Sunday, August 31, 2014

NYT 11:59 (Amy) 
Reagle 9:12 (Amy) 
LAT 6:57 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook 14:11 (Gareth) 
WaPo 9:46 (Sam) 
CS 20:14 (Ade) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword, “Heard at the Movies”

NY Times crossword solution, 8 31 14 "Heard at the Movies"

NY Times crossword solution, 8 31 14 “Heard at the Movies”

Pun theme! Joel channels his inner Merl Reagle. 109a: BEST PICTURE WINNER is [What you get when you say 23-, 31-, 47-, 64-, 79- or 97-Across out loud]. The six titles are broken up, rebus-style. Not crossword rebus, multiple-letters-in-a-square, but traditional rebus, like representing “I love you” with an eye for an “I” and a ewe for a “you.” Only not representing individual words, but rather, breaking up the words and then stretching the pronunciations. Like so:

  • 23a. [Jewish bread/Played, as a violin/Throw (1950)], CHALLAH BOWED HEAVE. That’s All About Eve, but with some consonants added into the mix and an altered vowel sound for the “bout” portion.
  • 31a. [Toyota rival/Measure of power/Insult (1954)], HONDA WATT AFFRONT. On the Waterfront.
  • 47a. [Reside/Savage/Puzzle (out)/Wash (2013)], DWELL FIERCE SUSS LAVE. 12 Years a Slave.
  • 64a. [Hooligan/Strange/Silo contents (1972), THUG ODD FODDER. The Godfather.
  • 79a. [Wildlife protector/Difficult/Hotel door feature (1980)], WARDEN HAIRY PEEPHOLE. An extra W sound and two extra H’s in Ordinary People? Meh.
  • 97a. [“In what way?”/Like overcooked steak/Possess/European capital on a gulf (1985)] HOW TOUGH HAVE RIGA. Out of Africa. “Have Riga” does not really sound like “Africa.”

Your mileage may vary, but I wasn’t really getting a kick out of have riga—I mean, out of piecing together the theme entries. And despite a slower-than-usual solving time, I still hadn’t figured out what two of the movie titles were (not that I was paying much attention to the parenthetical years).

Top fill and clues:

  • 1a. [Halle Berry was once runner-up for this], MISS USA. Did I know this trivia?
  • 40a. [Peace in the Middle East], SALAAM. So elusive.
  • 86a. [Load bearer?], HAMPER. Good clue. Load of laundry.
  • 29d. [Fred Flintstone’s boss], MR. SLATE.
  • 40d. [Número of Mexican states that border the U.S.], SEIS. I confused myself by counting U.S. states that border Mexico. Colorful map here.
  • 66d. [Alecto, Megaera or Tisiphone], FURY. Know your classical Greek mythology! Maybe Alecto was a bit familiar, but the others weren’t. This may be in a trivia quiz some day and I ought to know it.
  • 112d. [Tip of the tongue?], -ESE. The back tip of many a language name.

This one makes me scowly at imperialism: 116a. [___ Islas Filipinas], LAS. That’s strictly a historical name. The official name is Republika ng Pilipinas (Republic of the Philippines in English). The country’s name in Spanish is República de Filipinas, but the Spanish got the boot in 1898. Someone once tried to convince me that Filipinos aren’t Asian, they’re Hispanic. Nope.

3.33 stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Lounge Singer of the Apes “

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 8 31 14 "Lounge Singer of the Apes"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 8 31 14 “Lounge Singer of the Apes”

Whimsical theme from Merl this week—song titles if they were uttered by Tarzan, whose ape family did not teach him the finer points of English grammar.

  • 23a, 59a. [With 39 Across, a 1957 hit — as sung by a famous swinger?], TARZAN SIT DOWN / WRITE SELF LETTER. “I … Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter”? Is that a song? To the Google! “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” from 1935? Fats Waller, covered by numerous others in the ’50s.
  • 29a. [A 1968 hit — as sung by a famous swinger?], DOCK OF BAY. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding.
  • 53a. [A 1970 hit — as sung by a famous swinger?], RAINDROP FALL ON HEAD. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
  • 66a. [A Beatles tune — as sung by a famous swinger?], FOOL ON HILL. “The Fool on the Hill.”
  • 69a. [A Cole Porter classic — as sung by a famous swinger?], ANYTHING GO. “Anything Goes.”
  • 76a. [A Supremes classic — as sung by a famous swinger?], TARZAN HEAR SYMPHONY. “I Hear a Symphony.”
  • 97a. [A 1969 rock anthem — as sung by a famous swinger?], GIVE PEACE CHANCE. John Lennon, “Give Peace a Chance.” Only the “a” is dropped here.
  • 106a, 112a. [With 112 Across, a 1972 hit — as sung by a famous swinger?], FIRST TIME / TARZAN SEE FACE. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

Not sure why the clues vary, with some giving the artist, some giving the year, one calling the song a “rock anthem.” But the theme answers were fun to work out.

