Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CS untimed (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:58 (Derek) 


LAT 3:15 (Derek) 


NYT 2:54 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 23 16, no 0823

NY Times crossword solution, 8 23 16, no 0823

The theme is ice cream SWIRL: 60a. [Ice cream feature represented four times in this puzzle]. (Sort of a weird spot for a revealer, but all the 9-letter answers in the fill limit the options.) The 3×3 blocks of circled letters spell out 9-letter ice cream flavors, swirling in clockwise or counterclockwise. There’s CHOCOLATE and RUM RAISIN going clockwise, and counterclockwise BUBBLEGUM and PISTACHIO. The starting points vary, but each swirl ends in the middle.

Mind you, I solved the entire puzzle without having the foggiest idea what those ice cream flavors were. Do you like easy themeless 78-worders? Because that’s what this played like. Not all of the fill was Tuesday-grade, mind you. VASSALAGE (19a. [Feudal status]) is a word form I’ve never encountered before. ALEHOUSES and SHAY are dated terms that I see only in crosswords. (Unless you count the character Carly Shay from iCarly … but that’s now a dated reference as well.)

Three more things:

  • 33d. [Lethargic], LOW-ENERGY. This is used by Trump as an insult.
  • 50d. [Skullcap?], SCALP. Great clue.
  • 1a. [Classic TV show with a celebrity panel], MATCH GAME. It is not just a classic game show—it’s also a current one. Hosted by Alec Baldwin. Have not seen it yet, but there are lots of crossword/trivia/game show buffs saying good things about it. ABC’s line-up of new classic game shows has been a Sunday evening thing this summer, and the shows have been renewed.

3.5 stars from me. Oddball sort of a Tuesday puzzle, with the theme that isn’t remotely needed to solve the puzzle. Imagine if this were a Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest puzzle, with SWIRL being the meta answer, ice cream appearing in the title, and no circled squares pointing the way to the swirls.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 273), “Poir for the Course”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 8/23 (No. 273)

Crossword Nation 8/23 (No. 273)

Punning on “par for the course,” today’s puzz is an early salute to a fruit whose season is just around the corner. (Okay, it’s a month away, but with the days already visibly shorter, well, can the cooler temps of autumn be far behind?) “Poir,” of course is the French word for 65A. PEAR [Fall fruit that’s hidden in four answers]. And unlike last week’s cat-themers, these PEARs are genuinely “hidden,” embedded as they are in four terrific themers.

  • 16A. HOOP EARRING [Jewelry worn by Mr. Clean]. An icon of our obsession with cleaning products. But what a guy, eh? He first appeared on the scene in 1958 and has been runnin’ strong ever since.
  • 26A. HOPE, ARKANSAS [Birthplace of Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton]. I’d covered up the puzzle’s title before solving, so at this stage of the game I HarryHoudini1899was thinking there might be a vowel-sound change thing goin’ on. But the next themer quickly disabused me of that notion!
  • 45A. ESCAPE ARTIST [One who’s bound to get away?]. What a great clue/fill combo this is. Yes, an ESCAPE ARTIST is someone who’s likely (“bound”) to get away. But think of someone like the brilliant Ehrich Weisz, a/k/a Harry Houdini, who was all “bound” up in ropes or chains or straight-jackets. And oh, yeah—he sure-as-shootin’ got away. He was bound to!
  • 60A. WAKE UP EARLY [Rise at 5 a.m., say]. Not my favorite thing to do… Full disclosure: at this point, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the four-letter pattern and hadn’t seen the revealer, so I was thinking the title might be something related to the “inner EAR.” I’m sooooo glad I was wrong!! ;-)

So we’ve got one solid and coherently-executed theme today, with two nines and two eights rounding out the longer fill: SWORDPLAY and MANICURED (clued by way of landscaping and not as nails that received a SPA treatment), and PASTE WAX and BIG DEALS respectively. All respectable fill–if not the most dazzling. And what ELSE? Four sixes, including the sassy [One that’s hit on at a party?] cluing PIÑATA and the geography-based [Asian sultanate] BRUNEI pairing. Nice how that last one is part of a cluster of world-geography-type fill up there in the NW quadrant, the others being [Thailand neighbor] LAOS, [Syr. neighbor] ISR. and [Ankara citizens] TURKS.

