Friday, December 12, 2014

NYT 4:32 (Amy) 
LAT 6:49 (Gareth) 
CS 14:42 (Ade) 
CHE untimed (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 12 12 14, no. 1212

NY Times crossword solution, 12 12 14, no. 1212

Lots of zippy stuff from Evan, who hones his freestyling chops by making both themeless and themed puzzles for his Devil Cross site (complete with blog posts you should take a look at). I got 1-Across right away from the clue: ABBESS, [Person at the top of the order]. The A then gave away 1-Down instantly: [Start to play?] is obviously ANTE UP. Except … it turned out to be ACT ONE. Hey, the T worked.

My favorite fill and clues included these ones:

  • 19a. [Annual event held in the Theresienwiese], OKTOBERFEST. Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!
  • 31a. [Tuber grown south of the border], JICAMA. Crunchy and sweet in a salad.
  • 32a. [Tomfoolery], HIJINKS. Possibly among my 10 favorite words.
  • 43a. [Influential figure in upward mobility?], ELISHA OTIS. I like this because the elevator inventor’s name looks nuts in the grid. ELI SHAO, ‘TIS.
  • 46a. [Their best-selling (23x platinum) album had no title], LED ZEPPELIN.
  • 48a. [Series of drug-related offenses?], THE WIRE. I’ll watch that series as soon as I get through Breaking Bad.
  • 52a. [Politico who wrote “The Truth (With Jokes)”], FRANKEN. Senator and comedian Al Franken.
  • 2d/6d. [Talk show V.I.P.(‘s)], a BOOKER and some SIDEKICKS.
  • 9d. [Thickening agents?], PLOT TWISTS. I know, I know—you’ve done too many crosswords and your first thought was “AGAR?”
  • 12d. [Trojan competitor], UTE. “There’s a brand of condoms called Ute??” The USC Trojans vs. the University of Utah Utes.
  • 30d. [Tree huggers?], VINES.
  • 37d. [___ bath], SITZ. You don’t get a lot of allusions to hemorrhoids and anal fissures in crosswords, but those are things for which sitz baths are recommended.
  • TRE and ETE clued with Europe’s top cycling events.

Not enamored of fill like COOL AIR, ERN, AEROS, ELAM, or UTE, but there are so few of these and so many juicy bits to offset them. 4.5 stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 141212

LA Times 141212

I looked at 1A and 1D, and then went to the middle and filled in POETSCORNER. I remembered the theme instantly from a CHE of a few years back… (I didn’t find that specific puzzle, but I found several other versions.) The puzzle was toughened up considerably for me by the fact that the chosen poets were clued by poems I hadn’t heard of or whose name rang only a vague bell. Is this a deliberate choice to use less well-known poems? Or am I just ig’nant? I’ve also never heard of a poet called SERVICE; what an implausible surname! Apparently he’s Robert W. Service and is Canadian…

The puzzle also featured some themeless-quality longer non-themers: THEALAMO, REDADAIR, PAGANINI, SMASHHIT, SIPOWICZ – all excellent. NESPRESSO seems interesting, I’ve not heard of it, although it was easy to guess. Very helpful letters that!

One other observation: I always thought Americans used “frosting” not ICING.

4 Stars on the power of the non-theme fill alone.

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Current Affairs”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.12.14: "Current Affairs"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.12.14: “Current Affairs”

Happy Friday, everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Ms. Sarah Keller, gives hope that we will have an electrifying weekend, as each of the first words in the four theme answers all involve objects that deal with the flow of electricity. Shocking, isn’t it?!?

  • CIRCUIT COURT: (20A: [Judicial district tribunal])
  • SWITCH HITTER: (27A: [Versatile batter]) – Your favorite all-time switch hitter? Mickey Mantle? Eddie Murray? Chipper Jones? Omar Vizquel???
  • SOCKET WRENCH: (47A: [Toolbox tool with interchangeable parts])
  • POWER RANGERS: (55A: [Teams of costumed superheroes]) – The most popular non-animated kids/teens show in the past 25 years, especially when it first came out in the U.S. in the early 1990s. Agreed?

