Friday, March 6, 2015

NYT 5:11 (Amy) 
LAT 7:36 (Gareth, paper) 
CS 25:56 (Ade) 
CHE 6:11 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

David Phillips’ New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 15, no 0306

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 15, no 0306

Quite a good Friday puzzle here. A 70-worder, corner stacks of 8s and 9s, reasonable flow throughout the grid (the NW and SE corners are a tad cut off, but with two not-so-hard longish Downs feeding into them, not so fearsome).

I was up mighty early this morning, so I’m going to keep this quick.

In the fill, I like: the AFC SOUTH/MARINARA/PRIME RIB stack, with 85% good crossings; LIZ TAYLOR crossing VIOLET eyes; the SIDE SALAD/PRICELINE/RON REAGAN stack and 80% of its crossings; “IT’S A DATE”/PET NAMES/TRUE LIES and 75% of its crossings; pretty SYCAMORES.

Clues that worked particularly well: 59a. [Love handles?], PET NAMES; 16a. [“A cozy lie,” per Susan Sontag], SANITY; 37a. [One unable to adapt], DINOSAUR; 12d. [“Success is a great deodorant” speaker, informally], LIZ TAYLOR.

I don’t see 29a. urban SPRAWL as an [Urban phenomenon] but as a suburban one. Didn’t care for ATARI CORP as an answer; who calls it that? Regional DEL TACO, I only know from crosswords that horrible time when it was a gimmick theme answer involving Greek letters (and for all I knew, the place was called THE TACO), meh. And ABOU, literature more from crosswords than from English classes.

4.25 stars from me.

Janie Smulyan and Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Type Set” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 3/6/15 • "Type Set" • Smulyan, Gorski • solution

CHE • 3/6/15 • “Type Set” • Smulyan, Gorski • solution

A crossword about typography? You bet I’m going to be nitpicky and judgmental. Dreadfully so. Apologies in advance to anyone (everyone?).

  • 17a. [York Minister or Notre-Dame de Paris, e.g.] GOTHIC CATHEDRAL.
  • 26a. [Ancient chariot-racing venue] CIRCUS MAXIMUS.
  • 48a. [They divided Vietnam into two zones in 1954] GENEVA ACCORDS.
  • 63a. [Estate in an Arthur Conan Doyle classic] BASKERVILLE HALL.

Do you see what’s going on? I think I do. We’re dealing with typefaces here. Beyond that, however, it gets a bit murky. BASKERVILLE is a venerable typeface dating from the mid-eighteenth century. MAXIMUS is a modern face designed by Walter Tracy in 1967. (There are some decorative fonts called CIRCUS (this one, for example), but I’m not sure any one of them is definitive.) GENEVA is an early desktop knockoff of twentieth century titan Helvetica, developed by Apple. (Arial is the IBM/pc analogue.)

And then, then we have 17-across. In these modrun [sic] days of computing there are scads of amateur designers and hobbyists, as well as professional freelancers and small design houses—one doesn’t need to work for a big type house or foundry. This is how I found a few minor designs called Cathedral, or a variation thereof. However, I’m pretty sure the part of the answer intended to be theme-relevant is GOTHIC. Unfortunately, that isn’t a font, it’s a category of fonts, essentially synonymous with sans-serif.

So. If each of the theme answers begins with the name of a font, we have GOTHIC, CIRCUS, GENEVA, and BASKERVILLE, with the first two being problematic. As there aren’t any fonts called Accords or Hall, it can safely be assumed that we aren’t talking about both parts of each theme answer, let alone just the second part. If instead we work with the indisputable idea that the leading GENEVA and BASKERVILLE are key, then for symmetry’s sake CATHEDRAL and MAXIMUS should be the other two theme elements, but CATHERDRAL is insubstantial. If, on the other hand we take it that GOTHIC and MAXIMUS are the crucial bits, then 26a becomes the only themer whose second part takes precedence … and GOTHIC is still unlike the others.

type-specimens 2

Apologies for the blockiness; I don’t have all of these fonts installed on my computer.

