WaPo Post Puzzler 4:04 (if you haven’t been doing these themelesses, catch up at Puzzle Pointers)
CS – 9:37 (Evad)
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Up Starts”
The theme involves moving the first letter of a familiar phrase up (meaning back) one letter in the alphabet. To me, “up” means closer to A, not Z, but whatever.
Here are the theme answers:
- 23a. [Cause for Adam to refuse the apple?] is a FAST OF EDEN. East of Eden is a James Dean movie.
- 28a. [Precamping preparation?] is TENT PACKING. (Sent packing.)
- 35a. [Christmas, for Christians?] is SEASON TO BELIEVE. (Reason to believe.) Um, technically, your typical Christian is going to believe all year ’round, right? Not just when Santa is making a list of who’s naughty or nice?
- 51a. [Bountiful harvest?] is DREAM OF THE CROP. Ah, I still remember how delicious that cream sauce was in Robert Irvine’s ACPT Dinner: Impossible “cream of the crop” mixed veggies.
- 67a. Speaking of vegetables, CORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY could be an [Independence Day barbecue serving?]. (Born on the Fourth of July.)
- 86a. [Unnecessary part of a jacket?] is HOOD FOR NOTHING. A hood for nothing is better than a pocket slit with no pocked behind it. Those fake pockets are good for nothing.
- 98a. [Ultimatum from a spouse who wants nicer digs?] is MOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. (Love me or leave me.)
- 106a. [Refusing to watch football on New Year’s Day?], when all those college football bowl games are on, is NIXING BOWLS. (Mixing bowls.)
- 119a. [Nathan’s annual hot-dog contest, e.g.] is EATING GAME. (The Dating Game.) Now, this one bugs me a little because the definite article The is lopped off, but Arbesfeld wanted to maintain the consistency of changing the very first letter in each theme entry, which is much better than just changing the first letter of any word in a phrase.
I like having nine theme entries. Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes when a puzzle has only seven theme entries, I think it’s not trying hard enough. I know, I know—six or seven long theme answers take as much space as nine shorter ones. But this one, it’s got a 21, two 15s, and two 14s as well as some shorter ones. So well done.
I’m pretty pleased that I finished this puzzle in under 8 minutes since I’d had a beer not long before and I’m a lightweight.
The theme played out well, but some of the fill left me wanting more. 19a: FRED ROGERS is a national trasure, of course, and a great crossword answer ([PBS figure from 1968 to 2001]), but elsewhere…eh.
A dozen clues:
- 26a. [Feature of some Greek buildings] is a STOA. If I ever vacation in Greece, I will be sure to tell my husband I need to run to the STOA for a minute. Did ancient Greek cads say, “Honey, I’m just going to run to the stoa for cigarettes” and vanish into the night?
- 56a. Whoa! Never seen this one before as far as I recall. ASIR is a [Saudi Arabian province]. This is not the sort of fill anyone likes, unless they’re Saudi puzzlers.
- 59a. [Robert Downey Jr. title role] isn’t just CHAPLIN. It’s also IRON MAN.
- 127a. [Magnetic induction unit] is a GAUSS. Gauss! Fresh in my mind from another of this weekend’s puzzles. Love when that happens.
- 1d. [Pair of ruffians?] clues EFFS. Some dictionaries say that the name of the letter “F” is ef, while eff is “used as a euphemism for ‘fuck.'” In crosswords, EFFS never seems to be clued that way. Huh.
- 7d. [One subjugated by Cyrus the Great] was a MEDE. The Medes lived in ancient Media, which is not to be confused with the mainstream media.
- 33d. You know where TENERIFE is, right? [It’s WNW of Grand Canary Island].
- 50d. [Sally ___ (teacake)] clues LUNN, because how else are you gonna clue LUNN? Not a big fan of these answers that have only one way to be clued and don’t have an obvious/inferrable spelling.
- 60d. [Bird that is no more] is the MOA. The moa went to the stoa but now is no moa?
- 72d. [Willowy: Var.] gets us a variant spelling for “lissome,” LISSOM. Ouch.
