Friday, 4/27/12

NYT 5:00 
LAT 3:45 
CS 5:50 (Sam) 
CHE 4:34 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:11 (pannonica) 
Celebrity untimed 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 4 27 12 0427

This zigzag grid is anchored by two pairs of 15s, all perfect: STAMP OF APPROVAL and DRAW ATTENTION TO are utterly normal phrases, “THREE TIMES A LADY” is a song, and “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY” is colloquial speech. Did you know that, while “Three Times a Lady” is an R&B/soul ballad, it’s been covered by numerous country artists? (And now Commodores’s lead singer Lionel Richie’s got a new album of his songs out, Tuskegee, but country stars partner with him on each track.) Also! Apparently global soccer star Lionel Messi was named after the singer.

Despite Bill KURTIS‘s longtime Chicago home (he was an anchor on the local news before he went national), I was mildly disappointed that this answer wasn’t clued with reference to Kurtis Blow of early rap fame.

Highlights: CARTOONY, ON THE MEND, TALK TO ME, and NAMESAKE not clued with a cross-reference to Dr. PARKINSON of disease fame.

New to me: HAFIZ, [Koran memorizer].

Do you think North Pole explorer PEARY was ever called SMEARY PEARY by the other kids? We don’t get a ton of rhyming crossings.

In the mild debit column, we have OLEO, IN RE, less familiar names (EWELL, YNEZ, ALVAR), and OYEZ. Most of these are in my “rarely seen outside crosswords” zone.

Four stars.

Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 4 27 12

What does 38a: JAM, a [Clue for four puzzle answers], mean?


Straightforward enough, although (1) “jazz club improv” doesn’t feel in-the-language enough to me and (2) I’m typically underwhelmed by “the long answers all define the same word” themes.

Can we have a word about 19a: UKES, [Luau strings]? Whenever I hear friends talking about buying a ukulele or read about the instrument, it’s invariably “ukulele.” I have yet, I think, to encounter “uke” outside of crosswords. This is no knock on the constructor, really, as the shortened word has become commonplace in crosswords. The Cruciverb database shows 189 UKE and 123 UKES (seldom with any clue hint at the shortening), 4 UKELELE (a variant spelling, per at least one dictionary), and zero UKULELE. Dictionary lists “uke” as an informal word that’s short for ukulele, so it’s legitimate fill, but I wonder who uses the word.

Good stuff: OLD FOGEY, SQUEAKER, MAKE NICE, SHOOK UP, and UPSCALE (I like both of the UP entries enough that the appearance of two UPs doesn’t make me grouse about dupes). I save the grousing for 24a: ‘OME, [Where to ‘ang one’s ‘at]. People with England experience: How valid is OME? And does the ‘ang/’at clue work for you?

So the UVEA at 61a, it’s clued as [Colored part of the eye]. Finally looked this puppy up. The iris is the outermost of three layers of the uvea, I gather. All three layers are colored? Or just the iris? A Google image search for uvea took me to this hauntingly strange eye photo. Don’t click if you have optical squeamishness; it shows “extensive iris atrophy with polycoria and ectropion uvea in a patient with progressive iris atrophy.” This eye pic is also intriguing. (That site has lots of unusual medical and forensic pathology images. I can get lost in that stuff.)

Three stars.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Dirty Books” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 4/27/12 • "Dirty Books" • Berry • solution

Dirty books, not in the vein of the recent Smut or House of Holes, but in the sense that they are all written by MUCKRACKERS (61a). The term originated with Theodore Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th century, who invoked a passage from the 17th century work, Pilgrim’s Progress to describe and commend the journalists then providing exposés of various social and industrial practices.

  • 17a. [“The History of the Standard Oil Company” author] IDA TARBELL. (1904.)
  • 21a. [“Ten Days in a Mad-House” author] NELLIE BLY. (1887.) Puts me in mind of Samuel Fuller’s 1963 film, Shock Corridor. Interesting that the four Ls in TARBELL and NELLIE form a square.
  • 37a. [“The Shame of the Cities” author] LINCOLN STEFFENS. (1904.)
  • 55a. [“How the Other Half Lives” author] JACOB RIIS. (1890.) Nice to see him get the full-name treatment for a change. To revisit my earlier interpolation, interesting that all four writers have double letters in their names: LL, LL, FF, II.

