Thursday, March 31, 2016

BEQ 10:08 (Ben) 


CS 6:56 (Ade) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:59 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:19 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 31 16, no 0331

NY Times crossword solution, 3 31 16, no 0331

The theme answers are pretty straightforward, as the theme lies within the clues. “X and Y” phrases are playfully clued as “double [something],” where the “double ___” phrase is a familiar phrase:

  • 17a. [Double solitaire?], ONE AND ONLY. Okay, I confess I’ve never heard of double solitaire, but it sounds cardsy.
  • 21a. [Double space?], NULL AND VOID. Nice one!
  • 33a. [Double take?], SNATCH AND GRAB. This is not a familiar phrase to me. “Smash and grab” as a kind of retail burglary, yes. Maybe the answer is a sports term?
  • 50a. [Double life?], VIM AND VIGOR. Solid.
  • 55a. [Double back?], AID AND ABET. Solid.


DRAW STARES doesn’t feel quite lexically chunky enough to be a crossword answer, and PER DAY parking rates feels a little off to me (all-day or daily rates feel more in-the-parking-language to me). TAP ON, clued as [Lightly touch, as a shoulder], also feels a little weird. “Tap my shoulder,” “tap me on the shoulder.” The “tap on a shoulder” concept … not wild about it.

By Garry Knight - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By Garry Knight – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Three more things:

  • 38a. [Mass distribution?], WAFERS. Cute clue, referencing sacramental communion wafers given out during Catholic Mass. If you’ve never tried these wafers, you can get a very similar sensation from Satellite Wafers candy, with the caveat that communion wafers do not come with any balls of candy (and Satellite Wafers offer no transubstantiation whatsoever).
  • 1d. [Like London’s City Hall], OVOIDAL. You don’t say. Thinking this was some 19th-century stone building shaped like an oval when seen from above, I Googled it. Good gravy! I don’t remember seeing this thing when I was in London in 2007, five years after it was built. And now I know why we seldom see buildings referred to as OVOIDAL.
  • 30a. [Give the stink eye], LEER. Hey! A clue for LEER that doesn’t suggest it’s just something a red-blooded male does when wimminfolk present themselves within eyeshot.

Four stars from me.

Damien Peterson’s (“Editor’s Pen Name”) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Test Your Metal” — Jim’s review

Hoo boy! This was a doozy, but a goodie!

By my count, this is editor Mike Shenk’s third puzzle this week. No complaints here as they are always of the highest standard. This one in particular is wonderful.

I could not see the theme for the life of me until I was stuck at the end. The answer to the 17a clue [Start of a bridal rhyme] wanted to be SOMETHING OLD which, of course, didn’t fit. So I put in the SOMETHING and looked at 9d which gave me BRUCE LEE (wicked cool non-theme fill BTW), so I was left with SOMETHINGU at 17a. 8d [Map publisher since 1905] worked out to be AAG for me which had me going “huh?”, but I didn’t see my error. In hindsight, I should have caught on immediately to what was going on, but instead I labored through the rest of the puzzle none the wiser.

Similarly, 27a [Relish] worked out to be TAKE DELIGHT _. So I figured something was going on with the last letter of each entry. 43a [“Calm down,” to Brits], I thought, was going to be KEEP YOUR HAT ON, which doesn’t sound particularly British to me, but whatever. I left it as KEEP YOUR HAT _.

Finally it was 57a, after much struggling, that gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I was sure about 49d and 50d, AMPLE and LOBES, which gave me PB at the end of the themer. I worked out the first portion to be AUTOMOBI, plus the PB at the end. Finally I figured out it should be an AUTOMOBILE AD, which led (ha!) to my aha! moment of realizing the metal LEAD was at the end of the themer and was represented by its chemical symbol of PB.

Whew! Got that? It’s much simpler than I made it out to be. Four phrases end in a letter string equivalent to a metal. That string is replaced by the chemical symbol. Ergo…

WSJ - Thu, 03.31.16 - "Test Your Metal" by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Thu, 03.31.16 – “Test Your Metal” by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Start of a bridal rhyme] SOMETHINAU. Something old.
  • 27a [Relish] TAKE DELIGHSN. Take delight in.
  • 43a [“Calm down,” to Brits] KEEP YOUR HAFE. Keep your hair on. Wonderful! (Though I’ve never heard this phrase.)
  • 57a [It may have been shot on a closed course] AUTOMOBIPB. Automobile ad.

