Friday, 2/25/11

NYT 4:45 


CHE 3:57 


LAT 3:17 


CS untimed 


WSJ 8:32 


Henry Hook’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword answers 2/25/11 0225

Always fun to find a mini-theme lurking in a purportedly themeless puzzle. Henry dishes out history with 19a: THE DIET OF WORMS (a [16th-century assembly]), then rolls out his punch line at 44a: [Detractors’ comment concerning 19-Across?] is “IT’S FOR THE BIRDS.” Cute! (Henry, if you don’t want that word being applied to your puzzles, then you shouldn’t make them cute. Go for “wicked” or “nearly impossible” next time, will you?)


  • 1a. MASALA—I need to get some masala. My kid likes to add curry and lemon pepper from Penzey’s Spices when cooking his ham and eggs, and I’m sure he’d groove on masala too.
  • 22a. Never really heard of SLAVE ANTS before, but I think we can all liken ourselves to slave ants when we’re feeling unappreciated.
  • 32a. CANARSIE has such a quintessentially Brooklyn sound to it. Can it be pronounced without a Brooklyn accent?
  • 37a. NOTRE DAME, the cathedral, is A-OK. Notre Dame, the university, is currently on my “shaking head sadly” list.
  • Who doesn’t like a non-S plural? COLOSSI are [Enormous statues]. Think Easter Island.
  • 31d. An [Opportunity for privacy] is SPACE, as in “I need some space.” This may be Henry Hook’s motto, as he hasn’t shown his face at the ACPT in years. Maybe this year he’ll come. He’s like the Great Pumpkin, keeping us waiting year after year.

Clues of note:

  • 36d. [Bench, for example] is a baseball CATCHER, Johnny Bench. No idea how I got this one so easily.
  • 42d. [Calypso, e.g.] is a NEREID, or sea nymph. Were you thinking of the musical genre or the Jacques Cousteau vessel?
  • 43d. POSSE is clued as an [Entourage] and not with the old Wild West connotation.
  • 27a. Talk about your wrong turns. For [Becomes cracked], I had the **APS in place and entered SNAPS, as in “goes mad.” Then 28d: [Followed a trail, maybe] seemed like it could be NOSED and I was just stumped on 27d: [Washington Irving character]. Turns out 27a is CHAPS, like lips; 28d is HIKED, and 27d is Ichabod CRANE.

Mystery answer:

  • 7d. RAMFIS? [High priest in “Aida”]? Had no idea.

The grid’s sort of branched off into six separate zones, but they’ve each got two to four answers bleeding into them from the middle so it’s not too rough.

Peter Collins’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Alternate Endings”

2/25/11 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword solution

Cute literary theme: Five works of literature (high and low) have “alternate endings” in that the final word of each title has been anagrammed. Like so:

  • 17a. TARZAN OF THE APSE, [1914 novel about a wild man in a church recess?], made me think the theme involved transposal of the last two letters.
  • 26a. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying becomes AS I LAY DINGY, or [1930 novel about sleeping in dirty pajamas?]. Been there, done that. Not just a switcheroo of the last two letters. AS I LAY DYIGN has no oomph at all.
  • 37a. [1929 novel about aliens leaving home?] turns Hemingway into a space opera, A FAREWELL TO MARS.
  • 45a. [1939 novel about residue from King Kong’s dinner?] clues THE BIG PEELS, playing on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Not the first time I’ve seen this theme entry, but you’ll need to wait for the Penguin Classics literary-themed crossword book to come out (I think later this year) to see that puzzle.
  • 59a. [1887 novel about analyzing red wines?] turns the Sherlock Holmes story into A STUDY IN CLARETS (originally Scarlet). Isn’t it neat that CLARETS are a shade of SCARLET?

Favorite entry in the fill:

  • 9d. [Forty minutes past the hour], or TWENTY TO. Horribly arbitrary phrase, sure, but it hit me just right tonight.

Are you studying?

