Tuesday, December 8, 2015

BuzzFeed 4:34 (Ben) 


CS 7:34 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:46 (Derek) 


LAT 3:23 (Derek) 


NYT 3:32 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:04 (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Neville Fogarty’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 15, no 1208

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 15, no 1208

Theme is BREAKFAST, and the word FAST is “broken” by intervening letters in the phrases FAIRY DUST, FAMILY CREST, FATHER KNOWS BEST, and FALSE ARREST. Pretty straightforward … and yet my first thought is that the theme entries split FAT. How about a CHEW THE FAT theme where … never mind.

Love the color pair of BLUE STATE and RED-SHIRTS, along with SEX TAPES and IDEE FIXE. I use XOXO plenty, but never as [Love letter letters], just in notes to friends and family. And Neville! Thank you for NET WT., instead of the godawful NT WT that too many crosswords keep insisting is a legit abbreviation on food packages.

Favorite clue: 35d. [Who “knows what it’s like to be the bad man,” according to a 1971 hit by the Who], NO ONE.

Surprised to see these in a Tuesday puzzle: IROC, ABE clued as [2000s Japanese P.M.], maybe LIEGE, and HESS. Surprised to see in any crossword: DARER. Have you ever used that word in actual conversation or writing?

3.9 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Two-Way Streets” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.30.46 PMThis week’s Jonesin’ crossword delves into the world of palindromes. I remember years ago at Stamford there was a “palindromist,” which I believe is a term, who had just written a book of palindromes. (His web site is here.) I came away from that all those years ago that writing palindromes are not easy. To make three funny ones, all 15 letters in length, in a crossword is equally hard. Kudos to Matt this week for an ambitious grid. 4.3 stars from me!

Here are the thematic palindromes:

  • 20A [Tribal carving depicting the audience for a kids’ show street?] TOTEM A SESAME TOT
  • 35A [“Look out, bad generic street, my show’s on the air!”] EVIL MAIN, I AM LIVE!
  • 48A [Financial street represents a smell-related statute?] WALL AS A NASAL LAW

Sure, a bit contrived, but did you notice as well that all of the clues/entries had a “street” theme? There are references to Sesame Street, Main Street, and Wall Street. So adding that constraint also raises the bar in my eyes. Very nicely done!

A few notes:

    • 5A [DJ Kool ___ (hip-hop pioneer born Clive Campbell)] HERC – OK, I looked him up, and I have NEVER heard of this dude. There was just an Unsung marathon on TVOne over the Thanksgiving holiday; maybe they had one on him!
    • 19A [Adult insect stage] IMAGO – I was raised with the egg-larva-pupae-adult progression. I always forget about this word.
    • 38A [Lindsay Lohan’s mom] DINA – I am ashamed I know this almost immediately…
    • 59A [Mozart’s “___ Alla Turca”] RONDO – I played this when I took piano lessons many moons ago! Not like this, though:

    • 2D [“The Flintstones” pet] DINO – A DINA and a DINO in the same grid! Actually, this is quite OK. Just similar names is all.
    • 8D [School excursion with a bus ride, perhaps] CLASS TRIP – I had FIELD TRIP written in there immediately. Must be Midwest jargon around here; we never took a “class trip.”
    • 9D [Oscar the Grouch’s worm friend] SLIMEY – I consider myself a Muppets aficionado, and I don’t remember Slimey!
    • 12D [“Diary of a Madman” writer Nikolai] GOGOL – He was mentioned in Jeopardy! on Monday night, and I remember thinking then, “Who??” I need to brush up on my Russian literature…
    • 33D [“Skinny Love” band Bon ___] IVER – A crossword-friendly band name, but I have never heard this song, despite the over 100 million listens on Spotify! Here is the tune:

  • 52D [Chicken] WUSS – I have been called this too many times…!

Until next week!

