Friday, May 9, 2014

NYT 4:27 (Amy) 
LAT 10:12 (Gareth) 
CS 9:17 (Ade) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (Amy) 
CHE 3:07 (Amy) 

James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 14, no. 0509

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 14, no. 0509

Lots of juicy fill in a puzzle that lands smack dab in the “not too hard at all” Friday puzzle zone. Kind of a weird-looking grid pattern, no? Four corner sections and a big ring around the center. Here’s what I liked best:

  • 1a. [Toast often given with Manischewitz], L’CHAIM, “to life.”
  • 7a. [Nobel-winning economist who wrote “Fuzzy Math”], KRUGMAN, Paul Krugman. I learned from the New Yorker that he’s leaving Princeton for CUNY.
  • 15a. [Longtime Tab competitor], DIET RITE. The clue fits perfectly and avoids the need for “diet” in the clue.
  • 18a. [Psychobabble, say], MUMBO-JUMBO.
  • 25a. [Hell], SHEER AGONY.
  • 34a. [Digs in the snow?], IGLOO. Fun clue. I don’t think I’ve seen it before, and it doesn’t show up in Cruciverb. Nice!
  • 39a. [Like much unheeded advice], TUNED OUT.
  • 40a. [Pick up something common?], CATCH A COLD.
  • 51a. [“It’s all good”], NO HARM DONE.
  • 53a. [Actor with the line “Say hello to my little friend!”], AL PACINO, in Scarface. His friend was a gun. And, if I recall right, not a little one, either.
  • 6d. [Perfect expression], MOT JUSTE. I love that term, and I love nailing a word that is le mot juste for what I’m trying to convey.
  • 7d. [Pet food in the form of pellets], KIBBLE. It’s a shame this means dog food, because it’s such a cute word.
  • 32d. [Approve for office installation], ELECT. I thought this was about cubicle furniture and not elected office.
  • 50d. [Fix, as a pointer], SPAY. Did you think this was about fixing an electronic device?

So that’s a sizable batch of crisp fill and clever clues. There are some blah bits (partials IT SO, AT AN, AS YE; prefix UTO-; crosswordese ANIL meets ADZES; a pat of OLEO), but they’re far outweighed by the good stuff.

Question about 39d. [Like some things you can’t handle], TOO HOT: Is that essentially a 6-letter partial, TOO HOT to handle, or can TOO HOT stand alone as a lexical chunk?

4.25 stars from me.

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

LA Times 140509

LA Times

Weird theme – four Canadian provincial capitals are smooshed together with words that share a common beginning with the capital’s ending. The answers don’t make sense unless you mentally duplicate the common part: MONTREALITYSHOW needs to be MONTREALREALITYSHOW to answer [TV fare in Quebec?]. I like the idea of a crossword about Canadian provincial capitals but this one didn’t really work for me I’m afraid. We also have:

  • [Communication device in Nova Scotia?], HALI(FAX/FAX)MACHINE
  • [Tool storage convenience in Manitoba?], WINNI(PEG/PEG)BOARDS
  • [Throat ailment in Alberta?], EDMON(TON/TON)SILITIS

I’m not sure why, but I found this puzzle uniformly difficult… I’m looking at and the clues and answers don’t look particularly difficult… in hindsight, and yet I struggled for traction. I only had a few missteps: PUP for CUB, ABE before FIN and MOI before AMI come to mind; I also had BADBOY before BADDOG.

There are a few less common crosswordese answer scattered around the grid: [Theban queen of myth], INO took some dredging up, but [Thick-pile rug], RYA and [English cathedral city], ELY were quicker to mind. [Sea urchin roe, in sushi bars], UNI is not a typical clue for that, but certainly suitable for the end of the week!

In other answers:

  • [Split and flattened, as shrimp], FANTAIL – never heard of FANTAIL shrimp, but FANTAIL pigeons are very familiar to me!
  • [Igneous rock on which the Code of Hammurabi is inscribed], DIORITE was an unknown, but interesting answer for me.
  • [Brief statement, by necessity], TWEET. Crap! There is no necessity! It’s an artificial limit made up by Twitter.

Theme was a non-starter for me, but otherwise interesting, and quite chewy to boot! 2.5 Stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.09.14: "Turning Stale"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.09.14: “Turning Stale”

Hello everyone!! Has everyone done the “It’s Friday” dance already??

This grid definitely was one that would make you get up and dance! Four 15-letter themes, and all ending with the same five letters, A-E-L-S-T (yes, I put them in alphabetical order), but rearranged each time, with an amazing reveal as the fourth theme answer. I LOVE IT (46D: [“Thanks, this gift couldn’t be better”]). Great job, Mr. Venzke. By the way, Bruce, can you dance?

