Saturday, August 15, 2015

NYT 6:16 (joon—across lite) 
LAT 14:05 (Derek) 
CS 8:15 (Ade) 
Newsday 32:02 (Derek) 

Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword (joon’s review)

nyt 8/15/15 chen 0815 solution

nyt 8/15/15 chen 0815 solution

hi gang, joon here with the saturday blogging detail. i did this puzzle last night and totally forgot i was supposed to write about it, so here we are. my apologies for the delay.

anyway, this is a good puzzle. really good. strikingly, the word count is only 62, which is microscopic—but there is no cruft. usually when the word count gets that low, you’ll see a superabundance of RSTLNE, with lots of awkward plurals and RE- and -ERS and -EST words that nobody ever actually uses. here, the closest thing to that is perhaps ACUTEST, but that is really not that bad—i could certainly imagine my wife (a doctor) using it to describe pain, unlike some entries of this type i have seen in other low-word-count puzzles. so hats off to jeff for attention to detail: this baby was filled with care.


  • {Symbol of the Franciscan order} TAU CROSS. this was the last entry to get, and man, i felt dumb, because the church i went to in grad school was run by franciscans. then again, the clue was pretty vague. the NW area in general was the last quadrant to fall for me, with IN CLOSE another vague clue i didn’t quite pick up on and jazz trumpeter THAD jones unknown to me.
  • {One letting off steam at the dinner table?} HOT MEAL. sure, okay. i put in HOT____ very quickly and then waited for crossings, which were easily forthcoming in that NE corner. this phrase (and it really is a phrase) always puts me in mind of ymca. i won’t link the video, but i’m afraid the damage is probably already done—it’s stuck in your head now, too, isn’t it?
  • {South Pacific’s largest city} SUVA. capital of fiji. i didn’t know it was the largest, but this went right into the grid off of ___A. i’m glad i didn’t think of APIA, which seems like an equally plausible answer in retrospect.
  • {Sigma signification} SUM. tau and now sigma. it’s all greek to me.
  • {Recipient of Argus’s 100 eyes, in myth} PEACOCK. this was a big gimme that broke open the middle of the puzzle for me. i know jeff digs greek myth, and i do, too. so i was grateful for this toehold. {Apollo collection} wasn’t a myth clue—it was MOON ROCK, but that was okay, too. i wasn’t sure about the second word but it pretty well had to be MOON something.
  • {Iconoclast stiflers} THOUGHT POLICE. great answer.
  • {Peter Fonda cult film about an acid experience} THE TRIP. never heard of this one. is it like reefer madness?
  • {Jays’ fan, maybe} BIRDER and {Cubs’ supporters, maybe} SHE-BEARS. nope, no baseball here. i saw through both of these clues—in some ways, the apostrophes gave away the trick, because i wouldn’t use an apostrophe if talking about a baseball team that way.
  • {Snarky sort} SMART-ASS. beautiful answer, never seen it in a crossword before.
  • {Film figure who said “I take orders from just one person: me”} HAN SOLO. love it. my kids watched star wars (the first one) for the first time a couple weeks ago. i’m idly wondering how long we have before they find out about the prequels, because they are going to watch the prequels over my dead body, you hear me? then again, i don’t even think they’re emotionally ready for the empire strikes back, so we might have to cocoon them for a while longer.
  • {Accessory with a magnetic strip on a kitchen wall} KNIFE BAR. see, we have one of these in our kitchen, but i didn’t know what this was called. i thought it was just called a magnetic knife strip.
  • {Slips of paper?} ERRATA. excellent clue.
  • {Prefix related to benzene’s shape} HEXA-. hmm. benzene is C6H6, so this went right in, but i definitely think of the shape as being a ring rather than a hexagon. of course, the clue isn’t wrong.

that’s all for me. i rarely give my stamp approval to stunt themeless constructions like this, but this was a fun, tough solve. 4.4 stars.

oh, and one more thing—happy birthday to our hostess, amy! let’s all hope she continues her strong recovery from the kidney transplant. we love you, amy!

Michael Wiesenberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 7.27.12 PMWhat is your reaction when you first see a puzzle with this type of grid? I usually get a wry smile to form! How would you describe this grid? Radical? Different? Avant-garde?? It definitely looks like a feat of construction, with trip stacked 10s stacked next to 15-letter answer, and it is only 66 words, if my count is correct. As has been the case for most of my LA Times solving experience, this is another phenomenal puzzle with great fill.  Only one entry that raised an eyebrow, which I will mention below.

Although the puzzle gets kudos from me, it was a challenge for me to solve.  Actually solved this one on my iPhone, so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I believe our fearless leader Amy mentioned she does not enjoy solving on a tablet; I solve most of mine on a tablet. But on a phone, those buttons are just too small! But when the time is available to solve, you use the time available to solve!

