Friday, May 23, 2014

NYT 5:49 (Amy) 
LAT 7:16 (Gareth) 
CS 11:14 (Ade) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (Ade) 
CHE 3:36 (joon—paper) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 23 14, no. 0523

NY Times crossword solution, 5 23 14, no. 0523

Cute grid, with a bit of a “hey, the grid looks like a big Z” vibe meeting a swath of 8 Z’s in the center diagonal. The grid’s a 62-worder, which typically means ” strap yourself in, because things are going to get hairy,” but the fill is actually pretty solid for that sort of word count. I like the Z density, with PIZARRO, GUZZLES, DAZZLED, TIZZIES, and FOOZLER (that means 35a. [Bungler], and yes, FOOZLE is a word I know only from crosswords) crossing EMBEZZLER, DIZZIED, apt PUZZLE OUT, and GAZZARA.

Let us partake of remarks:

  • 20a. [Actress in a best-selling 1979 swimsuit poster], BO DEREK. The Farrah Fawcett teeth-and-nipples swimsuit poster was in 1976. Here’s a poster with Bo Derek‘s name on it.
  • 23a. [Make less attractive?], DEGAUSS. Has something to do with (de)magnetization. Dictionary says: to remove unwanted magnetism from a monitor/TV to correct color disturbance. I have never knowingly degaussed.
  • 33a. [Flusters], TIZZIES. I didn’t know fluster was a noun as well as a verb. And now I do.
  • 42a. [Rosalind Russell title role], AUNTIE MAME. Favorite entry, though I’ve never seen the portrayal in question.
  • 47a. [Worker who often takes leaves], BOTANIST. Nice clue. When I was about 12, I wanted to be a botanist when I grew up.
  • 30d. [Latin America’s northernmost city], MEXICALI. I managed to PUZZLE OUT this one.
  • 31d. [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John], PRENAMES. Or “first names.” Bible mislead!
  • 35d. Kitchen bulb?], FENNEL. Keep your fennel, your anise, and your licorice far away from me.

Four stars from me.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Does It Matter?”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.23.14: "Does It Matter?"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.23.14: “Does It Matter?”

Happy Friday everybody!

Yes, it’s Friday, and it matters! Well, every day matters, of course, but in today’s puzzle authored by Mr. Bruce Venzke, its theme asks us to fill in answers (blanks) that mean the exact opposite of something mattering. Either that, or it tests us to get our prefixes and suffixes straight with each of the theme answers!

  • IMMATERIAL: (18A: Does it matter? No, it’s _____)
  • MEANINGLESS: (23A: Does it matter? No, it’s _____)
  • INCONSEQUENTIAL: (37A: Does it matter? No, it’s _____)
  • UNIMPORTANT: (52A: Does it matter? No, it’s _____)
  • IRRELEVANT: (59A: Does it matter? No, it’s _____)

The tricky thing about a puzzle like this is that one can get consumed about coming up with different terms would fit the description of the clues and then seeing if they would work with any of the theme answers, slowing down one’s overall solving time on the grid. Oh, that’s just me? OK then! But any grid gets an extra bit of cred from me when it turns up the risqué factor, and that went up a notch in this puzzle with ESCORTED (40D: [Played the gigolo with]). Is it total circumstance that its crossing, when filling in its blank, IT SO (43A: [“You never had ___ good”]), may be something an escort might say after a possible tryst? It is coincidence, yes, but it’s still fun to connect the dots, especially when it pushes the envelope!

We’re treated to the cold shoulder a couple of times, with ON ICE (32D: [In the bag, as a victory]) and REEFER (58A: [Walk-in freezer]). Never heard of reefer in that context, though I had always prepared myself for seeing the word in a clue or filling it in if it referred to another name for a pea coat…and the whole marijuana thing, of course. Especially liked seeing HAIRNETS in the grid (5D: [Food preparation headgear]). Had a couple of mistakes that I had to quickly address, most notably putting in “petal” instead of SEPAL (26D: [Flower feature]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SLOANE (4D: [“Entertaining Mr. ______” (Joe Orton play)])– Honorable mention goes to the intersection of MET (30D: [Shea performer]) and EXPO (36A: [Large-scale product display event]), with the Mets and Expos being longtime rivals in the National League East. They’re still rivals, but “Expo” has become “Nat,” another crossword favorite. But the winner today is Sloane, and our featured subject is active American tennis player Sloane Stephens, currently ranked No. 16 in the women’s world rankings. The 21-year-old reached the Round of 16 in each of the four majors last year in a breakout season, and is viewed as the future of American women’s tennis. Her father was former NFL running back John Stephens (1966-2009), who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while playing for the New England Patriots in 1988.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial beginning to barbecue season! Though many of you will see your co-workers next on Tuesday, I’ll be right here for you tomorrow!

