Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fireball 6:16 (Amy) 
NYT 4:20 (Amy) 
LAT  6:36 (Matt) 
CS 9:34 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:45 (Matt) 

If you’re curious to see the scores and standings for the Crosswords LA tournament, they’re here. I’m particularly fond of the histograms showing the distribution of puzzle submissions by minutes remaining on the clock. Data!

Patrick Berry’s Fireball crossword, “A Few Short Words”

Fireball crossword solution, 10 23 14 "A Few Short Words"

Fireball crossword solution, 10 23 14 “A Few Short Words”

The theme answers are five phrases consisting of 2- and 3-letter words, with single words squished into rebus squares:

  • 17a. [Brit’s ending to the song “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”], AND SO SAY ALL OF US.
  • 36a. [For miles around, maybe], AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE.
  • 57a. [Next words spoken by the same character after “The play’s the thing / Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”], TO BE OR NOT TO BE.
  • 11d. [“I’m listening”], LAY IT ON ME.
  • 51d. [Friendly greeting], HOW DO YOU DO?

Smoothly wrought, as we expect from Patrick. He even managed to stack some glorious 9s—IDA LUPINO and a FORD PINTO, ARCHRIVAL and TAKES FIVE—in the rebus-free corners.

Here is a bulleted list of the compromises in the puzzle that came from having 27 rebus squares:

  • (This space left intentionally blank.)
  • (I mean, really.)
  • (It’s bonkers.) {Note: Not describing a person as “bonkers,” just a situation.}
  • (Nary an abbreviation or partial entry in the lot.)
  • (Who does that?? Berry, that’s who.)

Clue that made me work the crossings because I sure don’t know my euchre terminology: 50a. [Top two trump cards in euchre], BOWERS.

Five stars from me. The puzzle is pretty much flawless so far as I can tell. I could dock it a quarter star for not being super-entertaining to solve, but that feels a mite churlish.

Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 23 14, no. 1023

NY Times crossword solution, 10 23 14, no. 1023

Day 4 of 6 in the contest. Today’s theme is Times Square, or 56a. [Where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve … as depicted literally in four places in this puzzle]. I’ve circled the letters where TIME and TIME appear in a square, and they make four two-TIMEs squares. Which is … odd. Does it connect to anything else in the puzzle? Is there just something elsewhere in the grid that will end up feeding into the meta? Who knows?

At first I thought the theme was awkward plurals when SASHIMIS ([They’re often dipped in wasabis]) and SARAS crossed each other. Can you pluralize sashimi? Or wasabi? I vote no.

“OH, PLEASE,” ESPRESSO, OVEN MITTS, EMPANADA, and HATE MAIL are all appealing entries, and MOSEYS is a verb I’m quite fond of.

Am I missing something else here? Because this puzzle left me rather cold. It’s feeling 3-starrish to me. I hope the meta payoff makes it all worthwhile!

Gareth Bain’s L.A. Times puzzle — Matt’s review

Matt here, filling in for Gareth since he’s this puzzle’s author.


Four theme entries and then a revealer in today’s puzzle. They are:

19-A [Poet friend of Jonathan Swift] = ALEXANDER POPE. Cool name. Has there been a Pope Alexander? That’d be interesting. Answer: yes, there have been eight, the most recent being him.

33-A [Kipling story collection, with “The”] = JUNGLE BOOK.

38-A [“Poetry Man” singer] = PHOEBE SNOW. I know the name but not any songs.

48-A [Title phrase that rhymes with “he lightly doffed his hat”] = CASEY AT THE BAT. Good clue, since it seems nonsensical at first but then you get the a-ha moment.

See the connection? Revealer is slightly oddly placed at 44-D: [Vehicular attachment for the ends of 19-, 33-, 38- and 48-Across] = MOBILE, giving us the “Popemobile,” “bookmobile,” “snowmobile” and “Batmobile.” That’s an amusingly wide-ranging set.


