Sunday, November 24, 2013

NYT 9:10 (Amy) 
LAT 9:02 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:37 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook 10:11 (pannonica) 
WaPo 6:39 (Gareth, under influence of codeine) 
CS 8:44 (Dave) 

Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword, “Hits and Ms.es”

NY Times crossword solution, 11 24 13, “Hits and Ms.es”

Kudos for the title going with the awkwardly pluralized “Ms.es” instead of the unfeminist “Misses.” The theme is past hit songs (mostly 30-50 years old) that include a female first name in the title:

  • 22a. ["Greetings, Ms. Retton!"], “HELLO, MARY LOU.” I know this one from my mom. 1961 Ricky Nelson hit. 52 years!
  • 31a. ["Very nice, Ms. Kennedy!"], “SWEET, CAROLINE.” The song lacks the comma that the clue calls for. Neil Diamond, 1969. 44 years.
  • 37a. ["Hurry up, Ms. Brennan!"], “COME ON, EILEEN.” No comma in the song title. Dexys (no apostrophe) Midnight Runners, 1982-83. 30-31 years old.
  • 55a. ["Cheer up, Ms. Teasdale!"], “SARA, SMILE.” Another comma insertion. Hall & Oates, 1976. 37 years old.
  • 62a. ["Am I the one, Ms. Andrews?"], “JULIE, DO YA LOVE ME?” Never heard of this one, and neither has my husband. Bobby Sherman, circa 1970, apparently. 43 years.
  • 74a. ["You look hot in a thong, Ms. Hawkins!"], “SEXY, SADIE.” Another comma addition. Gross clue. Who the hell talks about thongs? (Husband’s verdict: “Vulgar.”) Beatles, 1968 recording. Apparently not released as a single, and perhaps not officially a “hit song,” then? 45 years.
  • 86a. ["I need a hand, Ms. Fleming!"], “HELP ME, RHONDA.” Beach Boys, 1965. 48 years.
  • 94a. ["Leave it alone, Ms. Zellweger!"], “WALK AWAY, RENEE.” Comma added. Hit cover song for the Four Tops in 1967-68. 45-46 years old.

The theme worked all right for me while I was solving, though the clues suggest a lot of commas that aren’t in the original titles. I don’t know if pop musicians have strayed away from song titles containing women’s names in the last three decades, or if there are plenty of newer hits that could have taken part in this puzzle.

The crossword took me longer than the usual NYT Sunday. I attribute that to some rough fill:

  • 12d. [Main cause], KEY FACTOR. Feels like an arbitrary word combo.
  • 45d. [La ___, Dominican Republic (first Spanish settlement in the Americas)], ISABELA.
  • 61a. [Person who holds property in trust], BAILEE.
  • 27d. [Global commerce grp. since 1995], WTO. Its crossings had hard crossings.
  • 11d. [Hound], ADDICT. Sandwiched between some tougher fill, this non-obvious answer to the clue was unwelcome.
  • 59a. [Title character in an A. A. Milne play], MR. PIM. He’s no Eeyore.
  • 15d. [Bread flavorer], DIPPING OIL.
  • 54a. [Feature of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West], ONE EYE.
  • 38d. [Sushi fish], OPAH. Find me a sushi menu with opah on it, will you? I checked the menus for my three closest sushi joints and they don’t have it.
  • 41d. [Port city from which Amelia Earhart last flew], LAE.
  • 10d. [___ de Nil (pale yellowish green)], EAU. That’s bizarre. Because Nile blue and Nile green are both in the bluish-green family. Why have the French gone chartreuse on us?

