Thursday, February 11, 2016

BEQ 8:55 (Ben) 


CS 8:58 (Ade) 


Fireball 6:16 (Amy) 


LAT 5:10 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:41 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 11 16, no 0211

NY Times crossword solution, 2 11 16, no 0211

The theme hinges on four famous people’s initials and their (binary) male or female identity:

  • 17a. [Malady?], MARIE ANTOINETTE. She’s an “M.A. lady.”
  • 22a. [Tamale?], TOM ARNOLD, “T.A. male.”
  • 27d. [Roman?], ROY ORBISON, “R.O. man.”
  • 30d. [Legal?], LINDA EVANS, “L.E. gal.”

Fresh and unexpected theme. Odd layout, with the left/right symmetry, 15- and 9-letter Acrosses, and 10-letter Downs.

Lively fill includes SPIT TAKE, TIME SINKS, OMIGOSH, those ATM INSIDE signs, and OKEY-DOKE.

Dupe issue: 16a. [Have the answers], KNOW / 36d. [Knowledge range], KEN. I ran into the KEN clue mere moments after filling in KNOW, so it clanged.

Four more things:

  • 29a. [Popular fragrance that’s a girl’s name], LOLA. Never heard of it. Those of us with fragrance allergies don’t keep up with the perfume business.
  • 58a. [Dweller on the upper Mississippi], IOWAN. “Dweller” is looking so bizarre to me right now. Are you a dweller?
  • 1d. [First name in home humor], ERMA. Strangely enough, I read lots of Erma Bombeck books when I was a kid. Not exactly the target audience. Did you know she died in 1996 just a few short weeks after her kidney transplant? So sad.
  • 38d. [Gifting someone with a clock in China, e.g.], TABOO. I did not know that! Interesting thing to learn.

3.8 stars. The short fill felt a little flat to me.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Period Pieces” — Jim’s review

Gosh! Seems like it was just last week when Samuel A. Donaldson was here with a crossword. (Checking…) Yup. It was last week. He gave us last Wednesday’s “Tailor Swifties” which I enjoyed.

But I think I like today’s even better. Sam gives us four phrases which contain a two-letter “word” and changes that word to its abbreviation (using the same letters). For example, I’M becomes I.M., ID becomes I.D.

WSJ - Thu, Feb 11, 2016 - "Period Pieces"

WSJ – Thu, Feb 11, 2016 – “Period Pieces”

  • 20A [Chat online with some ol’ chatterbox?] I.M. A RAMBLIN’ MAN. Cute. Not only do we get the change to the abbreviation, but we get a play on the word RAMBLIN‘. The only downside to this one is that I don’t think anyone uses the term I.M. anymore. Do they?
  • 35A [Dismiss the whole computer support department?] LET I.T. GO. Nice. At first I thought there was a tech theme going on with the first themer and this one, plus the clue for BINARY at 23A [Apt subject in Comp Sci 101]. But that’s not the case.
  • 38A [Tumultuous hookup in intensive care?] ROCKY I.V. This is the weakest of the lot and the only one where the base “word” is not a word but a Roman numeral. Also “ROCKY” seems like a strange choice to describe an I.V. The clue had me thinking a couple people in the ICU were getting it on which I thought was funny (since that’s the last thing people would think about in the ICU), but the answer was much tamer and a bit of a let down.
  • 52A [Nickname for a peddler of fake passports?] THE WIZARD OF I.D. My favorite of the bunch. It’s clever and creative, and you can imagine someone being called this.

This is a 72-word grid and is startling in its cleanliness and great fill. Look at the NE and SW sections which are pretty wide open. Sam could’ve easily put a block where the B in MEGABYTE (24A) is (the first S in CHESS SET), and no one would’ve dinged him for that. As it is, he left it open and we get some lovely choices. MEGABYTE crossing DATA BANK (brilliant!), along with RAINY DAYS. The downside in that section is the ugly ELEVS which results directly from ROCKY I.V. In the north, JIMMY PAGE makes an appearance along with a WALL MAP. And let’s not forget BINARY, TIP JAR, and GYM RAT!

In the SW, I was trying to shoehorn AT THAT TIME in where AT THE TIME went eventually (32D [Back then]). Next door is IRISH SEA, and both cross CHESS SET. We also get FOXWORTHY as well as DITZIER making good use of the Z from WIZARD. I prefer Bram STOKER (45D) to a generic [Boiler room worker], but I guess you can’t have everything.

