Thursday, January 12, 2017

BEQ 8:53 (Ben) 


CS 8:17 (Ade) 


Fireball 12:10 (Jenni) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 5:29 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 12 17, no 0112

This theme has nine entries of just 3 to 5 letters, plus the visual theme extension of black squares splitting the grid in two:

  • 1a. [Route follower], BUS / 4a. [___ Conference], TED / 7a. [Word following 1-/4-Across, appropriately], APART. Combine BUS and TED and your phrase is BUSTED APART.
  • 35a. [Government stance on texting while driving], BAN / 36a. [Santa ___], ANA / 37a. [Word following 35-/36-Across, appropriately], SPLIT. Banana split.
  • 61a. [“Dude!”], BRO / 62a. [___ doll], KEN / 63a. [Words following 61-/62-Across, appropriately], IN TWO. Broken in two.

The puzzle breaks the rule of having all parts of the grid interconnected, since there were no answers connecting them other than the quasi-link provided by those cross-referenced clues. Did any of you have trouble jumping from one side to the other while solving?

I’m not loving the look of the grid, but if you turn your head 90° sideways you see that it does indeed have left/right symmetry that way. I like the basic theme concept, but found it jarring that BAN/ANA SPLIT is not at all synonymous with BUS/TED APART and BRO/KEN IN TWO.

Seven more things:

  • 18a. [Japanese flower-arranging art], IKEBANA. I needed the E and the first A in place to remember what the word was. Martin Herbach, are your creations online anywhere for people to admire?
  • 33a. [Edwin M. ___, war secretary under Lincoln], STANTON. Hey! I knew this one. Please don’t quiz me on vice presidents from the 19th century, though.
  • 44a. [Fruity libation], SANGRIA. As an anti-red-winer (tannins! migraines!), let me say that it is an American tragedy that sangria isn’t made with white wine more often.
  • 51a. [Pity evoker], SAD CASE. This one doesn’t feel “in the language” to me.
  • 55a. [Called from a stall, say], NEIGHED. Tell me the truth: I know you take your cell phone into the bathroom stall with you. Do you call anyone to neigh, or do you just text, check email, etc.?
  • 27d. [Coffee shop offering], DONUT. Wait, what?
  • 39d. [Out of bed, in a way?], AWEIGH. Who doesn’t love nautical terminology lurking behind a tricky clue? (ME, I DON’T.) Pull the anchor up out of the sea or lake’s bed/floor, and your anchor’s aweigh.

3.75 stars from me.

Doug Peterson’s Fireball crossword, “Fitting In With”—Jenni’s write-up

Welcome to the eighth year of Fireball Crosswords! We get started with a extra-large helping of Fireball in this 17×17 grid. I bounced around for a few minutes until I grokked the theme, and then it was pretty straightforward. If you did the puzzle, can you guess which theme answer I dislike?

We have to fit in with, literally. Each theme answer has w/, which is widely used shorthand for “with.” The / comes from the crossing answer. You’ll notice I had to reveal one of those square – Black Ink won’t allow me to put a / in the square. They wanted an “S.”

  • NYT 1/11 puzzle, solution grid

    21a [Sharp cheddar?] = CHEESEW/EDGE, crossing ON/OFF for [Like a basic switch].

  • 12d [Selling point of a hip-hop sushi restaurant?] = SEAWEEDW/RAP, crossing YES/NO, [Simple to respond to].
  • 29d [Disney spotted next to a contract fulfiller?] = WALTW/HITMAN, crossing [Band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003], AC/DC. That’s the one that gave me the theme. I filled in enough crossings to see HITMAN and then the light dawned.
  • If you guessed 69a [Like Octomom, before delivery?] as the one I disliked, give yourself a gold star. The answer is HEAVYW/EIGHT, crossing HE/SHE, clued as [They alternative, at times]. The nickname The word OCTOMOM is demeaning and dehumanizing. Acknowledging the use of “they” for the gender-neutral third person singular, replacing the clumsy HE/SHE, redeems it a little. Just a little.

