Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jonesin' untimed (Derek) 


LAT 4:49 (Derek) 


NYT 4:10 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Neville Fogarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

New York Times crossword solution, 5 30 17, no 0530

The theme is GREY MATTER, or 63a. [Brains … or this puzzle’s four circled names?], and the four circled names are approximately first names that go with the last name Grey. Now, I am an American, and thus I must decry the GREY MATTER spelling (“This is America! Speak and spell American! It’s GRAY, dammit!”), but these people are Greys.

  • 17a. {Horse breed known for dressage [western writer]}, LIPIZZANER with ZANE Grey. LIPIZZANER is a tough name to spell. Two P’s? Two Z’s? Two N’s? Anyway, I just learned that Zane is Grey’s middle name. His first name? Pearl.
  • 27a. {Upset stomach remedy [Brontë governess]}, MILK OF MAGNESIA with AGNES. If you read just one Brontë novel about a governess, make it Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Anne’s Agnes Grey is markedly less read.
  • 39a. {Like a silhouette [19th-century U.K. prime minister]}, REAR-LIT with EARL. Here, Earl is a title for nobility rather than a name. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey is this one’s name and title. The tea is named for him.
  • 46a. {Really made the point [TV surgeon played by Ellen Pompeo]}, HAMMERED IT HOME with MEREDITH, the lead character on Grey’s Anatomy.

A writer, a literary character, a nobleman’s title, and a TV character feels like a bit of a mishmashed set to me. Thoughts?

Three things:

  • 28d. [Religion with the Five Pillars], ISLAM. Ramadan mubarak to you if you’re Muslim!
  • 18d. [Prize you don’t want on “Let’s Make a Deal”], ZONK. This is also a regular word, as in “I am ready to zonk out.”
  • 29d. [Olympic symbol], FLAME. I reached this clue after the AUDI clue, [Its logo consists of four interlocking circles], and I had the five Olympic rings in my gray matter. I wonder which entity had its interlocking-rings logo first.

Not all the fill has a Tuesday-level vibe. A AND E is rendered with an ampersand outside of crosswords, AD IN doesn’t get much play, and I’m not sure how many people who aren’t trivia buffs (or aren’t old enough to have paid attention to national politics in the 1950s) know ADLAI. Feels like there’s less “What’s this doing in a Tuesday puzzle??” fill than usual, though.

3.5 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 313), “Here’s Looking at You, Cod!”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 5/30 (No. 313)

Okay—so hands up if you thought this puzzle was going to feature fish puns. You know, like the title, which riffs on the famous line from Casablanca. (And if you don’t know it because you haven’t seen the movie, run—don’t walk! In the meantime, here’s a short clip with the context for the original line.) Or that opera set under-the-sea, Porgy and Bass… While I’m pleased to say this is not the route Liz took today, neither can I say I’m head-over-heels for the choice she did make, which is a bit basic for my own taste. I, however, am not Liz’s target audience—which is aimed towards new/newer solvers. And this theme is spot on for that demographic. Oh—so how does “cod” factor into the theme? Not as a pun, but as the signal that each of the four themers will be a three-word phrase, with a first word beginning with “C,” the second with “O” (always “OF” today), the third with “D.” Comme ça:

  • 17A. CRACK OF DAWN [Daybreak].
  • 27A. CRY OF DESPAIR [“Woe is me!” is one].
  • 44A. CITY OF DREAMS [One of New York’s nicknames]. (Here are some others…)
  • 59A. CLOUD OF DUST [Nebula, basically].

Pretty straightforward, both the clues and the theme phrases. But after a long holiday weekend, this also makes for an easy-peasy way to ease back into our regular routines.

From the meta-referential ULTIMATUM [“Solve this puzzle or else!” is one] to the coyly/punnily clued RESTROOMS [Going places?], ENTREAT to the evocative TRAIPSE, the Mr. Peanut-referenced MONOCLE to SYNAPSE, we’re delivered a decidedly strong sextet of colorfully-clued longer fill—which always UPS the enjoyment factor for me.

Other EXTRA items that float my boat?

  • “Up in the air, junior birdmen” with TWA [Carrier featured in “The Aviator”], WINGS [Aviation awards] and, given the company it’s keeping, even TSA [Airport-screening group].
  • The alliterative and almost punny tie between CAWS and [Cornfield cacophony].
  • LEO, the [Zodiac lion] and [Lion’s locks] MANE.
  • Because it was in the news so recently, the ESSES [Twisty highway curves] quickly brought to mind the landslide on California’s Highway 1. YOW indeed.
  • PIES and [Picnic desserts]—because Memorial Day Weekend is the kick-off to the summer season, so can fruit PIES be far behind? (Rhetorical!)

My only nit for today is cluing LAX with [Lenient]. Guess it’s a question of nuance, but in my book “lenient” has a POS. connotation of being “forgiving” and LAX, a negative one of being “neglectful.” Am sure the case can be made for their being synonymous, but it still doesn’t quite jibe for me. You know the drill: ymmv.

