Saturday, April 4, 2015

Newsday 8:37 (Amy) 
LAT 6:29 (Amy) 
NYT 6:28 (Amy) 
CS 12:46 (Ade) 

Ned White’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 4 15, no 0404

NY Times crossword solution, 4 4 15, no 0404

Not at all in a blogging mood—it’s more of an “enjoy margaritas and TV prank shows” kind of evening. So we’ll continue with sentence fragments.

Fave fill: BACK SLAPS and CHEST BUMP, almost a mini-theme. OVERDID IT (though KNEW could have been clued without the “it” close above in thegrid). PING-PONG and a DEEP FUNK. Sleeping IN THE NUDE. PLAY FOOTSIE, and “KISS MY GRITS!” from Flo from Alice. Also like a little restaurantish GARNI.

Didn’t care for: I CAME, plural/foreign/abbrev SRAS, plural PSIS, plural crosswordese OLIOS, A-ONE without a numeral, partial A VIEW, crosswordese ALOP, unfamiliar KO PUNCH (I don’t care for boxing and haven’t heard this phrase), Latin crosswordese IDEM, crosswordese GEST and NEAP.

Did not know:

  • 37a. [2003 top 5 hit for Fabolous], “INTO YOU.”
  • 5d. [’60s strikers], SDS. … Wait, Students for a Democratic Society? They went on strike? I think my dad was a member at some point but “strikers” isn’t resonating.
  • 46d. [Ibsen play parodying an opera], NORMA. Ibsen wrote an opera parody?

51d. [Remains on a mantel, maybe], ASHES. I just read a terrific essay by a Chicago writer and blogger named Samantha Irby. She’s on a road trip now to find a place down south to spread her dad’s ashes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll swear along with Sam. Dammit, I like her writing so much, I’m actually using complete sentences by now.

3.75 stars.

John Lieb’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 4 4 15

LA Times crossword solution, 4 4 15

I tell you, my fingers were not cooperating with the keyboard this morning. I typed that A in PAST TENSE—but the first two times it appeared as a neighboring letter. Unsurprising that I had TERRW/PAST TWNSE till the end.


  • STAR TREK and CSI franchises clued as such.
  • 15a. [White Sox nickname, with “the”], PALE HOSE. Needed a lot of crossings! Not the commonest nickname to this Chicagoan! But then, I live in Cubs territory. The Wrigley Field construction has been obstructing neighborhood traffic since October and they’re still nowhere near done with the renovations, despite the opener being tomorrow. Tsk.
  • 54a. [“Been there, done that”], “NOT MY FIRST RODEO.” Love this!
  • 27d. [1927 Buster Keaton film], THE GENERAL. See? I don’t hate all old pop culture references. The canonical stuff is fine.

Never heard of: 28d. [Wet blanket, in modern lingo], FUN SPONGE.

Seven more things:

  • Do ANIMAL SIDEKICKS and ANIMATORS feel like they’re duplicating a word root to you?
  • 34a. [Sam Samudio’s spoken opening in “Wooly Bully”], “UNO, DOS.” No idea.
  • 57a. [“Brighton Rock” author], GREENE. Graham, I presume? Yes. Needed all the crossings, as I did to piece together UNO DOS.
  • Crossing baseball’s MIKE TROUT and football’s Ronnie LOTT at a T: Fair game or a little tough for non-sports fans to nail down?
  • 18d. [His epitaph includes “knight” and “man of letters”], DOYLE. All crossings here. The first Doyle I thought of was the fictional Popeye Doyle. It’s Arthur Conan Doyle. Tough clue for a familiar writer.
  • 38d. [“Same here”], AS AM I. This is like those “playground retort” clues, so nonspecific that you need lots of crossings to put the words together. Could be DITTO or ME TOO (if only!), but usually it’s some iteration of AS AM I, AS DO I, SO AM I, or SO DO I. (I DO TOO is the commonest 6-letter variant.) I had the first A so I filled in AS**I and waited for the crossings on the rest.
  • 10d. [Tip in Vegas], TOKE. I checked two dictionaries and both had only the “puff of a marijuana cigarette” definition. (I filled in TOUT first.) I get that the LA Times may prefer to avoid illegal (in many but not all states!) drug references, but it’s a bit of a curveball to go this “tip in Vegas” route. As pot becomes legal in more jurisdictions, perhaps the crossword standards and practices folks will loosen their strictures?

