BuzzFeed Crossword – Thursday 22 October 2015

AUSTERITY MEASURES” by Elizabeth C. Gorski

Whoa whoa, one thing at a time– solve the puzzle, then read the post

Buzzfeed solution 10 22

“Austerity Measures”

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Theme: Word ladder transforming LESS into MORE.

  • 1A: LESS – *Minimalist’s mantra
  • 21A: MESS – *Emotional wreck
  • 27A: MOSS – *Tiny plant clump I want to make a bed out of
  • 48A: MOST – *”___ definitely!” (surfer’s assent)
  • 57A: MORT – *”La petite ___” (French term for an orgasm that literally means “a little death”)
  • 69A: MORE – *Maximalist’s mantra
  • 39A: KEEPING IT SIMPLE – Paring things down to the essentials, as hinted at by the transformation occurring in the answers to the starred clues

Ben: It’s a word ladder! As an English teacher, I am legally obligated to like word ladders, so fine by me. Seriously, though, I feel like I’m in the mood for a good word ladder puzzle every, oh, two months or so. So this is fine by me.

Lena: I remember doing word ladders back when we had a subscription to Penny Press, but I was homeschooled so I just did them for fun, not knowing what they were supposed to be teaching me. Now I know. I think.

Ben: I really expected GOOD GRADES (18A: Culmination of many positive test results) and THIRTEEN TO (61A: Anything:47) to be theme answers. This grid seems a little light on theme to me — KEEPING IT SIMPLE is a solid 15, and I like the idea of a word ladder doing LESS with MORE, and the title is a cute reference to Greek politics, and yet… is it me, or do these elements not quite add up to a complete theme?

Lena: It comes across to me as a Mon/Tues NYT theme. Last Thursday we had the COCKBLOCK puzzle, which was much trickier than today’s. It felt like there was more of an easy-to-difficult progression last week, but this week I feel like all the puzzles have been hovering somewhere around Tuesday.

Michael: This is the first BZF I haven’t really cared for. It’s a word ladder, so there’s that. But even then, I don’t like how the longer Acrosses aren’t involved (except for the revealer, obviously). Are they involved? The cluing kept this one interesting, but otherwise it’s a decent, but very old-fashioned and familiar puzzle. I’m 99% sure someone has done this exact theme before. OK, 98%. I think Liz is hoarding her best stuff for her own (Crossword Nation) site, and I can’t blame her. This is solid work, but it feels both tame and Monday-ish.

Ben: My favourite thing about Liz Gorski’s puzzles (I’m also a subscriber at her Crossword Nation site) is that you’re pretty much always guaranteed some juicy long fill. I like RETRO CHIC the best, although OVERSELLS (12D: Says, “This is literally going to be your favorite crossword ever,” say) is also pretty nice.

Ben: I also like the aforementioned THIRTEEN TO. It’s random, but defiantly so. And while I have no personal opinion on Pauly Shore, cluing AT NO TIME as 30D: When Pauly Shore wins an Oscar made me laugh.

Michael: Disagree re: THIRTEENTO. Also thought the Pauly Shore clue was unnecessarily mean. I think  “we all hate *this* guy, right?” clues are kinda cheap.

Ben: Between not knowing CINDY (64A: “Untitled Film Stills” photographer Sherman) or MCGEE (67A: “NCIS” agent Timothy or Maverick JaVale), the SW played a little hard for me. I also didn’t know the brand name BOSE — is that a household name in the US? The rest was pretty breezy, since I cottoned to the gimmick early and jumped from MESS down the rest of the word ladder.

Lena: CINDY Sherman was an unexpected and, unfortunately, obscure answer to see here! Her photography (especially the self-portraits) is amazing, and I hope folks look her up based on her inclusion in the puzzle. Also she dated David Byrne and I’m totes jelly of that.

Michael: Yeah, I saw her exhibit at MOMA whenever that was … a couple years back? I forgot her today, though. I mean, only after I got CINDY from crosses did I go “Oh … right.”

Ben: Surely Maverick JaVale MCGEE can’t be a real character name, by the way? *checks wikipedia* Oh, I see, Timothy is the NCIS character, and JaVale is a Dallas Maverick. That clue confused me!

Lena: I would watch whatever show Maverick JaVale MCGEE is in. Especially if it’s about… basketball crimes.

Ben: The shorter fill is pretty clean (as you’d expect given the light theme), but there are a couple glaring exceptions: NOLA on top of GTA is iffy, and I don’t love STYE or AMNIO, though they’re real things. And Michael won’t be happy to see that NOM is back (63D: Word repeated while fake eating).

Lena: Oh yeah! I forgot to mention yesterday that I also hate NOM/NOMS. There’s a bar I used to frequent that has a sciencey vibe and uses #nomnomknowledge in its tweets and I’d say that’s like 30% of why I stopped going there. Also don’t “fake eat” anywhere near me.

Lena: I also tagged SI SI as not great fill, but the clue made me laugh (23A: “Pablo, I am so into that idea”). It sounds like it’s coming from some hipster gringo who speaks no Spanish save for “sí” and I can imagine Pablo just side-eyeing the hell out of him.

Ben: But easily the worst answer in this entire puzzle is TPKE (47A: NJ commuter route). That’s awful. The T crossing T-NOTES was the last thing I filled in because I was so sure I had to be wrong.

Michael: Me, always, w/ the T-answers: “T-BONDS … nope, T-BILLS … nope … etc.”

