Sunday, July 6, 2014

NYT 7:50 (Amy) 
Reagle 8:53 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
LAT 8:07 (Amy) 
WaPo 9:08 (Sam) 
CS 4:30 (Amy) 

Daniel Bryant’s New York Times crossword, “Oh, Say…”

NY Times crossword solution, 7 6 14 "Oh, Say"

NY Times crossword solution, 7 6 14 “Oh, Say”

America’s national anthem gets the spotlight:

  • 24a. [Lawyer who wrote 65-Across], FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.
  • 30a. [Year 24-Across wrote 65-Across], EIGHTEEN-FOURTEEN. Who doesn’t love a four-digit number spelled out? *raising hand*
  • 40a. [What the music to 65-Across was, originally], BRITISH PUB SONG. Did not know that.
  • 65a. [This puzzle’s theme, whose first notes are indicated by shaded squares], THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER. The shaded/circled letters spell out SOL, MI, MI, SOL, DO and they’re at appropriate heights for their relative notes.
  • 88a. [Performer who gave a memorable rendition of 65-Across in 1991], WHITNEY HOUSTON.
  • 99a. [Mission that 24-Across was on when he wrote 65-Across], PRISONER EXCHANGE. Had no idea.
  • 113a. [Where 24-Across was inspired to write 65-Across], BALTIMORE HARBOR.
  • 8d. [Locale for this puzzle’s shaded squares], STAFF.

Holiday-related trivia quiz? No wordplay or humor angles, just straight-up factoids.

Favorite word in this puzzle: 12a. [General servant], FACTOTUM. Doug Peterson is the Crosswords LA Factotum this year; I serve as the tournament’s Puzzle Wrangler. Other good fill includes BROWN BELT in karate and the IVY LEAGUE.

Lots of other fill I’d place in the crosswordese category: plural AD INS, ISERE, who-uses-that-word HEMIC, ERST, E’EN, ELIA, AIT, REO, TITI, plural OTTS, NISAN

Three stars from me.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 222″—Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 222 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 222 (solution)

Sometimes you just get on a roll. When I read the clue for 1-Across in this week’s Post Puzzler, a 70/30 freestyle from one of the Themeless Titans, Frank Longo, I couldn’t plunk down the answer quickly enough. Spend as much time with cartoons from the 1960s and 70s as I have and you would too. [Reed who voiced Fred Flintstone] was a gimme for ALAN. With the first letters for the first four Downs already in place, the northwest corner offered no resistance. Alas, I couldn’t type (correctly) as quickly as I could solve.

I momentarily wondered whether I could break my Post Puzzler personal best on this one. Usually that’s a sure sign that vexation is about to pounce. But as I steadily made progress through the Oregon and Northern California section of the puzzle, then on to New England and the mid-Atlantic, my confidence grew. The South proved a little elusive (what an apt metaphor!). I forgot IAGO was the [Parrot in “Aladdin”], and I held on to SMILE as the [Indication of self-satisfaction] even though I wasn’t entirely self-satisfied with the answer. (Sho’ ’nuff, it was SMIRK.) I’ve heard of a film called “Donnie DARKO,” but I’ve never watched it, so the [2001 title role for Gyllenhaal] was a total nonstarter for me. (Was he Brokeback or Mountain?) But I got lucky with guessing DOOR PRIZE as the [Incentive to attend a function] and that helped me smooth out the corner in decent time.

What proved hardest was that open swath in the middle. I got MUSTARD, the [Frank request], and FALSE START, the [Reason to go back to the block], easily enough thanks to having a couple of starting letters. But for whatever reason I couldn’t figure out why the answer to [Printer options] would start with BUBBLE (ahem, that’s because it’s BUBBLE JETS, Sam). And the answers to [Barbituate, e.g.] (ESTER) and [Did a certain duple-meter dance] (TWO-STEPPED) just wouldn’t come out of hiding. The biggest mystery for me was WEST JORDAN, the [Salt Lake City suburb]. And yes, I tried EAST JORDAN first. So all in all I ended up with a good but not great solving time. Given my solving times on most of Frank’s puzzles, however, I’ll happily take it.

Y'all get the joke here, right?

Y’all get the joke here, right?

