Friday, May 16, 2014

NYT 5:20 (Amy) 
LAT 8:03 (Gareth) 
CS 10:33 (Ade) 
WSJ (Friday) 7:57 (Amy) 
CHE 2:50 (joon—paper) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 16 14, 0516

NY Times crossword solution, 5 16 14, 0516

We’ve got, yes, another quad stack (a term that’s in Urban Dictionary, but not with the crossword meaning) from MAS. Martin, have you been submitting any non-quad-stack puzzles to Will Shortz? Because it’s been almost two years since the NYT has published anything but. Some triple-stacks back in 2012 … and your last themed NYT was in 1997? I’d like the record to show that your ’97 quote theme is now a lie, as there is a great statue of critic Roger Ebert.

When you’re looking at a puzzle with a lot of 15s, a clue like 38a. [1959 hit with the lyric “One day I feel so happy, next day I feel so sad”] is an “Olaf clue”—a clue with lots of extraneous info that you don’t need. [1959 hit], 15 letters, A TEENAGER IN LOVE, the A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE of oldies. At least Martin knows how some of us feel about seeing that one again!

And now, 10 other things:

  • 10d. [Like most brain neurons], MULTIPOLAR. I worked a lot of crossings for this. How about you, Huda?
  • 11d. [Had a beef?], ATE. I appreciate fun clues, but has anyone ever eaten “a beef”? “Did you eat already?” “Yeah, I ate a beef.”
  • 1a. [Director in “A Chorus Line”], ZACH. This is a character in the stage musical? Feh. Give me the real-life Zachs—actor Braff, Minnesota Wild hockey star Parise, comedian Galifianakis.
  • Top fill: LET IT BLEED, HOSTILE TAKEOVER, WHATEVER IT TAKES (except, ding! ding! ding! What’s up with that TAKE dupe??), LAST HURRAH, MOLTEN LAVA, and KITTEN CHOW.
  • 62a. [Nelson Mandela’s mother tongue], XHOSA. Gareth, tell us what the Xhosa word for “crossword” is.
  • 3d, 56d. [With 56-Down, refuse to be cleaned out from a poker game?], CIGAR / ASH. Took me a long time to realize “refuse” was a noun here.
  • 6d. [Car name that’s Latin for “desire”], AVEO. Related to avarice?
  • 34d. [___ Jon (fashion label)], TERI. Who? What?? Entirely unfamiliar to me, but apparently not to Hillary Clinton and Meryl Streep. Too many lace overlays.
  • 63a. [Sound heard during a heat wave], WHEW. A friend in 102° SoCal has taken to putting wet washcloths on her cats. Meanwhile, I went back to wearing a down jacket this morning because it was 41° and blustery and wet.
  • 22a. [Part of une fraternité], FRÈRE. Both of these French words are derived from the latin frater and thus are cognates, so I’d rather not see one cluing the other.

And one final thing. John Oliver, the British comedian who used to be on The Daily Show, now has his own weekly news-comedy show on HBO. 7d. [McConnell of the Senate] clues MITCH, and the show aired a fake attack ad featuring Mitch McConnell’s penis (portrayed by a gray-haired model’s member) this past Sunday night. If this is the sort of thing that amuses you rather than horrifies you, here’s the link.

3.8 stars from me. Points off for the double TAKE, the 1959 oldie, SPEE, STYE, and A RING.

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Three States”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.16.14: "Three States"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.16.14: “Three States”

It’s Friday once again!

Hello everybody, and I hope you all had a good week. This puzzle offering by Mr. Randolph Ross takes us to the weekend in style, with three theme answers having first words that are also states of matter, with the fourth theme answer being the reveal. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be A LOT of liquid in the form of rain this weekend where I’m living. Boo!

  • SOLID GOLD DANCER: (17A: [Performer on a 1980s TV music show])-Best answer, if only for the fact that I can now reminisce about Solid Gold.
  • LIQUID ASSET: (28A: [Holding that’s easily converted into cash])
  • GAS GUZZLERS: (44A: [Expensive cars to maintain])I still can’t believe we’re not too far removed (a decade or so) from America’s obsession with the Hummer.
  • WHAT IS THE MATTER: (56A: [Question of concern…or another title for this puzzle’s theme])

Very lively grid, and as I said before, either 1A or 1D sets the tone as to whether I’ll enjoy the puzzle or really enjoy the puzzle, and PASS – and its cluing- was a great way to start (1A: [Hail Mary, e.g.]). Although STARR is clued in reference to The Beatles (5A: [One of the Fab Four]), Bart Starr is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback, and seeing STARR next to PASS, as a sports fan, is very clever, however unintentional that was. And to complete the top-row sports theme, quarterbacks throws PASSes like Bart STARR, and the footballs they throw will have a LACE (10A: [Spike]) on it – well, a standard regulation football has eight exposed laces to be exact.

