Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hex/Quigley 15:51 (Laura) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 10:16 (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Bust a Move” – Jim Q’s writeup

Put on those dancing shoes! Here’s a puzzle that even people with two left feet can enjoy!

WaPo crossword solution * 10 7 18 * “Bust a Move” * Birnholz

THEME: BREAK DANCES (In six rows of the grid, popular dances are hidden and “broken” by black squares). 

  • Row 3. POISON SUMAC + ARENA ROCK = MACARENA. Two great entries give us that 90s dance move brought to us by the band Los Del Rio. I don’t know what else that music group has done, but they must be sittin’ pretty on royalties.
  • Row 6. CORSICAN + CANVASS = CAN-CAN. There’s a local grocery store that uses the Can-Can annually to promote a sale on canned goods. It’s really obnoxious.
  • Row 9. SUPERFAN + DAN + GOING APE = FANDANGOScaramouche! Scaramouche!
  • Row 13. NOT FOR ME + REN + GUERNICA = MERENGUE. I prefer meringue.
  • Row 19. KRAFTWERK + INGRATIATED = TWERKING. Never heard of Kraftwerk. Have yet to try twerking.
  • 69A [Busts some acrobatic moves… and a hint to finding six moves busted across black squares in this puzzle] BREAK DANCES.

I was able to uncover the revealer relatively quickly here, and intuited what the theme was, but still didn’t really see the actual theme answers until I got stuck on the west side of the puzzle and used FANDANGO to get me out of a jam. West definitely played much harder for me than the east, which I flew through with virtually no hangups.

Cool theme! I especially liked MERENGUE and FANDANGO as they were broken across three separate answers.


Ragdoll. Lint brush not included.

    • 2D [Sound from a ragdoll] MEOW. I was all ready to gripe about this entry until I typed the clue just now and noticed the lack of space between “rag” and “doll.” Me: What kind of rag doll goes “Meow”? Most don’t. The Ragdoll cat breed, however, certainly does. (On a separate note- Google seems to think the name of the breed should be capitalized. If it were capitalized in the clue, I would’ve inferred it a lot quicker.)
    • 50A [Zap with a beam] LASE. I was very confident when I wrote in TASE, which made LAIR very difficult.
    • 36D [Without needing any effort] ON A PLATTER. Great clue. Great entry. I just couldn’t see it. Sigh.
    • 41A [“Fawlty Towers” waiter] MANUEL. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this hilarious show on some Facebook posts. Certainly not enough to know the names of the characters though. I think I might bone up here. It seems worthwhile.
    • 106A [Mixology measurements] JIGGERS. Had a tough time with this one too, even though I’ve tended bar for about 20 years. Having DEKED instead of JUKED certainly didn’t help. Also, much like many great chefs rarely use measuring cups, I’ve never used a jigger [pats self on back]. 
    • 54A [Enthusiastic supporter of Chicago sports teams, in a series of SNL sketches] SUPERFAN. I used FANDANGO to help me out here. I was certain I was supposed to know the name of the characters in the sketch. Nope. Good thing. All I really remember them saying is “Mike Ditka” on repeat.


  • 128A [“Assassin’s ___ (video game franchise)] CREED. I haven’t checked, but I’m honestly curious to know if Evan has made a WaPo grid without a video game reference. I hope not. I think that it’s sort of a fun “calling card” even though I’ve only really played Ms. Pac-Man. I also went through a brief Grand Theft Auto phase. Good times.

Fun puzzle with some bite and a well conceived theme! 4 stars from me. Also… the title is perfect.

Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “Mind the Gap”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 7 18, “Mind the Gap”

I don’t quite know how to explain this theme. Nine phrases end with words that sort of relate to the “gap” concept—they’re nouns that connote a break, or they’re an -ER noun that connotes breaking. These phrases begin with other words, and there’s an extra letter (circled) inserted into those words, in seemingly random spots; the letters make no sense within the phrases. Those extra letters can be taken in order to spell out SQUARE PEG. You can’t easily insert a square peg into a round hole, but I don’t know what the heck this has to do with the “gaps” in this theme, since very few of them are inherently round. 22a. [Another nickname for Old Abe … or a description of the circled letter?] clues R{A}AIL-SPLITTER, since that circled letter is a SPLITTER of the word RAIL. The other themers are OUT{Q}ER SPACE, RO{U}OM DIVIDER, NA{A}SAL CAVITY, SECUR{R}ITY BREACH, PA{E}PER CUTTER, S{P}AFE CRACKER, LUCK{E}Y BREAK, and GRAN{G}D OPENING.

