Sunday, January 25, 2015

NYT 8:04 (Amy) 
Reagle 6:44 (Amy) 
LAT 4:59 (Andy) 
Hex/Hook 8:48 (pannonica) 
WaPo 11:29 (Gareth) 
CS 22:00 (Ade) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Twist Ending”

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 15 "Twist Endings"

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 15 “Twist Endings”

The last two letters in familiar phrases are transposed, changing the meaning:

  • 23a. [“Those wreaths all look the same to me!”?], I CANNOT TELL A LEI. Do you use “I cannot tell” like that? “I cannot tell a lei from a wreath,” “I cannot tell the difference among those leis,” those sentences work better for me.
  • 39a. [Start of an oral listing of African nations, perhaps?], YOU’VE GOT MALI. I assume your listing is specifically of African countries that continue to have official connections to France, because otherwise it is weird to start with Mali.
  • 53a. [Showing less cleavage?], RAISING THE BRA. Um, that’s not how bras work, gentlemen. You raise those cups a bit and you’re likely to get more cleavage, not less.
  • 84a. [Cheap roadside assistance?], A QUARTER TO TOW. The clue isn’t quite working for me with the TO in the answer. The TOW is the roadside assistance, but the primary noun in the answer is the QUARTER.
  • 99a. [Knockoff dress labeled “Armani,” say?], ILLEGAL A-LINE. Yes, Armani does make A-line dresses.
  • 116a. [Caution to an orphan girl not to leave her wildebeest behind?], ANNIE GET YOUR GNU. Now, that should have been part of the recent Annie remake, trading in the horrible arfing dog Sandy for a gnu.
  • 3d. [Group of actors who all have stage fright?], SCAREDY CAST. Not sure that SCAREDY can pair with anything but -cat, as it isn’t a word unto itself.
  • 70d. [Lovely but stupid person?], OBTUSE ANGEL. We’ve all known one or two such people, right?

So the theme wasn’t all that much to my liking. There were also things in the fill I found a bit jarring:

  • 74d. [Reach the Mediterranean, say?], PASS GO. No, no, no. The space on the Monopoly board is not “the Mediterranean.” You can be cutesy in your clues but if you don’t talk the way people actually talk, the effect is ruined.
  • Lots of short fill amid the theme entries—ETES, EER, CIERA, CCL, SRA, AT ‘EM, DPS, EMS, ELOI, EPI, AS IT, AGIN, ODO, ILLY. Felt like more of these than usual. And THEDA Bara!
  • 7d. [Attentive dog owner], PETTER. PETTER?? Other odd inflected words: LINDIED, PILLARED, SCORERS, RECANE, UNDYED, plural ANISES.
  • Dupe that the NYT editor doesn’t care about but that a number of solvers do: OPEN SEA crossing URAL with a [Caspian Sea feeder] clue.

I did like MAPLE TREE, DOODLED, and DUDE RANCH. 3.33 stars from me. The theme concept is fine but the execution was a bit short of the mark.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Accent on Australia”

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 1 25 15 "Accent on Australia"

Merl Reagle Sunday crossword solution, 1 25 15 “Accent on Australia”

This was a fun, light pronunciation theme. You know how words Americans pronounce with a long A sound end up with a long I sound when spoken by Aussies? Merl respells familiar phrases to reflect the Aussie pronunciation and clues the resulting goofy phrases in plausible ways:

  • 23a. [Flashy part of an Aussie rock concert?], THE LIGHT SHOW. The Late Show.
  • 25a. [Motto of an Aussie surveillance company?], LET US PRY. Pray.
  • 39a. [Aussie stopover infamous for its bedbugs?], THE BITES MOTEL. Bates, of Psycho.
  • 43a. [Aussie women who wear the pants in the family?], ALPHA WIVES. Alpha waves are something scientifical.
  • 57a. [Rare occurrences in Aussie courtrooms?], HAPPY TRIALS. Trails.
  • 68a. [The other problem at 39 Across?], ROOM MITES. Roommates.
  • 77a. [Twin Aussie babies?], DOUBLE TYKES. Takes.
  • 92a. [Scornful feeling among Aussies?], SOUR GRIPES. Grapes.
  • 94a. [Query to Mr. and Mrs. Pig after an Aussie vacation?], HOW WAS YOUR STY? “It was full of mites, actually.”
  • 113a. [What Aussies use to order holiday desserts?], PIE PHONE. Payphone. I would make that call.
  • 115a. [What Aussies always order at the NASA Diner?], SPICE RICE. A two-fer, from space race.

