Monday, March 28, 2016

BEQ 5:38 (Amy) 


CS 8:58 (Ade) 


Fireball 6:22/DNF meta (Jenni) 


LAT 5:39 (Ade) 


NYT 3:50 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Great news! Thanks to a donation from PuzzleSocial Inc. (my employer! a fun company), the ACPT’s pool of prize money has doubled to $15,000. Top 10 solvers who aren’t finalists will leave with checks in addition to trophies. #2 and #3 get a lot more for their great performances. The Division B finalist pockets a cool thou! And all sorts of other prizes have been increased or added.

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up


Hi again, everyone! It’s me again, your Monday NYT sub. Who’s excited for the ACPT on Friday? Hope to see lots of you there.

This Monday’s NYT puzzle is from Gary Cee and has what feels like an appropriately straightforward theme for a Monday puzzle:

  • 17A: Bump on the neck — ADAM’S APPLE
  • 24A: Issue that’s too dangerous — HOT POTATO
  • 51A: Grand pooh-bah — TOP BANANA
  • 58A: Hand-blown wine bottle that’s also the title of a 1968 Beatles song — GLASS ONION
  • 35A: Winsome…or like the ends of 17A, 24A, 51A, and 58A, to a punster? — APPEALING

Admittedly, the reveal at 35A got a big groan out of me when I hit it mid-puzzle.  That feels appropriate, given punsters in general.  Other fill I liked this puzzle: SLAPS, SIMIAN, ZEES (even if I had to stop myself from putting ZEDS), STAMINA, PALATE, IMPINGE, TANGOED.

3.5/5 stars

Patrick Berry’s Fireball contest crossword, “No Prob!” – Jenni’s write-up

The puzzle itself is easy-peasy. Fun and smooth, because Patrick Berry, but easy. I did it Thursday and put it aside to look at the meta later, since I didn’t need to post until Sunday. And then suddenly it WAS Sunday and I hadn’t figured it out.

The question is “What three-word phrase is hinted at by this puzzle?” I started out with the four symmetrical downs – TENT POLES, DEERSKIN, TEAR GAS, and LANDSLIDE. Hmm. Are they connected? TENT POLES and LANDSLIDE might have something political in common…and TEAR GAS might reference the 1968 Democratic convention…but DEERSKIN? No. So I pinged Amy and she confirmed that those downs had nothing to do with the contest answer. She suggested I look at the title, because Patrick Berry. The title is “No Prob!”. I can see PROB in PRO BONO at 22A and an anagram for PROB in POOR BOY at 51A…and if I remove PROB from those answers I get ONO and OYO. That doesn’t help.12910106_10208040766949857_1224635123_n

It’s been a busy weekend that included a long day on call yesterday and that’s my excuse for pulling a complete blank despite several more suggestions from our gracious host. Eventually Amy sent me her grid. If you remove P, R, O, and B from all the words in which they appear, you get N, I, C, E, A, N, D, E, A, S, Y. NICE AND EASY. Which is either a hair dye or a phrase that also means “no prob!” So (nice and) easy when you know. P, R, O and B don’t appear in any other answers – a feat of construction that doesn’t surprise me because, well, Patrick Berry. Patrick is one of the great masters of the craft; if you ever doubt that we are solving in the golden age of crosswords, just do one or two or four of his puzzles.

I don’t think there’s anything to grump about in this puzzle.  Some things I noticed:

  • Names, ranging from WWII (AUDIE Murphy) to the Mercury astronauts (Gordon COOPER) to classic kidlit (AA MILNE) and contemporary TV (EDIE Falco, clued for her more recent turn in “Nurse Jackie” and not her iconic “Sopranos” role) to a magician and debunker (James RANDI, who won the first Richard Dawkins award. Didn’t know they gave an award. It appears to honor Dawkins for his vocal atheism, not his rank misogyny.)
  • “Surfer’s annoyances” are ADS, because we’re looking at someone who surfs the Internet, not the actual ocean. That one always gets me. You’d think I’d learn.
  • Not crazy about SEABEDS for “Big bottoms”. It’s accurate, but SEABEDS doesn’t seem like a common usage to me. Of course, I’m a doctor, not an oceanographer, so what do I know?
  • I’m also not a cosmologist, but I do know that a black hole boundary is an EVENT horizon.
  • I thought “Cousteau’s world” at 48D was a gimme and filled in LA MER, since he was an oceanographer. Nope. It’s MONDE, because he was French.

