Saturday, December 19, 2015

CS 8:58 (Ade) 


LAT 7:55 (Derek) 


Newsday 20:13 (Derek) 


NYT 5:54 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 6.48.51 PMNot sure if I have blogged too many puzzles by Julian Lim, but I enjoy his puzzles. This one was fun. There seems to be a focus on these LAT puzzles on limiting crosswordese; I will have to ask Rich Norris about that the next time I see him! I mean, yes, there is the entry AMAH, there is a REATA, and the word VERSO appears, but these to me are not annoying. To solve crosswords, you DO have to learn some actual vocabulary words! Now when we see plant genuses, obscure Latin medical/anatomical terms, towns with less than 500 people, and rare Swahili verbs, then there is an issue. But there is nothing wrong with learning new words, and of course, as a crossword solver, one DOES have to learn the “crosswordese” words. But I think the goal is to limit such dreck, thereby making puzzles more appealing and accessible!

This puzzle is a good example, as I mentioned earlier, of good smooth fill. Nothing too difficult, and a nice, fairly wide-open grid. Unless my eyes are fooling me, there are no three-letter words! That will garner a 4.5 star rating from me!

A few notes:

  • 1A [High-end  beer-serving eatery] GASTROPUB – Can you say heaven?
  • 15A [Drink with Campari and sweet vermouth] AMERICANO – I wonder why the constructor didn’t go with AMERICANA and BASS instead.
  • 19A [Like some plugs] SHAMELESS – Could’ve mentioned the Showtime series. Is that a “shameless” plug? ;-)
  • 43A [“Awesome, bro!”] ROCK ON! – I say this all the time. OK, not really…
  • 49A [ooVoo alternative] iCHAT – Does this still exist? I am on my Mac now, and I cannot find it. For that matter, does ooVoo still exist??
  • 56A [Childhood friend of Paul Cézanne] EMILE ZOLA – Brings back ZOLAESQUE memories!
  • 3D [Ward of “Gone Girl”] SELA – Forgot she was in this movie. I highly recommend the book. Way better than the movie, and the movie is good!
  • 7D [It’s hard to put down] PAGE TURNER – Nice clue!
  • 31D [Goodyear variety] TIRE SIZES – This seems like the clue should be pluralized.
  • 43D [Torn asunder] RIVEN – Another obscure clue? The Myst sequel!
  • 52D [Lombardi city] LODI – OK, maybe this is a bit obscure. Population over 40,000 according to Wikipedia!

Another great themeless on Saturday. Cannot wait until next Saturday, which is the middle of a three-day weekend!

David Steinberg’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

imageWell, the holiday rush for me is almost over, so spending a nice relaxing Saturday morning solving puzzles after leisurely sleeping in a bit. And a nice surprise with a Stumper by David Steinberg! I absolutely love solving his puzzles, and I am never short of amazed when I remember how young he is! I think when it is all said and done, he will be viewed 30 years from now with the same reverence that we viewed Merl Reagle and Henry Hook. The talent is just too obvious.

Having said all of that, an ambitious grid greets the Stumper solver today! Only 34 black squares and large seas of open spaces! I got most of the upper left side area fairly quickly, then slowed down quite a bit. Once a toehold was found in the lower right, then the puzzle fell fairly quickly, finishing smack dab in the middle. 25A [Hat tricks of titles] THREE-PEATS is my favorite clue of the puzzle, and I don’t know why it stumped me for as long as it did! Worded slightly weirdly, maybe? The puzzles ambitious grid does however have seemingly effortless fill, with hardly any objectionable wording. A tour de force! A solid 4.9 star rating for me; one of the best themeless puzzles I have ever seen!

