Friday, September 5, 2014

NYT 4:47 (Amy) 
LAT 7:41 (Gareth) 
CS 12:46 (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 5 14, no. 0905

NY Times crossword solution, 9 5 14, no. 0905

So I gather the motivation behind this puzzle was the discovery of a word that’s visually a palindrome when rendered in Morse code. That word is 20d: WAITING, [On hold … or what the seven rows of black squares in this puzzle’s grid spell in Morse code]. I gather that W is dot-dash-dash and G is dash-dash-dot. A is dot-dash while N is dash-dot. Each I is a dot, and the central T is a dash. No black square appears in the grid other than those that are part of the Morse code spelling out WAITING. Eight rows have no black squares, hence they feature 15-letter entries (among which a grim REEDUCATION CAMP, a RACE TO THE BOTTOM, and NICKEL-AND-DIMING are particularly crisp, while STEMLESS GLASSES is graceless).

“If you solve only one code-based crossword this week, make it Patrick Blindauer’s AV Club crossword, ‘Bi-Curious.’” Patrick’s puzzle on Wednesday was a byzantine creation that took me at least 10 times longer than the typical AVX offering. I rated that puzzle 5 stars, though others found it utterly joyless. If you’re curious, you can buy the puzzle for a buck, or just read our Wednesday Crossword Fiend post and save the time and the dollar.

Back to the Krozel puzzle—nine more things:

  • 18a. [1957 Patrick White novel adapted into a 1986 opera], VOSS? You don’t say.
  • 7d. [Word that is its own synonym when spelled backward], PAT.
  • 12d. [Fall mos.], OCTS. Awkward plural month abbreviation.
  • 15d. [Dash letters], RPM. Duplication foul! The grid contains seven dashes.
  • 21d. [Pasta ___ (Italian dish, informally)], FAZOOL.
  • 24d. [Some backwoods folks], HILLBILLIES. Derogatory term that many take offense to.
  • 29d. [One coming out of its shell?], CICADA. Yes! We’ve had some noisy buggers in the trees in the last week or two. It doesn’t seem to be a big brood this year.
  • 43d. [Televised fights?], AD WARS. Can anyone give me an example of an ad war? Is this about political advertising?
  • 52d. [“War and Peace” has a lot of them: Abbr.], PGS. Publishing types will tell you that the abbreviation for “page” is p, plural pp. No pg or pgs.

3.5 stars from me. Good night, all!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140905

LA Times 140905

I cottoned to the “add a j” theme pretty quickly. The answers themselves were functional, without being wildly hilarious. What elevates this puzzle is the revealer: POPINJAYS, very nice as an answer and a sublime re-parsing! Three words – “pop in jays”. The middle answer, MAIDENJAUNT, seems to change the vowel sound, which would be a minor demerit. I pronounce aunt “aah-nt” and JAUNT “jaw-nt”. But Americans pronounce everything strangely so who knows! In full, the the theme is:

  • [Exceptional practical joke?], GREATJAPE
  • [What bearded men get in blizzards?], SNOWYJOWLS
  • [Short hike for a beginner?], MAIDENJAUNT
  • [Jack’s friend resting on the hill?], JILLATEASE

An interesting grid design choice are the 2×1 “cheaters” in the top-left and bottom-right corners. A central 11 always creates design challenges. The more conventional arrangement I guess would be to put those “cheaters” in the 4th and 12th columns. You’d get a more normal 38/78, but with 6 more 3’s. This more challenging arrangement is well-negotiated – the stacked 8’s are solid and the crossers are clean. Sorted!

imagesThe bottom-left corner has the most zing. I didn’t know there was a WIIMINI, but it’s a great-looking fresh answer! [Place in Monopoly’s orange monopoly], STJAMES was also tough because I’ve only played South African monopoly and the Orange streets are President Brand, Voortrekker and Hofmeyr Square (the new South African monopoly differs). MILLINER is elevated by a lovely, concise clue: [Top designer?]. Also in that corner was [1975 Pure Prairie League hit], AMIE, which I only recently heard playing the addictive SongPop (username garethrb if you’d like to challenge me); I noted it as a potential later-week clue for an otherwise somewhat limited answer clue-wise, and here we are!

