Sunday, April 26, 2015

NYT 7:50 (Amy) 
LAT 6:47 (Andy) 
Reagle 20:37 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 14:05 (Andy) 
CS 22:23 (Ade) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Which Is Wish”

NY Times crossword solution, 4 26 15 "Which Is Wish"

NY Times crossword solution, 4 26 15 “Which Is Wish”

Simple sound-change theme—words with a CH/TCH soften up to an SH sound. Spellings changed as needed to make new words; goofy new phrases clued accordingly.

  • 23a. [Valiant attempt to finish off a seven-course meal?], LAST DISH EFFORT.
  • 30a. [What an investor in golf courses might buy?], LAWN SHARES.
  • 36a. [Grazing in a meadow and jumping fences, for two?], SHEEP THRILLS.
  • 48a. [“Be sure to lose!”?], YOU BETTER WASH OUT. What, no shouting at food stains on new clothes?
  • 64a. [Two blender settings?], MIX AND MASH.
  • 68a. [Dojo Mart, e.g.?], KARATE SHOP.
  • 82a. [What I unexpectedly had for breakfast?], MUSH TO MY SURPRISE.
  • 92a. [Swamp fever?], MARSH MADNESS. Cute.
  • 100a. [Floating casinos?], POKER SHIPS.
  • 112a. [Reviewer of the paperwork?], SHEAF INSPECTOR.

Well, the theme is a little on the dry side. I wasn’t smiling when I uncovered each new bit of wordplay. MIX AND MASH, SHEAF INSPECTOR? Meh.

Overall, though, the puzzle was smooth and breezy, a quick and painless solve, no hitches. In a Sunday puzzle that takes a while to work one’s way through, one appreciates being able to slide through and not feel trapped in a long slog.

Three more things:

  • 45d. [Ring alternatives], KEY CASES. Does anyone still use these things?
  • 47a. [Cybertrade], ETAIL. “Cybertrade,” my 85d: REAR ENDS.
  • 79d. [Permanent thing], CURLER. Could have been ROLLER, too. Does anyone under the age of 60 still get perms?

Not much more to say here. No grand sparkle in the fill, no devious wordplay action, no extra challenge. Smooth, but perhaps a tad more like Cream of Wheat than premium tequila. 3.66 stars. Nothing wrong with the puzzle, but I wish there were more right with

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “On a Scale from 1 to 8”–Sam Donaldson’s review

"On a Scale of 1 to 8" (solution) April 26, 2015

“On a Scale of 1 to 8” (solution) April 26, 2015

The title had me curious. Why a scale of 1 to 8 instead of, say, 1 to 10? Would numbers be involved somehow? Turns out the theme involves inserting the words DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI and DO into common expressions. Note that the added words appear in order from top to bottom:

  • The NUTCRACKER becomes a DONUT CRACKER, the [Snack concept (“It’s sweet! It’s salty!”) that never caught on?]. That’s my kind of ballet.
  • The PROBATE JUDGE about which I often speak in my course on trusts and estates is refashioned here into a REPROBATE JUDGE, clued cleverly as [Roy Bean?].
  • Lest the first two theme entries lull you into thinking that all of the scale words would be added to the front of a word, we get MANY YEARS AMIGO, the [Answer to, “How long has it been, compadre?”] that plays on MANY YEARS AGO.
  • Well, that didn’t last long. We’re back to front-loaded terms with GENERAL FATSO’S CHICKEN, the [Least dietary dish on a Chinese menu?] that plays on GENERAL TSO’S CHICKEN. That’s my favorite theme entry.
  • AIRBORNE PARASOL SITES, clued as [Trees, rooftops, etc. – in short, places where sunshades may end up on a windy day?]. This one’s different in that the added scale word comes at the end and (bonus!) it splits a single word into two words. It’s not the only entry that turns one word into two, however….
  • SPOILED BRATS becomes SPOILED LAB RATS, clued as [What easy mazes and gourmet cheeses may lead to?]. Fun answer.
  • But wait! If we can turn one word into two words, surely we can turn two words into one! And here we go: HE LOVES MENOTTI, a play on HE LOVES ME NOT, is [Why my dad owns five copies of “Amahl and the Night Visitors”?]. This week’s fun fact: Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors was the first specifically composed for American television. So sayeth Wikipedia, repository of all facts.
  • Finally, good ol’ RAISIN BRAN turns into RAISIN’ BRANDO, clued as [Bringin’ up a kid who constantly mumbles?].

