Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NYT 3:39 (Amy) 
LAT 2:55 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 2:48 (Amy) 
CS 12:29 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 9 14, no. 0909

NY Times crossword solution, 9 9 14, no. 0909

The theme dances down the midsection of the grid:

  • 10d. [Starter of a dance craze in 18-Down], CHUBBY CHECKER.
  • 18d. [See 10-Down], NINETEEN-SIXTY. Ooh, I don’t much care for a spelled-out year.
  • The circled letters spell out “COME ON, LET’S TWIST.” Are those in the song’s lyrics? Checking … nope. This site has “Come on, baby, let’s do the Twist” and later “Come on and twist,” neither of which is in this puzzle. That’s an odd choice, no? And the zig-zag pattern of this answer doesn’t, to me, clearly evoke the Twist.

CHUBBY CHECKER is great but that’s the only part of the theme I liked.

Elsewhere in the grid, MANNERISMS, WALL SOCKET, POWER STRIP, and FIELD TRIPS are all welcome. I’m thinking this puzzle should have run on a Wednesday, though, given the assortment of not-so-familiar-outside-of-crosswords fill:

  • 4a. [Country getaways, in Russia], DACHAS.
  • 14a. [Start of a Latin trio], AMO.
  • 19a. [Together, in France], UNIE. This one’s not even very common inside of crosswords. There’s more French, too: 21a. [These, to Thérèse], CES.
  • 22a. [Addis ___, Ethiopia], ABABA.
  • 65a. [___-deucey], ACEY. It’s a backgammon variant I have never played.
  • 9d. [Onetime New Left org.], SDS. Students for a Democratic Society. Acronyms of yore are not the juiciest fill.
  • 27d. [Dear one, Italian-style], CARO. Latin, French, and now Italian!
  • 28d. [Discovery in a British mystery], CLEW. Clue, in limey spelling.
  • 29d. [Reds and Pirates, for short], NLERS. If ESPN isn’t using it regularly, I don’t know what it’s doing in a crossword.
  • 30d. [Jai ___], ALAI. 
  • 33d. [Dog of 1930s-’40s mysteries], ASTA. Closing in fast on that century-old pop culture mark!
  • 35d. [Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar], EMIL. 1920s pop culture! Silent movies!
  • 51d. [Apartment rental sign], TO LET. Around here, the signs say FOR RENT. Never “to” and never “let.”

All that, on a Tuesday? Crazy diagonal answers causing triple-checked squares can be so hostile to the Acrosses and Downs.

2.5 disappointed stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Just Between Us”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 9/9/14

Crossword Nation 9/9/14

As is my wont at times, I opted to solve without looking at the title for a possible hint to the puzzle’s theme. And guess what? I had absolutely no idea what Liz was going for until I hit the reveal. I like that! All I saw until then were four terrific grid-spanners (two movie titles, two quotation-mark contained), but darned if I could see what they had in common, what could possibly be holding them together. So, thank you, 55D. [Texter’s “it’s a secret” shorthand spelled out by the starts of four puzzle answers] FYEO. Stringing together those “starts,” we get For Your Eyes Only. And we get them thusly:

  • 17A. FOR NO GOOD REASON [2012 film featuring Johnny Depp as himself]. Well, really—who better? Then again, it’s a documentary
  • 24A. “YOUR PLACE OR MINE?” [Hokey pick-up line]. Full disclosure: first time I glanced at the clue, I thought it said “Hokey-pokey line.” Alas, the 15 squares would have only accommodated “THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL.” Nevermind…
  • 45A. EYES OF LAURA MARS [1978 Faye Dunaway flick]. This thriller also features a not-quite-yet-a-star Tommy Lee Jones. It was never a beloved film (except perhaps by Mad Magazine, which parodied it as Eyes of Lurid Mess), but it was filmed in Manhattan (I’d been here three years at that point) and also features Raul Julia, Brad Dourif and Rene Auberjonois. This may be one for my library wish-list.
  • 60A. “ONLY TIME CAN HEAL…” [Start of Seneca’s quote that ends with “…what reason cannot”]. Smart guy, that Seneca.