Fun idea, consistently executed, entertaining to read aloud in your head (…what? you can too read aloud in your head) if you’re a yahoo like me.

The puzzle went fast for me—no trouble spots of awkward fill.

Five more things:

  • 16d. [Truth unit?], KERNEL. When there’s a kernel of truth, is it implied that this kernel of truth is partnered with an entire ear of lie kernels?
  • 101d. [Dried coconut meat], COPRA. Hey! Crosswordese tropical food includes this, POI, and TARO.
  • 86a. [Burnett-skit regular], KORMAN. I had the K from THE MASK so the rest was easy. Without the crossings, you might opt for Tim CONWAY rather than Harvey KORMAN. And if you are too young to get Carol Burnett Show references, I pity you.
  • 10d. [Monkey-bread tree], BAOBAB. My all-time favorite tree name.
  • 12d. [Hi-rise higher-up], EXEC. I never see buildings called “hi-rises,” just high-rises. Odd.

4.2 stars from me. I enjoyed the puzzle.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “4-G Network”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 1.25.15 -- "4-G Network" -- by C.C. Burnikel

LAT Puzzle 1.25.15 — “4-G Network” — by C.C. Burnikel

Frequent LAT contributor (she had Wednesday’s LAT) and even-more-frequent LAT blogger C.C. “2-C” Burnikel brings us this puzzle, “4-G Network,” in which we encounter some phrases that contain exactly 4 Gs:

  • 23a, BRAGGING RIGHTS [What winners earn]. ETERNAL GGGGLORY didn’t quite fit.
  • 41a, GOOGLE SUGGEST [Search feature that tries to finish your thought]. I always forget this feature has a name. Nice entry.
  • 60a, GAGGLE OF GEESE [Grounded V-formation fliers]. At first, I had no idea why “grounded” was necessary in this clue, but I learned (from Wikipedia) that “[t]he collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.”
  • 83a, BAG AND BAGGAGE [Completely]. The clue doesn’t quite capture the usage of this idiom for me. To “leave bag and baggage,” as you might suspect, means to take absolutely everything you own with you.
  • 96a, GUEST BLOGGING [Way to generate fresh website content]. Amen!
  • 120a, GORGEOUS GEORGE [Flamboyant ’40s-’50s wrestler]. See image below. ‘Nuff said.

    Gorgeous George.

    Gorgeous George.

  • 40d, L’EGGO MY EGGO [Kellogg’s product slogan]. Love this phrase. I can never remember whether it takes an apostrophe, but the Eggo website says it does.
  • 44d, GOG AND MAGOG [Revelation nations].

This is a fairly common theme type, but I liked this puzzle just fine for two reasons: (1) the theme phrases are largely very lively, and (2) the puzzle was not a chore to fill. For puzzles with this kind of an easy theme, the latter can especially be a problem, but this one was so breezy that there simply wasn’t time to get bored.

High word count (144) and high block count (74) meant that the ballast fill was mostly short and mostly pretty good. Nothing that I’ll remember 3 weeks from now, but some nice stuff like TUSKEGEE, LAS VEGAS, STONEHENGE, ALL THE RAGE, SNUGLI (YMMV). If there’s a crossing that could trip people up, it’s SNUGLI/PELLA, but otherwise smooth all the way through, with a smattering of crosswordese (none of it offensive) to hold the puzzle together. I’ll take this over a 136/68 puzzle with ugly fill any day. Nice work, C.C.!

