Friday, January 10, 2014

NYT 4:06 (Amy) 
LAT 5:45 (Gareth) 
CS 6:17 (Dave) 
WSJ (Friday) 11:15 (pannonica) 
CHE 4:30 (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 10 14, no. 0110

NY Times crossword solution, 1 10 14, no. 0110

This wide-open grid’s got 64 words, with a bunch of 10s and 11s stacked together in the middle of the grid. Constructor types, please tell me: Is this the sort of grid that requires computing power and a fierce wordlist to put together, or can it be worked out manually, with no brute-force auto-filling? I know that Frank Longo and Joe Krozel, our reigning princes of the low-word-count puzzle, use the brute-force-with-his-wordlist method. No idea if Patrick Berry’s in the same camp or more of a hand-crafter. Brendan Quigley’s a known hand-crafter, and I’m pretty sure he’s come out with some 62s and 64s, but this one’s so smooth yet wide open that it involves deft use of either technology or black magic.

Mind you, only 61 of the entries are super-smooth. I’m never wild about OATERS; the plural noun MACHOS looks bizarre (but is absolutely in the dictionary as a noun); and IN A PET is a phrase I’m not sure I have ever encountered outside of crosswords.

Far better are TRIPOLI, CHILL OUT, SIDE DISHES, CRACK SHOT, PREACHERS, BATH PILLOW, CRUISE SHIP, COPACABANA (here’s my eternal favorite “Copacabana” video), SCRATCH PADS, CHEAT SHEETS, and KRISS KROSS (the young ’90s rap duo was spelled Kris Kross, and no, the [Word puzzle popular since the 1930s] clue didn’t help me out too much here). Anyone know what it is? Googling … oh, that puzzle. Loved it when I was a kid, don’t care for it anymore.

Favorite clues:

  • 17a. [Ordered pair?], SIDE DISHES. Clue sounds mathy.
  • 23a. [Not down with anything], WELL. “The flu? Oh, yeah. I’m down with that.”
  • 33a. [Symbol of liberty in the French Revolution], ELM. Didn’t know that.
  • 51a. [Common gathering in a public square], PIGEONS. Last week when I went downtown, all the pigeons I saw were standing in a group with their feathers fluffed fatly. It was very cold and windy. Not -20°F wind chill cold and windy, but still cold and windy. They should have huddled closer together for warmth.
  • 24d. [1978 disco hit featuring the warning “Don’t fall in love”], COPACABANA.

Okay! It’s time to take a CENSUS here. How many of you are MACHOS? I need a count of all the machos at Crossword Fiend.

Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy /Washington Post crossword, “Going Bananas” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four phrases that end with a word that can precede BANANAS:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/10/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/10/14

  • [Country that includes Bohemia] was the CZECH REPUBLIC – 1993 was the year the former Czechoslovakia dissolved into this republic and the Slovak Republic. A “banana republic” is either a “kleptocracy” or a retail store which may also be considered to exist for the personal wealth of its owners.
  • [Very quickly] clued LICKETY SPLIT – is “lickety” a word in any other context? Can one say that a particular lollipop was especially lickety? Anyway, a “banana split” is a type of dessert.
  • [Facial treatment for smoother skin] was a CHEMICAL PEEL – I was just reading yesterday that Cameron Diaz regrets the botox treatments to her face that have given her an unusual appearance. Ya think? A “banana peel” is something you can slip on.
  • [Life’s necessities, as requested in prayer] was OUR DAILY BREAD – any good “banana bread” recipes out there?


Straightforward theme, and unusually, I had a harder time than with most puzzles from this constructor. Not sure why; looking back at the solved puzzle it seems easy enough. I enjoyed the trivia in the clue [Most US college students these days], which happily was WOMEN and not COEDS. The Z shared between TIMEZONES and KAZOO was a nice find as well, as was the J in J-LO and JETTA. (I guess I’m a sucker for high-value Scrabble letters.) I did wonder about the pluralized [Mongolian rulers like Genghis] or KHANS, as I’m only familiar with Genghis himself. I read that, based on DNA samples, he has over 16 million descendants, so that’s a lot of KHANS in the world.

