Thursday, January 21, 2016

BEQ 8:28 (Ben) 


CS 7:39 (Ade) 


Fireball 5:42 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:40 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:31 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


David Phillips’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 1 21 16, no 0121

NY Times crossword solution, 1 21 16, no 0121

I thought this theme was more like Liz Gorski’s 2/20/11 NYT or Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s 1/27/12 LAT, where the answers that hit the 3-black-square bars used that bar to stand in for BAR. It’s sort of like that, but here, the hidden-BAR answers don’t all butt up against a black bar. I was rather expecting the short answers hitting the bars to occupy the whole bar, but each bar is flanked by two answers on a side, not three. The 35a/44a revealer SIDE/BARS ties it to the 12 right- and leftmost Down answers. We’ve got SNACK bar and POWERBar, and a TOOL bar and a MARS Bar on top. (Note: there’s no longer an American Mars Bar, and this [Chocolate treat since 1932] continues on in the UK but not here.) The midsection has DIVE bar and OPEN bar, and CLAM bar and TIKI bar. (Never heard of a clam bar, just raw bars and oyster bars. More of a seashore coastal thing?) The bottom has a SANDbar and TACO bar, plus SPACE bar and SALAD bar. I’d appreciate the theme a little more if it didn’t have the single-word PowerBar and sandbar (the 1/27/12 LAT had only two-worders, though not as many of them).

Seven things:

  • 1a. [Edit, as tape], SPLICE. I think most film and audio editors work digitally now and don’t physically splice tape.
  • 17a. [“Gosh darn it!”], “AW, NUTS.” Feels a tad contrived to me.
  • 18a. [Ford aircraft of the 1920s-’30s], TRIMOTOR. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of this. (If you know all about it, please sit quietly.)
  • 26a. [Like Liederkranz cheese], SMELLY. Never heard of it. Apparently it’s an American faux Limburger. I’ll pass.
  • 56a. [Hospital conveyance], STRETCHER. Hmm, I dunno. Gurneys, yes. But stretchers? What say you, physicians and nurses?
  • 64a. [Big mfr. of 10-Acrosses], NCR. 10a is ATM. Is it bad that I laughed at this clue? Abbreviation plus cross-reference plus lifeless answer.
  • 43d. [PC task-switching shortcut], ALT TAB. Using this (or its closest equivalent, option-tab) does nothing at all on a Mac.

Nice to see FIRE OPALS in the grid (instead of the far more common/overused OPAL), and also KRISHNA. And facepalm in the D’OH clue, I liked that too.

Sixty theme squares, mostly reasonable fill despite the high theme density, a smattering of fresh clues? I’ll call this a 3.9-star puzzle.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 91” – Jenni’s write-up

That is undoubtedly my fastest Fireball time ever – more like a Tuesday NYT than a chewy Saturday. Let’s take a look, shall we?


The email from Peter included the usual three files (.puz, .pdf, and .pdf with answers) as well as the clue for 32 Across:32across

OK, I know what that is, and sure enough the answer is straightforward: PEACE SYMBOL.

There’s not a lot of trickery in this puzzle. There’s a fair amount of trivia and vocabulary, and luckily it was in my wheelhouse. When you’ve been married to a geologist as long as I have, you actually know what “hoodoo” is. Merriam Webster has it as “a natural column of rock in western North America, often in fantastic form”. The fantastic form gets that way from EROSION. There’s apparently a website devoted to landforms. I suspect this was intended as misdirection, since “hoodoo” is also used to denote a type of black magic. Didn’t fool me, because I spent a fair amount of time following David around places that look like this.


It is a much more enjoyable clue than we usually get for EROSION.

There are other science clues:

  • Containing element #34  – SELENIC
  • Treats with element #53 – IODIZES
  • Flower parts – CALYXES
  • Red supergiant in Scorpius – ANTARES

(I can’t be the only one who always thinks of this when I see the word ANTARES. And apparently it was recorded twice, once on a album called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr Spock’s Music from Outer Space”. O-kay.)

