NYT 10:12 (Amy)
LAT 5:57 (Andy)
Reagle 12:10 (Sam)
Hex/Hook 8:07 (pannonica)
CS 21:16 (Ade)
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword, “To-Do List (Abridged)”
Various “X a Y” verb phrases are daisy-chained together:
- 23a. [Set time / Go to theater / Engage in tomfoolery], WIND A WATCH A PLAY A PRANK. That’s wind a watch, watch a play, play a prank. The clues are strangled by the lack of “a” (and “the”), which made them sound really unnatural. They’re supposed to be things on a to-do list, but I’m almost certain nobody ever has jotted down “not stop at intersection” on a list of things they’re planning to do. I guess the clues aren’t meant to be the list items, just the parts of the theme answers?
- 33a. [Hitchhike / Surf / Show patriotism], THUMB A RIDE A WAVE A FLAG. Don’t you “wave the flag”?
- 54a. [Somersault / Start football game / Invent some language], DO A FLIP A COIN A PHRASE.
- 75a. [Not stop at intersection / Warm up / Use rifle], RUN A LIGHT A FIRE A SHOT. May I just say that this particular to-do list is rather alarming? Drive-by shootings meet arson.
- 89a. [Play baseball / Take public transportation downtown / Clean up after diners leave], MAKE A CATCH A BUS A TABLE. MAKE A CATCH ≠ “play baseball”; it’s just one aspect of the game.
- 108a. [Finish taxes / Visit library / Plan vacation], FILE A RETURN A BOOK A TRIP.
Okay, so it’s neat that the noun in one phrase becomes the verb in the next one. English is nuts, yadda yadda. But I didn’t particularly enjoy working out the theme answers.
What I liked best in this puzzle was the long fill—those six long Acrosses like MARINE CORPS and CRIME SCENE that are smooth as butter.
The short and mid-range fill was largely ordinary stuff, with a few mild clunkers like SABOT, ERNO, and AT NO, but nothing terrible.
Three more things:
- 37d. [Window dressing], DRAPE. I prefer the base unit of curtains to be DRAPES, plural.
- 56d. [Go by walking], FOOT IT. Who says that? “Hoof it” feels more common.
- 99d. [Take as a bride], WIVE. The word dates back about a thousand years, but who uses it now?
3.25 stars from me.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Elements of Style”—Andy’s review
Fun puzzle this week from Mike Peluso. Mike took phrases that normally contain the name of an element on the periodic table and replaced the element with its two-letter symbol:
- 22a, LONG JOHN AG [Pirate once portrayed by Orson Welles]. AG = Silver.
- 24a, HG MONTEREY [Relative of the Marquis and Montclair]. HG = Mercury. (Have I been saying “HG Wells” wrong all this time?)
- 47a, NI AND DIMING [Annyoing with trivialities]. NI = Nickel. This is the only symbol used in the puzzle that just takes the first two letters of the element.
- 67a, SOLDERING FE [Electronics tool]. FE = Iron.
- 90a, GET THE PB OUT [“Quit dilly-dallying!”]. PB = Lead.
- 114a, RUBE AUBERG [Cartoonist known for his intricate contraptions]. AU = Gold. On a related note: seriously, if your last name is Goldfinger and you name your kid Auric, you’re begging for him to grow up to be a villain obsessed with gold.
- 118a, SN PAN ALLEY [Music publishing nickname]. SN = Tin.
- 35d, AS AND OLD LACE [Kesselring comedy about the murderous Brewster sisters]. AS = Arsenic.
- 40d, DAVID CUFIELD [Dickens classic]. CU = Copper.
Easy theme, well executed. Once you understood the trick, it was very simple to fill in a theme entry from just a few letters. I remember practically nothing from the surrounding fill, which probably means it was very clean. The full phrase RICE PILAF was nice. I liked the clue [Idle colleague] for CLEESE.
