Tuesday, December 13, 2016

CS tk (Ade) 


Jonesin' 6:03 (Derek) 


LAT 3:35 (Derek) 


NYT 3:20 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 13 16, no 1213

The theme is phrases that include terms that apply to the practice of law:

  • 17a. Legal actions provoked by oversimple jigsaw puzzles?], THREE-PIECE SUITS. (Raise your hand if you love doing jigsaw puzzles.)
  • 35a. Law documents concerning pugilists?], BOXER BRIEFS.
  • 43a. Court precedents involving games of hoops?], BASKET CASES.
  • 61a. Attorneys’ fees paid with gold fillings?], DENTAL RETAINERS. I think of them as orthodontic, not dental.

Cute, theme well placed in a Tuesday slot. Very mildly off-putting that the first two are apparel but the other two are not.

There’s also fill that doesn’t really belong in a Tuesday puzzle, if you ask me. ERSE, ERNS, and COATI, oh my!

Five more things:

  • 1a. [“What a relief!”], PHEW. Could also be WHEW crossing WETS, but luckily the 1d PETS clue, [Parrots and ferrets], is clearly not pointing towards WETS.
  • ONE-UP ends near where ONE-ACT begins. Uh, that makes TWO.
  • 47a. [Touchdown pass catchers, e.g.], SCORERS. “The top scorers in the tournament were …” works fine, but man alive, if you say SCORERS by itself out loud, it sounds terrible. Go ahead. Try it.
  • 24d. [Like some boat motor types], INBOARD. Sure, I’ve heard of outboard motors, but not INBOARD.
  • 56d. [Ser : Spanish :: ___ : French], ETRE. We see the Spanish infinitive far less than the French in crosswords. More often, SER is clued as an abbreviation for sermon. And rarely, as the title (used instead of sir, I guess?) in Game of Thrones.

3.6 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 289), “Cover Letters”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 12/13 (No. 289)

Crossword Nation 12/13 (No. 289)

Among the special gifts our constructor brings to her crossword-making style is the art of naming. Finding just the right title to wink at the theme within, without tippin’ her hand. She knows the value of a well-placed pun, and today’s title is just one example. “Cover Letters.” They’re what you attach to your job résumé, right? Right. But not today. Today they’re the literal letters indicating that the name by which we call you may be a cover for your birth name. Or, as spelled out at 61D. [Dossier letters that are hidden in four horizontal answers] A/K/A (also known as—a phrase that also appears in each theme clue). So we’re looking at an embedded-letters theme and not one that requires knowing actual aliases (Tracy Lauren Marrow A/K/A ICE-T [“Rhyme Pays rapper], e.g.). Unless you’re a brand-new newbie, you’ve seen this kind of puzzle before, but leave it to Liz—by virtue of that title—to keep the framing fresh.

  • 17A. [112th United States Supreme Court Justice, also known as …] ELENA KAGAN.
  • 31A. [Coty Award-winning fashion designer, also known as …] NORMA KAMALI.  All you guys who kept Farrah Fawcett’s famous red-swimsuit poster on your wall when you were a kid (or “had a friend” who did…)?  She designed the swimsuit
  • 45A. [Romanian Olympic gymnastics coach, also known as …] BÉLA KÁROLYI.
  • 62A. [Canadian-born actress who played Kate Beckett on ABC’s “Castle,” also known as …] STANA KATIC.

As you can see (from those last three themers especially), what we have here is a puzzle with an easy kinda theme with not always easy kinda fill.  APOGEE, anyone?  MINOAN? Or [Silver HALIDE (photo emulsion component)]?  Not exactly the kind of words that get used on an everyday basis. But “GOSH DARN IT!” and SMALL TOWNS?  Now we’re talkin’!


Spotted tile?

A tad less difficult, but—by virtue of the cluing—still not out-and-out “gimme” material (for me, anyway…) were ANAGRAMS [Tangier and Integra, e.g.] (both words use the same set of letters), PARENTAL [PG component] (as in the movie rating [but somehow just wasn’t seeing it…]) and—wow—DOMINO with the tricky-to-parse [Spotted tile].  Is “spotted” a verb?  Is the “spotted tile” a type of fish?  Is this a decorative ceramic tile?  (Can you say “overthink”?…)

But this is all fine fill.  Two thumbs up, too, for SNEAKY  (“HEH!”) and RAKISH, DIAPER (and its [It’s a bum wrap] clue), and even the shorter but snappy HYENA, MACHO, TRIKE and KAZOO [Instrument with no learning curve]—which makes it unlike the instrument of [Grammy-winning pianist Richard GOODE], another example of fill I was unfamiliar with today and that made the solve a bit thorny…

What helped to EASE [Lighten] the load?  Thank you, stacked LOAFS [Shirks work] upon IDLE [Doing nothing], [Fire starter?] cluing RAPID, learning about Pepé Le Pew mentee FIFI La Fume and that IOWA has—who’da thunk—a hobo museum (!!).  That IOWA was once—until recently, however—a blue state has definitely put me in a [Blue state] FUNK.

