Sunday, 12/9/12

LAT 9:46 
NYT 8:31 
Reagle 7:27 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 8:13 (Sam) 

Patrick Blindauer’s new puzzle suite, Las Vegas Puzzlefest, was released Saturday. You’ve got two months to solve the set of 11 crosswords and tease out the meta answer lurking within. Hey, what else do you have going on in January? It’s cold. Stay in and do the Puzzlefest. $11.11 is less than the price of a movie and popcorn, and you’re probably looking at hours of intellectual entertainment.

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Last Name First”

NY Times crossword solution, 12 9 12 “Last Name First”

Once again, Patrick Berry disappoints. The theme is dull and poorly executed, the fill is stilted and clumsy, the clues lifeless. /The Onion

But seriously, folks: Once again, Patrick Berry shows how it’s done. The theme is crisp, fresh, and entertaining, and there’s not a stinker in the bunch. The fill is rock-solid throughout.

The “Last Name First” theme takes (reasonably) famous names, flips the first and last names, and clues the resulting two-word phrase as an entirely unrelated entity.

  • 22a. [Entry in a metalworker’s personal planner?], WELD TUESDAY. Ms. Weld is past her prime fame, but look how nicely she fits into this theme.
  • 24a. [Roast a red-breasted bird?], COOK ROBIN.
  • 28a. [Pounds and pence?[, LONDON JACK. Jack is slang for money, then?
  • 34a. [What misbehaving kids must have inherited from their parents?] WILDER GENE. Ah! V. good, v. good. This may be my favorite of the theme entries.
  • 44a. [Napoleon, e.g., prior to exile?], FRENCH VICTOR. Sounds like the sort of phrase that would actually appear in a history book. Victor French is an old-time actor whose heyday had passed before I was born, I think.
  • 54a. [Fishing spear?], BASS LANCE. V. good!
  • 74a. [Moocher’s most valuable acquaintance?], RICH BUDDY. Buddy Rich is/was a drummer, I think. RICH BUDDY is great. We should all get one.
  • 83a. [The Salt, in Arizona?], PHOENIX RIVER.
  • 90a. [Coffee from Big Sky Country?], MONTANA JOE.
  • 100a. [Smarmy preprandial blessing?], SLICK GRACE. In the comments, please compose a SLICK GRACE for us.
  • 107a. [Official seal on a Havana cigar?], CUBAN MARK.
  • 108a. [Beverage made by squeezing fruit-filled cookies?], NEWTON JUICE. Uh, the fruit filling in those Fig Newtons isn’t very juicy. Raise your hand, by the way, if you stared at NEWTON ISAAC for a moment. He remains famous, while Juice Newton had more of a ’70s-’80s thing going.

Fill I liked: TO WIT, SCOPES out, INVASIVE MEDDLER, BEDROOM EGOMANIA, G-STRING (that [Minor suit?] clue took me forever to understand), INNARDS, JOON non-Pahk.

Note also that the top and bottom of the grid boast stacked theme entries. Did that lead to stilted, clumsy fill? Of course not. Berry has rigorous standards for himself.

Top clues:

  • 44d. [Turn signal?], FOGHORN. Turn or you’re going to crash into the rocks, Cap’n.
  • 42a. [They might not be on the charts], ISLES. See also: Gilligan’s Island, uncharted isle.
  • 57a. [Where many last names start with “O”], ERIN.
  • 67a. [Spoke to one’s flock?], BAAED.
  • 9d. [“Holy cats!”], EGAD.
  • 105d. [Unable to pass muster, say], AWOL.

I reserve the full 5-star rating for a themed puzzle that goes above and beyond and is super-memorable. This puzzle doesn’t have, say, a big circular Chinese zodiac or a diagram of an eclipse, so it gets a still-impressive 4.75 stars. Of course, the ratings widget doesn’t do fractions, so I’ll be clicking the 5 button.

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 140” – Doug’s review

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post solution 12/9/12, “The Post Puzzler No. 140”

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here again. Typical Mike Shenk crossword this weekend. Clean, interesting grid and loads of excellent clues.

