Friday, February 21, 2014

NYT 5:25 (Amy) 
LAT 5:20 (Gareth) 
CS 6:05 (Dave) 
WSJ (Friday) 10:29 (pannonica) 
CHE 6:35 (pannonica) 

You’re reading about Friday crosswords? Then clearly you like a challenge. There are two puzzle suites of interconnected crosswords that lead to a final meta answer that you can buy now (you can order the puzzle suites, not the meta answer … unless you find some knave who is selling contest answers):

Patrick Blindauer‘s Xword University puzzlefest launches in early March. Order here for $15 (or more, if you want the bonus items).

Trip Payne will be sending out his Triple Play Puzzles Puzzle Extravaganza on August 1, so you’ve got more time to register here. Just $10 (or more with bonus puzzles).

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 21 14, no. 0221

NY Times crossword solution, 2 21 14, no. 0221

Tyler Hinman’s nifty keyboard-shift theme in this week’s AV Club puzzle was evoked when I typed ABIFR instead of ABIDE. D’oh! Adjacent-key double typo.

Mighty smooth for a 64-worder. The highlights, gridwise:

  • 30a. [Provider of early projections], CAMERA OBSCURA. Topical, as it figures into the new documentary Tim’s Vermeer, about a guy who figured out what tricks Vermeer used (camera obscura, mirrors) to make his highly realistic paintings, and obsessively set out to paint his own Vermeer using the same devices.
  • 34a. [Catchphrase that encourages extravagance], GO BIG OR GO HOME. If you decide to go big with a word count of 64 or less but you can’t manage really smooth fill, then you should go home, or try filling an easier grid.
  • 5d. [One with a thing for laughter?], PROP COMIC.
  • 11d. [Swingers], PENDULUMS. Who doesn’t love a pendulum?
  • 12d. [Another time], ONCE MORE.
  • 30d. [Buildings often segregated by floor], COED DORMS. Although when I was at Carleton, there were only two single-sex floors in all the dorms. Is this “segregated by floor” plan pretty common?
  • 34d. [Leaves from the Orient], GREEN TEA. Nice entry, but I don’t want to drink it.
  • 35d. [Big name in outdoor art], CHRISTO. Do you like his work or consider him a hack?

Favorite clues:

  • 43a. [With this, you’ll probably manage], MBA.
  • 48a. [Panhandler, of a sort?], IDAHOAN.
  • 50a. [They run out of clothing], STREAKER.
  • 19d. [Las Vegas block?], DIE.
  • 32d. [Worker also known as a cordwainer], SHOEMAKER. I didn’t know that. I looked up that clue word, which dates back to Middle English and derives from the Old French cordewan, meaning “of Cordoba.” Unusual.

17a. [Queen’s Chapel designer ___ Jones] clues INIGO. Raise your hand if you’d prefer a reference to Mandy Patinkin’s indelible character in The Princess Bride: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Worst fill: Phnom PENH, non-Montoya INIGO, OAST. Really, Berry? That’s the worst you can throw at us in a 64-worder? Well done.

4.5 stars.

Barbie and Don Gagliardo’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/21/14 • Short Subjects • Gagliardo • solution

CHE • 2/21/14 • Short Subjects • Gagliardo • solution

Confession: I solved this one days ago and failed to write it up. The details are no longer fresh in my mind. From my protracted solving time, you can see that it was a bit rougher going than the usual CHE fare. Turns out that it took some time to realize it was a puzzle with rebus squares, and then more time to work out what the constituent rebuses were, which turned out to be four unique rebuses.

If only I’d encountered the revealer (in a typical revealer location—the last across entry) earlier on! It’s 70-across [Education-policy acronym for the four fields featured in this puzzle] STEMi.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, Math(ematic)s. Or, as the crossword has it, the common abbreviations of those disciplines.

  • 17a. [Giving in] ACQUIE(SCI)NG.
    6d. [“Casino” co-star] PE(SCI).
  • 24a. [Centuries-old philosophical text] TAO (TE CH)ING.
    10d. [Block buster?] KARA(TE CH)OP.
  • 53a. [It  has a lot of prides]  SER(ENG)ETI.
    44d. [Scottish woolen bonnet] GL(ENG)ARRY.
  • 63a. [2013 portrayer of P.L. Travers] EM(MA TH)OMPSON.
    64d. [Syndicated court-show judge Greg] (MATH)IS.

