Sunday, January 5, 2014

NYT 8:50 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:55 (Amy) 
LAT 8:11 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 13:33 (Sam) 
CS 7:50 (Dave) 

Alan DerKazarian’s New York Times crossword, “Clued In”

NY Times crossword solution, 1 5 14 "Clued In"

NY Times crossword solution, 1 5 14 “Clued In”

This puzzle breaks two of the standard rules of crossword construction: The grid pattern isn’t symmetrical (though each quadrant is a self-contained symmetrical 11×11 crossword) and each quadrant of the grid is entirely cut off from the others. It’s in service of the theme, though, and I do love the theme. The board game Clue (or Cluedo, to Brits—and I hope someone will tell me if that rhymes with judo or voodoo) splits the board into various rooms, the tokens that move around the board have colorful names, and there are little plastic and metal weapons.

Alan has left clues (in circled squares) to the identity of the 1a: SUSPECT in the first room, clues to which 11a: ROOM is the crime scene in the next corner, and hints about the 73a: WEAPON in the third corner. Crack the code to fill out your accusation in the three 11-letter circled answers in the remaining quadrant, and you’ve won the game.

The upper left corner has the hints FEVER, LETTER, and TANAGER, all clued straightforwardly. What word precedes all three?

The upper right features the words RELAX, IDLE, and REST. What room in Clue do these words suggest?

The lower left corner has REPO, PORE, and OPER, which are all anagrams of one another and of what Clue weapon?

“It was MISS SCARLET, IN THE LOUNGE, WITH THE ROPE.” Tied into a perfect bow at the end.

Meanwhile, in the fill. “ABANDON SHIP” is juicy, as are ROLLING PINS, PRETZELS and DIET SODA, and that PTERODACTYL who absolutely did not carry off Mr. Boddy. There’s also plenty of “meh” fill floating around in here—hello, crosswordese ISTLE and ERNE—but in general I overlooked that stuff while solving because I was focused on piecing together the theme. (This is why something like an add-a-letter theme with boring fill is so disappointing—because there’s no mystery to the theme and you’re left looking to the surrounding fill for entertainment.)

The “fingers” of black squares that serve as doors into the grid’s “rooms” aren’t exactly analogous to the doors on a Clue board—there are two hallway “doors” in each of these four “rooms,” vs. the game’s one to four doors per room.

4.5 stars. A memorable riff on a beloved board game.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Redefining the Game”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 1 5 14 "Redefining the Game"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 1 5 14 “Redefining the Game”

Various football terms get redefined in this week’s Merl puzzle, and all sorts of NFL playoff games are going on this weekend.

  • 23a. [Sign that your duck is getting older?], LOSS OF DOWN. My favorite of the theme entries/clues.
  • 25a. [Pole-boat rental sign?], PUNT RETURN. I rarely encounter the boat called a punt outside of crosswords. I don’t live near puntable waters.
  • 31a. [Electrical safeguard?], INTENTIONAL GROUNDING.
  • 52a. [Get rid of unwanted hair, cat-style?], COUGH UP THE BALL. Is this specifically a football usage? My football-fiend son has never heard this one. Husband says it means “fumble.”
  • 66a. [Feature of this puzzle?], CROSSING PATTERN. Not a football term I’m familiar with.
  • 83a. [Two networks showing the same game?], DOUBLE COVERAGE.
  • 99a. [South Seas entrepreneur going over his holdings?], HUT ONE, HUT TWO, HUT THREE.
  • 110a. [Good name for a vacuum cleaner?], POWER SWEEP. Never heard this one; neither has my son. Husband says “made famous by the Packers.” (He knows his Packers.)
  • 114a. [Term for a certain defensive player, not his painful-sounding takedown?], NOSE TACKLE. Not sure why this one gets a literal clue in addition to the playful one.

The theme doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but I imagine more ardent football fans are tickled by it.

