Thursday, August 27, 2015

NYT 3:50 (Amy) 
LAT 5:36 (Gareth) 
CS 6:09 (Ade) 
BEQ 8:29 (Ben) 

New meta contest from David Steinberg available here.

Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 27 15, no 0827

NY Times crossword solution, 8 27 15, no 0827

At first, I thought the theme was sort of haphazard and untargeted—just a bunch of phrases and names starting with two individually pronounced letters? But what tightens up the theme is that in each instance, the first letter is the one that’s next in the alphabet after the second letter:

  • 8a. [Box with handles?], CB RADIO.
  • 17a. [“The Invisible Man” author], H.G. WELLS.
  • 22a. [Washington M.L.S. team], D.C. UNITED.
  • 35a. [“The A-Team” character played by Mr. T], B.A. BARACUS.
  • 49a. [Educational institution near Plano, informally], UT-DALLAS.
  • 60a. [Some return addresses], P.O. BOXES.
  • 64a. [“Four Quartets” poet], T.S. ELIOT.

I can only think of two other potential theme answers using different letter combos: E.D. DRUG, which could be clued as [Cialis or Viagra], and golfer K.J. CHOI. While 53 theme squares is a workable number, cramming in 12 more would have made for much ugliness in the fill. We already have blah bits like ERST and ELLS and INKLESS, and they are plenty. … Oh! I belatedly read the puzzle’s notepad, which declares: “Seven Across answers in this puzzle have a highly unusual property for which we can’t think of a single other common example.” Um, sorry, Joon, Will, and Joel. I came up with two. CHOI was in an NYT puzzle two years ago, even.

Did this play more like a Wednesday puzzle for you? It did for me.

Five more things:

  • 48a. [Aromatic seasoning], FENNEL. I hate fennel, anise, and black licorice.
  • 51a. [“Straight Outta Compton” rappers], N.W.A. Super-current clue; the movie just came out.
  • 62a. [Bug detector?], ANTENNA. Was thinking this was about detecting the wiretap type of bugs at first, but no, it’s insect antennae.
  • 3d. [Give a tongue-lashing], BAWL OUT. Lively verb phrase. Other fill I liked includes NEW DEAL and BOHO.
  • 29d. [Out of jail, conditionally], ON BAIL. Feel like that’s not a complete phrase—that it’s “out on bail.”

Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Love Me Tinder” — Ben’s Review


Okay, say what you will if you didn’t like today’s BEQ, but I thought this was a clever theme, and if I had come across something like this during a tournament like Lollapuzzoola, I would be equally awed after the solve. It requires a little extra knowledge (namely, what Tinder has you do with potential matches depending on if you’re intrigued or not), but if you’ve got that, figuring out what’s going on with the theme answers is pretty easy:

  • 17A: Cartilage that covers the wind pipe when swallowing (Swipe) — PIG ELOTTIS (EPIGLOTTIS)
  • 25A: Memphis location where Elvis and Johnny Cash, among others, recorded (Swipe) — SUNIO STUD (SUN STUDIO)
  • 30A: Very nearby (Swipe) — LOSER ATCANGE (AT CLOSE RANGE)
  • 39A: “That’s beyond belief!” (Swipe) — WHODATIT HUNK (WHODA THUNK IT)
  • 46A: Utterly lost (Swipe) — TWIT ASEND (AT WIT’S END)
  • 57A: French white wine (Swipe) — JOLAIS BEAU (BEAUJOLAIS)

If you don’t quite catch what’s going on with the clues (and I admittedly didn’t until I filled the grid and came back to it later to figure out why the theme clues seemed a bit odd), it’s likely you’re not going to like this one, but as I’ve already said, I thought this was brilliant. It was a nice puzzle as well if you’re into pop culture references – from NBA JAM appearing at 4A (as the only “Sports video game where players caught on fire” I’m aware of) and AGENT K (11D, the second crossword reference to Men In Black I’ve seen in as many days), to some WATUSIS going on at 39D (“Dances done with knees slightly bent”).

There was one music reference I didn’t like (24D – a German Beatles reference for MIR, Brendan? Really?), but I managed to completely botch the middle of the grid for a bit when I kept trying to make Bonnie TYLER the singer of “Love Sneaking Up On You” at 35A rather than the correct Bonnie RAITT. Similarly, two new names I learned this puzzle, in parallel spots: 22D‘s Former Orioles slugger BOOG Powell (with what I hope is just an unfortunate nickname rather than an unfortunate actual name) and 40D‘s ’60s militant H RAP Brown.

