Friday, October 30, 2015

NYT 4:30 (Amy) 


LAT 7:17 (Gareth) 


CS 8:39 (Ade) 


BuzzFeed 14:17 (Jim) 


CHE untimed (pannonica) 


Last Saturday, the Crosswords LA tournament entertained and challenged participants with a line-up of excellent crosswords—and now you can obtain a set of these puzzles (plus assorted bonus puzzles by other terrific constructors!) for a mere $8 from Crossword Nexus. I test-solved the tournament puzzles and particularly enjoyed Sam Donaldson’s challenging #4 and Trip Payne’s delightfully punny #5.

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

NY Times crossword solution, 10 30 15, no 1030

NY Times crossword solution, 10 30 15, no 1030

Hmm, not feeling like I have much to say about this puzzle.

Enjoyed ROAD RAGE ([Driving storms?]), B PICTURES, RASPBERRY, STUPEFIED, SPIT-TAKE, GRETA GARBO, IN RUINS, and IRON PYRITE/fool’s gold. Not a ton of juicy fill, just a lot of solid stuff packed into this 66-worder. And no terrible fill, because Berry doesn’t roll that way.

Three things:

  • 1d. [Transoceanic flier, briefly], ICBM. Do missiles “fly”? Is that the terminology used in missile circles?
  • 14a. [Land bordering France and Andorra], CATALONIA. Region of Spain. “Land” made me think I needed a country, and there sure was not a 9-letter one in that area coming to mind!
  • 36a. [Twelver, religiously speaking], SHIITE. “Twelver” is a word I’ve never seen before. Hey! There are also Sevener and Fiver branches of Shia, it turns out.

3.9 stars from me. One thing that makes me less keen on Friday NYTs than Saturday NYTs is that there are fewer twisty/tricky clues to enchant me, making the solve a tad dull sometimes.

Alex Eaton-Salners BuzzFeed crossword, “Scary Good” — Jim’s write-up

Alex is breaking the rules today with his Halloween-themed puzzle.

BuzzFeed - Fri, Oct 30, 2015 - "Scary Good"

BuzzFeed – Fri, Oct 30, 2015 – “Scary Good”

We’ve clearly got a SKULL smack-dab in the middle of the grid. It’s completely enclosed, which is normally taboo, but it wouldn’t work any other way. As grid-art goes, I like it.

As the solve goes along we uncover the two grid-spanning theme answers: 17A GHOSTFACE KILLAH [Wu-Tang Clan member who took his name from the kung fu movie “Mystery of Chessboxing”] and 58A TRICK-OR-TREATERS [Source of some annual ding-dongs]. I just saw GHOSTFACE KILLAH earlier this week in a WSJ clue, so that came to me more quickly than it would have normally, and the clue for TRICK-OR-TREATERS is fun.

Continuing on we find two other grid-spanners, this time in the Down direction. These are more tangentially-related to things spooky: 3D VOODOO ECONOMICS [Reagane-era {sic} supply-side policies, as described by George H.W. Bush] and 11D ALL SOULS COLLEGE [Part of the University of Oxford that has no undergraduates].

Together these four grid-spanners form a box around our SKULL. And while they’re not the crossed bones that normally accompany a SKULL, they make a great collection of crossing spanners. So that is very nice and definitely the best part of the puzzle.

Where the conceit falls apart is in the SKULL. The first three letters of SKULL (SKU) appear inexplicably in the mouth at 51A with the clue [Beginning (and mouth) of the depiction at this puzzle’s center completed at the eyes], and the L’s are the SKULL’s eyes.  It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe if the eyes were O’s and the teeth were U’s or something or maybe if the eyes were rebussed as such it would all work better, but breaking SKULL up in such a way just seems random.

Other things:

  • I did not know 50A OLA [Ray who played MJ’s girlfriend in the “Thriller” video (common knowledge)]. If you have to tell me it’s common knowledge, then it probably isn’t.
  • 8D [Store with wooden barrels] is a tough but good clue for AGE. I still didn’t get it for a while after I filled it in.
  • SKI MASK (at 26D) right down the middle of the SKULL is nice. Not sure why you’d put a SKI MASK on a SKULL, but in the grid it looks nice.
  • Other nice Down entries are AT LAST, TAI CHI, SNIPER, SALADS, PALACES, and COASTAL.

All in all, a nice Halloween-themed puzzle, but some of it just didn’t work for me. Wonderful grid-spanning entries, but it needed some crossed bones and a different approach to the facial features.

