Thursday, December 18, 2014

NYT 5:00 (Amy) 
LAT 4:36 (Gareth) 
CS tk (Ade) 
BEQ 6:05 (Matt) 

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 14, no. 1218

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 14, no. 1218

PIG LATIN is the name of the game, and it’s played by decoding the theme clues that are presented in Pig Latin:

  • 17a. [*X-ray], JALOPIES, or “wrecks,” beat-up cars.
  • 24a. [*Ashtray], RIP TO PIECES, from “trash.” Had RIP TO SHREDS first.
  • 32a. [*eBay], LIVE AND BREATHE, from “be.”
  • 41a. [*Outlay], KNUCKLE-DRAGGER, a “lout.”
  • 48a. [*Airway], DETERIORATE, “wear.”
  • 62a. [Hint to interpreting the five starred clues], PIG LATIN.

Cute theme. I like a puzzle that completely mystifies you as far as the connection between a clue and answer, but eventually the penny drops and the world makes sense again.

Five more things:

  • 30d. [Attribute of the 1%?], REDUCED FAT. Milk, not rich people. Great clue.
  • 33d. [Spoonful, say], DOLLOP. A lovely word, and also the name of a small indie coffee shop chain in Chicago. (They carry slices of Hoosier Mama Pie Company pie so you know they’re good people at Dollop.)
  • 63d. [TV channel with the slogan “Get Smarter Now”], GSN. I rarely tune into the channel, but I appreciate the way GSN provides gainful employment for some of my friends who write game show questions.
  • 46a. [Cheese ___], CURL. Dammit. And me without a single Cheeto in the house.
  • 4d. [French, e.g., to Brits], SNOG. French kissing, that is. Do the Brits call anything a French kiss? Snogging is general making out, right? Is there a British term specific to the use of tongue?

Not too excited by MHO, TIN ORE, … I guess my list of blah answers is pretty dang short here. Did not know 67a. [George who directed “Miracle on 34th Street”], SEATON, but I won’t hold that against the puzzle. 4.1 stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  141218

LA Times

I’m not sure why this has horizontal symmetry only, but it does. It also has 42 black squares (on the high side) but only 72 words (on the low side). An unusual design choice.

The theme is very clever. [What sports stats are usually shown in … or what 3-, 5- and 9-Down each represents?], DESCENDINGORDER – each of the other three are different kinds of orders, although the difference between numbers one and three is at best nuanced. EGGSSUNNYSIDEUP is a dish, and a perfect 15; STARTINGLINEUP is an order in the sense that the players are arranged; PUTYOURHANDSUP is something yelled, and a very scary experience (happened to me once, was driving down a country road with some black friends. Other than that was doing nothing wrong or suspicious. We didn’t get an apology.) FWIW, I find sports stats to be about equally represented in descending and ascending order: batting average in cricket would be descending, but bowling average ascending for example.

The fill is strained in places, and mostly just serves to hold up the theme. This is the counterargument to 72-word themed puzzles. Just because you can do them doesn’t mean you should. Nothing is beyond the pale ridiculous, INDIGOS is a kooky plural, BUREN is half a surname, and there’s quite a lot of the ISNOT/DAREI/TOYOU word chunks flying around.

3.5 Stars – Excellent theme.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Coming Back In” — Matt’s review


FRO, as in “to and fro,” gets inserted into base phrases to make wacky new phrases:

17-A [Ring bearer’s poker giveaway?] = FRODO TELL. From “Do tell.”

19-A [Black Power haircuts from just outside San Francisco?] = OAKLAND AFROS. From “Oakland A’s.”

34-A [Wander through a Catholic school kicking people out of the priesthood?] = DEFROCK the halls. From “Deck the Halls.” This one sounds a little off, since it’s not the halls themselves that you’re defrocking.

53-A [Magnus Carlsen in Antarctica without a jacket?] = FROZEN MASTER. From “Zen Master.” Good one, but not sure who Magnus Carlsen is, so I’ll look it up. Soccer player:

56-A [Lady who lives for soft serve?] = FROYO MAMA. From “Yo Mama.”


***1-A [New York city on the Mohawk river] = UTICA. Can’t get my upstate New York cities straight; thought this one might be OLEAN.

***62-A [Its anthem is “Jana Gana Mana”] = INDIA. Written by a Nobel Prize winner.


***Favorite cluage: [Battle hymn?] for ARIA (that’s Kathleen Battle), [Melon coverings] for WIGS, and [Storm off a movie set?] for HALLE (Berry).

3.85 stars.

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19 Responses to Thursday, December 18, 2014

  1. Martin says:


    The Brits call it a French kiss too.

  2. HH says:

    Is anyone else sorry that the NYT puzzle didn’t include Alice Faye?

  3. CY Hollander says:

    Loved the NYT theme today, though as usual, I think the revealer clue was unnecessary. I think the more you make the solver work for the solution the more satisfying it is, but Will Shortz is more populist about these things.

    Maybe a good compromise would be to keep Pig Latin as an entry, but give it a stand-alone clue, making the hint a little subtler at least. Alternatively or additionally, the puzzle might have been made even trickier by giving it another layer: turn the theme clues into entries in the grid (with their own, ordinary clues), and clue the theme entries by references to the clue entries. I think I’d have liked that even better, but I liked this quite well as it is.

    The general cluing and fill were also up to snuff. In particular, there were no problematic crossings of proper nouns, which are my particular bugbear (the bottom middle came closest, but was still fair). 5 stars for me.

  4. Gareth says:

    The best part about the NYT was that the theme answers were all in-the-language and not arbitrary definitions!

  5. David S says:

    Great puzzle! I was able to figure out the theme quite early on and STILL struggled with the fill, but the struggle was worth it. I loved REDUCED FAT as well as all of the theme answers. It’s amazing to me that some people can solve a puzzle like this in about 5 minutes, but it’s amazing to them that I can play Scrabble the way I do; we all have our talents. I struggled mightily to pull ARAFAT out of my brain, and ONYX took a surprising amount of time, esp’ly because I thought the brilliant “Green card distributor” was related to, you know, the government and not to AMEX — great clue!

  6. Rick says:

    Magnus Carlsen = chess grandmaster :)

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