The crossings don’t make uncovering the rebuses easier than they need to be. For instance, world-famous crooner Johnny Mathis vs small-screen small claims court judge Greg Mathis, or the well-known play and film Glengarry Glen Ross as opposed to an actual toponymous glengarry, or straightforward clues for 10d and 53a. So that also explains the longer solve.

Do I care that the words splice inconsistently? That SCI and ENG are wholly within single words, that TECH is split across more than one word (albeit with the same break point in both crossings), or that MATH is internally inconsistent with its crossings? No, I do not. It strikes me as reasonable variation.

Here’s a recent article that tangentially addresses the STEM curriculum by way of comparison to the humanities, and strong criticism of the beloved-by-many film Dead Poets Society (1989). It also has a number of links to articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Imagine that.

Some notes:

  • Bottom row: OXEYE, ROSE, STEM.
  • Central crossing: 40a[It’s joined to Saudi Arabia by the King Fahd Causeway] BAHRAIN, 31d [Yellow highway sign] MERGE – highways and joining! See also, 22d [Joins] MARRIES.
  • 9d [Part of a Star Wars name] ARTOO, 34d [Part of a Star Wars name] OBI.
  • Favorite clue: 54d [Get the word out?] ERASE.
  • 28a [Terminal-screen info, for short] ETA. Ageist misdirection!
  • 57a [Charioteer’s venue], followed by 59a [“Cheers” surname] subtle, but nice.

Fun puzzle, but a bit academic.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “The Wrong Side of the…” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme answers that begin with a word that can complete the title phrase, “The Wrong Side of the….”

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 02/21/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 02/21/14

Sorry, busy morning, so only time to post the solution grid here. Share your impressions in the comments!

Peg Slay’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review

LA Times 140221

LA Times

I picked up on Ms. Slay’s theme quite quickly. It doesn’t have a revealer that I can see, but it doesn’t really need one either; ALL sounds become AIL and the result is wacky phrases. I’ve said this before, but these sorts of phrases tend to be very variable in appeal. They struck me personally as not contrived (a good thing), but not particularly exciting either. We have:

  • 17a, [Device that tracks certain weather?], HAILMONITOR
  • 23a, [Make a mournful cry louder?], DRIVEUPTHEWAIL
  • 39a, [ Follow, oater-style?], TAILINTHESADDLE. The best answer, before and after.
  • 48a, [Run-of-the-mill letters?], PEDESTRIANMAIL.
  • 61a, [Eight maids a-milking?], PAILBEARERS. Clever clue!

It’s a pretty conservative grid all told too. Not a lot to hate, but not a lot to go “ooh!” to either. There were some nice clues though [Short exile?] for EXPAT was devious. I don’t remember seeing [Id checker?], EGO before, but the chances are it has been done before, given how many times EGO has been in puzzles! I repeat my objection from yesterday to clues like [Jersey add-on] for ITES.

3 Stars
I’ll leave you with a classic song: 28A/13D

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “TV Switches” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/21/14 • Fri • "TV Switches" • Fisher • solution

WSJ • 2/21/14 • Fri • “TV Switches” • Fisher • solution

I’ll explain the theme momentarily, but first a word from our sponsor clues…

62a [TV, informally] BOX. 56d [Old TV parts] DIALS.

… and welcome back to the crossword program. Each theme answer consists of two parts, identical except that the first contains a T and the second has a V in the same location. They aren’t natural phrases, more like channel-surfing mashups. Or as we say in the local jargonese argotese, “wacky.”

  • 23a. [Run-down shack offering travel accommodations?] HOTEL HOVEL.
  • 25a. [Writes reviews of techno dance parties?] RATES RAVES.
  • 37a. [Written exemption from taking orders?] WAITER WAIVER.
  • 41a. [Yucca plant carved from banded quartz?] AGATE AGAVE.
  • 59a. [Becomes aware of the rookies?] NOTICES NOVICES.
  • 70a. [Moving company with a sunbather mascot?] TAN LINE VAN LINE.
  • 87a. [Odgen Nash specialty?] TERSE VERSE.
  • 90a. [One longing to enter a volcano?] CRATER CRAVER.
  • 109a. [Quiver on the surface of a pool?] WATER WAVER.
  • 111a. [The “I” of “HIS”?] TOWEL VOWEL.

Can’t say that any of these are great, but the pool of candidate words doesn’t provide much choice. (Though I can think of at least a couple that are unsuitable for this mainstream venue.) The themers certainly aren’t so dismal that the endeavor should have been abandoned.

In the meanwhile, we’re treated to 16d [Conditioned, as a response] PAVLOVIAN, paired with 76d FLEA BITES [Trivial annoyances], WORLD WAR and BESTOWED.

