Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reagle  Approximately 23 minutes (Gareth) 
NYT 12:08 (Matt) 
LAT 11:13 (Dave) 
Hex/Hook  8:57 (pannonica) 
WaPo  untimed (janie) 
CS 10:07 (Dave, with 2 mistakes!) 

Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword, “Nosy Nonsense” — Matt’s review


Twitter and Facebook tell me that Brendan’s Round 5 puzzle was quite hellish at the ACPT today, so it’s good for balance that his NYT Sunday puzzle is a breeze. Just 12 minutes and change it took me — speaking of change, here’s what happens when you add a “zee” sound to base phrases:

26-A [One unsatisfied with a “She loves me, she loves me not” result?] = DAISY TRADER. From “day trader.”

28-A [Picky little dog?] = CHOOSY TOY. From “chew toy.”

52-A [Business transactions free from government regulation?] = EASY COMMERCE. From “E-Commerce.”

73-A [Carefree dairy product?] = BREEZY CHEESE. From “Brie cheese.”

101-A [Optimistic theater audience?] = ROSY HOUSE. From “row house.”

103-A [Marvel from Idaho’s largest city?] = BOISE WONDER. From “boy wonder.”

36-D [Barely remembered seaman?] = HAZY SAILOR. From “Hey, sailor.” But a “hazy sailor” to me sounds like one recovering from a hangover, not one that’s hard to recall.

44-D [Sports score most likely to be on the highlight reel?] = DOOZY POINT. From “dew point.”

Works for me. Standard lovely BEQ grid, with nice “Weng shui” (my term for an unfilled grid’s aesthetics), four big corners, and not a cheater square in sight. That’s some fine filling, highlights of which are: OPHELIA, MONEY MEN, LARYNXES, GETS OUT and CSI: NY.

Bullet points:

***Just to show how good this fill is, let’s do the five-worst-entries test (which is far more severe a test on a 21x than a 15x): ERI TU, OSO, ALINE, ELHI, DERR. For a 21×21, to say nothing of an 138-word 21×21, that’s outstanding.

***[Canadian business often connected to a Tim Hortons] is a nice way to clue old standby ESSO. I remember being mystified in 1992 on my first visit to Canada when I saw a Tim Horton’s restaurant with one big sign labeling its name as “Tim Horton’s” and another calling it “Tim Hortons” with no apostrophe. Turned out to be a French-English issue (we use the ‘s, French just uses the s).

***Three favorite clues: [Got to the point?] for TAPERED, [Bread box] for ATM and [Talking points?] for LARYNXES.

4.20 stars.

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Incidental Music” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Doug, who is doing quite well at this weekend’s ACPT by the way, adds the notes of the scale to eight phrases.

Los Angeles Times crossword solution - 03/09/14

Los Angeles Times crossword solution – 03/09/14

And here we go:

  • [Donut lover’s discipline?] was DOZEN MEDITATION – at first I wondered if all the clues would begin with the notes as well, as DO-nut does. I think of eggs coming in dozens more than donuts.
  • [Kicking back with the drones?] clued RESTING LIKE A BEE – as a beekeeper, I know that drones do very little in a hive–they’re only there to mate with the queen and very unceremoniously ejected from the hive in the late fall when the girls are satisfied their queen will last through the winter and they won’t need a new queen (who would need drones to mate with on her “virgin flight.”) It’s amazing that a queen bee only mates once in her life and stores all the sperm she will need after that. But I digress….the base phrase here comes from Mohammed Ali.
  • [Japanese soup, apparently?] was MISO IT SEEMS – I’m envisioning a diner doing a mental checklist in his head–“soy paste broth, check; tofu cubes, check; bits of seaweed, check; scallions, check. Yep, that’s miso alright!”
  • [So-so joe?] clued FAIRISH COFFEE – is “fairish” a word? If not, it should be and can be paired with middling, as in how someone is doing.
  • [Bangle, often?] was SOLID BRACELET – I was thinking of this group at first. Nice appropriation of the ID initials.
  • [Snorkeling area patrol unit?] was a LAGOON SQUAD – also some gangs in L.A., no?
  • [Broadcaster who goes on and on?] clued a TIRING ANNOUNCER – mini-theme here with the STING LIKE A BEE entry.
  • Finally, we’re brought back to DO with [“Water that poor plant before all the leaves dry up!”?] cluing DOUSE IT OR LOSE IT – not sure I’ve ever seen that kind of punctuation at the end of a clue–!”?

