Thursday, January 29, 2015

NYT 5:27 (Amy) 
LAT 8:52 (Gareth, paper) 
CS 6:48 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:14 (Ben) 

The Fireball is a contest puzzle. Write-up after the deadline … though I don’t feel compelled to work out the meta answer.

John Farmer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 15, no. 0129

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 15, no. 0129

Intentional rule-breaking with duplications in the fill—lots of hot three-way MAN action here. MAN on MAN with a hidden man in between them—

  • 17a. [With 58-Across, buy or sell direct … or what to do in this puzzle three times?] clues CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN. And in three other places, MAN appears both above and below a 3-space black bar that replaces MAN in the answer clued to its left.
  • 20a. [Best Picture between “The Last Emperor” and “Driving Miss Daisy”], RAIN(MAN), between the MEN of ROMAN and PEKING MAN.
  • 34a. [With 37-Across, drama set in New York’s Last Chance Saloon], THE ICE(MAN) / COMETH, between HITMAN and MANANA.
  • 53a. [Central American capital], (MAN)AGUA, between MAN FRIDAY and MANDY.

RAIN and AGUA both work as stand-alone MAN-less entries, though THE ICE / COMETH is weird. Note that the invisible men are partnering with H2O. Not sure how intentional that was—John? There’s a mix of MAN as a lexical unit referring to a person and MAN as just a chunk of 3 letters in a longer word.

Seven bits:

  • 14a. [It might contain a sandwich and an apple], SACK LUNCH. Favorite fill.
  • 23a. [Archaeological discovery of the 1920s whose fossils have been missing since 1941], PEKING MAN. Did you hear about the ancient human jawbone found deep in the waters off Taiwan? It’s possibly a heretofore-unknown species of human.
  • 28a. [Suffix with official], -ESE. Who uses that? I don’t think it’s a very common term.
  • 33a. [Onetime Road Runner rivals], GTOS. No idea what this Road Runner is. A sporty ’60s car?
  • 24d. [Chapter seven?], ETA. Okay, eta is the seventh letter in the Greek alphabet. Chapter … meaning fraternity chapters? Are Greek letters doled out to chapters in alphabetical order or something?
  • 33d. [TV debut of 1975, briefly], GMA. You wanted SNL, didn’t you, rather than Good Morning America?
  • 34d. [Us competitor], THEM. Dang it! I was looking for a magazine rival of Us Weekly, rather than “it’s us against them.”

4.33 stars. Roman numeral MDII is about the worst the grid has to offer.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Weightlifters” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.33.22 AM

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I’ve been going stir-crazy after the winter storm left Boston snowed in, so this week’s theme BEQ puzzle, “Weightlifters”, was a nice, breezy distraction from the weather outside (especially since the Buffalaxed version of Dschingis Khan’s “Moskau” has been stuck in my head since Mystery Hunt).

The trick this week (which, as usual, I figured out about 2/3rds of the way through the puzzle) is that all the theme entries are phrases/people that also sound like specifically focused weightlifters at the gym:

  • 17A‘s leg-focused JACK SQUAT
  • 21A‘s bicep-focused RIP CURL
  • 35A‘s press master JOHNNY BENCH
  • 52A‘s barbell lifting MR CLEAN
  • 56A‘s numbers-obsessed EZRA POUND

The rest of the fill on this week’s edition felt pretty straightforward, with most of the interesting bits coming from the down clues.  TECUMSEH was a nice trivia-ish bit (11D, “Shawnee chief in the War of 1812”), and there were some equally nice pop culture shout outs to The Mindy Project’s IKE Barinholtz (22D) and JR PAC MAN (35D), an arcade variant I didn’t know existed until solving this puzzle.  The tech-y side of me also liked the shout-outs to TESLAS (13D) and USENET (41D).

I enjoyed my solve on this puzzle (especially since my solve time was quicker than usual – maybe I have a chance on this year’s Puzzle 5 at the ACPT), but a lot of the fill felt a bit too straightforward.  That’s definitely the type of crossword complaint you want to have, even if it does feel a bit picky.

