Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hex/Quigley 10:41 (Laura) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 10:49 (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Ghostwriters” – Jim Q’s writeup

It’s that time of year! Bring on the spooky puzzles.

This week’s WaPo features six different “ghost-writers,” who are both absent and present in the puzzle. Creepy, right?

WaPo crossword solution * 10 28 18 * “Ghostwriters” * Birnholz



  • 23A [*Free, as a car after a snowstorm] DI{NIN}G OUT. The clue alludes to the answer as if NIN were missing. So DINING OUT serves as the base phrase, but DIG OUT (sans NIN) is what’s actually clued.
  • 25A [*”On the way!”] COM{POUND}ING. Ezra pound makes an appearance… or lack thereof. He aptly embraced blank verse.
  • 71A [*Computer networks] {ECO}SYSTEMS. Umberto Eco. On my list of authors I need to read.
  • 74A [*Creature with a deadly gaze] GORGON{ZOLA}. Emile Zola. Not to be confused with Zora (Neale Hurston).
  • 126A [*Strait bordering the Arctic Ocean], BE{WILDE}RING. Oscar Wilde.
  • 128A [*Police operation] ST{RAND}ING. Ayn Rand.

*It should be noted that there are six more symmetrically placed (!) theme answers which directly clue the “ghosted” writers themselves, all clued as “Ghostwriter of [insert work here]”

Though similar in concept to Evan’s puzzle “No Money Down” (coincidentally, they both use POUND in their theme answers), this one has its own merits: the long theme are common phrases with or without the missing portion, which is cool. Also, because the authors are actually present in other parts of the puzzle, the solver can use those the two entries synergistically in order to suss out tricky areas.

Overall, I found this much more difficult than normal (took me about double the time of a normal WaPo solve), but it never felt like a slog. I caught on to the theme early with a few gimmes (i.e. 104D [Fifth step on a scale] is definitely SOL– so you know something funky is going on), and despite knowing all of the authors, I still found it to be quite challenging.

And although it’s expected of Evan’s work, it should still be noted that all of the crossing answers make legitimate entries with or without the author’s name inserted. That, coupled with the fact that the names of the authors are symmetrically placed in the puzzle, is pretty darn impressive.


  • 29D [It separates two boxers] VERSUS. I strUGGled with this clue! I figured it was referring to dogs and enclosures and whatnot. Nope. Ali VERSUS Frazier. It definitely separates the two. Great aha moment!
  • 66D [Pavlovian response?] NYET. I figured it was ARF or YAP having the crossing theme answer blank and assuming it was going to be a three-letter word. Not that Pavlov’s dogs were noted for ARFing.
  • 73D [Fiona of “Killing Eve”] SHAW. Cleverly avoiding a “Pygmalion” clue… because that would screw things up.
  • 92D [Xzibit strength] RAP. Xzibit as a proper noun, not a verb.
  • 112A [Maine or Ohio symbol?] DOT. I think this references the dot above the letter i in each? I’m not entirely sure…
  • 118A [Encumbered (with)] SADDLED. Not RIDDLED. Hardest area of the puzzle with me due to my unwillingness to erase my mis

    “We’ve been snubbed!”


VIDEO GAME CLUE OF THE WEEK: Ummmmm… Was there one? Must’ve been a ghost! I think the video game clue being absent may be the spookiest thing about the grid.

Fun, challenging puzzle. 4.5 stars from me.


