Friday, November 22, 2013

NYT 4:37 (Amy) 
LAT 4:15 (Gareth) 
CS 5:48 (Dave) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:04 (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 22 13, no. 1122

Ah, yes. A 72-68-word Friday puzzle, plenty of space for lively answers. I like that. Plus super-smooth fill overall (as you expect from Patrick Berry), and interesting clues.

Here are the clues and entries I liked the most:

  • 1a and 11d share the same clue, [Milk additive]. BOSCO, which I know strictly from Seinfeld (I don’t think it’s sold in Chicago—at least I haven’t seen it in the stores I shop at), and OVALTINE. I hope Patrick originally had NESTLES clued as Nestlé’s chocolate.
  • 15a RETRIEVER crosses its rhyme, 12d RECEIVER. One a dog, one a stereo component.
  • 14a. [Hoyt who wrote “Joy to the World”], AXTON. Love that song. Axton played the dad in the movie Gremlins in the ’80s.
  • 17a. ABOUT-FACE is a great entry.
  • 18a. [“Wrong” way to spell a world leader’s name in a New York Times crossword, according to a 1999 episode of “The West Wing”], QADDAFI. Uncharacteristically, Leo McGarry was ignorant of the issue of transliteration. Who the hell is he to say that one particular transliteration spelling is more correct than another? And what is Huda’s preferred spelling?
  • 33a. [On-deck circle?], LIFE PRESERVER. Clue sounds mystifyingly basebally to me but isn’t.
  • 38a. [Charles who was born Angelo Siciliano], ATLAS. Early bodybuilder. I thought Atlas sounded like a fake name but never knew his real name.
  • 53a. HOT POTATO, great entry. Does it make you hungry? Because then there’s 56a ONION RING.
  • 58a. [Unwelcome benchmark?], WET PAINT. Great clue! Sit on a bench with wet paint, end up with unwelcome paint marks on your clothes.
  • 13d. [Showing some wear?], DRESSED. As in showing some formalwear or showing some sportswear.
  • 23d. The great Catherine DENEUVE, welcome crossword entry.
  • 34d. [Phone line?], “I’LL GET IT.”
  • 35d. [Title sort of person in 2008’s Best Picture], SLUMDOG. Not your usual, garden-variety crossword answer.
  • 36d. CAT CHOW, good entry. And tasty.

4.25 stars. Good stuff.

David Steinberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Up-and-Comers” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/22/13 • “Up-and-Comers” • Steinberg • solution

Timer never started, but it was a quick solve. “Up” in the title means about a 90% chance that the theme will be oriented vertically, and so it is. 29-down repeats the title [Up-and-comer … or what can be found in 3, 6, 8, and 20-Down?] Circled, no less. So… Look! Up in the night sky! It’s a nightbird! It’s a nightplane! No, it’s Supernightman … M Night Shamalayan the name of a star backwards inside a phrase.

  • 3d. [Type of betting pool] PARIMUTUEL (Mira). Look!
  • 20d. [Paper that awards Obies, with “the”] VILLAGE VOICE (Vega). So that’s where vegans come from.
  • 6d. [Euphemism for a certain facility] LITTLE GIRLS’ ROOM (Rigel). Portmanteau of rye bagel.
  • 8d. [Brunch staple] EGGS BENEDICT (Deneb). At least no pope. Don’t miss the guy a whit.

Decent theme, good execution, no complaints there.

Descending starlets:

  • 38-across, in the center, [Author of the poem “Teddy Bear”] AA MILNE. The first appearance of (a then-unnamed) Winnie-the-Pooh, in 1924. Later adapted into a pop song for Elvis Presley.
  • 15a [Mark in “vis-à-vis”] GRAVE, clued with no reference or relation to 28a [Vehicle in a solemn procession] HEARSE. Curiously, or perhaps capriciously, or perhaps even predictably, I would also have highlighted the pair if they were connected. Also, is there tripartite hyphenation theme going on?
  • 42a [Hit the big leagues, maybe] GO PRO. GoPro cameras have a massive techie and on-line presence. Are editors resistant to another brand name? Personally, I’m weary of iApple everything in crosswords.
  • 65a [Name that means “wool” in Spanish] LANA. As in, lanolin. Doesn’t seem an overly auspicious name, although granted wool was much more critical for human survival in the past. Are there correlate names in other languages?
  • 48d [CBS procedural canceled in 2013] CSI:NY. Does no-one remember that tour in the early Eighties when Tony Iommi played with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young? Jeez. Another casualty this year: 60a [Arcade giant that filed for bankruptcy in 2013] ATARI.

