Sunday, May 4, 2014

NYT 8:10 (Amy) 
Reagle 7:32 (Amy) 
LAT 8:57 (Amy) 
Hex/Hook 9:09 (pannonica) 
WaPo 15:19 (Sam) 
CS 22:04 (Ade) 

Mary Lou Guizzo ‘s New York Times crossword, “Joined Sides”

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 14, "Joined Sides"

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 14, “Joined Sides”

The theme here is described by the central answer, DOUBLE-EDGED, [Like some swords ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Each answer around the perimeter begins with an invisible “double”:

  • 1a. [Like many shotguns], double-BARRELED.
  • 9a. [Mole], double AGENT.
  • 14a. [Back-to-back games], doubleHEADER.
  • 127a. [Classic London transport], double-DECKER.
  • 128a. [Genetic structure], double HELIX.
  • 129a. [Source of some discrimination], double STANDARD.
  • 1d. Wind instrument pitched an octave lower than its smaller cousin], BASSOON.
  • 53d. [Commit a chip-eating faux pas], double-DIP.
  • 79d. [Reaction of surprise], double TAKE.
  • 112d. [Attraction in a carbon dioxide molecule], double BOND.
  • 19d. [Hotel accommodation for more than one], double ROOM.
  • 41d. [Gang up on, as in basketball], double-TEAM.
  • 74d. [Relative of a twin], double BED.
  • 101d. [Betrayed], double-CROSSED.

I hear that it is fiendishly challenging to make the fill work in a 15×15 with theme answers lining the perimeter, and I suppose the same holds true for a 21×21. Certainly there are an awful lot of answers that I’d have hoped not to encounter in the grid—things like ATTU and ENNA and about 25 or 30 other words. When you have an obscurity like ATTU (40d. [Aleutian isle]) in your grid, it behooves you to avoid any iffy crossings, and plopping a CESTA (52a. [Jai alai basket]) in there fairly shrieks “Abandon hope all ye who enter here, unless you have already mastered the musty art of crosswordese.” And then there’s REO (73d. [Old car make that's a homophone of a modern car model]—for real? It was pronounced like the Kia “Rio” and not “R.E.O.”? I had no idea. You know why? Because I have never, ever heard anyone speak about the ancient REO cars. I know them only from crosswords), and if you didn’t plunk in REO the second you saw “Old car make” in a clue for a 3-letter answer, well, then you’d need to know that 78a. [Old Highlands dagger] is looking for SNEE. Good luck to you.

Yes, there is some good fill in here, like AGUILERA, OLIVER STONE (again, if you hate names in puzzles, these would not have been highlights for you but I like ‘em), VIETNAM, DEBUT ALBUM, CLEAR THE AIR, GATORADE, HAS-BEENS, and MAGILLA Gorilla. But there’s also the less-common spelling SARAPES, an ENROLLEE, RUN ON IN (["Enter quickly!"]), plural PERCALES (is that kosher?), and TAR OIL to offset the goodies.

I bet these two (neither of which I had the faintest idea about, and thank goodness I know ENNA from my years of crosswordese studies or that N in PISANO would’ve been a crapshoot, and thank goodness I know that LIEDER, or “songs,” are [German musical entertainment], that DESOTO was an old car, and that a SCULL is a [Shell seen around water], or that E SCALE would’ve killed me) elicit the most clue-Googling this weekend:

  • 66a. [Musician's practice with four sharps], E SCALE.
  • 25a. [Leonardo ___, a.k.a. Fibonacci], PISANO.

The theme is solidly assembled, yes, but that only took up 15 of the answers, and the other 90% of the puzzle was not to my taste. 2.5 stars from me.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 213″—Sam Donaldson’s review

The Post Puzzler No. 213 (solution)

The Post Puzzler No. 213 (solution)

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! Today’s Post Puzzler does not reference the occasion, but it offers similar adventure and fun. It’s a 70/28 offering from Frank Longo. I normally associate Frank with lower word counts–in a Longo grid those black squares between 14- and 34-Down and between 21- and 44-Down resemble cheaters. But this puzzle certainly had the difficulty level I normally associate with him, as my solving time reflects.