P.S. This seems appropriate:

Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “Match Play”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 28 18, “Match Play”

It does feel a little weird to have both a title and a theme revealer, no? The theme revealer would make a crisp title for the puzzle, but it’s nice in the grid, too. MIXED DOUBLES is 119a. [Game suggested by this puzzle’s theme], and each of the themers is made by anagramming the clue word/phrase into two words joined by “and”:

  • 23a. [Sou’wester], SWEET AND SOUR.
  • 28a. [Late hours], HEART AND SOUL. So far, we’re two for two with lovely answer phrases.
  • 45a. [Peace marches], PEACHES AND CREAM. I would absolutely like to eat peaches and cream at peace marches.
  • 62a. [“After Earth”], TAR AND FEATHER. Less cheery than the first three.
  • 77a. [Growth ring], RIGHT AND WRONG. I first tried coming up with a word pair involving NIGHT or THING, but GROWR is … nothing.
  • 97a. [Trade punches], STAND UP AND CHEER. The only one where one of the mixed doubles is a two-worder.
  • 111a. [Prostates], STOP AND STARE. The prostate gland doesn’t get much attention in crosswords, does it?

Solid theme, and it works your anagramming muscles.

Eight more things:

  • 18a. [Popular Dominican dance], BACHATA. I didn’t know this was Dominican, but my kid did some of that at high school dances. I’m guessing this was hard fill for a lot of solvers, but it’s good to expand one’s horizons. Bachata music is connected to it. Elsewhere in the puzzle, there’s J-POP for another musical import.
  • 31a. [Messes up], ERRS / 110a. [Imbroglio], MESS. These are symmetrically paired in the grid, with that overlap. Easily avoidable.
  • 80a. [Farthest point in an orbit around the moon], APOLUNE. Not sure I’ve seen this word before. See also: 86d. [Relatively cool stellar phenomenon], STAR SPOT. That’s … like a sunspot for stars that aren’t our sun?

    Window Rock, in Arizona/Navajo Nation

  • 63d. [Chinese New Year treat], ALMOND COOKIE. Yum!
  • Did not know: 79d. [Arizona capital of the Navajo Nation], WINDOW ROCK. I read a little about it here. The rock formation it’s named after appears here.
  • 96d. [Quaint demographic grouping], YUPPIES. “Quaint”! Goodness. A term from the 1980s is now deemed “quaint.” I gotta think that’s an Erik A/Joel F/Sam E clue and not a Will Shortz clue. To me, “quaint” is for things from the Victorian era in the 1800s rather than from my adolescence and young adulthood.
  • 11d. [“C’mon, be serious”], “DON’T PLAY.” I like it.
  • 62d. [Pad alternative], TAMPON. Yes! An unembarrassed reference to a part of life. Below is a clip of a guy named Bert Kreischer on Conan talking about his daughter’s period party. Did I post this before? I might have. It’s entertaining, and also entirely unembarrassed.

4.25 stars from me.

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword, “Change of Address” – Jenni’s write-up

Anagrams. Why does it always have to be anagrams?

Each theme answer contains an anagrammed state name; the postal abbreviation is given in the clue (which is good or I would never have grokked the theme).

LAT 10/28, solution grid.

  • 23a [Message about nearly a dozen U.S. sailors being flown overseas? (Pa.)] is ALL TEN NOW IN NAVY PLANES. “IN NAVY PLANES” = PENNSYLVANIA.
  • 35a [Annoyed Mayberry aunt gets an old Toyota at a raffle? (Wis.)] is ANGRY BEE WINS SCION.
  • 57a [Boast about Japanese animation? (Me.)] is BRAG ON ANIME.
  • 64a [Emanation from an aging rural miner? (Co.)] is OLD RUBE COAL ODOR.
  • 75a [Lunch treats from Clinton’s veep? (Or.)] is MEALS ON GORE.
  • 93a [Black Friday headline? (Md.)] is RETAIL MOB RAN MADLY.
  • 110a [Muslim ascetics drain Sahara pipeline contents? (Ca.)] is FAKIRS BLEED AFRICAN OIL.

This theme gets a solid “meh” from me. I’m not a big anagram fan, and the theme entries weren’t amusing enough to make up for that.

A few other things:

  • 10d [Six-legged prayer?] is a MANTIS.
  • It took me a while to realize why 34d [Holder of keys] is PIANO. I was fixated on house keys.
  • 60a [Not requiring stamps] is POST PAID, which I always think of as “postage paid.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that STYROfoam is a Dow product.


