Monday, 9/24/12

NYT 3:22 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:13 (pannonica) 
CS 4:32 (Sam) 
BEQ untimed 

John Dunn’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review

NYT • 9/24/12 • Mon • Dunn • 9 24 12 • solution

59-across says [What airplanes leave in the sky … or what 17-, 23-, 37- and48-Across have?] VAPOR TRAILS. Accordingly, each of those cited answers are phrases that end in (trail with) synonyms for—or types of—vapor.

  • 17a. [Gather momentum] PICK UP STEAM.
  • 23a. [Mel Tormé’s nickname] THE VELVET FOG.
  • 37a. [Rolling Stones hit whose title follows the words “Hey you”] GET OFF OF MY CLOUD. Hey (hey) you (you).
  • 48a. [“Hurry up!”] STEP ON THE GAS.

Sublime theme? Perhaps not, but it gets the early week job done very competently, no mean feat. I prefer the single word contrail to vapor trail, but that would have required synonyms for convicts and/or contrariness; further, it would have shed the dimension wherein the entirety of the original phrase (or word) means the same thing as what’s being highlighted. So all told, vapor trails is an excellent revealer.


  • Vapor is what you get when you apply 53a [Radiator output] HEAT to 41a [ __ de cologne] EAU. That is, water.
  • Slightly nicer to see OSPREY in a grid rather than ERN or ERNE. 6d [Fish hawk].
  • 34a [Scottish headwear] TAM and 46a [Diamond-shaped pattern] ARGYLE. Origin of argyle: Argyle, Argyll, branch of the Scottish clan of Campbell, from whose tartan the design was adapted; First Known Use: 1899 (
  • Longdowns: 11d [“Nothing more to say”] END OF STORY; I always picture Rosie Perez uttering this phrase. 28a [Daydreamers encountered by Odysseus] LOTUS EATERS. Scholars locate their land near today’s Tunisia or Libya.
  • ALEE, ABEAM. 56d, 54a.
  • Suffixes! 52d [Suffix with ballad] -EER. 22d [Suffix with meteor] -ITE. The Meteorites are an extremely controversial SECT (3d)of Astrologers.
  • Taxonomy! 50d [Rhinoceros relative] TAPIR. They’re both perissodactyls (Greek, “uneven TOEs” (31d)). If you add horses, you have the complete set of extant members of this mammalian Order. Rhinoceroses are endemic to Africa and Asia, tapirs to Asia and South America, horses to Eurasia (or possibly just Asia) and Africa, although they evolved originally in North America (and are latterly feral hereabout). Not more taxonomy: 29a [Ventnor and Baltic, in Monopoly: Abbr.] AVES.
  • POLITY gets my vote for least Mondayish fill. 26a [System of government].
  • Not enough people remember, or know of, Willard ESPY (7d). This is ironic in more than one dimension in crosswords.

Above-average Monday.

Updated Monday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, September 24

I have a guess for this puzzle’s title (it’s still Name That Puzzle Month, you know), and I want to spit it out before I forget it: Split the Bill. There. Whew! This just has to be the title, because you’ll see that BILL gets split by a bunch of letters five times over in this puzzle. More precisely, each of the five theme entries begins with BI- and ends with -LL:

  • 17-Across: The BIKINI ATOLL is the [Atomic bomb test site of 1946].
  • 29-Across: There’s not much to say about a BITTER PILL except that [It may be hard to swallow].
  • 35-Across: A BINGO HALL might be a [Gambler’s mecca], especially if you’re my sister.
  • 47-Across: BIG AND TALL is the [Men’s clothing category] from which I shopped once upon a time.
  • 60-Across: A BICYCLE BELL is a [Handlebar attachment]. I’ve never heard it referred to as a “bicycle bell.” To me, it’s just a bell. But I’ll go with it.

Hmm, Bill Breakers could also be the title, but I’m sticking with Split the Bill as the livelier of the two.

Close! The title is “Going Dutch.” I like it! I’m a little surprised at the subtle title, especially since there isn’t a “revealer” here that explains the theme to those who don’t get it (you know, like BILL in the lower right corner, clued along the lines [Tab that’s split in this puzzle’s longest answers]). But personally I prefer the subtle titles, so I’ll take them where I can get them.

Note the vertical stack of 7s in each of the corners–this grid smacks of Martin’s prowess in stacking for full effect. I love the northwest trio of DEBEERS, IS IT NOT, and ASK OVER, though the grouping of ALGERIA, ROSWELL, and TWADDLE has great appeal too.

