Sunday, February 18, 2018

Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:26 (Amy) 


NYT 9:49 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:49 (Laura) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Upstaged”—Laura’s write-up

WaPo - 2.18.18 - Birnholz - Solution

WaPo – 2.18.18 – Birnholz – Solution

(For today’s blog post, the role of “Erin” will be played by Laura.)

Give my regards to Broadway, because we’ve got eight one-word musical titles reversed in eight long down entries: RENT, ONCE, MAME, AIDA, HAIR, EVITA, ANNIE, CATS. Get it? They’re up-staged! Really nice finds on all of these; too bad there isn’t a phrase in the language like “Rio, Not Lima, Harry”! I feel like we’ve had a few musical-themed puzzles of late; I mind it not. Bring on the show tunes! I think I’ve seen all of these except Once and Aida; the most recent was a student production of Hair a few years ago. (It was a little funny to see the kids who were in the nude scene studying in the library afterwards.)

My one tiny quibble, the barely perceived off-note in a rousing chorus, is that not every musical title spans multiple words in the down entries; so while you have RENT spanning WHAT NERVE [3d: “Well, I never!”] and ONCE beautifully spanning QUEBEC NORDIQUES [5d: Former NHL team that relocated to Colorado in 1995] and, spectacularly, ANNIE triple-spanning LIVE-IN NANNY [70d: Domestic employee who resides at the place of employment], AIDA and EVITA each fit entirely into the first word of the entry phrase (RADIAL and RELATIVE, respectively).

Fill-wise, my faves:

  • [43a: Mousse kin]: GEL and [67a: Moose kin]: ELK (why not complete the set with [Moo’s kin]: NEIGH)
  • [30d: Pastime for posers?]: YOGA
  • [35d: Maker of i-opening products?]: APPLE
  • [56d: Movie star Dianne who turns into movie star Mae when I ain’t there?]: WIEST
  • [97d: Fish-filled shell, maybe]: TACO

What’s even better than musicals? Parody musicals! Like in my favorite show, or those Tony opening numbers, or something I’ll be singing when I go to New Orleans (home of pirates, drunks, and thieves) this spring:

Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword, “See 68-Across”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 18 18, “See 68-Across”

I don’t at all care for the cross-reference in the puzzle’s title. I bet one of you can come up with a great title that relates to the theme. 68a. [Supercilious sort … or the title for this puzzle], NAME-DROPPER. Come up with a good title and have the 68a clue say ” … or a description of what’s going on in this puzzle’s theme.”

So the long Acrosses are oddball phrases clued in somewhat gettable ways, and each one forms a much more familiar phrase when the name that drops from it (in an answer with a cross-referenced clue that signals the full phrase) is included.

  • 29a. [Search engine failure?], BING ERROR. Add the name BILL at 29d, and you get a BILLING ERROR, [surprise in the mail].
  • 30a. [Is able to translate what was heard on the wall?], SPEAKS FLY. Add FRANK, SPEAKS FRANKLY, [is blunt].
  • 55a. [Mattress tester’s compensation?], SLUMBER PAY. I would like that job! Add ART, SLUMBER PARTY, [big sleepover].
  • 77a. [Dress code requirement for the Puritans?], PRIM COLORS. MARY, PRIMARY COLORS, [red, blue and yellow].
  • 103a. [Hoped-for conclusion by someone with sore knees?], EARLY AMEN. ERICA, EARLY AMERICAN, [simple furniture style].
  • 108a. [Make a really long-distance call?], PHONE MARS. ANNE, PHONE MANNERS, [not talking loudly on a cell, e.g.].

I really like this theme. I’d filled in much of the theme without catching on the x-ref bits were all people’s names, so hitting the NAME-DROPPER reveal gave a nice little “a-ha” moment. Three male-ish names, three female-ish names, good balance.

