Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 10:05 (Amy) 


NYT 9:01 (Amy) 


WaPo 16:05 (Erin) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Lessen Plan” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 4/30/17

Several entries contain dimunitive first words, which indicate that the solver needs to fit an example of the entry’s second word into a rebus square:

  • 23a. [Ceres, e.g. (and a hint to something in this puzzle)] DWARF PLANET. We need to “dwarf” the planet MARS into one square to get 68a. [Arranging in proper order] MARSHALING and 68d. [Shade that’s out of this world?] MARS RED.
  • 41a. [Show with an android named Vicki…] SMALL WONDER. Shrink down AWE to obtain 126a. [Became less hostile] THAWED and 114d. [Part of a bureau] DRAWER.
  • 56a. [Spiritual totem for a Jivaro warrior…] SHRUNKEN HEAD. Squeeze BOSS into one square for 98a. [Vegas VIPs] PIT BOSSES and 86d. Decorated, in a way] EMBOSSED.
  • 85a. [Minor sports organization?…] PEEWEE LEAGUE. Make NBA tiny for 21d. [At first, say?] ON BASE and 12d. [Opens, as a gate] UNBARS.
  • 101a. [Classic novel written at the Orchard House in Concord, Mass. …] LITTLE WOMEN. Shrink GALS for 74a. [Firm assistants] PARALEGALS and 55a. [Super Bowl XXIII losers] BENGALS.
  • 123a. [Circular storage unit…] COMPACT DISC. Itty bitty LP completes 44a. [Examine by touching] PALPATE and 33a. [“I’m in trouble here!”] HELP ME!

This crossword took longer for me as the rebus squares reference other clues, so there’s a lot of back and forth. Also, I solved on my phone, so the rebus squares contained circles, but when I open the file in Across Lite, the circles are nowhere to be found. I’m guessing the solve is a lot more difficult without the circles. Still, I enjoy this type of puzzle. Did not know that MARSHALING meant arranging or assembling, so that tripped me up a bit, but only one planet fit here.

The fill seemed more difficult to grasp this week. Some things:

      • 110a. [Rout] DRUB. Did not know this word at all.
      • 57d. [Bit of modern history?] URL. Clever.
      • 50a. [Lymphocyte found in bone marrow] B CELL. T cells are also formed in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus, and are also found in crosswords much more often than B cells.
      • 80d. [Like bogs] PEATY. Apparently this is used to describe Scotch.
      • 53d. [2002 hit for No Doubt] HELLA GOOD. Pretty catchy dance song. Enjoy it if you wish.

Alen Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “New England Chatter”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 30 17, “New England Chatter”

Okay, not loving the title, because it makes me think of New England clam chowder being pronounced weirdly, and it’s dissonant with the pronunciation theme. A word with an AR in it gets changed to one with a short O instead:

  • 22a. [Commercials for a “Star Trek” movie?], SPOCK PLUGS. Spark.
  • 24a. [Yoga teacher’s invitation?], A CALL TO OMS. Arms. Does OM take a plural?
  • 36a. [Weather forecaster in Phoenix?], HOT SPECIALIST. Do people say “heart specialist” anywhere near as much as they say “cardiologist”?
  • 51a. [Most in-shape person at a cosmetics company?], THE BOD OF AVON. Bard.
  • 69a. [Ridicule shouted out of a moving car?], PASSING MOCK. Mark. That would be “mockery” or “mocking,” as the noun sense of “mock” is decidedly dated and obscure.
  • 87a. [Quickly added bit of punctuation?], INSTANT COMMA. Karma.
  • 100a. [What allowed one physician to get through flu season?], A SHOT IN THE DOC. Dark. I dunno, man. You never say “a shot in a person.”
  • 116a. [Regimen with limited intake of corn?], LOW-COB DIET. Carb. Although when you eat corn on the cob, you don’t eat the cob in the first place.
  • 119a. [Toddler’s cry upon entering the bathroom?], IT’S MY POTTY. Party. All right, saved the best for last!

You know I spent April 11-14 in New England and didn’t hear a single telltale accent? It was a real disappointment, I tell you. The closest I heard was in Providence and it sounded like more of a Long Island accent.

Kinda wish there’d been just 7 or 8 themers rather than 9 so the grid would have had more breathing room for better fill. While the dreaded PROTEST VOTE and WHISKED AWAY are great fill, the puzzle had an overall vibe of AGA NOU ADIA NIK ULM HITE ESSENE RACEME stuff that is strikingly low on entertainment value.

