Sunday, 9/12/10

NYT 12:33
Reagle 9:05
LAT 7:38
BG 21:05 (Sam, paper)/6:53 (Amy, AL)
CS – 16:01 (Evad)
WaPo Post Puzzler 6:58

Congratulations to Eric Maddy, winner of today’s Bay Area Crossword Tournament in Alameda, California! (And thanks to Tyler Hinman for tweeting that news.)

Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword, “It’s Going to Cost You”

Region capture 10It’s going to cost you an arm and a leg, so why not put ARM and LEG in 10 rebus squares throughout the puzzle? Oh, and have the ARMs and LEGs all split across word breaks in the long Across theme entries, too. And while you’re at it, why not put all five ARMs on the left side and all five LEGs on the right side, in Across answers that appear in symmetrical spots in the grid? Because that’d be more elegant than throwing limbs all over the place willy-nilly.

Here are the theme answers and the entries that cross at the rebus boxes:

  • 23a. A BE{AR M}ARKET is [Bad news on Wall Street]. David Bowie’s ST{ARM}AN is the crossing.
  • 25a. This one nearly killed me. [What Fels-Naptha banished, in old ads] is TATTLETA{LE G}RAY, I think in laundry rather than hair. I had GRO* at the end for a long time, as the Spanish crossing could be ESOS or ESAS. The LEG is also in AL{LEG}E.
  • 36a. [Three squares] means REGUL{AR M}EALS. The crossing is CH{ARM}ED.
  • 59a. They have DOUB{LE-G}LAZED doughnuts?? [Like some doughnuts and windows] is the clue, and PH{LEG}M crosses it. Phlegm! I know all about this [Throat stuff], thanks to the persistent summer cold.
  • 61a. SOL{AR M}ASS is a [Unit of star measurement]. (AL{ARM}S.)
  • 75a. [Blow it] clues BUBB{LE G}UM. (E{LEG}IES.)
  • 77a. [Arc de Triomphe and Nelson’s Column] are both W{AR M}EMORIALS. ({ARM}ANI.)
  • 94a. [Neutral space] is the MIDD{LE G}ROUND. (AL{LEG}RA.)
  • 114a. This is the weakest theme entry, but it still works. [April, May and June] are CALEND{AR M}ONTHS.

All in all, an ambitious and well-executed Sunday-sized rebus theme.

Thorny bits:

  • 18d. Yeah, this is why I had trouble completing the TATTLE-TALE GRAY. RHYE?? [“Seven Seas of ___” (early Queen hit)]? Not ringing a bell here.
  • 28a. I don’t know where I pulled OSCINE from off of just the O, but I did. It means [Relating to songbirds].
  • 48a. GAS PLANET is clued [Heavenly body that humans will never set foot on]. Did you know all the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are gas, not solid rock?
  • 62a. [Beckett’s “Krapp’s Lasts Tape,” e.g.] is a MONODRAMA. That’s a play for a sole performer. I first tried MELODRAMA but knew that was so, so wrong for Beckett.
  • 41d. Partial IN OZ is clued [“Rinkitink ___” (L. Frank Baum book)]. That Z was slow to come, but I should’ve thought of Oz sooner.
  • 81a. PASSLINE is a [Bet in craps].
  • 122a. I had a typo in SENNAS ([Some flowering shrubs]), with the first vowel being an A even though I meant to type RARE, not RARA, for the crossing. So that slowed me down in figuring out the fourth letter, where the Down clue was no help whatsoever. 109d: [George Manville ___, English adventure writer]? The only FENN I know is actress Sherilynn Fenn. Oof.
  • 7d. GETS ALL A’S looks obvious once it’s filled in, but it’s such a fresh-looking answer, it didn’t come readily to mind. [Contends for valedictorian, say] makes perfect sense.
  • 42d. CERE can mean [Smear with wax, old-style]. It’s also a noun: “a waxy, fleshy covering at the base of the upper beak in some birds.” If you know that cerumen is ear wax, the CERE = wax part is easier.
  • 62d. MALLARME is the answer to [“L’Apres-midi d’un faune” poet Stephane], and I got it off just the first letter. It’s not as if I’m into French poetry, though. Far from it.

