Saturday, June 13, 2015

NYT 6:09 (Amy) 
Newsday 29:10 (Derek) 
LAT 10:12 (Derek) 
CS 7:37 (Ade) 

This is the 10th anniversary of the very first Diary of a Crossword Fiend post! I dedicate this bloggiversary to two lovely puzzlers who we lost this week.

Thomas Gazzola of Portland, Oregon, was a math professor, a master of puzzle hunts, a crossworder, a member of the National Puzzlers’ League, and someone remembered by friends and acquaintances as a warm, kind, and generous soul. Tom’s life was cut short by a drunk driver—please don’t drink and drive, friends.

Longtime crossword editor (Uptown Crosswords Club, Dell), Games magazine veteran, theater buff, and all-around convivial personality Leslie Billig also passed away unexpectedly. I’m not sure I ever saw Leslie without a smile on her face at a crossword tournament. It’s been a tough week for puzzlers.

Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 13 15, no 0613

NY Times crossword solution, 6 13 15, no 0613

Brad alone, his puzzles are excellent. Doug alone, his puzzles are excellent. Combine the two for a Brohug puzzle, and it’s possible the level of goodness rises a notch or two further. Super-lively long fill, on the Scrabbly side, and no junk fill. It is not all that hard to come up with zippy long answers in stacks, but the challenge comes in choosing the entries carefully and backing up the moment a terrible crossing is encountered. Brad and Doug are both good at not accepting hideous short crossings as the price of having fun long answers.

The 1a/15a/17a stack lines up a Z, two X’s, and a Q. ZERO WASTE is a good goal, EXOTIC PET is cool, and though I’ve never heard of a TAXI SQUAD ([Group of practice-only N.F.L. players]), I don’t mind learning the term. On the other side of the puzzle, there’s a SHRINK RAY, ART FORGER, and the SOUTH POLE. The puzzle’s also got two full names (CEELO GREEN, STAN LEE), a UNIBROW (35a. [Sign of lycanthropy, to some], really??), and CORDON BLEU. And REGIFT! Nice. The clue is [Pass along, with dubious propriety].

The abbrevs ETD, WIS, and SAS are pretty dull, and plural GOOS is questionable (we would have accepted GOOD crossing half-ASSED). That’s the worst Brohug have wrought here.

Five more things:

  • 47a. [Where Chipotle was founded and is headquartered], DENVER. Did not know that.
  • 60a. [Criminal who welcomes a hanging?], ART FORGER. The clue sounds GORY but then is not.
  • 1d. [Riemann ___ function], ZETA. Pretty sure I have no idea what this means. It’s mathy.
  • 22d. [Pride : lion :: business : ___], FERRET. Don’t know that I knew you could have a business of ferrets.
  • 32d. [Pen set], SWINE. This clue did not trick me. I wonder what percent of “pen” mentions in clues relate to pigs and/or sties vs. writing instruments. The twisty prison clues will also account for some.
  • 41d. [Mostly-women Olympics sport, familiarly], SYNCHRO-nized swimming.
  • 48d. [Bent for collecting curios], VIRTU. This is your high-end vocabulary word of the day.

4.2 stars from me.

imageFrank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

OK, so I started this puzzle on a quiet Saturday morning, and after about 10 minutes, I had maybe 15 letters filled in.  Put it down for about 30 minutes, came back, got to maybe 1/3 complete. (Mostly the right side fell first.)  After a smooth solve on last week’s Stumper (other than one tiny corner!), I thought maybe I wasn’t feeling well.  So, during another break from it, tackled the Saturday NYT.  Done in 11 minutes! So, in typical Frank Longo fashion, this puzzle is HARD.  If you’re interested in competing in a final at the Indie 500 next year, this puzzle is great training!  That final puzzle was completed, to the best of my knowledge, by NOBODY in less than 11 minutes.  That means it would have taken me, like this one, about half an hour.

Did I mention I had to use Google…..?