All very early, “classic,” and incontrovertible muckraking, but there is plenty going on today, both in print and on the internet, as the linked Wikipedia article indicates. Back to the theme: gender equality in representation is appreciated, especially since there were far fewer female authors back then. As a side-note, I grew up not far from the Nellie Bly Amusement Park (now depressingly called the Adventurer’s Family Entertainment Center) in Brooklyn, and even closer to Jacob Riis Park in Queens.

The theme is a bit dry, a bit didactic, but I learned something from it and it’s well executed, so it gets a nod from me. They don’t all have to be madcap or insanely clever. Not much junk in the ballast fill, so a smooth, if rather uneventful solve.


  • 1d put me off balance. I’ve never seen the acronym SEATO written as Seato, as per the clue for ASIA.
  • 57a & the nearby 65a share the same clue: [Resolver of religious questions]. RABBI and IMAM, respectively. Related content in 47d SERMON and 13d HOLY.
  • Even though I’ve long appreciated his acerbic insight, I’ve lately been feeling that Mort SAHL is stale as crossword fill, but I was surprised to learn that he’s still active, since his website lists contacts for bookings. He even tweets!
  • 6d [Library-book ID] ISBN. Not sure I buy (or borrow) this one. Most libraries use their own bar code schemes as unique identifiers for their holdings, and employ either the Dewey Decimal or the Library of Congress System for organization.
  • Want to know what a DELE looks like? 26d.
  • DIGESTIF! These [Postprandial drink]s are underappreciated, but welcome. 10d.
  • 50d [Fully absorb] SOAK IN, or as I read it, SOAKIN, as in Soakin’ Donuts.
  • 8d [Single-__ ] CELLED. This was far too vague for my liking, although the term gets ≐ 2.5 million Google hits. Viable alternatives of the proper length and with many more results include single-family (1.24 billion), single-spaced (42.9 million) single-minded (27.2 million), and single-handed (10.7 million). Also, single-cell has a respectable 141,000 hits.
  • 33a [Victor Lazlo’s wife] ILSA, Ingrid Bergman’s character in Casablanca. I was going to say that she wore a FEDORA (41d) in the movie, but I looked at some stills and decided that it isn’t a fedora, although I (and some rudimentary searching) could not put a name to the style. Factette: the FEDORA, so strongly associated with masculinity, was originally a ladies’ hat.
  • 11d, Carrie Ann INABA, of Dancing With the Stars, was entirely new to me, but puts me in mind of a personal shibboleth, indaba, from the Zulu. I like to say, “that isn’t my indaba.” (“What he does in his own country, to his own folk, ain’t our indaba.”—Flashman on the March)
  • Favorite clue: 51d [Forced to pay for admission?] HAZED, although the practice has rightly been getting some bad press lately.

Good puzzle.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Ought to Be in Pictures” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 4/27/12 • "I Ought to Be in Pictures" • Fri • Long • solution

As the title suggests, the letter I is inserted into film titles, and the unusual results are clued, also as films.

  • 23a. [Film about a reclining seat that’s very flimsy?] THE PAPER CHA(I)SE.
  • 37a. [Film about the lute maker’s art?] A S(I)TAR IS BORN. Not happy at all about the fact that it intersects with 5d STARMAN [1984 Jeff Bridges film]. Not happy that STAR is repeated in spirit, not happy that film titles aren’t exclusive to the theme entries. As a negative bonus, there’s a strong echo of “Bridges” in the theme answer at 113a.
  • 52a. [Film about the flier of a clan’s private jet?] FAMILY P(I)LOT.
  • 66a. [Film about a color mismatch between adjacent Venetian paintings?] CLASH OF THE TIT(I)ANS. Probably the seed themer.
  • 80a. [Film about a big pipe that’s likely to rupture?] THE THIN MA(I)N.
  • 94a. [Film about “Mack the Knife” singer, as told by a jazz fan] THAT DAR(I)N CAT.
  • 113a. [Film about an overly equitable span?] A BRIDGE TOO FA(I)R.

A couple of other entries reference movies—32a [Old ewe in “Babe”] MAA, 39d [Holden’s “Sunset Boulevard” co-star] SWANSON—but they don’t irk me the way STARMAN does because in both cases the title doesn’t appear in the grid. As for the themers themselves, for the most part they’re okay, but not particularly entertaining or interesting. The original films are a mish-mosh in terms of quality and fame, and it would have been much neater and impressive (and far more difficult to construct) if they contained no other Is.

