Sunday, December 27, 2015

CS 14:21 (Ade) 


Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 5:13 (Andy) 


NYT 8:58 (Amy) 


BuzzFeed untimed (Jim) 


(Reagle, original write-up from 27 Dec 2009)

Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword, “Binary Code”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 27 15 "Binary Code"

NY Times crossword solution, 12 27 15 “Binary Code”

Don and C.C. are back with a clever Sunday theme. Each theme clue is a doubled letter, and the answer is a familiar phrase that suggests the location of those two letters:

  • 36a. [DD], DEAD ENDS.
  • 46a. [AA], NCAA FINALS.
  • 64a. [WW], WINDOW FRAME.
  • 82a. [OO], ONION RINGS. The location of those ring-shaped letters isn’t specified by RINGS, other than “somewhere in ONION.”
  • 95a. [ZZ], JAZZ DUET. These last four also aren’t location-specific, but the letters do appear as a pair.
  • 110a. [NN], MINNESOTA TWINS. I suspect this was the seed for the puzzle, as C.C. (and maybe Don, too? not sure) is a Minnesotan.
  • 15d. [RR], MARRIED COUPLE.
  • 52d. [FF], LEADOFF DOUBLE.

I half thought it was Monday when I woke up this morning, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I was assuming the puzzle didn’t come out till 9 p.m. Whoops.

Eight more things:

  • 33a. [Court, for short], RHYME. Once again, one of these RHYME-ANAGRAM-SYNONYM clues tricked me.
  • 76a. [Locale for cranberries], BOG. Apparently, cranberry prices are way down and some insurance company is buying out smaller cranberry farmers. No good can come of this, can it? (This week, my 15-year-old son made cranberry sauce, including squeezing the juice from a half dozen tangerines. He also made the mashed potatoes and opted to add rosemary. Proud mom!)
  • 86a. [Little Rascals boy], FARINA. I don’t remember the name Farina (other than actor Dennis Farina), but it pairs well with Alfalfa. African-American child actor Allen Hoskins played Farina, who unfortunately was styled as a “pickaninny” stereotype. After being blacklisted by HUAC, he left Hollywood and went on to have a career as an effective advocate for the disabled. Interesting bio.
  • 115a. [Greet from behind the wheel], TOOT AT. Heh. You don’t toot at someone with your car horn. That’s honking. You toot at them with your butt.
  • 109d. [“N.Y. State of Mind” rapper], NAS. Wait. Was Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” a response to Nas’s rap?
  • 6d. [Whites, informally], ANGLOS. I like this clue, but I’m not sure “informally” is quite on target.
  • “OH, GREAT,” HALF-CAF, and LUDDITE are my favorite entries.
  • 9d. [Spicy fruit beverage often used as a tequila chaser], SANGRITA. I have never heard of this. I take my tequila in margarita form.

4.25 stars from me.

Amy Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Extra! Extra!”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 12.27.15, "Extra! Extra!," by Amy Johnson

LAT Puzzle 12.27.15, “Extra! Extra!,” by Amy Johnson

This week we’ve got a “first word of every starred theme answer” puzzle (much like this Sunday LAT from August), except this time the first words are a familiar joke:

  • 23a, WHAT’S UP, DOC? [*Bugs line]. Bit of a spartan clue.
  • 28a, BLACK BEAUTY [*Classic novel with the chapter “My Breaking In”]. 
  • 37a, AND THAT’S FINAL! [*”End of discussion!”]. 
  • 51a, WHITE HOUSE [*John Adams’ home after the Market Street mansion].
  • 68a, AND SO IT GOES [*”That’s how the cookie crumbles”].
  • 88a, RED HERRING [*Whodunit staple].
  • 96a, ALL MY CHILDREN [*Soap set in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania].
  • 105a, OVER THE HILL [*No spring chicken].  
  • 118a, A NEWSPAPER [Answer to the spoken riddle hidden in the answers to [the] starred clues]. “What’s black and white and red all over?”

Lively enough theme entries. Here’s my big beef with this puzzle: the joke in question relies heavily on being spoken because the words “red” and “read” (past tense) are homophones. Reading just one or the other sort of ruins the joke. That’s not to say you can’t make it into a crossword. This Schrödinger puzzle from 2014 by Dan Schoenholz nails the essence of the joke: most solvers would probably write AND RED ALL OVER first, and only later realize that it could also have been AND R(EA)D ALL OVER–which is exactly how the joke functions when spoken.

