Thursday, October 29, 2015

NYT 4:13 (Amy) 


LAT 6:11 (Gareth) 


CS tk (Ade) 


BEQ 8:21 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:20 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 9:25 (Derek) 


The Fireball crossword is a contest puzzle this week, so watch for the write-up Sunday night or Monday. (Peter, please remind me on Sunday!)

Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 29 15, no 1029

NY Times crossword solution, 10 29 15, no 1029

This constructor made his constructing debut a couple weeks ago in BuzzFeed, in another puzzle that made use of circled letters. (Presumably his NYT puzzle was constructed long before the BF was.) Here, Sam takes five two-word phrases in which the first word’s final letter is the same as the second word’s start, and he smushes them together with a circle around the common letter. (The letter isn’t doubled in the Down crossing.) The final themer is LION'{S}HARE, and that’s relevant because the circled “shared” letters spell out LIONS.

Okay! I took a little break to watch some baby goat videos on YouTube. The sideways-hopping 8-day-old pygmy goats are the very best.

Okay, so the theme answers are SOCIA{L}IFE, SK{I}NSTRUCTOR, D{O}VER (which is a legit entry without the circle), CHICKE{N}OODLE, and LION{S}HARE. They were mostly clued straightforwardly, and the circles tipped the puzzle’s hand as to something going on here, so this didn’t fight as hard as many a Thursday puzzle does. Felt almost Wednesdayish to me.

Top fill: IDIOT-PROOF, “SEE IF I CARE,” DR. SEUSS, a psychologist’s INKBLOT ([Matter of interpretation]), and tasty NILLA Wafers. Man, I need to get a box of those.

Lesser fill: ANSE, IGA, AVI-.

Five more things:

  • 12d. [Film unlikely to have a costume designer?], PORNO. Uh, actually, that’s incorrect. The performers don’t start out naked. Also? PORNO feels like a more BuzzFeedy answer.
  • 20a. [Final answer?], OTHER. Often the last in a multiple choice list. If I were writing tests, I’d put “Other” first just to mess with people.
  • 63d. [Part of a hobo city], TENT. “Hobo city,” is that a term that people use? There are Lake Shore Drive underpasses that currently host encampments of homeless people, complete with tents. It’s sad.
  • 64a. [Message from a server], EMAIL. It’s not a note passed to you by a waiter or waitress.
  • 8d. [Friedrich ___, first president of the German Republic], EBERT. The third most famous EBERT in the United States, I’d wager. Do non-Chicagoans know Roger’s widow, Chaz Ebert? She’s awesome. And if you don’t, do you know your early presidents of Germany?

3.6 stars from me.

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Eek!” — Jim’s write-up

Our WSJ Halloween extravaganza continues today with Gabriel Stone’s add-a-sound puzzle. Let’s take a moment to review the week, shall we?

Monday we found hidden CROWs, Tuesday we had a quip about cemetery fees, and yesterday the monsters came out in puntastic fashion.

Today, things are getting a bit uncomfortable.

Our fear is getting the best of us, and we’re not ashamed to get let our Eeks out. We’re adding the “eek” sound, actually -IQUE, at the ends of three common phrases to get some Halloween wackiness.

WSJ - Thu, Oct 29, 2015 - "Eek!"

WSJ – Thu, Oct 29, 2015 – “Eek!”

  • 19A [Intangible appeal of a Western range?] SIERRA MYSTIQUE   Sierra Mist. 
  • 34A [Body that results from overindulging in liqeur?] SLOE GIN PHYSIQUE  Sloe gin fizz. 
  • 47A [Place to buy stylish chaps and Stetsons?] COWBOY BOUTIQUECowboy boot. 

Very nice themers with the theme consistently applied. I like how each one is modified in exactly the same way and each base phrase’s spelling is also altered. The only inconsistency is that two of the base phrases are drinks and one is…not.

The added Qs are handled deftly resulting in MOSQUE, AQUA, and, QUIP.

With only three long themers, the puzzle has space to breathe and give us some good non-theme fill. I especially liked EXERCISE, VIKING, and GOOMBAH. (I know, that’s a goomba, not a GOOMBAH.)

Brilliant cluing was evident at 1A FORE [Warning from a bad driver], 29A I DOS [Answers after two rings?], and 57A MUSH [Go to the dogs?]. That last one is especially lovely.

