Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fireball 8:00 (Amy) 
NYT 5:59 (Amy) 
LAT 3:59 (Gareth) 
CS 9:18 (Ade) 
BEQ 9:53 (Matt) 

Look for Matt’s review of the October Blindauer puzzle (available here) on Friday. Go get the puzzle if you haven’t already!

David Woolf’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 2 14, no. 1002

NY Times crossword solution, 10 2 14, no. 1002

We’ve got Einstein’s theory of relativity in a two-rebus today:

  • 19a. [20th-century figure with a famous 56-Across represented literally six times in this puzzle], EINSTEIN. The two E’s are MC in the Down answers (SWI{M C}AP and the maybe-contrived FIL{M C}ANON), and I believe the official solution fills the rebus squares with E = MC … but what happens to the “squared” part? The MC is in a square … but so is the E.
  • 56a. [See 19-Across], EQUATION crossing {MC}JOB.
  • 9d. [Recognition received by 19-Across], NOBEL PRIZE crossing CO{MC}AST and TO{MC}ATS.
  • 26d. [Subject explored by 19-Across], RELATIVITY crossing {MC}LOVIN (31a. [Nickname for Fogell in “Superbad”], played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse—teenager gets fake ID with the name “McLovin” on it).

The scientific theme is welcome, and the two-way rebus concept is usually fun. I’m just snagged on the “wait, where’s the exponent” factor.

However! There are no E’s that aren’t also MC’s in this grid. I might’ve liked to see the official solution just have an MC in those squares, such that “MC squared” = E. I’m thinking that may have been Woolf’s authorial intent there.

There’s some unpleasant fill (AGAR!), accounted for by that no-extra-E restriction. But we also get an OUTBURST, a BAD SPORT, classical PLUTARCH, and that lovely word SUNDRY. And having actually seen Superbad (full of horrific teen-boy obsessions and gross-outs, but with a solid payoff at the end), I did like finding MCLOVIN in the grid, because the way that kid’s story line ran was kinda cute.

Four more things:

  • 33a. [He’s asked to “please shine down on me,” in song], MR. SUN. I have no idea what song this is.
  • 54d. [Obsessive, say], ANAL. In a puzzle without extraneous E’s, hey! You get ANAL instead of ENOL or ONE-L.
  • 27d. [Kind of beer], BIRCH. A “sea anemone” clue. Birch is not a kind of beer, just as sea isn’t a kind of anemone.

3.75 stars from me. How’d you like it?

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Orange Is the New Black” — Matt’s review


This is very nicely done: four white squares in the grid become black squares in one direction, providing two answers that fit the clue, and the letters ORANGE in the other. Which fits the title nicely, since the new black squares are also orange. They are:

  • 17-A [Aquarium denizen with blue and yellow stripes] = EMPER(OR ANGE)LFISH. Beautiful find and beautiful fish. This crosses [Stephen King classic] at 5-D, which is the seven-letter IT*CUJO.
  • 25-D [Classic frozen dessert] = (ORANGE) PARFAIT. The cross is [Place to get a shot] which is ARM*PUB. Nice double duty for “shot” there.
  • 23-D [College football game played in Florida] = THE (ORANGE) BOWL. This crosses [Pot component] at 35-A, which is the also nice double duty ANTE*THC.
  • 61-A [You can’t compare them] = APPLES AND (ORANGE)S, crossing 50-D [Psychology 101 topic], which yields EGO*ID.

Unique and beautiful theme. Would have been nice to get ORANGE split a second time as in EMPER(OR ANGE)LFISH, but I can’t find another way so we must assume that the crossword gods didn’t want it to happen.


  • At 54-A I had HAULA?? and was surprised the last two letters weren’t S’s.
  • Standard BEQ top-quality fill: MALIBU, COPY ME, PRETTY OK, Ron SWANSON, and of course JWOWW, though that word will puzzle civilizations centuries hence.
  • Wrong entries I filled in: OAFS instead of OXES for O??? on [Big and clumsy types]; CAPISH for COPY ME for C????? on [“You understand what I’m saying?”]; and FALSETTO for MALE ALTO for ?A???TO on [Guy who’s high when singing].