Seven more things:

  • 1d. [Insect feelers], PALPI. I had PALPS.
  • 20a. [Samsonesque], MANFUL. Why isn’t womanful a word?
  • 76d. [Designer Ferrari], ENZO. He designed cars as well as racing them. Enzo Angiolini was a shoe designer.
  • 102d. [Gardener, at times], HOSER. Hey! Don’t hurl Canadian insults at the gardener. He works hard.
  • 51d. [Pullover fabric], ORLON. The clue really ought to mention the vintage nature of Orlon. DuPont stopped making it decades ago, so while you can find old Orlon sweaters on eBay, you won’t find the acrylic fiber in retail stores.
  • 118a. [Refrigerant ingredient], ETHANE. 
  • 12d. [A hostel environment], INN. Cute pun clue.

3.25 stars. Not much excitement in the fill to make up for a theme that didn’t capture my .

Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 196”- Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 196 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 196 (solution)

2014 is off to a great start at the Post Puzzler! Todd McClary’s latest offering is perhaps best summarized by the [Modern loss-for-words comment] at 1-Across: WOW, JUST WOW. A freestyle this smooth and scrabbly should be more like a 72/38 instead of a wide open 66/24 grid. This is terrific work.

Today’s puzzle is proof that a solver can be completely ignorant about a significant percentage of the answers and still enjoy the ride. Holy cats is this grid chock-full-o’-stuff I didn’t know. There’s NEIL GAIMAN, the [“Coraline” author], CNET, the [Web site that makes “Tap That App” videos], “LON [Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China” (1990 Caldecott Medal winner)], [New York congresswoman] NITA Lowey, POSOLE, the [Mexican stew], APACHEAN, the [Southwestern language group] that just looks like a made-up word, and EMAIL APNEA, apparently [Coinage for an engrossed computer user’s shallow breathing]. Oh, and I must add McCAFE to the list, because I didn’t know that was the term for a McDonald’s coffee, an [Arch-rival of Starbucks?]. I take it the question mark in the clue does not signal wordplay but instead the worthiness of the McDonald’s product as a rival to that of Starbucks.

Two bits and pieces:

  • [Release funds?] was a nifty little clue for BAIL.
  • There are lots of lively entries here in addition to the show-stopper at 1-Across. I especially liked BITE-SIZE (clued as [Like popcorn shrimp]), RADICALIZE, DECK CHAIRS, and JOLT COLA, though URGENCY, WENT AWRY, STAYED OVER, and SLEEPINESS were also nice.

Favorite entry = PIZZA BOXES, the [Supreme protectors?]. That question mark in the clue helped me resist the urge to think about the equivalent of a Secret Service for Justices of the United States Supreme Court. But now that I’m done solving the puzzle, I can explore this topic on the web and find interesting articles like this one. Favorite clue = [Pea coat] for WASABI.

Updated Sunday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Showy themeless grid featuring 4 double stacks of 15-letter entries, arranged in a sort-of hashtag (or is than an octothorpe?) fashion:

CrosSynergy crossword solution - 01/05/14

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 01/05/14

  • [Wide receivers?] clued SATELLITE DISHES. Not sure I get the “wide” part of this–most are rather circular I think.
  • [Cole Porter classic of 1934] clued MISS OTIS REGRETS. I’m partial to the Bette Midler cover, myself.
  • [Like a start-up business] was the 25-cent word ENTREPRENEURIAL.
  • [They go to blazes] clued FIRE DEPARTMENTS. I think I refer to them as “stations” instead of “departments,” but of course that would be short a few letters.
  • [Clive Cussler novel of 1976] clued RAISE THE TITANIC. Familiar title, but have not read it.
  • [Declaration of independence?] clued IT’S A FREE COUNTRY. I want to add “ain’t it?” to the end of that.
  • [Terminus, so to speak] clued END OF THE LINE.
  • [Approximates the time of completion] clued SETS A TARGET DATE. The weakest of the lot, imho. Seems rather arbitrary as a phrase.

