Sunday, 11/28/10

NYT 11:48
BG 19:19 (Sam)
Reagle 7:28
LAT 8:46
WaPo 4:24
CS 8:36 (Evad)

Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “A Shining Moment”

Region capture 26I wonder if this is the last of the 23×23 Sunday puzzles—I recently read that Will Shortz is no longer accepting Sunday puzzles that exceed the standard 21×21 size.

This is a Gorskiesque theme, with left/right symmetry and a visual aspect in addition to the rebus gimmick. There are, I think, 19 squares that contain {ON} instead of a single letter, and the long theme entries pertain to the turning ON of the lights on the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. THE TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY at ROCKEFELLER CENTER takes place on THE WEDNESDAY / AFTER THANKSGIVING, and the tree is a NORWAY SPRUCE. The {ON} rebus squares can be connected, dot-to-dot style, to sketch a rudimentary Christmas tree, a big triangle with a little trunk at the base. Now, 120d is {ON} SWITCH, clued as [Start for 148-Across]. But its symmetrical partner on the right isn’t clued as a theme answer, so I’d rather the {ON} SWITCH had been clued separately from the theme.

It’s a little less elegant than it could have been, as there are  a few ONs in the grid that appear normally—CONAN, TONIC, CEREMONY, TOO SOON. And about 12 of the {ON}s are the word on rather than just those two letters within another word. It palls to have that many phrases with the same little preposition.

Does anyone who doesn’t live in the NYC area know what day the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony takes place? I sure didn’t.

Most surprising clue: 84a: GECKOS are [Creatures known to lick their own eyeballs]. Who knew?

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Pea Soup” – Sam Donaldson’s review

BG 11282010You don’t have to be a fan of green vomit, er, pea soup to enjoy this week’s puzzle. Hook inserts a phoenetic “pee” sound into ten common names and phrases.  Hilarity ensues.  Let’s review the theme entries, and just for fun let’s start with the Downs:

  • [Crying over a videogame?] is NINTENDO WEEPY, the result of adding a “pee” sound to the end of the Nintendo Wii game system.
  • An apt description of a [Former First Lady who needs vitamins?] would be NANCY DROOPY, the result of adding a “pee” sound to the end of young-adult lit detective Nancy Drew.  “Nancy droopy.  Reagan smash!”
  • To [Use lots of lather?] is to MAKE IT SOAPY, playing off Captain Picard’s signature command by adding a “pee” sound to the end of “Make it so.”
  • Add a “pee” sound to the middle of some donuts and you have the [Huge fans of a Dwarf?], DOPEY NUTS. I can hear Homer Simpson now: “Mmmm…dopey nuts.”
  • The [Revelers on a reservation?] are TEPEE PARTIERS, which is what happens when you pee on, er, add a “pee” sound to Tea Partiers.
  • [soupysalesThe Sales lad?] is A BOY NAMED SOUPY. Here, a “pee” sound is added to the end of the Johnny Cash classic, “A Boy Named Sue,” to create a reference to comedian Soupy Sales. Sales was the master of the pie-in-the-face gag.
  • The [Song from Sheriff Taylor’s grandson?] would be OPIE MY PAPA, a variation of “Oh My Papa” where the “pee” sound invokes young Opie Taylor of “The Andy Griffith Show.”  I wonder if Ron Howard’s children have ever sung this song as a mock tribute to their father.
  • The [Chore for Arizona census takers?], apparently, is to TALLY HOPI (the “pee” sound is added to “Tally Ho!”).  Perhaps members of the Hopi nation are hard to locate.
  • CRISPY ROCK would certainly be a [Stone that crunches?].  Comedian Chris Rock gets a “pee” sound added to his first name.  How many times do you see Soupy Sales and Chris Rock in the same grid?
  • Finally, the [Carny’s words to a game winner?] are not “Double or nothing?” or “Want to try for a large?” or even “Have you seen my teeth?”  They’re “TAKE YOUR KEWPIE,” a variation of “take your cue.”