Last note, with the JE in place, [Pope Francis, e.g.] seemed to want to be JEWISH and not JESUIT!

4 Stars

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Inner Self”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.05.14: "Inner Self"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.05.14: “Inner Self”

Hello there, and welcome to the end of the week!

Today’s puzzle, a fun one brought to us by Mr. Raymond Hamel, deals with people that have pronounced egos…well, only in the way their names are spelled. Each of the four theme answers are famous people who have the word “ego” hidden in between their first and last names. I definitely was fascinated by the execution, as well as roster of people used in the grid.

  • EVONNE GOOLAGONG: ([17A: Winner of four Australian Opens]) – How awesome is seeing her vowel-y name in the grid?
  • JANE GOODALL: ([27A: Scientist whose son was nicknamed Grub])
  • GEORGE GOBEL: ([47A: Comic married to “spooky old Alice”])
  • PAULETTE GODDARD: ([61A: Oscar nominee for the 1943 movie “So Proudly We Hail!”])

As I said, this was a very NIFTY puzzle indeed, mostly because of the theme answers (29D: [Slick]).  For the foodies out there (myself included), nice to see both BRIE (16A: [Soft French cheese]) and WAGYU in the grid (20A: [High-priced beef]).  Surprisingly enough, off all the beef that I’ve consumed in my lifetime, I’ve never had any Kobe beef before.  Might have to head to a Japanese eatery soon. Oh, there’s also SWEET, in terms of the food count (51A: [Kind of corn]).  OK, now I need to have lunch…and soon.  Other real fun entries included STONE AGE (8D: [Fred and Wilma’s era]) and GEEGAW (48D: [Knickknack (var.)]).  Geegaw was tough to parse because I had no idea that “gewgaw” had an alternate spelling.  Still, it’s a fun sight to see in the grid, once you got it in there.   Wasn’t there at time earlier on this century (about 7-8 years ago) when a whole lot of younger people, especially young women, were buying JETTAs (27A: [Volkswagen model])?  Hmm, no…that was the Beetle, I think.  But I do remember seeing whole lot more Volkswagens pop up during my college years and slightly after that.  I remember VW had a pretty good marketing/advertising campaign back a few years back as well, so that didn’t hurt. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PEORIA (44A: [City connected with the question “Will it play there?”]) – Many people know about the existence of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – the women’s baseball organization started during World War II – because of the 1992 hit movie A League of Their Own which was based on one of the actual teams in that league, the Rockford Peaches. Another team based in Illinois that played in the league were the PEORIA Redwings, who joined the league in 1946, three years after the league was founded. Here’s a picture of the 1946 Redwings, managed by former Major League Baseball infielder Bill Rodgers…


Have a good weekend, everybody! See you on Saturday  BYE now (5D: [“Catch ya later!”])!

Take care!


George Barany and Martin Herbach’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Ring of Truth” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 9/5/14 • "The Ring of Truth" • Barany, Herbach • solution

CHE • 9/5/14 • “The Ring of Truth” • Barany, Herbach • solution

Confession: I solved this one on Tuesday and am only writing about it today. However, this protracted timescale happens to be sympathetic to the theme, Wagner’s notoriously lengthy series of four full-length operas known collectively as the Ring Cycle (12 letters) and Der Ring des Nibelungen (20). Based on the ancient Germanic mythos, the Nibelungen, also known as the Nibelungensaga, und so weiter. Probably the most common name is Das Nibelungenleid (3+14).

