Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reagle 8:29 (Amy) 
NYT 8:20 (Amy) 
LAT 7:24 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 10:12 (Sam) 
CS 8:17 (Dave) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Oscar Double Features”

NY Times crossword solution, 3 2 14 "Oscar Double Features"

NY Times crossword solution, 3 2 14 “Oscar Double Features”

In this solid outing, Alan has taken well-known films that either won the Oscar for Best Picture or were nominated, and pairs them into a clueable phrase:

  • 23a. {Nelson Mandela? [1995, 1985]}, BRAVEHEART OUT OF AFRICA. Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen is in South Africa right now, and has shared some photos via social media. Most of the pictures are gorgeous (it’s late summer there—remember seasons besides winter? maybe a little?), but the photo of Mandela’s prison cell at Robben Island was sobering.
  • 30a. {One giving unreliable testimony? [1976, 1985*] [* = Nominee]}, ROCKY WITNESS.
  • 53a. {Reason for missing a flight? [1970*, 2000*]}, AIRPORT TRAFFIC. I only saw Airport about 5 years ago, when my son was home sick from school and we watched classic ’70s disaster flicks. Saw the sequels in the theater the first time around.
  • 68a. {Part of a line at O’Hare? [2002, 1976*]}, CHICAGO TAXI DRIVER. I have never seen either of these movies; can you believe it?
  • 86a. {Cheesy pickup line? [1944, 1995*]}, GOING MY WAY, BABE? Have not seen Going My Way.
  • 106a. {Reason why all the computers are down? [1976*, 2005]}, NETWORK CRASH. Ooh! Nice combo. Have not seen Crash; may or may not have seen the other one.
  • 118a. {Seaside outing? [1955*, 1954]}, PICNIC ON THE WATERFRONT. What a pleasant theme answer! Have seen neither movie.

I bet a lot of you have seen every one of these movies. Heck, I’ve seen at least half myself. It would be a tighter theme if all were Best Picture winners, or if every entry combined one winner and one nominee—but you can’t argue that the movies are obscure.

You can, however, argue that it was ridiculous to give an Oscar nod to Airport.

Entirely unfamiliar word I learned today: 27a. [Strike the ground in a golf swing], BAFF. Do those of you who golf all know the word?

Name I needed all the crossings for: 103d. [Astronaut Thomas on four space shuttle flights], AKERS.

Fill I liked includes DE PALMA, the partial AN ASS (because that whole 60a. [“With the jawbone of ___ …” (declaration of Samson)] thing cracks me up), ED KOCH, DISNEY, PASS FOR, FINAGLED, PINPRICKS, “DON’T ASK,” TRADE WAR, “MAN ALIVE,” and STILL LIFE. There were other dry patches, like NISI/EDER, WAF/ATO/OATER/AGEE, ALOIS/SENNA, and AGAR/LONI, but nothing that felt too vexing.

3.75 stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Film Editing”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 2 2014 "Film Editing"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 2 2014 “Film Editing”

I am wishing that last week’s Sunday NYT had not been a movie theme, because now it’s Oscar weekend and both this week’s NYT and Merl’s puzzles have movie themes. Please don’t let the LAT also be about movies! Bring us some good wordplay (and I’m not talking Wordplay). And yes, I know the vast majority of solvers will only be seeing one of these movie crosswords and not feeling cinematically overloaded.

Okay, I’m not sure I fully grasp the theme here. Most of the theme entries are clearly change-one-letter-in-a-movie-title, but I’ll have to look up two of the movies to see if that holds true universally.

