Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:34 (Amy) 


NYT 9:40 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:03 (Erin) 


Erik Agard & Laura Braunstein’s New York Times crossword, “Full-Body Cast”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 17, “Full-Body Cast”

Terrific Sunday puzzle from Erik and new Team Fiend regular Laura. The title sounds like an orthopedic inconvenience, but the revealer points us toward another interpretation: 112a. BIT PARTS are [What eight actors took on for this puzzle?]. The theme answers are actors, clued by the movies or TV show they were in, and each has a bit of their name spelling out a body part within a rebus square.

  • 25a. [“Batman” actress, 1967-68], {EAR}THA KITT. Crossing I H{EAR} YOU.
  • 31a. [“Traffic” actor, 2000], DON C{HEAD}LE. Crossing T{HE AD}VOCATE. You know who I think looks a lot like Don Cheadle? Ellen Page. Similar face shape, eyes, chin, smile. Check it out.
  • 36a. [“Super Mario Bros.” actor, 1993], JOHN {LEG}UIZAMO. Crossing AL{LEG}E, clued as [State as fact]. Alleging, mind you, is typically done without proof. Stating that something is a fact without having any supporting evidence ≠ “state as fact,” if you ask me.
  • 54a. [“Bride of Frankenstein” actress, 1935], ELSA LAN{CHEST}ER. With RI{CHEST}.
  • 65a. [“Training Day” actor, 2001], DENZEL WA{SHIN}GTON. Crossing PU{SH IN}.
  • 80a. [“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” actress, 2000], MICHELL{E YE}OH. With Jackie Robinson’s ROOKI{E YE}AR.
  • 94a. [“Crash” actor, 2004], RYAN PHIL{LIP}PE. With HE{LIP}ORTS.
  • 102a. [“Frost/Nixon” actor, 2008], O{LIVER} PLATT. With {LIVE R}ADAR.

Now, that’s a weird body you’ve got here, with a liver inside a chest; a head with an ear, eye, and lip; and a leg with a specified shin. The kidneys get a shout-out with RENAL but the rest of the body’s systems are a mess and there are no arms to be found. I do like the assortment of cast members here—it’s mostly male, yes, but also mostly people of color. Representation matters.

Five things I want to point you to:

  • 56a. [Traditional Filipino dish marinated in vinegar and soy sauce], PORK ADOBO. Keep that pork away from me, but yes to adobo sauce (I do eat chicken). But if you don’t mind, try to cut back on the sodium content in that soy sauce. Don’t forget your peppercorns, and you can never make too much rice. I was actually hankering for a trip to Isla Pilipina for dinner, but we had pierogies in the house so we ate Polish rather than Pinoy. (Both ethnicities are represented in the fam.)
  • 52d. [Pot holder], BONG. Boy. I read that clue and was thinking of kitchen accessories, not marijuana. Whiplash!
  • 73d. [Chocolate-coated snack stick], POCKY. If you have never encountered Pocky sticks, look for them at an Asian grocery, international aisle, or online. The classic Pocky is probably chocolate (basically a crisp cookie stick dipped in chocolate) but they have a zillion varieties.
  • 36d. [Primatologist Goodall], JANE. If you did primatology, watch for the National Geographic channel’s miniseries, Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist (starring Sigourney Weaver) and the recent documentary Jane, which shares National Geographic’s archival footage from decades ago.
  • 5d. [What might show participants going neck and neck?], KISS CAM. It’s a fun entry, but the kiss cam (a TV camera at a sporting event aimed at two people in the audience who may or may not be a couple, may or may not be comfortable with public displays of affection, may or may not be mad at each other) itself can be … problematic.

Other highlights in the fill: TACO STAND, POSTDOCS, BELLHOP, BIG TO-DO, ZONK, and OVERTIPS. If it’s not an arithmetic error, just generosity, overtipping is straight-up wonderful.

Worst stuff in the puzzle: T’AIME is a little awkward, nobody’s excited to see a Norwegian-king clue for OLAV, ETON bores me—but there were no real stinkers and not many lowlights.

Before the 2016 NoDAPL resistance at Standing Rock, I would have wondered if the TEPEE clue, 105d. [Where one might raise a flap about a reservation?], was tone-deaf. The water protectors did indeed put up plenty of tepees to shelter them in the Dakotas, and Standing Rock is Sioux land.

4.5 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Cutting Through the Noise” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 12/10/17

Wonderfully clever multilayered tribute to Gen. Chuck Yeager this week. First, sixteen noises border the grid, clued as [Noise at a good standup performance] for HAHA and [Noise at a pie fight] for SPLAT, among others. Next, the standard theme entries:

  • 38a. [Expanse that 69 Across flew over during his historic flight] MOJAVE DESERT
  • 69a. [Pilot who flew the Bell X-1 aircraft during his historic flight] CHUCK YEAGER
  • 96a. [What 69 Across broke in October 1947 … and what you must break nine times to reveal this puzzle’s hidden phrase] SOUND BARRIER

What does this mean? Also, why are nine entries are missing a letter? LASHED does not make sense for 6d. [Reduced, as prices], but SLASHED does. We find the same (O)REO, (N)ODE, MARTIN(I), ALE(C), GAR(B), MIL(O), (O)OPS, and (M)AILED. Where are those missing letters? They’re outside the grid, beyond the border of noise words. In other words, they broke the sound barrier! This revelation allows us to make sense of the constructor’s note: “Certain letters in this challenging puzzle, when read clockwise, will spell an apt two-word phrase.” Starting from the upper left, these nine letters spell SONIC BOOM (not to be confused with a sonic rainboom, of course).

