Sunday, September 11, 2016

CS tk (Ade) 


Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 6:31 (Andy) 


NYT 10:29 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:10 (Jenni) 


Ned White and George Barany’s New York Times crossword, “Sack Time”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 16, "Sack Time"

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 16, “Sack Time”

The black squares in the center of the grid look like a rather uncomfortable bed, and the theme answers pertain to beds. COVER STORY, PILLOW TALK, and BLANKET STATEMENT all start with things that are found on a bed. There’s a SLEEPOVER at 49a, SAW LOGS on top of the bed, a MONSTER right under the bed, and a DUST BUNNY below that. Then CAME DOWN IN SHEETS and MESSAGE PAD have some bedding at the end of the phrase, unlike the first three themers. (Does anyone call a mattress pad anything but a mattress pad? I never hear it called just a PAD.) Then there’s “AND SO TO BED,” clued as the end of a generic diary entry rather than one by Samuel Pepys, which feels a little weird. Also weird: the interposition of SPELEOLOGY, ADD TO THE MIX, TWO-POINTERS, and TATE MUSEUM as Across answers that are longer than many of the theme entries. Weirder still: calling any of the four Tate institutions in England the TATE MUSEUM. That’s really not “in the language,” not among anyone who follows art or England.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of 93a. [“___ on Cards,” classic 1949 book], SCARNE. If I have, it was in a previous crossword, and I promptly forgot it as dated, irrelevant, and useless in my life. Also didn’t know a tap handle was called a BEER PULL; now, that’s something I don’t mind learning.

Crosswordese red alert: ALETA! ONER! IN E! -ULE! SIB! LST! Maybe AS ONE as a stand-alone phrase?

Can the plural OKRAS be used? I see a couple dictionaries define okra as “the green pods of …,” which suggests that a whole bunch of okra is still okra, and not okras. (Cueing Martin H with a “there are multiple kinds of okra, and you could talk about them as okras” defense” in 3, 2, 1…)

Who among us would drink a CATSUP ICEE? Anyone? Icee … I SEE IT (which feels contrived as an entry), I READ YOU“See Me, Feel Me.”

Heaven help you if you don’t know your current sports/reality TV names or your 62-year-old movie musicals, because if you don’t, that CYD/ODOM crossing in the center right may knock you out. There’s another ODOM of note besides Lamar Odom—Leslie Odom, Jr. of Hamilton/Tony Awards Best Actor fame. I bet he’ll break out into bigger TV/film fame soon.

3.6 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post Crossword, “Tool Time” – Jenni’s writeup

I was relieved to discover that this doesn’t have anything to do with Tim Allen’s show-within-a-show from “Home Improvement.” Each theme answer is a name or phrase that includes a tool, clued as if it were a wacky implement.

  • 23a [Carpentry tools for comedian Mac?] = BERNIE SANDERS.
  • 33a [Carpentry tool for a techie?] = WIRELESS ROUTERS.
  • 32d [Carpentry tools for a pilot?] = SKYSCRAPERS.
  • 48d [Carpentry tool for someone on Earth?] = GROUND LEVELS.
  • 58a [Carpentry tool for a speaker?] = MC HAMMER.
  • 72a [Carpentry tool for a pyromaniac?] = FIRE DRILL.
  • 82a [Carpentry tool for an attorney?] = CASE FILE.
  • 106a [Carpentry tool for a French mathematician?] = CARTESIAN PLANE.
  • 122a [Carpentry tool for Don Ho?] = HAWAIIAN PUNCH.

Solid, consistent, and amusing theme. I like the variation in length – the shorter theme answers were pleasant little surprises in the middle of the grid.

A few other things:

  • 4d [Gets the hell out, say?] = CENSORS. This made me giggle.
  • 37d [Christmas dish] = HAM. I put YAM in at first and didn’t change it until my review of the grid to see what was wrong. I had no idea what SYARK was, but apparently I thought it was a word.
  • 111d [Prepared, as fish or corsets] = BONED. Nice.
  • 92d [California valley that sounds like a greeting] and 102a [Frame side that sounds like a toast topping] are OJAI and JAMB respectively. I like this.
  • 126a [Doolittle taught by Professor Higgins] = ELIZA. I wonder when Eliza Schuyler Hamilton will replace Eliza Doolittle in our cultural (or at least crossword) consciousness.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a senior writer for named RAMONA  Shelburne.

