Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fireball 19ish (Evad) 


NYT 5:58 (Amy) 


LAT 3:46 (Gareth) 


CS 9:13 (Ade) 


BEQ 7:04 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 13:15 (Derek) 


Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 11 19 15, no 1119

NY Times crossword solution, 11 19 15, no 1119

The theme in this puzzle is summed up by AUTO-COMPLETE: 48a. [Search engine feature … or what you literally need to do to answer the six starred clues]. Each of the starred entries is truncated in the grid, and the part that’s omitted spells out a car make or model. (Hey! No fair mixing both makes and models. Pick one and go with it.)

  • 20a. [*TV celebrity who has owned both a clothing line and a wine brand], KATHIE LEE GIF(Ford).
  • 27a. [*Nerve center in the abdomen that’s strongly affected by a punch], SOLAR P(Lexus).
  • 30a. [*1965 #1 Beach Boys hit], HELP ME R(Honda).
  • 37a. [*Have membership in], BELON(GTO). After three makes, it’s jarring to hit a dead car model here. Who made the GTO, Pontiac?
  • 42a. [*Classical ensemble], STRING T(Rio). The Kia Rio.
  • 44a. [*In the year of our Lord], ANNO DO(Mini).

It’s important that the theme clues are marked with asterisks, because we’ve got 5-, 6-, and 7-letter theme entries in a grid with the long Acrosses SPONGEBOB and WHILE AWAY. Can be confusing!

I liked seeing 58a. [Hindu festival of colors], HOLI in the puzzle just as much as SPONGEBOB. Also liked TOPIARY, BEEF UP, and FAN CLUBS.

In the debit column, we have EELED, -ERN, and ENIAC, most notably.

Five more things:

  • 10a. [Sibs … or Sigs, maybe], BROS. Familial brothers, with that only-in-crosswords “sibs,” and frat brothers. A decided “meh” from me.
  • 2d. [Kett of old comics], ETTA. How old? It started in 1925 and ended a mere 41 years ago, but I’m almost positive the strip wasn’t carried in the newspapers we received when I was a kid.
  • 21d. [Pickup artist’s skill, for short?], ESP. The question mark is because the clue is playing on the gross term “pickup artist.” A PUA, for those who don’t know, specializes in tearing women down so that they might be vulnerable to his advances, and embodies a slew of anti-woman attitudes.
  • 30d. [Bit of attire at an initiation ceremony], HOOD. Is this about frats again, or the Ku Klux Klan? I have never attended any initiation rites with hoods, so…
  • 37d. [Seek change?], BEG. There are so many ways to clue this word that don’t rely on wordplay at the expense of the homeless and destitute.

A note on clue critiques: Unless the editor or constructor tells us, it’s impossible for the solver to know who wrote a particular clue. The ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with the editor. The constructor has very little input on cluing changes in NYT puzzles. (Some crossword editors are more collaborative, some editors are not. In my work, we collaborate at the theme and grid stages, but constructors don’t see the edited puzzle till it comes out.)

3.4 stars from me.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword—Dave Sullivan’s write-up

Fireball - Peter Gordon - 11/19/15

Fireball – Peter Gordon – 11/19/15

Welcome to what appears to be the 90th themeless editor Peter Gordon has challenged us with during the six years of Fireball puzzles. (Subscriptions for 2016 are now open and well worth the $25 annual fee!) Though it might appear otherwise, 19 minutes is a pretty good showing for me when doing battle with Peter’s themelesses, which tend to skew toward a lot of names I’m not familiar with. Here were my highlights:

  • 17a. [Italian for “pick me up”], TIRAMISU – is the origin from the idea that enjoying this scrumptious dessert (which contains caffeine) “picks someone up” or is it from how alluring they look under glass in a dessert case?
  • 9d. [Soul food?], CHICKEN SOUP – see image below
  • 24d. [“Tommy” tune], SEE ME FEEL ME – is it possible that this rock opera from “The Who” came out over 45 years ago? Talk about feeling old…
  • 11d. [New York hamlet where IBM is headquartered], ARMONK – a gimme for me as an engineering grad from RPI
  • Another gimme was 54d. [Either of the two subjects of the documentary “Grey Gardens”] – referring to either “Big” or “Little” EDIE
  • 37a. [Power saw], MIGHT MAKES RIGHT – I wasn’t fooled by this clue, particularly given its central position in the grid

I had less success with the following entries:

  • My last square was the M shared between two names (my Achilles heel!): 40a. [Betty Boop voicer Questel] (talk about feeling old!) for MAE and [Best Director between Costner and Eastwood] for DEMME (for 1992’s The Silence of the Lambs)
  • 57a. [Southern pronoun], YOU ALL – I declare foul, it’s Y’ALL (or ALL Y’ALL in the plural). Never YOU ALL spelled out.
  • I also had trouble conjuring up Belinda Carlisle’s 1988 hit, I GET WEAK.

I’ve never heard of an ice bucket referred to as an ICER (or am I missing something in that clue?). Also ASHIER isn’t a word I’ve run across in a recent conversation; luckily I’m not in the position to compare the pallidness of objects (or faces?) Finally, I enjoyed the anagrams HETERO and HERETO in the grid and wonder if this was intentional.

Thanks, Peter!

Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Capital Gains” — Jim’s write-up

Apologies for the lateness and brevity of this post; I am traveling today.

WSJ - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 - "Capital Gains"

WSJ – Thu, Nov 19, 2015 – “Capital Gains”

If ever there was a crossword theme suited for the WSJ, this is the one!  Invest just a bit of your time and it will pay off.

Let’s look at the grid and see how it plays out. No entries stand out immediately as theme entries, but look more closely and you see a number of them are clued ?-style.

  • 18A [Hootenanny held onshore?] LAND SING
  • 24A [Announcer’s call at a hotel staff’s softball game?] MAID IS ON
  • 35A [Shuttle from one end of a portico to the other?] COLUMN BUS
  • 40A [Shallow place where you can cross a ventricle?] HEART FORD
  • 50A [Feature of an electrified maize field?] CORN CORD
  • 58A [The Grinch?] SANTA FOE

And finally….

  • 68A [Put together, what all those capital gains give you] DINERO

So what’s happening? Each of those entries is a state capital with an added letter (a “capital gain”). In order, we have the capitals of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. Take those added letters in order and you get the final word, DINERO.

I really enjoyed this theme. It must have taken a good deal of work to find capitals to add the right letters to in order to make something coherent. And six themers plus a revealer is a lot of material, even if they aren’t very long entries.

That being said, I felt the theme clues were tortured and without a lot of surface sense. DINERO was also an odd choice for the final answer. I felt PROFIT would’ve been better, but maybe it was impossible to work. Given the constraints, I’m willing to let these things slide.

Away from the theme, 34D DEAD ZONES is a great entry with a great clue [Areas with no bars?]. There were a number of other wonderful clues including 63A [One for all, say] for TIE. Any others that you liked?

Max Carpenter’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Mosquito Season”—Derek’s write-up

BuzzFeed 111915This puzzle was fun. At least it was fun after I figured out what was going on! Answers weren’t matching up, entries weren’t the right length, but then after about 5 minutes of floundering, the gimmick was apparent! The thematic answers all include the letters ITCH, and the crossing downs all skip over the ITCH letters! Here are the long answers:

  • 20A [Hogwarts sporting event] QUIDDITCH MATCH
  • 28A [Commercial spiel] SALES PITCH
  • 45A [Trick like Rickrolling] SWITCHEROO – I had never heard of this. I had to Google it to see what it meant!
  • 51A [Give in to a nagging desire, or how to make sense of many of this puzzle’s down entries] SCRATCH THE ITCH

