Thursday, February 18, 2016

BEQ 8:55 (Ben) 


CS 9:29 (Ade) 


Fireball 6:55 (Jenni) 


LAT 5:06 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:01 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 92” – Jenni’s writeup

I’m pretty sure this is a personal best for me on a FB themeless. This one is not blazingly hard. It was enjoyable nonetheless. Let’s get right into it, shall we?Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.41.58 PM

This puzzle has one distinction, and 6D tells us right away: “This crossword is an example of one”. The answer is PANGRAM. I’m not generally a fan of feats of construction (low word counts, pangrams, leaving out one letter, having all the clues start with the same letter…) In my experience, such virtuoso turns do not enhance the solving experience and sometimes interfere with it. This time, I don’t think the pangram detracted from the pleasure of solving. I still don’t think it added anything.

Writing up themeless puzzles is harder. There’s nothing to explain. There were clues. There were answers. I matched them up. I thought I was in trouble when both 1A  (Climbing plant with fragrant flowers) and 1D (Copy with a computer program, as data from a website) were unknown to me. I couldn’t get a foothold anywhere in the NW, and the NE wasn’t much better. My first foothold was 25D, “Convenience for carpoolers” – HOV LANE. That gave me VINDALOO for the end of 31 A (“Hot curry choice”), which in turn gave me footholds in the downs, and I was off and running.

Some things that caught my eye:

  • 19A: “Siglo hundredth” cluing ANO. Turns out “siglo” is Spanish for “century”, which means that a year (ANO) is a hundredth. One more reason to think I chose the wrong language to study in high school (I loved French, and every day I wish I’d learned Spanish instead, or in addition to).
  • Two brands of laundry detergent, ALL and AJAX
  • I think I know a fair amount about musical theater of the 20th century. Apparently not enough. PANAMA HATTIE is new to me, and the list of songs from the show doesn’t include any familiar names. Janie probably knew it right away.

Things I really enjoyed:

  • Loved seeing WOOT at 30A (“exclamation of exuberance in an EMail”). Not sure I’ve ever seen it in an Email, probably because I’m old. I’m familiar with it from webcomics and such other cultural artifacts of kids today.
  • A shout-out to the “integer”puzzle at 17A: “Expressible as a quotient of integers” – RATIONAL. Of course.
  • My personal “d’oh” moment: “Mycoplasma’s lack” at 15A is CELL WALL. I knew that back when I took bacteriology and pharmacology. I swear I did.
  • 21A, “1957 Best Musical nominee that was based on a 1759 novel” – CANDIDE. I saw this in NYC in 1973 or 1974 with my HS voice teacher, who frequently took a bunch of us to the city on cultural outings. I loved that show. It was a great night that also featured dinner in a French restaurant where one of the more rambunctious among us ordered brains. Me: I really don’t want to look at that. Mr. Trautwein: And you plan to go to medical school? Me: I’ll dissect it. I don’t want to look at it while I eat.
  • Music clues from the current (“Tom of Jimmy Eat World”) to the classical (“Key of Dvorak’s ‘New World’ symphony”) to the classic rock (“Song by the Who that begins ‘Ev’ry day I get in the queue’). I usually roll my eyes at “in the key of” clues; for some reason this one didn’t bother me. I think I was still in a good mood from “Candide”.

What I learned from this puzzle: that  SCRAPE means “copy from a computer program, as data from a website.” Okay. I’m sure that will come in handy some day.

And you’re waiting for me to mention 62 A, aren’t you? It’s the capper to the pangram, and it features a classic Peter Gordon ridiculously long clue: “Word in the Land of Oz with the power to transform people and objects, for those who know how to pronounce it”. The answer is PYRZQXGL. I assume that was the seed entry for the puzzle. It’s – well, it’s a lot of unusual letters at the bottom of the puzzle, which allows (or forces) Peter to give us RITZ, COQ, and ICEBOX for the downs. The clue for RITZ doesn’t mention hotels; it’s an OSTENTATIOUS DISPLAY, which is where we get “puttin’ on the ritz”. It’s a fair clue, although it seems a little clunky to my ear. I am a casual fan of Oz (meaning I know the movie better than the books) and I’d never seen this word before. It’s has to be filled in from crosses, which were all easier than the FB usually is because they had to be to make PYRZQXGL even remotely gettable, so I guess I have Frank L. Baum to thank for my personal best.

To close, I give you Leonard Bernstein conducting the London Symphony in “Auto Da Fe” from “Candide.”

