Saturday, March 21, 2015

Newsday 6:59 (Amy) 
NYT 6:51 (Amy) 
LAT 4:56 (Amy) 
CS 7:14 (Ade) 

Frederick Healy’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 21 15, no. 0321

NY Times crossword solution, 3 21 15, no. 0321

Some solvers turn to a puzzle like this and squeal with excitement because of those broad swaths of white space, three triple-stacks of 15-letter entries. Well, squealers, enjoy this one because it’s probably the last one you’ll see in the NYT, says Will Shortz. (He doesn’t say whether this applies to quad-stacks or puzzles with just two triple-stacks. Me, I hope the answer is “yes, they’re all out.”) The 15s are good, yes, but the trade-off is all those 3- to 5-letter Downs that tend to trigger the Scowl-o-Meter.

My favorites among the 15s: “JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH,” ORANGE POPSICLES (yes, flavor/color + item = fairly arbitrary phrase, but I grew up mostly preferring orange Popsicles over all others, and I’m just glad this wasn’t the grievous BANANA POPSICLES), “ATTENTION, PLEASE,” and “IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?”

Funniest answer, for me: 4d. [Bluegrass genus], POA. This one stumped me in a 1973 puzzle my mom recently sent me (unthemed 21×21 with no interesting long fill, no multi-word answers, no wit, just UNREMITTING DULLNESS). In that puzzle, I hit the skids with [Blue grass], *OA crossing [Arrowroot], *IA. (Other crossings that stopped me cold: [Doilies], **DIES crossing [Culet], FACE* and [Trumpeter swan], AGAM*; [Egyptian dry measure], AR*EB crossing [Girl’s nickname], E*IE; [Muttonfish], S*M* crossing [Tapir], ANT* and [Weather satellite], ESS*; and [Armadillo], PELUD* crossing [Explosive], T*NITE.)

On the plus side, today’s puzzle doesn’t have AGAMI, ARDEB, and PELUDO. On the down side, it does have EAR TO, -ENES, MOCS, SETT, POA, NISAN, OTTOS, EFS, ARFS, SO HOT (not remotely saved by the clue, 27d. [wolf whistle]), -IAL, ADAS, SHAK, LESE, ESSES, OREN, ITEA, and USM.

Five more things:

  • So, USM isn’t clued wrongly as an abbreviation for the U.S. Marine Corps this time. Instead, it’s clued as 26a [Sch. near Gulfport], University of Southern Mississippi. I dunno—does 70 miles and two counties away count as “near”?
  • The Hebrew month NISAN is right next to ISUZU, which makes it look like a misspelling of Nissan.
  • 9d. [Actor John of “American Pie” films], CHO. I wonder why the word the isn’t included there. Actor John of the “American Pie” films flows better, no?
  • 53d. [Start of treason?], LESE. No, no. Don’t use a question-marked clue to make me think the answer is going to be a treat when it’s just stale old LESE, first part of lèse-majesté.
  • 28d. [Ally in a partnership], MCBEAL. The fictional law partnership on the 1997-2002 TV show that I never did watch.

2.75 stars from me. I shan’t miss the triple-triples.

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.21.15: "Weighing In"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.21.15: “Weighing In”

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re having a good start to the weekend. Here in Jacksonville, Florida and finally able to come up for air to blog a little about today’s grid, which was brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith. In it, three words that happen to be different weight units are located in the middle of the entries, though each of them are contained in one word, as opposed to spanning two words.

  • ANNOUNCE ONESELF (17A: [Say “Hi!”]) – And an emphatic “hi” at that, with an exclamation point
  • COMPOUND NUMBERS (41A: [They have two or more different units])
  • EDMONTON, ALBERTA (66A: [Oilers’ home]) – For those who are hockey fans, remember when the Edmonton Oilers were good? Man, that seems like eons ago, and I’m not even talking about the Gretzky-Messier days. Even the Doug Weight-CuJo (Curtis Joseph) days seem just as long ago.

There were a good number of first names in the grid, including OMAR (42A: [“House” actor Epps]), ROSIE (11D: [Actress O’Donnell]) and ERIK, but not Eric (45A: [“____ the Viking” (Tim Robbins movie)]). Because of my particular food tastes, I’ve only had tomato and chicken noodle soups in my life, but, one of these days, I’ll try MINESTRONE, as I’ve always heard good things about it (30D: [Trattoria soup]). Liked seeing the seven-letter chunks on the corners of the grid, with BODEGAS reminding me now of how I tried to spot out bodega cats in corner stores while walking with a friend who was from out of town (72A: [Barrio businesses]). He was fascinated when we actually located a couple on our stroll around the city. As we speak, I’m trying to look as PHOTOGENIC as possible as I’m laying out my suit that I’m wearing for today to cover the NCAA Tournament basketball games here in Jacksonville (8D: [Like most fashion models])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CATO (46D: [Roman statesman and censor]) – Free to talk about him since the entry isn’t “kato,’ former professional basketball player Kelvin CATO played 10 years in the NBA, mostly for the Houston Rockets in the early part of this century. Cato, who attended Iowa State after transferring from South Alabama, had his best season in the pros in 2000, where he averaged 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first season as a Rocket. Before that year, he signed a six-year, $42 million contract, but, after his career year, never put up the same on-court production.