Some notes:

  • 23A [It has buses and ports] PC SYSTEM – Not necessarily a phrase I’ve heard used.  People speak of their PC, or their SYSTEM, but not a PC SYSTEM.  Having said that, GREAT clue!
  • 34A [City north of Sacramento] CHICO – I mention this because it was my first Google search.  With the puzzle still relatively empty!  This helped break most of the middle and feed into the top left.
  • 48A [Crystal product] RADIO – Another great clue.  Probably the last thing filled in.  In the image, the faded mark on some squares denote errors; there are plenty in this entry.  Explanation here.
  • 50A [Nickelodeon owner] VIACOM – Filled this in early, then thought I was wrong and put in DISNEY, since they own everything else, but then changed it back.  Watched a lot of Nickelodeon 25+ years ago, so I thought I new this.  I think they own MTV as well as other channels.
  • 53A [Notable [heh-heh] part of Elizabeth Tower]  BIG BEN – I wondered why there was a wry snicker in here; the clock tower was only recently renamed Elizabeth Tower.  Very cruel! Renamed apparently in 2012.
  • 55A [Having the same voltage for each component]  IN PARALLEL – Another great clue.  I was thinking something ending in C or D, not this.
  • 62A [Dream on Me product]  TODDLER BED – Another Google search.  But I need to do a better job of inferring the answer.  What else would you “dream on?” This is a Learned League skill I’m just learning, as well…
  • 1D [Tender vendor] KFC – First clue I filled in! With ATM, though…!!  AWESOME clue!!
  • 2D [What “Even Harry Truman says” in an Irving Berlin song] I LIKE IKE – I Googled this, too.  Totally unfamiliar with this song.
  • 7D [With 19 Across, onetime Bob Hope bandleader] STAN KENTON – Another Google find.
  • 23D [Emerald look-alike] PERIDOT – My birthstone! I think the color is quite different, but they’re both essentially green.
  • 24D [Site of Schindler’s factory] CRACOW – NEVER seen this spelled without the Ks.  German spelling, maybe??
  • 30D [Humors, maybe]  TOADIES TO – Not familiar with this phrase, either.  I may start using it, though…
  • 32D [Spread over many pages]  GONE VIRAL – Absolutely loved this one.  I think I laughed out loud when I finally got it!
  • 42D [FryDaddy brand]  PRESTO – My last Google search.  Again, probably gettable with some thought.  Did I mention I didn’t feel well….

Painful as it was, I LOVE hard Saturday puzzles.  Keep them coming! I gave this one 4.5 stars.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 4.03.01 PMKevin Christian and Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Another phenomenal Saturday challenge in the LA Times.  I am learning to enjoy these more and more.  Excellent fill, almost no dreck, lively cluing, and ultimately solvable.  Just over ten minutes for me to solve, which means it may be slightly easier than a NYT Saturday, or I’m getting better!

Some highlights:

  • 14A [Cameron Indoor Stadium college hipster] BLUE DEVIL – Referring to Duke University, of course.  This season’s NCAA champs in b-ball.
  • 18A [Like Zitronen] SAUER – Evidently zitronen is German for lemons.  Not sure why it’s capitalized; SAUER thus is German for sour.
  • 20A [Tons] A SLEW – This clue is popular.  Answer is usually A TON or A LOT or CADS when it’s four letters; with a five-letter entry needed, one has to think for a minute, which is good!
  • 36A [Does some political maneuvering] JOCKEYS FOR POWER – Great entry.  Need a few crosses to get this.  I’ll tip my cap to you if you filled this in first!
  • 63A [Police-search discovery] HIDEY-HOLE – I’m not familiar with this word.  Isn’t this what they found Saddam Hussein in?
  • 66A [10th-century English king] EDRED – Another new one.  Definitely in the learn-something-new-everyday category.  Also listed in Wikipedia as EADRED.  Still don’t know him. Unfamiliar doesn’t make a bad entry, though. Seems pretty obscure, though.  10th-century?
  • 3D [Reaction to excessive attention to detail] BUT WHO’S COUNTING – Probably my favorite entry in the puzzle.  Wonderful long entry.
  • 5D [Krabappel of “The Simpsons”] EDNA – I’d rather see this than the all-too-often reference to DAME EDNA.
  • 7D [Unplugs, in a big way] GOES OFF THE GRID – Another great long entry.  There’s probably a trick puzzle waiting to be made with this as an entry.  Although anyone reading this is obviously wired, I think all of us dream at least a little of unplugging for at least a little while…
  • 11D [Post-washing warning] CAUTION: WET FLOOR – Again, terrific entry and misdirection in the clue.
  • 12D [Game for two] ONE ON ONE – Great misdirection here, too.  Trying to shoehorn in here an actual game name.
  • 36D [Marlboro Man contemporary]  JOE CAMEL – Remember the good old days, when JOE CAMEL was encouraging 12-year-olds to smoke cigarettes?
  • 39D [Gp. that includes Nigeria]  OPEC – Once again, designed to fool.  OPEC nations are usually thought of to be in the Middle East, not Africa!
  • 47D [Amble (along)] TOOTLE – Not a word I use often…or ever.

