Saturday, November 29, 2014

Newsday 9:41 (Amy) 
NYT ~6 minutes (Amy) 
LAT 3:00 (Andy) 
CS 12:22 (Ade) 

Have you checked out Hayley Gold’s Across and Down site lately? Hayley essentially blogs an NYT crossword about once a week—whenever a puzzle inspires her creativity—in webcomic form. She often unearths an angle I hadn’t considered. Hayley’s also looking to raise funds via Kickstarter to print up some giveaways to hand out at the ACPT. (I’m hoping to pick up a magnet there myself.)

Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 29 14, no 1129

NY Times crossword solution, 11 29 14, no 1129

We’ve had other themeless puzzles that contain no 3-letter answers (Barry Silk LAT 68-worder, a BEQ themeless and a Boisvert themed LAT on the same day, a low-word-count Wolfe NYT with woeful fill, and perhaps in the Fireball, Post Puzzler, or Jonesin’ venues too?), but I don’t recall one that plunked THREE-LETTER WORD (32a. [Something not found in this puzzle’s answer]) into the grid. I don’t love that phrase as a nonthematic crossword entry, but I’m OK with taking a break from the 3s. I don’t love the 4s that sneak in instead, though.

Liz’s grid resembles the Wolfe grid, though she’s got a higher word count and thus is better able to avoid the depredations to fill that he had in his 3-less grid. The 15s are fun—“I CAN’T SLEEP A WINK” and WEEKEND WARRIORS—but there are a lot of 7s and 8s with word endings that make it easier to fill a grid but don’t lend oomph. To wit: DEICERS and SEEKERS with the -ER and the -S, GREENER, GREEDIER, STORING and REGALING, assorted plurals. Felt like the density of these affixed words was a little higher than in a looser grid. Back to the plus side, I like HOGWASH, ADMITS IT, DEAL WITH (so many verb phrases with prepositions appear in puzzles, but seldom do they include a WITH), and the weather nerd’s MILLIBAR.

Least familiar bits:

  • 37a. [She played Wallis Simpson in “The King’s Speech”], EVE BEST. She’s also in Nurse Jackie on Showtime, but I haven’t seen that show nor the movie in the clue. I know they’re both supposed to be great, though.
  • 51a. [Historic residential hotel in Manhattan], ANSONIA.
  • 41a. [“King ___” of old comics], AROO. Bleh.

Favorite clues:

  • 39d. [Food whose name means “little purée”], MUESLI. Did not know that.
  • 40d. [Transition to fatherhood], ORDAIN. “Transition” is a verb here.
  • 31d. [Block from the White House], VETO. First thought of D.C. streets.

Could do without plural abbrev SSNS, plural ERMAS, partials IN SO and ONE I, prefix ENTO. I took German back in the day so I don’t mind ABER (38a. [But, in Bonn]) at all, not one Bißchen—but German vocab doesn’t get a lot of respect from crosswords.

OBAMANIA? 34d. [Enthusiasm shown during a 2008 race]? I can’t help wondering if this puzzle is another that was accepted years ago and has been languishing in the files ever since. This term feels a little old and forgotten by now. Probably would have been one of my favorite entries in the puzzle 5 years ago.

3.33 stars from me.

Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.25.14 by Jeff Chen

LAT Puzzle 11.25.14 by Jeff Chen

A really interesting grid from XWord Info’s own Jeff Chen this week: 4 stacks of 9×3, but they’re all two rows out from the corners. And those stacks are connected by four intersecting 10-letter entries. In a beautiful 64-word grid like this, the fill isn’t all going to be gold, but there’s a lot of really good stuff in here:

  • 21a, MEGASTORE [Target, say]. A clever, tricky clue.
  • 18a, LINGUISTS [Tongue specialists?]. Another nice clue.
  • 36a, JEEPERS [“Yikes!”]. Where’d you get those peepers? 
  • 24a, DON’T JINX IT [Superstitious admonition]. Jeff tries to confuse us with big words here, but to no avail. The X in JINX crosses the plural ADIEUX nicely.
  • 51a, TIM BURTON [“Sleepy Hollow” director]. If I had to list films directed by Tim Burton, Sleepy Hollow might be the very last one I named, if I thought of it at all.
  • 29d, SIMPATICO [Like-minded]. Very easy to think you’ve gone wrong when you know you have an adjective ending in “co.”

I also liked the crossing of ASLANT and AT AN ANGLE, both clued as [Obliquely]. Even many of the 6/7/8-letter entries, which were highly constrained in order to cross the triple stacks, are nice: BELMONT, WINGTIP, PESTLED, etc. etc. None of them feels forced, and neither do the 10-letter entries holding the stacks together: DON’T JINX IT, INTROVERTS, OPEN SPACES, and LEGAL TEAMS.

There is a bare minimum of necessary evil holding the grid together here (an ECU here, a SCARP there, a SNEE and some TORS and, oh look, there’s ARN by the OISE, etc.), but mostly just solid, above-average fill. A very impressive puzzle, and fun to solve. 4.1 stars from me. Until next week!

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 11 29 14 "Saturday Stumper" by Doug Peterson

Newsday crossword solution, 11 29 14 “Saturday Stumper” by Doug Peterson

Really just a lovely example of a “Saturday Stumper”—quite challenging without being unfair, lots of lively fill, a plethora of tricky or interesting clues.

Among my favorite fill were these ones: “OFF WE GO,” SUDOKU (46a. [Digital challenge]), “ONE LOVE, L.A. TIMES, SERVICE DOG, D STUDENTS, “IT’S USELESS.”