Bottom line (baseline in typeface anatomy): one theme entry is unquestionably different than the others, and either the remainder or all of them together lack a satisfying symmetry in either construction or significance.


  • Central vertical 28d [Chain calling itself “America’s Drive-In”] SONIC. SONIC is also a zippy font designed by Bitstream/Monotype in 1994.
  • There’s also a 1977 font family called SENECA (35a [ __ Falls Convention (first-wave feminism event)]
    See also, 46d [Proposal opposed by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum: Abbr.] ERA.
  • 36a [Yarn-project beginning, maybe] wasn’t LOOM as I first surmised, but LOOP. In typeface anatomy, the LOOP is the bottom part of the ‘two-story’ (aka ‘double decker’ or ‘looptail’] rendition of the lowercase (minuscule) g.
  • 10d [Teaching by example] MODELING. Not a very exact term, but typefaces can be modelled during the design process. Here’s a video I found (only 3 views! – let’s boost that number) called “Art deco typeface modeling in Lithuanian typography”. 

    WARNING: may induce photosensitive epileptic seizures, if you’re prone to that sort of thing.

  • 38a [Reach the denouement] END, which is an informal name for a letter’s (glyph’s) terminal, which may or may not feature a serif.

Oh, and there was also some other fill. It was pretty good. Despite the exegesis/diatribe, I still liked this crossword quite a bit. Because, hey, typography!

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.06.15: "MOtoR Pool"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 03.06.15: “MOtoR Pool”

Happy Friday, folks!  My apologies to you, but I’m going to have to scale back on the review for today, as I have a couple of stories that I have to file by the end of the day (March Madness is going to kick my butt in terms of being available on here and providing lengthy reviews for the next month). But, today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, is actually his most straightforward theme that I’ve done yet…not that it was any easier for me. All the theme was is common phrases/nouns which change when the letter R is substituted in place of where the letters MO would be.

  • BARELY RVING (20A: [Vacationing in a no-frills camper?]) – From ‘barely moving.’
  • RON ROCKS (33A: [Effusive words about Burgundy?]) – From ‘moon rocks.’
  • ROD SWING (38A: [Fly-fishing motion?]) – From ‘mood swing.’
  • OPTICAL RUSE (55A: [Bit of perception deception?]) – From ‘optical mouse.’

Entries that helped me get out of a couple of jams was BOUVIER (7D: [Marge Simpson’s maiden name]), SUMATRA, after changing it from ‘Jakarta’ after realizing quickly that the latter is a city (2D: [Java’s large neighbor]) and PRO BOWL, which was a cinch for me from the clue (30D: [Its teams are now chosen in a “fantasy draft”]). The bug referred to in SERA is a virus, not an actual insect, in case anyone was wondering about that (51A: [Bug zappers?]). Wish I had more time to elaborate on CHOO, as in the current Major League Baseball outfielder Shin Soo-CHOO of the Texas Rangers (26A: [Said twice, a “twain”]). Well, I said I don’t have time to talk, yet this is almost the length of my regular posts. Guess I can’t help myself when talking the CS/WaPo puzzles, huh?!  OK, my sports moment is going to be short and sweet…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HANCOCK (12D: [Noted 18th century signatory]) – The Sun Bowl, tied for the second-oldest college football bowl game in terms of its inception (1935), used to be called the John HANCOCK Bowl from 1987 to 1993. The game is played annually in late December in El Paso, Texas.

Have a good weekend, everyone! See you tomorrow!

Take care!


Steve Marron’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review


LA Times

This was a rare “figure the revealer out at the second theme entry” day. PTTSBURGHPRATES, MAMDOLPHNS – AHA! THERESNOIINTEAM! It’s refreshing to see an MLS team, CHCAGOFRE, included in the theme entries. We also get an MLB team and two NFL teams (the other being DETROTLONS). A fun spin on the basic US sports team theme, but fairly easy and transparent for me. Just to clarify, there’s also no WE in TEAM either.

