Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jonesin' 3:55 (Amy) 
LAT 3:18 (Amy) 
NYT 3:02 (Amy) 
CS 9:30 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Vic Fleming’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 26 14, no. 0826

NY Times crossword solution, 8 26 14, no. 0826

56d. [AWOL chasers … or a hint to the answers to the six italicized clues] clues MPS, and those six answers are two-word phrases with M.P. initials. (They aren’t italicized in the .puz file, of course, because the Across Lite .puz format has a zillion limitations; nor are the clues asterisked.)

  • 18a. [Traveler on the Silk Road], MARCO POLO. Solid.
  • 23a. [Eggnog relative], MILK PUNCH. Really? This is not a thing I have ever heard of. Perhaps it’s regional.
  • 49a. [Lover of Kermit], MISS PIGGY. Fun.
  • 56a. [Edison lab site], MENLO PARK. Does anyone who doesn’t live in NJ and doesn’t do crosswords regularly have any idea that this place exists?
  • 5d. [Sign a treaty, say], MAKE PEACE. The outlier, this one’s a verb phrase rather than a noun. Unless it’s one word, in which case it could be a noun, actor Chris Makepeace.
  • 37d. [It’s not worth arguing], MOOT POINT. Solid.

I’d like the theme better with MILK PUNCH and either MENLO PARK or MAKE PEACE on the cutting room floor. Why have seven theme answers when you can have five? Might’ve helped us dodge NENE and EELERS.

Three more things:

  • 41a. [Department store founder James Cash ___], PENNEY. Don’t think I ever knew what the J.C. stood for.
  • 51d. [Crossword needs], GRIDS. And also words!
  • 38a. [70 yards square, approximately], ONE ACRE. Raise your hand if you tried HECTARE first.

3.33 stars. The fill’s mostly fine, but I wasn’t much excited about anything, and “they have the same initials” themes are generally on the dry side.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “It’s That Time Again!”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 8/26

Crossword Nation 8/26

OMIGOD, you guys!” It’s the end of August and … the kids’re goin’ [BACK to school … or a hint to the puzzle theme…]. How does this happen?? Right. We know the earth makes its ORBIT around the sun and time passes. But how does this happen in the puzzle? Aha. It happens by placing the word “school” just before the final word of each of the theme phrases. The yield? A tribute to school days because, as the title tells us, “It’s That Time Again!”  (So we’re not talkin’ Christmas—but remember the truly humorous way Staples capitalized on the potential for overlap?)

  • 17A. [2011 comedy starring Cameron Diaz as a gold-digging, pot-smoking educator] BAD TEACHER. Actually (weak ratings not withstanding), not a total waste of time… What we get here: school teacher. While the memory of the movie kinda lifts my spirits, am only sorry that this is the only themer in which the meaning of the final word doesn’t change by putting “school” before it. Not sure how that could be finessed, however. And a puzzle about the start of the school year would simply be incomplete with it. So there ya have it. Did I mention that Bad Teacher is a guilty pleasure kinda movie? And that it may even be more than a tad classier than the PROP that is a [Giant flying hotdog at a Miley Cyrus concert]? (But really love the way that clue gave new life to that four-letter fill.)
  • 24A. [Order to a grounded teenager] “GO TO YOUR ROOM!” Gotta have a school room.
  • 40A. [Microsoft Windows, for one] OPERATING SYSTEM. This grid-spanner give us a school system. Guess that’s more of a public school item and not so much one for private schools. Always intrigued by the way our school system varies from the Brits. Across the pond, ETON is a public school—but somehow I doubt [Harry and William’s alma mater] would be classified as one over here… And let me take a moment here to say “Huzzah!” not only for the theme-related Eton, but also for the theme-related cluing of “Omigod!” which references Legally Blonde and thus  Harvard Law and Elle Woods.
  • 52A. [Word that describes a group of varying, but related, subjects] UMBRELLA TERM. School term. What’s beginning this week (or about to begin—or may have already begun) in a school system near you. And may I just add, I really like the term umbrella term.
  • 65A. [A teen blogger narrates this television drama] GOSSIP GIRL. Never watched. But it does give us a requisite student, in this case a school girl. Now (just to keep things equitable gender-wise) if there were only room in the puzzle for, say, “NATURE BOY”… ([Carlos, when he was a boy] for NINO is sweet, but I’m not sure that would qualify.)

