Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NYT 2:56 (Amy) 
Tausig untimed (Amy) 
LAT 5:19 (Gareth) 
CS 11:26 (Ade) 

Amy Johnson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers, 6 18 14, no. 0618

NY Times crossword answers, 6 18 14, no. 0618

Is it just me or was this surprisingly easy for a Wednesday puzzle? Plenty of Scrabbly fill, quite literally:

  • 17a. [2001 best seller about competitive Scrabble], WORD FREAK. I bought a copy years ago … still haven’t read it.
  • 26a. [Japanese “soft art” (max opening score of 92 points)], JUJITSU.
  • 29a. [Sounds of censure (max opening score of 80 points)], TSKTSKS. I am surprised to learn that the Scrabble dictionary has that as a single word, no space or hyphen.
  • 43a. [Totally inept sorts (max opening score of 104 points)], SPAZZES.
  • 45a. [Ran off, in a way (max opening score of 94 points)], XEROXED.
  • 58a. [What you’d need to play 26-, 29-, 43- or 45-Across], BLANK TILE.

Are these scores assuming a blank or giving credit for the second Scrabbly letter? Apparently there is a higher-scoring opening gambit: MUZJIKS for 128. Would you nail a Wednesday-level clue for that word? I sure wouldn’t. I could have gotten QUETZAL, though.

Despite not knowing any list of impressive Scrabble openers, I zipped through the theme clues with the aid of “it’s gotta have a Z, X, Q, J, or K.”

Looking outside of the theme, the fill seems rather ordinary. Scrabblier than usual, but otherwise within normal limits. No marked surfeit of crosswordese, no excess of names, and no particular delights outside of the theme entries. Four stars from me.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Talk Turkey!”—Ade’s write-up  

CrossSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.18.14: "Talk Turkey"

CrossSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.18.14: “Talk Turkey”

Hey there, and a Happy Hump Day to you once again!

The grid offered up today by Mr. Randall J. Hartman gets down to business…literally gets down to business! Each of the three entries are common phrases, with the clue being a hypothetical of what a person would literally do as an occupation when playing off the last word of that phrase. That probably was the worst explanation of a theme in CrosSynergy history, and for that, I apologize! But I did know what was going on…I promise!!! (I think.)

  • DELIVER THE WORD: (20A: [At Microsoft, a software engineer gets to…])
  • ADDRESS THE ISSUE: (37A: [At a magazine, an editor gets to…])
  • SPEAK IN TONGUES: (48A: [At a butcher shop, the butcher gets to…])

Let this crossword live long and prosper, especially with the MIND, MELD double play (1A: [With 1-Down, telepathic technique used by Mr. Spock]). The clue to ACCENT now is going to remind me of all the words that I can say with a Boston-area twist (5A: [In Boston, this makes a god out of a guard]). Oh, and seeing EAGLE makes me jealous of anyone who has ever gone 2-under par on any hole or in a whole round at a golf outing (22D: [Hole in one on a par three]). I have only played a round of golf once in my entire life, and I would give anything to be anything near half-decent at the sport. Well, to do that, I would have to play the game more often, right? Might have to add a round or two to the summer plans…maybe.

A couple of good music references, with BEAT IT (44D: [1983 chart-topper by Michael Jackson]) and IRMA (50D: [Singer Thomas known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans”]). Listened to a lot of Irma Thomas when I discovered an Internet streaming station called WeFunk a few years back, and her music is great! And speaking of great music, I’d be remiss not to mention the appearance of The Boss, BRUCE (32D: [Rocker Springsteen]). Now finish this sentence: My favorite Springsteen song is _______. I understand that not everyone might be a fan of Bruce, but if you are, let me know what you would fill that blank with!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EVERT (62A: [Six-time US Open winner Chris]) – When Wimbledon starts next Monday, Serena Williams will be looking to win her 18th Grand Slam singles titles, which would tie her with both Martina Navratilova and Chris EVERT for the most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era (beginning in 1968). Evert not only won six US Opens, but she won seven French Open titles, three Wimbledon titles and two Australian Open championships. Probably the most remarkable stat about Chris Evert is this: in the 56 Grand Slams she played in, she made at least the semifinals in 52 of them, including making the semifinals in 34 consecutive majors that she entered, from 1971 to 1983!! In short, she was good.

Thank you so much everyone, and I’ll talk with you on Thursday!

Take care, all!


Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Notes in Closing”

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 6 18 14 "Notes in Closing"

Ink Well / Chicago Reader crossword solution, 6 18 14 “Notes in Closing”

Despite the title, Ben isn’t closing up the shop this week. Instead, musical notes are added to the end of familiar words and phrases to bollix ’em up. For added elegance, the seven notes appear in their standard order, with the highest notes rising to the top of the grid. I’ve circled the notes in my solution.

  • 18a. [The first six inches of a foot-long?], SUB PART I. Subpar + TI gets split up.
  • 20a. [“Why not give this famous horror film actor a chance?”?], “LET BELA.” Let be is a little boring, but I like the Belas, Lugosi and Karolyi. (Sorry, Bartok. I hardly know you.)
  • 30a. [Belly up to the bar and ask for a pint of disinfectant?], ORDER LYSOL. Orderly gets a new word break. (NOTE: Do not drink Lysol, and do not use it as a contraceptive.)
  • 36a. [“Please, please be a love seat or a recliner or something …”?], “SAY IT AIN’T SOFA.” What? There aren’t many words that end with FA and begin with something that can be a word in its own right. “Here We Go Looby-Loofa” just won’t fly.
  • 45a. [South Beach parent?], MAMMA MIAMI. Mamma Mia!
  • 59a. [Musical genre with singing parakeets, bass-playing pugs, etc.?], PETCORE. Petco stores meet all sorts of music I don’t know. Visit Wikipedia’s list of pop genres and do a control-F or command-F with “core” to see the dozens of “___core” genres out there.
  • 61a. [Protagonist who does not kill orcs after sundown on the Sabbath?], JEW FRODO. Ha! The Jewfro hairdo meets The Lord of the Rings. I like how SAURON follows this answer.

Least common fill:

  • 33a. [West African storyteller], GRIOT. That’s a great word.
  • 53a. [___ penis], GLANS. We’re all grown-ups here.
  • 69a. [Mitt Romney’s eldest son], TAGG. I was surprised to read this week that there’s some enthusiasm in Republican quarters for another Romney presidential run.
  • 2d. [“Cannonball” band, with “the”], BREEDERS. Could also have gone with dog breeders or the pejorative term for people with children.
  • 54d. [Keanan of “Step By Step”], STACI. Who?? Apparently we don’t have a lot of famous Staci options; Stacy and Stacey have better options. Although if you’re younger than me and were watching family sitcoms in the ’90s when I had a mortgage, Keanan may be hugely famous.
  • 45d. [Arab house of worship, in Arabic], MASJID. Mosque is derived from it.
  • 46d. [Star: Prefix], ASTERO. There are many times more words with the astro- prefix; astero- is pretty uncommon.
  • 47d. [Ian whose “Atonement” was adapted into a Best Picture nominee], MCEWAN. He won the Booker Prize for an earlier book.

4.25 stars. The ambitious theme pushes past fill like OCTA, IN ESSE, and ASTERO.

Andrew J. Ries’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140618

LA Times 140618

You don’t often see Andrew’s byline in regular publications as he has his own indie gig here! So it was a pleasant surprise to see his name on this puzzle.

So, another horror flick reveal in the LA Times! I bet Steve Blais, who indicated his pleasure at the last puzzle’s revealer, got another thrill! I’m always a fan of “people who’s names have x in common” themes, and this one has a very clever revealer too! THE OMEN is reparsed as THE ‘O’ MEN, and Andrew has collected a group whose names have o’s as their only vowels. The guys are:

  • [Rolling Stones guitarist], RONWOOD – although he is more commonly referred to as RONNIE. He joined the Stones late, replacing Mick Taylor, and was already famous via his membership in the Jeff Beck Group (later called The Faces)
  • [Harpers Ferry raider], JOHNBROWN – as immortalised in this song, later called The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
  • [Legendary Manhattan restaurateur], TOOTSSHOR – I only know him from crosswords! I’ll take the puzzle’s word for it that he’s legendary!
  • [“The Joy of Painting” artist], BOBROSS – vaguely rings a bell, I think he was the answer to a LearnedLeague question!
  • [Regular on Bob Newhart sitcoms], TOMPOSTON – again rings a vague bell, but I don’t think I’d be able to pick him out of a line-up. I think I saw an episode of the Newhart sitcom that was set in an inn once…

I really liked today’s 1a, both in clue and answer: [Part of a Genesis-inspired costume], FIGLEAF! Now that’s how to open your account! I also really enjoyed the clue two-fer of [Sample, for example], RHYME and [Specimen, for example: Abbr.], SYN. Normally this strikes me as a cheap trick, but doing it two different ways was cool! There were a couple of other mini-themes: [Suffragist Elizabeth Cady __], STANTON and [Suffragist Lucretia], MOTT occupy the bottom-right corner and helps offset the masculinity of the theme. If Amy does the puzzle I’ll bet she’ll be happy to see them both! There was also the boozy three-fer of COSMO/JULEP and GIN. The only negative for me was MALECAT, which strikes me as an arbitrary answer: you wouldn’t accept MALETAPIR say, or MALEDOUROUCOULI?

