Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reagle 13:22 (Amy) 
NYT 9:43 (Amy) 
LAT 6:45 (Andy) 
Hex/Hook 13:08, not rushing (pannonica) 
WaPo 8:39 (Sam) 
CS 24:21 (Ade) 

Dan Feyer’s New York Times crossword, “Making Connections”

NY Times crossword solution, 3 15 15 "Making Connections"

NY Times crossword solution, 3 15 15 “Making Connections”

Add IN to the start of familiar phrases and wind up with goofy phrases clued accordingly:

  • 23a. [“You can never moor a boat here”?], INLET LIE. “Let lie” and INLET-anything are a tad dry for launching a theme, but the 8-stack this is part of is quite nicely wrought.
  • 24a. [Provide sufficient coverage from risk?], INSURE ENOUGH.
  • 39a. [Atheistic Cuban leader?], INFIDEL CASTRO. Love this one.
  • 46a. [Desk chairs?], IN-BOX SEATS.
  • 60a. [Quechuan “hello”?], INCAN OPENER. I wonder if my Peruvian friend speaks Quechua along with Spanish and English.
  • 67a. [Removing a Band-Aid too early?], INJURY TAMPERING.
  • 74a. [Covering first, second and third base?], INFIELD GOAL.
  • 91a. [Add to the Video Clip Hall of Fame?], INDUCT TAPE. I like this one, although “tape” is a bit quaint now.
  • 97a. [Diet?], INTAKE CONTROL.
  • 112a. [Diapers?], INFANCY PANTS. Hah! Good one.
  • 117a. [Popular website whose name is a hint to this puzzle’s theme], LINKED IN. In another 8-stack, nice but with a meh ENGR crosser.

Basic theme idea, with a contemporary revealer that serves as the rationale. As with pretty much all such themes, many of the theme answers aren’t funny, but INFIDEL CASTRO and INFANCY PANTS both made me smile, and an add-letters theme with two genuine smiles is probably above the average.

Seven more things:

  • 124a. [Visitor to a fertility clinic], EGG DONOR. A friend of mine’s younger son was conceived via a donor egg, and another friend of ours actually runs an egg donor agency in South Africa. Nice, fresh answer.
  • 9a. [So-called Baghdad by the Bay], FRISCO. San Francisco? Baghdad …? Really? I may have heard this before but it remains mystifying.
  • 32a. [Some miracle drug pushers], QUACKS. And some miracle drugs come from real doctors. I have puzzle friends with cancer who are waiting for miracle drugs to come on the market or prove themselves worthy in clinical trials. Hurry up, pharmaceutical research and FDA!
  • 85a. [Green deli stock], CAPERS. More of an olive green/brown, no? I had PULSING instead of PULSATE and could not figure out what green deli things would fit *IPERS.
  • 102a. [“Lucy” star, in tabloids], SCARJO. Lively bit of pop culture.
  • 101a. [Jack-in-the-box part], HYPHEN. I’m onto you, Feyer! But only because a similar clue destroyed me this morning in the Newsday “Saturday Stumper.”
  • 104a. [Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” originally], B-SIDE. Was driving through the neighborhood this afternoon, surrounded by drunken young people wearing green. Passed a gay bar with a banner announcing a Madonna album release party. I’m not a huge Madonna fan, but if gay bars go Madonna for St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going gay for the occasion. Too many green drunks. They’re ruining my Irishness.

Aside from the 8-stacks in two corners, the fill felt mostly ordinary (ETH ISS IEVER RASE IMARI, eh). Overall vibe, 3.75 stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Book Notes”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 15 15 "Book Notes"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 3 15 15 “Book Notes”

Quick review, because I’m going to an 8:00 movie and have to navigate St. Patrick’s Day drunk traffic en route.

Terrific theme! Merl’s note for solvers reads: “This puzzle is about a certain group. Twenty of the Down answers are one letter too long for their allotted spaces. Whenever this happens, simply enter the extra letter into the vacant square at the base of that column, below the solid-black row.” I’ve circled the top letters in those 20 Down answers and their omitted letters spell out ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS. The Rock Bottom Remainders are a band comprising authors who’ve sold a collective 350 million books.

From left to right, the Downs with the dropped letters are BRASS, SLOOP, COLDEST, SKEPTIC, BRENT, NOOSE, TAPES, ATRIA, MOUSE, CON MAN, PORTENT, ERASE, AMBLE, PRO-AMS, ALITO, OWENS, DIRE, UNITE, RAGES, and SHOOT. Note that all of the post-dropping entries are legit crossword answers in their own right, though they don’t match the clues.

