Friday, 8/31/12

NYT 4:59 
LAT 6:31 (Gareth) 
CS 6:03 (Sam) 
CHE tba 
WSJ (Friday) 11:15 (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 8 31 12 0831

I got off to a quick start here, marching through the Downs crossing 1a: MCADAMS. Except for 4d, which twisted me this way and that. Hmm, [Puts off]…DISCOMPOSES? No, that won’t work. DISCONCERTS? Ditto. I messed around with those for too long before DISCOURAGES finally emerged to remind me what I just felt. Oof!

We’ve got 64 words, a reasonable 32 blocks, a generous midsection of stair-stepped white space, and lots of flow between sections (although the northwest and southeast chunks are fairly closed off, they have long answers that feed into them). Pegged right to the Friday NYT difficulty level, too.

Quickly, because my new Tempur-Pedic pillow is calling to me, here’s what I liked best: ILLINOIS clued with Monopoly trivia. A PRIVATE MATTER you’d rather not discuss. The PEACE TREATIES clue: [They’re written for two-part harmony]. GEIGER COUNTER (which should have helped me with DISCOURAGES except that I was thinking of geysers rather than Geiger). WRITER clued as a [Play maker?]. ROAD RAGE is the [Heat in one’s car], not the RADIATOR. [Crime reporters?] as the clue for STOOLIES. Star Wars STORMTROOPERS, always fun. Bob CRATCHIT, et al. Never knew KATIE COURIC guest-hosted for Leno. PEIGNOIRS, which I own none of. [Fabulous singer], meaning “singer from fables,” for SIREN.

All too often, a tough-to-fill grid like this will have compromises, such as an overreliance on repetition of little words. You know the ones—those puzzles where three answers contain ON and two have IN, and it gets a little snoozy. Or lots of affixes (RE-, UN-, -LESS, -ER, -ES, -ED). We have a handful of plurals here, a single UN- word, a single ON phrase (TURN ON), and one with AFTER (RUNS AFTER—”after” being a 5-letter preposition that would be a lot harder to repeat in a grid). As I’ve said before, nobody seems to know how Patrick Berry manages to craft such smooth grids, time and time again. I wonder if he also makes plenty of junky puzzles that get rejected. (I bet he doesn’t.)

I could do without KALB and BEULAH, but there are fewer than 10 proper names in the grid and all the other ones were gimmes. Actually, KALB was a gimme too, but I know him only from crosswords.

Now, what you don’t necessarily get in a standard Smoothberry confection is super-sparkly fill that feels fresh and new. But who objects to a puzzle that doesn’t find ways to bug you? Not I. 4.5 stars.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take Your Pun to Work Day” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 8/31/12 • “Take Your Pun to Work Day” • Fri • Harrison • 8 31 12 • solution

Weakly ironically, this puzzles title—unlike so many others—is not a pun. [edit: is it a play on the non-inclusive “Take Your Son to Work Day”?] Instead, we hear tales of various professionals behaving in ways that are described as double-layer puns.

  • 23a. [The pitcher who took Sterno to a picnic ___ ] BROUGHT THE HEAT. In baseball I believe “heat” in this sense refers to speed and power.
  • 33a. [The lumberjack quit because he was ___ ] LOGGED OUT.
  • 44a. [The spendthrift scuba diver usually ___ ] GOES OVERBOARD.
  • 58a. [The pool-player-turned-actor often ___ ] MISSES HIS CUE.
  • 79a. [The stand-in always has to ___ ] DO DOUBLE DUTY.
  • 95a. [The chess columnist had occasionally ___ ] COVERED BRIDGE. In the original sense, the phrase is adjective–noun. This and 33a are the only two that have this form.
  • 101a. [The narc-turned-sculptor recently ___ ] MADE A BUST.
  • 120a. [A hung jury forced the judge to ___ ] TRY AND TRY AGAIN.

I enjoyed the variety of tenses among the answers, and didn’t in the least mind the clues that required torturous contrivance: the two with heavily hyphenated job-changers and the absurdist baseball opener. One-dimensional puns are tedious.

