Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jonesin' 4:33 (Derek) 


LAT 3:48 (Derek) 


NYT 3:57 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


George Barany and John D. Child’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 21 17, no 0321

The theme is TASTE, or 54d. [It’s often unaccounted for … or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]. The circled letters spell out SALTY, SOUR, BITTER, SWEET, and … UMMAI? That’s supposed to be UMAMI, but the A in RIVIERA is circled instead of the one in ECZEMA. D’oh! (If you’re solving later, maybe you’ll see a fixed version.)

There are five 15s containing those five circled words. The STATUE OF LIBERTY clue perplexed me: 17a. [Trick football play]?? I asked my husband to name a three-word trick football play, and he knew that right off the bat. Seems odd to use that markedly less familiar clue rather than cluing via the actual monument. And on a Tuesday, no less!

Five more things:

  • 31a. [Peach or plum], HUE. Those are nice colors, yes, but the fruits are so much better! It’s the first day of spring, which means summer stone fruit season is just around the bend. Can’t wait for Bing cherries!
  • 43a. [Something one shouldn’t make in public], SCENE. Actually, that’s not true. Let’s say you come across someone harassing another person because of their gender, sexuality, or race. Should you not, in fact, make a bit of a SCENE by intervening?
  • 48a. [You, abroad], SIE. Surprised to see zero hint of German here. “Abroad” covers, what, dozens or hundreds of languages? A non-Friday/Saturday puzzle shouldn’t have “hey, it’s a foreign word, but we’re not telling you what language” clues. (And the ALTE clue expects people to recognize Oldenburg as a German-speaking place? Germany’s 47th-largest city?)
  • 57a. [Green govt. group], EPA. For how much longer, though?
  • 19d. [Bully’s boast], “I’M MEAN.” Ha! I laughed at (and not with) this one. Who says that?? This phrase has no business pretending it belongs in a crossword puzzle. (While writing this post, I quizzed my husband on the clue. “I’m gonna beat you up,” he suggested. “No, just two words,” I said. Then I play-acted a menacing bully, shook my fist at him, and blared, “I’M MEAN!” He cracked up, too.

The TSAR/IN RE/TIEROD chunk feels a bit hard for Tuesday newbies, as does the ALTE/WEILL crossing. 3.3 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 303), “Alter-nate Endings”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 3/21 (No. 303)

No, this is not a “make your own adventure” puzzle. Rather, when we read the title literally, the word “alter” tips us off to the fact that this is an anagram-themed puzzle. And the “endings” of the themers will be some reconfiguration of the letters “n-a-t-e.” Or, as it’s spelled out at 56D., [“Six Feet Under” son (he’s mixed up in the starred answers!)] NATE.

We’re periodically treated to this kind of wordplay, but I have to say, today’s iteration is one of the really good ones. Why? Because of the quality and quantity of theme entries (six, plus that reveal) and because there’s so much that’s good about the remainder of the fill, and the evocative nature of several of the clues as well. In other words, there’s plenty of SPARKLE today. Yes! And, there’s balance in the way the anagrammed letters are used: three are discrete words unto themselves, three are the last four letters of a container word. Each permutation is unique.

  • *17A. NICE AND NEAT [Tidy].
  • *10D. UP THE ANTE [Play for higher stakes]. Hafta say, I do like the crispness of both of these phrases.
  • *27A. MAGENTA [Purplish-red shade]. Always a fave in my Crayola box…
  • *34D. MOUNT ETNA [Sicilian stratovolcano]. People were injured just last week by the most recent eruptions, which are dramatically photographed (earlier in the month) here. But no kidding: don’t mess with Mother Nature.
  • *46A. PROTEAN [Capable of changing form]. Also one of several cast members in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, all of whom change form by playing soldiers and slaves and any other part required of ensemble members. Oh. And they’ve gotta be pretty darned good at physical comedy, too. It was in connection with this show that I first learned this word.
  • *60A. DWARF PLANET [Pluto, since 2006]. Alas, poor Pluto. But what a strong phrase to complete the theme set with.

Beyond that theme set’s two nines and two elevens, there’s no more long fill. The other two themers are mid-range sevens, and look what good company they have with the likes of SPARKLE and SPRAWLS, “GO AHEAD…” and MARTINI. Among the sixes, we get some standouts in the almost onomatopoetic “HEE-HAW” clued as a [Donkey’s comment] and MUD PIE, with its back-to-childhood clue [Gritty “dessert” made by a tot].

