Sunday, August 2, 2015

NYT 12:14 (pannonica) 
LAT 5:07 (Andy) 
Reagle 14:05 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 11:02 (pannonica) 
CS tk (Ade) 

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Literally Speaking” — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 8/2/15 • "Literally Speaking" • Ginsberg • Sun • no 0802 • solution

NYT • 8/2/15 • “Literally Speaking” • Ginsberg • Sun • no 0802 • solution

A potpourri of visual—or literal—wordplay, or at least letterplay. The key element is that the phrases employed in the theme answers contain at the absolute least one duplicate letter from the noun component. This allows the modifying portion’s ‘direction’ to work its wiles. The circled squares within the themers help spell out the process.

  • 20a. [Result of a successful audition] CALLBACK. The letters spelling C-A-L-L appear in reverse order.
  • 25a. [Instant] SPLIT-SECOND. The letters of S-E-C-O-N-D are divided at the beginning and end. (Just the one ‘S’ is duplicated.)
  • 37a. [In bits] TORN TO SHREDS. “TO SHREDS” is at the beginning and end.
  • 46a. [Kind of pie] MINCEMEAT. Letters spelling M-E-A-T are disjunct.
  • 54a. [Lose that loving feeling] DRIFT APARTD-R-I-F-T split fore/aft.
  • 62a. [Diner offering] SCRAMBLED EGGSE-G-G-S in random order.
  • 72a. [Art type] MIXED MEDIAM-E-D-I-A randomized.
  • 83a. [# # #] HASH MARKSM-A-R-K-S, strewn about.
  • 90a. [Like 0’s and 1’s in binary numbers] INTERMINGLEDINTER, mingled. Strange apostrophes in clue.
  • 105a. [Card sharp’s deception] FAST SHUFFLEF-A-S-T you-guessed-it.
  • 112a. [Whole] UNBROKEN. Front/back, just the two measly letters U-N.

To recap, in order and using cryptic crossword terminology: reversal × 1, container × 2, [interspersion] × 1, container × 1, anagram × 5, container × 1. That cohesive chunk of anagrams makes the whole endeavor feel very lumpy.

cassel_mesrineThe phrases per se are all at least pretty good, if on the shorter side. But there’s no escaping how the theme feels more tired and uneven rather than inventive and impressive.

Some nice flashes among the downs: PUBLIC ENEMY, OBEISANCE, but less surefootedly SEE AFTER, TWO-ROOM FLAT, SKID ROWS, START A FIRE. The across OKAY BY ME is nifty.

  • 64d [Adorn, in old literature] DIGHTDight?! Yeesh. Oh, and 58d [Shield border, in heraldry] ORLE. Rampant yeesh.
  • Cute-ish: 67d [“Big” star] HANKS, followed by 68d [Big, big, big] OBESE.

  • (Take that, Alanis Morissette 19-across!)
  • Favorite clue: 88d [They vary with circulation] AD RATES.
  • Least favorite stuff: OTTO II, STG,  SEER/SEE AFTER (duplicative and reminiscent of theme), ESAI (personal crossword peeve). 110a, 11a, 48a, 82d, 14a. Lukewarm on OTOE, suffix -ETTA, SEWED ON (versus SEWN ON). 45a, 39d, 44d.
  • Tough clue for common crosswordese: 47d [Repeated film role for Skippy] ASTA.

Middling puzzle all told. Let’s call it 106d SO-SO.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “All Square”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 8.2.15, "All Square," by C.C. Burnikel

LAT Puzzle 8.2.15, “All Square,” by C.C. Burnikel

Am I missing something, or is the theme here just “things that are square”? Let’s review the theme answers together and find out:

  • 23a, STICKY NOTE [Refrigerator message].
  • 25a, BOXING RING [Fight spot]. 
  • 38a, CROSSWORD PUZZLE [Pastime that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013]. Piece of cake for Fiend regulars.
  • 54a, SCRABBLE TILE [One of a game’s 100]. Are Scrabble tiles square? I’m having a hard time finding an authoritative source on the subject, but they always felt a little taller than they were wide to me. Maybe I’m not playing with “regulation” tiles. Anywho, the North American Scrabble Championship is happening right now in The Biggest Little Crosswordese City in the World, Reno.
  • 80a, PAPER NAPKINS [Picnic purchases].
  • 93a, SALTINE CRACKERS [Soup toss-ins]. Not gonna lie — my consumer loyalty drove me to try ZESTA CRACKERS first.
  • 110a, ALBUM COVER [Audiophile’s collectible].
  • 113a, CHESS BOARD [Place to find a mate?]. Callback to a Bob Klahn clue from Monday’s CS puzzle at 1A… it was something like [Do more than just check] for MATE.