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 16, no 0218

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 16, no 0218

Well, I know from plenty of New York-centric crosswords that [Long Island university] is always ADELPHI, but 1-Across only had 6 squares. So I checked out the Down crossings, saw the big I’s made out of black squares in the middle of the grid, and lo and behold it’s ADELPH with its “I” filled in via those black squares. Same with all the Acrosses to the left or right of one of those big “I” structures: LITERAT(I), contrived (I)TEM ONE and AND SO DO (I), (I)CE-MAKER, (I)ONIZING, MAU(I), ugly faux suffix -(I)CAL (I bet the constructor submitted a clue for the outmoded Apple product iCal—and it bears noting that the word classical is classic + -al and not class + -ical), PONT(I), (I)ONIA, JAMES I(I), and (I)TALICS. Those were all for the top I. The bottom big I abuts three proper nouns (vs. five names for the top I), possibly contrived HOT CHIL(I), and two phrases that contain IT—(I)N ITSELF and the semi-contrived (I)GNORE IT (32a is AT IT, as well), along with some other stuff.

The puzzle fell more quickly for me than many a Thursday NYT, what with figuring out the gimmick quickly and thus knowing that 24 entries either started or ended with an I. Also, I’m good at names in crosswords, and this puzzle was packed with over 20 proper nouns. The “I don’t like crosswords that are trivia contests” solvers (LOTHAR!) may be angry at this one.

I wasn’t pleased with all the crosswordese and blah stuff in the grid—your NENE and ERST, your EFTS and EEO, SRI and ETDS, suffix -ENCE reminding me again of scowly -ICAL. I wish there had been half the first-or-last-I fill here—one big I in the center rather than two of them stacked up. Getting stuck with HAD A NIP and MAZ wasn’t worth the doubling of the gimmicked answers, for me. (Your mileage may vary.)

2.9 stars from me.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Turn the Dial”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.18.16: "Turn the Dial"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.18.16: “Turn the Dial”

Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, brings a little fun with anagramming, as each of the five theme entries start with the same four letters (D-I-A-L), but are in a different order with each progressive entry.

  • IDA LUPINO (18A: [Trailblazing actress-turned-director who starred in “High Sierra”])
  • LIDA ROSE (23A: [Barbershop quartet classic from “The Music Man”])
  • LADIES IN WAITING (38A: [Royal court attendants])
  • ID LABELS (49A: [Organizer’s tags])
  • DAILY FEED (59A: [90-second left-leaning satirical radio feature, with “The”])

Again, one of the first entries of a grid catches me off guard and took me until the end of my solving where I picked up the golf reference to the clue for CADDY (1A: [Club carrier]). Though I was still in high school and had never seen him fight, I definitely had chills when watching ALI on television officially kicking off the most recent Olympic Games held on American soil (46A: [Cauldron-lighter at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics]). Speaking of another major international quadrennial event, I think you all know by now that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place in the tropical setting of…QATAR (67A: [Persian Gulf state]). I would talk now about FIFA and bribes and corruption, but I wouldn’t ever leave here. Seeing the clue to PARCELS made me look up just now whether “Pullman brown” is the brown associated with UPS, and it absolutely is (27A: [Deliveries with drivers dressed in Pullman brown]). Had no idea UPS filed trademarks for that color of brown until now. I should ask a UPS driver that next time one of them delivers a parcel to my place. There’s a good chance he/she would look at me like I had three heads, then just walk away and go about their route for the rest of the day.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LINE (12D: [Extra’s goal])  –Signed as an underrated free agent in 2013, fullback Zach LINE just completed his third season in the National Football League as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. While at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Line won the Conference USA Player of the Year in 2012 and finished his career with 47 rushing touchdowns, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson for the school record. He also ranks just behind Dickerson at SMU in total rushing yards.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Threepeats” — Jim’s review

It took me a good long time before I could suss out the gimmick in Dan Fisher’s tricky puzzle. I had two specific problems to surmount; I’ll get to those in a minute. First, what’s the theme?

“Threepeats” is your indication that something is repeated somehow, perhaps three times? No, not really. Turns out three letters get repeated. Dan gives us four two-word phrases in which the last three letters of the first word are the same letters used to start the second word.

(This theme seems familiar to me. Have I seen it recently? It’s difficult to search for an example of this type of theme without knowing a specific entry, so if anyone knows of a prior example of this, let me know in the comments.)

