Sunday, 2/19/12

NYT 8:33 
Reagle 7:38 
LAT (untimed—Doug) 
Hex/Hook 13:02 (pannonica) 
WaPo infinity (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 10:46 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 
NYT Second Sunday 10 minutes 

James F.C. Burns’ New York Times crossword, “Core o’ Nations”

NYT crossword answers, 2 19 12 "Core o' Nations"

I’m usually a sucker for geography themes. This one sneaks a nation into the core o’ each theme answer. No idea why most of the theme entries run Down rather than Across.

  • 21a. A HUG AND A KISS makes me think of Bart Simpson calling Moe’s and asking him to page “Amanda Hugenkiss.” “I need a man ta hug and kiss,” Moe calls out. Did you see Uganda in there?
  • 102a. GARDEN MARKET doesn’t feel in-the-language to me, but then I live in the city. We have plenty of farmers’ markets, but I haven’t seen the “garden market” term before. Denmark is there. And from left to right, these are the Downs:
  • 50d. FAIR AND SQUARE tucks short Iran into it.
  • 30d. TAKES PAINS takes Spain.
  • 44d. SUNKEN YACHT doesn’t sound in-the-language to me either. Sunken treasure, yes, but Kentre isn’t a country and Kenya is.
  • 26d. CATCH IN A LIE catches China.
  • 46a. AS PER USUAL, Peru is subtle.
  • 15d. INFORMAL TALKS are held in Malta, or vice versa. Not to be confused with Yalta.

I like how 1-Across begins with a SPLAT. Other goodies: the CISCO KID, the WALTZing MATILDA pair, sounds-like-a-regular-noun-phrase [Hall of fame] to clue MONTY Hall, and DEAR ABBY (as Sam blogged the other day, more in-the-language than DEAR ANN). It’s kinda fun to put Baba WAWA right on top of BABEL. Babel Wawa, anyone?

Hitches: 79a: [Bonaventures, e.g.] are MASTS? Wow, that feels like pretty obscure nauticalese to me. 61d: [Lord’s Prayer word] clues DEBTS, but that is far from a universal version of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s “forgive us our trespasses” in the Catholic version and, apparently, most Protestant sects. Seems like the clue should narrow things down a bit if it’s using the less famous Lord’s Prayer “debtors” wording.

3.25 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times Second Sunday puzzle, “Marching Bands”

NYT "Marching Bands" solution, 2 18 12

I usually don’t blog the Second Sunday puzzles because (a) I never do the acrostics, which account for about half of them, (b) I usually don’t do the cryptics (I like cryptics with more challenge, like the ones in the Nation and Hex’s monthly WSJ variety cryptics), (c) I don’t do the occasional “Puns & Anagrams” (because I prefer straight-up cryptics), (d) sometimes I do like the puzzle type but I don’t always get around to doing the puzzles, and (e) sometimes I do the puzzle but don’t find time to blog it. Friday night, I saw that this one was a BEQ and that got me to download it. Solved the puzzle six hours ago but somehow wound up watching Whitney Houston’s funeral at someone’s apartment and the next thing you know, here we are. And I have approximately a zillion other Sunday puzzles to blog, but I will make a little time for this puzzle because Brendan had some really cute bits in it.

Sometimes a Marching Bands puzzle can have a lot of stretchy answers that feel forced, but this one was good. Highlights:

  • WARP and AT HEART join forces to go on the WARPATH.
  • A WEDGIE! Ouch. The [Bunching of of the pants in the backside] clue had me befuddled for a while there.
  • Who doesn’t like BRER BEAR and his brother Br’ers?
  • The 11/b clue, [Word after one, two and three in a children’s rhyme], is a great way to approach the POTATO. Count it out: “One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.” The lesson we learn here is that when it comes to peeling potatoes, you lose count after seven and could use a break. Pro tip! Buy one or two extra peelers so that you can have two or three people peeling at the same time. And don’t stick anyone with the junky peeler. Get three nice Oxos and reduce the complaining from the people you put on KP.
  • Other good entries: SEXPOT, ON THE Q.T., “I’M SORRY,” SLY STONE.

