Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NYT 4:10 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 4:42 (Derek) 
LAT 4:20 (Derek) 
CS 7:55 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Exciting news in Fiendtown! Please join me in welcoming Derek Allen to Team Fiend. Derek wrote an NYT crossword that ran back in 1997 (with a fun homophone theme: DO THE RIGHT THING, DA DOO RON RON, MOUNTAIN DEW, and POSTAGE DUE STAMP—when do you ever get Spike Lee and Shaun Cassidy in the same thought?), he’s a member of the National Puzzlers’ League, and he is an aficionado of fine frozen desserts. He’ll be blogging some puzzles here. Welcome, Derek! Thanks for joining the team.

Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 12 15, no 0512

NY Times crossword solution, 5 12 15, no 0512

In American English, an elastic band is for your hair and rubber bands are office supplies, no? This theme clues ELASTIC BAND as 56a. [Office item suggested visually by this puzzle], and the theme answers have B, A, N, D closed up (in circled squares) within URBAN DESIGN, stretched out in HARE-BRAINED IDEA, stretched still further in BROAD-MINDED, and then there’s a SNAP back to the original size in WHIPPERSNAPPERS. Cute idea, but I wish 56a had been RUBBER BANDS instead.

11d: SWINDLED is fine fill indeed, but there were also some roll-your-own words (AIRER, REEARN) and bits of crosswordese that could challenge a newer Tuesday solver (ASTI crossing ASSAI, ECLAT, PISAN, RAH, ELD plus OLDE).

Foreign vocab of the day:

  • 4a. [House smaller than a villa], CASITA. Small casa, I assume. Haven’t seen the diminutive before. (Technically, it’s in the English dictionary, but the word’s mainly used in the Southwest.)
  • 64a. [City NW of München], KÖLN. That’s Cologne.
  • 52d. [“Bonne ___!” (cry on le premier janvier)], ANNÉE.

Gender essentialism of the day: 54a. [Dress-up item for a little girl], TIARA. Give a little boy access to a trunk of dress-up clothes that includes a tiara, and there’s a good chance he’ll try it on. Sparkly! Regal!

3.25 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 206), “Bottom Rounds”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 5/12 (No. 206)

Crossword Nation 5/12 (No. 206)

So this was one of those puzzles that I solved without knowing the title beforehand. I was, of course, struck by the fact that each of the five themers runs vertically, and that each phrase ends with a word that represents something round. My guess at the title (even though this isn’t really an “in the language” phrase) was “Down and Around.” Nupe. As we see from the title of this post, it’s “Bottom Rounds”—which isn’t really an “in the language” phrase either. At least not according to these folks. But let’s allow our constructor a bit of poetic license, shall we? For the record, “bottom round” is a cut of beef (that can be, but isn’t typically used in the plural); “bottom rounds” is a cruciverbal theme set that includes these guys:

  • xxrings013D. BLU-RAY DISC [You might watch “Game of Thrones” on it]. If you haven’t watched it on HBO or on your TV. Hands up if you had trouble seeing past BLUR and wondered how in the world this answer was going to play out. (I take this kind of confusion as a plus, by the way).
  • 5D. ENGAGEMENT RING [ Pre-wedding gift]. What’s the protocol with same-sex couples? One engagement ring or two? Or is this a couple-to-couple choice depending on who popped the question (if that’s even how the decision to marry was arrived at…)?
  • 7D. ANTARCTIC CIRCLE [Imaginary map line that’s parallel to the Equator]. Grid-spanner!
  • 15D. BASKETBALL HOOP [Shooter’s target]. One that requires AIM, which is also an [Archer’s skill].
  • 29D. WINTER TIRE [Seasonal spare]. Better known as (but gaining ground on) the “snow tire.”

Solid theme set whose vertical presentation adds another layer to the solid construction as a whole. Four nine-letter entries (presented in paired stacks) bolster this one, too—and each is strong in its own right. There’s almost a drug mini-theme going on (prescription, illegal and non-prescription) with the ostensibly clinical, dryish [ACE] INHIBITOR [drug that treats hypertension], NARCS [They deal with drug problems] and OTC [Like many cough medicines].

