohnV says:

    Had no luck with the BEQ puz. Know nothing of Indie bands, either. Got a good most of the fill, which I thought was easy by BEQ standards, but s’bout it.

  11. Clay says:

    I actually got the BEQ Thursday puzzle fairly quickly – and after all the times Matt has stumped me, I enjoyed his struggle (nothing personal Matt!!)

    As for the Swords – holy smokes – I solved the puzzle and simply gave up trying to make sense of it – Wow – that was an extraordinary reveal once I saw it here.

  12. Ethan_Taliesin says:

    NYT– Anyone else mess up and write TRILOGY for 58A, meeting a Y in TRYSTS (52D)? D’oh!

  13. Francis says:

    BEQ’s “Draw Swords” was my favorite puzzle (and favorite “aha”) since Trip’s “Seeing Double”.

  14. Lois says:

    Enjoyed the NYT today. But for those who complain about Jewish clues (things hard to know for non-Jews; I don’t want to heat things up too much), today offered the opposite: R months. Many Jews don’t eat oysters because they’re not kosher (I guess some other people don’t either for different reasons), and we don’t have to have a mnemonic for when to eat them. This was something pretty unfamiliar. I’m not complaining about the clue. It didn’t stop me. But just saying. I usually feel left out for other reasons (products, cars, sports, schools, pop songs of the last forty years and plenty more).

  15. Linda says:

    Did you mean the 1849 Gold Rush, or was there one in 1949 that I missed, too?

  16. Avg Solvr says:

    NYT was easy as pi.

    BEQ was a really good puzzle.

  17. maikong says:


    The clue “between two ____ with Zach Galifianakis ” was fun

  18. mmespeer says:

    I’m logged into Cruciverb but cannot get the LAT. Any suggestions?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Mme. Speer, keep trying! A friend of mine was having the same problem but it worked when he tried again.

  19. dave glasser says:

    It’s comforting to see that even a pro like Matt sometimes falls into the “I guess I solved it but I don’t get the theme” trap like I often do. (And in fact did on today’s AV: I figured out how to fill out the grid but only saw “I guess he made these random phrases look like swords?” and not the double-meaning S word aspect.)

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