Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica)
WaPo untimed (Janie)
CS 6:12 (Dave)
David Kahn’s New York Times crossword, “Simply Put”
This is an odd theme, isn’t it? LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP is expanded into an overlong, stilted rewording that occupies 103 squares and five grid-spanning entries: POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES / OF A PLAN OR DECISION ONE / CANNOT REVERSE SHOULD BE / HEEDED PRIOR TO THE TIME / AN ACTION IS EFFECTUATED. Well! The “a plan or decision” feels a tad “What other word can I add here to make the entry length work?” to me. And I don’t know about “heeding the potential consequences”; what exactly does that mean? And I have never once “effectuated an action.” I did not find the theme to be entertaining or whimsical, though your mileage may vary.
Now, the long fill in this grid is a bright spot. TABLE-HOPS and the LITTLE TRAMP are particularly nice. But the pluralization of CLUB SODAS makes me wonder how many club sodas there are. Do we have a Coke vs. Pepsi sort of rivalry in club soda land? Meanwhile, most of the short and mid-length fill is unexceptional.
73a: [Full of animal fat], 5 letters? If you didn’t have any of the first four letters in place already when you first saw this clue, I’m pretty sure you assumed the answer was LARDY. But no! It is SUETY. This word does appear as an inflected adjective in the main dictionary entry for “suet,” but I am challenged to think of an occasion to use the word SUETY. I can think of LARDY uses, sure.
2.5 stars from me. The theme plays like a quote theme–meaning it’s a long slog of working the crossings to put the theme answers together. But the typical quote theme will have that one “aha” moment at the end. In this one, the ending felt as anticlimactic as that “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine” bit in A Christmas Story. Roughly a fifth of the grid is handed over to a stilted, long blah. The theme concept might play better if you had multiple adages involved–you could have a boring, stilted rewording of an adage in the clues, and the punchy adage itself in the grid. You’ve seen word puzzles like that, right? Some rewording of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and you have to guess the original adage? A single adage, splayed all over the grid, doesn’t have enough punch to carry a Sunday puzzle.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Baseball Trades”
I don’t think I understand all of the theme entries here. I get the basic gist—take a word that is also a Major League Baseball team member and swap it for another team’s word.
- 22a. [Forger of paintings?], THE ARTFUL PIRATE. Swaps out from “the Artful Dodger.”
- 29a. [One who’s happy just to be at sea, despite being constantly seasick?], THE JOLLY GREEN MARINER (Giant). I like this one.
- 49a. [Sight that made Jack do a double-take at the top of the beanstalk?], SIAMESE GIANTS (Twins). As in conjoined twin giants. This is the only one with a plural team name.
- 64a. [What walking under a bird might get you?], TOUCHED BY AN ORIOLE (Angel). Or, more likely, pooped on.
- 84a. [Spokesperson for Kellogg’s Maizeflakes?], TONY THE INDIAN (Tiger).
- 102a. [Movie about sports stars who don’t use deodorant?], LONELY ARE THE ATHLETIC. I need to Google “lonely are the” to figure out the source here. Also a little off-putting because they’re more commonly called “the A’s” than “the Athletics,” it would seem. Lonely Are the Brave is a Western from 1962 with a startlingly grim outlook, said filmmaker Alex Cox in the NY Times. Good article.
- 114a. [Least popular job at the circus?], THE TIGER CLIPPER. Oh! This one just dawned on me. The Yankee Clipper, an actual baseball reference. DiMaggio’s nickname, wasn’t it? Among other things.
Things that gave me pause while solving:
- 2d. [Still standing, in a way], UNHIT. As in … I dunno, a bowling pin? That’ll work.
- 98d. [Of an 87 Across ailment], 87a being EAR, OTITIC. The adjectival form of otitis? I do not need this word, no, sir.
- 101d. [“How now, ___?” (Shak.)], OLD LAD. Oxymoron!
