Sunday, January 31, 2016

CS 20:49 (Ade) 


Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 6:08 (Andy) 


NYT 9:06 (Amy) 


WaPo 9:42 (Amy) 


Yaakov Bendavid’s New York Times crossword, “Message to Buyers”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 31 16 "Message to Buyers"

NY Times crossword solution, 1 31 16 “Message to Buyers”

The theme is various phrases that might appear on something you buy, but reinterpreted as if they’re about other things:

  • 23a. [Notice regarding voting in a state legislature?], ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.
  • 34a. [Sign on the N.S.A.’s entrance?], INTEL INSIDE. This is a good one, though it is the only theme phrase that is a brand’s slogan rather than a generic phrase.
  • 56a. [Audition caution for a movie with a cast of thousands?], CONTAINS SMALL PARTS.
  • 78a. [Note on a watered-down assault indictment?], BATTERY NOT INCLUDED.
  • 97a. [Offer of free pillow fill?], NO MONEY DOWN. This one has to be parsed as awkwardly hyphenated (“no-money down”)—when do we use “no-money” as a modifier? This theme entry also sticks out because NO MONEY DOWN is more something you’d see in a car ad than on a product, and because the clue takes a commercial angle.
  • 113a. [Desert supermarket?], STORE IN A DRY PLACE.

The theme struck me as a bit of a “dry place” itself. The theme clues didn’t much amuse. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

Six things:

  • 106a. [Thrice, in prescriptions], TER. Maybe a century ago, this was true. One of my least favorite crossword repeaters. TER had plenty of company from the likes of AMAT (duplicating Spanish TE AMO), ONE-A, LAPP, T-TOP, OCTA, MARNE, AGER, and so forth.
  • 121a. [Formal letter opener], TO SIR. Really? “To” and a singular “sir,” and not, say, DEAR SIR or DEAR SIRS? Seems awkward to me.
  • Favorite fill: DEADPAN, TIMEOUT, SPUTNIK, BON MOT, SABOTAGE, RISOTTO. Nice stuff, but not in the “exciting and new” category of fill.
  • 46a. [Command and Control], KEYS on a computer keyboard. Nice play on “command and control.”
  • 3d. [Overhead items], COSTS. Just one letter off from COATS you might stow in the overhead bin! Yes, I fell for that one.
  • 30a. [Pride : lions :: mob : ___], EMUS. Who knew? Not I. I like to think this clue was written with Deb Amlen in mind.

3.3 stars from me. I didn’t have as much fun here as I’d have hoped.

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

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.31.16

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword solution, 01.31.16

Good morning, everyone, on this last day in January! I know February is afoot since I’m already seeing the teddy bears and all of the other merchandise that’s usually trotted out for Valentine’s Day.

Today’s Challenge comes from our stacking extraordinaire, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, and, as always, I love the challenge of figuring out those long answers while having as few letters filled in before figuring them out. In that sense, the top stack was a breeze, while the bottom stack was much tougher, with the highlight being THIS YEAR’S KISSES (61A: [Benny Goodman hit of 1937]). Didn’t Billie Holiday sing that? Or a different version of that? Parsing BLEW ONE’S OWN HORN was even tougher to parse out, strangely enough, as I couldn’t get a good read on it given the clue (50A: [Crowed]). Some blow their own horns, others toot them, I guess. Other than that, wasn’t that much of a problem, and liked seeing the entirety of ZHOU EN-LAI in the grid (36D: [One of Mao’s men]). There were a couple of entries where I just had to trust the crosses. If CAS is not the French word for “case,” then I have no idea what’s going on with that (9D: [Job for Poirot]). Also, ANELE was absolutely brand new to me, as I’m sure many Adele fans would have been disappointed if they did this puzzle and saw that entry (46D: [Anoint, old-style]). Nice grid overall, and we should raise our glasses to the constructor. À votre SANTÉ (37A: [French toast portion?]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SIXER (31A: [Dr. J was one]) – There was a time not too long ago when being a SIXER meant that you were on one of the best basketball teams in the NBA. Well, if you’re a Philadelphia 76er this year, that means you were part of the worst stretch of basketball in NBA history, as this year’s team started the season 0-18, tied for the worst start ever. If going back to the end of last season, when the Sixers lost 10 straight to end the season, the 28-game losing streak is now the worst losing skid in league history. Maybe Dr. J, even at 65 years old, could still help the team right now.

Have a good rest of your weekend, everybody!

Take care!


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Bi-Tunes” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 1/31/16 • "Bi-Tunes" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

CRooked • 1/31/16 • “Bi-Tunes” • Cox, Rathvon • solution

If there’s some wordplay or cleverness embedded in the title, I’m not seeing it. The theme’s conceit, however, is easy to perceive: two song titles by the same artist, linked to suggest a new and expanded meaning. In an earlier era, this would probably have been framed as hypothetical 45rpm singles: Song A b/w Song B.