Here are some of my favorites, and not so favorites, from this grid:

  • 14A [Put ___ in: test] A TOE – Not my favorite. But it makes sense.
  • 15A [Dancer who appeared in “Golden Boy” after being discovered by Sammy Davis Jr.] LOLA FALANA – Hard to believe she is 72 years old!
  • 20A [Modern traveler’s purchase] E-TICKET – The aforementioned iPhone has been used to check onto a plane flight…!
  • 21A [Heraldic band] ORLE – Ick.
  • 22A [O. Henry, for one] IRONIST – This word appeared I believe in a recent Friday NYT I blogged. Definitely not a common word, I feel.
  • 26A [Diamond words after two or three] MEN ON – This is a clever way to save a quirky entry. This is a reference to a baseball diamond with runners on base. Nicely done.
  • 42A [Pension law acronym] ERISA – Stands for Employee Retirement Income Security Act.  News to me.  Here is some info.
  • 47A [Indictment feature?] SILENT C – This one I love. SILENT ? entries are seen fairly often, and this one has a clever clue.
  • 3D [Offensive, perhaps] FOUR LETTER – This area is where I stumbled.  This is also a great clue.
  • 4D [One of an orange trio] TENNESSEE AVENUE – What’s an orange trio?? That’s what I thought at first, until I thought of a Monopoly board!
  • 23D [Trading principle] RECIPROCITY – Not a word seen often in crosswords, but not at all uncommon. Wonderful.
  • 28D [Curses] IMPRECATES – This is NOT a common word. But great to include. The SE corner has better fill than the NW, in my humble opinion.
  • 52D [Tishby of “The Island”] NOA – Never heard of him. I mean her! And I actually SAW The Island!! And how else to clue NOA?

Again, a great, ambitious puzzle, and fun to solve. 4.2 stars.

Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Period Pieces”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.15.15: "Period Pieces"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.15.15: “Period Pieces”

Hello friends! I hope all is well with you as we officially turn the corner and head to the second part of oot (or August…I told you I was going to sprinkle in French in each review as long as I’m in Quebec.) In today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, four multiple-word theme answers have the word “ERA” spanning the two words.

  • SPOILER ALERT (19A: [“Major plot points ahead!”]) – I should actually say “major plot points ahead!” one time and see if my friends get what I’m saying, or look at me as if I had two heads.
  • NURSE RATCHED (26A: [“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” tyrant])
  • EXCHANGE RATE (41A: [Currency calculator’s need])
  • CARPENTER ANT (47A: [Wood-nesting insect])

Today’s crossword puzzle is also brought to you by your arrow-shooting gods, AMOR (13A: [Arrow-shooting god]) and EROS (49D: [Arrow-shooting god]). Well, because of all the steps that I’ve had to walk this week because of the lack of an elevator at the two sporting arenas I’ve been to, my KNEES are absolutely shot (30A: [Reflex hammer’s targets]). Two well-attended stadiums and there are no elevators?!  Well, I haven’t seen too many obese people here in Montréal, and I guess that might be part of the reason, huh?! You don’t come across, or even say, BOOER too many times when talking about an unimpressed spectator at an event (14D: [Unhappy spectator]). But there were many booers on the tennis court on Thursday here, if you heard what happened with the tennis player Nick Kyrgios and what he said on the court during a tennis match the night prior about his opponent, Stan Wawrinka. When Kyrgios took the court on Thursday against American tennis player John Isner, there definitely were a lot of boos – and a lot of booers – directed towards him. Well, despite that, today’s “sports…smarter” subject is Chief WAHOO, the racially insensitive and now secondary logo of the Cleveland Indians (31A: [“Yippee!’]). Ok, maybe not, but we do have a winner today, and it’s…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ARCHIE (22A: [Comics redhead who died heroically in 2014]) – Archie is dead?!?!? What?!?! How come I missed this??? Anyways, this is about sports, so I’ll wonder about that a little later. We see ELI a lot in puzzles in reference to “Quarterback Manning,” but know that ARCHIE Manning is the patriarch of the Manning quarterback family, which includes Eli and Peyton. Most people remember Archie for his great college career at Ole Miss, yet a star-crossed, underwhelming NFL career, mostly with the New Orleans Saints. What people fail to realize is that Archie, while in the NFL with the sad-sack Saints, made the Pro Bowl in 1978 and 1979 and was named the 1978 NFC Player of the Year by United Press International (UPI). Sadly, because the talent around him never was up to snuff, Manning retired with a career record in the NFL of 35-101-3. But his boys have more than made up for all of that losing, as Eli and Peyton have combined to bring home three Super Bowl titles to the family.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge! I might be a little late in posting it with my commitments in Montréal and traveling back to New York City, but I’ll be here for you…in some way!

Take care!


Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

imageWhy do I seem to always get stuck in these harder puzzles around the 1-Across area? In this week’s Newsday Stumper, I had most of the puzzle filled in after about 15-17 minutes, then I stared at the NW corner. And stared. And stared. And stared some more. Finally got a toehold when I figured out KEEPS  at 19A. OPTIONAL at 17A also stumped me. Brad Wilber produced another stellar puzzle. I again was in joyful agony!

