Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Jonesin' 4:39 (Derek) 


LAT 3:05 (Derek) 


NYT 4:35 (Ben) 


WSJ 4:18 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 343), “Lifting One’s Spirits”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 12/26 (No. 343)
(Graphic by Gorski)

Here it is, folks. Not only Boxing Day, but… the last Crossword Nation puzzle of 2017. And we ring out the old with a tribute to the celebrating that occurs just as the clock turns 2017 into 2018. The mirror symmetry of today’s puzz allows Liz to demonstrate her skills in grid art, embedding a critical word inside of a particular style of stemware (something in which you may lift those alcoholic and/or celebratory spirits).

Today’s themers form a kind of frame around the focal point at center and are made up of:

  • 17A. [What “…five, four, three, two, one!” are on December 31] FAMOUS LAST WORDS. I love how this familiar phrase has been punnily re-purposed for the occasion. Then there’s
  • 24D. [Parisian glass-raiser’s “Cheers!”] “À VOTRE SANTÉ!” A phrase probably heard a lot on December 31st. And not only in Paris. But I love the footnote we get to this fill with
  • 30D. [Brunch entree … or 24-Down, literally] FRENCH TOAST. Perfect. And the entree might be one you’ll enjoy on January 1st. Especially if you’ve been able to SLEEP IN on Monday morning.
  • 61A. [With “the,” time to raise a glass of Dom Pérignon (as suggested by the center of the completed puzzle)] NEW YEAR. When those FAMOUS LAST WORDS are chanted in time zones all around the world, in all the languages of the world. And finally,
  • Let’s look at and really appreciate the contents of those circles bubbles within the “stemware” spelling out CHAMPAGNE. They come to us by way of three entries: [Ali G portrayer SACHA Baron Cohen], MPA and [Taiwanese golf champ Yani TSENG]. If MPA [Advanced degree held by a govt. worker, perhaps] (Master of Public Administration) or Yani’s surname appear more functional than fun (the TSENG name [a great find and fit for the puzz actually…] is completely new to me, but not to golf mavens out there; she is a genuine phenom, however…), well, they are. But given the way they serve the puzzle—I don’t make that a crime. The central image is that good. A coupe CHAMPAGNE glass filled with the bubbly stuff? Seeing this graphic representation certainly lifts my spirits.

And plenty of the non-theme fill does as well, especially the welcome PRO-PEACE [Dove-like] pair; mention of filmmaker Martin SCORSESE, SHOWMEN Hugh Jackman and Bruno Mars, and the tragic hero OTHELLO [Shakespearean Moor]; TONALLY [In a melodic sense]; the non-musical SOPRANOS [Carmela and Tony]; SLEEP IN; and even the very technical ELECTRON [Kind of microscope]—because I found a connection between that fill and our friend, the ION. Did you know there’s something called ION beam milling, which is a process for prepping items to be viewed under an ELECTRON microscope? If you’re a scientist, I’m gonna guess this is old news. To this one-time theatre major (American Studies minor), it was a sweet find. LEECHES, not so much [shudder].

SATYRS and TISSUE and REDIAL (a fave [Telephone shortcut] if there ever was one) also kept things lively. And with their evocative or twisty clues, so did this foursome of fives that abut the base of the glass: STRUT [Walk like a drum major], [Billionaire’s craft] for YACHT (where craft is a sailing vessel and not a manual activity), [“The Devil Wears PRADA“] and [One that’s crowned?] for TOOTH (and not ROYAL…). [Lion’s din] for ROAR also appealed to my sense of pun; and the adjacent WHO/YEW, the same. (Or maybe read these as YEW/WHO…)

I will now take my silly self out of here—but not before wishing any of you who are reading this a 2018 that brings you joy, peace of mind and good health, and for all of us, a country and world to enjoy them in. Keep solving—and see ya next year!

Lifting this coupe CHAMPAGNE to offer a heartfelt: “À VOTRE SANTÉ!!”

Mae Woodard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boxing Day” — Laura’s write-up

WSJ - 12.26.17 - Woodard - Solution

WSJ – 12.26.17 – Woodard – Solution

December 26 is Boxing Day, and thus we get an appropriate theme: four entries are metaphors that come from boxing terminology. And nice finds they are: four symmetrical themers, all with prepositional phrases.

  • [17a: Decisively defeated]: DOWN FOR THE COUNT
  • [25a: Scoop, say]: BEAT TO THE PUNCH
  • [40a: “Phew, what fortuitous intervention!”]: SAVED BY THE BELL
  • [50a: Give up]: THROW IN THE TOWEL
  • Bonus related entries: [9d: Bad thing for a boxer to be on]: THE ROPES, [37a: Boxing great]: ALI, and [5d: Rocky foe ___ Creed]: APOLLO

My sources tell me that in the UK and the former British Commonwealth, Boxing Day is equivalent, culturally and economically, to Black Friday in the US. So, enjoy your shopping, if that’s how you roll. What else?