  • CAUTIONARY TALES: (17A: [Stories that convey warnings])– a.k.a. AESOP’S (49D: [ ______ Fables]). Describing a theme answer using another answer in the grid? I should get extra points for that!
  • A LICENSE TO STEAL: (26A: [Autobiography by jewel thief Water, T. Shaw (with Mary Jane Robinson])– a.k.a. James Bond, if he decided not to kill.
  • WITH A CLEAN SLATE: (47A: [How pardoned criminals may start life anew])– a.k.a. Fred Flintstone’s boss after a shower?
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST: (61A: [Introductory words for a final act, and a hint to the ends of 17-, 26-, and 47-across])

Grid and solving experience was very smooth, and no real trouble spots. It was almost as graceful as a perfectly landed triple LUTZ on the ice (64A: [Figure skating leap]). I did have bushel instead of PASSEL (40D: [Whole bunch]) for a minute. Saw —S-EL and had bushel in mind first. UGH (62D: [Revolting!]). Any grid is an immediate favorite of mine when it references my favorite sports team of all time, and I always wished that, if a baseball career ever materialized, that I would become a STRO (55D: [Houston player, informally]). But my dreams of being a baseball player were extinguished as soon as I realized I had no hand-eye coordination when hitting a baseball when I was 12.

In my neighborhood, there’s a SHIH TZU that, once it sees a stranger walk by the property it lives in, barks, then spins around once or twice as if it’s chasing its tail, then resumes barking at the stranger, but not in a totally menacing way. If anybody (ANYBODY) knows what what’s supposed to mean/convey, please let me know. I’ve found myself just standing on the sidewalk of the dog owner’s house just staring at this phenomenon. When was the last time I was ON A DATE at the movies (10D: [Together at the movies, perhaps])? Was at the movies with two lady friends a couple of years back and watched Bridesmaids. (Don’t judge, Bridesmaids is a funny movie!) Does that count?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BLUE (3D: [A bit bummed out])– There was nothing to be bummed out about when former Major League pitcher (and somewhat frequent crossword clue) Vida BLUE took the mound for the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants in the 1970s. He started his MLB career in 1969, but exploded onto the national scene in 1971 when he won 24 games, struck out a whopping 301 batters and led the league with a 1.82 ERA during his Cy Young-winning campaign. He took the nation by storm so much that year that he appeared on the cover of Time. Blue was the first player in major league history to start the All-Star Game for both the American (1971) and National (1978) Leagues.

Thank you all for your time once again! Now it’s back to the RAT RACE for me (4D: [Tiring routine of daily life]). Have a great weekend, everyone!

Take care!


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “To a T” (written as Judith Seretto)

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 5 9 14 "To a T"

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 5 9 14 “To a T”

Quick recap: Theme answers are made by adding a “tee” sound to the end of familiar phrases, and each one gets a goofy clue pointing to the punny answer:

  • Mountain Dew = MOUNTAIN DUTY, [Possible assignment for a forest ranger?]
  • apple tree = APPLE TREATY, [Result of settling a lawsuit with a tech company?]
  • Earl Warren = EARL WARRANTY, [Quality assurance from a British noble?]
  • vitamin A = VITAMIN EIGHTY, [Supplement taken around the start of spring, in a yearly supply?]
  • Princess Leia = PRINCESS LAITY, [Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel, none of them clergy?]
  • Santa Clara = SANTA CLARITY, [Lack of vagueness when deciding who’s naughty or nice?]
  • on the go = ON THE GOATEE, [Where Colonel Sanders spent much time primping?]
  • snail’s pace = SNAIL’S PASTIE, [Accessory for a mollusk strip show?]

Cute, goofy.

Top fill: I’LL GET IT, MEGADETH, TRUE STORY,  RIDE SHOTGUN, IN THE RAW, MR ROGERS, metaphorical (or literal?) SALT MINE, MIXMASTER. Lots of good stuff for a puzzle that has a solid eight themers (as opposed to a light 6-part theme).

Four stars.

Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A-Teams”

CHE crossword solution, 5 9 14 "A-Teams"

CHE crossword solution, 5 9 14 “A-Teams”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the [Team #1], etc., answers were Ivy League teams. Princeton TIGERS, Yale BULLDOGS, Harvard CRIMSON, Penn QUAKERS, Dartmouth BIG GREEN, Cornell BIG RED, Columbia LIONS, and … who’s left? The Brown BEARS. If only Brown’s team were the Big Brown. And if only Harvard’s team were Big Crimson. (IVIES ties it all together: [With “the,” this puzzle’s eight teams’ homes].)