My distaste for 69a aside, I liked this theme. The level of difficulty was just right, Goldilocks; it took some figuring out but wasn’t impossible, and it was satisfying once I got it.

A few other things:

  • 15a [Crept higher, as shorts] is RODE UP. The answer made me smile, although the phenomenon does not.
  • 7a [___-hiking (long-distance, end-to-end trail activity)] is THRU. My father-in-law thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2005, when he was 68. He’d already hiked all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks in his 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s; he hiked them all in each month of the year; he hiked them all in each season; he hiked them all at night; he even hiked them all in black fly season, which is just ridiculous. So then he had to count something else, and he picked the miles of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Trademark Peter Gordon very long clue: 56a [Film character described by Roger Ebert as “a slimy, gruesome, reptilian monster made of warts and teeth”]. It’s JABBA.
  • 40d [“Star Trek” extras] is too short to be REDSHIRTS. I dropped ALIENS in at first. Wrong. It’s YEOMEN.
  • It’s worse than that, it’s physics! 63a [Property of protons and electrons] = SPIN and 67d [What like poles do] = REPEL.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AANDW restaurants have a mascot called Rooty.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Brighten Up” — Jim’s review

Another nicely-executed theme, this time by Alex Eaton-Salners who’s proven he can come up with the goods. Here we’re looking for a RISING SUN as we’re told at 59a [1992 Michael Crichton bestseller, and a hint to four answers in this puzzle].

WSJ – Thu, 1.12.17 – “Brighten Up” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [Rip apart] TEAR A{SUN}DER. Good phrase, though I’m not a fan of 4d NUS [Fraternity letters]. (Also note 4d A GAS, shouts out to yesterday’s puzzle.)
  • 21a [Begs for mercy] CRIE{S UN}CLE. This is where I figured things out.
  • 38a [Hardly in agreement] DI{SUN}ITED. Meh. I’ll discuss this one below.
  • 55a [Alternative to a blessing?] GE{SUN}DHEIT. Great entry, although did everyone spell it correctly the first time?

So, yeah. DISUNITED. That one is kind of a downer. It was the very last thing to go in the grid for me (specifically, the T). I didn’t recognize it as a themer even with all but one letter filled in. Then, once I spotted the NU in ONUS and realized it was included in the theme, I struggled to parse out the actual word, and once I did, it wasn’t so much of an “Aha!” as a “Meh!” It was such a down note to end the puzzle on. The other three entries are fantastic, but this one is just so blah.

While I’m in detracting mode, I didn’t care for SIPE (13d, [1980 NFL MVP Brian]) especially crossing uncommon Japanese word ENOKI. Also, IDED [Fingered, informally] is unsightly and we have two UPs that at first I thought were part of the theme: 19a DUG UP and 32a RIG UP. Finally, I’m on record as opposing the slangy TEENER. Actually, I don’t know who slangily uses that.

But I’m sure that the amount and layout of theme entries is the cause for such fill. Having some theme letters cross the main theme entries puts a lot of constraint in those areas.

And there’s a lot of great stuff besides: LOG CABINUKULELES, FAT LIP, PADAWAN, BOYCOTTSPOT ON, BONUS PAY, and I DARE NOT (even though I struggled to parse it). And word/typesetting geeks will swoon over the stacking of WIDOW [Typographical runover] and PAGINATE [Add numbers to].

So overall, the pluses outweigh the negatives, and this was an enjoyable puzzle.

A few clues of note:

  • 20a [Succotash half] is LIMAS. The other half is corn. If you’re into that sort of thing.
  • 52a [“Cheers,” e.g.] is TOAST. In the UK, it also means “thanks.”
  • 45a [Wired extension] is RENEWAL. I see what you did there.
  • 44d [Offering remarkable service?] is ACING. “Offering” doesn’t seem like the best word. “Providing” feels closer to the mark.

And I’m out. See you next week.