Somewhat unusually, there are some long non-theme answers among the acrosses: RAP SHEET, MOURNING, GO TEAM GO (sitting above the similarly repetitive TRY AND TRY AGAIN), CULPRITS. The downs offer only two as long as eight letters: TRESPASS and HIGH NOON. I especially liked MOURNING and CULPRITS.


  • Kind of cute that 1-across is SSS, which often appears along the bottom to provide crutchy plurals.
  • Actors in films! 9a [Lanchester of “Witness for the Prosecution”] ELSA. 69a [80-Down’s co-star in “The Quiet Man”] John WAYNE, 80d [69-Down’s co-star in “The Quiet Man”] Maureen O’HARA; was this cross-reference worth the while? 62a [Christensen of “Parenthood”] ERIKA.
  • Least familiar answers: 77a [Nobel-winning Japanese prime minister] SATO, 97a [Mars: Prefix] AREO- (from Ares, obviously), 91a [Triangular sails] LATEENS (a NAUT. (94d) term).
  • DOUBLE-DUTY clue: [Kitchen sight] 39d OVEN, 77d STOVE.
  • Was unaware that EPSON is owned by Seiko (30a).
  • I’ve expressed my dissatisfaction with this sort of cluing before, and will continue to do so: 32d [Library catalog ID] ISBN. See this post and subsequent comments if you wish to review the discussion.
  • Among my favorite clues are two that coincidentally reference scales: 75a [Scales up?] for LIBRA, “up” referencing the sky and hence the constellation; 47a [It has sliding scales] SNAKE, said scales slide over a surface, and a little over each other.

    Digression: imbricate (adj.) lying lapped over each other in regular order <imbricate scales>; Late Latin imbricatus, past participle of imbricare to cover with pantiles, from Latin imbric-, imbrex pantile, from imbr-, imber rain; akin to Greek ombros rain; First Known Use: circa 1610.

  • Oddest clue: 18d [Friend’s possessive] THY. Seems archaic to m— oh, never mind, I see it now. Not an unannounced archaism but a capitalization misdirection, “Friends” referring to Quakers. Sneaky.

CAP Quotient™ about average. The punning in the theme answers was, to me, reminiscent of the sort that Henry Hook sometimes comes up with for his Sunday puzzle offerings, which I also write up for FiendCo.

Good puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Extra Sauce, Please” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, August 31

I like when a crossword’s title matches something I say everyday. Now if only we could have crosswords entitled “Sorry, Must Have Been the Breakfast Burrito I Ate” and “No, Really, That’s My Own Hair.”

The theme involves adding a type of sauce to the end (on the side?) of four common two-word terms. Think of it as another take on the old Wheel of Fortune “Before and After” gimmick. Okay, let’s hit the sauces:

  • 17-Across: If you’re not just “talking big” but TALKING BIG APPLE, you’re [Discussing Gotham?]. Mmm, applesauce. The perfect complement to pork chops. Just ask Peter Brady.
  • 25-Across: One cure for a “dog face” is DOG FACE CREAM, the [Pet spa application?]. I tend to eschew cream sauce–too many calories for what’s generally too little taste.
  • 42-Across: The [Retirement fund for Celtics cager Larry?] is BIRD’S NEST EGG, the union of “bird’s nest” and “nest egg.” Here‘s a recipe using creme eggs for the sauce. I’ll let you be the judge.
  • 55-Across: The [Bath toy from Delhi?] is an INDIA RUBBER DUCK. This one slowed me down for a few seconds, as I wanted the first word to be INDIAN and not just INDIA. If only I knew this song.

Today’s the last day of August, which means it’s time for the season finale in Name That Constructor Month. In yesterday’s penultimate episode, we saw me snag three more points, boosting my total for the month to 47 points, three shy of my readjusted goal. If I can get this one right on the first try, I’ll make it. If I don’t, then … well, I don’t. It’s not like this is a “loser leave town” match in pro wrestling. But it’s been fun trying to figure out a puzzle’s constructor based on the signature features so many of them tend to weave into their crosswords. Puzzles have personalities, and just as children invariably adopt some of the characteristics of their parents, most crosswords reflect their constructors. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s very obvious.