Things I didn’t know before I solved this puzzle: the aforementioned Richard Dawkins award and that Yale BESTOWED the first PhD in the US.

Excellent puzzle, as I would expect from Berry and Gordon, and I hope I never take that for granted.

Heidi Moretta’s (“I am the editor”) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Weather Notes” — Jim’s review

Greetings from Weatherhill Farm, here in lovely Suffolk, England. It seems an appropriate place to be solving and blogging this particular puzzle, especially today as we’ve got all kinds of weather going on outside—sheets of RAIN, gusting WIND,  not a ray of SUN, but a good supply of AIR.

The puzzle title tells us we’ve got a “Weather” theme, but more than that, “Notes” really indicates we’ve got songs about the weather.

WSJ - Mon, 03.28.16 - "Weather Notes" by Heidi Moretta (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Mon, 03.28.16 – “Weather Notes” by Heidi Moretta (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Gene Kelly number] could only be SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
  • 35a [Miley Cyrus number] HANDS IN THE AIR
  • 55a [Terry Jacks number] SEASONS IN THE SUN
  • and the coup de grâce 7d [Elton John number] CANDLE IN THE WIND

Very consistent set. Each consists of a word followed by IN THE followed by some sort of weather phenomenon. Yes, AIR is not a word you see too often in weather reports: (Cue announcer’s voice) “In today’s weather, some areas will experience torrential RAIN and strong WIND, while others will get copious amounts of SUN. But rest assured there will be plenty of AIR out there!”

But the coolness of having a grid-spanning CANDLE IN THE WIND cross through the other three themers overcomes the iffiness of HANDS IN THE AIR, at least on a Monday.

Not a lot of long non-theme fill. In fact, there isn’t anything longer than six letters apart from the theme entries. My favorite bit of fill: ODDITY.

ELAINE Stritch as Colleen Donaghy

Things I didn’t know:

  • That ED KOCH (38d) wrote a book entitled “Giuliani: Nasty Man”.
  • Broadway and West End star ELAINE Stritch (20a) whose career spanned more than 50 years. More recently she was seen as Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin’s) mother on 30 Rock.

I have to close out with Lena Horne’s version of “Stormy Weather”, a song this puzzle theme reminds me of. Back in 1989, during boot camp, I was roommates with two other guys, and very, very strangely, each of us knew at least parts of this song which we would randomly sing as we moved about the room.

Nancy Salomon’s Los Angeles Times crossword —Ade’s write-up

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 03.28.16

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 03.28.16

Good day, everyone! It’s Ade pinch-hitting for pannonica today. Hope your teeth were strong when taking a bite out of this grid, brought to us by Ms. Nancy Salomon. In it, each of the three theme answers are phrases in which the first word in each, when standing alone, refers to mastication.

  • BITES THE DUST (20A: [Accepts a grim reality])
  • CHEWS THE SCENERY (39A: [Hams it up])
  • CHAMPS AT THE BIT (56A: [Is raring to go]) – I’ll say this instead of “chomps at the bit” at someone today and see if that person is (or isn’t) put off by the alternate usage.

Can’t say that I’ve heard MCCOO‘s work, but I’ve seen the clue enough times to automatically put that last name down once I see it (1A: [5th Dimension vocalist Marilyn]). If you loved doing yesterday’s New York Times puzzle from Mr. Patrick Blindauer, then doing this grid brought you back to that puzzle’s concept a little, with both BAKER (50D: [Cake maker]) and, especially, the entry that will feature in the next graph. (I’m teasing, I know!) Seeing CRAIG in the grid definitely made me want to let you know of an interesting documentary that I saw last year, Craigslist Joe (2D: [Newmark with an online list]). If you haven’t seen/heard of it, a man decided to travel the United States for 30 days (from California to the East Coast and back) using only the help of Craigslist for food, transportation, shelter, etc. I commend him for puling it off, but I’d tend to think that what happened in the movie would be more the exception than the rule. But, maybe I’m not giving people on Craigslist enough credit for their genuine generosity. If you haven’t watched it yet, I think you should give it a try and see it.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AD SLOGAN (10D: [Lay’s “Betcha can’t eat just one” is one])  –A few of the more memorable commercial from Lay’s using the AD SLOGAN “Betcha can’t east just one” back in the early 1990s involved NBA greats. Here’s just one of those, featuring Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Well, the slogan was said by the narrator, though the graphic at the end phrases it slightly different.) This could happen to you if you lose a bet and try and eat more than one Lay’s potato chip.

Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you later on with the CrosSynergy review!
Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up

BEQ crossword solution, "Themeless Monday" 3 28 16

BEQ crossword solution, “Themeless Monday” 3 28 16

The Tuesday NYT is out in 8 minutes, so let me speed through this.

I like CARPOOL KARAOKE, but I’m surprised that the clue, [Source of some driving songs], is so generic. It is specifically a series of VIRAL VIDEOs from James Corden’s CBS Late Late Show. Apparently there’s a prime-time hour-long version airing Tuesday evening. I’ve seen only the Adele episode.

Also good: PEARL-CLUTCHING, QR CODES (does anyone use these?), JULIENNE, and “RED SOLO CUP.”

Four more things:

  • 39d. [With no charge], FEELESS. Are you kidding me? Have any of you actually used this word?
  • 42a. [Great shakes], SEISM. Nice clue.
  • 4d. [Challenged, with “on”], A DARE. I’m not seeing the clue/entry substitutability here.
  • 5d. [Sports grp. whose defending champs are the New York Cosmos], NASL. Say what? To the Google! I had not heard that this league existed. They’re below the MLS, maybe sort of like AAA in baseball.

3.8 stars from me.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Pieces of Paper” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.28.16: "Pieces of Paper"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.28.16: “Pieces of Paper”

Good day, everyone! Today’s grid was a fun one, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin. Each of the theme entries are items in which the first word, when standing alone, describes a section of a typical daily newspaper.

  • CLASSIFIED DATA (20A: [What leakers may leak])
  • LOCAL CHAPTER (25A: [Neighborhood affiliate of a larger organization])
  • SPORTS JACKET (42A: [Blazer])
  • BUSINESS ATTIRE (48A: [It’s too dressy for Casual Fridays])

You usually don’t see common millennial-era lingo in a CrosSynergy grid, so it was pretty refreshing to see HATER, as well as its cluing (28D: [No fan, he]). Though, I’m seeing the older crowd use that term more, including one of my bosses, who must be in his late 60s, saying the line “haters gonna hate” at a party we were at a few days ago. So we have that modern terminology intersecting with a character from M*A*S*H, SHERM (40A: [Colonel Potter of “M*A*S*H,” to his pals]). Probably the most clever cluing came from the clue to RECEIVER, with bomb referencing a long throw by a quarterback in football (38D: [Bomb target?]). Again, fun grid!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SPAN (40D: [Wingspread])  –One of the better centerfielders in the past decade, Denard SPAN recently moved on from playing for the Washington Nationals and will start the 2015 season with at center with his new team, the San Francisco Giants. Span, who led the National League in hits in 2014 (184), once hit three triples in a game in 2010, which is the modern-day record for most three-baggers in a game.

Thank you so much for the time!

Take care!


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4 Responses to Monday, March 28, 2016

  1. JOHN VEREL says:

    Great one from Gary Cee but much of the full was way hard for a Monday, NW and SE corners esp. Pretty wide open. 74 words Id I count right.

    • Huda says:

      Agreed that it felt harder than usual for a Monday to start with, although if flowed quickly in some areas and my time wound up being within range albeit on th longer end.
      Thant “bump on the neck” definition of Adam’s Apple gives me pause. And that reveal was a head shaker… But I really liked the balance of fruits and veggies, and the fact that each of the phrases used them figuratively.

  2. LuckyGuest says:

    “NO PROB” soundly defeated me. I got stuck early noticing that PROBONO and POORBOY differed only by one letter, then noticed that that was also true of about 10 other pairs of words. Nothing (pronounceable) came of that, so I started looking at what might possibly be theme words. I thought maybe there was something Naval because there were like 7 nautical terms. But nope. Noticed some interesting coincidences: There is an ESTELLE FANTA, and an ALEX COOPER (who went to YALE). But nope. Anyway, no grumps; great puzzle and meta. ‘Til next month…

  3. Gareth says:

    What’s this? Nancy Salomon’s name is not one I’ve seen in a byline in a long time. She’s a giant of the crossword scene, but one largely sleeping. She gave advice and time mentoring many, many constructors. I am one, though by the time she attempted to mentor me, I already had too many of my own ideas unfortunately. Still, many of the principles I espouse here were learnt at her knee. For example, make sure your theme answers are broadly familiar, especially if you’re using wordplay in your theme. Rather have less theme, and clean fill, than cram your grid with many entries that compromise the quality of the puzzle. I’d say a lot of that philosophy is witnessed in her grid today.

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