Friday, 2/18/11

NYT 4:59 


LAT 3:50 


CHE 3:40 


CS untimed 


WSJ 7:27 


Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

So, I’m several puzzles into Patrick Berry’s latest splashy puzzle book, Adventures in Puzzling. I’ve already encountered a couple types of puzzles that vex me (I reserve the right to just peek at the answers when I find a puzzle variety I don’t enjoy at all), but also did a fun “Some Assembly Required”-type puzzle with an asteroid theme and roundish grid. The goal of finishing each puzzle is to come up with a final answer, and eventually all those final answers will somehow coalesce into a grand final answer. (I haven’t peeked ahead, so I know nothing about the challenge ahead.) This is the book the puzzle people are talking about—get in on the fun.

NY Times crossword answers 2/18/11 0218

Didja get a load of this crazy pinwheel grid? Four wide-open sections with only two small doors leading into a fifth middle section. I perused the clues for the two sections at the top and fled to the bottom. Yay! Armand ASSANTE (38d) bailed me out of a vacant grid. Next, 58a: SNEERS AT and its Down crossings began to give way, and that led into the mid-zone. From there, I backspaced into the lower left quadrant via BACKSPACE (29a: [Return a letter, say], in your text document). Eventually the TESLA COIL and LEECHES took me back into the top quadrants and before you know it, boom, puzzle’s done in a reasonable Friday time. Which was quite unexpected, really, after the slow start.

What is this, a 62-worder? It’s insane how solid the fill is. Whaddaya expect? It’s Berry. Of course it’ll be smooth. Not a Scrabbly puzzle (not with a word count this low), but smooth.


  • 14a. Not necessarily a wonderful phrase, but dang, HAVE A GO AT packs four words into a single entry.
  • 19a. “N’EST CE PAS?” That’s French for [“Isn’t that so?,” to Rousseau] as well as Charles DeGaulle, Catherine Deneuve, and Robespierre.
  • 34a. George SOROS is clued as a palindromic billionaire. Take that, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett! You aren’t palindromic and no amount of money can buy that kind of happiness. (Just ask Lon Nol.)
  • 5d. [Bird in a Sean O’Casey title] is PAYCOCK, which is another way of saying peacock. I don’t know what Juno and the Paycock is about, but it’s better that way.
  • 7d. [It may be found in a dish] clues SOAP. Mm-mm, soap.
  • 26d. Hey, SPORTS FAN!
  • 45d. FISTS are [Handmade things?], all right.
  • 51d. Did you want ZERO here, or a plaintiff coming before a judge, or a predecessor? [It comes before one] o’clock clues NOON.

Whoa, I didn’t know TAGALOGS were a pluralizable ethnic group (33d: [More than a quarter of Filipinos, ethnically]). Wikipedia tells me “In more recent times, the people of this ethnolinguistic group rarely refer to themselves as ‘Tagalog,’ and instead, refer to themselves simply as ‘Filipino.'”

47d: [Fur source] clues STOAT. You  may be thinking, “Huh. I never see stoat fur coats advertised anywhere.” And yet the facts are that stoats are killed for their fur, particularly in winter when their fur turns white and people call them ermines. Aw, look at this cute little scamp.

Michael Ashley’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Tom Swift, Med-School Dean”

2/18/11 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword answers

This week’s offering is a light and playful puzzle rather than a scholarly thinker. Each theme entry is a Tom Swifty pegged to a medical topic. Fever ties to HOTHEADEDLY, dermatology is spoken about RASHLY, sneezes relate to the word COLDLY, neonatology gets PREMATURELY, feedback from the hospital patients is given PATIENTLY, passing out relates to FAINTLY, and the [“The surgery department’s budget may have to be slashed,” Tom stated ___] CUTTINGLY.

