Thursday, December 11, 2014

NYT 4:31 (Amy) 
LAT 5:24 (Gareth) 
CS 10:49 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:10 (Matt) 

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 11 14, no. 1211

NY Times crossword solution, 12 11 14, no. 1211

Each theme entry is a phrase that’s “[verb(s)] through [noun phrase, possibly with a preposition],” but the “through” is replaced by the verb word crossing through the rest of the phrase:

  • 36a. [Has an ad that really stands out], CUTS through THE CLUTTER, 3d. [See 36-Across].
  • 29a. [Elude a person’s grasp] SLIP through ONE’S FINGERS, 8d. [See 29-Across].
  • 52a. [Succeeds when it matters most], PULLS through IN THE CLUTCH, 25d. [See 52-Across]. COMES would also work for PULLS.
  • 54a. [Making a feeble effort], GOING through THE MOTIONS, 30d. [See 54-Across].

I like the “through” concept but it would have played a little smoother with the verbs all working the same way (e.g., CUTS and PULLS but also SLIPS and GOES). The verbs aren’t laid out in symmetrical spots so it’s not as if the letter counts had to be exactly thus.

Five more things:

  • 61a. [Brand name in immunity boosting], ESTER-C. I needed every crossing for this one. I was just buying some vitamin C online this evening and don’t recognize this brand.
  • 42a. [One of a group of singing brothers], ED AMES. If you’re like me, you’ll be astonished to learn that Ed Ames is still alive. He and his brothers sang in the ’50s, he had some solo “adult contemporary” songs in the ’60s, and he is now 87.
  • 46a. [Biochemical sugar], RIBOSE. Is there such a thing as a sugar that is not biochemical? I don’t know what the clue’s getting at. Perhaps our biochemists can shed some light on this.
  • 35a. [What could loosen up a lot?], HOE. It’ll take you some time to use a single hoe to break up the soil on your lot. I’m guessing there are machines for larger-scale ground breaking?
  • 22d. [Like notepaper and kingdoms], RULED. Consumer alert! Don’t buy the Mead 4-pack of spiral notebooks. The cardboard back is thin and flimsy and Mead has apparently ceded the “quality notebook brand” title it had in the ’80s. #nostalgiaisdead

Loved finding ODE TO JOY in the grid, along with a REUBEN (which I would never in a million years eat, as the rye bread’s the only ingredient I can stomach), BOX-TOPS, DINGBAT, and CLUB SODA. Would rather not have encountered N. DAK., U NU, TERN, and PLU.

Quibble: 37a. [What Germany’s leader lacks?] clues HARD G. But the “leader” of the word Germany is the letter G, a soft G. A soft G doesn’t lack a hard G; it’s just a different sound. If “leader” is being used here to mean “syllable” or “first coupla letters,” it’s a weird change in the usual convention.

3.66 stars from me.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “[What Goes Around]” — Matt’s review


Words/phrases wrap around the edges of the grid, using the last and then first three letters of grid-spanning entries:

17-A [*Refer to those with similar ideas [“The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” actress Locke]] = (DRA)W A COMPARI(SON), with wrap-around SONDRA.

23-A [*His 43 was retired by the Oakland A’s [Kind of jar used in physics experiments] = (DEN)NIS ECKERS(LEY), with a wrap-around LEYDEN.

36-A [*First aid kit tool [Made curvy waves]] = (MED)ICINE DROP(PER), with a wrap-around PERMED. Doesn’t ring too familiar, but Googles fine.

50-A [*Like really-big news [Ready to drive]] = (EAR)TH-SHATTER(ING), with a wrap-around IN GEAR.

57-A [*Customs requests [Able to receive a soccer pass legally]] (IDE)NTIFICATI(ONS), with a wrap-around ONSIDE.

Familiar idea and without a new twist, so not really an EARTH-SHATTERING theme. But there are five of them at least.


*** Made a mess of the NW corner right off the bat: had VALE instead of the correct DALE for [Lowland], which made the evil [Engaged in a summer’s activity] for ADDED impossible.

*** Linguistic consistency and inconsistency: [U-Boot hazard] at 31-A for EIS is correct (it’s the German word for “ice”), but if you want EIRE for [Cork’s location] at 27-D then you want to call the city by its Irish name, which is Corcaigh.

*** Fun fill: ONE-NIL, GIGOLO, TIMES SIGN, DEER MEAT, RUSTLE UP, STATE BIRD, HARLEM, CRUELLA. GANKS is unfamiliar to me but it’s in the Urban Dictionary!

