Thursday, February 4, 2016

BEQ 9:56 (Ben) 


CS 7:30 (Ade) 


Fireball puzzle 7:31; theme 10 minutes (Matt) 


LAT 7:08 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:52 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 2 4 16, no 0204

NY Times crossword solution, 2 4 16, no 0204

I didn’t realize there was a Notepad entry till after I had figured out the theme and finished the puzzle, and all is right with the world. The hint was: “The four long Across answers are affected by a literal interpretation of the circled boxes.” The circled/shaded squares contain RO and OT in a 2×2 square, and so it is that the numbers in the theme phrases must be converted into their square roots.

  • 17a. [Ace], HOLE IN ONE. This one is extra tricky! Because the square root of 1 is … 1. No change. Obscures the gimmick till later on when things don’t fit.
  • 28a. [Marvel Comics group], FANTASTIC TWO. Square root of 4.
  • 45a. [Elated], ON CLOUD THREE. 9.
  • 60a. [Milestone birthday], SWEET FOUR. 16.

Solid Thursday mathy theme. Tight set, in perfect 1-2-3-4 order.

One thing I really appreciate about some of our COC (that’s constructors of color) is their penchant for including more diverse fill. Jeff’s five Asia/Pacific Islands–oriented answers here—Anna SUI, LAO-TSE, KARMA, Lhasa APSO, and ALOHA—are a bigger set than I saw in several other recent Thursday NYTs. Mr. T’s BARACUS and Rita Moreno’s ANITA also offset white chaps ELIHU and ROSSI. Compare the 1/21 puzzle, which had names of five white people along with Mauna LOA, KRISHNA, and the SENECA tribe. I like crosswords that represent my world (which is half female, too!), and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Top fill: THE MAFIA and its rival, THE RAFLU (just kidding—that’s THERAFLU); CITADEL, which is far too pretty a word for its meaning; the abovementioned BLACKLIST; and the always delightful SLEEPS IN (unless it makes you late for something).

Three more things:

  • 34d. [Bar in Hollywood], BLACKLIST. Don’t try to meet a date there, because this “bar” is a verb. Tricky clue.
  • 42a. [Scottish seaport known for its single-malt Scotch], OBAN. This is only faintly familiar to me. I’m not a whiskey drinker (I’m more Irish than Scottish, so I spell it with an E).
  • 3d. [Secretarial sort], FILER. *frown* People sending in their tax forms are filers. People who are doing the filing at work are … people doing the filing. Back in my corporate office days, we had a temp who did our photocopying and filing. We called him Derek. (Possibly “copy guy.”) But never “filer.”

There was a broad smattering of short-range fill I didn’t really care for. Four stars from me.

Celia Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dish Pan” — Jim’s review

Another new BYLINE today. Again, it’s either a debut or an anagram for “I, Alchemist” (or possibly “Chili Meats”).

WSJ - Thu, Feb 4, 2016 - "Dish Pan"

WSJ – Thu, Feb 4, 2016 – “Dish Pan”

Quote time! Haven’t had one in a while, methinks. This one comes from humorist Dave Barry and is split up thusly: 17A / 31A / 38A / 43A / 58A or ESCARGOT / IS FRENCH FOR / FAT / CRAWLING BAG / OF PHLEGM.

Now, I’m a Dave Barry fan, so I’m inclined to like this puzzle. And I’m all for more humor in puzzles. But a lot of people don’t care for quotes since the clues are of little help. Here, Mr. Barry is panning a certain dish, hence the title.

I managed to get ESCARGOT fairly quickly so that helped me get a foothold (is there a pun there?). But then I moved to the southeast and got OF PHLEGM next, so I got the gist of the joke without the middle. Maybe if I had uncovered them in order, it would have been funnier to me.

Yes, the quote breaks up symmetrically, but it’s awkward with the last OF PHLEGM and the short little FAT hiding there in the middle. It’s hard to make out when you’re trained to look for long Across theme answers. SHOO AWAY and IN SEASON are distracting when trying to pick out the quote from the completed grid.

