Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fireball 12:45 (Jenni) 


NYT 5:55 (Amy) 


LAT 4:24 (Gareth) 


CS 8:17 (Ade) 


BEQ 6:41 (Ben) 


WSJ 14:59 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 9:40 (Derek) 


Daniel Landman’s Fireball crossword, “Foreign Film Festival” – Jenni’s write-up

I spent the first eight minutes stumbling around filling in answers here and there and muttering under my breath. Then the theme clicked and the rest of the puzzle fell nicely into place.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.06.53 PMWe have four films with titles that can be clued with non-English words. The clues also give us the year the film was released:

  • “Minuit”  (2011)- MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
  • “Bestattung” (1966) – FUNERAL IN BERLIN
  • “Morte” (1971) – DEATH IN VENICE
  • “Perdu” or “Verloren” or “Perso” (2003) – LOST IN TRANSLATION

Fresh, interesting theme. I know LOST IN TRANSLATION doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other three. Theme consistency isn’t one of my bugbears, and this one made me giggle – it’s adorably self-referential.

I was able to get several answers because I knew something tangential to the actual clue. I had no idea about The Governator’s middle name, but I do know of ALOIS Alzheimer. I’ve never heard of bufotenine, but I know Bufo is the genus that includes TOADs (and it turns out bufotenine is derived from toad venom and is a schedule 1 psychoactive substance, so I’m not likely to be prescribing it anytime soon).

Other random thoughts:

  • “Musk production?” has nothing to do with scents – it’s TESLA, Elon Musk’s car company.
  • “Made tracks?” is MIXED, followed by “track makers” for TEARS. Cute.
  • Never heard of “Yonnondio” or Tillie OLSEN. Should I put it on my TBR list?
  • I can’t be the only one who thought of “Animal House” when I filled in PINTO for “spotted”.
  • “Word with roll or bar” – PIANO. My parents had a player piano and hundreds of rolls. My dad loved things with gears, and they also had a player harmonica that used tiny little rolls.
  • “Sharp as a bowling ball” is, of course, not sharp at all, but DENSE. Nice.

I thought this one was fresh and fun with some odd and interesting trivia that was all gettable with crossings. 4.5 stars from me.

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

NY Times crossword solution, 11 5 15, no 1105

NY Times crossword solution, 11 5 15, no 1105

The theme revealer is 63a. HIGHER POWER, clued as [Divine being … or a hint to 17-, 31- and 48-Across]. In math, your “higher power” may be the NTH power, and those NTHs in the circled squares double as part of the longer answers below them.

  • 17a. [Groundbreaking 1970s sitcom] looks like ALLIE FAMILY, but if you travel from the first I up to the higher NTH and then hook back to the E, you get ALL IN THE FAMILY.
  • 31a. [Just before the deadline], ELEVEHOUR, or ELEVENTH HOUR.
  • 48a. [Point beyond which light cannot escape from a black hole], EVEORIZON, or EVENT HORIZON.

This is a HIGHER POWER gimmick I can believe in.

The pairs of 10-letter Downs are good entries. The rest of the fill wasn’t doing all that much for me, though. ENISLE and STOL, enmeshed in the NTH-themed areas, are there because the theme interplay constrained the fill, but that doesn’t mean I have to like all the resulting words.

Five more things:

  • 47a. [Logical extremes?], ELS. Rarely does a crossword clue ELS as the plural of the word meaning “the letter L.” Usually we see ELL for the spelled-out letter (and I really do not care for spelled-out letter crossword entries).
  • 54d. [Heads of the black community?], AFROS. Um, hair is just attached to the head. We don’t generally conflate hairstyles and “heads.” Would you clue CREWCUTS as [Heads of the Army?]? Would you clue MANBUNS as [Heads of the hipster community?]? No. I don’t like this clue.
  • 7d. [Short negligee, for short], CAMI. Um, no. A camisole is a camisole. It might be silky or lacy, it might be cotton and practical. It might be slinky nightwear and it might be daywear (that Target link says to wear the cami “underneath work blazers, denim jackets or wear on its own for warmer days”). A negligee has no going-to-the-office applicability, whereas a camisole certainly can. I’m guessing Sam’s wife was not consulted on this clue.
  • 26d. [Egg container], OVARY. I think Martin will tell you that this doesn’t apply to human ovaries.
  • 49d. [John Peter ___, early American publisher and free press champion], ZENGER. Not a familiar name for me.

