Sunday, 9/25/11

NYT 9:17 
Reagle 7:50 
LAT 7:45 
BG 12:01 (pannonica) 
WaPo 5:52 
CS 6:44 (Sam) 

Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword, “Entwisted”

NYT crossword answers, "Entwisted" 9 25 11

I always enjoy a theme that plays with letter shapes and symmetries. In this one, phrases with a single N turn that letter on its side so that it’s a Z, forming a different word altogether:

  • 21a. Marmaduke turns into a GREAT DAZE from getting conked in the head.
  • 23a. A lemon zester meets an empty nester to make EMPTY ZESTER. All right, who stole my peel? I need that for the marmalade. (My son’s joke, building off constructor Matt Jones’s “When life gives you problems, make problemade,” is “When life gives you marmal, make marmalade.”)
  • 45a. Maine’s red lobster becomes a golden MAIZE LOBSTER.
  • 60a. SEE JUSTICE DOZE makes me wonder whether constructor and Judge Vic Fleming ever wants to nod off in the courtroom.
  • 67a. HIGHLIGHTER PEZ, eh. I just call it a highlighter; if pressed to place it in a category, it’s a marker. Yes, I know they call ’em “felt-tip pens,” but those are just fine-point markers in my mind.
  • 92a. My mom was all caught up in that FRASIER CRAZE for years, even into the syndication era.
  • 113a. If only Nero were around to see himself twisted into EMPERER ZERO. Ooh, burn!
  • 115a. This is terrible. You take a criminal kidnapper, make us think about children, and then talk about tasing them? I’d rather the KID ZAPPER were clued as a tool used against freshly metamorphosed mosquitoes.

Gotta like a theme that introduces eight new Z’s into the puzzle.


  • 53a, 55a. The Vlasic Pickles STORK is tied to the MYTH about delivering babies. Nice one-two punch!
  • 13d, 27d, 64d. “WHAT THE HEY?!” is a fun colloquial phrase, and so is “IT’S ALL GOOD.” I hope the constructor’s original clue for UGLIES was [Bumpin’ __] because that’s a fun slang term (it refers to intercourse), and [Hags, e.g.] is just mean.
  • Other good fill includes AL PACINO, GROUPIES, the LIMPID MUDCAT, and your RUMP ROASTS.

Down sides:

  • 76d. POOR PEOPLE, the [Less fortunate]? Aw, bummer.
  • 90a. Great clue for REVERSER—[“R” card in Uno, in effect]—but a blah word.

3.75 stars. I had a pretty good time working this crossword.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer/LA Times Calendar crossword, “Playing With Shakespeare”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 9 25 11 "Playing With Shakespeare"

Yay! Feels like it’s been a while since one of Merl’s pun themes struck me the right way, but I really enjoyed this one. The theme entries are all puns on Shakespeare titles.

(Brief promotional interlude, for which I do not make a penny: If literary crossword themes tickle you, pick up a copy of Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzles, edited by Ben Tausig. {If there’s a bookstore near you, buy it there instead of through Amazon. That report about unsafe (and low-paid) working conditions at an Amazon warehouse makes me cranky.} People are loving this book. Smart crosswords for well-read people, and tons of hot bylines {and I’m not even talking about my byline}.)

Back to Merl’s puzzle:

  • 23a. [Shak. play about a guy who has trouble meeting girls?] is MACBREATH. Shoot, I forgot to give my husband a piece of gum this afternoon after he asked for it.
  • 30a. [Shak. play about Prospero’s favorite books?] is THE TEN BEST.
  • 32a. [Shak. play whose original title was “Hey, You”?] clues OH, FELLOW.
  • 42a, 44a. [A Shak. play that turns out the opposite of what you expected?] clues ANTONYM AND CLEOPATRA.
  • 61a, 72a. [The Shak. play that pretty much ended the practice of men always playing women’s roles?] clues THEM HAIRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. Wait, what? Not sure how the clue really gets us to the answer, but I like the way the sounds split up from “The Merry.”
  • 84a. [Shak. play about a dachshund?] is THE WIENER’S TAIL. Cute!
  • 96a. [Shak. play about a fateful salad made by a famous French chef?] is JULIA’S CAESAR. Nice!
  • 102a, 115a. [Shak. play about a drunken Roman?] is TIGHT AS ANDRONICUS.
  • 111a. [Shak. play about a king who needs to loosen up once in a while?] is RIGID III.
  • 124a. [Shak. play with the famous line, “What a piece of pork is a man”?] clues HAM OMELET.

