Saturday, November 8, 2014

Newsday 8:17 (Amy) 
NYT 6:21 (Amy) 
LAT 5:13 (Andy) 
CS 11:51 (Ade) 

Anna Shechtman wrote about getting started in crossword constructing and working for Will Shortz here.

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 8 14, no. 1108

NY Times crossword solution, 11 8 14, no. 1108

After a 40-mile drive that took twice as long as I expected tonight (I waited till after rush hour, honest!), I’m not really in any sort of blogging mood. Ergo: bulleted list posthaste.

  • 1a. [Up-coming world phenomenon?], EARTH RISE. Uhh… as seen from the moon or a spacecraft or something? Odd to find a rather unfamiliar term parked at 1-Across.
  • 17a. [Notable switcher from Democrat to Republican to Independent], BLOOMBERG. Tried to think of a congresscritter who fit that description.
  • 22a. [See 4-Down], IRON. Iron! I’ve been taking a lot of it since The Bloodletting.
  • 29a. [Life preserver?], CEREAL BOX. Cute clue, but the box doesn’t do a damn thing to keep Life cereal fresh. It’s the plastic bag inside the box doing the job.
  • 48a. [Searchlight in comics], BAT SIGNAL. Chicago is standing in for some other city (does Metropolis have D.C.’s metro stations?), apparently, in the Batman vs. Superman movie that’s begun filming. Superman and Lois Lane (Henry Cavill and Amy Adams) were shooting outside in the Loop Friday evening. No idea if the movie will have a bat signal.
  • 59a. [“Die Fledermaus” soprano], IDA. Who? I’ve been seeing a lot of talk on Twitter lately about what a badass Ida B. Wells was. The NYT has clued IDA by way of Wells three times in the past decade. I’d love to see her get a few more crossword shout-outs.
  • 67a. [Bureaucratic environmental regulations], GREEN TAPE. I know red tape; didn’t know GREEN TAPE was a thing.
  • 12d. [Song whose title follows “Para bailar”], LA BAMBA. Nailed it. Don’t know what the words mean, but I nailed it.
  • 13d. [Harry and Wills acquired one in 2005], STEPMOM. Weird to clue this by way of British princes, no? Wouldn’t Camilla be their stepmum?
  • 32d. [Blanket produced in Mexico City], SMOG. “Dang it, SERAPE won’t fit into four squares.”

Not so keen on repeaters AMATI, TET, YSER, ESSES, KTS, L RON, and EL AL, nor on plural SOLS. Might have expected fewer of those in a 72-worder. ONE IOTA feels a little stale as a 7, too. 3.33 stars from me.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Art Exhibit”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.08.14: "Art Exhibit"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.08.14: “Art Exhibit”

Hello, weekend!

Hope you all are doing well, and, for those living in the Northeast, hope you all are staying warm after a pretty chilly Friday night. Today’s grid, brought to us today by Ms. Lynn Lempel, features a lot of art, as in the word “ART” being embedded in the theme answers, creating puns from common/proper nouns.

  • MARTINI VAN: (17A: [Mobile liquor vendor?]) – From “minivan.” I know someone, somewhere, wants to make the thought of a martini van come true.
  • POLICE MARTEN: (26A: [Weaselly supplement to a K-9 unit?]) – From “policemen”
  • APPLE PARTIES: (43A: [Galas to celebrate the latest iPhone?]) – From “apple pies.”
  • HEARTY JUDE: (58A: [Law after getting stellar reviews?]) – From “Hey Jude.”

