Sunday, November 2, 2014

NYT 11:09 (Amy) 
Reagle untimed (Amy) 
LAT 6:59 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 10:22 (Sam) 
CS 31:11 (Ade) 

Zep (© Patrick Merrell)

Zep (© Patrick Merrell)

Puzzler and cartoonist Patrick Merrell just launched a Kickstarter to get backing for a kids’ book he made, Zep: A Puzzling Adventure. Pat says the baffling puzzle contained within the book will take weeks to crack, if not longer. Intriguing! So click through and watch the video to learn more about the project.

Alert! Merl Reagle’s puzzle is best solved on the PDF this week. Here’s the link.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword, “BP Station”

NY Times crossword solution, 11 2 14 "BP Station"

NY Times crossword solution, 11 2 14 “BP Station”

I have no idea if this puzzle was hard or if my brain has merely slowed down after a good dinner. Did it take you a third longer than usual, too?

The “BP Station” theme involves base phrases with a B changing the B to a P, adjusting the spelling as needed:

  • 23a. [Engraving on an award?], PLAQUE ART. Black art.
  • 29a. [Food critic’s love of fast food, maybe?], SECRET PALATE. Secret ballot.
  • 48a. [Collector of offerings at a revival?], CHRISTIAN PAIL. Bale.
  • 55a. [Waterway of Western Australia?], PERTH CANAL. Birth canal. Ha! My favorite theme answer.
  • 79a. [Admonishment to someone eating off your plate at a Polynesian restaurant?], THAT’S MY POI. “That’s my boy!”
  • 85a. [What’s promising about a K-K-Q-Q-J-J-7 rummy hand?], THE THREE PAIRS. (Goldilocks and) the Three Bears.
  • 108a. [Buzzer beaters and game-winning catches?], PLAYS OF GLORY. Blaze. Nice one.
  • 118a. [Place to reel in some freshwater game fish?], PERCH PIER. The only two-fer, changing birch beer’s two B’s.

Did not know: 63a. [Montréal airport], MIRABEL. Also not familiar with 15d. [Afraid to ask for a dance, maybe], GIRL-SHY. And then there’s 77d. [William ___ + Co. (brokerage)], O’NEIL.

Nice-looking grid, with those two ridiculously wide-open corners and 6-stacks above and below them on each side. Fill I like includes SLOSH, CLOISTER, HAUNCH, and AIR-POP.

Five more things:

  • 20a. [Mark down anew], RELOG. As in “mark this down here,” not “this item is marked down.” Was thinking of the latter and filled in RETAG, which is equally woeful fill.
  • 39a. [“Down in front!”], “I CAN’T SEE!” As a shortish person, I can relate.
  • 69a. [Subject of the mnemonic “My very eager mother just served us nachos”], PLANETS. The “nachos” stands for NEPTUNE, 17d. [Astronomical body after which element #93 is named].
  • 59d. [Big name in campers], ALINER. Never seen this one before.
  • 60d. [Schools after collèges], LYCEES. I don’t understand this one. What are collèges in French? Chicago’s French international school is called the Lycée Français, and they enroll students from age 3 through high school—so that’s no help here.

3.66 stars from me.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 239”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 239 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 239 (solution)

Every well-constructed crossword has a reason for existence, even a freestyle puzzle. By that I mean that while a freestyle puzzle may not have an overt theme in the answers, there’s still a point behind the puzzle. It’s what gives a crossword a human touch. Discerning solvers know computers can spit out adequate grids with ordinary fill, and they also know it when they see it. What they seek is a puzzle that shows signs of thoughtful construction, whether it’s double-, triple- or even quad-stacks of long, interesting answers, a delicate balance of trendy (aka “in the language”) terms with highbrow classical vocabulary, smooth interlock that shows no sign of compromise or tired crossword fill, or even just a pretty grid that beckons to you like a siren.

