Sunday, December 14, 2014

NYT 9:23 (Amy) 
LAT 8:48 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:31 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo 15:47 (Sam) 
CS 31:19 (Ade) 

Jim Peredo’s New York Times crossword, “Well, Golly!”

NY Times crossword solution, 12 15 14 "Well, Golly!"

NY Times crossword solution, 12 15 14 “Well, Golly!”

Luckily, despite the title, the theme is not All Things Gomer Pyle. It’s “add a ‘gee’ but spell it any which way”:

  • 23a. [Religious rituals for cats?], KITTY LITURGY. So accidentally timely, as Pope Francis just declared that companion animals can go to heaven. (Not sure if this means horrible pets go to hell. Can I get a ruling?) Original phrase is kitty litter here.
  • 42a. [Master of Japanese writing?], KANJI ARTIST. From con artist.
  • 52a. [Strange pond scum?], WEIRD ALGAE. Weird Al Yankovic meets pond scum.
  • 67a. [“Grant your own damn wishes,” e.g.?], GENIE JERK REACTION. Knee-jerk reaction.
  • 87a. [“How deep is your love?” or “You should be dancing”?], BEE GEE LINE. Beeline. The Bee Gees, the original three tenors. Are you instantly plunged into Bee Gees earworm territory? If not, please have a listen to “How Deep Is Your Love.”
  • 93a. [Comment from a driver who finally reached his destination?], GPS, I LOVE YOU. “P.S. I Love You.”
  • 115a. [Surprised comment upon rummaging through a tea chest?], “OH, DARJEELING!” “Oh, darling.” Base phrase may be slightly contrived but I liked the tea surprise.

Loved the way the “gee” addition was spelled seven different ways, adding to the challenge and keeping things lively. Less consistent was the way the surrounding syllables sometimes changed spelling (litter/LITUR, con/KAN, knee/NIE) but more often didn’t. Not that this inconsistency bothered me in the least while I was solving. The base phrases were largely a zippy bunch as well.

Toughest intersections for me: Where ZOLTAN (26d. [Korda who directed “Sahara”]—who??) met DANTE (51a. [Poet who wrote “Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on”]—not among the most famous couple of Inferno lines), which in turn crossed tough-clued STOOP (45d. [Keep a low profile?]). I considered SCOOP and SNOOP, which both seemed slightly allied with that clue. And I considered DONNE for the poet. Which gave me the is-that-a-name ZOLTON, but it’s not as if Zoltan Korda is a household name. A straightforward clue for STOOP and an easy DANTE clue would have made this spot a breeze.

Five more things:

  • 123a. [Literary prefaces], PROEMS. Not such a familiar word. Better nail the M in 81d. [Any four-letter word], TETRAGRAM.
  • 100d. [“Heaven forbid!”], “GOD, NO!” Not sure I’ve seen this much in crosswords but I like it.
  • Lots of longer fill peppered throughout the grid. Highlights include PATTI PAGE‘s full name, MAIL ORDER, DIAL-A-RIDE (is that still a service for the disabled, though?), and WHITE GLOVES. The WEIRD ALGAE and BEE GEE LINE sections are pretty open and yet not packed with lousy fill.
  • 31d. [Chemical compound often labeled “S”], NACL. NaCl is salt and salt and pepper shakers are sometimes marked “S” and “P.”
  • 43d. [Veracruz’s capital], JALAPA. Entirely unfamiliar to me. Also spelled with an X instead of J. There is also a Jalapa that’s the capital of Jalapa in Guatemala, and Wikipedia informs us that the population was 3,500in 1850. Spanish-language Wikipedia has more recent figures (122,500)

4.25 stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “It’s Always Christmas in L.A”

Merl Reagle syndicated Sunday crossword solution, 12 15 14 "It's Always Christmas in L.A."

Merl Reagle syndicated Sunday crossword solution, 12 15 14 “It’s Always Christmas in L.A.”

Seasonally appropriate and clever theme—things (sometimes loosely) associated with the Los Angeles area that involve Christmassy words.

