Wednesday, December 30, 2015

NYT 6:20 (Erin) 


WSJ 8:01 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed tk (Amy) 


LAT 3:35 (Gareth) 


CS 9:19 (Ade) 


This week’s AV Club puzzle is arriving on Thursday – look for a review of this tomorrow.

Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 30 15, no 1230

NY Times crossword solution, 12 30 15, no 1230

Let’s celebrate New Year’s Eve…Eve with an appropriately themed Wednesday puzzle! In this grid, three names contain the title of the Robert Burns poem sung after the ball drops December 31, “AULD LANG SYNE“:

  • 20a. [Physics Nobelist who pioneered in quantum mechanics] PAUL DIRAC
  • 37a. [Federal Reserve chairman under four presidents] ALAN GREENSPAN
  • 51a. [Football Hall-of-Famer with a nickname befitting his elusiveness on the field] GREASY NEALE
  • 64,65,66a. [With 65- and 66-Across, when to sing the song in the shaded squares] NEW / YEAR’S / EVE

Overall, I enjoy the mirror symmetry and the smiley face. The theme is appropriate for this week, and there isn’t the trickery required for a Thursday puzzle, so a New Year’s Eve-themed puzzle a day early is fine by me. AULD, LANG, and SYNE spanning the first and last names in each theme entry is a plus, too. My major issue was that I was not familiar with PAUL DIRAC or GREASY NEALE, which made solving difficult. (Apparently Neale played Major League baseball, then pro football, before becoming a college and pro football coach. Busy guy.) I was eventually able to get the names from crossings, so it didn’t detract too much from the solving experience.

The fill had some great spots. The one cringe area for me was NLER (54d. Met or Card), which with its partner ALER, only seems to appear in crosswords. I love HEALTHY GLOWBOB AND WEAVEBIOPIC, MINUS SIGNASTERIX was new to me, and I enjoyed PC CLONE once I parsed it correctly.

That’s it for me for 2015! Happy New Year!

Peter Wentz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Authors of the Year” — Jim’s review

There seems to have been some discrepancy between the print and online versions of the WSJ puzzle this week. This puzzle, “Authors of the Year”, ran in Monday’s printed paper, while Monday’s online puzzle “Oxy Music” ran on Tuesday. I am assuming yesterday’s online “Beastly Behavior” will run in today’s paper. I suspect certain people who make these decisions are on vacation this week resulting in this hullabaloo.

But on to today’s online puzzle: It’s a fitting title for an end-of-year puzzle. But our theme isn’t authors who’ve made a splash this year. Instead, Peter Wentz gives us authors who have written books with a year for a title. Let’s take a closer look.

WSJ - Wed, Dec 30, 2015 - "Authors of the Year"

WSJ – Wed, Dec 30, 2015 – “Authors of the Year”

  • 16A [Intellectual who wrote the historical novel “1876”] GORE VIDAL. Part of his Narratives of Empire series which begins with Burr and ends, seven books later, with The Golden Age. Together they tell a story of America from the Founding Fathers to the turn of the twenty-first century. 1876 focuses on the “theft” of the American presidency by Rutherford Hayes over Samuel Tilden.
  • 29A [Former congressman who co-wrote the alternative history “1945”] NEWT GINGRICH. In this novel, GINGRICH and co-author William Forstchen present a post-war America in a cold war with Nazi Germany which succeeded in dominating Europe and forcing a truce with the Soviet Union.
  • 47A [Comedic actor who wrote the dystopian novel “2030”] ALBERT BROOKS. This is BROOKS’ debut novel which presents a future America that is not whiz-bangily technological, but is saddled with debt, generational discord, and overpopulation.
  • 63A [Humorist who wrote the off-color satire “1601”] MARK TWAIN. Not a full-blown novel, but considered a “squib”. According to Wikipedia, it “purports to record a conversation between (Queen) Elizabeth (I) and several famous writers of the day. The topics discussed are entirely scatological, notably farting and sex.” TWAIN wrote it in 1876 but didn’t admit authorship until 1906. It was considered unprintable by mainstream publishers until the 1960s. It reminds me of some of Woody Allen’s early writings which take famous characters and put them in base situations.

Notably absent

An interesting collection of (male) authors whose books are all placed in different eras. Too bad they couldn’t be listed in the puzzle in chronological order, but crossword symmetry must be obeyed!

