Sunday, April 19, 2015

NYT 12:40 (Amy) 
LAT 12:25 (pannonica) 
Reagle 12:54 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 9:48 (pannonica) 
CS approx. 18 mins. (Ade) 

Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword, “Double Down”

NY Times crossword solution, 4 19 15 "Double Down"

NY Times crossword solution, 4 19 15 “Double Down”

It quickly became apparent that there was some sort of rebus action going on here, because the first long answer, DIRTY LINEN, had only 9 squares allotted to it. And one of the crossings seemed inadequately clued: 5d. [One way to complete an online purchase] is PAY? Eventually I figured out that the short crossings where theme answers were missing letters needed to double up: DIRT{Y L}INEN crosses PA{Y}PA{L}, with the PA portion repeating. Here are the rest of the theme answers:

  • 23a. [Moving in a nice way], HEAR{T-W}ARMING / 12d. [Later], NOT NOW.
  • 57a. [Friendly], GOO{D-N}ATURED / 46d. [Lunatic], MADMAN.
  • 59a. [Warning just before a cutoff of service], FINA{L N}OTICE / 50d. [Big brand of dog food], KAL-KAN.
  • 80a. [Celebratory event for a new company or product], LAUNC{H P}ARTY / 82d. [Asian stew often eaten with a dipping sauce], HOT POT.
  • 83a. [Venus], EVENIN{G S}TAR / 85d. [“Go” preceder], GET SET.
  • 119a. [Plus-size model?], STATIO{N W}AGON / 120d. [Dunderhead], NITWIT.
  • 121a. [Hard evidence a lawyer follows], PAPE{R T}RAIL / 122d. [Motley], RAGTAG.

Note that the two-letter squares appear in exactly symmetrical spots, and that every one of the long answers has the rebus placed at the dividing point between words. Elegant consistency of approach.

Other bright spots in the puzzle include FREE-RANGE, TACO SALAD, RUNNING A TAB, and HOMO ERECTUS. Dry spots include long crosswordese TANTARA ([Bit of fanfare]), [Hungarian city] EGER crossing two foreign words (felt like there was more foreign vocab overall, no?), RE-SANDS and RE-SEEDS, TITI again this month, NES, ESSA, ENDO, AT PAR … dry verging on scowlworthy.

Five more things:

  • 13a. [Mini revelation?], THIGH. I was thinking of the car the Mini, and the iPod model, and not miniskirts. Bleh.
  • 69a. [Bit of exercise, in Britain], PRESS-UP. Is that a pushup?
  • 97a. [Ewe two?] clues “BAA, BAA” while sound-alike 99a. [Yew, too] clues TREE.
  • 106d. Author of “MS. Found in a Bottle,” for short], E.A. POE. Bleh. Either you call him Edgar Allan Poe or you just use Poe.
  • 88d. [TV units], SEASONS. My mind was stuck thinking of hardware here. Had to work the crossings.

I liked the theme and its challenge more than the overall fill. 3.9 stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “KP Duty”–Sam Donaldson’s review

K P Duty solution

K P Duty solution

Given the puzzle’s title, how could the theme be anything other than two-word terms with the initials K.P.? Merl gives us a baker’s dozen theme entries, ranging from seven to fourteen letters in length. With 13 theme entries we better right to the list:

  • KELLY PRESTON is [John Travolta’s actress-wife], famous in her own right for her work in Twins and Jerry Maguire.
  • A KEG PARTY is another eight-letter term for a [Frat bash].
  • The [Guitarist’s bandmate] is a KEYBOARD PLAYER.
  • KUNG PAO took me forever to get from the clue, [Wok fave]. I read the clue as asking for a specific food and not a style of cuisine. Guess I was nuts. Get it? Kung Pao? Nuts?
  • KNOTTY PINE is the misbehaving [Furniture wood].
  • KEVIN POLLAK is the [Impressionist-comic who does a spot-on Shatner and Walken]. I know him more from A Few Good Men and Celebrity Poker Showdown. Remember when poker was a thing?
  • Someone named KIM PHILBY was a [Soviet spy who worked for the British during World War II]. His first name was Harold, and his middle names were Adrian and Russell. So of course he went by Kim, primarily so he could be used in this puzzle.
  • KNIFE PLEATS are [Cheerleader’s skirt features], and no, I didn’t do a Google Image search for photographic evidence of this.
  • KHAKI PANTS are one [Military option?], though I’m not sure those in the military are given many options in their day-to-day livings.
  • A KOI POND is a cool feature and also a [Backyard ecosystem of a sort].
  • knight problemThe KNIGHT’S PROBLEM was a [Classic chessboard math puzzle]. Note the word “puzzle” there, because that will become important later. I believe the problem involves moving a chess knight so that it visits every square on the board, as shown in the illustration.
  • KITT PEAK is the [Observatory near Tucson] that Merl and I, both University of Arizona grads, would know well.
  • Finally, [My perennial advice to crossword fans] is to KEEP PUZZLING. A perfectly fine answer, but the earlier appearance of “puzzle” in the earlier theme clue made me hesitant here.

