Sunday, May 5, 2013

NYT 9:18 
Reagle untimed 
LAT 6:54 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Sam) 
CS 12:50 (Dave) 

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Crunch Time”

NY Times crossword solution, 5 5 13 “Crunch Time”

The “time” that gets “crunched” in this puzzle consists of days of the week, in abbreviated form:

  • 23a. [Early entrepreneurial efforts], LE{MON}ADE STANDS, crossing AL{MON}DINE (which is really amandine).
  • 28a. [Florentine attraction], STA{TUE} OF DAVID, crossing VIR{TUE}S. The “statue of” part sounds clunky to me. At least the puzzle isn’t asking us to know the word battue.
  • 43a. [Food to go?], STE{WED} PRUNES, crossing BO{WED} OUT.
  • 69a. [Birthplace of Harry Houdini], BUDAPES{T, HU}NGARY, crossing GREEN {THU}MB.
  • 93a. [Big name in feminism], BETTY {FRI}EDAN, crossing A{FRI}CA.
  • 110a. [Just makes the 7:47, perhaps], CATCHE{S A T}RAIN, crossing U{S AT}LAS ([50-page book, maybe?]).
  • 118a. [Does spy work], GOE{S UN}DERCOVER, crossing ETAT{S UN}IS.

The rebused theme answers are in the proper order (and I prefer a week to start on Monday, not Sunday).

Overall, though, I didn’t love this puzzle. Too much of the fill was underwhelming. Consider 102d: [Sleep problem, to Brits], APNOEA. Or the awkward 7d: [Start to give trouble to], ACT UP ON, and 53d: [Perfectly fine], ALL OK. Leon URIS clued as [20th-century novelist whose first name is an anagram of 66-Down], 66d being ENOL—as if we wanted two clues spotlighting ENOL’s presence in the grid!

109a: [Blue Ribbons and others] feels like a terrible clue for PABSTS. There are no other Pabst beers! Why not [Cans of Blue Ribbon]? The “and others” just waves a red flag in front of the bull that is the persnickety solver.

Time for me to get ready for an anniversary dinner, so I’ll sign off here with a 3-star rating.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Seeing Double”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 5 5 13 “Seeing Double”

This 20×21 grid has a theme that feels so, so familiar. Either it’s a “best of” repeat or there was an NYT (or NY Sun?) puzzle some years back with a similar theme. Who remembers seeing a puzzle with 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, and 00 in it before? It’s quite a feat to pull off that many numerals in a crossword grid, so even if this is a repeat or a version of a theme seen elsewhere, it’s a tremendous accomplishment.

Here are your theme answers:

  • 24a. [Legal limit of a sort], 55 MILES PER HOUR. Crossing 5 FT/[60 in.] and THE 5OS/[President Eisenhower's era].
  • 29a. [Bargain outlets], 99-CENT STORES. Crossing PLAN 9/[Start of a "classic" Ed Wood film] and CLOUD 9/[On ___ (happy)].
  • 43d. [Daniel Craig role], OO7. Crossing THEO and ECO using the zeroes as letter O’s.
  • 44a. [No-win situation], CATCH-22. Crossing 2-BY-4/[Popular board] and 2OO4/[Year of Florida's four-hurricane summer].
  • 54a. [Film set in the Bermuda Triangle], AIRPORT ’77. Crossing DEC. 7/[Infamous 1941 date, briefly] (Pearl Harbor Day) and OO7.
  • 62a. [What Harry carries], .44 MAGNUM. Crossing 44a’s crossings.
  • 75a. [Certain filing], CHAPTER 11. Crossing 1OOOTH/[What "milli" means] and 1-ALL/[Tie score after two games, as in tennis].
  • 87a. [TV oldie with a classic Nelson Riddle theme], ROUTE 66. Crossing AGE 6/[Like Mozart when he did his first European concert tour] and THE 6/["___ Wives of Henry VIII"].
  • 96a. [Model whose glory days were 1950-74], OLDSMOBILE 88. Crossing 8O DAYS/[Fogg's allotted time] and 8-SOME/[Octet]. I was thinking of human models, not car models.
  • 107a. [Long-playing, in a way], 33 AND A THIRD RPM. Crossing 3 R’S/[School basics] and  3OO/[Perfection, in bowling].

You can’t really ding the puzzle for the O = 0 conflation because, c’mon, look at this theme. You’d never get 1000TH to work with crossings with four numerals in it.