A few notes:

  • 1A [Ethnic triangular treats] HAMANTASCHEN – There are not a lot of Jewish people here in Indiana, so I have NEVER heard of these! Now you understand why I didn’t start filling the grid at the top…
  • 14A [Large purple fruits] KALAMATA OLIVES – Never heard of these either! Sounds like a great ingredient for cousin Ted to use on Chopped!
  • 24A [Overseer of the purchase of Lucasfilm] IGER – Disney exec, of course. They now own, I believe, everything. Marvel, my beloved Muppets, Star Wars, ABC, ESPN, the earth…
  •  29A [Only palindromic top-40 song title froma  palindromic-name group] SOS – Thought of palindromic-name groups, and came up with ABBA, and thought this might work. First clue filled in!
  • 43A [Surroundings of some small sandwiches] GRAHAM CRACKERS – I thought this might mean some appetizer tray garnish at first. We are talking about smores here!
  • 1D [Heat-storing device] HOLSTER – Great clue. I had TOASTER in there at first. That works, right??
  • 6D [Org. instrumental in preserving Sagamore Hill] TRA – I filled this in last. This stands for the Teddy Roosevelt Association, which made perfect sense afterwards when I looked up what the heck it stood for!
  • 15D [Offering on’s Living Room page] CHAISE – I was nervous this was going to be one of their funky Swedish product line names!
  • 25D [Dissertation subject] THEMA – Only wonky entry; easily gettable with the A crossing HAS A BALL. I can live with this.
  • 26D [Cheerleader portrayer in the “Starsky & Hutch” film] AMY SMART – Once I figured out who this was, a large chunk of the puzzle became clearer. Very obscure, yet actually kind of fair, clue!
  • 39D [Four-wheel conveyance] SKATE – Also a great clue. Easy when you think outside the box!

Wonderful puzzle, and an absolute joy to solve!

Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 19 15, no 1219

NY Times crossword solution, 12 19 15, no 1219

(Hey, Damon, your byline lost its usual middle initial here.)

Lots of fun fill and pop-culture stuff. My favorite answers are BELLY LAUGH, “YOU GO, GIRL!,” MOPTOPS, ARENA ROCK, WIFFLEBALL, Dan AYKROYD (the “old” in [“Brother” player of old TV and film], referring to the Blues Brothers from SNL and a movie, makes me feel rather less young, dammit), CHOPS UP (entirely non-stilted verb phrase), GAY ICON, OZZFEST, DONE DEAL, TELL-ALL, EX-WIFE, COLUMBO, PC WORLD, and SKYWAYS.

One unexpected bit from contemporary pop culture is Nick KROLL (he plays an awful lot of characters on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, and he’s in a relationship with Amy Poehler). Then there’s mystifying older pop culture—16a. [1969 Alan Arkin comedy/drama], POPI?? Used the crossings to get that one.

Fill I’m not keen on: ARBORED, which many dictionaries don’t mention. O-REN, which has convenient letters. Stale TSO’S. Awkward EVILER (we say “more evil”) and NABBERS (contrived, “roll-your-own” word, with the pluralization making it worse).

Six more things:

  • 18a. [___ 18 (title setting of a 1961 novel)], MILA. We haven’t seen that author, Leon URIS, in crosswords for a while, have we? I’ll bet a dollar that the constructor’s original clue was for actress Kunis, but perhaps she was clued too recently in another NYT puzzle.
  • 24a. [Etiologist’s study], DISEASE. Specifically, etiology relates to the causes of disease. I can’t say I ever heard, in all my years of medical editing, of “an etiologist.” I dislike the clue. Doctors, what say you?
  • 34a. [Foreign pronoun that sounds like a fish], ILS. French for “they,” right?
  • 55a. [Conductor Lukas], FOSS. I have never heard of him. Is he good with a baton?
  • 21d. [It’s about six feet long on the Statue of Liberty], BIG TOE. This … is awesome.
  • 22d. [It contains rules for writing], LEGAL PAD. Nice clue!

Overall vibe, 3.8 stars. I enjoyed the fun stuff enough to offset the awkward bits.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Noel” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/19/15 • "noel" • Sat • Fisher • solution

WSJ • 12/19/15 • “noel” • Sat • Fisher • solution

For this iteration of the venerable ‘Noel’ pun, phrases whose last word ends in -EL drop that bigram, for wackified results.

