Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hex/Quigley  7:49 (Jenni) 


LAT 9:05 (Amy) 


NYT 8:26 (Amy) 


WaPo 8:19 (Erin) 


Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Letter Recycling”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 25 18, “Letter Recycling”

This week’s Sunday theme circles around the “letter bank” concept (devised by Will Shortz, Wikipedia tells me), where the word IMPS’s letters can be used (in multiples as needed) to spell MISSISSIPPI; the letter bank will of necessity be an isogram (word in which each letter appears just once). Will’s theme pairs two isograms with longer words/phrases made from their letter banks, where the two answers can be clued the same, and also includes, under the broader theme concept of “Letter Recycling,” four other semantic pairs made from shared letter banks. Is this description foggy enough?

  • 22a. [Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down], GEORGIAN ERA / 2d. [Historical period], IRON AGE. Iron Age is an isogram.
  • 28a. [Revolutionary War hero spelled using only the letters of 13-Down], NATHAN HALE / 13d. [Revolutionary War hero], ETHAN ALLEN.
  • 36a. [Snack items spelled using only the letters of 36-Down], PISTACHIOS / 36d. [Snack items], POTATO CHIPS.
  • 95a. [Really impressive, spelled using only the letters of 39-Down], ASTOUNDING / 39d. [Really impressive], OUTSTANDING.
  • 104a. [No-good, spelled using only the letters of 71-Down], DAD-BLASTED / 71d. [No-good], DETESTABLE.
  • 111a. [Bagel topping spelled using only the letters of 89-Down], CREAM CHEESE / 89d. [Bagel topping], SCHMEAR. Oh! Saved the best for last. Who knew that the isogram/letter bank of SCHMEAR could yield CREAM CHEESE? (Answer: Probably everyone in the National Puzzlers’ League. I’m not a member myself, but if you could see yourself grooving on arcane and challenging sorts of wordplay and puzzles, check out the NPL site. Will S. revived the group some decades ago, I believe.)

The theme is far more elegant than a mere “here are two things from the same letter bank” one, since your PISTACHIOS and POTATO CHIPS, for example, can share a clue. The DETESTABLE and GEORGIAN ERA bits were a bit duller, but the SCHMEAR won me over in the end.

Other notes:

  • 91d. [Gets back together], REUNES / 86a. [Word that might be helpful on a class reunion name tag], NEE. Don’t care for the reunion/REUNES overlap, and I’m skeptical that any school would still be using née in 2018. I mean, really. Either the alum is using their birth name, or they’ve changed their surname and might have their college-era surname included before the current surname on the name tag. Not sure what they do for the hyphenated folks. I suppose the person who hyphenated a name upon marriage would usually have their original name included there, so it would be redundant to mention his maiden name. (What? Do we not call it a maiden name when it’s a man who changes his name upon marriage?)
  • 26-Across

    19a. [Energize], KEY UP. Feels weird in this form. Keyed up sounds better to me. “The team is really keyed up for the finals this weekend.” Not sure how or where you’d use KEY UP in that form.

  • 26a. [Unlikely to be talked out of], BENT ON. As in hell-bent on, which sounds much more natural to me.
  • 28d. [Sarcastic response to a fail], NAILED IT. I always appreciate the genre of Nailed It memes. One could actually apply the concept to terrible Tuesday puzzles that aimed high but failed.
  • 70a. [Jewel case holder], CD TOWER. Let’s take a poll: How many of you actually own a shelving rack that can be called a CD tower, and have it filled with compact discs? If you’ve got this, you are probably over 40. And your CD tower is probably in need of dusting, because how often are you really popping a CD into a player when there’s streaming and iTunes and whatnot?
  • Did not know: 47d. [Seaweed in Japanese cuisine], KOMBU. Is this fermented to make kombucha, by any chance? I’ve assiduously avoided learning about kombucha.

Four stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Déjà Vu” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 2/24/18

Metapuzzle this week! Constructor note: “Which song from a famous Broadway musical is hinted at by this puzzle’s theme?”

At first glance, the one thing standing out as likely theme material is the central entry at 67a. [Those who may do time a second time] REPEAT OFFENDERS. Solving reveals that there are ten pairs of duplicate entries with different clues throughout the grid. From top to bottom, they are:

  • 3d. / 71a. MOPED
  • 6d. / 78d. AXES
  • 12d. / 86a. TEAR
  • 16d. / 91d. CLOSE
  • 18d. / 94a. HOUSE
  • 32a. / 103a. MORES
  • 40d. / 111d. ALLY
  • 43d. / 113d. KOCH
  • 50a. / 119a. ECO
  • 61a. / 122a. ROSE

The first letter of each entry spells out MATCHMAKER from Fiddler on the Roof, our meta answer.  After noticing a repeat and getting past the disbelief that a constructor and editor would miss such a glaring error, this was a really fun solve.

