Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NYT 3:22 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 3:21 (Gareth) 
CS 11:47 (Ade) 

John Bennett’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 9 14, no. 0409

NY Times crossword solution, 4 9 14, no. 0409

37a. [Question asked by a customs officer or a kid on Christmas … with a hint to this puzzle’s circled squares] clues “WHAT’S IN THE BOXES?” Then the 2×2 “boxes” of circled letters spell out various 4-letter words that form compound words with “box” at the end: MAIL, GEAR, PILL, SAND, SHOE, and SALT. The fill in those six areas is surprisingly ordinary and unbad for sections where some squares are checked three ways (Across, Down, and in a “box”). The worst compromises are partials IS NO and IS ON, and those at least are eminently gettable.

Now, I am not wild about the 15-letter revealer. It sort of suggests that the 4-letter “boxes” will contain things that go in boxes, but a SALTbox house is not a salt container, a SHOEbox generally contains more than one shoe, and a GEARbox isn’t really any kind of box at all (I don’t think—what do I know about gearboxes?). The MAILbox, PILLbox, and SANDbox are all generally containers for those things, though.

A riff on the movie "Se7en," from

A riff on the movie “Se7en,” from

The Across space is fleshed out with some long fill: WATER SNAKE (*shudder*), delightful WORDINESS, the FIRST LIGHT of dawn, an ICE CUBE.

Mystery item: 54a. [Tangent of 45 degrees], ONE. Been a while since I studied geometry. Here is an explanation; you mathy people can tell us if it’s correct.

And now we know why Will Shortz ran Martin and Joe’s double quad-stack puzzle this past weekend: so that we couldn’t complain that we’d never, ever heard of 57d. [“April Love” composer Sammy] FAIN before. Last Friday, SAMMY FAIN stretched down the grid and befuddled many of us. And here he is again! I would fain never see him again, but I wouldn’t mind having FAIN in the grid clued as the archaic adverb/adjective that Shakespeare was wont to use. I don’t enjoy all archaic vocab, no, but FAIN is cool.

38d. [“Game of Thrones” network] is HBO, yup. My sweetie is watching it via DVR right now. There be … screechy dragons.

Signing off for the night with a rating of 3.75 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Square Meal”

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 4 9 14 "Square Meal"

Chicago Reader / Ink Well crossword solution, 4 9 14 “Square Meal”

The fancy snacks laid out at an art show are the stars of this week’s theme:

  • 20a. [Refreshments at many a 57-Across, represented in two of this puzzle’s corners], BLOCKS OF CHEESE.
  • 37a. [Refreshments at many a 57-Across, represented in the other two corners], BOXES OF WINE.
  • 57a. [Event featuring new work, and where the items in the corners might be found], GALLERY OPENING.
  • The four corners of the grid contain 4-letter words in 2×2 squares of circled letters: two cheeses, BRIE and EDAM, and two wines, PORT and BRUT.

Now, I like the cheese blocks and wine boxes concept, but it is tricky to get BRIE in a block form outside of a crossword grid, EDAM comes in a flattened ball (from which you can cut a block if you try hard enough; otherwise it’s wedges), and I’ve never seen PORT or BRUT in a wine box. Brut Champagne requires a bottle, no? And chardonnay and cabernet are more gallery/box-friendly than fortified port.

Five more things:

  • 4a. [Sites for skateboarding tricks], RAMPS. The oniony/garlicky wild veggies called ramps are coming into season in the woods now. Tasty, yes, but my family has found that ramps produce a cruel garlic heartburn for a day afterwards.
  • 47a. [Brazilian football megastar with a reduplicated name], KAKA. Can’t help thinking that “reduplicated” should mean his name is KAKAKAKA.
  • 54a. [___ Meow (Internet meme cat with extremely long fur)], COLONEL. I missed out on that meme completely, and now Colonel Meow is dead. Here he is in a retrospective.
  • 62a. [[You should try some of this grass]], MOO. Cows, not stoners.
  • 67a. [One of Puff Daddy’s clothing labels], ENYCE. News to me. Wikipedia says: The pronunciation of the brand has been confused by many over the years. The origins of the pronunciation is from the phonetic spelling of “NYC” (en-y-ce) sounded out in an Italian manner. This was because the company started under Fila, an Italian based company. Employees asked how they would pronounce the word replied “en-ne-che”. It is the “correct” way to say the brand.