Speaking of LACE, the clue to LINEN (10D: [Closet collection]) could have been used for LACE as well, depending on where some ladies keep their lace. If the former House Speaker and former First Lady ever opened a store together, would NANCYS be an instant rival to Macy’s (24A: [Pelosi and Reagan])? I think I come across LEK once a year, and every time, I absolutely blank and need the crosses (33A: [Albanian currency]). To transition a little bit, I visited my old high school science teacher earlier this week who inspired me to first try crossword puzzles back in the 90s, and I found out she is half-Albanaian, despite having one of the most Greek-sounding names I’ve heard (at least when using her married name). It was amazing catching up with her and realizing how much of an influence she had on my life, and she’s the main reason – along with Wordplay – why I occupy this space in the crossword world.

OK, sentimentals over! COULD IT BE was an interesting entry, and it would have been pretty bland without the cluing (36A: [“Is that possible?”]). I never watched a full episode of “Beavis and Butt-Head” but watched at least six full episodes of DARIA (18D: [“Beavis and Butt-Head” spinoff]). Liked the dynamic of the rich parents with one spoiled daughter and the other daughter (Daria) not subscribing to that lifestyle that her parents and sister engaged in, as well as going through some of the B.S. that was high-school pretentiousness amongst some people/characters. Although the clue brings back bad thoughts, seeing AZUSA in a grid is very eye-catching (42D: [L.A. suburb beset with forest fires in 2013]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PASS (1A: [Hail Mary, e.g.])– There were so many options today, including TE’O (6D: [Former Notre Dame football star and hoax victim Manti]) and ARTIS, as I could have talked about ‘70s basketball star Artis Gilmore (49D: [End of MGM’s motto]), but stuck with PASS, though I’ll talk more about its clue.

How did the “Hail Mary” become a regular part of the football lexicon, and why is it always associated with deep, low-percentage passes in end-of-half/end-of-game situations? Well, in a 1975 playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, Dallas was down 14-10 with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and 50 yards away from the winning score. Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach then threw a long, desperation pass towards the endzone, which was caught by teammate Drew Pearson for a touchdown and gave Dallas an improbable victory. After the game, Staubach said to the media that before he threw that pass, he “closed his eyes and said a Hail Mary.” The rest, as they say, is history. Here’s the play itself:

Thank you SO MUCH for your time and attention during the week, and we will see you in Saturday! I might be a little late posting because I have a busy day covering different sporting events around the NYC area in person, but I’ll be here for you guys!

Take care!


Jack McInturff’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140516

LA Times

Short review – I’ve got to pack as much of my belongings as can fit into a small Italian hatchback to move to another town 1,100km away tomorrow. Starting new job Monday. Yay! But scary.

Five phrases have P’s added to the beginnings of their final words. Without a revealer, this is a bit shaky for me. The answers are GETINONTHEPACT, SUDDENPURGE, WILDPROSE, AWKWARDPAGE and SEVENYEARPITCH.

I really wish that ERNS (I’ve encountered the birds themselves out of crosswords a fair bit, but they’re always referred to as White-tailed (Sea-)eagles!) and NTS had never become established in crosswords! USFL was a new bit of alphabet soup for me, but presumably you all know what it is and liked its presence. The semi-legendary HSIA dynasty is a difficult but interesting answer: trouble is HSIA is a variant of XIA.

The [Trick or treat, e.g.] clue was initially irksome when it became the generic NOUN. Then I saw VERB above with the same clue – very clever way of using both answers! [One putting a tyre into a boot], BRIT – these clues always ignore that basically every English speaker who isn’t North American uses these terms!

A not very interesting for me theme, and a few bits of questionable fill make it about 2 1/2 stars for me!

John Lampkin and Gary Soucie’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Anatomical Differences”—joon’s review

che140516hi everybody, joon here with the CHE puzzle. it’s by john lampkin, a prolific constructor who likes puns, and gary soucie, a name i don’t recognize. is this a debut? anyway, the puzzle theme is a homophonic riff on parts of the body:

  • {Bit of barbershop harmony?} is a VOCAL CHORD, not a vocal cord. i think “vocal chord” is actually a pretty common eggcorn—those are two words that you really want to put together.
  • {Part of a French football?} is a GAUL BLADDER (gall bladder). i suppose that is a reasonably delicate way of cluing “bladder”.
  • {Selection of muted colors?} is a SOFT PALETTE (soft palate). what a lovely image—i’m now seeing monet’s water lilies in my mind’s eye.
  • {Gambler’s moxie?} is some VEGAS NERVE. the vagus nerve is probably the least familiar of the body parts to those who haven’t had any formal instruction in anatomy. it’s one of the cranial nerves, serving to innervate lots of the internal organs and viscera.