  • 27a. [Mick reveals what makes him frisky?] WILD HORSES START ME UP. Rolling Stones.
  • 44a. [Overnight flights available to Taylor Swift?] RED EYES OPEN.
  • 56a. [Brian Wilson travels extremely locally?] I GET AROUND IN MY ROOM. Beach Boys.
  • 66a. [The Beatles unveil their time machine?] I’LL BE BACK TOMORROW.
  • 84a. [Michael Jackson pans Stephen King?] BAD THRILLER.
  • 96a. [Springsteen’s mayoral campaign slogan?] BORN TO RUN MY HOMETOWN.

These are kind of cute.

  • Redundancy roundup: 3d [Mac or iPad sort] MINI, 26a [Holder of tunes] IPOD (crossing IHOP by the way; has apple bought them  yet?). 96d [Rum-soaked cake] BABA, 1d [Barmy] RUM.
  • What does it say about my personality that my first instinct for 20a [“___ my case”]  was NOT IN rather than I REST?
  • 33a [Chez Lucifer?] HELL, not ENFER. See also 34a [Hot] FUMING, 60a [Canyon ___, AZ] DIABLO.
  • Some effective misdirections, or simply non-obvious cluing: 95a [Aproned worker] SMITH (nothing culinary), 23a [Card] MENU, 82a [Lawn undesirable] GRUB, 52d [Witty quip] SALLY, 84d [Conk] BEAN.
  • Non-theme musicians: 13d [“Dark Lady” singer] CHER, 36d [“Goin’ Gone” singer Kathy] MATTEA, 92d [Crow with a good voice] SHERYL, 47a [Pop singer Perry] KATY (crossing the Kathy clue, above), 94a [Bee Gees surname] GIBB.
  • 68d [One of nine Muses] ERATO. But by far the most common one in crosswords. Sometimes we see CLIO, but clued as the advertising award more often than not. Then there are the far less frequent THALIA and URANIA, followed by the very uncommon EUTERPE and CALLIOPE. Finally, the not-unless-they’re-part-of-a-theme TERPSICHORE, MELPOMENE, and POLYHYMNIA.
  • Long non-theme entries aren’t particularly long but they have panache. STULTIFY, GUNPOINT, POPULATED, PAY PHONES, EARTHMEN, GAS STOVE.
  • Seemed like more than a typical number of fill-in-the-blank clues using spoken expressions in quotes. Not that this is a bad thing, or even that there were in fact a greater quantity of them (i.e., I’m not going to enumerate).

Solid but gentle crossword.

Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Misaligned”—Andy’s review

LAT puzzle 01.31.16, "Misaligned," by Mark Bickham

LAT puzzle 01.31.16, “Misaligned,” by Mark Bickham

OFF isn’t a trigram that splits particularly nicely. It’s either gonna be -OFF, OFF-, or ___ OF F-. Given that, Mark Bickham has included some lively phrases with OFF directly in their center — thus, OFF-CENTER at 121a [Misaligned … or, literally, a perfectly aligned aspect of seven answers in this puzzle]. Themers:

  • 21a, THE OFFICE [Place of business]. I strongly suspect Mark had the massively popular TV show in mind when he included this as a theme answer.
  • 23a, SHOW OF FORCE [Powerful display].
  • 39a, REPEAT OFFENDERS [Recidivists]. A gimme, if you know what recidivist means.
  • 48a, PEACE OFFERING [Olive branch].
  • 93a, SMIRNOFF VODKA [Red Label spirits].
  • 102a, CIRCLE OF FRIENDS [Clique].
  • 119a, SHIP OF FOOLS [Vivien Leigh’s last film].

All lively enough phrases, none of which use “off” as a standalone word. SMIRNOFF VODKA and SHIP OF FOOLS are particularly good finds.

The main highlight of the grid here is meant to be the triple-stacked 11s in the NW and SE. At the top, we have ACTS THE PART, “SO HOW ARE YOU?”, and EVER AND ANON. I had a hard time breaking into that stack, which (as you can see) is why I finished in that corner after working the puzzle clockwise from the 12 o’clock position. Three very uncommon phrases to see in crosswords, all cool to see. The crossings (SOR, A SEC, HANA) weren’t my favorite, though. The opposite stack of ART DIRECTOR, TOOK LEAVE OF, and SWEATSHIRTS is a little more commonplace, but still interesting, and the crossings are nicer (except maybe the Roman numeral CVI and the plural ARFS).

