Friday, March 27, 2015

NYT 3:57 (Amy) 
LAT 5:14 (Gareth, AL) 
CS 36:44 (Ade) 
CHE 6:51 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

David Kwong’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 27 15, no 0327

NY Times crossword solution, 3 27 15, no 0327

You know how sometimes there’s a chunk of black squares in a crossword that look like Utah? Kwong’s Friday puzzle is a themed puzzle (aw, man! rip-off! I want my themeless on Friday!) with three theme entries and eight Utahs’ worth of black squares. “Eight Utahs of fun!”

  • 19a. [Temple Square group founded in 1847], TABERNACLE CHOIR.
  • 31a. [University suggested by this puzzle’s black squares], UTAH STATE.
  • 47a. [Young followers], LATTER-DAY SAINTS. The Mormons.

Now, when I see a 62-word grid, I hope to have smooth fill with a number of bright spots that entertain me. I hope not to encounter awkward fill, obscurities, or deadly crossings. I didn’t hit any deadly crossings (and actually finished in more of a Wednesday/Thursday solving time), and I did like 1d: BEATS ME and 1a: BIG MAC.

Did not know:

  • 10d. [Agatha Christie’s “Peril at ___”], END HOUSE. This is an 8-letter partial.
  • 53a. [Ray gun ray], ION BEAM. Is this science or science fiction?
  • 16a. [Quite ill, in Lille], A LA MORT. Practically dead, yeah? Tough fill.
  • 34d. [One of a group of atoms having the same number of neutrons but a different number of protons], ISOTONE. Those Isotoner gloves? They are made of exactly these sorts of atoms.
  • 49d. [Greek township], DEME. Rather obscure, though its connection to democracy is apparent.

On the down side, my solve wasn’t enhanced by the inclusion of STS, NEBO, LIN, ISS, -ITES, IS A, OAS, HOI, STINK AT and GRABS AT‘s ATs, and clunky IN LATIN.

3.25 stars from me.

Good night! I’ll see some of you in Stamford this weekend.

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Piano Finales”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.27.15: "Piano Finales"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.27.15: “Piano Finales”

Good afternoon, everybody! Here’s hoping your ACPT weekend is getting off to a good start. Speaking of ACPT, if you needed to get yourself ready for some of the devilish cluing that you will encounter during the tournament (if you are attending), then cracking this puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, is definitely good practice.  In the puzzle, each of the theme answers are nouns that are amended by adding the letter “p” at the end, creating zany answers that complete the puns started by its clues. Or, something like that.

  • SUGARLESS GUMP (20A: [Forrest without Jenny?]) – From “sugarless gum.” Was on to this pretty quickly, and thank goodness I was, so I could figure out what would be occurring with the rest of the theme answers.
  • GETAWAY CARP (36A: [Fish that can’t be caught?]) – From “getaway car.”
  • PREMIUM GASP (42A: [Reaction to a high insurance quote?]) – From “premium gas.”
  • INDIAN MANTRAP (62A: [Siouan siren?]) – From “Indian mantra.” Umm, had no chance at this answer, at least the second part of it, without crosses.

Putting a couple of common crossword entries into memory just by remembering a key word – or number- associated with it paid off a whole lot today, with LARUE (2D: [Lash with a whip]) and MENSA being the highlights of that (8D: [140 or more people?]). With those answers in, along with getting ACTUARY off the bat (9D: [Risk assessment expert]), that made ‘Sugarless Gump’ fairly easy to see, and, once that was in, knew what was going on. Not that that meant my solving time was going to be any faster, because it wasn’t. Despite that, I was pretty much on to some of the misleads, including knowing a phone (Samsung) was in question for the clue to APP (33A: [Galaxy supplement]) and knowing the Ball being referenced was Lucille Ball for ARNAZ (66A: [Ball boy]). Those answers seem inconsequential for most solvers, but they actually really helped me cracked the grid open, especially with the ‘z” in Arnaz making me see the ‘daze’ part in IN A DAZE (43D: [Foggy]). With ‘Arnaz’ and ‘in a daze’ put in, didn’t take too long to get ‘premium gasp.’ Just letting you into the mind of a solver and how he finally broke through, and I’m sure my experience will be different from others who are more adept at it.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PARIS (53D: [Place to get plastered?])Plastered in Paris? Man, that’s a tough clue!! Anyways, today’s “moment” is a family affair. Former NFL offensive lineman Bubba PARIS is a three-time Super Bowl champion while a member of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s (XIX, XXIII, XXIV). Two of his daughters, twins Courtney and Ashley, were standout basketball players at the University of Oklahoma, with Courtney becoming the first woman in NCAA history to be a four-time first-team All-America selection (2006-2009). In the 2014 WNBA season, Courtney led the league in rebounding (10.2 per game).

For those that are, or will be , in Stamford for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I wish you nothing but the best in the tournament! Also, make sure to have fun more than anything else!! It’s such a party, and there are so many great people that you’ll meet, that you can’t help but have a perpetual smile on your face!

