Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fireball  (contest puzzle, so no review)  
NYT 7:31 (Matt) 
LAT 3:45 (Gareth) 
CS 16:44 (Ade) 
BEQ 8:52 (Matt) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s review


Grrrr — Rage Review time! I had something extremely similar to this slated as a meta on my site next month, which I’ll now have to scrap.

But that’s not your (or Joel’s) problem, so let’s get to the clever idea: there are no “Across” and “Down” delineations (in the PDF and newspaper; Across Lite couldn’t handle this). Rather there are just “Clues,” for most of which the Acrosshood or Downness is easy to determine. For the clue labeled 2, for instance, we’re obviously looking at 2-Down, since there is no 2-Across.

So what do you do when you have a number that begins both an Across and a Down clue, such as 1? You use both: clue 1 is [Corn or cotton], and the answer is 1-A CASH plus 1-D CROP, for CASH CROP.

There are nine more:

5 [Western wear] = JEAN JACKET.
9 [Where the Pilgrims first landed in the New World] = CAPE COD.
15 [Homer Simpson’s workplace] = POWER PLANT.
27 [Dessert often made with cream cheese frosting] = CARROT CAKE
34 [“Sure, go ahead”] = FEEL FREE.
40 [Places where wheat is stored?] = BREAD BOXES. Not much of a pun there, is it? Playing on the fact that bread made from wheat is sometimes referred to in shorthand as “wheat”?
44 [New U.N. member of 2011] = SOUTH SUDAN. Nice entry.
47 [Lab item] = BUNSEN BURNER. Nice entry.
48 [Alternative to a fade-out in a movie ending] = FREEZE FRAME. Nice entry.

In the solution grid above you can see how much fancy stepping was required to make this all work; not too many white squares left in that grid! Pretty cool. And notice that 100% of squares that start both an Across and a Down have to do double duty for this theme to work, as the 10 out of 10 do here.

And, as a final amazing touch, notice that those 10 double-duty crossing letters spell out the word CROSS-HATCH, which aptly describes the — OK, just kidding. That’s what I had planned for my meta, but I’m convinced from seeing how much color there in the above solution grid that having the cross letters spell something out too is likely impossible, so Joel has maximized this concept here.

I also dig the amusing aspect of the presentation, that there are no Across or Down clues and that you’ve got to figure out what’s going on. One quibble: it’s a lovely gimmick but an easy one to unravel, so misplaced on a Thursday. I think Tuesday would have been a better fit.

4.50 stars. Two very nice puzzles in a row, yesterday and today.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Who Let the Air Out?”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.09.14: "Who Let the Air Out?"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.09.14: “Who Let the Air Out?”

Good morning everyone! How was your descent from the hump heading into Thursday?

We have a trickier than expected theme in today’s puzzle, which was brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel.  In it, common terms/proper nouns are altered so that each of the last words in the terms, which usually end with the letters “air,” are replaced with a homonym. The theme is actually pretty straightforward, but the puns used as clues, and the clever nature to the clues, made it tougher on me than I first thought it would be.  Thank goodness the first one was sports-related so I could really figure out what was going on as I moved along in the grid.

  • WIN BY A HERR: (17A: [Boris Becker’s triumph at Wimbledon, say?]) – “Boom Boom” has three Wimbledon titles to his credit: 1985, 1986 and 1989.
  • MATCHING PEAR: (29A: [Bartlett’s twin?])
  • CLEAR THE HEIR: (46A: [Exonerate a claimant to his parents’ estate? ])
  • VANITY FARE: (61A: [Cosmetics, perfume and the like?])

