Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fireball 6:56 (Amy) 
NYT 4:39 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:19 (Amy) 
LAT 4:12 (Gareth) 
BEQ 5:17 (Matt) 
CS 10:15 (Ade) 

Pawel Fludzinski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 26 14, no. 0626

NY Times crossword solution, 6 26 14, no. 0626

Unusual theme: Various 4- and 5-letter words are clued straightforwardly, but their space in the grid occupies 7 or 8 squares because those words must be written IN BED, thereby forming new past-tense verbs:

  • 17a. *___ Motel], BROACHED. Roach Motel in BED.
  • 24a. *Dressing choice], BRANCHED.
  • 40a. How breakfast may be served … or how the answers to the eight starred clues should be entered?], IN BED. Located just below the grid’s center.
  • 49a. *Longtime TV weatherman], BROKERED.
  • 58a. *Divide up], BALLOTED.
  • 3d. *Bit of hair], BLOCKED.
  • 11d. *Bit of excitement], BRUSHED.
  • 38d. *Leeway], BROOMED. Had no idea this was a word, this BROOMED, but you can play it in Scrabble. (Other “Wait, is that really a word?” entries: ALERTER, SOARERS, OAT SEED. The first two, as single words, are kosher for Scrabble. The two-worder is a [Cereal grain], apparently.)
  • 42d. *Like Pisces, in the zodiac], BLASTED.

Given that each corner of the grid is fairly wide-open but locked down by two interlocking theme answers—and the center zone has the revealer—the fill is constrained. I was not delighted to see AMBS (plural abbreviation for ambassadors) parked at 1-Across, setting the stage for me to be further undelighted by LALO, ALERTER, EDEL, A-BOO, ERENOW, ALB (Canadians! Help me out here. [It’s between B.C. and Sask.] can only clue ALTA, right? ALB is entirely bogus?), REA, SOARERS, plural interjection AWS, ISS., LYS, and both AUR**LE options, AURICLE ([Outer ear]) and AUREOLE ([Radiant light around the head]). Three or four grumblers, I can tolerate; more than 10 and my estimation of a puzzle’s value to me plummets. I will say this for AUREOLE, though: It has bailed me out plenty of times in Scrabble when I want to get rid of a rack full of vowels.

29d. [Habitual drunkard], ROUNDER? This one is new to me. I don’t think I’ve ever known this word.

Favorite fill: YOKO ONO snuggled alongside John LENNON; DRUM SET (we would also have accepted DRUM KIT); and BARNARD, which I could’ve sworn I just read was turning coed, but the internet suggests I may have dreamt that.

3.75 stars for the theme, 2.75 stars for the fill. A 72-worder packed with 7s pleases me only if the fill doesn’t put me off.

Julian Lim’s Fireball crossword, “Take the Shortcut”

Fireball crossword solutiopn, 6 26 14 "Take the Shortcut"

Fireball crossword solutiopn, 6 26 14 “Take the Shortcut”

I love this theme, even though the revealer doesn’t translate over to the Mac platform. 61d. [Key that’s the key to the shortcuts in this puzzle] clues CTRL, and while the Mac keyboard does have a “control” key, it’s the “command” key that works in these keyboard shortcuts. The letter that pairs with CTRL or command replaces the word for its function, rebus style; the shortcut letter is used as a regular letter in the Down crossers.

  • 20a. [“Aww”-inspiring], XE AS A BUTTON. Ctrl-x means CUT, so {CUT}E AS A BUTTON is what the answer really is.
  • 26a. [1965 Best Picture Oscar winner], THE SOZ F MUSIC. The indispensable command-z means UNDO.
  • 46a. [Common procedure for an orthopedic surgeon], KNEE ARTHROSC. Ctrl-c for COPY.
  • 55a. [Things you’ve lived through, pleonastically], V XPERIENCES. Command-v for PASTE.

How neat is that? (Answer: Quite neat indeed.)

