Thursday, December 17, 2015

BEQ 8:15 (Ben) 


BuzzFeed 5:40 (Derek) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:50 (Amy) 


WSJ 18:01 (Jim) 


David Kwong’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 15, no 1217

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 15, no 1217

The theme is phrases that contain DICE, with that chunk of letters split into a pair of DIEs, rebus-style:

  • 17a. [1813 novel made into a 2005 film], PRIDE AND PREJU{DIE}{DIE}. Saw a poster at the movie theater today for Pride and Prejudice with Zombies. Who’s excited for that one?
  • 25a. [Five-time Emmy-winning actress], CAN{DIE}{DIE} BERGEN.
  • 46a. [Racy books named after a Victorian garment], BO{DIE}{DIE} RIPPERS. Nice one.
  • 59a. [Alcoholic drink so named because of its color, not its content], LONG ISLAN{D IE}{DIE}D TEA. To clarify: It is the color of iced tea, not of Long Island.

Reasonable rebus theme with a fresh twist.

Seven more things:

  • 16a. [Flexible], NONRIGID. Not a word I’ve ever used, I don’t think.
  • 20a. [Exclamations of exasperation], OYS. Not keen on plural interjections as fill. Also, for the first couple hours, the puzzle marked the Y in ANDY and OYS as wrong, instead wanting ANDS and OSS (on balance, ANDY/OYS is better than that!). It’s apt that “exasperation” was in the clue for the answer that was mucked up in the online puzzle versions.
  • 53a. [Calendar keeper, for short], PDA. Please raise your hand if you have actually referred to an electronic device you used in 2015 as a “PDA.” Anyone??
  • 64a. [Trouble, in Yiddish], TSURIS. The following answer is also, oddly enough, a TS—S word (TSARINAS, blah). I do enjoy Yiddish vocabulary.
  • 58d. [Greeting with a salute], HEIL. You mean, like … “Sieg heil!”? Gross. Especially crossing a Yiddish word, and especially in the same week as some Trump supporter responded to a protestor by shouting “Sieg heil.” This corner has a themer and two crossing rebus entries, but man, you’d like to see the corner ripped up before leaving that word in the grid. (Last time I recall seeing HEIL in a grid, it was an NYT puzzle, and Merl emailed me to point out that HEIR would have worked perfectly well in that instance! Can’t we agree on no HEIL, no SIEG, no HITLER?)
  • 5d. [Certain foot soldier], GRENA{DIE}R. Tough vocab + rebus + early on in the solve = stymied for too long. Oof! (A grenadier is a soldier equipped with grenades or a grenade launcher.)

3.5 stars from me. Definite deduction for 58d.

Jacob Stulberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Revision Quest” — Jim’s review

Jacob Stulberg is back with a theme any editor will love.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.17.18 AM

He’s taken the term TRACK CHANGES literally and made one-letter changes to phrases that have the word TRACK in them. TRACK CHANGES can be found in most word processing programs (or at least in Microsoft Word which is in fact most word processing programs). The changed phrases are then clued wacky-style.

Thus we get:

WSJ - Thu, Dec 17, 2015 - "Revision Quest"

WSJ – Thu, Dec 17, 2015 – “Revision Quest”

  • 20A [Obsession with the flaw in the Liberty Bell?] ONE CRACK MIND. From one-track mind. I like this entry the best. There are of course other, less genteel ways to clue it.
  • 30A [Intentionally mislabeled LP?] TRICK RECORD. Track record.
  • 45A [Like actor Morgan’s organs?] INSIDE TRACY. Inside track. Was thinking Morgan Freeman for most of the solve, but there’s also Harry Morgan and Morgan Fairchild. TRACY was hard to see because of the pronunciation change.
  • 52A [Word processing option, or what happens three times in this puzzle] TRACK CHANGES

I can’t say I loved this. In my mind, TRACK CHANGES is not a strong enough stand-alone “phrase” to base a puzzle on. How many people know this menu option? I would think only those who are intimately involved in word processing or writing large documents or working collaboratively with others would even be familiar with this term. And it’s not even something anyone would ever say.

Further, the CHANGES made to TRACK appear to be random other than the fact that they progress from first letter to third to last letter as we go down the grid. There are other ways to CHANGE TRACK that aren’t represented, e.g. there is no FRACK or TRUCK or TRACT. And why just a one-letter change? Why not two? Or why not anagram TRACK (not that you could)? I’m just pointing out that I feel the theme is too loose.

