Saturday, November 21, 2015

NYT 4:43 (Amy) 


LAT 7:25 (Derek) 


CS 7:00 (Ade) 


Newsday 22:11 (Derek) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Natan Last’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 21 15, no 1121

NY Times crossword solution, 11 21 15, no 1121

Natan’s 66-worder features stacked 15s down the middle, and ten of the crossings have 8+ letters. That’s pretty cool—a puzzle with two stacks of 15s typically has a lot of awkward short crossings. In addition to those long crossings of the center stack, we also have nice pairs of 9s in the NW and SE corners.

The only “meh” answers that stuck out for me were ESNE and OTO, which is not bad for a 66-word puzzle.

rbgHighlights in gridland: HAMPSHIRE College, on the ’80s vanguard of South Africa divestment; CLUB OWNER; YOGA PANTS; HOP ON POP; Spanish GUAPOS (is it possible that I learned “El Guapo” from Three Amigos?); SHAKE ON IT; ROSIE’S BAR on M*A*S*H (see also: NEHIS); “I DON’T BITE” (I wanted WON’T in there); BOLLYWOOD; YO-YO MA; THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. (not to be confused with the Notorious R.B.G., Ruth Bader Ginsburg); “HATERS GONNA HATE”; AMERICAN APPAREL (they of the odious ads); “THAT’S NICE”; and SIDEKICKS.

Five clues:

  • 25a. [Animal that Poseidon turned Theophane into, in myth], EWE. Don’t know this particular myth, but the crossings yielded an animal that’s in far too many crosswords.
  • 58a. [“Luxuries,” not “necessities,” per Cher], MEN. Is Cher one of those exasperated feminists we hear so much about?
  • 9d. [A slave to crosswords?], ESNE. I’m told Henry Hook came up with this clue in the early ’80s in Games magazine. Speaking of Hook, I am currently treating my two 25-year-old secondhand Hook puzzle books with Microchamber paper to remove the musty, mildewy smell. It’s gross to buy used books that arrive so stinky.
  • 13d. [Major pro team with the smallest home city], PACKERS. Green Bay has a little over 100,000 people.
  • 39d. [Dungeons & Dragons, e.g., for short], RPG. Role-playing games are more entertaining than rocket-propelled grenades, for sure. See also: The Notorious R.B.G.

4.3 stars from me.

Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 9.16.03 PMAmbitious stacked triple 15s highlight this Saturday’s LAT entry. I will discuss the long entries in the comments later, but all in all this one didn’t seem to difficult. These are difficult to make without at least one or two super-wonky entries in the down crossings, but in this one its not bad. There are exactly two that were unfamiliar to me (ATRI and ERISA), and ERISA I feel like I should have known! Oh, and did I mention there is a wide-open 5×5 section in the middle as well? It also is criss-crossed with seemingly effortless entries, albeit there are a few proper names included in there that may or may not be familiar to some people. All in all, I like puzzles like this. There is a feeling you get when you begin to tackle an empty grid, and that pleasurable anxiety is only ramped up when you encounter wide open grids like this! Not too difficult, as I solved this in under 8 minutes, but 4.4 stars is my rating.

Now for some commentary:

  • 1A [Amuse to the hilt] LEAVE IN STITCHES – I don’t use this phrase, like, ever, but it makes for a nice 1-Across entry.
  • 16A [Goth is a subgenre of it] ALTERNATIVE ROCK – I don’t listen to much alt rock, and even less goth rock, but easily solvable.
  • 17A [Tax inequity] MARRIAGE PENALTY – Nicely done. This one stumped me for a bit.
  • 28A [Where surfers look for bargains] E-MALL – You know that “surfers” here meant the internet, but E-MALL is not too common a term, it seems to me. Again, still solvable.
  • 58A [Slide rules, for example] ANALOG COMPUTERS – Same as abaci, right?! ;-)
  • 64A [Borrower’s protection] INTEREST RATE CAP – Another great common phrase.
  • 65A [Some emcees] TOASTMISTRESSES – This one was my favorite!
  • 3D [Abruzzi town] ATRI – I am more familiar with ASTI, the other Italian town, but this one appears far less in puzzles I solve. Interestingly, on, it shows up only 26 times in the Shortz era compared to 156 for ASTI. And those 26 are only 16% of the total uses of ATRI as most occurred before his time, whereas 30% of the instances of ASTI are in Shortz’ era. I’m rambling, I know.
  • 5D [1974 pension plan legislation] ERISA – Employee Retirement Income Security Act. I believe I googled this for an earlier blog entry….!
  • 50D [“On The Beach” novelist] SHUTE – As in Nevil SHUTE, and no I haven’t read this book. I need to read more…

A fun puzzle. I love Saturdays!