Frank’s puzzles always teach me a thing or nine I didn’t know. Yet his puzzles never feel preachy or too cultured, so I don’t mind all the edumacation. Here’s what was new to me this week:

  • SEIJI OZAWA is the [Eponym of a Tanglewood concert hall]. Sure, I’ve seen the name (both first and last) many times in puzzles. As in every case, it’s unusual to see both first and last names, and I’m used to seeing one used in the clue for the other. So most anything except for his name and his occupation is news to me.
  • There’s a character named AMOS and [He sings "Mister Cellophane" in "Chicago"]. This will be heresy to some readers, but here it is: I saw the movie when it came out and almost immediately forgot everything about it, save for the three main members of the cast. It just did nothing for me. For all I know, Amos is the part played by Richard Gere. Guess I shouldn’t be a lazy blogger–hold on while I look it up.     Nope. It was John C. Reilly. Wow, he was in Chicago? Told you I’ve forgotten almost all about it.
  • IF I RAN THE ZOO was a [Book describing a "tizzle-topped Tufted Mazurka]. Seuss crossed my mind, but it was apparent neither CAT IN THE HAT nor GREEN EGGS AND HAM would fit, so I just gave up. Can’t say I really know this particular work.
  • CYSTINE is the [Amino acid in hair and skin]. I think there’s a chapel devoted to it somewhere in Italy.
  • DEVON is the [County between Cornwall and Somerset]. You’ll have to insert your own joke here–I got nothin’.
  • THE ELMS is a [Historic mansion in Newport, Rhode Island]. Notice I said “a historic” and not “an historic.” In my little corner of the word, the “h” in “historic” is not silent.
  • I know RNA, sure, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the first word in the clue: [Viroid makeup] Wikipedia says these things “are plant pathogens that consist of a short stretch (a few hundred nucleobases) of highly complementary, circular, single-stranded RNA.” I think I will now use “few hundred nucleobases” as a synonym for “short stretch.” It will be just a few hundred nucleobases until I’m ready, kids, hold on.
  • Former 60 Minutes fixture ANDY ROONEY was the ["Pieces of My Mind" essayist]. Here is one of his famous rants, this one on bottled water.
  • MILFORD is the [Connecticut home of an annual oyster festival]. I’ll be making my maiden voyage to Connecticut next March. Hey, March is an R Month, so oysters should be fair game then. The festival, interestingly, is in August–not an R Month. Celebrants are taking their chances, it appears.
  • Pink dolphins!

    Pink dolphins!

    I wanted the answer to [Place for pink dolphins] to be something like FRONT LAWNS, for all I could envision were ornamental tchotchkies. Surely, pink dolphins are made of plastic. Turns out they’re real! (In case the picture didn’t give it away.) And they’re found in the AMAZON RIVER.

  • [Sonata's sister] was a tricky little clue. The answer, I was convinced, would be some other piece of music. But it turned out that we were on the hunt for other models of Hyundai cars, which in this case proved to be the AZERA. Sometimes falling into the trap is one of the great joys of the solving experience.
  • SONYA was the ["War and Peace" orphan]. I hate book titles that contain spoilers.
  • The two-L CALLISTA was [Newt's wife], that being politico Newt Gingrich. The one-L Calista Flockhart played the title character in Ally McBeal.
  • I suppose it tells you much about me that my first answers to [Gordon ___] were JUMP and RAMSAY. This one wanted SETTER. Can’t say I’ve heard of Gordon Setters before now.

Didn’t you want MOVIE TIMES instead of START TIMES for [Fandango data]? And while I’m on the topic of random observations, I thought [Something to take a hit in] was a great clue for the game of TWENTY-ONE. It’s right next door to another item of great fill, SAD TO SAY, clued as [Lead-in for a bit of bad news].

Favorite entry = NO MONEY DOWN, the [Car commercial come-on]. (Honorable mention to WORM-EATEN, the term for [Decrepit] that proves there is no such thing as the “breakfast test.”) Favorite clue = [Rock with bits] for comedian CHRIS Rock.

