Sunday, December 8, 2013

NYT 9:07 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:38 (Amy) 
LAT 8:45 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook untimed (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Janie) 
CS 8:19 (Dave) 

Marty Howard, Arlington Heights crossword tournament champion

Congratulations to Marty Howard, who won the Arlington Heights Memorial Library crossword tournament here in Chicagoland on Saturday! Marty was perfect on all four puzzles and finished them all first as well. His prize was a framed copy of Arthur Wynne’s 100-year-old “word cross” puzzle, adorned with 1913 pennies.

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Two Outs”

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 13 “Two Outs”

What a neat theme—it isn’t about baseball at all, but rather, a bunch of neat wordplay finds. Two entirely different words/phrases have all the same letters in the same order, except one of the two adds two more letters (circled) into the mix. Patrick has concocted clues that allude to both the full answer and the less-two-letters entry:

  • 20a. [Red wine drinker's paradise?], SHANGRI-LA hiding SANGRIA. Or, if you will, a SANGRIA SHANGRI-LA.
  • 22a. [Employee at the Ron Paul Archive?], LIBERTARIAN LIBRARIAN.
  • 24a. [Pitch that fixes everything?], CURVEBALL CURE-ALL. The puzzle’s title evokes baseball, but this CURVEBALL is the extent of it.
  • 26a. [Dollar bill featuring a portrait of Duran Duran's lead singer?], SIMON LEBON SIMOLEON.
  • 47a. [The one puppy that can read?], LITERATE LITTERMATE.
  • 53a. [Creator of perfect whirlpools?], MAELSTROM MAESTRO.
  • 83a. [Minor-league championship flag?], PENNY-ANTE PENNANT.
  • 86a. [Alienate a New Jersey city?], ESTRANGE EAST ORANGE.
  • 109a. [Begat a soft place to sleep?], FATHERED FEATHERBED. Oh! If you enjoy cute pet videos, you should Google your way to those videos of vexed dogs pacing anxiously beside their dog beds, all occupied by cats. Can’t find the link. But I do have an even more entertaining link to a video of dogs freaking out when they try to walk wearing dog boots.
  • 113a. ["Charge!," to Duracells?], BATTERY BATTLE CRY.
  • 117a. [Satisfying finale coming to pass?], HAPPY ENDING HAPPENING.
  • 119a. [Labeled idiotic?], BRANDED BRAIN-DEAD.

There are themes that consist of a list of words that have something in common that are absolutely lifeless and boring (for example, most of those linked by containing the same two- or three-letter sequence), and there are those that enchant me. I suppose there are probably people who look at Berry’s theme answers here and yawn, but I love the sheer coincidence of these pairings. The only one that even hints at containing two cognates is 117a, but I don’t know that most people semantically connect “happy” and “happen” in their heads.

I suspect Patrick had a long list of similar pairings that didn’t lend themselves to workable clues and hence were left on the cutting-room floor.

You know who edited this puzzle? I’m trying to come up with a suitable clue for WILL SHORTZ ILL SHORT, but “ill short” isn’t yielding anything good. Electrical shorts don’t get sick.

I like the general openness of the grid, with those 7s marching across the middle and a couple 10s connecting pairs of theme entries. Speaking of WEST BERLIN (30d. [Site of a 1963 J.F.K. speech]), anyone want a paper map from 1961 showing the partitioning of Berlin? It also spotlights global trouble spots (“South Africa: Can its racial problems be solved?”); it’s one of a large series of newsy maps Rand McNally made for various newspapers, and you can find them on eBay for a couple bucks. I’ve got the one my dad bought for a buck in 1961—free to a good home. Also, my iPhone took my map pictures upside down. Rest assured the map itself can be turned in any direction. [image rotated to correct orientation –p]

4.5 stars. Smooth Berry with a nifty and unusual theme.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”

Merl Reagle crossword answers, 12 8 13 “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”