*** Six cheater squares in the grid, which is a lot, and which pushes the total black square count to 42. Normally 38 is the upper limit, with 40 allowed if the grid is worth it and 42 in extreme cases only.

*** Good fill: SQUARE FOOT, LOGARITHMS (tough one to spell), POP TAB, TAHINI, THE WHO, YERTLE, FUSSY and ZINC.

*** [Reason to be turned away by a bouncer] = NO ID and [Forecast words golfers like to hear] = NO RAIN are a somewhat roll-your-own pair of crossers.

*** I like clues that give you some amusing new info, like WE’RE clued as [“While __ Young”: USGA anti-slow play campaign]. That’s well-named.

*** Re my previous note: I see now that I did in fact misspell LOGARITHMS in the grid as LOGORITHMS. As you can see I also didn’t know that the Biblical [Water-to-wine site] was CANA instead of my CONA.

3.50 stars.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “G** D*** It!” — Matt’s review


Provocative title, but it turns out we’re just changing D’s to G’s:

18-A [Genre that includes the classic albums “Barn Salad Surgery” and “The Dark Side of the Moo”?] = CATTLE PROG. From cattle prod.

24-A [Phallus that does mystical things?] = MAGIC WANG. From magic wand.

36-A [Gunk on an old video game?] = PONG SCUM. From pond scum.

42-A [Playground fixture made of repurposed coffee cups?] = MUG SLIDE. From mudslide. Ding of .1 stars for the unchanged D.

51-A [Analog synth-heavy fare?] = MOOG MUSIC. From mood music.

60-A [Undying belief in jewelry?] = BLING FAITH. From blind faith.


*** 8-A [Releases one’s grip on] = LETS GO OF. Also looks like a suggestion to fool around, if you parse it strangely.

*** 25-A [Elmer’s wascally pwey] = WABBIT. Gweat entwy and kwue.


3.85 stars.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “School’s Out”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, 10.23.14: "School's Out"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, 10.23.14: “School’s Out”

The rain has finally stopped! Thank goodness!

What hasn’t stopped is the slickness of the puzzles for this week, with today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, being a puzzle in which I didn’t know the theme of it until about five minutes after I had finished.  In the grid, the words “jump,” “leap,” and “bound” are broken up in the theme answers, with a few of those letters at the very beginning of the answer, and the rest of the letters at the very end.  The reveal comes with the fourth theme answer (which didn’t help me too much after I finished the grid).  For about a couple of minutes, I kept thinking about a basset hound chewing on a leather pump.

  • JUMBO SHRIMP: (17A: [Red Lobster order])
  • LEATHER PUMP: (30A: [Woman’s shoe]) – If a woman wore leather pumps outside in New York the past couple of days, they would now be in the market for new leather pumps.
  • BASSET HOUND: (47A: [Dog featured in the Hush Puppies logo])
  • SPRING BREAK: (64A: [Period that college students look forward to (and a hint to 17-, 30-, and 47-Across]) – What was your most memorable spring break while a collegian?

Although odd, for a little while, I got the capital of Eritrea, ASMARA, and the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, mixed up (20A: [Capital of Eritrea]).  The reason I had Astana in my mind isn’t because I’m a geography nerd…well, maybe not in this case.  Astana is home to a soccer team that I saw a few times on television playing against other European domestic soccer teams, and when those games were played in Astana, the city ended up sticking in my head.  And when I saw the “AS-A-A” in the grid, I just put it in there, even though I should have seen “Eritrea” instead of “Kazakhstan” in the clue (that’s not hard to see, obviously).  Oh, well. Anyways, other than that, a pretty smooth solving experience.  Being in New York, I listened to a good number of IMUS in the Morning shows on 660 AM in NYC while growing up (2D: [Shock jock Don]). I definitely was one of the few kids that listened to talk radio while in elementary school, but the reason I did was because that station, WFAN, was an all-sports station.  For a while, I thought Imus in the Morning was a morning sports talk show.  Alas, it wasn’t!  But it was hilarious for a long while during the early and mid ’90s.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IRV (57A: [Chicago columnist Kupcinet]) – Most people know IRV Kupcinet (if you are old enough to have read his columns or had heard of him before) as the gossip and social scene writer for the Chicago Sun-Times (then called the Chicago Daily Times). But before he wrote news and gossip, he was a sports writer in Chicago for the Daily Times.  Also, he played quarterback in the National Football League, as he had a very short stint playing for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1935.