  • 20a [Valuable vein] LODE; 86a [20-Across makeup] ORE; 99a [Tested nuggets] ASSAYED.
  • 84a [They’re removed in a process called “racking”]. Ashamed to report that I completed it as LEGS before LEES.
  • 57d [Deck crew’s boss] BOS’N; 15d [Lowly sailor] SWABBIE.
  • 78a [Mischievous sprites] IMPS; 69a [Mischievous sprite] HOB, kin to hobgoblin, not seen much even in crosswords.
  • Did not know 88d [Computer animation programs] SHADERS. Coupled with 83d [Stock mkt. figures] AV–S and 95a [Tangled locks] S–A–, it was the last section of the grid I completed. AVGS, SHAG.
  • 24d [Odyssey maker] HONDA, not HOMER.
  • 15d [Get-rid-of-your-cards game] SPIT. I recall this as a fast-paced, reaction-based game that I was no good at all at. Was a fad in my junior high school for a year.
  • [Insert quasi-random list of unappealing fill here, n≈8]
  • Liked the unusual consonant pile-up of 65a [Eponym of a frozen fish line] MRS PAUL. Very close to MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), though that AUL is a dead-end in that regard.

About average  puzzle.

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42 Responses to Friday, February 21, 2014

  1. Avg Solver says:

    NYT: Wow, quite a labor for me. In fact, I feel like I just gave birth to Will Shortz. Difficult but fair, although I do have a slight problem with SHAKES being clued with DQ.

  2. Martin says:

    Nice smooth 66-worder for PB… and not a RUBINSTEIN in sight! ;)


  3. Brucenm says:

    Would definitely NOT prefer some Many Patinkin character to the very celebrated English architect, especially in a puzzle which already contained entries which were, to me, obscure and unidiomatic, like Go big or go home, prop comic (which I’ve never heard at all), and crescent moons. Still, much to like about the puzzle, as one would expect, and I do love pendulums (pendula?), especially the one several stories high in the lobby of the United Nations building. Took me for ever to get “clog dance” crossing Seger.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Ditto, everything Brucenm said!

      • Boston Bob says:

        Never heard of a propcomic, nor have I ever encountered “go big or go home.”

        • HH says:

          How is that possible? I socialize with no one, and even I’ve heard of these.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Apparently there is a very large cave full of highbrow people in which the Internet filters bar all non-highbrow culture, and the people just don’t get any exposure at all to things outside the cave.

          • Brucenm says:

            For my part, I wonder — how in the world do people come to know about 6 million different rock groups? What is the source, the mechanism of that apparently inexhaustible fount of knowledge and information, which I seem to have no access to at all, other than puzzles?

          • Steven R. Stahl says:

            I socialize with no one, and even I’ve heard of these.

            You and others might have heard of prop comics, but the term apparently doesn’t appear in dictionaries. Wiktionary isn’t a dictionary.

            So, is “prop comic” a legitimate crossword puzzle entry? I’d say it isn’t, or, if it is, then “neutralizing antibody” would be as well, since it’s a familiar term, even if it doesn’t appear in dictionaries–or in crossword puzzles.


          • Gareth says:

            Neutralizing antibody sounds perfectly legit, if specialized to me. I don’t have any problem with that sort of answer, in moderation. It gives a puzzle personality.

          • Hawkins says:

            “Blog” didn’t appear in the OED until 2003. Was it not crossword-worthy prior to that?

          • bananarchy says:

            Brucenm: the same way that others might come to know the names and styles of many centuries worth of notable opera singers, conductors, composers, soloists, etc. They enjoy the art form, take an interest in the people that make it and the stories surrounding it, begin to understand and appreciate the finer distinctions between different artists and styles, and over time it starts to stick with you. That’s my serious answer. My somewhat snarky answer is a question to you: how do you avoid hearing about rock music (or “popular” music in general)? I mean that in the nicest possible way. I don’t really self-identify as a rock or pop fan myself, but I can’t avoid it.

          • bananarchy says:

            Since when was cross-worthiness tied to dictionary presence? That’s a rhetorical question, I know full well that there was a time when that was the case. I’m personally glad that time is past.

      • Zulema says:

        Ditto 90% of what Bruce said, especially INIGO.

    • Hawkins says:

      I’ve never heard of INIGO Jones, but that entry is preferable in a Friday, since INIGO Montoya is a gimme.

      If you’ve heard of Gallagher (the watermelon-smashing guy) or Carrot Top (the annoying guy from the 90’s 1-800-CALL-ATT ads), then you’ve heard of PROP COMICs. I’ll refrain from linking to a video.