The final theme clue here tries to save the joke by including the phrase “spoken riddle,” but I don’t think that works very well. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so strongly if there weren’t already a better executed version of this puzzle, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

The fill is pretty much standard for a Sunday LAT: highlights include RAIN OR SHINE and POLICE STING flanking the center, TSUNAMI, GRAB BAG, GAZETTES, ALCHEMY, SASHAY. I didn’t love AGHA, SAREE, AGIN, ORARE, ACTE, A RAID, A WEE, and TEENER. Weird to see the clue [“Neither snow ___ rain”] with RAIN OR SHINE also in the grid.

That’s all I’ve got. Until next time!

Alan Arbesfeld’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 12.27.15

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 12.27.15

Good morning, everyone! I hope your holiday weekend wraps up in fine form and, for those who celebrate it (and I’m sure there are some Canadians and Brits who frequent this site), also hope that Boxing Day was a great day for you yesterday.

After last week’s tough (yet real fun) grid from Mr. Brad Wilber, we dial things down a little bit, from a difficulty standpoint, for this week’s Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. But, hey, we got a Fantasy Island reference in MR. ROARKE, which makes the not-as-challenging grid all worth while (62A: [Ricardo Montalban’s role on “Fantasy Island”]). Definitely have a soft spot for COLOR COMMENTARY and all of the great color commentators that I’ve worked with in my years as a play-by-play broadcaster (17A: [Play-by-play accompaniment]). Though talking about sports and doing play-by-play sounds easy on the surface, it’d would blow your mind the amount of work and research that’s put in by the broadcasters and the production crew. Then, you have to build good chemistry with your partner, and that’s far from guaranteed. That entry (color commentary) was what allowed me to pretty much finish in the time that I did, and the entire top of the grid just fell from there. Only thing that could have tripped me up was never hearing/seeing HAKE before (56D: [Cod kin]). Once again, far from an expert on fish. Turned out to be no big deal, as SOTHO was a gimme, and that allowed me to finish the grid (55A: [Bantu language group]). And, no, I didn’t forget to mention ENPLANES and mention how odd that looks – and sounds (15A: [Boards a bomber, say]). Even reading the clue to it, I thought, “What in the world is this entry going to be?” Well, we got that answer.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RICHTER (24A: [Man whose name is associated with shaking?]) – It’s rough to talk about this person because I’m a huge New Jersey Devils fan, but former New York Rangers goaltender Mike RICHTER was one of the players instrumental in helping the Blueshirts break their 54-year Stanley Cup drought when they won the Cup in 1994. After retirement, Richter actually enrolled and received his degree from Yale University in Ethics, Politics and Economics.

I hope you have a great rest of your weekend! The next Sunday Challenge will be in 2016, everyone!

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “The Last Shall Be First” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 12/27/15 • "The Last Shall Be First" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

CRooked • 12/27/15 • “The Last Shall Be First” • Cox, Rathvon • solution

The title phrase sounded familiar, but I didn’t know the source. Turns out to be from the Bibble: the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Among other applications, it’s the source for the notion of deathbed conversions, the Get Out of Hell Free card. Also seems to have cachet with creatively-spelled music groups: Dwellas, the Sunz of Man, and Prodigal Sunn all released albums with that title.

For our purposes, however, we’re referencing the alphabet. The theme answers are all longish words or phrases beginning with Z, the final letter. Fitting, too, that this is last crossword of the year (though the on-line publishing schedule runs six weeks behind the print edition).

  • dieletzten25a. [Of beastly studies] ZOOLOGICAL. Beastly, not in the metaphorical sense.
  • 27a. [Great Lakes invader] ZEBRA MUSSEL.
  • 55a. [Spirit of an era] ZEITGEIST. German, ‘time-spirit’.
  • 68a. [All about the cheekbone] ZYGOMATIC. From Greek, meaning join or yoke. It connects some other facial bones. In humans and some other primates the zygoma is quite planar, but in most mammals it forms a very distinct arch (of varying gracility or robustness).
  • 77a. [Sage who poses koans] ZEN MASTER.
  • 110a. [Nietzche’s traveler and speaker] ZARATHUSTRA, which is a Germanization of Zoroaster.
  • 113a. [Moravian count of the 1700s] ZINZENDORF. A toughie. Full name is Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf. Crosses 115d [Progressive ad cashier] FLO, which some solvers also might not know.
  • 16d. [12th in a US series] ZACHARY TAYLOR. Presidents.
  • 55d. [One approach to bad behavior] ZERO TOLERANCE. There are a few films with this title, and none seem good. I did recently watch Zero Motivation (2014, released by ZEITGEIST Films), thought it was merely okay.

Nice collection.

