Thursday, September 24, 2015

NYT 4:43 (Amy) 
Fireball 14:33 (Amy) 
LAT 4:52 (Gareth) 
CS 14:53 (Ade) 
BEQ 9:15 (Ben) 
WSJ untimed (Amy) 

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Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 24 15, no 0924

NY Times crossword solution, 9 24 15, no 0924

Today’s theme is made-up phrases that feature 2-letter chunks repeated five times in a row:

  • 17a. [One volume in the Encyclopedia of Movie Pets and Sidekicks?], TONTO TO TOTO TOME. Flat. Also, I’m thinking a volume that goes all the way from Tonto to Toto is the size of a pamphlet, not a tome.
  • 27a. [Let someone’s father borrow this Arp or that Duchamp?], LEND A DAD A DADA. Not that you can have “a Dada.” Dada is an artistic movement, not an artist’s name. “I have an Impressionism”? No.
  • 46a. [Statement from the proud snake as its eggs were hatching?], I AM A MAMA MAMBA. Cute.
  • 58a. [Recounting of the time you introduced the Egyptian goddess of fertility?], THIS IS ISIS, I SAID.

So half the theme works for me. Kind of a neat idea, but I wish it had been executed with four good themers. Can you think of other candidates that would fit into a 15×15 grid?

How many ONEs is too many? We have ONE SEED above ONE-L (the latter being a particularly blah entry), and “one” beginning the 14a and 17a clues. Feeling a little oned out here.

The long Downs are quite good—NEXT IN LINE, SANTA MONICA, SMOKE ALARMS, and PHOTO ALBUM. The short fill had more groaners—besides ONE-L, there’s IONE, AGRI-, inflected EINEN, OONA (she didn’t play a major character, and she left the show via the Red Wedding a while back), and ADES. Oh! And palindromic Dutch crosswordese town EDE. Feels like years since I’ve seen that in a puzzle.

This clue is overly broad: 12d. [Weightlifter types] for HE-MEN. I know two weightlifter types, and one of them is a woman (she’s a top-10 ACPT finisher!).

3.2 stars from me. Needed the theme to work better, would gladly have lost those juicy long Downs if it meant getting rid of the clunkier short fill.

Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “Vwllss Crsswrd 6″—Amy’s wrt-p

Fireball crossword solution, 9 24 15 "Vwllss Crsswrd 6"

Fireball crossword solution, 9 24 15 “Vwllss Crsswrd 6”

Ooh! I love a good vowelless crossword, and this one hit the spot. I completed the puzzle and understood what all but one of the condensations were. 49a. [Lead-in to a fugue, often], PRLD—that one had me stumped. The answer sheet tells me it’s PReLuDe, but I could only see PaRoLeD and oPeRa LieD.

I can’t really say that I had any favorite answers, or that any clues were particularly fun (given the stripped-down nature of the answers and the difficulty deriving them, the clues are straightforward). But I enjoyed the challenge and look forward to Frank’s vowelless offerings.

I struggled the most in piecing together the start of 31a, CoMiNG To THe SaMe CoNCLuSioN. I wanted reaching or arriving at, what with guessing that 31d was RaTiFieD rather than the much more apt CoDiFieD, [Systematized, as laws].

4.5 stars of brain-busting fun.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Picking Up Some Lunch” — Ben’s Review


BEQ is two for two as far as this week’s theme puzzles are concerned, in my opinion.  After yesterday’s great puzzle for the AV Club, this week’s Thursday Theme puzzle on his site is pretty fantastic as well.  Solving was making me hungry, as each of this week’s theme entries rolled up some take-out, Katamari Damacy style:

  • 17A: Austrian horse on the sea? — OCEAN LIPPIZZANERS
  • 27A: “Shoo, household allergen!”? — GET AWAY CAT HAIR
  • 34A: Dismally low search engine result for a population count? — TEN CENSUS HITS
  • 42A: Two things in a door? — KEY AND PEEPHOLE
  • 57A: Tea that gives you drive? — SALADA FOR EFFORT

The rest of the puzzle had some nice cluing, even if the fill felt standard (although ALL BOYS at 20A and HAZMAT at 9D were some nice variety, as was a nice shoutout to NVIDIA at 43D).  25D‘s clue for SIPS, “Spends some time with one’s Buds” was a nice twist.  I’ve resigned myself to accepting that Frozen is going to pop up for years to come in crosswords, not just for ANNAs and ELSAs, but also as a new clue for OLAFs, as at 46D.

