Friday, May 24, 2013

NYT 6:03 (Jeffrey – paper and pencil) 
LAT 5:52 (Gareth) 
CS 5:07 (Dave) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Jeffrey’s review

Happy Friday, everybody. JKras here to discuss the latest JKroz creation. First the facts, courtesy of JimH at

The twelve 15-letter answers (six Across and six Down) and the 44 three-letter ones both tie the record set by David Levinson Wilk back in 2009. In fact, the shapes of the two grids are identical.

There are 36(!) squares where the 15’s cross. Gotta be gibberish right? Let’s analyze them:

  • 17A. [Is curious about] – HAS AN INTEREST IN – Fine.
  • 24A. [Off-putting?] – PROCRASTINATING – I’ll talk about this one later.
  • 31A. [It may help you get from E to F] – GASOLINE STATION. Good clue. I was thinking musical notes. Yesterday I filled up after letting the gauge get as close to E as I ever get. I usually freak out at the ¼ mark.
  • 41A. [Bad quality for dangerous work] – CARELESS ABANDON. Alternate clue would be [Driving on E.]
  • 48A. [Barely lost] – RAN A CLOSE SECOND. Another perfectly good phrase.
  • 58A. [Drug study data] – TOLERANCE LEVELS. So far, we are far within acceptable TOLERANCE LEVELS for 15’s.

Those six cross:

  • 3D. [Notorious 1960s figure] – BOSTON STRANGLER. A little iffy, breakfast-test-wise.
  • 5D. [Company of which Thomas Edison was once a director] – GENERAL ELECTRIC.  Still no ickiness.
  • 6D. [Greets with a beep] – HONKS ONE’S HORN AT. Alert! Alert! The dreaded ONE’s has been spotted! Please step away from the puzzle, and keep ONE’s hands up!!
  • 8D. [Doctoral candidate’s starting point] – THESIS STATEMENT. Ok, I guess. I don’t have no fancy PhD, so I can’t judge. I have a CPA, so I can add.
  • 9D. [Large portion of Africa] – THE SAHARA DESERT. This ONE was also in Mr. Wilk’s puzzle. No biggie.
  • 11D. [Source of hardwood?] – PETRIFIED FOREST. Cute clue from Joe/Will.

One is satisfied with the quality of these entries.

Now, let’s do a detailed review of the 44 three-letter words:

Kidding! They work. I’m sure everybody can find one or two that don’t thrill you, but I did not cringe at any.

Crossing I bet some of you had trouble with:

  •  65A. [Georges who wrote “Life: A User’s Manual”] – PEREC/49D. [Tropical lizard] – ANOLE

52D. [“I’m serious!”] – NO LIE. That wasn’t so bad, huh?

I hope, like me,  Everybody had fun tonight! 1D. [“___ of fools sailing on” (Wang Chung lyric)] – A SHIP


Victor Fleming’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Signature Styles” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 5/24/13 • “Signature Styles” • Fleming • solution

This is a fine example of a CHE crossword, solid on its own in grid and clue, with a theme that taps into what I call the Higher Education Vibe™. In this case it involves literature and language.

35-across, dead center, sells it: [Like the answers at 17-, 21-, 52-, and 56-Across]. They’re all EPONYMOUS adjectives, derived from authors’ names.

  • 17a. [Oppressively impoverished, in a way] DICKENSIAN.
  • 21a. [Passionately rebellious, in a way] BYRONIC.
  • 52a. [Hellishly bizarre, in a way] DANTEAN.
  • 56a. [Nightmarishly illogical, in a way] KAFKAESQUE.

Points for using the four most common endings for such adjectives, once each (though -ian and -ean are just variations of each other). More points for succinctly and consistently (adverb-adjective) characterizing said adjectives. Don’t know if the echoic “in a way” after each definition is necessary, but neither are they so ritzy so as to distract unnecessarily.

Nifty triple-sevens in the four corners: REDCAPS / ORIOLES/ MR CLEAN(sian); SLANTED / VISIBLE / PASCALS (Pascalean?); MACDUFF(ian) / IMPANEL / SO-AND-SO(esque); BRUSQUE / EN ROUTE / TENSE UP.