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 120815Ed Sessa has an interesting theme this Tuesday. The central entry at 40-Across explains everything:

  • 40A [Artist Moses … and, when divided into three parts, a hint to the answers to starred clues] GRANDMA, or GR AND MA

So our themed answers, the ones with the starred clues, are all two word phrases where the first word starts with GR and the second with MA. Very clever, yet simple enough for a Tuesday. Here are the four theme entries:

  • 21A [“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member” speaker] GROUCHO MARX – He was ahead of his time. Can you imagine him on Twitter??
  • 54A [Score-settling competition] GRUDGE MATCH
  • 3D [2005 documentary about a bear enthusiast] GRIZZLY MAN
  • 32D [Brains, figuratively] GRAY MATTER

Nice and neat. I am not familiar with the documentary Grizzly Man, but imdb.com has it in there. I am imagining the constructor needing one more GR?? MA?? answer and Googling to get this one! The clue makes it easy enough to infer what the answer is. And no, it is NOT on Netflix, unless you still get DVDs in the mail!

I will rate this a solid 4 stars. Theme is solid, and the grid is filled well. A few faves:

  • 31A [Keyed into the register] RANG UP – This phrase eluded me for a bit. With new ways to pay now, does anyone use this phrase still? I suppose they do, as I think about it…
  • 42A [N. C. State’s conference] ACC – The Atlantic Coast Conference has a team in the college football playoff (Clemson), and contains Notre Dame for most sports, except notably football and hockey. Yes, I am a Notre Dame hater. So much so, that I will even be rooting for the also hated Buckeyes, who play ND on New Year’s Day!
  • 71A [Central Park’s 843] ACRES – I thought this might me referring to it’s area code! Only got this with crossing entries. Nice clue.

That’s all for today. Posts will be brief during hectic December season!

Steven L. Zisser’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Few Choice Words” — Jim’s review

We have another debut today. Steven Zisser is here giving us a few options. Let’s look at our choices.

WSJ - Tue, Dec 8, 2015 - A Few Choice Words

WSJ – Tue, Dec 8, 2015 – A Few Choice Words

  • 20A [Choice at the cash register] CREDIT OR DEBIT. I wanted PAPER OR PLASTIC.
  • 29A [Choice at the checkout counter] PAPER OR PLASTIC. Oh, there it is.
  • 46A [Choice at the haberdasher] BOXERS OR BRIEFS
  • 56A [Choice at the candy counter] PLAIN OR PEANUT

I found a couple instances of this theme on cruciverb from 2005 and 1994. Both cases were from the NYT and both included PAPER OR PLASTIC. Other options included REGULAR OR DECAF, WINDOW OR AISLE, FOR HERE OR TO GO.

BOXERS OR BRIEFS seems very male-centric, but I suppose doesn’t have to be. Women seem to have a lot more choices when it comes to underwear types. For men, there is a third option.

PLAIN OR PEANUT. Is this a thing anymore? This may refer strictly to M&Ms, but I don’t think it’s nearly as common a question as the others. And even M&Ms have so many other options these days. Nice to have BABY RUTH (best entry in the grid) crossing PLAIN OR PEANUT, but I don’t believe that it comes in a non-PEANUT version.

There is more than the usual sub-par fill in this grid. Notice that the first and last themers are 13 letters in length. This means they can’t go in rows 3 and 13 or else we’d have two 2-letter Downs in the NE and SW each. This means all the themers are packed closer together. And this means we get a lot of crosswordese and difficult entries.

And there are some truly tough entries, especially for early in the week. Hardest of all is UAR (25A [Former Syr.-Egypt alliance]). The United Arab Republic lasted from ’58-’61. Yikes. Runner-up is SEINES (47D [Fishing nets]). Other clunkers are TRY A, ON AT, and plurals TERIS and STETS.