Alfred Hitchcock directed a lot of movies, particularly ones with nouns for titles. Merl riffs on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” as “Hitch has presents/gifts from the Hitchcock Shopping Network” (or things related to items you might purchase from that HSN) in his latest narrative fill-in-the-blanks theme:

  • “Baseball mishap? Fix that REAR WINDOW with a lifetime supply of Ultra Patch!” … “Works on a TORN CURTAIN, too!” … (“I CONFESS, this deal amazes even me!”)
  • “Belafonte’s greatest hits! That’s THE TROUBLE WITH / HARRY: There are too many!”
  • “Don’t SABOTAGE that diet” … “Order ‘THE 39 STEPS to a Slimmer You’!” …
  • … “And I have a SUSPICION you’ll love this: free shipping!”
  • “Why face STRANGERS / ON A TRAIN every day when you can have your own 24-hour chauffeur?” … ”Do household chores seem like a FAMILY PLOT to keep you home? Again, Unlimited Limo to the rescue!”
  • “How about a TOPAZ ring for half off!” … “Without a SHADOW OF A DOUBT, that’s a gem of a deal!”
  • “Need we say it, ladies? High prices are for THE BIRDS!” … “Just remember: Never give the right gift to THE WRONG MAN.”
  • “And finally, a copy of the crossword documentary ‘Wordplay’ to keep that special someone SPELLBOUND!”

Cute theme.

Most unusual fill:

  • 70d. World of cars], MOTORDOM.
  • 113a. 1,760 yds.]. ONE MI. Short for “one mile.”
  • 16d. Vest], WESKIT. The word’s a casualizing of “waistcoat.”
  • 82d. Gourd fruit], PEPO.
  • 77d. Craggy peak], TOR. Old-school crossword fill.
  • 46a. Self-probing arm of a police dept.], IAD. Internal Affairs Department or Division.

3.66 stars from me. An entertaining enough diversion.


Updated Sunday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review

A nice mini-theme in an otherwise 70-word themeless from constructor Tony O:

CrosSynergy crossword solution – 12/08/13

  • Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend of SLEEPY HOLLOW features schoolmaster ICHABOD CRANE.
  • Did you spell [Toucan Sam's boxful] correctly? I had FRUIT before the correct FROOT LOOPS.
  • Speaking of fictional characters, Ebenezer SCROOGE finds a home in today’s puzzle, but is clued in the generic sense of [Skinflint].
  • Some nice conversational entries: THAT’S LIFE, HAS A FIT, OPEN ARMS, ON FIRE and LETS BE.
  • Fresh from completing Matt Gaffney’s three chess metas last month, we have a nice chess-y clue for BISHOP: [Third-tallest pieces, at times]. Only kings and queens reach higher.

Some tough crossings to deal with–the E of ÉTAPES ([Tour de France sections], it’s the French word for “stage”) crossing [Free jazz saxophonist Coleman], or ORNETTE was somewhat of a guess for me. His Lonely Woman was recorded in 1959. I kind of grimaced on ACE IT for [Nail an exam], it feels a bit forced to me. Also, I threw in ETHANE before ETHENE, which I believe is the more common [Flammable gas]. (Ethene is also called ethylene, but not sure which is the more common term.) One final piece of trivia, did you know that BABAR founded the capital city of Celesteville? He named it after his queen. (I wonder if they both were taller than any bishops in the kingdom?)

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 192″—Janie’s review

12:8 wapo

Washington Post 12/8

The last time I reviewed a Berry WaPo was in July and, atypically, it wasn’t a puzzle that gave me much joy. So I’m pleased to say that today’s puzzle had the exact opposite effect—even when I met up with a particular clue/fill combo that had no meaning for me (which happened more than once…). Overall, the fill (and the cluing) in this 64/30 is top-notch. It’s an impressively open grid (103 open squares) with lots of long interlocking entries.

