Saturday, November 28, 2015

NYT 5:14 (Amy) 


LAT 6:22 (Derek) 


CS 7:55 (Ade) 


Newsday 37:10 (Derek) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NYT 112815Writing here in Wisconsin, I picked up a definite Cheesehead vibe in this puzzle. There’s 1a: SCHLITZ, although it’s crying out for a “beer that made Milwaukee famous” clue rather than this weird “Just the kiss of the hops” clue that did not resonate at all for my WI-raised husband. (Wikipedia gives the two most famous Schlitz slogans. That hops one ain’t one of them.) Heading south from Milwaukee, you get KENOSHA, clued as the [Fourth-largest city on Lake Michigan]. Hmmm. Chicago, then Milwaukee … not sure if #3 is Gary, Grand Rapids, or something else.

–Wisconsin puzzle interlude concludes–

Seven things:

  • 48a. [Powerful board member], QUEEN. Took me a while to realize this was about chess.
  • 59a. Is NBA LOGO an “inn the language” thing, or is it just a couple words you can put together? CBS LOGO and CITIBANK LOGO would be terrible fill, right? I don’t think this one passes the smell test.
  • 57a. Is “VOTER ID” what a poll worker requests, or are they asking for a driver’s license, state ID, or passport? Not convinced that VOTER ID is a thing outside of the “voter ID law” frame.
  • 13d. [Cousins of capybaras], AGOUTIS. I’m reserving judgment till I hear whether pannonica supports the clue.
  • 34d. [Ironman?], SMELTER. Is SMELTER an actual job, or more a word for the equipment in which metal is smelted? Also, the “man” in the clue, meh.
  • 42d. [Often-bracketed direction], SEE NOTE. I wanted “see also.” Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just include a footnote number or symbol than to clutter the text with SEE NOTE notes?
  • 55d. GARO Yepremian, ha! I remembered the name, somehow, but I suspect that many solvers were second-guessing all four of those letters and double-checking the crossings.


3.6 stars from me. Good night!

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 112815I really should solve more on my PC! Solving times seem to be a tad better. Easier keyboard to type on? Comfy chair? Upright solving position? Music playing?? All of the above? I don’t know. Maybe it was just an easier Saturday puzzle? Nice puzzle by another constructor I am not as familiar with, but that’s OK, because I seemed to be on the same wavelength as Greg Johnson for this particular puzzle. I have the word count at 70 words, since I finally realized I DO have a copy of Compiler on this PC! I believe 70 is at the upper end of a wide-open themeless, but this puzzle has, once again, in true LAT fashion, high quality fill. As long as you are somewhat comfy with a little French and Italian!

Just a few notes on the puzzle:

  • 20A [Homework initials?] DIY – Isn’t there still a DIY channel? I used to watch it all the time. I’ll have to go search for it…
  • 22A [Top dog]  NUMERO UNO – I tried NUMBER ONE at first, and that wasn’t fitting! Nice clue, since this is a common phrase even in English.
  • 44A [Iowa campus] COE – I immediately filled in ISU, but then realized there is no indication of an abbreviation here. Coe College is in Cedar Rapids, IA. The University of Iowa football team is in sports news these days!
  • 58A [Spanish-style home decor] TERRA COTTA TILES – Nice entry. And a seemingly new one. I get no NYT hits at Bravo!
  • 2D [“Out ___?”] OR IN – This entry only has four Shortz era entries. Surprised I don’t see this more.
  • 7D [Like the Spaceship Earth sphere] GEODESIC – This word basically means part of a sphere, and the Spaceship Earth sphere at Epcot is made up of a bunch of little triangles. Not an everyday word, but good here.Spaceship Earth
  • 27D [Gymnast Strug] KERRI – She hasn’t vaulted in quite a few years, now, but she is another crossword immortal!
  • 31D [Firenze friends] AMICI – I quickly wrote in AMIES without realizing this wanted the Italian word for friends!
  • 55D [Téléphone greeting] ALLO – Now THIS is French!

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

imageYes, that time is correct: 37:10! At Stan’s own website, he says the pseudonym Anna Stiga is for “easier” Stumper puzzles. Well, maybe it’s because I was up WAAAY too late last night, but my personal opinion is this was one of the nastiest Stumpers I have seen in a good while. Usually the ugly times for a Wilber or Longo are still just around the 30 minute mark. Pushing 40 minutes for me is rare. I say that not to brag, but usually after staring at the puzzle that long, something eventually seems to fall. In this puzzle, sometimes I was still stuck in an area with only one or two squares left to fill!