For various reasons, I was even taken by a few of the fives. COMET is wonderfully clued as [Cupid’s teammate]. Not Dan Cupid. Cupid as in “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, COMET and Cupid and…” Additionally, COMET and Cupid work in tandem. So they’re a paired team— teammates—within the team of eight led by Rudolph.

SAT ON spoke to me because I so wanted the clue to be not [Used, as a sofa] but [Used, as a tuffet]. I mean how many times do ya get the chance to reference “Little Miss Muffet“? ;-) And [ILL AT ease (nervous)] immediately brought to mind the deliciously wicked Lorenz Hart lyrics for the song “To Keep My Love Alive.” It’s a long song, sung by a comically homicidal woman who knocks off her husbands before their love has a chance to sour. Do take a look. Or a listen (includes full encore…). Regardless… the pertinent lines are: “I thought Sir George had possibilities / But his flirtations made me ILL AT ease / And when I’m ILL AT ease, I kill at ease / To keep my love alive.”

MANGE [Itchy dog ailment] wasn’t the loveliest thing to encounter (especially as the second Across clue), but NATTY [Well-dressed] more than made up for it in the SE border Down slot. I also like the [Strike caller?] and [Strike caller] proximate pair (yielding UMP and UNION respectively), the “double negatives” (so to speak…) of AIN’T and “NOT SO!” and the “Oho” I got from the [Zurich high-rise?] and ALP duo.

This puzzle really worked for me—and that’s it for today, folks. ACPT this weekend. I’ll be working behind the scenes, but I won’t be out of sight the entire time, so if you’re a reader here, please introduce yourself. This is why we get name tags! (Okay—one of the reasons why…) If you’re a newbie, my best advice is to check your work and try not to be a “time-slut.” Can I say that here? ;-) It’s just that from experience, I know this to be true. The more that’s right (especially in a puzzle you complete), the more points for you. And whether or not you’ll be in attendance: enjoy the week and keep solving!

Not so gritty dessert made by a chronological grownup (she’s a pip!).

Will Treece’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “We Just Got a Letter!” — Jim’s review

A WSJ debut today for Will Treece. Variants of the color blue are featured in the grid, clued as their real-life entities. (The clues themselves actually have brackets denoting, I guess, that they are categories and the answers are items that fall within those categories. Since we usually identify clues with brackets on this site, I’ll use braces instead.)

WSJ – Tue, 3.21.17 – “We Just Got a Letter!” by Will Treece

  • 1a {[Duck]} TEAL
  • 17a {[Mollusk]} PERIWINKLE
  • 24a {[Gemstone]} AQUAMARINE
  • 43a {[Plant]} CORNFLOWER
  • 64a {[Military force]} NAVY

I really didn’t know where this puzzle was going and worked my way steadily down the grid. I believe I had uncovered all the theme entries before I even hit upon the revealer which, at 56a, is clued thusly: [Kids’ show of 1996-2006, or what’s within brackets in this puzzle]. Answer: BLUES CLUES

The revealer brought a smile to my face, and I thought the whole concept was super cute. The puzzle’s title, which immediately reminded me of the BLUES CLUES song, is a clever red herring. I had thought we would be adding letters to phrases, and yet I wasn’t seeing that happening with the theme entries. Once I got the revealer I knew the title was just a hint to the TV show. And now I have the earworm, and if you don’t yet, you will soon (see below).

There are a couple other fun, youthful entries as well. Aside from the standard ELMO and ELSA, there’s BRAVE [Pixar film with the heroine Merida], and the clues for DEMIGOD [Percy Jackson, e.g.] (my 8-year-old just started reading The Lightning Thief), and PELT [Cartoon caveman’s garb] which put me in a The Far Side frame of mind (and which is never a bad place to be).

More good fill: ZEN STATE [“Mind without mind” condition], REGIMENS, RIP APART, and AL FRESCO [Like terrace dining]. I always thought AL FRESCO referred to a style of cooking, but then I guess that would be redundant since who wouldn’t want a meal that was fresh.

Two other fun clues of note:

  • 33a [Spike’s miniature cousin]. BRAD. Snoopy’s desert-dwelling cousin is Spike, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Here, we’re talking hardware.
  • 46a [“They got me!”] I’M HIT. The clue is reminiscent of over-the-top play-acting and melodramatic B-movies.

