Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hex/Quigley 13:17 (Laura) 


LAT 6:16 (Jenni) 


NYT 16:11 (Laura) 


WaPo 12:38 (Jim Q) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Ripped From the Headlines” – Jim Q’s writeup

A familiar-ish Birnholz puzzle today- Letter deletions that result in wacky phrases. Of course, the deleted letters spell out an appropriate revealer. In this case, it’s NEWS CLIPPING.

THEME ANSWERS: (All clues start with “EXCLUSIVE:” to emulate a breaking news item as indicated by …)

WaPo crossword solution * 9 23 18 * “Ripped From the Headlines” * Birnholz


  • 23A [EXCLUSIVE: Crone seen near sewing strand] HAG BY A THREAD. HaNg by a thread. Must’ve been a slow news week for this to earn an exclusive story.
  • 25A [… Area man deftly avoids projectile, impresses his kids] DAD DUCKS. DEad ducks. 
  • 31A [… Gobbler dazzles with performance of M.I.A.’s “Bird Song”] TURKEY RAPS. Turkey Wraps. Currently listening to the song named in the clue for the first time. Kinda sounds like turkeys in the beginning.
  • Elf healing.

    37A [… Little toy builder on the mend following an injury] ELF HEALING. Self healing. Poor little guy probably fell off the shelf.

  • 48A [… Tycoon Perot produces another child]. ROSS BREEDS. Cross breeds. 
  • 51A [… Author of “The Gold-Bug” doing the jitterbug]. POE DANCING. PoLe Dancing. No crosses needed for this one, but still my favorite of the bunch.
  • 69A [… Julius Caesar continues campaign for the Senate] ROMAN RUNS. Roman ruIns. 
  • 82A [… Chef Rachael in favor of showers, sources say] RAY FOR RAIN. Pray for rain. 
  • 84A [… Light blue Pac-Man ghost shocks players with profanity-laced tirade] INKY SWEARS. Pinky swears. 
  • 103A [… Action star Jackie dominated by rivals at stunt competition] CHAN SMOKED. ChaIn smoked. 
  • 106A [… Homage goes over terribly, booed by crowd] TRIBUTE BAD. Tribute baNd. 
  • 113A [… Spielberg’s movie alien now fully recovered from his sickness] E.T. BETTER. Get better. 
  • 115A [Something taken out of the paper, and what’s spelled out by the deleted letters in this puzzle’s headlines] NEWS CLIPPING.

This puzzle embodies Evan’s signature style. Rather than simply yanking out the same letter from each of the theme answers, he changes it up and builds to a revealer. A similar idea ran about a month ago in “It Takes Two,” where added letters spelled out MIXED DOUBLES.

While definitely a light and fun solve, some of the answers didn’t land solidly for me. Most notably, E.T. BETTER was an outlier since the resulting phrase is pronounced differently than the base phrase. In some others, a word in the altered phrase changes meaning in order to accommodate a Noun/Verb “news headline” pattern. For instance, DAD DUCKS refers to the act of ducking while the base phrase refers to actual ducks. The same happens with ROSS BREEDS, INKY SWEARS, and TRIBUTE BAD (though in that last one, TRIBUTE originally served as an adjective).

The meaning of SMOKED is also changed in CHAN SMOKED– while I understand the purpose of changing the others in order to fit a pattern, I don’t quite get why the meaning was changed in this one. In the base phrase, SMOKED is already a verb, so cluing it as [Action star Jackie satisfied a nicotine craving] would’ve still worked. Perhaps the thought of the beloved actor puffing on a Camel was off-putting?

But I digress- It’s Evan’s style. He doesn’t care about overly-tight conventions. I’ll take it.


  • 21A [Luke’s sibling in film] OWEN. As in the Wilson brothers. Anyone else drop in LEIA? I’ve never actually seen Star Wars (though I feel like I have from solving crosswords), but I was very confident about my original answer here.
  • 10D [Like fake diamonds, technically, since they’re not imaginary] REAL. Love this clue. They exist, therefore they are.
  • 17D [Reminding, in a way] POKING. I just found out that

    “Pond. James Pond.”

    the Poke button still exists on Facebook if you look hard enough for it. I never understood its purpose, but someone Poked me not too long ago. It was weird.

  • 35D [James ___ (punnily named underwater agent in video games) POND. Thought there wouldn’t be a video game reference in this week’s puzzle? Think again. Fun clue.
  • 68A [Eagle’s gripper?] CLEAT. The Philadelphia Eagles have cleats, not talons, underfoot.
  • 112A [Cookie brand that launched Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi varieties in China in August 2018] OREO. Yup. That exists. Curious Americans can find them on eBay. Hate to say it, but I’m tempted.

3.1 stars from me. Even with my nits, WaPo puzzles are typically better than average imo.

No really… it’s a thing. Get ’em while they’re hot! (pun intended)

Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword, “The Art of Puzzle-Making” — Laura’s review

NYT - 9.23.18 - Solution

NYT – 9.23.18 – Solution

Ceci n’est pas un mot croisé.