But why not include GEORGE ORWELL instead of NEWT GINGRICH (both 12 letters)? 1984 is a far more important work than 1945. Maybe because that would give us two dystopian novels in the collection? BROOKS’ novel doesn’t seem very dystopianish, so maybe a different descriptor could have been used in that clue. I would just much rather see a socially significant ORWELL than escapist fiction from GINGRICH.

But there are actually quite a lot of books with years for titles—much more than I thought. No doubt 1776 author DAVID MCCULLOUGH, at a grid-spanning 15 letters, was also on Peter’s short list for inclusion in the puzzle. Of course, most of the books are not by big-name writers or celebrities.

Moving away from the theme, the grid is well made with interesting non-fill words. We get DOUBLE BED with the comfy clue [Cozy place to cuddle], CADETTE [Girl Scout level two above Brownie], WHAT THEORIGAMI (cross-referenced with CRANE),  SOLARIS, and HESTER in keeping with our literary theme.

I don’t care for the inclusion of CHARLI XCX. This was not a name I knew and so I had a hard time filling that ending bit in. But that’s not why I didn’t care for it. Seems like it was included to be a debut word and to give us some Scrabbly Xs. But those result in the terrible entries of XLI and EXTS. Not a good trade-off in my opinion.

But other than that choice, a solid puzzle that gave me a lot to think about (mostly as I wrote up this review).

Since she is featured so prominently in the puzzle, here’s CHARLI XCX with “Boom Clap” as seen in the film, The Fault in Our Stars:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Don’t Let Me Down”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.30.15: "Don't Let Me Down"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.30.15: “Don’t Let Me Down”

Good day, everyone! Happy New Year’s Eve eve! As I’m blown at the football stadium in Charlotte, I’m now thinking all of the different states I have done one of these blogs in. I think it’s now nine: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Tennessee, California, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Should I make it a goal to blog from each and every state?

Today’s crossword puzzle, from Mr. Tony Orbach, is far from a letdown, as common phrases and/or nouns are altered by adding “UP,” creating some nice puns.

  • FAIR SHAKEUP (20A: [Change of management at an exposition?]) – Fair shake.
  • STICK-UP FIGURE (27A: [Robbery suspect?]) – Stick figure.
  • FLYING STARTUP (49A: [New air taxi service?]) – Flying start.
  • CHECKUP BOOK (55A: [Written record of a patient’s yearly visits?]) – Checkbook.

The letter arrangement – and irregularity – to JODHPURS might have thrown off some, but it was great to see, as my horse racing knowledge, though not extensive, was able to bail me out there (5D: [Riding pants]). Usually, jockey’s pants are called breeches, but had heard of jodhpurs a good number of times. The trick was/is how to spell it. Probably the best fill of the day came with NO LOVE LOST (11D: [Bad blood]). Seeing ENS clued the way it was, have to wonder if “EMS” has/had ever been clued in referencing typography as well (10D: [Print measures]). Now that I’ve said that, watch me come across that in a grid in the next week or so.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UGG (22D: [Australian boot brand]) – Which four-time Super Bowl winner currently has UGG as one of his sponsors? Well, he’s none other than Gisele Bündchen’s main squeeze…

See you all on New Year’s Eve!

Take care!


Michael Dewey’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

lat151230Today, we get a chunky synonym theme. Four marquee acrosses – 2 15’s and 2 13’s – all end in one of a set of formal synonyms: ATTEMPT / ENDEAVOR / TRY / EFFORT. The phrases all use that word in the same sense. I wasn’t too fond of the entries barring OLDCOLLEGETRY. The others felt dry and / or a bit arbitrary… For completeness, there’s TAKEOVERATTEMPT, JOINTENDEAVOUR and GOODFAITHEFFORT.

I didn’t know MAZOLA, but that’s not something foreigners are likely to be exposed to; FWIW, I saw Quaker Oats for the first time in a supermarket here today… the invasion is underway! BREZHNEV in that same corner is a fancy-shmancy name to work into your grid! Other nice touches included MAKENICE, as well as MALTSHOP.

2.5 Stars Gareth. Wasn’t feeling this theme, and not even some fun downs could change my feelings… Since we have BREZHNEV in the puzzle, I leave you with this Waters / Floyd classic; I had no idea there was a video!

