Sunday, April 13, 2014

NYT 8:55 (Amy) 
Reagle untimed (PuzzleGirl) 
LAT untimed (PuzzleGirl) 
Hex/Hook untimed, with 1 error (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (janie) 
CS 20:17 (Ade) 

Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “It’s Taxing”

NY Times crossword solution, 4 13 14 "It's Taxing"

NY Times crossword solution, 4 13 14 “It’s Taxing”

Familiar phrases containing sometimes tax-related words are defined as if they really do relate to income taxes:

  • 25a. [Agreement for an amount to be taken from one's salary?], WITHHOLDING CONSENT.
  • 33a. [What C.P.A.'s wish for their clients?], MANY HAPPY RETURNS.
  • 49a. [C.P.A.'s advice for lowering future-year liabilities?], ROLL THE CREDITS.
  • 67a. [Chart used to calculate a married couple's taxes?], TABLE FOR TWO.
  • 81a. [I.R.S. update?], SCHEDULE CHANGE.
  • 93a. [Last-minute way to reduce tax for a desperate filer?], EMERGENCY SHELTER.
  • 104a. [C.P.A.'s masterstroke?], BRILLIANT DEDUCTION.

The theme’s all right but didn’t particularly resonate with me. There’s an asymmetrical bonus entry: 100a. [Deadline time appropriate to this puzzle], APRIL. I don’t see the whole month as a “deadline time,” personally.

Have you filed yet? I have. But the most relaxed taxing experience is to file for an extension and leisurely pull your papers together in May. If you owe the IRS, there’s a small penalty, but if you expect a return, oddly enough, they don’t add interest to the money they give you when you let them use the money longer.

What else is in this puzzle? This:

  • 22a. [Fragile decoration], ART GLASS. I collect some myself. Do people in earthquake-prone areas avoid that?
  • 46a. [Purim villain], HAMAN. The triangular filled hamantaschen cookies for Purim are “Haman’s pockets.”
  • 62a. [European wheels?], EDAMS. Cheese! Not wild about the pluralization of the cheese variety, though.
  • 75a. [What pop-ups do], ARC. Is this about baseball? I was thinking of pop-up ads, pop-up books, and Jack-in-the-boxes.
  • 4d. [Modern two-wheeler], SEGWAY. Ah, yes. Are Segways here to stay for the tourist industry and perhaps security guards? Will they ever become mainstream, household objects?
  • 7d. [Digital olio], MASHUP. Oh, lordy. You take a cool, modern word and then ruin it with a crosswordese clue.
  • 41d. [Division head?], LATRINE. I don’t hear “division” as an overtly military word.
  • 49d. [Breed of hunting dog], REDBONE. Huh?? Leon Redbone, sure.

Fave fill: CRASH PAD, HELLIONS, MASHUP. Well outnumbered by the fill that caused a bit of nose-wrinkling: APIA and ORAN, TRU and CLU, ENUF, UTNE, AAR, ZSA, PARA, A RAT, ERI, ORY, K CAR, singular DREG, ELL, EL-HI, ILLY (110d. [In a bad way]). ILLY?? Really?

Least familiar common word: 99d. [Laxness], LENITY. Dictionary labels it “literary.”

3.5 stars.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Breaking Par” – PuzzleGirl’s review

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 11.38.20 PMFamiliar phrases where the outside three letters are P-A-R.

  • 23a. [Schoolyard promise], PINKY SWEAR
  • 25a. [Engrossing read], PAGE TURNER
  • 36a. [Molson Golden, e.g.], PALE LAGER
  • 38a. [Milwaukee Brewer in the Hall of Fame], PAUL MOLITOR
  • 66a. [Time honoree], PERSON OF THE YEAR
  • 96a. [Economical vacation option], PACKAGE TOUR
  • 98a. [Arctic denizen], POLAR BEAR
  • 112a. [One interpreting lines], PALM READER
  • 114a. [Nothing to be afraid of, really], PAPER TIGER

Nothing wrong with this theme, but nothing really exciting about it either. PINKY SWEAR and PAGE TURNER are cool phrases, but the rest of them just kind of sit there. I really did like some of the downs though.

