Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 6:43 (Amy) 


NYT 11:14 (Amy) 


WaPo 10:48 (Erin) 


Mary Lou Guizzo & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Making A Fast Buck”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 24 17, “Make a Fast Buck”

I’m in a “bah, humbug” mood because this “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”-themed puzzle did not enchant me. The circled letters make an alphabetical-order connect-the-dots picture that approximates a reindeer, and there’s a rebus square in 1-Down that takes {RED} (as part of REDRUM and SHREDS). There’s assorted thematic fill as well: 51d/53d THE MOST FAMOUS / REINDEER OF ALL and 123a. [Who’s depicted in this puzzle when the circled letters are connected from A to Z and back to A], RUDOLPH are the core of it, along with singer GENE AUTRY and Rudolph’s SHINY NOSE (Rudolph! Just get a little powder or blotting papers for that shine). Other Christmassy stuff includes:  66a JINGLES (but not its symmetrical partner); LONG U (meh) clued as [Yule sound?]; SAINT Nicholas; NBC‘s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center”; 94d SANTA (technically a dupe of SAINT, but whatever); 79d Three WISE Men; LINUS clued via A Charlie Brown Christmas; and OLD Father Christmas (really? with that OLD in there? Just plain “Father Christmas” is far more common). Last, there’s 15d. [Notably nonunionized workers], ELVES. Wait. Who says they’re not unionized? You know how many pro-labor children have had their holidays ruined by this slander?

With all the thematic stuff and the limited options for where the A-though-Z squares could be placed, there are compromises in the fill. To wit: OENO-, E-SIGN when we already have an E-word here (E-CARD), KNT, O MY (oh my!). Certainly not the worst Sunday fill we’ve seen, mind you, and there are cool bits like EMBLAZONS, PRODIGIES, SAVE PAR, and SNUGLIS.

Three more things:

  • 42d. [Licorice-flavored brew], ANISE TEA. Gross. Gross as a beverage concept and as a crossword answer.
  • 46a. [One of the Wayans brothers], DAMON Wayans, Jr. Hey! This week, we are especially pleased to see a non-Matt clue for DAMON.
  • 9d. [It moves a cursor back], LEFT KEY. What? No. That’s your left arrow, or left arrow key. “Left key” sounds like a potato thing, a hybrid of latke and lefse.

3.8 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Tag Line” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 12/24/17

This puzzle starts off with some starred clues and a constructor’s note. METAPUZZLE: What four-word phrase is this puzzle’s “tag line”? The link between the starred entries is alluded to in 126a. [Where one may find a gift (and a hint to this puzzle’s meta)] UNDER THE TREE. Each of the theme entries contains the name of a tree:

  • 23a. [*”Capitalism: A Love Story” director] MICHAEL MOORE
  • 43a. [*Connie Corleone’s portrayer] TALIA SHIRE
  • 57a. [*”Addicted to Love” singer] ROBERT PALMER
  • 86a. [*Device that supplies electricity outdoors] SOLAR CHARGER
  • 102a. [*Inexperienced sort] FIRST-TIMER

The letters in the grid directly below the hidden trees spell the puzzle’s meta answer: HAP PYH OLID AYSTO YOU, or HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU, which could be found on a gift tag this time of year.

Other things:

    • 7d. [Plaza Hotel character] ELOISE. A spirited six-year-old book character who lives at the top of the hotel and does whatever the heck she wants.
    • 20d. [M*A*S*H soda] NEHI. The @ceeesseyeess Twitter account features selfies with crosswordese in the wild. This was a year and a half ago.
    • 133a. [Vegetables in a Finnish rosolli salad] BEETS. Rosolli also contains carrots, potatoes, and pickles, and is traditionally served at Christmas.
    • 72d. [“Stay” author Caletti] DEB. She’s a young adult fiction author who did not start writing seriously until her youngest child was two years old. I can barely string a couple sentences together, so major props to her.
    • 33d. [Wolverines’ relatives] OTTERS. They are both members of the family Mustelidae, but otters have a separate subfamily of their own. Please enjoy this educational poster about mustelids.

Until next week!





Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Magnetism”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 12 14 17, “Magnetism”

The theme revealer is 113a. [Maxim that applies to pairs hiding together in the answers to starred clues], OPPOSITES ATTRACT. It took me a long time to figure out where those opposites were, since the “Magnetism” title and NORTH near the middle of the grid had me thinking of north/south magnetic opposites. Do you think those opposites should have been circled/shaded here? I vote yes, since I’m really good at identifying themes and this one was rather elusive for me. The opposites are ON/OFF in PROBATION OFFICER, HE/SHE in PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (not technically opposites, though, are they?), IN/OUT in SPIN OUT OF CONTROL, HERE/THERE in WHERE THERE’S A WILL, and ME/YOU in EVERY TIME YOU GO AWAY.

I thought the ’80s Paul Young looked a little like my dad when he was younger. See what you think. (And no, I’m not showing you an old picture of my dad.)

In general, I did not enjoy this puzzle because the theme had no innate humor to it (might have felt a little more like a word puzzle if those opposing words had been circled in the grid), and because so much of the theme felt fusty and stale. I mean, when 1a is random Roman numeral MDL and it’s right on top of crosswordese bird SORA (see also: CURLEW, not super common around these parts) and they’re both crossing a partial with a cross-referenced clue, the puzzle has announced its intentions early. That promise was borne out by fill like ENSE, ENCRE and ENVOI, plural ORRS, WYE, EROSE, plural YEASTS and OUGHTS, word fragments OSTE- and -EAN beside each other, plural TORSI, and so on.