And! That is really nifty by itself, but Merl also included puns with the last names of several band members:

  • 23a. [Place where this group’s music may never appear?], TOP TAN LIST. Amy Tan meets top ten list.
  • 41a. [Good place to view this group at a concert?], FRONT TUROW SEAT. Scott Turow, front row.
  • 56a. [Something this group can only dream of?], BEST-SELLING ALBOM. Mitch Albom, album.
  • 69a, 83a. [With 83 Across, typical comment by the group after a song?], THANK YA, / THANK YA BARRY MUCH. Dave Barry, very. The YA is a little weird.
  • 99a. [What critics of the group are known for?], BLOUNT LANGUAGE. Roy Blount, blunt.
  • 122a. [What the group is planning after this weekend?], NO BOOKINGS.

So a standard Reagle pun theme of a literary bent, plus a meta angle that brings 20 more answers into the theme. Love it! When I knew that the bottom was going to spell out ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS but hadn’t yet hit on the Down word with the extra letter, there was that extra layer of back-and-forth solving involved, and I liked that. Not every Sunday-sized puzzle that takes nearly twice as long as usual is a blast (sometimes it is a godawful slog and you just want it to be over already), but I enjoyed the solve.

The overall fill is pretty solid stuff, not much crosswordese or awkward partials or what-have-you. 4.5 stars from me. I’m almost surprised that this isn’t puzzle #7 at the ACPT later this month—the bottom row gimmick would have added an extra layer of difficulty and perhaps broken solvers’ spirits (heck, I read the note early on and it still took me a long time to solve), but it’s showy like many ACPT puzzles are.

Debbie Ellerin and Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “For the Fun o’ It”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 3.15.15 by Debbie Ellerin and Jeff Chen,  "For the Fun o' It"

LAT Puzzle 3.15.15 by Debbie Ellerin and Jeff Chen, “For the Fun o’ It”

Doesn’t it seem like this puzzle should be called “For the Fun o’ Fit”? Here, phrases containing the word “of” have the “f” transferred to the next word of the phrase:

  • 24a, PACK O’ FLIES [Irritating swarm?].
  • 26a, BILL O’ FRIGHTS [Halloween party invoice?].
  • 50a, THOUSAND POINTS O’ FLIGHT [Complex airline route map display?]. 
  • 62a, JACK O’ FALL TRADES [Guy who rakes leaves, cleans gutters, etc.?]. 
  • 83a, DEGREE O’ FRISK TOLERANCE [What measures one’s ability to endure traveling inconvenience?]. “Risk tolerance” Googles well, but “degree of risk tolerance” less so.
  • 108a, DOCTOR O’ FLAWS [Blundering physician?]. 
  • 112a, FEAR O’ FRATS [Campus phobia?]. “Fear of rats” is certainly a Thing, but it’s a roll-your-own sort of phrase in this context.

It just occurred to me that this is either a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired puzzle, or it’s running this week because of St. Patrick’s Day. Either way, happy early St. Patrick’s Day!

The fill was mostly good:

  • The crossing of SETAE and TOI was unfortunate.
  • The semi-stacks in the NW and SE of NAIL SALONS / ANALOGOUS and HAD A BLAST / DONE TO A TEE were really lovely. 
  • SEA CALF was new to me. 
  • Today we got UTA Pippig instead of Uta Hagen at 10d
  • Still not sure how I feel about the clue [Tapped out?] for 25d, ON DRAFT.
  • Really liked the clue [Everycowboy] for 61d, TEX.

That’s all I got. 3.33 stars. Until next week!

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 258”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 258 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 258 (solution)

I know, I know–in preparation for the upcoming ACPT I said that I would stop focus on solving time. This year, I said, it’s all about accuracy. That’s still true. It’s just that I started the timer on this puzzle out of habit (all of my training puzzles have been paper solves). So since it was timed–and since it was a good time–I figured I might as well report it.