4 stars for the theme, 3.2 for the rest.

Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Court Battle” — Jim’s write-up

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Today’s the day when Brits celebrate the saving of Parliament from Guy Fawkes and his henchmen who aimed to blow it up in 1605. That sly Fawkes was caught red-handed guarding barrels of gunpowder hidden beneath the House of Lords in an attempt to assassinate King James I during the State Opening of Parliament. Today, celebrations take the form of elaborate fireworks displays, bonfires, and the burning of Guy Fawkes effigies. And I love how this relates to today’s puzzle by means of…um, through…um…um, nope. I got nuthin’.

Our puzzle is called “Court Battle” and it comes to us from Harold Jones (aka Mike Shenk, I think). 58A tells us what to look for: [Court competition, found literally seven times in this puzzle]. Answer: ONE-ON-ONE.

WSJ - Thu, Nov 5, 2015 - "Court Battle"

WSJ – Thu, Nov 5, 2015 – “Court Battle”

So we’re looking for seven instances where a ONE is atop another ONE.

  • 14A [Lading aid] CARGO NET atop 17A [Film filled with car chases, e.g.] ACTIONER
  • 18A [Tense] ON EDGE atop 20A [Buttercup family member] ANEMONE
  • 35A [Defender’s court area] ZONE atop 38A [Last name of baseball’s Bob, Bret and Aaron] BOONE
  • 35A [Prayers before vespers] NONES atop 39A [Sufficiently cooked] DONE
  • 55A [Tony winner for “Evita” and “Gypsy”] LUPONE atop 60A [Device with Touch ID] IPHONE
  • 49A [Italian innkeeper] PADRONE atop the first ONE in ONE-ON-ONE, whose second ONE is atop 61A [Image on the original Forestry merit badge] PINE CONE.

Wow that’s a lot of theme material. ACTIONER is absolutely terrible. I mean, truly awful. Worse than OATER. Has anyone ever used that word? Is it really a word? I don’t even care enough to check. But I like NONES, LUPONE, and especially PADRONE.

This theme results in a huge number of words with double-letters in the Down direction. For the most part, despite the quantity, I didn’t notice until I got down to the bottom with DIANNE, ENNIO, and GEENA. AREEL is the only creaky example of an iffy entry and maybe plural ANNAS. But mostly all those double-lettered words are solid choices.

Despite all the constraints with the amount of theme material in every part of the grid, the puzzle is amazingly clean. Plus we get AGELESS, LEESIDE, HANDEL, STOOGES, and HOOFER. ETRE is lousy, HOFFS is tough, but the only real stinker is the aforementioned ACTIONER.

Cluing was wonderful in this puzzle. Check out:

  • 19A [Wren creation] for NEST (I was thinking architecture)
  • 32A [Monk’s music] for BOP (I was thinking CHANT)
  • 33A [Lunar Lander producer] for ATARI (not NASA)
  • 47A [Clutch item] for EGG (not KEY)
  • 11D [Pot head?] for LID
  • 24D [Spineless works?] for E-BOOKS
  • 38D [Bob’s frequent co-star] for BING (I wanted SUZANNE)

So, a winning puzzle with loads of deftly-handled theme material but with one significant exception. I’ll give it 4 stars.

Lots of great music in the puzzle to share such as HANDEL, Monk, ENNIO Morricone (<3 “The Mission” soundtrack), and Patti LUPONE. But I’m going to out with Susanna HOFFS (sounds good to me) and The Bangles singing “Eternal Flame”. (When you get your own blog you can link to whatever you like, but for now you have to suffer through Susanna writhing around on the beach, so there.)