Peter’s a smart guy, so I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the late YOLANDA King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, makes an appearance this week.

There’s not much trickery, but there’s some misdirection:

  • Hailing during a rainstorm? is TAXICAB (which I think is a little iffy on part-of-speech grounds – shouldn’t it be “hailed”?)
  • Handled things for loved ones on the go? are PET CRATES
  • Ring up at a low cost? is ELOPE
  • Turn-of-the-century Speaker of the House is not the century I was thinking of, so it felt tricky – HASTERT
  • Drops from working on the house? is SWEAT EQUITY
  • Flip over is not physical but metaphorical – ADORE

What I learned from today’s crossword: That the son of the eponymous inventor of the JACUZZI needed hydrotherapy, and that a government in which all people have equal political power is ISOCRATIC. Got both of them as from inference and deduction with one or two crosses, but didn’t know them before. I was also able to figure out that the place shown on the lower half of a joint 2012 postage stamp from Nepal and Israel whose upper half showed Mount Everest (phew!) was the DEAD SEA. Long clues like that are a Peter Gordon trademark, aren’t they?

One more thing I noticed: at 22A, we have “Like double standards, maybe” – SEXIST. Then down at 52D we have ” ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ org.”, and that’s PETA. They have some of the most egregiously sexist advertising ever.

All in all, a perfectly nice puzzle with hardly any icky fill. I liked it fine. I just wish it was harder. 4 stars from me.

Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Old One-Two” — Jim’s review

That’s more like it!

Jeff Chen brings the wordplay and so much more in today’s WSJ puzzle. If you don’t normally do the WSJ puzzle, do yourself a favor and try this one.

Jeff found phrases with words that fit a specific pattern, i.e. words that phonetically sound like one letter followed by the plural form of another letter. Then, instead of just plunking the word in the grid, we get the funky shorthand of the one letter followed by two of the other letters. Got that? Check it out.

WSJ - Thu, Jan 21, 2016 - "The Old One-Two"

WSJ – Thu, Jan 21, 2016 – “The Old One-Two”

  • 18A [Concern for many seniors] COLLEGE SAA. College essays. Thank you, Jeff, for reminding me of the misery of the past couple months. My daughter, currently a high school senior, has been torturing herself (and me) with completing her college applications. With most applications due earlier this month, the Christmas holiday was more about polishing off those essays and getting them out the door. Being the family wordsmith, it fell upon me to guide her in such a way that her personality shone forth through her words. There were struggles along the way, but I think we got there in the end. Now for all the scholarship essays…
  • 24A [Play that may have inspired Stiller and Meara’s act] ABB IRISH ROSE. Abie’s Irish Rose. This was completely unknown to me, and I revealed it in the grid before I understood the theme, so I couldn’t make any sense of it. In fact, I had completed the whole top half of the puzzle without knowing the theme, and COLLEGE SAA didn’t make any sense yet (I thought it was referring to the SATs somehow). So this play was a big hit in its day (nearly 100 years ago) and was about a Jewish boy and an Irish Catholic girl.
  • 50A [Cloris Leachman has won eight of them] PRIMETIME MEE. Primetime Emmys. This is the answer that made me go “aha!”. Why Cloris Leachman? Because she’s the actor with the most of these statues.
  • 60A [Sign around a construction zone] XQQ THE MESS. Excuse the Mess. This is the money shot, the payoff at the bottom of the puzzle. It just looks crazy in the grid, but it makes total sense. I love how Jeff saved this one for last. (Aside: On British construction sites, they typically say “We apologise for any inconvenience.” Lately, I’ve seen some where they left off the initial “we”. So the signs read, “Apologise for any inconvenience”, informing the public that we need to apologise to them. Lazy wazzocks!)

So, fun theme, right? But wait, there’s more.

When I uncovered 20A NL MVP [MLB’s Albert Pujols won it in 2005, 2008 and 2009], I thought, “That’s a pretty un-Jefflike entry.” (I can say that because once upon a time Jeff was my mentor and brought me into the fold.) There are a few other entries like that, too, such as PDAS and ELEC. But then I started looking at the long Downs. Just count ’em. This thing is bursting with great non-theme fill! In fact, there’s so much that before I caught on to the theme, I thought the Downs were the theme!