Look at the beautiful mid-section, for starters, which is belted by the fresh ESCAPE ARTISTS and its witty clue [Ones who get out and earn some money?]. Think Houdini here, or Isla Fisher in Now You See Me. (SIDE NOTE for a mini-theme… While you won’t earn any money on the [Make a bundle from] BALE combo [a bit agri-humor...?], that HIT in the grid [think of your favorite rock- or pop-star here...] is a [Moneymaker of a sort].)

But back to the main event. That center section is strong in both directions. Going across, we get TANGERINES with its visual/textural [Pebbly-skinned fruits] clue; BADGERED and [Rode]—so this non-vehicular usage is about “riding” someone with words; AIR-DRIED clued with the non-social sense of [Hung out]; and the red-blooded RED-BLOODED clued as [Lusty and vigorous]. “But wait! There’s more”

Among the longer fill that crosses this meaty agglomeration we find TAP ROOM, the non-baseball response to [Place for pitchers]; the perfectly simple and simply perfect MADE DO WITH [Used as a stopgap, perhaps] (this may even be my favorite fill today); “EN GARDE,” clued not in connection with fencing, but with skiing [Warning on the piste]—but wait! I just looked up “piste” and, in fact, it applies to both sports—so live and learn (fencers ‘n’ skiers: feel free to set me straight if I’ve misinterpreted and the en garde part belongs only to fencing; being more of a reader than a full-out sportswoman, I’d encountered the word piste only in connection with skiing, in Diane Johnson’s L’Affaire); MENAGERIES [Circus collections] and not, I’m willing to bet, of the glass variety…; and ALERTED [Notified] (maybe with CRIES of “En garde!” on that piste—or even with printed signs…).

Highlights of the (mostly) longer fill from the various corners would have to include:

  • LIT CRIT and its nifty [Novel ideas?] clue.
  • IN PRIVATE
  • LAND LINE [A cell can replace it]. That is, not a prison cell…
  • IMPOUNDS
  • NOSED [Investigated, with "into"]
  • CAB STAND
  • “WHAT AM I?” [Riddle question].
  • DEAD ON
  • EXHALE [Yoga teacher's instruction]. Thought of the old mantra: “Breathe in green; breathe out blue.”
  • THRIVES ON [Draws energy from]. Love this combo. What do you draw your energy from? What do you thrive on? Worth ponderin’!
  • HOUSESITS [Stays when others have left, maybe].
  • The aforementioned SIDE NOTE.

Fave clues—well, more fave clue/fill combos—because look at the life that can be breathed into the (mostly) shorter fill:

  • [King's music] BLUES. So that’s B.B. King and not, say King George VI (oh, wait… that was [the] King’s speech…).
  • [Mill output] MEAL. Taking a class in American culinary history this fall and find myself looking more carefully for locally produced everything. While in Charlottesville in October, went to a farmers market and purchased stone-ground grits from a nearby 18th-century, water-powered mill. The lively text for the class is by Andrew F. Smith (who also teaches it) and there’s a terrific chapter on milling in his book, Eating History:30 Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine. Chapter 1, p. 5. Check it out!
  • [Unlikely family reunion attendees] EXES. Don’tcha love understatement? (Tho I suspect it happens lots…)
  • [Speed reader?] RADAR—and not Evelyn Wood
  • [Given a certain black coat] TARRED, so we’re not talkin’ fashion here.
  • [Big name in pop] NEHI. Not GAGA…
  • [Likely to be taken in?] EDIBLE and not the over-long GULLIBLE.

My trouble spots? Sports. With the exception of TERESA [Four-time WNBA All-Star Weatherspoon], had some time dredging up Dan MARINO [First NFL quarterback to pass for 5,000 yards in one season]. The fact that I grew up on the Baltimore Colts may have something to do with the fact that I assume any 6-letter “quarterback” will naturally lead to Johnny UNITAS… And then there was LAMAR ODOM [Athlete on the reality show "Keeping Up With the Kardashians"]. Who? All I could think of was BRUCE JENNER. “Oy” to both of ‘em, but wrong again, Jane! (What can I say? I don’t keep up…)

And how does OVERBIDS connect to [Showcase errors]? Best I can do is this. It appears to be auction related, but I don’t find definitively supportive stats or info on the internet. Can anyone offer any insight? Inquiring minds want to know! Oh—and also wasn’t familiar with silent-film-era star Renée ADORÉE. But she’s been a crossword puzzle staple for years and years and years.

