Friday, August 16, 2013

NYT 7:44 
LAT 8:53 (Gareth) 
CS 4:51 (Dave) 
CHE 3:23 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Dana Motley’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 8 16 13, no. 0816

Oof, this is a Saturday puzzle a day early. I went out for a festive birthday dinner so it feels like a Friday night/Saturday puzzle—but I was forewarned about the puzzle’s difficulty. Another solver said the last 10 squares in the southwest zone took her perhaps as long as the rest of the puzzle, while I found that all zones were quite resistant to solving. Had a hard time getting into the solving groove. Particular trouble spots follow:

  • 35a. [Line of rulers], DYNASTS. Singular “line,” plural answer? We all wanted DYNASTY, didn’t we?
  • 40a. [Short distance], STEP. I had the P, but wanted A HOP or a SKIP. (Didn’t try JUMP, though.)
  • 43a. [Hot-and-cold menu item], PIE A LA MODE.
  • 45a. [Mathematician Cantor who founded set theory], GEORG. Last name is rather less Germanic than I would expect with that first name.
  • 61a. [Contents of some ledges], ORES. I don’t know what sort of ledges these are.
  • 2d. [Fixes flats?], TUNES. As in piano tuning.
  • 7d. [Pathfinder?], LANTERN. Walking home from dinner tonight, there was a guy in front of us reading a book while hoofing it. In my area, you don’t need a lantern to see your path. The streetlights are bright enough to read by.
  • 9d. [Word after who, what or where, but rarely when], ELSE. When else are you gonna see that?
  • 24d. [Summer symbol?], PLUS SIGN. For one doing sums.
  • 27d. [One of the Eastern elite], AGA. Middle Eastern/South Asian, vs. the West. No East Coast reference here. Did you want IVY?
  • 32d. [Broken into on TV?], PREEMPTED. Good answer, good clue. I just had trouble summoning up the word, even with most of the crossings in place.
  • 36d. [Fellow chairperson?], SEATMATE. With that second Y in DYNASTY, I considered YOKEMATE here. What?
  • 41d. [Like pigtails], PLAITED. I got this okay, and the dictionary backs up the pigtail/braid equivalence, but I think of pigtails as unbraided ponytails moved to both sides.
  • 43d. [Talks tediously], PROSES. SINGLE TRICKIEST ANSWER. This verb sense of the word is right there in the dictionary, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before. I wanted DRONES, which was making the blue IRIS into IRIN and confusing me.
  • 47d. [Diagonal rib of a vault], OGIVE. Nothing pairs better with an unfamiliar usage (43d) than a bit of architectural crosswordese immediately beside it.

Highlights included ONION RINGS, ON THE LEVEL, BALLERINAS, ERGONOMICS, BATES MOTEL (which is a current TV series), WRISTBAND, EIGHTIES, LEADFOOT, and NEAR MISS. My favorite clues were:

  • 19a. [Unisex name meaning “born again”], RENÉ.
  • 29a. [The City of a Hundred Spires], PRAGUE. Been there, did not count the spires.
  • 62a. [“___ Wedding” (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” episode)], TED’S. Could’ve been clued as a plural first name (feh) or as a crosswordese verb having to do with spreading hay out to dry. This is more fun.
  • 8d. [Reagan was seen a lot in them], EIGHTIES. B MOVIES wouldn’t fit.
  • 44d. [Hacker’s achievement], ACCESS.

3.66 stars.

Jean O’Connor’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

There have been a spate of definition puzzles in the LA Times recently. Ms. O’Connor’s puzzle is built around the answer [Buzz]. The definition answers are snappier than usual – all two words and only one spanning answer. The full theme answer list is:


Of the four long downs, I liked the answer TURKEYTROT! ONECARAT sounds as arbitrary as any ONE-x answer. REDSAUCE was an answer that I saw early but resisted filling in, as I wasn’t sure it was a “thing”. Apparently it is… Pink sauce I know, but not red!

