Friday, January 30, 2015

NYT 3:56 (Amy) 
LAT 9:52 (Gareth, paper) 
CS tk (Ade) 
CHE 5:12 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 10:44 (pannonica) 

R.I.P., Bernice Gordon. Deb Amlen’s written an obituary for the woman who was the oldest living crossword constructor. Bernice was making puzzles right up till the end, and about 40 years ago she made X-rated crosswords for Xaviera Hollander (!). Spunky dame. She was the first to come up with the rebus-square concept in an NYT puzzle.

David Phillips’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 30 15, no. 0130

NY Times crossword solution, 1 30 15, no. 0130

Lots of fun fill in this puzzle, which zoomed in on my wavelength and gave me my first sub-4:00 Friday NYT in a while. Things I liked best:

  • 13a. [Take for the road?], HOTWIRE.
  • 19a. [1972 Alice Cooper hit with the lyric “we got no class”], SCHOOL’S OUT.
  • 21a. [Line in the sand?], PHARAOHS. Don’t care for the clue, but I like words with unusual spellings.
  • 30a. [Cell alternative], LAND LINE.
  • 39a. [Irate], FUMING. I should fume more often.
  • 51a. [Heavy-metal band with the #1 album “Far Beyond Driven”], PANTERA. Good lord, what was going on in the spring of 1994 that a metal album hit #1? I would have put them in the second echelon of metal bands.
  • 6d. [Sole supporter?], DR. SCHOLL’S. Do they still make those dreadful wooden sandals that we all wore in the ’80s, convinced we were toning our calves? CLOP CLOP CLOP.
  • 31d. [Queen of the Nile], NEFERTITI. Nice combo with PHARAOHS.
  • 32d. [Hard-hitting musical performances?], DRUM SOLOS.

Unusual grid design, no? Six distinct puzzle zones, lots of stacks with a mix of letter counts. Could’ve done without:

  • 16a. [Person making pointed attacks?], EPEEIST. Can we repurpose this for internet trolls, e-peeing all over everything online?
  • 18a. [From overseas?], DES. If that’s supposed to be French, well, it’s a contraction of “from the,” not just “from” by itself, non?
  • 29a. [Spinning], AWHIRL. Never used the word.
  • 57a. [“Any problem with that?”], “IS IT OK?” Feels contrived. “Is that OK?” sounds better.
  • 1d. [Drop off], SHED. Not sure what the “off” is doing in there. Drop some weight, drop your trousers, no “off.”
  • 9d. [Mariposa relatives], SEGOS. Short for sego lily, related to the mariposa lily. Except that mariposa by itself means “butterfly.”

Four stars from me.

George Barany and Marcia J. Brott’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Karat Shtick” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 1/30/15 • "Karat Shtick" • Barany, Brott • solution

CHE • 1/30/15 • “Karat Shtick” • Barany, Brott • solution

Spanner says, [Alternative title for this puzzle, in view of what can be placed in front of the answers to the  10 asterisked clues] GOING FOR THE GOLD (37a).

  • 16a. [*Target, e.g.] CHAIN. As in chain store.
  • 21a. [*Podium mounter who doesn’t usually give a speech] MEDALIST.
  • 28a. [*One with a spade in one’s hand] DIGGER.
  • 43a. [*Something in a sleeve] RECORD.
  • 54a. [*Song everyone knows, presumably] STANDARD.
  • 62a. [*A dueler may pick one up] GLOVE.
  • 3d. [*An ump is behind it] PLATE.
  • 12d. [*Particles in a storm called a haboob] DUST.
  • 51d. [*A child may get paid for losing it] TOOTH.
  • 54d. [*Natural nuclear-fusion reactor] STAR.

All symmetrical pairs. Additionally, there is the overt 10d [Prefix signifying the element at the heart of this puzzle’s theme] AURI-, as well as the subtler and more tenuous 17A TREASURES [Holds dear] and 40a [“Glitter and Be __” (aria from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide”] GAYGold may also precede 34d DISC.