This really was a test of my memory of metallic symbols as I couldn’t come up with SN for tin, and the crossings were no help.

So I love the theme! What about the rest of the grid?

Well, we have HOTHEAD, BRUCE LEE, LIME JUICE, GOOD EATS, WHO’S THERE? as well as EREBUS and FETISH. What’s not to love?!

Oh, about the only thing I didn’t love was the 23d/35a RIIS/RITES crossing. 35a‘s clue is [Initiate’s activity] which sounds singular to me, and there was no way to infer the name RIIS from [“How the Other Half Lives” photojournalist]. But other than that hiccup, the rest of the puzzle abounds in goodness.

Number of days without SST in the grid: 1 (after three straight days with it). The clue for 15a had me worried though: [Starkrimson or Concorde]. If that was an “and” instead of an “or” I would have plopped in SSTS just out of habit. Instead, the answer is PEAR.

Other notes:

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter of IDAHO

  • 11d: [Question to a jokester] is WHO’S THERE. I had difficulty sussing out the intent of the clue until I realized we were talking about a Knock, Knock joke here.
  • 14a: [Governor Otter’s domain] is IDAHO. Apparently Governor Otter is a real person, not a character from a children’s story.
  • 39a: [Souk shopper] is ARAB. A souk is an open-air marketplace.
  • 53d: [King of Siam’s Garden setting] is ETON. Mental note: save for future use.

All in all, a fabulous puzzle today—fantastic theme, wonderfully executed with lovely fill and crunchy clues. Quite possibly the best WSJ puzzle since they started the dailies.

Trip Payne’s Fireball crossword, “Cuckoo Crossword” – Jenni’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8.34.45 PM

Fireball crossword solution, 3 31 16 “Cuckoo Crossword”

This one arrived bright and early, before I went to work this morning. Peter must be getting ready to head for Stamford. I took a gander at it over breakfast, realized we were coming up on April 1st and the annual appearance of Trip’s Cuckoo Crossword, and decided to wait until later. “Later” turned out to be before dinner, while I was have a little wine and cheese. I think the wine helped. I don’t know about the cheese.

I suspect the ratings on this one will have a bimodal distribution – these are the sorts of puzzles you either love or you hate. I love them. I love the wacky answers that are perfectly logical and the “normal” answers scattered around the grid. I love figuring out which ones are which. I love the “aha” moments, often followed by a groan, when one of the really bizarre answers falls into place. I’m not much good at cryptics or metas. I’m really good at cuckoos. Make of that what you will.

My first foothold was, of course, 6D – “Public radio host” IRA glass. Didn’t help much with the NW so I moved on. The “Almost major-league designation” at 26 D didn’t help either. I finally started to shake something loose in the SE with one of the cuckoo answers. 39A is “”I fully agree with that ‘cuchi-cuchi’!” There’s only one “cuchi-cuchi”  – the immortal CHARO. I dropped her into the end of that answer and that gave me HANOI at 40D and LAVIN at 44 A (“Star of ‘Alice'”.) From there I made steady progress in a counterclockwise direction. The last answer I filled in was 28 A – “Result of a Canadian province selling renaming rights to a video company” – TAITO SCOTIA. If you made a list of things I don’t know, video games would be up near the top.

Random cuckoo observations:

  • Video games make another appearance at 2D – “What happens after you temporarily win my my 1982 video game in a poker game.” Thanks to crosswords, I know that if “1982” appears in a clue about a video game, the answer is TRON. In this case, that gives us I RECOUP TRON. Of course.
  • After the first glass of wine, I looked at 3D and asked David to divide 42 by 4. As I said “Wait, you can’t”, he said “Ten and a half”. So the answer to “Group of house pets with 42 paws” is TEN AND A HALF CATS.
  • Love the middle section full of Z’s with NONQUIZZICAL crossing PALAZZOPALOOZA and THE LIZARD OF OZ.
  • That list of things I don’t know also includes “Game of Thrones”, so I was a little worried about 34 A, “Well-dressed beast on the ‘Game of Thrones’ red carpet.” I had -MANI at the end and it took me a while to realize we weren’t talking about a critter that had its nails polished but rather a DRAGON IN ARMANI.
  • When I read 25 D, ” ‘Up a _____’, (song referencing a body of water named for Ms. Borden), I was thinking of Elsie, the spokescow for Borden Milk. Nope. It’s the infamous resident of Fall River, MA, and we’re looking for that old standard “Up a LIZZIE RIVER”.

