Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jonesin' 3:48 (Amy) 
NYT 3:20 (Amy) 
LAT 3:!4 (Amy) 
CS 8:43 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “You Missed a Spot–when things don’t come full circle”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 6 24 14 "You Missed a Spot"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 6 24 14 “You Missed a Spot”

This isn’t Matt’s first time playing with the form of letters. He’s done the upside-down and sideways letters before, and here the original phrases contain an O that is missing a spot—thereby turning into a C:

  • 18a. [One wing of the Museum of Poisons?], ARSENIC HALL. Arsenio Hall.
  • 35a. [The act of keeping a basketball player from leaving the team?], FORWARD LOCKING. Forward-looking. Mild demerit for uncut O’s elsewhere in the answer.
  • 45a. [Maximum amount of “aw” you can get from cat pictures?], THE CUTER LIMITS. The Outer Limits.
  • 64a. [Fleetwood Mac’s John or Christine, without any singing parts?], SILENT McVIE. Silent movie.

I do love a theme that plays with the shapes of letters rather than their sounds and meanings.

Five Seven more things:

  • 14a. [A thousand times more than a mil], BIL. Who uses this? I don’t. “A cool bil”? It’s plausible but I haven’t heard it, I don’t think.
  • 20a. [“Veil of ignorance” philosopher John], RAWLS. I assume he’s the grandfather of Lou Rawls. Do not disabuse me of this notion.
  • 40a. [Extra-spesh attention], TLC. Spesh is short for “special,” just as totes adorbs means “totally adorable.” Don’t complain about kids these days ruining the English language. Every generation plays with language and introduces new expressiveness.
  • 52a. [Is guaranteed to work], CAN’T FAIL. Dang it, I missed the “is” and plugged in FAIL-SAFE.
  • 75a. [“Bang and Blame” band], REM. Wait, what? How have I never heard this title?
  • 7d. [Get older with style], AGE WELL. Great entry. I am working on this!
  • 28d. [He was Sulu], TAKEI. George Takei! He made an “It Got Better” video that’s quite touching.

A few short answers I could do without—NEL, ENE, -ETH—but overall, smooth fill. Four stars from me.

Heather Valadez’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 24 14, no. 0624

NY Times crossword solution, 6 24 14, no. 0624

The theme revealer fills the whole middle row: 40a. COVERT OPERATIONS is clued as [Secret military mission … or a hint to the circled letters in this puzzle?], and the circled letters spell out the arithmetic operations.

  • 18a. [Sleep state for an electronic device], STANDBY MODE. ADD is hidden.
  • 24a. [Outsource, as part of a job], SUBCONTRACT. A few letters in the middle of SUBTRACT.
  • 50a. [Like World of Warcraft and other fare for 66-Acrosses], MULTIPLAYER. WoW is an MMORPG, or massively multiplayer online role-playing game. 66a ties in with GAMER. Lots of other game ways to clue MULTIPLAYER, but WoW has been around for a decade. As with 24a, only 3 letters in the word aren’t part of MULTIPLY.
  • 62a. [It’s on the left in the U.S. and the right in the U.K.], DRIVER’S SIDE. Covert DIVIDE.

I see from Wordplay that this is the constructor’s debut (not published in other venues before, either), and that she relishes the mathy nerdosity of the theme (I like it too). She also geeked out on FJORDs when she researched a clue for 9-Across. I approve wholeheartedly.

Five more things:

  • 53d. [They provide richness in batter], YOLKS. Also in French vanilla ice cream.
  • 36a. [Really cool, in slang], SICK. Has this one been ruined by adults yet? My son says yes, that his peers aren’t using it that way anymore. SICK : now :: RAD : the ’80s.
  • 21d. [Magnesium chloride, e.g.], ICE MELT. Here’s a brand of ice melt that uses calcium chloride. Both of these salts are in a bottled water I eyeballed at the store today—with “electrolytes added for taste.” Say what?
  • 15a. [Author of Gothic short stories, in short], E.A. POE. The E.A. stands for “Entry’s Awkward.” NENE and EWER are the old-school crossword entries in this grid.
  • 5d. [Tangle], RAT’S NEST. Like the wires under my desk.

