Sunday, 12/12/10

NYT 18:40 (Evad)
LAT 10:02 (Jeffrey)
BG – 17:11 (Sam)
Reagle – 11:13 (Sam)
WaPo untimed (Janie)
CS 12:57 (Evad)

Karen Young Bonin’s New York Times crossword, “The Wish” – Evad’s review


Evad here, for a holiday-encumbered Orange with Sunday’s NYT by Karen Young Bonin, who appears to have broken into the constructing biz with the premier offering of the week. The title, “The W-is-h” is taken literally–Ws in phrases are turned into Hs. Does the title refer to a birthday? Aladdin’s lamp? Sounds familiar from a literary perspective, but all I can come up with an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Here’s a quick rundown of the 9 theme entries:

  • Star Trek’s “warp speed” becomes HARP SPEED, or “Tempo for a stringed instrument?”
  • “Twin sisters” becomes “Nine muses after dieting?” or THIN SISTERS. Were all the muses twins? With nine of them, they were technically nonuplets, no? I should only take the altered phrase on its face value and call them sisters. This might be the only phrase in which the W-to-H action wasn’t the first letter of a word in the phrase.
  • “Alien attacker’s goal” is GLOBAL HARMING. Actually the base phrase “global warming” is bad enough–the aliens can just let us destroy ourselves some day and pick up the pieces. I just read H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and the alien invaders die by way of a virus harming them. Take that, Men From Mars!
  • “Waste management” (which I think is the name of a waste disposal firm…how’s that for some free advertising?) becomes “Rush hour control?” or HASTE MANAGEMENT.
  • The sculpture by Samothrace “Winged Victory” suffers yet another indignity and becomes game show fodder as “Choice of the right door on Let’s Make a Deal?” or HINGED VICTORY.
  • Next up is “Like tuned-in listeners?” or READY TO HEAR.
  • A “magic wand” becomes a MAGIC HAND. Are those like those “magic fingers” that are found in seedy hotel room beds?
  • “Clean sweep” becomes CLEAN SHEEP, or “Flock after a rainstorm?” Oops, here’s a second phrase where the W-to-H is not the first letter.
  • Finally, “silverware” becomes SILVER HARE, or “Tortoise’s opponent after finishing second?” I first read that as the tortoise finishing second, not the opponent. I’m getting some silver hair myself these days.

Nice that no other Ws are used in the theme phrases, in fact I don’t espy a W in the grid at all. Well done! Five other clues:

  • I really like the soul singer James INGRAM. Here’s a link to the song referenced in the clue “I Don’t Have the Heart.”
  • Funny that TORSI (“Trunks”) is plural, but COATI is not.
  • I knew that MICHELLE OBAMA had graduated from Harvard Law, but is she the first first lady to have done so?
  • The fictitious ELOISE who lives in New York’s Plaza Hotel refers to the children’s books by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight. Never having read these books as a child or an adult, why was she there and what was her final bill?

For those who are looking for the fifth clue, Michelle Obama was split between two entries, so that counts twice… ;)

Robert A. Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword “Familiar Endings” – Jeffrey’s review

LAT Dec 12

Theme:  The Circle of Life

Theme answers:

  • 22A. [Memorable 1994 film exhortation] – RUN FORREST RUN
  • 27A. [Ruthless] – DOG EAT DOG
  • 35A. [Skipping no pages] – COVER TO COVER
  • 53A. [In detail] – PLAY BY PLAY
  • 71A. [Defend one’s principles bravely] – FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. Bonus word!
  • 88A. [1969 Bob Dylan hit] – LAY LADY LAY
  • 107A. [Lehane crime novel about a missing girl] – GONE BABY GONE. Never heard of, never.
  • 115A. [Complete] – OUT AND OUT
  • 125A. [Continually] – YEAR AFTER YEAR
  • 133A. [Paul Anka love song with a Spanish title] – ESO BESO

One-line review for those in a hurry:  Half the solving effort required, twice the fun!

Yes, it is Jeffrey with a rare Sunday appearance, and with Sam scheduled to do two today and his annoying ability to be  funnier than me, I’m reduced to  sprinking versions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in random entries to drive Amy mad.

