Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Jonesin' 5:49 (Derek) 


LAT 3:49 (Derek) 


NYT 3:48 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Filling in for Amy tonight. I caught on to the theme quickly; the revealer actually confused me.

NYT 6/20, solution grid

  • 17a [One of the premier clubs in the Premier League]. Even a non-soccer fan such as myself knows MANCHESTER UNITED.
  • 21a [Southern region where blues developed] is the MISSISSIPPI DELTA. 
  • 50a [Annual Austin festival] is SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST. I’ve never had the pleasure, unfortunately.

All three entries span the grid and all are solidly in the language. The last word in each is the name of an airline. I figured the fourth 16-letter entry would follow suit. Nope. 55a ask us for [Arrival and departure locales hinted at by 17-, 21- and 50-across] and the answer is AIRPORT TERMINALS. My confusion: the terminals of the theme answers aren’t airports, they’re airlines. I guess they’re terminals (ends) that would be seen in airports…that’s a bit of a reach for me, especially on a Tuesday.

Speaking of “especially on a Tuesday,” we have 47a [Hill that’s steep on one side and gentle on the other]. I asked my resident geologist about this and said “Drumlin?” When I told him it was CUESTA, he nodded and said “Sure. That’s a typical feature of the Colorado Plateau, but I didn’t know it offhand because those goddamn geomorphologists have a name for everything.” I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if a guy with a PhD in geology can’t get this as a gimme, it does not belong in a Tuesday puzzle. (He is now reading the results of a Google search and informed me that Mesa Verde is technically a CUESTA and not a mesa. We’re all about education over here).

A few other things:

  • 15d [Dominant faith of Iran] is SHIISM, which just looks wrong but is correct.
  • 31a [Applesauce] is HOKUM. I love a good old-timey put-down.
  • 33d [Cause of tree damage and downed telephone wires] is HIGH WINDS. We had some of those today.
  • 36d [Answer to the riddle “What force or strength cannot get through/I, with gentle touch, can do”] is worthy of Peter Gordon. It’s A KEY.
  • 60d [1977 Steely Dan album] is AJA. I graduated from high school in 1978, and there was a time when I knew every song on that album by heart, in order. Call me Deacon Blues…

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: CUESTA. I also didn’t know that [Dwellers east of the Urals] are ASIANS. So if you play me in Learned League, you know to assign lots of points to the geology (or geomorphology) questions.

And since I now have a Steely Dan earworm, I’ll share


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 316), “I’m Right in Front of You”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 6/20 (No. 3160

It was only three weeks ago when “Here’s Looking at You, Cod!” was the CN puzz. In that one, each word of the three-word theme phrases began with the letters c/o/d respectively. And we’re back to the same idea today, but this time with first and last names beginning with I/M respectively (as in I/M right in front…). There’s only one outlier for my money, but more on that when we get there. It’s a tried-and-true way to build a theme set and if the results are not “dazzling,” they’re still more than respectable.

  • 17A. IDINA MENZEL [At the Oscars, John Travolta introduced this sinter/actress as “Adele Dazeem”]. And pro that she is, she simply sang her way to winning the Oscar for songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Smartly done! (Seems unlikely, but in case you’ve forgotten, the song was “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. Not to be confused with ICES [Frozen dessert].)
  • 27A. ISAAC MIZRAHI [Fashion designer featured in “Unzipped”]. And… he and his designs were the subject of a vivid and fabulous exhibit at NYC’s Jewish Museum last spring/summer. The man is fearless when it comes to color and materials and is to be congratulated for regularly reinventing himself and his design goals. Also, ya gotta love a guy who develops a cabaret act for himself (performed at the Café Carlyle no less) and calls it “Does This Song Make Me Look Fat?” Btw, he included “C’est Si Bon” in homage to [Elegant Eartha] KITT.
  • 48A. IMELDA MARCOS [She’s known as the “Steel Butterfly” of the Philippines]. And also as a woman with a serious shoe-buying habit. Yep. This is the outlier for me. The initials work, but thoughts of the woman detract from the theme’s enjoyment factor. Then again, I’m someone who got only limited “enjoyment” from Here Lies Love, the immersive (and very successful) musical by David Byrnes and Fatboy Slim about the Ferdinand and IMELDA and the cult of IMELDA… These simply aren’t people who arouse any sympathy in me.
  • 64A. IRIS MURDOCH [Author portrayed by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench in a 2001 biopic]. Ms. MURDOCH, otoh, does. Especially as she’s depicted in this film about a gifted writer in a loving marriage, and the impact of her descent into Alzheimer’s on that marriage and that mind of hers. Powerful stuff.