With tricky clues throughout, solving the puzzle was a slowish affair, but very satisfying. I did get stuck a couple times. The crossing of RAE (38D [Hip-hop duo ___ Sremmurd]) and DAX (40A [Shepard of “Parenthood”]) left me guessing (correctly, I might add). (RAE Sremmurd is “ear drummers” backward.) I didn’t fare as well in the very SW where [Paul’s “Exodus” co-star] crosses [1966 Broadway role for Angela Lansbury]. The [Not altered] clue for AS IS was messing with my head. I was thinking it should be one word like PURE. Eventually I convinced myself that AVIS might possibly fit the clue which gave me VAL for Paul’s co-star, whom I didn’t know but thought would be plausible. So I got a wrong answer there. I eventually sorted it out to be SAL Mineo as Paul Newman’s co-star.

All in all, a great puzzle that hit all the sweet spots for me: tricky clues, clever wordplay, and interesting fill.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Accent Walls” — Ben’s Review

Accent Walls

Accent Walls

It took me a few minutes after I finished the grid to process exactly what was going on with this Thursday’s BEQ puzzle.  Across Lite refusing to display a few characters correctly didn’t really help things out, since they play a crucial role in parsing the answers to some of the clues:

  • 20A: Evil twin — DOPPELGÄNGER
  • 37A: Embassy Official — CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES
  • 49A: Bill Clinton’s secretary of transportation — FEDERICO PEÑA
  • 9D: Buck passer? — DOE / ATM
  • 21D: Dull feeling — PAIN / ENNUI
  • 39D: Chills, maybe — AGUE / NAPS

Treating the accents that appear in the across answers as “walls” (“Accent Walls”?  get it?), the otherwise nonsense down answers suddenly make sense as pairs of answers to the same clue.  I think I like the concept of this theme a little more than the actual execution – it’s a cute (and even clever) idea, but it didn’t jump out to me as I was solving.  Plus, depending on your solving method of choice, you may get frustrated trying to get the accent marks into the grid in the first place.

Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:

  • 15A: Actor Vigoda who finally made good on that internet meme this year — ABE (Goodnight, Detective Fish)
  • 33D: Pictures of Hawaii, perhaps? — INSETS
  • 38D: Soft drink with the “It’s Mine” ad campaign — DIET COKE (I still have this Diet Coke jingle stuck in my head, months after the trivia event that lodged it there has ended)

Again, I liked the idea behind this puzzle, but I’m not sure the full execution did it for me.  Still, a good puzzle.


Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Power Plant”—Amy’s write-up

Fireball crossword solution, 2 11 16, "Power Plant"

Fireball crossword solution, 2 11 16, “Power Plant”

The theme here is BATTERIES INCLUDED, and three A “batteries” (or a single AAA battery, split into three separate letters?) are inserted into the midst of these phrases to change their words:

  • 3d. [Mariners team enjoying the ocean view?], SEATTLE MEN AT COAST. “Settlement cost,” kinda boring.
  • 5d. [Kentucky senator Rand met the associate justices of the Supreme Court without accompaniment?], PAUL ALONE SAW EIGHT. “Pull one’s weight,” solid. ALONE SAW EIGHT, awkward.
  • 9d. [Singer’s excited cry when being paid with bread?], “WHEE, A LOAF FOR A TUNE!” Wheel of Fortune, really a nice combo of great phrase and goofball theme answer.

Five more things:

  • 65a. [Vodka brand name with a faux Cyrillic letter in its ads], GEORGI. Never heard of it.
  • 19a. [Fusion predecessor], … ATRA? Overused shaving product brand name, blah. The clue had me thinking physics.
  • 42a. [What a submariner wants to keep low], ERA. I’m guessing that “submariner” means something in baseball. I don’t know (or care) what. We get enough baseball stuff in crosswords without adding baseball-nerd terminology, don’t we?
  • 59a. [562% of L, quintupled], MCDV. *frown* I know Peter likes his Roman numeral math clues, but nobody much actually likes these answers.
  • 38d. [DC Comics supervillain who is a walking vat of toxic waste], CHEMO. I did not know that! Patron supervillain of cancer patients?