Did this crossword take you for a walk and wind up dragging you into a ditch before you finally managed to crawl back out? I was a tad surprised to see that no, it’s not a 23×23, just the regular 21×21 Sunday size. I appreciated the challenge today.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Let’s See What This Baby Can Do”

Region capture 8This one was a toughie. The theme, baby-related puns with sound changes affecting non-baby-related phrases, was slow to yield, and there were other gnarly spots in the fill. First up, the theme entries:

  • 23a. [Result of getting too close to a happy baby?] is a BURBLE BATH, playing on “bubble bath.” Burbles are auditory, not wet. Hmm.
  • 33a. [Stopping temporarily, baby-style?] is CRAWL WAITING, playing on “call waiting.”
  • 53a. Stick another G in “Valley girl” and you get VALLEY GURGLE, or [Brand of teething ring sold only in Los Angeles?]. The Valley/L.A. connection makes sense, but gurgling and teething? Not so much.
  • 67a. [Famous actor as a baby?] turns Burt Lancaster into BURP LANCASTER.
  • 86a. [Hurry, baby-style?] clues GO FULL TODDLE, playing on “go full throttle.”
  • 102a. [Result of some digit-sucking?] is DROOL OF THUMB (“rule of thumb”). Speaking of thumbs, did you hear that Roger Ebert’s launching a new movie review show on PBS? The main reviewers will be Elvis Mitchell (ex-NYT) and Christy Lemire (AP), and Roger will use his text-to-speech computer voice for his segments on older movies. Roger co-owns the rights to the trademarked “thumbs up/down” with Gene Siskel’s estate.
  • 117a. [Maternity ward?] clues THE WET WING (“The West Wing”). I dunno. Because of wet diapers?
  • 3d. [“This baby needs a rest,” for example?] is a NAP DECISION (“snap decision”).
  • 71d. [What a baby does if it doesn’t succeed?] clues CRY, CRY AGAIN (“try, try again”).

Among the trouble spots I encountered were these:

  • 25a. [“No Time for Sergeants” playwright] meant nothing to me. The crossings gave me LEVIN but didn’t explain which LEVIN, so I was still in a bind for the cross-referenced 63a, which turned out to be IRA. He’s more famous for the novels Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, and for the play Deathtrap. Seems like a weird cluing choice to me, especially with two answers riding on it.
  • 51a. [Elaborate verse forms] are SESTINAS. Have heard of them, can’t really define them.
  • 78a. [Where Goliath fell] is ELAH, which now is better known from the Tommy Lee Jones movie In the Valley of Elah.
  • 16d. [Purview of a President’s council] is a rather tough clue for AGING.
  • 44d. [City just east of Lisbon] is just ug-ly. EVORA? It’s a UNESCO Heritage Site thanks to an ancient Roman temple, but…population 41,000. With the R coming from the IRA whose clue was completely unhelpful unless you knew who wrote No Time for Sergeants, this was a nasty little spot in the grid.
  • 55d. [Managers, formerly] were GERENTS. Really. Dictionary says the first known use was in 1576. And when was the last known use?
  • 73d. [“Cloud hoppers”] are ACES. I’m guessing this means flying aces, figuratively hopping the clouds in their zippy airplanes.
  • 82d. [Head of Paramount] means Oscar-winning film costumer EDITH Head, but that is a tough clue for Edith, isn’t it?

Spotlight on cool clues:

  • 41a. [Automatic door opener?] is a GENT who automatically holds the door for people. I hold the door for people too, but I’m no gent. And my kid insists that I let him do all the pushing for both of us in a revolving door.
  • 88d. [Rear end problem?] is a DENT in your car’s rear end, not in your own rear end. Great clue!

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 23”

Region capture 9Sometimes I struggle with a themeless and grumble about it. Not this time. This puzzle, I struggled with it and loved every second of the effort. This may be my favorite themeless puzzle in the last month or two. It’s not especially showy, with 70 words and not a ton of “wow”-inducing entries, but it was exactly the right kind of mental exertion.

Favorite clues and answers:

  • 1a. This is great! [Solo flight companion] is CHEWBACCA, Han Solo’s space-flight companion.
  • 17a. [“Spill!”] clues the exhortation “OUT WITH IT!” Wonderful answer.
  • 25a. [Remove from peanuts, say] mystified me until finally UNBOX shook itself out. Just removed my new boxed iMac from its brown shipping box, which is custom-sized by Apple because there was no space for styrofoam packing peanuts.
  • 38a. [Points of order?] isn’t what it sounds like. It’s where you order fast food, the DRIVE-UPS.
  • 52a. Junky little ORES gets a clever clue: [They might have lead parts]. That’s the metal lead, Pb, not the adjective lead, meaning “starring.”
  • 1d. I half thought [Wedgy stoppers] was about preventing someone from giving you a wedgie, but CHOCKS are chunky wedges you wedge under a tire to stop a truck or plane from rolling away. (And also the triangular red chewable vitamins of my youth.)
  • 5d. [Piltdown man] is a BRIT. The Piltdown man is a famous hoax (also four letters, yes, indeed), but a Piltdown man is just an Englishman from the town of Piltdown.
  • 12d. A [Jonathan’s birthplace?] is an apple ORCHARD.
  • 14d. [Half man] is John F. KENNEDY because he’s the guy on the half dollar coin.
  • 24d. [Spielberg’s “Duel,” for one] is a TV MOVIE. Yep, the legend got started on TV, not celluloid.
  • 26d. The clue [He returned to his former job on March 1, 2010] had me stumped until the crossings led me to JAY LENO. Ah, yes. From the unpleasantness.
  • 51d. [Devil costume?] is PRADA couture, as in The Devil Wears Prada. They say the current pope wears Prada shoes, too.
  • 55d. [“Baby ___ Bad Bad Thing” (Chris Isaak song)] is completed by DID A. It’s not a good answer, this two-word partial, no. But it’s one of the all-time best song titles.
  • 58d. It wasn’t too hard to guess that [Its first issue included “Crow Vadis?”] meant MAD magazine. Have you seen the new 15-minute Mad show on the Cartoon Network? My kid and I both laughed at it.

That’s a wealth of juicy stuff. I don’t know how much of the cluing is Mike’s own work and how much is editor Peter Gordon, but they both have impressive skills so I can’t say whose work is where.

Other stuff:

  • 20a. [Tarot card often depicting a dog and a wolf] is THE MOON. This one was all crossings for me.
  • 22a. [Great Migration participant], 3 letters? Well, AFRICAN-AMERICAN won’t fit, but I keep encountering raves about a new nonfiction book (by Isabel Wilkerson) about that Great Migration. The crossword’s looking for a HUN from a much earlier migration in Europe.
  • 23a. [Last name of a longtime comic strip “teen age darling”] is KETT. Etta Kett, I presume?
  • 27a. [The ladies’ singles trophy at Wimbledon, for one] is a tray called a SALVER.
  • 34a. [Camel smokeless tobacco brand] is a fresh new clue for ORBS, I guess. Never heard of it. Is that a snuff or more of a chewbacco? Judging from its name, perhaps it is applied to the eyeballs.
  • 42a. I dredged [“California style” architect Wallace ___] NEFF out of my memory banks with the NE in place.
  • 2d. [It runs free] clues a HOUSE AD, an ad for an in-house product. Can’t sell all your ad space? Got stuff you need to promote? Boom, there you go.
  • 9d. [Florida governor Charlie Crist, by birth] is an ALTOONAN. What percent of Floridians were born out of state?
  • 36d. [Outback population feature] isn’t about the marsupials who might live in the Outback, it’s about the SPARSITY of people living there.

Scott Atkinson’s syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, “The Long and Short of It”

Region capture 11So, I liked the theme, which had me murmuring the theme answers aloud and feeling amused. And I kept hitting clues or answers that resonated with me and made me happy. How often does that happen in a crossword? Nowhere near often enough, I tell you.

The theme entries all began with a long E sound in a phrase that rhymes with “eel” or “eels,” but it’s changed to a short I sound. The spelling is rejiggered so that the final word makes sense, and the new word is reflected in the clue:

  • 25a. [Wiring woes?] could be ELECTRIC ILLS. I think why I enjoyed the theme so much is that I had a friend in junior high who pronounced things this way, as an affectation more than from an accent.
  • 30a. [Pickle processor’s invitation?] is LET’S MAKE A DILL. That junior high friend? I think she said “dillio” for “deal.”
  • 49a. BANANA PILL is your [Fruity medication?].
  • 61a. Imagine if they really had [Black, gooey knolls near Charlotte?], NORTH CAROLINA TAR HILLS.
  • 78a. [Factories with good morale?] might be HAPPY MILLS.
  • 94a. [Moonshine equipment that’s frozen solid?] is a COLD HARD STILL.
  • 103a. HAMSTER WILLS are [Documents bequeathing tiny exercise devices?].