Livelier all on their own are STOP-AND-GO, ALIEN RACE and BOND GIRLS. Anyone else scratchin’ their head in response to [Long-distance callers?] as the clue for alien race? I’m guessing this is an ET reference (as in “E.T., phone home…”), but it feels like a long distance way to go for this particular answer. I was faaaar happier with Ian Fleming’s fabulously named [Honey Ryder and Kissy Suzuki] cluing Bond girls. S’pose he took a lesson from the Charles Dickens playbook of character-naming?

Oh—and on the subject of clues, three cheers for the saucy [House keeper?] for MADAM, the “classic history” [One-horse town?] for TROY (one wooden-horse town, i.e.), and the homophonic [Feet of Klee?] for ART. Smartly done, all the way around.

Other likes (in no particular order): proximate references to both The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, by way of ENT and ASLAN (am glad the former appeared at the opposite end of the grid from TREE but am also kind of wishing they’d been joined by cross-referenced cluing…); the double-play playfulness of STUNT and [Cheap trick] with ANTIC and [Escapade]; and FRESH clued by way of the echo-y [Start starter]. I’d originally wanted to enter STOP-START where STOP-AND-GO lives, so I was pleased to finally encounter “start” in the puzz.

Final fave? The unlikely crossword regular CREE, that [Canadian Indian tribe]. Why? It just closed this past weekend, but the Met Museum presented an extraordinarily moving and beautifully curated exhibit of artifacts from the Plains Indians. Fortunately, I got there on Friday. This link will give you more than an inkling of the exhibit’s power and scope. Gave me a whole new respect for this particular example of so-called “common fill”…

Am hoping the solving experience led to fresh re-considerations of your world, too!

[Feat of Klee?]

[Feat of Klee?] (Feats of Klee…)

Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.14.05 PMTuesday’s LAT is by Bruce Haight, and is explained by the clue at 39A – [Word that can follow the starts of 17-, 26-, 50-, and 58-across], the answer being BERRIES. Hence:

  • 17A – [Scary R. L. Stive series for kids] – GOOSEBUMPS
  • 26A – [Panamas, e. g.] – STRAW HATS
  • 50A – [Witchcraft and such] – BLACK ARTS
  • 58A – [Symbols of Democratic victories] – BLUE STATES

That last one seemed a bit off to me; I suppose he’s referring to individual state victories, but my first thought was an entire map of the US in only one color in some presidential romp.

A few notes;

  • 19A – [Barely makes, with “out”] – EKES – I’m tired of this word, but it is at least useful with the K.
  • 29A – [Crossword constructor’s chore] – CLUING – I am fairly sure this word is unfamiliar in general, but I suppose a crossword SOLVER would be somewhat familiar with a crossword CONSTRUCTOR’s tasks.  Then again, probably not.  I remember a lot of people ask constructors, “Which do you make first: the grid or the clues?!”
  • 44A -[Toon Snorkasaurus] – DINO – Imagining deep research on this one…!dino
  • 55A – [Fictional reporter Lane] –LOIS – Another passion from my childhood: comic books! Prompted a grin…
  • 4D – [Adamant affirmation] – YES IT IS – Alliterative cluing is always good, and this I thought was a clever entry.
  • 11D – [Seller’s suggestion] – MAKE AN OFFER – Another nice entry, especially for a long entry.
  • 18D – [“… the ___ blackness of the floors.”: Poe] – EBON – Another word I’m weary of, but at least clued in a different way.
  • 25D – [Experimental margin of error] – FUDGE FACTOR – This was a new one on me.  Had to look it up! But it does make for a nice, clever entry.

3.75 stars?  Sure.  Nicely done.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “…And Red All Over”

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 10.07.32 PMVenturing into the big world of crossword blogging! (OK, not that big a world!)

This week’s Jonesin’ puzzle has the title, “…And Red All Over.”  After a short venture in, the theme was clear: each of the theme entries start with a word that can complete the phrase RED _____.