  • Namedropping! 14a [David who led the American League in wins in 1998] CONE; 63a [Violinist who mentored Heifetz] AUER; 67a [Item carried by Evel Knievel’s crew] RAMP; 15d [Solzhenitsyn topic] GULAG; 20d [rascal, to Isaac Bashevis Singer] GANEF; 26d [Redfoo, to Berry Gordy] SON; 31d [Film in which Jack Nicholson plays Eugene O’Neill[ REDS; and the Bernstein clue above.
  • 64a [Waders in billabongs] EMUS. Though such behavior sometimes occurs (occasionally even swimming), it isn’t characteristic, and EMUS are not considered to be wading birds, so this clue seems subpar to me, despite the evocative and geographically specific vocabulary.  Wow, was that quite the comma-heavy sentence, or what? Wow, was that quite the rhetorical question, or what? Wow, are these quite sentences quite the self-referential sequence or what? Don’t answer that.
  • As many of the theme answers are quite short, it isn’t surprising to see longer fill throughout the grid: TREASURES, INDONESIA, SERENADES, THREE-PART, ANNOYING, ENTANGLE.
  • 23a [Speak Maltese?] for YAP would have been trickier had it not been right below HOT DOG [Fan fare, perhaps] 19a. Both are fine clues.

Something about the cluing and editing—perhaps even the theme itself—feels slightly divorced from the crossword vernacular veteran cruciverbalists have internalized. As if this were a conscious attempt to be more engaging to newer solvers. Or perhaps it’s just my imagination. To clarify, I’m not suggesting this puzzle is too easy or simplistic, just that it felt ever so slightly … different. Also, it seems to be crying out for the Across and Down treatment.

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

WSJ •1/30/15 • "Past Imperfect" • Fri • Stuart • solution

WSJ •1/30/15 • “Past Imperfect” • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

“Past Imperfect,” or perhaps the “Preterite Homophonic”? The theme’s conceit is to take extant words and phrases that end in a homophone of a simple past tense formation and change the spelling as if it were that verb.

  • 23a. [Sweetheart assembled the troops?] HONEY MUSTERED (mustard). Despite appreciating the theme by the time I was working this section, I persisted too much in trying to shoehorn MARSHALLED in there.
  • 28a. [Navy tried manual propulsion?] SERVICE ROWED (road). See also, 111d [Galley hand] OAR. Theme seems quite militaristic to this point.
  • 44a. [Bossy called to her calf?] MOTHER LOWED (-lode). See also, 67d [Condensed milk pioneer] BORDEN.
  • 51a. [Religious symbol was used as an electric fan?] CROSS WHIRRED (-word). Meta!
  • 64a. [Canine displayed nervousness?] TOOTH PACED (-paste). At first brush [sic] the clue seems less absurd than it turns out to be in the context of the answer.
  • 67a. [Football player sounded wistful?] BACK SIGHED (-side).
  • 78a. [Clairvoyant sent out invoices?] MEDIUM BILLED (build).
  • 84a. [Virtuoso went for the gold?] MASTER MINED (-mind).
  • 98a. [masseur kicked out of the club?] RUBBER BANNED (band).
  • 109a. [Horse soldiers took wing?] CAVALRY SOARED (sword).

Solid theme, more than capably executed. Surveying the grid for other past-tense entries I find 68d GLUED (no homophone), I MET A (irregular verb); 40a SPED (no homophone), 59a PALED (no homophone), 75a ERRED (no homophone) – I’m fairly certain this reflects scrupulousness and not coincidence. One other item here: 19d [Solder component] LEAD is a homophone with the past tense led, but that that relationship goes in the wrong direction; nevertheless it might have been better to clue it as the present-tense verb with the long-e sound.

  • If you’re going to have some icky initialisms in your grid, it’s surprising how much more palatable they can be if there’s a reinforcing relationship: 95a PFC and 106d MSGT are not pretty, but clue them both with [USMC rank] and then they don’t seem quite so awful.
  • More ‘cluechos’ with 81d [Region in central Spain] LA MANCHA / 82d [Region of northern Spain] BISCAY (Bizkaia (Basque) or Vizcaya (Spanish)); 77d [Sales pro] AGENT / 85d [Sales pro] REP; 59a [Exhibited firght] PALED / 46d [Exhibits fright] SHIES.
  • I won’t call duplication on 92d [Alternative to a plane] SANDER and 57a [Sen. King and Sen. Sanders] INDS, as the surname Sanders derives from three main sources (alteration of Alexander(‘s), the Anglo-Saxon locale Sonderstede, and the occupational sand+er) and only one has the same etymology as the tool. However, 30a [Posts] MAILS and 90d [Email address, often] USER ID receive the gimlet cast of my eye.
  • Minimal WSJ-tanged financial content, the most notable being 117a [Stock character?] TRADER.
  • Least favorite answer: RESEE [Enjoy, as a favorite movie]. (62d)
  • Favorite clue: [Milky Way ingredients] STARS.
  • Would prefer that 113a [Sources of wild laughter] for HYENAS had either a question mark or quotes in the clue.
  • Enjoyed learning (or being reminded of) some factettes. 9d [Day about two weeks after calends] IDES; calends (or kalends) is “the first day of the ancient Roman month from which days were counted backward to the ides” (, and to the Greek kalends means an indefinite postponement, since the Greek calendar didn’t have calends. (Wikipedia). 47d [Source of “bangle” and “bungalow”] HINDI. 6d [“Live in the bosom of the waters!” speaker] NEMO.