Another nit is that PAN (41A) is in the grid in addition to the title, but it has nothing to do with the theme. It has a great clue [Darling friend], but I feel it should have been changed to PEN or PIN.

Good fill: THE RENT (is “I Got You, Babe” becoming the official song of Groundhog Day?), PINE TAR, BIG NOSE, DESOTOS, and MY GOSH. (As in, “MY GOSH, that’s a really BIG NOSE!”) The Downs in those west and east sections are all good with SEANCE, EMPIRE (clued as the current hit Fox show), ZIP CAR, and ROMANY. SHOO AWAY and IN SEASON are good, but as I said, distracting from the theme.

Things I didn’t know: Supermodel ADRIANA Lima (8D), her neighbor RICKY C (9D), DESOTOS Airstream and Diplomat (51A), and the fact that The Sun Also Rises is known as FIESTA (59A) in the UK. That just seems so…wrong. Wikipedia explains it was Hemingway’s working title but he changed it when he wanted to focus the novel on morality. FIESTA makes it sound so light and fun.

Overall, this is a solid puzzle with some good fill, but the quote is chopped up awkwardly (though I realize that’s the only way to get it into the grid).

Randall Hartman’s Fireball Crossword — “Open Mike” — Matt’s review


After solving this puzzle, the Boss Lady here at Fiend wrote me: “I’m glad you’re blogging this one, since the theme eludes me.”

Well, it eluded me as well –after five minutes of trying to figure it out I went back to see if I’d missed some meta instructions (no), and five minutes after that I was about to text (not e-mail — I wanted to know right away) Fireball’s editor to clue me in. Pride intervened and I gave it one more look, and then it fell.

Our five theme entries are:

17-A [Art gallery concern] = WALL SPACE. Nice phrase.
23-A [Discovery’s longest-running series] = MYTHBUSTERS. Another good entry.
37-A [Queen Elizabeth II’s I] = ROYAL WE. 3/3 on nice phrases, and the clue here is tricky.
51-A [Yard arms?] = PEA SHOOTERS. Not sure what a “yard arm” is. My generation re-engineered a specific brand of erasable pen into a spitwad shooter. Or at least my junior high school friends and I did.
61-A [“Wake up out there!”] = LOOK ALIVE!

So that’s a well above-average set of evocative entries. But what ties them together? My first thought from the title was that famous Mikes would appear in the themers. Is there a Mike Wall? Maybe. A Mike Myth? No.

Ten minutes of blank staring later, it popped right out: there are famous Mikes whose names begin and end each entry: WALLACE, MYERS, ROWE (from “Dirty Jobs”), PETERS (no idea, let me Google it — a musician who thinks he’s the head of Big Country now? Sorry, Big Country died with the great Stuart Adamson), and Mike LOVE, a musician I don’t need to Google.

Tough one! I liked it. Would’ve worked nicely as a meta, too (What man’s name is suggested by this puzzle’s theme entries?)

7 things I liked about this puzzle:

1) The amusing IDAHO/IOWA duo at 1-A/1-D. And bonus geography OMAHA, NEPAL, PAPEETE, and URAL.
2) The Gordon-esque (i.e., very long) clue for EBAY: [“Weird Al” Yankovic parody of the Backstreet Boys song “I Want It That Way” with the lyric “I’ll buy your tchotchkes / Sell me your watch, please”]. That’s a great line, but my favorite is: ‘The kind of stuff you’d throw away / I’ll buy on eBay”

3) Intra-Virginia clue for ESE: [Richmond-to-Norfolk dir.]
4) [Soap box]? for TV SET.
6) Big and elegant corners in the NE and SW
7) Mention of “The Premature Burial” by POE. That one scared the !@#$% out of me when I was a kid.