But on we go, eh?  So, keep solving.  I will if you will—and come on back next week.  Hope this’ll be a good one for you!

Mark Bickham ‘s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chill Out” — Jim’s review

Today we find DUET at 65a which turns out to be the revealer with the clue [Something not done alone, and a hint to the starts of the starred answers]. This leads to the discovery of a song you’ll no doubt hear many times this holiday season.

WSJ – Tue, 12.13.16 – “Chill Out” by Mark Bickham

  • 20a [*They may be seen with pushers in the park] BABY CARRIAGES
  • 29a [*Words that might accompany an opening curtain] IT’S SHOWTIME
  • 40a [*Scarce consolation] COLD COMFORT
  • 52a [*Slight likelihood] OUTSIDE CHANCE

I don’t find DUET to be a very effective revealer here. There are plenty of DUET songs (“Ebony and Ivory,” “You’re the One That I Want,” etc., etc.) I’d rather see a revealer that was more specific to the song title. Even BRR would work.

But despite that, the theme works because the phrases are legit, and they all follow the two-word pattern. Even the second one, IT’S, follows the pattern though it could have gone in myriad directions. (I’m partial to IT’S RAINING MEN, but it doesn’t follow the same pattern.)

As for the song, it’s gotten some press the past few years because it sounds a bit date rapey (“What’s in this drink?” e.g.). Recently, a Minnesota couple rewrote it to emphasize consent.

Looking at the rest of the grid, BRIGHT SPOT is a bright spot, but OVERARM, HAD A CASE, ESTIMATING, and EFFECTED seem like missed opportunities to put more interesting fill in the grid. I do like DEAD SHOT, CRAB LEGSKIBOSH and MOONIE and the shout-outs to OTIS Redding and Sam COOKE.

Supervillain ABRA Kadabra

What’s your feeling about ONE DOWN? I kind of like it with its meta clue [Its clue is “Network launched in 1981”] (and of course 1d’s answer is MTV). But the entry could also be sourced from the numeric phrase ONE DOWN, x TO GO.

Lastly, despite once being a comic book reader and a fan of The Flash, I’d never heard of [Comics supervillain ___ Kadabra]. That didn’t stop me from filling in 9a immediately with ABRA, but I had to read up on him. Apparently he’s from from the 64th century and came back in time to become a famous magician. What a great plan! If I get my hands on a time machine, I’m gonna go back to the Stone Age and show off my iPhone. They’ll treat me like a god! How great would that be?! I’ll be a god…without indoor plumbing. Ok. Nevermind.

Good puzzle with some good fill, but also some missed opportunities.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Make It Work” – Derek’s write-up

After looking at the first few down answers (and not knowing 1-Across immediately, this is my normal tactic!), I thought this puzzle might be a killer. Couldn’t get anything in the first 9 other than IDYL at 6D! But then, after meandering in the puzzle for a bit, the four main corners started to fall fairly quickly, and I did end up at the beginning, which is easily the toughest quadrant. My cursor is down in the lower left because that is where the errors were! I spelled SHAUN at 25D with a W, and I will discuss 43D below. 66 words by my count. Wonderfully wide open and fun! 4.4 stars.

A few comments:

    • 10A [One-names R&B singer with the hit “1, 2 Step”] CIARA – Married to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
    • 17A [1990 Warrant hit that was overplayed on MTV, but banned by Canada’s MuchMusic] CHERRY PIE – I’ll put a link here so it will be stuck in your head!

  • 19A [Need to unwind] TIME ALONE – This sounds like it is worded incorrectly, but that just makes it more tricky!
  • 28A [Put the __ on] KIBOSH – I have had the kibosh put on my many times!
  • 44A [“Star Trek; TNG” counselor Deanna] TROI – The obligatory nerdy reference will make many Trekkies, including my wife, happy!
  • 45A [South African playwright Fugard] ATHOL – I can never remember this writer’s name; it partly led to my error!
  • 59A [Chimichanga ingredient] QUESO – Cheese in Spanish, in case you didn’t know. Making me hungry for Moe’s Southwest Grill!
  • 9D [More questionable, maybe] SKEEVIER – This sounds much worse than questionable!
  • 12D [Phish lead vocalist Trey] ANASTASIO – I think I have this committed to memory from a previous Jonesin’ puzzle!
  • 28D [Bulgogi or gable, e.g.] KOREAN BBQ – As if I wasn’t hungry enough! They have some good Korean BBQ meatballs at Noodle & Co.!
  • 30D [Source for wood used in Budweiser fermentation tanks] BEECH TREE – They do say “Beech wood aged” in their ads!
  • 43D [Spanish Formula One racer Fernando] ALONSO – I don’t follow Formula One hardly at all, so this one was a toughie.
  • 47D [“Freek-A-Leek” rapper __ Pablo] PETEY – How is Matt so hip? I don’t think I have ever heard of this dude! I would post a link, but lyrics NSFW!

