Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica)
WaPo 17:45 (Sam)
CS 30ish (Dave)
Tracy Bennett’s New York Times crossword, “Artful Thinking”
I believe this is Tracy’s NYT debut, and it’s a good one. Deft puns with artists’ names:
- 23a. [Artist’s favorite spiritual?], WADE IN THE WATTEAU. “… water.”
- 43a. [Christmas song line from an artist?], ‘TIS THE CEZANNE. “… season.”
- 68a. [Artist’s favorite Broadway musical?], HELLO DALI. “Hello Dolly.”
- 89a. [Artist’s expression for “Such is life”?], QUE SERA SEURAT. “… sera.”
- 112a. [How the expert artist passed her exam?], WITH FLYING KAHLOS. “… colors.”
- 15d. [Artist’s line of weary resignation?], HERE WE GAUGUIN. “Here we go again.”
- 41d. [What the tipsy artist had at the bar?], ONE TOO MANET. “… many.” Note that this theme answer crosses three others. Intricate interlacing!
- 56d. [What the artist confused people with?], SMOKE AND MIROS. “… mirrors.”
Generally smooth fill, with lots of good longish answers: PERCOCET, colloquial ON BOARD, HOT SPOTS, unusual BOODLES ([Monetary bribes, in slang]), AQUAMAN, SHAKA Zulu. Roman POLANSKI above NO BALLS. PAKISTAN with a movie clue. The trio of HOP A CAB, CATCH A BUS, and GET A TAN (what? getting a tan can get you further in some areas). PEPSI-COLA. A lawn SPRINKLER. The BEE STING that’s an [Apiarist’s woe]—crossworder Doug Brown is a beekeeper and has a spreadsheet of his 31 stings. Another Facebook friend got 12 stings at once recently, and loathes the between-the-toes bee stings most.
It’s also nice to have an answer like JINX at 1-Across, and to see SALMA Hayek in the same puzzle as a Frida KAHLO theme answer (she portrayed the artist in the film Frida). There are some tough names scattered throughout the puzzle (e.g., AKEEM, NAISH), but the puzzle fell for me in a standard Sunday amount of time.
Did not know: 100d. [Phycologist’s study], ALGAE. Phycology is new(ish) to me.
I don’t care to see COEDS clued as if it’s a modern-day non-porny term. It isn’t. (Go ahead and Google it. Wikipedia’s article on mixed-sex education and a couple dictionary pages join a bunch of porny crap on the first page of results. The noun is absolutely besmirched.) [What Morehouse College lacks] is female students. [Students Yale first admitted in 1969] would be markedly better.
4.33 stars. Keep the puzzles coming, Tracy!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “One Fine Day at the Health Expo”
Overall, I liked this healthy-eating pun theme. A couple “meh” theme answers and a few rough spots in the fill, but overall a good ride. Here’s the theme:
- 21a. [Greeting heard at the health expo?], ALOE EVERYBODY. “Hello, everybody.”
- 25a. [Food-sampling sign at the seaweed booth?], KELP YOURSELF. “Help yourself.”
- 41a, 50a. [With 50 Across, meat-lover’s reason for not sampling the cereal?], I’M MUESLI MORE OF A / STEAK EATER. “I’m usually more…” Doesn’t quite work, does it? “I’m muesli more” is just nonsense.
- 57a. [Tune heard at the natural-soup exhibit?], THAT’S LENTIL-TAINMENT. “That’s Entertainment.”
- 69a, 80a. [With 80 Across, song heard at the “Berries Go with Everything” booth?], DON’T IT MAKE / MY BROWN RICE BLUE? “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
- 97a. [Country with its own health-food booth at the expo?], YOGURTSLAVIA. Yugoslavia.
- 106a. [Like “regrets,” as heard at the “My Whey” booth?], TOFU TO MENTION. “Too few to mention.” Is “too few regrets to mention” a thing? “Tofu to mention” works … not at all, in terms of grammar.
- 8a. [Undergraduate deg. for future pastors or Bible school teachers], BRE. What, B.Re.? Never seen that in my life. Looking this up … It’s B.R.E., bachelor of religious education.
