Tuesday, October 13, 2015

NYT 4:24 (Amy) 
WSJ 5:23 (Jim) 
BuzzFeed 4:33 (Ben) 
Jonesin' 5:58 (Derek) 
LAT 5:13 (Derek) 
CS 10:36 (Ade) 
Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 

Peter Collins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Assent of Man”—Jim’s write-up

Constructor Peter A. Collins, veteran of the NYT and LAT, makes his WSJ debut today with “The Assent of Man” — a well-chosen title hinting at the use of homophones in the theme. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be “The Descent of Man”, but “The Ascent of Man” sounds like it should/could be a thing.)

35A tells us what to look for: [Acapulco assent (and a phonetic hint to four of the Across answers)] SI SI SENOR. So, taking the first part phonetically and roughly translating the second part, we’re looking for C. C. gentlemen (i.e. men with the initials C.C.).

WSJ - Tue, Oct 13, 2015 - "The Assent of Man"

WSJ – Tue, Oct 13, 2015 – “The Assent of Man”

  • 17A [Noted farm-worker-turned-activist]. CESAR CHAVEZ.
  • 28A [Gerald Ford impersonator of the 1970s] CHEVY CHASE. Timely since we just celebrated the 40th anniversary of SNL.
  • 47A [Jazz fusion pioneer] CHICK COREA.
  • 57A [“Minnie the Moocher” singer] CAB CALLOWAY. Way before my time, but certainly a name I’ve heard. A few crossings helped me out with this one.

Cute theme and it works, but isn’t this puzzle being just a little SEXIST? I guess SI SI SENORA will be a different puzzle.

I find it interesting that the mens’ names are pretty uncommon. There’s no Carl or Cliff, Chuck or Chad, or Chris or Craig. Nice choices!

Is it foreign language week at the WSJ? Yesterday was Italian, today Spanish. What do we have in store for later this week—Klingon? Dothraki?

Since we’re getting some language lessons, here’s one from our old pals at “Fawlty Towers”.

The grid is stuffed with lots of other good stuff: LASAGNA, BEER CAN, FACETIME, ECSTASY, LET SLIDE, and GOODWIN. ICE FALL is new to me, but I like it. Only a few minor nits like AHS, YDS, and ESL here and there to glue things together. So all in all, a good, solid, easy puzzle with loads of fun fill.

3D reminded me of Patrick Berry’s fabulous Fireball puzzle from last week. So, in that vein, I’ll leave you with this:

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 13 15, no 1013

NY Times crossword solution, 10 13 15, no 1013

The theme entries in this puzzle are six 7/7-letter entry names or phrases, and each half has a lot of overlap with its partner. There are two or three doubled-up squares in each one, allowing for the overlap and a compact rendering of each 14-letter answer.

  • 17a. [Art supplies since 1903], CRAYOLA CRAYONS. The L and N bundle together in the crossing IL{LN}ESS, as do the final A and S in CE{AS}ES.
  • 18a. [Looney Tunes character with a strong Southern accent], FOGHORN LEGHORN crossing MC{FL}Y and AL{OE}.
  • 39a. [Director with three films on A.F.I.’s list of 100 greatest movies, all of them silent], CHARLIE CHAPLIN. SHA{RP}, P{EN}AL.
  • 41a. [“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” band], HERMAN’S HERMITS. B{AI}T, O{NT}O.
  • 63a. [“The Little Foxes” playwright], LILLIAN HELLMAN. DE{LH}I, OR{IE}NT, {IM}US.
  • 66a. [Laundromat fixture], WASHING MACHINE. LA{WM}AN, A{SC}OT, SA{GE}ST.

Neat theme. I wonder if it was devised by combing his brain for possibilities, or if a computerized search of 7/7 phrases and names was used.

What else is in the puzzle? Plenty of smoothly Tuesday-grade fill and straightforward clues. The Thursday gimmick took me longer to wrangle than a standard Tuesday puzzle would, of course. Not sure the puzzle is truly representative of “New Ideas Week” so much as “neat Thursday twists.”

