Sunday, September 27, 2015

NYT 10:45* (Amy) 
LAT 11:18 (Gareth) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
CS 24:11 (Ade) 

Reminder about Merl’s memorial this Sunday evening: Merl Reagle’s wife, Marie Haley, is hosting a memorial for Merl on Sunday, September 27, 5-8 pm. The gathering will be at the University of Tampa’s Vaughn Center, 9th floor, and all are invited. Patrick Merrell will read excerpts from some of the many fond remembrances that Merl’s friends and fans wrote about him. If you’re not able to be in Tampa this weekend, Will Shortz and Wordplay filmmakers Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley will be arranging a lovely tribute to Merl at the 2016 ACPT.

Speaking of Merl: You can find Sam Donaldson’s write-up of this weekend’s classic Merl puzzle, “O Punnish Me,” right here. To find our reviews of the Merl puzzles that are running now, just Google “crossword fiend” “{puzzle’s title}” and you should be taken there in a jiffy.

Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “Mark My Words”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 27 15 "Mark My Words"

NY Times crossword solution, 9 27 15 “Mark My Words”

Okay, I confess: I filled in the whole puzzle, not understanding what was going on with the front and back squares of the theme entries, so I went to Deb Amlen’s Wordplay post for the explanation. The squares bracketing the theme phrases should be quotation marks, which are supposed to double as ditto marks in the down answers, which all have the second of a pair of doubled letters in those squares. I suppose the central Down, the famous SUBBOOKKEEPER (notable to word geeks for having four consecutive pairs of double letters), should have pointed me in that direction. However! Anyone who has tussled with typography (those of us who have worked as editors or done page layout) know damn well that quotation marks and ditto marks are not interchangeable. The latter are double prime symbols, and no, the prime mark is not the same as a single quote or an apostrophe. Grr.

I also should have taken note of what the theme answers had in common aside from the extra squares bracketing them. Alas.

The quoted theme answers were a fun bunch (“HULK SMASH!” “MY PRECIOUS!”) but I wouldn’t say that I had much fun with the puzzle. I did like some of the fill—CUE STICKS (and the clue, [Tools for people picking pockets?]), “OH, CRUD” (which, hello, it’s a spoken phrase and yet it is not part of the quotation mark theme? That’s a mite inelegant), FIG LEAVES, HIMALAYAS, ANGEL HAIR pasta, and “AMSCRAY” (also not part of the theme).

Did not like seeing REROSE (Please. Who ever uses that word?), STOA, TO LEASE (I did a Google image search for “to lease” sign and saw a bunch of “for lease” signs instead, because that is what the signs typically say) NT WT (a terrible entry—every package I look at has “net wt”), STENOGS, LEU, TRYERS, and the arbitrary “I’M DUE” (another quasi-quote outside of the theme).

Five more things:

  • 71a. [Where batters eventually make their way to plates?], IHOPS. I’m fine with the plural of IHOP, though I have a tremendous loyalty to my neighborhood IHOP restaurant and prefer to avoid lesser ones. I thought of cake batters rather than pancake batters, though. Mmm, cake. I don’t have cake in the house, but I do have peach raspberry pie, and I should have some now!
  • 93a. [Travel over seas?], PARASAIL. Hey! I did that once. Mildly terrifying and exhilarating.
  • 112a. [Tote], HANDBAG. Hmm, if you ask me, a handbag is a purse, and a tote bag is a different creature altogether.
  • 85d. [___ rate (tax amount per $1,000)], MILLAGE or MIL″AGE. This is not a word I knew.
  • 69d. [One seeking the philosopher’s stone], CHEMIC. Great. An obsolete word for an alchemist. Who doesn’t love obsolete words in their puzzle? They’re even more fun than archaic or literary words we never use.

3.2 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Alliterature” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 9/27/15 • "Alliterature" • Quigley • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 9/27/15 • “Alliterature” • Quigley • hex/hook, bg • solution

A collection of alliterative titles from the land of literature.

  • 23a. [1839 Charles Dickens book] NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.
  • 37a. [1956 Grace Metalious book] PEYTON PLACE.
  • 41a. [1797 Coleridge poem] KUBLA KHAN.
  • 50a. [1963 Kurt Vonnegut book] CAT’S CRADLE.
  • 70a. [1955 Herman Wouk novel] MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR.
  • 89a. [1921 Booth Tarkington novel] ALICE ADAMS.
  • 101a. [1960 John Updike novel] RABBIT RUN.
  • 105a. [1877 Anna Sewell novel] BLACK BEAUTY.
  • 117a. [1597 Shakespeare play] LOVE’S LABOURS LOST.

