Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fireball 8:21 (Amy) 
AV Club 5:21 (Amy) 
NYT 4:21 (Amy) 
LAT 5:51 (Gareth) 
BEQ 8:32 (Matt) 
CS 9:50 (Ade) 

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 5 14, no. 0605

NY Times crossword solution, 6 5 14, no. 0605

Delightful rebus theme! Louisa May Alcott’s quartet of sisters occupy four rebus squares. 34a. [1860s novel that is the basis for this puzzle’s theme] clues LITTLE WOMEN, and the characters are in these answers:

  • 17a. [The “American Moses”], BRIGH{AM Y}OUNG, crossing 5d. [Like a freshly drawn draft], FO{AMY}.
  • 22a. [“Attendance is mandatory”], “{BE TH}ERE,” crossing 10d. [Shakespeare play setting], GLO{BE TH}EATER.
  • 49a. [Mission ___, Calif.], VIE{JO}, crossing 32d. [Ribald humor], DIRTY {JO}KE. Half a town name isn’t the best sort of fill, but this is what tipped me off to the theme.
  • 55a. [Baby boomers, with “the”], {ME G}ENERATION, crossing 50d. [Some Swiss watches], O{MEG}AS.

I’m reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch now, with sisters Dorothea (or Dodo) and Celia (or Kitty). Ed Sessa, you must work them into your next literary rebus theme. Please and thank you.

With a 72-word grid, we’re treated to spacious corners that are fairly solid. Bright spots include ICED TEA, the delicious SLEPT IN, ST. OLAF College, Audrey Hepburn’s SABRINA, OLIVE OIL, a trite BROMIDE, and the sensible trio of NEUTRINO, UNICORN, and PENANCE. Pretty sure that Neutrino Unicorn Penance is a band somewhere.

I could do without AGUE, the plural abbreviation ENGS, RIA, and PES, sure, but don’t I always say that I can forgive a handful of such answers? Yes, I do. It’s being strafed with endless lousy fill that does a puzzle in.

Four stars from me.

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Oh You!”

AV Club crossword solution, 6 5 14 "Oh You!"

AV Club crossword solution, 6 5 14 “Oh You!”

In this theme, OU (“oh you”) is added to the beginning or end of a familiar phrase—or to both ends—to alter the meaning:

  • 15a. [Poet giving a reading of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” at the saloon?], HONKY TONK ANGELOU. “Honky Tonk Angel” is a song with an interesting story.
  • 18a. [“Look out for that canoe!”?], OUTRIGGER WARNING. Trigger warnings have been discussed much of late in academia.
  • 39a. [’70s skin mag’s chit to pay a reader for submitting the story “Al lets Burt rub Stella”?], OUI PALINDROME IOU. They Might Be Giants, the top wordplay alternative rock band since the ’80s, have a song called “I Palindrome I.” “Man, o nam.”
  • 63a. [Critical mission in a coup d’etat?], OUSTING OPERATION.
  • 66a. [Title role permanently retired after Jane Fonda had it?], UNPLAYABLE BALLOU. Sports meets Cat Ballou.

Five more things:

  • 6a. [Prince song title that asks a question about honesty], DO U LIE. Totally guessed this off of the clue.
  • 21a. [The sun causes them during photoptarmosis], SNEEZES. I heard on public radio recently that the light-sneeze reaction occurs in something like a third of people. Not I.
  • 29a. [Silver ejaculations?], NEIGHS. Oh, Silver, the Lone Ranger’s horse. I was thinking of statistician Nate Silver.
  • 35a. [Dirty art link letters?], NSFW. Art Linkletter would approve.
  • 6d. [Legendary hybrid creature reportedly spotted in Michigan], DOGMAN. This creature is beyond my ken.

4.25 stars from me. Over and out.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Triskaidekaphobe’s Nightmare”

Fireball crossword solution, 6 5 14 "Triskaidekaphobe's Nightmare"

Fireball crossword solution, 6 5 14 “Triskaidekaphobe’s Nightmare”

Whoops, ran out of time to blog this morning. Plug the theme answers into this rot13 (rotate alphabet by 13 letters) decoder and you’ll get … something else. I haven’t had a chance to do that but I can tell you that solving the crossword portion of this puzzle was fairly joyless for me. Maybe the rot13’d versions are so incredible, and the coincidence of “hey, these rot13’d words become other words” and “look, I can string them together into a clueable phrase” excites you.

Highlight in fill: SEUSSICAL!

Gotta run. No star rating until somebody tells me the rot13 versions.