Okay, enough philosophizing at the finish line–I feel like I just dragged you through the equivalent of those painful montages in Survivor when the final three walk along a cliff collecting trinkets from all the other players that were voted off, all the while pretending that they like and miss their fallen colleagues when it’s sooo obvious they couldn’t care less. Sorry about that.

This last puzzle really smacks of Patrick Blindauer. The fill is hip and edgy, as evidenced in NAPALM, B-SIDE, NARC near RAT ON, GEEK, OK OK, and BLAH. There are playful clues, like [Pencil neck ___] for the GEEK, and [Prayer companion] for WING. And there are musical references (reminiscent of his terrific puzzle suite from late last year), like SHA Na, Na, the aforementioned B-SIDE, DIVA, ENYA, LENTO. (side note to Patrick: please tell me there will be another puzzle extravaganza this year too!).

Then there’s the fact that I don’t really get two of the clues ([Can opener?] for SHANK and [Slammer] for STIR). On more than one occasion, I haven’t been smart enough to fully grok Patrick’s puzzles, so this lingering uncertainty also leads me to naming him as my first choice.

But before I just slap on two more names and call it an entry, I should try to be more methodical in my approach. As with the past couple of days, I’ll nix the people who have had puzzles run within the past week or so. So long Gail Grabowski, Patrick Jordan, Bob Klahn, Randy Ross, Bruce Venzke, Ray Hamel, Donna Levin, and Tony Orbach (kinda tough to cut Tony, though, because he does love music and this puzzle’s heavy on it). Besides Patrick Blindauer, I’m left with Lynn Lempel, Sarah Keller, Randy Hartman, Alan Arbesfeld, Martin Ashwood-Smith, and Doug Peterson.

Could this be from Lynn Lempel? Absolutely. Very smooth fill, shorter clues that lean more toward straight definitions, and a wide array of subject matter from different eras–all of these I associate with her puzzles. This could also be Doug Peterson’s work. No partials, a baseball allusion to RARE perfect games, and the reference to “pencil neck geek”–that’s the sort of liveliness he injects into his grids. Heck, I could make a case for most of the remaining names on my list. So maybe I’ll stop where I am and go with this (fingers crossed, which makes for awkward typing):

1. Patrick Blindauer   2. Lynn Lempel   3. Doug Peterson

Wow–swing and a miss! Once again, Randy duped me into picking other people. I’m going to start referring to him as The Chameleon. (He could be a Batman villain!) I guess when I see his byline from now on, I’ll just have to think “Anything goes, but it will be a good ride.” There are worse reactions.

Final Name That Constructor Stats After 31 Puzzles: 11 correct first choices (3 points each), 5 correct second choices (2 points each), 4 correct third choices (1 point each); 47 points total; adjusted score to beat = 50 points. Better luck next time. Tune in tomorrow when we begin a new gimmick at the CS review: Name That Puzzle Month!

Norm Guggenbiller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

Norm Guggenbiller’s puzzle, like many LA Times Fridays, has wacky-style answers. Today’s are formed through a change of sound. I don’t know all those fancy-shmancy IPA symbols, so I’ll just desribe it as “old” to “oed.” The revealer is the one word HEAD/COLD, split over two entries. So if you had a cold, HOLD would sound like HOED, OLD like ODE etc. Decent set of theme answers, my favourite being THEODEHEAVEHO, excellent basephrase and a pretty funny wacky one too.

14/13/13/14 are pretty unusual theme lengths, but are dealt with deftly by Mr. Guggenbiller, as he has used them to include pairs of 8-letter answers. However, my faves among today’s words were the 6-letter pair of OHYEAH (which made many people think of Ferris Bueller, I’m sure!) and DIATOM. The diatoms are very pretty plankton indeed (see right)! The article from which the image is purloined may interest a few of you, [may be NSFW, at least if your work has a policy against graphic pictures of phytoplankton sex! ;)].

