Friday, December 18, 2015

BuzzFeed 27:12 (Jim) 


CS 7:44 (Ade) 


LAT 7:05 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:07 (Amy) 


CHE untimed (pannonica) 


Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 15, no 1218

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 15, no 1218

Lots of good stuff in this 70-worder, and also some stale bits. Highlights:

  • 1a. [Prison design that allows surveillance of any inmate at any time], PANOPTICON. So that’s how that word is used? It’s a cool-looking word. Dictionary tells me the word is “historic.” Seems like it should have non-penal applications.
  • 33a. [Mutual dislike], NO LOVE LOST. The phrase has never made sense to me. Isn’t all of the love lost? None of it is left?
  • 63a. [TV host who succeeded Jimmy Fallon on “Late Night”], SETH MEYERS. My favorite part about this is that I actually forgot Seth had a show. Could remember that James Corden had a show, but forgot Seth’s existence. Nobody ever seems to post viral Meyers videos on social media…
  • 3d. [“The gloves are off”], NO MORE MR. NICE GUY. Zippy phrase.

1d: PAPA DOC is a “lively” entry, but he was a terrible man. “Dictator who created the Tontons Macoutes” doesn’t spell out that Duvalier’s special forces murdered 30,000 to 60,000 Haitians. Haiti’s current population is about 10 million. That would be like murdering 1 or 2 million Americans in today’s population. Horrible.

2d. [Cassim’s brother of folklore], ALI BABA? Didn’t know Cassim, but I had the final BA and guessed ALI BABA.

Blah fill that I wasn’t keen on seeing here includes CEES, OBE, ENOLA, ADES, ONEONTA, OTOES, NENE, and ADEPT AT. LIRAS, SO DO I, TSO, ROREM and LE CID … these aren’t making me smile, either.

41d. [Like E.T. riding Elliott’s bicycle] clues REARLIT. That’s a word? says “Sorry, no dictionaries indexed in the selected category contain the word rearlit.” Backlit, I know. Not liking this REARLIT … which is now making me think of people lighting their farts on fire.

39a. [Products once advertised with the slogan “Hello boys”] offends me as a clue for WONDERBRAS because that slogan really ought to have a comma in it, don’t you think? (See also: 26a.)

3.5 stars from me.

Sam Ezersky’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s review

BuzzFeed - Fri, Dec 18, 2015 - Sam Ezersky

BuzzFeed – Fri, Dec 18, 2015 – Sam Ezersky

Good, solid grid today from Sam Ezersky highlighting hip hop artist Kendrick LAMAR (29D) and his major label debut album GOOD KID, M.A.A.D CITY.

But good luck to you if you didn’t know that album title, as I didn’t. Even expecting that there would be some strange spelling involved, that double-A in the center caused me to doubt RADON, especially since I’d never heard the word CANARD (34A [Unfounded rumor, such as “All crossword constructors are nerds”]). And HONDO was slow in coming. (Kept trying to squeeze HATARI in there.) This was the last section of the puzzle to fall for me, but if I’d gone with my instincts, I’d’ve saved a lot of time.

I also struggled in the NE and SW. Didn’t know of the deal between Starbucks and GOOGLE WIFI  (12D). Tried MOBILE WIFI in there first which hung me up for a while. In the SW, I had NEWTS on the brain for 49D [Critters sometimes licked to get high (it doesn’t work, trust…my friend)]. The correct answer is TOADS. That fail is on me.

I like the NW combo of TICK TOCK and EASY CHAIR. They give a rather uncharacteristic, sedate feel to a BuzzFeed puzzle. Also loved the inclusion of The DAILY SHOW. DELAWARE, LOOP-DE-LOOP, ROLL TIDE, and PALCOHOL round out the rest of the nice long answers. I didn’t know PALCOHOL (26A [Controversial just-add-water booze]) but have learned it’s a portmanteau of “powdered alcohol” and which is, right now, banned in 5 states.

Best looking section of the grid is the NE in my opinion with CATFIGHT atop AU REVOIR atop DRUM SOLO with all solid crossers if you don’t mind FEMDOM.

But I can’t say I enjoyed the puzzle. There was just too much of a bro-centric vibe in the clues with all the sophomoric references to porn and masturbation. Case in point: FAP (43A [Slang for masturbation that comes from the sound of masturbation]). The “male” in the clue is assumed because, why wouldn’t it be? Seriously, put “male” in there and you probably get away with it.