Pretty sharp entries, especially given the heavy constraints of crossing all those grid-spanning entries. The proof in these kind of puzzles, though, is in the small crossers that bear the weight of all that scaffolding, so we find entries like ETCS, IT SO, IDE and ARPA. But, in balance, I would say they didn’t detract much from my overall thumbs-up for this challenging construction.

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Er Uh” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 1/5/14 • "Er Uh" • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 1/5/14 • “Er Uh” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Sadly, this puzzle marks the end of an era. Wait … um, ah … let me rephrase that. The theme answers boast words ending in a schwa that are converted to ones ending in “-er” for wacky results.

To put it another way, they lose that schwa and gain a short e (as well as an ar). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 59d—right in the center vertically—is clued [“Get Shorty” character]—because, you know, those words get a “short e.” The answer by the way is KAREN, which makes the tie-in clue immediately following [ … played by this actress] for RUSSO miscalibrated: first name KAREN Flores, last name Rene RUSSO.

  • 23a. [Result if Anne Boleyn more amorous?] HENRY FONDER (Fonda). Good pidgin.
  • 33a. [Effect of cold seats?] SITTING SHIVER (shiva).
  • 63a. [Praised in August?] SUMMER CUM LAUDE (summa).
  • 70a. [Rows of eels?] CONGER LINES (conga).
  • 75a. [Deep-dish dinner for the piano man?] TUNER CASSEROLE (tuna). Erm, “you can tuna fish but you can’t tuna piano,” harhar.
  • 102a. [What crossdressers have done?] HIDDEN A GENDER (agenda). One word to two.
  • 116a. [Songwriter a bit daft?] PORTER POTTY (Port-a-). One word to a hyphenate.
  • 3d. [Method for landing an airplane?] MANNER FROM HEAVEN (manna). I’m kind of thinking of El Greco’s angels now, but let’s move on.
    grecoconciertoSorry. Okay, now let’s move on.
  • 45d. [How Bartlett’s is arranged?] ON A QUOTER SYSTEM (quota). Ow, ow, ow!

Yes, the silliness got me to chuckle once or twice. Also, notice the triple-overlap of 63a/70a/75a in the center, as well as the interpolated three-letter overlaps of 23a/33a, and 102a/116a. Gets things gluey, in a good way.


  • Let’s just get the major icks out of the way first:86a [Mr. Boddy’s game] CLUE. See today’s NYT.
    • DAZER, REFURL. Amy calls them “roll-your-own,” I’ll be more genteel and say “bespoke” (but privately, “misbespoken”). (18d, 46d)
    • ARIZ. DENOM. Abbrevs. that are too long [sic]. (26a, 104d)
    • The cluster of REQS, RWE, and DNMA in the lower right quadrant.
  • Misfill-type things: 57d [Baroness who wrote “The Scarlet Pimpernel”] – sort of knew it, went with ORZAY, then ORSAY, finally got it right with ORCZY (Cynthia Ozick notwithstanding); 99d [1939 James Stewart title role] went for Elmer GANTRY, not DESTRY Rides Again; 102d [Rush hour din] – for this my distractible mind processed it as dinner rush and so ended up considering only restaurant-related answers – HONKS.
  • Completely Unfamiliar Names: 103d [Tony winner Menzel] IDINA; 60a [Actress Woodard] ALFRE; 108d [Sister-in-law of Ruth] ORPAH Winefry. Additionally, did not know 19a [Blandick who played Auntie Em] CLARA; considering that 14d [North Sea feeder] EMS is in the grid and the relative obscurity of Ms Blandick I feel the pseudo-duplication should have been avoided by citing a different CLARA, for instance Barton of the American Red Cross or Frau Schumann or theremin virtuosa Rockmore or even silents star Bow.
  • Clifford ODETS, “ODE TO a Nightingale”, “Ode on a …” [Grecian vessel] URN. (109a, 121a, 87d)
  • Favorite clues: 84a [Minimal change] CENT; 91a [Opening remark?] SESAME.
  • ATTO- is [Quintillionth (prefix)] (111d). Who knew?
  • And lastly but not leastly, 83d [Was] USED TO BE.

