Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jonesin' 4:00 (Derek) 


LAT 5:24 (Derek) 


NYT 3:01 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 325), “Sex Symbol”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 8/22 (No. 325)—Before

Hey. When it comes to a “follow the dots” puzzle, nobody does it better than la Liz, and today’s example—in an enlarged 17×17 grid with mirror symmetry—proves to be one of her most exemplary. As far as the connection between the title and the connected dots is concerned, you’ll have less success thinking along the lines of Channing Tatum or ScarJo or [your fave here] and more by thinking of the iconic opening of Ben Casey. Or, as we’re directed in the notepad note: “After you complete the puzzle, connect the circles alphabetically—from A to M—to reveal a real ‘sex symbol.'” This symbol for “woman” is a most fitting emblem indeed to celebrate:

  • After (Graphic by Gorski)

    19A. WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY [August 26th observance that commemorates certification of the 19th Amendment]. And how else does the grid salute this event? Why, with:

  • 37D. RIGHT TO VOTE [What the 19th Amendment granted to the population represented by the connect-the-dot symbol] and
  • 40D. SUFFRAGISTS [Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—to name a few]. And still, they persisted. Thank you, ladies, on a job well done!

ARCANA [Little known facts]? To the one who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and was apparently surprised to learn that Lincoln, too, was a Republican[!]), perhaps ; but among this crowd? I should think not! ;-) [Fuller disclosure (she said shamefacedly): WED was not an occasion I was previously familiar with (thank you, Bella Abzug, for making it happen)—but the 19th Amendment and those SUFFRAGISTS, oh yes!]

Most fittingly, the puzz also celebrates quite a few women who have been among the most acclaimed in their fields, namely: OLGA [Olympic gymnast Korbut], JEN [Actress Aniston, to friends], GRAHAM [Dance innovator and choreographer Martha], TERRI [Clark or Gibbs of country music], and even golf champ Michelle Wie by way of the clue [Michelle Wie’s org.] for LPGA. “I LIKE IT!”

I also like—a lot—all of the six- and seven-letter fill. It’s consistently good: ARCANA, ARTIER, GRAHAM, MARACA, MOANED, POISON (archly clued as [Arsenic, but not old lace]), RAKE IN, SOIRÉE, ARIGATO, CREDITS, “I LIKE IT!,” POSITED, STYLISH, TATTLER, TONIEST. That’s some fine fill! The nine-letter, fully functional PRIME RATE is fine, but doesn’t really send me (poor banking and economics and accounting terms—among the puzzle world’s most unloved entries!). Far better are the eight-letter RESPONDS and the winningly, wittily clued PAID CASH [Chose paper over plastic?].

We also get several entries that tie in to one another, adding another level of integrity to the grid, so hats off to:

  • RESPONDS [Writes back] and ANS. [Reply (Abbr.)]
  • the “emo”-tional EMOJI [Texting symbol] and EMOTE [Ham it up on stage] and
  • TONIEST [Most chic], STYLISH [Fashionable] and ARTIER [More bohemian].

Creating a lively grid where 13 letters must appear in specific locations to accommodate a well-limned graphic is no mean feat and I have to say, I feel that Liz is enormously successful today. That cross of EL CID and the partial [“We go BACK A long way”…] ain’t remotely a beauty in its own right. In the context of this puzzle, however, where it gets us from the circled A to B, back to C, down to D and up again to E while smoothly creating the cross at the bottom of the symbol? The possible “wtf?” becomes an utter “wow.” I said it before and I’ll say it again: “I LIKE IT!”

And… because ymmv, am hoping you liked it as well! Great meeting and seeing so many Fiendsters and puzzlers at LPZ10 on Saturday. This is the kind of good, clean fun that can be enjoyed when ya keep solving. So keep solving, one and all, and see you back here next week.

The women in white. We couldn’t have done it without them!

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 22 17, no 0822

I like a solid geography theme. We’ve got assorted towns that contain 2-letter chunks that happen to be the 2-letter postal abbreviation for the states where those towns are:

  • 5a. [Southern city just south of a national forest with the same name], OZARK. Have not ever heard of this town and it probably doesn’t rate inclusion in a crossword. Crikey, people, it has a population of under 4,000! AR is Arkansas.
  • 3d. [Where the Crimson Tide play], TUSCALOOSA, Alabama.
  • 7d. [City almost at the end of the Columbia River], ASTORIA, Oregon. I’ve previously complained about this town being included in crosswords. Less than 10,000 people there. (And I don’t care if a handful of you have vacationed there. It’s not terribly notable.)
  • 11d. [Red River Valley city in the upper Midwest], GRAND FORKS, North Dakota. Hey, I just vacationed in the upper Midwest! But not in the Dakotas.
  • 25d. [State university city in the Midwest], BLOOMINGTON, Indiana. Have you seen the classic movie, Breaking Away?
  • 28d. [Sunny city with a famous pier], SANTA MONICA, California.
  • 46d. [Original eastern terminus of the Erie Canal], ALBANY, New York.