Another answer that gave me trouble was CAESARS clued as [___ Palace]. Had the C off SCUTS (old-timey crossword answer, good to file it away!) and immediately filled in CRYSTAL. So obviously right, only wrong! I’ll bet I’m not going to be the only one!

Not a lot more I’d like to say. Some interesting answers, a few winces (who loves to see NLER?). 2.75 Stars. I’ll leave you with LUAU! Caveat: this song is more peculiar than in any sense of the word good.


George Barany and David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Definitely Defined” — pannonica’s write-up

Good morning. “We’re gonna be here the entire morning with no maple syrup and no– no toothpicks, I’m definitely, definitely not gonna have my pancakes with …”

WSJ • 8/16/13 • “Definitely Defined” • Fri • Barany, Steinberg • solution

Puzzle’s got a definite vibe to it, because a definite article is a major player here. As 121-across has it, [What Thoreau and Eisenhower have in common, or this puzzle’s theme, literally] THE SAME MIDDLE NAME. Not quite sure why Henry and Dwight were chosen here, as DAVID gets no play in-puzzle, except as co-constructor Steinberg’s given name. As for theme application: literally a middle name, or part of a titular epithet, which happens to be between two other words?

  • 22a. [Cimmerian warrior of pulp series and film] CONAN (THE) BARBARIAN.
  • 29a. [Warring king who reportedly died from a nosebleed] ATTILA (THE) HUN. Must’ve been a heckuva nosebleed.
  • 33a. [Scorer of 100 points in a single 1962 game] WILT (THE) STILT. Family legend has it that Chamberlain was holding court at a back table in an uptown “soul food” restaurant when my parents were out for dinner. In some sort of strange rite, infant me was brought forward to him, and he cradled me in just one massive hand.
  • 49a. [Cardinal legend] STAN (THE) MAN. Musial.
  • 52a. [“Isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey?” speaker] WINNIE (THE) POOH.
  • 71a. [Monarch who defeated Saladin] RICHARD (THE) LIONHEARTED.
  • 87a. [Terrorizer of Whitechapel] JACK (THE) RIPPER.
  • 92a. [Greenland explorer] ERIC (THE) RED.
  • 108a. [Subject of a Weill/Brecht ballad] MACK (THE) KNIFE. First one I eventually broke through with, after having struggled through variations, including MACKIE MESSER.
  • 112a. [Sluggish sci-fi gangster] JABBA (THE) HUTT.

Not exactly an earth-shattering theme, and perhaps done before in a similar—or different—way. Perhaps in a daily without a rebus element? Neveraless, well executed. What truly shines, however, are at crossings, where said trigrams are rendered not as isolated definite articles, but are parts of words or phrases.

  • 5d [Bat-making tool] LA(THE).
  • 28d [Clear sky] E(THE)R, not AIR.
  • 32d [“Rumor has it…”] (THE)Y SAY, not I HEAR.
  • 30d [Dislike and then some] LOA(THE).
  • 55d[West End venue] (THE)ATRE. London reference insinuates British spelling.
  • 58d [Country music?] AN(THE)M.
  • 63d [Cover, in a way] SHEA(THE).
  • 74d [Grow choppers] TEE(THE).
  • 102d [Mount that erupted in 1980] S(T HE)LENS.
  • 104d [Meat, to vegans] ANA(THE)MA.

Spiffy, no? Only three rely on verbs ending thus. Good placement variation, and even though it’s arguably a partial, 102-down is excellent, more so because it’s complemented by 88d [Mount that erupted in 1883] KRAKATOA (a gimme for me), which runs right alongside. Theme is strongly elevated this way.


