Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NYT 3:25 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 3:24 (Amy) 
LAT 3:47 (pannonica) 
CS 10:21 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Gerry Wildenberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution,  9 23 14, no. 0923

NY Times crossword solution, 9 23 14, no. 0923

The GOLD NUGGETS (38a. [Valuable finds suggested by the circled letters]) found in six 2×2 chunks in this grid spell out GOLD in either direction from various starting points. And … that’s it for the theme.

Tough-for-Tuesday bits:

  • 22a. [Rodeo rope], RIATA. Crosswordese in my book.
  • European rivers of crosswordland! YSER and AAR.
  • 26a. [Actor Claude of “B. J. and the Bear”], AKINS. He didn’t do a whole lot in show biz after his ’78-’79 TV heyday.
  • 48a. [Like the snow in a shaken snow globe], ASWIRL. A word I’ve never used.
  • 51a. [Makes a harsh sound], BLATS. This word always makes me think of the scientific names of cockroaches.
  • 64a. [Advanced law degs.], LLDS. In England, sure. In the US, it’s strictly an honorary degree.
  • 65a. [Stravinsky ballet], AGON. I’m surprised we don’t see this more often in crosswords, given its 4-letterness and common letters.
  • 53d. [Itsy-bitsy creature], AMEBA. Amoeba is a much more common spelling here.
  • 32d. [Billy], HE-GOAT. HE-GOAT? Never seen that term before, I don’t think.
  • 40d. [Twaddle], SLIPSLOP. Also unfamiliar.

UNSTOW (29d. [Take out of an overhead bin, say]) seems less difficult, though I can’t say I’ve heard this one used before.

Entertaining wrong thought: When I read 27d. [Lawrence who co-wrote two of the “Star Wars” films], the first thing that popped into my head was MARTIN Lawrence. Nope! Lawrence KASDAN. There were an awful lot of names in the puzzle aside from this one, no? I anticipate complaints.

Three stars from me. I liked big SPENDER and BOGEYING but there were rather more answers I didn’t care for than ones I liked.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “From Z to A”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 9 23 14 "From Z to A"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 23 14 “From Z to A”

Matt’s theme this week is four people whose first names end with Z and last names start with A:

  • 17a. [He plays Tom Haverford on “Parks and Recreation”], AZIZ ANSARI. Funny guy.
  • 65a. [Second man to walk on the moon], BUZZ ALDRIN. Space cadet.
  • 11d. [Wednesday’s father], GOMEZ ADDAMS. Fictional character.
  • 25d. [Country singer-songwriter who wrote hits for Merle Haggard], LIZ ANDERSON. I haven’t heard of her and don’t know any of her songs, but this artist, born in 1927, appears to have had a notable career. I don’t much follow country music.

Solid and Scrabbly, if a hair unexciting to me.

Weirdest answer: 23a. [Item in a nest in barn rafters], OWL EGG. Arbitrary!

Good stuff:

  • 34a. [Nutella flavor], HAZELNUT. Nutella’s gross, though.
  • 47a. [Superhero in red and yellow], THE FLASH.
  • 49a. [Downloadable show], PODCAST.
  • 5d. [Too far to catch up to], LONG GONE.
  • 41d. [Amount equal to a million pennies], TEN GRAND. Somewhat arbitrary amount, yes, but I bet “ten” partners with “grand” more often than most other numbers. There’s also the 100 Grand Bar (yum!).
  • 52d. [Ruckus], TUMULT. How many words containing two U’s (and no other vowels) can be clued by another word with two U’s?

Even more names in this puzzle than in the NYT—that’s part of the Jonesin’ vibe, though, no? Lots of pop culture and whatnot?

3.5 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Flight of Fancy”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 9/23/14

Crossword Nation 9/23/14

“Flight of Fancy” indeed! And “fancy” this: a slightly extra-wide grid (16×15) to accommodate that elegantly descending “flight” of STEPs that makes its way through this visually-based puzzle. Beautiful. The five themers each contain the word step—but as the word itself and not embedded (as in LAST EPISODE, e.g.). I already used the word, but I’m gonna use it again: this is one elegant construction, especially as it is reinforced by so very much long and strong non-theme fill. Taking it from the top, let’s look at what we’ve got here.