The whole puzzle actually skews to the older crowd. There’s IRINA Rodnina (33A) who won gold in the 70s. The clue for PIECE (30D [Roscoe]) was unfathomable to me, but I guess it’s slang for gun from the early 20th century. Jack WEBB appears at 35D, MIMEOED at 45D, and Mr. Magoo appears in the clue for SQUINT (50D). We even get OLDIE at 63A with the clue [Song from the Spinners, say]. This is a grid that could have been made 20 years ago (and basically was) with the possible exception of NEXT PAGE (37D [E-reader function]) which isn’t a very strong entry anyway. A few of the clues acknowledge that it’s currently the 21st century, but mostly this is a puzzle for the retiree demographic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

On top of all this, the puzzle appears to be a pangram for no other reason than just ‘cuz, thanks in part to the Z in the NE and the J in OJAI in the SW. The Z is handled well with ZITI and ZERO, but OJAI really is crutch fill and is not relevant to 99% of solvers. Its purpose in the grid is to supply a J so that the grid can be a pangram.

There are some nice touches in the grid like ONE-ON-ONE and ECSTATIC. I like STRIKER but not with its clue [He’s just not working]. A STRIKER is a soccer position — another term for a forward. And I actually like the SE corner with some zingier clues like 49D‘s [He’s a keeper, according to an adage] for FINDER and 54A‘s [Brightness measures: Abbr.] for IQS. 69A‘s [They sometimes shoot the bull] for DARTS seems a little iffy on the cuteness scale. It’s a bullseye they’re aiming for, not the actual bull.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 236), “World Peace Word Ladder”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 12/8 (No. 236)

Crossword Nation 12/8 (No. 236)

Oh, gentle readers. If only it were really this direct, this uncomplicated. Today’s word ladder puzzle takes us from HATE to LOVE in five easy steps. The first and the last are superb, tone-setting grid-spanners; the phrases in between, succinct and strong, too.

  • 16A. *HATERS GONNA HATE [Catchphrase that dismisses one’s critics]. More truth than poetry…
  • 22A. *MUST HAVE [Absolute necessity, perhaps]. Probably not everything on your holiday wish-list…
  • 35A. *IN THE HIVE [2012 Viveca A. Fox film]. Completely new to me. Impressive as her credit list is, of more interest to me is director Robert Townsend and co-star Michael Clarke Dunham…
  • 51A. *”WE’RE LIVE…” [Anchor’s opening during breaking news].
  • 57A. *”EVERLASTING LOVE” [1995 Gloria Estefan song…and the final part of today’s word ladder (see answers to starred clues)]. A song that can be heard in the current B’way jukebox musical On Your Feet. Not convinced we needed the key to deciphering the word ladder spelled out quite so patently—with both the asterisks and the verbal instruction in the clue—but lemme keep the big picture at the fore: the message is the beauty part here. Another “beauty part” is the way all of the ladder words fall at the end of the theme phrases.

So much more here managed to more than SATISFY [Hit the spot]. There’s OATMEAL and the appropriately terse (kinda rhyme-y) “NO DEAL!” (for [“I won’t agree to that!”]), ICE RINK and WAIT OUT (clued with [Let pass, as a storm], for which I initially entered WEATHER..), the lovely ARCANA and the [Mythical weaver] ARACHNE. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was pretty much a perfectly dreadful piece of musical theatre, but at the time I saw it (and I’m fairly sure this was later cut) the opening of the show was hypnotically spectacular, with ARACHNE demonstrating her weaving prowess left and right and back again—top to bottom— all across the stage proscenium. It was quite fabulous to see and it set the bar very high for the remainder of the show (imho…). Very little of what followed landed as well (imho…). All of which is the long way of saying that I loved having the memory of that moment jogged by this fill.


One very cute critter at that!

Thumbs-up, too, to PONDER, MUTATES, sci-fi legend Isaac ASIMOV, film legend Martin LANDAU, and ERMINE with its word-playful [Critter in a white coat] clue. Wanted to enter ETHANE for ETHENE (a/k/a ethylene…, but the crossing NSEC wasn’t gonna let me do that. For the record, ethane is also a [Colorless gas]. So that was kinda tricky. Neither did UDO come jumping out at me as a [Miso soup veggie]; I was thinkin’ PEA; and I had a double whammy in that portion of the puzz because I was having trouble remembering/even thinking of HOYT [Baseball Hall-of-Famer Wilhelm] (who played for the Baltimore Orioles, for pity’s sake!). So—colorful fill, tricks, challenges, unknowns (or forgottens-which-come-to-light again)—all of these make for a rewarding kind of solve. And especially when they’re all in service of a well-executed theme like the one we get today.