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked Crossword, “Snap Judgment”—Laura’s review

CRooked - 10.28.18 - Solution

CRooked – 10.28.18 – Solution

It’s an old fashioned quip puzzle! I may not want to solve these every day, but I really like one once in a while. This time we have a bit of humor directed at a minor act of narcissism:


Some nice long downs in the fill, like NEZ PERCE, CARAVAGGIO, LEDERHOSEN, and BOOKSHOP.

[86d: Kaplan or Kotter]: GABE. Gabe Kaplan was a stand-up comic who starred as Gabe Kotter in Welcome Back, Kotter, a sitcom about his experiences as a high school teacher in Brooklyn, and filmed — as many 70s sitcoms were — in front of a live studio audience. Can you imagine: a stand-up comedian starring in a sitcom based on his own life experiences, and playing a character with a similar name to his own? I bet that has never, ever happened again on television.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Sunday, October 28, 2018

  1. JohnH says:

    Hate to precede even Amy, but I got an early start. I very much enjoyed the NYT theme, because I like the device (if only because I’m a cryptic puzzle fan), because I’m impressed they found so many that turn into coherent phrases of the right length, because it challenged me and took so long to spot, and because they it then helped with the fill.

    The fill, though? Thoroughly yuk. There’s all the things I didn’t care to know that I got past, like the facer, but also the WNBA player crossing a talk show host that was gettable if you gamble on common names. But then also the crossing of a cable network with the Dominican dance (which I guessed ok) and, worse, the Japanese dog with the astronomy term, neither of which I can verify by Google much less guess. (I guessed SHIBAINES, which got no hits but the suggestion SHIBAINI, which might have worked in the plural, except that it took me to a singer, not a dog!)

    And then there’s DON’T PLAY that surely can’t be an ordinary phrase valid for a fill or SPAS as bathroom fixtures rather than independent facilities. (RHUD won’t confirm this meaning, nor can I.)

    • Jeff says:

      The exact opposite of the above: worst theme I’ve ever seen but really liked the fill.

      Guess you can’t please everyone!

    • GLR says:

      I liked the theme, too – and actually caught on after I got the second themer from the crosses. And, after that, understanding the theme definitely helped with the solve.

      Like you, I struggled with the APPOLUNE/SHIBAINUS crossing, and finished with an error there – that was a bear!

      Agree on DON’T PLAY (maybe “DON’T PLAY around”), but I’m okay with SPA – I think that’s what they call the tubs with whirlpool jets.

  2. Phi says:

    We found this one impossible. Your write up was super useful. Thank you.

  3. Jim Hale says:

    Great puzzle. Learned some new interesting words and caught on to the anagram theme about a quarter way in. I don’t understand some of the bad reviews frankly. The Shibainus and apolune crossing was my only nit, since I never heard of either. Window Rock and jpop… cool! I miss hearing people speak Navajo, a beautiful language.

  4. janie says:

    *loved* solving the nyt. terrific and unexpected anagrams; and (fer my money) terrific and unexpected non-theme fill (and lots of it, too). great, lively finds throughout, in both departments.

    unfamiliar w/ SHIBA INUS and APOLUNE, for which i tried to enter APOGEE… so i went w/ APOLINE… shoulda taken a better cue from the clue, which has “moon” sitting right inside. d’oh.


  5. Christopher Smith says:

    I’m in my early 50’s & loved the clue for YUPPIES in NYT. One generation’s thing is the next one’s “quaint.” Totally fair. And funny.

    APOLUNE & SHIBA INU, not so much. Also didn’t love the clue for ALMOND COOKIE, which isn’t particularly linked to Chinese New Year like some other deserts. Seemed culturally lazy, at least to me.