- 87d. Ooh, a FELON is a [Person with a serious conviction]. Good clue.
- 99d. [Scented] clues ODORED. That’s a word? I don’t like the cluing here. A dictionary bears out my sense that those are roughly opposites. “Scent” usually connotes a pleasant smell; “odor,” an unpleasant one.
So yes, I enjoyed the theme more than the rest of the fill. At least I didn’t hit any deadly crossings or truly lousy fill. (Dictionary says LISSOM is chiefly British, which salvages it a tad.)
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Bugs at 70”
July 27 marks the 70th anniversary of cartoon character Bugs Bunny, so Merl has assembled a batch of grievous rabbit puns:
- 22a. [Bugs’s successor?] is HARE (heir) TO THE THRONE.
- 31a. [Comment to Elmer upon his retirement?] is YOU’RE NO FUDD (fun) ANYMORE. Wait, people lose their surname upon retirement? Is that why my grandparents had no identity?
- 50a. [Operation for Bugs?] clues RADIAL CARROTOTOMY. It took me a while to divine the original phrase here. First I had carotidectomy in mind, but I think it’s keratotomy (radial keratotomy is better known—much better known—as Lasik surgery).
- 60a. [Where lawsuits against Bugs usually end up?] is A PELLET (appellate) COURT. Wait, are rabbit pellets granules of food or little turds?
- 77a. [Bugs’s favorite footwear?] clues HUTCH PUPPIES. Caged rabbits are kept in hutches, and Hush Puppies is a brand of shoes.
- 87a. [Where Bugs invests his retirement money?] is HOPPIN’ HEIMER (Oppenheimer) FUNDS.
- 105a. [Bugs’s most famous British ancestor?] is BUNNY (Bonnie) PRINCE CHARLIE.
- 120a. [Bugs’s favorite author?] is RABBIT PEN WARREN (Robert Penn Warren). The surface sense is lacking for many of these theme entries, particularly this one. Rabbits can live in pens or in the burrows called warrens, sure, but RABBIT PEN WARREN sounds like a redundant rabbit house rather than an author.
- 46a. [Sickness setting] is the SEA. I get land-sick post-cruise more than seasick on a cruise.
- 1d. “OH, HEY…” [“Oops, almost forgot …”] I like this one. Casual spoken phrases lend pep to a crossword.
- 12d. [He wrote “Cat’s Cradle”] clues the late Kurt VONNEGUT. I believe Merl and the rest of the Wordplay documentary gang met Vonnegut in New York. Vonnegut told Tyler Hinman he was a freak of nature for solving so fast. How cool is that?
- 33d. Can’t say I’ve ever seen [Kaputski] before, but it wasn’t hard to guess that the answer would be a slangy word meaning “done for,” like FINI.
- 65d. [Ludacris efforts] is spelled correctly. Ludacris records RAPS.
- 82d. [Big name in beef or basketball] is KOBE. Kobe beef from Japan, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers.
Mild disgruntlement sources:
- 68a. ASCI are [Spore sacs that are almost a computer acronym], ASCII. The clue nearly salvages the woeful-crosswordese aspect.
- If you’ve got OXEN in a puzzle, why clue the OXLIP flower (54d) as a [Flower with a bovine name]? My first try here was OXEYE, which is also a flower with a bovine name.
- 102a. [“N’___ pas?”] clues the ugly French partial EST-CE.
Henry Hook’s six-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “Strange InTERlude”
As the title hints, each theme entry has an added TER; I would have expected the TERs to land in the midst of the original phrases, but instead they’re always at the end. The word that gets TER added to it always has the pre-TER spelling changed. Here are the theme entries:
- 20a. [Arrange an edition of “Howards End”?] is POLICE FORSTER. (Police force.)
- 39a. Window pane becomes WINDOW PAINTER, or [One making art on glass?].
- 57a. For [Mondale, after the 1984 election?], the Wailing Wall becomes WAILING WALTER.
- 71a. [Baker’s cabinet?] gently changes pastry shell into PASTRY SHELTER.