About 3.33 stars from me.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “A Piece of the Bird”

Merl Reagle’s Sunday crossword solution, 11 24 13 “A Piece of the Bird”

We get a TURKey pun theme the weekend before Thanksgiving. Kind of a mixed bag of theme answers:

  • 19a. [Bird of Sherwood Forest?], FRIAR TURK. Friar Tuck.
  • 23a. [How the bird was acquitted?], ON A TURKNICALITY. On a technicality.
  • 27a. [Big bird of ancient Rome?], TURKUS MAXIMUS. Circus Maximus. Actual genus and species, Meleagris gallopavo.
  • 45a. [Bird's term of endearment?], TURKLE DOVE. I never call anyone a turtle dove. I guess I’m just mean like that.
  • 52a. [Actor who would have been perfect for "The Birds"?], TURK BOGARDE. Dirk Bogarde. How awesome would that Hitchcock movie have been with a rampaging turkey flock? (No idea what Dirk Bogarde has actually been in. He’s not the Dirk from the original Battlestar Galactica, is he? No, that was Dirk Benedict.)
  • 63a. [Japanese bird dish?], BEEF TURKIYAKI. Beef teriyaki. “Turkeyaki”might look better, but the rest of the theme is TURK and never TURKEY.
  • 75a. [Ex-football bird?], FRAN TURKENTON. Fran Tarkenton.
  • 90a. [Bird in space?], CAPTAIN TURK. Captain Kirk.
  • 92a, 111a. [With 111 Across, a classical work for birds?], TURKATA AND / FUGUE IN D MINOR. “Toccata and…”
  • 121a. [1989 film about a baby bird?], LOOK WHO’S TURKING. I know the other theme answers depart from reality, but I think this one fails because it invents a verb, TURKING, to pun on Look Who’s Talking. And also, the sequels to that movie were indeed turkeys. Also? Now I’m thinking about twerking.
  • 125a. [What the bird comedian was?], HYSTURKAL. Hysterical. This theme is hysturkal.

What troubled me more than the theme was the awkwardness of the fill. Lots of tough stuff, unfamiliar names, and/or crosswordese lurking in here:

  • 56a. [Hawaii's state bird], NENE.
  • 61a. [Italy's largest lake], GARDA.
  • 88a. [Ex-P.M. Douglas-Home], ALEC.
  • 95a. [First name in whodunits], ERLE.
  • 102a. [Harem room], ODA.
  • 108a. [Dies ___], IRAE.
  • 127a. [Part of a "little" word], WEENY. Part of “teeny-weeny,” I think.
  • 128a. [Conductor de Waart], EDO. His name crosses three other names, ROHE, SYD, and RATSO.
  • 2d. [Czech Republic city], BRNO. Right in the 1-Across corner.
  • 6d. ["The Sorcerer's Apprentice" composer], DUKAS. Not remotely familiar to me. Should it be?
  • 10d. [Say something, in the Bible], TALKEST. Does the word appear just these three times, or is it common? (For comparison, “smite” gets 117 verses per that site, and “king” is in 1,917.)
  • 14d. [Arkansas ore], BAUXITE. Significance?
  • 15d. [Italian actress Virna], LISI. Why, I was just mentioning this to the woman next to me at the burger counter today. No, wait. I only mentioned silents stars Theda Bara and Nita Naldi. These 9-letter, vowel-rich, not-household-names actresses have names known to longtime crossworders but probably not to most others.
  • 36d. [Possibly: abbr.], PERH. Not an abbrev I’ve used. See also: 119d. [Individually wrapped cheese slices: abbr.], SGLS.
  • 43d. [Composer Smetana's river], MOLDAU. Except he would have called it the Vltava, in Czech.
  • 55d. [Of Zeno's school], ELEATIC. Zeno of Elea, sure. But ELEATIC? News to me.
  • 67d. [Babylonian abode of the dead (anagram of LAURA)], ARALU. Crosses two theme answers and an old British politician.
  • 94d. ["Twilight of the Gods" author Erich von ___], DANIKEN. This guy.
  • 113d. [Intro to mi], DORE. As in “do, re, mi…”

2.66 stars from me. Not enough fun in the puns, too much awkward fill.