  • Sweets: [39a: Molded ice cream dessert]: BOMBE and [25d: Rummy cake]: BABA
  • Fleets: [10a: Naval petty officers]: YEOMEN and [49d: Freighter or frigate]: SHIP
  • Beasts: [43a: Hieroglyphics bird]: IBIS, [57a: Burrowing mammal]: MOLE, and [53d: Caribou’s cousin]: ELK

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up

Happy Boxing Day, one and all!  I’m drafting this from the sub-zero reaches of the Minneapolis suburbs, where I was hoping this puzzle would warm me up, but a few major issues with the online version just left me cold.

Today’s edition is from Peter Gordon, and I was already a bit off my game when I saw 1A and its corresponding theme clue buddies:

  • 1A: See blurb — A.J. JACOBS
  • 24A: See blurb — STILL A FIVE LETTER
  • 38A: See blurb — WORD STARTING WITH
  • 52A: See blurb — LOS AND ENDING IN ER

The app version of today’s blurb.

Well, that’s not super helpful.  Let’s take a look at that blurb… where it appears anything that would be helpful context for this anecdote is behind an ellipsis since the app doesn’t have full support for this long of a blurb.  As it appears in the print version:

The print version.

Oh, look, context!  This isn’t just a “see blurb” puzzle, it’s a “see blurb” quip puzzle.  I strongly dislike quip puzzles.  This would be reasonable if it were a known quote from this author, or something that appears in one of his books (which I’ve read and liked!  The Know-it-All, at least), but this feels like a podcast/talk show anecdote, and it’s not even a great one of those.  Back to the drawing board with this one – this whole theme is a straight-up TUEZ (please excuse the shameless self-promotion here).

Things about the puzzle I did like: ABSCESS, RESONATE, ROSE RED, ATOLLS, CAPITAL W (clued as the “Chemical symbol for Tungsten”), E-CIGS (though so help me god if I have to walk through your root beer-scented vape cloud on my way to work), DATABASE, ASANAS, PIE TIN (not PIE PAN, as I would have thought the container for a cobbler might be), and GLUTEs.

2.5/5.  Make sure your puzzle blurb works for all platforms, and is worthy of being a puzzle blurb!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “No Two Ways About It” – Derek’s write-up

This was a little hard to sense what was going on at first, but maybe that is because I didn’t read the blurb! We have several phrases that, other than a couple of letters, are exact palindromes. If the letters in each clue are removed, then you are left with a palindrome. This sounds like an NPL flat type, but not sure which one! Here are the theme entries:

  • 17A [Period that doesn’t involve levies or charges (almost, except for letters 3 and 9)] NON-TAXATION
  • 42A [Place for a soak (almost, except for letters 2 and 6)] BATHTUB
  • 66A [Give quick attention to (almost, except for letters 5 and 7] TAKE A PEEK AT
  • 11D [Some trick-taking feats, in bridge (almost, except for letters 5 and 6)] SMALL SLAMS
  • 29D [Design again from scratch (almost, except for letters 5 and 6)] REENGINEER

Interestingly, the letters that you remove from these entries are all in symmetrical positions. I wonder if there are phrases that you could remove letters that are NOT in symmetrical places and still be left with a palindrome. That requires more brain power than I have today! Still a neat idea, and a nice play on the phrase “no two ways about it,” which doubles as this puzzle’s title. A solid 4.4 stars today.

A few more things:

  • 11A [Part of ACTH] ADRENO- – This is hard. ACTH is short for adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is explained here. Isn’t there an easier clue?
  • 16A [“In Treatment” actress] MIA – Never heard of her, but in a Matt puzzle that is not uncommon. She was “Alice” in the lastest Disney adaptation of Through the Looking Glass with Johnny Depp. Something else I never saw!
  • 22A [FBI agent Kurt of “Blindspot”] WELLER – I saw like half of one episode of this show. My time is limited, so I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV shows, and I pick carefully. This is not on my list, but this is popular enough I guess to be a clue.
  • 38A [His “Frozen Adventure” appeared before “Coco” in theaters] OLAF – This is not the first time I have seen a reference in a puzzle to this mini featurette. I haven’t seen this movie yet! I will wait until it is on Netflix!
  • 45A [Daly of “Spider-Man: Homecoming] TYNE – I saw this movie, and I barely remember her in it. After some research, I remember now who she was. She appears in the first 5 minutes for a brief role.
  • 70A [Fictitious cookie guy Spunkmeyer] OTIS – I love this brand! I know them more for their muffins!
  • 40D [“Twin Peaks” actress Sherilynn] FENN – This reference is becoming dated as well. This show is nearly 30 years old (yes, there is a reboot!), and she is now in her early 50s.
  • 63D [“Deal or No Deal” container] CASE – This ridiculous show was actually somewhat mesmerizing to watch, even though it was totally random.

