Monday, January 5, 2015

NYT 3:35 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:08 (pannonica) 
CS 21:44 (Ade) 
BEQ 7:17 (Amy) 

John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 1/5/14 • Mon • Guzzetta • no 1 5, 01 05 15 • solution

NYT • 1/5/14 • Mon • Guzzetta • no 1 5, 01 05 15 • solution

No revealer for this Monday, but it’s pretty obvious what’s keeping this flock together.

  • 16a. [Skillful lawyer] LEGAL EAGLE.
  • 24a. [Cantankerous fellow] OLD BUZZARD.
  • 37a. [Relative youngster] SPRING CHICKEN.
  • 51a. [Hard-liner on government spending] BUDGET HAWK.
  • 60a. [Goofball] SILLY GOOSE.

So. All birds, in service as human appellations.

Solid, concentrated theme, with a good bunch of answers. Even so, the presence of the extraneous and not fully thematic 15a [Cousins of ostriches] EMUS bugged me a bit.

  • Vaguely contemporary REGIFT and SHOUT-OUT counterbalanced by Frankie VALLI [ … of the Four Seasons] and Tom EWELL, [ … onetime Marilyn Monroe co-star].
  • Reaching back farther, we have 44a [Chaney who starred in “The Phantom of the Opera”] LON. Factette: Universal Studios was dead-set on Chaney for their film version of DRACULA (25d [One trying to grab a a bite at the theater?]) but he died suddenly, allowing Bela Lugosi to have a star turn. Corollary factette: While Tod Browning was filming Dracula with Lugosi during the days, a Mexican crew and cast filmed a Spanish-language version on the same sets at night; the consensus among cognoscenti is that this version is superior in every way but one: the actor playing the title role was not as good as Lugosi. Corollary factette № 2: LON Chaney, Jr  played the role—sort of—in 1943’s Son of Dracula: he was Count Alucard (get it?), another vampire named Dracula.
  • 21d [Like many Mexicans’ forebears] AZTECAN. Really? No var. qualifier? Check out the Ngram.
  • French crossing! 64a [French yeses] OUIS, and 59d [“Après __ le déluge”] MOI, supposedly spoken by Louis XV. Also, there should be a comma in there.
  • Pretty good long downs in AMENABLE, QUATRAIN, SHOUT-OUT, and PANDEMIC. Have to say that the repetition of the prefix in PANDEMIC and the clue for 14a VIEW ([Panorama]) was quite noticeable, but perhaps I’m overly attuned to that.

Good theme, augmented with more engaging clues than we’re typically treated to on a Monday. Equals an above-average offering.

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Parting Company”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.05.15: "Parting Company"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.05.15: “Parting Company”

Good morning, everybody! If you were in need to start off your week of crosswords with a cranium crusher, this this grid, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, is the one for you. (Either that, or you can save doing the Saturday Stumper for Mondays.) In today’s grid, each of the four theme answers are two-word entries in which the end of the first word stars with a “C,” and the first letter of the second word begins with the letter “O,” which, in a way, “parts” company (well, at least the abbreviation of company, which is Co.).

  • ELECTRIC ORGAN: (17A: [Baseball player]) – I would assume that most baseball stadiums nowadays just use their stadium sound systems to play tunes produced by organs over the loud speaker, instead of having an actual electric organ on-site. But I know the New York Yankees still have an organ with an organist. Am also sure some minor league teams have organists as well.
  • PACIFIC OCEAN: (27A: [It straddles the 180th meridian]) – The answer that got me going in terms of knowing what was happening with the grid. That, and this was a layup for me, being a big geography person.
  • PUBLIC OUTCRY: (45A: [Massive eruption])
  • HIPPOCRATIC OATH: (58A: [Doctors take it]) – Good one!