Minimum of junk fill. Good puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Salad Days” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four entries where the first word is a type of salad:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/22/13

  • [They’re listed in drug ads] clued SIDE EFFECTS – if you believe most pharmaceutical ads on TV, you risk certain death when trying to control an overactive bladder or dry eye. You have the legal department at these companies to thank for that. A “side salad” accompanies an entrée.
  • [Eco-friendly political group] was the GREEN PARTY – I’m thinking these parties are more popular in European countries than here, with their fewer natural resources and longer history of exploiting them. A “green salad” is mainly lettuce, no?
  • [Where to find rakes and hoes] was a GARDEN SHED – I guess I think of a “garden salad” having more than just lettuce–tomatoes, onions, green peppers, celery, carrots, etc.
  • [Random decision-makers] clued TOSSED COINS – “tossed salads” are tossed to get the dressing on more than just the stuff on top.

I was just talking to someone the other day about why we call tuna salad tuna fish sometimes…are there other types of tuna than the fishy kind? Anyway, this was just an okay theme in my book, types of salads are rather low on the excitement scale for this solver. I liked the compound word crossing of COBWEB with BEANBAG, right next to an entry I’m not sure is one word or two, SEA WAR. Another entry a bit further away, RADAR GUN, sat near Hugh HEFNER, who has likely been caught for speeding while driving a convertible littered with “playmates.” HEAR A as in [“Do I ___ Waltz?”] was an unfortunate partial, which gets my UNFAVE award today.

Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

An exceptionally easy Friday puzzle, without any made-up or otherwise mysterious entries to give one pause. So it basically played as a themeless. Afterwards, I read the very long clue for COMPUTERHACKERS and played the easy(ish) wordsearch game. The theme is very elegant, but it doesn’t integrate into the crossword at all.

Row 1 has a DELL and an ACER. Row 4 has a TOSHIBA – spanning two black square division. Row 12 has a SAMSUNG, again over two divisions; and I assume they also make computers. Finally, Row 15 has Apple, who make absurdly overpriced computers, and Sony. Note: I don’t think I’ve ever bought a computer. I’ve bought parts and gradually introducem them until at some point not even the box and the motherboard are the same…

Other remarks:

  • 18a, [Many pets], MUTTS. If you have a labradoodle or a chalkie you have a mutt.
  • 32a, [Words in a dish], ALA. I always admire a clever clue for an oft used entry!
  • 12d, [Lack faith in a truce, maybe], REARM. That sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • 49d, [Perfect], SPOTON. Cryptic version: [Perfect, like some flea treatments].
  • 50d, [___ tag], LASER. PRICE is obvious, but wrong.

The theme was inventive and different, but kind of felt separated from the crossword, which played as solid themeless. 3.5 stars.


Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking Sides” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/22/13 • “Taking Sides” • Fri • Long • solution

My favorite part of this puzzle is the double-entendre title. There’s a wee revealer down bottom, over to the side, at 109-down: [Thanksgiving side dish found in the longest Across answers ] YAM. Since the family gatherings that occur during the holiday stereotypically devolve into disputatiousness there’s more than one way to “take sides.”

It seems obligatory to mention that yam in the United States is often a misnomer, as the starchy tuber that appears on our plates is usually a sweet potato. Yams are in the family Dioscoreaceae and sweet potatoes are in the Convolvulaceae. I don’t really feel like arguing the point.