Entertaining puzzle, but I had a bit more fun riffing on it than solving it.

Joel Lafargue’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Name Game”

LA Times Sunday crossword, 1 5 14 "Name Game"

LA Times Sunday crossword, 1 5 14 “Name Game”

The theme is phrases that start with words that can precede “name”:

  • 24a. [1983 novel partly set in a graveyard], PET SEMATARY. Pet name, e.g., Schmoopie.
  • 45a. [Classic detective played by William Powell], NICK CHARLES. Nickname, an ekename.
  • 54a. [Bibliophile’s prize], FIRST EDITION. First name, e.g., Joel.
  • 75a. [Simple to operate], USER-FRIENDLY. Username, e.g., areynaldo74.
  • 86a. [Office staple], FILE CABINET. Filename, e.g., la140105.puz.
  • 107a. [Any top-25 NFL career scoring leader], PLACE KICKER. Place name, e.g., Frozen Hellhole.

I wouldn’t have known A.A. FAIR (92d. [Cool and Lam detective series pen name]) except that it was in the NYT puzzle the other day.

I mis-Frenched the puzzle by filling in CHAUD for 64a. [Cold, in Calais]. C on a faucet means “hot” in French; FROID means “cold.” French was my bugbear in this puzzle; 5d. [Classic French firearms company], LEPAGE, was also unfamiliar.

Two lovely 11s in the fill (edited to add: whoops, HH points out those are also theme entries):

  • 38d. Cheating deterrent], CODE OF HONOR.
  • 41d. A 36-Across may be one], TRADE SECRET. 36a is RECIPE, as for the Krabby Patty on SpongeBob Squarepants. Plankton is always trying to steal Mr. Krabs’ burger recipe.

Not much else stands out in the fill. The theme works fine but is entirely free of humor and wordplay. Three stars.

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33 Responses to Sunday, January 5, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Amy in the UK (and the rest of the world outside of N America) it’s:


    – MAS

    • Alan D. says:

      Martin, why Cluedo? When I started researching this puzzle, I came across this name and was startled by it. “Clue” makes sense…what the heck is “Clue-doh”?

      • pannonica says:

        That’s the name of the original version, created in England, and the name that the rest of the English-speaking world uses. Only in the United States and Canada is it called Clue.

        Of course, this is an American-style crossword, ostensibly for an American audience, but Amy raised the question of pronunciation in her write-up.

  2. pannonica says:

    Interesting and inventive theme, but an easy and lifeless collection of four mini-crosswords. Disappointed.

    • Alan D. says:

      You know, Jeff over at xwords mentions that he’d liked to have seen mini-doors connecting the four quadrants and, to be honest, that would have been a better puzzle….but it never occurred to me! (it also would have been hell to construct!). I will say the SE quadrant was a little easier than what I’d intended.

      • pannonica says:

        Oh, I didn’t even realize that you were the constructor! I’m just perennially not a fan of this sort of construction. They end up feeling far less than the sum of their parts (there’s still no mellifluous word to describe the phenomenon opposite to synergy), even if the theme is very strong. They don’t taste like crosswords.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like other sorts of puzzles of course, but encountering one of these is akin to unwittingly biting into your least favorite chocolate from the sampler box.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Five years ago, Matt Gaffney had a Clue meta in his Weekly Crossword Contest. Matt made it a lot harder to figure out whodunit:

  3. Martin says:

    There’re is an old popular (mainly kids’ game) in the UK called LUDO (Pronounced: “Loo-doh”). I think CLUEDO was a portmanteau word combining clue+ludo.


  4. Martin says:

    I should add that I really enjoyed your puzzle, Alan :)


  5. John E says:

    I thought the fill was rather easy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the theme and the solving process. Very nice work, Alan!

  6. ahimsa says:

    NYT: The Clue theme was fun (thanks, Alan!) but much easier than I expected. My only serious hiccup was was putting in parlor before LOUNGE (it’s been a long time – forgot all the room names). I don’t time myself but it felt like the fastest Sunday ever.

