Sunday, August 4, 2013

NYT 9:54 
LAT 8:21 
Reagle 7:46 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 14:23 (Sam) 
CS 7:58 (Dave) 

Steven Ginzburg’s New York Times crossword, “Should I Call The Repairman?”

NY Times crossword solution, 8 4 13 “Should I Call The Repairman?”

Idiomatic expressions that mean “not working properly” can have other meanings. Ginzburg (who is not Matt Ginsberg) finds contexts where those idioms also mean the things are working just fine:

  • 27a. [The jigsaw …] KEEPS CUTTING OUT. Unlike a cell phone, a jigsaw is supposed to keep cutting shapes out. Hey! If you like wooden jigsaw puzzles with a high degree of challenge, check out Liberty Puzzles. This Van Gogh puzzle damn near killed me and I loved it. Click through and look at the third picture, the photo of the back side of the puzzle. You can see that most of the edge pieces meet at skinny tips and need an inside piece to join them together. And you can see the cool shapes of the special pieces, like a horse, people, butterflies, and seven long bendy ones that interlace.
  • 40a. [The elevator …] JUST WENT DOWN. Unlike a computer, that’s the elevator’s job.
  • 53a. [The mosquito zapper …] HAS STILL GOT BUGS. Yep, that’s what it’s for.
  • 77a. [The quiz-grading machine …] FAILED SOME TESTS. Not everyone’s an A student.
  • 89a. [The crosswalk signal …] IS ON THE BLINK. That means you’re running out of time to cross.
  • 104a. [The film-processing machine at the movie studio …] DEVELOPED A SHORT. As in developing the film for a short film.

So the answer to the question posed by the puzzle’s title is: Well, is the darn thing working or not? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The most notable feature in this grid is the six-pack of 10- and 11-letter non-theme entries. We’ve got CORNERSTONE and STREETWISE above WALLPAPERED, and KING-SIZE BED atop RHUBARB PIE and AT A DISCOUNT.

Six clues to review:

  • 32a. [The F.D.I.C. was created during his presidency], FDR. I wanted this to be DDE, even though I think the FDIC was probably created after people lost the money they had in the bank in the Great Depression.
  • 75a. [Muslim headdress], TAJ. Really? Did not know that. (I did, however, nail the KEPI, 14a. [Military hat].) Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate dictionary says nothing on the TAJ; doesn’t list the word. The Mac widget dictionary from the Oxford folks says it’s a  “tall conical cap worn by a dervish” or, historically, “a crown worn by an Indian prince of high rank.” The dervish is a Sufi Muslim, but the Indian prince was more likely Hindu. And then the Wikipedia article on Sufi whirling notes, “As the ritual dance begins, the dervish dons a felt cap, a sikke, in addition to a turban wrapped around the head, a trademark of the Mevlevi order.” No TAJ in the articles on dervish or whirling. So in summary: Maybe it would be best to stick with clues referencing the Taj Mahal, the Trump Taj Mahal, or current Chicago Bulls player Taj Gibson.
  • 98a. [1972 musical or its 2013 revival], PIPPIN. Also an apple variety.
  • 1d. [Result of some heavy petting?], PURR. Kind of gross clue.
  • 6d. [High Muslim honorific], AGA KHAN. Not at all the same Muslims who might sport a TAJ. Not a fan of “Muslim” being used as shorthand for any of a dozen or three different cultures. The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Nizari sect of Ismaili Muslims—so at least here, the word “Muslim” is actually apt. Wikipedia pulls info from Forbes: “Forbes describes the Aga Khan as one of the world’s ten richest royals with an estimated net worth of $800 million USD (2010). Additionally he is unique among the richest royals as he does not preside over a geographic territory.[1] He owns hundreds of racehorses, valuable stud farms, an exclusive yacht club on Sardinia,[19] a private island in the Bahamas, two Bombardier jets, a £100 million high speed yacht named after his prize racehorse,[20] and several estates around the world.” Dang! I think that’s more than the Vatican lays claim to.
  • 90d. [Pride of St. Louis], THE RAMS. NFL team. You wanted Lindbergh, didn’t you? Or maybe something from the Cardinals, or jazz music, or barbecue.

I did not particularly enjoy working through this puzzle, but it wasn’t a scowlfest either. 3.5 stars.

Edited to add: 78d. [Car make whose name sounds like a Cockney greeting] is AUDI, because Cockneys say ‘owdy? This is a common Cockney greeting? Daniel Myers and others with British ties, please shed some light on this. Are there many Cockney cowboys?