Here are the clues that made me work hard or embodied the most surprise:

  • 25a. [Pacers of yore], DUELERS. I was thinking it would be some sort of quaint term for horses rather than people who walk 10 paces and turn around.
  • 67a. [Halberstam subject in ”The Powers That Be”], L.A. TIMES. Had some of the vowels in place and tried MARINES to no avail.
  • 3d. [End of a Groucho elephant joke], TUSCALOOSA. I don’t know the joke, but the sound of “tusk” is in there.
  • 14d. [Action figures], ODDS. As in betting action, action at the racetrack.
  • 21d. [Decliner of a 2009 Google buyout offer], YELP. Had the Y and searched my brain fruitlessly for a notable 4-letter web company starting with Y.
  • 31d. [Small, thread-like structure], CHROMOSOME.
  • 48d. [Like ”10” and ”300”], R-RATED.
  • 57d. [It flattens over time], COLA. 
  • 60d. [Rocks, for a time], PETS. The ’70s Pet Rock craze.

Lots of other clues were nice too, such as the ones for SCRAPE and PLUG.

I could have done without the clue/answer dupe of 39a. [See], DIOCESE crossing 28d. [Takes out], SEES. The random Roman numeral MMDC, [Multiple of LII], added no fun, and somehow I almost never see SATRAPS, [Two-bit autocrats], outside of crosswords.

Overall, I wasn’t irritated or frustrated while solving, even when I had huge swaths of unfilled squares. That’s the mark of a satisfyingly tough puzzle. Four stars from me.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “There’s Wet Weather, I Hear”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.29.14: "There's Wet WEather, I Hear"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.29.14: “There’s Wet WEather, I Hear”

Happy Saturday, everybody!

Hope you’re all doing well on the last Saturday in November. (Is it really going to be December on Monday?) It’s also the antepenultimate day to sport your “Movember” mustache!!  But we are leaving November with a bang with these crosswords, especially this one today by Ms. Donna S. Levin.  In it, each of the four theme answers contain words that are homophones of words that are types of weather forecasts.  Very clever, indeed!

  • PHILEAS FOGG: (17A: [World traveler with a valet named Jean Passepartout]) – Fogg = Fog.
  • HAND ON THE REIN: (27A: [Control]) – Rein = Rain
  • HALE AND HEARTY: (48A: [In fine fettle]) – Hale = Hail
  • MISSED CALLS: (63A: [Result of being in a cellular dead zone, perhaps]) – Missed = Mist.

Other than the themes, really loved the down answers of NOW SHOWING (29D: [Movie theater come-on]) and BIDDING WAR, something that’s going on in excess probably on different online stores now that Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales are currently going on (11D: [Auctioneer’s delight]). I can’t tell you how many times I say JEEZ in regular conversation (57D: [Annoyed interjection that borders on blasphemy]).  I almost need a jeez near-swear jar. Seeing CIERA made me think of the first car my father bought for the family after all of his children were born, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser (6A: [Old Olds with a name that sounds like a GMC truck]). That ELI clue could have been a real tricky one if I didn’t know the dated alternate nickname for Harvard athletic teams (62A: [Cantab’s rival]). Overall, a real solid puzzle, so much so that an amazing tradition in SUMO will have to be saved for later in terms of the “sports…smarter” moment (20A: [Sport in which salt is tossed]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ATLAS (68A: [He shrugged, in an Ayn Rand title]) – For those big into boxing, then you’ll know that Teddy ATLAS is a legendary boxing trainer who most famously trained Michael Moorer on his way to the heavyweight championship of the world in 1994. Atlas is also well-known as a boxing commentator on ESPN for its “Friday Night Fights” franchise.

See you tomorrow for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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8 Responses to Saturday, November 29, 2014

  1. Sarah says:

    A bit of a problem with this NYT puzzle here. It contains two three letter words in the grid: EVE and ONE.

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    Really liked PLAINJANE and its clue in the LAT. Liked both LAT and NYT, yesterday’s as well.

  3. Dook says:

    The Ansonia is a gorgeous building on Manhattan’s upper west side. The answer was tricky since the more famous residential hotel is the Chelsea, which also fits.

  4. sbmanion says:

    My last letter was the E in ENSOR and ERMAS. I did not know the artist (very little knowledge of surrealists/expressionists) and IRMAS seemed equally plausible. I knew the ANSONIA, but the S would have been difficult if you did not know the artist.

    WEEKEND WARRIORS was a gimme and the puzzle fell very quickly for me except for the NW.

    I thought it was excellent. A small excess of ER words never bothers me.


    • CY Hollander says:

      I call foul on ERMAS/ENSOR/ANSONIA. Three proper nouns that I didn’t know and weren’t guessable. I finished with one wrong letter there (guessed that the hotel’s name was ANtONIA, which seemed slightly more plausible as a name than anything else).

  5. Brucenm says:

    OH — Amy . . . .

    Early one morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How the elephant got into my pajamas, I have no idea. Then I tried to remove the tusks, but they were on so tight that I couldn’t get them off. Of course, in Alabama the tuskaloosa; but that’s irrelephant.

    (That’s a paraphrase.)

    (So Tuscaloosa is not *really* the last word of the monologue, but perhaps you could call it the end of a “joke.”

  6. Bob Bruesch says:

    LAT was a fun hour. Learned a “brogue” is a shoe – way out of my price range.

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