Thursday, October 1, 2015

WSJ 19:50 (Jim) 
NYT 4:51 (Amy) 
LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 
CS 8:50 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:53 (Ben) 

The Fireball puzzle’s a contest puzzle, and we’ll have a new Team Fiend blogger writing about it Sunday evening—Jenni Levy! I’m excited to welcome a dear friend to the blogging team.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “How Upsetting”—Jim’s write-up

WSJ crossword solution, 10 1 15 "How Upsetting"

WSJ crossword solution, 10 1 15 “How Upsetting”

Without a doubt the hardest puzzle of the WSJ week so far. This seems to be the pattern: easy, breezy Monday & Tuesday, increased difficulty and word play on Wednesday, and a solid challenge on Thursday (before the meta on Friday).

This time it’s Alan Arbesfeld rising to the challenge of meeting our Thursday expectations. 37a (once it’s revealed) tells us what we need to be looking for (FAMOUS UNDERDOGS).

In a nutshell, here’s the theme. Four UNDERDOGS from various disciplines are placed somewhere in the grid, and each one is directly UNDER a famous DOG.

So we have:

  • 17a [One from the movies], ROCKY beneath PLUTO
  • 27a [Ones from sports], NY METS beneath SNOOPY
  • 55a [One from politics], TRUMAN beneath LASSIE
  • 66a [One from the Bible], DAVID beneath TRAMP

I recognize ROCKY and DAVID as definite UNDERDOGS, but I wasn’t sure about the other two. I recalled the “Dewey Defeats Truman” mistaken-headline photo, but was TRUMAN an UNDERDOG in that contest? Yup, he surely was; I just didn’t realize it.

And I’m not a huge baseball fan, but are the METS always UNDERDOGS? Surely they have their ups and downs like most teams. Now that I’ve done my Googling, I’m certain Alan is referring to the 1969 “Miracle Mets” who went from second-to-last in 1968 to winning the World Series. (Fun fact: I was 10 days old when the METS won the series.) But to anyone who doesn’t know their baseball history, this was a tough entry to fill in.

In fact, a lot of the puzzle was tough to fill in. The clues were tricky (in a good way), and the unhelpful clues on the theme entries MEANT I was still staring at a lot of white space 10 minutes into it. And the long Acrosses at 18 and 58 made me think they were part of the theme when they really weren’t.

I do like how the UNDERDOGS are stacked directly beneath the DOGS and are the same letter length. Unfortunately this leads to some difficult letter combos (the N from SNOOPY with the Y from NYMETS, e.g.), further leading to some sub-par fill (ONYM, e.g.). In fact the puzzle groans under the weight of all the crud: UPSA, ARRAU crossing RAU and ANE, ETE, MII, ESSE, BANC, ISTH, plural ATTYS, ONYM (ick!), SIAN (double ick!), and ARAME. This really decreased the fun factor and increased my solving time.

But there are some bright spots, too. STEEL DRUMS [Calypso instruments] are oh, so lovely. And I was a huge fan of “Taxi” so seeing the fully-named JUDD HIRSCH [Oscar nominee for “Ordinary People”] in the grid made me smile. EYE SOCKET, difficultly clued as [Orbit], and CASANOVAS [Rakes] are great and even UNCOMBED, with the sly clue [Having no part, perhaps], and OUTSMART [Get the better of] add some color. Throw HEY JUDE [It spent more time at #1 than any other Beatles song] in there and you’ve got a lovely mix of long stuff. I just don’t know that it’s enough to overcome the dreck.

3.25 stars from me. Nice theme and lots of good long stuff, but too much stifling crosswordese.

But let’s leave on a high note: HEY JUDE. STEEL DRUMS. Need I say more?

John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 1 15, no 1001

NY Times crossword solution, 10 1 15, no 1001

Our theme here is a word ladder in rebus squares, taking us from WARM to COLD just as September warmth yields to October chill:

  • 1a. [Any old person, so to speak], {WARM} BODY crossing 1d. [Get ready to play], {WARM} UP. I misread the 1a clue as referring to any / (old person) rather than (any old) / person.
  • 20a. [Low camera perspective], {WORM]’S EYE VIEW crossing 6d. [You can’t stop humming it], EAR{WORM}. Fun phrases.
  • 36a. [“Birthday” or “mother’s maiden name,” e.g.], PASS{WORD} HINT crossing 34d. [Renaissance fair props], S{WORD}S. The first (but not the last) instance of the rebus word not standing for itself.
  • 57a. [“Officially …”], FOR THE RE{CORD} crossing 59d. [After-dinner drink], {CORD}IAL. I have never, ever drunk a cordial. Am I missing anything?
  • 70a. [Cause of a stuffed-up nose], HEAD {COLD} crossing 64d. [Peter out, as a trail], GO {COLD}.