Old-school xword cluing/fill comes to us today by way of [Jai ALAI], the [Salamander] NEWT pair, the [Earthen pot] known as the OLLA and the [Ale cask] known as the TUN. Ya may not love ’em, but ya gotta learn ’em. If you do any amount of puzzle solving, dredging up those words’ll surely make you [Take A TRIP down memory lane]. Then, because this word doesn’t get a lot of modern usage as a verb, had a little trouble understanding [Rove furtively] for PROWL. Yes, I get it now, but all I could think of initially was Karl Rove…

Nice to see KAFKA clued not in connection with “The Metamorphosis,” but instead in connection with “The Castle.” Nice, too, to experience all those crunchy Ks/hard C sounds and other scrabbly consonants in the puzz: “HECK!”, CLASP, *NSYNC, X-MARK, TUSK, SCARE and LURK, to name a few.

And with that, adios for today. Keep solving, and do check out the story linked below. Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of the MANICURED lawn!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “What Happens?” – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 4.37.25 PMToday’s theme is a play on the old adage “What happens in Vegas, STAYS in Vegas!” All of the theme answers share the initials L.V. Some are a little obscure, but all is well. The fun part about this puzzle are the many references to Las Vegas in several clues! A nice touch. Before I ramble on too much, here are the thematic entries:

    • 16A [Basses and altos, in choral music] LOW VOICES
    • 19A [1985 New Order song covered by Iron and Wine] LOVE VIGILANTES – I told you some were obscure! Here is the song:

    • 33A [Ocular superpower that can cut metal] LASER VISION – It always confused me how Superman could have laser vision AND x-ray vision!
    • 40A [Train or automobile, but not plane] LAND VEHICLE
    • 51A [“Power of Love/Love Power” R&B singer] LUTHER VANDROSS – One of my favorite artists of all time. Gone way too soon!

  • 59A [The “a” in “Shake” (but not “Shack”)] LONG VOWEL – This clue makes me hungry! Never been to a Shake Shack; I hear it’s delicious!

Lots of good stuff in this puzzle. Makes me want to go to Vegas! I have actually never been, and I have a cousin who is begging me to take a trip out there. One day soon! A solid 4.2 stars today!

A few things:

  • 26A [Painter Gerard ___ Borch] TER – I hadn’t seen this name in a while, but he is also slightly crossword famous!
  • 38A [In a perfect world?] UTOPIAN – I remember covering this in middle school! Utopia was written by Sir Thomas More literally 500 years ago. Maybe I should read it someday!
  • 61A [Back biter?] MOLAR – This clue, according to xwordinfo.com, has been used in the NYT before, but it is still my favorite of this puzzle! Weird how sometimes the question mark is included, sometimes not!
  • 65A [Give, to Burns] GIE – Meh. It bails out a section of the puzzle, although OKAY and GIL would work as well as better alternatives, in my humble, non-professional constructor opinion!
  • 2D [Organic compound] ENOL – Another icky entry. With the nearby theme entries, though, including stacked V’s, I cannot fix this corner any better!
  • 27D [Drache of the Poker Hall of Fame] ERIC – Who?? I don’t watch the World Series of Poker too much. I wonder has he been on there before? An interesting clue, if nothing else! I told you some parts of this puzzle were obscure!
  • 41D [Recorder attached to a windshield] DASH CAM – Is that all one word? I had an app on my old Samsung Galaxy S5 a few years back that not only read my car’s engine diagnostics, but also recorded while you drove. Nice, but it ate up all my data storage on the phone! Handy if you’re in an accident, though, as is seen by the  many videos we now see on social media. Perhaps this will be a standard feature on cars in the future!
  • 55D [Vegas-frequenting electro-house musician Steve or golfer Isao] AOKI – There IS another AOKI! I’ll let you, the reader, hunt him down on Spotify!

I am writing this in an O’Hare terminal on my way to visit my dad in South Carolina! What a nice way to spend the hour or so waiting for the boarding process to start! What else to do while I wait? More puzzles, of course! Hopefully they are as fun as Matt’s puzzle! Have a great week!

