Sunday, 8/26/12

NYT 9:20 
LAT 11:28 (Jeffrey/paper) 
Reagle 6:30 
Hex/Hook 11:55 (pannonica) 
WaPo (Janie) 
CS 7:37 (Sam) 

Hey! August 26th. You know what that means? Yes, one more day until Fiendster Jeffrey’s birthday, it’s true. But the 26th is also Will Shortz’s 60th birthday. Happy birthday, Will! Your pal Andrea Carla Michaels got the gang together to make crosswords to mark the occasion. There are over a dozen crosswords crafted especially for you by constructors you’ve published many times and by constructors you will someday publish, and you can find them all right here.

Amanda Yesnowitz and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword, “Put a Lid In It”

NY Times crossword solution, 8 26 12 “Put a Lid In It”

That’s “in it,” not “on it,” as each of six theme entries has a HAT (slangily, a lid) rebus square. Each of those squares is, of course, a {HAT}BOX (110d). The assortment of hatted phrases makes a nice set: LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER, British novel; HORTON HATCHES THE EGG, Dr. Seuss kiddie book; MAHATMA GANDHI, legendary dhoti wearer; TO CATCH A THIEF, Hitchcock thriller (and the only theme answer to break the HAT across three words); CHATTANOOGA CHOO-CHOO, old-time song (I was guessing it was the Andrews Sisters’ recording, but no, Wikipedia tells me it was Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, and the hit my husband and I are thinking of is probably “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” though the Andrews Sisters did cover the train song at some point); and ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, Shakespeare play. Might be better if MAHATMA GANDHI were clued as, say, a classic comic book. (What? Do you mean to tell me Stan Lee never brought the Mahatma’s life to ink splendor? That’s a crying shame. How about a TV show? No?)

I think this is Amanda’s cruciverbal debut—she is the one who coined Lollapuzzoola’s name, you know. Doug’s a good cruciverbal partner—he works with both newbies and seasoned pros like Brad Wilber.

Nice to see those wide-open corners in the northwest and southeast zones, and I do love the WILLIES. (Not having them, but finding them in a crossword.) Other bright spots: ACT ONE’S AGE, FIELD TRIP, SHAZAM, C{HAT}TY CATHY, I {HAT}E YOU, and Marilyn McCOO. My favorite clue is one that stymied me for a while, 73a: [Word that keeps the same meaning if you move its first letter to the end]. I had *YE so it should have been obvious, and yet I contemplated the following pairs: DYE and YED? No. EYE and YEE? That’s no better. WYE and YEW are both words but certainly not synonyms. I managed not to think of BYE/YEB and TYE/YET before AYE/YEA bubbled up (which was pretty much not before I got the 73d crossing). Markedly less fond of fill like ABIE ATRA OOO LST EMAG SHIH, but it’s hard to fill a Sunday grid without falling back on some of that.

I learned an entirely unfamiliar word: 75d: TACHYON, [Speedy subatomic particle]. If you know your medical/automotive prefixes, you know that tachy- (as in tachycardia, tachometer) means “fast.”

Anyone else think that 8d: [Place to find a crawdad] was looking for the dialectal CRICK rather than a CREEK? Where I grew up, what was in the CREEK were crayfish, not crawdads.

3.75 stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CS solution, August 26

Here’s a 70/36 freestyle puzzle featuring six 15-letter entries ranging from lively to gross. On the lively side there’s ALL SYSTEMS ARE GO, the [Prelaunch words] and ON-TIME DEPARTURE, the [Good start to an airline flight]. On the gross side, there’s…well…maybe you should just jump to the next paragraph if you haven’t done this puzzle yet and are still processing breakfast. Okay, if you’re still here, I’m assuming you’re game. Here goes: TOENAIL CLIPPERS. Eww! If this is permissible fill, I’m going to sneak USED BANDAID or POOPY DIAPER into my next freestyle construction (don’t expect to see it anywhere). Speaking of which, the puzzle also has POOP! Yeah, it’s clued as [Killjoy], as in a “party pooper,” but still. (Hey, I think I’m going to use “killjoy” as a euphemism from now on. I shouldn’t have had that burrito, because every ten minutes I’m running to the bathroom to killjoy.

Common! Letters! Galore!

Okay, we’re off the disgusting stuff now. Thanks for coming back (and if you read the prior paragraph all the way, I’m sorry if I was a killjoy). The other 15-letter entries were fine, though none struck me as especially original. AS WHITE AS A SHEET has appeared in a few other puzzles, and SEMI-PRIVATE ROOM is not making its crossword debut either (though it appears to have been on hiatus for more than a decade, at least according to the Cruciverb database).