Although just a short entry, what an interesting clue to POLE (55D: [Goal for Scott or Peary]).  I didn’t notice it at first, because I got the answer only because I did each of its crossings first, but if I had to answer it by reading that clue, I would have been stumped big time and would not have recalled the names of either explorer who reached the North and South Poles. Speaking of something that I didn’t know, the same goes with the clue to OPEC (33D: [Oil giant with HQ in Vienna]).  OPEC wasn’t hard to get from “oil giant,” but never thought of where its headquarters was…and never would have guessed that it was in Austria. So I didn’t know those bits of information off the top of my head, but did know off the top of my head about ODIN, specifically the bit of information about his equine companion (19A: [Norse god with an eight-legged horse]). Who else can’t think about LEX LUTHOR without thinking about Gene Hackman’s portrayal of the super villain in the Superman movie series (34D: [Superman’s archenemy])?  I’ll leave you with this: Which current actor would you cast, if another Superman movie is made, as Mxyzptlk?  Good grid, and, as I said, played a little tougher for me than the other times I’ve attempted a grid from Ms. Lempel.  Very fun!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OMNI (10A: [Upscale hotel name]) – First of all, in my two times that I have stayed in an Omni Hotel, both in San Diego, I almost wanted to cry when I checked out because I wanted to stay at least a few extra days in all of its ritziness…especially since it was my company that was paying for it! But, anyways, this is supposed to be about sports, so here goes.  Between 1972 and 1997, the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association played their home games at the OMNI Coliseum, colloquially known as The Omni.  The arena was demolished in 1997, and Philips Arena, the stadium the Hawks play in currently, was constructed on the former site of The Omni and opened in September of 1999.

See you all on Friday, and have a good Thursday until then!

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Cards Against Humanity” — Matt’s review


I know there’s a thing called Cards Against Humanity but not what it is exactly, so was a little apprehensive when I saw the title. But it turned out to be straightforward: in four places, a playing card in the grid abuts the circled word MAN:

17-A [Brisbane is its capital] = QUEENSLAND. The mayor is a kangaroo, and his predecessor a koala. I(MAN) under the QUEEN.

58-A [Kiss ass? (Well, aren’t they all?)] = ACE FREHLEY. Ha. Ben Tausig recently asked on Facebook who the worst person in rock and roll is and I think Kiss’s Gene Simmons won hands-down. (MAN)E under the ACE.

11-D [Zilch] = JACK SQUAT. The best crossword entry you’ll see all day. O(MAN)I by the JACK.

33-D [Powerful politico] = KINGMAKER. Also [Checkers player, at times]. A(MAN)A by the KING.

So that’s OK. Not the most thrilling something-on-top-of-something but at least it’s timely, and may spur me to find out what Cards Against Humanity are.


*** 21-A [Social network with the slogan “Simple, beautiful & ad-free”] = ELLO. What was once lamely clued as [Cockney greeting] is suddenly an excellent hipster entry. I’m going to check my ELLO account on my IPAD while I’m enjoying my UBER ride to my AIRBNB apartment.

*** 40-A [Overhead pitch seen on] = BANNER AD. Well-played, BEQ. And how ’bout them O’s?

*** 62-A [Insurance company that gets you a quote in 15 minutes or less] = GEICO. Perhaps you’ve seen their ads on YouTube? Yes, yes you have.

*** You know it’s a BEQ because F-BOMB. AMIRITE?

*** 8-D [Singer whose band just appeared unannounced in your iTunes collection] = BONO. I’ve been making a habit recently of reading Wiki pages of people/things I think I already know pretty much everything about, and it usually happens that I learn something new (to me) and amazing.

I did this for BONO recently, and the two things I didn’t know are: 1) his mom passed away when he was 14, of a cerebral aneurysm that struck while she was attending her own father’s funeral. Wow. Makes me want to reinterpret all the beautiful emotion in U2’s songs all over. 2) It’s not 100% clear, but it’s possible that Bono is a billionaire. He has diverse business interests, including in a venture capital company that owns 1.5% of Facebook. Billionaire Bono!

*** Very punchy clues in this one. Nice effort.

4.05 stars.

