Wednesday, December 23, 2015

NYT 5:12 (Erin) 


WSJ 11:45 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 6:07 (Amy) 


LAT 4:52 (Gareth) 


CS 10:39 (Ade) 


AV Club 7:08 (Ben) 


Jim Peredo’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 23 15, no 1223

NY Times crossword solution, 12 23 15, no 1223

Let’s keep things short and sweet this week, as there is much to do in the Milligan-Milburn household before Friday. We’re keeping up with the Christmas theme today by referencing a classic Charles Dickens work, A CHRISTMAS CAROL [Novella whose final words are found in the shaded squares]. The circled letters found in five across entries spell out “God bless us every one,” the famous quote by TINY TIM, who is adorably situated in a rebus square in the southeast corner [Speaker of the words in the shaded squares, expressed literally]. The quote words were nicely hidden, and their entries were good overall. I’m not sure how much I like seeing the double entendre-named James Bond character PUSSY GALORE in a mainstream crossword, but it allows the presence of THE VERY IDEA, which is a nice debut.

Doesn't it look delicious?

Doesn’t it look delicious?

The fill is pretty enjoyable. My giggle moment was reading a fresher clue for ORCA [1977 film described by Leonard Maltin as “For undiscriminating action fans whose idea of entertainment is watching Bo [Derek] getting her leg bitten off”]. I had forgotten about Sid’s dog SCUD in the original “Toy Story” movie (maybe it’s time to watch it again), and seeing ECTO always makes me think of Hi-C Ecto Cooler, which will always be one of those childhood things that I remember as being amazing, but I’m sure if I tried it now, it would be disgusting. Still, that green Slimer color and sickening sweetness will always have a place in my heart.

Hope everyone has had/is having a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate!

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Additions For Santa” — Jim’s review

Christmas is almost here! So far this week we’ve wrapped presents and visited with elves. Now the big guy himself makes an appearance and he’s checking his LISTs.

Today’s theme adds LIST to the end of certain phrases (69A [Santa’s aid appended in this puzzle’s longest answers]), but it’s not as simple as that. In each case, the LIST changes the meaning of the second word. The L becomes part of that second word (PANE becomes PANEL, PASTE become PASTEL, DUE becomes DUEL) and the IST is the suffix meaning “one who…”  Observe…

WSJ - Wed, Dec 23, 2015 - "Additions For Santa"

WSJ – Wed, Dec 23, 2015 – “Additions For Santa”

  • 20A [Member of a discussion group for glaziers?] WINDOW PANELIST. One who sits on a panel about windows.
  • 38A [One drawing a produce still life?] TOMATO PASTELIST. One who uses pastels to draw tomatoes. This was the hardest one for me to see as I’ve never encountered the word PASTELIST. Also, drawing a still life doesn’t necessitate the use of pastels.
  • 53A [Participant in an affair of honor between stamp collectors?] POSTAGE DUELIST. One who is engaged in a duel about POSTAGE. I like this one the best. I can envision philatelists getting worked up enough to go after each other.

Nice theme, consistently handled. I’m not sure why we’re adding a LIST. Usually you had to a LIST. But let’s just go with it.

We also get a bonus Christmasy pairing of WASSAILS and REINDEER at 25A and 47A. Despite being 8-letters each, I wasn’t confused into thinking they were part of the theme. I especially like WASSAILS—such a strange word.

Unfortunately I think that WASSAILS is partly responsible for the north section with ESPOSITO, PART I, and SEINES. I don’t know about you, but I can’t pull a 70s hockey player out of my head unless his name is Orr. Once I got _OSITO, I guessed the top part based on probability. In retrospect, I have heard the name Phil ESPOSITO, but would not be able to give the context to save my life. PART I and SEINES just seem like unfortunate fill. I wonder if they could have been avoided with PALOMINO or GERONIMO in place of ESPOSITO. But perhaps those lead to worse problems.

Other tough fill: The barrage of consecutive proper names starting at 30A [“Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt] SUTTER, followed by 34A [Soccer player Freddy] ADU and 35A  [“Playtime” director] TATI. I immediately knew 37A [Friend of Spanky and Alfalfa] DARLA, but if you didn’t, those four probably made the middle section challenging to fill.

Tom Cruise sporting AVIATOR sunglasses

The good stuff: 49D DRIVEL, 10D SKELETAL, 41D TRIFECTA, and 39D AVIATORS (though I prefer Ray-Ban Wayfarers myself).