Given the length of all that theme fill, it was especially pleasing to see how much OOMPH there was to be mined in the non-theme department. There isn’t A LOT of long fill—two tens—but they balance each other elegantly, in an elemental way, so to speak. There’s AIR SHUTTLE and ICE DANCERS, the latter referring to the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who took the gold in Vancouver in 2010.

And there are several solid sevens, my faves being that central SCANDAL (the hit TV show), TOSS OUT [Chuck], DO SHOTS with its visually lively clue [Throw back jiggers of vodka], and the best (imoo…), FUN FACT [Kid-friendly bit of trivia]. Hey. Adults like bits of trivia, too! ;-)

I like how “YOWIE!” is clued as an interjection [“Holy cow!] but YAHOO, with its interjection-potential, is clued [ahem] as a fun fact—namely that it’s the [Web giant headed by Marisa Mayer]. LADDIE, “AYE, SIR!,” NINNY, “HA-HA!,” “WAAH!”—fun fill all. And especially nice, unexpected cluing with [Second word of a fairy tale] for UPON (think about it: usually we see [First word of a fairy tale]); and [Captain Pierce portrayer] for ALDA. That gave me pause for a moment or two. Who? Oh, now I get it. Hawkeye Pierce.

Finally, I like the way the intimate tone of the title resonates in the equally secretive [“Don’t say A WORD!” (“Hush!”)]. Fine. By way of Sheena Easton, then, we’ll keep this strictly entre nous: “For Your Eyes Only”!

Michael Dewey’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 9 14

LA Times crossword solution, 9 9 14

Lots of intruders in this theme:

  • 20a. [Uninvited guests], PARTY CRASHERS.
  • 27a. [Gold rush bad guys], CLAIM JUMPERS.
  • 49a. [Thieves in the tombs of the pharaohs, say], GRAVE ROBBERS.
  • 58a. [Early arcade game with pixelated aliens, and, in a way, what 20-, 27- and 49-Across all are], SPACE INVADERS.

And lots of proper names in the fill. SMURF OSSA HOSEA MAHRE GAGA BENET SATO ADANO NIKE X-MEN ESAU ESSEX MEG JIF SERT and BERNIE? Those who struggle with name recall, or who haven’t larded their brains with a huge list of Names Far More Popular in Crosswords Than Outside, will be frowning their way through this one. Heck, I’m good with names and I wasn’t keen on having OSSA SATO ADANO SERT at all. I don’t know anyone who uses BOSH to mean 10d. [“Fiddlesticks!”], but perhaps the NBA’s Chris BOSH was deemed one name too many.


Four more things:

  • 37d. [Speak, biblical-style], SAY’ST. Short for sayest, as in thou sayeth/you speak. Meh.
  • 63a. [1974 Peace Nobelist from Japan], SATO. Prime minister Eisaku Sato, for renouncing nuclear weapons. 1974 appears to be the only year since 1946 when two people jointly received the Peace Prize for entirely different reasons.
  • 5a. [Blue cartoon critter], SMURF. I would have preferred the word “humanoid” to “critter” here. It’s more alarming.
  • 22d. [Rockefeller Center muralist José María], SERT. Recently a constructor wrote to the Cruciverb-L mailing list about a puzzle in which he had SERTS, plural. *facepalm* He was quickly disabused of the notion that the plural was solid fill, and reworked the grid.

Strong theme, fill less so. 3.33 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “From Start to Finish”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 9 9 14 "Start to Finish"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 9 14 “From Start to Finish”

The easiest Jonesin’ puzzle I can remember. No trickery to the theme—it’s just phrases that start with S and finish with F.

  • 17a. [Move on], SHAKE IT OFF.
  • 54a. [Chinese dish with seeds], SESAME BEEF. That’s a thing? I never look at the beef menu section.
  • 11d. [Dinner when you can’t decide], SURF AND TURF.
  • 25d. [Petrified], SCARED STIFF.

