Sunday, September 6, 2015

NYT 8:31 (Amy) 
LAT 5:12 (erik) 
Reagle 8/30 “Wiseguy Studies” untimed (Amy) 
Hex/Hook 9:13 (pannonica) 
CS untimed, but approx. 22:00 (Ade) 

You can solve Merl’s “Wiseguy Studies” puzzle at the Washington Post site (click play, choose the 8/30 puzzle).

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Double Digits”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 6 15, "Double Digits"

NY Times crossword solution, 9 6 15, “Double Digits”

Very straightforward puzzle provided that the inclusion of two-digit numbers in nine squares doesn’t throw you for a loop. If you’re old enough to have heard of Adam-12, you probably had a leg up on navigating the theme. Here are the rebus theme answers:

  • 28a. [Rallying cry during the Polk administration], 54 40 OR FIGHT (technically, it’s “54° 40′ or fight” but I didn’t know that till tonight). Crossing CAR 54, Where Are You? and TOP 40.
  • 30a. [1957 film set almost entirely in one room], 12 ANGRY MEN. Crossing ADAM-12.
  • 60a. [Return date?], APRIL 15 crossing your 15 MINUTES of fame.
  • 70a. [Game that people rarely agree to play twice], 52 PICK-UP crossing THE B-52S.
  • 79a. [Alejandro G. Iñárritu film with the tagline “How much does life weigh?”], 21 GRAMS crossing CENTURY 21. If you double it, you get a schmancy Chicago restaurant called 42 grams, one of those places (like Alinea) where you buy a ticket to attend your meal; 42 grams will cost you $243 a person.
  • 107a. [2004 rom-com in which a middle schooler is transformed into an adult overnight], 13 GOING ON 30. Crosses PG-13 and 30 ROCK.
  • 110a. [Contiguous U.S. states, colloquially], THE LOWER 48 crossing 48 HRS.

This wasn’t a particularly entertaining theme, as everything is clued so plainly and there’s no wordplay angle to engage the brain muscles.

I was a little let down, too, by the fill in the opening corner. AGIN at 1d and REGNAL at 19d, then 26a EWER had me wondering if the rest of the puzzle would follow suit. There were savory bits like LISA LISA, CITY GIRL, ON BREAK, NOSE JOBS, NOODGE, and FLOTSAM, but otherwise mostly smooth, ordinary vocab rather than clunky crossword stalwarts.

Five more things:

  • 35d. [Colombia’s national airline], AVIANCA. No, I wouldn’t expect you to know this. A lot of proper nouns crossing it, not ideal.
  • 9d. [Adams, Monroe or Grant], ACTRESS. Not PRESIDENT. I thought of Cary Grant before Lee Grant. Marilyn Monroe was easy. And Adams I suppose is Amy Adams, much more contemporary than the other two.
  • 66d. [Filibuster feature], SPEECH. Kinda wanted this to be SCREED.
  • 23a. [Something saved for a rainy day], TARP. When did baseball parks start covering the rolled-up tarp with advertising? Irksome to see ads on the Wrigley Field tarp … although if the Ricketts family’s advertising ventures buy better players, well, it’s nice to see the Cubs winning so much. Assume they will self-destruct this month, as per usual.
  • 86d. [First name of Dickens’s Little Dorrit], AMY. Wait. Dorrit isn’t a first name? Had no idea. It’s good to know trivia about one’s own name.

3.9 stars for me. Needed a bit more fun and games to cross the 4-star bar.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.05.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.05.15

Good morning, everyone! Hope you all have your barbecue grills cleaned and/or your the gas tank in your car filled as we get ready for Labor Day.