4.5 stars.

As with the WSJ Saturday Puzzle, my grid picture is upside down because apparently I was holding my iPhone the wrong way. Apple! Why you gotta play me like this? Why don’t you fix it without being asked? [edit: I fixed it without being asked directly. –p]

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 98” – Jeffrey’s review

Washington Post crossword solution, "Post Puzzler No. 98" 2 19 12

Theme: 21A. [Harsh] – BRUTAL

This one killed me. Took a couple of sittings to complete. The bottom half went ok, and then full stop on top. Since I am blogging it, I kept at it and finally got it done, but with errors on bad crossings.

The good, the bad and the ugly:

  • 1A. [Spanish for “watchman”] – VIGILANTE. Nice one across. Finally remembered it from the DC Comics character. Good.
  • 15A. [Ordered] – IN A SERIES. Wanted On the Way or similar. Good.
  • 16A. [Ethan Frome’s wife] – ZEENA. Who? Crossing what? Ugly.
  • 17A. [Burger King combo] – VALUE MEAL. Happy Meal fit, but I knew that was McDonalds. Crown Meal fit and sounded plausible. Good.
  • 20A. [Basilica of St. Severin city] – KOLN – Obscure place. Ugly.
  • 22A. [Sneaker brand popular among skateboarders] – VANS. Never heard of it. KEDS? Crossing iron ore? Ugly.
  • 26A. [John of the Velvet Underground] – CALE. Who? Crossing what at the first letter? Natick. Ugly.
  • 28A. [Awaiting payment] – RECEIVABLE. Accounting terms! Good.
  • 30A. [The New York Inquirer was featured in it] – CITIZEN KANE. Good.
  • 32A. [When Janucá sometimes ends] – ENERO. What? Spanish for Hannukah and January? It ends in January maybe once every 20 years. Bad.
  • 38A. [Holiday get-together] – OFFICE PARTY. Good.
  • 44A. [Arrange for some financing] – FLOAT A LOAN. I can’t FLOAT A LOAN; I need a life jacket. Answer – good. Joke – bad.
  • 61A. [Anticipation] – FORETASTE. Bad.
  • 63A. [Destructive evaluation] – CRASH TEST. Good.
  • 1D. [By word of mouth] – VIVA VOCE. Good
  • 2D. [Actress who played Martha of Bethany in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”] – INA BALIN. Good.
  • 3D. [Lead ore] – GALENITE. All I knew was —–ITE. Bad.
  • 8D. [New York City suburb in New Jersey’s Bergen County] – TEANECK. Population 40,000. Bad.
  • 11D. [Dean & ___] – DELUCA. Purveyors of fine food, wine and kitchenware, according to their website. A complete mystery crossing ZEENA, CALE and appropriately, BRUTAL. No doubt all of you shop there, but this ruins the puzzle for me. Bad.
  • 31D. [Jazzman Sims] – ZOOT. Another unknown. I’ve lost interest. Bad.
  • 41D. [Message you don’t want to see when restoring a backup] – I/O ERROR. Good.
  • 42D. [Crater lake locale] – CALDERA. Whatever. Crossings were ok. Bad.
  • 46D. [Tulsa suburb] – OWASSO. Population 18,000. Ugly. Ridiculous.
  • 47D. [Magnetic alloy] – ALNICO. Ugly. Maybe Al Nico is mayor of Owasso.

This puzzle crossed the obscurity line for me.  I have done many excellent Karen Tracey puzzles, but this isn’t one of them. Give me a quad stack with one or two iffy short words that are easy to get by the long crossings any day.  **¼ stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Get Over It!”

Merl Reagle's crossword answers, 2 19 12 "Get Over It!"

