Sunday, July 28, 2013

NYT 8:58 
Reagle 7:49 
LAT 6:46 
Hex/Hook tk (pannonica) 
WaPo 16:18 (Gareth) 
CS 7:01 (Dave) 

Andrew Reynolds’s New York Times crossword, “Fast Work”

NY Times crossword solution, 7 28 13, “Work Fast” by Andrew Reynolds

Factual theme plus a word-laddery thing this week: Henry Ford’s industrial achievement rendered visually in the assembly of a MODEL T.

  • 62a. [Like the 116-Across], MASS-PRODUCED.
  • 5d. [Business titan born July 30, 1863], HENRY FORD. 150 years old on Tuesday.
  • 16d. [Feature of a 57-Down], CONVEYOR BELT.
  • 57d. [5-Down innovation], ASSEMBLY LINE.
  • 78d. [116-Across, colloquially], TIN LIZZIE.
  • 85d. [Where 5-Down’s company gets an “F”?], NYSE.
  • And then the circled letters in this 20×21 grid, aligned on their right edge, take us from M to MO to MOD to MODE to MODEL to MODEL T, 116a. [5-Down unit]. The M scoots over one slot on the conveyor belt with each additional step. It’s neat that the middle steps are all in 9-letter answers.

Favorite bits:

  • 105a. [Polo ground?], ORIENT. Marco Polo.
  • 12d. [Hip-hop’s ___ Def], MOS, aka Yasiin Bey. Because he was brave enough to try the Guantanamo forced feeding method, for the Guardian. (Not an easy video to watch. It’s 4 minutes of difficult viewing.)
  • 3d. [2012 Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series]. HOMELAND. Yet another critically praised show I should watch, but haven’t. (I’ve seen episode 1 of Breaking Bad, one episode of the current season of Dexter, none of The Wire, and none of the Or…Black shows, Orange Is the New Black and Orphan Black.)
  • 40d. [Off course], AFIELD. Along with akimbo, awry, askance, and amok, an a- word I like. (Hope to never see AGLARE, ASTARE, or ATIPTOE in another crossword.)

“Huh?” moments:

  • 101d. [Status quo ___], ANTE. The phrase means “the previously existing state of affairs,” but I’ve never seen it before.
  • 58d. [Latin 101 verb], ESSE. I had ERAT first. Then I went with ESTE, which may not be Latin at all, which left me with an error in 69a. [Auto safety feature, for short], ABS or antilock braking system, not ABT. Always want the abbrev to be ALB, as the not Locking is more important than the System aspect. And I know there is a car theme here, but when you’ve got an abbreviation crossing a Latin word it would be kind to clue ABS as the abdominal muscles.

I didn’t particularly feel like I was ever in a groove with this puzzle. Wasn’t really enjoying the solve. 3.75 stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “If I Wrote the Dictionary”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword answers, 7 28 13 “If I Wrote the Dictionary”

Really clever and interesting theme—if Merl wrote the dictionary, we’d have the following daffynitions:

  • 21a. [(n.) the study of temper tantrums through the ages], HISTRIONICS.
  • 23a. [(adj.) pertaining to praise], TRIBUTARY.
  • 34a. [(adj.) before the “chicken or egg” concept originated], PREHENSILE.
  • 37a. [(adj.) having the smell of abandoned sweatshops], OLFACTORY.
  • 45a. [(n.) clothing], GARBAGE.
  • 47a. [(n.) a female goat], BUTTRESS. A female “butter.”
  • 66a. [(adj.) contradictory; out of touch with reality (said of legislators)], INCONGRUOUS.
  • 85a. [(n.) a lipstick store], GLOSSARY.
  • 87a. [(n.) animal that’s half horse, half cow], EQUINOX. This one’s my favorite.
  • 96a. [(n.) the tendency of a dog or cat to get annoyed easily], PETULANCE.
  • 100a. [(n.) a spinning device used in underground laboratories], SUBTERFUGE.
  • 110a. [(adj.) consisting of a single stanza, in music], UNIVERSAL. Did you know that the “verse” in universe is from the Latin versus, or “turned,” or “one + turned = combined into one,” and the poetry sort of “verse” is from the Latin versus, “a turn of the plow, a furrow, a line of writing”? So that oddball word boustrophedon, for text written from left to right and then from right to left in the next row and from the Greek for “as an ox turns in plowing,” ties right in to this plowing sense of “verse.”
  • 113a. [(adj.) having a predilection for French bread], PROCRUSTEAN.
  • 2d. [(v.) to revoke the license of a business operator], DISENFRANCHISE.
  • 49d. [(n.) removal of a non-elected figure from office], DISAPPOINTMENT. My second favorite theme answer.