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Steaming Audio”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 8 4 13 “Steaming Audio”

Cute theme! To celebrate the THE BILLBOARD HOT 1OO, the 27a: [List that turns 55 this week], Merl’s gathered a bunch of oldies with “hot”-related titles and wraps them up with a delightful Richard Simmons bow. And when has any crossword theme ever finished off with a Richard Simmons flourish? Probably never, people! And now that grievous wrong has been righted.

  • 34a. [Apt Ray Charles hit, 1967], IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.
  • 54a. [Apt Elvis hit, 1972], BURNING LOVE.
  • 62a. [Apt Billy Joel hit, 1989], WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE.
  • 73a. [Apt Elvis hit, 1961], FLAMING STAR.
  • 88a. [Apt Platters hit, 1959], SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES.
  • 97a. [Apt video series, circa 1990], SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES. Because “hot” songs will really make you sweat.

I really liked this theme despite the fact that I would not recognize a single one of the songs whose titles fill the puzzle. Not even the Billy Joel one! I had stopped listening to top 40 radio a few years before it came out and missed it entirely. So when I complain that a theme is filled with old pop culture, maybe it’s more that I just don’t like that theme (but might’ve at least liked the theme entries if they evoked fun memories for me). This theme was executed well, and the thematic “hotness” made each unknown song title a little wordplay puzzle unto itself.

This is one of those puzzles where the letter O doubles as the number 0—it should be the HOT 100, but via computer it’s entered as 1OO. The 1 also appears in 16d. [Birthday wish, “___ to grow on”], AND 1, though technically that would be “and one to grow on.”

A dozen other things to mention:

  • 9d. [Indian festival of the Pacific Northwest], POTLATCH. Not sure why I was leaning towards POTLATCH off of the first letters.
  • 82d. [Indignant comeback], “OH, YES, I AM!” Fun entry.
  • 59a. [Essential part of Caesar dressing?], TOGA. What Caesar wore, not salad dressing on a Caesar salad.
  • 61a. [Nervous system tissue], GLIA. Tough word.
  • 80a. [Greek temple], NAOS. Not too familiar. I am more familiar with Naot, the Israeli shoe/sandal brand. Love my Naot sandals!
  • 85a. [Killer whale of filmdom], NAMU. Like Shamu, but more nasal.
  • 115a. [Bananas, nuts or crackers], LOCO. Anyone else driven crazy by the desire to snack right now?
  • 3d. [Name in gin articles], ELI. As in informational articles about the cotton gin invented by Eli Whitney? Ohhhhh…kay, Merl.
  • 36d. [Reason to drink], THIRST. Yes. I am thirsty right now. It will drive me to drink.
  • 40d. [Globetrotter’s thing: abbr.], TRAV. What-what? We’re abbreviating “travel” now??
  • 69a. [“Would ___ to you?”], I LIE. Would’ve been good to clue this as ILIE Nastase, and/or to clue 74d is LIES as the reclining type of verb, or the plural noun of golf ball positions.
  • Two European 4-letter rivers: 26a. [Polish-German border river], ODER, and 103d. [Chantilly’s river], OISE. One is really enough, even in a Sunday-sized puzzle.

Four stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

Very smooth themeless today from half of the constructing team that brought us yesterday’s themeless in the New York Times.

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/04/13

There’s a lot to like in today’s puzzle, but I’m unfortunately PRESSED FOR TIME ([In a rush]), so I’ll just list my five FAVEs today:

  • [They’re hopeless] was LOST CAUSES. Luckily this puzzle was anything but!
  • [Source of a bad body image] wasn’t a clothing store dressing room, but a FUN HOUSE MIRROR.
  • [Folks found around the fringes] weren’t cowboy jacket seamstresses (is there a male equivalent of that occupation? Tailors sounds a bit different to me.), but EXTREMISTS.
  • [His U.S. citizenship was poshumously restored in 1975] was the rarely entirely-spelled-out ROBERT E. LEE. Read all about its restoration here.
  • With the ?E?ON in place, who else put in LEMON for [Juicy fruit]? Alas, it was a MELON.

I’ll finish up my review with a gratuitous picture of 29-Across that I know our constructor will enjoy. Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone, and thanks for SWING[ING] BY!

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Can You Top This?” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 8/4/13 • “Can You Top This?” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Theme simple in concept, tricky in execution. Place items typically put on top of other items, physically or metaphorically, literally—in crossword terms—”on top” of said other items. In all instances the paired entries are of the same length, perfectly stacked.

