Friday, 4/8/11

NYT 4:36 


CHE 6:24 (pannonica) 


LAT 4:32 


CS 7:16 (Sam) 


WSJ 6:51 


Good news! Crossword Fiend commenter Pannonica is now Crossword Fiend co-blogger Pannonica! She has volunteered to take on the scholarly Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle as well as the Monday New York Times crossword. Welcome to the team, Pannonica!

In other news, Brendan Emmett Quigley’s latest offering is a contest puzzle. It’s no more challenging than a first-week-of-the-month Matt Gaffney contest puzzle, and might even be a notch or two easier. So go do that one if you haven’t already. Deadline’s next Wednesday.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

4/8/11 NY Times crossword solution 0408

It’s not a themeless Friday puzzle this week—it’s a themed one, and I think it could well have run on a Thursday based on some solving times. It could also have run around June 3-6 of this year rather than two months earlier, and thereby commemorated the 50th anniversary of the theme event. At Wordplay, Deb Amlen outlines the history in question. John F. KENNEDY met with the SOVIETS‘ Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in June of 1961, a FENCE became the Berlin Wall, and thus began the COLD WAR. In addition to those entries being thematic, the glut of black squares “spell out” the year 1961. Deb also points out that the Berlin Wall separates East from West in the grid—see how the word FENCE at 27d divides the grid in half?

Now, if you’re gonna make a puzzle commemorating this moment of history, you gotta put KHRUSHCHEV in the grid! How nuts would that be, with those consonant masses? The parallelism between KENNEDY and SOVIETS is out of whack. And then COLD / WAR has a symmetrical pairing with OHM / NERD. At least the 1961 made out of blocks has a symmetry to it.

What all is in this puzzle? Let’s have a look under the hood:

  • 1a. [Beaks] are called NEBS in Maleskatopia, the land of crosswordese.
  • 1d. I sure wish NATURAL DISASTER had been clued with something out of season, like a hurricane. With today’s [Earthquake, e.g.] in Japan further rattling people, it’s too evocative of great tragedy.
  • 15a. Was thinking of a country for [One of its official languages is Eng.], but it’s THE U.N.
  • 25a. My eye refuses to see AT ONE’S FEET as three words. I see ATONES FEET.
  • 38a. A glass [Pitcher’s catcher] of what you’re pouring is a WATER GLASS.
  • 52a. Never pleased to see CWTS or CWT in the grid. This abbreviation for “hundredweight” is clued [Shipping units: Abbr.]. 100 lb = 1 cwt.
  • 2d. Favorite clue: [They may be hard-pressed to work] refers to ELEVATOR BUTTONS. I started to press a “walk” button to cross the street today but the button was covered with gum. Eww! Do you feel that ELEVATOR BUTTONS are a “thing,” a lexical chunk?
  • 5d. TAKE A BACK SEAT TO is a good 5-word verb.
  • 6d. [Jumper, for one] clues SLEEVELESS DRESS. This is similar to SENSELESSNESS and STRESS TESTS—an answer that’s mostly S’s and E’s and lends a blaSÉ air to the grid.
  • 11d. [English Midlands city that is home to the largest outdoor covered market in Europe] is a mighty long clue for an English city of no great distinction, LEICESTER. Actually, the city has a fabulously rich history, and the market has been in its current location for 700 years. Isn’t that tidbit far more interesting than the “largest outdoor covered” part?
  • 33d. Valiant, yes. But VALIANCE? As a noun meaning [Bravery]? Does anyone use this outside of the World of Warcraft/Italian heavy metal/Dragon Age II arenas? The word valor has 500 times as many Google hits as valiance.

