Sunday, 7/31/11

NYT 10:03 
Reagle 8:42 
BG 11:24 (pannonica) 
LAT 7:50 
WaPo 4:42 
CS 6:44 (Sam) 

Pamela Amick Klawitter’s New York Times crossword, “Separate Checks”

NY Times Sunday crossword answers, 7 31 11 "Separate Checks"

Ooh, a nod to crossword lingo in the title, or just another example of a suitable theme entry? The theme answers consist of one word suggesting “broken” plus another word that appears elsewhere in the grid (in circled squares), broken by a black square. In addition to the standard Across and Down “checking” of each square, the circled letters and their paired words in the theme entries serve as an additional “check.” Now, it would seem that the intentional duplication of those words would make the puzzle a lot easier, and somehow my solving time was a good bit longer than normal. Go figure. Can you imagine if the hidden words weren’t circled? Good gravy.

The theme entries are:

  • DIVIDED HIGHWAY, broken-up word last
  • FALLEN APART, broken-up word first
  • TORN ASUNDER right in the middle, broken-up word first—but either word connotes the splitting. Since the other circled words are all more than 4 letters long, I’m a little surprised that ASUNDER wasn’t torn in the grid.
  • BANANA SPLIT, broken-up word first
  • FRACTURED SKULL, broken-up word last
  • CRACKED WINDOW, broken-up word last
  • BROKEN PROMISE, broken-up word last

I like themes that play around with echoes elsewhere in the grid. Remember the SUPERB OWL puzzle by Eric Berlin and Craig Kasper? And Byron Walden’s intersecting-anagrams-aptly-described-elsewhere puzzle? Those were so memorable. (Those are the sorts of puzzles I reserve my 5-star ratings for—the ones I think I’ll remember clearly 5 years later.)

I did not know there was such a thing as a BEAR PIT (59a: [Place for some animal baiting]). Here’s the Wikipedia explanation.

Worst answer in the puzzle: 73a: RETOTAL, or [Check, as one's numbers]. You know who always double-checks the restaurant bill to make sure they’re not chipping in to pay for other people’s cocktails? Teetotaling retotalers.

Favorite clue: 44a: [Inches for pinches] for FLAB. How many inches can you pinch at your waist?

Favorite entry: 83d: “TALK TO ME,” or ["I'm listening"].

Four stars.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Space Exploration”

Merl Reagle crossword answers, 7 31 11 "Space Exploration"

Merl explores where else you could put spaces in selected words and phrases, and the results make for good crossword fun:

  • 18a. [Daydream?] = DEPART MENTALLY. Not sure if this is supposed to play off of “departmentally” or if “department ally” is somehow a lexical chunk. Not my favorite base phrase, but this entry’s part of Merl’s patented stacked long theme answers.
  • 22a. [Obvious trait of a certain two-digit number?] = TWENTY-FOUR’S EVEN. “Twenty-four seven” means all day, every day.
  • 38a. [Rock Star Pays Kid's Bail?] = BRUCE SPRINGS TEEN, newspaper headline style.
  • 45a. [Prepares to play Scrabble?] = TURNS TILES. Wait, more stacking of theme answers in the puzzle’s midsection?
  • 57a. [Tarzan's response to, "Hey, where do they keep the sugar on this ship?"] = “BOWL IN GALLEY?”
  • 66a. [Request from someone who brought his own cola?] = JUST ICE.
  • 71a. [Bride's guy, in France?] = LE GROOM. Didn’t we just have this answer in another puzzle the other week?
  • 80a. [Choice of sailing topics?] = WINDS OR KNOTS.
  • 96a. [Makin' mistakes on the sitar?] = RAGA MUFFIN’. Love the word “ragamuffin,” but wouldn’t messing up your ragas be phrased “muffin’ ragas” rather than “raga muffin’”?
  • 98a. [Registers one's answer on a computerized true-false quiz?] = HOLDS DOWN THE “F” OR “T” on the keyboard. Brilliant!
  • 119a. [Cowboy?] = PERCHER ON HORSES. Have you heard of Percheron horses?
  • 126a. [Florida's new "be kind to golfers" slogan?] = SAVE THE MAN A TEE. Merl lives in Tampa, which is right there in prime Gulf of Mexico manatee territory. (See also 60d: [Like Tampa weather], HUMID.)

