Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jonesin' 3:23 (Amy) 
NYT 3:11 (Amy) 
LAT 3:06 (Amy) 
CS 10:49 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Joel Lafargue’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 16 14, no. 1216

NY Times crossword solution, 12 16 14, no. 1216

This blog post is dedicated to Barry Gibb, who lost his three younger brothers much too young. Here’s the “Stayin’ Alive” video, and boy, I hope this puzzle doesn’t put a curse on Barry. Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. [R&B singer backed by the Love Unlimited Orchestra], BARRY WHITE. He died in 2003.
  • 26a. [Late comic genius], ROBIN WILLIAMS. He died in 2014.
  • 44a. [Children’s author/illustrator with a National Medal of Arts], MAURICE SENDAK. He died in 2012.
  • 60a. [Trio whose members start 17-, 26- and 44-Across], THE BEE GEES.
  • 66a. [Last name of 60-Across], GIBB.

Now. Here’s the data, courtesy of pannonica (who also mentioned the theme answers’ death dates). The eldest, Barry Gibb, is still with us. Robin died in 2012, and his slightly younger twin Maurice died in 2003. Is it not freaky that the puzzle’s random/unrelated Famous People Named Barry, Robin, and Maurice have years of death matching up with two of the three Gibbs … with the final one being the year still in progress? This puzzle better not put a hex on handsome lad Barry and kill him before year’s end. It’s weird that there are specific identifying details for Sendak and White, whereas Williams is just “late.” The other two are “late” too.

Not digging the fill, overall. Things that are perhaps out of step with the Tuesday solving crowd include WAH, the not-a-lexical-chunk DO OK (33a. [Scrape by]—betcha a dollar many people will be Googling scrape by dook), SAPOR crossing KEPI ([Flavor] meets [French army headwear] at the P), URAL, ANSELM (9d. [Canterbury saint]), HI-DE-HI (24d. [Cab Calloway phrase]—while Wikipedia notes that he was nicknamed “The Hi De Ho Man”), ODIE, ULT, RAN TO, and ESSO. And HARD TASK is not at all a lexical chunk.

Five more things:

  • In my house, we call it a PEEL, not a SKIN (19a. [Banana discard]).
  • 41a. [TV diner boss], MEL? I dunno. I feel like the clue needs to specifically call out the sitcom Alice, which ended in 1985. There have been other TV diners in the intervening three decades. Certainly there are also better ways to clue the name MEL other than going to a supporting character in a 30-year-old show that people don’t talk about much these days.
  • 3d. [One whose favorite website is Sporcle, say], NERD. Or just a smart person who enjoys kicking ass at trivia.
  • 5d. [Showy trinket], GEWGAW. How common a word is this? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it outside of writing and crosswords.
  • Favorite fill: BULL MARKET, Jane ADDAMS, SUPERB.

Three stars from me, and I hope Barry Gibb continues in good health.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Smooth Move”

Jonesin' crossword solution, 12 16 14 "Smooth Move"

Jonesin’ crossword solution, 12 16 14 “Smooth Move”

36a. [Sports maneuver (and alternate title for this puzzle)] clues FAKE-OUT, and the OUTside of each theme answer has the letters F/AKE:

  • 16a. [Christmas present often regifted], FRUITCAKE.
  • 25a. [James Joyce novel with its own unique vocabulary], FINNEGANS WAKE. I blanked on this book title when I was taking a Sporcle quiz the other day.
  • 45a. [It’s gripping], FIRM HANDSHAKE. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not having a wishy-washy, limp handshake. I always like a good (but not bone-crushing) handshake.
  • 60a. [Way to stop a bike], FOOTBRAKE. As opposed to the handbrake.

Solid, if unthrilling. FOOTBRAKE is a dozier answer than the other three.

Some things I liked or didn’t:

  • 8a. [Curse word that’s “dropped,” for short], F-BOMB. Love this answer.
  • 43a. [Vox piece], ESSAY. I’ve read the occasional interesting piece at Vox.com.
  • 50a. [Epitome of deadness], DOORNAIL. Although technically, it was never alive in the first place, so it’s more lifeless than dead.
  • 38d. [Like coupons and notebook paper], TEARABLE. Yes, it’s a legitimate word, but it’s awkward in a crossword.
  • Partials: A ROW, IN A, IT IS, SEE A. Four’s kind of a lot, even if the awkward SEE A (42a. [“I ___ little silhouetto of a man…”]) does evoke Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

3.5 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 185), “Turn Over a New Leaf”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/16 (#185)

Crossword Nation 12/16 (#185)

Oh, yay—an anagram puzzle. I figured that part out easily enough with lake and leak and kael. But, truth is, it was only at the reveal that everything came together for me in any kind of meaningful way. And there it is: 55A. KALE SHAKES [Trendy green drinks…and a hint to the puzzle theme]. Kale is the “new leaf” in the title—and that instruction to “turn [it] over…” is cryptic-speak for “rearrange” or “anagram.” Excellent. And we get four additional excellent themers in the bargain.