  • 23a. [Christmasy L.A. freeway], SANTA MONICA. I knew it was a town and a boulevard but not a freeway. SANTA Claus.
  • 25a. [Christmasy area of L.A.], HOLLYWOOD. HOLLY leaves and berries are Xmas decorations.
  • 32a. [Christmasy L.A. catchphrase], LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION. LIGHTS on a Christmas tree.
  • 54a. [Christmasy nickname of 25 Across], TINSELTOWN. TINSEL on the tree. I wonder if this was the genesis for the theme?
  • 70a. [Christmasy L.A. nickname], THE CITY OF ANGELS. ANGEL tree-toppers.
  • 89a. [Christmasy L.A. denizens], MOVIE STARS. Or STAR tree-toppers.
  • 106a. [Christmasy sections of L.A. film contracts], PREAPPROVAL CLAUSES. Santa and family are the CLAUSES.
  • 120a. [Christmasy L.A. event for cast and crew], WRAP PARTY. Gift WRAP.
  • 123a. [Christmasy L.A. guests — oops, I mean, entrees], HOLIDAYS HAMS. This one’s the outlier, and that’s why it appears last. Overactors are HAMS and HOLIDAYS are holidays.

Cute! PREAPPROVAL CLAUSES feels a little weird to me, but then what do I know about movie contracts?

Five more things:

  • 6d. [“She’s been like ___ me”], A MOTHER TO. A three-word, 9-letter partial would normally raise an eyebrow, but so many people treasure someone who’s been like a mother to them. Sentimentality exception to the general rule.
  • 111d. [TV drama whose title is seen on a license plate in the opening credits], L.A. LAW. Would be better if this entry weren’t plunked in the puzzle given the centrality of “L.A.” in the theme clues.
  • 105d. [Drawer of “impossible drawings”], ESCHER. Who doesn’t love a little mind-bending time spent looking at Escher drawings?
  • 71d. [Bruce of “King Kong” (1933)], CABOT. Never heard of this CABOT. Renaissance explorers John and Sebastian Cabot would be my go-tos.
  • 86a. [Lana Turner was one], IDAHOAN. Trivia I did not know.

Four stars from me.

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 245”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 245 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 245 (solution)

I clocked in with a slow time on this 70/28 freestyle from Doug Peterson, largely because I had trouble with two of the three answers in each of the puzzle’s four triple stacks. Let’s start in the southeast and work clockwise. I’m normally good at TV trivia, but I had no idea that CHICAGO HOPE was the [Hospital drama that debuted one day before “ER”]. I knew it couldn’t be ST. ELSEWHERE (even though that fit), but the name just couldn’t come to me. And then it didn’t help that I read the clue for 57-Across, [Like modern tablet technology], as having something to do with iPads and other tablets. Alas, the “tablet” here was a medicine capsule, making the answer TIME-RELEASE. I like the devious clue!

Over in the southwest, I got the last word in the answer to [Seasoned salts] easily enough, but the first part of ABLE SEAMEN eluded me for the longest time. And I kept wanting FLASH DANCE as the answer to [Its male star also performed in “Feet of Flames” and “Celtic Tiger”], though I admit the actual answer, RIVERDANCE, makes much more sense.

Prairie DawnUp in the northwest (and here to the left) is PRAIRIE DAWN, the [Blonde muppet girl on “Sesame Street”]. Never met her before. I’m not one to judge, but she might have spent a little too much time in the tanning booth. And boy howdy did I want DEAN CAIN to grow three extra letters so he could work as the [Longtime Teri Hatcher co-star]. When I finally remembered that she was also on “Desperate Housewives,” I had to go through a mental checklist before finally getting EVA LONGORIA. A little embarrassing that this took so long, but it is what it is.

Then there was the northeast. I finally got lucky guessing ERICH SEGAL as the [Author of the 1977 sequel “Oliver’s Story”]. You may remember him from such works as “Love Story” and the screenplay for “Yellow Submarine.” (It helps if you read that last sentence in your best Troy McClure voice.) The real puzzler, for me, was figuring out the answer to [It hangs around bad scenes]. When POLICE TAPE finally fell, I loved it.

Add up all those difficulties in four corners and you get the slow solving time. At least the slow time allowed me to enjoy fully the various highlights from the puzzle. Among them:

  • There’s an [Old Kellogg’s cereal brand] called PEP. I wonder if it used to be made with cocaine.
  • [Factor in chemistry] isn’t very scientific at all, for the answer is PERSONALITY.
  • [Menu warning] really had me flummoxed, but then I realized it was SPICY.
  • LOVE AND MARRIAGE was the [Song on the album “This is Sinatra!”]. Had it been clued with reference to “Married…With Children” it would have been a gimme.
  • I didn’t know this, but I like that FINN is the [Name of the Goldfish crackers mascot].
  • Never heard of the album name (I don’t think), but what else could complete the blank in [“A Salt With a Deadly ___”] but PEPA.
  • The ROOMBA is a [Household helper with a random-walk algorithm]. But for the “helper” part, NINE YEAR-OLD BOY would have been a sensible answer too.
  • Confused by the answer to [Confucian work]? Wikipedia says “The ANALECTS” “is the collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his contemporaries.” Now you know.
  • [Subjects of history] is a great clue for LIEGES.

