Sunday, 4/22/12

NYT 7:46 
LAT 8:41 (Jeffrey) 
Reagle 8:45 
Hex/Hook 9:55 
WaPo Doug – untimed 
CS 6:43 (Sam) 
Celebrity tba 

Paula Gamache and Ed Stein’s New York Times crossword, “Letting Go Of”

NY Times crossword answers, 4 22 12 "Letting Go Of"

Straightforward theme: Take a phrase with an “of” inside, drop it, and clue the altered phrase accordingly.

  • 23a. BATTLE THE BULGE leaves war behind for [Diet?].
  • 31a. LAND PLENTY is about a good day of fishing (maybe not so hot for the fish).
  • 37a. BOOK THE DEAD, [Do a clerk's work at a morgue?], is gruesome. It’s also my favorite theme answer. Go figure.
  • 50a. CAST THOUSANDS of dollars? Eh.
  • 67a. MILK HUMAN KINDNESS almost makes more sense to me than “the milk of human kindness.”
  • 86a. DOCTOR LETTERS, [Forge some personal notes?]. Cute.
  • 94a. My least favorite theme answer because “best of friends” is a markedly less common phrase than BEST FRIENDS, which is a real noun phrase without the “of.” Weak link.
  • 103a. POUND FLESH, [Be a sadistic masseuse?], is also a little gross and thus my second-favorite theme answer.
  • 118a. ORDER THE GARTER reminds me of my relative unfamiliarity with the Order of the Garter. It’s not a big group, and the members are all royals. Order of the Garter Snake, now, that would be more intriguing.

It took me a half minute to find a typo in my solution, so the actual solving went pretty fast for me. It might have helped that I started with 8a: HAR HAR rather than the 1a corner because while ARACHNE would have fallen easily for me, 1d: ARBOL, [Chile de __ (hot pepper)], would’ve put the brakes on.

I was all set to grouse about 54d: SARI being clued as [Gandhi garment] but then I remembered Indira Gandhi. The clue’s not about the Mahatma.

Didn’t know 64d: OLETA, [Adams with the 1991 hit "Get Here"]. I know Oleta Adams only from crosswords; wasn’t listening to hits-driven radio in her era.

In the category “Worst Anagrams of STEER,” we have a two-way tie with neighboring 105d and 106d. ESTER is clued as [Animal or vegetable fat, e.g.], not our usual sort of ESTER clue, and STERE is clued generically as a [Volume unit].

The EARTH SHOES sparkle in their plodding way, but the rest of the fill’s fairly ordinary material. 3.25 stars.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Brown Study”

"Brown Study" crossword answers, Cox/Rathvon 4 22 12

I’m filling in for pannonica, who is volunteering all weekend (I believe she’s picking up litter to save the whales). Whoa, how long has it been since I blogged a Hex/Hook Sunday puzzle? Feels like years. Unfortunately for me, with my longstanding antipathy for quote themes, it’s a quote theme: Charlie Brown said SOMETIMES I LIE AWAKE AT NIGHT AND I ASK “WHERE HAVE I GONE WRONG?” THEN A VOICE SAYS TO ME, “THIS IS GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN ONE NIGHT.” Isn’t that a cruel scenario for a schoolchild? I know Charlie Brown’s supposed to be a sad sack, but looking back on one’s life choices and hearing that they’ve all been wrong is pretty harsh for a kid. Now I’m depressed, and I come to crosswords for diversion, not gloom. (Are there Goth/emo subculture crosswords?)

The puzzle’s quote took me a long time to unravel. And I didn’t know [Wally of the Bosox, et al.] were MASCOTS—figured it was a plural of some player surname I didn’t know. To the right of that answer is SMOLTZ, and further over is BOGGS. Baseball up the wazoo! Not to be confused with WAHOO, clued as [Burning bush]. Wha…?

The inflected foreign adjectives threw me a curveball too. 2d: BUONA, [Good, for Giuseppe], could plausibly be BUONO, no? Likewise, 90d: [2-Down, in Dresden] clues GUTEN, not just plain old GUT (which can also be inflected to GUTE and GUTES, if not more).

Crosswordese on parade: ISERE, ELKE, DONEE, RIATA, ASTRA, ADEN, ALENE, and EDINA.

Nothing much lured me in here. 2.9 stars, because I have to like a quote theme to get up past the 3-star mark.

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hiss Story” – Jeffrey’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword solution Sun Apr 22 2012

Happy Sunday, everybody. Who doesn’t like a snake pun? Or seven of them?

Theme: Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?!

