Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hex/Quigley 19:15 (Vic) 


LAT 8:21 (Jenni) 


NYT 7:45 (Jenni) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “WHAT A ZOO!”—Jenni’s write-up

Amy’s out with her family and I’m pinch-hitting. Ross Trudeau is fast becoming one of my favorite constructors. This is a nice example of his work with a multi-pronged theme featuring cryptids. The Oxford Dictionary defines “cryptid” as “An animal whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.” We have three, each cross-referenced to its purported location:

NYT 12/9, solution grid

  • 24a [Cryptid of the 91-Across] is ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN. 91a, in turn, is [Creation after the Indian and Eurasian plates collided], or the HIMALAYAS. I appreciate the straightforward cluing rather than a recursive cross-reference.
  • 31a [Cryptid of the 115-Across] is LOCH NESS MONSTER. 115a, [Gaelic’s home], is SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS.
  • 48a [Cryptid of 105-Across] is THE KRAKEN, and he (or she?) hails from THE NORWEGIAN SEA, clued as [It borders Iceland’s eastern coast]. I look forward to learning more about THE KRAKEN when we visit Iceland in March.

In the middle of the puzzle we have three more theme answers: 62a [With 68- and 74-Across, J. K. Rowling’s first screenplay, with a hint to three pairs of answers in this puzzle]. All together those three entries give us FANTASTIC BEASTS/AND/WHERE TO FIND THEM.

A nice, solid, satisfying theme. THE KRAKEN is new to me. I’ve heard of Champ, the cryptid reported to live in Lake Champlain. Are there others?

A few other things:

  • 4d [___ Johnson a.k.a. The Rock] is DWAYNE. Local boy makes good! He spent part of his adolescence in Bethlehem, PA, where he played football for Freedom High, rival of Liberty. It’s the American heartland around here.
  • 8d [2007 #1 Alicia Keys album] is AS I AM. I filled that in from crossings and assumed the M was incorrect before I read the clue.
  • 16d [Housewives and househusbands] are HOMEMAKERS. I have a feeling that was Ross’s clue, not Will’s. Call it a hunch. I was wrong. Will Emailed me. It was his clue. I will revise my sense of Will’s clued-up-ness to gender roles
  • 47d [Person who’s happy to go bust?] is an amusingly fresh clue for NARC.
  • Being married to a geologist will make you smarter: 51d [Certain product of pyrolysis] is SHALE OIL.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: THE KRAKEN. I had also never heard of CARLOTTO Massimo or “The Goodbye Kiss.”


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 9” – Jim Q’s writeup

WaPo crossword solution * 12 09 18 * “Themeless No. 9” * Birnholz

After the super-high word count in last week’s Mini-Madness puzzle, this week is at the opposite end of the spectrum: the 9th in Evan’s 21×21 themeless series. Naturally, the word count will be lower. In this case 128 words.

Seed Entries (or at least I assume):

  • 47A [Comedic true-crime podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark] MY FAVORITE MURDER. I’ve never heard of this podcast, but you can bet it’s on my list after discovering My Dad Wrote a Porno in WaPo puzzle from a couple of months ago. Although it was new to me, it was fun to suss out- even with the east side of the entry being in the toughest part of the grid for me.

    My unfinished gingerbread house! Or gingerbread pub I should say… get it? Instead of “The Bitter End”?

  • 77A [Model home shown in December?] GINGERBREAD HOUSE. Got this without any crosses. It might be because I was literally solving the puzzle next to a gingerbread house I’m building. Proof in the picture. I’m way behind though… everyone else at the restaurant where I work has finished his/hers.



Notable Clues/Entries:

  • 34A [Royal coups?] NO HIT GAMES. As I know nothing about royalty, I skipped over this one, but it filled itself in later. The Kansas City Royals. Clever!
  • 53A [Piercing spots for some] NIPPLES. Fun to see nipples clued as what everyone knows them to be rather than “Parts of baby bottles.”
  • 79D [Apple picker’s market?] APP STORE. Apple in clue with “?” = think the company.
  • 60A [She served as the president’s interpreter on a 2016 trip to Cuba] MALIA OBAMA. Who knew??
  • 88A [Autopsy’s genre, aptly] DEATH METAL. Never heard of the band. Found them on YouTube and thought Maybe this won’t be so bad… after hearing the first minute or so. Nope. Not my cup of tea.

