Sunday, August 10, 2014

NYT 15:34 (Matt) 
Reagle 6:53 (joon—paper) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
LAT 10:00 (Gareth) 
WaPo untimed (Janie) 
CS 16:11 (Ade) 

Liz Gorski’s New York Times Crossword, “Number-One Friends” — Matt’s review

Matt here, pinch-hitting for Amy while she’s in NYC for at Lollapuzzoola 7.


If it’s a Sunday Gorski, the first thing you look for is an image in the grid. Lo and behold, I see a cat staring at me, formed by the pattern of black squares! But it turns out to be a dog, and each of the puzzle’s six theme entries begins with a famous WHITE HOUSE DOG:

24-A [*What to call a female ambassador [the Johnsons]] = HER EXCELLENCY. Her being Lyndon Johnson’s dog, not Andrew Johnson’s.

116-A [*Pairing up for safety [the Clintons]] = BUDDY SYSTEM.

3-D [*Cleaning supply [the Bushes 43]] = SPOT REMOVER.

15-D [*”My Fair Lady” co-star [the Reagans]] = REX HARRISON. Not to be confused with this guy.

67-D [*Singer with the 1964 #2 hit “My Boy Lollipop” [the Bushes 41] = MILLIE SMALL. Never heard of her.

70-A [*Egg order [the Obamas]] = SUNNY SIDE-UP.

And then the aforementioned revealer at 62-A.

Having a smiling pet watch you solve the puzzle will appeal to animal lovers everywhere, including me. Still, I wouldn’t rank this in my top half of Gorskian image puzzles. The theme is a tad pedestrian, and the fill suffers from the grid necessitated by the happy dog’s face. My Scowl-O-Meter went off a few too many times for USRDA, OEO, POEME, NOLLE, XENONS, OSE, MARL, CIE, GES, and everyone’s favorite ORTS grated a bit.

On the other hand, we got a lot of nice longer entries as well: TOMATO PASTE, ESCAPE ROUTE, EDELWEISS, ANNE MEARA, TEST RIDES and LEG WARMER. So, a mixed bag on fill.

3.75 stars.

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 227” — Janie’s review

Washington Post 8/10

Washington Post 8/10

Can you say “fresh fill”? Doug’s 70/28 themeless is jam-packed with it—across and down. And much of it can be found stacked in the open corners or hanging on those sensational, central-crossing 15s, where the colorfully-named (and iconically-clad) ROWDY RODDY PIPER [Hall of Fame pro wrestler known for wearing a kilt] (Canadian by birth, btw) meets STEAMED DUMPLINGS, the [Dim sum bite] I’d wager is not Mr. Piper’s “go to” cuisine. But hey—one never know. Maybe he’s more of a (nicely-crossed) SUSHI BAR and UDON kinda guy… Maybe he finds inner-peace and strength practicing T’AI CHI in his downtime. Again—one never know.

I do know, though, how much I love a grid filled with the likes of “I’D LOVE TO!,” ROAD SHOW, “REST EASY!,” PICAYUNE (just a fave word; kinda sounds like what it means), SHELLED OUT and (the unlikely but ultimately winning) TETRAHEDRA. And especially because of their cluing, ditto ICE MACHINE [Where rocks are collected?] and the very solemn sounding CHAPLAINCY, decidedly leavened with the (ultimately) non-baseball-based [Padre’s position].

And on the subject of clues, here’s a handful of additional standouts:

  • [Processor of raw material?] for the aforementioned SUSHI BAR. No BESSEMER here.
  • [It has slow movements] for T’AI CHI. No music here—but yes, music, by way of the [Score marking] TEMPO pair.
  • [Safari stops?] URLS. Think “web browser”…
  • [Geoduck, e.g.] CLAM. “Geoduck”?!?! Internet research tells me that it’s pronounced “gooey-duck” and is, omg, seriously phallic. As Doug says at the crossing of “CAN’T BE!” and “UNREAL!,” [Incredulous declaration] and [“Whoa!”]. Serious “Whoa!” (And, um, from the looks of things, I think we can safely say it’s not Jewish…)
  • [Za chain] UNOS. Pizza chain. Oho.

