Thursday, March 26, 2015

NYT 3:59 (Amy) 
LAT 5:10 (Gareth, AL) 
CS 8:45 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:24 (Ben) 

No Fireball post till Tuesday night—contest puzzle.

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 26 15, no 0326

NY Times crossword solution, 3 26 15, no 0326

That reminds me—I have a laundry load to move.—Okay! It’s in the dryer now. Byron’s puzzle (a surprisingly quick solve for a Thursday, I thought) features the laundry RINSE CYCLE, and the letters in RINSE go through a cycle of moving the final letter to the beginning. Elegantly, those 5-letter chunks are aligned in a column.

  • 19a. [Draco Malfoy’s housemates in the Harry Potter books], SLYTHERINS. RINSE’s E moves to the front.
  • 27a. [Some punk accessories], NOSE RINGS. Now the S slides around.
  • 36a. [Red Sox and Yankees, e.g.], INTENSE RIVALS. Would like the answer better as RIVALRY, not RIVALS, but that wouldn’t fit in the grid’s center and the RINSE portion would be out of alignment. You know the horrible sound the washer makes when the load is unbalanced? Can’t have that.
  • 43a. [Tricky way to put a ball in play], SPIN SERVE. Tennis? Possibly racquetball or volleyball?
  • 57a. [Part of washing … or what’s exhibited by the circled letters from top to bottom], RINSE CYCLE.

Tasty mini-theme: the MALE NUDE, the Village People’s gay anthem “YMCA,” and swimmer Matt BIONDI, who has certainly been photographed wearing little. We don’t even need to bring HEAT and PHONE SEX into it. And how about that corner stack in the bottom, MALE NUDE/PHONE SEX/SANTA HAT? I made the mistake of doing a Google image search for male nude santa hat and you know what I found out? I don’t have “safe search” turned on.

ANYHOO … Other likes in the fill include ABU DHABI, TOILETTE (though I prefer “ablutions”), LAYLA, and BOTOX. Less keen on SAS, OPE, ENL, INRUSH, and DEL.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Bump-and-run club], NINE IRON. Golf? And the clue was so promising.
  • 42a. [Making out on the subway, e.g., for short], PDA. Public display of affection. Get a room!
  • 2d. [1971 rock classic inspired by a 12th-century Persian poem], LAYLA. Trivia! Did not know the old Persian poem angle.
  • 13d. [Shot in the crease?], BOTOX. You thought this was about lacrosse or hockey or something, but it’s not, it’s medicine. Friend of mine gets quarterly Botox injections to prevent migraines. Thirty-one shots in the head every three months! She is brave (and her brow is always unfurrowed).

As for 47d. [Hobbling gaits], GIMPS: I know the noun is often deemed offensive. Does the verb get off scot-free or is it also hurtful?

4.2 stars from me.

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 12.18.34 AM

Who’s excited for the ACPT this weekend?  I’m keeping my expectations for my performance in the competition itself reasonable (my goal is to beat my contestant number in terms of placement), but I’m super excited to hang out with a bunch of crossword people all weekend.

After being a little bored with last week’s BEQ, this week’s felt like we were back on track.  That said, this week’s theme completely eluded me for a good hour after solving the puzzle.  I thought I’d have to throw in the towel and admit I didn’t realize what was going on between the title of the puzzle (“Si Si”) and the theme clues, but then it hit me: It’s all about the Cs.  Or more importantly, removing them from the theme answers to get more well-known phrases:

  • 17A: Balls-on-a-string toy from Hollywood? – LA CLACKERS
  • 23A: Extremely stylish person who lives next door?  – CHIC NEIGHBOR
  • 38A: One who grabs purple birds? – MARTIN CLUTCHER
  • 48A: Time-honored juicy fruit? – MANGO CLASSIC
  • 59A: Attractive phallus? – PRETTY COCK

The rest of the fill in this puzzle was (like that last clue, minus its C’s) pretty okay too.  There were a few little fill things that mildly irritated me (ATA and ANO in the same puzzle, with the same fill-in-the-blank style clue?), but there was a lot to like.  The theme clues felt a little more solvable than usual – I was able to enter a few straight from the clue without needing any of the accompanying down clues.