This week’s Post Puzzler from Frank Longo is all about the stacks. It features two triple-8s and two triple-11s that really stand out. They also merit some discussion. Let’s start with that stack in the northwest. I love I NEED A BREAK (a [Spelling statement]) and CLEAN ENERGY ([Solar or wind, e.g.]) but is the entry on top, WITH FRIENDS an 11-letter partial? I’ve had puzzles rejected for containing what editors thought were six-letter partials (even though I thought they could validly be clued as stand-alone phrases, but I’m over it now–really, I am–just ask my therapist). If six-letter partials are verboten, one would think an 11-letter partial, particularly at 1-Across is almost a deliberate thumbing of the nose. Is it? The clue certainly makes me think of it as a partial: [Follower of Hanging, Scramble, or Chess] (huh, wonder why “Word” wasn’t included in that list?). It’s entirely possible that I’ve just missed the point here, who knows. To be honest, partials don’t bother me one whit, and I don’t find them the least bit inelegant. As a solver I kinda like ’em–they often give me some traction where I might otherwise spin out. So I still think of this stack as a winner.

I’m an even bigger fan of the stack in the opposite corner, with BRIEF MOMENT ([Flash]) atop AT AN IMPASSE ([Like stalled negotiations]), which in turn sits atop SANDBLASTER, [One for whom silicosis is an occupational hazard]. Yeah, “silicosis” meant nothing to me either. My dictionary says “Silicosis is marked by the formation of lumps (nodules) and fibrous scar tissue in the lungs. It is the oldest known occupational lung disease, and is caused by exposure to inhaled particles of silica, mostly from quartz in rocks, sand, and similar substances.” The more you know, as NBC would say.

To me, the coolest part of these long stacks is that they each feed into quad-sixes that run along the Downs. Talk about open corners! And those Downs ain’t shabby, neither, if I may employ the double-negative for rhetorical effect. WICCAN, HEAVY D, and FESTER are not just some glue that facilitate the long triple-stacks–they’re great entries in their own right.

The triple-8s are pretty cool too. I especially liked FILES SUIT (with the fun clue, [Start going after someone?]), the [Old film noir figure], SAM SPADE, and LOIS LANE (even though the clue for Ms. Lane, [Pulitzer winner in a 2006 superhero film], really tricked me for a while–I blame my policy of pretending that version of Superman never existed).

Other highlights:

  • Long-time readers will not be surprised to know I got my start here with Bert CONVY, the [Host of “Tattletales” and “Super Password”]. It was also nice to plunk down Mayor ADAM WEST as the [“Back to the Batcave” autobiographer].
  • Anyone else try MEAGER as the answer to [Piddling]? Not a bad guess when you see the correct answer is MEASLY.
  • I should have picked up on the wordplay in [Was powerless to proceed?] but I didn’t. Turns out the answer was COASTED, not because the one lacked power but because the one simply did not need to employ power in order to proceed.
  • Didn’t know [Paratroopers, informally], are known as SKY MEN. Or that Vasco DA GAMA [named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497]. Or that OOFY means [Rich, in slang]. Or that ODENSE was a [Port named for a Scandinavian god] and not an Irish surname for someone lacking street smarts.

Favorite entry = PAIN MEDS, clued as [Oxy, Vike and the like]. It tells you how sheltered I am that with PAIN???S in place I read the clue and confidently wrote in PAINTERS. I want there to be a famous painter named Vincent Van Dyke who just goes by Vike. Favorite clue = [Academia nut?], the clue for NERD.

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

CRooked • 11/2/14 • "Your Choice" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 11/2/14 • “Your Choice” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

As with so many things in life, what’s advertised as choice really isn’t. One is required to insert OR to the original theme phrases if one wants to solve the crossword correctly. The resultant wacky creations don’t offer real choice (e.g., morass or transit?). I suppose one could choose not to participate in the puzzle, but that kind of defeats the point.

  • 24a. [Swamp-crossing buses?] MORASS TRANSIT (mass transit).
  • 26a. [Tales like Babe’s?] PIG STORIES (pigsties).
  • 60a. [Scrimshaw club?] IVORY LEAGUE (Ivy League).
  • 69a. [Levy on demon-bashing?] EXORCISE TAX (excise tax).
  • 106a. [Go into the clothing business?] TURN TAILOR (turn tail).
  • 110a. [Woodsy Addams?] UNCLE FORESTER (Uncle Fester). Not to be confused with Grizzly Adams.
  • 33d. [Ready for a new bloom?] BORED OF ROSES (bed of roses).
  • 35d. [Closet advisor?] STORAGE COACH (stagecoach). Clue might be misread as “closest advisor”; see also the crossing 53a [Inner circles] CADRES.

corot_avrayMildly entertaining turns of phrase. The OR inevitably appears as part of one of the component words, either a discrete one or an element of a compound word, never linking the end of one and the beginning of the other, breaking off to form a new word. And, yes, one of the theme entries is a three-word phrase. This suggests that such an endeavor was probably too difficult to pursue successfully. Additionally, there are many ORs throughout the ballast fill. Nothing inherently wrong with that, as it’s a very common bigram.

