Tuesday, February 16, 2016

CS 8:02 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 4:54 (Derek) 


LAT 4:10 (Derek) 


NYT 3:05 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Ron and Nancy Byron’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 16 16, no 0216

NY Times crossword solution, 2 16 16, no 0216

The theme revealer is 55a. [Carved decoration on a ship’s prow … or a hint to the first word of 17-, 25-, 37- and 45-Across], FIGUREHEAD, and the other four themers yield the extrapolations full figure, action figure, stick figure, and “go figure.” Three noun phrases and a colloquial phrase, not a good balance.

  • 17a. [Banned wrestling hold], FULL NELSON.
  • 25a. [Aid in accomplishing a goal], ACTION PLAN.
  • 37a. [“Don’t give up the fight!”], STICK TO YOUR GUNS.
  • 45a. [Risk everything], GO FOR BROKE.

So much of this puzzle didn’t feel like a Tuesday puzzle, or really a 2016 puzzle. In my combined list of difficult and/or dusty fill, we have DECCA, HODS, DORIA, SADA, EELY, RANI, AT. NO., FER, DOERR, HAS AT, PETR (we don’t see a lot of Czech forenames in crosswords, nope), TUTEE, EDINA, SNELL, and ASSAY.

Three more things:

  • 31a. [Guest you might not want to stay for too long], IN-LAW. I’m crazy about my in-laws, so my “too long” might stretch out a bit further than yours.
  • 61a. [“Dark Sky Island” singer, 2015], ENYA. Title of her latest album, seven years after her previous one. The album’s sold OK, but it has zero hit singles.
  • 39d. [Where you might hear “Ding ding ding!”], GAME SHOW. Game show aficionados, tell me: Which show currently airing in TV has the best example of a “Ding ding ding!” sound effect?

Three stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “The Movie Room” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 6.18.35 PMA movie themed puzzle this week, no doubt inspired by the Oscar-nominated film, Room, which is actually mentioned in one of the clues! Here are the thematic entries:

  • 16A [She starred in 2002’s “Panic Room”] JODIE FOSTER
  • 40A [He played the central unifying character in 1995’s “Four Rooms”] TIM ROTH
  • 65A [He wrote, directed, and starred in the 2003 cult film “The Room”] TOMMY WISEAU
  • 10D [Best Actress nominee for 2015’s “Room”] BRIE LARSON
  • 27D [He played a part in 2000’s “Boiler Room”] BEN AFFLECK

I have seen a grand total of two of these movies (Panic Room and Boiler Room), and even then I think I haven’t seen those all the way through! I am not a big movie watcher. Big fan, just don’t watch many. One of the things that may change when I retire. And don’t have a toddler!

A fun puzzle from Matt again, and a quick time for me. Getting ready for Stamford! A solid 4.2 stars this week.

Some notes:

  • 25A [Republican presidential candidate Marco] RUBIO – If you don’t know who this is, you are likely comatose, regardless of your political preference. Very timely, if nothing else!
  • 69A [Ferrell’s cheerleading partner on “SNL”] OTERI – I mentioned a few months ago that I haven’t seen her in forever. Someone pointed out that she is still in some things. I still haven’t seen her, though!
  • 3D [Asian capital nicknamed the City of Azaleas] TAIPEI – Nice piece of trivia!
  • 48D [Olympics broadcaster Bob] COSTAS – This is official, I believe. Like there needed to be an official pronouncement! Olympics are a little less than 6 months away!
  • 53D [Tennis champ Rafael] NADAL – I believe I mentioned this before, but I love tennis! Nadal is on his last legs, it seems to me, but he will go down as one of the all-time greats, especially on clay.

It’s cold here in Indiana, but it is supposed to warm up at the end of the week. We may survive winter yet! Enjoy your week!

Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 7.27.25 AMI used to collect things when I was younger. As I get older, I have tried to simplify matters. Even so, I still have compulsions to watch entire seasons on Netflix! It’s kind of the same mentality, isn’t it?