John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Change for the Verse” — pannonica’s review

Chronicle of Higher Education April 8, 2011 – solution

If punning is your preference and meter is your métier, then this week’s CHE is for you. What we have are five familiar phrases and titles in which one word has been exchanged for a similar-sounding poetic form. My sympathies if you’re averse to that sort of thing. In any case, the tenth muse, Logopaígnia, would be so very pleased:

  • 18a. [When one of David’s poems is sung in church?] is PSALM TIME (some time), which is—unfortunately for the first theme entry—the most pedestrian base phrase of the bunch. Many of the Old Testament psalms are credited to King David.
  • 20a. [Discussion of a Theocritus poem?] is an IDYLL CHAT (idle chat), which has nothing to do with Simon Cowell Paula Abdul Ellen DeGeneres whoever is on that show now. Hold on «tapping ear» I’m getting an update…who? Steven Tyler?! As if the pun wasn’t enough to make me wince. Theocritus.
  • 40a. [Group of ghostwriters for a Shakespeare poem?] is a SONNET COMMITTEE (senate committee). When their sessions are held underwater it’s called…oh, never mind. Everybody knows Shakespeare’s sonnets.  (n=154)
  • 58a. [Reader making sure that Keats’s poem is heard?] is of course an ODE YELLER (Old Yeller). The sentimental original is probably well known to young and old alike as a young adult novel and Disney film. Spoiler: the dog dies not far from where the red fern groans. nb: Keats and Yeats do not rhyme, not with each other, anyway.
  • 63a. [Chest full of Burns’s poems?] clues a BALLAD BOX (ballot box), stuffed with gooey somethingness. Robert Burns née Berengarten is still among the living.

As Bart Simpson might say, HAIKU RUMBA! (That’d be an [Interpretive dance for Bashō’s poem?]

Enjoyable fill:

  • 6d & 10d. The neatly paralleled ZEPHYR [Gentle breeze] and ZITHER [Instrument used to score ‘The Third Man’] are classy, with an old world charm. Incidentally, The highly infectious Third Man theme was composed and performed by the crossword-friendly Anton Karas.
  • 47d & 59d. More seneximundial flavor in SVELTE [Alluringly slender] and DOFF {Tip politely]. Pardon me, Mrs. Cow.
  • For that Higher Education™ feel, there’s Curriculum VITAE (17a), Sartre’s NO EXIT (49d), composer CÉSAR Franck (54d), and the thin-ice crosswordese concert violinist EFREM Zimbalist (whom I know of primarily as the father of actress Stephanie Zimbalist who starred with Pierce Brosnan on the 1980s show Remington Steele). In a nice flourish, the puzzle ends with (71a) [Synonym stockpiler] ROGET.

Things I learned:

  • 8d. [It shows a lot] Very literal, this clue. It seems a PLAT is “a plan, map, or chart of a piece of land with actual and proposed features (as lots)” []
  • 15a/9d. [Poet ____ Wheeler Wilcox/___ ammoniac]. Ferreting out my mistaken entry for this intersection accounts for about 45 seconds of my time. Instead of ELLA and SAL I had ELLE and SEL. In retrospect, both of my original fills are obviously not in the least bit plausible.
  • 39a. [Union general Wallace] The clue for the author of Ben-Hur (which I knew was LEW) here takes its marching orders from the history department.
  • Speaking of knowing things, 27d [”That’s obvious!“] made me wish that the oldie “I’m a poet/And didn’t know it” had been invoked somewhere in the puzzle. I KNOW, right?


un álamo

Populus deltoides, the Eastern cottonwood

  • 28a. [Boat contents] GRAVY. Don’t know why.
  • 29d & 30d. AROSE and VIM, as clued by the sequential [Got up] and [Get-up-and-go].

Is it my imagination or has the definite article lately been making an incursion into grids across (and down) the landscape? Recent multiple sightings of THE PO and, in this puzzle, THE ALAMO (42d) have me wondering. On the other hand, without that article the historic mission becomes an auto rental company.

That wraps up my first crossword review here at Crossword Fiend central and frankly I’m surprised that I found nothing worth quibbling about, as has often been my wont in the comments. Perhaps all the amenities and perks here at CF Headquarters—they put Google’s to shame, people!—have made me soft?

Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword

4/8/11 LA Times crossword solution

Each of the six theme entries is capital city/country combo in which one letter has been dropped from the country’s name:

  • 16a. [Celtic quaffs?] clues CARDIFF (w)ALES. Mind you, Wales is technically a principality within the United Kingdom and not a free-standing nation.
  • 30a. [Caribbean baby animal?] clues HAVANA CUB(a).
  • 38a. [Arabian guy?] clues MUSCAT (o)MAN.
  • 52a. [East Asian “pet”?] clues BEIJING CHI(n)A.
  • 11d. [Iberian bridge?] clues MADRID SPA(i)N.
  • 26d. [Mesopotamian savings plan?] clues BAGHDAD I.R.A.(q).

I dunno, these just didn’t grab me. The results of the letter drop aren’t humorous, and there’s no consistency in which letter was dropped (W/first, A/last, O/first, N/fourth, I/fourth, Q/last).

Eight more clues:

  • 6a. [Disaster response gp.] clues EVAC. How is a short form of “evacuation” a group? Is this an unfamiliar four-letter acronym? The clue screamed FEMA to me.
  • 10a. [Eric the Red’s birth year, roughly] is CML, or 950 in Roman numerals. Did the Vikings use Roman numerals?
  • 25a. [Words of affection from Luigi] to Mario are CARA MIA. What? That’s the only famous Luigi I can think of.
  • 43a. [’70s TV cop played by Robert Blake] = BARETTA! With the short-sleeved sweatshirts (when did they stop making those?) and the white cockatoo!
  • 2d. I RAN [“__ (So Far Away)”: 1982 hit for A Flock of Seagulls]. Why clue this as the one-word country name and distract people from the geo-theme when A Flock of Seagulls are at the ready? One question arises when you watch the video: If your hair looked like that, would you go into a funhouse room full of mirrors so that there was an infinite recursion of bad New Age coifs?
  • 22d. BASALTIC is clued with [Like much Hawaiian lava]. Here’s some science for you.
  • 23d. “I CAN’T SEE” is a [Complaint while groping] for the light switch in the dark. If two people are groping each other, ideally there are no complaints.
  • 41d. [And those following, in footnotes] clues ET SEQQ. I have only seen et seq. but the dictionary tells me et seqq. is fine too. Who knew? And is this the only valid crossword answer with two Q’s in a row?

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Movie Mayhem”—Sam Donaldson’s review

This one’s a killer. More precisely, this one’s about killers. Even more precisely, four actors who portrayed killers in classic movies. Yet even more precisely, four actors who portrayed killers in classic movies I haven’t seen and who have not been in my kitchen. You’re welcome, fans of Cheers and Jeopardy!

Each of the theme entries is clued with reference to both the movie and the actor who played the victim:

  • 17-Across: ERROL FLYNN is the answer to [He killed Anthony Quinn in “Against All Flags”]. I’m guessing the movie tells the story of a man who hates semaphore so much he goes on a murderous rampage. On an unrelated note, this is the fifth day in a row that the first theme entry in the CrosSynergy puzzle has been at 17-Across. Yes, we at the Diary know that it’s fascinating insights like this that bring you to the blog.
  • 26-Across: [He killed Steve Cochran in “White Heat”] clues JAMES CAGNEY. I’ve heard of Cagney, but the clue was entirely unhelpful to me, as neither Steve Cochran nor “White Heat” is familiar to me.
  • 47-Across: The answer to [He killed Basil Rathbone in “The Mark of Zorro”] is not Antonio Banderas but TYRONE POWER. I know Basil Rathbone from the many films in which he played Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I still picture Rathbone when I think of Holmes.
  • 63-Across: ROBERT RYAN is [He (who) killed Abbe Francis in “Bad Day at Black Rock”]. It certainly was a bad day for Francis’s character. Robert Ryan is unknown to me. I know Nolan Ryan, Jeri Ryan (pictured to the right), Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan, and even Private Ryan, but not Robert Ryan.

I think I’m missing something here. If the theme is simply actors who played killers, it’s not especially tight. I mean, lots of actors have played killers on the big screen, even if you limit the field to actors in classic films. So why these guys? I’m trying to find something else that unites this particular collection of actors, but all I’m coming up with is “they all have the letter Y in their names.”

