Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NYT 3:48 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 3:38 (Amy) 
LAT 3:08 (Amy) 
CS 12:38 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Stop Eating in the Past”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 11 18 14, "Stop Eating in the Past"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 11 18 14, “Stop Eating in the Past”

Various edibles begin with words that double as verbs, so Matt has put those verbs in the past tense:

  • 17a. [Can that landed on your head before serving?], BEANED SOUP. Eh. The wording suggests that the soup is what’s been beaned, not the head.
  • 33a. [Bird that can’t play with his friends for a week?], GROUNDED TURKEY. Love it! Although the original GROUND in the base phrase is the past tense of the verb grind.
  • 40a. [Spice that’s been messed with?], DOCTORED PEPPER. Party foul: The pop is Dr Pepper and not Doctor Pepper.
  • 59a. [Seafood that got promoted in checkers?], KINGED CRAB. Not sure how crab is playing checkers.

The freshest fill includes GIADA de Laurentiis, GO BIG, IN A PICKLE, and ROKU. The least savory is 42d. [Piled up the leaves again after the wind got them], RERAKED. Seasonally apt for November, but a roll-your-own word. The other edibles in the grid include ROE, RAW sashimi, EDAM, ALE, and TOTAL cereal. I’ve got 90% of a box of Total in the kitchen and you know what? I’d rather eat Corn Pops and a multivitamin.

The theme was well-intentioned but I wasn’t thrilled with most of the execution. 3.33 stars from me.

Jacob McDermott’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 18 14, no. 1118

NY Times crossword solution, 11 18 14, no. 1118

It’s another one of those “both of the words in each theme entry can precede or follow X word” themes. This one’s got a great revealer to tie it together:

  • 36a. [Beyoncé and Jay Z, e.g. … or a hint to 17-, 30-, 44- and 61-Across], POWER COUPLE. The other four theme answers have words/parts of words that can precede “power.” Bey and Jay are the highest-earning couple in entertainment, with a net worth of over $1 billion. Henry Hook isn’t keen on theme-revealer clues that give a hint in addition to “a hint to 17- etc.,” but I like the Bey/Jay example in this case.
  • 17a. [Luminary among luminaries], SUPERSTAR. Superpower (mine is flight and/or teleportation), star power.
  • 30a. [Flat out], FULL STEAM. Wha…? “Full steam ahead” is more idiomatic. Full power, steam power.
  • 44a. [Snooty attitude], HIGH HORSE. The attitude isn’t a HIGH HORSE, it’s being ON a high horse. High power, horsepower. Full power and high power are pretty dull powers.
  • 61a. [Bodybuilder, for one], MUSCLEMAN. Muscle power (is that a thing?), manpower.

Solid theme but not exceptional.

I often mention how 1-Across really sets the tone for a crossword. Here, we get ANAL-retentive. And yet ENEMAS was in BEQ’s “Themeless Monday” and not in this puzzle, where it would have been right at home! The whole first row sings, actually. Anal Blip Snark is the name of my next band.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [___ Club (pilot’s group)], AERO. Never heard of it. First guessed SOLO.
  • 19a. [Like many rural roads], RUTTY. Pretty sure most of us would call it rutted.
  • 6d and 53a duplicate a verb in LET OFF and LET SLIP. *frown* Lots of phrasal verbs in this grid—also LEARN OF, RAN LOW, and CLAM UP.
  • 22d. [Waldorf salad morsel], WALNUT. I had WAL*U* and nearly filled in WALRUS without reading the clue.
  • 1d. [Magazine agent’s success], AD SALE. Feels mighty contrived as crossword entries go.

Overall, the puzzle seemed a little on the tough side for a Tuesday, given words like IDYLL, WNET, and KIGALI (who else tried one of the many other 6-letter African capitals here?). 3.5 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 181), “Rescue Squad”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation (181) 11/18

Crossword Nation (181) 11/18

Wow. A puzzle’s theme-and-reveal doesn’t get much timelier than the one that comes with “Rescue Squad.” It’s there in the SE corner at 67A. [“Big HERO 6″ (2014 animated film and a hint to the puzzle theme)]. Folks: this critically acclaimed and box-office-strong film was released a mere 11 days ago. The other “wow”? The way HERO will be found embedded in, yes, the six themers (including two grid-spanners). Once again, Liz has provided us with a color-coded grid to highlight each (long) thematic HERO. That’s 70 squares of theme fill + a bonus of four. That’s a lotta theme fill. Even better? It’s really good theme fill!

