Monday, March 10, 2014

NYT 3:11 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:05 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:48 (Amy) 
CS 7:09 (Dave) 

Kelly Clark’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 3/10/14 • Mon • Clark • 3 10 14 • solution

NYT • 3/10/14 • Mon • Clark • 3 10 14 • solution

What’s that in the center? 40a [Handyman’s tote] TOOLBOX. What’s that 17-across? [One-by-one formation, as in walking] SINGLE FILE. At 11-down? [Spillane detective?] MIKE HAMMER. There at 64-across? [Manicurist’s target] FINGERNAIL. 29-down? [Honest] ON THE LEVEL.

Good thing there were more than a couple, because someone could get the wrong idea from the NAIL and the FILE alone, especially considering TOOLBOX is not explicitly a revealer.

Saaaayyyyyy, what’s that at one-across? [Mr. __ (handyman)] FIXIT! And complimenting that, over at 71a is … [Goes downhill in the winter] SLEDS. Uhm. >cough< Well, moving on …

From the Not In My Monday department, we get composer Thomas ARNE, antique crosssword stalwarts Mel OTT and the venerable STEN gun (that’s Shepherd-Turpin Enfield, for your information), Nicholas Gage’s ( Nikolaos Gatzoyiannis) 1983 memoir ELENI (also the name of his daughter), and netman ILIE Nastase.

Otherwise the contents are early-week level, both tooth and claw fill and clue. The expected and acceptable smattering of partials, prepositional phrases, abbrevs.

Average puzzle.

Brom Hart’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review

LAT • 3/10/14 • Mon • Hart • solution

LAT • 3/10/14 • Mon • Hart • solution

With perspicacious puzzle powers and pedipalp-like grasping conceptual prehensive proclivities, I properly procured the provenance of the prospective proceedings. Pee-pee!

  • 17a. [Porky’s girlfriend] PETUNIA PIG.
  • 24a. [Feigns sleep, say] PLAYS POSSUM. Perhaps if it were later in the week, the more precise (or at least more original) sense of feigns death would predominate.
  • 52a. [Either of two of the Inspector Clouseau films, with “The”] PINK PANTHER.
  • 61a. [Yipping adoptee] POUND PUPPY. Prominent p-alliteration in the clue, too, though it’s internal.

Anthus nilghiriensisI kind of sort of want to maybe think that the crossing of SNIPPY and SPLIT PEA is a tangential theme reference. Who knows? On the other hand, it would be preëminently provocative for the puzzle to proscribe the presence of non-theme Ps in the grid. But that would be asking an awful lot from a Monday offering as well as a possibly (presumably? apparently?) debutant (?) puzzlemaker.

Timely 4d [Semiannual time-change amount] HOUR. Perhaps a factor for some solvers at the ACPT who had to get up an hour earlier this morning (Sunday, 9 March) than their circadian rhythms anticipated for the 7th and final regular crossword. The attendees were wont to 6d STAY AT [Patronize, as a hotel] the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge.


  • 3d [Devices to stop tiny invading armies] ANT TRAPS. Need a lot of traps to stop an army of them.
  • Fun clue: 7d [Spot for a cat, or drink like a cat] LAP.
  • Cuboid (not that cuboid) action: 56a [Cooler cubes] ICE, 29d [Craps cube] DIE.
  • The bibble! 23d [“Dies __”: Latin hymn] IRAE; 62d [“__ Father, who art …”] OUR; 43a [“Exodus” author Leon] URIS; 47d [Gave 10% to the church] TITHED.
  • Not sure how well LIPASE, KNESSET, ARETE, Phi Beta KAPPA, and SINN Féin play on Monday, but in truth they seem like things a reasonably-educated (read: crossword solver) person should be aware of. APER is another story.