I don’t really see much I want to comment on in the rest of the fill, but I’m still giving the puzzle a solid four stars because the theme worked so well for me.

Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 77”

Washington Post Puzzler No. 77 crossword answers, 9 25 11 Karen Tracey

This puzzle pulled me in two directions: the “Wait, what? I’ve never heard of that” perplexed direction and the “Ooh! I like that” direction. First up, the “oohs”:

  • 19a. [Broadway revue cafe] is SMOKEY JOE’S. This is Karen, the constructor with a preternatural predilection to work Js and Ks into her puzzles (along with the Z, Q, and X you see).
  • 32a. TECHNO FUNK is a [Hybrid music genre].
  • 48a. ECKO is a [Clothing store giving 20% off for life to anyone with a tattoo of one of its logos]. Fun clue. My cousin has a Ralph Lauren polo pony tattoo, but I don’t think he garnered a store discount. This should be a universal policy. You know how many people would get tattooed with the BMW logo if they could save 20% on a car?
  • 2d. [1954 film with the tagline “A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!”] is a crazy-long clue for a short movie title, THEM! Giant ants.
  • 6d. I like the phrase CONJURED UP, meaning [Brought forth magically].
  • 26d. SPELUNKING, or caving, is an [Underground hobby?]. The best variety, of course, is techno funk spelunking.

And now, the “wha…?”s:

  • 17a. [Conditional court order] is a DECREE NISI.
  • 8d. [French for “injured”] is LESE. Lèse-majesté means “injured sovereignty” and is used to refer to the treasonous insulting of a monarch. C’mon, monarch! Sticks and stones, etc.
  • 11d. [Bloodless] clues EXSANGUINE. I knew sanguine was an adjective but I can’t say I’ve seen exsanguine. Exsanguinate, sure.
  • 12d. [Bette Davis’s “Pocketful of Miracles” role] is APPLE ANNIE. I’m eating a Honeycrisp apple and I’ve heard of Bette Davis, but aside from that, I got nothin’.
  • 15d. From 2003 on, [“Miss Independent” singer] has clued KELLY CLARKSON, but that sure doesn’t fit into four squares. Apparently NE-YO had his own song by that name in 2008.
  • 23d. ETON is the name of a [Berkshire town]. I am not up on my Berkshires.
  • 39d. [“March of the Penguins” director Luc] JACQUET? I’ll take your word for it, Karen.
  • 43d. [Growing in pairs, botanically] clues BINATE. Never saw that word, but the bi- part is simple enough.

The Scowl-o-Meter was held at bay here, even in the northeast corner that kicked my butt, so four stars.

Jeffrey Lease’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “It’s a Surprise”

Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword solution, "It's a Surprise" 9 25 11

Solid theme, smooth fill overall, but a few niggling details popped out at me (more on that in a bit). The theme entries take on a surprise IT that changes one of the words in a phrase:

  • 23a. [Stakeout?] is a SITTING OPERATION.
  • 28a. [“May I cut in?” speaker?] is a POLITE DANCER. Note that this answer’s got eight of its letters stacked beneath the previous theme answer.
  • 47a. [Part of an excavated skeleton?] is an ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIGIT. Okay, did you see the clue for the crossing answer at 49d? LARA is [Fictional archaeologist Croft]. Ideally, we don’t repeat 11 key letters of a theme answer in a clue. So easy to clue LARA without the word in question, too!
  • 62a. [Voracious vampire’s mantra?] is BITE ALL THAT YOU CAN BITE. The central answer not only spans the entire 21 squares of the grid, it doubles up on the IT surprise.
  • 77a. [Pot with limited seafood portions?] is A FINITE KETTLE OF FISH. Colorful base phrase.
  • 100a. [Unaffected horse movements?] are NATURAL GAITS. The juvenile part of me is disappointed that the constructor didn’t find a way to work with INTESTINAL GAS as a base phrase.
  • 106a. [One pirating Springsteen CDs?] is THE E STREET BANDIT. Nice!

