Thursday, August 11, 2016

BEQ 9:53 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 5:25 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:45 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 11 16, no 0811

NY Times crossword solution, 8 11 16, no 0811

This post would have gone up sooner, but I was busy Googling Accra taco to see what Tex-Mex options there are in Ghana. (Answer: Not much.)

Cute theme: Take a letter whose plural sounds like an English word, link it to something quasi-synonymous (with a [See circled letters] clue), and circle two instances of that letter in that synonym. To seize (C’s) is CONFISCATE, in which two C’s are circled. The LIFE OF RILEY is a life of ease (E’s). “Geez” or “jeez,” GOOD GOLLY and its G’s. FLIRT WITH gets T’s and tease, but I’m giving the side-eye to that equivalency. (Got dictionary support for that? Keep it to yourself.) SCRUTINIZES, eyes, I’s. RUN THROUGH, use, U’s. Put them all together and they spell CEGTIU! (Okay, so the theme doesn’t hit those Berryesque heights of “how the hell did he do that?” elegance. It’s still pretty good.)

Top fill: CANDY CORN (which I go back and forth on—currently, I like the “Indian corn” with cocoa in it but abhor all other varieties), PHENOM, Nineteen Eighty-Four’s O’BRIEN.

Sort of new to me: 47d. [“Mission: Impossible” genre], SPY-FI. Hardly anybody is using that term, right?

Six more things:

This Pokémon is always waggling its trunk and fingers at me. V. annoying.

This Pokémon is always waggling its trunk and fingers at me. V. annoying.

  • 67a. [Trunks, of a sort], NOSES. Took me a while to unravel this one, despite Drowzee’s best efforts.
  • 30a. [Weight lifter], PULLEY. Physics! Not the workout room.
  • 1d. [A shooting star has one], ARC. Astrophysics! Literally a star, not a film star or a basketball star or what-have-you.
  • 24d. [Mythical eponym of element #41], NIOBE. Chemistry! I like the clue approach.
  • 37d. [Jerk], SCHMO. Raise your hand if you went with SPASM first.
  • 7d. [No-holds-barred online Q&A], AMA. This is, as far as I know, specifically a thing at and not a generic term. Stands for “ask me anything.” If you didn’t have a clue how AMA related to this clue, I’m not casting aspersions on you.

Four stars from me.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Doubling Down” — Jim’s review

A very unusual grid today for the WSJ. At first it seems like a rebus, but to my knowledge, Mike Shenk has never run one.

Our four theme entries seem like they have squares that need multiple letters squeezed inside. The letters in question are actually homophones of numbers, and not just any numbers, but numbers that are doubled as we progress down the grid, i.e. WON, TO, FOR, and ATE.

WSJ - Thu, 8.11.16 - "Doubling Down" by Pancho Harrison

WSJ – Thu, 8.11.16 – “Doubling Down” by Pancho Harrison

Since I was solving using the crappy Java solver on the website (which has no means of putting in rebus entries), I left those squares blank. But I wanted to take a screenshot for this post, so rather than having empty squares, I put in the actual missing numbers, et voilà! I got the applause.

  • 20a [1927 Gershwin show tune] ‘S 1DERFUL. Didn’t know this one. Composed by George with lyrics by Ira and introduced in the musical Funny Face.
  • 31a [1968 Steppenwolf song] BORN 2 BE WILD
  • 41a [1951 Nat King Cole hit] UN4GETTABLE
  • 53a [1971 Carole King chart topper] IT’S TOO L8

I enjoyed my little AHA moment and the puzzle as a whole. Tougher clues than yesterday, but nothing too tough.

What I’m not getting though is the connection between the doubling theme and songs. I don’t see any reason why the theme answers have to be songs. Any old phrase will do as long as it contains the needed letters. If you see a connection, please let me know. Also, I guess I have to give a minor demerit for the homophone TOO in the final themer.

