Thursday, February 19, 2015

NYT 4:09 (Amy) 
LAT 10:54 (Gareth, paper) 
CS 14:08 (Ade) 
BEQ 6:56 (Ben) 
Fireball 7:13 (Amy) 

Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 19 15, no. 0219

NY Times crossword solution, 2 19 15, no. 0219

Interesting visual theme—three things that form LOOPS (51a. [What the paths of three answers in this puzzle include]) have some of the letters spelled out in a loop.

  • 26a. [Classroom projectile], PAPER AIRPLANE. Looks like PAIRPLANE, but the first A is used twice, at the beginning and end of the loop in pAPERAirplane.
  • 60a. [Theme park part], ROLLER COASTER. Looks like ROASTER with the (O)LLERCO loop.
  • 62a. [It may be on the tip of the tongue], SHOELACE. This one’s weird because (a) the clue isn’t at all straightforward (it’s actively perplexing, in fact) and (b) a shoelace loop lacks the vehicular motion of a flying paper plane or a zooming roller coaster. What other things move in loops? And have a repeated letter with an odd number of other letters between the pair? I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

I don’t know if the theme, which has no symmetry whatsoever, compelled the open corners in the grid, or if the constructor was just striving for lots of longer fill to look like a Thursday grid.  Though most of that longer stuff is solid (BITCOIN, R. CRUMB, “FIRE AWAY,” and WENT COLD are the highlights), there are also things like LAE and SENNA to vex. The latter is clued discreetly as a [Plant used in herbal remedies] but you should know we’re talking laxatives here.

I don’t mind seeing designer ANNA SUI in the puzzle but ANA is essentially the same name so ideally that wouldn’t be there. Could’ve been ADA crossing the partial SEND A for a dupe-free, laxative-free solution.

My least favorite entry isn’t LAE, it’s NO AIR, 9d. [Asphyxiation cause]. What a grisly clue and awkward entry.

3.8 stars from me.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 81”

Fireball crossword solution, 2 19 15 "Themeless 81"

Fireball crossword solution, 2 19 15 “Themeless 81”

I slowed myself down by filling in Mary Tyler MOORE for 5a. [TV costar of White and Knight] (Betty and Ted), when it turned out to be Ed ASNER. Then Peter slowed me down with the TRAM clue, 40a. [Clippie’s workplace, perhaps]. Apparently a clippie is a “bus conductress” in British slang and apparently trams are British, then. Never seen “clippie” before.

Least fair crossing: You gotta know your fashion designers or the trivia of the name of that Artisanal Pencil Sharpening guy, or you’re not getting square 55. I got the ELIE TAHARI part but 55d. [“How to Sharpen Pencils” author David] is not a household name (it’s REES). Could’ve made it easier with ROLY-poly crossing REEL instead of ROSY/REES.

Fave five fill:

  • 28a. [Overexposure for many a celeb?], SIDEBOOB. A term well known to any reader of the Go Fug Yourself fashion blog. The clue is pretty straightforward despite the question mark, and free of sniggering.
  • 5d. [Often-swiped things], ATM CARDS. 
  • 10d. [More than impressive, slangily], AMAZEBALLS. I think the word is well past its peak but it remains fun anyway.
  • 27d. [Food cart offering], STREET MEAT. This is a New Yorkish term, no?
  • 38d. [Common Black Friday purchase, for short], XMAS TREE.

Top three clues:

  • 24a. [Soul mate?], GLASER. Late ’70s pop culture—David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser played Hutch and Starsky.
  • 17a. [“R” without an apostrophe?], ARITHMETIC. One of the three R’s, written as ‘rithmetic except without an apostrophe, you get the regular word.
  • 35a. [Day job], ACTRESS. Doris Day.