I enjoyed the theme and its musical examples. I finished the puzzle itself is just over 11 minutes, which for this non-competitive solver, was very fast for a 21×21, so that means the fill was super smooth. Just a few random comments here:

  • Does outfielder ICHIRO just go by his first name? I didn’t notice a signal in the clue that his last name would be omitted.
  • I enjoyed the parallelism between [Gave a ride, say] for AIDED and [Take to the airport, say] for SEE OFF.
  • [Like some flaws] was TRAGIC–here’s hoping the members of the Fiend crew don’t make any tragic flaws in the contest puzzles this weekend!
  • Another nice parallel between [Zombie-like states] or STUPORS and the unusual LOGY clued as [Feeling sluggish].
  • Finally, I enjoy unusual consonant runs, and the upper northeast featured two–DC AREA and PC LAB.

Nice work, Doug!

Mike Nothnagel’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 205″—Janie’s review

3/9 Washington Post

3/9 Washington Post

I liked this puzzle a lot. Is it filled with long words and lots of long, splashy phrases? In a word: no. It’s a 70-word/ 27-block themeless with a hearty 102 open squares, whose two longest entries (both excellent!) are of the 10-letter variety. Of the remaining longer fill, there are eight 8s, fourteen 7s and ten 6s which work together to give this puzzle a lot of muscle. It’s solidly built, kinda like a fireplug that way—and for me, about as easy to get into, i.e., NOT. In fact, the entire NW was initially a bust for me, so I left it and basically solved this one NE to SE to SW to NW. Hey. Whatever works, right? Had to rely a lot on inference—and on dredging up names that are definitely on the periphery of my own internal hard drive… So ultimately, this was one satisfying solve—mainly because each area of the grid has so much to commend it.

So—starting with those two longest phrases, we get SAVE THE DAY, clued not as a wedding invitation imperative, but as [Be a hero] (nice!); and RUM AND COKE a/k/a the [Cuba libre]. Those ingredients are also the basis of a vintage song by the Andrews Sisters.

The eights come to us in triple-stacks in the NE and SW corners and a pair left and right at center. The full name of ROD CAREW balances the full name of JANE EYRE, though the clues to neither did me a whole lotta grapeapegood. Mr. C’s is a lengthy and very specific baseball reference; Miss E’s a long-forgotten reference to her alma mater… Thank you, gray matter, for pulling through! OPEN FIRE comes to us not as something that chestnuts might be roasting on, but as a verb phrase in answer to [Pull the trigger]. Then, let us not forget that Mike teaches at the Culinary Institute of America, and doesn’t fail us with cooking references. Among the eights, lookin’ at that [Parboils] PRE-COOKS pairing. (And there’s foodie-type fill, too, in PAREVE, USDA PRIME, and ROMAS. Then again, Mike teaches math… so here’s lookin’ at you, geometry-clued SLOPE and French curve-clued ARC.) Never saw (or heard of…) The Great GRAPE APE Show, but this big guy seems to be as benign as those PIRANHAS are lethal. (And we get another benign/lethal animal duo with JETSAM, freshly clued as [Eel in “The Little Mermaid”] and ASP [Cold-blooded killer].)

Mike’s 7s run in triple columns all the way down either side of the grid (plus the down-pair at center) and include lotso juicy fill and fill/clue combos. Among my faves: that whole NW swath—RIPPING [Marvy to a Brit], IN mtn-valleyARMOR [Dressed to kill?] (great clue!) and BARISTA [Person with counter intelligence?] (ditto…); that whole NE swath—ORIGAMI [Activity in which mountains and valleys are created], KEROUAC and SWEDISH [Language that gave us “orienteering“]; and in the south, JUMANJI [Fictional board game that warns “Do not begin unless you intend to finish!”], TIN CANS [Some are opened with a church key] and HATEFUL. And who doesn’t love PARADES? While (hoofer) Fred ASTAIRE is clued in connection with his Oscar-nominated appearance in The Towering Inferno, and HOOF IT in connection with walking, I do like how they cross each other, down there in the SE.

I also like the liveliness of the “talking” fill: “OK, SURE,” “IT’S A MESS…,” “I LOSE,” “I’M SET,” and [“You] OWE ME [big time”].