- 92a. [Off-key Porter medley?] takes cole slaw and turns it into a COLE SLAUGHTER.
- 1d. [Not exactly “Swan Lake”?] turns Ballet Russe into BALLET ROOSTER.
- 31d. Anne Baxter and Meredith Baxter are actresses, and running backs are football players. [Anne or Meredith, on the lam?] morphs the athletes into a RUNNING BAXTER.
- 49d. [Powerful patriotic singer?] is a LIBERTY BELTER. (Liberty Bell.)
Fill highlights: THE BLUES, SHIRAZ wine, PEDICLES (I tell ya, I’m a sucker for medical/anatomical terminology), BEN HECHT, German WASSER (“water,” with the more crossword-friendly Eis exiled to the clue), MICAWBER, DAS BOOT, and DIN-DIN.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 16”
This grid’s a little reminiscent of John Farmer’s Friday NYT. There are four interlaced 15s where John had them, but Frank squeezes in a lattice of 11s inside the lattice of 15s. So the long answers are cool, but there are some shorter answers that are tepid. Here are the big ones:
- 17a. [Filling station attendant?] clues a DENTAL ASSISTANT. Yes, ASSISTANT and HYGIENIST have the same letter count.
- 22a. I needed tons of crossings to figure out that [What a head may be hiding in] is a TURTLE SHELL.
- 48a. INSISTS UPON means [Demands].
- 56a. [Very extensively] clues ON A MASSIVE SCALE. I probably have never seen that phrase in a crossword before. I like it.
- 3d. JANET NAPOLITANO is [Barack Obama’s secretary of homeland security]. See how her last name alternates vowels and consonants? That makes her a good fit for a crossword.
- 18d. The ADRIATIC SEA is the [Brijuni Islands setting]. Never heard of the islands, so I turned to Wikipedia. These Croatian islands sound lovely! Their Italian name is Brioni, which is also a fashion name.
- 19d. Alliteration abounds! [Fjord flankers] are STEEP SLOPES.
- 11d. [Fraction] clues a SMALL PERCENTAGE. Now, a fraction can also be 99/100ths, but nobody ever uses “fraction” to mean “most.”
Other stuff I liked:
- 20a. [Mon do?] clues DREADS, meaning dreadlocks, a hairdo for a Jamaican “mon.” I like the clue’s play off “mondo.”
- 28a. [“Hi, Claudius”] clues the Latin greeting AVE. I like the play on I, Claudius.
- 9d. [Like hurling] clues IRISH. That’s the sport of hurling, not the sort of hurling that marks St. Patrick’s Day in America.
- 25d. [“Me Talk Pretty One Day” humorist] is David SEDARIS. I heard a great Sedaris story from Mike Nothnagel a month ago. He constructed a Friday NYT crossword with DAVID SEDARIS in it and took a copy to a Sedaris reading shortly thereafter. He asked Sedaris if he’d done the puzzle and he said no, but that his publicist had mentioned it. So Mike asked Sedaris if he would do the puzzle and send it back to him. Fast forward six months (!), and Mike gets an airmail envelope from France, where Sedaris and his boyfriend Hugh live. The crossword was all filled in, with evidence of the places where Sedaris had struggled, and the page was signed for Mike.
- 50d. UTERO gets a fill-in-the-blank clue, which is about the only way to go, but it’s been expanded to [In ___ diagnosis]. Hey! My cousin’s a nurse practitioner who meets with women who’ve gotten complicated in utero diagnoses.
- 55d. [Be ripe] isn’t about tasty produce. It clues REEK, like ripe sweatsocks.
And now, the “meh” category:
- 14a. [Thickener used in ice cream] is AGAR. This is almost crosswordese. Other repeaters include 32a: ARA/[First name in Notre Dame coaching]; 52d: ANIL/[Indigo source]; and 40a: Brian ENO/[He wrote the score for “The Lovely Bones”].
- 51a. A [Sail on a xebec], an old ship, is a LATEEN. Xebec is a word I know from crosswords, and I’m never excited about nautical fill.
- 23d. [Pretentious sorts: Var.] clues LA-DE-DAS. Whoa.