Above-average offering.

Paolo Pasco’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150130

LA Times

Today’s puzzle exhibits a basic enough trick, but has excellent theme choices. The answers are all of the form X(-)back Y, only the back is implied as the x part is written in reverse order. Three answers are very good: HUMP(back)WHALE, FALL(BACK)PLANS and PIGGY(BACK)RIDE. MONEY(BACK)GUARANTEE and PAPER(BACK)BOOK are more functional.

You can spot my big write-over? POPstar before POPICON. Other notable answers include MOSHPIT (not a typical feature of Michael Jackson concerts, probably) and CHECKITOUT. PAOLO namechecks himself in the top-right, it’d be a lot more subtle if his first name was, say, JIM. I’ve said it before, but it’s nice to see AKON recognized and crossworthy, even if his songs are lyrically… demeaning (stretching for an appropriate adjective, but not really winning). Here’s musician/comedian Bill Bailey’s take.

Lets go Hunting Notable clues include an updated KAT [Dennings of “Thor”] versus the evergreen Krazy. [Bothersome parasites] seems to be rather tautological. [“The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” author Nicholas], MEYER was not a specific MEYER I knew, but he seems legit. I was slow on the uptake in interpreting [Where many subs are assembled] as a DELI rather than say a (dry)DOCK or somesuch.

4 Stars Gareth

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17 Responses to Friday, January 30, 2015

  1. Avg Solvr says:

    “[Line in the sand?], PHARAOHS. Don’t care for the clue…”

    I thought it was a standout.

  2. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT despite getting stuck in the NW corner– had to stop, walk away for a while, and then return before getting it. Also SARABANDE/ALLEMANDE, DUELIST/EPEEIST, xxxFARE/HOTWIRE.

  3. Avg Solvr says:

    Thought many of the WSJ theme answers were quite funny. LAT was fun though the gimmick’s been done before. Agree that CHE seemed easier or simpler than usual.

  4. CY Hollander says:

    I thought the NYT today was unusually poorly edited. PANTERA with SANA and FARIS and BEDELIA with SEGOS are very bad crossings, IMHO, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tripped up quite a few people.

    RIP, Bernice Gordon.

  5. Papa John says:

    Thanks, pannonica, for getting your reviews published early in the day. Often, I don’t get to read them until the next day because I’m usually at my computer only in the morning hours. I hope it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience for you.

    Now, if there was something we could do about Gareth…

  6. sbmanion says:

    Easy puzzle for me except for pante_a/fa_is


  7. Zulema says:

    Too many names crossing each other in the NYT and not the kinds of names that were found in the CHE, which may have been on the easy side but rewarded an old solver’s memory (emphasis on OLD). “Line in the sand?” was good once one got the answer, but as a clue it was on the obscure side.

  8. Gareth says:

    It’s not unusual for metal bands to have had #1 albums. They may not have gotten radio play, but they were extremely popular. Unlike the (Billboard) singles chart, the album chart is less manipulated and genre-biased as it is based on sales alone. The clue is amusingly worded to pre-empt backlash, BTW.

    • Bencoe says:

      Also, PANTERA (much like Rage Against the Machine), being influenced by hardcore and more of a “pure” heavy metal, was perfect for a certain type of music listener at that time. The angry, frustrated young male who liked to listen to aggressive music and work out his energy in the mosh pit. I was one of those kids, to an extent, at that time period. I remember the mosh pit at PANTERA’s concerts being one of the craziest (and potentially dangerous) I’ve seen.

  9. hmj says:

    The LA Times (LAT) write-up is often missing, like today. Why?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Because Gareth, our volunteer blogger for the Wednesday-Friday LAT puzzles, is a veterinarian in South Africa. When his work day is done and he’s able to blog the puzzle, it’s about 6 hours earlier here, but it’s still not going to be in the morning. Given Gareth’s experience as a constructor (and most often in the LAT), I appreciate his perspectives. I don’t have the time or inclination to resume blogging those puzzles myself, so I’m grateful to Gareth for his Crossword Fiend contributions.

  10. jae says:

    @Gareth – LAT – I had IdOl before ICON. Fun solve!

  11. hmj says:

    Thanks, Amy. And Gareth, I appreciate your efforts.

Comments are closed.