Sunday, August 9, 2015

NYT 13:08 (pannonica) 
LAT 6:12 (Andy) 
Reagle 16:51 (Sam) 
Hex/Hook 8:59* (pannonica) 
CS 21:39 (Ade) 

Melanie MIller’s New York Times crossword, “Help Wanted” — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 8/9/15 • "Help Wanted" • Sun • Miller • no 0809 • solution

NYT • 8/9/15 • “Help Wanted” • Sun • Miller • no 0809 • solution

Phrases in the format [verb] the [noun], imagined as duties for hypothetical employees. 106d [Fill a position] HIRE.

  • 23a. [Need a rural real estate investor to …] BUY THE FARM.
  • 25a. [Need retail marketer to …] FILL THE GAP. Oh look, duping part of the 106-down clue.
  • 45a. [Need cocktail waitress to …] CALL THE SHOTS.
  • 56a. [Need bakery assistant to …] TAKE THE CAKE.
  • 80a. [Need cruise ship band to …] ROCK THE BOAT.
  • 89a. [Need orchestra conductor to …] FACE THE MUSIC.
  • 114a. [Need blackjack dealer to …] CUT HIT THE DECK.
  • 116a. [Need magician to …] DO THE TRICK.
  • 37d. [Need stunt pilot to …] FLIP THE BIRD.
  • 41d. [Need control tower operator to …] CLEAR THE AIR. (93d [It’s up in the air] CURRENT.

Unorthodox construction, with the bulk of the theme answers situated toward the center of the grid and flanked by an entry on either side, four of the six acrosses and both downs. Also odd that some of the themers seem to comprise allied pairs, but it’s by no means consistent or complete. I’d have preferred more discreteness. Or more cohesiveness. Further, the level of literalness and punning (when present) is uneven.

  • Not much exciting or notable elsewhere. No genuine marquee answers. Longish ones include HOT PLATE, EATS INTO, ERASURES, CANDY EGG, MATADOR, OPEN MIC.
  • Playful clues not so playful: 11d [Like ones welcomed to the fold?] OVINE, 86a [Something rolling in the dough?] YEAST, 48d [One who walks on the wild side?] HIKER, 40d [Body opening?] SOME-. The fill-in-the-blank clues are especially dry, too.
  • 7d/43d [Part of a forensic database] DNA / PRINT. 98a [Onetime “Be all you can be” sologaneer] US ARMY, 100a [Onetime] OLD. Superfluous backwards-cross reference: 40a [See 44-Across] SNOWCAP, 44a [What a 40-Across produces in the summer] MELT.

All told, it’s a lightweight theme with unremarkable ballast fill. To its merit, there’s little in the way of outright crosswordese, or anything particularly ugly or unfortunate. The adjectives that come to mind are: dry, insipid.

Who would I have to hire to stir the soul?

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Forgotten”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 8.9.15, "Forgotten," by Gail Grabowski

LAT Puzzle 8.9.15, “Forgotten,” by Gail Grabowski

First of all, I just got back from Lollapuzzoola 8: Lollapuzzocho!, and may I just say, Wow. If you weren’t able to attend the tournament and are still on the fence about buying the puzzles, I cannot recommend them highly enough. All six puzzles (constructed by, in no particular order: joon pahk, Kevin G. Der, Doug Peterson, Anna Shechtman, Mike Nothnagel, and Patrick Blindauer) were completely and utterly stellar. I wouldn’t be surprised to see all six nominated for Orcas at the end of the year, nor would I be surprised to see one win Crossword of the Year. They’re that good. Buy them.

The tournament itself was a rollicking good time! Many of the usual suspects were there; in fact, there were nearly 200 competitors in total, blowing away last year’s attendance record. Francis Heaney and Ben Tausig brought some very entertaining between-rounds games, Patrick Blindauer wrote a fun team meta contest, and of course Brian and Patrick did an excellent job keeping things running smoothly. Francis Heaney took home the Lollapuzzocho crown, with Trip Payne finishing second and Erik Agard in third. Beyond that, the final standings haven’t posted yet, but I’m pretty sure I had 5 clean solves and finished in the top ten-ish.

