Sunday, 1/24/10

NYT 9:43
BG 9:03
LAT 7:58
Reagle 7:35
CS 3:30

I’m heading out with the family to catch Avatar and won’t be back until the a few hours after the NYT crossword comes out. I do know what the empty grid looks like, though—it’s got some rows with gray shading and some dotted lines. See for yourself here. (Apparently the puzzle’s title also explains the shading and lines.) The clues will be released with the puzzle at 6 pm Eastern time, as usual. I don’t think the applet or Across Lite have any way to render the shading or the dotted lines, and the printed Magazine version of the puzzle also has some sort of glitch. So…use your imagination to compile two versions of the puzzle if need be.

Feel free to start the puzzle chat before I write about the puzzle. And if you’re one of the esteemed members of the Fiend Scooby crew and feel inclined to post the answer grid in my absence, have at it. (Done – Jeffrey)

David Kwong and Kevan Choset’s “Abridged Edition” New York Times Crossword

AbridgedHere’s a link to the folded paper version.

Many thanks to Jeffrey for posting the grid and the link to the folded version. I had printed out the blank grid that I linked to this afternoon, and after I finished the puzzle in the applet, I filled in the shaded entries with the answers from the circled squares, and folded the puzzle MAD MAGAZINE ([83A: [Publication founded in 1952 featuring artwork that does the same thing as this puzzle]) style. The instructions in 7D and 14D spell out FOLD PAGE SO A AND B ARE LINED / UP IN THE TOP AND BOTTOM ROWS. At first I was underwhelmed by the unrelated words that appeared, and then I realized they were theme entries—all things that can be folded. There’s a LAWN CHAIR, ORIGAMI, BEDSHEETS, a POKER HAND, the LAUNDRY, and—as is done right here with this puzzle, and quite often on the puzzle page in the daily paper—a NEWSPAPER.

That’s a nifty trick, but the rest of the puzzle, aside from 83A and the instructions, is essentially themeless. By this, I mean that the letters that go into POKER HAND come from POKE AT and OVERHAND, which are unrelated. And the words in the shaded/ circled squares in the middle of those rows aren’t working for the theme—they’re just there. And then there’s all the rest of the fill—nothing too memorable, very little in the way of long fill, not a lot of spice in the clues.

Clues and answers worthy of comment:

  • 13D. LICE are clued as [Woe for Fido]. Dogs get lice? Since when? Why have I never heard this?
  • 90A. [Run longer than expected] clues END LATE, which doesn’t quite reach the bar for good fill, I don’t think.
  • 72A. SCAG! It was from crosswords that I learned that SCAG is [Heroin, slangily]. Do junkies still call it SCAG?
  • 132D. The TAPIR is an [Animal with four toes on its front feet and three toes on its back feet]. Word to the wise: If you can’t see the toes because the tapir has its rear end facing you, step back lest it shoot pee at you. The liquid jet goes surprisingly far.
  • 131D. I’m always a fan of Tycho BRAHE, the [Astronomer who lost part of his nose in a duel], especially when the clue alludes to that nose problem.

Quasi-crosswordese fill—or should I say “fill that didn’t do much for me”—includes ONER, B-TEN, plural names ENIDS and ARNOS, plural abbreviations HOSPS and SSGTS, Thomas ARNE, a GAS TAP, and an EMOTER and a DRAGGER.

I wonder if it’s possible to craft a puzzle with this gimmick but have the fill be a lot zippier overall. Anyone care to speculate?

