Sunday, December 18, 2016

CS tk (Ade) 


Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 5:20 (Andy) 


NYT 10:11 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:29, including meta (Jenni) 


This Sunday’s New York Times has a special Puzzle Mania section with a giant crossword and assorted variety puzzles. Print only! Pick up a copy of the paper on Sunday if you can.

Derrick Niederman’s New York Times crossword, “Mirror Reflection”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 16, “Mirror Reflection”

The title, “Mirror Reflection,” doesn’t make much sense till you get deep enough in the puzzle to start seeing clue echoes—and then discover that every Across answer’s mirror-image twin has the same clue. So the theme answers are 74 entries (if I counted right) with 37 pairs of clue twins. It must have been insanely difficult for Niederman to come up with not just that many workable clues that fit two same-length answers, but also to get these paired entries to fit into a crossword in which every square is checked by a Down answer. I challenge you to make a smaller crossword that works this way—not sure how he managed to wrangle a 21×21 grid with this gimmick!

Mind you, there are plenty of awkward Down crossings, partials and –ONYM and roll-your-owns and crosswordese galore. That is the price paid for having every Across answer thematic.

Favorite pairs: “TRIX are for KIDS” at the start and end. Egyptian queens NEFERTITI and CLEOPATRA. C/caterpillar’s PUPA and PLOW. POP and REV for [Father, familiarly]. The TRIO of MAGI [Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, e.g.]. ROSE GARDEN and OVAL OFFICE.

  • Least favorite:
    53a/87a. [Vingt-___ (multiple de trois)], SEPT and French partial ET UN. (27 and 21, multiples of 3.)
    56a/85a. [Anagram of the letters O-N-D], NOD and DON. Can you think of a workable clue for both words?
    54a/86a. [This does not fly], TWA and EMU.

Other notes:

  • 4d. [Home star of Cthulhu, in fantasy tales], XOTH. A big “Huh??” for me. Wondered why it wasn’t TRIG/GOTH till I saw the mirror TRIX/KIDS.
  • 12d. [Old German ruler nicknamed “the Short”], OTTO VI. You are hereby excused from being expected to know this name.
  • 51d. [Raise again, as a flag], REHOIST. A roll-your-own word, no? Not familiar with the concept of flags being “hoisted.” If only we’d had a petard clue here!
  • 90d. [City that, despite its name, is smaller than Little Rock], BOULDER. Wonderful clue!
    96d. [19,101-foot volcano next to Peru’s second-largest city], EL MISTI. That’s one tall volcano. Not the world’s tallest, though.

4.75 stars for the Acrosses accomplishment, 2.5 stars for the Downs.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Crossbreeds”  – Jenni’s writeup

It’s concert weekend for our community choir. I solved this crossword after Saturday night’s performance, so the puzzle is competing with the score of Rutter’s “Gloria” for space in my brain.

There’s a meta today. “Which apt four-letter word is spelled out in this puzzle’s theme? (Hint: The answer is not one of this puzzle’s clued entries.)” Let’s look at the theme answers, shall we? This puzzle has gone to the dogs.

WaPo 12/18, solution grid

  • 24a [European currency discontinued in 2008] = MALTESE LIRA.
  • 6d [Fruit juice brand whose name contains an abridged version of its main ingredient] = POM WONDERFUL. “Pom” is also an abbreviation for “Pomeranian.”
  • 51a [Code name for the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943] = OPERATION HUSKY.
  • 15d [Site of the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution] = CHIHUAHUA CITY.
  • 88a [Alicia Silverstone’s co-star in “Clueless”] = BRITTANY MURPHY.
  • 57d [Aromatic herb native to the Balkans] = DALMATIAN SAGE.
  • 118a [Creator of the comic strip “Red and Rover”] = BRIAN BASSET.
  • 66d [Spot light source?] = LASER POINTER. Extra credit for getting “Spot” in there.

Four theme answers go across and four go down, and the breed names in each theme answer cross (as the title implies).  The crossing squares spell out M-U-T-T. So there you go.

This is quite a feat of construction. While some of the theme answers were obscure (I’m looking at you, BRIAN BASSET, DALMATIAN SAGE, and POM WONDERFUL), they were gettable from crossings and didn’t bother me.