Highlights (including autobiographical points of interest):

  • 68a. [Nonverbal syst.] clues ASL, or American Sign Language. My family and I are taking an intro to ASL class. We have not yet learned to swear in ASL.
  • 83a. [1975 Pure Prairie League hit] is “AMIE.” When I was a teenager, I volunteered as an usher at a local auditorium. The guys who worked there were older, and they used to sing that song to me. *swoon*
  • 106a. “YO, ADRIAN” was a [Rocky address] that Rocky Balboa would say to his girlfriend Adrian. I’ve seen the entry once or twice before in crosswords but it still rocks.
  • 9d. I’m not crazy about this clue, [“I puritani” composer]. Everyone knows that the best BELLINI is the kind made with prosecco and peach puree.
  • 11d. NICOL [Williamson of “Excalibur”] was a kinda little guy. I saw that movie with my best friend in about 8th grade.
  • 45d. WANDA has so many great cluing options. There’s the [Movie fish] from A Fish Called Wanda, comedian Wanda Sykes, and…well, maybe there’s just those two. But those two are hilarious.
  • 46d. [New Age music player, often] is a rich clue for SPA. This one does not have autobiographical import for me.
  • blisscakes58d. [Euphoria] clues BLISS. You know what I’m planning to have for breakfast tomorrow? Blackberry bliss cakes, that’s what. Pancakes, blackberries, mascarpone cream, crunchy brown sugar/oats granola. (The mascarpone filling is hiding in this picture.)
  • 71d. I like this clue because I misinterpreted it so badly. [Celt since 8/4/2010]? I’m racking my brain trying to think of who became somehow Irish a month ago. Durrrr. It’s Celt as in “member of the Boston Celtics,” and it’s SHAQ O’Neal. See? He already had the Irish name. It was only a matter of time.
  • 89d. Back around 1990, I worked on a podiatry book and learned that the BIG TOE‘s scientific name is [Hallux].
  • 90d. Any mention of the WORLD’S [__ Fair] puts a song in my head—They Might Be Giants’ “Ana Ng.” “All alone at the ’64 World Fair / Eighty dolls yelling “Small girl after all” / Who was at the DuPont Pavilion? / Why was the bench still warm? Who had been there?”
  • 91d. [“Constant Craving” vocalist] is the stunning k.d. lang. If you like smoky torch songs, you need her album, All You Can Eat. Scroll down to the “You’re OK” video for one of the cuts from that CD.
  • 99d. [1985-’87 U.S. Open champ] is Ivan LENDL. My husband was just saying today that Novak Djokovic is as polarizing a figure as Lendl was in his day. Nobody loves to hate Rafael Nadal, right? He’s charming and humble and talented and a hard worker. Everybody likes Rafa. Not so many seem to like Djokovic.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Tour de France”—Sam Donaldson’s review

BG 09122010I suppose we all have our crossword “sweet spots” and crossword “blind spots.” When the clues and fill relate to sports, television, the Oscars, and history, for instance, I can get into a groove. But I slow down every time I hit opera, religion, literature, and the French language. For whatever reason, I have problems with anything French. Seriously. I can make a mean stack of pancakes, but my French toast always comes out soggy or overdone. I can give you the nicest peck on the cheek but my French kiss will have you running for a drool tray. The one home repair project I’ve never been able to get right even after many attempts? Yep, fixing the French doors leading to my den. Am I a latent francophobe? C’est la vie.

So imagine my delight with this puzzle. Cox and Rathvon get punny with ten different French locales. Sacre bleu!

  • The [Town to race through?] is NO TIME TOULOUSE, a play on “no time to lose.” Toulouse is the sixth-largest metro area in France, with a population of just over one million. I was able to parse this one only because of my familiarity with the French painter, Toulouse-Lautrec. I had no idea Toulouse was actually a city.
  • The [Site of a big upset?] is the MIRACLE METZ, from the 1969 “Miracle Mets.” The Wikipedia page on Metz, France, has a separate section on local gastronomy, featuring the Mirabelle plum. The odds of your home town being known for its contributions to world cuisine? Gastronomical.
  • A [Pursuit in Normandy?] is a CAEN QUEST, from “conquest.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Caen is the burial place of William the Conqueror. I wonder if William the Shatner wants to be buried there. Caen! Caaaaen!
  • The [Start on the Riviera?] is a CANNES OPENER, from “can opener.” Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood was the most recent Cannes opener—the first film screened at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Clearly, the organizers know a box office smash when they see one.
  • Looking to say [Cheers in Brittany?]? Well, it’s BREST REGARDS, a play on “best regards.” If you feel like a boob for not knowing Brest, don’t worry: the entire metro area has just over 300,000 inhabitants. That’s not exactly a large tract of land. But I don’t mean that as a knocker on the puzzle.
  • [Provencal repairs?] clues CURE-ARLES, from “cure-alls.” Its 2007 population was just over 52,000, so our geographical references here are getting even smaller. But at least Arles comes up in crossword clues all the time.
  • The [Carbs served on ceramic?] is PIE A-LIMOGES, from “pie a-la-mode.” I think the clue was supposed to be a hint, as apparently Limoges is famous for its ceramics. I can now add “ceramics” to my list of crossword blind spots.
  • The [“Sheepdog” leg of the Tour?] is a BORDEAUX CALAIS, from “border collie.” A double French pun! Oh là là! C’est magnifique!
  • The [Ejection for not cutting the mustard?] is a DIJON LETTER, which I’m guessing stems from a “dunning letter” or “dun letter” sent by collection agents. But is that an ejection? Maybe it’s a play on the “ding letter” sent to job applicants? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
  • Finally, the [Site of false starts?] is PSEUDO-NIMES, from “pseudonym.” Hey, Sue de Nimes would make a great pen-name, oui?