  • 2d. ["Hasta la vista, pal!"], “ADIOS, AMIGO!” - My husband tells a very funny story the punchline of which is “Wait, amigo means idiot?” I can’t remember the story, but you have to admit that punchline is pretty funny.
  • 9d. [Mimics], COPY CATS - My daughter gets annoyed when other girls she knows copy her by buying things just like hers. She calls them copy cats. And every time she does this, I remind her that the reason she told me she “needed” to get the thing that they’re “copying” is that “everybody has one.”
  • 15d. [Laundering evidence], MONEY TRAIL - I was so focused on actual laundry that it I had to get this one through the crosses. Me: “Fresh scent? Crisp pleat? No, dummy, that would be evidence of ironing not laundering.”
  • 72d. [Like Jeff Foxworthy's "Comedy Tour"], BLUE-COLLAR - I have seen parts of this on TV and the bit that really stands out to me is the story Ron White tells about getting thrown out of a bar in New York (“Now when I say I was thrown out of a bar, I don’t mean somebody asked me to leave and we walked to the door together and I said ‘Bye, everybody, I gotta go.’”). Good stuff.
  • 87d. [John Wayne classic], TRUE GRIT - It’s kind of amazing to me how many classic movies I haven’t seen. “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca,” the list goes on. I did see the remake of “True Grit” whenever that came out a few years back. My husband had been wanting to see it and I went out with a girlfriend so I told him we were seeing “The King’s Speech” so he wouldn’t be mad that I saw it without him. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my marriage advice for you today: Just lie if you need to.

The only other thing I want to say about this puzzle is that I know on Sundays it’s virtually impossible to build a whole grid without some crap fill in it somewhere. And I’m not necessarily opposed to that crap fill. I even think crosswordese is sometimes a good thing because it can allow new solvers to get a foothold. But when your grid has ARA, ORTS, ARIL, and NENE in it, that seems like a bit much. I mean all of those are what I think of as hardcore crosswordese. But maybe I’m being too critical. I admit I don’t usually analyze Sunday puzzles very closely (if at all) so maybe that’s an acceptable level for a grid that big. What do you think?

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Payback Time” – PuzzleGirl’s “review”

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 12.48.05 AMTheme answers all contain the letters X-A-T (T-A-X backwards).

  • 22a. [Reno, for one], EX-ATTORNEY GENERAL
  • 37a. [Annoyance], VEXATION
  • 45a. [Senna, for one], LAXATIVE
  • 73a. [Do a roadside chore, maybe], FIX A TIRE
  • 82a. [Diet supplement brand], DEXATRIM
  • 94a/99a. [A possible post-April 15 quote from a famous hunter], WEST AND WEWAXATION AT WAST
  • 57a. [Certain filings, and what happens literally in six of this puzzle's answers], TAX RETURNS

I’m not going to say much about this puzzle because it’s late and it was pretty dumb of me to volunteer to blog it, but I would be remiss if I did not point out the absurdity of 94a/99a. Who thinks of stuff like this?!? I mean, that’s ridiculous. It’s so bad it’s good! Classic Merl. I’ll let you guys take it from here in the comments. What jumped out at you in this puzzle?

Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 210″—Janie’s review

wapo 4:13

Washington Post 4/13

While it took me the longest time to get a foothold in this 70/26, it’s really easy for me to like this puzzle—a lot. In the NW, things seemed to open up when OVEN, LET BE and ERSATZ fell into line, leading fairly quickly to OMELETS, SKI POLE and KAMEHAMEHA. But then I got stymied in that territory (consistently—and most annoyingly—drawing a blank on the last name of Airplane!‘s “Robert.” HAYS. D’oh…) So south I went and solved (basically) in a counterclockwise way from there, concluding with CHLORINE.

I don’t “like” the puzzle simply because I completed it, however, but because so much of the long fill (and there’s a good bit of it) is so very good. And appears so strongly in the grid, thanks to those beautifully open corners–the triple-stacked tens in the NW and SE, and those triple columns of seven (shored up NE and SW by 11s) that frame the grid west and east.