I like that the “pee” sound shows itself through a variety of spellings. That takes the puzzle a notch above the standard “add-a-letter” theme.  The fill is pretty smooth, save for a rough patch in the far north where two partials, THE CAT’S pajamas and GO UP IN flames, serve as support beams.  The other unwanted chunkiness in the fill included the rare words ARRAS (a [Tapestry]) and the ultra-fugly REBOANT ([Echoic]).  Political affiliations aside, it was nice to have running mates BUSH and QUAYLE in the same grid.  And my inner 10-year-old loved both NUT MEAT and SUCKLE.  I consider myself fairly strong in astronomy, but I was lost on both [Canis Minor’s brightest] star, PROCYON, and the [Moon of Jupiter], ELARA. The only moon of Jupiter I ever remember is Io, and that’s not exactly crossword-friendly.

Now that the weekly Brushes with Lame segment has been retired, it’s time to debut a new feature in the weekly BG post: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Each week we will fill the seating chart for a dinner party with people from the puzzle I have never heard of.  Sometimes we’ll have a big soiree, other times it will be a cozy, intimate affair.  We start this week with an imposing eleven guests, so I’m thinking two round tables will work best.

We have to keep relatives together, so we’ll put John and Christine MCVIE of Fleetwood MAC at Table One. (Yes, I’ve heard of Fleetwood Mac, but before today the only band member I could name without prompting was Stevie Nicks. I would have tumbled to Mick Fleetwood if given enough hints.) I’m guessing artists would like to mingle with other artists, so let’s add to their table poet NIKKI Giovanni, Welsh actor and songwriter IVOR Novello, and NCIS actor David McCallum, who apparently plays a character called “DUCKY.”

giladThat leaves an eclectic mix of athletes and politicos for Table Two: [1984 perfect game pitcher Mike] WITT, figure skater and [1950s gold-medal winner] TENLEY Albright, [1960s sprinter Wyomia] TYUS, GILAD [Janklowicz of workout-video fame] (that’s him on the left, pictured with Jack “The Juicer” LaLanne), the [1960s USAF chief of staff] Curtis LEMAY (I might have had a shot with this if I knew this was the same guy who was George Wallace’s running mate), and Vladimir Ulyanov, who you might better know as LENIN.  It would be fun to see Lenin order a ton of mixed drinks and then try to talk the others into splitting the check equally.  But otherwise I’m thinking I’d rather sit at Table One–I don’t think I could handle Gilad staring at me every time I reached for a breadstick.

Actually, I’d rather sit at the table filled with people I did know:  REBA McEntire, Michael MCKEAN, [Golfer Vijay] SINGH, SALMA Hayek of FridaWILLA Cather, [“Sister Act”‘s Kathy] NAJIMY, and Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s nemesis, WIL Wheaton.  I probably couldn’t stop gazing affectionately at Salma Hayek, though, so maybe it’s just as well I eat alone.

Updated Sunday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

cs1128 Pretty breezy offering today, as to be expected, from the undisputed queen of early-week puzzles, Lynn Lempel. Certainly the highlight has to be 29-Across, “Prevalent ideas and spirit of the time” or the germanic ZEITGEIST. In particular, zeit is German for “time” (and the basis of our word “tide”) and geist is “spirit” or our “ghost.” That’s paired with Emily Litella’s catch phrase, NEVER MIND, which may indeed be the phrase that captured the spirit of the sadly short time of actress Gilda Radner’s life. That leading Z of ZEITGEIST is put to good use as the culmination of ERSATZ, a word that also comes to us from Über alles Deutschland, meaning “unreal” or “artificial.”

Definitely some up-market fill surrounds these longer entries:

  • We start with “Complex personality?” or OEDIPUS. An Oedipus Complex is the TheClapperPlus childhood desire to “eliminate” one’s same sex parent and “possess” the other. (I always think of this as a young boy wanting to marry his mother (as in the Greek myth), but I suppose it can work the other way as well. Any Freudian psychologists out there?)
  • Harry HOUDINI also makes an appearance, as “Person often in handcuffs.” Hands up (or behind your back) if something kinky quickly passed through your mind, before you realized this wasn’t one of J!m Jenista’s Banned Crosswords.
  • A CALABASH is a “large gourd or a pipe made from it.” ‘Tis also a town in North Carolina, self-proclaimed as the “Seafood capital of the world.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
  • Couple of EV- prefixed words which are a bit unusual, EVOCATE (“Call forth”–I’m more familiar with the adjective EVOCATIVE) and EVINCE (“Show clearly”).
  • Ms. Lempel does let her hair down a bit with “Household gadget that’s a real turn-on?” or The CLAPPER. Would’ve prefered to see the “the” appear with the entry, but I enjoyed the reminder of the late-night commercials.
  • Two artists are also added to the palette–Henri MATISSE of the Fauvist movement, and the unfamiliar-to-me 1500s Italian painter Giorgio VASPARI. This puts American artist Alexander Calder‘s pioneering art form of STABILE, or “stationary mobile,” in good company.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Roman Holiday”