Take care!


Sam Ezersky’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Use the Force”—joon’s review

che140523hello again. it’s joon here, filling in with this week’s CHE puzzle, which i think might be the last one in the editorship of jeffrey harris. thanks to jeffrey for a great couple of years, and let’s welcome incoming editor brad wilber.

when i saw the title of this puzzle, i was immediately excited at the prospect that it might have a physics theme, and i was not disappointed. the central theme answer is {Physical principle whose equation explains the changes in this puzzle’s theme entries} NEWTON’S SECOND LAW. that’s the central equation in classical physics, usually expressed as F = ma, which explains the F -> MA pun theme:

  • {What author Shelley does when she doesn’t eat out?} MARY COOKS (fry cooks)
  • {Lobster-based meals?} MAINE DINING (fine dining).
  • {Memo received by actress Blair?} NOTE TO SELMA (note to self).
  • {Whom some California vintners pray to?} SONOMA GOD (son of god). this one is trickier, with a couple of words merged in addition to the F -> MA switch.

did you know? newton’s principia mathematica did not include “F = ma”. instead, his formulation of the law is that force is the derivative of what he called “quantity of motion”, which we now call momentum. when mass is a constant, as it is for most objects (but not, say, rockets, which continuously eject matter), the two formulations are equivalent, because momentum is mass times velocity, and the derivative of velocity is acceleration. thus endeth today’s physics lesson.

so i dug the theme. tidbits from the fill:

  • {Literary character who asks “Would you, could you, in the dark?”} is SAM I AM. not the kind of literary character you usually find in the highbrow CHE puzzle.
  • {“The Glass Menagerie” mother} AMANDA. that’s more like it. no amanda peet or amanda bynes or amanda knox here.
  • {When Hamlet delivers the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy} is ACT III of, i’m pretty sure, king lear.
  • {Finding a four-leaf clover, some say} is GOOD OMEN. in the singular, this can’t be clued via the neil gaiman/terry pratchett book.
  • {Hardly high-class art} KITSCH. this is good fill—lively and consonant-heavy. i don’t remember seeing it in a puzzle before.
  • {Move through a membrane, maybe} OSMOSE, perhaps due to an imbalance in {Salt in salt water, e.g.} SOLUTE. OSMOSE is an inflection that i see much more often in puzzles than in actual scientific parlance. OSMOSIS, of course, is common enough, but the verb form doesn’t get much play.
  • {Like some unstable relationships} ON AND OFF. i guess so. ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN would probably be my preferred description.
  • {James K. Polk’s alma mater, briefly} UNC. there’s that higher-ed vibe. i guess the name of any college or university is by definition higher ed material, but instead of (say) a basketball clue we get james k. polk.
  • {Mythological huntress who married the winner of a footrace} ATALANTA. love me some greek myth.
  • {Hungarian playwright whose “Liliom” was the basis for the musical “Carousel”} is ferenc MOLNÁR. somewhat surprisingly, he has never been on my fantasy baseball team.

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

Sam Ezerky’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140523

LA Times

Today’s puzzle features MIXED (i.e. anagrammed) DRINKS. I like the change from alcoholic to soft, but I don’t like how higgledy-piggledy they appear. Normally, they all appear at the beginning of the word, or all span two words or something. Here, there’s no consistency at all. Less of an issue is that three of the soft drinks are made by the Coca-Cola Company and one by the Pepsico.

  • [No ordinary creation], MASTERPIECE hides SPRITE
  • [Colonial environment?], ANTFARM hides FANTA, which I’m led to believe is less ubiquitous Stateside than here, where it is probably as readily available as coke or sprite.
  • [Record player], DISCJOCKEY hides COKE
  • [Refuse transports], DRAINPIPES hides PEPSI. Nice clue, which made me think of DUMPTRUCKS etc.