  • 16A. LAKE PLACID [Host of the 1980 Winter Olympics and site of hockey’s “Miracle on Ice“]. This is still a great story.
  • 22A. SPRING A LEAK [What you don’t want a boat to do]. True.
  • alek-wek36A. ALEK WEK [First African fashion model to appear on the cover of “Elle”]. Ms. Wek was entirely new to me, and I wasn’t initially certain that she was going to be part of the theme fill. But I was to be disabused of that notion soon enough! She’s gorgeous, and certainly as SLEEK as that […Russian Blue cat]. Pictures of her abound (in various stages of dress…), so imagine my delight in finding the example here. CASUAL CHIC indeed. My first thought for [Fashion sense that involves dressing down in a stylish way] was SHABBY CHIC. And though usage of this term outstrips casual chic these days, it wasn’t always so. Check out this Google Ngram. For more on the subject of the history of black fashion models, this Essence pictorial survey is most informative.
  • 46A. PAULINE KAEL [Film critic who said “The critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.”] No fashion-plate she, but my dears—smart, smart, smart. Her opinions could be polarizing, but she wrote elegantly, incisively, decisively. I’m not sure there’s a female film critic who’s her equal… And her last name is a homophone of the first word in the previously mentioned …
  • 55A. KALE SHAKES. Fire up yer blender!

The remainder of the puzzle is loaded with strong fill, strong clue/fill pairs, and some items whose connections provide more internal glue. Actually, lemme start there. It’s not that these provide the juiciest fill, it’s just that (in combo with their clues) they really pull their weight in keeping the puzzle “tight.” Like LUCRE [Monetary gain] and the economics-related SELL [Be bearish]. Or the seasonally apt ADORN [Decorate with tinsel] and PIPE [Frosty’s corncob prop]. There’s the homophonically tied-in ARC and ARKS. And the nuptially connected ECRU [Elegant color for wedding invitations] and NÉE [Bridal bio word]. My first fill for the devious [Draw back?], in fact, was BRIDLE and I thought there might be a “bridal”/bridle thang goin’ on. But no. The correct fill there was BRIDGE. As in drawbridge. Oops…

Other tricky and terrific clue/fill pairs come to us by way of the non-mafioso [Occupation for good fellers?] LOGGING; [Deli cut-ups] SLICERS (somehow I was thinking this might be comedian related since this clue also triggers the memory of Rob Reiner’s mother in response to Sally and Harry at Katz’s Delicatessen…; and the best of all [Secret destination?] for ARMPIT. Why is this one so good? The juxtaposition of the promise of some possibly romantic trysting place with, yep, yer underarm. We’re talkin’ deodorant here, and not goin’ with anyone to “the Casbah.” Oh—and I should mention [A little night music?] for LULLABY. Sweet.

A tip o’ the hat, too, to the triple “S” run in “GUESS SO…” Other (yet unmentioned) fill that keeps things lively? “IT’S ME AGAIN,” that [Message from a frequent caller]; WONK, ENGAGE, LASSIE, NECKTIE, MESCAL and PLUGS IN. In a perfect world this last one would not have had INK IN in its shadow or anywhere near it in the grid. This should be any puzzle’s biggest problem! In a grid contending with seven fixed “K”s, I’d call this pretty small potatoes. Agree? Disagree? DISCUSS amongst yourselves. And have a good week!

Jerry Edelstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 12 16 14

LA Times crossword solution, 12 16 14

59a. [Understand (and a hint to both parts of this puzzle’s answers to starred clues)] clues SEE THE LIGHT, and the other theme answers are phrases or compound words in which both parts can precede “light.”

  • 17a. [*Actor Sydney of “Casablanca”], GREENSTREET. Green light, street light. Might be a tough name to get for younger generations of solvers, even if they’ve seen Casablanca.
  • 11d. [*Talent show hosted by Ed McMahon], STAR SEARCH.
  • 25d. [*Break for fuel], GAS STOP. Is that a phrase people use? It’s unfamiliar to me. Pit stop, sure.
  • 30d. [*Danger after a heavy rainfall], FLASH FLOOD.

These “words that can precede X” themes stopped entertaining me a few years ago but they’re still being made. What can I do? I wait for the next day’s puzzle to (hopefully) bring me something I enjoy more.

