Friday, November 28, 2014

NYT 5:49 (Amy) 
LAT 4:11 (Gareth) 
CS 7:35 (Ade) 
CHE 6:33 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 10:52 (pannonica) 

Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 28 14, no. 1128

NY Times crossword solution, 11 28 14, no. 1128

Ah, yes. The day after Thanksgiving is BLACK FRIDAY, when throngs of people try to beat one another to the bargains. It’s an unusual custom, and one I don’t quite understand. I like to sleep late, relax, and eat leftovers, and steer clear of malls and big box stores. *shudder*

Tracy Gray’s snuck a theme into this Friday puzzle, which has 74 words rather than adhering to the themeless cap of 72. BLACK FRIDAY occupies the revealer-theme-entry slot at the end, and each corner of the grid includes a {SALE} rebus square. There’s a JERU{SALE}M CROSS, which I have not heard of, crossing {SALE}RNO, a NEW{S ALE}RT and SPRING{S A LE}AK, short E{SALE}N and ADAM'{S ALE}, and then {SALE}MS LOT crossing RO{SA LE}E PARKS. Really? The [Mother of the Freedom Movement, to friends], immortalized as Rosa Parks, went by “Rosa Lee Parks” to friends? Her name was Rosa Louise Parks. Did her friends include the last name along with that nicknamey middle name thing? This mystifies me. It can’t possibly be familiar enough to be a crossword answer with the LEE in it, can it?

27a. [Results of refrigerator raids], NOSHES? That feels a little off kilter to me. Are snacks “results of raids”?

The Thursday puzzle felt like a Wednesday puzzle and this one plays like a Thursday. Hey! I want my standard allotment of themelesses! Here, I got a Fridayish ERIC CARLE and TESLA COIL, but overall this didn’t give me the themeless challenge I look for. The fill’s all right, no great shakes (I’m looking at you, RIA SKEE EILAT TAC NOID RFDS). 3.5 stars overall. Time to hit the tryptophanic sack!

Hope you all had a satisfying Thanksgiving! And don’t go shopping, really.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Backup Crew”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.28.14: "Backup Crew"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.28.14: “Backup Crew”

Once again, it’s TGIF…even though it feels more like a Saturday after the holiday yesterday.

If you’re up from your food coma and are here for today’s review after Thanksgiving, then bravo!  Thank you for your company.  Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, includes four theme answers in which each of them are phrases that have the letters C-R-E-W spelled backwards and embedded in the phrase.

  • FLOWER CHILD: (17A: [’60s Haight-Asbury denizen]) – I’ve only been to San Francisco a couple of times, and I need to visit that famous intersection.
  • TOWER CRANE: (31A: [Construction apparatus for erecting skyscrapers])
  • LOWER COURT: (47A: [Tribunal whose decisions might be appealed])
  • POWER COUPLE: (63A: [Bill and Melinda Gates, e.g.])

A new record for the fastest completion of a CS puzzle, so it’s time to celebrate on my end.  Puzzle had some pretty good flow, and, although there are so many abbreviations in personal ads, the first one that popped in my mind was SWF (1A: [Abbreviation in personals]). How awesome was it seeing AMELIA (11D: [First name in aviation]) and AIRMAN right next to each other (12D: [Barnstormer, e.g.])?  Gender equity takes to the skies in the puzzle! No matter how many times I end up playing a round of golf, which is rare to begin with, there’s no way I would ever be able to SHOOT PAR even once in my life (41D: [Meet the course standard]). Sadly, it’s time for me to get a new MAC PRO, as this one I’m using as we speak almost sounds as loud as a jet engine after a few minutes when turning it on (6D: [Apple product]). I’m sure that I’ve seen both AVOW (29A: [Proclaim]) and AVER in the same grid, but, if not, then that streak is definitely over today (53A: [State firmly]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STUMP (1A: [Baffle]) – I’m sure I’ll get a chance to talk about Michelle WIE more often, as her last name should be pretty common in future puzzles (64D: [Golfer Michelle]). But I mention Carl “STUMP” Merrill, a longtime coach in the New York Yankees organization who ended up coaching the New York Yankees for the second part of the 1991 season and the entire 1992 season. After the 1992 season, he was replaced by Buck Showalter, who just won the American League Manager of the Year after the 2014 season with the Baltimore Orioles.