Here is how the puzzle went in a nutshell: 1-Across [“Bridge of Spies” star]: Oh, I know that! It’s TOM HANKS! Oh, wait, nothing crosses with that … turns out the correct answer is actually ALAN ALDA. (I have not seen the movie yet, though I hear it is quite good.) Another movie reference traversed this puzzle right in the middle: 33A [Lead role in a 2015 blockbuster film] ANASTASIA STEELE. (I have not seen this movie, either, but I hear it is quite awful, so I have no plans to!)

It is challenging going down blind alleys in these hard puzzles. I knew that 16A [Annual short story award] was likely O. HENRY, and I knew that 57A [First appearance of Sid the sloth] had to be ICE AGE, but with erroneous entries near these, I hesitated to put them in, and it turns out they were right all the time. Lesson to learn? Trust your instincts in these cases!

Peter PanNo list of comments for this one, but I will show a picture of 15A [Kensington Gardens statue] PETER PAN. I had PETE???? for the longest time, and I thought it was a famous PETE going here! Unless you’re from this area, how would you know there is a statue of Peter Pan in a park?? I will chalk this up as a learning experience and file it away in my trivia banks!

Having said all this, this Saturday morning was a glorious case of joyful agony, the oxymoron I use to describe my Saturday morning solving mood! This puzzle was HARD, but still solvable. Next Saturday, I will get my cup of coffee FIRST! 4.4 stars for a great solving experience, “Anna!”

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Black-and-White Cruisers”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.28.15: "Black-and-White Cruisers"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.28.15: “Black-and-White Cruisers”

Good afternoon, everybody! We have some marine life swimming around in today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen. In the grid, each of the four theme answers is a multiple-word entry in which the letters ORCA appear consecutively in it, spanning two words. 

  • INDOOR CAT (18A: [Cooped-up feline])
  • WINDSOR CASTLE (28A: [Royal residence along the Thames])
  • LIQUOR CABINET (44A: [Where spirits might be located])
  • PARLOR CAR (57A: [Upscale train option])

Lots of strong fill, and the one entry that took out to me was DIONYSUS, particularly because one of my friends had a co-worker named Dionysus and used to talk about him a lot (9D: [Greek god of wine]). Almost every time she talked about him, I asked her, “His given name is Dionysus?” The grid wasn’t Greek to me, but there’s another reference to another ancient Greek, PLUTARCH (39D: [Greek biographer whose work influenced Shakespeare]). More of the lively fill came from entries like BLEED DRY (4D: [Take and take and take from]) and NUT ALLERGY, something that I, thankfully, do not have to worry about (30D: [Reason to stay away from filberts]). Always feel empathy for those who have food allergies, especially since my oldest brother has a real bad allergy to shellfish. I’m glad that, in all my years of school, that I never got a SEE ME note on an exam (20A: [Note accompanying an F, maybe]). That doesn’t mean I passed every test that I ever took, however!! And there’s that pesky, somewhat unsightly YES’M that creeps into a grid every now and then (49A: [Polite affirmative from a ranch hand]).  

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: JUMBO (1A: [Mammoth]) – Former NFL offensive lineman John “JUMBO” Elliott played as left tackle and spent all of his professional career (1989-2002) playing for either the New York Giants or New York Jets. Elliott was a member of the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning team of 1990. Elliott is probably most remembered for his game-tying touchdown catch (a rarity for an offensive lineman) late in the fourth quarter in a 2000 Monday Night Football game against the Miami Dolphins, a game in which the Jets came back from a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit to win in overtime, 40-37.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Putting In a Little Time” — pannonica’s brief write-up

WSJ • 11/28/15 • "Putting In a Little Time" • Sat • Arbesfeld • solution

WSJ • 11/28/15 • “Putting In a Little Time” • Sat • Arbesfeld • solution

Been a busy day, put in a lot of time engaged in other obligations. Aptly, I’ll heed this crossword’s title. At least in spirit, since I’ve no intention of liberally inserting the letters MIN (short for ‘minute’) into this write-up.

  • 23a. [Pull out a grade in the low 80s?] CATCH THE B-MINUS (catch the bus).
  • 32a. [Graduate course in Neverland?] PAN SEMINAR (pan-sear).
  • 45a. [Result of reducing the young homeless population?] RUNNING OUT OF GAMINS (running out of gas).
  • 66a. [Toilet tissue for cold climates?] ARCTIC CHARMIN (arctic char).
  • 78a. [Moniker for a big lemon?] MINIVAN THE TERRIBLE (Ivan the Terrible).
  • 97a. [Only one fur coat per week, say?] MINK RATION (K-Ration).
  • 108a. [Kept crime boss Persico in check?] MANAGED CARMINE (managed care).