There you have it. 3.75 stars. Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Incognito”–Sam Donaldson’s review
My version of this week’s Merl Reagle puzzle wouldn’t let me read the note that accompanies the puzzle. I’m guessing the note provides a big hint to the theme. So that means it’s up to me to suss out what ties everything together. It’s like the old “Guess the Title” gimmick I used to play when I reviewed the CrossSynergy puzzle a couple years back, with a dash of Gaffney-esque meta-solving thrown in. This bodes unwell.
Let’s start with what appear to the theme entries since the clues to these answers all have asterisks:
- The [Unionizers’ repertoire] is LABOR SONGS. I didn’t know this was a thing, so my first thought was that the theme involved a mash-up of unrelated words. But I soon saw that all of the other theme entries are real things, so that thought left almost as quickly as it came.
- What’s the feature of words [Like “brrr” and “mm-mm”]? They’re VOWEL-LESS.
- The [Bird of song] is a RED, RED ROBIN. I tried ROCKIN ROBIN first, but obviously that didn’t work. I know “Red Robin” and I know “Red, Red Wine,” but not “Red, Red Robin.” Enjoy:
- The [Cafe sweet] is BISCOTTI. Mmm (he said vowel-lessly), biscotti.
- One option to [Do a magic trick] is to LEVITATE.
- One who is out [Sans supervision] is UNCHAPERONED.
- I’m not sure I’ve before seen DERNIER CRI, meaning [“Latest fashion,” in French]. you’ll see that term again when we get to our weekly roundup of the tough entries.
- Something [Broken] is OUT OF ORDER.
- A person [Eschewing discounts] is PAYING RETAIL. This is my favorite of the theme entries–a lively phrase.
- Was anyone else thinking about beer after seeing the clue, [Corona container]? Wrong vice. It’s a CIGAR BOX.
- URETHANE is indeed a [Foam plastic].
- The [Reading-glasses unit] is a BIFOCAL LENS. The fact I normally see the term as “bifocal lenses” has me thinking the singular is perhaps important to the theme.
- On the eve of his television farewell, Merl pays homage to one of the kings of late night with [David Letterman et al] as the clue for INDIANANS.
- Finally, CROSSWORDS are many things to many people, and here they are [Think pieces?].
Now the puzzle’s title tells me I’m probably looking for something hidden. And with that nudge I think I have it. Note that the 14 theme entries are in seven pairs, each of which spans across the grid. Sure enough, there’s a name hidden inside of each theme answer, and you can pair off each hidden name to form that of a famous person: LABOR SONGS and VOWEL-LESS house Orson Welles. You can see Dred Scott in RED RED ROBIN and BISCOTTI. Evita Peron is in LEVITATE and UNCHAPERONED. There’s Ernie Ford in DERNIER CRI and OUT OF ORDER. You’ll find Greta Garbo in PAYING RETAIL and CIGAR BOX. URETHANE and BIFOCAL LENS have Ethan Allen. And finally there’s Diana Ross in INDIANANS and CROSSWORDS.
I wonder if there’s something that connects these seven personalities. At first I thought there was something “hidden” about them (Orson Welles played the titular Citizen Kane, a noted recluse late in life, and Greta Garbo just wanted “to be alone”), but I couldn’t tie a “hiding” theme to the others. Hmm. Maybe the note to the puzzle would have helped me there, too.
Anyway, it’s a fun theme! What really impresses me is that the seven hidden names are placed symmetrically in this grid. To make it work, for example, Merl needed a nine-letter answer that could hide DIANA and a ten-letter answer that can hide ROSS in order to place it symmetrically with the 10- and 9-letter answers that hid ORSON WELLES. Pulling this off is pretty incredible. And if you tell me there’s a hidden connection between these seven names I’ll be seriously blown away.
You can see some signs of sweat and strain to make this all work. You don’t often see such long black L-shapes like those in the corners, for instance. And there’s a ton of RE-words, like RESET, RELOG, REDYE, and RETIE (enough to make me wonder whether they were thematic, let’s put it that way). Plus there were some interesting entries that just might be this close to being arbitrary: LOW BID ([Contract winner]) and GO NATS ([Chant of D.C. baseball fans]) might fall into this camp. (Oh, and having GO APE abutting the same black square as GO NATS is a tad unsightly too.) But overall this was a smooth solve with a nice payoff.
