Sunday, February 17, 2013

NYT 9:05 
LAT 8:22 (1 error) 
Reagle 7:05 
Hex/Hook 11:33 (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 7:52 (Sam) 

Have you visited yet to download the terrific all-volunteer puzzle book created to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief? The suggested Red Cross Disaster Relief donation is $20. More than 1,200 people have downloaded the puzzles already, so join the club! I’m proud of Michael (Rex Parker) Sharp for coming up with this idea and bringing it to fruition, I’m proud of all the clever constructors for contributing their talents, and I’m proud of Patrick Blindauer for editing the crosswords. I test-solved a few of the puzzles … and then a bunch of work landed on my head and I never made it to the rest of them. A whole crew of dedicated test-solvers volunteered more time than I did, though, and I’m glad they did.

Ian Livengood and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword, “Mark My Words”

NYT crossword answers, 2 17 13 “Mark My Words”

Hey! This is the grooviest puzzle I’ve ever seen come out of the JASA crossword class. I approached the puzzle with a sense of “Here we go … I hope this isn’t too dull”—and then the theme turned out to be terrific, and the fill was excellent too. Did you see Miss MONEYPENNY and ALEX TREBEK, the PHARAOH and the BLACK HOLE, ORIGAMI and MUDFLAP, FAKE FUR, THE EAST, L.A. LAKER, fictional PAWNEE, and UNDULAT(E)ing optical illusions? The only answer I cocked an eyebrow at was 29d: [Petroleum distillate], GAS OIL; it’s an actual dictionary term but nothing I recognize. ENSILE and ELUL were meh, but so much of the fill was in the smooth-to-interesting range.

So my answer grid doesn’t properly display the punctuation marks that appear in five symmetrically placed squares. The comma and slash worked okay by typing them in with the rebus tool activated, but the colon and dash refused to be entered. And when I tried to enter the period, next thing I knew, I had a black square there. So now I have drawn a colon, dash, and period in clumsy red. The punctuation marks mark the words thus, with the punctuation working in the Across and the letters that spell the punctuation mark’s name in the Down:

  • 12a. [Gotham police procedural], CSI: NY — 15d. [One of the usual suspects?], {COLON}EL MUSTARD.
  • 45a. [Cool people], THE IN-CROWD — 6d. [Twaddle], BALDER{DASH}. Well, technically in-crowd has a hyphen.
  • 67a. [1968 movie directed by Paul Newman], RACHEL, RACHEL — 47d. [Rank below group captain], WING {COMMA}NDER.
  • 94a. [Tony-nominated play made into an Oscar-nominated movie], FROST/NIXON — 95d. [“Halloween,” e.g.], {SLASH}ER FILM. Did you try {VIRGULE}ER FILM first?
  • 126a. [Co-founder of Death Row Records], DR. DRE — 72d. [Early 20th century, in British history], EDWARDIAN {PERIOD}. Any of you Brits ask what “Edwardian full stop” meant?

This is a beautifully conceived and executed theme (editorial nit about hyphen vs. dash notwithstanding), with an elegant consistency to the layout. 4.75 stars from me. One of my favorite Sunday puzzles in recent months.

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 150” – Doug’s review

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post solution 2/17/13, “The Post Puzzler No. 150”

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here with Post Puzzler Numero 150. Typically smooth Patrick Berry 66-worder.

