Saturday, March 26, 2016

CS 6:19 (Ade) 


LAT 7:30 (Derek) 


Newsday 22:29 (Derek) 


NYT 4:59 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 26 2016, no 0326

NY Times crossword solution, 3 26 2016, no 0326

We shall call this the SATAN’S COVENS crossword.

Funky-looking grid. Two diagonal swaths that are 6+ squares wide connected in the interlocked 7/8/9 corners, and then two little 5×5 chunks. Played more like a Friday puzzle to me.

Did not know: 28a. [Rough, loosely woven fabric], RATINÉ. I’m OK with not seeing this one more often.


Four more things:

  • 29a. [Crooner with the 1978 platinum album “You Light Up My Life”], MATHIS. Man! I did not know that one. The 1977 Debby Boone album (also platinum!) and her mega-hit song by the same name (#1 for 10 straight weeks!) are my go-to late-’70s “You Light Up My Life” references.
  • 39a. [Guards on the gridiron], COVERS. I was reading the clue as looking for a noun, but it’s a verb here.
  • 6d. [Many a West Jordan resident], MORMON. I think I stayed with a friend there 10 years ago. It’s a suburb of Salt Lake City.
  • 11d. [Calligrapher’s grinding mortar], INKSTONE. I have no idea what this INKSTONE is used for. Grinding pigments for ink? But calligraphy is … well, not callipygian, but lovely all the same.

4.2 stars from me.

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 8.11.03 AMA 72 worder by Mark Bickham is the entry for this Saturday. Not too difficult; my time was 7 1/2 minutes, and that is because I messed up 28A, which is where the cursor is in the image. In reality, I messed up 29D [Surfer’s option]. I had SITE in there, and was puzzled when the Across Lite software told me I had made an error! The actual answer, KITE, works well, and makes the clue nice and tricky. The real problem is why I didn’t understand the clue at 28A [Carrier of many old couples]. Of COURSE that is Noah’s ARK!!

So after feeling stupid, I am once again reminded that I need to eliminate silly errors like this at Stamford next week! I shall vow to double check each puzzle carefully; if I finish clean I will be satisfied, no matter where the placement!

This puzzle was fun to do. How about a solid 4 stars! My favorites:

    • 18A [Levitate] DEFY GRAVITY – I believe Defying Gravity is a song from Wicked. So the phrase seems familiar in that sense. Very nice!
    • 22A [“Enough, José!”] NO MÁS – This was famously uttered by boxer Roberto Duran years ago as he was getting knocked out. Literal translation is “No more!!”
    • 35A [Response acknowledging familiarity] I GET THAT A LOT – Awesome!
    • 41A [Beyond reproach] SQUEAKY CLEAN – Another great entry!
    • 42A [Lemony spice used in Middle Eastern cuisine] SUMAC – This is a hard clue for this word. But that’s the idea on Saturday!
    • 66A [Good place to see plays] ESPN – My favorite channel! I had a few letters in place already, but I got this one almost immediately for some reason!
    • 1D [“Spenser: For Hire” actor] URICH – Am I dating myself in saying that I remember this well?
    • 7D [Loan document] PAYMENT SCHEDULE – A great down entry. Not too hard, and probably why the puzzle fell quickly!
    • 11D [Boxer who retired undefeated] LAILA ALI – I was fooled here. I put in MARCIANO, who I believed also retired undefeated.
    • 25D [Courvoisier and Hennessy] COGNACS – I had some nice cognac once; never slept better!
    • 39D [“___ Hunger Force”: Adult Swim cartoon] AQUA TEEN – I am not familiar with this show, but there evidently is a character named Carl who makes football picks on ESPN’s pregame show on Sunday’s. The bit is pretty funny!

  • 44D [Milky Way component] NOUGAT – Getting hungry…

Almost Stamford time! Next Saturday’s LAT writeup will be from CT!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

IMG_0101Another case of 1-Across being literally the last entry filled in! And at that early morning hour, I couldn’t remember how to spell FOIE GRAS!!

GREAT puzzle today from Brad! Hope to speak to him next weekend in Stamford and share how much I enjoy his puzzles! I will admit: when I saw his byline, a slight feeling of dread came over me, as his puzzles are usually quite challenging. But several clues seemed to fall, I won’t say easily, but rather … smoothly. Maybe I am catching onto his clueing vibe! My main difficulty with the puzzle was having ASHEN instead of FADED for 1D, and having SPLIT instead of ON-AIR for 2D. With those two wrong answers, and the offbeat ending of the spelling at 1A, I was wise to move to other areas! And I don’t know 24D [Like Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov] GUILT RIDDEN. Evidently this is a reference to his novel Crime and Punishment, which I have of course never read, due to my being uncultured! But my ignorance doesn’t detract from the greatness of this puzzle. 4.7 stars today.

