Friday, May 15, 2015

NYT 5:11 (Amy) 
LAT 7:08 (Gareth) 
CS 8:30 (Ade) 
CHE 5:42 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

David Phillips’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 15, no 0515

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 15, no 0515

Hey, there’s dated pop culture and then there’s dated pop culture. The 1a/14a stack exemplifies the two:

  • 1a. [2000s James Cameron cyberpunk/sci-fi series], DARK ANGEL. Started in the fall of 2000, ended its two-season run in May 2002. Best known to crossworders as “that show Jessica ALBA was in before we had Fantastic Four and Sin City clues for her.”
  • 14a. [Co-star of Greta Garbo in “Ninotchka”], INA CLAIRE. Tough crossings if you don’t know your silent-film actresses (she made the transition to talkies, though), with four people crossing her name (DIK, K.C. JONES, NAN, LENDL). The C is the trickiest of those.

But hey! There’s contemporary pop culture/current affairs in the same stack, with 16a. [Interviewee in 2014’s “The Interview”], KIM JONG-UN. You don’t have to have watched last year’s terrible movies to have heard about this one—the Sony hack, North Korea, etc. You should know this.

Top fill includes, besides 16a, “ADD TO CART,” GQ MAGAZINE, family-shared DATA PLANS for mobile accounts, GIGAHERTZ (a relevant unit of measure—today’s Intel processors may well have a speed of, say, 3.3 GHz), THE CARS (I like “Let’s Go” but there are a number of Cars songs I like better, and yes, I know the ’80s were a long time ago now; I’m grappling with that truth), POST-ITS, and PILSNER.

Did not know: 34d. [She’s “too cute to be a minute over 17” in a Chuck Berry song], QUEENIE. What a creepy lyric. Don’t sing about ogling children. The song, “Little Queenie,” was not a big hit—peaked at #80 on the charts. Feh.

Least favorite fill: RERATES, the roll-your-own ATTIRER (that’s terrible! It’s a French verb far, far more than it’s an English noun). INURE and NISEI are stacked crosswordese. SES and A TOI add more French clued as French. INA CLAIRE lives in the part of my brain where Virna Lisi and Theda Bara reside—actresses of far-yore whose names I learned from crosswords back around 1980 but have seldom encountered anywhere but crosswords. I know some of you have seen their films, but they’re trapped in my head with Jack Oakie (who also started in silents)—none of these people is remotely as famous as the legendary Garbo and Valentino, am I right? Also on my “no thanks” list is 43a. [Some Windows systems], NTS, a weird little plural featuring 1993-1999 technology.

My overall rating is 3.33 stars. Difficulty level was just about right (provided the names don’t trip you up), and there’s some juicy stuff but it’s offset by a number of subpar entries.

Tom Uttormark and Zhouquin Burnikel’s Chronicle of Education crossword, “Waffles, Anyone?” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 5/15/15 • "Waffles, Anyone?" • Uttormark, Burnikel • solution

CHE • 5/15/15 • “Waffles, Anyone?” • Uttormark, Burnikel • solution

Fortunately, the title of the puzzle reached my consciousness as I downloaded the file, and I was able to speculate on what the gimmick might be. Double-rebus in which single squares contain both YES and NO, across for the former and down for the latter. They consistently appear at the end of each the four across themers.

  • 18a. [Deli items with swirls] MARBLE R{YES}.
    12d. [Drives crazy] AN{NO}YS.
  • 28a. [Playoff perks for NFL division winners] FIRST ROUND B{YES}.
    31d [Staff symbol] {NO}TE.
  • 46a. [Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1982 Grammys] BETTE DAVIS E{YES}.
    37d. [Lotto variant] BEA{NO}.
  • 61a. [“Shaft” scorer] ISAAC HA{YES}.
    57d. [Cause someone else’s insomnia, maybe] S{NO}RE. With the terminal YES removed ISAACHA looks temptingly like a potential anagram for SRIRACHA (has that yet appeared in any crosswords at this late date?), but it lacks RRH. If only that Game of Thrones guy was named Isaac instead of Martin, yes! [edit: Don’t know how I misremembered “George RR” as “HRR”]

In a similar convoluted and fruitless vein, ‘anyone’ from the title consists of the letters of no and most of yes, with an extra a-n.