WSJ - Thu, Feb 18, 2016 - "Threepeats" by Dan Fisher

WSJ – Thu, Feb 18, 2016 – “Threepeats” by Dan Fisher

  • 17A [A that’s earned by cheating] SCAR(LET)TER. Love this clue. It’s hard to parse at first but once you do, you think it’s about a class grade. Great misdirection there.
  • 28A [Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee] BURLES(QUE)ENS. Nice find. I love the fact Dan manages to use an example with a scrabbly Q.
  • 42A [Watching a sunset, sleeping in, etc.] SIM(PLE)ASURES. Don’t forget crossword puzzles!
  • 55A [Devo’s “Satisfaction” and Oasis’s “I Am the Walrus,” e.g.] CO(VER)SIONS.

Tricky Thursday cluing kept me from speeding through this, but that made it all the more enjoyable.

So, back to those two sticking points. The first is that COVER SONGS fits exactly into 55A and satisfies the clue.  The second is that somehow in my brain Sally Rand = Sally Ride. So for a very long time, I was trying to find common ground between Sally Ride the astronaut with Gypsy Rose Lee, the early 20th century striptease artist. It wasn’t until I finally successfully parsed 17A that everything started to fall into place and then realized that Rand ≠ Ride.

Fun theme. It did just what it was supposed to—kept me guessing for most of the solve then gave a satisfying a-ha moment and helped me fill in the rest of the themers.

Other fun fill: INSIDE MAN, PARAMEDIC, PLACE NAME, and CLEAN CUT. NORDIQUE came only with all the crosses and I still didn’t know what it meant nor to whom the clue was referring [Guy Lafleur, in 1990]. (Turns out it’s a hockey reference. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995.)

I also don’t know the game RACK-O despite it being around since 1956.

Most difficult corner: Definitely the SE. ATM FEE at 52A required all the crosses as well with that opaque clue [It’s paid on receiving bills].

Overall, a most satisfying puzzle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Rock Climbing” — Ben’s Review

Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing

This week’s Thursday BEQ has a nice twist on the theme, in that the theme entries are running down rather than across.  Striated throughout the face of the puzzle are a few alternative forms of rock, climbing up as suggested by the title:

  • 3D: Really rich dessert — CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (METAL)
  • 5D: Blends together to form a new combination — AMALGAMATES (GLAM)
  • 9D: “Can the comedy” — YOU’RE NOT SERIOUS (STONER)
  • 22D: Outline for victory — PATH TO GLORY (GOTH)

I’m not quite sure if 3D fits the theme (GLAM rock, STONER rock, and GOTH rock I’ve all heard of, but METAL rock feels a bit redundant, but I’ll take any excuse I can to post clips from The Apple, a movie made in 1980 celebrating “The Power of Rock…in 1994”:

Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:

  • 16A: Programs that come with your computer that you never use and slow it down — BLOATWARE
  • 31A: “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” secretary — SMITTY (I kept trying to figure this out with the acrosses, but kept naming all the secretaries from Mad Men instead)
  • 46A: Safari entries? — URLS (this was clever)
  • 23D: You can get to it in the closet — NARNIA (I just finished Lev Grossman’s Magicians series of books, which does a wonderful riff on Narnia and fantasy books in general.  Highly recommended!)

A good puzzle, but things felt a little off for me.


Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160218

LA Times

Gory TBONECOLLISIONS are visualised by four pairs of five letter models (clued via their marques) form T’s. PARKEDILLEGALLY is not precisely thematic, and is just running interference. It’s a creative theme, but it’s execution felt clunky and awkward. On a personal level, the fact that I see none of those cars driving around on a daily basis, except CIVICs and FOCUSes, was puzzling. I acknowledge I’m not American though. Do you really not have European, Korean, or Chinese cars? 6/8ths of the cars are GM / Ford / Chrysler here.

The bigger issues are as follows: the theme forces a constricted design that leads to a lack of flow through the crossword. The design also is a big factor in a general stale and drab vibe throughout the crossword.

Best answers: DRSEUSS and ROSEBOWL, outside of the the main theme concentration.

2.5 Stars

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22 Responses to Thursday, February 18, 2016

  1. huda says:

    NYT: My mileage varied, maybe because I had had a long day and it was nice to do something that felt smooth sailing.
    I love the word LITERATI… OHO crossing AHA right smack dab in the middle made me smile. Cheeky! I was surprised at the clue for NENE because I’ve seen the critters, and am always amused at the “Nene Crossing” sign.
    Cute puzzle.