Other remarks:

  • [Meddle, in a way], KIBITZ. A splashy 1A is always a plus!
  • [Some Super Bowl highlights], ADS. Only Americans could think of adverts as highlights!
  • [Golfer’s concern], BADBACK. An oddly specific, though not incorrect, clue.
  • [Pelican relative], IBIS. Bird taxonomy is, excuse me, up in the air at the moment, but it seems to be generally regarded as correct for now. Wikipedia has a brief summary here.
  • [Like the action in “High Noon”], REALTIME. Song #1
  • MAJ/JEST – I’d have rather seen an N, P, R, T or W at that intersection. Why add an unnecessary abbr.?
  • [Allergy medication brand], ZYRTEC. Random letters for me!
  • [“Story of My Life” band ___ Direction], ONE. They’re in South Africa shortly. I do not have tix.
  • [“Never eat ___ waffles” compass point mnemonic], SOGGY. We had “Never Eat Silk Worms”, but I’m not sure why such a mnemonic is actually necessary!
  • [Group whose second letter is often written backwards], ABBA. Not to be confused with KORN, who write their third letter backwards.
  • [Exaggerated feature in Obama caricatures], EAR. True! Shrubya also got the ear treatment. Our own JZ gets an extra-long forehead, which has always made me a little uncomfortable, for some reason./li>
  • [“Eat ___ chikin”: Chick-fil-A slogan], MOR. Is that where that comes from?! The image went viral without the association here.
  • [Cry from a nest?], LANDHO. Song #2

In spite of the reservations I had with regards to the theme, I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle. 3 Stars.

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hidden Agendas?”—Ade’s write-up  

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 05.23.14: "Hidden Agendas"

Wall Street Journal crossword solution, 05.23.14: “Hidden Agendas”

Happy Friday everybody…take two!

Ade/AOK back with you for Wall Street Journal-reviewing goodness, and my apologies this is a late. But definitely wanted to do it, and, after more than two and a half hours plugging away (well, it didn’t take THAT long, since I was splitting time between the puzzle and working), we have a finished product! This was a fun product created by Mr. Joe DiPietro, as the nine theme answers are almost all celebrities (expect for one) described doing a certain action by an adjective. The kicker is that the shaded part of each theme is a “hidden agenda,” describing the exact opposite action of what the adjective in the clue states. Very clever.

  • TONI TENNILLE/ON IT: (22A: [Procrastinating 1970s singer (secretly planning to get…)])
  • SATCHEL PAIGE/HELP: (33A: [Self-taught baseball great (who had secretly planned to get…)])
  • ALAN ARKIN/AN A: (40D: [Slacking film star (secretly planning to get…)])
  • STEVE NASH/EVEN: (46D: [Sportsmanlike NBA All-Star (secretly planning to get…)])
  • ERIC HOLDER/RICH: (50A: [Strapped Obama cabinet member (planning to get…)]) – The first theme clue, by numerical order, that doesn’t mention anything about secrecy is one that describes a government official. Talk about irony!
  • EVA LONGORIA/ALONG: (65A: [Contentious TV star (planning to get…)])
  • MAO TSE-TUNG/SET: (81A: [Unprepared Chinese leader (who had secretly planned to get…)])
  • JESSICA TANDY: (93A: [Pale-skinned stage and screen star (who had secretly planned to get…)])
  • YOU THE SOLVER/OUT: (111A: [Indoor puzzler (who when done should probably plan to get…)])The clue is now giving advice! And some good advice at that…also, the only clue in which the hidden word is all contained in one word.  Did I say all of that?  Silly, stye-ridden me!

I was absolutely amazed by the number of possibilities able to be created with celebrities’ names and find those hidden messages! As for the non-theme answers that stood out, by far the one that had me at sixes and sevens for a good long while was COTE D’AZUR (47D: [Nice spot]). Knew from the beginning that it was going to refer to a French location, but Cote d’Azur WAS NOT COMING anytime soon. Crosses bailed me out just enough to pull me out of that fire, especially when I knew one of the crosses had to be DEGLAZE (77A: [Pour a little wine into, heat, stir and scrape]), giving me the “z” that finally gave me confidence that the Nice location was right. And somewhat keeping with the food preparing theme from deglaze, count me as one of the people that does not mind his wings EXTRA HOT (26A: [How some like their wings]). The more tears I shed eating them, the better! Probably should enroll myself in a wing-eating contest around the Fourth of July, when the hot dog-eating rolls around and takes place in Coney Island. More food that I like: LEAN CUT ([Eye of round steak, e.g.]). Food/drink that I’ve never tasted: NEHI (18D: [Brand introduced by the Chero-Cola Company]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SATCHEL PAIGE – On most days, the nod probably would have gone to REYES (1A: [All-Star shortstop Jose]) or ORIOLE (116A: [Maryland symbol]), but here’s a rare “sports…smarter” moment that highlights one of the theme answers. Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige was a Negro League pitching legend who became the oldest rookie to make his debut in the Major Leagues. He was 42 years old when he debuted in MLB for the Cleveland Indians in 1948. His popularity was such that when he pitched during the season, sellouts at the ballparks, home and away, were routine. That season, the 42-year-old “rookie” went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA as he was a huge catalyst in the Indians winning the 1948 American League pennant, and eventually the 1948 World Series. The title Cleveland won in 1948 remains the last title the Indians have won.

