Thursday, September 17, 2015

NYT 4:58 (Amy) 
Fireball 4:29 (Amy) 
LAT 6:22 (Gareth) 
CS 8:48 (Ade) 
BEQ 8:22 (Ben) 
WSJ 8:58 (Sam, paper) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Film Splicing”—Amy’s write-up

Fireball crossword solution, "Film Splicing" 9 17 15

Fireball crossword solution, “Film Splicing” 9 17 15

Neat theme—seven movie titles are parsed with different word breaks and clued accordingly.

  • 17a. [Provide weapons to an old Mafia boss?], ARM AGED DON. I was seeing this as ARM A GEDDON and was thus confused till I realized the A wasn’t its own word. Never saw the whole action movie—am I missing anything? I saw Deep Impact instead.
  • 21a. [Delicacy in the pen?], CON TACT. Was thinking of edible delicacies rather than interpersonal delicacy. Found much to dislike about this Jodie Foster sci-fi flick.
  • 26a. [“Anything but surgical debt markers!”?], NOT O.R. IOUS! Cute. I like Cary Grant but haven’t seen this classic.
  • 37a. [One commercial for atomizers?], A MIST AD. Also skipped this movie. Seemed possibly too ponderous. Yes? No?
  • 45a. [“Nurse Jackie” actress Best, if she married 1998 U.S. Open winner Patrick and took his last name?], EVE RAFTER. Skipped that Drew Barrymore movie and don’t expect any of you will shame me for that. Not familiar with Eve Best.
  • 50a. [Outlaw literary collections?], BAN ANAS. Ugh for featuring crosswordese ANAS. Read the clue as “literary collections by outlaws” rather than seeing “outlaw” as a verb.
  • 57a. [Where Social Security numbers flow?], TAX I.D. RIVER. I really ought to see this De Niro classic, I know.

The theme works quite well. Rather easy for an Fireball puzzle, too.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Wilson of “The Story of Us”], RITA. Weird clue. Per IMDb, she’s listed ninth in the credits. Looks like a Wikipedia clue, since she shows up right after the two stars there.
  • Lots and lots of proper nouns in the grid. Over 20. I wonder how many Fireball solvers are in the contingent that hates being quizzed on names. Perhaps not so many? Sure could have done without the dryness of ALAR, SDAK, SAAR, OISE, and URAL.
  • 64a. [“The Puttermesser Papers” novelist], OZICK. Have not read anything by Cynthia Ozick, I don’t think.
  • 27d. [Ingredient in some potato chips], OLEAN. Are they still selling those, really? I did a search at Amazon for Olean and found only fat-free Pringles. which are not potato chips. And apparently Lay’s has discontinued its “Light” fat-free chips. The clue needed an “erstwhile.”
  • 3d. [Chart of products], TIMES TABLE. Multiplication products! Great clue.

4.3 stars for the theme, 3.5 for the fill, 3.9 stars overall.

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY TImes crossword solution, 9 17 15, no 0917

NY TImes crossword solution, 9 17 15, no 0917

Oof, I did not enjoy this puzzle. Your mileage may vary, but I didn’t much care for the theme concept or its execution, and too much of the fill made me frown. Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. [Charles Lamb collection first published in 1823], S-AAA OF ELIA. Pronounce that as “Essays of Elia” for what the actual answer is. And then make a scowly face because an ELIA clue from the 1980s has turned itself into an actual wordplayable theme answer. Just … no.
  • 25a. [Track star known as the Buckeye Bullet], JESSE O-NNN. Never heard that nickname for Owens—how about you? Raise your hand if you pronounce it Oh-whens with a short E rather than Owens with a schwa for the E. Anyone? No?
  • 36a. [Duty on gasoline or tobacco], X-III TAX. Excise tax. Boring, but the pronunciation works.
  • 39a. [Annual gala usually held in September], THE M-EEE. The Emmys.
  • 47a. [Prince and Journey output], A-TTT MUSIC. Eighties music? Journey, sure. But omigod! Prince is eternal! He just released a new album on Jay Z’s Tidal music service last week, and on CD Tuesday of this week. Hello! This puzzle is out of touch.
  • 58a. [Informal group that includes the Universities of California, Michigan and Virginia], PUBLIC I-VVV. Ivies. Fine.