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Innermost” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/10/13 • "Innermost" • Fri • Stone • solution

WSJ • 1/10/13 • “Innermost” • Fri • Stone • solution

Another one of those themes for which the solver, once grasping the mechanism, can pre-fill many letters. At its core, the theme is easy to see: made-up two-word phrases; the first word is a superlative adjective, the second is the same, but with the first and last letters removed, like the tallest “lodgers” at Procrustes’ place. These—with one exception—invariably form plural nouns.

As a result, in addition to the predictability of the fill (-IEST/-IES) there’s a sameness in feel.

  • 23a. [Art-house films that have the most dialogue?] WINDIEST INDIES.
  • 34a. [Dust Bowl migrants who tell the most corny stories?] HOKIEST OKIES.
  • 41a. [Texas athletes with the most puffiness under their eyes?] BAGGIEST AGGIES. Did not realize unmodified bagginess could be understood to refer someone’s eyes.
  • 61a. [Family members with the most cheerful manner?] JAUNTIEST AUNTIES. Vowel pronunciation change for this solver.
  • 68a. [Bonny girls exhibiting the most elegance?] CLASSIEST LASSIES.
  • 88a. [Military forces with the most eccentricities?] BARMIEST ARMIES.
  • 94a. [Most suspicious person born in early April?] WARIEST ARIES. Singular noun.
  • 113a. [Hits from the past that are most antiquated?] MOLDIEST OLDIES, which is itself a variation of a hoary rhyming pair: moldy oldie(s).


Fentriest entries:

  • Favorite clues: 57a [Kin of oatmeal] BEIGE, not farina or grits or congee. The everso slightly disorienting 31a [Does as well as their mates] for DEER. Don’t quite like this clue, though I can’t put my finger on a why, but I do appreciate its cleverness: 79a [Strip for the blind] SLAT.
  • Longdowns: the excellent Sandro BOTTICELLI and the thrice-wedded AVA GARDNER.
  • Stacking imagery: an expertly CREASEd fedora atop an HERMÈS scarf (116a, 119a). Anyone else recall images like these from NYC, especially in the ’90s? 78a [Excite, with “up”] REV, above 82a [How Pyrrhic victories are won] AT A COST.
  • New to me; 43d [Quarter of a pint] GILL. [Middle English gille, from Medieval Latin gillus, from Late Latin gillo, gello water pot – First Known Use: 14th century]

Little junk, decent theme, varied cluing … Solid puzzle.

Jules P. Markey’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Dynamic Tribute” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 1/10/14 • "A Dynamic Tribute" • Markey • solution

CHE • 1/10/14 • “A Dynamic Tribute” • Markey • solution

Descriptive title, augmenting the center-spanning revealer at 34a: [Metaphor for kinetic grace … or what this puzzle’s six eight-letter answers display?] POETRY IN MOTION. Indeed, there are only six entries of that length, although the verticals feature two of ten letters (more on those anon). Within each of those six, the trigram O-D-E—that is, ODE, the favorite poetic form of crossword constructors—incrementally moves from spots 1 through 3 through to 6 through 8. I’ve taken the liberty of circling the relevant squares in the solution grid.

Let’s get rolling.

  • 13a. [Some Ukrainians] ODESSANS.
  • 16a. [Guiding light] LODESTAR.
  • 24a. [Like Buckminster Fuller’s dome] GEODESIC.
  • 43a. [Makes over] REMODELS.
  • 57a. [Eaten away, as by acid] CORRODED.
  • 60a. [Exact opposite] ANTIPODE. Fittingly, near the bottom of the grid.

ODE – [Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French, from Late Latin, from Greek ōidē, literally, song, from aeidein, aidein to sing; akin to Greek audē voice] – a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms (

Though they aren’t necessarily elegiac, there is often a timeless quality to odes, so I feel the symmetrical IMMEMORIAL and ETERNITIES.

