Sunday, March 8, 2015

NYT ~13 minutes (Amy) 
Reagle 8:07 (Amy) 
LAT 5:12 (Andy) 
Hex/Hook 10:39 (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Sam) 
CS 11:48 (Ade) 

Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “3.1415926 …”

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 15, "3.1415926..."

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 15, “3.1415926…”

Pi Day is coming up on 3/14/15 (and believe you me, nerds everywhere in America, where the date March 14 is not written 14/3, will be watching their clocks for 9:26 on that day). Tom marks the occasion with a two-way rebus gimmick: In each of five symmetrically slotted squares, you enter a pi (π), which works as PI in the Down answers and as the look-alike TT in the Acrosses. There are additional theme answers fleshing out the concept.

  • 23a. [The last one in, perhaps], RO{TT}EN EGG / 3d. [As is usual], TY{PI}CALLY.
  • 26a. [“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” asker], MAD HA{TT}ER / 15d. [How questions may be asked], RA{PI}D-FIRE.
  • 29a. [Shames into action], GUIL{T-T}RIPS / 9d. [Breather], RES{PI}TE.
  • 117a. [Snitch], TA{TT}LE / 102d. [Cry exclaimed while facepalming], STU{PI}D.
  • 120a. [Like two lowercase letters of the alphabet], DO{TT}ED / 105d. [More work], UTO{PI}A (that’s a Thomas More written work).
  • 69a/94a/72a. [With 94- and 72-Across, a mnemonic for the first eight digits of [symbol in the middle of the grid]], HOW I WISH / I COULD CALCULATE / PI EASILY. Count the letters—how 3, I 1, wish 4, I 1, COULD 5, etc. 3.1415926, as the puzzle title says. I kept reading it as “how I wish pi easily I could calculate,” which was annoying. Clues! We must read them, yes.
  • 50d. [Pie part (that’s appropriately placed in this puzzle?)], FILLING. Note the black squares that form a big pi symbol (and more like a TT than the pi in the font my solving software uses).

So it’s sort of a four-component theme: rebus, quote, grid art, and tasty pie FILLING to augment the art. Elegantly executed, and with surprisingly smooth fill for a puzzle with this much theme action. And! The rebus answers included some really lively bits, like ROTTEN EGG, GUILT TRIPS, and MAD HATTER.

Tom’s November 2014 color-themed Sunday NYT was nominated for an Orca for best Sunday-sized puzzle. He’s demonstrating a knack for crazy multi-layered/visual themes that evokes the best work of Liz Gorski and Kevin Der. This one took me a good while to grapple with—I had giant blank sections and deleted things that had seemed plausible before lightning struck and I was able to make my way through the puzzle. But I didn’t find it frustrating—it was a meaty challenge.

Three more things:

  • Favorite clue: 49d. [One end of the hotline], KREMLIN. I needed so, so many crossings to understand where we were going here.
  • 76a. [Like much of Italy in 700 B.C.], ETRUSCAN. I do not know my ancient Roman/Etruscan timelines.
  • Cute crossing with the HARE who was an ALSO-RAN in Aesop’s Fables.

4.8 stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hide and Seek”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 3.8.15, "Hide and Seek," by Ed Sessa

LAT Puzzle 3.8.15, “Hide and Seek,” by Ed Sessa

A fairly straightforward theme, partly enhanced by a cute revealer. In this game of “Hide and Seek,” Ed Sessa has engaged in a bit of GEOCACHING (120-Across) [Hide-and-seek activity utilizing GPS… and what is literally done in the answers to the starred clues]. Each of the starred clues has the three-letter chunk “GEO” split across two words–always GE/O, because there’s pretty much nothing that has G/EO (THAT DANG EOLITH? WAITING EONS FOR? PLAYING EOLIAN HARP?). Anyway, the phrases are:

  • 23a, AVERAGE OUT [*Come (to), more or less].
  • 38a, AGEOLD QUESTION [*Subject of lengthy debate].
  • 60a, MARRIAGE OFFER [*Union proposal?]. It’s in at least one dictionary, but “marriage offer” isn’t very in-the-language. Marriage proposal? Sure. Offer one’s hand in marriage? Sure. But to me, not “marriage offer.” I’m gonna make him a marriage offer he can’t refuse… 
  • 81a, HEDGE ONE’S BETS [*Play it safe]. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it myself, but for a theme that relies on words beginning with O, using phrases with the word “one’s” in them feels a bit like cheating. There’s only one such phrase in the puzzle, and this one works relatively well, but there are a ton of possibilities if you can use any verb that ends in -ge + “one’s” + object (CHANGE ONE’S MIND, DAMAGE ONE’S REPUTATION, CHARGE ONE’S PHONE, etc.).
  • 98a, TAKE THE EDGE OFF [*Mitigate]. 
  • 15d, BRIDGE OFFICER [*Sulu, for one]. 
  • 59d, CHANGE OF VENUE [*Trial movement].

The theme might have been funnier if the “GEO”s had been “hidden” in phrases where they didn’t belong, but this was well-done for what it was. My favorite was BRIDGE OFFICER. I wasn’t particularly moved by the others, but they were all mostly fine.

Favorite clue by far was 64a, METHINKS [IMO, in “Hamlet”]. “IMO, the lady doth protest too much.” “BRB, sweet prince.” “TIL neither a borrower nor a lender be.” The concept of text-message Hamlet has potential. (Has anyone read Texts From Jane Eyre, and if so, confirm/deny that Hamlet‘s in there?)

The fill seemed fine as I was solving. DA BOMB stood out as trying too hard, and the section with AZUR probably could have been filled better without the glut of Zs. MOJOS plural struck me as strange. Otherwise, though, some really nice stuff: NODOZ, ROOF DECK, ATE CROW, PATHOS, DARREN Criss, SQUAWKS, NABOO. The usual smattering of non-ideal fill holding things together–maybe even less than usual.

3.33 stars. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat an OSAGE ORANGE while watching EDGE OF TOMORROW and listening to BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. Until next week!

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 257”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 257 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 257 (solution)

There was a ton of lively entries in this 70/27 freestyle from Trip Payne. I got lucky with guessing MID-APRIL as the [Time for many returns]. Throw in DRED Scott and ELECTEE as the [Recount survivor] and you’ve got pretty good traction for conquering the northeast. (Well, okay, it helped to remember STRUT as the [1984 Top 10 hit for Sheena Easton].)

That northeast stack is lovely, but it’s the clues that really make it sing. [Places for private dinners], [Haggler’s cry], and [Words that often precede a list] are terrific clues for MESS HALLS, I’LL TAKE IT, and DEAR SANTA, respectively. The haggler clue was especially nice, as it made me consider briefly whether it was “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler that said “No mas!” The “private dinners” clue didn’t fool me for a second but I liked it. The DEAR SANTA clue, on the other hand, had me stumped for a little while, and I felt satisfied when it fell.

Any puzzle with two tax law references is my cup of tea. In addition to MID-APRIL, the ROTH IRA got a clue that a tax jock like me would appreciate: [It was established by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997]. When INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF PERMISSIBLE SHAREHOLDERS IN AN S CORPORATION did not fit, the Roth IRA came quickly to mind. With the crossing ROGER Federer as the [Rival of Rafael and Novak], the southeast corner too did not offer much resistance. .

My Waterloo was the southeast. Couldn’t quite piece together that CINERAMA was ther answer to [“Ice Station Zebra” format], and since APATITE, the [Mineral below orthoclase on the Mohs scale] was a complete unknown, that corner was a bear. Oh, and I was unaware that CANOE was a [Fragrance from Dana introduced in the 1930s]. Eventually I just tried a couple of guesses, got lucky, and figured it all out.