I’ve got a couple nits besides the LARA thing. First: Freddy ADU (87d) is originally from Ghana, but that makes him Ghanaian, not a [Ghanian-born soccer great]. This is the second puzzle in recent weeks that used the “Ghanian” spelling, which, sure, gets over 600,000 Google hits—but “Ghanaian” gets more than 12 million.

Second: I’m fine with answers like ALITO and EDIT containing the “IT” combo, but there are also answers with the word IT in them, and they’re not tied to the theme. There’s 34d: DO IT, [“I dare you!”]. And 60d: AT IT, [Words after keep or have]. And more noticeably, 79d: IT’S MAGIC, [Unhelpful response to “How did you do that?”]. IT’S MAGIC feels like it should be tied to the theme, as those letters do sort of magically appear inside phrases they don’t belong in.

3.5 stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” — Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution September 25

If you don’t like names and pop culture in your crosswords, you won’t like today’s Sunday Challenge from Doug Peterson. But if you’re like me and enjoy these things, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a terrific freestyle puzzle. The 72/30 grid contains a lot of proper names and more than a handful of great entries and entertaining clues.

On the people front, we have JESSE James, TINA Fey, BECKY Thatcher from Tom Sawyer, BERNARD ([Bianca’s partner in “The Rescuers”]), ASLAN ([“The Chronicles of Narnia” lion]), STEWIE Gilligan Griffin (the [“Family Guy” character with a football-shaped head]), Mrs. MALAPROP, DEREK JETER, LENORE (the [“Rare and radiant maiden” of verse]), a couple of EDS, ETHAN HAWKE, ERIC THE RED, Raymond BURR of Rear Window, and David OGDEN Stiers of M*A*S*H. That’s nearly 20% of the 72 entries.

Even bigger highlights:

  • We have seen I BEFORE E in crosswords before, but [Start of a rule broken by foreigners?] is a superb clue  (the word “foreigners” has the E before the I, so it breaks the conventional spelling rule).
  • AIRPLANE is an entry that needs a good clue to be interesting.  [747, for one] is a perfectly fine clue, but it doesn’t have nearly the oomph that Peterson delivers with [Movie with the line, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley”].
  • [Throws on the floor?] is a nice clue for AREA RUGS. I wish it didn’t have the question mark at the end to signal the misdirection, but I suppose that might make it a tad bit harder than the CrosSynergy puzzle likes to be.
  • When I saw the clue [Donor designation], I thought of a designation made by a donor, something like CHARITY or FUND.  But the answer, TYPE O, refers to a designation for some blood donors. I’m A-positive myself, one of the few times I have earned an A+.
  • Mount RAINIER is the [Cascade range peak] that I can see from my home on nice days like yesterday. We’re supposed to have stormier weather for the next few days, so the mountain won’t be out again anytime soon. (Yes, Seattle-ites say “the mountain is out” to refer to a clear day.)

And here’s what I learned from this puzzle: (1)  I have heard of GODSPELL, the [“Day by Day” musical] at 1-Across, but I have never seen it, so I needed lots of crossings here (in fact, the northwest was the last quadrant to fall); and (2) In a similar vein, GRAND HOTEL is a movie I have heard of but not seen, so the clue [1932 Greta Garbo film set in Berlin] wasn’t especially helpful for me.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “A Day at the Park” – pannonica’s review

Boston Globe crossword • 9/25/11 • Cox, Rathvon • "A Day at the Park" • answers

No confusion about the theme here, idioms from baseball. Their use has long since expanded past our not-so-humble shores, to varying degrees of welcome.