Randolph Ross’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge, 05.04.14

CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge, 05.04.14

Good morning weekend warriors! And if you’re heading to or coming from church, I’ll say to you, PRAISE YE THE LORD (29A: [Revival meeting cry]).

Hope you’re all having a good first few days of May, and also hope you enjoyed this workout of a Sunday Challenge from Mr. Randolph Ross. This Sunday grid was much, MUCH more down my alley than Challenges of the past few weeks, and so much fun to solve with very crunchy long answers.

Again, 1A was going to be the gauge as to how smoothly this grid would go for me, depending on how quickly I could (correctly) guess the answer. Thought it was CAN’T ADD to start (1A: [Is mathematically challenged]), but didn’t pull the trigger until the slam dunk answer of DEREK JETER (6D: [His 3,000th hit was a home run]) filled in the first “d” of 1A for me. Those answers down, and away we went!

As I said, the long answers were fun, fun, and Derek Jeter set the tone. If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, you might react to that last sentence by saying THAT’S GROSS (27D: ["Yuck!"]). Maybe one day, Yankees and Red Sox fans can come together and bang out a BILATERAL TREATY (36A: [Result of the Camp David Accords]). Don’t know that many Santana songs, but OYE COMO VA was a gimmie (12D: [Santana song]). And symmetric to that answer, AT LIBERTY (31D: [Free]) was a sweet fill also.

Moving on to entertainment, and one of my current regrets is not yet having watched An Officer and a Gentleman and see Louis GOSSETT Jr. in his award-winning performance (18A: [Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sergeant Foley]). The nickname confused me a little, but SIR PAUL (49A: [Macca, more formally]) came around soon enough when I remembered hearing that nickname used a few times on British soccer commentator Steve McManaman while watching games. Making the link to McCartney from there was a cinch.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HALOES (25D: [High lights?]) – There was a lot to choose from, but will talk about a little known fact about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Major League Baseball team, nicknamed the Halos (or Haloes). Did you know that the Angels played its inaugural season in 1961 at Wrigley Field??? No, not THAT Wrigley Field. William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum magnate who owned the Chicago Cubs and had the stadium in the Windy City named after him, also owned the original Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) that played in the eponymous ballpark in Los Angeles starting in 1925. Even more surprising, the stadium in Los Angeles was named Wrigley Field (1925) a year BEFORE the one in Chicago was named Wrigley Field (1926). The PCL’s Angels left for Spokane, Wash. in 1957, and four years later, the current iteration of the Angels was part of Major League’s expansion in 1961. They played their first season in Wrigley Field before playing their home games at Dodger Stadium between 1962 and 1965.

Thanks so much for your time, and have a great rest of the weekend!

Take care!

AOK

Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Person, Place or Thing?”

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 5 4 14 "Person, Place or Thing?"

Merl Reagle crossword solution, 5 4 14 “Person, Place or Thing?”

Merl’s theme this week is a fresh one: people, places, and things that are called something that sounds like it should be in a different category of noun.

  • 23a. [A type of book that sounds like a person], PAGE TURNER. Page/Paige is a not-uncommon first name and Turner’s a common English surname.
  • 25a. [A physical feature that sounds like a place], WIDOW’S PEAK. You can’t climb it, but you can shampoo it.
  • 32a. [An actress who sounds like a place], VERONICA LAKE. See also: singer Billy Ocean, TV news person Willow Bay.
  • 41a. [A place that sounds like a daily paper], NEWPORT NEWS. It’s weird to have a town name end with “News,” isn’t it? Are there any others?
  • 51a. [A type of slacker who sounds like a thing], GOLDBRICK.
  • 60a. [A Pennsylvania community that sounds like a person], KING OF PRUSSIA. Who’s it named after?
  • 73a. [A company that sounds like a place], HAMILTON BEACH. Small kitchen appliances and whatnot.
  • 82a. [A household item that sounds like a person], LAZY SUSAN. Most of the Susans I know are doctors and lawyers (not lazy).
  • 90a. [A city in Canada that sounds like a thing], MEDICINE HAT.
  • 99a. [A person who sounds like a car dealership], HARRISON FORD.
  • 112a. [A section of New York City that sounds like a person], MURRAY HILL. I have stayed in a hotel there.
  • 114a. [A sports personality who sounds like a place], TIGER WOODS.