Other similar sniggering male-centric clues:

  • 7A CATFIGHT [Girl-on-girl action?]
  • 3D LAVA [Peak ejaculation?]
  • 10D FEMDOM [Porn fetish category with men strapped to tables, for short]. Oh wait. This one’s ok because the woman is not being objectified. Yeah right. As if FEMDOM porn was aimed at a female audience.

Plus all the “shits” and “fucks” and “fuckboys” that were in clues that just didn’t need them. Example: HAVOCS at 17A is clued as [Situations where shit is fucked up]. Why? No reason. Just cuz. SCAT, ASPERSES, and CADS get similar treatment.

This is all to say it just felt gratuitous. It felt as if the effort was not put into making the best puzzle possible but into getting as many “shits”, “fucks”, and sex references as possible into the grid. I like this quote from Ben Tausig when the AVCX was recently looking to hire a new constructor, “We’re more open to adult language than the mainstream puzzle, and pop culture references are welcome, though elegance, originality, and humor come first.” I’ve never felt the AVCX puzzles were gratuitous nor male-centric, but his is not the first time I’ve felt it coming from BuzzFeed.

I like this grid. I do. It’s solid and got great long entries. The cluing just needed to be tweaked to make it a little more inclusive and less bro-ish.

Ed Sessa’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Leap Year” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 12/18/15 • "Leap Year" • Sessa • solution

CHE • 12/18/15 • “Leap Year” • Sessa • solution

This marks the third time this year I’m describing in these pages a crossword as acknowledging a sesquicentennial, but only the second time for a CHE offering.

Despite the upcoming 2016 being a leap year, that’s unrelated to the specifics of the theme here.

Thirteen-across begins the multi-part answer: [Start of a short-story title (aptly rendered) that first appeared December 16, 1865]. THE | CELEBRATED | JUMPING OF | CALAVERAS | COUNTY FROG, and 35-across is MARK TWAIN, the [Author of the short story]. (13a, 16a, 24a, 50a, 59a)

calaverasThe parenthetic ‘aptly rendered’ refers to how FROG has leapt from its customary place (here, in 24a, after JUMPING, at the right margin of row 5) down to the end of the title (i.e., the right margin of row 13).

It’s a cute though minor theme. My only qualm is the inclusion of THE in the grid without a counterbalancing symmetrically placed theme component, like some sort of superfluous appendage. The alternative would of course be the differently unappealing inclusion of a “, with ‘The'” qualifier in the clue for 16-across, so it’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t dilemma.

Two amusing factettes about the story: First, many editions include the charming description, ‘Profusely Illustrated’. Second, a translated version provided an opportunity for Twain to entertainingly revisit his work thus: “In English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil”. That is, he back-translated the French edition to humorous effect—and you can bet that he reaped further compensation for republishing it in an edition three times the length of the original!

  • Does 48a GET DOWN intentionally obliquely reference the theme’s conceit?
  • 14d [Long-term security, for short] T-BOND, 42a [“Currently serving” military status] ONE-C, 46a [Roster of elite invitees] A-LIST.
  • 57d [URL beginning] HTTP, 62d [URL ending] GOV. 45d [“Anderson Cooper 360°” channel] CNN, 68a [Network that aired “The Osbournes”] MTV.
  • 60d [ __-Ulm (Bavarian district] NEU. I suspect many might be annoyed by this clue and answer, both being crosswordese and achieving a sort of synergy.
  • 4d [Shenandoah Natl. Park’s state] VIRG. Meh.
  • 43d [Spurious remedy] NOSTRUM. I like this word, and would have guessed that the height of its popular use would have been the 19th century, Twain’s era, but that period seems to have been the preceding century.

Mostly clean crossword, and a gentle lead-out for the year.

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Live Jazz”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.18.15: "Live Jazz"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.18.15: “Live Jazz”

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope all of you are doing well as we’re just one week away from Christmas Day. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by the extremely talented musician, Mr. Tony Orbach, is an interesting take on “live” events. Each of the four theme entries are puns derived from common phrases that, in any other case, would feature the word “live,” but, in this puzzle, anagrams are created from that very word. Or something like that.

  • LEVI FROM NEW YORK (17A: [Strauss out of Manhattan])
  • RECORDED LIEV (29A: [TiVO’ed Schreiber’s “Ray Donovan?”]) – Two of my friends have said to me “Ray Donovan” is one of their favorite shows?. Has anyone here seen it?
  • VILE FOR TODAY (47A: [Brutally honest meteorologist’s forecast about some miserable weather?])
  • AS LONG AS YOU VEIL (62A: [“OK, just be sure to cover up?”])