Ten more things:

  • 1a. [Transmission disrupters], JAMMERS. Maybe a little tough for 1-Across? I wasn’t getting the drift of the clue for a while.
  • 25a. [Simple, humorous drawing (invented in the 1950s by Roger Price) that invites the viewer to guess what it is], DROODLE. Did not know this one.
  • 34a. [Fermented-milk drinks], KEFIRS. You can have mine.
  • 3d. [Card-carrying type: abbr.], MBR. Not such a common abbreviation.
  • 15d. [Scoreless tie], OTOO, or really, 0 TO 0 but with the zeroes working as the letter O in the crossings. Hmph. (This could have been Langston Hughes’ I TOO crossing major nail polish brand OPI—now available in drugstores and on Amazon, and not only in salons—and next to PERKY.)
  • 17d. [Of the sun, on the Somme], SOLAIRE. Similar enough to “solar” but I can’t say I’d ever seen the French word before.
  • 42d. [Poetry analysis], SCANSION. Scanning the line to pick up on its rhythm.
  • 50d. [Poster blurb, e.g.], AD LINE. Contrived entry?
  • 77d. [Equine hybrid], ZEBRASS. The what? Apparently the ZEBRASS, a zebra/donkey hybrid, has many other names, including zebonkey, zebronkey, and zebadonk.
  • 99d. [U.S. capital whose last two letters are its state], ALBANY. I managed to misread the clue and plunk in ALASKA off the first two letters, but Juneau and Alaska were not playing well together.

3.9 stars from me.

Josh Knapp’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 230″—Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 230 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 230 (solution)

I see what you did there, Josh Knapp. You made sure your monogram was all over this week’s 68/31 Post Puzzler! You lined up four Js, each hanging from a diagonal line of black squares, and then, in the symmetrically opposite position, you aligned four Ks. Very clever, that. Had I done the same trick no one would have noticed, but you’re cursed with scrabbly initials so the stunt leaps off the page (or the screen, as the case may be).

Sometimes gimmicks force compromises. But this time the gimmick doesn’t interfere with the puzzle’s fill; indeed, it arguably enhances it. Okay, sure, there’s the [Hydrocyl compound] ENOL, but otherwise you won’t find a strange word or an obscure proper noun in the grid.

Items of note:

  • I had not yet heard of CHARNEL, here used an adjective meaning [Deathlike]. My dictionary lists it first as a noun, short for “charnel house,” a vault for the storing of human skeletal remains. Cheery stuff, these crosswords.
  • On the other hand, [Cardinal number 25, once], baseball’s Mark McGWIRE, I know. I teach federal tax law, and just this week our class was pondering the federal income and gift tax implications of groundskeeper Tim Forneris catching McGwire’s famous 62nd home run ball from September of 1998 and handing it over to the (juiced?) slugger. I guess I’ve been at this teaching gig for a while now: I was teaching a class in Seattle at the moment that home run was hit!
  • Speaking of class, here’s your midterm exam: Does the clue for TWEE, [Too cute], need some reference to its being a chiefly British term? Discuss.
  • Among the nice clues in this puzzle are [Figure seen through the end of a gun barrel] for JAMES BOND and [Stand-up guy?] for JOKESTER. I also liked [Having little to declare?] for LACONIC.
  • Speaking of clues, I didn’t understand the one for BLEEDS, [Is eligible for the lead?]. But now that my dictionary reminds me that “lead” can also mean “a blank space between lines of print,” I think I understand. Text that bleeds over in printing should have a lead inserted to break it up. Well, that’s what I’m going with, anyway.
  • I like the creative clue for Sean CONNERY. Instead of taking the easy route and linking the clue with the aforementioned JAMES BOND in the grid, we get the more entertaining [Frequent contestant on the “Saturday Night Live” spoof of “Celebrity Jeopardy!”]. If you haven’t seen any of these, you should take a break and check this out.
  • Am I missing something if I’ve never had TAMARI, the [Wheat-free soy sauce]? I’ve never heard of it, but with a rave review or two I just might have to find some.

