Friday, March 22, 2013

NYT 8:00 
LAT 8:48 (Gareth) 
CS 4:15 (Sam) 
CHE 5:44 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 22 12, #0322

Hmm, Saturday difficulty for you, too, or just for me? I was mired in the southeast quadrant largely because of my fondness for ELLA Fitzgerald, but it turned out that 51d. [“___, Red-Hot & Live” (1982 blues album)] clued ETTA. Yes, I know Ella was jazz, not blues. The other woman in that corner, 38a: ELISSA, is clued as [Actress Landi of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” 1934], which tells us that crosswords need a famous more ELISSA now. [Crosswords LA tournament founder Grossman], I would have gotten. I put GLARY (48d. [Blazingly bright]) in and took it out before reluctantly putting it back in again; you ever run into that word outside of crosswords or a dictionary sub-listing? Hmph.

So, this 66-worder has two triple-stacks of 15s, but unfortunately two of them are ONE’Sies and that lowers the excitement level. EMAIL DOMAIN NAME seems a tad stilted/dry. ROCKET TO THE MOON is fun, though dated. EDITORIAL STANCE and ORNAMENTAL TREES are all right, no great shakes.

ELISSA Landi is joined here by 18a: [Bloom who played Mary in “The Last Temptation of Christ”], VERNA. Another actress who is far from a household name. But! Did you know that Bloom played Marion Wormer in Animal House? No wonder she was cast as Jesus’s mother.


  • 23a. [“Hey-y-y-y!” sayer of sitcomdom, with “the”], FONZ. Two objections: I think it’s “Ayyy!”, and “sitcomdom” is not a word. Now, “romcomdom,” I could buy.
  • 47a. [Swamp birds], SORAS. Two groups of people know this word: Hardcore crossworders and swamp bird aficionados.
  • 2d. [Bore down (on)], HOMED IN. Eh. “Home in on” is the phrasal verb, so this feels naked/partial.
  • 3d. [Instrument whose name means “little goose”], OCARINA. The inclusion of “goose” in there tells you it makes very pretty sounds.
  • 7d. [Mexican Indians], OTOMIS. I had OLMECS first.
  • 9d. [Electrically neutral subatomic particle], ETAMESON. I had OTOMISON first. I was thinking of subotomic particles.
  • 12d. [Every, in an Rx], OMN. This might be 19th-century prescription writing, I’m not sure. As you can see in the link here, OMN and TER are stinkin’ crosswordese that doctors have not written out on a prescription pad for years and years. Constructors should consider killing these if they’re in their word list.
  • 14d. [It carries out many orders], DOMINO’S. If Domino’s is the best pizza available in your town, you have my pity.
  • 30d. [Future alumnae, quaintly], COEDS. You know what? The moment internet porn took that word over, it lost its “quaintness.” Why not [What the women of the class of 1962 were called]? Take that “future” out of the clue.
  • 32d. [Substance used in fillings?], GASOLINE. Yes. Your dentist is huffing gasoline. You didn’t know?
  • 40d. [Certain telecom technician], SPLICER. I wonder if the Comcast technician in my back yard today was doing any splicing. He was fixing a wire that had been chewed through by squirrels who had been nesting inside the external box of wires. And there were two dead squirrels in the nest. What do you suppose happened to them?

I definitely prefer a puzzle to derive its challenge from delightfully tricky clues rather than from lesser-known fill. If the blank grid doesn’t goose you (and empty grids don’t do much for me), the fill has to entertain. This one, I dunno, there wasn’t much I actually enjoyed while solving. Three stars.

Tracy Bennett’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “C. Net” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 3/22/13 • “C. Net” • Bennett • solution

I didn’t realize that I’d encountered the first theme answer, even after I’d figured out the correct fill. In haste, I assumed it was just a clever clue, only later realizing that it formed a part of a larger pattern. The puzzle is a tribute to EB White’s 1952 children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. Alright, here we go:

  • 17a. [First in a series of Web postings] SOME PIG.
  • 20a. [Second in a series of Web postings] TERRIFIC.
  • 33a. [Fourth in a series of Web postings] HUMBLE.
  • 38a. [Third in a series of Web postings] RADIANT.
  • 41a. [What the Web posts described] WILBUR.
  • 54a. [The Web site] BARNYARD.
  • 62a. [The Web administrator] EB WHITE.