I don’t understand this clue for LION TAMER: 31d. [Whipper snapper?]. Whip snapper, sure, but is he or she snapping a whipper? Hardly. What am I missing?

Five more things:

  • 62a. [Son of Agrippina], NERO. I much preferred the Fireball clue for this entry: [Caffè ___ (Italian drink with no latte)]. You can piece together that you may need a word that means “black,” and if you don’t know the Italian word, it’s a cognate for Spanish negro.
  • 48d. [Detach, in a way], UNPIN. Meh. Also in my “meh” category are RAU, OREM, AGE TEN, ROE, SLO, TRAC and EVAC, ARIOSO, SEDGE, and BAAL.
  • JINX, SOUR NOTES, FINE-TUNES, and FRISBEE are my favorite fill here.
  • 43a. [One-named German singer who was a one-hit wonder], NENA. Now … as a general rule, your one-hit wonders are perhaps not the best crossword fill. One-hit wonders from 30+ years ago are best known to those who were listening to top 40 at the time. That’s my age cohort for this song, but I know that doesn’t make it great fill. Do you know the song? If not, watch the video and sing along with the German words.
  • 1d. [Goes after, as a task], HAS AT. I hate, hate, hate this entry. “Have at it!,” you might say. When would you ever use the HAS AT form? “She has at that task like nobody’s business!” No.

2.5 stars from me, pulled up a bit by the entries I really liked.

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Studio Mergers” — Sam Donaldson’s review

wsj sep 17Today’s WSJ offering took nearly two minutes longer than yesterday’s, so the puzzles really are getting a little trickier. This one’s probably about a Wednesday-plus on the NYT scale. Maybe Thursdays in this venue won’t have wacky rebuses or other grid shenanigans, but that’s fine if the puzzle quality remains high.

I liked this theme–take two one-word movie titles that have overlapping trigrams and push them together, then clue them as a single film that combines notable elements from both films. Mortals would be content with four theme entries; Colin Mike (a former collegian, don’t you know) manages to squeeze in six.

  • 17-Across: The [Film about a singing orphan who suffers from acrophobia?] is OLIVERTIGO, the combination of Oliver and Vertigo. This first one took a while to fall since I kept wanting Annie to be in there somewhere.
  • 21-Across: The [Film about a street urchin and his circle of friends in Baltimore?] is ALADDINER, the merger of Aladdin and Diner. I’m not familiar with the latter film, and all I could think of for a while was the obviously-not-a-movie, The Wire.
  • 26-Across: The [Film about a queen pursued by DEA agents?] is CLEOPATRAFFIC, a fusion of Cleopatra and Traffic.
  • 47-Across: The [Film about a Latin American revolution joined by country singers?] is BANANASHVILLE. That’s Bananas and Nashville, for those keeping score at home.
  • 52-Across: The [Film about a race of blue humanoids swinging through the jungle?] is AVATARZAN, the result of splicing Avatar with Tarzan.
  • 63-Across: The [Film about a Maine barker making a march for civil rights?] is CAROUSELMA

There are lots of possible theme entries if you’re willing to use film titles with 2+ words (ISPITONYOURGRAVENGERS, SKYFALLABOUTSTEVE, THEGODFATHERCULES–you get the idea). But those are messier than the one-word titles, and Mike does a nice job of crafting clues that make the theme entries seem plausible. It’s like he knows what he’s doing.

I know if I had 64 theme squares that are partially stacked in a 15×15 grid, I’d need hours to come up with a workable grid. This is where Mike really makes construction look effortless. You don’t notice the high thematic density because the fill just works. Where’s the forced entry or the awkward answer that screams “this grid is hard to make?” Is it GIS, the [Grunts]? URI, the [Canton bordering Lake Lucerne]? AS A, the [Simile segment]? If that’s the best you can do to undermine the puzzle, well, you lose.