I was going to complain that KARO corn syrup is hardly a 2d. [Rival of Mrs. Butterworth’s], but then I remembered that Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup has nothing to do with maple syrup. In fact, Karo corn syrup contains no high-fructose corn syrup, while Mrs. B’s does! And the internet tells me Karo actually sells a pancake syrup (made with HFCS), which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the grocery store. #realmaplesyruponlyplease

Four stars from me. SKAT EMIL ESTE ASTO REES ERTE pulled the average down a bit.

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

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 12.15.17 AM

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be done with winter.  And I’m not just saying that because I live in Boston, where we are very quickly running out of places to put the ever-growing piles of snow.  Luckily, there are crosswords to get us through this cold, snowy tail-end of winter.

This week’s BEQ Thursday is a good one – all five theme clues are common phrases that have had one of their words replaced with a soundalike make of gun:

  • 16A: Happiness from a warm gun? – COLT COMFORT
  • 23A: German pistol good for shooting birds? – MARTIN LUGER
  • 36A: Skill in handling an Austrian pistol? – GLOCK MANAGEMENT
  • 51A: Observe the power of a British machine gun? – WITNESS STEN
  • 60A: Pacifist’s decision to throw food instead of using a submachine gun? – EGGS OVER UZI

All nice choices, particularly 60A (I’m a sucker for a pun that makes you groan, guys.  Always.)  Thanks to watching a LOT of classic SNL in the lead-up to the 40th anniversary special, 9A’s GIL Scott-Heron was at the forefront of my mind (he performed in the very first episode of the show), and the Beatles-y clue for 16A made 19A’s KRISHNA also an easy get.  Elsewhere in the puzzle, it was nice to see words like IKEA (25D), SCHMUCKS (13D), and YUTZ (68A) show up as well.

I did have a few sticking points this puzzle, but nothing that kept me from fully enjoying what was going on.  While I had most of the letters for 34D‘s LEMON TEA (Herbal Brew) and knew from the clue that it was likely a tea, it wasn’t anything I had heard of before.  The crossing at 44A and 37D gave me trouble until the end as well – my geography (even the crosswords variant) isn’t good enough for me to remember that the capital of Samoa is APIA, and I was totally ignorant to the proper name for a gemstone cutter (LAPIDARY, as it turns out).  Still, I can’t complain too much about otherwise great fill – this was a fun puzzle.

4/5 stars

Robert Fischer’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150219

LA Times

The concatenation of consonants here had me thinking the theme involved SMS speak or similar. So I made the decision to solve around it. Turns out, I needn’t have, as it wasn’t nearly so tricksy. The theme gets an A+ for conception – four phrases from computers are lined up with four general-purpose idioms. The execution was a little ragged, though this wasn’t the easiest to pull off. [“You’re living in the past”…], UPGRADEREQUIRED and [“Never heard of you”…], INVALIDUSERNAME are both superlative. [“You can’t go there”…], ACCESSDENIED clunks a little as it is used in a general sense. [“Nobody can go there”…], PAGENOTFOUND clunks a lot because the clue doesn’t match the answer as aptly as the others.

You can spot my 3 big errors: [Eagerly consume] was not eAtUP but LAPUP; I made my Nobelist Sakharov sergEI first. I also was weirdly confident in ANON for [Before, to a bard] – hence the big horrible inkbomb there.

The rest of the puzzle featured minimal awkwardness and splashes of colour throughout. Favourites for me were MARINARA (didn’t know its origin), SLIPON, OPENAIR, and QUARTZ. The Q’s and Z’s for the most part didn’t seem forced – i.e. caused no noticable drop in grid quality where they were placed. Lastly, I suspect Jiffy Lube is the Salticrax of American products, i.e. no-one can say it without smirking inwardly.

althafainExcellent theme idea!
4 Stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.19.15: "In Scents"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.19.15: “In Scents”

Hey there, everyone! Again, apologies for the late post. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, has the word “ODOR” spanning multiple words in the theme answers.