Am I forgetting anything? I am indeed. But by design. This last item comes to us via the clue ["Well, here we go!']. Given how rich this puzzle is, how lively the fill and the clues, I’d go with something like [Example of Berry at his themeless best] for “THIS IS IT!” Today’s puzzle (or puzzles—see Amy’s post above), in combination with Patrick’s recent Fireball (also edited by Peter Gordon), makes this past week a seriously juicy one for Berry fans!

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Way-Off Broadway” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 12/8/13 • “Way-Off Broadway” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Theme: godawful speculative puns of hypothetical songs from Broadway musicals, based on the titles of unrelated songs.

Execution: godawful puns.

Verdict: the puns are godawful but sometimes amusing.

  •  23a. [Not a song from "Cats"?] TAKE MEOW TO THE BALL GAME (… Me Out …).
  • 36a. [Not a song from "Phantom of the Opera"?] SPOOK SOFTLY, MY LOVE (Speak …).
  • 59a. [Not a song from "Kiss Me, Kate"?] THE OLD SOFT-SHREW… -Shoe).
  • 84a. [Not a song from "Titanic"?] SINKIN’ IN THE RAIN (Singin’ … ).
  • 101a. [Not a song from "Grease"?] OIL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER (All …).
  • 4d. [Not a song from "Bells Are Ringing"?] I PEAL FINE ( … Feel … ).
  • 75d. [Not a song from "Wicked"?] SATAN DOLL (Satin … ).

Only seven godawful theme entries, but two of them span the grid completely. Somewhat uncharacteristically, there’s little interplay among themers: no stacks or significant overlaps, just simple crossings involving the two godawful vertical entries.

Godawful Notes:

  • Longish non-theme fill: EXHAUSTS, GENERATOR, PALMISTRY, MELVILLE, PENELOPE, SHOWROOM, WORLD WAR, and a godawful AUTO DA FÉ. Ow!
  • 47a [It may cause gaposis] BOSOM. “Gaposis” is not an AMA-recognized condition. Even the DSM-V has litttle to say about it.
  • PA JOAD sitting UPON (46a) A LAMB looks godawful strange in the grid, but to be fair a literal image of that would also be godawful strange. (63a, 71a)
  • Possibly tough (but not godawfully tough) crossing: 1a [Taylor of "Six Feet Under"] LILI, 3d [100,00 rupees] LAKH.
  • Misfill (was it an intentional misdirection?): with ––TES in place, it seemed 70d [Gig components had to be DATES, but the correct answer is BYTES.
  • Favorite godawful clue: 77a [What a hot dog does] PANTS.
  • Who? 80a [Legendary basketball coach Hank] IBA.
  • Least favorite fill: [Get fresh personnel] REMAN.

Good breadth and variety of cluing, about average godawful CAP (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) Quotient™ … godawfully decent puzzle.

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

Sunday LA Times crossword solution, 12 8 13 “Drollery”

The theme here is “add -ERY (or -ARY, or -ORY)”:

  • 23a. [Rush hour traffic reporters?], ARTERY CRITICS. I would’ve gone with cardiothoracic surgeons. “Art critics” is the original phrase.
  • 36a. [List that includes "full," "round" and "wide"?], LIP GLOSSARY. And also “thin” and “duck-like after a bizarre cosmetic surgery procedure.”
  • 56a. [Foes with bows?], ARCHERY ENEMIES. They aren’t the enemies of archery?
  • 77a. [Reason for a strange smell coming from the trunk of the car?], GROCERY NEGLECT. More of a spelling change here: “gross neglect” is the base phrase.
  • 95a. ["Chantilly Lace" and "Blue Velvet"?], FINERY TUNES.
  • 114a. [Group of sweet-talking experts?], FLATTERY PANEL. We could all use one of those.
  • 3d. [Hasty remark?], CURSORY WORD.
  • 69d. [Food for thought?], BRAIN CELERY.

