Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jonesin' 4:27 (Derek) 


LAT 2:38 (Derek) 


NYT 3:14 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Ryan Milligan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 28 17, no 0328

The theme is Tom Swifties, but with celebrity last names getting the adverbial treatment rather than an adverb being paired punnishly with a first name based on the remark that precedes the name. So this goes a step beyond the standard Tom Swifty, since the remark connects to the last name as well as the adverb.

  • 20a. [“Sorry I’m in your space, it’s an actress thing,” said ___], GLENN CLOSELY.
  • 28a. [“Don’t interrupt me on my radio show,” said ___], HOWARD STERNLY. 
  • 46a. [“Gotta run, pop concert calls,” said ___], TAYLOR SWIFTLY. Move over, Tom!
  • 54a. [“Right to the point: You’re beautiful, it’s true,” said ___], JAMES BLUNTLY.

Cute theme. Mildly imbalanced with two singers, one actress, and a radio host. Can you think of a non-singer (and not an actor or radio personality) with a 10- or 11-letter name that would fit this theme? Last name needs to double as an adjective. My brain is too tired post-ACPT to try to find another suitable candidate.

Fave fill: “DEAL ME IN.” Fave clue: 68a. [“A man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin,” per H. L. Mencken], CYNIC.

The fill is mostly pretty smooth (though ALDO and EULER probably gave some folks trouble), and the puzzle indeed played like a Tuesday for me. Four stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 304), “Top-of-the-Line Game”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 3/28 (No. 304)

The “game” of this puzzle is that the word RATE can follow the “top” word (“of the line” of words) in each vertical theme phrase (yielding another phrase, each a two-worder). Finding a word that can follow (or precede) another in the themers is not a ground-breaking theme concept. So it’s important that both the theme phrases and the [Common word] phrases be cross-worthy, have a life of their own, so to speak. Where today’s theme set is concerned, I would say that Liz hits the mark far more often than not. And of the four themers, we get two grid-spanners to boot.

  • 3D. [Taking risks] GOING OUT ON A LIMB. Going rate. What something (an object, a given service) costs right now. Especially like the gridded theme phrase. This “-RATE” phrase (and the others), however, tends to be a tad functional, a tad dry. Still, gimme the peppy, colloquial GOING OUT ON A LIMB anytime!
  • 21D. [Event depicted in a Botticelli masterpiece] The BIRTH OF VENUS aka “Venus on the Half-Shell.” Birth rate. This is a very happy combo for me. Also like the way the puzzle delivers more noteworthy art with those RODINS [“The Gates of Hell” and “The Kiss,” e.g.].
  • 8D. [Literary genre that includes murder mysteries] CRIME FICTION. Crime rate. Where CRIME FICTION and murder mysteries are concerned, can you say “guilty pleasure”? Mankell, Lippman, Grafton, anyone? Something well-written and maybe even more than a little SINISTER can be a literary palate-cleanser every now and then. For this reader, at any rate…
  • 10D. [Probability that business will expand] GROWTH POTENTIAL. Growth rate. This is perfectly fine fill, but doesn’t begin to crackle the way its set-mates do. Oh, for HEART LIKE A WHEEL or “DEATH BE NOT PROUD.” For all I know, something along those lines was tried and rejected—because they made it difficult to fill the grid cleanly. Still, I can dream, can’t I? ;-)

“Hey, Venus… Oh, Venus…” (Cue up the Frankie Avalon…)

Elsewhere in the puzz, we get solid (if spare) mid-range fill with TENDS BAR and its misdirectional clue [Makes screwdrivers and rusty nails] (so not TENDS ANVIL…), and the previously cited SINISTER. Best of the sixes? [“We hold these TRUTHS…”], [“The BLUEST Eye,” (Toni Morrison novel)], MIDWAY [Decisive WWII battle in the Pacific] and RODINS. To all of these I say, “YES, YES…”

Some “little” things to point out: [Teeny bit], [Small energy unit] and [Itty-bitty bark] for IOTA, ERG and YIP. Some Wild West things: BOLO and REATA for [Cowboy’s neckwear] and [Lasso] [note to noobs: you probably don’t use these words ever, but you need them in your solving arsenal!]. Some musical things: ROTA [Film composer Nino] and IRA [One of the Gershwins]—the other being George, of course.

Fave clue today: [They’re not ones to talk] for MIMES. Nice twist on the common use of the clue phrase.

And that’ll be a wrap for today. ACPT was exhilarating and exhausting. For all the right reasons. I know some members of “the Nation” were there. Only sorry we didn’t get to meet! Next year, perhaps (March 23-25)? Here’s hoping—and in the meantime: keep solving!

(“Don’t speak!”)

