Saturday, September 19, 2015

NYT 9:02 (Amy) 
LAT 8:12 (Derek) 
CS 9:58 (Ade) 
Newsday 13:46 (Derek) 
WSJ untimed (pannonica) 

Kevin Adamick’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 19 15, no 0919

NY Times crossword solution, 9 19 15, no 0919

Well, this puzzle took me more than twice as long as Friday’s, and I usually relish a really tough themeless but I did not enjoy this one. The difficulty comes more from relatively obscure words as opposed to challenging clues. To wit:

  • 10d. [They’re often escorted by police], AUTOCADES. According to, none of your major American dictionaries include the word. Motorcade is far more common. Not sure I’ve ever seen AUTOCADE before.
  • 10a. [Central Honshu volcano], ASAMA. You don’t say. This entry is so crossword-friendly with its letter pattern … and yet zero hits in Cruciverb’s database.
  • 40a. [Like silent partners], NONACTIVE. It’s inferrable, but a rarely used word—inactive gets 100 times as many Google hits.
  • 52a. [Longtime maker of model rockets], ESTES. You don’t say. Entirely unknown to me.
  • 38d. [Flirty types], TOYERS. A roll-your-own word that gets less than a tenth the Google hits of NONACTIVE.
  • 25d. [Vulture lookalikes of the falcon family], CARACARAS. I have heard of them, along with the red-fleshed Cara Cara oranges. But I bet a lot of solvers drew a blank here.

The grid’s got just 58 words. The last 58-worder I wrote about was Brendan Emmett Quigley’s this past Monday, and I actually liked the fill (with just one exception). BEQ used a lot more black squares and thus shorter entries, but this puzzle’s impressive-looking five-stacks of 8- and 9-letter answers had more compromises (ESSES, UCLAN, and IRANI are also on my “no, thanks” list). “TAKE MINE” also feels arbitrary to me.

While my overall experience here was not a good one, I can admire zippy fill like VIP PASSES and the smoothness of that upper left quadrant’s stack.

Let’s look at a few clues:

  • 34d. [Lepore of women’s fashion], NANETTE. This is the most modern clue I’ve ever seen for NANETTE. Approved!
  • 21a. [Reef swimmers with no gills], SEA SNAKES. I’m not sure which is more terrifying: sea snakes or tree snakes. I’d prefer it if we could escape all snakes by jumping in the water or climbing a tree, but alas, no.
  • 25a. [Lightweight boxing option], CARTON. Ah, good clue.
  • 47a. [Power nap wear], EYESHADES. No, no, no. Not when I NEED A NAP is in the grid. There are other sorts of eyeshades that could be referenced here.
  • 1d. [Subjects of many New Year’s resolutions], VICES. I do not make New Year’s resolutions. Who’s with me?
  • 30d. [Smooth and white], ALABASTER. “I will turn your face to alabaster / When you find your servant is your master.”

3.3 stars from me. Was hoping for more enjoyment in the puzzle. It’s not common for me to have fun with a low-word-count crossword.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 8.32.35 PMI am used to seeing C.C.’s puzzles on Tuesdays, with a nice lively fill. I have also seen a few examples of her work in the NYT recently. This is the first I have seen a themeless puzzle from her repertoire. Usually, at least from my perspective, constructors usually are good at creating lively themed puzzles, OR they are good at creating wide-open themeless puzzles with good fill, which can then be clued in a difficult manner. The number of constructors that can pull off both styles well is a short list of the greats: Reagle, Shenk, Berry, Quigley, and a few others. So how does this puzzle stack up to her other themed puzzles?

Pretty well! As is the case in LAT puzzles, the fill is EXCELLENT. If my count is correct, this is a 68-worder, so for a themeless it’s a tad on the high side. I see two 12s, 4 9s, and everything else is 8-letters or less. I would rather have a fun solve like this one than trying to remove a black square or two for esthetic reasons and having some obscure garbage in there. This now is nicely made.

