Saturday, December 6, 2014

Newsday 9:26 (Amy) 
NYT 5:58 (Amy) 
LAT 3:30 (Andy) 
CS 14:55 (Ade) 

Do you love Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest? Matt is following in the footsteps of other indie puzzlemakers who’ve ventured into making their work available via subscription. Starting in January, the MGWCC meta puzzles will run you $26 a year. That’s 50¢ a week—50¢ for feeling frightfully clever when you triumph over the puzzle, and the same 50¢ those weeks where you beat your head into a 15×15 brick wall and can’t for the life of you figure out the meta. Given the amount of time some people expend on ruminating over what evil thematic ploy Matt used this time, heck, the Week 4 or 5 puzzles might work out to 15¢ an hour. A good value! Head to to sign up, or tell Santa or Hanukkah Harry that MGWCC is on your holiday wish list.

Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 6 14, no. 1206

NY Times crossword solution, 12 6 14, no. 1206

Solid 70-worder this week. Maybe a smidgen easier than the typical Saturday NYT, though I certainly had to plow through a lot of clues before I was able to start filling anything in (and that was the underwhelming LEN Deighton).


Ten more things:

  • 17a. [Gap competitor], H AND M. What? No. It’s H&M with an ampersand, and the URL is, no AND in sight. Short for Hennes und Mauritz, originally.
  • 29a. [Four-time Pro Bowler Michael], VICK. Dammit, I wanted this to be some professional bowler I’d never heard of rather than the NFL player perhaps most (in)famous for his dog-fighting conviction.
  • 48a. [Giant article of clothing?], JERSEY. New York Giants, football jersey, or San Francisco Giants, baseball jersey.
  • 52a. [Songlike], CANTABILE. So that’s what that word means! “In a smooth singing style,” the dictionary tells me.
  • 54a. [Ends of some board meetings?], MATES. Sexual harassment in the corporate office! No, actually, it’s about chess.
  • 56a. [Bygone bomber whose name is a call in bingo], B-TEN. Blech, spelled-out numeral to accompany the spelled-out “&” in 17a.
  • 1d. [The “Harry Potter” books, e.g.], HEPTAD. My first thought was SERIES.
  • 7d. [Some righties, for short?], NEOCONS. Who calls right-wingers “righties”? I swear I don’t hear this. “Lefties,” sure. But not righties.
  • 13d. [Twitter trending topic, maybe], MEME. Hmm, I’m not sure how well MEME applies here. HASHTAG is a better fit. I see the occasional meme-type picture on Twitter, but not as a trending topic. Oh, wait! Just the other week we had the Bill Cosby social media epic fail, where the public was asked to make Cosby memes and so many people shanghaied the effort, it must have been a trending topic.
  • 25d. [What everyone has at birth], MOM. Well, some animals could lose their mother before birth, if their dad is the one who’s carrying/incubating the fertilized eggs, or watching over eggs in the water, or what-have-you.

Four stars from me. Other than BTEN and HANDM, everything in the grid was solid and there were a lot of zippy entries.

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Heard in the Herd”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.06.14: "Heard in the Herd"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.06.14: “Heard in the Herd”

Good morning, CrossSynergists! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, comes straight from the farm, as each of the theme answers are multiple- word entries in which the first word is also one that is associated with farm animals, specifically those of the bovine variety.

  • STOCK EXCHANGE: (20A: [It may be heard in the herd])
  • BULL SESSION: (31A: [It may be heard in the herd])
  • CATTLE CALLS: (40A: [They may be heard in the herd])
  • JERSEY ACCENTS: (52A: [They may be heard in the herd]) – Do cows in Edison or Trenton moo in a Jersey accent?