The filling felt creakier than normal. As far as I can see there are several factors at play: 59 squares is a fair amount of theme real estate; because of their I-less-ness, the theme entries are high in consonants, leading to unusual letter patterns; also, the grid design is problematic, with its big corners, necessitated by the central 9 theme answer.

OEN/OED/FDS is a terrible little corner all on its own. Note that despite how small the corner is there really isn’t a better fill. The other option is a whole new grid design… RIS is another example of extreme desperation fill. So is SOI. So is KMS. I have no idea why it’s clued in relation to Duesseldorf. CATBERT, BASMATI and I guess SAPPHO are some consolation.

2.5 Stars. The theme is sound, but I would advocate a more conservative grid design and new puzzle around the theme would have improved the experience.

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shifting an Hour” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/6/15 • "Shifting an Hour" • Fri • Gale, Shenk • solution

WSJ • 3/6/15 • “Shifting an Hour” • Fri • Gale, Shenk • solution

As if it were a reminder that we’re to set our clocks forward tomorrow overnight—which I suppose it sort of is—this puzzle features rows of paired long answers (20 letters total for each pair) in which the bigram HR (short for “hour”) is (1a) MAPped—or shifts—left to right. That is, forward in time.

  • 23a. [Products sold at Cut-Rate cash registers?] CHEAP TILLS.
    25a. [King Gunther’s perch in “Götterdämmerung?”] RING THRONE.
    (cheap thrills, ring tone)
  • 35a. [Name for an ursine golf team?] THE TEE BEARS.
    39a. [Garden area reserved for hedges?] SHRUB PLOT.
    (The Three Bears, subplot)
  • 52a. [Daiquiri for a dimwit?] SIMP COCKTAIL.
    57a. [Violent spasm in the very end of one’s finger?] TIP THROE.
    (shrimp cocktail, tiptoe)
  • 75a. [Foil used to hide the dirty dishes?] SINK WRAP.
    78a. [Cheapskate’s gift for Dad on his silver anniversary?] CHROME TO PAPA.
    (shrink wrap, come to Papa)
  • 92a. [Result of wearing a too-tight dunce cap?] CONIC PAIN.
    94a. [Phone hacker on the expressway?] PIKE’S PHREAK.
    (chronic pain, Pike’s Peak)
  • 109a. [Ancient form of beacon?] FLAME TOWER.
    111a. [Greeting to one on the other side of the temple?] SHRINE WAVE.
    (flamethrower, sine wave)

Pretty wacky stuff, eh? Note that the HR consistently occupies the second and third letter slots in the originals and relocations, though I feel that may have more to do with the inherent nature of English (and its Germanic antecedents) than constructor design.

  • 12d [Machinery parts] COGS. See also 32a [Daily grind sufferers] DRUDGES.
  •  97a [Doesn’t commute to a domestic job] LIVES IN; 69d [Naughty way to live] IN SIN. 7d [Kellogg’s cereal introduced in 1916] ALL-BRAN, 46d [Far and wide] ALL OVER.
  • Not dupes: 6d [Hill, in Hebrew] TEL, 59d [Verizon, e.g.] TELCO; 22a [What half a loaf is better than] NONE, 96a [Losing score in many a football match] NIL.
  • 61a [Stable sight] HAY RACK. Surely I wasn’t the only one who first went with HAY BALE?
  • 9d [Hip-hop headwear] DO RAG. Still? I don’t really know, but this seems dated to me.
  • Really misled by 67a [Cant] for TILT. Was eminently (hah!) confident that it was LILT. LIE UPS rather than TIE UPS for 67d [Commuting headaches] didn’t seem entirely beyond the pale.
  • Also, had IDIOM instead of SLANG at 114a [Translating challenge]. Fortunately, the crossings readily made that error obvious.
  • 3d [Masters work] POEM. Edgar Lee.
  • Not so thrilled by SAID TO, BE MAD, HIT UP proximate to TIE UPS.
  • Favorite clues: 13d [Sites of some mergers] ON RAMPS (remember the venue), 38d [Riviera and Park Avenue, e.g.] BUICKS, 91d [They take a bow] ARROWS.