Hang on, is that really 15 theme answers? Each one is a little mental puzzle unto itself, playing on meanings of words and word fragments, breaking words up with a vaguely cryptic-crossword vibe.

Solid fill, too. Highlights include CON MAN beside MAILBOX, CONTORTED just begging for a “with rich cake” daffynition, UP FRONT, and EVIL EYE. I don’t recall hearing the Scowl-o-Meter act up while solving this puzzle.

4.5 stars from me. Loved this theme!

Ed Sessa’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Networking”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 7 28 13, “Networking” by Ed Sessa

The revealer is lurking in a semi-unexpected spot, not in the bottom row or corner. 91d: [Weekly magazine where the initials of the answers to starred clues can be found] is TV GUIDE, and each of the starred entries has the same initials as a TV/cable network:

  • 27a. [*”Perhaps”], THERE’S NO TELLING.
  • 41a. [*Snacks not needing an oven], NO-BAKE COOKIES.
  • 41a. [*Snacks not needing an oven], AT MY COMMAND.
  • 78a. [Signature song for Sammy Davis Jr.], THE CANDY MAN. Here you go. It’s the sort of song that would never, ever land in the top 40 now. This one was #1 for three weeks straight. (Clue’s missing its asterisk.)
  • 88a. [*Practically guaranteed], ALL BUT CERTAIN.
  • 107a. [*Ambushed], TAKEN BY SURPRISE.
  • 16d. [*Fair forecast], CLEAR BLUE SKIES.
  • 48d. [*Settling request], PLEASE BE SEATED.

I like those corners with the stacked 9s alongside theme answers. EINSTEINS, SEE THINGS, PROBOSCIS, and LEGAL CODE are all solid. (I do encourage you to peruse the results of a Google image search on proboscis monkey. I’m not sure that the big, floppy nose is the creature’s most alarming appendage.) TATER TOT and FILE PAST are nice, too. The shorter fill is less exciting, with lowlights like EDESSA and anchors ATRIP.

3.66 stars from me. Solid, not particularly thrilling, nice “aha” moment when I hit the TV GUIDE revealer (having not noticed the initials thing on my own).

Updated Sunday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A bit of a “mini-theme” in today’s “freestyle” (a more appropriate term than “themeless”) CrosSynergy puzzle by constructor Bruce Venzke, two entries that are explicitly part of it, and one puzzle aspect that may also be:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 07/28/13

  • [Shape of mystery?] clues the BERMUDA TRIANGLE – are there other shapes that are also mysterious? How about the “eerie square” or the “creepy dodecahedron”?
  • [5-Down, for some] is POINT OF NO RETURNPhantom fans should immediately think of this number.

So luckily for this solver, I was able to venture into these uncharted waters and return unscathed. The other element I alluded to at the beginning of this post was the design of the black squares in the grid itself–are these representative of the sea serpents purported to reside in these tempestuous waters? Or perhaps the maze one would find themselves in if lost there. In any event, the two other remarkable elements are the crossing 11’s, UNCHASTENED for [Not taken down a peg] and [Offer an untruth] cluing PREVARICATE. Both 25-cent words featuring some type of negative element (“not taken down” and an “untruth”). The rest of the grid seemed to fill itself quickly, I liked UKULELE‘s clue, which was [“My dog has fleas” instrument], since we usually get some reference to Tiny Tim or “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole. (Read this, if you are interested in how this mnemonic is used to tune the instrument.) I was less excited by the partials TO TOE (as in [From head ___]) and MAI as [Half of a rum cocktail]. I guess I’d rather the latter be clued as the French month.