Region capture 27Merl’s theme this week is puns with a nod to ancient Rome:

  • 18a. [Promise from Rome to supply troops?] is PLEDGE OF LEGIONS (Pledge of Allegiance).
  • 22a. [“Julius says hello”?] is CAESAR’S GREETINGS (Season’s Greetings).
  • 27a. [Roman musical?] is KISS ME, CATO (Kiss Me, Kate).
  • 45a. [Roman thespian?] clues BRUTUS WILLIS (Bruce Willis).
  • 60a. [Program note about a Q&A session after the dance?] is FORUM FOLLOWS FUNCTION (form follows function). This one’s my favorite.
  • 67a. [Lacking some essential government workers?] clues HAVING YOUR CONSULS OUT (tonsils).
  • 87a. [Roman character that inspired Garry Shandling?] clues LARRY SANDALS (Larry Sanders). I don’t think sandal is really a Latin word, and swapping out Sanders for SANDALS is just weird. So the surface sense of this one is lacking.
  • 101a. [Roman haberdasher’s sign?] clues TOGAS CHEAP. I have no idea what the original phrase the pun is based on might be.
  • 114a. [Be a victorious emperor?] clues WIN BY A NERO MARGIN (narrow margin). Now, what would a “Nero margin” be?
  • 119a. [Roman show that inspired a sitcom?] clues OZZIE AND CHARIOT (Ozzie and Harriet).

Not much to remark on outside of the theme. Moving on!

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Stuffed”

Region capture 29Fresh but weird theme: The THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS answer describes five foodstuffs that can’t quite fit into a 21-squares-wide grid, or rather, the “leftover” letters that don’t fit. We’ve got the following:


These food choices seem a little too arbitrary to me. ROASTED TURKEY would fit into the grid just fine. Who singles out “turkey wings and drumsticks”? HOMEMADE is tacked onto the CRANBERRY SAUCE just to make it longer. What, aren’t the potatoes and yams homemade, too? And pumpkin pecan pie is hardly the Thanksgiving stalwart that pumpkin pie and pecan pie are.

Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 34”

Region capture 28I do always like a Karen Tracey themeless, and this one is no exception. Although RATEABLE is pretty ugly (47a. [Proportional]), there were plenty of cool entries and clues. The finest answers:

  • 17a. [Def] clues FO SHIZZLE. Is Snoop Doggified language still in use, or has it become extinct? The wordplay inherent in it is still fun. Plus: Scrabbly!
  • 43a. A FIRE LANE is a [No-parking zone].
  • 4d. MAHARAJAH is [Sanskrit for “great king”]. Etymology!
  • 6d. The Muppet Show‘s FOZZIE BEAR is your [“Wocka, wocka, wocka” speaker]. The double Z crosses FO SHIZZLE.
  • 33d. DIPPITY DO! I think my grandma used this [Classic styling gel].
  • 35d. [Private talk] is a TETE-A-TETE. Big stretch of boring letters, but still a good word.

And my favorite clues:

  • 5a. [Picked locks?] is a good, tricky clue for an AFRO.
  • 9a. The most famous Jaleel [White part] is TV’s URKEL.

