NYT 9:24 (Amy)
LAT 7:14 (Andy)
Reagle 13:47 (Sam)
Hex/Hook 8:58 (pannonica)
CS 12:39 (Ade)
Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword, “The In Crowd”
The puzzle’s title puts me in mind of the 1982 Clash song, “Rock the Casbah.” “The in crowd say it’s cool to dig this chanting thing” is one of the lyrics. And 1982 fits squarely in the midst of many of this puzzle’s references. AL HAIG (’80s), IT‘S PAT (’94), TRON (’82), AL CAPP (’30s-’70s), “Voulez VOUS” (clued by way of Mamma Mia! but it’s a 1979 song), LARAINE Newman (’70s), Ben VEREEN in Pippin (’72-’74), Bernhard GOETZ (’84) … Basically, 1985 called and it wants its puzzle back. JENNERS would have been [Olympian Bruce and family] back then, now it’s [Longtime reality TV family on the E! channel], the Jenner-Kardashians.
Least explicable bit: 98a. [Play ___ with (harm)], HOB. Dictionary tells me “play (or raise) hob” means “make mischief. This is a usage I’ve never encountered, and I wager it will be unfamiliar to most other solvers as well. Hobnail is much more familiar, but it’s not a two-word entity whose HOB can stand alone.
No, wait! There is another strong contender: 3d. [Live in squalor, informally], for PIG IT. “You’re really pigging it now!” Um, I’m not convinced that this is a phrase anyone anywhere actually uses.
68d. [Cheap smoke, in slang] clues EL ROPO. EL ROPO is cigar slang that dates back to the ’40s. I have seen EL ROPO before, only in crosswords, and I was piecing it together from the crossings, nearly stumped when I had E*R*PO. The blanks were in two proper-noun crossings: 76a. [Sally ___ (sweet bun)], LUNN, and 85a. [Sch. in Norfolk, Va.], ODU, whose abbreviation I’ve never seen (Old Dominion University). Good gravy!
The theme splits an IN- prefix in various phrases into a two-word thing: FIGHT IN JUSTICE, GENERAL IN FORMATION (can one person be in formation, or does that require a group?), BRAIN IN JURY (see also: BRA IN INJURY), the awkward COURT IN JUNCTION (can anything be in a junction, or is it at the junction?), SISTER IN LAW (inconsistent with the rest of the theme, as INLAW isn’t a word split in two and losing its prefix, and SISTER-IN-LAW is fully hyphenated), PRIVATE IN VESTMENTS (dull), and CRIMINAL IN TENT. Four theme entries pertain to the legal system in some way, two relate to the military, and one is just inconsistent all the way through.
The fill was dried out a bit by the preponderance of phrases with prepositions: ON PAPER, SLIP-ON, EQUAL TO, TOOK TO, IN A CAN, RENEGE ON, SICK OF, TROT OUT, CUSS AT, AT NOON. I was also feeling that 95d. [What many English do in the afternoon], SIP TEA had too much arbitrariness to it, too much “random verb + noun.” My family feels it’s more a thing than EAT FRIES or GREEN SHIRT but I’m not so sure.
Too much 1d: OFFAL in the grid for my taste. 2.4 stars from me.
Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “In It To Win It”—Andy’s review
The most clever part of this one was the title. Phrase + W = new phrase + hilarity:
- 29a, WRITE OF PASSAGE [Chronicle one’s travels?].
- 44a, TAKE THE WRAP [Pilfer Christmas supplies?].
- 56a, WILL AT EASE [Smith kicking back?].
- 82a, MIDDLE WEAR [Belt or cummerbund?].
- 91a, PERSONAL WAD [Roll in one’s pocket?].
- 108a, SEVEN YEAR WITCH [Spell caster seen infrequently?].
- 4d, WALL YOU CAN EAT [Gingerbread house feature?].
- 59d, LOSE ONE’S WEDGE [Experience a links mishap?].
There’s really not a lot to say about this puzzle. Some of the W additions are silent Ws; others aren’t. Some change the pronunciation of the following vowel; others don’t. E-NOTES was by far the worst thing in the grid for me. I didn’t love SECS either, and it could have easily been refilled with SEES if DECK became SEEK.
Otherwise, the fill was of generally high quality, as is often true LAT Sundays. Not many standout entries, but nothing to induce too great a scowl either. DEFLEA was new to me, but maybe pet owners will know it better. Liked having a TRAVOLTA reference, but I wish it had been more recent than “Primary Colors.” Maybe it’s just more comforting to imagine 1998 Travolta than 2015 Travolta. I get that the clue for CORSETS [Waist management aids] was possibly trying to do a waist/waste management pun, but I didn’t love it. It felt a little flip, like calling a tapeworm a “waist management aid.” Neither is a healthy way to go about that. Wikipedia has a very detailed article on “corset controversy.”