I thought briefly that the letter changes might spell something. Progressively, a T, A, and K are changed to C, I, and Y, so…nothing.

Love the title, though.

Aside from all that, the grid is solidly made with YVONNE and EAR DOCTOR up top and REGISTERS and DORSET down the bottom.

EAR DOCTOR reminded me of this vignette with my ~10-year-old daughter.

Me: “I met your friend’s mom yesterday. She’s an eye doctor.”
Daughter, in all seriousness: “What’s an iDoctor?”


Tough Thursday-level fill includes TWYLA Tharp [She choreographed Mikhail in “Push Comes to Shove”], Gene KRUPA, JENA Malone, YVONNE [Craig who played Batgirl], and toughest of all, TOKAY crossing DOYEN. TOKAY was somewhere in my brain but I wasn’t sure of the spelling, and DOYEN has never ever entered my brain for even a moment, so that crossing was hard. And it was further hindered by [Broadway lyricist Knighton] NAN. Understandably, that was the last section for me to fill in.

Troubling Clues:

  • 27A BAR [Tender spot?]. I didn’t understand this clue by the time I finished the puzzle nor by the time I nearly finished this review. (I was thinking legal tender the whole time and had immediately plunked down ATM.) But I got it now, thanks.
  • 6D [Naysayers, perhaps] for BLOC. Nothing about the word BLOC indicates negativity, hence the “perhaps”, but it still seems off.


Shining Clues:

  • 44A [Form letters?] for WRITE
  • 26D [Slips between the covers?] ERRATA
  • 32D [Do the dishes?] CATER
  • 7D [“Alouette” subject] for LARK. Did not know this at all, but found the translation on Wikipedia and LOVE IT, especially the verse “Je te plumerei le yeux” (“I will pluck your eyes”)!

Good grid with some crunchy, challenging fill, but the theme is a little too loose in my estimation.

Let’s go out with a bang with this amazing Gene KRUPA / Buddy Rich drum duel.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “The Worst Noels” — Ben’s Review


The Worst Noels

BEQ definitely seems in the holiday spirit, with last week’s “Noel” and this week’s “The Worst Noels”.  Last week’s grid cleverly played with the theme clue construction, but this week is a little more straightforward, with some alternate carols to sing this holiday season:

  • 16A: Tea drinker’s carol?  — WHAT CHAI IS THIS
  • 33A: Cannibal’s carol? — SOYLENT NIGHT
  • 52A: Thrill seeker’s carol? — A WHEE IN A MANGER

I would have loved a few more theme entries, but the ones we got were pretty good.  It took me a little longer than I would have liked to piece together the cannibal->eats people->Soylent Green is people connection than I would have liked, but everything else fell into place pretty quickly.

(This week, I got you guys all of the versions of White Christmas I could find at once.)

A few other clues I liked:

  •  22A: Arctic explorer Shackleton — ERNEST (I have no clue where my brain pulled this fact out of, but apparently I know this and can recall it at a second’s notice.
  • 37A: Boring movie — SNOOZER 
  • 33D: Grieving figure — SORROWER (This has been today’s edition of “well, I think it’s a word.  looks close enough”)
  • 50D: Leafy vegetable high in Vitamin K — KALE (If you told 2012 Ben that in 2015 he would have a Favorite Type of Kale, he would have slapped you in the face.)  (It’s Lacinato Kale, by the way.)
  • 60A: Stereotypically hard-to-shop-for member of the family — DAD (If you, like me, have a dad very hard to shop for, The Toast published a piece yesterday that understands our pain)

In what’s been a busy holiday season, this was a nice break from things.  Simple, well-made, lots of interesting fill.

3.75/5 stars

Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 151217

LA Times

Answers starting with magazine names is a well-worn theme trope. However, this one is nicely executed, with clues that are reworded as though the phrases are actually about the magazine and a nice selection of theme answers. I felt [Keeping cool with a fashion magazine?], ELLEFANNING was particularly inspired, both as a theme answer and as a pun. The others are [Financial magazine tracking device?], FORTUNECOOKIE; [Newsstand selling many a human-interest magazine?], PEOPLEMOVER; and [Rolled-up news magazine drifting at sea?], TIMEINABOTTLE.

