Wednesday, December 17, 2014

AV Club 5:09 (Amy)  
NYT 3:30 (Amy) 
LAT 3:27 (Gareth) 
CS 9:38 (Ade) 

ACPT registration for 2015 (March 27-29) is open now. If you’re going to Stamford, Connecticut, start making your plans. The schedule’s pretty sketchy at this point—games and entertainment not yet determined, other than another Sunday morning talent show (…that I will probably be brunching during).

Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 14, no. 1217

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 14, no. 1217

Here are the theme answers and their clues:

  • 17a. [Hyperbole for an arduous task], “IT’LL TAKE FOREVER.” Not exactly the sort of phrase that we expect to see in a crossword grid, but I think the theme is “random examples of various tropes.”
  • 22a. [Oxymoron for cautious travel], “MAKE HASTE SLOWLY.” Is this a thing? Apparently it dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome, but I can’t say it’s remotely familiar to me.
  • 45a. [Litotes for beauty], NOT UNATTRACTIVE.
  • 50a. [Simile for denseness], AS THICK AS A BRICK. Not the most common simile out there … but it fits a 15-square space, I guess.

I’m not sure what is binding these theme answers together. Arduousness, caution, beauty, and denseness are not a cohesive set. The theme entries don’t share a certain flavor (such as being literary, representing colloquial spoken language, etc.). The lack of focus triggered my Scowl-o-Meter. Pondering this puzzle is causing brow wrinkles. The grid itself has just 72 words, which we seldom see before Thursdays in the NYT. Sixty theme squares plus a themeless-grade word count equals … an assortment of Scowl-o-Meter triggers in the fill. Dated DAWG; plural abbrevs CFOS and CTS; not-quite-household-names ADELA, LUKAS, and KEW (and its sound twin, KUE, 55d. [Scrabble 10-pointer, spelled out], a spelling I’ve never seen before—Wikipedia gives cue for Q, and also notes “The names of the letters are rarely spelled out”); ANIS (43a. [Flavoring for a French cordial]) crossing MYNA (I prefer the MYNAH spelling); AROAR; AH ME; SNO; A TEE; EELER; SACS; and A-ONE. Fifteen entries on my don’t-like-to-see-them list pretty much strips a crossword of fun for me.

Three stars from me.

Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Adjusting Downwards”

AV Club crossword solution,  12 17 14 "Adjusting Downwards"

AV Club crossword solution, 12 17 14 “Adjusting Downwards”

Brendan riffs on the grammar term “dangling modifier” by dangling some modifying words Down from the Across words they modify. I’ve highlighted the modifiers with circled squares in my grid:

  • 17a. [Facing stressful scrutiny (with a dangling modifier)], IN THE SEAT with a dangling HOT, or IN THE HOT SEAT.
  • 26a. [Benelux (with a dangling modifier)], COUNTRIES dangling LOW, or LOW COUNTRIES.
  • 48a. [Sign near a lake in winter (with a dangling modifier)], DANGER ICE, THIN.
  • 63a. [Jake Gyllenhaal, to Taylor Swift (with a dangling modifier)], BOYFRIEND, EX-.

Brendan’s good at finding new ways of juxtaposing words in the grid to create a fresh theme concept. I like it.

Assorted other likes:

  • 1a. [It’s sensitive], G-SPOT. What’s not to like?
  • 21a. [College for Timothy Leary, Clarence Thomas, and Bill Simmons], HOLY CROSS.
  • 53a. [Side dish with kibbeh], RICE PILAF. I don’t know what kibbeh is, but it’s also in the clue for PITA. Dictionary says … ground lamb with bulgur wheat, served cooked or raw. I don’t eat lamb so that explains my ignorance.
  • 26d. [Entertainer that scares some kids], CLOWN. Who’s been watching American Horror Story: Freak Show? The clown portion of the season seems to have passed, though Dandy may yet put on Twisty’s mask.
  • 51d. [Coin that might be smushed in one of those souvenir machines], PENNY. Nice clue.

Assorted questionables:

  • 45d. [“Clockwork Heart” author Pagliassotti], DRU. Never heard of her. She writes fantasy literature and launched her career with a steampunk fantasy novel.
  • 28d. RIATA? Blah. Crosswordese with two or more spelling options = never fun. (See also: any appearance of a 5-letter spelling variant for emir.)
  • 4d. [Like some streamable TV], ON HULU. Contrived phrase. ON NETFLIX and ON AMAZON PRIME would be terrible entries.
  • 10d. [Sludge metal band named after a noble title], BARONESS. Never heard of the band, nor sludge metal! BEQ puzzles do educate me about music. And the clue was certainly helpful.
  • 11d. [Doesn’t flow], EBBS. I was thinking that an ebbing tide is flowing backwards, but apparently tide terminology says that the incoming water is flowing and the outgoing water is ebbing, opposites.

Overall rating, four stars.

Fred Piscop’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  141217

LA Times

I found this puzzle a bit weak conceptually: the link between HOPIN and HOP being in the middle of the answers is a bit thin. That said, the puzzle is a well-constructed Monday, from a veteran constructor of easy puzzles. The theme answer choice is interesting: SANCHOPANZA and GAUCHOPANTS are both fun and IDAHOPOTATO and BRITISHOPEN are solid.