I love the clue for 65A TO LET [Flat sign], but I think I’ve seen it before.

Nice puzzle. Tougher to fill in than yesterday, but that’s as it should be.

Didn’t know the answer 15A [Guest at the Starretts’ homestead in a 1953 film], adding to the difficulty in that section, but maybe if I’d watched this:

Michael Sharp’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Toot toot!”—Amy’s write-up

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 12 23 15, "Toot toot!"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 12 23 15, “Toot toot!”

(Not sure I’ve seen a crossword title that doesn’t use title capitalization before … but then, titles generally don’t evoke farts.)

Theme is BREAKING WIND (66a. [Cutting the cheese…as demonstrated literally by 18-, 25-, 40-, and 56-Across]), and WIND is “broken” across multiple words in the theme answers:

  • 18a. [Uttar Pradesh city of over 2 million people], LUCKNOW, INDIA. If you don’t know it, well, it’s big but it’s not in India’s top 10.
  • 25a. [Master, as a subject], KNOW IN DEPTH. Phrase feels a tad contrived as an entry.
  • 40a. [Mystery man of Dickensian fiction], EDWIN DROOD.
  • 56a. [Use a greenhouse to farm pot, say], GROW INDOORS. Not sure this one is quite a “lexical chunk” that works as a solid crossword answer. It’s definitely breaking wind, though.

This theme is very ungassy and uncrude for a fart theme.

Six more things:

  • 62a. {Coe Young of Laveggio espresso bar in Binghamton, New York, for one [editor’s note: this has not been fact-checked]}, ROASTER. Guess what? The name of the roaster at Michael’s local coffee joint isn’t the only thing that skipped fact-checking. There’s also 43d. [Annual outdoor White House game], EGG HUNT. First off, “Easter egg hunt” is in the language, but EGG HUNT feels off to me. Second, the White House has been hosting an “Easter Egg Roll” for over a century. Nobody looks for hidden eggs—they’re rolling eggs with wooden spoons. Yes, it’s weird.
  • 31d. [___ Chavez (Aaron Paul’s “Bojack Horseman” character)], TODD. (Editorial note: Show styles it BoJack with a capital J.) Did not know the character (only saw a couple episodes). I had “IM ME” instead of “DM ME” for 46a. [“I request a private missive from you via the social media platform that we are both using,” informally] (ugh, 18-word clue) at first, and TODI looked wrong, but if you don’t know a fictional cartoon character’s name… Solving tip: If you have something that looks bizarre in your grid and your solution isn’t accepted, start there in looking for your mistake.
  • 12d. [Means of adding a new member?], STRAP-ON. Not a newspaper-audience crossword entry. Or is it? Cruciverb database shows five appearances in newspaper puzzles—four verb phrases, one adjective [Like scuba tanks, typically]. No nouns!
  • 12a. [Personal ad abbr. for a dude who is down to party], SWM. This clue doesn’t work. The “who is down to party” is extraneous and misleading. Being single, white, and male and placing a personal ad doesn’t mean he is “down to party.” Maybe he’s looking for a long-term relationship and doesn’t drink.
  • 60a. [With 50-Down, what this answer and 50-Down form, shapewise], DOG and LEG, dogleg. Weird cross-referencing, had me confused for a while.
  • 8d. [Contents of a pre-meal basket, I hope], BUN. I would be pissed if there were only one roll in the bread basket. Two pieces of bread per person, minimum! This is my decree.

3.75 stars from me.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “The Holiday Spirit” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 1.12.32 AM

The Holiday Spirit

Happy holidays, everyone!  I’m currently solving while watching the snow fall from my parents’ place in MN.  It’s lovely, but there’s no alcohol in the house, which may explain why I got through today’s AV Club puzzle as quickly as I did:

  • 17A: Two parts club soda, 1 part juniper berry liquor, and a twist of crystalline water?  — SNOW GIN FIZZ
  • 23A: With 38A, 2 parts half-and-half, 1 part creme de cacao, 1 part vodka, a splash of cocoa syrup, and a potato pancake? — CHOCOLATKE / MARTINI
  • 54A: 1 part vermouth, 1 part campari, 1 part soda water, and some sweetened dairy beverage? — EGGNOGRONI
  • 61A: 2 parts triple sec, 1 part tequila, and fragrance from the gum of a Commiphora tree? — MYRRHGARITA

All of these sound lovely, as long as the potato pancake is served on the side and 61A’s drink does not involve me actually imbibing myrrh.  Some other clues of note:

  • 1A: “This ___ Evita won’t shut up!” (“Rent” line) — AKITA (I had to get this one from the downs because I have not seen the musical “Rent” and only know David Rakoff’s hilarious piece for This American Life about it.)
  • 30A: Early stop in a presidential race — IOWA (I’m staying close enough to the Iowan border that every other TV ad is for a Republican candidate.  It’s…intense)
  • 31A: “Look at Me, I’m Sandra ___” (“Grease” song) — DEE (We’ve all agreed that as great as NBC’s version of “The Wiz” was, Fox’s live version of “Grease” is going to be a mess, right?)
  • 36A: Early English punk band with “Germfree Adolescents” — X-RAY SPEX (a lovely bit of fill)

Lots of geat cluing and fill in this puzzle, and a fun seasonal theme.  The AV Club always does great around the end of the year, and I’m already looking forward to the extra bonus puzzle they’ve promised us.

4.5/5 stars.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Bonus”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.23.15: "A Bonus"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.23.15: “A Bonus”

Good morning/afternoon everybody! Hope you’re doing well on this Christmas Eve eve. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, creates puns out of common phrases and/or proper nouns by adding an “A” to the phrase somewhere inside of it.

  • SMART SEAT (17A: [Chair farthest from the dunce cap’s corner?]) – Smart Set.
  • MEAT LIFE (21A: [Limitation to a butcher’s sales?]) – MetLife.
  • TEAT OFFENSIVE (37A: [Run’t strategy for getting some milk?]) – Tet Offensive.
  • CHIA PEAT (57A: [Decayed matter to help a planter sprout?]) – Chia Pet.
  • WANNA BEAT (62A: [Question to a rookie cop?]) – Wanna bet?

Got stuck big time down in the Southwest when I had put in “rashes” instead of ITCHES and didn’t change it for a while (46D: [Poison ivy woes]). Definitely didn’t help that the last three letters are exactly the same for both. Was on the same wavelength with the constructor when seeing the clue for TAME, as I immediately thought about the circus and ringmasters…and the poor animals that have to be put through all of that for show (58D: [Make jump through hoops, maybe]). I liked the near synonyms of DEAD SURE (3D: [Absolutely positive]) and VEHEMENT that were parallel answers in the grid (40D: [Emphatic]). Oh, and I just noticed DOUBT intersecting “dead sure,” which is pretty fun to see (28A: [Uncertainty]). Please tell me that I’m not the only person that’s not caught up in all of the hoopla around ADELE right now (10D: [Singer of the James Bond theme “Skyfall”]). She’s great, I know, but I’m definitely experiencing Adele overload right now from so many people who have links of her music (and other appearances) on Facebook, Twitter, et al. I’ll probably head out of my office now for lunch, and hear a couple of people listen to one of her songs on their iPhones. That’s how my luck works, you know?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EARL (41D: [Manager Weaver in the Baseball Hall of Fame]) – The man who believed in pitching, defense and the three-run home run, longtime Orioles manager Earl Weaver had a winning percentage of over 58 percent as a manager, and won his only World Series with the Orioles in 1970. He also was one to have not-so-nice exchanges with umpires, as he was ejected 98 different times in his career.

Have a good day, everybody, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA 151223


Today, an EYE is tacked on to the ends of one of the two words in the theme phrases, and wackiness results. The first and last theme entries have an EYE at at the ends of their first words, and the middle pair at the ends of their second. Presumably because EYEs is a repeated, and thus predictable, trigram, this puzzle is running on Wednesday not the more typical Friday. The selections form a pleasant set: [“The 11:00 p.m. flight is now boarding”?], RED(EYE)ALERT; [Inconsolable freshwater fish?], WAILINGWALL(EYE); [Fearful Iowan?], CHICKENHAWK(EYE); [Fictional sailor’s pies?], POP(EYE)TARTS.

  • [Give birth to], SPAWN should feature more in greeting cards.
  • Rabies victim], MADDOG. The word “victim” seems off here.
  • [Suffix with chlor-], IDE. Not a fan of ambiguous clues when the answer is an arbitrary suffix.
  • [Capital of the Comoros], MORONI. Also a snigger-inducing Mormon angel.
  • [Case for an ophthalmologist], STYE. Seems a bit drastic; most kids will get styes at some point; I’m pretty sure parents sort them out on their own. I know I never visited an ophthalmologist!

