Tuesday, December 27, 2016

CS 6:33 (Ade) 


Jonesin' 5:05 (Derek) 


LAT 3:45 (Derek) 


NYT 4:02 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Herre Schouwerwou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 27 16, no 1227

Quick take tonight. Theme revealer is 60a. [Surprised reaction … or a hint to what can precede both halves of the answers to the starred clues], DOUBLE TAKE. Each of the five theme answers consists of a two-word phrase or a compound word in which each component can follow the word TAKE. HEART SHAPE, COVER CHARGE, DOWN HOME, BACK AWAY, and AFTEREFFECT (the one-word outlier) feed into take heart, take shape, etc.

Five things:

  • 14a. [___ Bunt, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” henchwoman], IRMA. Who?? On a Tuesday, you drop an IRMA who’s almost never in crosswords?
  • 1d. [Crusade against “infidels”], JIHAD. Something about those quotation marks doesn’t sit right with me.
  • 43a. [Partial rainbow near the horizon], SUNDOG. This is also an effect seen over Lake Michigan on a bitterly cold morning last week. Meteorologist Tom Skilling gathered folks’ photos of the local sundogs.
  • 38d. [Suffering from senility, say], HALF GONE. What a terrible, thoughtless clue.
  • 34d. [Humorist who wrote “Candy / Is dandy / But liquor / Is quicker”], OGDEN NASH. I always enjoy Ogden Nash but just realized that maybe this particular rhyme espouses rape culture.

Three stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 291), “Farewell, 2016″—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 12/27 (No. 291)

Crossword Nation 12/27 (No. 291)

Only four days more and then (in the words of Weird Al Y.), “Another one rides the bus.” To which Ms. Gorski says at 67A. [“Toodle-oo!” … and a hint to the theme hidden in five horizontal answers], or: “TA-TA!” With no circles to guide us (something I’m glad of), notice how the first two letters of each word in the two-word-themers are “T-A.” A fitting year-end send-off. I only wish the themers packed more punch than they do. They’re serviceable all right, but—as a theme set—not particularly sparkly (in a festive, end-of-year way…).

  • 17A. TATE TAYLOR [Director of “The Help” and “The Girl on the Train”]. Where the latter is concerned, this one. Not this one, which Amazon Prime is offering, but doesn’t look to be worth the time—free or not. That said, the one with Emily Blunt is perhaps only marginally better…
  • 25A. TALL TALE [Unlikely story].
  • 38A. TAKEOVER TARGETS [Companies eyed by Microsoft or Apple]. Grid-spanner.
  • 50A. TAX TABLE [Columned chart in an IRS publication].
  • 62A. TAILOR TACK [Dressmaker’s pattern marker]. When I was a kid, my mom made a lot of my clothes, so I’m very familiar with the term. In case you’re not, these pix show a variety of methods, including the use of multiple threads, and chalk…

Oh, for some TABLE TALK. Oh, for some TART TATIN! But (because of TARTS [Small fruit pies], for one) ’twasn’t to be. Ça va.

munchWe do get some fine, longer fill, though, with WENT TO SEA and PAINTINGS. The latter is particularly evocative since it’s been clued as [“The Milkmaid” and “The Scream,” e.g.], and what a study in contrasts this pair makes! Nice, too, that the punny [Top drawer?] clues ARTIST, which shares top-row-down billing with those PAINTINGS. (In that same row, also like TO A MAN.)

WHATNOT [This, that and the other] is a fun pairing, and not to be confused with ETC. [Shorthand for “blah, blah, blah”], another good clue. I also like ENCORES, those [Recital extras] and the way they can also be heard during a night at the OPERA, so to speak. And if OPERA aint’ your thing, you can spend some time with pop music’s BABS Streisand, or jazzy Mabel MERCER, or rock’s THE WHO. Something for everyone.

vermeerIn a puzzle with “TA-TA” as a theme, TAE BO, with its initial TA (ditto TARTS…) is not entirely welcome. No way to legitimately [“Make IT A double!”]. Different syllable, I know, but along those “double” lines, NO-NO seemed right at home.