Another fun puzzle from Mr. Orbach with theme answers that were pretty lively. Funny thing is, if not for the “S” in its entry, ELVIS would have been another anagram of “live” (3D: _____ has left the building (phrase at the end of a certain rock show)]). Maybe we can make the plural form of all the Elvis impersonators “ELVI,” and then it would fit today’s theme! Who’s with me? Of course, the theme song to GOOD TIMES is now in my mind as we speak (11D: [Better days]). Only clue in which I was pretty clueless was the one for DIAGON, as I really need to step up my Harry Potter game (31D: [______ Alley (where Harry Potter shops for wands]). How cool is shopping for wands? Wands should definitely be added onto any Christmas shopping list, right? If the CAP’N were to be demoted in military cereal land, would his new title then be ENS’N Crunch (55D: [Crunch’s rank])? By the way, did you know that Cap’n Crunch had a full name? Horatio Magellan Crunch, according to Wikipedia. The more you know, huh?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ISIAH (15A: [Thomas of the NBA]) – Which ISIAH Thomas is being referred to here? The retired Hall of Fame guard and two-time NBA champion who starred for the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s and 1990s – and who also became a monumental failure as a coach, executive and president, who was at the center of a sexual harassment suit against Madison Square Garden that was won by his accuser, Anucha Browne-Sanders? Or does the clue refer to the Isaiah Thomas (no relation) who currently plays as a guard for the Boston Celtics and leads the C’s in scoring (21.2) and assists (6.6) so far this season? Obviously, the spelling difference (extra “A” in the Celtics version of Isaiah) makes it clear, but just wanted to highlight that there’s another Thomas in the NBA with a homophonic first name to the basketball legend/calamity-of-an-executive version.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow! Oh, and if anyone is going to be in the Charlotte area on the days of Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, let me know. I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the neighborhood.

Take care!


Robin Stears’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151218

LA Times

Ooh, look! It’s nice to find a truly puzzling LA Times theme. There are no ?’s in the clues, and until I got to the bottom, I didn’t have enough letters in the theme answers to know what the heck was going on, other than some answers wanted to be right, but couldn’t quite fit! The theme is PIGLATIN: specifically words that, when PIGLATIN-ised, become other real words. So the clue for ASHTRAY describes TRASH; the other pairs are UNDERPLAY/PLUNDER, EASTBAY/BEAST and OVERSTAY/STOVER. Never heard of that Stover, who founded a chocolate company. The fodder detritus is very familiar to me. I’m probably more up on my agricultural byproducts than most solvers, it must be said… The other three pig latin answers translated to words not names, so that is not the same as the other theme answers.

Just 39 theme squares makes for plenty of space for other fun. With five theme answers, the theme also didn’t feel too sparse. I liked the OT twofer of JOSHUA under the REDSEA, STEPON and BOXSEAT in the bottom-left, DRYRUNS centrally in the vertical axis, all three of the top-left stack: STOMACH (clued cunningly as an [acid producer]), NOVELLA (also clued trickily!), and OPENBAR (the best clue of the puzzle – [Spot for free spirits]).

contra-world-challenge-bigNot familiar with [Court surprise], NETBALL; I think I call those NETCORDS? NETBALL is a sport related to basketball, but traditionally played by woman in my world; I’ve tried to play that exactly once and it’s so confusing and counter-intuitive. You get the ball and… have to stop moving??? Also, would love to see CONTRA clued as the NES game once…

Strangest clueing angle: ILLER as a [Danube tributary].

Lastly I’d redo the ICI/CID/PAC area. That would take five seconds to improve.

4 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with two rock classics!.

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38 Responses to Friday, December 18, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    Grammatically, “Hello Boys” needs a comma, of course.

    But try not to be too offended since the omission was intentional, in order to improve the visual impact of the billboard image. And since it has been voted the most iconic British ad image of all time, it seems to have worked. That comma would have made the text a bit harder to understand as, due to the configuration of the billboard, it would have been as visually prominent as the period. And the line break performs the intended function of the comma here as it naturally introduces a pause in the flow. Billboards are meant to be taken in very quickly, and there’s a lot to take in on this one.

    I think the designers bent the rules in order to improve high-speed readability. I would hope that mitigates their grammar sin somewhat.

