Thursday, October 15, 2015

NYT 10:23 (Amy) 
Fireball ~15 minutes (Jenni) 
LAT 4:09 (Gareth) 
CS 2:03 (erik) 
BEQ 6:26 (Ben) 
WSJ 12:38 (Jim) 
BuzzFeed 5:25 (Derek) 

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

NY Times crossword solution, 10 15 15

NY Times crossword solution, 10 15 15

Well! This puzzle sure took a long time to fill in, and its theme answers sure sit there quietly, waiting for you to notice them. The circled/shaded squares trace out a spiral (albeit one interrupted by black squares here and there) filled with rebus/2-letter squares, and the answers SNAIL SH{EL}L, {WH}{IR}{LP}O}OL}, G{UG}GENHEIM, {YU}LE LOG, and MIL{KY} W{AY} are all things with spiral aspects to them.

The puzzle’s scheduled in New Ideas week, but it was actually submitted a year and a half ago and found itself slotted into this week. The white/black part of the grid is symmetrical (the spiral, obviously, is not), but there are way more black squares than we typically see. (There are also way more letters—79 extra ones in those rebus squares.) Other puzzles toying with the spiral concept have included three asymmetrical ones (Merl Reagle’s 21×21 hurricane puzzle, whose publication date I can’t track down; Liz Gorski’s Guggenheim Museum Sunday NYT; Matt Jones’ “dizziness” Jonesin’ puzzle) and Jeff Chen’s symmetrical yin/yang swirl in a Sunday NYT. Kevin’s puzzle definitely takes a different tack than the others.

My Mac was restarting at puzzle time, so I solved in Across Lite for Windows. Slog! Each of those 79 rebus squares required me to hit four keys, and the Insert key is up yonder. I like rebuses better in Black Ink—command-option-M keeps my hands on the right part of the keyboard. Not a particularly tough puzzle once you see that you need two letters in each rebus square—but one that takes a long time to fill in.

Fill I didn’t care for: AMS, FIT TO partial, N-TEST, HUMBUGGED, DIGS AT, and the uncommon STATAL. DIGS AT just doesn’t sound like something anyone says. “Takes a dig at” or “takes digs at,” yes—the phrase wants to be clued as a long partial.

There were a couple question-marked clues, but really nothing funny. It was a dry solve and a long one. 3.75 stars. Certainly a difficult grid to make, but the payoff wasn’t really there for me.

Ed Sessa’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flip a Coin” — Jim’s write-up

Wonderful puzzle today from Ed Sessa who’s also making his WSJ debut. If you’re not doing the WSJ puzzles, you’re missing out on some good ones!

Our theme is revealed by the title “Flip a Coin”. Theme phrases run vertically and include the four standard American coins. The trick is that the coin in each phrase is running up in the grid while the rest of the words go down as normal.

WSJ - Thu, Oct 15, 2015 - "Flip a Coin"

WSJ – Thu, Oct 15, 2015 – “Flip a Coin”

3D [Small-time] YNNEP ANTE (penny ante).

16D [Come to a fast halt] STOP ON A EMID (stop on a dime).

20D [Early movie theater] LEKCINODEON (nickelodeon).

36D [Offer from a merciless victor] NO RETRAUQ (no quarter).

While cruising through the puzzle, I wasn’t thinking about the title; in fact, I’d forgotten it. I came to PENNY ANTE and thought, “Hmm. The coin is going up. Ok.” So I found the next two and did the same thing. The last one stumped me for a bit.  I had NORET—-. With the clue, I was wanting to put in NO RETURNS or NO RETRIAL. Finally I looked at the title and the PENNY dropped…and the QUARTER went up. Fun AHA moment for me.

But what elevates this puzzle is the attention to the rest of the fill. It’s packed with wonderful goodness. Up top we get SEASHORES with the great clue [Stilts’ settings], CASTANETS, SPANDEX, and SHA NA NA with the surprising clue [They played before Hendrix at Woodstock]. I kept wanting to put in SANTANA for that one.

Will Weng, NYT Crossword editor 1969-1977

Down below we get RICARDO, CARPOOLED, ALL OR NONE, with a fantastic EARWORM running straight through all of them. We also get a playful thumbing-of-the-nose at the NYT with 58A [Times crossword editor Will]. Like probably 99% of solvers I wanted to put in SHORTZ, but it wouldn’t fit. My first thought was that it was involved with the theme of the puzzle—that somehow a rebus was required. Slowly it dawned on me that the puzzle wanted WENG. Sneaky and cheeky!