Four stars. Looking forward to your next puzzles, Heather!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Crazy Glue”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 6/24

Crossword Nation 6/24

Ya know, I don’t wanna marry it, but I sure do love this puzzle. There’s something about the theme, the way it’s been executed and the title tie-in that just sing to me. Take into consideration the high percentage of fine non-theme fill with its cleverly-crafted cluing as well, and you have yourself one satisfying solve. You know how I often talk about a puzzle’s “internal glue”? Well then how could I not love the many ways “Crazy Glue” works here? No homage to epoxy this, the “glue” is, instead, a synonym for “crazy,” as spelled out at 54A. [Bonkers…or an overlapping word in four themed answers] MAD. It’s that “overlapping” (or “embedded”) word that’s each straightforwardly-clued themer’s own literal, internal glue. And there’s a healthy dose of the metaphorical sort as well. Behold:

  • 17A. DRAMA DESK AWARDS [Annual honors that recognize excellence in New York theatre]. They’ve been around since 1955 and may be bestowed on Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions. The original production of [“Cat on A HOT Tin Roof”] (which won a second Pulitzer Prize for playwright Tennessee Williams) was excluded from consideration (because Broadway productions weren’t included until the 1968-69 season…), though revivals have garnered nominations and awards for several actors.
  • 27A. PRIMA DONNA [High-maintenance queen]. Of either gender…
  • 48A. ROMA DOWNEY [She played Megan in “Funky Monkey”]. Hmmm. Missed this one. Looks like most who saw it wished they had, too. Still, this title is “funner”/far less spiritual than so many of the projects Ms. D. has been attached to.
  • 61A. THELMA DICKINSON [She was Louise Sawyer’s pal in a 1991 adventure buddy film]. Terrific grid spanner, giving us the first and last names of this iconic screen character. And if you’re scratchin’ your head trying to figure out which movie this is—after all, it was released 23 years ago—it’s this one. Which proved to be a break-out piece for this guy.

And there’s a meta-bonus, right there at center: 39A. NUTTY [Like this puzzle’s theme?]. Perhaps, but there’s also a great deal of “method” to all of the MADness—which is one of the reasons why this puzzle is so good.

Here are some more:

  • The visual-clue approach to fill that we tend to see a lot. How much fresher to encounter the celestial URSA when clued as [Bear that twinkles in the sky]; or to be reminded that TV’s ALF is no mere Alien Life Form but an [Alien with a prominent nose].
  • New approach to cluing ENA. Or new to me, anyway. Have always thought of ENA as “Bambi’s aunt.” Yes and no. In the book, yes. In the movie, no. In the movie (where her character name is “Aunt Ena“), she’s Bambi’s mother-in-law and mother to Faline, hence [Deer mother in “Bambi”]. (Wish I could say this Disney Wiki page will clarify everything, but I find/found it kinda confusing.)
  • The internal glue-providing shout-outs (some direct, some more oblique) to the fine arts and classical music. In the first category: [Swiss painter Paul KLEE] and Leonardo, by way of [Mona Lisa’s mystery], her SMILE. In the second, ALMAS [Girls named for Frau Mahler] (also Gropius and Werfel [the thrice-married Alma Schindler was herself a composer]); [Grammy-winning Chicago Symphony director] Sir Georg SOLTI, who recorded (Gustav) Mahler (multiple times)—and just about everyone else; and ORGAN MUSIC, punningly (and most fittingly) clued [Bach composition that might have you pulling out all the stops?].
  • And for balance, some sports (DEKE [hockey], Rafael NADAL [tennis] and crossword stalwart ARA Parseghian [football]); and a nod to science and scientists with that fine word EPONYM, [Curie, Tesla or Fermi] and the “units” that bear their names.
  • Clues that make ya think twice, like [Left keys on a laptop?]. House keys? Did I leave my house keys on my laptop? No. More like “home keys” found on the left-hand side of the keyboard: A-S-D-F. Nice way of finessing an otherwise nasty cluster of letters.
  • Funny quotes! [TV Judge who said: “If I could fine you for stupid, I would fine you for stupid”]. I mean, who-else-but, but thank you, Judge JUDY. For more straight-talk, take a gander.
  • Fine phrasal fill: NEW AT, ON EDGE, RAKE IN.
  • Words that send me to the dictionary—like STARFISHES, whose visual clue [Five-pointers in the sea] I love. Just wasn’t expecting that -ES ending. Merriam-Webster (Collegiate, 11th edition) includes fishes, but not starfishes in its pages; American Heritage (third edition) has ’em both. Makes me wonder how William STRUNK, Jr. [“The Elements of Style” co-author] mighta weighed in. Also (compounded by the fact that I didn’t know Thelma‘s last name was Dickinson), neither NORI [Seaweed sheets used for sushi] nor K’NEX [Building toy brand in competition with Lego] came easily. (Gotta love the former’s tongue-twister of a clue. Good luck sayin’ that one five times, fast!)
  • Remembrances of guilty-pleasure-viewing past (I only lasted for the first three seasons): [“Grey’s ANATOMY” (medical drama on TV)].

