Sunday, June 21, 2015

NYT 10:56 (Amy) 
LAT 6:08 (Andy) 
Reagle 15:37 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 11:50 (pannonica) 
CS 20:11 (Ade) 

Happy Father’s Day to the dads out there!

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword, “Climbing The Corporate Ladder”

NY Times crossword solution, 6 21 15,  "Climbing The Corporate Ladder"

NY Times crossword solution, 6 21 15, “Climbing The Corporate Ladder”

The theme answers are longish phrases that zigzag upwards in the grid, with the upward climbing portion doubling as a legitimate Down answer that’s a company name (clued by its product, in brackets).

  • 31a. [What may be forever?, POSTAGE STAMP, with SEGA at 14d. [Video games].
  • 34a. [Exams that students get F’s on?, TRUE/FALSE TESTS, with TESLA at 5d. [Automobiles].
  • 62a. [Annual celebration on January 6, THREE KINGS’ DAY, with NIKE at 47d. [Sportswear]. Nobody much refers to January 6 as Three Kings’ Day—it’s my grandma’s birthday, and I’ve never seen a calendar label the day as anything other than (the Feast of the) Epiphany.
  • 75a. [When viewed one way, IN THAT RESPECT, with SERTA at 55d. [Mattresses].
  • 82a. [Response deflecting blame, “HOW WAS I TO KNOW?” with OTIS at 68d. [Elevators].
  • 116a. [Initiates, SETS IN MOTION, with OMNI at 101d. [Hotels].
  • 118a. [Part of an unsound argument, LOGICAL FALLACY, with AFLAC at 99d. [Insurance].

Nice visualization of the “Climbing The Corporate Ladder” title. I think the theme entries all occupy symmetrical spots in the grid, too. I hadn’t realized that all those short company names that show up in crosswords all the time lent themselves to backwards embedding in other phrases. FORD could have been in a HYDROFOIL, but that’s a bit shorter than the theme phrases here.

Lots of nice fill in the longish category. I liked HOLY WATER (crossing SEXOLOGY!), THE ARTIST, and IDLE HANDS in the middle; RICE CAKES crossing SEAT BELTS; MEETING UP; SUGARLOAF.

Six more things:

  • 16d. [Garbage collector], ASHBIN. Didn’t know if this one was going to be ASHMAN or ASHCAN, and then it turned out to be neither. ASHBIN is not a word often seen in the U.S.
  • 75d. [Sneaky], INSIDIOUS. Wonder if the constructor clued this as the horror movie franchise. The third installment just came out, starring 71-year-old actress Lin Shaye. Not a ton of movies that aren’t targeting older audiences give lead roles to women in that age group. I approve. I also won’t see the movie—saw the first one and screamed way too much.
  • 82d. [General defeated by Scipio, ending the Second Punic War], HANNIBAL. And I wonder if this was clued as the Mads Mikkelsen title character on the NBC show (or his filmic predecessor).
  • 83a. [More to come shortly?], ETC. This clue is terrible. The question mark is replacing way too much missing punctuation here: “More to come,” in short—that’s what the clue seems to be getting at.
  • 62d. [Paradoxically, when it’s round it’s not circular], TRIP. Not really a paradox, is it? And you could absolutely map out a round trip that follows a circular path.
  • 91d. [“Hey ___” (1977 Shaun Cassidy hit)], DEANIE. I only vaguely remember this song, and wanted to spell it DEENIE like the Judy Blume book. Sandwiched between ESTOPS and MEREST, I’m wondering how difficult this corner was to fill. PISAN and EDMUND I aren’t exciting, either.

Four stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Honoring Our Veterans”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 6.21.15, "Honoring Our Veterans," by C.C. Burnikel

LAT Puzzle 6.21.15, “Honoring Our Veterans,” by C.C. Burnikel

Familiar theme. I think C.C. did something similar within the past year with a different set of initials (it might actually have been “C.C.”, now that I think about it), but I couldn’t find that puzzle, if it exists, easily. Drop a link in the comments if you remember which puzzle it was.