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Quality People” — Jim’s review

First off, for anyone who has ever used the WSJ online solving app, Mike Shenk would like suggestions for improvement. Here are the ones I had come up with just after the current version came out:

  1. You have to hit Enter to move to the next word. This should be automatic. It’s even worse on a mobile device where you have to tap the clue or the grid to get to the next entry. (Or at least give us a setting to be able to turn this feature on/off.)
  2. The crossing clue is not shown for any particular square. It should be highlighted.
  3. Relatedly, there is no keyboard command for switching from Across to Down or vice versa.
  4. On mobile devices (at least in my experience) the full grid is not shown. It would be better if I could resize it to suit me.
  5. Completed answers (and squares) are not skipped. This is really annoying.

Some of these may have been fixed already. Also, the ability to input more than one or special characters into a square would be beneficial.

If you have any other wish list items, please put them in the comments below and I will forward them as a set to Mr. Shenk.

On to the puzzle!

Cute theme that elicited a few chuckles from me, so I like it! Our constructor has added -FUL to certain famous people’s first names which are also real words. Secondly, the last names (also being real words) are clued with alternative meanings.

WSJ – Tue, 3.28.17 – “Quality People” by Gabriel Stone (Mike Shenk)

  • 20a [Crafty native of a region of Belgium?] ARTFUL FLEMING. Art Fleming, original “Jeopardy!” host in the 60s and 70s. Starting off strong. A good one.
  • 26a [Headstrong metalworker?] WILLFUL SMITH. Actor Will Smith of course. Another good entry.
  • 42a [Unswerving mound?] FAITHFUL HILL. Country singer Faith Hill. This one I’m not too sure about. The surface sense is a little shaky.
  • 49a [Oil spill that’s particularly elegant?] GRACEFUL SLICK. Jefferson Airplane/Starship singer Grace Slick. Ending on a strong note. I think I liked this one best despite its ecologically disastrous image.

Obviously, it helps to know who these people are or at least recognize their names, but these are all very famous people, or they were at some point. I do acknowledge that Art Fleming won’t be too well known by the younger set.

When you think about it though, this is really an impressive set of themers: four names where both first and last names are real words and further, the first name can take the suffix -FUL. And then of course everything has to fit symmetrically. Not easy to do so I’m happy to give FAITHFUL HILL a pass.

And great fill abounds again in FOREBRAIN, ORGAN LOFT, SPITFIRE, and MINISKIRT. LAKE SIDES [Settings of some getaway cabins] doesn’t work too well in the plural, but hey, I picked up a whole bunch of passes in Stamford, so I’ll give out another one here as well. Everything else is on target or near enough.

Clue of note: 32d [Try it on for thighs?]. MINISKIRT. Is this clue objectionable? Coming from Mike Shenk, whom I have now met and who is as nice as everyone told me he was, I found this clue funny.

Another good puzzle to keep this week moving. We’re on a roll!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It Takes Guts” – Derek’s write-up

I was just saying at Stamford that the puzzles I blog are all outstanding. And then one comes that doesn’t, at least to me, meet the same stellar standards that Matt cranks out week after week. But the theme is clever: the circles (or gray squares in the newspaper editions) conceal different bodily organs. Very clever, and I am sure this was extremely difficult to construct.

I first solved this puzzle without the circles, and I will admit: I had no idea what was going on. But after some discussions with Matt Gaffney, the version with the circles is what you see now. I have mixed feelings about this puzzle. On the one hand, it is a feat of construction to fit all of those anatomical parts in the puzzle; but on the other hand, I do not care for the entry BAKE IN THE SUN at 20-Across, which is symmetrical to the theme revealing entry GRAY’S ANATOMY at 58-Across. The entry that is opposite the theme revealer SHOULD PERTAIN TO THE THEME! Not only that, but “bake in the sun” seems a bit contrived. To go back to this puzzle’s positives, there are technically TEN theme entries in here, and for a 15×15 that is amazing. My idea for this puzzle? It could have been some sort of contest puzzle, which specific instructions to find the body parts in the puzzle. I am quite sure not everybody would have been able to find them all.

As mentioned earlier, I had a version without the circles, and my completed grid looked like this:

Nothing there appears remarkable. And I had no idea what the “Gray’s Anatomy” entry meant. Then I got a copy of the answer grid that may appear in papers, which appears below:

My first thought was: how would you know to look for the body parts in this way?? Now you know most of the story of why the circles were added. What do you think? I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this one in the comments. But seeing as this still has pretty decent fill, and it had to have been hard to construct, I will still call this one 3.3 stars.

Some highlights:

    • 17A [Obama education secretary Duncan] ARNE – This guy is a really good basketball player. I saw him in a couple of NBA All-Star Game Celebrity games!
    • 33A [“No you didn’t!”] OH, SNAP! – I told you Matt has good fill!
    • 54A [Top __ mornin’ to you!”] O’ THE – John Oliver had a nice montage on his show recently showing a bunch of local newspeople telling each other this on St. Patrick’s Day. I tried to find a video of it; but it may be too new.
    • 69A [ __ Rock Pete (Diesel Sweeties character)] INDIE – Leave it to Matt to refer to a character I have never heard of. The Diesel Sweeties is evidently a cartoon?
    • 72A [“Carnival of the Animals” composer Camille Saint-__ ] SAENS – Newsflash: Tyler Hinman doesn’t know who this is!!
    • 13D [“Stay With Me” Grammy-winner Smith] SAM – He has an Oscar, too, although See You Again by Wiz Khalifa should have won! (Yes, I am still a little bitter about it!)
    • 22D [Sch. that’s home to the Wildcats in Durham] UNH – Yes, those famous New Hampshire Wildcats. I almost put UNC, but they are in Chapel Hill. Duke is in Durham, NC!
    • 27D [Sean played by Melissa McCarthy] SPICER – One of the funniest bits currently on SNL!