3.5 Stars
The Honeycombs, anybody?

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25 Responses to Wednesday, December 23, 2015

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Thanks for the review, Erin. I had several other versions of the grid, but this is the cleanest one that included the novella’s title.

    PUSSY GALORE was added because she’s a colorful character and a debut name, but also as a counter to the saccharine sweet theme. I wanted a different clue though.

    In the novel, she is gay. In the film, it’s not stated outright, but she says to Bond, “You can turn off the charm. I’m immune.” These are not the words of a temptress (as the clue calls her). In fact, Bond goes on to force himself upon her!

    I wanted this clue: [Lesbian character who was “cured” by James Bond, per Ian Fleming]. In a letter to a fan which was auctioned this year, Fleming wrote that she just “needed the right man to come along and perform the laying on of hands to cure her psycho-pathological malady.” I found this quite alarming and telling of the times Fleming lived in and how different (I hope) things are today. (Instead, ORCA receives a much longer clue than my original [1977 “Jaws” wannabe].)

    Another clue I have a question about is for GODOT. Maybe some of the veterans can help me out. The clue is indeed mine [Samuel Beckett’s “En Attendant ___”], but it was an alternative. I really wanted this clue: [Title character with zero stage presence?] which I thought was pretty clever. Can anyone give me a hint as to why it might not have been used? I can’t see one, and I’m probably too close to it to be objective.

    Thank you!

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Very interesting notes — particularly the stuff on Pussy Galore as I’m not very familiar with the James Bond series (and, yes, the Fleming quote is awful).

      As to your Godot clue (good one, by the way), it was very likely just to make it easier. Once I put DIRKDIGGLER in a puzzle and thought I had the best clue ever — “Classic 1997 movie character who doesn’t reveal himself until the final scene” — but Will changed it to something very straightforward.

      Now, Godot is much more famous than Dirk Diggler, so I bet your clue would have stood on a harder day of the week, but I’m guessing it was deemed “un-Wednesday-ish”.

      Good puzzle!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I saw “Orca” at the movie theater during its release, because I’m cool like that.

  2. Peter A. Collins says:

    Jim, I think your rejected clue for GODOT was outstanding, also. Why did it end up on the cutting room floor? My guess is this: many, many more people are aware of the title of the play than are knowledgable of the fact that the title character never makes an appearance. I wonder if your clue would’ve made it through had this been an end-of-the-week puzzle.

    My daughter was in an all-female rendition of “Waiting for Godot” at her college last year. Staging the play with a female cast was a way of addressing a problem that many theater departments have — a majority of drama students are female, but the majority of roles in (classic) plays are for men.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I think you are probably right about the GODOT clue. I hadn’t considered that.

      My daughter faces similar issues in high school drama productions. She has yet to play a female character.

    • john farmer says:

      [Like Godot, in “Waiting for Godot”] = UNSEEN (1/12/06)
      [Title stage character that doesn’t need an understudy] = GODOT (7/5/07)

      Those were in two Thursdays of mine that ran in the N.Y. Sun. I’d used to think that people who know of the play would know that Godot is the most famous no-show in theatrical history. I hope that’s still true.

      Nice puzzle today, Jim.

  3. Jim Peredo, Thanks so much for your insights.

    I’m still waiting to see the Beckett play, although I have been aware of its basic conceit for essentially all of my adult life. According to the database, GODOT has appeared in the New York Times crossword 36 times, including 19 times in the Will Shortz era. Your clue is the first time it has ever been a FITB for the French title of the play. However, there are numerous clues, some rather punny, referring either to the waiting or the “no-show” aspect. I do agree with John Farmer that the “zero stage presence” angle is ingenious and unique.

    Probably the crossing words didn’t work out, but I would have loved to see the mathematician/logician Kurt GODEL in that slot. The puzzle feels incomplete without his presence.

    Thanks too for your take on PUSSY_GALORE and ORCA, as well as the extraordinarily helpful clue for SCUD, and Happy Holidays to EVERY ONE.

  4. Dook says:

    Jim Perido – So great to see your comment here. I was about to write a comment in reference to the Pussy Galore clue, as she not a Bond temptress as you have noted. Not only was she “immune”, but she had a crew of female pilots under her command, all of whom were very masculine outfits. Honor Blackman did her proud. I agree with you about how horrible the Fleming quote is. But how could anyone resist Sean Connery at his Bondest best?

  5. anon says:

    NYT: The BuzzFeed CW called – it wants its 24-word clue back.

  6. Art Shapiro says:

    How are folks getting the LA Times puzzle? I haven’t found it on Cruciverb for several days.