To honor our veterans, C.C. has given us a puzzle full of things with the initials G.I.:

  • 101a, G.I. BILL [Legislation signed 6/22/1944 by FDR … and, initially, what the nine longest answers in this puzzle comprise]. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the signing of the G.I. Bill, which I assume is why this is running on Father’s Day. Not sure I would call a list of nine things a “bill,” but I’m happy to give constructorial license here.
  • 23a, GOLD INGOT [High-end bar?]. Nice to get a fun clue for these straightforward theme entries.
  • 25a, GROSS INCOME [IRS Schedule C, line 7]. 
  • 39a, GOOGLE INSTANT [Search feature that shows results as you type]. I could’ve sworn this wasn’t a debut, but Cruciverb doesn’t have it in the database. Did one of the indies use this?
  • 50a, GEL INSOLES [“Massaging” Dr. Scholl’s product]. I’m gellin’ like Janet Yellen.
  • 67a, GENERAL INTEREST [Broad appeal]. 
  • 87a, GREEK ISLES [Popular Aegean vacation spots].
  • 97a, GOOD INFLUENCE [Teacher of the Year awardee, say].
  • 116a, GRAVEN IMAGE [Exodus prohibition]. My favorite of the theme entries.
  • 119a, GREAT IDEA [“That could work!”]
Hey, why wasn't I consulted on this theme?

“Hey, why wasn’t I consulted on this theme?”

Very bare-bones theme. G.I. BILL was a nice revealer, and all of the theme entries were good (GOOGLE INSTANT and GRAVEN IMAGE being my favorites, though it’s tough to say whether the former will be obsolete in the near future). That said, it’s not a particularly challenging theme to execute. There were some theme potential theme entries, like GRADE INFLATION, GARY INDIANA, or GABRIEL IGLESIAS that could have spiced things up a little.

Some really nice long fill, including TELLS TALES, IRON MAIDEN, GIVE OR TAKE, CALL IT A DAY, IN AGONY, and I ROBOT. I didn’t love STEP A, EBEN, and ANGE. 

Uncomplicated theme executed solidly. 3.3 stars. Until next time!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Hot Topic”–Sam Donaldson’s review

Hot Topic (solution)

Hot Topic (solution)

Your version of the puzzle will contain either ten sequences of shaded squares or ten sequences of circles. The last one, at 111-Across, explains that the “hot topic” of CLIMATE CHANGE is [What the gray squares in the grid literally illustrate]. Specifically, the seven letters of CLIMATE can be found in each of the other nine theme entries, though in a different order each time. See for yourself:

  • One acting [Amicably] is acting WITHOUT MALICE. Yes, it’s green on purpose.
  • [Something requiring tact] is a DELICATE MATTER.
  • [Watch adjustment after landing, perhaps] is LOCAL TIME. I struggled with this one for a while because clue feels like it’s asking for the adjustment made to the watch (e.g., LOSE AN HOUR) rather than the objective of the adjustment. I think [Watch setting after landing, perhaps] would be better.
  • [A way to be sealed] is HERMETICALLY. I know this word from the old Carnac sketches on The Tonight Show; as I recall, the envelopes containing the questions to which Carnac had to divine the answers were always “hermetically sealed” in a mayonnaise jar or something similar.
  • MEAL TICKETS is a fun term for [Primary income sources]. This is my favorite of the theme entries.
  • It is arguable that [Arguable] is the perfect clue for PROBLEMATIC, but I suppose it works fine enough.
  • [Using iodine to detect starch, e.g.] is an ALTERNATIVE TO READING THE LABELCHEMICAL TEST.
  • I had No Clue on this next one: the [2006 Apple release] was the INTEL I-MAC. Not sure where I was when this happened. Oh yeah–I was in Seattle, working in a building named for the father of one of the founders of Microsoft. Apple products weren’t exactly on my radar at that time. Anyway, this may not be the prettiest answer, but something had to be placed opposite LOCAL TIME, and finding a nine-letter answer with the CLIMATE letters in sequence can’t be easy.
  • Maybe the best thing going for FROM HELL IT CAME is the clue, [1957 horror film of which Leonard Maltin wrote, “As walking-tree movies go, this is at the top of the list”]. I think if I saw a movie about walking trees, I’d leaf the theater.

