Friday, August 15, 2014

NYT 4:10 (Amy) 
LAT 6:45 (Gareth) 
CS 9:49 (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 15 14, no. 0815

NY Times crossword solution, 8 15 14, no. 0815

This is one of those unusual Friday puzzles with a theme: CARIBBEAN SEA and PACIFIC OCEAN are connected by the diagonal entry PANAMA CANAL. The Caribbean clue tells us the canal [opened on 8/15/1914], 100 years ago today.

The most interesting part of the Panama Canal story, if you ask me, is the epidemiology. Yellow fever and malaria ran riot through the workers until the project’s chief medical officer summoned the resources to wipe out the mosquitoes carrying the viruses. (Hmm, yellow fever includes headache and body aches … I think my summer cold has a touch of yellow fever to it.) Note that MALARIA is in this puzzle at 37d, paired symmetrically with … BLUE TIT? That’s unfortunate.

This 72-word grid has a low enough word count to qualify as a standard themeless, with a fairly wide-open grid. Highlights in the fill include APPLE PIES, RHAPSODY, SUPER GLUE, THE PILL, ZIP CODE, UMLAUTS, SPICE UP, PEPITA (5d. [Seed in Mexican cuisine]—those are pumpkin seeds, which are used to coat tilapia at my local Mexican steakhouse), BABKA, ALL AGES, and JEAN-LUC.

Less savory bits include the ERLE/BLEB/SESE clot, HAIRLIKE (27a. [Capillaceous]), RED TEA (say what?), MOCS, ILIUM, plural abbrev SCIS, half ZSA, abbreviated MR. ED, -INE, and URI. Granted, the three-way checking required when a diagonal answer passes through squares that already service Across and Down answers puts severe constraints on the fill, especially when the grid is so open.

Overall, the theme and the puzzle at large weren’t particularly fun for me, which may be the yellow fever talking. 3.5 stars?

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Game Playing”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.15.14: "Game Playing"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.15.14: “Game Playing”

It’s here! It’s Friday! I hope you are doing well and have great weekend plans in store. At the very least, I hope you have a relaxing weekend in your very near future.

One way to relax – or get riled up, depending on the people you’re playing with – is with a game of MONOPOLY, the tried and true board game favorite. Today’s grid, authored by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, essentially takes us through a few elements that make up the Monopoly board with the theme answers. Thimble not included.

  • GO TO JAIL: (17A: [Get sent up])
  • BOARDWALK: (21A: [Site of many arcades])
  • ELECTRIC COMPANY: (40A: [PBS kids’ show of the ’70s, with “The”])
  • LUXURY TAX: (59A: [Payroll assessment levied on some baseball teams])
  • MONOPOLY: (64A: [Game where one could land on the answers to 17-, 21-, 40-, and 59-Across])

The northwest part of the grid was going smoothly until I saw TOOT and questioned whether that was right, given the clue (4D: [Spree]). Had not heard toot in that context before, but it was on I went, since there wasn’t any other answer that would have made sense…and all the crossings around it were just fine. Interesting that the “tee” part is spelled out in FIT TO A TEE (3D: [Be perfect]), since I’ve seen “TO A T” enough times that my awareness in looking out for the spelled-out version of the letter has waned. Speaking of spelled-out letters, “Hello, CEE (26A: [Communist leader?])!!” Is ORE-IDA officially the entry that reminds me to buy tater tots the next time I go grocery shopping (19A: [Big name in the freezer])? Happens every time I see it! Another smooth solve with no real hang-ups, and the crosswordese was pretty limited, even with the presence of RYA (39D: [Scandinavian rug]) and ENE (38D: [U-turn from WSW]) being next to one another. To put a bow on this section, I have to say that my former high school science teacher, who I have reconnected with over the past few months, would have my head on a platter if I didn’t know AXONS by heart (55D: [Nerve cell transmitters]). Don’t worry, Ms. G, I had it all the way!!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CREW (10D: [Rowing team]) and RAPID (30D: [Quite quick]) – These two answers aligned with each other going down, which I found interesting because both entries have ties to Major League Soccer, the main American professional soccer league. The Columbus CREW are one of the franchises in MLS, and any member of the MLS team located in Colorado could be called a RAPID (Colorado Rapids).