First, I want to give a shout out to Brian Cimmet, the co-founder of Lollapuzzoola, and his wonderful young son OSCAR, whom I got to hang out with and have an amazing time with when I was up in Syracuse this past September (32A: [Cinematic award]). The downs on the very first column caught my eye, as the entries all started with “A” and a couple of them were fun fills, ASPIC (23D: [Gelatin creation]) and APSIS (51D: [Extreme point in an orbit]). Anytime you usually see an orbit clue in a grid, I usually think of another “A” word to put in, apogee. Not this time today. Stupidly put in “roi” instead of REI when I saw a king being referenced in the clue and already had the “I” in place (61D: [King, in Portugal]). At least  my first thought in another clue was to put in ALEUT instead of inuit (11D: [Aboriginal Alaskan]). We almost had a tic-tac-toe winner with a couple of X’s in the puzzle and creating a little diagonal in the Northwest. Not to be undone, though, there’s two OOs next to each other in TOOT (44A: [Bender]). Now I’m pining to watch some Hollywood Squares. Is Jim J. Bullock around?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GIGI (57D: [1958 Leslie Caron movie])– One of the greatest doubles players of all time, former tennis professional GIGI Fernandez won 17 doubles Grand Slam titles, 14 of those with longtime partner Natasha Zvereva. Fernandez also won two gold medals in doubles, at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and in 1996 in Atlanta, making her the first Puerto Rican-born woman in any sport to win an Olympic gold medal.

Have a great weekend, everybody!! See you tomorrow!

Take care!


Victor Barocas’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Non-Conference Matchups” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 12/12/14 • "Non-Conference Matchups" • Barocas • solution

CHE • 12/12/14 • “Non-Conference Matchups” • Barocas • solution

There’s a sort of circularity at work with this theme. Structurally, the key answers take the shape of x school (i.e., team) AT y school (team). As the clues would have it, x refers to a famous person (surname) attending y as an “early chapter” in their biography. But since the x schools are all ultimately eponymous this is just an exercise in finding four people who have the same surname as someone who founded and/or funded an institute of higher education. The other school is a mere appendage of the proper letter length.

Wait. Scratch that. There’s a connection between each x person and y school: they are in fact alma maters of those people. This changes everything, and makes the theme much more cohesive. I shouldn’t have doubted.

  • 17a. [Early chapter in the bio of a Vietnam War-era CIA director?] COLBY AT COLUMBIA. William Colby.
  • 27a. [Early chapter in the bio of a two-time Best Actor nominee] PITT AT MISSOURI. Incidentally, William Pitt did not start the school, but the school is named for the place that is named after him. Brad Pitt.
  • 44a. [Early chapter in the bio of the novelist who wrote “The Da Vinci Code”?] BROWN AT AMHERST. Dan Brown.
  • 58a. [Early chapter in the bio of a former U.S. Secretary of State?] RICE AT NOTRE DAME. Condoleezza Rice.

The cluing contained some welcome change-ups. For instance, instead of tennis pro, humanitarian, and civil rights figure Arthur, ASHE is clued as [North Carolina county that borders both Virginia and Tennessee]; surprisingly not only is Asheville not the county seat, it isn’t even in Ashe county—it is, however, the county seat of Buncombe County. And how about the medicalese of 1-down, [Targets of a pediculicide] LICE? Yum!