Again, I loved this puzzle.  4 stars from me.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “HAM Operators”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.13.15: "HAM Operators"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.13.15: “HAM Operators”

Good day to you all, and I hope you’re having a good start to your Saturday. Looks like another great day weather wise, so I don’t think I’ll be indoors for too long. But I’m definitely indoors right now as I talk about today’s crossword puzzle, constructed for us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. In it, each of the theme entries are three-word answers that follow a “H-word AND-M-word” pattern. This crossword was unofficially sponsored by the clothing company, H&M.

  • HIGH AND MIGHTY (20A: [Arrogant])
  • HAT AND MITTENS (38A: [Winter wear])
  • HAIR AND MAKEUP (57A: [Stylist’s forte])

Was tearing through this grid and thought I was getting ready to set a personal record for time when I hit a snag at an answer that should have been a gimme: I KNOW (56D: [“You’re telling me!”]). Instead of putting in an “I,” your not-so-fearless leader placed and “O,” making it ‘OK, NOW.” And I thought it was right. That, and I didn’t read the clue for SILTS immediately, so there was no chance to correct the error at that moment of trying to race through this grid (55A: [Bank deposits]). But, other than that tie-up, I encountered no problems. I did notice how timely this grid was, at least in terms of a couple of sports references. There’s ARENA, as the arena for the (Tampa Bay) Lightning will be in use tonight for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Chicago Blackhawks (21D: [Place for Thunder and Lightning]). (Just in case you don’t know, ‘Thunder’ refers to the NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.) Also, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is currently taking place in Canada, so there probably have been few OLE OLE chants from the spectators in the stands for those games (48D: [Cry heard at the 2014 World Cup]). Oh, and speaking of timeliness (more like coincidence), I had opened my ITUNES app right before I opened the grid and started solving, and was totally laughing out loud when I came across the clue and put in the answer (44A: [Apple service]). No, I wasn’t listening to my own podcast that’s on iTunes. But, if you are interested in listening to/downloading my podcast, here’s the link! A new show is in the works, and should be released in the next week or two. I’m hoping to have a Hall-of-Fame baseball player join me as one of my guests. So stay tuned!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STAN (34D: [Tennis player Wawrinka]) – At this time last week, professional tennis player Stanislas “STAN” Wawrinka was winning his second Grand Slam singles title, defeating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open. Wawrinka won his first major title at the beginning of last year, when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open. Oh, and what do you think about his tennis “shorts” that he wore throughout this year’s French Open?!? Hey, if wearing boxer shorts in public make you better at your profession, then you might as well go for it!


See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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53 Responses to Saturday, June 13, 2015

  1. Jeffrey K says:

    Happy 10th anniversary, Amy! I’ve read every word of the 10 years, and even agreed once or twice!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I bet I could find enough comments to prove that you and I have agreed no fewer than three times! Thanks for the good wishes.

  2. Martin says:

    Happy Anniversary.