- 14d. [Term for the dropping of an initial letter, as in “possum”], APHERESIS. Huh! I didn’t know that. I’ve heard of plasmapheresis, which must share a word root but not much else.
- 123a. [Least amount?], ONE CENT. I wanted ONE IOTA.
- 12d. [Strengthen anew, as muscles], RETONE. This one traveled with UNHIT from the Land of Roll-Your-Own Words. It is a bleak and unforgiving land, where OATINESS is the overwhelming sense.
- 70d. [Intro to metry], OPTO. Optometry.
Highlights in the fill include ATTILA THE / HUN, Scrabbly JUJITSU, BIG TO-DO, and THE GYM. I also liked learning APHERESIS, which ranks right up there with tmesis (examples: a whole nother story, abso-effing-lutely).
Gail Grabowski’s syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, “Neon Lightness”
The theme entries are all made by inserting NE—the letters in the chemical symbol for neon—into a familiar phrase:
- 27a. [Moniker on a box of pasta?], PENNE NAME.
- 29a. [Gala for players of small pianos?], SPINET BALL.
- 48a. [Kangaroo from a lab?], CLONED HOPPER.
- 65a. [IQ psychologist in the crib?], TINY BINET.
- 82a. [Player asleep on the sidelines?], PRONE ATHLETE.
- 101a. [Dollhouse wicker chair craftsman?], MODEL CANER.
- 104a. [Reality show judge in a pouch?], PANEL JOEY.
- 36d. [Cops’ disagreement?], FINEST FIGHT.
- 40d. [“No military bigwigs allowed”?], BRASS BANNED. I like this one, as it doesn’t change its pronunciation at all and because it reminds me of my college’s Pep Banned group.
One of the first Down answers suggests the reverse theme, knocking out the neon. 4d: [Series of misses] clues PHONE TAG (great answer, that) and makes me think of PHO TAG, [Playground game played for Vietnamese soup?].
Seven more clues from elsewhere in the puzzle:
- 56a. [Stomach creation], PEPSIN. This is your main digestive enzyme. Now I’m thinking of a theme with PEPSIN COLA in it. [Soft drink that digests itself?], anyone?
- 77a. [Iago kills her in Act V], EMILIA. I should probably read Othello one of these … decades.
- 84d. [Where to see rows of booths], TOLL ROAD. I see staffed toll booths in Florida, but I haven’t seen them for years in Illinois. We have the baskets to throw a zillion coins into, and we have the I-Pass lanes you just drive straight through.
- 37a. [Strange duck], WEIRDO. You’ve been doing crosswords too long when that clue makes you think, “Smew? Teal? Merganser?”
- 10d. [Took off to team up], ELOPED. For marriage, not for forming a soccer team.
- 99d. [Butter-yielding bean], CACAO. Clue makes you think of butter beans, no? Mmm, chocolate.
- 110a. [Cold explosion?], ACHOO. Not cold fusion.
The theme answers didn’t bring me as much amusement as I always hope for from letter-change/drop/add themes. This seems to be a regular remark here. Am I expecting too much from these themes? I just want the occasional giggle to be induced. With the exception of UTAH JAZZ and the aforementioned PHONE TAG, the fill did not stand out. 3.25 stars.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Other than the two zees found in [Portland NBAers, familiarly] (BLAZERS) and [Ken ___, US Secretary of the Interior] (SALAZAR), there’s not much to say about today’s “Sunday Challenge.”
I just found too many low-Scrabble value letters in the grid–I’m looking at you PRECEDENTS, SLINGSHOTS, SHARPENER, RETURNEES, TÊTE-À-TÊTE, SPARE TIRE, DISTRESSING and BEST SELLING. Other than the zees, I was somewhat hoping the answer to [Ricky Martin, notably] might have to do with his 2010 revelation that he is gay, but we just get LATINO instead. The term ALLOTROPE ([One of two or more existing forms of an element]) was new to me–after I got it with the crossing entries, I imagined a better clue might be [What a European might say when greeting a figure of speech?].