Take care!


Donald K. Willing’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Slightly Bemused” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 3/27/15 • "Slightly Bemused" • Willing • solution

CHE • 3/27/15 • “Slightly Bemused” • Willing • solution

Kind of a piecemeal arrangement here. Three sets of circled letters travel in parallel from northwest to southwest, spelling out the names of three of Greek mythology’s nonet of muses. Corresponding to these three diagonal entities are a trio of cross-referenced answers which specify their classical associations.

  • 16a. [Bailiwick of one of the goddesses spelled out by circled letters] COMEDY.
  • 64a. [See 16 Across] POETRY.
  • 25d. [See 16 Across] HISTORY.

And the muses are, respectively,  THALIA, ERATO, and CLIO.



Two immediate observations. One, there isn’t too much theme content here. The symmetrical partner to 25d is 28d [Popular cinnamon candies] RED HOTS, which has zero to do with the theme. It’s plainly evident that to have a fourth theme pair would create symmetry—TRAGEDY, anyone?—but would ruin the symmetry (with a central figure) of the three named muses. Sure, just try figuring out how to place MELPOMENE somehow. Two, “bailiwick” is strikingly AT ODDS (8a) with theme material, as it’s so strikingly redolent of Old English and things Anglo-Saxon.

Speaking of tragedy, there’s 8d [When the soothsayer tells Caesar “Beware the ides of March”] ACT I. See also, 67a [Bluto’s rival] POPEYE.

Five more:

    • Epic poetry: 18d [Hell, in verse] THE PIT.
      Down to the pit we journey not in vain:
      So rule they where by Michael in Heaven’s height
      On the adulterous pride[296] was vengeance ta’en.
      Inferno, canto VIIDante Alighieri
    • Song and elegiac poetry: 53a [“The __ Lead” (George Banks number in “Mary Poppins”] LIFE I. Ick partial. 45a [Melody] AIR.
    • Hymns: 22d [Place of seclusion] CLOISTER.
    • Dance: 56a [More in need of a massage] ACHIER.
    • Astronomy: 48d [Gawking at] OGLING, 32a [Human or planet ender] -OID, 14a [Wonder] AWE.

Significantly more dross, frass, junk, whathaveyou, than I would have expected in a crossword with relatively minimal theme constraints.


Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Key Grips” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/27/15 • "Key Grips" • Fri • Fisher, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 3/27/15 • “Key Grips” • Fri • Fisher, Shenk • solution

No overt filmmaking aspect here, just some phonetic insertion.

  • 23a. [“The Raven,” say?] FREAKY VERSE (free verse). Don’t know if Poe is whom I’d chose to embody ‘freaky’ poetry. Maybe James Franco?
  • 25a. [Saloon frequented by frogs?] CROAKY BAR (crowbar). Lots of rain here yesterday, the frogs and toads (Order Anura not to be confused with 82a [The end of __ ] AN ERA) were out and about, hopping hither and thither.
  • 40a. [Science fair trophy, to a jock?] DORKY PRIZE (door prize). I found this.
  • 46a. [Avian mascot of a car care company?] MEINEKE BIRD (mynah bird).
  • 71a. [Sign announcing a city’s beer festival?] BREWSKI BANNER (Bruce Banner, he of Incredible Hulk fame).
  • 87a. [Recipient of a thumbs-down at a wine tasting?] CORKY SAMPLE (core sample).
  • 95a. [Photo in a toy catalog?] SLINKY SHOT (sling shot). Here the \ˈkē\ sound subsumes the velar nasal ŋ.
  • 113a. [Sci-fi weapon that turns people malodorous?] STINKY RAY (sting ray). Ditto, as above.
  • 116a. [Flow from a dropped carton?] MILKY STREAM (millstream, not to be confused with maelstrom).

Solid, reliable theme, executed well. Not too exciting, but entertaining enough.

    • klorenzFavorite clue: 121a [Met expectations?] OPERAS.
    • 64a [KFC choice]. With –REAS– in place, for quite a while I could only see GREASE. BREAST. See also 88d [Commercial fat substitute] OLESTRA. You’re welcome.
    • 123a [Resemble a hot dog] PANT; 3d [Hot dog] WIENER.
    • Don’t understand 39a [Target found in European alleys] NINE PIN. I assume a quick internet search would resolve this, but I’m not doing it this time. That’s just what you’d expect.
    • ¡Español! CENTAVO, NUEVO Laredo, ARROYO. Alas, there is no beach town in the Nutmeg State where Spanish is the predominant language, but we can pretend: 81d [Engage in make-believe] PLAY-ACT.
    • 56a [Jazz great born Herman Blount], nicknamed ‘Sonny’, then le SUN RA. Was going to refrain from posting something relevant this time, but time is at a bit of a premium and the post could use a little padding. So:


Time and space, space is the place. Apace, apace.

