NYT 9:58 (Amy)
Reagle 7:36 (Amy)
LAT 6:19 (Amy)
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica)
WaPo 13:52 (Sam)
CS 8:17 (Dave)
Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “It’s Better This Way”
There are a few angles to this Rx theme:
(1) The circled letters in the first and last Across answers take us from SICK to WELL.
(2) 16d, 58d. [With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues], FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION. This phrase … does not sound remotely familiar to me. “Following doctor’s orders,” yes. But not this.
(3) And then a bunch of long answers with an RX embedded within:
- 23a. [*He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae], XERXES I OF PERSIA. Good gravy, that’s a mouthful.
- 31a. [*Off-roader, often], FOUR X FOUR. Read “four by four.” The “X,” mind you, probably only gets used with numerals, as in 4×4. So perhaps a bogus RX here. (This is something the FDA likes to crack down on. V. dangerous.) (See also: 83d: V-SIX with a spelled-out number.)
- 49a. [*Annual draw for snocross fans], THE WINTER X GAMES. It’s not snow-cross? “Snocross” looks so ugly. Like there’s a snot portmanteau happening.
- 65a. [*Iconic feature of comedy], GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE. Wait a minute, this is not an established phrase, is it? Groucho Marx‘s mustache, possibly. Even then, contrived.
- 79a. [*Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters], PROFESSOR XAVIER.
- 97a. [*Frequent problem faced by algebra students], SOLVE FOR X. I like this one! Sucker for algebra, I was.
- 108a. [*Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with “The”], RETURN OF DOCTOR X. A tad inelegant to have one theme answer start with THE and one hide the definite article in the clue.
I’m feeling a little like it’s Festivus and I’m airing grievances. “I got a lot of problems with you, theme!” The theme didn’t quite cohere into a logical unit for me, not with the unfamiliar FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION trying to tie things together. And the RXed answers were a mixed bag, quality-wise.
I pretty much never tune into HGTV, but Deb Amlen turned over the Wordplay reins to an HGTV host named Suzanne Whang. I do encourage you to click over and read Whang’s zippy and personal write-up of today’s puzzle. I liked it better than the puzzle, truth be told.
Top fill: RESCUE ME, R.L. STINE, Leo the MGM LION, GO BROKE, and ROM-COMS.
36a. [Stuff in sacks] clues BURLAP. Is burlap “in” the sack, or is the sack merely made of burlap I recognize that we’re supposed to be tricked into reading “stuff” as a verb, but the phrasing doesn’t work for me here.
Is it really kosher to pluralize “aegis”? At least one dictionary says no. 42d. [Sponsorships] clues AEGISES here. I’m also leery of EX-FED, 98d. [Retired govt. agent]. Not sure it’s kosher to EXify any old noun.
I sure did not know URIM, 66d. [___ and Thummim (sacred Judaic objects)]. Translation, please?
2.75 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Big To-Do”
A grand to-do list for your life goals is called THE BUCKET LIST, and that’s the 121a. [Theme of this puzzle]. The other theme answers end with things that a bucket can be full of:
- 22a. [React nervously], BITE ONE’S NAILS. Never had a bucket of nails, personally. So, I just did a Google image search for jar of nail clippings and found this artwork, a bouquet of flowers made of nail clippings.
- 26a. [Henlike grouse], PRAIRIE CHICKEN. Crazy-looking bird; bucket of fried chicken.
- 42a. [Parties where you don’t know anybody], MASQUERADE BALLS. Bucket of golf balls at the driving range, I presume.
- 59a. [McCain’s predecessor], GOLDWATER. Crikey, Barry Goldwater was an Arizona senator right up till 1987? I kinda thought he’d vanished from the scene by 1970.
- 68a. [Avid readers], BOOKWORMS. Bucket of worms for fishing bait.
- 80a. German composer whose operas influenced Wagner], MEYERBEER. I think a bucket of beer is a pail with, say, six bottles of beer sold at a discounted price.