Have a good weekend everybody, and we’ll see you on Saturday!

Take care!


Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Weekend at Woodstock” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/15/14 • "Weekend at Woodstock" • Fri • Ross • solution

WSJ • 8/15/14 • “Weekend at Woodstock” • Fri • Ross • solution

Had I looked at the title before solving I would have had a better sense of why the obviously musical theme clues were referencing seemingly atypical song choices.

So here we are at the 45th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, with an abridged rundown of some of the performers and selections. In order of appearance:

  • 39d. [Friday, “Motherless Child”] RICHIE HAVENS.
  • 86a. [Friday, “Tabla Solo in Jhaptal”] for the SITARist RAVI SHANKAR. Ustad Alla Rakha played the TABLAS on that unaccompanied piece.
  • 29a. [Friday, “Mr. Tambourine Man”] MELANIE. A Bob Dylan tune.
  • 48a. [Friday, “Amazing Grace”] ARLO GUTHRIE.
  • 103a. [Saturday, “Evil Ways”] SANTANA.
  • 114a. [Saturday, “Darlin’ Be Home Soon”] JOHN SEBASTIAN. Though his original Lovin’ Spoonful version did not drop the g.
  • 34d. [Saturday, “Turn On Your Love Light”] GRATEFUL DEAD.
  • 95a. [Saturday, “Piece of My Heart”] JANIS JOPLIN.
  • 60d. [Saturday, “My Generation” (with “The”] WHO.
  • 23a. [Sunday, “I’m Going Home”] TEN YEARS AFTER.
  • 25a. [Sunday, “Tears of Rage”] THE BAND. Co-written with Bob Dylan.
  • 111a. [Sunday, “Blue Moon”] SHA NA NA. Actually, they played Monday morning, just prior to …
  • 41a. [Monday, “The Star-Spangled Banner”] JIMI HENDRIX. Final performer. Can you imagine what it would have been like if the promoter’s original plan had occurred? Roy Rogers closing the proceedings with “Happy Trails”?

Nice job, getting so many recognizable names in the grid as symmetrical same-length pairs.

Bonus material:

  • 77a [Stephen whose band played on Sunday] STILLS. They played Monday morning too, but in the late wee hours so maybe we can call it Sunday. Dupe with 25a; should have called it his trio?
  • 9d [It may have a wood stock] RIFLE.
  • 32d [One in a school] FISH. Country Joe and the FISH played on Sunday.
  • Other musicians presumably not in attendance: 28a [Blues-rock guitarist J.] GEILS, not MASCIS; 47a [Ocasek of The Cars] RIC; 115d [“Double Fantasy collaborator] ONO; 79d [“Rude Boy” performer’s nickname] RIRI (this apparently is RIHANNA).
  • It’s quite likely that some of the guitarists played a Fender TELECASTer (93a) at the concert.
  • The broad sinuous column running down the center resembles a large rivulet of mud, providing a visual interpretation of the event. To emphasize this, the bottom right has mudlike COAL TAR and 94d and a tar PITT at 1d.


  • 88d [Tammy Baldwin’s title: Abbr.] SEN / 106a [Tammy Baldwin’s state: Abbr.] WISC.
  • 27a/80d [Reformer’s targets] ILLS / EVILS.
  • 45a/30d [Teller of fabulous tales] AESOP / LIAR.
  • 99d [Got credit, in a way] PASSED / 109d [Get no credit, in a way] FAIL.
  • 106d/114d [Tiny amount] WHIT / JOT.

Favorite clues: 36d [Farm team] OXEN – it may be old but it’s still very good. 71d [Word said while putting one’s hand down] GIN. 49d [Lady in waiting?] GIRL. Have to say that I was really hoping 51a [Act pushy] CUT IN was going to be a neologism for PUTIN as a verb.

