Wednesday, May 4, 2016

AV Club 13:08 (Ben) 


CS 9:14 (Ade) 


LAT 3:56 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:07 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 16, no 0504

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 16, no 0504

Two literary Wednesdays in a row…last week was pseudonyms, this week a quote from a LONGFELLOW poem“INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL.” Not a happy verse, but the line did inspire a song performed by Ella FITZGERALD and The Ink Spots.

I like how the the quote travels diagonally down the grid like windswept rain, evoking the imagery of the poem quite nicely. The symmetry of each word containing four letters is pleasing as well. It would be nicer if the construction of the grid did not lead to two partials (IN TOO and OF ALL), though.

The grid leads to some interesting long fill, including INFILTRATE, MANZANILLA, TEAR STAIN, ALTAMONTE, and RUMOR MILLS. The Professional Bowlers Association, or PBA, stumped me (but was gettable through crossings), and entering MARIA instead of ANITA for [“West Side Story” woman] threw me off for a bit. I’m not sure how many people would know steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and thus get NONSTEROID from [Like hormones synthesized from amino acids]. Otherwise, the previously mentioned partials and AOUT were the only fill snags for me.

Until next week!

David J. Kahn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Voices” — Jim’s review

Lovely theme today from David J. Kahn who’s found phrases that hide various mononymous singers, then hints at them with a spot-on title. Let’s take a look.

WSJ - Wed, 5.3.16 - "Inner Voices" by David J. Kahn

WSJ – Wed, 5.3.16 – “Inner Voices” by David J. Kahn

  • 18a [*Kindergarten and the like] GRADE LEVELS
  • 24a [*Hamlet and Othello, for two] TRAGIC HEROES
  • 34a [*1989-93 or 2001-09] BUSH ERA
  • 50a [*1960 Terry-Thomas film about a gang of fur thieves] MAKE MINE MINK
  • 62a [*Where the Orioles play, familiarly] CAMDEN YARDS
  • 9d [With 45-Down, what each singer in the answers to the starred clues goes by] ONE / NAME

Yes, that’s a strangely-placed revealer, but the theme is so nice I barely noticed.

My criticism of yesterday’s WSJ puzzle was that it was too loose; there are many actors who’ve portrayed presidents, but only four were chosen for inclusion in the grid for no other apparent reason than that they fit.

Today, yes, there are many one-named singers from STING to PRINCE to MOBY to SHAKIRA to SEAL, but it’s a lot harder to find them hidden within an existing phrase. It would have been great if PRINCE was included here, but those letters are not crossword-friendly—not when you’re trying to break them up and span them across two words. Even STING can easily be hidden in something like WASTING AWAY, but try to span STING across two words and it suddenly becomes much harder.

So this theme feels much tighter, much more of an exhaustive list than yesterday’s.

I like the idea of ENYA hiding out in CAMDEN YARDS, but I think I like the barely-hidden USHER in BUSH ERA more (not sure if many people use the phrase “BUSH ERA“, but I love the fact it only takes two letters to hide USHER in another phrase, so I’m okay with it).

But my favorite is EMINEM hiding in MAKE MINE MINK. I have never heard of the film and I don’t know who Terry-Thomas is, but EMINEM was so well-hidden from my eyes, that I couldn’t see him even after I finished the puzzle and started googling one-named singers. Even after reading his name on a list, I still didn’t see him. I was expecting one of the Ks to be involved. Finally, when I saw the light and saw that it spanned three words instead of the usual two, I got to enjoy a great “Aha!” moment. A superb find!

The rest of the puzzle is solidly made as you’d expect. We get TIME LIMITS and PREVAILING as our long Downs. I think my favorite non-theme fill is JETSAM (34a, [Goods deliberately thrown overboard]). I have loved that word, along with its life partner “flotsam”, ever since I learned them as a chapter title in The Two Towers. Speaking of which, BILBO takes off the ring and makes an appearance at 8d [He bests Gollum in a riddle contest].

A few notes:

  • RED SEA is good at 49d, but I was surprised by its grid counterpart, the clue for 4d DOGS IT. It’s clued as [Loafs], but I think I’ve only ever heard it used in its other sense, i.e. to move slowly or to run away.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a BOATEL (8a, [Waterfront lodging]), but I trust they exist.
  • 16a gets a tough clue [Jawaharlal’s daughter] if you don’t know your Indian Prime Ministers. Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s first PM and father to INDIRA.

