Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NYT 6:04 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 


CS 6:42 (Ade) 


BuzzFeed 5:13 (Amy) 


Today’s AV Club puzzle from Erik Agard has a meta contest – we’ll have a writeup next Monday.

Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 24 16, no 0224

The theme of today’s NYT SUB-mission is SUBMERGES [Goes underwater … or a hint to the answers on the perimeter of this puzzle]. Each entry at the grid’s perimeter stands alone as a valid English word, but does not match up with its clue. The solver has to “merge” each peripheral entry with the prefix SUB- for the puzzle to make sense. For example, 10a. DUES in no way means [Puts down by force]. SUBDUES, on the other hand, matches this definition perfectly. There are ten themers overall, and they are all strong, common words, both combined with SUB- and on their own. The theme took longer for me to completely grasp than most Wednesday themes, but did not add significantly to my solve time. It was a newer concept for me, and once I got it, I found it delightful.

The trouble with a perimeter theme is the constraints it places on the rest of the grid. The center includes lovely longer entries in TEAHOUSE and PANELIST, and the corners include SASHIMI and UNITARD, but there are also less pleasant entries such as BOURREE and ALIENEE. The shorter fill includes quite a bit of abbreviations/suffixes, but does include a wonderful singer combination in Eartha KITT and KIRI Te Kanawa. Finally, the cluing is rather straightforward, which brings solving time down a bit and counteracts the possible difficulty in discovering the theme mechanism, but is a little dry. Overall, a wonderful theme, but less than stellar fill. 3.2 stars.

Here is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa performing with the late, great Natalie Cole.

Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Photo Finish” — Jim’s review

Are you ready for your close-up?

Damien Peterson (aka editor Mike Shenk) has added PICs to the end of three phrases, thus giving them a “Photo Finish”. I love it when a title makes perfect sense once you grok the theme.

Our phrases are:

WSJ - Wed, 2.24.16 - "Photo Finish" by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Wed, 2.24.16 – “Photo Finish” by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

  • 20A [Speech class assignment?] TALKING TOPIC. Talking to.
  • 36A [The Iliad, when read in the original Greek?] HARD WAR EPIC. Hardware.
  • 52A [Molded dish from a Bay Area city?] OAKLAND ASPIC. Oakland A’s.

I love the title, but I can’t say I loved the puzzle. The base phrases are “Talking to,” “Hardware,” and “Oakland A’s”. Not exactly scintillating stuff; only one of those makes for interesting crossword fare in my opinion.

HARD WAR EPIC requires such an awkward re-parsing as to be distracting; the other two don’t require any re-parsing at all, so there’s an inconsistency factor as well.

Spaghetti-O’s and Vienna Sausage ASPIC

And finally, I didn’t know what an ASPIC was until I began writing this review. The clue had me thinking it was a plate or bowl of some kind. Now that I’ve looked it up, I wish that’s all it was. If you don’t know either, it’s a savory dish where various food items are molded into gelatin, making them look like they’ve been encased in solidified grease. If Jabba the Hutt were a foodie, no doubt he’d have made an ASPIC with Han Solo.

Mr. Peabody, created by TED KEY

But back to our puzzle. The theme didn’t thrill me, but there’s some great fill: TRACTOR PULL, BALLET SHOES, OPTOMETRY, SWADDLING, SWANEE, ALBINO, DEAR ME, CAST OUT, and ADMIRAL.

I don’t know the play OLEANNA (2D [1992 David Mamet play]), but it just looks like a jumble of crosswordese. RESCANS isn’t great and gets an opaque clue (44D [Corrections by checkers]).

There was no way I was going to know TED KEY (47D [“Hazel” cartoonist]), but now I see he also created Peabody’s Improbable History, which is far more interesting to me. But the fact that the T crosses TRIODE (47A [Early radio component]) just made that southern section unpleasantly difficult.

Oh, and then there’s UNTUNE (29A [Deliberately disharmonize]). Sigh.