One note: 35a. [Kindergartner’s stickum] is PASTE? Not anymore. I hear that today’s kids are all Team Glue and/or Team Glue Stick.

4.4 stars from me. Felt smoother than the typical Tuesday NYT, despite the constraints of the doubled-up squares.


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 228), “My Foolish Art”—Janie’s review

CrosswordNation 10/13 (No. 228)

CrosswordNation 10/13 (No. 228)

A-pun my word. From the very get-go, riffing on the title of this American songbook classic (by Victor Young and Ned Washington), Liz sets the tone for the whimsy (and groaners) we meet in the five artist-related theme-puns that grace the grid. Some are easier to grasp than others, some have more complexity than others, some a little stretchier than others. All are based on familiar phrases or titles, and all-in-all, in the twisted/twisty ways these beloved artists’ names are used, all are pretty darned smart and funny.

  • 17A. [Flaw in Paul’s “Tootsies” painting?] FEET OF KLEE (feet of clay). This feels like the most complex example because of the nuances in the multiple layers of cluing. Someone who is flawed (or very human, like most of us mere mortals) is said to have feet of clay. “Tootsies” is another word for FEET and then there’s the precise (Paul) KLEE/clay homophony. That’s a lotta bang for buck!
  • 24A. [Driving hazard caused by Auguste’s sculpture?] RODIN RAGE (road rage). A tad stretchy, but the “rode” sound matches, even if the number of syllables doesn’t. Still, the image of someone becoming livid while driving because s/he’s thinking of Auguste RODIN—that’s good stuff (hmmm… but maybe not so humorous to Camille Claudel…).
  • 41A. [PBS show about painter Frida, who also delivers?] KAHLO THE MIDWIFE (Call the Midwife). Another “looser” pun with KAHLO’s name (where strict rules of homophony apply), but it’s hardly out in left field. And again, the combination of the clue and the grid-spanning result adds a lovely layer of complexity. That delivery/MIDWIFE connection makes it work.
  • 52A. [Édouard’s spa-based nail-painting service?] MANET PEDI- (mani-pedi-). I think this is my fave. No, MANET and “mani-” aren’t pronounced exactly the same, but the whole concept here strikes me as very funny. I suppose one could even get the MANET mani-PEDI-… The stretchiest where pronunciation is concerned is this last one:
  • 65A. [Claude’s amusing painting of counterfeit bills?] FUNNY MONET (funny money). This is also the groaniest of the groaners, imoo. But try it out with your worst French accent, bending the sound of FUNNY to FUN-NAY and MONET to MUN-NAY and they kinda start to rhyme. Or at least they do in my world. ;-) And once again, a nicely layered clue/fill relationship.

SWEET CORN (that [Yummy ear]—oh, yeah) and ON THE BALL are both terrific in the “longer fill” category; and the fill benefited, too, from FLY HOME and MASCARA.

Not a lot of longer-type fill in the grid, but still, several items to take a look at:

  • [Neighbors] works as a verb and not a plural noun here, so it’s ABUTS and not THE WEIRD FOLKS NEXT DOOR.
  • but what does it do[“But what does IT DO?”]. So many scenarios come to mind, mostly involving curious children (or dim world-leader types) about to push the wrong button. But also the one at left.
  • Oh, and the symmetrically placed SEE FIT [Decide (to)] and OPT FOR [Choose]. Hands up if (like me…) you tried entering the latter where the former lives. Oops.
  • Loved seeing ANTIS clued as [No bodies?]. That’s excellent. They’re the “bodies” of people who say “No.” Not the AYES, then, who are the [Affirmatives]. A tiny negative about “YES’M.” You are indeed a [Polite reply to a lady], but we just saw you last week. I can see that you’re not easy to replace in the grid, but maybe take a little time off now.
  • Hooray for the shout-out to ETHEL [Waters of gospel]. Of gospel and so very much more: of blues and jazz, of film and theatre and you name it and she did it. One of the great African-American artists of the 20th century.
  • Also enjoyed the shout-out to… flora—this by way of that [Aromatic tree], vvgthe FIR, the [Garden sticker] / THORN pairing, and (since we were in artist-land today), the Van Gogh-conjuring IRIS [Purple bloom].
  • If you’re oriented more towards pop culture, you can ROCK it [Jam with Pearl Jam] or cue up JOJO [“Too Little Too Late” singer]. That was a certifiable HIT in 2006, whether you downloaded it to your iPod or tuned in on your AM-FM radio.

