Sunday, September 7, 2014

NYT 14:47* (Amy) 
LAT 7:40 (Amy) 
Reagle 5:59 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 15:56 (Sam) 
CS 31:19 (Ade) 

Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “All-Encompassing”

NY Times crossword solution, 99 7 14 "All Encompassing"

NY Times crossword solution, 99 7 14 “All Encompassing”

The compass points are the theme here. The central chunk of black squares points to N, E, S, and W in the appropriate spots (unchecked letters until you see the compass angle). The eight cardinal and intermediate points in a circle feature rebus squares that contain WE going Across and NS going DOWN. I just filled in NEWS in each rebus square before circling it (haven’t looked to see how the official solution represents those squares—a picture of a compass would be nice!). Here are the rebus entries:

  • 17a. [“No lie!”], I S{WE}AR / 8d. [Big name in auto racing], U{NS}ER.
  • 30a. [Nasty storm, e.g.], FOUL {WE}ATHER / 3d. [Kicks everyone out, say], CLEA{NS} HOUSE.
  • 33a. [Film director who said “I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time”], ORSON {WE}LLES / 13d. [Cousin of a zucchini], ACOR{N S}QUASH. The first of three where the directional pair is split across words.
  • 63a. [Fan of pop’s One Direction, maybe], T{WE}EN / 50d. [Karate instructor], SE{NS}EI.
  • 64a. [Veered off course], YA{WE}D / 57d. [Stretching muscle], TE{NS}OR. This one’s the boring pair.
  • 98a. [Southern farm concern], BOLL {WE}EVILS / 66d. [Dodo’s lack], COMMO{N S}ENSE. The latter clue is incorrect. Dodo in George Eliot’s Middlemarch is chock-full of common sense.
  • 100a. [“No need to worry”], DON’T S{WE}AT IT  / 73d. [1960s sci-fi series], LOST I{N S}PACE. Great pair here.
  • 115a. [Marketing news magazine], AD{WE}EK / 105d. [Noted Dadaist], ER{NS}T.

I love the theme’s visual aspect—it puts me in mind of Kevin Der’s Chinese zodiac puzzle (with Jessica Hui) and his lunar eclipse puzzle, both of which had some circular action.

The asterisk in my solving time is there because I was falling asleep while solving. This is no knock on the puzzle—I just need a nap! So I don’t feel qualified to talk about the rest of the fill and cluing. I think I liked it just fine but I was so dozy.

4.25 stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?

Doug Peterson’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.07.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.07.14

Good morning everyone! Hope your Sunday is starting off in fine fashion.

Today’s Sunday Challenge was brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, and it was a fun way to start the morning for sure. For this puzzle, I thought to look around the grid first and see which long answer I could fill first, and, (not) surprisingly enough, my first entry in the grid I put in was HART TO HART (28D: [Bygone TV series about a pair of jet-setting, crime-solving spouses]). Can’t tell you how many times I watched it, and I’m now wondering why I was watching that instead of other shows that better catered to children. Oh, well. With that answer inputted, I started to attack the southwest part of the grid, where O’HARAS was a gimme for one of the crossings to Hart to Hart (49A: [“Gone With The Wind” clan]). The other long down in that area, SHOPAHOLIC, didn’t take too long to get after chopping away at the shorter entries in the area (27D: [Amazon addict, perhaps]). The southeast was next, and loved the relationship that you could possibly make between the two answers stacked on top of each other in that area, COPY EDITOR (60A: [Worker in a correctional system?]) and STRESS MARK (62A: [Pronunciation aid]). I have seen a HORSESHOE MAGNET about a billion times, but, funny enough, have probably only heard that term only a couple of times ever (34A: [Attractive element in kids’ science experiments]). I’m thinking of the experiments I’ve done with magnets, and I don’t think I ever held/possessed a horseshoe magnet. I know I used bar magnets in few experiments, but not a horseshoe one. Ok, back to the grid. I totally was sailing along quite comfortably until I brain-lapsed on HBO LATINO (29A: [Premium channel for Spanish-speaking audiences]). Had put in two different plausible answers of the same length, Univision and Telemundo, and the Telemundo answer really put me in a bind me, since the “O” gave me NOD TO just fine (26D: [Tacitly acknowledge]). Took about almost seven minutes to untangle that mess there, and my insistence of putting in OCCASIONAL, even though Telemundo wouldn’t make that entry work, was what bailed me out (12D: [Sporadic]). Outside of that horror show on my end in that corner, I loved the grid, and a shout out to CELLOPHANE, as my family has about four full rolls of cellophane in my house that they’ve kept in the closet and haven’t used in about 12 years (15A: [CD packaging material]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: POPEYE (44D: [Early Robin Williams role])– Former professional basketball player Ronald “Popeye” Jones played in the NBA from 1993 through 2004, with his most successful seasons coming while a member of the Dallas Mavericks (1993-1996). Popeye attended Murray State University, and during the 1990-91 season, he led the nation in rebounding. His mom gave him the nickname “Popeye” after they got home from the hospital not too long after his birth and subsequently coming across the cartoon show Popeye on television. His son, Seth Jones, currently plays in the National Hockey League as a defenseman for the Nashville Predators.