  • 28d. [Whimsical addition to an English garden] – FOLLY. This was the oddest clue for me. I thought folly might be a strange type of plant I’d never heard of. Nope. It’s an architectural folly. Here’s the definition from “a whimsical or extravagant structure built to serve as a conversation piece, lend interest to a view, commemorate a person or event, etc.: found especially in England in the 18th century.” The Wikipedia entry for Folly is fascinating. I particularly like the “sham ruin: a folly which pretends to be the remains of an old building but which was in fact constructed in that state.” That’s my kind of home improvement project. If it looks half-built and crappy, you’ve succeeded!
  • 1a. [1957 drama with nine Oscar nominations but no wins] – PEYTON PLACE. Sometimes I know things, but I don’t know why I know them. The only letter I had in place for this entry was the P from POP-TARTS at 7-Down (Kellogg’s best-selling product). And somehow I knew the answer was PEYTON PLACE. Lana Turner’s in it, so it must be good.
  • 23a. [Like the movie “Adaptation”] – META. From Wikipedia: “Though the film is billed as an adaptation of The Orchid Thief, its primary narrative focus is Charlie Kaufman’s difficult struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film, while dramatizing the events of the book in parallel.” Yeah, sounds pretty meta. The film came out in 2002, and I have only the vaguest memory of it. So I’m not always good with movies. Unless they star Lana Turner.
  • 50a. [Block lettering?] – STREET NAMES. Wonderful clue.

Some tough names this week: PISGAH National Forest, LUCINDA Williams, George MCGINNIS, and SAGAMORE. Favorite entry: WEENIE ROAST.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CS solution, February 17

Today’s 72/30 freestyle offering from Doug Peterson taught me two important things.

First, Doug’s much better than me when it comes to writing clues. If I had to clue SANS SOUCI my first choice would have been [Sound before “Gesundheit!”], and my second choice would have been [Father Guido’s nephew]. In other words, I had no freakin’ idea what SANS SOUCI meant; we didn’t use these fancy words much when I was growing up. Doug’s clue tells me it means [Happy-go-lucky]; I’m guessing the term translates from French to something like “without care.” Little did I know I was living the SANS SOUCI life never knowing this term even existed.

Second, a mild addiction to sweets and television can pay off in unlikely ways. I’ll bet few solvers could plunk down TWIZZLERS as the answer to [Candy that “Makes Mouths Happy”] without any crossings in place. And boy was the helpful here, since the two Zs make for easier crossings (there aren’t a whole lot of words ending in Z, after all), which in turn allow the rest of the grid to fall much more quickly. Thank you, television, and thanks to you too, sweet tooth!

This grid is crammed with terrific entries that play to my generation’s sweet spots. BATMOBILE, Q-BERT, Q-TIP, ROTO-ROOTER, MONDO, MASSACRE, THOR, ELMER’S glue, the ATRA razor, and Ferdinand MARCOS–talk about friendly fodder for a child of the ’80s.

Favorite entry = GAME BALL, the [Reward for a big touchdown, perhaps]. Favorite clue = either [Passing remarks?] for OBITS or [Lay low?] for BURY. Yeah, it’s a little eerie that they both relate to crossing over (and that they intersect in the grid!), but those are clever clues.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Sorry, Wrong Letter!”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 2 17 13 “Sorry, Wrong Letter!”

Cute theme. Each 13- to 21-letter theme answer changes a single letter in a familiar phrase to skew the meaning:

  • 22a. [Option for first-time offenders?], NAME YOUR PRISON. From “name your poison” (“tell me what drink you want”), which I’ve heard more often as “pick your poison.”
  • 29a. [What’s behind the shortage of substitute chocolate?], PIRATES OF THE CAROB BEAN. Highlight of the puzzle!
  • 52a. [What the punch bowl always says before going to sleep?], GOOD NIGHT, LADLES. Not sure if “Good night, ladies” has some specific connotation in pop culture. Anyone?
  • 61a. [Sights in a bank?], PENS AND TELLER. Penn and Teller, illusionists and skeptics.
  • 75a. [Weaseled out of watching “The Nutcracker”?], DODGED A BALLET rather than a bullet. Cute.
  • 84a. [Where Fran Drescher learned to act?], THE NASAL ACADEMY, not Naval. Funny.
  • 104a. [Parking sign for last-minute gift buyers?], EMERGENCY SHOPPING ONLY. “Emergency stopping only” is a little dry as road signs go.
  • 115a. [Java joint with twice the wake-up power?], COFFEE ROOSTERS. I almost went with ROUSTERS. (Coffee roasters.) Hard to rely on a coffee joint to wake you up with its roosters unless you live right upstairs from it.