The only bad things down below are the bland DOER and the terrible plural abbreviation ITALS. But let’s just pretend they aren’t there, shall we? Also a bit of a dupe in RECAP and SNO-CAP, but they’re far apart enough that I didn’t notice them until just now.

Yesterday we had DUH in the puzzle. Today, NO DUH—straight down the middle.

Every corner of this grid has good stuff in it and the cluing is wonderful throughout. I think I liked [Course requirement] for TEE at 66D the best. [Four of diamonds] for BASES at 8D is lovely, too. I didn’t know about 14A [Diesel material] for DENIM. Does Vin Diesel wear a lot of DENIM? I guess so, and apparently not much else.

4D‘s [Hip-hop counterpart to “bro”] SISTA is reminiscent of yesterday’s HOOD clue in the NYT which used the word “homies”. This one is more deftly handled, though.

I just got the clue for 29A SKIN [Cheesecake component]. My sister makes a lot of cheesecakes, so that’s all I was thinking of. I didn’t really associate cheesecakes with having a SKIN, but sure, why not. Maybe the picture of Vin got me thinking of beefcake and therefore cheesecake. Strange how the brain works.

All in all, a fantastic offering from Ed and Mike. 4.25 stars from me!

Your musical interlude for today is of course, from Bowser and the boys from New York. Good night!

Andrew Ries’s BuzzFeed crossword, “You Tryna”—Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 5.37.36 PMThese BuzzFeed crosswords are different, that’s for sure! Different in a good way, let me be clear! For one thing, the clues are longer, which makes for some very funny clues. That is probably my favorite part of these new puzzles. Seems to fit well with the BuzzFeed website tone quite well.

This puzzle’s theme was hard to figure out at first, but the central theme entry, 38A [Terrible wingman, slangily, hiding literally twice in this puzzle] is COCK BLOCK. Sure enough, there are a couple of black squares that should be read as the word COCK to make sense of the answers. Let me list them to make it clear:

  • 22A [“Bullshit!” to old British chaps] POPPYCOCK!
  • 24A [Workplace for those getting everyone really high?] COCKPIT
  • 54A [2008 Will Smith movie about an alcoholic superhero] HANCOCK
  • 55A [They’re shaken behind bars] COCKTAILS
  • 29D [Testosterone-fueled music genre, in slang] COCK-ROCK
  • 60D [Person who makes a hash brown ash brown] COCKNEY

Fairly clever, and certainly not NYT material! Still quite amusing and a fun solve. Yes, I had a couple of errors (as you can see in the screen shot), and again, I didn’t get the joke at first. I solved so fast that I forgot that HANCOCK was clearly the answer to 54A!

Lots of great clues/entries to mention here. I can’t mention them all, but here’s a sampling:

  • 1A [Moan during good Spanish sex, perhaps] MAS – More in Spanish, as you know. I might have clued this as [Word heard in a Mexican porno!]
  • 15A [Try not to laugh after your friend farts at a funeral, say] STIFLE – This is good! Also reminiscent of the reaction you have when someone falls and you say, “Are you hurt?” before you crack up laughing!
  • 25A [“Orphan Black” channel, informally] THE BEEB – As in the BBC. This is actually a really good show.
  • 49A [Trippy people?] TRAVELERS – Great clue! Stumped me for a little bit…
  • 8D [The 2015 “Fantastic Four” reboot, notably] FLOP – Good. I haven’t seen it yet, and I may not now! Maybe I’ll watch it on my phone someday…
  • 26D [“So, if my logic is correct and I’m super pretentious…”] ERGO – This is one of my favorite clues. Is this word ever used outside of a mathematical proof? And if it is, the tone is perfectly captured in the clue!
  • 36D [Fill in, as an answer, to a clue, maybe this one, in this puzzle even, idk] SOLVE – Admit it; you’re laughing when you read this!
  • 45D [Bud that you’re not always high on?] FRENEMY – Nicely clued.