Elsewhere, the grid is conservatively designed. You can wall the grid off in many different places. This facilitates the polishing of each individual section nicely, although it is frowned upon in some circles. For me, it’s more of an issue in hard puzzles where one needs to “flow” from one section to the next. There’s very little splash in this design: SAGEHEN is quirky, otherwise SUNSPOT and JONESES (plural name that’s not forced!) are about it. KARAT‘s K made another appearance, but I had the K already at that point! But more importantly, there’s also almost nothing to frown at, a Newsday level of cleanness! It’s no coincidence Mr. Piscop has constructed extensively for Stan Newman!

[Drop in the ocean]
for EBBTIDE and [Housewarming buy] for STOVE were my picks in the clues. What else, oh, Indonesian ISLAM is the origin of South African Islam, whose spiritual heart is near where I’m living in the town (now part of Cape Town) of Macassar, named for a city in Sulawesi. I thought that was interesting, YMMV.

3.5 Stars. Nicely made Monday, running on a Wednesday, but the distinctions are quite slight in LA Times land in any case!

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Or Else”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.17.14: "Or Else"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.17.14: “Or Else”

Hello once again, everyone!  Hope you’re doing very well today…or else!  Well, today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, takes common phrases or nouns and alters them by adding the letters “OR” to them. Puns make up the clues to each of those theme entries, and a couple of them are really good ones!

  • ORATE LIKE A PIG: (19A: [End a speech with “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks”?) – From “ate like a pig,” something I’m about to do for lunch. Where? I don’t know as of yet. Maybe a Thai food place.
  • SWISS ORCHARD: (33A: [Alpine apple site?]) – From “Swiss chard.”
  • ORLANDO LAKES: (42A: [Places for boating near Disney World?]) – From “Land O’Lakes.”
  • BLOWN TO ORBITS: (57A: [Like planets after the big bang?]) – From “blown to bits.”

Now I know the experience of seeing an entry that you were planning on using in a future crossword grid and then getting upset (in a playful way) when seeing it in another grid, and that’s the case with SLOW BURN (40A; [Angry buildup]). Was just thinking about buying an ECLAIR at a pastry shop when I made my way into one the other day, and settled for a real good cannoli (3D: [Bakery buy]). Was really intrigued by all of the strong seven-letter entries in all corners of the grid, and it’s hard to single out one more than the other. Regardless, I’ll have to give those awards to OILSKIN (17A: [Whaler’s wear]), BLARNEY (18A: [Hot air in Ireland]) and BURNETT, probably my favorite comedienne of all time, especially since I grew up watching her variety show on syndication (65A: [Comical Carol]). Apologies to University of Texas fans, but DEHORNS can also describe the process of when schools defeat the Texas Longhorns in different sporting events (41A: [Removes a rack]). Sorry, but I had to throw in that jab. Here’s hoping this SMOOCH from me makes it up to you (1D: [Smack])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STOW (35A: [Pack]) – A melancholy yet uplifting moment of the day, and it involves Bryan STOW, the former paramedic and San Francisco Giants fan who was the victim of an unprovoked assault outside of Dodger Stadium by two men at the end of the 2011 season opener. Stow was left with permanent brain damage and spent two years in a hospital. Stow is now back at his parents’ home and is being cared for by them as well as professional aides. Here’s the story from USA Today Sports, accompanied by video…

Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll speak with you tomorrow!

Take care!


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25 Responses to Wednesday, December 17, 2014

  1. HH says:

    “I’m not sure what is binding these theme answers together.”

    As I see it, nothing. The theme appears to be in the clues this time — literary devices.

  2. Brucenm says:

    ‘Ami’, in French is NOT a homophone for ‘Ah me’. Not even close. Everything is different — rhythm, stress, vowel and consonant sounds. Apart from that, they’re homophones. I have always thought that for someone as meticulous and scrupulous as WS, he has two glaring blind spots of carelessness and indifference — foreign languages and “classical” music.

    • sbmanion says:


      I don’t think anything remotely compares to golf miscues over the years.

      I enjoyed today’s puzzle. I have frequently tried to memorize obscure figures of speech, but usually forget them quickly. I don’t think I could have guessed the part of speech that expresses denying the opposite, but once I saw LITOTES I knew what it meant.

      Here’s a link to a fairly complete list:


  3. David L says:

    and a sports error — there are no SETS in squash matches, which are played as best of five games.

    • Brucenm says:

      As a former (decades ago) decent American ball, hard ball, fast ball squash player, I was going to make the same point. I used to absolutely love the game, which to me was a cross between a racquet sport, billiards and a combat sport — (two players in a small cube.) I was much better at squash than tennis, Squash, to me, was a much more strategic game, with an emphasis on choice of shots and hitting winners. It stressed quickness and reflexes more than speed. I was *much* better at squash than tennis.

