Friday, September 19, 2014

NYT 4:52 (Amy) 
LAT 4:33 (Gareth) 
CS 11:02 (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Note to solvers from Chronicle of Higher Education crossword editor Brad Wilber: “Apologies to those CHE solvers using their keyboard — and the timer — in Across Lite. Notice that the clock has already been allowed to run up to 4:55, and adjust your solving time accordingly. (I have now figured out how to reset the clock, not merely stop it.) This particular CHE puzzle is one that may be best enjoyed solving with a paper printout and pen/pencil, anyway – you’ll see what I mean. I hope you enjoy!”

Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 19 14, no. 0919

NY Times crossword solution, 9 19 14, no. 0919

Lots of extra-tasty crispy fill in this puzzle: You’ve got your HUMBLEBRAG, for starters, and I like a juicy 1-Across. Here’s a twisty example from Twitter: “I get so annoyed when people #humblebrag, it makes me stress-eat a whole gallon of ice cream while still not gaining any weight.”

And there’s LENA DUNHAM, “ONE POTATO …,” SLUMDOG, SOCIAL LIFE, a déclassé WINE COOLER, a FRESH START, Taylor LAUTNER, PEIGNOIR, RELLENO, ET VOILA, and another SEXPERT (just had another one in a puzzle the other day).

Most hardcore crosswordese: 18a. [Colony in ancient Magna Graecia], ELEA. Honorable mention: ENOL.

This short review was brought to you by Headache, makers of Kopfschmerz. Four stars from me.

Victor Barocas’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Greco-Roman Wrestling” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 9/19/14 • "Greco-Roman Wrestling" • Barocas • solution

CHE • 9/19/14 • “Greco-Roman Wrestling” • Barocas • solution

Undecided how I feel about this one. Let’s see if it’s settled by the time I finish writing about it. My initial reaction while solving was that it’s quite clever, but is a crossword the best venue for it?

Nicely placed revealer in the bottom right, intersecting the final theme answer: 59d [Ones whose names are spelled by this puzzle’s circled letters … with representatives “wrestling” for supremacy] GODS.

See, it’s born of the observation that some of the equivalent GODS in the Greek and Roman pantheons have the same letter lengths. Solvers have probably experienced this phenomenon, wondering whether that bellicose deity is going to be ARES or MARS, if that divine love broker will be EROS or AMOR. The twist here is that the circled squares in the long across theme answers spell the Greek names, while the intersecting downs possess letters spelling the Roman ones.

The acrosses are gibberish with the “Roman” letters and the downs are likewise gibberish with the “Greek”. By my reckoning, the squares aren’t triple-, let alone double-checked—more like sesquialterally checked, considering the coeval nature of the deities.

  • 17a. [Score on TV, often] BACKGROUND MUSIC (CRONUS / SATURN).
  • 28a. [Barista’s supply] WHIPPED CREAM (HERA / JUNO).
  • 45a. [Legendary 1930s team] MARX BROTHERS (ARES / MARS).
  • 60a. [Classic novel set on the Congo River] HEART OF DARKNESS (HADES / PLUTO).

Okay, not going to engage in a nitpicky discussion of male-to-female ratio, or Olympians vs Titans, and what-have-you. It’s enough of a feat to find pairs and seed (half of) them into longer theme entries.

Technical note: I solved the crossword in AcrossLite, which typically gives primacy to the across component in a rebus square. However, it was easier to solve the shorter down clues (i.e., the Roman names, which gibberishify the acrosses), so when I was nearly done with the puzzle, I had to slog through the circled squares to confirm the godly equivalents and make sure I had the letters in the proper order. I can see why it was recommended to solve on paper!


  • Long non-theme fill: 36d [Hammy] OVERACTED. 3d [Constellation near Draco] URSA MINOR: that’s Latin! Kind of see also 48a [Lieutenant framed by Iago] CASSIO, because it’s reminiscent of Cassiopeia, a constellation named for a mythological Greek queen.
  • 8d [Sullen] DOUR, 37d [Pessimistic] SOUR.
  • 31d [“Cookie Monster was here” evidence] CRUMB. Cute.
  • Down answers for which both rebus letters create plausible entries: 10d APR / APU; 32d NIVEA / RIVER; 38d TSPS / TSPS (what?)
  • 24d [Passing them often earns coll. credit] AP EXAMS. Or maybe [Peak morning drive times?]?

Relatively little frass in the grid, solid cluing throughout.

So how do I feel after spending more time writing about this crossword? About the same, I’d say. Impressive, but I’m not convinced this is the best format for the gimmick. I do, however, really appreciate the title, as the acrosses and downs are wrestling eternally with no apparent resolution. Actually, it’s similar to Patrick Blindauer’s offering for last week’s Thursday NYT—I wonder if it’ll engender the same sort of reactions and/or controversy.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Faltered States” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/19/14 • "Faltered States" • Fri • Long, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 9/19/14 • “Faltered States” • Fri • Long, Shenk • solution

Clap on an F at the beginning of a phrase, see what happens.