APART from the theme we get nice entries PIT CREWS and AGE LIMIT. I love PHOOEY in the SE, but it causes a crosswordese pile-up with OR SO, LEAS, OREO, and ESAU. Plus, unknowable [Royals manager Ned] YOST. Yikes.

Favorite clue is 49d‘s [Make clear] for ERASE. Very tricksy, that one!

Overall, a fun puzzle and something different, which is always (well, often) a good thing.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Red Heads” — Ben’s Review

Red Heads

Red Heads

It’s the day before the day before Lollapuzzoola!  I’m getting pumped up to solve some puzzles with everyone – hope to see you there!

Today’s BEQ puzzle was a nice little warm-up for this weekend’s fun – the theme was just tricky enough that I didn’t catch it until 2/3rds of the way through.  “Red Heads” should have given me more of a nudge of how to parse the theme answers, but this could have been called “Red Cross” just as easily:

  • 21A: Everything, with “the” — WHOLE NINE YARDS
  • 8D: Developed, as a habit — FALLEN INTO
  • 41A: Refrain from retaliation — TURN THE OTHER CHEEK
  • 38D: New York city whose name means “beyond the pines” — SCHENECTADY
  • 57A:  Classic MMORPG that takes place in Britannia — ULTIMA ONLINE
  • 58D:  New Zealand natives — MAORIS

I didn’t catch the rebus squares for a while, although I kept trying to figure out what the other tribe of New Zealand natives with only a four-letter name was through multiple passes of the down clues.

Other fill notes:

  • Last square filled was at the intersection of 63D and 70A — apparently NFL Hall of Fame players (SEAU) and Greek benches (EXEDRA) are a Natick point for me.
  • 31A: Beer maker’s need — OAST (man, oh, man did my brain want to somehow make this YEAST despite YE not being a Communist leader)
  • 37A: Booty holders — CHESTS (somehow wanted this to be a jeans/shorts sort of thing.  This is better.)
  • 47A: She plays Talisa on “Game of Thrones” — OONA (As someone who doesn’t watch GoT, is OONA Chaplin’s character still active on the show?  Is it valid to use “plays” instead of “played” if not?)
  • 66D: Some people do it for kicks — KARATE (One of my go-tos for teambuilding “two truths and a lie” games was to mention that I have a black belt in karate.  Everyone always went for that one instead of the actual lie.  I’m an extremely rusty black belt in karate, but I do in fact have one which I received in 2003 and haven’t used much since then.)

4/5 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160811

LA Times 160811

The theme today is fairly straightforward, although it’s Thursday. We have five synonyms for “goofy” – daffy, nutty, silly, wacky and buggy. I’ve never encountered buggy in that sense ever. MW doesn’t seem to acknowledge it either? Anyone? OK, it’s in RHUD ” 2. Slang. crazy; insane; peculiar.”. Where do people use this slang?

The theme entries don’t stray to far from their original meanings. DAFFYDUCK and NUTTYPROFESSOR are as advertised. I’ve never heard of the Dr. Seuss book, but in South Africa WACKYWEDNESDAY is a very long-running two-for-one deal at burger take-away Steers… I don’t think BUGGYWHIPs are in any way zany, so that’s the only deviation. To be fair, I don’t think much deviation was possible here.

A central 9 always forces you down one of two grid design pathways. Here we have the four “big corners”. It does allow for some choice downs, like timely TEAMUSA, PAYHERE and Zelda-evoking OCARINA. It also strains the short fill, and there is some cruft today, though it is not out of control by any means.


  • [Shore bird], TERN. They’re out of season, but I did find two species in a recent trip to the local sewage farm
  • [Tropicana option], NOPULP. I presume this is a US marketing term. It is not familiar to me.
  • [British cruciverbalists], SETTERS. Gordon Setters are the best breed of dog at cryptic crossword constructing…

2.75 Stars

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21 Responses to Thursday, August 11, 2016

  1. Howard B says:

    Really cool theme, really strange fill. Thanks for the explanation on AMA, that’s pretty niche for the Times and it missed my ken by a mile.

