Thursday, September 10, 2015

NYT 4:37 (Amy) 
LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 
CS 6:04 (Ade) 
BEQ 8:20(Ben) 

No Fireball write-up today—it’s a contest puzzle. Watch for the write-up in next Monday’s post.

Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 10 15, no 0910

NY Times crossword solution, 9 10 15, no 0910

A nifty sort of tricky theme today—the theme answers bend in the grid and end with kinds of beans.

  • 10a. [Subsidiary of Gap Inc.], OLD NAVY. Navy beans. NAVY is non-beanily clued as 13d. [Shade of blue].
  • 20a. [Not starter-level], SECOND-STRING. String beans. I didn’t see the bean here at first, and was trying to figure out how SECONDS could possibly answer the clue. STRING is clued as 21d. [A or B in music class?].
  • 31a. [Butt of many 1970s automotive jokes], FORD PINTO. 33d. [Tonto rode one], PINTO.
  • 56a. [Playful response to a good dig], “OH, SNAP!” 58d. [Football play starter], SNAP.
  • And the revealer is 53a. [Blab … or a literal hint to completing five answers in this puzzle], SPILL THE BEANS, with 55d. [Nothin’], BEANS, as in “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

I appreciated the easiness of OLDN/AVY at the top of the grid, tipping Tracy’s hand early. And I enjoyed working through the puzzle to find the other magic beans.

Five clues:

  • 64a. [Game whose name is derived from its sound], PING-PONG. How did I not know that? I’m not going to fact-check it because if there is one thing Will Shortz knows, it’s ping-pong.
  • 26d. [Leafy plant also called mountain spinach], ORACH. People have been grousing about this crossword entry for years, and nobody’s even expecting them to eat it.
  • 18a. [1996-97 Deep Blue opponent], KASPAROV. Great entry, but when 40a: BLUE HEN is in the grid, is it necessary (or at all desirable) to have blue in two clues? It’s also at 13d. Given that there were other cluing avenues available for NAVY and KASPAROV, I say “boo.” A ding against the editing, not the constructing.
  • 14a. [Effort to resolve a dispute], PARLEY. Kinda tough vocab, but it is Thursday, after all. (ALSOP is also on the hard end.)
  • 52a. [First of two columns in a fashion magazine], DO’S. Presumably this refers to Glamour Do’s and Don’ts, but to the best of my recollection (and I haven’t picked up a copy of Glamour in some time), the layout is not ever one Do column alongside one Don’t column. What say you?

Four stars from me. Would be a notch higher without crosswordese ITER at 62-Down.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Party Fouls” — Ben’s Review


I’m not sure what it was, but something about this week’s BEQ Thursday feels a little off to me. The puzzle’s nice, but it’s lacking a certain spark that I tend to associate with the puzzles Brendan posts to his site. This felt downright traditional compared to some of the puzzles I’ve done from him this year – a few edits, clue-wise, and this would have felt like a NYT puzzle. Football is coming back soon, as this puzzle’s theme clues reminded me:

  • 18A: The host who tapped the keg before everyone got there was called for a… — FALSE START
  • 25A: The guy who took all the LSD was called for… — TRIPPING
  • 29A: The guy with all the weed was called for… — HOLDING
  • 41A: The guy who rolled onto his back after passing out was called for being… — OFF SIDE
  • 54A: The cockblocker was called for… — PASS INTERFERENCE
  • 62A: The guy who took too long to make a move was called for… — DELAY OF GAME

A few changes to 29A and 54A‘s clues (along with changing 51D‘s less-than-breakfast-table-friendly ECZEMA) and you’d have something suited for solving over coffee. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad puzzle, but it felt like it needed a little more oomph (although I did like the rarity of a non-symmetrical theme clue pattern).

A surprisingly low number of music-y references in this week’s puzzle (although Paula ABDUL shows up at 9D), so you get the Italo Disco track I was jamming to while solving this week. Fill-wise and clue-wise, this was surprisingly straightforward. Nothing felt too unusual, but I did have an unfair advantage on the answers for 57D (TUFTS, the “University in Medford” that’s basically in my backyard) and 8D (You BETCHA I grew up in Minnesota, Land of 10,000 of that phrase and “Uff da”)

After a few great weeks, this felt like a step down in terms of fill quality.  3/5 stars.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times  150910

LA Times

Today’s offering is a “words that follow” theme, but with a few twists. The revealer is LOW/KEY, and the last words of the theme answers can be followed by KEY. They’re LOW KEYs because the answers are all vertical, and because of left-right symmetry, are arranged such that they end at the bottom of the grid. With conventional symmetry, the theme could only have worked if Ms. Guizzo used only 15-letter answers.

