Sunday, 11/6/11

NYT 8:32 
Reagle 6:35 
LAT untimed 
Hex/Hook 10:06 (pannonica) 
WaPo 5:53 
CS 14:04 (Sam)/3:34 (Amy) 

Congratulations, by the way, to Joon Pahk, who won his match in Jeopardy!‘s Tournament of Champions on Friday. He moves on to the semifinals. Good luck in the past, Joon! I hope you taped more victories for broadcast next week.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Baker’s Dozen”

New York Times crossword answers, 11 6 11 Gorski "Baker's Dozen"

So I was poking my way through this puzzle and encountering some blah fill that made me begin to frown. But then I figured out what was happening with 3-Down, [Schokolade]—that’s “chocolate” in German, and the answer is GERMAN CHOCOLATE spelled upwards in the grid. I started to find other tasty cakes running upward and the crossword got even more delicious. And then finally I made my way to the right side of the grid, where 47d: UPSIDE-DOWN CAKES appeared and explained the whole theme. Love it! Also, where is my40d: BLACK FOREST cake? I would like some right now.

The other cakes in the titular “Baker’s Dozen” are 1d: SHORT and 110d: SHEET, 103d: LAYER and 14d: POUND, 50d: SPONGE and 61d: BANANA, 5d: ANGEL FOOD (how awesome does DOOFLEGNA look in the grid?) and 84d: RED VELVET, and 12d: ICE CREAM and 126u… I mean, 87d: BIRTHDAY.

It would be mean to suggest that Liz’s grid should also resemble a birthday cake. She’s allowed to have delicious and fun themes that don’t also have a visual aspect beyond the upside-downing.

I like the theme so much, I forgive the gnarly crossings that threatened to break me. Until I figured out that 103d: [Coat of paint] was a backwards cake, I was stuck where 104d: [Russia’s ___ Bay, arm of the White Sea] crossed 121a: [English general in the American Revolution]. I somehow dredged the name GAGE out of the mental cobwebs and discovered the LAYER cake and hoped like hell that ONEGA was actually right.

The other hideous crossing was the unholy junction of 63d: EWA [___ Beach, Hawaii] and 75a: PAWL, [Ratchet bar]. PAWL looked more plausible than POWL and it couldn’t be PEWL because EWE wouldn’t need a Hawaiian clue. EWA is Polish for “Eva,” but these people aren’t household names in the U.S.

I’d also like some poundcake and angel food cake, both with fresh berries and whipped cream on top. Who can take care of this?

4.5 stars. A couple insane trouble spots, yes, but an unexpectedly rich and sweet theme.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Washington Post crossword, “You Can’t Lose”

Merl Reagle's crossword answers, 11 6 11 "You Can't Lose"

Merl’s put this puzzle on a diet—it’s only 20 squares wide, not 21. Everything’s win-win here—A WIN-WIN SITUATION is 63a: [What each theme answer in this puzzle illustrates], as each has the letters WIN twice:

  • 20a. [Napa Valley and Bordeaux, France, for example] = WINE-GROWING REGIONS.
  • 32a. [Removing, in a way] = WINNOWING OUT.
  • 48a. [Start of a child’s song] = TWINKLE, TWINKLE.
  • 78a. [Indication of things to come] – STRAW IN THE WIND.
  • 91a. [Car-door feature] is a WIND-UP WINDOW. Ah, yes, the hand crank.
  • 105a. [“If you get my drift”] = WINK, WINK, NUDGE, NUDGE. Merl saved the best for last but this is actually the first theme entry I got.

Fair enough. No wordplay action in the theme, but I do like 105a.