Alas, among the constraints are that, due to the symmetrical conventions of crosswords (and perhaps spider webs), it was impossible to have the “postings” in chronological order and apparently it was too difficult to acknowledge the post-writer—you know, the blogger. But I won’t take it personally. Nuh-uh, no umbrage here. In the scheme presented, that entity would be the empathetic titular spider, Charlotte.

Seven moderate-length theme entries in a 15×15 is pretty TERRIFIC, and leaves room for plenty of other rather RADIANT fill: stacked with themers are LENS CAP and IN A HOLE, SILENT E and CESSNAS, FIDELIO and ROOMIES [Space invaders?], and—best of all—EPICURE and TAMALES. ¡Olé!

Perhaps the spiffiest piece of fill is 20-down, running along the grid’s midline, TWO-FISTED. Unfortunately it’s marred by an inaccurate clue: [Inclined to fight]. That’s more like BELLIGERENT (three letters too long) or possibly AGGRESSIVE. Here’s how m-w defines TWO-FISTED: “marked by vigorous often virile energy : hard-hitting <two–fisted journalism>” or, in another common collocation, a two-fisted drinker.


  • Quasi-bonus content at 65a [Shoat’s shelter] STY.
  • Misdirection for solvers in a hurry? 4d [Woolshed tool] SHEARS, immediately followed by 5d [Bit of woodland] COPSE. Incidentally, I can’t recall ever seeing EAR clued with [Wood __ (fungus that grows on trees]; a bit long-winded but I like it. (40a)
  • Dislike the demeaning ‘girl’ in the clue for 7d PEG [Steely Dan title girl]; there is nothing in lyric to suggest her age, aside from the situation being a “début.” Perhaps it would have been marginally acceptable for a song like “Janie Runaway” or “Hey Nineteen,” considering the protagonist’s persona. (Obviously the latter has no name, but I hope you get the gist.)
  • Why? clue of the puzzle: 26d [British P.M. who repealed the Corn Laws] PEEL.
  • A good dose of clever and playful clues, including those for LENS CAP, PLEASE, BOSSES, ODOR, DRUM, ABETS.

Good puzzle, but that “TWO-FISTED” gaffe makes me a a bit angry.

Updated Friday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Grunt Work”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, March 22

Today’s the last day of spring break here at my day job. Students come back on Monday, so this is the last day I’ll have for some time to actually get something done. I’m sticking to a shorter review and then signing off. The puzzle features four two-word terms, each of which begins with a term that can be synonymous with “grunt” or some other term for one who does tedious, lowly work:

  • 21-Across: A [Cabbie’s permit] is a HACK LICENSE.
  • 27-Across: DRONE ATTACKS are [Unmanned aerial raids]. You never know when the President will turn against you and order a drone attack, right?
  • 43-Across: The DRUDGE REPORT was the [Internet news source that was the first to break the Clinton/Lewinsky story]. You can read about it in the memoir, Devil in a Blue Dress.
  • 50-Across: One who is [Prideful] might be said to be STIFF-NECKED. My dictionary defines stiff-necked as “stubborn and arrogant or aloof,” which I don’t necessarily equate with “prideful.” But last I checked I have more than six degrees of separation from Mr. Roget.

Um, PORN crossing PROF? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that. But I know how I feel about the rest: I like it. DING-DONGS! The [Cream-filled chocolate snacks once produced by Hostess] were a staple in my Peanuts lunchbox. I’m also a fan of TAPIOCAS, the [Neighbors of gelatins and puddings in the supermarket aisle]. I’m less enamored of the SLIDER, the [Miniburger], but it looks nice in a crossword puzzle.

Favorite entry = SOUR NOTE, the [Bad thing to strike]. Favorite clue = [Be revolting?] for UPRISE.

David Poole’s Los Angelest Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up

David gives us an offbeat Friday puzzle today. The final word of each theme entry has two vowels, which have been switiched, and the resulting phrases clued wacky style. The vowels are not the same in each phrase, which could be deemed inconsistent, but for me made the theme less predictable, which IMO is good!