BuzzFeed 111915 without ITCHSo it seems as if the completed grid is as the constructor intended if the ITCH squares are left blank. Cleverly done! Across Lite made me fill them in to get a correct answer. I added a screen shot without the ITCH words to illustrate. And the title ties it together nicely, as well. Once you get the gimmick, the puzzle actually didn’t seem that tough at all. Just a few comments:

  • 24A [Surplus ___ (economic concept of Karl Marx)] VALUE – Another new one on me. Never studied economics or Communism!
  • 40A [Tease falling] TEETER – This took me a minute because I though “tease” was a noun in this clue, but as a verb it’s a lot easier!
  • 1D [“___ and the Beanstalk: And Other Very Tall Tales” (1999 children’s book)] SHAQ – A great clue for a common crossword celeb!
  • 7D [“Take On Me” synthpoppers] A-HA – Back in my MTV heyday, I saw this video, I don’t know, about 1,000 times!
  • 26D [Untender part of a chicken tender] SINEW – Eww! I though chicken tenders were just processed paste? Oh wait, that’s Chicken Nuggets from McDonald’s!
  • 41D [Krysten who plays Jessica Jones in the upcoming Netflix series “Jessica Jones”] RITTER – I LOVED Daredevil, and I think this is in the same vein. I also liked Ritter in Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23. That show was funny, and is on Netflix too!
  • 43D [Lennox who recorded the EP “Crosswords” as Panda Bear] NOAH – Really? I guess he does exist. This EP is on Spotify. Check it out! It is … different….

4 stars from me. Tough gimmick; easy puzzle. Until next week!

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tom and Jerry”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.19.15: "Tom and Jerry"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.19.15: “Tom and Jerry”

Good morning, everybody! We’re one week away from Thanksgiving, another sign that the year, like almost all of them before it, is moving too fast! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is far from a game of cat and mouse, but his theme includes four puns – multiple-word entries in which the first word is also a famous “Tom” (real or fictional) and the second word is also a famous “Jerry.” Not only are all the Jerrys real, three of the four referenced are also Hall of Fame athletes in the sports that they played in professionally.

  • THUMB WEST (17A: [Catch a ride to California?]) – Tom Thumb, Jerry West (Hall of Fame basketball player).
  • CRUISE PARIS (28A: [Explore the City of Light?]) – Tom Cruise, Jerry Paris. If there was a The Dick Van Dyke Show Hall of Fame, Jerry Paris would definitely be in it.
  • SWIFT QUARRY (48A: [Fast prey?]) – Tom Swift, Jerry Quarry (Hall of Fame boxer).
  • DELAY RICE (66A: [Put the pilaf on the back burner?]) – Tom DeLay, Jerry Rice (Hall of Fame football player).

After getting the 1s, the so-so fill of IS A (1A: [“Happiness ___ Warm Gun” (1968 Beatles song)]) and INTER, had some issue in really getting a full head of steam on this grid (1D: [Bury]). Maybe it’s because I’m not at my best doing crosswords when it’s the first thing I’m doing while waking up, which is what happened today. (Knocking those cobwebs off definitely is needed as far as I’m concerned.) I don’t think I hear too many people say AS IF I CARE as opposed to “See if I care” (36D: [“Whatever!”]). Adjacent to that was my favorite fill of the day, the incomparable BO DIDDLEY (35D: [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer known as The Originator]). As I mentioned when talking about the theme, there are a few PROS (39A: [Heat and Thunder]) in this grid, and there’s another pro lurking in the Southeast with SABRE (63A: [Buffalo skater]). I’m more than content that the temperatures have been above normal here in New York City lately, but it’s definitely not like being in ARUBA, a place we all wouldn’t mind being at to spend a few days (3D: [Caribbean Sea nation]). If I take a vacation for a few days from work and/or this blog, here’s hoping that’s where you’ll find me.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REESE (26A: [Witherspoon of “Wild”]) – Speaking of famous Jerrys, today’s entry is very apropos! Football administrator Jerry REESE is the current general manager of the New York Giants, assuming the role in 2007. In his first season as GM, the Giants, influenced heavily by the moves and draft picks that Reese made prior to the season, ended up winning Super Bowl XLII over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. Along with that historic feat, Reese, upon the Giants winning the game, became the first black general manager of a Super Bowl champion. (He also was the first black GM to appear in the Super Bowl.) Four years later, Big Blue would again beat the Patriots and Reese had his second Super Bowl triumph.