First answer filled in was MITTEN since I grew up there! Thought EMINEM was the answer to 16A, but was hesitant to fill it in right away. 44A [When “Downton Abbey” begins] EDWARDIAN ERA also gave me fits. I put VICTORIAN ERA in there at first. My favorite clue was for 62A [Displaying polish, perhaps] OPEN-TOED. I actually smiled when I solved that one.

There is so much good full in here I cannot mention it all. And nothing bad at all. IN CRISIS MODE, PRIX FIXE, LONDON EYE, OMNIVERSE, and CLOWN CARS are all great. Hope you all found this as much fun to solve as I did. 4.5 stars. I have seen Brad in passing at a tournament or two; I hope I get time to actually speak with him soon!

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17 Responses to Saturday, August 15, 2015

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: The northwest corner was the last to fall for me too (despite THAD Jones being a gimme). Thinking that might be nearly universal among solvers. ARGUS was a personal gimme as well. Yay, mythology!

    The Trip is worth watching, in a culty way. It’s probably most notable for being screen-written by Jack Nicholson.

  2. David L says:

    Same for me with NW being the last to go — at some point I guessed THAD, on the grounds that it sounded like the sort of name a jazz trumpeter might have, and that led to STRODEUP and SHORTTON.

    I guess PUTTIES is legit but it doesn’t sound natural to me. I would speak of different types of putty rather than different putties.

    I didn’t like the clue for HEXA, which refers to the number of carbons in benzene and not to the shape of the molecule. Think of hexane, which is an approximately linear 6-carbon molecule. I suppose you could say that HEXA is indirectly related to the shape of benzene, but that seems like a needlessly inaccurate clue.

    The Jays’ fan and Cubs’ supporters clues were a cute pair.

  3. huda says:

    “Symbol of the Franciscan order} TAU CROSS. this was the last entry to get, and man, i felt dumb, because the church i went to in grad school was run by franciscans. then again, the clue was pretty vague. the NW area in general was the last quadrant to fall for me, with IN CLOSE another vague clue i didn’t quite pick up on and jazz trumpeter THAD jones unknown to me.”
    Exactly my experience, except that I went to a school for 13 years, from kindergarten through high school run by Franciscan nuns (called Les Franciscaines, originally enough…).

    Joon, speaking of cocoons and kids, do you know this product called cacoon?
    If you have a tree, kids love it, and it cuts down on TV watching :)

    I had no idea SUVA was the largest… it’s smaller than 100,000 people, right? My university town is bigger than that. Good to know!

    Excellent puzzle, but the cluing was pretty wicked at times…

    • Ross says:

      Suva is largest in size (larger than Los Angeles). Largest does not necessarily mean most populous.

      • john farmer says:

        Depends how you define South Pacific. Wikipedia calls Suva “the largest and the most cosmopolitan city in the South Pacific” but it notes elsewhere that’s only if you exclude Australia and New Zealand. Sydney, for one, has many more people than Suva and is six times its area.

        It’s a banner day for LOLA FALANA.

  4. sbmanion says:

    I filled in large areas of every section, but the answers I did not know, I really didn’t know. I immediately inserted ASTI and CHANT, but still had trouble in the NW and I had the same difficulty in every other section; quickly inserting a couple of answers and then bogging down.


  5. David L says:

    I had the same experience with the Stumper, except that I stared and stared at the NW corner, then stared some more, then took a break, then resumed staring — then gave up. I had TAIPEI, ERDE, and ANA, but that was it. PILGRIM was the only word I could think of for 8D, but I couldn’t see what it had to do with the clue (Canterbury Tales, I see now).

    I was leaning toward PASTE at 1D, but that didn’t get me anywhere. STATEMAP for “Senator’s re-election reference” seems unlikely — you’d think a Senator running for re-election would have a good idea of his state’s geography. MACARONI for “Dandy” — good, but hardly the first word that comes to mind.

    I take issue with OMNIVERSE for “Cosmologist’s four-dimensional realm.” I had SPACETIME at first, which I think is a better answer. Omniverse is a semi-scientific term with no fixed definition, but I would take it primarily to mean a collection of universes, parallel or otherwise, and therefore more than 4-dimensional. The first Google link for omniverse comes up as an online M-W definition that fits the clue, but I don’t think that’s a good definition — certainly not a complete one.

  6. Hal Tepfer says:

    How strange it is that LOLA FALANA is in both the Times and the Times (the former, just her last name, the latter her whole name). Did the puzzles one after the other and so this just jumped out at me.

  7. Sam Donaldson says:

    “And how else to clue NOA?”

    [“There is ___” (Sajak’s reply to a vowel-buyer)]

  8. Avg Solvr says:

    NW of both the Stumper and NYT were hard to crack. Anyone else feel the clue for INCLOSE was a stretch? Liked the LAT’s unusual grid.

  9. joon says:

    4×10 stacks are not that common, and those sections were isolated from the middle except for one letter, but the weirdest thing about the lat grid was the decision to run the long answers (those two stacks and the two 15s) down instead of across.

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