Other highlights:

  • I had VEGAS and HEIST as the [Subject of “Ocean’s Eleven”] at 1-Across before finally solving from the other direction to see it was CAPER. A nickel says that trap was not an accident.
  • I also had PULLS as the [Triggerman’s squeezes], but they proved to be MOLLS. Tricky clue!
  • [Score loudly?] is a great clue for FORTE, the notation on a musical score to play loudly. Right beneath it is another terrific clue, [Person who makes sure you aren’t hearing things?] for CENSOR.
  • [Cubic dozen] is yet another great clue–this time the answer was EDGES (a cube has 12 edges).
  • Anyone else try LIMP instead of GIMP for [Hobble]?
  • I didn’t know the [Poet translated by Edward FitzGerald] was OMAR. Wow, that Omar was a Renaissance Man–poet, robber of Baltimore drug stashes…what didn’t that man do?

Favorite entry = KISS ARMY, the [Fans of a made-up group]. (And yes, I kept thinking “made-up” meant “fictional” instead of “in make-up.” Favorite clue, hands down = [It just sits there gathering dust] for an AIR FILTER.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hide and Seek”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 3.8.15, "Hide and Seek," by Ed Sessa

LAT Puzzle 3.8.15, “Hide and Seek,” by Ed Sessa

A fairly straightforward theme, partly enhanced by a cute revealer. In this game of “Hide and Seek,” Ed Sessa has engaged in a bit of GEOCACHING (120-Across) [Hide-and-seek activity utilizing GPS… and what is literally done in the answers to the starred clues]. Each of the starred clues has the three-letter chunk “GEO” split across two words–always GE/O, because there’s pretty much nothing that has G/EO (THAT DANG EOLITH? WAITING EONS FOR? PLAYING EOLIAN HARP?). Anyway, the phrases are:

  • 23a, AVERAGE OUT [*Come (to), more or less].
  • 38a, AGEOLD QUESTION [*Subject of lengthy debate].
  • 60a, MARRIAGE OFFER [*Union proposal?]. It’s in at least one dictionary, but “marriage offer” isn’t very in-the-language. Marriage proposal? Sure. Offer one’s hand in marriage? Sure. But to me, not “marriage offer.” I’m gonna make him a marriage offer he can’t refuse… 
  • 81a, HEDGE ONE’S BETS [*Play it safe]. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it myself, but for a theme that relies on words beginning with O, using phrases with the word “one’s” in them feels a bit like cheating. There’s only one such phrase in the puzzle, and this one works relatively well, but there are a ton of possibilities if you can use any verb that ends in -ge + “one’s” + object (CHANGE ONE’S MIND, DAMAGE ONE’S REPUTATION, CHARGE ONE’S PHONE, etc.).
  • 98a, TAKE THE EDGE OFF [*Mitigate]. 
  • 15d, BRIDGE OFFICER [*Sulu, for one]. 
  • 59d, CHANGE OF VENUE [*Trial movement].

The theme might have been funnier if the “GEO”s had been “hidden” in phrases where they didn’t belong, but this was well-done for what it was. My favorite was BRIDGE OFFICER. I wasn’t particularly moved by the others, but they were all mostly fine.

Favorite clue by far was 64a, METHINKS [IMO, in “Hamlet”]. “IMO, the lady doth protest too much.” “BRB, sweet prince.” “TIL neither a borrower nor a lender be.” The concept of text-message Hamlet has potential. (Has anyone read Texts From Jane Eyre, and if so, confirm/deny that Hamlet‘s in there?)

The fill seemed fine as I was solving. DA BOMB stood out as trying too hard, and the section with AZUR probably could have been filled better without the glut of Zs. MOJOS plural struck me as strange. Otherwise, though, some really nice stuff: NODOZ, ROOF DECK, ATE CROW, PATHOS, DARREN Criss, SQUAWKS, NABOO. The usual smattering of non-ideal fill holding things together–maybe even less than usual.