Unfresh fill: EYERS, plural HEYS, AA CELL (maybe you guys refer to batteries that way, but I never really hear people use the “cell” part), FAC, GTE, plural foreign NEINS, suffix -OTA, DELE, MEA, ESS, plural abbrev LTRS.

3.33 stars from me.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 4 4 15, "Saturday Stumper"

Newsday crossword solution, 4 4 15, “Saturday Stumper”

I’ve known Brad Wilber for several years and we’re Facebook friends so we see what sort of things capture our respective fancies. You’d think that this would give me an edge in solving his puzzles, but I still didn’t catch on where he had opera and tennis references! 5d. [Mag with an annual ”Diva Issue”] is OPERA NEWS and not about pop divas, and yet I needed so many crossings. For 29d. [They eschew the net], I assumed the answer was some sort of fishing terminology instead of tennis BASELINERS. Dang it! Duped.

This puzzle’s got little surprises in clue/answer combos, with less common uses of words hinted at in the clues. PISTOLS are [Energetic types], for example, not handguns. Standard Stumper tactic.

Ten things:

  • The anchoring 13s, PATERFAMILIAS and FLOAT ONE’S BOAT, are terrific.
  • 31a. [Certain Alaskan letter carrier], SEAPLANE. I started with SLED ****. D’oh!
  • 38a. [Maculate], STAINED. The opposites are immaculate and unstained.
  • 45a. [Initial name on the cover of ”A Life of Flight”], NEIL. Nah, this is bogus. The title is Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight. You don’t refer to a book by just its subtitle. The title is Neil Armstrong and A Life of Flight is secondary.
  • 51a. [__ d’Italia (prestigious bike race)], GIRO / 42d. [Admonitory computer acronym], GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t know the acronym or your cycling events, you’re SOL here.
  • 61a. [”Turn left at Greenland” is how Ringo ”found” it], AMERICA. Ha!
  • 63a. [Pro at home in the Golden Triangle], STEELER. My first thought after working the crossings (wanted IRA instead of AMT, alternative minimum tax and not “amount,” for 59d. [The IRS releases its exemption levels annually] and that T was my final letter in the grid) was that this referred to the steel industry in Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle of opium production. Have never, ever heard of Pittsburgh’s downtown called the Golden Triangle; neither has my sports-fan husband.
  • 3d. [Engineer born in 2222], SCOTTY, from Star Trek. I was pondering the Jewish calendar, a possible ancient Egyptian calendar, and any famous engineers of the Old Testament or ancient Egypt. D’oh!
  • 50d. [Added restriction on some vegan recipes], NO OIL. I have no idea why “vegan” is in this clue. You can certainly make non-vegan food without oil. Here are some oil-free cookies made with non-vegan eggs.
  • A bit more crosswordese-leaning fill than we usually see in Stumpers—ELBE, ASTI, ADEN, TSAR, letter ENS, INRI.

Mostly, this puzzle floated my boat. Four stars despite the clunkier stuff I just listed.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Connecting Rods”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.04.15: "Connecting Rods"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.04.15: “Connecting Rods”

Good morning, everybody! Welcome to the weekend, and hope you’re having a good start to it so far. Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, whom I had the privilege of meeting at the ACPT this past weekend – even if it was for a few seconds while he was handing a puzzle to me. In today’s grid, each of the four theme answers (two across, two down) are multiple-word entries in which the word “rod’ spans the two words.

  • GIRO D’ITALIA (20A: [European Grand Tours cycling event]) – A pretty tough clue that was a cinch for me.
  • ZERO DEFECTS (60A: [Error-free performance goal])
  • POKER ODDS (11D: [Chances of success at Texas Hold ‘Em]) – Haven’t played Hold ‘Em in a long while. Maybe because I don’t like losing money.
  • LAMAR ODOM (34D: [Former Laker who married Khloé Kardashian])