Merl, if you’re reading this—let us know how this theme began. What’s the seed entry, how long have you been developing your list of suitable spaceable words and phrases, and are there more than 100 other candidates on that list?

You know, a lot of Sunday-sized puzzles make do with six to eight theme entries. Merl has 12 here, and eight of them are stacked to some degree with other theme answers. You don’t see that sort of thing often. Color me impressed.

Five clues:

  • 4d. [Needed rewinding] clues RAN DOWN. Does this refer to a movie reel? I’m having a little trouble figuring out what’s what. Am grateful, at least, that the clue isn’t [Plowed over with a car].
  • 24a. [Prestone rival] is ZEREX. Oh! I recognize that brand—from a previous crossword.
  • 84a. [1-A or 3-B, perh.] could be an APT. NO., or apartment number. Not to be confused with 38d: B-TEN, a [Bingo call], or R2-D2, [That bleeping droid] sometimes called 5d: ARTOO Detoo.
  • 86d. ["Harper Valley P.T.A." writer Hall] clues TOM T., one of those uncommon first name/middle initial crossword answers.
  • 117a. [Part of ERA],t he Equal Rights Amendment, clues EQUAL. Does it not boggle the mind that the ERA was never ratified? It may sound like an artifact of the 1970s, but we’re still working on it!

4.25 stars.

Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 69″

Washington Post Puzzler 69 crossword answers, 7 31 11

Good stuff this week, particularly the Africa corner (2d: [Official language of Ethiopia] = AMHARIC; 3d: [First name on the algathafi.org home page] = MUAMMAR. Really, “al Gathafi”? That’s a new spelling on me) and the BANJO/GANJA crossing. Evoking both of those pairings, we also have CONGO (28a: [1995 movie that involved the lost city of Zinj]) and BONGO DRUMS (45a: [They're pounded together]).

Trickiest clue, for me: 1d: [Rice concoction?]. It’s Anne Rice, who wrote those vampire books about LESTAT.

Other clues I had to work for:

  • 35d. [Gael Greene, e.g.] is an EPICURE, a food critic. I think I had author Gail Godwin in my head, because I half wondered if EPICIST was a word for someone who writes epics.
  • 16a. If you’re IN THE PAINT on a basketball court, you are [Ready for a rebound, maybe]. Great entry.
  • 44a. [Word found beneath an oak branch] is DIME. Know your coins, people! There will be a quiz.
  • 47a. [Stud asset] is an ACE. Took me until now to understand this as a poker reference. If all the poker clues could get on a boat and sink with all the nautical clues, I’d be OK with that. Except for the ALEE business. I need that word, as “Hard alee!” comes in handy on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

4.25 stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, July 31

This 74/36 is notable both for its rare letters along the equator and in the northeast corner as well as having more entries and black squares than the typical freestyle puzzle.  (Newer solvers may not know that freestyles very rarely have more than 72 entries or more than 32 black squares.)  Shorter entries generally equate to speedier solving times, and that was certainly the case for me.  My solving time suggests this was a Tuesday-level puzzle in terms of difficulty, but maybe I was just on Jordan’s wavelength this time.

It’s always nice to get off to a confident start by plunking down the answer to the first clue you read.  For me, that was 1-Down, [Old Navy sister store].  I’m hardly a mall rat, but even I know that’s THE GAPAGES and PEDAL came next, and those allowed RUBBED, GAB, and HOMAGE to fall shortly thereafter.  Only EMBATTLE (clued [Fortify for fighting]) gave me pause, but I was sure of the crossings.  And from there I was off to the races.  Well, okay, compared to the other bloggers on this site and most of its readers, mine was a light jog compared to their sprints.  But by my standards, it was a race.

