Sunday, February 22, 2015

NYT 8:50 (Amy) 
Reagle 6:25 (Amy) 
LAT 5:52 (Andy) 
Hex/Hook 8:13 (pannonica) 
WaPo 9:40 (Gareth) 
CS untimed (Ade) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Flip-Flops”

NY Times crossword solution, 2 22 15, "Flip-Flops"

NY Times crossword solution, 2 22 15, “Flip-Flops”

I haven’t seen this sort of theme before—each stacked pair of theme answers exchanges a chunk of letters that also form a word that appears in a familiar phrase with “up” or “down,” and the clues tip you off to the two Across entries as well as, in brackets, the up/down phrases, whose “up” or “down” is replaced by the relative positioning.

  • 21a. Turnpike turnoffs [intimidate, in a way], REST AREAS / 24a. Pet food brand [recover lost ground], PURINA CAT CHOW. But because there’s “STARE down” and “CATCH up,” the STARE and CATCH portions trade places. STARE moves down, CATCH moves up. RECATCHAS and PURINASTAREOW.
  • 23a. Narrator of “Amadeus” [go to bed], SALIERI / 26a. Compassionate [finally become], TENDER-HEARTED. With LIE down, END up, SANEDRI and TLIEERHEARTED.
  • 45a. Skateboarder’s safety item [salaam], ELBOW PAD / 53a. Point at the ceiling? [misbehave], STALACTITE. ACT up, BOW down, ELACTPAD, STALBOWITE.
  • 51a. Goodbyes [abate], ADIEUS / 55a. She’s not light-headed [amass], BRUNETTE. Run up (though RUN down also works), DIE down, ARUNUS, BDIEETTE.
  • 65a. What each group of circled words in this puzzle does, GOES UP AND DOWN.
  • 83a. Activity done in front of a mirror [clearly define], PRIMPING / 89a. Upset stomach [consume], NAUSEA. USE up, PIN down, NAPINA, PRIMUSEG.
  • 85a. Office trash [resign], WASTEPAPER / 90a. Loud and harsh [start crowding the crotch], STRIDENT. STEP down (STEP up also would work), RIDE up, WARIDEAPER, STSTEPNT. I don’t know about you, but around these parts, underwear rides up your buttcrack rather than “crowding the crotch.” Unless this clue is about some crotch-centric “ride up” terminology I don’t know…
  • 109a. Control of one’s actions [fall in great quantities], SELF-RESTRAINT / 117a. Converses à la Tracy and Hepburn [pay in advance], BANTERS. ANTE up, RAIN down, SELFRESTANTET, BRAINRS.
  • 114a. Granite dome in Georgia [moderate], STONE MOUNTAIN / 119a. Athens landmark [arise], ACROPOLIS. TONE down, CROP up, SCROPMOUNTAIN, ATONEOLIS.

The completed puzzle looks nuts (can’t help thinking St. Albowite is a Catholic school somewhere) but it’s elegant. The involved answers occupy symmetrical spots even though there are a whopping 17 theme entries. The up/down words are of varying lengths and positions, so the circled/shaded squares aren’t as pretty but no matter.

Because Patrick is very skilled with filling grids (does he have something way more powerful than Crossword Compiler?), this puzzle with 17 theme entries and an additional 16 hidden phrases even has some good bits outside the theme, such as DRUM OUT, olive TAPENADE, PITFALL, DUPLEXES, and the amazing TILDA Swinton. The fill is largely ordinary, and the circled squares only have one crossing that is liable to vex a lot of solvers—33d. “Taxi” character Elaine NARDO.

Did you enjoy the theme? Did you struggle but appreciate it in the end? Did you hate it? 4.5 stars from me. It wasn’t packed with fun, per se, but I liked the puzzle a lot.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Two-Star Final”

Merl Reagle's crossword solution, 2 22 15 "Two-Star Final"

Merl Reagle’s crossword solution, 2 22 15 “Two-Star Final”

This 19×19 puzzle is the one I recruited for the Crosswords LA Tournament in October 2014. Merl went Hollywood with his theme—ordinary phrases and words made by combining the last names of two stars.