*** [Renaissance Faire beverage] = MEAD at 24-A. Have you ever tried mead? It’s the bison steak of alcoholic drinks: try it once and you think, “Interesting, but I see why this isn’t as popular as bourbon/beer/wine/steak from a cow.”

3.50 stars.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spreading the News”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.11.14: "Spreading the News"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.11.14: “Spreading the News”

Hello there, and a happy Thursday to you all. The theme to today’s grid, offered up to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, was one I didn’t get at all until about five minutes after I finished the grid, even with the aid of the reveal at the end of it. But once my brain got out of its fog, then the light turned on. Each of the theme answers are proper nouns or phrases in which the very beginning and very end letters of each can combine to form a word that’s usually associated with the title of a newspaper. The reveal, PAPER CUTS, is last theme answer (57A: [Painful slices (and a hint to 17- and 36-Across and 11- and 25-Down)]).

  • POP ARTIST: (17A: [Robert Rauschenberg or Roy Lichtenstein]) – They’re in the mold of Michael Jackson and Shakira, right? Ooooohh, you mean Pop art!! My bad! (Post)
  • GLORY BE: (36A: [“Praise the Lord!”]) – (Globe)
  • TAMMY GRIMES: (11D: [Actress who won a Tony for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”]) – (Times)
  • STAGE MOTHER: (25D: [Audition annoyance]) – Usually see it as “stage mom,” but no matter how you state it, I’m sure she’s equally as annoying. (Star)

I want to hear someone yell IT’S A LIE in a courtroom setting for real, because it sounds like something you would only really see/hear in movies (23A: [Dramatic courtroom accusation]). You might hear something like that, say, in a joint congressional hearing, especially with that representative from South Carolina (Joe Wilson) a few years back. Speaking of South Carolina, I have a couple of friends who attended CLEMSON and they, along with other alumni, get a little peeved when people pronounce the university name with a “z” (Clem-zin) sound instead of an “s” sound (49A: [Palmetto State school]). Loved the couple of earworm opportunities in the grid with a few music references, including ROTTEN (30A: [Front man Johnny of the Sex Pistols]) and MOJO, which got me thinking of the popular Muddy Waters rendition of the song (67A: [Got My ____ Working”]). Speaking of that song, here it is…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CAM (58D: [Carolina Panthers quarterback Newton])– Lots of sports clues in this puzzle, including one of a person who’s a personal friend of mine, DORIS (31D: [Basketball sportscaster Burke]). But we highlight CAM Newton, especially since he is in the news prominently right now as he was treated at a local Charlotte hospital on Tuesday after being injured in a two-car crash right outside of the Carolina Panthers’ team facilities and home stadium Newton, 2010 Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, suffered two fractures in his back, but is expected to make a full recovery.

See you all on Friday, and have a good day!

Take care!


Ian Livengood’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

La Times 141211

La Times

This seems to be one of those not-in-my-wheel-house puzzles. I’ve never heard of the novel that’s the basis of this puzzle: THINGSFALLAPART. I know the name Chinua Achebe in the abstract. It seems to be set among the Ibo people, beloved of crossword constructors! The theme answers all have THINGS bookending them: three are TH/INGS and one is T/HINGS. That’s a big letter chunk to do this with! It is aided by the S and the fact ING is a common suffix. I appreciated that, in three of the four answers, the plurality forms an important part of the phrase – it’s not just tacked on to make the puzzle work!

  • [Archers’ protection], THUMBRINGS. Don’t know what those are, but with clue, pretty self explanatory.
  • [L.A.-based comedy troupe], THEGROUNDLINGS. Rings only the vaguest bell. Go crossings!
  • [Scoldings], TONGUELASHINGS
  • [Magi], THREEKINGS.

A 10/14/15/14/10 theme will always require a very delicate hand to fill the grid! Especially in the middle, most down answers are crossing two themers. Ian is well-known (I think?) for filling dense grids with aplomb. Here we get RAVENCLAW (learnt by osmosis, never read/watched Potter) and RISINGSUN – given a specific clue, again unknown to me, presumably to avoid it being a 9 letter partial. Also lively are CHINOS and ITSADEAL. Not much to debit either. MIA’s clue, [Fla. airport], is an unusual angle, but it’s a perfectly valid entry. Also clued weirdly is [Platter player], PHONO. Never heard this dated term before! Favourite clue [Verb, for one], NOUN – ha-ha!

