Thursday, July 21, 2016

BEQ 8:48 (Ben) 


CS 7:32 (Ade) 


Fireball 8:04 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:27 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 21 16, no 0721

NY Times crossword solution, 7 21 16, no 0721

BAD LUCK is the 62a. [Supposed consequence of any of the three no-nos in this puzzle], and we have three positionally related answer combos that superstitious people think bring bad luck. There’s 14a WALKING under 1a A LADDER. Then there’s a 19d BLACK CAT crossing 41a ONE’S PATH. And there’s a broken MIR/ROR at 38d/57d. Cute. Odd, but cute.

Favorite fill: CORN MAZE, FIREFLY, RITE AID, and LIZARDS. You can’t go wrong with lizards.

Less tasty fill: TAL, ILO, NSEC, MARNE, IDEM, SSRS, COAL OIL, REL, ENA, ETUI, and OLLA. Bit of a crosswordese vibe permeating the grid.

Did not know: 20a. [___ White, singer of the 1991 #1 hit “Romantic”], KARYN. I wasn’t listening to top-40 radio in 1991, but a #1 hit, that has clue cred. Other KARYNs of note include director Karyn Kusama and actor Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Surprised to see both SKY and SKYPE in the grid. Skype’s name derives from “sky peer-to-peer.”

Baseball question about 42d. [Prevents from stealing, say], TAGS OUT: Do people say “tags out” or just “tags”?

3.3 stars from me.

Kelsey Dittmer Blakley’s Fireball Crossword, “Prefix Mix” – Jenni’s write-up

This was a smooth, straightforward solve and it took me a few minutes after I finished to suss the theme. It’s a 15×17 with five themers, all of which are wacky phrases. Find the misplaced prefix and put it where it belongs and voila! it all makes sense.

  • 20a [Part of a Louisville Slugger salesman’s income?] = BAT COMMISSION (combat mission)

    Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 9.30.43 PM

    7/21 FB, solution grid

  • 25a [False claim that’s in the mail?] = SENT PRETENSE (present tense)
  • 39a [Really tiny devil dog?] = SUBATOMIC MARINE (atomic submarine) This one had me stumped even once I figured out the theme; I forgot that “devil dog” is a nickname for the members of the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • 50a [Hide something you don’t want in your hand?] = COVER DISCARD (Discover card) For a while I thought the theme was Brooklynese – cover “dis” card, or the card you don’t want. This has nothing to do with the title and is, of course, completely wrong.
  • 59a [Point starter with a lot of spin?] = REACTIVE SERVE (active reserve)

REACTIVE SERVE and SUBATOMIC MARINE have the misplaced “prefixes” in front; in the answers the “prefix” is in the middle. I like that – it’s not formulaic. You have to actually think. Not a Blazingly Hard Fireball. That’s OK. It’s hot out. A nice cool crossword is refreshing.

A few other things:

  • I’ve gone to at least two dance recitals a year since 2004, and I’ve lost track of how many in-class observations. I’m embarrassed to admit that 10a wasn’t a gimme [Word with grand or tour] = JETE. Of course.
  • Proper name crossing, and it was two characters I’d never heard of. 15a [Carrie’s furniture-making boyfriend on “Sex in the City”] and 6d [One of the main characters in “Penguins of Madagascar] = AIDAN and RICO, respectively.  Not nice.
  • I won’t count up all the proper names. It’s enough to make people who don’t like that sort of think very cranky. AMELIE, PROUST, KATZ, ELLIE, etc.
  • 57d didn’t make a whole lot of sense at first. [Nefarious building inspector] seems like it should be a specific person (yet another proper name?) Nope. It’s CASER – as in one who cases the building for nefarious purposes.
  • [Stock option] at 55d has nothing to do with brokerages or cowboys. It’s BROTH.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: anything about the book “The Profiteers,” which apparently features the BECHTEL construction company.

Howard Barkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Change Is Needed” — Jim’s review

The reigning ACPT champ brings us today’s WSJ puzzle.

WSJ - Thu, 7.21.16 - "A Change Is Needed" by Howard Barkin

WSJ – Thu, 7.21.16 – “A Change Is Needed” by Howard Barkin

  • 17a. [Find items for traveling at the last minute?] HUNT AND PACK. Hunt and peck. This is my family this week as we scramble for our traveling needs while packers pack up our house!
  • 29a. [Shopper’s free-for-all?] RUN OF THE MALL. Run of the mill. Wait. Aren’t there people who regularly exercise in the mall before the stores open? Wouldn’t they have RUN OF THE MALL? But I guess they’re usually speed-walking (or regular walking), not running.
  • 45a. [Result of the best Halloween costume?] PERFECT SCARE. Perfect score. Every scarer’s goal!
  • 60a. [“The Nutcracker,” thematically?] MAGIC BALLET. Magic bullet. At first I thought this was MAGIC BALL with an added -ET. But then I realized there’s no such thing as a MAGIC BALL. There’s a MAGIC EIGHT BALL but no MAGIC BALL.

