Thursday, September 22, 2016

To view Friday’s post, click here.

BEQ 8:45 (Ben) 


CS 7:51 (Ade) 


Fireball 10:17 (Jenni) 


LAT 6:16 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:37 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Daniel Landman’s Fireball crossword, “A Very Cheeky Puzzle”—Jenni’s write-up

The week after a contest is like the week after Monday Night Football – wait, is it time again? Yes, it is, and re-entry is smooth.

The title suggests something sassy is going on. I suspected that the “cheeks” were not those on one’s face, and I was right.

We have four theme answers, and they seem pretty straightforward.

  • 20a [Song on the Lady Gaga album “The Fame”] = I LIKE IT ROUGH.

    Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 9.55.44 PM

    FB 9/22 puzzle, solution grid

  • 34a [Electronics store product] = INTERNET ROUTER, which I am now singing in my head to the tune of “Paperback Writer.” You’re welcome.
  • 39a [Big signing bonus recipient] = FIRST ROUND PICK.
  • 53a [Site for random webcam-based conversations] = CHAT ROULETTE.

The trickiness comes in with the crossings, which simply don’t make sense. I realized something was wrong with 9d [Part of an old Nickelodeon duo.] I had  KE for the first two letters, so it had to be KEL – except that it’s a four-letter word. OK, maybe I’ve got that wrong. Old Nickelodeon shows are not my area of expertise. But the next answer is [Deli side dish] and food definitely *is* my area of expertise. Well, one of them. The answer has to be SLAW – except the “r” from I LIKE IT ROUGH is stuck in there, giving us SLARW. Huh?

The revealer is in the middle at 37a [With 38-Across, prepare to shoot the moon? … or an instruction to apply in four places in this puzzle.] The answers are DROP TROU. Ah-hah! If we drop the letters TROU from each theme answer, the crossings make sense.

I figured out the trick before I got all the theme answers, and some of the downs cross two theme answers, making it a little challenging to figure out which letter to drop. That made it more fun. I also like the way DROP TROU sits smack in the middle, right where the, well, cheeks would be if the puzzle were facing away from us.

A few other things:

  • A nice Scrabbly start with JAZZY at 1a crossing JIB  at 1d. Is this a pangram? I don’t care much about pangrams, but when I see J, B, Z and X in the top third, I wonder. Nope, no Q.
  • 25a is [Alternative to white] and I confidently dropped in RED. Nope. The answer is RYE.
  • 30a [Joey nurser] also flummoxed me, because it should be ROO. Right? Nope. DOE. I guess male kangaroos are also roos. A friend of mine is president of Austin College in Texas and their mascot is the kangaroo.
  • 31d [Decisive period, briefly] is briefer than it appears. This is the only answer that loses two letters when we drop thou. The correct grid entry is ORTU and the answer, of course, is OT.
  • 44d [Manhattan sch.] gets easier when you remember that there is more than one place called Manhattan. There’s one in Kansas, and the answer is KSU.
  • Loved 55d [Royal pain?] When you drop the U from CHAT ROULETTE, the answer is PEA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve never seen Johnny PESKY‘s name spelled out before. I’ve only heard it on radio broadcasts and I had no idea how to spell it. Turns out it’s just like it sounds.

And I can’t resist this.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 22 16, no 0922

NY Times crossword solution, 9 22 16, no 0922

The theme answers are familiar phrases changed by swapping in a foreign word for a number that sounds like the original word:

  • 17a. [A number of stage items in a French play?], SEPT PIECES. Who knows why this clue has “French” instead of the name of a French city, since the other four all use cities.
  • 23a. [A number of cocktails in Berlin?], DREI MARTINIS. This clue doesn’t specifically point to “dry martinis” the way the other clues hint at their full phrases. Three trace elements, eight wheat fields … 23a is inconsistent with the rest.
  • 37a. [A number of Freudians in Freiburg?], SECHS THERAPISTS. Not that Freudian psychoanalysts are necessarily sex therapists. That’s a different job altogether.
  • 46a. [A number of chemical rarities in Madrid?], TRES ELEMENTS.
  • 57a. [A number of grain-producing sites in Normandy?], HUIT FIELDS.