A few observations:

    • 16A [’70s “SNL” parody] BABA WAWA – This was a funny skit done by Gilda Radner years ago, satirizing the famous Barbara Walters.

  • 49A [Kyrgyzstan province] OSH – Slightly obscure, but add it to your crossword-friendly need-to-know words!
  • 62A [Nerve condition?] COLD FEET – Solvable, but I think of cold feet as a circulatory problem. If your nerves were acting up, you wouldn’t feel your feet, would you?
  • 3D [Permits to leave] EXIT VISAS – Well done, and I was fooled. I was thinking of a verb, not a noun!
  • 5D [2000 Richard Gere role] DR. T – As in Dr. T and the Women, a movie I have never seen.
  • 7D [“Curious George” media brand] PBS KIDS – This one stumped me for a bit, since it has a very odd letter pattern if you’re thinking it’s going to be a one-word answer!
  • 8D [Like “American Hustle”] RATED R – Stacked next to PBS KIDS, this also was a difficult clue. With that movie being a period piece from the 70s, I thought the answer may be an adjective describing the period. Also well done.
  • 10D [Fist bump] DAP – A fist bump to me meets knuckles, not this. Still a fair clue.
  • 13D [Plot thickener] TWIST – Combined with 46D [Having a TWIST] IRONIC, this was nice.
  • 27D [___ cake] CRAB – Let’s just set the record straight right now: I LOVE crab cakes! Just had some at Chandler’s Crabhouse in Seattle last week, and they were knee-buckling delicious!!
  • 28D [Hot stuff] SALSA – I had MAGMA in there at first!
  • 48D [Tovah Feldshuh Broadway role] YENTL – Much harder clue than referencing the Streisand movie.

As mentioned, a fun solve. You learn a lot about a constructor by the puzzles they make, and C.C. seems like quite a fun individual! 3.8 stars for this one.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

imageThis week I felt good! I saw Brad’s byline, which normally induces a cringe similar to seeing Frank Longo’s name as the constructor. But on a rainy Saturday morning, the puzzle fell nicely into place. I must have slept well! Would have been a tad quicker on time, but I had ANIME instead of ANIMA for 2D [Spirit, on scores]. Took me a second to find that error. You can see in the screen shot that I had to check for errors to see what was wrong. (You can also see a slightly cleaner font from iOs 9!) Should have checked the crossing A and there would have been no problems!

First answer filled in? 3D [Recipe sentence starter] MIX IN, believe it or not. It was a reach, but I thought what else could it be? I hedged on 63A [Site of protein synthesis] RIBOSOME. I knew this was probably what it was, but was hesitant to fill it in until I had some crossings.

Some of my favorite entries:

  • 17A [When the EPA was created] NIXON ERA – Very nicely done.
  • 20A [Comment at a cube farm] TGIF – Took me a bit to figure out what a cube farm is; I don’t work in an office! (Yet…)
  • 27A [It may involve weight gain] METHOD ACTING – Or weight loss, in some cases. Great clue.
  • 43A [Like the Campbell’s Soup twins] APPLE-CHEEKED – Not a familiar term to me, but it makes sense.
  • 57A [Predominance] HEGEMONY – Expand your vocabulary!
  • 61A [Cue for the tenor, perhaps] EMOTICON – As in the “tenor” of the text! Best clue in the puzzle!
  • 13D [Certain Viking descendant] ICELANDER – I tried MINNESOTAN, but it didn’t fit!
  • 31D [Two-person flight] ELOPEMENT – This was also awesome!
  • 44D [They’re often fruit-filled] CRATES – I filled in CREPES at first! Very tricky!
  • 53D [Conversation piece] WORD -Ultra-literal. I like that!