3.33 stars. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go eat an OSAGE ORANGE while watching EDGE OF TOMORROW and listening to BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. Until next week!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Sides of March”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 8 15, "The Sides of March"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 8 15, “The Sides of March”

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, if you’re lucky. If you’re in the Midwest, you stand a good chance of being torn apart by weather lions at both ends of the month. In the puzzle, there’s a LION (1a. [Fearsome feline]) at the start and a LAMB (129a. [Gentle sort, and the March-weather counterpart to 1 Across]) at the end, and in between there are long answers containing LION or LAMB letter chunks:

  • 22a. [Ray Bradbury’s “___ Wine”], DANDELION.
  • 24a. [Picaresque hero], RAPSCALLION.
  • 27a. [M.M. Kaye epic], THE FAR PAVILIONS. I was working the crossings here and 11d. [She, to Sophia], ESSA and 12d. [DCCII tripled], MMCVI slowed me down.
  • 33a. [Ragamuffin], TATTERDEMALION. What a great old word. Less common and more colorful than the also-cool RAPSCALLION.
  • 58a. [Rioting], IN REBELLION. The IN feels weird here.
  • 68a. [Mickey Mouse, the Harlem Globetrotters and others], GOOD WILL AMBASSADORS. The LIONs give way to the LAMBs mid-month, with any luck.
  • 77a. [Music honor society, Pi ___], KAPPA LAMBDA. This is, technically, a 2-letter 11-letter partial.
  • 99a. [Be unsure, in a way], FEEL AMBIVALENT.
  • 106a. [Action-movie description, Hollywood-style], SLAM-BANG FUN-FEST. This phrase, with spaces between the components and enclosed in quotes, gets four Google hits. Without quotes and as slambang funfest, still under 5,000 Ghits. It’s out there, but not quite a familiar phrase.
  • 118a. [Manufacturer of the Huracan], LAMBORGHINI. Don’t know that car model. Italian for “hurricane”?
  • 119a. [Beach parties], CLAMBAKES.

I started the puzzle out by perusing all the theme clues. Nailed DANDELION right away but drew a blank on every single one of the others!

The fill surrounding these 13 theme answers has an old-school feel to it. Not 1970s/’80s old-school, mind you—that stuff is just dreadful. The sort of fill this puzzle has, plus woeful obscurities. My mom sent me a 1973 unthemed 21×21 and I had seven blank squares. There were incomprehensible things like SAMA crossing ANTA and ESSA (clued as a weather satellite rather than the Italian pronoun), when it could have been SAME crossing Latin ESSE. But perhaps they wanted to exclude “foreign” words? But then again, there were various local Spanish words for animals in this puzzle that could scarcely be considered English vocabulary. I do not care for old crosswords, I don’t. The stuff in Merl’s puzzle that had an older vibe to it, such as ALAE crossing NEBO, was all stuff I could get and had seen in crosswords before. But basically, with 13 theme answers, there’s not much room to have fun with the fill, but that means there were about 129 answers that didn’t do much for me. I lean towards wanting less theme, more filling. The anti-lite beer in crosswords.

3.3 stars from me for this one.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Ironyms” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/8/15 • "Ironyms" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

CRooked • 3/8/15 • “Ironyms” • Cox, Rathvon • solution

Clues that exploit the discrepancy between the metaphorical and the literal, which gives them—taken together with the answers—an oxymoronic quality as well as an ironic one.

  • 23a. [“Let’s ___ with this peace pipe”] CLEAR THE AIR.
  • 25a. [“It was a ___ for E.T. trying to  phone home”] CLOSE CALL.
  • 35a. [“That knock-knock joke ___”] RINGS A BELL.
  • 49a. [“The new extinguishers ought to ___”] CATCH FIRE.
  • 58a. [“You hit the bull’s-eye ___”] RIGHT ON THE NOSE.
  • 69a. [“Divers went ___ to reach the sea floor”] ABOVE AND BEYOND.
  • 78a. [“I was ___ by the total lack of wind”] BLOWN AWAY.
  • 93a. [“Anger management is ___”] ALL THE RAGE.
  • 105a. [“My frat’s name is ___”] GREEK TO ME.
  • 107a. [“Exiting the loo, our search ___”] CAME TO A HEAD.
  • 15d. [“___, you can’t think of Pooh”] BEAR IN MIND.
  • 68d. [“The bikini arrived safely ___”] IN ONE PIECE.