Updated Sunday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

After Bob Klahn, this Doug Peterson character (whom I’ve had the pleasure meeting on multiple xword event occasions) is my favorite themeless constructor. Let’s look at his silky smooth 70-word themeless offered up today:

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 11/24/13

  • Starting at 1-Across (as most solvers do, I imagine), we have [Ingredient in some frighteningly hot sauces] cluing the dreaded GHOST PEPPER – hand up for CHILI before realizing why “frightening” was in the clue. I see here that it lost its title as the “Hottest Pepper in the World” to the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion last year, which in turn has been superseded by the Carolina Reaper, produced by the (no lie!) PuckerButt Pepper company.
  • [Dinosaur with prominent horns] was the also frightful TRICERATOPS – if it were to return, not to worry as it was a herbivore.
  • [Beefy burrito filling] clued CARNE ASADA – I wonder if PuckerButt has their sights set on Taco Bell as a consumer of their Carolina Reapers.
  • [1988 Tony for Best Play] clued M. BUTTERFLY – starring John Lithgow, whom I enjoyed as a recent contestant on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Did you know he wrote children’s books?
  • [Fort captured by the Green Mountain Boys in 1775] clued TICONDEROGA – go Vermont!

Other highlights included HARMONICA, DESI ARNAZ BABY STEPS and GREAT IDEA!. Really nothing to make one HURL in this one, TREE MOSS feels a bit obscure, but that’s it folks. A joyous romp!

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 190″

Post Puzzle #190
24/11/2013

You don’t see Karen M. Tracey’s by-line in most traditional venues these days. Therefore, her continued presence in the WaPo roster is greatly pleasing to me. She has a great eye for finding delicious long answers! The grid itself was a balanced one – that is the long answers are distributed more or less evenly without obvious stacks (there are two sets of 10′s).

The two long (14-letter) downs are both great: the perfume ELIZABETHARDEN and LIGHTNINGCHESS. I didn’t know the latter, but I assume it’s the same as SPEEDCHESS, only more so. Of the long acrosses, the top pair of ISRAELITES and GUILLOTINE both have interest. Ms. Tracey went with an old-timey surgical clue for GUILLOTINE, avoiding somewhat the gory aspects of the word. Have a look at a tonsil guillotine, though. The other pair are DRYMUSTARD and the tricky to spell MORISSETTE. I settled for two R’s and one S initially! THATSALAUGH and WILDEBEESTS are also fun, although the standard plural in South African English is WILDEBEEST. IMMORTALIZE shares a remarkable number of letters with meMORiALIZE, which is what I had first.

Among the clues, my two favourites were [Triangle removed before a break] for RACK (in most forms of pocket billiards), [Royal pain?] for PEA.

My weak answer column consists of LEOV (the clue says it all – [Pope briefly in 903]), and the contrived CROWER, ETHELS and ADMS.

3.5 stars—Gareth

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “It’s a Mister-y” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 11/24/13 • “It’s a Mister-y” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Phrases that begin with names that follow “Mr.” If the theme seems familiar, that’s because (1) I suspect it’s been done quite a few times before, and (2) it was the basis of Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy puzzle – “Hey, Mr.!” – this past Thursday. That 15×15 crossword, with five theme entries, has four of them replicated here: all but Mr Coffee.

  • 22a. [Cheap seats] PEANUT GALLERY.
  • 31a. [Party snack] CHIPS AND DIP.
  • 45a. [Weightlifting maneuver] CLEAN AND JERK.
  • 60a. [Poppable packing] BUBBLE WRAP.
  • 63a. [Movie based on (and an anagram of) "Rocket Boys"] OCTOBER SKY. Nifty trivia, that.
  • 79a. [Tony Conigliaro, notably] RIGHT FIELDER. Not notably to me, not I.
  • 92a. [Offense arrangements] T FORMATIONS.
  • 105a. [Creation alternative] BIG BANG THEORY.

Despite the unfortunate coincidence in timing, the theme’s good and entertaining. Not that it really matters, but for the record this puzzle preceded the Lempel in paper print by more than a month.

Biggest complaint about the theme? The stunning lack of gender diversity; not one of the eight answers is a woman! Absolutely inexcusable and unforgivable. Shame, shame on you, Mr Hook.