You can make an argument that three of the four theme entries are sports related, if you consider poker a sport. (Even if you don’t consider it a sport, you see it a lot of ESPN and other sports channels.) This was a fairly challenging puzzle, with a lot of names at the Northeast that could trip people up, including MUFASA (9D: [Simba’s father in “The Lion King”]) and SERT (13D: [Spanish muralist José María]). Making things possibly tougher up there was that both of those entries intersected FAKIR, which, if not familiar with the world, will leave you just guessing at letters to fill in to make it right (19A: [Muslim mystic]). About 10-15 years ago, there was a football player in the NFL named Fakhir Brown (not spelled the same as the mystic), but remember my father talking to me about his first name. Good thing I didn’t forget that. Love the misled to the clue for BADGE with the reference to the sergeant on Dragnet (1D: [Friday’s credential]). Got CADIZ pretty easily because the soccer team in the area once played in the top division in Spain, La Liga (62A: [Andalusian port]). Easily could have made that the “sports…smarter” clue, but passed on that and went with…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NOKIA (52D: [Telecommunications giant]) – Between 1996 and 2006, NOKIA was the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl, a college football bowl game that takes place in early January at the end of each college football season. Currently, the game is sponsored by Allstate Insurance.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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37 Responses to Saturday, April 4, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    NEAP tides occur twice a month. If some people don’t know about them, they’re not complicated, and are worth learning about.

    Sorry if I sound grumpy, but do we really want a Dick and Jane vocabulary lightly seasoned with the odd rap star to raise the cool factor of the NYT puzzles?

    (FYI: I have no objection to rap stars in general)


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You realize that billions of people on the planet don’t live near the ocean and thus don’t give a rat’s patootie about the tides for the most part? I see the word only in crosswords, personally.

      • Martin says:

        That’s a bit weird way to look at vocabulary. I’m sorry for the billions who don’t get to read a tide table and go clamming — which is a hell of a lot of fun — but most of them probably read Chinese anyway and wouldn’t be expected to know about neap tides by their English name.

        But even if we limit the discussion to the intended audience (Americans) do we really want to localize vocabulary to that extent? NAVYPIER appeared recently. Would you be comfortable with me saying I don’t give a rat’s patootie for a Chicago site? I wouldn’t say that, though, because learning about new places and words is a real plus for me about crosswords. Yes, NAVYPIER doesn’t appear as often as NEAP, but that’s irrelevant to the “I don’t live in Chicago/near the ocean” argument.

        You really should take a vacation on a coast and try clam digging at least once. Just you and a mollusk in a battle of wits. Do yourself a favor and time it for a spring low tide.

      • Gareth says:

        I can find neap and spring tides explained in my Grade 6 science textbook. It’s an American textbook, because I was homeschooled from an American syllabus.

        • Matt says:

          None of which means NEAP is not crosswordese. I’m pretty sure I learned about neap tides from crosswords– and that was a loooong time ago. One can argue that oldies are goodies, and I have some sympathy for that line of reasoning, but NEAP has been around since that meteorite did a number on the dinosaurs.

    • 7d5a9b1 says:

      So NEAPS are actual tides–and ERNES are actual birds, and EPEES are actual swords, and so what? Isn’t the objection against crosswordese not so much that it’s obscure, as that it’s stale?

  2. pannonica says:

    I’ll take NEAPS over PEEPS any day of the week, or the year. But then again I grew up at the beach.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “Marshmallow” Peeps are disgusting but I would still eat them before I would eat clams.

      We have beaches in Chicago too, but though Lake Michigan is huge, we don’t have much tidal action.

  3. pannonica says:

    PSA: Today the blog will only be accepting NEAP-related comments.

  4. pannonica says:

    LAT: 34a. [Sam Samudio’s spoken opening in “Wooly Bully”], “UNO, DOS.” No idea.

    Probably my favorite count-off in all of pop music. “Uno, dos… One, two, tres, cuatro!” The song, of course, is all about reading onshore navigational charts.

  5. Steve Price says:

    re: Amy’s questioning SDS students striking, this Wikipedia entry mentions several…

    • sbmanion says:

      In the first semester of my junior year (1969-70), I got a serious case of mono and lost 19 pounds in four days. Fortunately for me, in the second semester, students at many colleges went on strike because we invaded Cambodia. The strike was fueled by the SDS faction. I say lucky because we had a choice to elect to accept a pass in all our courses and could go home. I was on the brink of having to drop out because of my illness, but elected to accept the pass in all my courses.

      I thought the puzzle was hard. NEAP did not bother me at all.

      Clam bars were huge in Buffalo and one of my greatest accomplishments was to learn to shuck them quickly.


    • Papa John says:

      Thanks, Steve. My memory of SDS is the strikes they called that shut down classes. As an older student, I was ticked off about it because I wanted those classes and I paid for them. In hind sight, I see the bigger picture, but not at the time. Had those missed classes been rescheduled, it might not have been so bad.