  3. Victor Barocas says:

    Hey –

    I liked the NYT a lot but struggled mightily in the NW because I couldn’t let go of MIN for 5-D. I mean, MINnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” which is how Land O’Lakes got its name. Land O’Lakes is headquartered in Arden Hills (part of the Minneapolis-St Paul metro) per Wikipedia, and the Land O’Lakes web site gives an address in St. Paul. “Why is Land O’Lakes land” WISconsin? Am I missing something because of my attachment to Minnesota?

    – VB

    • Matt says:

      Same here. Though Wisconsin is a fabled dairy state– there was once a rumor that Wisconsin was going to change its license plate motto to “Eat Cheese Or Die.”

    • Martin says:

      There is a Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin. According to Google Maps, there is no such municipality in Minnesota. You have the butter, it’s true.

      • I’m going to second my Minnesota friend and colleague, Victor Barocas … with no disrespect to friends from other states (Martin Herbach, and of course today’s co-constructors Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson and their editor, Will Shortz).

        According to wikipedia, the town in Wisconsin named Land O’Lakes has a population of under a thousand. This is the sort of stuff that the “new wave” (by now the “old guard”) used to pillory Eugene Maleska for.

        On a lighter note, we would seem to have both “butt” and “butter” in the puzzle?!

        And finally, congratulations to Amy Reynaldo for the 10th anniversary of Crossword Fiend, as well as for her sole constructed puzzle that will be part of the menu at tomorrow’s Minnesota Crossword Tournament. As many of you know, Amy went to Carleton College in Northfield, which tournament “wrangler” Victor B. considered to be sufficient Minnesota bona fides to invite her to create the tournament puzzle.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    I’d say the NYT puzzle today is a worthy anniversary gift! One of the best ever, for me! Loved the ART FORGER, REGIFT and UNIBROW. I was slow to give up Trenton NJ for TEANECK, plus a few other odd spots, but after a night’s sleep it finally all came together. Wondering if anyone else was near our area last evening with Mother Nature putting on a stunning July 4th display in the sky: rumblings and booms followed by extended flashing fireworks — all that was missing was a cascade of multicolored sparks after each burst. It went on for hours! WOW.

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Just want to say I appreciated the excellent quality of the chewy clueing! That, and DENVER for some reason has me singing “Denver, the Last Dinosaur”. I reckon someone else should have that earworm in their brain today. Sharing is caring.

  6. sps says:

    I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, to offer my gratitude and appreciation to you Amy for all that you’ve done for the crossword community. Happy anniversary!

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    Thanks for keeping such a terrific blog, Amy!

    NYT: I’m also mystified by WIS. Seems completely wrong. Also, I know she went there but I’m not sure how Julia Child is an example of CORDONBLEU. Maybe just slow today.
    Generally liked this one though. BUSINESS of ferrets is great. I once heard a Frenchman who, after finding out that the collective for frogs is “army,” deadpanned “No doubt, beating a hasty retreat.”

  8. anon says:

    LAT review: “Evidently zitronen is German for lemons. Not sure why it’s capitalized; SAUER thus is German for sour.”

    In German, all nouns are capitalized.

    • Derek Allen says:

      That’s why I look be this blog. Learning all the time! ALL nouns are capitalized? I had no idea. I figured somebody here would know!

  9. Avg Solvr says:

    Happy Anniversary. Great blog.

    NYT had TMI, almost all of which I didn’t know. Some good stuff but it was more exam than puzzle. LAT was enjoyable. Will see if The Stumper can be cracked.

  10. Derek Allen says:

    Happy 10th, Amy! Grateful for what you do!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, and thank you for joining Team Fiend this spring! Also grateful for what you do.

  11. Stan newman says:

    The heh-heh in the Stumper clue referred to “Notable”, which was supposed to be the mean part of the clue for the tones of BIG BEN.

    • Martin says:

      I got that, but also started out expecting something more sophomoric. Putting “notable” in quotes would have made the pun clear but there’s something leering about “heh-heh” that had me fearing for the worst. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using it to just mean “wink-wink groaner” as opposed to “wink-wink will you look at that.” But it is one of “The Family Guy” perv Quagmire’s favorite sayings.