Finally, I really loved that this puzzle put me in mind not only of the brilliantly chilling book (by Davis Grubb) and similarly gripping film The Night of the Hunter (see below…), but in a puzzle promoting world peace, I took pleasure in recalling humanitarian ALAN [Anti-apartheid author Paton]. If you’ve never read Cry, the Beloved Country or listened to Lost in the Stars, do yourself a favor (imho…).

That and: keep solvin’, all—we’ll do this again next week!


Alex Boisvert’s Buzzfeed crossword, “Are you a hippie? Solve this crossword to find out”—Ben’s review

Buzzfeed 12/08/15

BuzzFeed 12/08/15

After a few weeks of so-so Tuesday puzzles, I liked what today’s BuzzFeed puzzle had going on.  The theme seemed a little more appropriate for Earth Day, and I identify more as an environmentalist than a hippie having solved it, but it was a good time overall:

  • 17A: Group of five players that blow hard on stage until they all finish their piece — WIND QUINTET
  • 30A: Piece of land sometimes connected to the mainland, depending on the time of day — TIDAL ISLAND
  • 49A: Bad place to get punched, if you enjoy breathing  —  SOLAR PLEXUS
  • 65A: Method of growing plants that…look, it’s for weed, all right?  You use this method to grow weed — HYDROPONICS
  • 7D: Smarter long-term alternative to fossil fuels…that could come from the starts to 17A, 30A, 49A, or 65A? — ONE MORE GAME

The big long titles BuzzFeed uses aren’t my favorite (especially since plenty of the content of the site has done away with the buzzy clickbait titles), but I understand that’s how the new media sausage gets made.  This theme seemed a little more appropriate for Earth Day or Arbor Day, but it had some nice theme fill (SOLAR PLEXUS was an instant fill for me since I took karate lessons back in the day, and the clue for HYDROPONICS was very BuzzFeed)

I didn’t find too much in the fill to irk me this week, although I dislike DNA LAB (44A) when I see it in any puzzle, for reasons that don’t quite have a good reason, and I was completely thrown by clue/answer pairing for 19A’s LIT, which means I’m not as hip to the language of the youths today as I thought and may actually be the world’s oldes 27-year-old like I’ve suspected for some time.  Clues/fill I liked:

  • 14A: Mine was boldly titled “A New Definition of the Steenrod Operations in Algebraic Geometry” — THESIS
  • 43A: Shiny inner shell coating that makes pearls: NACRE (a lovely bit of crossword-ese)
  • 32D: “Suburbs” rock band that on occasion features a glockenspiel, xylophone, and hurdy-gurdy — ARCADE FIRE (Their latest album, Reflektor, is pretty good, too)
  • 40D: Vegas landmark with a Mardi Gras motif — HARRAHS (I managed to completely miss the Mardi Gras theme when I visited Harrah’s on a tour of the strip.  I thought it was cigarette smoke themed.)
  • 50D: Place you store food, assuming you live in, like, the mid-1800s — LARDER (I kept trying to make this PANTRY and was prepared to be miffed that BF was telling me a pantry was old-fashioned, but then this turned out to be old-fashioned.)

Clue that sent me down a YouTube wormhole: 4A‘s clue for ANDRE (“Trashy champagne brand that comes in peach and strawberry”) made me think of the Quad City DJ’s “C’mon ‘N Ride It (The Train)”, which I thought mentioned the stuff by name.  As it turns out, it namechecks Alize, not Andre, which is slightly fancier (though just as fruit-flavored).  It is also the one song which may be inappropriate for any possible occasion:

A cute theme and some solid fill made this a nice Tuesday solve.