Other stuff:

  • 1A. [Bear mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics] – MISHA
  • 6A. [Like some dancing] – AEROBIC
  • 19A. [Horace’s “Ars __”] – POETICA/20A. [Roll player] – PIANOLA. You say POETIC, I say PIANOLA, can’t we work it out?
  • 43A. [Game show name] – ALEX. Who is Canadian Trebek?
  • 49A. [“If you prick us, do we not __?”: “The Merchant of Venice”] – BLEED
  • 59A. [Feature of many a bad review] – SARCASM. Oh, how “amusing”.
  • 70A. [Penn or Pitt] – ACTOR. Led me to universities.
  • 93A. [“Three Coins in the Fountain” fountain] – TREVI
  • 94A. [Baltimore daily] – SUN/95A. [Fa-la link] – SOL.  Clever disguise of these stars.
  • 104A. [Wilson’s predecessor] – TAFT. U.S. Presidents.
  • 112A. [“Twelfth Night” duke] – ORSINO.
  • 129A. [Goes after crustaceans] – SHRIMPS. Hey, look what became a verb!
  • 130A. [Access, in a way] – LOGON TO or is it LOG ONTO?
  • 5D. [10-time Gold Glove winner Roberto] – ALOMAR
  • 10D. [Galleys with two banks of oars] – BIREMES
  • 28D. [Adventurers/documentarians Martin and __ Johnson] – OSA. Any relation to 68A.{NASCAR racer Mark] – MARTIN? Oops.
  • 41D. [They may include ht., wt., skin color, etc.] – APBS. All Points Bulletins. One-Adam-12…
  • 50D. [Team with a mascot named Uga, familiarly] – DAWGS/72D. [Admired stars] – IDOLS.
  • 61D. [Crüe-ish?] – MOTLEY
  • 80D. [Best of the stage] – EDNA. Dame EDNA is the best!
  • 89D. [Parent/teen sticking point] – AUTONOMY. You never let me do anything!
  • 101D. [Rupert of “The Reivers”] – CROSSE. Who of what?
  • 102D. [__ Oldest Rivalry: Virginia/North Carolina annual college football game] – SOUTH’S. Yikes.

Now go read Sam’s funny reviews. Now! Go! Why are you still reading mine? Turn around, bright eyes!

Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Text Message” – Sam Donaldson’s review

BG 12122010It’s a quote puzzle.  No, it’s a trivia puzzle.  Hold on, it’s a tribute puzzle.  Wait, it’s all three!  This tribute to notable editors past and present is anchored in rows 3 and 19 with the rather hostile analogy from Richard Lederer, EDITORS ARE TO WRITERS AS / DOGS ARE TO FIRE HYDRANTS.  In between are sandwiched seven celebrity editors:

  • The [“Washington Post” bigwig] is BEN BRADLEE.  Now the Post’s “vice president at large,” Bradlee was the paper’s executive editor from 1968 to 1991.  In this post, he was pretty connected—he knew all the president’s men. (That’s my time.  You’ve been a great audience.)
  • The [“New York Tribune” VIP] is HORACE GREELEY.  This one I got with few crossings, as GREELEY was an entry in my first ever NYT crossword, with the clue [Horace who founded the New York Tribune].  It’s true what they say about crosswords you construct: you never forget your first.
  • [“The Daily Beast” founder] is “Downtown” TINA BROWN.  After the recent merger with “Newsweek,” the former editor of “The New Yorker” is now the editor-in-chief of two publications.
  • The [“Saturday Review” boss] is NORMAN COUSINS.  Cousins had the reputation of being a mother. Allegedly he would keep insisting on revisions until a writer cried “uncle.”  Cousins, mother, uncle.  Too subtle?
  • The [“New York Times” puzzle pro] is WILL SHORTZ.  Who?
  • The [“Vogue” chief] is ANNA WINTOUR.  Also the subject of the documentary feature, “The September Issue,” Wintour has held the post since 1988.
  • The [Dictionary compiler] is NOAH WEBSTER.  Noah’s dictionary was notable for its two-by-two collection of words and for the veritable flood of etymological information supplied to every entry.

Lederer’s conveniently symmetrical analogy may be amusing, but, I don’t know, on the whole this felt a little flat.  I do like that we have a mix of men and women, magazines and newspapers, and people past and present here.  And there was some enjoyable fill, with SHEBANG (in honor of Jeffrey), TOO HOT, and RED RUM adding welcome spice.  My favorite clue was [Down-to-earth type?] for CHUTIST.  Good chutin’, Tex.

