Saturday, January 9, 2016

CS 11:15 (Ade) 


LAT 8:48 (Derek) 


Newsday 18:45 (Derek) 


NYT 7:13 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 9 16, no 0109

NY Times crossword solution, 1 9 16, no 0109

I wasn’t expecting to see a double quad-stack puzzle that didn’t carry the Martin Ashwood-Smith byline. Then again, I also wasn’t expecting to see SPANISH OMELETTE crossing the cognate ESPANOL, or THESIS STATEMENT crossing cognate ETATISM, with STATE ASSISTANCE at the bottom. That’s a ridiculous amount of duplication! Surprised the grid was accepted with all that. And this STATE ASSISTANCE—the sort of lifeless S-heavy 15 that works well at the bottom of the grid but lends no juice.

I do like ROSIE THE RIVETER, INTIMATE APPAREL, LAID IT ON THE LINE, and HOPPING as an adjective. That’s about it for fill that pleased me, though. In addition to the duplications, we’ve got the unsavoriness of too many Romance-language answers (Spanish ESPANOL and ANO, Italian IERI and CHE, Latin GRATIA, French A TOI).

(IERI is really ugly fill. Some friends have suggested alternative clues, all of which made me laugh: [Start of a hesitant statement about oneself], [Headless Guy?], and [That is to say, Rhode Island: Abbr.].)

Other fill that left me cold includes E.A. POE and SORB crossing ENSILES, awkward brand name plural STPS, and the underfamiliar MENES, TREE TAG, and SELENIC (the latter three I suppose are fair game for a Saturday puzzle, along with TELOS and ETATISM, but I think solvers would cry foul any other day of the week). And I don’t like NO MSG any better today than I did yesterday.

I like row 6 and am planning a resort vacation to the shores of the Snochessa Sea.

2.4 stars from me.

Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 8.56.03 PMOK, it has been a tough week. My brain is fried. And after Friday’s NYT took me nearly twenty minutes, I was wondering if I needed a vacation! But a decent time for this Saturday challenge of just under 9 minutes makes me feel a little better. Although if this mental fog persists, who knows how well (or how poorly!) this weekend’s NYT and Newsday Stumper puzzles will go! And yes, I do need a vacation…

Having said all that, this was a fun puzzle by Mary Lou and Jeff. With the two-person byline, I am again left wondering who did what! Well, for whoever gets credit, my favorite part of this puzzle is the four long intersecting answers. I will list them all in the comments, but along with the long answers, there are some wide-open corners with great fill words. I won’t be able to list everything I liked about this puzzle, because there is so much to like! 4.5 stars from me.

Here are some notes:

  • 15A [Apple bug?] WORM HOLE – I think this is referring to a software issue. I am not that computer savvy!
  • 16A [Strength in numbers?] PREDICTIVE POWER – This clue doesn’t seem to fit that smoothly, but I think I get what is being said. Not my favorite.
  • 26A [Birch of Indiana] BAYH – I live in Indiana! Got this immediately. Birch Bayh was a longtime senator here.
  • 32A [Salisbury smooch] SNOG – One of the few snarky entries in this puzzle. Not familiar to me at all.
  • 34A [Beats the rap] GETS OFF SCOT FREE – Nice!
  • 58A [Best Actress the year before Kate Winslet] MARION COTILLARD – This couldn’t be too many people, as it doesn’t seem as if too many Oscar nominees have 15-letter names!
  • 6d [___ lane] HOV – They don’t have those around here, so this answer always takes me a minute to figure out!
  • 15D [Really enlightened] WISE AS SOLOMON – Well done, as this entry intersects the three 15s. 
  • 36D [From 2009 through Sep. 2015, it paid $143 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury] FNMA – This is the Federal National Mortgage Association, and I think it is more familiar as Fannie Mae. Yes, I had to look it up!
  • 60D [Pull-up beneficiary, briefly] LAT – No reference to the newspaper abbreviation??

Hope this puzzle was as much fun for you as it was for me. Until next Saturday!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

imageMy strategy is paying off: Start the puzzle, get stuck, go for a nice long run, resume the puzzle, and the answers seem to fall into place! Maybe at Stamford I should hit the treadmill for 30 minutes on Saturday morning!

All the excitement is warranted, as this Stumper is a Longo challenger. Extremely difficult clues in this one, although for the most part there is not a single obscure entry in the entire grid! A marvelous feat of construction by one of the masters of this craft. 4.8 stars from me this week.