Oh, and did you notice the grid was a pangram? I didn’t at first, but just did as I was writing this commentary.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 173”- Gareth’s review

“The Post Puzzler No. 173”

Sorry for the late blogging. I only blog this puzzle once a month, and I totally forgot I was up! Insert further self-flagellation here.

I found this to be about typical Saturday NYT difficulty, with some very nice answers. There were also quite a few names of people I hadn’t heard of that were peculiarly spelt. YMMV, but I prefer it when the difficulty comes from tough clues and tricky parsings than from manoeuvring around uninferable names.

It’s strange I started out at the top, and couldn’t find any gimmes so I moved to the bottom-right and plonked in STYNE and confirmed it with HIRT. Those names are from areas far from my knowledge comfort zones, so it was a strange beginning. Also in that corner are two people called ARRON (Really? I’m going to assume both are household names to Americans) and vintage kiddie lit’s PIPPI – I knew her! Just above them is a memoirist called SPEER. Just above him is Ian PAICE, the drummer for Deep Purple I’m informed by the puzzle. I can only tell you their guitarist’s name: Ritchie Blackmore. Make of that what you will. Opposite PAICE was mysterious Mr. HAGER and two unknown OMARS. TEENA was a gimme though!

As I said I also liked a lot of the answers in this puzzle. The stack of SEXMANIAC/AYCARAMBA/FREETRIAL, in the relatively “blacked up” top-left of the grid, is particularly stellar. It’s counterpart in the bottom-right features DONUTSHOP and RIVERSTYX. I’m probably just showing how ignorant I am again, but I wasn’t aware that there was anything RARER than RARE. Apparently that’d be EXTRARARE; I also found another synonym: “Beef Tapeworm Helminthosis.”

There are some great answers in the middle as well. WHICHWAYDIDHEGO is a great anchor, and almost certainly the seed entry. The clue, [Dumb cartoon dog’s question], means nothing to me though. I’ve watched a lot of cartoons in my cartoon, but apparently not this one. I could google it for you, but eh, I’m sure everyone else know this as well. NICHEAREAS and SENATESEAT stacked on either side are also lively, as are CALLITADAY and DEARREADER running down through them. DATAPATHS, on the other hand, is a rather dry, technical term from a niche area: and there mostly to hold up a huge stack, which does ably. Also in the middle-area was SWAGED, which I needed almost all the crosses for. Once I got it, I realised I had encountered the word a lot in my field, without knowing what exactly it meant! Vets (doctors too, I presume) use swaged-on needles when suturing: these come attached to a length of suture material.

It’s funny, the more I look at this puzzle, the more I like it. Immediately after finishing the puzzle, I was so focused on the names that was considering a rating of about 2.5 stars; but considering all the great answers, I’d say a well-deserved 4 stars is more than justified!


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19 Responses to Sunday, July 28, 2013

  1. RK says:

    Liked this more than yesterday’s. ‘Nuff said. :)

  2. John Haber says:

    I guess it was ok. Quite easy, which is not necessarily a compliment. It felt like it hung together enough, almost to the point that I overcame my distaste for cross-referential clues. (Like “57-down”? What’s that, and do I really care?) So, to be generous, fair to middling.

    My main objections would just be two. First, I’d have rather some long entries were not unthemed. Second, I kept looking for what a word ladder has to do with the theme and eventually threw up my hands.

  3. Evad says:

    I’m familiar with DIODEs and CATHODEs in old TVs, but TRIODEs? Didn’t help that I had SPEWED instead of STEWED for [Blasted]. Otherwise, I kept struggling to see what was the raison d’etre of this puzzle; wasn’t obvious to me while solving which entries made up the thematic material.

