Sunday, 2/12/12

NYT 8:53 
Reagle 7:21 
LAT (untimed—Doug) 
Hex/Hook 11:33 (pannonica) 
WaPo 9:21 (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 14:20 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 

Kurt Mueller’s New York Times crossword, “Additional Reading”

NYT crossword solution, 2 12 12 "Additional Reading"

Anyone else have trouble with the NYT applet tonight? I couldn’t get the puzzle to load, and I don’t know if it’s my computer or the problem is on the NYT’s end. And ever since I upgraded my Mac OS to Lion, I hate hate HATE Across Lite. It’s fine on the other computers in the house, but loathsome on my primary machine. Sigh. So I used Crossword Solver, which I don’t love, but it’s better than Across Lite 2.2.1.

The theme is a combination rebus/wordplay deal. Eight phrases are changed by inserting a BOOK into them in a rebus square:

  • 21a. DELIVER THE GOOD {BOOK}S. Cute.
  • 33a. PLAY{BOOK} FOR A FOOL. Also good.
  • 54a. FACE{BOOK} REALITY. Okay.
  • 80a. {BOOK}MARK MY WORDS. Hey, do you all have bookmarked, or subscribe to the RSS feed?
  • 100s. DONKEYS’ YEAR{BOOK}S? I have no idea what the base phrase means. What are donkeys’ years? Dictionary to the rescue: informal phrase meaning “a long time,” as in “we’ve been friends for donkey’s years.” It’s an odd phrasing, isn’t it? Not “a donkey’s years” with an article.
  • 117a. FULL METAL {BOOK} JACKET. Okay.
  • 13d. APPLE PIE ORDER {BOOK}. I don’t really think of “order book” as a “thing,” but then I don’t take orders.
  • 47d. MEET ONE’S {BOOK}MAKER. Good one.

I’m not wild about the rebus crossings, which feel repetitive and full of the word BOOK meaning exactly that. The short RE{BOOK}, LOG{BOOK}, {BOOK} UP, and {BOOK} IN (huh?) are the most “meh.”

More problematic than having 16 answers include the word BOOK are the deadly crossings. I ran into several spots that spell trouble:

  • 108a: ELEA crossing 95d: HELLAS and 76d: EDESSA. That’s a perfect storm of classics knowledge wedged into one spot.
  • 35d: OMBRE, the old Spanish card game, crossing two phrases from French, 49a: BON AMI and 62a: LA VIE.
  • 68a: LEK, Albanian money, crossing 68d: LEW Wallace. At least there aren’t other familiar *EW names that could be.
  • 93a: DONNISH, a relatively uncommon word, crossing one I’ve never seen before, 82d: MENO [__ forte (less loud, in music)].
  • 105d: SAKIS, variant spelling for SAKES, crossing 116: KOKO, [“The Mikado” baritone].
  • 97d: French TABAC (“tobacco”) crossing 96a: SANT’, [Start of some Italian church names]. The S in SANT, by the way? Is in the aforementioned EDESSA.

Plus more foreign words (1a: BEL, 39a: SEIS, 45d: COQ, 114d: SER, 118d: UNE), hardcore crosswordese (OGEE, SERE, ETO, ESTOP, AZOV), and partials and bits and abbrevs (ULA atop SFC, STR, AMA, IT OR). Between the rough crossings and all the foreign fill, I predict the puzzle will evoke a fair amount of grumbling from across the land (not to mention the fact that the folks who just do the Sunday NYT and not the weekdays won’t be too prepared to rassle a rebus).

In the plus column, we have BAD COP, Christina AGUILERA crossing J.LO, L.A. LAKER, CYMBALS, RUCKUS, and a {BOOK}WORM.