  • Astonomy! 48d [Star circlers] PLANETS, 7d [Night streakers] COMETS, and while we’re at it let’s add 1a [Globe] SPHERE.
  • Spiffy little crossing of 86a [Wood cutter] AXE and 72d [Worked with lumber] SAWED; am put in mind of a crosscut saw.
  • bmindorensisRelatively Obscure Places! 11d [Cooperstown’s county] OTSEGO – put that on your list along with OSWEGO and ONEIDA; 85d [Fort Lauderdale suburb] TAMARAC. For the last, I would have preferred TAMARAW (Bubalus mindorensis), but (1) I suspect it’s less well-known to the general public than the locale, and (2) not sure how easily reworked that section would be.
  • 68a [Gallic gal pal] AMIE and 90a [Friend in Florence] AMICO comprise a distinct duplication, which irks me more than many, less than some.
  • Even though it’s essentially one of those nasty ol’ partials, got a kick out of 13a [Adjectives for wolf] BIG BAD, or big, bad.
  • 62d [Thurman of “The Avengers”] UMA. Was all set to cry foul and speculate that perhaps the authors were thinking of Scarlett Johanssen, but then I remembered the film version of the British television series. U Thurman played Emma Peel and R Fiennes John Steed.
  • 63a [Old synonym of stinky] OLID crossing 51d [Native of Nevada] PAIUTE. Really? Wow, that’s horrific™. Tried a Y there first, most likely due to the influence of peyote.
  • 30a [Stat for Uehara] ERA. I’m just going to assume that he plays for the Red Sox. Also, is this a bid to usher in UEHARA to the canon of crossword fill? More Boston! fill: 3d [Logan enclosures] HANGARS, 87d [Former Celt M.L.] CARR, 105d [Old Bruin nickname] ESPO, 100d [Jumbo’s college] TUFTS.
  • Was VEXed (61d) for a while with 70d [Pops] for COLAS, because that simply isn’t part of my vocabulary. On the bright side, it primed me for 36d [One kind of pop] PEPSI.
  • Favorite clue: nothing really stands out, surprisingly. Unusually, the cluing is more or less unplayful. So I’ll go with the alliterative [Song sung singly] for SOLO.

Okay crossword.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Ballot Boxes”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 11 2 14 "Ballot Boxes"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 11 2 14 “Ballot Boxes”

This one doesn’t play out perfectly online or in .puz form, so I solved on the PDF. The puzzle’s blurb says that four squares “must remain empty. (After all, you don’t fill in every blank when you vote, right?)” The four blank boxes appear in symmetrical locations, which is an elegant/intricate touch; those boxes serve as a {BLANK} rebus in the Acrosses, and as a black box in the Downs. The other boxes get a vote/X in them, changing a legitimate word/phrase into a goofy one that fits the clue. (The X works as a regular X in the Down crossings.)

Here are the goofy ones:

  • 22a. [Special event at a fetish club?], LATEX NIGHT. Late night + X.
  • 29a. [Indian chief who invented barbecue?], FLAMING OX. Flamingo + X.
  • 52a. [Lone Star beverage intended to rival baked Alaska in popularity but which never caught on?] ICED TEXAS. Iced teas + X.
  • 55a. [Television?], GAZE-BOX. Gazebo + X.
  • 96a. [Marrying each other’s former spouses?], EX TRADE. E*Trade + X.
  • 100a. [Agent Smart working undercover?], MAX IN DRAG. Main drag + X.
  • 120a. [Snacks for certain dogs?], REX TREATS. Retreats + X.
  • 131a. [Cleansing herbs from the highest mountains of Tibet?], SHANGRI-LAX. Shangri-La + X meets Ex-Lax.


This theme is an inventive way of playing on the phrase “Ballot Boxes” and the concept of filling in a ballot. You might cavil that half of the blanks should remain empty and not a third—but this actually matches up fairly well with my early-voting ballot this week. All of the countywide offices for Cook County had an incumbent Democrat running unopposed, so it wasn’t likely that any voter would have chosen just half of them. I reckon many Chicago ballots will be two thirds X’ed in (not counting the judicial retention section).