Solid theme. Have we seen a rebus word ladder theme before, or just the word ladder with a bunch of 4-letter words from upper left to lower right? It’s feeling new to me, but I see so many themes each year, only the most distinctive stick with me.

I counted about 20 capitalized entries, which means solvers who struggle with names in the grid may have been grousing their way through this puzzle. I did appreciate two cheesy pop-culture “Judge” names here, though: Judge DREDD (Stallone!) and Judge WAPNER (People’s Court!)

Five more things:

  • 3d. [German Expressionist who was blacklisted by the Nazis], OTTO DIX. I’ve seen the name before, but if this were a trivia quiz and not a crossword with checked squares, I would’ve been hard-pressed to summon up the name quickly.
  • 37d. [Mercury, in alchemy], AZOTH. This one almost makes me laugh out loud, it’s such an implausible and out-there entry. If this one stymied you, not to worry! You may well never, ever encounter it again, certainly not in a crossword. Cruciverb’s database tells me it was last in a puzzle, the old Washington Post Sunday crossword, over 17 years ago. I missed that one.
  • 28d. [Books that may depict dragons, unicorns and griffins], BESTIARIES. I love those medieval bestiaries, man. Other fill I liked: SCREENSHOT, “HEY YA,” DIMWITS.
  • 41d. [Latex-like glove material], NITRILE. Did you know this? I know it from medical editing plus eyeballing the boxes of gloves in doctors’ offices to see if they’re latex or whatnot.
  • 9d. [Constraint], LIMITER. Can’t say I have ever used this form of the word. Feels rather roll-your-owny to me.

Aside from the name density and that AZOTH (and ESSEN and LIMITER), the fill is mostly solid Thursday-level stuff. The theme is executed pretty well. 3.9 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Yuge Puzzle” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.22.27 PM

Another Thursday, another BEQ theme puzzle. I’m assuming “Yuge Puzzle” is a tribute to the opening of the 41st season of Saturday Night Live this Saturday, which is probably going to feature Taran Killam as everyone’s favorite person in the presidential race, That One Guy Who ARNIE (61A) Is Replacing On The Apprentice. I don’t need to say his name here, but his habit of describing things as “Yuuuge” when he clearly means “Huge” has affected all of the theme clues this week and turned them into phonetic sound alikes with H’s replaced with Y’s:

  • 16A: Labs on a luxury cruiser? — YACHT DOGS
  • 20A: Peers deliberating the case of the missing cookies? — YOUNG JURY
  • 32A: Scared mariner? — YELLOW SAILOR
  • 42A: Really tiny mystic? — FOOTLONG YOGI
  • 56A: Contributor to Sherpa Monthly? — YAK WRITER
  • 62A: Epic Tents? — MEGA YURTS

With Meaghan Trainor’s “ALL About That Bass” getting a mention at 34D, it felt only fair to throw some other doowop-influenced music in this week’s post. Other nice musical shoutouts this week included Yoko ONO‘s turn as a “Backup singer on ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (19A), Sister Sledge’s classic “HE’S The Greatest Dancer” (55A – Anything Nile Rodgers touches is fantastic), and GENRES like Dad Rock and J-Pop in 11D. A few other things from the clues: I learned that Tiger Woods has a record 21 ESPYs (71A), and a recent run of watching The Thin Man films made ASTA fly from my fingers even faster than it had already been because of crosswordese. Finally, I, like Brendan, hope that selfie sticks are a FAD (5D) that go away soon.

RARISH feels like it’s pushing it in terms of being an actual word, but I’ll let it slide since I feel like it’s something I’d actually say when trying to describe something sort of rare. I’d nitpick that an apartment ONE A isn’t guaranteed to be on the ground floor, but that’s only because the numbering in my building is weird. That’s all I’ve got for nitpicks this week – a few bits of common filler, but creatively clued, which always helps things in my book.

3.75/5 stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Man-to-Mann Talk”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.01.15: "Man-to-Mann Talk"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.01.15: “Man-to-Mann Talk”

Welcome to October, everyone! I hope all is well with you as you get ready to put your Halloween decorations up around your house. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, includes five theme answers that are common phrases and/or proper nouns that are altered when the last letter of the first word is doubled. As the puns and clues indicate, the first word is also the name of a celebrity.

  • HAMM RADIO (17A: [Athlete’s Spotify account?]) – Mia Hamm.
  • PITT STOP (21A: [Break in filming “Moneyball”?]) – Brad Pitt.
  • BARR ASSOCIATION (39A: [Cast of a hit 1980s-’90s sitcom?]) – Roseanne Barr.
  • WEBB SITE (55A: [“Dragnet” studio?]) – Jack Webb.
  • STARR TREK (62A: [Drummer’s arduous tour?]) – Ringo Starr.

