Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reagle 9:39 
NYT 8:37 
LAT 8:14 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 14:23 (Sam) 
CS 4:51 (Matt) 

I’ll be away from my keyboard when the NYT puzzle comes out and will review it later this evening. In the meantime, Merl’s puzzle is out and the write-up appears after the jump.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Between Hue and Me”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, “Between Hue and Me” – Sunday, 10 6 13

Tougher than the typical Merl puzzle, what with the 10 rebus squares in asymmetrical, “where are they lurking?” spots. The Notepad, which I didn’t read till after I finished solving, instructs solvers to enter only the first letter. Eh. I wish Black Ink would shrink the font and display the word GREY in full, but my second choice is to show “GR…” with a red X marking the squares as “wrong.” Because X marks the spot and red pops out, whereas just having the letter G in those squares would make for an ugly puzzle.

We’ve got 20 interlocking theme answers today:

  • 9a. [He was the original Wizard in “Wicked”], JOEL {GREY}.
  • 13d. [Oft-chronicled terrier of Scottish lore, ___ Bobby], {GREY}FRIARS. Completely unknown to me. Here’s the tale.
  • 17a. [Vodka brand], {GREY} GOOSE.
  • 17d. [1982 biopic about train robber Bill Miner, “The ___”], {GREY} FOX. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s Canadian, but Ebert reviewed it.
  • 23a. [Description of the food in a bachelor’s fridge?], FIFTY SHADES OF {GREY}. In America, that would be Fifty Shades of Gray, mind you.
  • 25d. [Show about residents], {GREY}’s ANATOMY.
  • 41a. [Documentary that became a musical and a movie], {GREY} GARDENS.
  • 41d. [Nickname of blues pianist Roosevelt Williams], {GREY} GHOST. No idea.
  • 56a. [Highest peak in Massachusetts, Mount ___] {GREY}LOCK. No idea.
  • 35d. [The Nine Days’ Queen], JANE {GREY}.
  • 65a. [Author of “Forlorn River”], ZANE {GREY}.
  • 66d. [Small bird of prey, or an early Dungeons & Dragons world], {GREY} HAWK or {GREY}HAWK, no space.
  • 75a. [Product whose ads once featured people in Rolls-Royces], {GREY} POUPON.
  • 75d. [Fictional lord], {GREY}STOKE. This answer crosses Bo DEREK, but she was in Tarzan, the Ape Man while Andie MacDowell was in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Both were terrible ’80s movies.
  • 99a. [Dogs’ favorite place to pick up other dogs?], {GREY}HOUND TERMINAL. A playful clue to balance the clue for Fifty Shades.
  • 55d. [Portrayer of Ferris Bueller’s sister], JENNIFER {GREY}. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
  • 103a. [2002 Dave Matthews single about a lonely girl], {GREY} STREET. No idea.
  • 80d. [Tea choice], EARL {GREY}.
  • 112a. [Actress in “Dracula’s Daughter” and “The Invisible Man Returns”], NAN {GREY}. No idea.
  • 90d. [Anne Brontë’s first novel], AGNES {GREY}.

Note that all of the rebused answers include the GREY spelling, not GRAY. Steel grey consistency here.

There were a lot of proper names in the puzzle, no? I noticed in particular the SSE zone with DEREK, RONIN, and DEEN going Across and {GREY}STOKE, VARDEN, and DUANE running Down. Lots of the theme answers were capitalized names and places and brand names, too. It took some work to unravel everything, no?

As a Chicagoan, I looked askance at 68a. [Aptly named Illinois city], URBANA. Population 40,000, college town? Hey, that’s not “urban”!


3.5 stars. The expansiveness of the 20-part theme and the use of the less common (in the US) GREY spelling are construction challenges Merl met, but the fill seemed too heavy on propers and I was surprised by how many of the theme answers were completely unfamiliar to me. I know a lot of things! I swear I do. I don’t expect not to recognize 35% of the theme entries.

