Friday, February 8, 2013

NYT 4:55 
LAT 6:06 (GRAB) 
CS 5:12 (Sam) 
CHE 5:03 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 9:51 (pannonica) 

Friday! When the hardcore puzzle people come out to play. People who like Patrick Berry’s puzzles. Maybe even people who are into cryptic crosswords. Patrick loves to make cryptics, especially convoluted variety cryptics. But there is little market for variety cryptics, so where can he sell his work? Kickstarter to the rescue! Patrick’s creating a dozen cryptics, most of them varieties, and making them available for $15 to Kickstarter supporters. Kick in an extra $5 and he’ll send you three non-cryptic variety puzzles, the delightfully devious Some Assembly Required (my favorite—it’s jigsaw puzzle meets crossword), a smooth Rows Garden, and a Double or Nothing. The Some Assembly Required puzzle is particularly coveted, as it takes up too much space to be the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday puzzle. I’m in for $20 because I love, love, love his Some Assembly Required puzzles (which I’ve done in the Games magazine publications for years). Intrigued? Then click through and support Patrick’s work.

Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 8 13 #0208

Today’s blog post is starting out with a list. Well, first that introductory sentence. Or two sentences. Wait! Five sentences.

  • 1a. [Heavenly measurement], AZIMUTH. Astronomy, not religion.
  • 19a. [1964 album that was #1 for 11 weeks]. MEET THE BEATLES. Lovely entry.
  • 24a. [Projecting corner]. COIGN. Whoa. I needed approximately five crossings to assemble this word.
  • 28a. [Old laborer], ESNE. Oh, dear. Old crosswordese.
  • 42a. [Capital on the Sava River], ZAGREB, Croatia. Making a mental note because even though the Sava has no E’s in it, don’t you think it might pop up in the grid someday?
  • 54a. [Religious leader with a pet elephant], LEO X. Did he party with Hannibal or what?
  • 55a. [Jack regarded as an object of devotion], ALMIGHTY DOLLAR. Great entry. Jack is slang for money.
  • 63a. [What might be treated with vitamin A megadoses], MEASLES. I had no idea.
  • 64a. [One with a booming voice], STENTOR. Unrelated to the word stertorous, which is likewise unrelated to the word stercoraceous. Check your dictionary.
  • 2d. [Car ad catchphrase], ZOOM ZOOM. Mazda.
  • 8d. [Bramble with edible purple fruit], DEWBERRY. Have you eaten dewberries? I have never seen them.
  • 21d. [Returned waves?], ECHO, not EBBS.
  • 37d. [Mascot since 1916], MR. PEANUT. Mascot of the Macon Farmers of early professional baseball, of course.
  • 41d. [Loser in war, usually], TREY. The simple card game of war, not battle-type war. I had PREY and thought it was a weird clue.
  • 44d. [Declaration after “Hallelujah”], I’M A BUM. Some old song. Before my time. Possibly before my mother’s time. To the Google machine! The song was written before my late grandmothers’ time.
  • 45d. [Illinois home of the John Deere Pavilion], MOLINE. Moline’s one of the Quad Cities at the Illinois/Iowa border, and my sister’s niece landed an engineering job there with Deere for after she graduates in May. What 22-year-old woman doesn’t want to move to the Quad Cities? There are four of them.

The bullets are done. This is the concluding paragraph. 3.75 stars. The write-up earns a rating of 2 stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Keep It Down”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 8

Exactly one (shortened) month until I board my flight for Brooklyn and this year’s ACPT. The countdown is on!

If I dare to dream of cracking the top 200 this time, I better start paying more attention to my solving times. Alas, this one felt a tad sluggish for me, yet in looking back I can’t explain why that was. Perhaps someone’s slipped decaf into the carafe at work.

The theme has four entries, each beginning with a word associated with the puzzle’s title, “Keep It Down:”

  • 17-Across: QUIET TIME is the [Toned-down play period] that my kindergarten teacher relished.
  • 26-Across: MUTED COLORS are [Mellowed hues]. That’s what you call a definitional clue. They don’t come more straightforward than that.
  • 53-Across: [Calmed expanses] here are STILL WATERS. They run deep, I hear.
  • 64-Across: The [Hushed partner of Jay in movies] is SILENT BOB. Bob bears a striking resemblance to the director Kevin Smith. That’s one way to get a role in his movies, I guess.