  • Misfills: 19a [Free ticket] COMP for PASS; 46a [British composer Thomas] A–––, ADÈS for ARNE.
  • 45a [Canoeing spot] POND, 49d [Canoeing spots] LAKES. Who canoes in a pond?
  • Bonus eponymous adjectives: ELIAn, EWELLian, ARNEan, SATURNine, TUTUesque, ARIc, TANYAn, STROMbose, KENnic.

Enjoyable, above-average puzzle.

Updated Frisday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Outer Layer” – Dave Sullivan’s review

One of my favorite CrosSynergy (or anywhere, for that matter) constructors, Lynn Lempel, reinterprets the word “layer” in the title as something that lays, in this case a HEN:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 05/24/13

  • [Common ailment whose name falsely describes it] clues an ailment I suffer the chronic version of: HEARTBURN. I demonstrated my lack of older movie knowledge in yesterday’s post, but isn’t Heartburn a more recent movie title as well? I’ll take HH’s advice and check the imdb.
  • A [Highly emotional state often used as an alibi] isn’t “the dog ate my homework,” but in the HEAT OF PASSION. Not a very effective alibi in most courts of law, I’m afraid, but perhaps it resonates more in the court of public opinion.
  • [Party bobber on a string] clues HELIUM BALLOON. Hand up if when you read the word “party” and “bobber” together, you think of apples.
  • [Lousy forecast for picnic planners] clues something our state is experiencing a lot of in the last few days, HEAVY RAIN. Forecasters are even predicting a bit of snow for Sunday’s Vermont City Marathon. Egads!

The “outer” part of the title is depicted by finding the letters of HEN split to the outer ends of each phrase. I like that it’s split in the same way each time (HE/N); an entry like HANDWRITTEN would work, but would be a bit inconsistent. I think it’s a bit overkill to include HEN as an entry as I’m becoming less and less receptive to revealing entries and like the extra challenge of figuring out the theme on my own. My FAVE entry this morning is the long down DELIGHTFUL, since that’s my impression of this puzzle. I also liked the entry TOFU over CRUNCH, thinking that could be a new protein-rich breakfast cereal name. Unfortunately, I have to award my UNFAVE entry to the old-timey BEWAIL. Not a word I use very often, but then again, I’m not one to [Lament] much either.

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review

LA Times

Interesting theme. I remember well a variation of this made by joon pahk. It was Sunday-sized! This one has an added layer though. The theme can be explained as follows: Each answer’s second half is a card game. The first half is clued “?”-style as though it were modifying said card game, although in the original phrase the second half isn’t a card game. I think I’ve made this a lot more complicated than it is!

Anyway, the answers are as follows:

  • 18a, [Card game horn music?], WINDSOFWAR. Had to google to find out this was a novel by Herman Wouk set in World War II. Probably just my ignorance.
  • 25a, [Card game where one person plays all the hands?], LONELYHEARTS. Sgt. Pepper was a fan…
  • 40a, [Card game played in dugouts?], DIAMONDSOLITAIRE. Again, I had no idea what this was. I can find SOLITAIREDIAMOND, which is a jewel with a single diamond. I don’t get jewellery so my knowledge thereof is limited…
  • 55a, [Card game by the Thames?], LONDONBRIDGE
  • 66a, [Card game requiring waterproof cards?], BATHTUBGIN. If you play London Bridge at London Bridge you also need waterproof cards…

I had quite a few dilemmas today:

  • For 51a, [Mail folder], SENT… I had spam first
  • For 52d, [Conundrum], ENIGMA… I had puzzle first
  • For 54d, [Large search area], THENET… I had THENET first
  • Also 68d, [One of LBJ’s beagles], HIM could’ve been HER

Our regular olio rundown:

  • [Portly pirate] for SMEE is a simple but great clue
  • [Brightly plumed songbird], ORIOLE. The oriole species most Americans have encountered are not related to the original orioles being of a different family in the Passeriformes. Africa’s orioles, like the Blackheaded Oriole (photo from Wikipedia) are true orioles. I saw several while walking at a local reserve last weekend!
  • [1993 Fiat acquisition, MASERATI. I drive a Fiat. They also own Ferrari. I sometimes tell people I drive a small Ferrari!
  • [Popeil of infomercials], RON. Never heard of this Ron before, but he’s in both the NYT and LAT today![Iconic sales rep], AVONLADY is my favourite answer for today!
  • [“Can I go out?”], ARF. An apt arf clue! Sometimes arf clues reference big dogs, but this one is size-neutral. IMO only little stoepkakkers go arf, to use a bit of local slang.