Finishing with a mildly anomalous flourish, a three-word title.

Not the sort of theme that’s going to inspire you to gird your loins or set your heart racing, but it’s sturdy and respectable enough. The puzzle opens with 1a [Vulnerable area]  SOFT SPOT, which sort of tacitly introduces the theme.

  • Alliterative author: 98d [Novelist Carr] CALEB. Alliterative title (in clue): 116a [Bob’s eldest daughter on “Bob’s Burgers”] TINA.
  • 45a [Cruz or Sanders, briefly] SEN, 63a [Star’s handler] REP. 46a [Rembrandt rival] AIM, 75a [Sure competition] BAN. 51d [In a moment] SOON, 73d [“Almost done!”] IN A SEC.
  • 108a [Chest thumper?] EMT. Glad to see it wasn’t APE, yet again.
  • Favorite one-two: 8d [Musician John] TESH, 9d [Pained expression] GRIMACE.
  • 32d [Every 365 days] A YEAR. If I’m not mistaken, silly celebration Talk Like a Pirate Day was not long ago, AYE, AR!
  • 88d [God with goat’s hooves] SATYR. Not convinced “god” is a sufficiently inclusive term here. 53d [Goatish glance] LEER.
  • 17d [“Jolly nice!”] GOOD-OH. Not commonly seen on this side of the Atlantic (as the clue implies) but valid, as opposed to 99d [“Looks that way”] SEEMS TO. Huh? Is that a stand-alone phrase? Shouldn’t it be SEEMS SO? SEEMS TO seems to be a partial, no?
  • Also not understood by me: 103d [Head-hunter’s pitch] BEANER. Oh wait, never mind. Just got it. Yay, baseball.

Decent crossword. Too well-made to be drudgery, but not particularly exciting.

Brad Wilber’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.27.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 09.27.15

Hello everyone! Hope you’re having a good day on the last Sunday in September!

Today’s fun Sunday Challenge was brought to us by Mr. Brad Wilber, and I know it was a fun solve once I came across the clue to REAL MEN (24A: [Quiche spurners, in a 1980s best seller]). That took me back a little bit! Pretty much did my best work on the long across answers in the Northwest and Southeast, where I somehow confused myself with the clue to ALAMODOME (15A: [Arena vacated by the San Antonio Spurs in 2002]). How so, especially since it should have been a clue down my alley? Well, the arena the Spurs played before the Alamodome was a building called The HemisFair Arena, colloquially called The HemisFair. So I put “HEMISFAIR” in, and then everything went all wrong with trying to get some of the intersecting down answers. But the correction came quick, and off I went. After getting the across answer on the top portion of the Northeast (more on that clue later), was able to get GO PLATINUM off of only seeing that first letter (12D: [Score big in the music business]). Did I tell you the story of the first time I went into the office of my high school basketball coach, only to see a certified gold record hung up? Turned out that my coach’s son, was a member of the 80s-90s hip-hop group 3rd Bass, a group that I grew up listening to. That was pretty neat to know as a high schooler. OK, back to the grid. Probably biggest hangups came in the middle of the grid, where I initially had ‘bad rap” put in for a long while instead of BUM RAP, and that close me some serious time (21D: [Courtroom injustice, slangily]). Also got my offspring wrong when putting in “kid” instead of KIT (38D: [Offspring of a vixen]). The long downs were fun, with STEAK DIANE (14D: [Red-meat entree prepared tableside]) and WEDGE ISSUE being highlights for me (29D: [It’s polarizing]). Pretty fun grid!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RIGGS (10A: [Loser of tennis’s “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973])– Most people remember Bobby RIGGS for losing the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis exhibition match against Billie Jean King in the Houston Astrodome in 1973, but he also was a former World No. 1 player and three-time Grand Slam singles champion, winning both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1939 and winning the U.S. Open again in 1941. Riggs, who passed away in 1995 at the age of 77, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1967.

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

Take care!


Jake Braun’s LA Times crossword, “Aluminum Siding” – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150927

LA Times

Hi this is Gareth, filling in for Andy, who is out of commission but, hopefully, on the mend.

Google suggests “Alumin(i)um Siding” is an American architectural staple, but it is not “a thing” here. The phrase is used to mean +AL is added to phrases and the result is “wackified”.

