Thursday, May 1, 2014

AV Club 5:04 (Amy) 
NYT 5:13 (Amy) 
LAT 4:44 (Gareth) 
BEQ 9+ minutes (Matt) 
CS 13:00 (Ade) 
Fireball 4:46 (Amy) 

Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Period of Decline”

AV Club crossword solution, 5 1 14 "Period of Decline" by Aimee Lucido

AV Club crossword solution, 5 1 14 “Period of Decline” by Aimee Lucido

Ooh, this is my favorite puzzle so far this week. I need to consult the periodic table of elements to make sense out of all the theme answers, sure, but it isn’t Aimee’s fault that I don’t know all the atomic numbers. Each theme entry changes a letter or two that make up a chemical symbol to the symbol for the element with the atomic number that’s one lower. The resulting phrase is clued plausibly, with an added hint giving the atomic numbers:

  • 17a. [Insulting the queen, e.g.? (27->26)], ANT FELONY. I had ANT **LONY in place and was thinking of COLONY but the crossings said no, FELONY, and that’s when the light dawned. Co to Fe, cobalt to iron. Not that this helped me with the rest of the theme answers—I knew a letter or two would change but not which ones and from what to what.
  • 22a. [Soft crying about moldy mozzarella? (8->7)], CHEESE SNUFFLE. Lost on what the original phrase was. To the periodic table! O to N, oxygen to nitrogen, soufflé to SNUFFLE! Wow, that’s a great find, Aimee. The pronunciation change at the end masks the word change.
  • 38a. [Appearance during a partial wardrobe malfunction? (29->28)], SOLO NIP. We get nickel’s Ni from copper’s Cu, Solo-brand plastic cup.
  • 47a. [Taking a job as a columnist for the 1%? (6->5)], JOINING FORBES. Carbon to boron, C to B from “joining forces.”
  • 57a. [Process by which an element’s atomic number may be reduced, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], BETA DECAY. Ooh, science.

Sure, the AV Club puzzle started out as hipster puzzles with salty language, but it’s grown to encompass really ambitious gimmick themes that end up on The Year’s Best Puzzles lists. This isn’t even the first one to play with chemical elements in a smart way—I loved Francis Heaney’s puzzle that used a chemical symbol in one direction and the relevant atomic number the other direction, occupying the same square. So Ben Tausig’s team is horning in on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s scholarly theme niche. Five more things:

  • 4a. [Mexican-American woman, in slang], CHOLA. I know cholo but had never seen the -a version. Wanted CHICA, which of course is not specifically Mexican.
  • 41a. [Controlling women?], THE FATES. Great answer, great clue.
  • 66a. [Zero-dimensional entity], DOT. See? Science again. Or math. Whatever. Fancy.
  • 10d. [Device put in Jell-O in an office prank], STAPLER. Fun clue.
  • 31d. [Beer brand at an izakaya], ASAHI. Japanese beer … and what is an izakaya? A Japanese bar with snacks.

4.75 stars from me. Simply loved this theme, even though I didn’t fully grasp its details while solving.

Brandon Hensley’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 5 1 14, no. 0501

NY Times crossword solution 5 1 14, no. 0501

Connect-the-dots time: I think I drew the outline of a UFO but I’m not certain. 1a. [With 6-Across, subject of an eerie rural legend … illustrated by connecting nine identically filled squares in this puzzle with a closed line] clues ALIEN / ABDUCTION. The abduction itself is not illustrated by a UFO, is it? Those nine ET rebus squares in the drawing are supplemented by a COW rebus in square 55. If there were just a straight-down tractor beam of black squares connecting the COW to the UFO, the picture would be more compelling to me (and sync up with the revealer clue). The squares between REEKING and HOME IN and between FAHD and {COW}ARDS throw me off the scent. I live in the city and grew up in the suburbs, and even four years in a town known for its Cows, Colleges, and Contentment did not tip me off to the existence of a countrified urban legend about aliens abducting cows. People, yes. People subjected to anal probes, absolutely. But the {COW} was news to me. Six things:

  • 17a. [Whizzes], GENII. I’m seeing dictionary support for GENII as the plural of mythological or other non-human senses of genius, and geniuses as the plural for a smart person or whiz.
  • 21a. [Some Spanish zoo exhibits], OSOS, or bears. I read the clue as [Some Spanish museum exhibits] and had art on the mind.
  • 33a. [Big, big, big], OBESE. Really? A 6′ tall guy who weighs 221 lb is “obese” by BMI standards. Is that “big, big, big” or just on the big side?
  • 65a. [Clean-shaven], BEARDLESS. You can be BEARDLESS (which, astonishingly enough, is in the dictionary!) but not clean-shaven if you have a ‘stache or muttonchops.
  • 20d. [Polynesian term for an island hopper], OMOO. Also, as any longtime crossworder knows, the title of a Melville novel that I’d wager has been read by no more than one person reading this post.
  • 58d. [Texas has a big one], TEE. Ugh, spelled-out letter when there are so many alternatives.

3.5 stars from me. The rebus was not so hard to figure out, the theme is kinda cute, and there’s a fair amount of flat fill keeping me from liking the puzzle more.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat140501Ontario is big in the LA Times this week! Yesterday’s puzzle was written by an Ontarian, and today’s features WATERLOO_ONTARIO as its opening answer! OZONE (O3) is the revealer and the other four grid spanners all have a run of 3 O’s spanning two words. Answers 2 and 3 are ITS_A_ZOO_OUT_THERE and IM_TOO_OLD_FOR_THIS. These are conversational phrases. People say a lot of things, and it’s sometimes hard to gauge what constitutes an in-the-language spoken-word phrase, rather than just a bunch of words someone might say. I initially regarded these two with skepticism, but on consideration, they are idiomatic, and definitely fun answers! The latter often takes a trailing “shit” though, as here.

HAS_NO_OOMPH_AT_ALL on the other hand is hopelessly contrived. Sad to have the theme start with 3 great answers and then end on a dud note. The top of the google search for this phrase links you to other crossword blogs… This puzzle could’ve worked just fine with three answers. There seems to be a pressure on constructors to jam lots of theme into their puzzles. There are times when it’s a good thing, but I’ll take quality over quantity any time.

There are three more answers I’d like to highlight. I didn’t know WCTU, and required all the crossings to get it, but it’s a historically important organisation and is actually a positive, interesting feature of the grid in my opinion.

There are those who are of the (odd, and not borne out by reality) opinion that rappers are over-represented in crosswords. They may be surprised if I tell you that this is by my reckoning AKON‘s first non-Indie crossword appearance, and that he was one of the most successful recording artists of the previous decade (this decade hasn’t gone as well for him). He was involved in 14 top 10 singles 2 of which were number 1s in that period. And yet, I’ve had to remove him from grids on more than one previous occasion. It’s nice to see him finally be accepted, even if I find his music… misogynistic and bland among other things.

Lastly [Move like a monarch] for FLIT was my favourite clue! Simple, yes, but very smartly clued!

Given my reservations to the final theme answer: 3 stars.

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Carnival of the Animals”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.01.14: "Carnival of the Animals"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.01.14: “Carnival of the Animals”

Hello once again everybody!

Don’t know where you guys live, but here in the New York City area, it’s been raining cats and dogs…and elephants and leopards! So very fitting that this puzzle, composed by Mr. Raymond Hamel, gives us some animal action, with each of the four answers not only ending with an animal, but in a “____ of the (animal)” format:

  • PLANET OF THE APES: (17A: [1968 sci-fi film remade in 2001])
  • HAIR OF THE DOG: (25A: [Hangover “remedy”])
  • YEAR OF THE CAT: (42A: [Al Stewart hit of 1976])
  • UNION OF THE SNAKE: (55A: [Top 10 song by Duran Duran])– Even though I had caught on to the pattern of how the theme answers would be entered, I still tried to fit “Hungry Like The Wolf” in the grid. No luck.