Tough Stuff:

  • 25A [Budget ___] CUTS. INNS? Nope… that’s already in the puzzle. CARS? PLAN? Finally I had ?UTS- and it still took me a while.
  • 55A [Metaphor for an introvert’s demeanor] SHELL. I entered MOUSE. Took it out when MOUSETAIL appeared later.
  • 24A [“Helicopter” fruit source] MAPLE. With ??PLE, and the word fruit in the clue…

    Helicopter” fruit

    what else could it be? APPLE of course! Wrong.

  • Names TYCHO Brahe, YVETTE Nicole Brown, Alessia CARA, and HENRI Poincare were all new to me. I found them tougher than usual to infer. And since I just learned that I had no clue how to spell PRIVILEGE, the area with TYCHO (and where I also incorrectly entered MOUSE for SHELL) really gummed me up.


  • 1D [Nintendo antihero with the same name as a Nintendo hero except for an inverted first letter] WARIO.

Fun puzzle, though it’s not a sparkly as Evan’s themelesses tend to be. 4 Stars.

Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Frank Admission”—Judge Vic’s review

As we did two weeks ago, we solve for a longish quip. Which I like, though I know many solvers who do not.  With the timer going, I finished in 19:15, with at least two minutes wasted correcting typos along the way. Read that: This is one easy romp.
At 27-, 44-, 58-, 67-, 84-, and 96-Across, the authors share with us [… a quote by Boris Karloff]: WHEN I WAS NINE I PLAYED / THE DEMON KING / IN CINDERELLA AND / IT LAUNCHED ME ON A / LONG AND HAPPY / LIFE OF BEING A MONSTER. Other noteworthy stuff includes:

  • CRooked Crossword, “Frank Admission,” Solution, 12-9-1.

    39a [Forest feller] WOODMAN–I’d have thought WOODSMAN, but it seems the two are synonyms.

  • 54a [No vegan] MEAT-EATER–An interesting study, this term, as to whether it’s two words, a compound word, or a hyphenated word. The mainstream dictionaries don’t carry it all, leaving one to apply general rules that would forbid a layperson from daring to cast it as a compound word. The TV show doesn’t help matters, as Netflix puts a moose head between the words in some depictions, has one on top of the other in some, and in normal prose renders it MeatEater, breaking multiple rules. 
  • 78a [Botherations] HEADACHES–Good word, botheration. I remember it, though hazily, from my childhood. My mother was the only person I ever heard say it. Or was that my grandmother? M-W Online defines it circularly: “the act of bothering” or “something that bothers.” For the record, I disapprove of such lexicographical laxity. Oxford  gives us a choice, circle or no: “Effort, worry, or difficulty; bother” (yes, they do use the Oxford comma!).
  • 14d [Raisers of Cain] HELLIONS–This word I definitely learned from my mother. She was referring to people I should not emulate.
  • 81d [King Midas, e.g.] PHRYGIAN–Thank goodness for the crossers on this one. Was this in the King Midas book?

2 stars. Even though I like quip puzzles in general, I found this one to be very non-exciting.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Culinary School” – Jenni’s write-up

We have food and cooking terms defined – differently. Some work better than others.

LAT 12/9, solution grid

  • 23a [Pie company exec?] is a PASTRY WHEEL. Shouldn’t that be “big wheel?”
  • 25a [Bad brunch review?] is an OMELET PAN.
  • 37a [Neighborhood with meat purveyors?] is a BUTCHER BLOCK.
  • 55a [ATM code you rotate regularly?] is a ROLLING PIN.
  • 84a [Thief at a fertility clinic?] is an EGG POACHER.
  • 98a [Nasty group of directors?] is a CUTTING BOARD.
  • 116a [Stadium for a boxing match?] is a PUNCH BOWL.
  • 118a [Journalists covering a spicy story?] are the GARLIC PRESS. This is my favorite.

