Sunday, March 29, 2015

LAT 8:49 (Andy) 
NYT  28:43 (Dave) 
WaPo untimed (Sam) 
Reagle 14:12 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
CS 21:17 (Ade) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “California, Here I Come”

NY Times solution 03/29/15 "California, Here I Come!"

NY Times solution 03/29/15 “California, Here I Come”

Hi, Evad here, reporting from Stamford, with a quick write-up of Sunday’s NY Times. As I speak (or write), Dan Feyer leads the pack, followed closely by Joon Pahk, Howard Barkin and Tyler Hinman. Can Dan hold on to win the tournament an unprecedented 6 times in a row? Tune in later today to find out!

The state abbreviation for California, CA is added to common phrases in the pursuit of hilarity. Let’s see how these turn out:

  • [Ancient Peruvian using Netflix?] is a STREAMING INCA – what movies would an Ancient Peruvian want to rent, one wonders.
  • [“No fishing here!”?] was CAST ELSEWHERE. Here the ST no longer is used as an abbreviation. Fancy constructin’ that!
  • [Dog whose rocket went off course?] was DEEP SPACE CANINE. I get my sci-fi TV series confused, was this the one with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain or something in the Star Trek series?
  • My pick for the seed entry was this one, a lovely 21: [Comment to an annoying blackjack dealer?] or YOU MAKE ME WANNA CASH OUT. I heard recently that the Dartmouth frat that was the “inspiration” for Animal House (which is what I think of when I think of this song title) was recently cited for “branding” new recruits, but with no more details than that. We were left to imagine what sort of irons were used and where. Where’s an undercover reporter when you need one?
  • [Part of a jumbo trail mix?] was a REALLY BIG CASHEW – a throwback to the Ed Sullivan show, I think. (I was often asked growing up if I was his son, so I have a soft spot for any reference to him, despite the aeons that have transpired since.)
  • [Agent for Bogart’s partner?] was BACALL HANDLER – here the “CA” is shoehorned into the middle of a word.
  • And finally, the sure-to-be-best-selling [“12-Point Type: A History”] plays off Yann Martel’s truly best-selling THE LIFE OF PICA.

Be my guest!

Not much else to add, I had a lot of trouble in the NE, with DESI clued to a 1965 trio along with other trivia like a quaint letter opening (TO SIR) and 1895 motion picture inventors. (Luckily, my familiarity with Disney’s LUMIERE helped here!) Another trouble spot was the crossing of LENI and NITTI, names I should know by now with all the puzzles I’ve done, but I guess I’m suffering from puzzle fatigue as this was my seventh solve today.

Off to bed!

P.S. Thanks to Amy and all the contributors to this blog for providing for our ACPT dinner last night, held here. It was delish and a great time was had by all.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “A Tense Situation”–Sam Donaldson’s review

"A Tense Situation" (Reagle syndicated crossword, March 29)

“A Tense Situation” (Reagle syndicated crossword, March 29)

Greetings from Stamford! With the closure of The Post Puzzler (see below), my blogging assignment has moved to the Reagle syndicated crossword. So if you’re expecting Amy’s expert analysis of Merl’s weekly offerings, you better start lowering that bar right now.

The theme is pretty straightforward, as Merl uses homophones of various past-tense verbs for comedic effect. The amaze-balls part of this puzzle is that he squeezes in 11 theme entries:

  • The [Result of an Oreck-Bissell summit?] would be a VACUUM PACT (from “vacuum-packed”). Three paragraphs in and I have my first nit: Merl is usually very good at placing his best theme entry at the end, which always gives the puzzle a nice punch line. But he goofed this time, as this is the best one of the lot. It should be in the symmetrically opposite spot.
  • A [New batch of chicks?] might be called a FRESH BROOD (from “fresh-brewed”).
  • [Vestal virgins?] are CHASTE WOMEN (from “chased women”). Hmm, you usually want your wordplay to be a little zany. In other words, you want results that are playfully wacky instead of actual terms. “Chaste women” seems more like a phrase one could actually employ without comedic effect.
  • A classically Merl clue: [Q. “What were you doing at the lumber yard, Tarzan” A. “___”] is a terrific hint for GETTING BOARD (from “getting bored”). I had CUTTING BOARD there for a long time, making the northwest corner nearly impossible to crack. Of course, “cutting bored” is not a past-tense expression, but that didn’t occur to me until close to the end of my solve.
  • “Mustered support” becomes MUSTARD SUPPORT, clued as [Customer-service reps for a certain condiment?]. I assume they wear bright yellow polo shirts.
  • You might say one who is [Soft and smooth on top?] is BALD LIKE A BABY (from “bawled like a baby”). As with CHASTE WOMEN, I’m not sure this one is all that wacky. But now that there’s a second one, CHASTE WOMEN doesn’t stand out so much.
  • The [Redundant library sign?] is NO TALKING ALOUD (from “no talking allowed”). Perfect clue.
  • To [Get a little sloppy with the stickum?] is to PASTE ONESELF. My favorite part of this whole clue/answer pair is the use of “stickum.” Sounds like the glue used during a robbery. Stickum up!
  • A [Beach-access route?] might be called a ROAD TO SHORE (from “rowed to shore”). Merl lives in Florida, so he knows a thing or two about beach access.
  • The [Headline about escaped lions?] is PRIDE LOOSE (from “pried loose”).
  • “Passed the bar” describes what a newly-minted attorney just did, but PAST THE BAR describes [Where the teetotaler walked?]. See? VACUUM PACT would have been a much better ending, right?

You did notice that the top and bottom trios of theme entries all abut, right? That’s a nice Hook-ian touch, though Merl is no stranger to stacking theme entries and making it all work. I’m fairly confident I’ll never be able to do that as a constructor myself, so I always admire it.

Here are the top five answers that I’m guessing will bring casual solvers to the internet, and thus to this page (hi!):

  • 5. ANILE means “resembling a woman of advanced years.” Was that on the SAT? Even if it was, it’s not the greatest entry. Merl tries to save it with the helpful hint in the clue: [Old-womanish (anagram of LIANE)]. Absent the anagram hint, this one might have topped the list.
  • 4. Anita LOOS is the [“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” author]. That’s not a very welcoming clue for the entry at 1-Across, but I suppose a potty reference like [Elton’s john] or [John of The Beatles] would be even more off-putting. There’s an easy fix here: the crossing LIVING at 1-Down could be GIVING, leaving GOOS at 1-Across.
  • 3. [Aida’s love] is RADAMES. Veteran low-brow solvers like yours truly know Aida is an opera. We even know that Aida is a character in Aida. But the names of other characters like Radamès? Yeah, no.
  • 2. [Actress O’Connor] refers to character actress UNA O’Connor. Who? You may remember her from such films as Little Lord Fauntleroy, The Return of the Frog, and My Pal Wolf (I didn’t make up those last two, I promise). Yeah, I’ve never heard of her either. Would it have been so bad to clue UNA as the Spanish feminine article?
  • 1. The [Butter dye] is ANNATTO. Oh, and UNA crosses ANNATTO at the second “N.” That’s what you might call “unfortunate.” I tried D, T, L, M, and even W in that square before I finally used the N and got the “Mr. Happy Pencil” confirmation that I was right.

Favorite entry = OH STOP IT, the [Reaction to too many compliments]. Favorite clue = [One who succeeds?] for HEIR.

Andrew J. Ries’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 260”–Sam Donaldson’s review

PP2601Stay tuned for a special interview with The Post Puzzler editor, Peter Gordon! First, though, we need to give some love to this week’s Post Puzzler, the last of the series.

The final Post Puzzler comes from guest constructor Andrew J. Ries. It’s a 72/30 freestyle featuring triple-10s in two corners and double-9s in the other corners, all connected by a couple of 12s and two fun 8s. I needed virtually every crossing for LITTLE FEAT, the [“Willin'” rockers] in the lead role at 1-Across. Luckily, ALAMOGORDO, the [New Mexico boom town?], and DINING ROOM, clued as [Where courses are taken], were both gimmes, so the crossings did not offer too much of a fight.

HAMBURGER U, the [Management school founded by Ray Kroc, familiarly], was the star of the opposite corner, and I like how a McDonald’s reference rests atop the high-falutin’ OPERA SERIA, clued here as a [Porpora composition]. Highlights in the other corners include OSCAR BAIT, the [Tear-jerker released during awards season, maybe], and BILLYGATE, the [Carter-era scandal, in headlines].