A pretty straightforward puzzle with no real amazing fill, unless you’re a boxing fan. We have FIGHTS (43D: [Boxes]) and TKOS (53D: [Bout enders, briefly]) for those feeling a little pugilistic. Right in the middle of the grid, there’s another HARPO entry (28D: [Silent film comic]) and another one that doesn’t refer to Oprah Winfrey’s company. Almost was done with the puzzle, but then had an error that took a while to clean up: had “wahoos” instead of YAHOOS for the longest time (42D: [Cretins]). I guess “Wear of the Cat” sounded good enough for me, until finally realizing that I was thinking of the unofficial nickname of the University of Virginia when putting in “wahoos.” Loved HUGH (25D: [Grant in “Notting Hill”]) as Charles in Four Weddings and Funeral, though he’s remembered by a lot of people for his mug shot as much as he is for his acting.


“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SPREE (36A: [Series of crimes])– “Spree” was the nickname of former NBA All-Star guard Latrell Sprewell, who played for the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite his success on the court, he is most remembered for choking then-Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice in 1997. Sprewell was suspended for the remainder of the season (68 games), and became the face of villainy in sports. Sprewell redeemed himself after a trade to the New York Knicks, when he led eighth-seeded New York all the way to the NBA Finals in 1999, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in five games.

Here’s hoping the weather is much better where you are than it is here. Have a great day, and we will see you on Friday!


Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Two-for-One Special” — Matt’s review

Before we look at today’s puzzle, let’s do a quick recap of Brendan’s contest crossword from last Thursday, “Let’s Begin.” Instructions asked for a six-word phrase, and the three theme entries were NO SHIT SHERLOCK, DOWN TO THE WIRE, and GATED COMMUNITY.


Those phrases each end in a TV show (“Sherlock,” “The Wire,” “Community”), and, as you can see from the grid at right, there was also a synonym for “road” hidden underneath each show. Hence meta-answer “Get the show on the road,” a toughish one to puzzle out (I missed it, and according to Brendan’s writeup here, just 55 solvers got it right).

Now, on to this week, where Brendan doubles the first word in base phrases to get wacky new phrases:


18-A [High-stepping dance that involves a little golden showers?] = SPRINKLING CAN-CAN. From “sprinkling can,” which is not familiar to me (I’d call it a “watering can,” which outgoogles “sprinkling can” by 12-to-1).

28-A [One who halves drums?] = TOM-TOM SAWYER, from the Rush song “Tom Sawyer.”

47-A [Trajectory of a thrown chocolate?] = BON-BON VOYAGE, from “Bon voyage.”

64-A [Where your crossword is on the newspaper page?] = BEYOND ONE’S KENKEN, not “beyond one’s ken.”

I like it.


***I forgot to save my time, but it was north of 9 minutes. Tricked in the NW by the nice clue [See figure 1?] for POPE (that’s the “Holy See,” a.k.a. The Vatican, and clueless for a while on the similarly tricky [Pen patter] for OINKS.

***Fooled yet again in the NE, where I had WIN?????? for [Summer cooler] and confidently plunked the E in, assuming it was some alcoholic drink. It was not. It was WINDOW FAN, as I discovered minutes later. Crossing at the I is ICE-T, another summer cooler. Not really, but close.

***If you have SARAH PALIN [Who said “Y’know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick.”] and ALASKA in one puzzle you’ve gotta link them, and BEQ did here.

***Favorite word in the grid is WOEBEGONE. Find me another word with the letter pattern OEBE. OK, Phoebe. And probably some German surnames. But you get my point, it looks cool.

***Timely clue for ROSE with [Kentucky Derby bloom]. The Derby (a.k.a. “The Run for the Roses”) is this Saturday. The current champion is ORB, and we can only hope that whoever wins this weekend will be as crossword-friendly. Looks like Chitu should be our favorite, though We Miss Artie would give us a new clue for that name.

4.20 stars.

Pancho Harrison’s Fireball crossword, “Mining Cole”

Fireball crossword solution, 5 1 14 "Mining Cole"

Fireball crossword solution, 5 1 14 “Mining Cole”

Pancho mines Cole Porter songs for puns:

  • 16a. [Song about starting a long, wailing lament?], “BEGIN THE BIG KEEN.” Sub “Beguine” for “big keen.” Apparently I have never actually looked up beguine before, because the dictionary tells me it’s a foxtrot-like dance that originated in the West Indies and takes its name from the French for “infatuation.” So tell me what the song is about.
  • 26a. [Song about a doctor’s request for a surgical dressing?], “ANYTHING GAUZE.” Goes.
  • 46a. [Song about an accusatory question for actress Gardner?], “WELL, DID YOU, AVA?” Ha! I like this one. “Well, Did You Evah!” is the original.
  • 59a. [Song about the kids of an elevator-fortune heiress?], “MISS OTIS’ RUG RATS.” Regrets.