Some additional clues deserving  special attention:

  • [Pine part] for KIRK. Yes, I’m the one who was trying to figure out where to find the kirk on a pine tree. Uh, that’s Chris Pine, who played the role of Captain Kirk in two of the Star Trek movies… I mean really—the deficits in my pop-culture knowledge-base are ginormous. (While I know his name, don’t know any KANYE titles, e.g., let alone “Yeezus.”) But even so, by sticking with the puzzle, getting footholds where I could, I was ultimately able to solve sans artificial intelligence (a/k/a Google). This time…
  • [Shout before using paddles] for “CLEAR!” So this is about emergency medicine and not water sports.
  • [Unhand?] for MAIM. Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow!!
  • [Monosaccharide in guanosine] for RIBOSE. OMG. And it’s right there at 1-Across. A chemistry test! I know enough to know that a monosaccharide is a simple sugar, but what on earth is guanosine? In fact, it really doesn’t matter. Just stick with that first word and work from there! So many clues today give us way more information than we probably need to put an answer in the grid. But they also enrich the solving experience considerably and give us insight into the cunning minds of the constructor and his editor.
  • [Product that often oxidized] for TEA. Tea is oxidized?? Oho. Live and learn!
  • [Thing used in clutch situations?] for TALON. Ooh. This kinda “clutch” situation:

“Sparrow hawk with meal in its talons…”

And that, gentle readers, is a wrap for today. If I didn’t touch on your favorite fill or clue, by all means: please, speak up!

Updated (later) Sunday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

It’s unusual for me to have any mistakes in these CrosSynergy puzzles, as they are pitched at beginning to intermediate solvers (my sweet spot), but in this one I had two (corrected in the image):

CrosSynergy crossword solution - 03/09/14

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 03/09/14

Before the errors, I had trouble in even the areas I completed correctly:

  • I had the BOOTH part of [November ticket-taking place], but couldn’t get VOTING out of my head, as it ended up as POLLING. I’m familiar with the phrase, but it’s not as common as its VOTING brother I feel. What’s your vote? Not having those L’s made the northwest very difficult–the crossing ANOMALOUS for [Unexpected] and STROLL for [Constitutional] were tough to scrape from the corners of my brain.
  • Nice to get a long foothold down the middle with [Elvis Presley hit of 1956] or HEARTBREAK HOTEL – seems like a good place for a link.
  • I think the upper right was my easiest quadrant, though I’m a bit conflicted on the validity of THE GREASE (clued as [Something a wheel gets]) as an entry. I was lucky to stumble upon SALMI, or [Game goulash], from the crossing entries alone, as I don’t believe I’ve heard of it.
  • The BROOKLYN NETS pro NBA team fell easily, as did the crossing (and superb!) UNHEARD OF, but that lower right also was reticent to give up its secrets, as BY FAR for [To a considerable degree] was tough and the crossing NICELY, clued as [When doubled, “Guys and Dolls” guy who sings “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”] meant nothing to me. So his name is NICELY NICELY? A FITB clue like [“___ done!” (“Good job!”)] would’ve helped me much more nicely.
  • INTENSELY for [In a deep way] looks easy now, but I had an typo for the crossing APART, with a final A instead of a T, so it took a while to correct that. I was also stuck on MEL for [Damon role in “We Bought a Zoo”]–was MEE his first or last name? Finally, I sadly also wasn’t familiar with Keanu Reeves’s 47 Ronin.

So I’ve saved the best (or worst?) for last and where my errors appeared: [White wine grape of Austria] or the GRUNER VELTLINER. I know very little about German wines, so this was completely new to me. I had PUG for PIG, since I also didn’t know the architect Toyo ITO. I first thought pugs have snouts that are prominent, but now that I think about it, it’s just the opposite. My other mistake was also missing the crossing I of OH HI as I had the palindromic OH HO, for [“Hello! I didn’t see you there!”], thinking more about the surprise of encountering someone you weren’t expecting.

T.O. 1, Evad 0.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, crossword, “The Brooklyn Dropout” – Gareth’s review

xwHi! I’m filling in for Amy as she’s doing battle in Brooklyn. Fittingly, Merl’s puzzle today is a tournament tie-in of sorts. It celebrates (or perhaps commemorates) the end of the tournament’s stay in Brooklyn, as it is moving back to Stamford from next year. The “dropout” part refers to the theme answers’ change in sound from a soft “th” to a “t” stereotypical of a Brooklyn accent.