Our answers today are:

  • [*Event for A-listers, say], PRIVATEFUNCTION. Function Keys are features of some keyboards.
  • [*The Hagia Sophia, for nearly a millennium], BYZANTINECHURCH. Now a mosque. Aside, I had to take out HAGIA from a crossword once as it was too obscure. Never heard of a church key, but google suggests some sort of American variation on a bottle opener.
  • [*Sirius’ constellation], CANISMAJOR. Major key in music.
  • [*Space to maneuver], WIGGLEROOM. A room key. Note the variety in types of key.

The top corners are very open. They feature the punchy pair of STEAKSAUCE and AMENTOTHAT. They also feature a lot of the difficult and/or contrived answers in the grid. I’m not sure a stack of (mostly) difficult proper nouns: EBAN/LYME/EZER/GANT plus plural INTS is an ideal stack. The other is less problematic, though TSPS/OTRO/FEIN + SKAT is also a little dicey. The more conservative alternative would be an additional pair of black squares below STEAK and AMENT… That would still mean a grid within LAT regulations.

The grid also takes a little strain around the two themers running next to LOW and KEY. They’re two small 3-heavy areas, but you get JUL/ODO/REW on the one side and IMONA with KOO on the other.

Question: Is SOWETO the only [Johannesburg section] Americans are allowed to know? Or can I work BENONI or SANDTON into a grid?

I anticipate a few DNFs where [Dairy prefix], LACTI crosses [Scandinavian native], SAMI. If you don’t know the latter an O is far from unreasonable.

[Bar made by Hershey’s], KITKAT. Here it’s by Nestlé. The dark KITKAT is a subtle, but considerable recent improvement on the recipe.

Any idea what [Kitchy-__], KOO is supposed to mean? I’m confused.

2.75 Stars

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Heroic Verses”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.10.15: "Heroic Verses"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.10.15: “Heroic Verses”

Hey everyone! I hope all is well, and hope you don’t mind an abbreviated look at today’s puzzle, with the sports reporting deal once again cutting into blogging time for today.Mr. Patrick Jordan gives us a clever crossword in which actual titles of songs are clued as puns, in relation to superheroes and their abilities, instruments or traits.

  • IF I HAD A HAMMER (20A: [Thor’s favorite Peter, Paul & Mary song?])
  • BORN TO RUN (32A: [The Flash’s favorite Springsteen song?])
  • BEIN’ GREEN (44A: [The Hulk’s favorite Muppets song?])
  • COME FLY WITH ME (56A: [Superman’s favorite Sinatra song?])

I like the fill of RANSACKED, but I usually associate the word with more messiness and recklessness than what the clue gave us (34D: [Searched thoroughly]). Also initially put in “nose” instead of JOWL, and I hope I’m not the one that did that, given the subject of the clue (10A: [Facial feature in many a Nixon caricature]). I guess there were no real hangups since I was able to complete the grid really quickly, though the clue to ELAH was the only one where I really didn’t have an idea what the answer was and needed its crossings to have it filled (4D: [“In the Valley of ____” (Jones/Theron film]). This was a nice, little fun stroll of a Thursday puzzle.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELGIN (3D: [Baylor in the Basketball Hall of Fame])  – Almost all sports fans know that Wilt Chamberlain has the NBA single-game scoring record, but do you know who had that single-game scoring record before the Big Dipper? It was ELGIN Baylor, who scored 71 points in a Nov. 15, 1960 game against the New York Knicks, breaking his own record of 64 points in a game the previous season. In Dec. 1961, Chamberlain scored 78 points in a game to set the new record before eclipsing that with his 100-point game on Mar. 15, 1962 against the Knicks.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


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23 Responses to Thursday, September 10, 2015

  1. huda says:

    I liked it… Although the Beans that spill are probably dry, while String and Snap are not as readily spillable. Aren’t String, Snap and Green beans the same?

    I tend to associate SNAP with peas… I can see a Pea theme in the offing– Sugar, Snow, Snap, Split

  2. Dude says:

    Fun, enjoyable puzzle though it seemed off to me that the revealer would be included in the given number of theme answers.