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

We’re supposed to have a high temperature in the 50s today, so the only “Chillin Chillin” I’ll be doing today is BEQ’s Thursday puzzle.  With a title like that, things were bound to be cold in the grid:

  • 17A:Those keeping the beat? —
  • 22A: Alcoholic beverages on some sci-fi shows? — NICELY NICELY JOHNSON
  • 64A:Breaks up into smaller sections — SLICES AND DICES

Yes, we’ve got two rebus squares in each of the themers today, so “chillin chillin” equals “ice ice”.  Those rebus squares allow the downs to contain JUICE UP, VOICED, ADVICE, EPICENE, CICERO, and BICEPS in a fraction of the squares usually required.  My brain’s a bit on overdrive this week since it’s the MIT Mystery Hunt starting tomorrow, so this was a nice little warmup puzzle to kick off the day.

(I’m required by Crossword Review Law to post this song in my writeup when theme entries include two ICE rebus squares)

3.75/5 stars

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “A Deep Subject” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.12.17: “A Deep Subject”

Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is all about defining the same word in (at least) four different ways, as each of the clues to the theme answers is just one solitary word, well, and the answers are all various definitions of that word. Well then!

  • STAIRWAY OPENING (17A: [Well])
  • SOURCE OF OIL (26A: [Well])
  • NO LONGER ILL (44A: [Well])
  • PLACE FOR WISHING (59A: [Well])

Not that I’m not a fan of the BEE GEES, but I’d much rather have a different group currently serving as an earworm right now than what’s playing in my head at the moment (39A: [“How Deep Is Your Love” group]). Oh, and speaking of the frequency illusion phenomenon I talked about a couple of days back, I absolutely heard that song when I was waiting on line at the grocery store recently. Speaking of things in my head recently, STREEP‘s Golden Globes’ speech definitely still is resonating, and for all the right reasons (48A: [Silkwood portrayer]). Definitely need to get some OINTMENT to treat my creaky knee, and I think the reason for the creakiness is all of those road trips on cramped buses that I’ve taken recently (38D: [Balm]). I keep telling myself, “More Amtrak, less Greyhound,” but I haven’t made that a 100 percent reality just yet. Alright, time to walk out into the near 60-degree weather here today! Nice!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OREL (28D: [ESPN’s Hershiser]) – I’m pretty sure that former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher OREL Hershiser is no longer with ESPN, as he’s now the main analyst on Dodgers games that are broadcast locally on Time Warner Cable. Anyways, just know that Hershiser was also a three-time All-Star who won the Cy Young Award in 1988 as he led the Dodgers to their last World Series title in that season.

TGIF tomorrow! See you then!

Take care!


C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle, features theme answers changed by the addition of an “E” that doesn’t change the pronunciation. The new answers are clued “wacky style” as they say.

The themers are:

  • [Miss America runner-up?], SILVERBELLE
  • [Passage for the birds?, AVIANFLUE
  • [Little Jack Horner’s dream?], LIFEOFPIE
  • [Emulating the writing style of “The Quiet American”?], GOINGGREENE. Given the number of surnames with extra “E’s”, it was appreciated that Zhouqin limited this to just one in the theme.
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27 Responses to Thursday, January 12, 2017

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: it was a nice twist on Thursday playfulness.

    I also liked the juxtaposition of UNAWARE and COVERUP. It gave me hope that the rest of the grid would be about various other ways of being in the dark… it would be apt given how the truth seems to have taken a hit these days and discerning it has become a challenge.

    SIRI has competition in our house, thanks to a Christmas present. It’s Alexa and I think it’s very cool… great for playing music and making and tracking lists.

    And thanks to Norm and Martin for your input re Across Lite! It’s working now and I greatly appreciate it!

  2. Martin says:


    How kind of you to ask about my ikebana. Generally, I don’t like taking photos of my arrangements because they lose so much in the process of squeezing them into two dimensions. But since you asked, here’s one of Japanese narcissus and small asters that’s representative of the rikka style of my Ikenobo school.

  3. Ben Johnston says:

    Re: Fireball

    I read HE/SHE as being the now defunct non-gendered third-person singular pronoun, not as a nickname for a trans or non-binary person (which I agree would be totally inappropriate).