  2. Evad says:

    Question to Second Citiers–does the O’HARE clue refer to a terminus of one of the elevated trains? I’ve only seem them referenced as “els” not “l’s” so I’m thinking I missing something here.

    • Derek Allen says:

      I thought the exact same thing. I have always seen them as EL and not L trains.

      • Brucenm says:

        Ditto. I was even a little more dense about it. I was thinking “What does ‘L’ have to do with O’Hare. I know the Chicago trains are called ‘the El,’ of course.

    • CC says:

      O’Hare is the northwestern end of the line for the Blue Line, which runs on a diagonal southeast from the airport into the Loop, then heads due west and ends in the suburb of Forest Park.

      The CTA has actually trademarked “The ‘L'” and refers to it as such when talking about the entire system in marketing materials.

    • ktd says:

      Even as a daily ‘L’ rider, this clue struck me as a bit too vague–there are eight lines in the L system, with 12 terminal stations (several lines running into downtown make the famous “Loop” and thus have only one terminal). The answer could have just as easily been “Kimball” or “Linden” or any other terminal station–which would have most solvers up in arms.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: The word, panopticon, is interesting, but I really have a visceral reaction to it. Prisons are horrible places and something in the intent of this one seems uniquely controlling. I realize that humans need to do something about other humans who commit crimes, and once in a while there are people who are truly scary and horrible. But in so many cases, the solution is as bad as the crime itself.
    Sorry, I guess this is a trigger for me. I met someone who was put in solitary confinement for 29 years!!! And then the charges were reversed… it boggles the mind.

    • pannonica says:

      The word was resuscitated a few years ago with the publication of Jenni Fagan’s novel bearing that title, and the generally positive reviews it garnered.

    • john farmer says:

      In recent years the panopticon has been a useful metaphor for the emerging surveillance state. The prisoners aren’t just the criminals but all of us.

      • Flinty Steve says:

        Yep – before Jenni Fagan Michel Foucault made it the centerpiece of his study Discipline & Punish. According to Foucault, we are not just the prisoners, but also our own guards. Lucky us!

      • Papa John says:

        John, I attempted to take the tests you linked to, yesterday, but the task was so tedious and unending I abandoned it part way through the second battery. I wonder how that behavior is rated by the designers of the test.

        Did you go through the entire process and, if so, what was the payoff?

        • john farmer says:

          PJ, I took a handful of the tests about a month ago, each about 15 min., as I recall. The “payoff,” as much as there is one, is that you learn something about yourself — associations that you make that you may not be aware of. In other words, your biases. One example: I tend to associate science and engineering more with men than women (not a big bias but I tilt that way), even though I worked with women engineers for many years and like to think I’m open-minded about it. I leaned the opposite way for humanities.

          Old habits of the mind are hard to break. Likewise, you tend to have more favorable views of people in your group (race, politics, etc.) than people who are not. Even when you’re consciously making an effort to be unbiased, your subconscious prejudices can be at play. As I recall, most people taking the tests showed some level of bias. Nobody likes to see prejudice in others, and we certainly don’t want to admit it about ourselves. Yet for most of us, it’s there, at least some subtle form of it. So it’s a good thing to know, if you want to be honest with yourself.

          • pannonica says:

            Actually, it’s more insidious and societal, as nearly everyone—including black people—has a bias against black people. Might also be true for other ‘minorities’, but I can’t recall.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Today’s puzzle brought back strong personal memories and reminiscences for me, for a couple purely personal reasons.

    I have a close friend — a young Haitian man — a wonderful film maker and documentarian, who goes by the professional name ‘Zaka’. He was present in Jacmel, Haiti during the 2010 earthquake and has shot wonderful footage of those awful times. His life story is amazing. He has blood curdling tales about the Tontons Macoutes. I have dear friends, older even than I, in the tiny town of Newbury, VT whose son was killed in the earthquake, and Zaka spent days digging through the rubble, retrieving his body. They have now adopted Zaka as essentially surrogate parents. I didn’t mean to ramble this long, but if anyone is interested, the entire story can be googled using the name Zaka and a couple other identifying facts I have described.

    I have always been fascinated by the French take on Spanish culture in ‘Le Cid.’ My father took me as a child to the Comédie française to see the Corneille play, starring the then megastar actor Gérard Philippe. So I learned the names of those character as Don Diege, Don Rodrigue, Chimene, and so forth. I don’t know if Spaniards resented the hijacking of ‘their’ story, but I actually found the play exciting. I haven’t seen the Massenet opera, but I’ve listened to it.