Overall, a nice, lively puzzle. 4 stars from me. Can’t wait to solve more of these!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Blank Space” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.46.47 PM

In what appears to be a continuation of last week’s theme of “BEQ Crosswords Named After Pop Songs”, this week we’ve got some blank spaces, baby.  Remember when I mentioned there were a lot of those last week?  It turns out it wasn’t your usual fill-in-the-blank going on in the theme clues this time around:

  • 17A: ___ cadet — DITZY INDIVIDUAL
  • 25A: Parking ___  — DOWNTOWN RARITY
  • 43A: Crawl ___ — PLUMBERS ACCESS
  • 57A: ___ Mountain — DISNEY WORLD RIDE

It’s easy to write fill-in-the-blank clues; it takes some style to write clues where ___ is used to replace “space”.  In addition to the shout-out to T. Swift, we got some indie cred from ISAAC Brock of Modest Mouse (21A), some R&B from JODECI (10D), and some oldies from “Rock fossil” MICK Jagger (39D) and “Mack the Knife” songwriter Kurt WEILL (27D).  Ringo Starr’s song ZAK also makes an appearance at 47A, although I cannot vouch for his drumming abilities.

The rest of the grid is pretty solid.  A few things I didn’t know, like a “Balanced bridge hand opening” at 33A (ONENO, which feels like some crosswordese I should remember going forward) and Boston Celtic Danny AINGE at 62A (I live in Boston and I don’t know the sports teams.  If you had a quiz titled “Is this a picture of sports?”, there is a good chance I would fail it).  Nothing felt stale or weak, so it’s another nice entry from BEQ this week.

3.75/5 stars

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “End Tables”—erik’s write-up

hi all! this is erik filling in for ade, who’s off doing sporps things and generally being a dope-ass individual. pour one out for his impressive, ironman-like streak of blogging these puzzles, but he’ll be back soon.

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.15.15: "End Tables"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.15.15: “End Tables”

very solid theme today, with the ends of the four longest entries being words that precede “table” (hence “End Tables”):

  • LOS ANGELES TIMES (17A: [Newspaper with the motto “Largest Circulation in the West”])
  • SWIMMING POOL (27A: [Place for a crawl])
  • LONDON BRIDGE (49A: [It’s falling down in a nursery ditty])
  • HELL OR HIGH WATER (63A: [The worst-case scenario, idiomatically]) – actually, i guess “high table” works here, too. nice!

note that the four tables are all mostly different in variety (although POOL and BRIDGE are kinda close), and that their meaning when followed by table is mostly different than their meaning in the theme phrases (although WATER not so much). good stuff.

the fill was also pretty solid here. my faves were SHAZAM, CONJUGAL, and ROLE PLAY.

the clues were mostly unnoteworthy, but i liked the ones for IDAHO (14A: [Spud hub]) and LID (31A: [Pot top]) – the latter is a palindrome and the former just sounds interesting. it’s very, very difficult to make your clues both interesting and economical. but here, mission accomplished.

i was floored by ARAN (41A: [Type of sweater named for the Irish islands where it originated]), which i somehow can’t recall ever having seen in a puzzle before, despite the extremely crossword-friendly letters. not to hate on an entire group of islands, but, was there some reason this couldn’t be ALAN crossing GLAD?

ade is far better at the sporps facts than i, but here’s this: CLEMENTE (6D: [San ___ (site of Nixon’s Western White House)]) made me think of roberto clemente, the baseball legend who, wikipedia tells me,

  • had exactly 3,000 career hits (even bernie mac couldn’t pull that one off);
  • wore #21 to represent the number of letters in his full name (roberto clemente walker);
  • has a letter of blessing from pope francis in support of his canonization (which, hey, ties back to the San ___ clue!)

thanks for reading, and be well!


Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LAT - Thu, Oct 15, 2015

LAT – Thu, Oct 15, 2015

I do love these types of themes. All four theme answers are “loaded” in one way or another. Two, FILMCAMERAS and SIXSHOOTERS, are loaded with things – film and bullets; that’s a slight demerit for having a similar meaning of loaded. The other two are CROOKEDDICE that are “loaded” because they’re rigged and BIGSPENDERS who are presumably rich, or loaded. Often loaded people act quite the opposite though; they’re the ones who aren’t pissing their money away. Anyways… What other meaning of loaded could have been used? The only one that immediately occurs to me is something like EXECUTABLEFILE, which is dry and clunky; drunky?

QuarterbackA mostly solidly put together puzzle, with not a lot of big answers out side of theme. The top has UNLEADED, elevated by its clue of [Morning beverage choice, facetiously], plus SPADER and PAYOLA crossing CASHED.

The bottom was a little gluey, with crossing -ERs PASSER and EVENER. I, for one, would’ve preferred [Sparrow’s genus] for the former, but I suspect I’m outnumbered roughly 999:1 on that. Also in that region is the contrived XES and partial ASNO and prefix OSTEO. I have a soft spot for SETI (and SDI) because those entries make me think of Civilisation, one of my favourite childhood PC games… (It was also a great way to learn names of ancient cities, though one had to colour them in via books…)

My most lingering mistakes were MOuE for [Pout] and TawdrY instead of TRASHY for [Inferior]. Was anyone else fooled?

