Sunday, January 6, 2013

NYT 9:07 
Reagle tba 
LAT 8:07 
Hex/Hook 7:43 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 7:27 (Sam) 

Dan Feyer and Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword, “Puzzle Envy”

NY Times crossword solution, 1 6 13 “Penis Puzzle Envy”

Speed solver extraordinaire Dan Feyer has paired up with Monday specialist Andrea Carla Michaels on a Sunday puzzle with an N.V. theme (read the title as “Puzzle N.V.”). We get NIGHT VISION; NORTH VIETNAMESE; the elegance of a central three-stack with NAPA VALLEY, NO VACANCY, and NOW, VOYAGER; NORFOLK, VIRGINIA; NIA VARDALOS; NUMERICAL VALUE; and NATIONAL VELVET. Yep, that’s that. No trickery or wordplay, which are nice vehicles but not vital—just a large collection of two-word phrases with the same first letters. You don’t have to be a Navy veteran from Nevada to understand the straightforward theme, nope.

I lost nearly a minute on the clock owing to a typo. Yes, I know how to spell UTAH, but the R key is right next to the T, dang it.

I went to college with a woman named DAGMAR, auburn hair. She probably knows who the [Blond bombshell of '50s TV] is, but I don’t. I have a vague sense of having looked that up 5+ years ago. Hey, editorial types: Isn’t it customary to feminize the adjective with an E when it’s a woman whose hair is blonde? And why the hell do we do that, anyway? This is not French, after all. It’s bad enough we have the fiancé/fiancée distinction, where at least  the individual’s sex is relevant (“his fiancé” and “his fiancée” are entirely different genders). Do we really need the blond/blonde distinction, when there is no gendering of gray or red hair? Silly.

Five bits:

  • 53d. [Paragraph symbol], PILCROW. It’s the symbol that looks like a backwards P with an extra upright and the hump filled in (¶). Now that you know its name, you’re ready to play the Sporcle quiz, “Can you name the different symbols used in writing?”
  • 41a. [Shot blocker], LENS CAP. Camera shot, not a shot on the basketball court.
  • 109a. [Head of London], LORD MAYOR. Really thought I was looking for a 9-letter Briticism for “toilet.” “Pardon me. I have a meeting s(c)heduled with the Lord Mayor.” The guy named Boris with the crazy hair is Mayor of London, which is distinct from the Lord Mayor.
  • 122a. [Pastoral poem], ECLOGUE. You may well have wanted IDYL(L) here; it often gets a clue like this. Anyone have a favorite eclogue to share? I do not.
  • 116a. [Statehouse resident, informally], GUV. Is “statehouse” slang for “federal prison”? No? Sorry. That’s the Illinoisan in me talking.

Fave fill: A NEW HOPE, PLAXICO/SKYFALL/VOLVOS, DO-GOODER, STERLING. Unfave fill: INI, INANER, AZERI, NEB.

You know anyone who digs word searches and books with cute wintry cover art? Dan’s book, It’s a Wonderful Word Search, came out in November. It does appear to be holiday-themed, so if you’ve got holiday fatigue you may want to stash it away till late fall.

3.5 stars.

Julian Lim’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Scuse Me”

LA Times crossword answers, 1 6 13 “Scuse Me”

“Scuse Me” … while I squish this guy? The theme answers are formed by converting a W- word into a SQU- word:

  • 24a. [Unoiled robot's problem?], SQUEAK IN THE KNEES. (Weak in the knees.)
  • 38a. [Embarrassed parrot's cry?], SQUAWK OF SHAME. (“Walk of shame” is a terrific bit of source material.)
  • 52a. [Lottery winner's reaction, perhaps?], SQUEAL OF FORTUNE. (Wheel of Fortune.)
  • 73a. [Sudden storm in Hunan?], THE GREAT SQUALL OF CHINA. (The Great Wall of China.)
  • 85a. [Shout when zucchini falls off the boat?], SQUASH OVERBOARD. (Wash overboard.)
  • 101a. [Escort at the farmyard ball?], CHICKEN SQUIRE. (Chicken wire.)
  • 120a. [Any Mr. Magoo story?], THE SQUINTER’S TALE. (Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Highbrow meets cartoon.)