I haven’t seen ENIAC in a while, and that doesn’t mean that I was alive when the system made its debut (44A: [Early computer]). Love the long down answers of  CATATONIC (8D: [Completely out of it]) and SUCCESSOR, and definitely want to give a shout out to my predecessor, Dave Sullivan, who held this spot for so long blogging about the CrosSynergy puzzles (32D: [One who follows]). A lot of three-letter fill in the grid, which makes my solving experience more clunky than anything usually (maybe my mind isn’t wired to solve a puzzle so fast with a lot of three-letter fill).  Loved seeing THE SAINTS, with the article included, in the grid (22A: [Noted marchers of song]). Not only are they noted marchers of song, they were also the Super Bowl XLIV winners. They’re a worthy candidate for the “sports…smarter” moment, but a clue intersecting it is the winner for today.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TEXANS (15D: [Houston gridders])– Here’s hoping you didn’t type “OILERS” in this space, which would mean you just dated yourself. The Houston TEXANS are the newest edition into the National Football League, as they entered the league in 2002. In their first regular-season game in franchise history, they defeated their in-state “rival,” the Dallas Cowboys, 19-10. The Texans won their first playoff game in franchise history on Jan. 7, 2012, over the Cincinnati Bengals. As a matter-of-fact, both playoff wins in franchise history have come against Cincinnati.  

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 12.6.14 by Barry C. Silk

LAT Puzzle 12.6.14 by Barry C. Silk

Let’s start with the good stuff (and there was a lot). We’ll get to the THROWAWAY entries LATER ONI PROMISE:

  • 1a, SWEET ROLL [Breakfast fare]. If I’m gonna have a sweet breakfast, it’s pancakes or nothing.
  • 17a, RAISINETS [Breakfast fare]. No, I’m just kidding of course. [Chocolate-covered snack] was the clue on this one. You can’t have Raisinets for breakfast, obviously. Ha ha ha [tugs nervously at collar] ha
  • 28a, FAST FOOD NATION [2000s best-seller subtitled “The Dark Side of the All-American Meal”]. Speaking of breakfast fare, who doesn’t love a good fast food breakfast? 
  • 45a, FIFTH AMENDMENT [It contains a due process clause]. The Fourteenth Amendment has one too. Which amendment is it that protects my right to choose Raisinets for breakfast, again? Asking for a friend.
  • 66a, U.S. EMBASSY [There’s one in the London Chancery Bldg.]. If you’re looking for an alternative to Raisinets in London, you might try Paynes Poppets.
  • 2d, WHAT IF [Experimenter’s question]. As in, “What if I ate a bowl of Raisinets in milk, with a spoon, for breakfast?”
  • 13d, BEER PONG [Pub game]. You know what’s great bar food? Nachos. (What, did you think I was gonna say Raisinets?)

At first WIFI ZONE felt made up to me. Then I remembered seeing these signs all over the place:

Any Ethernet port in a storm.

Any Ethernet port in a storm.

At any rate, I don’t think people say “WiFi zone” anymore. I think the term “hotspot” has supplanted it, but maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy. Maybe the kids are saying “snozzberry” now.

The crossing of ESTH and HEBB was fairly ugly. There’s some other scattered stuff like IES and AROO and LYS that’s less than ideal. DYED EGG doesn’t quite feel lexical to me. The usage of NO-HIT as a verb is new to me, but it appears to be in some dictionaries.

Overall, a joy to solve. 3.75 stars from me. Until next week!

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (Anna Stiga byline)

Newsday crossword solution, 12 6 14 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 12 6 14 “Saturday Stumper”

Tough puzzle that resisted letting me fill in anything in the top half for far too long! In the end, everything came together without any gnashing of teeth or cursing of Stan … so it’s a fairly standard “tough but not insanely so” Stumper.

I didn’t know that CRUSOE was an 16a. [Eminent mariner of York]. Strictly fictional, right?

23d. [Passé roll with a hole] clues FAX PAPER and I don’t know what “a hole” is referring to here. The open bore of the cardboard core inside the paper roll? Briefly had WAX PAPER here, which isn’t passé, but 23a. [Rations] are FOOD and not WOOD. Now, you may think that plain-paper fax machines have entirely supplanted the old machines with rolls of thermal paper, but Staples is still selling that fax paper.

Ten more things:

  • 15a. [Current danger], UNDERTOW. Standard Stumper cluing, as “current danger” also suggests electrocution hazards.
  • 20a. [False profession], PRETENSE. Profession as in “statement you have professed” rather than “career.”
  • 22a. [Presents for discussion], MOOTS. People actually use this as a verb? I’ve not encountered it.
  • 50a. [Pro athlete often linked with Wilma], ALTHEA. Wilma Rudolph, track and field legend; Althea Gibson, tennis legend. Both were pioneering female African-American athletes.
  • 52a. [Settler along the St. Lawrence], HABITANT. This borrowing from French is used in the nickname for the Montréal Canadiens NHL team, called the Habs. You can’t play HAB in Scrabble, though. I’ve tried.
  • 55a. [Not much bread], ONE SLICE. Arbitrary contrivance!
  • 11d. [Man-cave device], JUKEBOX. I’d wager that fewer than 10% of household “man-caves” are equipped with a jukebox.
  • 27d. [Career bio], VITA. This is a weird little word. Curriculum vitae has an E on the end, but VITA floats around E-lessly.
  • 34d. [Interview show that got a 1993 Peabody Award], FRESH AIR. It airs from 11 to noon weekdays in Chicago and I love it so.
  • 42d. [Prefix for mania], BEATLE. You wanted to plunk an O in the last spot, didn’t you? I did. No KLEPTO or NYMPHO here, though.

Four stars from me for this smooth 70-worder. Didn’t care for ONE SLICE or TEENER. There’s also a minor duplication (TAKE IN and IN LINE), but the INs are in opposite corners so much less noticeable/bothersome.


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27 Responses to Saturday, December 6, 2014

  1. Matt says:

    Exceptionally tough for me, about double the time for a typical ‘hard’ Saturday. But I did finish it, eventually. A good puzzle, but I need to take a rest now.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: 15d [Other __ ] THAN. Possibly the worst clue I’ve ever seen in an otherwise good crossword.

    • placematfan says:

      Wow. That’s a strong statement. I don’t grok your objection. Do you contend that “other than” is not a lexical chunk, or that the phrase is not fit for fill-in-the-blank cluing, or what?

      • pannonica says:

        Neither. It isn’t a complete lexical chunk, it isn’t complete as a fill-in-the-blank. Not without some sort of explanatory (exculpatory?) extension or expansion. In a word, dreadful.

        • placematfan says:

          But it is a complete lexical chunk; it’s a widely-used, In-The-Language phrasal preposition synonymous with “besides”. Google hits number 490 million (anything crosswordworthy demands at least 1 million [though this approach of course necessitates an appraisal of the first page of 100 hits to gauge the number of corporate names, band names, movie-nobody-ever-saw names, etc.]); Google News: 19 million hits; Google Books: 65 million hits. Were one to research the rejection risk of having OTHER THAN in a grid, those stats would indicate a high–very high–likelihood of editor acceptance.

          Other than that, though, it just seems like, subjectively, this phrase is one I use and other people use and one that I hear used. Often. As an admirer of your posts, my curiosity is piqued by the employment of labels such as “dreadful” and “possibly the worst clue I’ve ever seen in an otherwise good crossword” towards “other than”.

          Other than this one item, I can’t readily recall anything you’ve ever posted that I strongly disagreed with. I mean, it’s kind of awkward for me. As a Pann fan, I’m grateful to you for many 20-minute highs of intense Netting on hypervarious subjects. Perfect example from today: the Georgia typeface, which I’ve often thought was elegant and simple–that power couple–, but never took the time to inquire about or research; that Wikipedia page reminded me of another Pannduced subject binge, kerning. So… anyway, thanks for that. I love your work. I mean, your posts are equal parts clever, cool, and cute–that power triplet. Tack to that your conciseness and care (i.e., your panache to relegate an artist’s feelings after the quality of the art, which is what great critics (bloggers) boldly do, because ultimately to do otherwise is to disrespect the artist and the art), and that makes you Great.

          Other than my fanboy obsequiousness, though, I want to convey that I think you’re wrong about this one: your appellations seem misplaced.

          • Norm says:

            I’m with pannonica on this one. “other” doesn’t lead to anything and is not a complete thought. My initial thought was “other [side]” which might be slightly defensible, but “other [than]” was garbage.

          • CY Hollander says:

            While I’m not certain I’d be capable of writing a 150-word pannonegyrica, I agree with her on this one. I don’t think phrasal prepositions are unique enough objects to be clued as partials. I guess the best way to express why I feel this way is this: imagine you’re talking to the kind of person who finishes your sentence for you every time you pause for breath. You say the word “Other” and pause. Can you imagine your listener jumping in with the word “than”?

            No? Then it’s a bad clue.

          • pannonica says:

            Thank you for the high praise, placematfan, and thanks to Norm and CY for the support.