The grid is lacking in rare letters. To the contrary, if we revive the Wheel of Fortune Bonus Round gimmick, we see to the right that a lot of the puzzle is filled in just using R, S, T, L, N, and E. That’s never great, but I still found the puzzle entertaining overall. Let’s recap five clues and answers:

  • One’s who’s [In better health] is HALER. Maybe that’s the result of receiving a “Get Weller Soon” card.
  • [Kate’s role in “The Aviator”] refers to Kate Beckinsale playing AVA Gardner, not Cate Blanchett playing Katherine Hepburn.
  • I liked [Kind of friendly?] as a clue for USER.
  • There are many possible answers to [Simple partner]. PLAIN. CLEAN. DELICIOUS. But this time it’s PURE.
  • My favorite clue was [She raised a little Cain] for EVE. Indeed she did.

One thing that’s especially nice about the Sunday Challenge is that not everyone in the CS syndicate makes freestyle puzzles. So theoretically that gives me a great chance to add to my point total in Name That Constructor Month. I’ve been struggling lately (though not nearly as much here as in LearnedLeague–of the 890 participants in the current game, I’m one of 16 players to be 0-6!). So I need all the help I can get. Of the freestyle constructors available, here are the ones I haven’t seen in a while, so I’ll go with them:

1. Bruce Venzke     2. Lynn Lempel     3. Martin Ashwood-Smith (I’m adding Martin only because of the six 15s).

Whew–I needed those three points! Name That Constructor Stats After 26 Puzzles: 9 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 3 correct third choices (1 point each); 38 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points. Five puzzles left, and I need 12 points. It’s do-able, but I have my doubts.

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 125″—Janie’s review

So I’m fillin’ in for himself today, ’cause look whose puzzle this is!

How is it for you? Are there any Post constructors whose byline gives you pause? Forces you to brace yourself for the solving experience ahead? Well, that’s how it is for me when I see Doug’s name attached. I can be fairly certain I’ll get most of the puzzle on my own—but also that I may need Google to get me over the hump. Today was no exception. But I used it only once and then had a series of “d’oh” and “aha” moments that let me wrap things up quickly. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

What a terrific 70-worder. Tough and terrific from my vantage point. That grid is nice and open; the SW and NE corners have those lovely triple eight columns; the NW and SE triple sixes; there are two grid-spanning 15s and ten seven-letter words as well. As for fresh fill–well, there’s lots of that in evidence. Among my faves: SCHOOL BUS YELLOW, OKEFENOKEE SWAMP, PIKACHU, DOLDRUMS, ALOUETTE, NEW BLOOD, URBAN ART and SPARKLY. Good stuff all with some rich, unexpected cluin’ to match!!

There’s more fancy footwork (so to speak…) in the cluing department as well. One of the most difficult for me was the [Tiger moms may employ them] TUTORS combo. The crosses let me enter TUTORS correctly, but darned if I understood why it was right. A little exchange with Doug produced these links which shed some needed light on the situation: How did I miss this book and the colorful term it generated?

The [Framed] PHRASED combo was another stumbling block of major proportions, as, based on filling in the -ASED portion, I’d confidently entered ENCASED and held onto it for way too long. And there’s a “Saturday Stumper”-like feel to the [Good for mudders] SLOPPY combo that kept me at bay. Shouldn’t that clue be [Terrain that’s good for mudders]?

But (imoo…) today’s most smile-inducing clue/fill pair would have to be [Locker room stud] and CLEAT. Was trying to come up with a five-letter word for TOWEL-SNAPPER, but it just wasn’t happenin’! Runner up would have to go to [They’re often felt] and BERETS, since “felt” is a noun here (the fabric) and not a verb meaning “sensed.” I’d also bestow “Miss Congeniality” to MRS [Dash of seasoning?]. Zesty! And the one that inspired the most head-slapping? [Bale part] WAYNE. Note to others similarly confused, this is not about hay…

What did I have to look up? Being Major League-abbreviation challenged (and saddled with the previously mentioned ENCASED…), had zero idea what [2006 NLCS venue] was or was going for. Once I learned that that NLCS stands for “National League Championship Series,” SHEA soon followed as did the aforementioned run of “d’oh” and “aha” moments.