  • 22a. [Film about a guy who was a firm believer in food storage?], ELMER PANTRY. Elmer Gantry.
  • 31a. [Film based on one of Ivana’s books?], LADY AND THE TRUMP. Lady and the Tramp.
  • 46a. [With 59 Across, film about a dweeb whose room is on the second floor?], THE DORK AT THE / TOP OF THE STAIRS. Googling … huh. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, 1960. Never heard of it. I considered Dorm, Dark, Dock, and Pork as original title words.
  • 72a. [Film about what to do if there’s an X-file emergency?], DIAL M FOR MULDER. This one made me laugh. Dial M for Murder.
  • 87a. [Film starring Liz and Dick that rubs people the wrong way?], THE SANDPAPER. Googling … The Sandpiper.
  • 103a. [Film about what it’s like between Gabon and Uganda?], JUNGLE ALL THE WAY. Jingle All the Way, starring Schwarzenegger. I hope I didn’t see this one.
  • 117a. [Martial arts film that involves audience participation?], KUNG FU Q AND A. Kung Fu Panda, the only one that splits up a movie title’s word.

Solid theme consistency except for the Panda/Q and A shift, with each title changing a single letter. Mildly comedic results for several—that’s what we look for, right?

Five things:

  • 1a. [Baryshnikov’s nickname], MISHA. Infinitely superior to the insipid Russian bear.
  • 24a. [Wordsworth’s flowers], DAFFODILS. Daffodils! Spring flowers! Maybe Chicago will have some flowers by May. #endlesswinter #snowingagain #singledigitwindchill
  • 40a. [“Under a ___” (Durante’s clue to where the money is buried in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”)], BIG W. Say what??
  • 12d. [Daily crosswords, to puzzle pros (so-called from the number of squares per side)], FIFTEENS. I work on thirteens.
  • 77d. [Floppy disk?], PAPER PLATE. Great clue!

The fill is all right, not great. But there was not a lot of Scowl-o-Meter action while I was solving (your mileage may vary). 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 204”- Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 204 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 204 (solution)

This is the fourth “wild card” Post Puzzler (i.e., a puzzle from someone outside the normal stable of Post Puzzler constructors), and it’s easy to see why it was selected. This 70/32 gem has a hipster vibe, a smattering of rare letters, and a great assortment of clever clues.

I can’t shake the feeling that this puzzle was custom-made for me. I’m a native Oregonian, so MOUNT HOOD is always a pleasant sight. I see it maybe three or four times a year in crosswords, which is about as often as Oregonians can actually see Mount Hood from their homes. And then there’s GRAY Matter, the corporation from my all-time favorite television series, Breaking Bad. Oh, and Bob ROSS makes an appearance in the southeast corner! Maybe he’s getting ready to add a little tree right there. A happy tree. 

The only evidence I have that this puzzle wasn’t made just for me is 54-Down (I can’t bring myself to type it out here). No puzzle made for me would dare to contain 54-Down. I like to pretend 54-Downs never happened, for if they didn’t Episode VI would be the third best installment in the Star Wars franchise. That it’s only the fifth best out of sixth (and soon to be sixth best of seven, I hope) shows how evil 54-Downs really are. And we thought the Empire was bad!

The “hipster vibe” to which I refer pops up in WAY COOL, HEP CATS, and DA ALI G SHOW, the [Old program featuring Bruno Gehard]. I’d also include LAZY SLOB on that list, if only because the [Nightmare of an officemate, maybe] is not something you’re used to seeing in crosswords. There’s even a little SEX, a [Hot topic?], right there in the center of the grid.

On the rare letter front, there are two Zs and two Xs, leading to great entries like PRIZE MONEY, ZOOM LENS, and the aforementioned LAZY SLOB. More importantly, the rare letters don’t appear for the sake of themselves. The grid betrays no compromises made just to up the puzzle’s Scrabble quotient, which is as it should be.