Thirteen theme entries introduce significant constraints. That probably explains the double set of symmetrical staircases in two corners along with the hyrbid-Tetris figures in the mid-section. But it all works.

Here’s this week’s installment of the five trickiest answers in the puzzle:

  • 5. Longtime solvers will know the ETUI as a [Small, ornamental case] often used for holding sewing needles. I remember it from the 2008 ACPT, where I think I was the only person in the ballroom who didn’t know what an etui was.
  • 4. Another term familiar to longtime solvers is SAHIB, the [Old Indian title].
  • 3. [Actor Tamiroff] clues AKIM. If you want to show off to your friends, you can bring up that Akim Tamiroff won the first ever Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • 2. RUSSI are [Moscow natives, to Italians]. There’s something doubly challenging in asking “What’s the Italian word for Russians?”
  • 1. LE SOIR is [The evening, to Yves]. Some solvers probably hate Spanish terms in puzzles (they would hate PERO at 44-Down–hi, mickey!). For me, it’s French (so yes, MAIS at 76-Down had me cautious). That LE SOIR crossed RUSSI in this grid didn’t help.

Favorite entry = FLY BOY, clued as [Slangy aviator]. Favorite clue = [Northern California city (with a formerly famous palindromic shop, the ___ Bakery)] for YREKA.

Tracy Bennett’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “French Twists” — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 4/18/15 • "French Twists" • Sun • Bennett • solution

LAT • 4/19/15 • “French Twists” • Sun • Bennett • solution

Despite the (clever) title, this is a rather straightforward theme. Phrases ending in homophones of words adopted into English from French, and replaced with those homophonic spellings. Clued to reflect the new version. Hmm, writing it out makes it seem much twistier than it is, but that’s probably due to my typically torturous, tortuous prose.

  • 27a. [Testy lover?] CROSS BEAU (crossbow).
  • 29a. [Musical work expressing resentment?] BITTER SUITE (bittersweet).
  • 39a. [Napped fabric, without a doubt?] EASILY SUEDE (easily swayed). The phrase, as rendered without a subject, ironically comes across as inherently unsteady.
  • 52a. [Bridezilla’s fabric of choice?] POWER TULLE (power tool).
  • 72a. [Measly computer storage?] PETTY CACHE (petty cash). Incidentally, ‘petty’ derives directly from the French petit.
  • 85a. [Surviving spouse’s irritation?] WIDOW’S PIQUE (widow’s peak). Unclear whether ‘pique’ and ‘peak’ share an etymology.
  • 96a. [The latest in foal fashions?] ARABIAN CHIC (Arabian sheikh). As in the “Sheik of Araby”. ‘Foal fashions’, cute.
  • 38a. [Beauty needing a lift?] BLUE BELLE (bluebell).

Tidy, self-contained theme, though it would have felt cleaner had other overtly Francophone items not been included elsewhere in the grid. 21a [So long, in Avignon] ADIEU, 104a [Olympic event involving runners] LUGE (great clue BTW (75d)), 1d [Allied voters] BLOC.

  • Really like the long non-theme entries. LUMBERYARD, HATBOXES, SUPERMODEL, SIDESWIPE, PRECIPICE, WAVELENGTH, SWITCHESSAYS CHEESE. That last one demonstrates how the clue for 7d [Vegan Greek salad omission] FETA deftly avoids duplication.
  • Not so, however, for 51d [Ready to snap] TESTY in relation to the clue for themer 27a. Nor for 10d [Out of control, at sea] ADRIFT and 40d [Diver’s milieu] SEA. See also 80d [Apparatus co-invented by Cousteau] AQUALUNG.
  • 28d [Small one on a runway, briefly] STOL—which is awful fill but made more palatable via a cluecho of 13d [Big one on a runway] SUPERMODEL. Another instance: 59d [That woman, in Brasilia] ELA, 101d [Those women, in Bolivia] ESAS—both are also terrible fill and there’s only so much clever cluing can mitigate.
  • Terminology digression. A cluecho 9d [Refers (back), as to a prior subject] HARKS to another clue in form or wording, whereas a repeated clue does double-duty for more than one answer: 14d/14a [Apprehends] GRABS / GRASPS. Other times, clues are explicitly cross-referenced: 84a [Chick’s starter home] NEST, 77a [Latin 84-Across builder] AVIS, 48a [Eagles’ 84-Acrosses] AERIES. Sometimes these are less annoying than other times. This is not one of those times.
  • Other times clues or answers just seem to have a tenuous, subjective affinity: 19a [Old wisdom] LORE, 24a [’30s Lorre role] MOTO, 20a [Transportation network app] UBER.
  • Last part to get correct was 51d [Wedding followers] TRAINS, for which I somehow had TRAILS, making the crossing [“Mad Men” creator Matthew] WEILER instead of WEINER. Also briefly had OILED for RILED at 62 [Primed for a fight].
  • 94d [Courageous woman] SHERO. Oh, that’s a horrible word.
  • Favorite clues: 36d [‘Mongst kin?] ’TWIXT, 95a [Queen of Kings] SHEBA, 107a [Common fairy tale number] THREE.