Several lively, punny clues today, and I’ve already mentioned [Top drawer?]. But let me also call out [Like hot stuff?] for STOLEN (and not for someone who enjoys sriracha,) and [Fed the kitty?] for ANTED (and not for someone who presented Fancy Feast to his/her pet). Oh—and I also like the rhymed [Stick with a kick] for TNT. Full disclosure: it took me longer than I care to admit to parse that one…

And where Crossword Nation is concerned, dear readers, that is a wrap for 2016. Going into 2017, wish I could say I feel as placid as Vermeer’s subject looks, but fear Munch’s guy more accurately captures my inner state these days. Breathe, Jane… And maybe keep solvin’. Yeah. That’s the ticket. Wishing you all good health and only the best in the coming year!

Champagne glasses clinking against colourful fireworks exploding on black background

Martin Leechman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wicked Game” — Jim’s review

Clever title in this puzzle that makes you think of the Chris Isask hit. But there’s a pronunciation switcheroo in it. It’s not the two-syllable synonym for evil we’re looking at, but instead the one-syllable word meaning “something with a wick” — that is, CANDLES, as we’re told at 62a [What the answers to the starred clues all have].

WSJ – Tue, 12.27.16 – “Wicked Game” by Martin Leechman (Mike Shenk)

  • 13a [*Hanukah display] MENORAH
  • 22a [*They might serve the party] BIRTHDAY CAKES
  • 36a [*Some Valentine’s plans] ROMANTIC DINNERS
  • 48a [*Halloween decorations] JACK-O-LANTERNS

This type of theme works fine in the early week and the tricky title elevates it, so I thought this one worked really well.

Interesting, and kinda nice, how each one is a celebration or holiday that isn’t Christmas.

We get a clean grid and a lot of fun fill today. FOLK SONG, TAKE HEAT, RADICALS, I GET THAT, and the oldie but goodie YO MAMA are the best of the lot. MADE CLEAR in the center is fine but tripped me up; I wanted MADE AWARE in answer to the clue [Elucidated].

We also get plenty of 7s in the corners that are as long as two of the theme answers (hence the need for the asterisks). My favorite of these are 18a LA JOLLA and 61a WINSOME. This last one contrasts nicely with its crossing at 50d LAMER, which isn’t really LAMER at all, but LA MER [Debussy opus].

One low point is the 7-letter partial IN SMOKE (17a, [Bad way for things to go up]). Further, its grid counterpart at 57a feels like another partial (THE NILE, as in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile though it’s clued as [Place for Cleopatra’s barge]), but at least it feels like it can stand on its own more stably, so it gets a pass.

Clues of note:

  • 7a [Reminder of an old flame?] is ASH. Clever, clever clue, this.
  • 22d [Exquisite trinket] is BIJOU. I think I may have heard of this definition for the word, but I needed most of the crossings before I could dredge it up.
  • 15a [Circular cousin] had me thinking wood shop, hence I plopped in BAND SAW immediately. But that’s not right, is it? Here we’re talking about advertisements, and the correct answer LEAFLET.
  • 33d [Second chance for a couch potato] is RERUN. Do people watch reruns anymore? With so many streaming options and on-demand viewing, do TV networks still actually show reruns?

Overall, a good puzzle and a good start to this netherweek. See you tomorrow.

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Moon Shots” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.27.16: “Moon Shots”

Good day, everyone! I hope you’re all doing very well today as we continue our countdown of the final days of 2016. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, takes us to the moon and back, as the final word in each of the theme entries is also a moon phase (or shape).

  • WHAT ELSE IS NEW (20A: [“Tell me something I don’t know”])
  • FERTILE CRESCENT (25A: [Cradle of early civilization])
  • CANADIAN QUARTER (43A: [Coin that ordinarily features a caribou on its tails side])
  • PAYMENT IN FULL (49A: [It may be required to close an account])

I had been getting a little better with my knowledge of Pokémon, especially this past summer when hanging out with the constructor of this puzzle in August, but, sadly, I needed the crossings to figure out ABRA today (4D: [Pokémon that can eventually evolve into an Alakazam]). Liked the long fill in the grid, especially given the fact that I need a drink right now after a long few days of work. Probably will go with a couple of MAI TAIS (5D: [Tropical rum cocktails]) more than I would a HALF CAF, especially since I’m no fan of coffee, no matter the time of day it is (42D: [Somewhat stimulating coffee order]). Absolutely loved the clue/entry combination that featured with SPOILERS (9D: [Unwelcome giveaways, often]). SPOILER ALERT: the “sports…smarter” clue will come after this sentence!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NORSE (31D: [Like Thor and Loki]) – What if I told you that you can find a lot of the entry featured right now in Highland Heights, Kentucky? The athletics teams at Northern Kentucky University are nicknamed the NORSE, and the school was known for having one the best men’s basketball programs in Division II not too long ago. The Norse men’s basketball team finished as national runner-up in both 1996 and 1997. NKU moved up to Division I in 2012.

