Sunday, December 16, 2018

Hex/Quigley 29:05 (Vic) 


LAT tk (Jenni) 


NYT 11:01 (Amy) 


WaPo 19:24 (Jim Q) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “(Her)e, T(her)e, and Everyw(her)e” – Jim Q’s writeup

Might as well start this post with an Inkubator plug (coming soon!) since both this puzzle and that project feature the women of crosswords! Have you subscribed yet?

THEME: THREE TIMES A LADY. Three first names/nicknames typically associated with women can be found in each of the theme answers. 

WaPo crossword solution * 12 16 18 * “(Her)e, T(her)e, and Everyw(her)e” * Birnholz


  • 23A [Gulf Coast city that’s home to Ca’ d’Zan (winter home of John Ringling)] SARASOTA, FLORIDA. Who’s John Ringling? Oh. This guy. Quick Google search brings up some female celebrities who have lived there (Jane Lynch! Martina Navratilova!). I wonder why John Ringling was featured in the clue.
  • 31A [Former name of the carrier now known as Envoy] AMERICAN EAGLE AIRLINES. The history of this branch of American Airlines is confusing, but from what I gather “American Eagle Airlines” was used as an actual airline name between 1980 and 1981. Obscure, but inferable.
  • 50A [Note passed around in Amman] JORDANIAN DINAR. Currency of Jordan since 1950.
  • 64A [Word reference that can list material in non-alphabetical order] REVERSE DICTIONARY. A tool that may be familiar to crossword constructors and solvers. Is it a commonly used reference?
  • 81A [1961 Patsy Cline song whose lyrics reference the Alamo and “Lips so sweet and tender like petals falling apart”] SAN ANTONIO ROSE. I should’ve read the whole clue. I stopped after reading “song” and struggled with the rest. Very inferable.
  • 96A [Berkeley university’s athletic team] CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS. Never heard of the team, but also very inferable.
  • 109A [1978 No. 1 hit for the Commodores, and an alternate title for this puzzle] THREE TIMES A LADY.

I started this puzzle in the northwest with strong confidence. When the first four circled letters of SARASOTA, FLORIDA revealed themselves, I figured out the theme (thanks mostly to the title). But I lost steam quickly. With the exception of the (perfect) revealer THREE TIMES A LADY, none of the theme answers had a ring of familiarity. Okay, maybe SARASOTA, FLORIDA did, but for some reason I thought I was looking for a foreign city- that’s on me. I was hoping the names embedded within each would help me out, but that didn’t happen. While the concept, title, revealer, and construction were all top-notch, as we’ve come to expect from Evan, many of the names used don’t seem all that common (outside of crosswords, that is):

  • SARA: Definitely passes. Reminds me of one of my favorite Ben Folds songs

    Remember this Flo?


  • FLO: I guess. Sounds more like a name used in comics or commercials. I don’t know any FLOs.
  • IDA: Doesn’t seem too common nowadays. Muckraker Tarbell and Mrs. McKinley may disagree. They’re both sweet as apple cidah.
  • ERICA: Absolutely.
  • LEA: This is almost always clued as a grazing pasture. Occasionally LEA Michele of “Glee” makes an appearance. Without the H on the end, it’s not all that common.
  • INES: I’ve never met an INES.
  • JO: Okay. Pass. When I saw answers with two letters only circled, JO came to mind immediately.
  • ANI: Constant solvers know her as “Singer DiFranco.” Other than that…?
  • DINA: Went to school with a DINA, but still feels somewhat uncommon.
  • EVE: Solid.
  • DI: This seems like a huge stretch.
  • IONA: Huh? I’ve heard of the college, but that’s it.
  • ANA: Sure. Crosswordy, but sure.
  • TONI: Alright.
  • ROSE: Without a doubt.
  • ALI: My ex-wife’s spelling of her nickname.
  • NIA: Seems relatively unique to Ms. Vardalos. I had a student named NIA once. I have named some of my gray hairs after her.
  • BEA: A bit dated, but pass.

