Sunday, 3/25/12

NYT 10:44 (Jeffrey) 
LAT  Doug – untimed  
Reagle 9:11 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook 11:32 (pannonica) 
WaPo 9:22 (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 17:08 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed (Amy) 

Ok,  Amy is unavailable this evening so you’ve got a quick review from  Jeffrey, aka the 29th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver in the Universe!


New York Times crossword solution Sunday March 25 2012

Patrick Berry’s “Two-For-One Special” New York Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review

Theme: Swap a repeated letter in the first word for a single letter in the second word which then gets repeated. For example if the first word has an A and two B’s, swap them so the second word has two A’s and one B. The other letters remain the same. Hard to explain, cool to see in practice.

Theme answers:

  • 23A. [Ordeal that's no big deal?] – TRIVIAL TRAVAIL
  • 27A. [Large cloth sign with nothing on it?] – BARREN BANNER
  • 29A. [Toy hammer?] – MATTEL MALLET
  • 50A. [Soft yet easily breakable "Star Trek" creature?] – BRITTLE TRIBBLE. My favorite.
  • 66A. [Hemispherical computer add-on?] – DOMED MODEM
  • 68A. ["Ride 'em, cowboy!," e.g.?] – RODEO ORDER
  • 79A. [Big house that's not as big?] – SMALLER SLAMMER
  • 99A. [Goddess of gas?] – ETHANE ATHENA
  • 102A. [Get part of one's shirt under control?] – CORRAL COLLAR
  • 108A. [What the Gorgon Stheno does in Greek myth?] – PURSUES PERSEUS

That’s 10 theme answers for those keeping track.
Other stuff:

  • 73A. [What only one Best Picture winner has had] – X RATING. Midnight Cowboy, I believe.
  • 78A. ["___ Eyes" (1969 hit for the Guess Who)] – THESE. Canadian rock!
  • 46D. [They're not popular in offices] – MONDAYS. Good clue.
  • 90D. [Disney subsidiary] – ABC
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious wouldn’t fit.
  • 101D. [Outside shot?] – THREE. Think basketball.
  • 105D. [Read but never post] – LURK.

Here’s a secret. we KNOW that you are out there. We can see you. So you may as well comment.

This puzzle is what you want on Sunday. ****½ stars.

Trip Payne’s Washington Post Puzzler – Jeffrey’s Review

Washington Post Puzzler crossword solution Mar 25 2012

Theme: None

Notable stuff:

  • 1A. [It offers Season Passes] – TIVO. News to me. Of course, I still have a VCR.
  • 5A. [They're not generic] – NAME BRANDS. In Canada, No-Name is a brand name of Loblaws. So is it generic or name? You decide.
  • 16A. [Class presentation, perhaps] – ORAL REPORT. The fear of all students.
  • 18A. [1970s "affliction"] – DISCO FEVER. Burn, baby, burn!
  • 23A. [Wombat predator] – DINGO. Who doesn’t like a good wombat vs. DINGO battle.
  • 26A. [1954 Pledge addition] – UNDER GOD. Partial. Am I right?
  • 28A. [Item in a warehouse] – PALLET. When I was around 16, I worked a summer in a warehouse. After two days, they moved me to the cash because I kept breaking things. My Dad ran the office so firing me wasn’t an option.
  • 49A. [They contain pork] – STIES. Therefore, STIES aren’t kosher.
  • 51A. [This grid contains six of them] – NINES. 9, 19, 29, 39, 49, 59.
  • 52A. [Catch sight of] – CLAP EYES ON. That is an expression I haven’t heard since…ever. Please provide an example where it has been used.
  • 58A. [1992 Best Actor nominee] – STEPHEN REA. Full names always appreciated.
  • 2D. [Rolling Stone called it the third greatest song of all time] – IMAGINE. Overrated.
  • 8D. [Hero exiled in 1081] – EL CID. Old hero is always EL CID.
  • 9D. [Bones in an 1820 story] – BROM. Huh? What story? I could look it up, but I know my vast readership will be able to tell me.
  • 25D. [John's wife in the comic strip "For Better or for Worse"] – ELLY. Canadian content.
  • 33D. ["Malcolm in the Middle" mom] – LOIS. Or another comic strip wife.
  • 43D. [First Triumvirate member] – CAESAR. The other members are ranch and raspberry vinaigrette.