We have another example of a conservative, well-blocked off grid with only a few long non-theme answers. Here our pair are DAREDEVIL and FALSETTOS. The focus appears to have been more on avoiding dreck than going for pizzazz today.


  • [City ENE of Petaluma], NAPA. Is Petaluma a well-known city? That clue was not helpful at all!
  • [Biblical preposition], UNTO. Would prefer something like KJV preposition; most common Bible versions don’t use early modern English anymore…
  • [Singer Redbone], LEON. Not a LEON I know…
  • [Sharp pang], THROE. I won’t be the only person to put THROB there and then stare at TBL for a few seconds…
  • [Mount near Catania], ETNA. Not a ETNA keyword I’m familiar with. It’s a fairly large city at the base of the volcano; how did I miss this tidbit?

3.75 Stars – enjoyed how the the theme played out today!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Try Not To Slap This Condescending Puzzle”—Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 8.20.08 PMOK, normally these BuzzFeed puzzles have longer clues, but this one takes the cake! All that really means is that I am not going to re-type too many of them! I will type the main theme answers though, although I may have carpal tunnel syndrome afterwards!

  • 17A [Treat condescendingly, like the clues in this puzzle] PATRONIZE
  • 25A [“Put a sock in it, I’m spreading wisdom here, people”] SHUT THE HELL UP!
  • 41A [One who talks like he’s obviously superior but he’s actually just privileged] CHAUVINIST PIG
  • 55A [17-Across like a 41-Across] MANSPLAIN

The puzzle gets 4.5 stars just for including the cool word MANSPLAIN! The rest of the puzzle has longer clues because each one has a smart aleck, or snarky, remark in virtually each one! Hey, why wasn’t the word “SNARKY” in the puzzle? It seems to capture the mood perfectly! This puzzle had me thinking of the restaurant Ed Debevic’s in Chicago, where all of the wait staff treats you rudely just for fun. That restaurant is now closed due to it’s undergoing relocation, and I have actually never eaten there, but I hear it is a lot of fun, and that is how I would describe this puzzle. Let’s not actually slap Brendan, OK? How about we just describe it as, well, tongue-in-cheek!

I’ll save my typing hands for this weekends challengers!

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16 Responses to Thursday, December 17, 2015

  1. Normally when there are funky rebuses going on, I follow the “across is king” rule when solving in Across Lite, since that’s (usually) the convention that the constructors follow. Not this time.

    I filled in the rebus squares as {DIE}{ICE}. Now, the “across is king” rule would require filling in {D}{ICE} in the rebus squares, but I filled in the first square as {DIE} to remind myself that the down answer needed the {ICE}, and Across Lite always lets you fill in just the first letter of a rebus (so if the answer for a cell is {DIE}, it accepts just {D}).

    However, the actual answers it expected were {DIE}{DIE} (or equivalently {D}{D}), which means not all of the across or down answers read correctly — you have to mentally substitute {ICE} for the second {DIE} reading across, and you have to substitute {DIE} for {ICE} reading down the first of each pair of down answers. Very inconsistent.

    • Gary R says:

      Seemed consistent to me. In the down answers, the rebus squares are just straight substitutions – the letter sequence DIE. In the across answers, you have to mentally substitute “DICE” for the pair of “dies.”

  2. Cyrano says:

    I just downloaded the NYT .puz file from the website and the ANDY/OYS crossing still comes up wrong on the StandAlone iPad app.

    Also, agree on HEIL. At least if you’re going to use that word, clue it as something not associated with Nazis. Even a partial would be better here for most people I’m guessing, something like “Brünnhilde’s aria upon awakening ‘____ dir, Sonne.'”

  3. Ethan says:

    Loved the rebus. Hated 58-D.

  4. Gary R says:

    Can someone help me with 56-D in the NYT – ADUE? Is this a non-English term? I’m not up on my Yiddish, and had to run the vowels to get Mr. Happy Pencil to show up.