  12. Papa John says:

    Congrats Amy — and your band of fiends — for ten years of diligence and dedication! Thanks for all you do.

    I’m terrible with chronology, so I’m asking; did you put together this blog upon the demise of the NYT Forum or was it already in play?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thanks, you’re welcome, and yes, huge thanks to all of Team Fiend!

      I started talking about the daily puzzles in the evening, when the old NYT Forum still had a “spoiler rule” in effect that barred people from discussing the specifics until 9 am the next day.

      • Papa John says:

        I scanned your first pages, so I’m a bit more aware about when and why you begian the blog. That spoiler curfew was a cantentious subject, among many.

        I remember that old format, too, and the excitment at the introcuction of the current orange pages. I’m grateful for teh ease of navigation, although I do wish topics would sruvive the 24-hour cycle of death.

  13. Huda says:

    Happy 10th , Amy! Since I had not started doing any puzzles back then, I had not read your early posts. So, I used the link to go back in time. They were great! I love the competitive spirit, the competitions, the Haiku, and the “nerd glory”.

    Excellent puzzle today, but it did not go down easily, especially the SE, where I plunked down ART rObbER, which was close enough to be maximally difficult to get rid of.

    And I still need to look up TAXI SQUAD, unless one of you experts wishes to enlighten the readership.

    • Martin from C. says:


      The Wikipedia entry for “scout team” claims that “Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown invented the “taxi squad,” a group of promising scouted players who did not make the roster but were kept on reserve. The team owner Mickey McBride put them on the payroll of his taxi company, although they did not drive cabs.”

      The article describes some of the NFL rules governing taxi squad players.

      • huda says:

        Thank you Martin from C! That story will definitely help me remember it. I read the rest of the article… very interesting concept (and career path for some!).
        I wonder if there’s a way to have a TAXI SQUAD in the context of academic science- as competitive a team sport as any. Or maybe we already do it and just call it something else.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thank you, Huda! We’re glad you found your way over to puzzles and Crossword Fiend eventually.

  14. sbmanion says:


    Happy Anniversary! For me, this is the closest blog to the old forum and I mean that as a compliment. You have a definite point of view, but you allow anyone to disagree with you. I didn’t like the switch to blogs because I thought that the blogger dictated the tone of the blog. You do not and I greatly appreciate that.

    I thought today’s was difficult but doable. Even some of the sports clues were not immediately apparent to me.

    The next really great basketball player has a unibrow and there are even t-shirts that have a caricature of his brow:


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thank you, Steve! And I totally dictate the tone. The tone is “demand good crosswords, engage in respectful dialogue.”

      • janie says:

        and a wise and benevolent dictator you are, too! ;-)

        i know that these days you “get by with a little help from your fiends” [sic], still: congrats on reaching this milestone. impressive!!


      • Gary R says:

        I’d like to add my congratulations and thanks too, Amy. The tone you dictate is the reason I find myself here every day rather than in Crossworld – which seems to be a very cross world!

        I enjoy your posts, but also the civilized give-and-take among the commenters here. The tone of the commenters reflects the tone of the leadership.

  15. Martin from C. says:

    Congratulations, Amy!

  16. David L says:

    Thank you for the blog! Greatly appreciated.

    Today’s Stumper was a struggle from start to finish. It didn’t help that I confidently wrote in LETSDOIT for ILIKEIKE, CARES for GRIND, and COMPUTER for PCSYSTEM. The latter, as well as TODDLERBED, don’t seem like familiar phrases to me.

    I had one blank square before giving up. I reluctantly put in RANGER at 43D but then couldn’t come up with anything for the first letter of 54A. I’ve never heard of RANKER, even though my mother grew up in Nottingham and I visited my aunt there on many an occasion. We weren’t in the habit of talking about military matters, though.

