Thursday, August 7, 2014

NYT 4:29 (Amy) 
LAT 3:40 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:12 (Matt) 
CS 12:13 (Ade) 

Fireball’s on vacation for a few weeks.

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 7 14, no. 0807

NY Times crossword solution, 8 7 14, no. 0807

We get a little wordplay joke for today’s theme (and a puzzle I found easier than yesterday’s—this one hits Thursday level, yeah, but Brendan’s puzzle was even more beyond-Wednesday than Joe’s). [Part 1 of a wordplay-related quip] starts the cluing and the joke spools out thus: IS IT / JUST ME, OR / ARE THERE OTHER / ANAGRAMS / OF ‘ME’? A two-letter word can only have one other arrangement of its letters, of course—but this is cute riff on “Is it just me, or…” remarks.

Unusual fill:

  • 21d. [___ Löw, coach of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team], JOACHIM.
  • 4d. [Tiny creature that can trigger allergies], DUST MITE.
  • 38d. [Approving remark after “By Jove …”], “… I think HE’S GOT IT.”
  • 45d. [Wordsmith who wrote “Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague”], William SAFIRE. For years, Safire wrote the NYT Magazine’s “On Language” column, which likely endeared him to Times readers more than his Nixon speechwriting.
  • 6d. [“Stop being such a wuss!”], MAN UP. I don’t use this phrase. I prefer “Skirt up!”
  • 18a. [Stonewaller’s response], NO COMMENT. My only comment on this one is that it’s longer than four of the theme entries in this grid.
  • 56a. [Bag lady?], KATE SPADE. Handbag designer of note.

30d. [Three-horse carriages] clues TROIKAS, which is a cognate for 37d. [Prefix with lateral], TRI. Bothersome or not?

Clues of note:

  • 56d. [Company with a bucket list?], KFC. Regular or extra crispy?
  • 15a. [Figure on a Utah license plate], ARCH. Because of Arches National Park.
  • 61a. [Bad strain?], EBOLA. I mean, VIRUS. 39a: FLU is a much bigger danger to Americans than Ebola virus is.

3.9 stars from me.

Johanna Fenimore’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140807

LA Times

Today’s puzzle has another puzzle theme I’ve seen a good few times, although admittedly not for a while. It’s nigh impossible to find truly unique, simple themes like this in any case. The execution is superlative: DOLLARSANDCENTS is a lively revealer, and the other two spanners, [*”What a dummy!”], YOUDONTKNOWJACK and [*Like Grandma’s pancakes, say], MADEFROMSCRATCH are both top-drawer stuff. [*It’s rolled with a pin and put in a tin], PIEDOUGH and [*Deli supply], RYEBREAD are a more prosaic couplet, but score points for both being from the field of cuisine.

It’s a high-density theme, with 61 squares, but with the aid of 15’s it didn’t feel too cramped. Given the constraints this grid was very well put together! OFFWEGO and WARLOCK are both nice, although the latter’s clue, [Dungeons and Dragons role] feels off. I’m no expert, but aren’t all D’n’D PCs termed MAGES? It’s defensible though. STRIKESUP and AMOROUSLY are more functional; adverbs, however in-the-language, tend to result in awkward clues like [With passion]. I’ve been there! I also liked the echoing WHAMO and CHEAPO in the top-right. I’d personally have preferred SWARM to SWASH in the top-right corner; SWASH looks ludicrous, and isn’t really seen outside of SWASHBUCKLE anymore. My favourite clue was [Loving rejection] for NODEAR. A Short, elegant clue, which is cleverer than it perhaps seems!

4 Stars

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Another Side to the Story”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post solution, 08.07.14: "Another Side to the Story"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post solution, 08.07.14: “Another Side to the Story”

Hello there, everybody!

Hope everyone is doing well as the summer of love continues on. Speaking of love, I do have to admit that today’s puzzle, presented to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, might feature the theme that I have loved more than any grid since I’ve been blogging the CS/WaPo puzzle. Once you get the first theme entry (whichever one you get first), you realize the amazingness of it, even with its relative simplicity. In it, the four theme answers are puns, playing off of terms that include the words of geometric shapes. You replace the geometric word/shape with the word/shape that has one more side. Brilliant.