  • 17a/22a. CHOCOLATE SAUCE is a [ … sweet topper … ] for an ICE CREAM SUNDAE.
  • 38a/46a. RABBIT EARS are an [ … old-tech topper … ] for a TELEVISION. Unless I’m mistaken, they can still be used, with an appropriate adapter, to receive over-air HD broadcasts, so they may be old-tech but at least they aren’t entirely obsolete.
  • 60a/67a. RELISH as a [ … zesty topping … ] for a HOT DOG, or as the French say, un hot-dog.
  • 71a/78a. TROPHY, a [ … prize on top of … ] a MANTEL.
  • 93a/96a. SURFBOARDS on top of OCEAN WAVES, which to me is a dubious—at the least, very loose—description. “On,” yes, “on top of,” not so much. This is not so esoteric a nit, as top is the critical theme element.
  • 120a/124a. Dan Brown’s ‘THE DA VINCI CODE” did indeed top the New York Times’ BESTSELLER list [ … for over two years] , but I believe that means it was among the displayed top 15 titles, not that it was necessarily at the the tippy-top (#1). Echoing 78-across, Hilary MANTEL’s recent historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have also been bestsellers.

Sure seems as if the SNOWMAN in the center across position would like a topper of some sort, a bowler, a top hat, a seven-letter homburg, or even a TAM (36d). Elegant theme.

Top observations:

  • Couldn’t locate the error preventing der glücklicheBleistift from appearing, even after two passes—1½, actually: two acrosses, one down. Turned out to be at the crossing of 17a and 18d, where [Dune buggy, for ex.] was never fully corrected from ATV (all-terrain vehicle) to the less common abbrev. ORV (off-road vehicle). Apparently I glossed over “CHACALATE” twice, and “ARV” was dismissed as a “whatever abbrev.”
  • Not sure how I feel about either of these answers, but they’re definitely allied: 47d [Pi-sigma link] PI RHO; 97a [7, on older phones] PRS—newer models include the Q, presumably for texting ease. Also, pirhomania, anyone?
  • Cruciverbal menagerie hall-of-famers, de español: OCA, OSO. (9d, 85d)
  • Favorite, freshest-seeming clues: 7d [They work around the clock] HANDS, 39d [Alphabetical order?] BLT. Tiredest clues: 119d [Time of your life?] AGE, 99d [Eaves dropper?] ICICLE, 63a [A mean Amin] IDI. Then again, there are solvers of all levels of experience.
  • Ickiest sequence: 40d through 43d: ESAI, AIG, ROE, SNL. I can honestly say that solving crosswords has fostered in me an intense and undeserved dislike of actor ESAI Morales. Potentially toughest area for solvers: the U formed at the bottom of the grid by linked entries VEZ, ZEV, and UNLV.
  • Surprisingly tricky clue: 16d [Goes down] SETS. Almost too tricky for its own good; if I hadn’t been writing up the puzzle, I wouldn’t have noticed or appreciated it.
  • Interesting that 34a [Goldbricks] DOGS IT parsed differently could have been clued something lie [Tends to a terrier] for DOG-SIT. Either way, though, it splatters on the nearby themer at 67-across.
  • Longdowns: new-to-me MUD TURTLE, BOSSINESS.

Solid puzzle.

Paul Hunsberger’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Lip Service”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 8 4 13 “Lip Service”

In “xoxo,” the x means kiss and the o means hug. This puzzle takes the X’s out of selected phrases and clues them accordingly:

  • 23a. [Intuition of some “Star Wars” villains?], THE SITH SENSE. Sixth.
  • 34a. [Weaknesses of a prof’s helper?], T.A. LIABILITIES. Tax.
  • 59a. [Holiday elves who can’t get along?], ARCTIC FOES. Foxes.
  • 81a. [Coughing and sneezing?], STATE OF FLU. Flux. My favorite theme answer here. People! If you get a flu shot in September or October, your chances of catching the flu this winter dwindle. If you wait till the flu is going around, you run the risk of being exposed to the virus before your immunity has kicked in.
  • 98a. [Fashion collaboration of actor James and a one-named rock-‘n’-roller?], MASON-DION LINE. Dixon. Eh. [“Actor James” makes me think of Gandolfini, Brolin, Caan, Franco, Dean … Mason is pretty far down the list.
  • 22d. [“Stop adding milk and sugar to these brews!”?], DON’T MESS WITH TEAS. Ha! Texas.
  • 32d. [Dutch South Africans in need of exercise?], HEAVYWEIGHT BOERS. Boxers.
  • 115a. [Unexpected affection, and an alternate title for this puzzle], STOLEN KISSES.