So this one missed for me. But tomorrow’s another day, and it’s a Thursday which is usually pretty interesting around here. Until then…

Peter Wentz’s BuzzFeed crossword, “#nationalpunweek”—Amy’s write-up

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 2 24 16 "#nationalpunweek"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 2 24 16 “#nationalpunweek”

In social media hashtags, there are various theme days each week. These serve as fodder for a set of puns:

  • 16a. [“During the weekend, I auctioned off my feudal estate. #___”], SELL-FIEF SUNDAY. Apparently there’s a #selfiesunday? Funny, I thought selfies got posted every single day.
  • 31a. [“After that, I checked out some macho songbirds. #___”], MAN-THRUSH MONDAY. Wait. There’s a #mancrushmonday and nobody told me?
  • 36a. [“Later in the week, I started regrowing my bushy hairstyle. #___”], FRO-BACK THURSDAY. #throwbackthursday, for old photos. I posted a baby picture on FB the other day, totally spaced on saving it till TBT.
  • 55a. [“Finally, I took a vacation from my drill sergeant duties. #___”], FURLOUGH FRIDAY. #followfriday. It’s not Friday, but I’ll tell you to follow Peter Wentz on Twitter: @pjwentz.

I thought I was paying attention to social media, and yet I was entirely unaware of half the hashtags in this theme.

Five more things:

  • 60a. [Some Burt’s Bees items], CREAMS? Really? I guess so. I usually stick to the tinted Lip Shimmer (it’s like lipstick, only with peppermint and the smoothness of lip balm) at the top of the Burt’s section, never look at the tubes of cream.
  • 1d. [Burn unit locales: Abbr.], ERS. What the hell? No. Burn units are specialized inpatient wards. At ERs, either they treat you and release you, or they stabilize you and admit you. You don’t live in the ER for weeks of healing.
  • 17d. [Passes the bullshit test], FLIES. I like seeing BULLPEN to the left in the grid, but now there’s too much bull in the puzzle.
  • There are 26 3-letter answers in the grid, rather a lot. A sizable number of them are abbreviations, but they seemed to be familiar ones, and overall the fill is smooth.
  • 19a. [Contract that “helps get your security deposit back”], LEASE. I have no idea what the quotation marks are doing in the clue.

4 stars from me.

Kenneth J. Berniker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up


LA Times

A theme like this is rarely seen in today’s crossword environment. The first syllable in each answer is SIN as revealed by SINFUL. I don’t like that revealer because a) it’s not apt, b) it’s not necessary, c) it repeats the spelling of SINBADTHESAILOR. The theme answers are a mix of words and phrases: synTHESIZE, cynDILAUPER, sinBADTHESAILOR, scinTILLATE, and cinCINNATI.

Other notes:

    • [One-piece garments, slangily], UNIS. Really?
    • [Rome-based carrier], ALITALIA. I don’t think I’ve seen this, despite its friendly letters…
    • [Retired New York senator Al D’___], AMATO. You can lop off surnames at their apostrophe?
    • [N, in Morse code], DASHDOT. Arbitrary theme answer. Are all twenty-six morse letters now crossword fill?
    • [Golf stroke that can be practiced in a hallway], PUTT. Fun clue!
    • [Metal playing marbles], STEELIES. I only had ironies in my marble collection? Most of those were actually ball-bearings… And some of the may have actually been steel…
    • [Annual tennis team event], DAVISCUP. Another good answer I don’t recall seeing…

Mixed feelings: 3 Stars.
Gareth, leaving you with Robert Hazard for some reason…

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “…With a Schmear”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.24.16: "...With a Schmear"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.24.16: “…With a Schmear”

Hello there, everyone! If I remember correctly, our constructor of today’s crossword puzzle, Ms. Donna S. Levin, once resided in New York City, so there’s a good chance she had some of the best bagels in the world while in the Big Apple. Her theme today reflects types of bagels, with those entries being multiple-worders where the first word also happens to be a type of bagel. As for me, I prefer the first more than the other four…or any other type. I know, I know…I’m plain. What can I say?