And that, friends, is a wrap for today. If I didn’t speak to your own personal fave(s), speak on up in the comments section. Otherwise, see you next week and happy solving!

Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.02.32 PMNice puzzle today. Another example of the type of puzzle where you have little idea of what the theme is until the payoff at the end. Here are the theme entries:

  • 18A [Ruthless adversary] MORTAL ENEMY
  • 27A [Serious software problem] FATAL ERROR
  • 39A [’60s-’70s “Hollywood Squares” semi-regular] RUTA LEE – I have never heard of her.
  • 49A [Wisenheimer] SMART ALECK
  • 62A [Truth known only to a few … and a hint to a word hidden in 18-, 27-, 39-, and 49-Across] INSIDE STORY

So the “inside story” in this case is the word TALE hidden in the long theme entries. Nice, and seemingly fresh, idea. Puzzle actually took me a little longer than normal, but my brain is a little fried from working Puzzle Boat 3!

Since said brain is fried, just a couple of notes: I liked STRIP TEASE and A TIME TO DIE as crossing long downs, and there was a reference to Rupert BROOKE at 5-Down, a poet I am not too familiar with. Other than that, fill is pretty straightforward. This is good, because I will probably recommend LAT puzzles from here on out to someone who wants to start out solving. I think this is the description I have been searching for to describe these Tuesday puzzles I am getting familiar with! Nothing too offbeat in these puzzles, usually you learn a fact or two, and the themes are entertaining but not too complicated.

3.5 stars for a clean puzzle with a clever theme. Nice job!

Jeffrey Harris’ Buzzfeed crossword, “He Gives You This Puzzle”—Ben’s review


Buzzfeed 10/13/15 – “He Gives You This Puzzle”

Much like Andy yesterday, I have a Lot Of Thoughts on the new BuzzFeed crossword, particularly as someone in the demographic that BuzzFeed wants to capture the eye of (that would be “highbrow/lowbrow Millenial”, for those of you playing at home). Luckily, he said a lot of what I’d have to say, and I look forward to seeing how Caleb Madison responds to feedback and how the puzzle grows over time.

It’s the first Tuesday crossword in BuzzFeed history. No pressure. Today’s edition is by Jeffrey Harris, who I know I’ve seen across many publications and also know from being in the NPL. If you’re not up with the latest internet trends and slang, you may find the big theme clue in this week’s puzzle a little tricky:

  • 17A: 2013 Chris Evans action movie that takes place entirely on a constantly moving train of apocalypse survivors — SNOWPIERCER
  • 22A: 2002 animated movie dealing with themes of acorn addiction and the plight of the squirrel — ICE AGE
  • 34A: Transparently sexual Tinder come-on…where it would be fitting to watch the answers to the starred clues? — NETFLIX AND CHILL
  • 50A: 2013 Idina Menzel musical that’s the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, so more like “Let it Rain”
  • 54A: 2010 Jennifer Lawrence drama where she plays a teenager who has to hunt to provide for her younger siblings, sound familiar? — WINTER’S BONE

I thought this was a cute theme, and very appropriate for Tuesday in terms of difficulty. As I mentioned, I can see NETFLIX AND CHILL being a sticky wicket for solvers not quite inside Buzzfeed’s target audience here (even I’m not fully sure what “Netflix and Chill” actually means. Then again, while I’m a millenial, I’m also a crossword blogger who uses the term “sticky wicket”). The rest of the fill in the grid is really solid – nothing really grabs me as out of the ordinary for this grid, but I think that’s good – grids like these help you build up your knowledge of frequently-appearing words so other puzzles can go faster.