Thank you so much for another week of crossword yakety-yak on the Internet! See you on Monday!

Take care!


Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 231”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 231 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 231 (solution)

Ever have one of those workouts at the gym that you didn’t think would be all that hard but you found yourself sucking air all too soon? That was my solving experience for this week’s Post Puzzler, a 70/29 offering from crossword hall-o’-famer Frank Longo. Looking at the grid, this should not have been as rough on me as it was. Maybe with the new school year my faculties are being pulled in too many directions. Case in point: I didn’t realize until proofing this just now that some of you will think I used “faculties” in that last sentence as a pun. One thing’s for sure, I’m overdue for my morning coffee!

That stack in the northwest is lovely to look at, though I must confess I’m not a fan of CLOSE QUOTE, the [Citation termination]. My first speech teacher in high school had a pet peeve about the use of “quote” as shorthand for “quotation.” “QUOTE IS A VERB!,” she would say in the vocal equivalent of all caps, “QUOTATION IS A NOUN. YOU DON’T QUOTE A QUOTE, YOU QUOTE A QUOTATION!” By osmosis, apparently, the peeve has become mine too. I’m not enough of a fuddy-duddy yet to say this ruined the whole puzzle, as I hear the expression all the time on the news and in formal presentations. But like cauliflower, you can’t make me like it.

I really liked the stack in the southeast, featuring three winners piled atop each other. But solving it was something else. You look at words like SHOP and TIDY and you think they’re pretty straightforward. But then you have clues like [Score steals, maybe] for the former (“score steals” as in “grab some bargains”) and [Give an order] for the latter. And then you have the innocuous [Here] as your clue for IN THIS CASE and [Forward, say] for REMAIL. Yikes! This corner was not for the faint of heart.

Other items that merit mention:

  • I kept trying to make TEXAS TECH fit for the [Lubbock-based Big 12 team], and promptly felt like a moron when I eventually discovered the answer was RED RAIDERS.
  • [Cutting an sewing places, briefly] is a nice clue for ORS, operating rooms. I also liked [Source of bagging rights?] for GAME LAW.
  • Wanna know why I will never be a champion speed solver, or even a speed solver? Because I tend to read one-word clues in a certain way and never think to read them a second or third way until I’ve exhausted every possibility with my original interpretation. Take [Declining], for example. My first thought is to look for a verb that means “going down” or “abating.” I get the -ING part in place and realize the phrase ends with -ING UP. But USING UP doesn’t fit, and I can’t think of other phrases that would do the trick. Only after I had too many crossings in place do I see the answer is PASSING UP. Nerts! “Declining” this meant “turning down” or “saying no.” You should have seen my fist shake in the air.
  • DAMASK, the [Sweet-scented pink rose], was hard for me, as the crossings of MODENA, [Ferrari’s birthplace], and KIRA Koarin from the Nickelodeon sitcom “The Thundermans” were also unknowns. Another rough section there.
  • You would think with two boys in my house that I would know [Dart Tag blasters, e.g.], those being NERF GUNS. But I spend most of my time ducking from the ammo to pay much attention to the names of the weapons employed.
  • Has LESSER instead of VASSAL for [Subordinate] and SAX instead of SAW as the [Cord-making aid]. I defend the latter choice because the crossing [Common stage direction, once] just couldn’t be as simple as WEST. It just couldn’t be. So of course it was.

Favorite entry = HAPPY PILLS, even though [They may keep folks up]. Favorite clue = [Play featuring a road-rage murder] for OEDIPUS REX.

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

CRooked • 9/7/14 • "Bondage" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 9/7/14 • “Bondage” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

That’s “Bondage, James Bondage.” We get the full roster of actors who’ve portrayed the iconic character on the big screen. Great observation on the part of the constructors that the names can be sorted into pairs of equal letter length.