Overall, not much to dislike and much to enjoy in this simple puzzle.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Here’s the British version of BLUE’S CLUES with Kevin (in place of Steve) getting a letter in the post and featuring cute British kids with cute British accents.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Ego Trips” – Derek’s write-up

Matt is not an egotistical person at all! And yet it is all about the “first person” in this puzzle! Very simply, let’s take some names, real or fictional, and add an “I” in front of them, and clue them in punny Matt fashion:

  • 18A [Frozen kids?] ICY YOUNG
  • 27A [Leader of a Russian Doors tribute band?] IVAN MORRISON
  • 47A [Mineral-fortified red wine?] IRON BURGUNDY – You remember the star of Anchorman, don’t you?
  • 61A [CEO painter?] INC. WYETH – An obscure name, perhaps, but it makes for a humorous clue!

Sometimes I wonder what the entries are that Matt threw out! There had to be a serious brainstorming session in finding names that would form words with an I in front of them. I have mentioned it before, but I will repeat it: I am not a creative person, so this type of thinking always amazes me to no end. I am extremely jealous that I cannot think like this! 4.2 stars for this one.

Some notes:

  • 1A [2009 film set in 2154] AVATAR – I guess I didn’t remember this was set that far in the future. I think they are making an Avatar 2.
  • 32A [“Look!” to Dora the Explorer] MIRA – What? No mention of Mira Sorvino? Good! Perhaps the clue could have read [“Look!” a la Explora Dora]! (I don’t even know if that Spanish is correct!)
  • 67A [Christian who plays the titular “Mr. Robot”] SLATER – I got about halfway through season one of this; it’s pretty good. Also a little dark. I won’t share any spoilers here!
  • 4D [ __ Bo (workout system that turns 25 in 2017)] TAE – 25 years! I am old.
  • 5D [Spain’s has no official lyrics] ANTHEM – Great piece of trivia. I did not know this. How do you sing it?
  • 10D [If it’s blue, it doesn’t mean you’re pregnant] SKY – This is hilarious! In a panicky sort of way!
  • 24D [“It’s in my __”] DNA – Solving – it’s in MY DNA!
  • 44D [Cool with Green Day] TRE – Tre Cool is the drummer for the band Green Day. They’re also getting old!

Matt won’t be attending this weekend, but I know he will be there in spirit! (And I can finish one spot higher!) Have a great week!

Kevin Christian’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

The ACPT is almost upon us! Maybe that’s why we have a slightly tougher than usual Tuesday puzzle. OK, maybe not THAT tough, but there are, among the interesting 7-letter answers, one or two that are not too easy. I suppose with all of the simple crossings and straightforward clues, it does qualify for an easy Tuesday puzzle. My time didn’t suffer; easily conquered in under four minutes. So why am I saying this is harder? ;-) The theme is simple enough:

  • 17A [Home of baseball’s Royals] KANSAS CITY
  • 24A [Diagonally] KITTY CORNER
  • 34A [Large venemous snake] KING COBRA
  • 51A [Hang out (with)] KEEP COMPANY
  • 60A [Martial arts move] KARATE CHOP
  • 67A [Strikeout victim of poetry, and a phonetic hint to the answers to starred clues] CASEY

Get it? K-C is the sound of “Casey,” and all theme answers have the initials K.C. I told you it was simple enough! Lets call it 4 stars even.

A few notes:

  • 15A [Carne __: taco filling] ASADA – Why do I only think of Taco Bell when I hear this? Is it the power of advertising?
  • 30A [“Silk Stockings” actress Charisse] CYD – No, she wasn’t in the TV series Silk Stalkings!
  • 32A [Gumbo vegetable] OKRA – My grandmother used to make some awesome gumbo! I still miss her; she has been gone now just over 10 years …
  • 49A [GI’s mess work] KP DUTY – Nicely done!
  • 3D [Japanese ball-and-cups toy] KENDAMA – This is what I meant when I said there were hard entries in this puzzle. I had no idea this toy had this name!
  • 12D [The one without the patch, for Bazooka Joe] GOOD EYE – This entry has the potential for a lot of clever clues!
  • 39D [Refurbished] LIKE NEW – … but not quite new …
  • 41D [Fanatically devoted] DIE-HARD – This doesn’t have to mean fanaticism! I am a Die-Hard Cubs fan!
  • 45D [Agenda start] ITEM ONE – A little contrived, it seems, but it makes sense. And again, easy crossings.

See some of you Friday afternoon!