Finally, in the negative column, guess who shows up to take some attention away from the puzzle’s main stars. Yep, that’s KANYE at 51d. While he’s technically not a one-named singer, he nearly is. It would have been nicer if he could let other people have their due for once and not be so distracting. Or at least give him a funny clue like [Kim said of him “My husband needs a lot of attention”].

Oh! I just looked up MAKE MINE MINK and the hyphenatedly-named Terry-Thomas, the British comedic actor. I never knew his name but you can’t forget that gap-toothed smile. I know him best from the original It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Here he is with Uncle Milty discussing the differences between the UK and the US.

Angela Olson Halsted’s AVCX crossword, “Dropping a Track” — Ben’s Review

Dropping A Track

Dropping A Track

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called the AV Club Crossword Puzzle.  It’s another guest puzzle week at the AV Club, with Angela Olson Halsted giving us a 1.5/5-difficulty puzzle that’s larger than usual at 16×21.  I’m here to tell you, there’s something else…a tribute theme:

  • 21A: Rangers slugger who’s played on six All-Star teams — PRINCE FIELDER
  • 53A: Birthplace of Wal-Mart — ROGERS, ARKANSAS
  • 80A: “Long Walk to Freedom” subject — NELSON MANDELA

In addition to these grid entries in honor of the Purple One, the circled squares in the grid give you some appropriate PURPLE Rain. As soon as I had a few of these filled in, I quickly got what was going on and filled all of them in, aiding with some of the trickier grid fill.  

Prince is one of the cultural exports of my home state of Minnesota that makes me proud of my heritage (the others are Garrison Keillor and Mystery Science Theater 3000).  I saw Purple Rain for the first time last week while it was in theater, and it was totally my kind of movie (again, MST3k.  It’s not the best movie, but it’s entertaining as hell).  This was a lovely tribute puzzle that didn’t get too bogged down in trying to shoehorn in too many references.  Other fill/cluing of note:

  • 1A: Format on which you might have purchased the “Batdance” single, say  — TAPE (related story:  I did radio in college, and one night I and my co-DJ decided to play “Batdance” off of the Batman soundtrack, since that was the only Prince LP we had in the studio.  One of the lines at the beginning of “Batdance” is Prince shouting “GET THE FUNK UP”.  We heard a different word, and began furiously Googling to make sure we hadn’t broken broadcast rules.)
  • 38A: Guitarist Seacer Jr. of the original New Power Generation — LEVI 
  • 50D: “When Doves ___” — CRY 
  • 75D: “___ the Critics Love U in 45A York” — ALL/NEW 
  • 89D: “I wouldn’t ___ to you, baby/It’s mainly a physical thing” — LIE
  • 78D: American Eagle’s lingerie brand — AERIE (A new twist on some old fill.  Hooray!)

(Seriously, this is a weird song to have gone to #1 on the charts)

A nice tribute, and a nice puzzle.


Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Class Is In Session” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.04.16: "Opposites Attract"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.04.16: “Opposites Attract”

Good afternoon, everybody! Hope you’re well, and also hope that the weather by you is much better than what it is here in New York (cold, rainy, raw). Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, has an interesting theme, with the first few letters of the second word of the theme answer forming a word that is the antonym of the first word of the theme entry. Nice execution!

  • POOR RICHARD (17A: [Ben Franklin’s alter ego])
  • PRO CONTRACTS (27A: [Offers to play in the NBA, e.g.])
  • OLD NEWSPAPER (42A: [Fish wrapper, perhaps])
  • COLD HOT DOGS (56A: [Barbecue leftovers]) – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a cold hot dog. Thank goodness!

I can definitely say that I couldn’t the first name of the most recent Second Lady, LYNNE, off the top of my head (61A: [Mrs. Dick Cheney]). Same can’t be said for the clue and entry of SATINS, as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “In the Still of the Night” on my dad’s reel-to-reel tape deck when growing up (26A: [The Five ______ (oldies group)]). I’m not too much of a fan of seeing “psst” anymore in a grid, so definitely PSSTS leave a lot to be desired (31A: [Calls for attention]). With that, the intersecting answer of PINOCCHIO was probably my favorite entry of the day (31D: [Storied liar]). Recently, I’ve been finding myself wanting SCALLIONS on different kinds of rice that I’ve had recently (32D: [Cream cheese additions, perhaps]). However, I’m definitely not a fan of cream cheese. Never have, never will!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NFC (43D: [Org. for Lions and Bears]) – The last time the Chicago Bears won the NFC, short for the National Football Conference, was in the 2006 season, as they ended up losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in February of 2007. When was the last time the Detroit Lions won the NFC? Never! Though the Lions have won four league championships, their last one came in 1957, 13 years before the merger of the NFL and AFL, which in turn created the two conferences that are in existence today (AFC, NFC).