The grid pattern has a fairly open layout in the NW and SE corners, which doesn’t work out too well. 1-Across hits us with a partial right out of the gate, A POOR, and it crosses abbreviated geography (ANG), a no-longer-huge-name-in-sports (OREL), and a phrase I see mostly in crosswords (RAN IN meaning [Took to jail]). Those answers cross not only GREENSTREET, but also 35-year-old pop culture names NORMA and ELLIE. Elsewhere in the grid, our Tuesday fill includes ESS, HAW, ETO, ELROY, ESSO, IRR, TRE, SNERD, ALEE, TEPEE, and plural TYS. Those were things I disenjoyed, and there wasn’t much in the way of fill or clues that captivated me. 3.25 stars from me.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Romance Language”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.16.14: "Romance Language"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.16.14: “Romance Language”

Good morning, everyone! Let’s all thank Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith for making sure there’s love in the air today, especially with his puzzle. In his grid, not only do the first three theme answers start with words that make up a Latin phrase by the poet Virgil, but the reveal is the actual phrase in Latin, OMNIA VINCIT AMOR (57A: [Virgil maxim, and a hint to the first words of 17-, 24-, and 44-Across]). Apologies to those who might prefer the transposed version of the phrase, amor vincit omnia.

  • LOVE AND MARRIAGE: (17A: [Frank Sinatra hit of 1955]) – It’s hard not to make a Married With Children reference here.
  • CONQUERS FEAR: (24A: [Overcomes a phobia])
  • ALL AMERICANS: (44A: [Athletic elite]) – This distinction is usually reserved for college athletes.

Was sailing through the grid until I stupidly misspelled MEDEVAC, with an “i” in the middle, which caused me a little stress in the Southwest corner (41D: [Chopper to the ER]). That also made HAUNTED a little harder to see as well (52A: [Ghost-filled]). Also had “afro” put down in instead of UPDO, which was another spot of bother since they both have that last letter in common (6D: [High hairstyle]). Other than the untangling I had to do, it was pretty a straightforward solve, and there were some crossword fill/crosswordese regulars making appearances, including UMAMI (26D: [Savory taste sensation]) as well as both IN AT (11D: [_____ the beginning]) and the partial ANAT (64A: [Nursing school subj.]). I think EEYORE is going to make the rest of the Winnie the Pooh crew jealous because of his frequent appearances in grids (22A: [Friend of Pooh and Piglet]). Can’t Tigger or Christopher Robin get any love as an entry?? Best fill for me, by far, was THE ROCK (4D: [Alcatraz, familiarly]), especially since I could have made that entry my “sports…smarter” moment because of the former pro wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne Johnson, known as “The Rock.” Did you know that he played football in college at the University of Miami as a defensive lineman? Oops, I’m actually talking sports in this space, and that’s usually reserved for the graph immediately underneath this one, so I’ll stop now.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: QATAR (25A: [Emirate that borders Saudi Arabia]) – On December of 2010, FIFA, the governing body in international soccer, controversially awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar. Honestly, though, what could be controversial about the awarding the biggest, most popular sporting event in the world to a nation that has a highly questionable human rights record? And what’s so controversial about awarding the event to the country despite widespread accusations of bribery of FIFA officials? And what’s so controversial about possibly staging the tournament during the summer in the Middle East, which raises serious health and safety concerns for players and fans because of the searing heat? Honestly, what could possibly go wrong?!?!

See you all on Hump Day, and hope you have a great rest of your Tuesday!

Take care!


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24 Responses to Tuesday, December 16, 2014

    • Papa John says:

      [Thanks for the link to Mose Allison, pannonica.]

      It reminded me of this story I often tell and I thought I’d tbore you guys with it.

      I’ve never been one to get into celebrity worship, except for Mose Allison. I was totally into him when I was a teenager. (His “Son of the Seventh Son” may have been playing on the radio, at that time.) I bought an album with Mose depicted on the cover, sporting a cranberry-colored crew neck sweater. I immediately ran out and bought one for myself. I have never done anything like that since.

  1. Jeff M says:

    SAPOR x KEPI? Think I would have come up with a new theme before I included that crossing in a puzzle.

    • Gary R says:

      I finished with an error – at that crossing. I went with SAvOR, which the AHD supports, for 63-A. KEvI sounded familiar, but it must have been my imagination – I don’t really know the names of many Serbian villages.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        If it were a Saturday NYT, it might pass slightly more muster. SAPOR is a high-end vocab word … but KEPI feels like one of those short words with alternating vowels that don’t enhance our lives.