Items of note:

  • Anyone else tempted to write the [1994 National League Manager of the Year]’s first name as FELIX? Turned out to be FELIPE ALOU. Holy Moises, I should have known that one off the bat. (Sometimes double puns write themselves.)
  • Didn’t know a HORNET was a [Vespiary resident]. For some reason I was confusing “vespiary” with “vesper,” so first I wanted a religious answer. Then I got to thinking about Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale and all bets were off.
  • Hiss at me if you will, but I think [King of the jungle?] is a fun clue for COBRA. I also liked [Corn inspector] for a PODIATRIST.
  • GOATEES may be [Rough patches for men], but they’re much rougher on the men and women who have to kiss them.
  • Edward James OLMOS was the [“Stand and Deliver” Oscar nominee] who should have won. So say we all.
  • I bet if I did better on the SAT I would have known that PASTY was a good antonym for “rubicund.” I kept thinking “rubicund” meant something along the lines of Rubenesque, but maybe that’s because PASTY was crossing AMPLE, which was clued as [Plump].

Favorite entry = F-BOMB, the [Bad thing to drop when reporting live]. For the record, it is also frowned upon in taped segments. Honorable mentions for favorite entries include SMELL TEST, NO MERCY, and SUITS ME. Guess I’m a sucker for two-word answers. Favorite clue = [Firm cheeses] for BOSSES. I fell for this trap, and I doubt I was the only one. EDAMS doesn’t fit!!

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Antonymous Antics” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 6/6/14 • "Antonymous Antics" • Hook • solution

CRooked • 7/6/14 • “Antonymous Antics” • Hook • solution

Words or phrases in which components have been replaced with their opposites to generate new, wacky versions. The additional twist is that the antonym is taken not from the actual word but from a homonym—or at least a polyseme—thereof.

  • 23a. [Not toss and turn?] SLEEP LIKE A BOTTOM (top, but not the toy). This particular version of the metaphoric phrase was utterly unfamiliar to me.
  • 115a. [Economics 101 topic?] EVILS AND SERVICES (goods, but not merchandise).
  • 4d. [Long-running daytime entry?] THE PRICE IS LEFT (right, but not correct).
  • 34d. [“Little Boy” dropper] ENOLA STRAIGHT (Gay, but strictly in the happy sense). Though the name’s etymology lies in that happy sense, it may also be a short form of Gaynell, Gaynor, Gaylen, Gaylord, or even Gaetano and Gabriel.
  • 36d. [Winter spread] UP COMFORTER (down, but comprised of fluffy feathers).
  • 46d. [Romantic atmosphere enhancer] CANDLEHEAVY (light, but not the luminescent sort).
  • 56d. [Pie fruits?] GIRLSENBERRIES (boys, but having nothing to do with Rudolph Boysen, the berry’s namesake). Carving out, cleaving, a partial thingy there. (See also 81d [Break, as ice] CALVE.

m'lissNot sure why some of the theme clues have question marks and others don’t. Seems as if they could all use them, so I’ll go with the standard rationale and assume it’s ‘transcription error’.

Interesting theme, and that twist gives it extra oomph. I’m fine with the slight syntactical variations.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of fill that noticeably winged my brain in an unfriendly way. A sampling: [In truth, old-style] CERTES; writer EDA LeShan; Actress Taina ELG; ALS Hirsch and Jaffee “R IS for Ricochet”; NO U Turn; unannounced VARs for AUNTY and EMEER; Italian ESSI; OR TO; IWO Jima; M’LISS; abbrevs. ENL, SYR, etc. (75a, 120d, 39d, 64d, 86a, 35a, 49d, 37a, 74a, 57a, 79a, 126a, 7d, 2d, 121d, usw)

LAST TANGO, smack dab in the middle at 70-across, [Brando’s 1972 dance], due both to its location and content, seems as if it wants to play Theme with those other answers, but it just isn’t the case. HIVES, at 73a, has nothing to do with bees or wasps (see today’s WaPo) and is instead clued as [Urticaria], which is the medical term for that unpleasant affliction.