3.75 stars. Until next week!

Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.25.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.25.15

It’s another Sunday fun day! Hope you all are doing great.

We had a very nice Sunday Challenge on our hands today, which was brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel. To begin my review, I’ll take you to where I completed the puzzle, a.k.a. the intersection of evil, with the alternate spelling of bogey, BOGY (5D: [Evil spirit]), and SVENGALI (17A: [Epitome of an evil manipulator]). Was immediately onto FIST BUMP right away, as that got me off to a good start (1A: [Healthier alternative to a hand shake]). I’m glad fist bumps are now pretty accepted exchanges amongst people…except for when I put out an open palm while someone else puts out a fist, only for me to ball my hand into a fist at the same time the other people opens his hand, making for a real awkward moment. That actually just happened with me and Villanova University’s men’s basketball head coach, Jay Wright, when I met up with him again after a game earlier this month. We laughed off that embarrassment moment, thank goodness!  Ok, back to the puzzle. I didn’t complete the Northwest until (much) later, as I then built upon PRIOR TO, and then worked my way into the Northeast portion and the middle part of the grid (8D: [Before]). Immediately got DOG PADDLE after that, and that immediately reminded me of the time where I was deathly afraid of dog paddling when learning to swim in fifth grade because the person holding me up by my midsection while I dog paddled happened to be the smallest and lightest person in the class (20A: [Beginner’s effort in the pool]). To this day, I still have that image in my head as I continue to go day after day without knowing/learning how to swim. Le sigh.

As I got to the bottom of the grid, that’s where I really made up some time, as the long answers were just falling for me, especially the down ones like LBJ RANCH (32D: [Presidential retreat now part of a US historic national park]) and CASCADES (34D: [Mount Rainier’s mountain range]). Also was on to IRISHMEN pretty quickly after reading its clue (59A: [Peter O’Toole and Bono]). By the way, how come Jack Kirby can’t get any love when STAN LEE is an entry in a grid and the clue refers to being one of the co-creators of a fill-in-the-blank Marvel Comics character (36A: [Co-creator of the Hulk])?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HESTER (60A: [Fiction’s Ms. Prynne])– How about a Super Bowl factoid one week before the actual Super Bowl? Former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin HESTER was once the man responsible for the quickest ever score to start a Super Bowl, as he returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl XLI 92 yards to give the Chicago Bears the lead over the Indianapolis Colts after only 14 seconds of play. (The Bears would end up losing the game.) The record for quickest Super Bowl score was broken in last year’s Big Game, when the Seattle Seahawks recorded a safety only 12 seconds into the game against the Denver Broncos.

Have a great rest of your weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!

Take care!


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

CRooked • 1/25/15 • "Mystery Guest" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 1/25/15 • “Mystery Guest” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

[Our mystery guest] is DAVID ORTIZ, as per 117-across, but that isn’t what the charadic letters in the other theme answers spell out.

  • 23a. [First letter of our mystery guest] BAND LEADER. Inotherwords, B.
  • 34a. [Letter 2 of our mystery guest] SECOND IN LINE. Idest, I.
  • 49a. [Letter 3 … ] MIDDLE AGE. Thatis, G.
  • 64a. [ … 4 … ] PIECE OF PAPER. Specifically, P.
  • 70a. [ … 5 … ] ALGEBRA FINAL. Quoderatdemonstrandum, A.
  • 88a. [ … 6 … ] APPLE CORE. Towit, P.
  • 100a. [ … 7 … ] UNLIMITED OIL. Nonterminously, I.

Together these spell BIG PAPI, which is the nickname of the large fellow (6′4″, 230 lbs / 1.93m, 104.3kg) who plays for the Boston Red Sox. Remember, this crossword originates with the Boston Globe newspaper, so this sort of thing is bound to happen onceinawhile. Obviously, I’m not ecstatic about the EVENTUAL (45a) result of the theme, but most definitely appreciate the phrases gathered to indicate the necessary letters in service of it. In retrospect, there’s a potential overstepping of bounds at 64-across, as PIECE OF PAPER could be the P-A-P of PAPI, but that’s only illusory, as my reproduction of the clue ELIDES (99d) the part that specifies—like all the others—that a single letter is required.