Paige is also known for being one of the most quotable people, let alone athletes, in American society. Some of his famous quotes include, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter,” “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you,” “I ain’t ever had a job, I just always played baseball.” Believe me, there’s many more where that came from! Paige was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.

Again, I hope you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and I’ll probably be guest-blogging another puzzle outside of CrosSynergy sometime soon. Keep your eye out for it, and can’t wait to hear from you after you read. Thank you!

Take care!


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30 Responses to Friday, May 23, 2014

  1. Bencoe says:

    That FOOZLER/HENNAED/MONTERO/DIONE/TONTINE section is going to cause some serious TIZZIES.

    • Sister Kate says:

      I was actually fine once I got over GARLIC; it was HENNAED put paid to that, I was sure about it. Of course, I had to run the whole produce section: onions, scallions, shallots, et allium. The other entries emerged from the depths. Only FOOZLER still has me muttering under my breath.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Even with guessing correctly at most of the factuals in the SW, not ever having seen TONTINE, FOOZLER or knowing FENNEL is a bulb (know it’s a spice) caused a DNF. DEGAUSS and the cross was also unknown to me. See now that this was a Steinberg puzzle so….

  2. Martin says:

    I’ll always remember the word TONTINE and what it is, from a British 1966 comedy in which it was the main subject: it starred Michael Caine, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock and Ralph Richardson (if memory serves me correctly).

    – MAS

  3. Gareth says:

    Daring grid, though I must say I was mentored not to do what David has done in the bottom part of the middle section – overuse ED/ER/ES at the ends of words – as it’s a very inelegant crutch.

    I had to guess (and did so correctly) the intersections of GAZZARA/TONTINE/MONTERO and also the the I of MINETA/VISINE (lucky I knew VEIDT otherwise that V would’ve been brutal!)

    • Matt says:

      Raises hand. I had SALINE instead of VISINE, and was quite startled to learn that I had three wrong answers. I think that’s a record, short of not finishing at all.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I know it’s not a perfect puzzle with those tough intersections, and I think it’s misplaced being too hard for a Friday (at least in some parts), but I loved it. I loved the design of it, the fact that there were only 2 three-letter entries (I usually hate those). But mostly, I loved the sheer daring of the jumble of ZZZZZZZ’s in the middle. It made me smile and cheer and think how fun it is to be young and playful and just do things because you can…
    5 stars from me.

  5. Jeffrey K says:

    EXPO has become Nat? I take back my praise of Ade.

  6. sbmanion says:

    Tontine has appeared in the NYT before and I am pretty sure there was an extended discussion about it on the old forum. Tontines were used at times to fund wars.

    I did not know Foozled, but still found the puzzle to be pretty easy, although the SW was tough.

    Here is a pet peeve of mine. I have always wondered why it is necessary for late week puzzles to be scrabbly. Scrabbliness makes the puzzle easier, not harder. I agree that a lot of ED and ER words is not good, but in today’s puzzle, for example, the obviousness of the Z theme made the puzzle much easier than the actual difficulty of the words (quite difficult) would indicate.

    I enjoyed the puzzle greatly in spite of my pet peeve.


    • Papa John says:

      Like you, I don’t understand the praise for “Scrabbly” letters. There was simply too many zees for my liking.

      Is no one bothered by “hennaed’?

      I’m not sure how to parse SENECAN as “Describing an ancient tragedian”. Would I describe myself as Davisoan? Perhaps Senecan describes someone like the ancient tragedian. It goes without saying that Seneca was Senacan (if that’s even a word).

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Except for the times Seneca just wasn’t himself.

        Check your dictionary and Google. Henna is a verb, with dictionaries showing broader support for the “coloring of hair with henna” usage than for the “applying henna patterns to the skin, aka mehndi or henna tattoos” usage, but both are out there.

      • Bencoe says:

        Couldn’t you say “Senecan tragedy” like “Shakespearean tragedy”? In those cases you are referring to the person themselves, not someone like the person.

        • Papa John says:

          Aren’t you describing the literature, not the person?

          Right on, Amy.