Five more clues:

  • 46d. [Seattle suburb (anagram of U WALK IT)] clues TUKWILA. Population 19,000! It’s bigger than ATHOL, Massachusetts, its crossings are fair, and there’s an anagram to bail you out if needed.
  • 67a. [Stop sign inventor William]…hmm…nope, no idea. Work the crossings…ENO! A non-Brian ENO! Eno was an Eli.
  • 50d. [Of an African river] clues NILOTIC, pertaining to the Nile. You were thinking perhaps Zambeziesque?
  • 85a. [Indicated “I’m in”] clues ANTEED. I don’t know who spells it like that, rather than ANTED, past tense of ANTE.
  • 100a. Humbert’s [Humbert’s obsession] is LOLITA. I appreciate a literature clue for this answer rather than a creepy “Lolita is a generic noun for a girl-child below the age of consent who is deemed by creepy dudes to be totally leading them on.”

3.25 stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, November 6

Our Freshman Fiend, Doug Peterson, constructed this week’s “Sunday Challenge” crossword. The Fiend Team has never discussed the etiquette involved in blogging a colleague’s puzzles, but I like to think we’d be as honest in our reviews of each other as we are in our reviews of all other crosswords. At least I think that’s why Amy ripped apart my last offering (just kidding–if anything, she was too polite).

Fortunately I don’t expect any awkwardness when blogging Doug’s puzzles, as his work is always flawless and entertaining. Others have observed that he is one of the most under-rated constructors out there, and I’d agree. Today’s  72/29 freestyle puzzle exhibits many of the qualities you typically find in his work–a nice mix of pop culture, sparkly fill, and at least one baseball reference (here, it’s FIELD, clued as [Handle a line drive, say]).

The highlights are the long 10-letter Downs feeding off the triple 7s in each corner. Of the six items, only ANESTHESIA will put you to sleep. (But note how he compensates with the superb clue, [Operator’s number?].) The others are great, especially since the first three (read from left to right) form the interesting sentence: CHOW DOWN ON HELLO KITTY IN A BAD SPOTLIGHT AS AIR and RINGO STARR are likewise terrific.

On the pop culture front, there’s much to go along with (or, depending on your tastes, atone for) HELLO KITTY, like THE WIRE, ECLIPSE (again, tastes may vary), and ENYA. Other notable entries and clues include:

  • A SELL-OUT is indeed [Good news for scalpers], for they can charge a premium for the tickets they sell just outside the arena.
  • Any grid with NOOGIES, the [Knuckleheaded moves?], and an ALCOPOP gets an extra half-star from me.
  • Oh, we can’t forget the two 14-letter entries at the equator: POT-BELLIED PIGS and WINDOW DRESSING are both nice entries.
  • [Competes in the Hambletonian] was helpful, I’m sure, to those who knew what the heck the Hambletonian was. From what I can tell, it’s either a harness race in the United States (the Hambletonian Stakes) or a harness race in New Zealand (the Hambletonian Classic). But in either case, a competitor TROTS.
  • Anyone else want TEA COSY or TEA COZY as the [Pot holder?]? It turned out to be a TEA TRAY. Given its location at the bottom of the grid, I should have guessed that sooner. The letters in TRAY are much more common as end letters than the letters in COZY

This is a solid 4-star puzzle that could have earned another half-star if SMUSH had been clued not as [Flatten, slangily] but instead as [___ Room: spot in the “Jersey Shore” house without cameras].

Peter Koetters’ syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Do or Dye Situation” – Doug’s review

Peter Koetters' syndicated LA Times solution 11/6/11, "Do or Dye Situation"

I hope you all remembered to fall forward or spring back or whatever last night. Daylight Saving Time really annoys me. It would work better if dogs and cats could tell time and would stop waking up their owners an hour early every morning. And then there’s DST, which is an awful grid entry. The whole thing gives me a headache.

Now I have no idea what time it is. But I do know it’s Sunday, so I’d better get cracking on today’s puzzle. The theme is phrases that start with words that can follow HAIR.