There’s some lovely fill in here despite the wicked-hard constraints—APLOMB, pretty ELYSIAN, OPEN BAR, EMBRACE—and also some clunky stuff. Crosswordese ARECA and ELVER, awkward A SUB, RAL as an abbreviation for Raleigh, HAPS as a [Per or may add-on] … but it’s to Merl’s credit that those stick out rather than blending in with an ocean of such stuff. We do not have an ocean of bad stuff.

4.5 stars for the ballsiness of building a puzzle around ten double numbers and pretty much nailing it.

Updated Sunday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I realize many of the readers of this blog are not regular CrosSynergy solvers (including me when I wasn’t blogging them!), but if you miss any puzzle by constructor Bob Klahn, you’re missing out on something very special. I’ve read that he sometimes spends as many as 30 minutes on just one clue and it shows. So please let me indulge in a “by the numbers” recount of today’s “Sunday Challenge” and the return of an old friend:

CS solution – 05/05/13

First, there were 13(!) question-marked clues:

  • [Kind of special?] was SATURDAY NIGHT – inexpensive handgun
  • [Short day?] was TUE – short as a signal for abbreviation
  • [Short ways to go?] was RTES – fool me once, shame on you…
  • [Springy spot?] was SPA – the type of spring you swim in
  • [National park until 2009?] was SHEA – MLB National League (NY Mets)
  • [Eat and run?] was BOLT – “bolt” has both meanings, the first with “down”
  • [Bouncers' gp.?] was THE NBA – ball, not bar patron, bouncing
  • [Time for cold feet?] was LAST MINUTE – someone who gets cold feet decides at the last minute not to do something
  • [Eye for sewing?] was NEEDLE HOLE
  • [Fit leader?] was RETRO – as in “retrofit”
  • [Solved a knotty problem?] was UNTIED
  • [Offensive holiday?] was TET as in the Tet Offensive
  • [NASA ground force?] was ONE-G – 1G is the force of gravity at ground level
  • [Turkish bread?] was LIRA

Then I counted another 10(!) that could’ve easily had a question mark as well:

  • [Novel digits] was ISBN – novel as in book, not new
  • [It has its shining moments] was SHOEBRUSH
  • [All of his films are joint ventures] was LEE – not movies about orthopedists, but a Spike Lee Joint
  • [Blue stripe] was TEN – I’m thinking blue ribbon here and ten as being perfect?
  • [Pioneering organizer] was PALM PILOT – we’re not talking closets here
  • [At the high end of the scale] was OBESE- the type of scale you stand on
  • [Tall] was HARD TO SWALLOW – why use 4 letters when you can use 13? Had BELIEVE before SWALLOW
  • [Four o'clock (abbr.)] was ESE – common compass entry clued interestingly as a time of day
  • [It goes to extremes] was EST – EST is added to words to make superlatives (“extremes”)
  • [Upscale trio] was LA-TI-DO – last 3 notes of a musical scale

And finally, 2 clues that were paired and 2 that featured alliteration:

  • ["Puss in Boots" beast] (OGRE) by [Boots] (CANS).
  • [Cutting-edge product?] (SCAR) by [They're on the cutting edge] (STROPS)
  • [Space spiral] was NEBULA
  • [Nice Nelly] was PRUDE

When roughly half of the clues of a puzzle are this good, you can just tell that someone spent some quality time putting this together. Bravo, Bob! Though this puzzle really doesn’t deserve an UNFAVE, I have to say the entry DOPANT, clued as [Semiconductor impurity] was a head-scratcher. I see here it’s short for a doping agent. Thanks for indulging my enthusiasm over the reacquaintance of my joy solving Bob’s themelesses.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Common Denominator” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 5/5/13 • “Common Denominator” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

The theme makes itself evident as the puzzle progresses, or perhaps more accurately, as one progresses through the puzzle.

  • 23a. [* LIGHT] CLEARANCE.
  • 25a. [* GIANT] VEGGIE BRAND. I learned while solving how many letters BOOGIE BOARD has in common with the answer.
  • 36a. [* DAY] PUNK ROCK BAND. Though not of the original movement; they’re more like a punk nostalgia band, I think.
  • 41a. [* CARD] WORK PERMIT.
  • 56a. [* ACRES] EVA GABOR SITCOM.
  • 77a. [* OLIVE] MARTINI GARNISH. It may look classy, but it’s an abomination to the GIN (87a). And of course don’t get me started on “dirty martinis” …
  • 89a. [* MONSTER] FENWAY WALL. This, amazingly, was the first theme answer I completed.
  • 91a. [* ROOM] ACTOR’S LOUNGE.
  • 111a. [* BAY] PACKERS HOME.
  • 113a. [* THUMB] PLANT LUCK, though many or most would say it’s skill rather than luck. m-w.com characterizes it as “an unusual ability.”