As far as I can tell, there are no etymological overlaps for the various in-word ODEs, though I had some suspicions about ANTIPODE, GEODESIC, LODESTAR and even CORRODED (respectively: foot, earth, lead, gnaw). So that’s very commendable.

Good fill all around. Some clues, as to be expected—and welcomed, I may add)—are spun to the Higher Education vibe. Even though it moves around a bit, the crossword still felt a bit flat, but not quite 62a [In need of recharging] DEAD.

John Verel & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140110

LA Times

I’m in the camp that believes pangrams are generally harmless but irrelevant to solving pleaure. Harmless of course, until you start filling 4*3 corners with junk in ord to achieve it. Jeff & John’s puzzle today winks knowingly at the puzzle-makers’ fetish by making a quote theme (of sorts) featuring a well-known PANGRAM: THE (QUICKBROWNFOX, in circles) JUMPSOVER THE LAZYDOG. It gets big ups for including a visual representation! I’m also generally pleased with the in-jokiness of it all! Last thematic note: the puzzle has left/right symmetry not diagonal.

Other notes:

  • 10a, [City in Czechoslovakia] for OSLO. Such a beautifully jarring clue. It initially seems to imply that Czechoslovakia still exists, until you realise it actually indicates a word search…
  • 15a, [Macho guys], HEMEN. This clue is needlessly verbose and should read [Machos].
  • 20a, [Only woman to win the top prize on “The $64,000 Question”, JOYCEBROTHERS. Top-drawer full name inclusion.
  • 51a, [Doo-wop staple], HARMONY. Take your pick!
  • 2d, [Snow], DOAJOBON. is a very nice idiomatic answer. I also liked that in the clue, “snow” is unexpectedly a verb here.
  • 32d, [Classic action figures], GIJOES. Always a great answer to work into a grid!
  • 45D, [43-Downers?], HUMANS. A weird linkage – referring to “to err is human”.
  • PHONY and CRUELLA are also very nice answers!

4.5 Stars. Clever theme, well-executed and generally a delightfully-filled puzzle.


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28 Responses to Friday, January 10, 2014

  1. In strictly physical appearance, some might consider me macho, with my putative lumberjack genes. But a propensity for dancing and flailing and singing in falsetto probably makes my behavior anything but.

    So mark me down for a half macho.

    • Huda says:

      Seems to still make you the reigning dude around here, since the only other volunteer is on alternate Wednesdays (1/14th macho?).

      I’m reading a book called “The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly”. There is a wonderful description in it of a very macho rooster. As I was reading it I was thinking of some guys I knew in my youth (the dark ages, when machismo was in).

  2. Bencoe says:

    Lots to like about the fill in this NYT. And the entries which aren’t as good have nice cluing. This is why good themeless Fridays and Saturdays are my favorite puzzles…a breath of fresh air after the try-hard Thursday themes.

  3. Matt says:

    ‘Ordered pair’ is definitely math– it’s, umm… an ordered pair, i.e., the ordered pair {a,b} is not equal to the ordered pair {b,a}.

    Anyhow, very nice puzzle. Had trouble getting a foothold, but then somewhat unexpectedly, was able to fill in the middle in first and then fill in the two corner pieces. Had SOT/TOT and TOUR/POST as oopsies that had to get corrected before Mr. Happy Pencil showed up.

  4. HH says:

    Would you accept INAPET if the clue was [Where many Purina products end up]?

  5. Brucenm says:

    The LAT is amazing. The clue for 10a alone is worth the price of admission. Congrats J & J.

    I remember Joyce Brothers winning the 64K question show very clearly. She was purportedly an expert on boxing, but it was phony in every respect. She had no interest in boxing, but did spend a couple months memorizing essentially the entire boxing almanac. Then it turned out that the show was fixed, just like 21 and Charles van Doren, which I also remember very well. The producers were feeding her the questions ahead of time, when they decided she was the one they wanted to win. I even became skeptical when they asked her a question about the referees in several fights. That did not strike me as something even a boxing fanatic would be likely to know, at least not in every case.