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Kindergarten Crime Spree (Part 1)”

Region capture 12Merl recounts a “Kindergarten Crime Spree,” giving kindergarten terms a hard-boiled crime fiction slant. Or maybe it gives hard-boiled crime fiction tropes a kindergarten slant:

  • 22A. [I arrived at the crime scene at 9 a.m. The kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ladey, ___…] SPELLED IT OUT FOR ME.
  • 35A. [“First,” she said, “someone ___” …] STOLE A KISS.
  • 39A. [“Wait,” I said, “I thought there was a ___”…] KIDNAPPING. Ha! To be interpreted kindergarten-style as “a kid taking a nap.”
  • 46A. [“Yes, but we woke him up. Then a pinky ring went missing.” “Real jewels?” I asked. “No,” she said, “___”…] JUST PASTE. Paste is both the kindergarten adhesive some kids eat—though there was no paste in my son’s kindergarten class—and the glass-like stuff fake jewels are made of.
  • 52A, 69A. [She said, “Then I saw the ___”…] HANDWRITING / ON THE WALL.
  • 78A. [“Graffiti?” I asked. “No, just letters.” “Ah,” I said, “a ___”…] CAPITAL CASE. Capital letters, that is.
  • 85A, 97A. [I thought, All right, fine, I can ___”…] PLAY THEIR/ LITTLE GAME. I got mucked up with an AARSHIP typo for AIRSHIP and had AYE for AGE, so LATTLEYAME wasn’t making a lick of sense.
  • 99A. [“Then I found these,” she said, and even I was shocked. There were ___ on the floor…]—CHALK MARKS.

If you enjoyed this theme, you’re in luck—you’ll have fun with next week’s puzzle. If it bugged you, maybe you can take next week off. But I liked it all right.

Nothing much jumped out at me in the non-theme fill this week, so I’ll head on to the next puzzle.

Gail Grabowski’s syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, “Gross Words”

Region capture 11The title should make you think of “cross words” or “crosswords,” and that’s the key to the theme—phrases or compound words that normally have a C take a G instead, changing the meaning. Like so:

  • 27A. [Tammany Hall expo?] is a GRAFT FAIR. Historical New York State political graft at Tammany Hall, plus a craft fair.
  • 29A. [Result of a run?] in some pantyhose could be a STOCKING GAP (cap).
  • 52A. [Glutton for fuzzy fruit?] is PEACH GOBBLER (cobbler). Peaches, yum. I had kiwi fruit on the mind and it took forever to remember peach fuzz.
  • 79A. An ECONOMY GLASS (class) is a [Low-priced drink holder?].
  • 105A. [Mr. Clean?] is a concise clue for a GRIME SOLVER (crime). I like that one.
  • 109A. PHONE GALL (call) is [Telemarketing at dinnertime?]. Telemarketing calls that reach your cell phone while you’re driving are worse. They’re gonna kill someone one of these days, I tell you.
  • 37D. [Award for the best flop?] might be a GOLD TURKEY (cold turkey). They should have those! Perfect theme entry.
  • 42D. [Kid in a ditch?] is a TRENCH GOAT (trenchcoat).

This is a good example of a change-a-letter theme that’s well-executed. The rationale for the C-to-G change is a little loose, perhaps, but the title connects it to crosswords, and the C and G look rather similar, so I can envision some solvers thinking, in context, that the puzzle’s title is “Cross Words.”

Other items of note:

  • 55A. TIN POTS are [Inferior cookware]. Does “tin pots” represent a cohesive unit of meaning, or is it merely adjective + noun? The adjective tinpot connotes shoddy leadership, as in a tinpot dictator, but you can’t pluralize an adjective.
  • 16A. [Turf controller] is a street GANG and has nothing to do with the care of grassy lawns.
  • 44A. [Excuse that’s often exaggerated] is a SOB STORY.
  • 86D. [Sydney salutation] takes us to a terrific entry, “G’DAY, MATE.”
  • 89D. Another good entry: a LOVE GAME in tennis is a [Shutout for 82-Down], Steffi GRAF. Wait, did she ever lose a LOVE GAME or was she the one shutting out her opponent.
  • 100A. [Carrier more likely to be tipped] sounds like it’s about airlines or waiters, but it’s a CANOE. Tough clue.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge”

Region capture 13This grid features a vertical triple-stack of 15s down the middle, crossed by two horizontal 15s:

  • 24A. I can’t say I have ever encountered the word MALPRACTITIONER, or [Negligent lawyer, e.g.]. Who uses this word, rather than the wordier “lawyer accused of malpractice,” “doctor found guilty of malpractice,” etc.?
  • 42A. QUARTER PAST FOUR is [Shortly after teatime, maybe]. Not sure how I feel about fairly arbitrary times of day as crossword entries. QUARTER TO NINE, clock reading during a commute? HALF PAST EIGHT, when 30 Rock is on in the Central time zone? TWELVE TWENTY, a little past midnight?
  • 6D. POLICE RADAR TRAP is a [Problem for a leadfoot], or driver who speeds. I just call it a “radar trap” or “speed trap.” Qualifying the phrase by adding “police” is unnecessary, because who else would have a radar trap?
  • 7D. ELECTRONIC PIANO is a [Synthesizer relative].
  • 8D. To REMAIN UNCHANGED is to [Stay the same].


  • 46A, 43D. The UNDUE/UNDO crossing. One’s a [Word processing command], the other means [Excessive].
  • 1D. [Shangri-La] is a DREAMLAND.
  • 3D. Ah, tricky initials. W.S. GILBERT is clued as [“The Mikado” lyricist].
  • 31D. Better still, full name without initials: MARIO PUZO is Don [Corleone’s creator].
  • 42D. A [Mountebank] is a charlatan or QUACK.
  • 50D. A wee little TOY is a [Cracker Jack bonus], and suddenly I have a taste for Cracker Jack.

Not the most thrilling themeless, and the clues, as always for a non-Klahn “Sunday Challenge,” are easier than I like. The grid is mostly packed with words that would be fair game in a Monday puzzle, so nothing’s obscure, nothing’s unfair. (And that is not easy to do.) But there’s also not quite as much zip as I want to see in a themeless. I know, I shouldn’t look for that in a Sunday CrosSynergy. I’ll have to wait for next Thursday’s Fireball puzzle by Peter Gordon to be brutalized by a tough themeless.

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Read All About It!”

Region capture 14Here’s the quote that makes up this theme: STEPHEN COLBERT (81A) said “Newspapers are / an important part / of our lives. When / you’re moving, / you can’t wrap your / dishes in a blog.”

Favorite clue, favorite answer:

  • 16A. [Rapids transit?] clues a CANOE.
  • 73D. BOB NEWHART! HHe’s the [“Button-Down Mind” comic].
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34 Responses to Sunday, 1/24/10

  1. Took me 3 minutes of checking to decide I actually had 7D correct. I didn’t count that in my solve time. I couldn’t parse ….SOAANDBARE…. readily, so I checked ALL the crosses several times. Then the light dawned…

    A fun puzzle, although quite easy. Just time consuming because of the size. I well remember folding the MAD MAGAZINE pages…

  2. Joe Burke says:

    Really fun puzzle! I’ll admit, It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what the new folded answers “have in common” with the puzzle.

  3. Zulema says:

    Really??!!! Goes well with the subject of the endpage of the Book Review.

  4. Zulema says:

    Amy, I’ve had dogs all my life, on both coasts and in South America and Spain, and whatever they get, which is plenty, they do not get lice. In the mountains, in Spain, they easily got fleas from the goats, but lice?? As is clear from my earlier comment, I was totally underwhelmed by this puzzle.

  5. Karen says:

    I thought this was an ugly puzzle visually, with way too many circles. And I had problems with the folding (I thought you folded it so the lines lined up) so I just didn’t have fun with it.

  6. LARRY says:

    I found the folding instructions to be conflicting and misleading. First, where is the line between the 11th and the 12th column, just to the right of the T in FONT or just to the left of I in IGLU?
    Second, the instructions contained in the answers to 7D and 14D indicate that the lefthand fold should be between 4D and 5D, so that the A in CCLAMP and the B in TBONES (and the A in STRAIT and the B in EBERTS) are lined up. This latter instruction leads to the hidden word combinations such as LAWN CHAIR, etc.
    Finally, not having read MAD — I’m too old — I had no idea of the relevance of the hidden word combinations.
    Nevertheless, I enjoyed completing the puzzle despite getting no help from the theme.

