Tuesday, August 25, 2015

NYT 4:05 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 6:00 (Derek) 
LAT 3:50 (Derek) 
CS 8:03 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (PuzzleGirl) 

John Bennett’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 25 15, no 0825

NY Times crossword solution, 8 25 15, no 0825

Man, I barely remember the steps for blogging a crossword! And my surgical incision isn’t fond of extended periods sitting upright in a chair, so I’ll blog quickly here.

The theme, it appears, consists of the central 15 at 36-Across, JUST HAVING A BALL (which … is that weird, with the JUST at the front of it?) and the six 4-letter “balls” in the circled squares—SOUR ball hard candies, cat’s gross HAIRball, FOOTball, BASEball (The Cubs have won 20 of their last 24! They are practically a shoo-in for a wild card playoffs spot! And they will almost assuredly flub it all in the playoffs, as is their wont!), MEATball, and POOL/billiards ball. I don’t think FOOL’S ERRAND, OBSESSIVE, NEWSPAPER, and a very Reaglesque PARONOMASIA (the fancy name for punning) are thematic, just lively fill.

As with many a puzzle with triple-checked squares, there’s some fill I don’t care for—namely, the very weird “OH, FOO” (what is that, even? some curtailed form of “phooey”?), SSTS, ADEN, HAD A GO, ENROOT, and AFTA (good lord, AFTA and OH FOO crossing at the F is going to be many a solver’s Waterloo).

Barely knew CHROMO, [Old color print, informally]. Actually, didn’t know it at all, but the chromo- prefix relates to color so it was a plausible guess.

Love seeing 29d. [Women’s suffragist ___ B. Wells], IDA—though Wells did a helluva lot more than fight for women’s suffrage. She fought like hell against lynching and for black  people. Muckraking journalist bravely fighting for her people and against injustice. She was a badass.

3.33 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “O for Two” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 8.31.04 PMI wonder how constructors come up with these themes sometimes! In this week’s Jonesin’, Matt takes common phrases with a double letter, and replaces the double letter with the letter O, hence the title, “O for Two,” as in “O for two letters.” Although seemingly random, it actually makes for some lively puzzle entries. Here they are:

  • 17A [Comment about all-soloist concerts?] NEVER A DUO MOMENT (never a duLL moment is the original phrase)
  • 27A [Haulers that repel everyone?] SHOOING CARTS (shoPPing carts)
  • 49A [Say “I guess we’ll take DiCaprio”?] SETTLE FOR LEO (settle for leSS)
  • 65A [“O.K., pontoon, I hear ya loud and clear”?] TEN-FOUR GOOD BUOY (ten-four, good buDDy)

Nicely done. I smiled a lot during this puzzle. The theme made you think a bit, so mission accomplished. This puzzle has a few entries that are unique among indie crosswords. They are listed among the honorable mentions to follow:

  • 46A [ Eugene of travel guides] FODOR – In this day of internet information, sometimes a handy book is still the best. I remember using these a lot for research in elementary school, back when we actually used LIBRARIES!
  • 71A [Grateful Dead bassist Phil] LESH – I am not a DeadHead, so I only got this from the crossings. I have a cousin that IS, so she would probably know this right away!
  • 3D [Bean mentioned in “The Silence of the Lambs”] FAVA – A famous movie line. I believe Hannibal the Cannibal liked a nice Chianti with his “meal” as well!
  • 12D [“Live at the Acropolis” New Ager] YANNI – This is a common clue, at least to me, for him. Still don’t think I’ve ever listened to his music. I’ll have to see if he is on Spotify…
  • 19D [“Straight ___ Compton”] OUTTA – This is an example of what crosswords that don’t have a lengthy editorial process can do. This movie is brand new and fresh in the public’s mind, so a great clue and entry.
  • 42D [L.A. hardcore punk band with the 1994 album “Punk in Drublic”] NOFX – If you say so!
  • 51D [Like corduroy and, um… (hey, get your mind out of the gutter!)] RIBBED – This is the best example of what indie crosswords are all about.  This is not exactly “PC”, but it’s FUNNY. Who didn’t smile at this clue? Probably would NEVER fly at the NYT, but it makes the puzzle enjoyable, and isn’t that the point?