So I print out today’s puzzle, without looking at the person who constructed it, and the second the paper slides out, I already see the triple stacks! Well, hello there, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith! I was hoping that the stacks wouldn’t be too hard, and then I see the first clue, and it’s a reference to sports. Score. And then, when looking at the last 15-letter entry on the bottom, that’s also a sports reference…well, if you consider horse racing a sport. The clue at the very top didn’t provide too much detail outside of this person being a college coach, so decided to start at the bottom with BLACK EYED SUSANS and work my way up (61A: [Flowers given to the Preakness Stakes winner]). The intersecting answers were pretty much gettable just by the one letter that I was able to get when filling in black-eyed Susans, even the entry of OCK, as that’s a gimme for those who are Marvel comic book nerds and know about Dr. Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus (58D: [Doc ___ (Spider-Man foe]). I had to pause for a second to remember the first name/initial of the presidential also-ran, H. ROSS (19A: [Perot of politics]). We also have an initial-then-name entry in the form of U. PENN (30A: [Ivy league inst.]). So, when seeing and filling in HAMILTON, thoughts immediately turn to the play that’s pretty much the talk of New York City right now (43A: [Sawbuck portrait]). The only 15 that got me in a little bit of trouble, because of not really catching on to the mislead immediately, was MAKE MINE A DOUBLE (16A: [Bar line?]). I actually was thinking of pick-up lines for a while, and what might be said at a bar to court someone. Goes to show you where my mind was, huh?!  An enjoyable puzzle, and one that was knocked out pretty quickly, especially because of that first 15-letter entry which was a slam dunk from almost the beginning…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AMOS ALONZO STAGG (1A: [Pioneering football coach])– Offensive huddles on the field. The center-quarterback snap. Uniform numbers. All of those, and a whole lot more, are football innovations credited to AMOS ALONZO STAGG, one of the legendary coaches and contributors in the game of football. Coaching mostly at the University of Chicago, Stagg amassed 314 career wins as a college football head coach in a career which started in 1890. The NCAA Division-III national championship game, held annually in Salem, Va., is also known as the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Again”—erik agard’s review

LAT Puzzle 9.06.15, "Again," by Melanie Miller

LAT Puzzle 9.06.15, “Again,” by Melanie Miller

hi! i’m erik, and i’ll be your guest blogger while andy takes a well-deserved day off. i’m always delighted to see a melanie miller byline, and this one did not disappoint. the puzzle is titled “again” – quite appropriately, since seven theme entries gain an A and get wacky clues to match:

  • 22a, CHUCKLE AHEAD [Comedy club road sign?]. have you ever been to a comedy club? tell me about it in the comments so i can live vicariously through you.
  • 33a, TRIAL AVERSION [Distaste for jury duty?]. #relatable 
  • 52a, PASSENGER ASIDE [Digression to a cabbie?]. 
  • 70a, RUB THE WRONG AWAY [Erase?]. this one brought a smile to my face. i read something in a book recently about italian mosaic murals, and how one single stone (or tessera) can change the color of the entire thing. this reminds me of that.
  • 91a, MATERNITY AWARD [Prize for the fastest delivery?]. best clue. my mom – sorry for the TMI – would not have won this award. my bad, mom.
  • 107a, SHUFFLE ABOARD [Drag one’s feet on the gangplank?]. 
  • 123a, MEDICINE AMEN [Doctors’ agreement?].

this theme reminded me of lynn lempel’s certain orca contender from two months ago, but in that one, the themers already had As in them – they were just clued as if the A were a separate word (PLAN A HEAD, TAKE A PART, and so on).

anyway, the theme here was executed very well, though it would have been nice to see some more clues as evocative as 91a‘s.

the solve felt a little harder than average for me – maybe it was because i tackled this puzzle seventh in a seven-puzzle binge, but numerous times i found myself staring uncomprehendingly at a clue for longer than is comfortable for me. i had CRAB at first for 31a [King with fiddlers], which seems very much like the type of thing i would do if i were a crossword-solving robot. PRIMAL was not my first guess, or my second, or my third, for 100a [Original]. wanted EASE instead of SATE (128a: [Fully assuage]). and so on and so forth.

the fill and clues were both generally… sturdy. like a shed. a nice shed. a handful of glue words in the grid – your vowelly animals (ERNE), your bygone brands (NEET), your european rivers (LOIRE) – but wonderfully clean for the most part, which is incredibly hard to do in a sunday-sized grid, IMO. i appreciate sturdiness in fill much more than in clues. two many one- and two-word definition clues in a row and my eyes start to glaze over. as a great, great man once said, “all clues need love.”

oh, hey, i can’t recall seeing RADO before, which is surprising considering the letters. it last appeared in the la times in 2010 (also on a sunday), when it was clued as [Maker of the V10K, the world’s hardest watch]. now that’s a clue!