A dozen more notes:

  • 40a: [Roy of country music] meets 31d: [Writer Umberto]? If you don’t know ACUFF or ECO, this crossing could be tough. Given that ACUFF has been gone for 20 years, I’d have clued ECO as the green prefix.
  • 57a: [Bird with a harsh cry] meets 30d: [Godzilla’s creator, Tomoyuki ___]. If you don’t know the SHRIKE or TANAKA, getting that K could be tough.
  • 72a. “Open sesame” sayer], BABA. What?? Is that, in fact, a separable surname for Ali Baba?
  • 123a. [Actress Wright of Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” and Coppola’s “The Rainmaker”], TERESA. This felt a little like an “Olaf” clue to me. (Old film buffs’ mileage may vary.)
  • 2d. [Skier McKinney], TAMARA. She retired from competition in 1989.
  • 7d. [Bit of inside info], TIPOFF. Clue felt a little off center to me. The “bit” seems more piddling than a TIPOFF would be.
  • 13d. [“When I was young …”], AS A BOY. Contrived phrase.
  • 34d. [Regard, in Rouen], ESTIME. French. As in the English word estimable.
  • 50d. [Like Jack Benny’s persona], CHEAP. I needed a lot of crossings.
  • 67d. [Come clean?], BATHE. Cute!
  • 101d. [Historic 1894 film, “Fred Ott’s ___”], SNEEZE. I like the Library of Congress video of this. Two thirds of the 22 seconds are taken up by the introductory LoC logo and the concluding LoC logo.
  • This puzzle had a tad more crosswordese than I like to see, as exemplified by EDO, ORT, OREAD, and IDEM.

3.75 stars for the theme, scarcely 3 stars for the fill. Let’s call it 3.25 overall.

Henry Hook’s CRooked Crossword, “Hidden Message” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook, CRooked • 2/17/13 • “Hidden Message” • Hook • bg • solution

I suppose the quote that’s comprised of five separate across entries is a type of hidden message, since it must be uncovered via the crossings and intuition, but it in turn leads to (REVEALS, 29a?) the hidden message of the puzzle’s title.

37a, 54a, 72a, 88a, 101a. [Instructions, Parts 1–5] READ EVERY | THIRD LETTER ON TOP | AND BOTTOM | ROWS STARTING WITH | THE SECOND. Following those instructions, the cluing of which I took the liberty of consolidating and paraphrasing, the following is decrypted: HAPPY NEW YEAR. Needless to say, the crossword appeared in print about seven weeks ago.

“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine”

First, quote clues are routinely maligned by the solverati, primarily because the payoff—generally some nugget of wisdom or observational humor—is usually disappointing. This puzzle’s “instructions” do not disappoint, as they point to another message which is also mundane. Second, it’s an impressive feat of construction, no doubt—to insert the 12 letters at equal intervals in the first and last rows and also to find a phrasing of the instructions that is both understandable and able to be divided into segments of appropriate length to be placed symmetrically in the grid—but in truth an unexceptional experience for a solver.

 There are some nifty long non-theme answers, including METHADONE, SPEC SHEET, Omar Khayyam’s RUBAIYAT, INGENUES, HOSANNAS, LANOLIN, PURVEYOR, CERAMIST, but there are A LOT of partials, fitbs, and pseudopartials and yes I’m going to list most of them. “Be-Bop-A-LU-LA,”  AMYL nitrate, OR TO, SO AS, ECONO- (though not clued as a prefix), NOLLE prosequi, HERE ON (as clued), AT AN, hic, HAEC, hoc, ESTO perpetua, OD ON, “A MAN for All Seasons,” ON ME.

How about the weak and repetitive prepositional phrases TUNED TO, OPTED TO, ADAPT TO? The bizarre or annoying abbrevs. PRIN (for principal) [Part of “I = PRT”] (what is this, WSJ?), URU, ROK (from Republic of Korea?), RIAA, ESTD., STA.

