Wednesday, April 22, 2015

AV Club 7:10* (Amy) 
NYT 3:46 (Amy) 
LAT 3:44 (Gareth) 
CS 8:00 (Ade) 

Alex Vratsanos and Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 22 15, no 0422

NY Times crossword solution, 4 22 15, no 0422

This puzzle’s got five theme answers in which each word can precede the word “card” to make a new word or phrase. I generally find such themes dull, as the theme answers are clued straightforwardly and without whimsy.

  • 20a. [Equifax offering], CREDIT REPORT.
  • 24a. [Three-ring binder user’s gadget], HOLE PUNCH.
  • 30a. [Some childish insults], NAME CALLING.
  • 41a. [Place to deal in fur, once], TRADING POST.
  • 52a. [Arcade achievement], HIGH SCORE.
  • And here’s the revealer: 56a. [Some poker holdings … or a hint to 20-, 24-, 30-, 41- and 52-Across] are PAIRS OF CARDS, which I’ve only ever heard called “pairs,” just “pairs.” Not “pairs of cards,” no.

Among the livelier fill, we have a VIP ROOM, THE COPA, SMASH-UP, an EYE-ROLL, and cute baseball nickname BIG PAPI.

Dry spots: 44d. [Navigable in winter, say], ICE-FREE—probably you’re playing those PAIRS OF CARDS in that poker match at the other end of that ICE-FREE road. (Does anybody say this?) Also ACEY, TOPE, UNPEGS, ELOI, and 13d. [Kyrgyzstan city], OSH. Now, Sam’s been publishing a new crossword pretty much every week lately, so I’m betting his grid-filling skills have leaped beyond what’s on display here. Older puzzle submission, Sam?

Odd clue choice for AMY: 62d. [TV title judge]. Judging Amy’s sixth and final season ended a decade ago, and there have been other TV judges in the interim, and other AMYs of note.

3.4 stars from me.

Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Glossy Towers”

AV Club crossword solution, 4 22 15 "Glossy Towers"

AV Club crossword solution, 4 22 15 “Glossy Towers”

Okay, I have to dock some points for having to Google a dumb baseball abbreviation. When 58d is either ALE or IPA, and 59d is either EYE or SEE, then you really need to know what 57d. [Positions labeled as 7s, on MLB scorecards] is in order to fill in that corner of [Run] synonyms. LFS, left-fielders? Fine. No way in hell did I know that without Googling it. Baseball-nerd hegemony sucks. LAST, FLEE, and SEEP are all different senses of “run.”

Each corner has a stack of short answers with the same vague one-word clue with a multitude of possible meanings. 1a, 14a, and 17a are three [Take]s: PINCH, as in steal; GUIDE, as in escort/lead; and ADMIT, as in let in. The upper right corner has [Break] for 10a SHOT (as in your big opportunity), 16a TAME (as in break a wild animal), and 19a REST (as in a lull). The last letter I filled in was the H in SHOT, as I was reading 11d. [Own, in Scotland] as the adjective AIN rather than the verb “to possess” or HAE. Feh.

62a, 69a, and 72a are [Set] synonyms: PLACE the verb or noun, ARRAY the noun, and SCENE the noun. All sort of related, these three—no “collection,” no “ready,” no setting a hairstyle old-school.

The theme is rounded out by 39a. [What words that are fun to clue in crosswords usually have … and what appear in each of this puzzle’s four corners], LAYERS OF MEANING, and 7d. [What words that are fun to clue in crosswords usually have more than one of], CLEAR DEFINITION. I like the concept, but if baseball terminology was going to anchor one corner, it would have been nice for the ALE and SEE clues to be less ambiguous, and for the Scottish “own” to have been the Scottish “possess.” Felt a tad unfair/frustrating as is.

The fill’s got some bright sports (SCHLEP, BIRYANI, ST. BERNARD, DICAPRIO) but also some blahs (ULNA TOR ASEA NIM CDI OLOF PAKI CLE SER). 3.75 stars from me.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Two-Tone Toons”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.22.15: "Two-Tone Toons"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.22.15: “Two-Tone Toons”

Happy Hump Day, everyone! I hope all is well with you. Today’s crossword puzzle is a little bit of toon trivia, as Mr. Patrick Jordan gives us some interesting tidbits on cartoon characters who happen to be black-and-white in color. Sadly for Sylvester the Cat, he didn’t make the cut in this puzzle. Maybe it was because of the red nose that he sports, despite being black and white everywhere else.