And that’s a wrap for today. Hope you’ve a good week ahead, that you’ll keep solving—and that you’ll pay a visit again next Tuesday!

Pretty spectacular for a CLOUD OF DUST, eh?

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Aye Aye, Sir!” — Jim’s review

Today’s puzzle is another in the long and continuing line of solid entries from Zhouqin Burnikel. The title is enough of a revealer, but we get another one at 57a: EYE CONTACT clued as [Public speaker’s asset, and a phonetic hint to a feature of the starred answers]. Cute! Our theme entries all have a double-I somewhere inside.

WSJ – Tue, 5.30.17 – “Aye Aye, Sir!” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 17a [*Kachina doll maker] HOPI INDIAN. This was a gimme since we all know HOPI from crosswords, right?
  • 20a [*Like many 2016 election votes] ANTI-INCUMBENT. Hmmm. Not so sure about this one. First off, if we’re talking the presidential race, there was no true incumbent. Second of all, aren’t there always plenty of ANTI-INCUMBENT votes no matter what type of election (not counting sham elections in certain despotic countries)? And third of all, is ANTI-INCUMBENT really a strong enough phrase for a theme answer?
  • 36a [*Figure on a major case] FBI INVESTIGATOR. Solid enough answer, nicely ambiguous clue.
  • 50a [*Knowledgeable mogul navigator] SKI INSTRUCTOR. By far the best theme answer, and a nice clue to boot.

As usual the fill is very nice. I especially loved seeing NEIL GAIMAN in full, since I’m a fan of his work. I’ve watched the first episode of “American Gods,” but have the rest on DVR. Anyone else into it? I tried to get GAIMAN in my first published puzzle back in 2011, but he wasn’t well-known enough back then for an early-week grid. Seems good enough to me for a Tuesday at this point.

And of course, COLE PORTER is a nice entry as well.

One entry I didn’t like was 62a‘s I.T. PRO, clued as [Bug exterminator?]. It doesn’t feel in-the-language enough for me; I usually hear the term as “I.T. Professional.” And not all I.T. professionals are skilled at coding (and de-bugging).

Two clues of note:

  • 13d [Nick’s relative]. DENT. You were thinking NORA, weren’t you?
  • 28d [Prerequisite to glory]. GUTS. Ha! Nice.

Overall, a simple theme, solidly-built with a cute revealer and nice fill. Good puzzle.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “You Say You Want a Revolution” – Derek’s write-up

Talk about a timely theme! What is with the latest mania sweeping the country? Who invented these darn things? And why?? Let us examine the theme entries, and then we can expound a bit:

  • 20A [Character on a cel] ANIMATED FIGURE
  • 33A [Third-generation actress who co-starred in “Jackie Brown”] BRIDGET FONDA
  • 41A [Did some birthday prep work, maybe] WRAPPED GIFTS
  • 54A [Toys that are making the rounds in 2017 news?] FIDGET SPINNERS

I said it was timely! My son has quite the array of these. They were supposedly designed for autistic children, and my son has some of these traits, so that explains why he has like 6 of them! A few are shown here:

It is amazing sometimes how a fad takes hold. But clever of Matt to take the name and work it into a theme, with the letters in FIDGET literally spinning, or anagramming. Too good. And I don’t think this fad has been addressed in a NYT yet, so again, extremely timely. A solid 4.4 stars.

A few more notes:

  • 15A [Jason who will play Aquaman in 2018] MOMOA – They are messing up these DC movies, although the new Wonder Woman coming out this week got a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, so that is a good sign. There have been several successful Marvel movies; why can’t they get DC right?
  • 39A [“Fences” star Davis] VIOLA – Speaking of superhero movies, I just saw Suicide Squad, and she was in that. Not a totally horrendous movie, but again, another DC movie not quite up snuff.
  • 62A [“The Five People You Meet in Heaven” author Mitch] ALBOM – I wonder where he will pop up on TV now that The Sports Reporters has been discontinued on ESPN? I am sure he is still producing columns in Detroit, but who reads papers??
  • 66A [Cubs Hall of Famer Sandberg] RYNE – Go Cubbies! Although they are not doing quite as well as people had hoped so far.
  • 12D [“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Leakes] NENE – I am ashamed that I knew this immediately!
  • 27D [Break apart] RIVE – A tough word. But gettable. Maybe.
  • 29D [Disco-era term meaning “galore”] A GO-GO – So THAT’S what that means …
  • 36D [X, of Twitch’s “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” marathon, e.g.] OWL – I don’t quite get this reference, but I was a big fan of Fred Rogers growing up. There is a video going viral with his testimony before Congress defending public television. I nearly cried when I saw it!