- 95a. [What life is, in a song], “A CABARET, OLD CHUM.” Bucket of chum to bait fish/sharks. Not crazy about the out-thereness of this theme answer. Feels like a nutty 15-letter partial.
- 113a. [Spectacular flashes], LIGHTNING BOLTS. “Bucket of bolts” means a junky heap of a car, doesn’t it? Or a broken-down appliance?
The grid feels a bit open, with lots of 7-letter answers, but there’s not much calling to me in the “Wow, look at that!” or “Eww, look at that” categories of fill. Favorite answer is HOT SEAT, 62a. [Chair on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”].
Four things from the land of literature:
- 1a. [Snoopy types], BEAGLES. Snoopy from the “Peanuts” comic strip.
- 97d. [Rodent consultant in Scott Adams’s strip], RATBERT. From the “Dilbert” comic strip.
- 91a. [“The Far Side” creator], Gary LARSON.
- 29d. [Kafka’s conclusion?], ESQUE. As in Kafkaesque.
What? You don’t count the comics page as literature? There are book collections of these strips, you know.
Obscure thing I knew: 71a. [Florida’s state tree, the ___ palmetto], SABAL. Have stayed at the Marriott Sabal Palms in Orlando. Word to the wise: If your room overlooks the golf course, prepare to hear lawn mowers at 6 a.m.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Pretty smooth 70-worder with a marquee 15-letter entry running down the middle.
Highlights for this solver:
- I got the 15-letter [Speaks one’s mind] or TELLS IT LIKE IT IS just from the first L. Shazam!
- [Worldwide database source for police] was INTERPOL – I wonder if more airlines will now start using their database of stolen passports after discovering at least 2 passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 were flying on them. I’d prefer not to see the word “police” in the clue here, since the POL of INTERPOL is from that word as well.
- Loved the long intersecting ACROBATIC, OVERHAULED and HAYMAKER.
- Other nice long entries were SOCIALITE above ELONGATED and UPTIGHT next to its semi-antonym PERMISSIVE.
- Finally, I found it interesting that the 13th century Italian explorer MARCO POLO was clued to a children’s pool game instead. The only use of his name in a game I know of is when you are looking for someone in hide-and-seek and call out “Marco” the prey is supposed to yell back “Polo” so you have some idea of where he/she is hiding. That doesn’t work so well in a pool, though.
Some entries that didn’t work as well for me:
- I was about to yell foul on [Small flap on a garment] as a variant spelling of LAPPEL but it’s a LAPPET instead. Who knew? I think I’d rather see a clue like [My cat at this moment, say]. (This is actually true, he is here in my lap as I write this.)
- Is there just a SAMOA? I know of Western Samoa and American Samoa, but is the whole thing now just Samoa? Obviously, I need Samoa info on this one.
- Maybe I have a faint memory of hearing about the (now-closed) French restaurant LUTÈCE in Manhattan, but never knew how it was spelled. Too bad it wasn’t open for the recent Fiend dinner paid for by your very generous contributions to this site.
- So I’m sure I’m due a head-slap for the clue [Big name in tin?] for HALEY, but all I can think of is Alex Haley of Roots fame, as I believe the eponymous comet has two L’s in it (and probably not much tin, though I don’t know what metals typically make up a comet.) Oh, and there’s Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense, as well, but still no connection to tin that I can think of. Now, I have it!!
- Finally, is TOBY Belch a character in Twelfth Night? Indeed he is. So [Belch heard during “Twelfth Night”] wasn’t a play-goer with indigestion, then?
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 206”- Sam Donaldson’s review
As a 17-year resident of the 2-0-6, I’m honored to cover The Post Puzzler No. 206, a crackerjack 66/30 freestyle from The Chosen One (nee Patrick Berry). Patrick is one of maybe a handful of constructors who can regularly make a 66-word crossword so ridiculously smooth it feels like a 72-word puzzle.