Then there’s the subject of names, proper nouns and titles. This puzzle’s got a lot of ’em. Maybe at least half a dozen or so more than I’m thrilled with, but this is very much a “your mileage may vary” area—so if “the more the merrier” is your motto, you’re in luck. The best, for my money, are the full names we get. Not only Mr. Piper‘s, but the well-positioned grid-opposites ALLY MCBEAL and HERB ALPERT. Also appreciate the bit of trivia we get with the clue for the former: [Program parodied on “Futurama” as “Single Female Lawyer”].

Actually, there are several names clued with bits of tid that I enjoyed—because they triggered memories, like [Longtime Farrell costar] Alan ALDA (so, [head slap!], not Charles Farrell, but Mike Farrell on MASH…), [“Some Enchanted Evening” singer] (character) EMILE (de Becque, in South Pacific), and [Creator of Stupefyin’ Jones] Al CAPP; or led me to look more deeply at something I wasn’t aware of, like the [Aphrodite changed his blood into a flower] ADONIS pair. Now I know!

IN SUM, then, another piece of puzzle perfection from Mr. Peterson. While I struggled at times (it was a while before I had my “d’oh” moment and changed ACCURA at 9A. to SCHICK [don’t ask…]), I hope your solve was reasonably smooth—and do speak up if I’ve failed to include your faves in this wrap-up!

Randolph Ross’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.10.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.10.14

Good morning everyone, and a happy Sunday to you!

Another Sunday, another Sunday Challenge, and this grid, served up to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, was a very nice and smooth way to end the week.

Started in the top middle of the grid with LAST MAN (7D: [One left standing]), and with that, immediately was able to place down LATE PASS (7A: [Note used for a holdup]). Rest of the northeast was not too much trouble, although I had SPEEDER instead of STRIDER for a few minutes (13D: [Quick mover]). That was pretty stupid. But corrected that, and, honestly, the rest of the grid wasn’t too mind-crushing. A couple of crosswordese snick in, with AORTAE (56A: [Major arteries]) and JAS (29A: [Pres. Monroe or Pres. Madison]). A couple of answers were hard to come by, not because I had no idea, but I just wasn’t sure how to spell it though I knew the essence of the answer. Perfect answer of that was AKIHITO (36D: [Japanese emperor since 1989]). All I did for a minute was try to pronounce his name, as it was on the tip of my tongue but I missed a syllable here and missed a syllable there. Only then did I stop and realize, “why don’t I do the crosses and stop paining myself in thinking of his name?” Took at while for LASSIES to come (1D: [Misses]), as I took a while to think about women for that clue. With that, the weird LL section of L.L. BEAN made total sense almost immediately (1A: [Flagship in Freeport, Maine]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ZEPHYRS (24D: [Light breezes])– The New Orleans Zephyrs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, based in Metarie, La. The franchise has made its home in Kansas City (1901-54) and Denver (1955-92) until settling in the Pelican State in 1993. For eight years (1997-04), the Zephyrs were the Triple-A affiliate of my favorite major league team, the Houston Astros.

Thank you so much once again for the time, and I’ll see you on Monday!

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Sooner Repast” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 8/10/14 • "Sooner Repast" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 8/10/14 • “Sooner Repast” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

If there’s a pun in the title, it eludes me. It seems to be like the theme itself: factual. The final long across answer reveals the theme: 117a [Collective answers to starred clues, officially] OKLAHOMA STATE MEAL. I had no idea such a thing as an official state meal existed, let alone what Oklahoma’s is. Hmm… a little digging informs me that Oklahoma is the only state to have one (the legislation was enacted in 1988). Given the singular nature of this factette, the theme seems much less random and thus more acceptable.

The following each has an identical clue, [*See 117-Across].

  • 32a. CORNBREAD.
  • 56a. BISCUITS.
  • 84a. PECAN PIE.
  • 104a. FRIED OKRA.
  • 117a. GRITS.

That final entry lacks a symmetrical partner. Obviously the state needs more immigrants from the Indian subcontinent so that 18a [First lady Gorbacheva] RAISA could be replaced by RAITA. According to the 2010 Census, it ranks 29th with a mere 12,000 (compare California and New York, 528,000 and 314,000).

Many of these foodstuffs would be right at home in NOLA cuisine (17a, [The Big Easy]).

Others: 24a [Smoked brunch item] LOX, 59a [French toast topping] SYRUP, 65a [Ice cream aisle name] EDY, 93a [Hawaiian skipjack tuna] AKU, 11d [Spanish dessert wine] SHERRY, 69d [Calf, in “boucherie”] VEAU, 70d [Egg foo __ ] YUNG. Now which state would have that collection as its official meal?