  • 3d [A.k.a. aardvark] ANT-BEAR. True, but the Afrikaans name translates to ‘earth-pig’. Not to be confused with the ant-lion, antbeetle, antbird, Ant-Man, ant-spider, ant-thrush, ant tanager, or Aunt Bee.
  • 80d [Fencer’s case] SHEATH, 90d [“Defend yourself!”] EN GARDE. 53d [Buster] NARC, 123a [Contraband unit] KILO. 52d [Blast to bits] ATOMIZE, 114d [Nuke] ZAP; lot of Zs in this grid, obviously.
  • 41a [Sox great Bobby] DOERR. I get that this is a Boston-based crossword, but this fellow—to my admittedly limited knowledge—isn’t a huge name and he retired in 1951. That’s nearly 64 years ago. But! He’s 97 now. Despite that, why not acclaimed contemporary writer Anthony DOERR?
  • 87a [Plant with flamboyant leaves] COLEUS. Quite varied, but typically featuring purples and greens. I’m quite fond of them. 34a [Heath plant] ERICA; the nominal genus of this large family (approximately 4000 species).
  • 62a [Comparatively icky] GROSSER. Bleah. Perhaps less inferable, but I would have preferred a less smushy clue, invoking the German word for larger.
  • Flirting with un-PC-ness: 1d [Loonballs] CRAZIES.
  • 8d [Post-grace words] LET’S EAT, 79d [Put away] ATE.
  • Favorite clue: 105a [Cards, on skeds] STL. Though there was far too much baseball in this crossword than I care for. No, I won’t be making a list.

Sure, there’s an allotment of crosswordese and sketchy fill, but on the whole I enjoyed this simply-themed offering.

Paolo Pasco’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s review

Friday’s BuzzFeed themeless was postponed a couple days, but it was worth the wait, eh?

For the past few weeks, the BuzzFeed themeless hasn’t been quite at its best. It hasn’t been bad, but there were a few weeks before that where it was a tough act to follow. Today’s themeless feels like a return to glory.

And it’s fitting that Paolo Pasco brings us there since he gave us the very first BuzzFeed themeless way back when, which also happened to be stellar.

BuzzFeed - Fri, Dec 25, 2015 - Paolo Pasco

BuzzFeed – Fri, Dec 25, 2015 – Paolo Pasco

Ok. What do we got? I tried to identify the seed entries in each corner. Going clockwise, I’m guessing PENTATONIX, UZO ADUBA, AZIZ ANSARI, and FISH TACO (though LASER TAG is right up there).

Look at those lovely NW and SE corners. In the NW, PENTATONIX may have been the seed entry, but look at what’s above it: JUMP SCARES and ONE AT A TIME! And look what’s crossing them all: JOPLIN, RING POP, and SEXAHOLIC (crossing at the X—awesome!). I didn’t know the phrase JUMP SCARES, but am glad to have learned it now. Oh, true fact here: my son got CATAN for Christmas; that’s how I knew 6D.

In the SE, AZIZ ANSARI sits atop WE’RE DOOMED and SEASON PASS with no crappy crossings. How is that possible? In fact, we get CHAINSAWS, SHAKIRA, and YO MAMA!

The NE only has one superstar answer, UZO ADUBA, but it’s still a rock solid corner. ADUBA is an Emmy-winner for her role on Orange Is the New Black. This was a name I didn’t know (haven’t watched the show) but was glad to learn it. She has some chops, too. Check out the video at the bottom of this post.

And in the SW, FISH TACO and LASER TAG make a great combo. And don’t think I didn’t notice the restraint in the FISH TACO clue. The puzzle is fantastic with the straight clue; the vulgar clue would have brought it down a notch. The slang meaning is there and obvious for anyone who wants it, but this just demonstrates that a great puzzle doesn’t need to resort to vulgarities for emotional impact.

The rest of the puzzle is solidly filled in with the likes of VANESSA Gabriella, YES MA’AM, GRATEFUL, THE CAN, Gregor MENDEL, and AISHA Tyler.

Favorite clues:

  • 57A [Isn’t picky?] for STRUMS
  • 8D [Candy that’s perfect for proposing to your preschool crush with] for RING POP
  • 38D [They often begin with champagne, for short] for YRS. A sad entry, but redeemed by a nice clue referring to New Years Eve parties.

Clues with issues:

  • 53D [Perfect 10, lookswise] CUTIE. Hmm. 10 implies more than just cuteness to me.
  • 67A [wow very meme such shiba inu] DOGE. What the what? Anyone have an explanation for this one?
  • 18A [Water under the (draw)bridge] MOAT. I knew where this was going immediately, but a MOAT has water in it; it’s not the actual water.

Some minor issues there, but overall, this is a wonderful puzzle that makes a fantastic end-of-year present.