If I made this puzzle, I would have used a computer to determine all of the various letter combinations for CLIMATE that could then be parts of legitimate words and phrases. As I am a liberal arts major who excels in human error, this would take me a while. But Merl has such a gift for anagramming that I’d bet three (unkind) donuts that the theme entries just came to him without much struggle. That’s a helpful gift for a puzzle constructor.

I’m attributing my slow solving time to the several missteps I took throughout, like AXLE instead of AXIS for the [Turning point], LAZES and LOAFS rather than LOLLS for [Lounges around], SPIN for [Pivot around] rather than SLUE, SINKS IN over KICKS IN for [Begins to take effect], and ROMP instead of ROUT for the [Runaway win]. Those really add up.

My eye confused me when the clue for 29-Down, BOA, told me to [See 74-Across]. But the clue for 74-Across, ASP, didn’t start with “With 29-Down,” as per conventional cluing custom. It just said [Deadly coiler]. Obviously, I was simply supposed to use the same clue for both answers, but I’m used to seeing the same clue used multiple times in a puzzle. Heck, that even happened in this very puzzle, when [Winds do it] was the clue for both BLOW and WHISTLE. Why repeat clues for the wind answers but tell solvers to “see” another clue for the snakes? This really perplexed me.

And then! Then I saw the clue for 74-Down: [With 107-Down, dropping bombs, e.g.]. Aha! There was the “With…” starter I was seeking! So, without bothering to note that the clue said “107-Down” instead of “29-Down,” I just assumed this was the starter I was supposed to use. But then the answer to 74-Down was ACT OF, and all I had at 29-Down was B??. Act of B?, I wondered. What the… Eventually, of course, it all became clear–it was ACT OF WAR with a pair of deadly coilers. But that took way too long to figure out.

My version of the puzzle had the clue for TSA as [Org. with a Prev list], which of course makes no sense at all. Now that I know the answer, I suspect “Prev” probably appears as “Pre-√” in the printed version. This also slowed me down, but happily this one wasn’t my fault.

Onto this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid:

  • 5. I thought I had seen my fair share of SMUT, but I sure didn’t know it was also a [Grain fungus].
  • 4. SPOOR is an [Animal track].
  • 3. The [WWI fighter plane] is a SPAD.
  • 2. Here’s an abbreviation you don’t often see in puzzles: the C.D.A. is a [Tooth driller’s aide: Abbr.]. Three-letter entries are so common in crosswords that it’s hard to find a rare one like this.
  • 1. The [Actor-singer whose real name is Leek], of course, is Howard KEEL of Dallas fame.

Favorite entry = SCHLEMIEL, the [Habitual bungler] from the Laverne and Shirley theme song. Favorite clue = [First stop for Oprah guests] for O’HARE Airport. One probably lands there en route to the Harpo studios in Chicago.

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Alien Encounter” — pannonica’s write-up

For which the encounters take the form of the letters ET suffixed to words in phrases, creating wackified versions. A further constraint is that the affected words are all four letters long and end in double-Ls. I have no idea what the rationale behind this is, but it does make for consistency.

CRooked • 6/2115 • "Alien Encounter" • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 6/2115 • “Alien Encounter” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

  • 20a. [Carriage at Kirov?] BALLET BEARING (ball bearing).
  • 2d. [What fowl marionettes have?] PULLET STRINGS (pullstrings).
  • 40a. [Hammer used on Black Friday?] SHOPPING MALLET (shopping mall). People sometimes die in those ‘doorbuster’ stampedes.
  • 60a. [Money?[ WALLET PAPER (wallpaper).
  • 75a. [Gunplay?] BULLET FIGHTING (bullfighting).
  • 100a. [“No more tenderloin, thanks”] I’VE HAD MY FILLET (“… my fill).
  • 52d. [Housing in upstate New York?] BUFFALO BILLET (Buffalo Bill).

Unusually, no overlapping themers, something frequently seen in Hook’s constructions. I continue to be flummoxed and slightly discomfited by the unexplained ??LL aspect, and will mention it once more, at the end of this write-up. As a group, there’s acceptable (read: not unbalanced) variation among these theme answers: single words, two words, a phrase, the altered part being at the beginning or end.