The theme answers are all in the category of “Hey, yeah, that’s kinda weird, isn’t it?” I like it. It would be a lot harder to figure the theme answers out without the crossings, if you were just given a list of the clues and asked to figure out who and what and where was suggested by the clue. Can you think of other good examples?

Five more things:

  • 4d. [A cyclops has one], EYEBROW. I had EYEBALL. Does your average cyclops even have an eyebrow?
  • 8d. [Word in punny salon names], SHEAR. As in Shear Elegance, Shear Perfection, Shear Idiocy.
  • 85d. [Melon's covering], RIND. Went to a Colombian restaurant last night, and they served a quarter avocado in the rind. This got me thinking: Why do we usually see avocados stripped of their rind? And can we start cutting the rind off of a watermelon? I’d like to see a big, juicy watermelon denuded of its green and white rind.
  • 52d. [Small chimp of the Congo], BONOBO. Those salacious bonobos are a delight. Not sure about calling them “small chimps”; they are in the Pan genus with the chimpanzee but are a different species. Does “chimp” apply to both, pannonica?
  • 44d. [Movie whale], NAMU. I couldn’t tell you what movie. Checking … ah, a movie from the year I was born. That explains my lack of familiarity.

Not much else of note in the fill, on either the “omigod, this is terrible” or “oh, wow, this is wonderful” front. 3.75 stars; the puzzle does its job.

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

CRooked • 5/4/14 • "Dog Show" • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

CRooked • 5/4/14 • “Dog Show” • Cox, Rathvon • hex/hook, bg • solution

Canid puns, for better or worse in show. Because puns.

  • 23a. [Alpha dog?] KOMONDOR-IN-CHIEF (Commander-…). You may think you don’t know this breed, but it’s quite likely you have. A Hungarian shepherding dog which looks much like an animate mop. In pop culture, it appears on the cover of Beck’s sophomore album, Odelay. Similar to the smaller and darker puli.
  • 38a. ["It's a dog's life"?] C’EST LA VIZSLA (… la vie). Whaddaya know? Another Hungarian breed. This is the rust-colored hound that resembles the slatish Weimaraner, which as you might imagine originated in Germany.
  • 53a. [Loss for a Tibetan pup?] NO-WIN SHIH-TZU-ATION (… situation). Not from Hungary, obviously.
  • 74a. [Doghouse decorator?] IN-TERRIER DESIGNER (interior …). Not a specific breed, but a large grouping of breeds.
  • 90a. [Having four curly-haired dogs?] QUADRU-POODLE (quadruple). Refers to a few very closely related breeds, distinguished primarily by size. Though it’s the national dog of France and it was standardized there, the breed actually originated in Germany. The name comes, essentially, from ‘puddle’, as they are water-loving dogs.
  • 108a. [Old dogfight site?] ROMAN COLLIE-SEUM (Colosseum). Again, refers to a number of different herding breeds. The one most Americans will imagine is probably the rough collie, as typified by Lassie. The various breeds originated in the United Kingdom.

komondorA mere six theme entries in the grid, all acrosses. None of them what you’d call howlers, but such is the nature of puns. Also, 43d is a bonus entry of sorts: [ __ to success (dog winning our "show"?)] AKITA, from Japan; the symmetrical entry (Horatio ALGER) is not thematic. Anyway, this modest amount provides opportunities for more interesting longer fill. Hence, HOME PLATE, MISINFORM, RIO BRAVO, VAMOOSED, and the so-so IN A DAZE and ADELINE.