Yes, SPAM comes from Nigeria (51D: [Email from Nigeria, say]).  It also comes from the United States. And it also comes from many other countries, I’m sure.  So, once again, hope there’s more care for specificity when it comes to the “Nigerian email” clues in referencing “spam.”  That, and I’m Nigerian, so just have to make sure to point it out…or I’ll be outed by my Nigerian princes and punished by them sending me a countless amount of spam letters (ok, now that was a joke). After getting CAMEO, I was wondering if that word was ever clued in referencing the R&B/hip-hop/funk group of the ’70s and ’80s (32A: [Carved pendant]).  I’m pretty sure Cameo, the singing group, is still chugging along these days! Can’t believe that it’s almost that time of the year again to get the SCARF ready when creating your snowman (51A: [Part of a snowman’s outfit, often]). Love the mislead to MR. SPEAKER (34D: [House call, of a sort]), and kind of knew that it was referencing Washington from the beginning.  I didn’t fall into that BOOBY TRAP of a clue, that’s for sure (11D: [Devious device to catch the unwary]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BAMBI (1D: [Disney pal of Thumper and Flower]) – BAMBI is the nickname of NFL Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth, who played most of his career with the San Diego Chargers during their run in the American Football League. Alworth was widely considered to be the best receiver in professional football in the 1960s, and his slight build, along with his graceful running style and jumping ability, earned him the nickname “Bambi.” Alworth, along with current Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, hold the AFL-NFL record for the most 200-yard receiving games, with five. In his last game as a professional, he scored the first touchdown of Super Bowl VI and helped the Dallas Cowboys win the championship over the Miami Dolphins.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!! Have a great day!

Take care!


Bruce Venzke & Victor Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.08.14 by Bruce Venzke and Victor Fleming

LAT Puzzle 11.08.14 by Bruce Venzke and Victor Fleming

This puzzle felt old. There were a few clues from the here and now-ish:

  • POLKA [Grammy category eliminated in 2009]. The category was dominated by Jimmy Sturr, who won 18 of the 24 Grammys for Best Polka Album. At some point, there’s got to be a mercy rule. Also, a “representative of the current musical landscape” rule.
  • LIU [She plays Watson in “Elementary”]. 
  • IMAN [“Project Runway Canada” host]. 

ZITS [Comic strip about a high schooler] and ROONEY [Steelers ownership family name] both also feel fairly current. Meanwhile, from the Wayback Machine:

  • SPACEWOMEN [Some astronauts]. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone use this term (or “spacemen”) to refer to astronauts outside of science fiction (as in, Women From Space) or comics (e.g., Spaceman Spiff). I suspect this is a generational thing. Maybe the death of “spacewomen” is also partly due to NASA’s termination of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
  • POTATO RACE [Kid’s birthday party contest]. I had to look this one up. Maybe I’m in the minority for never having heard of a potato race, but I thought this was a poorly-phrased way of saying “sack race.” Not so, apparently. Wikipedia says it’s a footrace involving the collection and relocation of potatoes. As far as birthday activities go, this sounds better than a clown, at least.
  • BILL AND COO [Get romantic]. A phrase taken from the things birds do when they get romantic. The Internet seems to recognize the phrase much better as the Oscar-winning 1948 film starring a small cast of trained birds.

And then you’ve got things like the SPIEGEL catalog and HANA Mandlikova and ETERNE and a SPYGLASS and “ERI TU” and POLKA and ELY Cuthbertson and Harry CARAY, and I suspect ROONEY may once have been clued as Mickey or Andy. These are generally fine entries (though ETERNE and HANA and ERI TU have been labeled crosswordese), but collectively they speak to an older generation of solvers. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, but I suspect there will be plenty of fans of this puzzle.

Also, a few partials, abbreviations, and bits of crosswordese to note: ABAB, A TUB, ETERNE, OR I, ON A LOG, DSO, OBS, ARA, YNEZ, SO TO, TELE-, STR. Didn’t know what a STATOR was, but now I do. (It’s an [Electric generator component], obviously.) I’m gonna bump this one up for having POO in it, but I’m gonna bump it back down for cluing it as [Nanki-___]. 3.2 stars from me. Until next week!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper

Newsday crossword solution, 11 8 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 11 8 14 “Saturday Stumper”

I always look forward to a crossword when I see Brad’s byline. This one was tough, but I liked it. Here were the highlights:

  • 5a. [Opening-night ritual], AFTER-PARTY.
  • 16a. [Aging effect that forgers can’t well duplicate], CRAQUELURE. Neat word, that.
  • 18a. [It’s often self-titled], DEBUT ALBUM. A gimme. First entry in my grid.
  • 31a. [Mrs. Ethan Frome], ZENOBIA. She went by Zeena. Let’s all go sledding! Would have preferred ZEENA to ZENOBIA in the grid but Edith Wharton’s good stuff regardless.
  • 40a/41a/ ANTENNA, DUENNA, fo-fenna…
  • 58a. [Pink-purple flower], HELIOTROPE. It’s also a color name.
  • 14d. [Original source of mocha coffee beans], YEMEN. This is more a geography trivia question than a foodie question. The seaport Mocha in Yemen is where mocha coffee and mocha leather were originally shipped from.