  • 23a. [The groom?[ WEDDING CHAP (… chapel).
  • 25a. [Give a scathing review to Roseanne’s stand-up act?} TRASH BARR (… barrel).
  • 37a. [“Here’s to my new Kate Spade” honoree?] TOASTED BAG (… bagel).
  • 55a. [Scathing review of an orchestra performance?] INSTRUMENT PAN (… panel). Another scathing review!
  • 77a. [Separator in a Derby winner’s time?] KENTUCKY COLON (colonel).
  • 91a. [Shaving mishap for Pinocchio?] WOODEN NICK (… nickel).
  • 108a. [Slumber party VIP?] YOUTH HOST (… hostel).
  • 110a. [Rabbi presiding over a king’s investiture?] CROWNING JEW (… jewel).
  • 39d. [Retriever trained as a watchdog?] WARNING LAB (… label). Crossed by 73a [Sound from a shepherd] GRR.
  • 44d. [Brand name for a light-based hair-cutting tool?] LASER SCALP (scalpel).

I believe only HOST and SCALP share etymologies with their uncurtailed correlates.

To enhance the Christmas connection, plenty of clues throughout the puzzle are canted that way:

  • trieste_drndic29a. [“I’ll Be __ for Christmas”] HOME, 30d [“The hopes and fears of all the years are __ in thee tonight”] MET.
  • 48a [Canvas for Jack Frost] PANE.
  • 49a [Prepare the Christmas turkey] ROAST, 65d [The Cratchits’ Christmas dinner] GOOSE, 96a. [Cranberry concoction] SAUCE, 97a. [Rich sponge cake] BABA.
  • 58a [Santa’s portrayer in 2003’s “Elf”] ED ASNER,
  • 86a [Decorate, as the Christmas tree] TRIM.
  • 2d [Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Christmas Eve,” for one] OPERA.
  • 41d [Comet and Cupid, e.g.] DEER.
  • 88d [“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” genre] SCI-FI. Notoriously ATROCIOUS (76d), that one.
  • 98d [Donald Duck’s lack] PANTS.
  • 101d [Like some holiday letters] NEWSY.
  • 104d [Coal in one’s stocking, say] LUMP.
  • 106d [One of seven gifts “a-swimming”] SWAN.

Also, it’s easy to read 6d [Incite] EGG ON as egg nog if you skip from the middle to the end and read back up.


  • 27a/60a [Historic time] ERA, AGE. 20a/74a [Cheese shop choice] GOUDA, RICOTTA.
  • 40a [Payment before a deal is made] ANTE, 63a [Foe’s stand] ANTI. 35a  [Pulls down] EARNS, 69d [Sea eagles] ERNES.
  • 111a [Singer of the 2015 #1 hit “Cheerleader”] OMI. Stage name, stylized in all caps, of Omar Pasley. Completely unfamiliar to me.
  • 89a [Fivers, in slang] ABES, 118a [Grandson of Abraham] ESAU. >frown<
  • Favorite clues: 91d [It’s sometimes on the line] WASH. The literal 64a [Someone who might really be into you?] SURGEON.
  • Least favorite fill: 103d [NFL shutout, on the scoreboard] OOOO.
  • 24d [Some are proper] NOUNS, 43d [Sound from flutes and tubas] LONG U.

Solid, timely crossword.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ideal Breaker”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.19.15: "Ideal Breaker"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.19.15: “Ideal Breaker”

Happy Saturday everybody!  Just a quick post of the grid today, which was created by Mr. Patrick Jordan. In the grid is a quip for a theme that I’m always not a fan of; this utterance, one that we can all definitely relate to.

  • HAVE NO FEAR OF PERFECTION, YOU’LL NEVER REACH IT (20A, 39A & 58A: [Part one of a quip by Salvador Dali, Part two of the quip, part three of the quip])

Some of the fill gave me the blahs, including BLAHS (1D: [World-weariness, with the]) and APISH, which, although I figured out logically, I have never heard used or seen written before (33D: [Given to imitation]). Maybe it was just finishing the grid and the blog in a hurry is why I’m not feeling today, though I loved the fill – and the clue – to SUZETTE (46A: [Word in some French dessert cookbooks]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EXPO (9D: [Former Canadian major leaguer]) – Who is the greatest EXPO to ever wear the red, white and blue in Montréal? Gary Carter? Andre Dawson? Tim Raines? Larry Walker? I’d probably lean towards Carter or Raines, the latter being one who should definitely be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Thoughts on the greatest Expo of all time?