[Bangs on the head?] was a cute clue for HAIR. I admit I was fooled by the clue for PEKE, [Toy with long hair, briefly], though there’s the unfortunate replication of the grid entry HAIR in the clue. In a Sunday-sized grid, it’s very difficult to avoid such dupes, and the cleverness of both clues is worth it to me.
Blah theme, fine fill. 3.2 stars. Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Advanced Placement Test 2”–Sam Donaldson’s review
First things first: Happy Birthday to my older sister, Kay, who turns [redacted] today!
Enough of the sap. On with the puzzle! A note accompanying this week’s offering says, “I received quite a bit of positive mail on this idea when I first did it last year, so I thought a sequel would be in order. So to speak.” He’s referring to this puzzle from November, 2014. Here too, the prepositions in common phrases take their positions literally:
- THE CALM THE STORM is “the calm before the storm,” or a [Temporary peace].
- THAT’S THE POINT looks like a legit entry by itself but here it’s “that’s beside the point,” or [“What you just said is irrelevant!”].
- SIDE SIDE is “side by side,” or [Next to each other].
- TIME TIME is “time after time,” or [Repeatedly].
- SCHEDULE FALLS is “falls behind schedule,” or [Misses deadlines].
- THE THE WAR STATES, of course, is “The War Between the States,” an [Oft-chronicled conflict] we know as the Civil War.
- THE TABLE DRINK is not a pitcher of beer but “drink under the table,” an expression meaning [Hold more liquor than]. Interesting that right next door sits HAD ONE, clued as [Imbibed minimally].
- MY WINGS WIND is “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the [Bette Midler Hit].
- ZERO TWENTY is “20 below zero,” or [Frrreeezing]. A little arbitrary, as most any number could work here.
- HELP THE WAY is “help is on the way,” clued as [“I called 911”].
- LO HEAD HEELS VE may look odd, but it’s “head over heels in love,” or [Way more than just smitten].
- NO ONE THE LAW, of course, is “no one is above the law,” clued as [“Rules apply to all citizens”].
That’s 12 theme entries, in case you’re counting. The central entry, WE’VE MET, really looks like it should be a 13th theme entry, but it works as is for the clue [“I was introduced to you once before”]. I keep wanting to parse it as “haven’t we met before,” but given the clue that’s obviously not right. Besides, the answer would have to be along the lines of MET HAVEN’T WE. That might exist on Dagobah, but not in this puzzle.
I’m a sucker for themes that require this kind of thinking, so even though the gimmick has been done before I still found the puzzle very enjoyable. There didn’t seem to be very many compromises in the fill, either, which helped the enjoyment factor.
That’s not to say there weren’t any unusual answers, though. Check out this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid:
- 5. I wonder if I will ever remember that Robert DONAT ([Mr. Chips portrayer]) had the title role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips? I’ve seen this surname in crosswords before, and it feels like each time I promise myself I will remember it henceforth. Now I don’t believe me anymore.
- 4. I really should have known that RHEE was the answer to [Syngman of South Korea]. Seriously. Just two days ago, there was this question in LearnedLeague: “Name the man who was, beginning in 1919, president of the exiled Korean Provisional Government during the Imperial Japanese rule of Korea, and three decades later became the first elected president of South Korea, a position he would hold until his resignation in 1960.” I missed the question then, but I saw the answer, SYNGMAN RHEE. You’d think I could remember the name for a couple of days; but no!
- 3. I don’t hang in high places, so I’ll just take the word of the crossings that PIAGET is a [Luxury watch brand].
- 2. It sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine: “What’s the answer to [Goose genus]?” “ANSER.” :That’s right, I want the answer.” “ANSER.” “Are you deaf, mac? I said I want the answer!” “It’s ANSER!” “Why I oughta…!”
- 1. UPHAM is the answer (not answer) to [Oilman Chet of Texas politics]. He drank many milkshakes.
Favorite entry = I LOST IT, clued as [“My composure left me”]. Favorite clue = [Eb and Flo, e.g.] for NAMES.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Nickname in Town” — pannonica’s write-up
Oh hey, look. It’s a crossword puzzle with a baseball theme. A Boston baseball theme. Joy. Well, only nominally, but it’s the thought that counts?
64-across has [Bosox nickname; or three-word theme to this puzzle] PANDA, or P AND A. I’ve cleverly surmised that someone who plays for that team eats, bats and leaves.
So really, the theme is simply two-word phrases with the initials P-A.