Five clues:

  • 9d. [Old Kingdom figure] clues EGYPTIAN. Okay, that’s scholarly business there. Needed lots of crossings.
  • 32d. [Celebrity head shot?] is a BOTOX injection.
  • 55a. [Ebro, por ejemplo] is a river, or RIO in Spanish.
  • 46d. [Japanese plum] clues LOQUAT. You may be asking yourself, “Are kumquats and loquats etymologically or botanically related?” I know I am. Yes, the quat part is a Chinese root word meaning “orange,” but while kumquats are related to citrus fruits, loquats are in the rose family.
  • 28a. [Man or mouse, e.g.] is a cute clue for a MAMMAL.

Updated Friday morning:

Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Bookend Rhymes”—Janie’s review

As suggested by the title, the first and last syllables of each of the theme entries (there are five of ’em) rhyme. In solving, I found I liked most of these words individually more than I admired them as a theme set. We don’t make a point of emphasizing the rhymes when we speak these words (accenting the first and last syllables equally), so the gimmick itself felt forced to me. And so it goes sometimes. I think the real strength of this puzzle is the grid itself. First, though, a look at the theme fill:

  • 17A. SCUTTLEBUTT [Juicy dirt]. Didn’t know of this juicy word’s nautical origins. But it makes so much sense—unlike the way I was associating it with the location (butt) of a rabbit’s tail (scut)… (Actually, make that the “erect tail of a HARE” [Overconfident racer of fable].) Clever clue, too, for the paradox it suggests.
  • 26A. HANDYMAN [Mr. Fixit].
  • 38A. MESSINESS [Slob’s signature]. Interesting use of the word “signature.” That’s as in, “The mark of a slob is his/her messiness”—and does not refer literally to penmanship. (I suspect there are some slobs with perfectly beautiful penmanship.)
  • 54A. FOLDEROL [Hogwash]. Hmm. This feels like a severe definition of the word which can mean (the more benign) “nonsense” or refer to a “useless ornament or accessory.” I always associate it with Frank Loesser’s lyric in the title song from Guys and Dolls: “When you meet a mug lately out of the jug/And he’s still lifting platinum folderol,/Call it hell, call it heaven, it’s a probable twelve to seven/That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.”
  • 62A. CRACKERJACK [Ace]. Crackerjack‘s another crackerjack word.

Now—look how nice and open that grid is. Only 34 blocks, a very white center and those lovely, open corners. Triple 7-columns in each one plus the one seven at center give us a baker’s dozen of ’em and such solid fill as MACRAMÉ (punnily clued as [Knotty craft]), BRUISER [Tough guy], RUN LAST [Bring up the rear], OFF-BASE (clued non-militarily as [On the wrong track]), DIE-CAST [Molded, as metal], ANARCHY [Lawlessness] and STRIKES [Bowler’s goals].

I coulda lived without BELEM [Brazilian seaport] which I suspect is known more to constructors than to solvers. And I sure didn’t adore DE-RAT (particularly in a puzzle that also includes DE-ICE), though I kinda liked its delicately (and alliteratively) phrased clue [Purge, Pied Piper-style].

Other clue/fill combos that worked well include [Pusher’s pursuer] for NARCO and, with its almost parallel construction, [Hound hounder] for FLEA. Oh, and let me not forget [Public hangings?] for ART.

So, yes, this was a mixed bag of a solve for me, but looking at the integrity of the construction as a whole, I have to say that the Salomon signature is always a welcome sight!

Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Guy Thing”

Wall Street Journal crossword answers 2/18/11 "It's a Guy Thing"

Liz blends familiar phrases with familiar Mr.’s:

  • 21a. [Putting a Batman foe on the payroll?] combines “hiring freeze” with “Mr. Freeze” in HIRING MR. FREEZE.
  • 30a. [Exchanging a fictional educator for goods?] clues BARGAINING MR. CHIPS. This one is my favorite, though I fear the surface sense of “bargaining Mr. Chips” falls a little shy of ideal.
  • 50a. The MALL OF MR. AMERICA is a [Bodybuilder’s complex?].
  • 66a. [Heaven-sent soul mate?] is a DIVINE MR. RIGHT. Nice rework of “divine right.”
  • 88a. [Ad character with a concealed weapon?] clues PACKING MR. PEANUT. Now, you would say “Mr. Peanut is packing,” but would you describe him as a “packing Mr. Peanut”? I say no. I’d rather stuff Mr. Peanut in my suitcase to take him on a trip.
  • 101a. Do you hear the frightened clay falsetto in this clue, [“Ohhh nooo, is that an impostor on SNL?”]? I do. There’s a COUNTERFEIT MR. BILL. Cute.
  • 118a. Tying it all together, we have MAN IN THE MIDDLE, a [1963 Robert Mitchum film, and this puzzle’s theme].