Let’s run through some of the many interesting clue/answer pairs:

  • TOM PETTY was the [Super Bowl halftime performer between Prince and Bruce Springsteen]. Happily he had no wardrobe malfunctions.
  • [Inconvenient convenience store charge?] is a playful clue for ATM FEE.
  • GALLOWS HUMOR has a great clue, [Lightness during darkness?].
  • [Digs and pads] is a great clue for ABODES.
  • [Siege that employs many shells?] aptly describes an EGGING.

2-Down says it all: I LIKE. This is a very nice way to conclude a wonderfully entertaining five-year run.

Favorite entry = HUGS NOT DRUGS, the [Motto that clean people really embrace?]. And the accompanying clue is quite clever, too. Favorite clue = [Business needing seed money?] for FARM.

And now, as promised, here’s a special interview conducted a few days ago with Peter Gordon, editor of The Post Puzzler throughout its five-year run. Peter takes us behind the scenes for a look at The Post Puzzler’s origins, operations, and ending.

The Post Puzzler was an innovative idea–weekly, Saturday-level themeless puzzles from some of the best themeless constructors in the business. How did the Post Puzzler come about?
The Post contacted me and said they wanted a hard weekly crossword for their Arts & Style section. It could be themed or themeless, by me or edited by me. I had a full-time job, Fireball Crosswords had just started, and I was writing a crossword 48 times a year for The Week magazine, so the idea of writing an additional 52 puzzles a year was not something I could even consider. Editing the puzzles, though, would take less time if I could get really good writers. The budget wasn’t big–after paying $201 per puzzle to the writers (that eventually increased to $205) as well as some to Frank Longo to fact-check them, there wasn’t much left. So I needed really good writers who wouldn’t take long to edit, since there was very little left in the pot for me. And the Post was retaining the rights, so I couldn’t even count on book income down the line.

How did you go about selecting the constructors for the initial rotation?
I asked people who had done themelesses with me in the Sun who had been easy to edit. The initial five were Patrick Berry, Longo, Trip Payne, Mike Shenk, and Karen M. Tracey. Over the years some people cut back or dropped out, and I added other people in: Doug Peterson, Bob Klahn, Mike Nothnagel, Todd McClary, Jeffrey Harris, and Byron Walden.

How was editing the Post Puzzler different, if at all, from your work editing Fireball Crosswords and, before that, the puzzles for the New York Sun?
I try to avoid using the same clue twice in any venue. The first step is to look at the clues I’ve used to make sure I haven’t used it already. Every once in a while, I’ll forget to check, or I’ll make a last-minute change, and a repeat will slip in. For the 17,800 Post Puzzler clues and answers (13,521 different answers), I had 11 repeat clue/answers. They were:

Camp accessory = BOA
To such an extent (as) = INSOFAR
Check-in handout = KEYCARD
Theoretically = ONPAPER
___ sci = POLI
Anglican bishop’s address: Abbr. = RTREV
Curling venue = SALON
Eliciting a “meh” = SOSO
Place = STEAD
Hill, in Hebrew = TEL
Nintendo princess = ZELDA

If the clue isn’t a repeat, then the next step is to make sure it’s accurate. Then I’ll try to improve it, if I think it could use improvement. I remember early on there was a Berry clue that I thought was just so-so. I said to myself “There has to be a better way to clue that.” Fifteen minutes later, after trying every which way to clue it, I came up empty. That’s when I realized that these writers really knew what they were doing, and they’ve put in a lot of effort to make the clues as good as they can be. If there was a so-so clue, it probably was because there was no really clever way to clue it.  There was very little room for improvement.

That was the big difference between the Sun and the Post Puzzler. The Sun was much more heavily edited because there was more room for improvement. With the Post Puzzler, if I could punch up five or ten clues in a puzzle I’d consider it a success. In fact, when this year’s Orcas came out, for Best Clue I saw there were two from the Post Puzzler among the nominees:

Coverage providers after a recession? = HAIRPIECES (by Doug Peterson)
Brother in the hood? = MONK (by Jeffrey Harris)

I went back to their original emails to confirm my suspicions that neither was by me.

Another difference between the Post Puzzler and the other outlets was that the puzzles were sent to me as complete works. With the Sun, I always approved themes beforehand, and for themeless puzzles I approved the grid before getting the clues. But with the Post Puzzler, I didn’t preapprove grids, so I could solve the puzzle without having already seen the grid. That allowed me to see where solvers would have trouble spots and ease up a clue or two in that area. The grids only rarely needed changes. Probably fewer then a dozen needed changes over the five years, and those were mostly for inadvertent duplicate forms of the same word in two places in the grid.

