Friday, September 4, 2015

NYT 5:16 (Amy) 
LAT 5:38 (Gareth) 
CS 9:24 (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

David Duncan Dekker’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 4 15, no 0904

NY Times crossword solution, 9 4 15, no 0904

Gonna make this quick, as my abdomen is done with this “sitting upright” business today. Lots of Q’s, X’s, Z’s, etc. Feels a bit like an early Barry Silk puzzle, v. Scrabbly.

Never heard of 28a: QUIFF, [Man’s do with upswept hair in the front]. Apparently the term’s bigger in Europe than here. Am picturing Martin Short’s Ed Grimley character now.

Lots of nice fill: SLACKER, LEGO SET, MAE WEST, SCHMOS, AVEENO (my favorite lotion brand), GLIMPSES, WETSUITS, “WHY, YES,” MASON JAR, and KAMIKAZE.

Five more things:

  • 26a. [Alternative to Corn Pops], KIX. I nailed this one quickly. Am a fan of both Kix and Corn Pops, if you must know. (Hey! Don’t knock Kellogg’s Corn Pops. 3 g of dietary fiber, people!)
  • 44a. [Major in a 1973 David Bowie hit], TOM. Then there’s the German Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom,” sort of a reworking of Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” ’80s New Wave, catch it.
  • 49a. [2012 running mate], RYAN. Wisconsin’s senator congressman Paul R. ran with Romney but has been eclipsed by WI governor Scott Walker, who’s the focus of a kinda funny hit piece in The Guardian today.
  • 5d. [Smart comments], SASS. I bet the final S had a number of solvers trying to come up with the plural of a 3-letter word here.
  • 8d. [Muslim magistrate], SHARIF. My generation of American pop music fans learned this word from “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash. “Sharif don’t like it. He thinks it’s not kosher.”

Four stars from me. Apparently the puzzle is a triple pangram, which is the sort of feat I can’t get too worked up about because it usually brings about woeful compromises in the fill, but here the fill worked for me. OCA was about the worst thing in the grid, but it had three ordinary English words crossing it.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 150904

LA Times

Not feeling this one. The puns are all basically “add terminal e” plus “arbitrarily pluralise”. The only one that is truly add “es” and couldn’t work as just add “e” is GANG to GANGES in OURGANGES. You could have a single GOLFGRIPE, a single CIGARETTEBUTTE, a single JUMBOJETE, and a single TINYTIME. You wouldn’t need to change the clues except for altering plural to singular. Simply adding a terminal “e” is a very thin add a letter theme. I’m not sure how many possible theme answers there are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was “thousands”. This means of course that the answers are pretty good considered in isolation…

Pretty interesting big stacks are to be found in the top-right and bottom-left: OLIVEPIT and MILANESE is trumped by INUNISON, CAJOLED and GAMEFACE. The latter is marred by the not-really-a-word ESALE.

Mostly a solid effort, but undermined by a surprisingly simplistic theme. 2.75 Stars
Gareth, leaving with you with a classic piece of satire:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Nation Divided”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.04.15: "A Nation Divided"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.04.15: “A Nation Divided”

Hello everyone! I think I remember how to do this…

Thank you all for being patient with me as I’ve been consumed by running around the U.S. Open to begin the week, then a quick trip out to Minneapolis yesterday. But before we head back to New York in a couple of hours, just want to quickly talk about today’s puzzle, written for us by Ms. Lynn Lempel. Each of the four theme answers are multiple-word entries in which four countries are “hidden” in the answers. In reality, the letters that form the country span the two words.

  • ALBERTO GONZALES (17A: [George W. Bush’s second attorney general])
  • THOMAS PAINE (27A: [“Common Sense” pamphleteer])
  • PEPPER UPPER (50A: [It will boost your spirits])
  • MANDARIN DIALECT (65A: [Variety of Chinese with eight subgroups])