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Toe Tags”

NY Times crossword solution, 10 6 13, “Toe Tags” by Patrick Berry

Toe tags are grim, but this theme is playful: Tack the “toe” sound onto the the end of a familiar phrase to change the meaning.

  • 23a. [Magic word that never loses its power?], PERMANENT PRESTO. Permanent press.
  • 28a. [1970s Ford on the move?], ROLLING PINTO. Rolling pin.
  • 39a. [Enthusiastic enjoyment of one’s unhappiness?], GLOOMY GUSTO. Gloomy Gus. Love this one! Don’t we all know people like that?
  • 41a. [The Josip Broz Memorial Trophy?], CUP OF TITO. Cup of tea.
  • 58a. [Stingy snack vendor’s special offer?], BUY ONE, GET ONE FRITO. Get one free.
  • 75a. [Big Apple cop who’s looking to bust Popeye?], NYPD BLUTO. NYPD Blue.
  • 77a. [Learn all about the capital of Ecuador?], MASTER QUITO. Master key.
  • 88a. [Portion of Dante’s “Inferno” that was wisely excised?], GARBAGE CANTO. Garbage can.
  • 96a. [Christmas decoration that automatically steers toward lovers?], GUIDED MISTLETOE. Guided missile. Great spelling change here.

Nothing to grouse about in this theme, unless you want to be particular about many Americans’ D-ification of a T sandwiched between vowel sounds. “Bluto” may sound pretty much the same as “blue-dough” rather than a crisp “blue-toe.” But this is not my gripe—just anticipating a potential gripe.

Despite including nine theme answers, Patrick finds the room for plenty of lovely fill. Consider PLANTER’S peanuts ([Company with a monocled mascot]), HYMN BOOK ([Service manual?]), BONE-DRY, RUMBLE SEATS, JUST DESERTS, CANOODLE, and BUCKLE UP. And the junk quotient is minimal.

Mystifying clue: 20a. [Like Lincolns], OVINE. Are we truly expected to be familiar with rare sheep of England? I’ve never seen anything advertised as having Lincoln wool; perhaps you have. I needed to lean on the crossings for all five letters here.

Favorite clues:

  • 9d. [You may have had issues with them in the past], REPRINTS. Is this about Games magazine? Then yes, there are probably reprinted puzzles that I’ve done in newer issues that I had also done years earlier when the puzzles first appeared there. Speaking of magazines with nifty puzzles: Did you know that Penny Press is launching a hot new puzzle mag in January? Will Shortz’s Wordplay will have all sorts of terrific variety puzzles. And no, I have not seen any of the puzzles yet, but the contributors are top-notch. Your Francis Heaneys, your Brendan Emmett Quigleys, and so forth. Eric Berlin is involved on the editorial side. My Games World of Puzzles subscription (lots of reprints!) will finally lapse next spring, and I plan to transfer my affections from GWOP to WSP.
  • 52d. [Player in a pocket], IPOD. No pocket pool or billiards here.
  • 33a. [More than a murmur of discontent], UPROAR. 
  • 50a. [Common ingredient in Nigerian cuisine], YAM.
  • 66a. [Like the word “cwm”], WELSH.
  • 58d. {[unmentionable]}, BLEEP.
  • 84d. [Seinfeld called him “the Picasso of our profession”], PRYOR.

I could have done without the [Overlarge] clue being used for both BLOATED and OBESE. Who’s to say what’s large and what’s “overlarge”? Maybe an obese person is simply large, no judgment of excess.

4.5 stars. Lots of nice little surprises when unwrapping the theme answers.