Before continuing, I’d like to address the fact that I filled in the grid on paper and not electronically (wipe that smirk off your grin, Jeffrey!) Apologies if you can’t decipher my scrawl! Merl only offers the crossword in applet form, so I opted to rather print it out. It turned out to be fitting given the ACPT-related theme. I’m no longer used to solving on paper and especially with the big grid, I found navigation vexingly slow! Still, only four write-overs, which is something.

The puzzle’s theme uses a similar mechanic to BEQ’s NYT, in that it works on the sounds rather than the spellings of the words. In general, I’ve found myself enjoying the answers in these sound change puzzles more than the letter ones. I can’t put my finger on precisely why, they just seem more imaginative! Here, Merl has used the Sunday-size to good advantage including long idioms as base-phrases. This also adds to the general fun for me! And trust me, coming up with symmetrical long punning answers is way harder than it looks! We have:

  • 23a, [Aquariums], TANKS (thanks) FOR WATCHING. Elegant!
  • 33a, [Pretty much all you need to blow out a tire?], A NEEDLE AND TREAD (thread)
  • 52a, [What one dream said to the other dream?], LOOK OUT WERE COMING TRUE (through). Dreams speaking to each other is pretty much on the line between wacky and over the top. This is similar to the line Eddie Izzard describes between looking cool and looking like a d—head.
  • 67a, [Why standing under a falling oak is a bad idea?], TREE (three) STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT. Violent, but perfect from base-phrase to changed answer!
  • 85a,[Slogan of a Cape Canaveral bank?], AMILLIONPOUNDSOFTRUST (thrust). A million pounds of thrust doesn’t strike me as an in-the-language phrase.
  • 101a, [What the professor of methodology did?], TAUGHT (thought) PROCESSES
  • 116a, [High point of a soprano’s career?], TRILL (thrill) OF A LIFETIME

Write-overs, as you can (maybe) see:

  • 124a, [Private home?], BASE. I had MESS initially, for some reason.
  • 84d, [Eye part prefix?], IRIDO. I had OCULO initially, off the “o”. Eye, 5 letter prefix, it’s always OCULO, right?
  • 83a, [Little drink?], NIP. I had SIP – it’s a trap!
  • 51a, [Clock-change inits.?], EDT. I had DST, that clue in no way mentions the E!

This puzzle has 123 Theme squares and a surprisingly open grid. So, if the rest of the grid felt a tad muted, that’s the reason. This works, provided your theme is plenty appealing, which for me this one was! It is remarkable how clean this is, by Sunday standards. A few short foreign words and affixes, but really not much to glare at. One unique feature of Merl’s puzzles is long partials. Here we have HOURIS and TRAPFOR. The former could also be [Harem ladies] or somesuch. I don’t see any difficult crossers that made Merl go for the partial option, so it’s an odd choice. Another odd choice was [Aluminium siding: slang] for TIN. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean!

4.25 Stars. An excellent example, of the “wacky” entry genre!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Whose is it?” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/9/14 • "Whose is it?" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 3/9/14 • “Whose is it?” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

Whose is it? Let’s find out.

  • 23a. [First hit for Otis Redding] THESE ARMS OF MINE.
  • 39a. [1950s Caesar-Coca program] YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS.
  • 53a. [What we’re not telling anyone else?] OUR LITTLE SECRET. Commonly seen consorting with “It’ll be …”
  • 75a. [Royal Navy designation] HER MAJESTY’S SHIP.
  • 87a. [Gramophone company trademark] HIS MASTER’S VOICE.
  • 105a. [Churchill WWII history volume] THEIR FINEST HOUR.

So, quite easily inferable from both title and content (in all its glory), the theme is personal pronouns. A fine concept, but there are some snags.

The most significant and jarring comes with the leading entry. Unlike the other five, it ends with the pronoun rather than beginning with it. There’s a reason for this. The others are personal determiners, whereas MINE is somewhat confusingly called  a possessive pronoun (though both are subcategories of personal pronouns). To be consistent, the answer should have been a phrase beginning with MY. Some candidates: MY AMERICAN UNCLE (the English title of the 1980 film Mon Oncle d’Amérique by the great, very recently deceased Alain Resnais; indie rock band MY MORNING JACKET; the once-ubiquitous and inundating love theme from Titanic, MY HEART WILL GO ON (sung by Céline Dion), More generic possibilities include MY OWN WORST ENEMY and MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY. (nb: 98d [“My Way” lyricist] ANKA.)