I managed to overthink myself out of a faster time in a few areas by stubbornly holding on to the idea that an old IM client was ICQ something or other rather than good old ICHAT (20D).  For the rest of the puzzle, though, it felt like this was a solid puzzle throughout.

See some of you this weekend in Stamford!

3.5/5 stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.25.15: "Pulp Product"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.26.15: “Pulp Product”

Hey there, everyone! I know a fair number of you reading this are getting excited that the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is just one day away from officially starting, and I hope you all are enjoying your recent puzzle solving before you a) head to Stamford and compete in the tournament, b) order the puzzles and do the tournament at home, or c) sit back at home while you see/hear about what happened at the ACPT. As for today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us today by Mr. Tony Orbach, includes multiple-word theme answers in which each separate word of each theme answer could also come after the word PAPER (69A: [Pulp product…and word that can precede either part of 17-, 30-, 45-, and 62-Across]).

  • TIGER TOWEL (17A: [Thing waved by a Detroit fan?]) – Though one letter short, LION TOWEL could also work, with Paper Lion and the Lions football team located in Detroit as well.
  • AIRPLANE BAG (30A: [Carry-on or personal item?])
  • CHASE BALLOT (45A: [JPMorgan bank shareholder’s voting document?])
  • MONEY PLATE (62A: [Gathering place for tithers?])

Another puzzle, and another grid that starts with NATS (1D: [D.C. team that clipped Clippard from its roster this year]). And, in case you’re wondering, Clippard refers to relief pitcher/set-up man Tyler Clippard, who was traded to the Oakland A’s this offseason. Wasn’t too sure of myself when I entered ESCAPE POD as I was reading its clue, but it worked nonetheless (10D: [Way out in space]). Didn’t mind the short two-word entry of THE AX (4D: [Something you don’t want to get at work]). The one thing that I thought about when I saw IT’S ALIVE is Dr. Frankenstein’s exclamation, as well as that exclamation also being used as one of the beginning sounds to the song “Weird Science” in the 1980s movie of the same name (42A: [Shout on encountering a zombie, perhaps]). Mentioning that also has reminded me that the group that performed the song is called Oingo Boingo

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TURK (67A: [Istanbul native]) – Former National Football League player Matt TURK was a three-time Pro Bowl punter, who played for six different teams from 1995-2011, ending his career with the Houston Texans.

TGIF tomorrow!! Have a good rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


Frank Virzi’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 150326

LA Times

Simple theme concept with a colourful revealer: STARTERHOMEs means that theme answers’ first words fit the pattern “HOME __”. What really is astonishing though is the grid design and theme density. There are three vertical 15’s – which is already considered sufficient for a theme: ROOMTEMPERATURE, FRONTWHEELDRIVE (My Fiat Panda is a 1.2l with permanent 4WD though. She’s a bit of a freak!), and ALONEINTHEWORLD. STARTERHOME crosses two of the 15’s as does its partner JAMESMONROE (HOME JAMES!), which means FRONTWHEELDRIVE intersects three other themers: middle GAMELEG (I prefer gammy!) is also thematic. Theme density in general doesn’t necessarily offer much to the average solver, but here it results in a somewhat interesting variety of longer answers, so everyone wins.

No powerWith such a busy theme, there are inevitably some infelicities: APAR, WPA, ITHE, PIUSII, ETTE, ESSE – but they’re widespread and therefore mostly don’t grate. It’s impressive Mr. Virzi still found room for GOAWOL, GATORADE and an entire MENAGERIE!

Remarks and questions:

    • [Turtle in a 2014 film], NINJA. I know that this is referring to TMNT, but the clue still feels awkward to me. What do you think? Also, a musical interlude.
    • [Dwyane of the Miami Heat], WADE. From the Magrat Garlick school of naming.
    • [Winning football coach’s surprise], GATORADE. Huh? What on earth does that clue mean? At some point, I realised that the letter pattern was suggesting GATORADE, but I couldn’t believe for a second that was the answer!
    • [Smith students], WOMEN. I assume there is some university by that name. It sounds like only women follow the economist Adam Smith though…
    • [Top-row poet on the “Sgt. Pepper” album] for those of you who have memorised all the famous people on the cover and their positions…
    • [Patriotic gp. since 1890], DAR. Surely, given the number of generations since the AR, unless there has been major incest, most Americans are eligible?

