Sunday, 12/19/10

NYT 13:30
Reagle 7:45
BG 14:04 (Sam)
LAT 8:45
WaPo 4:03
CS 8:42 (Evad)

Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword, “Hope for Clear Skies”

12/19/10 NY Times crossword answers

12/19/10 NY Times crossword answers

Whoa! What an elegant and intricately wrought tour de force. Kevin takes the TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE that will occur on December 21 and maps it all out for us. The EARTH (in the center of the grid) will be in the center, from our perspective, between the MOON (square 27) and the SUN (square 143). At the eclipse’s climax, the moon will 35a: TURN RED. Shortly before and after the climax, the moon will be DARK (squares 30 and 32). A little further out, timewise, the moon will be DIM (squares 41 and 48). And even longer before and after the eclipse, the moon will be BRIGHT (squares 63 and 71), illuminated by the sun. The reason for the dimness, darkness, and TURN REDness is tht the earth will be  137a/146a: CASTING / A SHADOW.

Whew! That’s a lot of explication.

While the puzzle does include the occasional ADIT or AGAS, overall the fill is remarkably smooth. That’s quite an accomplishment given the largely fixed locations for the CELESTIAL BODIES‘ rebus squares and other eclipse-related rebus squares. AMATEUR ASTRONOMER, CASTING / A SHADOW, and TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE had a little more flexibility for placement, but think how much easier it would have been for Kevin to drop AMATEUR ASTRONOMER from the theme. But it’s in there! Color me impressed. Sure, a Roman numeral is required to facilitate the X-RAY SPEX at 124a, but hey, you get X-RAY SPEX in return. I think it’s a fair deal. Other cool fill: TURF WAR, WAIKIKI, the KENNEDY/ONASSIS two-fer, “I OWE YOU,” PEABRAINS, COWPOKE, NEWSDAY, IN UTERO, and LITERATI. The tradeoffs include tough crossings (SCENA/CEY), the awkward C{D IM}AGE, partials (A MERE, AS I), and TEEMER.

I was really uncertain about 21a: [“Ball Four” author]. Who the heck is BOUTON? The clues for his crossings were not all that easy, so this corner felt tentative. Then there were the rebus squares with BRI, BRIG, and EART in them—I wasn’t sure the applet would accept those but it did.

I also made a wrong move at 101d: [Jordan’s Queen ___ International Airport], trying NOOR first. Turns out to be ALIA, who was married to King Hussein before Queen Noor was. My go-to ALIA is Alia Shawkat, who played Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development.

Lengthy solving times are explained by the unusual grab bag of rebuses, the inclusion of plenty of tough clues, and the bigger-than-standard grid (it’s 23×23, not 21×21).

In sum: Wow!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Shuffling the Cards” – Sam Donaldson’s review

BG 12192010This puzzle features 11 comedians with names that handily anagram to nonsense phrases.  We are given the anagrams and it’s up to us to “shuffle” the letters so as to find the “cards.”  Although no doubt chosen solely because of their handy names, we have a nice assortment of male and female comics past and present:

  • The [GOAT CHARMER, when shuffled] is MARGARET CHO.  She’s the controversial stand-up who said in her 2002 movie, “Notorious C.H.O.,” “It’s time that African-Americans and Korean Americans put aside their difference and focus on what’s really important: hating white people!”  I wonder why this joke wasn’t added to the clue?
  • The [RBI MENACE, out of order] is the late BERNIE MAC. Posing as a blackjack dealer busted for corruption, he had one of the funniest lines in Ocean’s Eleven: “A black man can’t earn a decent wage in this state. … You tryin’ to throw me out on the street?  What do you want me to do?  Want me to get on the table and dance?  Want me to shine your shoes?  Want me to smile at you?  ‘Cause you definitely don’t want me to deal the cards. Might as well call it whitejack.”
  • [Scattered, SLICK DRONE] is DON RICKLES.  There are too many good jokes from the King of Mean, but my all-time favorite might be,“Oh my God, look at you. Anyone else hurt in the accident?”
  • [A LEWD LOONY, all mixed up] is WOODY ALLEN.  Some would make the case that this is an apt anagram.  Allen is one of those comedians I think I’m supposed to like more than I do.  I feel a little uncultured confessing that most of his stuff leaves me unamused.  And yet I feel that it’s my fault and not his.
  • [Rearranged JAWS TO RENT] is JON STEWART. Stewart and Stephen Colbert had the funniest moment ever from the Emmy Awards telecast in 2006.
  • [FRIENDLY JEERS, in comic form] is JERRY SEINFELD.  Here too there’s an argument that the anagram is fitting, as one could imagine Seinfeld enduring friendly jeers from a heckler while performing a set.
  • [SWANKY SADE, after changing] is WANDA SYKES.  I love Wanda Sykes, to the point that I have watched most episodes of “The Wanda Sykes Show,” a late-night program that occasionally airs Saturday nights on Fox. It just so happens that Wanda is a major fan of Sade, so I’m sure it brings her some delight to know that her name can anagram to “Swanky Sade.”
  • [SIR STANLEY, transformed] is the under-appreciated RYAN STILES.  I first noticed him on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but these last few years I have really enjoyed his performance as Herb, Judith’s second husband on Two and a Half Men.
  • Gene Wilder[WIG-NEEDLER, in a funny way] is GENE WILDER, who I will always know as Willy Wonka.
  • The [Shaken up HORSE GENT] is SETH ROGEN.  I never caught Freaks and Geeks on TV, so I missed his initial launch to stardom.  But The 40 Year-Old Virgin may be the funniest comedy of the past decade, in no small part because of Rogen.
  • Finally, how lovely that Gene Wilder’s [DEAR DARLING, scrambled], GILDA RADNER, completes the set.

Even REDD Foxx managed to find his way into the grid.  The long downs, ACERBIC WIT and BAD-MOUTHED, add to the theme, the latter insofar as comics frequently bad-mouth political figures and other celebs for laughs.  The theme density here likely precludes the introduction of additional sparkling fill, but what the grid lacks in pizzazz it more than makes up for in smoothness. What’s the worst entry here—EUR? SORER? Hardly offensive stuff.

I’m not the speediest when it comes to anagrams, as I tend to double-check every letter rather than trusting my initial read of the letters. Still, this was a fairly fast solve by my B-minus standards. The clues were very straightforward. I liked how a potential downer like HEARSE got a shot of liveliness with [Halloween parade wheels]. And [Orthography meet] was fun as a rather technical clue for BEE.  I don’t understand BOWER as an answer to [Shelter in the shade], however—on a hot day am I supposed to stand in the shadow of a tall person acknowledging applause?

Okay, time to run out and do some last-minute Festivus shopping. I’m hoping to score a good deal on an aluminum pole. May all your Festivus miracles bring you much happiness and prosperity!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Crunch Time”

Merl Reagle's 12/19/10 "Crunch Time" crossword answers

Merl Reagle's 12/19/10 "Crunch Time" crossword answers

You know what? I’m not a big fan of Oreos. Hard, over-dark, under-chocolatey cookies with a space-age polymer “creme” filling. If you have to go with a fake spelling, is this really something you should be eating? Putting aside personal cookie preferences, let us examine Merl’s puzzle. The accompanying note reads “December 21 is the crossword puzzle’s 97th birthday, so in keeping with my perennial idea that a certain item should be the Official Snack of Crosswords (because of its black-and-white look, its frequent appearance in crosswords, and its popularity as a bribe – I mean, as a treat – for a certain overnight visitor), here’s a puzzle devoted exclusively to it (sort of). There are 11 in all (but eat just one).” The letters that spell out OREO appear within 11 theme entries of varying quality (see below). Those cookies are supplemented by 132a: [Apt query for the end of this puzzle], “GOT MILK?” and by 72a: [Part of NaOH (just to give The Snack’s old rival a smidgen of equal time)], HYDROXIDE—which hides the erstwhile Hydrox cookie, an Oreo look-alike. (NaOH is sodium hydroxide.) The 11 Oreo holders are as follows:

  • 17a. [Since time immemorial] clues FOR EONS. This one feels iffy.
  • 23a. [Subject for Louis L’Amour] is THE LORE OF THE WEST. Uh, that’s not really a discrete thing, this “lore of the West.”
  • 28a. [A militia might do it] clues RESTORE ORDER. Good answer.
  • 37a. [Sported certain shoes] clues WORE OXFORDS, another arbitrary manufactured phrase.
  • 54a. [Kin of “ditto”] is MORE OF THE SAME. Solid.
  • 57a. To PORE OVER is to [Study closely].
  • 85a. [Attacked, as an envelope] clues TORE OPEN.
  • 88a. [Gene Kelly was one] is a CHOREOGRAPHER. The first Oreo hider in which OREO isn’t split between words.
  • 105a. [Focus of “drill, baby, drill”] is OFFSHORE OIL.
  • 114a. FOREORDAINED means [Predestined]. A second theme entry in which the OREO is unbroken.
  • 124a. [What endless hours of data entry may do] clues BORE ONE SENSELESS. That one’s awkward.

How about a baker’s dozen of clues from the fill?

  • 1a. John ADAMS is the David [McCullough bio subject].
  • 21a. Crosswordese! A [Looped handle] is an ANSA.
  • 52a. [Buzz’s moonmate] is NEIL Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin, not Buzz Lightyear.
  • 83a. [Lynch associate] is MERRILL, as in Merrill Lynch.
  • 95a. [Savage et al.] clues DOCS. Aww, I got all happy when the D showed up and filled in DANS.
  • 1d. [Destroyer direction] is AFT. Substitute any other kind of ship for “destroyer” if the clue doesn’t make sense to you.
  • 3d. My, my. [“Inchworm” lyrics verb] is a weird clue for ARE. Never heard of this song.
  • 14d. A CREDENZA can be a [Piece of office furniture]. I love mine.
  • 38d. [Of a volcano] clues ETNEAN, apparently the adjective form for Mt. Etna. Now there’s a useful word for you.
  • 40d. I tried to get OBAMA to fit for [44], but the answer’s a Roman numeral, XLIV.
  • 69d. [“The Tuxedo” star] is CHAN, Jackie Chan. My hunch is that if you asked Chan which of his 100-plus movies he would least like to be remembered by, this could be in the top 5. Rush Hour, Drunken Master, and Armour of God would all be much better choices for a crossword clue.
  • 106d. [Old name for China’s Yellow River, ___ Ho] clues HWANG.
  • 121d. Anatomical crosswordese! A RETE is a [Nerve network].

Updated Sunday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review


12/19/10 CrosSynergy crossword answers

Neatniks are in luck–I wasn’t able to get a scan of my completed grid for today’s CS “Sunday Challenge.” It’s probably just as well, as I had quite a few false starts, particularly in the NW.

Let’s start with the long entries:

  • Smack in the middle we find the “17-year Ford slogan,” QUALITY IS JOB ONE. One might argue that that’s always been Ford’s aspiration; but the slogan itself was coined in the early 80s. As I recall, the slogan was written with the numeral 1 instead of written out. I see here it was replaced in 1998 with the slogan “Better ideas. Driven by you.” Can’t say that I’ve heard that one. I’d suggest “Taxpayer bailout? That’s for the other guys.”
  • The Chicago skyline gets a shout out with the SEARS TOWER, now named the Burj Khalifa…no, that’s not it, job1 it’s the Willis Tower, named after a British insurance broker. It’s still the tallest building in the USofA.
  • NO NONSENSE is not clued as a brand of lady’s hosiery, but instead “Deadly serious.” Can you still buy stockings from them or am I showing how out of touch I am in this brave new Victoria Secret world?
  • COKE ZERO is a great entry–I can hear “dum, dum, dah, dum, dah” in my head from their innovative commercials.
  • PULING (“Whining”) is a word you don’t see every day. I’m gonna say “Stop your puling” from now on when I hear someone kvetching.