So, an interesting (if not my own ideal) mix of people. D’you suppose they ever IM one another? (Of course, I know IRIS can’t… but, hey—the other three are alive and kickin’.)

Lively and kickin’ are the two vertical nines that inhabit the grid: STINKAROO [Total dud] and TWICE-TOLD [Like Hawthorne’s “Tales”]. The latter has been around since 1837; the former since the 1920s. While stinkeroo gets far more play historically, M-W gives priority to STINKAROO. Which is to say, there’s legitimate precedent for both. Either way: let’s hear it for colorful slang that isn’t necessarily off-color. (Although sometimes the stronger stuff is the only thing that really hits the spot!)

That does it for longer fill. No sevens or eights today either. But my faves among the sixes include AT HOME, with its homily-like clue [Where charity begins]; “KA-BOOM!, that onomatopoetic [Comic book blast] (or maybe the sound of BOZO the clown falling down?); and AMELIA [Earhart who said “Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done”]. That AMELIA had a no-nonsense way with words. Have you ever read the letter she wrote George Putnam in advance of marrying him? (P.S. Like that of the Murdochs, this was another loving marriage.)

My nit today? A nuance thing—and you may feel differently. But I’m not convinced that cluing VAMP as [Coquette] is the best way to go. By the dictionary, a coquette is insincere in her attempts to gain a man’s attention; she’s a flirt. But a VAMP is a woman who aggressively uses her wiles to exploit men. I.e., she’s more like the Glenn Close character in [“FATAL Attraction“] than, say, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire…. As I see it, there’s something more inherently dangerous in a VAMP than in a (kinda shallow) coquette.

Oh—in the event the [“Amazing” debunker]/RANDI left you confused, read all about ‘im.

And with that, I leave you for today. Hope you have a fine week ahead and that, as always, you’ll keep solving. TTFN!

John Lampkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Loony Toons” — Jim’s review

As someone who has never grown up, I always enjoy a good cartoon reference. John Lampkin is back today with a theme that takes common phrases whose first word is an animal and clues them with respect to a famous cartoon critter. For extra comedic effect, take the toon’s name and follow it up with the theme entry, for example “Porky Pig Latin.”

WSJ – Tue, 6.20.17 – “Loony Tunes” by John Lampkin

  • 16a [Porky’s lingo?] PIG LATIN. In this one and the Bugs one below, the second word doesn’t change meaning—a little bit of an inconsistency.
  • 20a [Yogi’s pillow stuffing?] BEAR DOWN. Also the slogan for the University of Arizona’s athletic teams.
  • 37a [Donald’s hooch?] DUCK SAUCE. I like this one best.
  • 56a [Bugs’s motion?] BUNNY HOP. I liked this one least; it just didn’t go far enough. I’d have liked BUNNY SLOPE with some sort of mathematical clue.
  • 62a [Mickey’s domicile?] MOUSEPAD. Not much of a surprise, this one, but still cute.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two for Looney Tunes, two for Disney, and one for Hanna-Barbera.

As for the rest of the grid, with a 9-letter central themer, we don’t get any long Down entries, but a clutch of 7s including standouts VIP PASS, TAG TEAM, “NOW WHAT?!,” CRONUTS, PIT-A-PAT, and “WE DID IT!”

Not sure about that clue on PIT-A-PAT: [Stereotypical love-at-first-sight sound]. Given the theme, I was thinking of this:

Clues of note:

  • 6d [Baby or corn container]: CRIB. I have never heard of a corn crib. Apparently, it’s a “bin or ventilated building for storing corn.” I’d add a picture, but I think I already have enough visuals in this post. (It’s easily googled.)
  • 48d [“Family Ties” mom]: ELYSE. I never watched the show and I doubt that it’s been broadcast anywhere in a long, long time. Time to retire this entry.

Overall though, cute puzzle.