Fill that brought no particular delight includes PHON/LUMENS, TERCE, -IVE, ETDS, the added GAS in FREON GAS, French VIENNE (really? A town of 29,975 people? So it’s like the Natick of France? I’m just kidding. Natick is 10% bigger.), INCITANT, and DEARER. I was going to grouse about 3d. [Page of many library websites], E-CONTENT—but then I remembered Brad’s day job as a librarian and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

3.5 stars from me. More in the “meh” category than I was expecting in a Wilber puzzle, but that top stack of 10s is cool.

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

33 Responses to Saturday, November 8, 2014

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    With a couple of spots that sandwiched things I didn’t know and no eventful answers, the NYT was not a pleasant experience. LAT had a similar area and wasn’t too much fun either.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    re NYT — I found lots to like: OBLIQUE, BIOWEAPON, PERFECTAS at the race track, etc. I’d rate this much higher! Great originality…
    GREEN TAPE is cute!

  3. Peter A. Collins says:

    I learned (the hard way) that LA BAMBA and MAMMA MIA both go ?A??M?A. That hole took a while to climb out of.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Spanish is not a strong language of mine, but I always assumed that “Para Ballar La Bamba” just meant “To Dance the Bamba.” I think that’s right. Many here will know for sure.

    Liked the puzzle. Also thought 1a was a bit odd; and NW was by far the hardest quadrant for me. I did it counterclockwise starting from the SW.

    Maybe Steve will tell us why a two iron is obsolescent. Because you use those metal woods?

    • Gary R says:


      I’m not an avid golfer, but I don’t ever remember 2-irons being common to start with. When I shopped for clubs recently, I found that many manufacturers don’t even include a 3-iron as part of their “standard” set of irons anymore.

      I’ve heard a couple of explanations on this. One is that club manufacturers have, over time, decreased the loft on their irons (making today’s 3-iron closer to yesteryear’s 2-iron) and added “specialty” wedges for the short game (where there used to be just a pitching wedge and a sand wedge).

      A second explanation I’ve heard is that “long irons” (the low-numbered ones) are harder to hit well, so they’re being replaced by “hybrid” fairway woods that are easier to hit and work for similar distances.

    • pannonica says:

      More specifically, it’s (in order) to dance La Bamba, which is what I think you suggested. Just adding clarification.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron. – Lee Trevino

    • sbmanion says:

      Very late to the show today as I have been overwhelmed with work.

      I solved the puzzle NW, SE, SW, NE. I found it very tough.

      The two iron and even moreso, the one iron, are very difficult clubs to hit. The average golfer has a tendency to slice the ball, which is caused by an “outside in” swing that cuts across the ball. This tendency to slice is magnified with less lofted clubs like the one, two and even three irons. Over time in an effort to make the game more enjoyable for average golfers, manufacturers have replaced the long irons with so-called hybrid clubs that look like a cross between an iron and a wood. They are easier to hit for everyone, including pros.

      I am not sure how much the modern phenomenon of hitting the ball so much farther comes into play. With pros routinely hitting the ball well over 300 yards, there are very few holes that require a long iron second shot and on the par fives, the distance needed is more appropriate to a wood, which as noted is easier to hit than a long iron.

      Someone below noted Tiger’s stinger, a low boring shot hit with a two iron, I personally am a little longer and a little better than Tiger, so I play this shot. In reality, those who can hit the stinger are rare birds as are those who can control the long irons.

      I had no problem with the clue and answer, a new world record of consecutive correct golf clues.


  5. PJ says:

    Does anyone besides me have a vivid recollection of the view of Earth over the lunar horizon from Apollo 8? It’s referred to as Earthrise. I believe it was the first time we were able to view our planet from this perspective. Blue and vulnerable.