  • 2d. [Major portion of one’s grade, often] is an EXAM.
  • 32d. TESTS? [They have a lot of questions].
  • 62a. Yes, [Tester’s choice] duplicates the root word of TESTS, but it kinda sounds like Taster’s Choice instant coffee. One tester’s choice is FALSE.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Los Angeles Times crossword

2/25/11 LA Times crossword answers

This theme is a breath(auer) of fresh air! Easier than I was expecting on a Friday, but breezy doesn’t have to mean dull. Appropriately for the L.A. Times crossword, an LA sneaks into each of four familiar phrases:

  • 16a. [Move from Crystal to Caesar’s?] clues CHANGE OF PALACE (“change of pace”).
  • 28a. [Antelope of questionable virtue?] is a LOOSE ELAND (“loose end’). When it comes to your elands, gnus, oryxes, and okapis, who doesn’t appreciate loose morals?
  • 33a. “As a rule” turns into “ALAS, A RULE“—[“Another regulation, sorry to say”?].
  • 43a. [Greengrocer’s grab bags?] are SALAD SACKS (“sad sacks”).
  • 53a. Tying it all together is L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, the [1997 Kevin Spacey film, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. I like to think this is a shout-out to L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Lotsa 7-letter answers in the fill, including these:

  • 3d. Psychic [Medium settings] are SEANCES. Possibly [High settings] would also work here.
  • 11d. [French president Sarkozy] is named NICOLAS. Have you seen that montage of Nicolas Cage’s evolving hair?
  • 25d. [Jennifer Crusie’s genre] is ROMANCE novels. Never heard of this author before.
  • 37d. The [Jackson dubbed “Queen of Gospel”] is MAHALIA.

Updated Friday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Heading into Overtime”—Janie’s review

I have a weakness for themes that use the add-or-subtract-a-letter-or-letters gimmick and today’s puzzle plays right to it. In the most delightful way. The title itself is Doug’s hint that familiar phrases will attach themselves (“head first”) to the letters “OT” (sportspeak for “overtime”). They do—and here’s how it all adds up:

  • 20A. Arabian camel + OT = ARABIAN CAMELOT [Yemeni palace inspired by Arthurian legend?]. Doesn’t hurt when the clue evinces such a funny image either! (For a game of Charades, a friend once acted out the “whole idea” of “Camelot” by taking on the guise of an auctioneer selling dromedaries to the highest bidder. Maybe ya had to be there…)
  • 25A. neat as a pin + OT = NEAT AS A PINOT [Nifty, to winetasters?]. If this a noir, then shades of Sideways.
  • 45A. wrath of God + OT = WRATH OF GODOT [Anger that never arrives?]. Oh, boy. The best of the bunch in a bunch of strong contenders. The base phrase, the new phrase, the Beckett reference, the concept. Sweet. All of ’em.
  • 54A. wrecking ball + OT = WRECKING BALLOT [Vote cast to demolish a building?]. This “after” almost sounds feasible as an idiomatic phrase in its own right.

The best complement to strong theme fill? Why, strong non-theme fill, of course—and here, too, Doug more than obliges. “SO HELP ME!” [ “I swear it’s true!“]. Among my faves today: HAT BAND [Fedora feature] (because it’s also a feature of Dooley’s “big Panama); the poetic IDYLLIC [Picturesque]; the lowly but utile (and crossword-friendly) RUTABAGA [Root vegetable high in vitamin C]; VEHICLES, the non-John Candy-related [Planes, trains and automobiles]; SIDE BETS [Secondary wagers]; the scrappy FEISTY [Pugnacious] and the slangy VAMOOSE for [Skedaddle]. Think “IT’S EASY!” [“Child’s play!“] coming up with so much of the good stuff? Just try it sometime… Keeping the fill from sounding STILTED [Like awkwardly formal speech] is no mean feat. Another plummy Peterson puzzle!

Harvey Estes’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Extra! Extra!”

2/25/11 Wall Street Journal crossword answers

Is it just my addled head, or are the theme entries inconsistent? Sometimes there’s just an EX sound/letters added, and sometimes an initial S gets replaced by an EX. Granted, if you pronounced “ex-sporting chance,” you wouldn’t have a separate S sound there.