Next up: singular versus plural. MINE, HER, and HIS are singular. OUR and THEIR are plural (of my and his/her/its/their). Whether YOUR is plural or singular is ambiguous. In and of itself, this isn’t egregious, but combined with the omission of the singular neuter ITS (especially as the plural neuter THEIR is obviously not a plural form of ITS) from the proceedings it’s a bit noticeable.

As for the non-theme material, it’s very solid with just a few moments of flash, but not lifeless and dull. SLEEP ON IT and HALTER TOP introduce some length and—in the absence of injected or overt Scrabbliness—it’s left to the clues to bring excitement. That’s achieved with cleverness, alliteration, and the like. 20a [Of  Kilkenny or Killarney] IRISH / 116a [Kiln content] POTS; 52a [Vivaldi’s vivacity] BRIO; 56a [Close, in movies] GLENN / 99a [West in pictures] MAE; 61d [Gave a ring solemnly] KNELLED / 108d [Hitching phrase] I DO; 66d [Hub projections] RADII / 96d [Hub spots for snacks] SPAS.

As for the aforementioned “My Way” clue, while it may indirectly help to complete a thematic gap (at least psychologically), it’s extraneous to the theme yet intrudes on it. See also 32d [“Stand By Your Man” singer] WYNETTE.

Flawed theme execution with stolid but not viscerally exciting ballast fill yields a crossword that’s surprisingly substandard for this veteran constructing duo.

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10 Responses to Sunday, March 9, 2014

  1. Gary R says:

    Was anyone else thrown by EUROMART in the NYT? After I had the EUR from crosses, I went with EUROzone, which seemed pretty solid to me. I don’t believe I’ve heard the term Euromart. Eurozone, European Union, European Community, EEC, Common Market, yes – but not Euromart or even European Market (other than in general reference to the market in Europe).

    • ArtLvr says:

      I tend to agree with Gary on the Euromart… My solving would have been a lot faster if I’d noted the title (note to self, & not for the first time!) Clever gimmick, well done.

      • Huda says:

        Eurozone here, as well… I guess Euromart is another name for the Common Market. I wonder whether the term is actively used in Europe?

        I just checked “Le Monde” since the French often use English expressions in their papers. Eurozone gets a few hundred hits. “Zone Euro” gets over 12,000 hits. Euromart, “Euro Mart” or “Mart Euro”– nada.

  2. Huda says:

    I laughed at the “Fûmes” clue. Really? French past subjunctive form? It was drilled in my head as a child, but are people expected to know it? It seems evil :)
    Here’s the set in its glory: Fus, fus, fut, fûmes, fûtes, furent. Not to mention the past imperfect form of the subjunctive of ETRE. That could fill a few tricky corners.

  3. LARRY WALKER says:

    Glad to learn that “STEPTOE” has a meaning (isolated hill, etc.) rather than just the name of the English family that was the predecessor of Sanford and Son, starring Redd Foxx.

  4. Margaret says:

    Gareth, “tin men” is old slang for aluminum siding salesmen — there’s a 1987 Barry Levinson movie with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny deVito called Tin Men. Must be American slang only.

    Dave, Ichiro is known internationally by just his first name; in fact, I believe that’s what’s on his jersey rather than his last name.

  5. Richard Nelson says:

    Gareth, Shouldn’t 24 down be Steero (, making 39 across (Article de francais) “les,” not “las,” which already appears as 89 across. Would be strange to have two answers (las) the same, wouldn’t it?


  6. Huda says:

    P-pannonica, you seem in a good mood. May be downright haPPy :)

    Was the NYT puzzle from the ACPT?

    Actually, I have a question for anyone who knows: Why are people who have identical scores given different ranks? For example Joon P. and Anne Erdmann have the same score but are ranked as 4th and 5th? Why are they not both in 4th place and then skip to 6th? (this is how we would formally do rank ordering). Is there another variable that determines rank beyond the total score?

    Hope the tournament was fun for all. I’m surprised how many names I recognize!

  7. Ellen Ripstein says:

    To answer Huda, the ACPT puzzles are not from the NYT.

    In scoring, ties are broken by the most recent puzzle, going back. Anne and Joon had identical scores on puzzles 7 and 6, so the tie was broken with puzzle 5. Similarly, I was in a group tied from 8th to 10th place, and the tiebreak was based on our different scores on puzzle 7.

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