Five toughest clues:

  • 18d. [Scotland Yard inspector in Sherlock Holmes stories], LESTRADE. Really shouldn’t have “inspector” in the clue when 33a: INSP is clued as [18-Down's rank]. Kinda giving it away there.
  • 130a. [Three-ball family project, typically], SNOWMAN. The balls are made of snow, not rubber. D’oh!
  • 45a. [Rattan alternative], OSIER. It’s a crosswordese willow used in basketwork.
  • 94a. [Hokkaido port city], OTARU. I got this, no problem, but only because that Japanese 60%-vowels city has been in far too many crosswords.
  • 39d. [-ish], OR SO. I really wanted the answer to be a similar suffix, like -Y or -LIKE or -ESQUE, but no.

Did you notice the spacious zones of white squares all around the perimeter of the grid? The 3×8 and 4×6 corners plus the diagonally sprawling centers of each side are nice to see, although some of the shorter entries in those areas lend little to the puzzle (APA ROK, DAR YMA, A NEAT TALLS, ALAR, IN E CCL, ALII ERNES).

3.5 stars. The theme plays out pretty well, and I like some of the longer fill.

Updated Sunday morning:

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

CS solution, January 6

I’m guessing that WI-FI HOT SPOT was the seed entry for this 70/29 freestyle crossword by fellow Team Fiend-ster Doug Peterson. It was either that or IST, the [First-year German verb]. (In all seriousness, though, there’s a decent chance the seed entry was IOWA CITY, [Home of the Big Ten's Hawkeyes], as a tip of the hat to PuzzleGirl. But I’m sticking with WI-FI HOT SPOT.)

Let’s recap the highlights from this one in bullet-point form:

  • [Tanaholic, e.g.] is a great clue for ADDICT. No addiction is funny, but the clue is just offbeat enough that it’s entertaining.
  • My father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for 40 years, so when I saw [___ Pacific Railway], I just knew it couldn’t be the U.P. (“Railroad” ain’t a “Railway”). Given the eight squares, it was going to be NORTHERN or Southern. Fortunately, I knew the WAR Department was phased out in 1947, so the choice was simple. (The WAU Department was phased out much earlier since no one knew what it was.)
  • I thought [Clad like Kagan] was a funny clue for ROBED. There’s “Moves Like Jagger,” and now “Clad Like Kagan.”
  • I struggled with HAUTEUR, clued here as [Airs]. That’s quite the conglomeration of vowels.
  • Those bottom stacks are gems. The lower-left stack of CHAGRIN, HOLE UP, IL DUCE, and STORKS contains not only four solid entries but no awkward entries (unless you’re unsophisticated like me and also had problems with VOYAGEUR, the [French Canadian woodsman employed to transport furs]. The other stack on the right with CORONADO, STATE PEN, and ASHCROFT is similarly lovely.
  • Speaking of that corner, I wasn’t fooled for a second by [Sentence structure?] for the STATE PEN, but I still loved the clue.
  • Other high points included TIRE ROTATION, DINNER RUSH, B-TEAMS, STAR STRUCK, DECKS OUT, and, naturally, TUTTI-FRUTTI.

Favorite entry = AT WORST, clued here as [If all goes awry]. Favorite clue = [Slicker] for OILIER. Those thinking of “slicker” the noun instead of “slicker” the adjective might have been flummoxed for a while with this one.

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 144″ – Doug’s review

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post solution 1/6/13, “The Post Puzzler No. 144″

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here with the first Post Puzzler of 2013. And it’s a beauty. A 66-worder from Patrick Berry. Those 4×9 sections in the upper right and lower left are especially pretty and very difficult to pull off. The NOSFERATU / EVERLOVIN’ / PECOS BILL / GARAGE SALE stack is genius.