I’ll put this one at 2.75 stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Occupational Hazards”

Merl Reagle crossword answers, 2 12 12 "Occupational Hazards"

Assorted colorful verb phrases are clued as if they’re specific to certain occupations:

  • 22a. [The submarine skipper ___] SCRAPED THE BOTTOM. I feel like “scraped bottom” is a bit more familiar phrasing.
  • 31a. [The cowboy ___] FELL OFF THE WAGON.
  • 51a. [The nearsighted boxer ___] PUNCHED THE CLOCK.
  • 69a. [The furniture designer ___] DROPPED HIS DRAWERS.
  • 86a. [The chuckwagon cook ___] SPILLED THE BEANS. Troubling to have SPILT up there at 65a.
  • 100a. [The machinist ___] LOST HIS BEARINGS. You should have seen the people wiping out from all the ball bearings on the floor. Total slapstick mayhem.
  • 115a. [The gum-chewing child actor ___] STUCK TO THE SCRIPT. Although kids are generally stickier from things like melting Popsicles or cotton candy.

I like the theme. The theme answers do make a nice set—every one of them is a lively bit of language, and for play each can be interpreted in a literal way as Merl has done.

Five more clues:

  • 65d. [Great movie for puzzle fans, “The Last of ___”] SHEILA—hmm, I don’t know what this is about. Who will enlighten me?
  • 48d. [Boer War setting, the ___] TRANSVAAL. This one’s for Gareth. Wouldn’t be surprised if some solvers struggle with the ETNA and ASADA crossings.
  • 63a. [Lehman Brothers’ “partner,” for a while] was SHEARSON. Remember Lehman? Remember Shearson Lehman? This was a hazy memory for me.
  • 26a. [“Pentecost” painter] is EL GRECO. I don’t recall seeing this clue before.
  • 32d. [Like some hockey goals (so-called because the goalie is away from the crease)] clues EMPTY NET. I like that you can insert an S and make this “empty nest.”

Four stars.

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 97” – Jeffrey’s review

Washington post crossword solution Feb 12 2012

[Editor’s note – Jeffrey couldn’t think of anything original today so he just took last week’s review and updated it. You won’t notice a thing.]

Hello puzzlers! Yes, it is a Super day today. I’m Jeffrey and I am thrilled to be back! It was totally my idea to return to regular blogging. It had nothing to do with the settlement reached to end the breach-of-contract lawsuit between me and FIEND INC.

Let’s see what Frank Longo Trip Payne and editor Peter Gordon have for us today in this 68-word themeless offering.

Longo’s Long Payne’s Painless answers:

    6A. [Bad way to fall] – FACE FIRST. Classic song: When I Fall FACE FIRST; it will be so painful…Part of the settlement says I can only link to 3 music videos per puzzle. Yike, one gone at 1-6-Across.
    16A. [Its premiere episode was “The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub”] – I LOVE LUCY. If this was a Doug P puzzle, the clue would be [Series that featured Madge Blake (who played Aunt Harriet in “Batman”), as a guest star in the episode that also featured George Reeves as Superman.]
    28A. [“___ Sixteen” (No. 1 hit for Ringo Starr)] – YOU’RE. Written by the Sherman Brothers. Huh. I guess It’s A Small World After All.
    34D. [Series featuring brothers Larry, Darryl and Darryl] – NEWHART. If this was a Doug P puzzle, the clue would be [Series that featured Suzanne Pleschette (who was the producers’ first choice to be Catwoman in “Batman”), in its famous last episode.]

Mysterious people who could be made up for all I know:

  • 45A. [Singer/songwriter Oberst] – CONOR
  • 14D. [Former football head coach Willingham of Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington] – TYRONE
  • 33D. [Composer Salieri] – ANTONIO

And also:

  • 1D. [Language with a verb-subject-object word order] – TAGALOG. Mostly spoken by little brothers.
  • 7D. [Ecuadorean herd makeup] – ALPACAS. I always want to write ALCAPAS. But that’s the cartoonist.
  • 32D. [Having the fewest reservations] – EAGEREST. Welcome to the English language, EAGEREST!
  • 49D. [Gp. with a complicated code] – IRS. A fun read, right Sam?