  • PLAIN JANE (17A: [No head-turner, she])
  • GARLIC BREATH (24A: [Halitosis condition that would repel Dracula])
  • POPPY MONTGOMERY (40A: [Actress who plays Detective Carrie Wells on TV’s “Unforgettable”])
  • SESAME STREET (52A: [Big Bird’s home])
  • ONION DOME (65A: [Kremlin roofline feature])

Didn’t read the title of the puzzle, so was slightly confused when I filled in the first two theme entires and tried to figure out what was happening. Obviously, once I read the title, obviously that all came together. Fortunately, once I saw that, was able to fill in the rest of the theme entries without any crosses, including Miss Montgomery, who I really liked when I watched a few episodes of Without a Trace when she also played a cop. We also had another full name in the grid with ED ASNER (49A: [Lou Grant’s portrayer]). At this moment, I’m sitting in a cafe right across from a Chipotle. What does that have to do with this puzzle, which happens to feature E-COLI (53D: [Bacterium with a bad reputation])? Umm…there’s no correlation…not at all! Honest! Favorite clue of the day is definitely EL DORADO, as who wouldn’t want to think about a vast land plot with a whole lot of gold…that pretty much doesn’t exist (9D: [Utopia visited by Voltaire’s Candide]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SATCH (52A: [Louis Armstrong, to his friends])  –If a former professional basketball player has his number retired by the Boston Celtics, then that player must have been one of the greats to ever play. That definitely was the case with New York City native and 2011 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Tom “SATCH” Sanders, whose No. 16 is retired by the Celtics. Satch, after a standout college career at NYU, played for 13 seasons with the Celtics (1960-1973) and won eight NBA titles. In 1973, after his playing days ended, Satch was hired as head coach of the Harvard men’s basketball team, becoming the first African-American person to be a head coach in any sport in the Ivy League.

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

Take care!


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22 Responses to Wednesday, February 24, 2016

  1. ArtLvr says:

    SUBstantial theme in the NYT, not in the least SUBpar! I liked the way PALIN was clued…
    I’ve coined a Trump meme: “Dare Furor” (not to mention inciting hatred & violence). Anglicizing from the German, if you say it out loud.

  2. Mary says:

    68 across: Take away=tract? I don’t have access to an OED, but I cannot find this definition for “tract.” I certainly cannot recall having read or heard the word “tract” used as a verb. Is this crosswordese? Am I missing a pun or reference? Will I have to “retract” my implicit criticism of this clue? Please advise. I’m sure the experts who frequent this blog have answers.

    • huda says:

      NYT: It’s a Thursday puzzle! Only in that it was tricky… started off thinking it was full of really weird definitions, like LIME being lofty. Then got to the theme revealer and zipped through the rest. I agree that the periphery is great, and the center has quite a few head scratchers…

  3. Luke says:

    SUB-tract is to take away. :-)

  4. Pamela Kelly says:

    Hi Mary, 68 across is a theme answer – tract is on the periphery and so merges with “sub” to become subtract.

  5. ktd says:

    NYT: in hindsight I can understand and appreciate the theme, but as I was solving it I thought that SUBMERGES meant to treat “sub” as a rebus. This works at the 1A/1D crossing but not anywhere else, and I quickly found myself wondering, “what’s SUBULT?” And until I read today’s post, I never realized that (SUB)STANCE, (SUB)SCRIPT and (SUB)MARINE were also theme answers.

    Re: BOURREE–arguably not a Wednesday-level word, but I don’t agree with the idea (expressed here and elsewhere) that it’s unpleasant. If you know Bach, it will conjure up something nice-sounding (I don’t know this lute piece, but I know the bourree from one of his cello suites). If you don’t know it, you’ve learned a bit of classical music.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      I was delighted to see a link to the Bach C Major cello Suite played by the great Mischa Meisky. He blows Yo Yo Ma away, I think in the Bach Suites, though Ma is obviously an equally great cellist.