And then there are the clues. I’ll save the best for last, as usual, but there were many other strong ones too: 

  • The paired [Turning point?] for AXIS and [Turning points?] for KNOBS was a nice touch. Not exactly the turning point of the puzzle, mind you, but a nice touch nonetheless. 
  • [Supervillain’s complex] is a lively clue for a LAIR. Regular villains have HIDEOUTS or BIG EGOS. But supervillains have LAIRS. Likewise, erstwhile entry OREOS gets a fun, fresh clue with [Ingredients in TGI Friday’s dessert Cup of Dirt]. Just when you thought you’d seen every possible clue for OREO, another one comes along.
  • I would have clued HENRI as [Name used in crossword clues for ICI]. Here it gets the much better clue, [Grand Duke of Luxembourg]. Still, it’s not like I know the dude. There were a lot of things here well outside my wheelhouse (hello, AARON Swartz, ERIE‘s Mercyhurst University, Duke MANTEE, the Balloon DOR trophy, NORA Barnacle, “EADIE Was a Lady,”and INCA idol Apu Ilapu), but they didn’t keep me from enjoying the solve. (I confess, however, that I AM A CAMERA, the [Old play featuring Sally Bowles], was a real WTF?? for me. I know nothing about it, but I feel it should be a musical. I call you a thumb, you call me a dick. But I am a camera, baby, and together we click.)
  • Given today is Oscar Sunday, I’m pleased to announce the nominees for Most Devious Clue in This Puzzle: (1) [Olive, e.g.] for WOOD; (2) [Suit opening?] for WET; (3) [Opposite of 50-Down] and [Opposite of 35-Down] for EXIT and ENTER, respectively, and (4) [Neopentane, to pentane] for ISOMER (like I’m supposed to know two of the three words in that clue).
  • I loved [Air apparent?] as a clue for SMOG. It was nearly my favorite. Speaking of which….

Favorite entry = THAT IS TO SAY, clued as [“In other words…”]. Favorite clue = [What you get while walking down the aisle?] for GROCERIES.

Updated Sunday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I really enjoyed this themeless 70-worder with lots of interesting and unusual bits:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/02/14

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 03/02/14

  • Starting in the northwest, I was unfamiliar with the football term PICK SIX, clued as [Big play for an NFL D-back]. I’m guessing this means to have an interception and then run it back for a touchdown (6 points). Am I right?
  • I first thought [“Happy Birthday” writer] was the person who actually wrote the song (all I could recall was that Michael Jackson at one point had the rights to it), but it was the more common ICER.
  • [Bad mark in high school] had me thinking of grades, but it was the bane of teenagers, a ZIT.
  • Cute clue for NINE was [Happy cloud], although it’s the person, not the cloud itself, that’s happy here, right?
  • Moving on to the northeast, PARADIGMS was nice, but its across partner, [Hook-like?] or PIRATIC was a new word to me.
  • Nice to see no reference to Native Americans with the clue for REDSKIN which was [Potato peel, perhaps].
  • Finally, nice two adjoining 10-letter down entries, TAKES PLACE and “I’M IN HEAVEN”, the latter definitely deserving a tie back to the cloud NINE clue.

As we move to the southwest, I have to call out another FAVE, which was the conversational [“Well!”] or “I NEVER!”. Unusual and fun entry there. Nice long stuff in the SW included SKEDADDLE, SOAP OPERA and IN EARNEST. Not sure of the Polonius reference to “To thine own self be true” for PATERNAL, which to me means “fatherly.” Certainly fathers have proffered this advice to their children, but why go back to ancient Rome 16th century England for an example?

Ending in the lower right, we have the tic-tac-toe winning TOO OLD, clued as [Ineligible for kid’s prices], which I’m wondering about the validity of as an entry–can a dress be TOO BLUE? ENSCONCED, NISSAN Z and DAZZLES all shone in this quadrant.

Robin Stears’ syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Dance Partners”

LA Times crossword solution, 3 2 14 "Dance Partners"

LA Times crossword solution, 3 2 14 “Dance Partners”

Yay! It’s not an Oscars/movie theme! Variety is the spice of life.