Trials:

  • Tangential entries, real and imagined: 94a [Man or dog, e.g.] MAMMAL; 32a [Like a cute pup] LOVABLE; 116a [What cabalists cook up] PLOTS.
  • 26a [Seems nervous] PACES; 91d [Nervousness] UNEASE. 62a [Harlan of sci-fi] ELLISON; 92d [Prolific writer Isaac] ASIMOV. 107d [Novelist Deighton] LEN; 103d [Crime-solving Wolfe] NERO. 105d [Trauma team, for short] EMTS; 48d [Signs of life] VITALS. 27a [Whatever person] ANYBODY crossing 24d [Nary a soul] NO ONE (directly above 53d [Not once] NEVER).
  • 54d [Rowdy rumpus] SHINDY. New to me, though I’ve heard of the presumably altered form, “shindig.” Merriam-Webster further reveals that shindy itself is probably an alteration of shinny, “a variation of hockey played by children with a curved stick and a ball or block of wood.” Not to be confused with a refreshing shandy.
  • Unfortunate fill includes AGAR at 1a and ANIL near the center; trompe l’OEIL (roughly opposite oldish 17d [Tip of the House O'NEILL); ETRE and ERST; ANAT.; ERNO Rubik.
  • 33d [Future embryos] OVA. Would prefer a ‘perhaps’ qualifier.
  • Favorite clue: 88d [Part to remove before shooting] LENS CAP. The puzzle has many more subtly clever clues, which definitely enhanced the solving experience, but I wouldn’t say that they ABOUND (84a).

Overall, about an average crossword, highly dependent on your response to puns. Caveat persolvor.

Wren Schultz’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Never Mind”

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 5 4 14 "Never Mind"

LA Times Sunday crossword solution, 5 4 14 “Never Mind”

Each theme answer has lost an IT, as suggested by the revealer:

  • 118a. ["Never mind," and a hint to this puzzle's theme], FORGET ABOUT IT.
  • 23a. [Mashed potatoes feature?], CENTER OF GRAVY. Gravity.
  • 34a. [Signature clothes-washing move?], CREATIVE WRING. Writing.
  • 51a. [Bear with backup musicians?], SMOKEY AND THE BAND. Bandit.
  • 69a. [Heads-up from your co-star about a former mate in the wings?], EX STAGE LEFT. Exit.
  • 87a. [Home of robot jugglers and digital clowns?], ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. Circuits.
  • 104a. [Stylist's jobs?], BUILDING PERMS. Permits.

I didn’t recognize the constructor’s name, so I Googled it. Ms. Schultz attended her first ACPT this spring, and blogged that getting a crossword published was one of her life goals. Congrats! You did it, and not only less than two months after blogging that you wanted to do it, but with a well-wrought theme. Add- or drop-a-letter themes sometimes leave me cold because the resulting fake phrases are so lifeless, but these themers were kinda cute. I like the concept of having a signature method of wringing out wet clothes, and “Psst, EX STAGE LEFT” amused me. The CENTER OF GRAVY is quite apt as well.

Decent number of interesting answers in the fill—those include Scrabbly PIXAR and QANTAS along with MOO JUICE. STEVE-O from Jackass (12d. ["Wildboyz" co-host]) was an unexpected visitor.

Five other things:

  • 91d. [War precipitators], CRISES. Tough clue.
  • 4a. [Bill and Hillary, e.g.], ELIS. I thought the term was only applied to current Yale students (after university namesake Elihu Yale), but apparently graduates are Elis too.
  • 94a. ["Peg Woffington" author], READE. One of our finest crosswordese authors, right up there with TAMA Janowitz and the initial dudes, EAP, RLS, GBS, and TSE.
  • 67d. [Like an inner tube], TORIC. Geometrically speaking.
  • 6d. [Accord starter], I TOO. As in “I am in agreement, in accord with you. I TOO feel that way.” Big meh.

3.75 stars from me. A promising debut.

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17 Responses to Sunday, May 4, 2014

  1. john farmer says:

    I didn’t know it either, but I think we’ve been misled by the band R.E.O. Speedwagon. From their wikipedia page: “Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did, they chose to spell out the name with the individual letters each pronounced.”

    • pannonica says:

      In that case, do we know whether it was \ˈrē-(ˌ)ō\ or \ˈrā-(ˌ)ō\ ?