Of course, that’s a very one-sided and narrow view. And I certainly don’t mean to detract from the obvious effort that went into discovering three different gender-specific names embedded within symmetrical theme answers. However, with both many theme answers and names being unfamiliar, it played on the bland side from this solver’s perspective.

Also, the more common names PAM, MEGAN, TINA, ARLENE, MARIE, and CLEO make an appearance in the fill. ENYA, DREA, and MAE drop by too. My sister’s name LAURIE is in there, but clued as Hugh of House.

I’d call this a 4.5 star concept and construction, but the solve experience puts it just south of 3 stars for me.


  • 22A [Console with a CX40 joystick] ATARI

And this post wouldn’t be complete without this:

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword, “Top Gear”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 16 18, “Top Gear”

Hats. It’s all about hats. 108a. [Immediately … or where this puzzle’s five circled squares appear?] clues AT THE DROP OF A HAT, and each Across theme answer includes a letter string that’s also a type of hat. That hat word “drops” at the circled square, and is also part of a regular Down answer.

  • 27a. [Casting doubt on], CALLING IN{TO QUE}STION. Crosses an unidentified music app’s ADD TO QUEUE command. (I can’t use music apps, really, not with hearing aids occupying the spot earbuds would go.)
  • 40a. [Topic concerned with hacking and software rights], CY{BERET}HICS, which is not a term we see much. Its BERET is also in the [Italian pistol] brand BERETTA.
  • 65a. [Riddle-ending query], WHA{T AM} I, crossing LION TAMER.
  • 83a. [Dangerous environment], SNA{KEPI}T. The KEPI is a hat I know only from crosswords, personally. Crosses MIKE PIAZZA.
  • 89a. [It comes after II Chronicles], BOOK O{F EZ}RA, crossing SAFE ZONES.

Cute! (Or 28d, “GOOD IDEA!”) I thought it was a hat rebus puzzle at first, but it took a detour I didn’t expect. The “Gear” part of the title doesn’t quite make sense to me, but I’m sure one of you will explain how it’s perfect.

Crispest fill: FIVE A.M. (do not wake me then), the GHANA/MALAWI crossing (though the two countries don’t share a border), BUNDLE UP (I was out for a few hours this afternoon, and it was over 40° so I barely had to bundle up at all … but I was cold), CRAB LEG (maybe weird in the singular?), “I’M SPENT” (though there are at least six other entries with the first-person singular pronoun! And one of them, I CAN GO, is not good), MY ANTONIA, SWEETIE, “OH, BOY,” MAIN ACTS, an ASTRO POP, and the dreaded IMPOUND LOT.

Three more things:

  • 3d. [Calf raised for its meat], VEALER. Never seen this term before. Gross. The contrast between this and 92d “a MOO MOO here” isn’t a happy one. See also: 51d. [Who wrote “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen, though. That’s the problem.”], A.A. MILNE.
  • 49d. [Longtime N.B.A. on TNT analyst], O’NEAL. I suspect a small editing slip-up here, because that should probably be the TV show title “NBA on TNT” and not appear without quotes and with NYT-style periods in the abbreviation. Speaking of NBA on TNT, did you hear or read the public-radio story about Shaq’s cohost Charles Barkley’s unlikely friendship with a Chinese-American scientist he met in a hotel bar? The story’s by Lin Wang’s daughter, Shirley Wang, and it’s lovely.
  • 94a. [Coiner of the term “Oedipus complex”], FREUD. With FR*UD in place, I filled in FRAUD. Then I read the clue and really … it kinda works. Freud more or less convinced people that the Oedipus complex exists, and based on what sort of evidence?

Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “VWs”—Judge Vic’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “VWs,” solution, 12-16-18

So, Friday I blogged Ed Sessa’s LAT, in which F’s became PH’s and PH’s became F’s. Deja vu! All over again. In “VWs,” we do not deal with Bug automobiles. But with V’s becoming guess what? Given the simplicity of the theme, though, this puzzle was upbeat, fun, and almost exciting. My solving time was (let me see here if I saved it–yup) 29:05. Anything under 30, and we’re talking piece-o’-cake! But a delicious, humorous one today, producing smiles, out-loud laughter, aha moments, and newly acquired knowledge!

First, let’s consider the themers:

  • 23a [Snaps of people on Deeres?] MOWING PICTURES–cleverly conceived clue, with a distinct visual image about it.
  • 37a [Action sequence you can stick your teeth into?] CHEWY CHASE–This gave me a nice memory from the early ’90s. I told my daughter that I’d been to the Chevy Chase Country Club, and she replied, “Was he there?”
  • 41a [Pool hole over where the sun sets?] WEST POCKET–Once I got the image here, I was struck by it: a billiards table positioned in such a way that the players give a hoot where north, east, south, and west are! I laughed. In all my years of playing 8-Ball and 9-Ball, I’ve never thought of those six openings on the table as “holes.” Thus, I was focused on swimming pools, tidal pools, etc.
  • 56a [Handling a rock roughly?] PAWING STONE
  • 69a [Like logs a loser cut?] SAWED BY ZERO–This one I had to look up, as my “saved by” phrases start with “the bell” and end with–uh, “the grace of God,” I suppose, and total two in number. But, I see now, that “Saved by Zero” is a 1983 song by British new wave band the Fixx. I’ll listen to it later.
  • 83a [Less people toss balls?] FEWER PITCH
  • 86a [“Ya like some Riesling?”] WANNA WHITE
  • 102a [Most-most-recently found country?] NEWER NEWER LAND–Getting this answer was a “double your pleasure” moment.

The non-theme fill was chock full of good stuff!

At 21a the [Retirement vehicle] is a ROTH IRA. Its symmetrical counterpart, 110a [4 and 6, in craps], is an EASY TEN–not that I’ve any experience with this game of chance. The [Slopes ride] at 4d, is a SKI TOW, which put me in in mind of pesky summer insects.  PRESS KIT, at 17d, is clued aptly (a sportscaster would say “perfectly”) as a [Promo handout].

An educational digression about 34d [“You’ll get __”] (“Keep going”) USED TO IT: I’m not bothered in the least by this “violation” of the “rule” against fragments (commonly called “partials”) with more than five letters. Merl Reagle, as I see it, led the indie charge of disregard for this rather arbitrary regulation. I am often bothered by how some cruciverbalists engage in linguistic gymnastics to clue the 6-, and occasionally 7-letter partials that they want to allow, as they eschew the logically needed FITB clue. Such as [Frequently exhibiting, by nature] for PRONE TO. Here, I suppose, you could clue USED TO IT as [Comfortable with something, as a new policy, after “get”]!

[Afternoon shuteye] is, of course, a POWER NAP59d. But who knew CAMEROON‘s [… capital is Yaunde], 55d? Or that [Madras, today] is called CHENNAI, 60d?

A RAW NERVE is a [Sensitive thing to touch], 74d. A [Reagan inspector] is a TSA AGENT, 76d. And an [Edible coastal plant] is SEA KALE, 78d.

Being [100 percent correct] is being SO RIGHT, 61d. I was worried, though, that something was not 100 percent correct when I encountered 57d [ÒPrizeÓ for the close] NO CIGAR. I was unfamiliar with Ò Ó (and still don’t know how to make it with my keyboard), but I found it to be in common usage in lieu of quotation marks in some contexts (please correct me if I am wrong). I found a church newsletter from 2004 in which an article titled “Hummer Ride Prize” began, “This is more of a ÒprizeÓ idea than an event idea. But this idea can be used as a prize for everything from Òmost visitors brought to youth groupÓ to Ògrad nightÓ to Òmissions fundraising winnerÓ event.”