Some highlights:

  • 32A [Song that lost to “Born Free on Oscar night] ALFIE – I didn’t know this won an Oscar. I didn’t know Alfie had a song nominated!
  • 39A [School that sounds cool?] U CONN – This puzzled me for a minute, but then I realize it is a homophone for Yukon!
  • 41A [“Hunger Games” descriptor] DYSTOPIAN – The same could be said for Divergent or The Maze Runner.
  • 64A [How many in the Boomerang Generation live] RENT FREE – I have also never heard of this reference. This evidently refers to people who move back in with their parents.
  • 11D [Oreos/marshmallows concoctions] LUMPS OF COAL – As a self-proclaimed dessert expert, this is also a new one on me! We have crinkle cookies here, which look similar but are not the same. Someone will have to bake some and bring them to Stamford! ;-)
  • 21D [Person on dozens of US stamps since 1966] MADONNA – Evidently these are some Christmas stamps that have been around since then? Here is a pic of one:madonna stamp
  • 33D [Pepsi sub-brand] LAYS – Technically, wouldn’t this be PepsiCo sub-brand? Either way it makes me hungry…
  • 43D [Political flap of 2003] CIA GATE – This must refer to the Valerie Plame scandal.
  • 52D [Captain companion of Doctor Who] YATES – OK, I am not a big Doctor Who fan, but I have watched a few episodes. The rest of my family are huge fans, and they don’t know this character either!
  • 62D [DC soccer venue for the 1996 Olympics] RFK – They held Olympic events this far from Atlanta?

I could mention many more, but I will stop here. Next weekends writeup will be from Stamford! See you there!

Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pass/Fail”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.26.16: "Pass/Fail"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.26.16: “Pass/Fail”

Hello, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeffrey Harris, definitely is not graded on a curve. Each of the four theme entries are phrases that are altered by changing one letter: a P to an F or an F to a P.

  • WARSAW FACT (17A: [“It’s on the Vistula River,” e.g.?]) – Warsaw Pact.
  • PAST THINKING (28A: [Reminiscing?]) – Fast thinking.
  • HOW DO YOU PEEL (45A: [KP duty newbie’s question]) – How do you feel?
  • FIN CUSHION (61A: [Human : armrest :: fish : ______?]) – Pin cushion.

Loved that I was able to soar through the grid, though, now looking back at it, I probably should have finished it in under six minutes. Oh, the things a number of us could have imagined filling in instead of HOTELIER today, given its clue (9D: [Donald Trump, e.g.]). Loved the fill of PLAY-DOH, much more so than playing with it at school when I was a child (54A: [Moldable Hasbro product]). Never was a fan of that, and gravitated much more to board games when it was time to have some fun during school. Have spent a lot of days recently on AMTRAK and I learn to appreciate their service more and more with each time I’m on one of their trains (10D: [Operator of Acela trains]). Too many Greyhound trips have left my my knees feeling like they’re tied up in knots, so Amtrak feels like I’m on a first-class airplane flight! I love OREO cookies, but even I don’t think I can bite into the flavor that’s mentioned in its clue today (34D: [Cookie with a “Cinnamon Bun” flavor]). Too. Much. Sweetness.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SASH (6A: [Bit of beauty pageant garb])  –One of the now many football players who have passed away in part due to the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is Tyler SASH, who was a safety and a member of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI championship team. He played at the University of Iowa and was drafted by the Giants in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

See you all for the Sunday Challenge. Have a great rest of your Saturday.

Take care!


Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Get Wise” — Jim’s write-up

I’m not posting a full review of the puzzle as I’m putting this in days after the fact. I know pannonica was laid up last weekend, so I’ll just put in the grid and themers for completion’s sake.

The theme is add-a-Y. Several well known phrases have a Y added and then are clued wackily.

WSJ - Sat, 03.26.16 - "Get Wise" by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk?)

WSJ – Sat, 03.26.16 – “Get Wise” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk?)

  • 22a [Site of courses on horses?] BARNYAD COLLEGE
  • 37a [Deer’s leap across a less-traveled route?] BY-ROAD JUMP
  • 55a [“Do you want to suck Putin’s blood?” reply?] MOSQUITO NYET
  • 73a [No-cal drink for members of a secret syndicate?] SPY RING WATER
  • 89a [Vessel for do-it-yourself batik artists?] HOME DYE POT
  • 107a [Salesmen for an online commerce company?] PAYPAL DELEGATES
  • 35d [Audition for a fly-fishing job?] BROOK TRY-OUT
  • 41d [Making duplicates of pages of adages?] COPYING SAWS

Very good wordplay. The two Down themers cross a couple Across themers at the Y. How cool is that?