  • HOLLYWOOD OR BUST (17A: [Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy of 1956])
  • BLOOD ORANGE (27A: [Citrus fruit with a red pulp])
  • IN GOOD ORDER (44A: [Tidy])
  • MOUNT HOOD, OREGON (58A: [High point in the Cascade Range]) – Was confused since I thought I was typing the name of the mountain and not the state it was located in. Oh, and it also didn’t help that I typed in “Mount Washington” and had that as the answer for a zeptosecond before coming to my senses quickly and remembering that Mt. Washington is in New Hampshire.

The middle bottom part of the grid was the last to fall, as it took me a while for TSARIST to come to light (51A: [Like old Russia, rulewise]). Had the “TSAR—” part but that suffix wasn’t coming, especially since that’s the first time I’ve seen “ist” as the suffix for tsar. Speaking of not coming, the second word to ODD SHOE also wasn’t coming, but then, when it did, I kicked myself for not knowing that off the bat (42D: [It’s useless without its mate]). Favorite answer in the grid for me was SIGOURNEY, as I reminisced about the evolving romantic love story that is the Alien trilogy (35D: [Actress Weaver of “Alien”]). Oops…I forgot that a fourth Alien was made (Resurrection, I think). Currently on location for work, and wondering if I should go to my favorite THAI place after I’m done, which is about seven blocks from where I’m located at as we speak (14A: [Bangkok cuisine]). Of course, since I just posed the idea, I have to execute it now, right?! (<— Interrobang sighting!) OK, OK, here’s the real interrobang, for the pedants out there…‽

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TAN (39A: [Catch some rays]) – We’re going across the Atlantic for this one. Malaysian billionaire Vincent TAN is the current OWNER (62A: [Team bigwig]) of Cardiff City F.C., a British soccer team located in Cardiff, Wales. Cardiff City was promoted to the Premier League after their 2012-13 season in the league immediately below (SkyBet Championship), but were then immediately relegated back to the league below in its first season in the top flight as a result of finishing in the bottom three of the league. Tan riled up the team’s fan base a couple of years ago when he changed the team’s main shirt color from blue to red, even though the team’s nickname is the Bluebirds. I think, at last check, the team switched back to having a blue shirt as its main shirt color.

See you all on Friday, everyone!

Take care!


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14 Responses to Thursday, February 19, 2015

  1. Dave says:

    I liked the idea of the theme for the NYT, but was disappointed in the symmetry. I too had issues with the SHOE LACE answer for failing the Sesame Street test (one of these things is not like the other). Other viable rotating theme answers with motion are NASCAR CAR, BLUE ANGEL (i.e. Air Force stunt planes), SPEED SKATER, and MARBLE RACE.

  2. Evad says:

    This song from Idol contestant Jordin Sparks got a lot of airplay:

    I liked the fruity loops!

  3. CY Hollander says:

    For some reason, the puzzles I like best seem to get lower ratings than average here. I gave today’s NYT five stars. It’s hard to come up with really fresh themes and this one was, I thought.

    I think shoelaces arguably move in a looping motion when you tie them. That’s how I took it, anyhow.

    What other things move in loops? And have a repeated letter with an odd number of other letters between the pair?

    For the simplest of answers: LOOP! (Technically 0 is even, but, then again, there’s no reason that “odd” needs to be a requirement). I think it would have been kinda neat if the revealer had been given that way, but a single gray square with an invisible loop connecting O to itself would have probably been too confusing and/or irritating to some.

  4. Gareth says:

    My mother loved to shove Senokot (refined senna) at me as a kid. SENNA is a thing some people may not know, but so are most things. The herbal part made me wince. All “herbal remedies” can have their active ingredient extracted and carefully titrated – allowing one to more precisely calculate the dose, and thus increase both efficacy and safety. A large number of pharmaceuticals are refined herbal remedies – I use vincristine as a chemotherapy drug all the time. I’m sure I could crush up vinca and shove it down my patients’ throats, I’d just have a very vague idea of how much I was giving, and, in chemotherapy, that’s bad. See also foxgloves / digitalis; deadly nightshade / buscopan etc. etc. That has been your PSA / rant of the day.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    43D:ANA could have been clued as a suffix or Wheel of Fortune purchase to avoid the near-duplication with 27D:ANNA_WHO_IS_SHE?. Better yet, refill the grid to avoid that central Down.

