Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NYT 4:06 (Erin) 


WSJ approx. 10:00 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed tk (Amy) 


AV Club 12:01 (Ben) 


LAT 4:22 (Gareth) 


CS 14:52 (Ade) 


Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 4 15, no 1104

NY Times crossword solution, 11 4 15, no 1104

It’s game on with Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s second NYT crossword! The note attached to the puzzle (which maybe I should have noticed and read first) reads “The answers to this puzzle’s four starred clues can each precede a hidden word in 16-, 27-, 43- and 59-Across.” Those starred clues are:

  • 1a. *[Event in “Cinderella”] BALL
  • 8a. *[Watch it!] VIDEO
  • 64a. *[Executive group] BOARD
  • 66a. *[Jokester] CARD

Those answers can all precede the word GAME, which is found in the four longest answers:

  • 16a. [Sumerian king in an ancient epic] GILGAMESH
  • 27a. [Saying sorry, say] MAKING AMENDS
  • 43a. [Reason to get Tommy John surgery] TORN LIGAMENT
  • 59a. [Trojan War hero of myth] AGAMEMNON

Fun theme that takes up a large portion of the grid. The only inelegance I found was that GAME spanned both words in one of the 11s, but was fully contained in LIGAMENT in the other, but other than that tiny blip it’s solid. AGAMEMNON and The Iliad in general have had a warm fuzzy spot in my heart since college (I may or may not have named my car at the time Astyanax). Throw in NESTOR and you’ve got an ancient Greek reunion.

The rest of the fill was okay. I enjoyed SNEETCH, ARTOO, SMOCK, ICE AGE, and PANDA. Had not heard about a GRAVE accent before. OLIO, EMAG, and ONEL weren’t my favorites by any means. The one clue which stuck out, however, was [Prefix with zone or trash] for EURO. I appreciate not cluing it as the currency, but from what I’m reading, “Eurotrash” seems to be more of a derogatory label. If anyone else is more familiar with the term, I’d be happy to hear other opinions.

Overall, good theme (as long as the explanatory note is there), decent fill, and here’s a baby PANDA with its mother!

Elizabeth A. Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “And Now a Word From Our Sponsor” — Jim’s write-up

The WSJ has gone commercial. Our theme today, from Elizabeth A. Long, is celebrities hawking wares. In most cases, these celebrities end their professional names with a single initial. This initial is also the start of the product’s name. It’s easier to just look at the theme entries than try to explain it.

WSJ - Wed, Nov 4, 2015 - "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor"

WSJ – Wed, Nov 4, 2015 – “And Now a Word From Our Sponsor”

  • 18A [“With a word about his favorite clothing retailer, here’s…] DR J FOR J CREW. Real name: Julius Erving
  • 23A [“With a word about her favorite undies, here’s…] MEL B FOR BVDS. Real name: Melanie Janine Brown
  • 37A [“With a word about his favorite candy, here’s…] EMINEM FOR M-AND-MS. Real name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III (try getting a rap record deal with that name!)
  • 49A [“With a word about his favorite magazine, here’s…] KENNY G FOR GQ. Real name: Kenneth Bruce Gorelick
  • 57A [“With a word about his favorite dog snacks, here’s…] MR T FOR T-BONZ. Real name: Lawrence Tureaud

Nice enough theme, although it took me a while to see the FORs in each one. I kept finding, for example, KENNY ___ GQ and couldn’t figure out what could go in the middle.

The best theme entries are those where the ending singular initial of the celebrity is also the starting singular initial in the product, for example DR J FOR J CREW and MR T FOR T-BONZ. Two other products (BVDS and GQ) have extraneous initials, so a small deduction for that (but at least they’re symmetrical in the puzzle). And then there’s EMINEM FOR M-AND-MS which doesn’t follow the pattern at all. Instead his whole name sounds like the whole product. So we’re playing fast and loose with the structure of the themers, so let’s just go with it.

For me, the biggest challenge is that I had no idea who MEL B was (and I’m proud of that fact, although sadly, I know now). 17A [You might have a shot at it] looked like it should be PAR so 1D [You might take it out for a spin] kept looking like ALPU_. It took a while for me to realize that 17A was wickedly clued (in a good way) as BAR.