4/5 stars

Timothy L. Meaker’s LA Times crossword Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 150924

LA Times

Today’s puzzle is a “naked” words that follow theme. I say naked, the revealer is a vanilla ELEVATOR. So CABLE(ELEVATOR)CAR, DRIVE(ELEVATOR)SHAFT, SWING(ELEVATOR)MUSIC and OLD(ELEVATOR)SHOE. Three of the four ELEVATORs refer to the devices known over here as lifts. The elevator shoe is the odd one out. On the whole, not a lot of separation or playfulness in the theme today. I wasn’t familiar with OLDSHOE clued as [Unpretentious], though it’s in all the dictionaries

A little reliant on difficult answers (maybe the reason it’s running on Thursday, despite a Tuesday theme), but pretty solid. Not a whole heap of other exciting answers: COINTOSS in the bottom-right is about the most splashy thing I can see. The science nerd in me appreciates seeing HALIDE. Halides are halogens (Chlorine and kin) bound to a positive ion. The most commonly encountered halide for most of us is sodium chloride.

I found two clues curious: [Rite-related] for SACRAL. I mostly encounter this in reference to the sacrum. I admit my line of work may make me biased toward that definition. In the same corner, [J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, e.g.], PROS – why those two? Bubba has majors and is a fairly natural choice, but Holmes? He’s had a good year, but he’s never even been in the top 10 (as far as I can tell) or been near a major. Odd.

2.5 Stars

Alice Long/Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deer Crossing”—Amy’s write-up

WSJ crossword solution, 9 24 15 "Deer Crossing"

WSJ crossword solution, 9 24 15 “Deer Crossing”

Mike’s theme today is inspired by the “Deer Crossing” concept. Four words for deer are part of longer words in familiar phrases, and the deer have to “cross” a black square to connect to the rest of their phrases. The full phrase is clued without a hint that the answer is completed by the preceding or next entry. We’ve got BILLBOARD C/HART, BUCK/LED DOWN, LEAVE BE/HIND, and STAG/E DIRECTION.

Speaking of Billboard charts, if you are in your 40s or 50s (or otherwise love the music of the ’70s and ’80s), you just might be vulnerable to getting sucked down the rabbit hole of old Casey Kasem American Top 40 radio shows at iheartradio. I’ve been in the rabbit hole for a week and a half now.

Four clues of note:

  • 13a. [Part of uno scheletro], OSSO. Apparently that’s Italian for “a skeleton” and “bone.”
  • 29d. [Can opener?], BAIL. The can is jail. Man, this little section was the slowest to fall.
  • 30d. [Word in many housing development names], ACRES. I wanted HOMES, as urban housing developments are what I think of for this phrase, and ACRES sounds very sprawling-subdivision to me.
  • 49d. [Address for el argentino], SENOR. Didn’t know Spanish didn’t capitalize such words (an Argentine, in English), but then, they don’t capitalize español. There’s also COBRA clued as [Portuguese word for “snake”] and I’m digging the foreign vocabulary expansion here.

In the fill, the Scowl-o-Meter kicked in a number of times. There’s OSIER (which was also in the WSJ last week!), ENIAC, and ASTA. ICER always feels like a crossword contrivance to be, and READOPTS feels rather roll-your-own-word to me. Not sure if PIKA ([Rabbit relative with a high-pitched alarm call]) counts as crosswordese or just difficult, somewhat obscure vocabulary. And I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a WHEATCAKE—you?

The theme is neat, 4.25 stars for the theme. 3.25 stars for the fill.

Bob Klahn’s’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Different Strokes”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.24.15: "Different Strokes"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.24.15: “Different Strokes”

Good day, everyone! So I finally get a puzzle from Mr. Bob Klahn that I absolutely eat up, and then, afterward, am not 100 percent sure what theme is. I’m probably overthinking it and believe there’s something more than what I think it is, but, from what I’m seeing, each of the first three entries have the word OWN embedded in the answer, with the fourth theme answer, TO EACH HIS OWN, as the reveal (55A: [“Different strokes for different folks,” or a clue to this puzzle’s theme]). Oh, maybe it has to do with the pronunciation of each “own” in those answers. OK, that may be it as well!

  • SERENA DOWNER (20A: [Williams conquerer?]) – Funny enough, “ROBERTA VINCI,” the conquerer of Serena at the U.S. Open to prevent her run at the calendar Grand Slam, would also fit in this space.
  • OLD SCHOOL TOWNIE (34A: [Eton local?])
  • SLOW NUMBER PARTY (41A: [Event at which dancing is cheek-to-cheek?])