  • HEXAGON PAPERS: (20A: [Another side to the military documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg?]) – From “Pentagon Papers.”
  • THE NONAGON: (37A: [Another side to a 1980 Chuck Norris action flick?]) – From “The Octagon.” Would “The Octagon,” the term for the arena where mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters engage in battle still have the same intimidating sound if it had nine sides? “Step into the nonagon, if you dare!!! “Octo-/octa-” just has an intimidating, cool-sounding factor to it, from octopus, octagon, Octopussy, etc.
  • LOVE SQUARE: (44A: [Another side to a “crowded” romantic relationship?]) – From “love triangle.” I’m pretty sure that I’ve been involved in love triangles AND love squares in my life before!
  • PENTAGON DANCE: (60A: [Another side to a hoedown?]) – From “square dance.”

Even with the partial A CLAM, that’s exactly how you could have described me once I discovered the theme (33D: [Happy as _____]).  EBOLA was somewhat of a timely answer, given the even stronger toll the virus is inflicting in Africa right now, as well as the news that it has just made right here in New York City (64A: [“The Hot Zone” subject]). Just so sad seeing the havoc it’s wreaking. Again, this grid, along with the themes, had a lot of good fill, and one of those sparkling entries was AUTOMAT (5D: [Horn and Hardart’s coin-op restaurant]). A friend of mine had introduced me to an automat in the East Village section of Manhattan which had mac and cheese croquettes, and they were absolutely delicious! That particular automat recently closed down, so now I have to find my mac and cheese croquette fix somewhere else. GAZEBO (30A: [Small pavilion in the park]) and GOOSE EGGS (11D: [Big ol’ zeros]) also stood out as well. Definitely no reason to MOPE over this grid (14A: [Have a case of the blahs]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AC/DC (33A: [Versatile, in a way]) – Recently retired New York Yankees relief pitcher – and the Major League’s all-time saves leader – Mariano Rivera was known for having Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” play over the public address when he entered games at Yankee Stadium. But before that, the closer who was known for having a “theme song” when entering games was former San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman – the person Rivera passed as MLB’s all-time saves leader. Starting in 1998, Hoffman entered home games to the tune of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” which usually signaled the end of any chance of the away team coming back and winning a game that he appeared in. Here’s a little taste, through amateur video…

Have fun today, and I’ll see you all here on Friday!

Take care!


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Baby Talk” — Matt’s review


Add some baby talk — specifically the syllable “goo” — to the beginning of phrases, and see what happens:

17-A [Dutch cheese that blows up in your mouth?] = GOUDA BOMB, from “da bomb.” Doesn’t sound half-bad.

28-A [Fashion for the undead set?] = GHOULIE JEANS, from “Lee jeans.”

44-A [High-end sandwich belonging to an Italian fashion house?] = GUCCI’S BURGER, from “cheeseburger.” It would cost $85.

60-A [Viscous chowder?] = GOOPY SOUP, from “pea soup.”


***[Singer Lovato] = DEMI. They were playing her in Staples yesterday while I was hunting for graph paper pads.

***[Yellow signs] at 26-A = YIELDS. Hmm, they’re red around my area.

***Best clue: [Construction paper?] for DEED.


3.75 stars.

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22 Responses to Thursday, August 7, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Would the person who dropped by early and gave Joe’s puzzle a one-star rating like to explain their rationale? After all, you obviously have some strong opinions about this puzzle.


    • Sarah says:

      Cause it’s the worst pun theme I’ve ever seen, never mind one of the worst themes I’ve EVER seen. Not funny, not clever, just incredibly dull.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        I thought the pun was humorous and clever. Wasn’t too crazy about the puzzle overall though.

    • jj says:

      I’m getting annoyed when people call out others for their rating a puzzle one star, wanting them to explain their vote. If it’s that outrageous that it requires a written response, one star shouldn’t be an option.

      I somewhat liked this puzzle, for what it’s worth. I don’t vote on principle, since I think the star system does a serious, reductive disservice to any type of criticism, but gun to my head I’d probably give it three stars.

      • Martin says:

        Hey JJ, I have every right to ask, just as you have every right to complain about me asking.

        Remember the key work here is “ask”, not “command” ;)



        • Huda says:

          I can’t remember a pun puzzle that has wound up with very high ratings. I may well be wrong, but it’s an impression I have. The ones I find really clever, others say they’ve heard them before. And the ones that seem less familiar elicit groans. It seems to be the nature of the beast.

      • Art Shapiro says:

        JJ, I think there was a discussion a year or two back in which it was suggested that people who give a one star rating talk about it in this forum. It seemed reasonable to me.

        This might be a good time to bring up “grade inflation” in the rankings. Shouldn’t the average puzzle – while recognizing that these are the best of the best – rate three stars? Clearly the averages are far above this value.