Clever, fun theme, well executed, though understandingly three of the four YES words are plurals. Weakens the impact.

  • Superhero bits! 17a [Like many a superhero’s arms] AKIMBO; 52d [Wonder Woman’s occasional boomerang] TIARA.
  • Long downs: STINGRAYS, RATS NESTS, UNDERDOG, and the infrequently seen DROUGHTY. I’m surprised to see that it’s significantly more common than the nounified droughtiness.
  • 14d [Co-star of Disney’s Dexter Riley trilogy] ROMERO. Seems obscure, or at least idiosyncratic, to me. The protagonist was a young Kurt Russell and Cesar ROMERO played his foil as AJ ARNO. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969, remade in 1995), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), The Strongest Man in the World (1975).
  • Favorite clue: 9a [Popular Cook book of 1977] COMA.
  • 39d [One may be chocolate or butterscotch] LAB. Have never heard of the latter for a coat color, but some searching suggests a measure of support. Makes for a cute clue with a minor misdirection.
  • 23a [Like some theme-park passes] ALL-DAY. Thought it might be ONE-DAY, but crossings ended that notion. Also, it would have duped 60d ONES.

Very good, entertaining crossword.

Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Zounds!” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/15/15 • "Zounds!" • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 5/15/15 • “Zounds!” • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

Words and phrases are reconfigured via phonetic means, then via corollary conforming spelling change. Specifically, at the terminus of each theme answer an unvoiced alveolar sibilant becomes a voiced alveolar sibilant. That is, an s-sound turns into a z-sound.

Oh, and the cluing is wackified. Uff Coors!

  • 23a. [Pod occupants that display great proficiency?] MASTER PEAS (masterpiece).
  • 25a. [Reddish-brown horses that place in races?] SECOND BAYS (… base).
  • 49a. [Performing troupe in a very expensive circus?] THE GOLDEN FLEAS (… Fleece). Is Jay-Z involved?
  • 62a. [Dramatic works of a vulgar nature?] COMMON PLAYS (commonplace).
  • 71a. [Some votes in il Parlamento?] ITALIAN AYES (… ice).
  • 84a. [Reactor parts where particles crash into each other?] COLLISION CORES (…course). Pretty sure that isn’t how nuclear physics works.
  • zounds_elliott113a. [Pigments already poured into vats?] LOADED DYES (… dice).
  • 115a. [Cries from Mississippi golfers?] DELTA FORES (… Force).
  • 16d. [Elements of stunning black-and-white photographs?] AMAZING GRAYS (…Grace). I would say that a high-contrast image—with minimal gradation—would be more stunning, at least viscerally. But, point taken.
  • 61d. [Corporate raises?] CHANGE OF PAYS (… pace).

Many plurals, somewhat by necessity, as in today’s CHE offering. Serviceable theme, and I suppose I would have liked it more had other terminal z-sounds been 91a [Cut, say] LEFT OUT. Especially when the unvoiced analog is also a valid word. Fortunately, such instances of trespass are SPARSE.