Theme answer list:

  • [Easy summer listening?], BEACH(AL)BUM
  • [Important exam for shady lenders?], SHARKFIN(AL)
  • [Thoroughbreds’ annual dance?], RACINGFORM(AL)
  • [Diet for conspirators?], CAB(AL)FARE
  • [Really bad bubbly?], BRUT(AL)CHAMPAGNE
  • [Lager shipping route?], BEERCAN(AL)
  • [Prayer book for kids?], JUNIORMISS(AL)
  • [Last-minute jilters?], (AL)TARHEELS
  • [Flower hater’s bugbear?], PET(AL)PEEVE

Potential difficult areas:

  • [Patients’ main MDs, to insurers], PCPS (considered PCPL), and [Large mackerel], WAHOO crossing [Horse of the Year, 1960-’64], KELSO. Luckily, I remembered the name is shared with a popular local brand (actually a house brand) of handbag (and other clothing and accesory types, but their small black clutches were ubiquitous ca. 2005.)
  • The area with [2000s NCAA president __ Brand], MYLES (More a Myles Kennedy type m’self!); obliquely clued [Generic trendsetters], JONESES; vaguely clued [Memorable 1893 defendant], BORDEN and a couple of other tricks. This one held me up more than anywhere else in the puzzle.

Finally, I leave you with this:


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27 Responses to Sunday, September 27, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I eventually tumbled to the trick, and not being all that erudite, was OK with the quotation marks serving as ditto marks. I think this puzzle is best solved on paper, where you can actually write the quotation marks. On Across Lite you have pretend it’s a rebus, and type “QUOTE” on either side of the expression, which is mildly annoying. I haven’t tried entering the vertical letter, as Amy has done.

    While, as Amy points out, there are places outside the theme where quotation marks could have gone, I don’t think any letters are repeated without the ditto marks. Am I correct? If so, I think that must have added constraints to the construction, and is quite admirable. In view of all that, big areas of the puzzle seemed remarkably smooth. But then there was UNMAKES crossing UNMEET– OH CRUD!

    I’ve decided that on my most disliked list are names of obscure currencies- LEU! I’d rather have it clued as an amino acid abbreviation. Leucine is actually fun– it makes a zipper. So that’s a possible clue, right?

    But hey, MY PRECIOUS and HULK SMASH make up for the unzippered LEU and the zippered UNM—

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    On the app I tried to rebus two apostrophes but that didn’t work. I complained via Twitter & they said sorry but it would work if I put a Q in the appropriate boxes. Because that’s, you know, so intuitive.

  3. Austin says:

    I ended up going on my computer to put in the quotation marks to get the solve.

  4. Dave says:

    I got this one right away. I used the computer and just typed in the quote symbol. I thought the fill was above average for a Sunday and the Quotes were all fun- “HULKSMASH” really made my day.

  5. Tim Cam McCalmont says:

    Thanks Chris Smith for posting the Q solution to the missing quotation marks on iPad. Fun puzzle with a stupid annoyance that it wouldn’t fill and finish easily

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes I actually liked this theme aside from how it was handled. They may want to make the Rebus key more flexible so it can be used for any special scenario, like a few months ago when the theme involved writing letters outside the box, or this. Workarounds are fine but it’s 2015. Your app should be better than this.

  6. Papa John says:

    Wow! I’m just going to say it – I did not like this puzzle. I thought the theme, like many of the clues, was too clever for its own good. For those of us using Across Lite, the challenge was as much in figuring how to enter the rebus squares as it was grasping the over-the-top theme. The final solution, QUOTE for the rebuses, is simply wrong, no? Perhaps QUOTE/UNQUOTE would have made more sense but, like Amy, I don’t think of quotation marks being the same as ditto marks. The themes jumped from classical references to pop references, some I would even call “kiddie pop”. (I’m looking at you HULK SMASH.)

    I thought SNOOT was a cheap shot for 32D “Art critic, stereotypically” – and who the heck calls anyone a “snoot”? Perhaps that would be a snooty person.

    REROSE, UNCASES, UNMAKES, TRYERS may be correct but they’re lame.

    Add to that the nits that Amy posted and it makes for an unfun puzzle.

    • john farmer says:

      When I see SNOOT (especially in all caps) my first thought is not of art critics but of David Foster Wallace (well worth clicking to read the whole darned thing):

      From one perspective, a certain irony attends the publication of any good new book on American usage. It is that the people who are going to be interested in such a book are also the people who are least going to need it, i.e., that offering counsel on the finer points of U.S. English is Preaching to the Choir. The relevant Choir here comprises that small percentage of American citizens who actually care about the current status of double modals and ergative verbs. The same sorts of people who watched Story of English on PBS (twice) and read W. Safire’s column with their half-caff every Sunday. The sorts of people who feel that special blend of wincing despair and sneering superiority when they see EXPRESS LANE — 10 ITEMS OR LESS or hear dialogue used as a verb or realize that the founders of the Super 8 motel chain must surely have been ignorant of the meaning of suppurate. There are lots of epithets for people like this — Grammar Nazis, Usage Nerds, Syntax Snobs, the Language Police. The term I was raised with is SNOOT.[3] The word might be slightly self-mocking, but those other terms are outright dysphemisms. A SNOOT can be defined as somebody who knows what dysphemism means and doesn’t mind letting you know it.