Excellent stuff, 4.50 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 77”

Fireball crossword solution, 10 2 14 "Themeless 77"

Fireball crossword solution, 10 2 14 “Themeless 77”

What is that, 11 Z’s in a 72-word grid? It’s practically a theme, with the five longest answers each containing two or more Z’s:

  • 6d. [Gentle, continuous rainfalls], DRIZZLE-DROZZLES. Unfamiliar term for me.
  • 22a. [“My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” musician], DWEEZIL ZAPPA.
  • 50a. [Cracker variety with the slogan “The snacking crunch with a punch”], CHEEZIT ZINGZ. Haven’t heard of these.
  • 2d. [He’s second to Rabbit Maranville in career assists], OZZIE SMITH.
  • 28d. [Drink made with peach schnapps and orange juice], FUZZY NAVEL.

Top clues:

  • 6a. [Tear down a strip], DRAG RACE. Started with DEMOLISH.
  • 31a. [End of a shift], HEM. With the M in place, I assumed it would end with AM or PM and start with a numeral.
  • 1d. [Eli Yale was one in the Teddy Roosevelt White House], MACAW. Anyone try INLAW?
  • 3d. [Folded thing on the breakfast table], OMELET. Started to put in NAPKIN but thought better of it.
  • 61d. [Part of TL;DR], TOO. “Too long; didn’t read.”

Note that most of my favorite clues snookered me.

I count about 28 proper nouns—people, places, brand names. Those can frustrate (I’d never heard of LEE ANN Tweeden) but overall I was pleased with how the puzzle played out. It helps to know your Azzedine ALAIA (first name not in this grid, surprisingly) and Rachel ZOE along with your names from baseball and film. 4.25 stars from me.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Johnny Met His Match”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.02.14: "Johnny Met His Match"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.02.14: “Johnny Met His Match”

It’s one day closer to Friday, everybody!

Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, would have to be described as one that has a Chuck Berry influence.  Each of the theme answers are portmanteaus in which each of the two words in the entry could come after the word/name “Johnny.”  

  • ANGEL BENCH: (17A: [Anaheim dugout feature?])
  • ROTTEN WINTER: (23A: [Three months of record snow and cold?]) – Let’s hope that’s NOT the case this coming winter!
  • ENGLISH MNEMONIC: (38A: [Learning technique in a US citizenship class?]) – I hear that Johnny Mnemonic is not one of Keanu Reeves best, and I knew it wasn’t going to tickle my fancy when I first saw the ads for it years and years back. But has anyone ever actually watched the that movie?
  • CASH PAYCHECK: (46A: [Item on many hourly workers’ Friday to-do lists?])
  • PESKY FEVER: (59A: [High temperature that won’t go away?]) – Any non Red Sox fan/non sports fan familiar with Johnny Pesky?

Let me tell you this right now: SORE KNEES aren’t just a problem for marathoners, but it’s also for people who had played high school football while running around on AstroTurf and now paying for it years down the road, like your truly (34D: [Marathoner’s malady]).  Although only a five-letter entry, I liked seeing HOKUM, and, hopefully you don’t describe my blogs about crosswords as such (51D: [Claptrap]). Seeing SLOPE, along with its clue, brought back good memories of being in calculus class in high school, as I was all about calculating slopes, y-intercepts, etc. (48D: [Calculus calculation]). If you’re in the Bay Area, you’ll know that ORACLE, where the Golden State Warriors of the NBA calls its home, is one of the loudest arena, if not the loudest arena, in the league (43A: [Oracle, in Oakland]). I wouldn’t mind heading there during the playoffs, as long as they make the playoffs.  I guess that means I wouldn’t mind going deaf in the name of sports fandom.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PESKY FEVER (59A: [High temperature that won’t go away?]) – In case the answer to the question mentioned earlier as we mentioned this entry at the top of the page is a “no,” then let me tell you quickly about Johnny Pesky. Pesky (1919-2012) was an infielder for 10 seasons in Major League Baseball in the ’40s and ’50s, playing mostly for the Red Sox. In his rookie season in 1942, Pesky lead the American League in hits (205) and finished third in the MVP voting. Pesky ended up missing the next three years afterward as he served in World War II. Today, Pesky is remembered mostly by the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, which is commonly referred to as “Pesky’s Pole.”

See you all on Friday, and thank you for your time!

Take care!


Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times puzzle – Gareth’s review

LA Times 141002

LA Times 141002

Today’s puzzle hides famous mountains in various words going down. A cute visual aspect is added in that the MOUNTAINs are CLIMBERs running bottom-to-top. The mountains themselves are not ones of particular appeal to MOUNTAINCLIMBERs (I think?), but then TSEREVE, ANRUPANNA ILANED doesn’t lend itself to hiding! The answer choices themselves were hit and miss:

  • [Classic music hall song that lent its melody to the “Howdy Doody” theme], TARARA(ARARAT)BOOMDEAY is fabulous and, I wager, the germ that led to the theme!
  • [Lake Erie city], TOLEDOOH(HOOD)IO. The American convention of qualifying city names always sounds weird to me, but given there are other TOLEDOs in the world, is more likely to be used.
  • [“No one knows”], WHOCANTE(ETNA)LL is a solid spoken language phrase.
  • [Unalaska, e.g.], ALEUTIANIS(SINAI)LAND however as a singular, seems off, like having BRITISHISLE.

Other stuff:

  • [Home of the bush ballad], AUSTRALIA. Curious clueing angle… Still, here’s one of the most famous bush ballads, by probably >the< Australian folk singer.
  • [Rocky pinnacle], TOR. Bonus?
  • [Brit who might lose a stone?], DIETER. Is DIETER not used in America? I’m surprised stone isn’t, given America’s love of quaint units of measure…
  • [__ tape], DUCT. DUC? wait for the cross! See also [Half a drink], ?AI!
  • [“__ Cried”: 1962 hit for Jay and the Americans], SHE. Also has a gender-reversed version, HECRIED. Equality!
  • [Pooch sans papers], MUTT. Papers for letting you know your dog is inbred…

3.25 Stars

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43 Responses to Thursday, October 2, 2014

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    “…and I believe the official solution fills the rebus squares with E = MC … but what happens to the ‘squared’ part? The MC is in a square … but so is the E.”

    I think the gimmick works splendidly as one of those phrase as picture puzzles and may be the best use of a rebus I’ve seen, certainly that I remember. 5 howls for Mr. Woolf.

  2. crs says:

    I think the best way to view the rebus is that each represents E EQUALS MC-“SQUARED”. That is, MC is squared, literally contained in a square, and the square equals E in the opposite direction. It works. A bit forced, but it works. 4.5 stars.

  3. Martin says:

    AGAR? Quick get me the fainting couch! And in a hard puzzle too? What next?


    • crs says:

      Oh the humanity!

    • Avg Solvr says:


    • Martin says:


      Is Agar the Orrible a comic strip in England? Like Andy Capp?

      • HH says:

        At least it wasn’t clued [A needlefish].

        • pannonica says:

          [One needlefish?], otherwise that’s duplication.

          Question mark because needlefish aren’t really the same thing.

          • Martin says:

            “Gar” is a common name for the belonid needlefish. In fact, the name “garfish” was originally applied to Belone belone. Early New World explorers called the American freshwater fish “gar” because of the similarity with the European garfish.

            Henry rarely gets a clue wrong. (Cue Henry: “What do you mean rarely?”)

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            You missed her point, Martin. [A needlefish] cluing A GAR duplicates the A and that’s a no-no.

          • Martin says:

            No I didn’t. That one’s valid but she had two points.

            BTW, if you’ve been doing the Second Sunday when they’re cryptics you will notice that words are often clued with themselves lately. Not only articles, but longer and significant words. This seems more a characteristic of British setters (and their Canadian Commonwealth-mates who provide a lot of the Times’s cryptics), at least to me.

            Do a bunch of those and the “A” for an “A” doesn’t seem so bad.

          • pannonica says:

            It’s a common misnomer, and I don’t care to see it propagated.

            addendum: You’ll notice that the m-w entry for needlefish doesn’t reciprocate the reference from gar. I assert that that’s significant.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            The editorial style of British cryptics has exactly no bearing on NYT crossword style, and I can’t help but think that clue/entry word duplications in the NYT’s cryptics are sloppiness more than anything else.

          • Martin says:


            It’s a common usage, with a well-documented history. The dictionary is full of misnomers. “Pea” is a misnomer. Purists have to get over it.

            And the fact that we don’t call lepisosteids “needlefish” doesn’t make the clue any less correct. Calling belonids “gars” is enough.