3.5/5 stars.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

lat150129I bet we all were looking at the grid and wondering where the theme was! There are no long answers other than the central revealer. No-one in South Africa asks CANYOUBREAKATEN? A loaf of bread is around 8 rand, so that’s probably why – CANYOUBREAKAHUNDRED/TWOHUNDRED, maybe. This is actually a clever variation on the “words in middles of phrases” theme trope, as all the hidden tens are parts of two word phrases: DEBIT/ENTRY, BETE/NOIRE, TIGHT/ENDS, WHITE/NOISE. This could have been presented as a standard 10/9/15/9/10 puzzle, but I appreciate Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter giving us some variety.


  • canyoubreakit[Noble ___], GASES. I hate these FITB hidden plural clues. It’s a cheap trick, and a tired one.
  • [Sound after a satisfying swig], AAH. Is there a way to differentiate AAH and AHH?
  • [Scotch cocktails], ROBROYS. What’s in that again? [Whisky, vermouth and bitters]… Uh, no thanks.
  • [“I won’t hurt you”], NICEDOG. Have clients tell their dog that “he isn’t going to hurt you.” On the one hand, they’re lying to their dog. On the other hand, dogs don’t understand the English language.
  • [Malady in the 2000 film “Memento”], AMNESIA. If you believe the entertainment industry, amnesia is a pandemic…
  • [Fife-and-drum drum], TABOR. I assume I wasn’t the only one who immediately had a “Soldier, Soldier Won’t You Marry Me” earworm. In my case in came with painful memories from primary school music appreciation where the teacher made the boys sing the soldier parts and the girls the maid parts. Enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and die.
  • [Pension law signed by Ford, briefly], ERISA. All crossers baby!
  • [Cleave], ADHERE. Tricky alternative meaning!
  • [Chinese evergreen], LYCHEE. The dictionaries suggests no standard spelling exists, but here I see LITCHI almost exclusively. It’s a common juice and yoghurt flavour in these parts. Was gobsmacked when large swathes of people hadn’t heard of it last time…

4 Stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.29.15: "Long Division"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.29.15: “Long Division”

Good morning, folks! Hope all is well and hope that you end the first month of the new year in style! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us from the Great White North and Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, splits the word “long,” as the letters LO are at the beginning of each of the four theme answers, with the letters NG at the end of each. Though not long division, I met two high schoolers while working – and meeting Bill Murray in the process – yesterday, and one of them told me his favorite subject is math, and specifically, integrated algebra. It brought me back to the days when I was a high school math wiz. But if you ask me about slopes, binomials and trinomials, I’ll just laugh in your face, put a dunce cap on my head and walk away.

  • LORETTA YOUNG (20A: [She won a Best Actress Oscar for 1947’s “The Farmer’s Daughter”])
  • LORDS A LEAPING (29A: [There are ten of them in a Christmas carol]) – I’m all about the maids a milking, myself!
  • LONDON CALLING (44A: [1979 hit for The Clash]) – “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust!”
  • LOANSHARKING (54A: [Usury])

I don’t think I should mention CABLE without having a Rob Lowe alter ego next to me, a la the DirecTV commercials (1D: [Broadband choice]). “I’m crossword-solving Rob Lowe, and I have cable!” Many people have grown tired of those commercials, but count me in the very small minority that hasn’t just yet..though I’m getting there slowly but surely. I like seeing BOZOS and how it’s clued, given it can refer to the actual names of clowns, with the makeup and oversized red noses, or the definition involving imbecilic morons (36A: [They’re real clowns]). I’m also thinking about wearing a BOLO the next time I dress formally while I’m in Texas, which will be this summer (36D: [Corded necktie]). Guess I would have to wear the cowboy hat and boots as well, which I’m much more hesitant about doing. I didn’t hesitate about putting in WHIRR, as I’ve always envisioned its spelling in that fashion instead of the one R (whir) version (40D: [Blender noise]). You spell your onomatopoeias one way, and I’ll spell them my own way! Deal?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CHI (43D: [“The Sweetheart of Sigma ___]) – The New England Patriots well be making their eighth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, but their first was one to forget. The final score that was emblazoned on the Louisiana Superdome scoreboard: CHI 46, NE 10. At the time, the Chicago Bears’ blowout of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986 was the biggest margin of victory by any team in the Super Bowl era.

TGIF is tomorrow! Have a good day, everyone!

Take care!