Not too long ago, I read a comment in the comments section about how solving Mr. Klahn’s puzzles was more of a chore than an enjoyable experience, and also more of an exhibition in the constructor trying to show his cleverness in using misleading and/or just plain hard clues than anything else. Well, here’s a (quick) perspective from this non-speed solver:

There’s a saying in the world of boxing that, I believe, also applies to crosswords: styles make fights. You put an aggressive fighter against a counter-puncher, a southpaw against a righty, someone who uses bounces around and uses the whole ring against someone who stalks their opponent around, and you’re bound to get a good fight. Every constructor has their style, and, for the most part, I appreciate every one, and I definitely respect each constructor and his/her style. Believe me, when I first started doing puzzles from Bob, I had the same feeling of resignation after a few minutes, as his clues would just knock me down, and I wouldn’t want to get up from the canvas to try any more. But his style of cluing is part of what makes doing those puzzles a fun challenge, just like doing crosswords from other constructors who are known to crack skulls with their clues. Besides, which crossword constructor isn’t trying to be clever with the way they clue their entries?! It’s all about staying patient (a la being a good counter puncher), as, at the very end, Klahn’s puzzles are solvable. Yes, it takes me a (long) while to complete them, especially compared to anyone else who blogs for Fiend who would attempt to solve the same puzzle. The “a-ha” moments are there as much as when you’re doing other tough grids. It just takes longer to get there for me with Klahn’s puzzles, as I’m sure it takes longer for a number of you as well. Perfect example of that “a-ha” type of moment in a Klahn puzzle in this particular grid is the clue for PAID (27D: [Suffered the consequences]). I’ve grown to appreciate his style of cluing, and, if you do enough of his puzzles, like any other constructor, you’ll get on his wavelength more often than not.  Sometimes, you’ll see a clue like TUX and appreciate the outdated terminology that you might remember in terms of dressing formally to go out and eat, as I somehow remember despite being in my early 30s (32A: [Soup-and-fish]). But yes, a good number of times, you get something like RIMBAUD in a grid and just go, “WTF (43D: [19th-century French poet who sounds like a Sly character])?!?!?!?!?!”

Guess I took up so much space just now that I don’t have much time, or space, for describing today’s grid itself. All in all, it helped to get two of the theme entries without needing much (any) fill, with the clue to “Pacific Ocean” being something I already knew and guessing correctly that it might be “Hippocratic Oath.” That made me know what was going on with the theme as well. Getting CYBORG to start helped a lot in getting me off to a good start, and it didn’t hurt being a fan of the Terminator films to get that entry so quickly (1A: [Terminator type]). Thought it was humorous to see a reference to Terminator, one of the most successful movies of all-time, with GIGLI, one of the all-time great bombs (11D: [“Bennifer bomb”]). By the way, “Bennifer” might be the all-time worst portmanteau for celebrity couples. Well, not quite, as I just remembered Kimye (Kim Kardashian-Kanye West).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PICCOLO (38A: [High wind]) – If you remember the 1971 movie Brian’s Song, starring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan, you’ll know that the movie highlights the life of Brian PICCOLO, the former Chicago Bears running back who passed away in 1970 at the age of 26 due to embryonic cell carcinoma. Before his untimely passing, Piccolo was a great college football player, as he led the nation in rushing in 1964 as a senior at Wake Forest. He was undrafted out of college but ended up signing with the Chicago Bears, who already had Gale Sayers, one of the best running backs in the game, on the roster. Piccolo ended up starting in the same backfield with Sayers as a fullback before his illness.

Thank you for your time and patience, and I’ll see you tomorrow!!