I’m not a Porter aficionado but all the original song titles are familiar (partly from crossword clues for EVAH and OTIS).

Most interesting words in the fill:

  • 9d. [Indian fritters], PAKORAS. Here’s a recipe, gluten-free with spicy garam flour. Basically battered and deep-fried veggies.
  • 37d. [___ oryx (antelope with curved horns)], SCIMITAR. By far the best of all the sword names. EPEE, you are so uninteresting.
  • 28d. [Rejectors of the Trinity], UNITARIANS. All the Unitarians I know are lovely people.

I really could have done without the “heh-heh” clues for PERP ([Collar for a dick]) and HENS ([Female peckers]). I do not share Peter Gordon’s fondness for penis jokes in crosswords. Paging Beavis and Butt-head …

Top clue: 55d. [“A moderately good play with a badly written third act,” according to Truman Capote], LIFE.

3.5 stars.

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29 Responses to Thursday, May 1, 2014

  1. Slowpoke Rodriguez says:

    I got the happy pencil with a “C” instead of a “COW,” and justified CARDS as RUNNERS as in poker’s “runner runner straight.” I came here to figure out what CERS meant only to be disappointed by my obvious failures.

    The cow makes the puzzle for me.

    • Gareth says:

      Definitely one of those puzzles you appreciate more after solving than during.

      [Written before seeing Mr. Rodriguez’s comment] Apparently I had a wrong square, but MHP appeared which suggests otherwise. I ended at ?ARDS and ?ERS and decided CARDS can be runners (as in running cards in poker)… I went as far as to google CERS after the crossword! Great minds!

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Cows aren’t abducted, according to the legend, they’re mutilated with surgical precision. So maybe the black squares represent a hatchet and scalpel.

    What’s the ASCAP standard for a 6’1″ guy?

    • Bencoe says:

      I was going to say the same thing–cows definitely aren’t abducted, they’re mutilated. Saw an old X Files just the other day where they were discussing cattle mutilation.

    • bhensley says:

      Maybe I misjudged how common a trope cow abductions are. From the link: “Cattle Abductions” were never really a trope in the first place; but they’ve become popular as a sort of satirical combination of Alien Abduction and cattle-mutilation stories. It’s also a useful trope for designating aliens that are up to no good, but in a comedic or nonthreatening way (the sight gag of a mooing cow being tractor-beamed up into a flying saucer).

      Lots of pop culture examples found at that page as well.

      Thanks for solving!

  3. Brucenm says:

    I gave up on the cow square, and initially thought it was unfair and random, but I guess the explanation makes sense, though I too did not think that cows got abducted. You’d better have a high end tractor beam, not one from the alien equivalent of K-Mart or IKEA. Liked the puzzle otherwise, though.

    Bruce < – – – Also 6' 1", also rejects the 'O' label in favor of "a few extra lbs."

  4. sbmanion says:

    A 6′ guy at 221 has a BMI of 30.0. The BMI transitions from “overweight” to “obese” at 29.9. The BMI calculator notes that athletes may have overstated BMIs because the BMI does not take muscularity into account and non-muscular people may have understated BMIs. Waist size is a somewhat more accurate measure. A male with a lot of fat in his stomach (waist over 40″) is more at risk for diabetes and heart disease than one whose weight is in his butt.

    Are you an apple or a pear? Apples are at greater risk for diseases associated with obesity.


    • Brucenm says:

      Steve, at a fluctuating 226 – 228 lbs., do I sneak in under the wire? Not sure about the apple or pear (though I’ve heard that distinction.) Maybe a kumquat? Dragonfruit? . . . :-)

      • sbmanion says:

        Bruce, at 227 you are OK. At 228, you are over 30.