Somehow I survived this onslaught of French excess. In fact, by the time I was done, I rather liked it, and I was mildly proud of myself for getting through it.

The fill wasn’t especially exciting—I liked AM I LATE, clued as [“Did it start already?”], but nothing else really jumped out at me. The clues, on the other hand, were really enjoyable. [Six-legged socialist?], for example, is a fun clue for ANT. [Home to Euclid] is a wonderful misleading clue. It’s not asking for some Greek town where a mathematician grew up; it just wants OHIO. The [Piece-loving lobby?] is an easy but pleasing clue for the NRA. Other clues of note included [Actor Chris and dad Bob] for ELLIOTTS (am I the only one who didn’t know they are related?), [Cycling songs?] for ROUNDS (remember “Row, row, row your boat” or “Soft Kitty”?), [Fly, to a spider] for PREY, and my favorite, [Shown a seat?] for MOONED.

Now we come to the weekly Brushes with Lame segment, where I reveal my ignorance by reciting all of the entries and clues that are foreign to me. I sorta feel like I have confessed enough ignorance with all things French, but I’m not one to break a streak. Here’s what else stumped me:

  • tallchief_maria[Maria Tallchief’s tribe] is the OSAGE. The Osage I have seen before, but Tallchief, pictured to the right, was new to me. Wikipedia says she is America’s first prima ballerina. That’s a pretty cool distinction.
  • [Pivots] clues SLUES, as apparently the words are synonymous. A slue gin fizz will make you pivot, that’s for sure.
  • To [Move fast, as a cloud] is to SCUD. I only knew scud as a missile. My dictionary says a “scud” also means “slap” to a Scot and “a sudden shower” to a meteorologist.
  • [Cramp] clues STITCH? Really? Why, yes it does. This stitch refers to a sudden, sharp pain. So a cramp really is a stitch.

Updated Sunday morning:

Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

Tyler’s been making some pretty gnarly grids of late–notably for Ryan & Brian’s Lollapuzzoola (see puzzle #4 “Lucky Sevens” here) and the featured 21×21 for yesterday’s Bay Area crossword tournament–so it wasn’t with a small amount of trepidation that I approached this week’s “Sunday Challenge.”

Though I found this one a bit harder than my normal running times for these puzzles, it did help to discover the “mini-theme” of two 15-letter entries that ended with SOX:

  • “2010 American Idol runner-up” was CRYSTAL BOWERSOX. I didn’t follow the most recent season of AI, and was thinking of 2009 runner-up ADAM LAMBERT at first. Also, I think Crystal was eliminated before the final two…hold please, while I check. Nope, Tyler’s right, she lost in the finals to one-time paint salesman Lee DeWyze.
  • I had never heard of the 1979 infamous Disco Demolition Night, but knowing Tyler to be a sports fan (just check out the new WordPress site I recently helped him launch for updates on his favorite sports teams) and that he used to reside in the Windy City, helped me piece together the CHICAGO WHITE SOX. Boy, it sure sounds people were ready to get out of those leisure suits and platform shoes and move on from the Disco Era!

