Thursday, May 15, 2014

AV Club 5:18 (Amy) 
NYT 4:41 (Amy) 
Fireball 4:15 (Amy) 
LAT 4:44 (Gareth) 
BEQ  unsolved (Matt) 
CS 8:50 (Ade) 

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 73”

Fireball crossword solution, "Themeless 73" 5 15 14

Fireball crossword solution, “Themeless 73” 5 15 14

This week’s Fireball took me half as long as last week’s—and played like an easy Friday NYT. Yo, where my hard clues at?

Mystifying entity: 41a. [Course loaded with balls], PEA SALAD. Nobody in my house has a clue what this is. I think I may have seen it before in a crossword, but never on a table. (Also? I wanted the answer to be PUTT-PUTT or MINI GOLF, no matter how inaccurately.)

Top fill includes a whole bunch of Down answers: the HALF-PIPE; the Eric [Idle work] SPAMALOT; the [Race opposed by PETA], IDITAROD; the UTAH JAZZ; MOUTHFEEL; a DEAD BALL; ED HARRIS; and also the Across TATER TOT. Lots of lively stuff in the 8-letter class, and only two answers that are longer than that—are 6-and-8-rich puzzles more fun than the 7-rich grids that I tend to find a bit snoozy, or does this one have more zippy fill than most of the middle-distance puzzles?

Could do without 1d. [Greek peak], MT. OSSA.

Nice clue pair: 1a. [Subject of a Manhattan museum near Madison Square Park whose entrance door handles are shaped like the letter pi], MATH, and 5a. [Subject of a Manhattan museum near Madison Square Park whose entrance door handles are shaped like the letter X], SEX. I wonder if anyone has ever accidentally walked into the Museum of Sex thinking “Oh, an X for the door handles! Because of the variable in algebra” when they meant to go to MOMath.

Four stars.

John Lieb’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 14, no. 0515

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 14, no. 0515

Unusual theme, with 62a. [Misinterpretation of a biblical code … or the key to answering 18-, 24-, 40- and 51-Across] cluing AN I FOR AN EYE. Each of those other four theme answers replaces the word EYE with an I:

  • 18a. [What ladies’ men tend to have], WANDERING I’S. “Ladies’ man” is a little gross, isn’t it? There’s no cross-gender equivalent. “She’s a real gentlemen’s woman.”
  • 24a. [Very alert], ALL I’S AND EARS.
  • 40a. [Espy], LAY I’S ON.
  • 51a. [1981 #1 Kim Carnes hit], BETTE DAVIS I’S.

It’s weird to have altered answers in the grid with such straightforward clues, no? And the eye I’s are just I’s in the Down crossings, no trickery.

Mystery items:

  • 60a. [Prefix with engine], AERO. Aeroengine? That’s a thing?? Put it in quotes as a single word and you get about 238,000 Google hits, whereas aerospace and aerodynamic get 203 million and 21 million, respectively.
  • 16a. [Soviet spymaster in a John le Carré trilogy], KARLA.

I like HUGH LAURIE (though I can’t say I’ve seen him in anything since House ended), BABY FAT, “HANDS UP!” and RAZOR-SHARP. Overall, though, the fill felt rather bland to me, with IPANA, HOR, ORU, ONE-A, STELE, and a number of other words that exude “I’m in crosswords far more than in the other things you read”-ness.

3.25 stars.

Dan Bernstein and Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Numbers Game”

AV Club crossword solution, 5 15 15 "Numbers Game"

AV Club crossword solution, 5 15 15 “Numbers Game”

Dan is our latest celebrity co-constructor, and he’s a Chicago sports radio guy. Not that I ever listen to sports radio—but I appreciated the local hits of 54d. [Setting for many Bulls games: Abbr.], CST, and 23d. [Navy ___ (Chicago landmark)], PIER. Dan and Brendan’s theme is all basebally, and I don’t think Brendan is much into bats (what? we can call basketball “hoops” but we can’t call baseball “bats”?) so I will lay my alienation at the feet of one Dan Bernstein. Abbreviations for baseball stats that happen to be letters included in familiar phrases cause said phrases to be clued as if they are somehow about baseball stats, and I understand about half of the theme:

  • 15a. [Goth’s offensive baseball stat?], BLACK OPS. Goths wear black and OPs or OPS is a stat I don’t know.
  • 19a. [Pitching stat for a Rastafarian in Tokyo or a Cambodian in Key West?], MINORITY WHIP. Okay, I think IP = innings pitched. No idea what MINORITY WH- signifies. Is there some WHIP stat? Well-heeled innings pitched? Walks and hits per inning pitched?
  • 29a. [Undisputed leader at drawing walks?], BB KING. BB is, I think, bases on balls.
  • 35a. [Broadway hitting stat?], B.A. IN THEATER. Batting average? Crosswords have tried to convince me that it’s abbreviated as “avg.” and not B.A. Crosswords have also taught me that a phrase like BA IN THEATER is a little contrived, whereas the other theme answers are all solid, look-uppable phrases in their own right.
  • 40a. [How to score it when you bunt your hard-boiled breakfast to advance the runner?], EGG SAC. Sacrifice fly?
  • 49a. [Group responsible for tallying dingers?], HR DEPARTMENT. HR = human resources, home run, and Mr. Pufnstuf’s initials.
  • 58a. [Pitching stat for a toddler on the playground?], SWING ERA. Little kids love the swings, man. ERA = earned run average.

Let’s look at five more things:

  • 1a. [Grasped] clues FISTED, and that stand-alone usage is not familiar to me. “Two-fisted drinker,” I know.
  • 23a. [Navratan korma veggie], PEA. No, no, no. You know how I would have clued this? [Salad veggie].
  • 5d. [“You ___ seen a grown man naked?” (classic “Airplane!” line)], EVER. I’m thinking that it would be harder to sell a pedophilia joke in a movie these days. And yet this one was nominated for inclusion in the AFI collection of the best movie quotes.
  • 7d. [Labor leader?], OB/GYN. It would seem that the OB is out of the room for the vast majority of labor, so I’m not sure he or she merits the “leader” designation.
  • 35d. Toon hurler with a “pachydermous percussion pitch”], BUGS. I don’t know what the clue means. I assume this is about Bugs Bunny but that’s as far as I get.

3.5 stars. I am not the target audience for this puzzle.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “After All”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.15.14: "After All"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.15.14: “After All”

Hello once again everybody!

The best thing about every crossword that we do, no matter the difficulty, is that we give it our all almost every single time we’re engaged in solving a puzzle. In a way, this particular puzzle by Ms. Gail Grabowski forced us to give it our all, because each of the five theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word can be followed by the word “all.” This probably won’t make me buy the laundry detergent of the same name, though that does remind me that laundry day isn’t too far down the road!

  • RIGHT BRAIN: (17A: [Mind element associated with creativity])-All right. Most of my blogs may not originate from my right brain, with my lack of creativity.
  • SET FREE: (40A: [Release])– All set.
  • THUMBS DOWN: (64A: [Sign of disapproval])– All thumbs. All thumbs is what I am at the golf course. Anyone want to be patient with me during a round of golf? Haven’t golfed in forever.
  • HEART RATE: (11D: [Pulse])– All heart.
  • BETTER OFF: (34D: [More prosperous])– All better.

Don’t know if this is interesting to you (probably not, and rightfully so) but the clues to four of the five theme answers were three words or fewer. Brevity definitely is the soul of wit in this puzzle. Loved the clue to STEPDAD (46D: [New pop]). Seeing NORAD officially confirms that I will have heard a reference to it more than once in 2014 outside of Christmas time, when they track Santa Claus up in the sky (1D: [US/Canada early warning acronym]). Think I’ve come across C.S. LEWIS in a grid at least three times in the past week or so (44D: [Narnia’s creator]). Maybe the best part of the grid for me is seeing DETEST (25A: [Loathe]) on top of ADORES (29A: [Is crazy about]). Along those same lines, seeing SET FREE and SHUN intersect (40D: [Stay away from]) was also an interesting little semi-contrast.

