Monday, February 9, 2015

NYT 3:27 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:32 (pannonica) 
CS 8:03 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:17 (Amy) 

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 2/9/15 • Mon • Lempel • no 215 • solution

NYT • 2/9/15 • Mon • Lempel • no 215 • solution

Revealer at 58-across: [Popular children’s book series … whose protagonist is “hiding” in the circled letters] WHERE’S WALDO.

  • 17a. [Expensive annual commercial] SUPERBOWL AD.
  • 25a. [What may be poured on a bad idea] COLD WATER, foreshadowing my theme assessment.
  • 36a. [New Jersey home to two New York teams] MEADOWLANDS.
  • 49a. [Typical prom concluder] SLOW DANCE.

Okay, here’s the thing. The conceit of the Where’s Waldo books (Where’s Wally outside of the US and Canada; author Martin Handford is British) is that—no matter how overwhelming, overpopulated, or chaotic the scene—Waldo always maintains his integrity. He looks nearly exactly the same, all the time. Jumbling letters, as they are done here, is a conventional crossword idiom for ‘hiding’, but it violates the letter and the spirit of the books’ raison. In this sense, the theme is an utter failure.

Aside from that cosmic flaw, I liked this crossword a lot. The theme answers, per se, are decent and on the short side. The ballast fill is robust and lively. Significant stacking in the corners (including COVETOUS and MONOTONE), good flow and interconnectedness throughout the grid. A minimum of crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials. A few cross-references, but not enough to be remarkable either positively or negatively. The right amount of paired clues and fill (WAGNER and MAHLER, the chocolatey TWIX and CAROB, the Mrs Doubtfire and Tootsie clues, JFK the president and the airport).

Good crossword, misguided theme.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ "Themeless Monday" crossword solution, 2 9 15

BEQ “Themeless Monday” crossword solution, 2 9 15

PIZZA GREASE, blotted with a napkin! Yes. SLOW NEWS DAY in the opposite corner, another terrific entry. And the mini-theme of KATY PERRY and her LEFT SHARK dancer in the other corners. I didn’t see the actual dance routine so I confess I don’t know why people have been joking about the left shark.

Ten things:

  • 17a. [Locomotive sent ahead of a train to ensure the track is clear], PILOT ENGINE. Never heard of this.
  • 33a. [Beck song with the chorus “Na na na na na na na”], E-PRO. Never heard of this.
  • 34a. [First name in bombs], ENOLA. No, that’s a first name in airplanes that are bombers. The bombs were Fat Man and Little Boy.
  • 38a. [What an ass!], JENNY. Gender-neutral clue for female donkey. Works for me.
  • 55a. [Often-retractable car part], AUTO ANTENNA. I’ve never included “auto” in describing that item. Maybe “car.” I wonder if car vs. auto has regional overtones.
  • 1d. [Franciscan?], PAPAL. Pope Francis.
  • 8d. [Athlete Eddie who is the only person to win a gold medal in summer and winter Olympics (boxing and four-man bobsled)], EAGAN. Never heard of him. More interesting than the Minneapolis suburb of that name.
  • 12d and 13d both end in ON. Meh.
  • 25d. [Popular perennials], VIOLETS. Are they popular or just impossible to get rid of?
  • 30d. [Stir fry ingredient], GREEN BEAN. Yeah? Not snow peas?
  • 38d. [Chicago Cubs general manager Hoyer], JED. I was guessing TED and NED. I should know this! (This is the 11th item in the list. But who’s counting?)

Not loving all the shorter fill in this 72-worder but overall, I liked the puzzle. 3.9 stars.

Joel Mackerry’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/9/15 • Mon • Mackerry • solution

LAT • 2/9/15 • Mon • Mackerry • solution

This crossword offers up a Monday-typical follow-the-word theme. We learn that 60-across BLACK LIST is not only to [Ostracize …] but also that it is [ … what the first words of the answers to starred clues comprise].

  • 17a. [*Handy tool to have when you’re out of loose-leaf paper] HOLE PUNCH.
  • 29a. [*Amulet] MAGIC CHARM.
  • 37a. [*Prime ballpark accommodation] BOX SEAT.
  • 39a. [*Architectural style featuring geometric shapes] ART DECO.
  • 44a. [*Stand-up venue] COMEDY CLUB.

Black hole, black magic, black box, black art, black comedy. Good group, my only quibble … turns out to be completely incorrect. I was going to say that ‘black arts’ is a more common formulation than ‘black art’, but a Google Ngram disproves that. I was also going to suggest that black art(s) and black magic are more or less synonymous, and that’s woefully incomplete.