Jeffrey Harris’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 183”- Sam Donaldson’s review

Post Puzzler No. 183 (solution)

This week the Post Puzzler welcomes guest constructor Jeffrey Harris. You know him as the new editor of the Chronicle Crossword and maybe too as the guy who made the last NYT crossword of 2012, a breezy Monday puzzle that still managed lots of zip. The Post Puzzler, by contrast, is no walk in the park. It requires zip and fiendish clues, and this 70/29 offering is overflowing with them. Check these out:

  • [Private practice?] had me thinking along the lines of WAR GAMES (didn’t fit) or something else related to privates in the military. Instead, the answer was SECRECY. I love clues that give playful twists to familiar phrases.  
  • [Cross-country trainers?] is a great clue for HOBOES.
  • I’m mad at myself for thing that the [Mousse ingredient, maybe] needed to be something sweet. FOIE GRAS is about as far away from sweet as one can get.
  • I liked [Tsunami source?] as the clue for JAPANESE. It was going to be my “Favorite clue” in the last paragraph, but then I got to [Draw lots?] for SELL OUT. (Another great twist on a common phrase!) Then I got to one that was my favorite (hey, no peeking!). It’s almost unfair that this puzzle has so many great clues.
  • I had no idea about the [U-matic successor]. I was thinking it might have been an early juicer or maybe a vacuum cleaner of some kind. But the answer proved to be BETAMAX, the old VCR format. Hard to believe anything predated the Betamax.
  • Really wanted OSCAR or FELIX as the [Noted TV roommate], but I was even happier to see Bert’s old buddy, ERNIE.
  • [Round, for example] is a devious clue because it could work with so many things. SHOT, CUT OF BEEF, SHAPE, AMMO. You get the idea. Here it was SONG. Obviously not one of the first ones to cross my mind. 

Pangram fans will carp that there’s no love for the letter V in this grid. I’m not a “pangram for pangram’s sake” guy–interesting, clean fill is, conservatively, 1,000 times more important than making sure there’s a V in there. As it is, we have plenty of rare letters, and they’re all put to good use here. Nothing looks forced, and there’s a nice mix of high-falutin’ stuff (hello, EXTREMUM and CUI BONO) and low-brow stuff (TASTE THE RAINBOW, Bert’s pal ERNIE, and the budget-conscious LA QUINTA hotel chain). Big thumbs up overall.

The whole “guest constructor” gimmick with the Post Puzzler is terrific. Editor Peter Gordon invites submissions of themeless puzzles from anyone who wants to give it a go. The submissions are sent to Frank Longo, who edits out the names and forwards them to Peter for solving. Peter picks his favorite for the guest constructor slot, and only then does he find out who made the puzzle. Byron Walden had the first “wild card” puzzle this past June, and today’s puzzle was the second winner. Only two spots are left–the next one will run in January and the last one will run in March. (Submissions for the third slot are already closed but you have until November 1 to be in the running for the last slot.) I hope Peter continues with this idea, as it’s fun to see occasional freestyle puzzles from guest constructors.

Favorite entry = LA QUINTA, the s[Hampton competitor] in the lodging business. Favorite clue = [What students might take if they can’t attend] isn’t a MAKE-UP TEST or anything like that. It’s RITALIN, because “attend” here, I think, means “pay attention.”

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy puzzle, “Sunday Challenge” — Matt’s review

Visually attractive freestyle grid from Bruce. So beauty points right off the bat, but with a grid like this the thumbs will go up or down based on those six grid-spanners, so let’s see how they stack up:

14-a [Very close] = ON INTIMATE TERMS. Adequate but not a thriller. Let’s call it an infield single.
17-a [Blue tales] = OFF-COLOR STORIES. Single into right field, though I’d prefer a less definition-like clue. [They can get you into trouble at work], for instance.
23-a [Do seemingly impossible tasks] = PERFORM MIRACLES. Double into the gap, but again wants a less workmanlike clue.
42-a [Follows a risky course of action] = WALKS A TIGHTROPE. Ground rule double, but yet again the clue doesn’t do a great entry justice. These three have all been very lively two-part entries where the clues are just two-part straight defintions.
56-a [Was blessed with longtime good fortune] = LED A CHARMED LIFE. Same comment! These are like cooking a gourmet meal and then serving it on paper plates with tap water.
60-a [Split, like a piñata] = CRACKED WIDE OPEN. Much better!

So A+ entries but C- cluing. Still a B, but coulda been more. But a star-studded sextet nonetheless.