BEQ hit Lige’s Three-E’s, a term I coined in honor my dad, Elijah “Lige” Fleming, who told me once, “People will tell you they want to be educated. But what they really want is to be entertained. If you can do both, they will also be enlightened.” I found this puzzle to be entertaining and educational. And I came away feeling enlightened. 4 stars.

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27 Responses to Sunday, December 16, 2018

  1. Karen says:

    Re the WaPo clue for Sarasota, Florida: Although Jane Lynch and Martina Navratilova may be of more recent fame, John Ringling’s name appears on two museums in Sarasota. Seems to me that makes for a tighter clue. While I welcome and appreciate the effort to boost women’s presence in crossword puzzles, sometimes a male-related clue is simply a better fit.

    • Bec says:

      Uh, Karen, you did note that the theme is “Three Times a Lady”, right? I am not aware of John Ringling ever being a drag queen or a transexual (not that anything is wrong with either).

  2. Shteyman says:

    Really enjoyed Sam’s puzzle today. Also noticed lots of “I” and “IN” phrases (I’M EASY, I QUIT, I PASS, I’M SPENT, I CAN GO, NOT I, WHAT AM I, IN CAPS, IN A COMA, IT’S IN, ALL IN). Didn’t detract from my solve a bit, but something that just stood out for me. Excellent idea, title, revealer, and execution otherwise.

  3. Phil says:

    While I support giving women more mentions in puzzles, “San Antonio Rose” is by Bob Wills, not Patsy Cline.

    • I didn’t say the song was written by her. But she did record a version of it in 1961, so I’m okay saying it was a 1961 Patsy Cline song.

      • Norm says:

        And hers was by far the more famous version, methinks.

        • PJ Ward says:

          I don’t think Cline’s version was even released as a single. As a fan of both, I’d put the Bob Willis version well ahead of Patsy Cline’s.

      • Phil says:

        Lots of people, from Willie Nelson to Merle Haggard to Bing Crosby, have covered San Antonio Rose, but Bob Wills wrote it and it’s most identified with him. In fact, it’s his signature song. It’s like calling “White Christmas” an Elvis Presley song.

  4. dh says:

    Amy, I was not aware of your need for hearing aids – I hope that not being able to wear earbuds is the least of the issues that causes for you. Although I don’t need hearing aids myself, nor do I use earbuds. I use music and podcast) apps all the time with a robust Bluetooth speaker.

    Regardless of the theme, I’m not a big fan of circled-letter puzzles – but I really loved the NY Times. I’m with Amy on this one – anyone care to comment on why the word “Gear” makes the title perfect?

    Re “Oedipus Complex” – I think the evidence Freud used was countless hours of talking to people and direct observation. Still, it is presented as “theory”, not fact, and 100+ years later it is still regarded as controversial.

    The same is true, by the way, of Newton and Einstein. Many of their theories have been taken as fact over the decades, only to be ultimately disproven.

  5. David L says:

    My guess is that “Top Gear” is meant to indicate hats — i.e. ‘gear’ that you put on top of your head.

    Re Newton and Einstein: I would like see a list of their ‘many theories’ that have been proved wrong. (I’m not going to accept Newtonian gravity as an answer — it was superseded by Gen Relativity but is still perfectly accurate and reasonable in almost all circumstances).

    • Bill Katz says:

      The thing that makes the title so cute is that it is also the name of a famous BBC show about cars, so the phrase is well known from that usage and applying it to gear you put on your head is a neat twist.

  6. Norm says:

    Where on earth are you from, Jim, that you have never heard of the California Golden Bears? Granted, it’s been a few years [cough, cough] since we’ve won a national championship in football or basketball, but you really have no idea where Joe Kapp and Aaron Rodgers went to school? You never heard of Pete Newell or Jason Kidd? How about one of the top college rugby teams year in and year out? [As in 33 national championships since they started in 1980.] Oh, and one of the preeminent public universities in the US in case academics are of any interest to you. :)

    • Jim Q says:

      Sorry if my ignorance offends you. I really have never followed sports. I’m from Westtown, NY. We just found out about the internet about a year ago. It’s pretty cool!

