Wednesday, August 27, 2014

AV Club 5:08 (Amy) 
NYT 4:10 (Amy) 
LAT 4:40 (Matt) 
CS 13:16, while on a subway heading to the U.S. Open (Ade) 

Gareth Bain and David Poole’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 27 24, no. 0827

NY Times crossword solution, 8 27 24, no. 0827

47d. [Sub-Saharan menace], the crosswordese bug the TSETSE fly? Gareth is the only constructor who has free rein to use that word. Tsetses aren’t much of an issue in South Africa, but hey, Gareth is at least a couple thousand miles closer to tsetse woes than any other crossword constructor I know.

We’ve got a sound-change pun theme, with final A’s pronounced as schwas converted into -ER endings:

  • 17a. [Libretto for “Eel Trovatore”?], CONGER LINES.
  • 24a. [Microwave for hot dogs?], FRANK ZAPPER. Cute.
  • 37a. [Actor Sheen after starting a new career in piano maintenance?], CHARLIE THE TUNER.
  • 50a. [One who knows the earnings report by heart?], SALES QUOTER. Eh.
  • 60a. [Actor in a Mr. Potato Head costume?], TUBER PLAYER. A play, of course, on “tuber playa.” (Kidding.)

Conga, Zappa, tuna, quota, and tuba would all be pronounced in more or less the -ER way if followed by a word starting with a vowel sound and spoken by a Brit. I tell ya, the BBC News Hour people sound weird to me with all their “Chiner and Indier are ….” People! It is not hard to say “China and India are….” Try it out. You will see. The intrusive rhoticism adds no value.

Favorite fill: 11d. [Bit of packaging detritus], FOAM PEANUT. I call it a Styrofoam peanut myself. A college friend’s grandfather made his wealth from such packing materials back in the day.

Did not know: 26d. [First name of the wolf in Disney’s “The Big Bad Wolf”], ZEKE. Wait, what is Disney’s “The Big Bad Wolf”? Wikipedia is showing me only a less successful 1934 short made as a sequel to the 1933 short Three Little Pigs.

Not too excited about EEO, OESTE, ERST, MOR (though it’s right above LES and that’s a cute pairing), TORERO, UKE, ECRU, ILE, TSAR, and UAR.

Five more things:

  • 14a. [Truckers’ contest], ROADEO. Just saw the plural of this in another puzzle this weekend, didn’t we?
  • 7a. [“West Side Story” weapon], SHIV. The etymology is probably the Romany word chiv, meaning “blade.” Fascinating! I wonder what other English words have Roma roots.
  • 43a. [DVR brand], RCA. Really? I’m not finding any DVRs at the RCA website.
  • 68a. [Neurosurgeons’ readouts, for short]. EEGS. Yes! Readouts, not “scans.”
  • 50d. [1965 civil rights march site], SELMA. Coming this winter to theaters, Selma the movie, directed by Ava DuVernay. At long last! A notable AVA who is more current than Ava Gardner.

3.5 stars.

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


Matt here, filling in for Gareth since he’s the author of today’s LA Times crossword. I blazed through the grid in 4:40, but still don’t know what the theme is, so let’s see if we can figure it out together. It’s early and I’m still on coffee #1.

Here are the theme entries, starred since there’s long fill lurking about that could be mistaken for theme:

3-D [*Hearty repast] = SQUARE MEAL. Good entry that deserves a more evocative clue.

9-D [*”Politically Incorrect” host] = BILL MAHER. “Politically Incorrect” ended in 2002, while Maher’s very successfull “Real Time With Bill Maher” has been running on HBO for 12 years.

31-D [*Sensitivity to cashews, say] = NUT ALLERGY. Another very good entry that wants more clue than this.

35-D [*Fine porcelain] = BONE CHINA.

OK, now I see the revealer, which I missed on the first pass: at 29-D we have [Sporty car roofs, and, literally, what the first words of the answers to starred clues can have] = T-TOPS. And it’s true: T-square, T-bill, T-nut and T-bone are all things.