  • Bores! When a river flows upstream, kind of. 39d [Sort of a bore] TIDAL.
  • Italia! 10a [Po land] ITALY; 5d [3/15/44 BC victim] CAESAR; 11d [Venus de Milo, mostly] TORSO (though the island of Milos is of course Greek); 60d [“Dear,” if you’re Italian] CARA (duplication with 10a); 70d [Roman love god] AMOR; 89d [Fermi or Caruso] ENRICO. Oh and what the hell, how about 43a [Prospero’s sprite] ARIEL – all the (non-supernatural) characters in The Tempest are Italian.
  • [Get tight] TAUTEN, 106a. Diphyletic etymologies, taut and tight. The former from the same place as tough, the latter from thick and dense. Neither derives from Latin.
  • [Perrin of comic novels] REGINALD. In contrast to the Roman empire (see CAESAR, above, et al.) as per Edward Gibbon, David Nobbs’ hapless protagonist experiences first a fall and then a rise.
  • Another typo in the translation to .puz this week: 102d [Lake tabloid shockers] LURID. Were you thinking that maybe Nessie was related to electric eels?
  • Perhaps surprisingly, relatively little extra  baseball or Boston material in the ballast fill. 1d [Ruth or a pig] BABE; 15d [A’s hue in a tale] SCARLET; 24d [Town on the Merrimack] LOWELL; and plausibly 19a [Home’s opposite] AWAY. Note that when I say Boston, I take the liberty of expanding it to things Massachusettsian.
  • Interestingly, Van Gogh didn’t seem to have much interest in that most Dutch of flowers, the TULIP (104a). Must have been all the time he spent in ARLES (25a [Van Gogh setting]).

Fine crossword, but not exactly a home run for this solver.

The Post Puzzler No. 251 by Byron Walden – Gareth’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 251Some hard, and difficult to infer names but otherwise fairly straight forward. These names may be too much for some. I can see a few sticky ends around!

The top-right is quite daring, with VSNAIPAUL (name not familiar, but he won the 2001 Nobel prize for literature, it seems) an unlikely top-right answer. Mr. Walden crosses this with PLASAMTV (they were discontinued?). Also notable in this corner are TWOCHINA, LEGWORK, XANADU and AUNATUREL (which looked so wrong as it emerged!). This corner was also the toughest for me: apart from Mr. NAIPAUL, ANTIRADAR and TEENBRIDE were also tough to tease out. The FITB clue for PHATTER rescued it from seeming a bit silly!

The top-left is more staid with old standard MOODINDIGO and an ANTIPASTO. Is PORCS a valid French plural? WOODSTORK looks like it wants to be WOODSTOCK. Loved its factual clue! I’m sure we were all thinking crocodilians and box turtles, right?

Flowing into the bottom-right we have WRISTSLAP, and the somewhat crossword-esey OENOPHILE – rescued by the delightful cab-hailing clue. ALLEITER is an implausible looking name, but there he is. Is SHINEDAT acceptable? I’d have thought SHONEAT, surely? AIRACES and ULSTERS are a pair of dated answers.

I think that the surprise ending in the SILENTF clue refers to the fact that many people, myself included are not aware Roman a clef has a SILENTF, but the surprise seems a tad extraneous. MATTSTONE is our full name (I suppose actually he’s one of two, along with LIBERACE) and it’s a nice touch that Mr. Walden refers to his work in another clue too.

3.5 Stars

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26 Responses to Sunday, January 25, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Absolutely– what Amy said re the BRA. Such a funny clue :)
    When I think of Armani, I mostly think of his talent in designing jackets. Of course, by now, he has designed everything, but he started in men’s fashion and gained fame because of this architectural, elegant yet comfortable design style in suits and jackets. So, not a perfect clue for an A LINE. Better clues are either Dior who coined the term or YSL who refined the silhouette into what was called Trapeze.
    So, the puzzle clues needed a fashion expert!