  • [23a: Where 68-Across is permanently housed]: LOS ANGELES. Specifically, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
  • [25a: How 122-Across is usually described]: SURREALIST
  • [68a: 1929 work that is the theme of this puzzle, with “The”]: TREACHERY OF IMAGES. Or, in French, “La Trahison des images.”
  • [85a: With 96- and 105-Across, how 122-Across explained the subject of this puzzle]: IT’S JUST / A REPRESENTATION / IS IT NOT. C’est vrai.
  • [120a: Place for works that are in the works … or what the message formed by the connected letters is?]: PIPELINE. C’est parfait — les Surréalistes adoraient les jeux de mots.
  • [122a: Creator of 68-Across]: René MAGRITTE
not a pipe

René Magritte, “La Trahison des images,” (1929), LACMA

The circled letters spell out CECI N’EST PAS UNE PIPE (“this is not a pipe”). In the iPad app, when you finish the puzzle, the circled letters are connected by an animated line in the shape of a pipe — another exploration of the possibilities of the app to enhance the solving experience. This was lots of fun! I love the painting (it is, arguably, one of the most famous paintings of all time), and I thought the constructor did a nice job of finding theme material that related to the painting in a way that went beyond trivia.

Department of Put That in Your Image of a Pipe and Smoke It: AAH, I won’t LIE: YON fill suffered a bit from the effort it took to produce such a fun theme. The UNPOETIC trio of RAS, TAS, and WAS in the same quadrant — that’s a NAE from me, MAC, SRSly, a chorus of NAYS. EMITTERS must PAY A FEE (but they’re both rather roll-your-own), REATA with an E, SEA SIDER, OTO and UTES? All add up to a NEAR MISS.

What’s uncanny — some might say surreal, bien sûr — is that I’ve encountered references to this painting twice in the past few weeks. It was the subject of a question in Learned League on September 4:

and, just yesterday, I retweeted this morsel of hilarity:

… and there of course are many, many memes and parodies (ce ne sont pas des mèmes), of which, listeners, I’ll leave to you to post your favorites in the comments.



Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword, “Go Figure” – Jenni’s write-up

I usually like Gail Grabowski’s puzzles. This one was not up my alley. I figured out the theme quickly and there’s no wordplay or humor in the theme answers or the revealer. Look, there are phrases that contain the word ADD spanning the end of one word and the beginning of another! Boy howdy.

LAT 9/23, solution grid

  • 23a [Usually retrospective assessment] is a BAD DECISION. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
  • 25a [Cop (to), as a lesser charge] is PLEAD DOWN.
  • 35a [Brazen crime time] is BROAD DAYLIGHT. If you commit the crime in BROAD DAYLIGHT, it’s hard t0 PLEAD DOWN.
  • 46a [It’s often designed to rise] is BREAD DOUGH.
  • 65a [South Beach, say] is a FAD DIET.
  • 79a [Tire measurement that can be checked by the “penny test”] is the TREAD DEPTH. That’s when you put a penny in the tread and see how much of old Abe you can see. From Firestone’s website: 
  • 92a [Place to buy a train ticket] is the RAILROAD DEPOT. We always say
    “train station.” Is that regional or generational?
  • 106a [Buffet stack item] is a SALAD DISH. I call foul on this one. It’s a salad plate.
  • And the revealer, not that we needed one: 108a [Combine … and a hint to what’s hidden in eight long answers] would be ADD TOGETHER.

As I said, not my favorite.

A few other things:

  • Alan ALDA is clued with “Same Time, Next Year” instead of M*A*S*H. Nice to have a little change.
  • An Italian crossing: CESARE Borgia and EZIO Pinza.
  • Could have done without EAN at 10d for [Suffix with Jacob].
  • 16d is [Big name in food safety] and when I got ECO at the beginning I figured it was a cutesy clue for E COLI. No. It’s the far less familiar ECOLAB.
  • 38d [Nut with a hat] is not someone wearing tinfoil. It’s an ACORN.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Roger EBERT wrote a book called “I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie.”

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Stink Up the Joint”—Laura’s review

CRooked - 9.23.18 - Solution

CRooked – 9.23.18 – Solution

What’s a little BO among friends? Add it to some phrases and hilarity ensues.

    • [23a: Red cap who can tap?]: BELLBOY DANCER
    • [37a: Orange County tough guys?]: LOS ANGELES RAMBOS. Given that we have a Boston-based constructor making a puzzle that runs in a Boston newspaper, I won’t nitpick to point out that Los Angeles isn’t in Orange County.
    • [48a: So-so pinky?]: BORING FINGER
    • [66a: Purple cow?]: GRAPE BOVINE. “I never saw a Purple Cow,
      I never hope to see one,
      But I can tell you, anyhow,
      I’d rather see than be one!” is not by Ogden Nash (familiar to solvers from that ONEL Lama poem) but Gelett Burgess.