  • 23a. [Opportunity for trade?] clues EXPORTING CHANCE.
  • 45a. [Do well in music?] turns “sell for a song” into EXCEL FOR A SONG. But maybe you’re not really doing so well in music. You excel for only one song?
  • 64a. “Herbs and spices” become EXURBS AND SPICES, or [Name for an outlying seasonings store?].
  • 86a. [Gave a lot of praise to one of us?] changes “told you so” into EXTOLLED YOU SO, changing the meaning of “so” from “thus” to “so much.”
  • 109a. Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia, becomes EXPLAINS GEORGIA, or [Interprets O’Keeffe’s work?].
  • 16d. [Kicking out the boyfriend?] is the EXILE OF MAN, playing on the Isle of Man.
  • 68d. Saving the best for last, [Remove all Hope?] turns “SpongeBob” into EXPUNGE BOB Hope.

Highlights in the fill:


Lots of fun clues. You saw ’em too, right? Because I am out of time and unfortunately cannot wade through the clue list to single out my favorites.

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21 Responses to Friday, 2/25/11

  1. twangster says:

    I fell into the same SNAPS/NOSED trap and expect many others will as well. If I’m reading your comment correctly, and you didn’t sort it out, then I don’t feel so bad. Especially since RIGUP has a different connotation than “construct” in my book.

  2. Jeff Louie says:

    I would say that it’s reasonable to get RAMFIS from the crossings, but not CAVARSIE/LAVAL/AVILA. I was at a total loss for the LAVAL/AVILA crossing. V was my fourth guess.

  3. Gareth says:

    Monday-easy top, medium-easy rest of the puzzle, except for a game of guess the letters to finish with in the middle-left: ANITA, AVILA, LAVAL, CANARSIE – only LAVAL actually rings a bell for me (presumably in a previous crossword). Not much outside the two main entries made me jump for joy (not much bad stuff either though…) SLAVEANTS I really liked though!

  4. HH says:

    “…’I need some space.’ This may be Henry Hook’s motto, as he hasn’t shown his face at the ACPT in years. Maybe this year he’ll come.”

    I wouldn’t count on it. The larger the crowd gets, the bigger my aversion grows. Nor am I particularly fond of “star-struck” people. I say, let me find a cure for cancer. THEN you can ask for my autograph.

  5. Howard B says:

    I hear you, HH, I’ve never really understood why people gravitate towards ‘celebrity’, myself. And you still make some damned good puzzles.

    A quick aside though, a couple years ago I diverted some tense hours in the waiting room while my mother was in the hospital by solving some of your puzzles (Twisted Crosswords or your History Mysteries, I forget which) – calmed my nerves down quite a bit, so while it’s not a cure, know that what you do can make a little difference :). I owe ya one there.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Better a puzzler’s autograph than the autograph of one of the Kardashians.

    @Twangster, I did sort it out the CHAPS. My solving time would be annotated (e.g., “with 2 errors”) if I hadn’t.

  7. HH says:

    “Better a puzzler’s autograph than the autograph of one of the Kardashians.”

    Oh, I dunno. The latter would interest more people. Although the former would probably not be misspelled.

  8. joon says:

    if somebody asks for your autograph, you could always sign it as one of the kardashians.

    i had some trouble in that CANARSIE area too, but i remembered (this) AVILA from a previous puzzle (toughest tuesday ever) and i have a friend from LAVAL, although i’ve never seen it in a crossword before. so i only had to guess on the N, but ANITA is a name, so i was likely to guess right. RAMFIS is only about 10% familiar. i used to know lots of opera characters, but my memory is not what it used to be. anyway, i’m sure i was thinking of ZAMFIR when i put that in. either that or the high priest from the magic flute. what was his name? zarastro? i get all my egyptian opera high priests mixed up.

    doug’s puzzle today is my favorite CS daily that i can remember. WRATH OF GODOT is sheer genius, but the other theme answers were excellent and the fill was very sparkly. a perfect tuesday puzzle!

    i can’t shake the feeling that i’ve seen the exact same theme as today’s CHE before, although not these same theme answers. still, nice puzzle. five theme answers is nice, and all five were pretty good.