We’ve got some lively longer fill in the grid: AL CAPONE, SEA LIONS (two days running!), EXTRA-VIRGIN olive oil, a single PIEROGI, Amy POEHLER, and LOTUS-EATERS. Much of the remaining fill left me a bit cold, though. Having the opening corner contain APSE INIT PENUP and two foreign words made for a disgruntled start. Assorted other blah bits, like URAL TAY RRR AMIES HIER ENDOR NONET, plural OMARS and a singular ARREAR? ONE O’CAT (which many of us know only from ungainly appearances of ONEO in crosswords) evoked a raised eyebrow, and I outright scoffed at AFLERS, [New York Titans and Dallas Texans, in ’60s sports]. I Googled AFLERS and you know what popped up? Some uses referring to players in the Arena Football League, and not the American Football League of yore. These league abbrev + -ER entries are unwanted enough when it’s a current Big Four league or baseball’s AL and NL, but AFL? No.

3.75 stars from me. Cool theme idea, but more polished fill surrounding it would have pleased me.

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

CRooked • 2/18/18 • “New Friends” • Cox, Rathvon • solution

It’s a quoter. And a groaner.

  • 23a/40a/62a/87a/106a. [… a loner’s anecdote] I FOUND A BOOK CALLED | HOW TO MAKE PEOPLE | LIKE YOU | IT TURNED OUT TO BE | A BOOK ABOUT CLONING.

This joke works only in written form, as the cadence of someone speaking the lines would either give it away or disingenuously mislead—no plausible deniability.

On to the let’s-make-connections segment!

  • 21a [Morphine or codeine] OPIATE,  86d [Narcotic choice of Coleridge] LAUDANUM. “Reddish-brown and extremely bitter, laudanum contains almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine …”
  • 11d [At a smart clip] APACE, 38a [Moves 11 down] SPANKS—this is not a usage I’m familiar with. Is it regional? Merriam-Webster has as its second sense: “to move quickly, dashingly, or spiritedly – spanking along in his new car”36d. 47a [Light afoot] AGILE. 64d [Reeves of “Speed”] KEANU. And sure why not, 42d [Disco-style] A-GO-GO.
  • 37d [“Billy Budd,” for one] NOVELLA, 100a [Like Saki stories] SHORT, much shorter than novellas.
  • 31a [Big Muddy embankment] LEVEE followed directly by 32a [Free-for-all] MELEE. Just need the similarly French derived GELÉE and RENÉE, plus the crossword-preferred spellings of TEHEE and TEPEE.
  • Symmetrical to the preceding twosome are surnames featuring a silent terminal E: 97a [Milton of old TV] BERLE, 99a [Reading Gaol poet] WILDE.
  • Speaking of classic [notorious] crossword fill: 49a [Dam-building agcy.] TVA, 51a [WWII battle town] ST LO, 71d [Rounded molding] OGEE, 109d [Beehive State player] UTE.
  • 25d [Horse of the Year five times] KELSO, 30d [Nevada city] ELKO.

These longish entries were refreshingly out of the ordinary: 3d [Of a poetic Greek god] APOLLONIAN, 27a [Fabric border] SELVEDGE, 4d [having slats, like a shutter] LOUVERED, 9d Train compartments] ROOMETTES, 16d [Plumber’s access] CRAWLSPACE,  34d [Kids’ cutouts] PAPER DOLLS (not the espionage/criminal type of cutout, apparently), 72d [Longfellow’s tale of “Acadie”] EVANGELINE.

  • 19a [Fat-removal pref.] LIPO-. Such a strange clue. The prefix lipo- itself indicates ‘fat’ and there are plenty of examples of it other than liposuction—lipoderm, lipoma, liposome, lipophilic, lipogram, etc. And the clue as phrased uses the unappealing abbrev. “pref.” when a better option might be something like [Fat-removal procedure, colloquially].
  • Funny, even with the priming of the preceding 35d [ERA, RBI, etc.] STATS, I couldn’t make sense of 36d [Breaking ball] until nearly all the letters of CURVE had been filled in.

Overall, liked the crossword, but the theme not so much.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Political Insiders”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 2 18 18, “Political Insiders”

Took me a while to see what the theme was, even with the title and the revealer. Each long Across contains a 3-letter PRESIDENTIAL MONOGRAM, with the president’s term number included in the clue. At first I was looking at the theme answers’ initial letters, but that’s not where the theme is.