Jacob Stulberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 150327

LA Times

I started off not liking this theme, but it takes a while to appreciate its merits. The central question riffs off those mouldy olde waiter, waiter jokes. The question is reworded to be WHATISTHISFLY/DOINGINMYANSWER rather than soup. The answer is THEBACKSTROKE. There are two 2×9 stacks of themers in the top-left and bottom-right corners: each of these four answers has the letter sequence TANG or GNAT backwards, a Dipteran. Why a gnat? Because MIDGE, and MOSQUITO don’t go backwards nicely and about all the other taxa are of the pattern “x fly”. The entries are: BLUETANGO / COTANGENT and TANGERINE / ENTANGLED. Not especially interesting – mostly functional as theme answers go. The punchline is in the middle and takes up a lot of the real estate. The theme answers themselves seem almost an afterthought! The kicker is that the theme is 79 letters, more even than yesterday’s 69!

This extra theme space pushes things near to breaking point though. ABCDE is a non-answer. AGNUS is mostly encounterd singularly in phrases seen in English. NTS is another non-answer. It was bearable, but not exactly pretty.

Outside the theme, I did enjoy seeing a reference to Augustus GLOOP.

3.25 Stars. A pity crossword size is so fixed. This could’ve been excellent in a plus-sized grid…

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11 Responses to Friday, March 27, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I’d like input from the Francophones on this, in case I’ve forgotten my French. I can see that if you google “a la mort” there is a definition for it. But to my mind, it’s not commonly used in modern French to mean gravely ill. To check this impression, I went to Google France and searched the phrase, and there are some hits as part of other expressions– e.g. “A la vie, a la mort” or “A la mort subite” but it does not google well as a phrase– e.g. ” il est a la mort” (he is near death according to the puzzle) produces no hits. “Il est mort” or ” il est malade”, tons of hits both in English or in French Google searches. So, I find it very questionable… If I’m wrong, I apologize in advance and would be happy to be set straight.

    This slowed me down, but in many ways the puzzle did feel like a Wednesday.

    • Brucenm says:

      Huda, I wouldn’t dream of characterizing this as “setting you straight,” but your post provides a serendipitous context for a comment which I might not have bothered offering otherwise. One of my most prized possessions is a well authenticated, note on a small piece of writing paper, obtained by my father in Paris during the 1930’s, signed by one Victor Hugo.

      It begins:

      “Madame, Mon beaupere est a la mort. Je crains qu’il ne passe pas la journée.”

      (I’m sure there’s a way of getting an accent grave, as well as an aigu, but I don’t know what it is.)

      As the champion of weekend themeless puzzles, I’m being contrarian to myself, but I rather liked the Utah puzzle.

      Re deme, I’ve often observed that ski shops must be wonderfully populist devotees of ancient Greek culture , since they almost always have a sign in the window reading “demos.”

      • Huda says:

        Bruce, thank you. Yes, I have certainly read the expression in some Frech classics. Which is why I said “modern French”. I should have been clearer that I am disputing the way it’s clued as if it means it is currently in use. As far as I can tell, it’s not. I’ve never heard it said. I could imagine someone using it when being intentionally melodramatic in an old fashioned way. So, I’d say it needed some indication of its old fashioned nature…
        It must be so cool to have that letter!

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, Bruce — that’s really special! As for the accents, à and so on, they are found above letters on the keyboard and require a combo before striking the letter: I can’t always do it though! I liked the Utah puzzle — easier than expected.

  3. Bencoe says:

    Funny-yesterday I was doing the Hellaciously Hard Fireball crossword book as prep for this weekend. There is a puzzle in there which also takes advantage of the five-block “Utah” concept, except in this one you had to shade squares black to create the “Utahs” as well as create rebus squares with the word “black”.
    Given my proclivities, you can probably find me in the hotel bar this weekend when not doing crosswords. Well, not all the time…

  4. huda says:

    Good luck to all of you, the gifted and the courageous, who are participating in the weekend fun. Please report back!

  5. Margaret says:

    I liked the LAT variation on the old joke, but I didn’t love the rest of the puzzle (STOAS, EYER, ACC, EDS, ERS, NTS, ISR, YRS…) The crossing of FAX and XIAN might be legit, but still seemed a little iffy. I’d have liked some disclaimer on the “mountain sighting” clue for YETI (they are as fictional as the dreaded apeman.) And I messed up from the very beginning, entering I DID IT instead of IT WAS I.

    • Papa John says:

      What’s the old joke?

      • Margaret says:

        “Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?” “It appears to be the backstroke, sir.”

        • Papa John says:

          I mixed up the CHE with theLAT, so I didn’t know what you were talking about. I haven’t yet done the LAT because it isn’t available in Across Lite, at this time. I notified both Kevin and Amy about it.

  6. Bob says:

    Again I’m so sorry that I have lived such a sheltered life for seven decades that I never heard a “rattletrap” called a “beater”. Where do they invent these words????

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