Not wowed by this puzzle but it is a solid themeless. **** stars.

Sam Ezersky’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Greg’s List” – Doug’s review & bonus interview

Sam Ezersky's syndicated LA Times solution 3/25/12, "Greg's List"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I was at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament last weekend (best weekend ever!) chatting with Vic “The Gavel” Fleming. He told me that this Sunday’s L.A. Times puzzle was created by Sam Ezersky, a young man he’s been mentoring in the art of crossword construction. This is Sam’s first published puzzle, and what a debut! Fun, consistent theme and a grid jam-packed with theme entries. Sam’s hit the ground running. Did I mention that he’s 16 years old? Let’s see…what was I doing when I was 16? Reading comic books, listening to Dokken albums, watching pro wrestling on TV, and waiting for someone to hurry up and invent the internet.

  • 23a. [Uses Knorr packets instead of poker chips?] - GAMBLES SOUP. As the “Greg’s List” title suggests, this puzzle features a hard C-to-hard G phonetic change. I like that each sound change also involves a spelling change.
  • 29a. [Lard display site? ] - FAT GALLERY.
  • 31a. [Apparition with a proboscis? ] - MOSQUITO GHOST.
  • 57a. [One putting up framed stone carvings?] - GLYPH HANGER.
  • 69a. [Stories told by rapt storytellers?] - TALES FROM THE GRIPPED. Always nice to see a strong, clever entry in the center of the grid.
  • 85a. [Superior vis-à-vis Huron?] - GREATER LAKE.
  • 112a. [Trade war group?] – GUILD IN BATTLE.
  • 115a. [24 undeveloped photos of Old Faithful? ] - GEYSER ROLL. Probably not Sam’s original clue. Has he ever seen an actual roll of film?
  • 122a. [Baby's wake-up gadget?] - GOO-GOO CLOCK. Double switch! At first, I wondered if Sam & Rich considered going with the triple switch: GOO-GOO GLOCK (Baby gangsta’s weapon?) Then I realized CLOCK to GLOCK doesn’t involve a spelling change. Or maybe they figured a clue about babies busting caps wasn’t the best idea.
  • 18d. ["Don't come any closer, Zombie!"?] - STAY, GHOUL.
  • 80d. [Prison workers' respite?] - GUARD GAME.

Did you count those? Eleven theme entries. That’s almost Naddoresque. I was not expecting to see those two down theme entries in the corners. And the surrounding fill is surprisingly junk-free. Some of it is downright awesome: PYONGYANG (crossing three theme entries), ABBEY ROAD, HECK NO, TEENSY BIT.

What did you think of BOISE, ID? I had the -SEID ending and figured I’d entered something incorrectly. I’ve seen ERIE, PA in a few grids, so I’m cool with it.

Vic was kind enough to put me in touch with Sam, and he gave me a little background on himself and today’s puzzle:

Well, I’m Sam Ezersky from Fairfax, VA, currently a junior at South Lakes High School. Crossword puzzles have always been one of my greatest interests, but I also run track, played baseball, and enjoy sports in general. When I’m not making crosswords, you’ll find me active outdoors, hanging with friends, or doing rigorous amounts of homework for the IB Diploma program…ugh!

I’ve been interested in crosswords from as early as 6 years old; I remember completing entire books of Fill-It-In puzzles little by little as my mom would pull me around in a little red wagon on neighborhood walks. It was a little later that I realized how much I enjoyed the concept of interlocking words, and I began to create some myself, becoming better at it with age and perseverance. Somewhere between age 10-12, I noticed my stepdad doing Washington Post puzzles, and at first I thought, “Ew, who would want to solve something like that, with clues instead of a word bank?” But with time I began to accept that those were more common than my Fill-It-In puzzles, and got better at solving the crosswords myself. It was only about 2 years ago that I truly discovered crossword construction, clue databases, and figures such as my mentor Vic Fleming, a professional constructor, who has taught me the ropes on what it takes to get accepted into a newspaper such as the LAT or NYT.

