Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NYT 3:41 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 4:01 (Gareth) 
CS 5:26 (Dave) 
Blindauer untimed (Matt) 

David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 4 2 14, no. 0402

NYT crossword solution, 4 2 14, no. 0402

I finished this puzzle without having any idea what the theme was, and then went back to read the theme clues again. The trick finally hit me with the weirdness of the clue for 41a. It’s the “out of” part of the clue that’s important—the letters in the words after “out of” are to be anagrammed. It’s sort of a cryptic-crossword riff on cluing, only backwards since the theme entries aren’t crossword-grade phrases and the pre-scrambling phrases are closer to that bar.

  • 17a. [Weapon part that’s out of this world?], SWORD HILT. Anagram of “this world.”
  • 41a. [Attack on a Mideast land that’s out of thin air?], IRAN HIT. Anagram of “thin air.” And so on.
  • 66a. [Fisherman’s feat that’s out of character?], RARE CATCH. Boy, Don Baylor’s rare catch Monday night was definitely out of character for baseball. Tough break
  • 11d. [Drenched gangsters who are out of the woods?], WET HOODS.
  • 40d. [Military laundry that’s out of harm’s way?], ARMY WASH.

Pretty smooth puzzle. I was moving painlessly through the grid, encountering lively fill like Kurt COBAIN and the DOOBIE Brothers (plus PATTI Smith to round out the rocker vibe), ORIGAMI, ARMPIT! (48a. [Lady Schick target]), JOHN MUIR, the casually sporting “I GOT NEXT,” former Chicago local news anchor LESTER Holt, and NSFW (59d. [Office-inappropriate, in web shorthand], “not safe for work”).

Favorite clues:

  • 50a. [“A revolution is not a dinner party” writer], MAO. Aw, he’s no fun. Will the revolution at least be televised?
  • 15a. [Beast in the documentary “Blackfish”], ORCA.
  • 1d. [Places where people hustle?], DISCOS.
  • 12d. [The so-called “potted physician”], ALOE.
  • 27d. [Drink that may feature “foam art”], LATTE.

There were a couple partials, Roman numeral MCLI, AGR, ONE-A, and URI, but not enough such things to bump me out of the solving groove. 4.25 stars, with extra credit for the “out of” cluing riff on an anagram theme.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Watery Buildup” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Five theme entries that begin with something “watery”:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 04/02/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 04/02/14

  • [Painter’s protective floor covering] is a DROP CLOTH – we just use old sheets.
  • [Beatrix Potter’s waddling Jemima, e.g.] was a PUDDLE-DUCK – not familiar with this tale, which seems to have been published after her Peter Rabbit.
  • [Item with six pockets] clued a POOL TABLE – these are my favorite theme entries, where the operative word in this context doesn’t have a watery connotation.
  • [Liberal arts college near Chicago] was LAKE FOREST – seems rather small with about 1,500 students, though I bet Amy’s familiar with it.
  • [Major transformation] was a SEA CHANGE – yeah, seas are about as major as you can get around here.

Lynn supplies her typical bonus theme entry in the center, but I have to admit to being a bit disappointed all these watery items generally have a watery sense in these base phrases. (POOL TABLE being a notable exception.) I have learned to expect more disparity among the theme entries and the title which brought them together. I guess that’s the price you pay when you set the bar as high as this constructor has in the past.

Lots of fresh fill, though, as I particularly enjoyed the BRAVURA, “YES I CAN!” and SPECKLE stack in the northeast, as well as the Zed-action in DENIZEN and END ZONE. MALE CAT for [Tom with nine lives] seems a bit arbitrary, but I was hardly IN A RAGE about it. Speaking of animals, I wasn’t familiar with HARPIES as a type of eagle, unless the clue is referring to mythology and not real-life.

Patrick Blindauer’s April website crossword, “A Farewell to Arms” — Matt’s review

You need to be familiar with David Kwong’s March 18th NYT puzzle to get the April Blindauer.

That crossword, which is the lowest-rated puzzle at Fiend so far this year, used the first letter of each clue to spell out a message that only made sense if you attended David’s TED Talk that day (Bill Gates was one of the speakers that followed him!). Unfortunately the puzzle itself was rather compromised on fill, which wasn’t necessary even with the gimmick, hence the low rating (plus the TED Talk still isn’t online last time I checked, so those of us who weren’t there can’t see exactly how it was used, which caused a little irritation).

The theme of that puzzle was A FAREWELL TO ARMS, and four entries lost an ARM to make a nonsense phrase. Patrick riffs off Kwong’s puzzle for his April website crossword, which has an unannounced meta (a Blindauer specialty, which will drive you insane on months there isn’t one when you think there is!).

