Sunday, March 10, 2013

NYT 11:52 (pannonica) 
Reagle  12:25 (Matt) 
LAT 8:04 
Hex/Hook 9:20 (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 5:55 (Sam) 

Here at Fiend Central Amalgamated Satellite Office, I’ve been monitoring some of the goings-on at the ACPT. Seems as if Patrick Blindauer’s puzzle #5 was some sort of soul-crusher, but at the end of Day One, the usual suspects occupy the top three spots: Anne Erdmann, Dan Feyer, and Tyler Hinman. Can’t we find someone with a G surname?

Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword, “Condensation” — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 3/10/13 • “Condensation” • Sun • Vigeland • 03 10 • solution

I didn’t get the cheery pencil guy while solving in Across Lite, but I was confident of having no errors. Turns out I was correct, erring only in my choice of rebus fill (I’ve taken the liberty of circling the relevant squares). This very clever puzzle with the absolute perfect title is a real winner. I wouldn’t be surprised if Impresario Shortz scheduled it to appear on the weekend of the ACPT so as to appease the ravenous locusts (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) who have descended upon downtown Brooklyn.

To continue: the theme is a two-way rebus, in which the across answers need the letters W-A-T-E-R to be put in a single square, while the crossing verticals need that very same square filled with the letters H-H-O, ID EST (72a) the molecular formula for WATER, H2O. And, get this, one of the properties of water is that it condenses on surfaces. Yes, it’s a common property, but when we talk informally of condensation, we usually mean water condensation.

  • 27a/1d. [Subject of big 1970s headlines] {WATER}GATE SCANDAL; [Refuse to hand over] WIT{HHO}LD.
  • 35a/16d. [The second African-American, after Hattie McDaniel, to be nominated for an Oscar] ETHEL {WATER}S; [Ski mask feature] MOUT{H HO}LE.
  • 50a/14d. [Seltzer] CARBONATED {WATER}; [Last possible moment] ELEVENT{H HO}UR.
  • 67a/51d. [Best Picture inspired by a Pultizer-winning series of newspaper articles] ON THE {WATER}FRONT; [Where people are always changing?] BAT{HHO}USE.
  • 85a/80d. [Necklace decoration that’s not from the sea] FRESH{WATER} PEARL, that’s sort of a white-bear-in-the-corner clue, isn’t it? But it gets the job done; [What an optimist has] HIG{H HO}PES.
  • 102a/80d. [Coastal structures countering erosion] BREAK{WATER}S; [“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” song] HEIG{H HO}. I used to play this cover version of the song on my college radio show; that the LP was warped only enhanced the creepiness.
  • 109a/84d. [Historic event on June 18, 1815] BATTLE OF {WATER}LOO; 84d [Prominent features of the theme from “Star Wars”] FRENC{H HO}RNS.

Impressive, no? That’s 14 serious theme entries, with only one (MOUTH HOLE) being the slightest bit sketchy. A real tour-de-force, and I certainly don’t feel the need to QUIBBLE (92a) over the fact that the rebus squares are not positioned symmetrically in the grid, for that really would be asking too much.

Some highlights:

  • 112a [Like many Playboy Playmate photos] AIRBRUSHED, though the more modern PHOTOSHOPped appears at 4-down. However, historically, more have been AIRBRUSHED and, further, it’s still a valid term, progressively encompassing the more modern techniques.
  • 25a [Prop in many an action film] MACHINE GUN, which is also nearly the title of a recently published off-kilter police procedural by Warren Ellis; I found it highly idiosyncratic and very entertaining.
  • 79a [Femme fatale of cartoons] NATASHA. Wonder if “fatale” was supposed to be capitalized in the clue?
  • Proudest moment: 53a [Many altar paintings of the Middle Ages] TRIPTYCHS, because I plopped in the answer pow-pow with no crossings.
  • Interesting and probably not intentional: look at the beginnings of the answers in the first row, WASP | T-BAR | TULIP | ERMA. You can spell WATER with those! Just choose either T-BAR or TULIP.
  • Other longish answers: AQUATICS, ROADSTER, CATCH FIRE. More good stuff.
  • EOLITH! Who doesn’t love a charming dawn-stone?

Excellent puzzle.

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 153” – Doug’s non-review

Mike Shenk’s Washington Post solution 3/10/13, “The Post Puzzler No. 153”

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Actually I’m not here. I’m in Brooklyn for the ACPT!

Favorite entry today is 26-Across: KLUM [Three-time Emmy loser to Probst].

That’s all from me today. Back to the puzzly festivities.

Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Spring Forward”

LA Times crossword solution, 3 10 13 “Spring Forward”

I was eyeballing the words in the theme answers for any hint of springiness or a forward aspect. But eventually I reached the lower right corner and 133a: DST, [Annual cause of losing an hr.’s sleep hidden in this puzzle’s 10 longest answers]. What links the theme answers is that they have a hidden “DST” in their miDST.