  • 23a. [Semi’s meth content?] FREIGHT OF SPEED (rate …).
  • 41a. [Outline drawn by an Arctic artist?] FLOE PROFILE (low …).
  • 48a. [Reactions to a scary book excerpt?] FRIGHT OF PASSAGE (rite …).
  • 67a. [Waterway for watermelons?] FRUIT CANAL (root …).
  • 70a. [Canine Anatomy and Itchyology?] FLEA MAJORS (Lee …).
  • 83a. [Place for the lead stretcher bearer?] FRONT OF THE LITTER (runt …).
  • 90a. [Vibration in a spider’s web?] FLY DETECTOR (lie …).
  • 114a. [Description of many perennials?] FLORAL AND HARDY (Laurel …).

Here’s a great example of a modest theme elevated by exceptionally good execution. In every instance, the spelling of the first word is altered by the addition of the new letter. Further, it seems that the pronunciations faultlessly rhyme despite such changes; it so often happens that various populations of solvers will be miffed by answers that don’t work in their regional accents. Unless there’s some unlikely way to pronounce “front” I can’t imagine any of these being subject to that notorious pitfall.

And then, the clues are great. The last two seem very natural. The first one features a great play on the word speed. The middle two, in row 11, are playfully alliterative and punning. Good stuff throughout.

  • 49d [Fashionably nostalgic] RETRO, crossing 72a [Dandy] FOP.
  • SphefneriFactettes! 57a [Restaurant in New York’s International Culinary Center] L’ÉCOLE (symmetic partner 78a [Epicurean appreciation] PALATE). 47a [Crayola color since 1993] DENIM. 8d [Publisher with a subspecies of rabbit named for him] HEFNER. That’s Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, the Lower Keys marsh rabbit, an endangered population endemic to the—you guessed it—Florida Keys. It was identified and named in 1984 by JD Lazell, Jr, whose studies were in part funded by the Playboy Corporation.
  • 12d [Golfers’ “butter knives”] ONE IRONS. Makes me think of oneiric. Followed by 13d [Prank involving a yank] WEDGIE. Wait, isn’t WEDGIE also a kind of golf club? Or maybe I’m mashing up wedge and mashie?
  • Lovely longish fill includes ALLSPICE, BOYCOTTS, AL PACINO, NOT A CLUE.
  • 77d [Form for filers] W-TWO. Boo, hiss.

Very enjoyable puzzle, perhaps a little on the FLUFF (48d) side, but that’s what you get when you mess around with bunnies.

Jacob Stulberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 140919

LA Times

Talk like a pirate day (today) is mildly annoying and based on a myth. Luckily it doesn’t intrude as much as say Christmas. Until now, the only reason I knew it was that day was because a game I play, Kingdom of Loathing, had random pirate encounters. That said, this puzzle is above average for a “quote” style theme. I quickly noted the middle column of R’s and just filled them all in down; not quite right. The joke is WHATS/APIRATES/FAVORITE/MOVIE? ARRRRRRRRRRRRGO; it was new to me and was amusing to uncover. Plus the fact it crosses two parts of the theme question is very elegant.

Other bits: Liked to see MATHS although as usual the clue fails to distinguish between British and British-and-other-Commonwealth-nations vocab. These clues are probably only jarring to me (and maybe Canadians, sometimes). FEASTS/FASTS is a cute intersection. Why do Americans change the spelling of GREY but not PREY?

4 Stars

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “One Across”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.19.14: "One Across"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.19.14: “One Across”

Welcome to Friday, everyone!

I hope you’re doing well, and, if you’re expecting me to produce some pirate jargon on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, you’re sadly mistaken! But what I will do is talk about today’s awesome puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen. It’s a straightforward theme, with each of the theme answers being two-word offerings in which the word “one” spans across the two words. Avast! (OK, maybe just a little pirate speak.)

  • LONDON EYE: (18A: [Ferris wheel near the Thames])
  • KLINGON EMPIRE: (27A: [Topic of study in Starfleet Academy])
  • DEPRESSION ERA: (46A: [Roaring Twenties follower])
  • DRAGON EGG: (61A: [“Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter” container])

Well, it helped the speed of my solve that two of the themes, London Eye and Depression Era, were lay-ups and was able to place those answers down immediately upon seeing their clues. I thought “Klingon” was going to play a part in one of the themes initially (which was correct), but anything involving Game of Thrones or Harry Potter was going to require help from crossings. Haven’t been a viewer of either!