The theme requires lots of Ls in the grid, but note the other double-L entries in this grid: ELL, LULL, PRELL, ROSWELL. It had me thinking, “What the …”–okay, you know where this joke is going.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 9 24 solution

This 72-worder is built around a trellis of 15s:

  • 16a. “JUST A BIT OUTSIDE,” a sportsy line from a movie I don’t think I ever saw. Zippier than a 15 laden with E’s, though.
  • 36a. QUARTERBACK SACK, [Event when you’re down on Luck?]. I think there was a Bears coach or player from eons ago named Sid Luckman, but I reckon this isn’t about him. No idea who Luck is.
  • 56a. [“A Wrinkle in Time” author], MADELEINE  L’ENGLE. Lots of E’s but terrific, bookish answer.
  • 3d. AS SOBER AS A JUDGE. Uh, not always.
  • 6d. [King Missile novelty hit with the lyrics “I can leave it home, when I think it’s gonna get me in trouble / or I can rent it out, when I don’t need it”], DETACHABLE PENIS. Never heard of it, nope. Good idea, though.
  • 10d. [Leading a moral life], DOING WHAT’S RIGHT. I try.

Brendan likes BABY NAME and BUTTINSKY and so do I. Don’t combine the two, though. Let’s say Brendan’s little girl Tabitha becomes a big sister someday. Big sisters are bossy enough without the younger sibling being named Buttinsky.

“Meh” parts: SOHIO, ETAPE, DSMS, N-TEST, MAJS, I’M AN, STREAMLET, ISERE, ENOS, and ENDO. I do like NSFW; last time I encountered that descriptor, it was when a Sarah Silverman video about voter suppression was posted on Facebook. It was also NSFPWCAITR (not safe for parents when children are in the room) but I gambled on it and played the video with my 12-year-old nearby. Hey, he needs his education in civics and he’s heard all the swears before (but disdains using them).

3.25 stars.

Adam Prince’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 9/24/12 • Mon • Prince • 9 24 12 • solution

Four themers, three of medium length and one central spanner. Plus a revealer. Quite a filling repast.

  • 56a. [Entrée go-with, or the aptly placed part of 17-, 25-, 37- or 45-Across] SIDE SALAD.
  • 17a. [Corfu or Crete] GREEK ISLE.
  • 25a. [Salute heard at the Forum] “HAIL CAESAR!”
  • 37a. [Classic Frances Hodgson Burnett children’s novel] THE SECRET GARDEN.
  • 45a. [Once-common childhood ailment] CHICKENPOX. It isn’t common anymore? Is there a vaccine nowadays? I know I keep seeing promotions for adults to get shots for preventing shingles, which is a manifestation of the same virus.

Three of the salads appear on the right side, two on the left. This therefore must indicate that we are looking at casual dining, exempt from the tyranny of rigid etiquette imposed on lefthanders and righthanders. Actually, it goes without saying that it’s casual because at a formal meal the salad would be served as a separate course. (I prefer my salad after the entrée, but I’m sure you could have guessed that.) The mechanics of the theme could have worked that way, too (left/right = before/after), but it ruins the revealer. Three cheers for casual dining! Eh, make it two, as long as we’re being casual.

So, in terms of the actual salads being referenced, chicken salad is the odd one out because it refers to the concoction made from chopped meat plus mortar, perhaps with some inclusions. Rather than resting in a bowl or plate, it’s put in a sandwich or lumped on a lettuce leaf or some such. The point is, it isn’t a dish comprised primarily of greens and vegetables accompanied by a dressing and sometimes including meat (even chicken). However, all of this is inconsequential to the mechanics and spirit of the theme. Inconsequential, irrelevant, tangential, et cetera.

What else is on the menu? Ah! The substantial amuse-bouche of an OUIJA BOARD, and the incorrectly-located BREAD KNIFE. As you can see from the diagram, the bread knife should be laid laterally across the bread plate, which is located to the upper left. Quelle horreur! Oh wait, my mistake. This is the long, serrated BREAD KNIFE, not the dwarfish butter spreader. So it stays with the bread loaf, which I suppose could be served on a OUIJA BOARD. Yes? Yes?

Other longish answers are OVERSEES and RED STATE. Non-Scrabbly, not incredibly interesting, but still welcome.

I like the random quirkiness of the first two acrosses involving sitcoms. 1a [Sitcom’s test episode] PILOT, 6a [Sitcom interrupters] ADS. The rest of the fill is strong, with a relatively low CAP (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) Quotient™. Sure, there’s the OTTO I (HRE, CMLXII) and the b-ball stat PPG, and a little more, but these compromises are to be expected and are admirably kept to a minimum.

Least expected Monday fill: 42a REINE [Queen, in France]. Least favorite fill: ECO-CAR; it’s just an ugly word. Another appearance of ESPY; to clarify my remark/lament in the NYT write-up, I don’t expect early-week puzzles to have clues referencing the late, grate Willard R., but it would be nice for variety’s sake (I bet such clues appeared during the Maleska era, when (a) Mr Espy was much more prominent, and (b) esoterica, or at least a measure of obscurity, was more aggressively pursued.) Thanks for the Espy affirmation in the comments, Jenni!