The theme must be obvious by now. 58-down seals the deal: [What * stands for in ten Across clues] GREEN. A small oddment of a bonus is at 75-down, [58-down study (abbr.)] ECOL. (which is a letter bank for CEE-LO). Since Earth Day is in late April and this crossword is published about a month-and-a-half before it appears on-line, the puzzle wasn’t timed to coincide with that green, ecology-oriented event.

Stickiest spots for solvers, I’d say, would be: (1) just up and to the right of center, with [City holy to Shiites] QOM, [Subject of an emir] QATARI, [Name for a first "figlio"] PRIMO, and [Be a bad pup], which could be YIP or NIP. (2) top center, with [Lake where London Bridge is now] HAVASU in Arizona, the variably-spelled YECCH ["Ugh!"], the dilemma of CARATS or KARATS for [Stone weights], the trickily-clued [Fifty to two] for ONE-TEN, and perhaps even PHRASE for [Musical riff], as it may be difficult to establish crossing letters.

From the New Clues for Tired Fill Lab we get 60a [Deck floor material] TREX®, 11d [Some jam ingredients] LOGS, 108d [Treater of a bump] ICER.

STIFLES, SPUTTER, WARBLES, RELAPSE … little bit of a downer vibe there.

Random observation: 117a [Noddy's next of kin] TERN, the genus for noddies is Anous, 21a [Aimée of cinema] ANOUK.

Did not know: 17d [Cubs great Sandberg] RYNE, 45d [Hollywood burger joint] IRV’S, 51a [Soyuz alternative] ARIANE. Favorite mis-fill: 1a [Produce freshener] MINT for MIST. Favorite clue: 81d [1980 Olympic event] BOYCOTT.

Solid theme, sturdy puzzle.

Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 161″- Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 161

Hey, I think this is Todd McClary’s Post Puzzler debut! Todd’s the author of “The Autofill Project,” one of my favorite crossword blogs. It chronicles Todd’s never-ending quest of updating and scoring the entries in the word list he uses to build puzzles. Even if you’re not into crossword construction, you’ll enjoy the free “unthemely” puzzles he posts from time to time. Todd’s a welcome addition to the Post Puzzler constructor stable indeed!

Todd treats us to a knotty 70/26 freestyle puzzle. Conventional wisdom says that a puzzle without a theme should have no more than 72 entries. I’ve never known a Post Puzzler crossword to have more than 70. Theoretically, a 70-word puzzle would be easier to fill than one with fewer words. But look carefully at this grid: the placement of the black squares is such that there are lots of entryways into every quadrant. Put another way, this grid has a more “open” feel than what you would get from a standard 70-word freestyle grid. In my view, this would be a harder grid to fill.

It sure proved to be a hard one to solve! In my first run through the clues, I had just a few scattered answers that gave me no meaningful traction in any section of the grid. I got ISP, a [Cable co., sometimes], fairly quickly when PAIN IN THE ASS didn’t fit. I had high hopes that plunking down Arthur FONZARELLI as the [Fictional character known for jukebox hits?] would give me decent headway into the southeast corner, but no dice. Ditto for SHAQ, the ["Inside the NBA" nickname], which even offered me a rare Q off which to build. Alas, I was (am) unfamiliar with ARABESQUES, the [Persian rug patterns].  NAT [Geo Wild (cable channel)] was little help, too, as it offered only end letters to the crossings.

The southwest corner was first to fall when I took a flyer on OREO as the answer to [___ Dream Extreme Cheesecake (offering at the Cheesecake Factory)]. The clue reeks of trying to clue a familiar term in a new way, so it felt like a solid guess. Twso rows above was CLEAT, the [Point for a soccer player], and combined with the OREO it gave me courage to try KARATE CHOP as the [Martial arts belt?]. Eight more crossings with the first letter already in place? Yes, please! Those answers all fell in short order.

I had no idea you could buy this at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

I tried to go from there to the northwest, but my insistence that the [Dunkin' Donuts drink purchase] had to be CUP O’ JOE instead of BOX O’ JOE really slowed me down. It didn’t help that I had ONES instead of ACES as the [Top row of a Yahtzee score sheet] and both APSE and NAVE instead of EAVE as the [Gargoyle site]. I was proud of myself, however, when I reasoned that BESO, Spanish for “kiss,” was the answer to [Telenovela action] (though my first answer was EMOTING).