Robert E. Lee Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat141009I have a theme sent in using BRAINTEASER so I panicked on seeing 17A. Different theme! Whew! Strange positioning of the revealer – in the bottom-left. Normally, the convention with a long revealer would be to have all the themers run across with the revealer as the last of these. This arrangement is slightly discombobulating, but should make for more balanced fill… The revealer is [Calamity, and what’s literally hidden in the answers to starred clues], TRAINWRECK (Another train song for you!). Each themer has the letters TRAIN scrambled between two/three of the entry’s words. We get:

  • [*Tricky puzzle], BRAINTEASER – RAINT
  • [*”Let me give it a shot?”], CANITRY – ANITR
  • [*Historic route west], OREGONTRAIL – NTRAI
  • [*Unvarnished facts], PLAINTRUTH – AINTR. Do you get varnished facts?

Low black square count – 34 – and quite a few other long answers! A very open feel to it in general. HONEYSAC is a very technical term, but quite inferrable; it’s part of a bee’s oesophagus. [By its very nature, in law], IPSOFACTO always reminds me of this song[“Be right with you”], ONEMOMENT is more punchy than many ONE answers, because it’s natural! More spoken word pep is to be found in [“Darned if I know!”], YOUGOTME.


  • [Kid-lit classic “__, Plain and Tall”], SARAH. I thought I’d read pretty every “big” kid-lit book as a kid. Never heard of it! Then again, I think Commonwealth and US kid-lit canon does seem quite divergent, in general terms.
  • [Part of many a texting request], PLS is yet to become crosswordese, but it will be… soon.
  • [Alg. or geog.], SUBJ – forced J! SUBS/SAM would’ve been much better plus you could link it to…
  • [Fictional falcon seeker], SPADE, which I’m surprised wasn’t more deliberately linked to [Noir hero], TEC, but maybe it’s more fun if you connect the dots yourself?
  • [Nestlé __], QUIK looks slightly weird as I’ve only known it as Nesquik!
  • [Alpine capital], BERN I mostly see avec a terminal E; see discussion a couple of days back for more…

A well-filled grid take this to at least 3.75 stars in my book.

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13 Responses to Thursday, October 9, 2014

  1. Zulema says:

    I don’t agree it should have been a Tuesday. I enjoyed solving it, as opposed to quite a few Thursdays I gave up on. My first “aha” came from CARROT CAKE since it could not be anything else. I finished in the center, 10 minutes before I turned one year older and happy I can still do crosswords most of you consider easy. The construction was quite a feat.

  2. john farmer says:

    Happy Birthday, Zulema! I agree, not a Tuesday — not unless the Times did a whole recalibration of what Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays are. The theme may not have taken long to figure out, but a few sections were less than easy, with fewer clues to work with than normal.

    I liked the puzzle a lot, and Matt’s write-up as well. Even had me half a second at CROSS-HATCH.

    This is the kind of stealthy high-Scrabble score puzzle I like to see (ranking #76 on this list). Not overdone with the “big 4” but Joel does a good job to make each letter count. Nice work all around.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    Clues aren’t Tuesday, that’s true. But I think the theme itself is.

  4. Tom says:

    Matt, in your scrapped meta, would the across/down entries have been clued as a unit (as in this puzzle) or separately (to obscure their relationship)? Just curious.

    • Matt says:

      I was going to have the Acrosses clued as normal, but then if you start with the down they also work. So one corner would have ALDA across with ALAN going down from the first A. Clue for ALDA is [“M*A*S*H Emmy-winner”] which works for ALDA but then also for ALAN ALDA. Others were COCA/COLA, INDIA/INK, EYE/EXAMS, VOICE/VOTE, etc. Then they would spell out VERTICAL at the crossings. But I didn’t get to finish the grid, and it may be impossible. Very tricky.

  5. Evad says:

    Though we can’t spoil the Fireball, it’s a great find.

  6. Tracy B says:

    I can’t get the pdf for today’s NYT to open at home or at work. It just hangs and hangs. So I solved a printout of the Across Lite file, missing some of the beauty provided by the uniclue experience; but I still “got it” and admired Fagliano’s ingenuity.

  7. Animalheart says:

    I enjoyed today’s NYT quite a bit, but am I the only one who started to get a headache from it? I found I was continually stopping my eyes from darting to the “wrong” place in the list of clues (midway through to find 60 Across, for instance), and it started to hurt!

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