Similar to my ESPY plaint is the situation with LEM (57d). It tends to be clued much, much more often as the acronym for NASA’s Lunar Excursion Module rather than the seminal Polish science-fiction author and futurist Stanislaw LEM. I mean, Steven Soderbergh remade Andrei Tarkovsky’s excellent Solaris (based on a book of S Lem) with George-Tmesin’-Clooney, so presumably culturally literate people could be expected to know this. Again, not on a Monday, perhaps, but I’m always willing to yearn.

I was thinking of writing some more, but looking at the image above has co-opted my synapses and I find myself unable to continue. It’s probably for the best.

Another above-average Monday crossword.

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30 Responses to Monday, 9/24/12

  1. Gareth says:

    Very nice synonymy collection! Plus ENDOFSTORY and LOTUSEATER too! Monday home-run for me! Re taxonomy: Yup, rhinos always went to the horse side (as opposed to the cow/sheep side) of the Academic Hospital I studied at. Actually, now that I think about it, alpacas also went to the horse side, and they’re artiodactyls. Now I’m perplexed!

    Also, a song:

    • Huda says:

      Life is full of these delightfully perplexing quandaries… I too have been wondering about where alpacas should go, considering their artiodactylitude…


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Tapirs are dangerous. They can pee a considerable distance and nail you without even looking your way.

      I love that Gareth’s vet tales include rhinos.

  2. Erik says:

    LAT puzzle is everything a monday puzzle should be and more. scrumptious.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: The theme was ephemeral, the execution solid.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Really enjoyed today’s puzzle. And I love Willard Espy! I had several of his books when I was a teenager. So much fun. I always think of him when ESPY shows up in a grid.

  5. Daniel Myers says:

    This nit must surely have been picked before now, but I’ll raise the matter again or, for all I know, be the first to pick it: Shouldn’t the parenthetical part of the clue for NYT 40D be in the plural (i.e., building toys)?

    • David L says:

      Lincoln logs are a toy. Seems fine to me. One Lincoln log isn’t much of a toy. Unless you are part of the 47%, of course.

      • Daniel Myers says:

        But just look at the construction of that sentence: “Lincoln logs ARE A toy.” It’s grammatically incorrect! Can someone find me a sentence that passes Amy’s substitution test where the subject and predicate don’t disagree?

      • pannonica says:

        “Lincoln Logs” functions as a singular noun. I’d say it’s partly because it’s the name of the product and partly because there’s an unspoken but understood “(set of) Lincoln Logs.”

        see: The toy’s history on the official website.

      • H Jac McCracken says:

        “We are the World?”

  6. Daniel Myers says:

    So, does that make a sentence like: “Lincoln logs are funny things.” incorrect?

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Chemistry-minded people, I hope you all noticed pannonica’s “sublime” joke.

  8. Lois says:

    I agree with David L’s version, “Lincoln Logs are a toy,” and with his comment. What’s the problem with a plural subject and a singular predicate noun? It’s a rather common structure. The clue and answer are OK too.

    • David L says:

      Thank you.

      Also, garden-fresh tomatoes are my favorite vegetable.*

      *or fruit, please yourself.

      But I also agree with HH.

  9. Gareth says:

    The theme of the LAT was pretty sublime if you ask me! Clever way to alternate the themed parts of the answers between left and right! The rest of the puzzle was good enough, though some of the shorter fill rankled more than normal…

  10. Daniel Myers says:

    Correction for Lois et al: We’re talking, in this particular case, about a singular noun/subject where “IS” would be the verb in “Garden-fresh tomatoes IS my favourite fruit/vegetable.” etc. It’s rather jarring to the ears, if nothing else, to me and perhaps to I. M. Pei, if not to I.R. Baboon.:-)

    Yes, we do say things all the time like:

    Apples are a joy to eat

    but not:

    Apples IS a joy to eat.

    These be my beeves in a nutshell – not a joy to eat.

    Do carry on Girlz and Boyz!

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Lincoln Logs are a fun toy, and TinkerToys are fun, and Lego are fun to build with, too.

  12. Mary Todd says:

    Lincoln’s logs are digusting, let me tell you.

  13. backbiter says:

    I’m playing name that puzzle as well. I guessed “Splitting the tab” for today. Very tough, and I’m not a constructor. Go Sam! Lincoln Logs are boring. You can only build one thing in the end. A freaking cabin. The shape of the pieces only lend itself for a cabin. Not a toy. I take that back. You can build a bonfire with Lincoln logs.

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