Fortunately, there is room in the puzzle for the yummy POPOVER [Puffy breakfast treat served with jam and butter]. Anybody visited or been hiking in Acadia? I’m thinkin’ Jordan Pond House here. Serious popover stopover. They’re not just for breakfast there! (Omigod, you guys—it’s closed???) Oh, and while we’re in Maine territory (where I myself happen to be…), loved seeing ELEANOR [Roosevelt who said “You must do things you think you cannot do”] in the puzzle, as my travels this week will take me to Campobello Island, one-time summer home of the Roosevelt family. (Btw—as a public speaker, as a civil rights activist, as a delegate to the U.N., etc., etc., etc., she did do things she thought she couldn’t.)

Good, lively cluing for the good and lively SLOGAN [Nike’s is “Just Do It”] and its grid-opposite SIRIUS [Serious homophone]. Punny. I like it. Ditto [Bowl of elbows for Hannibal Lecter?] for PASTA (but “I pity the fool” who tries to pass off macaroni as human flesh to Hannibal Lecter …). And Liz has given us more clever cluing by way of [Diamond on a playlist] for NEIL (singer Neil Diamond…), [Head of Montreal] for TÊTE (because it’s a French-speaking city) and [Romances] for WOOS (so the clue is a verb and not a noun).

Final shout-outs today go to the exotic CAIRO in EGYPT (which now is triggerin’ thoughts of the decidedly not exotic The Beans of Egypt, Maine) and the exquisite [Turkish rug] known as the KILIM. And with that, folks, I leave you to your own thoughts of beauty and adventure—and, in the style of a [Texter’s “ciao”], say “TTYL.”

"I will show you the world..."

“I will show you the world…”

Robert Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 8 26 14

LA Times crossword solution, 8 26 14

Oh, look. Another “two-word phrases that share the same initials” theme on the same day. This one has the following revealer: 35a. [Summer coolers, briefly, and a hint to this puzzle’s six longest answers], AC UNITS. The six themers have A.C. initials:

  • 17a. [Church area for enthusiastic responses], AMEN CORNER. Solid. Also part of the Augusta National golf course.
  • 21a. [Painting course], ART CLASS.  Solid.
  • 48a. [Road service provider], AUTO CLUB. Solid.
  • 53a. [Morning warning provider], ALARM CLOCK. Clue is weird. Yes, it rhymes, but “warning” suggests there is something dangerous about waking up.
  • 3d. [One often precedes it], AREA CODE. Solid.
  • 36d. [Military uniform jacket], ARMY COAT. Is that a standard thing, a lexical chunk unto itself? “Army jacket” sounds far more familiar to me.

Glad to see that all the theme answers are nouns. Solidly conceived, if a tad dry (no wordplay, no humor, no cleverness, just initials).

12d. [River to Liverpool Bay], MERSEY? Yes, indeed. Raise your hand if you’ve taken a ferry ‘cross the Mersey. *hand raised* We failed to dismebark promptly … and found ourselves returning to the shore we started on. So we had some extended ferrying action in order to get to that wan space museum.

Five more things:

  • 41d. [Talking parrot in a 1998 film], PAULIE. It’s a shame a poorly received movie is being kept alive in crosswords.
  • 8d. [Robert who played a Soprano], ILER. He’s barely worked in TV since 2007, when the show ended. Time to downgrade him in your word lists, constructors.
  • 32a. [SeaWorld tanks], AQUARIA. Raise your hand if you use the “aquariums” plural, too.
  • 44d. [’60s cartoon feline], TOPCAT. Never watched it.
  • 22d. [Award-winning detective fiction writer Robert], CRAIS. Not familiar to me, and I’ve never seen the surname elsewhere.