Theme answers:

  • 24A. [Healthy, happy newborn snake?] – BOUNCING BABY BOA (Bouncing baby boy)
  • 38A. [Wild and crazy snake?] – PARTY MAMBA (Party member)
  • 59A. [Schmoozing snake?] – SOCIAL ADDER (Social ladder(?)). Too close?
  • 84A. [Dashing young snake?] – RACER BLADE (Razor blade)
  • 99A. [Snake in the glass?] – WINDSHIELD VIPER (Windshield wiper). That will keep the bugs away.
  • 3D. [Poolside snake's shedding spot?] – COBRA CABANA (Copacabana). Hah!
  • 62D. [Run-of-the-mill snake?] – ASP PER USUAL (As per usual)
  • 40D. [Classic Belushi comedy, or an apt description of this puzzle's grid?] – ANIMAL HOUSE. This is a little odd, as animal is a broad term and snakes are very specific. Doesn’t quite work for me.
  • 100D. [Warning from the critters that appear to be slithering through the grid?] – SSS. Not usually favorite fill but perfect today.

Other stuff:

  • 21A. [Sea lion predator] – ORCA. Well, that clue just makes them look mean. I guess snakes are the heroes today.
  • 22A. [Calder Cup org.] – AHL. American Hockey League.
  • 92A. [Tune two croon] – DUET
  • 80D. ["We're on __ to nowhere": Talking Heads lyric] – A ROAD

One odd thing about this puzzle is you have two long down answers (INNER SPIRIT and INTERNET ERA) that are the same length as the two down theme answers. Overall, a nice Sunday if you aren’t squeamish about snakes.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 107″ – Doug’s review

Frank Longo's Washington Post solution 4/22/12, "The Post Puzzler No. 107"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Nice 66-worder today from Frank Longo. I had trouble with a few of the names, but there were no deadly crossings.

  • 1a. [They're good practice for future "Jeopardy!" contestants] - QUIZ BOWLS. Solid marquee entry at 1-Across. My high school didn’t have quiz bowl. We also didn’t have a baseball team. I guess that’s why I’ve never been on Jeopardy! and I’m not currently playing shortshop for the Yankees.
  • 20a. [Declaration during a rumble?] - I’M HUNGRY. Rumbly stomach. I love this clue.
  • 25a. [Bygone Post cereal] - OREO O’s. Makes a good pair with I’M HUNGRY.
  • 16a. ["Baby-Sitters Club" secretary Mary Anne ___] - SPIER. This is such a crazy reference that I kind of like it. Much better than a “one who spies” type of clue. Let’s learn a little about Mary Anne Spier from Wikipedia: “She and Kristy Thomas, Baby-Sitters Club president, initially looked similar until Mary Anne cut her hair and began wearing a little makeup in book #60, Mary Anne’s Makeover.” Interesting. I only read the series up to about book #29. I can also tell you that Rachael Leigh Cook made her film debut playing Mary Anne Spier in The Baby-Sitters Club movie. That’s cool. And finally, it really bugs me that there’s no apostrophe in “Baby-Sitters Club.”
  • 48a. [Film with three asterisks in its title] - SPYS. I can’t be the only one who confidently filled in MASH. Aha, Wikipedia to the rescue again: “The asterisks in the title are designed to remind users of MASH, which also starred Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, and whose title is generally rendered with the same asterisks. Beyond this, there is no connection between the films.”
  • 11d. [Actor Stephen with two Tonys for "Angels in America"] - SPINELLA. I needed most of the crossings for this one. Tony winners are not in my wheelhouse.
  • 33d. [Cause of growing dissatisfaction?] - STONY SOIL. I’m not 100% sold on the entry, but the clue is genius.

Tough, but fair. Lots of white space in the grid. It’s a keeper. Two thumbs way  up.

Updated Sunday morning:

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Look Out!”

Merl Reagle "Look Out!" crossword solution, 4 22 12

If you’re inside and need to “Look Out!,” a window comes in handy. Merl lets the light in through 13 WINDOW rebus squares (circled in my answer grid) in this puzzle. Merl provides the rebus instructions in a note appended to 1-Across’s clue: [Note to solvers: Thirteen squares in this diagram need no letters at all, but for the sake of solving, insert a W each time. You'll "see" why.] You could just leave a blank window in those spots but that won’t fly if you’re solving electronically.

It’s minimally confusing that there are a few other W’s in the grid besides the window ones.