It’s usually at least a little bit unsettling when non-theme entries are longer than themers. It’s more common for such fill to run in the opposite orientation to the theme answers, but this puzzle has longer entries in both  directions. The excellent MNEMONIC and MR ROGERS—as well as LINING UP and PROPOSAL—at eight letters each, surpass the paired sevens in row 8. Further, the down contingent offers the nine-letter DESICCATE and SEED MONEY. It FAZES (55a [Flusters]) a solver somewhat. Incidentally, I added 10 seconds or more to my solve time by putting DAZES there.

A danger with Monday crosswords is that, in order not to alienate neophyte solvers, they can’t be intimidating or overly tricky and clever, either in theme or cluing. As a result, there’s a greater opportunity for its quality to be reduced rather than elevated. More simply stated, more often than not there’s no place to go but down from ‘average’. Unless it’s an exceptionally stellar puzzle. So it isn’t exactly surprising that there’s some unpleasantness in this grid: the letter runs ABCD, SML (1a, 35a)l the dupey abbrevs. SMU and URI (5d, 34a); the crosswordese EDAM, ORONO; the partials EN LAI, A RUG; and so on.

So. Decent theme, mixed bag of non-theme material, roughly average Monday.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Have a Seat”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword solution, 02.09.15: "Have a Seat"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword solution, 02.09.15: “Have a Seat”

Welcome to another week of crosswords, everyone! For today’s crossword, brought to us by the heavy-lifting Ms. Lynn Lempel (who also has today’s New York Times crossword), we’re invited to have a seat, or at least asked to find where the seat is. Each of the four theme answers are multiple-word entries that happen to have the letters S-E-A-T appear consecutively, spanning two different words.

  • LOTUS EATER (17A: [One of a flower-devouring people encountered by Odysseus])
  • CLOSE ATTENTION (28A: [Careful scrutiny])
  • SURPRISE ATTACK (46A: [Assault on Pearl Harbor, e.g.])
  • SEA TURTLES (63A: [Swimmers for the last 100 million years or so)

How about some of the lively down answers in this grid, like LUNAR MONTH (29D: [Period between full moons]) and QUINNIPIAC (11D: [Connecticut university with an oft-quoted polling center])? If I remember correctly, the team name for Quinnipiac University used to be the Braves before that changed to what it is now, Bobcats. Very fun solve, and even the hangup I had not remembering CORFU immediately didn’t slow me down too much (28D: [Greek tourist island]). Now I’m going to be thinking of Saved by the Bell the rest of this blog after seeing PREPPIE, the nickname A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) kept using for Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) in the show (38A: [Boarding school student, perhaps]). I liked the show, yes, but even I had no idea what type of cult status the show would have in the following years!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ENRON (66A: [Energy company done in by fraud]) – To replace the Houston Astrodome in 2000, ENRON Field was built and opened to become the new home of the Houston Astros. After everything went down with Enron, the field in 2002 was renamed Astros Field for a few months in 2002 before Minute Maid bought the naming rights to the field (now called Minute Maid Park).

Have a good rest of your Monday and see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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40 Responses to Monday, February 9, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    “Aside from that cosmic flaw… ”

    Ah, a classic Pannonica opening ;)


  2. Martin says:



  3. john farmer says:

    “Waldo always maintains his integrity…it violates the letter and the spirit of the books’ raison…an utter failure…that cosmic flaw…”

    When I want a book about integrity, the Waldo series isn’t the first to spring to mind — but I suppose there are worse places to go. Anyway, wasn’t it another Waldo who said that looking for a foolish consistency between the depiction of a character in a kids’ book and in a crossword puzzle is the hobgoblin of the mind of a blogger who is finally and truly beyond parody?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Is … that an ad hominem attack on one of our writers?

      • john farmer says:

        I don’t know, Amy. You can call it what you want. Myself, I think of ad hominem as an attack on a person instead of what they say. My remarks about pannonica were meant to be directed at what she said. Maybe it was a bit mean, maybe I went over the line. But I fail to see how anything that I said reacting to pannonica’s post was nearly as demeaning as what she said about the puzzle. (“Utter failure”? “Cosmic flaw”? Really? I guess you can say she’s criticizing the puzzle and not the puzzle-makers but let’s not pretend that puzzles make themselves. People make the puzzles–people who take pride in their work–and too often I think people comment about puzzles as if no humans or human feelings are involved. Today, I’m not really sure if that’s even an issue because pannonica’s comments seem so overblown it’s hard to take them seriously. My two cents.)