Most out-there answer in this week’s puzzles thus far: 31a. [Palazzo ___, architectural gem of the Renaissance], FARNESE. I can’t be the only one who’s never heard of this, right?

Five more things:

  • 36a. [Strauss’s “___ Heldenleben”], EIN. I really wish there weren’t any foreign number-ish words in this puzzle outside the theme. Yes, EIN is “a” or “an” while EINS is “one.” It was still distracting. As is 6d. [Italian ten], DIECI.
  • 10a. [Batman villain known as “Queen of the Cossacks”], OLGA. Inferrable because the Cossacks and the name Olga are both Russian, but … I’ve never heard of this, either.
  • 11d. [Voicer of Aslan in “The Chronicles of Narnia”], LIAM NEESON. Or, as many of us have known him for several years thanks to Key and Peele, Liam Neesons.
  • 20a. [It’s twisted], ESS. Because crosswordese words that basically nobody ever uses in real life are twisted. Get it? (Speaking of crosswordese: YSER, SEGAR, REI …)
  • 2d. [___ of Solomon], ODES. Huh?? News to me. I put SONG in first. The Odes of Solomon are different.

3.33 stars from me. I liked the theme okay, but the fill was less fun.

Harold Jones’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turning Tail” — Jim’s review

If you’ve been having trouble accessing the WSJ site the past couple days like most of us, it looks like they’ve fixed the problem. I was told they “made a change to some backend technology yesterday and it caused a temporary glitch with the puzzles blog being behind the paywall.” Hopefully everything is hunky-dory now.

Nice theme today! If you haven’t done it, let’s see if you can figure it out based on the title and themers.

WSJ - Thu, 9.22.16 - "Turning Tail" by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Thu, 9.22.16 – “Turning Tail” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Brief but extreme heat wave?] FRYING SNAP
  • 36a [Attack by a knife-wielding insect?] CRICKET STAB
  • 44a [Annoying emailed storm alerts?] WEATHER SPAM
  • 65a [Cold shoulder given to a showoff on the slopes?] HOT DOG SNUB
  • 11d [Phase blast to the torso?] CHEST STUN
  • 35d [Train station where the pushers hang out?] CRACK STOP

Maybe you got it right off the bat, but the first two entries didn’t do it for me. I skipped the third and solved the HOT DOG one next which is when the light bulb turned on.

Of course, the title alludes to the fact that the tail end of each theme answer (more specifically, the last word in each phrase) is reversed. So instead of pans, bats, maps,  buns, nuts, and pots, we get their reverse versions.

Good choices in theme entries, a lot of them, and a decent amount of humor in the clues. Very nice!

Not much room for other long fill, but we get TONE LOC [“Funky Cold Medina” rapper] (do you remember that he was in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?), and MIRAGES.

Not a lot of crud, but there’s I COME [Men at Work lyric “___ from a land down under”] and DII [Half of MIV].

The rest is all pretty standard with one notable exception. 38d crossing 54a. KAPOK [Stuffed animal stuffing] and KERATIN [Makeup of some nails]. Both words are new to me, so crossing them at the K seems pretty unfair. A lot of other letters seem just as viable when both words are unknown to you.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Its first capital was Chillicothe] for OHIO. Does every city in OHIO start with C? There’s Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Canton, and now Chillicothe. Wait, I guess there’s Toledo. And Dayton. And Akron. Nevermind.
  • 48a. [Maker of Mary Janes and Clark Bars] for NECCO. I only know the wafers. I was thrown off because I know Mary Janes are shoes, and Clarks is a British shoe retailer. Oh, now that I see that candy, I recognize the wrapper. Never would’ve known they were from NECCO though.
  • 49a. [Supplier to high-rises] for OTIS. Nice, fresh-feeling clue. Had to think about that one.
  • 69a. [Thompson who won two sprinting gold medals in Rio] for ELAINE. Representing Jamaica, she is the first woman to win both the 100m and 200m at the Olympics since Flo-Jo did it in 1988.