3.5 Stars

Jacob Stulberg’s Fireball crossword, “Sound Bites”

My mother always said “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.
Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 7.49.46 PMWell.

I did not enjoy this puzzle. I bounced around the grid and didn’t get a foothold until ELMIRA, TTOPS and MIAMI in the middle. Then I filled in the middle left and middle right and most of the bottom, including the revealer at 55A – “Instrument tuned with the melody that appears properly spaced out in this puzzle’s grid”. So that’s the UKULELE. I thought I was looking for notes until I finally got the rebus with THE CHEVY C(HAS)E SHOW.

I don’t know anything about the ukulele. I sing and I have played piano, flute and guitar, none of which are tuned with any kind of, well, tunes. I have, however, heard of MY DOG HAS FLEAS and as soon as I saw the HAS rebus, I figured that’s what we were looking for. Then I found A(MY) ADAMS in the upper left, crossing SEA(MY), although to me Lois Lane will always look like Margot Kidder. The DOG showed up in (DOG)MAS, crossing the truly obscure LA(DOG)A (“Freshwater lake near St Petersburg, Russia”). That left FLEAS, which had to be in the upper right corner. I knew this both because of the melody and the fact that this was the only part of the puzzle I hadn’t finished. I finally parsed C(FLEAS)T as a football division and GOOF(FLEAS)H for “Run wild, in a way”. Phew.

If you can’t say anything nice….two stars from me.

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35 Responses to Thursday, October 15, 2015

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    Have to agree – the nuisance/tediousness factor in Across Lite, much as I savor rebuses, exceeded the resultant pleasure. I cannot tell you the last time I got halfway through and said to my wife, “Let’s go out to dinner.” Came back and finished it.

    I misread 1964 as 1984, and confidently put in LO SA NG EL ES. And then nothing seemed to work in the SE. Oh well.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Well, I liked the challenge of the NYT, even if it took me an hour! SPAM’s clue was amusing, PLINTH was something you don’t see every day, as was THRACIAN… And a WHIRLPOOL at the center was perfect. As for formats, I totally hate the new one used in CS and others.

    • Papa John says:

      I do CS in Across Lite. There’s a conversion program that allows me to do that. Let me know if you’re interested and we’ll see about getting you hooked up.We should probably do it off-blog, however: papajohn123 at centurylink dot net

  3. Papa John says:

    For the first time in who know how many years (decades?) I’m skipping the NYT. All those circled squares gave me the jitters, so I came her to see what it was all about. Too much effort, in my opinion.

    • David L says:

      You didn’t miss anything. Laborious to fill in, and I didn’t notice the spiral theme at all — in part because it’s far from obvious in AcrossLite, in part because I was just happy to be done with it and put it aside.

      SIDELINER was another dubious entry, IMO.

      • Gary R says:

        Agree on SIDELINER. I’ve only heard it on a few occasions, and when I did, it referred to someone who chooses to sit on the sidelines rather than a backup player, who typically wants to play.

        I also didn’t care for the clue on 26-D. A grease fire is a stovetop hazard – the GAS FIRE is supposed to be there.

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I thought the BEQ today was very nice — fun and fast and a new idea that would have worked well in this week’s NYT series. Four stars from me. The one thing I have to question is LOXES. I see on OneLook that three dictionary sites do carry it, and it appears once in the Shortz era on Crossword Tracker, but it just sounds wrong to me. I suppose it refers to different types, not multiple servings. Nova and, uh, nothing else comes to mind. Would someone like to weigh in? (and please keep your finger off the scale.)

    • Amy L says:

      I’d nix the LOXES too. You wouldn’t say, “I went to this fancy brunch and they had all kinds of different LOXES,” any more than you’d say, “I went to the zoo and saw a lot of different kinds of sheeps.” One of my favorite foods–I just wish it weren’t so expensive.

      Also agree with Gary R about GAS FIRE. It could have been clued better.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        Right – it’s technically a word, but why use one so jarring, when the area is easily fixed — with RIA, LANES, FINN, and FEW, for instance.

        • Bencoe says:

          Last night, I was talking to a friend from Florida who now
          lives here in Denver. She recommended a local NY-style bagel place, saying, “They have like 10 different kinds of lox.”
          This is the only time I can remember anyone saying anything which required a pluralization of “lox.” Synchronicity.

