Sunday, September 4, 2016

CS 14:12 (Ade) 


Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 4:56 (Andy) 


NYT 10:47 (Amy) 


WaPo 9:06 (meta DNF) (Jenni) 


Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “One by One”—Amy’s write-up

I don’t get how the puzzle’s title, “One by One,” applies. Each rebus square contains 2 letters in the Down answer and an ampersanded X&Y combo in the Across:

  • 23a. [Neighbor of Illinois], B&O RAILROAD (in Monopoly) / 1d. [Things aggressive people may throw], EL{BO}WS.
  • 35a. [Release from TLC or Alicia Keys], R&B ALBUM / 14d. [Relatives of scooters], MOTO{RB}IKES.
  • 46a. [Takes it easy], GETS A LITTLE R&R / 10d. [“It’s all good”], NOT TO WO{RR}Y.
  • 48a. [End-of-seminar feature], Q&A SESSION / 48d. [2022 World Cup host], {QA}TAR.
  • 79a. [Multicolored candy in a yellow package], PEANUT M&M’S / 69d. [Basic form of a word], LEMMA. In the current season of Learned League (online trivia battles), there was a question I got wrong because I didn’t really know this sense of LEMMA. Here’s the question: “In botany, it’s used to refer to the lowermost bract (leaf) of a grass spikelet. In mathematics, it’s a minor “stepping stone” result helping to prove a theorem. In lexicography, it’s the base dictionary form, or “headword” of a set words (help in the set that includes helping, helps, helped, etc.). What is this term?”
  • 81a. [Noted index], S&P FIVE HUNDRED / 76d. [Just like always], A{S P}ER USUAL. What? No. It’s the S&P 500. Google the two phrases in quotes and you’ll see that the numeral version gets more than 1,000 times as many hits.
  • 93a. [Site of the George Bush Presidential Library], TEXAS A&M / 75d. [Simplify]. STRE{AM}LINE.
  • 109a. [Beverage since 1922] A&W ROOT BEER / 102d. [Neocons, e.g.], H{AW}KS.

Straightforward, except for the spelled-out numeral and the odd title.

Elsewhere in the puzzle:

  • 33d. [Calvin Coolidge’s reputed reply to a woman who bet she could get more than two words out of him], “YOU LOSE.” Well played, Cal. Well played.
  • Plural question: Can you have multiple KEROSENES and PEYOTES?
  • 87d. [Pirate, in old slang], SEA RAT. Raise your hand if you’ve never seen that term before. *looking around auditorium and counting* Yes, it looks like that’s almost everyone.
  • 80d. [Neglect], UNUSE. Is that a word? An awful lot of dictionaries just don’t have it. It’s rare that gives me a “Sorry, no dictionaries indexed in the selected category contain the word unuse” message. I will include DILATER and OPEN ON with UNUSE and S&P FIVE HUNDRED in my Least Favorite Entries group tonight.

3.5 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Unique Characters”—Jenni’s write-up

It’s audience participation time here at the Fiend! Can you solve the meta? Play along in comments. I’ll keep thinking about it, and I’ll come back and edit if I come up with the answer. **SEE BELOW**

The theme answers are identifiable by asterisks, and the meta question is “Which British prime minister, living or dead, could be a theme entry in this puzzle?”  Our Unique Characters are:

  • 23a [*Songwriter who won the inaugural best female video award at the 1984 VMAs] = CYNDI LAUPER.

    Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 5.46.23 PM

    9/4 WP crossword, solution grid

  • 25a  [*Legendary University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach] = DEAN SMITH.
  • 43a  [*Supreme Court justice posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003] = BYRON WHITE.
  • 51a [*First woman to win an Oscar for best director] = KATHRYN BIGELOW.
  • 66a [*South Korean leader who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000] = KIM DAE JUNG.
  • 70a [*Funk legend who “brought a feeling to music without really using words,” per David Lee Roth] = JAMES BROWN.
  • 87a [*1988 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics] = MELVIN SCHWARTZ.
  • 94a [*San Francisco city supervisor who was one of the first openly gay men elected to public office in the U.S.] = HARVEY MILK.
  • 116a [*”Magnolia” Oscar nominee for best supporting actor] = TOM CRUISE.
  • 120a [*Actor who started a foundation to research Parkinson’s disease] = MICHAEL J FOX.

