Thursday, December 15, 2016

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


CS 8:58 (Ade) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 5:11 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:30 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 15 16, no 1215

Cute seasonal holiday theme, with four themers each containing a {FA} and a {LA} rebus square, and 61a. [Christmastime refrain] spelling out {FA}{LA}{LA}{LA}{LA}{LA}{LA}{LA}{LA}. Eight LAs there, as sung in “Deck the Halls.” I’ll grant you, the embedded {FA} and {LA} times 4 doesn’t match up with the song, but if you had just a single rebus entry at 61a (plus its nine Down crossers), you’d be disappointed. Your {FA}/{LA} phrases include FALLING FLAT, FASHION PLATE, GRANDFATHER CLAUSE, and PARFAIT GLASS—all solid and reasonably crisp.

Six more things:

  • 18a. [Parties hard, in modern lingo], RAGES. I don’t know if my wildest college parties fit the category of “ragers,” since the term wasn’t in use then.
  • 28a. [Say with a raised hand], SWEAR. As in “I do solemnly swear,” not “$%#&!”
  • 37a. [Discriminatory part of post-Reconstruction legislation], GRANDFATHER CLAUSE. I didn’t know the unsavory origins of the phrase. The Oxford American folks say: “early 20th cent.: so called because under constitutional clauses in some southern states, permitting whites to vote and disenfranchising blacks, the descendants of those voting before 1867 were permitted to vote without having to meet certain stringent conditions.” My one grandfather-clause benefit was being of legal drinking age at 19 in Minnesota, when the age was raised to 21 but they eased it in.
  • 57a. [Is worth doing], PAYS. Will Shortz wrote to the Cruciverb-L mailing list today to announce a 20% pay increase for NYT constructors with 10+ published puzzles, raising it to $360 per 15×15 daily. Will’s note says that the newbie rate of $300 remains “the highest for any daily venue.” Au contraire! Daily Celebrity Crossword (13×13, not open to general submissions, co-edited by Trip Payne and me) pays $400 per puzzle.
  • 4d. [Mideastern heat?], UZI. Not keen on cutesy question-marked clues for weapons of war.
  • 15d. [Witch], CRONE. The only “crone” usage that doesn’t irk me is that of a woman I follow on Twitter (she has reclaimed the term). Here are her Vine clips featuring animals in Texas. (Aside: Why is there no croissant/scone hybrid called the crone yet?)

4.2 stars from me.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ Fireball crossword, “Ending With a Boom”—Jenni’s write-up

This is the last crossword of the 2016 Fireball season. I doubt the name is a coincidence. Subscriptions for the 2017 edition of Fireball Crosswords are available! Sign up here.

12/15 FB puzzle, solution grid

I was mostly through this puzzle before I figured out the gimmick. The revealer helped. 61a is [What a performer might do after a great performance … and what you have to do to understand four answers in this puzzle]. The answer is DROP THE MIC. 

  • 17a [One end of the Straits of Mackinac] is LAKE (MIC)HIGAN. MIC is our rebus. 14d [Fetid] crosses (MIC) and that gives us M(MIC)IASM. That makes no sense…until you drop the mic  to the end of the answer, which turns into MIAS(MIC). That was a very satisfying “aha” moment.
  • 24a [Author who wrote the 1948 winner of the Pulitzer for Fiction] = JAMES (MIC)HENER. 8d [Widespread disease] starts out as PAND(MIC)E and turns into PANDE(MIC).
  • 39a [Clause pause cause] is SE(MIC)OLON. 32d [Controversial argument] is P(MIC)OLE, which unscrambles to POLE(MIC).
  • 50a [Characteristic radiation of an element] is ATO(MIC) SPECTRUM. 43d [Big-picture] is PA(MIC)NORA, or PANORA(MIC).

This is one of my favorite FB themes of the year. It wasn’t immediately obvious but it was very do-able. Fun, fun, fun.

A few other things:

  • 5d [Oldest rookie in Major League Baseball history] was a gimme; Satchel PAIGE, who debuted for the Indians on July 9, 1948, after pitching in the Negro Leagues for 21 years. With all the fuss about steroid use in baseball, and excluding players from the Hall of Fame because they are tainted, no one has suggested we reconsider Ruth or Gehrig or Jimmie Foxx or Ty Cobb because they didn’t have to face anyone who wasn’t white, which was a hell of an advantage.
  • 9a [Short-hop] is more baseball – the answer is TRAP. As Ade says, sports will make you smarter.
  • 19a [“Yeah, right!”] is I BET. I’ve seen this repeatedly in puzzles in the last week. Is it just me?
  • 24d [Cabbage source?] gives us the question mark so we know it’s not about vegetables. I had MOB until I got the crossing – the answer is actually JOB, which is not as interesting.
  • Trademark Peter Gordon longer-than-average clue: 40d [2007 Katharine McPhee hit with the line “You never were a friend of mine”]. The answer is OVER IT. My kid wasn’t listening to Top 40 radio in 2007 so I didn’t know this one.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle (in addition to the 2007 hit referenced above): the other Peter Gordon Very Long Clue. 44a [Norwegian skier Bjaaland who was a member of Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition] is at least a different way to clue OLAV.