There’s an awful lot of short fill that felt flat. You expect some, absolutely. But I felt like there was no escaping the ATRA LEM EER ETA HEE ETTU ASEA, etc. The theme was one-third fun for me. So I’m calling it 3.5 stars; as always, your mileage may vary.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Talk”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.11.15: "Double Talk"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.11.15: “Double Talk”

Hello, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, is like the grid we did a couple of days ago, with the ___ AND ___ pattern, but this time, the theme makeup is of common phrases used for emphasis. I guess you could say that it’s through and through.

  • NULL AND VOID (17A: [Doubly invalid])
  • FREE AND CLEAR (28A: [Doubly unencumbered])
  • SAFE AND SOUND (48A: [Doubly secure])
  • WELL AND GOOD (63A: [Doubly acceptable])

There has to be a web site dedicated to finding out what a Founding Father looked like without his powdered WIG, right (63D: [Topper for many a Founding Father]). Searching that after this blog to see if any real and/or satirical site exists about that. I thought the clue to SMART, once the intersecting down entries gave you a clue to that answer, was pretty clever (1A: [Appropriate word for 1-Across]). I was so wrapped up in French cities in the grid, like ARLES (14A: [Where van Gogh painted “The Yellow House”]), that I put in “Caen” instead of CAFE later on in my solving, even though there was already a French city referenced in the clue (45A: [Paris hangout for Hemingway]). Definitely a DEAR ME moment right there (43A: [Worrier’s words]). There were a couple of obvious sports clues in the grid – NBA FINALS (35D: [Big spring tourney]) and US OPEN (8D: [PGA event]) – but neither made the cut for the “sports…smarter” clue of the day. That honor belongs to…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KIM (40A: [Diminutively dubbed rapper])  –Smack dab in the middle of the grid was a clue that made me think of the former relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Byung-Hyun KIM, who made the All-Star Game in 2002 as a member of the D-backs. Of course, Kim will be most remembered for allowing game-tying ninth-inning home runs in both Game 4 and Game 5 of the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees, games that the Yankees won to take a 3-2 World Series lead. Arizona, however, won Games 6 and 7 to take the title.

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

Take care!


Steve Marrin and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160211

LA Times

C.C., the caped crusader to mild-mannered Zhouqin is back again with one of her many Robins, Steve Marrin. Today’s theme features an excellent revealer for this early-week theme type, which is (surprise!) running on a Thursday. PLOTTWIST is a colourful answer, though the gimmick itself is not one of my favourites (though I may have published puzzles using it…) You take PLOT and rearrange it one of the 4! ways it can be ordered, and then span those letters between two parts of theme answers. We get padded GO[TOPL]ANB, PIS[TOLP]ETE (clued as someone other than Sampras?!), ETERNA[LOPT]IMIST, and RIO[TPOL]ICE.

[Printing heavyweight], EPSON. I skipped part of the clue and wrote TYSON first…
[Online reminders], ENOTES. Does anyone ever see this “in the wild”?
[Causes of many Alaskan road accidents], MOOSE. Around here it’s kudu…
[She beat out Madeline Kahn, with whom she shared the screen, for Best Supporting Actress], TATUMONEAL. Full name! ADIOSAMIGO its symmetrical partner is also good.
[Org. that publishes weekly player rankings], ATP. Yay for this. I was told it was obscure by an editor once… Huh? It’s the governing body of a major sport and as such is referenced constantly when watching / reading about said sport. See also WTA, and in fact, LPGA.
[Lauren et al.], RALPHS. Wish this was clued as [Upchucks]
[Tazo choice], CHAI. Tazo was the SA name for what you call(ed) POGs. It took a while to twig they were the same thing…

3.5 Stars

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27 Responses to Thursday, February 11, 2016

  1. chris says:

    very easy cluing for a thursday in my opinion. ran through it rathe quickly, but without kenning the theme. enjoyed seeing lola and kink next to each other in the grid, though, and nearly distracted myself there.

  2. Zulema says:

    Got it with no errors, the crossing of LOLA and NOLL a good guess, but no idea of what was going on, and having read the solution, feel it was a just punishment for my having enjoyed Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s logic overmuch.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: yeah, finished it fine but only with the vaguest inkling that the theme was clued with the same starting letter as the answer. I felt if I spent time I might figure it out, but decided I was too tired. Now I’m curious and wish I’d spent a bit longer trying. Not sure whether or not I’d have gotten it after a little effort…

    • Lois says:

      Not just the same starting letter, but the first two letters of the clue are the initials of the answer, as Amy shows.