Other clues I’ll bet somebody will Google:
- 16a. [Cyclops’s team] in comics is the X-MEN. I nearly went with a team of OXEN.
- 38a. [British slang for tramps, from the cloth strips used by them in place of socks] is TOE RAGS. Huh.
- 61a. [Bull associated with bonding] is the Elmer’s Glue spokesbull ELMER.
- 4d. The last name of [French playwright Antonin who advocated the Theater of Cruelty] is ARTAUD.
- 24d. [It was once named Peak XV] refers to Mt. EVEREST.
- 35d. [Sch. in Athens or its bulldog mascot] clues UGA, short for University of Georgia. The mascot is called UGA? Ugh.
- 47d. [Seat of Idaho’s Latah County] What is it with county seat clues this weekend? Enough! This one is MOSCOW.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Two sets of three crossing 15-letter entries are the centerpiece of today’s “Sunday Challenge” from constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith. Let’s jump right into them, starting with the down entries:
- “Delegates” is a collective noun here, not a verb as I first thought, and clues CONVENTION GOERS. Kind of luke-warm on this one, are there WEDDING GOERS or CONCERT GOERS as well?
- ADMISSION TO BAIL is not a phrase I am familiar with. Here it’s clued as “Order sought by an accused before trial.” My guess is that no one other than Vic Fleming got this one just off the clue.
- “Bad place for a split” isn’t a bowling alley, but the SEAT OF ONE’S PANTS. (I had SEAM first, but SEAT is even a badder place than that!)
I find the across clues work a bit better and were more likely to be the seed entries:
- A 15-dollar (and -letter) word describing something we try mightily to avoid on this blog: REPETITIOUSNESS.
- “Cel division” isn’t MITOSIS, but refers to the collectibles (cels) from animated movies, produced by an ANIMATION STUDIO. Cel here is short for celluloid; are there any major animation studios actually using this method anymore?
- And my favorite, STRUTS ONES STUFF. I think of a peacock here.
Some other interesting entries hold this construction together:
- I learned how to correctly spell SPIRO AGNEW‘s name from Penny’s anagram of GROW A PENIS.
- Time for a song; “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” by LEANN RIMES:
- I’m not much up on Bond villains, so wasn’t sure if DRAX was parsed as DR. AX or just DRAX. Ends up being the latter. (Guess I was thinking of the more common visitor to crossword fill, DR. NO.)
- A small nit, being in the computer biz, we never refer to “Some Windows systems” as NTS. Windows NT is an operating system, and you might refer to a server as an “NT box,” but not an NT on its own. I realize here it’s needed to hold the fragile crossing 15s together.
- FASHION MAG sounds very current and fresh. We’re big fans of Heidi Klum and Project Runway, and I’ll end with how she says goodbye to contestants asked to leave the runway: “Auf Wiedersehen!”
Rich Norris’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Tee for Two” (byline Nora Pearlstone, anagram of “not a real person”)
Each theme entry is a two-word phrase in which the T at the end of the first word spawns an extra T that changes the second word:
- 23a. [Monster affected by a moon phase?] is a CRESCENT TROLL. You ever fill a Pillsbury Crescent Roll with chocolate chips before rolling it up and baking it? It’s no chocolate croissant but in a pinch? It’ll do.
- 37a. [Levy on butchers?] clues MEAT TAX. “Meat ax” is not in my daily vocabulary.
- 69a. [Warren weeping?] produces RABBIT TEARS. Lotta rabbit warren action in the Sunday puzzles today.
- 76a. EAST TENDERS are [Japanese chicken snacks?].
- 106a. BUTT TIN is a [Can for old smokes?]. This one’s actually my favorite.
- 124a. [Attacker’s fruity treat?] is an ASSAULT TRIFLE. Wow, a meat ax and an assault rifle? Violent base phrases.
- 17d. This fruity treat is gentler. [Small pie à la Pollock?] clues ABSTRACT TART. This is my other favorite.
- 41d. [Stuff that sticks for years?] is GREAT TAPE.
