Tuesday, June 7, 2016

CS 10:16 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:30 (Derek) 


LAT 3:30 (Derek) 


NYT 4:21 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


There’s a Team Fiend meet-up in Chicago on Tuesday! Ade is in town for the Copa America Centenario and I’m going to teach him the ways of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza.

Thanks to Jenni and pannonica for covering for me during Indie 500 weekend—I was off in Washington, D.C. in the presence of Team Fiend’s Andy, Joon, Matt, Ben, Erin, Angela, and Doug! The Indie 500’s a terrific event and I encourage you all to consider going in 2017.


Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 7 16, no 0607

NY Times crossword solution, 6 7 16, no 0607

Okay, I’m a seasoned speed solver, and this one played more like a Wednesday or Thursday puzzle than a Tuesday. And if I were a beginning solver, well, this puzzle would have played like a thing that’s trying to show me how little I know. If you are a newbie and struggled with this puzzle, not to worry! There’s a ton of words in this puzzle that most people wouldn’t know if they hadn’t already done thousands of crosswords. To wit: ESSO, ISERE, T-TOP, UTA, OLD ELI, PHOEBES (it’s a bird! more than one phoebe!), WFL (just kidding! I’ve done many thousands of crosswords and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this [1974-75 pigskin org.]), IDYL, RUHR, OTOE, SHERE, and UNH. Plus there’s the plural ASHTONS (and the plural PHOEBES would actually be easier if clued as people), faux “mouse” plural MEECE, and “FREE P.R.” as a phrase (“free publicity” sounds much more familiar to me).

This is needlepoint, with little diagonal stitches filling the space.

This is needlepoint, with little diagonal stitches filling the space.

Okay. Moving on to the theme. We’ve got 17a/18a/19a HOME / SWEET / HOME, which apparently is a song. Yeah, that’s not ringing a bell at all, not as a song title. Then there’s NEEDLEPOINT, clued as [Popular setting for 17-/18-/19-Across]. Bzzzz! Unfortunately, the crafts that people so often make with “Home Sweet Home” are cross-stitch, which would even fit this 11-letter space. I’ll bet a lot of solvers filled in CROSSSTITCH here.

In cross-stitch, the mesh backing gets little "x" stitches, and negative space is fine.

In cross-stitch, the mesh backing gets little “x” stitches, and negative space is fine.

The rest of the theme sort of draws a house in the grid: 47a, 53a, and 56a spell out a block of THREE / STORY / HOUSE, and the circled diagonal letters spell out SLATE ROOF. Why a slate roof? Because SLATE together with ROOF made a symmetrical roof shape of the right size. I’m guessing the house is a THREE-STORY HOUSE just to form a house-shaped chunk of text, because most of your cute cross-stitches with “Home Sweet Home” on them aren’t showing three-story structures.

Favorite clue: 38a. [Façade feature], CEDILLA. Yep, I fell for that trick. Feature of the word itself, not a feature of the thing.

This craft project is anchored by two 15s, Greek mythology’s DAMON AND PYTHIAS (I met constructor Damon Gulczynski at Indie 500, but his buddy Pythias was nowhere to be found) and STOP THE BLEEDING.

More than 15 proper nouns (names, places, brands) in the grid, which jacks up the difficulty level for a lot of folks.

2.75 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 261), “Earth-Shaking Fun”—Janie’s review

Crossword Nation 6/7 (No. 262)

Crossword Nation 6/7 (No. 262)

Two clues beyond the 42-Across revealer, there’s another clue germane to today’s theme whose answer also happens to lie directly below said revealer—thanks, no doubt, to gods of cruciverbal serendipity. This latter pair is made up of [Scrambled wd.] and ANAG.—short for ANAGram and a decided tip o’ the hat to the ANAGrams that make up today’s theme fill: an “earth”-related word that gets some (code for ANAGram) “shaking” up. Just for “fun.” Starting with that reveal:

  • 42A. TILLS THE FIELD [Cultivates land … and a hint re the starts of 16-, 25- and 57-Across]. It’s also the word FIELD that gets the ANAG. treatment. Note how the clue says “…the starts of…” and not “…the first word of…” In one case only, the first word is a discrete entity made up of the letters f-i-e-l-d. In the other two, the letters-in-question span two words. In a perfect world, the themers would work in a consistent way. Still, considering the world we live in, this is pretty small potatoes where “less than perfect” is concerned! (See line 3 of Tennyson’s “Tithonus” for the use of this phrase in a poetic context.)
  • 16A. FIDEL CASTRO [Political leader featured in “Guerilla Prince“]. So this is our “discrete” entry, but given whose name it is (in its entirety, thank-you-very-much), it’s a total goodie.
  • 25A. DIE FLEDERMAUS [Johann Strauss Jr. operetta that premiered in 1874]. And what a dee-licious addition to the canon it is, demonstrating that “The Waltz King” was most adept in more than one genre of composition.
  • 57A. FILE DRAWERS [Desk storage compartments]. Not as interesting as the others, but finding an 11-letter match for FIDEL doesn’t leave a lot of room for the constructor.