Thank you for your time, and have a good weekend!  I’ll see you on here tomorrow!

Take care!


Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Rounding Up” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/28/14 • "Rounding Up" • Feldman • solution

CHE • 11/28/14 • “Rounding Up” • Feldman • solution

The title makes it look as if this is going to be a math theme, but no! It’s architecture (which, to be fair, involves quite a lot of mathematics)! Though “looks as if” is appropriate, as it’s sort of a visual theme too. Not visual in the construction of the grid or anything, just – oh, never mind.

Look, 63-across spells it out: [Architectural element shared by 17, 21, 38, and 57 Across] DOME DROOF. And we all know what a droof is, yes?

  • 17a. [D.C. street addresses contain “NE,” “NW,” “SE,” or “SW” based on their orientation to it] US CAPITOL. Interesting factette, but makes for a slightly awkward clue.
  • 21a. [It’s famous for its bronze doors] PANTHEON. Perhaps, but it’s decidedly more famous for other features before those.
  • 38a. [Museum that contains the Empress Zoe mosaics] HAGIA SOPHIA. Ooh, laying groundwork for ZOE in future crosswords? The marvelous Hagia Sophia is one of the reasons I’d love to visit Istanbul. Duplication though: the name comes from the Greek, meaning “holy wisdom” (think hagiography and philosophy); 5-across is [Dawson at the beginning of the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek,” e.g.] SOPH, short for sophomore, which comes from Greek roots, oxymoronically combining “wisdom” and “foolishness”.
  • 57a. [Iconic landmark seen in “Slumdog Millionaire”] TAJ MAHAL. Though (mercifully) there’s no AGRA in the grid, we get the one-two crosswordese whammy of [Asian nannies] AMAHS and [Title in the Topkapi Palace court] AGA.
The outsides are spiffy, too.

The outsides are spiffy, too.


  • 50a [“Shoot!”] DRAT. Had DRAW first, which inspired me to mis-fill 44d [Bombarded from above] as SWARMED rather than STRAFED. Speaking of which, how solid is 40d [Ten squadrons may form one] AIR GROUP as crossword fill?
  • But AIR GROUP was not my least favorite entry. Oh no, that honor goes to 51a [Certain train tracks] I RAILS. I for “ick”. That that single letter crosses the not-so-hot 45d [Not much] BIT OF is further insult.
  • Was fooled by hastily misreading 60a [Climbing aide] SHERPA. Yes, I mentally elided that critical terminal ‘e’. Good clue, that.
  • Tangent to the theme, another architectural profile is offered up by 12d [Consign to a pyramid] ENTOMB. Am bothered slightly by the parallel construction (and placement) with 3d [Trespass (on)] ENCROACH. I realize the prefix EN- is only a couple of letters, but it’s uncommon enough to be a noticeable repetition here.
  • Another tricky clue was 35a [Bossy, in totspeak] MOO COW. Sure seems as if we’ve seen the taurine sense of bossy a lot in crosswords lately, no? Oh, and once again James Joyce is snubbed.
  • 43d [Amphibian with gills] TADPOLE. Poor clue. A tadpole is the larval stage of frogs and toads (but not for class-mates salamanders and caecilians). So the clue is neither inclusive enough (i.e., all amphibians in their gilled larval stage) nor accurate enough (the axolotl salamander is the only (adult) amphibian with gills).

Solid, overarching theme (in a good way), mostly good fill and cluing. 

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 141128

LA Times

Four two-part phrases begin with demonyms. Their second parts are changed to heterographs. Wackiness ensues. BELGIANLOGGER is weak as LOGGER and LAGER have different vowel sounds: one is lɑ:gə the other is lɒgə. Entry-wise, we have, [WWII personnel from Rio?], BRAZILIANWACS (WAX); [Yoko Ono, in spirit?], JAPANESEBEATLE (BEETLE) – a clue designed to annoy a sub-section of Beatle fans; [Andalusian plains?], SPANISHSTEPPES (STEPS) – the Spanish Steps are in Rome; [Brussels-born lumberjack?], BELGIANLOGGER (LAGER).

The puzzle exhibits little care when it comes to the shorter, easier-to-fill sections: FINI/ALTE/ENTR in a 4×3 section is bizarre. So is SMA in its opposite corner. The other two corners are similarly small and restricted, and yet we have ITOR and LXIV and RIEN. These are all quickly and easily edited out and it’s strange to see such little polish in a published puzzle.