A key problem here is that the two categories of theme phrases don’t connote the same thing, really. Some are breaking, splitting, cutting, cracking, or dividing the first words, while others are plunking a space, cavity, breach, or opening into them. These don’t feel uniform enough to make a solid theme set. And then the neither-here-nor-thereness of SQUARE PEG just muddles everything.

The fill didn’t do much to make up for the theme, alas. Right near the top, we get quizzed on 18a. [External parasites], EPIZOA (!) and the weird spelling EENSIE45d. [Publisher’s announcement], IT’S OUT—that’s a really awkward answer with a clue that feels silly (note: I have been involved in publishing for almost 30 years). The rude NOBAMA. Maybe contrived AT ROOT. Crosswordese ERI. DIDN’T with duplicative “not” in its clue. AGLARE.

Five more things:

  • 48d. [Visits a school, maybe], SCUBAS. As in a school of fish, not an educational institution. I had the SCU in place and was utterly perplexed!
  • 53a. [Animal with a snout], TAPIR. Did I ever tell you about the time a tapir peed on my family in England? (“Yes, Amy. Every damn time you see TAPIR in the crossword.”)
  • 101a. [“Spider-Man” baddie], DOC OCK. Goodness, that looks salacious in the grid.
  • 111a. [Something you might get your mitts on], OVEN. This is a little off. Since you’re using oven mitts to hold pans and occasionally grab an oven rack, those are the things you’re “getting your mitts on.” You might put your mitts on top of the oven.
  • 91d. [“Aw, nuts!”], FOO. Say what?? No. “Phooey,” sure. If FOO is in the grid, you’re best off cluing it with a ___ Fighters FITB.

I didn’t enjoy the theme and I didn’t enjoy the general fill, so 2.6 stars from me. I will still look forward to the next McCoy puzzle!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Looney Laughed”—Laura’s review

CRooked - 10.7.18 - Solution

CRooked – 10.7.18 – Solution

Quick writeup today, since I’m getting ready for a child’s birthday party. We’ve got a vowel-shift theme where an eh sound becomes an ah sound to make funny phrases. The title hints (I think) at the shift, i.e. left becomes laughed. The “loony left” is a British pejorative term for those whose politics are progressive.

  • [23a: Unbound gazebo walls?]: LOOSE LEAF LATTICE. I have seen loose leaf lettuce in the grocery store.
  • [37a: Affliction freed from burden?]: UNCHAINED MALADY. From the Righteous Brothers song.
  • [46a: A raise is denied?]: SALARY STICKS. Celery sticks — a vowel shifts and a plural noun becomes a verb.
  • [64a: Shiftless mob?]: RABBLE WITHOUT A CAUSE
  • [82a: Coyote with a PhD?]: DOCTOR JACKAL. Mr. Hyde’s counterpart Doctor Jekyll. Is a jackal the same as a coyote?
  • [91a: Rat catcher made of a pancake mixture?]: BATTER MOUSETRAP. Yuck. Can you catch rats in a mousetrap? I might’ve clued as [Pest control device baited with cake mix?].
  • [111a: Puts strains on a band’s gear?]: TAXES INSTRUMENTS.

That’s all from me, folks.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword, “The Irreverent Grammarian” – Jenni’s write-up

Very late LAT entry. Grid below. Theme: grammatical terms with wacky cluing.

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4 Responses to Sunday, October 7, 2018

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I took the intent of the SQUARE PEG to be that these letters don’t fit in the places where they’re lodged– they don’t belong in the phrases and so create a gap of some sort in each of them. But I agree that this is pretty elaborate.

    Also the imagery of the circles in the squares of the puzzle created an inversion that I found disorienting–It kept me thinking: “But you can fit a round peg in a square hole…, which is what happened here “… So in the end, I too found the theme rather confusing.

  2. jack says:

    RE NYTimes MINI xword: I only solve this when very bored but can someone tell me where the phrase “committed to the bit” comes from? Never heard of it.

  3. David Steere says:

    NYT: 100 Down, 100 Down, 100 Down…

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