This also explains why all the theme entries ran down instead of Across: you need that T to “top” the entry. I also like the humorous aspect of the reveal running down as well, like the theme entries. Fitting and unusual (which is probably why I missed it on the first run-through).


***15-A [Rich topsoil] = LOAM, an interesting clue for two reasons: 1) because the L.A. Times’ crossword editor is named Rich (Norris), and 2) because the “top” part dupes the T-TOPS revealer.

There’s no hard and fast rule on this, but in general the less common a word is the worse it is to dupe. So if you have AN or OF in a theme entry and also in a clue, no one’s going to care. But if you’ve got PARIS in a theme entry *and* in a clue, then that’s bad.

Here I’d ding the puzzle .1 for the dupe; TOP is a fairly common word, but it’s in the revealer, so this clue really should’ve been scrapped.

***Best fill: LEASH LAW (but again, very dull clue! Editor or constructor? I don’t know), UH-HUH, DAMN!, symmetric CHILDLIKE and IN THE WASH, SEOUL and MAYA.

***Best clues: [It can’t help being negative] for ELECTRON, [Scoreless Words With Friends turns] for SWAPS, and [Ancient drink making a comeback] for MEAD. We’re rumored to be getting a meadery here in Staunton soon.

3.65 stars.

Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Party-Hopping”

AV Club crossword solution, 8 27 14 "Party-Hopping"

AV Club crossword solution, 8 27 14 “Party-Hopping”

You know those party/state abbreviations used with congresspeople’s names? Such as “Dick Durbin (D-IL)”? The D, R, and I (Democratic, Republican, Independent) party designators “hop” in this theme (when the people in the clues changed parties), converting familiar words/phrases into something new:

  • 18a. [Youtube clip of a chat with the author of “Myra Breckenridge”? (party-hopping à la Charles Barkley in 2006)], VIDAL VIDEO. Barkley went from Republican to Democrat in 2006. He wasn’t ever actually a candidate, which makes it a bit tenuous to use him in an R-AL to D-AL theme. (And he might be more of an independent, though.) Also! YouTube takes a capital T.
  • 29a. [Close attention to one’s cook-off entry? (… à la Jerry Brown in 1998)], CHILI CARE. Used to be CHILDCARE but Brown went indie.
  • 47a. [Group of poissons? (… à la Strom Thurmond in 1964)], MER SCHOOL. Ah. 1964, when racist Democrats fled to the party of Lincoln. Mer is French for “sea,” though the French wouldn’t call a group of fish a “school.”
  • 63a. [Crafty person’s shopping destination? (… à la Elizabeth Warren in 1995)], BEAD MARKET. Bear market. Didn’t know Warren used to be in the GOP.
  • 3d. [Where Mitt Romney built a treehouse for his former employees? (… à la Michael Bloomberg in 2007)], BAIN YARD. This one kept me from seeing the theme, as I was thinking of BACKYARD rather than BARNYARD as the basis.
  • 39d. [Territory roamed by wild lawyers? (… à la Buddy Roemer in 1991)], BARLANDS. Like Thurmond, a Dem-turned-Repub.

This is an intricate theme, with the somewhat limited number of possibilities (anyone changing parties in TX is right out, as RTX, DTX, and ITX aren’t found in plausible word/phrase pairs; see also VT, NV, NM, CT, MT…) making me impressed that Ben found six workable party changers. MER SCHOOL works less well than the others, but overall the theme works.

Seven more things:

  • 27a. [42-Down locale], MIAMI. Formerly—CSI: Miami was canceled in 2012.
  • 51a. [Napoleon’s number two?], MERDE. Ah, yes. Commander Jean-Jacques Merde, of course. He always did his duty.
  • 55a. [Kennedy’s channel, once], MTV. I don’t know the difference between Kennedy and Duff. I liked Karen Duffy’s book.
  • 60a. {[I’ve been a bad cat … spray me with a water bottle]}, RAWR. Ohhh…kay.
  • 1d. [Soapmaking solutions], LYES. Proper to pluralize this?
  • 34d. [Pizzazz], UMPH. Didn’t know this one. In the dictionary as a variant spelling of “oomph.”
  • 61d. [___ sauce], WEAK. As in “I dunno, man. That clue for 27a is weak sauce.”

