Saturday, June 14, 2014

Newsday 13:29 (Amy) 
NYT 5:09 (Amy) 
LAT 4:20 (joon) 
CS 9:43 (Ade) 

Saturday morning update: I often don’t get a chance to do the unblogged indies but they get plenty of raves and I can never resist a “Something Different” challenge, so I just solved Evan Birnholz’s goofy “Something Different” puzzle at An entertaining 8-minute solve with some particularly rewarding in-joke 15s in the three triple stacks. I don’t think I’ve seen a themed “Something Different” puzzle before! Well played, Evan.

What the hell, let’s keep going. Andy Kravis’s Cruciverbalist-at-Law site has this week’s sometimes-crude themeless. Played like a Friday NYT at 4:21. Terrifically fresh cluing all around.

And then there’s Erik Agard’s themed 19×19 at Glutton for Pun, “State Your Name.” Great theme, though challenging for me to piece together. Took me 8:26, and I enjoyed the whole solve thanks to Erik’s lively cluing approach.

Of course, we can’t forget Todd McClary’s “Unthemely 53.” Wildly fresh fill in this one—Todd curates an impressive word list and he includes a number of entries that you probably have never seen in a crossword before. Crisp cluing, too. My favorite clue was 47d: [Anatomical drawing?]; solve the puzzle to see if you can get that one. Solving time 6:27.

Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 14 14, no. 0614

NY Times crossword solution, 6 14 14, no. 0614

I liked this themeless, what with all the juicy fill. Here’s what I appreciated most:

  • 1a. [“Diamonds and Rust” singer, 1975], JOAN BAEZ. Full name + pop culture + Scrabbly = win.
  • 15a. [“Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?,” e.g.], INNUENDO. Fun word, fun clue.
  • 31a. [Call for a meeting?], POINT OF ORDER. 
  • 34a. [Part of many a symphony], SCHERZO crossing another SCH word, 34d. [“America’s oldest lager beer”], SCHAEFER.
  • 38a. [Many a Cape Cod locale], CRANBERRY BOG. Never been to a cranberry bog, but am a big fan of bogs in general. Have you ever walked on top of a peat bog? It’s awesome. And wet.
  • 59a. [Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, for one], ISLAMIST. Lots of common letters but not commonly seen in crosswords despite the word’s newsy nature.
  • 60a. [Team whose playing venue appears on the National Register of Historic Places], RED SOX. Nice entry, though I do not support the team.
  • 7d. [Best Actor nominee for “American History X”], EDWARD NORTON. Missed that one but he was so memorable in Primal Fear.
  • 8d. [Fall asleep fast], ZONK OUT.
  • 12d. [Asian capital], KATMANDU. Let us not speak of Bob Seger.
  • 21d. [Kojak’s love of lollipops or Reagan’s love of jellybeans, e.g.], IDIOSYNCRASY. I note that ORAL FIXATION has the same letter count. Anyone go that route?
  • 26d. [Disobey directives, say], GO ROGUE. Love it.
  • 35d. [First person outside NASA to receive a moon-rock award, 2006], Walter CRONKITE.

If I can come up with a dozen answers that impressed me, I can much more easily forgive the smattering of things like ENHALO, EDER, -IZE, and SUERS.

Did not know: 13d. [Wild olive], OLEASTER. The olea part screams “olive” but the tree is less familiar to me than the unrelated OLEANDER. I do not at all mind learning new botany in a Saturday puzzle.

Boggiest crossing: Where 51a. [New Testament money], DENARII crosses 51d. [Longtime soap actress Linda] DANO at the D. I knew both, DENARII from challenging past crosswords and DANO from the television.

Four stars from me. Time to ZONK OUT now.

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Quadruple Twists”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.14.14: "Quadruple Twists"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.14.14: “Quadruple Twists”

Hey once again, and hope I’m catching you at the start of what will be a great Father’s Day weekend for you all!

There were no real twists in this puzzle offered up by Ms. Sarah Keller, except for the theme itself: four theme answers that define the word “twist” in different contexts.

  • BODY ROTATION: (20A: [Twist])
  • LADIES HAIR STYLE: (33A: [Twist])
  • COCKTAIL GARNISH: (43A: [Twist])
  • DOUGHNUT TYPE: (58A: [Twist])