My solving time this week was about 60% slower than last week’s time. Part of that, I think, was my struggle with not knowing where the added scale words would fall. Part of me likes that Merl goes with the most entertaining answers instead of insisting on a tighter execution of the theme that would place all the added words either at the front or the end  of a word in the base phrase. But then part of me resents that he can get away with this when the rest of us trying to sell puzzles cannot. Happily, the resentful part of me is in the minority.

Let’s get to this week’s countdown of the trickiest entries in the puzzle:

  • 5. I never knew that a [Picture, in art dept. slang], is an ILLO. That the O crossed MENOTTI, a proper name, probably makes this a tough get for solvers.
  • 4. I’m hoping I’m not the only one who went with ALAIN as the [“Klute” director ___ Pakula], only to be mildly chagrined when the answer proved to be ALAN J. That joins LEE J, TOM T, and ROBERT E on the Mount Rushmore of Excessive Liberties in Crossword Fill.
  • 3. Sam Shepard wrote “A LIE of the Mind.” We know it as a “hallucination.”
  • 2. At 51-Across (hi, mickey!), TRET, clued as [Old waste allowance], is especially tough because it crosses ITASCA, the [Mississippi River source]. My dictionary defines TRET as “an allowance according to weight granted to purchasers for waste due to transportation. It was calculated after deduction for tare.” Oh great, TRET’s related to another crosswordese term, TARE.
  • 1. TUNAS is easy enough, but not when clued as [Skipjack and others]. I was thinking “skipjack” was a kid’s game or something similar.

Favorite entry = EYES ON ME, clued as [“I need your full attention right now!”]. Favorite clue = [Finishing a letter] for DOTTING, as in dotting the i.

Randolph Ross’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 04.26.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 04.26.15

Good morning, everyone! Here’s hoping your crossword solving experience on this Sunday is going very well. I marvel at those who complete at least two of the puzzles featured on here each Sunday. Sometimes, it’s tough to get one done if I’m traveling around and such, but, even without the travel, my brain usually stops at one crossword on a Sunday. So if you happened to do this Sunday Challenge grid, as well as the others today, I tip my hat to you. If you’re reading this as we speak, I thank you so very much also!  If not, then…well…

Today, we had a triple-stack grid, and it wasn’t from Martin (Ashwood-Smith). Mr. Randolph Ross provided the challenge for today, and, with the abundance of 15-letter entries, I knew this was going to go down pretty easily. In fact, after completing the 15-letter stacks at the top, I hopped immediately to the bottom of the grid to work on the 15’s there. The first entry, SOLE PROPRIETORS, is a special entry for me because I am a sole proprietor, with my business/web site (1A: [Single filers]). I was able to get that answer off of just two letters: from the O in OTT (2D: [Giant Giant]) and the P in PSY (8D: [“Gangnam Style” singer]). Now I’m just hoping that “Gangnam Style” doesn’t get stuck in my head!! What also helped the solving experience at the top was that the first answer I filled in the entire grid, ATTORNEY GENERAL, was a gimme (17A: [Reno in the 1990s]). Correct me if I’m wrong, but the PHREAK phenomenon was a ’70s thing, right (5D: [Make a call without paying, in slang])? The term’s familiar to me, but I don’t think that was anything that I came across or heard of when growing up in the ’80s and so forth. It will be interesting to see how many people might take issue with the very similar entries of MAFIAS (20A: [Felonious families]) and THE MOB (12D: [Big hitters?]). Thought about that almost immediately after filling them both in, but didn’t work myself up too much about it. At the bottom of the grid, I just needed the first two A’s filled in to get AS AN ALTERNATIVE (58A: [Introduction to Plan B]). Not that I would want to go back to elementary school, but I wonder how many kids these days know the teasing rhyme that includes IN A TREE in its sing-song delivery (26D: [K-I-S-S-I-N-G location]). I can say that , in second grade, I was a “victim” of that song by classmates when I was always hanging out with one particular classmate, a girl named Fallon. Remember it like it was yesterday. (If this is from the “too much information” department, just let me know!) The only real answer I was at a loss on was EPONINE, and needed all of the crossings to get that down (4D: [“Les Miz” role]). The weather getting better means my allergies are going to come and hit me hard soon, so I might need to have the CONTAC on the ready (44D: [Provider of cold comfort]). Had a lot of fun with this puzzle, especially with the amount of 15’s and testing my ability of getting those answers with just a couple of letters (or less) filled in.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AZUSA (41A: [_____ Pacific University])– For a small, Christian school located in the Los Angeles suburbs, AZUSA Pacific University has produced a few famous athletes that we’ve come to know and love. Probably the most recognized alum in the sports world the school has produced was former Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okoye, best known for his two Pro Bowl seasons in 1989 and 1991. (Okoye led the NFL in rushing attempts and rushing yards in 1989.) He’s also known for having one of the best nicknames in sports history, “The Nigerian Nightmare.” Also, Bryan Clay, the American decathlete who won the silver medal in the decathlon in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and then followed it up by winning gold in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, also attended Azusa Pacific. Two current Major League Baseball players, New York Mets outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Oakland Athletics catcher/first baseman Stephen Vogt, also went to Azusa Pacific. Go Cougars!