Some observations:

  • 16A [Virus carrier, often] EXECUTABLE – As in an .exe file. Don’t click on those email attachments from people you don’t know!
  • 22A [Deep blue] LAPIS – I am weak in rare colors. This one stumped me good, even after I had ?API? in the grid.
  • 34A [Cream, e.g.] DESSERT WINE – This is the only thing that seems obscure to me. Is this a brand name?
  • 63A & 64A [Outmoded audiophile adjective] SOLID STATE  & HIFI – Nicely done!
  • 65A [Like some cookie cutters] STAR-SHAPED – I had TREE-SHAPED in there at first. Still traumatized by the holidays!
  • 3D [Something reviewed at] LIP PLUMPER – My only error in the puzzle was the third P in this entry, as you can see in the image above. Suffice it to say I have never used a “lip plumper,” if that is even a thing, which I suppose it is, since it is in this puzzle!
  • 11D [Faculty wear at commencements] TAMS – I had to look this up afterward. I don’t think I have ever seen an example of this in person.
  • 23D [14-year-old covered by “Elle”] SASHA – This is referring to the one of Barack Obama’s daughters, I assume…
  • 29D [Subject of a “You Just Blew $10,000” billboard] DWI – I had DUI in there, I believe as my first word solved, which hurt my understanding of DESSERT WINE for a while!
  • 42D [Fearful of a fall] BEARISH – I think this is my favorite clue of the bunch. Great misdirection!
  • 48D [What Adam and Eve never did, per Twain] TEETHE – Great clue! This might be my 1-A favorite.
  • 50D [Saws] DICTA – Probably the most obscure entry in the grid.
  • 54D [Waves on some beaches, in part] HULA – Also a great clue!

What else can be said? There are many more examples I could have cited. A tour de force by one the the grandmasters of crossword construction! Until next Saturday!

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “I Spy”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.09.16: "I Spy"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.09.16: “I Spy”

Good afternoon, everyone, and I hope you’re having a good start to your Saturday. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, is a real eye catcher, especially for those who love their old suspense television shows. Each of the three theme entries are common phrases, with the first word also happening to be the name of a spy agency from a television sitcom from back in the day – or, with the third entry, a movie franchise from not-so-far back. In the clues, the main protagonist of the show and/or movie is mentioned.

  • UNCLE TOM’S CABIN (20A: [Ilya Kuryakin’s favorite abolitionist novel?]) -U.N.C.L.E. from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • CONTROL YOURSELF (38A: [Maxwell Smart’s favorite admonition to a tantrum thrower?]) – CONTROL, who matched wits with KAOS in Get Smart.
  • IMF MEMBER STATE (53A: [Ethan Hunt’s favorite participant in an effort to maintain global financial stability?]) – Impossible Missions Force (IMF) from Mission: Impossible.

All of the television shows referenced, I believe, have been remade as movies on the big screen, so there’s a good chance that a younger person who did this puzzle wouldn’t get lost as to what was happening here. Hold on: I think Get Smart was remade, in the mid 90s, as a TV show on Fox. Didn’t it have Andy Dick as Maxwell Smart’s nephew or something? Whatever it was, it was pretty bad! I stuck with Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and In Living Color for my Fox entertainment then. There might actually be a chance that I’ll be in one of those BERTHS on a railway car sometime soon, actually (49A: [Pullman features]). Have always wanted to try the sleeper car on an Amtrak, and I have a couple of long trips coming up in the next month, including another venture to Charlotte. If I’m going to travel for a half a day, might as well do it in comfort, right? Well, it better be comfortable, right? Never watched an episode of Nash Bridges, but I now know that he was part of the SFPD (10A: [Law enforcement gp. with which Dirty Harry and Nash Bridges are affiliated]). So Don Johnson fictionally fought crime in both Miami and San Francisco, huh? Not bad! Again, a great grid with fun fill, and a theme that was so clever that I talked about that more than anything else today.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DINO (42A: [The Rat Pack’s Martin, to his buddies]) – Could go a couple of ways here. DINO Babers was just named the new head football coach at Syracuse University last month after a successful stint at Bowling Green State University. There’s also the late WWF/WWE wrestler DINO Bravo, billed as “Canada’s Strongest Man.” Bravo (real name Adolfo Bresciano) reportedly had ties to the mafia and an illegal cigarette smuggling ring, and that apparently played a huge part in his murder in 1993. My apologies for the downer at the very end of this blog.

Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


Melina Merchant’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mind Your P’s and Clues” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/9/16 • "Mind Your P's and Clues • Sat • Merchant, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 1/9/16 • “Mind Your P’s and Clues • Sat • Merchant, Shenk • solution

I can get behind a P theme. Here, a syllable with that sound has been inserted into a bunch of preëxisting phrases to WACKY (88d) results. Spelling is malleable.