Other areas of note:

  • My last entry was the crosser between the author of “The Alchemy of Finance” (George SOROS, hardly on my beach reading list!) and the S of THE ASHES (I had THE ACHES before I realized there aren’t many aches from playing cricket, unless you bruise your lips sipping scalding hot tea! *ducking from our English readers*). I read here that this classic match between England and Australia dates back to 1882 and the name refers to the “satirical obituary” of the heavily favored, but defeated, British cricket team, whose ashes were brought to Australia, awaiting a reformed British team (or perhaps the zombies of the beaten team?) to reclaim them by beating Australia in the next match.
  • Aussies again: SHEILAS (not KOALAS, which is what I first tried) are “Cuties in Canberra”
  • Have a query (we’re all British today here) about the clue “Ticket window?” for SPEED TRAP. Is the “window” the length of road where the radar gun is being used? Or is it a window of time?
  • I wonder if Southerners consider HOWDY to be synonymous with “‘Sup?” My guess is as many Southerners say “‘Sup” as Northerners (not many, in my circles anyway).
  • BOW AND ARROW running down the center was a nice touch for “Valentine’s Day symbols”…the plural clue threw me off at first.
  • I can only think of the SANS SERIF font, are there others with “sans” in their names? What am I (or I should say, they) missing?
  • Tried LANAI for PATIO first; not sure why I went for the less obvious entry–interestingly, they both have 3 vowels.
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30 Responses to Sunday, 9/12/10

  1. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    Merl, please. WTF? 55D GERENTS!?!?!?!? Give me a break. I was really disappointed in this one. I’ll give you any number of bad puns. And I have over the years. I’ve been doing your puzzles for over 30 years and I’ve put up with a lot, but that one just really annoyed me. Even when I got it from the crosses, it didn’t look like a word and I didn’t even bother to finish the puzzle. That may be a first. Please do better next week. Love, Norm

  2. joon says:

    i had big problems with the NYT. most were related to stuff i didn’t know (fels-naptha, SEADOO, FENN, RHYE, ROLONDA, the word MONODRAMA—extra frustrating because i know krapp’s last tape well), but one of them was, i think, a flaw in the puzzle: why isn’t ARM a rebus in MALLARMÉ? other than that, nice puzzle. i appreciated the extra dose of ASTR.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Like joon, I was surprised to see MALLARME without a rebus. Also had to look up MBEKI/KUNTA and BRANDO/FENN while not bothering to look up ROLANDA, as that was the only thing to fit in the end. Favorite answers SMARM at 99D which Amy’d left out, and IDLE GOSSIP.

    I also got a kick out of TATTLETALE GRAY and really chuckled at 38D ASO, the Kyushu volcano, after all the comments about “Ah, so” over at Rex’s blog: no MIDDLE GROUND on that recently…

    Some of the rebuses made me a bit dizzy, especially WARMEMORIALS, and I doubt if ENROOTS is reallly used much anywhere. Overall I enjoyed it, though, and was quite impressed!

  4. Jesse says:

    In the BG puz, I took Dijon Letter to be Dear John Letter, the kind you used to write in the days before you dumped your lover by text…

  5. paula says:

    The NY Times Sunday puzzles have forgotten who their solvers are. All the aces who solve in short times are amazing, with their skill and knowledge. But they are too far above us mere Sunday solver mortals. I have been doing the puzzles for more years than I care to admit to. I used to be able to finish them — maybe in more than one sitting, but I rose the level of challenge. It was the Sunday treat for me.
    I am not totally inept. Have attended crossword contests where I came out about in the middle and was happy enough with that. Did Scrabble tournaments, too. I was, in fact, at one time considered a whiz at the Times puzzles compared to others. But the puzzles have gotten increasingly “above my pay grade” so to speak and I cannot “get” most of them. I spoke to one of my friends who is as good as, or a bit better than I am, and she, too, complained that they are not fun anymore!!

    I think it is time to consider going back to the Gene Maleska level for most of us. For those of you who are so far above our level, let the Times publish an “extra hard” puzzle to challenge you. Perhaps is the search for themes, constructors have gone overboard to stretch meanings.

    Certainly in today’s puzzle, if it was to be a rebus, then give us a break with the clues. Are there any others out there who feel the puzzles have changed levels to be too tricky and less enjoyable?

  6. Gareth says:

    Fun hard Sunday. Not hard to spot the rebus, but some of the squares (BUBB(LEG)UM!!!) a different story! Also began to suspect slightly there might be more than just (ARM) and (LEG) squares when PASSERINE wouldn’t fit for OSCINE – dictionary tells me the latter’s a subset of the former… INKERASER and ROLONDA were also quite mysterious (and FENN, but knew RHYE). Oh and after IDLEG… wanted something to do with GAS despite 48A. Sure remember reading last week someone (I don’t think it was you, Amy but one of your elves…) saying they don’t have to remember CERE.