So far, I’m digging the general tone of the clues (although there’s a general voice of “disaffected 20-something” that feels on-brand, but also a little grating – it’s cute for a clue here and there, but I can see it grating on me over time), but there’s also a wordiness to some of the clues that’s messing with my inclination to speed solve. I love crosswords like the AV Club and BEQ’s puzzles where the cluing isn’t quite as austere and is happy to go pop-culture crazy and even work a little blue. But there’s also a nice succinctness when those crosswords do it that doesn’t break up the flow of solving. I love a good aside or parenthetical (have you read one of my reviews?), but some of the sidebars felt a little ridiculous. 1D‘s “Tinder or Bumble or Hive or Hinge but not love :\” (APP) was short, sweet, and to the point. 28D‘s “‘___ and Me’ (McDonald’s-sponsored ’80s movie that Paul Rudd shows a clip from every time he’s on ‘Conan’ instead of one from the movie he’s promoting” (MAC) felt a bit over the top.

The other thing I found odd about the cluing on the puzzle was that it really felt like the constructor’s voice and the editor’s voice weren’t quite as smoothy merged as they could have been. There are clues that feel like they came with the original puzzle as submitted, and there are other clues that really stick out as having been updated after the fact, like 26A‘s “Noodles sometimes called ‘the caviar of college’ or maybe that’s just me (RAMEN). Still, there’s a lot to like here, and I’m optimistic the things I’m finding to nitpick now can be smoothed out as the puzzle continues to figure out its voice.

3.75/5 stars.

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Break a Leg!”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.13.15: "Break a Leg!"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.13.15: “Break a Leg!”

Hello there, everyone! Today’s crossword is another case of seeing a possible grid idea of yours flash in front of one’s eyes and lamenting that you didn’t work on creating/finishing your grid with that similar idea sooner! Mr. Jeff Chen does an outstanding job with breaking up types of BONES in the grid, as well as having it as the reveal as well (70A: [Skeletal parts, four of which can be found in rows four, seven, nine and twelve]). Though seeing this grid reminds me of the idea I had for a grid, it’s not as painful as having any of the bones referenced being broken in your body. Take it from someone who had a broken collarbone while in high school!

  • CAFE, MURALIST (20A: [Casual eatery], 22A: [Rivera or Orozco]) – “Broken” bone: femur.
  • SPATE, LLAMA FARM (33A: [Outpouring], 34A: [Business raising pack animals]) – “Broken” bone: patella.
  • BAKED ZITI, BIALY (39A: [Casserole dish sometimes made by Carmela Soprano], 43A: [Oniony breakfast roll]) – “Broken” bone: tibia.
  • TELL A FIB, ULAN (55A: [Bend the truth], 58A: [____ Bator (capital of Mongolia)]) – “Broken” bone: fibula.

Well, how can I get upset too much about losing an idea for a grid when a theme is executed as well as this? Was left wondering what was going on as I was solving, and only when I got to the reveal that the “a-ha” moment came. Not too long ago, I saw a short documentary on AMISH teenagers experiencing Rumspringa and having to decide whether to live the Amish life for the rest of their lives or be excommunicated from their family (36D: [Rumspringa participants]). Has NO LIMIT ever been clued in crosswords as the record label founded by Master P, a.k.a. Percy Miller (37A: [Texas Hold ’em variety])? Initially put in “mares” instead of SIRES, and it didn’t help that the final three letters are exactly the same (14A: [Stable parents]). Here’s hoping  you don’t come up with a case of ASITIS as the day goes on today (31A: [Under present conditions]). It’s a severe case of inflammation of the lips when saying the word “as” too many times. Oooohh, that’s “AS IT IS!” Never mind

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LENDL (30D: [Tennis star who coached Andy Murray])  – His playing career speaks volumes (eight career Grand Slam singles titles, 94 career singles titles), but, during his two-year run coaching Andy Murray, he helped Murray win the Olympic gold in the 2012 games in London, then the US Open later that year. Also, Lendl was coach when Murray won Wimbledon in 2013, the first Brit to win Wimbledon since 1936. The partnership between Murray and Lendl ended in March 2014.