The only hint you get while solving that this puzzle has a low word-count is that wide-open swath of white squares in the middle. Oddly, that midsection didn’t prove to be the THORNIEST [Most difficult, as a problem] section of the grid. For me, that was the southwest, where I held on to EURASIA as [Big Brother’s land] before tumbling to OCEANIA. Luckily I left EASTASIA out of the picture entirely, or else I might still be working on that corner.
Looking back, of course, it doesn’t seem all that hard. I mean, of course [Fishfinder units] are FATHOMS and [They hope you’ve learned your lesson] can only be teachers. And it goes without saying that a MINT is a [Postprandial tidbit]. Duh! Umm, wait. Maybe that last one isn’t so obvious. Whatevs.
Answers and clues of note:
- Anyone else have CATCHPHRASE instead of STOCK PHRASE as the [Signature line]? That error really slowed my solving time.
- Took me a while to suss out I WANT CANDY as the [1982 Bow Wow Wow song], and now I can’t get the cursed thing out of my head. Wanna know my personal hell right now? Click here and enjoy.
- The middle 10s have a mini-theme, what with a ROAD-TESTED FOREIGN CAR. Those are cool entries, but notice how the crossings here are so smooth. There’s no evidence of compromise anywhere. This is a thing of beauty.
- Things I did not know: DERRY is [Northern Ireland’s second-largest city, after Belfast]; a PETUNIA is a [Flower whose name means “tobacco”]; there were characters named Guy Caballero and Edith Prickley on SCTV; and how [Have bad B.O.?] relates to TANK. This last one still eludes me. In this context, does B.O. mean something other than body odor? Back orders, maybe? Here’s your chance to prove my idiocy once and for all: please explain the clue in the comments.
Favorite entry = LAY SISTERS, clued as [Manual laborers in a nunnery]. Like where the elder nuns shout to the lay sister, Pick up my dishes, rookie! Favorite clue = [Cow with an intent look] for STARE DOWN. Note to self: anytime you see “cow” in the clue for a hard puzzle, it’s probably the verb (meaning “to make someone fearful of acting”) and not the noun–but if the answer is 6 letters and starts with O, it is indeed referring to a legendary pyromaniac bovine.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Ger-mane” — pannonica’s write-up
Base phrases get the letters GER affixed to their ends, the spelling (but not pronunciation, hopefully) is changed as necessary to create crossword-grade wacky phrases.
- 23a. [Imperfect signature?] THE SIGN OF FORGER (“The Sign of Four”). The Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story was titled The Sign of the Four, but all the many film and television adaptations have dropped the definite article.
- 38a. [Maine creche item?] BANGOR MANGER (Bangor, Maine). “Maine” clues the pre-op “Maine” in the answer? Boo, hiss.
- 89a. [In which a CPA writes tentatively?] PENCIL LEDGER (pencil lead).
- 109a. [St. Peter?] HEAVENLY MANAGER (heavenly manna). I think of him more like a bouncer. Google Ngram indicates that “heavenly manna” and “manna from heaven” tracked more or less equally until the early 1920s, at which point the former’s fortunes plummeted and the latter’s rose disproportionately.
- 3d. [Watch someone unknown?] EYE STRANGER (eyestrain).
- 15d. [Park employee at tea?] POURING RANGER (pouring rain).
- 34d. [Don’t leave the beeper at work?] TAKE HOME PAGER (take-home pay).
- 56d. [Geezer in a Superman suit?] OLD CAPE CODGER (Old Cape Cod). Not a historic district but the title of a pop song first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page. One could conceivably say the answer would read better as OLD CAPED CODGER, but it’s workable—or at least defensible—as it is, even if the predominating image is that of a threadbare, tattered cape.
- 67d. [Bet in Rome?] APPIAN WAGER (Appian Way). By far my favorite theme answer.
Decent theme with a lot of long entries, both across and down. Adequate variation in the subjects and mechanisms of the answers, including a notable single-word answer. However, on the whole the theme and execution didn’t thrill me much.
