Thursday, January 28, 2016

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


CS 7:23 (Ade) 


LAT 4:00 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:38 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


This week’s Fireball puzzle is a contest crossword by the phenomenal Todd McClary. I haven’t done it yet but I’m expecting some elegance. Jenni’s review will appear Sunday night or Monday.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 1 28 16, no 0128

NY Times crossword solution, 1 28 16, no 0128

At first, I solved this puzzle as just a sort of randomly placed rebus theme. And then I got to thinking, it’s too bad the grid doesn’t look like a BALLOON at all—so I looked more closely and of course Liz has the {He} helium rebus squares placed in a circle, with 39a: BALLOON centered within it. (Of course she does.)

The theme’s summed up by 39a. [Party staple suggested by connecting this puzzle’s special squares], the clue for BALLOON that I didn’t read the last few words of, or I would have connected the rebus squares sooner. There’s a thematic assist from 56a. [39-Across filler], {He}LIUM. The symmetrically placed rebus squares appear in assorted words and phrases, nothing particularly long and nothing else {He}wing to a t{He}me.

Screenshot 2016-01-27 22.42.57Edited to add: Also, Deb Amlen alerts me that the newspaper version of the puzzle has a balloon string dangling from the bottom-most {He} rebus square. That’s good, because without the string anchored to the paper, the solved balloon might float away.

Five more things:

  • 10d. [Van Gogh’s “Portrait of ___ Tanguy”], PERE. I filled in YVES, as that’s painter Tanguy’s first name. Turns out the portrait subject is Julien Tanguy. I definitely spent a lot of time waiting for that section of the grid to reveal its secrets to me.
  • 41a. [Mother of Eos and Selene], T{HE}A. Before I saw that the R{HE}A bird was on the other side of the grid, I tried RHEA here. I am not up on my mythological parentages. Sure made it hard to assemble that ALC{HE}MIST, having an R there!
  • A true hero for our time

    A true hero for our time

    58a. [Fishy deli order], TUNA {HE}RO. I’m in a part of the country where heroes are people and long sandwiches are subs. I told my husband TUNA HERO was in the puzzle and he said, “Charlie.”

  • 25d. [Drawing room?], ATELIER. I just love this word. Is that wrong?
  • 33a. [Twofold], DUPLE. Can you use this word in a sentence that you’ve actually spoken aloud? I’m pretty sure I’ve never said it. Is it mostly used in musical terminology? (Not a common word—just three appearances in the Cruciverb database.)

In a puzzle with eight specifically placed rebus squares surrounding a central answer, you expect to see a number of compromises in the fill. Not excited by ROLEOS, -ITE, AMBI-, INNES (I like her, but she hasn’t had much prominence outside of her ER role—but then, ER was a hit show for years—but then, she wasn’t a breakout star like Clooney, Margulies, Wyle), OLEO (ugh), ON POT, and PXS (clue should be in the past tense—the PX is now just called the Exchange). DEAD SPOT, ALC{HE}MIST, and SHIATSU, on the other hand, are lovely. Also, one demerit for T{HE}A and T{HE}O appearing in the same puzzle—etymologically, they’re the same.

Four properly inflated stars from me.

Charlie Oldham’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Split Ends” — Jim’s review

I’ve seen puzzles where the ends of entries go up, and I’ve seen puzzles where the ends of entries go down, but I’ve never seen one where they do both!

Today’s puzzle by Charlie Oldham (possible Mike Shenk pseudonym), does just what it says on the tin (i.e. the title). The ends of the theme phrases split in the middle of a palindromic word. You can choose to follow it up or down. Take your pick.

WSJ - Thu, Jan 28, 2016 - Split Ends

WSJ – Thu, Jan 28, 2016 – Split Ends

  • 18A [It may leave dates hanging] WALL CALEND(AR), crossing RADAR. With the clue, I was thinking fruit and palm trees.
  • 30A [“Meerkat Manor” carrier] ANIMAL PLAN(ET), crossing TENET. This is the one that gave it away for me. I knew the answer based on the clue, and I already had TENET in place. When my answer wouldn’t fit, I saw how it’s end split, and the jig was up.
  • 43A [Stress-tracking device] HEART MONIT(OR), crossing ROTOR. At this point, knowing the trick and with just a few letters in place, I confidently filled in the entry and the crossing ROTOR (without looking at its clue).
  • 55A [Comic book’s cousin] GRAPHIC NOV(EL), crossing LEVEL. I had LEVEL in place before I got to this clue. A few other crosses made this one fall easily too.