The title is “A Farewell to Arms,” and each of the four theme entries drops a letter from “Arms” to get a nonsense phrase:

20-A [Used local listings to find a place to live?] = HUNTED HOUSES, dropping the A from “haunted houses.” This is almost a stand-alone phrase as is, since you can “house hunt.”

27-A [Immediate method of cooking broccoli?] = INSTANT STEAMING, dropping the R from “instant streaming.” But no matter how you cook it, broccoli still won’t taste like anything.

45-A [Tale of a Russian banker at Yankee Stadium?] = RUBLE IN THE BRONX, dropping the M from “Rumble in the Bronx,” which sounds familiar but I’ll have to look up. A famous baseball game? Wrong, it’s a Jackie Chan movie.

51-A [Audiophile’s most dearly beloved sound?] = PRECIOUS TONE. Losing the S from “precious stone.”

So the puzzle ends there, right? Not quite. Rule #952 of crossword solving: “There’s always an extra layer you missed in a Blindauer.” I e-mailed the author after solving:

Feel like there’s something else going on besides the missing ARMS in the theme entries. The NW corner is bizarre with its AIL clue and having to use AMIE and MEA. And you didn’t need PARI or ADA or ASST/EGAN in the other corners, either.

By the time he e-mailed me back to verify that there indeed was more than meets the eye, I had already found it. Referring back to the Kwong puzzle, the first letter of each clue spells out: CANOE SHAMU NAIL VEGAN IRATE PARIS EPEES NORAD ADAM LALO AND O’SHEA. CAN YOU FIND THEM IN THE GRID?

Aha! So that explains the odd corners: extend CANO, SHAM, AIL, EGAN, RATE, PARI, PEES, NORA, ADA, ALO and SHEA by one letter outside the grid and see what they spell going clockwise:


Why it’s the VENUS DE MILO, who indeed said farewell to her arms long ago.


Awesome — you can see why this guy just won the Orca for Crossword of the Year. For its timeliness and cleverness I’m giving this one 4.75 stars. And if you liked this puzzle, strongly consider buying Patrick’s new contest suite of puzzles, Xword University. It’s $15 and highly recommended.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Growing Up”

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 4 2 14 "Growing Up"

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 4 2 14 “Growing Up”

April showers bring May flowers, and maybe even some April flowers. Ben’s theme has flowers “growing up” in the long Down answers:

  • 3d. [Purchasing rule at the bar], TWO-DRINK MINIMUM. There’s a MUM, or chrysanthemum, at the end. It goes both ways, of course, being palindromic. Slight inelegance for the theme. Not a spring flower—late summer to fall in Illinois. They seem to hang on well into November.
  • 5d. [Office gift exchange basis], SECRET SANTA. There’s an ASTER. That’s a late summer to fall flower around these parts.
  • 26d. [Baked British treats made with alcohol], BRANDY SNAPS. Never heard of them, but brandy is booze and ginger snaps are familiar enough, so it was gettable. The PANSY is a spring flower that doesn’t like the heat.
  • 10d. [“Will you marry me?” e.g.], YES OR NO QUESTION. The ROSE is summery, no? But I have seen blooms hang on into December when the weather holds.

I like botanical themes, and hiding them inside a lively batch of long phrases works for me too.

Nine other things I wanted to mention:

  • 5a. [Stooge born Samuel Horwitz], SHEMP. I assume this means it would be fine for me to call constructor/friend Jeremy Horwitz “Jemp.” Or maybe “Jermp.” Or “Jormp-Jomp.”
  • 20a. [Hole style], INDIE ROCK. Courtney Love’s band, Hole.
  • 42a. [Manned the mixer, casually], EQED. As in “operated the equalizer controls on a sound mixing device,” not “chaperoned the mixer for new-students” or “mixed up some bread dough.”
  • 43a. [Pal of “Cookie Monkey,” according to my son who isn’t that good at English yet but who certainly enjoys “Sesame Street”], ELMO. I do enjoy the long autobiographical clues.
  • 49a. [Lover of Ares in Greek mythology], ENYO. Who??
  • 57a. [Person from Boston, slangily], BEAN EATER. I know of Boston baked beans and Beantown, but have never heard “bean eater.”
  • 63a. [Christie who wrote a mystery novel about bridge (but presumably never closed one on purpose to be a dick)], AGATHA. NJ governor Chris Christie reference.
  • 53d. [Early data storage software], DBASE. I always want “dbase” to be shorthand for “database,” but I don’t think it is. Maybe “db” is.
  • 55d. [We, in a text message], U AND I. I thought this was contrived and bogus until I asked my household teenager how he’d write this in a message. Yup, this is legit.

3.8 stars from me. Liked it, didn’t love it, found the ENYO/SNUS patch to be potentially troublesome.