I’ll try my very best to see you all for the Sunday Challenge tomorrow!

Take care!


Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 3 21 15

LA Times crossword solution, 3 21 15

What a hateful puzzle! Not only is there a dreaded POLAR VORTEX in the grid, but also Shakespeare’s WINTER’S TALE. The polar vortex, scathing exposed skin like STEEL WOOL. The cold PIERCES you to the bone, leaving you NUMB. GASP! I OBJECT! The people in MEDICINE HAT are unconcerned with my suffering, as they are accustomed to the polar weather—the problem arises when Pacific warmth pushes up across Alaska and to the polar regions, displacing the polar weather to points south. Did I mention that Chicago should get some snow on Monday? Not as much as the East Coasters just got, but still. Bleh and brr.

Seven more things:

  • 33a. [Diamond shape], PEAR. As in a pear-shaped diamond, not a diamond-shaped pear.
  • 39a. [Take time to answer], SLEEP ON. Feels a tad incomplete without the “it” at the end.
  • 49a. [Hail Mary], LONG BOMB. Football-speak. I tried LONGSHOT first.
  • 2d. [“Waterworld” orphan girl], ENOLA. Meh, no matter the clue. Also in the “meh” category is fill like ZEES, ST. LO, SDI, DELES, and TANIA (which goes well with the also-dated SLA).
  • 1d. [Blues], MOPES. Dictionary labels this use of MOPES, “low spirits, depression,” as dated. First I’ve seen it.
  • 8d. [Ancient Italian region], ETRURIA. Why are they the Etruscans and not Etrurians? Why are Tuscans not from Turia?
  • 12d. [Like churches, as a rule], TAX-EXEMPT. I was just reading about an upcoming HBO documentary called Going Clear. It challenges the tax-exempt status the Church of Scientology has, among other scientological things the filmmaker takes issue with.

3.9 cold stars from me for this 72-worder.

Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (Lester Ruff byline)

Newsday crossword solution, 3 21 15 "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 3 21 15 “Saturday Stumper”

What? Is it just me, or was this one that’s supposed to be by Stan’s “less rough” incarnation a little tougher than the NYT? I expect to finish a Les Ruff in between 4:30 and 6:00, markedly easier than the typical Stumper.

Not much exciting, colorful fill here aside from AL JAZEERA news and the soothing ZEN GARDENS.

Nine things:

  • 19d. [Coach’s post-game discussion], ERRORS. No, the discussion topic is errors. The discussion itself is not errors.
  • 58a. [Port authority], WINE STORE. Is the store itself an authority, or is it the staff who work there?
  • 48a. [Subject of the bio ”Guerrilla Prince”], CASTRO. Nice trivia clue, kept me guessing about who this could refer to.
  • 64a. [Trio for S], DOTS. I’d think a less rough clue would allude to Morse code.
  • 9d. [Essence of a Caesarean quote], YOU TOO. “Et tu?” I could only think of his coming, seeing, and conquering.
  • 10d. [Name from the Hebrew for ”adversary”], SATAN. With some crossings, I was ready to guess SARAH. Hah!
  • 13d. [Foolishness], APERY. Really not a common word.
  • 30d. [Grams of tea in a typical tea bag], TWO. Who knew? Super-fresh TWO clue.
  • 47d. [For-sale item fixed by the manufacturer], REPACK. Didn’t know that was a noun.

3.8 stars from me. Less zip than I hope for in a themeless, especially a 72-worder, though the fill is quite smooth.

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35 Responses to Saturday, March 21, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    Amy, nice to know you’d essentially want any future quadstacks of mine banned. Sheesh.


    • Martin says:

      Will’s comments clearly seem to address only the triple-triple. What with him calling you “illustrious,” I don’t think Amy is going to get her wish so you can stand down. :)

      • Interesting review by this blog’s leader, and interesting pronouncement from the New York Times editor. It’s amazing that there was a time, not all that long ago, when stacked puzzles were created by hand and were considered the cutting edge of the cruciverbal arts. Other than its dimensions, we don’t know much about the 1973 puzzle that was used for comparison to the current offering … who was the constructor? who was the editor? for what publication?

