Sunday, November 23, 2014

LAT 8:02 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:58 (1 error) (Amy) 
NYT 7:17 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook tk (pannonica) 
WaPo 4:31 (Gareth) 
CS 18:44 (Ade) 

Patrick Berry’s Sunday New York Times crossword, “Surround Sound”

NY Times crossword solution, 11 23 14 "Surround Sound"

NY Times crossword solution, 11 23 14 “Surround Sound”

Assorted two-syllable words are paired with longer words that end with the first word’s sound (but not spelling):

  • 23a. [Office missive sent out arbitrarily?], RANDOM MEMORANDUM.
  • 30a. [Stone fruit?], GRANITE POMEGRANATE.
  • 48a. [Aeronaut who’s headed for the moon?], LUNAR BALLOONER. If you want to hear about the Montgolfier brothers’ pioneering hot-air balloon ventures, scroll to the bottom of this page for that segment of public radio’s “Worldview.”
  • 66a. [Photographers who stalk future lieutenants?], ROTC PAPARAZZI. Nice find! This only works if you say “rot-see” and not “R.O.T.C.” (Both pronunciations are kosher.)
  • 84a. [Desktop machine made of malleable metal?], PEWTER COMPUTER.
  • 101a. [Provides some idea of an object’s size?], MENTIONS DIMENSIONS. The only verb phrase in the theme; the others are all nouns.
  • 113a. [Lassie’s affliction after failing to rescue Timmy?] COLLIE MELANCHOLY. Inspired by the Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness?

There’s only a limited number of “meh” entries in the grid. ERNO Rubik and RARA avis each connect two theme answers, but there are about 30 answers that intersect multiple themers and the rest are pretty solid.

My last square was the W in 98d. [No longer standing tall?], MOWN / 108a. [Feed supplier], TWITTER.

Five more things:

  • 15d. [Chinese company whose 2014 I.P.O. was the world’s largest in history], ALIBABA. The Alibaba Group is like Amazon + eBay + business-to-business sales + probably some more. If you need to buy something for a business, Alibaba will have it.
  • 62d. [Nyasaland, today], MALAWI. It’s across Lake Nyasa from Mozambique, where a crossword friend of mine did his Peace Corps stint.
  • 27a. [It borders five U.S. states], ONTARIO. Busy province there. All of Mexico borders only four states (granted, some of them are huge).
  • 41a. [Dark horse], BAY. Dang it, I was thinking of the idiomatic “dark horse” and not a horse with a dark coat.
  • 60d. [Drift off], NOD. And that is what I am likely to do while solving and blogging the Merl puzzle next. So tired!

Surprisingly quick solve for a 21×21 NYT. Four stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Twice-Told Tails”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 11 23 14 "Twice-Told Tails"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 11 23 14 “Twice-Told Tails”

Each theme answer has a 3- to 8-letter chunk repeated at the tail end of a phrase or word:

  • 20a. [Cry from Scarlett *], FIDDLE-DEE-DEE. The DEE is doubled.
  • 22a. [Bunk (my favorite cryptogram of this word, by the way, is BEBOPBOP) *], NONSENSE. The unpronounceable NSE bit is repeated.
  • 24a. [Island conqueror *], KING KAMEHAMEHA.
  • 44a. [1963 Crystals hit *], DA DOO RON RON. Or! The 1977 Shaun Cassidy version, the one I know.
  • 49a. [Bruiser is one in “Legally Blonde” *], CHIHUAHUA. Veterinarian Gareth Bain learned of a garage sale ad from a vets’ group offering “pure bread chiwawas.”
  • 62a. [Song title translation *], WHATEVER WILL BE WILL BE. Que sera sera.
  • 73a. [No. 1 single of 1971 *], WHEN YOU’RE HOT, YOU’RE HOT. By Jerry Reed? Never heard of him or the song.
  • 94a. [1920s film star *], RIN TIN TIN. The dog.
  • 97a. [Allowing oneself to enjoy, as chocolate *], INDULGING IN. GIN is repeated, but split weirdly across words.
  • 114a. [Alliterative body part in a fairy tale *], CHINNY CHIN CHIN. Featured, sort of, in Merl’s Three Little Pigs theme earlier this year.
  • 122a. [Aa’s lava counterpart *], PAHOEHOE.
  • 125a. [1963 Jan and Dean hit *], HONOLULU LULU. Never heard of the song. This is the third Hawaiian themer, but Merl’s puzzle notes say, “I was in a Hawaiian mood when I made this, but that’s not what the asterisked clues have in common.”