Happy Mother’s Day, y’all! Off to visit mine later today.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 162″—Janie’s review
Hey, puzzle fans—am here with a look at Karen’s WaPo, a puzzle I liked and often admired, but never, I confess, fully warmed up to. A lot of you know I have a background as a lyricist—and for the last hundred years or so I’ve been a member of the BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. I also had the privilege of being in the room for the last two years of Lehman’s life. When a strong, proven writer presented a song that was well-crafted and hit all the marks but never fully satisfied, Lehman would preface his comments by saying, “That was a perfectly wonderful song.” Karen’s puzzle today felt like the cruciverbal counterpart. Is it an inferior, unworthy creation? Let me be clear: not by a long shot!! When I’m fooled, because [Inability to distinguish different pitches] doesn’t refer to (a six-letter variation on) some shortcoming of the inept umpire but takes me instead to ASONIA, I have to smile. Good clue/fill combo.
Ditto [Tank top?] and GUN TURRET, [Get trashed] and GO TO WASTE, [Block party block] and BRIQUETTE, [Blood relative] and GORE. One of the reasons I like that last one is that there’s no question mark (coulda been KITH or [and, yes, I know this is wrong, but it was my first thought] SERA). (Makes me wonder why we do see one in [Support group?] for STAFF…) Amidst the predominantly straight-forward clues today, these make me sit up. I think my fave clue/fill combo, for being so evocative, would have to be [Ringside seat locale] and FRONT ROW. Bellows, anyone?
The marquee entries just kinda missed the mark, however. Could just be me, but my ear is more attuned to TRICK QUESTION rather than TRICKY QUESTION. And I was less than taken with the indefinite article in the (otherwise vivid) phrase CHAINED TO A DESK. When I’m [Overwhelmed with paperwork…], I’m chained to a specific desk: my desk. Or the desk. One is chained to one’s desk. I feel certain the argument could made for “a”—hey, it’s in the puzzle!—but it still doesn’t quite sing for me.
And (in a puzzle with a lotta proper names…) if I didn’t take to the run of ’em occupying 1-, 2- and 3-Down (AGATHA, GUERIN and ENRICO [even if they do cross AEROSMITH]), I did appreciate the range of AEROnautic references Karen gave us in the NE and SW—from the humble but history-rich AUTOGIRO to the sleek NOSE CONE that lets a rocket cut through outer space. Now that I look more carefully, I see that the NW’s land-based [Tank top?] is balanced by the SE’s ONE-MASTED cutter (where AYES [Nautical agreements] must surely be heard). Whether it’s there by design or serendipity, I got a lotta love for the way this land-sea-air-and-space tetrad anchors the puzzle’s four corners. And on that high note, Happy Mothers Day—and adios ’til next month!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Hooked” — pannonica’s write-up
I have to admit it, this puzzle’s theme has eluded me. Some people have suggested that crosswords that don’t explain what the theme is should be called “hookers,” after Henry Hook—and this one of his lacks a revealer—but beyond that, I’m frankly lost.
In lieu of a discussion of whatever theme is present, if in fact there is one, I’ll explore some of the puzzle’s highlights.
- 12a [Hazards for Wile E. Coyote] are CACTI, but in truth it’s potentially anything he interacts with.
- 23d [“Momma” cartoonist Lazarus] MELL. What is it with those syndicated cartoonists? They seem to have a perversion about adding or dropping letters from their first names. Hagar the Horrible’s Dik Browne, The Family Circus’ Bil Keane …
- 84a [UFO-watching org.] SETI. I don’t think so; the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project is mostly occupied with electromagnetic radiation monitoring and the like, with a few optical searches for distant laser signalling. Wikipedia mentions in its entry: “The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is not an assertion that extraterrestrial intelligence exists or are visiting Earth, and conflating the two can be seen as a straw man argument. There is an effort to distinguish the SETI projects from UFOlogy, the study of UFOs, which many consider to be pseudoscience. In Skeptical Inquirer, Mark Moldwin argued that the important differences between the two projects were the acceptance of SETI by the mainstream scientific community and that ‘[t]he methodology of SETI leads to useful scientific results even in the absence of discovery of alien life.'” However, the cross-referencing clue 56d [Subject for 84-Across] ALIEN remains valid.