    P.S. The LAT times haven’t clicked over to Sunday, it seems… (Unless it’s my browser)

  7. Barry G says:

    I actually finished the NYT puzzle unassisted, but discovered at the end that I made made a mistake. Not being at all familiar with MALLARME, the clue for 62A led me to invent a word for a drama heard on an audio tape. Yes, that’s right — the SONODRAMA…

  8. The Ridger says:

    Obviously I can’t get these on my own or I wouldn’t be here discovering that it’s house AD not ID, sAlver not sIlver, so Demi… – though I did claw my way through the “Let’s see what this baby can do” one! But I’m commenting because our clue (Post magazine) for Valley Gurgle was “L.A. baby’s reaction to her first designer diaper?” not what you had. I guess somebody else didn’t like it, either.

  9. Anne E says:

    I kinda like SONODRAMA! Me, I tried DOCUDRAMA, being totally unfamiliar with “ER”. That huge sucking noise you hear is the black hole of my pop-culture knowledge… Very difficult Sunday for me, about 3 min slower than usual.

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Very enjoyable Sunday by a superb constructor, who perhaps doesn’t get enough kudos around here. SW was tough, but I remember Rolonda Watts–excellent newswoman and interviewer, and an attractive, charming TV personality. I wonder what happened to her. I finally tried PCBs and prorata, and the SW finally filled in.

    Do you remember the anecdote about the midwesterner who moved to New York, and became fond of the unfamiliar New York expression that something costs “a nominal egg”?


  11. Duke says:

    I found today’s NYT difficult. I got my first ARM quickly but thought it had something to do with Adjusted Rate Mortgage! So, it took a while to get a LEG up. Some of the answers were not great (Rolanda WHAT?), Fenn WHO? INKEYASER made me crazy for a long time. But I have to say that the clue for BUBBLE GUM just doesn’t seem right – blow it? One blows blubble gum, but how is this a clue describing the noun? I don’t see it. I would also question whether BLAH, BLAH, BLAH means IDLE GOSSIP. That is not how I use it, anyway.

  12. Sam Donaldson says:

    @ Jesse: A Dear John letter! Of course! Thanks for the assist.

  13. Meem says:

    Caught the rebus at bear market. My grandmother actually used Fels-Naptha, so tattletale gray also fell easily. Was rolling along until I was derailed by oatmeal before oat bran and oil spills before oil slicks. Once I sorted that out, really enjoyed finishing this one. Thanks, Paula. Thanks also to Tyler for Sunday fun. Was aided by the fact that I live in Chicago and well remember the Disco Demolition disaster! Amusing misdirection from Mike Shenk beginning at 1A. Though I had no writeovers, I thought the Merl Reagle puns were more groan inducing than fun. Interesting about revised clue for 53 A.

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    My grandmother had Fels-Naptha soap too, and used it in her final year of life. Word to the wise: Using Fels-Naptha soap to relieve constipation is a singularly bad idea and will earn you a trip to the emergency room. (This is not the same grandma who loved crosswords.)

  15. ArtLvr says:

    Amy — loved your “What are the odds? Gastronomical!” Also Bruce’s “A nominal egg” NY-ese. The Cox/Rathvon twists in the BG were my favorites today, especially DIJON LETTER.

  16. Sally C says:

    Is there any way to do Sunday’s puzzle on your phone? I can’t figure out how to put ‘arm’ and ‘leg’ in one box!

  17. Joshua Kosman says:

    I was enjoying today’s NYT until I hit 62D (MALLARME). Then I stopped — it was like finding a big hair in your food at a fancy restaurant. Doesn’t really matter how good the rest of the dish is, y’know?

  18. David L says:

    I know Mr Reagle is a revered figure and all, but may I just say that I loathe his reliance on awful puns? Especially when I get the answer but still can’t figure out where it’s coming from — GOFULLTODDLE, in this case. I’m supposed to see throttle in toddle? And stuff like BURPLANCASTER just drives me to drink (which is where I was going anyway, but still…)

    The WaPo Puzzler was terrific, on the other hand. I love it when I manage to finish a puzzle even though it has a bunch of clues I didn’t get till I came here. I still don’t see how a fraud is a RIP, but never mind.

  19. dgh says:

    agree fully that MALLARME, sans rebus, stuck out like a sore thumb.

  20. Meem says:

    David L.: If someone commits a fraud, they rip you off. Hence, “rip.”