4.5 Stars. Great revealer, tight theme. I don’t consider my personal unfamiliarity with some of the theme people a negative.

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12 Responses to Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: this was easy fun. Nothing wrong with that…I only play Scrabble once a year, during Christmas holidays when the whole family gathers. Still, this felt very smooth, and proves that rarer letters are particularly helpful in a puzzle. SPAZZES was a surprise because I thought it was not considered PC. Has that changed?

    • Brucenm says:

      Same reaction to “spazzes.”

      46d {Key of a Bach bourrée} is a weird clue, rather like {Color of a T-Shirt}. The clue might as well just be {Key}. I guess the idea is that he e Minor Bourrée from the Anna Magdalena notebook is well-known, but so are many other Bach bourrées in many keys.

      But I would love to see clues of this nature that are more challenging, (especially in a no-cheating environment), such as {Key of two Beethoven Symphonies.} There is a unique answer. NO Googling!

      For someone who sometimes bitches about Ben’s puzzles, am I ever going to miss him. There are many creative constructors out there, but no one quite so wildly, off-the-wall creative as Ben, to wit, today’s poignantly titled “Notes in closing.” 30 and 36a, especially are hilarious. And I still had to put up with 2d, where I had BREE-E-S. Fortunately, the most plausible guess turned out right.

    • Ethan says:

      Really, SPAZ (and SPAZZES) are not PC? I’m in my mid-30s and only ever knew of them as perfectly acceptable words. What’s the non-PC root meaning?

      • Brucenm says:

        This is off the top of my head, but I think “spaz” is taken from “spastic” which is sometimes used as a derisive, contemptuous reference to one with a neuro-muscular disorder of some sort. I’m not personally offended, just surprised, as Huda said.

      • David L says:

        Tiger Woods got into some trouble a few years ago in the UK, after he described himself as playing like a spaz in the British Open. The word is seriously a no-no over there. When I was growing up, there used to be a charity called the British Spastics Fund, or some such, and their logo was some poor kid with leg irons. So of course spaz became a schoolboy term of abuse, like retard and all the rest. So there’s a lingering history.

        • Brad Wilber says:

          I consider myself pretty easygoing about the language of disability. If people refer to me as “handicapped,” I don’t feel it’s something to be nobly forgiven, corrected, etc. I don’t need to be “differently abled” or “challenged.” (I mean, lots of the time this doesn’t come up because there are more interesting things to talk about, but I also try to foster a dynamic where people can ask me about it and get candid answers.) But as someone with the “spastic paraplegia” variety of cerebral palsy, I would say that even for the most laid-back people in the category, “spaz” drifts over into the space occupied by “crippled” etc. This is not to slam the Scrabble dictionary, the puzzle, or anybody’s breakfast-test questions. I think I might have preferred SPAZ as a verb here — sort of similar to the difference between saying “I hate it when people do X” rather than “I hate people who X.”

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Thank you for your contribution, Brad. I will be more conscious of “spaz” used as a noun and its potential to hurt and offend.

        • Gareth says:

          Yes, I’m 27, and it’s generally considered similarly to “retard” in my circles.

          • Zulema says:

            It was considered similar to “retard” and discouraged when my daughters were in Junior High and that is almost 50 years ago. I was not happy to find it in the puzzle, but then I was not happy to find a “butchery” shop yesterday, though not for the same reason, of course.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, to answer your question, the scores do NOT give any point credit to the blank tile. However, the knowledgeable player would put the high-scoring tile on a double-letter-score square. That doubled amount for the letter is counted in when the entire score is doubled (doubled because the opening entry is always placed on a tile that results in double word score). Then 50 points are added for using all 7 tiles.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I have to say that “spaz” isn’t something I’ve heard for ages. More timely, though, is tthat the U S Patent Office has responded to the complaints of Native American groups and removed “Redskins” from the approved list of trademarks as offensive and no longer allowable. Wow, what an interesting twist to that controversy! Hats off to them…

  4. Howard B says:

    The scores assume a blank for the second letter, as there is only one J, Q, Z, and X in the set; so the second must be a blank (zero points) in order to play these words. Also why MUZJIKS and QUETZAL won’t fit this theme :)

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