The answers are:

  • [Army mints?], MILITARYTICTACS. I and A of “tactics” swapped.
  • [Temperamental Midler impersonators?], BETTEDIVAS. I and A of “Davis” swapped.
  • [Penalize a Russian leader?], FINELENIN. I, E, “linen”.
  • [Poll on where to sink the eight ball?], POCKETVOTE. E, O, “vote”. I wasn’t too sure what a “pocket veto” was, but apparently it’s when the US president doesn’t sign a bill in his allotted 10 days and in the mean time Congress adjourns itself; if congress is in session the law stands. I think that’s what what I read said.
  • [Seasonal shade of pink?], ACHRISTMASCORAL. A, O, “carol”. The Dickens novel has an “A”.

Unusual grid shape: very open corners and a congested middle where three theme answers occur in five lines. Indeed, this puzzle’s fairly high (59) theme letter count, coupled with that grid shape has meant the fill tends more toward the functional than the flamboyant. We do get two cheeses: MUENSTER and STILTON, and a Canadian shout-out in ALBERTA; PLANTERS may have common letters, but it’s a fun brand-name that has been imported here sporadically. What do they do to their peanuts that makes them so delish???

A couple of tough names for me today: [“Team of Rivals” author Doris __ Goodwin] is KEARNS and [Actress Virna] is LISI. Is that Virna Lisi or Lisi Virna??? Virna Lisi it seems.

Clue-wise, I had no idea what a “bush-hook” was. A SCYTHE apparently. Other toughies include: [More than just calls], RAISES is a poker clue if you were wondering; [Jimmy follower], RONALD refers to presidents; [“Cheers” accountant], NORM had me scratching my pip as to who the bar’s accountant was, but actually Norm was an accountant who went to Cheers to escape his wife, I think?

3.25 stars?

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Working Capital” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/22/13 • Fri • “Working Capital” • DiPietro • solution

Perfect title for the puzzle’s theme mechanics and its venue. Each entry begins with a person’s name and finishes with a career description (an understandably loose term). The zippy part is that the name, extended into the occupation, forms a US state capital. Encroachment, occupation?

  • 24a. [Woman who may take a shine to you?] ANNA POLISHER (Annapolis, Maryland).
  • 30a. [Man who can see ahead?] FRANK FORTUNETELLER (Frankfort, Kentucky). Am reminded of the old quip, “What’s that in the road, a head?” (It might be an acting thing, making fun of poor delivery.) The connection is reinforced for me because FRANKFORT phonetically suggests FORK; fork, road, ahead, see? Erm, I think I’ll get back to the list.
  • 50a. [Man who’s good with feet and meters?] JACK SONNETTEER (Jackson, Mississippi).
  • 63a. [Man who’s serious about preservation?] SAL EMBALMER (Salem, Oregon). Mistakenly went down the path of environmental conservation here. See also 1-across [Pyramid, often] TOMB.
  • 84a. [Woman who tries?] HELEN ATTORNEY (Helena, Montana).
  • 97a. [Woman who talks about herself?] JUNE AUTOBIOGRAPHER (Juneau, Alaska). That one’s pretty flashy, no?
  • 109a. [Man who uses building blocks?] BO STONEMASON (Boston, Massachusetts).

Feels like a novel theme to me, although as I was solving the mechanics curiously never came fluidly and I relied primarily on crossings.

Some solid long non-theme answers include DEREK JETER; IWO JIMA; HIGH RISE; BODY HEAT; LILY PAD; HEAR, HEAR; D’ANGELO (singer I didn’t know; not actress Beverly); NITROUS (oxide); SCIENCES; RUG BURNS (brother of documentarians Ken and Ric); ALMOND OIL; BEER BELLY; GO STRAIGHT. Was less thrilled with the preposition-heavy CUT IN ON and CREEP UP ON, as well as COULD IT BE.

Biggest mis-fills: 44d [Apples and pears] POMES, not FRUIT (I blame the recent comments about Matt Gaffney’s contest puzzle no. 250), and 65d [Honey found in Dijon] AMIE, not MIEL.