- 9d. [Colorful freshwater minnows], REDFINS. There are a number of “redfin ___” fish. I checked Wikipedia for “redfin minnow” and it referred me to this endangered not-really-a-minnow of Lesotho. Is there some more familiar redfin minnow that we are supposed to have heard of? (Note that there’s a real estate listing website called Redfin—which I only heard of this week, when a friend emailed the Redfin listing for the house she’s buying—but that’s not going to take a plural.)
- 17d. [Temple city east of Lisbon], EVORA. Roman temple. Population 57,000.
- 26d. [Atoll bought by Marlon Brando], TETIAROA. Anyone else try ROTOAROA first? No? Just me?
- 40d. [Monroe-Cotten film], NIAGARA. Entirely familiar place name, but I didn’t know Marilyn Monroe was in a 1953 movie by that name.
Favorite fill: TWO-BY-FOURS used by HOME BUILDERS. NONE TOO SOON. POKES FUN AT. 3d: [“We’re sitting on ___!”] A GOLD MINE—yes, it’s a long partial, but it’s lively.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
It’s very rare for a constructor to have a signature style that sets him or her apart from all other constructors, but I am very certain I would recognize a puzzle by Bob Klahn even without seeing his byline. Here are some of the hallmarks of his ouevre:
- Fun with clues: alliteration, such as today’s [Father figure?] for PADRE, [Burden bearer] for BEAST, [Waste watchers?] for EPA and [Northern nomad] for LAPP, to pairing adjoining clues, such as [Pass] for OPT OUT next to [“I’ll pass] for NAH.
- Solid fill by not pushing the grid limits: today’s themeless was a reasonable 70 words with no overly flashy heroics.
- Inclusion of a “mini-theme”: today, the two longest across entries are [Colin Dexter’s crossword-solving sleuth], who is INSPECTOR MORSE, paired with the [Best-selling novelist of all time, according to the Guinness Book of World Records], or the mystery author AGATHA CHRISTIE.
- Fair, but very tough, solve: today’s puzzle took me almost 30 minutes, and many times I felt on the verge of being completely stuck, most hopelessly in the upper left, where I had IMF, IMBIBE, PEKE and BREAK INTO, but nothing else for the longest time. It wasn’t until I made the connection between [Eliot’s weaver] and George Eliot’s Silas MARNER: The Weaver of Raveloe, did I finally see FIESTA, NAPA and MAIN EVENT for [Ring feature] (I was thinking of a wedding ring, of course).
Today’s puzzle had a bit of what some might call words (or abbreviations) only found in crosswords–the ACAI berry, AGIO for [Currency exchange fee], ISTS for [Believers at the end?], and ID NO for [Security figure, briefly], but they are generally redeemed by clever (and misleading) clues. I guess my only real problem was with the repetition of ON in ON TOAST and ON PAROLE, particularly because the former feels a bit incomplete as a stand-alone phrase.
These are all very minor nits in what is another consistently excellent and enjoyable challenge from one of today’s masters of the themeless puzzle.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 172”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I’ve often described freestyle crosswords as a “tale of two solves,” nearly always meaning that part of the puzzle was comparatively easy while the rest was a Gordian Knot. But this week’s 70/29 freestyle from our friend, Doug Peterson, was a tale of two solves in a different way. At the seven-minute mark, I got a phone call I had to take. The call led to an errand I had to perform right away, and before I knew it I was hours removed from the puzzle. By the time I came back to finish it, I had forgotten most of what had me flummoxed. Luckily my solving software stopped the timer when I moved away, and my 64% complete grid was there waiting for me to finish.
I took a quick screenshot so you can see that to which I returned–it’s pasted beneath the completed grid. From this partially completed grid it’s easy to see the answers that came to me quickly. The first long entry to give me some meaningful traction was SIRIUS XM, Howard [Stern’s home]. I have satellite radio in my car, so this was a gimme for me (now that I think of it, “gimme for me” is redundant–a gimme for someone else would be a gim-else, not a gim-me). I got lucky taking a chance with SEMINAR as the [Advanced course] and MAV, short for a Dallas Maverick, as the Houston [Rocket rival, briefly]. Those Downs, combined with ANGORA CAT, the [Companion for Bond villain Blofeld], helped the southeast corner fall in short order.