  2. Matt says:

    I didn’t get the NYT gimmick until– after filling it all in, and not getting Mr. Happy Pencil– the ‘reveal’ step gave me an error for every two-letter fill on the right side. Then, I got it. Much more fun that way.

    And, I agree that the FB was relatively easy– and, of course, the pangrammaticity (or whatever you call it) was a little joke with the punchline right at the end.

  3. ktd says:

    NYT: DNF on account of the crossing of HADA_IP and PO_TI. For a moment I thought 8D should be Desdemona, but then I remembered that she’s Othello’s wife, not Iago’s.

  4. janie says:

    re: FB — “I knew that back when I …was teaching myself highlights from the cole porter songook. I swear I did…..” ;-), but couldn’t immediately dredge up PANAMA HATTIE. memory of the show title finally kicked in w/ …MA…TI… d’oh. as the wiki page explains, this was not a particularly good musical (not enuf appeal across various kinds of audiences) and was basically a standard vehicle for merman’s vocal power. “i’ve still got my health,” however, is still damned good (even if not first-class) porter. ditto “make it another old-fashioned, please” (from the same show).


  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Several excellent puzzles today, I thought.

    I knew Panama Hattie, for the odd reason that there was an excellent restaurant by that name in Huntington Station, Long Island, near where I used to teach. I think there were references on the wall to the musical. The restaurant has since closed, I’m afraid.

    Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield Mass, a few miles south of my residence. The locals seem to take inordinate pride in that fact, though I’m sure there are more distinguished natives of this area (e.g. Emily Dickinson, and others.) They recite as gospel truth that has Dr. Seuss sold more books than any other author of the 20th century, so if that’s true, it is quite a distinction.

    • Donald Trompe l'oeil says:

      Why in the world would you say Emily Dickson was “more distinguished” than Dr. Seuss as if it were an objective fact? Distinguished is “successful, authoritative, and commanding great respect.” He is clearly all of the above.

    • Papa John says:

      “Several excellent puzzles today, I thought.”

      I swear, there are days when the Crossword gods smile on some of us and turn a cold shoulder toward the rest. Most of today’s fare did not amuse me at all. I was grunting and groaning from one across ‘til the end. It’s not like I got up on the wrong side of the bed — I’m forced to sleep on a recliner — so it must be the gods! Let’s hope they give me some joy with tomorrow’s offerings.

      Or, less dramatically, they weren’t my cup of tea.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Ted Geisel was one of my dad’s closest friends , Dartmouth ’25, and served as his best man at his first wedding. Geisel stopped by when I was about 9 years old and drew a sketch for me of a seated cat (no hat) — it was titled ” For Cornelia: An Hypothetical Lion”. Unfortunately it disappeared during my last move. If anyone comes across it after all these years, please let me know?
      Worth a reward!

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Jenni, thanks for the link to Bernstein conducting from his own Candide. The Overture was one of the staples of the light concert repertoire a few decades ago. Now you’ve got the earworm going through my head. :-)

    • Jenni says:

      It was in my head as soon as I filled in the answer, so I had to share. I do love that score. I didn’t know until last night that Lillian Hellman wrote the original book and then would not permit it to be used in the revivals.

  7. Amy L says:

    I really liked the NYT big Is. I like tricks like this that give a little twist to how you fill in the letters. Then the answers are read differently. It was a fast and fun solve.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    As so often happens, the BEQ flew totally over my head, but I was waiting to see if the write-up would give the slightest hint as to what the entries Narnia and TNT had to do with their clues, but received no enlightenment. Admittedly, one could reasonably be expected to know more about the Narnia books than I do, especially since I like the Screwtape letters, even though I don’t share Lewis’s theology. I’m wondering if children could gain magical access to Narnia through the back of a closet, as in that famous Twilight Zone episode — (well, they’re all famous to me) — where the harried children can escape to an Edenic world through the bottom of a swimming pool.

    • dave glasser says:

      You are correct. It is the “wardrobe” of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, the first book.

  9. Harry says:

    Outstanding LAT today! I loved the theme, t-bone collisions, wherein car models were t-boned.

  10. Bruce Haight says:

    My LAT puzzle today had a fairly clunky layout, as Gareth noted, but it was meant to depict a highway intersection, with four cars on the road………….

  11. JohnV says:

    LAT NE totally ungettable

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