Gareth will be at the helm next week, and the week after that will be ACPT weekend, where I’ll likely be so busy enjoying the festivities that I won’t have much time to blog the Post Puzzler. So this might be my last chance to officially thank editor Peter Gordon and all of the constructors who are or were part of the Post Puzzler stable. There are only two puzzles left before the Post Puzzler takes a final bow, and it has been five years of great joy. It was a novel idea–weekly hard freestyle puzzles created by a regular rotation of constructors. As I recall, the original rotation consisted of Frank Longo, Mike Shenk, Patrick Berry, Trip Payne, and this week’s constructor, Karen Tracey. All-Star puzzle-makers and one of the best editors in the game; it was a dream team that consistently delighted.

But with the exception of the Star Wars franchise, all good things must come to an end. This week’s puzzle contains all kinds of apt farewell messages. Running down the center of the grid is the [Spencer Tracey film of 1958], THE LAST HURRAH. Crossing that is LET’S DO THIS AGAIN, the [Successful social occasion comment]. I wonder if BACK TO THE FUTURE is somehow an inside message too.

The puzzle was not all hail and farewell. Being a Karen Tracey puzzle, there was the usual assortment of entries of which I’m reasonably sure I’ve never heard:inessastre7

  • PACAS is clued as [Spotted cavies]. Of those bold-faced words, I knew one of them. My dictionary defines a paca as “a nocturnal South American rodent that has a reddish-brown coat patterned with rows of white spots. It is hunted for its edible flesh. Also called spotted cavy.” So there you go.
  • AH SIN is the [Chinese title character of an 1877 play]. I believe it was Ahsin and the King.
  • ENNA is the [Highest provincial capital of Italy]. I liked my original answer of ETNA, and thus stuck with it for too long.
  • ALANA is a [Beanie Babies bear]. With that clue, the answer could have been most any five-letter sequence.
  • APERÇUS are [Quick insights]. Notice the cedilla hanging from the C. Ah-per-SUE is so much fancier than ah-per-CUSS.
  • KIBO is the [Volcanic cone on Kilimanjaro]. I’m resisting the urge to say this entry was almost too much to overcome.
  • There’s a Spanish model named INES Sastre. She’s the one staring at you now.

Another great Post Puzzler, keeping the streak alive at 258 and counting. Thanks to Peter and the whole Post Puzzler team for so many superb solving experiences!

Favorite entry = IV DRIPS, the [ICU administrations]. Favorite clue = [Hawaiian bigeye] for AHI.

Tony Orbach’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.15.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.15.15

Good day, crossword lovers!

Hope you all are doing well and my DEEPEST apologies to you all for not being able to be on here the past couple of days. I’ve been extra EXTRA busy covering live sporting events from sunrise to sunset (not a stretch), but I promise that I’ll have reviews up on the puzzles from the past few days. We should be good going forward, despite more March Madness coming down the pipeline.

As for today’s puzzle, I couldn’t finish it in the under 12-minute mark that I did last week, but it was a fun solve of Mr. Tony Orbach’s grid. As a matter-of-fact, I’ve been hearing that these Sunday Challenges are going to ratchet up a little bit in toughness coming real soon. Well, if I could finish a Sunday Challenge and feel like I’ve zipped through it, then that for sure means that they might get tougher in the coming days!

I definitely could tell this was going to be a challenge today when having to fill in LOLA FALANA, one of my favorite answers in the grid (4D: [One of the top-earning female Las Vegas entertainers in the ’70s]). She intersected another popular lady, BRANDI (41A: [Chastain of soccer who famously celebrated a World Cup win by removing her jersey]). For me, Lola was tougher to get than Brandi, but I’m sure for others, that might have been the other way around. I couldn’t help but laugh at filling in SELFIE STICK, as I’m starting to see them pop up all over, at least here in New York (24A: [Item that helps a person further reflect on his or her image]). For some reason, I was pretty much on to this clue despite the mislead, though I’ll NEVER invest in those monopods anytime soon!  Well, maybe I’ll rethink that, since I’ve been carrying a heavy tripod all across NYC, and it’s starting to take its toll. All of the long answers had some zip, and the clue for MEDICINE BALL was just a peach (21D: [Workout catch]). Oh, and thank goodness my good friend is a filmmaker and told me about TSOTSI when it came out and told me it was something I should try to watch if I could (46D: [Best foreign film of 2005 about a young gang leader in Johannesburg]). All in all, a lot of fun doing this grid, and, more importantly, I actually had a little time to do it and be on here!  On to the “sports…smarter” moment, then off to physically cover another event later today.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OSLO (19A: [Home to Holmenkollen])– American figure skater Dick Button was the first figure skater to land a triple jump in a competition when he did it on his way to winning the gold medal in the men’s singles competition during the 1952 Winter Olympics, held in OSLO.

