Thursday, December 10, 2015

NYT 8:32 (Amy) 


LAT 4:51 (Gareth) 


CS 14:06 (Ade) 


BEQ 8:18 (Ben) 


WSJ 18:11 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 9:15 (Derek) 


Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 15, no 1210

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 15, no 1210

The theme is STUMBLING BLOCKS, or 36a. [Obstacles seen four times in this puzzle’s completed grid?]. The four single black squares not touching other blocks or the edge of the grid contain verbal “stumbles,” with an ER lurking inside each one and needed to complete the four answers that start or end at the stumbling block. The northwest block has SHOer, NETHer, erOTIC ARTIST, and erNIE BANKS. The northeast, CHATTer, erNES (meh), DINer, and erROL. At the bottom, there’s AMBer, erNST, erASURE, and UTTer, along with GLASS SLIPPer, RINGLEADer, erIE PA (ugh), and erECT.

Slower solving time than usual for me, what with the time I spent circling the key squares (after first circling the wrong end of the ERed words). Not knowing if 22a was CLEANS or CLEARS also got in the way of grasping 23d.

Six things:

  • 32a. [Succession within an ethnic group?], AEIOU. As in An EthnIc grOUp. Clever!
  • 48a. [“Get a room” elicitor, for short], PDA. I much prefer this cluing angle to the one that thinks people are still talking about “personal digital assistants.”
  • 61a. [Poet who won a 1967 Pulitzer for “Live or Die”], ANNE SEXTON. I’m not familiar with her writings, so I Googled my way to a poem from that book. Here’s “Little Girl, My String Bean, My Lovely Woman.”
  • 63a. [Reputation], ODOR. Tough clue for ODOR. I’m almost certain I’ve never used ODOR this way.
  • 68a. [A crucible is a hard one], TEST. Hmm, the dictionary I’m checking suggests that the crucible is a place where a hard test takes place. Thoughts?
  • 3d. [Turkish pooh-bah], PASHA. I am inordinately fond of this word. The EMIRs and SHAHs and AG(H)As do nothing for me, but declare me the pasha of crosswords and I’ll be set for life.

Worst fill: ISM, ESS, erNES, UNA, SLS. And I’ve never seen ULTRAHOT before—is that valid in astronomy circles?

3.9 stars from me.


Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “After Dark” — Jim’s review

Our theme today, courtesy of MLG & JC is: words that can follow BLACK. Further, as 28D tells us, we get phrases that are [Paved over, and what each half of the answers to the starred clues can be], i.e. BLACK TOPPED. Theme entries are two-word phrases where both words can be TOPPED (i.e. preceded) by BLACK, hence the vertical theme arrangement.

Theme answers from left to right:

WSJ - Thu, Dec 10, 2015 - "After Dark"

WSJ – Thu, Dec 10, 2015 – “After Dark”

  • 3D [*Marketing tool] MAILING LIST. Blackmailing, blacklist. I really want the answer to this clue to be DONALD TRUMP. But it would need a ?. Oh well. Next time.
  • 39D [*Head banger?] BEANBALL. Black bean, blackball.
  • 6D [*1990s 3-D picture fad] MAGIC EYE. Black magic, black eye. I couldn’t remember this answer and the ICE embedded within threw me for the longest time. But this entry is perfect. It’s interesting in its own right, and both BLACK phrases are evocative. Lovely choice.
  • 41D [*Motor variety] OUTBOARD. Black out, blackboard.
  • 10D [*What bob-houses often cover] ICE HOLES. Black ice, black holes. This one must have been fun to come up with and to get past the censors.*
  • 28D [Paved over, and what each half of the answers to the starred clues can be] BLACK TOPPED

Some people argue that this theme type is getting past its prime, and it might be. But I don’t mind it as long as there’s a clever revealer. The right revealer lends it extra legitimacy, as today’s does.

With six theme answers taking up most of the real estate, there’s not a lot of room for flashy fill. Still, they manage to sneak in POLI-SCI, OIL SPOT, and best of all FRACTAL.

Better than MAGIC EYE

There was one really unfortunate piece of fill. That is MESAAZ. Actually, it’s MESA AZ (48A [Oakland A’s spring training addr.]). I was never able to parse that correctly until writing this and I looked it up. Yick! It’s only saving grace is that it crosses BEANBALL.

SCRY (42A [Foretell the future by crystal gazing]) is unusual fill, but an interesting word.

I made the solve much tougher on myself by thinking elections were held on Thursdays. Don’t know why that was in my head (thanks for nothing, brain!), but I held onto THUR for 45A [Amer. election day, e.g.] for much too long. Once I got that corrected, everything else fell into place.