Speaking of the southeast corner, let’s pause for a moment to give props to the clue for DOMO, [Major finish?]. Experienced solvers almost instinctively expect the answer to be ETTE, so the unexpected answer here really makes the clue shine. Just as a fresh clue improves stale fill, a fresh answer improves a stale clue.
Okay, back to our review. It’s kind of fun to see the mistakes I would later have to correct, like having EWW instead of ICK for [“Gross!”], TOTS instead of SIBS for the [Backseat sharers, often], and figuring that the answer to [Really clean] would somehow end in UP (nope–it was just SCRUB). My favorite error, though, was ANTER as [One taking pot shots?]. We always see “pot”-related references in clues for ANTE, ANTES, and ANTE UP, so I figured this could be a great clue for a fugly entry like ANTER. Tsk tsk! I should have known that Doug wouldn’t tolerate such dreck in his grids. Turned out that the answer, TOKER, was a reference to a different kind of pot. Still a great clue, but the answer is much better than my first guess.
Those consecutive errors in the northwest made things tough, but I’d like to think that’s a tricky corner even without my errors. CIO-CIO SAN doesn’t come immediately to my mind, at least, so I needed all the crossings to get the [“Madame Butterfly” heroine]. And neither MORAVIA, the [Czech region that borders Slovakia], nor ISAIAH, the [Source of “they shall beat their swords into plowshares”] is especially familiar to this heathen. I did like the clues for CORKBOARD ([Tacky wall hanging?]) and CARRIES ([Stocks]), however.
The northeast also had a couple of entries that gave me trouble. I’m not sure how [Gets ready to run] is a perfect clue for REDACTS. To my ear, to redact something is to remove identifying information so as to make it suitable to publication. Yes, something published can be “run” on the presses, but redaction is not required for every publication. So that clue seemed off to me. But my dictionary indicates that “redact” does not necessarily involve removal of identifying information; it can refer simply to editing before publication. In that sense, then, I suppose the clue is legit. The other one that plagued me is BERTRAM, the [“All’s Well That Ends Well” count]. Given it was one of the last answers to fall, I suppose all did not end well for me.
Some clues and answers of note:
- I’m not hip, and I don’t play one on television. So I haven’t the foggiest what CDR, the [Modern mixtape medium, for short], stands for. The internets suggest “crude death rate,” “clinical data repository,” and “carbon dioxide removal,” among other things–and I’m guessing none of those is right. To me, a mixtape CD would be pretty darn modern. I like how the tennagers in the wonderful film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, make mixtapes for each other using, you know, cassette tapes. When I saw that, the already-endearing characters became ten times more adorable.
- A ROAD ATLAS is indeed a [GPS forerunner]. Once upon a time (say, ten years ago), every well-equipped car had a road atlas in the passenger seat (they couldn’t fit in the glove compartment). I wonder how much GPS has hurt Rand McNally’s revenues in the last few years.
- Am I crazy or is [Having no fear of commitment?] a great clue for SANE? I also loved [Decent] for CLAD. Trust me, that’s the only way I look decent.
- [White-collar workers?] is a pretty easy clue for PRIESTS, but I liked it a lot.
- [Malibu reservoir] sure had me fooled for a long time. But when you think of the Chevy Malibu, suddenly GAS TANK becomes an easy answer.
- Stress the second syllable in [Confines] and you’re sure that the four-letter answer has to end with -S. But stress the first syllable just for fun and you realize the answer can be AREA, the correct choice for this grid.
Favorite entry = PHONE TAG, and it even sports my second favorite clue, [String of misses?]. Favorite clue = [Hangout for Leonardo and friends]. At first I thought I needed a five-letter Italian city, like maybe SIENA. But I was delighted to see it was SEWER, for the Leonardo in the clue is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, not the Renaissance master. That was a fun revelation.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Fin Fun” — pannonica’s write-up
Quick write-up, as I have obligations all day. Hook lands a barrel’s worth of fish-stocked puns—all appearing as celebrity names—in this offering.
