Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jonesin' 3:37 (Amy) 
NYT 3:24 (Amy) 
LAT 3:10 (Amy) 
CS 9:26 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 30 14, no. 0930

NY Times crossword solution, 9 30 14, no. 0930

Super quick write-up! Go!

Kyle’s theme is THE PRICE IS RIGHT, that 35a. [Long-running game show with a feature spelled out clockwise by this puzzle’s circled letters] once hosted by BOB BARKER and now emceed by DREW CAREY. The circled letters spell out the SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN. Now, I thought the two people vying for huge prize packages were in the Showcase Showdown, but apparently that event is merely the Showcase, and the Showcase Showdown is when potential showcase players spin the big wheel and try to come closest to $1 in two spins without (of course) going over. There are 20 sections on the wheel (showing nickel increments from 5¢ to $1.00), so the big circle  in this puzzle that’s made of 16 letters doesn’t capture the dimension, or the adrenaline.

Any American solvers who complain that they shouldn’t be expected to know these entries from a game show that’s been on network TV for decades have no argument.

The fill’s pretty solid for a Tuesday, though TERCE (45d. [Canonical hour before sext]) is certainly not familiar vocabulary, and ARIL and SOYA are infrequently seen outside crosswords. Didn’t know GAS RING was a thing (24d. [Blue circle on a range]). On the plus side, LOVE BITES and BEER CAN are pretty zippy.

Three more things:

  • 37d. [Original name for J.F.K. Airport], IDLEWILD. Not sure how familiar this is to younger and non-New York folks.
  • 58a. [___ Marbles (British Museum display)], ELGIN. When I was a young’un doing crosswords, I assumed these were round marbles rather than classical statues carved from marble.
  • 31d. [Canadian comedy show of the 1970s-’80s], SCTV. (Eh, you hoser.) Where Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, John Candy, and a whole bunch of other funny luminaries got launched.

3.66 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle, “Alternate Universe”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 9/30

Crossword Nation 9/30

What did you have for BREAKFAST today? Ham and eggs? Tea and toast? Because that’s what Liz is offering up in her “Alternate Universe.” So, the title does not take its meaning from the Outer Space sense of the phrase, but rather from the more literal one suggested in the clue at 36A. [Meal that’s “skipped” in four puzzle answers]. Notice how the squares with those circled letters “skip” / “alternate” with the empty squares—and how those circled letters offer the menu cited above. One nice, fresh approach to using circled letters. Here are the four additional themers that also, well, spell out the answer to the eternal question: “What’s for breakfast?”

17A. [Separates] DISENGAGES. Which gives us EGGS. And really—given the way the letters for eggs are separated from one another—what a perfect word with which to demonstrate the gimmick.

26A. [Polite letter ender] “BEST REGARDS.” Which contains our spot of TEA.

50A. [Two-piece living room units] OTTOMAN SETS. Which gives us TOAST. Was having a bit of trouble understanding this clue/fill combo until I did a Google “Images” search. D’oh.

61A. [Low-interest loan, informally] CHEAP MONEY. For that HAM. Two things: I’d kinda been hoping for jam, but twasn’t to be. More critically, I’d practically lost sight of the phrase cheap money, but I think it’s terrific and was (sadly) reminded that it was one of the factors contributing to that recession that hit us in 2008. Again: dough d’oh.

Good solid corners, NE and SW, too, with those triple seven-columns. Up north, this yields us EGO TRIP (with its great [Narcissist’s vacation?] clue), SAT IDLE and PLEASED (pleasingly clued as [Happy as a clam]). Down south, we get the colloquial “I GOOFED!” (clued with the equally colloquial [“My bad!”]), NOT SURE and NUT TREE.

There are several more colloquial, chatty, attitudinous clue/fill pairs that breathe life into the solve as well:

  • [“All right, I’ll do it!”] and “OK, OK!”
  • [“I’m all ears!”] and “ASK ME!”
  • [“Didn’t mean to spill coffee on you!] and “OOPS!” “HMM…” [“Let me think…”]. After “I goofed!” seems like someone’s havin’ a bad day. With that coffee spill, of course, perhaps a somewhat worse day for the person receiving the acknowledgement of who’s at fault. Might really IRK [Drive…] someone […bananas]—even give him/her reason to [Utter expletives] SWEAR. [“You betcha!”] “YEP!”

More fodder for the “plus” column comes from the cluing of GUESSES with the non-fauna-based [Wild things?] and EYELASH with [Hair that’s lengthened by mascara]; IN A KNOT, LIBIDO, AMATIS and ED ASNER with his full name accounted for.

While I love Aretha Franklin and I love the song, it seems kinda stretchy using a fill-in-the-blank to clue RESP as: [“___-E-C-T…” (Aretha’s spelled-out request)]. Reference to the song definitely conjures up something peppier than the typical [Party in a legal proceeding: Abbr.] approach, but I fear it draws attention to itself for the wrong reasons. Does this mean that we can look forward to seeing RES clued as [“___-P-E-C-T…” (Aretha’s spelled-out request)], or DIV clued as [“___-O-R-C-E” (Tammy Wynette’s spelled-out plaint)], or BIN as [“___-G-O” (School kids’ favorite dog)]? Liz herself has previously clued RESP with the twisty [Shortness of breath?]. Seems to me, that’s the direction to take if ya want to liven up that fill. Or is this really kinda fun and fresh and am I overthinking it? Do weigh in!

