Thursday, January 26, 2017

BEQ 8:07 (Ben) 


CS untimed (Ade) 


Fireball 9:16 (Jenni) 


LAT 6:15 (Gareth) 


NYT dnf (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


AV Club Crosswords update! Ben Tausig and the AV team raised over $6,200 for Planned Parenthood on Wednesday. Well done!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 102″—Jenni’s write-up

Fireball 1/26 puzzle, solution grid

I was surprised to see that this took me less than ten minutes. It felt much longer than that. Puzzles always feel harder to me when I can’t get an immediate foothold in the NW.

There’s a lot of good stuff in this puzzle.

  • 1a [New York times?] are MINUTES, so now I have The Eagles in my head.
  • 8d [Like “Bad Girls” and “GoodFellas”] which are both RATED R.
  • 9d [Pen name of a contemporary of Coleridge and Wordsworth] is an original way to clue that crossword staple, ELIA.
  • 17a [1995 horror film about a possessed laundry-pressing machine, with “The”] is MANGLER. Apparently co-written by Stephen King. Anybody actually see it?
  • Peter also clues ELBA without reference to Napoleon, exile, or the Mediterranean. Instead we learn that [Portoferraio is its chief port].
  • More geography! 55a. [World capital about 450 miles from the intersection of the equator and the prime meridian] is SAO TOME, the capital of Sao Tome and Principe, officially known as the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
  • We have a grid-spanner at 36a with [“The gun that won the West” was one]. The answer is WINCHESTER RIFLE. I thought the syntax of the clue was odd – was there one particular Winchester rifle that won the West? – so I looked it up and discovered that there is controversy over which firearm deserves the sobriquet. The competitor is the Colt .45 single-action revolver. Interesting.
  • 26d [Youngest person to win the French Open] is MONICA SELES, who was sixteen the first time she took the title.
  • You were wondering when I was going to mention 4d, weren’t you? I’m saving the best for last. The clue is [Overly ornate, in Yiddish] and the answer is UNGAPATCHKA. I’m sure there are other ways to transliterate this word (for those who don’t know, Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet). The last Yiddish speaker in my family was my grandmother, and then only in her childhood, so the Yiddish we sprinkled into conversation was somewhat corrupted. My mother’s version of this word was “ungapatchnik,” as in “Did you see that living room? So ungapatchnik.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I have to thank our blogmistress for explaining 29d [Pulse-filled course]. The answer is LENTIL SOUP. I did not know that “pulses” are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family.

Hal Moore’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 26 17, no 0126

The theme is A LITTLE BIRDIE, with four rebus squares containing 4-letter birds. A LOON in BAL{LOON}IST and C{LOON}EY, TERN in FRA{TERN}ITY and E{TERN}AL, WREN in T.E. LA{WREN}CE and LO{W-REN}T, and CROW in {CROW}N ROYAL and IN-{CROW}D. I don’t know about you, but that 62a/54d crossing brought me to a screeching halt. Splitting one WREN across a hyphen with a clue, [Shabby], that could be a lot of things, while leaving me trying to figure out what bird fit into TELA*CE  to answer a trivia clue ([Best Picture subject nine inches shorter than the actor who portrayed him]) that didn’t ring a bell … well, I had to look up the solution to fill in that square. Would’ve gone down better if LOW-RENT weren’t the only entry where the bird word was split up.

Three more things:

  • 7a. [Weakness], ANEMIA. I don’t like this clue at all. Sure, anemic is applied to non-medical things, but ANEMIA is not, and ANEMIA’s most salient aspect isn’t weakness, not until it’s rather severe. Trust me—I’ve been anemic for a year and a half, but don’t throw [Weakness] at me.
  • 18a. [White House pets for Reagan and both Bushes], SPANIELS. We had an English springer spaniel when I was growing up.
  • 10d. [Subject of an 1820 compromise], MISSOURI. Technically, the subject of the Missouri Compromise was slavery.

Did you notice the Greek vibe, with SAPPHO, AGAMEMNON, and HELLENIC? (We omit FRATERNITY here, because that has nothing to do with Greece other than frats using the Greek alphabet.

TELL ME, NOT HERE, and ONE EYE all felt a bit contrived to me, as crossword entries go.

3.25 stars from me.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Slate” — Jim’s review

Initially, I thought we were just anagramming first words here, but I couldn’t make sense of the title. “Stale?” “Steal?” Then I found the nuance that tightened up the theme and made it a bit more interesting.