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22 Responses to Thursday, January 29, 2015

  1. Alex says:

    Would love to see Sack Lunch clued as in Seinfeld

  2. John Farmer’s puzzle is beautifully conceived and executed. The “trick” dawned slowly, even after sussing out the two-part reveal 17/58-Across. With HITMAN and MAN_FRIDAY in place, I wondered what could possibly be going on, and entertained the (false) hypothesis that the excised “MAN” would in each case be above the three black squares; the brilliant “MAN” below those same black squares emerged only late in the solving process. Also, I considered Piltdown Man (wrong length, so potential rebus) before PEKING_(MAN) turned up. Clever cluing with just the right amount of possible misdirection, for another example LEAN_TO (wrong) seemed to fit for a while in the place properly occupied by SHANTY. Note, THE_ICE(MAN)_COMETH (15) is one of Eugene O’Neill’s two great contributions to the crossworld, the other being OONA (his daughter, the final wife of Charlie Chaplin). This is the New York Times puzzle at its best. Bravo!

  3. lemonade714 says:

    The use of the suffix ESE is COMMON with Legalese perhaps the most used.

    The puzzle was too subtle for me.

    • David L says:

      I agree on both counts. I put in ESE without any crossings — one of my first entries.

      As for the theme, I was mystified. I got THEICE and COMETH, and expected other theme answers would be phrases missing a central MAN. But then I saw RAIN without the MAN and as a result hesitated to put in MAN after PEKING, because we’re cutting out men, right? I didn’t understand AGUA at all.

      I didn’t even notice, in other words, that the missing men had MAN above and below. All I could see was that MAN was missing from some answers and not from others, and I couldn’t figure out what the logic was.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I am certainly familiar with -ESE as a language suffix. Just not sure that people really use “officialese” that much. It’s in the dictionary, but I can’t say I encounter it much in the wild.

      • David L says:

        Well, I’ve had a good deal of experience with officialese, sad to say. I’m trying to move away from it…

  4. Adam Nicolle says:

    NYT: I was thinking “Two and a Half Men” while solving this. Anyone else? I mean, it makes sense, right?

  5. Greg says:

    Road Runner was a sporty model made in late 60s and through the 70s, I believe, by Chrysler/Plymouth.

  6. Martin says:

    Very clever puzzle from John Farmer today. I didn’t really catch on to the real theme until I noticed the “man” stacks in the grid itself. Until then, I made the same mistake as… um… well, let’s just say I had the “aha” moment before slamming the puzzle.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you’re suggesting that Michael Sharp didn’t understand the theme, you’re wrong. He wrote, “Or, rather, I enter it twice, once above where it should’ve gone, and again below. The cut-out MAN isn’t in the ‘middle’ of anything except this ridiculously contrived, entirely theoretical ‘MAN’ stack.” I disagree that the Manwich stacks are “entirely theoretical” and liked the theme, but I wouldn’t term Michael’s understanding as making a mistake.

  7. pannonica says:

    LAT: “[Noble __ ], GASES. I hate these FITB hidden plural clues. It’s a cheap trick, and a tired one.”

    Dual offense. 49a [Set-__ ] TOS.

    • lemonade714 says:

      While Noble GAS[ES] may be an unpredicatable plural, SET-TOS are a much more common phrase than SET-TO. My question would be, are all plurals ‘tricks’? Isn’t part of the goal of a constructor to ‘trick’ the solver to make the experience a touch more difficult? Or are fill like NUMBER and FLOWER overused ‘tricks’ as well? I am confused as to what the goal of construction is.

  8. Tracy B says:

    I really dug today’s NYT when the theme emerged for me, and also dug Hayley Gold’s comic treatment of it.

    CS needed more work, I thought: three of four themers achieved by using an “ing” ending, and OLORD crossing/duping LORDS A LEAPING kind of poked me in the eye. Good theme though, the kind I tend to like. I’m very glad I subscribed to CrosSynergy as I’m getting to see more individuality and variety in this mix.

    I recently duped BRAT and BRATMOBILE in a published puzzle, so I offer this feedback humbly. I also know that dupes don’t bother everyone.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Only LOANSHARKING takes an unnatural -ING shortcut, as LORDSALEAP is not a thing and LONDONCALL is not a thing. All four themers can be said to split LO/NG, though The Clash also work as LON/G.

  9. sbmanion says:

    I thought today’s puzzle was brilliant.


  10. Martin says:

    Tracy B: the duped LORD in my WP/CS puzzle today was an oversight on my part. Usually I (we) try to avoid these if possible!


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