      Along those same lines, I once had an 8:00 class that had a string of late-comers, so the teacher took a vote to have the class begin an hour later, to accommodate the stragglers. I was the only one who didn’t vote, but the rest all voted for the later start time. As soon as the class ended, I saw the department head and he had the original time reinstated. Over the extent of the class, I would have been deprived of some thirteen hours of instruction. As above, I paid for those hours and I wanted them.

      • sbmanion says:


        I suppose every generation is different than the previous one, but I believe that the greatest fundamental difference ever exists between those close to my age (66) and those just 6 or 7 years older. Think of your perspective on accepting what your country says to do, the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali, civil rights, free love and drugs, all of which enjoyed a sea change in just a few years, not necessarily for the better, but oh so different.


        • CoffeeLover says:

          I so agree. I am 62 and my older cousins were (and mostly are) completely on the other side of the fence from those close to me in age. I try not to engage them in debate, but they like to bait me.

          On another note: got a lot of help from my son with the Newsday grid since his BSN from Johns Hopkins let me guess 16a as NURSING off only the N.

  6. pannonica says:

    LAT: 51a [Taxonomic suffix] -OTA. Am curious to know the rationale and/or examples behind this one. Seems more than a bit random.

  7. Martin says:

    Don’t miss the photo piece at Wordplay called The Humans of ACPT. The last shot, of Amy, Jeff Chen and Deb Amlen, is one for the ages.

  8. Joshua Kosman says:

    Not sure how there can be so much NEAPtalk and nothing about the NYT puzzle’s fundamental flaw: A grid that’s almost completely bifurcated. Seriously, two regions connected by just two squares, one of them a useless final S? I did the top puzzle, freshened my coffee and then started all over on the bottom half.

    Connectedness is one of those rules (unlike, say, symmetry) that isn’t just an arbitrary diktat — violating it materially affects the solver’s experience. I say feh.

    • Bencoe says:

      Often, part of what makes Saturday puzzles difficult is the lack of connectivity in the grid. It’s more acceptable on Saturdays than any other day.

    • Amen to your comment, Joshua. This is among the subtler principles for crossword construction, and one picked up mostly by bitter experience. There is an even stronger variation of the rule, viz. whenever a grids becomes bifurcated after blackening the square that is dead center, this tends to be summary grounds for rejection.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    I loved the Stumper with its PATER FAMILIAS, – save for ASKANT. Maybe it’s in some dictionary, but I’d look at it askance… As for NEAP, I highly recommend Jane Langton’s “Dark Nantucket Noon” to mystery fans: extra fun from this author are her pen-and-ink sketches, and here you get a great diagram of sun/moon/earth positions at spring & neap tides.

  10. Martin says:

    “NEAP-gate” 2015:

    … you read it here first folks.


  11. Martin from Charlottesville Va says:


    I’m with you on the clams and the clamming. Also, opening the clams is cruel.

    Your comment on “neap” brought a question to mind — “Would ‘rat’s patootie’ make
    it into the NY Times CW, or onto a puzzle at the ACPT?”

    Patootie was not in my Websters College Dictionary, 3rd ed. I looked up “patootie” online
    and found that it had a second definition, and that the pronunciation did not
    match the spelling.


    Syllabification: pa·too·tie
    Pronunciation: /pəˈto͞odē/
    Definition of patootie in English:
    noun (plural patooties)

    North American informal
    1 dated A girlfriend or a pretty girl.

    2 derogatory A person’s or animal’s buttocks.

    1920s: perhaps an alteration of potato.

    Martin, Charlottesville Va

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      That “derogatory” tag slays me! Making derogatory remarks about a rat’s buttocks? I’m having trouble envisioning the nonderogatory remarks about a rat’s ass. “Mm, mm, mmm! That rat has got some fiiiine buttocks.”

      Thanks for your support for the poor clams.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Sometimes a slang term seems to be generational vs. regional — As a child growing up in the Chicago area, a person’s rear end was called “bottom”. However my daughter, long settled in Chicago, refers to her daughter’s bottom as “boody” (which I dislike but never say so).
        Looking it up, I think I’m right. It seems to be a more sexual slang term that involves shaking hips and buttocks! Egads. At least it’s not patootie…

      • ruth says:

        “it’s more of an “enjoy margaritas and TV prank shows” kind of evening”

        I love it when Amy is drinking margaritas!!!!!!

  12. Bob says:

    H-m-m-m! Can’t remember ever hearing “not my first rodeo” meaning anything outside of riding a horse. Where have I been all my sheltered life?

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