Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NYT 5:00 (Amy) 
LAT 4:29 (Matt) 
CS 11:07 (Ade) 
AV Club 5:07 (Amy) 

Ian Livengood and the J.A.S.A Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 6 24 15, no 0624

NY Times crossword solution, 6 24 15, no 0624

Wow, I don’t expect to get hit with a theme entry I’ve never heard of on a Wednesday. The theme is FIVE STARS, [What 17-, 23-, 33- and 47-Across each have], and 5 stars apply to each of these:

  • 17a. [Luxury hotel overlooking Central Park], THE PIERRE. Never heard of it. This might be the sort of provincial NYCism that irks many national solvers.
  • 23a. [First chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949], OMAR BRADLEY. Five-star general.
  • 33a. [Constellation visible in Melbourne and Sydney], SOUTHERN CROSS.
  • 47a. [Flier over Tiananmen Square], CHINESE FLAG. Would FLAG OF CHINA be a smidgen better? No?

Likes in the fill: IN-STATE tuition, THE MOB, “TRUE THAT.”

Surprised to see in a first-half-of-the-week puzzle: [Region known for its black tea] ASSAM, [Swiss canton] URI, and [Small sea projection] ARMLET. I think the “bracelet for the upper arm” sense of ARMLET is far more commonly known than the water definition.

Three more things:

  • Shouldn’t 35d. [Derby hopeful] be OWNER rather than HORSE?
  • 14a. [Quechua speaker], INCA. Don’t think that the language died out long ago. Quechua is an official language of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and millions of people speak the language today.
  • 18d. [Classic Langston Hughes poem], “I, TOO.” Have you read the poem? It’s short. Go read it.

Four stars from me, despite the puzzle lobbying for a “LOVED it, FIVE STARS” review.

Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Made to Order”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.24.15: "Made to Order"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.24.15: “Made to Order”

Welcome to Hump Day, everyone! I hope you’re doing very well. I also hope you had some fun doing today’s puzzle, which was brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, who’s probably still shaking her head after her New York Mets lost again last night and dropped to .500 for the first time in almost three months. Anyways, we’re talking puzzles! Anagrams are the story of the day today, with the five six theme answers containing a five-letter word that winds up being an anagram of each of the other five-letter words contained within the other theme answers. The reveal, TESLA COIL, clues us in on the gist of the puzzle (11D: [High-voltage transformer, or an alternate title for this puzzle?]).  

  • MISTER SLATE (17A: [Fred Flintstone’s boss]) – Better Hanna-Barbera boss? Mr. Slate or Mr. Spacely?
  • TO SAY THE LEAST (24A: [“That’s putting it mildly”])
  • STEAL THIS BOOK (47A: [Abbie Hoffman’s counterculture manifesto])
  • TATTLETALES (58A: [Playground snitches]) – The only one of the themes that is one word instead of two. And I can confidently say that I was never a tattletale when I was a youth running around in playgrounds and seeing misdemeanors being committed near the monkey bars.
  • *Addendum* – STALE JOKE (32D: [Chestnut]) – More on this clue below.

So just like Porto/Oporto, I was temporarily confused when I filled in LYONS, as I had only heard of the city being referred to as Lyon for so long (44A: [French cathedral city]). I had the first four letters filled in, then said, “There has to be something wrong!” Referring to the opening of this graph, that sort of confusion happened much earlier to me in a grid when having to answer for the Portuguese city that I had only known as Porto. Speaking of getting slightly confused, the same happened with STALE JOKE, as I’m used to hearing that being described as an ‘old chestnut,’ but I’m pretty sure I heard it without ‘old’ being said a while back (32D: [Chestnut]). Loved the clue and entry of TRELLIS, referring to climbing plants (10D: [Creeper keeper]). Though the constructor is a Mets enthusiast, there’s some Yankees love in the grid with one of the M&M Boys, Roger MARIS (33A: [61-in-’61 slugger]). Of all the times I’ve entered LA LAW in a crossword puzzle, the theme song, which is a fairly memorable one (for those who are ’80s junkies) never creeped into my mind at any time when putting in that answer (22A: [Susan Dey series]). That is, until right now. But the song/earworm you definitely should have in your head right now is the one from A-HA (46A: [“Take On Me” band]). You’re welcome…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EMERSON (5D: [Writer known as “The Sage of Concord”]) – As much as fellow Fiend bloggers Sam Donaldson and Doug Peterson would love it if I chose to talk about MOM (28D: [May day honoree]), the abbreviation used by the old WWF tag team Men on a Mission, I choose today to talk about Australian tennis great Roy EMERSON, who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles in his career –  a record on the men’s side until Pete Sampras surpassed him in 2000. All of his Grand Slam singles titles came before the Open Era began in 1968, with his last Grand Slam singles title win coming at the French Open in 1967. Emerson is the only male tennis player to have won the career Grand Slam in singles and in doubles, as he was a part of 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles.