  • 23a. [Address what needs to be done] STEP UP TO THE PLATE, which reminds me of the graphically evocative “belly up to the bar,” no relation to baseball.
  • 36a. [Bang] RIGHT OFF THE BAT. Clue wants an exclamation point–also called a bang—if you ask me.
  • 54a. [Leave no stone unturned] COVER ALL THE BASES. You know what covers all the bases? A tarpaulin.
  • 70a. [With backs to the wall] DOWN TO THE LAST OUT. I believe “down to the last man” would have worked also, but it isn’t as baseball-specific.
  • 82a. [Try it another day] TAKE A RAIN CHECK. I wasn’t aware that the phrase originated from baseball; thought it was in reference to any kind of outdoor event or performance (and then later generalized, of course). The all-wise internet seems to confirm that it’s from baseball.
  • 104a. [Fresh kettle of fish] WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. The clue itself is also a fine idiom.

Plenty, and I do mean plenty, of  baseball allusions in the ballast, both clues and fill:

  • Across. 10a [Slugged] SMOTE; 26a [Moundsman Maddux] GREG (alliteration!); 29a [Clubhouse gear] MITTS; 59a [Bleacher feature] AISLE (rhyming!); 94a [Slang for fast pitches] GAS; 98a [Walk-off homer response] CHEERS; 107a [Mound infractions] BALKS.
  • Down. 9d [“The Iron Horse”] GEHRIG; 14d [Ending on Stengel] -ESE; 38d [“Damn Yankees” choreographer] FOSSE; 74d [Jacoby Ellsbury’s ilk] STEALERS.
  • Less overtly, we have 43a [Like a sure bet] NO LOSE; 58a [“Show me __ “] THE MONEY (I was hoping to learn that Jerry Maguire, the movie this famous line is from, featured Tom Cruise as a baseball players’ agent, but it seems his clients were footballers, gridders. Apparently, however, the final scene occurs at a Little League baseball game.); 113a [Blameworthy loser] GOAT, not specific to baseball but strongly enough associated; 36d [Come from behind] RALLY, ditto; 41d [Real swinger from Borneo] ORANG.


  • Unusual words: NATANT [Floating]; NUNAVUT (okay, maybe not so unusual, but I’ll take any excuse to say it or type it; CATALO [Bovine hybrid] not cattalo?
  • Trickiest clues: 67a [Graciously admit] hasn’t anything to do with admitting failure, as I subconsciously appended the clue, but refers to when you SEE IN a VISITor (32d). 56d fooled me too, as [Refrain from the farm] doesn’t describe agricultural avoidance but instead invokes the children’s song “Old MacDonald.” EIEIO.
  • Other notable clues:
    • 28a [“Crotalus” warning] RATTLE. Crotalus is a genus of pit vipers, but because of the constraints of Across Lite it’s in quotes rather than italicized, effectively making it seem as if it might be an ancient Greek play or something.
    • 75a [Sanctions in a good way] OKAY. Contarnyms, love ’em, and  hate ’em!
    • 93a [Bed of riches] LODE. If it had been clued ‘rich bed,’ then LOAM would probably have been the answer.
    • 101a [Pangolin, for one] ANT EATER. I’ve written it as two words because from my experience an anteater is a mammal of the Order Pilosa and the exclusively Old World pangolins are in the Order Pholidota. Aardvarks a different yet again. Once upon a time, they were all lumped together into an Order called Edentata (“without teeth,” even though many members did in fact have teeth) which also included sloths and armadillos.
    • 42d [Rhubarb] meaning MELEE is new to me and I like it. Hope an opportunity arises to use it.
  • Is it just me, or does the trio of art fill, HANS Holbein, Paul KLEE, and EASEL have the  form of an easel?
  • 45d [“Face/Off” maker] is JOHN WOO. A preposterous and truly terrible movie, laden with cliché and gaping plot holes. One of the few I have ever walked out of the theater from.