Highlights in the fill are not legion: AL GORE, HUT TWO, BACCARAT. The fill’s solid, though. 3.66 stars from me.

Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140409

LA Times

A very simple vowel progression today, using F?N*. A simple theme should be a vehicle towards interesting longer (theme) answers. I like FANNYPACK (South African English MOONBAG) and FONDUEPOT and FENNELTEA is definitely quirky; FUNNYBONE is solid. I’ve never heard of the middle themer, FINKOUT, before. I assume it’s old slang of some sort, and it sounds strange on the tongue! There aren’t a whole pile of other options at 7 letters though – FINEART has a long I and breaks consistency.

The rest of the puzzle was mostly solid rather than scintillating: TADPOLE, SERAPHS and STANZA are about as bouncy as it gets. There are only a few iffy spots though: strange partial ASAFE and unneccesary prefix EXO. I was looking weirdly at ADEPTS, but the I realised that it is actually a normal plural after all! Some people object to slightly obscure answers like [Leveling wedge], SHIM in puzzles. I don’t count those answers in the negative column at all unless there is a preponderance of them.

A few clues I’d like to highlight:

    • [Lead-in for bird or walk], JAY. A nice mini-mystery clue to kick things off.
    • [Custard dishes], QUICHES. Huh? I have two recipes for quiche and neither calls for custard… Are my recipes wrong? If so, I don’t care, because they’re delicious! (If anyone wants a quiche recipe with Paula Deen-esque quantities of butter involved, you’re welcome to email me!)
    • [They may be done by ones who have gone too far], UEYS. I don’t remember seeing this clueing approach before, but it probably isn’t new if I check the database!
    • [Puzzle video game with three heroes], TRINE. Never heard of it! Clearly Bernice Gordon and Rich Norris are far hipper than me!
    • [River horse], HIPPO. That’s what hippopotamus means, despite a hippopotamus being an artiodactyl and a horse a perissodactyl.

3 stars

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sware Words”—Ade’s write-up

Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword solution, 4 9 14 "Sware Words"

Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword solution, 4 9 14 “Sware Words”

Hello all!

A little rhyme time/letter replacement puzzle, with the first word in each of the theme answers taking a “S_ARE” pattern:

  • SNARE DRUM: (17A: [Percussion instrument])
  • SCARE FACTOR: (25A: [Fear element]) – Felt like the clue would sound better if the words “scare” and “fear” were switched around. But obviously, there goes the neighborhood on the theme if you do that, thus increasing the scare factor of not executing this theme.
  • SPARE TIRE: (37A: [Dieter’s midriff target, in slang])- The only time I hear the word “midriff” is when watching coverage of European soccer matches and hearing the (mostly) British commentators use that instead of midsection.
  • SHARE HOLDER: (52A: [Corporate investor])
  • STARE DOWN: (62A: [Intimidate with a fixed look]) – Here’s looking at you, kid!

There’s a whole lot of 7- and 8-word crunchiness in this grid, and I particularly liked it.  Thank goodness I missed the era of being given a PET ROCK as a gift, cheap trick, etc. (12D: [Popular ‘70s fad gift]).  PYRENEES makes an appearance as an entry (38D: [Range separating France and Spain]) instead of a reference guide to figure out how to translate a word into a language spoken on either side of the mountains.  Now looking at OLESTRA (50A: [Food fat substitute]) makes me think back to every potato chip I’ve eaten in the 20 or so years before I became aware of its effects and hoping not one of those chips was ever drowned in that oil.  The odds aren’t in my favor on that one.

Maybe one day, actress Charlotte Rae will write an autobiography titled, I, Rae, but until then, we get our Latin friend IRAE (15A: [Wrath, in a Latin hymn]).  There was one time a while back I saw two Volkswagen Beetles driving one behind the other.  Don’t think I’ll see multiple PASSATS (40A: [Jettas’ cousins]) in the same vicinity, outside of at a dealership, anytime soon.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STOOD (35D: [Prepared for the national anthem])- Before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers that was televised by NBC (24D: [“The Today Show” network]), fans at Tiger Stadium stood in honor of the playing of the national anthem, performed by singer José Feliciano. His soulful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” surprised many in the stands and television viewers nationally, mostly negatively. Many radio stations across America responded by pulling Feliciano’s music off their airwaves.  But ironically, a couple of years later, Feliciano was to release one of America’s most iconic tunes, the Christmas hit “Feliz Navidad.”  Moreover, Feliciano’s off-key interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is seen as a landmark moment, opening up the door for other singers/groups to freely perform their own creative renditions of the national anthem before sporting events.