The letters aren’t unique. Some of them are the first to do something (Cyndi Lauper, as referenced in the clue) but I’m not aware that Tom Cruise has any firsts to his name (except maybe for that couch-jumping thing.) I can’t find anything hidden in the names. So tell me – what am I missing? EDITED TO ADD: I was missing the fact that none of the theme answers have repeated letters, so each character is uniqueTONY BLAIR also fits. Thanks, Erin, and commenters. Most of the time, I am impressed by metas once I figure them out (or have them explained to me.) This time…not so much. I’d rather have some enjoyable wordplay in the actual puzzle. Bring back Captain Obvious!

A few other things:

  • The song is not called DAYO, although you would be forgiven if you thought it was. It’s actually “The Banana Boat Song” (2d.)
  • 6a [“___ me?” (“Huh?”)] doesn’t really signal the contraction in the answer, which is SCUSE.
  • 45a [Crane construction?] makes me think of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. I had the misfortune of driving east on the extant TZB during rush hour Thursday morning. Ugh. The answer today is ORIGAMI. Much more pleasant.
  • 80d and 102a are both clued [Wedding worker.] The answers are CATERER and USHER respectively. I dunno. USHERs are members of the wedding party. They’re not working. 

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BYRON WHITE won a Medal of Freedom. Wikipedia doesn’t tell me why the medal was awarded. It does tell me he was the first Supreme Court Justice from Colorado, so maybe that Unique Characters thing is about firsts? You tell me.

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

CRooked • 9/4/16 • "Word Building" • Cox, Rathvon • hex, bg • solution

CRooked • 9/4/16 • “Word Building” • Cox, Rathvon • hex, bg • solution

Letter banks today. This sort of complements the WaPo offering.

  • 27a. [State in which NETS may be used and reused?] TENNESSEE.
  • 29a. [River made entirely by IMPS?] MISSISSIPPI.

Interjectory comment: these first two themers are both notable rivers as well as states—the clue structures are easily interchanged, with only minor adjustment. Bit of a paraprosdokian.

  • 47a. [Rat whose makeup is TEAL?] TATTLETALE.
  • 49a. [Drink derived from TONIC?] CONCOCTION. Our first letter bank greater than four letters. Another stymied garden path.
  • 58a. [Item for kids spelled by ROTE?] TEETER-TOTTER.
  • 64a. [Hormone created from TONERS?] TESTOSTERONE. Whoa! Six!
  • 78a. [Serious use of NOSE?] NO NONSENSE.
  • 81a. [City whose members are ANTIC?] CINCINNATI. A five.
  • 96a. [Profession involving NIGER?] ENGINEER.
  • 99a. [Meeting with blended TEA?] TÊTE-Â-TÊTE. Three!? Was certainly not expecting that.

Filing this theme under “interesting” rather than “exciting”.

  • 37a [Shot again] RETAKEN, near to 36d [Get new weaponry] REARM, followed immediately by—not again!—37d [Knot again] RETIE (which originates at its crossing with RETAKEN). Feel as if I’ve been taken for a ride. An endless, looping ride. Forgive me if this seems too stern a REBUKE (87a).
  • Speaking of entries that are close and repetitive, 84a [Cold treats] ICES and 93d [Like ice water] GELID.
  • 43a [Ancient Hebrew] LEVITE. Maybe this could be part of the French air corps motto? Liberté, égalité, fraternité, levité!

    levité advertisement

    This is … not a good advertising image.
    (Beverage from Argentina, so this is Spanish, not Fremch.)