Again, my deepest apologies to you about being MIA the past few days!  I hope to be back with you for the long haul, starting today!  Have a good rest of your weekend!

Take care!


Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “De-Construction” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/15/15  • "De-Construction" • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 3/15/15 • “De-Construction” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

In which de- has been prefixed to various phrases to detour their meanings. De- has three senses: (1) reversal, undoing, removing, (2) intensifying, (3) from, off.

  • 23a. [Job for Ms. Messing’s tutor?] TRAINING DEBRA. Okay, not a prefix at all here. Also, not a duplication with 102d [Society newbie] DEBDeb[o]ra[h] is unrelated to débutante.
  • 37a. [Humiliates the whole time?] DEMEANS TO AN END. Distinct etymology from 74d [Least magnanimous] MEANEST.
  • 47a. [High time?] DELIGHT YEARS. Arbitrary plural garners the necessary letter length.
  • 73a. [Trip downstairs that takes time?] SLOW DEMOTION.
  • 80a. [G.I. goes AWOL?] PRIVATE DEPARTS. Alongside ERECT? (78a [Put up]) and 70d [Mozart’s was magic] FLUTEand 79a?! Hmm! See also, 1a BOSOM near themer 23-across.
  • 100a. [WHAT CSIs find in a factory?] WORKERS DECOMP. What do you know? It seems decomp is genuine forensic lingo in use. I won’t hold my nose, then.
  • duschampescalier15d. [Czar gets a vote?] X MARKS THE DESPOT. Kind of thinking of Charles Manson here.
  • 43d. [Head of the patent office?] DEVICE PRESIDENT. Unrelated in meaning and etymology to 62a [Resolution subjects] VICES, though ironically the clue implies change, which is related to the other sense.

These are genially amusing theme answers, but my solving experience was marked by appreciating the clever clues scattered throughout.

  • 4d [Stage statuette] OBIE. Can anyone confirm that there is a physical statuette to go along with the award?
  • 83d [A wife of Henry VIII] PARR; 54d [Her hubby made her go topless] BOLEYN.
  • 56d [Heavy farm cart] WAIN; 17d [Carter] DRAYMAN. Bit dupey there.
  • 68a [Variety of jade] NEPHRITE, directly below 64a [Dweller (suffix)] -ITE. A dupe, a very palpable dupe.
  • 84a [Auditory] OTIC, 16d [Auricular] EARLIKE.
  • 57d [Sax legend Randolph] BOOTS Randolph, he of “Yakety Sax” notoriety. You’r welcome.
  • 28531Favorite clues: 76d [Eye liners] RETINAS, 75d [face card?] PHOTO ID, 9d [Short cuts] BOBS, 15a [Took out of context?] XED, 25a [Falls over the border?] NIAGARA, 67d [He took two tablets] MOSES (I’m sure there’s been a “call me in the morning” joke in this vein, right?).

Low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) also helped with the puzzle’s solving flow. Despite BOTHA and OURAY as the first two down answers.

 Lectable construction.


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32 Responses to Sunday, March 15, 2015

  1. Bencoe says:

    INFIDEL CASTRO feels like the seed entry to me. Found the Chopin trivia interesting–I would have guessed E flat.

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    “So this might be my last chance to officially thank editor Peter Gordon and all of the constructors who are or were part of the Post Puzzler stable.”

    The PP was my favorite puzzle of the week so I want to thank them as well. Is there a way to access all of the past puzzles?

  3. Evad says:

    A joy to find Steely Dan’s name atop today’s NYT. One of our fastest solvers, a professional constructor and a humble and gracious soul to boot.

    I do have to shake a fist though at the SCARJO/IEVER/TRITIP region which completely tripped me up today. Other than that, a very smooth & enjoyable solve.

    • Bencoe says:

      TRITIP (I’m a strict vegetarian) was new to me. I know sirloin tips but not tritips. SCARJO, on the other hand, was no problem.

  4. Gareth says:

    Sam, you may have heard of the guinea pig, probably the most famous of the cavies (which are not quite a monophyletic group…)

  5. e.a. says:

    merl’s puzzle is my favorite puzzle so far this year.

  6. Phil Renson says:

    Merl’s 122A, “NOBOOKINGS”, also has the name of Rock Bottom Remainders member Stephen KING.