Lots of juicy fill here, too: A HOMOPHOBE is an [Unlikely pride parade participant]. “Are you ON CRACK?” means “Are you [Nuts]?” in slang. 63a. [“You-Know-Who” of fantasy lit] is VOLDEMORT. 40d. “ON THE D.L.” means [Hush-hush]; this is not the “on the disabled list” of baseball, it’s “on the down low,” as in a man living publicly as a straight guy with a wife or girlfriend while sneaking around to have sex with other men (this 2003 New York Times article taught me the term). EX-COP, 51d. [One who’s no longer one of the finest], is very much in-the-language. SEQUOIA, U.S. BANK, XANADU, CAMARO—also good.

Learned two things from the answers that cross in the middle: DON HO is the [Singer whose backup group was called the Aliis], and a [Roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando] is called the MANTA.

4.5 stars from me. Smart and clever puzzle.

Zoe Wheeler’s American Values Club crossword, “Flexibility”

AV Club crossword solution, 6 26 14 "Flexibility"

AV Club crossword solution, 6 26 14 “Flexibility”

38a. [Action that makes bad situations worse, and this puzzle’s theme] clues A TURN OF THE SCREW, and that’s an idiom that I didn’t know had any meaning apart from the novel The Turn of the Screw. Eight slangy synonyms for “screw” (in the “have sex with” connotation) take a turn down in the grid (in the circled squares). Turn down for what? For the crossword theme. There’s BONK, BANG, SHAG, TAP, KNOW in the biblical sense, PORK, SMASH (boy, that one’s new to me), and LAY. Look, ma! No F-word!

Five items of note:

  • 17a. [“Ya don’t say!”], “NO KIDDING!” Great entry. It duplicates the NO of “HECK, NO!” but both answers are so good.
  • 42a. [Pat on the back, say], BURP. Works best in babies, it appears.
  • 61a. [Kinky agreement], “YES, MASTER.” I Dream of Jeannie, anyone? (Looking at you, Doug Peterson.)
  • 22d. [Job preceder], ESTHER. As in books of the Old Testament. Crikey! I was reading that as “job” with a small J.
  • 24d. [Place to enter words], TEXT BOX. Two X’s, just for the hell of it.

Unfavorite fill: UNPEG, NABE … and that’s pretty much it. Smooth grid here.

4.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Farmville Residents” — Matt’s review


I don’t play Farmville and was therefore a little worried when I saw this puzzle’s title. But the theme here is characters from Eric Blair’s wonderful anti-totalitarian novel Animal Farm:

18-A [Highway interchanges] = CLOVERLEAFS. OK, it’s been a while since I read the book so I can’t remember who’s a sheep and who’s a pig and so forth. But Clover sounds like s(he) was in the book.

24-A [Some winter battles] = SNOWBALL FIGHTS. Snowball.

39-A [Tendency to overcompensate for a perceived shortcoming] = NAPOLEON COMPLEX. I recall reading somewhere that it’s a myth that Napoleon was short for his time and place? Anyway, Napoleon.

53-A [Turn-of-the-century Chinese uprising] = BOXER REBELLION. Boxer.

62-A [NBA center who was a three-time MVP] = MOSES MALONE. I had ?????MALONE and was surprised when KARL MALONE didn’t fit, but then remembered Moses. I don’t think Karl ever won MVP, did he? I’ll look it up — wrong, he won it twice.

Now that I’m looking things up, let me Wikipedia those five characters to see what animals they are:

Napoleon & Snowball — pigs

Boxer & Clover — horses

Moses — A raven. Him I don’t remember at all. Time for a re-read.


***Five theme entries so not much maneuvering room for great fill (just two 8-letter fill entries, zero 7-letter entries, and four 6-letter entries). But we do have TACO BELL.

***Besides the theme, lots of literary references: Lewis Carroll, Umberto Eco, Agatha Christie, Robert Penn Warren, Keats, Hemingway and even Dr. Oz all get name or work-checked.

3.75 stars.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “In Need of Kneepads”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.26.14: "In Need on Kneepads"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.26.14: “In Need on Kneepads”

Are all you American soccer fans ready to root on the United States Men’s Soccer Team today against Die Mannschaft (The Team, in German)?!?!?! Oh, and hello there!