  • 25a. [Marketing staffer, occasionally] – NAMER. The most famous namer I know is Andrea Carla Michaels. Click on the A in ACME to see some examples of her work.
  • 35a. [One way to shoot] – AT SIGHT. I’ve heard of “Shoot on sight,” but not “Shoot at sight.” Seems awkward.
  • 56a. [They go over rubbers on rainy days] – TARPS. Love this clue! Rubbers go over your shoes, and then something else goes over the rubbers… Huh? Then it hit me. Pitching rubbers!
  • 58d. [FBI capture of April 1996] – UNABOMBER. Trivia time. Why was he given the name “Unabomber”? Answer to appear later in this write-up (assuming I remember to look it up). Back in 1995, I was scheduled to fly out of LAX during the week that the Unabomber threatened to blow up a plane there. I wasn’t too worried. There are hundreds of flights into and out of LAX everyday, right? And I was flying to Montana. Surely the Unabomber wouldn’t target a flight to or from Montana. It was about a year later that he was captured at his lovely cabin outside Lincoln, Montana.
  • I’m the princess this party deserves. Not the one it needs. And if they don’t serve the ice cream soon, I start breaking kneecaps.

    55d. [His belt is made out of Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka] – ORION. That’s cool. Batman’s got a cool belt too. I had to mention Batman so I’d have a reason to post this most awesome photograph of a princess party.

  • 14d. [They may check you out] – SCANNERS. At the supermarket. Great clue. I’m a big fan of the self checkout aisle.
  • 44d. [“World’s fastest water sled,” per its maker] – SEABOB. How many of you tried SEADOO first? I did. Never heard of a SEABOB, but if Bob says it’s the fastest, I’ll take his word for it.
  • 49d. [Dirk DeJong’s boyhood nickname in a 1924 novel] – SO BIG. I read the clue and thought that “Dirk DeJong” would be a good name for an adult film actor. Then I got the answer from the crossing entries. Hmmm. You’re going to have to Google that one yourself

Other fun stuff: OXYGEN BAR, DEMI MOORE, IMBECILE, WANNA BET. And for anyone who’s playing along at home: The “Una” in Unabomber comes from UNiversity & Airline.

Updated Sunday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, December 9

Here’s a delightfully smooth 68/28 freestyle puzzle from Lynn Lempel. Oddly, the longest entries in the grid, FOOTBALL SEASON and ARREST WARRANTS, are among the least sparkly (though I loved the clue for FOOTBALL SEASON, [When men are known to make passes]–OFFICE HOLIDAY PARTY was my first thought). Fortunately, there are lots of terrific answers elsewhere, including these:

  • FAINT HOPE, the original title for Star Wars: Episode IV and a [Glimmer of possibility]. 
  • RACE HORSE, especially because of the terrific clue, [Affirmed, e.g.]. Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown, as we are reminded seemingly every spring.
  • EAT CROW, a great term meaning [Face up to being utterly wrong].
  • DODDERED is a near onomatopoeia, meaning [Walked unsteadily]. You know, if unsteady walking made a sound.
  • GOES TOO FAR is terrific, but my favorite long Downs are the pairing of SAINT SIMON and OVER-SIMPLE.  Simple Simon!
  • Interesting to see Romeo and Juliet’s LOVE AFFAIR and HEART SORE in the same grid. Everything okay, Lynn?

Today’s list of things I didn’t know included ANOLE, the [Color-changing lizard] (does this betray the fact I started solving in earnest in the Post-Maleska era?); AFR(ica?) for the [Home of H. habilis]; French philosopher MICHEL Foucault; and NEVA, the [River that flows by the Hermitage Museum].

Finally, two random points: (1) Can’t decide whether I like WEE TOT, but I’m leaning toward liking it. (2) I knew [Book keeping options] was a trap (this time I saw the space!), but it still took me a while to suss out E-READERS.

Favorite entry = SHOP TALK, the [Water cooler chitchat, perhaps]. Favorite clue = [Artificial light?] for UFO. And here you thought I’d pick [Bring up the rear?] for MOON.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Sounds of the Season”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, “Sounds of the Season” 12 9 12

Apparently the sounds of the season are not the incessantly repeated Christmas songs on the radio and in stores, but ringing bells. The Across theme entries contain embedded DINGs while the Down theme entries are pierced by DONGs. 46d: [Norman Vincent’s family (and an apt answer in this puzzle)], PEALES, ties in to the theme in a punny way.

