Friday, April 4, 2014

NYT 6:16 (Amy) 
LAT 5:54 (Gareth) 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 

Martin Ashwood-Smith and Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 4 14, no. 0414

NY Times crossword solution, 4 4 14, no. 0414

Alrighty, we’ve got a double quad-stack puzzle formed by welding one of Martin’s stacks to one of Joe’s, and the solder in the middle has the same gritty mouthfeel as the short crossings of the quad-stacks. There are definitely some lively bits, yes, but also some things I did not enjoy.

First up, the highlights:

  • 10d. [Go a couple of rounds], SLUG IT OUT. Love it!
  • 56a. [One given up for good?], SACRIFICIAL LAMB. The lamb may dispute your goodness.
  • 61a. [“What a sight for sore eyes!”], “AM I GLAD TO SEE YOU!”
  • 36d. [One getting rid of possessions?], EXORCIST. Great clue.
  • 63a. [Unease], ANTS IN ONE’S PANTS. I knew we’d have at least one ONE’Sie in here. I should have guessed this phrase would appear as Martin has used it in at least six (!) other puzzles, per the Cruciverb database.

ADELAIDE’S LAMENT, the [Frank Loesser show tune], felt crosswordily familiar as well; Joe used it in a 2012 NYT themeless. And the outdated-sounding GASOLINE STATION also rang a bell; 2013 Krozel puzzle! Now, Martin made an April Fools Day puzzle with A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE and SCARLET TANAGERS in it, plus AMY, REX, and DEB in the center row, so it is no secret that bloggers may take note when those big, sprawly 15s make repeat appearances. SATELLITE STATES: two Ashwood-Smiths, one Krozel. MARINE INSURANCE: one from Martin. Guys! We noticed again. I dunno—it must be tremendously rewarding for the contructors to wrangle 15s like jigsaw puzzle pieces and make them fit, but the appeal of turning to many of the same 15s with favorable letter patterns is lost on me.

SINGING TOGETHER feels contrived to me … which may account for its absence in the Cruciverb database.

There were a bunch of things I just plain did not know—far more than in the typical Friday or even Saturday NYT.

  • 45a. [Chart, in Cádiz], MAPA. Spanish.
  • 2d. [“Love and Death on Long Island” novelist Gilbert], ADAIR. Adair translated Georges Perec’s crazy E-less novel.
  • 3d. [Lead-tin alloys], TERNES. This looks like old-school crosswordese, and yet I don’t recognize it.
  • 8d. [Many a backpacker, at night], TENTER. I had CAMPER.
  • 30d. [Songwriters Hall of Fame member who wrote “April Love”], SAMMY FAIN. I had CAHN.
  • 37d. [“Third Watch” actress Texada], TIA. It’s an ensemble show, and not a huge hit, and I know of only 4 of the show’s 16 main cast members. Tia Mowry and Tia Carrere, I know; and the liquor Tia Maria and the Spanish “aunt.”

Last weekend Martin mentioned this upcoming puzzle on his Facebook page. I good-naturedly predicted “at least one ONE’Sie, and at least seven 4s I would put in the ‘rather grievous’ category.” Let us take stock and see. Fragments (suffixes, prefixes): IDIO, ENCE, STER, AIRE. Abbrevs ID NO. and SAMS (surface-to-air missiles). Foreign MAPA. Weird RIMY. Ding, ding, ding! We have eight, and that’s not even taking into account the 3s, 5s, and 6s (TARED, TERNES, TENTER). And TEN HOURS is arbitrary; EIGHT HOURS is a thing.

I really don’t think I unfairly have it in for these stacked themelesses. Any other puzzle that dished out ENCE STER MAPA IDNO TERNES would come in for the same critique. It’s just easier to predict what we’re going to encounter in a puzzle whose raison d’être is “look what I made” rather than “ooh, these words are juicy” or “I hope this wordplay theme entertains the solvers.” And I know that there’s a subset of solvers who are enchanted by “look what I made” grids, but I am generally not among them.