Favorite entry = POLICE TAPE. Favorite clue = Tie between [Part in a cast] for BROKEN BONE and [Charter?] for HIT (as in a hit song that made the charts).

Paul Hunsberger’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Eureka Moments”

Sunday LA Times crossword solution, 12 14 14 "Eureka Moments"

Sunday LA Times crossword solution, 12 14 14 “Eureka Moments”

Various inventors are paired with familiar verb phrases that connect to the things they invented:

  • 23a. [In inventing his elevator, Otis __] ROSE TO THE OCCASION.
  • 31a. [Nervously testing his new invention, the Aqua-Lung, Cousteau __] TOOK A DEEP BREATH.
  • 54a. [In inventing the hot air balloon, the Montgolfier brothers __] GOT CARRIED AWAY.
  • 89a. [Tired, but pleased to have invented the air conditioner, Carrier __] COOLED HIS HEELS.
  • 105a. [Proving his invention of the joy buzzer to be a complete success, Adams __] SHOCKED EVERYONE.
  • 118a. [Immediately upon inventing the box camera (but not the lens cap), Eastman __], SNAPPED HIS FINGERS. No idea what the lens cap is doing in the clue. The lens cap doesn’t keep you from taking a picture with your finger in front of the lens—it keeps you from taking any photos at all. Not having a lens cap, you’re just … taking pictures. Probably not with fingers in the way.
  • 16d. [After inventing the forerunner to the modern toilet, Harington __] FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. I wish this one started with WAS.
  • 39d. [To celebrate inventing his revolutionary engine, Watt __] BLEW OFF SOME STEAM.

The theme is pretty good, but as I worked through the grid, I ran into so many answers that triggered the Scowl-o-Meter. Just in the top half, there’s REBAGS, AGUE, NO-CAL (“calorie-free” or “0 calories,” sure; I just don’t see food described as NO-CAL) crossing A NO-NO, LAO, UNBAR, EDDA crossing ADANO, AIWA, TROI, ULEE, -AROO, and -INA. Further down, we have such gems as COALER, NEINS, IRED, IEOH, CEES, and EBOLI. In the northwest corner, would NAPA/ELAL/ROSE/DESCENT crossing NERD/ALOE/PASS/ALEC be better? (Would then need to change 59d ALEX to ALES/LAS, no biggie.)

There were things I liked in the fill—ACURA MDX is tough fill, but fresh. “KING ME” is playful. ECHINACEA sparkles, as do poison BLOW DARTS and Fat Albert’s “HEY, HEY, HEY” (but eww, evocation of Bill Cosby). And I liked seeing 50d. [Infrequently, to Dickinson], SELDOMLY because yesterday, someone said “seldomly” to me and I asked myself if that was actually a word. Seldom doesn’t need an -ly to become an adverb because it’s already an adverb, but apparently Emily Dickinson tacked the -ly on, possibly because she was a goofball.

Given that the real estate taken up by the blah fill was nearly as sizable as the theme’s real estate, I ended up feeling negative about this puzzle. 4 stars for the theme, no more than 3 stars overall when the fill is factored in. Too many small irritants.

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

Bob Klahn's Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 12.14.14

Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 12.14.14

Happy Sunday, everybody!

For those who want Sunday puzzles with a whole lot of bite, along with some great fill, this grid, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, should be right up your alley. As usual, very dense fill and some answers that just leave you scratching your head, like DAEDAL, which I convinced myself couldn’t be right for about 15 minutes (23A: [Cleverly intricate]). My absolute favorite clue was for ERNEST, and I can honestly tell you I watched all those movies on VHS because my father was a huge fan of Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) and his antics (27D: [He went to camp in 1987, to jail in 1990, to school in 1994, and to Africa in 1997]). Let’s not forget, especially this time of year, that he also saved Christmas during that time as well. A foodie who might have done this puzzle will have loved the middle of the grid, with both CINNAMON STICK (34A: [Flavorer that begins as tree bark]) and BARBECUE SAUCE, which, every time I go to Texas, I always try to being some of that sauce from the Lone Star State home with me (30A: [Condiment often vinegar- and mustard-based]). Another food reference in the grid was DONUT, though I was thrown for a serious loop with its clue/slang (58A: [Sinker]). As of right now, I’m watching German soccer, so definitely have to mention DER SPIEGEL, and I brought a copy of one home after my short time in Hamburg in 2006 (20A: [Influential German newsmagazine]). Yes, I’m watching German soccer now.  Don’t you spend your Sundays doing that as well?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SHULA (41D: [NFL coach with the most career wins])– Yes, most sports fans know about Don Shula’s time as head coach with the Miami Dolphins, and most know that his 328 regular-season wins and 347 all-time coaching wins ranks him first in NFL history. But did you also know that Shula was the head coach of the Baltimore Colts during Super Bowl III, the game in which New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed victory for his AFL squad before taking on the Colts and guiding the Jets to the greatest upset in NFL history? His record as head coach of the Baltimore Colts was a staggering 71-23-4. 

