Sunday, 5/13/12

NYT 17:53 (Gareth) 
LAT tba 
Reagle untimed (Janie) 
Hex/Hook 12:45 (pannonica) 
WaPo Doug – untimed 
CS 14:29 (Sam) 

The hyperlinks to individual puzzles aren’t working for the nonce. I posted this too late so the script is broken. Gareth. [Edited to add: The anchor links are working now. - Evad]


Ben Tausig’s New York Times crossword, “INDIES”

Hi! Gareth here! As you probably know, Amy’s taken the weekend off from her 7-days-a-week, largely unpaid labour of love, so I’m here to discuss the puzzle with you today. Sorry for the late post, I’m not willing to get up at or stay up ’til 3a.m. when the puzzle becomes available here!

Today’s puzzle is by a familiar name, but one not usually associated with the Times. Ben Tausig’s last Times outing was more than five years ago, but many of us solve his two weekly puzzles (one written by himself, one that he edits created by an elite team of eight superhero robots) available here. Those puzzles are notable for including sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and other subversive topics, I’m sure you found examples of each in this puzzle! More later!

The theme is pretty simple and I’m sure most of us cottoned to it pretty quickly. “Indies” should be read as “add in Ds” to familiar phrases resulting in – as they say – wackiness. Instead of just the letter D though, it’s a D sound that is added, and spelling is changed as needed. I think it’s fair to say that’s a lot more elegant, and requires a lot more creativity! Also, this puzzle takes advantage of the wider format, with 16 letter+ entries, and 3+ word phrases! Mmm! The entries are:

  • “23A WEEDSHALLOVERCOME “Slogan for medical marijuana activists?” (WE SHALL OVERCOME) Drugs! Also, a great entry, before and after!
  • 36A THESHODOFIRAN “Persians who protect their feet?” (THE SHAH OF IRAN) Pronunciation equivalency is always a problem in these themes. Needless to say, my accent is different to most here. For me, SHAH has the same sound as the vulgar shart, SHOD the same as SHOT; but probably it’s the same for most Americans.
  • 50A RIGHTOFWADE “Entitlement to cross the stream first?” (RIGHT OF WAY)
  • 69A NOMOREMISTERNICEGUIDE “If you can’t behave on this tour, I swear you’ll be sorry!”? (NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY). Beautiful entry, highlighted by being in the centre!
  • 88A CHEESETRADE “Big part of the dairy business?” (CHEESE TRAY) I battled with this one. I’m not familiar with the base phrase. Google seems to suggest it’s simply a snack platter with a variety of cheeses on offer.
  • 104A WANDERINGJUDE “Lost subject of a hit Beatles song?” (WANDERING JEW) Another great entry both ways! Also, Rock ‘n’ Roll! The rock ‘n’ roll mostly is by the Beatles (with a side of The Who) in this puzzle!
  • 115A WHOLENUDEBALLGAME “Clothing-free version of the national pastime?” (WHOLE NEW BALL GAME). The “whole” seems superfluous in the new phrase. Echoing this theme entry, there were a slew ofbaseball references in the grid. It’s not a strong area for me, but I’m sure many of you liked it!
  • More subversive entries, some Sex:

  • 18D SPAWNER“Salmon, at times”
  • 106D DIDIT “Made whoopee”
  • And a whole bunch of rock ‘n’ roll:

  • 12D ROCKOPERA “Tommy, e.g.”. See also 45A “Not Straight” ATILT
  • Along with the JUDE them entry we also have: 57A OBLADI “Start of a ‘White Album’ title”, 94A WHEEL “Revolver”
  • 76A KISS “Smack”. See also 93A BAM “[Smack]” and also see also “drugs”.
  • 78A NEBR “State for which a Springsteen album is named: Abbr.” One of his best! I think I linked to Atlantic City last time a blogged?
  • 24D ACDC “Powered in either of two ways”
  • 100D KIDA “Grammy-winning Radiohead album of 2000″. A more typical genre for alt-weekly puzzles. Elegant touch having the previous clue 98D OGLE “Look like a creep?” reference another Radiohead song.
  • Some entries/Clues I liked:

  • 16A MCENROE “Famously temperamental court figure”. My last entry. I can’t believe I fell for the ole it’s-court-as-in-tennis-court crossword clue trick!
  • 31D KIMJONGUN “World leader beginning December 2011″. I’m not sure how this got in the puzzle, considering the response times (up to 6 mo) and time to publication (can be years for a Sunday I’m told). Either Ben showed some impressive prescience (before he was “crowned” he was pretty obscure), or Will decided it was worth bumping this puzzle up the schedule while this was (relatively) current.
  • 33D ALPH “‘”Kubla Khan’ river”. A beautifully evocative poem, even it was never finished. See also drugs.
  • 64D MORSECODE “Something you might tap in”. Had me thinking wrestling.
  • Some entries I plain didn’t know:

  • 49A JEER “Big twit?” I don’t understand this clue.
  • 82A CWPOST “Largest campus of Long Island Univ.” That’s a cereal magnate in my world. Apparently the campus was named for said magnate.
  • 52D GIAMBI “Jason who’s a five-time baseball All-Star”. Baseballer.
  • 61D REDBUD “Oklahoma state tree”. I wanted it to be some kind of “gum”.
  • 90D ODWALLA “Big maker of smoothies and energy bars”.
  • I also had a few big wrong turns on the way:

  • 58D PORSCHE “Car in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’”. I tried PONTIAC first.
  • 81D SEMINOLES “People with reservations in Florida”. I wanted SHOSHONES.
  • And the least satisfying dupe: 123A EUSE “Feminine suffix”. ENNE/ETTE are one of those crossword-ese dilemmas we all know and tolerate. Now Pandora’s Box has been opened and it’s a trilemma!
  • Lastly, I’d like to say, you can dress up a partial in pretty clothes, but it’s still a partial:

  • 57A OBLADI “Start of a “White Album” title”
  • 51D INROME “Where to conform, per an expression”

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

CS, May 13 solution

Crosswords L.A. was a blast! The puzzles were terrific (especially those from Trip Payne and Byron Walden) but the real highlight, as is always the case at crossword tournaments, is the chance to catch up with old puzzling friends and make new ones. This was my first Crosswords L.A. event (I had test-solved the puzzles so I spent most of the day in the scoring room instead of competing) and it has a nice, relaxed, friendly vibe.

Something else with a friendly vibe is today’s 68/28 Sunday Challenge from Tony Orbach. (That’s what we call a professional segue.) Here were the items of note:

  • A kinda-sorta mini-theme! There’s HANGING OFFENSE, a [Capital crime in the Wild West, e.g.], and the MATADOR DEFENSE, a term for [Resistance-free guarding in basketball]. I’ve never heard of the basketball term, but the name makes a lot of sense.
  • When you see IFIVE in the grid, don’t you want the clue to be along the lines of [W. coast freeway]? Well, this one used ["My apologies ___ offended you"]. (Another “offense?”)
  • I love the central Down, SHOOTS DAGGERS AT, as well as the other two long Across answers, NO PASSING and DARK HORSE.
  • Quick poll: which pairing do you prefer, ARISTIDES and SENESCENT in the northeast or MANO A MANO and PIE CHARTS? I realize there is no “right” answer, but, really, there is. Add in the KIT KAT just to the right of the PIE CHARTS and it gets even better.
  • Remember Doug’s review of the LAT yesterday? He noted that constructors like __SHARP and __FLAT because there are seven possibilities open for that first letter. Well, solvers like me hate those answers…because there are seven possibilities open for that first letter. And this time, G FLAT crosses HIGH C!
  • In my book, you can’t beat [Frequent panelist of "Match Game" who was one of three actress sisters] as a clue for EVA GABOR. I liked the different clue for OREO, [Sundae mix-in], and the clue for SHAFT is just too cool for school: [The cat who won't cop out when there's danger all about]

The parts that left me a little cold were IS NEW, ANTA, and KOPF, but the fun stuff far outweighed these little gnats.

Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 110″ – Doug’s review

Karen Tracey's Washington Post solution 5/13/12, "The Post Puzzler No. 110"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. This one’s going to be short and sweet. I’m pretty much wiped out from the Crosswords LA Tournament. It was a blast!

Congratulations to Jordan Chodorow, who won for the second year in a row. Eric LaVasseur finished a very, very close second. I was in the Finals with Jordan and Eric, and the outcome was reminiscent of the Finals in Wordplay. Unfortunately I played Al Sanders to Jordan’s Tyler Hinman. There’s nothing quite like taking off your headphones and hearing a chorus of groans.

OK, let’s get to the puzzle. I was a little surprised that none of the long answers were names. Karen is known for her long, scrabbly names. I did enjoy TIGHT SQUEEZE crossing MOSQUITO BITE crossing GOLDEN EAGLES.

  • 15a. [2008 film depicting the 1944 assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler] - VALKYRIE. Love this entry. Remember when Xena joined the Valkyries? No, you probably don’t. But believe me, it was awesome.
  • 58a. [Goethe play about a Flemish warrior] - EGMONT. I must have missed the episode where Xena fought Egmont. I’m sure she kicked his sorry Flemish butt.
  • 60a. [Dick and ___ (1960s pop duo)] - DEEDEE. Their biggest hit was “The Mountain’s High,” which reached #2 on the charts in 1961. EGMONT is stacked on top of DEEDEE, making this a tough corner.
  • 56a. [Honest profession?] - I CAN’T LIE. Super clue.

I can’t lie: I can barely keep my eyes open here. So I’ll catch you all next week.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Mother Hugs”—Janie’s review

Spoiler alert: “Mama.” In just about every language in the world, this is one of baby’s first words. Sweet, no? So, bein’ as today’s her day, it’s perfect that Merl’s puzzle pays tribute to those two syllables and—by virtue of the puzzle-within-the-puzzle—the woman behind ‘em. A Notepad instruction gives us a clue to understanding the theme and to finding the hidden “something” Merl associates with his mom. While I found the word (and was delighted by it), maybe because of the example in the instruction (?) I confess that I had trouble understanding just how I was to go about finding what I was looking for. Anyone else?

Regardless, a reading of the instruction tells us clearly that we’ll find nine examples of a four-letter word related to Mother’s Day. By now, you should know what that word is (and if not, this would be a good time to start re-reading this post…). The catch is, it’s “hugging” a single letter that you’ll need to solve the bonus puzzle. The catch to that (IMHO…) is that (with one exception) this four-letter word itself is part of or “hugged by”/embedded in much longer fill. Comme ça:

  • 27A. SIR THOMAS MALORY ["Le Morte d'Arthur" author]. Nice how the very next entry references the man and his work with GRAIL [Subject of a holy quest]. (New territory for you? Think Camelot. Or Spamalot. And don’t even get me started on “Author! Author!”…)
  • 38A. MAMMALIAN [Of hyenas and humans].
  • 44A. NORMAN MAILER [Village Voice co-founder]. Did you know that the Voice—which was founded in 1955—was the first of the big-city tabloids that came to be known as “alternative weeklies”? Wiki tells me it’s so, but since their source is the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, this does have the ring of truth.
  • 64A. MAD MAX [Mel Gibson role]. Before he was Mad Mel…
  • 67A. MAGMA [Molten rock]. This is the exception I mentioned.
  • 69A. MAIMAN [Builder of the first functional laser, Ted ___ (whose last name is almost a postal worker)]. Goes nicely with NORMAN at 44A, whose last name is something delivered by a postal worker…
  • 80A. MAUMAU REVOLT [Kenyan conflict of the 1950s]. One of the more horrifying chapters in Africa’s modern history (see also HUTU…), but one revisited in a most uplifting way in the based-on-truth movie The First Grader.
  • 89A. MAP MAKING [Cartography].
  • 104A. ANIMAL MAGNETISM [Raw sex appeal]. We’re talkin’ one of yer RANDIER red hot mamas here!