2.75 stars from me.

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Enter Key” – Dave Sullivan’s review

So, first off, it’s announcement day at DOACF. This will be my final week of CrosSynergy commentaries, as I will be handing over the reins to Adesina Koiki, whose work in the sports field can be enjoyed here. I hope you’ll be looking forward to his unique slant on these daily puzzles as much as I am. Those of you who have been following Amy’s blog for many years will remember Janie Smulyan and I sharing this responsibility prior to Sam Donaldson’s stint and now I’m completing a solo run that will be just a few weeks shy of a year. Best wishes to Addie who will continue the tradition!

On to today’s puzzle! Constructor Gail Grabowski parses the title “Enter Key” as an imperative to add KY to base theme phrases:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 04/04/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 04/04/14

  • [Brawl between mechanics doing a lube job?] was GUNKY FIGHT – I can’t help but think the “lube” part of this clue was intended to remind us of the theme at work here.
  • The reclusive dormouse gets the KY treatment with [Mickey behaving like a doofus?] or a DORKY MOUSE – I think Nancy Kerrigan would agree.
  • What seems a bit like a partial to me, “in session” becomes [How-to meeting for making exploding pens] clued INKY SESSION – sounds like something agent Maxwell Smart might attend.
  • Finally, another seems-like-a-partial phrase, “per second” becomes [Moment to look bubbly?] or a PERKY SECOND

Though a couple of the base phrases felt like partials, I do have to hand it to the constructor for coming up with some pretty wacKY and enjoyable phrases. Interesting grid construction with that string of 5-letter words marching from right to left down the center section, making for a rather impenetrable wall from the northwest into the rest of the puzzle. CRESS as a [Pungent salad green] seemed a bit unusual to me as I’ve heard of “watercress,” but not sure if this is the same thing. SET LOOSE, DAY CAMP and FOREMAN were highlights of the mid-range fill.

Kurt Krauss’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  140404

LA Times

The write-up will be brief, although it’s a very unusual LAT and probably deserves more! From looking at the grid, one could see it wasn’t going to have normal long theme entries. That was confirmed when SADLZLE* emerged from the first corner. *I had ZEUS not DEUS, but I’m sure many of you did! That meant it took longer for me to grasp the theme. A pair of intersecting words imply a phrase with the pattern “a ‘in the’ b” with their positions implying the “in the” part. The only downside to this is it means 5 in effect unchecked squares – a big no-no in general, but the phrases are all very common so no harm no foul. We get BACK “in the” SADDLE, RUNS “in the” FAMILY, MONEY “in the” BANK, LOOK “in the” MIRROR, and DROP “in the” BUCKET.

Other bits:

  • [Biblical kingdom near the Dead Sea], MOAB. Aren’t they all?
  • [Windsor resident], ONTARIAN. Devious! Home to at least one frequent LA Times crossword constructor!
  • [Jackson follower], VANBUREN and [1995 Will Smith/Martin Lawrence film], BADBOYS – are fabulous back to back answers!
  • [Seer’s challenge], EYETEST. Seer as in “one who sees”.
  • [Prefix with carbon], FLUORO. You again!

This ends a sequence of 3 very unusual and imaginative LA Times puzzle from Wednesday to Friday! I think that theme-wise, this was the best sequence of second-half-of-the-week puzzles since I’ve been blogging!

4.25 Stars

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Glib Headlines” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 4/4/14 • "Glib Headlines" • Fri • Harrison • solution

WSJ • 4/4/14 • “Glib Headlines” • Fri • Harrison • solution

Oh, nothing. Just a breezy, fun theme. Imagined (31d [Headline material]) NEWS headlines, all beginning with a surname possessive and comprised of three rhyming words (possessive, noun, verb). Each of one syllable, for punch.

