Sunday, 7/18/10

NYT 10:12
BG 9:12 (…while listening to the Fill Me In podcast)
Reagle 8:28
LAT 7:45
WaPo Post Puzzler 4:36
CS 5:41 (Evad)

Robert W. Harris’s New York Times crossword, “Critical Periods”

Region capture 20I like this theme, but I was not a fan of the way I had to wait for the applet to recognize that I had moved the cursor. Weirdly slow interface today. Maybe I need to buy a new computer. It can’t be a problem at the NYT’s end, as zachugly finished in 6:31. Hmm, should I get an iMac with a giant screen, Mac Mini, or standard desktop box?

The theme entries insert “critical periods” to change words into W.O. RDS, like this:

  • 23a. The ACCEPTED U.S. AGE is [234, as of July 4, 2010?].
  • 32a. THE U.N. EMPLOYED are [Workers in a global peace organization?].2010-06-27 10.28.07 That’s my family peacekeeper in the U.N. helmet.
  • 47a. [What gumshoes charge in the City of Bridges?] is the PITTSBURGH P.I. RATE.
  • 62a. [Symmetrical power conductor for appliances?] clues BILATERAL A.C. CORD. This one’s pretty dull.
  • 83a. [Too much guitar work by a professor’s helper?] is EXCESSIVE T.A. RIFFS. Here, the base phrase is dull but with the periods added, the guitar riffs sex it up.
  • 94a. A STRANGE O.R. DEAL is [“Pay in cash and your second surgery is half-price”?].
  • 108a. [Typical termite in a California city?] is a COMMON L.A. BORER.

In each instance, the periods break off the first two letters of the second word in a two-word phrase, so the theme is fairly tight. Can you come up with more entries for this theme? I’m trying to think of one with B.A. or M.A. in it, and I’m coming up empty on words that start with those letters, end with a split-offable word, and occupy the second slot in a familiar two-word phrase—and produce a good surface sense when the periods are used. Sure, there are words like “malinger,” but “M.A. linger” is meaningless. I got nothin’.

What else is there? Let’s take a look:

  • 1a. If it is EDITED, one hopes it is [Ready for publication]. Probably you want to run the proofs by someone, too, before publishing.
  • 25a. ROSANNE [Cash in the music business] uses the hidden capital letter trick. It’s Cash, not cash.
  • 86a. [Like some English muffins] clues PRE-SPLIT. Is that what it says on those packages? I thought it was “fork-split.”
  • 100a. TIENDA is a [Nuevo Laredo store]. Is TIENDA Spanish for “store”? Not a word I know.
  • 5d. EMPTY NEST is a great answer. It’s [What many older parents face].
  • 6d. A DETENT is a [Locking lever], particularly in a watch or clock. I learned this one from crosswords of the Saturday variety. Not a common word.
  • 14d. [Dawdler] clues SLOWPOKE; both are great words.
  • 87d. [Cross or star, often] clues PENDANT. I’m guessing it’s the Star of David and not a pentagram that you’re supposed to think of here.
  • 94. [Steps that a farmer might take] are a STILE, steps that allow people but not animals to climb over a wall.
  • 109d. [Novy __, Russian literary magazine] is completed by MIR, which is Russian for “peace.” Is Novy “new”?

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “This Is My Song”

Region capture 17Various retro pop songs are clued as if they are the anthems for various people and things:

  • 23a. [The lamp song? (1977)] is Debbie Boone’s YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE. Hey, I saw the movie and loved the song when I was 11.
  • 42a. [The tack song? (1966)] could be UNDER MY THUMB, by the Rolling Stones.
  • 50a. [The politician song? (1963)] is Lesley Gore’s IT’S MY PARTY.
  • 66a. [The proud papa song? (1967)] is HERE COMES MY BABY, and I don’t know that song.
  • 75a. Bookending the middle of the grid, 66a’s opposite is THERE GOES MY BABY, [The proud papa song, 18 years later? (1959)]. Also don’t know this song. Yes, constructors are not supposed to repeat words (MY BABY) in the grid. But Merl does it here with a wink.
  • 89a. [The obscure-joke song? (1976)] is OVER MY HEAD, which is another mystery for me, aptly.
  • 101a. COLOR MY WORLD is [The tinted-sunglasses song? (1967)]. Dont know this one, either.
  • 120a. Hey, la, [The chiropractor song? (1963)] is MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK. I like the switch from boyfriend’s = “boyfriend is” contraction to “boyfriend’s” = possessive.