And I was surprised by IIII and [4, on a sundial]. That’s IV, isn’t it? Surely, IIII can’t be right. Wrong, Jane. Truth is, you’ll see both. Now, I’m not in love with the fill itself, but it’s absolutely legit and if not particularly “sparkly,” still does the trick. And once again, a strong image works to make everything right.


Tempus fugit, folks—catch ya next week!


Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Reattachments”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.30.14: "Reattachments"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.30.14: “Reattachments”

Hello again everyone!

Today’s crossword, offered up to us by Ms. Sarah Keller, takes nouns and alters them by adding the letters “RE” somewhere in that entry, as the entries are clued as puns.  

  • MATERNITY REWARD: (17A: [Newborn baby?]) – From “maternity ward.”
  • GRADUATION RECAP: (25A: [Commencement chronicle?]) – From “graduation cap.” I’m almost certain I’ve misplaced all my graduation caps, from elementary school to high school to college.
  • TELEPHONE RECALL: (43A: [Order to turn in Galaxys?]) – From “telephone call.”
  • EXTENSION RECORD: (57A: [List of office numbers for direct contact?]) – From “extension cord.”

Even though it was the last answer that I filled in, I kept thinking to myself that the archaic term NOWISE was wrong (10D: [Not at all]).  I absolutely have never used that word before, and probably won’t use it ever again once I finish with this blog. That’s not a knock against the grid, as it was a fun solve with no real trouble spots. We have an homage to a couple of hugely successful female vocal artists in this grid, with the entries ABDUL (27D: [“Forever Your Girl” singer Paula]) and BONITA (5D: [“La Isla ______ (Madonna hit)]).  Some more notable women in the grid include NAOMI (49A: [Model Campbell]) and the fictional O-LAN (16A: [Wife in “The Good Earth]).  Also, it was very interesting to see LITE (7D: [Low-cal, on a label]) adjacent to LTYR, short for light year (8D: [Approx. 5.88 trillion miles]). Oops, totally about another very notable woman, with that person being Ms. EVERT (19D: [Chris of tennis]).  I’m pretty sure she’s been the subject of my “sports…smarter” moment in the past, so I’m going to go in a different direction this time around.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TEE (54A: [Top type]) – Dr. George Franklin Grant, a dentist who was the first African-American professor at Harvard, is recognized as the person who invented the wooden golf tee. In the 19th century, golfers would tee up their balls by pinching wet sand and forming a hill so they could have an elevated platform to place their ball and hit from. Grant, unhappy with having to perform that laborious task 18 times a round, worked on an alternative way to tee up a golf ball, eventually coming up with the wooden tee. Though he received the United States’ and world’s first patent for a golf tee on Dec. 12, 1899 (Patent No. 638,920), it took almost a century later for the United States Golf Association to finally officially give recognition to Grant for his revolutionary contribution to the game.

Have a great rest of your Tuesday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Steve Blais’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 9 30 14

LA Times crossword solution, 9 30 14

62a. [What risktakers have … and what the starts of 17-, 23-, 40- and 51-Across can be?] is SOMETHING TO LOSE, and those other first words are things you might also lose:

  • 17a. Reminder to be polite], MIND YOUR MANNERS.
  • 23a. Assets-and-liabilities statement], BALANCE SHEET.
  • 40a. “Congratulations!”], WAY TO GO.
  • 51a. 1993 film about a novice Olympic bobsled team], COOL RUNNINGS.

Solid theme, fill mostly (but not entirely) in line with Tuesday expectations.

Three more things:

  • 11d. [Right in front of one’s face], AT EYE LEVEL. I tried ON THE LEVEL first, which made 22a HEE [“__-haw!”], but it’s YEE-haw here.
  • 4d. [Tasted, with “of”], HAD A BIT. Feels contrived.
  • 52d. [Maine campus town], ORONO. If only their sports team won big things, non-Mainers might actually know of this town outside of crosswords. Their last football bowl appearance was 49 years ago. Stephen King went to the U of Maine in ORONO (and this is rarely mentioned in ORONO clues), but a chess KING is already in the grid.

3.75 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Short Version”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 9 30 14 "The Short Version"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 9 30 14 “The Short Version”

I paid no mind to the title and had no idea what was going on in the theme answers till I reached the last one. The first word changes from an -ed verb to a shorter -t word, with spelling changing as needed to make real words:

  • 17a. [Terrible dictionary definition of fortified wine?], PORT, A DRINK. From poured a drink, a hair contrived like some of the other base phrases in this theme.
  • 60a. [Be a hasty actor?], BLURT LINES. The familiarity of the song title “Blurred Lines” revealed the theme here.
  • 11d. [#1 hits like “All About That Balsa” and “Shake It Oak”?], CHART WOOD. Charred wood. “All About That Bass” and “Shake It Off” are recent #3 hits from Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift.
  • 34d. [Fashionable school for hybrid outerwear?], SKORT HIGH. (That’s … odd.) Scored high.