  • 22a. [Author of the 1986 Booker Prize winner “The Old Devils”] KINGSLEY AMIS. “Lucky Jim” remains his best known novel; I have yet to read this one. Just as, if not more, entertaining than his son Martin, but not nearly as showoffy.
  • 27a. [Not come anywhere near the target] MISS BY A MILE.
  • 43a. [High points?] HIMALAYA MOUNTAINS.
  • 52a. [Goals that are difficult to realize] LOFTY AMBITIONS.
  • 75a. [He played Buddy Sorrell on 1960s TV] MOREY AMSTERDAM. Know the name, couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Don’t even know which television program the clue refers to … oh! It was The Dick Van Dyke Show, which I have long ago seen some reruns of.
  • 84a. [You know that’s going to happen eventually”] IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.
  • 99a. [Patriot’s consumer appeal] BUY AMERICAN.
  • 106a. [Popeye declaration] “I YAM WHAT I YAM.” Mildly ironic as this is a Mike Shenk-authored puzzle published under the pseudonym Alice Long. Also, this to my mind clashes with 87d [1993 Melissa Etheridge album and song] YES I AM. And that leads to 21a [“__ Boy” (song by the Who)] I’M A.

The majority of the splits are understandably of the Y/AM variety, but there’s one (double) instance of /YAM/ and a couple of Y/A/M appearances, and a lone YA/M to round out the distributions. Points for variety, to be sure. Good mix of names, quotes, and phrases. 

Tangential material at 110d, right after the revealer, [Had Thanksgiving dinner, e.g.] ATE. Even more tangential at 91a [Point at the table] TINE. Even more tangentialer at 102a [Brownish yellow] OCHER. Not sure about the opening combo of 1a & 7a, YEMENI and AMMAN.

Second Helpings:

  • 68d, 81d [Mosaic piece] TESSERA, TILE.
  • Not sure that I’ve ever seen BSER before [Garrulous liar].
  • Favorite fill: 67a [Workers’ Youth Theatre specialty] AGITPROP.
  • 49a [Setting for a crown, perhaps] MOLAR; 119a [Canine’s coat] ENAMEL, followed by 1d [Shaggy beast] YAK.
  • Favorite clues: 5d [Bridge position] NOSE, nothing to do with cards; 47d [Prepares to switch] BAITS; 64a [Evil opposition] GOOD.
  • Most ill-timed clue: 65a [Assassination date] IDES.

Puzzle about average.

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31 Responses to Friday, November 22, 2013

  1. 58A was a very clever clue, but technically a benchmark means a standard by which other things are measured. It ought to have said bench mark to be correct, but of course then it wouldn’t be nearly as clever or interesting.

  2. bob stigger says:

    Amy, Bosco was the milk additive of choice in Chicago when I was growing up in the 50s. “I love Bosco, it’s the drink for me; Mommy puts it in my milk and ” Every bit as annoying as Oscar Mayer Wiener ads of the same era, and equally effective, it would appear. And let’s not the forget the Texaco gas station man singing while cleaning your windshield — how does this crap stick in one’s brain.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: Always wonderful to see PB’s name on a puzzle. The Eastern half felt easy, the NW felt impossible– Did not know BOSCO, AXTON or URI. BASQUE saved the day and gave me QADDAFI.

    “And what is Huda’s preferred spelling?”

    I try not to think about that crazy dude… But I know why the spelling is in dispute. The original sound in Arabic is inimitable in English, comes from the top and back of the throat. In some areas, such as Syria and Lebanon, it’s closer to a K/Q sound and is rendered that way in transliteration–that same letter is at the end of Iraq or in Aqaba, for example. But in other areas, such as Libya, it’s pronounced closer to the hard G. So, the Colonel himself probably would have it be a G…

  4. Mike T says:

    I have a serious crossword-crush on Patrick Berry’s works. Great new fill and creative cluing almost every time. Whenever I see one of his puzzles come up I know I will be entertained and challenged. But at the same time, as difficult as they may be, I always seem to connect with what he has going on and the puzzle falls. Enjoyable Friday morning!

  5. CY Hollander says:

    What’s a guy supposed to do if he’s never heard of BOSCO, AXTON, or OXNARD?

    • David L says:

      Right, that NW corner was tough. I added to my difficulties by putting in LANGUE for 1d (thinking Navarre was some place in France), which fit nicely with GADDAFI. But I managed to come up with AXTON (vaguely knowing the name, no idea about the song in the clue), and then OXNARD bubbled up from deep memory. I figured 16a couldn’t begin NN, and that allowed me to puzzle out the rest. Never heard of BOSCO but finally got it from the crosses.

      • Dave C says:

        Somehow I remembered Hoyt AXTON from a hilarious cameo on WKRP in Cincinnati many years ago, so that became a gimme with the possibility of OXNARD as the crossing (this one from deep memory as well as for David L). Thought SNARE, URI, EDAM and ONEAM were very easy, so the NW turned out not to be a problem spot.