    In spite of that, I managed to miss one letter. For some reason I put A gO (“So that’s A GO?”) for 139 Across instead of the more obvious A NO. I don’t know Latin so NOMIgE didn’t look too bad. If I’d been going slower I would have figured it out (in the name of the father…) since I’m sure I’ve heard that line in movies many times.

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: Clapping because this is an original and fun take on a Sunday puzzle, which often drags on endlessly. I much rather have 4 smaller puzzles that a ton of dead ends and little corners filled with 3 letter words to add letters that make nonsensical sentences. And the fact that the principle changed across each quadrant was great. I couldn’t recall the game in any detail, but the puzzle was completely doable without it.

    Very enjoyable! My compliments to the constructor.

  8. bencoe says:

    Okay, I guess I was the only one who thought the four quadrants looked like swastikas. I wonder what that says about me, Rorschach-wise.

  9. Avg Solvr says:

    Post Puzzler seemed to have a lot of clever stuff today. A struggle but a good one since I finished. 5 stars for the puzzle and me.

  10. HH says:

    “[Arch-rival of Starbucks?]. I take it the question mark in the clue does not signal wordplay but instead the worthiness of the McDonald’s product as a rival to that of Starbucks.”

    I think t was there just to point out the pun on “arch”.

  11. Alan D. says:

    Thanks, Martin, for the info on Ludo! Never heard of Parcheesi called by that name (nor that Sorry! came from it). So that’s why it was called Cluedo…

  12. Matt says:

    I’m somewhat on the negative side for this one. It was engaging, for the time it took to do it– but that was about it for me. It’s possible that I’d feel differently if I’d ever played Clue…

  13. Nance says:

    What a tough crowd! I thought Alan’s was a very clever puzzle. Having first gotten “Miss Scarlett” I expected Rhett to show up esp since I never played Clue. That skewed my thinking but something eventually clicked. Fun!

  14. HH says:

    “Two lovely 11s in the fill”

    Which are also theme entries.

  15. Tracy B. says:

    I loved the NYT today—5 stars from me.

    I guessed AMOS at 137 across, and thus spent more time than I should have trying to figure out ABANDON SHOP.

  16. Dan F says:

    I’m not sure we’ll see a better themeless in 2014 than Todd’s Post Puzzler today. Whoever keeps track of The Best Puzzles (hey, maybe Fiend should have a committee so Sam doesn’t have to rely on memory and the ridiculous rating system), file this one away! (I volunteer for the committee and am filing this one away.)

  17. Chris Popp says:

    Just wanted to write a note to say how much I enjoyed today’s Post Puzzler, as well as Sam’s write-up. Thank you to Todd McClary and Peter Gordon for a great puzzle, and thank you to Sam for a recap that really added to my enjoyment of the whole thing. I too thought the clues for WASABI and PIZZABOXES (crossing, no less!) were genius.

  18. bananarchy says:

    What a neat NYT. Love the look of the 4 internally symmetrical mini-puzzles in the grid. Also, I’ll second Dan’s nomination of Todd’s PP freestyle. Very nice; hard to believe it’s only 66 words.

  19. Nance says:

    Didn’t enjoy Merl’s puzzle…not a football fan so it fell flat for me.

  20. Tammy's says:

    Hubby breezed through Merl in record time, because he quickly got the football puns without any crossings. I got the crossings yet still ended up sitting there scratching my clueless head. It might as well have been in Swahili.

    Oh well, it makes up for all the times he’s had to ask me for a word in Espanol!

  21. Margaret says:

    Not familiar with INKLE (from the LAT) — I’ll be interested to see if this is one of those words that I’ll now see constantly in puzzles though I’ve never seen it previously.

  22. Zulema says:

    I am with Huda, enjoyed the quartered puzzle more than some other interminable Sunday ones. Ludo I played as a child and remember nothing but its name.

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