Sunday, January 10, 2016

CS 16:54 (Ade) 


Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 8:40 (Andy) 


NYT 13:01 (Amy) 


Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword, “Political Promises”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 10 16 "Political Promises"

NY Times crossword solution, 1 10 16 “Political Promises”

The theme is unspoken follow-ups to pat politician promises:

  • 23a. [“Unemployment will be a thing of the past!”] … FOR ME, IF I AM ELECTED.
  • 35a. [“No new taxes!”] … JUST MORE OF THE OLD ONES.
  • 54a. [“I will maintain a strong defense!”] … WHEN OPPONENTS ATTACK ME.
  • 77a. [“Deficit spending must stop!”] … DONATE TO MY CAMPAIGN NOW.
  • 93a. [“I’ll slow this country’s spread of drugs!”] … EXPECT CUTS IN MEDICARE. Good lord, the 65+ cohort already have a hard enough time affording their medications. We’re going to joke about taking away their meds now?
  • 113a. [“Education will be my top priority!”] … I’VE GOT A LOT TO LEARN.

The theme is all right, but the expansive length of the six theme entries means that the vast majority of the Down answers intersect one or two themers. That constrains the constructor’s wiggle room in filling the grid, and the result is that I was not having fun with this puzzle. I kept scowling at a SLEW OF non-ideal fill. Partials A BAN, A DAB, A DOT, A DRAG. Plural RNAS duplicating the “ribonucleic acid” portion of DNA LAB. Plural SETHS crossing LST OOH CTRS. SAE (that’s [Coll. fraternity]). Awkward “WHO, YOU?” (clued as 63d. [Question of surprise to a volunteer]). SECT clued as a stadium ticket abbreviation when SECT is a perfectly ordinary common noun. In a grid with so many abbreviations packed in, take advantage of the full-word option!

Some of the cluing put me off, too. 19a. [Crack open, in a way] for UNCORK? Are you just cracking the glass in your wine bottle here? (You’re doing it wrong.) 80d. [It might be patted on the back] for TALC? If you’re using it during diapering, you’re probably patting it lower down than the back; and you really don’t want to use talcum powder around infants (corn starch powder is safer). Is this just a random body part being powdered after an adult takes a shower or something? Just weird.

I don’t even know why this puzzle took me nearly twice as long as an easy Sunday puzzle. Because it was making me irritated? Or because the theme entries weren’t always easy to assemble (especially when crossings like WHOYOU get filled in as WHYYOU at first)?

I’m off to watch the vampire documentary What We Do in the Shadows (here’s a trailer for it), which my husband started watching when I was a minute into this puzzle. I paused the timer, watched five funny minutes, and then asked my honey to pause the movie till I was done blogging. It mandates my full attention!

Three stars for the puzzle.

Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.10.16

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.10.16

Good morning, everyone! Happy Sunday to you all, and I hope you’re all doing great.

Posting a little earlier than usual since I’m more than likely on the road to Washington D.C. as you’re reading this right now. Today’s Challenge was brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, and it played a little easier than some of the more recent Sunday offerings – thought it was far from A BUNCH OF BALONEY (17A: [Nonsense]). Initially wanted “A Bunch of Malarkey” in that space before realizing that would be one letter too long. Getting that 15-letter entry pretty much opened up everything in the grid up top, and that part fell quickly. Can’t say the same thing happened towards the bottom. Putting in YALIE (45D: [George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush]). made me think that 15-letter intersecting entry was “San Andreas Fault,” being that I had the “L” in place towards the end. All of the other down entries weren’t making sense with that inputted, so got rid of that quickly…and then loved the actual entry for it, AVERAGE RAINFALL (51A: [Its US extremes are in Hawaii and California]). Do you know we’re approaching the seven-year anniversary of when Chesley Sullenberger was able to CRASH LAND that plane safely on the Hudson River (29D: [Perform a feat like Captain Sullenberger’s])? It happened on Jan. 15, 2009, and still amazes me how that feat was achieved without any human casualties. OK, off the top of your head, how many names of the pets of former U.S. Presidents can you name, like the one referenced in the clue to CAT (21A: [Socks, e.g.])? To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to rattle off a whole lot of names, but I’m sure someone here has a memory bank with a lot of the names of those White House pets stored in it – or at least the ones that have been in the Oval Office since about the middle of the last century. To boot, I’m still trying to know why the UNICORN has gained in popularity over the past few years (16A: [Legendary beast symbolizing chastity]). It probably has to do with so many memes focusing on the unicorn, like this one…