  • mosermagicwood99a [Booms and bumpkins] SPARS, the latter are usually found at the back of the boat; 34d [Back in the navy] ABAFT; 100d [Unlikely to crack a smile] STERN
  • 66d [Member of the flock] LAIC. And I’d thought LAIC was an adjective with the same meaning as LAY. Turns out there’s another word: LAICAL. Now in search of a CKADAIS.
  • 31a [Like linen] FLAXY. Not precisely the same as FLAXEN. Learning so much today.
  • 121a [Reply to a schoolmarm] YES’M. Both marm and the doubly-contracted ’m (that is, ma’am) derive from madam. Not so disturbed by duplication between 59a [Learned from television] MICHAEL and 75a [Fallon and Kimmel, e.g.] TV HOSTS.
  • 52a [OR activity] SURG. Ick. Not convinced of its superiority to the crosswordese Tony SARG. The crossing LUMP easily converts to LAMP. SURG. and SARG are equally, though differently execrable, so give this a pass for variety’s sake?
  • Favorite clue: 86d [Shower unit?] RAINDROP.
  • 44d [ __ Bora (Afghan area)] TORATora! Tora! Tora! Bora Bora.

Solid crossword.


Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Affair Play”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.15.15: "Affair Play"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.15.15: “Affair Play”

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’re doing very well and have a fun weekend in store. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, features three multiple-word entries in which the first word also could come after the word “party,” with the reveal, AFTER-PARTY, serving as the final theme answer (59A: [Post-premiere event, or where the first words of 17-, 27-, and 44-Across can appear]).

  • LINE DANCER (17A: [Performer in a country music hall])
  • POOPER SCOOPER (27A: [Dog walker’s device]) – Having to utilize this, along might be the main thing that’s stopping me from owning a dog at this very second! Well, outside of the expenses of owning a dog that need to be spent elsewhere right now.
  • ANIMAL CRACKER (44A: [Soup tidbit in a Shirley Temple song])

This is probably the third time in about a couple of weeks that I’ve come across DEGAS in a puzzle, so I guess that’s a sign that I should try to be much more familiar with his oeuvre to make him easier to spot on crosswords (1A: [Ballerina painter Edgar]). I was familiar enough with his first name, so I had that going for me. Don’t ridicule me for my relative lack of years on this earth, but I don’t think I’ve ever had to use a TIME CARD at any time in my work life (38D: [Check-in slip]). Probably my favorite fill in the grid, is CAT’S-PAW, and now I need to make sure to put that in someplace in an upcoming essay  (43D: [One manipulated by another]). I doubt that essay will be a MASTERWORK, but I’ll at least try to weave something special (11D: [Artist’s crowning achievement]). PERI is one of those entries in which I’ve only seen one clue for it, the one involving Frasier (27D: [Gilpin of “Frasier”]). Hoping that no constructors are able to make  a different clue out of “peri,” or I’ll be in bad shape!.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EXPOS (32D: [Team that played in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium]) – Before moving into the retractable roof of Olympic Stadium in 1977, the Montréal EXPOS began playing their home games at Jarry Park Stadium, an outdoor facility that, despite being fondly remembered by fans and players who played and watched games in the stadium, frequently caused hazards to both player and fan alike, especially during times when temperatures were near or at freezing. On multiple occasions in early or late-season games, umpires would have to delay the game until the sun set behind the stadium as different opposing first basemen complained of being almost completely blinded by the sun. That actually reminds me of a quote (and I have to paraphrase) that I heard someone attribute to former Expos manager Felipe Alou, who once retorted, when one of his players complained about the sun getting in his eyes and causing him to commit an error, that the sun has only been around for about a billion years.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Saturday!

Take care!


Melanie Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150515

LA Times 150515

Today’s addition theme is ambitious: a trigram, NET (NETGAIN). The downside is having to use shorter base phrases. This is why, for me MAGNETICBEANS and BRUNETTEFORCE work better than the shorter NETWORKOUT and BONNETFIRE.YMMV.


  • [Bering Sea port], NOME. America not Siberia!
  • [Italian white wines], ETNAS. Not a clueing angle I’ve seen before. Anyone drank an ETNA?
  • [Frostbite victim], TOE. Grisly.
  • [Tlingit feature of Seattle’s Pioneer Square], TOTEMPOLE. Bonus points for Tlingit!
  • [Person, slangily], EGG. Eh? As in good/bad egg?
  • [Welsh/English border river], DEE. I clung to WYE too long. Why WYE?