  • 105a [Chan on screen] OLAND. This clue seemed needlessly obscure.
  • 111a [Disease fighters] SERA. Doesn’t the clue indicate ANTISERA (a subtype of hematological serum)? Perhaps one or more of our resident blog docs (Jenni, Gareth, Erin) can verify? I realize that since antiserum is included in the category of serum, the clue is technically correct and thus defensible, but it seems unintentionally inaccurate rather than deliberately misleading.
  • 14d [Florentine master] Andrea DEL SARTO.
  • 9d [Minstrel’s number] LAY. That’s a rather obscure definition, but it’s unquestionably valid. Plus, I learned something. Scroll down for the noun entry at m-w.
  • 114a [TV’s Fred or Ethel] MERTZ, 18d [Lucy lover] DESI.
  • Longest downs: IRAN-CONTRA, COMPATRIOT, SANDBAGGER, NBA REFEREE. Not a bad bunch at all. (3d, 16d, 66d, 71d) Less enamored of 8d INSECTILE (there are better adjectives) and 76d MINK STOLE.

No real clunkers in this grid (no need to complain about TARN (102d), UMIAKS (88d), et al., but your mileage may vary, as it’s said), and the clues are lively enough.

  • 91a [All in] SPENT. Ya, I’m done here.

Mark McClain’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Fitting Jobs”—Andy’s review

LAT puzzle 9.4.16, "Fitting Jobs," by Mark McClain

LAT puzzle 9.4.16, “Fitting Jobs,” by Mark McClain

This puzzle plays on the classic crossword trope of cluing certain names with clues like [Fitting name for a barista?] = JOE. Here, it’s sort of turned on its head, as the professions are in the grid, and the clues take the form of [Fitting job for (NAME)?]. See below:

  • 24a, PROBATE JUDGE [Fitting job for Will?]. The joke is that a probate judge adjudicates the validity of a will.
  • 46a, HASH HOUSE COOK [Fitting job for Stu?]. The joke is that hash house cooks make stew?
  • 67a, TRIAL ATTORNEY [Fitting job for Sue?]. The joke is that trial attorneys sue people.
  • 90a, RADIO OPERATOR [Fitting job for Roger?]. The joke is that “roger” is a thing radio operators say.
  • 113a, CASINO DEALER [Fitting job for Bette?]. The joke is that a casino dealer regulates bets, and Bette sounds like bet.
  • 3d, MUSEUM GUIDE [Fitting job for Art?]. The joke is that museums have art.
  • 70d, TRUCK DRIVER [Fitting job for Miles?]. The joke is that “miles” is a unit of distance that can be driven.

HASH HOUSE COOK is a new combination of words to me. I also thought it was a little weird to have MUSEUM GUIDE and DOCENT in the same puzzle. Otherwise, a fine theme, if not particularly challenging. There also wasn’t a ton of theme fill, so there were lots of long supporting entries in this one; I particularly liked ON THE NOSE, EXACT FARE, TIDAL POOL, AVONLEA, AMÉLIE, X-AXES,  and GAS TAX. The partial A DULL stood out, but otherwise I thought the fill was very good throughout. 

I’ve got nothing else to say about this one. Until next time!

Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.04.16

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.04.16

Good evening, everyone! How’s your Labor Day eve going?

Today’s Challenge comes from Mr. Bruce Venzke, and I’m glad to report that, even though I did this on the train after coming from covering tennis late Saturday night, I had an easy time of it and just sailed through. Again, if you pack the 15-letter entries (and close to 15-letter entries), I’m going to get them and I’m going to get them almost immediately. Literally, after the looking at all of the long entry clues first, the first two answers I filled in were PAPA DOC DUVALIER (15A: [Haitian dictator]) and CAROLINE KENNEDY, and those opened things up for the rest of the solving experience (57A: [Jack and Jackie’s daughter]). Probably my favorite clue, given that I work in broadcasting, was STATION BREAKS, and I initially thought it was “commercial breaks” before realizing quickly that that wouldn’t fit (18A: [When ads are grouped together]). Not sure I’ve heard LOSINGS being used in that context before, as I just hear “losses” more often when it comes to what’s referenced in the clue (6D: [Gambling minuses]). You definitely couldn’t say that this grid has NO TASTE, because it definitely had a lot of it (8A: [Lack of refinement]). Have to head out, but, once again, loved this puzzle.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CAL (33D: [Baseball iron man Ripken]) – Just in case you don’t know/remember, Hall of Fame infielder CAL Ripken Jr. started in 2,630 consecutive games, from May 30, 1982 until Sept. 18, 1998. That’s still hard to fathom!