Notable items:

  • I’m happy Jordan decided to showcase the best entry, HARSH ONE’S BUZZ, by placing it in the center.  It may mean to [Dampen a person's good mood], but the entry had exactly the opposite effect on me.
  • VAMPIRE BAT is already an interesting entry, but the clue, [Its saliva has an anticoagulant called draculin], made it sparkle even more.  Let’s pray that in 20 years it’s not changed to Edwardin.
  • Is LEAFINESS really a [Lettuce shopper's criterion]?  For me, it’s color first, crispiness second.  Then again, I suppose if the head lacked leaves, I’d pass on it.  So maybe leafiness is a subconscious criterion.  (Google “leafiness,” by the way, and you’ll be asked whether you meant “L.A. Fitness.”  There’s an interesting connection there.)
  • I loved the reference to Snowball II from The Simpsons in the clue for HOUSECAT.  It always reminds me of the poem, Meditations on Turning Eight.
  • [Yawning depths] are ABYSSES.  Abyssi?
  • [Colony-crashing creature] is an evocative clue for an ANTEATER.
  • ELM is the [Street in Johnny Depp's first feature], not 21-JUMP.

Best wishes for a Happy August!

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Punnery” — pannonica’s review

Boston Globe puzzle • 7/31/11 • "Punnery" • answers

“Punnery” because each of the theme entries is a terse two-word phrase in which the second part ends in -er.

  • 23a. [Landlord who keeps mum?] SILENT LETTER.
  • 28a. [Any old anesthetic?] RANDOM NUMBER.
  • 48a. [One pointing out a shooting star?] METEOR SHOWER.
  • 64a. [Stream in the Gobi?] DESERT FLOWER.
  • 70a. [Guy who scams you while giving a lift?] CONNING TOWER.
  • 86a. [Least talented sketch artist in class?] BOTTOM DRAWER.
  • 108a. [Doer of "two" Irish dances?] DOUBLE JIGGER.
  • 117a. [Abacus from New Delhi?] INDIAN SUMMER.

Simple as that. Four of the themers (LETTER, DRAWER, JIGGER, SUMMER) are homonyms and the other half (NUMBER, SHOWER, FLOWER, TOWER) are heteronyms. All of them, however, can be typified as homographs. Translation: all eight have the pivotal, “punnered” word spelled the same; in achieving the new meaning, the pronunciations in half are unchanged while the other four have alternate pronunciations.

As far as themes go, this one is fairly lightweight. The wordplay is sufficient for the occasional smirk or grin, but neither good nor bad enough to evoke a groan. The quantity is not remarkable.

The ballast fill is strong, with good letter variety though not especially Scrabbly. Low CAP Quotient.™ Unusual—and welcome—longer entries include CRUCIBLE, SOLENOID, MR DITHERS, EUTERPE (take that, ERATO and CLIO!), RADIANTLY, AIRSTREAM, OPACITY, SOFT GOODS. Quite a lot of proper names, some of which I didn’t know:

ADELLE [Nutritionist Davis], METCALF [Laurie of "Roseanne"], Daniel ORTEGA [Sandanista leader], BETTY LOU [Blonde Muppet], KARRAS [Ex-footballer Alex], still probably best known for playing Mongo in Blazing Saddles, BEAU [Bridges in movies], EDD [Leno announcer Hall], Arthur ASHE [1975 Wimbledon champ], LERNER [Lyricist in a Loewe key?], ROBB [Virginia pol Chuck], TOSH [Reggae star Peter], ESPO [Bruin Phil, to fans], Christopher REEVE [A Superman player], ROLEN [Gold Glover Scott], CABOT [Old Boston family], CRENNA [Richard of Rambo films], ARDEN [Tennyson's Enoch]. Also, the aforementioned MR DITHERS [Bumstead's boss in "Blondie"] and three Biblical characters, EVE, LOT, and Krazy KAT.