Thank you all so much for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Gareth Bain’s LA Times crossword — Matt’s review


Matt here filling in for Gareth, since he wrote this puzzle. I’ll go right to the punch line: 61-A is [Wayne’s World catchphrase, and a hint to the end of the answers to starred clues] = PARTY TIME. And each of those starred clues ends with a word meaning “party”:

17-A [*Lightweight kitchen appliance] = HAND MIXER
24-A [*”Let me help”] = WHAT CAN I DO
37-A [*Not doing one’s job] = DROPPING THE BALL
50-A [*Romance] = LOVE AFFAIR


***Normally I don’t dig it when there’s fill that’s as long as theme, especially if they run parallel to that theme, as here. But URIAH HEEP is such a good entry that I’ll make an exception, and I like AA MEETING as one of the 9-letter downs as well.


***Less good fill: French IDEE crossing Italian TRE, half-only MAU, only-used-in-“pratfall” PRAT.

3.40 stars.

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Stock Options”

AV Club crossword solution, 6 24 15 "Stock Options"

AV Club crossword solution, 6 24 15 “Stock Options”

Oh, hey, I forgot to blog this earlier. Theme is FISH HEADS, 61a. [Certain soup flavorers, or what both halves of this puzzle’s seven theme entries can be?]. The theme entries are all two-word things where each word can precede “fish.” BLUE ANGEL, bluefish and angelfish. CATCH COLD, catch fish (verb + plural noun?), cold fish (metaphorical thing). WHITE GOLD, whitefish and goldfish. LION KING, lionfish and the kingfish, which I’ve never heard of. DEVIL DOG, devilfish (can be a devil ray or something else), dogfish. GO FLYING, Go Fish card game and flying fish. ROCK STAR, rockfish and starfish. It’s a little weird that we get 11 kinds of actual fish, a game, a verb phrase, and a nonliteral fish.

The AV Club team is on crack if they think this is a 2/5 on the difficulty scale, though. I’m calling it 3.5 because it took me longer than a Friday NYT. That ain’t easy-peasy!

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Willow in basketry], OSIER. Crosswordese alert!
  • 16d. [Gets new actors for], RECASTS. When editors recast a sentence, the words are shuffled around to avoid something that wasn’t working.
  • 42d. [Ocean Spray portmanteau], CRAISIN. I filled in CRAN*** right off the bat; that slowed me down here.
  • 35a. [Bird whose scientific name is Ardea alba], EGRET. Didn’t know that, but alba = white and the snowy egret is white.
  • 47a. [Jewish community org. for females], YWHA. Not sure I knew this existed. YWCA and YMHA, yes.

Four stars from me.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, June 24, 2015

  1. huda says:

    Wow, I had no clue what the connection was until I got the revealer. And that was so cool.

    I used to be on an advisory board of an organization that gave some fancy award in science, and they always put us up at THE PIERRE. The location is amazing and the amenities are great. Beautiful old world type of architecture. But something freaks me out about that place. There’s an actual person in each elevator, wearing white gloves, who salutes you as you enter and asks you what floor you’re going to and pushes the button for you. That’s it. That’s what they do all day. I guess that’s a little too aristocratic for my blood.

  2. Evad says:

    Today’s NYT felt like a week 2 MGWCC meta to me–crunchy enough (with OAT bran muffins for fiber) to give a solver a bit of a tussle to find out what the theme entries had in common.

  3. steveo says:

    I’ve lived in NYC for 20 years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of The Pierre. At first I thought there must be some gimmick to make THEPLAZA fit.

    • pannonica says:

      The Plaza is so gauche and declassé. The nearby Pierre is oh-so-upper-crusty and refined. And don’t forget the Sherry-Netherland!