They’re weren’t any real trouble spots, with the possible biggest snags coming with those odd spellings of EYDIE (55D: [Vocalist Gormé]) and SPYRI (25D: [“Heidi” author Johanna]). The uncommon definition used as the clue for LOCAL held me up a second, as I was thinking of a word that associated a little more with being nearby to an object or location (33D: [Not far off]). By the way, do you prefer to spell your EENIE like how it was spelled in this puzzle, or spelling it “eeny” (9D: [Start of a counting rhyme])?  Again, a nice, easy-going puzzle to start the weekend.  But with that, I’m going to introduce some unfiltered profanity…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELIA (66A: [Charles Lamb, pseudonymously])– So, soooo wanted O’CAT to be the “sports…smarter” moment (17A: [One _____ (kid’s ball game)]), the version of baseball in which there’s only home plate and one other base, and the batter runs to the base and back before being put out to score runs (sort of like cricket), but went with ELIA today. Why? Most people haven’t heard, in my opinion, the greatest head coaching post-game rant in baseball history, colorfully orated by then Chicago Cubs manager Lee Elia after a 1983 game. After a loss that plunged the team to 5-13 to start the season, he went after the Cubs fans who usually spend all their afternoons going to the day baseball games (the Cubs did not play a home night baseball game in its history until 1988) and weren’t showing support for the home team. Here’s the audio. (Note: It’s not safe for work and not for virgin ears AT ALL, but it is HILARIOUSLY FUNNY!)

Thank you, and I’ll see you for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Mark Bickham’s L.A. Times crossword—joon’s review

LA Times crossword solution, 6 14 14

LA Times crossword solution, 6 14 14

hello everyone, joon here filling in with the LA times puzzle while andy is away in merrie olde england. actually, due to a travel mishap, andy is not yet in england—in fact, he got stuck in boston during a layover and is actually at a hotel in my own hometown of somerville (!). hopefully we can get together for lunch later today, but in the meantime, you’ve got me here to blog the puzzle.

oh yes, the puzzle. this was a pretty good one, and a fast solve for me until i got bogged down in the SW corner. highlights:

  • right off the bat, {Screwdriver parts} VODKA AND OJ got me. i figured it was the drink, but i was not expecting this particular answer because i don’t know that it’s an actual phrase.
  • {___ Dea: Roman fertility goddess} BONA. i’m a huge mythology buff, but i didn’t know this at all. yikes. but i looked it up and it seems, well, bona fide.
  • {“Platoon” Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actor} is willem DAFOE, not novelist daniel DEFOE. anybody have a good mnemonic for keeping those two spellings straight? my best effort is that the “a” that should be in william (but got left out of willem) was shunted into DAFOE.
  • {Not once} NEVER EVER is a fun answer. kids definitely say this—do grownups?
  • {Ninjas, perhaps} clues ASSASSINS. sure, i guess so. this could also be clued as the sondheim musical. or, you know, historical examples, but the more recent ones might evoke painful memories.
  • {Order with hot milk} is CAFÉ AU LAIT. indeed, LAIT refers to milk.
  • {Frequent service station attendant?} is SELF, as in self-service (i assume for gas stations). clever!
  • {Classic spy comedy} clues MEN IN BLACK, but gosh, i don’t think of that as a spy comedy at all. this is not a judgment on whether it’s funny (the original does have its moments), mind you. but the fact that the MIB are part of a secretive government agency doesn’t make them spies. did this bug anybody else?
  • {Article in some modern music} is THA, and the modern music we’re talking about is hip-hop, not the AVANT-GARDE music of john cage. canonical example here.
  • speaking of AVANT-GARDE, the {[15-Across] Irish playwright} is samuel BECKETT. you know waiting for godot, of course, but endgame and krapp’s last tape are even avant-garder.
  • {Emperor before Vitellius} is OTHO. you can be forgiven for not knowing these roman emperors—they each reigned for only a couple of months, as they were the 2nd and 3rd in the “year of the four emperors”, 69 AD. galba was the first, and vespasian was #4; vespasian actually survived to rule for 10 years and was the founder of the flavian dynasty that held power for 27, encompassing the reigns of vespasian and his sons titus and domitian.
  • {Early invasion participant} is THE STONES. the clue refers to the british invasion, but i’m not sure there’s anything there to suggest the informal version of the band name. this is part of the reason i got hung up in that corner.
  • {Dive} HONKY-TONK. and this is another.
  • {Cheated} ROOKED. aaaaand this is another. i had CONNED at first and then TOOK IN once i had a couple more crosses.
  • {1980s speed skating gold medalist Karin} ENKE wasn’t helping me either.
  • {San José resident} is a COSTA RICAN, or tico for short. hey! costa rica is playing uruguay today in the world cup. i’ll be watching—it’s been a glorious world cup so far, full of action and goals and dodgy refereeing decisions. i can’t wait.

enjoy your saturday!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 6 14 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 6 14 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Another Saturday, another stumperizing Stumper. When a puzzle takes a good 2.5 times longer than a Saturday NYT, you know it’s a toughie.

New to me:

  • 11d. [Toronto suburb], OSHAWA. It’s almost 40 miles away so it might be stretching the definition of “suburb.” City motto: “Prepare To Be Amazed!” I hereby move that official mottos never contain an exclamation point.
  • 38a. [Cooler cousin], POP WINE. This might be an older term that nobody uses anymore. Certainly I’ve never heard it.
  • 46d. [Offshore drilling descriptor], SUBSEA. The rest of us use “undersea” but apparently SUBSEA is the go-to word in oil/gas drilling circles.