Heidi Moretta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Metal Detector” — Jim’s review

Fairly standard add-a-letter theme (actually, add-two-letters), but we get a high theme density. 66a is our revealer: [Metal detected in this puzzle’s theme answers], i.e. IRON, whose AT. NO., we’re told at 15a, is 26.

WSJ – Thu, 12.15.16 – “Metal Detector” by Heidi Moretta (Mike Shenk)

  • 16a [Beach-going Burmese?] FELINE IN THE SAND. Line in the sand.
  • 33a [Bewilderment gripping the Pentagon?] DEFENSE FOG. Dense fog. As in the “fog of war.” Or the “fog of wafer,” I suppose.
  • 40a [Maples planted in honor of military musicians?] FIFER TREES. Fir trees.
  • 58a [Observation about a dairy farm, to anyone with eyes?] HEIFERS APPARENT. Heirs apparent.
  • 9d [Cookies with a five-pointed shape?] STAR WAFERS. Star Wars.
  • 26d [Knights more in need of hearing aids?] DEAFER SIRS. “Dear Sirs.”

Most of these are fine but didn’t bring the yuks for me. I did like STAR WAFERS, and the change from HEIRS to HEIFERS is unexpected and therefore cool.

With so much theme, there’s not much room for long interesting fill. Such fill is limited to ECHELON, CODE RED, STASSEN, and TIDE RIP, the last two of which are new to me (46a, [Perennial candidate Harold] and 41d, [Turbulence caused by conflicting currents]).

Cluing was of a typical Thursdayish level, but I didn’t find it too opaque or filled with trivia. Some noteworthy clues were:

  • 12a [Daniel Inouye’s final word]. ALOHA. I don’t think the clue means his actual last word (he died in 2012), just that ALOHA is a word of farewell and Mr. Inouye was the long-serving senator from Hawaii. He is still the highest ranking Asian American to serve office in U.S. history.
  • 22d [Inclusive pronoun]. HE/SHE. How much longer will this “pronoun” stick around, now that we can use singular “they?”
  • 28a [Food many compare to wallpaper paste]. POI. Another Hawaii reference. I tried POI once when I was a kid. Of course, I didn’t know anything about wallpaper paste at the time, but my impression of the stuff was not favorable.
  • 32a [Tauromachian shouts]. OLES. Well, you learn something new every day. I thought the clue was referring to a geographical location, but it turns out tauromachy is the art of bullfighting. Nice to learn a new word!

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Couch Surfing” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.15.16: “Couch Surfing”

Good afternoon, everyone! It’s officially brick cold outside here in New York City,
as I’m sure it is in various places around the country now. Stay warm, everyone. If you’re in Florida or Arizona or Australia right now, I’m sticking my tongue out at you as we speak!!

Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, is a word progression,in the sense that the letters “S-O-F-A” shift symmetrically from left to right with each theme entry going down the grid, with the final theme entry, SLEEPER SOFA, also acting as the reveal (62A: [Foldout furniture…and a hint to what’s moving across 17-, 28-, 48-, and 62-Across]).

  • SO FAR SO GOOD (17A: [“No blips in the plan yet”])
  • IPSO FACTO (28A: [Intrinsically])
  • NOT SO FAST (48A: [“Wait just a second”])

