Tuesday, December 2, 2014

NYT 4:04 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 4:04 (Amy) 
LAT 2:56 (Amy) 
CS 9:51 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 2 14, no. 1202

NY Times crossword solution, 12 2 14, no. 1202

Assorted exclamations can be read, without the quotation marks and exclamation point, as common words. Here, those pairs clue intersecting answers:

  • 1a. [“Holy cow!”], ZOUNDS / 1d. Holy cow], ZEBU. A sacred beast in Hinduism.
  • 7a. [“Nuts!”], DAMN / 7d. Nuts], DAFT.
  • 11a. [“Great Scott!”], WOW / 11d. Great Scott], WALTER.
  • 34a. [“Fudge!”], BLAST / 35d. Fudge], TREAT. The latter’s rather a loose equivalence.
  • 43a. [“Rats!”], SHOOT / 26d. Rats], TELLS.
  • 69a. [“Man!”], GEE / 48d. Man], HOMBRE.
  • 70a. [“Darn it!”], HECK / 57d. Darn it], SOCK.
  • 71a. [“Fiddlesticks!”], CURSES / 60d. Fiddlesticks], BOWS, as in violin bows. Never knew that usage.

The thematic Acrosses and Downs occupy strictly symmetrical spots, which I wasn’t expecting for a theme with 16 answers. The untoward result is the inclusion of crosswordese like ALAI, TARO, ECU, IRAE, and AYR, the 66a. [Port on the Firth of Clyde].

Four more things:

  • 46a. [Exclamations often made with head-slaps], D’OHS. Would rather not have had any other exclamation in this puzzle, particularly not one with an awkward plural.
  • 50a. [One-named singer with four Grammys], ENYA. I blew past the “one-named” part and tried to guess whether this would be ELLA Fitzgerald (she has 13 Grammys) or ETTA James (6 Grammys) since I had the E and A in place.
  • 57a. [Jet for the jet set], SST. Zero hint at the outdatedness of the plane?
  • 31d. [Boy’s name that means “the king”], ELROY. We would also have accepted LEROY here.

3.9 stars. I like the gimmick and the 8-letter answers in the fill are solid, but there’s some crosswordese that is woefully out of place in a Tuesday puzzle. And my solving time is also out of whack for a Tuesday—just me, or was this harder than you expected?

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sorry, Wrong Letter”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 12 2 14 "Sorry, Wrong Letter"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 12 2 14 “Sorry, Wrong Letter”

Sorry, Wrong Number is a classic film noir. In this puzzle, familiar phrases and words that contain a component that sounds like a letter of the alphabet switch to having a different sounds-like-a-letter word:

  • 17a. [Guy in the crow’s nest (originally with an I)?], SEA WITNESS. Eyewitness.
  • 27a. [“Hand that Netflix list over here, will ya?” (originally with a Y)?], QUEUE ME. “Why me?”
  • 39a. [Had shoppers wait too long to get oolong?(originally with a B)?], MADE A TEA LINE FOR. Made a beeline for. The FOR in the theme answer is dangling uselessly there.
  • 49a. [“Way to ace that IQ test!” (originally with a G)?], YOU WHIZ. “Gee whiz!”
  • 59a. [Going down the street with your podmates (originally with a J)?], PEA WALKING. Jaywalking.

Unusual concept, but it mostly works pretty well. The before and after letters don’t combine to spell anything.

Six more things:

  • 53a. [Skedaddle], JET. As in “I gotta jet.”
  • 58a. [Way for Mario to exit], PIPE. I had no idea. So video-game plumbers escape via pipes?
  • 18d. [One who practices wu-wei], TAOIST.
  • 41d. [“Zip Drive” maker that merged with Lenovo], IOMEGA. If you were doing desktop publishing in the ’90s and needed to send files that were too big for the email and floppies of the day to handle, you probably know the names Iomega and Zip, and you may have thought about upgrading to a Jaz.
  • 50d. [Drug in a den], OPIUM. I think my grandpa tried opium in Shanghai. Said it didn’t do anything much for him (he stuck with liquor). He did have some awesome tattoos from his time in the Navy almost a century ago.
  • 62d. [Palindromic woman], NUN. I had one of the N’s and filled in NAN, wishing it would be NUN instead. And then it was!

Four stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 183), “Bottoms Up!”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/2 (183)

Crossword Nation 12/2 (183)

What a cheerful toast to usher in the last month of the year! It entreats us to look at the vertically placed theme fill in a particular way. Each two-word base-phrase receives special treatment. The first word appears as it ordinarily occurs; the second needs to be read in reverse—from the “bottom” and then “up“—in order to complete the familiar phrase. But lo and behold—these same letters form a different word when read from the top down. These inversions and the altered phrases they create are the whimsical stuff of today’s puzzle. There are six of ’em and while they make for a darned strong theme set, for my money, they also work with varying degrees of success. That is, because of the cluing, some are understood (and thus appreciated) far more easily than others. Let’s take a look.

