Wednesday, December 24, 2014

AV Club 8:16/Gorski (Amy)  
NYT 4:15 (Amy) 
LAT 6:47 (Gareth) 
CS 9:20 (Ade) 

Last-minute holiday shopping needs for the other puzzlers in your life? Consider a gift subscription to a crossword! Here are a few options:

Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 24 14, no. 1224

NY Times crossword solution, 12 24 14, no. 1224

Homophone pairs in phrase form are the name of the game:

  • 17a. [1955 Julie London hit], CRY ME A RIVER.
  • 62a. [Certain waterway to the Black Sea?], CRIMEA RIVER. The question mark signals the goofiness of this phrase—it means “a river in Crimea” rather than “a river called the Crimea River.”
  • 21a. [Glide, in a way], PARASAIL.
  • 55a. [Left Bank quaff?], PARIS ALE. I think we’d use a little stop before “ale” here, no?
  • 33a. [Intermediary], GO-BETWEEN.
  • 44a. [11- or 12-year-old Mongolian desert dweller?], GOBI TWEEN. GOBI ends with a long E sound, whereas the BE in BETWEEN has a schwa. GOBI TWEEN is so silly, I just might like it.

I’ll give the theme points for freshness. I don’t recall a homophone-phrase puzzle before.

Notes on the fill:

  • 52d. [Bank security feature?], LEVEE / 66a. [French pupil], ELEVE—I think the two are cousins. LEVEE comes from the french lever, “to lift,” and I think elevé does too.
  • FERRARI and SEACOWS balance each other out beautifully. I bet you $50 that a manatee has never ridden in a Ferrari before.
  • 8d. [Summer months in Santiago], ENEROS. Plural foreign month? Blech.
  • 3d. [Tell], SAY TO. That TO feels mighty uncomfortable there.
  • 11d. [Royal who’s notably a crossword fan, for short], QEII. Betty likes crosswords? What kind? Is she doing the Listener cryptic or what?
  • 31d. [Abbé de l’___, pioneer in sign language], EPEE. Not too famous here. Did you know that ASL and French sign language are about 60% mutually intelligible, whereas British sign language is utterly foreign to Americans?
  • Crosswordese and whatnot: Two partials right up top, A PAIR and A RIP, gave me a sense of puzzle doom early on (not borne out by continued partials, though). TATARS, OOLA, NOBIS, meh.
  • 43d. [Scary experience for a claustrophobe], MRI SCAN. Eh. Don’t most people call it simply an MRI? What are you folks saying?

3.75 stars, I guess.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pick Up the Pace”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.24.14: "Pick Up the Pace"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.24.14: “Pick Up the Pace”

Hello from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport! I hope you’re all doing well on this Christmas Eve!

Is there any place in the country that actually might experience a white Christmas? If so, hope you run out into the snow and enjoy the day as if you were a kid again…or a kid, if you’re actually still a kid! Speaking of running, today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, involves all types of ambulatory paces at the very end of each of the five theme answers.

  • CATWALK(17A: [Where a Miss America hopeful struts her stuff])
  • BUNNY-HOP(22A: [Party dance done in a line]) – Have never done a bunny-hop before. Am I missing something?
  • FOXTROT(35A: [Dance to big band music]) – Have never done a foxtrot before. I’m pretty sure I’m missing something with that.
  • SHEEP RUN: (48A: [Farm with fleecy residents]) – What if you counted running sheep trying to sleep instead of sheep hopping over a fence?
  • RAT RACE(55A: [Relentless daily grind])

Appreciated the block of seven-letter entries in each corner of the grid, and probably the highlight of those answers was CASINOS and its slick clue (18A: [Where folks might give you a hand]). I’m a blackjack player in casinos, when I ever make it to one. Probably the best clue-entry in the grid was NAT TURNER, as the whole name smoothly fit in the grid (3D: [Leader of a 1831 slave revolt]). A couple of months ago, I talked with the head coach of the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team, Mike Brey, and he told me about his experience after being invited to fly with the Blue Angels and almost getting sick to his stomach in the plane as the pilots went through LOOP after loop and performed other aerial feats (52A: [Air show maneuver]). After the interview, he asked me if I would ever try it, and I said, laughingly, no chance! Honestly, it was either turn him down nicely, or give him the EVIL EYE for even thinking that I would do something that would turn my insides into mush (10D: [Look that could kill])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BASEL (45A: [Swiss border city]) – Here’s hoping we have some European soccer fans in the house! (If not, don’t worry, because this won’t be long.) Football Club BASEL 1893 is a professional soccer club located in the Swiss city of Basel, and is the second-most successful club team in Switzerland, with 17 Swiss Super League titles. (A team called Grasshopper Club Zürich has the most Super League titles, with 27. Yes, that’s the team’s name!)  You can get a chance to see FC Basel play in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League – the most prestigious continental club competition in soccer – on Feb. 18 and Mar. 10, when they play a round robin two-game series with F.C. Porto, a soccer team located in Porto, Portugal.

See you all on Christmas Day!  Happy Holidays to you and your family and friends and loved ones!

Take care!


Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat141224Yup, the Grinch gets to review a Christmas crossword. This theme is SILENTNIGHT. The theme works except for the “I”. No vowel is ever truly silent. The theme works both ways it seems: a nice touch. So we get COLUMNTOTAL/HYMN for the N, RECEIVERS/SEIZE, ARRAIGNERS (wince)/CALLSIGN, RAH/CHRISTMAS (another nice touch), and MOT also crossing CHRISTMAS. Is MOT silent? News to me.

What else? There are assorted shorter Christmassy entries and clues. The BESURE/ASNEAR intersection is an interesting way – certainly not hiding from the fact. To force FELIZ into the grid Mr Gagliardo resorts to amongst others a RRR in an easy to fill section. ESALE seems singularly preposterous.


Liz Gorski’s AV Club crossword, “Big Draw”

AV Club crossword solution, 12 24 14 "Big Draw"

AV Club crossword solution, 12 24 14 “Big Draw”

Super-quick write-up, as it’s late and it’s Christmas Eve. The theme answers (23a, 25a, 33a, 70a, 109a, 123a, 125a) are movie titles whose second word can follow STAR, and the circled letters can be connected in alpha order from A to R to draw a star. I like the tightness of the theme—all movie titles and not just random phrases. (New critique of daily-puzzle themes featuring “words that can follow or precede others”—yes, it is possible to make such a puzzle where the theme phrases actually have something else in common.)

Mildly confusing to have BEAN SALAD and LITE BEERS a little longer than APT PUPIL and TOM JONES, but the theme set was so obvious because of the year/stars/plot clues.

The corner 8-stacks are nice, except for the awkward crossing partials.

I’ll be back in a few minutes after I do Ben’s companion puzzle. Meantime, 4 stars for Liz’s guest puzzle.

Ben Tausig’s other AV Club puzzle, “Why Is This Night Different?”

AV Club crossword solution, 12 24 14 "Why Is This Night Different?"

AV Club crossword solution, 12 24 14 “Why Is This Night Different?”

4:11 solving time. 2 out of 5 difficulty? Nah. I’d call this one a solid 3.

Theme is JEWISH TRADITION for Christmas Day, and CHINESE DELIVERY, a food option that will be available when most other restaurants are closed. Now, I thought Jewish Christmas involved going out for Chinese food, and also taking in a movie. Delivery? Huh. Went out to Sun Wah BBQ for Christmas Eve dinner tonight. The Beijing Duck was delicious (4.5 stars!), but the service was terrible (1.5 stars).

Ben’s Chinese food theme continues with four 6-letter menu items that are split into 3-letter chunks that are valid xword fill: LOM/EIN (lo mein), DIM/SUM, HOI/SIN sauce, and CON/GEE, which I was just trying to remember what the hell it was when I saw it on the menu. Rice porridge!

4 stars for Ben’s puzzle, too. We will not discuss the O’KEEFFE clue other than to say that my puzzle friend Karen Ralston is a docent at the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and she assures me those are just flowers, dammit.

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11 Responses to Wednesday, December 24, 2014

  1. Zulema says:

    Very cute puzzle, but gauchos don’t wear SERAPES, not by a very long shot – many many kilometers, way way off.

    • john farmer says:

      The manatees may or may not be authentic. I’ve never met a manatee myself. But the car is a Corvette convertible (a ’59, likely) — nice, but no Ferrari.

      I’m not a lawyer but I’ll be happy to represent Amy in this case. My fee is $49.

  2. janie says:

    i know how subjective these things are, but one star for the two — **both terrific** — av club puzzles? did the solver maybe intend to submit a 5-star rating? it happens…… and if the lowest rating was for real, perchè?


    • Papa John says:

      Liz Gorski’s AV puzzle gave me fits. I can’t recall having so much trouble with one of her puzzles. I usually sail through them with minimum effort or frowns. This one was loaded with a ton of stuff that is simply not in my radar, especially with the many names. I rarely bother with the “meta” aspect of puzzles and this one was no exception. A cursory stab at it looks like the item depicted is a star, but I have no idea how that relates to the theme, if there is one. Like I said, I don’t bother with metas.

      None of this means that Liz’s puzzle is in any way inferior, but it offered little enjoyment for me, so I would have to give it a lower rating. Don’t forget, we’re judging a form of entertainment, like the movies, and despite the quality of production, acting, special effects, etc., it either strikes one’s fancy or not.

      I didn’t rate her offering, so it’s not me who gave her the low grade.

      • PJ says:

        I agree. Fine puzzle – just not in sync with me today. Clearly not a one star puzzle.

        I’m not a fan of 39-d in BT’s entertaining offering.

        • janie says:

          thx, pj. appreciate the thoughtful reply. the ratings tell me that these are pretty polarizing puzzles. who’da thunk?!


    • Linda says:

      Quesque c’est perche? ((*_*))

  3. Molson says:

    I really wanted 17A in Ben’s AV puzzle to be JEWISH CHRISTMAS. So much so that I had lots of trouble in the NE because I refused to believe that it was wrong.

  4. pannonica says:

    Well, I wanted [Farm with fleecy residents] in the CS to be SHEEPERY (before I knew the theme).

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