Ok. I only just now got the title. Maybe if it was written like this: “A-Change Is Needed.” Our theme is a progressive vowel change where an E, I, O, and U are changed into As. All these changes occur in the last word of each theme entry.

Is there anything else to this? Another level I’m missing? Because it feels a little loose to me. I don’t see anything connecting the phrases themselves. Nor is every vowel changed in each theme entry; just one particular one. Then I thought, “Maybe the crossing Downs work just as well with the original letters as well as the As.” EVA could be EVE, but POP IN A DVD can’t be POP IN I DVD. So that doesn’t work. It looks like just a simple vowel change.

So, yeah, it feels a little loose to me. Quite a lot loose actually. I’m sure there are endless phrases where an E could be changed to an A for wacky effect (HALL’S BALLS maybe?). And that’s just Es; if you have the freedom to do Is, Os, and Us as well, you’re opening it wiiiide up!

It’s a perfectly good puzzle as it is, but it feels like it needs more restrictions in the theme department. With such a wide open theme we probably shouldn’t be seeing things like OLA, GES, GIS, singular TAPA, A TUB, and…SIA? I don’t know Australian singer SIA, but I guess she is currently a rising star. Expect to see more of her in crossword. Oh, and actually, TAPA could be changed immediately to TACO with minimal repercussions.

We do get a lot of really good non-theme entries: SHAG RUG (with the sneaky clue [Site of a big pile on the floor]), ASK OVER followed quickly by POP IN A DVD (which feels a little random, but I’ll allow it), TEAR APART, LEGUMES, and OREGANO. Oh, and the 9-letter non-theme entries SENORITAS and STATE SONG. I briefly thought these latter two might be themers, but that was quickly dispelled (the clues don’t have the wacky-indicating “?”). Honorable mentions: KODIAK and TOP GUN.

Clover is a legume? I don’t know what I thought LEGUMES were, but it didn’t include clover. Sure, beans, nuts, and hey! there’s one at 19a (PEA), but not clover. Alfalfa is another unexpected legume.

Ok. Gotta go. This is a finely constructed puzzle, with good choices of theme entries and non-theme fill, but I felt the theme itself needed tightening.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Gym Buddies” — Ben’s Review

Gym Buddies

Gym Buddies

As a person who came of age in the late 90s/early 2000s, I enjoyed today’s puzzle.  It managed to hit on a (currently trending!) phenomenon in a clever way and also tap the part of my brain that remembers the first time it went big:

  • 1A: Like some punk mohawks — SPIKY
  • 14A: ___ Picchu — MACHU

  • 16A: Siesta buzz — SNORE
  • 18A: Did nothing — CHILLAXED
  • 40A: College in Brooklyn — PRATT
  • 44A: Combat company — ATARI
  • 58A: RR stops — STAS
  • 64A: Run out of ideas — DRY UP
  • 65A: Annoying problem — PEEVE
  • 68A: Winter weather — SLEET
  • 62A: 2016 fad whose characters must be discovered in the game, just as you can do in this puzzle — POKEMON GO

(warning: this is perhaps not the most accurate Pokerap if you’re actually interested in learning what these things are called)

This is Pikachu.  His stipple portrait was in the WSJ last week.  No kidding.

This is Pikachu. His stipple portrait was in the WSJ last week. No kidding.

Yep, all of the circled groups of letters are Pokemon.  We have a PIKACHU in the upper left of the grid, a SNORLAX in the upper right, a RATTATA hanging out in the center, an EEVEE in the lower left, and a STARYU CHILLAXED in the lower right of the grid.  Each of these guys (and girls, although I don’t know if that’s exactly how Pokemon gendering works) is one of the original 151 Pokemon that appeared in the first game, which also appear in the recently released POKEMON GO.  Pokemon Go appears to have replaced Neko Atsume as the most screenshotted app in my Facebook Timeline, although if they ever come up with Neko Atsume Go, that may change again.  

I have a hunch the circled squares might have not been as useful to solvers not familiar with either the app or the Pokemon, but as soon as I had SNORLAX in the top right circles, I knew what I was looking for, which helped with some of the other fill in the grid.