I’m tired, my feet hurt, and we have another concert tomorrow. That’s it for me tonight.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Allied invasion of Sicily was codenamed OPERATION HUSKY.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “The Full Monte” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 12/18/16 • “The Full Monte” • Quigley • bg • solution

The monte/monty punning of the title is the tip-off that something shady is going on.

  • 23a. [December hustle?] CHRISTMAS CANARD (Christmas card).
  • 31a. [Instruction to TV host John to exploit Sherlock] OLIVER, SWINDLE HOLMES (Oliver Wendell Holmes).
  • 53a. [Designer Lauren with a con job?[ RACKET RALPH (Wreck-It Ralph).
  • 65a. [Condo resale hoax?] FLIP OF A CON {flip of a coin). Dupes the ‘con’ in the clue for 53a.
  • 69a. [Crocodile tears?] CRYING SHAM (crying shame).
  • 84a. [Optometrist’s bamboozle?] RETINAL SCAM (retinal scan). See also 37d [Nigerian prince e-mail] SPAM.
  • 101a. [How to cheat someone using trousers?] BY DECEIT OF ONE’S PANTS (by the seat of one’s pants).
  • 110a. [Risky attempt to cheat?] FRAUD WITH DANGER (fraught with danger).

Theme’s enjoyable, commensurate with your tolerance for puns. But I found the puzzle overall to be rocky, uneven. Some genuinely superb fill and cluing, but also a greater amount of questionable material, including crosswordese and overly obscurant clues.

For the former:

  • 14d [“Start talking”] I’M ALL EARS, 15d Kind of olive] KALAMATA.
  • 85d [Small music box] IPOD NANO.
  • 33d [Shades] SUN SPECS. Tricky, but fair.
  • 54d [Like adolescent music trends] TEENYBOP. Less common as an adjective than as the noun teenybopper; both terms are rapidly fading in use. Ngram

Okay, for the latter:

  • That block in the top section! Non-typical J AND J (J&J, Johnson & Johnson) atop tricky OHIO U, crossed by Philip AHN (of Kung-Fu), actress NIA Long, the Palme D’OR, and textile retailer JO-ANN. Oh, and übercrosswordese 28a [“Prince Valiant” prince] ARN lurking nearby. As he is wont to do, the creep.
  • Speaking of umlauts, swig left to 27a [Motley __ ] CRÜE. Without the metal umlaut, I was certain it was either CREW or FOOL. I realize this could be an artifact of transferring it to .puz format, but it does allow for characters with diacritics.
  • And now, speaking of the limitations of .puz, while italic text isn’t feasible, the alternative of automatically putting everything that might be italicized in quotes can be more of a disservice than help. 58d [“Puri” alternative] for the (unannounced) variant spelling NAN; use an easier clue if there’s a risk of artificial obfuscation!
  • Near to all the areas just discussed is 51d [Boston mayor Marty] WALSH crossing 42d [Musical about the Soweto riots] SARAFINA; WELSH/SERAFINA seems an easy mistake to make here. Mix in the tricky SUN SPECS and 38a [York river] OUSE—which a solver might think is TYNE, especially >cough, cough< if they were careless and filled in RESAWN rather than RESAWS (either is subpar fill) for 8d [Cuts the boards again]—and you’ve got a big chunk of ugly.
  • Another huh? crossing: 47d [Vice Admiral William] BLIGH; come on! In light of 60a (which I’m just about to get to, don’t you fret), make the clue more solver-friendly. Give us a century, reference the HMS Bounty, something a little more concrete. Sure BL–GH is simple to complete correctly, but if a crossing word or two is iffy… Which brings me to 60a [Feminizing suffix] -INE. Wow! Aside from heroine I’m not seeing much in the way of examples for this sense of this common suffix, which more often indicates ‘of or relating to’ (as in, uh, feminine), ‘made of’ (e.g.opaline) or certain chemical compounds (such as caffeine). “But wait”, you interject, “doesn’t everybody know [the outrageously hoary and recherché] speakerine?” To which I say, “Sorry, pal. Stick it.”So, that terrible clue crossing is a serious low spot in my estimation.
  • 94a [Logic map] TREE, 56d [Google offering] MAPS. 41a [In addition to] PLUS, 112d [Do the math?] ADD.
  • 1d [Resin base] LAC. Ouch, to start? Wouldn’t French for ‘lake’ be a more recognizable way to clue this, especially for the grid’s opening? Admittedly, 1a LAWS [You shouldn’t break them] isn’t too tricky, but for want of confidence I still needed to do a tedious alphabet run for LAC/LAWS.
  • 111d [Type of messenger] RNA. Don’t like that clue.
  • 113d [Quick spin in a car?] UIE. Don’t like that clue and I don’t like that spelling.
  • Oh, there are more, but I’ve gone far enough overboard already. Wouldn’t you agree?