Mary Lou Guizzo’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Above and Beyond”—Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.14.53 PMThe “Above and Beyond” title suggests a gimmick, and there definitely is one here. I am not a decent graphic designer, but I managed to display the letters that appear outside the grid in the puzzle.  Not very well, but they are there! The theme is explained by the entry at 23-Across [With 39- and 50-Across, group of physicians providing aid in over 60 countries…or an explanation for 14 letters missing in this puzzle?] DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. Around the grid, the extra letters spell, on each side, a different “Doctor:” Doctor WHO, Dr. DOOM, Dr. DRE, and Dr. RUTH Wertheimer. Here are the entries that are starred, in order around the grid:

  • 5D [Starts to get to] WEARS ON
  • 8D [___ erectus (me and you and everyone we know)] HOMO
  • 11D [Hunter in the sky with a belt] ORION
  • 19A [Spoil, as milk] GO BAD
  • 37A [Cookie offered in Red Velvet starting February 2015] OREO
  • 47A [Take care of, as some business] TEND TO
  • 57A [Feature of a spy’s luggage] FALSE BOTTOM
  • 54D [Exuded, as charm] OOZED
  • 58D [Impressionist] APER
  • 47D [“I volunteer as ___!”] TRIBUTE
  • 17A [Capitalist who achieves a fortune through questionable means] ROBBER BARON
  • 27A [Spiky undersea animal sometimes used in sushi] URCHIN
  • 41A [Car window option] TINT
  • 56A [Subs for lunch] HEROS

Ambitious, wouldn’t you say? It took me a while to get the gimmick, but I knew right away something was fishy because 8D HAD to be HOMO, and it was only three letters! The long down answers of TRANSMITTAL and THEORY BASED are okay; TRANSMITTAL seems rare. TRANSMISSION is usually how a radio signal is described, in my opinion. 35D [Your sibling’s spouse, briefly] B.I.L. is new on me. GRINDR and RED NOSE are both hip and current.

I will rate this one a nice 4.2 stars for the ambitious and clever theme. Well done!

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


I had a smooth time solving this grid, but there’s some stuff going on in it that I’m not sure I liked.  This week’s theme may not be your favorite if you’re not into indie bands (or crosswords using indie band names as inspiration):

  • 17A: Herman Hesse novel that takes place in India — SIDDHARTHA
  • 26A: Thing passed around a party  — HORS D OEUVRE
  • 31A: “The body is a temple” philosopher — IMMANUEL KANT
  • 43A: Wired subject — TECH INDUSTRY
  • 50A: Louis Prima standard covered by David Lee Roth — JUST A GIGOLO
  • 61A: Indie band that took its name from a Robert De Niro film…and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — DEERHUNTER

The more I look at the grid for this puzzle, the more I dislike the lower left corner.  There’s a lot of proper names I’m less familiar with, which is most of my issue, but it was a frustrating corner to solve.  OSTE, YOST, and TRIS at 59D, 67D, and 70D don’t initially read as words, although their cluing helped (those are, respectively, “Bone: pref”, “With [3D], Royals manager”, and “‘Divergent’ hero ___ Prior”), especially since I’ve been just aware enough of the Divergent series to know character names.  The crossings didn’t provide much help – I don’t know enough about 46D‘s AJ FOYT (who’s apparently won the Indy 500 4 times) to know if he’s a notable racer, and trying to remember the 2005 Academy award winner for Best Foreign Language Film for 48D (it’s TSOTSI, by the way) isn’t that easy a decade later, even with the knowledge that it’s a South African film.

The rest of the grid is pretty standard.  The theme idea here was nice, but I would have loved some better fill in places.

3/5 stars

Gerry Wildenberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151105

LA Times

INCIDENTALMUSIC is a really fine 15-letter answer. As a revealer for “there are instruments hiding in the other three long answers,” it’s a bit of a stretch though… In some ways, a theme is just a means to an end; that end being an interesting set of theme answers. Today’s three-fer are all excellent choices: [What a party crasher may get], CHILLYRECEPTION is a superb 15. Apart from their tacked on S’s, both [19th/20th-century South African conflicts], ANGLOBOERWARS (which looks like Anglo-Boerewors if you look too quickly!) and [Horror movie characters], LABASSISTANTS are good choices too. For a quiz on South Africa aimed at Americans, I had a question whose answer was “Second Anglo-Boer War”. Play-testers told me it would be too difficult as most Americans aren’t aware that there were two… The Battle of Majuba Hill features prominently in Afrikaner nationalism.

The SHAM/MLCARR cross made me sweat a bit. Lucky I remembered what those pillow cases were called, because the ML of MLCARR could be any letters essentially… The other more or less unknown for me was HILLEL. I feel like I’ve seen the word before. It seems to be exactly what the clue says it is.