Here are 15 clues that caught my eye for various reasons:

  • 39a. [Did a bird thing] is an oddly worded clue for ROOSTED.
  • 53a. [Storage acronym] messed me up because I figured RAM would be clued as the noun or verb rather than an acronym, so the answer had to be ROM. Except it isn’t.
  • 104a. [Marine spelunker’s interest] is a SEA CAVE.
  • 127a. [Do a formal-attire task] clues the oddball answer TIE A TIE.
  • 2d. BROCCOLI is the [Bane of George H. W. Bush] and me, too.
  • 5d. [Musse ___ (Mickey Mouse, in Swedish … go figure)] clues PIGG.
  • 8d. LOULOU is a [1980 Gerard Depardieu film]. I do not like to watch Depardieu.
  • 17d. DEKALB is an Illinois college town (home to Northern Illinois University) as well as a [French baron who fought in the American Revolution] but has a strikingly non-French-looking name. That’s because Johann de Kalb was German, but he hit it big in the French army.
  • 30d. [Current-events comic] clues Mort SAHL. He’s 83. Is he still doing current-events comedy?
  • 33d. [Suffix meaning “mouth”] is -STOME. No word with this suffix is coming to mind.
  • 54d. [The silent type?] is a MIME. If you wanted MUTE, that popped up over at 63a: [Trumpet accessory].
  • 61d. [Court building?] clues GYM. I wonder why that is. I don’t get the connection between the clue and answer.
  • 64d. [Spared, in a way] clues the “meh” word UNHIT.
  • 65d. THE CAROLINAS are [Neighboring states], as are the Dakotas, and yet the Dakotas and Carolinas are nowhere near each other.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s six-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “What’s the Rush?”


Not a ton to say about a quote puzzle, really. Two clues about Massachusetts colleges were custom-made for Boston Globe readers, but were utter mysteries to me. The Jumbos play at TUFTS and Boston College’s color is MAROON? Okay, I believe you.

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 15”

Region capture 19This 66-worder starts out looking non-Berryesque. Two 3-letter words right off the bat, and a cheater/helper square in the top row? But it elevates itself to Berry-edited-by-Gordon status by crossing that central stairstep stack of 13s with nine long answers and amping up clue cleverness.

These are a few of my favorite things:

  • 7a. [Like a well-rounded person?] clues ZAFTIG. I like the gender neutrality of the clue, which would have been tougher without the question mark. With it, this puzzle parks itself at the Saturday LAT difficulty level.
  • 13a. [It might hold one’s notice] clues a PUSHPIN, quite literally.
  • 15a. [Penny part] is LAVERNE DeFazio, Penny Marshall’s most famous role.
  • 29a. [“Despite your objection…”] and “BE THAT AS IT MAY” are fairly synonymous. Colorful entry.
  • 32a. Favorite clue alert! [Raw material for silver dollars] clues PANCAKE BATTER. I didn’t see that coming.
  • 47a. Favorite clue alert! [Hard C?] is the hardest form of carbon (chemical symbol C), the DIAMOND. Terrific clue. Two in one puzzle!
  • 11d. The INNER EAR is the [Organ of Corti site]. I am so fond of the anatomy and medical terminology content in crosswords. The INNER EAR is one of the most popular 8-letter parts of the bodies in crosswords, because just look at those letters. Pliable letters for crossword constructors.
  • 33d. “FREEDOM!” is Mel Gibson’s [Dying word in “Braveheart”]. That guy has a knack for memorable delivery of his lines, doesn’t he?

Who knows about horehound? 37d: [Like horehound candy] clues MINTY. Horehound is a “strong-smelling hairy plant of the mint family.” Now, being in the mint family doesn’t necessarily mean it’s minty. Have you tried horehound candy? Do you find it minty, or more medicinal? I wonder if any other dictionary entries include the descriptor “strong-smelling hairy.” If you encounter a strong-smelling, hairy guy on the bus and say the word “horehound” to a friend, will she get your point?

Updated Sunday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

Nice breezy Sunday challenge from Tony Orbach today, even more remarkable when you realize it’s a pangram as well. (Extra credit for the shortest sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet; I remember The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog from my high school typing classes, but that might not be the record-holder.)

Lots of interesting phrases in this one:

  • “All important” is DO OR DIE; scrunched together, it looks more like an oath you’d swear at a portal when you stub your toe!
  • SQUEEZE IN is “Get on a crowded subway, perhaps”; in Japan, the people who are paid to do this are called “oshiyas.”
  • DA BOMB, could’ve been clued as “What this puzzle is?” but was “Primo, slangily.” Primo is already slang in my book, so I find the clue superfluous.
  • “One might prompt a need for seed” is a BALD SPOT; guess Tony’s talking about lawns here, my receding hairline makes me think of pates (as opposed to pâtés!).
  • Rather wordy clue (“That’d be nice – but it’ll never happen”) for DREAM ON; “Fuhgeddaboudit” sums it up nicely methinks.
  • Three other fun phrases: BREAK A LEG, I’M TIRED and GOES MAD round out the bunch nicely.