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

IMG_0077So while I usually struggle with Brad Wilber’s Stumpers, but Doug Peterson’s I can usually solve quite a bit easier. For this hybrid construction from the two, the time is right in the middle! If the byline is Wilber or Longo, I need 30 solid minutes. I have solved Doug’s in around 10-12 minutes. So a 22 minute time was expected, and actually less than I thought it would be, because believe me, I was sufficiently STUMPED today! As you can see in the grid image, there were a few errors made by yours truly, but not as many as some Stumpers. The top killed me. Between obscure trivia and different spellings, I felt lost at times. There was definitely a feeling of relief when this was finished. But a great themeless challenge from these two. 4.1 stars, only because of what I perceive as a minor error or two.

I have a lot of comments. Mostly about the top half down entries!

  • 16A [Frans Hals Museum city] HAARLEM – This is a Dutch city, but a toughie. I had HAMBURG in there at first, even though I figured “Hals” wasn’t German!
  • 17A [Stretcher at the gym] SPANDEX – I was thinking BOWFLEX at first, but I knew that wasn’t correct. Great clue here!
  • 31A [1971 Time cover subject] PENTAGON PAPERS – This is also verrrry obscure. The only real clue is the year, but a Google search of Pentagon Papers shows the very Time magazine cover!
  • 36A [It might get a bully going] YOU AND WHAT ARMY? – Favorite clue/entry of the puzzle!
  • 2D [Dosage container] AMPOULE – Here the gripes start! Yes, it is in the dictionary, but man, this seemed almost like it need a “var.” tag!
  • 3D [eBay’s founder, genealogically] IRANIAN – This is gettable by the crosses, but I didn’t know this piece of trivia.
  • 4D [Beth March portrayer in 1994] DANES – How would I know Claire Danes was in this movie? I don’t watch movies much, not to mention what seems like a “chick flick,” and even if I did, 1994 was a long time ago! Very hard. Nothing about Homeland??
  • 7D [NFL East town] FOXBORO – I believe this was an error. I would have the clue read [AFC East town] since the New England Patriots are in the AFC East division. Not sure what is meant by “NFL East.”
  • 8D [2011 Best Picture Oscar also-ran] THE HELP – A great clue, but who remembers losers? Especially when there are 8 or 9 nominees nowadays??
  • 10D [President who met Pope Francis last May] RAUL – OK, this is another gripe. The clue is evidently meant to denote the president’s first name, but Pope Francis doesn’t use a last name, does he? This seems a little unfair. I assume the president in question is RAUL Castro of Cuba.
  • 28D [Micronesian nation] PALAU – I had NAURU in at first. Oops!
  • 36D [Kurosawa film remade as “A Fistful of Dollars”] YOJIMBO – I actually knew this!
  • 37D [It precedes every Sabres home game] O CANADA – Knew this too! Must be because of the proximity to Toronto
  • 40D [Squabbles] HAS A ROW – Are we in England? Who “has a row?”
  • 41D [Scholarly paper evaluator] REFEREE – Do they have referees for scholarly papers? If so, this is a new one on me!
  • 42D [Toon whose first name is Veritably] MR. CLEAN – This is probably the hardest bit of trivia in the clues. But it’s actually a really good clue! Not sure how one would know this, though…
  • 50D [Cicada sound] CHIRR – I had CLICK, then CHIRP, then finally got it when WARRENS became clear. Yes, I was fooled!

To be clear, this is a great grid. And I only have two or three major gripes with a few clues. But the grid is awesome and solid. Great job, guys!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crop Circle” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/21/15 • "Crop Circle" • Sat • Gorski • solution

WSJ • 11/21/15 • “Crop Circle” • Sat • Gorski • solution

A rather elaborate theme, enhanced—or explained—by the title. There are eight rebus squares symmetrically arranged in a circular pattern. Each contains the name of a cultivated crop, whether it be grain, fruit or vegetable. The revealer lay in the center at 71a [Fall, and this puzzle’s theme] HARVEST TIME.

