NYT untimed (Doug)
Reagle 16:00 (Gareth)
LAT untimed (Doug)
Hex/Hook 9:47 (pannonica)
WaPo 15:24 (Gareth)
CS untimed (Dave)
Fireball untimed (Matt) – ratings copied from Thursday, so don’t vote twice!
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Two-by-Fours” (Doug’s review)
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Amy’s away, so the substitute bloggers will play. You know what that means: a baseball post! In high school & college, I was a ginormous baseball fan. I not only knew 90% of the guys on major league rosters, but I studied top prospects in the minor leagues. (Anything to avoid actual schoolwork…) Anyway, back in the day, baseball scouts were looking for five-tool players. The five “tools” were hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, throwing, and fielding. I’ve been thinking about applying the five-tool concept to crossword constructors. My proposed five crossword tools are: creating themed puzzles, creating themeless puzzles, building grids, writing clues, and sparkle. The first four are self-explanatory. “Sparkle” is a term coined by the great Manny Nosowky. In a nutshell, sparkle means that “something has to be interesting about [the puzzle].” (Read the full “sparkle” essay over at cruciverb.com). I guess the point of this digression is that I think Patrick Berry is the epitome of a five-tool constructor. And it might be fun to rate your favorite constructors and see how they stack up in the various categories. (Yeah, I have a strange idea of fun.)
Let’s take a look at today’s puzzle. Patrick found a bunch of phrases that each contain four repeated two-letter strings (“Two-by-Fours”). He put those two-letter strings into rebus squares, and bingo, an excellent Sunday puzzle is born.
- 22a. [Comic strip about the Patterson family], FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE. That second “FOR” sounds funny, doesn’t it? Probably because the strip is Canadian. They talk funny.
- 45a. [#1 on the American Film Institute's "Greatest Movie Musicals" list], SINGIN‘ IN THE RAIN.
- 73a. [German-born Emmy winner of 1960s TV], WERNER KLEMPERER. Colonel Klink from my favorite TV show, Hogan’s Heroes. This puzzle just got an automatic 5-star rating.
- 94a. [Various things], THIS THAT AND THE OTHER.
- 4d. [1942 Cary Grant comedy], ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON.
- 15d. [Elocution phrase], HOW NOW BROWN COW.
- 47d. [Initiates a conflict], CASTS THE FIRST STONE. I like that one of the ST strings is split between two words.
- 61d. [Classic name in crossword puzzles], MARGARET FARRAR. The first crossword editor at The New York Times. She oversaw the puzzle from 1942 to 1969. Read about all the Pre-Shortzian editors at the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project.
The rest of the fill looked good to me. I don’t remember anything terribly icky. Most of the long entries are theme answers, and those are all rock-solid. MARGARET FARRAR could be a “huh?” entry for some solvers, but she deserves her spot in the limelight. MOUSSAKA [74d. Eggplant casserole] and CARTHAGE [63a. Home of Hannibal] are nice eight-letter entries. I also liked STORM DRAIN [8d. What a gutter may lead to], which was squeezed into eight boxes.
I’m having trouble finding an UNFAVE (© Dave Sullivan) today. I suppose NOES [78a. "Regrets" and others] looks kinda weird. And I would never actually eat MOUSSAKA because eggplant is slimy.
I’m giving the puzzle one demerit for not including Jessica Alba in the grid. ALBA appears in approximately 57% of puzzle grids, and there’s no reason Patrick couldn’t have snuck her into one of the corners. I’m putting her name into my next three grids to make up for this gross oversight.
Pawel Fludzinski’s L.A. Times crossword, “Now Showing at the Colosseum” (Doug’s review)
I saw the title and had an inkling of what the theme was going to be. I’ve seen similar themes, but Mr. Fludzinski (charter member of the Awesome Crossword Name Hall of Fame) took it to the next level. He included ten theme answers, and each theme answer intersects at least one other theme answer. 7-Down and 93-Down intersect two theme answers apiece. Impressive.
- 23a. [1993 drama for which Stockard Channing got an Oscar nomination], VI DEGREES OF SEPARATION. VI=6. I have no memory of this movie, but I knew it had to be six.
- 40a. [2009 sci-fi Best Picture nominee], DISTRICT IX. IX = 9.
- 71a. [Kurosawa period film remade into a Western in 1960], VII SAMURAI. VII = 7.
- 74a. [1988 baseball scandal movie], VIII MEN OUT. VIII = 8.
- 105a. [1995 Tom Hanks docudrama], APOLLO XIII. XIII = 13.