    • Papa John says:

      Me, too, neither.

      I sent Kevin an email, yesterday. He used to respond to it quickly. Maybe he’s deep into holiday cheer.

    • Zulema says:

      I get the LA Times puzzle every Saturday (the only one I want) by going to the LA Times website. Have been doing this forever since I couldn’t get it through Cruciverb.

      • Art Shapiro says:

        Thanks, Zulema. I personally find the Java applet too user-hostile to be “worth it” – really prefer AcrossLite.

        I started yesterday’s out of the actual newspaper, but stopped after a few lines – the tiny squares were too unpleasant for my pen.


  7. Zulema says:

    I enjoyed today’s NYT puzzle, easy but nice. Yesterday’s I found unusually knotty for a Tuesday.

  8. neil says:

    on the AVCX 56 down says “Bills opponent , at least twice a year”. The answer is Giant in the puzzle but the Jets are in the Bills’ division

    • @cascokid says:

      Neil, I’m a Patriots fan, but, well, J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS. ( Two of us from Rexworld noticed that “misdirect.” Even Bill Belichick faces a nyjeT twice a season. Perhaps there is a Bill in the NFC East? Redskins Will Blackmon and Will Compton? Not really. Cowboys? No. Eagles? No. OK. How about coaches? Cowboys. No. Redskins? Bill Callahan is the offensive line coach. Eagles? Defensive Coordinator Bill Davis or Outside Linebackers Coach Bill McGovern. That’s who Aimee and Ben must be referring to as Bills. Why are assistant coaches fair game on a clue like this? Because TNT cross NME in a puzzle that gets 3.5 stars, making it the second highest rated puzzle of the day. (Why do I try?)

  9. @cascokid says:

    Bill Belichick: Bill’s opponent -> nyjeT requires singular possessive, yes.
    A Buffalo Bill’s opponent -> nyjeT requires singular possessive, too.
    The Buffalo Bills team (singular collective noun) opponent -> nyjeT, does not need an apostrophe. This is the best clue-entry pair, if the entry has to be 5 letters.
    NFC East assistant coaches Bills’ (plural possessive) opponent -> GIANT requires an apostrophe. This is the best so it is an editing error.
    NFC East assistant coaches Bills (singular collective, as in The Bills) -> GIANT does not need an apostrophe. This is what Aimee and Ben must have meant if the answer has to be 5 letters long.

    But the best entry for the clue is 6 letters: singular collective Bills opponent at least twice annually -> singular collective nyjeTs
    NFC East assistant coaches Bills (singular collective, as in The Bills) -> GIANTs

    Odd grid. Odd cluing. Odd editing. Had I been asked to review it, I would have not recommended publication this puzzle in its current form for several reasons. The two biggest are 1) TNT/NME Natick (NME is a serious grid problem. Recoverable? I don’t know) , and 2) GIANT clue.

    • pannonica says:

      A single member—either in particular or in the abstract—of one team can have another team collectively as ‘an opponent’. This is not an instance where parallel construction is required. Are you actually insisting that the clue should read, [Bill opponent, at least twice a year]?

    • pannonica says:

      Further, as far as clue parallelism is concerned, it’s ridiculous to conclude that the ‘Bills’ in the clue would be referring to the first name alone of a coach, an assistant coach, or even a player, and that the expected answer is an entire team.

      I wonder also if you’ve failed to appreciate that the phrase Bills opponent can be parsed as “team that the Bills oppose” (object) or “team that is in opposition to the Bills” (subject). Well, technically, I think ‘team’ is the subject in both cases, but there is a difference to the relationship. I just don’t know the correct terminology. Something to do with passive and active constructions?

  10. @cascokid says:

    I agree that the Bills (3 NFC East asst coaches named Bill) are a ridiculous interpretation of the clue, but they do face a GIANT and his teammates twice annually.

    Can we agree that the NFL team known as the Buffalo Bills most specifically DOES NOT face the NFL team known as the New York Giants at least twice per year, but that the Bills do indeed play the New York Jets at least twice per year? There is no way to rationalize the clue-entry pair. I tried. Bad clue. And no one is owning it.

    (Show me the reading how the clue makes sense, and I’ll be delighted to concede the point.)

    • pannonica says:

      I took that as an a priori, not being conversant with the particulars of NFL scheduling. If it’s factually erroneous, that’s certainly an issue. But reading back, it seems neil indicated as much in his comment which started the discussion.

Comments are closed.