    • Martin from C. says:

      [Ads — history lesson]
      Times have really changed regarding advertisements. There used to be a separation between creative content and advertising. Back in the time of Woodstock, in a movie or a TV show, you wouldn’t be able to identify a cereal brand or a cola– the label would be turned away from the camera. There was also faux packaging. Back in college and just after, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, ads started creeping in. When we were watching a movie or a TV show on TV, one of my pals had a habit of yelling out “product placement!” if the camera lingered on a Coke can or other real product. The studios had figured out how to make more money.
      [Ads – today]
      The world is different today. Nowadays, product placement seems to be everywhere. Not just as separate commercials, they are part of seemingly every TV show and movie and sporting event, and in more crossword puzzles than not, I would guess. I wonder if the constructors ever get paid for them, and if so, how much. I understand that ads in their various guises make things like crosswords and other things possible, and make it possible for people to survive, and that’s a good thing.
      [Ads – Brave New World of]
      Sometimes I think of the ads as similar to the carnivorous plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” except that they are whispering “Buy me! Buy me!” The song lyric goes “It just goes on and on, and it seems you can’t get off.” We’ve advanced to the point where we as consumers help out the advertisers for free, by wearing clothing with company names and logos, for instance. And in this blog, by inserting ads — or encomiums, panegyrics, paeans, accolades, tributes, testimonials, or whatever will best capture that je ne sais quoi — into our reviews of crossword puzzles. Pannonica here, for some hotels; myself, a few days ago, for a golf club, the Ping ANSER putter.

      The Mad Men love it.

      • pannonica says:

        Hum, I didn’t see myself as advertising, just name-checking in a sarcastic way. It isn’t as if I’ve ever stayed at any of those three places (all clustered around Grand Army Plaza). In fact, I suspected your comment was a non sequitur until my name was mentioned. Or perhaps you’d assert that my failure to consider what I wrote as advertising (or product placement?) is indicative of just how inured we are as a society to the pernicious and pervasive tenters of crass commercialism?

        • Martin from C. says:

          Maybe my sarcasm detector was dysfunctional, and I needed the help of parenthetical asides or emoticons to “get it.” (Perhaps, in the future, cameras on computer monitors will track eye movements and trigger laugh track audio files to play when a joke has been read.)

          To your question: I guess so. I like “pernicious and pervasive.” For “tenters” I would have used “hypnotic whisperings.” Each to their own.

          The fact that ads don’t seem to bother most folks reminds me of the Albert Einstein poem:
          A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
          am I or are the others crazy?

  4. Jan says:

    In the CS/WP puzzle by Patti Varol, STALE JOKE is also one of the theme answers, mirroring the reveal at TESLA COIL.

    In the NYT, I was also thrown by THE PIERRE, although I have heard of it. Going to the website, I see that it is now the US flagship of the Taj Hotels, so there may be some Saturday-level clue possibilities there.

  5. David L says:

    CS: 36D has ATL for “‘The Pond,’ to Brits (abbr.)” — I’ve always thought that referring to the Atlantic Ocean as ‘the pond’ was an American thing — or maybe something Americans say because they think it’s a cute Briticism. Wikipedia suggests it originated on this side in colonial times, so I’m not sure whether that makes it an Americanism or a Briticism.

  6. Martin from C. says:

    Really liked the NY Times puzzle today for its good words and appropriate difficulty for a Wednesday puzzle.

  7. Martin says:

    I’ve got a question about “dups.” I know some here are bothered by them. I admit that I rarely notice them. But I’m curious what overlaps tend to irk those solvers who are sensitive to them.

    While I realize that this is puzzle is not blogged today, I note that today’s Newsday has an entry TIME and two clues, “At any time” and “One more time.” Is this the sort of combination that some solvers find problematic? If not, why not? Is there some way to characterize the offending word as “more” versus “less” important? (I assume “One more Toyota” and TOYOTA would be more egregious.) Or is TIME just as bad?

    I notice that it’s usually NYT puzzles that are called out for duplications, but I think they are common in all puzzles. I’m trying to understand when these rise to the level of annoying. Since I’m pretty obtuse in this area, I figured I’d ask. I’m not trying to defend the practice, just characterize it better than my current understanding.