I did have to redo one grid after sending it to the Post, though. It included JEWFISH, and my editor at the Post thought it would offend solvers. Indeed, one dictionary (Encarta) lists it as an offensive term. No other dictionary labels it in any way, and I hadn’t checked Encarta. But once I saw that, I agreed it had to go. And once there was a puzzle with BALLSIER in it. I asked the Post if they’d allow that, and got a no, so I ran it in Fireball instead.

My editor at the Post solved all the puzzles. Usually she had no comments, but occasionally she’d email me asking to explain a clue. For example, when NINETY was clued as {A cutoff, usually}, she questioned it. When I explained that the “A” was a grade, and not an article, she understood it. And she saved me at least once from an error. For ONEINTEN my clue left the “not” out of {Odds of not surviving a true decimation}.

Another Post Puzzler innovation was the wild card slot. What was it like solving 12-30 submissions every few months?
I loved the wild card. It’s such a weird feeling when you sit down to solve a puzzle and you know this could be possibly the best themeless you’ve solved in the past month or possibly the worst. And you can’t check the byline to get an idea of what quality to expect, because there is no byline. It’s been removed by Longo, who took out anything that could identify the writer before sending it to me. There were some really good puzzles, and also some that were … not so good. I would sometimes get an answer that was a total puzzle killer (for example, a made-up phrase), but I’d soldier through and finish the puzzle anyway, since I wanted to give everyone a fair chance. Some were quite hard, so solving them all took a lot of time. That’s the big drawback of this method. All that time is spent for one puzzle. And since there was just one slot, even if the runner-up was also good, there was no room to run it, so I had to reject it. Often I’d get down to the best two or three, and I’d agonize over them for an hour or so, re-solving them once or twice, trying to find some reason to like one more than the other. They were so good that a slight flaw would be all it took to tip the balance. I felt really bad for Peter Wentz, who was in the final round so often I lost count, but who never got in the Post. (I didn’t know he was in the final round until after the fact, of course.) I did use one of his submissions in Fireball. It had a great clue for KRAMER, but it was a clue I don’t think I could have gotten away with in the Post: {First one out in “The Contest”}. Besides being about a sticky topic, it could leave solvers not knowing what it’s referring to. But in Fireball, I include fun facts with the answers, so when this ran, it was accompanied by this fun fact:

In the “Seinfeld” episode “The Contest,” the four main characters make a bet to see who can answer “yes” to the question “Are you still master of your domain?” the longest. KRAMER is the first one to lose.

The wild card winners were: Byron Walden (who eventually became a regular), Jeffery Harris (ditto), Samuel A. Donaldson, Evan Birnholz, Josh Knapp (twice), the team of Erik Agard and Angela Olson Halsted, and Andrew J. Ries (the author of today’s puzzle, which was the final wild card spot).

The wild card submission format was great because it was a true meritocracy–you took what you thought was the best puzzle regardless of the byline. Should all crossword submissions be reviewed blindly? If you had it to do over, would you do it again and the same way?
It’s great in theory. I’m not sure how it would work in practice, though. For themed puzzles, I work back and forth with the author over sometimes dozens of emails. If they all had to go through an intermediary to avoid exposing who the author is, that would be a pain. But for themeless crosswords it could work. The question, though, is if it’s worth the effort. Each wild card puzzle that I solved I rated on a scale of 1 to 10. Longo, who was the person who got the puzzles and stripped out the names, did the same. After I selected the winner and locked in my decision, Longo and I would finally get to compare notes, to see how our ratings differed. Rarely were our scores different by more than a point or two. And seven of the eight winners were ones that Longo had rated as best or tied for the best in that batch. (Longo didn’t decide between, say, two puzzles rated 9, since he didn’t have to make the decision.) So it was a lot of effort for not much of a different result whether or not the byline was known. But would I do it again given the opportunity? With a few tweaks to the system, yes.