By Samuel Daniell – Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Public Domain,

What I didn’t know before I did the crossword is also “the answer I thought was cuckoo that is not” – QUAGGA, the extinct type of zebra referenced at 45A. Don’t believe me? Just look.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Talking Crosswords” — Ben’s Review

Talking Crosswords

Talking Crosswords

Happy ACPT Eve Day!  I hope to see some of you in Stamford tomorrow – say hi!  I only bit that one time and the investigation is still pending.

This Thursday’s BEQ puzzle was PDF or JPZ only, so I knew something was up with the grid going into it, but I wasn’t expecting what I found.  I almost wish this puzzle had been mysteriously delayed by a day, because it’s perfect for April Fool’s:

  • 21A: “___” — I’M DRAWING A BLANK
  • 26A: See 1D and 62D, “Did Brendan fuck up here?” — CAN YOU REPEAT THAT
  • 46A: “My bad” — SORRY WRONG NUMBER*

*This is actually 45A in the grid


I LOVE meta-jokes, ya’ll, especially meta-jokes about puzzles, so it felt like BEQ made this puzzle just for me.  Of the theme clues, I managed to solve 26A last, so I did a double-take when solving the down clues and finding that both 1D and 62D appeared to both have the answer SOS.  Seriously, though, after a few weeks of ramping up the number of crosswords I was doing on a daily basis, it was nice to get a puzzle like this to kick off my last day of ACPT prep.

Since this wasn’t a typical puzzle, I’ll skip my normal musical add-in for something out of the ordinary.  24A‘s clue for TEK, “Drug that Shatner wrote about”, initially made me think LSD, thanks to this video clip featuring William Shatner talking about hypnotism from my local bad movie night, Trash Night.  Enjoy.

(Boston friends: come to Trash Night!  3rd Tuesday of the month at the Brattle!  See more things like this!)

There were a few nitpicky things in the puzzle (I didn’t love the fill ONE-NO, EXING, SEALE, and EL OSO), but the good way outweighed the only-okay here.

Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:

  • 15A: Speed skater Apolo — OHNO (Maybe it’s because I’ve been solving multiple puzzles a day, but I’ve really enjoyed seeing this as a new way of cluing this pattern of letters rather than the standard OH NO)
  • 38A: Bernie ___ (Democratic dude) — BRO 
  • 5D: Website in the #gamergate imbroglio — KOTAKU (Bernie Bros and GamerGaters are some of my least favorite people lately.)
  • 28D: Baseball analyst Garciaparra — NOMAR (I can tell I’m slowly becoming a Bostonian because I now have an urge to get a medium iced coffee any time I see a Dunkin Donuts, and because whenever I see Garciaparra I have the sudden urge to shout NOMAH)
  • 54D: TV show with the theme song “Time for Some Girl Talk” — GLEE (this is actually the closing credits music, which I did not realize had a name until this puzzle.  Remember how good Glee season 1 was?)

Again, I found this puzzle freaking delightful, and I hope you did too.  4.5/5 stars.

Matt Skoczen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160331

LA Times

OON is one of those crossword answers that shouldn’t be. It is not a lexical chunk of any sort. This puzzle winks at that answer by tacking OON onto the ends of the second of two part phrases, radically changing that part. BALL, CART and BASS were not used – surprisingly. Instead the foursome were LAMP(OON), HARP(OON), WALL(OON), and BUFF(OON). Fun choices, but I particularly liked WALL to WALLOON. LAMPOON feels stilted being used as a noun, though I’m sure there is evidence that it may be used that way…

The themers:

    • [Parody involving molten rock?], LAVALAMP(OON)
    • [Wind god’s whaling weapon?], AEOLIANHARP(OON). Harp belonging to dude becoming harpoon belonging to dude is a little flat, though I don’t think there are many options here.
    • [Blubbering Belgian?], WAILINGWALL(OON).

[Hollywood harlequin?], FILMBUFF(OON). There are some great film buffoons…


  • [Med. test], EKG. I only ever see ECG, but I think EKG is more common in the U.S.? Dr. Levi? One of 11 abbrs. All defensible in isolation, but the combined effect?
  • [Teeth: Pref.], DENTI. Not much of a pref…
  • [Apple with a Force Touch trackpad], MACBOOKPRO. Great answer! Even for someone who think macs are an insanely overpriced marketing con…
  • [Furious], IREFUL. How is this different to IRATE?
  • [“The thing with feathers / That perches in the soul”: Dickinson], HOPE. Fun clue!