Good cluing throughout, strong puzzle.

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33 Responses to Friday, March 22, 2013

  1. Crossword Beast says:

    Amy, here’s a clue for a somewhat better-known ELISSA: [Knight who voiced EVE in Pixar’s “WALL-E”].

  2. Brendan says:

    How is “electrically neutral subatomic particle” not NEUTRINO? You know, an actual word people know and even occasionally use. I realized that was wrong pretty quick, but this puzzle feels forced with all the completely obscure “words” in it.

  3. Elissa says: … Lots of ELISSA options.

  4. Evan says:

    There’s a DOMINO’S about one block away from my parents’ house, so I spent a lot of my formative years eating it. I don’t got no shame. Of course, I’ve discovered better pizza since then.

    Speaking of DOMINO’S, I really wonder if Tim originally clued NO ID instead as the NOID — the mischievous Domino’s mascot from the 1980s with the rabbit suit. I don’t usually care for cross-references too much, but that would have been great, in my opinion.

  5. RK says:

    Too much trivia in the NYT puzzle I thought.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: the FONZ as clued made me smile. Learned something about LOCH NESS. SOIGNE must have different connotations in English than its original French meaning. SOIN is care, so “Well groomed” would be closest. I guess it’s a kind of elegance but it’s a little too bourgeois to reflect real elegance to the French.

    For the last couple of days, I ‘ve been having a hard time connecting to this site on my laptop, even though I can access other sites just fine. But I’m able to do it on my iPad. So, it may well be my set up, but can’t figure out why it would only affect this site. Just thought I’d mention it in case others have encountered it.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Ditto to my ancienne Lycéenne. (I was going to make the same point.) I suppose you could find a tangential reference to attire somewhere in a definition of “soignée”, but only very tangential. “Soignée” means “cared for,” “pampered,” A woman who is soignée (– sexist or not, you would rarely refer to a man as “soigné”) — is one who fusses over her hair, make-up, who is meticulous about her appearance generally. I suppose elegant attire is a part of appearance, so the clue is not exactly wrong, but it’s not quite right either.

      I had trouble and many false starts with the bottom of this puzzle, notwithstanding the several gimmes — Rossini, Soren, Elgin, Phaedra. (Whoever imagined that being subjected to Racine in 6th grade, with his 12 syllable Alexandrine verse would come in handy decades later?) :-) (The most interesting thing I remember is that Corneille hated and resent Racine, and tried to sewer his plays.)

      Assuming that Landi would be some variant of “Elaine” I confidently entered “in a gown”, for “elegantly attired”, using the G in Elgin. I had “Prada” for 23d, and when I corrected the first 4 crosses, I left it as “Fenda.” I had “ornate” instead of “ornamental.” Somehow, I thought that “stance” was either too close to, or different in meaning from “slant.” Oh Well — I guess my woes are not all that interesting.

      It might interest Steve, though, that when I was in Jr. HS in Arlington, VA, the big guns in local HS basketball, all over the DC papers, wee Elgin Baylor at Spingarn HS, and John Thompson at John Carroll HS.

    • Evad says:

      Hi Huda, it could just be a coincidence in that the company that hosts this site (on a shared server) has had a few server reboots of late (not due to us for a change!). It’d be nice to be on a dedicated server, but we run a pretty lean operation here in Crossword Fiendlandia.

      • Huda says:

        Is this our official name? Could we abbreviate to Crossfinladia? It makes me think of burly Slavic types cross-country skiing into the orange sunset.

        I named Rexville and it stuck (should I put that on my cv?). Have been thinking we need us a name for these parts… Didn’t know whether one existed.

        • pannonica says:

          I try to keep it a moving target: FiendCo; FiendCorp; Fiendtopia; Fiend Central; TransGlobalFiendTechiDyne, LTD; Fiendistan; and so on. But then again I’m a rebel and a troublemaker.

  7. bob stigger says:

    A recent Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me segment featured The Fonz answering multiple choice questions; he quickly figured out that the correct answer in every case was “Ayyyy-a-a-a-a”.