Good crossword overall, despite some SPOTTY (78a) areas.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Vowel Play” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 4/19/15 • "Vowel Play" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 4/19/15 • “Vowel Play” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

Thirteen down: [How consonants appear in this puzzle’s theme entries] NOT OFTEN. That’s right, vowels galore! I suspect newer solvers will be less offended by the results than more veteran solvers, who are likely to possess a certain jaded enmity toward the requisite fill.

  • 26a. [Parking lot?] AUTO AREA.
  • 28a. [New garlic spread?] AIOLI NOUVEAU.
  • 45a. [Protozoan slime?] AMOEBA OOZE.
  • 59a. [Think tank assistant?] IDEA AIDE.
  • 61a. [Rescued raptor chick?] AERIE EVACUEE.
  • 67a. [Windy goodbye?] AEOLIAN ADIEU.
  • 72a. [Drop of water?] AQUA IOTA.
  • 89a. [Bad vibe?] ODIOUS AURA.
  • 101a. [Weird tree?] EERIE SEQUOIA.
  • 106a. [Swan song?] CIAO ARIA.
  • 4d. [Buttery cookie?] OLEO OREO.
  • 86d [Flame on a cruise?] BEAU ASEA.

I can’t tell you how little this theme appeals to me. Scratch that. I can, I could, but it would entail a COLOSSAL (84d) amount of unseemly whining and moaning. So … best not. I shan’t.

Aside from the theme itself, what I found most noticeable was the volume of proper names populating the 4×4 corners. CATO/CERA/EL AL/ALOU; GENE/ESAU/URIS/NINA/ETNA/ERTÉ; RENO/ERIC/ÉIRE; ALAN/IRMA/ELMO.


  • inflorescenceFull-name LENA OLIN, who so often appears in crosswords as just her first or last name.
  • Gratuitous duplication: 116a [Idle in comedy] ERIC, 107d [Not up to much] IDLE.
  • 56a [Watchdog’s warning] GRRR. Not GRR, not GRRRR, but GRRR.
  • 37a [Flower cluster] RACEME. See illustration for more fun inflorescence vocabulary.
  • 85a [Trent the pol] LOTT. Clue sounds like an imperative, or an expletive oath. Trent the pol! Trent the pol!
  • 20d [Nervous disorder] CHOREA: New Latin, from Latin, dance, from Greek choreia, from choros chorus; First Known Use: 1804
  • 36d [“Well, dog my cats”] I’LL BE. I see “well, I’ll be” more than just “I’ll be” (as an interjection). Makes the clue seem off.

Disappointingly, I couldn’t even find a clue that merited highlighting (for cleverness, factual salience, cuteness, et cetera).

Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 04.19.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 04.19.15

Hey there, crossword lovers! I hope you’re all doing well and continuing to enjoy the spring-like temperatures. Have to admit that I’m extra excited to blog this puzzle, put together by Mr. Bruce Venzke, since I met a couple of college friends (and a mutual friend of ours) last night and ended up talking about the intricacies of crossword puzzles on the sidewalk for about a half an hour! Crosswords: bringing friends together for over 100 years!

Did anyone else have a little trouble with the intersection with MARL (1A: ([Clay-rich soil]) and RONEE, like I did (3D: [Actress Blakley of “Nashville])? Eventually, that “R” fell in because, well, it was the only letter that made real sense in that space when running through the alphabet. There were six 15-letter entries in the grid, and, for some reason, that made me pretty excited! Well, it didn’t hurt that I immediately got GENERAL ELECTRIC without any crosses (10D: [Conglomerate with an “ecomagination” program]). Probably my favorite answer of the grid was another 15-letter entry, I MEAN IT THIS TIME (51A: [Wolf-cryer’s questionable claim]). Actually, now looking at TAXI CAB, that might be my favorite, as I was still at somewhat of a loss even after I had the first two letters and last letter filled in (35A: [Airport waiter?]). There’s probably a good chance that I’ve run into MANSARD roofs before, but couldn’t have told you at the time that it was called that if you pressed me (26A: [French-style roof]). So I guess at least once every two weeks, we have to be up on our Russian rivers, and NEVA is the one that crops up for today (25A: [Saint Petersburg’s river]). I guess if you were talking about tennis up until the turn of the last century, the clue for AT NET would be more than appropriate (47D: [Where many tennis winners are hit]). But we’re now in the era – both in the men’s and women’s game – of the hard-serving, harder-swinging baseliners, so there aren’t too many net winners (nor net approaches) these days. Le sigh!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEVY (22D: [Legally impose])– In his day job, DeAndre LEVY (pronounced the same way as the answer for today’s clue) is a linebacker for the Detroit Lions, and, last season, he led the team with 151 tackles and helped lead the Lions to the playoffs. In the offseason, Levy walks on the wings of airplanes. Don’t believe me?….