It took a sec to get it, but I think this was my favorite BEQ so far this year.  Nicely done! 4.5/5 stars

Timothy L. Meaker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 150827

LA Times

Today’s puzzle features an old-school minimalist theme. Just four answers and 36 theme squares, like Nancy Salomon touted in her crossword constructing guides. Important when going this route is to have a tightly defined theme. Here, it’s a little offbeat, but it is consistent. Four two-part phrases begin with one syllable words; these lose their terminal consonant sound, becoming three-letter vertebrate animal noises. These animals are split two/two between birds and (domesticated) mammals, so there’s no odd-man out. The answers are then clued wackily. Boy that was unnecessarily convoluted on my part!

Anyway, the four themers consist of:

  • [Caddy for pigeons?], COODEVILLE. Tricky, because you think of golf caddy or tea caddy a lot easier than the slangy form of Cadillac. (Coup De Ville)
  • [Statistical aid for sheep?], BAAGRAPH. (Bar Graph)
  • [Cantatas for cows?], MOOMUSIC. (Mood Music)
  • [Phone service for crows?], CAWWAITING. (Call Waiting)

Surprisingly, there aren’t any truly flashy longer answers. PUSSYCAT and DAYTRADER are about the most splash things here. MARIE/CURIE is placed centrally in the otherwise quiet and unassuming middle. It is worth noting the spelling of […firearms company], BERETTA and distinguishing it from the cop show BARETTA and the hat BIRETTA. One of those confusing threesomes, like YENTA/YENTE/YENTL.

New word for me was VOIT, a [Sports ball brand] – basketballs it seems, which explains why I haven’t heard of it.

3.25 Stars Gareth, leaving you with (apologies in advance) one of those inescapably huge and earwormy pieces of 70’s pop confectionary…

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sales Force”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.27.15: "Sales Force"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.27.15: “Sales Force”

Hello everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is all about men, real and fictional, whose first names start with an A, and whose last names start with a D. The reveal, AD MEN, leads us to what’s going on (28D: [Certain sales force, and a hint to the answers at 20-, 36-, and 48-Across]).

  • ABNER DOUBLEDAY (20A: [Purported inventor of baseball]) – Winner of the “Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day entry: A Union general during the American Civil War, Doubleday has been credited for inventing the game of baseball in Cooperstown, NY in 1839, though historians have proved that to be dubious at best. The earliest traces of the game date back to the 18th century, but the man that’s recognized as the one who laid the foundation for the modern game is Alexander Cartwright. In 1845 at the New York Knickerbocker Club, Cartwright was responsible for some of the first rules of the game, including the diamond-shaped infield, foul lines as boundaries and the concept of three strikes for each batter. Also, according to reports, he abolished the rule of tagging out runners by throwing balls at them! Good move, Alexander! Good move!
  • ALBUS DUMBLEDORE (36A: [Hogwarts headmaster])
  • ALEXANDRE DUMAS (48A: [“The Count of Monte Cristo” author])

Once I already put down the first theme answer, which was right down my sports alley, as well as answered the reveal, I knew this was going to be one of my fastest WaPo solves.  It might have been my fastest, actually. I liked, as well as didn’t like OH, BY THE WAY in the grid (27A: [“Incidentally…”]). Not because it’s not good fill…because it is.  My problem is that the entry reminded me of how many times I say that to people!! I probably have only done one or two crossword puzzles in pen over the past, so ERASURES are definitely a staple when I do them on paper (38D: [Crossword solvers’ smudges, say]). I’m sure once I get to joon’s Thursday’s grid when I take the train home tonight, there will be a lot of erasures that I make on it! Sorry I can’t stay too long again, as another tennis match is about to get underway that I have to be at in person here in New Haven. But, at least the last graph is taken care of, because…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: see ABNER DOUBLEDAY  –

TGIF tomorrow! Have a good rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


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47 Responses to Thursday, August 27, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Puzzle felt like a nice Tuesday-Wednesday. Well constructed. My main slow down was that I put UNESCO instead of UNICEF (I guess because my father worked for the UNESCO for a while)

    I didn’t see the notepad. I finished it and went to get an almond cookie, and as I was munching it I thought: “was this a themeless? No there were initials… was there something else?” I came back and tried to make words out of the initials, anagraming them in various combinations– made a bunch of words didn’t get me too far… So, thanks for explaining, Amy…

  2. David Stein says:

    In addition to KJ CHOI I was thinking about former Celtic coach and player ML CARR

    • Evad says:

      I came here to suggest M.L. Carr as well–as a Bostonian, joon would be very familiar with him.

    • Phil says:

      ML Carr was a funny guy. He said, as other players were adopting Muslim names, that he was going to change his to Abduhl Automobile.

