Monday, June 30, 2014

NYT 3:44* (pannonica) 
LAT 3:22* (pannonica) 
CS 10:51 (Ade) 
BEQ 8:02 w/2 errors (Amy) 

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 6/30/14 • Mon • Sessa • 6 30 14 • solution

NYT • 6/30/14 • Mon • Sessa • 6 30 14 • solution

A quintessential Monday theme: vowel progression. Phonetic. Long vowel sounds. Five. A through U, no Y. [For what reason?] (21a) – that’s just the way it goes, that’s WHY. In this iteration, they’re couched in phrases ending with FL*.

  • 17a. [Celebrity chef and host of the Food Network’s “Boy Meets Grill”] BOBBY FLAY.
  • 25a. [Theme music for TV’s “The Dating Game”] SPANISH FLEA. Oh, that’s so wry.
  • 39a. [Insect that causes sleeping sickness] TSETSE FLY. If we take “cause” to mean “function as a biological vector for the protozoan organism that actually causes sleeping sickness (aka trypanosomiasis)”, then by all means. This is not just IMO (64d) but a description of a basic relationship.
  • 55a. [It’s typically slow during rush hour] TRAFFIC FLOW.
  • 66a. [Dismissive term for chronic fatigue syndrome] YUPPIE FLU. Whoa, this seems awfully obsolescent. Let’s take a peek at the trust Google Ngram viewscope … Hey, lookie there! Sure seems as if it’s a faddish appellation, peaking quickly and losing currency equally rapidly. Remember, the data set terminates in 2008, and the trend looks quite severe. Wonder how long this puzzle was in the queue?

So, industry-standard theme, adequately executed. Par.

Fla-wyes (oh, that’s another reason):

  • 1d [Mummifies, e.g.] EMBALMS links to 56d [Burial vault] CRYPT. Ditto 23a [AOL or Earthlink: Abbr.] ISP and 65d [Internet connection inits.] DSL, which leads tangentially to 22d [Handbag monogram] YSL. See also 35a [Like a wet noodle] LIMP; 34d [Completely unlike a wet noodle] STIFF.
  • Ratcheting it up, then: double-duty clue [Flower part] for 37d and 48d PETAL, COROLLA.
  • Good vertical triple-seven stacks in each of the corners, with the exception of 43d SERENER.
  • Forced following clue to themer 25-across. 30a [Majority of the contestants on “The Dating Game”] MEN.

Nothing far outside the ken for the typical early-week solver, with the possible exception of 42d OBTRUDE, but (1) it isn’t that obscure a word, and (2) the crossings are congenial.

About an average Monday.

Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/30/14 • Mon • Gunderson • solution

LAT • 6/30/14 • Mon • Gunderson • solution

Another venerable theme category from the West Coast: rhyming pairs. In this case, there was another SPECIFIC (40d) aspect that I didn’t appreciate (so it wasn’t necessarily explicit, as per that entry’s clue—a different sense of the word) until seeing the revealer at 52d [Wee hr., and a hint to a feature common to this puzzle’s four longest answers] TWO AM. To wit, each component of the pairs contains the bigram AM. This adds some depth to the theme, and also redeems a bit of blah fill.

  • 17a. [Wishy-washy] NAMBY-PAMBY. An ablaut reduplication clues a rhyming reduplication!
  • 62a. [Cookie brand] FAMOUS AMOS. Only one of the four themers that employs a spelling change for the rhyming segment.
  • 11d. [Elite group of athletes] DREAM TEAM.
  • 35d. [It’s “played” by finger -pointers] BLAME GAME.

Elsewise, the puzzle is well-pitched and enjoyable as an early-week offering.

  • The Greek island SAMOS probably the most obscure answer. Further insular geography with ARUBA.
  • Across in the center is SPRIG, clued a bit punningly as [Thyme piece]. “Thyme” can be thought of as a portmanteau of rhyme and time, and the oral pastime relative of this puzzle’s theme sometimes goes by that name: thyme time. I’ve also heard it called “stinky pinky.”
  • A few stray AM appearances in the ballast fill: 2d OBAMA, 41a TAME, and the aforementioned SAMOS (44a). No big deal, but I have to find things to mention, you know.
  • Gratuitous tobacco promotion at 7d and 42a, but it was probably unintentional. Even so, feh.

Smooth puzzle, good Monday.

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tennis Tips”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.30.14: "Tennis Tips"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.30.14: “Tennis Tips”

Hello once again! Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the last day of June!

As I’m typing this, I’m watching Wimbledon, so a very fitting way to spend my time as I’m reviewing this puzzle, authored by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. In it, five common phrases/nouns are appended by adding a word at the end of that phrase that also happens to be a term used in tennis. And as we speak, there’s a chance for an EVEN SCORE at 4-4 with South African Kevin Anderson and defending Men’s Singles champion Andy Murray (32D: [Four-four, e.g.]). Please let that happen! If it does, how eerie would that be, given the clue and what I’m watching now?!?!