Ooh, this is a funky theme. Six phrases that include words like “leaping” and “jumping” end up jumping over a black square that eats some of the letters in the verb:

  • 25a, 27a. [Gift in a Christmas song …] and [… (See 25 Across)] clue TEN LORDS A-L—ING. The EAP has vanished into the pit the answer is leaping over. (Edited to add: No, it hasn’t vanished. Instead, those letters have aptly jumped over the square, appearing as part of the answer above. Thanks to commenter Andy for pointing out what I missed. Replaced the answer grid to highlight the key words. Color me even more impressed by Merl’s theme!)
  • 45a, 47a. [Olympic activity …] is POLE VA—ING, eating the ULT.
  • 56a, 57a. [Going without the evening meal …] is SKI—NG DINNER. Lost PPI.
  • 86a, 88a. [Had drinks in several locations …] clues WENT BAR-H—ING, with a hopped-over OPP.
  • 95a, 96a. [Nogales novelties …] are Mexican JUM—G BEANS, catapulting clear over the PIN.
  • 116a, 117a. [Taking the bait, perhaps …] is SPR—ING THE TRAP, leapfrogging over another ING.

We’ve seen themes that made purposeful use of the black squares, but not in quite this way. I like it a lot.

There’s a handful of tough stuff lurking in here:

  • 70a. [Curtain material] is NINON. Know this only from crosswords.
  • 78a. [Heavy silk fabric] clues SAMITE. Two less familiar fabrics in the same puzzle zone. Ouch!
  • 93a. [City of ancient Palestine] clues SAMARIA.

My favorite answer in the fill is 65d: LITTERBUG, a [Trash-can ignorer]. Move that L up two letters in the alphabet and you’ve got yourself a dance.

4.5 stars, with lots of credit for the cool theme gimmick.

Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “A Case of the DTs?” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook crossword • 2/19/12 • "A case of the DTs?" • Hook • solution

The DTs—which is common enough fill in crosswords—are delirium tremens, a frequent symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Had I solved this puzzle on paper, it would have been with a steady, if occasionally stymied, hand. In the theme entries, the initial hard-d sound in a word or words is “upgraded” to the even harder hard-t sound.

  • 24a. [Form a link between babies?] CONNECT THE TOTS. This was the first themer I encountered, and I twigged to the gimmick right away. Definitely helped speed the solve in some places.
  • 36a. [Nervous dwellers?] TENSE POPULATION.
  • 92a. [Barmaid’s hair] COCKTAIL TRESSES.
  • 107a. [“Roll your Rs, honey!”] TRILL, BABY, TRILL.
  • 5d. [Having four flats and no spare?] IN TIRE STRAITS.
  • 16d. [Graffiti artist undercover?] CLOAK AND TAGGER.
  • 46d. [Tarzan’s version of a seat belt?] TYING ON THE VINE. I choose to think of the base phrase as describing grapes, which gives affinity to other fill such as NAPA and ZIN.
  • 57d. [What queued dominoes demonstrate] TOPPLER EFFECT. [Imagine link to astounding video here]

One-hundred-and-twelve squares is a substantial but not overambitious amount of theme content for a 21×21 puzzle, which leaves plenty of room for interesting and exciting ballast fill, especially since said themers are well distributed horizontally and vertically. But before moving on, I’ll say that all eight are relatively strong and lively. The two weakest originals are dense population and in dire straits, the former because it’s nondescript and the latter because the preposition diminishes it. Fun that the base phrase for 107a is echoed in the two-part 109d/13a [Palin imitator’s phrase] YOU/BETCHA.

What have we got?