    Bruce < – – – Macho on alternate Wednesdays.

  6. Ray Fontenot says:

    Ditto on the brilliant LA Times puzzle. Agree with Bruce — clue for 10-Across provides a wonderful “aha” moment. Reminded me of why I enjoy crosswords so much. Looking forward to Gareth’s review.

  7. Howard B says:

    Helpful tip from personal experience:
    Actually getting some sleep greatly helps and enhances your solving experience.

    Yesterday: (disrupted, insufficient sleep):
    Could not solve any puzzles at all. Brain lightly fried. Pondering retirement to word searches only.
    Today: (relatively normal sleep cycle):
    Enjoying puzzles again. Looking forward to ACPT.

    • Lois says:

      Same thing happened to me yesterday and today with sleep and puzzles, but it also might have something to do with the puzzles.

  8. Jeff says:

    Machos, machos man! I want to be … a machos man!

    I’ve tried low word-count grids like this, but not with the same type of success as Patrick had today. I mean, just … wow, so dang smooth. From email exchanges with Patrick (usually starting “OMG HOW THE $%#! DID YOU DO THAT?”) I believe his process is:

    1.) Deliberate entry placement, thinking carefully about vowel and consonant patterns and letter sequences at each step of the way
    2.) Using auto-fill but only to make sure there are viable options as he goes.
    3.) Copious rebooting (when arriving at a single bad entry).
    4.) Liberal usage of his wand (oak, phoenix feather core, 11 3/4 inches).

    Thanks for the kind words, Brucenm and Ray! A pleasure to work with John on this one.

  9. ahimsa says:

    I loved both the LAT and NYT puzzles today. So much fun!

    The LAT theme was so cute. Loved that “jumping” quick brown fox. Thanks to John Verel and Jeff Chen!

  10. Avg Solvr says:

    Nice LAT with the visual layout.

  11. pannonica says:

    LAT: “15a, [Macho guys], HEMEN. This clue is needlessly verbose and should read [Machos].”

    Personally, I can’t understand why it wasn’t clued as the Egyptian falcon-god. Forshame!

  12. lemonade714 says:

    Wow a HEMEN vs. HORUS debate. You VOTE .

  13. mitchs says:

    10a was nice, but a pretty straightforward cryptic clue. I’d love to see more cryptic-style clues creep into the NYT crossword.

  14. Tita says:

    Oh the Irony!
    Loved the LAT puzzle. John Verel & Jeff Chen are certainly the machoist HEMEN in these here parts.
    I have a photo of my brother and sister and father with the first winner of the $64,000 Question . My dad ran the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, and jumped at the chance for a photo op, since the $64,000 Answer included Madeira wine.

    But that has nothing to do with the sheer joy of doing this puzzle – I didn’t want it to end!
    3 years ago I would not give an OATEN Cheerio about a pangram, but since becoming crossword- and blog-obsessed, I have come to find it hilarious that the feat elicits such histrionics, and think that this puzzle should go into the “Don’t Take Yourselves too Seriously” Constructor and Critic Hall of Fame.

    Bravi to you both.

  15. P.Ramsey says:

    Doajobon!!!!???? Really! It’s a made-up word my friends. It does not exist in the human language unless it is dead Latin which I will research next. This is the ONLY time I have found a word that had NO written footprint……..meaning, like scrabble, they cheated. Someone show me proof that this word really exists in the English language. Until then, I see this as a cheat to make the puzzle work. There are rules to scrabble, are there rules to puzzle making. Once again, my thorough searches have produced NO existence to the word “Doajobon”!!!!!!! Big waste of time and an insult to ones intelligence! Stupid!!!!!!

  16. Tuning Spork says:

    Thank you, Pannonica, for pointing out the “motion” part of the CHE revealer.

    That was a scalp-scratcher.

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