**** stars. See you soon. Maybe even tomorrow! Same Bat-time, same Bat-blog.

Updated Sunday morning:

Stan Newman’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 12 12 "Sunday Funday" Newman

Stan’s theme is last weekend’s Super Bowl show, but it’s not exactly a sports theme:

  • 15a. [“Hereafter” director who appeared in the controversial Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler: 2 wds.] = CLINT EASTWOOD.
  • 33a. [“American Idol” winner who sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl: 2 wds.] = KELLY CLARKSON.
  • 49a. [Sitcom star who appeared in the Super Bowl commercial for Acura: 2 wds.] = JERRY SEINFELD.

Other related material includes the following:

  • 6d. [Singer whose middle finger caused trouble during the Super Bowl halftime show] = M.I.A.
  • 8d. [Super Bowl winning team: 2 wds.] = NEW YORK Giants.
  • 16d. [What Gisele Bündchen calls her husband, Super Bowl quarterback Brady] = TOMMY. He plays for the losing Patriots, and she complained that he can’t both throw the ball and &%$ing catch the ball.
  • 52d. [Super Bowl MVP Manning] = ELI.

I, for one, appreciate a Super Bowl crossword that pays more attention to the commercials, halftime show, and follow-up gossip than the plays on the field.

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 12

My solve here was in fits and starts, with more fits than starts. And yet, looking back, I’m not sure why this 70/30 freestyle put up such a fight. I think I was the victim of forgetting things I should have been able to remember more quickly. I mean, who doesn’t know that the GRINCH is the [Villain voiced by Boris Karloff]? And yet I couldn’t think of it for the life of me just a few minutes ago. Being something of a foodie, I was equally embarrassed that [“Iron Chef America” chef Cat] CORA couldn’t come to mind either. And I should have been able to plunk down SMURFETTE as the [Toon in white high heels] without hesitation, but I needed SM*RF*TT* in place before it dawned on me.

But my struggles have nothing to do with the fun and elegance of this puzzle. Here was my favorite stuff:

  • SNAZZY! It’s [Quite stylish] and great fill. Did you find yourself grinning as you wrote it in the grid too?
  • T-SHIRT CANNON! Didn’t know that was the formal name for it, but what else could it be? Very playful entry. [It’s shot at screaming fans] is a great clue, too.
  • MANISCHEWITZ is a [Big name in kosher products], but I can’t say it was very familiar to me.
  • Ah, the LA-Z-BOY recliner, a [Comfy den item] and popular game show prize from the 1970s and 1980s. I still dream of having one some day.
  • TAMMANY is a fine entry, but what I liked more was the clue: [Hall of shame?]. Who said my history degree wouldn’t pay off?
  • THREADS wasn’t the answer I expected for [They’re found in nuts]. I kept thinking of the edible nuts and not those that house bolts.

Other great entries included FRAT ROW, I’LL PASS, BIG APE, LEGROOM, AT LARGE, STYMIE, CRAMPONS, TORI AMOS, BABE RUTH, and HOGWASH. That’s a lot of fresh stuff, and yet there’s no junk holding it together. Doug makes freestyle construction look so easy, doesn’t he? And his blog entries are as entertaining as his puzzles. Scroll elsewhere in this post and see for yourself. (And no, I don’t owe Doug money. I just admire his work.)

Bonnie L. Gentry’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Kinda, Sorta” – Doug’s review

Bonnie L. Gentry's syndicated LA Times solution 2/12/12, "Kinda, Sorta"

Hey, crossword fans. I’m usually horrible at coming up with puzzle titles, so I appreciate a well-crafted one like today’s. “Kinda, Sorta” is intriguing, and it doesn’t give away the gimmick too early. So, based on the title, I didn’t know how the theme was going to play out, but I was anxious to start solving. Turns out the theme was as charming as the title. I kinda, sorta wish I’d thought of it.

In real life, the “Kinda, Sorta” suffix “-ish” is great. I use it all the time to avoid being pinned down. My boss asks me when I’m going to have those reports done, and I say “Fridayish.” A cop asks me how fast I was going, I say “60ish.” One of my co-workers asks who ate the last donut, I say “Meish.”