I digress! The theme of today’s LAT puzzle is all about collecting! The long entries:

  • 18A [Add to the language] COIN A PHRASE
  • 23A [Unusually high temperatures, often] RECORD HEAT
  • 38A [Law enforcement slogan] STAMP OUT CRIME
  • 50A [Dessert with swirls] MARBLE CAKE – Yummy!
  • 58A [What the starts of 18-, 23-, 38- and 50-Across can be part of] COLLECTIONS

Who hasn’t collected one of these objects at one time or another? Although records are passé (yet making a comeback!), and most people stream music! And marbles are REALLY passé, at least to me. Used to collect stamps, and coin collectors are still around as well. Nice theme idea. How about a solid 3.8 stars.

A few observations:

  • 43A [Many opera villains] BASSI – I rarely see this word in a plural form, except in puzzles. Of course, with my unculturedness, I have never seen an opera!
  • 64A [Adult insect] IMAGO – I am good with this word now; it used to look and seem weird.
  • 5D [Grace opening] O LORD – Or, what my grandmother always used to say!
  • 35D [Printer resolution spec.] DPI – I don’t know about you guys, but I am a hard core laser printer user. It’s all about the puzzles!
  • 41D [Steph Curry’s org.] NBA – A timely clue, as the All-Star Game for the NBA was just Sunday. Steph Curry was prominently featured all weekend. I hope you found time to watch the 3-Point Shootout!

Hope you enjoyed the puzzle. Until Saturday’s LAT challenge!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 246), “Edgy”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 2/16 (No. 246) Graphic by Gorski

Crossword Nation 2/16 (No. 246) Graphic by Gorski

Terrific puzz today: strong theme, stronger execution. Terrific central reveal, too, right there at 36A. CITY BLOCK [Urban distance unit…or a hint to the puzzle theme], for as you see, the edges of the completed grid are comprised of the names of cities—eight of ’em, all seven letters long, all of ’em clued independent of their status as CITY names. Let’s take a (clockwise) walk around the BLOCK…

  • 1A. BOULDER [Very large rock]. CO
  • 8A. CHICAGO [“Razzle Dazzle” musical]. IL
  • 14D. OLYMPIA [Dukakis of “Moonstruck”]. WA
  • 46D. HOUSTON [“I’m Every Woman” singer]. TX
  • 66A. MADISON [Unger’s pal]. WI
  • 65A. NEWPORT [Cigarette brand]. RI
  • 39D. JACKSON [Reggie, aka “Mr. October”]. MS
  • 1D. BUFFALO [Critter on a nickel]. NY And, yes, while we correctly refer to that creature as a BISON (whose numbers are the topic of this recent and disturbing op-ed piece…), numismatically speaking we’re looking at the American BUFFALO, the flip side of the Indian Head nickel.

And you know what a border of seven-letter fill LEADS TO? Today, at any rate, that’d be a grid distinguished by beautiful open corners with interlocking triple-sevens, down and across (for a total of 24 sevens). While AURORAL and UPHEAVE feel forced and are not words we’re likely to encounter on any kind of regular basis (thank goodness…), entries like RE-ENTRY, FORTIES, ON ORDER, UNNERVE, GARMENT, TORT LAW, SALAMIS, LEADS TO, CHRISTO and ACTRESS more than make themselves welcome. Those last two especially.

Loved being reminded of the Reichstag-wrapping CHRISTO who, 11 years ago and closer to home, stationed curtain-like, orange-saffrony “gates” all throughout Central Park. Their placement in 12-foot intervals along some 23 miles of walkways emphasized the park’s “bone structure,” especially in the aftermath of a winter snow, when orange-on-white made the paths so visible. Because CHRISTO is so strong, coulda lived without the weak and duplicate-like CHR [Prot., for example], but also see how there was probably no easy way around this. (Maybe cluing it in connection with Contemporary Hit Radio? Still not particularly wonderful…)

golden gates

Loved that ACTRESS was clued as [Flick chick] and then, that the puzz also gave us a chick-flick-specific shout-out to GEENA Davis, co-star with Susan Sarandon, of Thelma & Louise (also featuring a young, barely-known Brad Pitt in a role that won him a lot of attention). Another ACTRESS in the grid is Judy [Garland, nee GUMM]. Nee Frances Ethel GUMM if ya wanna get technical. Of the GUMM Sisters. The GUMM surname, however, got me to thinking about sisters and ACTRESSes Mamie and Grace GUMMer—which then had me wondering if there’s a GUMMest or two out there…

ONI [Clandestine maritime org.] has appeared in puzzles before—even several that I’ve solved. But darned if it didn’t seem like something totally new to me. This is the Office of Naval Intelligence, btw, which is BASED [Headquartered] in Suitland, MD. Feelin’ like an idiot here. Maryland is my home state. Never hearda ONI; never hearda Suitland. From where I sit, they’re doing a very good at the “clandestine” part!