2.75 stars from me.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Haiku”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 4 30 17, “Haiku”

All right, this is going to be a rehash of my NYT write-up. Explanation of why puzzle title is off, lukewarm response to theme, disappointment with overall fill. The key thing about haiku isn’t that each one is THREE LINES, it’s about the syllable count assigned to the lines (and the best haiku are expected to deviate from the 5/7/5 count for beauty). The theme entries are all three-word phrases (or phrases containing one compound word and one shorter word) where each component can precede the word line. The theme answers are clued straightforwardly, but they’re not all solidly in-the-language phrases that feel crossword-worthy to me. We’ve got HOT OUTSIDE (a bit arbitrary), PRIVATE PHONE CHAT (arbitrary), UNDERWATER PARTY (not at all a thing), TOP FISHING GUIDE (contrived), WHITE PICKET FENCE (absolutely a thing! not at all arbitrary! so you can’t say the themers are all supposed to be playful fake phrases, because this one’s pretty familiar), DEAD AIR TIME (awkward; I feel like dead air and airtime are both real things but the combo is weird), and RED PRICE TAG (contrived). I’d like the theme better if any of these phrases were funny and if they were all made-up rather than being 7/8ths made-up.

SEIS more things:

  • 43a. [Texter’s “Just a thought … “], IMHO. Wanted the answer to be FWIW (“for what it’s worth”), as “in my humble opinion” feels a bit off target for this clue.
  • 2d. [They’re often about nothing], ADOS. Can you pluralize an ADO? I’m unconvinced. The French for backpack is sac à dos, though. Speaking of French—partial ILE DE, SALLE. Italian TANTO, not at all common in crosswords. Spanish OLES (plural, meh) and SEIS. Latin ESSE. I don’t recall seeing any German.
  • 78d. [Marathon practice run], FIVEK. I’m pronouncing that “fi-vek” from now on. Not only does nobody spell out the numeral for race distances, but my marathoner spouse sneers at the very idea of a mere 3-miler as a practice run. His training runs were generally in the 10- to 23-mile range, and a half marathon’s a solid practice outing.
  • 79d. [Spike for Hillary], PITON. This clue perplexed me for a bit. Not Hillary Clinton, but mountaineer Edmund Hillary!
  • 67d. [Puppeteer Tony], SARG. Okay, I just checked his Wikipedia page. Guess how long ago Sarg died. I’ll give you a hint: It was before my mother was born.
  • 52a. [Scale starting words], ONE TO. Huh? As in a 1:87 scale for a model train? Uh, those are given with numerals and a colon and not spelled out.

2.75 stars from me.

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

CRooked • 4/30/17 • “Accident Report” • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

From the Better Late Than Never Department, I’m posting this on Wednesday, May 3rd. Minimal it shall be, retroactive as it is.


Haw, haw.

My only further comment is to point out the very rough surname crossing of 19a [Ayrton of auto racing] SENNA and 5d [Louise in “Bananas”] LASSER.

Thanks to all my Fiendish colleagues for covering write-ups while I was otherwise engaged!

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22 Responses to Sunday, April 30, 2017

  1. Alan D. says:

    I was willing to let the NYT theme slide because the title references New England.  But then I read Alan’s notes and he said, “Researching the many AR_ sounds that flip nicely with a Boston accent was lots of fun.” No, no, no!  That is not a Boston accent!  It’s a Kennedy accent and, I guess, a variant of a Boston accent, but totally different.  “Party” is not “potty” but “pahty.” I’ve never actually heard anyone speak with this accent here – if I did I would think, “Who’s he trying to be? JFK?”

    • David L says:

      I agree. I’m not Bostonian but I visit fairly often and the sound changes in this puzzle sound nothing like the way ordinary people speak.

      I finished with an error — I had RHEA at 25D (pure guess) which left me with ACALLROOMS, and I couldn’t make any sense of that.

  2. William Mees says:

    I am 79 and, with the exception of one year in PA, have spent my other 78 years in MA or CT, and VT. Never, ever, have I heard English spoken this way. The puzzle answers have no relation to spoken English in Maine where I went to college, Vermont where I went to graduate school, Connecticut where I taught, and Boston where I went to another graduate school, or Fitchburg, MA where I went to another graduate school. Even distant cousins, who speak the real street English, do not sound like this. Where in New England does one talk like this?