Here, then, this week’s countdown of the trickiest entries in the puzzle:
- 6. CESTI are [Ancient Greek belts] that haven’t been popular in crosswords since about the time of the ancient Greeks.
- 5. AUER is the surname for [Actor Mischa or violinst Leopold]. You auer know this term for future puzzles. (I have no idea whether Auer, when properly pronounced, sounds anything like “oughta,” but the pun was too hard to resist.)
- 4. LALO is the [“Mission: Impossible” theme composer’s first name]. I hope that entry self-destructs in five seconds. It was particularly hard in this grid since it sat atop IGOR, [“The Firebird” composer’s first name]. This is a bit like having baseball terms too close together in a grid, right? I mean, you either know them or you don’t, really.
- 3. The TAY is [Scotland’s longest river]. It’s three letters long, so while it may not be common knowledge you see it about a half a dozen times annually if you solve a fair number of crosswords. So if you don’t know it now, you might as well get used to it.
- 2. The ZEBU is an [Ox of India]. Not to be confused with “Zou bisou bisou,” the song Megan Draper made famous (for me).
- 1. I’m going with DERNIER CRI, the aforementioned “Ernie” container, as the hardest answer in the grid. It doesn’t help that the first two letters have hard crossings. I thought [Deadens, as a piano string] could be TAMPS just as easily as DAMPS, and a U-BOAT looks just as good as an E-BOAT for an [Above-water torpedo craft of WWII] (if you don’t know your boats, that is).
Favorite entry = WON ONE, clued as [Notched a victory, finally]. Favorite clue = [Puts out?] for TAGS, as in a base runner.
Brad Wilber’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Mr. Brad Wilber to the cast of amazing crossword constructors now providing some amazing grids for us to savor! And, as many of you know, when you see Brad’s name on the byline, you know you’re going to be in for a challenge!
Today’s grid was no exception, though very fair and solvable – which I ended up actually solving, thank goodness. A couple of sports clues really opened it up for me, with the first one, HECHT, being something that probably would have tripped up a few people if you’re not up on your gymnastics lexicon (26A: [Gymnastic move also called a bird dismount]). The other sports clue I’ll talk about later in the next couple of graphs. Just a couple of answers above from hecht was the gimme of AMEX, and the Southeast corner just became that much easier from then on (18A: [“Don’t leave home without it,” sloganeer, for short]). As an aside, what are the chances that American Express beat out a condom manufacturing company for that slogan? That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway!
Back to the grid. No joke, just a couple of nights ago, I was watching part of an infomercial for those music CD compilations of songs from yesteryear, and one of the songs featured for a few seconds was ANNIE’S SONG, the song from John Denver (59A: [1974 chart-topper that begins “You fill up my senses”]). Honestly, it was just two nights ago when I came across this song! There’s a name for coming across something that you haven’t heard of or hadn’t frequented in a while, and then having that same very thing pop up a few days later. Frequency illusion, I believe? But that definitely happened, though I would have been able to get that entry without that coincidence. The northwest part of the grid was the last to fall, even though I didn’t notice the layup of a clue for STAT at the very beginning of solving (1D: [Rebounds or assists]). The across answers up there were tough, but the S in stat and the A in AMORE (3D: [It makes il mondo go round]) made me get STAGECOACH somewhat quickly (1A: [Best Picture loser to “Gone With the Wind”]). That, and I totally forgot the name TAMAGOTCHI, even though I knew what the clue references and had the image of it in my head when trying to solve it (15A: [Japanese electronic “pet”]). Needed all the crosses to get that one, along with CHICOPEE, which definitely wasn’t a city that I had heard of before in the Bay State (9D: [City in western Massachusetts]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PAUL O’NEILL (53A: [New York Yankee who won the 1994 American League batting title)])– The first answer I filled in in the entire grid was PAUL O’NEILL, the fiery former Major League Baseball outfielder who played for the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees. O’Neill won five World Series titles, with the Reds in 1990 and with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, O’Neill hit .359 for the Yankees, as New York had the best record in the American League at the time of the work stoppage. As good of a hitter he was, he also was an above average fielder…and sometimes, he didn’t need to use his hands and glove to field his position! Marvel at O’Neill’s dexterity, as well as listen carefully for the salty language used by one of the fans in the stands in Philadelphia after O’Neill’s unorthodox play.