  • 15A. “STEP ON IT!” [“Hurry up!”]. No Dark at the Top of the Stairs here, just a good, solid imperative to light the way down.
  • 21A. MISSTEP [Tightrope walker’s worry]. What you don’t want to make on your descent either.
  • 34A. HIGH-STEPPING [Like traditional Irish dance choreography]. Hello, Riverdance. Or (from Oklahoma!) Oscar Hammerstein’s team of horses in “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top“—though technically they were high-steppin’
  • 47A. STEPS IN [Takes charge].
  • 59A. DOORSTEP [Welcome mat spot (our puzzle title hints at the theme revealed by the pattern of circled squares)]. Not even a little convinced that the parenthetical “reveal” was necessary, but that hardly does anything to SULLY the delight I took in seeing the way this theme played out.

empire-state-build_3And look: bonus fill—with STAIR-RACING [Competing in a run up the Empire State Building]. Only for the fittest of runners who, after reaching the top, can rightfully declare “WE DID IT!” [“Yay for us!”]. Three more vertical elevens are part of the grid as well, all of them fresh and terrific: SIGHT-READER [Substitute musician, often] (the ability to sight-read—and sight-read well—is practically a prerequisite for subs); BUTTERING UP [Sweet talking] (yes, he’s flirting, but this is sorta what Curly’s doing vis à vis Laurey during “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”…); and ONION BAGELS, rhymingly clued as [Deli rolls with holes].

To sweeten the pot, these SW and NE vertical columns are crossed by triple-stacks of sevens, and balanced as well by triple-stacks of eight in the NW and SE corners. And there ain’t an iffy entry in the lot. In the SW, in addition to “We did it!,” there’s also AMENITY, enticingly clued as [Godiva truffle on a hotel pillow, for one] and TRACERS [Bullets that leave trails] (a term I first consciously encountered when I saw the post-Vietnam War, John DiFusco-conceived play of the same name in the ’80s). Up in the NE, there’s PETUNIA, she of the sweet persona and [Porky Pig’s lady], ELITIST [One who puts on airs] and KEPT OUT [Denied entry]. Perhaps by that elitist… Still, props for the “internal glue.”

In addition to the theme fill, the NW stack gives us RENEGADE, here clued as [Traitor]; but let’s face it, a renegade can also be a forward-thinking ACTIVIST [Issue-oriented person]. Anyone else spend time with The Roosevelts last week? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. (So, yes—more internal glue.) And, in addition to the theme fill, the SE stack also gives us NFL TEAMS [Chi. Bears and N.Y. Giants, e.g.] and ORNATELY [In a glitzy fashion]—like the way some Superbowl Halftime performers are togged up.

Other great eights are to be found in PRESS FOR with its potentially tricky-to-parse clue joy-dishwashing-liquid[Advocate in favor of], making “advocate” a verb and not a noun; and the smile-inducing DISH PANS, with its tricky-by-design clue [Joy-filled sink basins?]. Also on my happy-making list: “GO VOTE!,” ANISE, GEMS, DUSTY, PEKOE, FURRY (though I first entered FUZZY), FATWAS, GOTHIC, actor Ben VEREEN, SUPREME, and yes (because of its sly clue [Fulfills a take-out order?]) DELES. So we’re talkin’ manuscript prep here and not kitchen prep.

You’ll be relieved to know, I won’t pay homage to every word in the grid, but I suspect you can tell how satisfied I was to encounter a puzzle with such a smart (and smartly-executed) theme that’s so very rich in top-notch non-theme fill as well. Did I love ORBED [Made into a ball]? Nupe. Never heard the word before; didn’t even know orb could even be a verb. But it can. It’s not a word I warm to—but it’s legit, and I learned something. Mighta been fonder of MISUSES with a grammar clue instead of [Manhandles], but the bottom line is that this puzzle’s umpteen assets faaaaar outweigh any potential “detractors.” For newbies, it provides a nicely calibrated “next step” challenge (so to speak), as well as a “Yeah, that’s why I like to solve” experience for the more seasoned regulars.

Imoo, this was “DA BOMB.”

Happy first day of autumn!

And simply in deference to the calendar, happy first day of autumn!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 9/23/14 • Tue • Wechsler • solution

LAT • 9/23/14 • Tue • Wechsler • solution

Just between you and me, I’ve seen this exact theme before. Though to be fair, it was executed slightly differently. Back in September of 2011 Ben Tausig’s InkWell puzzle, entitled Hush-Hush, placed the revealer in the center and the themers in pinwheel arrangement.

For this puzzle, 65-across, in the bottom right corner, lets the solver in on the secret, such as it is: [Surreptitiously … and a hint to 20-, 28-, 46- and 52-Across] ON THE QT. I’ll just plagiarize my earlier self now.