  • 23a. [“Listen up, Madrid!”?] – ATTENTION, SPANISH. Great theme entry to kick off the puzzle with. Speaking of attention spans, I have a short one. That’s why it takes me foreverish to write clues for my puzzles. For example, a couple of days ago I decided to use an Olivia Newton-John reference in a clue. That led to fifteen minutes of reading articles on Wikipedia and a half-hour of watching Olivia Newton-John videos on YouTube. And when I was done, I couldn’t even remember what word I was cluing. In my defense, those videos are pretty distracting. And awesome.
  • 37a. [“… and that’s why I ate all of your favorite cookies,” e.g.?] – SELFISH DEFENSE.
  • 67a. [Put Armor All on tires?] – BURNISH RUBBER.
  • 93a. [Hold a surprise party for Scorsese?] – ASTONISH MARTIN. I especially like the -ish entries, like ASTONISH and SPANISH, that have absolutely nothing to do with the original words (ASTON & SPAN).
  • 112a. [“My stocks are going down! My stocks are going down!”?] – BEARISH REPEATING.
  • 16d. [Embarrassed flock managers?] – SHEEPISH HERDERS. This is the only clunker entry. The word SHEEPISH is formed by adding -ISH to SHEEP, so the new phrase isn’t much of a surprise. I suppose SELFISH fits that category too, but I love the SELFISH DEFENSE clue. Mmm, cookies.
  • 45d. [Display that’s both tasteful and ostentatious?] – REFINED FLOURISH.

Other entries that caught my eye.

  • 20a. [Unappealing music] – NOISE. This seems like a fairly safe answer. Bonnie didn’t mention any specific artists or genres, right? Well, Wikipedia tells me that Noise is a musical genre. So get ready for angry letters from all the noise fans! And I know who they are. I’m sure many of you went to college with “that guy,” the one who’d play avant-garde non-music in his dorm room at all hours. I particularly enjoyed the “song” that was 45 minutes of a Russian guy tunelessly humming and dropping silverware into a bathtub.
  • 72a. [More-than-one-hit Wonder] – STEVIE. Excellent.
  • 40d. [Exceed an infraction limit, in basketball] – FOUL OUT. Want to hear an amazing stat? Wilt Chamberlain never fouled out of an NBA game. Not even once in 1045 regular-season and 106 post-season games. Remarkable. I once fouled out of an intramural basketball game in about three minutes.
  • 96d. [Charlie Brown’s kite eater] – TREE. Ah yes, the kite-eating tree. I was going to use KITE-EATING TREE in a themeless puzzle a few years ago, but Mike Nothnagel beat me to it. I felt like Charlie Brown after Lucy yanked the football away.
  • 108d. [“If wishes ___ horses …”] – WERE. For the life of me, I can’t remember the rest of this saying. All that comes to mind is “… then we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”

Fun puzzle, Bonnie! And not in a kinda, sorta way. And congrats to Fiend regular Gareth Bain, who is now Dr. G. See you next time.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday Crossword, “Conifer Collection” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook crossword • 2/12/12 • "Conifer Collection" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

Originally published during the Yule season, this puzzle profiling conifer trees has a bilaterally symmetrical grid with a visual motif representing their typical conical silhouettes. But of course conifer (“cone-bearing”) refers to the reproductive structures called cones, not the overall aspect of the tree, although the shape in question is more or less the same.

  • 27a. [Conifer with knees] BALD CYPRESS. A cypress knee is a “a rounded or conical process rising from the roots of various swamp-growing trees.” (
  • 40a. [Tree of the Cascades] MOUNTAIN HEMLOCK.
  • 62a. [Deciduous conifer of China] DAWN REDWOOD. I’d never heard of this tree, which is the third member of the sequoia subfamily, the other two being the familiar coastal redwood and the giant sequoia.
  • 76a. [Evergreen with pale wood] WHITE CEDAR. Wikipedia informs that this informal name may refer to a variety of species: Atlantic white cypress, Mexican white cedar, Eastern arborvitae (but see 114a), and chinaberry.
  • 79a. [State Tree of Utah] BLUE SPRUCE. It’s also the State Tree of Colorado (see 77d) and is one of the species grown for the Christmas industry.
  • 96a. [Black Hills giant] PONDEROSA PINE. It frequently grows to over 200 feet in  height.
  • 114a. [Coniferous hedge choice] ARBORVITAE.
  • 116a. [Popular Christmas tree] DOUGLAS FIR. And probably the most widely recognizable of the bunch here.