  • 70a [Wonka creator Dahl] ROALD, 87d [Francis or Dahl] ARLENE, 45a [Cosmetician Adrien] ARPEL, 106a [“As You Like It” forest] ARDEN (also, cosmetician Elizabeth or actress Eve), 24a [Passion] ARDOR. Toss in 23a [Locale for Van Gogh] ARLES.
  • After that, zip over to 104a [French cathedral city] AMIENS (one letter off from ALIENS), a foreign place intersecting the lesser-known [1847 Poe poem] ULALUME (76d).
  • Hey, how about 105a [River to Lake Ontario] GENESEE, 67a [“You betcha!”] YESIREE, 69a [Really, to Romans] IN ESSE? 18a [Layered ice cream treat] SPUMONI? 6a [Playground fixture] SEE-SAW?
  • 79d [Quitter’s words] I RESIGN. Phil Austin, founding member of the Firesign Theater, died this week. He’s survived by his wife, OONA. Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death, indeed.
  • 35d [Body building?] MORGUE. Clever but mildly ghoulish clue.
  • sucker-mullet-white-fish-109043d [Pop song of 1937] SO RARE. Not to be confused with 1958’s VO LARE (“Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu”).
  • 57d [California volcano] LASSEN. Also the German infinitive meaning to leave.

The usual 83a ARRAYS (in this case, not necessarily “splendid”) of mid-length stacks, crosswordese, relative obscurities, abbrevs., partials, interesting and/or entertaining clues. And why, tell me again, are all the affected words four letters long, ending with a pair of Ls? Never mind—I refuse to mullet over any further.

Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 06.21.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 06.21.15

Hello everyone, and a very Happy Father’s Day to all of those who are fathers biologically as well as influentially, man or woman.

So we’ve been hearing about the Sunday Challenge crosswords getting tougher, and, if Ms. Lynn Lempel’s edition is any indicator, then we’re in for some tough treats going forward! What a lively puzzle, and it was definitely tough for me to get a foothold anywhere in the first six to seven minutes. Finally started to make some progress in the middle of the grid and towards the bottom, as MEDICARE finally broke things open (40A: [President Johnson initiative of 1965]). That led to EMERALD, which led to two things: the total domination of the Southeast part of the grid and reminiscing about the funny and inane commercials that were put out by Emerald Nuts a few years back (41D: [Gem of a nut brand name]). More on that later on.

I was on to the two car-related clues that abutted each other; AUTO SHOWS (34D: [Where folks might find Edsels]) and CAR PAYMENTS, the bane of a car owner’s existence (11D: [Civie expenses]). Love the trivia aspect to GAS LAMP (8D: [Groundbreaking 19th-century light fixture]). Also in that area, I just put in DALI because, in my mind now, anytime I see a four-letter entry which alludes to a painter or painting, I’m putting in DALI immediately (20A: [Painter of “The Hallucinogenic Toreador”]). Saying that, watch me get burned really soon when a painting of Goya is mentioned in a puzzle. Even before I got a couple of letters from its crossing, my first thought of the #1 song in question in the grid was AMERICAN PIE (24D: [Longest song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100]). Sadly, I wasn’t able to put that in confidently, as I initially had ‘roasts’ instead of BROILS at the bottom part of the Southwest, and was pretty confident with that (61A: [Overdoes the sunbathing]).

So here’s a compilation of the Emerald Nuts alliterative advertisements, in which different people, usually described words starting with “E” and “N,” are said to love Emerald Nuts. My favorite is “Eavesdropping Nebraskans,” which starts at the 1:57 mark. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LOONS (51A: [Wackos])– The Great Lakes LOONS are a Class-A minor league team located in Midland, Michigan, and they are an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Once again, Happy Father’s Day! See you all tomorrow, and have yourself a great Sunday!

Take care!