MLP’s Rainbow Dash performing a sonic rainboom.

I love how all these theme aspects mesh together, from the discovery that some letters are missing to the moment I realized why the noise words bordered the grid to the beautiful touch of the letters that broke the sound barrier creating a sonic boom. I also love that Chuck Yeager is 94 years old and has an active Twitter account.

Other things:

White LA Gear sneakers with neon pink and green accents

    • 19a. [West Coast-based shoe company] LA GEAR. I had no clue LA Gear was still around. I had a pair of their sneakers probably in the early 90s (possibly the shoe to the right) and thought I was the coolest thing around. I was nowhere near the coolest thing around, but hey, my shoes came with a neat license plate keychain thing!
    • 91a. [Tarzan’s attire in Tarzan novels] G-STRING. I always thought he wore a loincloth, but it seems to some extent that G-string and loincloth are interchangeable.
    • 119d. [Agrabah monkey] ABU. Agrabah is the fictional setting of Disney’s Aladdin.

Child with onesie saying “Jonathan Swift can bite me”

  • 77d. [Swift products] SATIRE. The Swift here is Jonathan, author of A Modest Proposal, in which he offers a solution for Irish families living in poverty: sell their children to the rich for consumption. Here’s one child’s response to this suggestion. You can tell how incredibly angry he is about the whole thing.

Until next week!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Yours for a Song” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 12/10/17 • “Yours for a Song” • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

Puns of types of vocal composition.

  • 27a. [Gregorian monk’s whole oeuvre?] THE CHANTS OF A LIFETIME (… chance …). “How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life.” (Wittgenstein/Reich).
  • 42a. [Singers of a “hit” song?] COLLISION CHORUS (… course). All right, I suppose they aren’t all compositions—but this one could be had it been clued differently. Now thinking about jousty battle scenes in Excalibur (1981) to the accompaniment of Orff’s Carmina Burana.
  • 60a. [Phobic hymn?] PSALM OF ALL FEARS (sum …). Found a song called “Omniphobia” but it isn’t that good. Better, I think, is RHW Dillard’s 1995 story collection of the same name—though it’s been a long while since I read it.
  • 70a. [Songs for the great outdoors?] WILDERNESS ARIAS (… areas). <Unsuccessfully searches for operatic works by John Luther Adams> Okay, how about Veljo Tormis’ “The Lost Geese”? For two soprano voices and piano. I’ve converted and uploaded it just for you.
  • 89a. [Songs heard from afar?] ABSENTEE BALLADS (… ballots).
  • 108a. [An ugly song can still be patriotic?] ANTHEM IS AS ANTHEM DOES (handsome … handsome). Needed to dig a little to find out what the original phrase was here. Interesting ugly/handsome axis.

Standard pun-tolerance caveat applies. Wish that second one wasn’t a part-of-speech outlier.

Not part of the theme: 71d [“Dies __”] IRAE, 110d [Christmas song] NOEL, 83a [Lacks the means to] CAN’T.

  • 1a [Look at leeringly] OGLE. I’m no prude, but come on—1-across is always going to set the tone for the solver’s experience.
  • 10a [Smidgen, from the Japanese “sukoshi”] SKOSH. Had no idea about this etymological tidbit, and happy to have learned it.
  • 22a [Tasman the explorer] ABEL. Clue randomly evokes ‘Tarzan the Ape Man’. Huh.
  • 123a [Predacious dino] T REX. Also Cretaceous. Also, the clue’s adjective may be spelled ‘predaceous’ which would obviously be better here.
  • 28d [Game’s first sound] HARD G, 35d [Game’s second sound] LONG E. I … I’m not certain how I feel about this pair, but I’ve a feeling I probably hate them.
  • 44d [Lofgren of guitar fame] NILS. His first solo album is criminally underappreciated. Am choosing the following track because I can at least tie it to another entry:
  • And that entry is 90a [Genesis boatman] NOAH. But, doesn’t “boatman” suggest something a little less … massive than his ark in the Bibble?
  • 61d [Hold the __ ] MAYO. No, throw it far, far away.
  • 36d [The sun, in Spain] EL SOL, 65a [Days, in Mexico] DÍAS. Two common names of Spanish-language newspapers are El Sol and El Día.
  • 53a [Outfielder’s call] MINE.