        I don’t have anything against pannonica. In fact, I’d say I like her, as much as I know her from reading the blog. She’s obviously a smart woman with a good wit, and often entertaining. But I’d say there’s a certain weightiness to her analysis that is often asking more a puzzle than it’s possible to deliver. I’ve read architectural critiques of multi-billion dollar buildings that don’t take their subject so seriously as pannonica does the Monday NY Times crossword.

        In short, I’d say, it’s only a crossword puzzle. People who solve are generally looking for a diversion, a bit of entertainment. It’s okay to lighten up.

        • Huda says:

          I’d love to hear from pannonica about her intent, but I’m guessing that she does not truly, deep down, believe that this was a “cosmic flaw” in the literal sense. Maybe an epic fail? So, I chuckled when I read it, and thought her take on analyzing the theme was original. I like to be surprised by how different minds work. I believe that the serious, analytical, formalistic tone is a perfect counterpoint to the fluff of a Monday puzzle. It’s a thought piece, and it invariably makes me smile. I believe I would have had this same reaction if I had constructed the puzzle.

        • Papa John says:

          pannonica’s heavy handiness, oftentimes mysterious and sublime humor and her extensive vocabulary lessons are what endear her to me.

          Regarding ad hominem attacks; I have to agree with John. Criticizing a work is not that same as criticizing the person. Huda’s comment on the incongruity of the Monday “fluff” and pannonica’s seriousness is worth noting. Like Huda, I get a chuckle out of it.

        • Richard says:

          Using quotes around “utter failure” does not seem to be an accurate indication of what pannonica said. First, she is referring only to the theme and even more specifically to one aspect of the theme (with the important qualification of “In this sense . . .”) Overall, she said it was a “good” puzzle.

          • john farmer says:

            Funny how this works, Richard. Below I get called out for implying pannonica has a “little mind” (in quotes), even though I never wrote those words, by which I am supposedly guilty of an ad hominem attack. But I’m not supposed to put “utter failure” in quotes (her very words) because they don’t convey the full context of her post, as if that were to negate her choice of words.

            This is all very confusing — and you can quote me on that.

        • Avg Solvr says:

          Pannonica’s just a bit of a stickler is all, with good-humor.

  4. Wood says:

    Hi, I’m new here and will probably get in trouble with the inhabitants of this Crossword Olympus. Both this reviewer and Rex Parker quibbled with the theme for basically the same reason (although Rex more humorously). But really: “hiding” means hard to find. When a word is anagrammed, it’s hard to find. WALDO, anagrammed inside the longer theme answers, is I would say perfectly hidden, when translating the concept of an illustrated book to the word-based medium of a crossword puzzle. Bravo to the constructor for a well-executed and fun Monday puzzle. Sheesh.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Agreed. This is a beautiful puzzle with nice open corners, interesting 6s and 7s throughout, and on-target themers that do the job. There are only so many ways to “hide” WALDO in a crossword puzzle, and I’m totally cool with scrambling him. From start to finish this was a lovely, playful puzzle, and its lack of crud points to the author’s high professional standards. Well done!

      • David L says:

        Same here. I wasn’t surprised at Mr Parker’s criticism, since pedantic nitpicking is his MO, but I was surprised at the similar attitude here. I thought this was a terrific puzzle, maybe a tad hard for a Monday, but otherwise just dandy.

        • PJ Ward says:

          I also enjoyed the puzzle. Even though my kids grew up in his heyday, Waldo wasn’t big in my household. I don’t care how he hides.

          Just a casual observation – the Mondays have seemed a little more difficult recently. Not absolutely difficult by any means. I like it.

    • Zulema says:

      WOOD, thank you for finally explaining to me what the theme came to (I’m pretty dumb when it comes to anagrams). The name WALDO is hidden in the answers. My children were too old for WALDO and I just know the phrase/question. Until you explained it, I didn’t understand the philosophical conundrums of the commenters. I still don’t. Thank you.

  5. sbmanion says:

    For whatever reason, my first thought on reading Pannonica’s critique and John’s response was that this is exactly why I love this site. Perhaps it was because as a junior in college, I decided that I was not getting enough out of my college education, so I switched majors to Renaissance History. We started with the Scholastics and today’s debate has elements of Scholasticism in it.

    I thought that it was a great puzzle that William of Ockham would have been proud of.


  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And if you were wondering what the best approach to finding Waldo in a picture book is, a computer science grad student has crunched the data:

    In the crossword, the anagramming would “hide” WALDO much better if the letters hadn’t been circled. Would make for a harder-than-Monday theme, though.

  7. Jason F says:

    BEQ: Surely, I thought, “Opera Apia” would require subtitles since most folks don’t know Somoan?

    and ape did seem like a reasonable crossing…

  8. Avg Solvr says:

    Some people may have a thing for the Waldo books so hate to see things rearranged so to speak.