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14 Responses to Wednesday, December 30, 2015

  1. Zq says:

    I’m new at this, but shouldn’t SRS have been clued to indicate that it is an abbreviation?

    Fun puzzle otherwise, thanks!

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: 51a. [Football Hall-of-Famer with a nickname befitting his elusiveness on the field] GREASY NEALE. The clue suggested to me, however awkwardly, that the answer wouldn’t be the nickname.

  3. sbmanion says:

    Wilipedia says that Greasy Neale got his nickname in his youth, not because of his elusiveness. It probably stuck throughout his life because it was a spot on insight into his skills. He played on the Canton Bulldogs (Jim Thorpe’s team) among several others.

    Very easy for me today because I did know the long entries.


  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    WSJ 57d — {Goes down} for sets — OH — the sun. My solving (like my overall condition) is improving steadily, but I still have these odd mental blocks.

    Sorry for this overly personal comment.

  5. Joe Pancake says:


    “The one cringe area for me was NLER (54d. Met or Card), which with its partner ALER, only seems to appear in crosswords.”

    I agree that ALER and NLER are not great fill, but you can find plenty of references online from legit baseball writers that use these abbreviations. I just file these under “normal Crosswordese” — that is real phrases that real people write or say, but that are boring and overly represented in crossword puzzles.

    In my opinion, APOX is a far greater offense. I’ve started to really loathe arbitrary partials, as they feel completely like cheating to me. I wouldn’t mind if editors banned them altogether. Constructors would adapt.

    (Pretty good puzzle overall, though.)

    • Evan says:

      I strongly disagree that ALER and NLER represent anything close to real phrases that people write or say. They’re extremely rare in the publications where you might find expect to find them. They never appear in ESPN articles or the ESPN crawl nowadays, only two or three times in Sports Illustrated archives, and among the few news publications that have used them, they’ve shown up in those publications only a small handful of times in the last twenty years. ALER and NLER may have been more common in decades’ past, but those two crossword answers really must die.

      • Joe Pancake says:

        I think we just have a different standard as to what is a “real phrase.” I’m not arguing that they are common — they aren’t. But they are still phrases baseball fans and writers use sometimes, so they are fair game to me.

        Here are recent links from major publications in which ALER
        and NLER are used. Furthermore, they are used multiple times in Rob Neyer’s “Book of Baseball.” And I see them used from time to time on various baseball blogs and discussion boards, which makes them crossworthy enough for me.

        They are not good fill and constructors should try to avoid them, but I don’t think they need to die. Or if they do there is a whole slew of other things that need to die first.

    • Gareth says:

      I agree for the most part when it comes to partials. I’d use an obscure but real word over a partial 9 times out of 10. I remember using HADI instead of WADI once, but that was because the W would’ve been an unfair cross.

  6. JohnV says:

    CHARLIXCX/XLI totally random, unfair. Ruined my experience. Unfair DNF.

  7. Martin says:

    “A POX” while a partial, is hardly arbitrary: for example the old oath “A pox on your house!”.

    Of course it’s not used seriously today, but humorously. It may not be part of your regular lingo, but some of them are nice to know, especially used sarcastically. However if sarcasm is not one’s style, then so be it. But again, your fundamental objections to partials are duly noted, but to declare this arbitrary is incorrect.
    mean this nicely)


    • Joe Pancake says:

      Arbitrary is probably the wrong word. I was using it merely for emphasis to describe partials that in no way stand alone. APOX very much fits this description (as does ACAR, ADOG, APIN, etc.) even though it is part of a reasonably well-known oath. By contrast phrases like, say, ABIT, ALOT, APOP don’t bother me because they feel more like stand alone phrases than “arbitrary” partials.

      In general, I think partials were needed back in the day when constructors used graph paper and dictionaries, but with today’s software and word lists at our disposal, I think we could get rid of them almost completely without largely compromising the quality of the rest of the fill.

  8. Zulema says:

    I didn’t know two of the long names in the NYT but it didn’t stop me from enjoying this fairly easy but happy puzzle. I’m a Mets fan so NLER does not bother me.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    re LAT — JOINT VENTURE is much more usual than “joint endeavor”, but I suppose even the plural wasn’t going to fit well… too bad.

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