Thus ends our slate of regular puzzles in the WSJ’s Halloween week. Tomorrow: the meta; and Saturday: the super-size. I’m sure we can expect Halloween treats to continue. Until next time!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s BuzzFeed crossword —Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 9.35.34 PMI consider it a high honor to write a little commentary on a puzzle constructed by one of my good puzzle community friends, Brendan Quigley! He is a prolific constructor, as many of you know; I believe this blog covers his two puzzles that appear on his website on Mondays and Thursdays. I also solve his diagramless and Marching Band puzzles that alternate Mondays. If you don’t subscribe to those, why not?? Those are a blast!

Enough waxing eloquent about my buddy. Here is the scoop on his puzzle! The title states, “There’s something very important we forgot to tell you.” This will be explained in a second. Anyway, the puzzle is filled with many streaming services for music and video, they all cross one other one, and the entry in the middle explains it all.  Here are the theme entries, with 36-Across listed first:

  • 36A [Cause “total protonic reversal,” according to “Ghostbusters” … or what happens literally four times in this puzzle] CROSS THE STREAMS
  • 15A [Service Drake used to release the “Hotline Bling” video] APPLE MUSIC
  • 23A [Service powered by the Music Genome Project] PANDORA
  • 46A [Service that, well, kind of invented binge-watching] NETFLIX – Oh did they ever!
  • 58A [Service with releases from independent musicians and Kanye West] SOUNDCLOUD
  • 4D [Service where you can watch “SNL” sketches the day after] HULU – Or the whole show….
  • 9D [Service that enables you to watch an entire season of “Game of Thrones” on your iPad, from the bathtub, hypothetically] HBO GO – What’s hypothetical about this? Doesn’t everybody? ;-)
  • 48D [Service that I think Jay Z wants us to forget he ever tried to make happen] TIDAL – I tried Tidal; it sounded good, but not $15/month better than Spotify!
  • 55D [Service with peer-to-peer video owned by Walmart and also not based in New Orleans] VUDU – Cute…

Who knew there were so many streaming services? As you can see in the comments, I have used a few of these. Actually, at some point or another, I have used ALL of these! As for the theme, I think this clip from the movie Ghostbusters will explain everything:

Did I mention I have never SEEN Ghostbusters? Yes, I am old enough to remember it, just never got around to it! I wonder if there is a streaming service that has it available…

A few notes on this puzzle!:

  • 21A [One of over like 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 in a single grain of salt] ION – If this didn’t make you at least smile, you have no pulse!
  • 22A [“___ Just Not That Into You”] HE’S
  • 44A [“___ Just Not That Into You” (possible sequel to 22-Across about objects] IT’S – These clues; who comes up with this stuff??!! That would be a hilarious sequel! Some guy hugging his Porsche, the Porsche eventually running him over…!!
  • 39A [Beer brand at the little show at an obscure venue in Brooklyn you’ve probably never heard of, probably] PABST – I don’t understand this clue; might be a New York thing. Pabst is well known here, … for being terrible!
  • 51A [Smith who sings the new “James Bond” song] SAM – Timely! I may actually spend my hard-earned $15 and go see this next month!
  • 34D [If punk and pop had a baby that wouldn’t stop crying] EMO – Great clue for a fairly common crossword entry. My favorite in the puzzle!

A solid 4.4 stars for a fun, albeit fairly challenging puzzle. Well done!

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 9.37.12 AM

This is the type of theme I like – filling in the first parts of a few theme answers based on the clue, having an “aha” moment on what’s going on by the middle of the grid, and finishing all the special entries by the second pass through.  Although named after the camera, the puzzle might have been named “Don’t GoPro”, after what you need to cut out to turn some phrases into the entries:

  • 18A: Actor Efron’s fans, collectively? — (PRO)ZAC NATION
  • 24A: Impudent southwestern Native Americans?  — FRESH AP(PRO)ACHES
  • 40A: Fundamental entitlements of making things smaller? — RE(PRO)DUCTIVE RIGHTS
  • 51A: Microsoft search engine query? — (PRO)BING QUESTION
  • 61A: NASA Nana? — SPACE (PRO)GRAM

In honor of 15A, “Singer with The Velvet Underground”, Neko Case singing NICO‘s “Afraid”.  It should be noted that my first pass through the grid, I put REED.  Other music mentions were 60A‘s “Rock’s Royal Blood, e.g.” (they’re a DUO) and 41D’s shoutout to CELINE Dion’s Vegas show.  Carl Wilson’s 33 1/3 on Let’s Talk About Love remains a fantastic guide into why we like such cheesy music.