To recap, I liked the puzzle, even if it was about baseball.

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15 Responses to Sunday, 9/25/11

  1. Gareth says:

    NYT: Some of the puns (I know not everyone considers them to be..) were great: MAIZELOBSTER, SEEJUSTICEDOZE. The two long colloquial phrases were indeed great bonuses too! For some reason I had MUDkip not CAT – that is a Pokémon!!! Question: is FREERUN the American-ese for FREErange? 84A is also “Loser to Canada at RWC 2011”. Aside: does anyone experience this phenomenon with the applet. MY timer stopped at 18:29, but my official time is 16:22. It’s happened a few times before too…

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Gareth, interestingly enough, “free range” is Americanese for “free range.” Never seen FREE RUN before. Free rein, yes. “Have the run of the place,” yes. But not FREE RUN. Also, be nice to TONGA. Those guys are bigger than you.

  3. I knew this theme was familiar. This was the shtick I accidentally did twice on my blog: here and here.

  4. Howard B says:

    Times puzzle: Simple theme, Nicely done. Even though we’ve seen this kind of thing before, the phrases were just great in this one. Had fun working them out.

    Although I enjoy weird, rule-breaking themes, it’s still possible to take these more commonly seen theme ideas and make them work.

  5. Martin says:

    Free-run chickens are not caged, but may be kept in large barn-like henhouses. Free-range chickens are free run but also have access to the outdoors. In practice, this may be provided by a terrace attached to the henhouse, making the distinction less than critical to the sun-worshipping hen.

    In the US, all eggs sold as “organic” come from free-range chickens.

  6. Gareth says:

    that never came up in our course on chicken farming/veterinary issues… All meat chickens are on floors in South Africa, but are still considered battery chickens.

  7. Matthew G. says:

    Re NYT:

    I agree that FREE RUN is an unfamiliar term and that KID ZAPPER was a jaw-dropper.

    Re Post Puzzler:

    I am an appellate attorney, and was still stunned to see DECREE NISI. Not only is it obscure, I’m not aware of any jurisdictions that still use that term. It’s very seventeenth century.

    Can someone explain {Iceberg breakaway} as a clue for CALF? I have no idea what meaning of CALF (or, for that matter, of “iceberg”} is being referred to here.

  8. pannonica says:

    Matthew G.: When a large piece of an iceberg or glacier breaks off from the main structure, its called calving. I hadn’t heard of the piece in question referred to as a calf, but that may simply be due to ignorance.

    nb: The contranym cleaving is applicable here too.

  9. Iceman Bob says:

    @Matthew G., when a hunk of ice breaks off a glacier into the sea, it’s called “calving”, as when a cow pops out a newborn calf. Hence the question mark after “calf” because after the calving, for everyone except crossworders, it’s an iceberg.

  10. Jamie says:

    Hmm. Is no one else here divorced, or is MA the only state that issues a decree nisi? (At least it did when I got divorced).

  11. Dan F says:

    I thought the LAT puzzle was as close to 5 stars as an LAT Sunday is ever going to be. The two editing bloopers didn’t bother me, nor did the additional ITs in the fill. (I’m with the crowd that doesn’t see that as a problem unless we’re in a rebus situation…) Aside from the ERTES/AHSO/LEMA-crossing-ESME pileup in the south, I was smiling all the way through.

    Oh, and Doug Peterson’s freestyle was awesome. /end macro

  12. Matthew G. says:

    @Iceman Bob: There was no question mark in the puzzle, only in my post.

    @Jamie: Interesting! First modern usage of the term I’ve encountered.

  13. Jamie says:

    @Matthew G: :( I’d have taken a pass on that particular “nailed it” clue. It was yonks ago.

    @Dan F: OK, what was so stellar about the LAT that you thought it one of the best ever? Not that there was anything wrong with it, I thought it a solid 4.

  14. HH says:

    Where can I buy one of those kid zappers?

  15. Jamie says:

    HaHa HH, you glorious curmudgeon.

Comments are closed.