Saturday, February 20, 2016

CS 6:38 (Ade) 


LAT 9:08 (Derek) 


Newsday 17:30 (Derek) 


NYT 5:47 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


James Mulhern’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 20 16, no 0220

NY Times crossword solution, 2 20 16, no 0220

Lots of excellent fill here. Among the answers I’m fond of are HAS IT MADE, FIXIE BIKE (I think fixie is short for fixed-gear?), LAMAR clued by way of Grammy winner Kendrick L. (whose performance Monday during the Grammys won raves, GUAC, STATUS QUO, AJAX, BONEHEADS, MIAMI VICE, IDLE HANDS, “OFF YOU GO,” the XIPHOID process, Erich Maria REMARQUE, START-UPS, and COBAIN.

Old crosswordese comics name ALETA took me off guard in an otherwise very contemporary grid. Gospel singer OLETA Adams crossing POL would have been more current (she even has a Grammy nom to her name from a couple decades ago). That’s the worst thing in the whole grid, though. Not too shabby.

Five more things:

  • 45a. [Facebook-checking fixation, e.g.], INFOMANIA. Wait. Do people actually use this word? I don’t ever encounter it.
  • 65a. [Cry after “Freeze!” on a 1980s TV show], MIAMI VICE. Maybe I never actually watched the show? I don’t recall anyone shouting “Miami Vice!”
  • 26a. [Salt sack?], BERTH. As in a small sleeping place on a ship or submarine. A salt is a sailor, sack is a bed.
  • 36d. [Lessor’s log], RENT ROLL. Not a term I knew, but inferrable.
  • 47d. [Like many Second Viennese School works], ATONAL. Hey! Shout-out to our Austrian-born composers from the Friday NYT puzzle.

4.4 stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 5.47.29 PMUsed to seeing her byline on Tuesdays, but here we have an example of C.C. Burnikel’s themeless puzzle-constructing prowess. As usual, the fill is very good, with only some very popular crossword-centric entries included. I count 72 words, so not bad for a themeless, but still some fairly wide open areas in the grid. I got it solved in just a shade over 9 minutes. Found a quiet, calm 15 minutes to work on it, though. Thinking of plans to replicate the quiet at Stamford: headphones, with nothing playing? Calm breathing? Ginseng capsules? Lots of coffee?

A solid 4.5 star rating today for a smoothly constructed themeless puzzle. Some observations:

  • 1A [Siri counterpart] GOOGLE NOW – My first thought was Cortana, because I don’t have a Google phone anymore!
  • 15A [Demonym that may have a second “a”] UTAHN – So it can be UTAHAN as well? Either works? I will ask when I am there this summer!
  • 38A [Refreshing ice cream with blended cookies] MINT OREO – Oh, that sounds good! I’m going to the store later…
  • 54A [Genre of the late David Bowie] GLAM – Lady Gaga was certainly “glammed” out for her Bowie tribute at the Grammys earlier this week. Which was pretty good, albeit a bit complicated. But how else would a salute to Bowie be done? Find it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it!
  • 24D [Musical piece] REED – This was a great clue. Were you thinking of some type of composition too?
  • 31D [Soap, for example] SERIES – Could have been SERIAL, so I got bogged down a bit here.
  • 39D [“Holy Cow!”] OMIGOSH – I don’t know why I thought this was OMIGOD. I will pick up some ginseng when I get that ice cream …….

A great puzzle by one of my favorite constructors. Enjoy your Saturday!

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

IMG_0094A slightly easier challenge today, thank goodness! They have been especially difficult the last week or two. Upper left corner was actually the easiest, as was most of the top, but the hard areas for me were the lower regions, particularly the lower left. I finished where the highlighted entry is. That entry actually gave me fits; I was thinking it was something like a scale unit. (Will discuss below.)

Lots of great clues and entries in this one! One or two I thought were too vague, but virtually no dreck at all in this puzzle. 4.7 stars from me, not in small part because I had a decent Stumper solving time! (At least for me!)