See you all in the new week, and thank you so much for your time!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Friends of Fenway Frank” — pannonica’s write-up
Glancing at the title, I misread it as “Friends of Fenway Park” and mentally grumbled at the prospect of yet another baseball-themed crossword. Fortunately, during the solve, that potential pall—that menacing miasma—proved unwarranted. Distracted by the mechanics of reading clues and filling squares, noticing the names in the theme answers, I soon shed any precriminations as to what the puzzle was about.
Incidentally, it seems that Fenway Frank is the appellation given to the style of hot dog served at that Boston stadium. From Wikipedia: “the Fenway signature is that the hot dog is boiled and grilled, and then served on a New England-style bun, covered with ketchup and relish.” Well of course that’s appalling.
- 23a. [Guy giving doctor’s exams?] PHYSICAL ED.
- 28a. [Guy in the navy?] NAUTICAL MILES.
- 47a. [Woman who’s a lifeguard?] SAVING GRACE.
- 63a. [Woman on the police force?] COPPER PENNY.
- 68a. [Man with a stethoscope?] MEDICAL BILL.
- 86a. [Boy with his head in the clouds?] ABSTRACT ART. Clue seems off here. Idiom does not correlate to adjective.
- 99a. [Girl in a Santa suit?] YULETIDE CAROL.
- 112a. [Guy who does the dirty work?] FILTHY RICH.
- 37d. [Low-level army guy?] PRIVATE DICK.
- 43d. [Guy who’s a soil expert?] GROUND CHUCK. Possibly a pedologist, else an edaphologist?
Explicitly, the second part of each two-word phrase is a homonym of a given name, and the clue treats it as such. Puns ensue.
No long non-theme entries, but a measure of midlength items: NOSEBAGS, LEONARDO, TRADE GAP, INKBLOTS, SPAMALOT, BARRACKS, and so forth. As a result, there’s robust interconnection among all parts of the grid. Very little, if any, clunky or disappointing fill. On the other hand, the cluing isn’t particularly inspiring or engaging, merely smoothly utilitarian. They relatively few instances of attempted playfulness didn’t work for me, falling flat or tinged with inanity.
- 35d [“No raise from me”] I PASS. Is this the same as I CALL? If not, which does the clue imply? As you can see, I’m not an inveterate gambler. And no, I have no idea why this write-up is coming out as an exercise in SAT vocabulary prep.
- 45d [Mexican money] PESO, 27a [Relatives of 45-Down] PESETAS. Kind of admire the temerarious duplication there!
- 51a [Honeybee genus] APIS. Apis mellifera is the species of the commonly bred honeybee. The mell- of the specific name refers to honey (“honey-bearing”) and is the etymon for words such as mellifluous (“flowing like honey”).
Solid but unexciting crossword.
I decided to do the Sunday crossword which led to my very late post about Gareth’s LAT. I liked all the long entries and if I gave stars I would give it a 4.
NYT: I feel as Zulema did on this one: I quite liked it. Actually much better than most Sundays. All the two word phrases sounded real. I especially enjoyed the systematic flipping of nouns to verbs.
I remember sitting in Iowa City, fresh off the proverbial boat, wondering what the heck “Bus a Table” meant ? I tried to think by analogy: Car a Chair? Bike a Sofa? Totally felt like Latka on Taxi… When that character was on, I used to laugh until I had tears running down my face– totally identified.