There are no less than eight, yes, eight long Downs of at least eight letters each. And all but one are outstanding (sorry COMPETED). The other 7(!) are PLUM BRANDY, PRICE WAR, DROPS TROU, MIKE TYSON, SO HELP ME, CREPE PAN, and POTTY MOUTH.  And all but two cross two themers! Most constructors would be happy with just two of these; I have no idea how you can get 8 long Downs with a clever theme and very little sub-par dreck. Just beautiful! This is grid design at its best.

I could go on, but I’ll finish off with just a few bullets.

A felucca

  • Loved the misleading clue on 15A ERRED [Overthrew, perhaps]
  • 69A SHEP was a gimme for me [George of the Jungle’s elephant]. It’s in the theme song, for Pete’s sake!
  • I love the word HAOLE 37A and, as a Pacific Islander, have used it in the past, but my HAOLE wife doesn’t take too kindly to it.
  • Don’t know what a felucca is (47D [Site of some feluccas] NILE). Ah, it’s a small boat.
  • 55D [George Strait’s “All My ___ Live in Texas”]: I thought it was supposed to be EXES. Shouldn’t it be EXES as a plural? No, it’s EX’S as a plural. (Obviously.) Excuse me for thinking that an apostrophe is for showing possession. All your EX’S what live in Texas? Children? Siblings? Boll weevils?

Normally I embed a song featured in the puzzle here, but hmmm. Let’s see. Nope, can’t think of a one. At least, not one that uses proper grammar. So we’ll just skip it.

Fantastic puzzle—great theme and outstanding fill!

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.21.16: "Think Thin"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.21.16: “Think Thin”

Good afternoon, peoples! How’s everything? Well, for those on the East Coast, I guess we all have to shop for groceries and other necessities to get ready for the first winter storm of the season. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, has five (I believe there’s five) theme entries, and each of the entries contains a word that either can be described as thin and/or a word used in a simile to epitomize thinness. Or something like that.

  • RAIL AGAINST (21A: [Oppose stridently])
  • PIN DOWN (39A: [Define clearly])
  • HAIR TRIGGER (51A: [Quick-tempered person’s idiomatic trait])
  • DIME NOVEL (3D: [Literary potboiler])
  • PAPER OVER (35D: [Explain away])

So there’s those five theme entries, and probably the most poignant word to possibly use as one of the themes happens to be separate of them, REED (62A: [Stalk in a marsh]). Definitely wondering if that was intentional, once it was tough to find a phrase that started with “reed.” I could have helped you out on that front, Patrick! Clue: Oregon school once attended by Steve Jobs….REED COLLEGE. Or, given my proclivity for sports, how about this? Clue: Leading scorer for Samford University men’s basketball (and Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year) in 1999…REED RAWLINGS. Done and done! I think…

As a few of you know, I do have a podcast that you can listen and subscribe to (please do, especially if you’re a sports fan), but, in terms of popularity, it’s slightly behind the WTF podcast that MARON hosts (29A: [Comic Marc with a self-titled show on IFC]). Maybe, one day, I’ll have the president on my podcast, like Marc had on his not too long ago. (OK, you can stop laughing now!!) Nothing else to really add, other than the constructor might be a fan of the Golden Domers of South Bend, IN, with both NOTRE (24A: [University of _____ Dame]) and IRISH in the grid (14A: [Like many who march in March]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MATS (10A: [Gymnasts’ cushions]) – On the last day that I covered the U.S Open tennis tournament last year, I was eating breakfast in a near-empry food hall. Aside from those working in the kitchen, there were about 10 people inside, and I happened to be sitting right by MATS Wilander, the former No. 1 tennis player in the world and seven-time Grand Slam champion from Sweden. Before he left the dining hall and went outside to do his work for Eurosport, I walked up to him and said hello and introduced myself. Definitely was a great experience! For those who say, “pictures, or it didn’t happen,” I didn’t have my phone on me to take one of us. Sorry!