  • APOLLOS is an awkward way to open up at 1-across, but cluing it via butterflies is a good solution for framing it.
  • In two complementary aspects reminiscent of KRAKATOA / ST HELENS are: (1) double-duty clue for 62a REST and 71d RELAX [Take it easy]; (2) 85d [Sign of summer] LEO alongside 86d [Do some sums] ADD.
  • Cluing is very strong throughout, but here are some highlights:
    • Misdirections: 48d [Starbuck’s orderer] AHAB (note apostrophe), 24a [Hold stuff] CARGO, 8d [China setting] CABINET, 77a [Harmless rattler] MARACA (beg to differ: quite painful when thrown at you).
    • Good clues for ick-fill: 42a [It. borders it] AUS (playful doubling of “it,” which also signals an abbrev.; 95a [One who can can] AXER (doubling again).
    • 50d [Minute fraction: Abbr.] NSEC. Not entirely original, but nifty how it’s a non-misdirection. Either homonym would work; in fact, it could have been [Minute minute fraction: Abbr.], or perhaps that abbrev. indication could be scrapped if “minute” number one could fulfill such a role?
  • Also down southwest, 108d [Barishnikov nickname] MISHA was another gimme. No wonder that’s where my inroads took hold!
  • Not happy with:
    • 15d [Has a gentle rise] SLANTS UP. Compare SLOPES UP.
    • Crossing that, disguised partial LIE UNDER [Break, as a courtroom oath]. (27d)
    • Scowl-inducing proper nouns, including: RIDI, IONE, ENGEL, EULA, (variation) ENESCO, ERLE, SELA, IPSA, ADAIR, UDALL, DRU, MUFASA (I haven’t seen Lion King, sue me; but at least I know that Jeremy IRONS voiced SCAR).
  • Speaking of EULA, wonder if avoiding a Faulkner reference and invoking End-User License Agreements would be more in tune with a Wall Street Journal demographic? On that matter, of possible interest is this little program, which is basically a fancy word-finder, but convenient.
  • Is it just me, or is [Charter] an odd clue for LET? Certainly not incorrect, just odd.

A very fine crossword puzzle.

Updated Late Friday afternoon:

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Awards Season” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I wonder if yesterday’s constructor Tony Orbach could’ve featured in one of today’s three theme entries which are a type of cycle through the three of the four major American performance awards:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 08/16/13

  • [“Variety” headline about jazz pianist Peterson’s acclaimed TV performance] is OSCAR TAKES EMMY – Watch virtuoso Oscar Peterson in action!
  • [“Variety” headline about actress Rossum’s hit Broadway role?] clues EMMY PICKS UP TONY – I think actress Emmy Rossum is best known for her performance in the 2004 movie version of Phantom.
  • [“Variety” headline about actor Randall’s successful screen debut?] is TONY EARNS OSCAR – Funny how actor Tony Randall’s onscreen roommate in The Odd Couple was named Oscar as well. It all comes around people!

I wonder why GRAMMY wasn’t included; too bad Irene Ryan’s character on The Beverly Hillbillies was called “Granny” instead. Sorry for the short write-up, I’ll be back on track tomorrow morning.

Mel Rosen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Major League” — pannonica’s write-up (29 August)

CHE • 8/16/13 • “Major League” • Rosen • solution

Tardy posting (26 August, as best I can tell) of the crossword begets a minimal write-up, as I doubt there’s much appetite for readers to see it so late in the game. Also, I think I might not be grasping the theme fully.

The three longest answers begin with the name of an Ivy League school.

  • 22a. [Venomous pest] BROWN RECLUSE, which is a spider.
  • 36a. [Label once owned by a TV network] COLUMBIA RECORDS, which was owned by CBS—Columbia Broadcasting System—from 1938 to 1988, which was actually started as a subsidiary of Columbia Records back in 1927. And it was a radio broadcaster at that time.
  • 44a. [Co-author of “Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends”] PENN JILLETTE. The other is Teller. Yes, I own a copy, why do you ask? Want to flip through it?

That’s apparently it. The inclusion of three institutions of higher education. The long downs, while very nice, have no perceptible connection: CLAMBER UP, HOOVER DAM.

  • First row letters, alphabetized: A, A, A, B, B, C, C, C, D, K, S, S.
  • EDNA Buchanan to ERMA Bombeck to DAVE Brubeck. GOAL! (16a, 33d, 58a, 13a) OLÉ! (51a)
  • Favorite clue: 48d [Not fast] LOOSE. Never hit me that the phrased pair (“fast and loose”) can be seen as opposites.