A lot of proper names in the grid today. More than usual? OMAHA [1935 Triple Crown winner], IVAN [Catcher Rodriguez], TRINI LOPEZ [With 32-Down, “Lemon Tree” singer], HOBBS [“The Natural” hero Roy], O’MEARA [1998 PGA Player of the Year Mark], LEONI [“Madam Secretary” star], JADA [Will’s wife since 1997], OBAMA [2004 Democratic convention keynoter], CAAN [James of “Elf”] (the only gimme for me though I got JADA before too long).

The name TRINI (24A) LOPEZ (32D) was, I think, stored in one little gray cell on the underside of my prefrontal cortex. (Okay, brain, all is forgiven!)

Cluing was tough all over, as you’d expect on Thursday. I won’t go into them all, but I will point out 12D and 29D using the same clue [Cart tower]. I couldn’t make sense of that clue until after the grid was filled in. Also, 1D [Make one’s own] really screamed for the entry ADOPT. That took a while to fix.

Note that 1A and 14A would probably have gotten cross-referenced clues if this was BuzzFeed.

All in all, good use of the revealer and theme material (and a lot of it!). Fill was very good overall with one glaring exception (MESA AZ). 4 stars from me.

*Proper use of the word ICEHOLES as seen in the film Johnny Dangerously as spoken by the character ROMAN (63A) Moronie:

Sam Trabucco’s BuzzFeed crossword, “You Wouldn’t Get It”—Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.19.56 PMI’ll admit: this one gave me fits for a bit. It’s not too hard, and maybe I’m just tired, but the upper left gave me slight fits. Maybe it’s the mild profanity in that corner? Maybe it’s my total unfamiliarity with Pokemon characters? Or my fuzzy recollection of the movie Clueless? Or all of the above?? Perhaps. The theme DID make me chuckle, though! The theme answers will show you why:

  • 17A [Highest rated] TOP RANKING
  • 25A [Part of a prison-break plan] ESCAPE ROUTE
  • 38A [Barbra Streisand’s brother to Josh Brolin, familially] STEP-UNCLE
  • 54A [The U.S. has the highest of any Western country, thanks Obama!] DRINKING AGE
  • 64A [Humor not meant for everyone … or, what you’ll find hidden in the answers 17-, 25-, 38-, and 54-Across?] INSIDE JOKE

So hidden in the answers are PRANK, CAPER, PUNC (?), and GAG, all synonyms of “joke.” Nicely done. I’m not sure about the word PUNC, but I am far from hip. I remember Ashton Kutcher’s MTV show Punk’D, and I thought that was the meaning that was intended here, but if “punk” is spelled with a C, that is a new one on me. [***Late correction: I guess it’s just PUN!***]

These longer BuzzFeed clues are wreaking havoc on my Across Lite Mac version! I haven’t found the sweet spot with grid/font size so all the clues are readable! I may solve next weeks on my iPad Crosswords app to see how it handles it.

A few notes on this Thursday’s BuzzFeed clues:

    • 20A [Protrusions used to incapacitate poachers, hopefully] TUSKS – This is probably borderline PC; the tusks are what the poachers want. We will see if PETA responds…
    • 53A [Launch when people might stock up: Abbr.] IPO – One of my favorites in the puzzle.
    • 68A [Like the text “Can you please answer my 10 other texts?”] NEEDY – This one is also good. Who doesn’t have THAT texted friend?
    • 9D [“OMG I need that puppy”] TOO CUTE – Um, I do NOT need that puppy. My personal rule: no matter what animal, it has to poop somewhere. The bigger the animal, the worse it is!
    • 10D [Locale for Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E] COMPTON – Let’s not forget MC Ren! I heard this movie was really good; I remember when they first came out in the mid 80s. I may see it once it is on demand. Or Netflix!
    • 36D [Cleaning that’s a real bummer?] ENEMA – I believe this entry, among many others in this puzzle, would almost never appear in a NYT. Sure enough, shows ZERO entries. I believe the thought is nothing “unpleasant” should appear in the grid. I personally don’t think ENEMA is that bad. There are much worse entries, … like 3-Down!
    • 41D [Their version of “Thrift Shop” begins with “Walk into the club like, ‘What up? I got a hit song!”] KIDZ BOP – Great clue! Talk about some annoying albums…
    • 42D [Lima consistently in Forbes’ top 10 highest-earning models … although I can’t help but associate this name with “The Sopranos”] ADRIANA – I have not ever seen The Sopranosbelieve it or not, so I just remember the Kia commercials! Here’s a few of them:

  • 48D [Spectactularly chaotic person, slangily] HOT MESS – Great entry! Surprisingly, this only got ONE hit on!