Down the street from 515 Madison

In the ballast fill, the mix of familiar and unfamiliar, of clunk and funk, is balanced and the cluing’s well-pitched enough to keep it lively and interesting for solvers. The sole exception, in my opinion, is the crossing of 87d and 98a, both of which seem likely to be obscure to a majority: [Small wristbone] HAMATE, [Golf legend Jimmy] DEMARET.

Too many baseball clues, not enough Jewish months. Favorite clue: 87a [Hamburger heaven?] HIMMEL.

Medium/medium-rare puzzle.

L’ENTREE A PARIS DE GARGANTUA, 1858
Gustave Doré, Strasbourg 1832 -Paris 1883 Plume et aquarelle Musée Grobet-Labadié, Marseille

Mark Feldman’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Cooked Books”

LA Times crossword solution, 11 24 13, “Cooked Books”

This is a pun theme with a twist: Various famous books have two key words changed to words that rhyme with them. So it’s more challenging than a theme in which only a single word is changed in the service of a pun.

  • 25a. [Tolstoy novel about game hunting?], BOAR AND GEESE. War and Peace.
  • 31a. [London novel about gentlemen coming to blows?], BRAWL OF THE MILD. Call of the Wild, Jack London. The London in the clue put me in mind of the slappy fight in England between Bridget Jones’s two romantic rivals in the movie.
  • 52a. [Salinger novel about an alien abduction?], SNATCHER IN THE SKY. Catcher in the Rye.
  • 70a. [Dreiser novel about a prominent British prince?], MISTER HARRY. Sister Carrie. Does anyone call Prince Harry “Mister Harry,” or did he go from young “Master Harry” to a “highness” of some sort.
  • 82a. [Brontë novel about the rigors of ballet training?], SMOTHERING TIGHTS. Wuthering Heights.
  • 104a. [Forster novel about the mysterious death of Tutenkhamen?], A TOMB WITH A CLUE. A Room with a View.
  • 115a. [Steinbeck novel about a spiritual vegan?], OF RICE AND ZEN. Of Mice and Men.

It might have been neat if all the “cooked books” could have been morphed into being about food, like OF RICE AND ZEN and BOAR AND GEESE.

The various zones filled with 6-, 7-, and 8-letter answers make the puzzle a bit more difficult, as do some unusual words (MISMATE; ICEMEN; OGEE; TOSH; EDA; AES; ILIA; BRAE; 6d. [Crooks, in slang], GANEFS; 7d. [Unsettled feelings, in Frankfurt], ANGSTE, German plural) and less familiar names (most notably 87d. ["Scottish Fantasy" composer], BRUCH), plus various pile-ups of these sorts of entries.

2.75 stars from me. I like puns to be fun, and this theme didn’t bring me much amusement.

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21 Responses to Sunday, November 24, 2013

  1. Zulema says:

    I figured they had to be songs after it turned out it had nothing to do with “.es,” the URL ending for Spain, and my first theme answer having been WALK AWAY RENEE, I was looking for rhymes. But it was solved and here I am.

    Not snowing yet, so I’d better go out with the doggie before it does.

  2. Martin says:

    Opah is a popular sushi fish in Hawaii. We get it in California too. By the time it reaches Chicago it might not be “sushi quality” anymore.

    It’s called akamanbo in Japanese. Aka means red and manbo is the gigantic ocean sunfish. They’re not related, but both are very deep, almost disc-shaped fish. Mario Batali did a nice dance with one on Iron Chef America. It’s a pretty fish.

    • Huda says:

      Appreciate the tidbits about Opah. I’ve heard of akamambo, but didn’t know it was the same as Opah. The latter always looks to me like misspelled Oprah.

  3. HH says:

    “6d. ["The Sorcerer's Apprentice" composer], DUKAS. Not remotely familiar to me. Should it be?”

    You’ve never seen Mickey and the brooms in “Fantasia”?

  4. Huda says:

    I’ve been here (in the US) a long time and I’m certainly old enough, but I had no clue that these were stand alone, real song titles until I hit SWEET CAROLINE (working from the bottom up). I thought at first they were some sort of play on song names, with Ms or es missing or added… It is interesting that there are no more recent examples of such titles.
    I thought I had finished but then realized I had a missing square: The K at the crossing of KEY FACTOR and AKON. I’m not sure the clue is right. A key factor need not be the main reason.