Opinions differ as to the origin—whether  ‘qt’ is quiet or quiet time—but all sources agree that the idiomatic phrase means “quietly, in a secretive manner, clandestinely.” In accordance, the four long theme answers are two-word phrases with the initials QT.

  • 20a. [Period of meaningful interaction] QUALITY TIME.
  • 28a. [“That’s using your head!”] QUICK THINKING.
  • 46a. [Planck’s Nobel-winning formulation] QUANTUM THEORY.
  • 52a. [Small musical interval sung in choral warmups] QUARTER TONE.

Just for reference—and I won’t mention the Tausig again after this—the earlier crossword’s answers were QUICK TURN, QUEUE TIME, QUIT TALKING, and QUEER THEORY, for an overlap of only ⅜, slightly more than a QUARTER TONE. The puzzle at hand possesses some longer Q-words, but the quality of phrases is comparable (I was too harsh on the previous puzzle back then).

  • In addition to the plethora of Qs, the grid also contains Scrabbly letters including a few Ks, an X, a Z, et cetera.
  • 56d [CPR providers] EMTS, 8d [Waiting room waiters] PATIENTS, 66a [8-Down treaters: Abbr.] DRS, 64a [Start to practice?] MAL-, 26a [Take to court] SUE. Go ahead, tell me there isn’t a narrative here.
  • 33a [Detach from the dock] UNMOOR; 57a [Let go] UNLOOSE. Too close for my liking. Also, UNLOOSE is one of those words that’s a synonym of its seeming opposite, that which the prefix would normally negate but instead emphasizes.
  • A/Z accessorizing! 1a [Reduce to mist] ATOMIZE; 6d [Last letter of a pilot’s alphabet] ZULU; 1d [Soul to Zola] ÂME; 15a [From A to Z] ALL. From the last, we can append 37d [In every aspect] ENTIRELY.
  • Nice seven-stacks in the NW and SE corners; MILE RUN is the only entry among these that feels weak.
  • 25d [Novelist Umberto] ECO. But of course he’s much more than a novelist. A semiotician, a scholar, an essayist, a raconteur …
  • 47d [Barnyard animal in totspeak] MOOCOW. Joycean as well.
  • Speaking of J Joyce, 32d [Dublin-born] IRISH. The actor [Stephen of “The Crying Game”] REA hails from Belfast, in Northern Ireland.
  • Least favorite fill: 61d [EPA concern] AQI (Air Quality Index), but it’s forgivable, considering how many Qs must be dealt with in this construction.

Good crossword, quite a Tuesday.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Latin Three-Step”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.23.14: "Latin Three-Step"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.23.14: “Latin Three-Step”

Good morning, everybody!

Let me start with a quick story. Before I started doing today’s puzzle, I caught up with a good friend of mine whom I had not talked with extensively in about three years. As we were catching up, I mentioned to her that I blog about crosswords daily at this amazing web site (this one) and hoped that she didn’t think any less of me because of that fact. Not only did she not think that, she mentioned that she does crossword puzzles as well! Better yet, she told me she had just done yesterday’s CS/Washington Post puzzle. I couldn’t believe it!! I gave her the link to this website, and hopefully she’s reading this because this is definitely a shout out to her! 

I also hope she, along with everyone else, started and finished today’s really cool puzzle, which was served up to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In it, three theme answers are multiple-word entries in which each of the words in the entry start with the letters “CHA.” The reveal is the final clue of all the across clues. Let’s boogie, shall we?

  • CHARLIE CHAPLIN: (20A: [United Artists cofounder whose first feature-length film was “The Kid” in 1921])
  • CHAIN CHAIN CHAIN: (39A: [Refrain from a 1968 Aretha Franklin hit]) – The more I listen to “Chain of Fools,” the more I believe that that is my second-favorite Aretha Franklin song, behind “Think” and edging past “Respect” and “Freeway of Love.”  Oops, just forgot about “A Natural Woman.”  I think I have to (possibly) reorder my Aretha list shortly.
  • CHANNEL CHANGER: (53A: [Surfer, of a sort])
  • DANCE: (59A: [What one might do to the starts of each word in the answers to 20-, 39-, and 53-Across])