        Nobody is more committed to pushing the envelope than my friend Martin Ashwood-Smith, and it has been my privilege to collaborate with him on several quad stack puzzles. MAS is self-aware enough to have created the marvelous double triple spoof called Stacked Dreck, which we released on April Fools’ Day of 2014. I know that the anniversary is still a week and a half off, but maybe today is as good as any to revisit it. I particularly recommend the central line in the puzzle, which consists of three 3-letter words (37-, 38-, and 39-Across), separated by two series of 3-blocks.

    • vijay says:

      I’m with Amy.

    • Brucenm says:

      MAS, as you know, I love your stacked puzzles, and am distressed by the reported WS comment, and wonder if it has somehow been subjected to misinterpretation somewhere along the line.

      • Martin says:

        Yes, it has. The confusion lies in the terminology. Will is referring to triple/triples. In other words three sets of 3×15 letter stacks for a total of nine 15-letter entries. And in the case of most triple/triple grids, there is very little interconnectivity … and worse (aside from the 15s) no words much longer than about 6 letters in length. (Note this is not a comment aimed at Mr, Healy’s grid in particular).

        This is not the case typically with double (top-bottom) triples where typically much longer words come out from the stacks. The same is usually true with single central triple 15s, where there’s usually lots of space for longer 9-10 letter words going through the stacks.

        All Will said was that he was retiring this type of grid design and not stacks in general.

        As for quads, I know of an upcoming 15×16 NYT (the constructors’ names escape me) that has quads through the middle and three 16-letter words going down through the stacks. Plus a variety of 9s, 10s and 11s. Not all stack designs automatically preclude longer fill words.


    • Roberto Durán says:

      Martin, I know nothing of crossword puzzles, but I have to applaud Will Shotz’s decision. For nearly 35 years now, No MAS! has been uniquely, and hurtfully, associated with me, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that someone else now shares this burden.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s nothing personal, MAS. You are a delightful and clever person! But the compromises that puzzlemakers typically have to accept in order to pull off those architectural feats of construction impede my enjoyment of the puzzles. I know they have their ardent fans, but I prefer 68- to 72-worders with shorter stacks and fewer short pieces of blah.

      • Martin says:

        That’s fine and dandy, but triple and quad stacks hardly dominate the weekend themeless rosters do they? The last quadstacks the NYT ran was last September. You’re not exactly getting flooded with them at present.

        – MAS

  2. Martin says:

    It probably won’t help, but POA is not just one of a zillion genera of grasses. It’s the “type genus,” the representative of all true grasses, aka the Poaceae family. In fact, the grasses are the order Poales, meaning that the name has the same significance to a botanist as, say, “primate” does to a zoologist. It’s not a bad name to learn, in my opinion.

    OTOH, Itea is just crosswordese.

    • Gene says:

      Poa Annua is a common home lawn invader, so the name was obvious to me.

      • Alan D. says:

        Not only that but poa annua is a common grass in golf. You ask the green’s keeper “What kind of grass are the greens?” And he can answer, “Poa.”

    • Gareth says:

      Poa was gimme, but I have 6 months of pasture science under my belt…

  3. Martin says:

    iTea: Apple’s rumoured new beverage brewer.


    • Over on the Rex Parker blog, the host had a very funny riff of his own, “I, TEA? [Leoni memoir?]”

      Focusing on Frederick Healy’s puzzle, there was definitely some fun stuff among the Downs. The clue for MCBEAL was wickedly clever, with its misdirection about “Ally.” The TV show, from the fertile mind of David Kelley, ran from 1997-2002 and made a star out of Calista Flockhart. It also popularized the “dancing baby” gif, one of the first memes. The clue for 24-Down, “What a saw often has,” could apply just as well to TOOTH or TEETH, before one grasps the TRUTH.

  4. sbmanion says:


    I was hoping that you could opine on POA in the context of golf greens. When I played in Buffalo, our greens were extremely fast bentgrass greens with some POA ANNUA in them. I loved my course (Crag Burn) and never criticized the greens, but some thought that any encroachment of POA was terrible. It seems that the modern game is moving toward Bermuda, which because of modern improvements in green technology, can now be shaved to be as fast as bent grass. I know that POA can be invasive if it turns your greens yellow, but that is about all I know.

    I thought the triple stack was fine, but in general, this is not my favorite type of puzzle. I had one gimme in each stack, so this puzzle fell quickly.


    • Martin says:

      Bent grass is much cheaper to maintain than poa for a lot of reasons. That’s why it was used. Bermuda’s even cheaper, especially in the heat. Bent needs a lot more water. Economics trump speed. It’s that simple, I think.