  6. Gareth says:

    NYT: “It’s the plastic bag inside the box doing the job.” – I had CEREALBAG for a moderate period of time. Also in that vicinity I had EARLDOM before STEPMOM – seemed reasonable!

    Bottom was Wednesday easy, but the puzzle fought back at the top!

  7. Gary R says:

    This was typical Saturday difficulty for me, but my experience was different from others here. I had the top half completed fairly quickly, and struggled with the bottom half. I like OBLIQUE, but it took a long time to see it. RAY GUNS seems pretty dated – I had phasers there for quite a while. The clue for EN MASSE seemed pretty vague – I guess it’s bands of people? Did not care for BEAM as a searchlight “element” – it’s the output of a searchlight, but I don’t see that as an “element.”

    Thought it was interesting that the parallel clues regarding “banking” employed different meanings of the word (and not the first one that came to mind) while the parallel clues regarding “searchlight” all dealt with the same (obvious) object.

  8. David L says:

    This was a struggle for me — I couldn’t get into the NW and ended up googling for RABAT to get an entry.

    A number of the clues seemed overly cute to me, to the point that they didn’t quite work. As Amy said, Harry and Wills have a stepmum, although something tells me they don’t use that word anyway. QUARK for “a tiny bit strange” — I don’t see how to parse that in a way that makes sense. Speaking of science, a RAYGUN that shot out GAMMA rays would be hard to make and not that effective, unless you want a gun that increases the likelihood of your victim getting cancer in ten years’ time. A BEAM doesn’t seem like a “searchlight element” — it’s what the searchlight generates. And what kind of donors would you find in an OR? Kidney donors, I suppose, plus dead people whose organs are being removed. Not a happy thought.

    Oh, and a ROADMAP, to me, means more or less the opposite of a “detailed plan” — I think of a roadmap as being a sketch of your general strategy to solve some problem, which guides you as you subsequently work out all the details of your plan.

    Well, I’m probably just grouchy because I HTG to finish…

    • huda says:

      I generally agree. Some of the clues really required more poetic license that is usual even for a Saturday.
      Although RABAT was a gimme because I was in Morocco last year and visited Sale which had some beautiful inns in converted old Moroccan homes with exquisite wood work, courtyards with flowing flowers, intricate doors and striking contrasting colors. And because the name Sale struck me as odd– didn’t ring a bell in Arabic and means dirty in French (though the place certainly was not). Had an amazing couscous there, with great food being the best way to help me remember a place:)

      I had tROpIC for EROTIC, Bag for BOX and a bunch of other missteps that got in my way.

      EARTHRISE did not come easily, and I did not love the clue for it but it really is a great entry and a lovely image. Overall, it’s the kind of puzzle I admire after the fact but the journey was bumpy.

    • Papa John says:

      David, you took the words right outta my mouth, especially regarding the “overly cute” clues.

    • Bit says:

      The clue for QUARK might be better parsed as “A tiny bit, strange”. Quarks are elementary particles that come in six types (flavors): up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top. This clue’s probably a real thigh-slapper to a physicist; it did draw a modest smirk from me.

  9. pannonica says:

    Seems to me that searchlight can easily be taken to indicate the device, the output of said device, and/or both those elements together.

  10. huda says:

    Amy, thanks for the tip yesterday about “A Most Puzzling Murder”. It’s not high literature but it was interesting to read. Years of reading murder mysteries must have paid off, as I did better at figuring it out than I do Saturday puzzles.

  11. Linda says:

    Was “quark” a pun on “quirk” and so clued as a “tiny bit strange”? Also, concerning the mystery story about Will Long suggested in yesterday’s blog: thought it was amusing and worth reading. Love those surprise endings, though this one had a lot of foreshadowing in it. The detection methods were fun, and setup was a classic one for mystery writers. As a Kindle writer myself, I also appreciated the free downloadable app for PC. Looking forward to taking my new tablet with me and downloading stories enroute to turkey. Wish I knew for sure where so I can send flowers ahead for the table.