The clues are definitely getting more challenging as the week progresses. MEL is not Ott or Blanc or Gibson or C but [Blount in the Pro Football Hall of Fame]. FEET gets the misleading clue, [Mules hold them]. (Anyone else think of pack mules first?) And the clue for SEE is [Make out], a term that has another evocative connotation. I’m liking the trend of harder clues.

The only foreign word for me was ELODEA, the [Aquarium plant also called waterweed]. I’m more familiar with gillyweed.

Favorite entry = FRUITFUL, clued as [Productive]. Favorite clue = tie between [Killing time?] for the IDES of March and [Saline drip] for TEAR.

Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 150917

LA Times

I grew up with the comic BLONDIE in my daily newspaper, so I’m familiar with it. I >think< most of us will be familiar with the strip. That said, the tribute is rather uneven. It’s just names: BLONDIE and DAGWOOD; their friends HERB and TOOTSIE (didn’t remember her); ALEXANDER but no COOKIE for some reason; no DAISY either; boss MRDITHERS and wife CORA. The original author, CHICYOUNG is included. I remember random neighbourhood kid ELMO featuring surprisingly frequently in strips. He, like COOKIE and DAISY drew a short straw. It’s a pretty banal strip, but it would’ve been nice to see some of the more quirky aspects of it included, like BOOPADOOP, BLONDIE’s maiden name.

I don’t feel like I have more to say.

2.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Crop Circles” — Ben’s Review


After last week’s slight misstep, it feels like BEQ is back in form with this week’s puzzle.  I wasn’t paying close attention to the circled parts of the theme answers as I solved the rest of the grid, so I figured out the connection between the title and the theme after everything was complete:

  • 20A: Common photo ID — DRIVERS LICENSE
  • 26A: Make a person feel good — WARM ONES HEART
  • 46A: Tennis tournament won 9 times by Rafael Nadal — THE FRENCH OPEN
  • 56A: Implores, as to a judge — PUTS UP A REQUEST

As it turns out, “Crop Circles” was meant to be taken literally – the circled part of the theme entries are various other words that mean to cut (or crop) something.  A nice swathe of bands dot the puzzle this week – NSYNC popped up at 28D as “Boy band with a star before its name” and Beck’s biggest album, ODELAY,  showed up a little further down at 49D.  Oddly enough, with both of those in the grid, it was 1D that triggered a song reference for this week – 1D‘s “Sorta” made me thing KINDA which of course leads to Jessie Ware’s last album:

I’m picky and don’t love clues/fill that’s just a run of letters for a run of letters’ sake, so I wasn’t thrilled with ABC at 23A or its accompanying clue of “2 letters”.  I managed to pull IAN Somerhalder’s name out of the vast pop cultural expanse of my brain despite not actually knowing what show he’s on.  And it’s worth noting that I managed to screw up on my first pass through the grid and enter TRES for “____ bien” in both place that clue appears in the grid, 66A and 32D.  As it turns out, 66A is actually ESTA.

3.5/5 stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Meet the Press”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.17.15: "Meet the Press"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.17.15: “Meet the Press”

Hello there, everyone! How are you? I want to say that today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, is dedicated to me and to everyone else who officially is a member of the press. But, alas, that’s not the case, though that didn’t mean it wasn’t a clever theme. Each of the five theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word in each can also immediately precede the word “press.”

  • GARLIC SALT (18A: [Popular combo flavoring])
  • BENCH WARMER (23A: [One seldom part of the game plan])
  • PERMANENT MARKER (36A: [It leaves an indelible impression])
  • PRINTING INK (53A: [Copier’s supply])
  • VANITY FAIR (59A: [Magazine that scored big-time with its cover of Caitlyn Jenner])

