Saturday, November 1, 2014

Newsday 11:20 (Amy) 
NYT 8:18 (Amy) 
LAT 2:24 (Andy) 
CS 12:49 (Ade) 

Trip Payne’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution 11 1 14

NY Times crossword solution 11 1 14

This 17×17 puzzle was originally constructed as the devious puzzle #5 for the 2014 ACPT, but then it was spoiled by a video interview with Will Shortz (answer grid appears at the 1:11 point) that was posted earlier in March so Will had to hustle to get a replacement puzzle in time for the tournament. (If you are a syndication solver from the future seeing the Saturday puzzle 5 weeks later, you’re getting a different puzzle in the standard 15×15 size. I don’t have your answers.)

The puzzle’s intended title, “Covert Operations,” and the ACPT-style blurb “No one said there was going to be math” are left off here. Even knowing the title (I asked Trip to share it) didn’t make the theme’s trick scream out at me. Yep, it played like a twisty ACPT #5, all right. Here’s how the theme rolls:

  • 19a. [81 ÷ 27], BATTLEFIELD. Hmm, that’s 3, and Kathleen Battle’s field is opera, which is part of the word “Operations” … and those are both utter red herrings. 81a is PLACE, 27a is WAR, and a BATTLEFIELD is a “place divided by war.”
  • 34a. [61 + 86], NEUTROGENA. The math gets you 147, which gets you … nowhere. 61a is PERT, 86a is RIVAL, and you could say that a certain Neutrogena product is sort of a “Pert Plus rival.” Although Pert Plus is a mainstream shampoo + conditioner product, and Neutrogena’s only shampoos are dandruff shampoos, a clear “anti-residue” bottle, and some tubes that are shampoos but look a lot like other haircare products. Close enough for crosswords.
  • 63a. [56 x 42], REPEATEDLY. You can do the multiplication yourself. 56a and 42a get us “MANY times OVER,” which is a frightfully clever use of a mathematical operation word.
  • 83a. [33 – 21], GROSS PROFIT. This one uses Downs, 33d and 21d, NET SALES minus COSTS.

It took me a few minutes of poking around to figure out the theme, and even knowing the title didn’t make it at all obvious for me. The answers were plausible fill, certainly, but I can’t swear that I would’ve understood what was going on if I’d solved this last March at ACPT. Might’ve finished in 8 minutes and change, raised my hand, turned in my paper, and headed out to the hotel hallway to ask other people what the hell the theme was. Tricksy!

Top clues:

  • 6a. [Future works?], SCI-FI. Literary works typically set in the future.
  • 22a. [Bee relative], OPIE. I was thinking of spelling bees and stinging insects, not Aunt Bee of old TV.
  • 39a. [He is one], ELEM. Blah answer, an abbreviation I rarely see outside of crosswords, but I always like the “chemical symbol masquerading as a regular word or letter” ploy.
  • 88a. [Wind stopper?], BEANO. Yay! Not a clue for some game I never see outside of crosswords.

Most controversial entry: 52d. [Fleece], GYP. The etymology isn’t nailed down solidly, I don’t think, but it’s widely thought to be a slur derived from “Gypsy.” Tough to replace the entry in this grid, as the Y and P cross thematic MANY and PERT, and the G offers the only possible ending for MR BI*. With four longish theme answers and eight shorter ones in the grid, I reckon it was a tough fill.

Bonus points to Trip for the clean math of 81 ÷ 27—move those answers a notch to one side and you wouldn’t have an evenly divisible pair.

4.25 stars from me. Nice to have a tough head-cracker for a Saturday challenge.

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Drinking Songs”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.01.14: "Drinking Songs"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.01.14: “Drinking Songs”

Good morning, everybody! I say let’s make this a November to Remember when it comes to crosswords, shall we? Let’s drink to that!

Today’s puzzle, served up to us in a tall, cold glass at the bar by Mr. Raymond Hamel, is a straightforward theme in which each of the four theme answers are songs titles, and those song titles also happen to be alcoholic drinks. I know at least one of these songs is now stuck in your mind for at least a little bit after solving this puzzle. Which one did that for you?

  • JOSE CUERVO: (17A: [1983 Shelly West song])
  • WHITE LIGHTNING: (27A: [1959 George Jones song])
  • TEQUILA SUNRISE: (46A: [1973 Eagles song])
  • RED RED WINE: (57A: [1983 UB40 song]) – This song was/is the ear worm for me.

