Saturday, January 3, 2015

NYT 6:15 (Amy) 
Newsday 6:15 (Amy) 
LAT 4:13 (Andy) 
CS 8:10 (Amy) 

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 3 15, no. 0103

NYT crossword solution, 1 3 15, no. 0103

I had advance warning that Sam’s puzzle was perhaps a little rough—Sam himself allowed that it had “a bit more crosswordese than I would’ve allowed if I’d constructed it today.” (Sam is one of those constructors who’s honing skills by releasing puzzles regularly via his website. Practice makes perfect, provided you’ve got some innate talent. Sam does.) And indeed, though we have the delightful MOZZARELLA STICK/SKYY VODKA crossing, there are compromises in this 70-worder.

First up, the other likes:

  • 2d. [“Oops, that had escaped me”], “OH, I FORGOT.” “HOLD ON A SEC” is another nice spoken-word answer.
  • 3d. [Boxer-turned-sitcom star], TONY DANZA. He boxed for almost three years, has acted for 37. I contemplated putting MIKE TYSON here, since he is best known as a boxer; his current show is a cartoon and I’m not sure it fits the “sitcom” label. Glad that the convicted rapist was not in the puzzle, at any rate.
  • 34d. [Real-time storm tracker], LIVE RADAR. Dang it, I love live weather radar.
  • 49a. [Poet Howard who wrote “A Primer of the Daily Round”], NEMEROV. Literary references are a plus in the Saturday puzzle.

Fill that underwhelmed me included ALAN-A-DALE (somewhat overrepresented in crosswords thanks to its consonant/vowel pattern, because isn’t he definitely a B-lister in RobinHood circles?); partials AIN’T I and OR OUT; suffix –IFY and prefix HELI-; possessive BACON’S Rebellion (colonial uprising); and crossword stand-bys ORLY, OYEZ, ELUL, ENL, OLEIN, NERTS, TARE, and TO LET.

Never heard of: 60a. [Its last model was the 1941 Skylark], HUPMOBILE. The Hupp Motor Company made cars from 1909 to 1940. Who knew? Not I.

3.33 stars from me.

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 1.3.15 by Brad Wilber

LAT Puzzle 1.3.15 by Brad Wilber


LAT Review 1.3.15 from Andrew Kravis on Vimeo.

4 stars. Until next week!

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Flavorful Fellows”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.03.15: "Flavorful Fellows"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.03.15: “Flavorful Fellows”

Hello there on this first weekend of 2015! Mr. Tony Orbach gets our weekend off on the good foot, with a tasty grid in which the theme answers are celebrities who have first names which happen to also be flavors/spices. Three of the four people referenced happen to be musicians, which seems apropos given that music always provides a certain element of figurative flavor.

    • CHILI DAVIS: (17A: [Jamaican-born MLB player-turned-coach who’s a flavorful fellow?]) – His given first name is Charles, but got the nickname “Chili” when neighborhood kids teased him for having a hair cut that looked like he had a chili bowl put on his head while the hair around it was cut  (bowl cut).
    • PEPPER ADAMS: (28A: [Jazz baritone sax player who was a flavorful fellow?])
    • GINGER BAKER: (47A: [Drummer and founder of the classic rock band Cream who’s a flavorful fellow?])
    • VANILLA ICE: (48A: [Rapper-turned-home-improvement specialist who’s a flavorful fellow?]) – Question: Is Vanilla Ice a better rapper or home improvement specialist?

Please tell me that some constructor has clued KITT in reference to the car on Knight Rider at some point (61D: [“Santa Baby” singer Earth]). If not, then I’ll have to do just that in the near future. Interesting fill with KO’ING, as it’s somewhat of a stretch to attach the gerund to the abbreviation, even in boxing parlance (45A: [Dropping to the canvas]). But I guess if “KO’ed” is an acceptable boxing term, and it most certainly is, then KO’ing can join in on the fun as well. I hadn’t seen my good crossword friend OGEE in a while (57D: [S-shaped molding]). From reading enough blogs, I now know by rote that PICKAX would be/is a very popular word with the Scrabble crowd, given the “K” and the “X” in the word (1D: [Rock pile worker’s tool]). Oh, and how interesting and/or odd was it to see the somewhat-related, somewhat-rhyming, words of DOWELS (18D: [Wooden pegs]) and NEWELS (52D: [Staircase posts])?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: JAYS (56D: [Sox foes]) – The good news? The Toronto Blue JAYS , rivals to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, have two World Series titles in franchise history, winning them in back-to-back seasons in 1992 and 1993. The bad news? The 1993 championship is their last appearance in the postseason to date, which is the longest current playoff drought of any team in Major League Baseball now that the Kansas City Royals just snapped their 28-year playoff drought by making it to the 2014 postseason (and the 2014 World Series to boot) this past October. Don’t worry, long-suffering Toronto sports fans, because there’s always the Maple Leafs to save the day!! Umm, never mind.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!!