My favorite constructor (besides Vic) is Byron Walden. His puzzles are so fresh and magnificent, and I feel he deserves much more credit and recognition in the world of puzzling.

Notes about today’s puzzle:

I know pun puzzles with a changed letter sound tend to get boring after a while, so I decided to try something where the changed letter sound also changed the spelling of the word quite a bit.

The whole CAMPBELL’S / GAMBLES rhyme was the first to spark this puzzle, where I began to think of other words that changed a hard C sound to a hard G sound, as well as changed the spelling of the word as much as possible. It was luck that I was able to find the double feature, CUCKOO / GOO-GOO, as this would be a nice touch to the theme I would save to the end. Some rhymes I couldn’t fit into the grid were KOBE / GOBI, CRONE / GROWN, CRAIG / GREG (see title), and I really wanted QATAR / GUITAR but I was unsure of the country’s official pronunciation and didn’t want to stir up trouble.

I cannot recall exactly how long construction took, but I do remember that I had to create a new grid from scratch three times…and of course, third time’s a charm!

Thanks, Sam! Looking forward to your next one.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 25

Well that may be my longest posted solving time on a CS puzzle not constructed by Bob Klahn. There was a good three minutes there where I was just staring at the grid and nothing was coming to mind. I had so much time on my hands, in fact, that I took a quick snapshot of the grid at that point so you can see where I hit the wall.

It didn’t help, certainly, that I didn’t know the name of the bridge that’s the [Crosser of the Delaware] River. That would be the BETSY ROSS BRIDGE. Nor did it help that for [Regal location?] I wanted something, oh, say, regal (like a castle or a throne) even though I saw the question mark as plain as day. When I finally got SHIP in place after thinking of INGE as the ["The Dark at the Top of the Steps" writer], I then wanted some kind of starship or warship. (Geez, I need to get out more.) I had to suss out ABALONE (the [Decorative seashell]) and COLAS (the [Brown beverages]) before finally tumbling to BUICK DEALERSHIP. I liked that the clue made me work for it.

I think this image is now etched into my monitor

FEELS FINE, FEELS GOOD, FEELS SNUG. All were attempted answers to [Fits well enough], but this puzzle wanted the less committed FEELS OKAY. Which brings me to my main impression from this puzzle. For every good entry, there seemed to be an arbitrary (or just plain “huh?”) entry that left me frustrated or a little let down. I liked the aforementioned dealership, the PAINT CAN, THE SIREN, I CONFESS, and DIRECT HIT. But…

  • SIMPERER? SIMPERER?!? John McEnroe said it best, “You canNOT be serious.” Simperer, feh!
  • AT A LOW EBB? Is that the opposite of the equally redundant “at a high apex?”
  • TEN-SKI for [Sawbuck]? “Bro, I’m short, gimme a ten-ski.” Someone actually says that?
  • TIME LOST? Shouldn’t that be LOST TIME? Shouldn’t the clue, [Wasted weeks, e.g.], have included “for Yoda” at the end?
  • Is TIN ORE only found in Bolivia, as the clue ([You can dig it in Bolivia]) implies? If so, you’d think we call it oro de tin.

Finally, can someone explain why COW is [Lower in the field]? I get that “cow” can be a verb too, but what’s up with the “field?”

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Souper Bowl” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook • 3/25/12 • "Souper Bowl" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

By my calculations, this puzzle ran in the newspaper six weeks ago, on 12 February, but the theme suggests a week earlier, on the 5th, Super Bowl Sunday. The event makes a cameo appearance at 125a [Like a Super Bowl telecast] LIVE. Much like its namesake, the puzzle’s puns induce many groans.