Unchallenging, possibly gossamer-themed puzzle.

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46 Responses to Friday, August 16, 2013

  1. Jeff Chen says:

    I had a great e-mail exchange with Dana. Her Constructor’s Note was touching.

    And that’s obviously something in my eye; I’m not crying. So shut it.

  2. Sarah says:

    So is WHEN ELSE actually any less common than WHO ELSE, WHAT ELSE and WHERE ELSE? I feel I’ve seen WHEN ELSE quite often.

  3. LARRY WALKER says:

    I googled “prose” as a verb and got no answer. Methinks it’s a stretch.

  4. bananarchy says:

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who found this of Saturday difficulty. Got through it, though, in the end, and it was a lot of fun.

    Jeff, I love the constructor notes! I hope constructors continue to provide these.

  5. Gareth says:

    Harder than most Saturdays for me, more like a Stumper in style and difficulty! Only entry in the grid after first go around was LPGA, can’t remember that happening to me in a while! Clawed my way across to the bottom-left then up via the middle, answer by hard-fought answer. Eventually finished in that top-right section: no obvious answers and one trap: brilliant misdirection for SCREWS had me thinking dozERs or similar! I didn’t find the bottom-left so bad once I gave up assuming that ERGONOMICS were some kind of MICE and that dROnES (Hi Amy!) wasn’t correct! I still do not understand PREEMPTED. I also considered BMOVIES but stuck for a while with comedIES!

  6. pannonica says:

    Just in case Brucenm doesn’t comment today, I’ll point out that OGIVE should be familiar to ERIK | SATIE aficionadi, as he wrote four lovely small pieces under that rubric.

    • Brucenm says:

      Thanks, Pannonica, for the call out — how can I not respond. The four Satie Ogives are remarkable pieces. I’m not always the greatest fan of Satie; — I sometimes wonder if he was the official court composer for the Emperor with No Clothes — but these 4 pieces call out (very gently) for descriptions like “transcendent” “hypnotic,” “other worldly” “the music of the universe,” and so forth. They are exclusively (as I recall) open octaves and chords; very Plain Chant in style, and I find them utterly compelling. You will never hear music which forms such a clear bridge from the 12th century to the 21st. Satie eschewed traditional musical forms and structured development, and in these pieces you will hear anticipations of various minimalist, pulse music, modern forms of expression. (To me) the direct influence of these pieces on such composers as Debussy, John Adams and many others is unmistakable. In the remarkable last movement of the Copland Piano Sonata, I can almost hear the Ogives playing in the background. I wish 47d had been clued as {One of 4 by Satie}

      I urge you to listen to them. Actually they are pretty much iterations of each other, so the first one will give you the idea. He said he wrote the pieces to resemble the form of the ogive arches in the rosace windows of Notre Dame Cathedral, but that was partly just Satie being Satie (i.e. goofy). He once responded to criticism of his music as having no form by writing “3 pieces in the Form of a Pear.”

      Well — back to your regularly scheduled puzzle, after this preemption. I absolutely loved Dana’s puzzle — (so far I’m the only one) — and was surprised to see it called out as especially difficult. I found it on the easier end of the Friday difficulty curve, except for the already notorious “proses,” so my time was pretty close to the par. I went from “drones” to “prates”, but I was pretty sure “ergonomics” did not have an ‘a’ and Georg was a gimme so I shrugged and got it right. Notice that the puzzle does not have a single — well — a single one of the kinds of entries that I bitch about continually. This makes all the difference in the world to my ability to get through a puzzle quickly.

      • pannonica says:

        Do you, like me, discern a line from Erik Satie to Thelonious Monk? Not that I have the words or expertise to articulate it.

        (Also, although he’s perhaps more known as a writer and critic than as a player, I find Jean-Joël Barbier (linked above) to be an excellent musical interpreter of Satie.)