4 Stars. A lot of long unknowns (to me), but I still admire the construction.

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13 Responses to Thursday, December 11, 2014

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I liked the NYT but found it slow going… Appreciated the PEI clue (thinking Anne of Green Gables). But did you ever consider how many answers fit the 19A “Throws out” even if you have the initial E? evicts, exiles, ejects, erases, and more? Yikes.

  2. David L says:

    Nice idea, but CUTS (through) THE CLUTTER doesn’t ring any bells with me, and PULLS (through) IN THE CLUTCH seems like a mash-up of two other phrases: ‘pulls through,’ meaning survives some peril, like an illness, and ‘comes through in the clutch.’

    Is GELT really ‘loot’? I thought it was what Jewish kids get at Hanukkah, not the proceeds of a bank robbery.

  3. David S says:

    Fun, challenging solve for me. I enjoyed the gimmick, tho I agree that the verbs weren’t perfect. Rex P didn’t like PULLS THRU IN THE CLUTCH, but I’ve heard both PULLS and COMES (which is more common), so I was fine with it. I agree that U NU was UNfortUnate. I also didn’t like PEI’s clue — I only know those letters when attached to I.M. Pei. And I had no idea of GTO, so NEYO was impossible. So this puzzle went down as an enjoyable DNF.

    Anyway, I’m glad someone in the Rex comments pointed me over here; this is a fun blog, and I’ll be coming back (on a daily basis).

  4. CY Hollander says:

    I enjoyed the NYT today. The theme did exactly what a good theme should: hinder me at first, help me at last. A couple of cute little clue duplicates—the two pigpens and the two things that are blue.

    I agree with Amy on the infelicity of the HARD G clue, and I’m even less amenable to the interpretations she halfheartedly offered than she is: I consider syllables to have sounds, rather than spellings, and a “leader” is an individual, whereas “first coupla letters” is not a recognized unit. I was going to offer my own apologetical interpretation that Germany’s actual leader doesn’t have a hard G in her name—but here’s the kicker: she does.

    Come to think of it, that gives me a devilish idea for fixing this clue: “What Germany’s leader has” would have been brilliant. But, if it were to be a more standard clue, it should simply have been “Germany’s leader”; if that’s too played-out, the proper solution would have been to find something fresher, rather than bastardize the clue.

    I also have my doubts about the East Asiaticness of HOT POTs: the term certainly sounds generic, and when I looked it up on, the only thing it said about locality was “chiefly British“.

    One bad crossing in the puzzle: GRAN and NEYO. I think GRAN ought to have been clued with a common noun (since obviously NEYO couldn’t be). Still, overall a good puzzle.

    • pannonica says:

      “I also have my doubts about the East Asiaticness of HOT POTs: the term certainly sounds generic, and when I looked it up on, the only thing it said about locality was ‘chiefly British’.”

      That’s a different item, as evidenced by the American Heritage Dictionay’s entry:

      1. A traditional Chinese meal in which the ingredients are cooked in a pot of simmering broth directly at the table.
      2. Chiefly British A stew of lamb or beef and potatoes cooked in a tightly covered pot.

      Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry as well, but it’s sorely lacking in reference citations.

      Many restaurants specialize in, or at least tout, hot pot dishes. Try searching for some.

      • David L says:

        I think a Yankee pot roast is more or less equivalent to British-style hot pot

      • CY Hollander says:

        Fair enough, and thanks for the info.

        I didn’t really doubt that there would be a source for this usage of “hot pot”, it was just a little hard for me to get over the strangeness of using a term like that for such a particular thing, when its literal meaning is so much broader.

  5. Gareth says:

    Never heard of the phrases CUTTHROUGHTHECLUTTER or PULLSTHROUGHINTHECLUTCH… That made this harder to suss out for sure! I was about to ask the same question re RIBOSE. I think the clue is getting at that’s its biochemical role is different to the more common hexose sugars?

    Not sure what’s wrong with UNU or TERN. Both answers that are notable if not universally-known. Don’t overdo answers like that, but in moderation they’re an asset not a detractor.

  6. ahimsa says:

    NYT was fun. I agree on some of the comments here but for me those issues faded into the background. My favorite was GOING (through) THE MOTIONS, probably because of Buffy memories (the “Once More With Feeling” episode).

    The LAT puzzle was good, too. I never read Achebe’s book while in school but I did finally read it about 10 years ago. Tragic story but well worth reading.

    Re: Ibo, I think I’ve seen Igbo used more often (e.g., books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie such as Purple Hibiscus or Half of a Yellow Sun) but I guess that’s not as crossword friendly.

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