  • Crossing—and cross-clued—elements in the upper-right corner in PISTIL and STAMEN. PISTIL is clued as [There’s a stigma to it]. In fact, such tricky cluing  is rampant in the puzzle, which made for a challenging and absorbing solve. Some of my favorites:
    • 19a [Ear borrower?] Marc ANTONY. “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”
    • 39a [Here and there] APART. Deceptive little clue.
    • 64a [Cab alternative] ZIN, but with _ _ N, I was fooled into thinking it was VAN.
    • 103a [Preps for a rainy day] SAVES.
    • 40d [See somebody] POPE. He’s definitely a somebody in the Holy See.
    • 91d [Debarking site for couples] ARARAT, the couples being the passengers on Noah’s Ark.
    • 96d [Took out of context?] ERASED.
  • On the negative side, there are some clunkers, of which these are a few: partials ALL A, EAT A, R IS (didn’t I call for a moratorium on Sue Grafton titles?); abbrevs. EMP., LBS. (actually, it was the “anncmt.” signal in the clue); crosswordese AMEERS (a variation, to boot), LYS, ADZ, AGRA, ELKA (Betty White’s role in Hot in Cleveland, which must have been named with crosswords in mind).
  • Then there’s the odd stuff. Words of varying obscurity, such as OXALIS [Wood sorrel] and BOHEA [Black tea variety], whose crossing was among my last fill. SCANTS as a verb. BAZOO [Piehole], JAHAN, AFLARE, FILAR, hockey players as ICEMEN, OMEI (crossing the M in MPEG, which could also be troublesome).
  • Two clues that jarred a bit for me: 79d [Head Stone] MICK; many would accord at least equal stature to Keith Richards, although Jagger is the “front man.” 82a [Prestwick pattern] PLAID. I really would like to see people—especially erudite crossword people—get on board with realizing that the patterns are tartans and plaid is a specific garment. It’s probably a lost cause. Descriptive v. prescriptive.
  • Last, the bottom right corner echoes the connectedness of the top right’s PISTIL/STAMEN crossing with SLICER and SALAMI side-by-side at 94d & 95d.. [Deli machine…] […often used on this].

Overall, a good puzzle with a flowing construction, solid theme, interesting fill, challenging cluing.

Updated Sunday morning:

William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, February 19

This Sunday Challenge could double as a game of Trivial Pursuit:

  • Geography: The [Coastal metropolis in northeastern Brazil] is RECIFE. If you were expecting a different word, it would be a recipe for disaster.
  • Entertainment: The [1977 film role that Geena turned down] is Princess LEIA in Star Wars. The “Geena,” I’m guessing, is “Geena Davis.” Things still turned out okay for her. Don’t worry there’s some more entertainment trivia: The [Album whose cover prominently featured a zebra crossing] is ABBEY ROAD from The Beatles. If you missed that one, how about this: the [Object seen just before and after Kane says “Rosebud”] is a SNOWGLOBE. Also in the movies, there’s the [1922 Murnau film featuring Count Orlok] (that’s NOSFERATU, a film you can sink your teeth into) and [What one of Nigel’s amps goes to in “This is Spinal Tap”] (which is ELEVEN).
  • History: The [Last of the Ptolemaic rulers in Egypt] is CLEOPATRA. (She played Elizabeth Taylor in a biopic that didn’t fare well at the box office.) Other items in this category include GRUBSTAKE as the term for [Funding for a miner] and AMEN RA as the [Theban deity]. And don’t forget OLAF I, an [Early Norwegian king].
  • Arts & Literature: The [Representation of Jesus’s sufferings] is the PASSION. Not much else in the puzzle is so ARTSY (acting [With cultural pretensions]).
  • Science & Nature: What’s the logical [Pearl diver’s destination]? An OYSTER BED, of course. And a [Set of points, in geometry] are FOCI. Oh, and [Pond scum] is ALGAE.
  • Sports & Leisure: Did [Play-by-play announcer Dick] ENBERG ever call a figure skating event? If so, he might have announced the aerial exploits of TAI, [Skater Babilonia].

That’s a healthy dose of trivia for a single 70/28 freestyle puzzle. Two other non-trivia entries warrant mention: (1) I loved both UNDERARMS and the clue, [They might get the Axe] (as in Axe body spray); and (2) I liked YES DEAR, the [Two words to prevent an argument]. Thank goodness the clue wasn’t a reference to that awful sitcom of the same name.