Other than my lingering confusion regarding the theme, there’s much to like in this crossword. There’s HALF-EATEN intersecting LUTEFISK, the [Traditional Nordic dish]. There’s AMETHYST, the [Gift for an Aquarius, maybe] (and my own birthstone). There’s JEAN Stapleton and Leonard NIMOY. And there’s some lively terms like IN FUN, AS IF, REAR UP, and a TIN CAN, the [Navy destroyer, slangily]. All this good stuff makes up for my confusion with the theme.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Picture of Health”

4/8/11 Wall Street Journal crossword solution

Fun theme—Pancho takes (mostly) familiar movie titles with body parts in them and clues them as various medical specialists’ favorite films:

  • 23a. [Podiatrist’s favorite film (1989)] is MY LEFT FOOT, with Daniel Day-Lewis.
  • 33a. [Orthopedist’s favorite film (2009)] is THE LOVELY BONES. Got this one with zero crossings.
  • 51a. I needed a few letters to make PLACES IN THE HEART, the [Cardiologist’s favorite film (1984)], take shape. Sally Field, right?
  • 64a. Ditto for the [Ophthalmologist’s favorite film (1981)], FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, a James Bond flick.
  • 82a. [Neurosurgeon’s favorite film, with “The” (1983)] is THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS. I’m not sure I’d want a neurosurgeon to remove one of my brains if I had two of them. I think this is a Steve Martin movie.
  • 95a. [Dermatologist’s favorite film (2004)] clues MYSTERIOUS SKIN. Say what? Missed hearing about this one, though it definitely would be an appealing title for a dermatologist.
  • 112a. [Hematologist’s favorite film (1982)] is FIRST BLOOD, the first Rambo movie.


  • Lots of interesting long fill here. There’s a GHOST SHIP and a HORROR STORY. The FLINTSTONES and MARLBORO.

I finished the puzzle quickly despite a slow start with 1- and 2d. [Running back Bradshaw] is named AHMAD. And no, he’s not Terry Bradshaw’s son. Never heard of him. 2d: [“I want my ___!” (old ad slogan)], starts with M—all I could think of was MTV and Malt-o-Meal, neither of which is 5 letters long. MAYPO?? Like IPANA (110a: [Toothpaste with a spokesbeaver]), before my time.


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22 Responses to Friday, 4/8/11

  1. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, which was running through my mind as much as the Berlin Wall during my solve. But no Cuba references herein…

    Today’s arcane soccer reference: former USA national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller once plied his trade at LEICESTER City Football Club (nickname: the Foxes). I think the reference to the market was definitely the better choice. :-)

  2. joon says:

    okay, i had to squint, but the 1961 in black squares is incredible. i was wondering if there was a reason for the crazy grid shape. the theme material, such as it is, is fairly minimal (only slightly more COLD WAR clues than harriet beecher STOWE clues)—but still, that is an insane grid and i actually found the fill to be refreshingly clean. nice one, joe!

    and welcome to the team, pannonica! i haven’t done the CHE puzzle yet so i’ve yet to read your inaugural post, but i’ve enjoyed your comments so i’m definitely looking forward to it.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Wow, I saw the black squares saying “1961” — loved the whole thing with the Wall starting as a fence and the VALIANCE of a warrior (from the French “vaillance”). Thank goodness Kennedy was valiant but not trigger-happy when it came to Cuba. Did you hear Bill Cosby’s take on Trump’s campaign? “He’s not running anything but his mouth!”

  4. pannonica says:

    “And is this the only valid crossword answer with two Q’s in a row?”

    The eclectic QQQ record for New Amsterdam records, but unfortunately I don’t think they’ll ever hit the mainstream. Apparently there’s some big tech stock company that’s abbreviated QQQ on one of the exchanges and, further, they used to be called QQQQ.

    Thanks for the nice introduction, Amy! And here I take the opportunity to apologize to one and all for the excessive length of my review. I had a small concern while composing, but not until it was published did I see how gargantuan it is. Sorry.