TGIF tomorrow! I’ll see you then, and maybe with an ALE in hand (9D: [Happy hour order, often])! If it’s a Lagunitas IPA, then I’ll definitely have a drink in hand!

Take care!


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

seance-beqI think I got a little spoiled by yesterday’s BEQ puzzle for the AV Club, but today’s Thursday felt like a step down after how great that puzzle was.  There’s still some fun stuff going on with the theme clues of “Seance”, though:

  • 18A: Measurement of powerful rain? — MONSOON UNIT
  • 27A: Person who tells you when the mosh pit is going to break out?  — CONCERT WARNER
  • 43A: Diplomatic successes nobody sees? — BLIND DETENTES
  • 56A: Question that elicits the response “It’s a shade of meaning?” — WHAT’S NUANCE

The base answers that were modified don’t quite feel common enough – it took me a second after solving to process what kind of wordplay was going on.  I knew that Moon Unit is one of Frank Zappa’s kids, but I couldn’t mentally process that CONCERT WARNER parses down to football player Kurt Warner.  Mostly because I don’t follow pro football, but whatever – one step at a time with these things.

(We somehow got a new ELO album in 2015.  And it’s half-decent.  Check that out.)

A bit of a sparse week for music tie-ins in the BEQ puzzle, but I found a lot of other things to like.  I’m a math nerd (not a DWEEB, as 39D points out), so I liked seeing i (or, rather, LOWERCASE I) get mentioned in 3D.  I thought the clue for 20A’s otherwise commonplace OREO was nice as well – there was just enough misdirection in “Blizzard component” to make me think snow and not Dairy Queen.  The TV show “Wicked City” (and its star [?], EVAN Ross) lasted just long enough to get a crossword mention – it’s the first casualty of the fall 2015 season.  A recent batch of takeout meant that my brain leaned towards DOSA as the answer for “Indian wrap” at 52D instead of the much more frequently seen (and correct) SARI.  Luckily I had AUSSIE (“Barbie fan?”) at 50A to point me in the correct direction.

I couldn’t find anything that felt like a misstep in this week’s grid – some solid construction and solid cluing led to a nice solving experience.  A few points off for theme answer choices, but otherwise a nice showing from BEQ.

3.5/5 stars

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 151119

LA Times

Today’s common theme trope is “disguised mixed-up letters”. The letters are SLEEP, and they’re in the middle of phrases. The revealer is SLEEPDISORDER, with DISORDER the “anagram” indicator.

The theme answers make for a good set, with the phrases of variable parts of speech. The clue for BREAKTH(ESPEL)L [Kiss a frog, so it’s said] – seems oddly specific and a little jarring? Just me? The rest are [All out], ATFUL(LSPEE)D; and [Evasive language], DOUB(LESPE)AK.

There was a lot to smile about in the longer answers. AFFLUENZA crossing PRETZEL at the Z was a particularly nice touch! However, it felt like a lot of the fun fill came at a price. The area with TECHSAVVY, SPIDERY and TRYME brought along a trio of awkward fours: contrived suffix EROO and foreign bits DIEM and ALLE. The RULEOUT, LIMBOPOLE, HEMEN area also had contrived SANDL and the Do-Americans-still-remember-it? OEO.