Twelve theme answers is a lot, and the rest of the fill tends to be underwhelming when a puzzle is packed with theme.

Seven more things:

  • 82a. [66, for one: abbr.], RTENO. Good lord, this is awful. “Route number” abbreviated as RTE NO, dangling awkwardly without a following numeral?
  • 84a. [Coal diggers’ org.], UMW. I had AMW first, as 78d. [Put up, as stockings] could be present-tense HANG or past HUNG.
  • 63d. [It might include a clasp and cuff links], TIE SET. Is that a thing? I had no idea this was a thing, a tie + clasp + cuff links somehow forming a “TIE SET.” Zero hits in the Cruciverb database suggests it’s not a common phrase. Google finds the phrase just fine, but one of the top links is the Chinese-based e-commerce site AliExpress, which sells a product billed as “neck tie set necktie hanky cufflinks men’s ties sets gift box Handkerchiefs Pocket square tower cravat” in search of key-word hits from search engines.
  • 22d. [Actor J. Carrol ___], NAISH. Seen this a few times in previous crosswords; didn’t like it there, either.
  • 53d. [Psychologist May], ROLLO. Is that May Rollo or Rollo May? The latter.
  • 109d. [Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh ___], NHU. Only four prior appearances in the last 15+ years in the Cruciverb database. This … is uncommon fill.
  • 104a. [Packaged cheese slices: abbr.], SGLS. Who needs an abbreviation for cheese-slice “singles”? Gah. Terrible. Neither SGLS nor RTENO appears in the Cruciverb database.

Given the rough spots in the grid, I’d have preferred 8 to 10 theme answers and better interstitial fill. 3.25 stars from me.

Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “‘Tis the Season”

LA Times Sunday crossword answers, 11 23 14 "'Tis the Season"

LA Times Sunday crossword answers, 11 23 14 “‘Tis the Season”

An odd theme heading into Thanksgiving week. There’s a holiday two-part theme mashed up with a revealer that accompanies five other theme answers.

  • 23a. [Event that kicks off shopping for 119-Across], BLACK FRIDAY.
  • 119a. [Festive time], THE HOLIDAYS.

And then a Down revealer, 101d. [Important theme for 119-Across, and a word that can be used with the starts of the answers to the starred clues], GIVING, stands apart from its symmetrical partner, LAKOTA. The five themers begin with “giving ___” fillers:

  • 39a. [*Space mission team], GROUND CONTROL.
  • 51a. [*2003 romantic comedy with multiple story lines], LOVE ACTUALLY. Haven’t seen it. People seem to either love it or loathe it.
  • 67a. [*Amy Dickinson, for one], ADVICE COLUMNIST. I know a couple people who’ve met her at parties and found her egotistical, but all Amys are worthy of ego.
  • 86a. [*Botticelli on display in the Uffizi], BIRTH OF VENUS.
  • 96a. [*Friends for life], BLOOD BROTHERS.

What’s missing from the theme is THANKS, which has been severed from GIVING but feels like it should somehow be included.

Six more things:

  • 20a. [“Flashdance… What a Feeling” lyricist], CARA. Hey! I knew Irene Cara sang that #1 song but didn’t know she cowrote it.
  • 125a. [Stylish eatery word], CHEZ. Still? Chicago has a handful of restaurants with Chez in the name, but certainly the plethora of stylish, acclaimed restaurants in the city go without that word. Clue feels dated.
  • Tough crossing for non-obsessives: 86d. [“Borstal Boy” author Brendan] BEHAN meets [111a. “__-Tiki”], KON at the N. I bet BEHAR and KOR will show up in a number of grids.
  • 28a. [Polish writing], EDIT. Read it as “Polish writing” at first, having heard a public radio story the other day about a Polish-British couple who’ve directed an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer, Conrad himself being a noted writer in English who came from Poland.
  • 15d. [“Punch buggy” in a car trip game], VW BEETLE. Don’t know the “punch buggy” term but I’m familiar with this driving game, of punching someone when you see a Volkswagen Bug.
  • 49a. [Sicily, to Sicilians], ISOLA. That’s Italian for “island,” not for Sicily. And actually, in the Sicilian language, it’s ìsula. Not that Sicilian is an official language there.