  • 30D [Texas city across the border from Ciudad Juarez] EL PASO – My grandmother used to vacation there! I hear it may not be as nice, anymore.

Again, anxious to hear what you guys think about this puzzle. Have a great week!

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

After a resoundingly fun weekend at the ACPT, I decided to really rush on this one, since I am still in tournament mode! Under three minutes! Too bad I couldn’t do that this past weekend!! I will admit: solving on a computer is a lot faster, but the mental thinking has to be fast, too. I am still in awe at how fast some of these people can blast their way through difficult puzzles. I felt proud that I could solve Puzzle 8 in about 14 minutes; it took some of the best solvers only 5 or 6! I have a long way to go. But then, anyone that is highly successful in any field has to have, in my opinion, a combination of passion, work ethic, and talent. Not sure about my talent level yet!

Speaking of Puzzle 8, it was constructed by Michael Shteyman, who, if my memory serves me right, is not a native English speaker. Similarly, the puzzles produced by the now prolific C.C. Burnikel continue to amaze, since English is not here mother tongue. Phenomenal! This lastest one is no exception: a simple theme, yet well executed, with a revealer at 61A:

  • 17A [Seeks shelter] TAKES COVER
  • 38A [Bob Marley togetherness classic] ONE LOVE
  • 11D [System that gets goods to customers] SUPPLY CHAIN
  • 25D [Major golf tournament won five times by Tom Watson] BRITISH OPEN
  • 61A [Stationery that may include a company logo … or what the ends of answers to the starred clues can be?] LETTERHEAD

Yes, you can have a cover letter, a love letter, a chain letter, and of course an open letter. Nice and solid. 4.3 stars.

A few notes:

  • 41A [Mag mogul often seen in pj’s] HEF – This joker is still alive! He is in his 90s!! Maybe he is onto the secret of a long life … !! ;-)
  • 50A [Tom Brady, notably] PATRIOT – Answer ties in nicely with …
  • 5D [Sports jersey material] MESH – See what I did there? Tom Brady’s MESH PATRIOT jersey was recently recovered by the FBI!
  • 18D [Reason for a heating bill spike] COLD SNAP – Here’s hoping there are no more cold snaps this spring!
  • 51D [Month with showers] APRIL – April showers bring May flowers! Or so they say …

More on that talent-work ethic-passion topic this Saturday!

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13 Responses to Tuesday, March 28, 2017

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    “Here are some one-liners,” said MARTINSHORTLY.

    Also a couple of 11s come to mind:

    “I really hate acting,” said JACKBLACKLY (though he does, of course, break Amy’s non-actor rule)
    “Playing baseball takes precision,” said COCOCRISPLY

  2. JohnH says:

    On the WSJ app, I don’t see much of the grid even on a laptop — an unusually large model with thus an unusually large screen at that. (FWIW, I didn’t know Faith Hill.)

    • JohnH says:

      And of course the print button still doesn’t work for me, necessitating the pdf link.

      Actually, I’m puzzled why they need the app anyway. Seems like reinventing the wheel when they could just rely on puz for on-screen solving. As someone who works only on paper, I’d even be willing then to install Across Lite so that they could ditch pdf if they really really want to.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        The proprietary and online-only app keeps people coming back to their website and seeing their ads and content. You can’t blame them; they are a business after all. We have a special dispensation here by getting our own .puz file thanks to Joon and Martin H. But that’s not well known beyond these four walls.

        By the way, Mike Shenk says they are indeed moving toward putting the puzzle behind the paywall. He is pushing for there to be a puzzle-only subscription, but it’s not up to him and there are technical issues to overcome (i.e. allowing you to see the puzzles, but not other content). We will all just have to wait and see.

        • Martin says:

          If they’re paid for, there’s no need to force people to watch ads to get the puzzles. In fact, it will annoy subscribers.

          In other words, the puzzle subscription could be like others in the industry: email distribution of puz files. Maybe you can suggest that to Mike the next time you chat with him.

        • Lorraine says:

          I will never pay for the puzzle if i’m forced to use their app and, as Martin notes, if we pay for the puzzle we shouldn’t be forced to go there to see their ads anyway.

          I’m in complete agreement with Jenni’s post.

  3. e.a. says:

    i would love to hear someone defend their sub-2-star rating of today’s LAT puzzle, which i found typically (for its constructor) well-crafted

Comments are closed.