4/5 stars.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No Bumps”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.08.15: "No Bumps"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.08.15: “No Bumps”

Good day, everybody! Today’s crossword solution, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, definitely is not a flat puzzle, but each of the theme answers are multiple-word entries in which the first words are synonyms. So, I guess you can call this a smooth puzzle, huh?!

  • FLAT FINISH (17A: [Paint classification that’s low of reflectivity])
  • LEVEL-HEADED (30A: [Sensible])
  • STRAIGHT MAN (48A: [Foil for a comic partner])
  • EVEN-HANDED (66A: [Impartial])

I was pretty slow to join the world of social media, at least compared to my peers who signed up much earlier than I, but I know for sure that I’ll never do SNAPCHAT (42D: [Instagram alternative]). I help to teach a class in social media etiquette once a week down in Texas at a football camp to high school students, and some of the stuff we’ve found on their accounts have been, well,…sheesh!! I’ll just leave it at that! Some pretty good fill with the long downs, though I initially typed in “thin sauce” to start instead of CLAM SAUCE (10D: [Linguine topper, perhaps]). Oh, and I have yet to go to a Homecoming at my ALMA MATER, which may make me the worst alum in the history of alumni (36D: [Reunion destination]). Not an alum of NYU, but just walked by the school yesterday and through the picturesque Washington Square Park, where I ended up engaging in a conversation about chess with a couple of people who were looking at the chess games going on in the park (67D: [Washington Sq. campus]). Honestly, all I wanted to do was look inside of the dog park and see all of the awesome breeds of dogs playing around. Yes, I’m at that point in my life where seeing dogs play in the yard for about 20 minutes brings me great joy. Never thought that day would come!!! Sports also brings me great joy, and the entry on the next graph is very special, as well as a case of perfect timing.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ESPY (73A: [Award for Best Jockey, e.g.]) – The ESPY Awards, which stands for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, is an award – and an awards ceremony – that debuted in 1993, a creation of ESPN. This week happens to be Jimmy V Week at ESPN, raising money for cancer research in the name of the late North Carolina State head coach in men’s basketball, Jim Valvano. In the first ESPY Awards event, in 1993, Valvano gave his now world famous speech, just months before be passed away due to cancer. Today also happen to be the Jimmy V Classic, which takes place at Madison Square Garden, where two college basketball games will be played at MSG. (I’ll actually be there tonight.) If you’re not familiar with the speech from the 1993 ESPY Awards, here it is…

See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!

Take care!


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5 Responses to Tuesday, December 8, 2015

  1. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Nice Tuesday puzzle. The 1A:RABBI clue also ties the revealer with the meal following the Yom Kippur fast, which breaks an actual fast (as opposed to the “fast” during the time that you’re asleep and can’t eat anyhow). Though Hanukkah week is a few months late (or quite a few months early) for that . . .

    • lemonade714 says:

      I enjoyed Neville’s Tuesday and continue to be amazed that so few comments after all the work done here to review so many puzzles. Anyway, Hanukkah ( I like the new transliteration) started Sunday sundown, December 6, 2015. Pesach maybe?

  2. anon says:

    WSJ: “69A‘s [They sometimes shoot the bull] for DARTS seems a little iffy on the cuteness scale. It’s a bullseye they’re aiming for, not the actual bull.”

    I took this as a reference to the darts used by banderilleros in bullfighting, so yes the actual bull. Still iffy on the cuteness scale.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Ah, that may well be. I didn’t know they were called DARTS. They look more like spears. But now it’s about animal cruelty which is not on the cuteness scale at all.

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    BZF: Very impressive feat of construction to get a 15-letter, spanning entry to intersect *two* pairs of symmetric theme answers. Unfortunately, this is the type of thing that almost certainly will not be appreciated by the typical solver (I didn’t even notice it until looking at the grid more closely in reading this write-up). Decent puzzle overall.

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