Interestingly perhaps, there’s a bimonthly publication called P & A, which stands for Puzzles and Answers, overseen by one Foggy Brume, whom I suspect at least some of you are acquainted with. How about that?
P&A is also a film industry term for ‘Prints and Advertising’, which is fairly self-explanatory. I’d like to leave it at that, but because I’ve aligned the small image to the left, there needs to be more copy here before I start the customary bulleted list of theme entries, otherwise the formatting will be misaligned and 25a [Far from fair] UGLY-looking. Bear with me just a little longer, for another line or so. That translates to two, perhaps three sentences, depending on how long-winded I get, and as you know I sometimes get very long-winded indee—oh look, we’ve arrived!
Oh, but speaking of arrivals, here’s another P&A:
That photo is big enough to occupy the entire blog-column width, so there’s no need for self-referential stalling tactics. Why then are these sentences continuing to engage in such antics? Good question.
- 27a. [Longtime “New Yorker” cartoonist] PETER ARNO.
- 29a. [Hydrogen cyanide solution] PRUSSIC ACID. That’s cheerful.
- 48a. [Item you pay to take out] PERSONAL AD. Cute clue, duped minorly by 82d [Answer a job ad] APPLY.
- 50a. [Creator of hype and hoopla] PRESS AGENT.
- 60a. [Lovers of high times] PARTY ANIMALS.
- 66a. [Fearful fits] PANIC ATTACKS.
- 78a. [Texas Gulf Coast city] PORT ARTHUR. Deftly avoiding duplication is 32a [TV role for Bea] MAUDE. Unfortunately, there’s 76a [Port or pad lead-in] HELI-. But at least that one wasn’t duped by 30d [Devices with earbuds] IPODS, as a PRAWLCAR is unheard of.
- 81a. [2002–2009 “American Idol” judge] PAULA ABDUL.
- 96a. [Little six-legged pests] PHARAOH ANTS. Never heard of them, but it appears that they are pandemic and supercolonial. On the bright side, they’ll get rid of bedbugs.
- 101a. [Low-stakes game] PENNY ANTE.
Solid lineup. Oh yes, there’s more baseball to be had, but only two. 33d [Yankee stadium nickname] A-ROD, 37d [Longtime Yank Jeter] DEREK. Hardly any, considering the 21×21 grid. Nevertheless, I feel it would have been better to employ a different DEREK to avoid a Yankees double play.
- Check out row one: 1a [Nub] GIST, 5a [Hub-to-rim lines] RADII, 10a [Pencil nearing the end] STUB, 14a [Religious factions] SECTS. 14-across, what’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you part of the club?
- 56a [Lash in westerns] LARUE. This guy. I’ve encountered him at least three times in puzzles this week. Blast from the (non-experienced) past.
- 83d [Of the north] BOREALIS. Yes, but in Latin. In English it’s just boreal. Clue should have been more specific. Similarly, 115a [Antelope playmates] for DEER is insufficient, wanting an “in song” or “metaphorically” qualifier.
- New one on me: 11d [Lake trout] TOGUE. Bet it’s familiar to anglers and old-school crossword solvers.
Decent theme, clean fill, average puzzle. Well above .300, anyway.
Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello hello, crossword lovers! Happy Sunday to you, and hope all is well with you!
So I just set a personal best on the Sunday Challenge crossword, and I thank Mr. Bruce Venzke for constructing the crossword that enabled myself to tear through the grid. Obviously, this grid didn’t have as much bite as Sunday Challenges of the past, but, hey, I’ll take it! Started on the Northwest, and was hung up quickly as to whether to put Iams or ALPO for the first answer (1A: [Chow’s chow]). Had been seeing IAMS for a while in different grids, hence the (slight) hesitation. But there was no hesitation with INSTAMATIC, and that opened up everything for me in the entire grid, let alone in the NW (17A: [Point-and-shoot- camera of old]). That answer allowed me to see my favorite answer of the grid, GOT MILK (7D: [Oft-used dairy ad query]). Honestly, that Got Milk? ad campaign has had legs for so many years, and it was that first ad that started it all. What a classic ad that was…
Most, if not all, of the long answers were right up my alley, and that made the solve a breeze. For WACO, I was thinking of an international city for a long while before a couple of crossing in the answer made it obvious (16A: [Siege city of note]). That would have been an easier clue for me if SWEET came to my mind, but that’s a Steinbeck book I have not read yet, so it was unfamiliar (10D: [Steinbeck’s “_____ Thursday”]). Again, pretty easy solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DOM (44A: [A DiMaggio brother])– The youngest of the three DiMaggios to make it into the Major Leagues, Dom was a seven-time All-Star centerfielder who played all 11 of his Major League seasons with the Boston Red Sox. DiMaggio, like many players of his time, missed seasons while serving in World War II, and Dom missed three seasons while serving in the Navy.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everyone!