Take care!


Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (written as “Anna Stiga”)

Newsday crossword solution, "Saturday Stumper" 1 3 15

Newsday crossword solution, “Saturday Stumper” 1 3 15

Lots of nice mid-range to longer fill here, nothing too crazy-new but overall a lovely batch of vocabulary, and some interesting clues:

  • 14a. [Pluviometer], RAIN GAUGE. A puzzle friend in El Paso doesn’t get much use out of hers—8.something inches last year.
  • 17a. [Button often seen with a ”+”], ADD TO CART.
  • 28a. [Big name in British pop art], David HOCKNEY.
  • 40a. [Peers of Countess Violet Crawley], DOWAGERS. Would be nicer to have VIOLET CRAWLEY in the puzzle, or DOWAGER COUNTESS, but this’ll do.
  • 42a. [Coin succeeded by a cent], PFENNIG. Also the last name of young Werner, one of the protagonists of All the Light We Cannot See, which I’m reading now.
  • 63a. [Riders in satellite trucks], NEWS CREWS. Not NEW SCREWS.
  • 12d. [Comedy lead-actor Emmy role for ’90 and ’93], SAM MALONE.
  • 29d. [Something to watch at SFO and JFK], CNN. Thought this was going to be something aviation-centered, like the outmoded SST, rather than a TV channel aimed at a captive audience.
  • 30d. [Bud holder], KEG. Had CAN first, which made 36a OPINION instead of OPINING.
  • 40d. [’70s Chanel spokesperson], Catherine DENEUVE.

No real trouble spots in the grid, no gnashing of teeth, no cursing of the constructor. It’s been a while since we had one of those killer, 2.5-times-as-hard-as-the-Saturday-NYT Stumpers. We might be overdue for one.

Unfamiliar name: 44a. Druyan who cowrote ”Cosmos”], ANN. Carl Sagan was married to her. She’s gone on to be an activist and is involved in the Neil DeGrasse Tyson Cosmos series.

Four stars.

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22 Responses to Saturday, January 3, 2015

  1. Matt says:

    Well, I’d heard of HUPMOBILE, although my first guess (given the ‘B’ in 57D) was DUSENBERG. Overall, top half was easier than bottom half, getting stuck on GLYPH and SLICE/STICK for 37A. Also, KENYA/GHANA for Annan’s home didn’t help. A reasonable challenge, IMO.

  2. Gareth says:

    Never heard of a MOZZARELLASTICK (had PIZZA until ABYSS cured me of that notion; that bottom-right section was by far the hardest. LIVERADAR is another alien concept, but was eventually inferrable. TRASK & NEMEROV added to the unknown pile-up. Other than that, very little resistence though.

  3. janie says:

    from cole porter’s (crossword friendly…) “well, did you EVAH?” (a comic look, in song, on the polite way to publicly respond to “shocking” news):

    missus smith, in her new HUP,
    crossed the bridge when the bridge was up.
    well, did you EVAH?
    what a swell party this is!

    i believe it was only single entendre, though, when the notoriously naughty porter wrote for the same song:

    have you heard? professor munch
    ate his wife and divorced his lunch.
    well, did you EVAH…

    long live the american songbook!


  4. sbmanion says:

    MOZZARELLA STICK was a gimme, but I had never heard of SKYY VODKA, so I was looking for the second word to begin with a Y, which kept me from seeing VODKA. VALS is still unknown to me.

    SEVEN IRON was certainly not wrong, but seemed odd. If the rough was so thick that you could not get at the ball with the club that you would normally use distance wise, you would most likely use a sand wedge or pitching wedge. Some hybrids are effective at getting the ball out of the rough as well. Incidentally, I recently watched an old Shell Wonderful World of Golf Show and Sam Snead was using a seven iron from 135 yards. Today’s pros hit a seven iron about 50 to 70 yards farther.

    All in all, the top was easy for me and the bottom quite difficult.