Query time. As a moderately TECHSAVVY type, I always turn file extensions on in my Windows, the way it was in DOS. That isn’t on by default. So, how many of you still notice that you’re running EXE files?

Anyway… 3.25 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with…

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28 Responses to Thursday, November 19, 2015

  1. Ruth says:

    How ’bout hooding a doctoral candidate?

    • Bruce says:

      Yes, a graduation ceremony was my first instinct with that clue.

    • Carol Simpson says:

      Indeed, this NYT writeup verges on SJW material. Criticizing clues is one thing, but today’s endless litany of PC-isms verges on the absurd. Seeing the Klan in a Hood (ever been to a graduation?). And the over-the-top criticism of the Pick-Up Artist clue; give it a rest. The phrase Pick-Up Artist is “in the language”; and here it’s not even used in the sense you refer to. So I guess, though I know you feel you have to find something to critique, I BEG to differ.

      Lastly, I don’t know anything about cars, I see a Honda, I see a Corvette, I see a Mini Cooper. I don’t care if they’re Makes or Models, I know they’re CARS. [is it bad to admit I’m a female? probably so, since you’d then say I’m reinforcing gender stereotypes].

      Interesting there’s even a caveat about clue criticism. Perhaps an admission this post way out of line today?

      • Lois says:

        Without saying it so strongly, I agree with Carol. I wouldn’t write in except that I agree about the cars. If there were greater consistency about makes and models, as sought by Amy, I’m almost sure I would be stumped because I know nothing about cars. As it was, I was amazed that a car theme would lead to a puzzle so satisfying.

        I think the caveat about clue criticism was a complaint about the editor, and that Amy was just being careful not to direct criticism at the constructor if it wasn’t he who was responsible. Then again, I agree with Carol that the criticism was a bit overdone today.

        Like Bruce below, I found the puzzle slow going, but very pleasurable.

  2. pannonica says:

    BEQ: (1) How do the insertions relate to séance? (2) What are the original versions of the other two base phrases? I feel a write-up should at least cover those basics, especially when the theme is on the abstruse side.

    • Evad says:

      I was thinking séance was parsed as “say-ance” where BEQ asked us to insert the phonetic “ance” in base phrases (spelled however appropriate).

      The base phrases seemed to me to be MOON UNIT, KURT WARNER, BLIND DATES and WHAT’S NEW?

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Greetings to all.

    I hope Amy will not object if I thank her publicly for all the encouragement and support she has been giving me in email exchanges. I have just gotten back to doing crosswords, and I’m trying to get various subscriptions renewed. At this point, the puzzles all seem wonderful to me, including today’s NYT, though things come to me very slowly. It took me an amazingly long time to remember – realize that the Marquises were islands.

    I got the Ford first, then the Honda, then mini (Mini Cooper?), then the Lexus. I didn’t remember the Rio, but it seemed to fit.

    I liked the clue for *eniac* because it was so unusual, and gave me information that I did not know.

    My only hesitation – nit: It seemed to me that the syntax of the clue for 43d [Like some instructions that are important to read], would require an answer like italicised, or in italics.


  4. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, I was surprised to see ENIAC on your list of answers you disliked in today’s NYT. What’s wrong with ENIAC? It was an important techological development, and one of the relatively few in which women played an acknowledged role. See

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    Re: BF

    Best BF puzzle of the week, in my opinion. The revealer was a very nice way to explain why none of the downs were making sense — a good aha moment (or should I say, a good “‘Take On Me’ synthpoppers” moment).

    Grammatical inconsistencies and typos in clues however are still a problem. Yesterday we had plural/singular mismatches in a few clues and their answers. Today we have a part of speech inconsistency: “Month with 29.5 days” [noun], LUNAR [adj.]. The clue should be “Like a month with 29.5 days.”

    The NYT has been much criticized recently for some poor clues (rightly in my view). But their clues are always (with very few exceptions) typo-free and grammatically consistent. BF still needs much improvement in this department.

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