In addition to our embedded MAMAs, there are some bonus sightings as well, by way of MOMA and EMMA and MATURE. (MAIN MENU doesn’t make the cut, though, as the “ma” there appears as part of a one-syllable word.)

And—there’s a tip o’ the hat to the guy who gets celebrated next month, with PÈRE and DADS and (okay, not by the clue, but definitely by the sound of it) PAW.

Other highlights to SAVOR today? I’d have to include RUNS SHORT, AUNTIE EM, the adjacent and paradoxical SERENE VEXATION, and “GO, MAN, GO!!

Oh—and what do those hugged letters deliver? What does Merl call that “something my mother used to make for us kids (and I love ‘em to this day)”? “Put them all together, that spells…” DUMPLINGS. Yum! (If you haven’t figured it out, all will be revealed by running your mouse over the blank spot.)

Happy Mother’s Day—or even Mothers’ Day! However you punctuate it, enjoy the day!

Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “What the Magic 8-Ball Said” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook • 5/13/12 • "What the Magic 8-Ball Said" • Hook • solution

Another belated write-up on a semi-stressful weekend. Apologies, everyone. Here we have punny versions of the trope answers of the novelty “toy” Magic 8-Ball. The Wikipedia page helpfully lists the potential answers, and as you may imagine there are a number of virtual magic eight balls to be found on the web. I won’t be an enabler by linking to any of them, but I will point to Kate Hahn’s “The Magic 8 Ball Amended by My Mother for My Middle-School Years” in McSweeney’s.

  • 22a. […to the untalented painter?] ARTWORK NOT SO GOOD (outlook…).
  • 27a. […to the ill-equipped pub gamesman?] WITHOUT A DART (…a doubt).
  • 48a. […to the hopeful skier?] MY REPLY IS SNOW (…is no).
  • 65a. […to the squash farmer?] BUTTERNUT TELL YOU NOW (better not…).
  • 82a. […to the French chef?] MY SAUCES SAY NO (…sources…).
  • 104a. […to the lumberjack?] AX AGAIN LATER. (ask…)
  • 112a. […to someone writing a will?] SCIONS POINT TO YES (signs…).

The rundown: seven long theme answers, serious letter overlap in four of them. Each new version of the cliché answer is imagined as geared to a specific type of person. Constructor Hook deftly avoids repeating the word NO in two of the answers (48a & 82a) by making sure to alter one of its appearances as the pun (SNOW). Most of these themers got smiles of approval—some wider than others—as I was solving, and none are actually bad.

Going to keep this brief, since this is generally a low-profile puzzle and receives few comments, if any. Not to mention the tardiness.

A few observations:

  • The ASTAIRE (52a) section in the middle-right was annoying because it felt as if there were one too many cross-references. 45d, 58a, and 53d.
  • 43d KNOTTIEST is fun fill and made me think of 5a [Psychiatrist R.D.] LAING, because his most famous work is a 1970 book of poetry called Knots.
  • Throwback clues! 57d [Dudley Do-Right's love] NELL. 25a ["The Good Earth" heroine] OLAN. 117a [Manicurist in old TV ads]. MADGE. In truth, most crosswords have some creaky feeling fill, but for whatever reasons these stood out to me while I was solving.
  • 59a ["Most Oscar nominations" record-holder] STREEP. The clue presumes acting awards. Meryl Streep has 17. Walt Disney had 59 total. Composer John Williams has 47 (so far). Costume designer Edith Head had 35. Heck, art director Cedric Gibbons had 39.
  • Yes, him.