Four stars.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “You Are Here”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.27.14: "You Are Here"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.27.14: “You Are Here”

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

I hope that U R all doing well on this last Wednesday in August. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, introduces some texting shorthand into the grid, as the letters “UR” are added to common terms/proper nouns.

  • PASTEUR DOWN: ([20A: Words of alarm when microbiologist Pasteur fainted?]) – From “paste down.”
  • DAPPER DURAN: ([33A: Smartly dressed boxer Roberto?]) – From “Dapper Dan.”
  • GLOOMY GURUS: (41A: [Spiritual leaders in a funk?]) – From “Gloomy Gus.”
  • HOURLY GHOST : ([54A: [Specter that appears twenty-four times a day?]) – From “Holy Ghost.”

A little nit to pick, and thanks to one of the daily readers of the blog in bringing this to my attention after I initially thought about possibly mentioning it. In the cluing to SCAM (58D: [Email from Nigeria, often]), it would be absolutely fine if the cluing made reference to a Nigerian prince, but the cluing as it stands comes across as if a lot of email from Nigeria, regardless of who sends it, is for the purpose of scamming. Being Nigerian myself (but born in New York City), I know my family gets a lot of mail from Nigeria, and 100 percent of those emails, I believe, aren’t emails that resemble scams. I know the Nigerian prince email scam ploy is well earned, but still, better off not generalizing mail from Nigeria and saying it’s often a scam, unless there’s actually scientific evidence to support it…which I guess could be out there!  Not likely, though.

One of my childhood friends took Judo for many years, and, via a demonstration in front of our friends a while back, did a couple of JUDO THROWS on me (11D: [Martial arts maneuvers]). Definitely was a fun – yet slightly painful – experience, and it got me interested in doing a martial arts discipline later on. Ended up taking up Sambo, a Russian martial arts discipline, for a few weeks, and I want to do it again when I have more time. A nugget about Latvia has been in a crossword at least once a week in the past few weeks of doing crosswords, and RIGA becomes the latest example (18A: [Latvian capital]). Had initially put in “ice tea” instead of NESTEA, and that slowed me down in the northeast (25A: [Picnic pitcherful]). I guess E-DATE is an acceptable answer/term, but haven’t heard of it before or heard it used in a sentence before (17A: [Online social session]). So the next time I schedule an online chat with someone, should I say to that person, once the day/date of the chat is made official, “It’s an e-date?” Umm, probably not. I’m not much of a moviegoer, and I turned down a chance to see ARGO when a friend of mine had a free ticket and wanted me to go with her (8D: [2012 Affleck thriller]). Guess I should have gone to the movie since it had real good reviews. Oh, and I guess I should have gone because a pretty lady wanted to go to the movies with me. I never said I was a smooth operator, you know!!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HULA (16A: [Sinuous dance]) – For many years, the HULA Bowl was a post-season all-star football game held in Honolulu in which college seniors from across the country would have a chance to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts and other personnel in order to boost their chances of being drafted by an NFL team. The Hula Bowl was in existence from 1947 to 2008.

See you all on Thursday!

Take care!


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20 Responses to Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Amy says:

    “I tell ya, the BBC News Hour people sound weird to me with all their “Chiner and Indier are ….” People! It is not hard to say “China and India are….” Try it out. You will see. The intrusive rhoticism adds no value.”

    Ex-Brit Martin says:

    Shall I take the bait? Nah, not tonight, too tired ;)


  2. Huda says:

    FRANK ZAPPER! Perfect! Made me laugh.
    “Intrusive rhoticism”: you don’t see that every day :)
    ZEKE was also news to me, but TORERO is good in my book!

    • Huda says:

      And what is it about the letter R that causes so much trouble? I roll mine and can’t for the life of me get rid of that. The Japanese can’t seem to tell it apart from L, the French make that scratchy sound, and then there’s the deal with the Brits and their rhotic ways. I guess it’s a so-called liquid consonant…

      • HH says:

        I know nothing about Rs. I grew up in New Jersey, then spent four years near Boston, and have lived in Brooklyn ever since.