See you all for the Sunday Challenge!  And it’s a Brad Wilber Sunday Challenge, which means it will definitely be a challenge!

Take care!


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39 Responses to Saturday, December 19, 2015

  1. Lukas FOSS is eminently crossword-worthy, especially on a Saturday. And I distinctly recall seeing POPI in the theaters when it first came out. Knowing that a POP duplication was unlikely to be tolerated steered me away from my first impulses of POP_ICON and POP_TOPS, respectively at 35-Down and 38-Across — which was a good thing too, because how can anyone my age be expected to know EAZYE or OZZFEST? I agree that the clue for LEGAL_PAD was terrific.

    • john farmer says:

      I don’t remember POPI. “Argo” is my go-to 4-letter Alan Arkin movie but the wrong year, and “MASH” was almost the right year but Arkin was in “Catch-22” instead. Aargh! So, all crossings for me.

      I do remember EAZY-E, because he’s one of the lead roles in “Straight Outta Compton,” the N.W.A story, a film making a lot of Top Ten lists this month. (Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” is another rap movie worth seeing.)

      TV is my blind spot. If it’s not on a sports, news, or movie channel — or “Jeopardy!” — I tend not to know it. Dave KROLL was another all-crossings for me.

      My BIG TOE is feeling better today, but it was throbbing last night and I had trouble getting to sleep until the Advil kicked in. I am glad it’s not six feet long.

  2. Dook says:

    Popi is a lovely and sweet movie, one of Arkin’s best. He plays a Puerto Rican father living in a very run down – and very accurate – East Harlem in the late 60s trying to raise two young boys. He decides that if the boys are Cuban refugees who survive a boat crossing on their own, they will be given a good life in the US. So, he cooks up this scheme, but he has to give up the boys to do it. In the end, of course, he can’t give up the boys. It’s sentimental but very nicely done and very funny.

    • pannonica says:

      I confuse it, in name only, with 1970’s Where’s Poppa? (George Segal), because I seem to recall a scene (opening montage?) of Arkin leaning out a building window either calling for someone or responding to someone calling to him.

  3. Joe Pancake (a.k.a. Damon J. Gulczynski) says:


    Amy, you win a hypothetical dollar. My original clue did in fact reference MILA Kunis. I’m only vaguely familiar with the work of Leon Uris.

    Also, I dropped the middle initial a few puzzles back. Somebody said that middle initials are pretentious, and although I don’t agree, I dropped it anyway — not sure what that says about me.

    Anyway, I have mixed feelings about this puzzle. You can read more about that here if you are so inclined.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Obviously I use my middle initial. I wonder if anyone will find the reason funny. As a child, (5 or so), I went to a birthday party for one of my peers. The mother had baked cookies. Each cookie had the initials in icing of one of the partygoers. I can assure you that the initials BM on my cookie was a source of great mirth and laughter. I’ve been Bruce N. Morton ever since.

      • TammyB says:

        haha – that story is priceless!

        • ArtLvr says:

          Yes, great story, Bruce NM — My parents did not have middle names and gave none to the three offspring. We always had to fill in NMI on forms, until the two girls married. Mary roomed with another Mary Campbell at college so they could sort the mail conveniently. Brother Thomas Campbell, a lawyer, found a namesake lawyer two floors below his Chicago office. They both ended up joining a club relating to the clan! But Cornelia is so old-fashioned that I look forward to the day I’m the only one, like Cher.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I’ve always kept my middle initial when signing my Phillip J. Ward. But I was overly influenced by Bullwinkle J. Moose as a child. I believe his (and Rocky’s) “J” reference creator Jay Ward (no relation).