        • Papa John says:

          If I were to submit a rating, which I rarely do, I would judge the best of the best among the best of the best. Get my drift?

          I think puzzles can be put into distinct categories and then rated within those categories. The NYT puzzles cannot rationally be compared to the TV Guide’s offerings. A NYT puzzle can be more disappointing than a TV Guide puzzle, simply because expectations are greater. That’s one of the reasons it’s so tough to remain at the apex of one’s game.

  2. Art Shapiro says:

    I wasn’t the one-star person, but will opine that the bar is pretty high for Thursday; one is conditioned to expect something fiendishly clever. And a quote didn’t seem to make it. I personally would have rated it higher on other than a Thursday.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: cute! I’m usually bad at these quip puzzles but this one just flowed, because the rest of the material was very gettable… I think that’s particularly critical in the quote genre.

    Finally! the DUSTMITES have done something good for me! They are our family’s scourge. I could write a book on hand to hand combat against these spawns of the devil.

    I like the word NOTION… Hard to capture the connotation that makes it special. When I first came to the US and saw “Notions” in a store I thought it was lovely. Does that use of notion (in sewing ) seem evocative to,people who grew up here?

  4. Gareth says:

    As usual, floundered a bit with the quote – I find it frustrating to puzzle out those theme answers! Still, a better pay-off than most. Enjoyed the long fill choices, like DUSTMITE, JOACHIM (knew it immediately, couldn’t spell it though!), and KATESPADE (bailed me out as I was quite stuck in that area ’til I recalled her name!) [Stop being such a wuss!”] could’ve been PUTONYOURBIGGIRLPANTIESANDDEALWITHIT, but there weren’t enough spaces!

  5. CY Hollander says:

    I rated this puzzle 2.5 stars, not one, because Iliked most of the crossword itself. I especially enjoyed the clues for AGRA and CROSS. As for the theme, though, I agree with Sarah that it’s one of the worst I’ve seen in a while. I don’t hate quotation themes per se—while they’re not especially inspired, they do achieve what I think of as the main aim of a theme: to add another dimension to a puzzle that makes it harder before you’ve grasped it and easier after—but this was just a poor one-liner, for the reason that Amy points out: there can be no more than one anagram of a two-letter word, so the wordplay fails on the level of the simple meaning of the question.

    MAN UP. I don’t use this phrase. I prefer “Skirt up!”

    I actually agree with you, Amy, that “man up” is too gender-specific a phrase—it doesn’t really work for addressing women—but “skirt up” is rather reactionary.

  6. Papa John says:

    Never have I been in such agreement with Amy than I am with her preferenece for “skirts up”!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:


      That’s “Skirt up!” as in “Put your damn skirt on and get the work done,” not “Lift your skirt.”

  7. Tracy B says:

    Using gendered language is pretty ballsy, I must say.

  8. Gareth says:

    GOUDA rhymes with “powder” in these parts…

    • pannonica says:

      Too authentic, but it might make an excellent addition to New England clam chowder. Especially if you’re consuming it while riding an elephant in India.

  9. AV says:

    Not too pull the rating justification thread any further, but I gave this a 5-star! Loved the revealer. I had OFEM filled, and spent a few seconds wondering what that could be … and then the entire puzzle revealed itself. For the aha, for the joy, and for the clever clues, it was a 5. (yes, I would like a crunchier Thursday, but I wasn’t thinking about the day of the week).

  10. Jonesy says:

    @BEQ – Matt, you left off the GURU PAUL theme answer!

    i think of yield signs as red (and white) as well…

  11. Norm says:

    NYT: Theme was not even good enough to be called a pun. Reagle does puns; this was … blah.

    LAT: This theme felt very familiar. I swear I’ve done another scratch/bread/whatever puzzle within the last few years. Nicely done, but felt like a retread.

    BEQ: Thumbs up. Now that’s what I call punning for effect. I was baffled for the longest time and thought I’d have to come here to find the theme. Then … thank goodness I hadn’t taken a sip of coffee. Would have gone straight out my nose.

    CS: Mixed feelings. I liked the concept. Would have preferred a progression — e.g., triangle replaced by square; square replaced by pentagon; etc. — rather than the somewhat random assortment, and I thought it odd that two of the replaced polyhedrons were replacements in other answers, but maybe that’s level of subtlety you could deal with in a Sunday but not a daily.

    All in all, 1 BEQ 2 CS 3 LAT 4 NYT. Relative ranking rather than stars. I usually only do that if I really really like or really really detest a puzzle.

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