    • Steve Manion. says:

      I do not disagree with you, but when I was in college, I was constantly (playfully) ridiculed for my “hard A” Buffalo, New York accent, which was about as opposite as could be when compared with my roommate’s Brookline, MA soft A sound. I had no problem with the puzzle, which I enjoyed.

      And speaking of accents, I can’t think of two contiguous places with more dramatically different accents than Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario.


  3. Bruce N Morton says:

    As a Massachusetts resident, I agree with the above comments. Attempts to spell out regional pronunciations are almost always unsuccessful. E.g., New Yorkers do not say anything close to New Yawk. Still, I didn’t think the puzzle was as bad as the consensus. Some of the themers were funny, e.g. the bod of Avon.

  4. janie says:

    in the nyt, i could see that ACALLTOOMS was called for as the answer, but i couldn’t hear it. in any yoga class i’ve taken, “om” is pronounced with a long “o.” the other themers seemed okay — in a “pepperidge fom” kinda way — but that outlier was an unhappy distraction for me.

    peace out.


  5. Papa John says:

    What does it matter if the theme in the NYT does or doesn’t truly imitate an actual or supposed regional dialect? The answers in this vowel-exchange theme are no more or less ridiculous than any other of its type. SHOCK_PLUGS, A_CALL_TO_OMS, THE_BOD_OF_AVON – need I go on? They’re nonsensical, ludicrous phrases that are, to me, not all that clever, not funny and certainly not informative. I wasn’t put off so much by the rest of the fill. It seemed par for a Sunday offering, except for EUTERPE, perhaps.

  6. Lise says:

    Loved the WaPo! I solved on paper, so didn’t have the benefit of any circles. Although I caught on pretty quickly, each theme answer and corresponding rebus were a challenge to discover, and I looked forward to each new discovery.

    I especially liked that the rebuses were not all the same, nor all the same length. Thanks for a great puzzle!

    I agree with Amy that the NYT had too many theme entries and thus, the fill was compromised as a result. I did like EPHEMERA, though.

    • Thanks, Lise (and Erin, as always).

    • Lorraine says:

      I really loved the WaPo as well, Lisa (and Evan!), for exactly the same reasons. Too often, once you determine that a puzzle HAS a rebus, it’s then just a matter of plunking in the letters in the appropriate places somewhat by rote. What really makes this puzzle special is first you have to figure out what the trick is, come up with the appropriate synonyms (BOSS for HEAD seemed to take me forever for some reason) and then discover where they all go. Really fun!

  7. Chukkagirl says:

    NYT: Anyone else find 89D “called wrongly” = MISTITLE a bit of a stretch? And I hate to admit it, but 5A ASNAP found me scratching my head far beyond solving the puzzle… “as nap? Some new phrase I’ve never heard…?” Oh, duh.

  8. Michael says:

    Not to add insult to injury, but I would be curious to see stats on the highest and lowest puzzle ratings in this blog’s history. Evad?

  9. Norm says:

    I admired the WaPo in hindsight, but I did not enjoy solving it. Names, names, names — and Evan had to choose the most obscure ones to boot. NUNN [where’s Sam? who the heck is this singer?]. MARSHALING with one L? Not in my office you don’t. I did not like the fact that a couple of the rebus entries were the actual word, if that make sense. MARS RED is Mars; a PIT BOSS is a boss. Aren’t they supposed to be more hidden — the way ALL the others were? And what the heck [I’d use another word, but it is Sunday] does King Ferdinand have to do with SI SENOR? Too many little annoyances. Sorry, Evan. I look forward to your puzzles every week, but this one was not fun.

    • Lise says:

      Both Wikipedia and the Merriam-Webster online dictionary list MARSHALING as an alternative spelling. It looks weird to me and I wouldn’t spell it that way, but it seems legit. M-W also listed “marshaled” as an alternative.

      NYT: I would have liked it if SPOCK PLUGS had been clued something like “Vulcan hair transplant” :-)

      I apologize if this is a duplicate comment. I started it earlier and it went off into cyberspace somewhere and I had to begin again.


    • Dave S says:

      I agree, Norm.

  10. Stephen Jeffers says:

    Can I also add …pile on….that a Munich Miss is not a frau. It’s Fraulein. Frau is a married lady

  11. doug says:

    Re WaPo – A solid 5 stars. Did it without the circles. Really enjoyed each find. Thanks, Evan.

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