Saturday, September 27, 2014

NYT 7:34 (Amy) 
Newsday 6:53 
LAT 3:12 (Andy) 
CS 28:53 (Ade) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 27 14, no. 0927

NY Times crossword solution, 9 27 14, no. 0927

It’s a 15×16 grid, to accommodate the central quad stack of 15s. Quad stacks polarize the solvers: Some say “Whoa” and “Yay,” while others say “Why?” and “Gah.” This one feels perhaps less polarizing than a number of its predecessors in quadville. I CALL ‘EM AS I SEE ‘EM is crisp and lively, NATIONAL AVERAGE is completely fine. BREAKER ONE NINER, I don’t know where the final R came from; since when is CB lingo filled with the “niner”? And IN ONE’S SPARE TIME is a solid phrase, but it’s fiendishly difficult to find a quad stack with four good phrases that all omit the word ONE’S.

Favorite fill:

  • 19a. [Smoke without fire?], E-CIGARETTE. “Vaping” is growing in popularity and while the jury’s still out on its safety, delivering nicotine in vapor without the toxins of nicotine and tar seems like a big plus to me. Having recently lost a friend’s mom to a terrible COPD death and knowing someone else with lung cancer, I am fervently anti-smoking. If you smoke, will you pretty please do your best to get off the tobacco? I have less objection to nicotine. /soapbox
  • 49a. [High ranking?], TOP TEN LIST. I like to use numerals for 10+, but TEN is such a short word I can’t hold fast to that policy for it.
  • 15d. [Who said “I have a wonderful psychiatrist that I see maybe once a year, because I don’t need it. It all comes out onstage”], JOAN RIVERS. Hey! Was this puzzle made a while back? It’s not quite a Joan Rivers tribute puzzle (we had one of those in Daily Celebrity Crossword, of course, by Adam Cohen, one of DCC’s resident “grid reapers”) but it’s nice to see her here.

Clues of note:

  • 18a. [Mideast pops?], ABBA. In contemporary Hebrew, ABBA means “daddy.” Not, apparently, in ancient Aramaic.
  • 37a. [Country standard], NATIONAL AVERAGE. Clue suggests we’re looking for a song title.
  • 46a. [One telling you where to get off, for short?], GPS. Don’t like the use of “one” in this clue, as a GPS device isn’t a “one.” But a GPS may well tell you what exit to take.

Names I didn’t know:

  • 2d. [Deep-sea explorer William], BEEBE.
  • 7d. [Shortstop Aybar who was a 2011 Gold Glove winner], ERICK.
  • 50d. [Israeli conductor Daniel], OREN.

Crosswordese and other blah stuff: YEO, IN BIG, ELIAN, T-BAR, ALOP, ERI TU, BEGEM, A MERE. I’ve seen Tuesday puzzles with a larger amount of such stuff, so …

3.66 stars for this 69-worder. Quad stacks aren’t my favorite type of themeless, but certainly I’ve seen others I’ve been less fond of. This one gets at most a semi-gah.


Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Go for the Gold!”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.27.14: "Go for the Gold!"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.27.14: “Go for the Gold!”

Hello there, weekend!

The last weekend in September is upon, marking another time in which we can stop and marvel at how fast time is flying yet again! Conversely, I did not fly through today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, though I had much easier time of it once I finally got one of the theme answers. In the four theme entries, common phrases are altered – using puns as the clues – by tacking on the letters “Au,” which also happens to be the periodic table abbreviation for the element gold.

  • CROWD THE PLATEAU: (17A: [Overpopulate part of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico?]) – From “crowd the plate.” Not sure if everyone knows, but crowding the plate, at least to me, is a baseball-related term that’s used when a batter in the batter’s box stands very close to home plate in his set-up, hence “crowding the plate.” Soon-to-be-retired Derek Jeter is a batter who crowds the plate.
  • AUDIE LAUGHING: (28A: [Mirthful Mr. Murphy?]) – From “die laughing.”
  • HEAVEN’S GATEAU: (46A: [Angel food cake?]) – From “Heaven’s Gate.”
  • AUTRY TO REMEMBER: (63A: [Crooning cowboy we should never forget?]) – From “try to remember.”