There’s some great quirky fill scattered throughout this grid–BATSUIT, TURKEYS, RUPAUL, C-CUP, MAIL ROOM, OOMPH, LURE IN, SCORPIO, RUINOUS… it’s all ADORABLE. It was a little odd to see T-TOPS, A STEP and N TESTS all in the southwest corner–but odd in an eccentric, goofy way that I enjoyed. So while the theme prefers silence, this grid is loud and proud. A nice combination.

Favorite entry = AUTOMAT, the [Coin-op restaurant]. I loved automats! Are there any still around? Favorite clue = [Chicago field] for O’HARE. I wasn’t expecting an airport for the answer.

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Colorful Speech” — pannonica’s review

CHE • “2/8/13 • “Colorful Speech • Berry • solution

Simple, cogent theme concept here: phrases describing communication that include colors. More specifically, each of the phrases consists of two words, the first word is a color, the second is a kind of writing. Although “speech” is rigorously defined as spoken language, it does have a more expansive connotation, such as the ‘free speech’ of the Constitution, which includes other media, including writing. The clues make this explicit, by putting them in the narrative context of an imaginary press conference.

Enough convoluted explanation! Here are the three themers:

  • 3d. [The overdramatic speaker at the press conference was known for using ___ … ] PURPLE PROSE.

    Perhaps the press conference was about ecological policy and included GREEN SPEAK?

  • 5d. [… though no one could deny he had a ___ ] SILVER TONGUE.
  • 7d. [He shocked reporters at the event by accusing them of ___ … ] YELLOW JOURNALISM.
  • 26d. [… to which they responded with a volley of ___ ] BLUE LANGUAGE.
  • 31d. [In the end, though, the media portrayed the press conference as bland and amicable — the latest in a series of ___ … ] WHITEWASHES.

The central entry necessitates the 15×16 grid and, by extension, the vertical orientation of the themers. The larger canvas provides more wiggle room for fitting in the five substantial theme entries.

Also impressive are the triple-nine stacks in the northeast and southwest: AY CARAMBA / BEDMAKERS / EL CAMINOS, and EVANGELIC / SANTA ROSA / ANGSTROMS. It’s a strong puzzle overall.

Totally Mostly random and occasionally self-indulgent observations:

  • As a young child, I remember seeing a still, captioned as “ERROL Flynn confronts an unseen enemy in Captain Blood,” which I naturally interpreted as meaning he was fighting an invisible pirate. (17a)
  • 40a [“Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor” dedicatee] ELISE. See Bruce N. Morton’s erudite exegesis in the comments of Wednesday’s post.
  • Wasn’t firing on all cylinders, or my brain just was connecting with some of the clues, most notably 50d [Oxygen providers] PLANTS. It’s a terribly straightforward clue and answer, but I just couldn’t see it and required nearly all of the crossings. I was thinking, tents, tanks, et cetera. All artificial entities.
  • 44a/48d [Renaissance-fair instruments]/[Renaissance-fair instrument] LUTES/VIOL.
  • Cutest clue: [Reading facility?] LOO.

Above average puzzle.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Jeffrey Wechsler’s puzzle is nothing if not ambitious! Using 6 letters: SOCIAL, for anagramming purposes is always gonna be tough, even if you don’t anagram them into actual words… Add to that STARKCHOICE crossing 5 answers and wide open 7-stacks in all four corners.