The fill is mostly solid but not fancy. 3.5 stars from Amy.

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23 Responses to Friday, May 9, 2014

  1. Ethan says:

    I’m going to say that TOO HOT works. It’s not just in the idiom “too hot to handle,” but expressions like “too hot for TV” (which was also the title of a VHS compilation of unaired Jerry Springer footage) or “too hot for the mainstream.”

    • HH says:

      I think any lexical chunk for which one can create a situation in which it might be said is fine. (E.g., TOO HOT could be a reply to “How’s the porridge?”)
      I’d say a chunk is only a partial if it must be a partial. Feel free to take this as a challenge, but there probably isn’t a likely situation where one would say somehing like IN THE.

      • Brucenm says:

        A near verbatim recent exchange with a friend whom I was helping to get her new, skittish, reclusive cat into the cat carrier to take it to the vet:

        Q. “Is Travis *in the* carrier, or *not* in the carrier?”

        A. “In the.”

        • HH says:

          I stand corrected…which is why I said “probably”.

        • CY Hollander says:

          To me that sounds like an idiosyncratic usage for humorous effect; obviously, you can’t use a deliberate violation of idiom to prove what it is. The more standard reply in that situation would be simply “In”, IMO.

        • Tuning Spork says:

          Q: Where in this sentence is the schwa?
          A: In the.

  2. sbmanion says:

    In the ’60s and ’70s, there used to be a weekly contest with a big prize in which the test was to fill in the correct missing letter where either of two words arguably fit. She CAREE_ED down the hill. I thought I was in the contest in guessing whether the Leeds word was NONU or NORU. Should I have known this?

    Other than that letter, I also thought the puzzle was on the easy side.

    TOO HOT is an expression that guys will often use in byplay with each other expressing their friend’s complete lack of a chance with a pretty girl.


  3. Gary R says:


    I believe the Leeds term is NON-U, as in non-university. But I’m only familiar with it from crosswords.

    • Brucenm says:

      Yes — Perhaps most frequently applied to accents — (i.e. speech patterns and tonality.) English football matches often include a professional broadcaster with a posh accent, and a former – player with a non-U accent, as a commentator.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Perhaps Daniel Myers will weigh in and tell us if Brits are still using the term much.

        • Bencoe says:

          My wife and her family are all English, and I spend a lot of time over there and watching British TV/movies. I haven’t heard the term used outside of American crosswords.

        • Jim Peredo says:

          I’ve lived in the UK for 5 years of my adult life (including right now) and I’ve never heard the term NON-U. I too parsed it as NONU (as in, NONU taxes?).

          Fun puzzle except for that OLEO, NONU, YOST section. Wish that could’ve been cleaned up, but maybe it couldn’t.

    • CY Hollander says:

      FWIW, I was not familiar with it all but still went with NONU over NORU as NON-U seemed like the most plausible spelling/parsing there. That makes the crossing fair, IMO.

  4. sbmanion says:


    If I had thought to parse it as NON-U rather than NO-NU, I agree that it was easily gettable.
    My wavelength on that one, however, was more Mork and Mindy-esque than common folk accent.


  5. David L says:

    Wikipedia has some background on the non-U business. (U is is for upper-class, not university). I grew up in England in the 60s and 70s, and as I recall the debate and terminology was already beginning to seem pretty hoary by then. But I was distinctly non-U, so perhaps I am biased…

    • Gareth says:

      I was going to say that U was for Upper Class and add that AFAIK it’s about as current as “I say!” and “Old bean!” Fun puzzle, while I’m here.

  6. Jeffrey K says:

    Gareth: The capital of Quebec is Quebec City, not Montreal.

    • Gareth says:

      You’re right! That’s what happens when you don’t analyse things too carefully!

  7. janie says:

    great minds, same gutter?

    this past tuesday, liz gorski anagrammed the identical set of letters for her crossword nation puzzle that bruce venske based his cs puzzle on today. her theme set, however, is unified w/ a tip o’ the hat to NIKOLA TESLA. the same, only different…


  8. Bill says:

    “Split and flattened, as shrimp” should lead us to a past tense verb shouldn’t it? But if the answer is FANTAIL, shouldn’t the clue be “split and flatten, as shrimp”?

    • Gareth says:

      I think fantail is an adjective and “Split and flattened” is an adjectival phrase?

  9. Brucenm says:

    “Split” and “flattened” are past participles, and “fantail shrimp” is a noun phrase — i.e. shrimp which have been split and flattened (before cooking).

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