Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:39 (Amy) 


NYT 8:48 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:22 (Erin) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 4” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 3/12/17

Mixing it up with a themeless this week! Nice. Love love love the marquee entries DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT and PLANNED PARENTHOOD. Love the foody juxtaposition of RED LOBSTER and SALT SHAKER across the center. SORBETS, CREME, CAESAR SALAD, and TANDOOR just add to the yumminess. I’m not an OLIVE fan myself, but if they work for you, go ahead and add them in to the deliciousness. Also great and not food-related are SMOLDER, QUEER, and SHROUDED.

Another favorite of mine is SAD TROMBONE. Womp womp womp woooooomp.

Bernie KOSAR, Steve EARLE, Garson KANIN, and Yves MONTAND are unfamiliar to me, and my time suffered a bit as a result.

I leave you with a short video of a lovely KOI pond, because Japanese gardens are my happy place and I’m guessing there are others who can use a breath of peace as well.

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Taking The Fifth”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 12 17, “Taking the Fifth”

The title refers to “taking the fifth” letter of the alphabet by adding a long E sound to the end of a familiar phrase, tweaking the spelling as needed, and cluing the new phrase accordingly.

  • 23a. [“Put that Southern state on next month’s agenda”?], TABLE TENNESSEE. Drop a table tennis wordplay into the first slot and charm ping-pongaholic Will Shortz!
  • 32a. [What a male babysitter may sport?], NANNY GOATEE. Nanny goat.
  • 56a. [Like a fired Broadway star?], OFF THE MARQUEE. Off the mark.
  • 78a. [Sweaty, irritable rabbit?], HOT CROSS BUNNY. Bun.
  • 101a. [What’ll feed everyone at a tailgate party?], THE BIG CHILIThe Big Chill.
  • 114a. [Reformed barbarian?], ATTILA THE HONEY. Hun. Cute.
  • 17d. [Turnaround too tempting to pass up?], IRRESISTIBLE UIE. “Irresistible You.” Ugh on UIE, particularly with the U crossing -ULE.
  • 44d. [“Check out the Argentine soccer star!”?], LOOK AT THAT MESSI. Mess, Lionel Messi. Not sure people would really use “that” when telling you to look at someone by name.

Passable but unexciting add-a-sound theme (the majority of add-a-letter/sound themes don’t wow me, as the amusement level’s rarely as high as I’d like).

I approached the puzzle with trepidation after seeing that 1-Across was STERNA and 1-Down was SET BY. And yes, there was plenty of crosswordese and clunky fill in store for me—ISTH, ADEE, LEU, ALAI, ALO ([South American greeting], really?? That’s been used 4 times in 20 years in the NYT, and never in the LAT), ITER, ODER, ERNO, ESTE, NINON, ABATER, GTS. There are some solid 7s and 8s, yes, but my head was spinning from these shorter answers.

2.8 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “For Pizza’s Sake” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 3/12/17 • “For Pizza’s Sake” • Quigley • bg • solution

Pizza puns, specifically involving toppings, served up in eight slices:

  • 23a. [What’s needed to digest pizza herbs?] BASIL METABOLISM (basal …).
  • 30a. [“A Tale of Two Pizza Toppings” opener?] IT WAS THE PESTO TIMES (… best of …).
  • 48a. [Response to “Thelma, what kind of pizza do you want?”] CHEESE, LOUISE (jeez …).
  • 63a. [Pizza topping-flavored cola?] BACON SODA (baking). Copy-editing: I would also put a hyphen between ‘pizza’ and ‘topping’.
  • 70a. [Offers a pizza topping temporarily?] LENDS A HAM (… hand).
  • 85a. [Iconic T-shirt slogan with a pizza topping?] OLIVE NEW YORK (I Love …).
  • 98a. [Question about a pizza topping?] SPINACH INQUISITION (Spanish …).
  • 113a. [Red sauce from Washington?] SEATTLE MARINARA (… Mariner).

Puns are puns, whaddaya gonna do?

Less conventionally a pizza topping: 97a [Salad green] CRESS. Not sure about 111d [Healthy salad choice] KALE. I’ve had the former, would be wary of the latter.

  • Longdowns: 36d [Elapsing quickly] SPEEDING BY, 46d [“I Can Get It for You Wholesale” songwriter] HAROLD ROME. Who? At one point I had this as CAROLE KING, purely because of a chunk of crossing letters.
  • Highlighting 101d [Peter of Herman’s Hermits] NOONE because I’ve been known to opine that this fill is hardly ever clued that way, rather than as NO ONE.
  • 50d [Solar-powered clock] SUNDIAL. Needs a question mark, as the sun doesn’t strictly power the (inert) object. Granted, a sundial doesn’t ‘work’ without sunlight, but that isn’t the same.
  • 87d [It’s a long story] YARN. Are we conflating tall (tale) and long? Time for another question mark?
  • 42d [Frabjous feeling] JOYFrabjous is a portmanteau coined by Lewis Carroll, presumed to combine fabulous and joyful (or joyous).
  • 9d [Singer Heap] IMOGEN. More than just a singer. Her first album was iMegaphone, an anagram of her name.
  • 72 [Kerfuffle] HOO-HAH. As in, “The President of Iceland caused a HOO-HAH by suggesting a ban on Hawaiian pizzas.” 35d [Hawaiian island] OAHU.
  • 15d [Japanese shrine gateway] TORII. As Erin’s write-up of the WaPo concluded with KOI media, here’s a peaceful TORII image:

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Peachy”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 3 12 17, “Peachy”

This “peachy” theme swaps out a P in familiar phrases for a CH. The title’s a little off since we’re not trading “pee” for “chee” syllables in most of the theme.