Overall, the fill is pretty solid. 3.5 stars from me.

The Post Puzzler No. 242 by Karen M. Tracey – Gareth’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 242

The Post Puzzler No. 242

What a weird experience. The clues today are almost all Monday-easy. There were several unknown-to-me entries, which was all that stopped this from being crazy easy. Two of the four fifteens are lovely: SUITSMEJUSTFINE & SOMEBODYLOVESME. The double ME doesn’t concern me one whit. Crossing the four theme answers is a TV “behaviourist” I’ve never heard of. I’m on the fence about him. He does have a crazy name, JACKSONGALAXY, which is something. Other fun answers included TSETSEFLY and PHONETAG (with the closest thing to a tricky clue in the puzzle – [“Game” played by busy people]).

Apart from Mr. Galaxy, I also didn’t know/recall Stoudemire AMARE or possibly AMARE Stoudemire; the ink SUMI; AISHA Tyler; KYRIE Irving or maybe Irving KYRIE and Kyle SECOR. Not a whole lot for a themeless, but all difficult to anticipate spelling-wise.

3.5 Stars

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

CrosSynergy Sunday  Challenge solution, 11.23.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge solution, 11.23.14

Hello there! Hope you’re having a good Sunday so far.

Mr. Randolph Ross had the honors of presenting us with today’s Sunday Challenge, and it definitely a fair challenge at that. The two 15-letter down entries immediately caught my attention, and, luckily, I thought of JOHN QUINCY ADAMS immediately for the first one, only because I knew that was 15-letters and decided to put that in and see how it worked (4D: [Only president to serve in the house after his term]). In a somewhat related note, having that answer cross ADAM’S ALE was a little synergic, don’t you think (55A: [Water, quaintly])? Back to John Q. Adams, and I knew that (JQA) was the answer once I saw the James Bond clue, O’TOOLE, crossing it, because I pretty much have remembered every Bond Girl from the Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton eras (15A: [Bond girl Plenty]). Plenty wasn’t really the primary Bond girl focus of Diamonds Are Forever, but that casino scene with her is still so memorable. Speaking of movie roles, I loved the portrayal of AL CAPONE in The Untouchables (7A: [Robert DeNiro role]). I think the only time I was in a toy store and demanded to my parents “I WANT IT” were those Starting Lineup sports figurines that were popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s (35A: [Toy store demand]). A few years ago, when doing some spring cleaning at my old apartment, I found a bunch of those figures and I had vowed to keep them and put them up all around my then new apartment. Sadly, I forgot to do that, and now they’ve been lost in my old apartment once again. Oh, well. I can definitely deal with an earworm forming (as it has now) if it deals with a song from The MONKEES (38D: [“Pleasant Valley Sunday” singers, with “The]). To boot, if you had a week to spare for a vacation south of the border, would you rather go to CANCÚN (37A: [Mexican vacation destination]) or BOGOTÁ (40A: [Home of the Museo del Oro])? Might have to go with Bogotá on this one.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ATARI (2D: [Pong maker])– Former NFL defensive player ATARI Bigby (yes, his first name is Atari) played seven seasons in the National Football League, starting in 2005. Born in Jamaica and attending college at the University of Central Florida, Bigby was known for his time as a member of the Green Bay Packers, where he spent six seasons as a Packer from 2005-2010. In 2007, he had a career-high five interceptions.

Thank you so much for your time and I’ll see you on Monday!

Take care!