Favorite clues, mostly punny:

  • 5d. [Octet + sestet] = SONNET. Wasn’t thinking of poetry at first.
  • 40d. [Pearl's mother?] NACREa.k.a. Mother-of-pearl.
  • 72d. ["’Course"] NATCH. Colloquial!
  • 103d. [Some sealers] ALEUTS. Echoes the theme.
  • 110d. [Jazzed state?] UTAH. Basketball.
  • 114d. [A bed to lay in?] NEST, as in eggs.
  • 116a. [Wearing a rack] ANTLERED. I see what they did there.

Finally, the minor observation that there are a number of clues with seemingly superfluous, or at least not strictly necessary, quotation marks:

  • 37a. [What's past "due"?] TRE.
  • 108a. [Doer of "two" Irish dances?] DOUBLE JIGGER.
  • 112a. [Cup in a "cafe"] TASSE.
  • 124a. ["Agua" source] RIO.
  • 105d. ["Pal" or "sport"] KIDDO.

Curious. Anyway, overall an enjoyable solve.

Mike Peluso’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Oohs and Aahs”

LA Times Sunday crossword answers, 7 31 11 "Oohs and Aahs"

I’m okay with the theme here—though pronunciation-change themes inevitably highlight regional differences in pronunciation that partially invalidate one or more theme answers. This week’s concept is changing an “ooh” sound to an “aah” sound to pun on familiar phrases:

  • 21a. [Charity that rewards golf talent?] = ALMS FOR THE PAR. Poor to par.
  • 33a. [Treat a Saudi king with TLC?] = COMFORT FAHD. Food to Fah. One of two answers to include a proper name; changes “comfort” from an adjective to a verb.
  • 56a. [Timid officer?] = CHICKEN COP. Coop to cop.
  • 67a. [Miniature B-17?] = BABY BOMBER. Boomer to bomber. Cute.
  • 88a. [Hall of Famer Warren after garage work?] = GREASY SPAHN. Spoon to Spahn. I know he’s a Hall of Famer but I know this name only from crosswords.
  • 106a. [Padding in an Easter basket?] = CHOCOLATE MOSS. Mousse to moss. No, no, no. It’s pronounced “mawss,” not “mahss.” The one dictionary I checked doesn’t even give the “ah” pronunciation as an alternate.
  • 15d. [Stuffy trio?] = THE THREE STODGES. Stooges to stodges. Cute!
  • 41d. [Onset of boredom?] = BIRTH OF THE BLAHS. Blues to blahs. I like it.

My Scowl-o-Meter was running warm throughout the solve. For every BRAVURA WHIZ SNOOZES, there was a multitude of words like ASE, IPANA, HIS’N, ESSO, BALA, SANTEE and EURE rivers, OR TEA, ACNES, ARA, AROAR, OMA, and OGEE. Joon said something about it being pointless to list blah answers in a 21×21 puzzle, but I felt like those answers lurked in every nook and cranny, making for less of a fun solve.

2.75 stars, mainly for the fill.

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31 Responses to Sunday, 7/31/11

  1. John E says:

    It is great when usual fill gets informative clues like “First woman to teach at the Sorbonne”. My least favorite was “SALESROOM” – I don’t know any workplaces that actually have a room referred to with that actual name.

    Thought 54D could have been clued “Brief word describing debt negotiations”

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @John E, I just looked back at the puzzle and was surprised to see that 54d isn’t FUBAR.

  3. sbmanion says:

    So far on the NYT blog, most think that AVES is related to birds. I and at least one other thought it might reference ‘AVES and ‘ave-nots. Any thoughts here?

    The puzzle was easy because the difficult answers had easy crossings, but AVES and PIS were both tough to grok.