  • 23a. [Loose floorboard, perhaps], HIDING PLACE. Great for hide ‘n’ seek, kids. Only the beating of your hideous heart will give you away.
  • 32a. [Land of the giants], BROBDINGNAG. From Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
  • 35a. [Doing a laundry chore over], REFOLDING. Yes. When people mess up the folded pile, there is refolding. If the people would just put away their things promptly…
  • 53a. [Really hot], SCALDING.
  • 72a. [Shopaholic’s problem], SPENDING. And not just any spending, but spending in the presence of incessant Christmas songs in the stores in November and December. (Not that I would know. I’ve been quite successful at avoiding the stores with Xmas music.)
  • 88a. [Lulu], HUMDINGER.
  • 94a. [Together], HAND IN GLOVE. Not a familiar phrase. It’s not HANDING LOVE, either. No, sir.
  • 105a. [Dressage wear], RIDING BOOTS. See also: Ann Romney, Rafalca.
  • 4d. [Comic drama by Mozart], DON GIOVANNI.
  • 14d. [Intended to attend], PLANNED ON GOING.
  • 32d. [Kitchen detergent target], BAKED-ON GREASE.
  • 47d. [Got ready for a showdown], STRAPPED ON GUNS. This is a phrase?
  • 66d. [1987 Michael Douglas role], GORDON GEKKO. Greed, for lack of a better word, is what’s ruining this country.

Wow, blast from the past. 65d: [Govt. jobs prog. estab. in 1973], CETA. (And by “blast,” I mean yawn.) It was replaced by the Job Training Partnership Act in 1982, so you can be forgiven for not knowing CETA.

The strangest entry is 82d: SONLIKE, [One way to describe Pinocchio’s relationship to Geppetto].

The theme didn’t enchant me, as there’s no wordplay, no humor, just the happenstance of “these phrases contain these 4 letters or those ones.” When there are 13 theme entries but none of them provide any real oomph, and the surrounding fill doesn’t have much oomph either—well, mark me down for 2.9 stars.

Tom Heilman’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “In and Out”

Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword answers, 12 9 12 – “In and Out,” Tom Heilman

Boy, this theme mystified me. Eventually I made sense out of it, but that didn’t stop me from concluding that the theme concept is weird and alienating. Assorted phrases that begin with “out” have that word replaced by the words that follow “in” in other assorted phrases. So each one is an “in”-less” “in ___” phrase followed by an “out”-less “out ___” phrase, clued as if the two partial phrases were a real thing.

  • 23a. [Wolfing down burgers and fries while driving?], A BAD WAY TO LUNCH. In a bad way, out to lunch.
  • 38a. [Rocky road from fad to fashion?] FITS AND STARTS OF STYLE. In fits and starts, out of style.
  • 57a. [Solidarity among commoners?], UNISON OF THE ORDINARY. In unison, out of the ordinary.
  • 79a. [Reenactment of a memorable scene from “The Exorcist”?], FULL SWING OF ONE’S HEAD. In full swing, out of one’s head.
  • 95a. [“Dismount” or “settle”?], OTHER WORDS LIKE “ALIGHT.” In other words, out like a light. This one violates the commonality the other theme entries have by merging “a light” into one word. The established phrase is “out like alight.”
  • 117a. [Food-fight evidence at the picnic?], A PICKLE ON A LIMB. In a pickle, out on a limb.

I don’t get the rationale for this theme at all. The beginning phrases aren’t funny. The combination phrases aren’t funny. There’s no wordplay in reversing “in” to “out,” as both prepositions bite the dust. Strange theme concept.

The grid capitalizes on only having six theme entries, allowing livelier fill like MAKE MY DAY, CHIMERA, HELL NO, SHEESH, SKY BLUE, and BELT OUT. But it also has the long partial phrase FISH TO FRY, the contrived HOW FAR, and AGALLOP. The entries UTTER and I HOPE SO are unfortunately joined by 90a: [Utterly] and 56d: [Sign of hope]. I know Will Shortz says this sort of duplication is not a problem (provided that an answer word does not appear in its own clue); either Rich Norris agrees or he simply missed these ones. There’s also the 84d: EAT/120d: ATE duplication.