  • 1a. [1964 heist film set in Istanbul] - TOPKAPI. I’m not sure how I knew this, but I filled it in instantly. I’m on a roll in 2013, which means I should do well at the ACPT this year. Have you registered yet? I bought my plane tickets last week. Exciting!
  • 27a. [Its royal badge features the motto "Pleidol wyf i'm gwlad"] – WALES. Translates as “True am I to my country.” I’m not sure how a normal-looking word like “i’m” got in there.
  • 5d. [Former owner of Bebo] – AOL. “Bebo” sounds like the name of a monkey, so I’m imagining a monkey (wearing a little fez & a vest, of course) getting into hijinks at AOL headquarters. And Wikipedia backs me up on this: “The BBC said that the AOL purchase of Bebo was ‘one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era,’ and it cost the then-CEO of AOL, Randy Falco, his job.” Moral of the story: Never trust a monkey.
  • 16a. [1778 epistolary novel by Frances Burney] - EVELINA. It’s about a female daredevil who jumps over stuff while riding one of those bicycles with the giant front wheel. And here’s a little more from Wikipedia: “Evelina or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World is a novel written by English author Frances Burney and first published in 1778. It was first published anonymously, but its authorship was revealed by the poet George Huddesford in what Burney called a ‘vile poem.’” Sounds like some good old-timey fun.
  • 12d. [Real-life talk show host played by Jay Mohr on 1990s "Saturday Night Live" episodes] - RICKI LAKE. I haven’t watched an SNL episode in like, forever. Maybe since the late ’80s/early ’90s. And I don’t remember this. I was going to look for a YouTube clip, but it didn’t seem worth the effort. Funny clue though.
  • 29d. [1961 Rick Nelson hit] – EVERLOVIN’. When I see this word, all I can think of is the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.
  • 31a. [Small provinical college] – SIWASH. My only real “huh?” entry today. I had to hit the dictionary for this one: “a small usually inland college that is notably provincial in outlook.” It originated in the stories of George Fitch, who wrote about “Good Old Siwash College.” Toughie.

Lots more great stuff throughout the grid: PRIMAVERA, BLUE HAWAII, SPARE ROOM, NOSE JOB, GOT LOST.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “A Liberating Experience”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 1 6 13 “A Liberating Experience”

In this rebus puzzle, the word FREE appears in 16 squares, making for 31 theme answers (many are short, like TAX-{FREE}). The final rebus answer is a two-fer, the FROST-{FREE} {FREE}ZER. Merl is careful to reserve theme answers like that, the kicker, the one with something extra, for the end of the puzzle.

30a: [Longtime character actor Regis] TOOMEY is unknown to me. He was all crossings, as was the answer below him, 35a: [Air Force base near Las Vegas], NELLIS. But the rest of the fill was, rebus aside, fairly ordinary. There are a couple long non-rebus answers—CONNUBIAL is good but BABILONIA is years past her fame. Not much else to remark on when blogging the puzzle a day late! 3.5 stars. The rebus action isn’t easy to execute, especially on this scale.

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20 Responses to Sunday, January 6, 2013

  1. Had U-BOAT instead of E-BOAT. JUJUNE looked ok to me (well, as ok as a word with two J’s in it can look), but it’s apparently JEJUNE. Jejune is what you’d sound like while stuttering Joon’s name.

  2. Dan F says:

    Thanks for the plug! Actually, my word search book is in no way holiday-themed, so the design and title are sort of false advertising. Buy it any time of year! Re DAGMAR, we submitted the clue with the feminized “Blonde”…

    • Huda says:

      Dan and Amy,

      I think when blond in an adjective, it does not earn an e, but as a noun it does– this woman has blond hair, she’s a blonde.

      • andreacarlamichaels says:

        as Dan mentioned we had the extra “e” but the use of “Bombshell” should tip that it’s a woman…maybe it should be Bombshelle? Bombshelly? ;)

  3. Angela says:

    A puzzle with so many Proper names: Mizraji, Kamoze, Ann Romney , Songwriter Laura, Nia Vardalos, Ralph Kiner, Yul Brynner, Mel Gibsn, Lamar Odom and Scott Nealon becomes annoying. I knew some of the names, but never heard of Kamoze, Laura Nyro, or Nealon and I didn’t know Mizrahi’s first name. Also, I glaze over anything with the name Kardashian so didn’t know Odom. I really hate looking names up, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure them out by filling in around them.
    Otherwise an interesting fill.