    NYT was nice but not very Saturdayish, I thought. TAXISQUAD was new to me but ZETA was a gimme, so that wasn’t a problem. The toughest section was the SYNCHRO VIRTU bit, but the first was easy to guess and the second came to me even though I couldn’t have told you what the word meant.

  17. john farmer says:

    I noticed the minitheme in today’s NYT — coaTINg, desTINy — and guessed it must be somebody’s anniversary. And it is!

    Happy 10th!

  18. Avg Solvr says:

    Don’t see how I can complete difficult puzzles like today’s Stumper when they’re littered with references I don’t know, none.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The Stumper is aimed at letting only the most proficient solvers triumph over it, and only after a fight. Everyone else is supposed to be more or less stumped.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        The issue isn’t about proficiency; it’s about too many references that are unknown to a solver in a puzzle that’s intended to be very difficult. (Do you think this puzzle is solvable without knowing one reference?) I’ve usually skipped The Stumper due to Java and printer issues, solved some of the few I’ve tried (last week’s for example) and have found they’re pretty much impossible if there aren’t a few gimmes which usually involves references. That being said, I was in no condition to attempt it yesterday but if memory serves (yeah I was sleep deprived) I don’t think it was solvable for me for the reason cited.

  19. pannonica says:

    I just want to oblige Amy to make another reply. So, uh, congratulations on the milestone!

  20. Slow Stumper Solver says:

    Huge gratitude to Amy for this blog – happy 10th!
    I’ve been doing the Stumper for 7-8 years, but only finishing them for the last year and a half. How’s that for fortitude? Until I found this blog about 2 years ago, I was constantly wishing there were other people to commiserate with on all things Stumper. Hallelujah! All the contributors here have provided the essential “closure” for each and every almost-finished puzzle. Many, many thanks.
    So, today’s Stumper — took an hour plus, and 4 entries in the SW never fell for me. TOADIES TO was never to be for me. I had SUCKSUPTO, or SOAKSUPTO with AMBUSH crossing at the U, and was doomed from there. However, so much to enjoy in this one: (they’re seen in quiet bars)RESTS is a fantastic musical misdirection, (high in starch)PRIM is rather novel, (beyond buzzed)BALD is hilarious, (spread over many pages)GONEVIRAL is outstanding, great to see SANISIDRO fitted in, etc. I admit I really did not like PCSYSTEM either, and still don’t know why WASP is what it is there.
    Anyway, lots of fun every week, and I’ve just become hooked on Gaffney’s metas as well, so my puzzling noodle is perfectly cooked at the moment.

  21. Steve J says:

    Congratulations on 10 years from a longtime reader, rare/never poster. You’ve been a great resource for a long while.

  22. Harry says:

    Happy 10th!!!!!!!!! Loved today’s LAT. Loved 7D “Lives off the grid”

  23. Molson says:

    One error in Saturday’s puzzle, I had COOS and UBANCI. I couldn’t remember exactly what the river was and COOS seemed better for baby talk than GOOS. When I didn’t get the happy pencil I changed it to GOOS and all was good.

    Thoroughly enjoyed both the NYT and LAT puzzles, if both were on the easy side.

  24. Alex B. says:

    I struggle to think of anything I’ve done every day for the past ten years. Breathing? Waking up? That is crazy longevity for a daily activity. Congrats!

  25. Adam Nicolle says:

    LAT: I got LIVES OFF THE GRID without any crossings. Did that happen only with me, or…?

  26. Bob says:

    Copied LAT answers into puzzle then read the defs – to see how inane they were. They were! “HIDEY HOLE”? Give me a break! And that’s just the start! “TOOTLE”? “EDRED”? …ad infinitum.

  27. Joan Macon says:

    Amy, may I represent the many who enjoy solving crossword puzzles, love to read your blog, but rarely comment? (My reason for that is I am certainly not a word wizard, just a retired teacher who is trying to keep her vocabulary growing). Many congratulations on your anniversary. Please keep it up!

  28. chris says:

    Re: a possible theme involving living off the grid, I believe one of the twenty puzzles in the 20 under 30 pack (which I believe comes from AVCX) has that theme.

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