Top fill: EXXONMOBIL, FIELD AGENT, GAME DESIGN, the Oklahoma flag’s PEACE PIPE, STAND TALL, PELL-MELL. I might have liked a few more zippy, colorful entries in a 70-worder.

Interesting clues:

  • 11a. [“Sterno” or “scapola”], OSSO. Italian for “bone,” the clue words being Italian for sternum and scapula. Completely unknown to me and yet eventually gettable.
  • 41a. [ (“fueling the future” trade grp.’s website], AGA. American Gas Association, trade group for natural gas. Never heard of it, but “fuel” and “gas” partner well. And this AGA may well be more relevant to many Americans than the lowercase aga.
  • 61a. [It often requires board planning] GAME DESIGN.
  • 3d. [Moves often seen in pairs], AXELS. That’s pairs figure skating, mind you.
  • 8d. [Elizabeth : Cameron :: Akihito : __], Shinzo ABE, prime minister of Japan again.
  • 24d. [“Se creuser la __” (think really hard: Fr.)], TETE. Whoa! French idioms? That’s a tough category. Turns out it means “dig a hole in one’s head.”

Did not care for 7d: [Ready to be a senator], TOGAED.

Four stars.

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12 Responses to Saturday, June 14, 2014

  1. Slowpoke Rodriguez says:

    I had a lot of fun with today’s LAT. Love all the triple tens. Would have finished in great time if not for that pesky lower left corner.

  2. sbmanion says:

    Edward Norton was excellent in American History X. He was also good in Rounders, although as in almost all poker movies, the seminal poker hands (and the glaring tell) are ridiculous to serious players. Fight Club, Primal Fear, Moonrise Kingdom, and Red Dragon also come immediately to mind. I haven’t seen The Grand Budapest Hotel yet and am not sure if his role is cameo or substantial.

    I knew almost all the long entries (OLEASTER was the exception), so this puzzle fell very quickly for me.

    My only objection of sorts was that I prefer settlor over settler. Both are acceptable, so it is not a nit and there is some merit to an argument that settlor is more appropriate for use as a synonym for trustor, but I think of someone who settles a lawsuit as a settlor.


  3. Gareth says:

    Started with the gimme (love Joan Baez!) and the top was very easy for a Saturday. The bottom provided a lot more challenge, though! I finished in 10:40 with the I of IRS! Lol!

    • Brucenm says:

      Also love Joan; I’m pleased (and somewhat surprised) at the convergence. Wanted 3d to be a synonym for “doe”. :-) Happy to learn “finial” which is obviously a word I should have known.

      I agree with Steve’s second analysis: a “settlor” is a term of art for the creator of a trust; someone who settles a lawsuit is just an ordinary language settler.

  4. Gareth says:

    {Frequent service station attendant?} is SELF – not in South Africa! Good luck trying to find a self-service service station! I had HONEYTRAP before HONKYTONK in that corner, but I can’t tell you why. I guess like mother like son!

  5. Bob Bruesch says:

    LAT: waste of time -sophomoric drivel – I HATE slang in puzzles

  6. pannonica says:

    Belated, but thanks, Amy, for the highlighting of those independent puzzles. Fun stuff to solve, and the links were oh so handy-dandy.

    • Bencoe says:

      Neville Fogarty is also publishing his free indie puzzles again, and Peter Broda’s Cross Nerd site has both tough regular puzzles and tougher vowelless puzzles. I think it’s great that so many young constructors are doing free weekly/biweekly puzzles!

  7. John Haber says:

    A little late, but I gave Evan Birnholz’s a try, and can’t say it worked at all for me. In part, it was too pop culture-based for me (Garfield, LOLcats, Sharp TV, We Are Young, PGA champ). But mostly the device just had me scratching my head. Especially after entering SCARLET MANAGERS and thinking of scarlet tanagers, I was looking for a consistent trick, which after TWO QUAY (and thinking 2K) I’d ratcheted down to consistent punning. But it was just catch as one cans, and I think that asks much too little of the setter.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      John, Evan’s theme-within-unthemed-goofiness was that one of the 15s in each stack was one letter off from an entry frequently seen in triple- and quad-stacks. SCARLET TANAGERS, A TEENAGER IN LOVE, and A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE have all been used several times in themelesses over the past decade. I loved the inside-joke aspect of Evan’s trio.

  8. John Haber says:

    I guess it just wasn’t as obvious to me that there’s consistency when there are three stacks, even if one theme entry in each third of a puzzle is within bounds of many a puzzle. So perhaps I was just asking for too much!

  9. e.a. says:


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