About to take my leave here, but not without acknowledging the fair CITY of VENICE, which connects with painter (Jean-Baptiste-)Camille COROT, which connects with TIME BOMBS, the puzzle’s, uh, dynamite central Down entry. Keep solving and come back next week for more!


“A Woman Reading” — read all about it

Jacob Stulberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Winning Words” — Jim’s review

I am going to apologize right of the bat for shortened and tardy posts this week. I traveled across nine time zones and am feeling the hurt! Yesterday’s WSJ holiday was a godsend for me, but time and crosswords wait for no one, so let us carry on!

Today’s puzzle is perfect for Ade, our resident sportswriter. Jacob Stulberg gives us a list of sports nicknames — not nicknames of players, but the actual sports themselves — mostly coined by sportswriters and commentators.

WSJ - Tue, Feb 16, 2016 - "Winning Words" by Jacob Stulberg

WSJ – Tue, Feb 16, 2016 – “Winning Words” by Jacob Stulberg

  • 20A [Boxing, with “the] SWEET SCIENCE
  • 39A [Soccer, with “the”] BEAUTIFUL GAME
  • 56A [Horse racing, with “the”] SPORT OF KINGS

I’ve never heard of the “SWEET SCIENCE” but it originated in the early 19th century with writer Pierce Egan who referred to the sport as the “SWEET SCIENCE of bruising”. This term seems to have been the direct cause of nicknames for both Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard. (I wonder if Evander Holyfield’s ear was sweet.)

You can call soccer the “BEAUTIFUL GAME,” just don’t call it “soccer” outside the U.S.

Any other nicknames you can think of? Baseball is the “NATIONAL PASTIME” which makes a good 15-letter spanner. I’ve seen cricket referred to as the “GENTLEMAN”S GAME”. American football doesn’t seem to have any sort of ubiquitous poetic nickname.

There are four football references away from the theme (5A JETS, 38A Terrell OWENS, 28D TDS, and 37D PUNT). 49D PASSES could’ve been cross-referenced with both OWENS and TDS, but it gets a non-sports clue [Elapses]. Baseball gets one entry (30A RBI).

Aside from the theme, the puzzle seems solid and workmanlike. Our long Downs are FANTASIES and SPEED AWAY (which, with the sports theme, wants to be SPEEDWAY). I also like LOGBOOK and EARTHA, but there just isn’t a whole lot else to get excited about. Cluing is early-week straight (i.e. not very tricky).

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Heading South”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.16.16: "Heading South"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.16.16: “Heading South”

Hello there, everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle, from Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is a progression, as each of the four theme entries are phrases that have the word “DOWN” in it, and that word shifts further to the right from one theme to the other when moving south in the grid.

  • DOWN FOR THE COUNT (17A: [Knocked loopy])
  • DOWN TO EARTH (30A: [Unpretentious])
  • NO MONEY DOWN (48A: [Attractive offer from a car dealership])
  • I WON’T LET YOU DOWN (65A: [Words of reassurance])

Nothing that really stands out in the grid for today, outside of thinking about how criminals take care of their foes when seeing the word WHACK (44A: [Knock off]). That also made me think of that term being used when I was growing up in the early 90s for something that was considered poor or substandard. “That school play was WHACK.” Anyone else here grew up knowing the term being used that way? I hope so! On the Sunday of the 2013 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I remember taking an impromptu trip to CONEY Island with one of the volunteers, Judy Harris, who had a yearning for a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog and just felt like going (16A: [_____ Island, New York]). It was so random, especially since I had only met her officially the day before, but it definitely turned out to be one of the best memories of my ACPT experience in Brooklyn. Though I remember getting chewed out for just putting ketchup on my hot dog. (Didn’t know there was etiquette with condiments on hot dogs.) For those who eat/have eaten hot dogs, what toppings do you put on it?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NADAL (55D: [Spanish tennis player nicknamed Rafa])  –Will another man win at least one major title in 10 consecutive years, like Rafael “Rafa” NADAL did between 2005 and 2014? Not sure, but Novak Djokovic is sure to give him a run for his money right now, as Nole’s 2016 Australian Open win now gives the Serb at least one grand slam singles title in six consecutive years. The next grand slam is the French Open, which Rafa has won nine times.

