Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NYT 3:40 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Matt) 
LAT 3:28 (Gareth) 
CS 9:04 (Ade) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 28 14, no. 0528

NY Times crossword solution, 5 28 14, no. 0528

{Adjective} AS A {animal} phrases are the name of the game:

  • 20a. [Scale-busting], FAT AS A COW. Googling fat as a gave me the following Google autocompletions: ...n energy source, feminist issue, nutrient, sign of wealth, and pig. I thought FAT AS A COW sounded a mite off-kilter.
  • 49a. [Quite cunning], SLY AS A FOX. Don’t know if foxes are actually as sly as reputed. Utterly familiar phrase, though.
  • 3d. [Really ill], SICK AS A DOG. Google tells me the British also have a saying, as sick as a parrot, meaning disappointed. As in “My guys were as sick as a parrot about the Blackhawks’ third loss to the Kings.”
  • 10d. [Humongous], BIG AS A WHALE. Huh? Husband and I both leapt at BIG AS A HOUSE (though that would deviate from the Animalia similes theme). Google autocomplete is again educational: …house is followed by, and I swear I am not making these up, big as a frisco seal, big as a minute, and big as a biscuit deep as a cup. Maybe BIG AS A WHALE didn’t make the grade, but that sounds worlds more plausible than these others!
  • 17d. [Like a chrome-dome], BALD AS A COOT. That one didn’t ring a bell, but apparently the idiom joined the English language nearly 600 years ago. Is the phrase in wide use by Americans?
  • 23d. [Unable to see the “E” on the Snellen chart, say], BLIND AS A BAT. Hit that one straight over the plate.
  • 31d. [Working away], BUSY AS A BEE. We would also have accepted beaver, but BEE works great too.

Fun theme, though the cow/whale ones smack of sizeism.

Five notes on the rest of the puzzle:

  • 15a. [Permanent-press], NO-IRON? That feels awkward to me.
  • 11d. [Holder of a cabinet position], ERIC. Eric Holder, hidden capital H in the clue. Nice clue trickery!
  • A little surprised to see 47d. OSAGE clued as [___ orange], when August: Osage County was such a prominent movie this past winter, with Oscar nominations for both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
  • ELIHU and ENOS? OH SAY and SYNE? YVES Montand and [Kingly name in Norway] OLAV? UGA and ENUF? There was a good bit of fill I didn’t care for, too.

3.75 stars.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle, “Space Elevator” — Matt’s review


Just four more puzzles in the Ink Well life span, as series author Ben Tausig has announced its cessation in June after a nearly 10-year run. Nice run, too — it produced two books and ran in prestige alt-weeklies like the Village Voice and Chicago Reader. Ben will be using his time to focus more on the AVCX, which is having a very nice run of its own.

In this week’s puzzle, base phrases get parsed oddly to form wacky new phrases:

16-A [Position for insect fetishists?] = BUTT ON FLY, instead of “Button-fly” jeans. Sound like a totally hot position, if you’re into flies.

19-A [Synagogue, during Yom Kippur?] = ATONE POINT, instead of “at one point.”

37-A [Young rink employee who works exclusively outside the skating area?] = OFF ICE BOY, instead of “office boy.” If “office boy” a thing? I guess it’s “Mad Men”-era terminology.

40-A [The state or quality of being former New York governor Spitzer?] = ELIOTNESS, instead of Eliot Ness.

59-A [TV spot for a black tie event featuring the music of James Taylor?] = FOLK BALL AD, not “folk ballad.”

65-A [Time during which one is expected to haunt?] = GHOSTSHIP. For spectres in training. Learn to rattle chains, float, etc.

So that’s neither the least exciting nor the most exciting theme in crossword history, but it works well enough.

[UPDATE, 5/28, 10:05 AM ET: the theme is much more interesting if you don’t completely miss its point, as I did. The space added to each lower entry in the three stacks is “elevated” one row up to its neighbor up top, engoofying both theme entries simultaneously. Nice!]


***Wild 15×16 grid with three pairs of stacked nine- or ten-letter theme entries. Highly unusual and requires a little BHAT/AOKI action to keep things in order. But LOVEFEST, I GOTTA GO, E-BOOKS, KIOSK, NBA TEAM and FREEBIE are all nice.

***Some masked intial capital letter trickery in two clues: [Bush transplanted to Florida] for JEB, [Magic, since the late ’80s] for NBA TEAM.

***ELLE BOOB TIT? This must be the R-rated palindrome puzzle.

3.85 stars. Theme was just OK but the cool grid and lively clues punched it up. [UPDATE: see note above. The theme is way cool and we’ll add .65 to make it a 4.50 puzzle]

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Wolfgang” —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.28.14: "Wolfgang"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.28.14: “Wolfgang”

Happy hump day everybody!

Today’s puzzle by Mr. Randall J. Hartman is all about crying wolf, and I don’t mind it at all. Each of the four theme answers start with words that describe types of wolves, and what makes this even more of a fun solve is that each of the theme answers are unbelievably lively! Also, I thought originally (when I didn’t notice the title), that the theme involved having the same letter start the end of the first word and the begin the next word (the first three answers have the duplicate-letter pattern appearing in them).

  • TIMBER RIGHT: (17A: [Logging company pursuit]) – Timber wolf.
  • RED DELICIOUS: (28A: [Apple variety]) – Red wolf.
  • ARCTIC CIRCLE: (49A: [Northern line of latitude]) – Arctic wolf.
  • GRAY PANTHER: (63A: [Member of a group opposed to ageism]) – Gray wolf (which is also the same as a timber wolf).