  • 29a. [First of seven (so far)] SEAN CONNERY.
  • 35a. [The superspy twice] TIMOTHY DALTON.
  • 49a. [007 × 7] ROGER MOORE. Not long ago I was surprised to learn that that is actually his birth name and not a wry pun suggesting sexual prowess (or frequency, anyway).
  • 61a. [1969 man in the role] GEORGE LAZENBY. Many consider On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to be the best in the series, at least as far as story.
  • 78a. [1967 portrayer in a spoof] DAVID NIVEN. Factette: For many years Burt Bacharach’s soundtrack to Casino Royale was prized by audiophiles as a record with which to test the meddle of their hi-fi sound systems.
  • 89a. [The hero on film four times] PIERCE BROSNAN.
  • 95a. [The latest one (so far)] DANIEL CRAIG.

I mistakenly remembered Lotte Lenya’s character’s name as OLGA Krebb, not Rosa Klebb. Oops.

Some good decisions here. Starting the list with Connery, and fortunately being able to conclude it with Craig (with an echoing clue). Putting singleton Lazenby unpaired in the center even though there was a choice from the trio of him, Moore, and Niven—though Niven would have been a good choice as well, perhaps even better, as that production was not from the Saltzman/Broccoli production team.

Additional theme entries:

  • 27a. [Undercover agent] OPERATIVE. Not necessarily undercover, but it makes some sense to present it that way in context. Although let’s face it—James Bond is probably the most conspicuous undercover agent in history. He drives flashy cars; all his enemies know his favorite cocktail, the color of his underwear, and how many My Little Ponies he has displayed in his vitrine at home.
  • 99a. [Secretive business] ESPIONAGE. From the same etymological root as spy, but let’s not quibble overmuch.

Dossier Items:

  • 14a [“Fiddlesticks!”] PSHAW; 103d [Archaic outcry] EGAD. Also, Probert Pshaw played the heavy in From Russia With Love.
  • 52a [Pet-friendly org.] SPCA. But yes, my instinct was to try PETA first.
  • 56a [Some non-adults] TEENERS. I’ve heard of teens and teenagers, tweens and tweeners, but not TEENERS.
  • 26a [Musical Mann] AIMEE. Could only think of jazz flutist HERBIE. Don’t make me show you that infamous album cover.
  • 41d [Oscar winner Sophia] LOREN, 51d [Sophie in a film] MERYL (Zawistowski/Streep).
  • 86d [Apprentice] TRAINEE, 75d [Exes] DIVORCÉES. Nifty that the latter is the symmetrical complement of 13d [TV honeymooner] ART CARNEY.
  • Good vocabulary words: 6d [Mild quality] LENITY, 58a [Punish by fine] AMERCE, 82a [Graceful girls] PERIS.
  • 50d [“Scarlet Pimpernel” author Emma] ORCZY. I’ve always heard her referred to as ‘Baroness’ and did not know her given name.
  • Seemed like a lot of partials while solving, but I’m disinclined to review and enumerate them.

Smashing, SMERSHing puzzle.

Julian Lim’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “I Owe You One”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 9 7 14 "I Owe You One"

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 9 7 14 “I Owe You One”

Fairly smooth puzzle with some zip to the theme. Take a familiar phrase, add the “ee-oh” sound represented by IO, adjust the spelling as needed to make a real -io word, and clue the resulting gofy phrase:

  • 23a. [Outdoor dining area with no chairs?], STANDING PATIO.
  • 32a. [Become adept at aerobic exercise?], MASTER CARDIO.
  • 55a. [Spanish neighborhood known for its kisses?], CHOCOLATE BARRIO. The first of the theme answers where it’s not just word  + IO (bar + IO isn’t a word but BARRIO is).
  • 80a. [Contest to win an objet d’art?], RACE FOR THE CURIO.
  • 101a. [Brit’s New York signoff?], BRONX CHEERIO.
  • 112a. [TV station mascot?], STUDIO CHICKEN. Bigger spelling change—stewed to STUDIO.
  • 16d. [Contact a provisions room on a shortwave?], RADIO THE PANTRY.
  • 50d. [Buyer of “Gangsta’s Paradise”?], COOLIO CUSTOMER.

What elevates this theme is that the original phrases mostly have real flavor to them. Standing pat, MasterCard, chocolate bar, Race for the Cure, Bronx cheer, raid the pantry, and cool customer are all lively language; stewed chicken, not so much. And I liked the flair of most of the theme answers, too.