It’s always fun when you come across a term immediately before having to input it in a crossword, and today, that was DHAKA for me (21D: [Capital of Bangladesh]). There was a lot of food and or food-related instruments in the grid, including DICERS (9D: [Kitchen choppers]), PECANS (3D: [Popular pie nuts]) and TACO, something I haven’t had in a long time since I always order its alternative anytime I’m at a Mexican restaurant (17A: [Burrito alternative]). As a matter-of-fact, I’m probably going to get a burrito right after finish this blog, as it’s dinner time and I’m sure you can hear my stomach growling from all the way out here in New York. To boot, I’m sure there was an earlier version of the film mentioned in the clue to O’TOOLE, because I know I came across a movie of the same title on TCM a while back (or a similar channel) and O’Toole was definitely not in that movie  (56A: [Peter who was Mr. Chips in “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”]). Well, at least I can do some investigating on that while snacking on my burrito.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PLAYBOOK (11D: [Football coach’s list of tactics])  – The late Hall of Fame football coach Paul Brown is known for being an innovator in the game of football, and one of the inventions he brought into the game is the creation of the PLAYBOOK, something he did while he was the head coach of Massillon High School in the 1930s. According to many reports, he game each player a ring notebook to memorize the plays, and later tested their knowledge of the plays. Of course, playbooks are a staple on football teams across all levels, especially in the pros.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday, everyone!

Take care!


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11 Responses to Thursday, September 17, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    All I remember of “The Story of Us” is that Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wife who makes crosswords for a living. Clearly a fictional story.

    • placematfan says:

      Michelle Pfeiffer making crosswords?… Omg. That’s the sexiest image that ever passed through my brain.

  2. Dude says:

    Agree with Amy on the NYT. Eventually caught on to the clever theme (Jeff Chen did something similar in his great “A Cut Above the Rest” puzzle) but I just didn’t enjoy it. Maybe if the theme answers had had more sparkle….

  3. huda says:

    Hi Amy, I was wondering about your comment: “And then make a scowly face because an ELIA clue from the 1980s has turned itself into an actual wordplayable theme answer. Just … no.”
    The Essays of Elia being a proper literary title, I’m not clear why I should be annoyed by it. Is it because ELIA is crosswordese and it’s being elevated to a theme answer?
    Maybe I’m weird (well, I know I am) but I actually like it when constructors take short entries overused for fill and give them their original context– it shows why someone thought they were worth knowing in the first place.
    Least favorite entry: AGE TEN…
    Favorite combo: SOUR NOTES next to LEMON PEEL…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m not convinced that “Essays of Elia” is truly worth knowing, as my high school and college English curriculum never mentioned Lamb/Elia at all. Can’t help thinking it was in the old puzzles so often mainly because it was 3 vowels + 1 common consonant.

      • PhilR says:

        I sleep with a copy “Essays of Elia” literally a mere 3′ from my head every night, and have for the past 10 years. I bought it because of its crossword fame, read a few essays, and there it rests – awaiting another bout of insomnia for which it’s a perfect cure.

        ps I take the 5 minute countdown to edit my post as a statement that I really should edit it, that the post was pointless, and feel belittled.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Nah, that’s just “if you see a typo, now you can fix it.”

          So that’s a 5-star review for the book! Better than Sominex!

  4. Howard Flax says:

    NYT: I definitely had that “aha” moment from this puzzle. Wasn’t sure what the heck was going on, and then it came together. Felt like Amy and Rex were a bit tough on this one (but I suppose that’s why I keep coming back).

    Tough cluing! Had JUJU for JINX, and IDOL for BAAL.

  5. Norm says:

    Thought the NYT was cute and amusing. Would have given it more than 4 stars if it hadn’t been so easy. I was WTF in the NF because SAAA… is not possible, and then saw my old friend ELIA and it was off to the races. [Edit: Ha ha, just went to read the comments over at Rex’s place, and realized I was channeling chefwen.] Definitely a fun puzzle.

  6. Gareth says:

    Also, I’m pretty sure Journey’s only vaguely tolerable song was from 1977…

  7. CoffeeLover says:

    I had a lot of trouble with the last theme entry in the WSJ because I thought the clue “Film about a Maine barker” referred to Cujo – and the C and the O worked! Of course, when I quit beating my head against the wall and solved the Down entries . . .

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