Have a great rest of your Sunday, everybody!

Take care!


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30 Responses to Sunday, September 4, 2016

  1. alex says:

    @jenni- look at the set of characters in each answer

  2. Will says:

    Tony Blair works though there may be others as well

  3. cyberdiva says:

    Jenni, each of the people have names that use each letter only once.

    Will, I think Tony Blair is the only PM, living or dead, who fits the Washington Post meta.

    • Correct. Blair’s the only one. Not even the old PM Bonar Law works because of the repeated A (but a great name, if you ask me).

      For those who don’t know, a word or phrase that has all unique letters is called an “isogram,” which is itself an isogram.

    • Martin says:

      I liked it because it’s a sort of meta-meta. The grid really points you elsewhere (Wikipedia in my case) to confirm the solution, which is what strikes some as odd, I think.

      Discovering that Blair is the only PM who qualifies was fun. So many Williams and hyphenated names helped make Blair unique. I enjoyed reviewing the last three centuries of British history in a few minutes.

  4. Jay Walker says:

    Could be wrong but I can’t imagine many getting the WaPo meta when those doing the WaPo can’t be looking for any kind of challenge whatsoever. Describing non-repeating letters in an isogram as unique may be accurate but it’s not how most would understand it.

    • I wouldn’t presume to speak for all or even most WaPo solvers by saying they “can’t be looking for any kind of challenge whatsoever.” That’s not giving them enough credit.

      • David L says:

        As a regular WaPo solver who has little or no interest in metas, this one went right over my head. I couldn’t see anything special about the collection of names — the idea of an ‘isogram’ is not remotely on my radar screen.

        I think that if you’re going to offer meta puzzles for solvers who are not used to such things, you need to make them a little more obvious or else provide a clue. Otherwise all you create is frustration and mild annoyance.

        I really like the puzzles you’ve been making, Evan. But metas are an acquired taste. Or skill. Or something.

      • Jud says:

        Thank you Evan. And please keep doing the metas; I enjoy them. (And while I’m not familiar with the term isogram – I did get this meta.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest used to get something like 1,000 to 2,000 solvers a week when it was free, and it’s 500 to 600 now that it’s a subscription puzzle. Metas are a niche market, just as hard crosswords are (ask Puzzlewright book editor Peter Gordon about the comparative sales of easy vs. hard crossword books). Big-city newspaper Sunday crosswords have a much broader audience.

      Giving lots of metas to the Washington Post Sunday puzzle solvers is a bit like giving trick-or-treaters kale and raw meat with a complicated dinner recipe. Sometimes people just want a sweet treat. I can’t imagine more than 5% (if that) of Post solvers are into the metas.

      • I don’t understand this argument. I’ve now published 40 puzzles in the Post Magazine since I started last December, and six of them have had metas (others have had Easter eggs that you didn’t need to understand the theme but added a little bonus if you noticed them). That’s one meta every 1.5-2 months, and while that is more often than other newspaper publications, it’s hardly a weekly occurrence.

        But even if I grant that metas are a niche kind of puzzle and most solvers out there aren’t used to figuring out metas or don’t care for them …. so what? There are many others who do enjoy them. I’d guess that most solvers in the whole population of crossword solvers likely can’t solve above a Wednesday NYT difficulty (if that), but that doesn’t mean the NYT should drop Thursday- through Sunday-difficulty puzzles. The WSJ runs a weekly meta, often tougher than Matt Gaffney’s easiest ones; should they just dump that because the majority (and possibly large majority) of solvers can’t get them? I say no; it’s good to give people new puzzle challenges and new ideas.