See you all tomorrow!

Take care!


George Simpson & C.C Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LAT 160121Apparently WHITE in GREATWHITE, CHASE in PAPERCHASE, BURGER in VEGGIEBURGER and JAY in BLUEJAY are all CHIEFJUSTICEs. Americans focus a lot on remembering these people. Let’s see John Jay was the first one right? Have no idea on Justice White; are the others Salmon P. Chase and Warren Burger? Here’s the full list
. If it helps, I don’t recognize any of these fellows either, except Chaskalson and Mogoeng Mogoeng; that second one’s a name that jumps out at you from a headline! That and he has disturbing anti-women stances…

Always fun to start off with some internalising of ridiculous chemophobic FUD-mongering. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate, an amino-acid. Why is there so much hysteria about it? Who the heck knows. Wish a more people had enough biology education not to fall for such claptrap.

[Lab coat discovery?], FLEA. Almost half my consults in the last week have been “Why is my dog’s hair falling out?” Looks. “Your dog is infested with fleas.” “Really? Are you sure?” “What do you call these, sir / madam?” Oh. And still some are not convinced that being a walking flea taxi is a valid reason for a dog’s hair to fall out…

I seem to be stuck in tangential ranting mode tonight. Possibly it’s the stress from seeing a dog with half its face (both eyes reduced to just the sockets) eaten away by maggots… Sorry to burden you.


HGWELLS is a tricky name to work in, but I’m not sure the LST/MSU/EMAG stack attached to it doesn’t cancel out its impact.

Quirkiest fill? ROARY, the punny Lion mascot. It is followed by a lion-clued MARCH.

Clue INJOKE? [George Eliot or George Sand], WOMAN. George Simpson?


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Snow Drifts” — Ben’s Review

Ups and Downs

Ups and Downs

I can tell that I’m not quite ready for the predicted snow the Northeast is supposed to be getting this weekend, because just seeing the mention of snow in the intro on BEQ’s site for today’s puzzle, “Ups and Downs”, gave me PTSD to around this time last year when we got absolutely blasted with snow.

This week’s puzzle took a little time to click after the solve and figure out what was going on, but after staring at the few grids, I finally got it.  Following the instructions from the title, it’s all things that go up and down, including the entries themselves:

  • 20A: Some deliveries  — B(OU)NC(IN)G BABY BOYS
  • 37A: Skyscraper transport with exactly two cars– DOUBLE DECK E(LE)VA(TO)RS
  • 52A: 1962 Shirley Maclaine Robert Mitchum romcom — TWO FOR THE S(EE)SA(W)

With only three theme entries, this felt a little spare in the theme department, although the complexity of the entries definitely made up for it.  Elsewhere in the grid, there was plenty else to notice.  I understood how “Chapter 3” could clue III for 13A, but I didn’t love the clue.  Similarly, it took a little more mental reasoning than I expected to get from 60D‘s “Pen or dam, for one” to SHE.  I did like seeing both ERIC IDLE (5D) and TONY HALE (8D) in the grid, as well as TBSP (52D) listed as a measurement for cumin – clearly BEQ and I have the same taste in spices.

This was an improvement over last week’s puzzle, and even though it took the whole solve for me to see what was going on with the grid, the challenge was worth it.  4/5 stars.

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15 Responses to Thursday, January 21, 2016

  1. Neil says:

    I think STRETCHERS is fine. And FYI cmd+tab does the same on a Mac

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I like the theme…I too expected all the words coming down to a side bar to be theme related… But it was still fun.
    But FALDO was above my pay grade… When I first came to the US I watched TV obsessively to learn the language and culture. I also didn’t know many people, so TV seemed like a good way to fill a Sunday afternoon. But back then, there was not much variety and I’d wind up watching golf tournaments…at one point, I vowed never again. And haven’t given it a second thought, until I needed to come up with FALDO,,, I needed every cross. I see he is Sir Nick Faldo..Good for him!