fun theme. noteworthy bits from the fill:

  • {Scatter of note?} ELLA. that’s scatter the noun, as in one who scats, not scatter the verb.
  • {Mamet play set at a university} OLEANNA. i’ve seen this in puzzles, but it is not one of the mamet plays i have read or seen in “real life”. is it any good?
  • {Herb that tastes like anise} FENNEL. gross.
  • {“Breadthless lengths,” per Euclid} LINES. a lovely geometrical clue. and now i am imagining the remake of jean-luc godard’s breathless” as breadthless. perhaps the critics will call it “one-dimensional”. other mathy clues included {Geometric sets} for LOCI and {Lead-in to sine, cosine, or tangent} for ARC.
  • {Soprano spurned by Don Giovanni} ELVIRA. don’t worry—he got what was coming to him. (spoiler alert.)
  • {Syrup made from pomegranate juice} is GRENADINE. in fact, both GRENADINE and pomegranate come from the french pome grenate, a “many-seeded apple” (i.e. pomegranate). the city of grenada in spain has the same root.
  • {Response akin to “It’s complicated”} is “YES AND NO”. nice clue and answer.
  • {Spring-break acquisitions, perhaps} TANS. i sometimes forget that the higher ed vibe that imbues the CHE puzzle extends not only to academic fields of study but also to the milieu of academia itself—schools and students and classes and such. see also {Many a freshman} TEEN and {___ package (dorm delivery)} CARE.
  • {Freetown currency} is the LEONE. i knew this at one point, but i had forgotten—the LEONE is the currency of sierra leone, of which freetown is the capital. more etymological goodness: another african capital city was named after freetown, and in fact its name means “freetown” in a different language. which city?
  • {Bends, as light} REFRACTS. physics! the refraction of light is governed by snell’s law, named for willebrord snell. i wanted to name our son willebrord, but caroline wouldn’t let me.
  • the {Newspaper whose name means “truth”}? ain’t it the PRAVDA.
  • {Lassie’s mate} LAD. oh my. i wonder if there will be letters.

that’s all for me. have a great weekend!

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Both Sides Now”

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 5 16 14 "Both Sides Now"

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 5 16 14 “Both Sides Now”

We’ve got a two-way rebus theme this week: In each square that I’ve circled, the Across answer needs PRO there and the Down needs CON.

  • 27a. [Avoid the limelight], KEEP A LOW {PRO}FILE. Crosses 8d. [Carnival treat], SNO-{CON}E.
  • 34a. [Waterfront walks], {PRO}MENADES. Crosses 34d. [Stadium event], {CON}CERT.
  • 41a. [Copy for marking up], GALLEY {PRO}OF. Crosses 37d. [Seating behind business], E{CON}OMY.
  • 55a. [Charles Swann’s creator], MARCEL {PRO}UST. Crosses 15d. [Utterly despicable], BENEATH {CON}TEMPT.
  • 71a. [Butcher shop buy], RUM{P RO}AST. Crosses 61d. [Tanning lotion scent], CO{CON}UT.
  • 91a. [Soil-replenishing strategy], CRO{P RO}TATION. Crosses 58d. [Freedom from guilt], CLEAR {CON}SCIENCE.
  • 100a. [Have unmistakable potential], SHOW {PRO}MISE. Crosses 101d. [Addresses, as a problem], {CON}FRONTS.
  • 108a. [Melon accompaniment, at times], {PRO}SCIUTTO. Crosses 108d. [Notion], {CON}CEPT.
  • 120a. [Next in line for that corner office, perhaps], UP FOR A {PRO}MOTION. Crosses 121d. [Predatory eel], {CON}GER.

I’m partial to the theme answers where the PRO and CON aren’t distinct word parts, as in PROUST, COCONUT, and GALLEY PROOF. I like the semantic disconnect. Even where CON and PRO have their against (contra-)/with (con-) or for (pro-) senses, though, I’m not displeased. Really a solid double-fisted rebus theme here. Well done, Pancho.

I’m less excited by the overall fill, with a tad more RLS/N-TEST/RCTS etc. than I enjoy, but the guessing game of working out the PROs and CONs made the solve all right.

Toughest crossing: 123a. [Richard of “A Summer Place”], EGAN, meets 109d. [Popeye’s creator], SEGAR, at the G. Both names are a cinch for me, but mainly because I’ve seen them so much in crosswords past.

Four stars from me.

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18 Responses to Friday, May 16, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Amy said:

    ” I’d like the record to show that your ’97 quote theme is now a lie, as there is a great statue of critic Roger Ebert.”

    Martin says:

    Tell that to Sibelius (the composer who said it). Seriously, it did take a while to prove him wrong.