  • 1A [Many from Little Havana] LATINAS – I know this is in Miami; but MIAMI didn’t work. Yes, I put LATINOS in there next!
  • 16A [Davy Crockett’s rifle] OLD BETSY – This is usually what I call my car!
  • 37A [Enumeration qualification] BUT WHO’S COUNTING – Favorite entry, of course. I had COUNTING at the end, and got a nice “a-ha” moment when I figured out the beginning. Well done!
  • 59A [Show up slowly] ROLL IN – Nice tie-in to 13D FOGS here. I listen to Bill Simmons podcast, and he has a weekly episode entitled Friday Rollin’! File that away, Stan!
  • 63A [Emphatic retort] YOU ARE! – This was also a Lionel Richie tune, which surprisingly I don’t believe was part of his tribute medley at the Grammys on Monday night.
  • 20D [Voice activated buzzer] KAZOO – Nice clue!
  • 23D [Increment on some counters] WEB HIT – Just now noticed counter in the clue, and COUNTING appears in the grid, but it didn’t affect my solving performance one iota. Thought this might be WEIGHT or something similar. Another stellar clue.
  • 34D [Color of many work boots] STEEL BLUE – This one I had the most beef with. Most boots I see are brown or black. Blue would strike me as rare. Am I crazy? I even googled “steel blue work boot,” and the images were mostly black and brown, albeit from the BRAND Steel Blue!

I am pleased with how this solve went. Did you find it a bit easier as well? Until Tuesday’s LAT review, have a great weekend!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Plurality” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/20/16 • "Plurality" • Long, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 2/20/16 • “Plurality” • Long, Shenk • solution

Phrases ending with singular nouns have those elements replaced with a another that’s a homophone of its plural. Things can indeed have more than one meaning, as it were.

  • 23a. [Aid for fighting a fire in front of a setting sun?] WESTWARD HOSE (…ho → hoes → hose).
  • 36a. [Memento of being hit with a pitch?] HOME BRUISE (brew → brews → bruise). With SCAM and E-MAIL lurking nearby 28a, 34a), I subconsciously expected a different kind of pitch. See also 54d [It’s pitched outside] TENT.
  • 59a. [Ocean trip in a horse-drawn coach?] STAGE CRUISE (crew → crews → cruise).
  • 52a. [Chef who adds just a hint of thyme or rosemary?] HERBAL TEASE (tea → teas → tease). See also 71a [Mrs. Robinson’s daughter] ELAINE.
  • 74a. [Makeup of “How to Serve”manual?] TENNIS PROSE (pro → pros → prose).
  • 82a. [Sound from a king fond of Parliaments?] ROYAL WHEEZE (we → wes → wheeze).  Additional wordplay layer in this clue, compared to the others.
  • 96a. [Hill of streaky stone?] MARBLE RISE (rye → ryes → rise).
  • 113a. [Bewildered state caused by a surfeit of campaign ads?] ELECTION DAZE (day → days → daze). Timely. See also 67d [Colleague of Antonin and Clarence] ELENA, which essentially duplicates its crossing companion, mentioned above.
  • 16d. [Inconceivably large pay boost?] COSMIC RAISE (rays → rays → raise).
  • 68d. [HigHly decorative band on a wall?] FANCY FRIEZE (-free → -frees → frieze). And of course many friezes are carved of marble.

Cute. And decent variety.

Some of the long non-theme answers were also plurals, so each time it seemed as if they might actually be themers too, but these proved to be otherwise.