Other bits:

  • [Island tubers], TAROS – known as madumbis here FWIW.
  • [Jed Clampett’s discovery, in a sitcom theme song], TEXASTEA – I like the pinning of the clue.
  • [Union-mgmt. mediator], NLRB. Alphabet soup to me, but I recognize it as something American’s could be expected to know,

2 Stars. Nice theme concept, but a very roughly-hewn puzzle.

Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Musical Arrangements” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/28/14 • "Musical Arrangements" • Fri • Kelly, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 11/28/14 • “Musical Arrangements” • Fri • Kelly, Shenk • solution

Let’s see, a crossword puzzle where the gimmick is anagramming the titles of Broadway musicals… Could it be titled anything but “Musical Arrangements”?

  • 22a. [MY FAIR LADY reworked as a show featuring friendly croquet games?] FAMILY YARD.
  • 24a. [DREAMGIRLS redone as a show about a craft flying over the Red Planet?] MARS GLIDER.
  • 31a. [SWEET CHARITY reworked as a show with uncomfortable wardrobe?] ITCHY SWEATER. Easily my favorite rearrangement here.
  • 43a. [THE MUSIC MAN redone as a show about pen pals?] INMATE CHUMS. Cute play on on “pen pals” in the clue.
  • 61a. [LES MISERABLES reworked as a show about muddles caused by the left?] LIBERAL MESS.
  • 81a. [DAMN YANKEES redone as a show about makers of underhanded pitches?] SNEAKY AD MEN. Again, nice wordplay in the clue, “underhand(ed) pitches”.
  • 93a. [GUYS AND DOLLS redone as a show with music to liven boring times?] DULL DAY SONGS. Hey, what happened to our strict scheme of ABABAB… with reworked and redone?
  • 103a. [KISS ME KATE reworked as a show about Tyson’s chophouse meal?] MIKE’S STEAK.
  • 106a. [MISS SAIGON redone as a show about a search for new oil fields?] GAS MISSION.

Really taken with the quality of the midlength fill in the grid: EGO BOOSTS, OMNIVORE, SAN SIMEON, PLOT LINES, GOOD TASTE, BEASTLIER, BIGAMISTS, SAYS GRACE, OKLAHOMAN (almost too themey there!), SEAPORT, MIMICRY, LEAN ON ME.


  • Interesting offset across the center: LIBERIA follows the first five letters of LIBERAL MESS above, one square behind.
  • 98d [Smallville family] KENTS, 23d [Clark’s colleague] LOIS.
  • Unknown to me: 71d [Naval cadet] MIDDY (short for midshipman, I presume), 55d [Country music’s Evans] SARA.
  • Favorite clue: 36a [Professional offers?] HIT MEN.
  • What was it I said about OKLAHOMAN, above? Yes, I would have clued 64d RENT [“Seasons of Love” show] differently.

A minimum of dross, a well-executed theme, a good crossword.

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27 Responses to Friday, November 28, 2014

  1. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was clever — I saw Jerusalem Cross right away, but the Rosa Lee Parks took longer. I liked Esalen… My snowplow person never came, so I’m still snowed in… Help coming later this morning!

  2. sbmanion says:

    My last entry was the SALE in ESALEN. I was wondering if ADAMA was a synonym for WATER until I realized that it was a themed entry.

    I enjoyed the puzzle, which I thought was a legitimate Friday or extremely hard Thursday.

    My only quibble was the clue for PSAT. I have never heard it called anything other than PSAT. In other words, it is not short for anything. The SAT has had several name changes over the years, from Scholastic Achievement Test to Scholastic Assessment Test and I believe is now called simply the SAT. I suppose one could argue that PSAT is pre-SAT or Preliminary SAT, but I have never heard it called either one in my 16 years as a tutor.

    EILAT, ERIC CARLE and MYLAR (rang a distant bell) were new for me and ScHMO was weak, but the rest of the fill was excellent.


    • sbmanion says:

      As a sidebar, the full name is PSAT/NMSQT as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test was merged with the PSAT many years ago. I remember getting a 151 on the NMSQT many, many years ago without appreciating what it meant. The NMSQT at that time was a state by state test so that in New York, for example, the qualifying score was 148 that year while in some other states, it could have been as low as 134. Add a 0 at the end of the score to approximate your SAT score on the Critical Reading and Math, the two sections given the most weight by colleges.