    • CY Hollander says:

      I agree about the revealer being a little anomalous as far as the theme went, since BEANS are not a type of bean, unlike the others.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Dude, I have been including the revealer in my bulleted list of theme entries for years.

      It was neat that the revealer also had a gimmicky bend—more fun than just sticking the word BEANS in the corner. The downward “spilling” is a nice extra, too.

      • David L says:

        I think the objection is that the first four theme answers end with the name of a type of bean ‘spilling’ down, but the revealer has the word ‘beans’ itself. One of these is not like the others, in other words.

        But it seems to me that a straightforward reading of the revealer clue applies to the revealer itself just as much as to the other four themers.

        Snap beans are new to me. Snap peas, yes, but not beans.

        I got VACA from French ‘vache,’ loosely speaking, but I wondered if it crossed the line of foreign words solvers can be expected to know.

      • Dude says:

        I wasn’t remarking on your review (excellent as always!), Dudette. I was trying to say that a key is used to open doors; it’s not a door itself. For the puzzle to count the revealer then in the count of themed answers it reveals seems off.

  3. Stan Newman says:

    Will Shortz DOES NOT play ping-pong. Will Shortz plays table tennis.

  4. CY Hollander says:

    NYT: I liked the theme, less so the fill. In particular, I thought the bottom left and top right corners contained some awful crossings with HILO/ALAR and VACA/D-CON: two virtually unguessable proper nouns in the one case and a brand name with a Spanish word, in the other. I suppose that HILO and ALAR are somewhat well-known as proper nouns go, but I’ve only vaguely heard of Hilo, and, since Alar was banned in 1989 (Wikipedia tells me), it’s not likely to be familiar (except from crosswords) to those who grew up later than that.

    VACA/D-CON was even worse. D-CON was faintly familiar to me from another crossword, but otherwise, I wouldn’t have known how to guess the second letter. It turns out the name is a reference to the word “decontaminate”, so I suppose it may be technically guessable, but I wasn’t able to think of it, and since vermin aren’t generally considered “contamination”, as far as I know, it doesn’t seem a very plausible thing to guess, while VACA is a Spanish word with almost no English cognates I can think of. There is vaquero, which I even thought of, but D-QON didn’t seem very plausible and it hadn’t occurred to me that Spanish declensions might change a C to Q. I guess I’ll know that for next time.

    • Gareth says:

      “Vaccine” is a cognate, interestingly enough.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        And the French “vache” is a cognate. A great many Times crossword solvers took either Spanish or French in school, no?

        • CY Hollander says:

          No doubt many of them did, but, IMHO, it still doesn’t rise to the level of common enough knowledge to be able to stand alone when crossing another difficult name to guess. I’m just pulling this out of my hat, so I could be way off, but I’ll hazard that less than 50% of solvers will know the French or Spanish word for cow from learning it in school.

          Interesting fact about vaccine, Gareth! I had no idea (but I do remember that the first vaccine was made from cowpox, so I guess that would have been another pathway for guessing).

          • ArtLvr says:

            Cy, your examples were no problem here. What I find tricky are things like somebody’s mascot: BLUEHEN?
            Also, I lived outside D.C. for a dozen years but would guess BETHESDA was harder to recall for many solvers, especially with that misdirecting clue!

  5. Jeff M says:

    Man, that NE corner was a mess. Zoomed through the rest of the puzzle and then sat staring blankly at the NE…ERIC / ALSOP / PARLEY / ARISEN? Eew. Never heard of a SNAP bean. And if that’s the same thing as a STRING bean, well then this puzzle is really not for me.

    Ok, I’ll go back to snacking on some ORACH (whatever that is).

  6. animalheart says:


  7. Jeff M says:

    *NW corner. Now back to sleep.

  8. Alan D. says:

    Am I missing something with the BEQ? Why doesn’t it have any symmetry? It doesn’t look like the number of themers should have influenced that…

    • Richard says:

      I noticed the same thing. I guess it’s kind of necessary because there are a limited number of penalties, and controlling their length is impossible, but I expected it to be a little cleaner (and more complained about!).

  9. Chris Wooding says:

    For Gareth:
    “Kitchy-koo” is something you say to babies, preferably while chucking them under the chin.

    Back before pop-tops, one needed a device which gripped the edge of the can and then cut a triangular hole in the top. Because some religions discourage drinking, this device became known as “the keys to church” or, a “church key”.

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