Thank you for your time and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Parikshit Sreedhara Bhat’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160504

LA Times

I don’t recognize this name, and I assume it’s Mr. Bhat’s debut. Well done on getting a puzzle published! The theme is fairly one-dimensional and contains three entries (the latter is usually advisable for starting constructor!). Three phrases end in a plural synonym of LEA. They mostly don’t (and to some extent couldn’t) venture far from their original senses. FLUSHINGMEADOWS – more famous for tennis than world’s fairs to me – is presumably named for MEADOWS. PADDYFIELDS are just a type of field – TOTIE could’ve worked here (or, +2 ELYSIAN). GREENERPASTURES is an idiom from agriculture. Any pasture dairy farmer can tell you that GREENERPASTURES aren’t always good – just after rains you have lush green pasture that has such high water content the cows fill their rumens without getting enough energy!

Even with three entries, a central 11 creates grid design problems for any constructor. They force you to divide your corners into either two or four sections instead of three. Here Mr. Bhat has gone for the two option, with big corners that are challenging to fill cleanly. Both have tricky geographical spelling errors. TIRANA is the English spelling (Albanians prefer Tiranë) whereas MENORCA is the Spanish spelling (as hinted at in the clue). I didn’t know the MENORCA/MINORCA variation and put FINGER not MONGER (which is also a reasonable answer!). I have no idea what ONSIDE (or INSIDE) kicks are, but luckily the voice legend is not Fil Blanc!

Whereas the corners are mostly under control, things give way a bit in the centre BEEGEES/PADDYFIELD/ANTARES section. OBAD/EDATE/GYNT/EFT/MDSE are probably over my limit for acceptable in one section.

Grid design is perhaps and under-emphasized element of crossword construction. A more experienced constructor may have approached the design of the grid differently (before even attempting filling). A quick fix for the middle is introducing a pair of squares at BEEGEES/GYNT and ANTARES/LEIA. The puzzle is still within the LAT limits of 43 black squares and 78 words, though it makes a lot more 3’s which is not to everyone’s taste either.


  • [Periodontist’s deg.], DDS. This is always the deg. How familiar is medical slang DD’s for differential diagnoses in the outside world?
  • [Pocket watch, to a hypnotist], PROP. Taking a very specific stand on hypnotism here!

3 Stars

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23 Responses to Wednesday, May 4, 2016

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Hmmm, “non-steroid hormones” is near the edge as far as I am concerned… I work in this area, and it is true that non-steroid is sometimes used when contrasting with steroids, but almost exclusively in that context… steroid vs. non-steroid. But this class of molecules is termed “peptide hormones” or “protein hormones” much more commonly. If you search “non-steroid hormones” you get 15K hits and most of them highly repetitive, whereas “peptide hormones” get 425K hits.
    Why is UFOS plural, given how it’s clued?
    I like that DRAIN is D-RAIN…

    • David L says:

      Thanks for answering my question before I asked it! I was puzzled by that clue and answer, and it took me quite a bit of googling to establish that it was (probably) technically correct, but pretty darn obscure. I think this is a classic case of someone coming up with a science-y clue without any real understanding of normal scientific usage.

      “Craft” can be plural as well as singular. Just one of those quirks in English. Craft in the sense of e.g. knitting takes an ‘s’ for the plural, as in arts and crafts, but when it means a vessel or vehicle of some sort, it doesn’t.

      Good puzzle overall. And it’s raining now where I am, so it’s quite appropriate.

    • ktd says:

      I have heard of non-steroidAL (as in “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs” or NSAIDs, like aspirin) as an adjective, but not “non-steroid”. It seems to me that “non steroid” in the term “non steroid hormone” is like “amino” in “amino acid”–a modifier that is part of a compound noun (please excuse me if there is a technical term for this that I’m not aware of).

    • Martin says:

      This is one of those cases where the problem is the entry, not the clue. There’s really no good way to clue NONSTEROID. The clue is accurate, but of course won’t help many solvers. Steroids have a very specific structure (3 hexane rings and a pentane ring in a specific configuration). Some steroids are hormones. Other hormones are peptides or similar. These two classes of hormones work very differently because of the different structures. Steroids enter the cell and bind to the nucleus. Non-steroid hormones can’t get into the cell so they bind to receptors on the cell membrane. That’s because they’re peptides.