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28 Responses to Sunday, June 21, 2015

  1. LARRY WALKER says:

    I agree that I’ve never heard of Three Kings Day, but I googled it and there are quite a few references.
    When I think of “Three Kings”, I think of George Clooney.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    Looks like Three Kings Day is the common name in Spain, Portugal & their former colonies, along with pockets of Eastern Europe. Feel like I’ve seen it before but Epiphany is definitely what I grew up with.
    Puzzle seemed tough but fair without much to quibble with. I felt a little lucky that it was in my sweet spot age-wise (Shaun Cassidy & BELINDA Carlisle). I actually remember the Houston AEROs from the long defunct World Hockey Association but that seemed like the only real case of Crosswordease. Also agree that ETC was misclued; even allowing for the sloppiness, it doesn’t even mean “more to come” (in fact it means the writer is not going to list anything more). But this is PENNYANTE stuff. Solid puzzle.

  3. Gary R says:

    Some twenty-plus years ago, my wife and I hosted a high school exchange student from Spain, and for him, Kings’ Day was nearly as big a deal as Christmas. I had the impression that this might be the case in other parts of Europe, too.

    I had some confusion after I first caught onto the theme in the southeast corner. There, the lower “rung” on the ladder was an actual word – LOGIC – so I was looking for that. Unfortunately, that worked sometimes, but not always – 62-A THREE worked, and 82-A HOW WAS sort of worked – but then the others didn’t make sense. Oh, well!

  4. pauer says:

    Another great one, TP. I do miss that the paper/PDF version of NYT puzzles like this get the [-]-clue treatment instead of a full-grid renumbering, but I can understand why. It’s almost like it’s become a convention, which takes away a little of the surprise, at least for me.

  5. pannonica says:

    Reagle: “I thought I had seen my fair share of SMUT, but I sure didn’t know it was also a [Grain fungus].”

    Some of your more authentic Mexican restaurants will offer dishes with huitlacoche, also known as the less-appetizing and unlikely-to-appear-on-the-menu ‘corn smut’. No Martins were harmed during the composition of this comment.

  6. Papa John says:

    Today’s NYT is a perfect example of what I was saying about rating a puzzle. Although this was a finely constructed puzzle, I didn’t much like it. If I were to say why, I think the theme is a good example of my misgivings. The solver is asked to give the puzzle the benefit of the doubt as to what a ladder looks like. As it’s laid out in the puzzle, the themes appear to climb corporate steps, more that ladders. Many of the clues also asked the solver to give a little bit and except them, like the staircases, as close approximations. What can I say? It simply was not an enjoyable solve, for me.

  7. Eliza says:

    I really didn’t enjoy today’s NYT. I know, get off my lawn. I’m old. I am tired of gimmick puzzles. I like the meta ones, but puzzles constructed on the basis of a concept (clues climbing up and down and around) seem even older than I am. It’s been done before, and better.

    Etc; does not mean what the clue implied. As noted above, it stands for the opposite, as in, “I won’t bore you with the rest.”

    With that in mind, I’m not even going to mention ashbin, etc.

  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: I don’t have an issue with the semantics of ‘more to come’ for etc. The complaint seems to be that its use obviates the explicit listing of additional entities. But it in fact indicates that, outside of the syntactic milieu, more (objects, events, whatever) are indeed down the pike, or up the road. In agreement with Amy that the clue’s punctuation is ruinous.

    • Eliza says:

      @pannonica: I disagree. Yours may be the pedantic leaden version of what etc. means, but to people who are not pedantic, it means the opposite of what you just said. It promises the reader that although you could go on and on, you’ll spare them.

      I have no idea how to explain this “outside of the syntactic milieu” stuff. What?

      I am a native speaker of English. When I come across somebody whose English I cannot understand, who regularly makes the language more confusing and arcane than it already is, who pontificates about correct English, etc; I call that person a Pannonica.

      • Papa John says:

        Aw, I find it charming, albeit in a pannonica way. It beats the hell out of “Duh!”

      • pannonica says:

        What is (or is not) literally written vs. what is indicated. Et cetera can mean both things people have said. It’s just a matter of which level or context. I didn’t discount yours and Christopher Smith‘s interpretation; it’s just that I see another one as well.

        • Eliza says:

          My English is fine, Pannonica.

