Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 6:49 (Amy)  


NYT 8:36 (Amy)  


WaPo 8:57 (Erin) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Zoo” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 9/17/17

Captain Obvious has left the theater to take a trip to the zoo. Please enjoy some literal takes on animal idioms:

  • 24a. [“___? It’s right there, on that big cat’s face”] EYE OF THE TIGER. (Thanks for getting that song in my head, Evan.)
  • 31a. [“___ if one of my siblings adopts that baboon as their own child”] I’LL BE A MONKEY’S UNCLE
  • 56a. [“___; we’ll meet again when I revisit the reptile pit”] SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR
  • 66a. [“___ happen when zookeepers frantically run after that bird”] WILD GOOSE CHASES. (I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the plural used before.)
  • 78a. [“___ takes up a lot of building space, as big pachyderms tend to do”] THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
  • 101a. [ “___, and those mallards will be neatly aligned”] GET YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW
  • 113a. [“___ is a bit of stock that big cat would purchase”] THE LION’S SHARE

Other things:

  • 55a. [Last name among dinosaurs] REX. “Mr. Rex, would you like me to reach that triceratops jerky on the top shelf for you?” “No, thank you, I can do it myself! (hops up and down and stretches tiny arms as far as they can go for a few moments, then deflates) Yes, please.”
  • 18d. [Film critic James] AGEE. I knew of him as an author, but did not know he was a film critic.
  • 33d. [Giant of fantasy fiction] ENT. Phew. It seemed like a few weeks went by without a Lord of the Rings reference. I was getting worried.
  • 43a. [Like every character in the original “Grand Theft Auto” video game] ADULT. Even if there were newborns in the game, they’d all be legal adults now; the game debuted in 1997.

I can’t think of any good music videos, so here is my son today with his walker. Until next week!

Mark MacLachlan’s New York Times crossword, “Super Looper”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 17 17, “Super Looper”

I could swear we had a very similar theme within the last two or three months. Anyone recall another puzzle with a theme like this? The circled 2×2 boxes of letters are included in the long Across answers that go through their bottom half, with the answer looping up on the right and going counterclockwise around to complete the entry, which has a 6-letter chunk with an ABCDAB pattern. So:

  • 23a. [Fancy French shellfish dish], LOBSTER THERMIDOR, with a TH up above to expand LOBSTERMIDOR, with a repeating ER interrupted by the TH.
  • 25a. [Beer parlor], BEVEROOM into BEVERAGE ROOM, which is not a term I’ve encountered before. (Nor is “beer parlor.”)
  • 49a. [All together, as a family], UNDEROOF into UNDER ONE ROOF.
  • 51a. [Classroom item], BLACKBOARDER into BLACKBOARD ERASER.
  • 69a. [Central Park’s SummerStage, e.g.], CONCERIES into CONCERT SERIES.
  • 86a. [Tech overseer], COMPUTERATOR into COMPUTER OPERATOR.
  • 91a. [Reason to stop reading], SPOILERT into SPOILER ALERT.
  • 116a. [Premise of the film “Freaky Friday”], ROLERSAL into ROLE REVERSAL.
  • 118a. [Some positives and negatives], BATTERMINALS into BATTERY TERMINALS.

With the exception of SPOILER ALERT, these theme answers were fairly dull creatures. No humor, no wordplay, just a twist in how the long answers are presented.


Five things:

  • 1a. [Naval engagements], SEA WARS. What are the odds of the U.S. engaging in a SEA WAR by 2020?
  • 122a. [Singer India.___], ARIE. Crossworders! The new bachelor for The Bachelor is Arie Luyendyk, Jr., the race-car driver son of the Indy 500 champ. An actual name that doesn’t need that period squeezed up against the blank space!
  • 45d. [“Don’t mind ___!”], IF I DO. What a terrible partial. You could instead clue this as the potential autobiography title of a dog with the stalest name ever.
  • 71d. [1428 ___ (horror film address): Abbr.], ELM ST. Eww. Not a good entry.
  • 38d. [Speed skater Karin who won eight Olympic medals], ENKE. Who? She had three golds in the ’80s. Her Wikipedia article makes me wish I’d kept my last name when I got married, but this excerpt is hilariously bonkers:

Born as Karin Enke, she married in 1981 and competed as Karin Busch during the 1981–82 winter. The marriage did not last long and during the 1982–83 and 1983–84 winters, she competed as Karin Enke again. After marrying her longtime former trainer Rudolf Kania in 1984, she competed as Karin Kania for the rest of her speed skating career. After her career had ended, she divorced and married again and became Karin Enke-Richter.

Like several other female East German skaters who got married after the season had ended (and several of them more than once over the course of their careers), Enke caused some confusion among the speed skating public when she—a skater with a name unfamiliar to them—suddenly won major titles in her “first” season. To alleviate the confusion, Enke kept her maiden name as the first part of her last name after her third marriage, just like Gunda Kleemann (also known as Gunda Niemann and Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann) kept Niemann (the name of her first husband) as the first part of her last name even after her divorce and both before and after her second marriage, which is unusual in most Western European countries.