  5. Plot says:

    Man, I think it took me more time to figure out the grid than it took to solve the puzzle. It looked like a version of Pong with a giant mobius strip. Not much else to say that hasn’t already been said, though I did like the umpires’ FACE MASKS crossing SIT AT HOME, since the latter could have also been clued with regards to an umpire.

    Some more possible (though unlikely) double Q entries include:

    SUQQU – A Japanese cosmetics company
    AQQUATIX – A “Water Exercise and Fitness Equipment” company
    SHAQQA – A small Syrian town that hasn’t had any historical significance since the Byzantine era. According to Wiki, back then it had a much cooler name: Maximianopolis.
    NIQQUD – The vowel system used in modern Hebrew (This is the only one that I actually knew without googling)

    And, despite it’s redundancy, I believe ‘FAQ Question’ may be considered a legitimate phrase, ala ATM machine and PIN number.

  6. Jan (danjan) says:

    I spent 5 minutes scouring the puzzle to see where I had an error (StRAINED instead of SPRAINED) and never saw 1961. Before I started filling it in, I thought it was a stylized yin/yang, so early thoughts of what the theme might be were way off!

  7. janie says:

    welcome, pannonica! enjoyed your writeup of john’s groanworthy che. and don’t forget that formatting all those bullet points adds space to the write-up, making it appear longer than it may be by word-count. but when the words count — and are well put-together as they are today — quality always trumps quantity!

    loved joe k.’s puzzle — those descending 15s especially. completion time was far lower than most of my friday efforts, so i wanted more puzzle to solve!


  8. Gareth says:

    NYT: I am too familiar with Maleskaland: nailed 1A straight up.

    CHE: Wait, you’re an xx, Pannonica? I can add you to the vast number of online people I’ve mistakenly believed were either male or female! Fun write-up and clever theme, especially the title! Nit that should be “ne” not “nee.” Look forward to reading your musings each week esp. the first one in May!

    LAT: Clue for 23D = failure of breakfast test. Just.. No!! I was trying desperately to remember the word PAHOEHOE for 22D, referred to in your link. Good job I couldn’t because it would’ve fouled things up no end! Re your qq question, I would like the single “QQ ME” by local group The Finkelsteins to inexplicably become internationally famous so it can be used in crosswords!

  9. Howard B says:

    Welcome, pannonica! Nice writeup, no worries here.

    I enjoyed the sheer wonkiness of the Times puzzle. Interesting, visual, quirky as heck, and a bit unpredictable. Don’t want to get caught up in expecting and knowing what the styles or difficulty will be each day beyond a certain point. Good to mix it up just a bit.

  10. Todd G says:

    First off, wonderful blog debut, Pannonica! I give up, what would it be called if their sessions are held underwater?

    Funny you should mention ET SEQQ, Joe K (not to be confused with John K … or Nikita K) and I co-authored a puzzle containing ETSEQQ precisely because of the QQ. Will, alas, said no. Before I teamed with Joe, I tried SAQQARA, which is totally legitimate, if not super well known.

  11. joon says:

    pannonica, i was not in the least troubled by the length of your writeup, but you sure put the reader to work! my knowledge of greek and latin being only so-so, i was able to infer “seneximundial” but not (the second half of) “logopaígnia.” care to enlighten me?

    sam, i wish i could explain what ties the CS theme together, but i’m equally stumped. it’s not even “four movies i’ve never heard of,” because i’ve heard of the mark of zorro, or “four actors i have heard of” because i don’t know ROBERT RYAN.

    ET SEQQ was, i think, the best thing about the LAT puzzle. theme was ambitious but not remotely entertaining. i found the long fill dull, too. not one of my favorite LATs.

  12. pannonica says:

    Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone.

    Gareth, that makes sense, as the common French names are Renée (♀) and René (♂). And belated congratulations on your NYT début (I’ve been catching up on earlier posts).

    joon, much as I don’t really know French, Greek and Latin aren’t languages for which I can claim actual, much less formal, knowledge. I mostly make things up by drawing on roots I know from English and elsewhere, combined with a fair amount of experience in biological taxonomy. That’s me, cavalierly making a mess of the language sandbox. Logopaígnio is Greek for “pun,” word + toy. I changed the o to an a for appearance’s sake, despite Erato and Clio.