From the huh? collection we have LOOKISM [Pro-beauty bias],  MR DOUGLAS [Eddie Albert’s “Green Acres” role] (but I realize most other people have seen the show, at least in reruns), TYRE [Phoenician port city] (more of a whoa! than a huh?), SANA not clued as a variant (it’s usually Sana’a), old-time TV actor ALLYN Joslyn, the aforementioned ROK, WATS LINE, EXSECT (another whoa!), IMMIX (ditto).

Is this a lot of plurals for a 21×21? HEELS, INGENUES, ADS, PSAS, OZS, LIMES, ALIS, ADOS, AVS, TÊTES, SONS. Probably not, but some of them are a bit forced. I’ve also excluded nouns which are more common in plural (e.g., TONGS) and present tense verbs (e.g., EASES).

All right, time to highlight some more good stuff. There were a lot of fun clues. Here are some of my favorites:

  • [Stuffing season] SAGE.
  • [Gave a stock answer?] MOOED.
  • [Volume of the Earth?] ATLAS. (See also [McNally’s partner] RAND.
  • [Freudian ego?] ICH.

Favorite fill: “‘SCUSE ME.”
Minor trivia: YVETTE Mimieux starred in the 1960 film version of The Time Machine, in which the ELOI figure prominently.

In the end, this puzzle felt more than anything else like a slog.

Mike Peluso’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Begone!”

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 2 17 13 “Begone!”

The B is gone from familiar phrases in the theme answers:

  • 23a. [Garden tool for unexpected situations?], EMERGENCY RAKE.
  • 35a. [Hardly ever laugh?], LACK HUMOR. While working on this answer, my mind meandered over to a drop-a-letter theme that might include a GOD HUMOR MAN. The jokes on the ice cream bars’ sticks would all be St. Peter jokes, “A priest, a rabbi, and a …” jokes, and the like.
  • 51a. [Reason for a few nicks?], SHAVING RUSH.
  • 69a. [Plumber’s assessment?], LEAK OUTLOOK.
  • 84a. [Panama Canal bash?], LOCK PARTY.
  • 102a. [Highland scoundrel?], SCOTTISH ROGUE. My favorite theme answer here.
  • 3d. [Loud parties in Georgia?], ATLANTA RAVES.
  • 57d. [Vulcanized rubber inventor’s unsteady gait?], GOODYEAR LIMP.

Mystery item: 40d. [Controversial baby food ingredient], TUNA OIL. Huh? Apparently the DHA that’s been added to some formula and baby food in the years since my son was a baby is derived from either flaxseed or tuna oil.

Tough clue: 52d. [A mystery, metaphorically], GREEK. As in “It’s all Greek to me,” which doesn’t exactly mean “it’s a mystery,” if you ask me. More like “I can’t understand this.” If you don’t understand something that is entirely clear to others, is it a “mystery”? (… Please see preceding paragraph.)

Odd choice: You’ve got LENNON in your grid, a rare treat in a world full of ONO puzzles. So you clue it with … 2d: [“The Lawrence Welk Show” sisters’ surname]? The show’s final episode was taped 31 years ago, and yet Milwaukee Public Television is still airing it. Now that is an imponderable mystery.

41d. [Major leagues, in baseball lingo] is the BIGS. I learned this from Bull Durham. In fact, much of my baseball, golf, and Lakota Sioux language knowledge comes from Kevin Costner movies.

My favorite fill includes HAS-BEEN, the URALS (home of meteor explosions! how long till we have a meteor clue for URALS?), the CRYPT/CRISP/GRUMP/WHELP center, THE DOW, and MOSEYS.

Another mystery name: 110a. [Author Prosper __ who wrote “Carmen,” on which the opera is based], MERIMEE. All crossings for me, though I think I’ve seen it in a puzzle or two over the years.

3.5 stars.


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23 Responses to Sunday, February 17, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    “Gas oil” is an old term for the distillate fraction used for heating oil and diesel fuel. The word for diesel fuel in Spanish filling stations is “gasoil.” The name came from the 19th-century process for making gas used for lighting and heating.

  2. RK says:

    One of the best Sunday NYT puzzles in recent memory. Fun, clever theme.