  • 21a. [Dr. Watson portrayer + TV’s Fall Guy = ?], LAW MAJORS. Jude Law, Lee Majors. I went to a liberal arts college so I don’t know if pre-law and law are both standard majors or not.
  • 26a. [Comic actor + comic actress = ?], CRYSTAL BALL. Billy, Lucille.
  • 32a. [Actor Jack + a Best Actress Oscar winner = ?], BLACKBERRY. Halle.
  • 49a. [Comic actor + Dr. Strangelove’s portrayer = ?], SHORT SELLERS. Martin, Peter.
  • 56a. [Oscar-winning star of “The Farmer’s Daughter” + star of “The Wonder Years” = ?], YOUNG SAVAGE. Loretta, Fred. Not so familiar with “young savage.”
  • 68a. [Actor Peter + star of “The Piano” = ?], COYOTE HUNTER. Holly. Not so familiar with coyote hunters.
  • 78a. [“Casino” co-star + actor James = ?], STONEMASON. Sharon.
  • 86a. [The voice of Princess Anna in “Frozen” + actor Timothy = ?], BELL BOTTOMS. Kristen.
  • 96a. [Actress Lauren + star of “West Side Story” = ?], HOLLYWOOD. Natalie. The capper, aptly, is HOLLYWOOD, where all these famous people worked.

Merl adds this note: “In keeping with the puzzle’s two-star theme, I’ve included my Oscar predictions for Best Actor and Best Actress. To reveal them, rearrange the circled letters to spell their last names.” MTOOOEKEARN? Let’s see … I’m forgetting who the nominees are … oh, right, Julianne MOORE. And that leaves … Michael KEATON for the rest of the letters. Tune into the Oscar telecast Sunday night to see if Merl’s prognostications are correct.

Five more things:

  • 14d. [Overwhelmed, in a way], BEDAZZLED. Also the title of a movie.
  • 79d. [Rears], TUSHES. Crossing that BOTTOMS in a a theme answer!
  • 69d. [Distress causer], UPSETTER. Well, that “causer” in the clue correctly points towards the structure of UPSETTER, which has that awkward -er ending.
  • 22d. [Game with circles in squares], JUMBLE. My mom was talking to a friend about the Jumble puzzle recently. There was a 6-letter anagram her friend couldn’t get, and my mom couldn’t figure it out either so she ran it by me. REARYT: How quickly can you unjumble the anagram?
  • 54d. [Horticulturist Burbank], LUTHER. You may ask yourself: Is Burbank, CA named after him? It is not. You may also ask yourself: Has Amy seen the BBC’s Luther, starring Idris Elba? I have not.

3.75 stars from me.

Alex Vratsanos’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “The ’60s*”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 2.22.15, "The '60s*," by Alex Vratsanos

LAT Puzzle 2.22.15, “The ’60s*,” by Alex Vratsanos

Those of you expecting a puzzle about the 1960s were probably disappointed. Instead, Alex Vratsanos gives us a puzzle whose theme entries contain “six T’s”:

  • 39a, UTAH STATE CONSTITUTION [*Congressional authorization of its creation was partly contingent on its forbidding polygamy]. Not the only “6-T” state constitution, but the only one that has exactly 21 or fewer letters.
  • 45a, TITTLE-TATTLE [*Gossip]. Can also mean “idle chatter,” for which the name “tittle-tattle” seems vaguely onomatopoetic. It’s a nice feat of construction that this is stacked directly underneath UTAH STATE CONSTITUTION.
  • 67a, TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS [*1976 Doobie Brothers hit]. This song, from the album of the same name.
  • 93a, TATTARRATTAT [*Knocking sound, in Joyce’s “Ulysses” (longest palindromic word in the OED)]. Another onomatopoeia. I’d imagine that a lot 12-letter words with six of any single consonant tend to have an onomatopoetic quality.
  • 98a, THAT’S THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH [*”No lie!”]. To me, this phrase feels super made-up. But I don’t mind too much, and again, it’s cool that it’s stacked under TATTARRATTAT.
  • 28d, TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE! [*Jolson classic]. From The Jazz Singer.