  • [73a: Aerated Louisiana stew?]: BUBBLE GUMBO
  • [91a: Clapton took the trouble?]: ERIC BOTHERED. Erik (with a K) the Red was exiled from the Norse settlement in Iceland around 982, sailed west, and discovered colonized the land that he would eventually call Greenland, in an attempt to make it seem more appealing to settlers.
  • [101a: NYC baseball spot?]: DIAMOND IN THE BOROUGH
  • [121a: Manning’s sugar pill?]: PEYTON PLACEBO. I LOL’ed.
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20 Responses to Sunday, September 23, 2018

  1. Martin says:

    Love Evan’s WaPos, as I’ve said many times. But it was a bit disappointing to string the missing letters together and discover they spelled a long entry. Woulda been nice for the reveal to be something different. Easy for me to say.

  2. M483 says:

    WaPo: Evan is amazing! What a beautiful puzzle. 13 theme entries that were in a specific order and still a very clean puzzle.

    • David Steere says:

      He seems to be able to do it so well every Sunday…by himself. Always clean of junk and often funny. His organizing themes (which are often multilayered) are frequently remarkable. Definitely the crossword highlight of every weekend. The trouble with completing Evan’s puzzles on Saturday nights is that there’s not another one to do on Sunday.

  3. JohnH says:

    I had mixed feelings about the NYT. Great to have so many theme entries packed in, the drawing is an added touch, and it’s about a painting (and a field) I know and like a lot. (I can’t imagine hanging in through all the theme clues if they were about Harry Potter or something I hadn’t even heard of.) Took me a tad longer to connect the circles, to see that they have the original French wording, but all the better for challenging me.

    Still, here the wealth of theme clues felt in practice like one cross-reference to another clue after another, I style of clue I never enjoy. There were also some real oddities to my ear, like SEASIDER, ART SALON, and the spelling REATA. Also some things I just didn’t know like the LINC, SYD, and the Michigan town. Last, maybe I’m getting too fancy, but I wouldn’t quite say that TEXT is itself unusual in early modern art. Cubism had its pasted news clippings and Dada tons of text. What’s unusual, of course, is the paradoxical text. Anyway, I don’t know how to rate the puzzle. I enjoyed everything about it but solving it.

    • GLR says:

      Much the same reaction here – interesting theme, but a tedious (even for a Sunday) solve. I would be quite happy never to encounter another cross-reference clue.

      Wasn’t this painting the subject of another NYT crossword in the past year or two?

  4. Lise says:

    I liked the NYT. This is one of my favorite paintings and favorite artists as well. I liked the inclusion of so much theme material, and didn’t mind the short stuff, although OXY was a bit perplexing until I got the point about TEXT.

    Other favorite answers: MARS ROVER, DOG TREAT (our postal carrier has a pocket full of Milk-Bones, and is very popular with the dogs on his route), and FUEL TANKS. Nice!

  5. David L says:

    I found the NYT a slog with insufficient payoff. MEDAY? SEASIDER? QBRANCH? OXY? and more…

    A SPORE is not a seed, is it? Or necessarily windborne?

    When I connected the circles I got something that looked like a malformed sperm, but my art skills are not great.

    • Papa John says:

      My art skills are above average and I was unable to connect the dots, too. Are there instructions that I missed in that regard?

      Laura: I find it impossible to actually pronounce this or any or any other artwork “one of the most famous paintings of all time” but I would question that assertion.

      However, I did agree with most of the rest of your review. and echo the words of the posts above. I was shaking my head throughout the solve. Altogether, an unenjoyable Sunday fare.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: My critique of the puzzle is one I myself have received on my research grant proposals especially as a young scientist: “Great ideas, but overly ambitious”.
    There was too much happening in this theme, but it’s creative and unusual.
    From one overly ambitious human to another: Chapeau.

  7. chukka says:

    I know that I did a NYT puzzle with this same theme, drawing and everything, very recently. Maybe it was a diagramless, or perhaps I was doing a puzzle from way back in the archives, but as I stared at the circles after putting in MAGRITTE (one of my favorite surrealists BTW) and seeing the outlines of a pipe, I thought, “Really? Again?” I’m surprised that no one else commented on it here. Hunh.

    • Lauren says:

      I remember that puzzle well. It was, in fact, the first Diagramless I completed and it brought me such joy!

      This puzzle, less joy. The fill was clunky. (IUD as a pill alternative made me groan. The spelling “cawfee” was just depressing.) I also agree that referential clues are no fun, even less so when they’re the themed clues.

  8. Burak says:

    One can only admire the effort put into the creation of NYT’s theme, but damn was it a slog. Especially the South section. It felt like a 2-hour solve, but it actually took me about 45 minutes. Still, more pleasant than an average Sunday puzzle, I thought.

  9. Scott says:

    Famous painting…no.

    Solving was a slog…yes.

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