If that final themer was more functional than fun, fear not. This grid has got some great fill to add to the mix. To wit: EASY TARGET opposite PATISSERIE (oh! poor Paris and all that rain!!); ASOCIAL opposite (in more ways than one, perhaps) GLEEFUL; and FILIAL opposite (in more ways than one, perhaps…) that femme FATALE (which summons memories of Nico and the Velvet Underground…). I also loved the “MISS ME?” [“Are you glad I’m back?”] pairing. Once I had -ISSME in place, I wanted the fill to be “KISS ME!” But ’twasn’t to be. Nor did [Smooch] yield up KISS, but gave us the quaint BUSS instead. Ah well.

Later on, had the -DN of 44-Down filled in and was sure I was wrong, but happily the clue made everything clear: [Prolific Mozart contemporary]. So HAYDN, of course. But it is interesting (to me…) to see fill emerge in reverse—and how sometimes it can send you down the wrong path or even look like something in error. But, as this final encounter bore out, “it ain’t necessarily so” (and thank you for that, IRA [Lyricist Gershwin], brother George and DuBose Heyward [Ella and Louis, too…]).

Clues I liked include: [Our ancestors counted on them?] for ABACI, where “counted on” means “tallied numbers” and not “relied”; [Stable denizen] for HORSE, since “stable” is a noun here and not an adjective; and [Cocktail cooler] for ICE, which will certainly cool your cocktail, and not the name of a cooler that’s a cocktail—the (way too long) LIME RICKEY, say. Was more than a tad disappointed, however, to see LOADS clued as [Washday units] since 1-Across of last week’s puzzle was LOADS clued as [Washday bundles]. Changing “bundles” to “units” doesn’t really freshen up the laundry in my book… But no more “OYS.” Mostly we get a new spin on even “old”/crossword-conventional fill—and that’s something I always appreciate: [Chancellor Merkel’s lang.] for GER., [Gelato holder] for CONE (’tis the season…), and [Salty septet] for SEAS. This is the way to keep the solve fresh.

Have a great week, all, keep solving and do come back. Who can say what will ENSUE [Happen next]!

tills the field

The third panel, “The Printer Tills the Field,” is one of six in Kitagawa Utamaro’s “The Cultivation of Color Prints” (Woodcut, 1798-1800)

Wren Schultz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Indefinite Article” — Jim’s review

Wren Schultz completes the hat trick today for getting a puzzle published in all three major dailies. He appeared in the LAT in May of 2014 and in the NYT just last week with a well-constructed puzzle featuring diacritical marks. He also had a couple in the Chronicles of Higher Education as well.

Today he’s hidden the main gist of the theme within other phrases. The revealer is at 59a: [What reporters shouldn’t do, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. What is the journalistic no-no? BURY THE LEAD, of course.

WSJ - Tue, 6.7.16 - "Indefinite Article" by Wren Schultz

WSJ – Tue, 6.7.16 – “Indefinite Article” by Wren Schultz

Hidden in our theme answers, you’ll find LEAD spanning multiple words.

  • 16a [Healthy prescription] AN APPLE A DAY
  • 23a [Suggestions from sages] SENSIBLE ADVICE
  • 51a [Mediate] SETTLE A DISPUTE

Okay. So the elephant in the room is, are you a “LEAD” person or a “lede” person? According to grammarist.com, lede was once an alternative spelling of LEAD, but nowadays it specifically means the introductory statements of a news story. So, to “bury the lede” is probably more accurate, but to those not up on journo jargon, which is probably most people, BURY THE LEAD makes way more sense. The phrase has its own Wiktionary page and defines it as an alternative of “bury the lede”. Purists may not like this puzzle’s theme, but I’m guessing most people will be okay with it.

The long fill in the grid is solid. We get BARBECUED at 31a which is always good, no matter how you spell it. The other long Down is at 8a. I wanted something more celebratory from the clue [Rosa Parks and Helen Keller, e.g.], so I was a bit let down by the answer ALABAMANS. Still, that’s fine. I like EDIT MENU with its deceptive clue [Where you can find paste?]. We also get HAND SOAP, AMATEURS, and GENERATE.