Not a lot more to report on…
3.25 Stars

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Movie Trailer”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.05.15: "Movie Trailer"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.05.15: “Movie Trailer”

Good afternoon, crossword lovers! I hope you’re doing well so far on another day, at least in New York, that has hit 70 degrees. In November. Yowza! I can only imagine that our winter is going to be really, really bad!

Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, reminds us of a classic Spaghetti Western, as each of the first three theme answers in the grid end with letters that also end up forming the three recognizable title words to the 1967 movie starring CLINT EASTWOOD (47A: [Star of a movie hinted at by the ends of 23-, 34-, and 39-Across]).

  • SILENCE DOGOOD (23A: [A pen name of Benjamin Franklin])
  • CARLSBAD (34A: [________ Caverns (New Mexico tourist attraction)])
  • PLUG-UGLY (39A: [Hired goon])

Man, that GAVEL clue threw me for a loop for a little bit, hence why that was last to go down (3D: [Rapper]). I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that there are books/guides about gavel etiquette, and when and how many times to “rap” your gavel. (A few seconds later, after looking that it, there are!) This clue also took us for a little round of golf, with both PAR (37A: [Golf course standard]) and EAGLE on the green, err, I mean, grid (49D: [Golfer’s feat]). Found it very interesting that TODAY (18A: [“No more delays!”]) could be used to, hypothetically, answer two clues: the one it actually was for and the one for SHAKE A LEG (4D: [“Chop-chop!”]). So I talked about an earlier puzzle this week, by Ms. Lynn Lempel, and how I noticed that there were multiple quote substitution clues in her grid. I thought there were more than I thought I was used to when solving (believed there were three that grid), but then today’s grid actually has five such clues. Again, I have no problems with it at all!  Of all things now, my mind is starting to be wired for those type of clues in crosswords. I…have…no…idea…why…that…is!  But I do have an idea why I take a clue and give it a sports spin. Because a) I like sports, and b) I like making sure you know a little bit more about why I’m highlighting the clue, in case you’re not a sports fan. You never know where it might help you doing a crossword later on. Today’s installment is…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NC STATE (42D: [ACC team with two NCAA men’s basketball championships]) – The two NCAA men’s basketball championships won by North Carolina State University, a.k.a. NC STATE, are two of the most memorable championships in men’s college basketball history. In 1974, the Wolfpack, led by All-American David “Skywalker” Thompson, defeated UCLA in the national semifinals in Greensboro, N.C., ending the seven-year championship run engineered by the John Wooden-led Bruins. In the finals, NC State defeated Marquette and won its first title. If you’re a sports fan, and you don’t know/remember how NC State won its second title, in 1983, then I feel sorry for you! In case you need a reminder, here’s the final five seconds of that title game from Albuquerque, with the scored tied at 52 between NC State (red) and the University of Houston (white)…

TGIF tomorrow! See you all then!

Take care!


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18 Responses to Thursday, November 5, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: The theme—Raising to the nth power– is very clever indeed.

    In terms of the rest, for me the bad news started at 1– I knew neither MANERO nor MPAA. Of course MPAA makes all the sense in the world in retrospect, but it’s not an abbreviation I have at my fingertips. I had to move on to other parts of the puzzle then work back to the NW, with the M in 1A being the last letter.

    I like the word JAPE— sounds cheeky.

    • pannonica says:

      Perhaps it’s also evocative of jackanapes?

      noun jack·a·napes \ˈja-kə-ˌnāps\

      1 : monkey, ape
      2 a : an impudent or conceited fellow
      b : a saucy or mischievous child

      (Middle English Jack Napis, nickname for William de la Pole †1450 duke of Suffolk. First Known Use: 1526)


  2. huda says:

    On a different front– have we lost the ability to see the ratings of others? We used to be able to hover on the “rate it” link and see the spread of the scores, and I don’t seem to be able to do this any longer, since the format changed a bit. I liked being able to see the range of the scores.

    Is it just my computer or has this changed?

  3. Has anyone else noticed clues getting truncated in AcrossLite on Mac OS X El Capitan (10.11)? I upgraded to El Capitan recently, and it seems now that lots of clues are suddenly getting truncated, depending on exactly how I’ve sized the window. I can resize the window and/or the clue pane on top of the puzzle to get it to change the font size and layout a particular clue properly, but then other clues will be truncated instead.