Speaking of wicked clues, 6D [Post-G string] is a great clue for awful, awful fill. (To my credit, I was thinking guitars not garments.)  HIJ is the result of the J in DR J, but I’m certain it could have been avoided. OTOH, I love the shout-out at 5D to Pinocchio creator CARLO Collodi, since I’ve read this to my children.

There are a high number of 3-letter words in the grid: 26 when the limit is usually 20. No doubt this is due to the unusual patterns of Js, Vs, Gs, Qs, and Zs in the theme answers. For the most part, these 3-letter words go unnoticed, except for EEE and the aforementioned HIJ.

Good fill includes RAREFIED (which I wanted to spell RARIFIED), DONE FOR, EARTHA (with MEW not far away), BONGOS, BURRO, DOJOS, and the correctly-spelled AMOEBA.

62A [Shirley of “Goldfinger”] wanted me to write in BASSEY (and I, not remembering the spelling, wrote in BASSY), but there’s another Shirley who got some memorable screen time in that film. Shirley EATON is not a name you’ll remember as a Bond girl, but she played Jill Masterson, and you’ll know her by image immediately. (Incidentally, her actual death by suffocation as a result of the gold paint is an urban legend discounted on

Shirley EATON in “Goldfinger”

So, a fun puzzle with some inconsistencies in theme entries, but we’ll let it pass.  On the other hand, if you don’t like commercial products in your puzzle, best skip this one.

Let’s close it out with Shirley Bassey, shall we? Gold-Fing-AHHH!

Tyler Hinman’s AVCX crossword, “AVCX Themeless #3” — Ben’s Review


It’s a themeless puzzle from the AV Club this week, with a 4.5/5 difficulty.  I found last week’s puzzle tricky, but I at least had the benefit of the theme clues to give me something to grip onto.  This was a different story entirely.  Luckily, there are a lot of great clues in the grid

  • 17A: Hostage film hero — NEGOTIATOR (It’s worth noting that if you’re thinking of the Taken film series, like I was, LIAM NEESON fits, but is wrong)
  • 37A: Caravaggio work with a Latin title meaning “love conquers all”  — AMOR VINCIT OMNIA (I found this an impressive central entry, even if I largely needed the down clues to solve it since my Latin is super rusty)
  • 44A: Half of a certain cocktail — TAI (Other cocktail halves I tried: GIN, ROB, TAN)
  • 62A: “Fine! I can’t deny it any longer!” — IT’S ALL TRUE
  • 13D: Places where cliques may be apparent — CAFETERIAS
  • 25D: Site that may eventually lead you to a Hora — JDATE
  • 45D: Remote power — AA CELL (I kept trying to make this AA BATT to no avail)

There was plenty of fresh fill in the puzzle, and lots of clever cluing, which is what you generally want from a themeless – if you don’t have any gimmicks to hide behind, you should be nailing the details.  There were a few entries that felt a little letter salad-y (ON ABC, OCS, the aforementioned AA CELL), but overall I found this a pretty solid grid.

4/5 stars.

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Walkathon”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.04.15: "Walkathon"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.04.15: “Walkathon”

Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, and, after solving it, I had to do a double take, and then I told myself, “Wow, I was actually in a pretty good groove with a Klahn puzzle from start to finish!” That’s a rarity, but the deftly written clues were fun, yet easy enough to figure out where you needed your mind to go to get the entry. In today’s grid, the theme is fairly straightforward: each of the theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word could also precede the word “walk.”. 

  • CAKE MAKEUP (17A: [Facial foundation]) – As someone who wears makeup on occasion, this was a no-brainer, especially when I thought of makeup when seeing the word “foundation.”
  • MOON LANDER (28A: [Apollo module])
  • SIDE EFFECT (42A: [Unintended consequence])
  • SPACE CADET (56A: [Flake])