- 45d [Paris is there] TEXAS.
- 25a [Rice and Curry] TIMS. Liked this because it’s something I’ve considered often. Disappointingly, they seem never to have collaborated on a project. I know, because I’ve checked. More than once.
- 29d [Wise-sounding characters?] WYES. This one completely snookered me; I’m going to call it a “purloined letter clue.”
- 55a [City served by El Alto International Airport] LA PAZ, Bolivia. Alto means “high” in Spanish, La Paz is the highest seat of government city in the world (3,640 m / 11,942 ft).
- Interesting long fill: EXONERATE, BULL MOOSE, RETRENCH, FANCYING. There may have been some other long acrosses.
- Great, pithy quote at 1-across: [“Include __”: Samuel Goldwyn] ME OUT. The presence of [Lash __ (attack verbally)] OUT AT (72d) later diminished my enjoyment of the former, alas.
- Speaking of alas, this grid contains two of the crosswordesiest four-letter crosswordese entries you’re likely to see: 45d [Mine entrance] ADIT and 103d [Old 1/6 drachma coin] OBOL. Oh boy.
- Loved the clue for 61a PAYOLA: [Money under the turntable?].
- Speaking of which, loved the sub rosa implied criticism in 17a [Mononymous New Age musician] YANNI. It’s easy enough—too easy—to read that as “monotonous,” and you can bet your moustache and/or gossamer shirt that that was intentional.
- 5d [Can makeup] TIN. Not for a long time, as far as I know.
- Toughest proper nouns: 35d [“Peyton Place” actress Diane] VARSI, 73a [City of western Kansas] LAKIN; these were among my final fill-ins.
Good but mysterious puzzle.
“A single adage, splayed all over the grid, doesn’t have enough punch to carry a Sunday puzzle.” Deb Amlen said something similar on Wordplay: “It’s generally considered to be poor form when you ‘make up’ a phrase and put it in the puzzle, even if it has something to do with other elements in the grid.”
To each her own, I suppose, but rejecting such puzzles out of hand dismisses not just many of Mr. Kahn’s finest work, but some of the most memorable NYT puzzles. You may not have liked this similarly constructed grid either but I still recall solving it 17 years later.
Another “single adage splayed all over the grid” example is one of the most beloved crosswords of the Shortz Era. “Green Eggs and Hamlet” by David Kahn and Hillary Kahn is too good to just provide a link to the solution. Solve it yourself with this Across Lite file.
Again, you may not feel today’s effort measures up to Mr. Kahn’s best but he’s a master at this particular form which some of us enjoy. Splay on!
Since you called me out by name, Jim, I thought I’d respond.
The two sentences at the start of your comment mean two very different things. It’s one thing to “splay” a comment across a grid. It’s another thing entirely to take up a lot of grid real estate with a made up phrase that might be difficult for solvers to guess, since they almost have to be able to read the mind of the constructor if they can’t get the phrase using the crossings. That’s the poor form I was talking about. It had nothing to do with the “punch.”
If you read my post, you would have also seen that I, too, am a fan of David Kahn’s puzzles. This one seemed excessive to me.
Deb, I think you misread Jim’s comment. Amy claimed a long made up phrase was punchless. You called it bad form. Jim contends that his counter examples demonstrate that’s not always so.
Crossword blogs seems to exist, perhaps appropriately, in a black and white world. A word is awful, a crossing is terrible, nobody likes such and such a theme. That makes them fun to read but opinions are different than facts and everyone gets to have their own.
““It’s generally considered to be poor form…”
OK, I just gotta pipe up here…
… while I fully respect a blogger’s opinion about whether they like a particular theme, or type of theme, what bothers me is promoting the idea that somehow a crossword has violated (for want of a better word) some kind of generally accepted rule or custom.