Well, I’ll be here in NY taking an extended lunch break to watch the USA-Germany and Ghana-Portugal games starting at noon, and our grid for today, authored by Ms. Gail Grabowski, has a little NY flavor in it as well. Each of the four themes are nouns that have been altered by adding “NY” (pronounced as “knee,” I guess) to the end of one of the words in the entry, creating puns.

  • FOUNTAIN PENNY: (20A: [Coin tossed in Trevi?])
  • SKINNY DIVER: (36A: [Ocean explorer who weights next to nothing?])
  • CANNY OPENER: (42A: [Shrewd warm-up routine that captivates the crowd?])
  • FOOTBALL FANNY: (58A: [Tight end’s tight end?])

This was a fairly smooth puzzle, and I WENT AFTER this grid pretty vigorously to try and finish this puzzle as fast as any other CS/WaPo puzzle (35D: [Pursued]). The pursuit landed a couple of minutes short. Despite that, there were some serious crosswordese and partials, especially with a few of the five-word answers, including ALTHO (15A: [Even if, briefly]), NOT IN (18A: [Out sick, say]) and ESTAB (67A: [Foundation abbreviation]).Those stillt didn’t take away from being able to ENJOY the puzzle too much (2D: [“Have fun!”]). Seeing RAN AMOK in its entirety was an eye-pleaser (5D: [Was out of control]), and that’s exactly what the colonists at Boston Harbor did in reaction to the TEA ACT (31A: [It incited a 1773 ‘party’]). I’m far from an expert on country music, but usually, I am good at identifying most of the country singers that make their way onto crosswords. But EDDY RAVEN definitely flew over my head (11D: [“I’m Gonna Get You” country singer]).

Last week was the first time in a long while that I took an ACELA train home, when I got back to New York from Washington DC at four in the morning (26D: [Speedy Amtrak train]). Since I’m also in business for myself, I tend to usually take Greyhound when I need to travel to places where I don’t have to fly to get to my destination. But taking the Acela – and the amount of comfort/legroom that I got while on the train – reminded me that my 6’4″ body isn’t made for continuous Greyhound bus rides, and I need to be taking more trains to and from Washington DC/Boston much more often!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ANDRE (55D: [Tennis great Agassi)– In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a sex symbol with a great forehand, and even greater set of locks on his head and surprisingly won the 1992 Wimbledon title. By the later 1990s, his marriage to Brooke Shields dissolved and his career as a tennis player hit rock bottom. From 1999 on, reinvented himself and now is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players ever. Andre Agassi is an eight-time Grand Slam champion (four Australian Opens, two U.S. Opens, one Wimbledon, one French Open) who also won the Olympic Gold Medal in singles in 1996. Agassi is married to another tennis player who won a career Grand Slam and an Olympic Gold Medal, Stefanie (Steffi) Graf, and now is involved in many charitable efforts to improve the lives of at-rush children in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nev.

Thank you for your time, and we’ll see you on Friday!

Take care!


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

LA Times 140626

LA Times

The puzzle’s theme is simple enough: [Radio studio feature, and what each of this puzzle’s four other longest answers literally is], ECHOCHAMBER implies the theme answers all have an ECHO somewhere in the middle of them – an interesting, slightly off-beat revealer and a good answer in its own right. A puzzle like this works best when the answers chosen are fun in and of themselves: [Last words of the Parable of the Marriage Feast], BUTFEWARECHOSEN feels incomplete as a thought without MANYARECALLED. [Nocturnal bird with a harsh cry], SCREECHOWL will always make this bird-watcher smile. [Dojo move], KARATECHOP is solid and [Add one’s voice] JOININTHECHORUS is a nice note to end on.

It’s a fairly expansive theme, occupying 61 theme squares. Still, Zhouqin has fit in quite a lot of longer answers, partly to accomodate the central 11. The bottom stack of EATSDIRT/HORMONE/SNOWJOB is quite zippy, whereas the top counterpart was more functional, with [Alluring dockside greeting], HISAILOR striking me as a dull note – I’m pretty sure the canonical version is “hello” not “hi”. Shorter answers like HOHOS, TIEDYE, HOHUM and ONAUTO were also nice and helped to keep the puzzle bubbling along. My favourite clue was [Link between God and you?], BLESS. The most appropriate clue/answer for me today was [Not for the squeamish], GORY. I ran the goriest thing I saw today past Amy and she said it’s too gory for the blog!