There’s no other way to end this post than with this:

Paul Coulter’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, Garden-Variety TV” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 10/30/15 • "Garden-Variety TV" • Coulter • solution

CHE • 10/30/15 • “Garden-Variety TV” • Coulter • solution

Apologies for both the lateness and skeletal quality of the following write-up. Wish I could say it was a Halloween tie-in or something.

For the theme in this 16×15 crossword, phrases have been punned up to include vegetables, such as one might see in a garden. The clues frame them as having to do with a hypothetical food-preparation program.

  • 18a. [Cooking-show producer’s facetious title for an episode … in which an attractive restaurateur demonstrated borscht?] BEAUTY AND THE BEET (Beauty and the Beast).
  • 27a. [… in which a foodie declared he eats certain green stalks only in Thanksgiving stuffing?] ANNUAL CELERY (annual salary).
  • 43a. [… in which a nervous vichyssoise maker clung to a crucial vegetable as if for moral support?] SECURITY LEEK (security leak).
  • 56a. [… in which a chef showed off her speedy peeling and chopping while whipping up a bordelaise sauce?] THE LADY OF SHALLOT (The Lady of Shalott).


34-down SIDE SALAD is reminiscent of the theme, as is 3d BEAN ANGEL (hush!).

Mildly amusing theme, and to the best of my recollection an enjoyable solve.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Space Travel”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.30.15: "Space Travel"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.30.15: “Space Travel”

Good afternoon, everyone! Today’s travels have taken me to Boston/Cambridge, Mass., as I’m covering the monumental, titanic football matchup between footballing powers: Harvard and Dartmouth. (Don’t laugh, both the Crimson and Big Green are 6-0). Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, is a shifty puzzle, as the letters “ROOM” shift by one place to the right in each successive theme answer (68A: [Space that travels through the answers to 17-, 29-, 45-, and 58-Across]).

  • BROOM CLOSET (17A: [Dustpan locale, often]) –
  • BATHROOM SCALES (29A: [They’re often stepped on after a shower])
  • SLOPPY ROOMMATE (45A: [Cause of a college cleanup, maybe])
  • BRIDEGROOMS (58A: [Ones making vows])

I would usually talk about entries in the grid, and I will eventually, but I have to talk about Annette and Lisa. Who are they exactly? They’re sisters from the West Coast, and I ended up having a great conversation in front of Widener Library. (“Widener” has been fill in grids past.) Along with myself, Annette and Lisa were just visiting to the campus. Along with myself, they couldn’t access the library without a Harvard ID. (Lisa and I both asked each other where our non-existent IDs were!) Oh, and even better, it turns out that Annette is a voracious crossword puzzle solver, specifically the LA Times grids! So, of course, I told her and Lisa to drop by this site and make their voices heard.

When I told them that I blog about crossword puzzles daily, Annette said, “What would you blog about?” Well, I told them you could start with what “fill” you liked and didn’t like, and when I told them about one of the entries in today’s grid, WYE, they agreed that that was not fun at all (66A: [Scary ending?]). Yes, we’ve seen syllables spelled out in grids before (cee, aitch, etc.), but I think this takes the cake of being the most head-scratching of all. Here’s hoping you all knew he Divine Comedy was the reference for CANTO (31D: [“Inferno” division]). Good thing the crosses for DAIN were gettable, as that was over my head when seeing its clue the first time (24D: [“The ____ Curse” (Dashiell Hammett novel)]). Well, it’s time to go, as I’m getting ready to cover a game that might feature an ALL-AMERICAN or two, at least in the Division I-AA (FCS) level (11D: [Elite US athlete]). By the way, here’s our view from the press box:


And my name’s spelled correctly…thank goodness!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BALL BOYS (6D: [Foul territory workers])  – If you’ve ever been to AT&T Park in San Francisco and have taken in a Giants baseball game, you’ll know that the people down in foul territory shagging foul balls aren’t just BALL BOYS. They’re Ball Dudes! Honest! The Giants employ mostly, if not entirely, men of senior citizen age to track down the balls that are hit foul down the lines. A good number of them have had a few adventures while out on the field. Here’s an example…

Have a good weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Don Gagliardo’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151030

LA Times

I find generally that the LA Times is a “safe” crossword. You get well-worn theme tropes, but usually very tightly executed and usually backed with a solid answer grid.