4.10 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Queue and Cry” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.03.03 AM

Queue and Cry

After last week’s fun Going Too Far puzzle, we’re back to a standard BEQ puzzle this Thursday.  I wasn’t paying attention to the title with this puzzle until I started noticing all the Qs (and their attendant Us) popping up while solving the down clues.  That cracked the theme clues (and the clue as to what was going on given by the title of the puzzle):

  • 20A: The grandeur of being gay? — QUEER MAJESTY
  • 36A: Brewer from Bilbao? — BEER BASQUE
  • 41A: Bottomless parts of a Muslim’s temple? — MOSQUE PITS
  • 50A: Curt comment to the audience? — BRUSQUE ASIDE

Just replace the QUE in each answer with an H (even the title – HUE and Cry) and you’ve got a more common phrase (although BEER BASH doesn’t quite read right to me, especially compared to HER MAJESTY, MOSH PITS, and BRUSH ASIDE).  QUE sera sera, I suppose.

This week in The Puzzle Is Attuned To My Specific Realm of Knowledge, I wasn’t stumped by the references to the MCDLT (which I’ve never had, but remember the hot side/cold side well) at 18A and GUY Noir (the gumshoe on Prairie Home Companion, a beloved export of my home state of MN) at 23A.  That said, there were a looooot of sports references that really dragged down my solving time: JOHAN Santana (5A), IRABU Hideki (15A), LUIS Suarez (35A), and SHAQ (1D).  That quibble aside, there’s a lot to like in the fill here.


Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 160204

LA Times

The theme is two-word answers, both answers of which end in Y. That’s it!? Because the theme is so open-ended, it’s rammed home with a quartet of spanning answers. I like to see anatomy, so PULMONARYARTERY is in my happy place, but I can’t help feeling LITERARYFORGERY, SECONDARYMEMORY, MILITARYHISTORY and PULMONARYARTERY are a rather dry, technical set.

I had a rare stuck final square issue; in fact, I had two: names EDER and RADNER. If I’d focused a bit more, I could’ve dredged up the RADNER “SNL” connection. RET now seems obvious, but at the time its collision with OLEAN, a town of 14,000 odd souls, was completely opaque.


  • [Aussie colleges], UNIS – these clues always pretend that Australian English is the only Commonwealth variant that favours that slang, for some reason.
  • [Part of TTFN], TATA. No clue! Apparently, short for “tata for now” and WWII era slang. Is it just me or does this come across as aggresively musty in places?
  • [Like some small dogs], YAPPY. I dispute the word “some”.

2.5 Stars

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Gym Dandies”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.04.15: "Gym Dandies"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.04.15: “Gym Dandies”

Good afternoon, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle is brought to us by the coolest DADDY-O on the crossword block, Mr. Doug Peterson (4D: [“Dude,” in the ’50s]). In the grid, common exercises are clued as puns, with one of the words in each them entry, used in a different context, being something that’s associated with the person in the clue.

  • SHADOW BOXING (20A: [Private detective’s favorite exercise?])
  • BICEPS CURL (36A: [Hairstylist’s favorite exercise?])
  • BENCH PRESS (44A: [Judge’s favorite exercise?])
  • JUMPING JACKS (57A: [Card player’s favorite exercise?])

Initially put in “Fido” where FIFI should have been, and that was the only real hangup that I had in solving (25A: [Popular poodle name]). I wonder how many people nowadays call their poodles (or any of their dogs) Fifi. Seems outdated now, but, then again, I’m not a dog owner. Haven’t seen a Frozen clue in about a few days, but that ended with ELSA‘s appearance today (38D: [Anna’s sister, in “Frozen”]). One of the themes, Shadow Boxing, has given me the most awesome ear worm: the song Shadowboxing by GZA from the Wu Tang Clan. It’s not for everybody, but I couldn’t get enough of this song when it first came out…and I can’t get enough of it right now! Oh, and then there’s another musician in the grid that made me think of good things, and that’s LISZT (68A: [Composer of the Mephisto Waltzes]). Specifically, it made me think of Bugs Bunny playing Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in “Rhapsody Rabbit” and taking a phone call while playing and saying he never heard of Franz Liszt. I wanted to embed the video on here, but the only ones available on YouTube are in a different language! So, just click here, and head to the 2:40 mark, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ANSON (7D: [Williams of “Happy Days”])  –One of the first stars of the game of baseball in the latter part of the 19th century, Cap ANSON is widely recognized as the first person ever to collect 3,000 hits in a professional baseball career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

TGIF tomorrow! Hope you all have a great Thursday ahead!