Seeing STAID (7D: [Strait-laced]), for some reason, reminded me on the rock band STAIND, who I listened to a whole lot as I got ready to go off to college, thinking that was one of the bands that I would have to know/talk about with the students that I eventually would encounter who might have different tastes in music as I had. As a result, I probably know more about Staind than I ever wanted to, even though I didn’t really need to.  Also, I can identify a song of theirs on the radio within the first couple of seconds of that song playing. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EL NIÑO (51A: [Cause of chaotic weather])– There were some good choices to occupy this spot, including OILER (67A: [Edmonton player]) and NO-HIT (52D: [Masterful, pitching-wise]), but we chose the nickname of the very talented Spanish professional golfer Sergio García, El Niño. Expected to rival Tiger Woods as the best young golfer – and best golfer in general – at the turn of this past century, Garcia has finished in the top 5 in each of the four majors, but has never won one. He’s best known for being an extremely reliable player for Europe at the Ryder Cup – the biannual team golf competition between the United States and Europe – but also is known just as much for his sometimes petulant behavior on and off the golf course.

Is tomorrow Friday? Yes? Good! See you then!

Take care, everyone!


James Sajdak’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140515

LA Times

I feel like I’ve seen this puzzle’s theme a good few times, which made more of an “oh, that” moment than an a-ha one for me. As the central DOG suggests, all the words begin with commands one might train a dog to respond to. The phrases all consist of at least 3 “parts”, and are very nice as a set: COMEBACKTRAIL, SPEAKEASYERA, SITINPROTEST and STAYATHOMEDAD. Back to the theme, it’s a bit dissonant to have only the COME of COMEBACK TRAIL, the SPEAK of SPEAKEASY ERA and the SIT of SIT-IN PROTEST be thematic.

The puzzle did have some nice longer entries. We have the somewhat out-of-the-public-consciousness but quite interesting NELLIEBLY , risque SHEBOP, quasi-thematic SPAYING and SHTICK for instance.

However, we also a lot more dull notes than I’d have liked. An answer like ITO is not one I’d generally be bothered about, but in a corner like the top-right, with stacks of other options, why choose one with ITO in? Despite managing to find an article from the NY Times, I’d really go to great lengths to avoid EMALL in a crossword. That section is already going to be hard for many what with WEISS, AMBIT and IBN! I’m also not one for partials – ASIT, ITOO, ADARK, and ATA are quite a collection!

2.5 Stars, but I did like the theme answer set!

Brendan Quigley’s “Marching Bands” website puzzle — Matt’s review


No review today because Brendan’s got a variety puzzle up that’s cumbersome to solve for my broken-printered self. But variants like this Marching Bands are a forte of Brendan’s, so by all means go to it.

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29 Responses to Thursday, May 15, 2014

  1. Andrew says:

    WHIP = walks + hits per innings pitched. It was invented for use in Rotisserie Baseball (now known as fantasy baseball) by none other than Dan Okrent, a solid puzzler in his own right and a regular at the ACPT.

  2. Gary R says:

    Sort of a cute theme in the NYT, but a few too many proper names for my taste – NORMA, HUGH LAURIE, EVA, RYAN, ANKA, AYN, ERNIE, KARLA, MAHRE, DEPP, CRUZ, KATE, CARR. Plus brand names – RITZ, LITE, IPANA, AVEENO. I’m familiar with all but a couple of these, but it just wasn’t much fun filling them in.

    Agree with Amy on AEROengine – huh? It gets almost as many Google hits as ETHNObiology 238K vs. 278K.

    • Gareth says:

      It didn’t feel like there were more proper nouns than normal, but they were the main reason this was a harder than usual puzzle for me; rather than the theme, which I figured out very quickly, after starting in the constricted middle!

  3. Matt says:

    Not a Le Carre fan, evidently. That (very famous!) trilogy of spy novels is called “The Quest for Karla”, btw.

  4. ethan says:

    Unfortunately, the only female equivalent for “ladies’ man” that I can think of is the negative “slut.” Ugh. Hopefully we’re getting to a place where women aren’t judged negatively for freely expressing sexual desire. Hopefully.

    • Huda says:

      I like that last “hopefully” ;)

    • CY Hollander says:

      Ladies’ man: “a man who shows a marked fondness for the company of women or is especially attentive to women” (MW)

      slut: “a promiscuous woman; especially : prostitute” (ibid.)

      Those don't sound equivalent at all to me. Maybe what we need instead is a word for "a woman who shows a marked fondness for the company of men". I would propose "guy's girl". (I made that up just now, but—what do you know?—it's there in Urban Dictionary!)

  5. Brucenm says:

    Loved the NYT *much* better than the consensus. Great, original theme.

    Hugh Laurie is a terrific New Orleans blues-jazz pianist.