Slightly irreverent puzzle, but I think that’s the general idea! 3.9 stars.

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.07.53 PMWith a title like “Noel”, I figured there was going to be some sort of trick involving Ls in the puzzle, but as soon as I had one in the grid, I realized it wasn’t going to be my first thought of a completely L-less puzzle.  After starting the downs after a pass through the across clues, the “…don’t stop now”s and “…almost there”s that didn’t make sense in the acrosses started to become clearer:

  • 7D/40A: “No!”  — OVER MY DEAD BODY
  • 9D/26A: “No!” — FAT CHANCE
  • 14D/47A: “No!” — FUHGEDDABOUDIT
  • 28D/50A: “No!” — GUESS AGAIN

(As long as we’re getting in the Christmas spirit, I’m posting one of my favorite modern carols)

A handful of clues that tripped me up this time around:

  •  6A: Deep kneading maneuver — ROLF
  • 6D: You can usually find one under a couch — RUG (I kept trying to think of a three-letter synonym for dust bunny here.  I should probably vacuum my living room.)
  • 30D: Jeter, but not A-Rod, to some fans — TRUE YANKEE (I did not realize the distinction.  In my defense, I grew up with the Minnesota Twins as the home team and never really got into baseball as a result)

I liked how this puzzle messed with my expectations and found a creative way to tie in the end of the year with some interesting grid construction.  Given the constraints, the rest of the fill wasn’t too bad either.

3.75/5 stars

Jerome Gunderson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 151210

LA Times

So I blogged yesterday, but the blog was locked, so I dared not post. I left a message to that effect and moved on…

Anyway, what do we have today? A quarter of SM+ wacky answers. No deeper reason, and not a particularly exciting set: functional. [Airline seating for Mensa members?], (SM)ARTCLASS; [Mickey Rooney and Danny DeVito?], (SM)ALLSTARS; [Overly ingratiating little devils?], (SM)ARMYBRATS; [“Hee-Haw” humor, but just a touch?], (SM)EAROFCORN.

The grid uses a pinwheel arrangement with almost no long non-theme answers. The highlights reel is thus unsurprisingly short: MASALA, the double-B BEBOP/BABYSAT intersection and FATCAT.

I’d like to renew my objection to “IBARS” as an actual word. It’s a very rare variant of the already technical i-beams.

Not a lot to say really.
2.5 Stars


Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Chain Gang”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.10.15: "Chain Gang"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.10.15: “Chain Gang”

Good day, everyone! I hope you’ve been doing very well. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, features multiple-word theme entries in which the first word of each theme also can come after the word “chain.”

  • MAIL ORDER (17A: [Like much of the business generated by print catalogs])
  • LETTER OPENER (28A: [Clichéd weapon in a parlor mystery])
  • REACTION TIME (50A: [Factor in many an collision])
  • SMOKER BOX (66A: [Barbecue accessory that uses wood chips])

There was a short period of time where I would have bad luck with the ROOM KEY I would get during my various hotel stays, as I would put it in the same pocket where I would put my cell phone, pretty much rendering it useless (47D: [Hotel handout that’s usually magnetic or smart-chip these days]). I’m always conscious of where I put those room keys ever since. The grid also treats women with the utmost respect, as both MA’AM (45D: [Polite address for a lady]) and MISS M are featured (53D: [“Divine” moniker for entertainer Bette]). Along those lines, there’s the total opposite of treating women with respect, SEXISM, as well in the grid (43A: [Male chauvinist’s affliction]). Loved the fill of WAR HERO, and that took a little while for that to fall as I tried to remember the men mentioned in its clue (5D: [Audie Murphy or Horatio Nelson]). To boot, today’s “sports…smarter” moment pays homage to one of the more popular BAD GUYS of the squared circle in recent memory (26A: [Western’s black-hat wearers])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LADDS (13D: [Hollywood’s Cheryl, Diane, and Alan]) – Seeing LADDS immediately think about some of the athletes, past and present, with that surname (Ladd) who have played sports, and the most famous one (by far) is former American Football League (AFL) defensive tackle Ernie Ladd – “The Big Cat” if you’re a fan of wrestling (the fake kind of wrestling). Ladd was a four-time AFL All-Star and was a member of the 1963 San Diego Chargers AFL championship team. After his football career, he became one of the more popular wrestlers of his time, mostly being a heel (bad guy). Ladd, who is a member of the San Diego Chargers and World Wrestling Federation Halls of Fame, passed away due to colon cancer in 2007 at age 68.