Other things:

A hydra

  • 31a. [Aquatic invertebrates bearing the name of a many-headed monster] HYDRAS. They can regenerate, reproduce both sexually and asexually, and do not show signs of deteriorating or losing fertility as they age.
  • 114a. [Trouble spot?] GAME TABLE. Clever!
  • 82d. [Gold medal-winning long jumper Bob] BEAMON. He set a new world record as well as a still-standing Olympic record for the long jump in 1968, at 29 feet 2 1/2 inches. He broke the old record by 21 3/4 inches, and his world record was not broken until 1991.
  • Very dangerous baby hedgehog

    99d. [Covered in quills] SPINY. Spiny things are very dangerous. Look how scary this spiny is.

Until next week.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Kinda Sorta”—Amy’s write-up

Cute theme, as add-a-___ themes go. An ISH (which is added to various words to suggest they’re “kinda sorta” like that) is added to familiar phrases to change the meaning, and the resulting phrases are clued accordingly.

  • 23a. [Snow in southwest England?], CORNISH FLAKES.
  • 36a. [Golf-loving priest’s dream?], PARISH FOR THE COURSE. (Overall, there was too much golf stuff throughout this puzzle. And also too much sickly-related fill.)
  • 48a. [Pastry with a metallic taste?], STEELY DANISH. Yuck. Don’t eat baked goods with a metallic taste to them.
  • LA Times crossword solution, 2 25 18, “Kinda Sorta”

    66a. [Result of certain radar screens conking out?], WEATHER VANISHES. Well, the weather’s still happening, you just can’t see it one technical way.

  • 86a. [Media outlet in Pennsylvania Dutch country?], AMISH FM RADIO. Fun!
  • 94a. [General-use gesture?], ALL-PURPOSE FLOURISH. I like this one too.
  • 112a. [Cause of an origami flaw?], FOLDING MISHAP. Folding map feels a little iffy as a base phrase.

The theme was actually more entertaining than most of this type. That was offset by the dryness of the fill, which had so little sparkle. When your longer fill is things like SALLOWER and ALPHA RAY … zzzz.


  • 100a. [Unresponsive (to)], DEAF. Gross. Would it be that hard to clue this with relation to actual deaf or Deaf people? I have a deaf Facebook friend, and he’s not at all unresponsive! He writes detective novels set in the Upper Peninsula, used to be the books editor for a major metropolitan newspaper, and is working on a book about traveling with a service animal. Can we stop with the clues that color deafness or blindness as negative traits, as obtuseness?
  • 96d. [Part of a telemarketer’s gear], EARSET. I think headset is the far more common term here.
  • 73a. [“M*A*S*H” roller], JEEP / 57d. [Mayflower roller], VAN. What? Since when do we refer to cars and trucks as “rollers”? This is just weird.

4 stars for the theme, 2.5 stars for the fill.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Chest Bumps” — Jenni’s write-up

Jenni checking in for pannonica. Sorry for the posting delay.

I finished this easily and had no idea what the theme was. It took me a few minutes of inspection to suss it out. We have PECs, as in pectoral muscles, stacked on top of each other all over the puzzle.

  • 17a [Tiny bit] is SPECK, bumping into 22a [Classic Halloween get-up], APE COSTUME. I know this scene took place on New Year’s Eve, not Halloween, but it’s still really funny.
  • 20a [Quiet outside, angry inside personality is] TYPE C. I thought there were only two types; there are four.  This bumps 24a [The British seized it in 1795], which turns out to be CAPE COLONY. I have never heard of this, and I fancy myself well-read in American history. This happened in South Africa, so Gareth is laughing at me right now, but I feel better.
  • 38a [Blueprint data] SPECS bumps 47a [Materials in a tot’s art project], PIPE CLEANERS. When my daughter was little, I tried to buy some and couldn’t find any. They are now called “chenille stems” in many stores (although Google will still find them under the old name).
  • 64a [Mideast grp.] is OPEC, bumping 69a [Hybrid juice flavor], which turns out to be GRAPE CHERRY. Really? A Google search says yes, it’s a thing. News to me.
  • 86a [Pie nuts] are PECANS, bumping 91a [Waiver words?], ESCAPE CLAUSE.
  • 110a [Character] is ASPECT, bumping into 116a [VIP level], TOP ECHELON.
  • The clue for 110a is echoed amusingly in 113a [Clue character]. The answer is SUSPECT, and that bumps 121a [Linen boxes], HOPE CHESTS. I don’t like having CHESTS in an answer.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: CAPE COLONY and TYPE C. I also did not know that the state of KOSOVO has a city called Pristina.


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22 Responses to Sunday, February 25, 2018

  1. Martin says:


    Kombu is kelp, used to make Japanese soup stock, dashi, because of its naturally occurring glutamates. In fact, a century ago a Japanese food chemist was researching the ability of kelp to enhance flavors and discovered MSG. He named umami and founded the Aji-no-moto Company. He was one very successful chemist.