3.33 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Freetown”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 8 26 14 "Freetown"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 8 26 14 “Freetown”

Freestyle/themeless puzzle this week. I’m short on time this morning, so I’m going listy.

Loves: TOMATO SOUP, CLOSE TALKERS, THE MOTTO, HELLO KITTY, TRES LECHES cake, “I’M SO EXCITED,” DRESSES GOTH, ELIXIR. TUSKERS is interesting, too. And I have no objection to CACA in a puzzle, provided it’s the word itself and not terrible fill.

Never heard of: 17a. [Sea creature named for another sea creature], OYSTER FISH; 21a. [Former Europe guitarist ___ Marcello], KEE; 22a. [Celtic folk singer McKennitt], LOREENA; 20d. [Converse with, in slang], RAP TO, with that preposition. I wonder, though, if Jay Z raps to little Blue Ivy. Could be a good adjunct to lullabies.

Question the crossword suitability of: SHIP’S MASTS, YOU’RE ALL I GOT (would have liked it with I’VE), RETAUGHT (although … I suppose teachers reteach material all the time when it’s difficult and the kids aren’t getting it), plural SUETS.

3.5 stars for this 66-worder. I have yet to start Matt’s book of themeless barred crosswords, in which there are no black squares, just densely packed freestyle fill. Looking forward to it!

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Easy Prey”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.26.14: "Easy Prey"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.26.14: “Easy Prey”

Good morning everyone, and welcome to Tuesday!

There’s a good number of times where my gullibility makes me easy prey for people playing harmless jokes. Hey, it happens! Today’s puzzle, brought to us by the never gullible Ms. Lynn Lempel, is an ode to those easily played for a fool, as each of the theme answers are two-word common terms and/or proper nouns in which one of words can also define a person that’s an easy target. The words that comprise the theme come as the first word in two of the theme answers, the second word in the other two.

  • BEAUTY MARK: (17A: [Marilyn Monroe facial feature])
  • PATSY CLINE: (60A: [First female solo artist in the Country Music Hall of Fame])
  • THUMB SUCKER: (11D: [Linus van Pelt, for one]) – FYI: “SECURITY BLANKET” is 15 letters, for those that dabble in crossword constructing.
  • CHUMP CHANGE: (25D: [Chicken feed])

This was somewhat of a holy puzzle, with both the appearances of ANGELIC (47D: [Sporting a halo]) and AURAS (12D: [Saintly emanations]). As I said before, any clue referencing a music artist, I’m immediately slamming down ADELE until further notice (24D: [Billboard’s Artist of the Year for 2011 and 2012]). Three years ago, I was supposed to go to a trip to Japan, but had to cancel a few weeks beforehand, so missed the chance to possibly see YOKOHAMA (9D: [Second largest city in Japan]). I definitely want to head to the Far East one of these days, preferably soon. Another smooth solve, and a very clean construction of the grid, as the crosswordese is very low, even if you were to throw FAA in that count (3D: [LAX or JAX regulator]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BERG (8D: [Arctic mass]) – I’m sure a good number of you have heard stories about Major League Baseball players interrupting their pro careers to serve in the military in World War II. Moe Berg, a major league catcher in the ’20s and ’30s who played for 15 seasons in the big leagues, ended up working as a spy for the OSS after his playing career was over. One of his missions was to travel to Italy in 1943 to talk to Italian physicists about what they knew about the German nuclear program. Catchers have all the fun, huh?!

See you all on Wednesday, and have yourself a very good day!

Take care!


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14 Responses to Tuesday, August 26, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked learning PENNEY’s name. Talk about living up to your initial. It’s so interesting to see what people name their kids, given a family name. If your last name is Penney, of course let’s make sure it’s Cash.
    I have a colleague who’s originally German and regularly says or writes: This is a mute point. At first, I wondered whether I should find a gentle way of correcting her. But I’ve decided that I like it. Moot Points should be Mute.

  2. Martin says:

    Even though I’m originally from the UK, my family spent a year in the San Francisco
    area when I was a kid. We lived in the other MENLO PARK (Palo Alto area)
    to be precise. That’s where I went to kindergarten. So in my mind, Edison’s MENLO PARK
    is the “other” one!