Instead, two words that can precede “dance” (not necessarily forms of dance, though) are partnered up and clued as a single, made-up phrase:

  • 23a. [Admirer banned for overzealousness?], FORBIDDEN FAN. I don’t know what “forbidden dance” is.
  • 41a. [Where “Hissing 101” is offered?], SNAKE SCHOOL.
  • 44a. [Contemporary poetry competition?], MODERN SLAM. … As opposed to those old-fashioned poetry slams of bygone eras?
  • 69a. [Something the plumber’s never seen before?], EXOTIC CLOG. Let your imagination run wild—what’s in this exotic drain clog? *shudder*
  • 73a. [Hardly hipsters?], SQUARE FOLK. See also: ACPT attendees next weekend.
  • 95a. [San Diego mascot’s topper?], CHICKEN HAT. Why does a San Diego team have a chicken mascot?
  • 100a. [Follow the Scarlet Speedster?], SHADOW FLASH. Didn’t know Flash (The Flash? Flash Gordon?) was called the Scarlet Speedster. Don’t know what “shadow dance” is, and the only Flashdance I know of is the movie. This is the only one where one of the resulting “dance” terms is a single word rather than a two-word phrase.
  • 122a. [Eating contest winner’s paunch?], VICTORY BELLY.

The theme works okay, but the “Dance Partner” phrases are mostly pretty dry. I kinda wanted to expand the theme to symmetrical partners GAS METER and HOMESICK. Who among us has never done the gas dance, I ask you?

The liveliest fill is THE DUKE, 62d. John [Wayne nickname]. And nearby, that REAL MAN—though my late grandma used to joke that she thought John Wayne was a “fruit.” “Just look at the way he walks!” I think she really thought he was a REAL MAN of the straight variety.

Five more things:

  • 96d. [Block and tackle, e.g.], HOISTER. Is this, say, dock machinery for lifting boats or cargo? To the dictionary! Block and tackle is “A mechanism consisting of ropes and one or more pulley-blocks, used for lifting or pulling heavy objects.” HOISTER, however, is a blechy little entry. It has dictionary cred with the -ER, but it sounds awkward to me.
  • 20a. [Cocky self-reference end], AREN’T I. As in “I’m an awesome blogger, aren’t I?”
  • “I’ll take Biblical Place Names ‘E’ for $1,200”: 59d. [Ancient Dead Sea land] is EDOM, 85d. [David and Goliath’s battlefield] is ELAH, and the garden of EDEN is taking a break this morning (but ADAM is at 39d).
  • 13d. [Pulpit locale], CHANCEL. Chancellor has the same root, but the chancellor was originally someone stationed at the grating separating a judge from the public. The chancel is separated from the nave by steps or a screen. Latin cancelli means “crossbars.” the word cancel is also related; you put the crossbars through what you’ve written to cancel it.
  • Crosswordese! 5d. [Bay window], ORIEL. The crosswordese willow is OSIER. See also: STENO crossing ENOLA.

Three stars.

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Sound People” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/2/14 • "Sound People" • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 3/2/14 • “Sound People” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Simple concept: homophonic PUNS (109a [Paronomastic phrases]) on celebrities’ surnames. The answers also include first names.

  • 23a. [Painting of Laverne?] PENNY MARSHALL ART (martial art).
  • 28a. [Mean of escape, to a film Batman?] CHRISTIAN BALE OUT (bailout).
  • 52a. [Where Wonka’s creator lived?] ROALD DAHL HOUSE (doll house).
  • 63a. [Guitarist, re his paychecks?] LES PAUL, BEARER (pall bearer).
  • 78a. [Actor’s snakes?] BRAD PITT VIPERS (pit vipers).
  • 105a. [How a Spanish actress crossed the ocean?] PENÉLOPE CRUZ SHIP (cruise ship).
  • 111a. [“American Idol” judge with two others? NICKI MINAJ À TROIS (ménage à trois). Guessing this one was the seed entry, as it’s such a readily evident pun.

Tally – 4 actors (one also an established director), 2 musicians, 1 author :: 4 men, 3 women. Good mix there. The first two pairs 16-letter entries with 11 overlapping letters.