Really liked the theme, though I had some real trouble breaking through with any of the theme answers for a few minutes, even though I had knocked out a good portion of the northwest.  The breakthrough came when I placed in only one letter of an entry, the “U” in CHEWS UP (7D: [Turns to pulp, perhaps]).  Knew that answer had to be “(plural verb) up,” and once I put in the “up” part, it left 28A looking like “—IELAU—–.”  Knew that laughing would be the second word, so thought about famous Murphys.  Eddie was first, and it fit, but didn’t make too much sense.  Audie was next, and once I put it in, and took a look at the grid’s title, the “aha” moment came!  Immediately after filling that in, then “crowd the plateau” was the next answer to fall, since I already had “crowd” in place.   The clues were tough, as per usual with Klahn’s puzzles, but was on a better wavelength with this grid and its clues than other Klahn offerings.  Despite that, TYPING still was lost on me for a good while until I thought about it a second time (8D: [Depressing letters?]).  Still needed the crossings to get that one. So wanted “tennis” instead of EGG TOSS (38A: [Game with many breaks]).  To be honest, I’m so clumsy in the kitchen that I don’t need to toss eggs to break them…and I don’t mean breaking them on purpose in preparing them to cook.  Though a short entry, really liked the clue/answer for HAUNT, especially since I’ve used that word a good number of times to describe some of my usual stomping grounds (52D: [Regular place]).  Ok, time to go grocery shopping, and to do so, I’m not going in an ESCORT, but I do own a Ford nonetheless (48D: [Phased-out Ford]). I drive a Taurus, a once-phased out model that’s now back and running, I believe.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BAMA (14A: [“The Tide”]) – “Roll Tide, Roll!” Since the inception of the Associated Press poll in 1936, no Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) school has won more national championships in college football than the University of Alabama, colloquially known as ‘Bama. Alabama has won 10 national championships in that span, with the last coming after the 2012 college football season, when they defeated Notre Dame – the school that ranks immediately behind Alabama with eight national championships since 1936 – in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami.

Take care, everyone, and see you for the Sunday Challenge!!

Take care!


Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 9.27.14 by Mark Bickham

LAT Puzzle 9.27.14 by Mark Bickham

I kept looking for a mini-theme between the two 15-letter answers, BELLBOTTOM PANTS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, but none was to be had. Like most of Mark’s puzzles, this one is heavy on the Scrabbly letters: ALL THAT JAZZ/OZONE/AZTEC, YANGTZE/IDEALIZE, PIZZA HUT/ZOOMS IN/TRAILBLAZES, and ZIP CODES/GIZA make for 6 Zs, and then you have the X in UNIX/AXE, the Q in BBQ/QUILT, and the J in ALL THAT JAZZ/JAM, not to mention a smattering of Ks and Vs. Looking at the Scrabble averages for weekend (Friday and Saturday) puzzles over at XWord Info, this would be among the top 10 had it appeared in the NYT.

The fill by and large doesn’t suffer from the Scrabbliness, either. AMATO at 1-Across is a bit unfortunate, but other than that, there’s just the MISC. Roman numeral CLI, and the partial OOMPA. Other highlights include I’LL LIVE, the full ALOE VERA, I MEAN IT, BAT CAVE [Part of Wayne’s world], and PACK RAT. All in all, a very impressive puzzle that was fun to solve. 4.25 stars from me. Until next week!

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 9 27 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 9 27 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Hey, hey! Easier than the NYT for a change.

Favorite fill:

  • 17a. [Bent out of shape], NOT A HAPPY CAMPER.
  • 50a. [Team-building activity], FANTASY BASEBALL. I’ve met the guy who invented Rotisserie Baseball (Dan Okrent), but I don’t think I know anyone with a fantasy baseball team. Lots more fantasy football teams in my circles.
  • And … that’s about it. The short and mid-range fill is all fairly ordinary stuff. Nothing too obscure, nothing too fancy.

Five more clues:

  • 20a. [Literally, “great prince”], TYCOON. Etymology! Prince also gets play at 12d, POP MUSIC.
  • 30a. [Queue component], TRESS. That’s the archaic “braid” definition of queue. You may be excused for not knowing that one.
  • 35a. [They’re made to be checked], PLAIDS.
  • 43a/44a. [Barley product], MALT and SCONE. Scone? Really? Scones apparently can be made with wheat, oats, or barley. Had no idea.
  • 5d. [Reminder of an old flame], ASH. Ah, yes. The ashes of love.