To put it another way, there is no “generally considered” custom/rule (or whatever) here that I have ever been aware of.
And I have never once “effectuated an action.”
Phew, me either. I was worried there for a minute that I’d missed something really good.
Phrase puzzles can be fun but this one wasn’t for me.
I’d like an example of a sentence one might hear in everyday parlance in which LARDY can be used. In my mind, it’s as uncommon as SUETY.
“Lardy, lardy, lard ha’ mercy!”
Funny post, Amy. Are you familiar with the screamingly funny farce, called “Unnecessary Farce”? I have an idea it may have premiered in Chicago. It features a policeman with a Scottish accent so impenetrable when he gets excited or stressed, that it is comprehensible to only one of the characters, who has to interpret what he said to the other characters and to the audience, with outrageously comical results. It also features a Scottish Mafia don — (I won’t spoil who the character is) — who upon being identified and apprehended is led away in handcuffs, screaming at the close of the play “Unnecessary farce, Unnecessary farce.” It requires a skilled actor, who is able to morph from speaking barely intelligible English with a Scottish accent into Scottish sounding gibberish, like Sid Caesar doing French, or Charlie Chaplin doing German in “The Great Dictator.” I recommend the play highly to all.
Re SUETY: You’ll find quite a few examples if you help Google along by adding a modifier to the search (ie: “very”):
“I’ve had “cornish pasties” made with puff pastry, which is silly but actually pretty good. It’s not like you can get suet easily here–the real ones are very suety.”
67 results, to be precise. For comparison, “very cuminy”, which I just made up, gets 287.
It’s not an entry worth rejecting a puzzle over, but don’t try to pretend it’s common.
Unfortunatously, “very cuminous” has no results whatsoever. Perhaps this comment will effectuate a change.
Pannonica wins. Jangler too, for bringing up the herbaceous point.
Jangler, I’m not trying to “pretend” anything. My iPhone Google app (in its iPhone default setting) does not list hit stats. I just found several pages of hits quickly, and felt they were worth mentioning… since the challenge was to find “one” example (not just Evad asked but Rex too). But, of course you are correct, it still is an uncommon adjective regardless.
Ah, I see, I was unaware of that context. Sorry for the misinterpretation.
Actually I was questioning Amy’s comment that LARDY is more common than SUETY. In my book, they’re both obscure.
It’s rare that I quit a puzzle for lack of interest but I will admit that I did so with today’s NYT. I got through the right half and the central revealer OK, but the left half of the grid was like an overcooked steak: tough and dry. I stared uncomprehendingly at it for a few minutes and decided to pass.
The puzzle reminded me of a sarcastic football cheer directed by Brown students at Harvard fans, which my brother told me about when he was at Brown: “Repulse them, repulse them; make them relinquish the ball.”
This led me to reflect that mockery is the sincerest form of flattery. I wonder how many of those Brown students had been rejected by Harvard.
Not my favorite theme or puzzle either, I’m afraid.
I liked the puzzle. It made the puzzle harder, which makes me enjoy it more. I have rarely laughed out loud at any theme entry and am frankly more likely to chuckle at a nice “aha” than a good pun.
Bruce, in my 10 years as chairman of the schools and scholarship committee for Harvard for Western New York, we had about 110 students accepted. One chose the University of Buffalo; one chose Brown; one chose Yale and the others all chose Harvard. Brown had an open rather than a core curriculum and the student who chose Brown wanted that flexibility.
Princeton’s band had a write-up in Playboy for its performance at a game with Harvard, but my favorite band performance was the tiny Holy Cross band’s salute to the letter I.
NYT: I thought it was very funny! If you live in academia, you know plenty of people who talk/ write like this! I have students, sometimes foreign born, who try to sound sophisticated by stringing big words together. I’m forever trying to fight the temptation… Keep it simple, stupid is my mantra. So, the puzzle cracked me up. I may hand it to people when they give me drafts of their papers that reek of pretentiousness.
