Thursday, August 14, 2014

NYT 5:47 (Amy) 
LAT 7:12 on the LAT website (Matt) 
BEQ untimed (Amy) 
CS 7:44 (Ade) 

Links! First up, Anna Shechtman has written a splendid essay for The American Reader on women in crossword construction. I emailed the link to my mom (because Anna quotes me in her essay, and Mom likes to see such things). “My goodness, what a well-written piece,” Mom remarked.

Next, there’s a new crossword tournament in the works: The Indie 500 will take place sometime in May 2015, in Washington, DC. Five indie constructors are putting the event together—Erik Agard, Andy Kravis, Neville Fogarty, Evan Birnholz, and Peter Broda. (Click any name to visit that constructor’s website full of puzzles.)

Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 14 14, no. 0814

NY Times crossword solution, 8 14 14, no. 0814

This puzzle’s inspired by civil engineering, with six answers ducking through an underpass in the grid:

  • 12a-15a. [One who gets a charge out of charging?], SHOPA/HOLIC. The word passes through the 5-square underpass and comes out on the other side.
  • 16a-18a. [Calculated], DELIB/ERATE.
  • 19a-21a. [Lovable 650-pound TV character], GENT/LE BEN.
  • 52a-55a. [One of two engineering features depicted in this puzzle], UNDER/PASS.
  • 56a-58a. [Reflexive response to an accusation], I DIDN’/T DO IT.
  • 60a-62a. [Writes briefly], SENDS/ A NOTE.

And then there are two structures above the underpass:

  • 5d. One reason for a 52-Across], ELEVATED HIGHWAY.
  • 7d. Another reason for a 52-Across], RAILROAD TRESTLE.

Definitely an unusual theme, much trickier than a rebus theme since we know what to expect with rebuses.

Five more things:

  • 61a. [One way to see a talk, for short?], ASL. Toronto has a new restaurant called Signs, and all the wait staff communicate with sign language. The menu includes illustrations of the signs a customer must use to order an item, as no oral orders will be taken. So neat!
  • 2d. [Rapper whose 2006 album “Doctor’s Advocate” was #1], THE GAME. This one was spoiled for me by the New York magazine article (about rap in crosswords) that gave away the answer ahead of time.
  • 29d. [Another name for Odysseus], NOMAN. Here’s some context. Tough clue!
  • 20a. [___-de-Marne (French department)], VAL. Really? In a puzzle with a difficult theme, you can’t just use actor Kilmer here? “French departments” are a shoddy way to clue something that has another option, if you ask me. There are about 100 departments, and I wonder if most French people know them all. Certainly the vast majority of American crossword solvers haven’t memorized the list.
  • 9d. [One side in college football’s Iron Bowl], ALABAMA. Never heard of the Iron Bowl. The other team is Auburn.

The grid has lots of fine 7-letter answers, but also a slew of 3s. LEA EPI VAL EMU GRE HUS OBI YEE HEL TEL? Not so appealing.

4.5 stars for the freshness of the theme, 3.5 stars for the fill, so about 4 stars overall.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Matt’s review


Pressed for time today so a quick review. We have five (!) theme entries plus a revealer:

18-A [“Good lad!”] = THERE’S MY BOY.
23-A [“I’m positive”] = NO MISTAKE. Not sure about this as a stand-alone phrase. I’d prefer NO PROBLEM here.
30-A [Atlas index listing] = PLACE NAME. Place names are a fascinating subject.
47-A [“Whatever floats your boat”]LIKE I CARE. More snark in the answer than the clue.
54-A [Base among boxes] = HOME PLATE. The batter’s box(es), though I don’t recall hearing them referred to in the plural, though there are two of them.
61-A [Character who, in an 8/15/1939 Hollywood premiere, speaks the first words of this puzzle’s five other longest answers] = DOROTHY GALE. And those initial words spell out her line “There’s no place like home.”

Cute theme, but why not schedule it for tomorrow so it’s on the date of the premiere? Seems odd not to do it, like when the NYT ran a pi-themed puzzle two weeks after March 14th, National Pi Day.

With so many theme entries the fill was probably going to suffer a bit, and here we had a lot of crosswordy entries: ELEA, SERA, ANO and OVO were a little scowly. But he worked some nice entries in as well: CAB STAND (excellently clued as [Where business is picking up?] and the symmetric LAKE ERIE stand out elegantly.

3.75 stars.

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Copperheads”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.14.14: "Copperheads"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.14.14: “Copperheads”

Hello everyone!

Today’s theme is a very slick one from Mr. Tony Orbach, especially for those people old enough to hear these terms in use before or are old souls that have come across these words in their specific context. In it, each of the four theme answers are the names of celebrities, with each of their first names also happening to be slang terms used for police officers. If at least one of the answers doesn’t make you recognize the theme, you could easily get lost in what’s going on. But if a famous TV show title was inverted and called FIVE-OH HAWAII, and then used in this grid, then some wouldn’t be lost anymore, right?!