Good theme—fun, light, with some good comic payoffs.

Highlights in the fill include “PARTY ON,” SCHLEP, “OH, MY,” LANDSLIDES, and TURNED BLUE.

How about some more clues?

  • 7a. [Katherina’s sister, in “The Taming of the Shrew”] is BIANCA. If you didn’t know this answer (I didn’t), hopefully you recognized that BIANCA would fit the letter pattern. Two of the crossings were a little on the tougher side: [Oscar’s U.K. equivalent] is the BAFTA award, and to [Hoodwink] is to COZEN.
  • 64a. CEYLON was a [British colony until 1948], and one with a beautiful name. It was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972.
  • 75a. [Kidney stones] are CALCULI, plural of calculus. And no, [Advanced math classes] wouldn’t work as a clue.
  • 84a. The SAMI are a [Reindeer-herding people], the Lapps of northern Scandinavia. This answer crosses three people/character names (USAIN Bolt, Don IMUS, Cousin ITT), which is suboptimal for a fairly obscure word like SAMI.
  • 116a. [Ralph of “Paths of Glory”] is Ralph MEEKER. Who?? You can read about him at the Dead B-Movie Stars page. Have you folks heard of him, or would you rather have had a clue like [Less bold]?
  • 6d. An ENGRAM is a [Memory trace]. No, I don’t know who uses the word and in what circumstances.
  • 106d. [Maternally related] clues ENATE. Your agnate relatives are the ones on your dad’s side. If you have two moms, the word ENATE is pretty useless to you.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers 2/18/11

Okay, I don’t understand all the theme entries. We seem to have a theme of disparate puns incorporating names of U.S. presidents:

  • 18a. [Presidential putdown?] is a GRANT SLAM, playing on “grand slam.”
  • 23a. [Presidential advisers?] clues MADISON CABINET. Oh! I just got this one. “Medicine cabinet.” If a pun is too hard to figure out, is it not a failure?
  • 32a. [Presidential ATM sign?] clues FORD (for) DEPOSIT ONLY. Well, that’s implausible.
  • 48a. [Presidential university?] is COOLIDGE CAMPUS. Oh, wait, I just got this one too. “College campus.” This one and 23a mess around with vowel sounds, instead of the mild consonant differences seen in the other three.
  • 53a. [Presidential belt-tightening?] clues NIXON CUTS. I presume this is a play on “nicks and cuts,” but I’m not sure “nicks and cuts” is a solid stand-alone phrase.

Five more clues:

  • 3d. The ANTEATER is a [Lover of armies?] of ants.
  • 10d. [Mubarak of Egypt] clues HOSNI. Oh, is he still in Egypt? Perhaps.
  • 13d. A TOMATO is the [T in a sandwich], the BLT.
  • 31d. BONAPARTE is a [Ruling family name in 19th-century Europe].
  • 37d. [HMO employees] is a weird clue for LPNS (licensed practical nurses). Are HMOs really known for hiring LPNS? I thought LPNS were mostly hospital and nursing home employees.
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23 Responses to Friday, 2/18/11

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Yes, a very lovely Berry puzzle! My route was different from Amy’s, as I got the NW with just TATA and N’EST-CE PAS to start with, not that I knew the end of PAYCOCK — but CASPAR wasn’t going to leave much choice of “bird”. Then I went on to the middle with SPORTS FAN (or man, for a moment), added the required second O to get SOROS, and figured out the end of TESLA COIL. Wow!