  3. Paul says:

    You’re just begging me to make a racist joke about why Japanese love election day so much.

  4. john farmer says:

    Plenty of appearances of the Big Bad Wolf in Disney toons. I was glad to learn his name is ZEKE. Next up, the Wolf is played by Johnny Depp in the big-screen adaptation of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” this Christmas.

    Thought the theme worked pretty well. Especially liked FRANK ZAPPER. Do sort of wish the last themer had one -ER rather than two. Aside from MOR, fill was fine by me. I’d say UKE is not just okay but good for a three-letter word.

    No mention of the missing apostrophe in “Salem’s LOT” (that’s a contraction of Jerusalem). (The King title uses one, though at least one of the TV films does not.)

    Had to look up rhoticism. Is that even a word? My RHUD2 and Wikipedia say no.

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Libretto for Eel Trovatore must be hilarious if you have any idea what that is, means or refers to.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Really? Your years of crosswords, if nothing else, have not taught you that a libretto is the written words for an opera (the LINES), Il Trovatore is an Italian opera from Verdi, and congers are eels? The il/eel pun is subtle, though.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        I don’t remember ever seeing “libretto” and while “Eel” looked fishy to me I really had no clue as to what it was. The only Italian I know comes with a salad.

  6. John from Chicago says:


    If you wish to purchase an RCA DVR, goto:

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      That’s a reseller listing for one item, with no sign of the RCA logo in the photo. This site suggests the device is made by Digital Stream, not RCA:

      • John from Chicago says:

        And, Amy, when you need help with operating your RCA DVR you can obtain a manual here (at least for one model):

        The clue does not refer to consumer products. RCA apparently manufactures DVRs for cable companies to lease to their customers.

        Moreover, if RCA made DVRs in the past for consumers the clue would still be accurate. IBM no longer makes PCs for consumers but would you argue if the clue read “PC brand” for IBM?

        Arf, arf (that’s the RCA Victor dog talking)….

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Why force it? Why go with an RCA item that isn’t RCA-branded when RCA makes a crapload of consumer electronics that *do* say RCA on them? Clues that need tortured defenses are hardly worth the trouble.

          And yes, [PC brand] is no longer a solid clue for IBM. It’s outdated and inaccurate. Why venture into RINSO territory when IBM is a going concern that can so easily be clued with what it does now? Or why not toss an “of yore” into an IBM PC clue? (P.S. IBMPC has stopped being a fresh entry, like TREO. Tech moves fast.)

          • Bencoe says:

            I dunno. I feel like PC and IBM are inextricably linked, as anyone who was alive and interested during the 80s computer age would attest (see Halt and Catch Fire on AMC). Whereas RCA was one of many companies making DVRs and was never considered THE DVR company.

          • John from Chicago says:

            Amy, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. The clue and answer was in my realm of knowledge and logic. RCA was my first entry (and quickly made) merely because there are not many electronics makers with only three letters and I have grown up with RCA, from LPs to early TVs to what they are now most known for — electronic jacks. I do not agree the defense is tortured or that there are today a “crapload of consumer electronics” that RCA is known for. That industry has been taken over by Asian companies. RCA is a mere shadow of a consumer products company that it was 60 years ago.

            As for IBM there are tons of clues referring to items no longer in existence, so I’m not sure I get that one.

            As you know, it was a beautiful day in Chicago and I passed my driving test for my renewed driver’s license. I’ve only been driving for 60 years and it’s the first driving test I’ve had since I started. That’s what happens in Illinois when you reach 75.

          • John from Chicago says:

            PS. I also had to take an eye exam, which I passed without wearing eyeglasses, rose-colored or otherwise.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Gareth — Many thanks for the T-Tops in the LAT! I solved this too early, not fully awake, & never got the theme until coming here to the Fiend for enlightenment… TTerribly silly of me.

  8. Bencoe says:

    Wow. I don’t know how I missed this but congratulations to Gareth for getting published in both Times puzzles on the same day! Has this ever happened before?

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