Seven more things:

  • 34d. [Comprehensive command], SAVE ALL. I don’t use the sort of software that has a “save all” command, I don’t think.
  • 54d. [Sandwich ingredient for many?], SILENT D. The N and W can also go away, as in “sammich.”
  • 2d. [Last syllable], ULTIMA. ULTIMO is also a word, an old term for “of last month.” If you aren’t sure which vowel comes at the end, you’d better know your 37a. [Boxer with titles in eight different weight classes], Manny PACQUIAO.
  • Party time! 43a. [Kept the dance floor busy, briefly] clues DJED and 75d. [Party leaders] are MCS. Did you know that Idris Elba DJs in Ibiza?
  • 57d. [Adidas founder Dassler], ADOLF. Adi for short (hence Adi Das…), because who wants to go by ADOLF? (Do not see also: 86a. [Ancient Indo-European], ARYAN.)
  • In the entertaining CA*OO*** category, we have 13d. [Do some necking], CANOODLE and 83a. [Colluding], IN CAHOOTS. No kit and CABOODLE this time.
  • 87a. [Canadian french fries dish], POUTINE. This is busting out in the U.S. now too. Do your local restaurants serve poutine? I haven’t tried Wrigleyville’s Big Cheese Poutinerie yet but it’s on my to-do list.

Four stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Take a Break”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 9 7 14 "Take a Break"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 9 7 14 “Take a Break”

The puzzle notes say, “here’s a themeless challenger in which every answer is at least five letters long.” We’re “taking a break,” as the title says, from 3- and 4-letter fill. Hoorah! I don’t think I can blog the puzzle without using short words, though.

What is this, a 118-worder? We’ve got eight blocky sections that are wide open—with 5×6, 6×6, and 7×7 action. Sure, there are “cheater squares” in the corners, but who cares? This is a lovely-looking grid and the fill is surprisingly smooth given the structural constraints. We’ve got some lively 8- to 10-letter answers (I’m partial to SLING INK, STACY KEACH, LOSES FACE, PIT CREWS, and LET’S SEE NOW), plus approximately one zillion 5-, 6-, and 7-letter answers. Very little in the way of roll-your-own words (SHUSHERS is perhaps the worst “offender” there and it ain’t so bad; one-REELER and TAROS … that’s about it). Not a ton of proper names, hardly any partials (WAIT FOR could also be clued as a stand-alone phrase rather than [“Please ___ the beep”]; I NEED is a definite partial).

My only complaint? The clues weren’t hard enough and I just zipped through the puzzle instead of doing mental battle with it. Let’s eyeball a few more things:

  • 52a. [A bad tooth may cause it], DULL ACHE. See your dentist!
  • 65a. [First name of a literary Cossack], TARAS. From Gogol’s Taras Bulba.
  • 79a. [Martin Luther King Jr. and others], BAPTISTS. You’d think someone named after Martin Luther would be Lutheran.
  • 84a. [Be part of a get-hitched-quick scheme], ELOPE. Cute clue.
  • 87a. [Real application, as opposed to theory], PRAXIS.
  • 12d. [Come to fruition], PAN OUT / 13d. [Batted better than], OUTHIT. Neighboring OUTs. Didn’t notice while I was solving.
  • 79d. [Medieval village], BOURG. The one clue that gave me pause; BOURG isn’t very common.

4.33 stars from me. I love themeless puzzles and it’s a treat to get one in the 21×21 size! A puzzle that dispenses with 3s and 4s is also welcome, particularly when the fill is this good. It would be a more entertaining crossword with more marquee fill, but it’s harder to pepper a grid with super-fresh phrases if you’re also avoiding short crossings throughout.

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22 Responses to Sunday, September 7, 2014

  1. Laszlo Kovacs says:

    This was my favorite Sunday puzzle since Gorski’s ‘Dime Store’ in June.

    Did the same NESW rebus til the end, and Across Lite only accepted ‘Ν’ for all the rebus answers except one, a ‘W’ for the easternmost YAWED/TENSOR clue.

  2. littleman says:

    The print version had a compass in the middle which makes for a nicer visual. Nice puzzle.

  3. janie says:

    the sunday times at its level best. would love to award it an honorary “pow!”

    thank you, tracy, jeff and will!


  4. Martin says:

    Pretty cool NYT!

    What else can I say?


  5. Matt M. says:

    I thought the NYT was just terrific. Elegant and fun to solve.