- 119a. [Grant/MacDowell romantic comedy], IV WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. IV = 4.
- 7d. [1960 Rat Pack film], OCEANS XI. XI = 11.
- 31d. [Hitchcock thriller remade three times], THE XXXIX STEPS. XXXIX = 39.
- 36d. [Academy Award-nominated 1949 war film], XII O’CLOCK HIGH. XII = 12.
- 93d. [2003 Penn/Watts drama with "The weight of a hummingbird" in one of its taglines], XXI GRAMS. XXI = 21. This one was the toughest for me. I vaguely remember the movie. I know the title refers to the supposed weight of a person’s soul. I kept thinking it was 29 grams. Maybe my soul needs to go on a diet.
Was 54 Tyler in any of those movies?
Nice variety of films, both in subject matter and year of release. I wonder how long it took to find a set that would intersect perfectly. Favorite clue: [49a. Points of view?] for PIXELS.
And I’m outta here. Have a nice Sunday.
Updated Sunday morning:
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Slight Change in Destination” – Gareth’s review
I hardly solve Sunday puzzles these days; I think it’s been months since you could get Merl Reagle’s puzzles in Across Lite, right? So anyway, I solved it in the Crossword Compiler Applet which I’m not used to and which also doesn’t fit in my screen properly. It also means I can’t drop the .puz file into Crossword Compiler when I’m finished and handily review everything! Ah well!
I was about 12 minutes into my solve before I had a theme answer in its entirety. Part of the problem was I didn’t look at the title; in turn, this was partly because I couldn’t see it on my screen. So while the theme stayed clear ASMUD for so long, it’s actually pretty simple: one letter in various American cities is changed; the changed part is clued as though it actually refers to some property of the city. Sometimes a clue to the original city’s location is given to help orient solvers.
- 22a, [Where to play miniature golf?], PUTTSBURGH, PA
- 24a, [Where to see beefcake in Alabama?], HUNKSVILLE. Great answer! Remind me again, was that the setting for “Where the Boys Are??”
- 37a, [Where to see UFOs?], ALIENTOWN, PA. So that’s why they were closing all the factories down?
- 40a, [Where to see Motocross?], BIKERSFIELD, CA. Another really good one!
- 57a, [Where to meet dull people?], VAPIDCITY, SD it seems. Another homer! (Although I only vaguely recognize the original city’s name)
- 61a, [Where to eat sausage?], PORKLAND, OR.
- 74a, [Where to see a dentist in Montana?], FILLINGS.
- 76a, [Where to see signs that say "Drink intelligently"?], MENSACOLA, FL. The second part of the answer here is now taken to have a literal meaning as well. Per Wikipedia, the city’s name referred to the local tribe.
- 93a, [Where to find New Yorkers who use too much bleach?]. Only vaguely aware of the city as well. PLAIDS for plaid clothing is a tad odd?
- 97a, [Where to meet uninhibited beer fans?], LONGBELCH, CA.
- 114a, [Where to play roulette?], BETONROUGE, LA. Most droll!
- 117a, [Where to feel like the ultimate country bumpkin?], MOSTGOMERY, AL. I give up! I can’t make head or tail of what this clue is getting at??? You’re the most gomery person when you’re in Mostgomery??? What does gomery mean??? That’s way too many question marks already!!!
What else do I want do discuss is this big old crossword? I had no idea about 1a: the Sweet Afton river in Scotland and immortalised in a lyrical poem by one Robbie Burns: link. OKINAWA was clued by a fun fact I didn’t know: birthplace of karate you say? Cool! GALPAL was a fun answer and MIMIC a hard one: I desperated wanted MIMEO to be the correct answer! HIDEHO was also tough for me – now the Britcom HIDEHI would’ve gone it immediately! I assume the latter is in some tenuous way derived from the former…
Anyway, I can appreciate the theme a lot more now than when I was struggling to make sense of it mid-solve! Clever and some very good answers! The rest of the puzzle was solid with top-notch clueing as you’d expect from Merl the Pearl! 3.8 stars.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A showy and wide open themeless today from constructor (and frequent CF visitor posting as “MAS,” unless that’s the Taco Bell chihuahua telling us to “Live Más!”) that features two triple word stacks, and just 28 black squares. (I’ll use the ones he left off in my next puzzle, thanks in advance for them!)
- [Some verb forms] are PAST PARTICIPLES – my father used to tell me that the common New England fish called “scrod” was the past participle of “screw.” I wonder if an editor would accept that clue?