As I said, absolutely tore this grid apart, and I have to brag about that since I usually could/would never say that about a Klahn puzzle. I knew it was going to be a good puzzle experience for me when I knocked out the Northwest pretty quickly, and also was on the ball with the clues for ADD-ONS (29D: [Riders, e.g.]) and TONSIL, which came right after getting “add-ons” and guessing from the “N” that was inputted (46A: [Each one gradually undergoes atrophy after puberty]). I’m pretty sure I heard that fact about tonsils in high school, and it’s stuck all these years. So, in this grid, we have YES SIRREE, with two Rs and two Es at the end, the way I’m used to spelling it (60A: [“Works for me!”]). Being from New York City, I’ve been familiar with many Jewish Convention Centers, especially to play some basketball, so YWHA was a lock (33D: [JCC alternative]). Again, fun grid, and proud that I didn’t have too much trouble with this one. Thanks, Bob! Now please go as easy on us again for next time!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BAER (10D: [Max ____ (heavyweight champ defeated by James Braddock in “Cinderella Man”])  – I’m pretty sure I’ve written about the former heavyweight champion and boxing referee Max BAER, but did you know that his son, Max Baer, Jr., played Jethro in The Beverly Hillbillies? Baer’s most famous fight, outside of his 1935 loss to James Braddock, was his 1933 victory over German former heavyweight champ Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in the throes of worldwide tension due to the rise of Nazi Germany.

TGIF tomorrow!! See you then!

Take care!


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28 Responses to Thursday, September 24, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Fun! and I give many points for trying something new (to me, anyhow). I AM A MAMA MAMBA is my clear favorite.

    The NW made me laugh because, a while back, my husband invented a METHOD for looking a gene activity in the brain called In SITU hybridization. People just call it in Situ. In fact, we just spent a couple of hours this afternoon in lab meeting going over some image analysis METHODS for in SITU.
    Yeah, I know, you’re all jealous. Wish you were there… I’ll send you the powerpoint and the macro, upon request…

  2. Evad says:

    Loved the Frbll vwllss as well, got stuck at the same place as you–I couldn’t see PRLD and missed DDPNND and TMXPNDTR (the latter seems iffy as a xword entry, imho). Other than that, a great mental workout!

  3. Matt says:

    In fact, TONTOTOTOTO will be about one page. Also, wrt the FB– I don’t know why, exactly– but I find vowelless puzzles to be exceedingly unpleasant and frustrating. I’ll give it a pass.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: For 40a [Bucolic sound] I was overly literal, relying on the etymology, which comes from Greek and Latin for cows/cattle. Wrote in MOO before BAA.


  5. Xwordluvr says:

    For me also these theme answers provided little amusement, as they failed to conform perfectly to the practices of the real world and to the rules of English usage. Not only is a “Tonto to Toto” volume not properly a “tome,” not only is an Arp not strictly a “Dada”—but also snakes cannot talk, and Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess, is not likely to have been introduced in the casual social situation evoked by “This is Isis, I said.” Five repetitions of two-letter syllables are all very well in theory, but if they involve such violations of sense and order, I have no use for them.

    Moreover, not only does “one” appear twice in this crossword, as the reviewer properly notes, but “dog” appears both in a clue (9 Across) and an answer (51 Across). I’m dog-tired as well as “oned out.”

    Finally, I too was appalled at the implicit sexism of the clue for “He-men.” Not surprisingly, the puzzle answers include 10 men, or exclusively male groups (Adam, Maher, Ares, Peter, He-men, Todd, Magi, Mateo, Finn, Ike) and only 3 women (Ione, Oona, Sara). Problematic!

    • john farmer says:

      And if snakes could talk, would an African species be speaking English?

    • Dan F says:

      Hmm, I wonder if this comment is fully sarcastic. I mean, “violations of sense and order” are certainly unwelcome in a game of wordplay like crosswords! Kudos to you, good Sir or Madam Commenter.