Doug Peterson & Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  140402

LA Times

This is a gorgeous little theme by Doug and Patti today. Six answers with in- prefixes are pluralised and parsed as being two words to create wacky-style answers. The one wrinkle is that most of the answers form natural plurals – only INBOUNDS and to some extent INVERSES do not. But otherwise it’s a subtle but extremely clever gimmicK! The drastic changes in meaning of the main affixes is what makes this puzzle really shine! We have

  • 17a, [How poets write?], INVERSES
  • 21a, [How moonshine is made?], INSTILLS
  • 33a, [How parts of a whole can be written?], INFRACTIONS
  • 44a, [How a priest preaches?], INVESTMENTS. My favourite answer!
  • 57a, [How kangaroos travel?], INBOUNDS
  • 62a, [How some paper is packaged?], INQUIRES.

This six part theme was more than enough to entertain me – and yet, bonus, there was lots more of note in this puzzle:

  • 51a, [World power until 1991: Abbr.], USSR and 65a, [Land on two continents], RUSSIA are not cross-referenced. 53a, [Spirits brand with a Peppar variety], ABSOLUT is actually Swedish!
  • 61a, [Meadow lows], MOOING. Great clue!
  • 68a, [1987 Beatty flop], ISHTAR if clued as a film I know only from crosswords. The goddess is familiar to me from ancient history though and a really nice entry!
  • 22d, [Needs a fainting couch], SWOONS – I appreciate that both clue and answer exude the same bygone field.
  • 25d, [WWII female], WAC. I’m told you shouldn’t wave at one.
  • 45d, [Coffee order], NOSUGAR. Great answer!

Another mini-theme was 39a, [“Doctor Who” actress Gillan], KAREN; 40a, [Taylor of fashion], ANN and 35d. [Willard of “Best in Show”], FRED. This mini-theme was names I know clued as people I’ve never heard of.

4.5 Stars

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31 Responses to Wednesday, April 2, 2014

  1. Gil Scott-Heron says:


  2. Avg Solvr says:

    How many will solve the NYT without seeing the gimmick? Seems like a disservice to the constructor and some solvers at times that the Times doesn’t use titles or otherwise tip off that a gimmick is present.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      But that’s half the fun! Figuring out what on earth unifies the theme answers.

      Mind you, a great many solvers pay no attention to themes at all and aren’t really aware they exist.

    • bonekrusher says:

      I hate the NYT Sunday puzzle titles. They frequently give away the theme. I agree with Amy that half the fun is figuring out the theme.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Going in you know the Sunday puzzle has a theme. I just thought that solvers who aren’t aware of a theme, and don’t visit blogs, are missing something which cheats themselves and the constructor to some extent. The several puzzles that I do each week, like BEQ, Jonesin, Ink Well, and others all title their puzzles that have a theme.

  3. Alex says:

    Not sure if this was an April Fools thing but your dates look out of whack.

  4. Seahedges says:

    Clever theme, but for this solver the puzzle had a few too many crossed names for smooth solving: Jewelry designer Peretti crossing NBC anchor Holt and Actress Dash of “Clueless”; Rock’s ___ Brothers crossing Kurt of Nirvana. Yuk.

    SEA, Asolo

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      SEA, solvers are expected to know Kurt COBAIN’s name. Not only is next week the 20th anniversary of his death, but as Entertainment Weekly noted this week, “In many ways, his death marked the passing of one of the last monoculture stars—a name you knew no matter what kind of music you were into.”

      LESTER Holt and STACEY Dash are not necessarily household names (especially for a European household like yours), but I liked seeing two African-Americans in the same corner of the grid. The crossword world is so white in general, it’s nice to see Holt and Dash.

      • Bencoe says:

        Ah yes, I remember my younger brother had a bit of a thing for STACEY Dash after Clueless came out.

    • Brucenm says:

      When two rock musicians pass the solipsistic “Me Test” that pretty much guarantees that they are legitimate crossword entries. :-)

      But at the time of his death, I had *not* heard of Kurt Cobain, and that brings up an interesting recollection. It was, to the best of my knowledge, the first time a person I had never heard of had appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, at least during the period that I was a reasonably sentient being. And the second occurred soon thereafter, perhaps the very next issue — Jeff Bezos.

  5. Clay says:

    I actually enjoyed the NYT, and twigged the theme fairly quickly – sword hilts fell pretty fast then it was simple to complete the rest – the NE was a bit problematic – ECOTONES had to be the answer (thankfully) as I see Asher Lev in puzzles all the time but cannot remember POTOK Chaim for anything, and ACELA always gets me.

    On reflection, I probably enjoyed the NYT and LAT solves today because I finished – something that I am struggling to do with Matt G’s and Patrick B’s fiendishly crafty pearls – they are driving me absolutely up the wall (in a good way).

    • HH says:

      Just FYI, it’s Chaim Potok, not t’other way round.