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “White House Counsel” – Doug’s review

John Lampkin's syndicated LA Times solution 2/19/12, "White House Counsel"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I have to admit that I was baffled by today’s theme for a while. When the first theme entry you fill in is COOLIDGE’S HIPPOPOTAMUS, you know you’re in for a strange ride. And I couldn’t figure out how the heck the pets related to the title, “White House Counsel.” I was having visions of the Space Canine Patrol Agents. (That’s a reference only Jeffrey will understand.) The whole thing clicked when I realized that each pet has its own advice to offer in a down entry. You know, that’s so crazy, it just might work! Let’s hear from constructor John Lampkin on the genesis of this theme:

“‘Fido’ in clues represents the generic pet pooch. Since I’ve never ever met a real dog named Fido I wondered how he got to be so famous. ‘Spot’ we can assume achieved recognition from ‘See Spot run’ primers from yesterday, but who the heck was Fido? The net unleashed (ha ha) the answer and inspired this puzzle. Fido was Abe Lincoln’s dog. Who knew? Historians sometimes wonder why some presidents have made questionable judgments. This puzzle makes clear the answer—they got advice from their pets!”

  • 80d. [Advice from 23-Across?] – SNORT.
  • 41a. [OLD WHISKERS] – HARRISON’S GOAT. Benjamin Harrison, not William Henry. BILLY’s the hippo, but that’s a perfect name for a goat.
  • 77d. [Advice from 41-Across?] – BAA.
  • 57a. [FIDO] – LINCOLN’S DOG.
  • 52d. [Advice from 57-Across?] – ARF.
  • "I tried catnip once, but I did not inhale. Next question, please."

  • 82a. [SOCKS] – CLINTON’S CAT.
  • 3d. [Advice from 82-Across?] – MEOW.
  • 111d. [Advice from 96-Across?] – OINK.
  • 39d. [Advice from 114-Across?] – CHEEP.

So what did you think of this one? Strange and wonderful, or just strange? It gave me a chance to use my favorite presidential pet picture, so I’ll award it a thumbs-up.

  • 54a. [“__ a stinker?”: Bugs Bunny line] – AIN’T I. For years (decades?), this entry has been clued with the Bugs Bunny quote, but I recently saw it clued with a reference to the single “Ain’t I” by rapper Yung L.A. Thanks, Mr. L.A., for breathing some new life into an old crossword standby.
  • 56d. [Insect stage] – IMAGO. John’s provided an image to go with this one. It’s a mayfly imago trapped in a spider web. Sweet. If you think bugs are cool (I do), check out John’s new self-published book, “Bugged Beyond Belief,” a collection of the 40 best of his 10,000 macro-photos of insects. I’m assured that “amusing yet factual commentary peppers the pages.” Contact info at John’s website. I wonder if any of the presidents had a bug for a pet. FILLMORE’S EARWIG?
  • 84d. [Flower toxic to cows, ironically] – BUTTERCUP. My favorite entry & clue.

I’ve got to work at my non-crossword job this weekend, so I’m going to cut out early today. Have a nice President’s Day.

Adam Cohen’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”

Celebrity crossword solution, 2 19 12 "Sunday Funday" Cohen

Did Doug mention Presidents’ Day? (This blog, like the rest of society, has not reached a consensus on the use of an apostrophe in this holiday’s name.) Adam riffs on the holiday Celebrity-style, with four actors who share 5-letter last names with U.S. presidents. Sorry, Cynthia Nixon. The other people have 3- and 4-letter first names so you don’t fit in this puzzle.

  • 15a. HUGH GRANT, [“About a Boy” actor].
  • 23a. AMY ADAMS, [“The Fighter” actress].
  • 29a. PRESIDENTS DAY, [What tomorrow is, and a hint to what the last names in four of the puzzle answers have in common].
  • 38a. LIV TYLER, [“The Incredible Hulk” actress].
  • 47a. SEAN HAYES, [“Will & Grace” actor].

I like the even split between men and women. Too often, crossword themes are all male—and given the United States’ history of having 43 male presidents, it’s a treat to have a President’s Day theme that mixes it up a little. We may have had closeted gay presidents, but we have one out theme answer (SEAN HAYES) along withWanda SYKES, ROSIE O’Donnell, and Michael URIE in the fill. There’s also a shout-out to transgender Chaz Bono via the clue for his mom, gay icon CHER. (Do not ask me to speculate on Ed MEESE‘s personal life.)