See you all at the top of the hump tomorrow!

Take care!


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25 Responses to Tuesday, February 16, 2016

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    “Which show currently airing in TV has the best example of a ‘Ding ding ding!’ sound effect?”

    Easy. Always has been (and always will be) The Price is Right.

    • Gary R says:

      I don’t watch many game shows – Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, sometimes, because they’re on at dinner time. The WoF “ding, ding, ding” that signals time is running out on the final puzzle always sends our dog running for the front door to see who’s come to visit.

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I’m baffled by the horrible ratings for the NYT. It struck me as a perfectly good, well-wrought, enjoyable early- week puzzle.

    • Zulema says:

      I fully agree with Bruce, even if I had trouble parsing GO FIGURE because I stressed GO for too long.

    • Dkelly says:


    • Papa John says:

      Me too, but I’ve grown accustomed to the usual harsh reviews of early week NYT puzzles on this blog. They often seem to take more of a beating then I think they deserve.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      It’s a theme that has already been done to death and the fill is way too reliant on Crosswordese. I think this one should’ve been sent back with a “redo fill” note attached.

      By the way, could it be that your brain skips over bad fill, because you’ve seen it so many times? I know mine often does. I mean, imagine you are a novice solver looking at EDINA and HODS and DOERR and the plural OYS and SNELL and DORIA and SADA and OVO and … I could go on, but you get my point. Would that make you more likely to do another puzzle?

      Tuesday puzzles should be accessible for pretty much everybody and this one isn’t because the fill is way too arcane. And the worst part about this is that it doesn’t have to be this way — with a little more effort this grid could be cleaned up in short order.

      • Papa John says:

        “…imagine you are a novice solver looking at EDINA and HODS … ”

        I was once one of those novice solvers, some forty years ago, and I’m still in the game.

        Can you not agree to disagree? There is no right or wrong in the enjoyment, or lack thereof, in solving a puzzle. I reitereate; until someone applies a rational, scientific criteria to Amy’s star ratings, it will remain an abitrary poll.

        I’ll add, again repeating myself, that not all solvers are so adverse to the crosswordese that is so opposed by many on this blog. Learning those little nuggets is just part of the game. They not be words used in general conversation but they remain words, nonetheless.

        • Joe Pancake says:

          “Can you not agree to disagree?”

          I thought that’s what I was doing.

          “There is no right or wrong in the enjoyment, or lack thereof, in solving a puzzle.”

          This is something to which I can agree to agree. I never said anybody was right or wrong. I was giving my opinion — in response to Mr. Morton’s comment — about why I think this wasn’t a good puzzle.

  3. Ethan says:

    Don’t know about contemporary game shows, but I can’t watch reruns of the Pyramid or my dog will bark his head off about all the dinging.

  4. Jenni says:

    I would have had a much easier time of Liz’s lovely puzzle if I’d read “ticking dangers” correctly. I saw it as “tickling dangers”…which was amusing, if confusing.

  5. Lois says:

    Mixed feelings about today’s NYT puzzle.

    I found the theme interesting for this type. One cute item was in the inconsistency that Amy points out: GO FIGURE.

    In addition, my favorite clue was on Amy’s list of bad fill: 44d, Czech form of the French “Pierre.” Two language elements there, perhaps not too hard for early-in-the-week puzzle solvers. Pierre is the French form of Peter, and intriguingly Czech has few vowels, thus PETR. Since the 1990s the Czech Republic has been more and more part of our lives. For instance, in women’s tennis, the Czech Republic has an outsize presence among the top players. This clue is a welcome example of a presence of other cultures, with a link to English, in the Times crossword.