    The front of SPACE had to be BACK, for Return a letter, and from there BILATERAL and the rest of the SW — except for having to redo my Caius to GAIUS! Then on to see NEON TETRA across the way, and the SE went down quickly though ASSANTE was new to me. Finally up to the NE to enter GRECO, SINGE, INANE and LEECHES! Great fun, every bit… I probably would have clued TUNE as “Fix a flat” just to be mean!

  2. joon says:

    jaw-dropper. this is a stunning grid. 62 words, 90-degree symmetry, no junk. if this puzzle had been published anonymously, i would’ve put a lot of money on it being patrick. who else could pull it off?

    i had a very different solve from amy, as being a 26d enabled me to drop 1a/1d into the grid right away and blew the NW out of the water. but those tiny doors between sections still made traversing the grid tough. i had to start over in the SE since i couldn’t get either of the downs that broke into there.

  3. sbmanion says:

    Did anyone else consider SPORTS NUT? I knew as much trivia in this one as in any late week puzzle I can think of, but I labored in the SE.

    Great fill.

    I still feel bad for Ghana’s great star who missed the penalty kick against Uruguay.


  4. Gareth says:

    Construction-wise a tour de force! ISolver-entertainment-wise solid, fun clues (BACKSPACE – brilliant!) and precious little to sneer at. No stand out stunning answers, but plenty PLENTY of good’uns!

    1D was a gimme, and that got the top-left filled in quick. But The rest of the areas, eish! all very hard to start for me, but once got going filled in quickly. Opposite to your (Amy’s) experience and like Steve my LAST corner was bottom-right, where all I had was ASTRA, SPORTS… and AS… (not a name I know anything about except “actor”) But what got that corner going was actually STOAT, of all things.

    Also: Most changes to an answer: 9A: PALAU, no wait GABON, no wait… Gah, I don’t watch this show (or any TV!). Wackiest-looking answer: HAVEAGOAT (“Here, this Saanen’s for you?”). Clue for 16A is INANE. I Was convinced PAYCOCK was wrong, in fact I didn’t get Mr. Happy pencil initially and looked at it again, but I had MAN not FAN for SPORTS_AN – sorted out quickly! An OSTER OATER would be an interesting film!

  5. Evad says:

    Yeah, those of us into the World Cup fervor of 2010 would not forget the Black Stars. Even with GOALPOST above it, I had HAD A GOAL at first, then realized my mistake when TESLA COIL emerged from the mist. Really superlative themeless.

  6. Howard B says:

    Very nice Times puzzle. I can’t even count how many errors and missteps I made in this one; I don’t believe I had anything right on the first guess until halfway through! Brutal solve, but a fun trip through all the potholes, loops, cul-de-sacs (culs-de-sac?) and who knows what else. Well done.

  7. pfeiring says:

    Me too for SPORTSNUT – messed me up for quite some time.

  8. ktd says:

    Had IRRITABLE for IRRITATED leading into the NW sector. That really slowed me down

  9. Sara says:

    I sailed happily through the ne, sw, and nw, but where Amy got bailed out by ASSANTE, I got messed up by guessing ArSeNio. NEONTETRA (the only tank fish I know) bailed me out.

  10. janie says:

    in the nyt, started out fairly quickly with OGRE and “TA-TA” — which opened up the nw very rapidly. ASTRA and STOAT followed, as did the fall of the SE. then center, then sw. but oh, that ne! ;-) another IRRITABLE here made for a verrrry slow solve there. not to mention the shared final T of STET and AEROSTAT.

    what with those fabulously filled stacks and columns of nines, one gorgeous puzzle!!


  11. Jeffrey says:

    Canadians would know Howie MEEKER.

  12. ktd — Also fell into the IRRITABLE trap, which made NE far more difficult than it should have been. After getting everything else to fall quickly, NE made me feel IRRITA…whatever.

    Steve — Asamoah Gyan, the Ghanaian who scored the game-winner against the USA and missed the penalty against Uruguay, is having a pretty good year in the English Premier League at Sunderland.