          I just don’t understand most of what you write. You take a lot of words to produce sentences I don’t understand. I’m sure it’s just me. Don’t worry, dear.

        • Christopher Smith says:

          I think ETC was clued poorly, but, guys, it’s 3 letters. A month ago we had one that was unsolvable unless you were familiar with an obscure poem. Then there was the one that was so abstruse the author felt compelled to provide Amy an explanation. Three letters, I can live with.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        “I call that person a Pannonica” is quite possibly the most junior-high comment ever to appear on his site.

  9. huda says:

    NYT: For a while, I thought it was a rebus puzzle, because I thought of True or False as stand alone and I could fit them if the (alse) was rebus. Which of course left me scratching my head about the bracketed and dashed clues. The light went on, eventually, that I had to continue upwards and sideways, but I realized that one of my problems is that I saw the diagonal pattern as the ladder and I was expecting stuff to happen in proximity to that! And finally, it took another little aha moment to understand that all the brackets had to be names of companies, which makes the ladder “corporate”.
    This experience of initial frustration followed by realization plays differently depending on how long it takes and how much fun the outcome is. Is the pain of feeling like an idiot worth the subsequent joy of discovery? For me, I’d put this puzzle better than average on that front. I admire the construction, I like the creative concept, and once you discover the trick, it’s smooth sailing… but I probably stayed in the dark too long and the initial sense of frustration lingered.
    This business of words working forward and backwards is really a lot of fun. I’ve been doing the mini puzzles in the Sunday Times Magazine (usually by Patrick Berry) that have various versions of that. It makes me admire the kinds of minds who can see such things. And it reminds me of certain genes that can be read in both directions to produce different (often interacting) proteins… (one of the earlier ones was called a “sweetheart gene”)

  10. Derek Allen says:

    LAT: Maybe the title of the puzzle doesn’t accurately convey the theme. It does seem like the phrases all contain 4-letter words that end in LL that take an ET hook. But how would you title it? Would this have been a better a-ha moment as a puzzle that is untitled?

    I noticed the inclusion of both ROALD and ARLENE Dahl. May have seen it before, but it seemed….weird? Unnecessary? There’s surely not another Roald, but there has to be another Arlene that could be referenced…

  11. John Haber says:

    I’ll be on the side of those who liked the theme, even if in my ideal world one could snake up a corporate ladder from bottom to top. I also got along ok with ETC. My own pet peeve was with ROOT for “square root,” although I suppose I shouldn’t complain if it was so obvious that it hardly held me back.

    Much of the fill wasn’t really on my wavelength, including the corporate names for things I’ll never use, like insurance and video games. I ran into a particular struggle up top, where the proper names (TAZ, BELINDA) seemed to multiply and the clues kept ending with question marks, for puns that weren’t my sensibility. I never dreamed that there was another SUGAR LOAF beyond New York State, especially in a country for which the primary language isn’t English, or that the flu (surely transmitted mostly by doorknobs and the like) was in the air. I had to look up forever postage stamps to make sense of my answer to that one. But I guess I’ll live.

  12. Elise says:

    Reagle: I do the puzzle on my iPad via WashingtonPost, and I had neither circles nor gray squares to help with “climate.” I enjoyed the puzzle, but didn’t get the theme. Reagle’s Sunday Crossword is the only one that works fairly well on my iPad since WaPo/Arkadium changed their interface. I look forward to the Sunday Crossword all week.

  13. Patti says:

    RE Reagle: correct clue “Org. with a Prev list” – it’s not ‘Prev’; the V letter is a checkmark symbol. So the clue is clearer when you read it as “org. with pre-check list”. Thus, TSA.

  14. Gloria says:

    Re Reagle: The San Francisco Chronicle managed the checkmark symbol in the clue for 25 Across but had neither circles nor grey squares for the anagrammed CLIMATE portions of the theme answers. I’m thankful for this blog which sets me straight whenever I simply can’t sort out a puzzle.

  15. Jeff says:

    NYT: Am I the only one who had an issue with 11d? TEEPAD. I’m an avid golfer, and I’ve never heard of it. A TEEBOX, yes. TEEPAD, nope. Am I missing something?

Comments are closed.