Great puzzle by Brad! 4.5 stars! Am I getting better still, or was this week’s time a fluke? I am sure to come back down to earth next week…

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Weekend Addition” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/19/15 • "Weekend Addition" • Sat • Fisher, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 9/19/15 • “Weekend Addition” • Sat • Fisher, Shenk • solution

A most apt theme to inaugurate the first Saturday of the Journal‘s new daily era. As you must have realized by now, the big 21×21 grid has moved from Fridays to Saturdays (though it can also be seen as an addition to the existing Saturday variety puzzle). Base phrases are augmented with the insertion of SAT, and wackilarity ensues. This crossword couldn’t have played successfully in the old slot.

  • 23a. [Extra fee added to a prom dress bill?] SATIN CHARGE (in charge). Is it being generous to assume that the clue’s “extra” and “added” are intentional signifiers to theme’s mechanics.
  • 35a. [American Impressionist’s group at a Paris bistro?] CASSATT PARTY (cast party). See also, 5d [“Bal du Moulin de la Galette” painter] RENOIR.
  • 51a. [Knockoff version of a Volkswagen model?] FAUX PASSAT (faux pas). Favorite themer.
  • 69a. [Poetic tribute to the Vue from Mount Olympus?] ODE ON A GRECIAN SATURN (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”). Some wordplay in the clue, as the Vue was a model from the erstwhile Saturn auto manufacturer.
  • 90a. [Realm used by ridiculing writers?] SATIRE LAND (Ireland).
  • 104a. [Located within the borders of a region of ancient France?] INTER-ALSATIA (inter alia). Alsatia being the Latin name for that region in the time of Gaul, now called Alsace, bordering Germany. The older name is also seen in an alternative name for the German shepherd: Alsatian.
  • 117a. [Item in a petty tyrant’s linen closet?] SATRAP SHEET (rap sheet). I’d thought that satrap was Hindi, in origin, but it turns out to be from Persian, via Greek and then Latin.

As I said, very appropriate theme, and entertainingly executed.

  • 36d [Pribilof Islands denizen] ALASKAN. And as I was solving I figured I might include an image of the northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) with significant colonies located there … then—lo and behold!—78a [Pribilof Islands denizen] SEAL. Their populations are declining and are listed by the IUCN as “vulnerable”.
  • As a sucker for clue-echos, I enjoyed the connection there, as well as others in the puzzle, including: 17d/28a [Heron’s cousin] EGRET, IBIS; 30a [Clumsy fellow] APE, 72d [Clumsy fellows] GALOOTS; 33d/110a [Homer output] ILIAD, D’OH;
  • Mis-fills: 103a [Tower in the water] RIG before TUG (I was obviously the victim of an ad homonym attack), 55d [Popcorn factory offerings] TUBS ere TINS, and 70d [Warning about broaching a touchy topic] TRIGGER-something prior to DON’T GO THERE.
  • Speaking of groany puns, I liked the clue for CPA at 62-across: [Pro in the ledger domain: Abbr.]. 9d [Potter’s field] for MAGIC was pretty good too.
  • 50d [Robin to Audrey’s Marian] SEAN. In the elegiac Robin and Marian (1976), with Connery and Hepburn portraying the later years of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
  • Long non-theme fill: UNDER FIRE, OVERSTATE (nice reciprocal action there), RAILROAD CAR, DON’T GO THERE, IN HARNESS, SIDEBOARD, PLUS SIZE, and BREAKERS.
  • Favorite clues and fill: 10d [Alternative to megillah or ball of wax] SHEBANG, 66d [There are 72 in a foot] PICAS.

Very isfying crossword.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pointed Advice”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.20.15: "Pointed Advice"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.20.15: “Pointed Advice”

Good evening, everyone! Today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, highlights a famous point by Horace GREELEY, with the clue hinting at the theme of the puzzle (69A: [Journalist who popularized the advice found at the ends of 17-, 27-, 47-, and 61-Across]).