    Sorry — back to your regularly scheduled crossword puzzle.

  5. Tracy B says:

    I’m not getting “Seventy-somethings?” for CEES.

  6. Derek says:

    Washington Post Paper Edition 18 DEC— does anyone see a crossword puzzle ? I can’t find one

    • David L says:

      Nope. Honestly, quality control at the Post has been going downhill for years, and the price keeps going up and up. I think it may be time for me to throw in the towel and go to a digital subscription.

  7. Brucenm says:

    I never stop wondering why Ned Rorem is the only contemporary (i.e. 20th century) “classical” composer who is granted admission to crossword puzzles. We’ve been through this before, but there are plenty of others with short names and “good” letters.

    • Brucenm says:

      Though I was delighted once to see the much more obscure Conlon Nancarrow in a Byron Walden puzzle. Fascinating, unique composer. Wrote mostly for player piano, since his piano scores were considered unplayable, mostly because of rhythmic details, but there are now pianists who are attempting them successfully.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Nino Rota sometimes appears — he’s best known for music for films like the Godfather & Fellini’s 8 1/2….

    • ktd says:

      The puzzle also contains ADES which could be clued in reference to the contemporary composer Thomas Adès. It may well have been so in the original version but didn’t make the cut. Xwordinfo says that ADES has occurred in the Times puzzle on 96 occasions since Will Shortz became editor, but Mr. Adès is still awaiting his introduction.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        I was impressed to see that HINDEMITH’S_MYTH once (1990, pre-Shortz) made it as a theme entry (together with other “composer posers” like CHOPIN’S_PAN and MOZART’S_ART).

        Outside the NYTimes, there was the Gaffney metapuzzle that included BITTERN in a theme entry as an anagram for BRITTEN .


  8. Martin says:

    Just checking into this WP/crossword issue “issue” as we “speak”.

    Passed messages on immediately… since this is not my department (not trying to pass the buck, but I don’t know how the technical details here).

    Thanks for the alert!

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith (CS member)

  9. Jenni Levy says:

    Rhomb? Really?

  10. Martin says:

    Regarding the Washington Post print edition, please go here if you want to solve Tony Orbach’s WP crossword online:


  11. Martin says:

    Ok official WS print edition missing crossword explanation:

    The Wahington Post, explained that this was an unfortunate oversight on their part. They will be running both the Friday and Saturday puzzles in the Saturday style section


  12. Noam D. Elkies says:

    CHE: Is the Mark Twain story that well known? I didn’t remember it at all, so not only didn’t grok the theme until looking it up but couldn’t be sure which consonant belongs in square 52 where two mystery names intersect (CALAVE?AS/?OONE).


  13. Joe Pancake says:

    BZF: “But I can’t say I enjoyed the puzzle. There was just too much of a bro-centric vibe in the clues with all the sophomoric references to porn and masturbation.”

    This continues to be the bane of the BuzzFeed puzzle. I think the idea is that the bro-i-ness is supposed to wink at you. The intent, I suspect, is to poke fun at it. But the irony doesn’t translate well at all to the solver, and when it does, the joke still gets old. Even yesterday’s BEQ puzzle, which was obviously a joke, and which I thought was genuinely good and funny, started to get really tedious at the end.

    I like the BZF puzzle because it allows constructors to break the rules of the mainstream publications, but this shouldn’t always mean gratuitous swear words and trite sex puns.

    It also doesn’t help that the vast majority of BZF constructors so far have been youngish males. I know fostering diversity is easier said than done, but hearing different voices in the puzzle more often would be very welcome.

  14. Michael says:

    I thought the “Kind of circle” clue for INNER (24D) was a no-no, no?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Agreed, and I meant to mention that. It’s one of those “sea anemone” clues like [Kind of anemone] for SEA. I fear we will never see the end of this type of clue.

  15. Jim Peredo says:

    LAT: Gah! I was developing the same theme, but was still collecting theme answers. I had STOVER and TRASH, but not PLUNDER or BEAST (good one!).

    I also had DEARTH (EARTH DAY) and TRICE (ICE TRAY).

    Also, good on Robin for not resorting to theme entries that require spelling changes, which is what I was considering. For example, WONDER (UNDER WAY) and WHILE (AISLE WAY). I still kind of like SIGH (I SAY), though.

    Very nice puzzle, Robin. Those 7-letter downs are all wonderful!

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