  • 55d [Medusa’s weapon] GAZE, 61a [Finish, as some doughnuts] GLAZE. There are also some legitimate cross-references in the puzzle.
  • Misfills: 39a [Megaphone wielder’s word] RAH. Was thinking of archetypal film or theater directors who yell CUT! 27d [On top of the world?] SOLAR before POLAR, which I was all set to complain about before I saw the error of my ways. It’s like my personal metatheme for this puzzle—”not getting it”.
  • 21a [Second word of “Moonlight Bay”] WERE. You know the song from barbershop quartets. However, “We WERE sailing along / On Moonlight Bay” begins the chorus, not the first verse, though many performers opt to sing the chorus before the first verse. The technically correct answer to the clue is HUM.
  • 25a [Fishing maneuver] CAST. “Maneuver” just seems weird here.
  • Not part of theme: 9d [Dallas inst.] SMU.
  • 26d [Oviedo-to-Madrid dir.] SSE. Not sure why Spanish geography was chosen, but I appreciate the change of pace, even if I had no idea what secondary compass point was needed in the answer.
  • Favorite clues: 30d [Feet or hands, e.g.] UNITS; 19d [Lab manager?] LEASH, with the tried-but-true “lab” = labrador retriever crossword ploy;
  • There’s a certain tidiness, which I appreciated,  to MAGMA crossing MGM in the center of the grid.
  • Amused by the gratuitous inclusion of both bagpipe and balalaika via clues. Makes for a distinctly Pythonian vibe.

A significantly better crossword than I was initially prepared to deem it, but still not bracingly exciting, themewise.

Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Annual Bonuses” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/12/14 • "Annual Bonuses" • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 12/12/14 • “Annual Bonuses” • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

Another one of those times when I neglect to look at the title of a crossword before or during the solve. Had I done so it certainly would have helped distill the theme more readily—for the bulk of it I simply noticed peripherally that Ys were being inserted into the theme entries. With the benefit of title awareness, it’s easy to perceive that YR—that is, a year—has been bestowed upon the original phrases. And of course in the superficial sense, it is the time of the year that annual salary bonuses are similarly bestowed, though they aren’t literally shoved into employees’ pockets. All right, I believe I’ve taken that analogy as far as it should go.

And speaking of time, I regret that I can’t reverse time so as to have written this up earlier in the day. Things happen, you know.

  • 23a. [Childe Harold’s pilgrimage?] BYRON VOYAGE (bon voyage).
  • 29a. [Baby who’s just said his first word?] TALKING TYRO (talking-to).
  • 43a. [Conventional snippet from a London karaoke bar?] GENERAL PUB LYRIC (general public).
  • 57a. [Be in contact with Power?] TOUCH TYRONE (touch-tone).
  • 71a. [Good price for a figurine of Pixar’s Remy?] GREY RAT DEAL (great deal).
  • 82a. [Official at the Miss Woodland Nymph pageant?] SATYR IN JUDGMENT (sat in judgment). See also 14d [Female follower of Bacchus] MAENAD.
  • 97a. [Accessory for an electric mixer?] GYRATOR BOWL (Gator Bowl).
  • 104a. [Long-suffering Lilliputians?] MINI MARTYRS (mini-marts).

Pretty wacky bunch if you ask me. Some of the original phrases feel not-quite-robust-enough to stand on their own, but such is the way of things sometimes. As is so often the case, the punchiest ones tend to be those that alter the word spacing from the originals.

The opening section in the upper left has 2d [Up to today] AS YET and 4d [Prior to today] AGO, which feel theme-simpatico.

  • In that same small section, I somehow mistook 19a [Lexicographer’s example] USAGE to read [Typographer’s example] and confidently popped in LOREM.
  • 76d/98d [Workers in a colony] HONEYBEES / ANTS.
  • 74d [Lukas of “Inception”] HAAS. Known far and wide to crossword solvers as [Lukas of “Witness”].
  • 74a [Space above a stable] HAYMOW. Completely new to me. Well, not the the “hay” part. Nor the  “mow” part, come to think of it. But not “mow” as a noun. 1 : a piled-up stack (as of hay or fodder); also : a pile of hay or grain in a barn, 2 : the part of a barn where hay or straw is stored. (
  • Favorite clues: 61a [Magician’s volunteer, often] PLANT. 17d [Did a mean thing?] AVERAGED.
  • 103a [Sask. or Alta.] PROV. Also, as PRO-V, a line of Pantene hair products.
  • 64a [Do the drill bit] TRAIN; see also, 78a [Platoon honcho] SARGE. 81d [Blackjack’s cousins] CUDGELS; see also, 34d [Chump] SAP.
  • 5d [Let out], four letters? Must be EMIT, right? Wrong—that’s what lead me to LOREM, above, by the way. “Oh, that’s USAGE, so with an E in place, it must be SEND, right? Wrong. It’s RENT.