  13. *David* says:

    As the CHE grows on me and has becomes one of my favorite puzzles of the week, the longer write-ups work for me. I feel that it needs more careful tending and watering so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

  14. Daniel Myers says:

    Smashing write-up, pannonica! The more words from you the merrier, as far as I’m concerned. I only hope that it doesn’t interfere too much with your literary tilting at windmills.:-)

    @Gareth-pannonica’s chromosomes are not particulary hard to suss out, given her jazzy nom du blog.

  15. Katie says:

    Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Movie Mayhem”—Sam Donaldson’s review:
    Feel sorry for anyone who has never thrilled to a great Cagney performance, or is unfamiliar with Tyrone Power or Robert Ryan. Perhaps one must be a serious (and silly) fan of cinema to be thrilled by these actors and the characters they portrayed. Suppose most people are like “whatever” when they hear or see classic cinema references and don’t feel the rush of recognition and joy of remembering a brilliant scene or particular dialog (or the animated conversations with equally fanatical friends about symbolism, character, motifs, etc.) Really enjoyed the puzzle today, anyway…

  16. John Haber says:

    I found it easy for a Friday, especially as the very first long down answer came to mind before I’d entered anything. My obstacle there was clinging to “nibs” for NEBS, and it took a while to sell myself on the idea that the latter might be right. The right side came a little more slowly since I didn’t know exactly what kind of clothing a jumper is and since I first thought of “You shouldn’t have!” in the opposite sense, as in complimenting a gift giver. Still, not that hard.

    My last to fall was the south center, where I’d “titan” for Atlas and not HE-MAN, but STOWE as a gimme helped. I often dislike “the” fill, like THE UN, but with such a nice grid and fill, hard to complain.

    I have to say I liked the theme and found the odd-shaped grid very appealing, but I never did see the 1961. Having a little trouble seeing it now, in fact! (I guessed maybe two verticals stood for the wall, but then couldn’t account for the S-shape in between.)

    BTW, construction began in August 1961, and I’m not convinced the June meeting was a key, rather than Eastern Bloc evolving responses to emigration, even though Berlin dominated the Vienna talks. (It was about whether the West would continue to defend West Berlin.) That’s perhaps why the talks aren’t mentioned in the Wiki article on the wall.

  17. John Haber says:

    I also don’t agree that it began the Cold War. Pretty much any history or international relations text will use the term to cover the postwar period. I gather it was in use throughout the 1950s, and a quick check of Wiki verifies that Orwell coined the term even earlier.

  18. ArtLvr says:

    I meant to say thanks too, Pannonica! As to the question of the QQQ (formerly QQQQ), this is not a company symbol but an index (like the Dow-Jones Industrial Average of 20 large companies traded on the NY Stock Exchange). The QQQ, also called Power Shares, includes 100 of the largest companies traded on the NASDAQ. The new symbol reflects a recent rebalancing so that Apple is no longer as high as 20% of this index…

    I also wanted to add a note about Basil Rathbone, mostly associated with his great older portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. He was cast in the film “My Fair Lady”, and unlike Rex Harrison had a lovely singing voice! In case you haven’t guessed, he was the handsome young lovelorn swain Freddie who pined dreamily “On the Street Where You Live”!

  19. ArtLvr says:

    HH — I can’t open your link, but I guess I’m wrong… he must have been too old to be Freddie in the 1964 film! Rathbone is listed in the screen credits though, so he was in the cast somewhere — One google item I also couldn’t open indicated that My Fair Lady was his last screen appearance, but I can’t figure out what role he did play! Darn.

  20. Meem says:

    Thanks, pannonica, for the sprightly debut. I am generally a fan of the CHE puzzle and am glad that you are going to oversee its “garden” at CF.

  21. Dan F says:

    Just wanted to add that I too always enjoy pannonica’s comments, and am glad she’s joining Team Fiend…

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