Good puzzle to end out the regular puzzling week at the WSJ. Tomorrow is the contest puzzle as usual. Until then, enjoy a scene with TONE LOC and Jim Carrey from Ace Ventura.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Board Meeting” — Ben’s Review

Board Meeting

Board Meeting

Today’s BEQ puzzle seemed oddly themeless until I hit its revealer, so I’ll treat the clues I noted like a themeless until I hit that revealer:

  • 13A: Central Park designer Calvert — VAUX (never heard of them, although they have a lovely name for crossword fill)
  • 17A: “___ told often enough” — A LIE (not digging this as fill or a reminder of the election)
  • 21D:  Of a 60 minute period? — HORAL (I’m assuming things are very constrained if this is part of the grid…)
  • 27D: The Mrs. — WIFEY (NOPE.  Really don’t like this fill, so I’m continuing to assume something’s up with the grid…)
  • 33D: “Like ___ in headlights” — A DEER (another meh partial that I can’t say I’m partial to)
  • 40D: New Haven institution, for short — YALE U (another NOPE here.  I’ll ignore 39A‘s BAY TREE since that at least feels like a two word phrase that’s an actual name.  YALE U feels redundant)
  • 51A: Sportsman with a rifle…and what you are while looking for the nine hidden answers in this solution grid, word-search style — BIG GAME HUNTER

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 7.08.50 AM

Okay, that explained some of the constraint in the grid, but I can’t say it made me enthusiastic to look for the games in the grid.  I’m not a fan of word searches at all, which totally skews my view of this puzzle.  What made it slightly more frustrating is that I couldn’t find all nine games – I tapped out at 7 of 9 found.  Take a look at the image on the right – CLUE, TABOO, RISK, SORRY, CATAN, GO, and UNO were all present.  The remaining two are left as an exercise for the commenters – I look forward to finding out what they are.

I understand why things were so constrained, but both the theme and fill on this one just weren’t my cup of tea.

2.75/5 stars.

Roger Wienberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA TImes 160922

LA TImes 160922

Didn’t really notice the theme too much while solving today. I think the long across answers, which had nothing to do with the theme – VAMPIREBAT and USSARIZONA – made it more subtle than most. There is a revealer: UPTHEANTE, which suggests ETNA is hidden in five of down answers. I was wondering about the rather arbitrary SOVIETNAVY. It makes more sense as a theme answer than a bonus long down answer! The others are MOUNTETNA, WETNAPS, STREETNAME and VIETNAM.

It was a quiet puzzle outside of the theme. I struggled to get the last few squares around STREETNAME/ECOLI/ZAP/DISS/SALEM/SPIRE. Was quite a logjam for me, I don’t know about anyone else.

Best clue: [Babies, or what some babies wear], PAMPERS.

3.25 Stars

Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Starting Arrangements” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.22.16: "Starting Arrangements"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.22.16: “Starting Arrangements”

Hello there, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeffrey Harris, is more fun with anagrams, as each of the three theme entries start with a five-letter word, and those three words are anagrams of each other.

  • BEING THERE (20A: [1979 Peter Sellers film])
  • BEGIN THE BEGUINE (39A: [Cole Porter song featured in “Jubilee”])
  • BINGE-WATCH (58A: [Go through an entire season in one sitting, perhaps]) – The last time I binge-watched a show? The animated show The Critic, about a year ago when I found all of the episodes in Season 1 available on YouTube.

I feel like I’m stupid, but today was the first time I came across the word FOUNT before, as I never really looked into the origin of the word “fountain” (4D: [Spring of water]). Maybe I might have come across it in a verse of poetry and didn’t put it to memory. Well, it’s etched in my brain now! Loved seeing both ADORE (8D: [Simply love]) and its antonym, ABHOR, in the same grid (37A: [Simply loathe]). Can’t say that I ever learned how to do the JITTERBUG at any point in my life (10D: [Early 20th-century dance craze]). I can do a little salsa, tried the Charleston once, waltzed more than once and can do a mean cabbage patch and running man! Nice grid to do going into the weekend.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BONO (32A: [U2 front man]) – Growing up as a big San Francisco 49ers fan, I always had a soft spot for former National Football League quarterback Steve BONO. Between 1989 and 1993, Bono spent time backing up both Joe Montana and Steve Young, serving as the third-string QB in San Fran in 1989 and 1990. Bono finally got his chance to shine as a starter in Kansas City, and he made the Pro Bowl in 1995 as he led the Chiefs to the best record in the AFC that year at 13-3. Where did Bono go to college? UCLA, of course (43A: [Home to the Bruins, briefly]).