  • OLD NAVY ACE: (17A: [Retired warship pilot?]) The pilot wore Old Navy jeans as he sailed the seven seas!
  • MICROSOFT SERVE: (24A: [Very small ice cream order?]) – How fast can Bill Gates hit his first serve?
  • GIVE A BIG HANDSET: (38A: [Buy a large phone as a present?]) – I would LOVE to get the Zack Morris phone as a gift!
  • JUST SAY NO-FAULT: (63A: [Advice about what to tell the insurance adjuster?])
  • RING OUTLET: (52A: [Diamond district?])

The first thing I want to point out in this grid is the return of MONDO to my consciousness (5A: [Huge, slangily]). I know I used that word a great deal between the ages of eight and 13, but totally shelved it once high school hit. Now I’ll have to use mondo at least twice this week. And immediately below it, I would hope never to be TREED at any point in my life (15A: [Cornered by a bear, perhaps]). From the food perspective, I’m not a RAGU person when it comes to spaghetti sauce, as I go with Francesco Rinaldi (50A: [Prego competitor]). Never had HI HO before, sadly, since I’m a serial consumer of crackers (41D: [Bygone Ritz rival]). Other fill that I liked in the grid included REDDI (3D: [_____-wip (dessert topping)]) and PYRITE (48D: [Fool’s gold]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MTV (5D: [“Jersey Shore” channel])– Back when MTV was still watchable, they put on a series of shows called MTV Rock N’ Jock, a ProAm event which featured celebrities in the music, acting and modeling scene playing sports with professional athletes. If I remember correctly, there was Rock N’ Jock softball, basketball and football. In the basketball one, they had a basket in which the rim was about 30 feet off the ground and making the shot was like worth 50 points, and Tim Hardaway made one of those shots. It was one of the best ProAms around, and it was around the time MTV was hitting its peak powers in terms of bridging the gap between its original viewers in the 1980s and the newer generation coming up in the early 1990s.

Have a great Monday, everyone, and see you all tomorrow! Oh, and Andy Murray held his service game, so it’s 5-3 in the first set. Rats!

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 6 30 14 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 6 30 14 “Themeless Monday”

It’s never satisfying to encounter a collision of “What the…?” answers. I had BRO**Y for 21d. [Stock character description?] and had no idea what that was supposed to be. Cattle stock? Dramatic characters? Stock car racing? Shares of stock? No, it’s soup stock, and the is-that-a-real-word BROTHY. The standard American dictionaries don’t list it. Hmph! Do not like it, especially when the crossings also perplexed me. I had no idea there was a Kindle model called the KINDLE FIRE HDX (33a. [Tablet that comes with a “Mayday” button]), and the HDX portion feels mighty random. And then there’s 32a. [Garbage time players], C-TEAM—I have never heard this (presumably) sports term of “garbage time,” and I don’t know how many teams truly have a C-team level that’s worse than their A and B squads. So I couldn’t muscle my way through those crossings.

Also in the cranky-making category: SCHOOL GAMES (never seen this term before as far as I can recall), the arbitrary THIRD OF JUNE, and the crosswordese of EFT, TSO, OSH, and LIANAS. I did like RENAISSANCE, GAMBLER, THE FOUR TOPS and MODEST MOUSE, KARENINA, IRANIANS instead of the crosswordese IRANIS, LOST SOUL, and GITMO.

Top clues: 10d. [Lock up in a bar room?], ENCAGE; 12d. [Got back on solid ground?], DEPLANED.

Questionable clues: 23a. [Hand-me-down wearer, probably], SIS. I would suspect that little brothers are even more likely to wear hand-me-down clothes than little sisters. 1d. [Actress whose real last name is Gummer], STREEP? Do we know for sure what her legal name is? Does she have her married surname on her driver’s license? It’s not as if “Meryl Streep” is a stage name—it’s her name at birth and her professional name for decades.

3.5 stars, plus a frowny face for the squares that vexed me.

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20 Responses to Monday, June 30, 2014

  1. Gareth says:

    Loved the execution of the theme – very nice choice of answers!

    It’s a testament to the power of easy crosses that I finished this in close to my record time despite never having heard of BOBBYFLAY! The name-o-phobes will probably be happy that COROLLA was clued as a [flower part] and not the Toyota, but I’ll bet that the Toyota is more Monday-appropriate. I learnt about COROLLAs in high school biology, just like I learnt about TORs in high school geography (which included geology) – the point is, a large portion of people forget what they learn in high school very efficiently!

    • Brucenmn says:

      Trust Me — You will become even more efficient at that enterprise over the decades!

      Incidentally, this is probably not the venue to discuss this, but I would be very curious to know what what the local reaction is to the Oscar Pistorius trial, (though I’m sure it’s not just one reaction.)

      • Gareth says:

        This local’s reaction is “shut up already”. For a broader range of reactions, head over to (but hold your nose, the comments section can be quite toxic).

    • Huda says:

      I agree, beautifully done!