Other odds ‘n’ ends:

  • KNEESIES (“Clandestine canoodling”) sounds pretty old-fashioned to me; do kids still play this in a dark movie theater or under a restaurant table?
  • Speaking of old-fashioned, Tom Bosley, AKA MR. C makes a return from 70s tv-land.
  • UKULELES crossing QUEBECOIS was a nice touch
  • “Dog” is a cute (and succinct) clue for WIENER
  • “Person who might go into an orbit” is not an astronaut, but an OCULIST, who works on an eye’s socket, or orbit.
  • SPANGLISH was a pretty good movie with Téa Leoni, Adam Sandler, and Cloris Leachman. Did you see it?

My one beef was “Like few marriages” for SAME-SEX. “Few” as compared to opposite-sex ones, I grant you, but not few when put into a historical context. Right now in my fair Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there have been thousands of same-sex weddings, including my very own in 2005. So happy to see that the list of states (and countries) where this is now legal is steadily growing.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Corey Rubin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Not I!”

Region capture 21If you insist “Not I!” you might be suggesting “It was you!” And so this theme inserts the “you” sound, spelled various ways, to change a word in each familiar phrase into another word:

  • 23a. To [Organize guards?] is to UNITE WATCHMEN. (“Night watchmen” is the original phrase.)
  • 31a. [How the Knicks of 1985-2000 may have rested their hopes?] is ON A EWING AND A PRAYER. (“On a wing and a prayer” incorporates Patrick Ewing.)
  • 43a. [Where the Oregon swim team practices?] is EUGENE POOLS. (“Gene pools.”)
  • 59a. [Backlash from a Canadian territory?] clues THE WRATH OF YUKON. (Fun play on the Star Trek movie subtitled “The Wrath of Khan.”)
  • 68a. To [Reverse course against one’s better judgment?] is to TAKE A U-TURN FOR THE WORSE. (“Take a turn for the worse.”)
  • 78a. [Answer to “Man, where can I find good music videos online?”] is “TEST YOUTUBE, BABY.” (“Test tube baby.”)
  • 95a. [Grateful words for a delivery company?] are “UPS, I LOVE YOU.” (P.S. I Love You.”)
  • 103a. [Headline about declining sales of Nesquik?] is YOOHOO’S LAUGHING NOW. (“Who’s laughing now?” The question aspect vanishes here.)
  • 121a. [Card in the game Car Flop Monopoly?] is DO NOT PASS YUGO, suggesting that the playing board contains a Yugo square. (“Do not pass Go.”)

The theme entries represent “you” with U, E(w), EU, YU, YOU, and YOO. The upshot is that there’s a lot more variety in the wordplay when a sound (variously spelled) is added than when a letter is added. It makes the theme entries more work to figure out, and more fun.

Other notes:

  • 25a. The Sergeant Joe [Friday show?] is DRAGNET.
  • 113a. [Jumble wordplay: Abbr.] is anagramming, or ANAG.
  • 29d. [“Nice weather we’re having” and the like] is IDLE CHAT. Does “idle chatter” sound more natural than “idle chat”?
  • 52d. Did you know the name [Crossword inventor Arthur] WYNNE? You should. But you don’t need to go seek out his crosswords, because they’re really not so fun.
  • 69d. [Toward the back] clues AREAR. I have never used this word. It’s not Scrabble-legal. A 1913 dictionary included it: As a verb, it’s labeled “obsolete,” and as an adverb, it comes with an Edmund Spenser citation (he wrote in the 1500s). This word is largely being kept alive by crossword puzzles.
  • 70d. [Inviting, as lips] clues KISSY. Odd word.
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18 Responses to Sunday, 7/18/10

  1. joon says:

    liked the theme. took me a while to wrap my head about it, but it’s a neat idea. i ended up with TIENNA/PENNANT, which seems plausible enough on the surface, but if i had thought about it, PENDANT is a significantly better answer. i was kind of surprised by the overt 6-letter partial ACTS OF and the covert 6-letter partial SEEM TO, but overall this was a fun puzzle.

    haven’t read the rest of the writeup yet, but i see both “patrick berry” and “best clue” tags lurking, so i suspect tomorrow morning will be fun.

  2. pannonica says:

    Can’t think of any –stome words in the vernacular, but there are plenty in biology jargon. TIENDA fooled me because I was dying for bodega; after I figured it out, a distant bell sounded vaguely in the far reaches of my memory.