Fairly lively set of phrases, but not a challenging set of clues.

Five more things:

  • 16a. [___ Eightball (Emily Flake comic)], LULU. Don’t know this one.
  • 28a. [1990s dance hit, or the guy (John) who sang it], SCATMAN. I know Scatman Crothers from ’70s TV, but not this guy or dance hit.
  • 1d. [Bobs and weaves, e.g.], DOS. Terrific mislead in the clue. Both are hairdos and verbs of evasive maneuvering.
  • 13d. [Seattle’s sound], PUGET. Admit it, you wanted GRUNGE to fit here.
  • 29d. [Bill featured on “Picture Pages”], COSBY. I don’t know what “Picture Pages” is. I was 12 when the TV thing went national, and thus too old for kiddie TV.

I like the midsection of the grid, with its BOOGIE, and overall the fill is smooth. 3.9 stars from me.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Country Legend”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.09.14: "Country Legend"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.09.14: “Country Legend”

Good morning, everybody! I hope your Tuesday is getting off to a great start!

Today’s grid is a music tribute, presented to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, as we are made to answer a little trivia about the man known as The Red Headed Stranger.

    • WILLIE NELSON: (1A: [With 66-Across, country music star and 2014 inductee to the “Austin City Limits” Hall of Fame])
    • IRS AUDIT: (18A: [1-/66-Across suffered a famous one])
    • ON THE ROAD AGAIN: (20A: [November 1980 Billboard Hot Country Singles #1 hit by 1-/66-Across])
    • HONEYSUCKLE ROSE: (37A: [Movie featuring 1-/66-Across and 20-Across (1980)])
    • ALWAYS ON MY MIND: (54A: [May 1982 Billboard Hot Country Singles #1 hit by 1-/66-Across])

The first answer I filled in was WAGON, and after that, the 1-/66-Across musician was pretty much a cinch since both were six letters and Willie Nelson was the first person who popped into my mind (1D: [Word with chuck or station]). There may be a chance that the constructor is a Baltimore baseball fan, given the clue to AL EAST refers to the team that’s running away and hiding in first place in the division as we speak (14A: [Orioles div.]). And it has to be said that rest of the division this year is a SORRY LOT, including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox (38D: [Pathetic group]). I think from now until the end of the year, I’m going to count how many times I’ll come across ELSA in a grid, just for fun (29D: [“Born Free” lioness]).  Almost a year ago, I attended a wedding of a couple of good friends of mine, and participated in my first HORA (32D: [Jewish wedding staple]). It was fun until it was time to lift the chairs of the bride and groom into the air.  A few people had already volunteered to do so, and I thought I would just be in the perimeter of the circle, but the second before the groom was lifted into the air, one of the volunteers made eye contact with me.  Of course, when he saw me, all 6’4″ and 250-plus pounds of “muscle,” he shouted, “Get over here and lift!”  I think we lifted him up for about five minutes but it felt like a half and hour, since I was so sore afterwards.  But it was more than worth it, and it marked my first hora experience in style!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ORR (49A: [Hockey legend Bobby]) – Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr played 10 of his 12 seasons as a member of the Boston Bruins and is widely considered as the greatest defenseman of all-time. His speed and scoring/play-making ability revolutionized the position, and he’s the only defenseman to ever win the scoring title in the National Hockey League. A series of knee injuries forced his premature retirement, and Orr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame at 31 years old, the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame at that time. He also is the subject of one of the most famous sports images ever, celebrating in mid-air after he was tripped a split second after his championship-clinching overtime goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.


See you all on Hump Day!

Take care!


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21 Responses to Tuesday, September 9, 2014

  1. David L says:

    DUBLIN for “Home to James Joyce” doesn’t seem right to me, although I guess it depends what you mean by home. Joyce was born and raised in Dublin but moved to continental Europe as a young man and never lived in Ireland again. Home is where you live, I would say, not necessarily where you were born. That’s true for me, anyway, having switched continents in my twenties.