  • 23a. [*Dangerously close call] – BRUSH WITH DEATH. Yikes, that’s a scary way to start the puzzle. Must have been left over from last week’s Halloween theme.
  • 33a. [*Attachment for a paint gun] – SPRAY NOZZLE.
  • 51a. [*Interrogator’s approach] – LINE OF INQUIRY.
  • 67a. [*”Nothing to it!”] – PIECE OF CAKE
  • 81a. [*Be up to snuff] – CUT THE MUSTARD.
  • 96a. [*Running back, often] – BALL CARRIER.
  • 17d. [*Greenskeeper’s concern] – PIN PLACEMENT. Is this an actual golf term? The pin is that flag they stick in the hole, right?
  • 61d. [*Where a star prepares to shine] – DRESSING ROOM.
  • 110a. [Weaves, or what the starts of the starred answers are, in a way] – HAIR EXTENSIONS. Fun entry, and a great way to explain the theme. Much better than just putting HAIR into the grid or title. 

A few long mathy answers in the rest of the puzzle. Some other good stuff too.

  • 14a. [Macedonian birthplace of Mother Teresa] – SKOPJE. Weird-looking name, and I like it. Any world capital is fair game in a crossword.
  • 27a. [Derby title?] – EARL. Can anyone explain why this clue needs a question mark? There’s an Earl of Derby, so it seems pretty straightforward. Trivia note: hockey’s Stanley Cup originated with the 16th Earl of Derby, Lord Frederick Stanley.
  • 54a. [Like a rational number’s denominator] – NON-ZERO. In other words, you can’t divide by zero.
  • 64a. [Type of geometry] – EUCLIDEAN. This is the kind of geometry we all learned in high school. I quickly scanned the Wikipedia article on Euclidean geometry and came across a section called “The Bridge of Asses.” Hmm, my 10th grade geometry class didn’t cover that one.
  • 3d. [Grade school operator] – PLUS SIGN. My favorite math clue of the day.
  • 73d. [“__ Dream”:Wagner aria] – ELSA’S. I’m going to make an iTunes playlist with “Elsa’s Dream,” “Eso Beso,” “Eri tu,” and “Eres Tu” so I can finally figure out what any of them sound like. I hope they sound better than they look in a grid.
  • 87d. [Something with a bag of chips?] – ALL THAT. Love it. All that and a bag of chips. Delicious.

Today’s puzzle rating: 3.5 hirsute stars.

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 83”

Washington Post Puzzler No 83 crossword solution

Whoa, one Doug Peterson crossword review and two Doug Peterson crosswords in one day. Doug keeps busy with this crossword pastime, doesn’t he?

My favorite answer is 3d, GIRL SCOUT COOKIE. The clue is deceptive, and also regionally sensitive as cookie names vary by region. If [Samoa, e.g.] just confuses you, pretend the clue is [Caramel deLite, e.g.].

This 68-word themeless has three more 15-letter answers, all of them lively:

  • 2d. [Mobile element of national defense] is a NUCLEAR FOOTBALL.
  • 11d. [What a con artist may claim to be] is a terrific clue for DISTANT RELATION.
  • 12d. A trencherman likes to eat. [Trencherman’s hyperbole] is I COULD EAT A HORSE.

Let’s walk through the clue list, shall we?

  • 15a. [Its natives call themselves Ticos] clues COSTA RICA. One of my cousins is engaged to a Costa Rican.
  • 23a. [Shells used for clams?], “clams” meaning money, are WAMPUM.
  • 29a. [Pro Bowl cornerback Barber] is RONDE. His twin brother Tiki (not Tico) also played in the NFL. I think he’s a writer and sportscaster now.
  • 32a. CORTES was a [Subject for Diego Rivera]. You don’t say.
  • 34a. [Ballerina Toumanova] clues TAMARA. I guessed this based on the last few letters. Those baby-name books I read as a kid taught me that the African-American girl next door had a name with exotic Russian origins.
  • 39a. [___ Roach (“Scars” band)] clues PAPA. No idea.
  • 40a. [Pole designation] is SLAV. Tricky clue, given the hidden must-be-capital P.
  • 42a. [Protesters often raise one] clues OUTCRY. Somehow I tried WARCRY here and wondered why the 36d: [Title word in many Lilian Jackson Braun novels] was CAR. (It’s CAT.)
  • 47a. [Brown’s former partner] clues HOUSTON. It just hit me now—exes Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston.
  • 53a. [Possible sub component]is nasty OLIVE LOAF, not a piece of maritime engineering.
  • 56a. [Ham’s digit] is NINER, the way ham radio operators say “nine.”
  • 24d. [Hi-Q piece] is a PEG? No idea what this is. Some sort of game?
  • 34d. Great clue! TOP CHEF is a [Showcase for pan handlers]
  • 42d. [City on I-75] is OCALA. The clue didn’t help me even though I’ve been on I-75 a half hour from Ocala. D’oh.
  • 43d. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I don’t really know why YUBAN is a [Joe choice]. Wanted DECAF here.
  • 48d. [It’s often paired with a matching choli] clues a SARI. A choli is the cropped top worn beneath a sari.