Nice decision to conform the clues as quoted phrases with fill-in-the-blanks. Sure, some of the constructions are strained, but hey, the quality of mirth is sometimes strained. Hey, should it be strange that I sometimes display mercy?

“Ironym”, it turns out, isn’t a new coinage. According to this 2006 entry at Penn State’s Language Log, ironyms, as conceived by Laurence Horn in a 2004 American Speech article (academic access required for full text), are formations such as “Welsh rabbit (not really rabbit) and Rocky Mountain oysters (not really oysters)” that “represent lexical irony.”

A key difference is that Horn’s ironyms possess intrinsic irony while the phrases in the crossword at hand do so only in the context of the clues.

  • Map_of_Labuan_(1888)Nominally rare-ish birds: 38a [Flying flycatcher] PEWEE. Genus Contopus. Not to be confused with any of the various other birds that are also known as flycatchers. 96d [Cliff-nesting auk] MURRE, also known as a guillemot, not to be confused with the quotation marks known as «guillemets» – both are diminutives derived from the French name Guillaume. Bonus crosswordese: the genus name of murres is URIA.
  • 26d [O.K. Corral figure] EARP crossing 37a [Free from a corral] UNPEN. Cute.
  • 97a [Some Borneans] MALAYS. Those from Sabah and Sarawak and little Labuan. Along with Bruneians and Kalimantan Indonesians, they comprise the human population of Borneo.
  • 111a [Fitness comb. form] EXER-. Wow, that’s awful.
  • 9d [Siren on the Rhine] LORELEI phonetically echoes the also-kind-of-awful crossing partial 4a [Beauty brand L’__ ] OREAL.
  • Speaking of brands, 95d [Popular waffle brand] EGGOS is incorrect, as the name isn’t pluralized.
  • Not thrilled with I BED, GET A HIT, A-ONES, EAT A, et al.
  • 32a [How a fibber may be caught] IN A LIE; 48d [Bad way to run] AFOUL.
  • Deliberately obfuscatory clue (not that there’s anything wrong with that): 99d [Sweater of a sort] V-NECK. [Type of sweater], by contrast, would have been unambiguous and non-fishy sounding.
  • Row 15, strangely compelling. YEN | TAS | FIASCO | NGAIO.

a_cinereus
Fun crossword.

Doug Peterson’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.08.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.08.15

There’s spring-like weather in New York! What in the world is this?!?

Hello everyone, and hope you all are doing well. Also hope you had a great time doing today’s Sunday Challenge, authored up by the newest crossword constructor for the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, Mr. Doug Peterson!.Definitely can’t wait until I book my next flight on Southwest and do something else other than fall asleep on the plane!

As for today’s puzzle, I started out being enamored by the first clue/entry, HARRISON, and its multiple meanings (1A: Indiana player]). Initially, I thought that was referring to former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver – and future Hall of Famer AND Syracuse University graduate – Marvin Harrison. And it very well might have. But at the same time, I decided, after completing the grid, to look up if either William Henry Harrison or Benjamin Harrison were from Indiana. Sure enough, Benjamin, our 23rd president, hailed from Indiana and was a former senator in the Hoosier State. Awesome, right?! Well, there definitely was no confusion about whether PACERS referred to sports, and I remember being such a fan of Pacer great Reggie Miller when growing up (9A: [Indiana players]). I thought I could emulate him when I was on my high school basketball team, but ALAS, I didn’t have a jump shot not nearly as accurate as his (2D: [Despondent comment]).