FamilyGuy_PartialTerms_ocardTime now for Puzzle Chat, a new segment in which we (well, okay, I) discuss some aspect of crossword design based on this week’s puzzle.  Today I stand RESOLVED: that all partials are not created equal.  I have previously outed myself as someone who not only tolerates but actually likes partials as a solver; heck, most of the time they give me a helpful start into the grid.  Most crossword editors, however, prefer to keep them to a minimum, and some even have strict rules limiting the maximum number that can appear in any grid of a given size. (And good luck publishing a puzzle with a partial that’s more than six letters long.) Hey, they’re the editors and it’s their call—and I’m willing to admit I’m in the minority here.  But even I, as a lover of partials, believe that some are better than others.

The partial triggering this debate is IN NEW, clued as [“Autumn ___ York”].  Seeing “in new” by itself just looks awkward.  On the other hand, I have no issue with the very next partial in the grid, “MEN IN,” clued as [“___ Black”].  Why does “men in” seem less awkward than “in new?”  I think it’s because “men in” is the start of the title, not two connecting words from the middle of the title.  So partials that start and end phrases are preferable to those plucked from the middles of phrases.

Consider another example from the grid: IS IT, clued as [“___ just me, or…”].  That’s fine, and I think even JUST ME could work as a partial, but I would try my best not to use IT JUST because of its more awkward feel.  Those of you who disfavor partials, whether as solvers or constructors: do you agree that some partials are uglier than others, or are they all blemishes on otherwise smooth grids?

Merl Reagle’s Syndicated Crossword, “Position Wanted” – Sam Donaldson’s review

reagle 12122010

I’m a sucker for these “literal representation” themes, where words are stacked atop each other to create visual interpretations of common phrases containing prepositions.  Getting the theme answers is relatively easy once you suss out what’s going on, as any crossing word gives you not one but two letters to a theme answer.  Though this theme has been done several times before, it does not feel like an over-used gimmick, so I always enjoy it.  What’s distinctive about Merl’s offering this week is that it contains a whopping 11 theme entries:

  • 16A. and 22A. [What the Viking probes probed] is LIFE ON MARS, but 16A is just LIFE and 22A is just MARS. What gives? Well, in this grid, you have LIFE on MARS.
  • 18A. and 23A. [Exceeded one’s authority] clues STEPPED OVER THE LINE, with STEPPED right over THE LINE.
  • 20A. and 24A. It’s PRESSURE directly on top of CONTENTS, or, from another angle, the [Warning on a spray can], CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE.
  • 38A. and 49A. [Covers up, in a way] clues SWEEPS UNDER THE RUG, and sure enough THE RUG sits directly over SWEEPS.
  • 45A. and 53A. [Maneuvers well, as a car] means it TURNS ON A DIME, and here TURNS is on A DIME.
  • 68A. and 73A. [A popular wish] occupies the grid’s center: it’s PEACE ON EARTH. “Earth under peace” is an acceptable substitute, I suppose.
  • 91A. and 97A. [Hides, in a way] clues KEEPS UNDER WRAPS, and sure enough KEEPS appears directly beneath WRAPS.
  • My favorite, for reasons I really cannot explain (I just like it): 95A. and 100A. [Kept current] clues STAYED ON TOP OF THINGS, with STAYED right on top of THINGS.
  • 119A. and 126A. To [Be preoccupied] is to HAVE A LOT ON ONE’S MIND, and in this grid HAVE A LOT sits right on ONE’S MIND.
  • 122A. and 127A. [Suffers a direct hit] clues TAKES IT ON THE CHIN, stacking the partials TAKES IT and THE CHIN.
  • long underwearFinally, there’s 125A. and 128A. The [Winter warmer] is LONG UNDERWEAR, with WEAR sitting on top of LONG. Some might dock a few points for lack of tightness here, as this phrase is unlike the others in that it lacks a preposition (the “under” in underwear is neither a preposition nor a separate word). But I like it as a clever “punch-line” finale.  As a public service for those who have never seen long underwear, I took the self-portrait that appears to the right.

Those theme entries take up 130 of the 441 squares in a 21×21 grid—that’s nearly 30% of all of the squares, without regard to the black squares required to plant these entries into the grid symmetrically.  Even pupae constructors like me know that’s an awful lot of theme density.  To make the fill work smoothly, Merl has to employ a lot of black squares, including 16 “cheaters” (black squares that do not affect the total word count in the grid).  But I thought the results were worth it.  The surrounding fill may not have much pizzazz (no non-theme entry has more than eight letters, and there’s only three of those), but it’s devoid of anything jarring.  (Keep in mind that partials are my crack, so others may feel differently.  But partial haters probably don’t solve Merl’s puzzles anyway.)  The only really foreign entry to me was the [“Noises Off” playwright Michael] FRAYN.