My problems started in square 1 (I guess quality wasn’t my job 1 at that time!) with LEERER for STARER, and a misspelling of actress Charlotte RAE as REA. (Big blind spot for me is confusing Stephen with Charlotte. Also OLEO for OLIO…can someone help me with a mnemonic to set my mind AT EASE?) I also thought “Some Parliament members” were ETONS not EARLS (and certainly not funk musicans!) And does ÊTRE really mean “Existence” in French? I just know it as the infinitive of the verb “to be.” Finally, did anyone else fall for SPARE over SPORT for “SUV part?” No, of course you didn’t!

The right hand side of my grid was relatively clean–just SUCKERS before SUCKS UP (“Vacuums”…are they considered ENGORGED when full?) And NAM before WAR for “Saving Private Ryan backdrop.” (Yeah, I know Normandy’s a long way from Saigon!) Finally, were all of the seven dwarfs MINERS? Here, Sleepy and Sneezy were clued as such, but I doubt Doc made his way down to the mines. Is this when they sing “Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s off to work we go…?” And I thought Richard III said A HORSE at the end of his plea from Shakespeare, but I see here, it was before and after, so we’re both right!

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. GO PATS! (Sorry cheeseheads!)

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 37”

Region capture 20Aww, not challenging enough! I like a themeless puzzle that really puts up a vigorous fight.


  • 15a. AKRON, OHIO, is the [National Hamburger Festival setting]. That makes sense. Why wouldn’t the Rubber Capital of the World have a burger festival?
  • 31a. STARGAZERS is a pretty word. [They’re often looking up].
  • 48a. [Eyjafjallajökull’s location] is ICELAND. It would be cool to see EYJAFJALLAJOKULL in the grid, but it’s too long to fit in a 15×15 puzzle.
  • 10d. [Fire-breathing females] are CHIMERAS. We could use a few more of those around here.
  • 34d. Geo trivia! LOS GATOS is the [California town that was named for its indigenous cougars]. Did you know that? I didn’t.

Miscellaneous clues from the tougher end of the spectrum:

  • 10a. [Bow in front of an audience] is old-time actress CLARA Bow, known as “the It Girl” in her day.
  • 19a. [Three out of nineteen?] clues ENS because there are three N’s in the word nineteen.
  • 23a. [Golden Horde members] are TATARS.
  • 25a. [Where Balto’s famous run ended] is NOME, Alaska. The animated film told the story of a real-life sled dog, who helped transport diphtheria antitoxin in 1920s Alaska.
  • 27a. [Missive that’s not massive] clues a TWEET on Twitter. I dunno. I don’t liken tweets to letters, and that’s what missives are.
  • 33a. [Like a fish out of water], idiomatically, means ILL AT EASE.
  • 46a. [Nectar drinkers] clues GODS, not BEES.
  • 57a. [It goes to Khartoum] refers to the WHITE NILE.
  • 1d. [Onetime Carson rival] is Dick CAVETT.
  • 2d. [Largest of the Ryukyu Islands] is OKINAWA.
  • 8d. [A, to the three B’s] is EIN, which is a German indefinite article. The three B’s are Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
  • 12d. ALL OF ME is a [Jazz standard from 1931].

Don Gagliardo’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Product Placement”

12/19/10 LA Times crossword answers: "Product Placement"

12/19/10 LA Times crossword answers: "Product Placement"

The theme isn’t a stale one—I don’t recall seeing one like this. It’s sort of a pun theme, with homophone trade names swapped in where regular words belong. Like so:

  • 22a. [Fruity beer?] could be MULBERRY BUSCH. I had the BUSCH part but was blanking on the berry with an 8-letter name (rasp-, blue-, black-, cran- all too long). Busch’s partner ANHEUSER shows up at 11d.
  • 34a. [Aftershave impact?] is BRUT FORCE. I’ll bet the Brut people are kicking themselves that they didn’t come up with a catchy ad approach like the Old Spice Guy.
  • 37a. [Ponderings from behind a plow?] could be a DEERE DIARY.
  • 52a. [Half a cereal swap?] clues TRIX OF THE TRADE. One of two cereal brands in the puzzle.
  • 79a. Montana is Big Sky Country, while a [Popular vodka-drinking locale?] might be BIG SKYY COUNTRY.
  • 98a. [Camera in need of screw-tightening?] clues LOOSE CANON.
  • 101a. [Habitual depilatory cream user?] is a NEET FREAK. Minus 10 points: While Nair remains widely available in the U.S., Neet has been replaced by the Veet brand. Unless you’re loading the theme with Ipana and Burma-Shave and Esso, brand names of yore, NEET doesn’t fit the mold.
  • 113a. [Breakfast for the road?] is TRAVELER’S CHEX.

Eleven more clues:

  • 1a. [Muscle memory?] clues ACHE. I couldn’t figure this clue out! Which is weird because my abs still ache from Thursday’s workout.
  • 18a. [Campus quarters] unfairly misleads the solver into entering DORMS when the answer is ROOMS. With three letters in common, that misstep mucked up my NW corner.
  • 26a. [Extinct “great” bird] is the great AUK. Other auks remain.
  • 56a. [One facing Venus?] is SERENA Williams at many a tennis tournament.
  • 110a. MILLAGE is the answer to [Property tax rate]. Now, I pay property taxes but have never seen that word. Wikipedia explains, “The property tax rate is often given as a percentage. It may also be expressed as a permille (amount of tax per thousand currency units of property value), which is also known as a millage rate or mill levy. (A mill is also one-thousandth of a currency unit.) To calculate the property tax, the authority will multiply the assessed value of the property by the mill rate and then divide by 1,000. For example, a property with an assessed value of US $50,000 located in a municipality with a mill rate of 20 mills would have a property tax bill of US $1,000 per year.”
  • 1d. [Pitcher Galarraga who lost a perfect game on an umpire’s bad call] is named ARMANDO. Why did I want ANDRES?
  • 3d. [Flock leaders] are HOLY MEN—in a patriarchy, anyway. With the R in DORMS, I had PRIESTS first.
  • 9d. [Either of two bks. of the Apocrypha] is MACC., short for Maccabees.
  • 20d. [One was lost in a film about Indiana] Jones refers to an ARK.
  • 51d. A whole GALAXY is a [Component of the Perseus cluster].
  • 55d. [It may be in sight] clues the END. And so we end this blog post.
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15 Responses to Sunday, 12/19/10

  1. Jim BOUTON and/or “Ball Four” are fairly common crossword entries from my experience, although my love of sports trivia admittedly makes this one a gimme, unlike SOILURE yesterday. (“Ball Four” is a baseball insider’s tell-all book from about 40 years ago.)

  2. paula says:

    Rebuses with so many letters are somewhat difficult. This is an elegant puzzle for those who go to puzzlers’ contests. I got some of them but could not believe the word “bright,” for instance is supposed to fit into a little square. For us oldsters who are used to fairly straight and fairer puzzles ala the days of Malewska (sp?) these kinds of puzzles are not the Sunday joys they used to be. At least make the clues a bit easier. Since I get some of the harder stuff (like Bouton), it speaks to my experience. But, honestly, when all my puzzler friends (who were once whizzes at solving) and I give up before finishing, I think the level has been set too high for people like us.

  3. jim hale says:

    I agree. Tough puzzle but cool theme.

  4. Howard B says:

    Tough, tough NY Times – but an amazing theme. This one’s a favorite for me, even with some really thorny fill. I was also hung up briefly by the odd pattern in C(DIM)AGE, but I’ve heard the phrase “CD image” enough times to call it reasonably fair game, and a pretty clever one at that.

    Had more trouble with a few of the other names throughout (SWANNS, ALIA). Didn’t even realize it was 23×23 during the epic struggle :).

  5. Anne E says:

    Brilliant! I normally dislike 23x23s (and was happy to hear Will no longer planned to accept them), but I loved this one. Great work.