Have a good rest of your Sunday, and hope you enjoyed the read! See you tomorrow!

Take care!


Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Tea Party”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 4.26.15, "Tea Party," by Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel

LAT Puzzle 4.26.15, “Tea Party,” by Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel

As I write this, I’m on a train headed to Merrie Olde Boston for BAPHL, the Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League. There are many crossword-type people involved in organizing BAPHL XII, including (this year, at least) Fiend’s own joon pahk.

Another fine offering from the team of Gagliardo and Burnikel. The themers all added a “tea” sound to normal phrases. Hilarity ensued:

  • 23a, PLUM TREATY [Profitable agreement?]. Plum tree. 
  • 29a, FAULTY BREAK [Ending a relationship in a text?]. Fall break. Readers: do any of you pronounce the vowel in “fall” differently than the one in “faulty”? I do not.
  • 37a, MOUNTAIN DUTY [Sherpa’s responsibilities?]. Mountain Dew. I wonder what’s the most Mountain Dew anyone ever drank on a mountain?
  • 63a, MIGHTY MISTAKE [Sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees?]. “My mistake.” Is “mighty” an adjective typically associated with Babe Ruth? Or was the sale Babe Ruth arbitrarily chosen as a good example of an enormous blunder?
  • 81a, GOATEE HUNTING [Search for the right beard?]. Go hunting. Go hunting? I don’t think “go hunting” would be acceptable as a stand-alone crossword entry. My least favorite of the bunch.
  • 103a, THAT’S MY CUTIE [Adoring father-to-daughter words?] “That’s my cue.” 
  • 113a, RAGGEDY ANTE [Result of substituting fabric strips for chips?]. Raggedy Ann. This entry would also work for a D-sound –> T-sound theme.
  • 124a, DAINTY COOK [Delicate one in the kitchen?] Dane Cook. Now there’s someone I haven’t thought about in a looooong time.

As you may remember from a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been listening to old episodes of Fill Me In, and today they talked about a puzzle with this exact theme by Patrick Berry! But that was from 2010, and in the NYT, so it’s probably fine to do it again now.

This felt like a big Tuesday grid. There were some fun non-theme entries in here too: COARSE SALT, UP FOR GRABS, UTOPIA [More work] — fantastic clue!, HOME EC, LO MEIN, IN THEORY, TATTED, PETSAT, WASSAILS. I loved seeing SNORRI in the puzzle, but I suspect joon and I are among the very few who liked it, especially as it crosses ORONO at the N. The usual smattering of necessary evils like EBERLE, AS STATED, ATTA [Naan flour] — new clue to me, STA, INKA, RIN, SAE. I didn’t mind ERNSTS as clued as [“Murdering Airplane” and “The Hat Makes the Man”].

I would not be sad if these two wrote every Sunday LAT puzzle from now on. 3.66 stars. Until next time!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Ann(e)-agrams”—Andy’s review

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's 4.26.15 CRooked Crossword, "Ann(e)-agrams"

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s 4.26.15 CRooked Crossword, “Ann(e)-agrams”

As I’m writing this post, I’m on a train back to New York from BAPHL XII, which was excellent! Go to the website and look at the puzzles, because they were all very well made and fun to solve!

I solved this puzzle on the train, immediately after waking up from a short nap. This probably explains both my relatively slow solving time and my excessive crankiness about the quality of the fill. But we’ll get to that.