So I moved to the center, thinking maybe a second path to the northwest would help. A reasonable approach, though it assumed the middle of the grid would be more forgiving. I got the TV part of TV DRAMA, clued as [Soap, e.g.], but I couldn’t think of that second word for the longest time. I’m even more red-faced that I couldn’t think of the EGRET, the [Symbiotic partner of a rhino]. And I had no clue whatsoever about the [Hieroglyphic representations of Horus] (those are EYES) or the [Food brand whose Web site offers a specialty recipe for duckling] (that’s UGLI).

And that’s how I ended up in the southeast corner. My lifelong love for Barry Manilow paid off, as LOLA was the gimme [Showgirl that Tony and Rico fight over in song]. The Z in FONZARELLI gave me hope, but alas all I could muster was that MAZE was the end of the [Modern obstacle course]. That turned out to be LASER MAZE. Um…okay, sure. The corner finally gave way once I got the Canadian Football League, or CFL, as the answer to [Its Thanksgiving Day Classic is played in Oct.]. Once again, starting letters really help!

The northeast (and that dang northwest) continued to put up a fight. Among the things I didn’t know:

  • The DEMI-[plie (ballet move)] (no surprise if you’ve ever seen me attempt anything remotely graceful);
  • That the Peter Sellers vehicle, BEING THERE, was the [1979 film with the tagline "A story of chance"]; 
  • That JAGS and [Toots] are synonymous; and
  • That TSE is not only half an African menace but also the initials for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the [Nikkei financial inst.].

Then there were the tricky clues that duped me, like [Brandy style, briefly], which had nothing to do with booze and everything to do with the singer (the answer’s R AND B). Or [Tender one?] for UNUM, the word for “one” appearing on United States legal tender. And while it wasn’t a tricky clue, I found the answer to [2011 French Open camp] really hard to parse because I wasn’t expecting a full name, LI NA, in only four squares!

Favorite entry = I DO DECLARE, arguably as quaint as its clue, ["Heavens to Betsy!"] (Honorable mention to FISHNET, the [Sexy material, often].) Favorite clue = [Run badly?] for SMUGGLE.

Jean O’Conor’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Hacker”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 5 5 13 “Hacker”

The “Hacker” theme involves hacking off the -ER at the end of familiar phrases:

  • 23a. [Oatmeal?], MORNING PAP. This one could have taken a wildly different tack. Are there still evening papers, or does every newspaper have just a morning edition now?
  • 25a. [Smooth con man's tool?], NATURAL FIB. You can get natural fiber from the oatmeal in 23a.
  • 34a. [Victoria's Secret ad?], UNDERWEAR DRAW.
  • 47a. [New member of the faith shaking things up?], CATALYTIC CONVERT. Cute.
  • 61a. [Soup kitchen scene?], EVERYONE AND HIS BROTH.
  • 81a. [Skewed priority?], DISLOCATED SHOULD.
  • 90a. [Foot pain location?], AROUND THE CORN.
  • 107a. [Edam?], CHEESE BURG.
  • 109a. [Tired of watching "Downton Abbey"?], SERIAL NUMB. Awkward.

The theme’s okay, but the results aren’t as amusing as one would hope. Mind you, most drop/add/change-letters themes don’t really hit the level of “funny.”

Ten more things:

  • 28d. [Like cottage cheese], CURDY. Not sure I’ve ever seen that word form before.
  • 38a. [People at the supermarket counter?], MAG. As in People magazine.
  • 7a. [Monopoly token introduced in 2013], CAT. And 70a. [Token replaced by 7-Across], IRON.
  • 104a. [Befuddled], ASEA. One dictionary tells me that “at sea” can mean both literally out on the water and confused. ASEA is entirely absent from some dictionaries—and have you ever in your life heard/read this usage outside of crossword puzzles? I wonder why we see this again and again rather than the Hamlet soliloquy line, “to take arms against A SEA of troubles.” I checked Cruciverb: Out of 500 ASEA appearances, only five went the Hamlet route. I like those five better.
  • 36d. [Congratulatory contraction], ATTA. As in “Attagirl!” Short for “that’s a.”
  • 38d. [Mid-century year], MCCL. When the clue says “mid-century,” the year probably ends in L, but the rest is a crapshoot.
  • 62d. [Triple-meter dance, in Dijon], VALSE. French for “waltz.”
  • 73d. [Bar in a brown wrapper], MARS. Anyone know what’s in the at-Walmart-only US edition of the Mars bar? And does it have an almond or brown wrapper? There’s no listing on the Walmart website. The clue really needs to acknowledge that this is a retro reference now.
  • 82d. [Antique grayish-pink shade], OLD ROSE. Here it is.
  • 97d. [Statistical tool first used to monitor the quality of stout], T-TEST. Statistics and beer! Who knew?