The first few answers didn’t go down as EASILY as I might have thought, but didn’t have too much trouble breezing through, as I’m sure many of you had the same experience (59A: [Without breaking a sweat]). Although its crossings made it pretty easy to fill out, COHAN would have been pretty difficult otherwise (1D: [George who composed “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”]). Loved the fill of WARNER BROS, probably my favorite entry in the grid (27D: [Movie studio behind Rin Tin Tin and “Casablanca”]). Being that I fly Southwest Airlines a lot (no bag fees is definitely worth it for me), I haven’t been seeing much of O’HARE since Southwest flies in and out of Midway (2D: [Midway alternative]). The NHL regular season is less than a week away from commencing, so for those of you who are fans of hockey, the calendar turning to October is definitely your time to get excited (51A: [Org. for Ducks and Penguins]). If only this were a few years ago, when I could brag about being a New Jersey Devils fan because they were a real good team. Now? Umm, not so much. But hope springs eternal at the beginning of the season, right?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PRESS (67A: [Weightlifting maneuver])  – One of the members of this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning United States Women’s National Team was forward Christen PRESS, who has a remarkable 25 goals scored in international play in only 52 games for the Red, White and Blue. One of those goals came in the first game for the United States in the World Cup, a 3-1 group stage win over Australia where she tallied in the 61st minute. Press, currently a member of the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League (the league’s championship game is being played tonight at 9:30 on Fox Sports 1), is the all-time leading scorer at Stanford University.

TGIF tomorrow!! Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you on Friday!

Take care!


Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 151001

LA Times

Today’s theme features a common enough trope, though an unusual presentation thereof. The revealer is a stacked 6/7 of WHERES/THEFIRE. It’s a somewhat vague, if colourful choice for indicating “both parts of the long down answers can be preceded by FIRE.

The two-part phrases are on the bland side, but having experimented with this theme type a bit, I find that that’s all but inevitable. Anyway, HOUSEBRAND is made up of FIREHOUSE and FIREBRAND. What’s a FIREHOUSE? It’s either a rock band I’ve never heard of that had two top 10 singles in the US or some sort of variant for a fire station that I’m not sure I’ve heard before either. MANEATER is a [“Jaws” shark, e.g.] sung of by Messrs Hall & Oates, and consists of passe FIREMAN and FIREEATER. PLUGAWAY is made of Americanism FIREPLUG (called a hydrant here) and FIREAWAY, the first non-noun FIRE answer. STORMPROOF is constituted by FIRESTORM and FIREPROOF.

That stacked WHERES/THEFIRE trick comes at some cost: bygone abbr. TVA, partial HESA and plural EFTS clued as newts not the ubiquitous payments. There are some ugly contrivances in other areas too: SSA/ partial ASOUL plus bogus plural abbr. KGS. If someone is writing 5kgs and not 5kg, please stop. Thank you.

I’m guessing HGH must be human growth human. I’m also guessing it’s so abbreviated in sports circles. I mostly know it as somatotropin or STH. I think I may have tried to use STH in a puzzle that way before, but I don’t think it took…

[Snowman in “Frozen”], OLAF. Which crossword constructor paid the screenwriters millions to get new clueing angles for OLAF, SVEN and ELSA? We’re all grateful!

2.75 Stars

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6 Responses to Thursday, October 1, 2015

  1. Jenni says:

    I should have put NITRILE in as a gimme and didn’t. That’s annoying, since we no longer have latex gloves at work and I wear nitrile gloves on a regular basis. Sigh.

    Really liked the theme, and I usually hate word ladders. I like rebuses, though, and this one was fun.

  2. Evad says:

    I came here wondering why only an (old person) would have a WARM body.

    Oh, and I learned that the opposite of a BIRD’s EYE VIEW is from the perspective of a WORM!

  3. huda says:


    Per Amy “I counted about 20 capitalized entries, which means solvers who struggle with names in the grid may have been grousing their way through this puzzle.”

    Yup… That AZOTH corner was really rough.
    But I like the theme. I had all kinds of hypotheses before I landed on it. So, worth the struggle…

  4. Alex B. says:

    Interesting that the alchemists’ word for mercury is “azoth”, while the French word for nitrogen is “azote.” Cursory googling suggests it’s just coincidence, though.

    • Martin says:

      Yep, “azoth” is arcana: “alpha to omega” in three languages. It’s a portmaneau of [A, Alpha, Aleph], [Zed], [Omega], [Thav].

      “Azote” comes from “without life” (a- and “zoe,” the Greek root that gives us -zoa).

  5. Gareth says:

    Was listening to HEYYA in the car today, and thinking it should appear in more crosswords – bingo!

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