Those of you who have had the good fortune to meet, speak with or befriend Doug know that in addition to being a formidable solver and resourceful constructor, he is genuinely one of the good guys. A certifiable sweetheart. He’s a CrosSynergy regular, is frequently published by both the Los Angeles and the New York Times, and his puzzles are consistently a pleasurable challenge to solve. But when it comes to the Washington Post, fair warning: “No more Mister Nice Guy“—which means you’re in for one great Sunday solve!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Retrospective” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook • 8/26/12 • “Retrospective” • Cox, Rathvon • 8 26 12 • solution

The central across entry is 64a [Mark over an n] TILDE, ~. It kind of reminds me of the proofreading mark for transpose, which can be used at the level of letters or words. It also reminds me of the mechanics of this puzzle’s theme, even though it isn’t quite the same. In each of the relevant entries, one of the words has been reversed to form a new one. Some people call these semordnilap.

  • 23a. [Eighteen holes of duffer divots] FLOG COURSE (golf). I believe the connection between golf and flog is well known, especially among masochistic devotees of the sport.
  • 28a. [“Patty schmatty”?] HAMBURGER SNUB (buns). What a wonderfully silly but perfect clue!
  • 35a. [Scowl in a Southern style?] VIRGINIA LEER (reel).
  • 56a. [Scotch-and-suds combo?] CHIVAS LAGER (Regal). That does not sound appealing. Then again, neither does a black velvet (Guinness + champagne) until you taste one.
  • 58a. [Witch’s skin-care remnants?] LAST WARTS (straw).
  • 72a. [Stoolies in gangster pics?] MOVIE RATS (star).
  • 77a. [Wooden stake through the heart?] VAMPIRE STAB (bats). I seem to recall this particular reversal had a part to play in one of the first Matt Gaffney weekly contest puzzles I solved. Speaking of which, I keep forgetting to participate in those of late. Must remember to take a look before the Tuesday deadline!
  • 94a. [For whom Trotsky was named?] THE FIRST LEON (Noel).
  • 100a. [Vet’s office sign?] WATCH YOUR PETS (step). Yes, slobbery lips soak chips.
  • 110a. [Broth you don’t want?] NOT NOW SOUP (won ton). Hm, “not now” in the informal sense of mañana, I imagine.

Fun theme, strong cluing throughout the puzzle.

Confession: I did this puzzle yesterday morning without taking notes and have dealt with so many things in the interim that I don’t have distinct memories of the solve or specific highlights etched in my mind. I merely recall that it was an enjoyable solve. So I’ll just skim about and see what I can find to make mention of:

  • 18d & 40d SERB and SLAVS.
  • 35d [Gore in books] VIDAL, who died 31 July, between the paper printing and the on-line appearance of the crossword.
  • I almost wrote “interim” again, which reminds me of 44d EMINEM, which is MINEME when reversed, which reminds me of Mini-Me, which reminds me of Verne Troyer, which … leads me nowhere. Remind me not to try that again.
  • Speaking of truncated movie rats stars, 56d CELEB is clued as [Big noise], which strikes me as a British construction.
  • 43a [Navratilova rival] Chris EVERT. Could you say the reversed components of the themers have been everted? Bit of a stretch, I know.
  • Longer non-theme fill: EASEMENTS, CHESTNUT, REBEL YELL, THEATER, NEGLIGEE, MOLASSES (which runs alongside OOZE).

So I successfully faced the puzzle. Thankfully I had real coffee on hand and not decaf.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “I’m Going First!” – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times Crossword solution Sunday Aug 26 2012

Theme: IM placed in front of standard phrases, for your amusement.

Theme answers:

  • 23A. [#1 on a motivational speaker’s reminder list?] – IMPRESS CONFERENCE
  • 40A. [Device for the Six Million Dollar Man?] – POWER IMPLANT
  • 47A. [Early problem for the Wright brothers?] – UPWARD IMMOBILITY. Rick Hansen (born August 26, 1957) turned IMMOBILITY into mobility by circling the world in a wheelchair. Man In Motion.
  • 65A. [Casper in the courtroom?] – IMMATERIAL WITNESS
  • 84A. [Hinted about a player swap?] – IMPLIED ONES TRADE
  • 90A. [European capital influence?] – WARSAW IMPACT
  • 113A. [Say “Smile!” to Hugh Jackman during dinner?] – IMPOSE FOR A PICTURE. And the reason Hugh Jackman is in this clue is ????

Bonus theme entries:

  • 100A. [Global financial org.] – IMF
  • 106A. [Dreamt things] – IMAGERY
  • 60D. [“Let me rephrase that …”] – I MEANT

Other stuff:

  • 39A. [Fair] – EXPO. In the mid-1980’s I saw a wonderful Laura Branigan concert at the old Expo ’67 site in Montreal. Sadly, she died on August 26, 2004.
  • 88A. [Disney president during the Pixar acquisition] – IGER. Another odd clue. Now Bob Iger is no longer Disney president, he is only the Chairman and CEO!
  • 8D. [Inane] – GOOFY. This would be the third GOOFY clue. On August 26, 1949, the Goofy Cartoon “Tennis Racquet” was released.