- Funny when a four-letter clue, [Spry] becomes the 15-letter entry, AS LOOSE AS A GOOSE – in what way are geese notoriously loose? With their money, morals or muscles?
- The [Meryl Streep thriller of 1982] is STILL OF THE NIGHT – I want an “in the” to precede that, funny that I’m probably thinking of this 1937 Cole Porter song.
- Another movie, this time it’s a bit more recent, [Jennifer Lopez movie of 2002] clues MAID IN MANHATTAN – does she actually clean anything in that movie? I find that hard to believe after her appearance as a judge on American Idol two seasons ago. I mean what would she wear?
- If you aren’t going to have a “one’s” something as a binding 15, you are going to have [International understanding] or ENTENTE CORDIALE – I guess the vowel placement in that phrase is very helpful to constructors of triple (or quad) stacks.
- [TV series set in the 24th century] clues STAR TREK VOYAGER – I just saw Star Trek Into Darkness last night and am still trying to figure out the whole cryogenics/regeneration thing. Please email me offline if you understood the movie’s plot.
Generally these kind of stacks force some uncomfortable fill, but I found this one particuarly smooth. Other than a scattering of partials (yes, I’m looking at you SETS A, HOT TO and AS ON), there really is not much to be unhappy about here. I think my FAVE entries were actually the two verb phrases in the center–SHED TEARS and JOIN HANDS. (Sounds like something I’d do before I pray, especially if I’m very sorry about something.) I wasn’t familiar with Charles MEE of “Meeting at Potsdam,” but I see here, it’s a book that isn’t all that popular, so I don’t feel too bad about my ignorance. My UNFAVE was [By way of, old-style] for THRO. “Old-style,” as in before THRU?
Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 168″- Gareth’s review
I don’t want to sound like I’m throwing a PITYPARTY, but I seem to be finding the degree of difficulty in the WaPo to be more often more uneven than other puzzles. I found three quarters of the puzzle to be pretty easy for a themeless, but the top-right was a bear: seven minutes for the first part, eight minutes for the section east of PINECONES except for RACIAL and everything else there above CTA. I did have YURI, the incorrect artY, LETTERDROP, ESCAPEPOD and I also put in and took out TAX repeatedly… It was guessing the I of the unknown-to-me ANELLI leading to UNTIL that everything unfolded, in a big rush that probably took 40 seconds or so!
What all do we have in that puzzle? Modern language like PITYPARTY and ITSALLGOOD; some other great answers like MUSCLEBEACH, PINECONES, HANDPUPPET, TIGERSEYE and ESCAPEPOD.
Thirdly, we have just oodles of brilliant clues! In fact that was the stand-out feature of the puzzle. My favourites included [California pumping station?], [Digitally animated character?], [What's easier to do with gold than silver?] for RHYME, [Space saver?], [Potato mashers, at times] for MOLARS, [Literary reply to "What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough"] for Scrooge’s BAH and [Making long-distance calls] for HOLLERING. Quite an impressive collection, yes!?
Lastly, there were several mystery answers for me… How many of these did you know? STRETCHGOAL, I’m guessing this is a neologism; the aforementioned ANELLI; Make-Your-Own-OPOLY, although it sounds fun!; SOAPER: I thought you called them soaps. I put soapies initially, which is what they’re called in South Africa, after some hesitation because, as I said, I thought you called them soaps; those particular RICs; YEE sang, an Asian Salad as the clue informs; CLARA Blandick; LIL Jinx and GOLDE.
Superb clues and several great answers: 4.5 stars easily!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “In the Lead” — pannonica’s write-up
Quick write-up for this, as I’ve just overcome computer issues after troubleshooting, diagnosing, sobbing, and solving.
Straightforward, dense theme. 60-across, in the center, informs us matter-of-factly that it’s the [First word of each * answer] CAPTAIN. There are ten of them, they’re all quite lengthy, and four are fully stacked.
- 15a. [*Venue for mock trials] KANGAROO COURT. Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo was an iconic children’s television host from 1955–1984.
- 20a. [*Only X-rated Best Picture Oscar winner] MIDNIGHT COWBOY. Captain Midnight is ”a U.S. adventure franchise first broadcast as a radio serial from 1938 to 1949.” Some great character names in the cast: Fury Shark, Gardo, Fang, and the Barracuda.