    • Evan says:

      Answer/clue dupes are a real pet peeve of mine. But as you said, they don’t always rise to the level of problematic. For really, really common words (A, I, IN, ON, THE, etc), it’s no big deal. For something like TIME…..I mean, it’s a fairly common word, but it’s probably also easy to reword the clue so that there’s no dupe. Duping something like TOYOTA would indeed be out-of-bounds in my book.

      I’d say I go by a three-tier set of rules:

      1) Really common words like A, I, IN, ON, THE, etc. are okay. So conjunctions, articles, and short prepositions fall in this category.
      2) Short, sorta common words that aren’t as common as in #1 (TIME, CAR, BOY, etc.) — I avoid the dupe unless there’s a good reason (like a necessary theme or meta element), or if the clue with that word is especially funny/clever.
      3) Words that are less common than #2 — do not dupe.

      Edit: I should add, this three-tier set of rules applies to separate clues/answers in the same puzzle. Having any word from an answer duped in its own clue (even A or THE) is unacceptable to me.

      • Bencoe says:

        Dupes in clues aren’t that much of a peeve for me. Often I don’t notice them. I would notice “Toyota” being repeated, though.
        I notice dupes a lot more when the duplication occurs inside the grid. If the word “TIME” was used twice in the grid itself, I would have to write it twice and I would definitely wonder why they felt they had to use the same four-letter word twice in a 15 x 15.

      • Martin says:

        Thanks, Evan.

        I wrote a little program that scans a directory of .puz files looking for all manner of dups. That was the easy part. Determining the significance is proving to be trickier. I’m ignoring words of three letters or less. Maybe I’ll flag only those longer words with fewer than a billion google hits. “Toyota” gets a half billion. “Time” gets 12 billion. “The” gets 25 billion.

        It’s hard, but interesting to try, to account for subjective rankings with an objective algorithm.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I find it inelegant and clunky when a 15×15 puzzle has three different answers that include IN, and I don’t care to see words other than 2-letter prepositions, AND, and THE duplicated in a clue and an answer. TIME/time would bug me, especially if it would have been easy to clue another way without duplicating a word in the fill.

          Does your program identify different forms of a word, such as EATS and ATE?

          • Martin says:

            No, and it doesn’t attempt to parse multi-word entries. Clues are parsed and each word is treated as a unit because it’s possible. With entries, it is not generally possible (consider GOUT vs. GO UP). So if a clue word is a substring of an entry, it’s a hit. And if an entry is a substring of another entry, it’s a hit. It won’t catch MY WAY and HIGHWAY or even MY WAY and YOUR WAY because of the intractability of parsing entries.

            It will catch the “worst” overlaps: a word in a clue duping an entry or an entry duping a word in a clue. It will also catch one entry being a subset of another (including an exactly duplicated entry).

            Inflected forms could be added, I guess, but I’m not convinced it’s worth it.

    • Martin from C. says:

      I have no problem with dups in clues / answers and wonder what the fuss is all about. I don’t see how it slows fast solvers down, but I am an average solver.
      Cruciverb has a “do’s and don’ts” list of crossword puzzle construction, but I didn’t see dups listed as a no-no. Perhaps there is another D&D list somewhere with the dups listed as a no-no, with the reasons listed?

      • pannonica says:

        It isn’t whether duplications increase solving time so much as how inelegant it is, which is of course a subjective measure.

      • Martin says:

        I think it’s a topic because it might speed up the solve, not slow it down. A dup has the potential to spoil an entry; if you see “Toyota” in a clue it’s likely to give you at least a subliminal hint that it’s the answer to “___ City, corporate headquarters in Aichi prefecture.”

        Will Shortz has written that his concern with dups is spoilage. That makes sense to me, and I’m curious how to measure it. The “elegance” argument is less concrete, at least to a programmer.

  8. Gareth says:

    Haha. Loved the in-joke part of the punchline in today’s NYT! Am I the only one who finds the fact that the SOUTHERNCROSS clue mentions two Australian cities weird? (Yes, I know it’s on their flag.) Still, really excellent puzzle!

  9. You’re right about STALE JOKE, Jan! My apologies for missing that as well, even with dedicating some time to talk about that answer later on. I blame the imaginary Tesla coil at my house for shocking me silly and not making me see that from the beginning. (At least that wasn’t a stale joke…it just wasn’t a good one.)

    Thanks again, Jan!

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