    Other loopers include the Chicago El and most computer programs, but that would be hard to incorporate into the grid.

    It would have been nice to see a loop figure in two different entries, but that’s surely asking too much given how hard it is to come up with any other examples of the theme…


    P.S. Would a rant about prostate exams be a PSA PSA?

  6. Art Shapiro says:

    What’s changed with the CrosSynergy link? The AcrossLite is now labeled “subscribe”.


    • CrosSynergy says:

      Hi Art.

      First, just a quick clarification: the link in the “Download” column on the “Today’s Puzzles” page has been to a JPZ (Crossword Solver) file and not a PUZ (AcrossLite) file for some time.

      That JPZ file is used to feed the Washington Post games website. As of today, the publisher behind that has modified the file so it can’t be opened by the Crossword Solver software. This steers folks towards the online solver and the ads that surround it, rather than allowing just anybody to download and solve the JPZ file directly.

      We learned the change was happening today, so we asked Crossword Fiend to change the link (thanks, Dave!) to a website we set up for direct-to-your-inbox CrosSynergy Crossword subscriptions. You can still solve two weeks of puzzles online at the WaPo site, and print from there, and use their leaderboards – that link hasn’t changed. If you want to support independent distribution, then check out the new “subscribe” link.

      To give the readers here a no-risk way to check out what we have to offer, here’s a page to sign up a free trial:


      • Art Shapiro says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

        Obviously I meant the jpz-solving software – force of habit had me typing AcrossLite.


  7. doug says:

    Since no one mentioned this, I will. In BEQ’s puzzle, I can’t come up with the base phrase for GLOCK MANAGEMENT. Anyone?

    • PJ says:

      Clock Management – I think of it as a football concept. Usually applied to the last two minutes of each half.

  8. Elise says:

    “High point in the Cascade Range” confused me too, Ade. While I can see Mount Hood from my office, looming on the horizon, it is not the “high point” of the Cascades. That would Mt. Rainier, followed by Mt. Shasta. So a better clue would have “A high point…”

    • Martin says:

      You’re quite right Elise, the Mt Hood clue needed to start with an “A”. Surprisingly the various heights of the big Cascade mountains are things I know well, mainly because we can see some of them from my city (Victoria, BC). Indeed, I could have told you (and have told many tourists), that Rainier, which is sometimes visible from my city, is the highest point in the Pac NW until you get down to Shasta in CA.

      Interestingly the big volcanoes in this area are (in order): Mt Baker, Rainier, Hood, St Helens and Shasta.


      • Elise says:

        Thanks for your response, Martin! Don’t forget Mt. Adams. It’s higher (now) than St. Helens. I can see those two from my neighborhood in Troutdale, Ore. Lucky you, living in Victoria! Beautiful city.

  9. Jim says:

    [It may be on the tip of the tongue], SHOELACE. This one’s weird because (a) the clue isn’t at all straightforward (it’s actively perplexing, in fact)

    Top three clues:

    17a. [“R” without an apostrophe?], ARITHMETIC. One of the three R’s, written as ‘rithmetic except without an apostrophe, you get the regular word.

    Same reviewer with these two comments. One “perplexing” and the other “in the top three”

    FWIW, I liked them both, but am getting VERY tired of the disparity between NYT reviews and “other”. Specifically Fireball always getting a pass.

    I DO think a lot of it that happens here comes more out of the subconscious, than active hating like in the Rex Parker blog, which I finally had to leave.

    But does Will Shortz rub EVERYone the wrong way; those that have interacted with him?

Comments are closed.