That’s me! 3.2 Stars, depending on how many others are unfamiliar with those two theme entries… And interesting twist on the category theme nonetheless and a well-filled puzzle.

Evan Birnholz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Special Education” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/24/13 • “Special Education” • Fri • Birnholz • solution

Good luck finding any of these MAJORs (98d) in a reputable course catalog.

  • 23a. [The study of Muppet news flashes?] GONZO JOURNALISM, referring to the beak-nosed character.
  • 32a. [The study of erotic literature?] BODY ENGLISH. Am now thinking of The Pillow Book, but “body Chinese” is iffy at very best.
  • 50a. [The study of the Springfield Isotopes?] TEAM CHEMISTRY. Simpsons reference.
  • 64a. [The study of the altered ego?] REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Not feeling this one, but perhaps that’s just how it was intended I react?
  • 86a. [The study of selling the joke] FUNNY BUSINESS.
  • 96a. [The study of great plays at the plate?] HOME THEATER. A second baseball-tinged themer?
  • 114a. [The study of magic markets?] VOODOO ECONOMICS, which doesn’t stray far from the original sense of the phrase.

Amusing theme, but it feels both a bit slight in concept and a little bumpy in execution. Fortunately, the ballast fill was overall interesting and there were some genuine clue highlights.

  • The long downs are excellent: ECOSYSTEMS, LIMESTONE [Makeup of the Great Sphinx], E-COMMERCE (undermined by 99d E-ZINE), and THAT’S RIGHT, which parallels both ways the clue [“Oh, yeah!”] can be interpreted (abrupt realization or celebratory declaration, though the comma shades it slightly more strongly to the former sense).
  • 13d [Cartesian conclusion] ––M. Once again, will it be I AM or SUM? Was hoping 10a [First name at Woodstock] would help me, but I dropped in ARLO which didn’t work with either possibility. Then I put in JELL-O at 10d for [Quivery dessert], for J––– across. JOAN Baez! No. “Oh, it’s an I for I AM, JONI Mitchell!” No. Finally I nailed it with JIMI Hendrix, boy did I feel smart. Eventually.
  • Favorite clue: the slyly deceptive 93a [Sound in one’s head] SANE, but only because TINNITUS is a little too long. Twice as long, actually. Also really liked 105a [Put on] CONNED or DONNED?
  • 45d, 62a: [Like some poetry] LYRIC crossing ODIC. 110d [Spot] SITE, 112d [Spot] ESPY (the two separated by SCUM, alas). 70d [Decrease] DROP, 71d [Increase] RISE; nice touch, especially in the WSJ, with its market-watching ways.

More deft cluing throughout, good puzzle, about average.

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25 Responses to Friday, May 24, 2013

  1. Rk says:

    Maybe NYT shoulda used this Ship of Fools by World Party

    Liked the puzzle, specially the layout.

  2. sbmanion says:

    I did not get the feel that this was a real crossword puzzle, the first time I have ever had that experience. It felt like a series of 12 trivia questions. The puzzle was very easy (except for anole/perec). but not especially enjoyable filling in all those three-letter entries.


  3. Bencoe says:

    Did not know Perec, but anole I know well.
    Liked a lot of the 15s on this one, which is great, considering how many there are. Nobody likes a “one” phrase, and “gasoline station” is something no one ever says or writes, but the rest were pretty tight.

  4. pannonica says:

    Life: a user’s manual is a wonderful if hefty book and I recommend it. Am surprised Georges PEREC is not so well known among the solverati; he has an abiding interest in playing with language and is responsible for perhaps the most famous lipogrammatic novel of our day, the e-less A Void (La Disparition in French). Oh, and ANOLE was also a gimme for me. All over the Caribbean and the southeastern US; they used to be (still are?) sold in pet stores as inexpensive “chameleons” because they can change from green to brown and points in between.