  • 5a. [Ranch animal with an uneven hide?] BUMPY STEER (bum steer).
  • 25a. [Serving that doesn’t even moisten your cornflakes?] SKIMPY MILK (skim milk).
  • 45a. [Dotty dimwits?] DOPEY NUTS (doughnuts). Not “d’oh peanuts”.
  • 47a. [Precinct boss with a hoarse cough?] CROUPY CHIEF (crew chief).
  • 64a. [Dog that smells like cheap wine?] GRAPY HOUND (greyhound). Not quite a boozehound.
  • 68a. [Cascade composed of chowder?] SOUPY FALLS (Sioux Falls).
  • 87a. [Server who’s short and stout?] DUMPY WAITER (dumbwaiter).
  • 90a. [Treats at Pueblo parties?] HOPI CAKES (hoecakes).
  • 110a. [Brittle shale, say?] CRISPY ROCK (Chris Rock).
  • 112a. [Time spent watching tearjerkers?] WEEPY HOURS (wee hours).

Good assortment of phrases—proper nouns, single (compound) words, two words) and the transformed versions are more entertaining than not.

  • 93a/97a [For every] PER, A POP. 119a [Humiliate] ABASE, 67d [Utterly humiliate, in slang] OWN.
  • 62d [Trees that produce a light honey] TUPELOS. Shared this elsewhere recently:
  • 10d [Elivs’s daughter] LISA MARIE, which happens to have the same letter count as PRISCILLA.
  • 5d [Quality of a good subject] LOYALY; 26d [Devotion] PIETY.
  • 115a [1936 Bing Crosby song] SO DO I. In Vietnamese, SỐ ĐỐI … means ‘number of/for’.
  • Unknown to me: 73d [Philanthropist Charles for whom a Northwestern library is named] DEERING. I’ve never deered before.
  • Vocabulary! 103d [Opera commissioned by a khedive] AIDA. Definition of khedive: a ruler of Egypt from 1867 to 1914 governing as a viceroy of the sultan of Turkey (origin: French khédive, from Turkish hidiv).
  • Favorite clues: 53a [One might get thrown from a horse] LASSO (see also 84a [Hangman’s loop] NOOSE),


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19 Responses to Saturday, January 9, 2016

  1. ArtLvr says:

    The Albany NY area has quite a number of colleges including the closest to me, Siena. Most, like RPI in Troy, Union College in Schenectady and U. Albany seem to be doing well, but St Rose hit the headlines recently with massive faculty layoffs. Huge uproar.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: tough crowd! I understand feeling NETTLEd about the duplications, but I actually liked that bottom stack, especially the combination of INTIMATE APPAREL, LAID IN ON THE LINE and ENTER INTO DETAILS. Seems like an interesting sequence of events…

    I make various versions of SPANISH OMELETTES or the variant they call tortillas. My Spanish student told me they use it as a vehicle to use up any leftover veggies.

    I think the view is that a quad stacks puzzle is a challenge for the constructor but a not such a fun experience for the solver. And evidently, some solvers agree as it does require compromises elsewhere. But I like the way things seem to go from seeming impossible to tumbling out. To me, it’s the opposite of some Sunday puzzles that have a million littles nooks and crannies and seem endless. The grid-spanning answers feel more satisfying. I’d guess that stacks of 3 might be more optimal than 4 in terms of likelihood of pleasing a higher proportion of people.
    Just thought I’d offer a different point of view…

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Huda, as I said below, I liked the puzzle too, though I was not taken with ‘enter into details’ which sounds very unidiomatic to me.

      • Gary R says:


        I had the same reaction to that answer – I’d be inclined to say “go” into detail. Google’s ngram viewer seems to indicate that the “enter into” construction was much more common than “go into” in the mid-1800’s, but since about 1940, “go into” is far more common than “enter into.”

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I liked the puzzle much better than Amy did, and found it incredibly easy — pretty close to the par time, I think. In general I like those spectacular quad stacks more than most people apparently do. I regard the occasional simple foreign language word as a plus, not a minus. It’s a realm of experience I have and some don’t — completely the opposite of many (most?) puzzles. And I too thought of the clue {Guy with his head cut off}, for ieri.} -:) I did think that Upper Palatinate was pretty obscure, even for a Saturday, just that I happened to know it.

    The entry that bothered me most, that Amy didn’t call out, was 1a Thesis Statement. There’s no such thing. It’s called a thesis defense, but that has the wrong number of letters, and the word thesis appears in the clue, though the clue could be changed. But I’ve never heard the expression, unless you were submitting an article for publication, and included a brief statement of the thesis of the article in your cover letter. I suppose when you’re doing your oral thesis defense someone could ask to give a brief statement of your thesis, but you have to stretch to find a context for the expression.