            My “A” for A observation was a btw. But in cryptics it’s an accepted practice and not a sign of sloppiness despite what any reviewer may say.

          • pannonica says:

            We have a better, more accurate (nontechnical) name for pea? One that doesn’t serve to confuse it with something else?

      • Martin says:

        “Pea” is a backformation. “Pease” was both singular and plural, until somebody erroneously decided it was many pease but one pea. Purists howled, “there’s no such thing as a pea” for two hundred years. It didn’t matter.

        By the time it’s in the MW11C abridged dictionary, it’s generally too late.

        • pannonica says:

          I’m familiar with singular history of ‘pea’ as well as ‘cherry’ and others. That’s largely irrelevant here.

          To invoke a more pertinent (and trite) example, there’s a ‘well-documented history’ for koala bear … need I explain further? Or will we continue to have a plurality of opinion(s)?

          • Martin says:

            The bottom line is that our opinions are worthless once the lexicographers make their decisions. We don’t have to use their words but we can’t object when others do.

          • pannonica says:

            Right. And to go back to my original comment (which I hope you recognize possessed an element of tongue-in-cheekiness, as I’m sure H Hook did), I suggested that a question mark might be appropriate, as “[gars and] needlefish aren’t really the same thing.” Note the qualifying inclusion of ‘really’. Note also that my suggestion was merely to append a question mark, and was not an invalidation of the clue in essence.

    • Martin says:

      Also BTW, I have agar in my pantry. It’s the base of many Japanese and Chinese desserts, and with New Years coming I’ll be making some. And can you make it through high school bio without being exposed to agar in petri dishes?

      It’s a real word that most people know. Why is it poor fill?

  4. Jim Hale says:

    It’s E=M*C*C not M*C*M*C. So the MC SQUARED bothered me. Yes I know verbally it works but it disturbed me mathematically.

  5. joon says:

    loved this puzzle. i am going to start using the word MCQUATION to refer to a dead-end, unfulfilling physics equation.

    • Joon, what a fabulous comment. As I am sure you and many other solvers know [and after rereading the clues carefully, it seems to me that David Woolf and Will Shortz were able to avoid the trap], Einstein’s 1921 Nobel Prize (received in 1922) was “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect,” i.e. not for either special (with includes E = mc^2) or general relativity. [The quote is directly from the Nobel Prize website for Einstein.] Also, under the terms of a 1919 divorce agreement, none of the prize money actually went to Albert — details on the wikipedia page for his first wife Mileva Marić.

    • David Woolf says:


      This is great. Wish I would have thought of it myself. As a fellow physicist, I do believe I will also be using McQuation from now on. And I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle!


  6. Gail says:

    33a. [He’s asked to “please shine down on me,” in song], MR. SUN. I have no idea what song this is.

    Who knew that taking my daughter to Raffi concerts when she was little would help me with a crossword?

  7. Martin says:

    I didn’t know the MR SUN song either, but the answer seemed pretty obvious from the context of the clue.


  8. CY Hollander says:

    I took the theme to mean [E=MC]-squared (i.e., the whole phrase “E=MC” is in the square). Yes, in the original phrase, it’s the c being squared, as Jim points out, but this is a pun. Amy’s interpretation also makes sense, though.

    I didn’t come here to comment on the theme, though. I actually came to point out that “ice woman” is not a phrase, and was flabbergasted to find out that for once Amy had let a clue with the word “man” pass without comment.

  9. janie says:

    the original song with “please shine down on me” (sweetly co-opted by raffi and others) is actually “oh, MR. MOON”, a barbershoppy standard. in the age of glee and pitch perfect, this version is especially refreshing! ;-)

    at any rate, i’m someone who spent too much time trying to get a double “O” rebus-thing goin’. pOOr sport seemed to support my (wrong!) hunch…

    regardless — terrific puzzle. ditto peter gordon’s daZZling fireball themeless.


  10. pannonica says:

    Tricky BEQ. Sat with the four pivotal squares circled for quite some time before I understood the ‘black’ to be literal, in crossword context.

  11. PJ says:

    Loved BEQ’s puzzle today. ORANGE in the rebus appeared as OR.. in AcrossLite. Read nicely between the two answers!