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Take care!


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16 Responses to Sunday, April 19, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    My new template for Amy criticism:

    Aw, c’mon Amy! What’s wrong with ___ as a fill word? I knew of ___ when I was in kindergarten.

    Seriously though, yes, PRESS UP is Brit-speak for PUSH UP.


  2. Evad says:

    I first thought [Shoot the breeze] had a rebus square — CH[I/A]T (instead of CHIN). And the funny thing is that it worked in the down direction– [I A]M READY! Only problem with that was all the rest worked in the opposite direction (hence the title “Double Down”) and were only 3 letters long. Then I sussed out the NO[T/W] entry and CHIN finally appeared.

    I think I would’ve preferred this one a bit more if there were more variety in the rebus entries. Seems like we’ve had a run of Sunday themes in the down direction.

    • Gary R says:

      I ran into the same uncertainty at the crossing of 9A and 11D. I had filled in CHat for 9A without any crossings, and then CHENEY and HAAG convinced me I was right, but I couldn’t get 11D or 12D to make sense. Sort of figured out the theme a bit later, with PAY/L, so I went with CHI/at for a while, too. Didn’t seem quite consistent, but I only had the one theme answer at that point. The fact that I wasn’t familiar with this usage of “chin” didn’t help.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was a bit too much like work rather than play, but I enjoyed Merl’s KP choices and the ingenuity of getting so many theme answers fitting in seamlessly…

  4. PJ Ward says:

    Really enjoyed the NYT. Clever theme, well executed. The theme combinations don’t feel contrived. For me, the weakest is (59a,50d) and it’s not that bad. Overall, I don’t think the fill suffers. KAYO and AGON aren’t my favorites but if they get me (STATIONWAGON, NITWIT) I’ll gladly endure them. Nice clues for old friends ALF, ATRA,and ALDA. I’m always glad to see EARL Scruggs get some ink.

    SAYIDO crossing INSIN elicited a NYUK-NYUK-NYUK.

  5. huda says:

    The first rebus totally threw me off course. I thought the L in EATSALONE was doing double duty– Lending itself to the immediately adjacent PA coming down, to create PAL, and lending itself down to LINEN to complete that answer. To my mind this fit the DOUBLE DOWN title. Obviously, it was not sustainable, just an unfortunate coincidence.

  6. golfballman says:

    Having been a lifelong Tigers fan Chet Lemon was a gimme. Signed Chet M.

  7. Norm says:

    Loved the NY Times, even though I was about 2/3 “done” before I finally caught the theme. The adequacy of “pay” and “mad” and even “nit” as answers kept me from seeing the doubles for a long time. I just kept going in the expectation that the theme would finally appear. Meant I had to do a lot of backtracking to the rebus squares when I caught on, but I thought it was a great puzzle.

    Merl kind of disappointed me. The title made the theme obvious from the get go (not that I’m sure what else he could have called it), and I thought it was absurdly easy. Solved most of it on the across clues and probably checked the downs only a handful (both hands) of times.

  8. PJ Ward says:

    CRooked – Couldn’t agree more. The theme (75% – 80% vowels) doesn’t begin to rescue the fill. I’m sure not every four letter piece of crosswordese is in here, it just seems that way. The extreme NE really got me.

  9. Chris says:

    What on earth is “STOL” – “small one on runway” from LAT? don’t make me come over there

  10. Bob says:

    Reagle’s entry this week a fun challenge – clever clues.

  11. howlinwolf says:

    Nice CrosSynergy puzzle, but a nit to pick re 44d…Pancho (Leo Carrillo) was Cisco’s (Duncan Renaldo’s) sidekick, not the reverse. Though Carrillo played many stereotypic Mexican parts, he was born in Los Angeles and had a political career as a member of the Calif. State Park & Recreation Commission…hence, Leo Carrillo Sate Park and Leo Carrillo beach.

  12. sandirhodes says:


    In addition to the puzzle/PUZZLING caveat, no one has pointed out (P)HONO crossing KEYBOARD(P)LAYER and clued as ‘LP player.’ The fact that the ‘p’ in LP roots the same thing really makes me cringe. If there were other examples then I could see it. But I love Merle!

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