Most of the theme entries are very original, especially given (or perhaps because of) the constraints implicit in the theme. The only theme entry I can remember seeing in another puzzle is TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE!– lists 5 appearances, in fact, but that’s probably because 85% of pre-2000 constructors saw The Jazz Singer in theaters. (That’s a real statistic. I read it in Real Statistics Quarterly.) Alex, however, is 22 years old. My suspicion is that his interest in TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE! is strictly alphabetical.

I loved TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS and, weirdly, TATTARRATTAT. TITTLE-TATTLE was good, and UTAH STATE CONSTITUTION is fine, if a bit out-of-left-field. There were only six theme entries, which is a bit on the low side for a 21×21 puzzle, but they were successful (and, I’m assuming, challenging to come up with). Like I said, “THAT’S THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH” was my least favorite theme entry, but it wasn’t bad; if Alex came up with a seventh themer that was less good than that, I’m glad it didn’t make it into the puzzle.

With so little theme content, there was a lot of room for long non-thematic fill. We’ve got MRI SCANNER, JOKE AROUND, PRISON BARS, SOON ENOUGH, GUINEA PIGS, SOUTHERNER, NIKOLA TESLA, and TELETUBBIES. That’s a lot to like, and that’s just everything longer than 8 letters. There’s also MEDICARE, the double-I pair of WIIMOTES and SHIITAKE, DEJA VU, I ROBOT, and STEPWISE. Really nice stuff, and just the usual smattering of ISAOs and OOOs, et cetera.

Great fill, okay theme: I’m giving this one 3.75 stars. Until next week!

The Post Puzzler No. 255 by Patrick Berry – Gareth’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 255

The Post Puzzler No. 255

A “chunky” themeless pairs P. Berry’s Sunday NYT this week. The two best answers are symmetrical parts anchoring the bulging middle: PEACEONEARTH and cartoondom’s HANNABARBERA. The former’s clue [Stereotypical thing to wish for], was initially opaque: all I could think of was “more wishes” – not it. Other answer highlights were: ATSOMEPOINT, and JEEPPATRIOT. Not a whole lot, but that’s not typical Berry style. Also in the longer stuff, HAIRTONIC‘s clue suggests it should be HARETONIC? We had one longer clunker: CRANIUMS, a much less common plural of a word that isn’t frequently pluralised in the first place! I also have to question whether “spoon” and LORNADOONE are real rhyming slang synonyms. I’m sure you can find references claiming that it is in use, but a lot of times, it isn’t the case “in the wild”. This reviewing website is neutral on the matter, but that alone is suspicious. Compare to an established phrase.

Clues… Best clue?: [Water cooler?], BRIG. Clue I don’t understand at all: [Whoopee cushions?], MATTRESSES. Strangest clueing choice: [Like many members of the Mau Mau uprising?], KENYAN. Their actions are somewhat controversial, so why bring them up, when there are so many other ways to clue this.

Trio of people I’ve not heard of: JENSEN, [“Supernatural” co-star Ackles], and both of [Manicurist played by Jan Miner in old Palmolive ads].

4.25 Stars


Jeff Chen’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 02.22.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 02.22.15

Good morning, everybody! Hope you’re all having a good start to your Sunday!