5 fave clues:

  • 121a, UNPEELED [Like potatoes pre-prep]. something about the word “pre-prep” really hits the spot for me. great alliteration, too.
  • 63d, ARK [Early solution for bad weather]. GOBACKTOBED wouldn’t fit.
  • 90d, ATM FEE [Cost of bread?]. bread as in dough, as in cheese, as in clams, as in – wait, dibs on this theme.
  • 98d, OMELETS [They’re folded in kitchens]. were you thinking NAPKINS? if so, you were not as hungry as i was when i solved this puzzle.
  • 107d, SCUFF [Oxford mark]. see, that’s just mean. i love it.

anyway, that’s all i have, except for thank yous:

  • thank you to ms. miller for creating (not for the first time) a clean, entertaining sunday puzzle;
  • thank you to amy for providing this wonderful sandbox for us to play and converse in;
  • thank you to andy for blogging this puzzle week in and week out, even when it’s a lot harder to love than this week’s. he’s a far more eloquent man than i, and often articulates my exact feelings about a puzzle better than i could. and he does this every week, for free (or at least that’s what he tells me). pretty cool.
  • and thank you to you, for solving, for reading, for commenting, and for supporting this website.

i’ve been erik, and you can reach me here.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Sound Bite Citations” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 9/6/15 • "Sound Bite Citations" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 9/6/15 • “Sound Bite Citations” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

Some amuse-bouches are offered up for the solvers today. The theme clues provide gustatory quips and the answers are the witty progenitors.

  • 23a. [“You are what what you eat eats”] MICHAEL POLLAN.
  • 25a. [“I come from a home where gravy is a beverage”] ERMA BOMBECK.
  • 41a. [“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti”] SOPHIA LOREN.
  • 53a. [“Only the pure in heart can make good soup”] BEETHOVEN.
  • 61a. [“Parsley is gharsely”] OGDEN NASH.
  • 69a. [“Cut the pizza in four pieces – I’m not hungry enough to eat six”] YOGI BERRA.
  • 74a. [“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education”] MARK TWAIN.
  • 84a. [“Ask not what you can do for your country; ask what’s for lunch”] ORSON WELLES.
  • 107a. [“I adore seafood, especially saltwater taffy”] MILTON BERLE.
  • 109a. [“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”]  JONATHAN SWIFT.

dayetmaraisI appreciate how the chosen quotes almost without exception are readily identifiable as characteristic of their speakers, and how so many of those individuals are crossword familiars.

22a [Tapioca source] CASSAVA, 57a [Kitchen sttrainer] SIEVE, 60a [Porcelain ware] CHINA, 73a [Cellar contents] WINES, 16d [Watering hole] SALOON, 55d [Walker of whiskey] HIRAM (should probably be ‘whisky’ in this case), 57a [Kitchen strainer] SIEVE, 63d [Someone in the kitchen?] DINAH, 70d [Cold ones] BEERS.


UC Berkeley’s Cal Band drum major (1958)

  • 1a [Hit the ground instead of the golf ball] SCLAFF. Is that how you want a crossword to make a first impression?
  • 30a [Gather as grads] REUNE, always irksome; 33d [Meets] CONVENES. More re-fills: 117a [Flea market deal] RESALE, 95d [Get back in business] REOPEN, 43d [Start-over command] RESET (these are fine).
  • Favorite clue/answer: [85d [Pick-up artist?] NEATNIK. Runner-up: 8d [Tea party member?] ALICE.
  • “Hey, let’s add an extra letter, or as many as we need, potentially!” 65d [Shivery utterance] BRRR.
  • 66d [Big buttes] MESAS; 44a [Yellow TV figure] BIG BIRD. There’s a recent documentary that’s been well-received – I Am Big Bird: the Caroll Spinney Story, but I cannot lie, I’ve never liked the character. His Oscar the Grouch was more interesting.
  • 44d [Tall fur hat] BUSBY, cousin to the SHAKO.

Easily digestible and satisfying crossword. My compliments to the chef(s).

