Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NYT 3:48 (Amy) 
Jonesin' 5:22 (Derek) 
LAT 4:12 (Derek) 
CS 4:53 (Matt) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Michael Torch’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 1 15, no 0901

NY Times crossword solution, 9 1 15, no 0901

I like the theme a lot and at the same time, I don’t care for it. I like the assortments of spellings for the vowel-sound progressions, but the particular phrases don’t work as well for me.

  • 17a. [Locale of the Île de la Cité], RIVER SEINE. The vowel sounds were slow to dawn on me because I pronounce this the French way, “sen,” not the other English way, long A “sane.”
  • 25a. [Highway investigation site], CRASH SCENE. Long E.
  • 36a. [Request from one seeking help from above], LORD, GIVE ME A SIGN.” Long I.
  • 46a. [Like clothing customized from raw fabric], CUT AND SEWN. I like that the long O is spelled “ew” here, but can’t say I’ve ever seen “cut and sewn” as in in-the-language phrase.
  • 57a. [Phrase over a movie poster], COMING SOON. Long U.

In the fill, “BRING IT ON!,” RICE-A-RONI, EGREGIOUS, and THE MRS. are lively. I could do without FALA and ENID in the same section at the left (with ECRU, UNI-, and –ENE also floating around those stacked 9-letter Downs). Some other entries feel misplaced in a Tuesday grid: REO clued as [Classic car inits.], L-BAR, OILSEED, REINA, EAMES, and spelled-out-number ONE-D.

Three more things:

  • 11d. [Hot to trot, e.g.], RHYME. Love the clue!
  • 47d. [Throat dangler], UVULA. I can’t be the only one whose eyes see VULVA when UVULA is in the grid.
  • 5d. [One scoring 100% on Sporcle quizzes, say], NERD. Here’s a Sporcle photo quiz I nailed in 42 seconds (I do very well at the quizzes with an array of photos to identify), and “country ranking showdown” that was a lot tougher (I got 18/25).

3.33 stars from me as I celebrate the one-week anniversary of my return to puzzle blogging.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Unfinished Business” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.08.28 PMThe title blurb for this puzzle actually continues with “—or finished.” The theme answers for this puzzle are all familiar phrases with a letter added to the end in a punny way. Perhaps the title could have been “Refinished Business?” Title doesn’t detract from the humor at all! The theme entries:

  • 17A [Story of an extravagant electronics brand?] THE PRODIGAL SONY
  • 37A [“Assembling furniture is definitely for me”?] I LIKE IKEA
  • 47A [Toy brick near the placemat?] TABLE LEGO
  • 67A [Inept car salesman’s query to his boss?] GIVE HIM WHAT FORD

Did you laugh? I did. Another great puzzle from Matt. Nothing too shaky in the grid either. A few observations:

  • 39A [Macabre illustrator Edward] GOREY – In light of Andy’s excellent blog post this past Sunday on grid analysis, I wondered if GOREY was necessary, since I’ve never heard of him! perhaps changing TENGO/MYGOD to MANGO/INGOD would lead to GORAN, which is maybe a tad cleaner, but GOREY as a name for a macabre illustrator is actually a neat bit of trivia!
  • 71A [“CSI” city] MIAMI – It seems like there are tons of CSI cities. Blue Collar TV years ago had some funny skits named CSI: Idaho and CSI: Greater Greensboro Tricounty Area. I wish I could find clips of those!
  • 6D [Singer Rundgren] TODD – Am I dating myself because I knew this immediately?
  • 7D [Actor Michael of “Ugly Betty”] URIE – Nice name for crossword puzzles!
  • 55D [“Batman” sound effect] OOF – Ah, yes, the old Batman sound effects!OOF

3.7 stars today. Hey Matt! I’ll be in Portland next week! Let’s have coffee!

Mark Bickham’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 5.24.20 PMThis is a constructor I am not familiar with. But that’s just me; not as regular solving the LAT puzzles over the years. Have become more regular now, since the puzzles are usually pretty darn good. Today’s puzzle is no exception. With football season looming (my team, the Michigan Wolverines, play Thursday night!), we have an appropriate puzzle for this time of the year. The theme answers:

  • 19A [Judgments made on the fly] SNAP DECISIONS 
  • 29A [Call it quits]  THROW IN THE TOWEL
  • 39A [Take a nap] CATCH FORTY WINKS
  • 55A [Football play comprised of the starts of 19-, 29-, and 39-Across] COMPLETED PASS

So if you’re unfamiliar with American football, the ball is “snapped” to the quarterback, who then “throws” the ball to an eligible receiver, who hopefully “catches” the pass, which would then be recorded in the stat sheet as a “completion” for the quarterback and a reception for the receiver. But you all knew that already, didn’t you!?