3.5 Stars

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Get Lost” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.31.16: "Get Lost"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.31.16: “Get Lost”

Good afternoon, everybody! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is more fun with puns, as common phrases are altered by removing the letters “GET” from the phrase, resulting in the funky theme entries.

  • TAR PRACTICE (17A: [Part of a roofer’s training?]) – Target practice.
  • BALANCE THE BUD (27A: [What a bartender may do to avoid spilling some beer?]) – Balance the budget.
  • FOR EVERYTHING (40A: [Like many toadies?]) – Forget everything.
  • THROWS TO HER (54A: [Plays catch with a woman?]) – Throws together.

Loved that there was a lot of long fill in the grid today, with probably HERODOTUS being the standout of the lot for me (31D: [Greco-Persian Wars chronicler]). Oh, and keeping with the Greek theme, we also have SOCRATES, which reminds me, for some reason, of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and their run-in with Socrates in the film (9D: [Teacher of Plato]). Had to laugh at myself for initially putting in “outdated,” only to delete that and figure out that it was OUT OF DATE (13D: [Obsolete]). We have make and female first names dueling it out at an intersection, with ELIOTS (29D: [Ness and Spitzer]) and TERIS crossing each other (35A: [Garr and Hatcher]). Might be time to head out and head to the MEN’S ROOM, but not before the “sports…smarter” moment first (36D: [Public facility]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DALEY (32A: [Chicago ex-mayor Richard])  –For a few months last year, there was another prominent Daley in Chicago. National Hockey League defenseman Trevor DALEY, who spent his first 10 seasons with the Dallas Stars, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in July of 2015. Daley, however, only played 29 games for the Blackhawks this season before he was traded this past December to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Maybe it was the last name that got him the ouster!!!

TGIF tomorrow! See you then!

Take care!


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26 Responses to Thursday, March 31, 2016

  1. janie says:

    won’t spoil the fun for others, but hafta say, the clue/fill combos at 3D and 25D in trip’s “cuckoo crossword” (this week’s fireball) are pure gold — in a puzzle that is *filled* w/ great stuff. i imagine other solvers will chime in w/ their faves, but that first one especially just makes me laugh out loud. thank you, constructor and editor!


  2. Steve Manion says:

    I have only heard SNATCH AND GRAB as a crowd control measure. I am not aware of any sports-related usage. I did not have a problem with DRAW STARES. I agree that TAP ON seems weird.

    I thought this was a clever puzzle.


  3. ArtLvr says:

    Not happy with TAP ON the shoulder? If you were hoping to be invited to join a secret society like Skull and Bones at Yale, you’d be delighted to be “tapped”…. (but okay, the ON is just hanging there).

  4. Evad says:

    With janie on the delight of our annual treat of the wacky FB. Thanks, Peter & Trip!

    Double solitaire may refer to diamond rings, no?

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I hope to see many of you in Stamford this weekend. It’s so close to my home in central MA, that it would be silly for me not to go. In fact we just had one of my hometown colleges, Amherst, in a puzzle recently. I should remind you that because of my prosopagnosia, I will not immediately identify some you whom a normal person would recognize instantly. It’s an odd disorder even to one who has grown up with it his entire life.

    People ask me “What exactly do you see?” I recently learned what a QR Code is and what the designs look like. I liken recognizing faces to trying to memorize one of those codes well enough to be able to identify that specific one the next time I see it. I imagine the codes are more difficult, but definitely analogous. It helps to have a limited universe of people. I will be expecting to see the people who will actually be there. Erica, I’m afraid I don’t have you well memorized, though I remember in detail the times that we spoke. I think I will recognize Amy, though. And of course we get very good at identifying people by visual and auditory cues other than their faces.

    I hope this post doesn’t annoy anyone, but it does make me more comfortable in a group to give this explanation in advance.

  6. David L says:

    I put in PENNAMES at 2D but I don’t understand it. Robert Galbraith is J.K. Rowling’s pen name, but J.K. Rowling is J.K. Rowling’s real name. Would you say that T.S. Eliot or P.G. Wodehouse are pen names?