Great puzzle. Quirky, but funny. 4 stars.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 8.29.47 PMIs it just me, or does C.C. Burnikel write a lot of puzzles? Specifically, a lot of Tuesday level LAT puzzles? Another fine puzzle, although it took me a second to get the theme. Here are the theme answers:

  • 20A [Suffer from unexpected slow sales, say] HIT A DRY SPELL
  • 29A [Pollution control legislation] CLEAN AIR ACT
  • 47A [Hub of the Broadway theater district] TIMES SQUARE
  • 55A [Disney theme park … and a place for the ends of 20-, 29-, and 47-Across?] MAGIC KINGDOM

Maybe my Disney bias crowded my understanding of the theme, but the ends of the theme answers can all go with MAGIC. Hence MAGIC SPELL, MAGIC ACT, and MAGIC SQUARE. Nice, neat and clean. Some favorites:

  • 9A [Gets the most out of] MILKS – We use this phrase a lot at work. Certain co-workers of mine are known to “milk the clock!”
  • 22A [Spanish tar] BREA – As in La Brea Tar Pits. Gettable and educational all at the same time!
  • 42A [Motrin alternative] ALEVE – I almost put ADVIL in here, but its the same as Motrin. I take Aleve regularly. About to take one now…
  • 60A [Mistake in the cockpit] PILOT ERROR – Great entry. Something you want to hear only in puzzles!
  • 3D [“It’s not my fault!”] DON’T BLAME ME – Great long non-theme entry
  • 8D [Tournament in which Phil Mickelson was runner-up a record six times]  U.S. OPEN  – The TENNIS U.S. Open starts next week!
  • 12D [White wine aperitif] KIR – Not familiar with this. It is a thing. I am not a wine enthusiast.
  • 24D [“Put this on your calendar”] SAVE THE DATE – Another great long theme entry. Smoothly done.
  • 27D [Oversee, as a museum exhibit] CURATE – Does a curator actually curate? What does that entail? Is it easy? Do I need to become a curator??

Another fun puzzle by C.C. that I will rate at 3.7 stars. Again, smoothly done. Is next Tuesday’s her’s too….?

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crossword Nation Puzzle, “Cheers!” – PuzzleGirl’s write-up

CN 08.25.15Hi, everyone. PuzzleGirl here sitting in for Janie who’s taking a well-deserved vacation. I’m so happy to be reviewing the Crossword Nation puzzle, which I’ve enjoyed ever since I subscribed back in January. (I have no excuse for why it took so long. I’m just slow sometimes.)

So today we have a very drink-y puzzle, which is a little awkward since I don’t drink. Although I probably don’t do a lot of other things that show up in crossword themes, so maybe it’s not awkward after all. I mean, even though I don’t drink I still know the words involved in drinking. I can tell you one thing though. I never would have come up with these theme answers. Why? I suck at anagramming and at seeing backwards words. I was just talking to PuzzleHusband tonight about how amazing Merl Reagle was at anagramming. I mean, from the little I knew of him he just walked around anagramming in his head All The Time. I had an email conversation with him several years ago, back when I blogged the LA Times puzzle and the Sunday puzzle was his, and after we finished with whatever “business” we were discussing, he sent me an email that said, “by the way, your name is an anagram of ‘a tangled leash.’ don’t know if it’s apt but it certainly sounds natural.” I was so excited that I forwarded the email to my mom. I mean, what an honor to have Merl anagram my name right out of the blue like that! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what separates us word people from the rest of humanity. But I digress.

