Monday, December 7, 2015

NYT untimed (pannonica) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


CS 7:49 (Ade) 


BEQ 4:42 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:40 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 2:52 (Andy) 


Jason Mueller’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 12/7/15 • Mon • Mueller • no 1207, 12 7 15 • solution

NYT • 12/7/15 • Mon • Mueller • no 1207, 12 7 15 • solution

Can’t imagine that this theme hasn’t been done more than once previously, but that’s probably irrelevant. 36-across, in the center is the [Work hinted at by the starts of 17-, 26-, 42- and 56-Across] ILIAD, or The Iliad. Those starts mentioned equal the names of some of the key players in and of the story.

  • 17a. [He quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to three 1990s Super Bowl wins] TROY AIKMAN.
  • 26a. [Animated TV character who cries “D’oh!”] HOMER SIMPSON.
  • 42a. [Key vulnerability] ACHILLES HEEL.
  • 56a. [French underground] PARIS METRO.

YEP (54a), you bet I have some issues. Let’s start with the most sensitive one. Where is HELEN? You know, the impetus for the whole protracted war? The ancient McGuffin? I’m going to roll this right up with Plaint Number Two: TROY, which unlike the other three theme answers is a place and not a person. Sure, it’s the place in the story, and I guess it’s worth noting that in this puzzle it’s the first to appear, so could conceivably be argued to be separate from the others, but let’s face it, that notion flies about as well as Icarus in perihelion. Wellll, I suppose it could be bolstered by pointing out that HOMER, as the author, is not an internal part of the story, and this further disrupts the cohesive grouping of ‘people’, but I’m not particularly convinced it challenges that taxonomy.

The obvious solution here is to ditch TROY and put HELEN in that spot. It’s so completely self-evident that I’m convinced that must have been the original intent of the crossword and was perhaps how an earlier iteration of it had been rendered. Is it possible that such a construction was too difficult a task? I’m not going to try to rework that whole section—that sort of thing isn’t my forte, and I’m in a rush to get this write-up published—but there are some fairly recognizable Helens with five-letter surnames out there: the American actress Helen Hayes, the American singer Helen Humes, the Australian singer Helen Reddy, and the Estonian badminton player Helen Klaos – well, perhaps not that last one. But you get the idea.

Third, ACHILLES HEEL relates directly to the mythological figure in the story. Yes, it has a derived sense as a medical diagnosis, but it still has an unmistakable connection to the source. While HOMER probably has the Greek poet as namesake, the English given name TROY (originally) and the French city PARIS have unrelated (I think) etymologies to their Iliadic counterparts: respectively, the Gaelic Troightheach, and the Parisii people.

Tangentially, I’m unsure why the opportunity to use theme-incidental clues for some non-theme material wasn’t seized on. Not, mind you, direct cross-referencing to the theme—I’m on the record as being rather vehemently against that sort of thing—but rather as a subtle nod to the theme. I’m talking about instances such as 28d [Caribbean, e.g.] for SEA – why not Mediterranean? – and 48d [The “fact” that the Great Wall of China is visible from space, and others] MYTHS – I trust I don’t need to proffer an example here. By the way, ‘with the naked eye’ is implicit in that debunking.

The inevitable list:

  • Vertical nine-letter stacks in the northeast and southwest: EXTENSION / ALL AT ONCE, and ELECTORAL / SOPHOMORE.
  • Nice opening one-two with 1- and 2-down: [When Otello dies in “Otello”] ACT IV, [“Otello” composer] VERDI.
  • 43d [Peaceful] IRENIC strikes me as tough fill in a Monday. I imagine many solvers would be thinking of the more familiar EDENIC, which itself isn’t exactly spoon-fed fare. But that isn’t so bad compared to …
  • The crossing of 38a and 38d! The latter is hoary crosswordese, mitigated only slightly by a clumsily inserted additional clue: [Old presidential dog whose name starts a Christmas refrain] FALA. The former is a strongly ambiguous [Centers of attention], which without getting overly technical could just as easily be LOCI as FOCI. And so I ask, does LALA look drastically incorrect for 38-down, especially on casual inspection? I don’t believe so.
  • 8d [Muscat’s land] OMAN, 40a [Yemeni port city] ADEN.
  • 5d [Singer Meghan] TRAINOR, 24d [“All About __ Bass” (2014 #1 hit by 5-Down)] THAT.
  • Most likely not intentional, but I appreciated how ACHILLES was right above 46a TORTE.

So. Kind of a flaccid theme execution, one awful crossing, and a few other bits of questionable fill. I was disappointed with this one. Hope I’m not accused of hectoring unnecessarily.