  7. joon says:

    i did this one in the actual sunday magazine, and the lower left corner is different… instead of TUNAS/ALERT/NEWER, it’s NANAS/ALERT/POWER. the result, unfortunately, is that 135a is ALOE, which is already in the grid at 67a. i suppose it was caught late in the process and fixed for the online version, but not the print version? in any event, i spent some time going over both ALOEs with a fine-toothed comb to make sure they were right. (the SO A AND B part of the instructions were particularly tough to parse, so they warranted a second look at the crossings anyway. i should have remembered the original instructions from mad.)

    karen, in the print version, there are shaded squares instead of circles. it’s much more aesthetically pleasing that way.

    nifty gimmick!

  8. Lloyd says:

    Thanks to Joon for identifying the error in the print edition. I never noticed it but here is a link to the print edition:


  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Totally annoying puzzle. I still don’t understand what is supposed to be meant by “folding a to b” or something of the sort.


  10. Angela says:

    I had no problem solving the puzzle but I’m not very good at origami and I’m too old to remember much about Mad Magazine so I can’t figure out how to fold the puzzle. Maybe circles in the print edition might have helped. But unless someone demonstrates the folding and puts it on YouTube I’m going to have to accept the explanations given above and move on.

  11. Mike says:

    Loved this concept!

    I could see where this was going, so as soon as I saw the grid, I folded it so the dotted lines matched up.

    That was a smart move, because 7-Down was a headache to parse, especially with the ALOE dupe crossing it.

    Near the lower ALOE, how does “Motor-driven” = POWER? Wouldn’t that clue POWERED? I was convinced I’d made an error in that corner.

    I wrote and then erased BEET RED since “This may make you red in the face” was elsewhere, but it eventually fell to the crossings.

    This puzzle definitely drove me Mad! :)

  12. Beth Willenborg says:

    In 1960, my boyfriend, John, gave me a subscription to Mad Magazine for my 17th birthday. I always tried to figure out the new picture without folding the back page. Same thing with today’s puzzle. Oh, after having other lives for 15 years, John and I got back together and have been married for 34 years.


  13. Will Nediger says:


  14. Jon S. says:

    Now a classic bit of overthinking. Finished, folded, didn’t get the “folded” theme right away – however, my wife, who never does crosswords, got it immediately.

  15. Jan says:

    On the CS, I think “Negligent lawyer” (24A) would have been much better – and cuter – if it had a question mark instead of “e.g.” after it.

  16. Paula says:

    This puzzle is for those who still want to remember the joys of kindergarten. Imagine! Cutting a puzzle out of the Times Mag in order to fold it and to find that the shaded clues have a vague relationship to one another. I am an old-timer in puzzle solving and in age, and hark, with longing, back to the days when NYTimes puzzles were the epitome of challenge to the intellect, without these Mad Mag gimmicks. I thank those whose comments allowed me to figure out that “a and b” were ok instead of mistakes I had made. Aside from that, the inaccuracies were discouraging and I stopped solving b/c I could not figure out what was right and what was not. Here’s hoping for better to come — it won’t take much for a puzzle to be better than this one.

  17. LARRY says:

    FINALLY, I understand the folding instructions: the first fold on the right vertical boundary of 7A, 22A, 25A etc. is CONCAVE. The second fold is just to the left of the Bs in TBONE and ABSENT and is CONVEX. The two folds then bring the As and Bs in the top and bottom rows side by side and yield the hidden words of LAWNCHAIR, ORIGAMI, etc.

  18. Crosscan says:

    I think Merl’s puzzle will turn out to be the most memorable today. I don’t think we’ll fully appreciate it until after Part 2 next week, but he was talking about developing it back in February on a Ryan & Brian podcast (Episode 44) (32:00 in, with a few spoilers to today’s puzzle)

  19. Angela says:

    Thanks Larry. You made it so easy that I couldn’t understand how I didn’t figure out the folds right away. Now I can go back to something really important – like the Jets aned Colts!

  20. Sue says:

    I do the print version, and I wasted a good 30 minutes trying to eliminate one of the “aloe” clues. I finally gave up and looked online. My first puzzlement was how “tot tenders” could be “tunas.” It’s pretty rare to find an error in the puzzle!