Least familiars:

  • 20a. [Spanish novelist Blasco __] IBANEZ.
  • 63a. [Offscreen friend in “Ernest” films], VERN.
  • 75a. [Actor whose voice is emulated by Snagglepuss the Lion], LAHR. He played the Cowardly Lion. No idea who Snagglepuss is.
  • 109a. [City near Anaheim], BREA. This was in another recent LAT puzzle, which is the only reason I got it.
  • 123a. [Golf shoe brand], ETONIC. Haven’t seen that brand in eons. I spend no time on golf courses.
  • 37d. [Packer with a strong arm], STARR. Bart Starr from the Green Bay Packers. Played in the ’60s.
  • 78d. [Cinder receptacle], ASHBIN.
  • 79d. [Issues requiring attention], FISH TO FRY. I have never seen this outside of the “we’ve got bigger fish to fry” setting. Without the “bigger,” it’s naked.
  • 82d. [Chiwere speaker], OTOE.
  • 94d. [Running swiftly], AGALLOP. You are not likely to ever use this word in a sentence other than “What does ‘agallop’ mean? Is that even a word?”
  • 104d. [Food truck drinks], ADES. What?? My husband likes to hit the food trucks for lunch. They serve no ades.

Favorite clue: 107d. [Report generators], LABS. I was thinking of guns at first, but no, it’s laboratories. You get your blood drawn, you pee in a cup, they send your fluids off to the lab, and your doctor receives the report.

2.5 stars. This puzzle took me longer than usual, and it felt more like a slog than a fun challenge.

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31 Responses to Sunday, 12/9/12

  1. pannonica says:

    42a. [They might not be on the charts], ISLES. See also: Gilligan’s Island, uncharted isle.

    See also also: South Pacific Sandy Island ‘proven not to exist’ (BBC, 22 Nov 2012)

  2. sbmanion says:

    Patrick Berry is an incredibly great constructor. Hard to say if he is the best because there are so many great ones in the NYT community.

    This puzzle was on the tough side for me even though the only name I absolutely did not know was Victor French.

    I know most of you are not interested in boxing, but last night’s fight gave true meaning to the phrase “right in the kisser.”


  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I’ve generally stopped doing Sundays, but when I see a Patrick Berry Puzzle, I do it. Today, I did it with my husband and he’s a bioassay for the quality of puzzles. Usually, he groans and tells me that stuff is ridiculous, far-fetched, etc. But today, he really enjoyed the experience, and got in the spirit of the tricky cluing– he quickly figured out that stock holder had to do with farm animals. For turn signal, he wanted FLASHER, before FOGHORN (we had the F).

    Mostly, I’m grateful that PB reliably comes up with Sunday themes that are fun, fresh and give the solver a wonderful puzzling experience.

  4. Richard M. says:

    Here we go again! Where is the Merl Reagle Sunday puzzel ?

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Clever, creative PB I. Only name I don’t know is Lance Bass.

  6. karen says:

    The Merl Reagle puzzle in the Los Angeles Times today is “The Last Sunday Crossword” not “Sounds of the Season.”

    • HH says:

      Haven’t we explained this often enough? The puzzle in the Los Angeles Times is not the Los Angeles Times crossword.

      • Kathy says:

        Whatever…..where can I find the latimes “puzzler” for 12/0912?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          The LA Times website has that puzzle. I suspect it will be the puzzle available elsewhere next weekend, so I don’t plan to solve it and post the answers myself. You should be able to click the checkmark icon and choose “solve puzzle” to view the solution.

  7. karen says:

    The Sunday puzzle in the Los Angeles Times print edition is always a Merl Reagle puzzle. Today the Reagle puzzle was “The Last Crossword Puzzle” not “Sounds of the Season” which was written about above. You completely misinterpreted my response.

    I thought this was a friendly site!

    • HH says:

      It is until I show up.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Henry, Henry. I can’t even leave for a late brunch without you getting unruly.

        Karen, those of us who do not have a copy of the LA Times have a hard time guessing what puzzle you Angelenos are seeing in your paper, and Merl doesn’t have the same puzzle on his site, the Washington Post site, and the LA Times 100% of the time. I was going by Merl’s site and the Post.