      • Norm says:

        Those of us out west realize that we get no respect from easterners, but I bet you know your Hoyas and Elis despite your professed ignorance of sports, no? Gotta stick up for my school.

        • Jim Q says:

          Ummm… nope. Hoyas are associated with Georgetown is all I know. I’m not proud of my lack of knowledge in this area. But I’ve accepted it.

          • Old and Gruff and had enough says:

            “… none of the theme answers had a ring of familiarity”

            As you are in the estimated 0.0001% of people who claim to know nothing of sports, professing that ignorance seems to be an agenda. I call bullmalarky.

            I used to follow sports but havent for over 20 years, and have no clue where a pelican plays. But I know eli and many others through crosswords. Abasing yourself and your ignorance is insulting to us all. And yes, I learned ‘abasing’ from crosswords too.

            Perhaps you should review a crossword based on its merits rather than your egocentric view of the world. See the NIA discussion below as a further example.

            • Jim Q says:

              I guess I’m in that 0.0001%.

              However, it seems that you’re in the 0.0001% of people who would go out of their way to create a fake email address (very clever!) so that they could anonymously post condescension on a crossword blog. I prefer the 0.0001% of which I’m a part.

              I sincerely wish you Merry Christmas!

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    Shameless plug (although a little late in the day): I have a Puzzle Society puzzle out today. Check it out.

    • Whisky Bill says:

      I did it and enjoyed it!

      It’s often a couple of days until I get to the weekend Puzzle Society puzzles.

  8. errhode says:

    I used the same theme as today’s NYT for a Crosswords LA puzzle that I wrote a few years ago, but only in a 15×15 grid and with the hats dropping down as their own (unclued) words (instead of as substrings of other words). Every theme entry today was in the list I compiled for possibilities for that puzzle, so they were all immediately gettable to me. (The only one I actually used in my grid was CALLING IN TO QUESTION. I also had AD(MIT RE)SPONSIBILITY.)

    That was just a very weird solving experience. It was sort of like deja vu… only not really.

    (I in no way think this was a copy of my puzzle or anything. It was just weird to be solving and go “Wait, I know exactly how this going to go down” immediately upon getting CYBER ETHICS.)

    It’s been on my to-do list to make a Sunday sized version of that theme and send it to Will… guess I can cross that off the list!

    • Tom says:

      I remembered solving your puzzle while solving the NYT (with identical first themer and revealer, no less). I agree it’s just a coincidence, but a pretty wild one! And impressive that you pulled it off in a 15×15 grid.

  9. John says:

    Growing up in England, we used the word “gear” for any type of clothing and equipment. I’ve heard it less often in the U.S., but I think that’s what was intended. Obviously then marrying with the TV show…

    It would be amazing (and likely impossible) to see this theme played out on both the across and down clues. BERET works with both CY-BERET-HICS and BERET-TA, but some of the others would be crackingly difficult.

  10. pannonica says:

    CRooked: Regarding ÒLorem ipsumÓ as a form of quotation mark, I think that’s entirely artefactual, error-related.

    Looking at the Google results for the specific term ÒprizeÓ yields just three results: two from the same youth ministry website in 2004, and a preview of an article that I couldn’t fully access to locate the characters in question. Hardly substantial evidence, Your Honor.

  11. David Glasser says:

    WaPo: IDA is indeed not a super common name these days, but it’s my toddler’s, and she searches for it in every grid while I solve it. What a treat to have it be in circles this morning!

  12. Billposter says:

    Sunday LA Times gave us the occasion for some really interesting comments, but it still hasn’t made its appearance here. Soon, maybe?

  13. Lemonade714 says:

    Nia is hardly limited to Vardalos, even in show business.

    Nia Long and Nia Peebles jump to mind.

    It is now Monday at4: 00 PM EST and still no review of the LAT that seems to have been well received. I have never understood the lack of respect the LAT gets here.

Comments are closed.