    • Bit says:

      I posted this above, but I should have put it here:

      The clue for QUARK might be better parsed as “A tiny bit, strange”. Quarks are elementary particles that come in six types (flavors): up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top. This clue’s probably a real thigh-slapper to a physicist; it did draw a modest smirk from me.

  12. mike hodson says:

    The 2-iron being obsolete would be news to – maybe you’ve heard of him – Tiger Woods. Arguably, his most distinctive shot is the “stinger” that he hits with said 2-iron.

    • Gary R says:

      There have been a few comments here over the past month or so about “obsolete” vs. “obsolescent” – the latter meaning “becoming” obsolete. I think the earlier discussions had to do with beepers as notification devices and CDs as a music storage medium.

      According to his website,, Tiger doesn’t always carry a 2-iron. Depending on course conditions, it’s either a 5-wood or a 2-iron.

      • mike hodson says:

        Thanks for the info. I realized my error later when I re-looked at the puzzle. The clue isn’t really all that inaccurate. I guess I was peeved with the corner in general because I had filled in Lieberman rather than Bloomberg, not having read that clue very carefully. At one point the club answer looked like it had to be a “lob iron.”

  13. Brucenm says:

    I confess that I become annoyed at the complaining about municipalities one has not heard of based upon their population. One sometimes regrets expressing one’s annoyance, but — Vienne is a major and noteworthy community for several reasons. Foremost, it is historically important; In Roman times, in the era of Julius Caesar, it was a major regional capital and important outpost along the Rhone River. The most cursory Roman history will give it considerable attention. It is a popular tourist attraction to this day. It is the home of one of the earliest and most celebrated Michelin 3 *** restaurants, La Pyramide, (which I think has dropped one star since the death of Fernand and Mme. Point.)

    I realize that this is the kind of information which is regarded with contempt in some quarters around here — but — so be it. I doubt if many rock groups have performed there, though I do seem to recall that it hosts a yearly jazz festival.

    Incidentally, is Natick any worse than Ojai, which I had heard of only from crosswords? I assumed it was pronounced like Mr. Simpson, but apparently not.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Here’s the thing, Bruce. I fancy myself pretty knowledgeable about geography, and I took a year of French in college. When I filled in the puzzle, I assumed there must be some spit of France that somehow was north of Vienna, and that the French call Vienna “Vienne.” Never, ever heard of Vienne. Do bear in mind that a sizable majority of Americans have never been tourists in France, and certainly not to Vienne. If “European city of historical significance” is a weight criterion for American puzzles, then we would have a zillion of them, and not just the ones that are more crossword-friendly (looking at you, STLO).

      • pannonica says:

        I, on the other hand, feel cheated by the clue for ARABIAN. [Napoleon’s war horse] seems to be asking for a name (i.e., MARENGO), not a breed. For that route, it should have a “for example” qualifier. Leaving it out doesn’t make the clue tricky so much as bad.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I blanked on the name! Byron Walden and I once concocted a theme with appalling recipes, including MARE MARENGO hearkening to chicken Marengo but being muddled by Napoleon’s horse. YAK YAKITORI and BEAR BEARNAISE were cleaner.

          • pannonica says:

            Not quite the same mechanism, but I’m now unfortunately thinking of a Judi Denchilada. And of course, Wynton Marsala.

        • Andrew says:

          Stan seems to like to use clues like this. See last week’s clue for PREACHER – [Lancaster’s Oscar role]. I agree that such clues need an [e.g.] or [for one] tag, and aren’t so much tricky as unfair.

  14. Linda says:

    Just for fun looked up chicken Marengo online. Supposedly the dish was named for the Battle!

  15. Bob says:

    I’m glad that half the raters joined me in giving LAT “less than good” rating. Lots of stretches in the defs today.

  16. Greg says:

    One of those puzzles that I stared at it for a good half hour, with barely anything. But, amazingly, I did ultimately finish, after numerous walkaways. I had “Lieberman” and “Ross Perot” before the lightbulb went on for former Mayor Bloomberg.

    Also thrown off in the SE with “obscure” instead of “oblique.”

    A good, tough, satisfying Saturday puzzle.

Comments are closed.