- 49d. I thought [Taunting from the Miami bench?] was about judges on the judicial bench. Whoops. It’s the bench where the basketball team’s subs sit. HEAT TRASH is their trash talking.
- 65d. [Bakery supply for wrapping cake boxes?] is DESSERT TWINE. Sweet implications with and without the T.
Eh, this theme was just all right.
Ten more clues:
- 21a. [Pioneer Day celebrant] is a UTAHAN.
- 29a. [Diglyceride, for one] clues ESTER. Do chemists find the chemical term clues entertaining?
- 45a. [Abbot’s address: Abbr.] is RT. REV.
- 57a. [1980s South African pres.] is P.W. BOTHA. Are there any other valid crossword answers that include the PWB letter sequence?
- 82a. Indonesia’s SUMATRA is the [Westernmost of the Sunda Islands].
- 1d. [LAX tower service] is ATC, or air traffic control.
- 58d. BREST is a [Brittany seaport]. No relation to Britney Spears.
- 68d. MODUS [__ vivendi: lifestyle].
- 93d. [Indoor buzzer?] is a HOUSEFLY.
- 106d. My favorite BENSON is the one played by Robert Guillaume. Then there’s Robby Benson, soap opera character Carly Benson, and Benson & Hedges cigarettes. All are more familiar to me than [Former Mormon leader Ezra Taft __], whose name is entirely unknown to me.
They said “I’m running to the STOA for AGORA waffles….”
Missed the MOA-AYLA crossing on the NYT, as I confused a MOA with a ROC and came up with a MOC (I’d forgotten who AYLA was). Maybe it’s a mythical shoebird! And I should have realized that I had thus inserted MOC twice in the puzzle.
And with respect to your comment on NYT 35a., Amy, this Christian commenter concurs entirely.
east of eden is, first and foremost, a steinbeck novel, and a really good one. i’m not sure how they made it into a movie, because it’s rather epic, and i suspect it didn’t get the peter jackson treatment.
ASIR and LUNN were big ol’ ??s today, and i mucked up the NW pretty good by misremembering ESSIE instead of EPPIE. but the theme was light and clever and i really liked HOOD FOR NOTHING.
In puzzles that use substituting numbers for letters, the usual convention is A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc., so the idea of moving UP one letter seems perfectly right.
I like TOERAGS, because it reminds me of Clapton’s “My Father’s Eyes.” I don’t really like LATEEN, but on the other hand it reminds me of Joanna Newsom’s “Bridges and Balloons,” which is even better.
NYT: Fastest Sunday by 2 minutes. What you said @ 35A! Is Fred Mr. Rogers then? Didn’t know his first name. Also, I’m sure I heard you say that about ASIR last time it came up (last year sometime, can’t remember date…) It’s the type of crossword-ese you don’t see much today in the US, but which I know rather too well. My South African (Concise Oxford) dictionary has LISSOM as the standard and LISSOME as “var.” so there you go.
Gareth – yes, Fred is Mr. Rogers’ first name. Back in 1977, he spoke at my college Baccalaureate service. It was wonderful, but we were college students who hadn’t grown up with him, and who hadn’t watched with our own children yet, so I didn’t really appreciate it until later, and wished I had a video.
A correction, the radial keratotomy was the eye correction surgery that preceded lasik. With the former, you make slits in the sides of the cornea to flatten it out (like flattening an orange peel, I was taught) and in the latter you scalp off the top of the cornea, lase the underlying tissue to a different thickness, and stick back the part you peeled off, leaving the cornea in a different shape.
My least favorite clue was CS’s XMAN answer. To me, X Men started in the 60s. (I had to look up the comic book spin off for 1995).
I mucked up ANYHOW with “and how,” not knowing the schlock novel heroine. I did get EPPIE but have no idea still why “rear end” is PRAT. My last to fall was the SW, where I’d all sorts of different misremembered spellings for NAGIO and didn’t know ILENE. Sally LUNN is new to me (as were Robert IGER and BADU) but ok from the crossings. Other than that, average difficulty and nice theme, although not difficult to get the general idea.