    Steve

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Steve: Given that “ave-nots” gets a mere 948 Google hits, I hope to hell AVES means the taxonomic class of birds. Cockneyish ‘AVES would be pretty bad fill, no?

  5. sbmanion says:

    Amy,

    My first thought was birds, but I think I got off it because I was under the mistaken impression that the class was AVIS not AVES. ‘AVES seemed to fit the clue, but I was by no means confident.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I did the NYT without paying attention to the theme clues — I hate being asked to jump around, so no rating from me. As for John E.’s comment, I think that car dealerships around here all have SALESROOMS… as do formal dress boutiques, with separate areas for bridal gowns and another showing gowns for maids of honor. Upscale auction houses also speak of their salesrooms…

  7. HH says:

    “4d. [Needed rewinding] clues RAN DOWN. Does this refer to a movie reel? I’m having a little trouble figuring out what’s what.”

    For those of us old enough to still use them, maybe a wristwatch?

  8. Matt says:

    Since AVES is, specifically, a taxonomic ‘class’ (e.g., not a kingdom, phylum, order, genus, species, or family), I think the clue is unambiguous. Here’s the mnemonic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoology_mnemonic

    FWIW, the ‘V’ in AVES was the next-to-last letter I entered and required a run through the alphabet. The last letter was the PICKER/RNAS intersection– I originally had ‘D’ rather than ‘R’– but the thematic clue ‘TORN’ cleared up the R/D choice.

  9. Jan (danjan) says:

    The needs rewinding/RAN DOWN definitely refers to clocks and wristwatches – and could also refer to music boxes. An old mantel or grandfather clock may have a separate key and a place on its face to insert the key to wind it, perhaps behind a hinged glass door. Smaller clocks that can be picked up easily might have the rewinding key attached on the back.

  10. John E says:

    @Amy, ok I had to check the urban dictionary for that reference – that was pretty funny.

  11. pannonica says:

    I think the AVES clue is terrible. Yes, as Matt says, AVES is a Class so there’s a bit of wordplay there; the weakness lies in “upper.” Although most birds are capable of flight and many live in trees, these bits of natural history are neither strong enough nor unambiguous enough to use the word “upper” effectively. Especially since the study of taxonomic relationships at more basal aspects is called higher-level systematics (as opposed to systematics, unmodified).

  12. Gareth says:

    Would’ve found the NYT a good deal easier if I stopped to look at the theme clues: cross-referencing made me just want to skip them. Once I got mired in every quadrant I started to unravel the theme perforce!

  13. Sylvia says:

    Merl Reagle clue Needs Rewinding refers to an archaic instrument people used to wear on their persons. A wind up watch, be it on the fob in a vest pocket or on the wrist with a winding stem sticking out towards the left hand.

    How times change.

  14. pannonica says:

    re:re: rewinding: Could be any wind-up toy or something similar by metaphor, no?

  15. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @pannonica: Monkey with cymbals!

  16. HH says:

    37a. [What's past "due"?] TRE.
    108a. [Doer of "two" Irish dances?] DOUBLE JIGGER.
    112a. [Cup in a "cafe"] TASSE.
    124a. ["Agua" source] RIO.
    105d. ["Pal" or "sport"] KIDDO.

    This may depend on the source of the puzzle. In 3 (maybe 4) of these, I bet the BG used italics instead of quotes … though, for me, this doesn’t explain 105D.

  17. pannonica says:

    HH, I can see where you’re coming from on that, but if the foreign-language words were originally italicized, why would 37a also have a question mark?

  18. pannonica says:

    Whoops. I retract that comment. The clue wouldn’t make much sense without it.

  19. Larry says:

    Amy,
    You are showing your youth. My father farmed with Percheron horses and my mother wound the clock when it ran down!