  • 22a. [Headline for a favorable review of “The Black Cat”?] POE’S PROSE GLOWS.
  • 32a. [Headline for a rave about Tina’s dramatic works?] FEY’S PLAYS BLAZE.
  • 51a. [Headline for an article criticizing banjoist Bela’s distracting glasses?] FLECK’S SPECS VEX. (Acute accent missing from Béla; he was specifically named after Béla Bartôk, as well as Anton Webern and Leoš Janáček.)
  • 67a. [Headline for a fluff piece about the success of Ione’s boyfriends?] SKYE’S GUYS RISE. Those headline hacks will say anything. Oh, and in the sky fluffy clouds are usually cumulus, and little fluffy clouds stratocumulus.
  • 92a. [Headline for a story praising golfer Michelle’s line of casual shirts?] WIE’S TEES PLEASE.
  • 106a. [Headline for a story on comic Josh’s failed IndyCar sponsorships?] BLUE’S CREWS LOSE. Did not know of this person.
  • 120a. [Headline for a fashion feature on Brad’s Oscar-night finery?] PITT’S GLITZ FITS.

The proceedings are further enlivened by the very varied spellings of the words which nevertheless all rhyme. For me, anyway; but I honestly can’t imagine any regional accent for which the triumvirate members don’t rhyme with each other (i.e., internally) – though the TRIOs (126a) themselves might not rhyme from one accent to another.

  • More than once while solving I found that an answer I’d potentially or provisionally considered for one spot turned out to appear elsewhere in the grid. This phenomenon isn’t terribly unusual, but it seemed more prevalent in this crossword. Enough to make me wonder if it was more than just probability and coincidence and perhaps intentional on the parts of the constructor and editor. Two examples: 44d [One in a black suit] SPADE / 4a [Asian assassin] NINJA. 42d [In that order: Abbr.] RESP. (I had R–SP completed at the time and was still perplexed) / 37a [Abrasive sound] RASP.
  • Speaking of RESPectively … worst fill run-down: SCHED., AXA, ITAR-. (100d, 46d, 104a)
  • Favorite clues: 60a [It covers all the bases] TARP, 30a [Rafter’s place] CANYON.
  • afleaEnjoyed the echo effect of 16d KLUTZ and 77a ERSATZ. Did not particularly enjoy the appearance of both 97a [Platte River people] OTO and 103d [Some Missouri natives] OSAGES in the same grid, even if it is a 21×21.
  • A DASH, A FLEA, AGLARE, ASEVER. (83a, 118a, 119a, 8d)
  • Lastly, had to wait a while to discover if 13d [Polish sausage] was going to be KIELBASY or KIELBASA. Doing a bit of legwork, I find that the former is a spelling of a locality in Poland while the latter is the most common anglicized spelling of such a sausage. However, I’ve also learned (from the same source) that “In the United States, the form kiełbasa (usually /kiːlˈbɑːsə/ or /kɨˈbɑːsə/) is more often used and comes from the Polish kiełbasa “sausage”. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most areas of Greater New York City, a derivative of the Polish word is used, pronounced /kəˈbɑːsiː/” [emphasis mine]. Another link in research: other North American spellings include kołbasa, klobasa, kobasa, kolbasi, kovbasa, kobasi, and kubas.

Very good puzzle. I think I want a pickle now.

Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Operator Order” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 4/4/14 • "Operator Order" • Livengood • solution

CHE • 4/4/14 • “Operator Order” • Livengood • solution

For the second week in a row, I’m giving the CHE crossword short shrift. I hope YOU all will EXCUSE me for that. In addition to similar reasons as last time—surprisingly busy personal schedule, relatively low popularity as judged by comments, picnic, lightning)—and despite the fact that I have a genuine fondness for the puzzle (one of my favorites of each week), this time I can’t see the theme and consequently have much less to babble about.

The theme answers, as helpfully indicated by asterisks, are

  • 18a. [*Operator order] PLEASE HOLD.
  • 24a. [*Remark to a line cutter, maybe] EXCUSE YOU. (See also 38d [Like cutting in line, say] RUDE.)
  • 37a. [*”I’ll pick up the tab”] MY TREAT.
  • 39a. [*”Holy cow!”] DEAR GOD.
  • 48a. [*”Oklahoma!” character] AUNT ELLER.
  • 55a. [*She played Mrs. Gump in “Forrest Gump”] SALLY FIELD.