—Okay, I’m back. FISHERMAN’S JUNES rot13s to SVFUREZNAFWHARF. What? Only one of the words gets shifted, “Fisherman’s Wharf”? That’s not as impressive as if some 15-letter phrases shifted into real words. CHERYLBYCHANCE becomes PURELYOLPUNAPR, “purely by chance. RECEIVINGPYREX becomes ERPRVIVATCLERK; wow, “receiving clerk” is … such a … clever and interesting base phrase. BRIDGETOABJURER becomes OEVQTRGBNOWHERE; while “bridge to nowhere” is lively, ABJURER doesn’t do much for me. Three stars. The fill is mostly good stuff, but the theme really didn’t do anything for me.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle — “Loose Connection” — Matt’s review


Who doesn’t like FREE / WIFI? I’m using it right now, in fact. That’s the theme of Brendan’s puzzle today, where the letters in WIFI “go free” in different permutations, ensconced in phrases:

20-a [Pre-dinner potables] = APERITIF WINES. Is that a thing? I think of an aperitif as liquor, and while I’m sure there are wines (like some ports) you can call an aperitif, I don’t think the phrase itself is that in-the-language. Google sort of agrees.

40-A [“Fiddler on the Roof” song] = IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Yada-deeda-dada-deeda-dada-dum.

54-A [Video game avatar that assists with your workouts] = WII FIT TRAINER. I’m not a Wii person so I saw where this was going but needed the crossings to get the last word.

Theme is OK, but I don’t think the FREE/WIFI kicker at 10-A and 68-A [With 68-Across, airport amenity … or an alternate title for this puzzle] is 100% descriptive. But the title “Loose Connection” fits well.


***TAX EVASION and WOMAN ON TOP. I defy you to find a better pair of symmetric fill anywhere in this world or another.

***Had to be careful at AD??? clued as [Literally, “to God”]. Was ADIEU, but could have been ADIOS.

***Also be careful of [Physics class unit] for ?H?. Could be OHM as here, but could also be MHO!

3.65 stars.

C.W. Stewart’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140605

LA Times 140605

Really imaginative theme from Ms. Stewart today! Four phrases are reimagined as imperatives regarding home renovation:

  • [Ballplayer’s home renovation advice about the bare hallway floor?], PUTARUNNEROUT. I’ve never heard of it, but apparently there is such a thing as a “runner rug”. They exist in South Africa too… I’m no decor fundi!
  • [Tech’s home renovation advice about a dark basement?], INSTALLWINDOWS
  • [Housekeeper’s home renovation advice about a cheap fourposter offer?], TURNDOWNTHEBED
  • [Bartender’s home renovation advice about the tiny kitchen sink?], MAKEITADOUBLE

Other interesting bits:

    • Around here, the two most common cheeses are CHEDDAR and GOUDA. Nice double play, although I’m told Americans like their mozzarella more!
    • [Mother May I? movements], STEPS. I recognized the name, but required crosses as I don’t think I ever played it.
    • [Lie alongside], ABUTON. Like me, you were probably confused as to how to make ABUT fill six spaces!
    • [Chopper topper], ROTOR. Nice rhyming clue!
    • [Opposite of nuts?], SOUP. Nice misdirect!
    • [Popular exercise regimen], TAEBO. Is it really still “popular”?

Clever theme! 4.25 Stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.05.14: "Boat Trailer"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.05.14: “Boat Trailer”

Hello everybody, and hope you’re having a good start to your Thursday!

A couple of years back, when I attended a friend’s party that took place on a boat, I found out that my body does go through a little bit of motion sickness. It wasn’t bad, but I knew that my times on boats from then on were going to be very limited. This puzzle, by Ms. Gail Grabowski, definitely did not give me motion sickness and was definitely a smooth ride. Each of the theme answers end with words that are also types of boats.

  • BIRDCAGE LINER: (20A: [Protective covering in a canary’s coop])
  • BEER SCHOONER: (28A: [Brewski container])
  • COOKIE CUTTER: (44A: [Shaping device for Christmas goodies])
  • PRODUCT LAUNCH: (53A: [Debut of the iPhone, e.g.])

Once again, another CS puzzle and another RENO appearance (16A: [City with lots of slots]). Crossing that answer is the best entry of the grid, CREEPO (10D: [Sleazy sort]). Gave CREEPO the slight nod over REAR-ENDER in terms of best entry (11D: [Result of a chain reaction accident, perhaps]). There was way too much love given to ORCA lately, so today’s puzzle gave SHAMU a spin (29D: [SeaWorld attraction]).

Crosswordese included a couple of “RE’s,”RESOD (33D: [Establish new turf]) and REORG, which made me say it a couple of times out loud right after I entered it in the grid (26D: [Corp. makeover]). But all in all, liked the flow of the puzzle. Best intersection was at the top, with BLAME (1A: [Point a finger at]) and BRIBE (1D: [Hush money]). Blame the bribe for making me do bad things!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: COUGAR (6D: [Large cat])– Let’s list a few of the Division I colleges and universities whose mascot is a cougar: Brigham Young University (cougar mascot name: Cosmo), University of Houston (cougar mascot name: Shasta…what a name), Washington State University (cougar mascot name: Butch T. Cougar).

Thank you everyone, and see you all Friday!