  21. merlbaby says:

    gee, crosscan, that’s some memory you have! yes, i mentioned this puzzle to ryan and brian when they interviewed me at the 2009 brooklyn tournament, and even then i’d been working on it (off and on) for more than six months, so it’s been almost two years since i had the idea. the real point of the tale doesn’t come until next week’s puzzle, so i’m hoping everyone will take a stab at it when the time comes. this is about the 15th “story puzzle” i’ve done, but it’s the first one i’ve done with a sequel the following week. (i’ve done tricky puzzles back to back with some inner connection before but i wouldn’t exactly call the second one a sequel in the normal sense.) anyway, i’ll probably write something about it on my fledgling (no-frills) blog site next week — how it developed and why it took so freaking long! MR

  22. ArtLvr says:

    I think my favorite today was the LAT by Gail G., Gross Words! I forgot the read the title before starting but saw it halfway through anyway. Loved the wacky theme answers — DOLD TURKEY, PEACH GOBBLER and TRENCH GOAT especially, but there weren’t any glunkers!

  23. ArtLvr says:

    That was GOLD TURKEY…

  24. Amy Reynaldo says:

    ArtLvr, you should be able to edit your comment for 30 minutes after posting. Then no one would ever know there had even been a typo…

    Merl, I just added a link to your blog on the Crossword Links page, and then discussed your flansirs in my Monday post.

  25. Jon88 says:

    “…and then I realized they were theme entries—all things that can be folded….That’s a nifty trick, but the rest of the puzzle, aside from 83A and the instructions, is essentially themeless.” I’m not sure I understand the objection. It’s a themeless puzzle if you don’t count the thematic material? I was more bothered that the HEETS of BEDSHEETS came from SHEETS. Not that there’s an alternative, but it’s unfortunate.

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jon, I want theme clues, not just words that sit there being thematic that you don’t even see while you’re solving the puzzle.

  27. Karen says:

    Fyi Larry, in all of my ORIGAMI books, these are referred to as ‘valley folds’ and ‘mountain folds’, which are very easy to figure out. As opposed to the squash fold.

  28. Wes says:

    Well, I thought this was a fun and unique puzzle – I actually yelled “OH! IT’S A FOLD-IN!” aloud when the theme clicked for me. Very cool if you read Mad Magazine as a kid. I’m surprised to see all the griping here.

  29. LARRY says:

    Karen – Thanks for the info on origami. If only I had known I was working on an origami puzzle. . .

  30. Old mike says:

    Like Joon I did the magazine, and also spent a lot of time on the two ALOEs.
    As I remember Mad magazine there was an “A” and “B” at the top and bottom of the folds, thus lining up A and B makes sense. Too bad it was missing from the puzzle

  31. Tuning Spork says:

    Old mike, they weren’t missing from the puzzle. You connected the As and Bs in the grid.

    I used to have a very sizable MAD collection that I sold on Ebay about eight years ago and I loved this puzzle. Different. Fresh. Yummy. And no ANTONIO PROHIAS in the grid.

  32. John Haber says:

    Whew, I’m relieved. I spent forever on the two ALOEs.

  33. joon says:

    Near the lower ALOE, how does “Motor-driven” = POWER? Wouldn’t that clue POWERED? I was convinced I’d made an error in that corner.

    POWER can be an adjective meaning “motor-driven”: power tools, power steering, power windows, etc.

  34. Evad says:

    I liked this gimmick, in fact when I saw the dotted lines I immediately folded the paper along those two lines to see what the grid would look like folded that way. (Subconsciously, I must’ve been tapping into my old Mad days.) Didn’t we have a NYT puzzle where we made a paper airplane? If so, this isn’t the first time we’ve been asked to cut it out of the magazine (I printed it from AcrossLite and drew in the lines from Amy’s picture.)

    I think, though, it would’ve been more satisfying if the 6 “hidden” entries also satisfied the clues that began in the first column, a la our phenom Xan Vongsathorn. I think that would have unified the theme better than just 6 things that fold. I also was bothered with the SHEETS repetition.

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