    • Deutsch! 23a [Article in “Die Zeit”] EINE; 110a [“Ja” opposites] NEINS; 29d [ __-German (of a Kaiser’s domain] PRUSSO.
    • 42d [Like an icy road] SKIDDY. >scowl<
    • 83d [Public Ivy near Goleta, CA] UCSB, followed immediately by 85d [Sch. aim] EDUC. >double-scowl<
    • 76a [One Tolkien middle “R.”] REUET. >triple-vowel scowl<
    • But I did like seeing 82a [Jazz violinist Joe] VENUTI, who may be obscure to some. He often recorded with guitarist Eddie Lang.


  • 74a [Jaguarundi genus] PUMA. Correct, but only recently so. It’s been Felis and Herpailurus too. Also, there’s been a few different spellings for the species, resulting in invalid names and junior synonyms. There’s yaguaroundi (Lacépède. 1809) and yagouaroundi (Desmarest, 1816), but the accepted one is yagouaroundi (Geoffroy, 1803). It’s a congener with Puma concolor (puma/cougar/mountain lion/catamount/panther/painter) and the genus considered to be a sister group to Acinonyx (cheetah). See, isn’t taxonomy fun?

Filling crossword, but not particularly spicy.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Space Exploration”—joon’s review

merl reagle sunday crossword solution, 8 10 14 "Space Exploration"

merl reagle sunday crossword solution, 8 10 14 “Space Exploration”

hello folks—joon filling in here for amy. we’re both headed to new york this weekend for lollapuzzoola (and hope to see many of you there), but i have a shorter trip than amy does. this week’s puzzle from merl has a theme subtle enough that you can (and i did) just solve it like one big themeless, and it goes pretty quick. after the fact i went back and looked at the central answer {Very distant or different (and a hint to what’s hidden among the Across answers, in their logical order, from top to bottom)} WORLDS APART. the other overt tip-off in the grid was the clue for TERRA, {One of this puzzle’s hidden answers, in Latin}. well, TERRA is latin for earth, so this must be planets, right? yup:

  • MERCURY is broken up between MER, CUR, and YALTA.
  • VENUS is split across SEVEN/USTED.
  • EARTH, from TEAR/THO.
  • MARS, from ENTOM/ARS.
  • JUPITER, from ADJ/UPI/TERRA (so that TERRA is really doing double-duty!).
  • SATURN, from SSA/TURN.

straightforward theme, but with his typical humor, merl throws in a little something extra: the last five down clues are all missing their first letters:

  • {__ relude to “pick”} NIT.
  • {__ ongoria of TV} EVA.
  • {__ rchin} IMP.
  • {__ ool for rowing} OAR.
  • {__ versized pot} VAT.

while solving them, you need to put in the right letters, which spell out (in order) PLUTO, of course. cute.

this isn’t the first sunday crossword with a planet theme that i’ve done, or even the second, but both of those other puzzles were 6 years ago, and neither handled the theme in quite the same way. anyhow, this was a fun romp. clues from the fill that caught my eye:

  • {Actor Diffring or Walbrook} ANTON. two guys i’ve never ever heard of. dramatist chekhov and composer bruckner are probably my go-to ANTONs.
  • {Dr. Skoda on “Law & Order”} EMIL. didn’t know this at all, but it all came together from crossings. apparently EMIL is the character’s first name, as opposed to the name of the actor who plays him (j.k. simmons; now you know).
  • {NFL preseason time} AUG. well hey, that’s now! that said, i have no use for the NFL preseason.
  • {Well-dressed goober} MR. PEANUT. yes, he’s quite a dandy.
  • {Tom Swift’s Electric Rifle, commonly} TASER. yup, TASER is an acronym (they invented a fake middle initial A for tom swift)—and has zero words in common with the similar acronym laser, he observed shockingly.

fun puzzle. not a great deal to chew on, but it was enjoyable. 3.9 stars.

Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times Crossword, “Catchy Phrases” — Gareth’s review

LA Times 140810

LA Times 140810

The puzzle’s concept is simple, and has plenty of options with which to make a Sunday! Add “-y” to the first part of two-part phrases and clue wacky style. I was thrown a bit by PARTYTIMER – the first themer I had filled in – as I thought it was PARTY TIME+R and not PART+Y TIMER; I hadn’t read the title! The theme answers, while not wildly exciting, were all amusing and not overly strained:

  • 25a, [What determines when the bash ends?], PARTYTIMER.
  • 27a, [Awkward work period?], STICKYSHIFT.
  • 46a, [Chess great keeping warm?], TOASTYMASTER
  • 71a, [Containers for some pork cuts?], BELLYJARS
  • 94a, [Hoedown official having a bad day?], CRANKYCALLER
  • 113a, [Demand for fabric softener?], DOWNYMARKET
  • 118a, [Yellowstone roughneck?], BULLYMOOSE
  • 35d, [Chauffeur who’s off his rocker?], SCREWYDRIVER
  • 40d, [Agent in need of Weight Watchers?], STOCKYBROKER

The grid felt like a big Monday in design. There weren’t a lot of tough or unusual answers, but the grid was definitely filled with care. It felt to me that the clueing was generally a bit trickier to make up for this grid quality. There are some individual fill answers I ‘d like to highlight:

  • [’50s sci-fi flier], RODAN. I battle to remember how this answer ends; I put down RO and wait for crossers!
  • [Bullet propellant], CORDITE. Irrevocably associated in my brain with this song and its curious mixed metaphor “The warrior is now a worker and his war is underground / with cordite in the darkness he milks the bleeding veins of gold”
  • [Crayola color retired in 2003], TEALBLUE. I was fascinated with all the names of the Crayola crayons as a kid, but I don’t really remember that one. Then again there are a lot of them!
  • [Pessimist], CYNIC. These strike me as synonyms only in the broadest sense.

3.5 Stars

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8 Responses to Sunday, August 10, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Very cute. Love the design. It felt easy and pretty smooth but I thought it skewed a little old. I’m old myself, and even happy about it, so I don’t mind. But I wondered if younger people would be less thrilled with seeing all the references to old TV shows, songs and movies–ANNE MEARA in LEG WARMERS making like MILLIE SMALL and singing My Boy Lollipop…But then there is SIRI, saying AS IF…

  2. Gary R says:

    I was confused about the theme for a while, after REX HARRISON was the first themed answer I got. It seemed plausible that he was actually a friend of the Reagans (and I didn’t know their dog’s name, anyway), so I was looking for names of human friends. The light dawned with SPOT REMOVER, and then I saw the dog face in the grid. After that, the theme made the solve a lot easier (I knew all the other dogs’ names).

    Ms. Gorski was more on-target with her “ingredient” clue (105 A) than yesterday’s constructor – though I stuck with TOMATO sAucE for much too long.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    Actually liked the theme for the NY Times puzzle. Agree with Matt that there were some nice long fills but a lot of crosswordese (or just plain obscurities) on the shorts.

  4. ahimsa says:

    NYT: The theme was nice, the visual was great, and the BOW WOW at 73/75 Across was a nice extra touch. And, strangely, I even remembered a lot of the dog names. Millie “wrote” a book, as I recall.

    So, I liked it! But for some reason I ended up enjoying today’s LAT puzzle a lot more.

    LAT: The theme was cute and that title was perfect.

    I did not know CORDITE (thanks for the link Gareth – that song was also new to me) but got it from the crosses. Whereas RODAN was a gimme. :-)

  5. Joan Macon says:

    Ah, joon, I loved your Tom Swifty!

  6. CoffeeLover says:

    The Northeast corner of the Post Puzzler had me completely stumped. All I could think of was the commercial where someone yells Quattro as a presumably 4 wheel drive vehicle speeds by. But Audi did not fit. So instead of resorting to Google, I set the puzzle aside and clipped the Sunday paper coupon inserts, where I saw an ad for the Schick Quattro razor. Was that cheating? Thanks to all for blogging the puzzles.

    • janie says:

      >…I saw an ad for the Schick Quattro razor. Was that cheating?

      nupe. that sounds more like timely serendipity to me!


  7. CY Hollander says:

    Bottom left corner of the NYT nearly did me in. Didn’t know MILLIE SMALL, RAMA, ANGIE, or NEWELL, thought there was a White House pet named “Mittens”, had only the vaguest notion that ANNE MEARA was an actress, and didn’t even know MARL was a word. I guess I can’t quite call it unfair since I did eventually grind through it, but it sure was a killer.

    Mildly ironically, I still finished with a letter wrong by writing SERAPA instead of SERAPE, but I have only myself to blame for that bit of carelessness.

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