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Lukas Foss was my first entry, though I would have made “composer” the first identification. He was a great musical talent, a close friend and musical associate of Leonard Bernstein. Identifying musical subspecialties — composer, conductor, pianist etc. is a relatively recent phenomenon — mid 19th century. Before then there were just “musicians.” The idea of a performer as a charismatic virtuoso is principally traceable to two charismatic virtuosos — Liszt and Paganini.

    I have never heard of Nick Kroll, or the expression “arena rock”, but the only complete deal breaker (as opposed to a done deal) was the crossing of eazze and ozzfest. I guessed an ‘s’ for the second ‘z’.

    • dave glasser says:

      I sang his Psalms with my college choir in one of his last years of life and he came to join us for a rehearsal and the concert! I did not know he was a conductor though.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    A delightfully smooth Stumper from David S. today. Just the right degree of trickery for me, while very fast and clean. And a beautiful grid pattern, too. 4.5 stars.

  6. Ethan says:

    Loved the NYT. Fresh and fun. Clue for 34A bothered me though (ILS): It doesn’t sound like A fish, it sounds like fish, plural. I would’ve dropped the ‘a’ in the clue and just left it as ‘Foreign pronoun that sounds like fish’

    • huda says:

      I was bothered by this clue but for a slightly different (phonetic) reason. In French “ILS” is not as elongated a sound as the English Eel. At least the way I speak… I’d be curious to know whether Bruce or others agree.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Yes, I do agree, though I would phrase it somewhat differently. The vowel sound in the English EEL is closer to a diphthong, with the EE sound morphing into a schwa at the end — ee-y’ll. It’s hard to imitate in writing. But the vowel sound in the French ‘ils’ is pure and unvarying.

        That is the most glaring mistake native English speakers make in speaking French. French has regular, almost metronomic rhythm, with very little metrical stress. The slight stress is usually on the last syllable. In French (and Italian) the vowel sounds are pronounced with clarity and precision, as distinguished from American English (and Russian) which are spoken in a sloppy imprecise manner. When I hear an American announcer saying a French name, I usually have no idea what the vowels are supposed to be. They all come out as the same homogenized schwa sound.

        • huda says:

          Yes, perfect. Thanks, Bruce for explaining all this. It takes a sophisticated musician-lawyer-bilingual person to define the issue so clearly.
          And that slurred way of saying vowels in English is what is really hard to acquire if you’re not a native speaker, and what throws me off when I hear certain puns and I think: those two words are nothing alike! It’s because I need to crank up the blurred, homogenized shwa factor…

  7. pannonica says:

    NYT: 38a [Fab Four, early on]. Anyone else confidently drop in QUINTET? And somehow I had a sense that BIG TOE was the answer despite having no letters in place; it just seemed right for the length.

  8. huda says:

    Amy, ETIOLOGIST does exist but feels rather old fashioned to me. Because it implies that you are in the business of chasing the causes of many diseases. And that’s hardly possible nowadays given the degree of specialization and how hard it is to identify the causes of even a single disorder (hence Obama’s Precision Medicine initiative). I can see it being used in passing as sort of a characteristic of an approach– e.g. “I’m not an etiologist, I mostly want to figure out a way to stop the progression of this illness.” A bit of a stretch.
    But I agree, many cool, poppy entries today. Although some of the pop culture names were beyond me, I found it very enjoyable.

  9. David L says:

    DNF today for me — didn’t know EAZYE or Lukas FOSS (I guessed ROSS), and I couldn’t come up with EXWIFE.

    NABBERS and EVILER are dubious. And too many names for my liking — didn’t know KROLL, MILA or POPI but remembered OREN.

    I put in LLANOS without exactly knowing what it means, then wondered if it might be PLANOS — that’s a word too, right? Whose meaning I also don’t know with any certainty.

    Clearly this was not on my wavelength. Well, it happens.

  10. arthur118 says:

    A question for our webmaster:


    When I came to the Fiend site on Friday 12/18, what came up was the blog from Thursday 12/17. I was able to gain access to the correct blog day only by clicking on Amy’s name (which is shown directly under the date).