    • huda says:

      Bruce: I have heard of “thesis statement” and consider it a proper phrase exactly in the context you describe– when writing a paper or an essay (whether or not for publication). I actually had to learn about it through my kids. In my schooling, the French had us write essays where we developed a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis, using Hegelian dialect. And we never gave away the punchline… we developed the arguments as the essay unfolded. I assumed that was how essays were written in the US until I learned from my kids that you are only supposed to have a thesis, and that you start with a thesis statement and then develop it. It sounded anti-climactic to me, but what do I know.
      But like you, I found the link to the ‘defense’ odd. At first I was thinking of legal defense, then realized may be it’s for a dissertation defense. Evidently, given your reaction, in many fields, you don’t start with a thesis statement. In many scientific dissertations, however, we start with a hypothesis, sometimes a very specific one and sometimes looser.
      So, I’d say it’s a borderline clue…

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Huda, that reminds me of amusing advice from a high school debate team coach: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” I remembered that during the time that I was litigating.

  4. SEMINOLE SAM says:


  5. Christopher Smith says:

    Quad stacks are OK when competently executed. These weren’t. THESIS STATEMENT & STATE ASSISTANCE were inadequately clued. UPPER PALATINATE is fair enough for a Saturday but lends to a general Eurocentrism that would make Harold Bloom weep with joy. This was poor.

  6. David L says:

    Bottom half pretty easy, with decent downs crossing the long stuff. Top half took me forever, even though I managed to come up with UPPERPALATINATE. That SIENA/IERI/STPS bit was rough — I can’t imagine how you could ever use STPS in a plausible sentence.

    I resisted STATISM because of STATEASSISTANCE, and I had the same resistance as Bruce to THESISSTATEMENT.

    I’m curious about creek = RUN. It’s familiar to me because here in N Va we have lots of small streams called runs. But just over the river in Maryland everything is a creek or a branch. I’ve always thought of run as being a peculiarly Virginia thing but maybe not.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Besides Virginia’s famous Bull Run, near which a great-uncle of mine built a smaller version of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello with octagon-shaped living room, there are other states with similarly named waterways… Albany, GA has a Deer Run Plantation open to visitors.
      Also, in western PA we have Bear Run, a 5-mile-long tributary of the Youghiogheny River in Fayette County. The stunning Fallingwater House, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is on this stream at the stretch known locally as Mill Run.

  7. rm says:

    I’m usually such a big fan of the NYT themeless puzzles, but this one was disappointing! It took double my average solve time without any real pay off at the end. That said, I appreciate the construction work that went into double quad stacks.

  8. Harry says:

    For Derek, number-crunching is predictive power. Loved the LAT!

  9. Zulema says:

    Why is IERI “ugly”? I’d opt for ETATISM because there is a perfect and better English equivalent and it was not chosen to check our foreign vocabulary but to avoid STATE as in STATISM. Otherwise the stacks were doable and I enjoyed four-fifths of the crossword, which is not bad for a Saturday. ROSIE THE RIVETER was a sure winner. Anyone here acquainted with the sculpture in Richmond, CA? I don’t know of others, though they may exist.

  10. Bob says:

    Today’s LAT +1 (no zero provided). After over three hours and using (count them) thirteen different reference volumes (and sets) I couldn’t even get started. A waste of newspaper and ink. Which Best Actress award did Cotillard win – can’t find her in my references.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If your movie reference books are out of date, you’re not going to find her. Marion Cotillard is really easy to find via a Google search. Wikipedia, IMDB, and other sites will readily tell you that she won the Academy Award for playing Édith Piaf in the 2007 French film, La Vie en Rose. Old print reference books are going to be useless for things that have happened in the last decade. Now, we know you use the Internet, because you comment here regularly. Why not use it when you wish to look up things in crosswords?

  11. sandirhodes says:

    LAT: 50A) Blockers’ targets

    I had PxxxPADS for the longest time, unable to parse ‘PADS’ into anything but cushions.

    Wasn’t til I noticed the placement of the apostrophe that it hit me. Great clue/entry. Devious.

  12. Slow guy says:

    Stumper – 4+ hours – toughest stumper for me in 6 months or more. Yet satisfying to tough out in the end. SW was near-impossible for me, with the OBSCURE (how can Derek say ‘cream’ dessert wine is the only obscure thing here?) SPHEERIS crossing the spot where I had LIME for [misted or twisted] instead of PLOT – dang, that took forever to unwind. If i hadn’t pseudo-guessed ‘solidstate’ I’d have never finished. Lots of great, difficult cluing here, including the EXECUTABLE one. I’m proud. I would not have finished this puzzle a year or two ago. Thanks to the CF crew for putting difficult puzzles in context and allowing solvers to discuss our own mindsets on each solve if necessary. Much appreciated.

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