Back to Earth. This week, Gail Grabowski gives us phrases – “en” (it’s almost as if she forgot “en”…), which result in new, slightly more hilarious phrases:

  • 23a, FALL ARCHES [Seasonally decorated doorways?]. Fallen arches.
  • 25a, BUNS BURNER [Inept burger join cook?]. Bunsen burner. Cute answer, though I wish the clue had gone more in a “glutes exercise” direction.
  • 47a, GOLD RETRIEVER [Prospector’s pooch?]. Golden retriever.
  • 97a, BARR WASTELAND [Uncultivated area in Roseanne’s back forty?]. Barren wasteland. Clunky clue IMO, and the base phrase feels a little less phrase-y than most of the rest.
  • 122a, QUAKING ASP [Snake looking scared?]. Quaking aspen.
  • 126a, GLOCK SPIEL [Sales pitch for an Austrian pistol?]. Glockenspiel. This was by far my favorite theme entry, I thought it was very funny.
  • 36d, CHICK DINNER [Gals’ gathering before the flick?]. Chicken dinner. Not sure why the clue says “the” flick rather than “a” flick.
  • 46d, RAGWEED POLL [Allergen survey?]. Ragweed pollen.

I’m exhausted from Lollapuzzoola, so I’m not going to add much more here. The theme was appropriate for an easy Sunday puzzle, and Gail is a master at executing these kinds of themes. Fill was solid, with some room for nice stuff like ROBOCOP, TOE RING, and SOB STORY. Solid puzzle, but not particularly flashy or memorable.

Until next time!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Latest Ice Cream Flavors”–Sam Donaldson’s review

The Latest Ice Cream Flavors (solution)

The Latest Ice Cream Flavors (solution)

Let’s cool off with some ice cream puns! You know you want to. This week’s puzzle gives us ten puns. It may not be 31, but it’ll do:

  • The [President’s favorite ice cream flavor?] is UNIMPEACHABLE. See how it contains the “peach” flavor in there? If you missed it, that would be the pits.
  • SMART COOKIE is the [Valedictorian’s favorite ice cream flavor?]. The salutatorian’s favorite, of course, is SECOND BANANA.
  • The [Football player’s favorite ice cream flavor?] is the SUPER BOWL SUNDAE that you probably saw coming a mile away. I resisted it, however, because I didn’t see how “sundae” was a flavor. Well, as they say in the sundae shop, “nuts.”
  • The [Struggling farmer’s favorite ice cream flavor?] is MACON PEANUTS. That there is a double-stuft pun. But is peanut an ice cream flavor?
  • JUICY SCOOP is the [Reporter’s favorite ice cream flavor?]. Now I’m really lost. Is this a play on “juicy fruit?” If so, is that an ice cream flavor? I only know Juicy Fruit as a brand of chewing gum.
  • This next one I get: ELMER FUDGE is the [Animator’s favorite ice cream flavor?]. Fudge is a flavor, and Elmer Fudd is an animated character. There’s hope for me yet.
  • CHOC COUSTEAU is the [Oceanographer’s favorite ice cream flavor?]. I could see that as a real Ben & Jerry’s flavor, maybe with gummy octopi and bands (waves?) of chocolate fudge.
  • CHERRY CONDITION is the [Car restorer’s favorite ice cream flavor?]. Boy did I want MINT CONDITION to fit here. Alas.
  • The [Professor’s favorite ice cream flavor?] is ACADEMIA NUT, a fun play on “macadamia nut.” Glad I got that one.
  • Finally, we have [Actress Aniston’s favorite ice cream flavor that comes with its own spoon…erism?] is JEN AND BERRIES. Congratulations to Ms. Aniston on her recent nuptials, btw. I guess since I’m happily married she figured there was no use in continuing to wait for me.

As usual, Merl packs a lot of thematic material into the grid. That leads to entries like OR I’LL, IES, O TO O (you parse that as “zero-to-zero”), and SICLE. But there’s some fun nuggets there too, like the consecutive ELI and LEI (the latter clued as an anagram of the former) and the nice clue pairing for RIO ([A city, and a car]) and REO ([A car, not a city]).