            Further explanation on “other than”. I’m not disputing that it isn’t a common formation or pairing, which is why it has so very many Google hits. You use it often, I use it often… heck, I’d say nearly everyone uses it often (if they speak English). But,

            (1) It doesn’t stand well on its own as a complete phrase, or lexical chunk: “other than” what? Other than that, other than this one item, other than [your] fanboy obsequiousness … <pause> All right, I’ll ameliorate my excoriation of its chunkiness; as you say, it is synonymous with “besides”. Thus, I’d be fine with these cluing each other: [Besides] OTHER THAN, or [Other than] BESIDES.

            (2) However, as a fill-in-the-blank it just isn’t complete enough, not without additional information (e.g. a parenthetical definition, some sort of punctuation). Because this particular sense is a collocation, as CY suggests it’s impossible to intuit one half with only the other. Would you be happy had it worked this way: [ __ than] OTHER? To me, it’s the equivalent of cluing its synonym as [Be__ ] SIDES or [ _sides] BE, save for the essentially cosmetic difference that a proper crossword would never clue a part of a word in such an awkward and underhanded manner.

  3. sbmanion says:

    I have my own set of people I deem unworthy of being in a crossword puzzle such as Ann Coulter. If you put in expedient names like IDI, SESE and MAO into a puzzle, you are probably being hypocritical to exclude anyone. All in all, I really don’t care what names are used, my initial comment notwithstanding.

    Michael VICK is generally perceived as someone who has redeemed himself and has done all the right things since being released from prison. Adrian Peterson seems to have shown little or no remorse and I suspect that there are millions of parents who condone his conduct.

    Above all, I despise the rush-to-judgment mentality spawned by the Twitterverse.

    But, I really liked today’s puzzle and actually found it to be pretty easy. CANTABILE was new for me and I enjoyed learning it.


  4. huda says:

    NYT: a tale of two puzzles. The North East and central ladder were a breeze. I plunked down SWANDIVES and didn’t look back till that whole swath was filled. But I struggled with the NW and SE. Wanted cOUNTY, I put sEPTAD, I was trying to come up with a shorter equivalent of Finger FOOD — it was a mess.
    Great construction with a minimum of junk. I especially loved the clue for SALT TAX!

  5. animalheart says:

    Loved SALTTAX because I knew it! CANTABILE–one of the most beautiful words in any language. Took me forever to get HMSBOUNTY, since I was thinking French Revolution. (I’m circling that new biography of Napoleon at the moment, asking myself whether I really want to read a 1000-page biography of ANYbody.) The crossing of OSCARBAIT and AMELIE was nice. Hard to find much I didn’t like, though pannonica does have a point about 15D. Haven’t done many puzzles in recent months, so this was a good one to come back to. 5 Stars from me.

  6. animalheart says:

    Amy, this may be a strange question, but do you know what font is used in this blog? It’s beautiful.

  7. animalheart says:

    Thanks, pannonica. I tried using and kept getting an error message. It really is a gorgeous (Georgious?) font…

  8. Gareth says:

    One of those puzzles that pleases more and more as the mystery answers reveal themselves. Battled the most in the top-left, and loved HMSBOUNTY, EYEOFNEWT and MYLOVE plus clues. Biggest leap of faith gone wrong was still BANKSHOTS for SWANDIVES. OSCARBAIT clue was similarly sublime. Sitting with ?ET I still refused to put in VET and still don’t understand that clue one iota. I also started at LEN!

    • Brucenm says:

      I loved the puzzle too, but I was hoping *you* would explain the “vet” clue. I’m sure you give inoculations to animals (if that’s the intended sense of “shot,” but what is “calling” them? Asking an assistant for the correct ampule? I don’t get it.

  9. Bob says:

    I dislike English slang in puzzles – LAT had two, hence ….

  10. CY Hollander says:

    I agree that the NYT Saturday was easier than usual; for me it played like a Friday. I sometimes do the Saturdays in my head, which can be a real pain—it lends itself to mistakes like thinking that a 9-letter TV show is THE X FACTOR for way too long, but this one only took me an hour or two, which is faster than it often takes me on paper.

    I was disappointed to see that Matt Gaffney is going to a subscription model for his crossword, and a pricey subscription at that (by my standards). I don’t begrudge his trying to monetize his work in whatever way works best, and I hope the subscription succeeds, but I won’t be following him there myself.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Gareth is in fact a veterinarian, true.

Comments are closed.