When placing in ORGAN DONOR, couldn’t help but think of our fearless leader, Amy, and the circle of people she was with during her transplant, and just how strong and amazing the human spirit is (29D: [Certain lifesaver]). There might be a few people reading this who might have received or have donated an organ to someone else in need of it, and I do hope those of you who have done either are doing well and continue to do well.  Tough transition back to crosswords, but I’ll try. A couple of famous wives intersect in the grid, with SOON YI (8D: [Woody’s wife since 1997]) and ONO, who I’m jealous of right now because I want someone famous to tell me that I’m the most famous unknown broadcaster/reporter (21A: [“The world’s most famous unknown artist,” per John Lennon]). Oh, well. Time to skedaddle, as we’re getting closer and closer to boarding time. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CATFISH (5D: [Big Mississippi aquaculture product])  – Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim “CATFISH” Hunter was an eight-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, playing his entire career with the Kansas City/Oakland A’s and the New York Yankees. Hunter was the first pitcher to win 200 games by the age of 31, a product of him bypassing the minor leagues altogether and making his Major League debut for Kansas City just a month after his 19th birthday. Hunter passed away in 1999 at age 53 as a result of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

Again, thank you for your patience with me this week. Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you back in New York City!

Take care!


David Steinberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Off With Their Heads” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 9/4/15 • "Off With Their Heads" • Steinberg • solution

CHE • 9/4/15 • “Off With Their Heads” • Steinberg • solution

I wouldn’t have grasped the full extent of the theme had I not read the notepad instructions. Shifted my opinion from a wow to a wow!

There are 10 across clues with asterisks. The corresponding symmetrical fill—three each in the first and last rows, two in the middle row, and two—must be “beheaded” to fit in the grid, but the shortened versions also spell valid words. It was obvious that those removed letters, in order from top to bottom and left to right, would spell something significant.


ANTOINETTE, Marie Antoinette, she of the French Revolution, an era strongly associated with beheadment by royal decree (and later, popular demand).

But what went unappreciated was the additional level of fiendishness: “This puzzle’s title will unlock the method for entering answers to the starred clues. At the end, a full ‘head count’ will piece together two 10-letter words inextricably linked in history.” So: the new first letters in each of those words also spell a relevant word.


traciiillo“The first blade stretches the neck, and the second blade cuts the head off below the shoulders!” That easily more than doubles the difficulty of constructing the theme, no?

  • 1a. [*Banded quartz] AGATE, 5a [*It might be real or imaginary] NUMBER, 10a [*Golden touch, say] TINGE (tough-ish clue), 29a [*”You’ve Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two” musical] OLIVER(!), 36a [*Björn’s victim in the 1976 Wimbledon final] ILIE, 40a [*Botanical protuberance] NODE, 46a [*Gaseous hydrocarbon] ETHANE, 64a [*Clam digger’s concern] TIDES, 65a [*IRA investment options] T-NOTES, 66a [*Hair-raising] EERIE.

With the theme elements worked out, filling the grid is a relatively easier exercise. Couple of long acrosses in 18a [Natural moisturizer] COCONUT OIL and 57a [Pho or nam ngiao, e.g.] NOODLE SOUP. Plus, HYDE PARK, GLAM ROCK, and a quartet of 7-letter downs.

  • Theme-affiliated: 15a [Ominous loop] NOOSE.
  • 2d [Conspicuously stylish] ARTY, 52a [“Glee” character __ Abrams] ARTIE.
  • Unusual clues: 1d [Dicer’s injury] GASH, 4d [Makes last-minute room for, as an agenda item] EDGES IN (I would have invoked art technique), 17a [Actaeon’s transformed form] STAG, 23a [ __ grouse] SAGE, 41a [Some CPU adjuncts] FANS, 53a [Lou Reed genre] GLAM ROCK (only for a while, in a long career).
  • Favorite clues: 24a [Jumper cable?] BUNGEE, 26d [Mirror image] SELF, 39d [It may have feet of clay] GOLEM.

Impressive, entertaining crossword.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stir Crazy” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/4/15 • "Stir Crazy" • Fri • Gorski • solution

WSJ • 9/4/15 • “Stir Crazy” • Fri • Gorski • solution

Basic recipe. Phrases, titles, et cetera, containing a word that can be anagrammed to a food item. On the MENU (57a):

  • 23a. [Robin Williams film about a group of dedicated to expired sauce?] DEAD PESTO SOCIETY (Poet’s). See also 90a [Rigatoni and rotini] PASTAS, and 29a [Pizza sauce seasonings] HERBS.
  • 36a. [Village People hit inspired by a Starbucks barista?] MOCHA MAN (Macho).
  • 40a. [“I Want You to Want Me” band that’s fond of schnapps?] PEACH TRICK (Cheap).
  • 63a. [Classic children’s novel about a girl who bakes eco-friendly rolls?] ANNE OF GREEN BAGELS (Gables). Better than those St Patrick’s Day abominations, I suppose.
  • 91a. [Diner dish slung by a former Tehran bigwig?] HASH OF IRAN (Shah). See also 3d [Diner sides] SLAWS.
  • 93a. [With “The,” Desmond Morris book about a legume in the raw?] NAKED PEA (Ape). Dehisce!
  • 112a. [Walter Scott work about a woman growing a trendy veggie?] THE LADY OF THE KALE (Lake).