WSJ – Thu, 1.26.17 – “Slate” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Esthetic expert’s province?] TASTE DEPARTMENT. State.
  • 26a [Goads an army bigwig?] URGES ON GENERAL. Surgeon. This one really wants an article, either definite or indefinite, but it can’t have one.
  • 42a [Nicholas II’s charisma?] TSAR ATTRACTION. Star.
  • 56a [Like a thumping preacher compared to others?] WORSE ON THE BIBLE. Swore.

Did you catch on? If you look closely, all the other letters in the original first words remain in place. It’s just the initial S that changes position. So the S is “late,” ergo, the puzzle’s title is “Slate.”

Cute-ish, I guess, and it’s a nice way to tighten up a theme when there’s no other reason to be making anagrams.

But a couple things. While I like the first and third entries (they’re not exactly funny, but they make sense and work), the other two are a bit tortured. Second, it would have been cool if the S moved sequentially as we move down the grid — i.e. one letter space in the first entry, two in the second and so on. As it is, the S moves 2, 4, 1, and 3 spaces respectively. Theoretically, what I’m describing could be done with these same entries just by switching them around, but at 14-letters, the current middle entries would have had to go in the 4th and 12th rows making construction more difficult. But this would have gone a long way in making the puzzle more impressive, giving us the sense that the S is getting later and later.

(Actually, TSAR ATTRACTION could be made plural — TSAR ATTRACTIONS — to make it a grid-spanner, and URGES ON GENERAL could be replaced by URGES PROTECTION or URGES SUPPRESSOR. {Insert jokey clue re: “thinking about baseball” here.} Then you’d have all four grid-spanners and could put them in 1, 2, 3, 4 order.)

(Actually actually, I just noticed another thing about the themers. They don’t contain extraneous Ss which is subtly elegant. So my idea in the preceding paragraph might be more elegant in one way, but less elegant in another. In the end, I think I would go with TSAR OF BETHLEHEM and URGES PROTECTION.)

The rest of the grid is good, as you’d expect. YIELD RATIO appeals to the WSJ crowd I presume, but I like SPITFIRE best, though I’m not sure I’m in sync with the clue [Hot-tempered sort]. I normally think of a SPITFIRE (aside from the British plane), as someone with a lot of energy or fire in their belly, not as someone who gets mad easily. But it looks like most dictionaries are telling me I’m wrong.

A SPITFIRE at RAF Lakenheath, UK

Also good are RACHAEL RAY (I didn’t know about that second A though) and GETS UGLY (though I tried to put TURN UGLY in there at first). I really like FORGO at 1a just because it’s a nice way to lead off the grid.

Cluing is Thursday-tough, but getable as usual. My favorite is [Peer group?] for EYES although two items usually don’t make a group (but then nothing about the clue says we’re only talking about two here). Another tricky one that got me until well after I filled it in was [Makes a lot of] for PAVES. I kept wanting to put SAVES in there. Finally, clever clue [Norton’s utility?] refers not to the suite of software used to maintain a computer, but to Ed Norton of The Honeymooners. He worked in a SEWER.

Overall, a good puzzle with some subtle elegance, but I feel it could stand a tweak or two.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “That Hurts” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.26.16: “That Hurts”

Good day, everybody! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, includes phrases or nouns in which the first word is also associated with the action of giving someone the business real good, at least physically.

  • BEATING THE RAP (20A: [Getting off, in court])
  • THRASHING AROUND (40A: [Having a restless night, say]) – Have never heard this term before. At least, not that I can recall.
  • WHIPPING CREAM (55A: [Dessert ingredient with butterfat])

Seeing HARLEM just reminded me that I need to go back to that area of New York City to head to Dinosaur BBQ, the best barbecue in New York City, and maybe in the country (49D: [Globetrotters’ home]). I know, I probably started a war of words with that proclamation, but I’ve had barbecue in the eastern part of Texas, Charlotte and Kansas City, and, while a few of those places were excellent, I just can’t let go of the fact that Dino, which I first had when I was in Syracuse as a student, is just the best. If you have BBQ joint suggestions, let me know. (I do travel a fair bit across the country.) Better to be thinking about BBQ right now than GRUEL, that’s for sure (32D: [Tasteless porridge]). Probably my favorite fill of the grid was NAIL-BITER, something I get to witness a lot when seeing tightly-contested sporting events over and over again (36D: [Close contest]). I spoke about my time as a college student at Syracuse a few sentences prior, and I have to admit that, many times, my room was indeed MESSY (70A: [Like many a dorm room]). But, to my defense, I always called the messes that I made in my room – then and now – “organized chaos.” Regardless of the condition of my room, I always knew where everything was. I guess that’s a silver lining, right?! I’ll leave you with an earworm, Skee-Lo’s I WISH, an anthem to many young people when I was growing up in the mid 1990s (21D: [“If only!”]). You all know the lyrics by now, right?! You better!

