Thursday, October 19, 2017

BEQ 8:39 (Ben) 


LAT 5:22 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:24 (Laura) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball  7:47 (Jenni) 


Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Laura’s write-up

NYT - 10.19.17 - White - Solution

NYT – 10.19.17 – White – Solution

  • [13a: Honcho]: NUMERO UNO
  • [17a: Louse]: SCOUNDREL
  • [36a: Honcho]: BIG WHEEL
  • [39aR: One way to fall in love … or a hint to the answers to the starred clues]: HEAD OVER HEELS
  • [42a: Louse]: DIRTY RAT
  • [64a: Honcho]: TOP BANANA
  • [67a: Louse]: NO GOODNIK

Hey, you know who’s both a head honcho and a heel? I don’t have to tell you. Actually, most of those entries are too mild, in my book, to describe the rampant abuse of privilege by powerful men. I’ll assume that this theme appearing after the news of the past week or so is a coincidence, much like the D-Day puzzle in the Telegraph. It has a clever set of symmetrical theme entries that fit succinctly with the revealer. So let’s leave that there for now and watch a video that is inexplicably set in a library:

Things I liked: TUBE TOP, SPY NOVEL, TAOISM, and the clue for BURNER: [5d: Its home is on the range] — although BURNER has seen enough use in crime thrillers that I’m sure that someone will clue it as [Disposable mobile phone] fairly soon.

Things I didn’t like: Abbr.s like EUR, INE, TEL, IND, DST, DIR, STA. STOPGO as a kind of traffic unless there’s an and in between STOP and GO. O-TYPE referring to blood, instead of, say, to fans of the boy band O-Town.

Thing I didn’t know, and learned: That the [45a: 1961 Project Mercury chimp] was named ENOS.

Thing I claim to be inaccurate: APU is not just the [56a: Kwik-E-Mart clerk], he’s the owner.

Alex Eaton-Salner’s Fireball Crossword, “Failure Is Not an Option” – Jenni’s writeup

The theme answers start right up at 1a, and I didn’t figure out what was going on until I got to the revealer at 70a: [Photographers’ concerns (or, when read as three words, a hint for this puzzle’s theme]. That’s F-STOPS, or FS TO PS. Let’s see.

FB 10/19, solution grid

  • 1a [Shot in the kitchen?] is a PAN PIC. I am guilty of sometimes posting pics of my food on social media {hides face}. FS TO PS suggests it would make more sense as fan fic. Indeed.
  • 17a [Spreading diseases?] is PLYING POXES (flying foxes).
  • 26a [Step before applying new primer?] is PEEL PAINT, which feels awkward to me – shouldn’t it be peelING paint? Anyway, the root phrase is feel faint.
  • 38a [Wilbur’s jump of joy?] is PIG LEAP, referring to the Wilbur of “Charlotte’s Web.” This one has the Fs in different places (fig leaf).
  • 53a [Glass of sweet wine with a fake eyeball in it?] would be PRANK PORT, and not anything I’d ever want to see. (Frankfort).
  • 62a [Fitbit agreements?] are PACING PACTS (facing facts).

I can forgive the little hiccup at 26a; it’s a strong, consistent theme, and the altered phrases were amusing.

A few other things:

  • I had some difficulties at the beginning. I confidently filled in 1d [Some scrolls] as TORAHS. Nope. The answer is PAPYRI.
  • Trouble continued with 3d [A-Rod, for one]. I dropped in EX YANK, and the X didn’t work. They were looking for NY YANK, which is technically correct, but in over a half-century of Yankees fandom I’ve never heard anyone say it. If you’re using the more familiar YANK you don’t need to specify NY.
  • I’ll leave it to the more Francophile among us to say whether people actually call 8d [Birthplace of Paul Cézanne, familiarly] just AIX instead of AIX-en-Provence.
  • 36d [Operation ___ (code name for the Battle of Normandy)] is boring. Couldn’t we have had a reference to our robot OVERLORD?
  • Crosswordese zoo alert! 48d [Striped safari sights] are OKAPIS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SE-RI PAK was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.

Morton J. Mendelson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Contortions” — Jim’s review

Theme: M’s are changed to P’s by way of the revealer at 57a: PERFORMER. More precisely, MER’s are changed to PER’s, as explained by the clue [Contortionist, e.g., and, read syllable by syllable, a hint to the starred answers]. To spell it out, the entry is telling us to use PER FOR MER.

WSJ – Thu, 10.19.17 – “Contortions” by Morton J. Mendelson

  • 17a [*Candle shaped like a big cat?] LION TAPER. Lion tamer.
  • 22a [*Embarrassing mistake on “The Daily Show”?] LATE BLOOPER. Late bloomer.
  • 36a [*Equipment for a reaper who also takes in laundry?] HAMPER AND SICKLE. Hammer and sickle.
  • 44a [*”Look at that car part!”?] WHAT A BUMPER. “What a bummer!”