So… I’m still not seeing anything deeper than “eight things that are square, clued in a straightforward way.” At 144 words, with a normal amount of theme content and nothing particularly restrictive about where the themers can be placed, you’d expect the surrounding fill to be sparkling. There are some really nice long answers; in particular, I like the two double-stacks of 10-letter entries in the NW and SE (DATA BREACH / ALICE MUNRO, MILLER PARK / IN DISARRAY). And there’s some other good stuff like PUB CRAWL, “SEE THAT?”, and CROP TOP. But there was also a fair bit of RES, ARR, EME, DOO, ESA, A WISE, DOREEN, CULPA, ABOIL, etc. Also, [“None for me”] isn’t really how I’d use the phrase I PASS. “I’ll pass,” sure. But “I pass” is pretty much reserved for card games with bidding.

Really nothing else to say about this puzzle. I haven’t solved a puzzle with a BARER theme in a long time, so it was over incredibly quickly.

Until next time!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “First-Name Basis”–Sam Donaldson’s review

First-Name Basis (solution)

First-Name Basis (solution)

This week’s puzzle is a tribute to someone Diary of a Crossword Fiend friends know well. As Merl explains: “I have a lot of friends with the same name – it appears more than a dozen times in this puzzle – but one in particular is doing a hospital stint this week. Luckily, she’s a crossword whiz and should sail right through this.” Yep, the letter sequence A-M-Y appears twelve times in the grid:

  • The [Shrugger’s comment] is IT’S A MYSTERY TO ME. Nice starter. I confess it took me a while to crack this one because I had already placed MYSTICALLY ([Via hocus-pocus]) and figured we wouldn’t see another MYST- word in the same grid. Oh well.
  • The [Peanut butter option] is CREAMY. I’m a crunchy fan myself, but I can see where reasonable minds would disagree.
  • [They’re hard to see out of] clues STEAMY WINDOWS.
  • Something [No longer fresh] is GAMY.
  • One new word for me was AMYGDALA, the [Brain part that’s key to motivational and emotional behavior]. I sometimes suspect mine is smaller than most, for I kept parsing this as a name, Amy G. Dala.
  • BRIGHAM YOUNG is many things to many people; here he is a [Leader of a famous exodus] that happens to contain Amy’s name near the middle.
  • AMYL NITRITE, another new term for me, is a [Chemical used to treat angina].
  • RALPH BELLAMY is the [“Trading Places” co-star] you might think of after Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
  • MONOGAMY is a [Marriage concept] to which some subscribe, but it’s not a formal legal requirement. So I understand.
  • My favorite of the set is the [Revelation from Darth Vader] (spoiler!), LUKE / I AM YOUR FATHER. If we want to get technical, I believe the actual line is “No, I am your father,” but this is not the puzzle for picking nits. Merl needed another four-letter theme entry to balance with GAMY, and this trick worked beautifully.
  • INFAMY means [Disrepute].
  • Finally, Merl delivers a classic Reagle-esque punchline with GORILLA MY DREAMS, the [Ape’s heartthrob?]. A fun ending.

I don’t care what you think of hidden word themes (which I happen to love)–how awesome is it to see a tribute puzzle for our fearless leader? Answer: very. Such a nice gesture from Merl, one of the nicest in the business, to Amy, another one of the nicest in the business. (And I’ll just assume that SAM, [Rick’s piano player] in Casablanca, is really a nod to me. I know it’s not, but what the heck.)

I liked the “bonus” theme entries: YMA is the [Diva Sumac (and backward, the theme of this puzzle)], which sits near ETYMA, the [Word ancestors] that happen to contain the reverse-AMY as well, though the clue makes no mention of it.