I’m not sure there’s much else I want to point out. I didn’t care for the answer AHEART, though I don’t know bridge… joon, is that a legit answer? My Pavlovian response to seeing “bridge opening” – writing ONENO – was thwarted; maybe I’m just sore about that?

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26 Responses to Friday, 8/31/12

  1. Needed every cross for BEULAH.

  2. RK says:

    Liked your write-up of NYT Amy. I felt this puzzle had a lot of different clues and answers and really enjoyed it. Smooth is a good characterization.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: That man is a genius at building crosswords. He might be a genius altogether, I don’t know. His puzzles remind me of inspired modern design. Take an object, simplify it to its essence, keeping it beautiful, harmonious, essential. Understatedly breathtaking. It looks easy, but try to change a single thing and watch what happens.

    MAFIA RUNS AFTER STOOLIES. SARDINES beneath ROADRAGE . PEDIGREE next to PEIGNOIRS. Awesomeness in a little square.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    A Mary Poppins puzzle. Practically perfect in every way.

  5. Howard B says:

    Enjoyed this puzzle greatly. Top app solver today almost broke 3 minutes – on my best day with a full pot of coffee, no way I could ever achieve that. Much respect to him; I accept that speed-solving has gone well beyond my capabilities now :).
    Mostly, the names were what gave me pause here. BEULAH, CLARE, and even MCADAMS (more well-known) were rough on me, and misspelling PEIGNOIRS did not help matters. But the overall feel of this one was so smooth and clever that I could look past the speed bumps (KALB!).

  6. janie says:

    in the nyt, also love how those PEACE TREATIES cross the STORM TROOPERS!


  7. M says:

    Sam, [Slammer] and STIR are both slang for prison. [Can opener?] is slang for the stabby type of SHANK. I’ll assume that they were random, not personally meaningful, choices by the constructor….

    • Sam Donaldson says:

      Joon taught me never to be proud of ignorance when it comes to a particular subject, so I’ll just say that I’m glad I’ve never had to learn these associations until now, and especially not the hard way. Thanks, M.

  8. Daniel Myers says:

    Along with everyone else, it seems, I delighted in today’s NYT. PEIGNOIRS – and Amy’s comment on them – reminded me of this spot of poetry:


    This lady in the white bath-robe which she calls a
    Is, for the time being, the mistress of my friend,
    And the delicate white feet of her little white dog
    Are not more delicate than she is,
    Nor would Gautier himself have despised their contrasts
    in whiteness
    As she sits in the great chair
    Between the two indolent candles.

    -Ezra Pound

  9. Gareth says:

    So many fun answers and clues in today’s Berry!! Like everyone else I’m in awe! I feel like there’s enough here for a really well made 72-worder! My favourite A-ha was twigging to STORMTROOPERS! Pilgrim’s Progress, though a tad dated, is still one of those books that appears on all-time bestsellers list… Don’t see why BEULAH is bad fill, esp. for a Saturday… (That doesn’t mean I didn’t need every single cross!)

    • Huda says:

      Gareth, I’m with you all the way, except that BEULAH is also fine for a Friday :)

    • I probably should not have been so terse. I loved the puzzle like everybody else, I just have never heard the name BEULAH before and could not intuit it. It’s fair (but challenging) game for a Friday/Saturday puzzle.

  10. ktd says:

    Incredibly, [Heat in one’s car] can describe a ROAD RACE as well as ROAD RAGE–unfortunately I had the former entry in place and wound up unable to complete the bottom right section. Well played, Patrick Berry!