  • 23a. [Kiddie lit hero created by Hans and Margret Rey (#18)], CURIOUS GEORGE. Ulysses S. Grant.
  • 33a. [It usually begins “How many (whatever) does it take … ” (#36)], LIGHT BULB JOKE. A distraction from the theme, since the phrase’s initials are also LBJ. Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • 51a. [Film based on the novel “Shoeless Joe” (#32)], FIELD OF DREAMS. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • 82a. [Arizona tourist attraction (#34)], PAINTED DESERT. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • 101a. [Athletic retiree? (#37)], UNIFORM NUMBER. Richard M. Nixon.
  • 114a. [Religious high point? (#33)], CHURCH STEEPLE. Harry S Truman.

Mostly I was distracted from the theme by the clunky fill. The opening corner pelted us with uncommon ROADEO, dull EVERTS, foreign partial ES SU, flat RECANE, uncommon OVULES, dull AERIES, and crosswordese ETONS. All sandwiched together in one little corner! This set the tone for “Hold on to your hats, because the fill will skew old.”

Five more things:

  • 46d. [Invited to one’s place], HAD IN. What? No. You have people over. You don’t have them in.
  • Old names! DER ALTE. TOTIE Fields. Charlie LAU. Dan INGRAM (who??). SHANA Alexander. EYDIE Gorme. Martha RAYE.
  • 118a. [What love and hate share?], SILENT E. At my hair salon, there’s a big TV that shows old movies. Gilda was on, and I caught 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there, in disjointed order. Definitely grabbed me, though! Love and hate also share a certain heated passion, as seen in the movie.
  • 18d. [Yankees’ pitcher Masahiro], TANAKA / 25a. [Sways on a curve], CAREENS. Wasn’t sure if 25a would be CAREERS or CAREENS, and I don’t know the pitcher. I guessed that TANAKA was much more likely than TARAKA.
  • 74a. [Spiced up], ZESTED. I checked three mainline American dictionaries, and you know what? None of them attest to a verb form of ZEST applying to anything but the scraping of citrus peel. You don’t zest things up by adding flavor, as this clue would suggest. No idea why the clue doesn’t reference the citrus peel angle. With three proper nouns, the slightly awkward A MOMENT, and not-so-common EGESTS crossing it, ZESTED really wanted a clue that points to it accurately.

2.25 stars from me. I didn’t love the theme, but it’s more workable than the overall fill.

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23 Responses to Sunday, February 18, 2018

  1. Thanks, Laura. I figured because there were so many words ending in -ATIVE that it would be best to stick with that instead of breaking it up over two words, but now that I notice it, there’s the Linkin Park song “WHAT I’VE DONE” that could have worked well (though in that case I couldn’t use WHAT NERVE). HILTON GARDEN INN could have been a good 15 using the musical NINE, too.

    Ah well.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    There was a lot of French in the NYT. It was all simple enough for a regular Sunday solver to know but…it was a lot.

    The nice thing about AFLERS was the specificity of the team names, which needed to pre-date the 1970 merger with the NFL. But it was probably vexing for anyone who is not a football fan of a certain age (which is most people).

    • Steve Manion. says:

      The Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs. The Titans became the Jets. In the late ’70s when racquetball was at its peak, I played racquetball frequently with several of the original Bills. All of them had second jobs when they entered the league. One of them earned $7,000 his first year and another peaked at $11,000. The Texans were the winningest team of the pre-merger AFL with three titles. The Bills won two and even the sports-phobic will recognize their QB: Jack Kemp. As much as I love the Bills, I am not crazy about AFLERS.

      Fun puzzle today.


  3. David L says:

    All that cross-referencing is not what I need on a Sunday morning when I am still on my first mug of coffee.

    The clue for URETHANE seems off to me. I think of urethanes in connection with paints and plastics (as in polyurethane). Googling ‘urethane pesticide’ brings this up: Urethane perhaps most commonly refers to ethyl carbamate, an organic compound typically used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals or in pesticides as a solubilizer and cosolvent.