  • 23a. [Ability to smell noodle soup?] RAMEN NOSE (?). Heaven knows? A little (hot and) sour for the first themer to be so abstruse.
  • 25a. [Measurer of soup intoxication?] BROTHALYZER (breathalyzer). It’s an eponym now, so no need for capitalization or registered/trade mark symbols.
  • 38a. [Downpour of soup?] CLOUDBORSCHT (cloudburst). Sorry, no link to a “Red Rain” video. I have something better later on.
  • 51a. [Neverending soup course?] VICHYSSOISE CIRCLE (vicious circle).
  • 66a. [Ignorance about soup?] STEWPIDITY (stupidity).
  • 68a. [Primer on Vietnamese soup?] PHỢ DUMMIES (for dummies). Sounds like a partial, especially because of the … For Dummies instructional books, but I can see it as a terse, independent appraisal.
  • 88a. [Ben Franklin's soup reference?] PORRIDGES ALMANACK (Poor Richard’s Almanack). Spiffy.
  • 97a. [Soup tycoon?] BOUILLONAIRE (billionaire).
  • 117a. [Lover of dumpling soup?] WONTON WOMAN (wanton woman). Trust me, you don’t want to know what the internet’s idea of a wanton woman is. I took the bullet for all of you on this one.
  • 121a. [Soup for ballerinas?] ARABISQUE (arabesque). I think of a visual arabesque much more readily than a terpsichorean one. Of course there are musical arabesques as well, such as those of Debussy. And then! I stumbled across the 1970s and -80s German, Middle Eastern-tinged disco group Arabesque, with their laughably charming choreography.

What can I say? These are in-your-face puns. One generally either likes them or doesn’t. Wear a bib.

Fun, well-constructed, mostly innocuous (for this solver) puzzle. Fairly low CAP™ Quotient (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials).

A soupςon* of observations:

  • BASINED [In a bowl] near the center.
  • 95a [Via postal service] for BY MAIL may possibly be the most literal clue I’ve seen. I liked it.
  • 101a [French bread] fooled me, as I was primed for a numismatic aspect. PAIN. Beguiling literalness.
  • 107a [Hard-to-see figures] SHAPES. Hard-to-see answer for me. Weird clue, especially without an “often” or “sometimes” type qualifier. Wonder if it should have been linked to the nearby 103a (and unsavory abbrev.) GEOM.
  • 129a [Old-school rad] KEEN. This needed to be “oooooooooooooold-school” or “old old school,” even if “rad” is already at least 30 years vintage. I’m just sayin’.
  • Crazy-Scrabbly northeast corner!
  • 14a [Tubular sweet] ECLAIR. Nothing wrong with the clue or answer, but it took me a small forever to see it.
  • All I know of Harry Potter I’ve learned from crosswords, and the strigine HEDWIG was new to me. The John Cameron Mitchell play and film with a titular HEDWIG are more familiar, though I haven’t seen either.
  • Smiled at chuckwalla—how can one not?—even if it was merely in the 111a clue for IGUANA. Cross references to 71d DEWLAP.
  • The gerund DJING looks odd in-grid, and made me wistful for my long-since-used up sample of Dzing! with its notes of vanilla and paper (trust me, it’s good).
  • ET ALIA | APIA and KEEN | TEEN.

Garςon? Next course, s’il vous plaît.


*soupςon: French, literally, suspicion, from Old French sospeçon, from Latin suspection-, suspectio, from Latin suspicere to suspect — more at suspect. So, no soup for you.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Enthusiasm Counts”

Merl Reagle "Enthusiasm Counts" crossword answers, 3 25 12

Look at the ends of the first row of answers and you’ll see a huge hint to the theme, which is “2, 4, 6, 8, WHO DO WE APPRECI-8?” and not just a use-numerals-for-syllables rebus. The top row reads TAT2, META4, CLAS6, and EST8. Now, unless it’s a super-easy puzzle, there’s no way I’m just working straight across, so I didn’t see that  pretty row till after I finished. I also didn’t read the full theme-revealer clue until after grousing to pannonica that ONE ACRE was non-rebused, and she pointed out that the theme was only 2 4 6 8 and not 1 3 5 7 9 too. 70a: [Part of an old school cheer whose four-word intro is the theme of this puzzle] does indeed point to the 2 4 6 8 theme.