  7. tammyb says:

    Merl’s puzzle: Try to imagine what happens if you misread the instructions and instead of dropping the excess letter way down to the bottom, you drop it down “below the solid black row” right beneath.

    And then to make matters worse, there are words that FIT with those misplaced letters! My head still hurts…but still, fascinating puzzle.

  8. Norm says:

    I found Merl’s puzzle annoying and frustrating, but it was my own fault for not reading the note at the outset. I try to avoid doing so, because I think that sometimes he gives away too much information and takes away the “aha” moment. Today, of course, the note was needed to avert the “WTF is going on here” feeling during the solve with each elided letter — especially since it was plainly not a rebus puzzle and that darned extra row was not apparent on my little Surface. So, my bad. You’re forgiven, Merl. I’m sure you were worried about that. ;)

  9. Pamela says:

    FYI…Herb Caen
    A collection of essays, Baghdad-by-the-Bay (a term he’d coined to reflect San Francisco’s exotic multiculturalism) was published in 1949, and Don’t Call It Frisco—after a local judge’s 1918 rebuke to an out-of-town petitioner (“No one refers to San Francisco by that title except people from Los Angeles”)—appeared in 1953. Per Wiki.

    • huda says:

      Thank you, Pamela. I wanted to make both comments. I really enjoyed the puzzle (thanks DF!) but I balked at Frisco and also struggled with the Tritip area. INFIDEL CASTRO alone was worth the price of admission.

    • Zulema says:

      Herb Caen also had a column in the SF Chronicle that ran until his death, I believe, or almost, under that title. He was an affable gentleman and acknowledged every “Hello” on the street.
      I don’t usually solve the NTY Sunday but this was by Dan and I was very happy I did tackle it, despite the FRISCO, which must be put down to his having moved to the southland recently. And I was stumped by SCARJO.

  10. john farmer says:

    The Rock Bottom Remainders are a band comprising authors who’ve sold a collective 350 million books.

    Which is to say, they could have named the band Stephen King and the Rounding Error. We could form a band with a total net worth of $78 billion if our guitarist is Bill Gates.

    Cool puzzle, btw.

    I really enjoyed the NYT today. Happy to say this one took me less time than Dan Feyer. Of course, I only solved it, and I’m guessing it took him more than 20-odd minutes to make the darn thing (though with Dan, you can’t be sure).

  11. Avg Solvr says:

    Wow, Rock Bottom Remainders!

    Who dat?

  12. Bob says:

    I’m sorry that I live in a faraway cave and have no idea what Reagle is using as answers in his puzzle this week – or might he possibly be assuming a role of an elitist?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Really? You don’t recognize the writers Dave Barry, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, and Amy Tan? Roy Blount is less famous, yes, but those others are massively best-selling authors. Elitist would be to build a theme around people who write literary fiction that doesn’t get a mass audience. But Dave Barry’s humor column probably appears in many of the same newspapers as Merl’s crossword, Stephen King has been cranking out good horror stories for decades, several of the band members have seen their books adapted into movies … this is as unelitist as a literary theme can get.

      • Bencoe says:

        Now I feel like an elitist. I love literature and hate all of those writers’ work.

      • John Merrick says:

        I recognized all of those authors, (except maybe Mitch Albom), but haven’t a clue about any grouping for them. Without this knowledge and the names of associated authors, Reagle was frustrating and not much fun for me, I was getting answers with no clue why they fit

  13. Zulema says:

    Just downloaded the Karen Tracey WaPo and solved, absolutely beautiful. Couldn’t get to it earlier. Thank you.

  14. Chris Wooding says:

    “Thank ya, thank ya very much” is a phrase attributed to Elvis Presley. It is often used by many Elvis impersonators.

  15. Bob says:

    Know all of them – never heard a musical note from any of them. I’m sorry I’m not privy to such important trivia, though I closely follow the music business. H-m-m-m-m I guess I really have been living in a cave!

  16. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Pannonica wrote:

    4d [Stage statuette] OBIE. Can anyone confirm that there is a physical statuette to go along with the award?

    Yes, the Obie award winners do get trophies.


  17. mickey says:

    Merl Reagle: Amy, for 56A… the answer is “best selling albom,” not “album.

    Also, I have no idea what “tammyb” meant when she indicated what would happen if you misread Merl’s instructions on how to do the puzzle. None of the Across answers would make any sense if you kept the missing letters “above” the wide black line just before the bottom of the grid. Maybe I misunderstood.

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