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26 Responses to Sunday, 2/19/12

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    SUNKEN YACHT at 44-d is not a legit entry, but CHICKEN YARD would have been.

  2. Andy says:

    Not sure from your write-up if you caught it, Amy, but the missing letters in the Reagle theme answers are still there if you trace an outline up and over the black square between the two halves. E.g., the missing EAP in TENLORDSALEAPING is also the EAP in WEAPONS (23-A). It’s as if the answers themselves are LEAPING, JUMPING, VAULTING, etc., over the black square.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Holy jumping beans, @Andy! I had not noticed that. Thanks for the save. I’ve replaced the answer grid with one that spotlights those bilevel words.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Post Puzzler killed me in the SE. Also, got slowed down in SE for having DEATHTOLL at 63-Across.

    Love the Reagle!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    Post Puzzler took me several tries too, even after I had the bottom half. BRUTAL helped with the NE, but I liked “Verbally” at 1D. That took a while to sort out, even with KOLN a gimme and galena in my mind as the common term for GALENITE. Kudos to Karen Tracey on this one!

  6. imsdave says:

    Gave up on the Hook puzzle on the BOHEA/OXALIS/EXEDRAE cross, and missed the coin flip on OMEI/MPEG (went with jPEG). Major kudos to Mr. Reagle for his fine work today

  7. Howard B says:

    Enjoyed most of the Post, but I’ll say about TEANECK what I said not long ago about ISELIN. Suburbs of no significant historical or eventful notoriety really are rough fill (see also OWASSO). Plus, I know Teaneck better than Iselin. Had friends in the general area. That said, I still had over half the letters in it (-E-NE-K)and still couldn’t solve it for a while. Nasty bit there. The CALE crossing was also vicious. The rest was classic, challenging fun to solve. I know to expect a battle on her puzzles, and they’re usually worth the effort :).

    Loved the Reagle puzzle – bonuses like that are a reason I solve. Just enjoyable stuff.
    Haven’t had time to look at the rest. Much to do today :).

  8. Karen says:

    I had problems in all corners of the Hook puzzle. Happily, Reagle’s puzzle washed the taste of BOHEA from my mouth.

  9. pannonica says:

    Funny, much of the WaPo was in my wheelhouse. KÖLN (Cologne) is not obscure at all, musicians John CALE and ZOOT Sims were both gimmes, VANS were known from their early adoption by the surfing community where I grew up, VIGILANTE from Spanish classes, TEANECK doesn’t seem so obscure (nearby NYC suburb, many famous people from there), CALDERA was another easy one after OREGON didn’t fit and I paid attention to capitalization.

    Some of the fill was obscure to me—OSSAWA, INA GALIN, GALENITE, ALNICO—but the crossings were sufficient for relatively smooth completion.

    And, yes, another hand up for DEATH TOLL before CRASH TEST.

  10. Pete says:

    @ Matt Gaffney

    CHICKEN YARD is exactly how I hid Kenya in my NYT puzzle of 9/27/2011.

    Today’s constructor and I also hid China in CATCH IN A LIE (although I’d bet he submitted his puzzle well before mine ran).

    – Pete Collins

  11. Dan F says:

    I got two letters wrong on the HH puzzle. Just thought he might be pleased to hear that! I’m often on the HH wavelength with some of his unusual fill, but not today. (Not a complaint — I don’t often get challenged like that, so it’s appreciated.)

  12. Martin says:

    The HH was my favorite of the weekend. It’s fun when the “odd stuff” is mostly in my wheelhouse, but there’s enough that I still learn a new word or two. No ungettable crossings for me, but I can see where there could have been. Still, I appreciate that HH is the only place in town where we can get a touch of Maleska. Bravo.

  13. Anoa Bob says:

    Matt, not sure why you say SUNKEN YACHT (NYT 44D) is not legit. Yachts sink. They get salvaged.