Last Sunday, I completed the puzzle faster than any other Sunday Challenge. Umm, not so much today. Whew! Now this was a Challenge, and it was offered up to us by the current Mr. XWord Info himself, Jeff Chen. Believe me, I’m sure there were more than a few answers that you might have gotten off the bat which I struggled with and needed a lot of its crosses so I could take some educated stabs at it! (But I’m sure there’s one answer for sure that I got immediately that you definitely were scratching your head at, and I’m saving that for the “sports” moment.) After getting RIGG to start off the puzzle (1A: [“The Avengers” costar Diana]), almost nothing else came that easy for me. Putting in ‘grins’ instead of BEAMS made my Northeast unsolvable and the very last part of the grid to finish once I finally got rid of my initial answer (5A: [Makes like a Chesire cat]). There were a few abbreviated terms in the grid, with P/E RATIO being a favorite (33D: [Financial analyst’s stat]) and BAD PR having a slick clue (21D: [Nonexistent thing, to some spin docs]). Nice little trivia to ROSS SEA, as I was thinking more of a type of dwelling in the water instead of an actual name of a body of water (1D: [Colossal squid habitat]). Not too long ago, I saw a story online about a person undergoing hypnic jerks while sleeping, and, also heard about exploding head syndrome as well, so that made SLEEP LABS somewhat manageable to get (20A: [Milieus where exploding head syndrome is studied]). Knew it had something to do with sleeping, but couldn’t nail down the second part of the answer until a couple of crossings made it clearer. Had no idea AD ASTRA was a magazine, though I was familiar with the Latin phrase (29D: [Official magazine of the National Space Society]). In the end, a very nice challenge to get the mind going to start this Sunday!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MASTER P (28A: [No Limit Records rap mogul])– Before creating his rap label (No Limit Records) and becoming a 1990s rap hit, MASTER P (Percy Miller) was an up-and-coming prep basketball player, starring for his high school team in New Orleans and then being awarded a scholarship to play at the University of Houston. He never played college ball, but his overwhelming success soon came as a rapper and music producer. Due to his fame from music, as well as his athletic background, Miller earned a tryout with the Charlotte Hornets during the 1998 preseason, but was cut before the season started. He also tried out for the Toronto Raptors in the 1999 preseason. He was cut before the season as well, but not before he scored 8 points in a preseason game against the Vancouver Grizzles, including hitting two three-pointers. Here’s Master P in action, trading in his microphone for a basketball jersey…


Have a great rest of your weekend, everyone! See you on Monday! 

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossroword, “Creature Feature” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 2/22/15 • "Creature Feature" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 2/22/15 • “Creature Feature” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

Another week, another rhyming pair theme. Last Sunday it was Henry Hook’s demonym fest, today it involves animals.

  • 23a. [More-than-odd bird?] EERIE VEERY. Not the most recognizable species name to start.
  • 25a. [Wired snake?] HYPER VIPER.
  • 46a. [What’s hotter than a horse cart?] DRAGON WAGON.
  • 59a. [What Aussie canines speak in?] DINGO LINGO.
  • 69a. [Play with pack animals?] LLAMA DRAMA.
  • 84a. [What’s balder than a bald eagle?] SHAVEN RAVEN.
  • 106a. [Tale of a weaselly sort?] SABLE FABLE. I might have gone with the sable fish, for variety’s sake.
  • 108a. [What gets creatures steamed?] FAUNA SAUNA.
  • 38d. [Dog on a throne?] REGAL BEAGLE. Wasn’t this the name of the local watering hole in Three’s Company?
  • 42d [Kin of 25-Across] MADDER ADDER.

And, vertically in the center, the related: 55d [Ecological community] BIOME.

©Johanna MurilloOn the whole, the theme feels kind of sloppy. Blah, underwhelming rhymes. Not much variety—just vertebrates, and non-aquatic ones at that. One fanciful creature (though some large monitor lizards are called ‘dragons’), one collective term (though this is explainable as a summarizing entry, as it’s the last across themer. Plus, there’s a non-theme entry that conforms to the same structure: 75d [Competition with rockets] SPACE RACE. Further, the whole works would feel more cohesive if other animals were extirpated from the rest of the grid. Instead we see 48a [Colony member] ANT, 53a [Fish also called a gurnard] SEA ROBIN, 71a [Big lug] APE, 2d [Antelope playmates] DEER, 91d [Brown ermines] STOATS. 71-across isn’t clued literally as an animal, it’s true, but on the flip side of that coin there are some entries whose clues contain animal references when they aren’t strictly necessary (e.g., 91a [Reddish-brown horse] SORREL.

No standout, memorable clues. Much more than a few abbrevs. and partials—by far the most egregious is 103d [Ursula K. Le __ ] GUIN—though not a whole lot of crosswordese. Some of the long non-theme entries are good: NOTRE DAME, CASTOFFS, KEY LARGO, SKIN COLOR. But these simply aren’t enough to redeem the puzzle as a whole.

Mildly dissatisfying crossword.

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19 Responses to Sunday, February 22, 2015

  1. Jim Hale says:

    Best Sunday puzzle in a long time.