  3. donald says:

    The problem with the cursor could be the mouse, the older model with the ball had problems from dust and debris, but after coming into use over the last couple of years, the light-mouse has been noted to give problems after time.

  4. hirschho says:

    A GYM may contain a basketball COURT.

  5. Matt Gaffney says:

    The NY Times theme is nice.

  6. Jesse says:

    At least in Mexico (Nuevo Laredo), tienda is the standard word for shop or store. I’d never heard of bodega in this context until I started doing crosswords.

  7. bob stigger says:

    How about Canadian B.A. con as a themer? I hesitate to suggest first, second or third basemen. Whoops, I just did.

  8. pannonica says:

    Jesse, tienda is definitely the standard word. It’s just that most anglos encounter only bodegas, which are little grocery stores. They seem invariably to have yellow and red signs.

  9. Martin says:

    All comments apply to your notes about Merle’s puzzle.
    Here’s 2 cents, several times over.

    66a. [The proud papa song? (1967)] is HERE COMES MY BABY, and I don’t know that song.
    2 cents: Wikipedia says Cat Stevens composed this and it was in the movie Rushmore.

    75a. Bookending the middle of the grid, 66a’s opposite is THERE GOES MY BABY, [The proud papa song, 18 years later? (1959)]. Also don’t know this song.
    2 cents: The Drifters.
    I have heard this song before, and suspect that you have also:

    89a. [The obscure-joke song? (1976)] is OVER MY HEAD, which is another mystery for me, aptly.
    2 cents: Wow. There are tons of songs with that title. Here’s the Wikipedia disambiguation page:
    I suspect that the Fleetwood Mac song is what M.R. meant.

    8d. LOULOU is a [1980 Gerard Depardieu film]. I do not like to watch Depardieu.
    2 cents: Jean de Florette is the prototypical sad / deep / philosophical French movie. I found it very moving.

    30d. [Current-events comic] clues Mort SAHL. He’s 83. Is he still doing current-events comedy?
    2 cents: There was a Washington Post contest for most amusing funny obituary headlines. One of the entries was “Sahl Mort.” Another one was “Meat Loaf Goes Cold.”

    61d. [Court building?] clues GYM. I wonder why that is. I don’t get the connection between the clue and answer.
    2 cents: gyms have basketball courts and sometimes racqetball and squash courts.

  10. Jeffrey says:

    If I disagree with bob, I would be a Canadian B.A. con.

  11. LARRY says:

    Re the LA Times puzzle, I don’t think the U sound in the Patrick Ewing answer is on a par with the rest of the trick answers, because you need the W in the phrase “A Wing and A Prayer” and the E in Ewing by itself doesn’t make the U sound.

  12. Rex says:

    That WaPo grid is godly, esp. the middle. No one goes under 70 like PB1. Kind of nice to have a puzzle that skillfully made that is also easy(-ish). Even though I like the chewier stuff, the world needs more Good easy puzzles.

  13. John Haber says:

    I wanted “bodega” and wavered on “pennant”/PENDANT, too. New word to me (as indeed was DETENT). Most of the theme fills didn’t knock me out, but nice idea all the same.

  14. joon says:

    i think you missed part of the point of merl’s theme, which is “this is MY song.” all the song titles have the word “my.” that said, you recognized more of the old songs than i did.

    my sister-in-law went to tufts, which is a couple blocks from where i now live. apparently there are popular women’s tees with JUMBOS in big letters across the chest.

  15. Jan (danjan) says:

    evad (and everyone else) – if you like pangrams, and the quick brown fox sentence, you should read the book, Ella Minnow Pea.

    I had to laugh when I did the NYTimes and got to the EMPTY NEST answer. Our nest just refilled, and we’re not alone as former empty-nesters.

  16. Jan says:

    Re the CS: The YouTube video of Oshiyas helping people onto Japanese trains has been removed (!) but I found a not-to-be-missed children’s version: .

  17. Jan says:

    In the LAT, I had FOUNDER for 127A, then discovered the F needed to be a G. But having looked at FOUNDER for a while, all I could see was GOUNDER (rhyming with FOUNDER). “GOUNDER?? What’s that?” I was quite puzzled by this, especially when my son looked at it and said “Yes, that’s right.” One of these days I’ll learn to look for two-word combos! :D

  18. Geri Howard says:

    You said you didn’t get the connection between
    “court building” and “gym” in “This Is My Song”
    the 7-18-10 Merl Reagle puzzle–61d. It seems
    clear to me: A gym probably has a basketball
    court and/or a badminton court and therefore
    could be called a “court building”–I think.

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