Are you recovered from the long weekend? I am not!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Today’s puzzle is a play on words about a popular tourist destination. As usual, the red letters denote the circles in the grid:

  • 17A [Mike and Carol’s blended TV family] BRADY BUNCH
  • 27A [Musical group with conga drums] SALSA BAND
  • 32A [Had a religious awakening] FOUND GOD
  • 45A [Lost it all] WENT BUST
  • 53A [Where to learn to crawl?] SWIM CLASS
  • 61A [Kitty Hawk locale … and what the circled letters graphically represent] OUTER BANKS

I have been to North Carolina, but not specifically here. My father lives in South Carolina, but that is nowhere near the Outer Banks. Although he is closer than I am! One of these days … but this is a great puzzle. Very clever. We have a bank branch, sand bank, food bank, West Bank, and Swiss bank. Slightly clunky with the bank branch being a phrase in reverse order, but that is persnickety. They are all banks! 3.8 stars.

A few notes:

  • 14A [A6 automaker] AUDI – Somebody buy me one!
  • 31A [HBO’s “Game of __”] THRONES – We are down to weeks now … !
  • 36A [Military day’s march] ÉTAPE – A tough word. Familiar enough if you do enough puzzles!
  • 57A [Japanese noodle] SOBA – I am getting hungry …
  • 69A [Tickle Me Elmo toy company] TYCO – How old is THIS reference!
  • 7D [Country singer Tucker] TANYA – Another old ref! Is she still alive?
  • 11D [Steak-lobster combo, on menus] SURF AND TURF – Now I am REALLY getting hungry …
  • 26D [Like medieval Europe’s social structure] FEUDALISTIC – A great crossing down entry!
  • 49D [Like some hunting jackets] TWEEDY – Or [Like some university professor’s jackets]!
  • 51D [ __ rasa: clean slate] TABULA – I ONLY know this from crosswords. I don’t believe I have ever seen it somewhere else. I am also not well-read!

Enjoy your week. Back to the grind!

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13 Responses to Tuesday, May 30, 2017

  1. MattF says:

    The GRAY/GREY problem slowed me down at the end since the vertical crossing SAND/SEND is a word either way. Got it eventually, but… took a while.

  2. Howard B says:

    LIPPIZANER / NEIL was kinda mean to me, since I was not sure about the spelling of his name. Oh well.

    • Bruce N Morton says:

      True — Neil vs. Neal is an issue. I’m not sure how zonk could be a prize on Let’s Make a Deal but it does sound unwanted. I know I don’t want a bonk

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I thought this entire section was mean, especially for a Tuesday. I got Naticked at CAPO/LIPIZZANER. A CAPO is a guitar device? Okay. I’ve only ever heard it used as a mob boss. And ZONK could have been several other things (e.g., BONK, CONK, HONK) if you’re not familiar with “Let’s Make a Deal”. As Amy pointed out, “ZONK out” is a normal English expression — why not clue it in this way?

      Along with NEAL/NEIL, that’s three words in a row, with which some solvers might struggle, all crossing a variant name of a horse breed. That is *rough* for a Tuesday.

      • Bruce N Morton says:

        OK — but anyone with a passing acquaintance with a guitar knows what a capo (pronounced Kaypo) is. It’s a small cylindrical device which can be locked in place across the fingerboard, behind a fret, thereby raising the pitch of the open strings. Typically a 6 string guitar is tuned (from low to high) E, A, D, G (natural), B, E. Since the highest and lowest strings are both pitched to E and the G is G natural, not G sharp, the “home” or natural tonality of the guitar is E minor, but as I said, that can be changed, by using a capo.

        • Joe Pancake says:

          Fair enough. Capo sounds like it’s on me — a gap in my personal knowledge. It happens. But if not for the tough crossing and difficult(ish) neighboring entries, I probably could have sussed it out.

          For a later week puzzle, I wouldn’t have said anything, but this section felt overly rough for a Tuesday to me.

    • Matt J. says:

      A good mnemonic: Lipizzaner is “pizza” inside “liner”.

      • ahimsa says:

        I first read about the Lipizzaner stallions when I was a kid and never noticed that – thanks!

  3. Bruce N Morton says:

    I don’t know much about text message buttons, but how could “sand” be one? I thought that this was an excellent puzzle, with a perfectly good Tues. theme. I think grey and gray are interchangeable in all contexts. I’m surprised that anyone would be adamant that one is correct, or even primary.

  4. Thomas says:

    LAT: I just couldn’t stop thinking “But ANTI-INTELLECTUAL is too long.”

  5. ahimsa says:

    WSJ: Anyone else think of ANTI-immigrant before ANTI-INCUMBENT? It fits the clue and is the right # of spaces…but I’m so glad it was not the answer.

    I’m still reeling from the attack in Portland on Friday (I live in the area) so I guess that was on my mind.

    I managed to do all the crosswords reviewed today and they were all fun. Thanks to all the constructors and to all the puzzle bloggers!

  6. Brady says:

    Ok, Jonesin’, a few grumbles:

    25A: wouldn’t ‘takes too much, seriously’ be a way more sensible clue?
    11D: Portuguese, by default, are ‘Iberian’. “The Portuguese”, are ‘Iberians’ (and maybe Iberian).
    38D: You almost had me here, but I suppose that the ‘electric’ part makes those items machines, rather than tools. Cue John Oliver ‘Coooooool’.

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