Take care!


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22 Responses to Thursday, February 4, 2016

  1. Ross I. says:

    Fitting for square root theme to run on 2/4/16.

  2. Scott says:

    Wow, I completely missed the notepad entry as well. Fun puzzle.

  3. huda says:

    NYT- I loved the theme. I did not see the Notepad either so it was definitely a better feeling to figure it out. Some of the fill/cluing gave me trouble. THE MAFIA took a long time to click, I thought it was ELIJA not ELIHU, DETOX rather than REBAB, so the whole NW sat there for a while until I worked myself from bottom to top, and having figured out that it had to be an expression with ONE in it made it all work.

    Is CAT DOOR a stand alone thing?

    I’ve been to OBAN. It was a long time ago but it all came back to me. My husband loves single malt scotches and it was quite an interesting experience. Some of it tasted like I had accidentally sucked on a pipet in lab, but I guess there’s no accounting for tastes.

  4. Joe Pancake says:

    This was the best themed NYT I’ve done in some time. But I’m a sucker for a good math theme.

    My one small complaint: I hated the note. It took away what would have been a great a-ha moment. Would Thursday-level solvers have been lost without it? That seems unlikely.

    In general, I don’t like the NYT notes, because I never know whether or not I should read them before solving the puzzle. Sometimes it is essential to do so; sometimes it just spoils some of the fun.

    • Norm says:

      I try to avoid reading the notes unless I’m totally stumped. I thought the late great Merl often gave away too much.

  5. ConvolutED says:

    I think the most likely anagram for ‘Celia Smith’ is “It’s Michael”, suggesting that this is not a debut, but another pseudonym.

  6. Mark says:

    Question to NYT puzzlers: Do you do the mini puzzle that recently began running daily? I find it kind of fun, but lately the bottom row on the puzzle is obscured by the keyboard (using iPhone). My gym buddy has the same problem. Others? Any fix? Thanks.

    • huda says:

      Yeah, I think they’re fun. Have a little edgy to them.
      I do them on iPAD and there doesn’t seem to be a problem there… If the grid is enlarged, it can be squeezed down with that pinching/squeezing motion, but that has a lower limit… the controls under the gear icon let you change the clue size but not the grid size.

  7. lemonade714 says:

    I was on cloud 81 solving the NYT. Jeff has become a true master in 6 short years. Seems like yesterday…

  8. Huphup says:

    I do the NYT on my IPad and the bottom left corner was greyed in. No other hint was given. I thought ,because a number of your readers indicatie that hints within the clues make it too easy, that Shortz was responding to that with simply a visual hint.
    I am not aware of the notepad readers are referring to, unless it’s the info blog I seldom read until I’m finished.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    All right — I guess I can’t restrain myself, but I almost always — (I’m tempted to say always) — wish I had. Why is {Darling friend} a clue for ‘Pan?’

    Ade, I was delighted to see your reference to Liszt and the Mephisto Waltz — (there’s only one piece that actually gets called ‘The’ Mephisto Waltz). Ironic that it was always one of my knock-em dead showpieces, and I’ve been working at trying to drill it back into my fingers for several days. Unfortunately my cerebellum is still suffering the effects of 15 days of whole brain radiation a year ago, and it simply may not be possible ever again, but I’m going persist at it for a while.

  10. Jeffrey K says:

    Wendy Darling’s friend is Peter Pan.

  11. Lois says:

    I have to say regarding the NYT puzzle that I was glad to have the note. That doesn’t make you smarties wrong to try not to look at it, but I do want to speak up for those of us who were happier with it. Joe Pancake has a good point in that sometimes the note might be more necessary than at other times. I myself am never in the position of preferring not to have read the note.

    Excellent theme today.

  12. David says:

    Bela Lugosi was not in “The Raven”. You were thinking of Boris Karloff. Do you have an editor?

  13. Jan says:

    I was wondering about the theme in the LAT, too. I think it’s more than just two words that end in -y. Each phrase is a 4-syllable word, followed by a 3-syllable word. If you read all four in succession, it’s a little poem!

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