  3. Kristin says:

    I use the magmic iPad app….anyone else use this? It has no way to enter most special characters.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Could have been rather more fun if the Across entries weren’t dominated by dross like 126A:DR.DRECK and a movie title that was already 30 years old back in 1998 when it was used for another version of this theme…

    • pauer says:

      And they both have 8 cheaters, too. Call the XWPD!

    • Howard B says:

      Someone woke up on the wrong side of the grid today ;). We kid.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        The grid is symmetrical so it doesn’t matter on which side I woke up ;-) But yes, I’m disap.ed that they couldn’t find better theme answers; makes it feel a bit ;ed (half-assed).

        [dash]Noam D[period] Elkies

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I have no fondness for RACHEL, RACHEL, but DR. DRE has been a huge figure in pop culture since the 1980s. He’s a producer. He’s won several Grammys. He’s making money in business with those Beats by Dr. Dre headphones that are displacing earbuds. He makes about $100 million a year, and yet he has probably fired far fewer people than the average business executive who makes that much.

          You don’t have to personally enjoy rap to acknowledge that Dre has been a significant figure in pop culture for three decades. Would you rather see arid crosswordese like [Japanese deer] in the puzzle than names that today’s solvers are likely to recognize?

        • Noam D. Elkies says:

          That’s a false dichotomy: I’d rather have *neither* SIKA nor DRDRE in the puzzle, especially as a theme entry, even if it means a somewhat larger word count or a few more “cheater” squares. As for Dr.Dreck, I frankly couldn’t care less how much money he makes, nor how many awards he won for peddling others’ twaddle, nor even how huge his own twaddle was in pap culture 10-20 years ago. And it doesn’t help that to an English speaker his stage name looks like a malformed alphabet-soup jumble (and in French it’s fittingly reminiscent of Ubu Roi’s “merdre”).

      • Rk says:

        lol @Howard B

    • Lois says:

      What’s wrong with old movies, Noam? You seem to prefer old music to new.

  5. Gareth says:

    Excellent puzzle! Didn’t go overboard with theme answers and the rest of the grid shone! Yes, I had about five seconds of utter confusion at DR{.}DRE/EDWARDIAN{.} before I remembered about those zany Americans…

  6. pannonica says:

    WaPo: The English “insouciant” is a direct descendant of sans souci.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Kudos to the clever constructors of the NYT… especially in the WING COMMANDER and COLONEL MUSTARD. But I think my favorite today was Patrick Berry’s WaPo with his PHAETON, FOLLY, BANTAM, SECONAL, SMOKES and NON COMPOS MENTIS! Whimsical indeed.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Terrific lineup of puzzles today. In addition to the NYT, great offerings by Merl, Doug and HH.

    Re 26d of the latter:




    The name of the anthropologist – humanist is not Ashley [first name] Montagu [surname]. He is actually M.F. Ashley-Montagu. That is, Ashley-Montagu is his surname. But I don’t consider the clue wrong, since Ashley Montagu is certainly the name he is known by, and which he published under. And his original name is totally different.

    I am basking in the glow of the appreciation and gratitude I know HH will feel for this comment.

  9. Ruth says:

    RE the Reagle puzzle: “Good night, ladies” is a song used often by barbershop quartets–was sung by the quartet in “Music Man” (though it’s older than that). I’d say it’s pretty well known, though skews old, for sure.

  10. J. T. Williams says:

    Geez, another brutal review for the Hex/Hook. I didn’t think either this week’s or last week’s puzzle was just complete dreck, certainly not deserving of those kinds of “pans.” Perhaps the reviewer could change up the order in which she does puzzles so that she will be in a better mood when she turns to the next CRooked offering?

    • pannonica says:

      I’m just as surprised as you, but I’m calling them as I see them. Honest. Prior to these two, my write-ups have been generally favorable, so I’m hoping it’s just a spot of turbulence.

      • J. T. Williams says:

        That’s probably right. I just remember two weeks in a row of saying wow, that was really brutal for a puzzle that I didn’t think was just absolute crap.

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