Why is the Post Puzzler ending?
I considered stopping at the end of the fourth year, but wanted to do the wild card for one more year. I felt after five years that I had accomplished all I had set out to do with a themeless outlet, and it didn’t seem like a sixth year would add anything. The editing wasn’t what took so long. But after I was done editing, I then had to do the layout in InDesign, and if it didn’t fit the page, I’d have to cut clues to make it fit. I’d have to send the Post the InDesign page, a pdf of the InDesign page, a Word file of the clues, an Across Lite version, a pdf of the Across Lite version, and pdfs of the puzzle and answer grids. In addition, I had to create an XML version and upload it for online solvers. As you might imagine, that took a long time. I once had the clue {According to the lyrics, “he mus’ know sumpin'”} for OLMANRIVER. I put a space between the apostrophe and the close quote with the intention of making it a thin space in layout, but I forgot to do that, so the close quote was automatically changed to an open quote by InDesign (because it was preceded by a space). My editor noticed and asked me to fix it. All I had to do was delete the space and retype the quote, but with all the versions and uploading and emailing, it took over 15 minutes to fix.

What will you do with all your new-found free time (he asked somewhat jokingly)?
I’m trying to continue my Fireball Newsflash Crosswords through Kickstarter. The campaign ends April 4, and it could use some love. So if you like crosswords and news, consider signing up.

Five years, 260 puzzles. What puzzle(s) stand out most and why?
I had always wanted to clue WEBSTER as {Massachusetts town on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg}. But I wanted to do it in a way where the clue wasn’t hyphenated. To do that, it had to fall in just the right spot, and it had to be in a puzzle where I was doing the layout. In July 2014, Longo sent in a puzzle with WEBSTER in it (not knowing about my idea) and it happened to fall in the right spot. The resulting clue was pretty cool:Long clue

Any good story or stories you’d like to share? Or any other thoughts?
I’d like to thank everyone else who submitted wild cards. Other than the winners, I didn’t get to communicate with them. And a huge thank-you to all the regular contributors for their high-quality work over the five years. It was a pleasure to edit such fine puzzles.

And our thanks to Peter Gordon for five years of superb freestyle puzzles!

Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Ick Factor”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 3.29.15, "Ick Factor," by Melanie Miller

LAT Puzzle 3.29.15, “Ick Factor,” by Melanie Miller

Greetings from Stamford! I’m writing this post on Thursday night, but by the time you read this, it will be (at the earliest) Sunday morning. If you’re reading this, the following things have already happened:

  1. Dan Feyer solved at least one puzzle reaaallllly fast.
  2. Puzzle 5 was a killer, and we’re all cursing whoever constructed it.
  3. A bunch of really awesome crossword people hung out, and fun was had by all.

Thanks to the members of Team Fiend who have picked up the slack while many of us are at ACPT!

OK, now to this puzzle. Fun conceit by Melanie Miller: In “Ick Factor,” the letters “ew” have been added to some common phrases, with results of varying hilarity:

  • 26a, BEWARE: NAKED LADIES [Sign outside the women’s locker room?]. Barenaked Ladies. You probably know them for their hit “One Week.”
  • 41a, BREWER RABBIT [Hopper using hops?]. Brer Rabbit. Brings up some unhappy memories of Song of the South.
  • 66a, MEWING DYNASTY [Powerful Persian bloodline?]. Ming Dynasty. More than just vases, y’know.
  • 91a, MILDEW BREEZE [Draft in a moldy basement?]. Mild breeze.
  • 107a, CASHEW IN ONE’S CHIPS [Stray nut among the Doritos?]. Cash in one’s chips. Nice that the original phrase has the verb phrase “cash in,” while the transformed phrase has in as a standalone preposition.
  • 15d, LEMON REWIND [Another showing of an Edsel documentary?]. Lemon rind. Who knew there was a difference between lemon peel, zest, and rind?
  • 65d, DEADLY SINEW [Pulled hamstring, to a hurdler?]. Deadly sin.

I flEW through this one. There were afEW non-theme highlights for me:

  • 78d, GEL PEN [Ballpoint alternative]. Anyone who was in middle school in the early 2000s remembers the Great Gel Pen Craze.
  • I did NOT like 87d, BIG SISSY [Fraidy cat]. Besides being of questionable taste level, I don’t love roll-your-own BIG + ___ entries. Plus, it crosses the worst entry in the grid, PESTY.
  • OPEN GRILL and PARTHENON are lovely symmetrical entries. 
  • Overall, the fill in this one was noticeably good! Besides what I mentioned earlier, I have no complaints whatsoever. (OK, add ETNAS to the list. But really, that’s it!)

Nice theme, (mostly) nice fill, dinged a bit for BIG SISSY/PESTY. 3.6 stars. Until next week!