  13. Michael says:

    Can’t argue with others’ tastes, but one and two stars for Patrick’s puzzle? Seriously? Come on, people. If a smooth-as-butter 62-worder with no three-letter words and, more importantly, no junk is not your idea of a lexical diversion on a Friday afternoon, then you’re just tough to please. Along the lines of what Joon said (about betting money), a puzzle like this, IMHO, deserves more “reimbursement” than your typical daily.

  14. Jeff says:

    Wow, fantastic NYT today! Yet another impressive construction from Mr. Berry. A 62 word count with few +ER words and little crosswordese? Keep ’em coming, please!

  15. Evad says:

    I agree with Michael, I’m pretty parsimonious with my 5-star ratings, but I thought this one merited it!

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Any 1- or 2-star rating for a Berry puzzle means one of three things: (1) Solver was unable to complete the puzzle, deems it unfair. (2) Solver is on crack. (3) Patrick Berry stole solver’s milk money in grade school.

  17. Martin says:

    Rex hated it. You’re gonna need a (4).

  18. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Okay, Martin. (4) Solver absorbs another’s opinions and then magnifies them. I’ll bet Rex gave this one at least a 2.5.

  19. meem says:

    OK friends. Anyone who cannot appreciate the beauty of a 62-word, rotationally symmetrical, no three letter word puzzle has missed the boat. Amy, you may be right about the milk money.

  20. Jamie says:

    I solved the puzzle, I’m not on crack, and I never had milk money in grade school. I don’t let Rex’s opinions affect my ratings. I also did not give it a one- or two-star rating. It didn’t deserve that.

    This site is like the constructor geek hall of fame. Almost everybody who comments seems to be a constructor looking for the newest, cleverest way to break records or traditions.

    @meem: I cannot appreciate the beauty of a 62-word, rotationally symmetrical, no three-letter-word puzzle per se. Frankly, I had no idea it was any of these things until you all started your group rave wave. I missed that boat.

    I’m a big fan of Patrick Berry’s but this was a fairly ordinary puzzle from a solver’s POV. Hey, I’m just the audience. Pay no attention to what I like.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Jamie, you’re off base about who comments here. Gareth, Joon, Jeff, and Michael are the most active constructors here, and their puzzles don’t tend to be the record-breakers. (Kevin Der and Joe Krozel seem to be today’s leading makers of show-offy puzzles, and neither is a regular commenter here.) Evad, Meem, Martin, Jeffrey, janie, Sara, ktd, Brent H, pfeiring, Howard, sbmanion, ArtLvr, and I are solvers first and foremost, only occasionally (or never) dipping into making puzzles.

    I’ll grant you that it’s not the best Berry I’ve ever done, and so I didn’t give it the 5-star rating that Berry’s more exceptional work merits. But I sure don’t understand a 1-star rating, which connotes “this puzzle really shouldn’t have been published.” Nothing in the grid hits the unpublishable level at all, if you ask me. Did Berry wedge in a horrible, obscure abbreviation, or craft words we never see by tacking on affixes, or include an obscure name with bad crossings? No.

  22. John E says:

    I know I am late in commenting here, but my two cents worth….

    As a novice solver, I found the NYT Friday to be a great puzzle. I thought the fill was clever, well-constructed and not a lot of junk. I would give it four stars.

    The only thing lacking IMHO is that Friday’s tend to give more backwards clues that make you follow more red herrings, so to speak, and I found this one to be a bit more “forthcoming” in the number of wrong words I normally have to spin through to get the eventual answer. This, to me, makes completion more satisfying, especially for a Friday or Saturday puzzle.

  23. Jamie says:

    Amy, I told you I didn’t rate it a 1 or 2 star puzzle. It clearly was not, and I do not think Patrick could create one. I’m as astonished at the 1-star ratings as you are.

    I do think, however, that this is a bit of a group hug site for constructors. Who may be jealous of each other. Just saying.

Comments are closed.