Despite the theme density there’s some interesting fill in this grid, including COUNTY SEAT, MY GUY, GLIBLY, and OFF DAY.

Kidney BeansHere’s this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid, sponsored this week by Bush’s Best Kidney Beans. Okay, the folks at Bush’s Best paid nothing for this, but it seems within the spirit of the puzzle. On to the countdown:

  • 5. I’m going to put the two aforementioned theme entries here (that’s Queen AMYGDALA and AMYL NITRITE). There were only three gimme letters there, and we know what those were.
  • 4. NEY is a [Marshal at Waterloo]. It’s also YEN backwards, but that’s not the point.
  • 3. EMLYN Williams, says Wikipedia, “became an overnight star … with his thriller Night Must Fall (1935), in which he also played the lead role of a psychopathic murderer. The play was noted for its exploration of the killer’s complex psychological state, a step forward for its genre. It was made into a film in 1937 with Robert Montgomery, and again in 1964 with Albert Finney. It has been frequently revived, including on Broadway in 1999 with Matthew Broderick and most recently in the West End with Jason Donovan.”
  • 2. I saw that [Poseidon’s predecessor] started with an O and somehow figured that perhaps I was looking for the word in the NATO phonetic alphabet for the letter O. But OSCAR left me with two extra squares. Alas, here the clue wants OCEANUS. I may not have known the answer, but I admit the clue is better than [“You all can go to the ___ beach-phobic vacationers are going to the lake”].
  • 1. Young & RUBICAM is the [longtime ad agency that created the “Betcha can’t eat just one” Lay’s potato-chip campaign]. I know the campaign, but the firm name is well outside my wheelhouse. I wonder if Don Draper worked for them.

Favorite entry = FLY-BYS, with the timely clue, [Excursions past Pluto, et al.]. Favorite clue = [To multiply, it divides] for AMOEBA.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Solving the Hard Way” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 8/2/15 • "Solving the Hard Way" • Quigley • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 8/2/15 • “Solving the Hard Way” • Quigley • hex/hook, bg • solution

As some of you may be aware, Henry Hook not long ago had some medical issues. While he was laid up a 56a [Day worker?] TEMP constructor stepped up.

From the distribution e-mail: “While Henry Hook is on temporary hiatus, we’re happy to have Brendan Emmett Quigley sit in as guest puzzlemaker. Please enjoy his first CRooked offering this week.”

From what I understand Hook’s recovering well, or has recovered, but the appearance on-line puzzles of reflect the customary weeks-long lag.

The gimmick in this one is converting words beginning with a soft g to ones with a hard g:  /dʒ/ to /g/. Without exception, the original words begin with the letter j and the new ones with g. Also without exception, the spelling of the new word is different than the precursor (aside from the j-g discrepancy).

  • 22a. [“Focus, Gossage!”?] GOOSE, CONCENTRATE (juice concentrate). This refers to a baseball pitcher from, I believe, the ’70s and ’80s.
  • 28a. [Bandages that heal?] GAUZE OF LIFE (jaws of life).
  • 45a. [Made someone feel culpable in front of a Sunday service?] GUILTED AT THE ALTAR (jilted …).
  • 61a. [Glop that deviates from standard practices?] NONORTHODOX GOO (… Jew). Is that a common term? I’m familiar with “Reform(ed)” and realize that it’s more than a simple dichotomy.
  • 75a. [Product book selling oars with hunky male models?] GAY CREW CATALOG (J. Crew). I’LL just BET (18a) this is a long-established in-joke name for the publication; it has that feel.
  • 94a. [Schmaltzy hospital transport?] SENTIMENTAL GURNEY (“Sentimental Journey“).
  • 110a. [Brute butcher’s knife?] GOON CLEAVER (June Cleaver).
  • 117a. [Teacher’s comment to someone with randomly wrong answers?] SURELY YOU GUESSED (… jest). Great pun to end on.

Appreciated the theme. Self-contained, well-executed.

Some fill and clues that are more characteristic of BEQ’s musicality and edginess than we are likely to get from the other constructors (E Cox/H Rathvon, H Hook), such as: 20a [“Song 2” band] BLUR, 43d [“Girl U Want” new wavers] DEVO, 64d [Dear God” new wavers] XTC, MEH … okay, so it’s mostly music clues.