          • Martin says:

            Ten different kinds of lox are ten loxes. I agree it’s not a word anyone uses, but you can’t write the previous sentence without it.

          • Bencoe says:

            Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, is what I was talking about. This ever happen to you guys, who pay attention to words and language and detail? My life has been filled with Dickensian coincidences.

  5. pannonica says:

    Many issues with the cluing in the BEQ this week. In addition to LOXES, mentioned by Paul Coulter above (gravlax comes to mind as a third variety, incidentally):

    • 13d [Shockers of the deep] EELS. Amazingly, someone has found a new way to misclue ‘electric’ eels. It wasn’t the saltwater fallacy this time, but the fact that they inhabit shallow waters. And don’t try to tell me that ‘the deep’ is metaphorical here. It may be, but not adequately.
    • 8d [Viking name] ERIC. If you’re going to emphasize the Scandinavian origin in the clue, one would reasonably expect to see the K spelling as opposed to the francophone C.
    • 39a [Y-chromosome carrier] MALE. We’ve examined this one before in these virtual pages—socially as well as genetically. I would still expect to see this in one of the Timeses, but would expect BEQ to be more sensitive and progressive.
    • 24a [Planking muscle] PEC. Technically correct, but not one of the primary groups engaged.
    • Martin says:

      I always get a raised eyebrow at the image of an electric eel electrocuting itself in seawater.

      No real disagreement with anything but the Y-chromosome complaint. I guess I missed it. Are we speaking of East German women athletes? A crossword clue doesn’t have to be exclusive (most aren’t), so I don’t believe that inherently rare chromosomal abnormalities would be the basis of the objection. So please explain.

  6. Sheera says:

    For the first time in 20 years I stopped doing the NYT crossword out of boredom. Too tedious and not interesting enough to grab my attention.

    • Papa John says:

      Hang in there. There’s only supposed to be a week of this stuff, then back to normal, unless you’re saying ALL the NYT puzzles are tedious and boring.Despite the push for more and more gimmicks, I think the NYT is still one of the best.

  7. pblindauer says:

    Well, I enjoyed/admired the NYT puz, though I’m not getting the connection between the swirling and the double letters, if there is one. It also reminded me of Francis Heaney’s terrific diagramless from 2009 (has it really been that long?). Ah, yes; here it is:

  8. Michael says:

    To: Joe
    RE: WSJ puzzle,

    A little clarification. I think 14A (Diesel material) is a reference to the fashion brand that makes jeans, not the actor Vin Diesel.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks! You’re exactly right. Shows you how hip I am. (But it’s Jim, not Joe, although if I ever became a crossword editor, my pseudonym would be Joe Primed.)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’d go with Joe Derpim, if I were you. More implausibly reminiscent of Adam DeVine’s “Workaholics” character, Adam DeMamp.

  9. bonekrusher says:

    Wow, tough crowd. I thought this puzzle was really challenging and fun–a 5-star puzzle in my book. I’m really enjoying this week of oddball puzzles from the NYT, and I hope there are more of them in the future!

    • Lois says:

      I agree. Today was my favorite NYT puzzle of the week (so far, but I know the next two will be too tough for me). I missed the theme, though, and underrated it at 4.5. Many people did give it five stars.

  10. Harry says:

    What a great LAT puzzle! It was loads of fun to solve. But, I noticed yesterday’s grid was displayed. What’s up with that?

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    LAT: Gareth, I kept waiting for some form of DRUNKS as an answer to the clue [They’re loaded] such as TOWN DRUNKS or HEAVY DRINKERS, but it never came. I agree, it was a fun puzzle.

  12. Jim Hale says:

    Like others mentioned, the NYT puzzle to me was a slog and quite time consuming to fill out. It was a good cognitive exercise to visualize the two letter rebus’ rather than fill them in… but who knows if that strengthened the brain or killed cells.

  13. dr. fancypants says:

    All the rebuses in the NYT puzzle were extra painful to enter in the NYT iPhone app.

  14. Aaron says:

    Why no mention of COLD[COCK] and PEA[COCK] in the BuzzFeed puzzle? Those blocks were working in every direction, and we should give credit where it’s due!

  15. Junebug says:

    I did the NYT Der on Puzzazz, and it built a list of all my rebus entries. The list got so long I was in danger of a hidden OK button at the bottom of the rebus dialog box.

  16. Wpreader says:

    Thanks for covering the CS Eric!

Comments are closed.