As I look at the list, I realize there’s only one that doesn’t work well. It’s the first one, though, so it colored my experience of the theme.

A few other things:

  • 4d [Without delay, as payment] is ON THE NAIL. I haven’t heard this phrase used on its own. Just me?
  • 36d [Gullible sort] is a SIMP. Not a word you see every day. Let’s bring it back.
  • 53d [Collection of heir pieces?] is the punny clue for ESTATE.
  • 73d [Concealed] is PERDU. Never heard it used this way except for “pain perdu,” which connects with the food theme. Now I want French toast.
  • 88d [Easy paces] are DOG TROTS. Not often used in the plural, and I’ve apparently been using it (or understanding it) incorrectly. I thought it meant a quick pace – like doubletime. Google supports the puzzle’s meaning.
  • Could have done without ATTS crossing TELCOS when the latter is clued as [AT&T and Verizon], even thought the ATTS in the grid are attorneys.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: DOG TROT.

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10 Responses to Sunday, December 9, 2018

  1. JohnH says:

    Got to the NYT early. I thought it was pretty boring. Who cares that the Kraken is from the Norwegian Sea? I guess it’s in part just a bow to Rowling, since in puzzles Harry Potter’s series has (sadly) the presence and authority of the Bible (and, no, I’m not complaining out of religious belief). Or maybe the New Testament to Star Wars trivia as the Old Testament, with the Simpsons as the Apocrypha.

    Indeed, when I saw the clues for the central entries, I was sure I was doomed and could care less. In fact, the puzzle was not reliant on them, and it went even a bit too easy. But then the fill had unusually odd names like CARLOTTO, DR CLAW, and ASTANA. And where I always think of fills starting THE as cheating, here there’s more than one. (Why, say, the Kraken but only Abominable Snowman? I guess THE WAR is a lot more justifiable.) Anyhow, a disappointing Sunday.

  2. roger says:

    I counted at least 13 names in the clues of entertainers, movie or other characters, etc. none of whom I knew. I don’t think the puzzle should be a trivia contest. Any other opinions?

    But Jenni, on another point, tonight I started looking at trips to Iceland so your comment was timely. I have a lot of questions about tours, etc. and would like to ask you about them. If it is OK with you, can you contact me at my email address ( or is requesting that against the rules? Thanks in advance.

    Roger Herz

  3. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: “Are there others?”

    Funny you should ask…. (I recommend turning on subtitles.)

    • Christopher Smith says:

      It’s heretical to favor anyone over Joel but Jonah provides a different flexibility. Can’t imagine a host segment like this 25 years ago.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Since Jonah was anointed directly by Joel, I think it’s okay to like him. Maybe he doesn’t have the best singing voice, but he’s able enough in that department, and his confidence and ability to pull off intricate bits like this one are endearing.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      this is amazing. thanks.

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPo: A deceptively great puzzle from Evan which reminds me of some of Patrick Berry’s toughest themelesses from the New York Sun years ago. Both compilers try to give you “detour” solutions around answers you don’t know. I finished in a reasonable time in spite of not knowing: ANAND, WILE as a verb, CARMELA from the Sopranos, CARA Alessia, YVETTE Nicole Brown, AUTOPSY, Hadhramaut, Tough Mudder, Kilgariff and Hardstark and their podcast, GOGO, Mr. Show, WARIO, MOUSETAIL, Quan Thanh, HENRI Poincare, Braille’s first name, and “Brack-ish.” Nor am I sure I’ve heard of SIERRA MIST and Sarah Palin’s name just would not come to me–probably a defense mechanism to avoid bad memories. In spite of all these personal lacunae, Evan constructed “work-arounds” to allow completion with no errors. Thanks, Evan, for another sophisticated construction and a great start to a Sunday. Now, sadly, I have to go the Sunday Times puzzle. Oy vey.

    • Norm says:

      Agreed. KENSIT was the huh? name for me, but the crosses were fair, which made for a very enjoyable puzzle.

  5. Lise says:

    That monster video was super. I had to watch it three times, and the subtitles definitely improve the experience. Thanks for sharing!

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