It may be tempting to think these items should be associated with Thanksgiving, the big feast during this season, or that the circular pattern represents a clock face à la time, but these notions seem overreaching to me.

nb: The application didn’t register as correct with the rebuses filled in. Probably a coding issue.

  • 23a. [Grammy winner for her “Criminal”] FIONA {APPLE}.
    10d. [Maker of Diet Trop-A-Rocka Tea] SN{APPLE}. See also 15d [Maker of Cinnamon Chalet Tea] TAZO.
  • 30a. [In a magnificent manner] SUB{LIME}LY.
    4d. [Butter up] COMP{LIME}NT.
  • 34a. [Company that recalled “unintentionally transparent” yoga pants] LULU{LEMON}.
    21d. [“30 Rock” character] LIZ {LEMON}.
  • 70a. [Potential pipe] {CORN} COB.
    50d. [Tapestry creatures] UNI{CORN}S.
  • 74a. [Scrooge’s fault] AVA{RICE}.
    69d. [Sticker shock source] P{RICE} TAG.
  • 104a. [Subject of a George Washington legend] {CHERRY} TREE.
    104d. [Bright lipstick shade] {CHERRY} RED.
  • 108a. [Shown again] RE{PEA}TED.
    96d. [Ali style] RO{PE-A}-DOPE.
  • 121a. [Four-walled sporting site] {SQUASH} COURT.
    121d. [Compressed] {SQUASH}ED.

Indeed, all of the rebus crops have been compressed into their squares. The containing fill sometimes aligns with the limits and meanings of the actual crops (e.g., CORN COB, CHERRY TREE), sometimes is a derived sense (e.g., CHERRY RED, FIONA APPLE), and sometimes is completely unrelated except for the letter sequence (e.g., COMPLIMENT, ROPE-A-DOPE). Also, not all of these items are harvested in the autumn. However, considering the apparent difficulty of creating such a structured theme, I give both a pass.

  • Not too many long answers, but RUHR VALLEY, PAPER TRAIL, ENDEAVORED, and SAILOR SUIT (sans pants)are in there, plus the stacked KING-SIZED, GORGONZOLA, and RULE OF LAW with the not-common sounding COURSE PROS (as opposed to, say, ‘club pros’).
  • 62d [Will of “Jeremiah Johnson”] GEER. Just saw this for the first time last week. Geer’s character is the mentor figure ‘Bear Claw’ Chris Lapp.
  • ISTLE, MISDO, TAXO-, RAGE ON, VOS, UP A, ON AT, ST LO, these are among the answers I could happily do without. (73d, 60d, 18a, 19a, 89d, 50a, 82a, 103a)
  • I’ll call special attention to ISTLE [Basketry fiber] and VOS [Your, in France] because they’re critical for the crossing 88a [It makes a lovely setting] SILVER. You don’t want a tricky clue intersecting with uncommon fill. Some other tough-ish material in the same area: [Battle of Normandy town] ST LO, 79d [Civil War song from which “Love Me Tender” was adapted] AURA LEE.
  • Favorite clues: 1d, [Hits and runs] STATS, 61a [Stand for things?] ÉTAGÈRE, 101a [Low interest indicator] YAWN. These are a bit stale yet retain an appeal: 26a [They cover all the bases] TARPS, 84d [English channel] BBC, 105d [Take out, in a way] ERASE. These feel as though they try a bit too hard: 48a [Rubber production?] GENIE, 126a [A good day to dye] EASTER.
  • These don’t seem quite correct: 3d [Affluent area outside a city] EXURB, 125a [Pacific state] EASE.
  • Only because I typically highlight clue-echoes: 11a/17d [Tot’s cry] MAMA, DADA.
  • Even though it’s the birthday anniversary of Coleman Hawkins, the inclusion of the great 13d [Jazz bassist Charles] MINGUS dictates that I include something relevant to him, so:

Pretty sure we’ll never see ‘JATP’ in a crossword.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Under the Tuscan Pun”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.21.15: "Under the Tuscan Pun"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.21.15: “Under the Tuscan Pun”

Good day, everyone! Hope everyone is doing well, and hope you had some fun with the Italian-related puns thrown at us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. Puns are created using names of places in Italy to replace similar-sounding words in common phrases. Also, all of the phrases happen to relate to food, or where you would eat/order food from.