  6. Jeffrey K says:

    AV: I should be in the target audience for a baseball puzzle but FISTED, OOZIER, DTEN, REGO really BUGS me.

    FB: PEA SALAD and TATER TOTS sounds like the world’s worst pot luck meal.

    • Dan F says:

      (AVC) Were DTEN, REGO, and ONER worth the COQUETTE/QIX crossing? I don’t know if that’s textbook Scrabblef&@%ing because it’s not an easy-to-fill corner, but I frowned. Loved the theme though. (BAIN THEATER starring Gareth!)

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: Like Bruce, I found this to be fun and a nice change of pace. It took me embarrassingly long to come up with NEURON, though. Mine are sputtering along, while I’m fighting some nasty bug.

    ETHNO Biology seems to me to have more ethno than biology and should be called bio-ethnology. But I always find these things to be turned around. Biological Chemistry is full of biologists who think about molecular structures, and Chemical Biology comprises chemists who think about biological applications. Backwards, right?

  8. Gareth says:

    It’s really sad that many Americans know him for House (blah) rather than say Blackadder or A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

    • Brucenm says:

      Stephen Fry is also very funny, and the two of them together did some memorable routines — lots of sarcasm and clever wordplay. Are you familiar with Laurie’s piano playing? Not a genre I’m adept at myself, but wish I were; and I think he is very good indeed.

      • Gareth says:

        Mostly as a by-product of what he has done on Fry & Laurie, but I’ve also seen him performing seriously on a couple of UK talk shows. It’s very skillful, but not exactly the type of music I typically listen to!

        • Bencoe says:

          I found A Bit of Fry and Laurie disappointing. Too clever by half and not that funny. Blackadder, on the other hand, was amazing.

    • ahimsa says:

      Actually, I first saw HUGH LAURIE (and Stephen Fry) in the 1990s TV series, “Jeeves and Wooster.” It’s worth watching if you’re a P G Wodehouse fan —

      PS. Laurie plays the piano at least once. I remember him playing (and singing!) “Minnie the Moocher.”

  9. ahimsa says:

    23a. [Navratan korma veggie], PEA. No, no, no.

    I didn’t do this puzzle but I agree that’s an odd clue. I mean, I love the idea of using an Indian dish for the clue. But why not go with Mattar Paneer or something similar? Mattar (मटर ) = pea.

    Yeah, Navratan Korma usually has peas. But I’m pretty sure the list of veggies can be anything. I know, I know, it’s nitpicky. :-)

  10. Z says:

    Didn’t It Rain is a fine bluesy album by Hugh Laurie.

    OPS – On Base %age Plus Slugging %age
    SAC – Sacrifice
    BA – Batting Average (also often AVG)

  11. Bencoe says:

    BEQ has actually published “bats” themed puzzle books based on the Yankees and the Red Sox.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I know! I was the proofreader for some of his crossword and word search books—Orioles, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees. Plus college football puzzle books. That gig has helped me with sports trivia in crosswords and trivia competitions!

      • Bencoe says:

        Maybe I should do them, then! Really need to get a better grasp of the names in baseball and football.

  12. Lois says:

    Didn’t like the MAHRE, RITZ, CRUZ crossings in the NYT, but really intriguing theme, because of its double meaning: “62. Misinterpretation of a biblical code … or the key to answering 18-, 24-, 40- and 51-Across : AN I FOR AN EYE.” The meaning of “an eye for an eye” has been subject to interpretation. Orthodox Jewish tradition has it, and I guess other traditions also, that in case someone is responsible for the loss of someone else’s eye in an accident, “an eye for an eye” is not to be taken literally, but rather monetary compensation is required.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Are you suggesting reading “I” as “the letter I” → “literal I”? That’s an interesting way to look at it. I wonder if it was intentional.

      • Lois says:

        CY, I was thinking that the double (extra) meaning in the NYT was along the lines of what Brucenm, below, is saying. Using the letter “I” for “eye” is clearly the straightforward theme in the NYT puzzle. Don’t know what you mean by “the letter I” → “literal I.”

    • Brucenm says:

      Lois, the interpretation I have heard goes even further and insists that “an eye for an eye . . .” is 100%, 180 degrees misinterpreted. It is not an exhortation to bloodthirsty revenge, but the opposite — a plea for proportional, appropriate, non-excessive, rationally restrained retribution.

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