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20 Responses to Sunday, November 23, 2014

  1. ArtLvr says:

    Merl’s repeaters tickled me… and you found more of them than I saw. Would have liked the line “When you’re hot, you’re hot” to be followed by “In the cool, cool, cool of the evening”, giving a nod to the polar vortex’s record snowfall… Yikes!

    • Lois says:

      I also enjoyed Merl’s puzzle today. True, some references are kinda old, but I much prefer the Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron to Shaun Cassidy’s. Cassidy in 1977 is also quite a way back, but if you know the song from Cassidy, that should be a help here. I found the tough stuff gettable from the crosses, but I’m Merl’s age. It’s also true that you get a zing from a discovering an answer that you love, not just laboriously getting it from the crosses, and I had that in this puzzle. Also, sometimes I like Merl’s weird fill (RTENO), partly because of its chutzpah, as long as I get it.

  2. Martin says:

    From yesterday, whence David L says:
    Nice puzzle, although according to wikipedia, DEIMOS is dread and Phobos is terror. Did someone google too hastily and get them mixed up?

    Dread, terror (and fear) are shaded synonyms in English. Deimos is usually called the god of terror, after the Greek word for dread, and Phobos the god of fear. A little more googling will confirm the clue is fine.

    The meanings are clearer in Greek. Deimos is terror/dread/fear but phobos is a special level of soil-your-pants fear that might be better translated as “panic.” In fact, “panic-fear” is sometimes used as the translation. It is the kind of fear that turns a warrior into a deserter. A warrior was expected to have and manage deimos but keep phobos at bay.

    Although there is nothing irrational about fear on the battlefield, our “phobia” for “irrational fear” comes close to the meaning of phobos vs. deimos.

  3. roger says:

    Just a general question. For me, the enjoyment of a puzzle is to work on it slowly (only do Thursday through Sunday), unraveling it with a cup of coffee and then, if necessary, throughout the day with whatever liquid is applicable. The constructors and solvers here, including the web site hosts, seem to think that speed is the point. I can understand that for a contest but for the everyday, where is the fun time after time?


    • Martin says:

      Not everybody here is a speed solver. Some of us are savorers. But for competitive solvers like Amy, daily practice of the art and techniques is an important way to stay fit so it becomes the habit. It’s not something they turn on for tournaments and off for the rest of the year.

      Probably because this is Amy’s blog the emphasis on speed-solving is a little higher here, but I don’t think that it’s perceived of as “the point.” Solve as you wish.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        And people who have honed the knack for speed solving … well, we’re just doing the puzzles in the amount of time it takes us to solve them. We can savor a tough variety cryptic or a difficult meta puzzle for a half an hour or for hours, but the other puzzles just aren’t going to take hours unless we put the puzzle down after every few clues. Speed solvers have the sort of memory/recall that we recognize clues and remember the previous answers much faster than most solvers. If I do a puzzle untimed, it’s still not going to take me much longer than if I’m racing through it. Weird neurological quirk. Not trying to be an arrogant jerk, just stating the facts that apply here.

        • Bencoe says:

          Agreed, in that for some people fast is just how they do them, without “trying” to rush.
          Also, for me, a puzzle is a problem to be solved; it’s not like a great novel or glass of wine. A different kind of experience and a different kind of pleasure. Struggling with incomprehension does not necessarily add to the fun of the experience.
          And, to be honest, ego does provide some pleasure when putting down fast times. I’m not usually good enough at anything to warrant being proud of myself, but when I blaze through a tough crossword, it gives me a bit of self-satisfaction sometimes. Then I see Dan Feyer’s time for the same puzzle and the ego is deflated back to its proper proportion.

          • John Haber says:

            I’m definitely one for savoring, although you might not think of my habit as conducive to appreciation. I tend to carry a puzzle with me and look at it in between things, perhaps as a relief or a reward for having gotten far enough on something else. Or even just something to peek at on the subway. It’s surprising I actually do finish a puzzle the same day that way.

            I even have rules to slow myself down. For one, if entering an answer would enter two letters and thus complete another answer, I have to do the latter clue first, to be sure I got it fair and square.

            But I do admire speed solvers, honest. I just don’t have the skill even if I wanted to try.