See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!

Take care!


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Keep Dividing” – Derek’s write-up

Only three thematic entries in this one, but Matt rewards us with great fill otherwise. Clever theme, too: let’s add a fraction to some common phrases and clue the ensuing silliness!

  • 17A [50% of an ice cream dessert?] HALF-BAKED ALASKA
  • 41A [25% of property to play in?] QUARTERBACK YARD
  • 66A [12.5% of a push-up undergarment?] EIGHTH WONDER-BRA

I told you it was clever! They’re even in order; they get progressively smaller by 1/2 each time! Nice and tidy, surely pleasing the theme gods! 4.3 stars.

A few comments:

    • 1A [“Better Call Saul” star Odenkirk] BOB – Still gotta finish watching Breaking Bad before I tackle this one.
    • 40A [Mythical monster that’s part woman, part serpent] LAMIA – This is a toughie, unless you’re a big fan of sci fi!
    • 74A [“__ Like the Wind” (Patrick Swayze song)] SHE’S – To get stuck in your head:

    • 4D [Titular TV attorney of the ’90s – ’00s] MCBEAL – Ah, I remember Ally McBeal well. Even though I really didn’t watch it much. Here’s something else to get stuck in your head:

  • 34D [Cremona violinmaking family name] AMATI – I need to research this family and Stradivarius so I have them straight as to who’s who!
  • 51D [“The Jerk” actress Bernadette] PETERS – I am old, so I remember her. According to imdb.com, she was on an episode or two of Ally McBeal!

Matt is still a master! Hopefully we will see him again at the ACPT, which is rapidly approaching!

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

Fun little puzzle. Sometimes you don’t realize how many common phrases share initials! And a clever reveal at 62A:

  • 16A [Shellfish dish in a cream sauce] LOBSTER NEWBERG
  • 24A [Drivers’ ID figures] LICENSE NUMBERS
  • 41A [Chemical used for quick freezing] LIQUID NITROGEN
  • 54A [The Times in Los Angeles, e.g.] LOCAL NEWSPAPER
  • 62A [Popular afternoon talk show, familiarly, and a homophonic hint to this puzzle’s four longest answers] ELLEN

As in “LN” for the homophonic hint! I guess it is technically called Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show according to imdb.com. Who knew? Usually you hear on the promos “On the next Ellen!” and that’s it. Oh, and I almost forgot: we have a 14×16 grid, which is almost mandatory with four 14-letters answers. Nice off-beat puzzle! 4.2 stars.

A few notes:

  • 28A [Convention clip-on] ID TAG – I had BADGE in here instead. Slowed me down, but just for a sec!
  • 47A [Stores, as ashes] INURNS – Yuk! Nobody says this, unless you’re an undertaker. And even then … I bet not!
  • 9D [Apple computer discontinued in 2006] POWER MAC – Wasn’t there also a Power PC that did both PC and Mac? I’ve slept since 2006!
  • 27D [Minn. neighbor] N. DAK. – This is also nowadays likely a crossword only entry. Most would simply write ND as an abbreviation. I could be wrong, though: I have never been to North Dakota!
  • 37D [Exacta relative] QUINELLA – This means you pick the first two winners of a horse race, in either order. I had to look this up, since I don’t gamble and I ESPECIALLY would never bet on animals!
  • 52D [Viral internet phenomenon] MEME – This word seems to be fairly new. Maybe from the last five years or so? And is it meem or mehm?

It’s still cold here in Indiana! Come on spring!

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15 Responses to Tuesday, December 27, 2016

  1. RP64 says:

    I disagree that the Ogden Nash quote is espousing the rape culture. I think one can enjoy candy, or have liquor get you to your happy place quicker, without wanting to rape someone. There are many males who can enjoy alcohol without resorting to rape (even in excess, alcohol just makes me sleepy). I liked the puzzle. It’s an old style theme, but overall the I thought the puzzle was pretty clean.