        • karen says:

          Amy, Merl’s LA Times puzzle almost always matches the one on Crossword Fiend. “The Last Crossword Puzzle” is especially strange, and I was hoping to get some help with it. Alas! Love Crossword Fiend! Thank you for all your hard work.

          • Nancy says:

            I thought it was especially strange too and I finally solved it. It turned out to be extremely funny. Let me know if you want help. One of the answers had to do with the Kardiashians. The long answers had to do with the end of the world and NOTHING to do with the clues! LOL.

  8. Audrey Martinson says:

    THe Reagle puzzle in todays LA Times was the last day or whatever NOT the one that you give the solution too. PLease send the correct answer to me or publish it for all the maddened readers who were frustrated by this wrong answer!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Here’s the deal: I don’t get the LA Times because I live in Chicago, and I haven’t done that puzzle yet. What I blogged is not “this wrong answer,” and I didn’t even label Merl’s puzzle as the LA Times puzzle! So please cut me some slack, Audrey.

      In the meantime, you can get the answer yourself at Scroll up to my 3:24 comment reply for the link and instructions. Take control! Life is too short to blow a fuse because nobody hands you the answers.

      • TammyB says:

        I cannot believe how demanding some of your readers are. One would think they are paying you thousands of dollars for this wonderful space you provide!

        As our mothers said, no good deed goes unpunished. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all you do. :-)

  9. Eileen MCclure says:

    Today (12/9/2012) the LA Times seems to have published the 12/23/2012 crossword puzzle. What a bummer! Wonder if they will have the cojones to admit they made an error???

  10. Lorraine L Foster says:


    Was really happy when I finally grokked the theme in thew LAT puzzle. Whole thing was a huge mental exercise. No cheats, but lots of time.

    Merl’s puzzle (Sounds) was quite easy, on the other hand.

  11. MJG says:

    Solved LAT Sunday12/9except last 7 “no more hard ???????”

  12. Joan macon says:

    Well, those of us who live in Southern California and do the Merl puzzle on Sundays in the Times have learned that now and then the puzzle we get is not the one on Merl’s website. Usually when we get the wrong puzzle it is a week ahead of its time, which explains why this one is dated for the Sunday before the Mayan apocalypse, as well as the 99th birthday of the crossword puzzle. It’s particularly frustrating this week because the clues are Very Obtuse. No one can expect Amy, although she is exceptionally clever, to know when we are getting the wrong puzzle. I will just save my paper until next week and then hopefully all will be revealed (unless the Mayans got the wrong date).

  13. Ken Shore says:

    I love your site, Amy. For me, living around Seattle, I have taken doing Merle Reagle’s Sunday puzzle on Saturday (which is available on his site usually late morning Sat), and then do the LA Times puzzle on Sunday, which I get from the LA times crossword site online.

    Not sure what all the broughaha is about. The online websites seems very reliable, and I have taken to going to them, because they are the most reliable source. I too dont get the LA times paper, but the seattle paper is inconsistent with their puzzles, too. Just my two cents.

  14. Lorraine grindstaff says:

    Thank you for publishing any answers to any crossword puzzle! I only do them occasionally because I am not clever and do not have a huge repository of facts and information. But it is interesting to see how wordsmiths view the world and get a flavor of their senses of humor and the creative ways they have of turning a phrase. So I visit your site to get your take on them because I enjoy your comments and critiques. Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year!

  15. Nancy says:

    Oh come one who cares the world is ending, I’m locking myself in the bathroom with my dogs and my ice cream. On the bright side, no more Kardashians. 12/9/12 Funny as heck.

  16. joon says:

    just catching up on some puzzles from the weekend. probably nobody will read this, but hey. anyway, i loved that patrick berry puzzle. so-so theme, but the fill was sterling, and those clues for RELOAD and G-STRING were jaw-droppingly brilliant. plus, 93d FTW.

    boy, the LAT runs the wrong puzzle and you’d think the world was coming to an end.

    • klew archer says:

      Saw your comment when it popped up on the useful Recent Comments section on the right hand side so at least one person read it, but will you ever know that?

    • Oldmike says:

      I though you were NYT 93D. I am always two weeks behind. Amy you do a super job

Comments are closed.