Warren Stabler’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Risk Factor”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 09.11.16, "Risk Factor," by Warren Stabler

LAT Puzzle 09.11.16, “Risk Factor,” by Warren Stabler

Very similar concept to Warren’s last puzzle, in which PRISM was parsed as “PR is M.” Here, “risk” in the title should be parsed as “R is K,” meaning our theme entries replace an R with a K, with hilarity ensuing:

  • 22a, STAKING CONTEST [Battle of vampire slayers?]. Staring contest.
  • 35a, HOLIDAY CHEEK [“‘Dash away’ yourself, Santa! We’re tired!”?]. Holiday cheer.
  • 53a, SNAKE DRUMS [Band of vipers’ rhythm section?]. Snare drums.
  • 62/65a, EARNINGS PER SHAKE [With 65-Across, malt shop accountant’s calculation?]. Earnings per share.
  • 76a, DAYS OF YOKE [Time when all farms used plow-pulling oxen?]. Days of yore.
  • 92a, FISHING SPEAK [Angler’s slang?]. Fishing spear.
  • 109a, COKE CURRICULUM [Soda jerk’s course of study?]. Core curriculum.
  • 16d, SEND UP A FLAKE [Satirize the screwball?]. Send up a flare.
  • 58d, RAKE PAINTING [Portrait of a libertine?]. Rare painting. This one’s my least favorite; I don’t love “rare painting” as a base phrase.
William Hogarth did his fair share of RAKE PAINTING.

William Hogarth did his fair share of RAKE PAINTING.

The execution of this theme was fine, though I didn’t find the results particularly funny. There was a lot of theme material; there’s something to be said for cramming 9 themers into a 21×21 grid. The surrounding fill was fairly solid if a bit fusty (SAK, ULE, and the partial USE AS weren’t great, but also AERIAL was clued as [Passé reception aid], there was a HOSS reference for good measure when HUTS would have sufficed, APS was clued as [H.S. VIPs], which I guess must mean Assistant Principals?, MID was clued as [Central beginning] which I’m still a bit confused about, etc.), but PANDA CAM was a bright spot.

OK BY ME. Until next time!

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

CRooked • 9/11/16 • "Literary Figures" • Quigley • bg • solution

CRooked • 9/11/16 • “Literary Figures” • Quigley • bg • solution

The revealer cuts out the fat, like a ruthless editor: 115a [Theme of the puzzle] SUMMER READING. So: titles of literary works that could be interpreted as having to do with tabulation. Not specifically about adding, as the revealer suggests, but that’d admittedly by tough to stretch out to a full theme in a 21×21 grid.

  • 22a. [Tom Clancy novel, with “The”] SUM OF ALL FEARS. Already—with the first theme answer after seeing the revealer—we get a sum duplication. It’s completely understandable though.
  • 30a. [Alexander Dumas novel] THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Includes the the.
  • 47a. [Elmer Rice play, with “The”] ADDING MACHINE. Excludes the the.
  • 68a. [Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography] TOTAL RECALL. Taking its title from his 1990 film, based on the Philip K Dick story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. But I guess Arnie’s autobiography counts as literature.
  • 85a. [Fourth part of the Pentateuch, with “The”] BOOK OF NUMBERS. OK, back to the-peekaboo.
  • 100a. [Jennifer L. Armentrout YA novel] THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER. And back in it goes.

tallyhoenidSo. (minus the, plus the, no the, no the, minus the, plus the)  Theme answers are therefore the-neutral! And there’s a kind-of regular pattern. Nevertheless, by my accounting there’s just too much strain on this theme. Dupe of sum-, a celebrity autobiography, the the shenanigans, and the final two themers present generalized mathematics terms rather than the specific aspect that was promised: numbers and problem.