    Tough clue at 64d (near that ASTAIRE section): [Castmate of Graves and Landau]. I knew it had to be from the original Mission: Impossible television series, but Barbara BAIN and Greg MORRIS didn’t fit. I thought must be Leonard NIMOY, who was an occasional cast member, but it turned out to be Peter LUPUS. The guy whose main function was muscle.

  • Unfamiliar to me; 80d [Canon camcorder brand] ELURA. 103d [2011 film chameleon] RANGO. Okay, I was vaguely aware of the animated film, but needed all the crossings.
  • NEBBISHY! Fun word to see in a puzzle. (81d)
  • 107a [Knowing] ALIVE TO. Wow, did I find that one difficult. Ironic?
  • For 111a [Cataract site] NILE, I was duped into thinking medically, and hence EYES or something associated, because of the underlying 115a [Thrombosis cause] CLOT.

Fun, enjoyable puzzle.

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26 Responses to Sunday, 5/13/12

  1. granbaer says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to Amy, she deserves some time off. It’s a great blog and enjoyable reading all the comments about the puzzles. This one was clever but had some awkward fill, like EUSE. I, too had ette and enne until the light dawned with the cross of HUH.

  2. Bruce N. Morton says:

    At the risk of forever forfeiting my carefully crafted curmudgeonly image, I will admit to being totally charmed by Merl’s puzzle. Furthermore, as a non-constructor, I think it must have been a major feat to come up with the 9 entries needed to fit the required letters. My mother also made. . .well, the “meta” was even easy for me, but Janie didn’t spoil it, so I won’t either. What a fun and wonderful, personalized tribute.

    Linguists – anthropologists have made the startling claim that some version of Mama is found in *every* known language. Not having personally checked every known language, I can’t vouch for that. But the explanation is that the infant vocalizes–hums, with its (his-her) mouth closed–mmmmm, then opens his lips, yielding mmmmmammmmma, generating excited approval and reinforcement from–guess who.

    Happy Mother’s Day (Mothers’ Day?) to Amy and all others who qualify.

    Bruce

  3. john farmer says:

    Sorry you were locked up in the scoring room yesterday, Sam. It makes it harder to bribe the judges that way. I hope at least Elissa brought you a cupcake. Anyway, I never got to say hello…so, hello! Doug’s finals performance was indeed awesome, and would have been even more full of win but for a single empty square. I’m not sure if knowing that moment won’t be in a multimillion-dollar-grossing documentary is much consolation. Impressive performance, in any case, and congrats to you, Doug, and to Jordan and Eric. Excellent puzzles all day long. Aimee and Zoe’s got me (and I think, a few others). Trip’s was a special treat.

    It’s good to see Ben Tausig’s byline on a NYT again. Very enjoyable puzzle. Maybe the clue for HUH could have been “Reaction to finding the answer to 113-A is EUSE.” Legit, but I think ERSE may have been the way to go. Anyway, I was happy to learn REDBUD is the state tree of Oklahoma. I didn’t know those Sooners were so progressive.

    Happy Mother’s Day to Amy and to all.

  4. ArtLvr says:

    Getting behind on today’s schedule, so I’ll just add that I enjoyed Henry Hook’s Magic 8-Ball puzzle, though I went astray for a bit with A bientôt for Lyonnaise “Later”!

  5. Erik says:

    happy mothers’ day everyone.

  6. Joe Burke says:

    Very nice NYT today.
    Prediction: If Tausig ran a puzzle with the same theme as an Inkwell, he’d call it “Throw Some D’s on that B***h.”

  7. Jan says:

    Happy Mother’s Day, Amy and other cruciverbal mothers (which includes my own, of course)!