        One of the big transitions we have learned over the years is that guys with big butts can be far more athletic than V-shaped guys with small butts. My all-time favorite was Wes Unseld. Charles Barkley fits into that category as do a lot of the current NBA power forwards.


  5. Matt says:

    I was flummoxed for a while by the ‘COW’ square– didn’t expect the additional trick. But drawing a picture of a cow being kidnapped by a flying saucer is novel and cute. And a little weird, but cute.

  6. David L says:

    I put COW in the correct square, not because I knew anything about the supposed legend but because this was a rebus puzzle and COW was the only thing I could come up with. It also helped that I didn’t carefully read the 1-across clue, otherwise I would have been sure all the rebus squares must be the same.

    I’m also perplexed by 31D: to me, LETS ON means reveal, as in to let someone in on a secret. MW11 agrees with its first two definitions, but then adds a third that claims that it can also mean “pretend.” Their example: “let on to being a stranger.” Huh? That makes no sense to me at all.

    • Gary R says:

      David L – I’ve heard “lets on” used as clued in the puzzle, though not frequently. Example: “He lets on like he’s the star of the show, but it turns out he’s only on stage for 15 seconds.” It’s certainly colloquial, maybe regional – seems like I’ve heard it more often in the South than elsewhere.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, that makes sense. It’s not a phrasing I would use, I think, but I get the meaning.

        You should send your example to the dictionary — it’s clearer than the one they are using!

  7. ArtLvr says:

    re LAT’s FLIT for “move like a monarch” — There was a stunning program on PBS last night of those butterflies’ life cycle with a migration like no other! It can probably be found online… Not to be missed!

  8. Howard B says:

    Loved the creativity of this one. Thought it worked well, and hearing of the COW connection helped with that last square a bit. (Yes, it was the last square to fall). Quirky, odd, but definitely appropriate for Thursday difficulty and just the right challenge.

  9. CY Hollander says:

    Took me a long time to realize that the aliens were abducting a cow. Was looking for a man, or a person, or even Elvis.

  10. Dan F says:

    Loved the NYT theme — great “haha” moment when I figured out that last square. Thought the LAT was as weak as I’ve ever seen in that outlet — the final theme entry is in no way legit, and the fill is shaky all over.

    Also wanted to give Ade some kudos for his CS reviews! You will learn something about sports.

  11. Dan F says:

    Wait a second, I just read yesterday’s blog. Enos Slaughter was an outfielder, not a catcher! I take back all the nice things I said. :p

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    In re Amy’s comment on OMOO, it would seem I’m that one person. She didn’t specify her wager if proved wrong though.

  13. AV says:

    Very cool NYT – reminded me of DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE!

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Hey! My kid is on Instagram so I joined up to follow his photographic exploits. One of the people who “liked” his last photo has the username IM_DAT_CHOLA. Chola! Outside of the puzzle! Thank you, Aimee, for teaching me the word.

  15. Lou says:

    Had to laugh when I read your write-up Gareth. When I checked HAS NO OOMPH AT ALLonline, one of the first things to come up was the following review from Diary of a Crossword Fiend blog:

    26a. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying becomes AS I LAY DINGY, or [ 1930 novel about sleeping in dirty pajamas? ]. Been there, done that. Not just a switcheroo of the last two letters. AS I LAY DYIGN has no oomph at all.

    What constitutes a good crossword entry seems VERY subjective. That being said I appreciate hearing your opinion and the review. Thanks!

    Mary Lou

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I dunno, Mary Lou—I string together plenty of phrases that it pleases me to write, but that I wouldn’t care to see in a crossword grid.

      Gareth rescued your comment from the spam filter. You’d think a link to this very site would not trigger the spam filter!

  16. Jason T says:

    What, no Fireball review?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You know what happened? I took Fireball out of last Thursday’s post because it was a contest puzzle, and then I used that post’s coding as a template for this week’s, and I take my cues from that. Blame Peter Gordon for messing with my schedule!

  17. Lou says:

    @ Gareth
    AKON was used in both a NYT and WSJ puzzle prior to being used in mine. Those aren’t indie outlets.

Comments are closed.