    Incidentally, I’ve solved the right to left writing mystery. The early Israelites wrote upside down!

  9. pannonica says:

    It seems as if my write-up of the NYT has stimulated some spirited responses. Rather than replying to each comment in-thread, I’ll conglomerate—hey, that’s an architectural thing!—my thoughts here.

    First, I would hope that people realize that ‘cosmic’ can mean significant or important, but not necessarily engendering universally existential consequences. I liked the phrasing and went with it. Analytic reasoning doesn’t have to obviate poetic language. And I’m very glad that at least one person got a chuckle out of it. (Thanks, Huda!)

    Second, I dispute that my critique of the theme is “essentially the same” as Rex’s (which I’ve just now looked at). In my view the ‘hidden’ aspect is explicitly acceptable within the crossword idiom, whereas that fellow seized on the opportunity to willfully misconstrue his own understanding in the service of a macabre but arguably humorous riff. He quibbled over the circled squares and the jumbling of letters themselves and mired himself in the semantics of hiding; I pointed out the vast structural discrepancy between source material and cruciverbal rendering. It’s abstracted too much.

    As for john farmer‘s interpretation of ‘integrity’ and whether it has relevance to the Where’s Waldo books – I think he’s missed the point. I’m not talking about moral or humanistic integrity, as Emerson might have it. I’m talking about the simple physical integrity of the character (perhaps this is how my take superficially resembles Rex’s descent into dismemberment) and also the formulaic consistency of the book series. Furthermore, invoking Emerson’s ‘hobgoblin’ strongly makes a ‘little mind’ implicit, so I would say that’s an ad hominem attack indeed. Maybe I’m mistaken, but my dispute with the puzzle’s theme suggests a poor decision, or even just a misstep, on the parts of the constructor and editor, having little to do with their intellect, or even their integrity.

    • pannonica says:

      Incidentally, how can a 237-word write-up (that’s including the enumeration of the theme answers) be as portentous as a high-stakes architectural critique? If I didn’t know better (and I don’t) I’d say someone was being hyperbolic to humorous effect.

      • Papa John says:

        If understand what’s going on, I’d like to offer this observation: “the simple physical integrity of the character” is Waldo’s striped shirt, bespectacled face and hat. This remains the same, no matter where he’s hiding. However, his posture, stance and pose may vary, just as the letters do in the puzzle, while maintaining the integrity of using only the letters in his name. Same guy –different positions. Same name – different positions.

        From this standpoint, I’d have to say this was an inspired and brilliant theme, certainly not “an utter failure”. Since it is a Monday puzzle, the circles make sense. I can imagine the glee some novice will experience when they see it all come together. It’s the best part of solving puzzles.

        • pannonica says:

          I feel that’s a poor analogy. What you’re describing would be the equivalent of some other blogger’s dismemberment scenario. So if I may employ a glib misnomer, that’s body integrity disorder.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      “I’m not talking about moral or humanistic integrity, as Emerson might have it.”

      Who knew Kieth Emerson could be so deep. I thought he was just a really good keyboardist.

    • john farmer says:

      Jeezus yeezus, what have I got myself into. I knew I shoulda just gone to Starbucks and read last night.

      Hyperbole. Guilty! Next?

      Integrity. Yes, I understand the word has more than one meaning. I didn’t miss the point.

      Ad hominem. I’m not sure I understand the term the same as you do. In any case, I didn’t mean to insult anyone. Of course that would be different if I said, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” (Yes, I saw “Spamalot” on Sunday. I saw a man wearing a T-shirt that read, “I fart in your general direction”; he told me afterward that he was very glad they left the line in the play — it was a school production — otherwise, people might just think he was rude.) Instead, I referenced the quotation of another Waldo, which seemed fitting at the time, but has apparently ruffled some feathers. If you feel that I was implying you, pannonica, have a “little mind,” then I retract the implication, if the rules permit me to do such a thing. You do not have a little mind. But let me put it this way: I think your analysis of and comments about the puzzle were “small-minded.” Is that any better? If not, I don’t know what to say.

      That’s not the first time I’ve had that reaction. I sometimes find your post on the Monday puzzle to be snippy and condescending. (I say that not to be mean, just to give you my honest feedback.) At times it seems to take great effort even to say “ho-hum” or “average puzzle” or the equivalent. How generous! You don’t do it all the time, and I don’t think you don’t do it with malice. But often enough, the poor puzzle just doesn’t seem to measure up to your expectations. You might claim the fault is in the puzzle. I would disagree.