I’m not sure what a contortionist has to do with the operation we’re performing on the words. A contortion, to me, would imply mixing something up, maybe coming up with anagrams, and not just replacing a letter. But still, we get a revealer today as an explanation for the theme, and that’s something we didn’t have yesterday.

The theme entries themselves work for the most part. I don’t know that anyone says “What a bummer!” anymore. That feels very 80s. LATE BLOOPER works best for me as a clue/entry combo.

Speaking of clue/entry combos, 39a‘s ASSONANCE is paired with a nifty example: [Attribute of poet’s lines/Whose final words are not quite rhymes]. I love that clue and its answer, which, by the way, sounds like a vulgar put-down. “Don’t be such an ASSONANCE!”

Other shiny entries include YULETIDE, “PASS IT ON,” and BISCOTTI. ENTANGLE is fine, BE IN TOUCH slightly less so, but in isolation it’s okay. Nice shorter stuff includes: WHORL, BELFRY, BANTU, HOMINY, and AVATAR.

I was nearly naticked in the NE with a sailing term at 11d (ATRIP) a well-disguised color (MAUVE, [Lilac’s cousin]) next to it, and whoever ESTER is [Aunt in August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays] next to that. [Parade] for STRUT and [Working] for ACTIVE were just ambiguous enough to offer no help. I finally made a guess with ESTER which led to STRUT and Mr. Happy Pencil.

In addition to the poetic clue mentioned above, here are some others of note:

  • 46d [Friendly muchacha]. AMIGA. Who doesn’t like saying the word “muchacha?”
  • 28a [Bad singer?]. RAT. “Singer” as in one who snitches to the coppers.
  • 6d [Boarding building]. DEPOT. I wanted DORMS, but the clue is singular. I think it’s referring to boarding as in “getting on” a train.
  • 23d [Union member?]. BRIDE. Clever.

Solid, if standard, change-a-letter theme. Plenty of sparkly fill and thorny-good clues.

Bruice Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

The puzzle features an unusual cluing signal in its theme answers. “So we hear” is repeated, and the conceit is that a word that is a homophone of a plural letter is replaced by that letter twice. I feel like I saw this recently, in another venue? Not sure, can’t find anything though. It’s still a nice curveball to throw into a later week puzzle. Let’s get past the elephant in the room – BLACK>EYED<PP duplicates a word in ASIGHTFORSORE>II<; pretty sure that’s a nono. The other answers are: SEVENCC, STRIPTT and WORDTOTHEYY.


  • [Savory Chinese snack], TEAEGG. New to me, I think, though thinking some more, I may have seen Andrew Zimmern eat one once. Looks less disgusting than balut, but that isn’t saying much…
  • [Manhattan developer?], BAR. That’s a stretch and a half. It’s trying to use develop to mean “mix a drink” but it’s just too cute for its own good.
  • [Lollygag], LOAF. “No lollygagging!”
  • [Spokesperson’s route?], BIKEPATH. Was about to comment that I didn’t understand the clue, but the quince has just dropped from the tree. This one’s also really tangled, but I’d say it’s a good’un. A bicycle has spokes and you can connect the dots from there.
  • [Last non-AD yr.], ONEBC. If you receive a ONEBC coin, it’s a fake.
  • [Outfit with bell-bottom trousers], SAILORSUIT. I associate one with the 70’s and the other with Little Lord Fauntleroy. What’s the connection? Someone who was alive then, help.
  • [One might be made of sheets and pillows], FORT. A simple clue, but it hits you right in the nostalgias.
  • [Wrestler Flair nicknamed “The Nature Boy”], RIC. Sorry, Nature Boy for me is associated solely with Nat King Cole.

3 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Pot Holders” — Ben’s Review

I found the grid pattern of today’s BEQ puzzle interesting – maybe it’s the paired blocks of 7-letter answers, but it felt different than the grids I’ve been looking at lately.  The theme this week feels like an extended riff on the theme from two weeks ago:

  • 19A: Hypothesis asking the question “does one get higher with larger equipment?” — BIG BONG THEORY
  • 36A: Two places where you might find bags of weed in a smuggler’s den? — BY HOOKAH BY CROOK
  • 49A: Actress Cybill’s smoking apparatus? — SHEPHERD’S PIPE 

Pun completely intended, I found this a little half-baked when it came to the theme.  We’ve got three weed-related puns, but I would have loved a little more connection as to how the phrases BIG BANG THEORY, BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, and SHEPHERD’S PIE were modified – as a whole it feels a bit jumbled together.