  • PEPE LE PEW (17A: [Black-and-white toon whose shorts include “Heaven Scent”]) – Isn’t Pepe Le Pew a dreamboat?!?
  • MR. PEABODY (63A: [Black-and-white history-hopping toon])
  • FELIX THE CAT (10D: [Black-and-white toon whose prototype was called “Master Tom”])
  • KUNG FU PANDA (25D: [Black-and-white Dreamworks title toon whose real name is Po])

If you thought the cartoon characters stopped with the theme answers, Mr. Jordan started the crossword with a famous cartoon character, DOPEY (1D: [Ear-wiggling Disney dwarf]). Almost adjacent to that, there’s JAPAN, famous for its brand of anime also (3D: [“Seven Samurai” setting]). And to finish the cartoon homages, there’s AYE and its clue (7D: [Popeye’s “precisely”]). As much as I’ve started to fall in love with dogs in the past couple of years, I couldn’t deal with the SHEDDING and having to tend to that on, for example, a weekly basis (5D: [Pet problem that may prompt increased vacuuming]). To be honest, I haven’t watched many of Woody Allen’s movies at all despite many chances to do so, so maybe someone can tell me if ZELIG is worth a gander (16A: [1983 Woody Allen mockumentary]). Finally, I would like to give a shout out to my amazing friend, Kristen, who now is working at PRADA here in New York, and at a high-end position with the company (66A: [Pricey handbag maker]). Fancy, Kristen…very fancy indeed! (That’s an inside joke.)

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BORG (39A: [Björn who once served on courts]) – Who was the first tennis player to earn more than one million dollars in prize money in a single season in the sport of tennis? That would be Björn Borg, who accomplished that feat in 1979. Borg won 11 career Grand Slam titles – six at the French Open and five at Wimbledon – but, interestingly enough, lost all four times he reached the U.S. Open final. In 1976 and 1978, he lost the final to Jimmy Connors, and in 1980 and 1981, he lost to John McEnroe. Because of the intense pressure piled upon him due to his early success (won his first Grand Slam title, the 1974 French Open, at 18) and worldwide popularity and endorsement deals, he retired from the sport at the ripe old age of…26.

Thank you for your time once again, and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!


Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150422

LA Times

GETCRACKING is a superb phrase to build a puzzle around. In this case, the first answers all start with things that can be cracked: EGGs and NUTs are cracked open. CRACKing a window is opening it slightly. CRACKing a book is used in certain specific phrases, usually in the negative, to mean opening a book to read it. Do people use this independently of said phrases? Other angles not explored: a bottle (link to Eminem deliberately not supplied), a joke, a smile, a code, a safe, a game, a rib, a whip. There was room for a little more variety, but hey, the answers generated from the existing list make for an excellent set: EGGDROPSOUP, NUTALLERGY, BOOKEMDANNO, WINDOWSHOP.

Central 11’s create grid design challenges. We’ve mentioned that before. Here, the solution used is 3 heavy, somewhat constricted design. This allows for a grid that’s under control, but lacks the typical two or three flashy longer non-theme answers. There are many six-letter (and two seven) entries, and answers like IDOIDO, DENADA and DREIDEL are nice answers which also have useful letter patterns!

46502215More subtle touches: ADDLE crosses EGGDROPSOUP and [One working in a studio], PAINTER crosses [One living in a studio], TENANT. [Milk source], TEAT appears to be a trap: I dropped in GOAT natch. [Table salt additive], IODIDE – most of us will have put IODInE first, yes? Potassium IODIDE (KI) is the specific IODIDE added to table salt (NaCl) – both are examples of halides.

Other remarks:

  • [Like a ballerina], FLUID. True, while not having a particular mental association, for me at least.
  • [Faddish ’90s disc], POG. Until I looked it up, I believed these to be US-only. Not so, only they were TAZOs here and found in chip packets.
  • [Punk rock subgenre], EMO. Classic pop song, labelled emo, the message of which seems to be “don’t be emo”.

3.75 Stars

Oh wait, I though the theme was familiar. Turns out I did it on July 23 2013 also in the LA Times. The revealer was more banal, and my choices were joke, smile, safe and case. This seems dreadfully forced, but I really didn’t realise I had done the theme until after blogging the puzzle, other than a vague sense of deja vu, but that’s not unusual in crossword themes.

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19 Responses to Wednesday, April 22, 2015

  1. Evan says:

    Quick correction, Amy: it’s a puzzle by Sam and Alex Vratsanos.

    • Sam Ezersky says:

      Evan beat me to the punch, with even more of a correction: my name goes second to Alex’s! He totally took the lead on this effort, and deserves waaay more credit than I do. I hope you all enjoyed nonetheless!