Good crossword, about average. Theme’s a little iffy in the resultant answers. 

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30 Responses to Friday, March 6, 2015

  1. ArtLvr says:

    NYT was really tough but rewarding… Tickled with TOKLAS and LIZ TAYLOR, and the pair across the bottom, DENIAL and TRUE LIES… DOTARD is a fun word!

  2. Matt says:

    Nice NYT, top half was tougher for me than the bottom half. Somewhat oddly, the breakthrough word in the top was MARINARA, which was just a shot in the dark– but it worked.

  3. sbmanion says:

    I can’t remember the last time I had two words (DOTARD and HABITUE) other than names where I had every letter but the last one and was not sure what to put in as the last letter. Fun for me to learn.

    I thought the puzzle was going to be quite easy as I entered AFC SOUTH, but that was one of the very few gimmes for me.

    Very tough puzzle, but excellent.


    • sbmanion says:

      I just realized that the ending of HARBITUE is pronounced A. I absolutely did not see it at the time.


  4. huda says:

    Glad to see that others also found the NYT challenging. That NE corner seemed impossible for a while… thank goodness for PROZAC. Still, I had “vANITY” in lieu of SANITY for a while… Interesting, the layering of Prozac and Sanity.
    I liked the definition of TENURE. And HABITUE was very helpful to me. That DEL TACO motto is crazy!
    A good work out.

  5. Nancy says:

    Did anyone else have AL FRANKEN instead of RON REAGAN? It worked for a while with ECRU and DENIAL….but not with ALAMO!

    • Gary R says:

      Hand up for Franken – I even took ALAMO out for a while to make it work, until DINOSAUR convinced me I had to look for another host.

      Nice puzzle – challenging, with a few new words for me (like LIGER) and a lot of likable long fill.

    • Dan F says:

      I actually had MARC MARON first! Though I was leery because Air America is not how he would be clued. It worked with ALAMO and DENIAL.

    • dr. fancypants says:

      Ditto. Also had ZOLOFT for PROZAC for a while.

      Nevertheless, I thought this was easy for a Friday. Thought I was on my way to a hands-down record Friday time, then got a bit held up in the NE, and just ended up significantly better than average. I’m not a huge fan of that sort of cross-grid inconsistency in difficulty.

      I really liked the Sontag quote, and I really didn’t like the CORP at the end of ATARI–and I say that as someone who (a) spent a significant portion of his early childhood playing the Atari, and (b) is now a corporate attorney.

      • Bencoe says:

        Ditto here for the Sontag quote. It was my favorite thing in the puzzle.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        “I’m not a huge fan of that sort of cross-grid inconsistency in difficulty.”

        Good point. I think this made the puzzle tougher.

  6. Papa John says:

    Did I make a mistake and do some other puzzle this morning? The NYT went down like a row of dominoes for me. I’ll probably pay for this bit of braggadocio with tomorrow’s puzzle but, hey, it was the easy-peasy. What can I say?

    • Papa John says:

      I didn’t have to wait until tomorrow. The CHE knocked me for a loop!

      • pannonica says:

        It will be blogged, I promise.

        (Last week’s, too)

      • Zulema says:

        John, it was just the opposite for me. The NYT NE was a bear and the rest just took forever, but the CHE was a delight and I congratulate the constructors and the editor for such a rewarding and entertaining crossword. I even figured out the theme after staring at the completed puzzle for a while.

        • Papa John says:

          The NE is actually where I started. After going across the top line with AFCSOUTH and TOKLAS, I turned the conrner with SYCAMORES, backed up with LIZTAYLOR and KNOX and I was on my way.