An interesting collection of names, with some edification thrown in. Amusingly, one of crosswordom’s most familiar conifers, the YEW (of which there are a number of species with length-appropriate names) doesn’t appear in the puzzle, although YOW is found at 110 across. Nice touch that ADORNED sits in the center of the grid, since some of these trees are used in an ornamental capacity, not to mention those that are themselves ADORNED for the winter holidays.

There is no long non-theme fill, but there are a number of fine six- and seven-letter stacks, including the centrally-located ABC NEWS/HIBACHI (crossing NARITA airport)/STEROID and CHIRRUP/CORNICE/STEEPED.

  • A bit more Christmas action with 39a [Caroler’s herald] ANGEL and ADESTE Fideles (17d).
  • Was fooled by 51a [TV source for scores] ESPN, because I was inexplicably thinking of music.
  • 89a. [Lofty buildings?] BARNS. Cute clue.
  • Vocabulary word of the day: 11d [Ochlocracy] is MOB RULE.
  • 57d [Ma-__ store] looked so odd that it stopped me in my tracks; it turned out to be the familiar-but-vanishing Ma-AND-PA establishment. Though in truth I’ve never understood how they ever got a foothold in the first place, as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania don’t even share a border.
  • Two more clues that gave me pause: 88d [Two of a kind] for A PAIR. Even though it’s such a minor word, I was irked by the repetition of a, more so because it isn’t preferable to for an article to appear appended to a word in a grid. Also, even though there isn’t a real etymological relationship, I was similarly bothered by 69a [Tristram Shandy creator] Laurence STERNE seemingly infringed by 78d [Stern, on a boat] REAR.
  • SHE-CRAB soup, now there’s something you don’t see every day. Like it in the puzzle, would like to taste it someday.
  • Another good clue, and for some reason my favorite in the puzzle: 12d [Rarity for workaholics] FREE TIME.

Good puzzle.

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22 Responses to Sunday, 2/12/12

  1. Jeffrey says:

    Gotta agree with all you said. Got the rebus quickly on RE-BOOK. Lost a ton of time when I put REAGAN for the Washington airport and couldn’t think of another DC airport when that proved wrong. Hopefully the pilot can find SEATAC when (s)he takes me there enroute to the ACPT. Doh!

  2. Howard B says:

    I do like my rebuseses (as much as my rhinoceroseses, but I digress), although this was tricky. DONNISH was new to me, and MENO was an unkind crossing. DONKEY’S YEARS used as a theme was unpleasant, as it was nowhere in my experience, so that added to the challenge. But some of the phrases were fun to slowly and steadily uncover.

  3. Tuning Spork says:

    Not to mention 12 ugly cheater squares and TYPESIZE with [Type] as the clue for KIND. Liked the theme just fine, though the fill was largely unthrilling.

  4. Angela Osborne says:

    74D “They come from Mars” turns out to be “Mandms” Someone please explain.

  5. Martin says:

    I’ve always heard the phrase “in donkey’s years” or “not in donkey’s years” (without the “a”).


  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Angela: M&M’s candies.

  7. Angela Osborne says:

    Thanks, Amy. Of course. Was think planet Mars, and couldn’t get that out of my head. Otherwise, fun crossword.

  8. Karen says:

    I had LES MIS crossing the ASOV sea. The S looks more natural to me still than the Z.

    In Merl’s crossword, I scowled because all the workers were male. I’ll have to work on visualizing Laila Ali a bit more.