If JABBA the Hutt could speak English instead of his alien language, he’d probably say that he’s not obese, but just big-boned (1A: [Obese “Star Wars” character]). Well, I guess Jabba didn’t have bones in that pudgy body, huh? Oh, well. Anyways, this was a real smooth grid, without too much crosswordese and some fun long answers, with the intersecting entries of NEAT AS A PIN (27D: [Tidy to the max]) and AMETHYST standing out as some of the best fill (45A: [February birthstone]). Even though a much shorter answer, I haven’t seen J. CREW in a grid ever before, and yet I think it’s pretty good short fill to boot (49D: [Banana Republic competitor]). Although I was much more of a fan of JOSIE the animated character as opposed to the movie adaptation of her, I definitely was a fan of the show AND the movie about the band in which she’s the lead for (49A: [“_____ and the Pussycats” (2001 Rosario Dawson film)]). From now on, I should count the number of days in between sightings of the word CZAR instead of “tsar” (56D: [Peter the Great, for one]). The number on the count-up is currently at 0 with this CZAR appearance today. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BORA (4D: [When repeated, a Polynesian island]) – It can be argued that the current popularity soccer now holds in this country initially traces back to 1994, when the United States hosted the FIFA World Cup and the U.S. Men’s National Team, coached by BORA Milutinovic, advanced to the knockout phase of the tournament for the first time since the 1930s and won its first World Cup game (vs. Colombia) since 1950. Bora also coached in the World Cup with Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria (“Fly, Super Eagles!”) and China, making him only one of two coaches ever to manage five different nations at the FIFA World Cup.

Thank you so much for your time, everyone!  See you all tomorrow!

Take care!


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10 Responses to Tuesday, September 23, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I like the theme. But I kept thinking that the nuggets should actually cover all the different possible combinations in space. There are 4 places the G can be within each nugget, and then the O can be in 2 places relative to the G. The other 2 letters are pre-ordained at that point. So that’s a total of 8 distinct options. (Is this correct?) Instead, we have 6, and the top right and bottom right are identically formed. So, that was a little disappointing :)

    Or this is a test for OCD and I passed.

  2. Jeff M says:

    KASDAN crossing AKINS?? Stepped away from the puzzle right then and there.

  3. cyberdiva says:

    I liked the NYT puzzle, whose challenges were matched by lots of help from the GOLD squares. Amy, I think you’re mistaken about LLD being used only in England. In the US, it’s a scholarly advanced degree pursued primarily by people who want to be law school professors.

    • sbmanion says:

      I have known a few lawyers who got an advanced degree in tax law called the LLM. I think the LLM is available in other disciplines, but I have never heard of anyone getting such a degree in any discipline other than tax law.

      I am pretty sure that American universities do not award an LLD. The American equivalent is the SJD, which is indeed usually associated with university professors.

      By the way, I just googled this to see if any American schools do award an LLD other than in an honorary way. I didn’t see any, but I found out something I never knew. The two L’s in LLB (the predecessor to what is now almost universally called the JD in the United States) stand for Canon Law and Civil Law. Apparently, at Cambridge, one studied both while at Oxford, only the single L Civil Law. I wonder how Ogden Nash feels about this.


      • cyberdiva says:

        Steve, thanks for the interesting posting. It’s possible, I suppose, that things have changed over the years, but some years ago, I knew several people who either had or were studying for the LL.D from American universities. One was at Harvard Law School. All already had the beginning law degree (LL.B or J.D., depending on when and where it was awarded) and got or were pursuing the doctor of laws degree in order to teach in law school.

        • Davis says:

          I’m a relatively recently minted lawyer, and LL.D is completely unknown to me–If HLS once offered the degree, it has since gotten rid of that option.

          Incidentally, regarding the LLM degree: in addition to tax specialists, people who practice law abroad but who want to be able to practice in the US often get an LLM. At my law school, all or nearly all LLMs were granted to foreign students.

          • pannonica says:

            I wonder if readers’ minds, eyes glaze over when I ramble about specifics according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), as mine do when I see all these LLBs, HLSs, LLMs, LLDs, JDs, and so on.

  4. Gareth says:

    LAT used its scrabbly letters well! I always thought only Brits said ONTHEQT!

  5. Howard B says:

    Nice writeup, Ade! I do wish I ran across people who just happened to solve puzzles as a hobby more often. We’re all among friends here.
    I never did think about ranking Aretha against Aretha against Aretha. That’s almost unfair.

  6. Mr. Grumpy says:

    CS: Is there a difference between a Cha-Cha and a Cha-Cha-Cha? I found the imbalance/lack of symmetry off-putting. And, if the “three-step” referred to the three theme entries, shouldn’t they have been different? If the dance goes “cha-cha, cha-cha-cha, cha-cha” then I will fall on my sword and acknowledge the error of my ways, but otherwise I think “Latin Three-Step” was a fail.

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