Sunday, 11/21/10

NYT 11:42 (Jeffrey)
BG 16:19 (Sam)
LAT 8:25 (Amy)
Reagle 7:28 (Amy)
CS 10:51 (Evad)
WaPo 4:41 (Amy)

Hi, Jeffrey here.  Amy is spending some quality family time tonight so you are stuck with me for the New York Times.

Clive Probert’s “Having Aspirations” New York Times crossword – Jeffrey’s reviewNYT Nov 21 2010

Theme: Add an “H” to common phrases with shocking results
Theme answers:
26A. [Macho guys like their pie cold?] – REAL MEN DON’T (H)EAT QUICHE
41A. [Bad actor’s philosophy?] – I THINK THEREFORE I (H)AM
63A. [Concerns of middle-aged guys in lower Louisiana?] – DELTA (H)AIRLINES. Receding hairlines on middle-aged men is not funny.
73A. [Lengthy military sign-up?] – SEVEN YEAR (H)ITCH
92A. [Put the dentures aside while gardening?] – SET ONE’S TEETH ON (H)EDGE. Yuck.
108A. [Starboard food fish?] – (H)ERRING ON THE RIGHT SIDE. I know the phrase as “Erring on the side of caution.”

One line review for those in a hurry:  Some cute answers and a bit of icky fill.

Other stuff:
20A. [Film character who actually does not say “Play it again, Sam”] – ILSA and every other film character ever.
23A. [“Winnie-the-Pooh” character] – KANGA. ROO gets all the puzzle time so its nice to see Mom in there.
24A. [Signal for a programmer’s jump] – GO TO. I was taught this was bad coding.
32A. [“___ Day Will Come” (1963 #1 hit)] – OUR
39A. [Name often followed by a number] – MACH. M*A*S*H works too
53A. [James or Jackie of Hollywood] – GLEASON. Did you think Mason?
79A. [Place for mounted antlers, maybe] – DEN. Does anyone still do this?
89A. [R.E.M.’s “The ___ Love”] – ONE I
98A. [___ Park, Queens] – REGO. Anyone not in New York know this? Anyone in New York know this?
104A. [Reed in music] – LOU
124A. [“___ of the Storm Country”] – TESS. Unknown. Someone please explain.
5D. [Out of one’s mind, in a way, with “up”] – COKED. Breakfast test?
8D. [“Were I the Moor, I would not be ___”] – IAGO who actually does not say “Play it again, Sam”
9D. [Loud ringing] – CLANGOR. Another odd word.
10D. [It’s symbolized by caviar and Champagne] – HIGH LIFE. Is a low life symbolized by burger and shake?
12D. [1930s film pooch] – ASTA. That dog never dies in puzzleland.
13D. [Portuguese-speaking island off the African coast] – SAO TOME
21D. [Very religious] – CHURCHY. Can you add a Y to any word you wanty?
37D. [Replies from the hard of hearing] – EHS. Two deaf Canadians talking: Eh? Eh? Eh? Eh eh?
42D. [Not smooth] – KNOBBY. The Y is back.
44D. [Cry of delight] – OOOH. Or you can add some O’s.
57D. [Xanadu river] – ALPH
90D. [Org. with a 2004-05 lockout] – NHL. No hockey, eh?
95D. [1976 rescue site] – ENTEBBE. Amazing story. Do people still remember this?
105D. [Hogan contemporary] – SNEAD. Old time golfers.
107D. [“___ were the days”] – THOSE
109D. [Streets of Québec] – RUES. Et alors, eh?

Updated Sunday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review


Constructor Bruce Venzke brings us today’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post “Sunday Challenge,” which is based upon 4 interlocked 15-letter entries:

  • Let’s start with 3-Down, “1799 Egyptian discovery” which was THE ROSETTA STONE. Was really glad to see that definite article leading this entry, it made it feel more complete. My partner and I are heading to Costa Rica in late February next year, and we’re both using Rosetta Stone software to pick up some Spanish before we go. Since we’ll be doing a lot of driving while we’re there, I want to be sure we know how to ask for directions if we get lost.
  • Next up is 12-Down, “Coach’s adage about player selfishness” or THERE IS NO I IN TEAM. Another fun entry, and you gotta love the double I in the middle there. Not sure the clue had to be that specific; are there any other coach’s adages you know?
  • 17-Across was “Start getting visibly nervous” or BREAK INTO A SWEAT. I work as a web developer at a mutual fund company in Boston and we had an install the other night to fix some bugs as well as upgrade some software. Partway through the install, some of our pages were not coming up and I began to break into a sweat as about 20 people on the chat who were monitoring the install were waiting for me to figure out what was going on. Luckily I came through just as we were considering backing out the change to some other evening!
  • The last long entry, “Took a certain yoga position, perhaps” was STOOD ON ONE’S HEAD. Now I’ve taken a few yoga classes (I’m notoriously inflexible due to the weightlifting and running I do, as well as from sitting in front of a computer most of each day), and I’ve (gratefully) never been asked to stand on my head. The closest I’ve come is some type of torture called a “downward facing dog,” which definitely brings a rush a blood to the head if you hold the pose for anything longer than a few seconds. I really like the leg warmers on the woman in the picture above.