Seven more things:

  • 15a. [“Sextette” first name], MAE. Apparently this was a movie, a lousy movie that hardly anyone saw. Mae West’s final movie, in her mid-80s. Timothy Dalton played her husband, though he’s more than 50 years her junior.
  • 139a. [Unpleasantly plump], OBESE. Judgment call! Ouch. Who’s to say anyone’s body is “unpleasant”?
  • 140a. [“I’ll ___!”], SUE. Surprising fill-in-the-blank answer, no?
  • 17d. [Bond creator?], EPOXY. My favorite clue here.
  • 33d. [Personality sort that’s quiet outside but angry inside], TYPE C. Raise your hand if you had no idea this was a thing.
  • 47d. [Agape sensation], AWE. This one threw me—I was thinking of the three-syllable “brotherly love” agape and not the I-rarely-see-it-outside-of-crosswords “gaping” version.
  • 71d. [Eastwood film, “Joe ___”], KIDD. Not so familiar to me. When I didn’t know how the blanks would play out in the Downs, this was a trouble spot.

4.25 stars from me. Plenty of surprise embodied in the theme.

Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 11.02.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 11.02.14

Hello everyone, and a special hello to the new CrosSynergy email subscribers who are here as well!

It’s fitting that the New York City Marathon is taking place as we speak, because today’s crossword, presented to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, made sure that I had to stay the course, as well as grab a couple of water cups, to get to the finish line! Unlike most puzzles I do from Mr. Klahn, in which it takes forever and a half to figure out the wordplay I was pretty much on the same wavelength with many of the clues. It helps that I used the term “bell cow” a good number of times when I had done many sports broadcasts, so OVINE was a cinch (16A: [Like bellwethers]). But for clues like that, where I’m on it in a flash, a clue like the one for BOBTAIL NAGS comes around and I’m fighting tooth-and-nail to figure what the heck is going on (10D: [Some Camptown racers?]). If I’m not mistaken, PETRI DISH (or just PETRI) is a very popular entry in Klahn puzzles, and that knowledge of a constructor helped in opening the grid in the right fashion (1A: [Culture cultivator]). Also helps when you watch classic movies and also love classic cars, making CASABLANCA a slam dunk, too (29D: [Classic movie featuring a Ferrari and a Renault]). Probably my favorite clue/mislead of the day was TRACK MEET, and not just because I thought sports the second I read the clue (17A: [Long-running competition]). Back when I was in elementary school, our school always held these end-of-the-year Olympic-type events where we would see who’s the fastest in our class, as well as who could jump the farthest (broad jump), among other events. I was a pretty chubby kid most of the time I was a youngster, but I had surprising speed and could absolutely jump out of the gym. When I would line up for the track meet (approx. a 60-meter dash down a closed street), I always had the people lined up next to me give somewhat dismissive looks, thinking they would leave me in the dust. Little did they know, they had another thing coming, as I always ranked between fourth and sixth in terms of being the fastest kid in my grade, and I won a blue ribbon (1st place) and two white ribbons (2nd place) for broad jump. I’m not as chubby now, but I always could move around!! Wanna race??

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HELMS (48D: [Positions of control])– Many sports fans are familiar with the Associated Press and USA Today producing college football and basketball polls, as well as awarding championships at the end of a college sports season. But there was another organization, the HELMS Athletic Foundation (co-founded in 1936 by banking executive Paul Helms), that also annually awarded college football and basketball teams national championships, and did so until the end of 1982.

See you all on Monday, and have a good rest of your Sunday!!

Take care!


Ed Sessa’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Follow the Money”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 11 2 14 "Follow the Money"

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 11 2 14 “Follow the Money”

The theme-revealing entry might actually have worked better as the title for this puzzle. Lop off the 8s in the theme, leaving seven theme answers and a little more breathing room for the fill? Seems like overkill to have both a title and a revealer in the grid.

Each theme phrase ends with a word that can follow “cash”:

  • 23a. [*Unpredictable influence], WILD CARD.
  • 32a. [*”No idea”], DOESN’T REGISTER. Doesn’t quite feel crossword-entryable as a phrase.
  • 41a. [*Where words may be mangled], KARAOKE BAR.
  • 73a. [*Home Depot competitor], TRUE VALUE.
  • 97a. [*Abundant yield], BUMPER CROP.
  • 109a. [*Novel about a world traveler?], THE TIME MACHINE. The first brand of ATMs in the Chicago area were labeled Cash Machine.
  • 123a. [Rebate, and, literally, what the end of each answer to a starred clue can be], CASH BACK.
  • 16d. [*Hold answerable], CALL TO ACCOUNT.
  • 57d. [*Bend under pressure], GO WITH THE FLOW.