Aside from the obvious repetition of the puzzle’s title for the opening themer, I don’t perceive any connection among all of the answers. The first four are spoken phrases, the final two are names of people, one fictional and one real. One seems to have a sympathetic non-theme clue.

My only real association for the phrase “operator order” is from mathematics, where in the absence of parenthesis or brackets, there is an order of precedence for different functions, as indicated by operators. The sequence is: exponents/roots, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction. Six operators, six theme answers, yet I don’t see a deeper connection beyond that simple correlation. What have I missed?

Moving along, the ballast fill is solid, and I especially liked the longdowns ATOMIC AGE (see also, 56d [Manhattan Project scientist Szilard] LEO*) and STRIP CLUB. At first I wanted TAIL for 14a [Tracking dog’s indicator] but it was soon revealed to be an ODOR; however, much like my experience with the WSJ, that answer appeared elsewhere in-grid: 59a [Comet part] TAIL (which works both for the cosmic body or the legendary reindeer).

Trivia! 12d [Hunt who won an Emmy and an Oscar in the same year] HELEN. For Mad About You and As Good as It Gets, respectively.

31d [WSJ alternative] NYT. 41d [Where Dantes was held in “The Count of Monte Cristo”] DUNGEON; ah but was it an oubliette? I don’t recall, or perhaps I’ve never known. 46d [Conspirator against Caesar] CASCA / 9d [“Julius Caesar” setting] IDES.

That’s it. My non-theme-enlightening PRATTLE (29d) is at an end. I think it’s a fine crossword, despite a distinct lack of awareness.

* lamest anagram ever of LIZARDS

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61 Responses to Friday, April 4, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Hey… no fair on the SAMS. Our original clue was the store. You may not have liked the clue, but SAMS is fine for an entry.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Definitely prefer your clue! It’s a Friday puzzle with some obscure stuff in it, and not a Saturday puzzle that needs toughening, so the nonspecific plural abbreviation clue was a disservice to the puzzle.

    • Martin says:

      SAMS (Club) is named for Sam Walton. With SAMMYFAIN in the grid, that would have undoubtedly irked more people. That’s probably why the unrelated acronym was substituted.

      MH, the unrelated acronym

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    NYT: Does stacking ever lend itself to good cross fill? Enjoyed the write-up but feel the score is too harsh. Lots of questionable fill, yes, but I liked enough of the stacked answers.

  3. janie says:

    >TENTER. I had CAMPER.

    i had RENTER…


  4. Ethan says:

    Toughest part for me was SBA/AIRE crossing. I filled in SB_ and decided that SBL must be an accepted abbreviation for “small business loan” or something (never owned a small business) and then I had no idea what was going on with LIRE and I had to have Across Lite tell me what square was wrong.
    ENCE, STER, and AIRE is a lot of suffix for one puzzle.

  5. Amy, Thanks for mentioning “Stacked Dreck” — Martin’s April Fools’ Day puzzle with a little help from his friends. It was commendable that for today’s Krozel collaboration, MAS chose to put MAS into the grid and not clue it for himself. What with SCARLET_TANAGERS coming under significant scrutiny from you and Rex (not sure what Deb’s take on it is), what a lovely surprise to see SCARLET_A in the grid. The Hawthorne novel was required reading at all-boys (at the time) Stuyvesant High School, and most of us were rather clueless about its deep psychological underpinnings.