    It is now the 19th and my computer still won’t load beyond the Dec.17 date, although I can once again obtain the current day’s blog page by clicking on Amy’s name.

    Nothing seems to penetrate this wall of denial and even when I copy the site’s address from the address bar, (using Safari, on my Mac), it sends me to the Thursday 12/17/15 page.

    (Surprise, I just tried it on Firefox and it brought up the correct blog date.)

    Any suggestions on how to bring Safari back into the picture?

    • pannonica says:

      Interloper here. Try clearing Safari’s cache. Seems like it’s hung up, relying on a cached version of the site.

      • Evad says:

        Yes, it’s obviously the browser’s cache which doesn’t see that there is a new page to replace the one that it had cached on a prior day. Email me at evadnavillus[at] if you’d like instructions to clear your cache and/or change the browser settings so that it clears more frequently.


  11. Jennie P. says:

    To Bruce N. Morton: The “everyone out for volleyball” shouter (at an ungodly hour) was, in fact, Jason Robards in the 1965 film version of “A Thousand Clowns”. Terrific movie, by the way!

  12. anon says:

    NYT: 39D “Me likey!” Really?!? Very surprised to see this…

  13. Greg says:

    The SW had me stumped for a long time. I was convinced that a rapper who publicly feuded with Dr. Dre (and with the following rock-solid partial fill) — “_A_YE” — had to be “Kanye.” Afterwards, my daughter rolled her eyes at my (to her) pathetic temporal disorientation.

    The “homogenized schwa” is an inspired and accurate term for American lazy-speak. Ask a Millennial from, say, California, to pronounce the sentence: “It’s really good,” and you’ll probably get something like: “Uht’s ruhlly guhd.”

  14. Mr. Grumpy says:

    LAT was fun — until SW corner. A mish-mash of proper names. I said f*** this and left. A complete failure of a puzzle IMO.

  15. Gary R says:

    Re: WSJ, 34-D, I always thought a long-u sound is what you hear in “mule.” I can imagine someone pronouncing “tuba” with that vowel sound, but not “flute.”

    pannonica, I agree that 103-D, OOOO, was pretty bad. I’m not even sure if was intended to indicate the box score line for the team being shut out (in which case, if it’s a final score, there should be a fifth “O” for the total) or two sets of two digit scores on the scoreboard. Either way, pretty bad.

  16. NIETSNEREM says:

    Did anyone else have a problem with the spelling of “wiffleball”?

  17. Bob says:

    Finally got to LAT after Christmas shopping. Did NOT like ELHI (k-12)> I’ve spent 50 yrs in schools -NEVER heard this (remember, I think “coined” words have no place in crosswords). Also GASTROPUB – never heard of it. Guess I’m not part of its elite clientele! My pocketbook can only afford a burger joint with fries ONTHESIDE.

  18. Martin says:

    Re GASTRO-PUB: In my “books” and coming originally from the UK, it’s most definitely a British word. It essentially means a British pub that specializes in more upscale gourmet food offerings (although most UK pubs have had a reputation for fairly decent food, nothing fancy, but usually OK (and sometimes great) at reasonable prices). The venerable advice to tourists years ago while visiting the UK, was “eat at the pubs!”. Not so true now, fortunately.

    Anyway, a gastro-pub is the kind of place you could expect Jamie Oliver (and his ilk) owning. So whether that attracts you or sends you running screaming in the opposite direction depends on your… um… well, you know what I mean.

    However, due to the internet and the high degree of British shows now seen in the US, a lot of British terms have crept into American lingo (“give props to” is pure UK English, e.g.).

    So as to gastro-pub, I dunno, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it has crept into US lingo.


    • Bob says:

      Thnx for the info. In my recent visit to the UK, i went to the neighborhood pub. Definitely not “gastro” (high end) but got REAL fish and chips and a great tasting pub brew on tap – and friendly patrons when I shared my interest in football (“soccer” in the U.S.

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