        Love the trivia – Three Dog Night and Hoyt Axton – had no idea.

    • Papa John says:

      Here’s the opening line for Bosco on Wikipedia:

      “Bosco Chocolate Syrup is a brand of chocolate syrup first produced in 1928. The company, Bosco Products, Inc. is based in Towaco, New Jersey, and its products are sold throughout the United States, Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East.”

      As for Oxnard: I have great memories of Oxnard, a.k.a. “the armpit of California”, from the time I spent there opening a new Aaron Brother’s art supply and frames store, in the late ‘60’s. It was one of the better experiences from what I call my polyester period. I’m not sure why Oxnard is the butt of so many jokes. It’s a beautiful locale. I hate to think it’s because of its majority Hispanic population, but that’s certainly a possibility. If we’re supposed to recognize that suburb of Minneapolis – what it is? Edina? – than I think Oxnard is fair game.

  6. animalheart says:

    Byron Walden = Beethoven
    Karen Tracey = Schubert
    BEQ = Stravinsky
    but Patrick Berry = Mozart, always seamless, smooth, invigorating, and life-affirming

    So, in other words, yes, I liked today’s puzzle. 5 stars.

  7. Lemonade714 says:


    I know your question is rhetorical, but it goes to the heart of crossword construction. I grew up drinking Bosco, Joy to the World and many of Hoyt Axton’s songs are quite famous and Oxnard has been the butt of jokes for years, as well as home for the strawberries. At what point is something that one person may know too obscure? Do we plug an answer into Google and if it has 500,000 references it is not obscure? 100,000? These have all appeared in puzzles before, so how is the constructor to decide? Also, do you want a puzzle to include only answers which are very familiar? Did you look up Hoyt Axton and see he was creative, troubled and interesting? JMO

    • Evan says:

      Here’s how I would decide: Always, always, always go for familiar over Scrabbly letters.


      Each word is familiar, much more familiar than AXTON/OXNARD.

      Patrick Berry’s puzzles are great, but that crossing is terrible.

      • HH says:

        And then you’ll complain that the clues are too obscure.

        • Evan says:

          Excellent point! Except that it’s bullshit.

          Did you see me complain about the clues for AXTON/OXNARD? No. I complained about those two *answers* being obscure, and that they crossed one another, when I think a different fill would have been better.

          Don’t make up lies about me.

          • Bencoe says:

            I think swale is worse than OXNARD. And I can’t think of an Anton off the top of my head who is more famous than Hoyt AXTON. Also, scrabbly letters can make puzzles interesting.
            Also, it can be fun to learn new things.
            Also, the NYT Friday is SUPPOSED to be hard. There are supposed to be obscurities in it. This is the reason I do the NYT and not easy Pennypress puzzles. I think solvers forget this sometimes.

      • Brucenm says:

        As a general rule of thumb, I would always, always, always go for the less familiar, less banal, less cliché more Scrabbly and interesting, rather than boring, endlessly repetitious, familiarity.

        • Bencoe says:

          Hey, we both said the same thing at the same time! Basically.

          • Evan says:

            I’ll grant that SWALE isn’t a great word, but it’s at least been in plenty of puzzles before and you can get it from every crossing that I suggested. That X could be just about anything — L, N, and even R and S sound like they could work. If you’re going to have an obscure word, fine. Just don’t cross it with something equally obscure that forces solvers to take a wild guess.

            And as for your comment above about how Friday NYT puzzles are supposed to have obscurities and that’s why we do them instead of Penny Press, etc….. what’s with the condescension? Why are the Friday NYT puzzles *supposed* to have obscurities? Do you really think obscure words make a puzzle better when more familiar ones would do just fine? Ask yourself: If that corner had been ANTON/SWALE/ONWARD/COLD, would you have complained about how boring that corner is and how you wished ANTON and ONWARD had instead been AXTON and OXNARD?

            Here are some other things in this puzzle that I didn’t know: CARA, OREIDA, FELIPE. I needed just about every cross to get them. But I didn’t complain about them, even though the clues for them made them obscure for me. That’s because a) those names have been in many puzzles in other contexts and b) everything crossing them is fair. AXTON/OXNARD is as much a Natick as anything you’ll get.