“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SELES (38A: [1990s tennis champ with nine Grand Slam titles]) – Amazingly, of those nine Grand Slam singles titles won by Monica SELES in her career, eight of them came before she reached the age of 20. After coming back from the tragic 1993 stabbing incident in Germany and sitting out for almost two years afterwards, she won her eighth and final Grand Slam at the 1996 Australian Open.

Have a good rest of your weekend, everybody!

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Teller of Secrets” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 1/10/16 • "Teller of Secrets" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

CRooked • 1/10/16 • “Teller of Secrets” • Cox, Rathvon • solution

Featuring a sensible quote from Teller—[E] (78a) Raymond Joseph Teller, though he’s legally changed his name to the mononym—of Penn and Teller fame.

{… [A] revelation from illusionist Teller} SOMETIMES MAGIC IS | JUST SOMEONE SPENDING | MORE TIME ON SOMETHING | THAN ANYONE ELSE MIGHT | REASONABLY EXPECT. (23a, 34a, 62a, 88a, 108a)

Breaks down rather nicely.

  • 95a [Shape of Rubik’s puzzle] CUBE, 101a [Ark spec] CUBIT; unrelated etymologically. 40d [Casting the peepers] GAZING, 98a [Arbor edifice] GAZEBO; possibly related etymologically.
  • 81a [Dick who was 1960’s NL MVP] GROAT, 86a [Meal of note in “My Cousin Vinny”] GRITS. Since the hulled grain GROAT is related etymologically to GRITS, it’s understandable why the surnominal approach was used in the former clue.
  • 72a [Bottom fish?] SOLE, 73d [Flatfish you can eat] BRILL. The question mark is unnecessary in the former, but it serves to highlight the latent double entendre.
  • You, you, you … 35a [Lone Star sch.] UTEP, 58a [Pac-12 campus] UCLA.
  • 6d [Diamond corner] HOME, but it tricked me toward BASE. 45d [Snap] had PIE before PIC, possibly influenced by 12d [First stuff to learn] ABCS?
  • 33d [Till denomination] TENS. Doesn’t is seem that the clue is prompting for the singular?

Not finding too much to get excited about or discuss in this one. The quote’s okay, the ballast fill and the cluing is sturdy yet unexceptional (aside from the very occasional proclivity for stilted constructions – e.g. the already-replicated 40d and 98a, 49a [Oater loop] LASSO, and perhaps another one or two clues).

Matt Skoczen’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Mixed Doubles”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 1.10.16, "Mixed Doubles," by Matt Skoczen

LAT Puzzle 1.10.16, “Mixed Doubles,” by Matt Skoczen

This seems like a familiar theme, mostly because I feel like I’ve made this joke before — this week, Matt Skoczen messed around a little bit and got a double double…

Oh, right! I know where I’ve seen this before. It was a weekday NYT puzzle by David J. Lieb in late July 2015, the last time I guest blogged for Rex Parker. The publication dates are so close together, it’s very likely these puzzles were written around the same time. It’s always unfortunate to be the second to print in these situations.