Patrick Jordan’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.29.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 03.29.15

How’s everything?!  Hope all is great, and hope some of you are indeed here at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford! It’s been fun so far, and definitely want to end the weekend with a bang.

The last two Sunday puzzles, including the one that I wasn’t able to post, were done in about 13 minutes, but this one took slightly longer to crack. Despite that, had a really good start to the left, with DARE (1A: [Incentive for a prank, perhaps]) leading to getting RAREBIT and opening up that corner (17A: [Cheesy entrée]). Not too long after that, ETIQUETTE EXPERT was there for the taking, thought took a while to get the ‘expert’ part of the answer (19A: [Post, say]). Pretty much went to the Southeast after that, with FIANCÉE there for the taking without any crosses (54A: [Bride-to-be]).  No real tricky sports in the puzzle, and, as per usual, just needed a couple of letters entered in a 15-letter entry to see the solution, which was JUMPING OFF POINT (46A: [Place to begin]). Had to share this story after seeing the clue for JODI (46D: [Benson who voiced Disney’s Ariel]): while in Syracuse for the college basketball tournament on Thursday, I ran into a staff worker/Syracuse student at the Carrier Dome whose name was Ariel, and she was experiencing a mean case of laryngitis. Definitely invoked a Little Mermaid reference, with Ariel losing her voice in the movie. Oh, by the way, I never watched that film in my life!! Umm…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TAJ (4D: [Opening to a mausoleum])– Current NBA player TAJ Gibson is a forward for the Chicago Bulls, and is in his sixth season in the league. Last season was probably his best season in the league, averaging a career-high 13 points per game while playing in all 82 regular-season games. For his effort in 2013-14, Gibson finished second in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, behind Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford.

Have a good rest of your weekend, and thank you for your time!

Take care!


Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Punnytown USA” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/29/15 • "Punnytown USA" • Hook • solution

CRooked • 3/29/15 • “Punnytown USA” • Hook • solution

Puns of US town names, coupled with their states (rendered in various configurations, as need dictates). The standard pun caveat applies: solver experience/tolerance will vary greatly.

  • 22a. [Home for Empire State dentists?] YANKERS, NEW YORK (Yonkers).
  • 24a. [Home for Last Frontier’s reporters?] JOURNO, ALASKA (Juneau).
  • 32a. [Home of domineering Gem Staters?] BOSSY, IDAHO (Boise).
  • 51a. [Home of weird Keystone State folks?] EERIE, PENN (Erie). Not to be confused with the erstwhile television show Eerie, Indiana.
  • 76a. [Home of Tar Heel St. sovereigns?] ROYALLY, NC (Raleigh).
  • 88a. [Home of Mountain St. volunteers?] WILLING, WVA (Wheeling).
  • 103a. [Home of Badger St. doctors?] MEDICINE, WISC (Madison).
  • 108a. [Home of chopsticks users in the Old Dominion?] NO FORK, VIRGINIA (Norfolk). By far my favorite theme answer4d. [Home of reading teachers in the Grand Canyon St.?] PHONICS, ARIZ (Phoenix).
  • 32d. [Home of Treasure St. shoemakers?]BOOT, MONTANA (Butte).
  • 63d. [Home of the subdued in the Granite St.?] CONQUERED, NH (Concord).

To impart a further sense of unity, the clues all reference the states’ official nicknames. A couple other entries impinge on the theme: 93d [Lake Michigan city] RACINE (crossing the Wisconsin themer, no less!) and 12d [1959 James Michener novel] HAWAII. I do not care for theme creep.

  • 92a [Short-vowel symbols] BREVES. Nearly everyone had SCHWAS first, right?
  • Also, in the same area, 70d [Sixteen oz.] ONE LB, but I was for a long time set on fluid measures.
  • kocdeniroBunch of low-quality short fill. Partials such as IF WE, IN AN, SO NOWI’M A, A NET, and so on. Abbrevs. such as CSCH (hyperbolic cosecant), PKS (pecks and bushels, folks). This stuff is unpretty.
  • Plural proper NAMES: 13d [Khan and others] ALYS, 47d [Kin of comedy’s Judy] TENUTAS.
  • 69a [Beezer] SNOOT. “Beezer” is not a word I’ve seen before. Will try to remember it.
  • Were it not for the vertical crossings, it’s doubtful I’d have completed the lower left section 111a [Lake of Finland] INARI atop 114a [Kishke casing] DERMA? Ouch.
  • Some solvers might look askance at pluralized Latin STADIA and CYGNI, but  I don’t mind them so much. (53a, 66d)
  • Few fun clues. My favorites are 84a [Look on the bright side?] for SQUINT, and 64d [Homophone of her “Vanilla Sky” costar] CRUZ.