  2. Ethan says:

    So I’m looking at the finished puzzle grid, shaking my head in awe at five themers plus a revealer plus juicy 7-letter words everywhere you look, wondering why I even bother trying to construct when other people are making grids this elegant. Then I come here and read “Older puzzle submission, Sam?”

    I figure someone from Osh must have keyed Amy’s car once. That explains it.

    • Martin says:

      I’m back from a long wedding weekend in LA and in a good mood so I really hope that you don’t take this as ice-shaming, Amy, but “navigable” refers to rivers, harbors, ports, etc. I agree an “ice-free road” is not much of a thing, but Russia’s historic quest for an ice-free harbor most certainly makes that a thing.

      • sbmanion says:


        Many years ago, my company was building a racetrack in Wisconsin. Among other things that held us up from completing construction was that there was quite literally a ditch along the major highway that passed in front of our track. We had to establish that it was not a “navigable stream.”


      • Papa John says:

        Ice-free: “Does anybody say this?”

        From Bing search suggestions:
        ice-free arctic
        ice free corridor
        ice-free port
        ice-free technologies skyscraper
        ice-free windshield
        ice-free stair treads

  3. dook says:

    What’s a “hole card”?

    • janie says:

      in poker (in a game like texas hold ’em), hole cards are the ones that are dealt face down in front of the players. an “ace in the hole” is that ace you’re dealt (unseen or -shared with others at the table) that may help you win the hand.

      (guess who just learned how to play texas hold ’em?…..)


      • sbmanion says:


        Come to Phoenix and I will take you to the poker room at Casino Arizona.

        My games are Omaha Hi/Lo, Omaha, and Eight or better stud, a seven card stud hi/lo game in which you must have an eight low or better ( five unmatched cards with no card higher than an 8 (ace is low)) to qualify for lo. If there is no lo, the high hand wins. I played it in the World Series of Poker one year and suffered a term that you will become very familiar with if you play a lot or even a little poker: a BAD BEAT.

        I love the lingo of poker. Many interesting terms come from stud variations:

        DOOR CARD: In seven card stud, you get two down and one up to start. Your initial up card is called the Door Card.

        ROLLED UP. Once in a blue moon, your initial three cards are all the same, say three aces. That is referred to as ROLLED UP. If you are dealt POCKET ACES (two aces down to start the hand, which can occur in hold ’em as well as the various stud games) and you catch a third ace on the RIVER (the last card), you would be ROLLED DOWN.

        THE NUTS: The nuts is an unbeatable hand in any poker game. In Omaha hi/lo, it is possible to have NUT NUT, the best hi and the best lo–this is my favorite term.


    • Martin from Charlottesville says:

      Certain cards, and card combinations have been turned into colorful language. This page, , describes some Texas Hold ‘Em slang and shows images of the cards and card combinations, making it easier to “get” the nickname.

      There are multiple nicknames for many of the cards, and the names can change based on the play of the hand, e.g., a queen is a “lady” if it as winner and a “hooker” if it is a loser.

      King = King Kong or Ace Magnet
      Pair of nines = German virgins
      Three – nine = Jack Benny (who always “claimed” he was 39)

      Poker Quiz — can you name the pair of cards (two of the same card) from the title? Answers at the web site listed earlier.
      1. Piano keys
      2. Barbara Feldman

      And one last (and harder) question for two cards that are not a pair.
      The answer is both following and backwards.
      3. Flat tire

      The answer is Jeopardy-ish:

      ?ruof kcaj a si tahW

      • sbmanion says:


        I think you meant Feldon, who was agent 99.

        A lot of the poker hands are guessable by even non-poker players. AK is called Anna Kournikova because it looks great, but never wins.

        Others are named after famous poker players who held a particular combination (usually a marginal or even terrible starting hand) that enabled them to win the main event at the World Series.

        A little know player named Robert Varkonyi won while repeatedly playing Q-10, which is normally a marginal hand. That combo is now called Varkonyi or Robert Varkonyi.

        There is no more mystical combo than 10-2, an unplayable hand, which Doyle Brunson held not once, but in back to back years, on the final hand of the tournament. That combination is now named after him as Doyle Brunson or sometimes Texas Dolly. Here is the story:


  4. David L says:

    Who would have thought there are two MLB cities that can be abbreviated by Greek letters? I wondered what an ACP might be but figured it must be some novel (and inexpensive) thing familiar to the young people of today…

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Revealer the only weak spot in an otherwise excellent theme. I’d say the compromises were most likely because of the degree of theme-answer stacking. The effet is somewhat ameliorated by some good longer stuff though.

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