The top seven Googleable clues:

  • 26a. [Wheel’s attachment on a horse-drawn cart] is an AXLE TREE.
  • 36a. ARIADNE is the [Bride of Dionysus].
  • 63a. [Outfielder Chavez who made a memorable over-the-fence catch for the Mets in Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series] is a ridiculously long clue for a weird name, ENDY. Editor Peter Gordon loves his baseball, but could do without ever seeing ENDY in a puzzle again.
  • 11d. [Dick who wrote the book that was the basis for the film “Babe”] clues KING-SMITH. Not such a famous writer, eh?
  • 29d. IVAR was a [Viking leader with the epithet “the Boneless”]. His brother Kylling was known as the Boneless and Skinless.
  • 40d. [“Wait Until Dark” director Young] is named TERENCE. Who?
  • 44d. [“White Collar” protagonist Caffrey] is NEAL. Book? Movie? TV show? No idea.
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17 Responses to Sunday, 11/28/10

  1. NYT: I hesitated a while on CONAN because of where the “ON” it was located…I didn’t pay enough attention to the outline of the tree. And if I saw a GECKO licking its eyes I’d be more inclined to buy auto insurance from one…naaah…

  2. Linda B. says:

    For whatever reason, the extra large size made it come up weird on my computer, and just as I was finishing, I realized my window had no “done” button. D’oh. I had a decent time, too.

  3. Matt says:

    I found this one significantly tougher than the average Sunday– slow work to get most of it done, then stalled at the end in that area just below the center from RIBCAGE down to the 1990 pop group. A nice result at the finish, though.

  4. Angela says:

    As a New Yorker I spent Saturday at Rockefeller Center with my grandchildren who ice-skated in the shadow of the giant Christmas tree. And when we got home the Sunday NYT magazine was waiting for me. So I immediately got most of the puzzle, but got hung up on “No plain Jane” and had “Moon” down for “source of some rings”. I also got stuck when I mistakenly inverted the letters and wrote “Maaco” instead of “Aamco”, and had to leave that lower corner blank until this morning. I did know the lighting of the tree happens the first Wednesday after thanksgiving because when I worked at NBC in Rockefeller center, I was involved in the television production of the tree lighting ceremony.

  5. barrywep says:

    Just to spite the NYT and Will Shortz, they are lighting the tree on Tuesday this yesr:

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Barry: Hah! That’s hilarious.

  7. pfeiring says:

    barrywep and amy – probably because Wednesday is the first night of Chanukah – go figure.

  8. Meem says:

    Loved this puzzle. Agree that it felt/looked as if Jeremy N. Was channeling Liz G. Caught the theme right away and the rebus at Avon/Her Honor. But took a long time to complete due to sheer size.

  9. pannonica says:

    “…probably because Wednesday is the first night of Chanukah—go figure.” [pfeiring]

    I guess would be really inconvenient to fetch seven more giant trees.

  10. joon says:

    evad: the OEDIPUS complex refers specifically to boys. the female version is called the electra complex. VASARI was much better known as a biographer than as an artist in his own right.

    amy, i think “TOGAS CHEAP” must be “talk is cheap,” but that was a head-scratcher for me, too.

  11. roger says:

    this year’s tree lighting will be on Tuesday, November 30th

  12. Neville says:

    White Collar = show on the USA network – better than Covert Affairs, not as good as Psych.

  13. paula says:

    I hope it’s not too late to add my comments. Got “on” to the rebus ok and the tree lighting ceremony, too. But a puzzle like this, and so big, too — is like getting too many desserts. You lose the charm of the delicious. Also, knowing the tree lighting is on Tues. was confusing and threw me off totally.

    If you’re gonna make it difficult, omit the rebus. If you’re gonna have a rebus, give us a better chance to get it. Let’s not forget the average puzzle do-er like me. I am not a compendium of trivia facts; am not fond of the rebus style b/c of the uncertainty. I yearn for the “good old days” when, with some effort and knowledge, I could finish the Sunday puzzle and feel intelligent. Now I feel like I do about heavy metal and rap music. Have been left out of a whole generation of stuff I used to know.

  14. John Haber says:

    I found it tough for a Sunday, too. (And no, New Yorkers don’t necessarily know the day of the lighting. Just one of those answers one has to work out the hard way.)

    I do realize that the ON cluing isn’t as consistent as it could be, but I forgave it given the intricacy and difficulty of the theme. Maybe most obscure for me: LONGI.

  15. Harry says:

    Togas cheap = “talk is cheap.”

  16. howard says:

    I’m not sure if anyone still cares, but I think “Major No-nos” = CARTS is a reference to the fact that golfers are not allowed to ride in golf carts during “majors” (or for that matter any professional golf tournament). (I don’t get around to doing the WaPo puzzles for a while, but this clue really bugged me, so I googled and got to this page.)

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