Theme’s okay, the rest—as a whole—feels subpar.

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24 Responses to Sunday, March 29, 2015

  1. Ethan says:

    As a Baltimorean, I don’t really like the clue for BALTO. I will often write Balto., MD for the return address on a envelope in the interest of saving space. However, this isn’t really “informal”, it’s just an abbreviation. In the capacity of an informal rendering, I would welcome BMORE, which a lot of people say, but I wonder how well that would be received by the wider solving audience.

    • huda says:

      I put down BMORE and when I had to change it to BALTO I thought it would be so much better to be named BMORE…

      • Bencoe says:

        I also thought the proper nickname was “BMORE”.

      • Gary R says:

        I went with BMORE first, too. A more interesting clue for BALTO would have related to the sled dog who led the anchor leg on the medical mission that inspired the Iditarod race.

    • CY Hollander says:

      Balt. is an abbreviation. If Balto is an abbreviation, it’s a pretty strange one: what’s the O doing there?

      • Ethan says:

        No idea. But people do write Balto. on addresses (and sometimes Balt.) but nobody ever says it out loud.

  2. PJ Ward says:

    NYT & LAT – Double dose of adding two letters to get CASHEW? Wow!

  3. Jim Hale says:

    Plicate and Dap… this puzzle was frustrating and such a downer after last Sunday’s.

  4. Zulema says:

    I will so miss the WaPo’s!!! Thank you so much to Peter and everyone who contributed. Isn’t there someone among those contributors who would be willing to continue? I get from Peter’s comments that it is pretty much a thankless task, certainly financially.

  5. Norm says:

    Loved Merl’s puzzle. That darn ANNATTO/UNA crossing was the last letter I entered. I would have preferred a Green Knight reference to a who? Have to disagree with Sam about the order of the theme answers. I found PAST THE BAR a lot funnier than VACUUM PACT, although the PACT/PACKED switcheroo is a lot quirkier.

  6. Bencoe says:

    Since I didn’t see you after the finals ended, congrats to Amy for taking home a trophy. Second to Anne Erdmann in the Midwest–not bad!

  7. Brucenm says:

    Just got back from the Stamford tournament. Most scintillating finish in crossword puzzle history.

    Last night, Amy, our weirless feeder, was kind enough to invite me to dinner with her group, and I was fortunate enough to share a small table with her, and with the equally charming Janie and Pannonica. Very enjoyable evening.

  8. Ellen Nichols says:

    I recall that a few weeks ago, when the end of the WaPo Puzzler was announced in this blog, there was a reference to availability of the archives. Since I have only recently begun solving this terrific puzzles, old ones would be great. Can any one help?


  9. Dan Katz says:

    Isn’t the title of the book (and movie) LIFE OF PI, rather than THE LIFE OF PI? I websearched for the latter and could only find it in suspect articles referencing the book.

    I’ve taken some time off from the NYT until recently (when I did a whole lot of backlog to practice for this weekend’s ACPT), but this seems like an unusually egregious error. Unless I’m missing something.

  10. klew archer says:

    Will be missing the Post Puzzler. Thanks for the interview with Peter.

  11. Margaret says:

    As far as UNA goes in Merl’s puzzle, I agree completely that this is an old-time clue but she definitely qualifies as a “Who IS that?” character actress. If you’ve ever seen the Errol Flynn movie the Adventures of Robin Hood, she played Maid Marian’s comic relief lady-in-waiting.

  12. Fletcher B. says:

    The Washington Post puzzle has been my favorite since its inception. Will really miss it. Thanks for the Gordon interview!

    I don’t get the WashPost 41A: who was Casey, the famous fictional fanner?

  13. pannonica says:

    Another thank-you to Peter Gordon for providing the world with the WaPo. Five years is a fine run, and it’s gone out on a high. Great interview, Sam and Peter!

  14. Brucenm says:

    Ditto on the big thanks to PG and the Post Puzzler. Often my favorite puzzle of the week.

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