Parting note: It may have been unintentional, but I like that the clue for NOSE, [It smells], comes directly after the clue for EDAM, [Imported cheese]. Maybe I’m easily amused.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 36″—Janie’s review

Gosh, I love the WaPo Sunday themeless puzzles. A great team of constructors all under Peter Gordon’s skilled, edgy and exacting editorial eye. Invariably, though, Frank is the constructor I find the thorniest, and today’s grid was no exception. It’s a 66-worder filled with lotso long entries in dense columns and stacks that anchor the four corners. And since there’s [Much] A WEALTH OF that long fill to discuss, let me get right to it. Working around the grid, we get:

AVE MARIAS, DIVED INTO, DRONING ON and TAKING A NAP in the NW. I was so glad that dived into turned out to be dived into and not WADED INTO since I always cringe a bit (even though the dictionary more than supports the usage) when “waded” is clued in connection with anything decisive. Also smiled at the thought that taking a nap is something a student might do while a less than scintillating professor is droning on.

MATZO BALL, AGUADILLA and NAGGING AT in the NE. Loved seeing [Knaidel] as the clue for matzo ball. For the untutored, that’s a 3-syllable word: kuh-nay-dl. As Leo Rosten reminds us, it rhymes with “ladle.” Further, this word meaning “dumpling” “…is used affectionately for a child, as we say ‘my little dumpling,’ or to describe a round, fat, chubby woman.” (Again—with affection.) Had to guess at the “D” in Aguadilla

APPEAR TO BE, ANGLE IRON, SEALING IN, STRANGELY in the SE. Solved this puzzle NE → NW → SW → SE, so yes, this was the corner that me stymied most. And that was due, in part, to the many missteps I made with the crossing fill. For too long had MALAISE for VINEGAR—and the contrived MERE FEW (not the natural VERY FEW) working off the former’s initial letter, which gave me GELATINY for GYRATING. Seemed “right at the time.” Don’t ask…

The aforementioned a wealth of, plus BIG PARADE and SQUARE JAW in the SW. And how did I go wrong here? Well, AMAHS for ARABS for starters, which temporarily convinced me that King Vidor’s war movie was The HIT PARADE… Can you say “absence of gravitas” or “anachronistic…”? (Anyone else notice that Mr. ROARKE emerged in second puzzle this week? Other occasion was Peter’s own ultimate 2010 Fireball themeless this past Thursday.) Also fumbled on TAEGU and KLAR… Ah, well.

While the puzzle may not have blocks of fill that SURPASS these for overall consistent “oomph,” there are other pockets of pleasure I should mention. Like the tennis court tie-in of AGASSI and AD IN. Re the latter: notice the nice misdirect in what sounds like a card-playing clue [Result of an ace on a deuce]. Then we get  ALI BABA, whose famous opening words were “Open SESAME.” Yes, sesame is clued as an [Oil source], but it’s still hard to overlook its connection to Mr. Baba.

Will leave you with—and hope you enjoy— Glen Miller and big-band performing [“A,B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I] GOT A[“…] (gal in Kalamazoo; see also 95A of today’s NYT). Vocals begin at about 1:10.

Updated Sunday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review

Hmmm…either I’m getting smarter or constructor Bob Klahn is lightening up on us for the holidays. I found this to be the easiest “Sunday Challenge” yet from the master of devious clues and devilish entries. My only two mistakes (which were quickly corrected with the crossing entries and can be seen on my grid to the right) were I’M HERE for IN HERE (“Answer from a different room”) and misspelling SHELTY with an E instead of a Y at the end. (Actually, I think I was looking for SHELTIE and split the difference.)