TGIF tomorrow! See you then!

Take care!


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19 Responses to Thursday, December 10, 2015

    • ArtLvr says:

      Agreed… If you’re bogged down, you aren’t actually in a bog, etc.
      Imagery understood. Tough but fair puzzle!

    • sbmanion says:

      I thought this was a tough puzzle.

      As to CRUCIBLE, I note the definition and I am aware of the video game concept of crucible as a severe test, but I have always thought of crucible as the arena in which the severe test takes place, not the test itself. Live and learn.


    • john farmer says:

      The word crucible has multiple meanings. Per Martin’s link:

      1 : a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat

      You get that sense in the Arthur Miller play; from Act 3 of “The Crucible”:
      “We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment” (Danforth).

      There’s also a crucible in the sense of a severe test for a number of characters, most of all for John Proctor, who must decide whether to testify or go to his death.

      Years later Miller wrote “Why I Wrote ‘The Crucible,’” comparing the panic of Salem in the 1690s with the red scare in America during the 1950s. The Islamophobia of the 2010s shows we haven’t come very far and that the play is forever relevant.

    • pannonica says:

      I like to pronounce it with both Cs as hard Cs.

  1. Tracy B says:

    That Anne Sexton poem is delightful—thanks for the link!

  2. Joe Pancake (a.k.a Benny Lightning) says:

    BZF: I’m pretty sure the embedded joke is PUN, not PUNC. (If this part of the write-up was meant in jest, it sailed over my head completely.)

    I thought this theme was really good — very tight. All recognizable jokes, each spanning both parts of a well-known two-part phrase, with a “a-ha” revealer, it doesn’t get any smoother.

    The fill, on the other hand, could have been better. ETCS should be banned forever; *nobody* pluralizes that abbreviation. STOA is a little bit better, but, in my opinion, it should be reserved for holding together something truly spectacular. In a standard Thursday puzzle, there must be better options. And then the clues for ASH and TAI made RATTATA virtually impossible for a non-Pokemon/non-“Clueless” fan. I had RATTIKA, because that is just as believable for all three entries as the actual answer.

    • Derek Allen says:

      I actually was serious. You’re correct: it should just be PUN! I’m still using fatigue as an excuse…

      I didn’t notice STOA so it didn’t bother me. It IS possible to use ETCS in a sentence, so that doesn’t bother me so much, either. I agree, though, that it isn’t ideal. Often it may come down to the constructor has few other options.

      • Sam Trabucco says:

        In this case, I just really liked putting the fresh TOO CUTE next to the topical COMPTON, and felt it was worth ETCS to do so over other options :)

  3. Mac says:

    I give up. Why is “Many a blocked shot in basketball” a slap (BEQ Thursday)?

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Good question. I’m not sure what the constructor intended, but I can think of two theories:(1) You slap at the ball to block the shot;(2) The block is metaphorically a slap in the face of the player whose shot is blocked. (But why wouldn’t that apply to *all* blocked shots?)

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Re today’s BEQ: 11d is clued {Pointed in the direction of} and the answer is “Directed to.” I consider myself relatively unconcerned about technical crossword niceties, but isn’t that sort of repetition strictly frowned upon?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It took me two passes to notice the problem. *snort!* Sometimes it is so hard to see clue/answer overlap when you are working on (writing, editing) a puzzle! Might’ve been striving to avoid [Pointed toward]’s duplication of the “to” part and had a brain fart.

      (I mistyped that as “bran fart,” which I assume is an actual thing.)

  5. hmj says:

    Reference the L.A. Times: What is the significance of the letters SM? Does it mean or stand for anything?

    • Norm says:

      Apart from the obvious sadomasochism, nothing comes to mind. As a former Marine brat, I do have to say that I really liked the SMARMY BRATS answer.

  6. anon says:

    WSJ: Completed 10D ICEHOLES and immediately thought of Johnny Dangerously – pleasantly surprised to see the reference in the review.

    I don’t really follow 1D Got in = CAME.

  7. Aaron says:

    I liked the ER/STUMBLING BLOCK revealer, but the gimmick here seems all too similar to Buzzfeed’s “Cock Block” puzzle from a few weeks ago. And while I’m sure the block thing was done before that, too, something about these two themes coming so close to one another, even in different publications, rubbed me the wrong way.

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