Some of the long down answers are great, and especially liked SCHEDULE A (12D: [Frequent 1040 attachment]), with TAB COLLAR also being noteworthy for its appearance (34D: [Button-down alternative]). Actually sat down next to a person on the subway a couple of days ago wearing a NEHRU jacket (54D: [First prime minister of India]), and he was styling pretty good, I must say! SOLEIL makes another appearance, this time as a stand-alone (52A: [Cirque du ______]) instead of the Soleil Moon Frye entry that we say just a few days ago. I know there’s a joke waiting to be uttered about the clue to OWL (62A: [Hooters symbol]), and what the real symbol of Hooters is, but this person isn’t making it!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MIGUEL (8D: [2012 Triple Crown winner Cabrera])– In 2012, Detroit Tigers infielder Miguel Cabrera led the league in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and runs batted in (139), making him the 16th player to win baseball’s Triple Crown. It had been 45 years since the last hitter won the Triple Crown, when Carl Yastrzemski did so for the Red Sox in 1967. Moreover, since the first player won the Triple Crown in 1878, the gap between the next Triple Crown and the previous one had not exceeded 14 years until the 45-year interregnum between “Yaz” and Cabrera.

Looks like it’s going to rain here…blah! Regardless, have a good rest of your Wednesday and will see you tomorrow!

Take care!


C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140528

LA Times

I’ve never heard of the phrase FIRELANE before. I like the interpretation thereof which seems fresh – all the short words in specific columns can follow FIRE. Using columns of short answers means the answers themselves are mostly fairly bland. The lanes are made of BALL, TRUCK, OPAL; MAN, STORM, PROOF; ALARM, STONE, ANT; and SALE, POWER, CODE.

Zhouqin spices things up by including four stacks of seven-letter answers in the corners. The top-left is exotic with BAHAMAS, AVOCADO and LEBANON. The top-right features the unknown-to-me ALLEGRA (I assume it’s fresh and interesting?). Highlights in the bottom include APRIORI and the pair of spoken answers ISAIDNO and LETSSEE. Nothing absolutely breathtaking but good chunks of interesting answers.

Not a lot in the negative column: CCI is an RRN, ADES isn’t really a word (but is so entrenched in crosswords that one hardly notices); there are also one or two answers like SNEE , but that has never bothered me.

3.5 Stars

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21 Responses to Wednesday, May 28, 2014

  1. OSXpert says:

    “…AS BIG AS A WHALE” makes my mind jump immediately to the lyrics of “Love Shack.”

    I had “FAT AS A SOW” very briefly, which is definitely not a thing.

    Liked this one for the most part.

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    Are cows fat or just big boned?

  3. Huda says:

    Puzzles are so educational… I did not know the expression BALD AS A COOT. I wondered why a Coot is considered bald and looked at images. True enough, that white marking on their head right above the beak is bald. I did not know that!
    The rest felt very easy. I remember when pregnant feeling “as big as a whale”. A whale seemed apt because arms and legs seem to shrink in relative size and roundness is the dominant shape.
    And the blog is educational. Now I need to go educate myself about fat as a feminist issue.
    I liked the theme– It has rhythm and you can dance to it.

  4. john farmer says:

    Here’s an Ngram View if you’d like to compare. Books only, among other caveats. “Bald as a coot” gets hits in American and British English, but more British. “As Big as a Whale” is a new Disney Junior book not in the Google corpus. “Fat as a cow” not so popular in books (though it gets loads of hits on the Internet). (Extras: “Happy as a clam” would rank fourth, and “hungry as a horse” near the bottom.)

  5. Martin says:

    Dunno about American-English, but BALD AS A COOT is a common British-English idiom.


  6. ArtLvr says:

    Big as a house was my first choice there. Fat as a pig would seem less sexist than fat as a cow. But the real error is “Oh say” because it is written “O say can you see”!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Reynaldo’s 7th Rule of Crosswords (I should compile a list!): It’s O SAY or OH SAY depending on which one the constructor needs.

  7. Avg Solvr says:

    Clever and funny Tausig!

  8. Gareth says:

    NYT: Very nice Monday puzzle theme… odd that it’s running on a Wednesday given that WS apparently has a dearth of Mondays! All the phrases felt familiar, although I did plump for HOUSE and PIG first as many above did.

  9. pannonica says:

    I’ve heard crazy as a coot, but not the bald version. Bald as a coot, with that initial B and the rhythm, makes me think of bandicoots. With the O in place, tried fat as a hog. If the British have a saying as sick as a parrot, I would have assumed that it was a euphemism for dead.

  10. DLand says:

    Matt, you missed the point of the ingenious Tausig puzzle – in each of the three theme pairs, the “space” is transferred from the bottom answer directly up to the top answer. Hence: Space Elevator.

  11. Tracy B says:

    Minnie had a heart as big as a whale in Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.”

  12. Matt Gaffney says:

    Yes a swing and a miss from me on the Tausig theme. Let me get some coffee and post a “clarification” in a bit

  13. Dave S says:

    One nit to pick on the Crossynergy puzzle. The clue for 66 across is “League of the Albuquerque Isotopes,” with the answer being AAA. The actual league is the Pacific Coast League, or PCL. AAA stands for Triple A, the highest minor league level. But it does not stand for a league.

  14. Zulema says:

    Definitely COWs are not FAT. They are BIG though. And thank you, TRACY B, for remembering Cab Calloway and Minnie and her big heart.

  15. Steve says:

    If memory serves me correctly, “Sick as a parrot” came from a post-match interview with a football (soccer) player who was distressed about the losing result. It became something of a cliche as a lot of players were not known for their erudition. English pigs are fat, cows are marvelously lithe athletic specimens. Horses are hungry, and oddly when you’re hungry yourself you could eat one.

    • Brucenm says:

      Also oddly, horses are *healthy*.

      I’ve never heard “sick as a parrot” but I wonder if it played into “This parrot is not dead . . . it is merely stunned.” etc.

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