    So there’s nothing actually pesticidal about urethanes; it’s a component of pesticide applications.

    • Martin says:

      Urethanes comprise a large family of compounds: the esters of carbamic acid. (Ethyl carbamate is called “urethane” although it’s one of many, like diethyl ether is called “ether” although ether is also a large class of compounds.) Many carbamates are used as insecticides. Aldicarb and carbofuran are two carbamate insecticides, AKA urethanes.

      Plus, the clue does say “ingredient.”

      • David L says:

        I congratulate you on your ability to look things up on google.

        I don’t congratulate you on your ability to understand what you are reading.

  4. Robert White says:

    LAT: Very awkward section mid-puzzle- 65D “90s Indian prime minister” & 66D “Planetary reflected-light ratio” crossing 73A “Front line?” (RAO; ALBEDO; ISOBAR)

  5. roger says:

    62 across? “I rec this restaurant”? C’mon!

  6. cyberdiva says:

    I enjoyed the NYTimes puzzle, but I’m puzzled by “supercilious sort” as a clue for NAMEDROPPER. I’ve never heard or seen the word supercilious used that way. I checked two dictionaries, and both agreed with my understanding that supercilious means “feeling or showing haughty disdain” or “displying arrogant pride, scorn, or indifference.” “Namedropper” seems off to me.

  7. Pat says:

    I don’t feel that there was any cross referencing in NYT puzzle. If you want to know the name (or theme) of the puzzle right away, solve the area around 68 across first. But once you’ve seen it, there’s no need to reference it again. It’s no different than having a title at the top of the page. It was actually more fun to figure out the trick while doing the puzzle.

  8. Burak says:

    I hadn’t done WashPo Sunday puzzle before. What a mistake. Much smoother than the standard NYT Sunday fare. Solid execution. I DNFed at AKI_A and GU_SY but you know what, that’s fine. I’ll do them every week from now on.

    • David says:

      You’ve missed many great puzzles from Evan. His are consistently more fun and more creative than the generally dull and disappointing Sunday Times puzzles. It still amazes me how one very talented constructor can outdo the team Shortz and the Times have at their disposal. Today’s Sunday puzzles are no exception.

      • Lise says:

        I liked *both* the WaPo and NYT puzzles today. The NYT theme was fresh and fun, I thought. PHONE MARS made me laugh, especially since I feel that we’ll soon be able to do just that. Being able to work people’s names in seems to me no less of a feat than working in names of musicals. Did all of these musicals win awards? Bonus!

        WaPo: I thought the clue for WIEST was hilarious, and the answer LIAR, a perfect match for its clue. I smiled to remember the wonderful William STEIG, and his charming autobiography When Everybody Wore A Hat came to mind.

        So many animals in the NYT! SEA LION, RED DEER (we have the regular Bambi kind in our back yard) and OCELOT.

        Thanks to both constructors!

        • Burak says:

          Yeah, I didn’t mean to say that today’s NYT was bad. It was indeed pretty good (I gave it 3.7 stars)

          That being said, WaPo was so smooth I couldn’t believe it. Apparently having a large grid doesn’t mean you have to fill it with junk! What a revelation.

  9. Norm says:

    Laura, how about “Alex’s response to Houdini’s wrong guess for Ecuador in Capitals of the World on Final Jeopardy?” Not Lima, Harry [which would cross all three words and make you happy] Okay, okay, I realize that’s really bad.

  10. Marty M. says:

    Verb (from Wiktionary)
    ZEST (third-person singular simple present zests, present participle zesting, simple past and past participle zested)

    (cooking) To scrape the zest from a fruit.
    “To make more zesty”.
    Derived terms

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t know if professional lexicographers are actually overseeing the Wiktionary project at a granular enough level that I can trust an individual definition. If three mainstream American dictionaries don’t include that sense of “zest”—and I looked it up specifically because it doesn’t sound legit to my ear—I’m inclined to disregard Wiktionary.

      • PJ Ward says:

        I consider Wiki-anything as the equivalent of qualitative research. It helps me get an idea of what’s going on and should suggest topics and keywords for for more rigorous activities.

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