    • Jim Hale says:

      Men always welcome “bra” in the puzzles. It’s a simple word and has pleasant connotations. If the clue is off a bit we don’t complain… because we’re men! I’m sure women have similar words they enjoy seeing… but that’s ours.

      • Huda says:

        Just trying to enhance your fundamental understanding at the mechanistic level…

        • pannonica says:

          … which brings us all the way back to 1956:
          A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown” (Charles Seim)

          • Brucenm says:

            A simpler, more direct analysis, at least as legend has it, was offered by the Scottish – American opera singer Mary Garden, (especially noted for singing the lead role in Thais, by the way.) She was one of the first women to wear risque and risky strapless gowns publicly, and when an old geezer asked her “Tell me, my Dear, what keeps your dress up?” she is said to have replied “Only your age, sir, only your age.”

  2. Bencoe says:

    I agree with most of the awkward phrasing in today’s NYT, but “SCORERS” is a very common word in basketball and soccer.

    • Gary R says:

      Seems as though it could work either of two ways in basketball. There is the “scorer’s table,” although I think that refers to the official scorer, and not necessarily the scoreboard operator who literally puts the points on the board. There are also the players, and there it’s definitely the scorers who put points on the board.

      • Bencoe says:

        I was definitely thinking more of your second meaning, as in, “The Warriors have two great SCORERS in Curry and Matthews.” Of course “top SCORERS” and “leading SCORERS” are even more common.

    • sbmanion says:

      I agree with Bencoe about SCORERS. As most of you know, I have always been acutely sensitive to and a longtime apologist for the correct sports idiom. I must say though that the in vogue basketball phrase “he can SCORE the ball” offends even my extremely lax and appreciative attitude toward the idioms of sports.

      SCORER is a term generally reserved for the guy who can create his own shot as the clockshot winds down, moreso than say the guy who spots up outside the three-point line to receive a pass after the movement of the ball has left him alone for an open shot. Having said that, the term is now so common that it seems to be used for anybody who scores frequently, even guys who are incredibly accurate long range shooters, but who do not have the quickness and skill to create.


  3. ArtLvr says:

    What a kick — Merl’s take on Aussie pronunciation, especially HOW WAS YOUR STY?

  4. john farmer says:

    There’s something to be said for any puzzle that sets off a debate about bras and cleavage. I agree with Bencoe on SCORERS. LINDIED seems like exactly the inflection a dancer would use. I won’t ever complain about THEDA. I would rather see ILLY clued as espresso though.

    The base phrase for ILLEGAL A-LINE reminded me of this story, a big to-do in Southern California during the past week — protests in Santa Barbara over the use of the word “illegals” as a noun by the local newspaper (oldest paper in So Cal, once owned by the NY Times).

    • john farmer says:

      Based on a quick search, the Times seems to have moved away from use of “illegal alien” except in direct quotes. (Only one recent instance, in a blurb for “The Linguini Incident,” a 1991 movie, that was likely written long ago.) The AP has banned “illegal immigrant” and as of two years ago, the term was under review at the Times.

    • sbmanion says:

      Yesterday, I spent four hours in a jail in Cochise County Arizona interviewing inmates of Mexican heritage. I brought an interpreter with me. I asked each inmate about his legal status in the United States as the issue of being deported is often part of whether or not a felony plea is acceptable.

      The shorthand that has never caused offense to the best of my knowledge to anyone who is not legally here is either “What is your status?” or “Are you legally here?”

      The major issue that confronts many people is the border crossing rule. I forget the term of art–maybe someone knows–but the idea is that you must legally pass through Customs to be allowed in the United States. People who crossed the border 30 years ago without passing through Customs, married a United States citizen and had children in the United States are faced with a Hobson’s choice. They can most likely stay in the United States as they are sufficiently off the radar that they are extremely unlikely to be deported, but they will forever be undocumented. They can get a green card or work permit, but in order to do so, they have to go back to Mexico, then cross the border legally (i.e go through Customs), but that process can take as many as five to 10 years because of the original unlawful crossing.