Merl Reagle’s penultimate puzzle, “Wiseguy Studies”—Amy’s write-up

Merl Reagle's crossword solution, 8/30/15  "Wiseguy Studies"

Merl Reagle’s crossword solution, 8/30/15 “Wiseguy Studies”

Love this theme—various forms of science are clued as if the first chunk of letters, generally etymologically unrelated to the full word, is the actual root:

  • 21a. [Study of punctuation marks?], PERIODONTICS. Peri = around, odont = teeth. Your gums are what’s around your tooth roots. Kinda wanted the clue to be about menstruation, personally.
  • 23a. [Study of peas?], PODIATRY.
  • 33a. [Study of women’s magazines?], COSMOLOGY.
  • 36a. [Study of babies?], CRYOGENICS. Babies are a more cheerful approach than cluing this by way of sadness.
  • 47a. [Study of poker?], CARDIOLOGY. 
  • 64a. [Study of voting?], ELECTRONICS.
  • 75a. [Study of dwellings?], HOMEOPATHY.
  • 86a. [Study of logic?], ERGONOMICS. Hence, therefore, ergo.
  • 91a. [Study of car repair?], DENTISTRY. This is sort of a dupe, since DENTISTRY and PERIODONTICS are related terms, but one uses the Latin root and one the Greek.
  • 103a. [Study of lids?], TOPOLOGY. An important field of study when it comes to containers for your leftover food. Those matching lids like to hide themselves.
  • 106a. [Study of cemeteries?], CRYPTOGRAPHY. This one is the only one that uses related words for the real and fake “studies.” Cryptography is using a hidden code in writing, and crypts are places for buried/hidden things. Small ding to the overall elegance of the theme.

The mishmash of language origins in English are the source of so much linguistic richness, and so much confusion and difficulty for language learners. All these Latin and Greek roots that coincidentally hold words with entirely different meanings—it’s nuts, right? Homeo = same in Greek, while home derives from Old English. Topos = place in Greek, while top is another word with solid Old English origins. It’s neat.

I did this puzzle over a week ago, so I don’t remember much of what jumped out at me during the solve. There are a couple things that gave me pause:

  • The crossing of 80d. [Bone-swingers in “2001: A Space Odyssey”], MAN-APES and 79a. [Cold war grp.?], AMA. The American Medical Association is much more a professional and lobbying group than one engaged in fighting the common cold; I’m guessing virologists are more in play for the latter. And while Arthur C. Clarke specifically wrote the term MAN-APES in his novel, I’d never seen the term (“apemen” is much more widely used). I’d have opted to cross CANAPES with the ACA (Affordable Care Act), or give the AMA a straight clue.
  • 88d. [One way to fry], IN A PAN. IN A PAN doesn’t strike me as an “in the language” phrase unto itself. IN A POT, IN A CUP? No. There are, however, not a ton of choices for I**P**. Cruciverb shows me 13 options, and some are worse than this. INKPOT, INSPAN, INAPET? ILLPASs. It’s gettable, anyway. And that was Merl’s threshold for phrases and partials—are they gettable, and possibly a little amusing? Then they work. (And with the theme answers’ -ICS and -PHY endings to fit, that corner wasn’t too flexible.)

A few punny, alliterative, or rhyming clues (most of the puzzle’s cleverness is in the 11 theme entries):

  • 49d. [Knight stick], LANCE. A play on nightstick.
  • 1a. [Bucket of bolts], HEAP.
  • 78a. [Touch and such], SENSES.
  • 45d. [Aussie lassie], SHEILA.
  • 78d. [What Pop has that the Pope lacks], SHORT O.
  • 83d. [Exchange words?], EDIT. Not about arguing, not about exchanging vows. Nice clue.

Four stars from me.

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22 Responses to Sunday, September 6, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    Lee Grant should make a Civil War movie.

    Lots of presidential possibilities for that ACTRESS clue: Washington, Jackson, Taylor, Tyler, Hayes, Arthur come to mind (though the key is names that make you think potus first).

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: A creative way to incorporate some puzzle-worthy subjects. If we’re to have EWER, AARE & ETA every other week, surely THE B52S, 48 HRS & 12 ANGRY MEN deserve their moment.