  6. Lise says:

    I love the layers of cleverness in the WaPo. I solved several of the theme answers by having an author first, and using the downs to find spots for the authors.

    I had trouble in the far west – I thought CAM Newton was QB for the Seahawks, and had sixGUN for CAPGUN, thinking “stage” referred to a stagecoach, not a theatre. I hung on to that despite the not-at-all-working X, for a long time. Also, I had no idea that ALOE is a smoothie ingredient. I’m not sure how one would purchase aloe to use in that way, but it sounds interesting.

    This was a wonderful puzzle despite my egregious errors!

  7. Lise says:

    Also, I need to give the NYT a LOT of love. It was wonderful. I enjoy anagrams, when I know that’s what I’m looking for; it took a while for the theme to dawn on me, then I had the very satisfying feeling of looking forward to each next theme entry.

    There was good stuff in the fill, too. Good puzzle day!

  8. Mike T says:

    Loved the video Amy. I have two daughters and am totally bummed I didn’t know about these parties.

  9. Penguins says:

    Terrific Sunday puzzles like Upside-Down Cake and Cut Above the Rest being rare, Sunday’s not a great day for puzzles.

    “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

  10. DH says:

    Not sure why, but the theme completely escaped me until close to the end. I saw the anagrams, but it never occurred to me to remove the “and” from them. Ugh.

    I initially had the “CHA” in “Bachata”; had never heard of the latter, but recently listened to a podcast about “Louie Louie” which uses an inverted “Cha-cha” rhythm (1-2-3 … 1-2 as opposed to 1-2 … 1-2-3). There’s a recording from 1958 of a song “El loco chacha” in which you can hear the strains of “Louie Louie” playing underneath the melody:

    Sorry for the OT, but for me it was in some way a Baader Meinhof moment.

    Bachata is quite different, both musically and culturally.

  11. Norm says:

    NYT: Ugh to meh. Obscure fill — and crossing to boot. Ignored the anagrams for the most and just thought of tried & true “and” phrases when I had a few letters; then double checked. A typical puzzle from Erik. I was with him 95% of the way, and then he lost with that BS crossing of arcane astronomical term and a Japanese dog.

    WaPo: Brilliant. Very hard, but in a very good way. One of those puzzles where, as noted in the review, seeing the theme let you go back and forth and try to figure out where each ghostwriter would fit.

  12. MattF says:

    I apparently did the WaPo puzzle in a completely backwards fashion. First, got most of the ‘conventional’ clues. Then realized that the answers to the starred clues had blanks in them and filled them in, with blank spaces. Only then realized that the ‘ghostwriters’ already in the grid fit into the blanks. A very nice puzzle, even doing it the hard way.

  13. Erik says:

    CHE is clued as a “hero.” He was not.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It’s almost as if a lot of you people don’t even know the “doge” meme, which features a shiba inu. Much shocked, so disappoint.

  15. Ed says:

    It was not just the states that were anagrams in the LA Times crossword but also a major city in each of those states. Think Allentown, Pennsylvania, for instance. Not an easy task.

  16. Slo Diddly says:

    LAT: Not a fan of anagrams myself, but Jenni missed that it was not just the states being anagrammed but also a city in each state. To wit: Allentown, Green Bay, Bangor, Boulder, Salem, Baltimore, and Bakersfield.

    • BarbaraK says:

      Thanks! I’m not a fan of anagrams either (to put it mildly). I realized there were cities too and recognized a couple of them but didn’t care enough to try to figure out the rest.

  17. Greg Johnson says:

    My original clues hinted at the city as well but that facet did not survive the edit. The state abbreviations were substituted.

  18. Leo Cane says:


  19. Doug says:

    Re: LAT
    Sorry to be so late. I first grokked Salem OR from MEALS. Then I looked for other cities in the first parts of the themes. That helped the entire puzzle to fall together. I liked this one. Couldn’t have been easy to make. Four stars.

Comments are closed.