      The clue for ‘Bourrée is not wrong, but is perhaps misleading. Most of the Bach instrumental suites, include a bourrée, so there are lots of them. But the Bourrée from the E minor Lute Suite, is indeed popular and well-known.

      A bourrée is a dance movement in duple meter which starts with two short, unstressed upbeat notes, with the metrical stress on the next longer note. So I guess that would be anapestic rhythm. duh duh DUNNNH . . . duh duh DUNNNH, etc.

      • pannonica says:

        I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m very partial to Jean-Guihen Queyras’ relatively recent rendition of the Suites, on Harmonia Mundi.

      • David L says:

        I couldn’t have defined ‘bourrée’ but I knew the word — it seems only slightly obscure to me for a Wednesday puzzle.

        On the other hand, I can’t help thinking it really ought to be a term from cuisine rather than musique. I can hear Julia Child instructing viewers to fold the caramelized onions into the browned butter to create a smooth bourrée…

        • Bruce N. Morton says:

          Amusing and interesting, because there is a term in French cuisine called a bourride, but it is not smooth, but rather a stew with large chunks of things. A bouillabaisse — the classic French Mediterranean fish stew — is a bourride. I wonder if Julia actually ever did a show on bouillabaisse. I bet she did.

        • pannonica says:

          Isn’t that beurre? Am I simply missing the joke?

        • sbmanion says:

          This is the essential difference between my perspective and Bruce’s. My first thought was a card game;


          • Bruce N. Morton says:

            Steve, are you, as a card player, familiar with the game belotte? We played it obsessively when I was a kid in France. I think it is essentially identical to the game called Klabberjass in German. I’ve played it a couple times as in adult in this country with expat Frenchmen. Quite an interesting card game with a good blend of skill and luck .

          • sbmanion says:


            When I was 12, I memorized all the card games in according to Hoyle. I have never played Belote, but I used to play Klaberjass (which once appeared in an NYT puzzle to great consternation) quite a bit. The lowly 9 as the second highest trump is amusing especially to a hi-lo stud poker player where a 9 is the poster child of a “brick” (bad card). I have always found card games with unusual characteristics (SKAT, SHEEPSHEAD, etc.) to be very entertaining. I thought that to understand a game played by a particular group invited you to be accepted by the ethnic group that played it. I started playing bridge when I was 12 and once won a national side game and if you can play bridge, you can play any card game. My favorite now and forever is poker, but I still like bridge and pitch (similar to euchre except that you do not have to follow suit).


  6. Amy L says:

    An aspic is an old-fashioned dish that would be served at parties because it was special. If handled correctly, it could probably be quite good, perhaps like a savory Jello. But whoever chose that picture of Spaghetti-Os and sausage should be forced to eat it!

  7. Papa John says:

    I very much liked today’s NYT. It took a moment to catch on to the theme and a few of the fill words were a bit more than usual Wednesday fare but that’s what made it challenging and fun. Good job, Ruth!

    • Lois says:

      Ditto. Even the hardest items for me, EMAC and STAGG, were gettable from the crosses once I understood the very nice theme for a Wednesday. Took me longer than two bus trips, though.

      I have to think that some of the people who rated it very low did not look at the clue carefully for 37a and never understood the puzzle, or perhaps are a bit rigid about what a Wednesday puzzle should be. I don’t mind an easy Thursday on a Wednesday. And I thought most of the fill was very nice. The difficulty with some of it was that if you didn’t know what the theme was yet, you didn’t have crosses to work with.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Steve, I agree that learning the card games of a group gains you status in that group. And yes, the top two trumps in belotte are, oddly, the jack and the 9, called the jass (pronounced “yass”) and the menel.

  9. len elliott says:

    LAT — The clue for 7-Down (ILIAD) was “Epic with a very big horse” — That horse was
    not mentioned in “The Iliad” — it showed up in “The Aeneid” and was mentioned in
    “The Odyssey.”

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