  5. Martin says:

    By the way, Amy, the agami is not a trumpeter swan, it’s a bird just called a trumpeter. Sounds like that editor could have used a fact-checker.

  6. Martin says:

    Back in the day, “Swan genus” or “Trumpeter Swan genus” for OLOR was quite popular with constructors (not this one).

    However, I learned most of my “Latin” genera from the Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid.


  7. Alex says:

    I’m also with Amy on this one. I admire the skill of the constructor, and don’t deny that the triple stack has a certain aesthetic beauty, but I’ve literally never enjoyed solving one.

  8. huda says:

    POA: Why isn’t Power of Attorney?
    I don’t get the clue for INK?

    I actually liked solving this puzzle, even though I understand the issue about the short downs…

  9. arthur118 says:


    Think octopus or squid that squirt INK as an escape mechanism.

  10. Matt says:

    Well, I’ll speak up for the ‘other side’. Triple-stacks are just a specific type of crossword– an experienced solver understands the constraints and deals with them as part of the game. There will be unexciting and possibly obscure fill. The pieces of the puzzle won’t connect elegantly. Amy will complain.

    However, the questions one should ask are “Is it challenging?”, “Is it fun?”, and “Does completing it give you a sense of accomplishment?” For me, the answers to these questions is “Yes”. One runs into a similar situation in the world of cryptic crosswords– some constructors who-will-remain-nameless don’t follow the cryptic clue rules all the time, and it can be quite annoying. Do you do the puzzles? I say give it a shot, and if you finish with a good feeling and sense of accomplishment, then you’ve met the requirements.

    • huda says:

      I personally like it when constructors experiment with various designs, themes, cluing and other features of the puzzle. I may dislike the results of certain approaches, but I’ve learned here that opinions can differ dramatically. Sometimes, constructors intentionally break the rules, for example isolating a letter, in service of a unique theme, which tells me that the rules are guidelines and all bets can be off. This whole enterprise is about being playful and I would hope that Will and other editors do everything to increase diversity and encourage playfulness. They can set high standards for fill and dial in the cost/benefit ratio that they feel is acceptable. Increased stringency may limit the number of successful puzzles of a certain type. But as a pretty typical solver, I’d be sad to hear that there was a ban on any particular structure, a priori.

  11. Animalheart says:

    I just don’t get the gripes. This puzzle was DELIGHTFUL, and a few POAs and ITEAs did little to spoil the fun or lessen my admiration for the ingenuity of the constructor. The only problem I have (occasionally) with mega-stack puzzles is when the long entries are weak. But all nine here were great. A Hoosier Holiday! I actually tried to read that thing once! (I did not succeed.)

  12. David L says:

    FWIW, I found today’s Stumper not very stumpy, and a little easier than the NYT. But I have a couple of question marks on the cluing. Is it correct to say that “bit encoded by RNA” is GENE? The genes are in the DNA, aren’t they? And the RNA translates that information to the protein-building machinery, or something.

    Also, why is “treated like dirt?” AERATED? Unless you like your dirt to smell fresh and clean.

    • Martin says:

      Some viruses have no DNA, so their genomes are purely RNA. One theory is that early life was an “RNA world” and all replication was via RNA. That said, the transcription process winds up with coded RNA actually making the protein, so this was fine by me.

      I think the dirt here is soil. I’m saying that because it’s time to aerate my lawn. No poa, but some bent grass.

  13. DLand says:

    Interestingly, today happens to be the first day (Rosh Chodesh) of NISAN, which means that Passover begins in two weeks. Not that that redeems it as a crossword answer, but still…

  14. Bob says:

    No comment on LAT??? Well’ here’s one: Please explain the Shakespeare 1623 clue???? Otherwise a dull, un-fun drag.

    • pannonica says:

      What’s to explain? The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s final plays, first published in 1623. True, the clue’s awkward “, with ‘The'” appendage could have been dispensed if the referent had been Mark Helprin’s vastly overrated novel (a magical book about New York that only appeals to people not from New York, in my typically withering estimation), or the recent major motion picture based on it, which I haven’t seen.

  15. Greg says:

    Late to the party, but I wanted to weigh in, for what it’s worth. I loved the triple-triple. I found it a delight to solve (and easy for a Saturday).

  16. John Haber says:

    I admire stacks myself, at least at first glance, but when you have so many forced entries like this one, it’s no fun at all. While my last to fall was the center east (and while I never did make sense of INK without the comment above), when you’ve got two different taxonomic factoids in one puzzle, time to quit and start over.

  17. don says:

    It took me two days to finish this…that would be 24:00:00…no apologies! no cavil! frustrating, but a pleasure in the breakthroughs…this is why we have weekends…thank you frederick..thank you amy and all for your wisdom…i have much to learn!

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