  21. David L says:

    OK, so a fraud is a rip off — not a rip

  22. joon says:

    a wonderful post puzzler. i spent a few minutes on the last two letters of HOUSE AD, not being familiar with SALVER or DEMI lovato, and the first two letters of BUNCO. but overall it was an excellent puzzle with a bunch of really enjoyable clues. i dropped AUTOPILOT into 1a and then thought of CHEWBACCA seconds later. very good. never did figure out the ORCHARD clue, though. jonathan is an apple? is he related to fiona? i note that DIDA could be clued as the recently retired (?) goalkeeper for AC milan and brazil. that would have been more familiar to me than this chris isaak song, but it was pretty easy to guess.

  23. Meem says:

    Joon: Jonathan is a variety of apple. Good to eat out of hand or make applesauce. A salver is a tray and the prize is a huge, heavy silver tray.

  24. ePeterso2 says:

    I figured out the ARM in 23A and LEG in 25A early on, then the ARM in 106A and the LEG in 116A later – those two led me to believe that every instance of ARM and LEG would lie on the same row, which slowed me down considerably. (It would have been doubly awesome if Paula had been able to pull that off.)

    Another hand up for SONODRAMA – don’t know what a MONODRAMA is, nor a MALLARME. And another hand up for disappointment in it not being MALL{ARM}E. I had SEDGES for SENNAS – didn’t know that word, nor OLAN, FENN, nor ROLONDA.

    Good stuff, otherwise. I like the BUBB{LEG}UM entry, but didn’t care for the clue – can’t swap the clue for the answer in a sentence and have it make sense.

  25. cyberdiva says:

    What a downer this Sunday turned out to be. First, I tackled the Merl Reagle puzzle. I usually like his puzzles, but lately the puns have been becoming more and more outlandish, and with this puzzle, I decided they weren’t worth my time. So I stopped in the middle and started the NYTimes. Ouch! I caught on to the rebus pretty quickly (at DOUBLEGLAZED/PHLEGM), but there were simply too many things I didn’t know (FENN, SENNAS, RHYE, MBEKI, OSCINE, BALOO, and more). I finally turned to my husband for help, and together we finished it off, but . . . .

    By the way, add me to the list of those who were unhappy that MALLARME didn’t make use of the rebus. I kept not putting it in, even though I thought it was likely to be Mallarmé as soon as I had the first letter. I was also unhappy with BUBBLEGUM, since the clue didn’t seem to fit, grammatically. Oh well, not a good Sunday for me.

  26. HH says:

    ” I like the BUBB{LEG}UM entry, but didn’t care for the clue – can’t swap the clue for the answer in a sentence and have it make sense.”

    Maybe there should be a page of FAQs for things like this. Often, when the clue is in the form of an imperative sentence (with implied subject “You” and direct object or prepositional object “it”), the solver’s task is to determine what “it” could be.

  27. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Henry, on page 63 of my book, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, the “it” clue is included as one of “the top 10 ways constructors try to trick you”:

    “The clue [Put a lid on it] seems to call for a verb like stifle(d) orquash(ed). Occasionally the answer word equates to the “it” in the clue rather than to the clue as a whole—so the answer may be a cooking POT. This is an exception to the usual rule that the clue and answer must be interchangeable in a sentence, with the same meaning both ways.”

    Pretty sure it must be in Pat Merrell’s compilation of clue rules too. Hang on…

  28. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Huh. I don’t see it in Pat’s compilation. I’ll ask him to add it.

  29. reybo says:

    Can someone form a sentence in which “broach” and “arise” are interchangeable? It’s easy to do it with other forms of those words, but not with those precise forms. Yet that’s what Tyler Hinman chose, and I can’t come up with an example.

  30. John Haber says:

    I’m weighing in a little late, but Sunday just was not at all on my wavelength, for almost exactly the reasons Joon cites. It was especially annoying in the NE, where a long, theme answer hinged on that (as well as on OSLIN, BUTCH, RHYE, the cross-referenced clues I always hate (with Jimmy DEAN), and the choice between ESOS and “esas.” But the ones that actually left me unfinished, although earlier, were the crossings of SENNAS with FENN (I guessed a T) and SEADOO with ASO. Ugh.

    Sad, because a great theme, with wonderful challenges to puzzle out on its own (even if MALLARME was a screw-up), so what a shame to waste on such trivia. Like Joon, too, I felt especially burned on DOCUDRAMA given my fondness for Beckett. Oh, and I know how to solve these, but I just hate clue syntax like “Blow it.”

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