    • Howard B says:

      For the record, I’m not unusually harsh, but IZZATSO is made-up garbage fill. if you open up that, you can pretty much invent any “slangy” version of English you want. (end curmudgeonly rant)

  2. Jeff K says:

    NYT: 43d [“Oh, really?!”] IZZATSO strikes me as a completely made up answer, but maybe I’m missing something.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I would have liked some signal in the clue (can’t think of anything offhand…) but I liked the answer.

    • Gary R says:

      Got that one off the Z in SNEEZE and the S in OPUS – totally familiar to me. But I agree with Jenni that a signal might have been in order – maybe slangily?

  3. Bob says:

    Simple theme. Well executed. Thought the fill and associated clues were particularly difficult for a Thursday. Great deal of ? clues. Absolutely didn’t have slightest idea about AMA.

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    My time on the NYT was running terribly slow and I was grumbling until I twigged to the theme, then my appreciation of the puzzle went up about four stars. Loved the idea, didn’t mind the difficulty in the end.

  5. JohnH says:

    I very much liked the WSJ because of the theme, which indeed was the hardest thing about it. I hadn’t thought of the objection that there’s no special reason that the theme entries should be songs, but it’s a fair point. Still, I liked the progression in solving from (1) hmm, these ideas aren’t going to fit, so I’m not getting a toe hold to (2) I can make this one fit with a few letters in a square, as in a rebus, to (3) but those letters aren’t going to work for another theme entry to (4) but some other letters will to, finally, (5) got the pattern.

    The Gershwin song was my last to fall, so that whole area of the puzzle was blank for a bit, but it’s a thoroughly familiar song to me. From where? Couldn’t tell you.

  6. Stribbs says:

    Even though I hadn’t heard of SPYFI, I had the -FI down and inferred it from that. It clicks effortlessly with the rhyming and alliterative tie to scifi. I actually enjoy entries like these; they are a welcome change from pulling from my own established lexicon over and over…

  7. Art Shapiro says:

    Is anyone else having Across Lite failures opening the WSJ yesterday and today?


    • Paul Coulter says:

      Yes. Speaking of which, I’ve never been able to open the AL icon of the LAT from here, so I have to go to their site and wait through the ad. Is there something we can do about this, Dave?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Paul, you have to be a Cruciverb member (free) in order to download the puz file. This is the one restraint the LA Times puts on distribution of the files.

        • Paul Coulter says:

          Thanks for the info, Amy. I’ve been a member for quite some time, however, and I still can’t open the LAT from here.

          • Papa John says:

            Me, too, with both the WSJ, recently and the LAT since forever. I mentioned the issue with the LAT some time ago but my plaints were ignored. Now that Amy’s on it, I’m sure something will be done…

    • bonekrusher says:

      I had problems with Across Lite on my Mac because I would instinctively double-click on the downloaded puzzle. I found that a single-click would open it just fine while a double-click would crash the application.

      Given that somebody else also experienced your problem, that may not be your issue, but mentioning it just in case

    • ArtLvr says:

      Yes — can’t get WSJ at all…

  8. huda says:

    NYT: I feel so in the know!!! I immediately knew AMA, because I participated in a Reddit AMA session recently. Some colleagues and I wrote an article about the future of neuroscience training. I know, most of you don’t give a hoot, but there are a lot of (young) people out there who seem to. My (grown) kids were watching the proceedings and texting me off line– saying: You gotta answer so and so, it’s important! This was because there was a flood of questions, the session was hopping, very energetic and engaged and generated lots of downstream discussion. Very interesting way to engage!

    I too liked the theme, thought it was quirky and clever. I agree some of the fill was a little out there (IZZATSO?) But it was a fun Thursday experience.


    Any chance the WSJ puz link will work sometime today? Thanks.

  10. Harry says:

    Loved today’s LAT. I noticed however that Gareth posted yesterday’s grid. Oh, well.

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