Three stars from me.

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Brrr!”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 9 17 17, “Brrr!”

I sure didn’t know what the theme was till I finally meandered down to the revealer, 111a. [It ushers in lower temperatures … and what the answers to starred clues can have], COLD FRONT. Each of the theme answers, clued utterly straightforwardly, begins with a word (or portion of a word, in the case of 68a, 15d, and 81d) that can follow “cold” in familiar phrases. So CREAM PUFF, SHOULDER PAD, SHOWER CURTAIN, TURKEY TROT, SNAPDRAGON, STORAGE LOCKER, SPELL-CHECKER, WARPAINT, and CASELOAD produce phrases like cold cream, cold shoulder, etc. Solid example of this sort of theme, and some of the theme answers themselves are crisp.

Overall, the solve wasn’t much fun since the grid’s got more crosswordese and foreign vocabulary than I deem ideal. 1-Across announced the puzzle’s intentions right off the bat: EPOS is the sort of word most people don’t encounter unless they do a ton of crossword puzzles. Constructors! If you make your 1-Across a familiar or fun word, the solver can start your puzzle on a high note. EPOS crossed 3-Down OTERI, a dated pop culture reference. The rest of the grid had such fill as the roll-your-own word APPLIER, crosswordese AGIO and ETAPES, foreign SALA NACHT ENERO SECO ENTRE, not-really-a-solid-phrase TRIED IT, awkward plural HEDDAS, prefix SEISMO-, place-name-I-know-only-from-crosswords RIO DE ORO, scarcely-used-in-real-life ALER, and so on.

On the plus side, I liked LADY DAY, REELED OFF, and NOSEBLEED seats. The clues were pretty smooth, judging from the quickness of my solve.

2.75 stars from me. Perhaps dropping the two 8-letter Down theme entries would have loosened up the grid a bit and allowed for better fill.

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

CRooked • 9/17/17 • “Prefixation” • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

This is just the sort of clever-but-silly theme that tickles my fancy. Existing phrases get a prefix that altersthe first word into another legitimate word but in the process creates a nonsensical—aka “wacky”—new phrase.

  • 23a. [Bad-luck snack?] MISFORTUNE COOKIE. That’s the way it crumbles, apparently.
  • 36a. [Parent’s you can’t understand?] CONFOUNDING FATHERS.
  • 55a. [Diet-busting occasion?] TRANSFAT TUESDAY. I believe the item in question is typically rendered as trans fat, two words.
  • 84a. [Lady coming down a staircase?] DESCENT OF A WOMAN. Well obviously this calls for the Duchamp.
  • 98a. [The delusion that you know everything?] OMNISCIENCE FICTION. This one requires a significant pronunciation change.
  • 116a. [Immune-system communications?[ ANTIBODY LANGUAGE.

See? Fun stuff.

  • 1-across kind of sets the tone with a silly double-entendre, lets the solver know what she’s in for. [What’s put before Decartes?] RENÉ.
  • 71a/76a [Cope] GET A GRIP, DEAL.
  • 78a [Vandalize] DAMAGE. Stuck with DEFACE for longer than I care to admit.
  • 109a [Slowly and surely, for two] ADVERBS. Come to think of it, the theme wordplay is reminiscent of Tom Swifties, especially the “double-swifties” variety. Remember “Take the prisoner to the dungeon”, Tom said, condescendingly.”?
  • 122a. [Irma la __] DOUCE. This one’s missing quotes. It’s a film title. Just checked the pdf version: not in italics either.
  • 40d [Egypt’s Nasser] GAMAL. I sure has heck didn’t remember the guy’s first name.
  • 41d [On edge, as nerves] FRAYED. Tried for too long to figure out how to get a version of the eight-letter FRAZZLED in there. It got meta.
  • 73d [What a caddy carries] TEA, 115a [Ready to be driven] TEED.
  • 74d [Greek who had a bathtub brainstorm] ARCHIMEDES. Eureka! He was a displacement agent.
  • 86d [Like a “can of corn” fly] CATCHABLE. I’m assuming this is a baseball term and not as I thought while solving some sort dipteran reference.
  • 87d [Go without fare] FAST. Cute clue even if the wordplay is a little stilted without the indefinite article.
  • 101d [Musician Cannon or Fender] FREDDY.

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21 Responses to Sunday, September 17, 2017

  1. Hup hup says:

    I too remember a similar theme and have been impressed both times that constructors are capable of such creations. You seem unimpressed or at least want more zip in the wording. To me, the zip is in the ability to have words repeat the necessary letters in the right place. I hope some puzzle constructors comment on whether or not it’s as tricky as it seems. To me, it’s like watching a magician and thinking,”How does he do that?”

    • pannonica says:

      When you think about it, it’s just an entry that repeats a two letter sequence, separated by an additional two letters. Not too tricky to search word/phrase lists with those parameters. Only other issue is that the answer is four letters longer than the grid entry, but that may afford greater flexibility.