- 38a. [*Autumnal carvings] JACK-O-LANTERNS. As far as I can tell, the most well-known Captain Jack is the Billy Joel song by that title, which is about drug use, particularly heroin (“Captain Jack will get you high tonight”). Don’t know if “Captain Jack” is or was a conventional slang term for the drug, or if was the songwriter’s invention.
- 51a. [*Chicago's locale] COOK COUNTY. Captain James Cook explored much of the southern Pacific Ocean and associated lands.
- 76a. [*Casino pastime] VIDEO POKER. Captain Video and His Video Rangers “is an American science fiction television series, which was aired on the DuMont Television Network, and was the first series of its kind on American television.” From 1949–1955, the heart of the Atomic Age.
- 89a. [*Firetruck apparatus] HOOK AND LADDER. Captain Hook is the villain in the Peter Pan plays and stories, assisted by SMEE and pursued by a CROC.
- 111a. ["Ugly Betty" star] AMERICA FERRERA. Captain America, Marvel superhero of the “golden era” and in continuous circulation since.
- 115a. [*"March of the Penguins" narrator] MORGAN FREEMAN. Captain Morgan is best known as a brand of rum, its namesake is the Welsh privateer Henry Morgan.
- 19d. [*Theme restaurant since 1991] PLANET HOLLYWOOD. Captain Planet and His Planeteers (Planeteers, really?) was an animated television series which seems to have débuted not long before the restaurant in the clue, and lasted through the mid-1990s. Seems to have had an ecological bent.
- 32d [*Impossible acquisition, it's said] BLOOD FROM A STONE. Captain Blood is the titular character of a Rafael Sabatini (he of Scaramouche and The Sea Hawk success as well, born in IESI) novel. Famously portrayed by Errol Flynn.
Good mix of real and fictional captains. Good mix of people and non-people in the theme phrases. Fortunate that CAP’N CRUNCH doesn’t appear, as his rank appears to be in dispute. Not a theme entry: 71a [Reg Smythe creation] ANDY CAPP. Cap’n Andy is a character from the musical SHOW BOAT, based on the EDNA Ferber novel.
The ballast fill (for once that term’s exceedingly appropriate) is strong overall, and the cluing is good. Most obsolete clue: 33d [Office roll] FAX PAPER; the hated thermal paper is long gone, I believe, and fax machines these days use plain paper. Favorite clue: 94d [Strips in a club?] BACON, as in a club sandwich.
Solid puzzle, above average.
Dave Sullivan’s Fireball contest puzzle, “Logical Conclusions” — Matt’s review
If a meta seems “blindingly obvious, but only in retrospect” then the constructor has done a nice job. This applies to Dave Sullivan’s Fireball puzzle from Thursday, where instructions asked: What famous mathematician is the answer to this puzzle?
Let’s take a look at the theme entries:
20-a [Hall of Fame football player nicknamed "The Grand Old Man" who played for a record 26 seasons] = GEORGE BLANDA.
27-a [Primate related to the angwantibo] = SLOW LORIS.
35-a [Haruki Murakami novel two before "1Q84"] = KAFKA ON THE SHORE.
48-a [Walter Lantz cartoon character of the 1940s] = ANDY PANDA.
54-a [It brought down Arthur Andersen] = ENRON SCANDAL.
I wasn’t sure that SLOW LORIS and ANDY PANDA were there; at 9 letters apiece it could have gone either way. I realized they indeed were theme once I noticed the AND or OR concealed in each of the five; ANDY PANDA even gets two ands! So what math hero does this point to?
I was stumped for a while; wanted it to be George Boole (had to Google his first name) but couldn’t see it emerging. Tried using letters on either side of the ANDs and ORs to spell something out, but no luck. Put it down, picked it up later…put it down, picked it up later…and noticed that the *two* letters (I’d been looking only at one) on either side of SCANDAL in ENRON SCANDAL give you SCAL. Aha! There’s indeed a famous mathematician whose name ends with those letters: meta answer BLAISE PASCAL.
Turns out you just ignore the first AND in ANDY PANDA — slightly odd to have a superfluous AND in there, but I assume there were no other options, and the title does refer to logical conclusions. So the calculation leading to the meta answer is:
BL *and* A = BLA
WL *or* IS = IS
H *or* E = E
P *and* A = PA
SC *and* AL = SCAL
Put them all together and you’ve got the French genius who serves as our meta answer.
That’s a novel way to reveal a meta, and relevant since Pascal was an and-or guy like Boole (Wikipedia tells me that he invented the first rudimentary predecessor of the calculator). Nice fill and clues keeps this in the “excellent” category. 4.75 stars.