“Drollery” is slightly overstating the humor level of the theme, if you ask me. I didn’t have any of the sought-after “Ha!” reactions. Your mileage may vary.

Seven more things to review:

  • 1a. [Tex-Mex casserole], TACO PIE. This was a really challenging 1-Across for me! I don’t do much in the way of casseroles.
  • 25a. [Confrontation-ending device], TASER. Sometimes it permanently ends the confrontation by stopping the person’s heart. If you ask me, cops use the Taser far too cavalierly. Beanbag shotguns and Tasers may be called “nonlethal” weapons but they’re not always nonlethal.
  • 43a. [One-named "I Do!" singer named for a Jackson], TOYA. Never heard of her.
  • 93a. [Quaintly named lodging], INNE. What?? No. I’ve never seen this before, not in life and not in crosswords. The cross-reference with 66a: OLDE doesn’t sell it.
  • 123a. [Jules Léotard and Amelia Bloomer, for two], EPONYMS. Nice clue!
  • 5d. [Deer or elk, sometimes], PLURAL. Tricky!
  • 15d. [Having good night vision], CAT-EYED. You … don’t say.

3.5 stars from me.

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17 Responses to Sunday, December 8, 2013

  1. joon says:

    when i got to LIB(E)R(T)ARIAN, i smiled. “cute!” after each successive theme answer, though, i kept slipping further along the spectrum from “cute” to “mind = blown”. amazing theme, amazing puzzle. the four stacked themers at the top and bottom (with immaculate crossing fill) are just ridiculous, bordering on unfair. is patrick rubbing it in?

    • Huda says:

      Joon, do you feel branded as brain dead? I certainly do for never noticing the fabric of words in this way.

    • Jeff Chen says:

      Just amazing at how incredible the NYT was. Patrick is operating on an entirely different level of cleverosity. Cleverishness. Cleveresquity.

      Durn it. Point is, it’s another one which I’ll study and hopefully learn from.

  2. D. Kelly says:

    Ailing and in-debt puzzle editor.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: Genius at work. What a Sunday should be.

  4. HH says:

    “And how does OVERBIDS connect to [Showcase errors]?”

    Not a game show fan, I assume.

  5. Greg says:

    So excellent. Patrick Berry never disappoints.

  6. Nance says:

    What does it take to get 5 stars?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      From me? The puzzle needs to be one that is so amazing, a lot of solvers are likely to remember it years in the future. A puzzle that is excellent but doesn’t knock me out with something truly memorable is more like 4.5 stars for me.

  7. Zulema says:

    Patrick Berry is a genius, over and over again. I decided not to finish the previous Sunday’s NYT crossword, but as soon as I saw the first theme entry here, I was overawed, as I see many of you were, even constructors. Like Beethoven’s Eroica (a bad analogy but…) themes grow out of themes in each of the entries. Had no chance of commenting yesterday. Absolutely amazing.

  8. bonekrusher says:

    Patrick Berry’s Sunday was brilliant!

  9. Lois says:

    I thank Merl Reagle today for 14d, “LIE LOW,” instead of “lay low.”

    More important, I thank him for his puzzle. Great fun for Hitch fans.

  10. John M says:

    No comments on Reagle using nmbers in the answers? (39 steps)

    • Lois says:

      My comment is that I loved it! Just another enhancement. I love that movie too.

      Loved Patrick Berry’s NYT puzzle also. Sorry I don’t do more puzzles, but I’m just too slow.

Comments are closed.