      SAT could also have stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test.

      The SAT was re-normed about 20 years ago. The median score was increased to 500 on each section. Your 1400 in the old days would have been roughly 1480 today. In 2006, the new SAT added a writing section, which has been severely criticized, and is the principal reason for the changes taking place in 2016.

      By the way, the Harvard Gazette publishes stats each year on the SAT scores of accepted students. Last year, there were 3200 Perfect-Perfect-Perfect scores (2400) and only a small percentage of those were accepted. I tutor a number of students from an extremely demanding prep school called Basis. My students told me about a student from two years ago who took 20 AP courses and scored a perfect 5 on 19 of them and was rejected at Harvard. The acceptance rate is currently at 6%, which makes acceptance a mind-numbing crapshoot.


    • Gary R says:

      When I was in high school (40+ years ago), SAT stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, and we used both “PSAT” and “Pre-SAT” to refer to the preliminary version. Usage may certainly have changed since then.

      Oddly, where I grew up, nearly all college-bound students took the PSAT, but very few took the SAT, because the ACT was preferred by state schools in the area.

      There’s another possible sense in which PSAT is “for short.” When I took the exam, it was the PSAT/NMSQT – the second part standing for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test – but we never included the NMSQT part when we talked about the test.

      ** I see Steve expanded on his comment while I was typing **

    • sbmanion says:

      Here are the state by state qualifying scores from one year. The two toughest states were Massachusetts (home of many prestigious prep schools) and Maryland (close to DC) at 222 while West Virginia and Idaho were at 203:


  3. Sam Ezersky says:

    The NYT played like a Thursday too, until I got to the top left, where I was sure 18D would be the crosswordese ENNA (which worked with RESIN). Using that as my start, and a few others, I could not for the life of me figure out how “expert” could be ?L??NO, and was baffled for the longest time. An abysmal 12:44 solve for Friday, but a handsome puz! Off to see if there’s anything left in the department stores…

  4. Jonesy says:

    @Ade — are you sure the below factoid from yesterday is correct? Seems to me like USNA (Annapolis), USMA (West point) and Air Force all don’t have ‘university’ in their official names either. Do you have a source for the below? Was just curious if the original made a distinction that excluded military academies or worded it in a slightly different way – always a fan of picking up interesting trivia!

    “Interesting fact about TECH (39D: [Virginia or Georgia follower]): Did you know that Georgia Tech is only one of two schools that play in the FBS section of Division One that doesn’t contain the word “university” in its official title? The other is not Virginia Tech, as it’s official name is “Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.” If you’re wondering about the other university-less school in the highest level of Division One college football, it’s Boston College. “

    • CY Hollander says:

      are you sure the below factoid from yesterday is correct?

      Here’s some more trivia for you: factoids are never correct, per the original sense of the word. I realize that this has been changing for some time, and many people nowadays probably aren’t even aware of the original meaning, but it’s something a purist might wish to know.

      • pannonica says:

        This is precisely the reason I use factette.

        • CY Hollander says:

          Cool; that was a new one to me! Maybe I’ll start using it too.

        • Phil says:

          Surely you can’t be suggesting that adding a feminine diminutive is appropriate to specify that something has the probability of being wrong?

          • pannonica says:

            First, we’re talking about something that’s correct, not wrong. Second, although the suffix derives from the French one specifying a feminine diminutive, English is a (structurally) genderless language; in it, -ette can signify smallness or feminineness or both.

      • placematfan says:

        Wow. And aarghhh. Thanks for that.

  5. Linda says:

    If I were a crossword constructor instead of a maven, I would have clued “Noshes” in the verb use of the word as “What a crossword solver does when discovering savory leftovers.”


  6. CY Hollander says:

    NYT: Rather easier than the typical Friday, I agree. I guess the difficulty standard was relaxed in favor of the timely theme.

    Before I got the theme, I hazarded that NEWSALERT was a NEWS RT (for “retweet”). Seemed to make some sort of sense. Less defensible was my initial guess for “Tolkien protagonist”: having the letters B_L__, I immediately thought “Balin!” What is wrong with me?! I don’t understand TAC (“XXX part”). Would someone enlighten me?