        If this particular meta of mine didn’t do it for you or someone else, then alright; I can’t win ’em all. But I don’t like the idea that metas should just stay in niche markets while a broader audience (whatever that is) shouldn’t be exposed to them. To the extent that I can help bring metas into wider consciousness, I think that’s a good thing for puzzles in the long run.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          (One every 1.5 to 2 months, except when they run two Sundays in a row.)

          • I don’t consider last week’s puzzle as a meta; it pretty much spelled out what you had to do in the instructions to get the extra answer and the theme stood on its own besides.

        • Ben Johnston says:

          I think a meta every couple months is totally reasonable, and adds a little variety. I can’t pretend to speak for the average crossword audience, but how are people going to know if they like something unless they get a chance to try it?

          The title on this one provides a pretty clear route to the solution for those inclined to work it out. And for those who aren’t, it’s a totally acceptable themeless puzzle. It’s not like any of the names are obscure, or put undue stress on the rest of the grid.

          Personally, I like crosswords that have several layers for solvers of all skill levels to engage with. For example, not everyone spotted the bonus LGBTQ references in Ben Tausig’s NYT puzzle this week, but it’s cool that they’re there.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Personally, I like a 21x puzzle to have a theme that’s fun, or to have zero theme, but a wide-open grid. A standard themed 21x grid that plays like a themeless is typically a slog for me.

            In a venue whose solvers were used to fun Merl themes each week …

          • I’m not trying to be like Merl; he had his own style. I’m trying to be like me.

            That’ll work for some people, it won’t for others. But I’m 100% confident I’m doing fine at my job.

  5. Christopher Smith says:

    Guess I enjoyed NYT more than Amy. The theme enables cluing items which don’t typically appear in crosswords. That seems worth a bonus.

  6. Jill D says:

    Calvin Coolidge twice in the NYT clues. 33D, 99D

    • Martin says:

      You’re not implying that’s a flaw, are you? Related (or even identical) clues for disparate entries are a way of adding a bit of interest, so long as it’s not overdone. I can’t imagine considering it a “dupe” error.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Luckily the bet was that they couldn’t get more than two clues out of him. Close call, though.

  7. JohnH says:

    Darn. Here I came to find out what the NYT puzzle title means, and Amy doesn’t know either. I could think of lots of titles, such as This & That, but I don’t get this one at all.

    I liked the puzzle more than Amy, although I too got stuck on the unfamiliar sense of LEMMA, especially because it occurs with the one and only place in the puzzle where the rebus-like cell does not start or end a word (and thus is also not placed in parallel to the cell six lines above. Does anyone else find that a flaw? ) UNUSE also took me a while to allow myself to enter, and I don’t believe we have that Tex-Mex chain anywhere near here.

    Also, I don’t understand my answer to “_ letter (college app part).” Help?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      “rec” is short for “recommendation.” I didn’t like it.

    • Martin says:

      I guess that’s what the kids call a letter of recommendation.

    • Martin says:

      I was floored, not by the fact that Google says “rec letter” is a thing, but that apparently teachers rely on the internet for help writing them.

      • Papa John says:

        When I was a member of academia, I was appalled by the poor examples of recommendation letters that were written by my colleagues. When I approached my dean for one for myself, he declined, saying he didn’t know how. I co-taught a mythology class with a guy who bragged to me that he went through four years of college without ever reading a book. Another dean used a bibliography that I had written for myself to pad her Master’s thesis. It’s no surprise, since teachers are a product of an education system that best teaches its pupils how to get the most for the least effort.

    • JohnH says:

      Thanks. I hadn’t heard of that as short for letter of recommendation, but fine with me.

  8. Noam D. Elkies says:

    TESTOSTERONE: missed opportunity to clue as a hormone for TENORS. (Seen in a recent Enigma puzzle, I think.)

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