Modest, decent Monday.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Front Money” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I believe the title phrase refers to a deposit someone makes on something, or perhaps it’s a card game term referring to anteing, but here, Bob takes it a bit more literally and finds four phrases that begin with a type of currency:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/10/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/10/14

  • [In the spotlight] was CENTER STAGE – I first tried “celebrated” but it was one letter short.
  • [Hard-hitting forecast] clued POUNDING RAIN – can you believe that we are due for another 8-10 inches of snow later this week? I’d take some pounding rain instead!
  • The clue [Ping-Pong ball delivery] had me thinking of table tennis not lottery drawings, but I should’ve been thinking of the latter with the entry RANDOM NUMBER – the rand is the currency of South Africa and today is worth about 10 U.S. cents. I see it takes its name from the Witwatersrand, an area in S.A. where gold was discovered.
  • Finally, [Hill-top arena] had me thinking of mountains, but I should instead have been thinking of Capitol Hill with SENATE FLOOR – a sen is .01 yen in Japan.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, especially the following clues:

  • [Hill-climing gear] was LOW – I got the “hill” part right on this one, but the gear here is one of the PRDNL set.
  • [She could make a pig out of you] was CIRCE – literally!
  • [Film stars?] were RATINGS – I hope you give this one some good ratings.
  • [Title holders?] were SPINES – books not people, people!
  • Big love for the crossing of GO GAGA and IN A GROOVE.

Two small concerns, how common is SCHAV or the [Slavic sorrel soup]? Finally, with this theme I think [21 shillings, once] or GUINEA probably should’ve been replaced with a non-currency related entry. Otherwise, this FIEND (who, by the way, is not a [Minion of Satan]) thinks it was [Splendiferous] or A-ONE!

Brendan Quigley’s blog variety crossword, “Marching Bands”

BEQ solution 3 10 14

BEQ solution 3 10 14

I opted out of the Friday-night official goings-on at ACPT so this puzzle was new to me. There’s not a whole lot to say about a puzzle with 41 entries chosen more for their interlock potential than for their zippiness—although it was a delight to see the time-focused FLAVOR FLAV in Band B. HALF OFF is fresh, too.

Top clue: Band C’s ONE-LINER, [“Childhood is like being drunk, everyone remembers what you did, except you” e.g. (hyph.)]. Although I want to repunctuate:  [“Childhood is like being drunk. Everyone remembers what you did except you,” e.g. (hyph.)]

Not sure why Row 3’s EVAC is clued as plural [Relief effort fliers].

3.5 stars.

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30 Responses to Monday, March 10, 2014

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    In the world of smooth ‘n’ easy crossword fill, both the NYT and LAT are pretty far afield. OBIS, AMAT, ELENI, SEA EEL (I am partial to land eels, personally), ARNE, STEN, SSTS, ILIE (which crosses two other iffy answers!), AMICI (which crosses AMAT and probably also shares an etymological root), spelled-out-number TEN-K’S, and ELLS in the NYT, as well as APER, ARETE, IRAE, and LIPASE in the LAT—these are not in most Americans’ daily vocabularies. I’ve heard of far too many constructors taking an entry’s appearance in published crosswords as evidence that the word is fine and acceptable, rather than asking themselves if there is really any place for those words in an early-week puzzle.

    I had a recent conversation with a terrific maker of easy Monday puzzles who manages to build grids without such fill and doesn’t understand why so many puzzles contain the ARETEs of the world. I wish a great many more constructors would raise the bar of what they deem suitable for an easy crossword. (Pretty sure the vast majority of us encounter most of the words I’ve mentioned far, far more in crosswords than in the rest of our educations and daily lives.)

    • pannonica says:

      Perhaps I should recalibrate by early-week crosswordese intolerance upward again, closer to where it was some time ago. Overcapitulation?

    • Gareth says:

      I agree with the gist of this, but the idea that every answer in a puzzle, even an easy one, has to be in most Americans’ daily vocabularies is OTT. 25% Americans claim to be Catholic, suggests google/Wikipedia. I’d like to think most will know the name of the song sung at Catholic funerals… (I learnt it from crosswords as it happens.) I bet you that, despite being the “national passtime”, there are a large number of Americans, that don’t know anything about baseball, by very deliberately ignoring it. Does that mean no baseball answers in Monday puzzles either? You quickly find yourself reduced to almost nothing that everybody knows! The trick is (and I find it’s trickier than it looks, because of your own personal biases both for and against certain groups of words) identifying hard answers and making sure they’re kept to a minimum and aren’t clumped together.