  5. Papa John says:

    I thought today’s NYT was a cake walk compared to other Thursday offerings. Once the DIE/DIE= dice was discerned, it made it relatively easy to find the rebus squares. Why no comment on 46D “Beach attraction” BIKINI? Not sexist? By the way, the attraction for me is not the bikini but, rather, the wearer. I suppose a bikini could be a fetish…

    Could it be that the harsh and vigorous discrimination against the use of all things Hitler reveals a different bigotry by allowing the inclusion of Idi Amin, Mao Tse Tung, Richard Nixon, Joseph Stalin and others? Does this mean that Ugandan lives don’t matter, that Chinese lives don’t matter, that Southeast Asian lives don’t matter or that Russian lives don’t matter? (The latter was clearly demonstrated by the lack of sympathy expressed toward the 294 innocent lives lost to an alleged terrorist bombing of a Russian plane over Egypt, which received little attention from the Western press, followed by the extravagant response to those killed in the Paris attacks.) I know this subject has been discussed before but I don’t think ever in this context; viz-a-viz, bigotry by inclusion.

    Bigotry is difficult to dispel. It’s often not easy to recognize. It’s insidious in its nature, especially in language and word usage. One might say an intolerance of bigotry is, in itself, a form of bigotry. Then again, what group could be discriminated against, since we’re all imbued with some form and degree of bias? Overcoming all prejuDIE/DIEs presents a tough challenge for the entire human race.

    • john farmer says:

      But Americans are exceptional and our lives matter more! Except for certain races and religions. Unless the perpetrators are a certain religion, in which case the lives may matter even more than normal.

      On the subject of our inherent biases, I’d recommend anyone who’d like to discover their own prejudices try a test or two on gender, race, religion, etc., at Harvard’s IAT site. Eye-opening.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      This is the second time in recent days you have complained that I have failed to call out bias in a clue or answer. Guess what? It is not my damn job to call out every single instance. You can do it, too! I can’t help wondering if your intent is to throw a “tu quoque” on me and lessen the impact of the critiques I do provide. Between you, and Martin H complaining that I don’t take offense at “geezer” and that guy whose name I forgot crying that “mansplain” is sexist against men—well, I have had just about enough. It’s nettlesome, and it does not go unnoticed that it is (so typical!) men criticizing a woman on the Internet. How novel. Maybe you could criticize the BIKINI clue written and edited by men instead of questioning my lack of criticism on that one clue?

      I have been blogging for a decade. Trust me, I have criticized the inclusion of Idi Amin and Pol Pot in crosswords. You want me to criticize IDI every single time? It’s going to take up the space I’d otherwise fill with something fresher and more interesting.

      Also, I had a 2.5-hour meeting last night and got back to the puzzle late. It was bedtime! So cry yourself a river if I don’t discuss every single word in the puzzle that might stir comment. How much are you paying me, again?

  6. Brucenm says:

    Agree about “sieg heil,” i.e. hail to victory.

    What are “track changes” in a word processing program?

    • john farmer says:

      Track Changes.

      Absolutely necessary when collaborating with others in creating and revising documents.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Ah, guess I should have mentioned that. MS Word, for example, can keep track of changes made to a document. This is especially helpful when working collaboratively with others and you want to see the changes they make.

  7. Lois says:

    The Yiddish “tsuris” in the NYT puzzle happens to have Hebrew as the origin language (most Yiddish is of Germanic origin). The word is the plural of the Hebrew “tsarah,” suffering or distress. I don’t know for sure whether “tsuris” is plural in Yiddish; I think so. I tried to find out online whether there is an Arabic cognate, but I gave up. Huda?

    I checked out the equivalent of “heil” in Yiddish, but I had trouble there, since I know little Yiddish or German. There is one, “hogl,” but I’m not sure of the meaning, whether it’s to hail a person or accomplishment, whether it means “hale,” as it can in German, or whether it’s a weather-related word.

    I like having the possibility of more words (especially those I know!) in a puzzle, so I didn’t mind either “heil” or “bikini,” although I noticed them as being controversial. The German word has the obvious Nazi connotations in English, although in itself it’s not a bad word. When a foreign word is used in an English crossword, however, it is expected that the most well-known definitions in English are what gives the constructor the “right” to use a foreign word, especially when it’s not Friday or Saturday. In that sense, the word is not innocuous, but I myself don’t mind some poisonous words and names. I am Jewish, and Jews often say about Hitler and other villains, “May his name be obliterated,” so you may have something there about not using such names — although I repeat I would rather have these words and names be available to constructors.

  8. Amy L says:

    More on Heil. The word is not the problem. The clue could have been [Goosestepper’s word], implying a little distaste. The clue as it is seems like it is is describing the salute as something acceptable, even admirable. I also like the idea of the partial clue from opera.

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