  • 3D. [Search for canned ham?] GOOGLE “SPAM” (Google Maps). Hadn’t been aware of Spam’s near-worldwide presence. Google Maps can probably give you a visual of some sort.
  • 39D. [Shopping center celebrity?] MALL STAR (mall rats). At this time of year, that star might even be Santa… Note, too, how the first three letters of this fill abut the last three of the first themer. As discussed last week, these adjacent, fixed-letter patterns up the ante for the constructor. And, of course, there’s a matching set on the grid’s east side.
  • 6D. [Make-up artist who’s on base?] THIRD LIAR (third rail). Wow. Really had trouble making sense of this one. Love what it’s trying to do with that great base-phrase, and get the sly “make-up artist”/liar wordplay, but getting from third to being “on base” feels like almost too much of a stretch. Not to mention the concept of being a liar who’s also on third base… [Make-up artist after Senior and Junior?]? Just feel this one would benefit from more direct cluing. Had a little trouble with the next one, too, but that one ultimately delivers a cleaner “aha.”
  • 36D. [Pass by a cake-obsessed football center?] BUNDT SNAP (bundt pans). Not only do we have the thematic wordplay at work here, but there’s also the process of understanding what’s meant by “pass by,” which turns out to be the combination of a noun and a preposition and not a prepositional phrase. That’s tricky—and you can read that as a compliment. I also think it conjures up a very funny image of this bundt cake being put into play on the gridiron. I mean, think about it…
  • mme x9D. [Depravity caused by a Microsoft game console?] XBOX EVIL (Xbox Live). This is such a good themer on so many levels. While I suspect that there are some who would argue that Xbox is evil, I’m lovin’ the phrase for its scrabbliness and for the way its clue and fill tie into other fill in the grid. Look, there’s LUST [Deadly sin] peeling off of the final “L” of evil—and SEXPOT [A twerking Miley Cyrus, for example] crossing the themer’s first “X.” And while we’re looking at smouldery [sic] fill, do note the EROTICA [Racy literature] in the SW corner. Why even “MADAME X” right below, that [John Singer Sargent portrait of a woman in black] was decried for its erotic overtones. (It was sold to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but as a work of art, should not be included in [Works at the Metropolitan?] which refers not even to employment there, but to the OPERAS produced by Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera.)
  • 31D. [Gumbo gumshoes?] SOUP SNOOPS (soup spoons). Never hurts to leave us laughin’. Love this one for its silliness. And for the way its first three letters stand adjacent to the last three of the previous themer.

Beyond those 54 squares of theme fill (and the already-mentioned non-theme fill), other highlights today would have to include the bookish BOOKISH, the colloquial “IT’S OPEN!” and NOT GOOD, the classical LYRIST opposite the contemporary DES’REE, and [“The Metamorphosis” character Gregor SAMSA]—because how often is it that we’re reminded of the almost benign way we’re introduced to him: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”? Whoops. Guess it ain’t gonna be a day like any other for him…

Fave clue/fill pair today? [Remote target in a gym?] TV SET. So no, not a reference to yer adductor magnus or yer gluteus minimus. Perhaps with arm outstretched (and retracted…multiple times…), though, there might be some residual benefit for those biceps. If maybe the remote weighed ten pounds?

Dream on, Jane (but don’t wake up as a cockroach!).

Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 2 14

LA Times crossword solution, 12 2 14

Four theme answers fit the *UMBLE**** pattern:

  • 17a. [Modest abode], HUMBLE HOME. Wait, what? “My humble abode” is the familiar phrase. HUMBLE HOME feels like random adjective + noun, like GREEN SHIRT (except that the latter is the title of an Elvis Costello song).
  • 53a. [Windblown desert plant], TUMBLEWEED.
  • 11d. [Folding feature of an old roadster], RUMBLE SEAT.
  • 28d. [Hogwarts headmaster], DUMBLEDORE.

The film genre MUMBLECORE could have replaced HUMBLE HOME and pleased me.

Word form I’ve never seen before, Part I: 25a. [Defendant in a defamation case], LIBELEE. Isn’t that backwards, too? The defendant would be the libeler who’s been charged with libel. The libelee would be the plaintiff bringing the lawsuit, or the victim in a criminal case.

Part II: 5d. [In any way], SOEVER. Dictionary lists it as “archaic or literary.”

Not keen on the crossing of close cousins MA’AM (39d. [Respectful address]) and MADAME (47a. [Title for Bovary and Butterfly]).

I’ve fruitlessly scanned the grid for zippy fill outside of the theme answers and come up holding the likes of EDAM, LEB, MEESE, ALIT, ARAL, SLOES, ILIE, AM SO, and ANTH instead.