      I submit that we SNOOTs are just about the last remaining kind of truly elitist nerd. There are, granted, plenty of nerd-species in today’s America, and some of these are elitist within their own nerdy purview (e.g., the skinny, carbuncular, semi-autistic Computer Nerd moves instantly up on the totem pole of status when your screen freezes and now you need his help, and the bland condescension with which he performs the two occult keystrokes that unfreeze your screen is both elitist and situationally valid). But the SNOOT’s purview is interhuman social life itself. You don’t, after all (despite withering cultural pressure), have to use a computer, but you can’t escape language: Language is everything and everywhere; it’s what lets us have anything to do with one another; it’s what separates us from the animals; Genesis 11:7-10 and so on. And we SNOOTS know when and how to hyphenate phrasal adjectives and to keep participles from dangling, and we know that we know, and we know how very few other Americans know this stuff or even care, and we judge them accordingly.

      In ways that certain of us are uncomfortable about, SNOOTs’ attitudes about contemporary usage resemble religious/political conservatives’ attitudes about contemporary culture:[4] We combine a missionary zeal and a near-neural faith in our beliefs’ importance with a curmudgeonly hell-in-a-handbasket despair at the way English is routinely manhandled and corrupted by supposedly educated people. The Evil is all around us: boners and clunkers and solecistic howlers and bursts of voguish linguistic methane that make any SNOOT’s cheek twitch and forehead darken. A fellow SNOOT I know likes to say that listening to most people’s English feels like watching somebody use a Stradivarius to pound nails. We[5] are the Few, the Proud, the Appalled at Everyone Else.

      Must be a snootier snoot than I who knew UNMEET is an adjective, not a verb. The English language is a truly bewildering thing.

  7. Gary R says:

    Sort of caught on to the NYT theme early, but didn’t fully get the “ditto marks” idea in the down answers until late. The across theme answers were okay, though I was not familiar with “Hulk smash.”

    I liked the long downs in all four corners. I haven’t heard CHEDDAR used as clued, but easy enough to get from the crossings. Also liked FIG LEAVES and HIMALAYAS as clued.

    Definitely didn’t care for any of the UN- answers. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard UNMEET, UNMAKES or UNCASES used in everyday speech. Same for SUBBOOKKEEPERS.

    Finished with an error at the crossing of ArREST and BrEAMS. Couldn’t figure out how small fish were “Groups that never get started,” but “arrest” seemed reasonable for (the verb) “Still.”

  8. Papa John says:

    By the way, an online search for SUBBOOKKEEPER returned a mere four results and two of them were from Urban Dictionary. One was from, which offered no definition, no etymology, no example and no related words.

  9. Papa John says:

    Here’s the thing about BEQ’s SATYR as “God with goat’s hooves”: satyrs are more correctly referred to as daemons (or daimons), which, as I understand it, although divine, are creatures somewhere between gods and humans.

    • Bencoe says:

      Yes. Technically, Pan is the Greek god with goat hooves. Although he resembles a satyr in form he is actually fully divine.

  10. Karen Rappaport says:

    Re the Sunday, 9/27/15 puzzle: please note, people: the keyboard provided for the puzzle in the iPad app HAS NO QUOTATION MARKS. Putting double apostrophes in via rebus does not solve; Q does not solve; QUOTE does not solve. I have lost my long unbroken chain of daily solves, and I am very very unhappy. I shouldn’t care…but I do. No fair.

  11. D. Kelly says:

    NYT: Just an awful solving experience. From the fill to the cluing to the mess with the NYT app (never did figure out what it wants in those squares), no fun at all. Sorry I can’t appreciate the constructor’s inventiveness. This one sets a new low IMO.

  12. Holden Baker says:

    Thanks, John, for the David Foster Wallace quotation. I guess I’m going to (finally) get around to reading him. Could you recommend a book to start with?

    • john farmer says:

      I wish I could say “Infinite Jest” but I’ve only made a dent in it, a couple of times, and never made it through. What’s life if there isn’t some great book still to read?