Other notes:

  • 51A: High tops — ACMES (I kept trying to make this some form of SNEAKERS or TRAINERS)
  • 8D: Patron of impossible dreams — SAINT RITA (my brain kept trying to make this some sort of count or baron or Medicci – see also THE NEA at 21A)
  • 13D: Pizza slices in Portsmouth? — ZEDS (This wasn’t the Portsmouth I was thinking of.)
  • 29D: What Alex Rodriguez isn’t according to his detractors — TRUE YANKEE (Sports!)
  • 36D: Approaching Mach 1 — TRANSONIC (I like this word.)
  • 50D: “Feel So High” singer — DESREE (I am only familiar with Desree’s “You Gotta Be”, which my brain tried to mash up with the Pokemon theme song while writing this puzzle up.  It did not go well.)

4.25/5 stars.  I liked the theme and the fill on this one.  See you next week!

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Movies Done with Ease” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.21.16: "Movies Made with Ease"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.21.16: “Movies Done with Ease”

Hello everyone! Looks like a heatwave is coming across most parts of the country in the next couple of days, so definitely be careful. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, gives us a way to beat the heat: staying home and watching some movies. But, there’s a twist; each of the theme entries are puns created when adding the letter “E” to the movie title/subtitle.

  • LEAST ACTION HERO (17A: [Much-admired lazy person?])Last Action Hero.
  • FEAST FORWARD (27A: [Go to the next stop in a progressive dinner party?])Fast Forward.
  • MARATHON MEAN (47A: [Average finishing time in a 26.2-mile race?])Marathon Men.
  • THE WREATH OF KHAN (61A: [Flower arrangement given by singer Chaka?])The Wrath of Khan. In my best William Shatner/James T. Kirk voice: “Khaaaaaaaannnn!!!!”

I’ve heard loved ones be called “sweetie pie” and “honey bee,” but I think this is the first time I’ve come across HONEY PIE being used as a term of endearment (36A: [Sweetie]). I bet an actual honey pie would taste pretty good…as long as it didn’t have too much honey. Loved the clue to PC USER, although I’m currently typing this blog – and doing almost everything electronically as it pertains to my occupation – on an Apple product (44A: [Apple eschewer, perhaps]). This grid also had the sharp-dressed man in mind, with both NEHRU (51D: [Collar type]) and ETON referencing the sartorial (59D: [Collar type]). I just finished a week working at a camp in Texas, and, for the first time in the seven years of the camp, I did not participate in the yoga classes that occur each morning. Alas, there were no ASANA positions for me (21A: [Yoga posture]). Maybe I’ll get in Warrior pose as I blog today’s “sports…smarter” clue right now.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OOP (37A: [“Alley___!”]) – Most people will associate this term with basketball, but it was in football when it first caught on. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the combination of quarterback Y.A. Tittle and wide receiver R.C. Owens turned the Alley-OOP a popular go-to play. All it really involved was the quarterback (Tittle) throwing the ball high into the air and towards the end zone, where Owens, who was taller than almost all of the defensive backs covering him, would jump in the air and pluck the ball out of the shy for a touchdown. That play is now mostly associated with what’s called a fade pattern, where the same premise (throw ball high in air, let tall, athletic receiver out jump his opponent) applies.

TGIF tomorrow! Hope you have a good rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


Scott Ober & Peter Koetters’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160721

LA Times

The theme is fairly basic – a L?ST vowel progression. LASTMANDSTANDING and LESTWEFORGET are nice choices, as is LOSTANDFOUND. LISTPRICE serves its purpose. LUSTFORLEARNING is slightly iffy as being more than a green paint answer… But completes the set.

Fill is generally subpar. Why? The theme answers are stacked on top of each other placing unnecessary stress in many places in the grid, and also forcing an awkward grid design.

YESWE/ARTE/DYADS/AEREO/SONO in one section? Opposite to that section sees more of the same: AFBS, NOLL, DREI, DFLAT, BOOERS, AGUA – not one “normal” answer among them!

Elsewhere we have plural APOLLOS? I guess ARGOSIES is at least interesting as desperation fill goes? Plus lots of S’s and ER’s to keep us going.

Standard theme, unnecessarily substandard fill.
2 Stars (predict people will rate it higher because it’s easy, as long as you have your crossword-ese memorised.)

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19 Responses to Thursday, July 21, 2016

  1. Ethan says:

    I would say TAGS OUT is perfectly acceptable. An alternative definition would be when an improv comedian steps on stage from the wings and “tags out” a player and takes their place in the scene.