Lena: And don’t forget the ED TV/MR ED cross– this is a dupe I cannot let slide. We’ve got a movie about a guy named ED who’s on TV and a TV show about a horse named ED noooooo! That said, I did like the ED TV clue (52A: 1999 Matthew McConaughey flop that’s basically if Truman knew what was going on in “The Truman Show”)

Ben: Favorite clues are a trio — 37D: Mowry who played Sashabella in “Bratzillaz” (TIA), 58D: Sashabella or Vampelina, in “Bratzillaz” (ROLE) and 60D: Amount of interest I have in seeing “Bratzillaz” (NONE). Ha! Awesome. That’s how you set up a punch line.

Michael: Question: why are OMENs always “troubling” (66A: Troubling sign)? I feel like they are generally associated w/ doom in crosswords, but I’m not sure that’s fair. Maybe it’s Damien’s fault. I just wanted to say, also, that that SUSHI clue is amazing (3D: Roll off a conveyor belt, sometimes). A+.

Lena: You’re right– good OMENs are all over the place, man. Rainbows, I dunno, white doves? Stuff like that. Seems to me like a “glass-half-empty” situation– crossword constructors only see the “dark clouds, perhaps” and ASPS. Always those terrifying ASPS.


  1. rabonour said:

    Definitely didn’t pick up on the ladder as I was solving, even though I got LESS and MORE right away. The middle North section gave me some weird trouble even though none of it was really tricky. I agree that the Shore dig was mean, but it made me laugh. NOM doesn’t bother me as an entry, but it has always struck me as lazy editing when puzzles have dupes from one day to the next. The Bratzillaz trio was one of my favorite parts of the puzzle just for the sheer ludicrousness of it. Overall, I think I liked today more than yesterday.


  2. Bob Dively said:

    I didn’t see the word ladder either and just forgot about the starred clues until I read the blog entry. Oh well. Word ladders have never done much for me, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. SW was super tough for me as I didn’t know CINDY or MCGEE, and I still don’t get THIRTEEN TO. Thirteen to what?

    “Roll off a conveyor belt, sometimes” and “One running for Senate?” were terrific. I liked the meta-clue for OVERSELLS. Not at all fond of the Pauly Shore bit, not the least because hating on him is hopelessly outdated Gen-Xer humor from 25 years ago. No idea what a Bratzillaz is, although I was amused by NONE.


    • austinburns said:

      thirteen to the next hour. so 3:47 is thirteen to four. i didn’t really care for that clue/answer. i was very excited for a liz gorski/buzzfeed collab but this one left me a little flat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Dively said:

        Huh. OK, I get it now. That’s… awkward.


  3. marysueh said:

    I’m always glad to see Elizabeth Gorski’s byline on a puzzle because her puzzles balance accessible clues for ones out of my normal range of knowledge or awareness.

    I missed TPKE by trying PIKE first. It isn’t an abbreviation in my lexicon. The middle bottom of the puzzle gave me some fits (tried THIRTEENTH for THIRTEENTO, tried BOSS for BOSE, basically made as many errors as one can make in a small space. Live and learn. I also missed out on the Bratz phenomena, so any clue along those lines is beyond me.

    This was my fave puzzle so far, and I suspect it will have wide appeal.


    • Bob Dively said:

      I was tripped up by TPKE because there’s nothing in the clue to indicate that the answer is an abbreviation.


  4. Bob Dively said:

    Also, can BF please please please get it together on the puzzle publication details? The web page for this puzzle wasn’t tagged as a crossword, so if you go directly to it’s not listed there (as of now). I thought that it hadn’t been released yet until I thought to check

    And the link to the .puz is for a file on Dropbox? C’mon, man!


  5. Caleb said:

    Sorry about your trouble accessing the puzzle! Since we’re just starting out, we’ve been experimenting with a bunch different of ways to get the puzzles to the people. It’ll normalize soon. Also, no matter what, you can always find all the puzzles on

    Liked by 3 people

    • Bob Dively said:

      Thanks, Caleb. I know you all will get it figured out. Also, my grousing above looks a little too grumpy on a re-read, so apologies for the (unintentional) tone.


  6. zzedzed said:

    If constructors are hoarding their best stuff for their own sites they are doing it backwards. Nothing about today’s puzzle says “hey come check out my puzzles, they’re great.” No, if you want to build an audience, you put your best stuff out on the street. It’s as if a fruit market is trying to attract shoppers by putting out its over ripe bananas out front. That’s not going to get me to walk in the store.

    Word ladders are closer to Kenken or word searches than crosswords as far as the strategy needed to solve. Just not all that engaging. Plus, this puzzle makes EELS better to think about than Daniel Radcliffe’s hanging dong.


    • Lena Webb said:

      Yeep! Liz Gorski is an *extremely* accomplished crossword constructor– Check out her site: I’ll admit that I winced a little knowing that this would be the first time a lot of people will see her name associated with a crossword puzzle! I think it’s pretty awesome that she’s supporting BuzzFeed in its efforts to attract new solvers, even if it means hanging around with Daniel’s dong 😉


    • Evan said:

      As one with his own site, it’s not “doing it backwards” to save your best puzzles for yourself. It would make your own site worse if you deliberately posted crap puzzles on it while only trying to sell what you think are good ones to mainstream outlets.

      But personally, I don’t see any reason both markets can’t get good work. You put your best stuff on your site, and you put your best stuff out on the street. Everybody’s happy.


  7. Cluing on this one seemed tougher than usual, for some reason. Maybe I’m just more tired than usual.

    Write-up got me chuckling a few times. I needed that today–thanks.


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