NYT: Wow the sharif really don’t like it. This was more up my alley, age-wise, but I understand most of your points. In fairness, though, the clue for GENERAL INFORMATION did note he (or she) is in a parade. Agree on EL ROPO, though. I’m literally smoking a cigar right now & have never heard that term outside a crossword.
NYT: I was definitely in that same good gravy that Amy described… having never heard of EL ROPO, ODU and LUNN.
But I found it fairly doable otherwise, and some parts were fun. Some of the old-timey stuff was helpful to me… I’m more apt to know the old SNL cast than the newer folks –just decreased my TV watching at one point and it stayed that way…
It was interesting to see the legal vibe– is the constructor a lawyer? And there were a surprising number of J’s in the puzzle ( a good thing).
NY Times: I have never heard of EL ROPO (though I haven’t smoked tobacco since I was 5) but I really like the rhyming second word and the fact that “ROPO” is not Spanish.
The Corona Cigar Co. sells a cigar called El Repo. The packaging boasts that they are “repossessed cigars” and features a hand pointing a gun.
Seems as cigar names go, EL ROPO is still worst, but EL REPO is up there. Or is it, down there?
I believe “established constructor names” will always get a puzzle published even with fill like ODU, LUNN, and PIG IT. But other constructors would easily have been rejected for such. C’est la vie.
Uh oh. Shortz and I once nearly come to cyber blows over this very suggestion, although I didn’t imply an established constructor would automatically get published. I did suggest they might get preferential treatment — perhaps going on the top of the pile for consideration. He took it an insult to his sense of fairness, I guess. I was saying it seemed natural to me that he would notice a well-known name on a submission — say, Patrick Berry or, at that time, Manny Nosowsky — and think to himself, “Ah, good…” Why not? It seems a reasonable expectation.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t excuse the poor editing like we have in today’s offering.
I hope my comment doesn’t get me in hot water or ostracized. The comment was not meant to cause a “problem” or insult. I was just prompted to write such based on the given review. However, I do think it [a name associated with a submitted puzzle] will come into play at times, causing an otherwise-unlikely entry to become a suitable (new) entry. For example, I once used an actress’s first name in a grid and the puzzle was rejected (not necessarily by Will), saying she wasn’t popular enough. Within the year, I saw the name in a puzzle (not necessarily the NYT). This happened about ten years ago, a while after I first got into constructing. Nevertheless, I’m still going to construct and hope I find suitable new entries whenever I can.
98a. [Play ___ with (harm)], HOB.
The basis for the meaning may come from the noun form of HOB that means a hobgoblin or elf (Dictionary.com). J.R.R Tolkien used the term “hobgoblin” in “The Hobbit” but not the shorter version, to my recollection.
I knew HOB — see also deviltry, reckless or unrestrained mischievous behavior.
For me this was the easiest NYT puzzle in a while.There are so many easy clues including the theme ones that the weird and remote ones fall into place by default
Not fun, too much obscure uninteresting stuff. I did think the theme was done well however.
I agree that this is about as lame as they get, for the reasons already given — flat theme entries, some lame or unidiomatic fill, and curious choice of proper names. Seems like Sunday puzzles have been having a bad streak.
I don’t understand LOOPY, not that I know much about Happy Meals. Explain?
I took this to be in the same vein as “a few cards short of a full deck” or “a few bricks short of a load” (i.e., “not all there”).
Im not sure why all the fuss over EL ROPO. It’s perfectly good crosswordese, albeit less used than some. Isn’t it a pun on “the rope”, as in “This taste like I’m smoking a rope!”?
NYT: This may be more carbon-dating but ODU has matriculated several pro basketball players, including Nancy Lieberman, a pioneer of the women’s game who became a fitness guru for Martina Navratilova during her era of early-80’s dominance.
Curiously, my NYT print edition has “Kris and Bruce of reality TV” at 52D.
For decades, I knew that golf club manufacturer Ping made a putter called the Anser, but did not know why that name was chosen. The original putters were made of an alloy that looked a little like very dull gold, so the putter was supposed to be a “golden goose.” (Nowadays the Anser may also be silver-colored.) Sometimes golfers get a little LOOPY when they miss putts, and some Ping Ansers have had short but exciting flights on golf courses.
According to Ping, starting in the 1970’s they created two gold-plated replica putters every time someone won a pro or major amateur golf tournament with one of their putters. One went to the golfer; the other was stored in Ping’s equivalent of Fort Knox — a vault which now has more than 2800 gold-plated putters and a few other clubs. There are over 500 Ping Ansers in the vault, more than any other type.