- 18a. [Fishy TV judge] SALMON COWELL (Simon).
- 22a. [Fishy explorer?] SHARK COUSTEAU (Jacques).
- 62a. [Fishy author?] BREAM STOKER (Bram).
- 69a. [Fishy talk-show host?] MORAY POVICH (Maury).
- 113a. [Fishy ballplayer?] HALIBUT PUJOLS (Albert). Thank goodness the surnames are unchanged, because I would have had no idea who this person is supposed to be.
- 117a. [Fishy actress?] SKATE WINSLET (Kate).
- 15d. [Fishy singer?] TUNA TURNER (Tina).
- 37d. [Fishy actor?] FLUKE WILSON (Luke).
- 69d. [Fishy actress?] MANTA BYNES (Amanda).
Yup, puns in overdrive. What helps make it more palatable is that the mechanics of the theme are strongly constrained. Hallmarks of Hook’s style are present: fully stacked pairs of themers (18a/27a; 113a/117a), down and across theme answers intersecting, often multiple times.
Notable lowlights that stuck in my craw while solving, and were still there after the puzzle was reeled in: 14d [Annoying sort] IRKER, 119a [Grump] SOUR ONE; not because they’re negative and related, but because they feel arbitrary and not-in-the-language. 118a [Crunch maker] NESTLÉ’S; the company name is Nestlé and that’s also what it says on the wrapper of the cited candy bar. Some unknowns: 6d SCORIA [Slag], 57a KTLA [California station since 1947].
Possibly favorite clue: 47a [Ancients, for instance] ANAGRAM. Also, 84a [Prohias’s adversaries] SPIES; “‘Spy vs. Spy,’ –••• –•–– •––• •–• ––– •••• •• •– •••”
And now it’s time to make like the one that got away. CIAO! (108d).
Amy Johnson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Child’s Play”
I feel like I’ve seen this sort of theme before, maybe in a daily puzzle. No matter; it works. The name of the game is phrases that end with words that double as kids’ toys:
- 22a. [Obstacles], STUMBLING BLOCKS.
- 32a. [Wild pair, sometimes], ONE-EYED JACKS.
- 50a. [“The Phantom of the Opera” setting], MASQUERADE BALL.
- 65a. [Morsel mentioned in ’80s Australian tourism ads], SHRIMP ON THE BARBIE. Why would anyone ever say to “put another shrimp on the barbie”? Just one shrimp? Not a whole batch of shrimp? Are Australian prawns gigantic?
- 85a. [Abstained, in a way], WENT ON THE WAGON. The “went” feels off to me.
- 97a. [Take the gold], COME OUT ON TOP.
- 114a. [Snap], LOSE YOUR MARBLES.
Don’t ask me why, but I filled in TAROT for 103d. [Certain follower’s reading]. Turned out to be TWEET.
Highlights in the fill: PEACE SIGN, MT FUJI, B MOVIES, AS WE SPEAK.
Toughest crossing, I bet: 46a. [Aquarium fish], OPAH, meets 48d. [__ marsala], ALLA, at the first A.
On the whole, the fill tends to be fairly ordinary. 3.5 stars.
NYT Too many artists not known. Too many things not known. Lost patience with this one.
BTW Nearly 50 ratings less than an hour after puzzle available? Seems strange.
Those were the ratings from last Sunday, an artefact of the codes not being completely updated. Fixed.
Speaking of Manet at the bar, his famous “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère,” besides being a masterpiece, is significant in that it depicts a bottle of Bass Ale, with its distinctive red triangle, the first commercial trademark registered under the UK’s Trade Mark Registration Act. Also, BOODLE’S gin (founded 1762) has a great bottle, looking like an oversize cologne.
Thanks for fixing that, pannonica. This is what happens when I blog and run.
Also, even if it isn’t the most exquisite gin, it’s always fun to say, “Another Boodle’s martini, dahrling?”
Out of curiosity, which artists were unfamiliar to you, RK? I would think Watteau is the least well-known (and rightfully, blessedly so), but which others?