Excellent long vertical pair of ANTEBELLUM and WATERMELON. Hmm… Lady ANTEBELLUM and WATERMELON man… Next tier: so-so INFIDELS and GRAINIER, across pair SAILPLANE and COVENANTS, for which I first tried CONTRACTS based on the clue [Binding agreements].

flashman4Ickiest fill: 35a [Taken out of context?] DELED (that is, deleted, dele, dele’d). Also, 98d [“Dancing with the Stars” judge] Carrie Ann INABA was wholly unfamiliar, but that’s probably more my fault than the puzzle’s. Roman numeral MCDV which was perversely made more palatable with the apathetic clue [A few years into the XVth century] (24d).

Plenty of crosswordese and abbrevs., but not such a stickshakingly substantial number of partials. For the record, I’m biased in not finding 39d [Flogger’s whip] KNOUT bad fill, principally because such object will never leave my memory after reading about it so vividly in George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman at the Charge, set in part during the Crimean War.

Miscellanea: 6d [Menotti’s boy soprano] AMAHL, which I first entered as AHMAL, then modified to AMHAL before finally letting the H slip down to its proper place. 27a [Quercitrons, e.g.] OAKS – helpful to know that the genus for oak trees is Quercus (whence “cork,” among other things). 68d [Holder for 64-down] STEIN, 64d [The P in PBR] PABST; I was all set to SCOFF (1a) at the notion of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in a stein, but a quick search turned up a branded PBR stein. End times, people, end times.

Zippy, fun puzzle, but some solvers might balk at some of the arcane fill.

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24 Responses to Sunday, March 2, 2014

  1. JohnV says:

    Couldn’t suss the NW. Well done puz, albeit boring.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it, and much prefer the theme over the more typical add-a-letter stratagems on Sundays. The sentences make sense, many are really in the language: NETWORK CRASH, AIRPORT TRAFFIC, CHICAGO TAXI DRIVER… Some good words, like ITERATE and SUPINE and an interesting one that I didn’t know- HEMAL (made sense when it finally revealed itself). It also puts me in an Oscar mood, even though I don’t go to many movies, nowadays.

    Amy, some of those old movies you missed are worth watching– TAXI DRIVER, for sure, and may be PICNIC. For me the latter has its own kind of nostalgia. I think I saw it when I was quite young and needed to read subtitles because I spoke no English, so I should re-watch it and actually listen to the dialogue. When I was growing up, American movies arrived many years after they were released in the US, and they were a big deal. We got dressed up to go to the movies and talked about them in school with great fascination. They gave me a really weird view of the US. Landing in Iowa City when I first arrived, it was nothing like I expected.

    • Ethan says:

      This was a pretty fast solve for me. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies.

      I’d agree that this theme could be a little tighter. When you’re opening it up to any film that’s been nominated, you’re talking 47 films in the last five years alone. There are just so many possibilities. How about PRECIOUS MILK? BLACK SWAN UP IN THE AIR? LINCOLN NEBRASKA?

      That’s okay. Still a really good puzzle nonetheless.

  3. John Stevens says:

    BAFF: I have played golf and been around the game for 52 years, and have NEVER heard anyone use this term. It either does not exist, or has been coined by a pimply-faced nouveau golfer (i.e., one who says they “golf” (Verb, which it is not) while it is appropriate to say they Play golf ( noun). If one hits the ground behind the ball, one has hit it FAT, or CHILI-DIPPED it. These are the terms real golfers use.

    • bob stigger says:

      I’ve been playing golf even longer than that and have never encountered BAFF either. The dictionary reports it’s a Scottish term — heaven knows we’ve borrowed plenty of Scottish golf terms, including naming half our courses after famous Scottish tracks –but BAFF doesn’t appear to have made it across the Atlantic.

    • sbmanion says:

      I have also been playing golf for more than 52 years (54 to be exact) and have never heard the word BAFF. I do know the names of most of the old clubs, however, and there were at one time both a BAFFING SPOON and a BAFFIE, the rough equivalents of a four wood and a five wood. At one time, I owned a brassie, a spoon and a mashie niblick, given to me by my father.