Speaking of CUT IN, here are the prepositional phrases in the grid: IN A BIND, HIP TO (?), ON IT, IN ERROR, WON OVER (?), ON ICE, ON A, ON HIRE. Piling on with some of the blecchy fill: OLAF I, ADA, OSH, ALKA-, AUTOED, -O’WAR, OWER, HOI. But the real nadir of the grid is on the left flank, with the hideous pile-up of APHIS and DAISES, which the brain wants to be APHID and DAISIES.

All in all, still a fine crossword.

Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Que Pasa?” — pannonika’s write-up

CHE • 8/15/14 • "Que Pasa?" • Livengood • solution

CHE • 8/15/14 • “Que Pasa?” • Livengood • solution

A little gem of a puzzle. The aural equivalent of the letter ‘K’ – \ˈkā\ – is inserted into phrases to make new ones. The spiffy twist is that the K-equivalents, all spelled differently, are components of actual words, and the inferred original phrases are with one exception homophonic approximations.

  • 18a. [Halloween, to a dentist?] DECAY DAY (D-Day).
  • 20a. [11 p.m. business report for Japanese stock watchers?] NIKKEI AT NITE (Nick at Nite).
  • 37a. [No longer being able to “pinch an inch,” among others?] SPECIAL K EFFECTS (special effects).
  • 55a. [Carrier pigeons bringing flowers?] BOUQUET BIRDS (boo birds).
  • 58a. [Dispenser of Hungarian wine] TOKAY TAP (toe-tap).

Fairly novel theme, excellently executed. There’s a significant five-letter overlap in the two theme pairs while the fifth spans the width of the grid.

Well-integrated grid without much flash among  the ballast fill. Higher Education vibe with the clue for LAURIE eschewing actor Hugh and instead tapping Little Women (cross-referenced to AMY), Shakespearean TYBALT, author INGA Muscio, and of course LITERATI ([Set of books?]).

A five-karat puzzle, notwithstanding the cays at 17a.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140815

LA Times

As an answer, LETSSEESOMEID is rather snazzy. As a revealer for a +ID theme, it’s a tad oblique but it works! None of the theme answers really grabbed me, though only CHIDEGUEVARA struck me as actually weak. The rest manage to change the meaning of their other component if only slightly, but here GUEVARA is still CHE. The answers are:

  • [Cause of brittle cigars?], DRYHUMIDOR
  • [Rebuke a revolutionary?], CHIDEGUEVARA
  • [Tolerate a Midwest capital?], BIDELINCOLN
  • [God of honeymoon truck rentals?], RYDERCUPID

The central 13 provides an architectural challenge, resulting in the need for double-stacked 9’s crossing two theme answers. PEKINGESEs are all too plentiful where I’m working and come with a host of genetic problems, I mean breed characteristics; BUMSARIDE is also nice. ROSEMARIE will provide nostalgia for the oldies among us, but required all the crossers for yours truly – ROSEMARY has far more clueing options! Lastly ILLBEAWAY strikes me as completely bogus as a phrase: as legit as ILLHAVETHEDUCK.

Other stuff I didn’t personally know:

  • [Friar __ de Torquemada], TOMAS. He had a first name!
  • [Tortilla dough], MASA
  • [Virtual transaction], ESALE. I don’t believe this is a word.

Great clues:

  • [Artistic surroundings?], FRAMES
  • [Said “You’re on!” to], CUED

3 Stars

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29 Responses to Friday, August 15, 2014

  1. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Yay, a themed Friday – and with circles so a solver who normally doesn’t bother with themeless puzzles can’t miss this one. Why don’t we see more of these?


  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked. And it flowed…
    (aptly enough)

    PS. Love learning Capillaceous!

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      Uncommon word, but possibly inferable from “capillary” (hair-thin) or “cappellini” (angel-hair pasta).


    • Jeff Chen says:

      My original clue for HAIRLIKE: [Quality of a quality rug?]. Alas, it sits on the cutting room floor.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Arrr, couldn’t win this one. T’was great until Mr. Happy Pencil failed to show up, and I looked and looked (and looked) for my error. Turns out it was PCPS for PCBS crossing PLEB for BLEB. (I shall now remember not to mix up my narcotics with environmental pollutants.)