  9. JaxInL.A. says:

    Hey, I just finished a CS Friday in under 10 minutes, a personal best, and the theme is wonderful. But Joon calls it a Tuesday? Talk about a buzz kill.

  10. joon says:

    jax, every CS daily is a tuesday. unlike the NYT and LAT, there isn’t a graduated difficulty throughout the week. sunday is themeless and a little tougher (though not as tough as a NYT friday or LAT saturday), but that’s it (unless you see bob klahn’s byline). i’m not trying to harsh on anyone’s buzz—doug’s puzzle was supposed to be early-to-mid-week difficulty, and that’s what it was. it just happened to be an exceptionally high-quality easy puzzle, that’s all.

  11. Meem says:

    Needed every cross to get Ramfis. HH once again had fun with cluing.

    Favorite of the day for me was Doug Peterson’s OT. CHE also was fun to solve. And in the LAT, 33A. was a laugh out loud.

  12. sbmanion says:

    I thought this was a great puzzle, although it was quite a bit harder than the Friday norm for me. I knew AVILA, but did not know if it was LAVAL or LEVAL and did not have my mind set on Brooklynese to know CANARSIE or CENARSIE. I left that square blank

    I got the mini-theme almost immediatey, but found almost every exterior subsection to have some element of difficulty.


  13. D_Blackwell says:

    “I say, let me find a cure for cancer. THEN you can ask for my autograph.”

    In your own way you provide a daily dose of cure. You all do. Setting aside the ‘star struck’ (not that there has to be anything wrong that), for many people crosswords provide a moment of genuine peace in the day.

  14. John Papini says:

    NEREID for Calypso in the NYT? Sorry.

  15. LARRY says:

    I always thought it was the “DIET OF WURMS”, not “WORMS” but google has it both ways.

  16. Meem says:

    Amy, I’m glad you, too, were scratching your head about the WSJ. The puzzle was an easy solve, but a bit confusing as in some cases, the “ex” stood in for an “s” (e.g., sporting chance/Spu{o}nge Bob) and in others, the “ex” disappears (e.g., Plains, Georgia/I{s}le of Man. If I am missing something, I hope someone will expound!

  17. joon says:

    my take is just that it was the phonetic addition of an “ex” sound to the beginning of these phrases, with a spelling change where necessary. perfectly consistent unless you want the theme to be something it wasn’t.

  18. Carol says:

    I have to admit that I LIVE for the Sunday Boston Globe puzzles. HH is in my mind has the best and usually the most devious puzzles around–they really stretch my 75-year old mind!!

  19. Zulema says:

    John P,

    If the objection is to Calypso being a NEREID, I kind of agree. She was a nymph, but I doubt a NEREID, wrong parentage and she lives on a wooded island. As to in the NYT, why not?

    Does anyone read comments that come in when the next puzzle is already available?

  20. Jan (danjan) says:

    I do!

  21. John Haber says:

    I thought it was an exceptional puzzle, in a way you get maybe only from Hook. Very hard, but also very natural once I had it. The only tongue-in-cheek answer was the trickery in the second theme’s entry playing not with the 16th century after all, and the obscurities were a reasonable minimum for a weekend. Still, the hardest for me were sticking points for a long time, chiefly AKIRA and AVILA. I got the latter because, I’m not sure why, once I actually had LA_AL, I was able vaguely to recognize LAVAL.

    CANARSIE was hard even for a New Yorker like me. (I ran though an awful lot of Brooklyn neighborhoods in my head before I had enough crossings to get it.) Still, the wide dislike of the entry here isn’t at all fair. It’s not just that it’s a notable enough name that, for a lot of people, the L train is still the “Canarsie line” (even if we had no idea quite where that leads). Also, this is the NY Times puzzle, and it’s only fair every once in a blue moon for the rest of the country to have to live with an actual New York neighborhood, after day in/day out living with clusters of clues about cars (how many New Yorkers drive?) and golf (in New York? yeah, right). I might also say we’re above the schlock movies and TV shows in a lot of clues, since we have an actual culture here, but that’d be cruel!

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