  3. Tim Kashuba says:

    JK Rowling?

  4. Avg Solvr says:

    Interesting theme. Ellison instead of HGWELLS caused a hang-up for a bit.

  5. rvkal says:

    As a provincial Northwesterner, my first thought was Seattle Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright, but I admit he’s probably not famous enough to fit the theme.

  6. Ale M says:

    DC Comics, ML King Jr., NM State … I liked Mr. T in the middle of the puzzle. Nice!

    • Shawn P says:

      MLK Day is actually a pretty cool one because it is three consecutive letters in order.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Came here to (incredulously) mention DC Comics, which leapt immediately to mind and I’d be surprised if there weren’t a fair number of other more or less well-known names beginning with DC. Perhaps the editor meant to say that they couldn’t think of other letter pairs with that property, but if so, he didn’t phrase himself properly (though, to be sure, it would have been difficult to without giving away the theme). Caused me to waste a fair few minutes looking for something more to the theme.

      I think they can justify overlooking ML King, since I believe he’s usually known either by his full name or his full initials, but I guess it’s kind of hard to justify differentiating NM State from UT Dallas.

  7. Ethan says:

    I don’t know Amy. never heard of KJ CHOI for all that she was in a puzzle a few years back.

    and E.D. DRUG feels very contrived to me. If you’re going with that you might as well use “Thiomerosal, for one” Hg COMPOUND. or RSS FEED. Actually the latter feels more usable to me — the theme connection says nothing about the first letter AFTER the two reverse-ordered letters.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      RSS doesn’t work–would need to be SR.

    • pgw says:

      KJ Choi is a man – the most successful male Asian golfer of all time. He’s won 8 PGA tournaments. He’s pretty famous to anyone who pays any attention to golf, which is a lot of people. Having once been in a puzzle is way, way down on the list of reasons one might have heard of him.

    • JFC says:

      KJ Choi is well known among weekend golfers and works but is likely relatively obscure to a typical NYT XWP solver. He was a weight lifter before becoming a golfer, an unusual progression.

    • sbmanion says:

      I am sure that KJ Choi has won the most tournaments on the American tour. I might put Isao Aoki ahead of him as Aoki is in the Hall of Fame. Jumbo Ozaki led the Japanese money list for many years and won close to 100 tournaments there.

      Inbee Park is on her way to being the greatest female golfer of all time if the ultimate standard is majors won.

      I thought it was a great theme with surprisingly few letter combos that work.


  8. David L says:

    W.V.O. Quine? Maybe not that well known, and perhaps the extra initial spoils the pattern.

    • pgw says:

      He’s sometimes referred to as just W.V. Quine.

      E.D. Hirsch – famous in certain circles
      G.F. Handel – highly famous
      V.U. Hammerschaimb – okay, not famous
      SR-71 Blackbird – the SR doesn’t stand for anything, though, as far as I know

      • David L says:

        Handel’s a good one, but I wonder how well known his initials are. He’s become one of those one named musicians, like Sting or Madonna…

  9. steveo says:

    QP dolls?

  10. Bryant says:

    Pahk discusses this over at the official Times crossword blog.

    In constructing this puzzle, I actually came up with two more theme answers of matching lengths that didn’t make the cut. Perhaps sports fans will know them: one was a former Boston Celtics coach of the ’90s (not their heyday, I must say), and one is a very successful Korean golfer. I’ve seen both names before in crossword puzzles, but I didn’t think either was quite famous enough to be a theme answer.

  11. Papa John says:

    “48a. [Aromatic seasoning], FENNEL. I hate fennel, anise, and black licorice.”

    Amy, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to understand declarations like this, in regard to a review of the puzzle. Are you saying you don’t like the entry because you don’t like fennel, or are you simply offering up a bit of your personal tastes and preferences? Do your particular tastes affect the way you judge the puzzle? (It does, in my case, but I’m not the one writing the critique.)

    Glad to have you back. I hope you have continued progress toward a complete recovery.

  12. CY Hollander says:

    I finally remembered to scribble over the note before I finished reading it, and for once it not only didn’t spoil the theme, but was needed to point out that there was a theme at all. Well, better safe than sorry. I did go back and read it when I was done. Unfortunately, the note’s overambitious description of the theme came with its own problems, as everyone here has been pointing out.

    Good to see you back, Amy.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    I didn’t enjoy BEQ’s “Love Me Tinder” (whatever that means), but the 2-letter switch in the NYT was very amusing. Why? because Saratoga Springs to the north of me is going nuts over the arrival of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah (sic) to run in the Travers Stakes this weekend. He arrived on a transport plane nicknamed Air Horse One.