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Obviously, a superb puzzle, though personally I was not thrilled to see an obscure actress with an equally obscure credential right at 1a. Pretty much totaled the NW for me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bruce, her movies have grossed over $1 billion. She’s not obscure, she’s just newish:

    • joon says:

      i feel like i’m in bizarro world when i’m called upon to defend pop culture references in puzzles, but calling rachel MCADAMS or the notebook “obscure” is obstinantly, militantly perverse. that movie, and this actress, are enormously popular. not everybody has a high opinion of the film; i recall one puzzle earlier this summer where NOTEBOOK was clued as {Execrable McAdams/Gosling tearjerker of 2004, with “The”}—and bruce, you even commented on that puzzle, so i know you saw that clue.

      pop quiz: which of these google searches gets the most hits?

      mcadams + “the notebook”
      swank + “million dollar baby”
      witherspoon + “walk the line”
      cotillard + “la vie en rose”

      (no points for guessing the correct answer.) yup, that’s three best actress winners from the same decade as our “obscure” actress mcadams and her “equally obscure credential”. now, there are plenty of actress + movie combinations that outgoogle her, but that’s hardly the point. you don’t need to be as famous as nicole kidman to be famous enough for 1-across.

      edit: or, what amy said.

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:


    I do not believe that I am being either obstinate or perverse, and such is not my intent. I am implicitly making the familiar point that obscurity is in the eye of the beholder, and that I have never heard of the referents of that clue. (And notice that I highly praised the puzzle.) I live in a world where apparently, Gigli, Mondrian, Saroyan, major works by Shelley, etc. are considered obscure. So much the worse for me. For all I know, I would like the movie. (I sometimes perversely enjoy hyper – romanticized tearjerkers. I recently saw a wonderful movie about two young teenagers, male and female, where the boy runs away from a summer camp, meets the girl with whom he has previously corresponded; they go off together, camp out, survive a major storm, eventually are found, etc. (It looks like Daufuskie Island, SC, but I don’t know.) Can’t remember the title. Loved it.) On the other hand, I will take your word that I commented on a puzzle containing the aforesaid reference. I do try to memorize things I don’t know which I encounter in puzzles for future reference. I find it amazing (and impressive) that you would remember that I had commented on such puzzle, and I mean that in the most positive way, since decades ago I too used to tout my wide-ranging “garbage can” memory.

    • joon says:

      my apologies. i managed to miss your implicit point and took your words at face value; such things often get lost in written correspondence where they would have been easily conveyed by voice inflection or body language.

      in any event, i do believe that there are objective ways of measuring how famous something or someone is, though perhaps not how much intrinsic value it has as knowledge. so i disagree about obscurity being purely in the eye of the beholder, although of course “know it” or “don’t know it” obviously is.

      i don’t believe anybody has called mondrian or saroyan obscure around here (if so, i’ve missed it). as for beniamino GIGLI and shelley’s CENCI, i’d never heard of them myself prior to seeing them in the NYT puzzle. i’ll admit i’m not the world’s most knowledgeable guy when it comes to opera or literature, but i can generally hold my own in those areas, so i was surprised not to know those names. (i’m familiar with dozens of opera stars from the past and present, and perhaps ten shelley works, most of which are shortish poems.) now, i wouldn’t complain about either of those clues because they are precisely the kinds of things i like learning from a crossword. but i do think they are considerably less famous than most of the proper nouns that populate crosswords.

      finally, my advice is: do not watch the notebook. (full disclosure: that clue i cited above was my own clue, from my guest turn at MGWCC.)

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    joon–I appreciate the good-natured tone of your response. Probably not worth replowing the ground re references to Mondrian, Saroyan, et al. Your point about the possibility of somewhat objective, stable criteria for obscurity vs. non-obscurity is interesting and thought – provoking, though I think it would be very tricky to agree on such criteria. In particular, I would be hard – pressed to know how to agree upon universally acceptable experimental conditions to test the celebrity of, say, Signore Gigli, versus Ms. McAdams. But as I say, it’s an interesting issue, and I am not one to slide into the simplistic, sophomoric “it’s all relative; it all depends upon your point of view; there’s no underlying reality” line of pseudo-thought.

    I suspect I would agree with you and will take your advice re “The Notebook”, though now I am curious to see and find out about Ms. McAdams.

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