So the theme answers are all downs and each has a word for a type of alcohol running from bottom-to-top, like so:

  • 3D: THREE-BEAN SALAD [Fiber-rich buffet dishes] [BEER]
  • 9D: MARTINI GLASS [One that’s picked up by James Bond] [GIN] – extra points for this alcohol-related entry *and* the fact that a martini is actually made with gin!
  • 11D: “WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN” [#1 hit by Bruno Mars] [WINE]
  • 21D: BARNEY RUBBLE [Bamm-Bamm’s dad] [RYE] – who knew Bamm-Bamm was spelled with double M’s?
  • 27D: DRINK UP [“Skoal!” … and a hint to the puzzle theme!]

All of these types of alcohol, of course, can be found at an OPEN BAR [20A: Provider of free Rusty Nails and Screwdrivers]. And if you’re a non-drinker like me, you might enjoy some NAYA [43A: Poland Spring rival], a little KOOL-Aid [45A: ___-Aid (instant drink)], or perhaps a nice SPICE TEA [42D: Chai, for one]. This puzzle is very well hydrated!

There were two places in this puzzle that slowed me down momentarily. I wasn’t completely sure of the last letter of the aforementioned NAYA, and I’ve never heard of MANA [29D: Grammy-winning Mexican rock band], but the crosses were totally fair and so I learned a couple things. Oh, and I inadvertently entered SIS for SIB [30A: Bro’s bro], so I had to figure that out in order to get the THREE-BEAN part of the theme answer. I’m all “THREE-SEAM SALAD? Is that a thing?” No, PuzzleGirl. No, that’s not a thing

I laughed at myself when I figured out INGA [69A: “Young Frankenstein” lab assistant]. I thought it was IGOR at first. I already had the I in place from TIKI [58D: Torch type] and thought it was my lucky day because I can never remember if the IGOR in “Young Frankenstein” starts with an I or a Y. Looking it up now … yep, it’s an I. Maybe after this mishap I’ll be able to remember that. My lucky day after all! (Inga also makes me laugh because 100 years ago when I worked at a bookstore in New York, a bunch of us would sometimes put fake names on our name-tags and I often used INGA. We weren’t trying to be hostile or anything. I mean it was a bookstore for crying out loud. Just having a little fun.)

As a sports fan, I also liked seeing all the athletes in this grid: REECE [19A: Model/volleyball star Gabrielle], Rafael NADAL [64A: Spanish tennis star who’s the “King of Clay”], and CANO [54D: Robinson of the Seattle Mariners].

Basically, this was a smooth solve, as you would expect from Ms. Liz. What did you all think?

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No Decision”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.25.15: "No Decision"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.25.15: “No Decision”

Good afternoon, crossword lovers! Did we all welcome Amy back today?! I hope so! Today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, doesn’t have a winner nor a loser in it. That’s because each of the four theme answers are multiple-word entries in which the second word is also a word used to describe a deadlock in the sporting context.

  • FIVE CARD DRAW (20A: [Fast-paced poker variety]) – Initially typed in “five card stud.”
  • GETTING EVEN (34A: [Exacting revenge])
  • FIT TO BE TIED (40A: [Extremely irate])
  • COMFORT LEVEL (54A: [State of trust and ease with a person or situation])

Not too long ago, I teased my mother for always referring to cold water as ICE WATER, since I just said to her that just saying water would be sufficient (10D: [Zero-calorie drink]). Well, this puzzle just shut me up real quick! Sorry, Mom! If you hadn’t filled out STREP (29D: [Throat bacteria]), who else would have initially filled in “wig” as the crossing instead of RUG (38A: [Toupee, slangily])? European football (soccer) season in back in full swing, which means, among other things, you might not go too long until hearing a story about RIOTERS a.k.a soccer hooligans causing havoc before, during or after a game (30A: [Rampaging groups of lawbreakers]). From the way the clue to SEVEN is presented, it makes it sound as if someone who’s a really good craps player is called/nicknamed “seven” or “a seven” (25D: [Craps natural]). Is that true?!? If so, then the next/first time you see me at a casino, you can yell at me and say, “Hey, snake eyes!! What’s up?!”