Pretty smooth solve otherwise, really liked the clue “Mark, for one” which ended up being APOSTLE. (I kept thinking of the noun.) I keep forgetting the “Original D&D co.” of TSR, despite being an avid fan of the game, playing late into the night in my college dorm. (I used to love the dice that had 12 or 20 sides to them.) I was glad to see “Speak in starts and stops” was not STUTTER as I first feared, but the much friendlier STAMMER, which anyone who has had to do any public speaking is likely well acquainted with. I must call foul on the 7-letter partial, ABOUT IT. ‘Tis not a phrase on its own.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Sign of the Times” – Sam Donaldson’s review

BG_11212010The sign of “times” (or multiplication) is X, so this puzzle’s theme features six spelled out multiplication problems whose products match their numbered clues.  Yeah, that explanation sucks.  But it all makes sense when you see the theme entries and their clues:

  • ONE HUNDRED X TEN is, sure enough, [1,000]. Anyone else have “M” (the Roman 1,000) come to mind?
  • [504] is many possible things, I suppose: the area code for New Orleans, the next wave of Levi jeans, probably a lot more.  Here, though, it is simply FORTY-TWO X TWELVE.
  • ELEVEN X ELEVEN, any third-grader will tell you, is [121].  Of course, he or she might have to use a calculator or text a friend for the answer.  But eventually you’ll get the right answer.  LOL.
  • [34] is SEVENTEEN X TWO.  It was also my waist size once upon a time, that time being the fifth grade.
  • [9,000,000] may be an intimidating answer, but the problem, NINE MILLION X ONE, is hardly a challenge.
  • [0] is ANY NUMBER X ZERO.  Um, yeah.

Am I missing something, or is that it?  I don’t see anything special about the numbers in the clues, nothing that pulls them together or explains, “Why these numbers?”  Is there a reason there are only six theme entries and not the typical eight-to-ten we normally see in a Sunday-sized grid?  Don’t get me wrong, I like math problems in my crosswords–but I’m a little divided here because this one felt a little flat to me.  I admire the six Xs in the grid necessitated by the theme, but I don’t see how exactly this would have been impossible to construct with two more Xs resulting from two additional theme entries.  Only FORTY TWO X TWLEVE made me think for a while; the others were instantly gettable with very few crossings.  That meant a relatively quick solving time for me, but not an especially satisfying romp.

There was more to like in the fill, fortunately. DOGGEREL, together with the long downs of TIME TRAVEL, LOVER’S LANE, FIRE SALE, OFF YEAR, and the delightful WHOOP-DE-DOO, added some much-needed life.  Only four clues really stood out as noteworthy: [Bettor’s big loss] feels like a unique way to clue SHIRT (as in, “I lost my shirt!”); [Angler’s lure] is a nice play on words for LAKE; and [Says, colloquially] is a fun clue for GOES only because I have this pet peeve about using “goes” instead of “says,” “remarks,” “replies,” or any number of more suitable alternatives.  The best clue of the puzzle, though, is [Group that does spelling?] for a witches’ COVEN.

I was a little disappointed to see TEA PARTY clued as [Affair Alice intended], especially when the Tea Party is smack in the middle of its 15 minutes of fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective).  Maybe that’s just too much of a powder keg to play with in a mainstream crossword.  How would you clue TEA PARTY to give it a more modern slant?

The only jarring entry in the grid was REFED, located near the center. It would seem there were many alternatives here. The R (which crossed REYES) could be a K, and if you change the Y to an R, it could also be a C, H, or P. The first E in REFED could be an O (to make OVEN instead of EVEN), the F could also be a D, L, N, P, R, S, or V.  The second E in REFED is more or less locked, but the D could be an R or an S.  So we have lots of alternatives here that would not be so clunky: REFER, ROLES, ROPED, ROPER, ROPES, ROSES, CEDED, CEDES, CERES, CODED, COPED, COPES, … well, you get the idea. Granted, REFED is hardly an awful answer. But given that there are so many more palatable alternatives (some much, much better), I wonder why one of them did not make the cut. (Just out of curiosity, am I the only one who tries to figure out what other words could have gone into the grid?)

I’m posting this week from San Diego, as I am here for a work-related conference.  The Business Center at my hotel overlooks Mission Bay and it’s a nice day.  What the heck am I doing here?!?  See you next week!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Giving Thanks”

Region capture 6The theme entries are all words that can follow “thanks,” so they’re all partial phrases.