See you all on Friday!

Take care!


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

35 Responses to Thursday, October 23, 2014

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    Impressive NYT theme.

  2. John says:

    That Fireball was superb. My AHA moment was blissful.

  3. Alex says:

    Amy- the ball drops in Times Square.

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    That was a killer Fireball. With puzzles like that, I see why people have so much respect for Patrick Berry.

    NYT: Somehow I missed the revealer in the grid until Amy pointed it out. As far as the meta, the only thing I can see is the theme that loosely(?) connects the puzzles. We’ll have to see what happens on Saturday then.

  5. Martin says:

    SASHIMIS doesn’t sound odd to me at all. I prepare them all the time. But “wasabis” isn’t a word.

    • HH says:

      But WASABIS is legal in Scrabble.

    • pannonica says:

      And do you “dip” them in wasabi, Martin, or do you daub some wasabi on the pieces, which may then be dipped in shōyu?

      • Martin says:

        It depends on the sashimi. Usually you mix wasabi with shoyu (wasabijoyu) in your sauce dish and dip in that. But some sashimis should be dipped in ponzu (a citrus-vinegar-shoyu sauce) and some not dipped at all. The itamae will guide you.

        It’s also acceptable to smear a little wasabi directly on a piece of sashimi and then dip it in shoyu. This takes some deftness with the chop sticks (of course you can’t touch anything with your fingers) and only works for “chunky” cut sashimi, like tuna.

        Americans have much more trouble with wasabi etiquette when eating sushi than sashimi. In Japan, the smear of wasabi that’s pre-placed under the slice of fish is the correct amount. It’s usually not acceptable to add more, in the shoyu or otherwise. If you prefer more wasabi than usual, you ask the itamae to use a heavy hand (finger, actually) when preparing the sushi for you. Adding some in the shoyu is a bit impolite. That’s reserved for sashimi.

        But using wasabijoyu on sushi is only a minor breach. The one that marks you as a boob if not a barbarian is dipping the rice side of a nigiri in shoyu. As my ikebana sensei would say, you neba, neba do that. Pick up the sushi (fingers are ok if your chop stick skills are a bit shaky), flip it over, dip the fish in shoyu and place the sushi with the fish side still down on your tongue. If you can’t manage that without the nigiri flying apart, use some gari (pickled ginger) in your chopsticks as a brush, and dip it in the shoyu and then over the fish. Whatever you do, don’t sully the rice.

        • pannonica says:

          I was taught that it’s bad form to mix in wasabi to your shōyu.

          • Martin says:

            Sushi: chef applies correct amount of wasabi. If you like a little more, tell him. Mixing wasabi into the shoyu and applying it to everything is bad form, but even Japanese-Americans do it regularly.

            Sashimi: wasabi-joyu is a proper condiment, and even the most common, but not the only one. It is also appropriate for sushi that is not pre-assembled, as is the case with chirashi-zushi, where the fish is layered on a bed of sushi rice, with no wasabi pre-applied.

            The proper protocol is to not mix wasabi into the shoyu for sushi, and not be served (or request) gari (pickled ginger) with sashimi, but both of these are ignored more often than not.

          • pannonica says:

            So what’s your assessment of the clue, wasabi-wise?

          • Martin says:

            Lousy but ok in English. SASHIMIS is more of a thing than “wasabis” in my real world, but both of them are words that dictionaries allow. The point was to signal that the entry was an odd plural, which is rational. I just think that the signal is an odder plural than the entry. But I accept the rationale.

          • pannonica says:

            Let me re-pose that. What do you think of the clue, dip-wise?