With the theme compromised, I was hoping the rest of the fill would make up the difference, but here too there were a lot of irksome bits. Not that there weren’t good parts too. BEQ is a very talented constructor, after all.

  • Probably the toughest crossing is over in the northeast. 14d [Slow down in scores] RITARD and 21a [Trickery] CHICANE. We more commonly see (the non-musical verb) RETARD and CHICANERY. Likewise, the second (superfluous?) suffix -al is shorn from the stacked 24a [Like ClickHole] SATIRIC. Ngram shows a perennial predominance of SATIRICAL. Not one of these words is incorrect, they just play hard.

Gah. Computer crash. Back on this now. had to refill the grid too, so a lot of the subpar fill and dupes are prominent in my mind. Apologies in advance for the negativity.

  • But, c’mon, just look: 31d [La-La Land’s state] CALI, 71a [Singsong words] LA LA? That’s pretty egregious, even if these two instances of la la don’t mean quite the same thing. Check out 28d [’44 battle city] ST LÔ and 78d [“The Great” pope] ST LEO. Oof.
  • And the grid is positively littered with short, dubious fill. Without being at all thorough I see OTO-, RIF, UIES, ANAT, SWE, I’M TO ([“__ blame”] ?!), DETS. There’s AGUSH, A FIST, and I-realize-it’s-a-lost-cause-but-it-still-irks-me the singular S’MORE and more. (4d, 5d, 27a, 98a, 97a, 67a, 83a, 2d, 29a, 44a)
  • 74a [Covers up the gray] REDYES. Am I missing something? How does the clue indicate this and not simply DYES? Sure, it’s included within the greater concept, but it still seems a mismatch.
  • 91a [French skunk] LE PEW. A particular, fictional French skunk. Not UNE mouffette (63a).
  • 114d [Cutesy ending] POO. I like the meta aspect here.
  • 88d  [Tennis technique] NET GAME. Is it a technique, or a component?
  • Okay, just did a run-through of all the entries. Nothing else I feel compelled to highlight as good, bad, or other.

I don’t get it. This honestly feels like a half-formed theme that was unadvisedly augmented to a full-size crossword when it probably should have been abandoned. It just doesn’t—wait for it—add up.

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13 Responses to Sunday, September 11, 2016

  1. Martin says:

    Yeah, there are lots of okras.

  2. Guest says:

    SCARNE on Cards is an incredibly well known book for anyone who plays card games, and I’ve visited the TATE MUSEUM (yes, some people call it that). ADD TO THE MIX and TWO POINTERS are very impressive entries to put between pairs of themers!

    In the WaPo puzzle, GROUND LEVELS is inconsistent as the word LEVEL has the same meaning in both cases. It’s the only one like that.

    • I just looked at a few dictionaries to make sure, and none of them say “ground level” is the same thing as the tool. The tool is either called a spirit level or simply a level.

      • Martin says:

        It’s the whole dupe thing rearing its head again.

        I suppose the complaint might be that both uses of level share an etymology. But, surprisingly, so do both senses of “drill.” The exercise that’s meant to drill familiarity with a process into our skulls is now a separate thing in its own right. I think the same is true of level. Or plane, another pair with shared etymology.

        On the other hand, the name “Sanders” is a variant of “Alexander.” No shared etymology there.

        “File” is an interesting case. The senses come from different roots entirely. The case file shares it’s etymon with “filament,” since the verb refers to the practice of storing related documents on strings of wire.

      • Anonymous says:

        My dictionary has only one word LEVEL, with one etymology, so both GROUND LEVEL and the tool LEVEL use the same word LEVEL. Same for DRILL. In contrast, FILE (tool) and FILE (storage) are two different words which are spelled and pronounced the same, as is the case, I think, for all the other theme entries. You might argue that this is a small mistake, but it definitely an inconsistency, and one that would not be allowed in a cryptic crossword double definition clue.