The theme would be stronger without podunk OZARK in the mix, and you could argue that a standard-symmetry crossword grid with a 10/11/11/10 would have been just fine.

Assorted thoughts while solving: Is V-CHIP still a term that the TV industry uses? (I see “parental controls.”) Has anyone anywhere ever literally shouted “TGIF!” on a Friday? Do kids these days have any idea that there was ever an MS-DOS operating system that preceded Windows and the Mac OS? YEW TREE is clued as [Common churchyard conifer], but that’s really just a British thing, isn’t it? Nice to see the pretty Eastern words KISMET and CHAKRA beside each other.

3.5 stars from me.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twisted Tales” — Jim’s review

Jim here, filling in for Laura, who took over the Tuesday slot from me, but who subbed for me all last week, and is on vacation this week. Got it?

Fairly standard anagram theme with the letters in question coming from TALES, hence the title. This theme was done before by Sarah Keller in the NYT, Sep 3, 2007. She also used LEAST RESISTANCE across the middle, but the rest of the answers differ.

WSJ – Tue, 8.22.17 – “Twisted Tales” by Alan Arbesfeld

  • 17a [Paint color with a lot of gray in it] SLATE BLUE. I’m more familiar with “slate gray,” but SLATE BLUE actually gets more hits on Google.
  • 24a [Company that introduced the electric Roadster in 2008] TESLA MOTORS. The car company was formed in 2003, but wasn’t much of a name until the Roadster came along. Therefore, this would’ve been a tough entry in 2007.
  • 38a [Feature of the easiest path] LEAST RESISTANCE. Feels like a long partial to me.
  • 51a [Get closer to home, in a way] STEAL SECOND. Nice clue and answer.
  • 62a [Tie on a board] STALEMATE

As common as these letters are, I’m surprised I found only one instance of this theme. Whoops! Here’s another — with the anagrams at the ends of phrases — by Freddie Cheng, also in the NYT but from just this past March. And Amy’s post refers to an earlier LAT puzzle as well. I thought it all seemed vaguely familiar.

So we get a fairly unoriginal theme, but some nice fill in EASTER EGG, PAN ROAST, TAILGATE, BOB SEGER, and SWINDLED. Also-likes: ROCCO, DIAPER, REGINA, TOE TAG.

I have much dislike for HIED as an entry and even more for IPS [Reel-to-reel speed measure: Abbr.]. That actually stands for “inches per second.” Maybe this was valid crossword fill when people commonly used tapes, but it’s unwelcome today.

Did not know: [Bird with a booming call] is an EMU. Apparently, it’s only the female that makes such a booming noise; the male sounds more like a pig.

On the whole, though the theme is tired and some of the short fill rankled, most of the fill here is nice enough to make the puzzle enjoyable.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Evenly spaced” – Derek’s write-up

This is a clever theme, and it also seems as if it would be slightly difficult to come up with working combinations, especially since the constraints are pretty exact!

  • 20A [Where Starbucks stores used to pop up] ON EVERY CORNER
  • 32A [Fictional TV locale you can actually visit in Mount Airy, NC] TOWN OF MAYBERRY
  • 39A [Business management plans involving internet platforms] TECH STRATEGIES
  • 51A [Yellow, blue, and red national symbol flown over Quito] FLAG OF ECUADOR

So we have the letters in the word ONE concealed in a theme answer on letter apart from each other, the letters in TWO hidden two apart, and so on. There might be other phrases with theses letter patterns, but it still seems very restricting to me. A solid 4.6 stars today.

A few more notes:

  • 17A [Colorado national park near the Four Corners region] MESA VERDE – I have actually been here!
  • 37A [Like the river, in an Olivia Newton-John song title] TOO WIDE – I am not sure which song this is referring to. I did Spotify research; maybe I should have checked iTunes instead!
  • 43A [Queen __ (Jay-Z’s spouse, to fans)] BEY – Leaders spearheading the Illuminati movement, if you believe certain websites!
  • 57A [__ Martin (British car company)] ASTON – Until recently, the car of choice for James Bond.
  • 6D [“Finding __” (2016 film)] DORY – Tag surely not needed for this popular Pixar (Disney) picture.
  • 21D [Actress/activist who was married to Ossie Davis for 50 years] RUBY DEE – A great actress she was. She passed away just a couple of years ago. She was in her nineties.
  • 40D [Word in the seventh Harry Potter book title] HALLOWS – I am familiar with the titles of these books, but I have never seen any of these movies. Still scarred by days of delivering hundreds of cases of these books to the local Barnes and Noble!

Did you see the eclipse on Monday? I only saw it on TV. Until next week!