Anyway, the theme in execution is a bit of a smörgåsbord:

  • 17a. [One of the lead characters in 24 Across and 60 Across] BRÜNHILDE.
  • 24a. [1876 opera that typically lasts five hours or longer] GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (aka “Twilight of the Gods”).
  • 60a. [1870 opera famously excerpted in “Apocalypse Now”] DIE WALKÜRE (aka The Valkyries).
  • 37a/47a. [ … sports chestnut that evokes 17 Across] IT AIN’T OVER UNTIL | THE FAT LADY SINGS. The stereotypical hefty, helmeted soprano. My guideline for this idiom is, ain’t and til or isn’t and until, never shall the twain meet.

So, the titles of two of the four operas—the others are Das Rheingold (12) and Siegfried (same letter count as 17a)—a character from the saga, and a tangentially related phrase, broken over two 15-letter spanning entries. Plus these: 46d [Wagnerian royal who drinks a love potion] ISOLDE (from Tristan und Isolde), 28a [Rhine whine?] ACH, 34a [As loud as possible, when scoring] FFF, 11d [Accusatory Verdi aria] ERI TU.

After seeing 56a BABALU [Ricky Ricardo’s theme song] I was fervently hoping to find a mash-up of Cuban jazz and Wagnerian opera, but the closest I could get was this: Italian opera + Egyptian folk. I bet WWII was just like that.

Other motifs (from my Tuesday notes):

  • Never heard of 55d [Underworld, in the Hebrew Bible] SHEOL. It’s my understanding that there isn’t a precise analogue of Hell in Judaism, so this I guess is just your generic place o’ the dead.
  • Don’t understand 36d [Progressive voice?] FLO. Like ‘flow’, but a name, not a voice? Oh wait, that’s the name of the spokesperson on the commercials for the insurance agency. Got it.
  • Trickiest clue: 9d [Rolls, perhaps] DREAM CAR.
  • Bad clue? 68a [Stand for a sitting] EASEL. What kind of sitting is this? Sitting of a business meeting, sitting of a funeral?
  • 47d [Little League precursor] T-BALL; 39d [Anchor milieu] TV STUDIO; 1d [Top dog] MR BIG. That they’re all downs strengthens the structural connection.

As alluded earlier, I found the theme to be more than a bit here and there, though not outright helter-skelter, and rather unsatisfying, despite the wonderfulness of having GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG as a spanning entry. But you know what truly soured me on the puzzle? 43a [Tetra- doubled] OCTO-. Why would they do that? Why would they switch the vowels like that? Syntactically, the base prefix for both numbers are the a versions with the o variant a derived form thereof, but tetro (notwithstanding the Coppola film) exists, for example in tetroxide.

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking a Shot” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/5/14 • "Fri • "Take a Shot" • Jones • solution

WSJ • 9/5/14 • “Fri • “Take a Shot” • Jones • solution

I’m not the queasy type—I was biology major, after all—but I did find this theme a bit upsetting.

65d [Shooter of the shot in this puzzle’s theme] BB GUN.

In accordance, the theme entries take common phrases and alter them by inserting a double-B:

  • 22a. [Foot of a ninja duck?] WEBBED KILLER (weed). Perhaps if this wasn’t the first themer, the “foot of a” could have been discarded.
  • 32a. [Person who plagiarizes from his fellow villagers?] TOWN CRIBBER (crier).
  • 52a. [Age when seniors never shut up?] THE GABBY NINETIES (Gay).
  • 66a. [Aftermath of an earthquake in El Dorado?] THE GOLDEN RUBBLE (Rule).
  • 85a. [Winner of the hors d’oeuvres cook-off?] QUEEN OF THE NIBBLE (Nile).
  • 98a. [Walking stick that Elmer Fudd takes while hunting?] WABBIT STAFF (wait). Doesn’t make much sense if you think about it, but it conveys the gist enough for intuition to take over.
  • 117a. [The Blob?] GRABBY MATTER (gray).

So sure, it seems like a standard-issue letter-insertion theme, what could be so upsetting about that? Well, if you’ve ever seen the results of sadistic kids and grownups who take potshots at wild animals and pets with their weapons, you know how horrific embedded BBs can be, especially in an animal’s face. So yes, I have a bit of an associative attitude problem here.