    An air bubble is a bleb. Oookay.

  4. Evad says:

    2 great clues in the southwest–[Sonatas have four of them] for TIRES and [Medical product with no conceivable use] for THE PILL. Definitely worth the price of entry.

    • Gary R says:

      Didn’t get the clue for TIRES until I read your post – got the answer off the crosses, and just thought it was another musical term I hadn’t come across before!

  5. Gareth says:

    My Belgian immunology professor loved the word BLEB. It took us students a while to figure out what he was on about! Impressive feat to combine a lot of good themeless material + a theme! Top-right for me was brutal – couldn’t find my way in, even with CARIBBEANSEA in place!

  6. Thomas says:

    Immediately reminded of MGWCC #006.

  7. Howard B says:

    Really enjoyed this one. Some tricky spots to break into, rare non-referenced bonus thematic content (kind of a throwback), and SUPERGLUE. Sometimes I can’t quite put a finger on what makes a puzzle enjoyable or not. There isn’t quite a formula for it. BLEBs aside, I just had fun.

  8. Brucenm says:

    Liked the puzzle, but prefer the pure themeless for Fri. & Sat. But what did you guys do to jinx Nouri al-Maliki? I too was slow in the NE.

  9. Jonesy says:

    The LAT had RYDERCUPID crossing USA – clued as Ryder Cup team — seems to me like a somewhat ridiculous oversight unless i missed something… effectively having a theme answer in a crossing clue?? strange.

    • Byron Trist says:

      I wondered about the same thing.

    • Blank says:

      This isn’t “strange”, it’s 1) become commonplace in the LAT, and 2) it’s shoddy and hackish.

      In full anonymous disclosure, I must admit I’m biased on this topic because an LAT Sunday I made was ruined, just ruined, by a theme clue that duped a different theme entry. And it wasn’t slight, it was horrific. Surely solvers thought, “How did this happen?”; the constructor surely thought, “Look what you did to my puzzle!” It was truly injurious, and the insult occurred when Rich Norris subsequently revealed in an interview that he had multiple (three, I think) test solvers.

      Okay. So. A very legitimate question, asked by any unbiased solver, is, How in the name of all that is cruciverbally holy does (for example) the clue/entry duping of “Ryder” get past an editor, an assistant, and multiple test solvers?


      As a solver, when I come across such a dupe it can range from annoying to jarring. Point is, it’s not pleasant. So again, why is such easily amendable unpleasantness tolerated or overlooked by the Los Angeles Times editorship?

      There’s probably some term in statistical analysis for the idea that the larger your subject information base is, the easier it is to find fault, or dysfunction, or something negative. If I knew what that term was, I would use it right now. But I don’t, so I’ll say that, like, I GET the notion that a crossword that is published every day is going to have more identifiable flaws than, say, a weekly puzzle. Fine. A gaffe, an oversight, a blemish every now and then is to be expected, is a statistical eventuality. But the clue/entry duping in the LAT is becoming much too par for the course for a puzzle venue as prestigious as this one. Come on, Rich.

      A while back, a post on Fiend asked (to no response, I believe) why the LAT was treated like the stepchild in the Big Market Family. While I believe that has more to do with the interminably static compensation level amidst the comparative verdancy of other venues (and the ostensible lack of esteem, self-esteem, that that smacks of [I.e., if you don’t respect yourself, LAT puzzle, how can you expect others to?])… but that’s not on the table, here. I was saying that when I encounter the clue/entry duping in a puzzle I’m solving, I cringe a little (sometimes a lot). And I cringe way too often as befits the, what, 2nd-, 3rd-most published puzzle in the U.S. Cringing (especially when its consistent) like that is to be expected while solving lower caliber puzzles like ones recently discussed on this blog, but not the LAT.