(45A reminded me of this scene from the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. Please enjoy.)

Underwhelming theme aside, there were a few things to like in the grid itself: FLUTIST, BOOTERY, HECTARE, OLESTRA, SAYONARA, FLAGON, and ICE-T

3.5/5 stars.

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20 Responses to Thursday, October 19, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    WSJ: Could “contortion” represent the awkward motion that an M would have to do to rearrange itself into a P? Picturing that is kind of fun.

    NYT: I didn’t know TOPOL or LUSAKA and had a V instead of an L (not as much contortion there). I enjoyed the theme, though.

  2. anon says:

    NYT: Needs more French.

    • pannonica says:

      VUE crossing RUES obviously was your favorite part.

      Laura: Of course you used a video set in a library!

  3. PJ Ward says:

    BEQ – 6D. Ugh.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: The idea of the theme is clever.

    To my mind the execution was marred by the fact that the middle pair was split by the revealer. And the word HEELS is literally beneath the theme entry referencing a “head”. In fact HEEL shows up in both these entries… If you finish that area first, as I did, it’s very misleading…

    and the bottom had some obscurities and things I could not decipher even when they were all there… NOTOK… (It took a sec but I did get it).

  5. Stephen Edward Anderson says:

    Jenni, in response to your query “whether people actually call 8d [Birthplace of Paul Cézanne, familiarly] just AIX instead of AIX-en-Provence,” the answer (from one who is confidently one of “the more francophile ((sic)) among us,”) is decidedly yes, especially in Aix itself & throughout the Provençal region. Savoyards, on the other hand, might say the name in full to avoid confusion with their own local Aix, Aix-les-Bains, on the bank of Lac du Bourget, in the French Alps.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Merçi! And so sorry to have offended your sensibilities so that you felt obliged to put “sic” in the quote with the oh-so-correct double brackets.

      Seriously, everyone would have known it was mine. But thanks for making me feel good about what I do, weekly, for free, when I could be doing other things.

  6. Stephen Edward Anderson says:

    Don’t know why I’m “undefined.” Curious. -SEA

    • Papa John says:

      Huh? “Undefined”? How so?

      I often have a difficult time following the gist of this blog’s posts. I feel as though I’m not privy to an inside joke. Today was exceptionally hard for me to deconstruct, although I did detect a bit of rancor. Too busy, right now, to make sense of it.

      Today’s offerings are not in my favorites category. Too much letter substitution with resultant nonsense — LION-TAPER, PLYING_POXES, etc. If there’s humor in these fills, it’s lost on me. What do I learn from PER_FOR_MER? Nay much…

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    57A:CHAIM atop 62A:NOT_OK is a missed opportunity to have CHAIM also cross-reference POTOK. No further change is needed in the grid because PEW is as good as NEW in 62D.

    “Rampant abuse of privilege by powerful men” — but “(head) honcho” is not gendered, right? It’s from Japanese, not Spanish, so a female leader can also be described as a “head honcho” (though I see that “honcha” has enough currency to have attracted linguistic notice, and perhaps “honchx” is not far behind). I imagine that women are about as susceptible as men to the corruptions of power and the temptations of abusing privilege, so once we have gender parity among head honchos we’ll also have parity in abuse of power . . .


    • Jenni Levy says:

      I didn’t look closely at the clue or cross-reference number for CHAIM and plopped POTOK in for 62a, then thought “Wait. He didn’t act, did he?” and then finally figured out what I’d done.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I, too, thought of CHAIM Potok and wondered if the constructor had originally used POTOK there. Perhaps the editors opted to remove the name to cut down on the proper-noun count? Or maybe they didn’t read any Potok in high school English class and deemed him not familiar enough?

      I was thrown by CHAIM being cross-referenced with TOPOL, whom I’ve always seen referred to as just Topol.

    • Brian says:

      62-A was originally POTOK – see the constructor’s notes at Wordplay.

  8. Scott says:

    Definitely an interesting board today!

  9. Norm says:

    Loved the LAT. I would not see EYED and II as even a minor violation of the rule against dupes.

  10. Rick Narad says:

    Courtesy of the LAT, I’ve had the famous lollygag scene from Bull Durham stuck in my head all day:

    Skip: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry!
    Larry: Lollygaggers!
    Skip: Lollygaggers.


  11. Dr Fancypants says:

    TOPOL crossing LUSAKA was just brutal. Everything else was easy peasy.

  12. pannonica says:

    I’d left it to Gareth to mention this, but perhaps the Fireball wasn’t on his radar.

    That’s a terrible clue for OKAPIS on two counts. They are (1) secretive, rarely seen, and (2) indigenous to the dense forests of the DRC. So: not apt to be encountered during a safari.

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