Lila Cherry’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 7.44.25 PMI am writing this in a terminal at O’Hare airport! Waiting to board a flight to South Carolina so I can visit my dad for a few days. After next Wednesday, I will be done with UPS, and once I start a new job I will not have my SEVEN weeks of vacation anymore!! Lila Cherry is not as familiar a constructor name to me; I believe I may have blogged one other Tuesday puzzle of her’s in the LAT, but I am not sure. I like the theme of this puzzle. Always interesting when the theme doesn’t jump out at you all at once. Here are the 5 long entries:

  • 17A [Missouri’s largest metropolis] KANSAS CITY – Some place I have never been! Willing to travel there just for the BBQ!!
  • 22A [First leg of  racing’s Triple Crown] KENTUCKY DERBY
  • 34A [1990 comedy about a detective posing as a teacher] KINDERGARTEN COP
  • 46A [Oslo attraction honoring Heyerdahl’s expedition] KON-TIKI MUSEUM
  • 53A [“Roots” hero from Gambia] KUNTA KINTE – If you haven’t seen Roots before, what are you waiting for??

Did you catch the theme? I thought at first it had something to do with initials, but these are simply all entries that start with a K followed by each of the five vowels in order. I’ll bet KON-TIKI MUSEUM was the toughest to come up with, and to find five that worked symmetrically cannot have been easy. Marvelous job! 4.4 stars for a great theme, even though the puzzle is not difficult at all.

Just a few notes:

    • 43A [Unfavorable reputation] BAD NAME – As in the Bon Jovi classic You Give Love A Bad Name! I am going Spotify crazy on my posts today!

  • 62A [Vietnamese holidays] TETS – Rarely see this word pluralized, but I suppose it works!
  • 21D [One-named singer] ADELE – Probably the most famous one-named singer these days, but still the clue seems a little tough for a Tuesday. Perhaps a specific reference to a song would be a tad easier?
  • 24D [1980s Chrysler line] K-CAR – You don’t see many of these still on the road anymore, but I remember these vividly. According to Wikipedia, they were the Dodge Aries, Chrysler LeBaron, and the Plymouth Reliant, as well as a few others. They looked kinda boxy!kcar

I said I didn’t have much. Enjoy your week!

Paula Gamache’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Secret Identity” — Jim’s review

What’s in a NAME? Er, I mean, what’s a NAME in? Our theme answers of course!

WSJ - Tue, 8.23.16 - "Secret Identity" by Paula Gamache

WSJ – Tue, 8.23.16 – “Secret Identity” by Paula Gamache

  • 18a. [*1960s-’70s period] VIETNAM ERA
  • 23a. [*Diner sandwiches] TUNA MELTS
  • 37a. [*Ted Cruz, by heritage] CUBAN AMERICAN
  • 51a. [*Oscar winner for “Cocoon”] DON AMECHE
  • And the revealer: 59a. [Alva or Quincy, or what the answers to the starred clues have] MIDDLE NAME

Fairly standard “hidden word” theme. There are only three ways to break up a four-letter word like NAME, so N-AME is used twice.

Interesting that Paula chose to go with CUBAN AMERICAN when AFRICAN AMERICAN, a term used far more often, is a grid-spanning 15 letters. Maybe it just wasn’t giving her the fill she needed.

NOT my grandmother in a MUUMUU (but actually a fairly close resemblance)

My favorite fill: MUUMUU, which was the daily clothing choice for one of my granmothers, PHENOM, CLARICE [Jodie’s role in “The Silence of the Lambs”] (how do you write “fvvv-fvvv-fvvv-fvvv-fvvv”?), SPATULA, and snarky “TOLD YA.”

I nearly bought an AMIGA (21d, [Commodore PC brand]) back in 1986 with my summer job money. Thankfully I went with a Mac (which I still own, by the way).

The longest fill is OPEN AREA which seems a bit iffy to me and USA TODAY which I’m choosing to ignore because of a certain unscrupulous crossword editor.

NAMEs to know: LORI [Greiner of “Shark Tank”] who apparently is also known as the “Queen of QVC.” Shark Tank, by the way, has won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program…twice! (Didn’t even know that was a category.) More names to know are MAYA [Rudolph of “Bridesmaids”] who played the bride, Franz LEHAR, [“The Merry Widow” composer], and of course, crossword fave Jean AUEL, author of The Clan of the Cave Bear.

That’s all for today. A solid puzzle as usual from the WSJ crew. See you tomorrow!

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Twists in the Wind ” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.23.16: "Twists in the Wind"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.23.16: “Twists in the Wind”

Good day, everyone! Currently in the borough of Queens watching some U.S. Open (tennis) qualifying matches. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, includes theme entries in which well-known phrases and/or product names are given a new look, with the name of a musical instrument taking the place of the similar-sounding word that usually is in the phrase. Or something like that.