Reinforcing that sense, the rest of the puzzle failed to engage or charm me. There was simply too much material that rubbed me the wrong way or seemed surly. I’ll list some of them here: partial AS YE; E TILE (from Scrabble); biblical ORPAH; ALAVA, Spain; partial I ERE; partial A SHOE; split, cross-referenced plural EGG | NOGS; partial OFF OF; Italian pronoun EGLI; plural abbr. ABMS; someone named Jeannie MAI; abbrev. CLAR(inet). There were also some other relatively obscure business-related answers that I’ll excuse, acknowledging that this puzzle appears in the Wall Street Journal.
- Poor crossing (and the last square I filled): 32d [Taro root] EDDO and 50a [Degas contemporary] MONET. Since EDDO is obscure and both Édouard MANET and Claude MONET were contemporaries of Edgar Degas, it would have been immeasurably better to be more specific in cluing the painter—mentioning a particular work, say. Or his cataracts. Most veteran solvers will be familiar with the Scandinavian EDDA, but that’s cold comfort.
- Clever clues that didn’t work for me: 66d [Bed cover?] CONDOM. 30d [Women of the knight?] DAMES.
- This one was probably difficult for non-NYCers: 60a [NYC archbishop, 1939–1967] SPELLMAN. I knew it only because of Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, a name I remember hearing every now and then.
- Similarly, how many are familiar with Honoré de Balzac’s
LaLe PÈRE | GORIOT, which is split over two entries? I don’t dislike it per se, but it’s bound to be difficult for many.
- Liked the modest vignette of 13d [Supproting] FOR and 16d [Con] ANTI. Also liked 88d [Beverage for the blindly faithful] KOOL-AID, but would have further appreciated a “metaphorical” modifier.
C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Foresees”
It’s apt that a Clever Crossword ConstruCtor who uses a C.C. moniker would Choose to ConCoCt a theme made of phrases with four C’s (“Foresees”) in them:
- 23a. [South Temperate Zone border], ANTARCTIC CIRCLE.
- 34a. [Pope’s realm], CATHOLIC CHURCH.
- 50a. [NFL wide receiver who once changed his name to match his uniform number], CHAD OCHOCINCO. Number 85.
- 73a. [Challenge for Henry Higgins], COCKNEY ACCENT.
- 93a. [Proof of payment], CANCELED CHECK.
- 111a. [It’s barely legible], CHICKEN SCRATCH.
- 124a. [Current path], ELECTRIC CIRCUIT.
One could quibble gently that CHAD OCHOCINCO diverges from the “two C’s in each word” pattern the other theme answers follow, but the theme is merely “four C’s in the whole thing” and CHAD OCHOCINCO is so delightful, I wouldn’t want to give it up for an arbitrary adherence to structural consistency.
Zhouqin (which, I recently learned from C.C., is pronounced “jo-chin,” and both Zhou and Qin are names of Chinese dynasties) has put together a smooth and easy puzzle. Given the smoothness of this 21×21 grid, I’d like to see what she could put together for a themeless puzzle—though C.C. herself says she lacks the knack for picking the sparkly marquee answers that we love to see in themelesses.
NO TRESPASSING and MISSPENT YOUTH halfway look like they’re thematic by their sheer length, but they have zero C’s. Both phrases are welcome additions to any crossword, though. MISSPENT YOUTH is particularly zippy, and how many people have squandered their early years by getting caught trespassing?
I usually enjoy a Sunday-sized puzzle that I can fly through without hitting the brakes, and I did enjoy this one. Four stars.
I know they are not exactly the same thing, but when I saw “urim and thummim,” my first thought was “lares and penates.” Thank you, Miss Siegesmund in Latin IV.
I will just say that I appreciate the time and effort it takes to make a Sunday-sized puzzle. That said, this was far from a favorite. I never quite grasped the theme. Many clues just felt oddly worded beyond the pale, answers not-quite-in-the-language, or the TV flavor of the minute. Just felt very tippy and awkward. Others may enjoy it for the same reasons, and that’s a good thing. It’s just each individual’s impression in the moment.
Still respect to the puzzle, and still fun to work through it. This one took me much, much longer than the usual Sunday fare.