  20. Plot says:

    To add to Pannie’s criticism of the Aves clue, let me say that ‘upper’ makes even less sense when you consider the specific prevalence of flightless birds in puzzles. We cannot forget that the world of crosswords is heavily populated with emus, moas, rheas, dodos, and the occasional kiwi.

  21. pannonica says:

    Aukward…

  22. john farmer says:

    Percheron horses, just a short walk down the road from me. Huge animals.

  23. Martin says:

    “Upper class” is a horrible clue for AVES. “Upper class?” is a great clue. It’s called wordplay.

    Although most birds are capable of flight and many live in trees, these bits of natural history are neither strong enough nor unambiguous enough to use the word “upper” effectively.

    That sentence is why “Upper class” isn’t a great clue. But that sentence doesn’t relate much to the clue with the question mark.

    On Friday we saw a “?” justify “bedclothes” meant to mean clothes worn in bed. (It doesn’t. It means sheets and blankets.) The question mark is very liberating.

  24. pannonica says:

    Martin, I don’t like it, question mark notwithstanding. “Upper” is too vague and too inaccurate to save it. I may also be influenced negatively by being professionally experienced in and conversant with biological taxonomy.

    The counterexample of “bedclothes” doesn’t compare, for me, because even though “bed” can have quite varied meanings, “bedclothes” doesn’t let you stray too far, whether it’s what a bed is dressed with or—as the wordplay would have it—what one wears while in and around the bed.

  25. ArtLvr says:

    Thanks for explaining IN THE PAINT in Trip’s Post Puzzler: I worked it all out, but yikes! AMHARIC was new to me too… Loved seeing Milton BERLE, BLUEBOTTLE fly, GANGLION, CRADLED, CUSTARD PIE EPICURE and ARM-TWISTER. Quite a challenge!

    Mike Peluso’s vowel-sound shift in the LAT was clever, like BIRTH OF THE BLAHS, but it was a bit of a strain on my brain early in the a.m…. Emily and Henry’s punnery was much easier, since we’ve seen items like the NUMBER clued as an anaesthetic so often.

    Merle’s Space Exploratioin was newer and trickier, especially HOLD DOWN THE F OR T and WINDS OR KNOTS. Wow, altogether a real Sunday feast!

  26. John Haber says:

    For me, this was the rarity of a very easy puzzle with some very stubborn crossings, which I don’t find admirable. TESSA/NISI, TIVO/AVES (I defer to others on whether this makes sense, but meaningless to me), ENDE/LUNNS. I did successfully deduce most of them as well as GARP/ISAO, but not a fave as fills go. Probably the one I stared at longest, even as someone truly loving Mozart, was ILRE. Really?

    On the good side, while “tails” in the sense of PIS baffled me, it’s clever.

  27. pannonica says:

    “You know who always double-checks the restaurant bill to make sure they’re not chipping in to pay for other people’s cocktails? Teetotaling retotalers.” —Amy Reynaldo

    They just don’t have free-spirited tempera…ments

  28. joon says:

    to clarify my alluded-to observation: if there is a huge amount of bad fill in a 21x, that’s a fair criticism. i just don’t see the point in singling out one bad entry in a sunday-sized puzzle. it would be like complaining about the floor of the sistine chapel. of course, if the floor is hideous enough that it distracts you from admiring the ceiling, that’s a different story.

  29. price says:

    Actually there are 13 theme entries in merl reagle’s sunday puzzle. 51 down “moabite”. A moabite is a descendant of Lot, Moab being the son of Lot and his older daughter.

  30. PeteRimkus says:

    I completely agree with John Haber. I thought the crossings of TESSA/NISI and ENDE/LUNNS were egregious.

  31. Aaron Brandes says:

    In the WaPo: “Timeout cause” in the corner with a bowler and “in the paint” had me thinking sports, and even after I filled in “hitting” it took a minute to switch to the child discipline context.
    I got 33A from the crosses, but needed google to find the explanation:
    a lighter is a type of flat-bottomed barge used to transfer goods and passengers to and from moored ships

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