Fun puzzle. Four stars.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday Crossword, “Pirated Songs” — pannonica’s review

Sunday Puzzle • "Pirated Songs" • Cox, Rathvon • 11/6/11 • solution

Shades of the JALI ROGER!

These puzzles are usually posted on-line six weeks after they appear in print, so this ones’s apparently honoring “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which was 19 September. I imagine him just sitting there, minding his own business in some shantytown bucket-of-blood, when someone Mickeyfinned the grog and the puzzle came to much later, having been shanghaied onto a brigantine on the high seas of the unregulated internet.

  • 23a. [Pirated Jimmy Buffet song?] MARRGHARITAVILLE. Nice one to start with, since Buffet and his parrotheads cultivate a waggish latter-day pirate mentality. “Margaritaville”
  • 33a. [Pirated Beatles song?] AVAST THERE, JUDE. “Hey Jude”
  • 44a. [Pirated Buddy Holly song?] PEG LEG SUE. “Peggy Sue”
  • 59a. [Pirated Johnny Cash song?] I WALK THE PLANK. “I Walk the Line”
  • 66a. [Pirated children’s song?] I BE A WEE RUM POT. “I’m a Little Teapot”
  • 77a. [Pirated Satchmo song?] AHOY DOLLY. “Hello Dolly”
  • 91a. [Pirated Stephen Foster song?] YO HO HO! SUSANNA. “Oh! Susanna”
  • 102a. [Pirated jazz standard?} BYE BYE BLACKBEARD. “Bye Bye Blackbird”

You will notice that the mechanics of the themes are not rigorously consistent. Some are puns, some play with the stereotypical piratical syntax and vocabulary (33a and 66a are my favorites). The second Beatles song, 102a, is clued in its incarnation as a “jazz standard” to avoid a duplication; that and 66a are the only two clued without referencing a specific artist. And why is 77a clued with the nickname Satchmo instead of simply Louis Armstrong? Not to worry, these are minor concerns, since the themers are consistently good and consistently amusing. Besides, as Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa says to Keira Knightley in a scene from that Disney movie,

Elizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren…

Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and you’re not. And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.

Gray Jay, Perisoreus sp.

The ballast fill (finally my term has added relevance!) is strong and varied, but doesn’t challenge the theme content. Well, not as a rule: TAMPA occupies the central vertical spot, cross-referenced to 94d BUCcaneers, the local NFL team. SEA BAGS, clued via sailors, shows up, and DORY is clued as part of hunky-dory, rather than asa boat or fish.  SAMOA and GUAM make appearances, but they unfortunately have never been noted pirate enclaves, not in the way the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Indonesian seas were. Medium-length fill such as TIEBACK, PLOWBOY, OCTAVIO, CHORTLE and WOMBAT add spice.

A fine puzzle, and I’m happy that “I Just Keelhauled to Say I Love You” would have been too long to fit.