This was definitely a fun solve, but even I was surprised that I finished a Sunday Challenge in under 12 minutes. Well, it didn’t hurt that African geography was in the grid, as FRENCH SUDAN went down in no time (23D: [Mali, once]). Another answer that went down quickly was MAGNAVOX, and got the answer just with the M filled in (17A: [Electronics brand since 1917]). Wasn’t their slogan at one time “Smart. Very Smart.”? My no-frills order from pizzerias is now a plain beef patties, but I definitely don’t mind a CHEESE PIZZA when I’m in the mood (11D: [No-frills takeout order]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GIBBONS (42D: [Acrobatic Asian apes])– No, I’m not about to tell you that Leeza Gibbons was a former basketball player somewhere. But this is about Jay GIBBONS, former major league baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers who currently is a hitting coach in the minor leagues. Gibbons hit 127 career home runs in the bigs, but will be best known for speculation that he used performance-enhancing drugs while a player in the MLB. He was cited in the 2007 Mitchell Report, the results to an investigation into steroid and human grown hormone use in Major League Baseball, and was suspended to begin the 2008 season.

I’m about to step outside and enjoy a little spring weather! Have a great day, everybody! 

Take care!

Ade

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17 Responses to Sunday, March 8, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: fabulous! Beautifully done.

    And if you’re a nerd and love food, you’re all set.
    First, I read the reveal out of order, as Amy did. Then I read:

    HOW I WISH
    I COULD CALCULATE
    PIE AS I LY (sp!)

    Then I figured out the trick and felt happy.

    Now I want to recline like a Roman and nibble on a pecan pie…

  2. Steve says:

    The only mnemonic I knew was “yes I need a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy homework involving problem solutions.” Now I know another!

    • Gary R says:

      May I have a large container of coffee?

      • Mike Buckley says:

        Mine was similar to Steve’s: How I like a drink, alcoholic of course, after ten heavy chapters involving quantum mechanics.”

  3. Ethan says:

    Notepad says that the print version contains visual elements not in Across Lite, but for the life of me I can’t see what it is (other than the fact you can make your TT’s look a bit more like pis when you solve with a pen).

    • Gary R says:

      The only thing I could come up with is in the print version, 11-D is blank, where in AcrossLite and the other electronic version, the clue is “-“

  4. Evad says:

    I loved how PI was reimagined as TT–reminds me of a Blindauer puzzle (as I recall anyway) where a dollar sign was translated as SI in the down direction (and maybe the cents symbol as CI? Now it’s getting a bit hazy…)

    I am curious about the placement of the rebuses, tho–shouldn’t that middle top one be a row higher? If you connect them now, it’s a bit more like a capital M.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes it had both CI & SI. Must be a few years ago. Remember not trusting the old, poorly designed Times Xword app to handle it. Maybe it was summertime? Recall doing it in the Florida room, for some reason.

  5. Matt says:

    About thirteen trillion digits of pi have been calculated:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_computation_of_%CF%80

    One interesting (and, I guess, esoteric) fact about pi calculations is that there are ways to calculate any single specified (hexadecimal) digit of pi.

  6. pannonica says:

    Liked the NYT quite a lot, but the frequent and sometimes intersecting cross-references were very irksome. For example: 79d [See 73-Down] crossing 94a [See 69-Across], and 73d [With 79-Down, place to get spare parts] itself crossing 72a [See 69-Across].

    The better portion of these are excusably theme-related, but that’s all the more reason the already dubious AUTO | YARD should have dispensed with the cross-referencing.

  7. klew archer says:

    Also fell into the LIMP/GIMP trap and had JUNK YARD instead of AUTO YARD for quite a while.

  8. Doug says:

    Ade didn’t hit on the right HARRISON at 1-Across in my Sunday Challenge. Think back to a big news story from a couple days ago, and you’ll get it…

  9. Or Harrison Ford. Umm, yeah, that’s what I meant all along! Had you all fooled! (*blushing*)

Comments are closed.