  • 23a. [Booze], HARD STUFF
  • 25a. [Furrier’s service], COLD STORAGE
  • 41a. [Ron Howard, once], CHILD STAR
  • 47a. [Chris Evert forte], GROUND STROKE
  • 70a. [“On the Waterfront” actor], ROD STEIGER
  • 74a. [Beef often braised], ROUND STEAK
  • 97a. [One roaming on the range], WILD STALLION
  • 100a. [News grabber], LEAD STORY
  • 121a. [Circulatory system component], BLOODSTREAM
  • 123a. [Economical heater], WOOD STOVE

All are two-letter phrases in which word 1 ends with a D and word 2 starts with ST, except for the compound word BLOODSTREAM. Generally, this sort of theme leaves me feeling underwhelmed. There’s no real playfulness to it. It would be more fun to hide related words (as in a recent Ink Well puzzle by Ben Tausig, where four different “codes” were hidden), but that makes it a more challenging theme and the Sunday LA Times puzzle tends to have simpler themes.

Let’s look at the rest of the puzzle:

  • 30a. [Pasha in the Nixon White House, and others], YORKIES. Presidential dog trivia! I couldn’t help linking Pasha and “nattering nabobs” in my mind.
  • 60a. [Get via scheming], WANGLE. This word occupies the same part of my brain as wrangle and finagle, though they all have distinct meanings.
  • 67a. [Tending to arouse], SENSUAL. As we all learned from Dean Wormer’s wife in Animal House, “Vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous.”
  • 77a. [Herbal brew], SAGE TEA. I have been seeing this answer in so many puzzles lately. Do any of you actually drink sage tea?
  • 82a. [Game opener], ANTHEM. I was thinking of coin tosses, tipoffs, first pitches.
  • 89a. [Where glasses may be raised?], OPERA. Opera glasses are those teeny binoculars.
  • 3d. [Euro pop?], PERE. I’m not a fan of clues that conflate all of Europe with a single language that is spoken in part of Europe.
  • 4d. [Drivers of red-white-and-blue vans], POSTMEN. Oy! Many mail carriers are women, you know.
  • 36d. [Started to pucker up?], AGED. Ouch! Wrinkling around the mouth.
  • 38d. [Argyle, for one], SOCK. No. Argyle isn’t a sock. Argyle is a diamond pattern that can be found on sweaters and socks.
  • 43d. [It’s depicted by a cello melody in “The Carnival of the Animals”], SWAN. Never heard of this work.
  • 61d. [Kind of collectible handle], ALETAP on a keg (49d).
  • 62d. [Treat for Tabby], TUNA. Kitty only thinks it’s tuna. It’s probably an entirely different fish, mislabeled.
  • 120d. [Ding, but not dong], DENT. No, a dong is decidedly not a dent.

Three stars from me. The puzzle is fine, but it didn’t excite me.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CS solution, March 10

I won’t share any news from the ACPT this morning, but you can check out the current standings here. You can expect a detailed write-up from several members of Team Fiend once everyone is home and caught up on sleep (I dunno, sometime next month maybe?).

In the meantime, let’s talk about today’s 74/32 freestyle offering from Patrick Jordan. We don’t normally see a themeless puzzle with 74 answers (72 is the usual limit), but the CS syndicate is open to 74-answer themeless puzzles if the fill is zippy. This one, I think, meets the standard. Among my favorite answers and clues:

  • MAXED OUT, clued as [Ran to the limit]. I think we normally hear this term in connection with credit cards. I’m hoping my card isn’t maxed out when I go to check out from the hotel in a little while. 
  • OVER EASY, the [IHOP order request], and second only to “over medium” as the best way to prepare eggs. 
  • JON ARBUCKLE, [Odie’s owner]. At first I wondered why the clue didn’t reference Garfield, but then I remembered: people don’t own cats, cats own people.
  • HARD AT IT, a term describing one [Working diligently].
  • DOTTIER, one who is [More eccentric]. That seems like such a polite word and yet it is probably used more often as an insult.

That northeast corner was my slow spot, as neither CATKIN, the [Spike on a willow], nor DEPUTES ([Assigns authority to]) came easily to me. At first I wanted RISERS as the [Theater features], but I’m happier it turned out to be the snazzier FOYERS.

Yes, the grid contains all 26 letters, but it’s not all in-your-face about it, and the fill is remarkably smooth (DEPUTES notwithstanding). That makes this puzzle a success. Let’s hope the next puzzle I solve today helps me be a success too!

Favorite entry = IS THAT A FACT, clued as [“Really?”]. Favorite clue = [Letter that rhymes with its two successors] for ZETA.

Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzle, “Hangin’ With Spider-Man” — Matt’s review

Merl plays by his own rules and writes puzzles according to his own formula. Today’s puzzle is classic Reagle: pun theme, lots of theme entries, high word (144) and black square (86) counts, but Reagle fans ignore that while focusing on the many theme entries (10).

Today’s puns play on life with Spider-Man:

24-a [Burger joint’s query to Spider-Man?] = WANT FLIES WITH THAT?

33-a [Spider-Man’s home-building chore?] = WEAVING THE NEST

39-a [Spider-Man’s favorite household spray?] = REDDI-WEB. A play on Reddi-Wip.

51-a [Sign in Spider-Man’s kitchen?] = LET US PREY

55-a [What it’s like to be Spider-Man?] =FANGTASTIC. Spiders have fangs? Yes, it turns out. Did not know that.

69-a [Spider-Man’s favorite film?] = THE SPIDER HOUSE RULES. Can you use a word in the title and theme clues, and then also in one of the theme answers? No, but who’s going to stop him?

86-a [Spider-Man’s favorite country?] = VENOMZUELA

89-a [Spider-Man’s favorite brand of butter?] = LAND O LEGS

100-a [Q: So, Spider-Man, is it safe to say the Mrs. is expecting?” “A: ___!”] = EGGSACLY

105-a [Spider-Man’s favorite baseball player?] = MICKEY MANDIBLE

115-a [Spider-Man’s favorite Neil Simon play?] = BITIN’ BEACH MEMOIRS. That’s a good one, since you can get spider bites on the beach.

So that’s a reasonable set. Perhaps not as laugh-out-loud funny as some of his pun themes but VENOMZUELA gave me cause for guffaws.

Not much long fill in the grid with all those theme entries, just two 7’s and two 9’s in the over-six-letters category. Two of those are the crossing long partials DO HIS DUTY and AS A MULE, which are icky. Good stuff includes CROP UP, SNOOPY and DYNAMO.

3.5 stars.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Rock Garden” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/10/13 • “Rock Garden” • Cox, Rathvon,• solution

Geology puns form lengthy strata in this grid.

  • 23a. [Fool’s gold at sea?] PYRITES OF THE CARIBBEAN. (Pirates)
  • 36a. [Compliment to Rocky?] YOU LOOK MARBLEOUS. (marvelous)
  • 54a. [Mooning rock?] OBSIDIAN GESTURE. (obscene)
  • 75a. [Assumed to be igneous?] TAKEN FOR GRANITE. (granted)
  • 87a. [Volcanic rock bombardment?] BASALT AND BATTERY (assault). OBSIDIAN is volcanic in origin as well.
  • 107a. [A hard attitude?] NO MORE MR GNEISS GUY.

All these puns are pretty good, though the GRANITE one is a petrified chestnut, and the OBSIDIAN one is kind of a stretch, but just try coming up with a better one for that word.

Strong fill and varied cluing throughout, making for an enjoyable but not particularly taxing solve.


  • 5a [10/31 option] TREAT, 45a [Busy ones on 4/14] CPAS. 110a IRAN crossing 99a OMAN. 48a [Yawn-inducing] BLAH, 82a [Far from flashy] DRAB.
  • Vocabulary! 49a [Of or like winter] HIEMAL. 39a [Agave plant yielding fiber] MAGUEY.
  • Unknowns: 72d [Polo country] ITALY. 115a [Rowdy role for Eastwood?] YATES, though I’m sure it’s only a Google search away.

Good puzzle, fun theme.

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30 Responses to Sunday, March 10, 2013

  1. John E says:

    Great NYT today – really loved the creativity of having two different usages of the text in the same square. However, I still can’t figure out what I am supposed to enter in the rebus squares to get the applet to say the puzzle is correctly solved. I tried HHO to no avail and couldn’t figure out how to fit WATER in the box. I am using Safari – anyone else have luck with it?

  2. klew archer says:

    Tried WATER, H2O, HO and HHO, none worked. OK just Revealed Complete Solution and all it did was put a W in there.

  3. Jason F says:

    I just put “H” in the rebus squares and the applet accepted my solution.

    Nice puzzle, though I was slowed by a distant (and possibly incorrect?) recollection that water should be represented as H-O-H, not H-H-O when all three atoms are written out individually.

  4. I winced as I wrote in the abbreviated ELEVENTHHR at 14D. I was much relieved when I figured out the rebus shortly thereafter and changed it to ELEVENT(HHO)UR.

  5. Scarab says:

    Has anyone done this successfully using the iPad or iPhone app? I’ve tried WATER, HHO, and H2O in the rebus squares, and it’s not taking any of them. I even peeked at the solution here and verified that everything else was correct.