I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller, I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MATHIS (9D: [“Misty” crooner Johnny]) – With the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, I think it’s appropriate to mention one of the franchise’s all-time great wide receivers, Terance MATHIS, who ranks in the top three in Falcons history in catches (573, 2nd), receiving yards (7,349, 3rd) and receiving touchdowns (57, 2nd). Mathis started his NFL career in 1990 with the New York Jets and spent four seasons there before becoming a Falcon in 1994. Mathis then spent eight seasons in Atlanta and made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Falcons (1994). In the 1998 NFC Championship Game (played in Jan. of ’99), Mathis caught two touchdown passes – including the tying score with 57 seconds left in regulation – to help the Falcons shock the 16-1 Minnesota Vikings in overtime to advance the Falcons to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. (Atlanta lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.)

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!.

Take care!


Jerome Gunderson’s LA Times – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

The theme today is simply add “SC”. There is no revealer. We have PALE(SC)ALES, SIXPACK(SC)ABS (ew), FRENCH(SC)ALPS, and the answer with the sole not A final word, BARN(SC)OWLS.


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

I have yet to get tired of the myriad ways BEQ finds to tell you exactly what to do in a puzzle’s title.  This week’s Thursday puzzle from him is called “Onsite Transfers”, and taking that rather literally works out pretty well in understanding things:

  • 18A: Cologne for those just starting law school? — ONE-L MUSK
  • 20A: Design on an eagle’s gripper? — TALON PATTERN
  • 36A: Wishing Evita and Juan were still in power? — MISSING PERONS
  • 51A: Guide for how to be like Charlton? — HESTON LIVING
  • 55A:”And now for the next one” … and an alternate title for this puzzle — MOVING ON


A few other quick notes:

  • Nice to see references to Neil GAIMAN, Twitter’s JACK Dorsey, and soccer star Lionel MESSI in the grid
  • IIII may be a “Supposedly legit Roman numeral 4”, but it’s still lackluster fill.

3.75/5 stars

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28 Responses to Thursday, January 26, 2017

  1. huda says:

    Re yesterday’s discussion (which I just read): I wanted to add a comment as an American who was raised in a very different place–Syria. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes my two countries different. I don’t believe it’s the culture or religion. I believe the most critical difference is a central feature of the American system– freedom of speech, which is a proxy for freedom of thought. Of the many gifts that this country has given me, it’s the one I value most. With all my heart, I hope the First Amendment will continue to protect America from the fate that Syria and many other places have had to face…

  2. Biker says:

    Re Jim’s WSJ review – As a sometime but still aspiring constructor, just wanted to say thank you for the level of “build” detail you regularly include in your reviews. Your dissection of today’s theme answers and possible alternatives was particularly insightful. Thanks for allowing me to learn from your experience.

    • Lise says:

      I second that! I like the detailed reviews – I always learn so much.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Ha! If I’m the source of your knowledge, then I fear for your education!

        But thank you both; it’s much appreciated. However, I’m just as likely to screw up or miss something entirely. Feel free to call me out on those occasions.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I liked today’s NYT better than Amy did. WREN was the last bird to fall, but I didn’t need to look it up (polishes fingernails on chest). I didn’t mind the hyphen in LOW-RENT, but I did think that the obscure clue for TE LAWRENCE combined with the bird rebus made things harder than they needed to be.

    Once I figure out the rebus on a Thursday puzzle, it often becomes an exercise in fill-in-the-blank, especially if the rebus is symmetrical. Four different rebus answers that were not entirely symmetrical + a revealer that made me smile = fun on yet another gray day.

    • Scott says:

      I was thrown off by the TELAWRENCE entry. Never heard of him. Well, I guess crosswords are supposed to be entertaining and educational.