      • pannonica says:

        Perhaps it was reminiscent of KAVA?

  2. arthur118 says:

    XWordInfo advises us that the only previous Times puzzle from Joel Lafargue was in August of 1997.

    The way some Times puzzles sit in Shortzean limbo for extended periods of time, who knows, this may have been approved but held back for up to 16 years. (The only proper name that couldn’t be revised with a current Tuesday level clue seems to be the movie RONIN which was released in 1998.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      He’s had plenty of LA Times puzzles in the meantime: http://www.crosswordfiend.com/blog/tag/joel-d-lafargue/

    • janie says:

      and let’s not forget the *51* pre-shortz-era puzzles published in the nyt. debut year? 1982. while most of his puzzles are thursdays and fridays, mr. lafargue has hit the cycle four times.

      was this my favoritest puzzle ever? no. it simply felt like an oddity. i liked seeing the themers in the grid, but when the parts feel more interesting than the whole, i’m kinda let down. (the bee gees? now? okay then…) but, hey — we’ll get another tomorrow!


  3. Martin says:

    I suspect that ROBIN WILLIAMS was alive when the puzzle was accepted.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Maybe the theme needed a living BARRY (Manilow, Bonds?) and deceased ROBIN and MAURICE. BARRY BONDS would have been good, to keep the three names all non-singers.

  4. jpdavidson says:

    The themes for today’s LATimes and yesterday’s Greater New York Puzzle are incredibly, incredibly similar:


    Exact same theme, with two entries in common and similar revealers. Will refrain from further commentary to avoid spoilers for now :)

  5. Martin says:

    Hey Ade, I think you meant abbreviation instead of “partial” when you were referring to ANAT in my WP puzzle today. But, just for fun, let’s turn ANAT into a partial:

    AN AT: “In ___-risk situation”

  6. Gary R says:

    Re: banana peel vs. banana skin

    Kind of an interesting ngram for these two. “Banana peel” maintained a modest but steady lead through the first half of the 20th century then, around 1960 it took off, while popularity of “banana skin” stayed fairly constant.


  7. Martin says:

    If anybody’s interested, DOOKs are the little noises excited ferrets make. And I’m in a position to know

  8. Sarah says:

    LAT: What is wrong with ELROY as an answer? The Jetsons have been on the air for several decades. I would expect a supermajority of Americans have watched the show before and could name the main characters.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “The Jetsons” isn’t on the air currently, unless you consider “occasional rerun on the Boomerang channel” (whatever that is—never heard of the channel and don’t know if it’s among my 500 cable channels) to constitute ready availability to the average solver/viewer. Originally aired 1962-63, with new episodes in the mid-’80s … anyone who was born after, say, 1985 might well not have seen it. Not sure if “supermajority” applies here.

      It’s always hilarious when somebody complains about a clue relating to “The Simpsons,” which has been a highly rated show for over 20 years and is currently airing.

      • Gareth says:

        Born ’86. Was ubiquitous on TV in the 90’s. Boomerang is the TV channel people (read my mother) switch to when they don’t approve of other kids TV (or at least that’s what she does with my nieces and nephews).

  9. Martin says:

    Gareth, it’s usually before and after. Though our little girl ferret “Molly” is much more vocal than our little guy ferret “Max”. They’re good little monsters… er, pets.

    (Pictures on my Facebook page if you look around a bit).


  10. Jim Peredo says:

    Jonesin: I once had TEARABLE in a crossword that never saw the light of day. I clued it as [Like a napkin filled with bad puns].

    Gorski: So I noticed there’s not a single man’s name or any reference to any male in the puzzle. This can’t be coincidence, as I believe it’s something difficult to achieve. I did it when building a puzzle based on the theme LITTLE WOMEN, but again that puzzle never saw the light of day. Liz doesn’t hold back from filling the grid with female names. We have LARA, ISIS, LASSIE, ALEK WEK, PAULINE KAEL, PALINS (more known for their female members), NEVE, ADA, Queen NOOR, LEAH, Grace POOLE, LIV, and EVE. That’s 13 feminine entries and not a dude to be found. Curiously though, there are a few males in the clues where you would think they’d be easily avoided (there’s Timmy, Schubert and his ERL King, and a random businessman, whose NECKTIE is the most masculine thing in the grid). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I think it’s a feat worth noting, but I’m also curious as to why she did it when it doesn’t have anything to do with the theme. I just had a quick look-through of her previous ten or so puzzles and none of them have this feature (i.e. all of them have at least one man’s name). Again, not trying to re-open the men vs. women constructors debate, just commenting on this remarkable feature of this grid.

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