      • Gary R says:

        Definitely long-e. I live in the Lansing, MI area, which was home to Reo Motors and the Diamond Reo Truck Company. There’s a section of Lansing known as Reo Town, located near where the original factory was.

        Beyond the confusion created by the rock band, sometimes you see it written REO and sometimes Reo. The name comes from the initials of the founder, Ransom E. Olds, who was also the founder of Oldsmobile.

  2. Makfan says:

    I naticked in three places despite getting the theme fairy quickly. Oh well.

  3. John Haber says:

    Bothered me to have IRATE and IRED in the same puzzle, as well as Tar Heels in a clue and TAR OIL (obscure enough anyhow) in an answer. OTOH, while ATTU and CESTA are bad fill in the sense of crosswordese, I don’t consider them torturous, closer to gimmes for regular solvers. Total annoyance and impossible fills for me are more like the proper names and non-NYC idiom in yesterday’s puzzle, say, that Amy breezes through.

  4. sbmanion says:

    I enjoyed the Sunday puzzle much more than what appears to be the consensus. Only SARAPES bothered me.

    On a side note, I was catching up today on several days worth of newspapers and saw the word VAPE used as a verb to refer to inhaling the new cigarettes. Is this a legitimate word and has it appeared in a crossword yet?

    Steve

  5. pannonica says:

    WaPo: Amazon river dolphins are also called Inia (the same as its genus), which is crossword gold. On a vaguely related note, shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico recently accidentally caught an extremely rare goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni), which is also pink. Happy to report that it was released back into the water after a few photographs were taken.

  6. Linda says:

    Tchotchke is the singular, so chances are tchotchkes is the plural. Ending it with “ies” for the plural is an English device, but the word is Yiddish, so they don’t match. ((*_*)

  7. Brucenm says:

    I originally typed “The idea was good, but I thought the theme entries were weak. How difficult can it be to come up with random phrases with letter sequences like “ray” or “met.”

    I thought I was doing today’s NYT. But it was Friday’s wsj. As you were — though the observation stands, re that Ray puzzle.

  8. Avg Solvr says:

    WaPo: I had “the onions” for “Something to take a hit in.” Too bad it was wrong because I thought it was a great answer!

  9. pannonica says:

    Reagle: [A type of book that sounds like a person], PAGE TURNER. Page/Paige is a not-uncommon first name and Turner’s a common English surname.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page-turner

    [A city in Canada that sounds like a thing], MEDICINE HAT.

    “The name “Medicine Hat” is the English translation of ‘Saamis’ (SA-MUS) – the Blackfoot word for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by medicine men – or ‘Medicine Hat’.” (Wikipedia, again)

    In fact, all of the clues/answers have various versions of the not-quite-discrete-enough vibe.

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    Guess I had a totally different reaction than Amy. Unlike yesterday’s trivia-filled debacle, this was a refreshing change of pace – it’s nice having a themed Sunday. The E Scale took a few seconds of thinking; I don’t consider that answer obscure in the least.

    Has anyone actually seen a Desoto (or a Packard) in the last few years?

    Art

  11. wobbith says:

    WaPo – I’ve been solving crossword puzzles for 49 years or so.
    Good crossword puzzles make me laugh or teach me something useful.
    GREAT crossword puzzles do both, and make my brain hurt for a while.

    Learning that SONATA and AZERA are both Hyundai automobile models
    is not amusing and is a waste of brain cells. Good grief, Frank/Peter, if you
    *must* have AZERA in the grid, just give it a straightforward clue.

    5 star puzzle, -1.5 for “Sonata’s sister”.

    • jefe says:

      I got right away that it referred to Hyundais, but I’d never heard of the Azera. All those proper names made that upper left a real doozy!

  12. CY Hollander says:

    [T]hank goodness I know ENNA from my years of crosswordese studies or that N in PISANO would’ve been a crapshoot.

    The -ano of Pisano means “from [Pisa]“. It’s observable in other words, such as Italiano from Italia and it’s also cognate with the English suffix -an or -ian, so the N is a little more than a crapshoot, though certainly not an easy leap to make.

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