3.25 Stars

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22 Responses to Friday, May 15, 2015

  1. Alex B. says:

    The Crossword Nexus Wiki score isn’t a perfect measure of how famous someone is, but it’s pretty good. And by that measure K. C. Jones (85) crossing Ina Claire (76) is a brutal crossing. (By comparison, N. C. Wyeth is a 92.)

  2. Dave says:

    OK, I’ve learned that my hatred of proper name dominated crosswords is not entirely mainstream, but the NYT was OTT in the NW. DARK ANGEL, INA CLAIRE, KIM JONG UN, DIK Browne, KCJONES, NAN Goldin, Ivan LENDL – all in one corner? I disapprove.

    Oddly, the rest of the puzzle – other than CHO Chang, QUEENIE, and the seemingly ubiquitous IMPEI – was almost free of obscure humans and places.

  3. huda says:

    Amy said:

    ” INA CLAIRE. Tough crossings if you don’t know your silent-film actresses (she made the transition to talkies, though), with four people crossing her name (DIK, K.C. JONES, NAN, LENDL). The C is the trickiest of those.”

    I said:
    Yup… Waaay too many proper nouns in that little corner…

  4. dr. fancypants says:

    What everyone else said about the NW.

    And NTS is a nonsense plural.

    • Martin says:

      By the strictest reckoning, Windows NT 3.1, Windows NT 3.5, Windows NT 3.51 and Windows NT 4.0 are four NTs.

      More broadly, every Windows release of the last 15 years has been an NT. Windows 8.1 is the marketing name for the system formally identified as Microsoft Windows NT 6.3.

      There are also many editions, such as server and workstation that can be used to put together sentences with “NTs.”

      Lotsa NTs.

      • jj says:

        Funny that nowhere in the linked wiki page do they use the plural form “NTs”. It also states that “NT” doesn’t even stand for anything now. I agree that it’s nonsense to pluralize it.

      • Martin from Charlottesville says:

        Because the clue of [some Windows systems] makes clear that the answer is both plural and is “versions of an operating system” (capitalized “W”), I can’t bark about this one.

        I don’t recall ever hearing or reading the word “NTs,” and don’t expect to ever encounter it outside of CW puzzles, but the clue was very helpful, most people have used computers, and this is a Friday.

      • dr. fancypants says:

        I’m well aware that there are many versions of NT. The problem with the plural is that these aren’t NTS as the English language developed around Windows, they’re “versions of NT”. The Apple equivalent would be referring to versions of its desktop OS as XES, which is similarly terrible.

        • ahimsa says:

          Agreed. I think even an awkward plural like Unixes (e.g., BSD, Xenix, …) is more likely than a plural like NTs. I’ve never heard anyone say NTs.

          I was a software engineer, used to develop/test systems software (operating systems, device drivers, etc), and I’ve never heard anyone use NTs. I do remember a joke that NT = Nice Try.

          • dr. fancypants says:

            Agreed. I think even an awkward plural like Unixes (e.g., BSD, Xenix, …) is more likely than a plural like NTs.

            Isn’t “Unixen” the proper plural of “Unix”? :-)

  5. dook says:

    First of all, Little Queenie is one of Chuck Berry’s masterpieces and the creepiness only sort of makes it better, as Chuck was a dark, dark guy. The Stones live version on Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out is pretty perfect and the T Rex reference in Bang A Gong is pretty great too.
    My big beef is that, while Ina Claire is a perfectly fine – though rather unknown – name for an answer, the clue is completely inappropriate. There is no way one can call her a “co-star” of Ninotchka. She had a very small role. Melvin Douglas is the only co-star of Ninotchka. If you haven’t seen it, then treat yourself and watch it tonight. “Garbo Laughs”!