3.33 stars.

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21 Responses to Sunday, May 5, 2013

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    I know I’ve got a couple of beers my belly, but it is 7:27 PM on Saturday. Is it not?

  2. Martin says:

    Amy, I assume it’s only the clue for ACTUPON you dislike… since the phrase “act upon” seems perfectly fine to me.

    -MAS

    • pannonica says:

      The clue wants it as ACT UP ON, no?

      edit: I see now that that’s the point you were making.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I liked the theme and the orderly way it was executed. Learned something about Houdini.

    I thought “ABUT” could stand alone, not requiring ON… “my land abuts yours” sounds right to me, no?

    Oh, I just looked it up and its both a transitive and an intransitive verb. Weird! I didn’t know the same verb could be both!

  4. janie says:

    i had to wonder if alan wanted us to discover some sort of word-ladder within the nyt, given the inclusion of:

    [IN A] STATE (also ETATS [UNIS])
    STATUE (also ESTATE)
    STATUTE

    this may be a MINOR point, and still NOT SURE how i feel about it — nonetheless, thoroughly enjoyed the theme fill rebi!

    ;-)

  5. klew archer says:

    Got confused by the clue for ROUTE 66 but just looked it up and the theme of the show is a different song from the Bobby Troup standard, because it was decided to write a new tune rather than pay royalties on the existing one, although apparently the one quotes the other.

  6. Bit says:

    CS: Blue stripe = TEN for the blue-striped billiard ball numbered 10.
    (unless you were just pulling our leg :)

  7. pannonica says:

    WAPO: Great, challenging puzzle. Nearly laughed out loud for the UGLI duckling recipe clue. Small quibble with 29d [Symbiotic partner of a rhino] EGRET: that bird is a cattle egret, which is actually a type of heron rather than an egret. “Cattle egret” can’t be shortened to
    egret” and retain its meaning. Also, the relationship is commensal, not symbiotic.

    • ktd says:

      As far as I know, commensalism is a category of symbiosis. Therefore it’s not wrong to call the relationship symbiotic; but it is more accurate to call it commensal.

      • pannonica says:

        Ah yes, for some inexplicable reason I changed it from “more accurate” (then more inexplicably took it further, into the realm inaccuracy) as I got tangled in my woods and words. Not thinking clearly.

      • Gareth says:

        Yes commensal, mutual and parasitic are the three types of symbiotic relationship.

        And cattle egrets are commonly referred to as just egrets. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that aspect of the clue. If they’re getting nourishment from lowering tick burden then the relationship is more mutual than commensal. Although is any relationship really commensal? Consider commensal skin bacteria like staph aureus, which are considered to limit the numbers of other more harmful bacteria… Is that relationship then actually commensal? Of course at other times they cause infections like styes: parasitic?

        • pannonica says:

          Thanks Gareth. I defer to your greater proximity and experience, though I’ve never known them to called simply “egrets.” They have many other names too (cow bird, cattle bird, cow crane, et al.).

  8. I kept trying to anagram URIS into ENOL and wondering which one was wrong. Turns out I didn’t read the clue carefully enough.

  9. Bencoe says:

    This isn’t the first time this theme has been used in a NYT rebus, is it?

  10. john farmer says:

    Todd McClary – nice work with the WaPo. Kudos!

    Adam R – me too.

    Bencoe – no.

  11. backbiter says:

    re LAT: I just wanna go on record and state I voted for the helicopter as new Monopoly token and out with the car. That is all.

  12. NW George says:

    Re: Merl Reagle

    This is a puzzle Merl put out on 7 October 2007. Exactly the same.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    Catching up with a couple comments for completeness:

    1) Amy’s review of the Reagle puzzle on Oct 7/07 ended with: This gorgeous theme earns Merl’s crossword a trip to my “great puzzles” folder.

    2) CRooked Crossword was likely themed to St Patrick’s Day, 7 weeks earlier.

Comments are closed.