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24 Responses to Sunday, 11/6/11

  1. Aaron says:

    First time I find myself largely disagreeing with your write-up; in addition to the two awful crosses you mention, there was a lot of hideous abbreviated fill: LLDS crossing DBA? And while I’ve heard of LLC, I’ve never heard of LTD. NEVA and NRC is tricky, too, for those of us not as well-versed in crosswordese. I liked the theme just fine, and it seemed symmetric (I didn’t check to confirm), but the fill lowered this a *minimum* of two stars for me.

  2. Tuning Spork says:

    Disappointing Reagle today. ETNEAN and NILOTIC from the guy who famously eschews ERAL?

    Saving WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE for the last theme answer is a no-brainer. But why not expand the grid to 22×21 and avoid the ugly block-infested corners? Probably would have facilitated avoiding the six-block chucks at the middle sides, as well, and not ending up with 86 blocks (20.48%!).

  3. Dan F says:

    ETNEAN and NILOTIC both appearing made me laugh. Merl could have just removed the “A” from WIN-WIN SITUATION to make it a square grid…

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Ah, but Dan, a 21×21 grid (with the bottom theme answer 18 letters) would have made for an even uglier grid by forcing two more black squares at both the top and bottom two rows.

    I made a 22×21 layout with Merl’s theme answers in the same order and tried some fill.
    Yep. The grid could have much more pleasing to the eye without all those blocks.

  5. Gareth says:

    The light went on 25 minutes in. Until that time I wasn’t having a lot of fun. I may have sworn at the computer screen a few times, in fact, because nowhere nowhere was anything coming together and plenty of places I seemed to be putting in obviously right answers, only to get garbage crossers. Only once I just got obstinate and threw together the top-right corner and had DNUOP and stared for a few seconds did I get part one of the theme, part two didn’t take much longer though. It didn’t help that I could get NO TRACTION WHATSOEVER in the area around UPSIDEDOWN! I haven’t heard of a German Chocolate Cake. How does it differ from the regular? I figured SCHOKOLADE would be German for chocolate though, Afrikaans is “sjokolade.” I’m also off to find out what a REDVELVET cake is! ScARcER didn’t help a damn! I finished with your ONEGA/GAGE, and I tried GAyE/ONEyA first… when it told me my solution was incorrect I tried a different letter. I knew PAWL at least! (Do I get man points for knowing that?) I’ve said before I encountered a bright blue-faced AGAMA last year, right? It made that answer at least a slam dunk!

    @TS: Dunno about Etnean, but Nilotic is used in the context of people groups; I’m guessing it’s just awkward to refer to black people groups??? Would people have taken offense at “Like some North Africans” – probably.

    P.S. Curious, the German Chocolate cake is not German it’s named for Mr. German! So sayeth Wikipedia!

  6. Matt says:

    Should have noticed sooner that it was a Gorski… I’d have then realized sooner that all the theme words were vertical -and- were arranged symmetrically and it would have been a bit easier. And I guess I agree that the lower left corner is a blemish, but still, a pretty amazing puzzle.

  7. janie says:

    thought liz’s puzzle was utterly delicious! caught on to the gimmick pretty early in the game and marveled at the construction throughout. if there’s some less-than-ideal fill, well, that’s sometimes the large-format trade off for an inspired theme. and (imoo) this is one of the best. appreciating the merits of the, uh, multi-LAYERed big picture made for one happy solve.

    and yay — a double-doug day, too!


  8. ArtLvr says:

    Loved the Gorski gourmet delights which I saw were upside from the GERMAN CHOCOLATE at the start, though it was tricky to discover where each would turn up! (pun) And seeing GAGE was great, since I’m more than halfway through W S Randall’s riveting new bio of Ethan Allen — leader of the Green Mountain Boys while Colonies of New York and New Hampshire disputed sway over territory which would become Vermont, and the only military force of any consequence in pre-Revolutionary years!

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    We’re all over the place today. I *loved* Liz’s, but found it difficult. I thought the LAT was as boring as could be. Maybe it was the order in which I did them.