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20 Responses to Saturday, March 26, 2016

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Nice NYT – The INKSTONE is an ancient Chinese art necessity for grinding and holding ink, a pinyin. “In addition to stone, inkstones are also manufactured from clay, bronze, iron, and porcelain. The device evolved from a rubbing tool used for rubbing dyes dating around 6000 to 7000 years ago.” The inkstone, together with the ink brush, inkstick and Xuan paper, are the four writing implements traditionally known as the Four Treasures of the Study.

    • ArtLvr says:

      p.s. If you squint at the grid, the large diagonal could be an inkstone, without the two small corner areas.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Yes very odd clue for MATHIS. That was the album with “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” his last really big single, which would have made more sense. He wasn’t exactly an album-oriented rock guy. Or just, you know, “Chances Are.”

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Just an idle, off-the-wall question. Can a female singer be called a crooner?

    • Papa John says:

      Bruce, you’ve made it clear that you are not a computer whiz but you must learn how to master one of the most valuable aspect of the Internet, it’s various search engines.

      Wikipedia begins its essay on “crooner” with “Crooner is an American epithet given to male singers of jazz standards…”

      Eezee peezee!

    • Steve Manion says:

      Papa John,

      I disagree with the idea of needing to consult Wikipedia or anything else on the internet. I had never thought one way or the other about whether a crooner could be a female and found Bruce’s question interesting. If he had looked it up, he probably would not have asked.

      My favorite thing about this site is learning things. As Donald Rumsfeld stated, there are “unknown unknowns.”


  4. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: The review is appreciated, as always. If anybody is interested in extended constructor notes, check out my blog:

    • Papa John says:

      While you’re here, would you mind explaining how Joe Pancake squares with Damon Gulczynski?

      • Joe Pancake says:

        Well, since you asked, Joe Pancake is a fictitious author I created in junior high English class. We had to write a research paper and part of the assignment was to write a bibliography that referenced ten different sources. I told my friend that our teacher would never actually check our sources and to prove it to her I cited a bunch of fake books and articles and gave all the authors really stupid names. One of them was Joe Pancake. The teacher didn’t notice, and it became a running joke between us.

        Since then I’ve used it from time to time as a pseudonym in comment sections and such, for no other reason than just because. I guess you could call it my nom de blog.

  5. David L says:

    Nice puzzle, although it took me a while to get started. I had MUSLIM for MORMON, misremembered EMMET as EMMON, STUMPED instead of STYMIED. But once I got straightened out it went pretty easily.

    Technical question: are TSETSES suckers or biters?

    Fun Fact: INCA HOOTS are how ancient central Americans communicated across the MASSIFS.

    • Martin says:

      Tsetse flies penetrate the skin with a serrated mouthpart and then suck up the blood (after mixing in an anti-coagulant). Although the mouthparts are different, this is basically the same feeding procedure a mosquito uses.

      Although it’s pierce-and-suck, we call them “bites.” So both “biting” and “sucking” are appropriate descriptions.

  6. huda says:

    NYT: Nice puzzle!!
    Had BURLAP in lieu of RATINE, which of course did not last long… I did try to look up the word origin from French, and it’s really hard to figure out how it came to mean “adorn”… more digging is needed, but I have a deadline, so it has to wait…
    Thank goodness for MOM JEANS, they opened up that whole part of the puzzle for me, and it seemed to flow pretty well. I did not love the STER/SAR combo, but I was happy to get MASSIFS… My husband and I wanted to go the the Massif Central, in part because of the great astronomy there, and we almost did once except that the French airlines went on strike.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Fantastic, challenging Saturday (Sunday sized) wsj by Harold Jones. Clever, and a few laugh out loud theme entries. *Highly* recommended. I know nothing about the constructor except for seeing his byline regularly in the wsj. Anyone know or know anything about him. I’m assuming he’s a person, not an anagram. It does deem to anagram to John reloads.

    • Dan F says:

      Pretty sure it’s Mike Shenk again, regardless of anagram. If there were somebody else capable of making that good of a Sunday puzzle, we’d be seeing their byline elsewhere…

  8. Karen says:

    Did anyone else put “basta” which means enough for “Enough, Jose”?

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      “Basta” is Italian not Spanish (I don’t think). My Italian is much better than my Spanish.

  9. ahimsa says:

    When I saw the phrase CHAI TEA in the LA Times I thought I’d share this quote:

    When the term “chai tea” is erased from café menus across America, Meena Ramamurthy will retire satisfied. “If that’s my crowning achievement as a filmmaker, I’ll be happy,” the 29-year-old comedy writer and director told NBC News.

Comments are closed.