I didn’t really like the “Lip Service” title, so I wish the constructor had been able to find a terrific 12-letter theme answer to replace 115a and used “Stolen Kisses” as the puzzle’s title. Although it must be said that STOLEN KISSES is a great entry unto itself.


Five more clues:

  • 67a. [British heiress __ Khan], JEMIMA. How did I get that with so few crossings?
  • 31a. [Lint roller target, maybe], CAT HAIR. Seems like Cathair should be a name for the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific.
  • 63a. [Mane character in Narnia], ASLAN. Also the last name of writer Reza Aslan, whose best-selling book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth drew a lot more interest after his interview on Fox News went viral.
  • 65a. [Posthumous 2009 George Harrison album], LET IT ROLL. Didn’t know this one.
  • 24d. [Noodlehead], TWIT. I said aloud, “What’s a ‘noodlehead’?” This is not slang I’ve encountered before. The two dictionaries I checked have a noodle sense of “stupid person,” but no noodlehead.

3.5 stars from me. I liked the theme except for the Robert Mason bit.

WaPo 14:23 (Sam) 

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 174”- Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 174 (solution)

Fresh off the success of his wonderful 2013 Triple Play Puzzles Extravaganza, Trip Payne returns with this week’s Post Puzzler. (Seriously, if you didn’t purchase and solve this wonderful collection of word puzzles, you owe it to yourself to do so. The complete set of puzzles will soon be available at Triple Play Puzzles. You can’t win one of the two cash prizes anymore, but if it helps, I didn’t either. Oh, and if you can pay for the bonus puzzles, by all means do so. The “Something Different” bonus puzzle had one of my all-time favorite entries, though it frustrated the heck out of me as I was trying to solve it.)

This week’s offering is a 70/30 freestyle. Those who like it when word counts and black square counts total 100 are smiling–though really, they ought to re-think what brings them happiness. It contains many highlights, so let’s start enumerating them:

    • The triple-9s in the northwest corner didn’t put up much of a fight, but I love how clean they are. The baseball SHORTSTOP has a nice clue, [What 6 may designate]. Just as the first baseman is a 3 and the second baseman is a 4 on a baseball scorecard, the shortstop is 6. When you see “6-4-3” on a scorecard, you know that the at-bat resulted in a double play where the shortstop fielded the ball, threw it to second base to force out the baserunner from first, and the second baseman threw the ball to first to force out the batter.
    • I feel like I should know [“Big Green Tractor” singer Jason] ALDEAN. My first wife was into country music, so in those years I was reasonably knowledgeable about the country music scene. But she got to keep the country in the divorce, leaving me with scattered pieces of ’80s pop and some folk music.
    • I knew there was something sneaky about the clue [Change places]. It couldn’t be something straightforward like SWAP. But I went down the wrong path, thinking it was a reference to something like a dressing room. Alas, the “change” here referred to currency, making the answer the TILLS from cash registers.
    • It seems that a vocal minority of crossword blog commenters hate cross-referenced clues. I, for one, like them. So it will come as no surprise that I really liked the double-cross-reference in the clue for 8-Down, [With 3-Down and 31-Across, like a bogey]. The answer proved to be ONE / OVER / PAR. Cross-references are usually the result of coincidence in the grid. “Hey,” realizes the constructor, “I’ve got EPIC and FAIL in the grid, so I’ll connect them with a common clue.” I wonder if this double-cross-reference was the result of a very remote event (“Hey, I’ve got three terms I can connect!”) or a little manipulation (“Hmm, I’ve got ONE and OVER in the grid, and with a little fancy footwork I think I can get PAR to work over there in the west.”). Either way, the result is fun.

What (admittedly loose) connection does this woman have to this write-up?