As for the rest of the grid, how much fun were all of those long answers outside of the themes? Not sure which one I liked the best, but, being the sports junkie, INSIDE LANE moves into the inside and has just taken the lead while riding along the rail (29D: [Prized turf for some races]). PANTOMIMES comes in at a very close second, pushing hard on the outside (8D: [Silently acts out]). Still, a whole lot of love also goes to WAIT AND SEE (4D: [Patience is a virtue]), RIPSNORTER (32D: [Humdinger]) and TOE THE LINE, something that I do too many times since I’m far from a risk-taker (11D: [Do what is expected]). As always, I believe that the quality of a grid can be determined by the strength of the first clue, either across or down, and the clue to SPAS was a nice little misdirection (1D: [Places for peels]). After a few years, maybe, of crossword puzzle solving without seeing ASYLA, I think I’ve seen it twice in about a week now (12D: [Places for safety]). There’s definitely more to like about this puzzle, but since I’m on a train heading to upstate New York and I’m running low on battery power, I have to bid this review ADIEU (42A: [Parisian farewell]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SUPER-G (5D: [High-speed Olympic event]) – I used to confuse the giant slalom with the Super-G when I was younger, but the Super-G skiing discipline usually consists of much higher speeds than in giant slalom. The Super-G was only added into the Winter Olympics in time for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, and Americans have had some success in the event. Picabo Street became a household name when she won the gold medal in the Super-G in 1998 in the Nagano Olympics, and Bode Miller won the silver in the 2010 Vancouver Games and the bronze medal in the most recent winter Olympics, taking place earlier this year in Sochi. Lindsey Vonn, probably the most popular American skier to ever take the slopes, won four consecutive World Championships in the discipline (2009-2012).

See you all on Saturday!

Take care!


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28 Responses to Friday, September 19, 2014

  1. Brucenm says:

    An awful lot to grumble about in this puzzle. E.g. 1a (especially), 17a , 30a, 48a, 52a; and 39, & 59d. “Bundle of energy” is a phrase, but is it even remotely, even on Friday or Saturday, a *unit*? Liked 21, 23 and 36d, not to mention peignoirs generally, although “game” would seem to fit 54a better than “name,” leading me to wonder momentarily if they had misspelled “peignoir.” Wasn’t crazy about “one potato,” though I know the “one potato, two potato” routine.

    • Gareth says:

      Why exactly would you grumble about it? Do you expect everything in the puzzle to be from your cultural frame of reference? You may have noticed, but it doesn’t work that way…

  2. mnemonica says:

    This border solver loved the shout-out to almost-local trio LOS Lonely Boys and felt even more at home seeing RELLENO in the grid.

  3. Brad says:

    Apologies to those CHE solvers using their keyboard — and the timer — in Across Lite. Notice that the clock has already been allowed to run up to 4:55, and adjust your solving time accordingly. (I have now figured out how to reset the clock, not merely stop it.) This particular CHE puzzle is one that may be best enjoyed solving with a paper printout and pen/pencil, anyway – you’ll see what I mean. I hope you enjoy!

  4. Howard B says:

    LAUTNER was the unknown to me; but a great puzzle.

    Bruce, the nits you speak of are mostly wordplay and misdirection acceptable for a Friday puzzle – the use of alternate meanings adding extra flexibility in cluing. Sometimes those clues do stretch plausibility, but that license includes extra creativity. Your smileage may vary.

  5. David L says:

    Is it just me, or was the NYT way too easy for a Friday? Apart from a bit of hesitation before getting ORLANDO and LAUTNER, I cruised right through it. Nicely constructed and all, but I look for something a bit more challenging at the end of the week.

    Edit: I tried to add a fake HTML ‘close humblebrag’ to the end my post but the system rejected it…

  6. SEMINOLE SAM says:


    • Papa John says:

      Beside your post, what makes no sense?

    • Brucenm says:

      What about the puzzle was asinine? What made no sense? I had a lukewarm reaction to the puzzle, but that reaction was within the context of a high level of respect for the constructors, editors, solvers and bloggers who are denizens of this site. I thought that the puzzle was far from asinine, and made perfect sense, but in some respects didn’t appeal to me. What personal satisfaction do you get out of irrational, unexplained abuse and invective? As one who was less than enthusiastic about the puzzle, I’d be curious to know the details and specifics of your negative reaction.

      I suppose it’s a small suggestion that you check the spelling of the word *asinine* before you offer a 6-word post, but it couldn’t hurt. Of course I and many of us are guilty of blunders and typos too. But your post thereby came across as doubly “assinine.”

  7. Papa John says:

    “By my reckoning, the squares aren’t triple-, let alone double-checked—more like sesquialterally checked, considering the coeval nature of the deities.”

    What does this mean?

    • pannonica says:

      Ha, forgot to turn down the volume on my argotizer.

      • Papa John says:

        Really, what does it mean?