So, I liked the rebus entries, of which there were a ton—I count 21 squares with numerals. My favorites are 6 THE DOG ON, COLG8 2THPASTE, Jon S2ART, GR8 PER4MANCES, the great 4EN6 LAB, 8 CROW, and the nuttiness of taking nutty Klaatu and rebusing it into KLAA2 (108d: [Michael Rennie's elegant alien in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"].

Among the non-theme fill, I loved 72d: WE GET IT, ["You don't have to hit us over the head"]. The rest of the fill ranged from perfectly fine to crosswordese, dull, or outright blecchy. Far more in the AGARS HELOT ELON OCA (clued as [Spanish goose] rather than South American tuber) ONA ENE URALS OLEA vein than one likes to see, plus assorted names in the Not Quite Household Names Department (Brock PETERS??)—but I understand that the inclusion of 21 numerals locking down roughly 40 entries poses huge constraints on a constructor’s ability to play around with the rest of the fill. Overall, the number business made it a fun puzzle, not just a plain ol’ crossword puzzle but a thinking puzzle.

Anyone else get mangled by 90a: [South Carolina river], 6 letters ending in EE? Has to be PEE DEE, right? (That Wikipedia link tells us that “The Pee Dee River was the original river for Stephen Foster’s song ‘Old Folks at Home’ (commonly known by its first line, ‘Way down upon the Swanee River’). Why he changed the name of the river in his final version of the song is a subject of much speculation.” So of course when PEE DEE didn’t work with the crossings, I went with SWANEE. Also wrong! It’s the SANTEE, which empties into the Atlantic very close to the Pee Dee’s outlet.

4.5 stars for the theme, 2.75 stars for the non-rebus fill, overall rating of … 4 stars. The rebus answers are cool.

Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”

3/25/12 Celebrity crossword answers, Longo "Sunday Funday"

Another video game theme from Frank Longo, another theme I’m reliant on the crossings to fill in. All I know about video games is what I’ve picked up from watching my family in the past 5 years or what I learned in half-hearted gaming between 1982 and 1984. What I’m saying is “I really don’t know this stuff.” I didn’t even get 1-Across without the crossings. But for Zelda fans, this puzzle is surely a walk in the park filled with gimmes. (Gimme Park?)

  • 1a. THE, ["___ Wind Waker" (2003 game in the 27-Across series for the GameCube)]
  • 4a. LINK, [Youth who's the hero of the 27-Across series]. I know this one because when I once mentioned a kid named Linc, somebody made a Zelda reference that I didn’t understand.
  • 14a. TWILIGHT, [With 44-Across, 2006 game in the 27-Across series for the GameCube and 41-Across]
  • 22a. OCARINA, ["___ of Time" (1998 game in the 27-Across series for the Nintendo 64)]. I think this is the game that Joon Pahk quit a summer job to devote himself to playing.
  • 27a. LEGEND OF ZELDA, [With "The," series of 16 Nintendo fantasy/action-adventure video games: 3 wds.]
  • 35a. SKYWARD, [With "The," series of 16 Nintendo fantasy/action-adventure video games: 3 wds.]
  • 39a. HALL, [Video Game ___ of Fame (Spike TV creation of 2011 for which 27-Across was the first inductee)]
  • 44a. PRINCESS, [See 14-Across]
  • 50a. MASK, ["Majora's ___" (2000 game in the 27-Across series for the Nintendo 64)]
  • 54a. BOY, [Game ___ (Nintendo handheld device used for some 27-Across titles)]
  • 9d. GANON, [Main villain in the 27-Across series]
  • 35d. SWORD, [See 35-Across]

So much theme! And then WII and ATARI are also in the grid. I think there are Zelda games for Wii, no?

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23 Responses to Sunday, 3/25/12

  1. Bruce S. says:

    AHHHH!!!!