A dozen clues:

  • 50a. NIT, [Picker's intro]. The clue actually stymied me for a bit.
  • 53a. CAR {WINDOW}S, [Canines like to stick their heads out of them]. Clue doesn’t say “dogs” because of 114a.
  • 73a. RED-TINTED {WINDOW}S, [Some Ferraris have them to keep the heat out]. Red? Really? I had no idea.
  • 96a. THE WOMAN IN THE {WINDOW}, [1944 film noir starring Edward G. Robinson]. Never heard of it.
  • 114a. (“How much is…) THAT DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW, [Subject of a 1953 Patti Page hit]. Do people my age know this song only because our parents learned it as kids?
  • 123a. {WINDOW}S XP, [Microsoft release of 2001]. WSXP looks crazy in the grid.
  • 1d. BAY {WINDOW}, House feature (or paunch)]. Whoa. Never seen a flabby paunch called a bay window!
  • 15d. NO {WINDOW}S, ["You're locked in a room with ___ and one door ..." (start of a mystery quiz)].
  • 54d. STAR, [Cast topper]. As in the cast of a movie or play.
  • 58d. SPONDEE, [Two-syllable foot, in poetry]. Confession time: I don’t really know all my metrical feet.
  • 92d. PAPAGOS, [Arizona Indians]. With some of those crossings, I really wanted NAVAJOS, but DOJGIE just wasn’t going to cooperate. Not sure I’ve ever heard of the Papagos. Wikipedia, what say you? Ah, that’s their old name. Tohono O’odham now—have heard of O’odham.
  • 106d. AT A {WINDOW}, [Sandburg poem that includes the line, "Watch there the day-shapes of dusk"]. Do go read the poem (it’s short, I promise, and lovely).

It would be a cooler theme if we didn’t have DEPARTMENT STORE {WINDOW}, SHOP {WINDOW}S, and a store’s {WINDOW} DISPLAY and {WINDOW} CARDS—that’s a lot of retail. But then again, there are 26 WINDOW terms and phrases packed into this puzzle so there will be some echoes among the theme answers.

3.75 stars.

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

A Freestyle for the Ages: CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, April 22, 2012

If you’re looking for a model freestyle puzzle to post on your fridge for inspiration, clip out this 70/28 crossword and get to taping. This one’s got everything you can hope for in a puzzle. To wit:

  • Juicy entries. When the grid features triple stacks of 8+ letters, you hope for two lively entries glued together by a reasonable connector. Two of the four triple-10′s in this grid do exactly that. In the northeast you have METROPOLIS ([The Daily Planet covers it]–what, the answer wasn’t KRYPTO’S KENNEL?) and TRADE NAMES ([Product identifiers]), with IRRELEVANT [(Beside the point)] serving as the solid bond between them. In the southwest, there’s OPEN SEASON and DINNER TIME, made neighbors by the helpful MAGISTRATE (some of my best friends are magistrates, but as a crossword entry it’s good but in the same league as the other two). So normally we’d be happy with that. But this one goes the additional step and gives us two more stacks where all three entries shine: BARN SPIDER, I’M OUTA HERE (My “outta” has an extra T, but “whatevs,” as the kids say), and DIRTY JOKES in the northwest; ACROPHOBIA, THE TEMPEST, and EASY DOES IT in the southeast. That’s awesome.
  • No sacrifices in the crossings. Lots of good freestyle puzzles have long triple stacks. But great freestyle puzzles pull them off without painfully awkward crossings. Have another look at those three-strong stacks in the northwest and southeast. Where’s the bad crossing required to make it all work? ERE? CHA? Pfft. If those annoy you, crossword puzzles must be a painful diversion. The other two stacks have a little more signs of mortality to them (GEN’L, SSE, ENER, and, for me at least, Jack ELAM), but both are well within accepted limits of tolerable fill.
  • Great clues. This is what makes or breaks the “challenge” part of a Sunday Challenge. This puzzle is not supposed to be as hard as a weekend freestyle in the NYT, so it’s not that the clues have to be hard across the board. But they should still bend a little before breaking–a clue can still be clever even if it doesn’t flummox the solver. This puzzle stands out for its use of clues that have many possible answers. [Charlotte, for one] could clue all kinds of things: CITY, ACTRESS RAE, and the one I tried to make fit, BRONTE SISTER. But here it’s BARN SPIDER (confession: any puzzle that starts with a reference to my all-time favorite book at 1-Across has me at hello). [Orange or lemon] is supposed to be CITRUS, FRUIT, FLAVOR, or any number of things. Here’s it’s HUE. [Some museum jobs] could be DOCENTS or HANGERS. Here’s it’s HEISTS. [Paisley, for one] could be PATTERN THAT LOOKS LIKE SPERM, UGLY PRINT, or any number of things. But because I own a number of his albums, my first guess of BRAD Paisley proved to be right. You get the point. Other good clues included [Six, for many families] for the aforementioned DINNER TIME and [Not check] for BET (in poker, the first to act in any round of betting has the option to make a bet or pass, and to pass is to “check”).