  • (Funny how they left a stray Dutch label on there.)

    (Funny how they left a stray Dutch label on there.)

    Dupey stuff: 58d [Sinks one’s putt] HOLES OUT, 72d [Huge hole] CHASM. 32d [Motion shower, once] COURT-TV (tricky clue, but I don’t think it’s that good), 96d [Boob toob] TEEVEE. 73d [Form’s first blank] LINE A directly above 11d [Draft selection] ONE-A.

  • 33a [Strand in evidence] RNA. Was going to suggest that this was a poor clue, but apparently RNA is a relatively recent alternative to DNA as a viable forensic crime laboratory item. I don’t actually watch any of those shows I so often see in crosswords. You know, Grey’s Anatomy, the various titles in the franchises of CSI and NCIS, and so on. Or COURT-TV, for that matter.
  • 41d [Hackneyed] TRITE, 76d [Become tiresome] WEAR, 90d [Stale]  OLD. Perhaps my habitual listings of allied clues and entries fits these descriptions?
  • 30a [Mustang, famously] SPORT CAR. Not so much.
  • Unusual word: 15d [Causing elation] EXCITITATIVE; I kind of like it.
  • 65d [“__ blimey”] GOR. More Ngrammery, hmm.
  • Good contemporary clue for IDA: 42a [2015 Best  Foreign Language Film], though it kind of irks me that it’s the Oscar awards is taken for granted.
  • Favorite clue: 115a [“Jane __”] EYRE.

Solid offering.

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12 Responses to Sunday, August 2, 2015

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Theme actually worked for me. It was playful & executed well. Didn’t mind the variety.
    The fill, not so much for the reasons noted, although it was nice that BEDDED was clued in millennial-speak. In an earlier, more New York-centric era, SYMS may have been clued differently but times change.
    Also THANKU for the Big Star reference.

  2. Stanley Wechkin says:

    Sounds great if you can only download the puzzle, i.e., access the puzzle webpage. I’ve been trying, to no avail, for the past four hours. Anyone else have this problem? Solving the puzzle seems easier than getting it.

  3. Papa John says:

    Huda: Thanks for the update on Bruce. It’s good to hear he’s doing well. I hope you can convince him to drop in, here, so we can all say hello and wish him well.

  4. Jamie says:

    I hope Merl’s tribute puzzle to Amy cheered her up as she recovers. That’s one she’ll remember! Nice job, Mr. Reagle. And without taking anything away from the constructor, I think all those high votes on the puzzle are just a salute/best wishes to Amy.

  5. huda says:

    Wow, great idea– that AMY Puzzle! How cool is that!

    When she’s back to solving puzzles, I imagine Amy will whip through it in a couple of wonderful minutes– but the aftereffect is forever.

    AMYGDALA: Means almond shaped. In the brain, it’s mostly thought to encode negative emotions, arousal during threat and fear. There are people who have a calcified amygdala and are reported to be much less fearful and touched by negative affect. PTSD is in part an over-responsiveness of the amygdala to a stimulus that is associated with past threats.

  6. Bob says:

    In re: Reagle Sunday:
    Aside from the fact that I think Merl is all too often an elitist word-monger with his silly spellings and dumb puns, the least he could do would be to make his defs at least more rational. Cases in point : HUNT (“On-location game”) and EMU (Mjor egg producer). God help us!!

    • TammyB says:

      I’m not enough of an elitist word-monger to know what its opposite would be, but I suspect its def in a dictionary would include an illustration of Merl.

      To each their own, I guess. Luv ya Merl! It just wouldn’t be Sunday morning without you!!

  7. I’m surprised that no one mentioned the other AMY answers, besides the backwards two. If you continue to HUNT, you will find a total of twenty! (Assuming I found them all.) The extra fun for Amy includes L curves in two directions. Enjoy!

  8. I wrote to Merl Reagle, and not only are there all the twisty L shaped AMYs, but he informed me that there is one more that I hadn’t found, in the CLUE for 23 Down. It was fun looking for them, like hunting for the NINAs in the Al Hirschfeld caricatures. MR wrote that Amy is “doing fine so far — she got a new kidney in a four-person kidney chain” — WOW!!!

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