And then in the other corners there are pairs of stacked 9s: UNRAVELED/DOCTORATE and IRWIN SHAW/SPARE TIRE. I didn’t know about Irwin Shaw until a certain True Daily Double on Jeopardy! last year. Little Rascals fans were probably overjoyed to see both “ALFALFA’S Aunt” and OTAY. This may also be the first time I can remember seeing NRA clued as the National Restaurant Association (as opposed to, you know, the other NRA). I like it! Not sure whether that was a conscious choice by the constructor, but I probably would’ve chosen NBA/BOOT there.

Lots of short stuff in the middle of the grid, some of it better than others. Felt roughly average for a Sunday LAT in terms of theme, fill, difficulty, etc., except for those corner stacks.

Until next time!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Perfect Game”—Amy’s write-up

Washington Post Sunday crossword, 1 31 16, "Perfect Game"

Washington Post Sunday crossword, 1 31 16, “Perfect Game”

Hello, and welcome to the first post on one of Evan’s Sunday puzzles in the Post. (His first eight puzzles are available in .puz format until February 8 at this link.)

The theme, as suggested by the title, relates to a perfect game in bowling (300, scored by rolling 12 strikes in a row). On a bowling scoresheet, a strike is represented by an X. So we have 12 Across answers in which STRIKE is represented as an X, and the crossing Down answers just use the X as a regular letter X.

We’ve got a HUNGER {strike}, {strike}S HOME , LABOR {strike}, {strike} WHILE THE IRON IS HOT, LIGHTNING {strike}, {strike} ZONES, THE EMPIRE {strike}S BACK, LUCKY {strike}, {strike} UP THE BAND, THREE {strike}S AND YOU’RE OUT, {strike}S DOWN, and {strike} A POSE—a terrific set of phrases to hold the {strike} rebus squares. 130a: TEN PINS is placed near the bottom of the grid to help hold the set together.

This is my first time solving one of Evan’s Post puzzles. Overall sense: The fill may be a little heavily weighted with names. I might have gotten that sense from 1-Across being STU with an unfamiliar clue ([Miranda’s boyfriend in “Mrs. Doubtfire”]? Really?), crossing 1d SHEL, crossing an unfamiliar-to-me LEON ([“Resident Evil 4” hero]?). I’m usually good with names, but with this STU, LEON, and an EARL, I had to lean on the crossings. The puzzle also skews a good bit younger than the previous 21×21 puzzle the Post published, Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword. More video game references, fewer mentions of old movies and music.

Seven more things:

  • 70a. [Ford vehicle released in 1980], THE EMPIRE {strike}S BACK. Man! With a CK at the end, I wanted it to be TRUCK. And no, I can’t think of any Ford trucks with “strike” in the name.
  • 67a. [Certain Ambrosian hymn], TE DEUM. No idea what “Ambrosian hymn” means.
  • 86d. [Abstentious group?], AEIOU. As in the vowels in “abstentious.” Clever.
  • 89d. [Console with a Kinect motion sensor], XBOX ONE. Neat how this two-X term crosses two {strike} rebus squares.
  • 76a. [Alfalfa, e.g.], RASCAL. As in the Little Rascals, aka Our Gang.
  • 19d. [Term coined by Percival Lowell for a hypothetical world beyond Neptune], PLANET X. Never heard of this term, nor of Percival Lowell.
  • 116a. [Totally bumpin’ bash], RAVE. Wait. What age group uses bumpin’ this way? It’s not my age group, and it’s not my teenage son’s age group.

4.2 stars from me.

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16 Responses to Sunday, January 31, 2016

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    Maybe shouldn’t say this, after ranting about yesterday’s NYT, but this one seemed almost too easy. Pretty much agree with everything Amy says; nice theme but too much of a mish-mash involving directions, slogans & other ad copy. Maybe “To Sir” is more British (thinking of “To Sir, With Love”)? No idea. Also FWIW I liked the SW with BANDOLERO & MANSMAN.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: It was on the easy side. And while it was not a hilarious theme, I always give points for trying something different, especially when the sentences in the grid you wind up writing are real ones and not some whacky variant. And, of course, it’s a commentary on the English language and the many different meanings of a given word… as in the two meanings of “Battery” here— they really do seem far from each other.

  3. huda says:

    Re yesterday’s comments about the modeling shows– for Project Runway, there was a search for actual design talent and ability to execute, so even though it could make you cringe at times, I could see the point. But America’s Next Top Model was just sad. I only saw it once or twice when someone else in the family was watching, and felt so bad for these young girls– all so vulnerable, focusing on appearance above all else, trying to please these judgmental and capricious people, at a time when many of the competitors are at a stage when they don’t know who they are or what they stand for. And they’re pitted against each other… it feels so wrong.

  4. JohnV says:

    MAS offering was dead easy.