  • 21a. FOR THE MEMORY. I thought people usually used the plural, “thanks for the memories.” Yes? No?
  • 26a. “Thanks, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL.” Who says that? I’ve never heard that in my life. I guess I’m hanging around the wrong people.
  • 43a. IN ADVANCE. Yep, I use this one, in writing.
  • 49a. FOR WAITING. An essential in customer service.
  • 68a. I NEEDED THAT. Do you say this after you’ve been slapped out of hysteria or after you’ve been doused with water?
  • 84a. FOR THE RIDE.
  • 92a. Thanks FOR ASKING!
  • 109a. OLD BUDDY, OLD PAL.
  • 118a. Thanks FOR LISTENING—the mantra of every blogger.
  • 57d. “Thanks. DON’T MIND IF I DO!”

I like that the clues are all simply [THANKS]. If the clues tried to specifically signal each phrase in context, they’d be too long and the guesswork part of the theme would vanish.

The surrounding fill felt a little dry (like turkey left to roast in the oven an hour too long). I can try to overlook one -ER word, but having two of them (AROUSER and WIDENER) makes each call attention to the other.

Gail Grabowski’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Tell Me No More”

Region capture 7The theme’s explained in 118d: TMI is a [Brief version of this puzzle’s title hidden in eight long puzzle answers]. That’s right: All that connects the theme entries is that the letter sequence TMI happens to be found in each one. I always feel a little let down by such themes. I’m looking at disparate phrases and names and trying to figure out what they have in common—”Okay, AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ doesn’t pronounce a final G, and FILET MIGNON has a silent T at the end of the first word. ‘Tell Me No More’ could refer to word endings not being pronounced, though ideally the active words would appear in a consistent place in each theme entry. Okay, LAST MINUTE: no tricky pronunciations there. CEMENT MIXER? What? Oh, each one has TMI buried in it. Yawn.”

In general, the theme entries and the fill were just a lot of ordinary words and phrases, nothing too surprising or exciting.

Maybe I shouldn’t sleep past 11 a.m. Maybe it makes me blasé about everything. We’ll see if the Washington Post puzzle perks me up.

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 33”

Region capture 8All right, I liked this puzzle quite a bit. Even the various prepositional phrases and verbs were working for me. TRUSSED UP, UP A TREE, AWASH IN, ON A DIET, RUN INTO, and EDIT OUT are all completely natural-sounding constructions rather than random verb-plus-a-preposition concoctions.

The best of the best:

  • 6a. [Events organized through social media] are FLASH MOBS. Great entry.
  • 15a. First I put ARENA for [Battle field], but 4d wanted to be IRE and I realized it’s OPERA, Kathleen Battle’s professional field. Love the mislead!
  • 16a. LITHUANIA is [Hannibal Lecter’s birthplace]? Fictional trivia I didn’t know. Did you know I’m one eighth Lithuanian? I have not, however, tried fava beans or chianti.
  • 20a. [Private labels?] lures you into thinking about fashion rather than military DOG TAGS.
  • 27a. Without the question mark, [Without a will?] would clue INTESTATE. Instead, you’re looking for unwillingness—RELUCTANT.
  • 50a. The LHASA APSO dog was a [Onetime sentinel in Buddhist monasteries]. I dig the double A in the middle.
  • 54a. [Olive cousin], starts with LIME…what sort of fruit are we talking about here? Oh, not fruit but colors: LIME GREEN is a few shades off from olive green.
  • 56a. [What someone looking for action might say] is “ANY TAKERS?” Cool entry.
  • 13d. I was trying to thing of the ornithological term for a cardinal’s crest of feathers, but [Cardinal cap] refers to the BIRETTA worn by Catholic cardinals. I like being tricked like that.
  • 33d. Love the word SOUPCONS.
  • 34d. [It might have 200 gross words] clues NOVELLA. “Gross” can mean a dozen dozen. 200 x 144 = 28,800. The Nebula Award folks define a novella by the word count of 17,500 to 40,000 words.
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5 Responses to Sunday, 11/21/10

  1. Dave G. says:

    He may have always aspired to make a great Sunday puzzle, but I guess Clive also made a great Sunday puzzled that aspirates.

    Not being a tennis fan I didn’t know who Tommy Haas was, and I definitely didn’t know the Fugard play, so I had to guess the crossing A – weird name for a play. I have to say I am glad my name isn’t Athol although sometimes people call me that anyway… :-)


  2. ktd says:

    Great theme!

  3. joon says:

    i thought mike’s wapo puzzler was insanely awesome. super-smooth fill, and at least a dozen hall of fame clues. took me a looong time, but it was the most enjoyable beatdown i can remember.

  4. Zulema says:


    I was just reading a book and came across the word “churchy” and I am thinking it stood out because of the NYT puzzle, but I may have seen it before. It referred to someone’s “churchy bit” meaning the side of him that had turned to religion, as opposed to his other interests. When I was solving the puzzle, my reaction was the same as yours though.

  5. John Haber says:

    I thought it was an easy one (in the sense of not too interesting) with a few snags. One was HAAS and SAO TOME, which I got right. The other was the nexus around the whale, ROPE IN, and LUVS (I had “Legs”). I got it, but didn’t really understand it.

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