That said… Two of the four theme answers feel rather arbitrary. This is the downside of such an ambitious theme, I guess. Not sure I feel that that’s enough of an excuse though. We have:

  • 17a, [Sherlock Holmes forte], LOG(ICALSO)LUTION. One of the awkward answers. The clue felt even more stilted. My forte is logical solution???
  • 22a, [1891 self-named electrical invention], TE(SLACOI)L. Who doesn’t like a Nikola [edit, thank you, Pannonica] Tesla reference in their puzzle?
  • 37a, [“They’re running neck and neck!”], THIS(ISACLO)SEONE. Another kind of arbitrary answer. I’m sure that’s something someone has said before. So is “Pass the peanut butter!”
  • 46a, [Product introduced as Brad’s Drink in 1893], PEP(SICOLA). Cool trivia! Also, how awful is “Brad’s Drink” as a product name?!
  • 57a, [Advocates for change, and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters], SOCIALREFORMERS. To repeat, SOCIAL is rearranged in the circled squares. If you solved the puzzle in an uncircled format the theme might be a bit inscrutable, but them’s the breaks.

Am I the only one who started with a misstep at 1a? I smugly plonked down rAceCAR. I wonder if Jeffrey had a more specific reference in mind? Ok… Onward to the bullets:

    • The [Computer media] DISKS are rather out of date aren’t they? As a 90’s kid, I grew up with them… I can barely remember computers taking cassette tapes too!
    • [Old-time whaler’s harvest] is not a nice image to evoke in a clue IMO
    • The clue for [TV doctor] PHIL needs to have scare quotes around doctor it really does.
    • [Voter’s dilemma, often], STARKCHOICE crosses 5 theme answers. Found the clue strange. Maybe it resonates more with Americans?

  • [It’s sharp and flat] for KNIFE is my choice for clue of the day. Succinct misdirection is always a winner!
  • [Frigid planet in “The Empire Strikes Back”], HOTH. Crosswordland debut alert! A gimme here, and strangely enough I was recently contemplating its “crossworthiness” myself! Beaten to the punch by Jeffrey, alas! But TAUNTAUN is still virgin, if questionably crossworthy, territory, and only Ben Tausig has dared to use ATAT in its Star Wars sense!

2.5 Stars from me. I really want to like every puzzle I solve, but when half the theme answers clunk rather than pop in your head it’s hard… Sigh. it was a winner for everyone else!

Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Writes and Wrongs” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 2/8/13 • “Writes and Wrongs” • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

Late on-line posting of the puzzle + possible other plans = minimal write-up. This doesn’t remotely strike me as an original theme, but it’s ably executed here. Famous authors’ surnames accompanied by an anagram of same, coupled to form more or less sensible phrases.

  • 22a. [Trapped the author of “The Ugly Duckling”?] ENSNARED ANDERSEN.
  • 35a. [Again find  “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” author not guilty?] RECLEAR LECARRÉ. Oh dear, the reclear option. These people mean business!
  • 59a. [Straightens “The Catcher in the Rye” author?] REALIGNS SALINGER.  Spiffy anagram, but how exactly was he bent?
  • 72a. [Tarnishing “Tom Jones” author’s reputation?] DEFILING FIELDING.
  • 95a. [Found a way to express “True West” playwright?] PHRASED SHEPARD.  Erm, whatever.
  • 113a. [Cites “The African Queen” author?] REFERS TO FORESTER.  And so begins the run of split anagrams. On their own, they’d be partials, but they work just fine in the context of the phrases. It’s just weird that they’re piled up at the end (if you somewhat arbitrarily consider the downs to be “after” the acrosses (as per the clue sequence)).
  • 15d. [Compare with the author of “The Hobbit”?] LIKEN TO TOLKIEN.
  • 48d. [Listen attentively to “Walden” author?] HEAR OUT THOREAU.

As per Amy’s establishment of the self-referential subjunctive mood, this sentence exists merely to separate the listing of theme answers from a listing of other points of interest in the puzzle.

Prefatory fragment:

  • Cute clues: 9a [Sound from a mouse] not SQUEAK (or perhaps SQUIK?) but CLICK; 46a [Mini ha-ha] TE-HEE; 66a [Rocks in slings?] ICE; 123a [Cheeky talk] SASS (at least I think it’s meant to be cute); 3d [See-through item] LENS; 11d [Letters in a return address?] IRS; 91d [Seasoned sailors] SALTS.
  • 89a/86a [Electronic sounds] TONES/BEEPS.
  • 55a [“Ash Wednesday” poet] TOILE.
  • 20a/10d: Peter LORRE crossing folky LORE.
  • Hmm. 48d is [Cobra foes, humorously] for MONGEESE, yet the clue immediately following, 49d [Perpetrator of an abduction] ALIEN, has no question mark? Curious.
  • 52d [How Hazel addressed her boss] MR B. Ya, I have not the slightest inkling of this reference. Ditto 110d [“New Girl” girl] JESS.