It’s TGIF tomorrow! Have yourself a great rest of your evening!

Take care!


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25 Responses to Thursday, September 22, 2016

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I’m betwixt and between. The theme concept is novel (at least to me), and most of the sounds work well. Except for “Huit”, which to me is very different from “Wheat”. The U sound is that very French vowel that English turns into an “oo”, and Huit is quite short sounding, not stretched out.

    I was also bothered by the inconsistency that Amy noted. Was the clue pointing to the whole answer or just the second part? I think it’s meant to be the whole answer– e.g. Trace Elements are rare and Set Pieces are plays. But cocktails is not a specific enough clue for Dry Martinis, and Freudians are not the same as Sex Therapists… And we have French, Normandy, Berlin and Freiburg to point to the foreign numbers– a language, a region and two cities… Not horrible, just distracting.

    EIN and DIECI don’t contribute to the theme, they too felt distracting, especially that one is German and echoes the theme and the other is Italian and not part of the theme.

    Too bad…some of this felt like it could be readily fixable.

  2. jeef says:

    NYT: Enjoyed the theme, found the fill lackluster especially in the NW. The fill really dragged down what could have been an otherwise good solving experience.

  3. Rince Repeetus says:

    NYT was drudgery. And YIPS seems wrong being it’s always expressed as “the yips.”

    • Steve Manion says:

      When I played a lot of golf, I experienced the yips and had to switch to a long putter. My very kind friends never gave me a single putt and started to sing “yippie-yi-yo” as I agonized over a six-inch putt. My left hand and arm would involuntarily fly off the putter as I spasmed into the short stroke. The yips have occasionally affected baseball players who cannot make the short throw from, say, second to first. Darts is another game/sport that has taken its toll. One of the greatest golfers of all time, Bernard Langer, might have been THE greatest golfer, but for the yips, which he has magically overcome. Ben Hogan ended his career because of the yips.


      • Papa John says:

        I’m glad you weighed in on this. I was hoping you would.

        Let me get this right, though. Are you saying yips is an actual neural/muscular disorder or a form of mental choking?

        • Steve Manion says:

          Hi John,

          It has elements of both. In my case, I improved my swing and had visions of being a 3 handicap. I put so much pressure on myself that I created great anxiety causing me to jerk at a short putt instead of swinging through it. Some have opined that there is a neural element often brought on in older golfers who have been using the same repetitive motion for many years only to suddenly and inexplicably lose it.

          In the case of second basemen like Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax, I believe it a mental disorder. In golfers, where fine motor skills are more obviously involved, I do think there is (often) a neural short circuit.

          In my rock bottom case, I actually double hit a putt. I was so anxious that I stopped my putting stroke at the moment of impact, then jerked and accelerated through, hitting the ball for the second time. Not good.


  4. jim hale says:

    I kind of semi-enjoyed the puzzle and definitely the theme. There was some obscure stuff, which Amy mentioned, that was annoying… and I’ll add “yips” to that which I’d never heard of
    Took me two sit down attempts but being unable to sleep anyway that was fine.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I had the same problem with ODES of Solomon, which I’d never heard of. Got YIPS and JOSE and I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to get JOYCE. Duh.

    I liked the theme. I put HUIT FIELDS in without crossings, although I agree with Huda about the pronunciation. It doesn’t quite scan. Amy, Normandy isn’t a city (far as I know) – it’s a region. Your point remains, though. It’s inconsistent. Still fun, overall.