  • 7a/33d [Set of principles] ETHIC / CREED.
  • 79a [Containing 111-Down] FERROUS, 111d [See 79-Across] IRON. 40a [Conversation starter] HELLO, 9d [40-Across, south of the border] HOLA.
  • 42a [Company with a talking baby in its ads] ETRADE; 120a [Amazon and the like]E-TAILERS. Hmm.
  • 121a [Veronica of “Hill Street Blues”] HAMEL. I guess crossword constructor Ray HAMEL isn’t known to enough casual solvers.
  • 81d [Barbershop band] STROP. Misread it as ‘brand’ and was so excited, preparing to enter BARBICIDE® into the grid. Kids: Barbicide® is not a substitute for Blue Curacao; don’t use it in your cocktails).

I also learned that BB is not derived from “ball bearing”. I’d kind of assumed that they were originally ball bearings repurposed as projectiles, but it turns out that BB is an actual size designation, as per Wikipedia. Either way, the name took hold.

Average puzzle, I guess, but as I said there’s an issue for me with it.

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17 Responses to Friday, September 5, 2014

  1. Gary R says:

    Amy, I think the Apple ads that ran a few years back, featuring a “cool” Mac person and a “nerdy” PC guy along with the ads Microsoft ran in response were considered an “ad war.”

    I imagine it could apply to dueling political campaign ads, too.

  2. sbmanion says:

    I enjoyed solving the puzzle. I got NICKEL AND DIMING immediately and solved it middle, up, down, somewhat unusual for a triple stack puzzle,

    LEAVES TO DIE is new to me. It does not sound “in the language” to my ear.

    I think the puzzle would have been a great one without a revealer clue. WAITING could have been clued in any normal way, perhaps with an illusion to Beckett’s comic masterpiece. Then, for the puzzle within a puzzle fans, a la Matt Gaffney. have a statement to the effect that there is something in the puzzle that reveals one of the answers.


    • Martin says:

      “Leaves/left to die” is familiar enough to me but pretty icky. It makes you wish the breakfast test wasn’t a myth.

      • Papa John says:

        I see you had a hand in the CHE puzzle for today. Good on you!

        I’m eager for pannonica’s review…

        • Martin says:

          Thanks. George Barany did all the heavy lifting. He was very generous to credit my assistance. It’s fun working with George. His exuberance is contagious.

          • Nancy Schuster says:

            I was surprised and delighted to see your name, Martin! And I loved the puzzle! Good for you, George!

          • Anyone who knows and has interacted with Martin Herbach realizes that he is one of the unsung treasures of the crossworld. And thankfully, we were able to finish the puzzle even with the “Liebestod” unsung.

            Due to space limitations, Brad Wilber (who was wonderful to work with) could not use Martin’s original clue for ISOLDE, to wit “Role that Birgit Nilsson said needed, above all, comfortable shoes.” I find it fascinating that ISOLDE appears as well in today’s masterful New York Times puzzle by Joe Krozel.

          • Papa John says:

            George – While I agree with your sentiments regarding Martin, I’d dispute that his value to the crossword world is “unsung”. He’s often thanked, attributed and recognized for his erudite, entertaining and spot-on contributions.

            So, once more, thanks, Martin.

      • john farmer says:

        I imagine a traffic sign at the end of the road: left to die, right to live.

        I haven’t gotten around to the CHE yet, but I look forward to it. Congrats to Martin, and to George.

        Congrats to Joe too for a superb NYT.

  3. Brucenm says:

    Does it sound more idiomatic to you in the past tense — (He left him to die) ?

  4. Avg Solvr says:

    Thought the NYT was impressive with all the well-filled stacks.

  5. Linda says:

    The easel props up the canvas so that the artist can paint on it. The person who is being painted has a sitting for it.

  6. Zulema says:

    Delighted with George and Martin’s CHE puzzle and with Joe’s too. Lovely to hear from Martin in such a way. But SHEOL? Are we expected to know that?

Comments are closed.