Good, but somewhat stale-feeling puzzle, more noticeably sloggy for its 21×21 size.

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37 Responses to Friday, February 8, 2013

  1. janie says:

    loved the ALMIGHTYDOLLAR / [Jack…] combo *and* the way MOOLA / [Scratch] sat directly above it. cool! also nice how LIRE, that [Old Italian capital], peels offa …DOLLAR’s first “L,” extending the $$ mini-theme.


  2. ktd says:

    Thanks for the tip about Patrick Berry’s cryptic Kickstarter project!

  3. joon says:

    fyi, patrick also has a new free rows garden puzzle up at his site.

  4. Todd G says:

    If Patrick can’t get all the puzzles done for his Kickstarter project, will he tell his backers “I never promised you a Rows Garden“? (Ouch! That hurt!)

  5. Evad says:

    Is the DEW of DEWBERRY related to its brother DINGLE? ;)

    Had a hard time with this one–the “I’M A BUM” refrain just wouldn’t come to me. I had AMATUM there instead thinking it was a Latinesque construction of “beloved.”

  6. Mel Park says:

    COIGN is French for Corner or Nook. I have never seen it used in an English sentence. Nonetheless, Websters gives “coign of vantage” as a usage. Who knew?

    • Daniel Myers says:

      I knew. But I thought I remembered our covering the term in this blog previously. Perhaps not. In any event, you’ll be very hard-pressed to find the term employed anywhere in English save in that phrase, “COIGN of vantage”. It all started with a phrase in Macbeth. Then, as the OED puts it, “the currency of the phrase is apparently due to Sir Walter Scott” who revived it in his novel The Heart of Midlothian.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      The French word is “coin”. I do not think “coign” is a French word at all. But it is a word I have encountered in English (albeit British English) referring to an observation point at the angle of a fortified castle — e.g. a turret from which one has a panoramic, or at least a 180 degree view.

      • Daniel Myers says:


        Here’s the OED’s take on the term’s derivation and its orthography:

        “Formerly spelt indifferently coin, coign, quoin (with many variations); but the spelling coin, though still occasional in all senses, is now appropriated to the sense “money”; in the senses “wedge”, “corner-stone”, etc., the spelling is generally, though not always, quoin; COIGN is retained in the Shakespearean phrase “coign of vantage”, and is occasional in that of a wedge.”

        • ArtLvr says:

          Coign or quoin is also a term in architecture: picture old buildings made of stone blocks with a slightly larger block inserted every few courses vertically only at the corners where the walls meet, often of a darker color. Those are coigns.

  7. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Amy, I thought your NYT review was just fine; succinct, clear and to the point. At least 4 or 4.5 *. You need to improve your judgment as a critic of crossword criticism. :-)

    I thought the puzzle was wonderful. Again, I am mystified by the low ratings, but again, I realize that I have been a recent anonymous grinch with some other puzzles. E.g. yesterday’s LAT by Mike Buckley (whom I recently defended vehemently in the face of what I considered utterly unjustified negativity.) But when I saw the top line — the first three across entries — the sorts of things which I find so intensely irritating — American Idol, Harry Potter, and a dragon — it sent my annoyance meter so far off the charts that it probably prevented me from taking a more reasonable, balanced view of the puzzle, especially since the top line was easily gettable from crosses. And yes, your tetrahedron was gorgeous. Mine didn’t look anything like a tetrahedron.

    • Gareth says:

      I fail to see how having references to a recent hit TV show (I loath the show itself), one of the most popular children’s book/film series of all time, and another timeless children’s classic the movie of which is currently in theatres can be begrudged by anyone.