The fill itself? NW gives us SHORT PORCH, KAMEHAMEHA and INEXORABLY (one great word!). Short porch was the killer-diller for me—but probably not for most die-hard baseball fans. As confirmed by Wiki, it is exactly as described in the clue [Outfield wall that's unusually close to home plate]. (There’s also a seriously crude definition to be found at the Urban Dictionary site. I leave you to your own devices/curiosity to suss it out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…) Baseball argot sure is colorful though. “Sandwich round”? As you mighta guessed, this has nuthin’ to do with a luncheon course. In the opposite corner we find the wacky trio of STALAGMITE, LEDERHOSEN and ODOR-EATERS. “Wacky” because I’m seeing a spelunker in lederhosen, whose sturdy boots are lined with Odor-Eaters, making his way over and through the ceiling-bound stalagmites. (I still hear the melodious-voiced guide to the caves in Bermuda I once visited telling the group: “Dee stalagmites go up; dee stalactites go down…”)

And the SE yields up the slangy GOT WISE, the less loveable TREATER with its “odd job” clue [One who picks up the tab], and the literal and freshly clued HYPHENS [Tic-tac-toe symbols]. (Besides treater, the only other fill that felt less than optimal for me was the Medicare-referenced PART B. With a different name crossing that final letter, it coulda just as well have been PART C. Ah, well, given the strength of the fill overall, this is a very small price to pay.)

Themselves held together at center by A CAPPELLA (clued with a musical reference only obliquely [Without backing]), PAJAMA PANTS (NE) and NBA ALL-STARS (SW) bolster IN A PILE, ENVELOP and DEADENS; and HOG CALL, “AURA LEE” and the lovely UTOPIAN respectively. The term pajama pants was new to me (always thought of ‘em as pajama bottoms), but our friend Google shows decidedly more hits for the former. Guess that’s what happens when yer sleepwear becomes a fashion item… The haunting melody of “Aura Lee” dates back to the Civil War era. You can read about it here; or listen to Frances Farmer’s version here (in Come and Get It [and oh, boy, is it easy to see what a ringer Jessica Lange was for her!]; or listen to an a cappella version of it here. This is about as far from a hog call as you can get!

There are some especially fine (and by “fine,” I also mean “tricky”) clue/fill combos, too, that deserve mention. Among my faves:

  • [Victorian house?] HANOVER. As in “Queen Victoria was descended from the House of Hanover.” No gingerbread today.
  • [Nero's chronicler] REX. So we’re talkin’ Nero Wolfe and Rex Stout hero, and not the Roman emperor and some king… That’s his real name, btw. Middle name “Todhunter.” Whole thing sounds made up if ya ask me!
  • [Does a number on?] DEADENS. Uses an anesthetic, say, to numb/deaden a sensitive area.
  • [Globe title word] ADO. The Globe here being Shakespeare’s “wooden ‘O’” (which shouldn’t be confused with any O-SHAPED cereals…), and the title word one that appears in his Much Ado About Nothing. My fave of the comedies.
  • [Had longer legs than?] OUTLASTED. Like just about anything Shakespeare ever wrote. Or the melody of “Aura Lee.”
  • [Spoils] HAUL. Noun, not a verb here.
  • [Takes a jog] ZAGS. “He zigged when he should have zagged.”
  • [Digital artist's workplace] NAIL SALON. It’s a new world out there

nail art

And that, folks, is a (nail) wrap!

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrossSynergy crossword solution, 04.13.14, Sunday Challenge

CrossSynergy crossword solution, 04.13.14, Sunday Challenge

Hello everybody! Whew, what a Sunday challenge this was, especially since this was the first CrossSynergy Sunday Challenge that I had ever attempted. (Don’t judge!) But got through it I did, and it was a very enjoyable experience doing a puzzle from “Mr. Triple Stack” himself, Martin Ashwood-Smith. Seeing the triple 15-word-stack entries are far less intimidating for me than, say, uncovering a challenging rebus, especially since my mind likes to throw darts at 15-word answers on difficult puzzles after only uncovering one or two letters of the entry. Weird, yes, but usually effective.

This grid actually has a hidden message, a mini-meta if you will, and it marks a milestone. Can you see where it is??? I’ll let you know in a little while.

From the beginning, I uttered that this puzzle HAS A LOT GOING FOR it (1A: [Is very talented, before “him” or “her”]). Well, didn’t say it exactly like that, but once I chipped away at the northeast corner to start and first attempted (correctly) to fill in that 1A, had a feeling the other long entries were going to be just as zippy. Didn’t hurt also that once I got the “x” in that area, knew that Trinity University had to be somewhere in Texas…SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS to be exact (17A: [Site of Trinity University]). There’s a good number of American geography nuggets, including San Antonio, SONORAN (3D: [Southwest Arizona’s _______ Desert]) and GENESEE (21A: [River through Rochester, N.Y.]). Genesee was a given with my experience going to college in the Central New York area.