    Don’t have a problem with GASOLINE STATION, but I do with TOP UP as clued (convertible “setting”?!)—that locution isn’t “in the language” for that context. Better for it, in fact, to have been cross-referenced to that GASOLINE STATION.

    And really, has no one (I’ve peeked at other blogs) decried THE SAHARA DESERT?

    I hate ARN.

    • HH says:

      Am I the only one who wants to see ARN clued as [Device used for shootin’?]

    • John Haber says:

      Yes, I love that book, and PEREC was thus a gimme for me (and I don’t care for ARN either). I had trouble instead with the crossing of ANOLE and ALEXI. I don’t think I’ve ever called the firm P&G, and I think of OY as somewhere between disdain and aggravation rather than despair, but maybe that’s just me or New York. Loved the grid, though, and pretty much all the long answers.

    • Bencoe says:

      Thanks for the info on Perec, I definitely recall the e-less novel now that you mention it.
      Yes–my brother, growing up in North Carolina, had a pet anole which he called a “chameleon”. Spike, the anole, was a cute little guy who ate disgusting mealworms as his only diet.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I must compliment pannonica et al on the various striking illustrations like “Ein Landartz” today with the super CHE, and the “Opabinia” five-eyed fossil last week! I’m reminded of Goya’s satirical series of 80 etchings “Los Caprichos” which he withdrew from publication when they attracted the attention of the Inquisition — Most famous was “El Sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos” (The Sleep of Reason Creates Monsters”), perhaps all too pertinent in today’s politics? Anyway, many thanks…

    • pannonica says:

      Last week? Why, it was only yesterday!

      Goya is a favorite of mine, but I (wisely, I think) chose not to use the painting referenced in today’s CHE.

      Incidentally, oftentimes the images are links to other sites. Today’s goes to Koji Yamamura’s animated short of the Kafka tale.

  6. Gareth says:

    This wasn’t as bad as I was expecting… Plenty of junky three-letter answers, but none beyond the pale. Most of the spanners aren’t as exciting as they would be if there were less of them, but only HONKSONESHORNAT sounds contrived (possibly GASOLINESTATION, but I’m not American. Agree that clue is good though!). [See also @Bencoe] I actually liked the answer PETRIFIEDFOREST a lot! Also have a soft spot for ANOLE! Curiously, I considered WANGCHUNG only yesterday. Was wondering whether a “each answer starts with a computer company” theme would work… It wouldn’t.

  7. David L says:

    I liked the CS too, and Lynn Lempel’s puzzles in general, but HEATOFPASSION is not an “alibi.” Extenuating or mitigating circumstances, perhaps. An alibi is a claim that you were somewhere else when the bad stuff went down, which would be kind of implausible for a crime committed in the heat of passion.

  8. Hiram says:

    I’m curious about the 5-star votes for today’s NY Times puzzle. It’s an OK puzzle, but 5 stars? 5-star puzzles are ones that you remember fondly six months from now. What makes this puzzle memorable? The grid design? Maybe BOSTON STRANGLER? I’m not trying to pile on whipping boy Joe Krozel. I’m honestly curious.

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Back on 10/30/09, David Levinson Wilk had an NYT puzzle with the same grid that Joe Krozel used. More of DLW’s 15s were iffy, his 5s were about the same level of OKness/iffiness, and his 3s were pretty much dreadful. You know Rex Parker’s coinage, Ooxteplernon, the God of Bad Short Fill? One row in the DLW puzzle was OOX TEP LER NON. There were plenty of other “Wait, what? Is that legit?” 3-letter answers in that grid, too. Whereas in the Krozel, yes, 44 3-letter answers is a ton, but none of them were unfamiliar to me. They aren’t all terrific but not a one of his 3s is beyond the pale. No TEP, LER, CEN, OIS, or EDM to be found. Presumably Krozel’s making use of his robust database to assist with filling, while I suspect Levinson Wilk … well, I can’t say he clearly handcrafted his grid, because I don’t know where those out-there 3s came from.

    That said, I do generally find puzzles with a “I filled this grid just to prove I could” motive less compelling than “I filled this grid with the coolest stuff I could” puzzles. Other solvers really groove on the former and appreciate the empty grid as much as the filled one. I don’t much care what the empty grid looks like.