See you all on Monday, and thank you for another week of crossword talk!

Take care!


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

CRooked • 12/14/14 • "Silly Saints" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 12/14/14 • “Silly Saints” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

In which silly hagiographic puns are invented, taking the form [alleged saint name] of [not place name but a noun to complete the punning phrase].

  • 23a. [Optometrist’s patron saint?] PIERRE OF GLASSES (pair of …).
  • 35a. [Officers’ patron saint?] JANE OF COMMAND (chain of …).
  • 55a. [Kite-lover’s patron saint?] GUS OF WIND (gust of …).
  • 61a. [Patron saint of the ordinary?] RON OF THE MILL (run of …).
  • 67a. [Patron saint of the insignificant?] GAWAIN OF SAND (grain of).
  • 78a. [Judges’ patron saint?] CURT OF LAW (court of … ).
  • 91a. [Despots’ patron saint?] WAYNE OF TERROR (reign of …). Hmm, I think two rhotacism puns might be piling it on too much. And incidentally, why is it that the names of speech impediments seem to be designed so that sufferers of such sound disorders will have difficulty pronouncing them? Rhotacism, sigmatism/lisp, et al.
  • 111a. [Audiologist’s patron saint?] HOWARD OF HEARING (hard of …).
  • 15d. [Fortunetellers’ patrons saint?] RITA OF PALMS (reader of …). According to Google Ngram, reader of palms has low popularity compared to palmreader, palm-reader, and especially palm reader.
  • 64d. [Campers’ patron saint?] CAL OF NATURE (call of …).

So there you have it. Puns. Your mileage may vary. Incidentally, I’m aware that saints are available for patronage retcon to all sorts of modern professions, niche positions, medical diagnoses, et cetera, so I’m quite confident that all of these—yes, even the despots—could be assessed. For instance, the actual patron saint of opticians (yes, I know the clue specifies optometrists) is St Hubert of Liège.

  • 27a [Snaky tuba ancestor] SERPENT. Oh, of course the national organization for musicians of the instrument has the acronym ASP (American Serpent Players).
  • pbmiyajima29a [Old car horn] KLAXON, 95a [Nervous conductors] AXONS. The latter was my favorite clue in the puzzle.
  • 105a [Popular farmed fish] TILAPIA. Like chicken, only with practically zero flavor. No wonder it’s so popular. Eat real fish, people!
  • Too much baseball, as is so common in crosswords. 117a [Home run, slangily] TATER; 4d [Rain delay cover] TARP; 42d [Hunter of diamonds] TORII, who?; 88a [Satchel of fame] PAIGE; and what the hell, 9d [What plate is, to petal] ANAGRAM.
  • 87d [“Mea culpa”] MY ERROR, but of course I went with MY FAULT first,
  • Prefixes! 58d [Iron-indicating prefix] FERRO-, 52d [Cloud-related prefix] CIRRO-, 40d [Prefix meaning “back”] DORSO-.
  • A swarm of bees: 92a/93a/94d/96d/99d – [Be the pilot] AVIATE / [Be the sire of] FATHER / [Be a robber] THIEVE / [Be like a geyser] SPOUT / [Be like a lecher] LUST.

Solid cruciverbal offering. No, I don’t know who the patron saint of crosswords is. Or puzzles. Or cryptographers. Or BLOG (120a) writers.

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19 Responses to Sunday, December 14, 2014

  1. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    24 D, LEAL, was completely new to me, though easily gotten from crosses; looked it up post-solve just to be sure!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I meant to mention LEAL, which had me doubting myself at every letter!