  4. Huda says:

    Wow, this one kicked my butt… in a good way in that I learned a lot in the process and had a number of chuckles. It seems like the combination of Dan and Andrea is scary in terms of range of knowledge needed to solve— comics, sports, old movies, wine, you name it. PLAXICO next to SKYFALL– another wow. I wish I had gotten the theme when I was first in that neighborhood, it surely would have helped.

    That ENVYable central stack is very cool indeed. And the scrabbliness is fabulous… I loved that NIXED/LURID corner! And I really, really like the fact that this is not trying to be whacky. Thank you DF and ACME!

  5. john farmer says:

    Loved the triple stack in the center (crossing DONOVAN, no less!). Nice work. Congrats Dan and Andrea.

    DAGMAR and PILCROW were new to me. I do wonder why the Republican section (a Romney, ABE, and NIXON) is on the left side of the grid, though.

  6. Gareth says:

    Simple enough theme, but the Hooklike three-stack and some of the entries themselves, especially NIGHTVISION are very interesting and the rest of the grid played like a big Friday themeless for me: lots of fun entries: PLAXICO, SKYFALL, ANEWHOPE, DOGOODER, LORDMAYOR etc. etc. with some tough names thrown in too! I can’t be the only one who wanted my bombshell to be (Hedy) LAMARR… Is she blonde? I think she’s more 30′s/40′s and films now that I think about it, but at the time the letters lulled me into a trap! PS, I’m pretty sure that both male and female get an e in South African English…

  7. Huda says:

    NYT: about JEJUNE:
    I had somehow thought of it as relating to the French “Jeune” for young. But I was wrong. Further inquiry into the etymology links it to ” dejeuner” for breakfast, literally breaking the fast- dis- jejune. Because apparently jejune originally meant hollow or fasting, and the Jejunum is related to that…but telling you how may not pass the Sunday brunch test. The current meanings of JEJUNE all hang together around that connotqtion of hollow and insubstantial .

    See for example:
    http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-jej1.htm

  8. sbmanion says:

    I liked this puzzle a lot. Sports clues are usually, but not always, gimmes for me. The theme was not especially dynamic, but the number of possible entries opens up the whole puzzle for what I consider to be sparkling fill.

    What was interesting for me was that it reminded me in terms of difficulty of a puzzle that another all-world solver, Jon Delfin, created some years ago. It was quite hard, at least as hard as a Friday. And that was my opinion today: a Friday with a lof of Ns and Vs.

    I know that Andrea is the master of early week fare, but I assume that she is also quite brilliant. I wonder how the difficult came about–is the fill mostly Dan or mostly Andrea; same question about the clues.

    Steve

  9. Martin says:

    Kudos on the central stacked theme entries. Nice work!

    MAS

  10. Doug says:

    Rest assured, Sam, that IOWA CITY was one of the seed entries. You know how many times I’ve heard PuzzleGirl complain about seeing that other Iowa city (AMES) in the puzzle? OK, not that many times, but I know she hates it.

  11. Al says:

    FYI, the BG puzzle can be found at http://home.comcast.net/~nshack/Puzzles/bg130106.puz

    To keep receiving these in the future, go to http://www.crookedcrosswords.com and sign up for a $10 annual subscription.

  12. CACTUS PLANT says:

    What happened to Merl’s puzzle review?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I celebrated the twelfth day of Christmas with two family holiday parties on Sunday and what with being away for ten hours, I completely forgot!

  13. Zulema says:

    A great WP from Patrick Berry. Karen’s and Patrick’s WPs are my favorites. Less abstruse than some but always doable and I never have to leave them undone or look answers up. And thank you, Peter Gordon, as well.

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