Watteau at least has historical significance. We had to study him when I took Fine Arts in college. I believe he died young. I do agree that baroque/rococo is not the most incandescent art.
I would think that even though she is more recent, that fewer people would know about Kahlo. Although if you know her paintings, you know her ;)
I like puzzles like this and enjoyed this one a great deal. Not very hard for me unlike the Fri, and Sat. puzzles.
Kahlo has social and feminist currency as well as (some) artistic significance.
AND she was recently featured in a Google doodle. A very nice debut: clever puns, solid fill, impressive interlock in the center. Also, a timely theme given this is the Artscape festival weekend in Baltimore.
Khalo and Watteau were the only ones really. I just didn’t have the patience for working through this puzzle today, and there were answers I just didn’t know.
I think I remember that Cezanne was a forerunner of cubism.
Bury me at the cross of TETIAROA and THAT’S LENTIL-TAINMENT.
First, I would like to say how pleased I am that Amy’s review is different from Rex’s critique, hers being more positive.
Second, I didn’t realize that COED had fallen into such ill repute. I actually like that term. Of course, it has become someone superfluous since most colleges have gone coed. After all, we now say flight attendant instead of stewardess. I thought the more interesting word was GAY, used in connection with PAREE, the old fashioned way before it was hijacked. I remember my mommy taking me to see The Gay Caballero, or maybe it was The Three Caballeros. It was a long time ago.
Third, I agree with Rex more than with Amy about this puzzle, strained puns and whatever. But it is certainly a good effort for a debut and bully for Amy in pointing out its strengths.
CONGRATS Tracy. I loved it. I look forward to more from you. I thought the puns were terrific and that it was enterprising of you to pick a so challenging theme. To my mind, the artists are well-known and mainstream, which I thought was a plus. (I don’t have as negative an opinion of Watteau as Pannonica evidently does.)
I remember once when I was going to school on the Upper West Side in the 60’s, Salvador Dali made an appearance at Columbia, and the students welcomed him with a rousing chorus of “Hello Dolly”. Needless to say, he was delighted, though I’m guessing he had heard it before.
“[Like “regrets,” as heard at the “My Whey” booth?], TOFU TO MENTION. “Too few to mention.” Is “too few regrets to mention” a thing? “Tofu to mention” works … not at all, in terms of grammar.”
It works if you know the Sinatra song “My Way” and the lyric “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”.
I don’t know what part of the country, or maybe universe, this setter is from, but it sure isn’t my ear. I don’t think I found one pun even a remote sound-alike, and some were just beyond belief. Since when does GAUGUIN have three syllables? I don’t want even to go beyond that example, lest I sound pedantic, but it was not just grating, but totally unhelpful for me as a solver. (“Season” rhyming, in effect, with “days ON”? “Water” with “watt TOE”?) Oh, and plural forms of artists.
Add in that I hadn’t heard of the spiritual and don’t think of “smoke and mirrors” as a disguise for people, of all things, so two big entries almost out reach. Then fill like JAWA and XCE crossing the spiritual and the cluster of ALMA, CALEB, SELMA, and SHEKA not far from HATHA, AKEEM, NAISH, and THEO.
I’m calling this easily among my least favorite puzzles of all time.
Hey, John, how ya been?
If you think the NYT puns were a stretch, check out Hook’s offering for today.
You might recheck that SELMA/SHEKA crossing…
The plurals would be not of the artists, but their works (though somehow Miros bothered me also – maybe because I was finding the puzzle difficult).
What I said just above doesn’t make sense. The theme is artists’ names inserted anywhere, so that’s what makes the plural OK, though I didn’t like the plural either. I wish I could delete my comment above (and then this one).
I thought the puzzle was OK, although something of a grind. Took me a long time to finally get JINX. I knew all the artists, being that I’m a museum rat since forever, and I agree the puns were mostly groaners– but, y’know, they’re puns. Though WADEINTHEWATTEAU was weak, I agree, on the grounds of being both a bad pun and an obscure spiritual. Can’t help wondering what the original clue for NOBALLS was…
Last night, I gave the NYTimes puzzle 3 stars and was surprised to see that mine was the only unenthusiastic rating. I returned this morning and was pleased to see that I’m not alone in finding fault. I thought the puzzle was ambitious, and some of the puns worked pretty well, esp. HELLO DALI and QUE SERA SEURAT. But even though I knew all the artists, I thought the puns involving Watteau, Gauguin, and Kahlo were too much of a stretch in terms of sound.