Recently, I’m catching myself wondering if I can make a correlation between the intersecting across/down answer sitting right in the middle of the grid, if it presents itself. Here’s my best effort on this one: A baseball player that MADE HASTE (35A: [Showed some hustle]) on the field hurt himself and found his way ON THE DL (22D: [Out of action, in baseball lingo]). By the way, DL is short for disabled list, and appearing on it makes a player ineligible to play due to his injury until the assigned length of time the player is on the DL (e.g. 7-day, 15-day, 60-day) expires, in case you needed clarification.

And if you need clarification on where this “mini-meta” lies, you’re now in luck. DL also is 550 in Roman numerals, and this puzzle marks Ashwood-Smith’s 550th CrossSynergy puzzle! Great that he kept that fact on the down low (or, for short, on the DL). Milestones, metas and double entendres all coming together in perfect harmony! Again, congratulations to you, Martin…and man, that’s a LOT of puzzles!

OK, now back to reviewing the puzzle (after having a slice of anniversary cake). Not sure how I feel about MAESTRO (42D: [Good conductor?]) intersecting ORCHESTRA LEADER (60A: [Person who works in a pit]). At the very least, it’s cleverly redundant. OCTS (6D: [Fall mos.]) stands out in a not-so-nice way, unless it was a nickname used to annoy/taunt Doctor Octopus in the Spider-Man comics! (It wasn’t, but close enough.) BAG LADY is a cool phrase (40D: [One in a shelter, maybe]), although imaging/coming across one might tug at your heartstrings.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AARON (31A: [Hammerin’ Hank])- This past Tuesday (April 8) marked the 40th anniversary of Henry “Hank” Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, as he hit his 715th career dinger off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. Aaron ended his career with 755 home runs, though he now stands second on the all-time list to Barry Bonds and his 762. (Many still believe Aaron is the “real” home run king still, with Bonds eventually becoming the face of the “Steroid Era” in baseball.) In closing, here’s an interesting fact about Aaron, Ruth and Willie Mays; all three Hall-of-Fame players started and ended their careers in the same city, but for different franchises. Ruth started his career with the Boston Red Sox and ended with the Boston Braves, Mays started with the New York Giants and ended with the New York Mets, and Aaron started with the Milwaukee Braves and ended with the Milwaukee Brewers. As the late, great New York Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen would say…

“How about that?”

Take care everyone, and I’ll see you all Monday!

A.O.K.

Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “In So Many Words” — pannonica’s write-up

CRooked • 4/13/14 • "In So Many Words" • solution

CRooked • 4/13/14 • “In So Many Words” • Hook • hex/hook, bg • solution

Each of the long theme answers is comprised of a series of words that can follow the word in the clue, as part of a compound word, a hyphenated one, or a phrase.

  • 22a. [KEY words] SIGNATURE | HOLE | WEST | NOTE.
  • 41a. [WATCH words] OUT | SPRING | TOWER | DOG | MAN.
  • 61a. [PASS words] MUSTER | OVER | PORT | BOOK | GAS.
  • 81a. [BUZZ words] KILL | CUT | BOMB | OFF | ALDRIN.
  • 103a. [CROSS words] BAR | EXAMINE | TALK | DRESSER.

While I appreciate the inspired touch of using leading words that themselves can be followed by “word” in the clues, imparting a measure of cohesion and rationale, this is not a sort of theme I enjoy. It hasn’t anything to do with subject consistency (e.g., two of the many are proper names, some are one word while others are two, et cetera) and everything to do with solving mechanics.

The long answers are just strings of essentially unrelated words of unknown number and individual length. As such, there is no flow to them and it’s easy for one of these themers to draw to a standstill without allowing the solver entry into a new section of the grid. It makes the puzzle experience annoying rather than challenging.

  • My solving error—as indicated by the little black triangle—was at the intersection of 41-down and 61-across. My brain was stuck in a rut, consistently reading the themed PASS MUSTER as “PAST MASTER” thus rendering the [Sea of Japan port] as ŌTARA rather than OTARU. The former happens to be the name of a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. Do not see also 90a [Razorbill for one] AUK.
  • Not thrilled with 9d -ETH as [Ordinal ending] but m-w (and I assume other dictionaries) give it validity. I suppose it makes sense. The root isn’t ‘twent’ but ‘twenty’; the y changes to an i and is not part of the suffix. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see a different clue for ETH; I feel the same way about the fill-in-the-blank rendering of 40d ["Meet Me __ Louis"] for INST.
  • Incomplete clue for 32d GENE: [Allele]. Alleles are variations of a particular gene, but I don’t feel it can be used as a precise synonym, interchangeably.