Three things:

  • 1d. [Transmute], MORPH. As in transmutation. Transmute is not really a common word, is it?
  • 66d. [Tarzan’s realm], APEDOM. Good gravy, who uses that word?
  • 4a. [Big name in shoes], MCAN. Thom McAn used to be a big name in shoes. There haven’t been any Thom McAn stores in years, though, and the brand name is now found only at Sears and Kmart stores. Chicago has seen every Sears store but one get closed in recent years.

2.5 stars from me.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “You, You, You” — punnunucu’s sum-up

CRooked • 12/24/17 • “You, You, You” • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

Quickly, now.

The only vowels in the theme answers are U, though that letter isn’t exclusive to the theme answers. That is, it appears throughout the grid as well.

  • 23a. [Morning coffee?] SUNUP CUPS.
  • 28a. [Mushroom omelet?] FUNGUS BRUNCH.
  • 41a. [Baldfaced lies?] BLUNT UNTRUTHS.
  • 59a. [Cookie-jar leftovers?] SURPLUS CRUMBS.
  • 65a. [Elmer going after Daffy?] FUDD’S DUCK HUNT.
  • 88a. [Full-mooners society?] PLUMP BUTT CLUB.
  • 100a. [Marathon for morons?] NUMBSKULL RUN.
  • 110a. [Ballet costume malfunction?] STUCK TUTU.

Oh, right. Should’ve mentioned that they’re all made-up phrases.

Was a speedy solve, no bumps to speak of. Forgoing my typical run-down of allied and quasi-allied material, the questionable stuff, the notably good stuff, et cetera.

(You can skip to 3:45 if you wanna know why.)

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23 Responses to Sunday, December 24, 2017

  1. tc says:

    Snuglis. Snuglis? Snuglis?!
    No, not even google really knew what this/these was/were.


    • Gail Wollerton says:

      Try Google with 2 G’s. Snuggli. It’s a baby carrier, and for a while was used generically, like Kleenex for tissue.

      • Lise says:

        I had a Snugli back in the day. It was a wonderful way to carry my little guy around. And if you google “snugli” with one g, it comes right up as well as with 2 gs. (Amazon is the first hit both times on my search).

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: You’d have thought that they’d omit the ‘L’ in the alphabetic sequence, per the hoary seasonal pun.

  3. Ethan says:

    Huh, all these years I thought it was Rudolf.

  4. Lise says:

    I hope Santa is not using a cattle PROD on the reindeer (93A).

  5. JohnH says:

    I didn’t really like much of the NYT fill, like (yes) LEFT KEY and SNUGLIS. And I’m often only lukewarm about connect the dots puzzles as more “meta” than theme. But I really like this puzzle overall, because there were additional theme answers, because the drawing was unusually lively, and because the puzzle of a single apparent rebus turned out to make sense in the end.

    I don’t think I’ve heard of Old Father Christmas either. Makes me think of “You are old, father William” through the looking glass.

  6. Armagh says:

    Every piece of three-letter crossword drek in this one. Ugh.

  7. Eric Conrad says:

    WaPo: Loved it
    NYT: Clever drawing, but otherwise meh. The TAUTOU/VICUNA crossing is pure Natick, IMO

    • Lois says:

      To each his/her own. That was one of my rare easy spots in this very tough puzzle, which I couldn’t complete, even with the help of the alphabetically ordered circles.

  8. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT seemed like a fine Xmas puzzle. More cute than transcendent, in keeping with the holiday. The rebus near the beginning was an interesting misdirect, otherwise it may have been too easy as the circled boxes began giving themselves away. A lot of 3-Letter junk but at least everything was A Thing aside from the weird LEFT KEY.

  9. pannonica says:

    NYT: nb: Sea otters are the heaviest, the most massive, extant members of the Mustelidae, but aren’t by all definitions the ‘largest’.

  10. placematfan says:

    Why all this gruff about LEFT KEY? Sure, if you contextualize the term in a computer-setup paradigm, no one uses it then; but if I imagine, say, I’m renaming a file and working with that blinking cursor… there’s all kinds of situations–e.g., having the Caps Lock on and having to go back or whatever–where I’m not going to say “left arrow key” but “left key”. In other words, yeah, if I am noting that key in general dialogue with a person, I would probably say “left arrow key”; but if I’m just on my computer typing and I look up at the screen and see all caps when I didn’t want all caps, my brain doesn’t tell me to press and hold down the left arrow key, but the left key. I think it exists. It’s a thing.

  11. Penguins says:

    Van the Soulful

  12. jim hale says:

    Agree with Amy’s review except I rated it lower. Really didn’t like the singleton rebus at the beginning.

  13. reybo says:

    No one comments on SHRS for “Tears to smithereens?” Or RRUM for “Plot device in “The Shining?” Neither of them has an explanation on the net.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you looked at my solution grid or read the write-up (right here on the same page where you’re asking!), you’d have seen that it’s a rebus square and not an R. SH{RED}S and {RED}RUM, making a spot for Rudolph’s red nose.

      • reybo says:

        Yes, saw your post after I wrote, Amy. On the on-line print out there’s only an ordinary square, no rebus. Two choices to print but no rebus in either. I do wish “Crossword Solver” would explain answers like this. I spent much time not getting it, not that I had better things to do.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          That’s exactly how rebus squares work—they’re not marked, the solver has to figure it out when the desired answer just won’t fit into the space available. (Many solvers find them enormously frustrating! And this one was harder to identify because there wasn’t a whole rebus theme.)

          No idea what Crossword Solver is. Is that one of those hack sites that pull all the clues and answers from puzzles so they can make ad revenue without providing any fresh content?

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