  6. Jan says:

    Today’s NYT was the finals puzzle at the Pleasantville tournament last week. Much to my surprise, I ended up in the finals, so it was a different type of solving experience for me (i.e. kind of terrifying). I remember thinking that it would have been an enjoyable solve over a cup of coffee. Fortunately, I can count in a few languages, so I didn’t mind the numbers that weren’t part of the theme. BTW, the first two puzzles that we did were published on Mon and Tues, but the third puzzle hasn’t appeared yet. It has an interesting twist in the clues.

  7. placematfan says:

    BEQ: There’s WAR and LIFE in the West Central.

    • And GO is actually part of a longer game in the southwest: BOGGLE. Though you could spell GO in 38D and 48D too.

      So I guess there are at least 10 games? (11? and counting?)

    • pannonica says:

      Also, Ben found CHESS (it’s in the figure) but neglected to list it or count it.

      • Mac says:

        Since the puzzle is entitled Board Meeting, I was looking for board games so excluded card games like War and Uno. True board games are Clue, Chess, Catan, Sorry, Risk, Go, Life – I guess you could include Taboo and Boggle as well to make nine, tho not board games in the classic sense.

  8. cyberdiva says:

    I enjoyed today’s NYT quite a bit, perhaps in part because I finished it faster than any other Thursday that I can remember. I enjoyed all the plays on numbers, though I was somewhat uncomfortable about SECHS. I’ve always pronounced that ZEX, not SEX, and that seemed too much of a stretch to make the answer work well. On the whole, however, I enjoyed the long answers, and got all of them quite quickly, especially TRESELEMENTS, which I recognized when I had just the N. ODES and YIPS, however, needed all the crossings.

  9. DJ says:

    IDK, finding numbers in other languages that sound like words in English? Just doesn’t do much for me.

    And it’s a little clumsy having every clue start with “a number of..”

  10. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ theme but hated the fill. Starting at the bottom, I felt that I was encountering all but a compendium of stale crossword fill: ESL, ESPY, OGRE, ONO, . . . . It just never seemed to stop, and then it did. The top seemed instead to be annoying for the opposite reason, odd stuff and proper names. The NW alone had MERCH and PAYOR (really? not in RHUD or MW11), plus a song lyric, a rapper, and another singer. I still don’t quite now what to make of the clue for KAPOK. (RHUD says it’s material for filling a pillow, not a location for stuffing.) Could have lived without SCAR and KHLOE as well. So for me, two puzzles, both bad.

  11. Zulema says:

    I enjoyed the NYT especially as compared with other Thursdays, but since I am a native Spanish speaker it took me a while to figure out TRES ELEMENTS. I particularly liked DREI MARTINIS and it also gave me the theme.

  12. Gary R says:

    Not a big fan of today’s NYT. I liked TRES ELEMENTS and DREI MARTINIS – the other themers, not so much. I speak a bit of Spanish, and know a few German counting numbers, but am pretty lost on French.

    I concur with others that DIECE and EIN were a distraction.

    I liked TECH SECTOR as an answer, but didn’t care for the clue. The Dow Jones Industrial Index includes just 30 stocks, and includes only 4 or 5 stocks from the tech sector (depending on how you classify IBM). Those 4 or 5 are important stocks, but I wouldn’t refer to them as the tech sector. A better clue might have referenced the Nasdaq index, which includes a good portion of the tech sector.

  13. David Steere says:

    WSJ puzzle access is down again. I just tried to print out Friday’s contest puzzle. As has been happening on and off all week, the website asks for a login. Looks like, once again, the puzzle or pdf of the puzzle is behind their firewall. Any news about this, Amy?



  14. Steve Manion says:


    A slump, even a terrible one like Jay Bruce is having, is not usually the result of the yips. The yips is a sudden jerk or spasm that prevents a player from completing a routine repetitive task.


  15. Papa John says:

    My computer is under attack from ransom ware. I’m not sure what to do about it. I’ll contact a techie, later, today, and see what can be done.

    Meanwhile, I’m not able to open Friday’s blog. Is it me or are you having trouble, too?

    Edited: Never mind. It just came up.

  16. Clay says:

    I called the Wall Street Journal office yesterday and was informed they just changed their policy and now require a subscription to play their crossword.

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