  • 17A – [V-shaped fabric pattern] HERRINGBONE
  • 32A – [Muscular jocks, stereotypically] MEATHEADS
  • 39A – [Adult contemporary radio fare] LIGHT ROCK
  • 54A – [Lines seen outside the club?] VELVET ROPES

Nice fill all around.  While it is always frowned upon to use known crosswordese entries, it is always nice when an entry, while not necessarily difficult or obscure, makes you smile.  Examples:

  • 21A – [“Disco Duck” singer Rick] DEES – I’m showing my age, but this sparked a tune in my head! (That I heard when I was a kid and rode the school bus!)
  • 42A – [Band with a Ben & Jerry’s flavor named for it] PHISH – For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know all about my affinity (addiction??) to ice cream, so any reference to one of my favorite foods is OK with me.  Refers to Phish Food, a flavor of chocolate ice cream with marshmallow swirls, caramel swirls, and fudge fish.  I will buy some tomorrow for, er, research…phish food
  • 6D – [Mascot of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks] DIG ‘EM – What about kid cereal commercials from your youth WON’T make you grin?dig em
  • 24D – [It’s surrounded by the fuzz] PEACH PIT – This struck me as clever
  • 35D – [“Survey ___ …” (“Family Feud” phrase)] SAYS – Honestly, was the tag even necessary? Although the tag did help provoke a smile.

Solid 3.5 stars for me.  Nicely done.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Going Bowling—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.12.15: "Going Bowling"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.12.15: “Going Bowling”

Hey there, everybody! Hope everyone is doing great! Sorry I can’t really blog about today’s puzzle with my schedule here today, but thanks to Mr. Bruce Venzke for providing today’s puzzle. In it, each of the four theme answers, two of them across and two of them down, are multiple word entries in which the first work in each could also precede the word “bowl.”

  • DUST JACKET (17A: [Record or book protector])
  • FINGER FOOD (60A: [Hors d’oeuvres, typically])
  • SUGAR DADDY (10D: [Gold digger’s target])
  • PUNCH BUGGY (29D: [Traveling game involving VW-spotting]) – License!! (I hope someone who went to elementary school in the late 80s/90s knows what I’m getting at!

Well, I got to know who Tom Mix is now with the clue to OATER (43D: [Typical Tom Mix flick]). Apparently, was a huge Western flick star, mostly in silents. Always like knowing something I didn’t know going into a crossword, and this was it. And that’s adding to the fact that I’ve heard of CAYUSE before, as I heard that in passing a couple of times in my few ventures to Oregon a few years back (46D: [Indian pony])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HOARD (30A: [Compulsively accumulate]) – Have a little time to talk about former University of Michigan running back Leroy HOARD, who won the 1989 Rose Bowl Game MVP, then went on to an NFL career as a fullback, mostly with the Cleveland Browns. Hoard scored 51 touchdowns in his 10-year NFL career.

See you all tomorrow on the top of the hump on Wednesday!

Take care!


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21 Responses to Tuesday, May 12, 2015

  1. dr. fancypants says:

    The ALLAN/ASSAI crossing was kind of harsh for a Tuesday. I forgot Poe spelled his name that way, and ASSeI looked plausible. Eventually found the error, though. Everything else felt solidly Tuesday.

    Also, I agree that RUBBER BANDS would have been better. I wonder if the constructor tried that first, and found it didn’t work well.

  2. Jeffrey K says:

    We have stayed in the CASITAs section of the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World.

  3. huda says:

    Cute! I can’t decide whether I wanted SNAP to be where it is or broken up…

    Amy said”
    “Gender essentialism of the day: 54a. [Dress-up item for a little girl], TIARA. Give a little boy access to a trunk of dress-up clothes that includes a tiara, and there’s a good chance he’ll try it on. Sparkly! Regal!”

    One of my favorite photos of my 4 year-old grandson is of him wearing his sister’s black tulle ballet outfit (which comes to the floor on him and looks very regal) while holding a Lego construction that he’s fashioned to look like a machine gun. He has made up a whole world of fantasy fire dragons that are emotionally sophisticated and socially conscious. But they are ferocious nevertheless. The kid has dimension!