3.5 Stars

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11 Responses to Thursday, June 26, 2014

  1. Jeffrey K says:

    ALB is the French abbreviation for Alberta so the clue should be “It’s between C.-B. and Sask.”

  2. janie says:

    >29d. [Habitual drunkard], ROUNDER? This one is new to me. I don’t think I’ve ever known this word.

    musical theatre will make you smarter [sorry, ade!]:

    from finian’s rainbow, the yip harburg lyric in the song “when the idle poor become the idle rich”:

    When a rich man chases after dames,
    He’s a man about town, oh, he’s a man about town,
    But when a poor man chases after dames,
    He’s a bounder, he’s a rounder, he’s a rotter and a lotta dirty names.


    • sbmanion says:

      ROUNDER is also a poker term and there was a movie with Matt Damon called Rounders.

      A rounder in poker is also called a grinder. It is someone who usually plays low or medium limit poker (as opposed to no limit or pot limit) and grinds out a living by making high percentage plays and decisions.


  3. Brucenm says:

    Re LAT: I will wait for Steve, or someone else, to explain more clearly than I would, that an At Bat is not the same thing as a Plate Appearance.

    • Tuning Spork says:

      A Plate Appearance (PA) is anytime you step to the plate. One exception is when, say, you’re at the plate with a 1-1 count, swing and miss during a hit & run play, and the runner is thrown out for the third out. Any such situation where an inning ends not as a result of you, the batter, causing an out, is not counted as an PA. (You would lead off the next inning with a fresh count.)

      An At-Bat (AB) is a PA where you either hit into an out or get a hit (H). Drawing a walk (unintentional Base on Balls [BB] or intentional walk [IW]), getting hit by a pitched ball (HBP) or hitting a Sacrifice Fly or Sacrifice Bunt, does not count as an official At-Bat.

      Batting Average (AVG) is the percentage of Hs to ABs. On-Base Percentage (OBP) is the pct. of times when you safely reach base (either through a H, BB, IW [which is also counted as a BB] or HPB) to PAs.

      Reaching base as a result of a fielder’s choice (FC) (meaning the fielder decided to get the out at 2nd base instead of 1st, say), or as the result of a fielding error, or because you hustled down to 1st base because the catcher dropped Strike 3 but couldn’t throw you out before you got to 1st base, does not count toward your OBP.

      Simple as that.

      • sbmanion says:

        Excellent recap. One interesting note is that PAs determine whether or not a player is eligible for certain post season awards. I think you need roughly 500 PAs to be eligible to win the batting title.


  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I thought the theme idea was very interesting– being able to see words embedded (so to speak) in other words is a cool talent and yet another way of celebrating the language. But harking back to yesterday’s fill discussion, this cherry pie had a few pits. I don’t usually care about scrabbliness, pangrams and such, but it felt as I was solving that Wheel of Fortune letters abounded. Lots of E’s R’ and S’s… Look at the USELESS ALERTER line, crossed by STERNE and EDMEESE.
    Amy, the Barnard situation is interesting because it’s not only cheek to jowl with Columbia and they wind up taking so many courses that are coed, but it’s a College of Columbia, sometimes seen as a division of it… I think it’s different from the relations of other women’s colleges to their coed partners.

  5. Evad says:

    I found the Fireball a lot of fun and a tough nut to crack (in a good way!). My only quibble was the treatment of the down entries–it would’ve been [CUT]e if the carat symbol could’ve been repurposed in some way, since us programmer types use the ^ (shift-6) symbol for the keyboard shortcut.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    If you’ve done the Thursday NYT already, don’t miss Hayley Gold’s Across and Down webcomic devoted to it! Hayley posts a cartoon about an NYT crossword about once a week, I think, and the cartoons are playful and thoughtful, sometimes echo the sort of things we all say about the puzzle and sometimes bring an entirely fresh perspective. Here’s the link for the current comic; the previous ones on the site date back about four months.

  7. backbiter says:

    Damn, Gareth. Now I really want to see the goriest thing you saw today. Email it to me.

Comments are closed.