    • Norm says:

      Amy makes a good point. Getting sex is the plain meaning of that rhyme. Now, lowered inhibitions are not the equivalent of unable-to-consent rape, but … there’s a fine line, and there are plenty of other Ogden Nash couplets that could have been used without going onto thin ice. Heck, it’s Tuesday, what would have been wrong with lama/llama? Those have appeared in enough puzzles over the years to be Monday territory, much less Tuesday.

      • Bencoe says:

        For some strange reason, I thought that rhyme was by Dorothy Parker. Probably because of her funny little suicide poem. And I thought this rhyme was funny. Now that I know it was written by a man I agree it seems a little creepy, yet I have to wonder about the gender duality in my thought process.

      • Bencoe says:

        Also, I would argue that at that point in history a woman often didn’t feel like she was “allowed” to have sex. A gift gave an excuse. It sounds awful in modern times, but that was then.

  2. Lise says:

    NYT: I thought there were several great clues and answers in this puzzle, but mostly it made me sad. I think that we should leave jihad and dementia out of a venue that is supposed to be amusing and fun. There is nothing fun about either of those things. On the Wordplay site the constructor wrote that his aim was to be festive, but I see nothing festive about it.

    Thanks for listening. There was much to like about this puzzle, and I’m sorry to be so negative. But still.

  3. Glenn says:

    Still no access to the WSJ .puz file.

    • Glenn says:

      Sorry for posting this. I had not seen the comments from yesterday. I wonder why the WSJ doesn’t make a .puz format download available from their own website?

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Hi Glenn. I saw your post on the WSJ site as well. Some sites might not offer a .puz version because it means fewer eyeballs seeing their ads. You mentioned the LA Times offering one, but I don’t think that’s quite right unless something’s changed. Last I heard, cruciverb.com gets a .puz version directly from the LA Times (or with their approval) as a favor to the puzzling community, but the LA Times site itself does not offer one. We here at the Fiend get ours from cruciverb (since we’re all such good buddies).

        It would be nice if the WSJ offered one to the community as well, but all we can do is ask nicely. The one we get access to here is, shall we say, forged without the blessing of the paper.

        • Glenn says:

          Jim, thanks for the clarification about the LA Times. I wasn’t aware of all the details. I certainly take your point about the desire to keep “eyeballs” on WSJ pages. It is, however, from my perspective as a WSJ subscriber, more than a case of “it would be nice”if they provided access to .puz. It’s a case of “separate and unequal treatment” for subsets of their subscribers. They offer the Java-based online version which presents problems for many Windows 10 users (including me). They, I believe, offer the puzzles in their iPad WSJ app but that excludes subscribers who don’t own Apple products. They do not offer access to the puzzles in their Android WSJ app, so subscribers like me are left out there That’s why I keep poking at them about offering a “legal” .puz version that could be used in a variety of Android crossword apps. At one point, I saw the WSJ’s instructions for constructors and, if I remember correctly, .puz is their preferred format for receiving puzzle contributions. So, how difficult could it be to provide access to that format on their website?

  4. Alan D. says:

    Is there a Jonesin’ puzzle today or is he skipping today?

  5. jack says:

    WSJ-Northeast corner. Am I the only one who sung a lilt to myself while solving?

  6. Noam D. Elkies says:

    It feels particularly unfortunate to clue 1D:JIHAD as a “crusade” of all things . . . Why not just say “holy war”? Or clue it metaphorically. Though ironically Merriam-Webster defines that sense of the word as “a crusade for a principle or belief”!

    • pannonica says:

      Or make a bolder statement by emphasizing the “personal struggle” aspect. No reason to—intellectually speaking—promote the path of least resistance which ironically promulgates the greatest dissent. A criticism that’s been levelled before in these pages.

  7. Kent Byron says:

    Any reason why the Jonesin’ crossword’s link does not work this week? I like the .PUZ format and like to work it on my own system after downloading it on a public computer. (My system is not connected; too expensive.)


  8. Bencoe says:

    Lately I’ve felt like anything inessential is trivial, a dangerous way to feel. Although I haven’t been able to solve a crossword in months, I still love this site. I skimmed through the last few days, quickly, blasé, and then froze. My favorite artist. The one I stared at for hours in the Rijksmuseum. The one I have traveled around the world to see, the one I sat with for a day in the Metropolitan, Jan Vermeer. Those secret, magical moments can come at the most unexpected times.

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