      • Bencoe says:

        I thought “lief” in the medieval sense originally. Didn’t know LEAL. I also didn’t know PROEMS. I have read a great many literary preface but can’t recall any of them being called a “PROEM”. So, a learning experience!

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: “[Surprised comment upon rummaging through a tea chest?], ‘OH, DARJEELING!’ ‘Oh, darling.’ Base phrase may be slightly contrived but I liked the tea surprise.”

    Like the preceding “P.S. I Love You”, “Oh! Darling” is also the title of a Beatles song.

  3. Jim Peredo says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Amy.

    This puzzle wouldn’t have happened without Amy’s involvement. She steered me away from using OUIJA as part of a theme entry. That forced me to re-think my themers and come up with (what I think are) some real gems. So, thank you, Amy, for helping me get my first Sunday puzzle.

    I never ever saw the DANTE / DONNE / STOOP / SNOOP problem when I was building it. My original clue for DANTE was a gimme, so it could have been avoided, but I don’t mind Will’s clue either. Maybe if I had clued ZOLTAN as a derivation of the word “Sultan”…

    I tried to avoid LEAL, but it wasn’t happening.

    I mostly knew “P.S. I Love You” as a Beatles song, but I had a recollection of it being an older song as well (plus, it’s the title of a Hillary Swank movie). The original 1934 song was written by Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer and was made popular by singer Rudy Valee. I found this gorgeous version by Bridget Davis while I was building the puzzle.

  4. Matt says:

    Got nailed at DANTE/ZOLTAN/STOOP but got lucky at TFAL since I just bought a TFAL iron. So it’s a draw, I guess.

    Off topic, but the oddest thing about the iron is that the user’s manual is narrated entirely in little pictures. The ‘Don’t touch the hot part’ picture is easy to figure out, but the ‘How to perform the de-calcing and self-cleaning maintenance’ is a series of thirty-eight little diagrams showing a procedure that would have been a lot clearer in words. Very weird.

  5. CY Hollander says:

    Had exactly the same problem as Amy with the ZOLTA/oN DONNE/DANTE STOOP/SNOOP area. Came down on the wrong side of it because I hadn’t thought of DANTE (the English-language excerpt didn’t help).

  6. Avg Solvr says:

    POLICETAPE and some other good ones in the PP.

  7. David L says:

    I didn’t understand KANJIARTIST until I came here — my unAmerican pronunciation is to blame, yet again.

    “Off the hook” for INSANE — is that something the young people say? To me, off the hook means freed of responsibility for something, such a money owed or overtime work duty.

    • Bencoe says:

      Off the hook, in hip hop parlance, would more closely mean “insanely awesome”.

    • Eliza says:

      David L: I struggled with that clue/answer too. I think it refers to the US justice system, where you are not guilty by reason of insanity, and therefore off the hook for a crime.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’m pretty sure it’s the slangy sense of “insanely awesome.” As in “That party was off the hook!” Seldom is a crossword puzzle actually off the hook.

        • Eliza says:

          Interesting, Amy. I’ve never come across that usage before. Oh wait, the 80s are coming back to me. Aargh. Men jogging in tiny polyester shorts, and everything was “awesome.”

          To be fair, I also blow-dried my hair upside down with gallons of mousse. Like a Fox female newswoman today.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    Wild coincidence – I was just rereading Colin Dexter’s “The Daughters of Cain” and found on page xx of the Prolegomena, as the recipient of a birthday cake notes odd smears in the icing — She thinks “Lacks her usual Daedalian deftness”. Then she reads the note and learns it came from her cleaner whose thuggish husband had broken a bone in her hand… The author and his main character, Inspector Morse, delight in arcane wordplay as well as intricate mysteries! (Klahn’s “Daedal” is not in my dictionary)

  9. pannonica says:

    WaPo: Sam, I don’t think your misreading of “tablet” was in the least bit accidental. I did the same and immediately recognized it as a devious and intentional pitfall. One among many, I might add. I thought the cluing for this crossword was superb overall. Very tricky.

  10. pannonica says:

    Confession: I thought the Muppet at 1-across in the WaPo could be PRAIRIE DAWG.

  11. Patt says:

    In the LAT for 12/14/14, I am surprised that no one mentioned that a terabit is not the same as a terabyte. There are 8 bits to a byte, so that is not usually an accurate measure for computer memory. And almost no one uses a bit measurement any more. Bad clue.

  12. Eliza says:

    Artlvr: I agree about daedal. I know it’s in the dictionary, but it is not a word I have ever come across in my life. With all those friendly vowels, it’s almost an etui.

Comments are closed.