Uneven quality among these themers, in clue and in pun. My favorite is definitely MINIVAN THE TERRIBLE and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the seed entry.

See also 31a [Little time] MOMENT.

Even as the theme wasn’t particularly exciting, I encountered great clue after great clue. Let’s have a sample:

  • 17d [Reverend known for “bird watching”] SPOONER. That’s ‘word-botching’.
  • 41a. [decreases?] IRONS.
  • 59a. [Keep house?] CASTLE.
  • 102a. [Hearing aide: Abbr.] ATT.
  • 106a. [Verb that’s an anagram of itself] STIFLE.
  • 8d [Showing strenth in the face of pressure] UNBENT.

More strained are:

  • 1a [They have all the anthers] STAMENS.
  • 26a [Piles on the floor] RUGS.
  • 65a [Male delivery] SON.
  • 103a [Instrument for a lei person] UKE.
  • 9d [Club member?] TOMATO.
  • 67d [Grant for making movies?] HUGH.
  • 94d [Child labor] RECIPE.
  • 98d [Stick in school] RULER.

Recap: Overall the fill was clean and the clues were good, but the theme isn’t particularly galvanizing.

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23 Responses to Saturday, November 28, 2015

  1. sbmanion says:

    For what it’s worth, if you Google “the Logo,” the first several entries will be pictures of Jerry West and a discussion of how the NBA LOGO came to be. West is known as “the Logo,” so I see it as more in the language than most, if not all, other logos.

    I was on the right wavelength today and yesterday. GARO, of the famous muffed pass in the undefeated Dolphins’ season, was my first entry and AGOUTIS was another gimme as I frequently play animal hangman with my children and that was a recent answer.

    I am pretty sure Green Bay is number 3.


    • huda says:

      NYT: GARO was not exactly at the tip of my tongue, but AGOUTI was for odd reasons.

      There is an Agouti molecule that controls skin and fur color, and a related brain peptide that controls appetite, increasing it and contributing to obesity. It’s actually remarkable that several genes that relate to skin/fur color have evolved functions also related to feeding (e.g. Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormone which functions in brain to inhibit appetite).
      This completes the neuropeptide lesson for today…

      Nice puzzle!

  2. David L says:

    Good puzzle, lots of unusual and interesting words. NBALOGO didn’t bother me, as it’s such a widely known image, but I agree that VOTERID isn’t something you’re likely to be asked for, at least not in those words. Last time I voted, I think I was asked for ‘photo ID,’ that being the law in Virginia ANYMORE, I mean these days. That meaning of ‘anymore’ always reminds me of the upper midwest, which is where I first came across it.

    I don’t understand TRUNK = ‘jack holder,’ and although I got HELIPAD easily enough, I don’t see how ‘special touchdown point?’ relates specifically to it.

    • sbmanion says:

      The jack refers to the jack you use when you have a flat tire.


    • Papa John says:

      The law requires a VOTERID in the form of a photo ID, birth certificate or any other form of ID. A voter ID is certainly a thing, although a poll worker may request it in any of those other forms.

  3. Derek Allen says:

    I added a screenshot of the puzzle. Fourth largest city on Lake Michigan is Green Bay. Google knows all! I had a minor gripe with clue for 41D being [Called] and entry at 17A being CALLS UP. I suppose that is only a minor gripe, though. Favorite part was 60D [John] for LAV and 36A [John, abroad] for IAN! I had LOO in both of those spots at one time or another!

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    The LAT was very good. Great flow through all the sections and the only unfamiliar entry was JADEITES, but that was easily inferable. Whoever is continually rating hard puzzles at 1 (and this one was actually quite mild for a Saturday,) please stop doing that. It isn’t fair to the constructor who’s put a lot of work into making a fine puzzle. If you don’t enjoy tough puzzles, a far more sensible method of relieving frustration would be to stop doing them.

    • Papa John says:

      Paul, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. With no specific criteria to follow when voting for a puzzle on this site a simple “like” or “don’t like” vote is certainly as viable as how much time or effort a constructor may or may not have put into it.

      You assume the voter rated the puzzle solely on its degree of difficulty, which you seem confused about. Is it “hard”, “tough” or “quite mild”?

  5. David L says:

    I agree that the Stumper was very hard — I got the middle and the NW and SE, but after struggling forever with only a few inroads in the other sections, I eventually gave up. I resorted to googling for the ‘all american prep’ brand at 10D, and nothing related to CHAPS came up.

    AGITA as a slang term for upset stomach is new to me. MIST as ‘metaphor for the past’? Well, the mists of time might be a metaphor for the past, but not mist on its own. I had no idea that Sasha Obama’s full name is NATASHA. PRENATAL as a yoga ‘specialty’? Etc etc. Too many unknown/obscure things for me.