Well, outside of “Red Red Wine,” what I’m thinking about right now is the unfortunate fate of dogs that become SMELLY because of coming across a particular weasel when agitated (21A: [Like a dog sprayed by a skunk]). I had a wide smile on my face after getting U.N.C.L.E. and I plopped it down without the use of any crossings (18D: [THRUSH adversary on ’60s TV]).  Although I haven’t watched all of the episodes, I’m totally a huge fan of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and, right after Harrison Ford, the person/actor I think of when I hear “Solo” is Robert Vaughn’s character in the show. I also got iCARLY without needing any crossings (even though I already had the “i” from White Lightning), though I’m not sure if I should be as proud of getting that so quickly as getting U.N.C.L.E. without the crossings as well (28D: [Teen sitcom that starred Miranda Cosgrove]). Although many sports fans make mention of the 1985 Bears as one of the best teams in football history, some forget that the Super Bowl they won that season occurred in the calendar year of 1986, and in 1985, the Super Bowl that year, XIX, featured a San Francisco 49ers triumph over the Miami Dolphins (45A: [Number of the 1985 Super Bowl]). No team has ever “hosted” a Super Bowl in the Super Bowl era, but those 49ers came closest, as Super Bowl XIX took place at Stanford Stadium in nearby Palo Alto, Calif. Despite those little nuggets, that’s not our “sports….smarter” moment, as that’s reserved for…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EL NIÑO (47D: [Weather factor]) – I was so bummed that there wasn’t an extra “P” in PUPA (41D: [Insect form]) so I could talk about former National Hockey League goaltender Darren Puppa. But we’ll stick with El NIÑO, which happens to be the nickname of current Spanish golfer Sergio García. He burst onto the national spotlight in 1999 when, at age 19, finished second to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four majors. That second-place finish is one of four runner-up finishes he has had in his career at majors, and he’s also finished in the Top 10 six other times. Alas, the main storyline in his career so far, despite all of that success, is that he’s never won a major.

Have a good Saturday, everyone, and I’ll see you for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.01.14 by Victor Barocas

LAT Puzzle 11.01.14 by Victor Barocas

No, that’s not a typo. I solved this puzzle in two minutes and twenty-four seconds. I enjoyed those seconds, though. I think I was lucky to have spelled KABLOOIE right on the first try. WHERE WAS I? is a fun entry, as is WOE IS ME! Mini golf theme (or maybe a mini-golf theme?) with BIRDIES and HOLE-IN-ONE. Rhyming historical entries with the OK CORRAL and the ERIE CANAL.

Victor always has some good clues in his puzzles. I liked the clue for EROTIC ART [Blue wall decorations], though I don’t necessarily put my erotic art on the wall. Another fun clue is the one for POOL CUE [Handy thing to have when you need a break?]. Also loved [Cabs may be lined up at one] for WINE BAR.

A bit of a no-no with the dupe entries TO SEE and SEEN AS. Not too much else in this puzzle to gripe about. Maybe ELD or AGA in terms of crosswordese, or the variant AEON. A very solid puzzle, lots of nice fill. A great example of an easy themeless/weekend puzzle. 3.75 stars from me. Until next week!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as Anna Stiga)

Newsday crossword solution, 11 1 14, "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 11 1 14, “Saturday Stumper”

I was misled! On Twitter, Joe Cabrera wrote “If you don’t normally do the Newsweek Saturday Stumper because it’s too tough, today’s is much easier. (Also, you should be doing them.)” So I was expecting a breezy solve—and then instead, the bulk of the grid to the north and west of the center diagonal fought me tooth and nail, and I ended up with a “definitely in the hardest half of all Stumpers” solving time. Filling in PHABLETS and PLUNGE for 1a/1d was an unfortunate misstep.

Things I didn’t know or don’t quite get:

  • 1a. [LG products], SMART TVS. My husband informs me that this is what his parents have, and that’s why they can Skype us via the TV screen. (I knew the folks’ TV offered a sorely underutilized 3-D, that’s all.) No idea that “smart TV” was a thing!
  • 19a. [The Men and Women of Troy], USC. The USC team name is the Trojans but I have never, ever seen the phrase in the clue. And my cousin graduated from USC! (In 3 1/2 years, engineering major. Proud of Alison!) Note, however, the duplication with 34d: [Southern __] CAL.
  • 20a. [Counter protector], BEER MAT. Never, ever heard that term. To the Google! Apparently it is nothing more than a coaster. Who puts their beer on a counter, though? Table, bar, sure. Not pleased with this clue.
  • 51a. [Major patent seller of 2013], KODAK. I missed the news story last year, but ***AK + corporation with patents = KODAK.
  • 62a. [“Progressive jazz” Big Band leader]. KENTON. I’ve heard of Stan Kenton, but was lost on 55d and had an A in that crossing for too long.
  • 65a. [21 Down ad phrase], STAY HERE, 21d being MOTEL. Feels a hair contrived and awkward to me. Is there a specific “Stay here” slogan I don’t know about?
  • 3d. [Instrument made from bamboo], ABACUS. Was thinking of musical instruments. Rewarding “aha” moment when I had a few crossings and the shoe dropped.
  • 4d. [Netflix mail identifier], RED. I don’t know what this means. How is an envelope color a “mail identifier”? Awkward.
  • 24d. [Verb coined by Lewis Carroll], GALUMPH. And a great word that is!
  • 36d. [Lancaster Oscar role], PREACHER. Wasn’t sure what this referenced—it’s Elmer Gantry, 1960.
  • 55d. [“You may __ me in the very dirt”: Angelou], TROD. Hey! No fair calling on poetry that slips in a past-tense verb where context calls for a present-tense word. I tried TRAP, as TREAD wouldn’t fit and standard usage would call for “tread on.” It’s from the first bit of “Still I Rise,” though, which I would expect myself to be more familiar with.

Favorite fill: the [Sarcastic show of support] called a GOLF CLAP. SCHLOCK and GALUMPH are fun too.

Timeliest bits: 7d. [Choose], VOTE IN, and 9d. [Tried to keep one’s seat], RERAN. Vote this weekend, if early voting’s an option where you live, or vote on Tuesday! I voted two days ago.

3.75 stars.

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24 Responses to Saturday, November 1, 2014

  1. sbmanion says:

    I got the theme after it was over. 81/27 was particularly diabolical as they are both powers of three, which prompted me to think of something with a mathematical twist.

    I did not understand He is one until reading this blog. My first thought was ADAM.

    Extremely difficult for me.

    Brilliant puzzle.


  2. Avg Solvr says:

    Never would’ve thought of the numbers as answers in the grid and not sure what would’ve prompted me to. Good puzzle but I’m not sure about the theme. It’s more trick than clever.

    Is the WSJ not going to be available in acrosslite?

  3. PJ says:

    I’d put gyp in the same neighborhood as welsh and jew. I grew up hearing them and thought they were perfectly good little words. I haven’t used them in a while.

  4. Gary R says:

    I had probably half the grid filled in, with holes all over the place, when GROSS PROFIT showed itself. I already had COSTS in the grid, and sure enough, NET SALES fit nicely at 33D. The theme helped a lot in finishing up the northwest corner – so many wrong guesses in there that it just wasn’t making any sense at all.

    Isn’t 5D ENLargement more of a “printing” option that a “developing” option?

    • Richard says:

      I had the same experience, first getting GROSS PROFIT and then immediately getting NET SALES from just the N and the T and then filling in COSTS with no crosses. Getting the theme really helped me with NEUTROGENA from just the E and the U, having already got PERT and RIVAL. My biggest hangup was in the NW where the “theatre” reference misdirection prevented me from seeing WAR for a long time. Finally, the light bulb went on and this quickly led to getting BATTLEFIELD and finishing up the rest of this corner.

  5. Trip’s puzzle’s a 5-star puzzle no matter how you slice it. Ambitious theme coupled with the capital R Restraint in making the whole grid whistle clean.

    • Papa John says:

      I’d agree more with Amy’s score of 4.25. I might go a bit higher but not a full 5 points.

      Points off for the inclusion of gyp, for some eyebrow-raising clues that made no sense (even after I got the fill) and, most of all, for making me dart all over the grid to find the referenced clues. I thought constructors would have gotten the word, by now, that many solvers dislike the latter, finding it a distraction and a nuisance. It’s been griped about aplenty on this and other forums. Once I figured out the theme, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to strain my eyes trying to find each scattered fill and got on with it. (I would imagine speed solvers have even less appreciation of it.}

      Nonetheless, it is, indeed, a superb, mind-bending puzzle.

      • Dan F says:

        Surely you can make some allowance for cross-references when that is the entire point of the theme! (Yes, they can be annoying to speed-solvers, but I appreciate the added challenge.)

        • Papa John says:

          I kinda did. I said I “resigned myself to it and got on with it”. It still subtracted from my fun in solving.

          I don’t think the scores are founded solely on objective reasoning. It’s as much a measure of the solver’s enjoyment and entertainment.