NYT: I agree both that the concept is clever and that some of the puns seemed strained. But I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best judge of puns. Since I learned these artists’ names before I learned English, my pronunciation of their names is probably atypical. Still, Gauguin sounded like a real stretch, and others seem to agree.
However, I did appreciate the intricate construction and the additional long answers.
Impressive first puzzle!
An Art Appreciation pun: Q. How old was post-Impressionist Paul when he painted his self-portraits? A. Seize ans.
Boy, I thought Doug’s Post Puzzler was a superb themeless. Very tough, but fair. The kind of puzzle you feel satisfied finishing. 5 stars from me.
Thanks, Alan! Glad you liked it.
Sorry, but I’ve gotta call foul on Dave’s statement (in his CS review) that the ACAI berry is only commonly found in crosswords. Maybe in a decade, but right now the ACAI berry is so hip and trendy that it’s in practically every second juice in Safeway’s juice aisle.
Tracy, I admire your receptive style. To genuinely value and use input even if it is critical is not only gracious, it’s a talent. To my mind, it’s the only path to excellence.
PS. I meant to reply to Tracy. But Martin, I admire your style as well :)
Thanks for the write-up and all the comments! I read every word and learn what I can. As a solver I really love puns, the groanier the better, but they are surely not for everyone, and I know that. A good friend actually rolled her eyes at me when I pitched this to her. And when it got picked up, I was simultaneously thrilled and cognizant of the fact that I’d encounter some pans in the mix of reactions. It’s all good… or it’s all bad maybe.
As a relative newbie, naticks haven’t really been on my radar, although as a solver they frustrate me. Now they are on the radar. COED is on the radar, as an entry and how it might be clued.
Another fan of your debut puzzle, a little late to the comments, but I hope you see this.
As an infrequent constructor, I believe the pun theme is very very hard to pull off and you did it with aplomb, especially the intricate lacing that Amy alludes to. This was a crunchy puzzle in the sense that it took some time to unravel but that’s what Sundays are about (for me, at least). Loved most of the puns, and those that I found to be a stretch, oh well, I can’t enjoy them all!
So, keep constructing, and look forward to more gems.
“Toughest crossing, I bet: 46a. [Aquarium fish], OPAH, meets 48d. [__ marsala], ALLA, at the first A.”
Even tougher for some of us since the opah is not an aquarium fish. Rich has been apprised and says it won’t happen again :=).
enjoyed tracy’s puns lots but struggled quite a bit w/ doug’s wapo — in different places than sam, though. i was off ‘n’ runnin’ in the nw, quickly entering CIOCIO SAN. not so in the sw, where ESCAPE escaped me for far too long (and where OATMEAL was not my friend…)
but to my delight, bob’s cs was a reasonably smooth solve. thank you, STEAM HEAT, for gettin’ the ball rollin’. my big goof there though? confidently entering ENDEAVOUR MORSE at 19a. so much for bein’ a smarty pants!
I posted a comment early this morning. Somehow the comment posted twice, so I requested deletion of one of them, but both got deleted. All life is struggle. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I did want to tell Tracy that I loved her (his?) debut puzzle, gave it 5 *; and that from my point of view, the artists were all well-known and main stream, which I appreciated. I also remarked that I thought it was enterprising of her (him?) to pick a so challenging theme.
Whoops, sorry, Bruce. Comment restored.
That’s OK, Amy. I didn’t mean that even remotely as a criticism of you. Hardly,with all the work you do on this blog.
Merle outdid himself with inane puns. A real bore this week “TOFU TO MENTION”? Really? Be serious – but not too.
See HH above for the explanation of that one.
Unless the puns are pretty much all exact homophones, you’re probably never going to please all solvers with this type of puzzle. Which, IMO is a shame :(