    Good thing 29A was easy, or I’d never have gotten DARKMAN!

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    My comment duplicates Amy’s, Anne’s and others, but I was awestruck by this puzzle, and wanted to publicaly commend and thank Kevin. I didn’t mind the heavenly length once it penetrated my mind how much was going on. I first saw the variation among the rebus squares, and thought that was pretty neat. Then I saw that the heavenly bodies were in the proper orentation to each other. And then, belatedly, I saw the moon in the form of an arc getting darker towards the middle. Amazing. Pretty tough puzzle. I was stuck on Queen Noor and refused to remove it for way too long. I loved Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, and will report, without any great pride, that it permanently added a word to my vocabulary, which I will represent here as s***f***, (one word) and see if it gets past Robocensor. (I wonder if the word “Robocensor” alone raises a red flag.)


  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    or however you spell some that’s public. Not that way for sure.

  8. D_Blackwell says:

    Fantastic crossword. Bravo. I’m disappointed by how many Bloggos get cranky about ‘consistency’ with word breaks in long entries. More often than not, it seems silly.

    I’m amazed at how many of The Smart People missed TI AMO. I did also (but then I’m not, so is understandable). ‘Italian’ was a giveaway and the I in AMION should be a gimme. If I had just put that down many minutes before, while thinking it had to be right. Grrr. When I saw TE AMO, I threw it down without stopping to think.

    My other error was WAIKIKI – which I did put down. And then changed because SCENA just didn’t look right. The worst part of this one is that I allowed doubt to take me away from the obviously correct answer. I lived in Honolulu for three years. (hang head, grimace, whimper a little)

    A rebus that really is. How about that. I suppose that the BRIGHT – DIM – DARK could be taken as merely descriptive words, but I prefer to look at it as a time lapse sequence of the event. (They are really cool, by the way.)

    I was all the way down to about 50 squares remaining, grinding away, when I cracked the MOON – EARTH – SUN part of the theme. And after a bit longer, finally, I saw the other piece and ground to down to just a few darts needing to be thrown.

    My biggest AHA moment was checking the solution and seeing that A.L. BRIGHT was not ugly fill after all. OMG!

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Yay! An excuse to link another version of Total Eclipse of the Heart!

  10. joon says:

    amy, you probably wanted ANDRES galarraga because he was a much better and more famous player than our pal ARMANDO, who’s something of a one-hit wonder (*rimshot*) in the annals of baseball. he was known as “the big cat,” although i don’t think any bay area cities are named after him.

  11. Meem says:

    NYT was outstanding. Kudos to Kevin Der. Both a tightly constructed grid and a fascinating solve. In addition to the astronomy lesson, we get celestial bodies and amateur astronomer. Wow!

  12. Susan Brannigan says:

    Wow. A cool astronomical event and baseball – stars all. Roberto ALOMAR was indeed a slugger and one of the best 2d basemen from 1988-2004, with Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles and Indians, won more Gold Gloves at 2d, played with his father Sandy Sr. and brother Sandy Jr., and, unfortunately, is remembered as well for spitting on an ump during a heated exchange over a called 3rd strike. Ron CEY was not only a Cub 3rd baseman (1983-86) but a member of an All-Star infield with the Dodgers; he was aptly nicknamed The Penguin for his waddling gait. Topped off by, as noted before, one of the best inside-baseball tell-alls, Jim BOUTON’s Foul Ball. Cool.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to savor the cookie puzzle after finishing! But I’m glad I checked in here in time to see the full cleverness — yum….

  14. Duke says:

    Nice Sunday puzzle. Can’t wait to see the real thing. Jim Bouton’s Ball Four is particularly notable as the book in which a well-known sports player came out publicly for the first time. It was the 70s. This was really unheard of previously. And, he had great hair.

  15. joon says:

    disappointingly, the eclipse will take place from 2:41 to 3:53 am eastern time tonight. also, it’s snowing here in boston (unrelated comment: grr), so i suspect it’ll be totally obscured by clouds. alas.

Comments are closed.