Next question on a grid like this is: how much did the shorter fill suffer to accommodate those marquee entries? Answer: not very much. The NW, W, S, SE, N and center sections are all somewhere between very good and flawless, though I’d’ve changed FETED/ETS to FETID/ITS to get rid of ETS. The rest suffers a wee bit: SESE, its anagram ESSE, ESTOP and MMES are compromises, but that’s the extent of it. And Bruce snuck some nice stuff in there as well, which requires fancy stepping on a grid with six 15’s: THE FEDS, TONKA, APPLET and PAPAW (in season now where I live) all do nicely.

Clues didn’t have the zip of yesterday’s Klahn — tough act to follow — but [Con man?] for ANTI and [European pop?] for PERE showed some life.

4.45 for the grid, 3.25 for the clues. We’ll average it out to 3.85 stars.

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

LA Times crossword solution, 10 6 13 “Epicenters”

The theme answers are clued straightforwardly and what they have in common is also quite straightforward: The three letters in the exact center of those 10 answers are EPI. I’ve circled the EPIs in my grid; note that the EPIs appear in perfectly symmetrical spots. So while the theme lacks the excitement of wordplay, it is laid out meticulously and there’s no deviation from the center spots (meaning we have plural PILOT EPISODES with five letters before and after EPI rather than a singular PILOT EPISODE where the EPI is roughly, but not exactly, in the middle).

  • 34a. [Bearded impressionist], CAMILLE PISSARRO. How many impressionists did not have a beard? I Googled impressionist painters and Chrome displayed a bar at the top with head shots of the top search results. Pissarro’s beard was the biggest, but Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Cézanne, and Caillebotte were also bearded. Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt did not have beards. Also, “bearded impressionist” puts me in mind of “bearded dragon.”
  • 11d. [Figure skate feature], TOE PICK.
  • 49a. [Near East product], RICE PILAF. Near East is a brand of boxed rice pilaf mixes as well as a region where pilaf is served.
  • 24d. [“Capisce?”], “GET THE PICTURE?”
  • 65a. [It may be a sign of chilling], GOOSE PIMPLE. Just one? (Checked one dictionary that lists this strictly in the plural.) This clue occupies that nanosecond when the skin begins to react to the cold and a single hair follicle clamps down, but the second follicle has not yet begun.
  • 9d. [Peter Sellers film that began production after his death], TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER.
  • 82a. [Swatch, e.g.], TIMEPIECE. Swatch is a brand of watches.
  • 48d. [TV prototypes], PILOT EPISODES. Took me a while to realize the clue wasn’t asking for early precursors of the television.
  • 98a. [“Call me”], “LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH.”
  • 86d. [Rock bottom], THE PITS.

Did not know:

  • 80d. [Guam Air Force base], ANDERSEN. I’m thinking Arthur Andersen is more broadly familiar.
  • 95d. [Award-winning sci-fi writer Connie], WILLIS. Helen Willis was Roxie Roker’s character on The Jeffersons and the second-tallest building in the US is now called the Willis Tower (though we all still call it the Sears Tower).

Favorite fill: OREGANO, James Joyce’s EYEPATCH, SUN TZU, FUNKY (although I prefer the positive/music/dance senses of the word to the [Evil-smelling] one), PASTRAMI, TAILGATE, Homer’s ODYSSEY, LACROSSE, and SNAP UP. Lively language.

I wasn’t in love with all of the short fill, but the Scowl-o-Meter barely hummed during my solve. Four stars.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Dovetailers” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 10/6/13 • “Dovetailers” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

The gist here is that each of the theme answers repeats a six-letter sequence, as the end of the first word, and immediately followed by the beginning of the second.

  • 22a. [Figures in water?] SWIMMERS IMMERSED. Coincidentally, immer means “always” in German.
  • 35a. [Fish grasped?] FLOUNDERS UNDERSTOOD.
  • 58a. [Church without a bit of damage?] UNSCATHED CATHEDRAL.
  • 68a. [Camel in a constellation?] ANDROMEDA DROMEDARY.
  • 90a. [Common 2/14 items?] PREVALENT VALENTINES.
  • 112a. [Knowing zilch about Italian women?] SIGNORA IGNORANCE.