I liked this theme just fine the last time I saw it. The major difference between the NYT puzzle and this one is that David used real phrases where both words could, coincidentally, be preceded by DOUBLE; here, Matt gives us made-up phrases by mashing together two words that could follow DOUBLE. Points to David on that front, but there’s certainly no way to make a reasonable Sunday-sized grid doing what David did. Plus, this way, hilarity ensues. Themers:

  • 24a, DATE STANDARD [Dinner and a movie?]. Double date/double standard. Funny!
  • 31a, DUTCH WHAMMY [Rotten luck in Rotterdam?]. Double dutch/double whammy.
  • 47a, SPACE WEDDING [Ceremony for the Jetsons?]. Double space/double wedding. 
  • 70a, INDEMNITY QUOTES [Citations from an underwriter?]. Double Indemnity/double quotes. I feel like [Estimates from an underwriter?] would’ve been a better clue, but this is solid.
  • 94a, FAULT TROUBLE [Earthquake?]. Double fault/double trouble. I’m a sucker for one-word clues in these kinds of themes.
  • 110a, VISION AGENT [Lenscrafters employee?]. Double vision/double agent.
  • 120a, JEOPARDY DUTY [Answering in the form of a question?]. Double jeopardy/double duty.

I like this theme, and I thought it was executed well. When you’ve got semi-nonsense phrases like this as your theme, the clues have to be funny or else it’s just a drag, and I thought these were pretty good.

This puzzle took me much longer than the usual Sunday LAT, and I can’t exactly pinpoint why. There was some tough stuff in here, like the least famous of three [“1984” superstate]sEASTASIA, the [Fast tropical swimmers] WAHOOS, the [Greek goddesses of the seasons] HORAE, the [Sibilant sound] WHISH (which I’ve never heard of before), [Silvio’s lover in “Pagliacci”] NEDDA, and so on. Was confused when New York didn’t fit for [Millard Fillmore’s birthplace], until I pieced together LOG CABIN. I now autofill ATTU for any clue beginning with “Alaskan/Aleutian island…”. I kind of liked the weirdly shaped NW and SE corners — very unusual to see something like that in a Sunday puzzle, so you start off with some long, difficult fill and a few three-letter gluey entries.

Overall, a mixed bag. There was some fun fill (besides the aforementioned, there was stuff like RED-HEADED, CK ONE, MR. BIG (with a Bond clue instead of a Sex and the City clue), LOCK EYES), but there was also stuff like ATTU, HORAE, ORDO, GET NO, DCI (with a Diner’s Club clue), SIG, ORLES, and plenty of short abbrevs. and partials.

Until next time!

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18 Responses to Sunday, January 10, 2016

  1. Gary R says:

    The NYT theme would have been more entertaining if this were not an election year. At the moment, the answers seem to be more “sadly plausible” than satirical/humorous.

    I had no problem with 19-A. Where I come from, to “crack open” a bottle of wine or (given my libationary preferences) a beer, is very much in the language.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      “Crack open a bottle” not only completely idiomatic to me, but something I actually say, (I hope not too) often.

      As we all know, there are many words and expressions acceptable in crosswords that no one ever actually uses. One is “relo.” Michele was (very successful) Realtor for a couple years in VT, mostly for lack of anything else remunerative to do. I knew lots of Realtors, lectured to the VT association of Realtors on their Code of Ethics (yes, there is one,) and I never once heard anyone use the word “relo”. I mentioned it to a couple of them, and their reaction was “I suppose it’s short for relocate.” But as I say there are many other instances in crosswords.

      I’m afraid I found the puzzle a bit tedious too.

      I rarely make negative comments about puzzles, even contrarian comments that go against the majority, but I will confess here that I disliked that LAT puzzle a few days ago that other people praised — the Knock Knock Ring Ring puzzle as I called it.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I think RELO may be more of a corporate/HR term than real estate. “Relo package” is what the company puts together to relocate an employee or new hire to a different city. My neighbor worked for IBM and they promised to buy her home if it didn’t sell quickly, as well as covering costs for movers and for trips to find a new home in the new city.

      • Christopher Smith says:

        Perhaps the “in a way” provides enough leeway to accept “crack open” as one of those IDIOMS but Amy’s other critiques are completely valid. NYT has not exactly covered itself in glory this weekend.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Sorry for all this duplication. With apologies for burdening Amy, I’m trying to get one of these deleted.

  2. Matt says:

    I agree that the NYT was a slog, relieved periodically by the jokes in the theme entries. Not a bad puzzle, but not as much fun as one would like.