          • Bencoe says:

            True–you are describing the literature as being of the person. Maybe “describing” in the clue wasn’t the best choice of word.

    • john farmer says:

      I agree with Steve’s point that Scrabbly letters tend to make a puzzle easier than harder. Since much of solving is that one word leads to another, finding a Z, Q, J, etc., usually makes the crossing word easier to get than finding R L STINES in the grid.

      Generally, Scrabbly letters are a plus because they are (by definition) less often used. They can make for fresher fill. But in crosswords, the word is more important that its letters, and Z’s and Q’s and so on only matter so much. You could probably find a great Patrick Berry puzzle that’s not particularly Scrabbly, and great Peter Wentz puzzle that is, so take it for what it’s worth.

      The Z’s in today’s puzzle have a certain “look what I can do” quality to them. I am rather impressed that David could pull it off. I realize that some people aren’t interested in crossword “gimmicks” and “stunts,” but I think the appeal goes beyond just constructors.

      Crosswords aren’t the only place you find “gimmicks.” The LAT clues REAL TIME with “High Noon,” which essentially is a movie gimmick (about an hour and a half screen time = about an hour and a half real time). I’m not a big Western fan but have to say it’s one of the all-time great movies.

      Speaking of the LAT, the “Golfer’s concern” clue for BAD BACK kind of threw me. Brings to mind Tiger Woods, but is there something about golf that is particularly prone to bad backs? Or is it that weekend athletes with bad backs tend to be golfers?

      • sbmanion says:

        Long hitters torque their bodies–think coil and uncoil. This puts tremendous pressure on their backs over time. A bad back limits the coil in addition to creating fear of swinging with complete authority. Although he recently lost in his effort to become a three-time long-drive champion, Jamie Sadlowski, who is less than six feet tall and weighs less than 170, hits the ball more than 400 hundred yards because he torques his body to about 51 degrees. We earthlings are closer to 30 degrees and the big guy who can only bunt it (and is not in danger of hurting his back from his golf swing) might turn about 15 degrees.


  7. Ethan says:

    surprised at the low ~3.6 average rating for the NYT. A tour de force, I thought. 62 words jam-packed with Z’s? well done!

    • Jason F says:

      Agree! Fantastic puzzle.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        I suspect it’s low due to the high use of some factuals not widely known mixed with what would be some very obscure terms to many, especially in the SW area–the mark of a Steinberg puzzle, and the mark of some of the very old Times puzzles I’ve tried.

    • Lois says:

      Yes, I think that it is not a matter of shoving in Scrabbly letters and making a mediocre puzzle, but rather that this puzzle is a special event with a lovely theme. It’s true that Amy’s rationale for giving it only four stars is powerful, because of some of the difficulties in the fill – and I did not finish the puzzle, though I had fun – but, Ethan, you’ve persuaded me to upgrade to 4.5.

  8. indiecognition says:

    If you haven’t already, I’d suggest checking out Ben Tausig’s Inkwell xword for today. You can get it in .puz or PDF here (click on the link to the post for the weekly xword from 5/20).!forum/inkwell

    I always enjoy Tausig’s puzzles, and this one is particularly noteworthy.

    Happy Memorial Day weekend!

  9. Billie says:

    Ade/AOK, I think you meant to say that Satchel Paige was INDUCTED into the Hall of Fame. :-)

  10. Linda says:

    It’s you the solver, not youth solver! Makes a difference talking to whoever is solving it, not the young and restless sorts, right?

  11. sandirhodes says:

    Col. Potter was the last survivor of his tontine in a M*A*S*H episode.

    Correcting YOU THE also changes its comment in the write-up.


  12. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, “Paige was indicted into the Hall of Fame” … was amusing! Noting trouble in getting the NYT for May 24 — It won’t open, & there’s a message saying “incorrect format”.

  13. Oops, and OOPS!! Making typos, and having the actual typo be a correctly-spelled word is the WORST! My deepest apologies to all involved, including Jeffrey, as I should know better that the Expo(s) are always alive, even if they’re not currently in existence as an actual team. My apologies again. I try not to make silly mistakes, but, being a silly person in general, I guess it’s in my blood, no matter how much I proofread. P.S. You can tell how “high” I regularly finish when I do ACPTs with some of my blog posts/times!

    I do sincerely thank you ALL for reading. It’s a pleasure you guys take the time out to do so, whether you like what I say or vomit every time you see my name. And I have thick skin, so let me have it when I deserve it!

    Thank you, all, and I’ll try to be better next time for you guys!

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