      Meanwhile, I’d recommend this page with links to plenty of DFW’s shorter (though still sometimes long-winded) works:

      I also enjoyed “The End of the Tour,” still playing at a few indie theaters around the country.

  13. ArtLvr says:

    Wondering about the difference between a snot and a SNOOT? Never mind, I loved the FUDGE FACTOR yesterday and the WEDGE ISSUE today. Looking forward to the lunar eclipse at ten tonight, Eastern time… Back to political lunacy tomorrow, I suppose.

  14. David L says:

    I’m chiming in late because I was busy all day and I just want to say that I didn’t like this puzzle at all. I didn’t understand the trick, mainly because I’ve never heard of this thing known as a “ditto mark.” Must have missed school that day. I finished with one error, MILEAGE for MILLAGE — I didn’t see how MILEAGE could be right but MILLAGE is a word I’ve never come across. Same for CHEMIC.

    And then INCANT? UNCASES? STENOGS? Those might have been forgivable if the puzzle had a really super-duper trick. But it didn’t.

    In short, and to sum up: yuck.

  15. Bob says:

    Wow! My concern over the preciseness of defs caused a storm! Having come from a family of “puzzlers” and having solved puzzles for almost 60 years, I presume that now that the “power of words” my dad used to preach to me is now passe. I’m sorry that pop culture and inane word constructs (to “make them fit”) has replaced the knowledge of words, geography, history … as key puzzling skills. This will be my last post since I feel expelled from the club. One caution: if you let “inside elitism” rule the day – club membership will dwindle.

  16. Howard B says:

    There is no “club” of “elitism” for crossword enthusiasts. We cross all lines, and are very welcoming of all people – I say this from both online and personal experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or novice solver, what school you attended, or heck, what style of puzzles you prefer. A fascination with being challenged by language, and enjoyment of its quirks and particulars, is what connects us all.

    The only thing we (speaking for myself, but possibly collectively as well) do not have a wide tolerance for is a consistent, negative attitude towards other people – especially without suggestions for improvement.
    Criticism should be welcomed to improve the craft (I say this as solver and novice constructor) – tirades, insults, and unfounded personal superiority over others should not.

    I wish you the best, Bob. There is much to learn in life.
    (Your personal deity or lack of here) knows that I’ve got a ton to learn myself.

    • Bencoe says:

      There was a time when crosswords depended less on things like pop culture and wordplay. Many people (myself included, though I still enjoyed them) felt like this period was far more elitist, since only a handful of people who read crossword dictionaries could solve them. “Pop” culture stands for “popular” culture–by its very definition it appeals to a wider audience than high art. So the statement that it is “elitist” seems to have no merit.
      Now there are all kinds of crosswords available for consumption, and younger solvers are beginning to become a larger segment of the audience. I think it’s a golden age for puzzling, personally. If you don’t like one crossword’s style, then find one that you do!

  17. David says:

    The (now) wife and I really disliked this one. We’ve been solving the Sunday NYT puzzles each week since we met, and we both agreed that this one was our least favorite. For her it was about the theme. We got the doubled letters in the down clues but didn’t get why. For me it was horrible fill like the ones mentioned on other comments and by Amy. But my least favorite was one no one has alludes to yet: ASAVE. That’s not a ‘phrase’! That’s just two words. (In some languages, it would be just one.) ‘IN CHAINS’ is an example of a phrase (at least in xwords), but just putting A or AN before a noun does not rate as such. Feh! I gave this puzzle ONESTAR

  18. Mark says:

    Re: NYT – I hope we are not going down the path that “classical” music took in the early 2oth century, with such an obsession to do something different, composers lost sight of the fact that music survives because it is appealing to the senses of the audience.

  19. mickey says:

    Effective Sunday 9/27/15 the Phila. Inquirer is running a puzzle, in place of Merl’s Reagle’s Sunday crossword, called “The Newsday Crossword,” by Gail Grabowski, and edited by byStanley Newman (

    This week’s puzzle is called “THIS WON’T HURT: Despite what you may hear.” The theme answers all have “OU” (sometimes twice) in them. A take-off on “OW,” I presume. I found it to be an enjoyable solve, but not necessarily easy. You ladies and gentlemen may want to check it out and see if it is worth discussion in this forum.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ve always found the Newsday Sunday puzzle to be too unchallenging, just a speed-solving test for me.

  20. mickey says:


    I understand. That’s why you are the Master of Solving. I make no claim to be fast at any of the puzzles I do. Most times I like to savor them.

    I congratulate you, and your fellow Master Solvers. Your abilities are far beyond mine.

Comments are closed.