  • BEAR BRYANT: (17A: [Longtime Alabama coach]) – Alternate clue: most famous wearer of a houndstooth fedora.
  • BOBBY CANNAVALE: (28A: [Emmy-winning supporting actor from “Boardwalk Empire”])
  • SMOKEY ROBINSON: (49A: [Motown star who wrote the lyrics for and sang “The Tears of a Clown”])
  • DICK CAVETT: (66A: [Late-night talk show host starting in the late ’60s])

So two of the slang terms for police officers, it seems, comes from Smokey the Bear?? Fair enough. Even with that, seeing PATROL CARS in the grid just puts a cherry on top of this grid, even if figuratively putting cherries on top of crossword puzzles is a little weird (11D: [Black-and-white cruisers]). Oh, and ABPS crosses PATROL CARS as well…wow! That’ll be the whipped cream then (10A: [Perp alerts, briefly]). Black-and-white was a little mimi theme throughout, with ORCA (14A: [Black-and-white cruiser?]) and another entry that I’ll talk about in the “sports” moment. Although it looks like crosswordese, I actually like RE-UP, especially given its regular use in sports vernacular (39A: [Go for another tour]). Originally typed in “bated” instead of BABY’S, which slowed me down for a little (18D: ______ breath]). Other than that, a very smooth solve.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OREOS (29A: [Black-and-white cookies]) – For those of you who follow NFL quarterbacking brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, you’ll know that they usually put out at least one gut-bursting commercial, as they either dress up and entertain as rappers for DirecTV, or join the Double Stuf Racing League, as they turn licking OREOS into a popular worldwide competition…sort of. Here’s that commercial…

Oh, and if you need to see their latest commercial/performance/rap hit, here goes. There’s an appearance by Joe Namath being his “Broadway Joe” self, which is priceless…

Thank you once again, and we’ll see you on Friday! TGIF is soooo close!

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Bike Share”

BEQ blog crossword solution, 8 14 14 "Bike Share"

BEQ blog crossword solution, 8 14 14 “Bike Share”

Made-up phrases embody the “bike share” concept by splitting a type of bike across words. (And did you see the news this week about the fatality rate in American bike-share programs? Something like 23 million rides taken via bikes rented from a city program, zero deaths. Excellent!)

  • 16a. [Blue-state lama?], TIBETAN DEMOCRAT. Tandem bike.
  • 21a. [Percussion player who works for Big Blue?], IBM XYLOPHONIST. BMX bikes are those racing bikes used on dirt tracks, no?
  • 36a. [Answer to the question, “In your opinion, what do you suppose is the object most likely to scare away Dracula?”?], CRUCIFIX, I EXPECT. A fixie is … well, I’m not exactly sure. Ah, a fixed-gear bicycle. I would not like such a bike.
  • 47a. [Stomachache after taking an ED drug?], LEVITRA ILLNESS. Trail bikes.
  • 55a. [Riding mower that doubles as a British luxury car?], DEERE-CUM-BENTLEY. Recumbent bikes don’t work for my knees. This theme answer is so weird, it’s my favorite. Plus, it hides a 9-letter word!

Thank goodness for circled letters, amirite?

Five more things:

  • 4d. [What goes after eggs], SPERM. I wanted SPERT, even though “eggspert” has just one S.
  • 63a. [’80s bombshell Tawny], KITAEN. Unusual surname. She was in the classic Tom Hanks/Adrian Zmed movie, Bachelor Party. If only Tawny and Adrian had become a Hollywood supercouple. Zmetaen!
  • 25d. [Hugs and kisses, symbolically], OXOX. Why is it that we say “hugs and kisses” but more often write “XOXO”? That’s all backwards.
  • 38d. [“Redneck Crazy” country singer Tyler], FARR. Never heard of him.
  • 47d. [Jumping-off point], LEDGE. Don’t do it! Call 1-800-SUICIDE if you’re considering jumping. Please. We would all miss you too much if you were gone, and I promise you that there are brighter days ahead.

I like the “Bike Share” theme concept, and Brendan executed it well and goofily. I don’t love all the fill (I’m looking at you, UTA TEALS ILEA and abbrevs), though. 3.9 stars from me.

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20 Responses to Thursday, August 14, 2014

  1. Evan says:

    Thanks for the plug, Amy. For those hearing about the Indie 500 for the first time, you can visit the tournament’s website here.

  2. Pauer says:

    Tough-but-cool NYT puz! Thank goodness for rap spoilers or I’d still be stuck.

    Also, there are only a few more days left to buy the At-Home version of Lollapuzzoola 7! Visit (until August 16th) where for $10 you can get a PDF which includes instructions, the 6 tournament puzzles, a tiebreaker puzzle, and a 6-puzzle mini-extravaganza that I wrote especially for the occasion. The constructors this year were me, Cathy Allis, Mike Nothnagel, Tony Orbach, Doug Peterson, Brian Cimmet, and Patrick Berry, so you know you’re in for a real treat.