Here’s this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid, sponsored this week by Häagen-Dazs, making umlauts and hyphens commercially popular since 1961:

  • 5. [St. Petersburg’s river] is the NEVA. Maybe it’s by the Cal.
  • 4. THE CREEP is the [Skulking dance featured in a famous “SNL” video (with Andy Samberg and John Waters)]. Enjoy:

  • 3. The [Irish surname (that repeats itself?)] is HANRAHAN. I tried a lot of different letters before finally having success with the R. There’s a Major Leaguer with that last name but I’m not sure I know of any other quasi-famous people from the same family.
  • 2. EGOISTE is the [Chanel fragrance for men]. You could seriously convince me that Chanel made a men’s fragrance called NUMBER TWO.
  • 1. URBI et Orbi is a papal address. Italian and religious references? I was doomed on this one from the start. I’ll tell the city and the world that foreign words and the Bible are my greatest solving weaknesses.

Favorite entry = WAS IT YOU, the [Accusing question]. Favorite clue = [Fire proof] for ASH.

Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.09.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 08.09.15

Good morning, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well! First of all, I can’t tell you how much fun I had, once again, at Lollapuzzoola, which was held yesterday in Manhattan. So many great people, so many great puzzles, and it all occurred on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in New York. Great to catch up with old friends, make a few new friends, and eat some pizza at the end of it. Won’t spoil anything for you for those planning to solve at home, but my solving experience was almost the reverse of my usual forays into a crossword tournament, as in I started slow the first couple of puzzles, only to turn it on later in the day.

Needless to say, after all of those puzzles, my brain is fried!  I applaud those of you who can compete in a cranium-crushing tournament, only to want to do more crosswords after that! I usually need to decompress after a crossword tournament for a couple of days! But, today isn’t one of those days, as we have the Sunday Challenge from Mr. Bruce Venzke to talk about. And here, we have six (SIX!) 15-letter entries, and they all pack some punch to them. Probably my favorite is SWINGING ON A STAR from Going My Way, and thank goodness that was something that was in my wheelhouse (11D: [Winner of the 1944 Best Song Oscar]). Not too many times when music/movies from pre-1960 can be considered in my wheelhouse. Same with BLIGH in terms of quickly getting a clue referencing an older movie, but that was more because I was able to get most of its crossings that it became obvious what the answer would be (28D: [1935 Laughton role]).  Initially typed in ‘throws the book at’ before figuring out THROW AWAY THE KEY (3D: [“Jain ’em for life!”]). That ‘throw’ threw me for a second there. Nope, can’t tell you that I’ve heard of the phrase BUYS A PIG IN A POKE (41A: [Purchases something sight unseen]). If you have, definitely let me know where you heard it from! (I’m sure you have…just pointing out that that has eluded entering my lexicon at my lifetime, for some reason or another.) All in a all, a fun solving experience.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CLEON (65A: [Political rival of Pericles])– Former New York Mets outfielder CLEON Jones was an integral member of the 1969 New York Mets team that shocked the baseball world and won the World Series. Not only that, but Cleon had his best season as a professional that year, finishing third in the National League in batting average (.340), only trailing baseball legends Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente in that category that season. Jones caught the final out in the series-clinching Game 5 of the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Ironically enough, the man who hit the ball to Jones to end that World Series was Davey Johnson, who would later manage the Mets to their only other World Series championship, in 1986.

Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Fractured French” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 8/9/15 • "Fractured French" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook,bg • solution

CRooked • 8/9/15 • “Fractured French” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook,bg • solution

Punned versions of familiar French phrases:

  • 23a. [Masterful burlesque?] TOUR DE FARCE (tour de force). ­–“a feat or display of strength, skill, or ingenuity <the movie is a comic tour de force>”  (ironic example)
  • 25a. [Motto of flying geese?] C’EST LA VEE (c’est la vie). –“that’s life :  that’s how things happen”
  • 42a. [Toilet-fixer’s alias?] NOM DE PLUMB (pseudonym, pen name).
  • 45a. [Hex that seems familiar?] DÉJÀ VOODOO (déjà vu). –1a : the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time, b : a feeling that one has seen or heard something before; 2 : something overly or unpleasantly familiar” Hmm, hex … where do I know that from? nb: the more explicitly francophonic vodou and voudou are acceptable variant spellings in English.
  • 62a. [Lawn-mowing feat?] COUP DE GRASS (coup de grâce). –1a : deathblow or death shot administered to end the suffering of one mortally wounded; 2 : a decisive finishing blow, act, or event”
  • marciamarciamarcia69a. [Helper for charley horses?] AIDE-DE-CRAMP (aide-de-camp). –“a military aide; also :  a civilian aide usually to an executive” Can’t seem to find a colorful, idiomatic French version of ‘charley horse’, so I guess the analogue is crampe dans la jambe?
  • 90a. [Just between us hangmen?] ENTRE NOOSE (entre nous). –“between ourselves; privately”
  • 93a. [The right Stooge?] LE MOE JUSTE (le mot juste) –“the right word at the right time”
  • 113a. [Composure during psychiatry?] SANG-FREUD (sangfroid). –“self-possession or imperturbability especially under strain”
  • 116a. [Goodbye to the water supply?] AU RESERVOIR (au revoir). –“goodbye”  Of course, reservoir is an unaltered borrowing from a French antecedent.

Definitions are from when available, and also from Oxford dictionaries on-line and Wikipedia. The clues hinge on a priori knowledge of the original meanings. Theme assessment: puns are puns, inherently divisive. Some are better than others, and most of these are at least pretty good. 36a [Pad pun outcome] GROAN.

The asterisk accompanying my listed solve time reflects when I stopped the timer with the nethersquares of the southwest incomplete. Quite certain that will be a big obstacle for many solvers, one way or another. For me, it was the unknown stacked sportsers: 118a [Ex-Giant Chris of the NFL] SNEE and 122a [2007 #1 NBA draft pick Greg] ODEN, combined with the trickily wide-ranging 99d [“Did to” kin] HAS SO and the not-confident-about-the-ending REMAGEN 91d [Bridge town of WWII]; perhaps others might be tripped up by one or both of the stacked film actors at 100d [Warner who played Charlie Chan] OLAND (I tend to get my Warner Olands and Sidney Tolers and Roland Winterses mixed up—seriously, what gives?) and 101d [Zellweger of “Chicago”] RENÉE. I’m calling”no fair!” That’s right, I did to!

  • 22a [Nothing, in Paris] RIEN, 1d [Nice noggin] TÊTE. Also, 4d [Soaking sauce] MARINADE, 63d [Main course] ENTRÉE (which is more reasonably an introductory plate elsewhere), 97d [Custardy indulgence] ÉCLAIR, 105d [“Escales” composer] IBERT. 66a [Attack en masse] STORM. Hmm.
  • Quite literal cluing: 86d [Not out of]  IN ON.

Solid crossword, with a couple of caveats.

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24 Responses to Sunday, August 9, 2015

  1. cyberdiva says:

    I agree that the NYTimes puzzle was nothing earthshaking, but I have a soft spot for any NYT Sunday puzzle that I can do in one sitting with no cheating.

    I was surprised when I read in your discussion that the answer to 114a is CUT the deck. I think the correct answer is HIT the deck, and in fact that’s what you have in the puzzle itself.

    • huda says:

      I’ve landed pretty much in the same place as you, cyberdiva. This felt like a nice, home-cooked meal. Nothing fancy, comfortingly normal.

    • pannonica says:

      Ah. CUT is what I filled in first and must have blindly revised via crossings. Then inattention while reporting. Fixed in post. Thanks!

  2. Evad says:

    So any of you Google ngram experts out there–is “hearken” more popular than “harken”? I hesitated on BRATT as I’m more partial to the second spelling.

    Knowing that there would be a THE in each theme entry sure helped this one fall quickly.

    • Gary R says:


      Don’t know how to put the graph in my post, but Google n-gram says “hearken” is about 4X as common as “harken” in recent years – a much smaller margin than in earlier years (as much as 150X in the mid-1800’s).

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Seemed solid & workmanlike. Nothing truly soaring (although, ironically, a lot of sky/flight references). And, yes, the gift THE’s made it relatively easy once you got the theme clue. Still preferable to the aspirational ones that don’t quite work or require a lot of junk fill to execute.