I actually liked most of the long theme answers, although I also wanted GROUCHOMARXMUSTACHE to have a possessive “‘s”. Could have had it span the grid with GROUCHOMARXSMOUSTACHE.
Some awkward smaller fill, though.
I’m so full of heartache
Because of this “mustache”
—I lost one huarache.
I see what you did there. But I didn’t hear it.
I would accept ‘Groucho Marx glasses’ as a phrase, referencing the specs + nose + moustache combo novelty item.
My first association for Groucho is CIGAR, based on his all-time great but likely apocryphal comeback to the husband of a lady with a boatload of kids,…”I love my cigar, but…..”
I enjoyed the puzzle, but did find it strange.
I’ll accept Groucho Marx mustache. Groucho’s mustache was iconic as no other mustache looked like his and, as much as the cigar, was a trademark. What made it unique, of course, is that it isn’t a mustache at all, just a smear of greasepaint – not a false mustache.
WAPO: I had CATCHPHRASE before STOCK PHRASE as well. Not only that, but EXONERATE prior to VINDICATE [Absolve]. As for [Have bad B.O.?], it’s box office; took me a while to see it.
I’ll accept AEGISES as an English permutation of a Latin plural that, arguably, doesn’t exist. And I’ll accept EX-FED as a go-to word when the only alternative carries on to, at least, five words.
But GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE? Nope. The mustache is never not conjoined with the GROUCHO MARX GLASSES and GROUCHO MARX NOSE. They come as a set. If all you want is the mustache then you have to purchase a jar of grease paint.
There’s only the GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE, NOSE & GLASSES. These features are not sold separately. Gah!
It’s worth noting that the “RX” dyad moves progressively from the top left corner to the bottom right corner with each themed clue, hence “following the prescription” from “sick” (top left) to “well” (bottom right) in the circled letters. Doesn’t make the overall puzzle any better mind you, just makes the theme a little more coherent.
I think this does make the puzzle much better for a few reasons. First, it makes the long two-part reveal, which has been criticized, better. Second, it makes the challenge of coming up with theme answers a lot more challenging. Third, it is a good way of integrating the two circled words into the theme.
Fair points. I guess it does make the puzzle stronger in the end, in so much as any of the lower ratings are tied to the weakness of the theme. The overall concept is still a bit too convoluted and complex for my taste. Give me creative and elegant for my Sunday NYT. This one was more Rube Goldberg.
Thanks for that — I hadn’t noticed it and like Richard says, it does seem to make the reveal (although not in the language) much more applicable… starting at sick, following RX, ending well…
I like the puzzle a lot more as a result of this comment
Point well taken, that is an elegant touch.
That said, I have still never encountered the reveal phrase “FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION” in actuality – I don’t quite know what it means though I can guess through context.
I’m fine with it. A prescription is often more than simply medication and dosage; a clinician may prescribe behavior, diet, et cetera as well.
NYT: tedious, not fun.
I really disliked this puzzle… nothing clever and a lot of obscure words/terms/names I wasn’t interested in e.g. Adams Ale. What’s with RSTU and the alphabet ordinality… jeesh. I agree with above, I’m sure it takes a lot of work to create these but this one just didn’t work for me.
Oh, didn’t get that at all!
1. Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim. The wicked Haman convinced Persian King Ahasueros to all I whim to annihilate the Jews. King Ahasueros is believed to be Xerxes, though I am not certain if it is Xerxes 1 or not.
2. Urim and Tumim are sacred objects worn by the high priest during the days of the Jerusalem temple
What happened to the format on this page? The other pages seem fine but this one, after hitting refresh, is now totally different — different layout, different colors, different fonts and more.
It’s weird, yet not out of whack with how my day has gone, so far. I just got off the phone with a Centurylink tech, trying to get my email working. After two hours of basically treading water, I now have to wait for a service repairman to show up, tomorrow, some time between 8:00am and 5:00pm.