    Returning to the present, it should be mentioned that constructors lose control of their puzzles, in terms of publication date and a reasonable subset of their original clues, once the puzzles are accepted. Martin tells me that today’s puzzle has been in the queue for more than two years, so some of the now repeated phrases were likely unique at that time. Also, is it internally consistent to criticize some entries for earlier appearances in the cruciverb database, and another entry as being weak because it is missing from the same database?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t know if you were around when Jim Horne introduced the Freshness Factor for fill that was new to the NYT. I argued against giving a puzzle credit for newness when some things haven’t been used before because they’re terrible, not because the constructor is bold. For example, a 13-letter-partial or a trumped-up abbreviation. There’s a difference between ordinary and overused fill (BUTTER vs OLEO) and between fresh and “there’s a reason it hasn’t been used” (AM I GLAD TO SEE YOU vs SINGING TOGETHER).

      • Richard says:

        Your point is theoretically valid, Amy, and I also agree that it is valid with “singing together.” However, without doing any statistical analysis, I believe that a significant majority of new answers are, at worst, solid.

  6. Bencoe says:

    Huh. Started solving on the app without noticing the constructor. As soon as I saw the grid, I thought, “OK, MAS.”
    Some tricky entries. My major complaint was TENTER. I have spent many nights in tents and never heard the word TENTER.

  7. Avg Solvr says:

    Fun LAT, nice CHE theme, meh WSJ being I didn’t know some of those theme names.

    • ArtLvr says:

      LAT: I was put out at first on seing all the cross-referenced clues, then put in the effort anyway to unravel the added “aptly”. Voilá!

  8. OK, this one makes me really, really, really mad because I was born on Labor Day and am (of course) a Virgo and I still missed that one! Had a lot of trouble with the southwest corner, and I never even tried the “V.” Grrr!

  9. Jason F says:

    NYT: I liked it a lot. There were a number of fresh entries and the bottom stack in particular had some good long answers. As long as the crossings are fair, I don’t mind a few obscure answers in puzzles such as this one.

  10. Jeff says:

    I would not mind a moratorium on all of those “ONES” phrases. Nobody ever says “one has ants in one’s pants” or “one has a lot on one’s plate.”

    • David L says:

      Prince Charles does.

    • Jason F says:

      But, there are so many nice phrases that require a possessive pronoun.

      It’s awkward to clue “ANTSINYOURPANTS” or “ANTSINHERPANTS”, so, generally, the only version of such phrases that I see in grids are those with “one’s”. On the balance, I think including such phrases is a win.

      • Papa John says:

        I, too, don’t comprehend the quibble of using “one” in a common phrase. It’s proper and easily parsed.

    • john farmer says:

      If anyone can help, I’d love to find a copy of “Ants in Your Pants of 1939.” Sounds like much more fun than “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

  11. Andy says:

    Haven’t seen it mentioned, but besides the SAMMYFAIN/SAMS near-dupe, PACTEN/TENHOURS both have TEN used in the same way.

  12. WeThotUWasAToad says:

    “What are your plans this weekend?”
    “I’m going tenting. Wanna go?”
    “Naw, I think I’ll stay home and pool a bit with the kids then just chair around.”
    “Okay, enjoy.”
    “You too.”

  13. john farmer says:

    Minor note on LAT clue for STAC, [Like a dotted note, in mus.]: Does that sound like a clue only a non-musician would use? (I’m not a musician and it seemed odd to me, since “dotted note” is a thing that does not indicate staccato.)

    Neat theme idea, in any case.

    • Bencoe says:

      It’s true that musicians tend to use the term “dotted note” to refer to notes which have the dot just to the right, giving them 1 1/2 times their usual duration. But technically staccato notes are dotted, with the dot above or below the note depending on the location on the staff. So I think the clue works.

      • john farmer says:

        Fair enough. The clue isn’t wrong technically, but I think it may sound wrong — or sound at least as though the cluer isn’t sure what a “dotted note” is.

        Example. Sperm whales usually are gray (Moby Dick the exception). Let’s say you use the clue “Like a gray whale” for TOOTHED. Technically, you’re not wrong because gray sperm whales do have teeth. However, “gray whale” is a term for a type of baleen whale — whales that do not have teeth. So, you might say the clue is correct, but I’d say you might want to think twice about using it.