  8. Matthew G. says:

    Well, I’m with Amy in giving a comparatively low rating to this NYT puzzle. Not up to Silk’s usual standards. Too much crosswordese, and I’ve become convinced that every word in the English language becomes slang for “money” if someone just wants it to be.

    But most of all … “Hallelujah, I’M A BUM”? You have got to be kidding me. That southwest corner is absurd.

    • Alan says:

      “Hallelujah, I’M A BUM” is also an old 1930s movie. I think Leonard Maltin gave it either 3 1/2 or 4 stars. I’ve seen it and thus this answer felt like a gimme for me.

      • Amy L says:

        “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” stars Al Jolson. It was given another title in England because “bum” was not considered polite. I think there it was called “Hallelujah, I’m a Tramp.” A gimme for me too.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        The “I’m a bum – Imre” crossing also a gimme for me, so that threw open the doors to the SW. The entire North was also very smooth. Only slight sticking point was the SE, where I foolishly started with “caravel” instead of “galleon.” Funny how people’s perceptions differ. I thought the puzzle had lively, interesting, entertaining vocabulary.

    • Gareth says:

      I’m still not sure how, but I got IMABUM with no crosses… I barely know that answer, but sometimes you can just see where a puzzle is going! I think I’d have seriously struggled in that corner if it weren’t for that!

  9. Huda says:

    NYT: The right half was done last night and rated a 5 star. The left half was left to this morning and required some cheating. It earned 3 stars, not because I had to cheat but because some of the stuff was a bit of a stretch (I AM A BUM!). Also, I always thought the plural of HELIX was HELIcES. But I guess not. I forced myself to change it and that yielded BIAXIAL.

  10. Zulema says:

    I thought it was a very good puzzle to solve. And will confess that I’M A BUM was my very first entry after I checked the crossing for the I and saw that it worked. I even remember the melody for that line.

  11. Margaret says:

    Looks like no one’s had the time to review the LAT, so I’ll just comment that I would put it on the “Meh List” (as they say in the NYT mag): not hot, not not. Rearranging the circled letters isn’t my favorite type of theme, but the reveal clue giving the reason made it pretty worthwhile. My only real quibble is the long down answer STARK CHOICE. It’s not a very in-the-language phrase to me as the answer to “voter’s dilemma, often.” Am I missing something?

  12. pannonica says:


    Who doesn’t like a Nikolai Tesla reference in their puzzle?

    I don’t, because I’m a stickler.

  13. JohnV says:

    Thought Jeffrey Wechsler’s LAT puzzle was good. Fun theme, bunch of gnarly words, just right for a very snow Friday afternoon.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Glad I’m not the only one who thought the LAT was excellent — not meh at all. Clever, skillfully-executed theme; very low on the BS meter; excellent, varied fill. I sometimes feel incredibly out of touch with the rest of the planet. To top it off, now that I’ve moved to Mass. from Stowe, since there is the possibility of more than an iota of snowfall, the damn Governor has issued a damn travel ban. One of my favorite activities is to drive around in a snowstorm, enjoy the empty roads, the solitude, the smooth, quiet ride, the beautiful, eerie vistas, the negative ion generation. I’ll tell you, the Massachusetts state government brings out my inner Newt Gingrich.

      • sbmanion says:


        Although I am almost exclusively a downhill skier, I used to love it when there was a huge snowstorm in Buffalo. I put on two snow suits making me look like the Michelin man and cross-country skied for my personal marathon.

        I really liked the NYT and did not know I’m a Bum. I found the N easy and the S tough.


  14. Joan says:

    Where can I get the WSJ (Friday) puzzle? Thanks.

  15. ArtLvr says:

    DEWBERRY struck a chord with me because they feature in a minor way in the 1973 Dick Francis novel “Slayride” set in Norway. A much sought edible delicacy growing on mountain slopes there and available for picking only in a very short season.

  16. peter nylander says:

    Anyone else having trouble downloading Acrosslite version of WSJ? PDF version also a problem. Looks good on screen, but prints out jibberish.

  17. Joan says:

    The WSJ can be gotten now at

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