On that note, it’s time for me to break out of here.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Near-Miss Film Classics”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 7 6 14 "Near-Miss Film Classics"

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 7 6 14 “Near-Miss Film Classics”

Famous movie titles get a word swapped out for a similar one:

  • 24a. Near-miss E.M. Forster classic?], HOWARDS REAR instead of Howards End. (“Rear” appears again in 63d. [“___ the rear”], STEP TO.)
  • 26a. Near-miss Dr. Seuss classic?], HORTON HEARS A WHAT instead of a Who.
  • 39a. Near-miss Tim Burton classic?], EDWARD STAPLERHANDS, Scissorhands.
  • 52a. Near-miss Bill Murray classic?], GROUND PORK DAY, Groundhog.
  • 56a. Near-miss Sir Walter Scott classic?], IVANRAKE, Ivanhoe.
  • 70a. Near-miss Charlton Heston classic?], STEVE-HUR, Ben-Hur.
  • 73a. Near-miss Frank Capra classic?], MEET JOHN DEERE, John Doe.
  • 84a. Near-miss Stanley Kubrick classic?], FULL METAL SPORTCOAT, Jacket.
  • 102a, 106a. [With 106 Across, near-miss southern classic?], AN AIRPORT SHUTTLE / NAMED DESIRE, although streetcars and airport shuttles don’t feel like very close swaps to me.

I didn’t know there was an Ivanhoe movie (1952, Elizabeth Taylor), and I definitely wouldn’t class Horton Hears a Who as a “film classic.” Liked the STAPLERHANDS entry the best.

Five more things:

  • 40d. [Abbr. after Lamar Alexander’s name], R-TENN. I wasn’t sure that “(R-Tenn.)” was out there as much as “(R-TN),” but both Google up fine.
  • 11d. [Get started on laundry day], DO A WASH. In the language, but an unusual entry. Thought the sorting was the start, but if you’re doing more than one load, one wash is indeed a start.
  • 2d. [The Rolling Stones’ first greatest hits album, “___ and Green Grass”], HIGH TIDE. Never heard of it, and didn’t read the full clue so with the first H in place, I filled in HOT ROCKS.
  • 31a. [Indiana hates them], ASPS. That’s Indiana Jones, and the fear of snakes.
  • 75d. [Earthquake type], ROLLER. Merl used to live in California so I’ll take his word for it. Doesn’t ring a bell to me.

And by the way, I don’t want to see 46a. [Brain scan, briefly] as a clue for EEG. Scans are radiographic images, like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, whereas an EEG is a tracing of brain waves. Constructors! Editors! Stop putting the word “scan” in your EEG clues.

3.5 stars.

Frank Virzi’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “ET Trading”

LA Times crossword solution, 7 6 14 "ET Trading"

LA Times crossword solution, 7 6 14 “ET Trading”

The theme answers are made by changing an E at the end of a word into a T, forming a new word and changing the phrase’s meaning. While the “ET Trading” title describes what goes on, it strikes me as weird that “ET trading” doesn’t actually mean anything by itself.

  • 23a. [Pair of pooches’ synchronized dash?], DOUBLE DOG DART. A tad awkward, as nobody talks about a running event as a “dart.” You can make a dart, yes, but the usage in the puzzle feels clunky to me.
  • 34a. [Boss’ personal brewing ingredient?], ALPHA MALT.
  • 50a. [Blast off?], START INTO SPACE. Five of the seven theme answers change the phrase’s final letter, and this is one of two that change the end of the first word. Would prefer a 3/4 split to a 2/5 split.
  • 66a. [“We’re boarding the elevator now, chaps!”], GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFT. Cute riff on a Beatles lyric.
  • 87a. [Natural source of a Massachusetts dairy product?], BOSTON CREAM PIT. I like a play on Boston cream pie, but a “cream pit” sounds repulsive.
  • 99a. [Result of washing political dirty laundry?], PARTY LINT.
  • 118a. [Course that covers crop circles?], PLANT GEOMETRY.

Felt like there were a lot of partials and other awkward fill while I was solving. You’ve got your crosswordese SNEE, INRI, SEGO; your plural suffix -ITES; your [Russian infant emperor, 1740-’41] IVAN VI; an outdated [Big name in gas] clue for AMOCO; an unfamiliar abbrev LECT.; partials I HADA A, I LOVE, AS NO, A PAT; an L-BAR and a T-NUT; prefixes ODO- and TELE-. I did like DIET PEPSI, NINTENDO, and CANTONESE, but much of the other longish fill was unexciting (NATTERER?).

3.25 stars from me.


Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge”

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 7 6 14 "Sunday Challenge"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 7 6 14 “Sunday Challenge”

Quick post from Amy, as Ade is swamped—he’s volunteering at the 4th and 1 football training/SAT prep camp. (A worthy cause.)