Decent theme, typically solid and entertaining cluing throughout, about average amount of crosswordese, abbrevs., partials, and the like. Good crossword.


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26 Responses to Friday, December 12, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    Nice Friday challenge from Evan. One minor nit re the clue for COOL AIR…

    Strictly speaking the air coming from a fan not necessarily cooler than the surrounding air. It’s the movement of the air on our skin that has the cooling effect on our bodies. Of course, if the fan is part of an AC, then that’s a different matter!

    (I remember this from HS physics when the teacher demonstrated this by putting a thermometer in front of a fan)


    • CY Hollander says:

      Strictly speaking the air coming from a fan not necessarily cooler than the surrounding air.

      Even strictlier speaking, the air coming from a fan is necessarily cooler than the air immediately surrounding your body, or its movement wouldn’t have that cooling effect. I think that’s sufficient to make the clue tenable, even to a stickler.

      Then again, the air coming from a fan is still not necessarily cooler than the surrounding air in the room, or even around a person, if the room’s temperature is hot enough, so I do agree with you and Amy in not liking this clue/entry very much.

    • Leif says:

      Actually, the cooling effect is the evaporation of moisture on the skin which is sped up by the movement of air.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Hmm. Fair point: that’s surely a part of it (so I was wrong to say “or its movement wouldn’t have that cooling effect”), and I’d even believe you if you told me it’s the bulk of it, but there is also a layer of warm air around the body, which a breeze partly dispels, and that is also part of the cooling effect. Here’s a source.

      • bananarchy says:

        A little of column A, little of column B, isn’t it? The air next to your skin is indeed warmer, in most cases, than the ambient air (which is why clothes keep you warm), so increasing the movement/circulation of the air surrounding your skin should cool you down, I would think.

  2. sbmanion says:

    There were enough gimme long entries to make the puzzle of average difficulty for me: LED ZEPPELIN, OKTOBERFEST, SIDEKICKS and JACKSPRAT.

    The one huge problem for me was ELISHA OTIS. I had no idea what was going on and thought it might be Eli’s something or other.

    SW was also tricky for me, although once I got it, I thought that it should have been easier than it was when I actually solved it.

    Great puzzle with pockets of easiness and difficulty.


  3. CY Hollander says:

    I got 1-Across right away from the clue: ABBESS, [Person at the top of the order].

    Wow. Not that I have any pretensions to being a solver of Amy’s caliber, but even once I’d gotten the 4th and 5th letters from downs, I still didn’t get that one. I confidently put in priESt instead, which made the top left the last part of the puzzle to fall for me. I do agree that ABBESS was a better answer for the clue than PRIEST would have been.

    I agree with sbmanion that this was a nicely balanced Friday puzzle: not too hard, not too easy, not too uneven. Hard for me to say whether there were any problem crossings: not sure whether JICAMA/ELAM or FRANKEN/CULKIN might have stranded anyone; I didn’t have a problem with those, at any rate, Macaulay Culkin being a contemporary of mine.

    I did finish with one mistake, but that was the fault, not of the puzzle, but of me being stupid and not going through the alphabet after tossing in bILKS for “uses to the fullest” (or whatever the precise wording of that clue was) to see whether there were a word that fit that clue better, or a car name I actually recognized.

  4. David R says:

    Yep the moment I saw the LAT puzzle, I thought of the CHE puzzle, which seemed to be pretty recent but it was actually 10/31/08 by Todd McClary, damn time goes by fast. That puzzle had each corner with one name that was hidden partially in the across and the down fill. POETS CORNER was also a down entry in the center.

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Usually really like an EB puzzle but found this one too quizzy. Anyone feel “Start to play” is a poor and artificially difficult clue for ACTONE? Seems really out of place.

    • Evan says:

      I submitted [Show piece?] for 1-Down. I sorta felt confused by their clue since it looked grammatically incorrect.