      But yes, to me answers like LIPASE are generally pluses in any crossword.

      • Ethan says:

        I’m about as big a baseball fan as they come, but Mel Ott died in 1958. His home run total has been surpassed twenty times since he retired. He’s just not a terribly good answer in a contemporary puzzle, although I would probably rank him above ORT, which I have literally never seen in any non-crossword book or magazine, nor spoken aloud, suffix OTE/OTA, and abbreviations OTC, or OTB.

        • Gareth says:

          ORT(s) was bandied about a lot in my veterinary nutrition courses… I haven’t seen it much outside of that context and crosswords. (I’m not saying it’s a desirable answer, just that I have encountered it…)

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Wait, was Gareth using OTT, short for “over the top,” or referencing Mel Ott?

      • Sarah says:

        I’ve never suggested that *all* crosswordese needs to be removed, and I don’t think Amy is suggesting that either. It can be quite difficult to remove every piece of crosswordese from a puzzle, and on occasion it’s neither possible or desirable. But when you start piling poor entry after poor entry into the puzzle, it leads to serious problems.

        LIPASE, for me, fits into the “good later week entry” category. Would try to avoid using on Monday/Tuesday, although in a pinch, I would go for it.

  2. Huda says:

    Oops… Somehow, I managed to post this on yesterday’s comments instead of today’s. Reposting because I have these burning questions!

    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!

    • John says:

      I believe if there is a tie, then tiebreakers go to the person who scored more points in the chronologically later round. Since they scored the same in round 7 and 6, but Joon scored in round 5, he gets the tiebreaker.

      This year was my first outing – I had a ton of fun!

      • Huda says:

        Thanks John. Interesting rule.

        • Papa John says:

          Ellen Ripstein answered your question, yesterday:

          “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.”

  3. Ethan says:

    I wouldn’t really mind spelled out TEN-KS, except that TEN *and* KILOS appear elsewhere in the grid. Those easily could have been LEN and SILOS (even though I will admit INK > INS).

    I hope now that Will is done with ACPT stress he can get back to that stack o’ submissions!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I did hear from some constructors that folks have been waiting since last September and June to hear back on their NYT submissions! Ethan, do you have one pending a decision as well?

      • Ethan says:

        I have a couple of puzzles at Shortz Manor, but none that have been there since the summer. My goodness. Doesn’t Will say to e-mail him if it’s been over four months?

  4. Sarah says:

    Taking a stab at the LAT theme, I was able to use the same theme answers and achieve a grid with 78 words and 38 black squares (the LAT version had 39 black squares instead).

    Top 4 worst entries: crosswordese OLIO, variant spelling SHNOOK, OAF, and partial BLU. The next entry in the list, if it continued on, would probably be ALOE. In other words, everything else would undoubtedly pass muster. Very few plurals (2 or 3), and no RE- garbage. Entries from many different facets of knowledge.

    Given that I spent only about 20 minutes creating this puzzle (I didn’t even try some of the many other theme options; PLAYS POSSUM is probably not ideal), it shows that the bar for fill could be raised without any negative consequences.

    NYT is harder due to the larger theme constraints, but shouldn’t be too challenging. There are 16 ways to arrange the 4 10-letter entries; one of them is bound to provide smooth fill. If not, there’s always other theme entries to play with.

    In other words, I’d like to see a little bit more care taken to the fill. Anything else just feels like laziness.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “Sarah,” are you a published constructor under another name? Just curious. I have never designed a grid myself, but you are right that changing the grid pattern, reordering themers, or swapping in an alternate member of a theme set can facilitate better fill. The hitch comes when the constructors don’t view the fill as problematic enough to merit further work on the grid. “Oh, ANIL has been in the Tuesday NYT before, so it must be fine” is the sort of self-assurance too many constructors have internalized (rather than “Ugh, that word is terrible; there has got to be a better fill”).