  4. Mark McClain says:

    NYT this Sunday evoked many involuntary smiles and a few Oho’s! It’s easy for me to get over the not-so-drop-dead-interesting theme and enjoy a breezy puzzle with enough clever entries and clues to hold my interest. Four stars.

  5. Norm says:

    I thought Merl’s puzzle was all over the board. Some cute puns (I really liked ACADEMIA NUT and CHOC COUSTEAU) but SMART COOKIE and CHERRY CONDITION were really weak, since the “real” phrase didn’t change at all and the clue wasn’t funny enough to stand on its own. JEN AND BERRIES redeemed the entire puzzle for me — a pun, a Spoonerism, and an image totally inappropriate for a Sunday morning. What a day! FLIP THE BIRD in The Old Gray Lady and then that.

    • nitpicker says:

      Speaking of Merle, I have an issue with a clue. It seems to me that drawing a foul is a GOOD thing. Committing a foul might be more appropriate.

      • Norm says:

        Good point. There is a sense in which the player draws a foul on him/herself, but the phrase generally is a positive for the player who gets the fouled call on the opponent. Now … why that is more praise-worthy than the much-criticized diving in soccer, I have no idea.

    • hmj says:

      There are puns, and there are bad puns. And then there’s Merl Reagle.

  6. Karen says:

    Speaking of Merl again…
    Urbi et Orbi is Latin not Italian.

    • Norm says:

      Just to be clear, the reference to Italian was Sam’s, not Merl’s. The clue said “____ et Orbi (papal address)” — which would almost always suggest Latin. I suspect Francis speaks something else when he’s not in Latin mode, although I also suspect he has four or five languages to pick from.

  7. Matt M. says:

    I disagree with the review and the general comments; thought the NYT today was fun to solve and had a clever, enjoyable theme. FLIP THE BIRD and ROCK THE BOAT were particularly nice. One of my favorite recent Sunday puzzles.

  8. Scot says:

    Was anyone else impressed with the WashPost grid that had two vertical theme entries crossing two horizontal theme entries, each at two different points. What are the odds?

  9. dave glasser says:

    It would have been nice to not have two “idioms interpreted literally” puzzles in the same week, even though both of them are nice.

  10. Bob says:

    I have been doing crosswords on Sat & Sun for over 55 years and have NEVER seen a mess like Reagle’s entry this week. At my count over a dozen of his defs have little or nothing to do with the word it “defines”. More importantly, his” cutsie” spellings to fit his contrived “puns” are far from a challenge – they’re just plain ridiculous. How can a puzzler understand his “humor” if the crosses are misdefined? I realize I’m going against the pendulum swing away from puzzles that test your word-wiseness to ones that test your knowledge of pop culture and media names, but as a 50+ year puzzler, these sorts of puzzles sicken me. My opinion! Yours?

  11. Zulema says:

    ADE, I am glad you brought up CLEON Jones so I get to tell my story about him and Tommy Agee who ran the very classy Outfielder’s Lounge in the 70’s on Astoria Blvd. It was a delight to go there with a date and both Cleon and Tommy were very friendly to all the visitors (patrons) who talked to them and asked for autographs.

  12. Maikong says:

    Ade —

    Back in the Day, at least 78 years ago, Southern Ohioans, West Virginians and Kentuckians all used the idiom.

  13. hmj says:

    There are puns, and there are bad puns. And then there’s Merl Reagle.

  14. mickey says:

    Might I suggest you don’t do Merl”s puzzles anymore? You obviously don’t get any enjoyment from them. Please don’t be a killjoy. After all, Merl’s guarantee is “Twisted But Fair.” (btw, I’ve been doing crosswords for over 50 years myself.)

    To Sam, the entire answer for the theme answers is the “flavor.” ( e.g. Super Bowl Sundae.)

    Also, If spelling counts, clue #44A should be “a city, NOT a car, rather than “a city, AND a car,” as the car is spelled REO as in#33A

  15. mickey says:

    OOPS! There is a car named RIO, and it’s made by Kia. So Merl’s #44A clue “A city, AND a car” is correct. Sorry about that.

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