  2. PJ Ward says:

    I really enjoyed the puzzle. I got my footing at 45-A and 53-A. Then it was pretty quick work but still a lot of fun.

  3. Matt says:

    I got the full theme at the very end, just after completing it. While doing it, I saw that the interpolations were shifted words but didn’t get that they were UPs and DOWNs– but then, at the end, I noted the puzzle’s author and figured there must be more there than met the eye. A great puzzle, and a feat of lexical complexity.

  4. lemonade714 says:


    In American, making whoopee means having sex which many do on mattresses
    I confess the NYT is elegant but I did not enjoy it.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Greatest ambivalence ever. An astounding construction, but I found it a boring slog to wade through. Eventually, I was able to ignore the circled squares and the ups and downs, and just do it from the crosses. I kept wanting to move diagonally up or down in the wrong place.

  6. cyberdiva says:

    LOVED the NYT puzzle!! I went nuts for a while, trying to figure out why SALIERI didn’t fit as the narrator in “Amadeus,” and what other Athens attraction could start with A and end in OLIS. That’s when the light bulb went on and I saw what was needed. But even then, I had no idea what the bracketed clues referred to. Needed another light bulb moment a bit further on.

    I’m in awe of Patrick Berry’s being able to put this together. I wonder how long it took him. (I’d like to think it took him a lot longer to construct than it took me to solve, but….)

    • huda says:

      I agree… what a feat of construction.

      I really appreciate this site and Rex Parker’s for increasing my awareness of what goes into the construction process. When I started, I never thought about what it took to make a puzzle, just what it took to solve it. I don’t know why thinking about what went into making something—food, art, a play, a garden or a puzzle, can enhance the experience. It’s like we’re wired to appreciate other people’s efforts, not just the final product. Especially if it all seems smooth and effortless.

  7. David says:

    The circles didn’t appear for me in CRUX, which made the NYT harder than it had to be. Did anyone else have this problem?

  8. Papa John says:

    Like Bruce, I ignored the up and down “stuff” (I so want to say “crap”), except when I wasn’t able get all the down fills necessary to fill in the themes. Oh yeah, great construction – bravo, Patrick! — but too awkward for a smooth solve. It went surprisingly quick, however.

  9. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was amazing, and I think Berry deserves a special award for the intricacy!

  10. Avg Solvr says:

    “Whew! Now this was a Challenge, and it was offered up to us by the current Mr. XWord Info himself, Jeff Chen.”

    Totally agree. Tough puzzle.

  11. ArtLvr says:

    “water cooler” = BRIG, because it’s a jail on a sea-going vessel…

    • pannonica says:

      Gareth understood that one, suggested it might be the best of the lot. As lemonade714 indicated, it was the mattress/whoopee that proved elusive.

  12. jae says:

    @Amy – We watched a few episodes of Luther. It’s pretty dark. My bride was not a fan. That said, she didn’t watch The Wire either.

  13. Lois says:

    Re the NYT, here’s a vote for the enjoyment I had of all the elements of the puzzle while solving – once I finally got it. I was sorry when I was getting close to finishing. The multiple elements were so much fun.

  14. mickey mcfarland says:

    Since no one commented on the Jumble anagram…it’s ARTERY. Also, in the Merl Reagle puzzle..the theme answers…you gave both first names to some, and only one name to others.
    Was that because you thought everyone would know the unmentioned names? I hope so, because #32A…”actor jack + a Best Actress Oscar winner = BLACKBERRY. Without the
    “Jack and Halle” I think you can see what it may look like to some people. Also, #68A
    I’m sure you know Peter Coyote, and that a coyote is a small, dog-like varmint which is hunted.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Where the first name was included in the clue, it seemed unnecessary to mention it. Actor Jack + ___ = BLACK ___, who’s gonna have trouble guessing that Jack Black is the name? If the first name wasn’t in the clue, I listed it.

      Is COYOTE HUNTER a “thing,” though? Are all animal + HUNTER phrases solidly in the language provided that someone somewhere hunts that animal?

  15. mickey mcfarland says:


    Re: coyote hunting. or any other animal that is hunted…..yes. Coyotes were hunted
    almost to extinction due to their “varmint” status.

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