      I’ll have a new puzzle up on Devil Cross fairly soon, so hopefully you’ll dig that one a little more.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Figured it wasn’t you and your clue is better anyway so not sure what they were thinking. Thanks for responding.

    • Zulema says:

      I agree about ONE ACT. Too many question-marked clues also. Had the same thought as Amy about UTE. The long answers were good.

    • rpl says:

      But the clue was not “Start to play”, it was Start to play?”.

      The question mark was a tip off to me that something slightly off kilter was coming for the answer. And ACTONE was a gimme given the “?”

  6. john farmer says:

    Byline in my dead-tree LAT today is Ian Livengood, not C.C. Will the real Spartacus please stand up?

    (My guess is Ian.)

  7. Margaret says:

    Re the LAT, I think Robert W. Service’s most famous poem is The Cremation of Sam McGee. I had it mostly memorized once upon a time… Now only bits and pieces float to the surface. I very much enjoyed this puzzle.

    • lemonade714 says:

      There was a time in younger days when I could recite the entirety of the poem about Dangerous Dan McGrew; westerns ruled the box office and tv screens and the POEM captured it all.

      Nice memory and the only Poem mentioned that I knew, though I have read some of Horace and other works by all the rest.

    • Brucenm says:

      Gareth, more emphatically Robert W. Service wrote some of the grandest, most epic, extraordinary, wonderful doggerel ever penned. Wrote many books of poetry and stories about the gold rush North — Yellowknife and Dawson Creek — the most famous of which chronicle the demise of Dan McGrew (shot) and Sam McGee (cremated).

      *A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute Saloon;
      The juke box boy was [something, something] a tune.*

      In the next 3 lines we meet the protagonists of this eternal triangle tragedy:

      Dangerous Dan McGrew playing cards, and [ominously]
      the Lady that’s know as Lou

      *When out of the night, which was 50 below, and into the din and the glare,
      There stumbled a miner, fresh from the creeks, dog dirty and loaded for bear.
      He looked like a man with a foot in the grave, and scarcely the strength of a louse, but* etc.

      The stranger goes to the piano, and, lo and behold, is a superb, spellbinding player. (Wearing my pianist hat, I’m not sure how he did it with those cold fingers.) The stanza describing his playing is the most remarkable of the poem.
      The music sounded like “hunger, but not hunger that is quelled by filling the belly with beans, but the gnawing hunger of a lonely man for a home and all that it means.” [I’m paraphrasing]

      The music becomes quiet and haunting, the lights go out; two shots ring out, and two men lie dead. As I recall there is deliberate ambiguity as to which of the decedents the lady known as Lou is being most attentive to. I’m being serious, not sarcastic when I say it is grand, wonderful stuff in its own universe.

      It seems to me that I’ve read that he was the most financially successful poet — sold the most books — of the 20th Century. He himself referred to what he wrote as verse, not poetry. Apparently his poems poured out of him like automatic writing (and I think it *is* poetry.) As I recall, he was born a Scot, lived in London, then moved to the Canadian North; a war correspondent during WWII; and somehow ended up in France — Paris and Brittany — a wealthy man. I learned, in retrospect, that he was living in France during the years I was there as a child.

      So, you can see, your comment about him evoked all kinds of memories.

  8. Kameron says:

    THE WIRE is about to get remastered and re-released by HBO, Amy, so you’ll be right on time. (I need to do the reverse and start Breaking Bad.)

  9. Molson says:

    “I got 1-Across right away from the clue: ABBESS, [Person at the top of the order].”

    My brain parsed this as “Person on top of the order” so I confidently filled in “waiter.” D’oh.

  10. Jack says:

    Why do you not publish the WSJ Friday puzzle sooner. Many of us think it is the best of the Friday puzzles. Just curious.

    • pannonica says:

      Sometimes I don’t get to it until later in the day. Also, it’s not entirely infrequently not available in my preferred .puz format until later in the day. But I do apologize for the times I unfairly neglect it.

  11. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Apropos Asheville’s Buncombe County: it’s the source of the words bunkum = bunk (in the “nonsense” meaning), and thus also of “debunk”.


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