  • JUICY FLUTE (17A: [Succulent wind instrument?]) – Juicy Fruit.
  • KOSHER PICCOLO (25A: [Rabbinical wind instrument?]) – Kosher pickle.
  • PREMARITAL SAX (42A: [Engaged couple’s wind instrument?]) – Premarital sex. This was definitely the cream of the crop of the theme entries.
  • TENNIS OBOE (56A: [Wimbledon wind instrument?]) – Tennis elbow.

OK, I could go on and on about this grid, which was a pretty good grid, but one answer deserve to stand out above the rest, given its timeliness and hilarity: SAYS WHO (5D: [Resentful retort]). Michael Cohen, Brianna Keilar, thank you.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KEMP (6A: [Dole’s 1996 running mate]) – Not only was Jack KEMP the running mate of Bob Dole in 1996, Kemp also was a former professional quarterback in the NFL (pre and post-merger) and the AFL. He was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills when they won back-to-back AFL championships in 1964 and 1965, and was the AFL’s Most Valuable player in 1965.

See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!

Take care!


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12 Responses to Tuesday, August 23, 2016

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Yum — Good thing the first of the NYT’s SWIRL themers was CHOCOLATE… It made the rest easier to untangle!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Loved it… Circled puzzles are an interesting twist in that they feel like themeless during the solving but you still get an Aha moment at some point. And this one was such a lovely one… Very clever!
    And JF, if you’re reading this: Thank yo for the daily mini puzzles. They are great fun, and usually very timely.

  3. Lemonade 714 says:

    Derek LILA CHERRY is one of Rich Norris’ many nom de plume. It anagrams to Really Rich.

    I nice example of what he likes in an early week puzzle.

    Enjoy your trip

  4. David says:

    In JF’s NYT puzzle, I appreciated LOW ENERGY next to RUMOR. Felt like two Trump-related entries side-by-side.

    The puzzle was a quick solve and had some great long clues with very little crossword-ese

  5. DJ says:

    Minor quibble with the NYT puzzle : swirled ice cream is soft serve, which usually comes in flavors like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. Pistachio and rum raisin, not so much.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The raisins are always clogging up the soft-serve dispenser!

      A friend on Twitter has documented the existence of bubblegum swirl ice cream. Who knew? https://twitter.com/finitealright/status/768032322801328128

    • pannonica says:

      There are plenty of hard ice creams described as having swirls, even if it isn’t always in the name itself.

      As an example, from the introductory sentence of Ben & Jerry’s “How We Make Ice Cream” page: “You might know Ben & Jerry’s for our chunks and swirls, but you might not know everything that goes in to how we make our ice cream.”

      Also, this is parlor-game wordplay, not an ice cream parlor.

  6. Gareth says:

    When I saw all the circles I thought “Here comes a trainwreck”… Then I saw Fagliano’s byline and thought “but he never lets me down!” The latter won out! Few abbrs., contrived answers and partials – ETDS and EXHIPPIES I’m looking at you.

    Hard answers were well-spaced: INULIN is always going to make this biology nerd smile! Didn’t know ZAPF, and thought it must be an abbr. when it appeared via crosses! ALEHOUSES I know from being in lots of Irish folk songs, to whit, “I went into an alehouse I used to frequent / And I told the landlady me money was spent / I asked her for credit she answered me ‘nay!'” etc.

    One of the more interesting ice-cream flavours: elachi and choc nut sundae! Not sure that would swirl so well! http://www.gattiicecream.co.za/super_crema_old_fashioned_ice_cream.html

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I had to pull INULIN out of deep memory. Renal was never my best thing.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I meant to mention INULIN! I know it from ingredient labels in foods that promise lots of fiber. And in sugar-free sour gummi worms … which a certain teenager I know will eat the whole bag of … and then he’s surprised to find himself requiring a bathroom visit. Inulin magic!

  7. Martin says:

    Hey Jim,

    You wrote:

    “… and USA TODAY which I’m choosing to ignore because of a certain unscrupulous crossword editor.”

    The USA Today editor I hope you’re
    refering to, is no longer crossword editor of the USA Today. Fred Piscop is and has been the new editor for the last few weeks. Also, I can assure you that he has brought rigorous new standards to that crossword.

    Since the USA Today made no official anouncement, I can understand many people not knowing this… yet.



    • Jim Peredo says:

      Ah, yes. Thanks for the correction. My apologies to Fred.

      I had forgotten the end result at USA Today, but Mr. Parker is still at Universal, correct?

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