Super nice theme showing me something I’ve never seen before, so kudos for that! From a constructor’s standpoint, all he had to do was pick four 5-letter palindromes and work from there; I imagine he had an unusual amount of freedom in choosing the actual theme answers.

That being the case, you’d expect the fill to be relatively free of crud…and it is. There aren’t any marquee long Downs, but ANAGRAM and OCTAGON somehow make for an interesting, crunchy pairing. I also like STUTTER, CLATTER, MOSTEL, and best of all, NOOGIES with the lovely clue [Knuckle-headed delivery?]!

My only nit is the closed-off NW and SE sections. I was actually flummoxed in the NW for quite some time; it was the last section to fall for me. I had AXE and OXEN confidently in place and ___GRAM at 4D, but nothing else would fit. I thought the 1A island might be OAHU, but it wasn’t working. The clues for 1D, 3D, 17A, and 4D were all vague or misleading. I could not think how “Ancients” could result in anything ending in “GRAM“. Finally ANAGRAM jumped out at me and the rest fell into place, but that was a tough corner with only one way in. Not sure I’m happy with the clue for 3D [Chicken tender], i.e. one who tends chickens. I would think the farmer is the actual chicken tender, but I guess you could argue the VET does on occasion.

Speaking of clues, 50D [Bike messenger’s need] for CHAIN seems a bit wonky. Is there some other meaning for CHAIN that I’m missing? A bike messenger also needs spokes, brakes, handlebars, etc. This clue is a bit too loose for me.

But that’s just small stuff. Great puzzle with a NOVEL theme and tough, but good clues.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Going Too Far” — Ben’s Review

2016-01-28 00-29 page #0

Going Too Far

Today’s BEQ Thursday is a little different, and I highly recommend using the PDF version if you typically solve digitally (like I do).  You’ll want the ability to write all over the grid.

Instead of a standard puzzle, BEQ’s given us a neat little variant called a Going Too Far – some (but not all) of the entries go one space over into the spots between words in the grid.  Click on the screenshot of the completed grid to the right if you can’t quite make out my handwriting to see how things work.

There’s one nice little twist to this grid – the letters that go too far end up spelling out a quote by John Muir:


Much of the fill here’s in service to the quote, so I’m not sure I can adequately review anything to the same standard I’d grade one of BEQ’s standard puzzles.  Solving this was a nice change of pace, even if some of the fill was frustrating (Discus legend Al OERTER has a name for crosswords, but I’d be more displeased if it showed up in a regular puzzle)

It’s kind of hard to compare this to a standard puzzle, so no grade today.  If you like these, there was another nice one at the recent MIT Mystery Hunt – check it out!

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Band on the Move”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.28.16: "Band on the Move"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.28.16: “Band on the Move”

So I just looked at the calendar and I’m seeing “JAN 28” and thinking, “Wow, we’re almost done with January? Man!” Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was celebrating the New Year by sleeping through it?! Well, there was nothing somnolent about today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach. It’s more fun with puns, but invoking music greats with this one. Each of the four theme entries are common phrases, with the first word being a gerund and the second word – with the way the clues are presented – actually referring to a member of a famous band.

  • FLYING EAGLE (17A: [Don Henley, hopping around the islands?])
  • WALKING MIRACLE (27A: [Smokey Robinson, taking a constitutional?]) – Very good clue/answer pair!!
  • STUMBLING STONE (42A: [Keith Richards, going a bit unsteady?])
  • SLIDING DOOR (55A: [Jim Morrison, stealing second base?]) – “SAFE!”