  3. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Amy, this is the same theme as David J. Kahn’s WSJ puzzle from just nine days ago. The only difference is that David Kahn put his twelve themers around the entire perimeter of the grid (including top and bottom) whereas David Phillips relegates all his 12 to the left and right sides. Kudos to Phillips for “stacking” his six pairs of themers in such a way to minimize sub-par fill. I love the NOUGAT covered AW NUTS!

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    A Thursday which was both fun and easy. I wondered how the computer would symbolize the bars, but it didn’t at all — which is fine.

    Hand raised for trimotor. Never heard of it. However the restaurant label “clam bar” is completely idiomatic to me. (As well as oyster bar and raw bar.) As you say there are clam bars (so called) all over the coast and even inland. Of course you can also get oysters and other seafood at clam bars. The answer which did not seem idiomatic to me was ‘taco bar’. I like tacos, but I’m not sure I’ve heard that expression.

  5. Jenni says:

    Never heard of Trimotor, have been to a clam bar, and also thought the theme was going to involve all three answers that surrounded the “bar”. And I was kind of expecting the answers under the bar to start with “bar”.

  6. Howard Barkin says:

    Yes to hearing of ‘clam bar’, no to ‘taco bar’. Maybe that’s a more West coast-centric thing? (by the way, sounds like a tasty concept).

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I agree re Jeff’s wsj. Fantastic puzzle, great, original idea. I do have a couple nits which I consider significant. — nits +

    37a — The Hawaian term Haole, (pronounced howly) does not mean a mainlander. It is a racial designation meaning a Caucasian, or a person of European descent. A Haole doesn’t have to be a mainlander, and a mainlander doesn’t have to be a Haole. It started out as a neutral term, but not surprisingly has taken on all sorts of political and emotive significance, depending who is using the term. I first learned about Hawaiian racial politics from Michele, who lived there for many years, but have subsequently discussed it with other Hawaiians.

    34a — {Bank in a hall} which I take to mean a billiard or pool hall. A bank shot is not the same as a carom shot. To bank a ball is to drive it into a cushion, and hope it finds its way to a pocket on the other side of the table. (You can also bank the cue ball and hope it strikes an object ball into a pocket.) A carom shot is where you strike one object ball first, and cause the cue ball to deflect into another object ball. This is particularly useful in a game where the cue ball must first strike the lowest numbered ball on the table (e.g. nine ball.)

    I do see a dictionary usage such as “The blue Ford caromed off a parked car,” but that has nothing to do with a hall.

  8. MM says:

    LAT: I learned that Burger King actually does have a veggie burger on their menu.

    I’m not a doctor, but I would not classify a placebo as “medically ineffectual” when the placebo effect is very real. Isn’t “medically inert” or “medically inactive” better?

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      I was going to make a similar (the same?) point but I figured I had used up my nit quota for the day. Also not a doctor, but I’ve always been told that the placebo effect does not mean illusory, and is not necessarily ineffectual.

      • Jenni says:

        The placebo effect is an actual, measurable effect from an inactive or inert substance. I didn’t do that puzzle but would also wince at “placebo” = “ineffectual”. (and I am a doctor)

        • Huda says:

          Yup… I have a colleague who showed that placebo treatment releases endorphins in the human brain, among other actions. Several decades ago, studies showed that a drug that blocks opiates (nalxone) also diminishes placebo. It’s also a good thing. I actually worry about people who don’t exhibit a little placebo effect… It seems like they might be less hopeful. And all kinds of social factors modify it… E.g. Seeing the same nurse on a regular basis in the course of a study can enhance it.

      • pannonica says:

        Id est, non-causation does not indicate non-correlation.

  9. anon says:

    BEQ – 61D: Pen or dam, for one = SHE?

    Since I can’t parse the clue, I expect there’s something subtle going on here that I’m missing.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    A pen is a female swan. A dam is a mare who gives birth to a foal.

  11. Martin says:

    Speaking of BEQ, the puzzle was clever, the SHE clue was clever, but there are no noodles in unadon.

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