  • We’ve seen a lot of clue for ORATE over the years, but [Give out one’s address?] felt very fresh. The Cruciverb database says the same clue was used last year in the NYT, but that’s it. Of course, that database doesn’t pick up every crossword that’s featured on this blog, so that’s not to say this is only the second time it has been used. But I really liked it.
  • I didn’t understand [Gray lines] as the clue for POESY, but now I see it goes like this: (1) POESY is synonymous with “poetry;” (2) Thomas Gray was an English poet of note (or, perhaps more accurately, “of verse”); so (3) lines written by Gray would be POESY.
  • Boy, I sure thought that [“Lost” castaway] was going to be LOCKE instead of BOONE. No spoilers here, but if you have seen the show, you can understand why BOONE wouldn’t exactly spring to mind right away.
  • Thank you, Sporcle! Just yesterday I took a quiz on Assassins, and I there learned that Charlotte Corday killed Jean-Paul MARAT, making him [Corday’s victim]. Who knows how much more time I would have lost absent that learning experience.
  • Other fun entries included DOGGIE BAG, SHOWER STALL, and DULY NOTED.

As an optimist, I tend to look for the nice entries in grids. Those who see grids as half-empty, I suppose, might carp at the dual use of RE- in RE-DID and RE-NAME, but they did what unsightly entries are supposed to do–they allowed for smoother crossings while practically giving away two precious letters. That’s just fine.

Favorite entry = CAVE DRAWING, clued as a [Simple buffalo, maybe]. I became quite familiar with the term when Pictionary was all the rage, as it accurately described virtually all of my drawings. Favorite clue = [Most of the “Happy Days” cast]. Yep, I took the bait, reading the first word as though it was simply “most” instead of the surname “Most.” (DONNY Most played Ralph Malph.) Here’s where wording makes all the difference. Had the clue said [Most of “Happy Days”], I think I would have caught on sooner, as one wouldn’t really say “Most of ‘Happy Days'” in a regular conversation. But the wording used here gave the clue a clever disguise, and, thus, a greater sense of satisfaction when I got it.

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14 Responses to Sunday, August 4, 2013

  1. Carol Fenter says:

    Anyone know what happened to Can’t connect.

    • Papa John says:

      …nor I.

    • Dan F says:

      It shouldn’t be surprising anymore when the Cruciverb site (or the mailing list) goes kaput for a few days. They’ll be back.

      • Lorraine says:

        No, not surprised, but definitely filled with consternation, since it is the only site, that I know of, anyway, where we can get the LAT puzzle in Across Lite. It is a singularly less pleasurable pastime doing it on the LAT site itself, which is why the absence of matters more than it ordinarily would.

      • P. Ulrich says:

        The cruciverb LATimes puzzle page is back up, but there’s no Sunday puzzle! (yet)

  2. sbmanion says:


    The origin of TAJ is Persian and virtually all references in Wikipedia are to people from Muslim countries. I would not have known that it was a cap worn by dervishes without the clue and am happy to learn a new word. I am curious as to whether India still has princes. When India did have princes, I assume that many were probably Muslim. I always think of the ongoing battle over Kashmir and, of course, the splitting off of Pakistan.

    I thought the comparison to Tom Swifties was clever. I found the themed entries to be mostly difficult to see and as a result found the puzzle to be borderline Friday challenging. KEPI was my first entry and I solved it by fanning out from the NE.


  3. jane lewis says:

    the generation gap is certainly showing. i not only remember all of the songs in merl’s puzzle but i also saw the movie in the heat of the night when it was released to the movie theaters.

  4. Doug says:

    Thanks, Dave! Gratuitous photos always welcome. :)

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: TAJ means a crown in Arabic. It has nothing to do with being Muslim. You can be Christian, Jewish or Hindu and wear one. In fact, that’s the meaning of it in Taj Mahal. Mahal in Arabic means a place but I believe the meaning in Persian is Palace. So, Taj Mahal is Crown Palace.

    The concept of the puzzle is clever, but somehow it felt like there were too many short words and abbreviations… Just the grid design, I guess but it took away some of the pleasure.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Aha! Thank you, Huda. I had a vague sense that the “Muslim” tag was off, but you brought us the specifics.

  6. R Orfila says:

    In Merl Reagle’s puzzle his clue for 1 across states “Morticia to Fester.” His answer is niece. She is his sister in law, not his niece.

    • jefe says:

      According to Wikipedia, “In the original sitcom of the 1960s, Fester is said to be Morticia’s maternal uncle, but in all other filmed and animated content he is Gomez’s brother”.

  7. Lois says:

    Regarding the Amy’s unjudgmental remark about Merl’s use of the letter “o” to represent zeroes in one answer, and the digit 1 representing the word “one” in a crossing answer, maybe it could be said that Merl warns about that in a note to the puzzle. I do puzzles on paper, so I don’t mind these, but online puzzlers are alerted if they read the note.

  8. lisa says:

    many thanks on behalf of my mom (and me for making it easy to get the answers for her) lj

Comments are closed.