        I don’t know what a triple-checked square is. I think I have an idea what an unchecked square is ( I’ve picked up a few things since I’ve been visiting crossword related sites), but I’m still in the dark about many of the things (argots?) that more informed people, like yourself, are saying. The significance of word count, number of black squares and other references is still arcane to me.

        If a complete answer is too lengthy for this venue, I understand, and will go blissfully on my way.


        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Checked letter = letter that is used in two crossing words. Triply checked = letter used in three crossing words (as when there is a diagonal or winding answer intersecting the Acrosses and Downs).

          High word count generally corresponds to shorter answers, less difficulty for the constructor to fill the grid. In themelesses, the max is 72 words, and the really wild fill tends to show up in the 70- to 72-worders. A 60-worder has expanses of white space where longish entries are piled up together, and it’s harder to fill that so the answer words tend to be more dry. In themed dailies, the max is usually 78, but occasionally a really ambitious theme will spur the editor to accept a word count of 80.

          An editor generally sets a cap on the number of black squares. (Is 38 the NYT max? I think it may be.) The architecturally minded, record-breaking constructors may try to attain the lowest black square count (e.g. 17), but the fill tends to have more blah words stretched out with affixes (RE, -ERS, -NESS, -LESS, etc.)

          • Brucenm says:

            And by extension, an unchecked letter or square is one that is used only once.

          • Papa John says:


          • Gareth says:

            I’d say any square that can be determined by using the theme as well is triple checked.

          • pannonica says:

            Papa John, a good rule of thumb is to not take what I say seriously, especially when I sound serious.

          • john farmer says:

            An editor generally sets a cap on the number of black squares. (Is 38 the NYT max? I think it may be.)

            The NYT doesn’t mention a cap on its spec sheet. (LAT max is 43 for a 15x.) Jim and Jeff at Xword Info do a great job of tracking NYT puzzles, including block counts, and you can find a grid with as many as 56 blocks. Fifty and up is more rare than under 20, but puzzles in the 40s are relatively common, so Will allows for heavy block counts when there’s reason for it. Some people have said that 16% blockage in a grid (36 in a 15×15) should be the limit, and aesthetically that may be more appealing, but I don’t think any editors today enforce that. (OTOH, word count limits do get enforced, with the occasional exception; 78 for themed dailies, 72 for themeless).

            I like Victor’s CHE puzzle, and though a bit of confusion during the solve, the theme makes sense in the end. On the matter of checks for the circled squares, I’d say it’s less than 2, the norm. Maybe “sesquialterally checked, considering the coeval nature of the deities” is the best way to describe it. Whatever that means.

            [Edit to add: on second thought, each letter works twice, the god name and A/D answer; so the squares are each double-checked.]

          • john farmer says:

            I don’t think “double-checked” is the right term. “Checked” alone is good enough.

        • Papa John says:

          pannonica: Ah, so the entry in the review is serious but the answer to my question is not. I think I got that. As I reread your review, I now understand what you were getting at, but, as a solver, I’m not sure of its relevance.

          In return, a good rule of thumb for me is to take me seriously when I am being serious. Of course, that’s entirely up to you.

          • pannonica says:

            Perhaps not ever, perhaps always. More often than not it’s a mix of both, but difficult to tell which is which. I think.

  8. Papa John says:

    Amy, does your crossword book explain all this stuff?

    I copied all you wrote and put it in a file. I’ll access it when you mention word count and see if I know what your’e talking about.

    Thanjks, again.

  9. Gareth says:

    So much win in today’s NYT! Starting at a perfect 1A. Only thing was I finished in 5:20, which is ridiculous for me on a Friday! I assume the straightforward clueing is because this skews modern?

  10. cyberdiva says:

    I tend to enjoy the Chronicle puzzles, but rarely am I as impressed as I was today. I was quite frustrated until I realized that in spite of some of the letters I had put in from crosses, 60A had to be HEART OF DARKNESS. That’s when everything fell into place, though even then I didn’t yet realize that the GODS formed by the circled spaces were not just any old Greek and Roman gods whose names happened to fit; they were the equivalent gods in the separate mythologies, and that the Across clues gave rise to the Greek names and the Down clues to the Roman. I seldom give 5 stars, but I did today.

  11. Noam D. Elkies says:

    “Why do Americans change the spelling of GREY but not PREY?”

    One reason is that PRAY already exists with a different meaning.

    (Which leads me to Wikipedia’s report that the eggcorn ‘preying mantis’ is sometimes used in reference to their predatory habits, an in turn to wonder whether we’ll ever see “EGGCORN” in the grid…)


  12. Ethan Taliesin says:

    I started that CHE puzzle on my phone. Aaack! I could only input one letter into a box with no indication that there was any method to this madness. To hell with doing anything other than straightforward puzzles on a phone. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema is hardly a joking matter!

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