Clearly I am, um, kinda stuck on this puzzle (and I could go on…), but I’ve already kinda overstayed my welcome, so I’m outta here. Hope you took as much pleasure in solving this one as yours truly!

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I Want a Piece of You”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.24.14: "I Want a Piece of You"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.24.14: “I Want a Piece of You”

Good day everybody!

Our puzzle today, offered up to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, deals with figure of speech phrases that involve body parts, specifically phrases in which body parts are figuratively handed over. In that case, there’s no “break a leg” or “kiss my foot.” I guess there’s another phrase that involves kissing a body part, but I’ll just let that sleeping dog lie.

  • LEND ME YOUR EARS: (20A: [Request for attention])
  • CAN I HAVE A HAND: (36A: [Request for help]) – Alternate clue: Would you unappreciative audience members applaud me for my great performance on stage?
  • GIVE ME SOME SKIN: (56A: [Request for a high five])

It’s possible that our constructor likes to go out on the golf course, with both ROUGHS (22A: [Difficult places for some drivers]) and NINE IRON (30D: [Club not used for long shots]) in the grid. But, as I’ve said before, when it comes to playing golf, I have NO IDEA what I’m doing on the course (45D: [Nary a clue]). Haven’t seen TAM-O in a long while in a grid, but now I know it hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur just yet (8D: [____-shanter]). In the northwest, I was caught typing in AWARD instead of SWEDE, and that cost me some time (5D: [Nobel, for one]). And although I’m born and raised in the big city of New York, I always like my time in SUBURBIA when I visit friends just outside of the Big Apple (9D: [Bedroom communities]).

True (and somewhat sad) story: around this time three years ago, I was flying out of Atlanta (laying over from Dallas) into New York, and the person who initially sat next to me when we were boarding was someone who had to be a salesman in his past life. He was saying hello, asking questions, talking 100 miles per hour, and all I could think was, “Is this going to happen the entire flight back?” But then, he got up, said he would be right back, and then proceeded to walk towards the back on the plane. I thought he was going to the bathroom, but, a couple of minutes later, a young, attractive lady sits in the seat next to me. Being Mr. Smooth Operator, I said to her, “You’re not a guy with gray hair,” in reference to the person sitting next to me before. Turns out the lady had switched seats with the guy so the guy could sit with his wife, who was sitting further back in the plane. Lucky me, I thought.

I know what you’re asking now: How does this relate to today’s puzzle?!?!? Well, as she and I started to strike up a conversation and were getting to know each other, she told me that she graduated from Pepperdine University, located in MALIBU (28A: [Beach off the Pacific Coast Highway]). We had the same majors (broadcast journalism), had the same personalities, had a few laughs and we ended up keeping in touch for a good while after our flight. But alas, I haven’t been in touch with her in about a year, and seeing the Malibu clue just reminded me that I tried calling her a week back and got no response. I’m going to kick myself if I don’t talk with her again and see how she is doing. A potential love story halted due to ignorance. Cue the violin.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STRAW (14A: Scarecrow stuffing])– Who was the most talented baseball player you ever saw? That’s definitely a great conversation starter amongst baseball fanatics, and if you were to ask me, I would have to answer with the man they called STRAW, eight-time All-Star and New York Mets legend Darryl Strawberry. The first pick of the 1980 MLB Draft, Strawberry was one of the most unique players in baseball history: he was tall (6’6″) yet combined blazing speed with prodigious power, and also had a tremendous arm in right field. I remember growing up watching Mets games on television and Strawberry hitting mammoth, tape-measure home runs with his pretty left-handed swing. His potential was limitless, and even with his more than respectable career numbers that he ended up with (335 career HR, 1,000 RBI), drug use and multiple run-ins with the law prevented him from being a surefire Hall-of-Famer. But I still say that most talented player who I ever saw on a baseball diamond, to this day, is Straw.