    Sam, I think you meant LOCI (CS 32D) instead of fOCI.

  14. Zulema says:

    Pannonica, thank you for your comments. You forgot Ethan Frome and ZEENA, who has stayed with me for almost 40 years. ZOOT SIMS was fantastic, saw him at the Village Vanguard. Interesting was that this was one of the easiest for me, but no less interesting WAPO’s in a long time. As for suburbs, I was not very pleased to see SAN PABLO as a suburb of San Francisco (NYT) though I don’t know what clue might have fit. It’s not really a suburb at all. Perhaps “East Bay urban enclave” or neighbor of Richmond, CA?

  15. jefe says:

    @Sam: [Sets* of points, in geometry] are LOCI*; the singular being “locus”.

  16. TammyB says:

    Amy, I also missed the fact that the three missing letters did a “leap” up to the next line until I’d completed the puzzle and found myself wondering why there were three gray squares here and there that didn’t have missing letters. Then when I stepped back from the puzzle to start complaining “Merl must be losing his mind” the pattern became clear. DOH! Once you know where to look, it’s obvious.

    Great job as always Merl.

  17. Loren Smith says:

    Hats off to BEQ and his second Sunday puzzle in the Times! I’ve never done one like that. Any puzzle with SEXPOT and WEDGIE is ok by me. Doomo ARIGATO. Yoku dekimashita!

  18. Matt Gaffney says:

    @Anoa Bob —

    Would you take SUNKEN BARGE? Why not?

  19. Anoa Bob says:

    Hi Matt,

    Yes, sunken barge is fine. There’s one just to the south of the Queen Isabella Bridge and Causeway that connects Port Isabel TX , where I live, with South Padre Island. Most of the time the water in the Laguna Madre is too turbulent to see it—it’s in about 15 ft. of water—but on those rare days when we don’t have wind down here, the water clears up enough to see it while driving across the bridge.

    They recently scuttled an old WWII ship several miles off shore in the Gulf of Mexico. Now we have a sunken aircraft carrier artificial reef to attract fish and scuba divers.

    So basically, any kind of vessel, yachts included, can be sunken vessels. If they are valuable enough and it’s not too difficult, salvagers will raise them. Some vessels, yachts included, even sink in their slip at their marina, with masts and superstructure still above water. Easy salvage there.

  20. pannonica says:

    They all can be, but do they stand on their own as common-enough, in-the-language phrases? No one is challenging their existence.

  21. Tuning Spork says:

    But what about DRUNKEN YARDBIRD?

  22. Joan macon says:

    Amy, at last I have found a benefit from doing puzzles in the newspaper instead of the computer. Merl Reagle’s today in the LA Times has the theme answer squares all in gray so you can look at it and see how the letters go. Also, his hint–“the theme answers treat certain individual black squares as obstacles to, um, rise above” was helpful. I loved this puzzle!

  23. Alex says:

    Pannonica – I wonder why you would expect crossword types to sympathize more with the prescriptivist approach, especially since it is so obviously wrong.

    Okay, the second half of that sentence was snark, but I am interested. I wonder what the breakdown is (of those who care) of crossword types who prefer the descriptive or prescriptive approach to language.

  24. HH says:

    “Still, I appreciate that HH is the only place in town where we can get a touch of Maleska.”

    Okay, NOW I’m offended!

  25. pannonica says:

    Alex: In the main, the prescriptivist approach has been debunked, and I agree that that’s a good thing. But we all have our little collections of things we wish people will get “correct” so as to avoid linguistic entropy, or at least I think we all do. Mine tend to be definitional rather than addressing usage. I linked to a …er… description of the descriptive vs. prescriptive phenomenon by way of illustration of the “lost cause” in general.

    Since crossword constructors and solvers tend to rely on precise definitions of things (even if they are occasionally deliberately obscured via misdirection), I would think that most would prefer things to have discrete definitions (especially if they want to appreciate clever misdirection, et cetera).

  26. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @HH: So what are you going to do about this “supporter of the Maleska tradition” reputation you’ve acquired?

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