  4. Huda says:

    I track my time to ascertain whether or not I’m improving. Since I started doing this at a late stage in life, and I have holes in my knowledge because I didn’t grow up here and don’t pay attention to a bunch of stuff, I wanted to see if I could make headway. I’m definitely willing to work in fits and starts and enjoy the unraveling of the puzzle. I like having some things in my life that are not pressured (and I am improving!).
    But I’m fascinated by the speed in which people can solve, and I like to see the numbers. I’m pretty sure that even if I had started in my early teens and worked at it doggedly, I couldn’t do what Amy does. It’s made me more aware of differences in the speed of processing information and parallel handling of tasks (e.g typing/writing, reading the clue, coming up with the answer, selecting or inhibiting competing answers). It’s remarkable! I admire it the way I admire musical talent or atheletic abilities. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • David L says:

      I completely agree. I am moderately fast, I would guess, but there’s no way I could reach the times that the true speed solvers do. Partly a matter of knowing, from experience, what the answers are likely to be, but also a matter of multi-tracking, having your fingers type out one answer while your eyes are looking at the next clue, that sort of thing.

      • TammyB says:

        I’m a relative crossword newbie. I’m faster at puzzles where deducing the theme early is an aid to filling in the blanks of other answers, because my ability to solve themes exceeds my storehouse of words that nobody uses in a real life situation…and sports references. (I still have to holler to my hubby “Is the baseball player Ott or Orr?”)

        Either way, if I quit when I’m frustrated and set it aside for a day, when I return to it I’m always surprised to find myself speeding through most of the clues that were previously insolvable.

        • ahimsa says:

          Tammy, your Ott/Orr comment gave me a hearty chuckle! I’m not a newbie but I still have trouble with both crosswordese and sports references. I was so pleased when I finally pulled EOSIN out of long term memory yesterday. :-)

  5. ahimsa says:

    NYT: That ROTC PAPARAZZI entry was my favorite! I’ve been calling it “rot-see” for a long time but I wasn’t sure how many folks used that slang term. But COLLIE MELANCHOLY and PEWTER COMPUTER were both great, too.

    I tried making up a theme entry and the best I could do was BURRO MARLBORO – “Philip Morris’ answer to Joe Camel?”

    • John Haber says:

      I didn’t like the puzzle at all, not even a little, as too full of proper names, even with crossings (e.g., DARREN / RIO). Also uneven in level as too many easy ones plus too much obscurity. Also would have been happier for consistency of theme (per puzzle title) meant all were sound-alike only, which would have eliminated the RANDOM entry. And can’t confirm that RILE is really right given the definition, not even with RHUD. But to the point, the ROTC clue doesn’t work for me, as I pronounce the first syllable (and RHUD confirms) like “rot,” and “razzi” is either a short a or a schwa. I took forever to agree to enter it, or even to think of it, because of that failure (where it didn’t help that I ran up against another name in BIAO).

      • Martin says:

        “Rot” and “razzi” rhyme when I say them. And the MW11C uses “ä” for both.

        “Wind up” as clued seems like American usage being influenced by British. We say “don’t wind the kids up, it’s close to bedtime.” At least that sounds right to my ear. But it’s “excite” more than “rile.” Brit’s use it for “attempting to rile,” as in “Twenty quid? Are you winding me up?” I know that’s right because of Eastenders.

        I have heard the hybrid usage on American TV.

        • John Haber says:

          ‘it’s “excite” more than “rile.”’ Exactly, at least per RHUD, since I don’t normally use “wind up” for that myself.

  6. bob says:

    Really dislike Reagle’s propensity to insert his personal opinions in his puzzles – i.e. 1971 #1 single. Dislike CW music and a #1 C W is not my def of a #1 hit! Also his preferences in spelling and abbrev. defies logic at times. Today’s entry thoroughly unenjoyable, esp. when fighting the flu. Come on, Merl!

  7. roger says:

    Thank you all for your replies, I learned something. You are all to be admired for your solving abilities. As for doing it on the subway, I still need to take the local. Maybe some day I’ll be an “express” guy.


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