In sum, the impression is a quite good crossword that could have been drastically improved with more stringent editing.

Here’s perfectly mediocre song from the 1990s:

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hanging Around in the Dark”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 12.18.16, “Hanging Around in the Dark,” by Ed Sessa

Theme: phrases that contain the three-letter string “TAB” broken over multiple words. These phrases have aligned down instead of across in the grid, so that they look like hanging BATs.

There’s a weird bonus answer in the center — 20d, STALACTITETIMGALATS [Rock formations that often meet in dark places, as illustrated here]. This is meant to look like a STALACTITE coming from the ceiling and a STALAGMITE coming from the floor, but this answer doesn’t reach the edges of the grid. Other than being cave-related, I have no idea why this is in the grid except to make the theme seem more robust than it actually is.

There’s also a semi-revealer in the SE corner — 93d, BATCAVE [Hangout for the Dark Knight, and for creatures in the answers to the starred clues]. 

Anyway, here are the TAB (upside-down BAT) phrases:

  • 2d, NOT A BIT [*Lots opposite]
  • 5d, GET A BREAK [*Be blessed by Lady Luck]. 
  • 13d, WENT ABROAD [*Traveled to Europe, say]. Assuming the solver doesn’t live in Europe, that is.
  • 38d, FIESTA BOWL [*Annual postseason game played in Arizona]. 
  • 43d, BET A BUNDLE [*Go all in]. 
  • 73d, ANITA BAKER [*”Sweet Love” R&B singer]. 
  • 81d, PITA BREAD [*Middle Eastern staple]. 

I would have liked more BAT phrases in place of the central entry, but either version of the puzzle would have been very simple, even for a Sunday. Having I LED, A WHIM, ETCH-A, ALL I, and SION in the surrounding fill was rough, without anything particularly sparkly to offset them.

That’s it from me. Until next time!

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12 Responses to Sunday, December 18, 2016

  1. chris says:

    loved the ambition, but the downs and the dreck kind of killed it for me. would’ve loved this as a 15×15, which i think would’ve helped quite a bit with the fill.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Agree. When you’re crossing French numbers with Hebrew months, some questions about puzzle construction need to be asked.

  2. maura says:

    Loved Evan’s WaPo and Jenni’s write up. Wondered about LHASA as in Lhasa Apso, but it messes with the meta, and isn’t part of a two word answer, so I guess it’s just a bonus. There’s RAT (51D) as in rat terrier also, but with no crossing.

    To the dogs, indeed.

  3. .ArtLvr says:

    Anyone who starts the NYT half asleep as I did and starts muttering about having already done this one and that one — well, it was quite a treat when I came to with a howl of laughter… Now I’ll have to rack my brain to see if I remember all of Sinatra’s exes before googling.

  4. Jacksown says:

    The essence of crosswords is synonyms. Five star NYT.

  5. David L says:

    Surely the symmetry of the NYT puzzle is rotational, not mirror reflection.

    Some of the double cluing was very clever — “Tinker” for SHORTSTOP and ITINERANT. On the other hand, I don’t think I buy ERODE for “Run off.”

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    NYT: At first I just found it annoying, but then I started to realize what an incredible construction it was. 44 and 94a are twins, and I see how how a splurge could amount to a fortune (as an expenditure), but I don’t understand how readings could amount to a fortune. A fortune teller gives you a reading and predicts great fortune for you?

    Cthulhu was the name used by the great, underappreciated horror-fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft. It denotes a nightmarish place or ambiance. I am a great Lovecraft fan. He is a superb and genuinely scary writer. He lived in Providence RI and some of his locales are identified with Massachussetts, such as the fish people of Innsmouth, where the narrator travels past a couple real Massachusetts places to get to the fictitious Innsmouth.

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