  5. CY Hollander says:

    Kudos for the title going with the awkwardly pluralized “Ms.es” instead of the unfeminist “Misses.”

    Exactly the opposite of my reaction: shame on the title for sacrificing smoothness, better wordplay, and the hope of temporary misdirection on the altar of political correctness. I’m a conservative, in general, but if a woman prefers to be called “Ms.” to avoid connotations about her marital status, that’s fine with me—but the reactionary proscribing of any use of the title “Miss” is presumptuous, unnecessary, and a waste of energy, IMHO.

  6. jane lewis says:

    i knew dirk bogarde’s name and have probably seen him in a few movies. i looked him up on wikiedia and he is probably an actor who worked a lot but never really got the star-making role.

  7. ArtLvr says:

    Re Merl Reagle’s puzzle, where we have the Czech city BRNO at 2D and comment on 43D —
    “[Composer Smetana's river], MOLDAU. Except he would have called it the Vltava, in Czech”: Smetana was born and educated in Bohemia, then a province of the Hapsburg Empire where the official language was German, and he only learned correct literary Czech with difficulty later in life. His musical career was much affected by the “political correctness” advocates of the nationalist movement following the Prague Uprising in 1848, but he returned from self-exile in Sweden eventually to become “The Father of Czech Music.” He also suffered through loss of most of his children to disease, and like Beethoven, even rose above the affliction of total deafness in his later years!

  8. Erik says:

    Theme consistency issue:

    “Sweet Caroline” was actually, and somewhat creepily, inspired by Caroline Kennedy (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Caroline), so unlike the others, she’s mentioned in the clue and is the subject of the song.

  9. John Haber says:

    First thing I saw was stale clues for stale fill like “Jai _,” “_ Lingus,” and much more. It didn’t take long to see the theme, where theme answers are going to be either gimmes or pointlessly obscure, with a different mix for different solvers (obscure songs for me were Eileen and Judy), but both far from the clever challenge you want from a theme. And that was before I grasped fully how literally the theme clues just delivered the sense of the words in the song title, except for the celebrity. Add the annoyance to some, like me, at dealing with celebrities at all, and you’ve the recipe for one of the worst puzzles of all time. I was ready to give it 1 star.

    That was still before I got into some very iffy fill Amy has noted. I found myself stuck on and annoyed by the crossing of AKON and ORSER, where I guessed right, and the region with NEALE, EKYSE, OLSENS, ELLIMAN, BRITCOM, and the ambiguity of RERUN/RERAN, where I guessed wrong. I wouldn’t call any puzzle worst of all time, but this is sure up there in my book.

    • Bencoe says:

      It surprises me that so many people guessed ELLIMUN instead of ELLIMAN. I know a lot of last names that end in “man” but none that end in “mun”, so I thought the choice was easy.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Agreed—ELLIM_N is fair play to expect an educated guess on. AK_N/_RSER is a poor crossing, IMO, although Akon was familiar enough to me that I got it.

  10. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Does the word [talkest] appear just these three times, or is it common?

    That word might appear only three times in the Bible, but Shakespeare apparently used talkest 52 times. Does that mean Reagle isn’t a Shakespeare fan?

    SRS

  11. PD Wadler says:

    Julie, Do Ya Love Me was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid, and I thought Bobby Sherman was dreamy. Bobby Sherman starred in a show called “Here Come the Brides” and my cousin played a supporting part, Miss Biddy.

  12. Monamom2 says:

    Nytimes puzzle was frustrating this week. Guessed most of the names but took a while to recognize them as song. Mary Lou Reston was my giveaway. But fill in both this and merl ‘s Sunday were annoying. Since when is “addict” a synonym for “hound”?

  13. Lionglass says:

    Actually, Merl may be referring to beef suriyaki, another Japanese dish, hence the i after “turk”, and a closer pun as well!

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