      • Lise says:

        You may have heard of him from the moniker “Lawrence of Arabia”. That entry took me way too long because I wanted a horse name, like Seabiscuit, in there. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense but the brain wants what it wants.

        Good puzzle! I like rebus puzzles and birds – good combination.

    • MattF says:

      WREN was the last rebus to fall for me as well. I’d sorta figured out by the end that the fourth bird was a WREN (guessing that it was a common four-letter bird), so that helped a bit.

  4. Howard B says:

    Fireball: My grandparents shortened it to “ungapatch” or even “ungapatched” as well as the one in the puzzle. No idea how to spell that thing though ;).

    NYT – Bottom right was rather cruel to me too. You’re not alone :).

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    Loved today’s NYT. finished in 10:50, so that may be the first time ever I would’ve beaten Amy.

    Amy, to respond to a couple of your comments: I thought TELA{WREN}CE was very gettable. I started thinking “who was a really tall actor?” Peter O’Tool immediately came to mind, and then I had TEL- and it dropped instantly. That was how I got the theme in fact.

    Also TELL ME and NOT HERE didn’t feel out of the language to me. ONE EYE is a little contrived but not in a terrible way — it IS the Minion’s salient feature. I was disappointed, however, that it wasn’t clued in reference to the Cyclops to continue the Hellenic mini-theme (“Notable feature of one of Odysseus’ enemies” or the like)

  6. David L says:

    Much tougher than usual but a good puzzle. The last bird I found was the LOON in the NE corner — the two clues for ‘lively’ were opaque to me, and ULTRON is not the kind of thing I know about. I liked that all the birds were four letters.

    I second Huda’s comment above. I’m from the UK, and even though my native land has some devotion to free speech, it’s not by any means a constitutional principle and there are various laws that restrict it in ways that wouldn’t pass muster over here.

  7. Papa John says:

    Amy, while I’m happy that you’re not afflicted in this way, I think I’ll trust the Mayo Clinic, which lists these symptoms for anemia:

    “Anemia signs and symptoms vary depending on the cause of your anemia. They may include:

    Pale or yellowish skin
    Irregular heartbeats
    Shortness of breath
    Dizziness or lightheadedness
    Chest pain
    Cold hands and feet

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      So you’d be fine with cluing INFLUENZA or PNEUMONIA as [Fever], just because that’s often a symptom of either? A symptom ≠ a disease. And while people may use “an anemic response” to mean “a weak response,” I don’t think anemia (in that form of the word) is commonly used to stand in for general weakness.

      • Martin says:

        As you note, “anemia” has a non-medical defintion. MWC11 says “lack of vitality.” (Multiple links get me in trouble here, so you can check it if you’d like.)

        Basically, yes, “anemia” the noun is used to stand in for general weakness.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          And have you actually heard people use it this way, or are you just leaning on dictionary links to show that there’s a record it has been used before?

          • Martin says:

            The dictionary link has an example. Ezra Pound used it here.

            I don’t think the clue requires it to be a very common. But I generally consider any usage that makes the cut in the Collegiate desk dictionary to not be that obscure. The adjective is more useful in common language, but I don’t see a reason to call the noun unacceptable for a clue.

          • Matthew G. says:

            I have seen many, many instances of “anemic” used to mean “weak” in a non-medical sense. But “anemia” for “weakness,” no. The latter may not be that much of a stretch, but for the reasons Amy says, it seems like an insensitive use best avoided.

      • Papa John says:

        I would not appreciate either INFLUENZA or PNEUMONIA clued as “Fever” because neither of them has a non-medical usage, whereas ANEMIA does.

  8. Matthew G. says:

    My first DNF on a Fireball in many eons. I just couldn’t complete the NW. No amount of staring enabled me to see the answer to M_N_L_R or the words crossing the blanks. Even with UN_APATCHKA, I had no guesses on that missing letter.

  9. hmj says:

    You quite often indicate a LAT write-up by Gareth, but it doesn’t appear in the column. Why?

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    I stared at the square that had buffaloed our host for a good five minutes before WREN hit me. Hadn’t the foggiest idea about the crossing name, as I don’t think the guy’s actual name is particularly well-known.

    Much as I savored the puzzle, I have to raise the proverbial eyebrows about 43A. Has anyone in the history of humanity ever referred to Dec 31 as “NYE”???


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