A few notes:

  • 58A [First sequel’s sequel] EPISODE III – Great entry. Clue is accurate, but this seems most commonly used in reference to the Star Wars saga, especially with the Roman numerals. Most other movies use “Part 2” or “Return of…”. A clue mentioning Return of the Jedi might have made this clue even easier. But I’m nitpicking…
  • 3D [1995 Reform Party founder]  ROSS PEROT – In light of some of the current presidential candidates, they had nothing on ol’ Ross! Remember Admiral Stockdale? Yes, Ross got as far as choosing a running mate and garnering a significant percentage of the vote in 1992! This upcoming election may prove to be just as interesting, but remember Perot had all of his success as a third party candidate!
  • 15D [Volkswagen family car] PASSAT – Don’t they make a diesel version that gets a gajillion miles per gallon?
  • 24D [Suffix with problem] ATIC – Not the greatest, but crosses two theme entries and is probably the best of several poor options. I simply don’t like seeing prefixes and suffixes, but it is solvable
  • 34D [Glacial ridge] ESKER – Wow! A new word! Or at least one I am not very familiar with. Learned (or re-learned) something new today!
  • 40D [Consecrate]  HALLOW – It seems like this word has only two uses: 1) the Lord’s Prayer, and 2) to describe some stuffy old building’s “halls.” Is this word ever heard any other time? Maybe I need to just read more…
  • 54D [Champ’s gesture] V SIGN – Great entry. Could also be [Nixon gesture].

3.9 stars, because I like football! Go Blue!


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 222), “Working Vacation”—Janie’s review

CrosswordNation 9/2 (No. 222)

CrosswordNation 9/1 (No. 222)

Well, hello again. I’m just back from a vacation that involved working—working with pastels. And walking and hiking in Colorado’s most gorgemous, tourist-free Pingree Park (CSU Mountain Campus). Thank you, Puzzle Girl, for stemming me so graciously in my absence!

Now Liz opts for a different approach to parsing the title. As we learn at 60A., and perhaps in a cruciverbal tribute to the beloved Merl Reagle, she’s “working” the letters of the impending [End-of-summer break…] a/k/a LABOR DAY WEEKEND, and anagramming this grid-spanner three times to off-the-wall goofy and delightfully innovative effect. [Edited to add that, yes, I learned in conversation with Liz that this was indeed conceived as a tribute puzzle. And a most fitting and playful one it is!] While they had me scratchin’ my head at times (mainly because I hadn’t caught on to the gimmick…), the perfectly worded clues are very literal and do the job just-so. Comme ça:

So now you just gotta imagine him yawning and nekkid...

So now you just gotta imagine that he’s yawning and there in the buff…

  • 17A. [Lethal libation served at Willy’s Brewery?] DEADLY WONKA BEER. No more chocolate factory for Willy apparently. But imbibe at your own risk!
  • 26A. [Times Square refuge for folks who know their onions?] BROADWAY LEEK DEN. See above re: the anagrams’ “off-the-wall goofy effect.” But it works. And I’m buyin’ it.
  • 45A. [Quarterback John who yawned while streaking?] BORED NAKED ELWAY. Fun and funny.

With four 15s in the grid, there isn’t a lot of room here for longer fill, but let me hit some of the puzzle’s many highlights (and/or items that resonated strongly with me…):

  • [UTAH Beach (D-Day site)]. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the D-Day beaches, do so! Profoundly moving to see first hand what the Allied Forces were up against. And to know at what cost they succeeded.
  • The double-dip of daytime drama by way of [Soap opera] SERIAL and the more Variety-speak [Soap opera, informally] SUDSER. I once worked with a guy who said his mother was a devotée and referred to her afternoon shows as “soul poppers.”
  • [Manchester sch.] for UNH. So we’re stateside in New Hampshire and not in “Manchester, England, England—Across the Atlantic Sea…”
  • [Potter’s field?] for SORCERY. That’s Harry Potter’s field of endeavor, of course, and not Potter’s field, burial grounds for the poor and unknown.
  • [Solo instrument in “The Lark Ascending”] for VIOLIN—because that’s one beautiful solo line (seems to be low volume on this rendition, so give it a few seconds to get goin’).
  • [Fancy-schmancy] LA-DI-DA. Fun clue/fill combo.
  • [Downwardly mobile group?] SKI TEAM. Ditto.
  • [Anatomical organs and such] INNARDS. Here I like the fill better than clue, I think. But what else’re ya gonna say? [“Kidneys and livers and hearts, oh my!”]?
  • [Three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail] DEVERS. Because the woman had a simply amazing career as a competitive athlete. And let’s not forget those nails!devers

There won’t be any TIRADES where these next two are concerned, but the best I can offer is a weak “OH, OK.” The first is the ASO [Japanese volcano] combo—because I’m not particularly familiar with it and it feels like very functional/crosswordese-y fill. And the second is the clue [Letters of approval?] for YEA, which feels more forced than natural. Even for a question-marked clue. YEA is a word of approval whose letters are Y-E-A. I get that. But I made better sense of the clue with my wrong answer, which was YES. YES is also a word of approval and its letters are Y-E-S. But there are also “yes” letters, like the kind many of us received from the college we attended (or attend…). YEA letters? Nay. I don’t think so.

And that, friends is a wrap for today. Have a great “unofficial end of summer” however you anagram it, and I’ll see ya next week. “TA-TA,” all!


Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword — Matt’s review


Men’s gymnastics exercises are the theme here:

17-A [Filibustering] = HOLDING THE FLOOR. Not familiar with this one. You “have the floor” if it’s your turn to speak, but this must be some parliamentary lingo for hogging the floor on purpose.

24-A [Tolkien trilogy, with “The”] = LORD OF THE RINGS. This one rings a bell.

41-A [2014, most recently] = YEAR OF THE HORSE. I’m a rat; what are you?

54-A [Get ready for some drinking] = BELLY UP TO THE BAR. Great entry.

So the six men’s events are the high bar, the parallel bars, the pommel horse, the rings, the floor exercise and the vault. HORSE, RINGS and FLOOR are all good shorthand for those three, and maybe BAR works for the high bar, but it feels a little odd to leave the vault and parallel bars out. Normally when you have a small, defined set like this you like to use them all, so a small ding for leaving those two out here. But overall it works OK.

The fill is a real mixed bag: great stuff like GO FIGURE, NICE DOG, BERI-BERI, KNEE-BEND, ROUGH IT, FOG BANK, RUBY and SAID I DO. But then a passel of crud as well: NARES, ORT, POLLOI, ERST, IRANI, A MOI and OLLA all set off my Scowl-o-Meter.

3.5 stars.

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12 Responses to Tuesday, September 1, 2015

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Derek, re LAT’s “HALLOW” – check out Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
    “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

  2. pannonica says:

    LAT: “58A [First sequel’s sequel] EPISODE III – Great entry. Clue is accurate, but this seems most commonly used in reference to the Star Wars saga, especially with the Roman numerals. Most other movies use “Part 2″ or “Return of…”. A clue mentioning Return of the Jedi might have made this clue even easier. But I’m nitpicking…”

    As long as we’re nitpicking, I’d say that the Star Wars franchise is a singularly terrible choice due to the renumbering around the time of The Empire Strikes Back. “Episode III” was actually the sixth film to be released. I’d choose to treat the clue and answer as generic.

    • Shawn P says:

      I was thinking the same thing as “Revenge of the Sith” was actually Episode III. In Derek’s defense, Wolverine fan and U of M alum James Earl Jones was not credited in Episode III, but was in Episode VI (“Return of the Jedi”).

  3. Phil says:

    I wondered if GOREY was necessary, since I’ve never heard of him!

    It’s always surprising the things that crossword mavens, who know much trivia, have never heard of. Gorey is quite famous, did many books, and is perhaps best known for the cartoon that began PBS’s “Mystery.” In fact, Vincent Price always welcomed viewers to “Gorey Mansion.”

    • Bencoe says:

      Ghastlycrumb Tinies is something I grew up with that explains much of my sense of humor. If a picture book of Victorian-style illustrations and poetry detailing the gruesome demises of different children, but in a fun way, appeals to you…highly recommended.

    • Papa John says:

      Here’s the thing; I find it just as surprising that, when a blogger finds a fill he doesn’t know, he wonders if it’s “necessary”. GOREY is well within my ken, but who the heck is GORAN and exactly what makes it “a tad cleaner’?

      I’ve had this discussion before (with Amy) about bloggers mentioning their “Did-Not-Know-That” fills and still question the value of it. If it explains a DNF puzzle or a particular difficultly s/he may have had with filling in a challenging section, I get it. I wonder if it’s necessary to suggest that a puzzle may need more editing because of a DNKT answer.

    • Derek Allen says:

      I may have mis-chosen my words when explaining this. I, personally, do TONS of puzzles, and just because I, personally, think something is unfamiliar, does not mean it is “unnecessary.” I, personally, am more familiar with GORAN Ivanisevic, the tennis player, and GORAN Višnjić, the actor from ER. But that is just me. I am all for learning something new, which is part of the appeal of crossword puzzles, even word puzzles in general, trivia contests, etc. The older I get, the more I realize how much I DON’T know!

      So in light of Andy’s post, I decided to do a little “grid examining.” It is all based on my own shabby opinion, which isn’t worth much! Matt is a WAY better constructor than I will ever be, that much is sure.

      • Matt J. says:

        And that’s exactly the balancing act in making a grid the way it is. I did consider GORAN but a) I know of the tennis player but am not a great judge of sports clues and b) GORAN Visnjic is best known for ER and not much else, and it’s been a while since ER’s been on the air. I And was trying more for freshness factor. Plus I caught an episode of So You Think You Can Dance, where one team did a very Gorey-esque dance number, got me thinking.

        For instance, would I put OMI in a grid now? Sure, given he has the current #1 hit of the summer. However, he could become a very-few-hit wonder like….um…..OMC from the mid-1990s. :-P So timing is important, too.

  4. golfballman says:

    GO BLUE!!!!!!!

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Papa John, I don’t think I usually suggest that something I didn’t know is therefore bad fill. There are things and names I just don’t know, and there are truly obscure things and names that are poor fill. I make a distinction.

    • Papa John says:

      I know. Like I said, you and I have had this discussion before . It remains unresolved and will probably remain unresolved. I don’t (like you often say) “ding” you for it. We’re good.

  6. Matt J. says:

    OK, Derek! Keep me posted!

Comments are closed.