    Anyway, kombucha in Japan was made with konbu. But today the word refers to a Chinese fermented tea that has nothing to do with kelp. Nobody is sure why it was named after Japanese kelp tea.

  2. Martin says:

    Lots of discussion about dupes lately. I must admit that it took me a few minutes to figure out the theme of Evan’s WaPo. I missed them all during my solve. I told you I’m not real sensitive to dupes.

    • Norm says:

      I spotted each one, since the title was a dead give away that something like that was happening, and was extremely bored.

  3. jagoandlitefoot says:

    One thing about the WaPo that the writeup missed was that the answers to each pair of dupes are pronounced differently. For example, the MOPED at 3D is clued as [Exhibited gloominess], with one syllable, but the one at 71A is [Certain Yamaha vehicle], with two syllables.

    • Thank you for bringing this up. I forgot to include it in my writeup.

      Hope to meet you next month at ACPT!

    • Yes, and these are apparently called “heteronyms.” Here is a fairly comprehensive list, and it doesn’t have any beginning with K. I wonder if there are others besides KOCH.

    • Jon Delfin says:

      That’s why I picked the Gershwin song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (originally heard in the movie “Shall We Dance,” but later used on Broadway in “Nice Work If You Can Get It”).

      • Martin says:

        BTW, as a senior who managed to complete the puzzle without noting that he had seen ten entries twice, I nominate a second possible solution to the meta: “Memory.”

  4. Lise says:

    Hand up for owning a CD TOWER. Hand up for it being dusty. Hand up for being over 40 (considerably, although not old enough to have ever encountered ICEMEN). A few years ago I took the tower outside and dusted it and everything on it. Hasn’t happened since, nor have I used any of the CDs. A major Kondoing looms on the horizon.

    I have sporadically been the object of the NAILED IT meme as I tend to fall down hills while searching for geocaches which often are hidden just off a road slightly into the woods and which I generally spot while sliding by.

    I loved this puzzle. I feel that any slightly inelegant parts are holding up great answers. I look forward to Will’s puzzles; they’re generally slightly off the wall and always clever.

    On to the WaPo!

  5. artlvr says:

    I didn’t like REOCCUR in the BEQ, but looked it up and found this: “Recur vs. Reoccur. Is there any difference between the verbs reoccur and recur? Something that recurs happens repeatedly, perhaps at regular intervals. Something that reoccurs happens again, but not necessarily repeatedly or at regular intervals.” Still not convinced!

  6. Nance says:

    Got stuck on upper right when I was sure word before data or deal was “raw”.

  7. Thanks, Erin.

    So, I don’t know if it’s considered a problem, but I found out while writing the puzzle that the title is just “Matchmaker” without the repeat, assuming this soundtrack has it right. I know Wikipedia says otherwise, and even this Broadway website lists the title with two words. It probably doesn’t hinder the actual solve since there’d be no reason to notice the MATCHMAKER entries in the top half without the repeated ones in the bottom half, it still gets at the idea of matching, and even if one did think the title were two words instead of one, we’d be talking about the same song anyway. But maybe the ambiguity of the title is a slight inelegance, I dunno.

    Maybe a musical theater expert like Dan Feyer could weigh in and say if the title has changed at all over the years.

    • Jon Delfin says:

      While we’re waiting for Dan to wake up, will you settle for a washed-up analogue? The “Fiddler” score shows the title to be “Matchmaker.” That’s that. Yes, you’ll find sources that suggest otherwise. You’ll also find “reputable” sources that mistakenly refer to song titles “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” When in doubt, seek out the original material. Also when not in doubt.

  8. David L says:

    I noticed some of the repeats in the WaPo puzzle, but didn’t find all of them, and since Broadway songs represent a major black hole in my knowledge base, I didn’t try to figure out the meta.
    The different pronunciations of the two forms is a nice touch — but how are Ed KOCH and the political brothers KOCH pronounced? I would have assumed they are the same but I don’t know.

    I’m pretty that scary spiny baby animal is a hedgehog, not a porcupine.

  9. Christopher Smith says:

    Actually didn’t love SCHMEAR in NYT since it implies CREAM CHEESE. The others were all separate entities. It was very good aside from that.

  10. huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed it.

    And speaking of BIG DATA–
    My son-in-law is a computer pro in the Bay Area. I was connecting him with a young man who is interested in big data analysis and asking about opportunities in the Bay Area. My son-in-law said: “Big data in Silicon Valley is like sex in high school– everyone talks about it but very few people do it”.

  11. The title of the WaPo meta answer and the name of the spiny animal have been corrected.

  12. Elizabeth Asmus or says:

    Liked LETTER RECYCLING puzzle. Confused by Amy’s ER photo reference. What am I missing?

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