  8. Judge Vic says:

    Sorry, Pannonica, but it strikes me that to call a clue inaccurate and a gaffe is, in my book, a pretty serious matter. When the constructor herself is an editor (as I know Tracy to be) and the editor is Patrick Berry, well, the matter takes on an even graver tone, I would think. TWO-FISTED in my hard-back dictionary is defined as “Marked by vigorous energy.” Phrases from other dictionaries include “Strong, tough, and vigorous” and “Using or able to use both fists.” Hmm, I don’t think this is a matter of opinion. Whatever the clue “Inclined to fight” is, it is not inaccurate; thus, it is not a gaffe.

    • pannonica says:

      Vic, not one of those definitions you’ve cited suggest inclination or motivation. Certainly not explicitly, and implicitly only tendentiously. I stand by my judgment.

  9. Martin says:

    I have to agree with Judge Vic here, Pannonica.

    According to RH2 :

    TWO-FISTED: adj.
    1) ready for or inclined to physical combat.
    2) strong and vigorous.

    Surely the clue is 100% accurate, as per the primary definition.

    Anyway… regardless of my quibbling, I always enjoy reading all the reviews here (Pannonica’s included!)


    • pannonica says:

      Now that’s something I’ll defer to, that first definition in Random House. Even so, I can honestly say I have never encountered the phrase in that sense. Thanks, Martin.

  10. Gareth says:

    NYT: Slowest puzzle of the year for me, though I finished, somehow.
    Bottom-half was supremely difficult to get into, until I guessed STEREOS. I had two pockets that I was convinced I wouldn’t get out of alive: The ETAMESON (!), OTOMIS (!!), VARIG (!!!) region; I didn’t know any of those, plus I convinced myself OTOROS was plausible (misremembering New Mexico’s OTERO county). The second was SOIGNEE/SPLICER/ELISSA/ELGIN. Last letter was G and only because SOIVNEE seemed less plausible… I did the same thing with GLARY only about 5 times…
    PS. I looked at the prescription-writing article and was going to asked why they suggest daily and not sid, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and sid is “used exclusively in veterinary medicine”. Who knew? And why?

  11. sbmanion says:

    Just the opposite for me from many of you. I sailed through the bottom and had great difficulty with the top.

    Bruce, nice sports references. It gives me the opportunity to announce that I have quietly moved into 297, 410th place in the ESPN bracket challenge after a 13-3 start that included losses both in my alma mater’s game and in Arizona’s game. I coulda been a contenduh if I had gone with my heart! The interesting thing about Harvard’s win was that its top two players (along with many others) were kicked out of school this year in a cheating scandal that rocked the campus.

    I almost always like to learn new words, but when I have already forgotten them minutes after finishing the puzzle, not so much.


  12. dgh says:

    NYT: 23A, I’m brainlocking. What is OPP?

  13. AaronB says:

    I enjoyed the CHE puzzle. I wanted to put up some stars, but couldn’t figure out how.

    Youth International Party – Yippies didn’t intend the name to be taken seriously, is it being used here to make the clue harder? If so why not use an interesting/obscure fact e.g. 60’s revolutionary who played for the Brandeis tennis team.

    • john farmer says:

      Does anybody know that Hoffman played on the Brandeis tennis team? Except for tennis players at Brandeis, does anybody care? Hoffman was co-founder of the Youth International Party, and whether the name was intended seriously or not, that in part is what he’s known for. The party nominated a pig as candidate for president in 1968, so maybe yippies would have enjoyed the CHE theme.

      I thought the puzzle was terrific, and I don’t understand the tepid (and less-than-tepid) ratings. Do people not get it? My only quibble is whether “Web” should be capitalized, and I’d guess it could go either way.

  14. Tracy B. says:

    Thanks for the comments on C. Net. I’m grateful for feedback on what did and didn’t work, taking notes. Patrick Berry is a treasure as an editor—wonderful to work with, supportive and wise.

  15. bananarchy says:

    Tim Croce makes rich, tasy grids, imo. I dug this one.

    Plus, I like things like ETA MESON. It’s a wacky yet mellifluous phrase, and though I didn’t know it going in it’s inferable if you’ve read the odd article about particle physics (these days, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the inquisitive and worldly layperson hasn’t).

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