      “GO BIG OR GO HOME” is very common. Outside of ordinary conversation, I have most often heard it said during games by sports commentators. I’ve also (unsuccessfully so far) tried to build a crossword theme around the phrase.

      • HH says:

        I’d rather clue INIGO as [“Watch me enter now!”]

      • Zulema says:

        INIGO Montoya is definitely not remotely a gimme for some of us.

        • Hawkins says:

          I don’t doubt it, but as “The Princess Bride” is one of my favorite movies, it’s a gimme to me. I also thought ATREYU from “The Neverending Story” was a gimme though.

          Nearly every baseball entry that is a gimme for others is impossible for me, no matter how many times it may appear in a crossword.

  4. sbmanion says:

    Superb puzzle. It took me a while to get the center, but each entry was more than fair IMHO.

    Go Big or Go Home is ubiquitous in the sports world especially in the new sports that have started up in the past 20 years. I have developed an interest in the X-Games types of games and there is a continuing effort by the various competitors in sports like skateboarding and snowboarding to push the envelope. In the halfpipe in this year’s Olympics, the double cork 1440 was the newest innovation. In the 2010 Olympics, they were only doing 1260’s. It is really pretty amazing to watch the daredevil antics of the participants, but the heights that they are now reaching makes serious life-threatening injuries inevitable.

    One of the complaints in the much-discussed awarding of the women’s figure skating gold medal yesterday to the athletic go for broke Russian over the ethereal Korean was whether ice skating is just bigger and bigger jumps or still has a place for grace and artistry.


  5. David L says:

    A good puzzle, as we expect from PB, but I’m in a nitpicky mood, so here goes:

    In a cyclotron, the accelerated particle follows a spiral path, but the machine itself is shaped like a disk (Google cyclotron images). So the clue isn’t really correct.

    And (installment #4 of a continuing series), OAST is yet again incorrectly clued as “brewery apparatus.” Although I admit that cluing as “hop-drying building” would give the game away. But then again, anytime you see a brewery related clue, 4 letters, it’s going to be OAST. Time to retire the word, I think, or at least put it on sabbatical for a while.

    I’d never heard of PROPCOMIC either, but Google says it’s a thing, and it was easy to infer.

  6. Papa John says:

    Christo is a “hack”?!?! Wow.

    He (they, actually, since he worked closely with his wife, Jean-Claude, for much of his career) may be many things but certainly not mediocre, unimaginative or unoriginal. Their grand outdoor projects, by which Christo is most recognized by the general public, are accompanied with museum/gallery installations and works that include wonderful drawings, diagrams and plans that easily dispel any question about whether or not Christo is an artist. They exhibit a sublime draftsmanship, an accomplished sense of design and that magic quality of transforming the ordinary and the mundane to the universal. They are, as they say, “from the artist’s hand”, something not so readily apparent in his public, outdoor works, yet a highly prized quality for an artist by the uninitiated. Warhol had his factory. Christo created an industry.

    Please, check them out at and get back to me. These guys are good.

    • pannonica says:

      Technical proficiency hasn’t much to do with artistic vision. There are innumerable examples of those possessing excellent draftsmanship but little or no imagination. Christo and Jeanne-Claude produced tawdry spectacles; they were publicity seekers with astonishingly limited ideas over a long career. Similarly, Warhol—who started out as a very competent commercial artist—wasn’t much more than a self-absorbed and obsessed celebrity hound who by dint of neurosis and ambition created a cult of personality and helped to usher in pop art (a sort of anti-art), which I hope has reached apotheosis with the likes of Damien Hirst. A simulacrum of wit.

      True, these people are artists, but not fine artists. They are artists of media in the age of media, for better or worse. In other words, artists of la connerie, con artists.

      • pannonica says:

        But of course, this is just my opinion.

        • Daniel Myers says:

          Je suis d’accord. It’s an extremely trenchant, well put opinion demonstrating extensive knowledge as well as an abiding love of fine art, reminding me of what attracted me to this blog years ago.

        • Brucenm says:


          I like and enjoyed your interesting, literate, tendentious post, whether I entirely agree or not. BUT — “artists of ‘la connerie, con artists . . .” That is *not* the root meaning of the word “connerie” which is a diminutive form of a shorter noun (which happens, ironically, to be masculine), though it’s true that it is widely used in French in something other than its vulgar root meaning. And furthermore the root meaning is a greater vulgarity in English than in French. I’ll leave the details to your (creative and effective) imagination.