The spiffiest aspect is that there isn’t any etymological relationship between the paired letter sequences, which I have no doubt is trickier than it seems at first.

While solving and cottoning to the theme, I was feeling that the title wasn’t quite accurate, as I was first picturing the typical flared mortise and TENON (19d) interlocking two pieces of wood, usually perpendicular to each other. Then, more generally, “dovetailing” as simply fitting together. At the time I felt “overlapping” was better, but soon realized that the phrases are only potentially (internally) overlappable, so that wasn’t accurate either. In truth, they’re just repeated sequences, but that isn’t so flashy or arresting. In the end, I suppose that “Dovetailers” is approximate enough.

More than once I found that an incorrect first reaction to clue turned out to be an answer somewhere else in the grid. At 103-down [Go off true], I wanted VEER, but it turned out to be TILT; however 94-across [Go off course] was VEER. At 48-down [Couldn’t stand] I wanted the too-long ABHORRED but it was HATED; the very next clue? 49d [Abominate] ABHOR. There was at least one more pair, but I can’t locate it now.

Not part of the theme: GOO-GOO eyes, NOW, NOW.

Good cluing throughout, a fun and interesting crossword.

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17 Responses to Sunday, October 6, 2013

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: Since when does a (48d) PO’BOY = a submarine (sandwich)?

  2. Davis says:

    The “D-ification” sound you refer to is actually distinct from both the “t” sound and the “d” sound. It’s called a “tap” (or sometimes a “flap”)–though apparently some linguists refer to the English version of this sound more specifically as an “alveolar tap”.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: What I like most is that if you go back and reread the final theme answers, many of them make you smile. Well, they make me smile, anyhow. GLOOMY GUSTO is my favorite– I can almost imagine it, there should be a word for it. For example if you catch yourself enthusiastically admiring the accomplishments of someone while wondering why you can’t, even remotely, do such a beautiful thing yourself. I tell my husband about Amy’s solving times with gloomy gusto.

    • sbmanion says:

      The Greek word PLEONEXIA comes close to your concept, although Gloomy Gusto reflects more quixotic longing and pleonexia more ruthless desire for. One sense of REPINING is not far off either.


  4. spongeamy says:

    The reprinting of puzzles in the GAMES magazine is driving me mad. I have written to them many times complaining with no response. Is the profit margin so low that they can’t pay the many willing constructors (I assume) the pittance they give them for their work?

    • HH says:

      The worst part is, if a puzzle has an error, they don’t fix the error before reprinting the puzzle. I’m about to cancel my subscription … and I get a comp.

  5. Andrew says:

    Nice puzzle and all, but a glaring consistency issue went unsaid: GUIDING MISTLETOE is the only themer whose “tag” was not merely TO.

    • Huda says:

      I did wonder about it and thought there should have been at least one other TOE in the bunch. But then I decided the whole thing should be thought of phonetically. May be?

  6. michele says:

    You rock!

  7. Ron Pickleman says:

    What…Only nine toes!

  8. Norm says:

    I have a poster from the Lake District of “English Sheep Breeds” on my wall, and, sure enough, there we find the Lincoln Longwool: “Found in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Argentina and many overseas countries” — which is very interesting (apart from the missing Oxford comma) to the extent that it implies that Argentina is something other than an overseas country. The poster probably dates back to the time of the you-know-what war (I shan’t take sides by choosing one name or the other lest I offend anyone); perhaps the British Wool Society thought the outcome of the war would cover more than the islands.

  9. sarah says:

    NY Times – 10/6: Just deserts???? or desserts?!!

    • Gareth says:

      From Collins dictionary

      deserts (dɪˈzɜːts)
      plural noun

      something that is deserved or merited; just reward or punishment

      “Just desserts” is what a toddler requests for dinner…

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