Let’s see what else Bob threw into the pre-holiday mix:

  • When I think of a WHIIPPERSNAPPER, I think of something a grandparent might say to a child, soon after exclaiming she was “too big for her britches.” Here it’s clued very oddly to me as “Lash LaRue, to some?” Is Lash a person, fictional or real? Let’s take a ride down the Information Highway…I see here that he was a star of westerns made in the 40’s and 50’s. Not sure why Bob chose to clue this one so literally.
  • That’s paired with the other long entry, “Focus when you hit bottom” or SEAT OF ONE’S PANTS. Seems like a partial to me; looking for a BY THE in front of it.
  • Speaking of partials, what do you think of ONE HAND, here clued as “Reciprocating washer.” Is this an oblique reference to The Karate Kid?
  • I liked the animals spread across the grid from the lowly SEWER RAT and SNAKE OIL to the “Awww-inspiring” (CUTE) CIVET (“Musk maker”). I remember some story that they thought eating civets might have led to the SARS epidemic in China, I wonder if it tastes like chicken?
  • Interesting to have both CORRAL (“Circle of covered wagons”) and CHORALE (“___ prelude”). I think more of a place where horses are kept (or the verb to pen them in) for the former entry. What would Lash say?
  • Learned something about the instrument called an OCARINA. The name comes from the Italian dimunitive for goose, or oca, as I guess you could say some are somewhat reminiscent of a goose’s head.

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13 Responses to Sunday, 12/12/10

  1. Martin says:


    Michelle Obama is not the first lady to graduate from Harvard Law. She is a first lady.

    I think you’re saying this is Karen Young Bonin’s premiere. It’s not. She had one in the Times a decade ago and apparently at least one in the Maleska era as well.

  2. Bruce S. says:

    @ Martin

    I think Evad was wondering if she was the first “first lady” to have done so.

  3. john farmer says:

    My thoughts about partials: (a) partials are better avoided or kept to a minimum, though if it’s an ambitious theme or 21x grid, you can expect a few; (b) better if they’re short (3 letters) than long (5); (c) ones with A+word bother me less than ones with two words like OFTHE, which don’t stand alone very well; (d) they offer limited cluing opportunties and often make for gimmes; (e) partials from titles bother me less than other examples; (f) my least-favorite partials are the ones that have taken on a life of their own and are clued as if they’re some in-the-language phrase instead of the partial that they truly are (e.g., “Visiting Hollywood, e.g.” for INLA); (g) lastly, better to use a partial than something too obscure or strained.

  4. Evad says:

    Yes Bruce, that was my query…

    And apologies to the constructor for missing her earlier offerings!

  5. Rex says:

    Only Merl could give me AMIIN and make me like it. That puzzle was both easy and epic.

  6. ethan says:

    Amy, Eloise actually lived in the Plaza. And trashed the place. I suspect her hotel bill was easily into six figures. :)

  7. Martin says:

    Evad, Bruce,

    The first lady clue was meant to trick. Subsitituing “that” for “who” signals that a thing (“first lady”), not a person (“lady”), is referred to. My initial response may have been a bit subtle.

  8. Meem says:

    Caught the W is H shift early so had a fast solve. But as Jeffrey noted earlier in the week, I was a bit off put by the pronunciation shifts, e.g., hinged victory/winged victory. Did better than usual with a Bob Klahn puzzle and loved the Merle Reagle. Was amazed that the only editor I needed crosses to get going on was Anna Wintour. Still hope to get to the Post Puzzler today.

  9. Martin says:

    Jim Horne updated the XWord Info database to show the 8 additional puzzles that Karen Young Bonin had published as “K. Hodge.” There was no way to know it was the same constructor.

    Barry Haldiman’s database shows two puzzles by “Hodge,” in 1982 and 1983.

  10. Howard B says:

    Actually was thrown a bit in the Klahn CS, where molé was in the HOT SAUCE clue. I can’t nitpick here, since there’s a million recipes for the stuff, and it can definitely be made hot. So nothing wrong there. I just never tried one that fit in my mental “hot sauce” bin before, so that was a curveball that took me a little while to find.

    Then again, I have a reasonably high hot sauce tolerance, so that might have contributed. Anyway, really liked his contribution this week. Haven’t had the chance to solve these in a while, so glad I tried this one out.

  11. Zulema says:

    Kay Thompson wrote the Eloise books basing them very loosely on children who did live there with their parents, but Eloise is a fictitious character. She didn’t really live anywhere except in the books, and in a portrait hanging at the Plaza, and later in one or more films.

    I am not sure I cared for this puzzle. I did like GLOBAL HARMING.

  12. E says:

    In the Klahn puzzle . . . why is “a bit of what you don’t know?” a clue for BEAN? Am I stupid or just missing something, or both?

  13. Evad says:

    Hi E! (any relation to the Entertainment Network?), I think the idea is if you know nothing about a subject you are said not to know “beans” about it. A bit of that would just be one bean.

Comments are closed.