    • Matt says:

      I wouldn’t have thought that TRIODE was obscure, but I’m an old coot who used to test tubes in the hardware store– it’s amusing to see that TRIODE is fading into the mists. FWIW, a triode is (functionally) the glass-and-wires equivalent of a transistor.

      • Evad says:

        The closest I came to that was programming on Hollerith punch cards, but never looked inside one of those mainframe beasts.

  4. John E says:

    I guess the assembly line down the middle was an interesting idea, and even better that we ended up “building” our own Model T. Just not overly excited with the theme – agree with John Haber that the fill was fairly easy for a Sunday.

  5. Nance says:

    In retrospect the idea of our constructing a model T letter by letter was a clever idea…the puzzle as a whole was ho hum.

    • janie says:

      hmm. wondering if that assessment comes from conflating the upper nw corner’s HO-HO-HO and HUM… ;-)

      me — i loved this puzzle, even catching on to the gimmick as quickly as i did. thought the theme was particularly well-developed and that the longer (and abundant) theme fill in combination w/ the word ladder made for one impressive showing.

      smartly done. imoo……


    • Brucenm says:

      Ditto, almost verbatim, what I was going to say.

  6. cyberdiva says:

    I guess I thought more highly of the NYTimes puzzle (4 stars) than many of the raters (how anyone could give this puzzle a rating of 1 or even 2 is a mystery to me). Yes, it was somewhat easy for a Sunday, but for me not absurdly easy. (Amusingly, Amy’s two “huh? answers–ESSE and STATUS QUO ANTE–were gimmes for me. That’s not a boast, just a tiny bit of pleasure, since so many of her gimmes day after day are head scratchers for me.) Anyway, I liked the way the circled letters emulated the regular progression of an assembly line, and that the circles produced MODELT not just in 116A but also adding the next letter every 4th line working down.

  7. Jeff H. says:

    The NYT was even easier if you’ve looked at the Peter Gordon-edited “100 Years, 100 Crosswords.” The *very first* puzzle in that collection, by Timothy Wescott, uses *exactly* the same theme as Andrew Reynolds’ NYT, except in a 16×15 grid: theme entries of HENRYFORD, ASSEMBLYLINE, and AUTOMAKER, augmented with a MODELT that’s “assembled” via a word ladder embedded in a series of fill entries. (Wescott and Reynolds even both use ARTMODELL to hide MODEL.) Of course, given the lag time on NYT publication, the Reynolds puzzle could have been in the pipeline long before the Wescott version was published in 2012. Still, it’s a rather remarkable similarity in theme and execution.

  8. Tracy B says:

    I really enjoyed solving today’s Sunday puzzle. I’ve lived in Michigan for many years, so I felt quite “at home” with the theme. The fill kept me interested, and I appreciated the assembly line construction idea too. I gave it high marks.

  9. P. Ulrich says:

    Is the Sunday CrosSynergy puzzle actually published in the print Washington Post? If it is, I’ve never been able to find it.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I think it is not (but is syndicated in other papers). Sundays, the Post has the themeless Post Puzzler and Merl Reagle’s Sunday puzzle, as far as I know.

  10. S.D. Price says:

    re: “101d. [Status quo ___], ANTE. The phrase means “the previously existing state of affairs,” but I’ve never seen it before.”

    The original phrase is/was “status quo ante bellum,” describing conditions, especially geographical boundaries, before a war.

  11. Sarah says:

    LAT: Take EDESSA, add one letter and you get…(:

  12. Gareth says:

    PS: The funniest moment in the WaPo for me was ending up with PUMAS for [Amazon ants capture them to raise as slaves]. If they learn to do that we’re doomed!

  13. TammyB says:

    I wish Merl DID write the dictionary. This puzzle made me laugh out loud several times. Merl at his Reaglest!

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