          • Evan says:

            And if you regularly solve Friday NYT puzzles, you’ve surely seen plenty of ANTONs. The writer Anton Chekhov, the composer Anton Bruckner, and if you want go for really tough on a Friday, why not the character Anton Chigurh from “No Country For Old Men”?

            You can always make a puzzle tougher by making the clues tougher.

          • Bencoe says:

            It’s not condescending; it’s a statement of preference. I do puzzles which I find challenging, because I want to be puzzled. If a puzzle is full of familiarity, I find it boring and basically not worth doing.
            I do find obscurities to be more interesting than commonly known things. That’s why I got into the NYT in the first place. It was fun to get into a whole new world of facts and language not found on TV or everyday culture.
            Maybe it is condescending…but I read hundreds of posts every day complaining about how this word or that word is too difficult or obscure. I have to wonder…why are these people solving the NYT at all? Why not an easy penny press style puzzle? Where is the last refuge of the word and trivia freak, if not the NYT puzzle???
            I guess in the end I’d rather do a Henry Hook puzzle than an easy one.

          • Evan says:

            As I said, I don’t mind the occasional obscure word. I do mind it when two obscure words cross one another, because unless that crossing is inferrable, it could be just about anything. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to complain about that without someone telling me that I shouldn’t be solving the NYT puzzle.

            I mean, no one has complained about how boring the southeast corner is, right? I’m sure one could fill that space with a bunch of obscure words.

      • Andrew says:

        Not a great crossing, but I’ve seen much worse. Oxnard has a population over 200,000, the Dallas Cowboys training camp is there, biggest city in Ventura County, etc. If Orono and Edina are crossworthy, I think Oxnard can safely reside in a grid too. Just my two cents.

        • Bencoe says:

          Sorry, promise this is my last post today…
          I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t be solving the NYT. I just have to wonder why people do, sometimes, when it seems like they don’t want a challenging solve. That might not be the case, but it’s the impression people give when they complain about difficulty.
          I don’t want to seem like I am condoning some sort of elitism. To me, crosswordese words are elitist, because the in-crowd of solvers have so much experience with them, and may forget how obscure and/or archaic they really are. A word like Oxnard, as opposed to Edina for example, has the benefit of being equally new to everyone, experienced solver and newbie alike. Novelty in obscurity is far more preferable to me than an obscurity accepted as normal because of its past use in crosswords.

          • CY Hollander says:

            Well, I usually do finish solving the NYT puzzle. Puzzles can be hard without relying on obscure trivia. In fact, that’s just the reason that I prefer the NYT crossword in general.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Well, obviously it’s subjective and depends upon the solver. With that said, I rarely encounter a NYT puzzle where I can’t at least make a pretty good educated guess at the solution, and it’s not like I’m the world’s expert on everything, so the Times must do a pretty good job at striking the balance between obscure and gettable. Two strategies help a lot with this:

      1) Diffuse the obscurity, so a word that many people might be unfamiliar with has more familiar words crossing it.

      2) Clue words in ways that give some extra hint to them that might help one make an educated guess. For instance, I once saw a clue “Mr. Pricklepants in “Toy Story 3, e.g.”. I didn’t know off the bat that the answer was HEDGEHOG, but with a few letters, that one was guessable.

      I’m not criticising this puzzle for my inability to finish the top-left, since as you point out, there’s a lot of subjectivity in this area, and maybe I’m in the minority for not knowing any of those three entries, but for what it’s worth, this was one of the few NYT puzzles, that I not only couldn’t solve, but couldn’t even kick myself for not solving once I saw the solution.

      • Gareth says:

        I finished the puzzle correctly, but I did think that the top-left corner was maybe de trop ito of “difficult” answers.

  8. Zulema says:


    What a clever analogy!

  9. Art Shapiro says:

    I was pleased to see Oxnard – a quite well-known city out my way. That certainly struck me as fairer than, say, the two obscure people’s names in today’s puzzle.

    Haven’t seen Bosco in many years, but maybe I’ll make a search. Its heyday was in the Ipana days. All I see in the stores, neglecting the megabuck boutique brands, is Hershey’s or store generics.

    This was a nice Friday – not too difficult but still taking some effort.


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