  4. Bencoe says:

    You’d remember Network if you had seen it, I think. A very unusual movie.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    NYT — It’s a stunning accomplishment in my book, with very few imerfections! BAFF I wouldn’t have heard, and WAF wasn’t familiar either, but both are gettable. I’m not much of a movie-goer, but remember getting quite a kick out of CHICAGO – who knew Gere could sing and dance?

  6. Lawrence Knowles says:

    Been playing golf for some 62 years and never encountered the word “baff”, although I have baffed many many times over that period.

  7. Evan says:


    I completely disagree. The fifth best Star Wars movie? Even with the 54-Downs, it’s still way better than Crapisodes I-III. I’ll let Patton Oswalt explain exactly why.

    …..oh wait, the WaPo puzzle! Thanks for the great review. I was pleasantly surprised that Peter changed relatively few of my clues, or at least fewer in terms of percentage than I had with other outlets. Here’s the rundown:

    * He left 45 of my clues (64.3% of all clues) basically intact.
    * He made minor changes to 10 (14.3%), meaning he kept the intended meaning of the clue as well as most of the same words but changed their order or added/deleted others.
    * He made major revisions to the remaining 15 clues (21.4%), meaning he changed most or all of the words and basically went for a completely different angle on the clue.

    And while I know that the clue for AARON might throw some people off if they’re not familiar with him, it was actually a personal clue for me. I knew Aaron when he was alive. He and I lived in the same hometown and went to the same high school in 2000-2002. Though I didn’t know him too well at the time, I greatly admired what he did as a steadfast champion of internet transparency and a computer genius who helped develop Reddit. The story of how federal prosecutors really tried to crack down on him for his activism, and his tragic suicide as a result last year, is very sad and disgusting at the same time.

  8. Bit says:

    WaPo: Not sure if Dave is pulling our leg with the Polonius “from ancient Rome” line, but my first knowledge of Hamlet came from “Gilligan’s Island” (now showing on TV Land) when the castaways put on their version. The Skipper plays Polonius, and comes out and launches into song (to the tune of The Toreador Song from Bizet’s Carmen): “Neither a borrower nor a lender be!” before finishing up with “To thine own self be true!”. I believe Gilligan was playing Hamlet in the scene, and the son Laertes receiving the PATERNAL advice was played by Mary Ann, off the top of my head…

    • Bit says:

      Of course, I meant CS on that ref, not WaPo. Not fast enough on the edit button.

    • klew archer says:

      That Gilligan’s Island episode was my gateway to opera, all those years ago. The other songs, I believe, were the “To be, or not to be” soliquy set to the Habanera from Carmen, and something else not from Carmen but from Tales of Hoffman. But what I really came to say was, thank heavens for this day in crosswords which may finally help me remember and differentiate EDOM and ELAH.

  9. Howard B says:

    Evan – the WaPo puzzle was great fun – thanks!
    Dave – Re: PICK SIX, your assumption is correct.
    You may now spike the blog in celebration, without penalty.

  10. pannonica says:

    CS: PATERNAL. Though I understood the clue to be taken literally as father-to-son advice, it rubbed me the wrong way because the point of that scene—and Shakespeare’s portrayal of the character Polonius in general—is that he’s sanctimonious and worthy of derision, or SKEWERING.

    Keeping within the CLANS, 60d [Family member, for short] COZ was less familiar to me than the more contemporary CUZ, though the former has better dictionary support and venerableness (16th century).

  11. Robin Stears says:

    Thanks so much for a great write-up!

  12. Margaret says:

    Re the LAT, you must have mercifully missed the movie Lambada (the forbidden dance), a punchline to many early 90s jokes. I didn’t know SHADOWdance either, and googling it isn’t much help. My education today was HALITE; don’t recall seeing this much before. As always, thanks for the write-ups!

  13. Lois says:

    Re Reagle and the Big W:

    Didn’t remember. I saw the movie only when it came out. Got big W from the crosses.

Comments are closed.