      On the trip yesterday, we saw about 10 border patrol cars and on the way home, you have to pass through a border patrol checkpoint. My paralegal said that I should be on the lookout for vans parked on the side of the road. People cross the border through the mountains on the border with Mexico and then hide until the van comes along to pick them up. The Bisbee-Sierra Vista area in Cochise County is one of the most interesting in the country.


      • john farmer says:

        Interesting, Steve. Many times driving back to L.A. from San Diego I’ve passed the border control checkpoint at Camp Pendleton. I usually get waved through. Others are pulled over.

        Living here I’ve gotten to know many people with roots in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. I don’t ever ask about legal status. I realize some may not have legal documentation. But it’s not an issue for me. Some, on the other hand, have roots here longer than I do, and someone I know had family here when California was part of Mexico.

        I am friends with a couple that emigrated from Canada. Today, they have all the right documents so you could call their status “legal.” But they did have to cut a few corners to get those documents, and it cost them tens of thousands of dollars and a wait of more than ten years. Legal immigration is a nightmare, and if everyone who ever came to our country had to abide by the laws and bureaucracy of today, we’d be a much smaller nation.

        In So Cal it is hard not to be sensitive to terms like “illegals” and “illegal alien.” But looking around the xword blogosphere, I couldn’t find anyone else mention it. Maybe if we had some Latino bloggers, that might be a different story.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          John and Steve, have you forgotten the hubbub when the 2/16/12 NYT puzzle ( included ILLEGAL clued as a noun, in violation of Times style? [One caught by border patrol] was the clue, and I was appalled. The overall fill in that one was terrible, but perhaps the average rating would have been a smidgen higher than 2.02 stars if not for the ILLEGAL offense.

          • john farmer says:

            Hi, Amy. I remember that.

            There is a difference between “illegal” the noun and “illegal” the adjective, though some people would claim they are both inappropriate (which I’d guess will be the prevailing view someday, though who really knows). (And I don’t think there was anything appalling about the answer in today’s puzzle, though I may have done something different.)

            The comment above I wrote while heading out the door. I didn’t mean to point a finger at anyone. I just thought it was a point worth mentioning, since no one else had said anything in regard to today’s puzzle (here or elsewhere, AFAIK).

            There’s been a lot of discussion in the past about the under-representation of women in the construction business. (Maybe we’d get different BRA clues if that changed.) But a look at who’s making puzzles will show that African Americans and Latinos are far less represented. I’d guess that’s probably the case for the online solver community as well. Nobody’s at fault here, but if more Latinos were commenting on xword blogs, perhaps someone else would have said something about the puzzle before I did. And maybe I’d have my water heater fixed by now.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            And constructors with Asian heritage will note that they’re underrepresented in crosswords, too, though less dramatically than black and Latino folks. I know a handful of Latino/a solvers (East Coast Cuban/Puerto Rican), but don’t see them on the blogs.

            In my work for the Daily Celebrity Crossword, I do hear from a number of black and Latino solvers. We’re getting a broad audience hooked on puzzles!

  5. Papa John says:

    Re HEX puzzle: In what world is the Venus de Milo a torso, “mostly”?

  6. sandirhodes says:

    Gareth, you have typos. One repeated.

    • pannonica says:

      I’ve fixed them. Now see if you can find something interesting in my write-up.

      • Gareth says:

        I fixed two more. This is what I get for blogging after midnight… (Did not follow it up by rocking ’til the dawn.)

      • sandirhodes says:

        pan, your writeups are almostalways interesting. While I find myself, um, lessthanagreeing with a lot of your opinions, I always find them, er, interesting. Must admit however that I skipped this one, simply because I don’t do this puzzle!

        Your occasional turn of phrase though, specifically this time the closer, often knocks it out of the park.


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