23a. Large retailer’s overexpansion, perhaps?], CHAIN KILLER. Did you hear that Marbles: The Brain Store is going out of business? Hit your local store now to buy various games and toys (mostly the Marbles in-house brand) at maybe 40% to 60% off.

  • 29a. [Welcome summer cold snap?], HAPPY CHILL.
  • 36a. [Measure of stress inflicted by a crowd’s roar?], CHEER PRESSURE.
  • 59a. [Storage unit for spray bottles, trowels, etc.?], GARDEN CHEST. 
  • 79a. [Soup for toddlers?], BABY CHOWDER. This clue could have gone another way. A cannibalistic way.
  • 101a. [Holiday pantomime game?]. EASTER CHARADE. A demerit because nobody plays a single charade, it’s charades.
  • 110a. [Necklace for a macho heartthrob?], STUD CHOKER. This could have gone in a violent direction, but instead, I’m thinking about Earring Magic Ken and his necklace with a useful ring.
  • 119a. [Little bird wielding an ax?], GUITAR CHICK. And this clue had me picturing something entirely different and non-musical.

I found a degree of amusement in the theme, so it did its job.

In the fill, I’m partial to UGLY AS SIN (which, without word spaces, makes me hear it as ugly-assin’), LOVEY-DOVEY, MOLESKINE notebooks, PAY-PER-VIEW, and “ANY ADVICE?” Overall, the fill’s fairly smooth and without difficult patches, which is not easy to pull off in a 21×21 grid. “I NAILED IT” may work better as Zhouqin’s cruciverbal self-affirmation rather than as a crossword entry, though. (Without the pronoun, “nailed it” is quite meme-friendly.) Four stars from me.

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17 Responses to Sunday, March 12, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked HOT CROSS BUNNY. Don’t get your fingers too close! Also liked the shout-out to Sidney POITIER – a great actor.

    I’m curious – does anyone say “NAUGHTS” when referring to the 2000s? “Back in the NAUGHTS, I…” Not in my experience (ha!).

  2. David and Heather says:

    NYT: Just awful. Amy, you were too kind. This was the least fun Sunday puzzle we’ve ever done. Too many clunkers like ULE (crossing the terrible UIE) and POTHERS.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    Have to confess I didn’t even understand the NYT title before reading this. Guess it’s OK although seems like taking the 5th should be about removing an “e” sound, not adding one.
    Two days in a row of SEE ME although yesterday’s clue was better. Why can’t Mae West get some love?

    • pannonica says:

      In its defense, “taking the Fifth” signals invoking a particular Amendment, so we have something that’s hybrid wordplay, and not particularly unusual. I agree that having it both ways in this sense can be awkward, and I feel that’s true here. Awkward, but not invalid. As for the crossword per se … no comment.

  4. artlvr says:

    I need a link to download AcrossLite, please… Lost a lot in getting rid of viruses! Thanks…

    • MattF says: has a link to a download page, or you can try

      If you have a Mac, though, I’d strongly recommend using the Black Ink app– it’s in the App Store.

      That said, there’s a comment on the Litsoft download page about a new version coming of the Across Lite format. Anyone know what that’s about?

    • pannonica says:

      If you have a Windows machine, give Mike Richards’ XWord a look. I prefer it to Across Lite.

  5. m says:

    Your Birnholz Puz icon link goes to last week’s puzzle.

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    NYT — I liked it better than the consensus, and certainly found it much more difficult as evidenced by the large time differential. I agree with Lise and Jenni about “the aughts.” I’m not even sure that “Naught” is a word. (Can you say “it came to naught?)

    It took me long enough to get the point that it put me in a silly mood.

    What did Attila’s wife say to him when he came back from a conquest?


    Hiya, Hon.

  7. JohnH says:

    I liked the theme enough to rate the puzzle higher than others on average, and I appreciated the challenge, but definitely too many obscurities and clunkers, including phrases or words that I just don’t say. UIE, like ITER, I’ve grown to accept, but have never seen either one outside of a crossword. The NAUGHTS was just weird.

    Doesn’t help that I can’t pin it solely to getting crossings to work with the theme, as two of the theme entries were unfamiliar to me, too: the soccer player (as if I followed international soccer) and “Irresistible You.”

  8. Joan Macon says:

    Amy. I loved your comments on the LAT! It’s great to have some thoughtful takes on our puzzle. Thank you!

  9. Marycat says:

    NYT’s worst puzzle of 2017 so far- they just seem to slide further downhill every week. More linguistic stretches here than a rubber pretzel doing tantric yoga on a balance beam. Must we keep tolerating the entire STERNA, UTERI, SANAA, EENSY, LEU, ITER, RELO, NINON, HEGIRA, ODER, POTHER mindset that, just because an obscure word was once used back in 1952, it’s fine to use as fill when I’m feeling lazy? Especially when the puzzle’s already overbrimming with made-up/desparate nuggets like ADEE, ISTH, ESTE, ERNO, ALAI, ATTA, ULE, GTS, IWO, the totally unnacceptable ALO and UIE, and the wretched use of the verb “abate” as the noun ABATER. It’s a sloppy, theme-not-even-mildly-amusing waste of time. The obsolete “exercitation” and the dated references to a 1798 British nursery rhyme (hot cross buns) & a 1944 Tommy Dorsey tune (Irresistible You) were the irritating cherries on this gloppy, soggy, uninspired mess. (And not that I’m vying with Rex, Crossword God of the Known Universe, but I also hated ALEUT, AFFAIRE, DEO, MENTHE & MESSI’s clueing.) I mean, c’mon, it’s the NY TIMES! Although sadly, that doesn’t seem to mean anything any more.

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