    • Papa John says:

      My experience was just the opposite. The “jokes” weren’t funny at all and in no way made the puzzle enjoyable. They did exhibit a bit of irony, I suppose, but not humor. The slog was trying to parse out those long, anything-goes theme entries. Is there a source for these particular jokes or were they simply made up by Patrick? There’s not much a solver can go on, other than working enough of the crosses to make out the thematic answers.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    SPOILER HERE. (but Andy has posted a solution)

    Has anyone done Andy Kravis’s puzzle ‘Face On”? It’s amazing, but STOP HERE if you would like to do it, because you’ve never seen anything like it.

    As far as I know a totally original, idea — some of the squares have photos of faces. I wondered if my prosopagnosia would prevent me from making much progress with it, but actually it didn’t. I’m assuming that all the faces are different photos of Nicholas Cage. I understand how some of the theme (picture) entries work, but I don’t seem to be able to extend the analysis to all of them. But again, I you haven’t seem it, you’ve never seen anything like it.

  4. Linda says:

    About relo: If I remember correctly, Relo was the actual name of a third-party organization that companies used to place their employees with Realtors for their move out of town. Of course, the departing employees had already negotiated a favorable pay package for after the move. I know because I helped some of them find their new homes back in the day when I was mostly a stay at home Mom. The perks for travel etc. in moving were a superb motivation also.

  5. bob says:

    Double Whammy @ LAT – two in a row: ZERO from me. Problem is, when trying to keep their “clever” theme intact, puzzle writers take hugely liberal sidesteps in their defs.. Slangy street talk, abbr., and their “fixes”(pre and suf). What used to be a test of verbal knowledge is now an exercise in second guessing allusions about pop culture and where the labyrinth of faulty thought processes the constructor used to make the puzzle meet their theme’s needs. I know I speak blasphemy to the “true believers” – I’m sorry about that, but, as a puzzler for over 50 years, I feel ignored – or, better, “passed over”. However, I WILL NOT give up my quest seeking to instill puzzles with the test of word knowledge and the power of exact language. Call me quixotic – I’m proud of the title!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Wouldn’t it make more sense to write to the Los Angeles Times? Because I don’t think you’re persuading any crossword constructors here to make 1975-style crosswords.

      • bob says:

        Ah, 1975?? Does being in 2016 exonerate people for going to crossword help (“cheat”) sites (any one of the two dozen or so) to do their thinking for them? Has the 21st Century negated the well honed personal mores of society? Cannot a person such as I have a different opinion without being vilified? Have I attacked some Ivory Towers?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I wasn’t talking about crossword-clue cheat sites. I was talking about online references. For example: IMDB for movies, Billboard for songs and albums, Wikipedia as an encyclopedic reference covering practically everything. There are also dictionaries and thesauruses available online. I fail to see any substantive difference between checking online references and print references.

          I’m not vilifying you, just really bored with your expressing the same criticism of the LAT puzzle pretty much every single weekend, as if you are somehow adding something new to the discourse. Yes, we have heard your cries for puzzles to be like they were 40-50 years ago. Crosswords have decided to be relevant to the current day, however. Complaining on a website that LA Times management doesn’t read will have zero chance of influencing the crossword.

        • Gary R says:


          Maybe you should give the USA Today crossword a try. It seems (to me, anyway) to be more straightforward in its cluing than the late-week LAT or NYT puzzles – and it’s available on-line for free. You’re still going to have to deal with some popular culture references, but that might be more manageable if the crosses are clued in a more straightforward way.

          • bob says:

            Thnx, Gary – hard to break a Sunday habit of a cup of freshly ground coffee, an easy chair and the LAT in my lap. I do have to complement the LAT for cluing about the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Little known but so-o-o important! As a retired teacher I have been there twice, once as an inductee!

  6. David and Heather says:

    Talcum powder is frequently applied after haircuts (at least, after men’s haircuts). However, it’s not applied to the back; rather, it’s lovely on one’s neck.

    We agreed that this puzzle had a lot of weird cluing and terrible fill, tho the theme answers were fun; your assessment was spot on.

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