      I really needed to get the theme, which took me a long time to figure out, because I didn’t know a lot of the short fill. I liked Chris’s note above, but I didn’t notice the connection myself.

  4. Andy says:

    If anyone’s interested, C.C.’s puzzle was not the one used as the finals puzzle in Westport last weekend. I’ll be sure to make a note of it when that puzzle runs.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Well I thought that was about the most difficult Thursday in recent memory, mostly because I didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on. I shrugged my shoulders and I filled it all in, apparently correctly, but in a total fog as to what I was doing. When that happens I usually don’t rate the puzzle, figuring it’s not fair to the constructor. I mean, I can’t downgrade a puzzle just for emo and eno. At least we didn’t also get elo.

    Naturally, a lot of comments came to me since I wasn’t happy when I was solving it. I think the word “dweller” is fine, especially as in the expression “city dweller.” Isn’t the dragon in a lair, not a den? I have no idea what AMA for Reddit session means, but then I don’t know what Reddit, (or Tumbler, Tumblr?) are. To me they’re just more annoying computer jargon. I’ve never heard of “time sink” and it took me longer than it should have even with a lot of letters. Okey doke is one of those expressions where you can pretty much invent your own spelling. But then any puzzle which evokes the recollection of Sophia Loren emerging from the water in the opening scene of Boy on a Dolphin has a lot going for it.

  6. David L says:

    I found this very easy for a Thursday, except I didn’t understand the theme until after I’d finished, and even then it took me a while to cotton on. Maybe for that reason it seemed underwhelming to me — I was filling in proper names for the theme answers without any idea why they worked.

    I’m curious to get an opinion of today’s BEQ. I finished it correctly, except not correctly, because I don’t know technically how to do that (trying to avoid a spoiler here). And even then, I don’t understand the theme. OK, today is clearly my day for Not Getting It.

    • pannonica says:

      I’m waiting on that one too.

      • ArtLvr says:

        I ended up annoyed at the BEQ because I knew what was wanted & couldn’t get it to work in the grid. Ça n’est pas juste.

    • Papa John says:

      Across Lite put in the accent marks when I hit the reveal button but I have no idea how to do that. Do any of you geeks know how that’s done?

    • David L says:

      Well, that was a bit of a letdown. I was trying to insert the accents as words into the down entries and make some sense of what resulted.

    • David L says:

      Also, now that I look closely at the grid, the accent on the E seems to be a circumflex rather than acute

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        My understanding is that even the French are getting bored with circumflex accents, and tending to ignore them, but the accent on chargé d’affaires definitely should be an acute, not a circumflex, though I admit that it looks like a circumflex in BEQ’s solution. I liked the BEQ and was able to figure out the “double definition above and below the accent” aspect of the theme, from the word “wall.” So we had an aigu, an umlaut, and a tilde. The theme was not as imponderable for me as the NYT.

  7. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Great puzzle!

  8. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: This is my favorite CC puzzle in a long time, maybe ever. Not only was the theme clever, I quite liked the fill, especially SPIT TAKE and OKEY DOKE. Oh yeah, and it reminded me of my first ever puzzle publication. *smirk*

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m surprised that the baseball gurus haven’t jumped in, but a submariner — (the kind who stays out of the water) — is a pitcher whose delivery is not only side arm, but where the arm falls below the waist when the ball is released. But then you probably knew that; you just don’t much like the word. :-) As a digression, several navy people have told me to never, never pronounce the underwater kind of submariner with the accent on the second syllable, mar, but rather as one would pronounce the word “submarine” with an ‘r’ tacked on the end. They seem to feel pretty strongly about it.

  10. Gareth says:

    I say normal time, but I finished with a “blank” (filled by 26-letter AL shuffling) at NOLL/LOLA. If you cross those, I’d appreciate a more helpful clue for LOLA! I’d have loved to see NOLE Djokovic and Lake EOLA but that would have been 50x the Natick for everyone else!

    • Lois says:

      Gareth, I should leave you with your punchline, but I liked your comment a lot and I looked into it. The only Lake Eola I found when I Googled the name is in Orlando, Florida. Is that the one you mean, and if so how does it happen that you know it? I would know the nickname of my favorite tennis player, and so would some others, but of course you are right.

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