    • Slow guy says:

      My new record for latest post on the Stumper. Didn’t pick it up until Monday because busy. Fine Stumper. With the “chokepoints” if you will, it was like 5 individual mini-stumpers. SW/SE easiest, Central next, NW only after “ATSIGN” wafted in from the heavens, and the truly tough NE only after checking that HERO/POUND/OHENRY were correct, otherwise I was stuck there. You don’t usually see that kind of isolation in Stumpers. About 1.75 hours here. Fine cluing for ‘armchair’ and ‘assisted’.

  6. animalheart says:

    Amy, you’re a tough critic! I found the NYT puzzle about as free of junk fill as a puzzle can be. I was detained by having BUDLITE instead of SCHLITZ for a while. (Hey, the LIT worked!) NBALOGO and VOTERID bothered me not at all (though I had PHOTOID for the latter for a time). AGOUTIS seem like dead-ringers for capybaras. SEENOTE seems perfectly legitimate to me. And from Merriam-Webster: “Full Definition of SMELTER. : one that smelts: a : a worker who smelts ore. b : an owner or operator of a smeltery. c or smelt·ery \-t(ə-)rē\ : an establishment for smelting.” 5 Stars.

  7. Paul Coulter says:

    The Newsday was also a very good themeless. This one was very difficult, but eminently fair. I like these even better than the relatively mild sort, and I gave it a 5.

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    Enjoyed the NYT more than Amy did – I was fine with VOTERID. The laws requiring them to ask are voter ID laws, after all. I was also fine with NBALOGO for the reason Steve cites – I am not even a casual NBA fan and I still know that’s Jerry West.

    I found the Stumper to be on the manageable side – way more manageable than I expected after the first pass. I also fell for the TOMHANKS gimme-that-wasn’t at 1A. As usual with the Stumpers, the difficulty comes in large part from the tangential relationship between some of the clues and answers. I guess the conventions are different for this particular puzzle. I did learn one thing. I didn’t know the Ancient Greeks used ROUGE. And why are GMAT scorers RATERS? Is the GMAT different from other tests? Anyone? Steve?

    • sbmanion says:

      Hi Jenni,

      I just saw your comment. I have not tutored anyone for the GMAT for two or three years. The format changed and is now a computerized (as opposed to bubble in) test. The GMAT has an essay and it is graded by a human and a computer program called an E-Rater. If they are within a point of each other, the score is averaged. If they differ by more than a point, a second human is brought in.

      I do not know of any other usage for RATER, but as I noted, I haven’t tutored anyone for the GMAT for a few years.


  9. Bob says:

    To answer Derek’s question for the LAT: No, I’m NOT comfy with Italian, French, Tagalog, Persian – or any foreign language in an American puzzle. And give me a break: SOFALEG? just plain dumb.

  10. Zulema says:

    Despite SOFALEG, I enjoyed the LAT puzzle very much. The NYT stumped me in a few places but it worked out also. Both puzzles I thought were excellent.

  11. steveo says:

    Running a bit late this weekend…

    I’m surprised that no one had anything to say about the AIMEE/AMISTAD crossing. Pretty sure those are from the same Latin root, which seems awkward, at best, to me.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Oh, we make an exception when it comes to all names and words that are cognates of Amy.

  13. steveo says:

    Haha. Okay, then. ;)

  14. pannonica says:

    Sorry. didn’t realize I’d been paged to the AGOUTI counter. Calling them cousins to capybaras seems fine to me. Rodents are typically divided into a few large suborders, and both agoutis and capybaras are members of the New World hystricognaths (which also includes porcupines, chinchillas, and guinea pigs). However, I disagree with animalheart‘s suggestion that the two are ‘dead-ringers’ for each other. Even putting aside the ridiculous size difference, the dozen or so species of agouti are easily distinguished from capybaras with anything beyond a cursory glance.

    • pannonica says:

      *Want to clarify that there are of course Old World porcupines, which are in the same suborder of rodents as the grouping mentioned above. I just didn’t want to get scary with parvorders and the like.

  15. Ben Bass says:

    +1 to your thoughts on the Newsday Saturday Stumper. Like you I was up too late the night before and then found this puzzle atypically hard. There was just about no entry point and I stared at the grid for minutes on end before getting anything going. Eventually I broke through and got a corner finished, then saw that success metastasize. Finished in 38:23.

    33 Across [Lead role in a 2015 blockbuster film] was a 15. I had ANA_________ but knew the answer couldn’t be ANAKIN SKYWALKER. :)

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