One more item of note before we sign off with the usual recap of favorites. In case you haven’t heard, the clock may be ticking on the Post Puzzler. Editor Peter Gordon tweeted the following message a couple of weeks ago: “Post Puzzler No. 260, on 3/29/15, will be the last one I edit for the Post.” If the Post decides not to find a successor, then, we have just 30 more Post Puzzlers to savor.

Regardless of whether the Post Puzzler continues, we owe a tremendous debt to Peter Gordon for his five years (52 puzzles × 5 years = 260 puzzles) at the helm of what has become, in my eyes at least, the premier outlet for freestyle crossword puzzles. The concept was brilliant: tough themeless puzzles from a steady rotation of some of the best names in the business. And the execution of that concept has been just as brilliant. I’m sure Peter will welcome the extra time that the end of this assignment will bring him. The man is busy, after all. But by the same token I know we will all miss his expert eye and careful stewardship of the Post Puzzler.

Favorite entry = AS WE SPEAK, clued as [Right this second]. Favorite clue = [Fox with a dark brown mane] for actress  MEGAN Fox. Yep, that clue was sly.

Patrick Jordan’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.31.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.31.14

It’s the last day in August…can you believe it?

Hello everybody, and I hope you all are doing well.  Mr. Patrick Jordan provides another Sunday offering for us, and it’s a fun one for everybody, IDOLATERS included (30A: [Second Commandment violators]). Last night, I saw a few old cartoons on Boomerang, the off-shoot cable channel of Cartoon Network, though I did not catch a QUICK DRAW MCGRAW episode during that time I was reliving my youth (53A: [Classic TV toon with a blue bandanna]).  Of all the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon characters, I might have to put Top Cat on the top of my list of favorites.  Always wanted to have his “hep cat” accent when I was growing up, as well as wanting to be nicknamed “T.C.”  Anyways, back to the grid.  The other 15-letter entry was a fun one as well, JACK OF ALL TRADES (20A: [He’s no specialist]). Probably my favorite entry of the day, along with the “master of none,” was HEADLINER (11D: Marquee topper]).  The bottom of the grid contained some HOMAGES to George Clooney (42D: [Works of tribute]), with OCEAN (47A: [Three-time Clooney role]) crossing SPACEWALK – referencing the movie he recently did with Sandra Bullock (33D: [Activity portrayed in 2013’s “Gravity”]).  Initially had IMPALE instead of IMPAIR, and that had me stuck right when I was about to finish the grid off (10D: [Do damage to]).   Also had GUTS instead of GALL, but was able to rectify that almost immediately after looking at the crossings (56D: [Chutzpah]). Other than those two hangups, relatively painless solve for me.  Now to see if I should head to the IHOP in Downtown Brooklyn for some breakfast (10A: [Breakfast alternative to Mickey D’s]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OREL (8D: [Tommy nicknamed him “Bulldog” during his Dodger days])– The “Tommy” being referenced is Tommy Lasorda, former longtime manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The “Orel” refers to former major league pitcher and current Los Angeles Dodgers television analyst Orel Hershiser, who almost singlehandedly led the Los Angeles Dodgers to the 1988 World Series championship, the last world title the storied franchise has won.  In that 1988 season, Hershiser set the Major League record for consecutive scoreless innings with 59, breaking the old record of 58 by former Dodger great Don Drysdale.  Hershiser won the Cy Young Award, the National League Championship series MVP and World Series MVP, leading Los Angeles to the championship that year.  Hershiser also won the 1995 American League Championship Series MVP as a member of the Cleveland Indians, making him the first person to win the LCS MVP in both leagues.

Another week of crosswords in the books!  Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Take care, hepcats!!


Pancho Harrison’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Say Cheese”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 8 31 14 "Say Cheese"

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 8 31 14 “Say Cheese”

Photography-related words can be found in other contexts, and here Pancho has redefined such phrases as if they also have something to do with the field. Slightly surprised that this theme isn’t coming from John Lampkin, as he’s a keen shutterbug. Each theme answer completes a sentence about a particular sort of photog:

  • 24a. [The old-time photographer preferred the __] NEGATIVE ASPECT. Not sure how “old-time” relates to NEGATIVE ASPECT. Film vs. digital cameras?
  • 31a. [The IndyCar photographer used __] ZOOM LENSES.
  • 52a. [The fashion photographer worried about __] MODEL BEHAVIOR.
  • 66a. [The dating service photographer was happy when __] EVERYTHING CLICKED. I don’t know of any dating services that employ photographers, but perhaps the expensive ones do. Online dating leaves it to the prospective dater to upload pix.
  • 84a. [The arctic photographer had to consider __] EXPOSURE TIMES. Brrr!
  • 104a. [The dessert photographer took a set of __] JELL-O SHOTS. I misread this as “desert photographer” and ruled out JELL-O at first.
  • 112a. [The stressed-out photographer __], FINALLY SNAPPED.