      • Clay says:

        Thanks HH, I told you that one gets me every time – not sure why I cannot get that to stick in the long term memory banks.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          We read Potok’s “The Chosen” in high school English. I liked it alright.

          • dave glasser says:

            When I was a kid, I once called my library to renew a book, and was informed that it was checked out not to me, but to Chaim Potok.

  6. Brucenm says:

    I’m feeling self-congratulatory at having finished Trip’s Fireball. Anyone done it yet? And on some Cuckoo level it even makes sense to me. That’s worrisome. Particularly liked 12, 28, 42 and 45a; and 1, 11 and 32d.

  7. Brucenm says:

    Liked the NYT — saw the theme right off. Elsa – Stacey was easily gettable, though I don’t know either of them, but NSF_ and _AHOO was not. I guessed a ‘Y’. Too bad the wahoo clue didn’t have a UVA connection.

  8. Howard B says:

    This one kind of threw me for a bit. SWORD HILT is a valid entity to start, while the others were entirely made-up phrases of widely varying legitimacy. Messed my rhythm up.
    I liked the subtle cluing angle, noticed it was *something* anagrammish during solve, but only fully figured it after completion.

    • Papa John says:

      I’ve become accustomed to anagrams producing “made-up phrases”, so that didn’t give me pause. However, the awkward phrase in the answer to 42d [Challenger’s announcement at a pickup game] I GOT NEXT does bother me. Will someone please explain the reason for the poor grammar in the fill?

      • Clay says:

        This is a decent explanation of “got next” – while it is termed as “urban” slang, and started at pickup basketball games, I have seen it used in a number of contexts – such as in bars playing pool and calling / reserving the next game or even in a small group of odd numbered people playing cards or cribbage.

        • Papa John says:

          So, there’s no other reason for the poor grammar other than establishing some kind of street/bar cred[entials]. As Arte Johnson used to say, “Interesting…but stupid.”

          • Bencoe says:

            I agree with Howard that the phrase “SWORD HILT” is out of place simply because it’s an actual phrase.
            As far as “I GOT NEXT”–it’s extremely common and in the language as an idiomatic saying. Growing up country in North Carolina, we hated when people would complain about the way we spoke as “grammatically incorrect.” It’s regional dialect, and we don’t need no Yankee to tell us how to talk!

          • Papa John says:

            Hey, nobody is telling you how to talk. Grammatical rules say “got” is an improper use of the verb. Argue that if you want. If you think using it that way makes you sound stupid, you came up with that on your own. I merely gave it its street cred attribute.

            My reference to Arte’s catchphrase was in regard to the inclusion, in this puzzle, of the phrase and its clue as being stupid; that is to say, uninteresting and un-informing.

  9. Huda says:

    NYT: Even though I knew ELSA (and even own something she designed), I did not do well with STACEY, LESTER and RIC in one neighborhood.

    It took me for ever to think about the clues as hints for the trick. Lesson learned (well, theoretically anyhow…)

  10. lemonade714 says:

    If you were to reveal the ‘gimmick’ in a theme, you would eliminate a significant part of the reason it is a puzzle and not just a definition game. Take time to work on the puzzles from the London Times where anagrams, run ons and other devices abound and your mind will be open to all kinds of possibilities. It is the same as requiring the clue explain if the answer is 1wd, 2wds etc. As long as some people can solve the puzzle, it is not unfair. Perhaps instead of assisting solvers with red letters to show errors, we could offer the newer solvers the added clue information.
    I thought it was a particularly easy NYT. but I love anagrams.
    Asher Lev is a nicely told story.

  11. Paul Coulter says:

    On the Blindauer — Wow! I can only say his awesomeness is disarming. Like Matt, I sensed there were further oniony levels, but after the many hours I spent on Matt’s own meta and the MMMM, I didn’t have the time to peel them. This gets a 5 from me. And a prediction of much Venutian love for Patrick.

  12. David L says:

    The Tausig tripped me up in the SE — I had SNIS (for the Swedish snuff) crossing IANDI, which I can only explain by claiming that I somehow confused modern teenage txtspk with Rastafarianism.

  13. pannonica says:

    Tausig: “55d. [We, in a text message], U AND I. I thought this was contrived and bogus until I asked my household teenager how he’d write this in a message. Yup, this is legit.”

    I would have eschewed the txt-speak and gone with Nicholson Baker’s autobiographical book, but that’s how I roll.

  14. ArtLvr says:

    I liked the twists in the LAT, but am glad EQED was explained above!
    As for the NJ Gov. (no relation to AGATHA), — can’t wait for the next shoe to drop.

  15. Pauer says:

    “Venutian Love” might have to be the name of my band if I ever start one.

    But, seriously: thanks for all the kind words and votes for my puz. I had fun making that one.

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