I have a feeling that I’ve shared this one at least once before.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “It’s Amazing”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 12 10 17, “It’s Amazing”

“Amazing Grace” is the core of the theme. Grace, in Christianity, is a blessing. The revealer is MIXED BLESSING, 121a. [It’s not all good … and it’s literally found in this puzzle’s circles], and each themer has a scrambled GRACE in the circled squares. Those themers are the 1979 Iranian HOSTAGE CRISIS, Guinnessian SETTING A RECORD, sporty SOCCER GAMES, stilted BEVERAGE CAN, ashy FIREPLACE GRATE, STRONG REACTIONS on Facebook, and the inimitable DOWAGER COUNTESS, Violet Crawley. BEVERAGE CAN was blah but the rest of the theme is solid.

Fave fill includes REAL DEAL, “LET ME SEE,” and pretty CELADON.

Five more things:

  • 91a. [Mourning on the court], ALONZO. Retired Miami Heat star, Hall of Famer, and someone who got a kidney transplant for the same disease I did. Sounds like his FSGS has not recurred in the transplanted kidney, either. Knock on wood!
  • 20a. [Calligraphy container], INKPOT / 17d. [Fish trapped in pots], EELS. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the “pot” overlap, but these were pretty close together in the grid. Always nice to avoid such duplications when you can.
  • 57d. [Belgium winter hrs.], CET. Pretty sure the majority of American solvers don’t know the abbreviations for time zones outside of Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern. Most of Europe’s on Central European Time, in between Greenwich Mean Time and Eastern European Time. CET is the same as West Africa Time.
  • 126a. [Agreement often reluctant but still respectful], “YES, DEAR.” This feels like a clue that had to have been written by someone who’s married or in a long-term partnership.
  • 86d. [Film lioness], NALA. I bet some longtime solvers plunked in ELSA, the Born Free lioness, here. And then just off the corner of the last letter, there’s 108a. [Queen in “Frozen”], ELSA.

3.75 stars from me. Time for lunch now!

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13 Responses to Sunday, December 10, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: I loved this. Normally I dread filling in actors and actresses, generally needing to rely on crosses, but I *love* rebus puzzles and enjoyed sussing out every theme entry. It took a while to see my error in O{LIVER} PLATT, as RADAR alone seemed fine, but that was my only sticking point. The fill was lovely. Thank you, Mr. Agard and Ms. Braunstein, for a great Sunday puzzle.

    On to the WaPo!

  2. JohnH says:

    Odd mix for me of excessive gimmes and excessive trivia, neither of which makes for a good puzzle. I was racing through this in record time but not enjoying it, then ground to a halt. I never did see that RADAR should have been LIVE RADAR, since I had no idea whether “Orplatt” or “O.R. Platt” was an actor. Never got the cluster of DON CHEADLE, SAT NAV, THE ADVOCATE, and KISS CAM fully either. Never heard of a POCKY (crossing yet another actor and next to a Ninja Turtle and musical title), nor for that matter of Bear Claws, which I see online are regional English far from me.

    I look most forward to rebus puzzles, but not this one.

    • Lise says:

      For me, it was a fun way to learn professional entertainment names, although it took an entire liter of coffee to finish solving.

      On the plus side, I will get a lot done today.

  3. Leonard says:

    Agree it was a very fun puzzle. Don’t agree that representation matters everywhere. What matters is that the name included a body part. Overplaying the representation card diminishes the times when it truly matters.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Given that a great many crossword themes include only or predominantly male names, and given the long-running gender imbalance seen in crossword bylines, I’d argue that representation absolutely matters here, too. It’s not as if pushing for representation in culture means we’re not also pushing for representation in politics, for example. It’s all interconnected.

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    Rebus puzzles can slip into cheap, vexing gimmickry pretty quickly but this was enjoyable. The “liver” didn’t quite fit because it’s an organ, unlike the others. But that’s pretty minor. Really liked the Asian references, a nice break from tired European stuff (although there was the French phrase to meet the Sunday quota).

  5. pannonica says:

    Nice WaPo. The ABU clue reminded me of this 2015 story: “Political ignorance and bombing Agrabah

  6. Lise says:

    Loved the WaPo! What an excellent day this is turning out to be.

    I don’t even mind that I went to the store to get bananas and I spent $70.00 and I forgot to get bananas.

  7. Penguins says:

    agree with the WaPo love – nice puzzle, Evan – still miss your extra spicy devil crosswords

  8. Burak says:

    I started grading NYT Crossword puzzles based on four categories (fill, theme, clues, pleasurability) about three weeks ago, and in that period of time today’s (Sunday) is absolutely the best. It might even be the best Sunday puzzle that I’ve ever solved (I am not an experienced solver by any means, I’ve been doing them regularly for about a year now). I’m amazed by how non-ambitious it was (in that it was not trying to be super cute/smart) and still turned out to be amazingly constructed. Great job.

  9. Jeff G. says:

    Excellent Bit Parts puzzle! Nice job Erik and Laura.

  10. David Glasser says:

    WaPo: 40D is one of my favorite clues in a long long time.

    • David Glasser says:

      Also Evan deserves recognition for his ongoing high standard of only using valid grid entries for puzzles where answers are entered in a fun way.

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