    No love for UNIBROW, ED ONEILL, SILLINESS, HOME ICE? It seems unfair when the list of favorite fill is just four or five and then the “bad fill” is like a dozen things.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I did like UNIBROW and ED O’NEILL. Hated the clue for SILLINESS, though.

      Most puzzles don’t have a ton of colorful, longer entries. There are usually more short answers than long ones, and sometimes the short fill is overloaded with detritus. If you don’t know ETUI or chess-player-of-yore TAL, you’re pretty much screwed here, aren’t you?

      • Ethan says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s legit to call out unfair crossings. I personally would have changed ALIGN to DEIGN. I just think that sometimes the way the good/bad balance is presented gives the impression that the puzzle is way worse than it is. There’s a lot of stuff in the middle that isn’t flashy, but is still nice. I love the unique clue for TAILOR. I like modern touches like DKNY and SKYPE. I enjoy when COW is a verb.

  2. Anon says:

    Anyone else object to “date” cluing D “Day”?

  3. TonySaratoga says:

    OTT and REACTIVE SERVE???? Can someone explain either or both?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      The “Giant fly swatter” is Mel OTT, famed player of yore for the NY Giants. He hit a lot of long balls (“swatted” a lot of “flies.”)

      “Reactive serve” is one of the theme entries. It rearranges to ACTIVE RESERVE. See my explanation of how the theme works in the post above. It’s the weakest of the themers, IMO, because the base phrase isn’t as well-known.

      • I mean this in no way to come across as any form of self-aggrandizement, but I just conducted an hour-long interview with Mel Ott’s daughter. She’s 80 years young and full of great memories about Mel, her family and how Toots Shor ditched a conversation with a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist to walk over to Mel.

        Here’s the link, in case you want to listen. I learned a LOT about Mel, which is good since we might be running out of ways to clue him! :-)

  4. David says:

    I liked the NYT puzzle quite a bit, just not the ILO answer — that one seems unforgivable. I knew TAL and ETUI, but only because I’m a Scrabble tourney player who used to study chess. That T would have been impossible to figure out for some folks.

    I like puzzles where the theme helps me figure out some of the clues. I was stuck top left with what looked like ALADDIN until I realized that the puzzle was about bad luck, and then I got ALADDER. Nice!

    • David L says:

      TAL and ETUI were my first entries, which is a sad reflection on how many crosswords I have done. I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the puzzle, after that start, and liked the variation of the theme entries.

      The fact that the speed of light is close to one foot per NSEC is more than an amusing bit of trivia. When you think about how fast modern computers run, you can see that the time delay in signals passing from one piece of a computer to another is something you have to worry about.

    • Lois says:

      In the past, Matt Gaffney strongly defended a TAL clue, explaining to us that this chess master is really, really famous.

  5. Gary R says:

    That OSLIN/SIA crossing in the WSJ was a tough one for me. I’m not a devotee of country music to start with, and KT Oslin apparently hasn’t seen much commercial success in the past 25 years. The _IA seemed like it could be almost anything, so that “S” was the last letter into the grid. Actually, it was the last five letters into the grid, as I tried Mia, Nia, Tia and Ria first. Google tells me that all of my incorrect choices are also contemporary musical artists (not to mention Dia, Jia, Lia, Pia – who is actually Pia Mia Perez – and Zia).

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Good point about that crossing. I’ve seen OSLIN enough in crosswords that I didn’t think about it.

    • Howard B says:

      Point made. I didn’t care as much for that crossing either, but SIA had been getting some press, and I guess my prejudice towards seeing OSLIN a lot in crosswords blinded me a little.

  6. Steve Manion says:

    TAGS OUT is certainly acceptable. Smith tags out Jones and fires to home. TAGS, MAKES THE TAG, and TAGS are all legitimate possibilities.


    • Steve Price says:

      “Tags out” also distinguishes the phrase from “tags up” (a way for a base runner to try to advance to the next base).

  7. Paul Coulter says:

    Today’s LAT was outstanding. It combined an ultra smooth flow and open grid reminiscent of the best themeless puzzles, with a very well-executed (if not groundbreaking) theme.

    • Gareth says:

      Open grids can’t be divided into two halves by the placement of a single black square. It had smooth flow because it was clued like a Monday. It was clued like a Monday because it was full of creaky answers.

  8. Harry says:

    Why does Gareth have to carp on everything? Today’s LAT was great! The A-E-I-O-U theme was great and the fill was not bleak as he stated. Oh, well.

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