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    To me this puzzle was OK, nothing more. To use Amy’s favorite word (which I learned from her–never knew before)–meh!.

    “Donnish” is an interesting word, basically British, but its meaning (certainly its primary meaning) is not “professional”. (I’m sure someone can point to a dictionary justification somewhere, but that’s still not its core meaning.) “Donnish” means “narrowly academic”; stuffy, ivory-towerish, pretentiously intellectual. Like an Oxford Don, in other words.


  10. ===Dan says:

    Bruce, the clue was “professorial” which is a pretty good fit. It’s easy to misread it that way with the typesize they use.

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Thanks, Dan. That definitely answers. I think I need to change my glasses, or eyes, or something. :-)

    Great offerings from Doug and Trip.


  12. pannonica says:

    LAT:Sorta Kinda,” by the Clyde Hart All-Stars.

  13. Anoa Bob says:

    Re CS: Man-O-Manischewitz, What a Wine! I remember that advertising jingle (from a previous life, of course) but tried to fill it in with a “v”, as sounded, rather than the “w”. I also kinda remember it as a sponsor for a 50’s era TV show, maybe Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, but couldn’t confirm with Mrs. Google.

    60D “5, written out” is MAY? Huh? Are we talking the fifth month of the year here? That’s all I can come up with and it looks pretty tenuous to me.

    No matter, the rest of the puzzle was SNAZZY indeed. T SHIRT CANNON, Man-O-Manischewitz, what a hoot!

  14. maikong says:

    Sam —

    Don’t forget storied and of course ITTY !

  15. Gareth says:

    Anyone else have pFC before SFC and get ?UCKUP for “Brouhaha”… Doesn’t fit the clue really but gee none of the other letters did either!

  16. Gareth says:

    Some fun puns in the LAT today: BEARISHREPEATING would have made a great finale if it wasn’t the first answer I got! ASTONISHMARTIN narrowly gets my silver. Never heard of Refined flour, but I guess it’s cake flour here…

  17. Bruce N. Morton says:


    I’m sure 5 refers to May, as you suggest. I have a bitter, hostile relationship with that clue:

    In the tournament a few years ago, where I achieved my best ever finish, the 5th puzzle was generally considered especially difficult. I had whizzed through it surprisingly quickly, only to be confronted with a clue in the SE something like {What 10 may mean (abbr)}. The answer was OCT. I stared at the clue for a good 12 minutes, and ended up with a small hole, in a puzzle which a only a small percentage of the contestants managed to finish. I thereby lost hundreds of points, and also missed out on a finish which would have improved my ranking. The “T’ crossed with a clue something like {Vision impairer} which was THE TREES, as in “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” I am absolutely convinced I would have gotten that answer if I had had the ‘T’.

    Gareth–definite _UCKUP. :-)


  18. ArtLvr says:

    If you wanted a YEW in the Cox/Rathvon tree puzzle, you could just change 89A to Darns and 89D to Demeans… but then the symmetry is spoiled. And in Merl’s, where there’s objection to the inclusion of both SPILT and SPILLED, it would have been okay if the clue for the former had been something like “Departed, colloquially”!

  19. Jan says:

    I loved the Cox/Rathvon tree puzzle. We planted a DAWN REDWOOD in our yard, and it is indeed a deciduous conifer. It’s one of our favorite trees. Too bad Norway Spruce didn’t fit in the puzzle; the tallest one on record used at Rockefeller Center in New York came from my town, and I was there when they cut it down to take to NY. A much smaller tree was planted in its place; perhaps in another hundred years it will go there, too.

  20. pannonica says:

    ArtLvr: I was thinking of an answer of similar length to the others, like catkin yew or white-berry yew. Jan: good call on Norway spruce, but then again there’s only so much space in one crossword! The non-theme fill may well have suffered greatly with two more entries.

  21. Jeanie says:

    The saying is: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

  22. Matthew G. says:

    Am I the only person who has never heard the expression “apple pie order” before? Neither I, nor my wife, nor my mother have ever heard it. Is there a particular region where this expression is common?

Comments are closed.