3.25 stars from me because of that HUMBLE HOME and the overall flatness of the fill and clues. No joyful surprises lurking, alas.

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Shakespearean Conclusion”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.02.14: "Shakespearean Conclusion"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.02.14: “Shakespearean Conclusion”

Hello there once again, everyone!

Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, gets us in touch with Shakespeare, specifically, the play All’s Well That Ends Well. Each of the five theme answers end with the letters that make up each of the words in the play’s title, though the letters are only part of the word and don’t stand alone individually. Umm, yeah, something like that.

  • ATOMIC FIREBALLS: (17A: [Spicy jawbreakers]) – I’ve had a few Atomic Fireballs back in the day, and they definitely did a number on my taste buds!
  • GROUNDSWELL: (31A: [Surge of support]) – I have definitely caught myself using this word a whole lot lately. And I don’t mind that at all.
  • FELT HAT: (39A: Soft porkpie, e.g.])
  • MAKES AMENDS: (47A: [Rights wrongs])
  • MALCOLM GLADWELL: (63A: [“The Tipping Point” and “Outliers” author])

Nope, I’m not having YMCA creep into my mind at all (55D: [Village people hit]).  Not gonna let it happen!!  Interesting to see both JAPAN (9A: [Land of sake and Sasuke]) and YEN in the same grid (55A: [Asian capital]). Japan is also the land of Ninja Warrior, one of my favorite TV shows/athletic competitions!  Ever heard of it? Initially spelled PAAR as Parr, so that slowed me up for a bit to start (1A: [Former “Tonight Show” host]). Loved the clue for CHICKEN LEG, and not because I’m thinking of having one for dinner tonight (30D: [One supporting a brooder?]). Another long fill that was pretty sightly was PALM READER, and, for some reason, I had a street palm reader in Times Square read my palm once when I was in high school (11D: [One interpreting lines]).  Sadly (or not sadly), I don’t remember what she said.  Maybe it was the real thick accent she had that I could not parse when I was a teenager.  I’m sure she said something along the lines of, “You’ll be blogging about crossword puzzles on this thing called the Internet in the future.”

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOE (22A: [Scowling Stooge]) – Brooklyn born Doug MOE was a former head coach in the NBA, mostly known for his time with the Denver Nuggets in the 1980s. Moe’s teams, especially in Denver, routinely led the NBA in scoring as his up-tempo, passing-and-cutting philosophy led to some of the highest-scoring games in NBA history, including the highest-scoring game in league history, when his Nuggets lost to the Detroit Pistons 186-184 in three overtimes on Dec. 19, 1983. Moe won 50 games in season twice, including in 1985, when the Nuggets made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

See you all at the hump that is called Wednesday!

Take care!


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18 Responses to Tuesday, December 2, 2014

  1. Gary R says:

    Re: NYT, I don’t think it was just you, Amy – this felt more like a Thursday to me (at least a Wednesday), starting right at the top with ZOUNDS and ZEBU.

    Other non-Tuesday answers, in my mind: TOMTIT, ALGAL, ENOUNCE, and maybe DEFRAG.

    I thought it was a good puzzle with an interesting theme – just a little out of place on a Tuesday.

  2. jim hale says:

    Yes, have to agree it was outside the Tuesday norm. I do tend to prefer the week’s predictable progression of difficulty. If it goes outside the norm, the desire would be for it to be interesting in some way. With that perspective I’d give this a…. (drumroll) meh.

  3. Matt says:

    About Madame X– yes, erotic. There was a huge scandal over the original version of the painting because one of her shoulder straps was down. Sargent had to repaint the shoulder with the strap in the right place. You can inspect the original at the Metropolitan museum and see the repainting on the shoulder. Also, an expert on Victorian underwear has claimed that any 19th century male would know that she couldn’t be wearing anything under that dress.

  4. Patrick Merrell says:

    Loved the NYT theme — fun, clever — and the beauty of the symmetry. Very difficult solve for a Tuesday. A good dose of nice, interesting stuff won the day for me against a few clunkers.

  5. Martin says:

    What Patrick said.


  6. ArtLvr says:

    Chicago’s Art Institute has a J. S. Sargent portrait of one of my great-grandmothers, Mrs. Dyer, but it’s not usually on display — rather unattractive, since she wore a dress which cast greenish reflections on her face! The Chicago History Museum has one of Dr. Charles Volney Dyer, the first doctor in Chicago, a founder of the Anti-slavery Society of Illinois and part of the Underground Railroad. Dr. Dyer ran for governor as the Free Soil Party candidate in 1848, but lost to the incumbent, and their party later merged with the new Republican Party. Dyer was one of the friends of Lincoln who orchestrated Lincoln’s nomination for president at the 1860 Chicago convention, and in 1863 Lincoln appointed him a judge to the Mixed Court held in Sierra Leone under the treaty with the U.K. for the Suppression of African Slave Trade. In 1865 Dr. Dyer was in Rome when news of the assassination arrived. He was asked to give the eulogy to Americans gathered there, and again in Florence at the huge conference celebrating the 600th birthday of Dante, where all members rose in silent grieving tribute.