Debbie Ellerin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/7/15 • Mon • Ellerin • solution

LAT • 12/7/15 • Mon • Ellerin • solution

The solving process for this one unfolded quite rapidly, and in distinct stages.

First, the clue for 1-across—ONE ACROSS!—is problematic. And by ‘problematic’, I mean ‘wrong’. Did I mention that it’s 1-across? One-across on a Monday? Oh, ok. Just wanted to make one-across sure. [Supplier of fake tunnels to Wile E. Coyote] ACME. What?! No no no, no no no, no, no, no, nonononono. No! [Note to self: insert photo of Ben Kingsley as Don Logan here.]

Although the ubiquitous mail-order corporation of the cartoons furnished the self-declared super-genius with such memorable products as a bat-man suit, rocket-propelled roller skates, earthquake pills, a straitjacket-ejecting bazooka, dehydrated boulders, and numerous other distinctly bizarre items of dubious utility, never was there a fake tunnel. Yes, the trompe l’oeil tunnel—whether it be road, railroad, or otherwise—is a common trope therein, but the painting is always created by Mr Coyote himself. And even if it were Acme brand paint—and I assure you it wasn’t—they would not be ‘supplying’ fake tunnels by even the greatest leap of logic.

nb: I will begrudgingly admit that the 2006 publication of The ACME Catalog (in book form) features ‘ACME Instant Tunnel Paint’, but this is clearly some extracurricular retcon nonsense. Someone who has actually methodically researched this is illustrator Rob Loukotka, and for your consultation here is his annotated inventory of the ACME products.

Second (I know that was a lengthy diatribe, but the process really was rapid), after being immediately and thoroughly soured by one-across—I did mention that it was one-across, yes?—I had to face the prospect of confronting the rest of the crossword.

Third. Thus steeled, after a few moments the theme presented itself, which turned out to be an all-these-words-can-precede-this-other-word theme, of which approximately eight jillion have been done before. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this iteration, nor even intrinsically with the category itself. But I was already primed, you see.

  • 36a. [Day ender on Wall Street … and, literally, what each answer to a starred clue has] CLOSING BELL.

That is, each theme answer phrase closes with a type of bell. That is, a word that can precede ‘bell’. That is, a word that can precede ‘bell’, modify it, and indicate a type of actual bell.

  • 17a. [*One held above criticism] SACRED COW. Cowbell.
  • 21a. [*Magician’s secret exit] TRAPDOOR. Doorbell.
  • 55a. [*Swanson frozen meal] TV DINNER. Dinner bell.
  • 59a. [*Traditional] OLD SCHOOL. School bell.

The rest of the fill is mostly all right, nothing notably awesome except, notably and indeed literally, 41d AWESOME. Didn’t have any favorite parts or clues, but there were two minor aspects that further irked me, adding but minor insult to gross injury: (a) the too-similar partial fill-in-the-blanks of “Am I TOO early?” and “Able was I ERE …” (palindrome start), plus (b) the realization that the nifty-seeming dense triple-stack across in the center was held together by what is unquestionably the nadir of fill for the entire grid, the underwhelming KNT [Round Table VIP: Abbr.] – it’s right there in the middle, at 34-down. That’s like breaking your tooth on a trinket in a king cake or something.

Chuck Hamilton’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Vegging Out” — Jim’s review

I hope you’re seated on the sofa for this one. Turn off your little gray cells and do this one on auto-pilot, because today we’re vegging out.

Chuck Hamilton makes his WSJ debut, giving us four entries with the same clue [What a 57-Across might do]. 57A is the revealer COUCH POTATO [The person who’s vegging out].

WSJ - Mon, Dec 7, 2015 - "Vegging Out"

WSJ – Mon, Dec 7, 2015 – “Vegging Out”


Cute and 38A is clearly pandering to the audience, but hey, that’s fine. In my mind though, being a COUCH POTATO is about binge-watching TV, noshing junk food, and achieving a vegetative state. I don’t normally consider mentally-stimulating activities, like reading a BOOK, as “vegging out”. And the way we do CROSSWORDs, it’s anything but vegetative, amirite? Even taking a NAP is healthy and restorative. Just ask Churchill, Kennedy, Thatcher, or Edison.

I’ve considered that the POTATO is botanically classified as a vegetable and so the puzzle’s title and 57A‘s use of the phrase “vegging out” are puns. But nutritionally, most people would not classify the POTATO as a vegetable, and so that pun might be lost on a lot of us.