  6. CY Hollander says:

    NYT: Like everyone else is saying, all those proper names in the top left were brutal. For a while, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it at all, until I finally thought of KIM JONG UN.

    INA CLAIRE was the most problematic for me too, but the C wasn’t the worst part. It is the trickiest in the sense of having the most letters that could conceivably fit there, but with CLAIRE being a name and K.C. being the sort of initials that sound like a first name (making it a slightly likelier name for someone to be known by), I think that crossing qualifies by a hair as legitimately guessable. Well, I guessed right, at least.

    OTOH, while the first letter of INA had far fewer possibilities (just the six vowels, with Y, I’d say), I found it harder to choose the right one. I was torn between DIK being a likelier name than DAK and ANA being a likelier name than INA and came down on the wrong side.

  7. sbmanion says:

    I do agree that the NW was tough and contained too many names, but I chuckle at the lack of sports knowledge in the general crossword community. The difficult C was part of my very first entry. INA CLAIRE, on the other hand, no idea.

    K.C. Jones went to college with Bill Russell and was one of the great defensive players of his generation. He played on eight of the great championship Celtics teams of that era. He also coached the Celtics to two of their championship teams in the Larry Bird era. Most significantly, and something you should all know, was that he was an assistant coach of the Harvard basketball team during my senior year (’70-’71). One of the players on that team was the sportscaster James Brown. By the way, I am pretty sure that K,C. stands for K.C.


  8. Gary R says:

    Like everyone else, I struggled with the NW – never did get some of it and ended up with errors there. Part of the problem was that I held onto Bill Russell at 4-D for too long.

    Oddly, my errors were in the non-name answers. Ultimately, all the names were at least vaguely familiar – INA CLAIRE being the least familiar. I didn’t know the Zola title, and couldn’t come up with ADOS – kept trying to make “woes” or “ills” work. Also, didn’t realize that ANISEED is a single word. So I was toast in that area.

  9. Gareth says:

    Many Chuck Berry songs refer to underage ladies, by modern mores. See also: Sweet Little Rock and Roller, Sweet Little Sixteen, Memphis Tennessee for 3 more.

  10. 7d5a9b1 says:

    It’s a pleasure, for once, to find blame rather than praise for a crossword clogged with proper names.

  11. Jeffrey K says:

    Thanks for the Jarry Park shout out. There was a swimming pool just past the right field fence that got a lot of home runs.

    Although the Expos moved into Olympic Stadium in 1977, the roof took 10 more years to be completed.

  12. Martin from Charlottesville says:

    I am still gobsmacked from learning yesterday that it is OK for the puzzles to have answers with some letters removed. I preferred this puzzle, even with the NW corner. I knew KC JONES; I had read Bill Russell’s autobiography “Second Wind.” Lots of good stories there.

    Here’s one. The football running back Jim Brown had beaten Bill Russell in golf, using only one club, a 4-wood. That upset Bill Russell, so he practiced, played, and took lessons, unbeknownst to Brown. Then they played again and Russell beat him out of $125, but told Brown he didn’t want his money then. He waited a year to ask Brown for it. From the book:

    “He looked more puzzled than ever. ‘Why’d you wait so long to ask for it?’ he asked.

    ‘Well,’ I said, ‘when I moved out here, everybody knew that I was a friend of yours, and so they kept asking me, “Do you play golf with Jim Brown?” And I’ve always answered, “Yeah, that sucker owes me a hundred and twenty-five dollars.” I got to say that all last year, and that alone’s worth more than the money.” “

  13. Gareth says:

    “Hoping that no constructors are able to make a different clue out of “peri,” or I’ll be in bad shape!” – [Doubled, a chilli sauce of Mozambiquan origin]. Although I see outside of South Africa, PIRIPIRI is more common. Here it’s the influence of fast-food chain Nando’s which puts it on EVERYTHING! There is a Nando’s in Washington DC, I’m told.

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