And just like that, IT’S DONE (45D: [“That cake’s been in the oven long enough”]).  Time for cake!


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23 Responses to Wednesday, April 9, 2014

  1. sbmanion says:

    Sohcahtoa. Tan 45, cos 0 and sin 90 are all ONE. Frequently tested on the ACT; I have never seen a trig problem on the SAT.


  2. Hi, Amy. Not to go off on a tangent, but yes, in trigonometry, tan = opposite over adjacent, so for an isosceles right triangle, the two angles other than 90 degrees are the same, i.e., 45 degrees, and the sides are also the same, so their ratio is ONE.

    Checking Jim Horne’s invaluable, we find that ONE (all by itself) has appeared 356 times in the Will Shortz era, and this is the third time that there has been a trigonometry clue. I would submit that the present one is easier than either of the other two, both from 2009, i.e., “cosine of zero degrees” by Jonathan Gersch and “cosine of 2 pi” by Joon Pahk. That same year, you and Tony Orbach clued ONE as “a wee hour,” the seventh time that clue (sometimes with “a”, sometimes without) had been used. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s really really hard to come up with a brand new clue for words as utterly common as ONE (or its possessive/plural, ONES), but they are the glue that allow a constructor to achieve loftier goals, perhaps even double quad stacks!

    My cyberfriendship with Martin Ashwood-Smith is a matter of record, on this blog and others. But yes, you are right, what a thrill to see the author of “April Love” show up again, within less than a week, albeit this time last name only. Here again, is most instructive. Of the 9 times that Will Shortz has allowed FAIN into a New York Times grid, the one we see today has been used once before, verbatim, in 2006 by Harvey Estes. The clue you are recommending, in various forms but more or less either “gladly” or “willingly,” with or without a disclaimer about its ancientness, has been used by the likes of Fred Piscop, Patrick Berry (twice), and that other quad stack constructor, Joe Krozel (twice).

    At the risk of wearing out my welcome, I should also point out that SAMMY_FAIN (full name), which made its debut last Friday, was no slouch as a composer. Google his name to get his bio and to sample his songs, including “April Love.” He is not to be confused with lyricist SAMMY_CAHN, also readily Google-able, whose last name is a crossword staple (28 appearances in the Shortz era) and whose full name graced the New York Times puzzle once (Patrick McIntyre, September 13, 2011) and was also one of five theme entries in Liz Gorski’s delightful “Contest!” that was blogged here as recently as … yesterday!

    • ArtLvr says:

      My favorite “One” is the song from the musical Chorus Line…

      • ArtLvr says:

        Correction: the title is “A Chorus Line” & has music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Crossword-worthy names!

    • Gareth says:

      Au contrair, he very definitely >is< to be confused with Mr. Cahn. I should know, I've done so twice in two weeks!

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked the neat little boxes:) I wonder whether the revealer could have been a little less literal? I realize that cluing is tricky, but I’d be curious to hear from the talented folks here whether other options come to mind.

    I’m also surprised that it’s hard to come up with original clues for “ONE”. There are so many uses for that term beyond the mathematical, er, ones.

    I caught up with my taped Jeopardy episodes from last week and there was Ken Jennings being his impressive self. I wish Joon were part of that tournament–it would have been fun to see him again, may be playing against Jennings especially with Math and Science categories.

    • Bencoe says:

      Agreed, regarding jeopardy. I told my wife the same thing–“Too bad they didn’t get Joon Pahk back.”

  4. Alex Trebec says:

    We’re running a Tournament of the Decades. We really can’t include Joon as he was in the 2010’s, and they’re not quite over yet. Not even half over. We also really can’t do the 1960’s because, well, the champions are either dead or senile. See, there are limitations even in TV, at least thoughtful TV. I’m pretty sure Wheel Of Fortune could do a ’60s retrospective, as cognition is not a requirement for WOF.