  14. Tim Rueger says:

    Also, a VU METER is a fairly common piece of audio gear. (But probably a bit above the target difficulty.)

  15. Tuning Spork says:

    re: BEQ

    So, like, what exactly IS going on there?

    • Norm says:

      It’s like a puzzle with circles except he moved the embedded word to the front or back, with the result that the final grid is full of gibberish.

    • Papa John says:

      I had a hunch Tinder is a Web site. Yes, indeed, it is. (It may also be an app.) When I opened it, the first page says, “Any swipe can change your life”, with a slide show of an attractive couple, apparently on vacation (in France?). A quick Web search reveals it’s a dating site. Even knowing all of this, the BEQ still makes no sense to me. The only thing out of Ben’s review that may fit in is the words he colorized – PIG. STUD LOSER, HUNK, TWIT, BEAU. I’m going to guess that those works are somehow used (probably in a juvenile manner) to describe individuals who use the site to find a date. That’s more work than I had intended to do to discover the genius behind the theme that caused Ben to give it a five star rating. If somebody has more to add, I’ll read it here. Otherwise, I’m done with it.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Thanks, Papa John! Now I’m done with it too…

      • Papa John says:

        I didn’t quite finish. I looked at the images for Tinder screenshots. My suspicions about it being somehow unsavory or uncouth were confirmed by the pictures of scantily clad or naked women, apparently looking to “hook up”. Now, I am finished.

    • Shawn P says:

      I have never used it, but read about it somewhere. The idea is that it is a dating app for really shallow people where one goes through pictures of people in their physical vicinity and can swipe to the right or left (I forget which is which) for people whom they would like to date. The idea with the BEQ puzzle is that one “swipes” one way for a PIG, LOSER, or TWIT and the other way for a HUNK, STUD, or BEAU (again, based on appearances).

      • Papa John says:

        I got that. From the puzzle you can see swipe right means good and swipe left means bad. This swipe business was developed for this particular app and has beome a useful tool for others. I REALLY don’t want to talk about this any more. It falls into the same realm as the mass media giving The Donald too much air time. Maybe, if we ignore him, he’ll go away.

        • Gary R says:

          “… mass media giving The Donald too much air time. Maybe, if we ignore him, he’ll go away.”

          Not likely, but I’m giving it my best effort!

    • Avg Solvr says:

      lol You mean Ben’s review didn’t clear things up?

  16. CoffeeLover says:

    WV Black Bears

  17. Ben Vincent says:

    beq: i swiped right. absolutely hilarious.

  18. joon says:

    thanks, everybody, for the lively discussion.

    amy, i’m totally with you. that whole FENNEL family is gross.

    there are some interesting finds here. my favorites are probably ED DRUGS and SR RANGANATHAN, the latter more because he is noteworthy and interesting and important than actually famous among the general populace.

    i’ve not heard of ED HIRSCH or VU METER, but i will go read up on them.

    NM STATE seems to me like it is not really called that very often. in the context of college sports (when else would most of us have occasion to talk about new mexico state?), my sense is that they are called “new mexico state” or perhaps “new mex state” for short, rather than NM STATE. that’s also kind of why i chose UT DALLAS over the flagship UT AUSTIN—while that is not exactly wrong, they are much more likely to be called just “UT” or frankly “texas”. (i recall there was a flap some years back when TEXASU appeared in a puzzle. is that what a&m folks call them?) whereas UT DALLAS is really called that.

    i have similar misgivings about ML KING and GF HANDEL, although handel comes a little closer. MLK and martin luther king seem like much more common appellations than ML KING.

    KJ CHOI and ML CARR did come close to making the cut, but i felt like choi was just barely on the right side of the recognizability line for a theme answer, and carr was some ways off on the other side. since they were matched-length partners, i had to ditch them both. (i very briefly considered XW INFO as a replacement. :) it’s too bad, because i like the idea of there being koreans famous in america.

    i also weighed DC UNITED vs DC COMICS and chose to go with the former because i just really like soccer. (i actually don’t particularly follow MLS, though.) that may have ended up being the wrong way to go, especially since the top-right section there had the lousiest fill (INKLESS and ERST, with OTS and CRU and USO not exactly shining lights either). perhaps it would have gone better with COMICS there instead of UNITED. plus, i was able to get another soccer reference in with the USA clue—although i wrote and submitted the puzzle before the women’s world cup, i asked will & joel to change it when they accepted the puzzle last month.

    also, count me among those who thought the beq was confusing but ultimately brilliant and inventive.

  19. Todd G says:

    I’m a bit surprised no one has mentioned J. I. Rodale. His Wikipedia page is an interesting read:

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