I guess they’re all titles or proper names, so there’s that homogeneous consistency even if there isn’t a theme-related rationale for it.

  • Lots of good clues. Here are some highlights: 7d [Wilson and Coolidge] RITAS, 28a [Temple buildings] DORMS, 111a [Hung up, maybe] LATE.
  • 89a/97a [Co. name ender] INC, LLC. The clue’s “co.” = “C” in the latter answer.
  • 11d [Film __ (moody movies) NOIR. Better to clue it as “Films __”?
  • 40d [Brandy flavor] PLUM. As in Slivovitz, which is made from damson plums.
  • 41d [Proficiency] EASE, derived ultimately from Latin for ‘adjacent’; 94d [Stands in a studio] EASELS, derived from the Latin for ‘ass’. Think about that next time you call someone a lazy-ass.

Solid theme, clean fill overall, fine puzzle.

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29 Responses to Friday, September 4, 2015

  1. John says:

    I thought that hairstyle was called a “fauxhawk”

    • Martin says:

      My problem with QUIFF is it’s too easy to confuse with queef. (If you don’t know, please leave it at that.)

  2. john farmer says:

    Paul Ryan isn’t running for president this round, even though as v.p. running mate last time it would have been his “turn.” He’s now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (not a senator), where as Congress’s chief wheeler-dealer he can do plenty of damage already.

    About the puzzle: the appeal of the 3x-pangram may not have the appeal it once did, but the puzzle is pretty smooth, all things considered. Nice work.

  3. John from Chicago says:

    “where as Congress’s chief wheeler-dealer he can do plenty of damage already.”

    Am I the only conservative who works the NYT XWP? Why do Liberals who do these puzzles feel the need to write ridiculous comments about Republicans/Conservatives whose names appear in these puzzles?

    This should be one area, one endeavor, one joyful exercise, where we Americans can put aside political differences and engage in wordplay, not politics (or religion, for that matter).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You’re welcome to start your own more conservative-friendly or apolitical crossword blog. This one is going to be forthright about things like sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

      • Martin says:

        I’m sure you don’t mean to imply that John is sexist, homophobic, transphobic or racist because he points out that cheap shots at politicians amuse some and offend others. But it’s the sort of direction that, for better or for worse, deeply felt convictions inevitably lead conversations on these topics.

        • Papa John says:

          I think the implication is that conservatives are more widely thought to be racists, sexists and homophobes. (If John, or anyone else, wants to align himself with that menagerie of bigots he’ll have to take the heat for it – especially on this blog.)

    • Papa John says:

      I’ve always found it strange that the three of the things that most affect our lives – sex, politics and religion – are verboten topics of conversations. Perhaps if we made them more prominent in our discussions we would learn how to discuss them without shame, rancor or malice. Who knows? Maybe we’d even get to know each other’s viewpoints better and become more comfortable recognizing our differences – nay, celebrating them.

    • john farmer says:

      @John from Chicago

      My comment about Ryan is a pretty tame joke, if you ask me. If it’s any consolation, I have said similar (and worse) things about my own Congressman, who’s a Democrat.

      In the country I live in, we have a long tradition of poking fun at politicians of any and all parties. Not all countries let you do that, but it’s one of the cool things I like about living in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

      If conservative politicians don’t want to be the butt of a joke, then they shouldn’t be politicians.* It goes with the territory.

      * We’d lose a lot of good jokes, but we would have a better government, I suppose. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  4. ArtLvr says:

    My sympathies to John of Chicago, but wordplay depends on our seeking out the logic behind a crossword clue, however farfetched. When a certain segment of our political body ignores reason in favor of demagoguery, it rankles… What’s in a word, like “Birther”? And would that group be as enamored of a leader called Donald Drumpf? (Trump’s paternal grandparents were German immigrants and Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf, anglicized the family name.)