      But now that hard ball is practically never played, in favor of the English “soft ball”, (a game I thoroughly dislike) I wondered if maybe the terminology had changed. In my tendentious opinion, the soft ball game is basically an aerobics context where the better marathon runner prevails; where almost everything is retrievable; where there is little strategy other than trying to outlast your opponent; and where outright winners are very difficult to hit. In fact, my understanding is that the rule makers implicitly recognized this when they lowered the “tin” (i.e. allowed shots to be hit lower on the front wall), thereby somewhat facilitating drop shot and side-wall nick shot winners. This was in recognition of the fact that points would go on forever. No one would come out and say that the game had become boring, (but I said it and still do.)

      I checked though, and, as you say I can’t find any evidence that the word “set” is used today any more than it was then.

      • David L says:

        well, I grew up playing the English softball version, so naturally I preferred that! The few times I tried playing hardball, I found the ball whizzing around so fast I just couldn’t catch up to it. I agree that the softball game is one of attrition and patience, but there’s still plenty of strategy and shot-making in it.

        Despite my love for the game (which I haven’t played in years because my joints won’t let me), I think it’s always going to be much more interesting to the players than to spectators, which is why it is destined to remain a minor sport.

      • Martin says:

        The word “set” does have a role in scoring. Frankly, I’m not sure that this usage justifies the clue. It does seem that the phrases “set 1” and “set 2” imply that the game is known as a “set.” I can’t see another basis for these calls.

        If anyone can explain the origin of “set 1” and “set 2” that uses “set” in a different way, I’d love to hear it. Without it, I think the clue is another odd-but-correct one. Maybe today that should be odd-but-not-incorrect.

        • David L says:

          “Set” in that context is a call by the receiver when the game reached 8 all — receiver could choose whether to play the game to 9 points (set one) or 10 (set two). There certainly wasn’t a unit of the game called a set, as the clue requires.

          In practice, receiver would just call ‘one’ or ‘two’ in that situation, so the word ‘set’ would not come up except in super-formal cases. On top of which, squash today is almost always played to an 11-point game, and if the game is tied at 10-all, winner has to be two clear points ahead. So the ‘set’ call no longer arises.

          The clue is just wrong, IMO.

          • Martin says:

            I don’t disagree with most of that. I’m just wondering what, in your opinion, the word “set” means in “set 1” and “set 2.”

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Nice try, Martin!

          • David L says:

            Martin, it’s not really clear, but my best guess is to take ‘set’ as a verb — as in “set the game at one (or two) more point(s)”

      • Brucenm says:

        A little unnoticed and unintended repetition of my relative squash prowess in that post. Perhaps someone can think of a fancy trope name for that. [That’s a response to myself, above.]

      • sbmanion says:

        When I played squash 45 years ago, games were to 15 and you could only score on your serve. I am not sure at what point the idea of Point A Rally came into vogue, but I have a feeling that it resulted from the general perception that games were way too long and were indeed battles of attrition as Bruce suggests, except that I think that the length of games was a problem with both the hardball and softball. At the time I played, there were numerous balls each with a different dot on them to represent relative hardness.

        Today, you will see some tournaments with games to 9, 11 or 15.

        I played racquetball (to use my own form of HYPERBOLE, AUXESIS or BRAGGADOCIO) almost every day for 17 years and saw the game change from a 21-21-21 format to 21-21-11 and now today 15-15-11 and sometimes 3 out of 5 games to 9. Racquetball is played on a bigger court and most of the stars are under 35, suggesting that better athletes play racquetball, but squash is a much more demanding game. A good squash player will always be good at racquetball, while the reverse is not always true.

        In the old days, if the game was tied at 13, you could play 1, 2 or 5. I agree that SET, a term I have never heard in my life in squash, is used as a verb in SET 1 or SET 2.

  4. JohnBeck says:

    A few years ago, when NENE Leakes was on “Celebrity Apprentice”, I kept waiting to see her name in a puzzle to retire the dear ol’ Hawaiian goose. I think this is the first time I remember seeing it.

    And this is on the heels of the sushi clue for ONO last Friday (or was it Saturday?) that I’ve been keeping an eye out for.

    Progress moved slowly!

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m pretty sure NENE Leakes has been in assorted non-newspaper crosswords before.

  6. Gareth says:

    One error at CASDAN. Both are spelt CARAT in South African English, and I can never remember which meaning Americans misspell. I’ve never heard MAKEHASTESLOWLY ever, which was the phrase I got first, and this obfuscated the theme. I assumed the other phrases would be “made up” too. ASTHICKASABRICK provides one with a Jethro Tull earworm, so there’s that.

  7. lemonade714 says:

    I found these references to Nene as a Real Housewife
    ◾Inkwell – Dec. 14, 2012
    ◾Inkwell – April 13, 2012
    ◾Inkwell – Aug. 5, 2011
    ◾AV Club – Feb. 23, 2011
    as well as
    ◾Brendan Emmett Quigley – Sept. 2, 2013

  8. cascokid says:

    Fun BEQ AVC. 47 min. Scratched at TINEs/sRU. I had to use TEE in a sentence with the clue to get it. The relationship between IPOD and House holding remains illusive, however. Little help? I had to come here to see the thematic cleverness. Thanks, Amy.

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