    • Jeffrey says:

      Completing the circle, it was my comment on the OOX/TEP/LER/NON line that inspired Rex’s God. I forgot it was that puzzle.

  10. Bencoe says:

    Anyone else notice that the top time for the NYT on this site is one minute? I know David, at number two…sat next to him at the ACPT and watched him finish every puzzle at least a minute before me. But somebody is lying for some strange reason if they say they beat him by 3 minutes.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Perhaps it was OOXTEPLERNON?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      People who lie to see their name on top of a list are ninnies.

      • joon says:

        benefit of the doubt: perhaps it was somebody who solved it in 1 hr, 1 min, and just made a mistake with the interface?

        today’s NYT puzzle was impressively clean. not exactly exciting, but clean. credit where it’s due. i’d rather solve a puzzle packed with fresh fill that’s also clean, but this one is better than a puzzle filled with the dreck i sometimes see in joe krozel’s puzzles. and there’s more payoff. i guess what i’m saying is that the sacrifices made to pull this stunt puzzle were not as glaring to me as the sacrifices made in the name of quad stacks or low block/word counts.

        • Lois says:

          The name that is on top of the Tmes times list is pretty magical around here — if it’s one of those, maybe it’s right, though it doesn’t seem physically possible. It isn’t the hardest puzzle in the world – it only took me one hour, one minute (kidding – I didn’t time myself).

  11. Evan says:

    Thanks for the write-up on my WSJ puzzle, pannonica.

    A little bit of background on it — I originally created it more than two years ago but didn’t submit it to the WSJ until earlier this year. I wouldn’t say it was my best creation for some of the reasons you stated, but it was the first puzzle in which, after I constructed it, I felt like I really got the hang of how to do construction right. Every other puzzle that I built before this one, in retrospect, had serious problems that, had I known better at the time, would have caused me to scrap it and start over.

    I expect that any editor will make several changes to any accepted puzzle, but it seems that Mike made some rather significant changes to mine, so I did a little number-crunching:

    1. By my count, Mike replaced 37 of my 371 letters with news ones, creating 30 different words from my original 140! I have no idea if that’s common for other constructors, and if so, how close that is to the average. I figured maybe one corner might get revised with new letters, but 10% of my letters and 21.4% of my words were brand new to me. In fact, I thought there were so many revisions, I got a little frightened that *I* might finish my own puzzle with a mistake! But fortunately, I got it right.

    2. Mike left 37 of my original clues intact, including all of the theme clues. Mike made minor changes to 34 clues, meaning he kept most of the same words but changed their order or added/deleted others; he made major changes to 39 other clues, meaning he changed most or all of the words and basically went for a completely different angle on the clue.

    A couple of other observations:

    1. I had the same difficulty with JOAN/JONI/JIMI that you did, because JIMI was not my original word there.

    2. I agree that E-ZINE detracts a little from E-COMMERCE — I didn’t have E-ZINE there when I submitted the puzzle either. Then again, my original entry in that spot was ELEMI, and that’s just not my favorite entry, so I appreciate Mike’s revisions in that corner.

    3. For the clue on TEAM CHEMISTRY, I went back-and-forth between the Simpsons’ reference and a more generic clue like “The study of athletic groups who play in the elements?”

    4. My favorite clue of the bunch is “Cat o’ no tails” for MANX, but that wasn’t even mine — it was originally my wife’s suggestion! My favorite clue that was mine is “Goes out with a Cougar, say” for DRIVES.

    • Bob Kerfuffle says:

      1 A and 19 A were totally unknown to me, so even with GONZO . . . and STEAMED in place, I thought 2 D was a real RIOT, which made that NW corner my last to be filled. (And of course I also had ARLO before JIMI.)

      • Evan says:

        I have a feeling that Mike upped the difficulty bigtime in that corner. My clue for 1-Across was “Pequod’s prey.” For 19-Across, it was “Like a column with a scroll-shaped top.” And for 2-Down, it was “Nocturnal noise.”

    • RK says:

      I enjoyed solving it. Thanks.

  12. Golfballman says:

    NYT and LAT both with a Ron Popeil clue what are the odds?

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