      Today’s is a case in point, where you found the “integrity” of the books violated by the theme of the puzzle. You’re entitled to your view, though I doubt if one in a thousand solvers had the same reaction. The way I see it, the puzzle was doing what puzzles normally do: playing with words. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not another Waldo book. It’s just a crossword puzzle — and in my eyes, a darned good one.

      • Eliza says:

        To John Farmer: Thank you for saying what I thought, as a lurker. I’d like to speak out to support you.

        I couldn’t believe the disdain this blog had for a perfectly good Monday puzzle. I have no interest in engaging in a battle of wits with an over-armed opponent, but honestly, Pannonica, (if I may use your blog name) I thought your blog description was much too harsh and needlessly offensive to the constructor.

        The correct thing to do, IMHO, would have been to apologize. Not to post pretentious nonsense.

        This is pretentious nonsense:
        As for john farmer‘s interpretation of ‘integrity’ and whether it has relevance to the Where’s Waldo books – I think he’s missed the point. I’m not talking about moral or humanistic integrity, as Emerson might have it. I’m talking about the simple physical integrity of the character (perhaps this is how my take superficially resembles Rex’s descent into dismemberment) and also the formulaic consistency of the book series. Furthermore, invoking Emerson’s ‘hobgoblin’ strongly makes a ‘little mind’ implicit, so I would say that’s an ad hominem attack indeed. Maybe I’m mistaken, but my dispute with the puzzle’s theme suggests a poor decision, or even just a misstep, on the parts of the constructor and editor, having little to do with their intellect, or even their integrity.

        P, we already know you are smarter than us. Maybe not as kind…

  10. John V says:

    Re BEQ, 24d is a bit off the mark, as G”N”P, while a “thing”, is effectively deprecated, G”D”P having been in use since 1991: Sorry for this nit, but, whatever. Had me stuck there for a bit. Still a splendid puzzle. Now, about the snow……

    • Martin says:

      I wish I’d put it in writing, but after the brouhaha last week over Left Shark (Katy’s lawyers threatening a guy who was selling Left Shark 3-D printer specs), I knew that BEQ would be the first to include the klutzy cartilaginous chondrichthyan in a grid. I figured next week. Oh me of little faith.

    • Papa John says:

      What snow? We haven’t had a single flake, so far this season. [Bite my tongue.]

    • PJ Ward says:

      John V, that has bugged me for a while. Now I just assume the answer is GNP and I don’t recall the last time I had to change it.

    • ArtLvr says:

      I wondered about that… but the rest of the BEQ was awesome. NY snow is too.

  11. Alex says:

    Arguments like these are why I love Crossword Fiend. It’s like the Metafilter of crossword-dom.

  12. Gary R says:

    When I first read Pannonica’s review of today’s NYT, I thought she was being too nit-picky regarding the theme. On further reflection, I believe she was right on target – in the books, Waldo hides “in plain sight” – he doesn’t change his appearance.

    While I thought today’s puzzle was fine, the theme would have been more fun (and more suited to the spirit of the “Where’s Waldo?” books) if “Waldo” had been hidden in the grid as in a “word search” puzzle, showing up horizontal, vertical or diagonal – but in proper W-A-L-D-O order. I have no clue how difficult this would be to execute construction-wise – probably a bear.

    Anyway, Pannonica’s overall take on the puzzle seemed to be pretty positive. I took “cosmic flaw” to be a bit of light-hearted hyperbole.

    • Eliza says:

      Gary R: Cosmic flaw and utter failure stretch hyperbole. So do P’s description of a book destined for children as having a “conceit” and a “raison.” Pretentious.

      • Bencoe says:

        P also said that besides the “cosmic” flaw in the theme, she “liked this crossword a lot.” I don’t find that to be snippy or condescending or mean. It was overall a positive review.

        • pannonica says:

          Thanks to Bencoe and others who’ve defended my opinions, and pointed out some of the less-remarked bits.

          If I may step in once more, let me reiterate that the Where’s Waldo series has a very specific and limited formula, design, and principle. If that isn’t a conceit, I don’t know what is. Further, the reason for his, and by extension the books’, existence is to be found by readers, be they children or whomever.

          As for it being ‘merely’ a children’s series, I’ve never been one to patronize children—they’re readily capable of many higher organizing concepts and patterns.

          Definitions from
          conceit: (3d) an organizing theme or concept
          raison d’être: reason or justification for existence

          Last, it can be argued that there’s a Where’s Waldo universe, and as I said earlier, (1) I liked the way ‘cosmic flaw’ sounded, and (2) cosmic may also mean very important, not necessarily cosmologic. Many people seem intent on making a big thing about it.

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