    Misclue of the week: a schmo is not just an ordinary guy: he’s a rather pathetic one. (The dictionary I linked to doesn’t give quite the definition that I would have, but it’s enough to show that the word’s connotations shade decidedly negative, whereas “ordinary” is as neutral as they come.)

    • Papa John says:

      Think Tic-Tac-Toe for XXX.

      I agree with you on SHMO, although I can’t back it up because an online search (Bing) turns up nothing for that word (or schmo). The closest I know of is shmoo, which we all know is that delightful Al Capp character, who is anything but “ordinary”.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Dammit, that’s the *second* time a Tic Tac Toe clue has flummoxed me. (I don’t remember the details of the first, but it was also in the NYT and it was virtually the same clue. Hadn’t recalled it until you jogged my memory just now).

        Re shmo, I’d guess that whoever wrote the clue was thinking of Joe Schmo, which is a lot closer to the Everyman connotation (though, as the UD def. I linked mentions, it’s still a mildly disparaging version of that), but that’s really not comparable to unqualified “shmo”. A rough parallel might be the word “nobody”: if you talk about “your average nobody” you mean a person of no special distinction, but if you refer to a specific person as a “nobody”, the connotation becomes much harsher.

    • Linda says:

      Shmo is Yiddish, like shlimiel or shlimazel. Mazel (luck as in “mazel tov” (good luck) appears here in shlimazel as literally “bad luck.”

      Very old definitions: The shilmazel is the person who always gets soup spilled on him. The shlimiel is the person who always spills the soup. This doesn’t mean that they can’t simultaneously be a mensch.

      It is possible that Capp thought of shmoo as some derivative of the Yiddish, but I doubt it. It doesn’t have enough different vowels in it to be authentic.


      • Papa John says:

        So, in Yiddish, does it mean an ordinary fellow?

        Here’s Capp’s version of the origin of shmoos, from Wikipedia:

        I was driving from New York City to my farm in New Hampshire. The top of my car was down, and on either side of me I could see the lush and lovely New England countryside… It was the good earth at its generous summertime best, offering gifts to all. And the thought that came to me was this: Here we have this great and good and generous thing—the Earth. It’s eager to give us everything we need. All we have to do is just let it alone, just be happy with it.

        Cartoonists don’t think like people. They think in pictures. Little pictures that will fit into a comic strip. And so, in my mind, I reduced the Earth… down to the size of a small critter that would fit into the Li’l Abner strip—and it came out a Shmoo… I didn’t have any message—except that it’s good to be alive. The Shmoo didn’t have any social significance; it is simply a juicy li’l critter that gives milk and lays eggs… When you look at one as though you’d like to eat it, it dies of sheer ecstasy. And if one really loves you, it’ll lay you a cheesecake—although this is quite a strain on its li’l innards… I thought it was a perfectly ordinary little story, but when it appeared in newspapers, all hell broke loose! Life, in an editorial, hailed the Shmoo as the very symbol and spirit of free enterprise. Time said I’d invented a new era of enlightened management-employee relationship, (they called it Capp-italism.) The Daily Worker cussed me out as a Tool of the Bosses, and denounced the Shmoo as the Opium of the Masses.

        • Linda says:

          Go to the link above for a discussion of schmo or shmo, which may be a shortened form of shmuck. In current use, though, schmo seems more likely to mean a dumkopf than the translation of shmuck.

          I’d skip the cheesecake from the shmoo. But there is a good frozen New York style cheesecake at Trader Joe’s, good for Capp-italism, too.

  7. Gareth says:

    I guess it helps to go into the puzzle thinking it’s Thursday… cos I spotted that rebus almost immediately!

  8. bonekrusher says:

    Really enjoyed the NYT. Nice to have a rebus on a Friday. Having gotten N _ _ H _ S, I thought that NACHOS was a peculiarly specific answer to “Results of refrigerator raids”

  9. lemonade714 says:

    I would suggest the LAT final grid was result of offering a pangram for this Friday offering.
    I personally pronounce LOGGER and LAGER exactly the same. Perhaps it is regional. I grew up in Connecticut

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m not remotely anglophone and I pronounce the two law-ger vs lah-ger.

    • Bencoe says:

      Agreed. I stress the ä sound a lot more in “lager” than “logger”.

    • Howard B says:

      Another regional distinction. Northeast / NY area, I pronounce them both the same here. This is very often the reality of phonetic themes, so personally I give them plenty of leeway if they don’t match my personal enunciation :).

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