  • NO PLACE TO GO (17A: [All dressed up partner, at times]) – I know that feeling of being all dressed up and no place to go!
  • WILD WILD WEST (27A: [1999 Will Smith/Kevin Kline film based upon an old TV series])
  • FOREVER YOUNG (47A: [Song with the lyric “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung”])
  • MARATHON MAN (61A: [1974 William Goldman thriller])

Only one real point that I want to hit at, and that’s how much more brilliant this grid is given that you put a bow on the theme with the non-theme entry of GOLD FEVER (11D: [It afflicted many Californians in the 1840s]). And don’t forget, in case you knew this in the first place, that PHAT is an acronym for “pretty hot and tempting” (56D: [Excellent, slangily]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OSU (16A: [Big Ten sch.])  – In this instance, OSU stands for Ohio State University, the school with the No. 1 ranked football team in the country. But after the escape against Northern Illinois, will that be the case when the next poll comes out? We’ll see…

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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24 Responses to Saturday, September 19, 2015

  1. Dude says:

    Maybe it’s time for Shortz to move on. He can become a scenarist.

  2. Matt says:

    I thought the NYT was pretty good. Some obscurities, but doable.

  3. Gary R says:

    I liked the NYT better after I was finished than I did while solving. There seemed to be a lot that I was uncertain of while solving, and I was surprised to see the Happy Pencil when I filled in my last letter.

    After I was done and looked back at it, only the NE was particularly weak (but that was pretty darned weak). When I was working on that corner early, I was looking for a rebus, because 10-D had to be motorCADES and 11-D looked like it should be SCENeARtIST. I have a very vague recollection of having heard of ASAMA. I’ve heard UCLA pronounced Uckla, but have never heard UCLAN. It gets lots of Google hits, but they’re all for the University of Central Lancashire (their motto is Ex Solo Ad Solen).

    The NW was very nice (although I didn’t know RIRE). It was fun to see a grid with no 3-letter and only two 4-letter answers.

  4. lemonade714 says:

    Derek, I believe COLD FEET refers to someone losing their nerve (being afraid) for example a bride on her wedding day wedding day who has second thoughts is said to have Cold Feet.

  5. PJ Ward says:

    35D – I laughed out loud.

  6. Ben Zimmer says:

    AUTOCADE (like the verb form of SCUBA in Friday’s grid) can be found in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (which is licensed to, as Onelook indicates), and, based on Random House. It’s also in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged (subscriber-only), though not in M-W’s Collegiate.

  7. sheera says:

    Enjoyed NYT, found it easier than other Saturdays, some tricky, fun cluing

  8. Animalheart says:

    I understand some of the objections to the fill (autocade was irritating), but the solving experience for me was just the way I love my Saturdays–virtually a total blank on first pass, and then a slow, almost geologic erosion of white boxes, one quadrant at a time, until the whole grid was filled. 4.5 stars from me. (P.S. Anyone else have Cedar Tavern as a first guess for 4D?)

  9. Norm says:

    The trinity is not a holy “alliance,” whatever your theological view might be about exactly what it is. E.coli has no GOOD strains, so cluing it in terms of “some bad strains” was just crap, in my opinion. UCLAN is not a thing: UCLA students & alumni are Bruins. And so forth. There was just too much junk and stupid in this puzzle.

    • Gary R says:

      I think the clue is referring to the “Holy Alliance” of Russia, Austria, and Prussia in the early 1800’s, not the Trinity of Christian doctrine.

      As for e. coli, I’m no biologist, but Wikipedia seems to support the constructor’s clue:

      “Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls due to food contamination. The harmless strains are part of the normal flora of the gut, and can benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2, and preventing colonization of the intestine with pathogenic bacteria.”

      But, I’m with you on UCLAN (until some UCLA grad chimes in to tell us this is legit).

    • Gareth says:

      Um, you do know E. Coli and all their little bacteria friends in your gut are as we speak performing metabolism on your behalf? Remember to say thanks to them for the yummy Vitamin K and biotin!

    • pannonica says:

      Gareth and I, among others, have been trying to counteract the broad ignorance and fearmongering (intentional or otherwise) evinced by Norm’s statement for a long time, here on the blog and elsewhere. Was very pleased when I encountered the clue during the solve.