In a sign I may be learning something from reviewing all of BEQ’s Thursdays, there were a bunch of little nitpicks I had with some of the fill in the grid that detracted from some otherwise great themework.  It felt like there were a lot of acronyms in close proximity towards the right side of the grid, with 29D‘s YMHA only separated from 31D‘s SASE by one word, and MYBFF and OPEC showing up elsewhere in the grid.  Likewise, I didn’t quite like SEZ WHO as an entry (particularly the crossing with YOWIE, which I originally thought was going to be YOUCH), and I though 62’s clue for RAS (“___ in ‘Robert'”) a little blah (although admittedly there’s not much besides a college reference you can do for that).  It’s not all bad, though – I liked the appearances of ENIGMA at 48D (especially for its NPL-referencing clue – if you’re into word games, check them out and let them know B-Side sent you) and ISOBAR at 50D (because it’s a fun word).  A fun puzzle, but a few flaws in the grid that brought it down.

3.5/5 stars

David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 10 29 15

LA Times crossword solution, 10 29 15

We’ve seen sports team themes many times before. This puzzle isn’t really breaking any new ground, except that it includes a soccer team. Apparently , it’s now the Big 5… Each theme answer starts with a phrase whose first word is a sports team; the phrases are re-imagined to be about that team.


  • [Investment return for a New York basketball player?], NETPROFIT
  • [Reception room for a Texas hockey player?], STARCHAMBER. I don’t believe the medieval English court is universally-known enough to be used as the basis of wordplay.
  • [Sudden fear for a California soccer player?], EARTHQUAKE. San Jose Earthquakes – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one trying to figure out how the LA Galaxy was going to appear in that entry!
  • [Serious lapse for a Missouri baseball player?], CARDINALSIN
  • [Luggage for an Ohio football player], BROWNBAGS. Plural of extreme convenience alert.

DeviantArtThere is fun all one-word long fill to be found: PELEE, HIAWATHA, ACROPHOBIA and AQUINO.

The top-right felt unusually full of difficult, unusual proper names: I didn’t know ISHAM at all, but I did know PELEE; the volcano of that is better-known IMO.

The top-left was a little on the clumsy side: APER and SEPT in a not too taxing corner. Also OPIE there, which is on the old timey side.

2.75 Stars

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11 Responses to Thursday, October 29, 2015

  1. Linda says:

    New York Times puzzle 41 across has a clue for do over, but the answer on the grid is dover, as in white cliffs of.

    Unless I am just seeing things or my screen looks different.

    • Huda says:

      Linda, the circle, when reading horizontally, contains the letter twice, so two “O”s– the twin letters are “sharing” the space, as part of the theme. As Amy notes, D(OO)VER is the only case where the entry is a real answer in its own right, even if not doubled.

      • Linda says:

        Okay, I get it. I hadn’t realized at that point that the other 0’s had similar double letters. D’oh.

  2. Evad says:

    I wondered how [Father figure] could be P[OO]P before I saw what was going on. Seems like so many two word phrases end and start with the same letter (well, the “I” might be a struggle), so why this particular set?

  3. Sam Trabucco says:

    Hello! Thanks for the review, Amy. To address the point that DOVER is a legit entry while the others are not: I agree completely this is inelegant. This was the second puzzle I wrote, and when it got accepted, I actually asked Will and co. whether I could redesign it to address some flaws that I was able to notice better (having constructed for several more months). He agreed, but I put it on the back burner for too long, unfortunately, and by the time I did it, it was too late. Fixes were mostly fill-related (god even looking at ANSE now makes me a little upset), but I also changed D(O)VER to G(O)VER to avoid surface sense.

    Anyway, hope people enjoyed it! Surreal to be reading about my *own* puzzles on here rather than other people’s.

  4. Shawn P says:

    LAT: I completely forgot that the Nets were a NY based team and confidently filled KNICKBACK thinking that it was some sort of add-a-letter or pun type of puzzle (I couldn’t think of anything that worked with the WNBAs Liberty).

    P.S. The posted puzzle is from yesterday.

    Also, regarding PABST in the BuzzFeed puzzle, the term in the clue references the way that hipsters talk and their beverage of choice.

  5. Lise says:

    Star chamber? I read lots of medieval literature and history and have never heard that term. I thought it was maybe where Jimmy Fallon’s guests awaited their turn.

    Loved ACROPHOBIA and DISCOURSES. The puns were enjoyable. Thanks for the fun!

  6. sbmanion says:

    The Star Chamber was a British Court system that ran roughshod over individual rights. Its excesses are one of the major reason we have the Fifth Amendment

  7. doug says:

    Regarding BEQ’s GOPRO – I know I’m late with this, but 31D hasn’t been SASE for many years. SAE yes. That’s why I pay almost all bills on the web. Regardless, good puzzle.

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