Those of us who came here from other English speaking countries had similar problems. ‘Bus a table’ was just as mysterious to me, and I realize, despite familiarity with the term, that I have no idea of its origin. According to MW, it comes in a roundabout way from ‘omnibus,’ i.e. referring to a lowly worker in a restaurant who does anything and everything.
There was a lot to like about this puzzle, including a solid fill & the noun/verb thing in the theme. But it’s true a few of the theme clues could have been better. Amy noted MAKEACATCH, also WINDAWATCH isn’t really setting time. Still a fun puzzle.
If your old fashioned watch is stuck on yesterday’s time, and you move the hands to set the correct time, is that also called winding? I thought so at first, but now I’m questioning myself.
I don’t believe so. I think winding refers specifically to coiling up the watch’s spring (Heading 2, sense 11 here).
I wonder if there are any young solvers who are perplexed by what the phrase ‘wind a watch’ could possibly mean.
Had fun with the NYT puzzle. At first glance thought it would be harder but once it got rolling it was enjoyable. Had an issue with “foot it” too. Had “hoof it” at first and of course never heard of “wive” used in that way. Nonetheless it was fun.
Re: “wive” as a verb: Petruchio in “The Taming Of The Shrew” says (and sings in “Kiss Me Kate”) “I come to wive it wealthily in Padua…”
But Amy’s point was “who uses it now?”
Although I prefer a greater challenge, today’s NYT was a fun solve. I didn’t find anything wrong with FOOT IT. I’ve used that phrase probably more than hoof it, actually; as in, “Since my ride left early, it looks like I’ll have to foot it.” I think fun puzzles like this should be rated with a bit more leeway. Puzzles like this one remind me that it’s a game, done for enjoyment and to pass the time.
Re Sam’s comment in the Merl Reagle writeup: ‘… and Greta Garbo just wanted “to be alone.”
Greta Garbo said that she had been misquoted:
“I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’
I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’
There is all the difference.”
Favorite clue in LAT: Rapper’s demand (LETMEIN), I thought at first it’d be something about the mic
I want to say to members of the Fiend Team that blog various puzzles but don’t get too many comments on a given day that they do get read and enjoyed. At least I know I read them whenever I can, even thought I rarely solve anything other than the NYT. Sometimes the title is intriguing. Sometimes the illustration draws me in.
Today’s Sam Donaldson’s review is a case in point. I was drawn to the Zou Bisou link (a song I knew from the olden days) but wound up reading the whole review and greatly enjoying it.
BTW: Dernier Cri is literally the Latest Shout. I always assumed it was a shout from Paris telling us (all the way in Damascus) what we’re supposed to wear now…
“No raise from me” and the answer “pass” is not a term that someone would say in poker. It could come up in bridge and other suit bidding games.
In poker, if someone bets before you, your options are fold, call, or raise with one exception. In games such as Hold’em in which the first two hands have to ante before the play begins (they are called “small blind” and “big blind”), if no one raises before it gets back to the blinds, they have an option to raise. If they elected not to raise, they would not normally say “pass” or “call” under such circumstances. They would say “check.”
In later rounds of betting, if the betting is not forced–everyone could check in order, you would normally say “bet” or “check” if no one has bet before you.
In bidding games like bridge, if you cannot make a higher bid than the current bid, the correct nomenclature is “Pass.” “No raise from me” is not part of the language of bridge, but to the extent that it describes the action of not increasing the bid, “pass” would be the correct language to use. “Call,” “fold” and “raise” are not terms used in bridge.
Such a lengthy reply obligates an acknowledging “thank you”!
Reagle’s “theme” was a REAL stretch. Silliness personified. A real waste today!
74A vs 112D — Really?
127A – While the clue doesn’t specifically ask for the immediate predecessor, it does imply it. Spiro was Gerald’s predecessor.
I’m late with this observation, however I agree about #37D in the NYT puzzle with
DRAPE vs DRAPES. Now, can you hand me the SCISSOR?