      Have opined about similar issues, both scientific and factual such as this, and also those are basically restricted to language and usage: for example, the pervasive (negative) “odor” and—to take a more obscure example from today’s WSJ—the (positive) “fount”. I recognize that the line between unadorned definition and helpful qualifier in a crossword clue is subjective, and therefore to some extent a judgment call. Incidentally, I decided not to mention the FOUNT quibble in the write-up.

    • pannonica says:

      I’m not convinced the clue is referencing what Gary R says it may. However, I invite folks to step out from the parochial blinders of Christian doctrine and consider other religions. How about the Hindu concept of trimurti, for example?

      Heck, the clue might even be referring to Cajun food.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    re Holy Alliance & Russia: Standout book on the failures of the Tsars is Edward Crankshaw’s “The Shadow of the Winter Palace, and the Drift to Revolution: 1825-1917.”

  11. David L says:

    NYT was a struggle — I got the left hand side fairly easily but had to google NANETTE to find a way into the right. Quite a few proper names and some dubious fill, as others have said.

    The Stumper was nice, and easier than I expected. Took a long time to figure out the EMOTICON clue, and I still don’t understand why “bit of caviar” is GOB. I was expecting EGG or ROE. Can anyone explain?

  12. Bob says:

    LAT: Really dislike MILKSHAKE (“parlor cooler”) and really never heard of DAP (‘fist bump”). ENTERSIN is silly since most laptops have the word “insert” on the key. Loved BABAWAWA and MADLIBS – took me back some years.

    • pannonica says:

      “Insert”, really? The “return” key of typewriters became the “enter” of computers, but I was unaware of a second “insert” key. The standard “insert” key toggles between typeover and insertion entry modes. Most databases register the data in a cell when the “enter” or “tab” key is pressed.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You may be too old and white to be familiar with that meaning of DAP. Remember when Barack and Michelle Obama greeted each other on stage with a dap, and Fox News called it a “terrorist fist jab”? That’s dap.

      I have just learned via YouTube videos like this one ( that dap also encompasses fancy handshakes and one-armed back-pounding hugs.

  13. Greg says:

    Liked the Times perfectly well. I had Estes rockets as a kid, so that was a gimme. Nice to see it clued as referring to other than Senator Kefauver or swindler Billy Sol.

  14. Slow Stumper Solver says:

    Great Stumper that took me forever (2+ hours), just finished Sunday morning.
    Had the SW first, despite putting in POURSITON for [Doesn’t spare]. When ELOPEMENT (fantastic clue, as Derek mentioned) came to mind, that whole corner fixed itself.
    But, then I had tartes/tortes instead of CRATES for fruit-filled somethings, and I was very much stuck. Finally, when DERMIS and HEGEMONY fell in, the whole puzzle began to open up for me.
    I also had MIXUP/MIXIN placed, but fouled up that corner thinking the x crossing had to be a year, like ‘sixtytwo’ instead of ‘nixonera’. I stared and stared until RAMPEDUP, EMITS, EONS and ANIMA/ANIME all became solid, which allowed nixonera to enter my mind.
    [Beginning] for ASOF. I was sure this was ALEF for awhile.
    [Parting wish] for GODSPEED.
    [Get through] for WEATHER.
    [America’s Cup et. al.] for EWERS. Man, that’s misdirection. I had ‘races’ at first.
    Plus all the good ones Derek had, and I think the clue for EMOTICON was fantastically original.
    My not-so-favorites:
    [Heel] for ROTTER. I get it, but not sure I’ve seen ‘rotter’ used in actual writing or speaking.
    [Filling in] for PROTEM. Can the same clue be used for ‘interim’? It feels wrong somehow.
    [Five or ten: abbr.] is an okay clue for DENOM, which to me is the iffiest entry in the puzzle.

    I created a bunch of roadblocks for myself on this one, but in the end it’s just a great, TOUGH puzzle. Can’t wait for the next one.

    • pannonica says:

      Funny, I had CREPES before CRATES, which I’m sure was the intended misdirect. Then again, it depends on which crossings were laid down first.

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