    On the other hand, in subject areas that I know little about, the crosses were sometimes not too helpful. Amy points out that ENYA’s latest album had no hit singles. I probably wouldn’t know the album if it was filled with hit singles, and the cross for the first letter of ENYA was weird: 55d, “Oh, FER cryin’ out loud!,” with the hint for FER being the apostrophe on “cryin’.” Are you kiddin’? But I got it, despite the other tough cross with ENYA, KAUAI. Well, I’m supposed to know that one, but geography is one of my many weak areas.

    For an early-in-the-week puzzle, I also thought that 1d, DIF, was hard to get for such a vague clue (“What’s the __ ?”), especially crossing the old record label DECCA, although I liked the clue for me. The company seems to still be in existence. More ambiguity, unusual for an early-week puzzle, was waiting with 3d (One of 15 in a typical daily crossword: Abbr.) being COL. I missed the “Abbr.” and put ROW at first. A bit subtle! More geography with the Minneapolis suburb EDINA at 12d, right next to some Narnia, beloved of crosswords but not to me, with ASLAN at 13d, both crossing Austin Powers’s Dr. EVIL at 19a, but that was gettable. In fact, everything was in the end, so some amusement and no harm.

  6. Art Shapiro says:

    Re: lowish NYT ratings

    If it were considered a Good Thing if the “average” puzzle rated a 3, which clearly is not the case in this grade-inflated system, then would 2.5 simply be a reasonably enjoyable puzzle with perhaps just a little bit less zing than normal? I’d opine that a 2 or 2.5 does not have to automatically indicate a crummy crossword puzzle.

    • Lois says:

      Yippee! Just before I saw Art’s post, I had decided not to write a similar one. Mine wouldn’t have been as well written.

    • janie says:

      i went back into the archives to look at amy’s initial definitions of the ratings. in those pre-1/2 stars days, here’s how it plays out:
      ★★★★★: A++, flawless and entertaining, perhaps innovative; you’ll remember it months from now

      ★★★★: a solid A, really quite a good puzzle

      ★★★: B, certainly a good puzzle

      ★★: C, some concerns about theme and/or fill

      ★: D/F, a real disappointment (and a rarity among the puzzles reviewed here)
      so, yeah, “I’d opine that a 2 or 2.5 does not have to automatically indicate a crummy crossword puzzle” looks to be spot on.


      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Oh! Then I should really be giving a lot more 2-star ratings.

        • Lois says:

          Your definitions!

          I think there’s an assumption that the average can be higher than three stars, as the puzzles have already been looked at by editors and testers.

          There seems to have been a new flurry of one-star ratings for the NYT today, maybe in response to those who liked it. I’ll put my lot with the first four positive posts and say that I prefer Amy’s first rating or higher. One star is just weird.

  7. huda says:

    I’m generally with Amy on the pluses and minuses of this (and she gave it 3 stars), except for…

    ASSAY! Amy, you wound me! Assay is not dusty crosswordese! We do those every day. Assay is a good, solid, English word, that denotes a good, solid class of procedures that we rely on to measure everything and anything of relevance to the human body, animal body, and many other things scientific. I feel its diversity could be better exploited– bioassay, enzyme assay, protein assay, chemical assay, radioimmunoassay, etc…

    That DONHO-DOERR neighborhood was problematic. The theme was actually good fun to figure out.

    • ktd says:

      I’ll back Huda on the legitimacy of “assay”, at least among laboratory scientists who use it frequently as a general term for any number of experiments. Perhaps the issue here is that it’s clue as a verb: [Analyze, as ore]. I typically use it as a noun (as in “I need an assay to measure this protein”, or “my assay didn’t work for the 50th time and I need a beer” ;-) ), as I think Huda might, if I’m not reading too deeply into her post. A small caveat, to be sure, but an interesting one nonetheless.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I did check on that one with my husband last night. Asked him for a word for analyzing ore, and he drew a blank. I told him the answer was ASSAY and he looked at me like I had three eyeballs. Yes, the word’s an everyday one for lab scientists, but for people who educated and intelligent, but neither lab scientists nor longtime newspaper crossword solvers … maybe not so everyday at all.

  8. bob says:

    Could someone please tell me what a MOC (comfy slip-on) is – can’t find it on any sites.

  9. Harry says:

    Loved today’s LAT! Here’s a catcher. 62 across “Who am___judge?” The answer was “ito.” Interestingly, the judge who presided over the O.J. Simpson trial was Lance Ito.

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