    LEER and ‘give the stink-eye’ don’t seem equivalent to me. Leer has an explicitly lascivious connotation whereas stink eye is a matter of disgust or hatred.

    I put in OVOIDAL with great reluctance. Judging by the picture, it’s a technical term meaning ‘blob-shaped.’

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I had the same thought, but apparently Joanne Rowling never had a middle name, and chose J.K. (with a brand-new Kathleen middle name) Rowling as a pen name to obscure her femaleness, lest fragile male readers be scared off. She seems to use the “Kathleen” part now, but it wasn’t originally part of her legal name.

      Check a dictionary—LEER can also have “malicious” or “unpleasant” connotations and not just “lascivious.” (Yes, I know. We usually encounter it with the “lascivious” meaning.)

  7. David L says:

    I didn’t know that about Rowling.

    MW11 defines leer as a verb with the meaning ‘to cast a sidelong glance, esp. to give a leer’ and then defines the noun leer as ‘a lascivious, knowing, or wanton look.’

    I don’t doubt that you can find variations in other dictionaries, but these definitions don’t support the stink-eye interpretation.

  8. CC says:

    Loved the EL OSO reference- really an under appreciated band.

    Oh- and the TAITO reference, too. Arkanoid! The cuckoo was a fun one.

  9. Umberto says:

    Always love to hate Amy’s feminist comments

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Aren’t you charming.

    • Martin says:

      People are always cautioned “don’t feed the trolls”. But in your case, maybe you’d enjoy what many of the suffragists went through over a century ago: fighting for the simple right TO VOTE.

      Both in the US and in the UK many suffragists went on hunger strikes, in jail, after being arrested for protesting. They were force-fed by having tubes shoved down their throats, some of them choking to death. (remember feeding tubes were a little cruder back then).

      Signed with my real name:

      -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  10. Lester says:

    I don’t understand the positive ratings for LAT today. Fill was nothing but crosswordese dreck, and theme fell far short of justifying fill.

  11. Bob says:

    LAT: Too many contrived abbrvs. and prefix\suffix answers. I know it takes more time to construct a grid without them (esp. for short-word fills) but the attempt to limit them shows the extra effort we deserve.

  12. Steve says:

    Regarding Trip’s clue at 25D, doesn’t the referent require the definite article? Isn’t it Up THE Lazy (or, in this case, Lizzie) River? Slowed me down….

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      No, no. The make-believe song is “Up a Lizzie River.” You may be thinking of something that actually exists, which has little place in this puzzle.

      • janie says:

        original song title is “(Up a) Lazy River,” so the clue and fill work perfectly. a hoagy carmichael classic (co-written with sidney arodin) covered by the mills brothers and bobby darin. among others.


  13. Zulema says:

    I did so appreciate the NYT crossword because it was not tricky, and I am not good at tricky. I may get my comeuppance in today’s Peter Gordon puzzle, but I have not looked at it yet. I wondered as others did about J.K. Rowling being considered a PEN NAME, and I’d like to add that it is not just the Catholic Church that gives out WAFERS.
    BRUCE, I have a hard time recognizing a few people and I have no excuse as you do. I hope you are coming to the CRU dinner. I will be there and I will be happy to see you.

  14. Joan Macon says:

    I have no idea how to play it, but there is a game called double solitaire my grandmother used to play constantly. It uses two decks of cards, I think. There is also a game called patience, but again I am not familiar with it!

    • Amy L says:

      Double Solitaire is played by two people. Each plays Solitaire but build the suits together on the same piles. The winner is the one who is out of cards first. I hope I’m remembering this correctly. It’s a good game for kids.

  15. Jim Peredo says:

    Ugh! I have to say how frustrating it is that a really good puzzle, the WSJ, gets no love here. For once, the commenters on the WSJ blog got it right.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If only they made the puzzle available in a format like .puz or .jpz, a great many more of us would be solving it regularly.

    • Shawn Pichette says:

      It has a higher rating than the NYT, LAT, and Post as of Friday afternoon. I think that this site tends to lean toward people who comment on the NYT more than others, especially considering that commentors write as though everyone knows what they are talking about (as opposed to WSJ posts that include “WSJ” in the fist sentence).

      Garrett had a similar gripe a few months ago about nobody reading his LAT posts, but I think that most of us silently enjoy the puzzles and the blog posts.

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