  3. David L says:

    Clever puzzle design, but it fooled me. I saw the two back-to-back C-beams, upper and lower, as parts of the ELEVATED HIGHWAY and the RAILROAD TRESTLE, and I didn’t interpret them as underpasses (I was looking at the grid as an elevation, not a plan, in other words — I think that’s the right terminology).

    Very interesting essay by Anna Shechtman — thanks for the link. I was surprised, though, that she lumped the proprietors of this blog and the Other One into the same category of sharp elbows. I see a very different tone in the two.

  4. MM says:

    Fun fact (thinking about LAT): “Thar she blows!” never appears in Moby-Dick.

    • pannonica says:

      I remember searching for and not finding a similarly expected word (not phrase) in that text. Possibly ASTERN?

      update: It was ALEE, and it’s notably absent from a number of classic nautical texts. My comment from 30 January. ASTERN, however, appears plenty of times.

      • MM says:

        Interesting. It’s more the “thar” I object to. From Chapter 47 (nice non-use of “alee”, too):

        “There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!”
        “On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!”

    • Matt says:

      Also, Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

    • pannonica says:

      HEY! From the early chapter “EXTRACTS (Supplied by a Sub-Sub-Librarian)”:

      October 13. “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
      “Where away?” demanded the captain.
      “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”
      “Raise up your wheel. Steady!” “Steady, sir.”
      “Mast-head ahoy! Do you see that whale now?”
      “Ay ay, sir! A shoal of Sperm Whales! There she blows! There she
      “Sing out! sing out every time!”
      “Ay Ay, sir! There she blows! there—there—THAR she
      “How far off?”
      “Two miles and a half.”
      “Thunder and lightning! so near! Call all hands.”

      Retrieved from the Gutenberg Project pages. Bold is mine. So it appears in Moby-Dick as a quote from an earlier work.

      Here’s a page image from Google Books.

  5. CY Hollander says:

    Re the Anna Shechtman essay, I can’t help but wonder how the same people who are quick to bridle at any word that can be construed to endorse some negative stereotype about women are happy to coin words like “BOYSPLAIN”. Or maybe they’re not the same people?

    Her main point was taken, but rather than bean-counting, unsupported speculation, and accusations of bias, I think the focus of these discussions should be on coming up with good, gender-blind ways of accepting and promoting good crosswords, regardless of who constructs them. Let editors adopt the policy of not looking at the constructor’s name before deciding whether to accept a puzzle. Have a secondary outlet for rejected puzzles and let the public rate them, to find puzzles whose appeal an editor has misjudged.
    I liked the NYT a lot today, though Rex Parker has a valid criticism in that an overpass hides things, rather than splitting them.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Are you up on mansplaining? The Atlantic explains the concept well:

      • CY Hollander says:

        I’m familiar with the concept, don’t doubt the truth behind the stereotype (that male→female condescension is more common than m→m, f→f or f→m condescension), and have no problem with people’s coining a word that expresses that stereotype (I dislike the word itself, but mostly because it’s a shoddy portmanteau).

        I was just surprised that the same people who criticize any aspect of language that might perpetuate some negative stereotype about women actively coin words that directly express negative stereotypes about men. But again, maybe I was wrong and the two sets of people are not the same. Feminism is a broad umbrella.

  6. CY Hollander says:

    Re “French departments” are a shoddy way to clue something that has another option, if you ask me. There are about 100 departments, and I wonder if most French people know them all. Certainly the vast majority of American crossword solvers haven’t memorized the list.

    I somewhat agree, but if you know the English words “vale” and/or “valley”, I’d say this still falls within “educatedly-guessable” territory, the more so if you recognize Marne as a French river.

  7. Evan says:

    Re: LAT grid

    Matt, there’s a mistake in your solution grid — 45-Across should be BONED instead of BAKED. I made the same mistake because I found it hard to believe that 31-Across could be anything else except CORK and BOKED made no sense.

    Which makes me wonder why they didn’t go with POKED for that crossing. Easy to get a modern Facebook clue out of that, plus it’s not like the LAT was going to clue BONED in a particularly dirty way. Other than that, I thought the puzzle was fine.

  8. Billie says:

    A couple of corrections for the LAT solution:

    45-A [Like cutlets] BONED rather than BAKED
    31-D [It may be popped] CORN rather than CORK
    41-D [Slam offering] POEM rather than the non-word PAEM

    I confirmed this at the LA Time Crossword Corner (

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    Whoops, thanks Evan and Billie. I remember thinking “why would cutlets have to be baked?” But then didn’t follow up since everything (well, almost everything) worked after that.

  10. Linda says:

    Loved the Anna Schectman essay and will direct my students in Intro to Media Writing to it as a terrific example.


  11. ahimsa says:

    Late comment but I wanted to say that I, too, loved the article by Anna Schectman. And I want someone to use MALE GAZE in a puzzle. (I don’t have the latest database so maybe someone already has?)

    I thought her use of BOYSPLAIN was quite funny! But I guess that’s because I have experienced a bit of mansplaining over the years in computer stores. It often comes as a shock to the staff that a middle aged woman with health problems used to work as a software engineer.

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