  10. Martin says:

    Not only is German chocolate cake named for Sam German, but “German’s chocolate” was marketed by Baker’s Chocolate — named for James Baker.

  11. Jan (danjan) says:

    @Gareth – Red Velvet cake is a Southern US specialty. It’s basically chocolate cake with red food coloring added to the batter, and iced with cream cheese frosting. It has become more known across the US, and Duncan Hines now makes a boxed mix for it.

  12. pannonica says:

    Martin, are you going to tell us Hilary is responsible for Duff beer?

  13. Martin says:


    For some reason I haven’t figured out, Red Velvet cake is an honored tradition in my wife’s (Japanese-American from the deep south of Eastern Washington state) family. They take it very seriously.

    The proper color comes from lowering the pH of the batter with both buttermik and vinegar, although it is enhanced with food coloring. But Red Velvet cake is never, ever made with cream cheese frosting. (I admit that most cakes and cupcakes purporting to be Red Velvet are, in fact, iced this way. But I have been taught that they are all counterfeits.)

    The proper Red Velvet cake icing is a bit tricky to work, and it goes through a curdly, awkward stage that will convince a newbie the recipe is wrong.

  14. klewge says:

    AVAST THAR, pannonica! “Bye Bye Blackbird” is a different song from The Beatles’ “Blackbird”

  15. donald says:

    Annie Ryan did it in 40 seconds! Wow!

  16. Garrett says:

    re Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 83″, the “Hi-Q piece” clue had me flummoxed for a long time, because I know this in terms of specialized antennae. I discovered there is a game called Hi-Q, otherwise known as Peg Solitaire.

    But what I really don’t get is SCRUB clued as [One seen during a blowout]

  17. Evad says:

    I think scrubs only see game time when their team is well in the lead, or so far behind that the game is a lost cause. For an inferior pitcher In baseball, I think this time is referred to as “garbage innings.”

  18. pannonica says:

    klewge: My mind has been on vacation all day; thank you for the correction.

    Feebly in defense, the Beatles tune has been covered by a number of musicians, including Bobby McFerrin, Cassandra Wilson, and (ick) Brad Mehldau, but it’s hardly a jazz standard.

  19. John Haber says:

    Seeing the byline, I expected a well-executed, humorous theme and a fairly easy puzzle, and she mostly delivered. Still, I did think there was some pretty awful little fill, mostly already mentioned, like DBA and ONEGA bay (and, for me, also BRAGA in that corner, although I did remember General GAGE somehow). But the crossing of PAWL and EWA just defeated me in a way I didn’t admire in the puzzle. I guessed EWE, since at least it’s a word. And the SW also had AGAMAS, so I guess I should feel good I got just one letter wrong. Oh, and IGA isn’t going to be familiar to New Yorkers.

    Nasty for an easy puzzle, then. But I wonder if anyone else had my mixed feelings about the theme. It’s ok, I guess, that sometimes it clued a dessert and sometimes punned on one. It’s ok that it’s not just not visual, but not symmetric. After all, it has so many theme entries and never more than one to a column. Still, I wanted more rhyme or reason. Maybe if it’d found a way to use every column, although I know that’s too much to ask.

  20. John Haber says:

    Incidentally, SHEET CAKE is in neither MW11 nor RHUD, but I’ll defer to others that it’s reasonably common.

  21. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @John H: Those big rectangular bakery cakes served at big events are sheet cakes. Not sure if they’re specifically one-layer cakes.

  22. Martin says:

    BTW, the dictionary’s not a great place to find any of those cakes.

    From my days working in a small office, I also know that 1/2-sheet and 1/4-sheet cakes are standards as well.

  23. Lois says:

    John H: The NYT puzzle does have symmetric theme answers. Wish I’d realized it while doing this fantastic puzzle. My solving skills are weaker than the average solver’s here, so it took me a full day to understand the theme. But the great theme outweighed the tough fill.

  24. R. Benjamin Countiss says:

    Constructors like you (Elizabeth) are brilliant. Please don’t ever stop.

Comments are closed.