    Jeffrey, why do you have to call us lurkers out like that??!?! I thought this was a fantastic puzzle. In 12:09 it was my fastest ever Sunday NYT. By the end of the year the 10 minute barrier may be in reach. Thanks for the write-up.

  2. joon says:

    i loved this puzzle, but i suspect artlvr will lv it even more.

  3. Erik says:

    And there I was, thinking I would never ever in a million years see BROM again…

  4. Judge Vic says:

    I just want to make clear that Sam’s Sunday LAT puzzle was accomplished 100% without my help. He will go far in puzzling.

  5. pannonica says:

    “Finally, can someone explain why COW is [Lower in the field]? I get that “cow” can be a verb too, but what’s up with the ‘field?’” – Sam

    While cow can be a verb, it isn’t here. However, lower can be a noun…

  6. zersky20 says:

    Thanks Doug for the awesome blog about me, and I hope you all like my debut in the LAT!! I hope to make more puzzles in the future :)

    And thanks again to Vic for dealing with me over the past several months, you have helped me so much!!

    Sam Ezersky

  7. Karen says:

    In the Cox/Rathvon, I figured RAMEN NOSE was supposed to be Roman Nose. Which I think I learned of through Little Women.

  8. pannonica says:

    Karen: That must be it! Know the term, but fahgat it’s a Bahstin-based puzzle.

  9. John says:

    Ever since Sylvia died, Merl has made a mess of his chopped words and idiosyncratic puzzles and made doing a Sunday crossword, which was once a pleasure, into a total frustration.

  10. klew archer says:

    I agree with Karen that RAMEN NOSE is based on Roman Nose. I believe Tony Bennett is known for his. Recently learned that there was a fierce Cheyenne warrior known as Roman Nose and wondered about that. I guess his own people called him “Hook Nose” (no, not Henry Hook) but it was always translated the other way.

  11. Meem says:

    Congratulations, Sam E., on a very impressive debut puzzle! Hope you get bitten by another idea.

  12. AV says:

    Was the clue for 90A meant for 71A? :-)

  13. ArtLvr says:

    In a big rush today, but must congratulate Sam Ezersky on his LAT debut! Especially liked GAMBLES SOUP, as I was née Campbell… and got called all kinds of related names way back!

  14. pannonica says:

    re: CS: EBB is not synonymous with nadir. It refers to a point or condition of decline, so intensifiers are not unwarranted.

  15. maikong says:

    Really tough puzzle for this old lady. As far as the cow in the lower field, I think it is referring to the Christmas song “Away in a Manger” where the cows’ mooing awaken the Baby Jesus

    The cattle were lowing, the baby awakes,
    But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

    I hope Randolph is pleased with himself! He certainly added several jewels to my petit pois.

  16. joon says:

    BROM bones is from the legend of sleepy hollow. i won’t fully explicate erik’s reference for the sake of spoilers, but let’s just say that 600 or so of us (including you, jeffrey!) ought to remember it from a week ago.

    congrats to sam E on his debut. very promising indeed!

    OCARINA, ["___ of Time" (1998 game in the 27-Across series for the Nintendo 64)]. I think this is the game that Joon Pahk quit a summer job to devote himself to playing.

    guilty as charged! great game. i haven’t managed to play any of the sequels, though.

  17. klew archer says:

    Joon, I will remember BROM Bones for as long as I will remember as certain architect’s first name. Well, maybe not quite as long.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    All I say joon, is that it must be all about the crossings. BROM will be new to me every time it appears.

  19. Alex says:

    guilty as charged! great game. i haven’t managed to play any of the sequels, though.

    I thought you played Majora’s Mask, joon … no?

  20. Jeff Chen says:

    Stop being such a lowing simperer, Sam.

    I clocked in at just over 20 on the CS – yikes, a toughie!

  21. Old Geezer says:

    WP: Please, what is PRENAME for “Clinton or Carter, eg”?

  22. Jeffrey says:

    PRENAME is a first name, which I guess Clinton or Carter can be.

  23. Old Geezer says:

    TY. Never heard that definition of prename.

Comments are closed.