      But other than this one (-and-a-half) nit(s), I must say that the LAT isn’t Mellorian and is great because of its high and well-maintained standards of excellence. And while I’m madatcha for a minute, Rich, I’ll get over it. Nothing has taught me more, or catalyzed my desire to become a better puzzlemaker, than the several constructive sentences by Rich and Patti that accompany my LAT rejections, the puzzles that did not meet the standards. And this rant notwithstanding, I’ve nothing but high regard and fondness for the LAT puzzles.

      Lastly, I’m enough of a person to admit that maybe I’m overestimating the gravity of the clue/entry duping. Maybe this is druthers, subjective. I’ve always thought that this was Crossword 101–that “Don’t dupe your clue material with the entries in the grid” was standard curriculum on the second day of Editor School. But maybe I’ve misgauged that. I mean, if I were Jeffrey Wechsler (beautiful puzzle, btw), today’s dupe would bug me; but maybe he feels completely different or doesn’t care. Regardless, at least as perhaps is evidenced by the prior two posters, I’m not the only one cringing, and asking myself way too often, “How did this get by in a Los Angeles Times puzzle?”

      • john farmer says:

        I’ve always thought that this was Crossword 101–that “Don’t dupe your clue material with the entries in the grid” was standard curriculum on the second day of Editor School.

        Hi Blank,

        Not the second day, or even the third. I’d say it depends. “Don’t clue an answer using words in that answer” — that’s nearly universally followed (though it’s sometimes hard not to repeat an article without being awkward about it). But avoiding words used elsewhere in the grid is not a hard-and-fast rule. It’s a choice. Certainly, repeats of short words (a, the, one, to, for, etc.) happen all the time. For longer words, it’s up to the discretion of the constructor and editor, and practiced differently by different puzzle-makers. It’s worthy of debate, if you’d like, but I don’t think it’s right to say there’s one standard that everyone follows.

        That said, seems like the repeat in the LAT was an oversight, and assuming so proves one thing: puzzle-makers are human.

        I can’t say I understand all the cringing and consternation. Mistakes happen, and how you want to react — laugh or cry — is up to you (note: one feels better than the other). Crosswords are designed for our enjoyment, and if some time a puzzle fails to meet your standard and that’s your biggest complaint of the day, count your blessings.

        • john farmer says:

          Btw, about that “standard”: I generally try to avoid using words in clues that appear in the grid. Earlier today, I rewrote a couple of clues in a puzzle for that reason. One word was a three-letter answer that was easy to avoid. Another cut was a five-letter word that was part of a longer answer. But I left a six-letter word in a clue that’s part of an answer in a different section of the grid, because the word is fairly common and necessary (imo) for its respective clue; it would detract from the clarity and impact of the theme if I were to remove it just to adhere to the so-called standard.

          Besides, it’s always more fun to break the rules.

  10. Dele says:

    NYT: Very cool. Nice that the three entries are arranged in their correct geographical positions (the Canal traveling southeast to get from the Caribbean to the Pacific), and amazing that this works out so perfectly for symmetrical placements!

  11. mnemonica says:

    I liked this one a lot (despite BLEB). Besides MALARIA, the grid has the Panama Canal-related A PLAN.

  12. Linda says:

    Re: William Tell: Who knew??
    I had never read the entire William Tell story until I just looked it up online. I had thought it all ended with the apple.

  13. Zulema says:

    I really liked the NYT today. On the editorial page he is spelled NURI, also today. As for the CHE, I am a bit prejudiced as QUÉ is not pronounced KAY in my world. Otherwise, a good puzzle and yet another good editor.

    • Huda says:

      Nouri would be the French spelling . I was Houda during my French School days.

    • pannonica says:

      Right. Short, clipped e-sound. I should have pointed that out. Then again, the title lacked an inverted question mark and the accent.

      • sandirhodes says:

        “are with one exception homophonic approximations”

        Are you talking about Bouquet? I hear boo-kay and bo-kay about the same around the Midwest.

  14. Steve says:

    Can someone explain the ARC clue to me in the NYT? I just can’t see it …

  15. neoclassicist says:

    CHE: what are boo birds?

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