      We stopped tolerating the ANOAs and the UNAUs and I’d argue it’s time to shun a lot of other words that are sorely overrepresented in crosswords.

  5. Argyle says:

    LAT: I admit I missed it too but one of our regulars pointed out “In addition to two P’s, each theme entry ends with some kind of animal.”

    • pannonica says:

      Obviously I missed it, but in that case PUPPY is very much the odd one out.

      • Argyle says:

        Further comments: If the constructor had managed to put in Pogo Possum, they would have been all cartoon characters. So close.

  6. MT says:

    Not a fan of FINGERNAIL. All the other themes include tools. As a DIYer, I do not include NAILS as tools. NAILS are fasteners. True, it can be found in a TOOLBOX. I thought the fact that the four themes formed a “box” around the central revealer implied that all themes should have a tool and thus be a TOOLBOX.


  7. Zulema says:

    Every comment until now was a negatively critical one, so I am here to buck the trend. I happened to enjoy the NYT because of its fill which was more interesting than other Mondays. Why does easy have to mean ridiculously easy and therefore boring? The NYT was easy but not boring. Looking for a better way of constructing an easy puzzle is not what most solvers outside this circle do.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ah, but easy for those of us who have been solving for years is a different animal from easy for beginning solvers. We old pros can fill in an AMATI or an ANIL by reflex, so we don’t experience difficulty, but that sort of vocabulary may be daunting to beginners.

    • Sarah says:

      Easy just does not mean boring, although this depends on what you mean by “boring”.

      For me, a puzzle is not boring if it’s educational, funny, interesting, nostalgic and fair.

      Most clues/entries do the exact opposite of one or more of these things. Taking ANIL as an example, it would be educational for a new Monday solver to know that it’s a blue dye. But interesting? Not a chance. Fair? Hell no!

      As another example, take the clue “Vicinity” for AREA A database says it’s been used about 190 times in the last 15 years. Using it is not interesting to most solvers, as they’ve likely seen it tens, if not hundreds of times.

      Boring for me can be easily avoided with a little effort. Instead of “Actor Pitt”, go “Pitt of [insert recent movie here]”. Add new entries to your list that have been in the news and are crossword-worthy (ROB FORD, e.g.) to reduce staleness. Use punny clues. Try to use clues that have never or rarely been used. Ask around, or use Google to help figure out which entries are obscure and which ones are common knowledge. Avoid the obscure ones, prioritize the common knowledge.

      I know this can be done, cause I’ve done it myself. I’ve received many compliments from solvers on the 15+ crosswords that I’ve had edited and accepted. And it’s not difficult, either! It only takes a little bit of extra effort.

      Needless to say, most venues do a very poor job of this.

      • Ethan says:

        Speaking of adding new names to the database, how useful would ILANA and ABBI be to the cruciverbalist’s toolbox? Pretty frickin’ useful. Therefore, you should probably start watching “Broad City” (starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) and encouraging all your friends to watch it.

        • Lois says:

          You haven’t mentioned any other reasons for watching it, but I hope you like the show a lot also. Never heard of it. Will look it up, but I’m not eager to add a TV show to the week.

    • Winnie says:

      Thank you Zulema. The criticisms here are disheartening to those of us “old timers” who need the occasional ALOE or plural to get us through. I’ve been doing the NYT puzzle for many many years and always was able to get through Thursdays but lately I’m lucky to solve Monday and Tuesday. I may have to resort to TV Guide!!

  8. Gareth says:

    NYT: ELENI and AMICI are two answers that strike me as pretty easily avoided, even if the avoidance involved adding a helper or two… I did like that the theme wasn’t spelt out at TOOLBOX.

    LAT: Is “pound puppy” a phrase Stateside? We use the term “pound” a lot less, but still; most dogs at pounds tend to be older (although most adopted dogs are probably still the puppies :(). Again, a couple of strange choices in the shorter fill: ABCD is so arbitrary I would do anything to avoid it… FIR/OVAL/CAPITAL/INSERTS is one option at short notice, although there may well be a better one.

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