In this grid, I’m probably the most proud of the fact that I was able to get SABBAT from only the “S” being entered in (42A: [Midnight assembly of witches or sorcerers]). No, I won’t be described as a neopagan anytime soon, trust me. Can’t say that I’m too well-versed in Russian literature, so ONEGIN was over my head, and probably the entry that I just had to hope that its crossings would bail me out (20A: [Pushkin protagonist]). Interesting note on the singer MOBY, as I had thought a while ago whether his stage name had something to do with the novel (31A: [One-named musician supposedly descended from Melville]). But, to be honest, I wondered about that almost 15 years ago, and then I never got back to that train of thought until right now. Anyone familiar with the EWE that was named Meryl Sheep on Sesame Street (32A: [Animal whose Sesame Street incarnation is named after Meryl Streep])? Can’t say that I do, but not sure if that character is of more recent vintage or from a while back. Speaking of things popular from a while back, how about seeing KEYTARS in the grid (40A: [Synthesizers worn around the neck and shoulders])?!?!? Yes, at one point, I thought they were cool! I’ll admit it. Does any person who who dabbles in music have a keytar just sitting around in the garage collecting dust?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CYCLE (5A: [Single, double, triple, and homer]) – It took 46 years and 7,444 games, but, this past August (Aug 14), outfielder Matt Kemp became the first San Diego Padres player to hit for the CYCLE in franchise history, when he did so against the Colorado Rockies. Here’s hoping you know that there have been fewer instances of cycles hit in Major League Baseball history than no-hitters thrown. Coincidentally enough, before that August night in San Diego, the Padres franchise had not had a cycle nor a no-hitter recorded in franchise history. Poor Padres.

Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Kurt Krauss’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151104

LA Times

The theme features a pinwheel of answers whose first words answer the description FALLGUY – found centre. I think it’s still autumn in your hemisphere, so I assume that’s an additional tie-in. The set make for a colourful, if slightly dated, group. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone referred to as a PIGEON and both PATSY and CHUMP sound quaint. That is not a mark against the puzzle.


  • [Sneaky blow], SUCKERPUNCH
  • [Place for brooding], PIGEONCOOP. Had LOFT first then COTE.
  • [“Walking After Midnight” singer], PATSYCLINE. After is capitalised in the clue. I thought one did not capitalise prepositions in titles?
  • [Peanuts], CHUMPCHANGE

Sugar We're Going DownLonger multiple-word answers today were: IMHUNGRY, SEEACTION and FOURACES. As clued, FOURACES is completely arbitrary – let’s wait for THREESIXES to appear in a puzzle! However, these guys were something of a big deal once upon a time. Aside, why do I always find myself linking to 50’s music here? In my music appreciation group I am posting System of a Down tomorrow… The poker clueing angle is more accessible though. Similarly clueing NATES as two people called NATE is contrived, but the alternative is a infrequently used term for the backside.

3.75 Stars

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33 Responses to Wednesday, November 4, 2015

  1. Sarah says:

    Disappointing that there seems to be no reason why GAME is hidden inside these answers.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: yeah, I too skipped reading the note and was scratching my head wondering about the theme. I noticed a lot of G’s while solving and thought it was somehow involved.

    Three types of accents in French
    Aigu: é
    Grave: à, è
    and Circonflexe or “chapeau”: â, ê, î, ô

    They affect how the letter is pronounced– sort of a tight little e sound with the acute or aigu accent, a more open sound with the GRAVE and a much longer and open sound with the hat accent.

    Eurotrash is sort of the opposite of the European Jet Set…

    • Alex B. says:

      Ï thïnk you may have mïssed an aççent or two …

      • pannonica says:

        Those happen to be diacritics, of which accent marks are a subset. Apologies for being overly diacritical, so to speak.

        (But there are indeed some other accents, such as double graves ( ̏ ), double acutes (˝), and the caron (ˇ).)

        • Alex B. says:

          Pannonica, I had no idea! Thanks for the clarification.

          • huda says:

            Panonnica, I think these additional accents are not used in modern French, to my knowledge.

          • pannonica says:

            Oh yes, I didn’t mean to imply that they were in French. Lost the thread of the comments along the way. They appear in Hungarian and Czech, and I believe, some other eastern European languages.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Note that the accent GRAVE rhymes with the first syllable of Bravo… Good puzzle!

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Excellent Klahn in the CS today. The theme isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but I loved the great wit he put into so many of the clues.

    • Tracy B says:

      Yeah, I wrote U R THE BEST next to the byline. Klahn’s puzzles are sublimely clued, as I’ve come to expect.

    • Rock says:

      Last night I was feeling so lonesome for a Bob Klahn puzzle, so I was really thrilled to see his name this morning. You are so right, it is the great wit IN the clues that I love.
      Thanks again Mr. Klahn and team fiend!