  • 17A. FATHER OF HISTORY [See 41-Across]. Wait for it…
  • 21A. “UP ON THE ROOF” [Title of a Carole King hit song (where “everything is all right”)]. For your listening pleasure: The Drifters (who first made the song popular in 1963); the original demo (!); and Ms.King’s own version (1971). Kudos, too, to co-writer Gerry Goffin.
  • 31A. LECHEROUS [Lustful].
  • 41A. HERODOTUS [Chronicler of ancient Greece whose 32-Down is 17-Across]. Yup. A lot of cross-referencing here, but the payoff makes it worth it. So—in case you’d forgotten: Herodotus is the Father of History. That’s his EPITHET [Descriptive nickname]. Impressive as well is the way that seven-letter word crosses three themers. Ditto SCENTED with its olfactory-tickling clue [Like vanilla bean candles].
  • 47A. PURE HEROINE [Lorde’s debut album with the hit single “Royals”]. Okay, I’m three-for-three with this one. Never hearda New Zealander Lorde, never hearda the album (though I’m familiar great bluewith the phrase I take it to be a pun of—so the fill was inferrable [unless this, too, is actually an epithet…]), never hearda (or heard) “Royals.” Live and learn! Ditto the elegant [“Bride & Prejudice” actress Aishwarya RAI Bachchan]. Although I did see the movie, on some level it’s clear that I don’t get out enuf! ;-)
  • 58A. GREAT BLUE HERONS [Large, majestic wading birds].

In addition to the wide-ranging and thorough-going execution of this up-to-the-minute theme, the remaining fill has a lot going for it as well. Not only the previously mentioned epithet and scented, but oh, boy, do I love seeing ILLUMINATE and “IT’S A SECRET” in the grid—although I’m not sure why the clue for the former ([Shine a light on?]) ends with a question mark. Maybe someone out there has a theory. I get the double meaning of “swing by,” but was not fully convinced that [They might swing by and visit Tarzan?] for APES needed one either. But, hey, I may be alone here. I do understand its use in the clearly punny [Band leader?] ONE-MAN pairing; I also loved seeing that phrase in the grid. Enjoyed, too, the reminder of books ON TAPE, those (now-quaint, perhaps) “pre-digital audiobooks,” and the “BE CALM…” [“Don’t panic…”] twosome.

In general, I’m very taken with this particular puzzle’s blend of the old and the new. Particularly in the movies it references. Yes, there was a re-make in 1988, but The BLOB, that [Oozy sci-fi terror…] in fact goes back 30 years prior. [“A Walk AMONG the Tombstones (2014 Liam Neeson flick)] came out yesterday, relatively speaking. Ditto Nightcrawler, featuring actress RENE Russo. Shall We Dance?, which featured that “passionate dance” known as the TANGO, appeared in 1996 and 2004 (same year as Bride & Prejudice). Shall We Dance is also a classic Astaire/Rogers film from 1937. It’s not without passion, but I’m not sure it has a tango in it… But the real point is: look at all the associations that get triggered from well-clued entries. I take this as a real plus.

Am I in love with the functional but not much fun [Gen. Robert E. LEE], USRDA, MNO, [E AS in elephant]? I think you know the answer. But, not to worry—I won’t have A COW. For all the less-than-optimal fill, this puzzle is anything but BLAH. All that (excellent) theme fill puts constraints on the grid. But I wouldn’t have changed a bit. Then, too, Liz’s gift for specificity and surprise in her cluing always gives me a LIFT as a solver. When AIR is clued as [Football filler] or THORN as [Rosebush sticker], I’m a happy camper. Your take? Do weigh in!

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 11 18 14

LA Times crossword solution, 11 18 14

I’m often disappointed by themes like this, bound together by the letters at the start and finish. But this time, the theme works for me because the theme answers are a crisp batch:

  • 17a. [Like a fajita pan], SIZZLING HOT. I didn’t quite realize that singular fajita was legit. Feel like menus always use the plural, but I’m probably wrong given the dictionary entry.
  • 27a. [Daisy-plucking words], “SHE LOVES ME NOT.”
  • 43a. [To the point], SHORT AND SWEET.
  • 57a. [Not a likely chance, and, literally, a hidden feature of 17-, 27- and 43-Across], OUTSIDE SHOT.

Not only are the theme phrases appealing ones, they include all three splits: S/HOT, SH/OT, SHO/T. Elegant.

Overall, the fill’s all right, but no great shakes. I might’ve liked a rework of the bottom middle abbreviation line-up (UAL/TVA/LSAT) but a minute or two of poking around didn’t show me a better fill. Maybe the more modern TSA/NASAL over TVA/NAVAL, but that’s still an abbrev. Also never pleased to see a [Siberian city] clue; the thing about Siberia is that its cities, even the ones with over 1 million people, are little-known in the US. Sure, Russia’s seventh largest city OMSK is a lot bigger than France’s seventh largest city, but a lot more Americans visit France or study French.