    • Bencoe says:

      VALS is just “waltz” in Spanish. “Triple time” means 3/4 time, the waltz beat.
      Thanks for the link to Sam’s crossword site, Amy. For some reason I’ve never seen a link to it before from any of the other indie crossword sites. New free puzzles!

      • pannonica says:

        There’s a link to it on this site’s Today’s Puzzles page. You might find some others that are new to you there.

  5. Molson says:

    Andy – liked the video review. Would watch more of these if you did them. Fun to walk through the puzzle.

    It would also be cool to watch a live recording of a solve with commentary.

    • Marti says:

      I agree. Very enjoyable to be walked through the puzzle with your comments. If you got your memory wiped and did the puzzle again, I would listen to your video again. And yes, it would be cool to watch some of you speedsters solve. Thanks for the fresh approach!

    • Papa John says:

      Boy, oh, boy, it looks like I’m going to be the spoilsport, again. Don’t get me wrong, I think using video clips, like watching speed solvers work, would be fascinating but not for the blog reviews.

      I got as far as Andy’s first digression, where he gives us Brad’s resume, and I hit the stop button. All I want is a straight-forward review, with information pertinent to the solver. I am not in the constructor’s clique, so I have little interest in that.

      Seeing that I had almost ten more minutes of video also didn’t set well. I doubt I would spend ten minutes reading Amy’s review, if it was that long. I just don’t spend that much time with it. The fact is, I don’t read the comments on the NYT blog just because it takes so long just to navigate that site.

      Add to that the fact that, despite having a DSL connection, the antique phone lines that bring it to my house provide me with dial-up speeds, thus making video viewing an unpleasant, buffered experience. (Nonetheless, I pay the same rate as everybody else!)

      If someone is taking a vote, I vote no, or only in specific uses.

  6. Greg says:

    Felt just right for a Saturday. Tough but fair.

  7. Margaret says:

    Andy, I liked the information presented in the video review, particularly the part where you showed alternate choices that could have been made while creating the puzzle (TWEEDY/TWEETY/TWEETS.) That type of info seems most easily communicated in a video rather than writing it up. The downside of the video is that I often read on my laptop while my husband has the TV on the game, and it’s impossible to hear both at once (I don’t normally have headphones available.) Even in a quiet room, I had a little trouble hearing exactly what you were saying in the first part of the video; I had less trouble with the second half or so. Not sure if anything about the video changed or if I just got attuned to your speaking style. Thanks for trying this format. I wouldn’t mind it occasionally but would prefer a written write-up normally.

  8. Avg Solvr says:

    Nice clue in the Gift Exchange puzzle, Amy.

    Thought LAT was tougher than the NYT which may be due in large part to reading “darn” as “dam.” Mmm, yeah, that caused problems.

  9. Stan Newman says:

    How’s this for a coincidence? Just a couple of weeks after I made this puzzle, I bought a signed HOCKNEY framed print of his “A Bigger Grand Canyon”:

    at a yard sale for $15. And I didn’t really know who he was until he popped into the grid.

  10. Avg Solvr says:

    Really liked your video review, Andy. Ten minutes may be a tad long and background music could add some nice atmosphere, maybe something related to the puzzle in some fashion. Looking forward to your next one.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      How about “Name given to the rich by those who can’t spell” as a clue for THE MOORS?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Andy, I liked it too, nice and clear. Usually I shy away from audio that isn’t accompanied by a written transcript or video that facilitates a little supplemental lip-reading. I will say that background music would be the kiss of death for me and I’d never listen to another video review. Makes it too hard to hear the words.

  11. Andy says:

    Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for the feedback. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to find ways to spice up blogging a weekly middle-of-the-road-difficulty themeless puzzle.

    I can’t possibly hope to please everyone, but I think “use the video format rarely” and “make the videos shorter if possible” are the takeaways here. Also, if I have time those weeks, I think I’ll try to also post an abbreviated write-up for those who’d rather not watch the video.

    • pannonica says:

      Needs more explosions.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      Or instead of doing it rarely just do mostly short ones. With a bit of practice your reviews could become very efficient. And if you’re dead set against explosions a nice little intro would probably be nice.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Shorter would be great. I confess to not watching the whole thing – when I was 2 minutes in and realized it was 10 minutes long, I bailed. I also tend to read the blog when I’m in a room with other people, so I can’t listen to videos without earbuds and don’t usually have them handy. I might have stuck it out for three or four minutes, but not 10.

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