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 1 5 15 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 1 5 15 “Themeless Monday”

This 66-worder looks like a four-leaf clover, but I was less lucky in solving it than I usually am with a Themeless Monday. Slow patches abounded! Like so:

  • 35a. [Barred entertainment?], VARIETY CRYPTIC. I tried BRITISH first, and that was no help with those first seven crossings.
  • 14a. [Shot components], INOCULA. I’ve worked as a medical editor but this plural of inoculum isn’t looking very familiar.
  • 20a. [Uneasy feelings], NAUSEAS. Not sure there’s much call for pluralizing that.
  • 48a. [Place to have a long lunch], QUIZNOS. Had the O, which gave me a convincing PLIE for 49d and a SUB SHOP. Oops.
  • 56a. [Outgoing Haitian prime minister Lamothe], LAURENT. Common enough French name, but I didn’t know this person’s name.
  • 5d. [“Shucks”], DURN. I had DARN.
  • 6d. [___ Sports Bureau], ELIAS. Never heard of it.
  • 8d. [Popular sneaks], AVIAS. Wait, the Avia shoe brand is popular?
  • 12d. [New York river to Lake Champlain]. AUSABLE. Never heard of this 94-mile-long river.
  • 21d. [California wine valley where “Sideways” took place], SANTA YNEZ. I really should have known this and yet, I did not.
  • 40d. [Big name in smartwatches], PEBBLE. News to me.
  • 45d. [Hawaiian coffee beans], KONAS. Do people use this sort of plural?
  • 54d. [Hatred], IRE. Anger ≠ hatred.

Likes: VARIETY CRYPTIC, ZOOEY DESCHANEL and the Salinger trivia, ACUPUNCTURISTS, 44d. [Give a fuck?] as a clue for CURSE.

Gotta fly. 3.33 stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/5/14 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

LAT • 1/5/14 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

One of the reliable theme categories in the rotation this Monday, the single-word-completing-multiple-phrases half-pike triple-gainer, with revealer.

  • 17a. [Easy orchard pickings] LOW–HANGING FRUIT.
  • 27a. [Bankrupt Best Buy competitor] CIRCUIT CITY. Confession: I always had trouble remembering this store’s name and would invariably come up with ‘Computer Circus’, the benefit of which was that it always conjured up silly images.
  • 49a. [Best selling 2006 memoir subtitled “One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia”] EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Not to be confused with Andrew Gottlieb’s naughty 2010 parody, down to the cover design.

And the connection is delivered via 65a [Groundbreaking 1956 film … or where you might find the ends of 17-, 27- and 49-Across?] FORBIDDEN PLANET. Ergo, Forbidden fruit, Forbidden City, and forbidden love.

Early on, when I saw LOW-HANGING FRUIT crossing 11d PLUM TOMATO, I thought fruits of varying sorts was to be the subject of a very pervasive theme. Needless to say, CIRCUIT CITY crossing 29d REMEMBER ME put the kibosh on that notion.


  • 30d [Futurist’s deck] TAROT. Since this is a Monday, I doubt this was an intentional misdirection, but my thought went immediately to the early 20th century arts movement (which has received a modicum of resurgent centennial notoriety). In the other sense, I consider a futurist to be someone involved in technology or broader societal predictions. See also, the crossing 46a [Sign that might bode ill] OMEN.
  • Appreciated the neutral definition of 2d ODOR [Scent]; in the past I’ve often criticized clues for assuming an ODOR is always unpleasant. It’s only fair to highlight when a crossword ‘gets it right’.
  • 71a [Follows orders] OBEYS is tangentially related to the theme, but doesn’t seem to be part of a concerted effort among non-theme entries.
  • The two other long downs are full name ETHAN COEN and the colloquial I’M ALL EARS.
  • 9d [Adobe document suffix] PDF. (1) It’s more accurately an extension, (2) it stands for “portable document format”.
  • 27d [Popular Pachelbel work] CANON. Does it need the IN D here?
  • 16a [Secluded valleys] DELLS; 51d [Holler] YELL.

Minimal frass, solid Monday overall.

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15 Responses to Monday, January 5, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    “Universal Studios was dead-set on Chaney … he died suddenly”

    Bet they got away with it too.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Re-gifting strikes a chord: there’s a well-known vignette in French literature (author?) about a married couple discussing which of their old wedding gifts they will pass on to a new bride…
    In my own case, I don’t remember most of the wedding gifts received years ago, but an ornate silver tray from distant cousins is still with me, having arrived with unbelievably badly mended handles!