Loved doing this grid, even though the bottom part of the grid, towards the middle, was a little tough for me with the intersection of LASSI (51D: [Indian yogurt drink often flavored with mango]) and SIGMA, as I’m not all caught up on my improvement methods, you know (66a: [Six _____ (quality assurance term])?!  Also, I liked the term GOOGLY EYES, as I don’t think I’ve come across that in a grid before (11D: [Cookie Monster’s peepers]). Nice to see YOGI (7D: [Bear or Berra]) and NY METS in the grid together, as, not only am I a New York baseball fan (at least historically), but Yogi Berra used to manage the Metropolitans in the 1970s (45A: [NL East squad]). Berra actually was the manager of the 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets team that made it to the World Series before losing to the Oakland Athletics. OK, no more sports until later. Finally, when I came across IT GUY, I sometimes thought about about a tech person, and sometimes, I thought about someone who is referred to as having a certain “je ne sais quoi” about him, the “IT” guy (22A: [PC fixer]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BLACK SOX (4D: [Nickname for a scandalized Chicago baseball team]) – The 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball team that lost in the World Series that year to the Cincinnati Reds will forever known the BLACK SOX for the role a few members of that team had in accepting money – or merely knowing that players had accepted money – to intentionally lose the World Series. The players’ motivation for accepting the money was twofold – to get rich(er) quick and to stick it to their unpopular boss, owner Charles Comiskey, who was known to be a skinflint when it came to paying his players. Eight men were subsequently banished from the game for life, as the scandal actually led to the creation of the position of Commissioner of Baseball. The judge who handed down the ban was Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of the game.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a good rest of your Thursday. Oh, and STAY WARM!

Take care!


Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I bet I’m not the only one who struggled to parse the central revealing answer: [Indication of cooperation with ones hidden in this puzzle’s four other longest answers]. The four long answers all hide fictional sea captains: whaler Ahab, submariner Nemo, the US Navy’s Queeg, and piratical Hook. Captain Pugwash is feeling left out. The answers are solid, colourful even, which is good given the difficulty of hiding some of those terms: OM(AHAB)EACH, O(NEMO)RETIME, S(QUEEG)EEMOP, and ALLS(HOOK)UP.

The most noticeable feature of the ballast is the big corners. LEMONTEA and ORANGERY make a cute pair, with an ICEMAKER complementing them on the opposite side. The one outlier in a pretty clean grid today is USMAPS. I’m not convinced that is any more than green paint, especially in the plural!

3.5 Stars

Daft Punk – One More Time by hushhush112

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Hearing Aides” — Ben’s Review

BEQ’s given us a cryptic today!  It’s a nice one, although there are definitely some tricky words and clues in there, including TORQUEMADA and SCINTILLA.  It felt a bit proper noun heavy, with THE NATION, BLETCHLEY, WYNNE, WILL SHORTZ, and ERNO RUBIK all hanging out in there.  According to BEQ, this was originally for a book, so depending on the theme there, that may explain the choices here.  I’m leaving this one unranked since it seems unfair to hold a cryptic to a crossword’s standards (and vice versa).  Hopefully you enjoyed this one!

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15 Responses to Thursday, December 15, 2016

  1. Zulema says:

    Very cute, especially for a Thursday. I have gotten used to DNF for this day of the week, but early in this one I realized that FA and LA were needed, and went on from there. Agree with all your comments, Amy, except I am used to CRONE=Witch in puzzles.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I loved the Fireball. Great way to end the year. Peter & Gordon (the musicians) out.

  3. placematfan says:

    That Fireball is darling.

  4. ethan says:

    Lovely NYT. Good, solid theme phrases, and “GRANDFATHER CLAUSE” was a fascinating (and sad) bit of history that was new to me too. (I always have seen the phrase “grandfathered in” as harmless — I wonder if some African-Americans see it differently?)

    Sadly too relevant nowadays — I suspect we’re going to see a renewed assault on voting rights in the next administration.

  5. sbmanion says:

    Amy’s blogs and the comments are precisely why I love this blog. I do not care as much about the ratings of a particular puzzle as many of you. I had no idea what the origin of grandfather clause was and would not have thought to look it up since I know what it means in zoning and other similar issues that still use the phrase. I found it fascinating to learn its racist origins.


  6. Arthur Schulman says:

    Deck the halls with loaves of challah! A good idea, a splendid realization: one of the nicest puzzles I’ve seen in a while.

  7. Bruce N Morton says:

    ‘Rages’ was easy enough to get, crossing ‘regular’, but the word I know for a wild party is ‘rave.’ I once knew a woman online tiwh the screen name ladyraves. A very nice puzzle.

  8. golfballman says:

    Wasn’t Mrs alexander Hamilton an Elizabeth not Eliza?

  9. Linda says:

    Anybody got the recipe for the star wafers in the picture? If real, please publish a link!

    ((*_*)) Linda

  10. ann says:

    Gareth you posted the wrong LAT solution grid again.

  11. Joan Macon says:

    Ann is right, the comments for the LAT are right but the grid is yesterday’s. Is the reason we so often have problems with the LAT that we are behind everyone time wise for posting?

    This situation may give me Pannonica’s synergistic dyspepsia.

Comments are closed.