Some lively fill in the rest of the grid, along with engaging clues (more than a few have hallmarks of the Shenk hand) helps to make the puzzle entertaining. F’rinstance:

  • BURNOUTS, CRONIES, MEDEVAC, EXACTNESS. 61a ANAPESTS and its singular, due to their friendly letters, seems to show up more often in crosswords than in real life, but haven’t grown stale yet. [“The Cat in the Hat” consists of them]
  • 77a [Capri or Corsica] CAR, because ISOLA just wouldn’t fit.
  • 100a [It’s hot and heavy] STOVE.
  • 111a I’M LATE, 40a IT’S A DATE [“Ill see you then!”]
  • 52d [Bank alarm?] FOGHORN.
  • 64d [Smeared with ink?] LIBELED.
  • 71d [Phoenix surroundings] ASHES.

Good puzzle, but in the END (112d) felt a bit of a slog because of the less-than-spectacular theme and ballast fill that doesn’t quite redeem, in the large-format 21×21 grid.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Contact Sport” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, April 27

50-Across tells us that the other three theme entries begin with a word that is also slang for a TELEPHONE CALL. What say we dial into the details on this one:

  • 20-Across: [Woody’s high-flying pal] is BUZZ LIGHTYEAR. I’m still a little mad at Toy Story 3 for making me have an “ugly cry” in the theater for the last five minutes of the show. In front of my then-seven-year-old niece, no less. I did my best to make sure she couldn’t see her uncle crying like he had sprung a leak.
  • 27-Across: JINGLE BELLS is the [Wintertime tune] of fame. The song makes me into such a phony. Every year I proudly croon of the grandeur of riding in an open sleigh pulled by a single horse as if I spoke from experience.
  • 45-Across: “Who’s this RING LARDNER character?” asks Sam from Five Minutes Ago. Well, replies Sam from Having Used Wikipedia Two Minutes Ago, he’s either a writer who was the father of another writer, Ring Lardner, Jr., or a writer who was the son of another writer, Ring Lardner, Sr. You can go in circles and circles with these Ring guys.

There’s plenty of snazzy fill in this puzzle. I loved all of the long Downs (NOT CERTAIN, INTRUDED ON, WOOD SCREW, and especially KRAZY GLUE, the [Strong adhesive brand]). There’s JEEVES the butler, actress ANNE Hathaway (sigh), MIFFS, BALK, and SLURP adding some more pizzazz in the shorter fill. I better stop the recitation of favorite entries lest you think I’m just phoning it in.

In a theme about telephones, there’s something elegant about the inclusion of INTONE in the grid. But maybe I’m reading too much into things.

Donna Levin’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 27 12

Nice theme from Donna: Three basketball players with “[first name] the [rhyme]” nicknames take the lead role here.

  • 18a. EARL THE PEARL, [NBA great Monroe’s rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]
  • 29a. CLYDE THE GLIDE, [NBA great Drexler’s rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]
  • 39a. WILT THE STILT, [NBA great Chamberlain’s rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]

Are there any other famous nicknames in this category? Dirk the Jerk? Steve the Beav? Mike the Tyke? Dwyane the Train? Dwight the Might? None of those really have the same positivity as the three in the puzzle.

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24 Responses to Friday, 4/27/12

  1. Dan F says:

    Check again – UKULELE has been in the NYT eight times. UKE is totally common parlance for musicians, not a fakey abbrev at all.

  2. Jim Horne says:

    Or 10, if you count the two in Hex acrostics. And why wouldn’t you? If you love good clues, there are few better places to find them.

  3. Will H says:

    I’m with Amy on the uke question. While I understand that mainland musician slang might be a bit different, the instrument clearly is Hawaiian at heart and very few music genres other than Hawaiian take it seriously. In Hawaii it is always ukulele, pronounced oo-koo-le-le. If you mentioned to any local, “I love the way Jake Shimabukuro plays the uke,” you would get a funny look and possibly a snide remark in response.

    As a side note, if you don’t know who Jake Shimabukuro is, find out — your ears and heart will thank you.

  4. Gareth says:

    I thought this was a damn-fine puzzle: what Amy said about the 4 15’s, plus a ton of long downs crossing them – all decent to good, REPEOPLED the most “wince-some”, but as far as “re-” words go its not so bad! Enjoyed a lot of the clues too!

  5. Jan says:

    Have we seen CLASH OF THE TITIANS in a puzzle before, or am I remembering a reference to it somewhere else, like a comment on facebook that it would be a movie worth seeing?