  3. David L says:

    Nice theme, but I thought some of the fill wasn’t up to PB’s usual standards — a lot of proper names made figuring out some of the crosses difficult.

    Or maybe I’m just peeved because I ended with an error: LISALOSA crossing MOTE. Mote is just as a good as mite, and Lisa Losa — why not?

    Never heard of ADAM12 but that was more gettable. And I don’t know who Lee Grant is, but the form of clue makes it clear that ACTORS can’t be right.

    At 30A, the way I scribbled in ’12’ makes it look like the answer is HANGRYMEN, which would be an interesting movie. A bunch of guys desperate for pizza on a Friday night, or something.

  4. Cox & Rathbon–Super fun one. Loved the variety of quoters; lots of chuckles, too. (Noticing the professional comments–hmmm, lots of grumpy folks there! Ah, well.) You two are great. Thank you!

  5. Lorraine says:

    I didn’t download Merl’s “Wiseguy Studies” on 8/30 (my bad!) and now can’t find it for love or money. : ) Does anyone know of a place to download it currently? Thanks!

  6. Gary R says:

    Thought the NYT was just “okay” – maybe I was expecting too much because it was Mr. Berry. The theme was fine, though might have been tough for younger solvers – 12 Angry Men is a classic but Adam 12, hardly. The Car 54/54-40 or Fight! crossing was likely even tougher.

    I got a chuckle out of NOSE JOBS, but the rest felt like there were a lot of short, not-terribly-interesting answers.

    I was not familiar with the clued sense of IN A GROOVE. “In a groove” or “In the groove” generally have a positive connotation in my mind – everything’s working just right.

  7. Norm says:

    It looks like the Washington Post will be running Merl classics as the Sunday puzzle for the time being. Works for me, since I did not even remember today’s offering from 2008. Funny, my journal notes indicate that I liked it better this time than I did back then. The theme was very similar to Wiseguy Studies, which might have helped.

  8. Bob says:

    Just “finished” LAT – no change from Reagle (GRHS) – silly defs, silly puns, esoteric and obsolete words no one but puzzle makers ever use.. in other words, “Posh!” Novel idea: a puzzle that challenges your WORD knowledge, not your knowledge of crossword puzzlers inside info???

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Bob, Bob, Bob. If these puzzles continually anger and frustrate you, why don’t you stop working them? Your griping is repetitive and unconstructive. Maybe visit a Barnes & Noble store and shop for crossword books that are more your style.

      “If you don’t have anything nice to say …”

  9. mickey says:

    Bob, Bob, Bob: Please do us all a favor and stop doing Merl Reagle’s puzzles. I agree with Amy. You’re complaining is getting to us all, I believe. Puzzles are supposed to be FUN!

  10. Joan Macon says:

    Amy, will someone be blogging the puzzle in the LAT which takes Merl’s place? Today it is called “Again” by Melanie Miller. Just wondering! thanks, and hope you are feeling better!

  11. ajuli says:

    Is there anyway to print Merl’s Sunday Puzzle from the Washington Post. I was confused because I printed the one that appears each Sunday on his site but that was a different one than the one blogged. Is there anyway of coordinating them so that the one on his site is the same one that is blogged? Thanks.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We got out of sync the weekend that Merl passed away, and blogged his last two new puzzles a week late. Now some of the newspapers that ran Merl’s puzzle will publish “reruns” of his older puzzles, and some will switch to different puzzles. I don’t know that it makes sense to blog reruns, though.

  12. Don Driscoll says:

    As a subscriber of The Washington Post, I regularly do the late Merle Reagle’s puzzles. So for the past two weeks I have been disappointed when I resourced the 8/30 & 9/6 Diary of a Crossword Fiend on the Internet. What showed up for the 9/6 puzzle was actually the 8/30
    puzzle. Out of due respect for Merle’s passing, I can understand some degree of interruption in that regard. However, will the 9/13 Diary of a Crossword Fiend and future iterations for The Washington Post be adjusted to reflect the current puzzle? Thanks in advance for replying to this inquiry. Don Driscoll

  13. Jeffcoat Wayne says:

    NYT, 9-D: My first thought for ADAMS was Edie, but Amy’s a pretty sharp assumption as well.

Comments are closed.