Executive summary: this is among Doug Peterson’s best puzzles, and that’s saying something. If only he would construct more puzzles….

Final thought: That conglomeration of HUMPED, ABUTS, and BOOTY. There’s a joke in there somewhere, right?

Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 4 22 12 "Sunday Funday" Berry

This neat trivia theme takes a fresh approach that would be fun to reverse: You could list the directors in this puzzle and ask “What’s the common thread linking these four directors?” It would take a hardcore movie buff (or diehard Googler) to figure out that they’ve all made movies with holiday titles.

  • 15a. JOHN CARPENTER, [Director of the first "Halloween": 2 wds.]
  • 26a. HAROLD RAMIS, [Director of "Groundhog Day": 2 wds.]
  • 32a. IVAN REITMAN, [Director of "Father's Day": 2 wds.]
  • 45a. GARRY MARSHALL, [Director of "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve": 2 wds.]

I will grant you that Groundhog Day is a much more piddling observance than the others, but the movie that bears its name is the most entertaining of this theme’s quintuple feature.

This puzzle got bumped in the schedule a few times, so it reflects the earlier Celeb approach of packing tons of pop-culture clues into each puzzle. The newer Celeb crosswords tend to pull back on the pop-culture density.

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10 Responses to Sunday, 4/22/12

  1. John E says:

    Oleta Adams also contributes her unbelievable vocals to the Tears for Fears track “Woman in Chains”.

  2. Gareth says:

    I can remember Oleta Adams’ “Window of Hope” (I was the 6 year old pop music gourmand!) but not “Get Here”. Weirdly, it seems the former wasn’t a hit! Still, it meant I needed the ‘O’ to appear. I too was put off by BESTFRIENDS; reminds me of when BLOCPARTY was a wacky phrase! I don’t understand the complaint about ESTER; legitimate, high-school level chemistry term; STERE is shite though! (But I don’t begrudge it, this was a small blip in a solidly-filled puzzle)

  3. Gareth says:

    Also: Snakes in a crossword!

  4. Jan says:

    I’ll raise my hand for confidence on entering M*A*S*H in the Post Puzzler! Loved QUIZ BOWLS in that puzzle as well, and those with that experience seem to fare better on J! than mere mortals.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    I M*A*S*Hed.

    5 stars for Doug’s CrosSynergy puzzle. Everything that Sam said.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    The Reptile House was a favorite at the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago, but action would have been a bit slow for making a movie there. I did find all the Sunday puzzles I’ve done so far quite good today, but the LAT snakes were my favorite — especially BOUNCING BABY BOA and blasé ASP PER USUAL… So original! The Charlie Brown plaint was neat too.

  7. Howard B says:

    Nothing against the Post, just wasn’t my puzzle this week.
    About 6-8 deadly crossings in the Post puzzle; I could not complete just under half of it. Baby-Sitters Club name? My sister read those, and I still had no idea. STONY SOIL with a tricky clue? ouch. DINESH / SPINELLA crossing BENADRYL? Don’t know either crossing. DIONYSIA with no reference and nasty crossings? If you say so. I admired the art and ambition of it, but after throwing in the towel and looking at the solution, I was still shaking my head in disbelief. Didn’t get the central Across answer either; it all just really threw me. Been a while since I’ve been that frustrated. Other puzzles were fun and challenging this week, though. Just saying that a puzzle that’s relatively fresh and not difficult to one is a complete enigma to another.

  8. Karen says:

    Was the LAT grid supposed to look like a reptile house? Or like a snake? I still don’t get the Animal House ‘description’.

    It’s been too long since I lived in Phoenix and visited PAPAGO park–I needed half the crossings for that one.

  9. joon says:

    i am quite sure those squiggles of black squares in the LAT grid are supposed to resemble snakes. not much to say about the ANIMAL HOUSE tie-in, though.

  10. pannonica says:

    LAT: Perhaps one large, coiled snake? On a 45° angle? Nah. I think it’s simply that the grid houses animals, spisssifically snakes.

    Post Puzzler: SPIER crossing SPINELLA? I sputtered. Speaking of which, another miss for S*P*Y*S, M*A*S*H first.

    WAPO: Sperm? Paramecia!

Comments are closed.