          • pannonica says:

            Hey, I tried. I just fake French—as I hope everyone realizes—and tried to make a joke. And I know it’s from confidence, and the real confidence trick is for the conner to convince the connee that the connee earns the conner’s trust.

            And thanks for deeming it merely tendentious and not, say, scurrilous, or … contumelious.

        • Zulema says:


          I do like your eloquent critique.

          • Brucenm says:


            I liked your post a lot; it’s not any of those bad things, and I regard “tendentious” as a good thing — staking out a strong, deeply felt, passionately and elegantly articulated position. But “connerie” is not related to “confidence” either. At this point I feel like I’m skating on very thin ice, liable to get into serious trouble, even making veiled, would-be amusing hints, like “think outside the box.” (Remember that Deb Amlen puzzle?)

          • pannonica says:

            Oh, I know it isn’t. As I said, a failed attempt at a bilingual pun.

            edit: Oh, I see now. When I said “it” above, I was referring to con [artist], not connerie.

  7. Gareth says:

    NYT: Stellar! Especially the clues! Middle was a fortress that I had to assault from all four corners! GOBIGORGOHOME is a perfect centre entry and somes up the whole approach! Very meta! [They run out of clothing], [One with a thing for laughter], [Furry toys] were my 3 fave clues but almost everything was top-notch! 5 stars!

    At my university the reses (South African English for dorms) at the main campus were single-sex. Onderstepoort Campus was far smaller (only vet students) and had one mixed res. The buildings were indeed segregated by floor, although with declining numbers of male vet students one or two of the male floors were “co-ed” too!

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    We didn’t want to do this, you know, but we have no choice. If you have never heard of a prop comic or prop comedy, take a look at this 1975 Gallagher clip from The Merv Griffin Show. And then you will understand what the term means, and possibly wish that the concept did not exist. Unless you’re 8 years old, in which case you probably love prop comics.

    • Brucenm says:

      Amy — I like the link. I actually knew about Gallagher, and for the first 5 minutes, years ago, that I saw him smashing things with a big wooden mallet, I thought it was funny in a goofy sort of way — the manic intensity and seriousness with which he approaches his task. But it is pretty disheartening that he seems to have been able to fashion a career out of this one gimmick. (In the one-trick pony universe, comparable to someone named Foster Brooks, who gets my vote for the most ridiculously untalented idiot ever to appear repeatedly on the Johnny Carson show, barely beating out someone named Pete Barbuti.) I know who Carrot Top is too, but don’t have even any grudgingly positive feelings about him. But I never heard the expression “prop comic.”

  9. lemonade714 says:

    Not that it matters, but Jeff Wechsler used Id checker: EGO in the August 30, 2013 LAT. Still a very cure clue.

  10. Brucenm says:

    LAT — Interesting puzzle.

    Is “tech” a subj., on a par with eng., math., and sci.? I think not. Many subjects have technical aspects.

    What does “airplane mode” mean?

  11. twangster says:

    I knew prop comic from the TV show “King of the Hill,” in which the son’s ambition was to become one. Says Wikipedia: Bobby aspires to be a prop comic like his comedic hero “Celery Head” (a parody of Carrot Top).

  12. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Since when was cross-worthiness tied to dictionary presence? That’s a rhetorical question. . .

    The question deserves an answer anyway.

    Solvability. Knowing that the answer for any clue, outside of specific types of exceptions, will be in a standard reference source makes solving the puzzle a comfortable, enjoyable experience. I don’t do standard puzzles because they’re too easy. I do cryptics instead, and try to avoid using reference works to look up the answer to the straight definition, but I still occasionally run into situations in which the answer is a word that’s not in my vocabulary. As I’ve told a friend, I could spend n hours in vain trying to figure out what those words are. Cheating is the only solution.

    As far as solvability is concerned, there’s very little difference between crosswordese and common expressions, pop culture references, etc. that aren’t in dictionaries. If someone doesn’t know a bit of crosswordese, he can consult various reference sources. If someone doesn’t know a pop culture expression or some other newfangled term, he can go online. Either approach is technically cheating, but no puzzle is worth spending hours on.

    Crosswordese is only bad to the extent that its presence makes solving a puzzle unenjoyable. New expressions are better only if they don’t hurt solvability and will be known by solvers with reasonably large vocabularies. Being “new” and not having appeared in puzzles before means nothing, except to people who value newness for its own sake.


  13. mitchs says:

    I finished this and, for the first time in 30+ years of solving, thought holy crap, that was just about perfect!

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