Others may view Reagle’s Washington Times entry as “clever” and “cute”. I see it as elitist and convoluted. Puzzles should test the solver’s knowledge of words, history, media, geography, . . . not their ability to grasp some trickery dreamed up in the mind of the constructor. I did not appreciate this attempt at cleverness.
I’m pretty sure that if you asked Merl, or most of the regular readers here, what a crossword should be, “straightforward test of words, history, media, and geography knowledge” would be a woefully incomplete answer. Trickery and wordplay are what many of us live for!
There are plenty of puzzles from decades ago that may be more to your liking. The contemporary vibe is inventive wordplay. Merl’s theme is nothing new, either—I’ve seen a number of other puzzles in which word order is changed to be a playful rebus-style representation of a phrase, using word placement to stand in for prepositions. I like the concept.
I loved the theme “trickery.” But what I don’t get is how “Eb and Flo” = “names” could be Sam’s favorite clue. Those sort of clues (which I’ve seen before) seem lame to me. Any pair of names could be “names.” Is Eb even a very common name? They’re more like nicknames to me. I think I’m missing some in-joke that only Crossword Fiends get.
I enjoyed the puzzle, too – had a lot of fun with the themers.
“Eb and Flo” is a play on “ebb and flow.” It is kind of lame, but lots of puns are – I’m with Sam, I like it!
H-m-m-m – “decades old …”? Sounds like “old fashioned” to me – a put down??? I enjoy tangling with definitions and pertinent information – but, to put those skills out in left field seems to me to be a bit snobbish. Remember, puzzlers are growing fewer by the moment in this Age of Information. I hope that puzzle creators don’t paint themselves into an esoteric corner with a few aficionados. They may find themselves without jobs.
Not sure there is any evidence that the number of puzzlers is shrinking. There are young people joining the crossword cult all the time, there are crosswords widely available in mobile apps, and even the popular website Buzzfeed is working on adding a regular crossword feature.
Speaking of decades-old styles of puzzles and tests of media knowledge over wordplay (see Bob above), there is also factual information that is decades old in Merl’s puzzle. I got 102d, ELINOR Donahue, from the crosses, but what was most surprising to me is that I figured out who she is, the older sister in Father Knows Best.
I thought the puzzle was fun.
I enjoy ANYTHING that allows me to use the right side of my brain to solve a puzzle because if my left brain doesn’t happen to know the word/history/media/geography answer, I’m left with an unfilled grid and no way of finishing without looking up the answer. Which is as appealing as taking a math test.
And as for being “elitist,” to me here in the Midwest that’s exactly what a lot of those geography clues are because they’re often names of East Coast resort areas, transit lines and such.
But to each their own. Personally, I enjoy Merl’s themes, wordplay and sense of humor. In fact, he’s the one who lured me into working weekly crossword puzzles, thereby swelling – rather than diminishing – the ranks of solvers. If you don’t enjoy wordplay and “trickery” the easy solution is to avoid those types of puzzles and work the kind you enjoy.
I have a problem with 16D “Best blood type for a transfusion recipient.” The answer in the puzzle is AB POSITIVE. I thought O was the universal donor, in case one does not know the blood type of the recipient. Any enlighteners out there or do I misunderstand the clue?
If you are the recipient of a transfusion (or organ transplant), AB is a great blood type to have because you can receive any other type. The best blood type for a donor would be O, since AB, A, B, and O people can all receive O.
O- is the “universal donor”; AB+ is the “universal recipient”, so it’s the best type for a transfusion recipient (to have).
Amy and Pannonica, thank you both. I did not understand the clue, as it turned out.
I take it to mean “Best blood type” in the sense that no matter what type of blood is currently in stock, the AB POSITIVE recipient can accept it.
A simple table of which blood types can be given and received:
A longer, more detailed discussion of universal donor and recipient:
The NYT really did not work for me. It featured not one but two words with (three) more or less ungettable crossings for me. The L of El Ropo might have been guessable if LUNN weren’t such an obscure name: never having heard of a single person named LUNN, I ruled it out. The first O could have been any vowel for aught I knew.
I’d also never heard of a LAYETTE. The final E would have been guessable except that I expected a Spanish noun to end with A or O. Granted, I’ve probably seen ARTE in puzzles enough times that I should have remembered it as Spanish, but I wasn’t sure enough to overrule my A/O bias.
I think Merl’s puzzle was the epitome of cleverness. Maybe it would be less aggravating if you solved puzzles that better fit your criterion.