Today’s puzzle seemed to fit nicely into my cockamamie day. It was just as frustratingly unsatisfactory. It felt like it was too clever for its own good. I got the theme, including the RX trip across the diagonal from SICK to WELL, before I got the revealer, which I thought was lame. Amy has already trashed it for me and I agree with everything she wrote.
Yikes! My day just got weirder. The old page appearance has reappeared with the posting of my message.
Thank you for fixing it! I knew we could count on you.
No problem-o! Now, how much to you pay your IT crew..? Oh, yeah, never mind.
I’m with Suzanne Whang on this one – I thoroughly enjoyed it. As is my habit on Sundays, I solved this with my wife and daughter, and it was a good challenge throughout, with fun and interesting fill – though we did have a slight digression discussing whether or not “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” were truly ROMCOMS, but such are the perils of solving with one’s family! Then we had a nice aha moment following the RX line from top left to bottom right, going from SICK to WELL. For those who give any iota of credence to such things, a focused google search for “Follow the prescription” yields 1,150,000 hits – more than good enough for me and my usually nit-picky solving team to accept!
Further disclosure is that I have worked on puzzles with Jeremy, and do remember one of the earlier, unsuccessful iterations of this theme he discusses over at Wordplay – we were on our commuter train home, playing around with those RXs on graph paper, and the notion of the R and X being offset, as they are in drug store signs, was the one of that moment. So, I’m extra glad to see he found a way to make it work! And congrats, Jeremy, on your soon-to-be-released app, too – fantastic!
Well, off to follow the prescription from our vet to take care of our already-improving old dachshund – we need him in good health to help us solve properly!
Not exactly puzzle-related, but somehow the SF Chronicle pink section has misprinted the LAT constructor as C.C. Birnikel instead of Burnikel. What the ??
What an elegant puzzle. I’m stunned: 129 theme squares (more acreage than six grid-spanning themers) is difficult enough–but add to that the lovely placement of the RX’s that take you, if you follow them, from SICK to WELL and this puzzle makes the Big Leagues; the pool of entries with RX has to be small, and to see seven of them containing that progression blows my mind. It’s even worth noting the innocuous difficulty of working with eight locked (thematic) X’s. And I think the split revealer comprising (the only) two Down theme entries–not to mention their crossing of the center Across entry–is just nifty; and I’m not even a person who uses the word “nifty”. All that with only six cheater squares? and only a handful of crosswordese? and great fill? and a pretty grid? Wow.
Admittedly, the full complexity of the theme eluded me until I read about it here (Aaargh), in Mark‘s post. But I’ll chalk that up as a lapse in my perception rather than an artisanal shortcoming of the constructor.
To my ear, the phrase “follow the prescription” is In The Language. Let’s say that for a month I take a pill once a day, when it says on the bottle “Take twice daily”, and then I complain about the medicine not working; a respondent, doctor or otherwise, to said complaint is likely to say, “You’re not following the prescription.” I mean, that’s how you say that–that’s how you convey that idea. “Follow the prescription” is how you say, “Do what the label on the bottle tells you to do.” Is there some other (more common) way of saying that? It can’t just be me.
I’ve probably more allowance for GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE than someone not in awe of the execution of the theme, but still… it’s nowhere near the level of YELLOW SHOE or TALL BUILDING. It’s a phrase that while I may never actually use it, the ease of envisioning a dialogue where I would use it disqualifies it as a contrivance.
NYT: I loved the visual trail of RX the solver gets when FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION from SICK to WELL. I enjoy wordplay in puzzles but I also quite like it when there’s some sort of visual aspect as well.
For those who remember The Rocky Horror Picture Show here’s a DOCTOR X connection (the character, but not the title of the movie, is mentioned in the chorus of the opening song):
To be honest that was the first time I ever heard of him. I’ve seen many movies mentioned in that song but not that one.
LAT: 4 Cs? No way! This cute puzzle deserves an A.
You’re not going to get a translation for Urim and Thummim, because nobody today is actually sure what those biblical words mean.
A teensy error in the last write-up — it’s Le Père Goriot, not La!
Ha. dropped that article in at the last moment. Merci!