  • NAPLES SYRUP (18A: [Item served with Italian pancakes?]) – From “maple syrup.”
  • VENICE DESSERT (28A: [Question about the timing of an Italian dinner course?]) – From “When is dessert?”
  • PISA CHOCOLATE (47A: [Selection from an Italian candy box?]) – From “piece of chocolate.”
  • ROME SERVICE (60A: [Food option in an Italian hotel??]) – From “room service.”

Nothing too much stands out, except for the theme, which was OK, yet had that stretch with maple/Naples. (Then again, with all of those entries, you have to stretch your imagination a little to make sense of the puns.) There were a lot of references to Wall Street, though, with DOW (1A: [Opening name of Wall Street]), IPO (14A: [Wall St. opening]) and STOCK all in the grid (37A: [Wall Street purchase]). Being in New York and working near MACY’S, I’ll be getting caught up in the wash of people looking to experience all of the lights and Christmas trimmings that now adorn the exterior of the store many, many times between now and January (4A: [“Miracle on 34th Street” setting]). That’s fun…unless you’re not a fan of closed quarters and having to plow through hordes of people to get to the subway after work.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SAP (69A: [One taken advantage of]) – The SAP Center is the current home of the San Jose Sharks National Hockey League team. After playing their first two seasons at the Cow Palace just outside of San Francisco, the Sharks moved into the newly-built arena in 1993, and has been the home of the Sharks ever since.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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25 Responses to Saturday, November 21, 2015

  1. rm says:

    Today’s NYT themeless was one of my favorites in recent memory! I would love to see more hip hop in crosswords. That elevated it to a 5* for me.

  2. Boston Bob says:

    RPG and Guapos was a difficult crossing.

  3. Very nice puzzle by Natan Last. Interesting that both Amy’s writeup and a corresponding one by Jeff Chen over at referred obliquely to “The Notorious R.B.G.” — making this news even more poignant:

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    They say you know you’re getting old when the cops start to look young. Well, you know you’re getting really old when the NYT crossword starts to play young. Loved it. Now to check on my 401(k).

  5. David L says:

    The Stumper was tough this week, with some real obscurities. The LUIS at 23A turns out to be part of San Luis Obispo (aka the Natick of the West). Good thing I knew that spelling of AMPOULE.

    I didn’t think the PENTAGONPAPERS were obscure. Depends on one’s age, I guess.

    I wanted YOUANDWHOSEARMY, except it doesn’t fit. YOUANDWHATARMY doesn’t sound so familiar to me, although both phrases google well.

    In addition to the clue for FOXBORO seeming to be incorrect, I also think ARS for “Casualty departments, in the UK” is wrong. The British equivalent to a hospital’s ER is A&E, for accident and emergency. Is AR meant to stand for ‘accident room’? That’s not a phrase I’ve ever heard of.

    • john farmer says:

      I agree, and I disagree. The Pentagon Papers weren’t obscure, but whether you think so does not depend on your age. With all due respect to Derek, a smart guy however old he is, his comment “This is also verrrry obscure” does give me doubts about the next generation. Celebrities from 1971 can be obscure. But historic events like the publication of the papers, their contents, and the Supreme Court case, are simply “things you ought to know” whether or not you were alive in 1971. Is all that relevant today? You bet. How do you understand the case of Edward Snowden without knowing the historical context. I’m glad crosswords are adapting for younger solvers, but the idea that things don’t matter if they happened before you were born is bogus.

      (Not to mention, the crossword audience is a lot broader than just millennials and Xers.)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        One could argue that “1971 Time magazine cover subject” is a rather broad clue, given that it could have up to 52 valid answers! There’s no hint in the clue that the “subject” is a thing rather than a person.

        • john farmer says:

          I took Derek’s comment to mean the answer was obscure, not the clue was vague, but he may have meant it the other way around.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, John. But all history fades eventually, I suppose, and what remains in general knowledge is somewhat random. I would think Pentagon Papers would make the cut, but maybe not.