But there seemed like an awful lot of acronyms in the short fill: MSS, DDT, NNE, TAS, MRI, LBO, ICU, RCA, and MVPS. (For the record, I like MVPS, but the rest are meh or worse.) Plus, ALII, TO A, and A DAME. Also, TITTLE? Not sure I’ve ever heard that word. With the clue [Tiny amount], it looked like it should be LITTLE, but the crosser obviously wanted BRAT.

Usage of the word "tittle" since 1800, per Google's Ngram Viewer

Usage of the word “tittle” since 1800, per Google’s Ngram Viewer

With only four themers, I would’ve liked to have seen the grid cleaned up a bit. As it is, only one row separates the first and second themers as well as the third and fourth ones. Yet five rows separate the second and third ones. Moving the middle two toward each other and away from the outer ones would relieve some of the pressure and allow for cleaner fill.

Still, overall I do like the theme. These hidden-word themes get kind of stale with “hidden this” or “secret that”. But the idea that LEAD (however you want to spell it) is actively “buried” in the theme answer is a slight change of pace that I find refreshing.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Crosswords: Dial Ext. 2468″ – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 1.47.39 PMA funny tagline today that evokes for me memories of sitting on hold listening to computers tell me to stay on the line! “We appreciate your patience” sometimes is not enough to make me feel any better, though! The theme is not so complicated: the letters in the circled squares are the letters that appear on a keypad at the 2, 4, 6, & 8! Here they are (circled squares in red):

  • 16A [Top-down ride from Sweden] SAAB CONVERTIBLE
  • 31A [Gets way more than a tickle in the throat] HAS A COUGHING FIT
  • 41A [Statement from the immovable?] I’M NOT GONNA BUDGE
  • 58A [Vulcan officer on “Star Trek: Voyager”] LIEUTENANT TUVOK

No, I have never heard of LIEUTENANT TUVOKbut how many T-U-V sequences can there be? And just because I haven’t, there are enough sci-fi junkie crossword solvers who I am sure got this more or less immediately! Again, the crossings are merciful, especially in a dead-end corner! A fun puzzle; let’s call it 3.9 stars today.

A few things:

  • 14A [“Mop”] HEAD OF HAIR – I haven’t been described this way … ever!
  • 39A [The Teamsters, for one] UNION – The Teamsters are soon going to pay me a pension!
  • 64A [They create commercials] AD AGENCIES – A great entry, and evokes memories of Mad Men, which I need to still watch the last season of!
  • 17D [Like a 1980s puzzle fad] CUBIC – As in Rubik’s Cube, of course! I am dating myself, because I remember this vividly!
  • 51D [“Whip-Smart” singer Liz] PHAIR – Another crossword famous artist? I don’t think I have ever heard anything she has sung!
  • 55D [“Falling Slowly’ musical] ONCE – Not familiar with this musical either. I looked it up, and this song actually won an Oscar! I need to be more cultured …

Side footnote: my son Chase turns 4 today! Have a good week!

Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 6.50.58 AMStill recuperating at home; so much so that this relatively simple theme didn’t even make sense to me at first!

  • 17A [Fastener secured in concrete] ANCHOR BOLT
  • 41A [“The salt-free flavor statement” brand] MRS. DASH
  • 64A [Unpredictably nasty quality] MEAN STREAK
  • 11D [Seriously endangered group in Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man”] HUMAN RACE – Seems like a long way to go for this answer!
  • 35D [’60s-’70s Chrysler compact] DODGE DART

I told you it was simple: we have DART, DASH, STREAK, RACE, AND BOLT, all synonyms for some sort of run. Coming from an amateur runner, all the more shame that I didn’t see it immediately! I think in part that goes to the quality of the theme answers, of which every one uses the word in a way that specifically does NOT have a running connotation. On that note, we will rate this a solid 4 stars, which is a little high for an easy puzzle. A job well done!

Just a few notes:

  • 15A [Brightly plumed songbird] ORIOLE – It is rare that a clue for this doesn’t reference Baltimore in any way!
  • 36A [Bumbling sort] DOOFUS – I have been quite a DOOFUS these past few days…
  • 48A [Tennis tie] DEUCE – Shout out to Novak Djokovic, who, after winning the French Open title on Sunday, now holds all four Grand Slam titles at once! The first to do that in my lifetime on the men’s side! A calendar slam this year? Perhaps!
  • 3D [How music may be sold] ON CD’S – Who buys these anymore??
  • 24D [Tennis great Agassi] ANDRE – Two tennis references in one puzzle! OK by me!
  • 51D [Irish nationalist Robert] EMMET – OK, this is a bit obscure. But with that spelling, I am sure there are not many options. And the crossings are easy. Only minor quibble with this puzzle.