      I just wanted to strenuously disagree with Amy’s philosophy as expressed thus: “would gladly have lost those juicy long Downs if it meant getting rid of the clunkier short fill.” There will always (ALWAYS) be boring short fill in a puzzle, so I would rather see some fresh and interesting fill even if it means the short fill is crappier. (There is a limit to the crappiness, of course – but this puzzle doesn’t get anywhere near it, IMO.) (I see that Rex makes this point more cogently in his post today, but I’ll leave this here anyway.)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Certainly my preferences in recent years have been colored by my Daily Celebrity Crossword editing work—there, we disallow all crosswordese and obscure (meaning “not familiar to the average American, and we’re not talking about the average college-educated NYT reader, just an average, reasonably bright American”) vocabulary, so I’ve grown less tolerant of such words in the puzzles I solve. Certainly if newspapers are keen on gaining subscribers who are hooked on their crossword puzzle, they’d be well advised to avoid obscure fill as much as possible. Many a regular Joe or Jo views crosswords as impossible things for people who are smarter than them, but if you knock out the obscurities, these folks can easily get hooked on crosswords. That is not a bad thing.

        • Dan F says:

          Yep, it’s all about context – the squeaky-cleanliness of Daily Celebrity is certainly a major selling point. And I’m sympathetic to criticism about crosswordese in early-week puzzles, but for a Thursday NYT I don’t bat an eye at EINEN OONA. (EDE, otoh, can go jump in the Amstel. Is it anywhere near the Amstel? Who cares, it’s too obscure.)

        • Gareth says:

          There is point at which this becomes the reinforcement of a prevailing sentiment that ignorance and apathy towards the world around one is the status quo… Difficult answers, no matter how obscure, can and should be used, but they should be used judiciously – spread out so that crosswords remain a fair challenge.

  6. Martin from C. says:

    Gareth / LA Times CW: Re J.B. HOLMES. This would definitely be obscure for a Monday. This year he has 7 top tens, won a tourney in a playoff, lost a tourney in a playoff. He has four career tour wins. Some non-golfers might recall that in 2011 he had brain surgery (to repair Chiari malformations). He’s earned $3,781,680 in 2015, and is 18th in the World Golf Ranking.

    • Gareth says:

      So about the equivalent of cluing TENNISPLAYER as [Stan Wawrinka or Dominic Thiem, e.g.]. That sounds silly to you?

  7. janie says:

    i found pete’s puzzle quite amusing and was happy to go along for the ride. mostly.

    but how is ONE SEED a stand-alone phrase equal to [Tournament favorite]? NUMBER ONE SEED, or even TOP SEED, yes. but ONE SEED? i think this phrase (iffy in its present context) would be better served with some kind of botanical reference. perhaps for the next time this puzzle gets published…


    • PJ Ward says:

      I use and see used ONE SEED, TWO SEED, etc. during the NCAA basketball tournament.

      I really enjoy vowels crosswords. This one was a lot of fun. I’d like to know how they’re built. A different database of words without vowels?

      • janie says:

        yes. just found one article in connection w/ the ncaas that uses the phrase. not exactly a ringing endorsement. feels like a rather new kinda use of the phrase in very limited circles. never object to learning new phrases, but something about this one (maybe because to my ear it doesn’t sound like a natural way of expressing “position”) feels forced and just doesn’t sit well w/ me.

        and so it goes…….


  8. Jason Mueller says:

    On the PROS clue, J.B. Holmes is more obscure than Bubba Watson, but they were probably chosen because they sound like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

    • sbmanion says:

      JB Holmes is tied for first place at the moment in the FedEx Championship tournament. The top 30 make this tournament. The player with the most total points for the year at the end of this tournament (not necessarily the winner of this specific tournament) wins $10,000,000. Holmes and Watson are two of the longest hitters on the tour. Holmes might be better known if he had not had serious medical issues for several years.


    • Gareth says:

      I think you’ve got it on the Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson angle! Subtle!

  9. Margaret says:

    Sorry this question is so late, just getting to the LAT puzzle. The San Francisco Chronicle didn’t print the clue for 62D for which the answer is SOR. Normally I’d have no trouble filling in a three letter word from the crosses, and making up a likely clue. SOR, however, isn’t a usual piece of fill for me. SRO, sure. SSR, sure. NOR, sure. SIR, etc etc. Can someone give me the clue for 62D please? Thank you!

  10. Dan Weber says:

    That Khlan puzzle was very difficult. I still don’t get “short walks?” being “BBS”.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I think it’s a baseball abbreviation—BB = base on balls. When the pitcher throws unhittable “balls” outside the strike zone, he or she is said to “walk” the batter. “Short” is the cue for an abbreviation here.

      As to whether BB is itself a plural or takes an S, I don’t know. I know that RBI is inherently plural (runs batted in) and that RBIS is a bit bogus.

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