  • Favorite clues: 47d [Front runners?] DESERTERS, 9d [Unpopular singers?] STOOLIES, 28a [One might take you in] SCAM / 97d [Take in, say] ALTER), 98a [Catch the lifeguard’s eye, say] FLAIL, 5d [Anchor lines?] NEWS, 83d [Destination of some liners] OUTFIELD.
  • 57a [Deborah’s 1956 co-star] YUL; 42a [Beatles song “__ Love Her”] AND I.
  • 3d [Magazine whose last cover featured Taylor Swift] COSMO GIRL, 32a [Skyline onscurer] SMOG. Crossing SMOGs! >cough<
  • Full name alert! 42d [“Madame Secretary” star] TÉA LEONI, crossing HERBAL TEASE (for what it’s worth).
  • 76d [“Fawlty Towers” wife] SYBIL. And we just saw PRUNELLA in another crossword not long ago!
  • 51d [Paraquat targets] WEEDS. Not realizing it’s a herbicide, I guessed this was some trendy new exercise.
  • 65a [Prepared for cooking, in a way] RINSED, followed by 66a [Prepare for cooking, in a way] DEFROST. Something similar could have been done with 89a [Snap, e.g.] FASTENER and 93a [Haberdashery array] TIES. Say, even the next one, 95a [Joined] WED seems, er, linked. 17d [Two-wheeled transports] BIKES, 62d [Two-wheeled transport] RICKSHAWRickshaw is an alteration of jinrikisha, which is Japanese for man + strength + vehicle, which as I saw the etymology reminded me of the unrelated film Man Push Cart.

Solid theme, well-crafted clues, a typical amount of crosswordy ringers (you can identify them if you care to), so that’s a fine puzzle in my book.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Horsing Around”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.20.16: "Horsing Around"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.20.16: “Horsing Around”

Good day, everyone! Hope you all have some fun plans in store for the weekend. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is straight from the horse’s mouth, as each of the four theme entries is a two-word answer in which the second word also happens to be a type of horse.

  • STREET ARAB (17A: [Homeless waif])
  • FIVE CARD STUD (27A: [Dealer’s choice choice])
  • ONE TRICK PONY (45A: [Person whose talent is very limited])
  • SAMUEL COLT (59A: [Revolver inventor])

I didn’t think of the kitchen appliance when filling in SUBZERO as much as I thought about the fictional fighter from the Mortal Kombat franchise (9D: [Frigidaire competitor]). Do you remember how popular that game was in the early 1990s, and all the controversy that stemmed from how gory it supposedly was? Oh, the things we used to worry about back then! The Southwest corner was brought to us by the letter “T,” with a host of entries featuring a multitude of them, including TB TEST (46D: [Exam administered on the forearm]), TSETSE (53A: [Scary African fly]) and MUTT (65A: [Pooch without papers]). Heading out now, but not before putting on some JAY-Z on my iPod (11D: [Rapper Shawn Carter]). Yes, I still have an iPod, 2nd Generation. Got a problem with that?!?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BEAR (26A: [Bryant of Crimson Tide fame])  –The Alabama Crimson Tide won the national championship last month, Nick Saban’s fourth title at Alabama as head coach. The comparisons to BEAR Bryant are unavoidable, but Bryant was able to win six national titles during his long run in Tuscaloosa (1958-1982). Of course, Bryant was best known, outside of coaching football, for the houndstooth fedora hat that he would wear on the sidelines during games. Nice threads, huh?!


See you all for the Sunday Challenge!

Take care!


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16 Responses to Saturday, February 20, 2016

  1. Matt says:

    NYT was good and tough. Slow work until I got to the NW corner, and was stymied at the intersection of SIXTHS and FIXIE. So I stopped, had breakfast, read the newspaper, then tried again… and filled that X in immediately.

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I think it was Papa John who commented yesterday, in substance, that some puzzles are more like a painful slog through quicksand than they are enjoyable. That was my experience in the NW of today’s NYT. I don’t know what a pie wedge in Trivial Pursuit is. A token of some sort? I remembered Hugh Hefner’s trial, and I thought that Fixie bike could just as well be Finie bike or Figie Bike. When I first heard of a 3 – d printer I though it was a joke or a hoax on the gullible. So I jokingly wondered to myself if a fixie bike could have a computer to do minor repairs on itself.

    Definitely there were things I liked about the rest of the puzzle, e.g. Xiphoid process, Erich Maria Remarque, idle hands, guac, and the appearance by Edward Elgar. But *Please* don’t cue Aleta as some gospel singer.