        • Brucenm says:

          Pann, Absolutely, Yes. (Satie – Monk). The single line melodies, quirky intervals, chords featuring parallel 5ths., enharmonic transformations, etc. Very much an influence.

  7. Matt says:

    Not quite as hard for me as for others, apparently. GEORG was a gimme for me, so that corner had a good foothold, then a couple of one-letter changes at the end– DYNASTY/DYNASTS, MORE/LORE.

  8. Tracy B. says:

    This puzzle is close to what I’d call perfect—challenging and delightful. I just loved it, once I got a toe-hold (in my case, I got in with RENE). I’d love to know how many and which clues were Dana’s. I haven’t read the constructor’s note yet — but I will just after writing this. Every once in a while a like a puzzle so much that I write an exclamatory word next to the byline. Today I wrote the word “Beautiful!”

  9. Peter Collins says:

    I had all but the first letter of EIGHTIES (“Reagan was seen a lot in them”). I figured it had to be NIGHTIES, and I really, really hoped it was in reference to Nancy.

    • pannonica says:

      I looped through BOLO TIES.

      • Jeff Chen says:

        Count me in for BOLOTIES and WESTERNS before hitting on the right answer. Brilliant misdirection!

    • Brucenm says:

      I too, half whimsically, hoped and thought it would be “nighties”, though Nancy didn’t occur to me. I thought perhaps in some of his movies . . .

    • Papa john says:

      I’m glad you guys brought up this clue because it struck me the wrong way, especially with the use of the pronoun “them” in the clue. (“Reagan was seen a lot in them”) “Them” means more than one, no? So, to what “eighties” does the clue refer – the 1980s, the 1880s, the 1780s? As to Reagan being seen “a lot in them”, he was actually seen in all of the 1980s. The whole clue/fill has me completely baffled. Clarification would appreciated.

      • HH says:

        Well, there were 10 of “them” — 1980, 1981, 1982, etc.

        And it doesn’t say he was “seen in a lot of them”, but “seen a lot in them”.

        If you’re still baffled, not my problem.

  10. cyberdiva says:

    I’m much less experienced and proficient at solving crosswords than most people who comment here, and so I was astonished at today’s discussion. I came to the site expecting to find Amy complaining that the NYT puzzle was a Wednesday masquerading as a Friday. For me it was one of the easiest Fridays I could remember. (To put this in perspective, however, it usually takes me a good deal longer to do Tuesdays than it took Amy to solve today’s NYT.)

    Needless to say, I liked the puzzle a lot. I held my nose over PROSES, and I changed the final Y to an S in DYNASTS only because I’d never heard of YEATMATE, but otherwise, I really enjoyed it. Most of the big answers came unusually quickly for me, including ONIONRINGS, BALLERINAS, ERGONOMICS, BATESMOTEL, and PLUSSIGN. I especially liked the clue for PLUSSIGN, though probably my favorite clue/answer was “Broken into on TV” –> PREEMPTED. That was also the last word I entered. I wish more Fridays were like this one.

  11. Howard B says:

    Had the wavelength on this one. Outside of PROSES, didnt seem too crazy,although the cluing was definitely on the crunchy side. Nicely done.

  12. Daniel Myers says:

    I’m with the lot that found this a very breezy Friday indeed, probably for the same reasons that Bruce mentions at the end of his post. PROSES posed no problem. I shan’t belabour the point, just one citation from the lengthy OED entry:

    1848 A. Brontë Tenant of Wildfell Hall I. xvi. 278, He sat beside me, prosing away by the half-hour together, and beguiling himself with the notion that he was improving my mind by useful information.

  13. RK says:

    Never heard of PROSES so was unsure I’d finish. But by GEORG I did it.

    Just had to write that.

  14. janie says:

    count me as another who really enjoyed solving ms. motley’s puzzle and didn’t find it to be an un-friday-like effort at all. felt just about right to me. no, didn’t *love* PROSES and first entered PRATES. also, like cyberdiva, changed DYNASTY to DYNASTS when i finally accepted that YEATMATE just wasn’t gonna cut it! unlike cyber -d, PREEMPTED fell pretty early on. but IRENE rich? never hearda her. looking at her screen credits (which precede “talkies”…) gives a great glimpse into cinema history. enjoy!