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20 Responses to Tuesday, March 21, 2017

  1. PhilR says:

    One would know Oldenburg if they were familiar with sport horses, otherwise not so much.

  2. e.a. says:

    loved today’s NYT review

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked that CHIMNEY was going down in the center, and clued appropriately (“Entrance for Santa”). My version (the pdf) had the correct letters circled, thankfully, because I was just filling them in before doing the rest of each theme entry.

    Nice puzzle! Very enjoyable over breakfast, especially.

  4. Lise says:

    WSJ: I didn’t understand the title of the puzzle until I read the review. Not having seen the show, I still don’t quite identify with it but I get that someone would receive a letter which contained a clue. My friend Ann’s daughters loved the show, and I hear that it was really good, and I enjoyed the puzzle very much.

  5. Glenn says:

    NYT: The .puz version also has the circles in the right places (at least in my Android app).

    • Glenn et al., the glitches with the NYT were spotted by alert “early-bird” (kind of an anachronism, I suppose, since it was moderately late at night) solvers and brought to the attention of the right folks … it was all straightened out in less than half an hour. Most importantly, the circles are in the right places in the print edition of the newspaper. The vast majority of solvers will never know there was a problem.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Did you download it last night, in the first hour the puzzle was available? I’m guessing the files were corrected not long after I alerted the Times.

      • Amy, I hope that I’m not giving away any state secrets — Jeff Chen gives constructors a “sneak preview” of the puzzle a few days ahead of publication so that we can prepare comments for other websites. Everything looked fine on the version that John and I examined. After some friends of mine solved the puzzle shortly after it posted, I confirmed the problem with the online presentation (I didn’t personally download it). That would have still been within the first half hour. I got an e-mail from Deb Amlen at 9:45 a.m. that everything had been fixed. Thanks to you, Amy, and to others, who alerted the Times.

        • Yikes, I should have proofed that more carefully. 9:45 p.m. CDT (the puzzle posts at 9 p.m. CDT = 10 p.m. EDT, on the night before the newspaper publication date).

  6. Phil says:

    The statue of liberty play was called “hoary” when I was in high school more than 50 years ago. It was first used by Amos Alonzo Stagg. The quarterback drops back and cocks his arm as if to pass, but an end runs behind him, takes the ball, and runs with it. Classic misdirection. Anyone who knows anything about football should know it.

    • Steve Manion. says:

      In the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, I was “on the number” in the football promotion when Boise State scored to get within one point of Oklahoma. The decided to go for two and the win. If they miss, I win $300. They made it. I didn’t care because many people think the extra point was the greatest play in one of the greatest games in the history of football–and it was a statue of liberty;



  7. Len Elliott says:

    Cute: the LA Times puzzle’s constructor’s initials.

    • Lise says:

      That *is* cute! Unfortunately, our local newspaper, which carries the LAT, does not credit the constructor (except on Sundays). So I didn’t realize the K.C. cuteness factor until I just now read the review.

      I vaguely remember that another constructor, who might have been Joe Krozel, had filled the puzzle with lines of Js and Ks near the center diagonal. This was many years ago, so I might be misremembering.

  8. Everett Wolf says:

    Oops, wrong Morrison for Jonesin’s 27 across. Jim Morrison was the frontman for the Doors, whereas Van was with Them and solo. Although, the two Morrisons met once and agreed they must’ve been related somehow, both because of the name and how much they liked to drink. ;-)

    • pannonica says:

      While that’s true, if you examine the clues closely you’ll realize that this one is consistent with the others. Had it alluded to the original phrase, that would have made it an outlier. The theme clues refer exclusively to the new senses.

      • Everett Wolf says:

        Still not seeing it. Maybe if he left “Doors” out of the clue. Like you said, the other clues are non-specific.

        In studying it, I see what you’re saying. It’s just a little clunky.

        • pannonica says:

          Yes, because both Jim Morrison and [George I]van Morrison are musicians who rose to fame in the 1960s. The association is too close and the noise drowns out the signal.

        • pannonica says:

          Yes, because both Jim Morrison and [George I]van Morrison are musicians who rose to fame in the 1960s. The association is too close and the noise drowns out the signal.

    • Chris says:

      Yes, I thought the same thing. Should have been clued “… Russian Them tribute band.” Also sorta doesn’t work on the level that Van Morrison is already a shortened version of Ivan Morrison, so putting the “I” back just gives us his actual name. Otherwise, it was a fun theme!

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