    • PJ Ward says:

      Yes I have. Adjusting the height of the clue window takes care of it for me. If I make the window shorter the clue will unwrap, only smaller. If I make the window taller the clue stays wrapped but is visible.

  4. lemonade714 says:

    It is a really nice time to be alive if you like solving puzzles and wonderful if you like creating them. With more outlets and more editors the opportunities abound. I enjoyed Mary Lou’ s latest and was really surprised to learn ACTIONER is in all the dictionaries.

    Biggest problem was recalling CLUTCH in the coop.

    Thanks all

  5. hirschho says:

    Amy – Please tell me if you agree with Gareth’s logic at the end of yesterday’s discussion.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      After checking with my crosswordy poker expert, I’ll agree with Gary R’s comment on the Wednesday post this morning. The fact that FOURACES appears only once in the Cruciverb database (clued as the musical group Joan mentioned) lends further support to it being a poor crossword answer. Can we drop the subject now?

      • Lisa Crosby says:

        That’s a fairly silly response, IMO. Hopefully we don’t get to the point where an answer has to exist before it’s considered a good one. Personally, I like seeing new fill.

        If all answers get to the point where a constructor has to come up with increasingly obscure clues to get around their repetition, it’ll be time to hang it up. There’s nothing worse than seeing a three letter answer with some ridiculously arcane clue that a new puzzler has absolutely no chance of figuring out, that an experienced solver realizes must be ENO.

        FOURACES was fine as clued, was NOT in fact GREEN PAINT, as suggested, but was merely a gimme and bland. But at least it was nearly unique.

  6. Norm says:

    Add to the list of clever cluing in the WSJ:
    9D [Took in] for CONNED (I was thinking work -> EARNED)
    26D [Fleet] for SPEEDY (I was thinking naval ->ARMADA)

  7. David L says:

    I found the NYT surprisingly difficult. I misremembered the record company as AVCO, which had me wondering what kind of HOOVER would be a toy gun. LAMAR and TSR and MANERO were unfamiliar. HEF for “Bunny’s beau” strikes me as very icky — you might want to ask the bunny’s opinion. And ISITME seems like something you would say when you’re playing Scrabble and have forgotten whose turn it is — to my ear, it’s not equivalent to “Am I the only one?” I wrote in JUSTME at first.

    I normally stay away from arguments about sexism and racism and so on, being an aging insensitive clod and all, but the clue for AFROS set my nerve ends jangling. Anytime you start talking about the ‘black community’ as if it were some sort of uniform, monolithic entity you are more than half way to being racist, IMO.

    And as much as liked the idea of the theme, I have to say that it isn’t accurate, mathematically speaking. If you put a superscripted ‘n’ next to a quantity you are indeed raising it to the nth power — but you wouldn’t ever superscript ‘nth’ as a whole.

    Well, other than all that, I thought this was a pretty good puzzle. No, really!

    • huda says:

      Like you, the cluing for HEF and AFROS gave me pause.

    • Lois says:

      I liked the nod to the elderly with ATCO. I can sympathize about the difficulty of the clue, because I only vaguely remembered it as the record label of Sonny and Cher and needed the crosses to help me remember it fully, though not to complete the answer. I’m surely not criticizing the clue, because that’s the fun of a crossword puzzle — pulling out old memories. I hope it was gettable from the crosses for people for whom it was more obscure.

      [Sonny & Cher record cover images]

  8. Nietsnerem. says:

    Is it possible that the 47A “els” refer to the first and last letters of the word logical or is it something else entirely ?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      That’s exactly what it is—although usually crosswords tell is that ELL is the letter and ELS means golfer Ernie or the Chicago trains.

  9. Huphup says:

    Being a very slow puzzle solver, I’m usually intimidated by the level of expertise of this blog’s writers and reluctant to add an opinion. However, I did want to comment on the spelling of the alphabet. I think it adds a spin on cluing and solving.
    “Logical extremes” as the letter “L” at both ends of the word is not obvious, even when given as an answer. But, once one “gets it”, it is a lot better than trying to know a record label or lead singer if one is not into music. In other words, it’s more “gettable” for the common solver than the trivia buff.

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