Happy birthday Will Shortz, Rick Hansen and (one day early) me. Happy anniversary to my wife.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Campaign 2012”

Merl Reagle’s Sunday crossword solution, 8 26 12 “Campaign 2012”

On Merl’s website, the black squares in the grid are replaced by green squares with dollar signs. We’ve got about 20 theme answers that contain the letters PAC. 58d: SUPER, [Adjective for the hidden words in this puzzle], refers to super PACs, the political action committees funding billions of dollars of campaign advertising this year. The PAC itself appears backwards: 121d is CAP, [Investment money, briefly, or this puzzle’s theme, backward]. That’s an odd touch.


What I miss in puzzles like this is an overriding sense of wordplay, or trivia, or cleverness. There’s no inherent humor in “hey, the letters PAC appear in this word or phrase.” Sure, it’s no picnic to fill a Sunday grid that has more than 20 theme entries—but this applies to solvers as well as to the constructor.

Toughest clues, cleverest clues:

  • 117a. [Chiricahuas and Mescaleros are part of it], APACHE TRIBE. Apparently the Apache tribe contains six subtribes, two of which are mentioned in this clue. I never knew that, and have never encountered the names in this clue.
  • 93a. [Vertical pinball game], PACHINKO. When I was a kid, we had neighbors with a couple pachinko machines in their basement. It was always a treat when they invited my family over.
  • 46a. [A dish best served cold], GAZPACHO. I wonder if anyone has ever laced their gazpacho with habanero peppers in order to get revenge on whoever they’re giving the soup to.

There’s a smattering of crosswordese that we don’t see too much anymore. AMAS, Coeur d’ALENE, ECU, OGEE, OSSA … I would include OREL, ILE, and OISE, but I feel like those have never gone away.

2.9 stars.

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24 Responses to Sunday, 8/26/12

  1. John E says:

    Next time I see Helene Grimaud perform, I will be sure to scream “BRAVA” instead of “BRAVO”. Who knew?

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      WOW–fantastic comment in praise of a fantastic pianist. Have you heard her B – 4? Unlike any other performance you’ve ever heard. The new Bad Girl of the piano world who does things her own way and forces you to listen and be amazed, whether you like everything she does or not. You could almost compare her to Glenn Gould, or Martha Argerich in their primes, or perhaps Simone Dinnerstein.

  2. I’m now imagining Ben Kingsley’s Oscar-winning performance as…Spider-Man. Thanks a lot, Amy. :-)

  3. pannonica says:


    • On the left? Hmm.
    • Two tachys from taxonomy are Tachyglossus, one of the two genera for ECHIDNA, and Tachybaptus, a genus of GREBE. “Fast-tongue” and “quick dip,” respectively. I can easily imagine how both Greek-based terms could have wider application.
    • Odd link: ALTO Norah Jones (13a) is a member of a country-tinged band called “The Little WILLIES” (93d).
  4. chiwhistler says:

    The tachyon was a gimme for Star Trek: The Next Generation fans!

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Just did yesterday’s Stumper. Definitely tough tough, but my experience exactly the opposite of Amy’s, as often happens. The right sight came quickly, especially the NE, with O’Meara, Carfax and curlew, but the entire left was brutal, especially the NW (even though I knew that GS went to Smith, since I now live in Noho). I mercifully forgot about George Eliot, even though I got dragged through Silas Marner in HS. Surely that should count as child abuse. (JUST KIDDING. . .) Perhaps I could read it now and enjoy it. But I don’t want to risk finding out.

    One question: I had no idea about the Pogo – Gen crossing. {Cohort for short} What does “Gen” stand for? I was about ready to put a Scrabble tile for each letter in a a box and draw one. It would have been my luck to draw a blank. (Oh–that’s what I had already done.)

    Amy, you mentioned recently that perhaps the singer Yma spelled her name backwards. I have long hypothesized that maybe she was really Amy Camus, who had been teleported from a palindromic, science fiction, parallel universe.

    • pannonica says:

      “GEN” as short for generation, cohort in the sense of group rather than companion. Your hypothesis regarding Yma Sumac is not unique; it’s a longstanding rumor since nearly the dawn of her international fame.