  7. huda says:

    NYT: I think that sometimes the ratings should be read as not reflecting on the puzzle per se but on its placement. There’s a psychological set for a given day. If you do better than expected, you feel good, worse you feel bad. We call it “prediction error” in neuroscience and it has a biological correlate– if what happens is better than expected you get a release of a rewarding neurotransmitter (dopamine), if it’s worse you get an inhibition of that transmitter. The prediction error went in the wrong direction for this puzzle, and it would have likely gone exactly the opposite way on a Thursday and rated much higher.
    Knowing this, I always debate whether I should overcome this semi-automatic reaction and judge the puzzle on its own merits. I feel bad about penalizing the constructor. But then I think it does not really give actual feedback to the system about the combination of the puzzle and its placement. So, I vote with my initial reaction but I want the constructor to know why.

  8. Brucenm says:

    Of all the NYT Tuesdays I’ve ever done, this was clearly my favorite, (though I often don’t do them); and I am stunned by the ratings. I’ve given up trying to bellow explanations into the roaring winds. To me the originality and distinctiveness leap off the page, but evidently others don’t agree; (though I suppose a less congenial and more aggressive conclusion could be that some people don’t want originality and distinctiveness.) Then again, sometimes I’m the only very low rating, and others could probably make the same remark about that. (e.g., the recent one with the “doors” and extra letters flew so stratospherically over my head that I probably shouldn’t have entered any rating at all. I didn’t understand a thing about it.

  9. Gareth says:

    LAT: Theme was a bit thin. Fill like Amy said lacked zip, but very low on weak stuff too. Most of her list is pretty much a reach, except ANTH…

    NYT: I started old-school in the top-left. I discovered ZEBU/ZOUNDS which I loved to bits. Didn’t realise that was theme! Great puzzle! And holding it up as harder than most Tuesdays is unfair IMO – it was quite probably designed with Wednesday/Thursday in mind… Clue for ALGAL was weird – what’s up with “harmful”???

    • Gary R says:


      Probably the algal bloom best known to NYT readers in the U.S. was this past summer, in Lake Erie. It affected the municipal water supply in Toledo, leaving something like a half-million people without water safe for drinking, cooking or bathing for several days.

      • Gareth says:

        That doesn’t mean you’d clue ECOLI as “deadly ___ outbreak”…

        • Gary R says:

          Thought you were questioning why the adjective “harmful” might apply, not why that FITB was used.

          Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) is actually a technical term used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (and I suppose, others) to describe the type of bloom that occurred in Lake Erie.

          Seems unlikely though, that Mr. Shortz would expect many solvers to be familiar with that term. I’m guessing he thought including “harmful” would give a Tuesday solver a little more guidance. But in that case, “_ bloom (harmful aquatic growth)” would have worked as well.

  10. Harry says:

    I was going to bring up the “Libelee” gaffe, but Amy beat me to it.

    • Brucenm says:

      Yes, it certainly is a mistake, as you and Amy say, perhaps even a gaffe. But interestingly, a complaint in admiralty was traditionally referred to as a “libel.” (Both the admiralty proceeding itself and the initial pleading by the party instituting the proceeding (who would be called the plaintiff in a typical civil action), was called a “libel.”) So under that system the “defendant” in the admiralty action was indeed the “libelee,” and the “plaintiff” the “libelant.”

      The Federal admiralty rules have now been substantially folded into the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, with only a few distinctive features remaining. (It has been a while since I taught this stuff, so I’m fudging a bit.) So I don’t think the term “libelee” retains any meaning at all under modern procedural codes. I have never encountered the terms “libelant” and “libelee” in the United States in the context of a defamation action, and I don’t think they are used; but if anyone did use them, it would have to be in the sense that you and Amy set forth. In other words the terms would be referring to the substantive tort aspect, not the procedural aspect of the lawsuit. My guess is that an editor came across the admiralty usage and didn’t note the distinction between the admiralty and tort context.

  11. Dan says:

    I’ll be honest, I got about halfway through this puzzle and then quit, not because I couldn’t finish it, but because it felt more like a chore than a fun solve. Not sure my experience would have been any different if it had been a Thursday.

    Very ambitious, it must have been a bear to fill, but just not my cup of tea.

  12. Winnie says:

    The NYT puzzles are so discouraging these days. I have gotten worse and worse. Always was able to solve Sunday thru Thursday with an occasional Friday and finally today I was unable to solve Tuesday! One of my great pleasures in life is drifting away.

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