  6. Christopher Smith says:

    I did the rebus with the letter order reflecting down first then across & the app was fine with it. Very clever puzzle but I don’t get the pun with TEAS .

  7. janie says:

    in the wapo, love that the mood-altering HAPPY PILLS is crossed by MOPISH, and that MOPISH is crossed by DROOPIEST. and bravo for the crossing of the houses of thebes and atreus with OEDIPUS REX and ORESTES. classic longo!


  8. Papa John says:

    What am I missing? What compass denotes the cardinal and ordinal points as WENS? The unchecked letters around the center are fine but I’m confused by the rebus squares. Perhaps only the center was meant to represent a compass and the rebus squares were simply using the letters of the cardinal points and were not meant to be part of a illustration of a compass.

    Other than that confusion, I thought it was a good puzzle, with above average fill.

    Here’s a bit that may be interesting to some. The fvery irst letters I filled where the unchecked ones around the center, assuming them simply from the title. Had there been a rose in the Across Lite version, I wouldn’t have had to even read the title. It was a pure give-away. Once the rebus part was revealed, early on, it was a simple matter of merely inserting WENS into the symmetry of the grid, which sped up the solve, considerably and, in my opinion, reduced the challenge of the puzzle. Thankfully, the masterful fill made up for that.

    • CY Hollander says:

      What am I missing? What compass denotes the cardinal and ordinal points as WENS?

      Had you solved it on paper, you would have arranged the letters of those entries as N
      W     E
           S, which is rather more compass-like.

      • Papa John says:

        Ah, so the rebus squares didn’t combine to illustrate a larger compass. Each was a small compass, on its own. I’m still not sure how they connect to the center compass, if, indeed, they do. It’s more a matter of here a compass, there a compass…which happen to corrrespond to the points on a compass.

        Cy, I’m impressed if you can fit those letters, in that pattern, within the confines of newspaper -sized square, but I see what you’re saying.

  9. CY Hollander says:

    5 stars for the excellent theme of the NYT puzzle today. I give it full marks for:
    a) Freshness: we’ve seen multiple letters in a square and squares that read differently across and down, but I’ve never seen those concepts combined before
    b) Elegance: the compass conceit, which worked perfectly for this theme, the symmetry of the grid, the symmetry of the theme entries, as well as their placement in line with the central compass, the extra theme layer of the single-square N,E,S, and W.
    c) Bafflement: for me the theme perfectly hit that sweet spot of making the puzzle harder up to the moment of revelation, and easier after that.

    Given how good the theme was, I’d have given the puzzle a pass for below-average fill, but the fill was up to snuff. The one thing I think would have made this even more elegant is had the intercardinal directions (NE, NW, SE, SW) been featured at their respective compass points, the same as the cardinal directions.

    Even so: *****.

  10. Norm says:

    Fun NYT. For my own enjoyment, I used the world webding symbol as the closest concept to the four corners of the earth — knowing that Mr. Happy Pencil wouldn’t appear but not caring. The finished grid looks kind of neat.

  11. Mike says:

    Great NYT. Excellent theme and execution. Very good fill as well.

  12. Brucenm says:

    I too thought the NYT was very good indeed, (4.5 here), but my friend Nucky, (Frank Longo) did a similar rebus puzzle some years ago which I thought was even more spectacular. He took all the 3 – letter compass directions and crossed them. (e.g. the one I remember best is NeWSWeek) crossing HoWSWeetitis.

    I “collaborated” with Nucky some years ago on a puzzle, which I described as “I helped him the way a 4 – year old girl helps her Mommie make cookies.”

    I thought his WaPo today was excellent. Slightly gentler, with fewer obscurities, than some of his recent ones.

  13. Avg Solvr says:

    Didn’t find the NYT very enjoyable. The gimmick was okay (it wasn’t novel) but it was too trivia heavy in light of it being composed of many isolated mini-puzzles.

  14. Evan says:

    LAT: Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but there’s an error in the clue for 77-Across. A STRO is not a Texas NLer, but an ALer. The Astros used to be in the NL, but moved to the other league last year.

    • Tuning Spork says:

      Yep. Just came here to add that little factoid.

      I wonder why they didn’t just send the Brewers back to the American League?

  15. John Haber says:

    Terrific theme. It didn’t just make up for some trivia fill. It also gave that pleasure of, once one had the aha moment and got it, being able to get difficulties it indeed created, like the small, isolated due-E/W sectors. But can someone explain bussing = PDA?

  16. bonekrusher says:

    wow. freaking brilliant NYT.

Comments are closed.