Let’s watch UZO ADUBA rock the role of Hannibal Lecter:


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19 Responses to Sunday, December 27, 2015

  1. Gary R says:

    Enjoyed the NYT – cute theme and good fill without a lot of crosswordese.

    Amy, I thought the clue for ANGLOS was fine. In the Hispanic community, it’s a common term for white folk, whether they’re of English descent or not.

    The clue for 32-A was cute, but would have worked better for “wood.” Maybe it should have been “You might take it out for a short drive.”

    • john farmer says:

      The clue for ANGLOS is all right, though the term doesn’t refer to all whites. But it’s about as close as you’ll get in a crossword, where a few subtleties get lost in keeping it short.

      ANGLOS means different things in different contexts. Here in So Cal, it’s most often used to refer to non-Hispanic whites. Though it’s short for angloparlante (English-speaking), ANGLO doesn’t usually apply to the 80%+ of Hispanics (white or other) who speak English, even English-only speakers like our former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

      For the record, it’s not a disparaging term, though some whites may take exception because Anglo, as short for Anglo-American, implies English heritage. Most white Americans, however, have ties to countries other than England. My Irish-American ancestors might have thought it curious (or worse) to be lumped in with the Anglos. But that’s the way it goes.

  2. David L says:

    Easy puzzle but nice theme — WINDOWFRAME and ONIONRINGS are cute.

    AGELESS before AGELONG… Don’t like plural DNAS (do the folks at CSI ever say “we gotta work fast, a whole new bunch of DNAs came in this morning…”)

    And I believe there is an error at 3D: I’m not aware of any PLOWMAN in the Canterbury Tales, and the Cliffs Notes guide doesn’t list one. Perhaps a confusion with the non-Chaucerian Piers Plowman.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Apparently the Plowman is referenced as the Parson’s brother in the General Prologue but absent from the tales proper. A plowman tale was added post-Chaucer, but has long been understood as apocryphal & omitted from standard printings. Would love this clued as “Digger of earth in ‘All Along the Watchtower'” but this is perhaps asking too much.

  3. Papa John says:

    I want to give kudos to Liz Gorski for her terrific Xmas puzzle. (Remember — the extra AV Club from last week?) It was unusually difficult for one of her offerings but that was just fine with me. I like to chew on something tough, once in a while. If I was at all disappointed, it would have been due to the puzzle not being one of her visual masterpieces. When can we expect to see another one of those, Liz? It’s been some time since the last one.

  4. Mark says:

    Purists would note that “catsup” is the red sauce spelling favored not by answer Heinz, but by its rival Hunts, also a five letter starting with H.

    • David L says:

      I meant to mention that if ‘red sauce’ is a Britishism it’s one that I’m not familiar with. We used to call it ketchup.

      Despite many years in my adopted country, I still can’t stand the stuff. You won’t report me to the authorities, I hope.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes Heinz is very specifically called ketchup. Sloppy call-back clue. The cluing for INHALES seemed a little lazy too, at least to me. Good puzzle overall, though.

    • Papa John says:

      No. 3 Best-Selling Condiment: Heinz Ketchup

      Total sales: $278,647,900
      Total sales: 114,466,800
      Avg. price: $2.43

      Surprised Heinz 57 wasn’t the best-selling condiment in the U.S.? You probably aren’t alone. Despite its seeming ubiquity, the nation’s best-selling ketchup neither sells as many units or generates as much sales as the best-selling mayo or salsa. It does, however, dominate the $481 million U.S. ketchup market, with nearly 60 percent of total sales.

      • Christopher Smith says:

        There was something a few years ago about ketchup being “the perfect food” due to the combination of sweet, sour, bitter, salt & umami. People are becoming more sophisticated cooks though & can create those flavors without relying on “tomato goop.”

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Jim, “doge” is internet-speak for a meme that involves dog pictures, particularly pics of Shiba Inus.

  6. Chris says:

    Good thing I live near PEORIA and am well acquainted with it…otherwise that crossing with FARINA would have been a guess. As far as FARINA goes, I’m much more acquainted with the writer Richard.

  7. Paolo P. says:

    BF: Thanks so much, Jim, for the kind review! A couple incidental notes: The seed entry guesses were pretty much spot-on (JUMP SCARES was the only other one). Also, I got Settlers of CATAN for Christmas too, so a nice coincidence there. Thanks as usual to Caleb for making things wayyyyy better; hope it was enjoyable!

  8. Susan L says:

    Reagle link is to another puzzle with the same name. Link should refer to the write up from Sunday, 10/14/12. BTW, thanks for the links!

Comments are closed.