    • Papa John says:

      Actually, my comment was about how people — in that case, you and me — can have such a different experience with the same puzzle. You said you had enjoyed that day’s puzzles and I said none of them were enjoyable for me. It illustrates just how subjective solving can be.

      Turns out, the same holds for today’s NYT. While it was a slog for you, I breezed through it.

      • Lois says:

        For the record, Papa John’s comment was on Thursday, not Friday, about most of the puzzles of that day, in case anyone is checking on which puzzles he referred to in his comment.

        I myself loved the NYT puzzles on both those days, so sorry about redirecting a rather negative comment. But the Friday puzzle was really outstanding.

    • Lois says:

      I know neither ALETA nor OLETA. But since Amy says she was looking for more of the contemporary feel of the puzzle, I’ll argue that there is more benefit to covering more eras. It’s at least as good to have an older comic book character’s name as to have two contemporary music names, even in somewhat different pop fields. That way, more specialties and age groups can be reached.

  3. sbmanion says:

    Only the SW was easy for me. For some reason, I drew a blank on how to spell EPIDERMIS, which did not help in the NW, which was hard enough as it was.

    I thought the obscenity trial figure was Henry Miller. I did not realize that Hugh Hefner was tried for obscenity.

    Very tough today.


  4. David L says:

    Good puzzle overall but RENTROLL and EARPHONE both seem dodgy to me. I wanted RENTBOOK and EARPIECE.

    I’m pretty sure teflon is not a RESIN — it’s a synthetic polymer. Resins are prototypically natural substances, although some synthetic materials, such as epoxies, are described as resins. I don’t know that there’s a precise definition but I can’t see how teflon qualifies.

    • Papa John says:

      Try an online search for “Teflon resin”. It pops up quite a bit.

      • David L says:

        Interesting — I guess it’s a term of art in industrial chemistry. Not what I normally think of as a resin.

        • Martin says:

          Synthetic resin is a more common term than you imply. I tend to think that any sense in the abridged M-W desk dictionary is fair game, although that covers a lot of terms that purists reject.

  5. huda says:

    “but RENTROLL and EARPHONE both seem dodgy to me”
    me too… I’m sure they exist, but they’re not fun new things to know about.

    I don’t mind tough puzzles if they teach me something new. The above were not it, but INFOMANIA, that was great! I guess it’s a riff on nymphomania –which is not a great concept–but this one is funny. And I can think of many people who have this particular disorder…

  6. Christopher Smith says:

    Hey, two full Latin phrases! That guy advocating for more polyglot NYT crosswords should be happy.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    The Stumper was a terribly slow slog for me until I got the end of BUT WHO’S COUNTING.
    I can’t count the number of ways I got waylaid.

    • Slow guy says:

      55 minute stanagain Stumper for me. East half flowed nicely. West half was a struggle. My ill-placed wrong entries that needed revision: LENS for IRIS [camera aperture], IMSURE for YOUARE [emphatic retort], SABRESAW for TABLESAW [contractor’s machine]. I wanted LOYALISTS where LATINAS goes, which obviously didn’t fit (was anyone ‘loyal’ to Batista other than those tied to U.S. economic interests?).
      Good stuff: TELLTALE for [revelatory], SINUS for [space near some bones], SURE for [destined]. Weaker: ETAILERS, STEELBLUE (as Derek got on about, I myself purchase work boots all the time, and that brand is foreign to me — REDWING is the typical big-brand name which I never shell out for ….. hmmm, SHELLOUT is a fine entry for some devious cluing, eh? maybe [Fund, frustratedly?] or [Bankroll, with a ‘bah!’?], but I digress. As Derek said, there really is no objectionable material in this puzzle, a great solve.

  8. bob says:

    HELP! I had a Blackberry with a google app for five years -updated twice – and I’ve NEVER heard of GOOGLE NOW (LAT). What am I missing??? Another puzzle with way too many stretches and too few thoughtful (meaningful) clues.

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