  12. Mr. Grumpy says:

    Didn’t care for the BEQ. If you make the down square black, you are left with an unclued answer in the grid, since there is no indication that the same clue applies. What he’s really done is made the down square a suppressed “or.” I appreciated the effort, but I thought it fell short.

  13. Brucenm says:

    This was the final puzzle at the Westchester tournament a couple weeks ago that I raved about. I too wondered about the MC “squared” part, but I thought the puzzle was brilliant.

    Fireball didn’t do it for me at all, I’m afraid. People’s tastes differ. Z’s and Q’s for their own sakes, with ridiculous entries, don’t interest me much, whereas triple and quad stacks generally do.

  14. Lois says:

    Re the NYT: Despite your welcome support of Julie Delpy yesterday, Amy, for which I am truly grateful, you are clearly not a film buff, or the phrase FILM CANON would be more familiar. In fact, you’ve already practically thrown silent films out of the CANON, without knowing that one existed. The phrase for me was worth five stars. I really liked a lot of the fill, such as 34a – cute!

  15. Gareth says:

    Loved the two-way rebus theme! Loved the breadth of answers from PLUTARCH to MCLOVIN and FILMCANON! What’s unpleasant about AGAR? I see it in ingredient lists for various products. My mother kept it in the kitchen for various baking-related uses. I’ve used it in various lab contexts. I’m sure there are people who haven’t encountered it; if crosswords were limited solely to answers that 100% of the population have encountered they’d be very limited indeed.

  16. Robert Croog says:

    Today’s NYT crossword puzzle answer “MrSun” is ethically wrong. That particular Barney song is a rip-off of a time-honored traditional summer camp song: “O Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and silvery Moon won’t you please shine down on me, O Mr. Moon, Moon, Bright and Silvery Moon, Hiding behind that tree. I’m gonna shoot that possum with my old shot gun. Shoot that possum ‘fore he starts to run, O Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and silvery moon, Won’t you please shine down on, shine a little light on, please shine down on me.” Barney’s producers should be ashamed for airing this blatant ripoff and Will Shortz has no business including it in this puzzle. P.S. It in no way qualifies as a fair use parody under the “Two LIve Crew Pretty Woman” case. While it may be out of copyright by now, this Barney rip-off of a hallowed memory from childhood should not be glorified in this way.

  17. Art Shapiro says:

    I could have lived without the recent spate of entertainment industry obscurities – DELPY??? McLOVIN??? Gimme a break. And never heard the unusual but interesting term FILM CANON. But this was still a pleasant Thursday solving experience.

    I appreciated the justification for the “squared” term; it hadn’t immediately occurred to me.


    • Lois says:

      Art, DELPY wasn’t used in the puzzle referred to, so there is nothing for you to object to in that case. Some of us were responding to a note by Will Shortz on the NYT XWord Info page that he didn’t allow that clue yesterday because he thought it wasn’t good fill. As often happens with proper nouns, some of us thought it would have been excellent fill and that the “cleanup” was a loss, but Will agreed with you.

      Yes, PLUTARCH was a more “eternal” clue, as pointed out by Jeff Chen today on the XWord Info page.

      I saw “Superbad,” but had no memory of MCLOVIN. Yet it was gettable from the crosses and I had fun uncovering it. I’m glad it didn’t stop you from enjoying today’s NYT puzzle. I myself don’t like proper nouns when they have nothing to do with my life, I must admit. I like them when they hit my sweet spot. So in general I approve of their use, when not overdone and with fair crosses, in the hope that the clues will be “mine.”

      With regard to today’s NYT theme, I’m glad this column and others are around to help me to understand themes sometimes. I had the same trouble with “squared” as did some others. But the puzzle was a pleasure nevertheless.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Lois, I love that you’ve seen “Superbad”!

        • Brucenm says:

          I’ve seen Superbad too — (transparent quest for approval) — and have always felt embarrassed that I not only enjoyed it, and retrospectively “related” to it, thinking back to my high school years, but also thought it was more serious and had more depth than your basic “Porky’s” type movie. So I’m pleased that others evidently saw some of the same merits I did.

          Also — today’s BEQ was polarizing. Guess what: I loved it and thought it was fantastically creative and entertaining. People sometimes ask me, when I bitch about some of his entries, why then I continue to do his puzzles. This is the answer, or an instantiation of the answer.

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