  8. Doug says:

    John’s right. The puzzles at Crosswords LA were fantastic. Those of you who weren’t able to attend will be able to buy them on the Crosswords LA website in a day or two, and all the proceeds go to charity.

    Kudos once again to Jordan and Eric! Worthy opponents and all-around great guys.

  9. J. T. Williams says:

    I’ll chime in with admiration for the puzzles at Crosswords LA. Trip had a fantastic puzzle that definitely helped to spread the curve, Aimee and Zoe’s puzzle had a very fresh feeling, and Brendan’s had just enough of the BEQ-style clues to keep it out of the NYT (and fortunately no obscure bands I’d never heard of!) I also really liked Todd McClary’s finals puzzle a lot (probably because I wasn’t trying to solve it in front of a room of onlookers!) It was also great to get to put more faces to blognames :)

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joe Burke: I dunno, Ben seems far too enlightened and feminist for that.

  11. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And thanks for the good wishes. Joon, we caught the last half of that Man C game. Encroyable!

  12. jefe says:

    The CS link at the top goes to the review of last year’s puzzle, and the WaPo goes to 12/5 instead of 5/12.

  13. pannonica says:

    Fixed, and fixed.

  14. Joan macon says:

    I enjoyed the Merl Reagle puzzle AND Janie’s review, but did I get it all right? I”ll never know, because I can’t read the puzzle form above; it’s too small, too light, and too fuzzy. What can I do about that, if anything? I don’t usually have such a problem, but when I do, there it is. And I did figure out what his mother used to make for him!

  15. janie says:

    hey, joan — thx for the kind words — and so glad that you, too, enjoyed merl’s puzzle. if you click on the grid in the review, you’ll get a larger and fully legible version of it. sorry about the fuzziness in the small version. at any rate, you should be able to check your answers against that larger scale pic!

    ;-)

  16. pannonica says:

    Image is more legible now.

  17. mk says:

    [Edited to add: The anchor links are working now. - Evad]
    No, they aren’t.
    But thanks for doing this. How do you access the notepad?

  18. pannonica says:

    mk: Now they all are.

    For the Notepad—at least in AcrossLite—you can click on the little “notepad” icon just after the title, or click View → Notepad from the menu (keyboard: alt-v, then n).

  19. Joan macon says:

    Janie and Pannonica (wol) thanks! I learn something new every day!

  20. pannonica says:

    I’m not– oh, Bother.

    Joan, I don’t know which browser you use, but I have a great little plug-in/add-on/whatever-you-want-to-call-it called Hover Zoom. It shows an instant enlargement (to full size or as close as possible) over images you “hover” the cursor over. It doesn’t work absolutely everywhere (e.g., not at the NYT site, sadly) but it’s very nifty and useful.

  21. HMJ says:

    I’ll give you credit for this one Merl. Good job! The best part is – no puns!!

  22. John Haber says:

    I was totally on the wrong wavelength for this, whether the pop culture or the puns, and I circled nearly 30 clues as mere guesses for me. The SW was worst for me, between slow getting the “conform,” “keys,” and “tap” association, the obscurity of ODWALLA (never seen before, maybe hasn’t hit NYC) or euchre’s history, and all the TV (two crossing) and cartoons. (Also hate the crosswordese ODIC.)

    Elsewhere, while I realize that both JEER and twit mean tease, I didn’t really get the clue either. I’ve never seen FLAM as opposed to flimflam. Still don’t understand why “Dog” is in quotes, what the joke about academic circles means, or what MES is.

  23. Gareth says:

    “More than quarter of academic circles?” “Academic Circles” has 4 CEES in it out of 15 letters 4/15 > 1/4. MES is Spanish for month. Mayo is Spanish for May, as in Cinco de Mayo.

  24. John Haber says:

    Thanks.

  25. James Schooler says:

    I can’t remember a time when I did not enjoy Merl’s puzzles (puns and all), but I especially enjoyed this one. You might say that I savored it more than usual!

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