It is COLD here! It isn’t supposed to hit even 15 degrees for several days! I am ready to move!

Parikshit S. Bhat’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Breezed through this one. I have gotten a couple of good naps the past few days! Although my eyes seem to be bothering me a bit; it seems as if I spend all day now in front of screens! This puzzle has a revealer at the end of the theme entries:

  • 18A [Jamaican term for hot chocolate] COCOA TEA
  • 22A [Greek salad ingredient] GOAT CHEESE
  • 34A [Car accessory that may be faux leather] SEAT COVER
  • 50A [Glowing barbecue lump] RED HOT COAL
  • 55A [Traitor, and a literal hint to this puzzles’s circles] TURNCOAT

So we have the letters in COAT not so much anagrammed, but rather cycled. For instance, the C starts at the beginning, then the O is first (the order of the letters remain the same), then the A and finally the T. I was going to quibble that the first entry didn’t “turn” any letters, but I see now what is happening. Very nice. 4.3 stars for this one.

Just a couple of things:

  • 1A [Champagne cocktail] MIMOSA – This just sounds really good right now …
  • 28A [“__-ho!”: “Everybody lift together!”] HEAVE – I need a new desk for home, but I think rather than move something I will just have one delivered! No “heave-ho” sounds will be made here!
  • 52A [Records again] RETAPES – Who “tapes” anything now to record? Maybe the clue should have been about using actual tape again.
  • 57A [Ex-Soviet leader Brezhnev] LEONID – I remember him vividly, but I am old!
  • 22D [__ pal] GAL – My first guess was BE A. I was fooled!

That is all for this week. See everyone on Saturday!

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15 Responses to Tuesday, December 26, 2017

  1. Scott says:

    My app didn’t show any of the blurb!

  2. lemonade714 says:

    Blurb or no blurb, who would know this A.J. Jacobs quip? This is Tuesday? Also, why do we need more self-deprecation? The man is very successful and calling himself a loser is ridiculous.

    • Norm says:

      It’s just silly sibling sniping — and, now, by his brother’s own assertion, Peter is NOT a loser and it’s a humble brag rather than self-deprecation.

    • Zef Wagner says:

      You don’t need to know the blurb if the Down crosses are really easy, which they were. This was one of my fastest Tuesdays ever! Loved the reveal, made me laugh. Great puzzle.

  3. Old Mr. Boston says:

    Who the hell is A.J. Jacobs?? My app didn’t show a blurb either.

    • Papa John says:

      Indeed! Who is he (she)? After going back and forth between the puzzle, Google and Ben’s review way too many times, trying to make sense of it all, I finally quit and decided this is just a ridiculous puzzle. And you know what? I don’t care. Nothing drew me into this puzzle. I merely filled in the blanks. With the exception of the “blurb quip”, the puzzle’s fill ranks with the likes of TV Guide, not even Tuesday level difficulty. The only clue that stands out as the least bit tricky or inventive is 9A “Sore spot” ABSCESS and that’s only because it’s vague.

      BTW, my online search determined AJ Jacobs to be a guy — Arnold Stephen.

      • pannonica says:

        “Arnold Stephen ‘A.J.’ Jacob, Jr”

        Seems to suffer from JEB! Syndrome.

      • Zef Wagner says:

        He’s a bestselling author. Try reading his stuff sometime, it’s really good.

        • Jenni says:

          His stuff is good. I knew the name immediately. I’ve never heard the quip and didn’t understand the “begins with…ends with…” until I read Ben’s review. I really don’t like puzzles that exist simply to prove the constructor can create the gimmick, and this one was an inside joke in addition to that. Feh.

  4. Harry says:

    How does one correctly pronounce Mr. Bhat’s first name? From today’s LAT

  5. Burak says:

    I’m utterly confused. I actually didn’t care for yesterday’s puzzle (lame fill/clues even for a Monday, a lot of short words, and maybe “hit” themes are too violent for my taste) but it got 3.35 here, Jeff Chen gave it a POW! etc. Today’s quip was interesting (self-deprecating humor!), the corners were open, and it was actually a smoother experience for me but people seem to have not liked it.

    I’m mostly in sync with this website’s ratings, but something is going on here.

    • Lois says:

      I loved the puzzle too. It’s partly different strokes, as Ben says, with a few saying here what they didn’t like. Some people don’t like cross-references and this puzzle cross-referenced to the blurb. But leave off the blurb, as at least one app did, and things are even worse. The blurb is really needed in order for most people to enjoy the puzzle, I think, although Zef above had no problem with the lack of a blurb and liked the puzzle anyway.

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