        • Brucenm says:

          I agree, and thought the puzzle was amazing, fantastic. Of course, I’m not a speed solver, but I was pleased at getting through in 15 or so. Furthermore, it was possible to solve the puzzle from the crosses, ignoring the mysterious arithmetic clues, (which I did until the very last moment), so I think that deflects from the idea that cross-referencing was absolutely necessary to solve the puzzle. I only fully understood the theme after the puzzle, and even then I’m not sure I fully understood the brilliance of the use of the *names* of the arithmétic operators.

          Also thought Victor’s LAT was excellent.

          On a completely OT, self-indulgent matter, I wanted to express tribute to my friend and former colleague, Barbara Swartz, who died a couple months ago. She was a brilliant, dynamic, energetic, determined, politically progressive woman — also charming, gentle, cat lover, a year younger than I. There is a memorial for her tomorrow. I was utterly moved by the fact that apparently a few days before her death she mused “I wonder if there is a memorial for me, if Bruce would play?” Not having played in public of late, this is a source of some anxiety; but under the circumstances, I could hardly decline, and I have been working hard to be prepared. I will play two movements from the Beethoven Op. 10 # 3 and one from the Op. 31 # 2. It will be a better tribute to her if I play decently, which I’m resolving to do. Send me good vibes.

      • bhensley says:

        I’m definitely in the “I love cross-references” camp. It is a great way to put the “puzzle” in crossword puzzle. I particularly enjoy it when you have pairs like “Antonym of X-Across” and “Antonym of X-Down” in different areas of the puzzle, but today’s cross-references were also excellent.

      • Sarah says:

        Maybe GYP was offensive in ancient times…but nowadays, I’d say any offense to it is really unfounded. Whatever references to “gypsy” there are, are long since forgotten. I consider it great fill, and I expect everyone else to feel the same way.

        Now DELE, on the other hand…it’s inferable, but I’ve never seen it outside of crosswords.

  6. Papa John says:

    What happened to the WSJ for Across Lite?

  7. Papa John says:

    Hey, Andy, you may have stumbled on the difference between erotic art and porn. Porn is the stuff you don’t hang on the wall.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There is also erotic art that is serving a higher cause. To wit: A team of collegiate rowers in England produces a calendar full of artsy black-and-white photos of the exceedingly fit team members in the altogether, unafraid of touching one another, in order to raise money for a group that fights homophobia in sports. I commend them for their good acts, and I commend their photographer for making a dozen compelling nude photos that somehow manage not to show anyone’s penis (lots of buttocks on view, though). Click here for more.

      • Papa John says:

        Erotic art is often considered not pornographic because it purports to serve a higher cause. I’m in that camp, although I’d temper it by saying, merely, different causes; one cortical the other hypothalamic.

        My house is filled with images of nude women — and one man — all produced by my hand. Genitals are displayed, including the “offensive” penis.

        In a current rumpus with Twitter (?), brought on by Twitter taking down a photo of a bare-breasted Chelsea Handler, the comedienne argued that she thinks the human body is “silly”. Considering the body, whether in reality or as an image, to be profane or in any way offensive is silly. Making a fuss over it is silly. Thinking the human body is silly is, itself, silly.

        The controversial photo showed Handler, horseback, in a parody of that ubiquitous image of Putin, mounted on a horse, also shirtless.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ade, definitely UB40’s “Red Red Wine” here, too! Here’s the video.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Interesting video: Our protagonist is at a bar drinking, and then the woman he likes shows up—with a date. He stands up drunkenly to approach her—and gets tossed out of the bar. Woman’s autonomy remains undisturbed; male protagonist does not get to claim ownership of her attentions.

  9. Jenni Levy says:

    LOVED today’s NYT. I remember the video with the visible grid. Interesting – I’ve been to the ACPT twice and failed to crack the theme of #5 both times. I got this one – also from GROSS PROFIT – and really enjoyed it. I wonder if my failure to figure out the other two comes more from nerves than anything else. Anyway, wonderful puzzle.

    I did manage to finish the Stumper without resorting to Google, which makes me feel good. I really didn’t like RERAN and I wasn’t all that fond of STORMED for “evinced exasperation”. I know the Stumper is, well, supposed to stump, and I like a good challenge as much as the next person. I sometimes find that the clues for the Stumper are tricky, and not in a good way – I feel as if Stan is playing “gotcha” and I don’t enjoy that. The hardest Fireball and BEQ puzzles are equally difficult – sometimes harder – and don’t leave me with that sense.

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