    Martin also says:

    If you’re interested, check out today’s sister quadstack at:


  2. Maybe there should be a statute of limitations on quotes about statues. Also, a clue my friend Arthur Rothstein came up with for EBERT, i.e., “Silent movie critic,” can no longer be used now that Roger has left this mortal sphere.

    For those of you who try Martin’s bonus quadstack, called “Open Wide” (, be sure to read his “midrash” (

    • bonekrusher says:

      The clue’s still accurate, albeit morbid (but then again, it was still a little bit morbid when Ebert was alive).

  3. sbmanion says:

    I thought that “refuse to be cleaned out from a poker game” was one of the best misdirections ever. Did anyone initially get it?

    I got the quadstack right away, but did not find anything else to be easy.

    Mitch McConnell, who looks like a turtle, has been a continuing subject of (not particularly vicious) ridicule on the Daily Show. This perhaps inspired Jon Oliver to go over the top.

    Brilliant puzzle.


  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Maybe it’s because I’ve only been tackling Fridays & Saturdays for a short period (well as a percent of my age anyhow :) but I am very impressed with stacks and I thought that the quadruple today was simply gorgeous. Along with some of the other long answers–The Last Hurrah, Coast to Coast. May be there is a magic trick for stacking, but I’m amazed by what it takes to come up with them and work around them. I guess I’m always thinking about the mind behind the puzzle.

    I also loved some of the misdirections. The NW felt impossible. I did not know ZACH, and never thought of ZINC so cheating (for Zach) was required.

    And yeah, Amy, MULTIPOLAR did not immediately jump to mind, I needed about a third of the letters, scattered along, before it emerged. Definitely correct, but so taken for granted –that most neurons in the CNS are multipolar, that it doesn’t get specified very often.

    Very enjoyable experience, I think, because you’re stuck and then you experience a flash of insight and make a big leap (well for the more typical solver anyhow). Very different from working steadily to conquer a puzzle.

  5. Bencoe says:

    It’s funny that we see ATEENAGERINLOVE so often in stacked puzzles. Like Amy, it was almost automatic fill for me. WHATEVERITTAKES seems like the freshest 15 for the stack, and funny for a a central Floridian–we have a ubiquitous set of commercials where a car dealer keeps his hands really stiffly by his sides, then points at the camera with both hands at the end and says, “Whatever it takes.”
    MOLTENLAVA and LETITBLEED were my favorites. The accompanying puzzle at George Barany’s website was much harder, I thought.

  6. JFC says:

    Congrats Martin! You finally found (read constructed) a stacked quad Rex liked. I enjoyed it, too.

  7. bonekrusher says:

    Man, tough crowd. Surprised that the NYT has such middling rating. That was a brilliant Friday with clever cluing and interesting phrases. And yes, the “refuse” misdirection was pretty awesome.

  8. Norm H says:

    Re: the Hail Mary…

    Big Vikings fan here. That 1975 play was blatant offensive pass interference by Drew Pearson on Nate Wright. I was only 10 at the time and remain angry to this day.

    Great NYT tho!

  9. John Lampkin says:

    Thanks Joon.
    Though he doesn’t construct, Gary Soucie is a dear friend and a brilliant brainstormer who has helped me at critical moments more than once so he deserves a byline and public thanks.
    My vagus nerve got stimulated inadvertently while at the audiologist. That was the fortuitous seed.

  10. Animalheart says:

    Take/Take, Frere/Fraternite–those things bother me not a bit. I’m with Steve: Brilliant puzzle.

  11. Martin says:

    I suspect knowing a bit of French made the FRERE/fraternité thing worse. It seemed like cluing BROTHER with “brotherhood” to me. But apparently the two words look very different to most English speakers.

  12. sbmanion says:

    Your comment brought to mind the over funny Frasier episode in which Niles and Frasier started a restaurant called Les Frees Heureux

  13. joon says:

    in answer to my own trivia question: libreville, gabon is the other african capital named after freetown.

    speaking of places in africa, best of luck with your move, gareth!

  14. Brucenm says:

    Sensational puzzle by MAS — (which I just got to). One of my picks for best puzzle of the year so far, though I must express some agreement with Amy’s comment about the “eating a beef” clue.

  15. tris says:

    why is(ickier) a clue for cooling off period and why is (lasted) the clue for storage space in the crossynergy puzzle 28 and 29 down

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Those aren’t the answers. [Cooling-off period] is ICE AGE and [Storage space] is LARDER. The crossings are LIQUID, ACURA, REIN, DANS, EGO, and READER. Always check the crossing clues!

    • Dele says:

      Interesting. Why does the screenshot in Ade’s writeup have LASTED and ICKIER in those spaces (along with QUINCE for QUINOA and YATES for DATES), all with plausible crossings? Was that an earlier version of the puzzle? I wonder why it was changed.

      Edit: Ah, I just noticed that that version had SKIN crossing SKIN BURNS. That’s probably why!

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