  6. Tyrone says:

    Scarab if you are using the magmic app, put a W in the rebus square

  7. stbo2 says:

    It took me forever to figure out that the ipad version wants just a W in the rebus square.

  8. RK says:

    Great puzzle Finn Vigeland! Thanks for the fun.

  9. Voronet says:

    This was insane!!!!!
    Spent more than 10 minutes trying to figure what I did wrong; darn magmic
    I used HHO in the squares, but it was not deemed as a good response
    Pulling out my hair for 10 minutes

    This is not right!

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    I don’t recall any previous rebuses (rebi?) where inserting the word in AcrossLite didn’t pass muster. Are there perhaps different rules for rare puzzles such as this one where the trick squares differ in the two directions?


  11. vijay says:

    giving mike shenk an actual review would be nice. the 1 line review of his WaPo puzzle is borderline insulting. either review it or don’t.

    • HH says:

      I believe the one-line review is fully compensated by the accompanying photo.

      • ktd says:

        I agree with Vijay. I just solved the Puzzler and came by to check out the review. Just having the solution image doesn’t do justice to this fine puzzle, especially since it tells us nothing about the clues. And there are some great clues in this puzzle for double entendre and misdirection:

        42A [Alternative pop?] = FOSTER DAD
        55A [Round stopper] = KEVLAR VEST. Also impressive that this is a bottom row entry crossed by two answers ending in V (ASIMOV, FALLTV(!))
        3D [Hearing problem?] = CONTEMPT

        I do these puzzles every Sunday morning when I wake up. They are a great way to get my brain going in the morning and I have not yet failed to be entertained in 153 iterations. Having to deal with chewy, thought-provoking clues is a big part of that value.

        • ArtLvr says:

          Yes, Merl’s puns were hysterical, but Mike’s was equally satisfying and I thought the KEVLAR VEST should win a prize of some sort!

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Thanks for the mini-review, Kyle!

          Vijay, Doug and I and most of Team Fiend were enjoying the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament all weekend–posting the solution grid was about all Doug, or any of us, had time to do. No insult to Mike was intended.

  12. Ron Pickleman says:

    I suggest that all future rebus answers be recognized with a “*” in across light

  13. Scarab says:

    Thanks for the W advice. That was frustrating!

  14. Angela says:

    After completing the Top right squares, I kinda caught on to what the puzzle was all about, but about l/3 through the top something happened. Instead of being intrigued, I got bored, and for the first time in memory decided to let it go. I think it was because the answers that were not part of the rebus were too easy, but mostly, since I “got” it early on, it didn’t seem worth the time and trouble to go on. I long ago decided not to do the puzzle on any electronic devices. I like sitting somewhere comfortable with pencil and eraser while enjoying life going on around me.

    • HH says:

      “…but mostly, since I “got” it early on, it didn’t seem worth the time and trouble to go on.”

      Welcome to my world. On the increasingly rare occasions that I attempt to solve a non-British crossword, once I deduce the theme, I’m done. Why bother?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Henry, this is why I like tough themelesses best. Every clue or tough crossing is something to grapple with, so the challenge keeps my interest.

        Also, would you remind me to figure out where I put that copy of one of your old cryptic books and start solving the puzzles?

  15. Papa John says:

    I still haven’t figured out what Across Lite wants for the rebus squares. A single W doesn’t cut it, although the answer grid seems to indicate that. Apparently there’s more to the rebus entries but I have no idea what that might be, having tried all the combinations suggested by other posters.

    I’m not sure what pannonica’s notation means. Does the Xed out W, mean that’s not right?

    So what is the rebus that Across Lite will accept?

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Hmm. There’s quite a few words used in both the clues and answers in the LAT:

    1A [Badge bearer] COP
    8D [Cop] OFFICER

    26D [Level and bevel] TOOLS
    89D [Stroked tool] OAR

    4D [Drivers of red-white-and-blue vans] POSTMEN
    46D [It’s bad for business] RED INK

    130A [Holds, as an arena]
    118D [Believe] HOLD

    73D [Agrees to more issues] RENEWS
    126A [Put out] ISSUE

    57A [Took a little off] PARED
    116D [Helped oneself to] TOOK

    Also, DRS (24D) and DR NO (37D).

    Very unusual.

  17. Zulema says:

    I usually would agree with what Angela said but not at all regarding this NYT puzzle. I have felt that about many other Sunday puzzles of this kind. But knowing the trick did not automatically make it a fill-in-the-blanks crossword here and somehow I was entertained deciphering the rest. I thought it was a very good crossword that did not shout the age of its constructor at us as many of the juniors’ constructions do. One little QUIBBLE: the opposite of LOCO in Spanish is not SANO but CUERDO. SANO means “healthy” so a different clue was needed.

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