The grid is a little bit like BEQ’s NYT puzzle today, with all the 6s and 7s, but there were a hair too many words in the ARIETTA/DALLIER/UTILE/ED MEESE/OTIOSE/TINTER family in those zones. Now, PIT CREW, CHENILLE, STRIP SHOW, and RICE-A-RONI had some zip, but they didn’t have all that much company (rather more TSETSE ABRA ESSO ESA, etc., than I enjoy).

3.33 stars from me.

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18 Responses to Sunday, November 2, 2014

  1. Oat Phipps says:

    Quigley’s puzzles rub me the wrong way. His puns are the wrong kind of groan-inducing (and tangentially, the freedom of speech his independent puzzles afford only results in juvenile sex references).

    Most annoying is the wording of his clues; they’re not so much tricky as off-putting. I disagree with many of his answers due to a consistently odd, sometimes stilted, phrasing.

    Credit where it’s due: I didn’t know Post’s initials, so the “Ill” (oh, it’s not a Roman numeral) clue stumped me for longer than I care to admit. ‘SLOSH’ was also a good word.

    I gave it 2.5

  2. Matt says:

    Yeah, the NYT took me about 40% longer than usual for a Sun. puzzle. Not sure why, just had to keep pushing at it. Nice puzzle, though.

  3. Evad says:

    Knew that PERCH PIER would be a twofer, but went with PERCH PARK at first, since we’re surrounded by birches here in Vermont. I should look into how to make beer from them.

    Thought the ONEIL/LEEVES a bit unfair as two proper names, but L seemed the only letter that worked in both directions.

    I enjoy how BEQ (or is that PEQ today?) always takes the letter substitution theme up a notch with the alternate spellings. Would’ve preferred in this case not to have any B’s scattered among the fill, tho.

  4. Jim Hale says:

    It also took me longer than usual. I didn’t find it enjoyable. Many terms tripped me up like the actress leeves. Felt like I was moving through mud

  5. janie says:

    in a perfect (puzzle) world, i don’t think PLANETS would have been dead-center of brendan’s creation. given the gimmick, that had me scratchin’ my head a bit.

    also, before entering PLAYS was toying w/ PATHS [OF GLORY], but decided that while one might be “bathed” in GLORY, “baths” of GLORY was definitely a “roll-yer-own”…


  6. Eliza says:

    Re: lycée vs. collège: Collège is roughly equivalent to middle school. It’s grades 6-9. Lycée means high school (grades 10-12). Perhaps the LFs in the US started out as a high school and then expanded to cover all grades, without changing the name?

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Oddly, the NYT went faster for me than I’d expected, but the Longo was quite slo-mo.
    Kickin’ myself for not seeing WICCAN — got I NEED A BREAK, but still had to cheat to finish the NW with WITH FRIENDS. Impressive, but a slog!

  8. ArtLvr says:

    p.s. Did anyone else think “Witch hunt” when the most recent returnee from Ebola nursing got quarantined in NJ and then in Maine, before a judge tossed it out? Why is it always men in power picking on a woman when scared? Shades of Mary Dyer!

  9. Avg Solvr says:

    To use, say, a whistle analogy, the NYT played like one needing a scrubbing; it more or less blew.

    Puzzler was tough and didn’t bring much joy.

  10. CY Hollander says:

    Sunday NYT played a bit harder than usual for me, too. I like that, though.

  11. Margaret says:

    Just wanted to say I thought Merl’s puzzle was FANTASTIC today.

  12. jefe says:

    Could someone explain how [Spelling statement?] is I NEED A BREAK? Thanks in advance.

  13. sandirhodes says:

    silicosis: my first thought was GLASSBLOWER. It blew.

    Reagle awesome, imo. And it seemed to work perfectly with the plugin on the website.

  14. Fletcher B. says:

    Hi, can someone explain why, in the Post Puzzler, 3D, “person planking, probably” is “teener”? Thanks!

  15. Fletcher B. says:

    Planking: OK, I suppose it’s this:

Comments are closed.