I will leave you with this: If you’re like me and gained most of your classical music knowledge from cartoons, have I got a link for you. Youtuber codexjen has created a playlist with dozens of recognizable classical music moments used in many cartoon favorites. Enjoy!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “That’s Not a Word” – Derek’s write-up

No, they aren’t! Several made-up words, including a new one that is quite timely, given current events, make up the answers to the starred clues. Here they are:

  • 17A [Mork’s epithet on “Mork & Mindy”] SHAZBOT – This takes me back!
  • 18A [Second word of “Jabberwocky”] BRILLIG – My wife can recite this word for word, and often does, so this was a gimme!
  • 34A [Creatures questioned by Mr. Salt in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’] SNOZZWANGERS
  • 42A [Scuttle’s guess at naming a human artifact (really a fork) in “The Little Mermaid”] DINGLEHOPPER
  • 60A [Scrabble play by Bart (which Homer challenged) in the second-ever episode of “The Simpsons”] KWYJIBO – How did Matt find this? Awesome!
  • 62A [May 2017 mis-tweet that won’t go away] COVFEFE – What more is there to say?

Yes, that infamous word that the President made up is becoming quite famous. Even some of his supporters want him off Twitter! Very timely and clever, especially since this plays like a themeless, although there are 74 words in this one. A “Q” would have made this pangrammatic! 4.4 stars today.

Just a few more items:

  • 8A [Used, as a saddle] SAT UPON – I had SAT ATOP. Close!
  • 49A [Big bankruptcy of 2001] ENRON – This comes up a lot in my accounting classes. Primarily on what NOT to do!
  • 69A [17th-century Dutch philosopher who wrote “Ethics”] SPINOZA – I think I vaguely remember Baruch Spinoza from some earlier puzzles, likely other Jonesin’ editions! His name sounds Spanish, so that makes it tough!
  • 20D [ __ Ishii (“Kill Bill” character)] OREN – This movie is quite violent, but still pretty good. I couldn’t make it to the end; it got to be too much!
  • 35D [Arthur __, inventor of the crossword in 1913] WYNNE – Nice! This crowd should know this immediately.
  • 57D [Kia hybrid SUV since 2016 (what, you expected “Robert De __”?)] NIRO – I am not too familiar with this car. I am on the road a lot less these days, so I don’t see as many different models as I used to!

Believe it or not, we have another holiday coming up soon! This year is flying by!

Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I think this is the second or third puzzle I have blogged by this couple. This one is fairly clever, at least to me. I tried to figure out the last key thematic entry, but I failed miserably! Here are the theme answers (the letters in red were circled):

  • 17A [Caribbean island group] WEST INDIES
  • 23A [Independence Day colors] RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
  • 37A [Auto visibility aid with intermittent settings] WINDSHIELD WIPER
  • 48A [“How about that!”] WELL I’LL BE DARNED!
  • 60A [Extensive … and what’s literally seen in this puzzle’s circles] WIDESPREAD

I tried FAR AND WIDE thinking I was slick! Their answer is much better (and makes better sense!)! I may have had a super fast time if it wasn’t for my silly errors. But that is not the puzzle’s fault! 4.1 stars for this gem!

A few more things:

  • 15A [Broadcast with greater image resolution, as TV shows] IN HD – I almost get upset now if something ISN’T in HD!
  • 44A [Jamaican fruit] UGLI – This word is common in puzzles, but I don’t think I know it was in the Caribbean. I thought it was Asian!
  • 11D [Illumination on helmets] HEADLAMPS – I have a few headlamps that I use for running. They are on a strap, not a helmet!
  • 30D [“I’d like this favor”] “INDULGE ME” – This one stumped me for a second, too. Maybe because I am not usually the type to ask for favors! But we all need help from time to time …

Off to do more schoolwork. Have a great week!

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22 Responses to Tuesday, June 20, 2017

  1. Steve Manion. says:


    You should have grown up in Niagara Falls. In 7th grade, students study the history of the Niagara Frontier, which I would guess with some pride is as fascinating as any local history anywhere. Anyway, the Niagara Escarpment is a cuesta. My friends and I used to drive to a restaurant in Pekin, New York with a great view of the escarpment:


    I am wondering if when they stop the flow of water over the Falls to make much needed repairs, will the resulting formation temporarily qualify as a cuesta. They stopped the flow in the late ’60s.

    Fun puzzle for me.