  2. Norm says:

    Amy: BROTHY in the BEQ didn’t bother me as much as LIANAS crossing an obscure (to me, at least) IRMA was a tad unfair, since LEANAS used to be just as acceptable [am I harking back to Maleska?] and ERMA is just as good. Still, it was a refreshingly brisk workout after his previous run [can two be a run?] of easy ones.

    • David L says:

      I knew IRMA VEP from a French movie of that name — pretty good, as I recall. Also, IRMA VEP is an anagram of ‘vampire,’ which I admit isn’t much help unless you already know it.

      My objections to the BEQ were very similar to Amy’s. I don’t care for BROTHY but I settled on CTEAM and HDX for the suffix of the Kindle — presumably HD for high def and X because an X always makes digital equipment better. I was particularly disturbed by the idea that SIS is the one who gets hand-me-downs, because my younger brother outgrew me and so I got hand-me-downs from him, causing lasting psychological trauma, as you can imagine.

      Meryl Streep has two acting daughters, Mamie and Grace, who use the name Gummer, although they’re not all that well known at the moment, I guess. (By acting daughters I mean daughters who act, of course, not daughters pro tem.)

    • Richard says:

      I question the validity of a “c-team,” particularly in professional sports. The rosters are not large enough to have both b and c-teams. For example, in the NBA, with basketball being the game where I have heard “garbage time” used, there are only 12 players available to play in a game. This was my biggest problem with my solve as I had “bide” for 32D, which still seems plausible to me, although it is a stretch. Biding ones time could be giving away time. At least this was my justification until I finally realized that 33A had to be “Kindle Fire,” which meant that “bide” was wrong.

      • sbmanion says:

        I agree that the clue garbage time does not apply to a “C team,” but C teams are quite common in club sports, especially rugby. When I was at Cornell Law School, I played rugby. There were over 100 players on the squad, including undergrads, grad students and even teachers. Our A team was mostly graduate students from Europe. I played on the B team for a while and then was demoted to the C team after I made what is called an “Ole” tackle.

        Our C team played against other C teams, such as the Rochester Old Boys, which was also a big squad or even A teams from schools with smaller clubs such as Cortland State Teachers College. It might have been undistinguished play, but it was a full game and not garbage time.


  3. Brucenm says:

    I am becoming stubbornly overwhelmed by curiosity as to a question I posed yesterday.

    What does {Any member of the ‘Tonight Show’ band, e.g.} for ROOT mean?

    Or did I miscopy or misread something? I can no longer find which puzzle this came from.

  4. Brucenm says:

    Thanks to both. I don’t know why I didn’t fall back on one of my rules of life, namely that usually when there is something I find totally mysterious and incomprehensible there is a rock group or a rapper lurking somewhere. But somehow “root” didn’t evoke that in me.

    • Huda says:

      Bruce, pretty funny :) do you mean in crosswords, or life in general?

      • Brucenm says:

        Well, usually crosswords, but sometimes a more general rule of life. By the way, I’m still having a Pavlovian response to your description a couple days ago of the Syrian food you were making. YUM.

        Incidentally, are you familiar with Michio Kaku’s book *The Future of the Mind*? I would love to discuss your thoughts, though this probably isn’t the forum. That book, extreme and speculative though it is, illustrates the topics and issues that I would want to study in detail, (along with allied issues in the philosophy of mind and the psychology of consciousness), if I could rewind and restart an alternative version of my life. I am particularly curious as to your thoughts about his “quantitative” analysis of “consciousness” based upon the number and nature of “feedback loops” — an expression which I wish he explicated more clearly. To me, his theory is perilously close to a “behavioral,” empirical analysis, favored by Alan Turing and others, which I consider fatally flawed, oblivious to the real issues. I’ve also been rereading Donald Dennett, though I still find his prose opaque.

        • pannonica says:


          Also, the root cause was discussed in-comment yesterday, prior to your query.

          • Brucenm says:

            Yes, it is Daniel. That part of his prose is not too opaque, but I misremembered it anyhow. I guess I missed the root of yesterday’s discussion because I was totally mystified.

          • pannonica says:

            What do I know about Daniel Dennett? I think a raccoon was a component on the cover of one of the editions of one of his books.

          • pannonica says:

            Also, it isn’t as if one has to wade through scores, or even dozens, of quasi-frivolous comments at this blog. It’s quality, quality, quality here. And possibly delusional élitism.

        • Bencoe says:

          I read that book a few months ago, Bruce. I’ve read most of Michio Kaku’s work. I agree with you that his analysis, like that of many scientists, comes too close to a “quantitative ” one of consciousness. Personally, I still like William James and his ideas of the mind.
          I read another book by Kurzweil recently which also analyzes consciousness mathematically, and how it may be created in artificial intelligence. His optimism that machines may become self-aware, benign entities is interesting.

          • Bencoe says:

            Incidentally, I enjoyed Kaku’s Future of Physics much more. Kaku has a knack for realistic futurism in technology–I read his Hyperspace as a teenager, and thought the idea that flat screen computing would be ubiquitous in ten years was hard sci-fi…obviously he was right!

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