See you on top of the hump tomorrow! Have a great day!

Take care!


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Order in the Food Court” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 6.07.09 PMGot the puzzle late today, and I was already at work, so the blog post is way behind. As I write, my hometown Cubs are locked in a battle with the Cardinals, so I am a little distracted! Punny entries in this week’s Jonesin’ puzzle pretending a food court is like an actual courtroom! Here they are:

  • 20A [Stealing cheese from the taqueria?] CRIMINAL QUESO 
  • 36A & 37A [Additional order in the court?] SIDEBAR OF FRIES
  • 51A [Why this writer’s silent on forgetting malt vinegar?] I PLEAD THE FISH – I like malt vinegar on my french fries, but that’s just me!

I didn’t get the puns at first, but as I mentioned, I am highly distracted this afternoon. I even had an error, as you can see in the screen shot. The more I am reviewing the puzzle, though, the more I appreciate what is going on. Very nicely done. Some notes:

  • 32A [The main character of “Blindspot,” at first] JANE DOE – I was meaning to watch this show. I may still watch it on Hulu. It looks intriguing.
  • 40A [Cal Ripken’s team] ORIOLES – A baseball reference, and one of the many teams that HAVE won a World Series in my parent’s lifetime, unlike the Cubs!
  • 55A [Self-serve dessert, slangily] FRO-YO – As in frozen yogurt. Right up my alley!
  • 3D [Complain pettily] CAVIL – An interesting word, and fairly rarely used. I like it.
  • 7D [HBO drama set in Utah] BIG LOVE – Starred Bill Paxton and Jeanne Tripplehorn. I watched a little of this, but never got into it. Focused on polygamy, of course. I’m sure it made for riveting drama.
  • 11D [With “The,’ film with Will Arnett as Batman] LEGO MOVIE – This stumped me for a second. If you have not seen this movie, go rent it immediately. It is surprisingly REALLY GOOD!
  • 43D [Iggy of pop charts] AZALEA – The clue no doubt is meant to invoke a mental image of Iggy Pop, but Iggy AZALEA looks quite different!! Fun fact: engaged to Nick Young of the LA Lakers!
  • 45D [Christopher of “Back to the Future”] LLOYD – A timely entry: around here, they are screening the movies on Wednesday since it will be the actual date that Marty McFly travels to in the original movie!

Another fun puzzle. Sorry for the late post. Back to the game! My next blog post is Thursday’s BuzzFeed puzzle. I will either be in a really good mood or back in wait-til-next-year mode! 3.9 stars.

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16 Responses to Tuesday, October 13, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    “The Ascent of Man” sounds like it should/could be a thing…

    It was, and as a famous American would say, it was yooge. J. Bronowski, 1970s, back when people watched PBS.

    PB does provide some background on his devising today’s NYT at Wordplay/Xword Info. Nifty trick, fairly easy solve — nice combination.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks for that. That’s the second day in a row I’ve missed the title’s reference, though no one (here) called me out on it yesterday.

      Looks like a fascinating show. I don’t doubt it either since Sir David Attenborough had a hand in it.

      • john farmer says:

        In those days, TV was pretty much “Love Boat” or PBS. I remember the show fondly, but it’s of a certain time and place, showing its age, and not that well-known today. I’d guess the puzzle title is just a play on Darwin.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: So cool… totally Berry… When you do his little puzzles in the Sunday Magazine, you can see how he thinks about words, front and back and sideways, intertwined and interdigitated…
    And I agree with Amy that it was doable like a Tuesday, in spite of the whole additional dimension.