  4. Martin from Charlottesville says:

    Re the NY Times:
    KÖLN was tough for me. I would have preferred a “Stadt” along with the München as the tipoff to the answer’s language. Also, Munich is not far from the southern border of Germany and is 577 km. from KÖLN. Almost every other big city in Germany is somewhere north of Munich! Stuttgart, Worms (where Martin Luther was summoned by the Catholic Church to the Diet of Worms in 1521 to defend his 95 theses), Frankfurt, and Bonn are all also SE of KÖLN and increasingly closer. Bonn is 38 km from KÖLN.

    “Diet of Worms.” Sounds like a good CW clue, or a good CW answer.

    • David L says:

      I thought that was an odd clue — like asking for a city NW of Miami and wanting Seattle for an answer.

      • Gary R says:

        Guess I didn’t see any problem here. Germany being considerably smaller than the continental U.S., this is a more specific clue than Miami/Seattle.

        How many significant 4-letter cities are there in Germany? Bonn, which shares the “o” and Kiel, which shares the “K,” so you need a cross or two – but that seems pretty fair to me.

    • Martin from Charlottesville says:

      To correct an error in the post above:
      Martin Luther was summoned to the 1521 Diet of Worms by Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, not by the Catholic Church as the post stated.

  5. sbmanion says:

    When the real estate market was booming in Arizona from 2003-2005, a number of developers built houses with connected casitas. The main house had say 2100-36oo sq. ft. and the casita was an extra group of rooms totaling 800-1200 sq. ft. with a separate entranceway and complete detachment from the main house, but still on the premises. Some used it as an office, others as a home for a parent and some as a playroom for the kids. Others used it as an apartment if zoning and HOA rules permitted.


    • Dekker says:

      When I first starting uncovering each “band”, I initially noticed how the second “band” was a p a r t – then, I went on to see that the first one was together & the third one was b r o a d – At that point, I was impressed by this arrangement & thought that was the only aspect to the theme… However, as I continued on to “snap together” the rest of the theme, I went on to think to myself that this is one of the best themes I’ve seen a while, due to its layers & due to the enjoyment of the solve.

      Thanks & Well Done, Paul!

  6. Thanks Janie for your insightful and multi-faceted analysis of Elizabeth Gorski’s brilliant puzzle. Understanding the title was the final “aha” after completely filling in the grid, with its many pleasures–not the least of which (to this biochemistry/chemistry Ph.D.) was INHIBITOR with its marvelous clue. For an alternative title idea, would “Round Bottoms” have been too specialized (to my fields) for a more general “Crossword Nation” audience?

  7. Thomas says:

    The circled S was the first letter I entered in the fourth theme answer, and I kind of thought it would contain SOLO, after the members of the BAND have drifted apart.

  8. Mark says:

    Pittsburghers should be given bonus points on solving NYT today, as we all call (or called) the items in question “gum bands.” One of our more famed regionalisms.

  9. 7d5a9b1 says:

    Despite its dubious fill, I enjoyed the NYT puzzle particularly today because, unlike the LAT, and also the CS, and also the Jonesin’, it was NOT a words-that-can-follow/precede puzzle. Themed puzzles that are not words-that-can-follow/precede puzzles seem to be gradually dying out.

  10. Papa John says:

    A cursory online search reveals that “elastic band” describes just about any kind of stretchy loop.

    From Wikipedia: “A rubber band, also known as a binder, elastic band, lackey band, laggy band, or elastic, is a short length of rubber and latex, elastic in nature and formed in the shape of a circle which is commonly used to hold multiple objects together.”

    Apparently Wikipedia has never been to Pittsburgh…

    You’re welcome.

  11. Margaret says:

    Welcome, Derek!
    I thought the LAT theme was a little thin but the CLUING was fresh and interesting.

  12. Kameron says:

    I’ve definitely worn tiaras.

  13. Harry says:

    Welcome, Derek!!!

  14. Gary R says:

    “CASITA. Small casa, I assume. Haven’t seen the diminutive before.”

    Didn’t this appear in the puzzle just in the past couple of weeks? (Maybe it was in the LAT)

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