3.66 stars from me. The theme’s well-executed but the rest of the puzzle isn’t quite at the same level.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Where’s the Moola?”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.18.14: "Where's the Moola?"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.18.14: “Where’s the Moola?”

Hello everyone!

Before beginning, just letting you know that I’ve been up for about the past 25 hours straight, as I’m doing a live blog during a college basketball marathon, an event where there is at least one college basketball game being staged and televised nationally for 29 straight hours. (Yes, that means there are/were games were being played at 5 AM, 7 AM, etc.) So my apologies if this upcoming review will look like it is put together by a zombie with no command of grammar or spelling.

But this is about crosswords, and today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is hiding money from everyone. Each of the five theme entries are terms in which a foreign currency is “hidden” within the answer, with the clues being puns.

  • TUTORIALS: (18A: [Instructive sessions hiding moola from Iran?])
  • SPOTTED HYENA: (24A: [African carnivore hiding moola from Japan?])
  • FRANCHISE PLAYER: (38A: [Key team athlete hiding money from Switzerland?])
  • NEUROSURGERY: (51A: [Delicate operation hiding moola from France?])
  • COMPOUNDS: (61A: [Chemical substances hiding moola from England?])

Very cute theme, and didn’t see what was up until SPOTTED HYENA and the “yen” sighting. Are AVERS superheroes who run around the city using A/V cables as their weapons to subdue the bad guys (1D: [Maintains])? Don’t think I’ll ever use an ELECTRIC blanket, probably because of my irrational (?) fear I have in my mind that if it malfunctions, I’ll be somehow electrocuted (5D: [Like some blankets]). Call me crazy, but my favorite card game is UNO, and it started right when the craze hit its peak – well, one if its peaks – in the mid 1990s (44A: [Card game marketed by Mattel since 1992]). I remember the card game being so popular in our school that our teachers would confiscate the cards if they caught us playing with them. If my mind serves me correctly, a couple of our classmates were playing with poker cards and one teacher, who walked right next to the students with the poker cards, didn’t do anything about it. We could have had our own World Series of Poker event in the cafeteria and no one would have noticed, but if it was UNO being played, it would have been a different story! I would come up with more observations from this grid, but my head is about to smack against the keyboard, and that wouldn’t look too graceful…nor seeing “jinodsfgjineroigu897fsduoho” on my review! Well, I guess you just saw it now, huh?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OAK TREE (29A: [Place for yellow ribbons in a 1973 hit song]) – Former NBA player Charles Oakley, nicknamed the OAK TREE, was one of the more prolific rebounders in the game in the ’80s and ’90s. Oakley led the NBA in total rebounds in 1987 and 1988 as a member of the Chicago Bulls, but was probably best know for his time with the New York Knicks, where he became an NBA All-Star in 1994 – a season in which the Knickerbockers made the NBA Finals.

If I haven’t turned into a total vegetable by tomorrow, I’ll see you then!

Take care!


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9 Responses to Tuesday, November 18, 2014

  1. Evad says:

    Just finished Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains about an immigrant from Burundi and part of the back story occurs in neighboring Rwanda (and specifically Kigali), so that was pretty fresh in my mind.

    I enjoyed the fill of this one a bit more than the theme–CLAM UP, KOOKS, ANAL and SPANKS felt pretty fresh to me.

  2. Armagh says:

    NYT: The words “anal” and “nausea” should never be crossed in a puzzle. Ever.

  3. bananarchy says:

    “Full steam ahead” is more of a discrete and fully-formed lexical chunk, but to me FULL STEAM is synonymous with flat-out as in phrases like “go full steam.” Wait, maybe that’s the only example. Still, though, works for me.

  4. Gareth says:

    1-Across sets the tone… ANAL tone! Crossing it with NAUSEA is the most anatomical thing I’ve ever seen in the NYT! Hi Armagh!

  5. PJ says:

    Hey guys – I’m an amateur/consumer, not a pro/critic. Reading the online commentary, mostly here and Rex, has taught me a lot about the makeup of grids. I largely solve and note where I go, “cool” and where I think, “Ugh.” Which leads me to today’s observation/question. In the LAT I went, “Ugh” at 2d and 6a. ERIE and EERIE? Both clued using weird? And not theme related. I’m guessing it’s not considered bad form or else someone else would take notice. So I guess my question is why not? If it’s nothing beyond well, it just isn’t, then it I’ll get by.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Some folks are irked by repeated letter chunks, but I’m not. ERIE and EERIE are entirely different words with unrelated etymologies, so they aren’t a semantic duplication. I don’t quite understand the objection some solvers have to finding, say, AVIS and RAVISH in the same grid.

  6. Brady says:

    Regarding the Jonesin’ puzzle: if a chicken can excel at Magic: The Gathering on South Park, I posit that a crab can ostensibly play checkers.

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