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I am only mildly surprised (but still surprised) that there is not a revealer in this puzzle anywhere. But there really isn’t a good way to do it. The theme answers all start with anagrams of the letters EILV:

  • 17A [Tendency to explode in anger] VILE TEMPER
  • 25A [Demons and such] EVIL SPIRITS
  • 36A [Cover for mysterious doings] VEIL OF SECRECY
  • 49A [Blue jeans pioneer] LEVI STRAUSS
  • 59A [Real-time media transfer] LIVE STREAM

I don’t think there are any more, and so that sort of constrains any possible revealer. This wasn’t readily evident to me until I was about halfway through, which makes for a fine a-ha moment. 4.2 stars.

Just a few more things:

  • 15A [Theater chain initials] AMC – A better clue than referencing the now defunct car company. There is an AMC theater near here that is actually my favorite. When I go to the movies once a year!
  • 40A [Suprise “from the blue”] BOLT – I had jolt. Yes, it took me nearly 6 minutes to do this puzzle. Yes, there is an error mark in the grid image at this spot!
  • 1D [“Our Man in __”: Graham Greene novel set in Cuba] HAVANA – Vaguely familiar, and I surely have never read it. Might add it to the Wish List!
  • 36D [Removed from office via election] VOTED OUT – This surely will get some solvers fantasizing …
  • 40D [Bloody Mary’s solo] BALI HAI – No wonder I had 40A wrong! I haven’t seen South Pacific in literally decades!
  • 44D [Unemotional] STOLID – Slightly tough for a Tuesday.
  • 51D [Analgesic brand] ADVIL – I use an Advil PM most nights. I sleep quite soundly then.

No more eclipses here until 2024! Have a good week.

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15 Responses to Tuesday, August 22, 2017

  1. Andrew says:

    Weird. I just watched “Breaking Away” for the first time on Friday.

  2. placematfan says:


    You’re like the reporter in a superhero movie, only your qualities outlast that whom you’ve reported on. You do great work. Props. [No dis to the great Gorski meant here, only a small thank you to the blogger of her work.]

    • placematfan says:

      Yeah, I think what I meant here was, reading what you wrote about the concert made me feel like I was there and much more.

      • janie says:

        pshaw — and thx for that sweet vote o’ confidence! sure don’t hurt, of course, when working off of the inspiration of a constructor as regularly inspired as ms. g.


  3. Martin says:


    Yes, Astoria has fewer than 10,000 residents but size isn’t everything. For one thing, Oregon’s population is closer to Chicago’s than to that of Illinois. But I’ll stipulate Astoria is a small town and your complaint is reasonable.

    But its claim to noteworthiness is not based on it being a vacation center. Rather, Astoria is an important gateway. Its position at the mouth of the Columbia River has made it a fishing and shipping center with control over a good deal of the economy of the Pacific Northwest. It’s at one end of a crucial bridge connecting Oregon and Washington. It’s an important port for sport fishermen from both states as well as many of us Californians, heading out for salmon or albacore.

    For these reasons, Astoria is well known to Pacific Coast residents. Your insistence that it is not noteworthy strikes some of us as a bit East-of-the-Rocky chauvinist. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but since I’m in Oregon now (having seen the total eclipse here earlier today), it seems I should offer an Oregonian’s perspective. Here in Portland, I assure you everyone knows Astoria, OR and few know Astoria, Queens.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I don’t love geography, and didn’t know a couple of these places, but I still thought it was a good puzzle, and I don’t mind learning something new.
    Actually, this brought back memories of my youth. When I first landed in the US to go to grad school, I flew to Iowa City on OZARK airlines. That was the first time I had heard that name, and it was the start of a continuous state of disorientation on my part that lasted almost a year. Nothing was as I had expected…
    Then I transferred to UCLA and lived in SANTA MONICA. I was poor as a church mouse but it was awesome to live near the ocean and I went to that pier almost every day.

    I expected to have an eclipse related puzzle somehow… feels like a missed opportunity…

    • Zulema says:

      HUDA, just want to say that I came across your name in Dr. Sapolsky’s wonderful book “BEHAVE” with reference to mouse behavior. Lovely to come across your name anywhere.

      As to today’s NYT I thought it was very clever (minus OZARK) and must have taken a great deal of work. Enjoyed all the geography.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I liked this puzzle less than Amy did. Maybe I’ve just had enough of hotel beds and sharing a room with my daughter (“Why are you LOOKING at me?”) but the theme was underwhelming and the fill didn’t do much for me, either.

    • Huda says:

      Yeah, I feel your pain… it’s discombobulating when they go from thinking of you as having hung the moon to finding you barely tolerable. Thankfully, they eventually find a happy middle ground.

      • Papa John says:

        Say ladies, your daughters might think better of you if you didn’t dis them on a public forum. I’m just saying…

  6. Bruce Haight says:

    Thanks Derek, but this was not No Reveal Tuesday for the LAT. The clue I submitted for LIVE STREAM was “Modern transmission, and a clue to letter groups in 17,25,36, and 49-Across” Get it? L-I-V-E Stream?
    Rich Norris decided to make VEIL OF SECRECY the second revealer! Bruce Haight

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