If you’re baseball fan, let me ask you: who is the most talented player you have ever seen? Most talented doesn’t necessarily mean the best player you saw. Just the one who just took your breath away when you saw him play, on television or otherwise. While you ponder that, I wish you a very happy Tuesday, and will talk with you tomorrow!

Take care!


Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 6 24 14

LA Times crossword solution, 6 24 14

I know plenty of people enjoy this sort of “clues and answers are swapped” theme, but I find it almost universally disappointing as the theme answers are the sorts of contrived phrases that don’t typically pass muster as crossword fill. Here, three rather specific things that can be defined as “runners” of various types make up the theme:

  • 20a. [Runner on a corridor floor], HALLWAY CARPET. I don’t call that a “hallway carpet.” I call it a runner. The [… corridor floor] bit is might dry, too.
  • 40a. [Runner in a long race], MARATHON ENTRANT. Not really in-the-language as a phrase. Those people are marathoners, they’re marathon runners. A “marathon entrant” is someone who paid the entry fee but might not even show up for the race. Hopefully my husband will make it into October without an injury and will run the Chicago Marathon for the first time in 11 years!
  • 58a. [Runner in a nursery], PLANT OFFSHOOT. The “off” part is bugging me here, because more often we just call those things shoots, not offshoots.

So, yeah, this theme doesn’t do it for me.

The long Downs are great—DIRT-CHEAP and FRONT PAGE.

Three more things:

  • 56d. [Name synonymous with synonyms], ROGET. Cute clue!
  • 46a. [Dry twigs for a fire], TINDER. Also the name of an app that facilitates hookups among shallow people.
  • 68a. [Vitamin __: PABA], B-TEN, as in B10. No longer considered a vitamin, apparently. Spelled-out number, meh.

2.75 stars from me.

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7 Responses to Tuesday, June 24, 2014

  1. sbmanion says:

    A few years ago, my son was a Rank 1 Rogue in WoW and was on a team that was one of the 12 best in the world. He was invited to play in a tournament that had a $50,000 first prize. I watched it online along with 17,000 others and two play by play commentators. There was a non-stop stream of comments obviously from juvenile males. I did not understand anything. Sadly, my son’s team came in ninth, so he didn’t win any money, although he has won about $2,000 worth of junk and apparently the game paraphernalia he has accumulated is worth several thousand dollars. I still think the South Park spoof of WoW was the single funniest episode in the history of that show.

    I thought this was an excellent puzzle, very clever. Wonderful debut.


  2. John says:

    Really loved this one (I’m a math teacher so maybe I’m a little biased…) although the SANA and KENAI crossing made me wish I knew geography better.

  3. Martin says:

    Re the BEQ:

    “TLC. Spesh is short for “special,” just as totes adorbs means “totally adorable”

    Actually, this form of first syllable-shortening slang was very common in the 1920’s-30’s, especially in England with the flappers and the so-called “bright young things”. You’ll see it a lot in P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories. If you check out YouTube, look for Hugh Laurie doing Bertie.. this kind of speech is all over the place (it was common in the music from that time too).


    • Gareth says:

      Or “You Rang M’Lord” – a lot of the full episodes of which are on Youtube and other similar sites!

      • Deb Amlen says:

        Totally where I first developed my mad crush on Hugh Laurie. Loved the books and the series.

  4. Gareth says:

    The one weak spot with the NYT is that the “prefixes” in SUBTRACT and MULTIPLY are repeated in the theme answers. I don’t see a way around that though.

  5. ahimsa says:

    Jonesin’: Loved it! I managed to finish without errors though I was befuddled for a while by BIL. I don’t know the taxi app at all so thank goodness UBER was a recognizable word.

    Re: TAKEI, I’m a fan. Anyone remember the “It’s okay to be Takei” video? He also did a great interview on Kamau Bell’s show, Totally Biased. (show has since been cancelled, darn it!)

    NYT: Wow, what a nice puzzle from a new constructor! I always enjoy a math theme. I didn’t care for the SANA spelling of the Yemeni capital (is that just a very old spelling or still accepted variant?) but that was the only complaint I had. Kudos!

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