  6. Aaron Brandes says:

    Hi Amy,
    I hope this fits in the “better late than never” category.
    I’ve learned a lot from you, so in case no one pointed out to you why a Turnkey (108 D in ONCE IS ENOUGH by Henry Hook) is a SCREW, it’s because they both denote “jailer”
    jailer gaoler
    (noun) guard, keeper, warden, screw (slang), captor, warder, turnkey (archaic)

  7. pannonica says:

    Aaron: That was me, and I wasn’t aware of that slang meaning of “screw.” Thank you!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I’m surprised that anyone would doubt the ISBN at 6D in Berry’s puzzle — if you are trying to buy or sell a book, on eBay or elsewhere, the Library of Congress identifier is a crucial part of the description! Different editions have different numbers… (tip) My favorite website to find an older book in good condition at reasonable price is at in the Used section.

  9. pannonica says:

    ArtLvr: The ISBN is unrelated to the LOC identifier. But perhaps I should have specified that while libraries may use ISBNs in their internal or purchasing dealings, they’re unlikely to be used as “library IDs” as per the clue, which implies the organizational and lending schemes.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Durrr. A Cruciverb search for UKE? obviously would not bring out the UKU? answers. (It was late! I was tired! There may have been wine.)

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And thanks to Hawaiian Will H. for the backup! Will, you might be surprised to hear that plenty of Midwesterners contemplate buying ukuleles. At least two of my friends have (not sure any have followed through, but isn’t it the thought that counts?) And they never say “uke.”

  12. ArtLvr says:

    pannonica, I stand corrected – it’s a separate organization that issues the ISBN codes, but I maintain that the clue is acceptable as regards my own personal library! It didn’t have to refer to public libraries exclusively…

  13. pannonica says:

    Ukuleles have been trending so much lately that it’s become trite. So many hipster covers of songs as YouTube videos, so many “quirky” artists using it as their primary instrument. Heck, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam released an entire CD of ukulele music last year.

    It’s jumped the shark in the mainstream, and regrettably the shark didn’t rise up and chomp it to itty-bitty pieces.

    Now, as for more excellent Hawaiian (or Hawai’ian?) music, Raymond Kāne is also not to be missed (but that’s slack-key guitar).

  14. pannonica says:

    ArtLvr: You sort your books primarily by publisher, rather than category or author?

  15. pannonica says:

    Of course, I’m one to talk. I do it by size and color.

  16. Daniel Myers says:

    Another word used for the ukulele is “taropatch.” It’s not in any dictionaries I could find. But you can find it by Googling. I know the term only through the works of Jack London and Malcolm Lowry. My apologies in advance to “ukulele” (meaning “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, not kidding) purists, one and all.

  17. pannonica says:

    According to, the word refers to an open-key tuning and is applicable to both ukuleles and guitars.

    Ah, but further investigation uncovers this:

    “In 1918, two years after Martin made its first ukulele, they made the taropatch, a descendant of a Portuguese instrument that was very popular in Hawaii. Legend has it that the taropatch was very popular with Hawaiian farm workers, who mostly worked in the taro fields. This instrument, slightly larger then the ukulele, had eight strings in four courses and was tuned like an ukulele.”

  18. Daniel Myers says:

    Many thanks for, um, untangling things, p. :-)

  19. Jeffrey says:

    Stan the Man.

    Luke the Uke.

  20. Dan F says:

    Dirk the Jerk! Ha. Nice going on all the NBA names too – we’ll learn ya about sports yet!

    pannonica, I daresay all the WSJ clues have “hallmarks of the Shenk hand,” because that’s one of his many pseudonyms.

    I know nothing about authentic ukulele music, but in certain contexts, I can promise that “uke” is as common a shortening as “sax”.

  21. pannonica says:

    “pannonica, I daresay all the WSJ clues have “hallmarks of the Shenk hand,” because that’s one of his many pseudonyms.” – Dan F

    ha! Validation, of a sort.

  22. MikeH says:

    Reference librarian here: The ISBN clue is not-in-a-good-way misleading, and should just be “Book ID”. While ISBNs are useful for looking for a record for a specific book edition, branch-specific barcodes are used to identify individual copies of that edition, which the clue implies.

  23. Martin says:


    “Alice Long” (like “Colin Gale”) is an anagram of Collegian. Guess where Mike Shenk went to college?

  24. Jeffrey says:

    And the headline on Martin’s link as I type this:

    Prosecution requestes withdrawl of subpoenas …[sic]

Comments are closed.