Cute theme, and I like the cluing angle.

Never heard of: 15a. Jack Jones’ record label], KAPP. CAPP would have been more familiar, but CAPUT is markedly less fun than the zippy KAPUT.

I’ve barely heard of: 91a. [Meat-filled pastry], RISSOLE. The dictionary suggests that it’s not so much pastry as breading on a blob of ground meat and spices. The Australians seem to skip the breading and just fry up their patties. Raise your hand if you tried RAVIOLI here.

Four more things:

  • 1a. [Thingamajig], DOODAD. Excellent 1-Across! Its DSM, -OLA, and OEN- crossings are unfortunate, though.
  • 67d. [Luis’ “Let’s go!”], VAMOS. At first, I had VAMOI, having not changed the I from RAVIOLI, and I wondered what weird conjugation this was.
  • 93d. [Old TV’s “knight without armor in a savage land”], PALADIN. I didn’t know anything about the character. His show was Have Gun—Will Travel, which, wow, its fans have a lot of time on their hands. The amount of detail in the Wikipedia article boggles the mind. Real care has been taken.
  • 43d. [AHL’s Iowa Wild, when they were in Houston], AEROS. So the minor league hockey team the Houston Aeros is no more? They have forsaken crossword clue writers? Come, then. Let us embrace the bubble-filled chocolate bars sold throughout the world but scarcely ever in the U.S.

There’s a touch more crosswordese-type stuff than I like to see—O IS, OSTEO-, and ESTES in one chunk (and OPTO- and OEN- filling out the “prefixes starting with O” category); INRI and IS IT I; E-MAG; ALAI, ALERO, ULAN, ERI, NEY, ASTA, British RASE …. Not that these slowed me down at all. They’re all familiar, if stale, crossword answers, and the cluing was pretty easy throughout the puzzle.

3.5 stars from me.

Henry Hook’s Crooked Crossword, “NO SKILL REQUIRED” – Gareth’s summary

Crooked Crossword 140831 "NO SKILL REQUIRED"

Crooked Crossword 140831

The theme is a quote: WE MUST BELIEVE IN / LUCK FOR HOW ELSE CAN WE / EXPLAIN THE SUCCESS OF / THOSE WEDON’T LIKE. I’ve heard it before, but still had to mostly piece it together from crosses. The author, JEANCOCTEAU, is in the middle. I confess I know that person only as a name.

Bullets (lots of ’em):

    • [Sci-fi author James], BLISH. Nice to seem him in a puzzle. I don’t think I’ve done so before. I inherited a collection of his books from an older brother.
    • [Noun-to-verb suffix], IFY. That’s a really ify answer!
    • [Antivirus software name], MCAFEE. We don’t see antivirus software in puzzles much. AVG is one of the biggest these days, but AVG is still typically [Mean (abbr.)]
    • [U.S./U.K. divider], ATL. I went with ENG first.
    • [Big mackerels], WAHOOS. Tough vocabulary!
    • [Scoffed], FLEERED. And some more!
    • [Crunchy sandwich], TACO. Stretching the definition of “sandwich”, although Americans seem to use it more loosely?
    • [Wild overindulgence], ORGY. Well then.
    • [Kreskin‘s claim], ESP. More interesting than most ESP clues.
    • [Re Lorelei’s locale], RHENISH. Very awkward clue, by necessity.
    • [NYC sports-radio station], WFAN. Hello crosses!
    • [Blitzer’s employer], CNN. Wolf.
    • [Stage statuary], TONYS. Beaut of a clue that one!
    • [On the blue side], RACY. With an ‘e’, it’s a cheesy 70s UK pop group that didn’t really catch on state-side.
    • [Image in a Warhol masterwork], CAMPBELLSSOUP. Evocative looong down that!
    • [Abe of Connecticut politics], RIBICOFF. US politics means go fish for crossers for me! Of course this is somewhat local to the Boston Globe catchment area.
    • uniball[Pen and pencil brand], UNIBALL. Only rings a vague bell. I needed crosses again!
    • [Tie up the phone], GAB. Obsolescent clue given most family members have their own phones these days!
    • [Songwriter __ Herb Brown], NACIO. Didn’t know this name. Barely believed in its existence!
    • [Spiral (prefix)], HELIC. Another terrible word part!
    • [Katic of “Castle”], STANA. Another strange name I didn’t know!
    • [Sacrifice of a sort], BURNTOFFERING. Pairs with CAMPBELLSSOUP, also a very good long answer!
    • [“Queer as Folk” portrayals], GAYMEN. Nice, surprising-to-see answer!
    • [Horn-shaped part], CORNU. I presume this will be tough for many. Used a lot in anatomy so not hard for me though.
    • [Domination], HEGEMONY. Fun vocab!