        As I said, minor point.

        • pannonica says:

          A further minor point: the vast majority of all whale species are gray or grayish. To refine your original point, ‘Gray whale’ is the common name for a species (‘type’ is too vague): Eschrichtius robustus.

          • john farmer says:

            I’ll see if I can get Eschrichtius robustus into a clue someday.

            Meanwhile, my son’s research paper on whales is done now. “Type” was good enough for his second grade teacher so it seemed good enough to me.

          • pannonica says:

            Actually, ‘type’ is simultaneously too vague and too specific, depending on how familiar one is with biological taxonomy. What I’m talking about. Sorry to be so pedantic, but this is part of my professional experience.

          • john farmer says:

            Point taken. Maybe I could have said “kind of whale” and left it at that.

          • pannonica says:

            >echolocational ping!<

  14. Zulema says:

    Another name for TERNE, I discover, is “antimony,” and I happen to have something I was told was made of “antimony” when given to me: a Canterbury cross that hangs on a wall. I had actually forgotten what it was made of and haven’t given that a thought for years. There is always something new an interesting crossword brings up. I liked this NYT one very much.

  15. JohnV says:

    OT, so forgive me, but I cannot figure out the theme of Matt Jones, “I know It Forward and Backward”. Anyone?


  16. animalheart says:

    Well, count me among the solvers who still say, “OMG, two quad stacks!!!” And while SINGINGTOGETHER and GASOLINESTATION might not be ideal, and while some of the short connecting fill may be meh, it’s, like, OMG, two quad stacks!!!

  17. Mark says:

    JohnV –

    All theme answers possess internal alphabetical order in both directions. They start from somewhere near the beginning of the alphabet and progress longitudinally to a point, then reverse direction. Pretty cool.


  18. Jonesy says:

    on the LAT: clue was something like “having no room for hedging” and the answer was YESNO… that’s pretty awkward to have NO in both the clue and answer…no?

  19. ahimsa says:

    CS: Dave, thanks for your write-up and the introduction to Adesina Koiki who will be doing future write-ups. And that image you chose for the puzzle — it gave me a good laugh!

    I really liked this puzzle. I was impressed at finding so many matched length phrases where KY could be added. I thought IN SESSION was a standalone phrase? (Congress is “in session” = Congress is meeting?). Anyway, it seemed okay to me.

    LAT: This theme was a lot of fun! The penny dropped at MONEY (in the) BANK and then the rest was pretty easy.

  20. JohnV says:

    @mark. Thanks. Solved it but left me, um, cold.

  21. Joan macon says:

    So where is the writeup for the LAT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m afraid I’m going to have to dock both pannonica’s and Gareth’s nonexistent paychecks this week.

      • Margaret says:

        Haha, I wondered if I was the crazy one. I saw people commenting on the LAT and wondered if there was a write-up I couldn’t see!

        • ahimsa says:

          I was one of the folks who commented on the LAT yesterday. Is it considered a spoiler (or some other kind of faux pas) to comment on a puzzle before the write-up has been posted?


          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Mildly? When the write-up is late, some people may not be expecting to encounter spoilers in the comments … but then, other people will be delighted to find discussion of the puzzle in the comments even though the puzzle hasn’t been blogged yet.

      • Gareth says:

        I fell asleep on the dog’s bed considering how to approach blogging the puzzle. At some point I must have woken up enough to get back to my own bed.

        • Tuning Spork says:

          And, Pannonica, your excuse is…(this better be good)…?

          • pannonica says:

            Extenuating circumstances, unusual hecticness. Adventitious rather than the typical (and mostly manageable) immanent sort.

  22. Amy L says:

    CHE: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. A mnemonic for remembering the order of operations, in math. If I ever learned this in school, it is totally forgotten.

    I was sure it was going to be lyrics to a novelty song of the 1920s.

  23. TammyB says:

    WSJ – I believe that the anser for 8d is “As Ever” not Asever.


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