  5. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Re ‘To Sir’. I agree, especially since it could have been clued with reference to the Sidney Poitier movie ‘To Sir with Love.

  6. mitch says:

    Thanks for WaPo links!!! Great puzzle today, no write-up?

  7. Evan says:

    Thanks. There’ve been talks about having a regular write-up here, and it looks like the one for today is “to come.” For what it’s worth, I do write-ups of my own puzzles at this WaPo blog, although if you’re not a subscriber, you’ll only have a limited number of free WaPo articles you can access each month.

    • Evan says:

      Also: it looks like the Across Lite files for new WaPo Sunday Mag puzzles will be available at 6 pm ET on Saturdays, at the same time Sunday NYT puzzles become available.

    • David Steere says:

      PERFECT GAME is wonderful! Having read Birnholz’s blog about his own puzzle, I must admit I was misled by another apparent bit of misdirection. For half of the puzzle, I thought the subject was a perfect game in baseball. A few of the theme answers even work–almost–with “hit” instead of “strike” The creativity and sense of humor Evan has displayed in all of his new Post crosswords makes him a great successor to Merl.

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Another very good constructor who seems to have fallen off the map — Mike Nothnagel. Anyone know anything about him?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I do! I too miss Mike’s wonderful themeless puzzles. We’ve been keeping him busy at Daily Celebrity Crossword, though. Mike’s great at crafting really easy puzzles for DCC as well as making tough ones with juicy fill—excellent gridding skills all around.

    • Mike Nothnagel says:

      Hi Bruce,

      Word has it that he’s still constructing. He’s in Games World of Puzzles every month, and is part of PuzzleSocial’s Daily Celebrity Crossword rotation. He constructed for the Washington Post Puzzler for a while, too, so he’s been on different maps as of late.

      I’ll let him know you were asking after him. :)

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Thanks. I’ll take both of your replies as excellent evidence that he is still around and active. :-)

  9. Martin says:

    Hi Ade,

    Thanks as always for reviewing my Sunday Challenge… and I think I can speak for all of us at CrosSynergy when I say how very much we appreciate the time you take out of your obviously busy schedule to review our puzzles (this of course applies to all of the reviewers).

    Actually, the amount of time and effort Amy puts in, has helped publicize ALL of the crosswords reviewed here, The increased Google hits too that EVERY constructor and publication gets makes a big difference alone.

    I’d be lying too, if I didn’t admit to my own ego getting bruised on occasion over the last decade, but as the ever quotable Oscar Wilde once said: “The only thing worse that being talked about, is NOT being talked about!” (or words to that effect).

    But let me say a few words:

    (translation: “ramble away”)

    about three of Ade’s comments regarding my “Sunday Challenge”:

    BLEW ONES OWN HORN: aside from the “onesie 15”, if I understand you correctly, you said that you couldn’t quite parse that with the clue “Crowed”. At the risk of telling you something you already know, I meant “crowed” in the sense of “boasted”. Which in my books is very much “blew/tooted one’s own horn”. (Although, to my ears, tooted is a bit more old/fashioned sounding). Neverless “blowing your own horn” and boasting, are pretty much the same. But we are trying to up the difficulty-level a tad, so I/we went with “Crowed”… notice how I’m trying to spread the blame around? ;)

    The other point is that ANELE is in my books a pretty crappy word to use in a crossword, stacks or no stacks. I very, very nearly opted out of using this puzzle because I hate this word.

    (“so why did you use it?” Hold on, I’ll think of an excuse… OK … )

    … in its defense, it is real and can still be found in a quite a few dictionaries, and for many solvers, it’s a dead give away, but a complete annoyance to newer solvers. Words like this give crosswords a bad name: so guilty as charged. But seriously, at the same time, I had to ask myself: was the grid taken as a whole sufficienty interesting to let this go?

    I came to the concusion, that in balance: it was. You’ll note, that I just clued this cluncker of a word (ANELE) as straight as possible, and not get fancy with the clue (although “Anoint, old-style, and in crosswords” may have been an alternative). However, one point I generally agree with that Amy stresses often, is if you do get stuck with a crap entry, it’s usually always best to clue it straight, as I did here. So it’s Amy’s fault (just kidding!)…

    Incidentally, CAS which is indeed French for “case”, is victim of the ongoing dislike of partials currently (and with some justification) in vogue. Given my druthers, I probably would have just clued CAS as “C, AS” thus “___ cat”, and have done with it. But it boiled down to finding the best top stack that would allow me to use XEROX TONER. I figured it was. But hey, your “milage may vary”.

    So remember, when all else fails just start rambling, and/or blame Amy ;)


  10. Martin says:


    Make that CAS: “___ in cat”


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