      The best thing about the clue is it might cause the solver to learn a bunch about hormones. A clue that solvers might just know would have been better, but I can’t imagine one.

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    As I started this puzzle my first few letters convinced me that the theme was going to be the
    Langston Hughes poem “I Too” (am America) — which I would have liked. So I had to switch gears. I was delighted to see a clue for Franz Liszt which I suspect many people would not have gotten from the clue alone. I wish it had occurred in a difficult puzzle where I might actually have gained a foothold by knowing it.

    Is a kitbag really a thing? I was a little surprised to see an appearance by Traci Lords, given her — shall we say — flamboyant background. Huda, I’m interested to see your comment, because I too was wondering about that entry, in my untutored way. The word that popped into my head was “polypeptide,” so I guess I was on the right track.

  3. JohnV says:

    Filled the WSJ grid but no hope of sussing the theme.

    Minor kvetch. For right handed solvers who use the pdf, the grid placement in the upper left means that the right hand is covering the clues. Cover. Uncover. Repeat. NYT grid, by contrast is upper right so easier to solve, again dead tree version.

    Like I said, minor.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on in the AV Club. I guess I am just destined not to understand these things. After I read the review I went back and counted the highlighted squares. I got 5 p’s, 4 u’s, 3 r’s 4 l’s and 3 e’s. I may well have miscounted. But how in the world would one know in advance which letters to fill in the shaded squares, even if one had figured out to look for the letters in the word “purple?”

    • Ben Smith says:

      The word “PURPLE” appears vertically 4 times in the circled/shaded squares, creating a PURPLE “rain”.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        OK gotcha. Again, that didn’t occur to me. I just counted (probably miscounted) them across the rows. Nevertheless I liked the puzzle.

  5. Giovanni Pagano says:

    AVX: A little soured by the fact that Andrew Ries (another Minnesotan) pulled off a similar theme in one of his puzzles recently. He did take a different tack with the theme track and the presentation of the honoree (3*6 name, who knew)? This puzzle was fine though; thanks Angela.

  6. David Steere says:

    AVX: Not being a Prince fan, I didn’t notice the nice “purple’s” raining down. As with many AVX puzzles, the focus is too pop-culture for me. I’ve never heard of UPTOP, PRINCE FIELDER, LEVI SEACER, ALL THE CRITICS LOVE U, BRAH, TAKE ON ME/AHA, RITA ORA, HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE, GAMO BUCKMASTERS SQUIRREL, TEN from PEARL JAM, ANOTHER GREEN WORLD, WHEN DOVES CRY, CRUISIN’, AERIE lingerie, BUBBA KNIGHT, I WOULDN’T LIE TO YOU BABY… Somehow I still managed to finish. Phew!

    • Norm says:

      I thought the puzzle stunk because of exactly those entries. Not a fan of trivia.

    • PuzzleGirl says:

      To be fair, probably no one has heard of Gamo Buckmasters Squirrel Terminal. When I was looking for a clue for PELLET GUN, I came across that brand name and thought it sounded hilarious, which is why I included it.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        It did fairly scream “cluer Googled the generic term and found hilarious brand name.” I liked it! Also do not like squirrels, but remain traumatized by that one time my dad’s squirrel-scaring pellet gun accidentally hit a squirrel instead of just the tree branches nearby it. It … did not go well.

  7. chris says:

    definitely enjoyed the prince tribute in the AVCX. it’s no surprise that there’s multiple tributes, as prince is definitely deserving of such. i might as well add the below puzzle to list of tribute puzzles, which happens to be by some minnesotans not too far from where prince lived.

  8. With respect to Angela Halsted’s AVCX Prince tribute puzzle, it was recently reported in numerous venues [for example, here] that the baseball player was named after the late musician who continues to generate front page headlines. It was amusing to see RAIN explicit in Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times puzzle, and implied [i.e., PURPLE_(rain)] in Angela’s AVCX on the same day.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I have an undated WSJ puzzle by Ellen Leuschner & Jeff Chen. I have a little hole at 93a and 79 & 80d which I simply cannot figure out. Has it been blogged anywhere? I can’t find it.

    • Dave C says:

      Bruce, looks like it’s this past Saturday’s WSJ puzzle. It was blogged on this site.

Comments are closed.