    • David L says:

      Oh, and since I’m evidently in a quibbly mood, I don’t care for CLEW as a “discovery in a British mystery.” It’s an obsolete spelling that modern British readers would find very odd.

  2. sbmanion says:

    I wonder how kids would be taught to do the Twist today. When it came out in 1960, we were told to stub out a cigarette with our foot.

    I enjoyed the puzzle. Backgammon was huge in the late ’70s with everyone owning their own set and bars catering specifically to backgammon players. ACEY-DUEY had two major differences: no checkers/pieces were on the board at the outset as opposed to backgammon’s preplacement and if you rolled an ace-deuce, you played that plus any double. According to a Navy veteran friend of mine that I used to play against, it was the preferred backgammon version among players in the Navy.


    • janie says:

      >I wonder how kids would be taught to do the Twist today. When it came out in 1960, we were told to stub out a cigarette with our foot.

      and dry off your butt (body part in this case) with a towel!


  3. John from Chicago says:

    “Crazy diagonal answers causing triple-checked squares can be so hostile to the Acrosses and Downs.”

    Amy, I do not understand that statement, which makes it difficult to disagree with it. In particular, I do not know what you mean by “triple-checked squares”. Therefore, it is not clear to me how they can be hostile. Are you talking about those six three-black square bars? Thank you in advance for explaining.

    • Hawkins says:

      “Triple-checked squares” refers to the letters in the circles, which are required to make sense three ways: across, down, and twisty-down (the path of circles). The twisty-down part compromises the cleanliness of the fill going across and down.

  4. cyberdiva says:

    I very much enjoyed the NYTimes puzzle. I was also surprised at all the words Amy claims one would be unlikely to know except from doing crossword puzzles. I knew all but one from going to school, reading, and living in the world. The only one I learned from puzzles was ASTA. And speaking as someone who was a novice solver not so many years ago, I was delighted when I came upon ASTA and other crosswordese–I quickly learned these words and they became building blocks for me. I feel it’s the relative beginners who are most helped, not hindered, by most of what Amy dismisses as obstacles for novices.

    • john farmer says:

      Interesting point about common answers like ASTA. I’ve seen other comments along the same lines. Most short words get used a lot, and they can be useful in gaining toeholds and getting better at solving puzzles. After so many years, though, their lack of freshness can be less of an aid and more of a drag. So different solvers can have very different perceptions about fill and how good it is or not. That’s no surprise.

      Today the theme worked well enough for me. Some compromise in the fill, a point Amy makes, but when we get to the specifics, a few contrary thoughts.

      NINETEEN-SIXTY. Ooh, I don’t much care for a spelled-out year.

      Spelling out the year seemed to work fine for Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell, among others. Today, diplomas and wedding invitations spell out the year regularly. Books, mags, papers may spell the year to begin a sentence. Unlikely we ever see it on Twitter, true, but I don’t see any problem here.

      NLERS. If ESPN isn’t using it regularly, I don’t know what it’s doing in a crossword.

      ESPN, for most of us, is primarily a TV network. “NLers” is more a print term, so ESPN is probably not the best arbiter. That said, the term does appear occasionally on the ESPN website. I’ve seen it other places too. I wouldn’t argue that NLERS is great fill, but I think its use elsewhere makes it acceptable (and sometimes acceptable has to be good enough). NLER(S) has been in NYT xwords 10 times since the beginning of 2010, about once every five or six months. I can live with that.

      ASTA. Closing in fast on that century-old pop culture mark!

      ASTA debuted in 1934 (both in book and movie). That was a quick century. I’m not sure what the century mark means anyway — if there’s supposed to be a “use-by date” on pop culture, then I missed the memo.

      EMIL. 1920s pop culture! Silent movies!