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17 Responses to Thursday, June 5, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I agree with Amy (AMY), this was delightful. And for a change, I tumbled to the rebus very early, with BRIGHAMYOUNG, which doesn’t always happen for me. So, I was feeling pretty smug, but it was premature. When I still did not know what the overall theme was, I hit the East and put the rebus in the wrong place in BE THERE (under EDERLE since I could not recall the name). And then put another one nearby (also slightly shifted) in GLOBE THEATER!! That made for an odd arrangement. Of course once I figured out the theme, I went back and disentangled my mess. It was actually fun to synthesize the two rebuses (rebi?) and see everything fall into place. But I guess that’s always the issue with Rebus puzzles, the uncertainty of where the rebus sits.
    But overall, this was an easy one of this type, and it managed to have a lot of good fill to boot.

    • ahimsa says:

      Huda, I also got the rebus at BRIGH(AM Y)OUNG! I don’t often get the rebus that early.

      Most of the puzzle was easy since I knew what names to look for. But that NE corner was very hard for me even after I knew that Beth was hiding in there somewhere. I did not come up with (BE TH)ERE for the longest time. In fact, with -ATER in place for the end of 10D, I briefly wondered if there was some sort of crater mentioned in one of Shakespeare’s plays. :-)

      And thanks again to all you folks who do the write-ups! I wish I had a band so I could name it NEUTRINO UNICORN PENANCE.

  2. Gareth says:

    What Amy said in her first sentence! The revealer was particularly apt!

  3. Brucenm says:

    Hard to imagine a more flawless, elegant rebus puzzle. Full marks, as the Canadians say.

  4. anonymouse says:

    Gareth if you have time to comment , why don’t you have time to comment on the puzzle you’re supposed to review? Just asking.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Really? Do you think it takes the same amount of time and internet access to write a full puzzle review as it does to jot a blog comment? Commenting can be done via phone during a quick break at work. Solving the puzzle, getting a screen capture of the solution, gathering one’s thoughts about the puzzle, and accessing the blog’s editing screen is best done at a computer and with a half hour or hour to focus.

      Now, quit posting complaining comments, C.! You have posted so, so many over the years, expressing your sense of impatient entitlement to writings that you don’t pay a penny for. And then! After a “late” post is published, do you ever come back and discuss the puzzle? Rarely, if ever. You just want the answers and the theme explanation, is that it? Don’t make me ban you from the site for your nuisance comments.

      • Gareth says:

        And, of course, the answers are freely available from Download the .puz file and press “reveal complete solution”.

    • Gareth says:

      Golfballman, as it happens I got 80% through writing the blogpost on my lunch break, and then I had to go back to work – you know, the thing I get paid to do. The blogpost will be put it up when it is put up. It is not in fact a necessity of life in any way.

  5. Alex says:

    Wow, the NYT is (currently) the highest-rated puzzle today. When’s the last time that happened? As a follow-up, when is the last time it happened for a non-Patrick Berry puzzle?

    • Gareth says:

      Well, Monday was a near-run thing. I’m not sure how statistically significant the 0.09 average rating points more that the CS received is, given only 6 people rated the puzzle! Before that, last Saturday, it seems. Before the Saturday, it was that Friday.

  6. Andrew says:

    I think it’s fair to mention that the AVC puzzle uses OU (the letters entered into the base phrases of the theme entries) three times outside the theme entries (DO U LIE, HOUR, SOUP). I only mention because the theme of last Sunday’s NYT was lightly criticized for not keeping other AL bigrams out of non-theme entries.

    While I don’t really think it’s that big of a problem puzzle-wise, I am concerned that this sort of criticism is leveled most often at the NYT, while it is blissfully ignored for the indies. For the record, I thought the AVC was a much better puzzle and a superb construction, what with the two pairs of stacked 16 letter entries and whatnot. I would prefer to see consistency in reviewing criteria, however.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Of course, this theme specifically placed the bigram at the beginning and/or end of the base phrases, which helps keep the thematic OUs perfectly clear.

  7. annonamouse says:

    Sorry, just kidding.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Maybe next time, write “Just kidding” instead of a passive-aggressive “Just asking.” Humor was not conveyed.

  8. Bencoe says:

    Port is much more commonly a digestif. Aperitif wines are usually the light sparkling wines. But I agree that the phrase isn’t really in the language. You might say, “I’ll have a wine as an aperitif,” but you wouldn’t say, “I’ll have an aperitif wine.”

  9. ahimsa says:

    CS: I enjoyed the puzzle, and I learned that a BEER SCHOONER is a type of glass.

    Now, a growler, that I’ve heard about, even though I’m not a drinker. I live Oregon, land of countless microbreweries. There are places where you can bring your own growler and buy some of what’s on tap “to go.”

    PS. Is Yasiin Bey still using “MOS Def” as a stage name? (see 13 D) I thought he gave up that name.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      He’s certainly better known as Mos Def. Some months back, The Guardian released a video in which he volunteered to be subjected to Gitmo-style tube feeding, and the paper referred to him as Mos Def and a great many of the sites that linked to that also called him Mos Def.

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