Today’s theme felt surprisingly out of keeping with that vibe. This theme certainly isn’t something I remember seeing before. It features a word ladder of sorts, with each first word in the answer sequence a SYNONYM of that of the previous, going from HOT to COLD, which are ANTONYMs. It was very nice to sit back and appreciate after the solve; I paid little attention to it while filling the grid in. The ANTONYM and SYNONYM revealers make everything utterly opaque once you sit back and examine things.

We start with [Popular clubs], HOTspots. HOT can also mean STOLEN. STOLENbases, [Ty Cobb specialties] leads us to TAKENtotask, [Dressed down]. From TAKEN to REMOVEDfrom, [Didn’t allow to remain in, as political office], a slightly awkward phrase. After REMOVED comes DISTANTpast, [It’s ancient history]. DISTANT is a synonym of COLDones, [They might be knocked down in a bar], and so we go from HOT to COLD.

Stuff I didn’t know:

  • [Annabella of “Jungle Fever”], SCIORRA. She seems to have had a long, though not so distinguished career…
  • [Equestrian’s head cover], HAIRNET. I’m not horsey. I had to learn about the tack that goes on the horse (numnahs etc.) but not what goes on the rider…
  • [Box “b” on a W-2: Abbr.], EIN. No clue. Seems to be a US tax thing and EIN is Employer Identification Number. Don’t get me started on taxes. Somehow one of my IRP-5s (documents from my employer saying how much they paid me) got sent twice and I had to correct that. Because of that, my return was flagged for auditing. Because of that they want me to physically hand in my IRP-5s to scan in. Um. So I print out what I sent them. I give that to them and they compare it to what I printed out. What is this achieving except a huge petrol bill as the IRS offices are 60km away!! Taxes! Sorry. Where was I?
  • [Hamlin’s caveman], OOP. Hamlin? The only Alley Oop I know comes from the Hollywood Argyles…
  • [Musical org. based in Kawasaki], TSO. Seems to be the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. After EIN, the second common crossword filler answer clued as an unfamiliar abbr.
  • [Arkansas governor Hutchinson], ASA. Since 2015! Fresh, unknown-to-me, angle! Is he a notable governor? Are governors automatically cross-worthy?


  • [Actors John and Sean], ASTINS. Watching the original Addams Family sitcom this week, so that went right in…
  • [Strand under a microscope], RNA. Electron microscope, presumably, because RNA is way too small to see under a regular light microscope.

4.25 Stars

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10 Responses to Friday, October 30, 2015

  1. ArtLvr says:

    I guess I liked Berry’s NYT more than Amy did… Not only was “Twelver” new, but I had to look up SPIT TAKE. “Craft people” was a clever clue for BOATMEN. I also wondered why STUPEFIED has an E after STUP — as opposed to stupid and stupor? And it was amusing to see the self-reference in RASPBERRY! Much fun!

  2. anon says:

    NYT: To me 26D AS PER USUAL seemed a bit inelegant. Not only is there the (minor) dupe with NOT AS YET, but also the phrase itself is a dupe. (“As per” is redundant business-speak/psuedo-legalese that should be avoided.)

    Thought this was very solid otherwise. (B PICTURE is arguable but I’ll let that one slide.)

    • Lois says:

      B PICTURE pushed this puzzle up to five stars for me! Lots of movie stuff, which I love, but I did not know SPIT TAKE.

      Thanks, ArtLvr, for showing me the BERRY in RASPBERRY!

  3. Tracy B says:

    Carefully made and fun-to-solve LAT today, I thought.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I did, too. I love to see a puzzle with a new idea. Fun and fresh and fast and so nicely fit together.

      • Shawn P says:

        Speaking of which, excellent CHE puzzle today Paul!

        • Paul Coulter says:

          Thanks, Shawn. The “Seed” entry for this puzzle was the last one, which is why the grid is 15×16. The original name I submitted for it was Vegan-swers. All credit for the food show format and nearly all the best clues goes to Brad. As with “Compound Fractures,” my other published puzzle, I’m amazed at the exceptionally generous amounts of effort both Brad and Rich put into providing their expertise. And a special thanks to WHO for their cooperation in releasing the report about red and processed meat this week to coincide with my veggie puzzle. (- :

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    Anyone else having trouble opening the CHE in AcrossLite? I’m just getting raw source in the browser window, consistent across different browsers.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      I’ll detour my own problem: it opened fine from the CHE site; apparently just not working correctly from the Today’s Puzzles page here.

Comments are closed.