    (Really nice area BTW, good memories!)


    • Huda says:

      I agree that MENLO PARK always evokes the Palo Alto area for me. My husband and I were at Stanford and lived at one point in Menlo Park. What the crosswords taught me was that there was another one. I always need to transport Edison across country, in my mind.

  3. john farmer says:

    Edison was somewhat famously known as the Wizard of Menlo Park. Not sure if he worked behind a curtain, but when I was there I found no munchkins or Yellow Brick Road, so it’s no Oz. Today the town is called Edison and if Edison were around now he’d be the Wizard of Edison. That would be unfortunate, especially for Vic and his theme.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: 23a. [Eggnog relative], MILK PUNCH. Really? This is not a thing I have ever heard of. Perhaps it’s regional.


  5. pannonica says:

    “About 470 results,” many fairly recent, in keeping with retro cocktails growing in popularity. The oldest articles, complete with OCR errors, are from the 1850s and -60s. 3 July 1855: “Now is the last day of liquor, and claret punch mfst no more be thought of, nor champagne be ordered for , nor milk punch be dreamed of, nor sherry cobblers …”

  6. Gareth says:

    I learnt MENLOPARK first because the story of Edison was taught in school. Didn’t know MILKPUNCH either. Tried MILKSTOUT first although it’s nothing like eggnog except for being alcoholic! I tried HECTARE, sigh. Also, being deaf in one ear made me suck at MARCOPOLO…

  7. Slowpoke Rodriguez says:

    I, too, learned Menlo Park through the wizardry performed there. Alas, I grew up in New Jersey so my vote doesn’t count.

    This puzzle played like an easy Monday for me. Thus my best Tuesday NYT score by over 20 seconds. Either it played to my strengths or I’m improving. I dream the latter but assume the former.

  8. Gary R says:

    I liked the theme answers more than Amy did. Milk punch was new to me, too, but not hard to figure out. Menlo Park was familiar due to Edison’s nickname, which John Farmer mentioned.

    There is a re-creation of Edison’s Menlo Park workshop at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford tried to acquire the real thing, but by the 1920s, it was abandoned and falling apart, so he re-built it from photographs.

    The museum also has the Wright Brothers’ bike shop and home, H.J. Heinz’s home, where he started making bottled horseradish, and Noah Webster’s home, where he completed writing his dictionary, along with a number of other original American historical buildings. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Detroit area.

  9. Zulema says:

    A couple of comments. First, thank you for the beautiful Kilim picture. When I saw it, I thought it was just like mine so I looked into the next room, and they are totally different, of course. Shows what a good witness I’d be.

    As for no italics in AcrossLite, I used the print choice and no italics there either. I have stopped printing from AcrossLite, though it’s a larger grid, because the clues do not print correctly. I kept cleaning the rollers in vain, and then found that clicking on print I do not have a problem at all. Would anyone know why this is happening?

  10. cyberdiva says:

    Zulema, I print from AcrossLite almost every day, and I haven’t noticed a problem with the way the clues are printed, unless you’re talking just about the absence of italics and (in today’s puzzle) most asterisks. But even though in today’s NYT puzzle only the 5D clue had an asterisk, on other days I haven’t seen even that problem. I much prefer the layout when I print from AcrossLite rather than by just hitting the Print option.

    • Zulema says:

      Diva, that’s why I like to print from AcrossLite, but half of the clues are missing lines, and it just keeps happening, so I’ve been hitting print and the output is perfect.

  11. Grumpy says:

    Liked 3/4 of Lynn’s puzzle but … three of the theme answers twisted the meaning of the relevant word: MARK, SUCKER, PATSY. In CHUMP CHANGE, it’s not different enough for me. Maybe they’re different derivations but it fell flat IMO. [Edit: Nope, CHUMP appears to come from fool.]

  12. Dele says:

    In the CS, the central entry PINE SAP is also a themer.

Comments are closed.