      • Norm says:

        I liked ROLE REVERSAL because it played into the looping around & backwards concept. The others? Rather blah, as noted.

    • jim hale says:

      Agreed, I liked the theme. I also thought there was interesting fill e.g. nanotube, maypole, prions, the Seneca quote. I was less excited about names of people not of interest to me e.g. ederle, lavar, esa.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      It definitely adds constraints in those areas, specifically with the word above it and the two crossing (Down) words. Most of the theme entries are solid enough, and those constrained crossings are handled well (I’M RIGHT, ELEGANCE, MIDEAST, WISHBONE, RHESUS, I GET IT, BYRDS crossing SATYR) but then you also get ESA, UTE, ARTOO, ORTH). On the whole, though, quite good.

      My problem is that BEVERAGE ROOM sounds completely bogus (same with “beer parlor” whereas “beer hall” rings true). My other problem is that a BLACKBOARD ERASER is usually just known as an ERASER. My third problem was unusual proper name ENKE crossing uncommon foreign word LLANOS. It’s gettable, but I bet it caused trouble for some, especially newer solvers.

      • huda says:

        It caused trouble for me… not a new solver but just an average one…

      • Shteyman says:

        I’m not picking on you, Jim, but since you mentioned it in your comment re: ENKE/LLANOS crossing – I want to say I disagree that a crossword’s job is to befriend new solvers or cater to veteran ones, especially on a Sunday. IMHO, there’s no such thing as a Natick (other than the town). A tough, “unfair” crossing is an opportunity to learn something and get it the next time.

        • 100% disagreed — there absolutely can be unfair crossings in crosswords. A puzzle can have tough clues but it should still set solvers up to succeed. A Natick crossing doesn’t do that. In fact, it will likely just frustrate veteran solvers and deter newer solvers from thinking that they can solve crosswords at all.

          (Whether or not LLANOS/ENKE crosses into Natick territory, I’ll leave others to debate that.)

          • Norm says:

            I don’t mind obscure stuff in a crossword (yes, I’m looking at you, BEQ) if it’s crossed fairly with something I have a reasonable chance of figuring out. My pet peeve is rappers, whose names (as far as I can tell) do not have to follow any linguistic principles. Use one of those, and you have to give me something sensible in the cross (which, to give him credit, I think BEQ has done of late). ENKE was weird, but LLANOS was fair play in my book.

          • Sarah says:

            I don’t agree with either of you. An obscurity, crossed with or without another obscurity, is already a failure.

    • Papa John says:

      Count me in with those who liked today’s NYT. I thought it has a bunch of rather good clues and fresh fill. the theme was fun. The “super loopers” reminded me of those dizzying round-abouts. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to get off. Knowing when the words ended and began in the loopers is similar. While I don’t see it as “magic”, it was still very entertaining.

  2. jeff says:

    No one seems to have noticed that all the looped answers loop at the letters “ER,” which explains the title and makes the puzzle much more cohesive. It wasn’t my favorite puzzle ever, but the theme is a lot more taut than what some reviewers have conceded.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I thought the theme was fun. Better for me than the punny Sundays.

    I believe that the additional constraint is that ER was always in the bottom 2 letters. Once you tumble to it, it helps. Granted that they are very common letters, but it requires that the two words in a phrase have them at exactly the right distance. Cool.

    The clue for RNA – Stranded Cellular Stuff– is either slightly wrong or rather sophisticated. Usually a strand means some sort of thread that is part of an assortment of threads (e.g. in hair). In DNA, there are 2 such strands, so DNA is definitely stranded stuff. In RNA there is typically only one chain. It can be described as “single-stranded” in contrast to the template DNA that is double stranded. I will add that there are conditions under which RNA will appear double stranded as it loops upon itself, but that’s a specialized condition. Anyhow, when I think about strands, the concept evokes DNA first.

    • Shteyman says:

      “I will add that there are conditions under which RNA will appear double stranded as it loops upon itself…”

      What an elegant evocation of today’s theme. Does it loop at the UG dinucleotide? (Don’t answer that!)

    • pannonica says:

      Assuming that this was a simultaneous observation of the ER repetition. And the RNA amplification is nifty-nifty!

      • Christopher Smith says:

        Have to agree with the pro-NYT crowd here, particularly when you tie in the ER facet with the title. Didn’t love all the theme answers but it was very clever & well executed. Much prefer this to a high concept puzzle that has more misses than hits.

  4. Alan D. says:

    LAT re: 93-across ODESA. This answer always gets lots of complaints whenever it shows up but I am here to defend it. In my daughter’s third grade classroom they have a new map of the world and guess what…ODESSA appears as ODESA. I then checked the globe they have…ODESA. So future generations are going to think ODESSA the variant. That sealed the deal with me regarding this word.

  5. Papa John says:

    I want to add that my favorite clue/fill was 22A: “‘The only beauty that never fades,’ per Audrey Hepburn.” ELEQUENCE

  6. Papa John says:


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