  15. Torbach says:

    I, too, had NIGHTIES but it was because I’d put Reagan in a “Bedtime for Bonzo” get-up – you know, with the pom-pommed sleeping hat? At that point, the non-speed solver in me let my mind wander to 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy and his stretch of “Reaganing.”

    Also, at the OGIVE spot I wound up with some rebus squares in my dead-tree solve with OGIVE/OGOVE and/or PROSES/PRONES for IRIS/IRON but finally decided IRON as a color would be a bit unfair and stuck to IRIS. Not to mention a fleeting fail at 1-D/14-A with a nonsensical ANODE/NURMA – maybe an island off Narnia? I nearly asked the opinion of my SEATMATE on the train but decided he was best left to his inner thoughts.

    Happy Weekend!

  16. ktd says:

    I’m lost on the PREEMPTED clue…somebody please explain?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      [Broken into on TV?] refers to when regularly scheduled programming is broken into by something more urgent. A presidential speech or news of a disaster may preempt the usual programming, which may be resume later, be rescheduled for another time, or just be lost to viewers.

      • Brucenm says:

        Right. I’m surprised by the queries about “preempted.” Like when you’re settling in to watch an exciting segment of “Snooki”, (whom I’ve only learned about from crosswords), and they annoy you with stuff like 50 kids getting gunned down at a school.

  17. ArtLvr says:

    Small nit — pannonica’s scowl at proper names in the WSJ shouldn’t include 72D RIDI, since it’s the imperative form of the verb “to laugh”, as the clue indicates if you know the title character in the opera… (whence ridicule).

    • pannonica says:

      Yes, that was intended to be “proper names and …” something or other. Was going to cite some others … koff, koff

      edit: IPSO is also not a proper noun. See?

      • ArtLvr says:

        Never mind — pagliaccio (jester) is spelled wrong in the clue: they left out the penultimate i ……..

    • pannonica says:

      But! There’s something else going on in the write-up. Did anyone notice?


      • ArtLvr says:

        Please reveal your “something else”, else I may go sleepless tonight!

      • janie says:

        i may be in the wrong ballpark altogether, but in this puzzle focused on “the” as the definite article, your post uses the word not at all — except where you cite it as part of the theme fill. even nevertheless –> neveraless.

        chance or choice?


  18. Thanks for a great write-up, Pannonica! Bravo for avoiding definite articles in your review!

    • pannonica says:

      The puzzle was worth the extra attention! To be fair, I didn’t avoid them when citing clues, or using the Rain Man quote; it was just “personal” content.

      Was hoping “neveraless” would be a tip-off for readers.

      • Hi, I’m chiming in from Down Under, where in a few hours Michael The Son will marry Stephanie The Bride. Pannonica, I loved your report, and second David’s sentiments. Somehow, he knew that Bette and Geena Davis have the same middle name, but Mike Shenk wanted better known names and found a Thoreau-ly appropriate example to go with crossword-recognizable Eisenhower (DDE of ETO, who twice bested AES). I also offer the nugget that the crossworld seems to overwhelmingly prefer Georges ENESCO, who the music world refers to as Georg Enescu. Thanks again!

  19. CY Hollander says:

    Bad clue for 19a: René is not a unisex name. René is masculine and Renée is feminine.

  20. Trey Roth says:

    Not a very solvable puzzle. I even had difficulty understanding the “ipso” “ipsa” contradiction. The mufasa vs mufaga rationale also appears to be in conflict. I wonder if Gregg just mailed it in?!


    • pannonica says:

      That was my mistake. Must have saved an earlier version of the puzzle (WSJ), before I realized it was MUFASA / LESE and not MUFAGA /LEGE. Image now replaced.

      And I reverted to the more familiar IPSO rather than the correct IPSA in my write-up (and subsequent commentary). Post text now emended.

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