        And I now see I had the wrong answer at ERS so my comment about A&E is misplaced…

  6. Karen says:

    Will someone please explain why “all here” is answer to “attendant to a man”?

    I am pretty sure I am going to feel silly when I see the explanation!

  7. golfballman says:

    @Karen a better clue would be attending, to a man=all here. My ?34a 35a should be kurt godel. Crappy cluing with 30a.

  8. sbmanion says:

    Fun puzzle. NOTORIOUS was an excellent biopic of the life of Biggie and his feud with Tupac. It was sad that perhaps the two greatest rappers died so young.

    It was nice to see a puzzle constructed by a young person had a young vibe. I wonder how are constructor knew ROSIE’S BAR, which I had forgotten about despite seeing the movie and most of the television series.


  9. Bob says:

    LAT: I agree -fun, clever defs., no theme (nice for a change), used computer help only three times. A themeless transition to enjoyment.

  10. Slow guy says:

    Stumper – 75% tough but fair stumper, 25% impossible NE for me. 90 min. including a bit of research into the Hals city (I decided, while watching the ATP Finals with all those European players and stuff, to peruse a northern Europe map for fun, but didn’t google Hals).

    I thought [brilliant display]=RIOT was worse than a stretch.
    I thought the word ‘scene’ had no place in the clue for METEORS. I’m fine with the mis-direction, but it needs to be more [they’re seen in showers]. Nobody describes the scene of a meteor shower, ever.
    OLIVIER got me out of that mess, eventually.
    [pitcher’s success]=ORDER was nice.
    SPANDEX clue was nice.
    YOUANDWHATARMY was a cool entry (@DavidL, this is more familiar to my ears than ‘whose’ — don’t think it’s a generational thing)
    Also re: the above comments, I had PentagonPapers with just a few crosses, and chuckled at Derek’s comment (hah, he knows YOJIMBO like it’s normal knowledge, but not this!), then again on CHIRR since it was a quick entry for me on seeing ‘cicada’. You never know what seems like an ‘easy association’ until you put it in a crossword, eh?
    Finally, [take more than seconds]=OVEREAT was fantastic.
    Meh, some dubious stuff in this one, but not all bad.
    Oh, and pps, ALA = Alabama? yuck. (I’m withholding comment on San Luis Obispo being used for anything)

    • pannonica says:

      On the contrary, I really liked the [Brilliant display] clue for RIOT, evoking as it does the linking ‘color’ (viz ‘brilliant [display of] colors’ and ‘a riot of color’).

      • Slow guy says:

        The closest I can think of is a peacock’s plumage. That’s indeed a brilliant display in my mind. Riot of color means nothing to me. I’ll keep trying.

  11. Joe Pancake says:

    Re: NYT and LAT

    I think my bar for themeless puzzles might be too high. Now I expect great fill with basically no gunk in every puzzle. NYT definitely delivered on the former (loved the triple stack in the middle), but ESNE is damn close to a deal-breaker for me. Also could do without the bevy of short junk (e.g., RPG and SBA).

    I found the LAT “meh.” None of the long answers did much for me (TOASTMISTRESSES is especially weak) and ERISA is bad crutch fill. I did, however, like seeing Kurt GODEL make an appearance.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ve seen a rework of the northeast section that gets rid of ESNE. The rest of the fill wasn’t an improvement on Natan’s, but ESNE is indeed a deal-breaker for a lot of solvers (or constructors, or editors).

      • janie says:

        for me, [A slave to crosswords?] saved it. how was i gonna get OBSESSED BY ‘EM to fit?…….

        *terrific* puzz!


  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Why and when are yoga pants put on a stretcher? What does that mean? “Stretcher” in what sense? You stretch your body when you do yoga, but I don’t see the connection. I guess you have to wear something when you do yoga, but are there such things as “yoga pants?” Is that an actual expression?

    • pannonica says:

      Indubitably. It even featured in one of the clues of today’s WSJ. (34a)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “Stretcher” to mean “a person who is stretching” is one of those annoyances like “flower” to mean “a thing that flows, like a river.”

      There was actually a YOGA PANTS scandal a couple years ago—activewear seller Lululemon sold some yoga pants that turned out to be sheer around the buttcrack zone.

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    My earlier comment *is* there. I overlooked it. I apologize for the duplicate, and have requested its deletion.

Comments are closed.