I’m lukewarm on this theme.

Three more things:

  • 6a. It can make a date], PALM. At first, I read this as a largely outmoded technology clue and wondered who on earth is still logging appointments on a Palm device. Then I remembered the existence of nature, such a date palms.
  • 54a. Spiny anteaters], ECHIDNAS. Awesome little beasties, aren’t they?
  • 1a. “Let’s go,” to Dora], VAMOS. Matt has young children. I bet he sees a lot more Dora than I do. I do not miss early-childhood TV programming! Wait, that’s a lie. There were some fascinating video segments on those “Teletubbies” videos I bought, with charming English children. I wish I still had a functioning VCR.

3.5 stars from me.


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12 Responses to Tuesday, September 30, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    “TERCE (45d. [Canonical hour before sext]) is certainly not familiar vocabulary.”

    This could have been much worse. [Sext precedent] for instance. Where would that have taken us?

  2. pannonica says:

    CS: 61a [Animal recently classified as a bear] PANDA.

    Recently? Upon discovery by Western taxonomists in 1869 (though it was known to Asian people for millennia) it was classified with the bears. Some uncertainty emerged subsequently (viz, whether it and the red panda might be in their own family, or they might be part of the raccoon family), but it was firmly established no later than 1978 that the giant panda belongs with the Ursidae. That’s 36 years ago.

    Anyway and I hope readily apparent now, that should be ‘reclassified’, technically.

    Chorn, J., R. Hoffman. 1978. Ailuropoda melanoleuca. Mammalian Species, 110: 1-6.
    Davis, D.D. 1964. The giant panda: a morphological study of evolutionary mechanisms. Fieldiana: Zool. Mem., 3: 1–339.

    • David L says:

      The Price is Right began in 1956, so the definitive decision on the panda’s ursine nature is relatively recent…

    • Martin says:

      It hasn’t been as clear-cut as that. As this Britannica citation says, debate was still raging through the 1990’s, with genomic and other molecular evidence finally moving the giant panda (but not the lesser panda) into Ursidae, presumably for a while.

      Here is a 1985 paper in Nature showing that the classification was still controversial.

      • pannonica says:

        Britannica is far from authoritative as a tertiary reference. The entry does not characterize the panda’s taxonomic placement as a “raging” controversy, but simply indicates that (1) there has [historically] been uncertainty (or controversy), and (2) its position within the Ursidae was reinforced via improved molecular analytic techniques in the ’90s.

        The 1985 Nature paper (for which I can only see the abstract)—from when molecular genomics was in relative infancy as far as systematics is concerned, unequivocally supports the ursid identification. The statement that “there has long been disagreement over whether it should be classified with bears, raccoons or as a single member of its own family” is authorial blather; the researchers are attempting to make their newfangled undertaking seem more significant, or revolutionary, than it is. Morphology, ontology, behavioral studies and more essentially settled whatever ‘controversy’ existed no later than 1978, but really in the 1960s.

        Also, there’s a typo for ‘Carnivora’ in the very first sentence of the abstract.

  3. sbmanion says:

    My friends bought me the Bob and Doug Great White North album one year because I was such a big fan of SCTV.

    My favorite skit was a spoof of the unforgettable Godfather scene involving the horse’s head. In the skit, the horse was Mr. Ed.


  4. Gareth says:

    SOYA’s standard around here… Very rarely see SOY though. I just managed to fit IDLEWILD into a grid last week… Surprisingly, this is its first NYT uses since the 80’s!

    • Martin says:

      “Soya” is the preferred spelling in most English-speaking countries. American usage was “soya” for the bean and “soy” for soy sauce until WWII. The American usage of “soy” for the bean is spreading to the UK but it’s a bit premature to call “soya” crosswordese.

      Because “soya” entered European languages from the Dutch “soja” when Holland had the monopoly on trade with Japan, I’d think RSA would be the last to lose it. It’s the transliteration of “shoyu” (soy sauce) and referred only to the sauce. The bean was practically unknown in Europe for several centuries although shoyu (soja) was a hot commodity. Shoyu means “sauce brewed of oil” literally, and has no etymological relation to the bean in Japanese, where it is just known as “large bean,” a name that is borrowed from Chinese.

      The bean is Glycine max but naming confusion reigned for a hundred years after Linnaeus. In fact, Glycine (meaning “sweet”) is named for an unrelated plant with sweet tubers that’s no longer in the genus. BTW, Glycine has three syllables, unlike the amino acid glycine.

  5. Gareth says:

    Loved Steve’s concept – “LOSE YOUR ___” phrases is a really cool beginning point. Anyone else try PSANDQS before MANNERS and GAIN before LOSE. I somehow stil finished under 3! Bizarre!

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