  6. Bruce N. Morton says:

    right *side*

  7. pannonica says:

    Looks as if I’m going to have to give up working the WaPo. The new mandatory interface is disenfranchising to this solver.

    • Papa John says:

      pannonica, can you be a little bit less cryptic about the Washington Post? What’s the deal? Is it no longer available in AcrossLIte?

    • Matthew G. says:

      I just came here to ask/complain about this. For the last two weeks, the Post Puzzler has refused to appear in my Crosswords app for iPad. I had hoped it was just me. Is it really impossible to get that puzzle in the app now? And if they are going to put it on the website only, at LEAST make a PDF available. If you make it available only through a Java app, that means I can’t do the puzzle without booting up an actual computer on a Sunday — something many of us no longer do.

      Such shortsighted stupidity.

  8. David says:

    Jeff Dubner found a way around the new interface. It takes a couple extra steps, but it’s well worth it IMO. This is a copy of his original post from Dan’s blog.
    Re: Washington Post Puzzler: I don’t know how long this will continue to work, but it looks like if you go directly to this URL:

    (that’s YYMMDD format at the end)

    Save it locally and you can open it with Puzzle Solver – it’s a .jpz format puzzle. Note that the solution grid appears if you visit that link in your browser, albeit in a pretty hard to read format, so you might want to save it without looking at the contents.

    • Dan F says:

      I think it’s Jeff Davidson, who I met at the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge (where he finished third).

      Anyhow, Peter Gordon is on a cruise, so when he’s back next week I’m sure he will address the Post Puzzler .puz situation! (Hopefully it won’t be like the “The Week” .puz situation.)

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Everyone who is displeased with the new Washington Post crossword interface (which affects the Post Puzzler and one of Merl Reagle’s outlets on Sundays, and the CrosSynergy puzzle all week) is encouraged to let the Post know about it. The email address is

  10. Papa John says:

    Thanks, Doug, for the link.

    Amy, exactly what would be our complaint? I don’t know what’s going on, other than I can no longer get the Sunday WP through your links. Do I just say, “Hey, I want my puzzle in AcrossLite.”?

  11. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked the theme answers. Fabulous choices! Andrea Carla Michaels showed me a wonderful statue of GANDHI in San Francisco, which I had never seen even though I lived in the Bay Area for a while.

    HORTON HATCHES THE EGG evokes mixed feelings, for peculiar reasons. When my daughter was about 4, she loved it and we read it constantly. So when I was planning to go to China for a couple of weeks I decided to videotape myself reading it to her, so her dad could play it for her in my absence. She was not pleased with my being gone, refused to watch it after the first glance, and never wanted to read that book again. They play hardball, don’t they?

    Back to the puzzle, lots of great fill beyond the theme, and little junk. 4.5 stars! Now, how to negotiate that?

  12. I interrupt your regularly scheduled cruciverbalism to update you on Isaac. And Tampa isn’t in its bullseye anymore, ahem:

  13. ArtLvr says:

    Yikes! Doug’s Post Puzzler left me dazed — and the format with red-letter guide to errors was much needed even to finish, so I won’t complain but definitely don’t want the gimmick elsewhere. He FRAMED his winning clues in a way that knocks nearly everybody else into Place and Show…. I have to give Merl a tie for first, however, with that title Campaign 2012 and the theme of hidden PAC’s throughout. Brilliant! Can you picture a Commander in Chief unable to speak (let alone act) without prior consultation with his Contributors in Chief? Talk about dumb Dollar Diplomacy, phew. A far cry from the real thing, which we used to force our friends the UK and the French to withdraw from Suez occupation in 1956 within 24 hours!

  14. HMJ says:

    When I saw the dollar signs in Reagle’s puzzle, I wondered what he had come up with this time. I couldn’t associate puns with the layout, so I wasted an hour of my life working the puzzle. As is usual for a Reagle puzzle, it was a complete waste of time. I worked the whole thing with no clue whatsoever about the theme before, during, or after. I won’t fall for a Reagle puzzle again. Ever.

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @HMJ: This is perhaps the seventh time you’ve commented this year, always with a slam on Merl Reagle’s puzzles. So either you’re a slow learner about what entertains you or liked the puzzles just fine all the other weeks and like to comment only when you’re unhappy.

  16. Old Geezer says:

    Quantity, especially an exceptional quantity, inherently evokes a range of quality; highs and lows, as it were. Occasionally Merl hits a huge home run. Usually he gets a first down. Very seldom does he foul out, though sometimes he isnt quite up to par. But I cannot say that I have ever NOT been entertained by one of Merl’s puzzles.

    No matter how long it takes me to grok them.

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