  3. JohnV says:

    Point taken re Klahn CS puz. It remains, however, that I have yet to even come close to solving one of his puzzles. Mike Shenk observed that a good puzzle is one where the constructor wants the solver to win. Not sure I pick up that vibe in today’s CS offering.

    • Dave S says:

      Ade – thank you for your perspective regarding Mr. Klahn’s puzzles.

      I am the original poster who made the comments to which you responded. It seems there is a great divide between expert and mainstream solvers regarding the Klahn crossword experience. I’m trying to keep an open mind and also trying to step up my game with negligible success so far on both fronts. After spending approx. 30 minutes on today’s CS and filling in perhaps five answers, I remained on the canvas. JohnV’s last sentence succinctly summed up my feelings as well.

      Amy and pannonica, thank you for steering me toward the Stumper. It is not a misnomer.

      • jefe says:

        Actually, I felt today’s Klahn offering was much easier than his usual fare. Very few proper nouns, and to me the only terribly misleading clue was 1D: [Bear watcher?] for CBER, where ‘bear’ is CB slang for the police.

        In general though, I also find his puzzles to be more of a slog than an enjoyable challenge. Upon solving, my reactions to the tricky clues are more often “Oh, I get it” rather than “Oh, that was clever”.

      • Gary R says:

        I don’t usually do the CS puzzles, but I gave this one a try since it was generating a lot of discussion.

        It seemed about Thursday NYT difficulty level to me (I don’t know if there’s supposed to be day-to-day difficulty progression in the CS puzzles). Some cute mis-direction clues – I liked the ones for BAR CAR and PICCOLO – and some slightly vague clues, but nothing I thought was unfair. Overall, I thought it was fun.

        The only thing in the puzzle that was totally unfamiliar was the “soup-and-fish” reference for TUX (that U was the last letter to go in).

  4. Linda says:

    “[Popular Pachebel work] CANON. Does it need the IN D here?” No, but Pachebel should be Pachelbel.


  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Stopped doing the CS because it always seemed to easy but tried today’s due to the write-up and a comment and it was quite tough. Have the CS puzzles become harder or is this an unusual exception.

    And I was hoping for a NYT video review, preferably with explosions.

  6. Dave B says:

    Amy – FYI (but you probably already know) Tim Croce has started an indie blog called Club72 where he creates puzzles available for solving. You may want to add that to your already long list of puzzle sites.

  7. Good evening guys and dolls (“dolls” said with affection and respect),

    Thank you so much for the interest in the blog about Mr. Klahn’s CS puzzle(s), and thank you, Dave S, for providing the launching point with your original post. Believe me, I was in the camp of “this is too much” as well when starting to do his puzzles, and, if you go back a couple of months on this blog, there were two of his puzzles that I just wasn’t able to finish. So, again, I absolutely feel your angst. Not because I have a self-deprecatory attitude, but when I finish one of his puzzles, my first reaction usually is, “I got dumb lucky today.”

    Gary R, I can totally see how you, and others looking for an increasing level of difficulty during a week with puzzles, would pass on doing the CS. The Sunday Challenges are usually a Wednesday/Thursday-level puzzle, and I believe it would be fun to give that a whirl here and there. Also, I always try to add the sports angle to the end of my blogs on CS puzzles. If I can help one person get an answer in a future grid because of that, then I will have succeeded!

    Of all the blogging regulars here at Fiend, I’m pretty sure I’m the most infrequent commenter. Definitely hope to change that soon.

    Thank you all once again!


  8. howlinwolf says:

    Re Bob Klahn’s puzzles….He is far and any one of my favorite constructors. I do not find a “gotcha” element in his work. I think the differences of opinion arise from the fact that people have different ways of approaching puzzles; some seem to view them as knowledge + logic tasks, while others (like myself) view them as knowledge + intuition. I think this also explains the differences in opinion about rebus puzzles, which I imagine are appreciated more by the first group than the second.

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