I’m out! Phew!

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21 Responses to Sunday, August 31, 2014

  1. Gary R says:

    Wanted to like the theme in the NYT. Picked it up at 31-A and thought it had potential, but in the end, it just didn’t work very well. 31-A was decent and 64-A and 79-A were pretty good, but the other three were just too much of a stretch for my ear.

    Took me an especially long time to get 23-A because I really wanted 1-D to be BEDLAM.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    The Post Puzzler was great through the middle, but I had trouble in both the NW and SE, not knowing Megan Fox in the latter and having CHE GUEVARA in the former but not much else as MCGWIRE escaped me. Also, I couldn’t see LACONIC rather than Lacking, and never heard of CHAI TEA for a latte! I should have gone back to bed and attacked it later — it really was a masterpiece! Hoping for as super a replacement editor next year!!!

  3. Jeffrey K says:

    For some reason, I think Josh’s JK theme in the Post Puzzler is brilliant!

  4. Linda says:

    “If it bleeds, it leads” is journalism talk for how stories are positioned in the news. The gory stuff draws readers/viewers.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Perhaps wearing my contrarian hat, I thought Joel’s sound puns were really funny precisely *because* they are so stretched and far-fetched. I didn’t have any trouble getting the movies.

    • David L says:

      There must be something about the way we perceive sound that makes puns like these work for some people and not others. I struggled to make sense of most of them, and the last one I couldn’t figure out at all. I kept saying HOW TOUGH HAVE RIGA over and over to myself and couldn’t make it sound like anything familiar. In large part, I think, because the stress is in the wrong place. We don’t say “Out OF Af-REE-ca.”

      And it would have been better to clue BOWED as ‘curtseyed,’ so it rhymes with loud, rather than as something to do with violin-playing, making it rhyme with ‘owed,’ to my ear.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes I’m with you on this. The tortured nature of the puns seems like part of the joke.

  6. CY Hollander says:

    Re “an altered vowel sound for the ‘bout’ portion” of ‘about’, that depends on where you’re from. As a Canadian (from Anglophone Montreal, specifically), my native pronunciation of “about” has pretty much the same vowel sound as “bowed [a violin]” (though these days I’m probably more likely to pronounce it the American way). Here’s a Wikipedia article about it, to prove it’s not just me.

  7. Erik says:

    I don’t get the “Pair of socks?” clue. What does “ONE TWO” have to do with socks in particular? Why isn’t it just any old pair?

  8. Avg Solvr says:

    Post Puzzler is, hands down, my favorite puzzle of the week. My thanks to Peter Gordon and his constructors. I really hope it continues and on the same high level.

    • Evan says:

      Josh won a themeless puzzle contest to get this one published — I believe that’s the second time in a row that he’s won it. The system works great, too: Peter might get 15-30 submissions each time this contest comes around, and he picks the best one without knowing who submitted it.

  9. golfballman says:

    I pay for them so I’ll do them but todays HH puzzle was to my way of thinking a piece of ? Too much obscure stuff like breasted, burble (gurgle yes), swaggerer=bucko? I normally appreciate HH’s puzzles but todays was a drag.

  10. ArtLvr says:

    I liked the HH puzzle because I’d met Jean Cocteau, invited to his Paris apartment by an old friend of his! However, it turned out that Cocteau wasn’t feeling well, having a bad cold with a huge scarf wrapped around his throat, so we didn’t stay long…

    • Bencoe says:

      Impressive regardless in my opinion. I loved his La Belle et le Bête. And his grandfather’s novels I enjoyed as well.

      • ArtLvr says:

        Yes, I googled Cocteau in wikipedia and his lifetime accomplishments were awesome… I was newly arrived in Paris and my French wasn’t up to much then, so it’s just as well it was a short visit at the time!

  11. EB says:

    Hi all,

    Ok. Usually I can use the interwebs to figure out answers that don’t make sense to me. Finished Merl and typed in “place to swim or play b-ball crossword” and was given “they”, but for the life of me, still can’t figure out what it means. First time thru, I thought that it would be YMCA. Then Shed. Type “they” into Search and there’s the horror movie. And the pronoun.

    I’m expecting to slap my forehead when it’s explained to me…

    Thanks in advance


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