Restating the adage, “Look before you leap”, in such a bombastic way may actually be a sly reference to the way in which so many solvers/bloggers/posters/critics concoct long-winded explanations/critiques/analyses of puzzles. Lardy, suety – so what? We all know they’re uncommon words but they fit the fill. Game over.
I’m just sayin’…
Papa, there’s usually some flexibility in filling a grid. Some constructors would simply refuse to put a word like SUETY (or plenty of crosswordese we see plenty of) in their grid, backing up and changing the surrounding fill to get rid of it. And some constructors say “Well, it’s in the dictionary, so I’ll use it.” I am in the camp that prefers the former approach over the latter.
The difference between uncommon words like SUETY and most crosswordese is that words in the former category are, at least theoretically, useful.
And please note: Not a Mother’s Day hint in sight!
But wait: before becoming a mother (or father) : POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES SHOULD BE HEEDED, because this DECISION OR PLAN CANNOT be REVERSEd!
If you have already LEAPt, Happy Mother’s Day!
I dunno about “cuminy”, but when a dictionary like RH cites an adjectival from of a word like SUET it is because they have (or had) enough usage citations on file to deem it fit for inclusion in their dictionary. However, clearly its modern usage is now rare.
FWIW, the online dictionary site based on Random House (www.infoplease.com) does not have SUETY. I presume the print version does?
Here it is in the print version.
Merl Reagle’s puzzle disappointed me a little bit, since the theme answers weren’t “trades” but simple replacements. I was expecting to find THE ANCIENT GIANT as a “trade” for THE JOLLY GREEN MARINER, for example. Or, at the least, the swapped out player should have been in another phrase, as he did for GIANT and TIGER, but none of the others. The DODGER, TWIN, ANGEL, BRAVE, and YANKEE players weren’t traded at all: I guess they were sent down to Triple A. :(
I felt the same way, but it might have been asking too much. The puzzle you were looking for might have been one of the greatest puzzles of all time; this one was merely very good.
I kind of enjoyed the NYT. Is it not cool that LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP crosses all five theme answers? Theme I haven’t seen + better-than-average(-for-Sunday) fill = thumbs up. I will agree that Deb is simply wrong to say that made-up quips are bad form. Huh? Ever heard of Frances Hansen? Just because we rarely see them anymore (thank god) doesn’t mean they’re not valid themes.
Big ups to pannonica for the deadpan Hook review…
As a general rule I do not like adages, phrases, sayings, whatever, that are the theme, any day of the week. I usually find them more tedious than fun. What I found different about this one is that the clue to the theme is the real adage going down the middle. I managed to get that early. So the fun part was trying to think like David Kahn and see what kind of pomposity I could come up with the equal the adage. Since I love pomposity I liked this puzzle a trifle more than the usual long winded adage theme. The AHA moment came with filling in 24D and the FUN part was working out the convoluted phrase that said the same thing. It was a game within a game.
Like most solvers, I preferred the non-theme answers like “LITTLE TRAMP” to the long-winded theme. A person pretending to be boring is still boring. And I think we can agree, dictionary or not, that “SUETY” is a stupid word.
I have to come here to see Deb and Jim get into a tussle?! Why am I paying the NYT for Wordplay? Anyway, tussle on. I love it.
Looking forward to next week’s mysteriously themed “HEXED” puzzle.
Not sure whether people actually understood the CRooked crossword or if it was some sort of Mother’s Day Joke. /:
Once again, I’m baffled by the reactions and ratings. To me, the best, most enjoyable puzzle of the day was Bruce Venske’s WaPo, which I just did. No car chases, computer-generated BS; just elegant, well-crafted, straightforwardly but creatively clued, varied words. Not difficult, but a model of the kind of puzzle I like. I get confused by “CS” and “WaPo”. I’m not sure whether my intended 5* rating for Bruce V’s puzzle hit the rating board or not.
Followed by Merl’s, which I found entertaining, amusing and creative.