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TOLEDO (4D: [Ohio’s “Glass City”]) – So how did this native New Yorker immediately know the answer to this clue? Sports, of course! The University of TOLEDO football team plays its home games in a stadium, built in 1936, called The Glass Bowl. Maybe, after this, I’ll look deeper into the history of the glass industry in Toledo. But this will have to do for now!

See you all at the top of the hump tomorrow!

Take care!


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24 Responses to Tuesday, August 25, 2015

  1. PJ Ward says:

    Nice! I had the same thought about Ida B. Wells.

  2. huda says:

    Amy! Good to see you blogging a puzzle again!

    “good lord, AFTA and OH FOO …” exactly, that F was the last to fall… I wanted ASTA at first

    And I read Pruning instead of Punning, and had …ASIA at the end and my mind kept going to bonsais…

    Team fiend is awesome, BTW! Great leadership, to have such a wonderful team.
    May the healing continue…

  3. pannonica says:

    “My surgical incision isn’t fond of extended periods sitting upright in a chair, so I’ll blog quickly here.”

    Those laptop holders for supine computerizing look torturous, incidentally.

    Google Ngram for pool ball vs billiard ball.

    • sandirhodes says:

      your ngram goes to 2000. I could only get it to go to 2008, but there was a significant dropoff of BILLIARD, and a sharp (well, ‘sharp’ might be an exaggeration) rise to POOL between 2000-2008, so I imagine that trend might continue through today. Just sayin’ …

      • pannonica says:

        The default corpus should be through 2000, with the additional span through 2008 supposedly less reliable, so I usually allow that default. Sometimes I compare spans, but didn’t do so this time. Interesting, though. [edit: looked at those results; I’m at this point skeptical of it as a real trend] Also interesting that your default seems to be through ’08; perhaps they’ve made a policy change. Will investigate.

      • pannonica says:

        “In summary, because the Google Books corpus today is derived largely from publisher submissions, and because there is a major signal coming from reprints of public domain books published before 1922, n-grams from 2004 onward (and, to a lesser degree, from 2000-2004) are skewed to make modern words appear more infrequent than they actually are, and obsolescent words more common than they are.”


        So perhaps you’re on to something.

        • Gary R says:

          Regarding the peculiarities of ngrams, I added “cue ball” to the search and came up with a really strange looking graph. Not sure what might have happened with “cue ball” in the early 1900’s and the late ’30s and early ’40s to produce this result.

          ngram chart

  4. Zulema says:

    Amy, welcome back and take it easy! Good to see you here and best wishes for continued improvement, even if just for sitting. We are all happy to hear from you.

  5. JohnV says:

    Liked Liz including Rafa. Hope we see him again soon.

  6. Ethan says:

    Welcome back Amy!

  7. Adam says:

    How come the Xword Nation puzzle is shown twice?

  8. Papa John says:

    Good to have you back, Amy.

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The AFTA/OH_FOO crossing is unfortunate but the circled FOOT that’s responsible for it should also rescue the solver from drowning in the water/loo.

    Welcome back,

  10. Matt Skoczen says:

    Yep…C.C. Burnikel does A TON of Monday and Tuesday LAT puzzles (although I don’t like many of the themes, like today’s–but that’s just me). I wish I had an iota of the time she has to make puzzles.

  11. sbmanion says:

    Here is an interesting article on the history of billiards/pool:


    In my experience, the games played on a pool table are primarily 8-ball, 9-ball, one pocket and occasionally straight pool. I played pool and billiards almost every day in my last year of law school against an older student who had graduated from college seven years before I did and was the last (I think, 1964) intercollegiate billiards champion. Billiards was rarely played in 1975. In England, the popular game is Snooker.

    Most associations have the word “billiards” in their name.

    The game was popularized on TV for a while particularly by a beautiful girl (and excellent player) named Jeanette Lee. I don’t think it is on much anymore.

    The game had died by the late ’50s, but was revitalized by The Hustler, one of the great movies of all time with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.


  12. Avg Solvr says:

    Aloha, Amy. Hope your recovery is going well.

  13. Lois says:

    Weird ratings for today’s NYT. I enjoyed it!

Comments are closed.