        • Martin says:

          Most -s plurals are not explicitly listed in most dictionaries. But here’s a neat trick. The site will accept a plural it considers a word and reject one that isn’t. So compare




          It’s a pretty good tool.

    • Brucenm says:

      My two favorite sushi – sashimi restaurants in my area serve two rather different wasibis. I vacillate as to which I prefer, though I doubt whether either is real fresh wasabi stem.

      • Martin says:

        99% of the Japanese restaurants in the US serve dyed horseradish and call it wasabi. So those wasabis are horseradishes, which sounds fine to me but my spell-checker doesn’t like.

        I grate the real stuff now and then. A root is like $30, so I have to commit to cooking Japanese everyday for a week to amortize the cost. It’s so different. Not quite as sharp but very complex and aromatic. I especially like the obvious vanilla notes. The root must be grated on sharkskin to get the right texture.

  6. john farmer says:

    I had GAME _ _ for “Life starter” and GAME OF seemed the obvious answer. Glad to see it was GAMETE instead. Some common elements through the week so far, but no idea where it’s all leading.

    (It’s bonkers.) {Note: Not describing a person as “bonkers,” just a situation.}

    How convenient to make that distinction when it suits you. Maybe it’s just allowable on odd-numbered Thursdays … or something. Anyway, I’ll just say that’s progress. ;-)

    • PJ says:

      I guess it was meant to be instructive. :-)

      • john farmer says:

        If it’s meant to be instructive, I suppose it shows that Amy applies a double standard, one for herself and one for others. When a similar word appeared in a puzzle just one week ago (MENTAL, clued “Bonkers”), Amy chose the single most uncharitable interpretation possible when commenting on the puzzle. Nothing in the puzzle indicated that the words were used to describe a person (which would have been objectionable). Still, Amy charged the puzzle with making light of mental illness and using “hurtful” language. The distinction that she allows herself today was not a distinction she was willing to grant last week. So yes, I guess that is instructive.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Really, you don’t see the distinction between using something in a very clear non-human context and using it in a context where it can easily be perceived as referring to a person?

          • john farmer says:

            I didn’t see it that way. If there is some ambiguity, we can choose how to interpret it. You chose a meaning that assumed some ill will on the part of the puzzle-makers. I didn’t appreciate that.

        • PJ says:

          My bad – the :-) wasn’t directed specifically at you or anyone. Last week I posted that I did not react negatively while solving your puzzle and that I gave you and the editor the benefit of any doubt the conversation here suggested.

  7. Gareth says:

    I didn’t even see the revealing clue… I bet that’s going to happen a lot today! [Hi Giovanni!] Grid had lots of fun answers, and I appreciated the interesting architectural theme now that it’s been pointed out! I had fun. [@John: I too had GAMEOF]

  8. Pat Merrell says:

    I thought this was a clever idea, and I appreciated the moment when I realized that Patrick had found a way to avoid the more obvious route, making it a rebus puzzle.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Wait. Patrick Berry made it a rebus puzzle in the Fireball, avoiding some more obvious route, or Patrick Blindauer avoided the obvious route of making it a rebus puzzle in the NYT?

    • john farmer says:

      I found the PB in the FB to be a well-executed puzzle. I found the PB in the NYT to be a fresher and more innovative trick with a great aha at the end. That’s how it worked for me.

  9. Jeffrey (Pat) K says:

    How can something that is “not super-entertaining to solve” merit five stars? Why are you doing puzzles?

  10. Thomas says:

    The ball drops on Tim? Ouch, poor guy should have moved.

  11. MM says:

    NO RAIN in Gareth’s LAT puzzle didn’t have to be “roll-your-own” – how could anyone alive in the US in the 90’s forget that song?

  12. ArtLvr says:

    It was a great day’s worth of puzzles — and so say all of us! I especiallly smiled at Gareth’s Popemobile et al….

  13. pannonica says:

    BEQ: I would have thought that Brendan knows that MOOG is pronounced with a long O sound, as in ‘rogue’. Perhaps he does and simply conceded to a common misconception?

Comments are closed.