Not much else to call out here, as there were no big “help, I don’t get it” sections and little in the “wow, whoa” category. Four solid stars.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Saturday, September 27, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    “Breaker one niner” means “I would like to interrupt whatever is happening on channel 19 with an announcement.” CB channel 19 is used, by convention, by truckers. The “-er” suffixes are so that the speech is easier to understand through the static.

  2. Martin says:

    I sold CB radios when I was a teenager, and I can confirm that the NINER part of the clue is legit. It was a real catch phrase in the late ’70s. drove me nuts too (amongst other things from that era).


    • Brucenm says:

      Yes to both the above. — [Edited in afterwards: I just noticed that the 2 above posts are two different Martins, but I can’t see that it makes any difference to what I wrote.] — I actually used a CB radio a few times during that period. My understanding was that the convention of adding an ‘R’ at the end of nine, was to distinguish it from ‘five’, with the identical vowel sound.

      Loved your puzzle. I am one (!) who appreciates and is greatly impressed by amazing stacks. They enhance my enjoyment. Apparently others disagree. Congrats to you and George.

      • pannonica says:

        Correct on 9 v 5. Is it weird that when I have to spell things over the phone I use the NATO phonetic alphabet and say “niner” (and “zero”, and “correct”, but not “affirmative” or “negative” (or “negatory”!)).

  3. Matt says:

    Bang. Ouch. Bang. Ouch. Desktop got a new set of dents.

  4. David L says:

    BEEBE was actually my first entry, on account of my vast knowledge of deep sea exploration (not really, I just happened to know the name). But then I threw in IBNS, a decidedly non-Arabic plural, and maybe IBN means son, not father, I can’t remember. But that didn’t work out, so I tried ABUS instead – closer, but still not it.

    What I’m saying is, there are several ways to clue ABBA, and you guys came up with a new and (to me) completely obscure one.

    Also, Sushi offering = FLUKE? The fluke that came to my mind in this context is this a parasite of fish, among other things. I’m pretty sure there have been cases of people getting seriously sick from flukes in sushi. I assume you mean some other kind…

    • CY Hollander says:

      Ibn does mean “son of”. Possibly a way to remember that is that “ibn” appears in a number of famous names where it means “son of” (patronymics being more common than…filionymics?). ABU is related to ABBA, so that was on the right track.

  5. sbmanion says:

    FLUKE is a type of flounder.

    I did not know this. I assumed it had something to do with whale. When I was in law school, my wife taught English to some wives of Japanese grad students. We became good friends with several of them and they invited us to their apartment on “whale day,” the day they received a care package from home that consisted of every product imaginable that can produced from whale. Whale candy was surprisingly good.

    Tough puzzle for me today.


    • Martin says:

      Flatfish comprise two families, the right- and left-handed fish. Most of our flounders are right-handed. “Fluke” is the term for left-handed flatfish found in the Atlantic. In the Northeast, fisherman also call them “summer flounder” or “windowpanes” (which are actually a species of fluke with translucent fins).

      Atlantic fluke is a US sushi-bar stand-in for the prized Japanese left-handed hirame. Our fluke usually goes by that name in Japanese restaurants even though it isn’t quite as fine as the real thing. In the picture you can see that when the fish is oriented belly-down the head is on the left. That’s what identifies it as a “left-handed flounder” or fluke.

    • Bencoe says:

      A “fluke” can also refer to the tail fin of a whale, so you were right to remember that.

    • Martin says:

      While we’re at it, both of those meanings, as well as the fluke of an anchor (after which a whale’s fluke is named) and the parasitic liver worm, share an etymon with “floor.” They’re from the Greek “plax” (flat surface) which also gives us “placenta,” the placoid scales of sharks and the ancient placoderm fishes. The sense of flattening an angry sea gave Latin “placare,” from which we get placate and please.

  6. David L says:

    That’s fascinating. It also gives an unexpected etymological richness to the name of my soon-to-be-formed rock band, Placate the Fluke.

  7. Alex says:

    If I recall, Neville had a puzzle similar to the CS offering. Not a demerit, just interesting.

  8. CY Hollander says:

    The clue for 1A in the NYT, “Start of a weird infraction”, simply doesn’t work: “I BEFORE E” is the rule, not the infraction. “Weird infraction” would work for E BEFORE I. “Rule with a weird exception” would work for “I BEFORE E”.

Comments are closed.