I saw the title, “Ann(e)-agrams,” and I assumed the clues would be anagrams of famous Ann(e)s (for example, [Seats fit for an Ann?] might have been SOTHERN THRONES]). This was not the case. The theme was not about anagrams at all; instead, the theme was puns using the last names of (quasi-)famous Ann(e)s. Hilarity ensued:

  • 23a, BAXTER THE FUTURE [Anne’s time travel film?]. Back to the Future
  • 36a, CURRY-ON BAGS [Ann’s luggage?]. Carry-on bags.
  • 52a, REARVIEW MEARA [Part of Anne’s car]. Rearview mirror.
  • 76a, BOLEYN GREEN, KY [Anne’s southern city?]. Bowling Green, KY. [Anne’s southern city?]? More like [Ann Sothern’s city?], am I right?
  • 87a, BLYTH SPIRIT [Play Noel Coward wrote for Ann?] Blithe Spirit.
  • 105a, CORNED BEEF HECHE [Anne’s breakfast side dish?] Corned beef hash. I always thought of corned beef hash as a main course, but I could be mistaken.
  • 4d, SOTHERN CROSS [Ann’s constellation?]. Southern Cross.
  • 59d, MONEY LANDERS [Ann’s pawnbrokers?] Money-launders? Money launderers? I dunno.

One thing I thought was very impressive about this puzzle was that the two down theme answers each ran through two other across theme entries. Also, this puzzle contains what may be my all-time favorite crossword entry: 82a, OH MYYY [George Takei catchphrase]. 

The grid, however constraints led to many problems with the fill. Lowlights included:

  • ESTE crossing HEBB and O STAR, crossing BARBERRY, crossing BDELLIUM, crossing MALLON and LONI. Now, some of these I would have known immediately with different clues (namely MALLON had it been golfer Meg and LONI had it been actress Anderson). But I didn’t know those as clued, so this corner took forever to fall. I would have to imagine most solvers would be totally stumped by at least one of these crossings.
  • EVOE crossing ELENI.
  • DECLAN crossing DENA and EADS.
  • TRANSP crossing UNPASTE.
  • UNPOT crossing POTHER.
  • CYNO-.
  • ULAR next to RUTA.

I’ll stop there. I wonder if this grid could have been filled more cleanly, or if the constraints of the grid were too severe. If it’s the latter, I’d like to have seen the two down themers done away with, in favor of, say, MORALLY BANCROFT in the center.

2.75 stars. Until next time!

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9 Responses to Sunday, April 26, 2015

  1. Norm says:

    Have to disagree with Amy. I loved this puzzle. Every single one of the theme answers brought a smile to my face. What’s wrong with SHEAF INSPECTOR? I think that actually describes my wife, the high school English teacher. SHEEP THRILLS? Hilarious. Of course, I like The Barn comic strip. I’m guessing MARSH MADNESS might have been the seed, but imagining LAST DISH EFFORT got me laughing from the very beginning. Thanks, PB. I try to wait until Sunday morning to do the puzzle but I was having a crappy Saturday and you made it a lot better.

  2. jim hale says:

    Meh… I don’t like urban dictionary references or obscure words that are not interesting,
    but some of the theme answers were cute.

    • Norm says:

      Did we do the same puzzle? The only somewhat obscure word I see is “hyoid” and I must have missed any urban dictionary references (although I would tend to agree with in principle).

  3. sbmanion says:

    I liked MARSH MADNESS and thought the puzzle was very enjoyable. A little easier than the past few Sundays.

    I saw a late comment by Zulema yesterday about chalk talk. In a diagram of a football play, the offense is usually denoted by an O for each player and an X for a defender. The coach (using chalk on a blackboard, hence the origin of the clue) draws arrows to show to the offense who each player blocks and where the back or receivers should run. If the coach is showing defenders what to do, he shows the defenders how to cover an anticipated play. One of my dark secrets is that as a high school quarterback, the coach assumed that because I was smart, I knew where every player had to be. The truth is that I did not study nearly as much as I should have and was often clueless.


  4. Papa John says:

    Re key cases — I do, Amy. I carry one.

    Re NYT — As Amy and Jim say, “Meh!” I fear for the sanity of anyone who does more than snicker at any of the pun-ish theme entries. The fill was a Tuesday boredom, with a few exceptions. I was put off by the very first clue at 1A: “Rye, N.Y, or Fort Lee, N.J.” for SUBURB. How about ” Santa Fe, N.M., or Charlotte, N.C.” for CITY? What’s with all the abbreviations and the unnecessary comma? Are they supposed to be misdirection?

  5. Gary R says:

    I must take (minor) issue with 32-D in the NYT. As far as the staff at the “pet resort” where our hound vacations when my wife and I travel, and as far as the staff at our veterinarian’s office are concerned, our boy definitely has a surname.

    An enjoyable – though maybe on the easy side – puzzle. Smiles, but no laughs at several of the themers. Liked the clues on UVULA, SLAP and RAINY.

  6. mickey says:

    Hi Sam.

Comments are closed.