  7. Margaret says:

    The LAT had me at CATBERT! (In the sense of “You had me at hello.”) I guessed the reveal as soon as I had PTTSBU filled in, but that just made me look forward to figuring out what the other theme answers would be. I thought this was a very nice Friday.

  8. Gareth says:

    Bottom half – standard Friday. Top half – brutal!

    Top-left was merely because of multiple wrong answers that fit: SIMON for ALVIN, TIEIN for LIMOS both of which paired with ESPN and FARIS quite nicely but not much else. That was merely a moderate speedbump…

    Top-right seemed impossible for more than a while. I nearly gave up in exasperation! Nothing concrete to the right of COWS and the D of DOTARD for probably 20 minutes +. I considered NOMORE; I considered and rejected TWERPS and it still doesn’t seem very synonymous with [Squirts]. At some point I put in EYECOLOR then SYCAMORES and EXTRA even then it didn’t go far. TOKLAS/SANITY/PROZAC/LIZTAYLOR/ATARICORP all seemed clued for maximum opacity! I did consider the 2600 = ATARI angle but rejected it on the basis of too few squares. I did consider the “suffix” CORP at some point to, but rejected it on the basis of there being no real organisations that use “corp”.

    Last Friday 9:44. This Friday 44:26 – a bit of a jump!

    • lemonade714 says:

      In the US, “Corp.” is a recognized and used corporate designation.

      One man’s opacity is another man’s milk of magnesia.

  9. Avg Solvr says:

    CHROMETOPAPA for the win in the WSJ. Made me laugh.

  10. Brucenm says:

    Liked the NYT a lot. I Robot was the first gimme so the SW and the rest of the bottom went easily, then the NW. The NE was my slowdown too, though I thought I remembered Sontag’s “sanity” quote, then made my way to prozac and sycamore and got it untangled.

    The Klahn M – OR puzzle was utterly brilliant, as his puzzles usually are, even if I seem to be the only one who thinks so. It is a mystery to me why so few people seem to appreciate an amazing theme, flawlessly executed with diabolical, clever, but ultimately fair clues and very little BS; whereas everybody seems to love those boring “People Magazine Clone,” “Look how trendy and cool I am,” puzzles.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      Just did it and I agree about the Klahn puzzle.

    • Gary R says:

      Liked the Klahn – I agree the cluing is clever but pretty gettable (as far as I know, this is the first of his puzzles I’ve done, so maybe I just got lucky). I thought the theme would have been a little cleaner if the first two theme answers had contained only a single “R” (or if both Rs had been replacing MO).

      • Brucenm says:

        Gary, I had the same initial thought, but I resolved it (in my mind anyhow) as follows: MO morphs to R, so if the original base phrase contains an ‘MO’ we are directed to change it to an R. The theme says nothing about doing anything with an R which appeared in the original, base phrase.

  11. Norm says:

    NYT: Hard but ultimately doable. I was surprised to solve with no Googles, since I had few entries in the grid in my first pass through the across clues, but the SE gave me a foothold and everything finally fell into place.

    LAT: Cleverness of the theme excuses the gibberish in the completed grid. I thought at first it was going to be a Greek letter rebus (e.g., pi), but no. I guess I don’t mind gibberish that much when it’s easy for the brain to fill in the missing letters.

    CS: Why, oh why, do I even do Bob Klahn puzzles? Brucenm, I am one of those people who do not like his puzzles. I will have to disagree with your description of his cluing as “ultimately fair”: it’s ultimately understandable in hindsight, but far from fair. I had maybe two entries on my first pass and only then looked at the byline and went “Oh s***!” I refer (for my own purposes) to some puzzles as “f*** you” puzzles. I’m pretty sure he was responsible for the term. You’re entitled to your opinion. I don’t think I’m the only person he pisses off with his “diabolical” (are you sure you did not mean “sadistic”?) cluing.

  12. Avg Solvr says:

    “I’m pretty sure he was responsible for the term.”


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