      Jeez! That’s older than Asta! Silent movies?! — what’s that! doing in my crossword?

      We’re just kidding, right? Anyway, I was out last night with a movie bud of mine and we got to talking about about some old films — even older than Asta and Emil, if you can believe it. My friend goes to lots of festivals, screenings, etc., here and on the East Coast, and says he’s been seeing, and doesn’t understand, a certain attitude with some people that if a movie is a silent (“what, they don’t even talk?”), then the movie doesn’t matter. Same thing with movies in black and white (“what happened to the color?”). His comment: “Don’t these people know what they’re missing?” I tend to agree. I don’t understand the need to bury the past and to ignore anything “older than X.” There is much that will fade with time, but there’s plenty from long ago worth preserving and (if people are smart) it will endure. I think I grew up with a different attitude than what others may have today. I remember watching Charlie Chaplin shorts on TV that were 40 and 50 years old even then. We knew they were old but they were funny so what did it matter. Not too long ago I heard my son laughing in the other room and I went to see what was going on. He was watching Laurel and Hardy’s “Way Out West” on TCM. He’s eight years old and he loves movies today but he’s ever never laughed as hard as he did watching an old comedy from 1937. Someone asked him on Sunday about the Marx Brothers, who he’s never seen, so there’s something we’ll be watching in the next week. By now I’m probably way off my original point but I’ll sum it up to say, if you think ASTA and EMIL are old, you may be right, and I’d agree they’re not exactly fresh, but there are people in the crossword community who still find them relevant. It’s a balance. And if we’re lucky, we’ll all get to feel old someday. And after all, it’s not the years but something else that matters.

  5. Aaron P says:

    As a person right at the Wednesday level, I second cyberdiva… The list of words I considered ‘non Tuesday’ was much shorter than yours! or crosses were easy enough. most of the abbreviations were problematic.

  6. Martin says:

    A few years ago I was planning to use STONEHENGE in a crossword of mine. Luckily, I changed my mind. After all, it was waaaay before my time ;)


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s not as if they make hundreds of new Stonehenges every year!

      The problem with something like EMIL is that there hasn’t been a really famous-in-America EMIL since silent film star Jannings. Sure, some people still make a point of watching silent movies—but so many thousands of good films have been made in the talkie era that the relevance the silents had in the beginning of the crossword era is not remotely what they have today. You could probably watch 300 movies a year and never run out of 21st century and late 20th century titles.

      • Martin says:

        You mean there’s not one in Vegas (yet)?


      • arthur118 says:

        Re: “Emil”- The only other “famous-in-America” Emil might be Emil Griffith, the boxer (at least for many sports fans).

        Here’s what a quick web search shows for alternates to Mr. Jennings:


      • Lois says:

        Amy, I’m not trying to persuade you to like silent films, but you also would never run out of good movies in your lifetime if you watched every good film that was made only in the past ten years, certainly if you include films made outside the U.S. But why ever see films made outside the U.S.? You would never run out of good films in your lifetime even if you limited your viewing to good films made in the U.S. In other words, I don’t accept your limitations. Older films show us something different, and there is a considerable variety among them too. For us who like older films, these clues provide a pleasant resonance while doing a puzzle. No matter how many times I see ASTA, it will always provide a pleasant reminiscence of Nick and Nora. Of course one doesn’t always want to see the same clues, but I certainly wouldn’t want this kind to be ruled out.

  7. pannonica says:

    CS: ORLE?!

  8. DF says:

    The weird thing about the “Come On, Let’s Twist” clue is that it is (after a brief introduction) the opening lyric to “Let’s Twist Again,” Chubby Checker’s 1961 sequel that was almost as big a hit as “The Twist.” The full line is: “Come on, let’s twist again, like we did last summer.” The phrase is repeated several times throughout the song.

    I wasn’t familiar with Acey-Deucey as a backgammon variant. I know it as a diabolical card game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acey_Deucey_(card_game)

    Long time reader, first time poster. Thanks for a great site.

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