    Now the ongoing frustration with AL: Couldn’t enter the doubles as a rebus. And one of the answers was deemed right while the other was wrong– e.g. CHARLIE was right, CHApLIn was wrong. CRAYOLA was deemed right, CRAYONS wrong… So the “correct” solution looks generally fine, but with some missing letters in the verticals.
    I understand that there are complexities in altering the software, but why not allow the solver to use the rebus box to keep track of the dual letters?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was able to enter two letters in each double square in Black Ink (a Mac-only solving program). Wonder if others were able find the trick for Across Lite.

    • Martin says:

      The double-letter squares accept both letters as a rebus for me in AL. Order matters. So, for instance, RP is accepted for the fourth letter in CHARLIE/CHAPLIN.

    • Papa John says:

      No problem for me, either, in Across Lite. Like Martin says, the order of the letters does matter but it seems natural enough.

  3. CC says:

    As someone with the initials CC, I wholeheartedly endorse the WSJ puzzle, although I admit I’m a bit disappointed I wasn’t included.

  4. T Campbell says:

    Regarding Buzzfeed: I am super into long clues, and I’m really hoping that the over-the-top nature of a handful of Puzzfeed clues remains part of its nature, not something that gets ironed out of it. The succinctness of traditional crossword clues evolved due to the space limitations of the newspaper; it’s a tradition I’d like to see challenged more than it is.

    Admittedly, I am not and never will be the speediest of the speed-solvers. I prefer to solve with loved ones and use the puzzle as a springboard for conversation. I understand and respect the tournament subculture, and sure, it’s amazing to watch Dan Feyer go, but I think that sort of thing does lead to some steak tartare puzzles getting wolfed down like Whoppers. So hearing that it may jar speed-solvers out of their three-to-five-minute rhythm strikes me as a plus, not a minus.

    Slow down, you move too fast… got to make… the mornin’ last!… Just kickin’ down the cobblestones… Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovyyy… Badada da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

    • john farmer says:

      Brevity is the soul of wit.

      I’m going to side with Polonius on this one. I think the occasional long clue is fine — it can add an extra detail or two and break the monotony of all short clues. But long clues for the sake of long clues are annoying — perhaps the single most annoying aspect of some online-only/alt-xword puzzles. My reaction often is, This guy (usually it’s a guy) needs an editor.

      You get but a few hundred words in a crossword puzzle. Make every one count. I knew a screenwriting teacher who would mark his students’ scripts “SIFTN” whenever his student writers would go off on tangents or add unnecessary details. That’s what I’d like to say when I see a lot of long, wordy clues: Save It For The Novel.

      Another bit of advice. If you’re looking to add humor, first rule: it should be funny. (Again: see Polonius.)

      One more thought. What’s with all the self-referential cluing? On rare occasion, it can be a nice touch. But overdone — which is how I’d describe it — it’s tiresome. The song may your favorite one off Pearl Jam’s “Ten” album, and the book may be the one you read the summer you were high in the Rockies. But those kinds of clues usually leave me with one question: Why should I care?

  5. pannonica says:

    Very nice NYT theme today. Clever, self-contained, well executed. Much preferred it to Monday’s, which even with the benefit of post-hoc illumination still seems like a needlessly padded wisp of a theme. (And I generally appreciate P Merrell’s illos.)

  6. anon says:

    I too enjoyed today’s NYT, but (to echo Amy’s comment in her review) I’m not really seeing the “New Idea”. The NYT has had Schrodinger answers before; is the new element that the down answers include both letters simultaneously?

    • huda says:

      I think what’s new is that it’s a hybrid, a chimeric construction. The downs are like a rebus puzzle, while the acrosses are alternates.

      …the way nature create new solutions and diversity

  7. Martin says:

    Yep, it’s Schroedinger’s rebus. BEQ points out that he had a puzzle that used the same construct, but this is much more elegant. Using the Schroedinger model to spell out a common name or phase is not the same as BEQ’s unrelated alternates like HELLO NEWMAN / HELL ON EARTH. His was clever and I enjoyed solving it, but Patrick’s theme is less contrived in my opinion, and unique enough for this week.

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