Once you catch on to the theme, then it becomes a very fun solve! Other than the theme entries, the long down entries were good fill, especially ALTRUISTIC (28D: [Unselfish]). Also, this grid contained some legendary eats, with both MANNA (14A: [Heavenly food]) and MEAD (48D: [Honey liquor]). Speaking of food, actually like how PANCAKE is being used as a verb here (5D: [Flatten]). On any other day, I’d have that clue in the “sports…smarter” section, referencing a type of block in football. But today’s not that day. If I had studied more geology than just the Geology 101 class that I took in college, I would definitely be much more interested in the beautiful GNEISS and the patterns and colors of the rocks that I see when I make drives through countrysides on the way to upstate New York (44D: [Metamorphic rock]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MASAI (48A: [Kenyan tribesman]) – Making Nigerians like myself proud with his great work in sports, MASAI Ujiri is currently the general manager of the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association. Born in London and raised in Nigeria, Ujiri first worked in the NBA as a unpaid scout with the Orlando Magic, but made a meteoric rise up the ranks of administration, eventually becoming the GM of the Denver Nuggets in 2010. After the 2013, Ujiri was named NBA Executive of the Year, the first – and only – non American to win the Award. Soon after that, he signed on with the Raptors to be their general manager, the position he holds today. In a not-so-proud moment, there was the time he shouted “F*** Brooklyn” at a pep rally before the Raptors played a playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets. Hey, we’re not perfect!

TGIF tomorrow! See you then!

Take care!


Robert E. Lee Morris’s LA Times crossword — Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 160128

LA Times

ALTEREDSTATES is a 1980 horror film I’ve not heard of. It serves as the focal point of a theme in which four two-part answers have US States scrambled between those two parts. DRIVINGRAIN includes VIRGINIA; PINEMARTEN has MAINE; GEENADAVIS hides NEVADA; and PAIDHOLIDAY conceals IDAHO. There are 50 states, and only four feature; that said, most states are very long, and challenging to conceal, even in a scrambled format.


  • Haven’t heard much of [Quarterback with the 2011 autobiography “Through My Eyes”], TEBOW. Does he still play American Football?
  • [It’s usually taken in twos], ASPIRIN. I took a single Copadol and my aches feel a lot better than if I’d taken any amount of Aspirin! Opioids FTW!
  • [“__ Grows in Brooklyn”], ATREE is a rather ungainly answer for a fairly quiet part of the grid. It wants to be AGREE, but that would duplicate AGE.

3.5 Stars

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18 Responses to Thursday, January 28, 2016

  1. ktd says:

    My dictionary of music terms says DUPLE time (or duple meter) refers to a rhythm having an even number of beats per measure, like 2/4, 4/4, etc. I think the clue/word is legitimate, but perhaps it helps to know this context.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      ktd, you have pretty much said the same thing, but as a musician I often say that a piece, or a movement (especially a dance movement, as in the Bach keyboard suites) is in duple or triple meter.

      At first I thought there were going to be she’s paired with the he’s, but then I caught on the to helium filled balloon. Easy puzzle, but Liz always gives you something a little different and unexpected.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      What’s weird is that some dictionaries give only the musical definition, whereas this clue and the three prior DUPLE clues in Cruciverb don’t mention music at all. As if we are all bandying the word about in place of “double” in other contexts—which I don’t think more than a teeny fraction of us could,possibly be doing.

      • Martin says:

        This is the first Shortz-era appearance. Interestingly, it was used by previous Times editors eleven times. All twelve used the same clue, “Twofold.”

        Since Liz is a musician, I’d have thought the common musical sense would have had a premiere appearance.

      • ktd says:

        Fair point; maybe for a general audience, an easy (Mon-Wed) clue could be “Like 2/4 time”, and a harder (Thu-Sun) clue could be “Like 2/4 or 4/4”

  2. Joshua Kosman says:

    Where I come from, there’s only one Tanguy of note.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Also was thinking of the fascinating surrealist painter Yves Tanguy.

  4. pannonica says:

    Was there an explanation accompanying the print edition? If not, I wonder if some solvers thought the line to be a printing error.

    • Alan D. says:

      My first thought was, “What’s that line doing in my pdf? Couldn’t be an error, could it?” Then I saw Liz Gorski’s byline and figured it was going to be a grid art thing, which it was! But, no, no explanation that I saw.

  5. Zulema says:

    What threw me for quite a while was trying to find an edible for the “party staple.”

  6. Ari says:

    Am I being dense? I’m stumped at Speaker’s position? is AMP. is it just that one mode of a speaker is to amplify?

  7. Ari says:

    Thanks! I guess I always thought it was opposite that speakers contain amps. Makes more sense now. Hi Amy!

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