  5. PJ Ward says:

    It’s interesting to me how time changes my impressions of types of entries. I can’t imagine mainstream puzzles containing Al-Qaeda suicide bombers or references to ISIS executions. Yet today we have kamikazes and the Reign of Terror. Not saying it’s wrong or I’m offended, just that I find it interesting.

  6. Ethan says:

    That’s just a beautiful NYT. Silky-smooth, great fill, and no compromises for the scrabbli-ness. Sure, OCA sucks, but it’s literally one word in the puzzle and as Amy points out, crosses three common everyday words.

    Only negative of any note to this puzzle was that it played like 5 separate puzzles: the four corners and the center. But whatever. It’s a beauty. I gave it 5 stars.

  7. Thanks for the great review, pannonica! The only thing I would add is that 18-, 37-, and 57-Across are also thematic because their first words are synonyms for “head.”

    • lemonade714 says:

      COCONUT BEAN and NOODLE are the headlines David refers to. Cool

      • Jamie says:

        David’s CHE was amazing. I was the first person to rate it here and I felt under-qualified to figure out if it was as great as I thought it was, so I gave it a mere 4.5 stars. Sorry, David. This has to be a candidate for COTY.

        I didn’t notice the other three words, and it didn’t matter. I’m an average solver and I live for these moments, where I can admire a fantastic puzzle and feel appreciative afterwards. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to construct, but I’ll take my cue from all the 5-star ratings here.

  8. Zulema says:

    As usual, there’s no accounting for bits of knowledge. OCA was my first entry in the NYT crossword. On the other hand, PLANA, ZAXES and FAXES were my wild guesses. Too many question-marked clues for me.

  9. Dude says:


    CHE was impressive.

  10. Bob says:

    REALLY disliked clues for LAT SW corner. Still don’t understand JUMBOJETES

    • lemonade714 says:

      Jumbo Jete (juhtay) describes the ballet jumps of the hippos in Fantasia. It is jumbo jet(es)

      Which Gareth is the theme of the puzzle- add ES to the second word, not E and gratuitous plural. It is a consistent fun theme.

      • ArtLvr says:

        In ballet, the Grand Jete is a forward leap into the air with one leg extended to the front and the other to the back, and with arms curved up toward each other framing the head. Disney’s Hippo Ballet is real stretch of imagination!

      • Jamie says:

        I have to agree that Gareth missed the point and the fun in the LAT.

        “You could have a single GOLFGRIPE, a single CIGARETTEBUTTE, a single JUMBOJETE, and a single TINYTIME.”

        Um, no you could not. At least for cigarette butte and jumbo jete. Those are phrases that don’t exist afaik.

        Gareth, your posts on the LAT are always hours late. I suggest that you stop blogging the puzzle.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Ingrate much? Nobody owes you anything by any particular time on a free website (not free to me—I’m paying for it). I’m thankful that Gareth blogs several puzzles a week, even when he’s on holiday.

          I don’t understand why you feel that JUMBO JETE and CIGARETTE BUTTE couldn’t work just as well as the plural.

          • Jamie says:

            Sorry, I didn’t see your post before my latest, Amy. I wish you well. You have a lot of power – if no income – by running this site. And that power gives you the liberty to bless or not bless puzzlers. It also gives your bloggers a lot of power.

            I think Gareth missed the point of this xword, and I know for a fact he sometimes posts 12 hours after the LAT is published, making for less discussion of the puzzle – well, almost none.

            The latter is a bad thing. It doesn’t help the constructors. The other constructors for the LAT besides Gareth.

          • Jamie says:

            I think I explained. You might have a golf gripe but you can’t have a cigarette butte.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Not making any sense. BUTTE is a perfectly sensible word in the singular. A butte made of a bunch of cigarettes would be a cigarette butte.

          • Jamie says:

            I just realized that I’m in an online spat with the our hostess. I didn’t intend that to happen.

            Gareth was completely right and posted his review on time.

        • Jamie says:

          I meant, that the phrases meant no sense in the singular but were amusing with the different pronunciation and the essential ‘s.’ Not a random pluralization.

          • Gareth says:

            If the puzzle was “+E” or “+ES” all of the faux theme entries could have been made. The meaning of TIME and TIMES in the repurposed clue is the same; JETE and JETES have the same meaning. BUTTE and BUTTES means the same thing. GRIPE and GRIPES means the same thing. Only in GANGE/GANGES is the S actually necessary for the puzzle to work. The pluralisation remains irrelevant to the puzzle.

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