In the end, a COUCH POTATO is a slovenly creature, and only one of the theme entries, WATCH A VIDEO, comes close to describing its actions. Perhaps theme entries along these lines might have come closer: BINGE WATCH, EAT JUNK, SLEEP THE DAY AWAY (15!).

Also, if you’re sleeping on a COUCH, are you really sneaking a NAP? I can see sneaking one sitting at your desk at work.


Easily the best entry in the grid is 40D‘s SNAKE OIL [Medicine sold by a quack]. Runners-up are NO-HASSLE, HEARSAY, and TOO BAD. SKYCAM [Provider of overhead views in NFL broadcasts] is interesting. Not a lot of dreck aside from partials ASK A and OF A. We get the strange pairing of IN A RUG and ON A ROPE on the right side.

Not much else to say. Lou RAWLS gets some CROSSWORD love at 25D. You’ll never find a song much cooler than this one, so press play and “veg out” for the next 5:03.

Paolo Pasco’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome to the Stage…”—Andy’s review

BuzzFeed puzzle 12.7.15, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome to the Stage...," by Paolo Pasco

BuzzFeed puzzle 12.7.15, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome to the Stage…,” by Paolo Pasco

Roughly two months into the PuzzFeed project, and the regular stable of constructors is starting to emerge. Paolo Pasco’s near the top of that list, and he adds to his puzzle count today.

Let’s discover the theme together, shall we?

  • 17a, PAINT THE TOWN RED [Have a wild night out]. Redwhich has the classic lyric “Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer.”
  • 28a, GANGNAM STYLE [2012 South Korean dance craze attempted by David Cameron, Barack Obama, and a flash mob of 20,000 in Paris]. Style.
  • 44a, SEE WHAT I MEAN? [“You feel me?”]. Mean.
  • 58a, YOUR PLACE OR MINE? [“Which of our two residences should we bang at?”]. Mine.
  • 50d, SWIFT [Chop-chop (or… the last name responsible for the four one-word songs at the end of this puzzle’s longest answers)].

Okay. Thing 1: The SWIFT clue is kind of a nightmare, grammatically. {Chop-chop, or the last name of the artist responsible for the four songs whose one-word titles can be found at the end of this puzzle’s longest answers} fixes the two biggest problems (Taylor Swift, not Taylor Swift’s last name, was responsible for the songs, and the songs have one-word titles rather than just being one word). Plus, I’m not sure what the ellipsis is doing for this clue. 

The bigger thing, Thing 2: We just had a Taylor Swift-themed BuzzFeed puzzle less than a month ago. Was it a very different puzzle? Yes. Are these both good puzzles? In my opinion, absolutely. But this felt like an ominous glimpse into the Future of PuzzFeed: only able to draw from a 15-item cultural subset (Taylor Swift, Harry Potter, South Park/Simpsons/Family Guy, superheroes and their movies, etc.), the puzzle is doomed to loop back on itself infinitely like a millennial ouroboros. Hopefully, this one of those A Christmas Carol-style harbingers that allows for the affected to change their ways before it’s too late. I await my Christmas goose on tenterhooks.

But like I said, in a vacuum, this is a really nice Monday puzzle. The theme entries are all lively and interesting. I’m not 100% sure it’s possible, but what really would have taken this theme over the top for me is if all four theme answers had been song titles by different artists (e.g., THE LADY IN RED, GANGNAM STYLE, THE BOY IS MINE, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?). Granted, those four aren’t symmetrical, but I think there’s probably a set of four that works.

Paolo’s ballast fill is always good: here, we get onetime basketball phenom JEREMY LIN, the condition popularized by “Arrested Development” NEVER NUDESHEEPLE, “NOW KISS!“. Fun clue for UNTIES [Makes a knot not a knot]. Also, as referenced in the MFA clue [Guy In Your ___ (fictional Twitter account with gems like “A Halloween story, but the only monster is mankind.”)], go check out Guy In Your MFA on Twitter. Funny stuff.

Happy Monday. Go watch NAOMI Watts in Mulholland Dr.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Holding Company”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.07.15: "Holding Company"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.07.15: “Holding Company”

Good day, everyone! Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah for those who celebrate! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, deals with a bunch of BASKET cases, in the sense that the theme entries are characters who are known for carrying baskets (48A: [Item held by each of this puzzle’s featured characters]).

  • ALMIRA GULCH (17A: [She takes Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”])
  • LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (29A: [With 37-Across, girl saved by a woodsman])
  • EASTER BUNNY (62A: [Legendary annual visitor]) – With the first letter being “E.” I desperately wanted the answer to be “Elf on a Shelf.” Same amount of letters, you know?!