Easy puzzle, yet very entertaining. Until Saturday’s challenge, have a great week!

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Vacation Time” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.07.16: "Vacation Time"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.07.16: “Vacation Time”

Good morning everybody! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, gets us ready for any and all vacation plans, as each theme entry is a phrase or proper noun in which one of the words is also a type of housing setup usually reserved for a weekend (or longer) getaway.

  • COTTAGE INDUSTRY (20A: [Small home-based business])
  • FINAL RESORT (32A: [Last, desperate option])
  • PANCHO VILLA (43A: [20th century Mexican revolutionary]) – OK, so the name of the house and the name of the person are pronounced differently. We get the drift, though!
  • LODGE MEMBERSHIP (56A: [Status of belonging to a fraternal organization, e.g.])

Like it that the words that make up the theme (cottage, resort, villa, lodge) alternate between being the first and second word in the entry. Once again, another slow start led me to a not-so-great solving time. I guess putting in AM/PM instead of AM/FM didn’t help things (1A: [Dashboard button letters, often]). Doing that made FLATT even harder for me to get, since I’m not well versed on my bluegrass greats to begin with (3D: [Big name in bluegrass]). Best fill for me today was DISASTER, and that was mostly because of its clue (41D: [You might flirt with it]). Even if you thought this wasn’t a clean grid, there were a couple of answers in it that might make you think it was clean in a different sense, with IRISH (40A: [_____ Spring]) and DIAL both referring to soap (41A: [Soap brand]). I don’t buy bar soap too often nowadays, but I’m pretty sure I have a couple of bars of Dial around the house that I can go to in an emergency.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAN-TO-MAN (4D: [Like a seriors father-son talk]) – Short and sweet. Outside of the tenor of a serious conversation between father and son, MAN-TO-MAN is also a type of defense in sports, mostly referenced in basketball. Most times, in the game of soccer, it’s called “man marking” and, instead of zone defense, it’s called “zonal marking.”

Time to meet up with Mrs. Reynaldo for some deep dish pizza action! See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday, and I thank you for your time!

Take care!


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14 Responses to Tuesday, June 7, 2016

  1. janie says:

    congrats to the indie 500 team, and just gotta say, ms. fiend: *great* to hear that you’re travellin’ again!!


  2. JFC says:

    Amazing, Amy. Said the same thing in fewer words on Wordplay. What was Will thinkng?

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I loved the NYT! It”s hardly of the usual Tuesday difficulty but terrific fun in my book.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      I thought today’s NYT was especially interesting, distinctive and creative. The main objection seemed to be that it was too tricky and difficult for a Tues, which perhaps is true.

  4. Jim Hale says:

    Cheesy theme with annoying fill. I don’t keep track of Crossword Authors in general, but hope for better things from you Peter.

  5. ktd says:

    NYT: Anyone else think DAMON AND AFFLECK for 3D?

  6. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: A few too many strained entries (the result of a slightly too ambitious theme) for me. But I appreciate the effort and craftsmanship that went into this one. And I love any puzzle that has DAMON AND PYTHIAS in it.

    Amy, it was very nice to meet you Saturday. Keep up the good blogging work!

    Joe Pancake (a.k.a., Damon Gulczynski, with a ‘y’ not an ‘i’, but it’s okay :)

  7. CC says:

    Well if Team Fiend ever finds itself in the Wicker Park-ish area I’ll have to get you all a drink :)

  8. David says:

    The NYT puzzle was awful. In addition to the great points Amy and others made, I offer that 31a made no sense: “Was down with” = HAD? How is that ‘down with’?
    MEECE was truly awful — perhaps the worst fill I’ve ever seen, since it’s “MEECES” if you’re being jocular about small rodents. WFL is probably just as bad; essentially that clue should just have been “Wally Finmore Lamb’s initials”, never mind that there is no such person.

    I was equally annoyed that SLATEROOF isn’t part of the song. If the lyrics included that phrase, it would have justified some of the terrible fill (like WFL). But no!

    There were a few clues I liked (Swinger’s target at a party = PINATA!), but definitely not enough to make up for the awfulness of the majority of the puzzle. I’d give it 1 star.

    Here is a link to the song, btw:

  9. Lois says:

    NYT: Amy, did you know the song “Home Sweet Home” as “There’s No Place Like Home”? The puzzle uses the correct title. I’ve heard the song used in many films, including Japanese films. In this citation, the song is called “There’s No Place Like Home.”


    I liked the puzzle but found UNH and WFL irritating. I did not finish the puzzle (BERT and DEFIB), but had a pretty good time.

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