This 70-worder has some nice stuff in it—I like XENOPHOBIA and EASY TARGET the most. The desert wind called SIROCCO is a neat word, as is SKOSH.

There’s also a lot of the sort of short fill you expect to see crossing triple- or quad-stacked 15s, but the long answers here are 10s and not 15s. INKA, B TEN, -ITE at the top? SRTA, SSS, SSI, PRES, and MSGR abbrevs? UTICA, EASTON, and ULM place names? Meh.

2.9 stars from me.

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10 Responses to Sunday, July 6, 2014

  1. Brucenm says:

    This is a type of puzzle which normally does not interest me at all. I have to give a little extra credit to this one for having the notes in the right spatial relationship to each other, simulating their position on the staff.

    The SSB is widely described as “An English drinking song”, which is accurate to a degree, though probably exaggerated. It was written in the 19th century by one John Stafford Smith as the “Anacreon Hymn.” As I understand it and recall, the Anacreon society was a “Gentleman’s” Club whose members probably indulged in the grape, but it’s not as if the tune were a popular pub song.

    What is clear is that it is organized musically in imitation of the 14th Century Isorhythmic Motet — a form, which, as the name suggests, is organized by the repetition of a rhythmic pattern. This factoid does suggest that, (as I believe), the piece should be played with quite strict, energetic rhythm, without excessive rubato, lingering over notes, accelerando and ritardando. A brief fermata on the climax on the high ‘sol’ at the end is probably OK, but not the labored, mannered distortions indulged in by many modern divas and stylists who consider themselves more important than the music. I too liked the famous performance by Whitney Houston, during the Persian Gulf war, and I found it stirring, though it wasn’t completely consistent with my above analysis. The Yankees used to play an excellent recording by Robert Merrill. And I heard a fine performance by, of all people, “Meatloaf”. Slower with more slurs and portamentos than I would have liked, but very musical and convincing. I suppose “Mr. Loaf” is not his real name. He probably has one, but I don’t really know anything about him.

    • sbmanion says:


      I greatly appreciate your deep knowledge of music. One of the SAT words that periodically comes up is “syncopated,” which I always tell my students I can define but not appreciate. If you want to learn something, see the word and in the case of music, see it performed, giving you a better chance to remember it.

      Upon reading your post, I looked up RUBATO, FERMATA and PORTAMENTO. I love seeing words used correctly in context even though I rarely remember anything musical for more than a few days as opposed to poker where I routinely remember the winners of the most obscure tournaments in say, Biloxi, Mississippi.

      I like to hear the SSB banner performed by divas including and especially Whitney, although Beyonce is also excellent. Sadly for me, Whitney’s version occurred in the Bills’ “wide right” game. Country singers routinely do a great job and the Dixie Chicks’ rendition is considered to be among the best. I have never been a fan of odd versions such as Jose Feliciano’s or even Jimi Hendrix’s guitar version.


  2. pannonica says:

    WaPo:“For some reason I was confusing ‘vespiary’ with ‘vesper,’ so first I wanted a religious answer. Then I got to thinking about Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale and all bets were off.”

    They come from similar-seeming but distinct Latin roots. Wasp and vespiary derive from vespa ‘wasp’ (the Italian scooter is so named for its resemblance) while vespers and vespertine come from vesper ‘west’, indicating the evening star (which sets in that direction). Vesper Lynd, of course, is a play on ‘West Berlin’. Which sort of visits the Utah clue/answer.

    See also, Björk.

  3. Glad says:

    Okay, I’ll show my ignorance. What’s the Room 222 joke in the WaPo review?

  4. Ethan says:

    The only thing I wasn’t crazy about in the NYT was SOL showing up as a stand-alone answer when SOL was already hidden in circles. Otherwise, good puzzle. BALTIMORE HARBOR and ORIOLE are always welcome.

  5. Dave says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle. SOL was a very confusing. As mentioned with Ethan. Otherwise challenging and fun!

  6. Fletcher B. says:

    Two questions about the Reagle puzzle: what does 33D’s TWS (abbr. on a pocket Scrabble board” stand for? Also, 70A: “STEVE-Hur” for “BEN-Hur”: is it just substituting one shortened first name for another (i.e. could have been “Robby-Hur” if ROBBY had worked with the down answers), or is there any special link between the names Steve and Ben? Thanks!

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