    • David L says:

      I play card games, mostly bridge these days, and I’ve never heard of SCARNE. And I’ve been to both the Tate Gallery and the Tate Modern and I would never refer either as the Tate Museum. (The former is usually just called the Tate, as it’s the oldest and best known).

      PS I note from their website that they now refer to the original as Tate Britain. I don’t think that’s caught on in popular usage.

      • Steve Manion says:

        When I was 12, it was a rainy summer and I spent most of it memorizing the rules of all card games. I had three books: Scarne on cards, Scarne on gambling and The Official Rules According to Hoyle. Scarne’s books were more entertaining and less by the book, but I did avoid most of his admonitions about gambling in certain environments. Scarne was capable of being a legendary card cheat, but to the best of my knowledge, used his card manipulation skill and knowledge to catch rather than perpetrate.


  3. Fishstew says:

    WaPo: Jenni, you are not the only one who wasn’t initially bothered by the fearsome predator the SYARK. I did the exact same thing. Good puzzle!

  4. P. Ulrich says:

    Since the latest update of Java (version 8 update 101), I can’t get Puzzle Solver/Crossword Solver to work anymore. It gives an error message about an incompatible Java runtime file. I didn’t even know it used Java. Is there any work-around for this? Maybe this was discussed a while ago, but I don’t come here every day, and I couldn’t find it.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I liked it quite a lot. In part because it was a coherent theme rather than straining to make jokes that aren’t usually funny. And in part because I liked the visual of the bed with someone snoring on top, and a monster and dust bunnies lurking below.

    And from a purely idiosyncratic standpoint, it really spoke to me. I have been on grandma duty overnight for several nights to allow the new parents to get some sleep, and the idea of a mattress pad, pillows, sheets, blankets and sawing logs for a full night seemed like heaven.

    Ironically, I finished with an error. I put in PREMium instead of PREF (for choice) and didn’t pay attention to the crossing (Sleeplessness rots the brain). So, SFO was also wrong, and that’s exactly where I’m heading now, still dreaming of a BED.

  6. Mac says:

    I was a bit sad to see 1D – Popeye has big forearms, not biceps.

    • Papa John says:

      I originally thought the same thing but, after reflecting on it, his biceps do pop up after he eats his spinach. I agree that his forearms are usually the “big feature” along with his nose, chin, chest and feet.

  7. Martin says:

    If anyone’s not heard of SCARNE he has two major claims to fame (aside from being an widely published author).

    1) He was the greatest card magician of all time.

    As an amateur magician, I can attest that Scarne was the greatest. For example: you could hand Scarne your own (new) shuffled deck of cards, and he was able to then take the deck without previously shuffling it himself, and immediately cut to the four aces. Anywhere, anytime: under scrutiny.

    Short, simple, and staggering.

    2) He was condidered to be the worlds’s leading authority on all card games and gambling.

    Scarne was a debunker. Because of his extreme expertise, he was employed by the US Govt. in WW2 to write a regular column for the military paper “Stars and Stripes” to help GI’s avoid getting cheated out of their pay with crooked army poker games.

    -He knew FDR, HST and Churchill well.

    – his major well written books on magic, and gambling games have never been out of print.

    – he is probably the greatest magican, debunker, skeptic that ever lived. He was the forerunner of Randi and Penn and Teller.

    – he wrote well and clearly.

    Scarne was a brilliant talent and mind. And a historian, particularly on magic and card games. If you like card games, most book shops will have “Scarne on Cards”. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    In short if anyone doesn’t know who Scarne is, he is well worth investigating. And at $5.99 for one of his paperbacks, you really can’t go too wrong.



    If you’ll permit me:

    As an aside, if it weren’t for Scarne, I might never have become interested in crosswords, especially wide-open grids (I’m quite serious).

    For those types of grids (assuming they were well done), held a magical attraction for me. And if you’ll allow me to name-drop: during a phone conversation I had with Merl Reagle (or “phonesville” as he called it/them) last year, about a week before he died, we were both talking about precisely this “crossword magic” effect… especially with wide-open grids, and the fact that they were indeed intended to look like a trick.

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