      Oh and 10 stars!!!

  4. Ethan says:

    A nice clean NYT today. Puzzle had game.

  5. janie says:

    thought tyler’s avcx was particularly strong and appreciated the way the super-fresh “DO ME A SOLID” (completely new to me…) was bookended w/ the unassuming “LITTLE HELP?”

    also liked the [Delinquent] / [Delinquency] pairing.

    INHALE for [Scarcely savor]. is the meaning here “you don’t like it? too bad. suck it up”? inquiring minds want to confirm. LITTLE HELP……


    • Ben Smith says:

      Re: INHALE – I have the tendency to eat meals quickly, and my mom has jokingly said on more than one occasion “Did you chew that, or just inhale it?”. It’s not referring to the quality of the meal, but the speed at which one consumes it.

  6. hirschho says:

    In the LA Times the clue is loser ONLY to a straight flush. Three sixes will lose to many other hands.

    • Gareth says:


      • FB says:

        But it’s not: FOURKINGS are beat by FOURACES and a straight flush, FOURQUEENS are beat by FOURKINGS, FOURACES, and a straight flush, and so on. The only hand that can ONLY be beat by a straight flush is FOURACES. Nothing arbitrary about it.

      • hirschho says:

        Gareth – Rather than rant using all caps please try and understand that the reason I used all caps for the word “only” is because of its significance in the clue.
        The additional hands you mentioned will not only lose to a straight flush they will also lose to other hands.
        Four aces will “only” lose to a straight flush.
        I enjoy your reviews and was surprised by your strong response.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          That’s not “ranting using all caps,” it’s just capitalizing phrases that could be lackluster crossword entries (which we customarily capitalize).

          • hirschho says:

            It’s ranting when you go to extremes and list 30 examples and request if is there a need to go further. Nice try at defending one of your minions. Perhaps you could devote some time and explain to him the error of his reasoning. It’s not good for one of your reviewers to respond to a poster in that manner.

      • Gareth says:

        Do you guys understand what a green paint answer is? Random poker hands are not in-the-language phrases.

        • FB says:

          I understand green paint quite well. But this is not an instance of it. As clued FOURACES is the only answer.

        • FB says:

          It’s not a “random” poker hand as long as CHECKMATE is not a random chess clue.

          • Gareth says:

            So if I clue TRIPTWOS as [Hand one above a pair of aces] it’s not a green paint answer??? FOURACES is just another poker hand. The fact that clue refers only to that poker hand does not make that not so.

          • hirschho says:

            If the clue was “hand immediately below a straight flush” would FOURACES be a green paint answer?

          • Gary R says:

            I believe this issue has been discussed before on this blog. My understanding is that Gareth’s (and others’) objection to this type of clue/answer is that it is rather “arbitrary” (I would not say “random”) in the sense that it consists of [pick a number] [pick a card] – like GREEN PAINT is
            [pick a color] PAINT.

            Even though the clue/answer is factually correct and may be uniquely correct, it’s still just one of a large number of combinations (4×13=52, if there are no wild cards) that you could clue this way. And even though, as a poker player, you might speak the phrase “three tens” from time to time, it’s still not exactly “in the language.” I think it’s qualitatively different from CHECKMATE or say, FULL HOUSE.

          • hirschho says:

            I do not understand the concern about a problem with uniquely cluing an answer. If the clue was “poker hand” and the answer was “fouraces” then I would agree, but that was not the case. Otherwise every roman numeral calculation or reference to a specific clock time would also fit into the arbitrary category.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Roman numerals and arbitrary clock times are indeed subpar fill. I don’t like those either. They’re crutches.

          • James Nash says:

            “As clued FOURACES is purely arbitrary” is what the review said. That part is incorrect. The rest is debatable. Coming up with a clue for GREEN PAINT that isn’t purely arbitrary would be much more of a stretch, which is why that term exists. There are many crossword answers that can be termed arbitrary in that a clue can have many answers. Not so much in this case.

  7. Joan Macon says:

    Well, I got four aces but I would have loved to think it was a reference to the quartet: I have my satellite radio on “40s” station and hear the song quite often. Of course I remember it from the original release! I am wondering why sometimes when I click on the puzzle grid for the LAT it comes out in a large format, and other times it refuses to do so. Is there a secret trick to all this?

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