    • Lise says:

      Wait, what? The Falls can be *stopped*? (I suppose I could google this myself but I have four more crosswords to do ;) )

      • Steve Manion. says:

        Niagara Falls has deteriorated greatly over my lifetime. Canada did something in the ’50s to curtail the erosion in the Horseshoe Falls and that falls remains breathtaking.
        If you visit, the one mandatory tourist trap is the Maid of the Mist, a boat that goes close to the edge of the falls. From that vantage point, the power of the falls is overwhelming.

        Here’s a story of when the falls was dewatered in 1969 and why they are doing it again

        This may be the best-a cuesta you will ever see.



        • Jenni Levy says:

          The resident geologist did grow up in upstate NY – Webster, to be exact. He once told me Niagara Falls was much more interesting when they stopped the water and he could see the rocks underneath. He still didn’t pull CUESTA from his memory banks.

          • Steve Manion. says:

            Ironically, I had never heard of DRUMLIN and if you look up Drumlin, it will show lots of them in Upstate New York.


        • Lise says:

          Thank you, Steve!

          I just now looked at the article. The area looks sad without the water but it will be good to have new safe bridges.

  2. Ethan says:

    It was an interesting coincidence that last night’s Final Jeopardy asked for the airline whose first passenger flight “left Dallas, making stops at Shreveport, Monroe, and Jackson.” The answer was DELTA, which takes its name from the MISSISSIPPI DELTA where those towns are located. Finding that out sort of detracts from that answer, I think. There’s nothing playful about the fact that a phrase contains the name of a company when that company was named for the phrase in the first place. Just my two cents.

  3. David L says:

    CUESTA was new to me too — as was ASHBIN. I know ‘ashcan’ in connection with the art movement of that name, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never come across ashbin before. A regionalism, maybe?

    Not thrilled to see IDEATE yet again but at least it’s clued correctly this time.

  4. Papa John says:

    Is there a musician out there (I’m looking at you, Bruce) who can explain NYT 52D “Melodic subjects in music” TEMPS? A quick online search reveals nothing.

    Jenni: I have no problem with the revealer in the NYT. Terminals are the areas within an airport where the transition from ground to air is made. Gates are within terminals, as are concourses. Each airline (in a large facility) has its own terminal. An airport can include other types of buildings.

  5. Glenn (the other one) says:

    A timely question since one of Matt Jones’ puzzles is up for today: Is there a quick way to tell difficulty of a puzzle without doing it? To be honest, I gave his puzzles a try once and passed on them because I was finishing them with 6-8 minute times (at my solving level, that says “super easy”) and figured that was what all the puzzles were. But I got bored one night and picked up a couple of months worth and found them all over the map. Or at least is there a way to tell the difficulty level of his puzzles?

    “How did Matt find this? Awesome!”

    Actually it’s pretty iconic for those that watched the show back then. Of course, it was much different (Bart was the main focus rather than Homer). You could see that they had some idea with Homer even then (his set of tiles actually being able to do what Bart tried to and him missing it probably being the better, slier joke there – I would have probably found a way to slide it into the same grid with that one), but they didn’t pick up on it until about the middle of Season 3 with another definition joke (“pulling a Homer” – to succeed despite idiocy).

    KWYJIBO – A big dumb balding North American ape… with no chin. (Marge: And a short temper…)

  6. Zef Wagner says:

    I can see how “terminal” would be confusing if you only fly in small airports, but larger airports typically have one terminal for each major airline. So you have the Delta terminal, the Southwest terminal, etc.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I grew up flying out of JFK and currently oscillate between Newark and Philadelphia. I’m familiar with larger airports.

  7. Scott says:

    NYT. I was surprised that my favourite airline (American) didn’t make the puzzle.

  8. Zulema says:

    This is the hardest NYT Tuesday ever for me, and I mean EVER, and the long theme answers were practically gimmes too. I finally filled in A KEY and got CUESTA, which to me in Spanish means the gentler side of a hill, the one you could attempt, not the craggy one, but definitely not the whole hill (but I am far from being a geologist).

    Steve, thank you for the write-up on Niagara Falls. I have been there but knew nothing about shutting them off. I have forwarded your very welcome information to others who will be interested.

  9. Giovanni P. says:

    Can I just say that I appreciate that the commenters here don’t seem to think cluing LGBT is a sign of societal decline??? Thank you all and have a nice day.

Comments are closed.