    I just use “they” now, as does everyone I know. But I definitely saw the term show up in academic writing when I was in university.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      My son had long hair when he was younger, and there was another boy at his day camp who called him “he/she” as an insult. The term is definitely out there in the world as a way to minimize and insult people who are transgender or nonbinary. (And “he/she” is often entirely inappropriate as a pronoun for someone who’s nonbinary and doesn’t identify with either “he” or “she” as their pronoun.)

      • Jenni Levy says:

        I agree that it’s an insult when used that way. I read the clue the same way Ben did. Did I say otherwise in the review?

        Ah-hah. My antecedents are unclear. I was objecting to OCTOMOM, not HE/SHE. Will clarify.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    FYI, re wine: on 12-6-16 reported thee following: “Many studies have shown that drinking wine, especially red wine, seems to have modest benefits for heart health, as long as you drink it in moderate amounts. A study published this week, though, offers a more worrisome message: white wine might increase your risk of skin cancer. The bottom line: a daily glass of white wine carries a 13% increased risk in melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Surprisingly, though, red wine did not carry the same risk. In fact, when the authors separated out beer, red wine, white wine, and other forms of alcohol, only white wine carried any risk for melanoma.”

    • David L says:

      As someone who, like Amy, drinks only white wine and never red (though for different reasons), this is news I choose to ignore. It seems implausible in any case. From a chemical standpoint, red wine is white wine with extra stuff in it. So if white wine increases the likelihood of melanoma, we would have to believe that it has some dangerous ingredient that is miraculously counteracted by some other ingredient in red wine.

      Here’s my explanation: people who drink white wine are more likely to do so while sitting outside on sunny days, while red wine drinkers are more likely to imbibe indoors. Since I avoid the sun as much as possible I think I am safe. Cheers!

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    What a treat for us this week – first yesterday’s terrific AVCX and now this gem of an FB from Doug. I also staggered around for quite a while, but once I understood the mechanism, the lovely play between the clueing and each w/ phrase was outstanding. Like Jenni, I also had some discomfort with the He/She entry, but I think Ben’s reading above is reasonable. Overall, 4.5 stars from me.

  6. MattF says:

    Re: Fireball. Actually, Black Ink -does- let you put a slash in a space– if you go into the ‘insert more than one letter in this space’ mode. But the puzzle still wanted S’s in the spaces, so go figure.

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Jenni, it never occurred to me to think of HE/SHE as anything but an attempt to avoid the use of THEY as a non-gendered third-person pronoun. HE/SHE conveys the notion that doctors and physicists can be female, and nurses can be male. I’ve seen it quite often, and always in that context. A more streamlined version that I prefer and still use at times is S/HE.

  8. Thomas says:

    The only really interesting thing about this puzzle was that it broke the app for me. I have Words With Crosses set to advance to the next parallel clue at the end of a word, and it crashed every time it tried to find an open space in the central column.

  9. Doug says:

    The inspiration for this Fireball theme hit me when I saw some plastic snowman decorations for sale before Christmas. The tag on each one said “SNOWMAN WHAT,” which baffled me. I finally figured it out, and a theme was born.

    And yes, the HE/SHE entry was referring only to the mostly obsolete pronoun. The insult never entered my mind. There are only so many “slashed” phrases out there to choose from. :)

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Love the snowman inspiration!

      I clarified my post to make it clear I understood the HE/SHE reference. I don’t like the crossing theme entry.

    • sharkicicles says:

      Ha, that’s awesome.

    • mmespeer says:

      Aha! I was wondering about that. I saw what was going on and knew I needed some form of “with”. I just left the box blank so I didn’t get a happy pencil and then I couldn’t figure out why there were S’s in the solution shown. Love the “Snowman What”.

  10. Mark McClain says:

    Joe Krozel, Thursday NYT, weird-looking grid? I guess my expectations were pretty high for a real lulu, but afraid it was a letdown with not very much theme material and a muted aha when it was figured out. Enjoyable all the same.

  11. Nina says:

    Well, I learned a new word from NYT: MASERS

Comments are closed.