Overall, there is a rather high CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) but on the other hand the clues and fill are wide-ranging in temporality and cultural elevation, providing a real peppiness to the proceedings. Still, a significantly less-than-stellar puzzle for this solver.

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24 Responses to Sunday, April 13, 2014

  1. Jan says:

    Happy to say that I have done my taxes, and that thanks to the group of volunteers I work with, there are hundreds of seniors and others in my area of CT that had theirs done for free! So, this theme did resonate with me, but I was also thrown by APRIL being clued as a deadline without mention of the 15th. I briefly wondered if I needed to put 41514 in the five boxes or something cute like that. I also would have preferred a Leon Redbone clue to the dog breed I’ve never heard of, but I guess this is the week to learn about dogs.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: LENITY! I like learning actual words more than factoids. And this one was new to me, although it emerged from the surrounds and made perfect sense. My grand children will be visiting this weekend and I plan to treat them with lenity and levity. That’s a grandparent’s job.

    I also like the Sunday (recent?) trend of using real phrases and twisting their meaning in the cluing. When you look at the finished puzzle, it actually makes sense!

  3. Martin says:

    I remember the first time I saw ILLY in a crossword I reacted the same way as Amy, in fact my outburst may have been stronger than “really?”. It’s still an odd-looking adverb isn’t it? Especially if you try and pronounce it as SILLY without the S. However, I think ILLY (if anyone cares) should probably be pronounced “Ill-ly”… as two syllables. Then, at the very least it begins to sound like a more plausible word.

    Incidentally, there are some perhaps unintentionally amusing anecdotes from ET Maleska’s book “Across and Down”. In one chapter Maleska discusses “Leapers”: a class of solver who think they’ve caught the editor in a mistake, whereas in reality, the editor is correct. However what was correct to ETM often wasn’t correct to many solvers even after he “corrected” them.
    After every complaint about a word not existing (or not meaning what it does today), ETM would triumphantly declare, “Yes, but I simply directed them to the “Haberdashers Guide. to Icelandic Heraldry: 1879 edition” page 594 for the source. Score: one for ETM, and Worst Fail Ever for the solver.

    -MAS

  4. Martin says:

    Hey Merl’s back taxes puzzle has accidentally used a bit of (now) rare crosswordese XAT: “Haida memorial totem pole”… from my part of the word. Although, I think I’ve seen XAT used once in an old book of Haida art. Just FYI. :)

    -MAS

  5. Bencoe says:

    Doing the Merl Reagle Sunday last night, I was also struck by the “classic Merlness” of 94/99 Across. I can’t think of any other constructor who would dare to use something like that as his longest theme entry, and it demonstrates the singularity of merl’s vision.

    • Adam N says:

      That quote is actually from an Elmer Fudd cartoon called “Wabbit Twouble”. Go figuwe.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Thanks Adam N. I don’t speak Fudd so I couldn’t decipher the line until I searched the cartoon and found something. I thought it would relate to taxes or taxation which crossed me up. Not sure why some think it’s such a great inclusion.

  6. WeThotUWasAToad says:

    There’s a particular form of humor — if indeed it can be called that — in which the success of a joke is measured not in the amount of laughter it evokes but by how much groaning follows. It carries a very fine line though, between brilliance and stupidity and therefore is generally offered only by people with high levels of self-confidence and who are extremely at ease with themselves (or by those who have had way too much to drink) and only truly appreciated by the same. Merl is a master’s master at it and, as pointed out by our esteemed reviewer, the lengthy line from hunter Fudd is “classic Merl” — it’s so absurd it’s brilliant! I will be groaning (and therefore grinning) at it all week!

  7. Reamus says:

    A joke that makes one groan in our house was always a pun . Reagle is very good at it, and af times annoyingly so.

  8. Davis says:

    Legal folks may also be familiar with the Rule of LENITY, a canon of statutory interpretation that states that if a criminal statute is ambiguous in some respect, the court should resolve the ambiguity in favor of the defendant.

  9. Dave says:

    On Merl’s puzzle, will someone please explain 107 across – Kareem as Magic friend? The only Kareem of whom I’m aware is the former NBA great, who played for the Lakers and Bucks.

  10. Dave says:

    Thank you, Amy (hitting self in head).

  11. hmj says:

    I learned long ago that Merl Reagle is, basically, stupid.

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