4 Stars

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17 Responses to Thursday, March 26, 2015

  1. Martin says:


    While safe search is off, try googling gimp bdsm and you’ll add to your mini-theme.

  2. Brucenm says:

    Amy, by far, the locus classicus for incredibly tricky spin serves is WS’s favorite game.

    I thought the puzzle was great, but for me, difficult, as was yesterday’s Wed. I’m worried that that’s just me.

    • Lois says:

      No, not just you. In my opinion, yesterday’s NYT should have been a Thursday, and today’s completely redone and made into a Monday. The theme was Monday-like, but the fill was excruciating, with difficulty both in general clues and in knowledge of pop culture and sports. I was impressed when I read Amy’s explanation of the elegance of the presentation of the RINSE combination, but I still liked the puzzle less than anyone else here did.

      • Lois says:

        I liked the “hotline” clue, though (PHONE SEX). And thank you, Bruce, for the explanation of SPIN SERVE.

    • sbmanion says:

      There is little or no spin in racquetball. The points are generally scored by kill shots (balls that roll out from the front wall) or hard pass shots. There are some odd movements of the ball when it moves at very, very high speed. The ball will sometimes wobble as it moves toward you at very high speed, splat off the front wall (hit the side wall at high speed, carom to the front wall, then roll off parallel to the front wall rather than continue the path suggested by symmetry), and with incredibly hard hitters, increase in speed as it bounces as if it hit a wet spot on the floor.
      I liked the puzzle today.


  3. Avg Solvr says:

    Enjoyed the NYT. Good luck to those entering the tournament.

  4. Papa John says:

    BEQ puzzle: I simply see no reason to call someone a “shithead” in a puzzle. Does decorum no longer matter in our society? Nor do I find it at all appealing when PRETTY COCK makes it in a puzzle, let alone as one of the themers. BDSM references seem to have become di rigueur in Ben’s puzzles and today’s is no exception.

    Am I the only one who is put out by the unnecessary childishness of these kinds of tasteless entries? Yeah, Ben, we get it. You know all the nasty words and the trendy ways of talking trash. We get it.

    • Papa John says:

      Oops, I mean Brendan, of course, not Ben. (Although I hope Ben reads this, too. He’s on the same course as Brendan.)

    • jack says:

      I am a big fan of Brendan, but agree he does get a bit risqué at times.

  5. Margaret says:

    The LAT theme today isn’t my favorite type, but Home, James is pretty good and the rest of the theme answers are all solid. The dreaded APEMAN rears his ugly head again; even the “hypothetical” in the clue doesn’t salvage it for me.

  6. Mac says:

    Is BEQ’s ute/soccer reference to parents/coaches taking a bunch of kids to games? If so, don’t really think ute is the best reference. A ute is not the same as an SUV or minivan, in my jargon at least. It is more of a utility vehicle/quasi-truck.

  7. huda says:

    NYT: Loved the design, definitely appropriate for the theme. And the theme execution was lovely. The SW was worth the price of admission. I did not find it easy because of all the names and pop references. But it seemed gettable because some easy stuff was thrown into every corner to help out the pop-culturally challenged.

  8. Margaret says:

    Gareth, very often the players dump the sideline barrel of Gatorade over the coach after a win. So often, in fact, that I don’t think it’s EVER a surprise any more.

    • Gareth says:

      That seems messy… and a whole lot less classy than Formula 1 drivers dousing each other with expensive champagne!

  9. ArtLvr says:

    Gareth — Smith College in Northampton, Mass, is the largest of the women’s colleges once known as the Seven Sisters — but they do allow men from neighboring to enroll for certain courses not otherwise available to them, and credits transfer back to their own schools… Amherst College, U Mass., etc. These days several of those have become co-ed or merged with the men’s college closest to them, or closed as Sweetbriar is about to do. Smith is still going strong. At my graduation, the commencement address was given by Sen. John F Kennedy. These days it’s more likely to be an alumna like Gloria Steinem!

  10. Bencoe says:

    Amy; The verb “gimps” is used all the time by sports commentators, when a player hurts their ankle or foot and starts hobbling. They also sometimes use “gimp” as a noun–not for the person, but for the little limp itself.
    That said, I cringe every time they use it.

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