    • Jonesy says:

      honestly thought this might’ve been the real Trebek (apart from the last name misspelling) until the last sentence.

    • Hilda says:

      Alex, this cognitive decline business sucks… So this is a gentle reminder that the decades are dated from the time you began your reign in the show, up to the present time. Wiki explains: “Though the groups roughly represent 1984-1993, 1994–2003, and 2004–2013, they are referred to as the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, respectively.”

      And then there’s the name spelling business. I sympathize, I’m always messing mine up and auto-correct doesn’t help, it turns me into Huda on a semi regular basis… Hang in there!

  5. Gareth says:

    The central idea of 2×2 boxes is nice. It’s a standing problem with these themes that they don’t make for interesting fill, and this is better than most in that regard. The revealer, however, sounded utterly contrived, and that took a lot out of the puzzle for me.

  6. Jonesy says:

    re: inkwell, i’m not at all bothered that the ‘boxes/blocks’ of wine and cheese don’t correspond to how you usually (always) see those specific wines and cheeses in real life. Don’t even think i’d view it as more elegant if it were say Gouda and Sangria for example.

    it being a type of cheese that makes a block in the cw seems rock solid to me…

    • Jonesy says:

      also interesting to note that the inkwell and NYT have similar theme concepts… with the inkwell being a more interesting variant (as typical with indie puzzles)…

  7. David R says:

    ◾[Puzzle video game with three heroes], TRINE. Never heard of it! Clearly Bernice Gordon and Rich Norris are far hipper than me!

    Bernice (working NE corner) got to get that FENNEL TEA to fit hmm stuck with ETERNE stacked above it, that’s a bit icky but gettable. Oh @&$@# I’m stuck with TRINE going to have to rework the whole corner. Wait let me Google TRINE and see what pulls up Trine U in Angora, Indiana nope that doesn’t work. Hey there’s some silly video game made recently with that name, I’m sure all the young whippersnappers will appreciate me putting in a cutting edge game like that!

  8. Papa John says:

    Amy, even though a salt box house could have salt in them, salt boxes are made, primarily, to hold salt.

    How can a gearbox not be a box? It’s as much of a box as a car’s glove box and more certain to contain gears as a glove box is to hold gloves.

    • Gareth says:

      That’s why we call gloveboxes cubby holes… It’s so much more logical, as we always keep our cubbies there!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Clearly I have no idea what the gears in a car look like. The gearshift is the extent of my knowledge of this matter.

      I have never, ever seen gloves in what I call the glove compartment. Maps, a tire gauge, the car’s manual, a plastic fork, sure. No gloves. Also have never, ever seen a salt box; just saltbox houses.

      • ahimsa says:

        Amy, I laughed at your comment because I actually DO keep a spare pair of gloves in my glove box! But it’s probably not very common.

        I’ve seen salt boxes (fairly large wooden things) at antique stores. I’m pretty sure that the house style was named after the shape of these old boxes.

  9. TOM says:

    Site is becoming less and less reliable. Links to daily crosswords are now often broken or missing altogether, and whoever runs the site seems to be forever stuck using a calendar from the wrong year. Today is Wed. April 9. The 8th was yesterday, a Tuesday.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Tom, try clearing your browser cache. Most of us are seeing things correctly in the site.

  10. pannonica says:

    LAT: “I’ve never heard of the middle themer, FINKOUT, before. I assume it’s old slang of some sort, and it sounds strange on the tongue! There aren’t a whole pile of other options at 7 letters though – FINEART has a long I and breaks consistency.”

    FINLAND comes immediately to mind. Also, the three-with-F?NN* irked me. But perhaps I’m being finicky, or lack finesse.

    • ahimsa says:

      Is it okay for one theme entry to be one word if all the others are two words? It doesn’t bother me as a solver but I thought that editors generally preferred that.

      For some odd reason I thought of FINNAN HADDIE. Of course, it’s too long, and probably too obscure, and it isn’t even an odd number of letters (needed for a central entry). But I remember it from that old song, My Heart Belongs to Daddy.

      FENNEC FOX would have been a great FEN* entry if it could have been squeezed in there. Very cute animals.

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