It’s getting cold outside! And winter isn’t even here yet!

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

This puzzle is not too hard, but the revealer is well-hidden at 50-Down!

  • 17A [Of the poorest quality] THIRD CLASS
  • 35A [Novel or short story, say] LITERARY WORK
  • 43A [Fashionable dude] MAN ABOUT TOWN
  • 62A [Well-hit line drive, in baseball jargon] FROZEN ROPE
  • 50D [“Never mind” … or what one might do with the last word of 17-, 35-, 43- and 62-Across] SKIP IT

Took me a second after solving to figure out how the theme worked, but the idea is you can skip class, work, town, or a rope. I must have been overthinking it! Nice tidy theme by C.C. again. Do I have to say again English is not her native language? Amazing! 4.3 stars for this one.

Just a few notes:

  • 14A [California wine valley] NAPA – I am going there someday …
  • 23A [Southern speech quality] DRAWL – Or possibly a TWANG! Not a Southern thing either, plenty of people here in Indiana have a “drawl!”
  • 28A [One of the five basic tastes] UMAMI – One of my favorite words. Mostly for how hard it is to define!
  • 6D [2007 Pixar robot] WALL-E – Still haven’t seen this movie!
  • 11D [Left the 44-Down (BASE) sans permission] WENT AWOL – Nice tie-in to another clue, and a nice easy conversational phrase. Very smooth!
  • 40D [Words to click on at a sweepstakes website] ENTER NOW – Also a smooth phrase. Heard often in those sweepstakes commercials!

See you this weekend for the toughie puzzles!

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6 Responses to Tuesday, December 13, 2016

  1. huda says:

    NYT: It’s a fun theme, but the DENTAL RETAINERS entry is (to me) clued in a confusing way. “Gold fillings” is supposed to trigger “DENTAL” but gold fillings and retainers are too closely connected conceptually and they wind up clashing.

    Amy said “I think of them as orthodontic, not dental.” Not sure if “them” is referring to the fillings (which tend to be more “dental”) or the RETAINERS which are definitely orthodontic, but I think it shows that this clue-answer combo is not ideal.

    At first, I broke up HAM ON RYE differently, so had HAM ON on top and RYE on the bottom. Seemed more logical in multiple ways…

  2. huda says:

    Jack, from yesterday:
    Sorry I missed your query. “Theory of mind” is psychology speak for our ability to imagine how someone else thinks. It can also refer to conceptualizing the process of our own thoughts– what led us to do or feel something. Kids, for example, don’t start with much of one. People with autism are thought to struggle with it. It takes more effort to develop across cultures and belief systems… and maybe across levels of expertise in crossword solving?
    Amy seems to have good theory of mind towards us less gifted people. She usually predicts which puzzles or specific facets of them are going to give people fits.

  3. Steve Manion says:

    This was one of the few puzzles in recent years in which the NYT included an unidiomatic sports reference. While it is certainly not incorrect to call a touchdown pass catcher a SCORER, it is simply not a term that is used in the idiom of football. It is, however, a common, idiomatic term in basketball. SCORE is now even used in this odd context: He can score the ball. The ability to score the ball has never been more important than it is today. One of the interesting facts is that when fans think of the all-time great three point shooters, most immediately think of Ray Allen, Larry Bird and Reggie Miller. None of them ever made more than 44% of his three-
    point shots and a couple of weeks ago, there were 18 players this season shooting at a higher percentage than that.

    I thought the puzzle was fun.


  4. CoffeeLover says:

    Today’s NYT took us to the zoo: Parrots and ferrets, a dog, ABALONE, ERNS, DEER, APE, COATI, and assorted BIOTA.

    Jack and huda, I have also heard theory of mind described as mentalizing. To me it is thinking about thinking, whether my own or others. Great teachers and tutors are strong in this skill.

  5. Brady says:

    In the Jonesin’ puzzle, I like how ‘televised’ (American, and only spelling) occurs on top of ‘utilising’ (with an ‘England’ variant clue). However, I don’t understand 48A (even with the ‘maybe’) – aren’t compilation albums supposed to be made up of the hits, and not ‘B-sides’?

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