I’m almost ashamed that I blanked on Almira Gulch for a few minutes before the crosses bailed me out! Other than that, no real hangups, even on the rare appearance of MAUVE (14A: [Moderate purple hue]). Was slightly thrown off AT FIRST (26D: [Initially]) by the clue to QUININE and not seeing anything referring to mosquitoes and/or malaria, but I didn’t get hung up on there at all anyway (56A: [Tonic water ingredient]). At first, I was really struggling to find a clue for the “sports…smarter” moment today, and, as I’m typing this, am seeing JUNEAU and thinking of the former National Hockey League player Joe Juneau (11D: [Capital near the Mendenhall Glacier]). Next time I see Juneau in a grid, you’ll definitely get some love, but I noticed this entry first…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MIX (44D: [Combine, as audio tracks]) – Former offensive tackle Ron MIX played 11 seasons in the American Football League and National Football League, with 10 of those seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1960-1969). Mix also is a practicing lawyer in the state of California, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. In being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mix was the second person who spent the majority of his career in the American Football League to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Former Chargers teammate Lance Alworth was the first.)

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

Take care!


Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 12 7 15 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 12 7 15 “Themeless Monday”

Oh, hello! It’s gone dark out already. Monday mornings are medical outings here, and the cough headache occupied some of the afternoon. So here we are.

Dirty (or fine, or cool) dozen:

  • 1a. [Discover identification], CVV NUMBER. Online payments request just “CVV,” and I hear people call it “security code.” “CVV number” sounds not remotely familiar to me.
  • 25a. [STAY WITH ME, great fill, big hit. I probably wouldn’t recognize it if you played it for me.
  • 30a. [Crimean resident, perhaps], TATAR. I always like seeing this relative obscurity in the grid as it’s my doctor’s name.
  • 38a. [Fudges the game], RIGS. Fudging and rigging seem distinct from each other to me.
  • 57a. [Singular TAPA always bugs me. The Spanish food context uses the plural noun.
  • 63a. [STEPH CURRY, great fill, and I would recognize him. Short for Stephen. Other fill I like here: AIR POCKETS, VROOMED, GET LOST, LITHGOW and ECKHART, CHIMERA, O’ROURKE, BARGE IN.
  • 9d. [Julianna ___ (sleepwear brand)], RAE. Yet another RAE, one I haven’t heard of. Looking at site … meh, too much silk. I’m a cottony PJs person.
  • 24d. [Boxer’s assistant], PAGE. Senator Barbara Boxer, that is.
  • Worst fill, besides TAPA: SMIT, plural UHS, ETO, UKR.
  • This is now.
  • A.
  • Dozen.

3.9 stars from me.




This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Monday, December 7, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Urm… I liked it? Does that make me shallow?
    Even though, I admit, I ended up with an error that I had to go back and correct– YEP, you called it, pannonica, LOCI/LALA in lieu of FOCI/FALA…
    And I do appreciate and I admire the review. You are absolutely correct on all fronts… especially the IRENIC bit… But also the missing Helen!!!
    I guess I wasn’t being that stringent on a Monday— I was in the American Bandstand mode– “It has a nice tune and you can dance to it” level of analysis. Because it’s Monday and it felt pretty smooth, IRENIC notwithstanding.

  2. Howard B says:

    For the NY Times, all the reveal says is that the starts “hinted at” the work – which to me for a Monday passes muster. Your points are well taken and valid in terms of general theme consistency, but I would respectfully say that for this puzzle, that additional specificity of character names is not the goal. The broadening of the theme for just “hints” appears to make it better suited for the early week slot.
    Oh and for what it’s worth, I kind of liked this one.

  3. Jason Mueller says:

    My original theme entries for the NYT were Troy Aikman, Homer Simpson, Achilles heel, and Helen Hayes, but Will thought three people (Aikman, Simpson, Hayes) and one object (heel) wouldn’t work as well as two people and two things, so Paris Metro replaced Helen Hayes.

    • Howard B says:

      Nice substitution. It is good when you have an alternate theme answer ready to go, or at least one that’s findable, isn’t it?

  4. huda says:

    LAT: I didn’t solve it but the review made me laugh. I hope the constructor has a good sense of humor. The ACME diatribe is perfect. And the fact that they have a catalogue is a wonder.

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    BuzzFeed: Couldn’t agree more with the write-up. Why do *another* Taylor Swift-themed puzzle now? Just hang onto it for a while. I’m sure Taylor Swift will still be relevant a year from now when 99% of solvers would have forgotten the first one. Strange choice.

Comments are closed.