June 13, 2009

Sunday, 6/14

NYT 8:12
Reagle LAT Calendar 8:02
LAT 7:48
Reagle 6/7 Philadelphia Inquirer 7:17
Reagle 6/14 Philadelphia Inquirer 7:00
BG whoops, forgot to note my time; 7:something, I think
CS 4:04
NYT cryptic 13:42

Brendan Quigley's New York Times crossword, "D-Plus"

Pop quiz: Among the NYT crosswords published from June 1 to June 14, how many were constructed by women? The answer—can I get a drum roll, please?—is zero. That's right. We are now on day 14 of Female Constructor Obliteration Watch.

No aspersions on Brendan, of course, as his puzzle today is a fine specimen. I grade the "D-Plus" theme as considerably better than a D+. Each theme entry begins with a familiar phrase; Brendan adds a D sound, which compels a spelling change to result in an actual word. The trumped-up phrase is then clued more or less plausibly, and I like how most of the theme played out:

  • 23A. "Do penance" becomes DO PENDANTS, or [Make necklace baubles?].
  • 25A. [Hip lineages?] are COOL BREEDS, arising from a "cool breeze."
  • 39A. [Tonto's pep?] is SIDEKICK ENERGY. Wow, that's a helluva change for an add-a-letter theme, going from "psychic" to SIDEKICK.
  • 50A. PASSED MUSTARD builds on "passed muster," and is clued [Gave Grey Poupon to the head of the table?].
  • 66A. Hah! The Amityville Horror yields AMITYVILLE HOARDER, or the [Greediest person in a Long Island locality?].
  • 85A. There's a "leper colony" at the root of LEOPARD COLONY, or [Spotted feline's home?].
  • 94A. This one took me the longest to figure out. HOUSE-ADDRESSED is [Like residential mail?] and plays on "house arrest" with a D sound inserted.
  • 114A. A "bowler hat" + D = BOULDER HAT, or [Certain Colorado headgear?].
  • 116A. [Bamboozle Eisenhower?] clues SNOW DWIGHT, from "Snow White." Took me a while to shake Mamie loose from my head.

The least familiar fill, if you ask me, is MAOTAI, or this [Strong Chinese liquor], and KAKA, or [One-named Brazilian soccer star in the 2008 Time 100]. Both of these answers are in the same section of the grid, and MAOTAI's crossing with NARA, [Japan's first capital], might prove a gnarly spot for some solvers.

The best fill begins right off the bat with 1-Across: [1982 best seller subtitled "And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality," with "The"] clues the G-SPOT. I have no problem with that as crossword fill. Among the other clues and answers I liked, we have [Many keys]/IVORIES and KOOL-AID/[Drink made from a mix]. And the NARTHEX! That's a [Way to the nave] but not, I guess, to the apse. ("I'll take Cathedral Parts for $800, please, Alex." Speaking of cathedrals, apparently the [Curved high-back bench] called an EXEDRA is etymologically related to "cathedral," with hedra meaning "seat.") PAPER LOSS is an [Unrealized hit taken on an investment. [One of the Planeten] is ERDE; that's German for "planets" and "Earth." DOTS is a [Classic pencil-and-paper game] that I ought to teach my kid. DOTH is an [Obsolete auxiliary] word; the primary auxiliaries, the dictionary tells me, are be, do, and have, while the modal auxiliaries include can, could, may, might, must, should, shall, will, and would. [How cringe-making humor might go] is TOO FAR; with the last four letters in place, I was expecting a SHOFAR clue here. Love the word APERÇU, or [Quick look]. ALGER HISS, the [Suspected spy in a celebrated 1949 trial], gets the full-name treatment. Interesting clue for ROAD SIGNS: [They often start with "No"].

Daniel Raymon's NYT second Sunday puzzle, a cryptic crossword

I think Raymon is new to the ranks of NYT cryptic setters, and I felt like I had a harder time than usual sussing out the clues. Or maybe I'm coming down with a bug—I have that foreboding. Does the common cold interfere with anagramming capabilities? Is there research on this? Or did you find the various anagram clues to be less obvious than usual?

Anyway, big thanks go to Will Johnston, who has posted his parsed solution online. Not that I relied on it to finish the puzzle, but hey, I like to encourage you all to do cryptics, and having a thorough explanation of how each clue yields its answer is a good way to learn the ropes. Saves me the trouble of writing it all down!

As Will notes, 16D is a good find in the anagram category. 22A is an anagram that took me forever to figure out, thanks to some unusual letter combos in the answer. Among the two 15-letter answers, 2D is terrific, but I could do without dull words like 7D. That's one thing I like about Harvey Estes' cryptics in Games/Games World of Puzzles—really lively and entertaining phrases in the answer grid.


Yeah, it's time for a chocolate break from crosswords. We were at Water Tower Place today and the Lindt store is going out of business. 50% off! We probably bought 4 or 5 lbs. of Swiss chocolate, and for only $26. Yum. If you live in Chicago and like Lindt, head on over before the candy's all gone.

Merl Reagle's 6/7 Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "I Haven't the Vegas Idea"

I just got word from Lloyd Mazer that the Merl Reagle puzzles last Sunday and this Sunday in the L.A. Times Calendar section (filling in during Sylvia Bursztyn's hiatus) are puzzles specifically for that publication, even though they bear the "PI" filenames via the Puzzle Pointers and Cruciverb links. The crosswords Merl published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, and other papers for June 7 and June 14 are different. You can find today's PI/WaPo puzzle at Merl's website, Sunday Crosswords.

The theme, as you might guess from the title and Merl's propensity for punning, is Vegas/gambling-related puns:
  • [Really swell in Vegas?] clues PEACHY KENO, adding the game of chance to "peachy keen."
  • Cheapskates turn into CHIPSKATES, or [Misers, in Vegas?].
  • My favorite entry is the literary pun PAIR OF DICE LOST—["Your throw didn't win," in Vegas?]—riffing on Milton's Paradise Lost.
  • Campbell's becomes GAMBLE SOUP COMPANY, or [Big food supplier, in Vegas?].
  • [First native American to own a gaming parlor?] doesn't mention Vegas in the clue, unlike all the other theme clues. POKER-HONTAS replaces Pocahontas here.
  • [What gaming fans have, in Vegas?] is SLOTS TO THINK ABOUT (sub "lots" for SLOTS).
  • [Put off playing a certain game, in Vegas?] is PROCRAPSTINATE. This alteration of "procrastinate" puts me in mind of certain potty talk.
  • "See no evil" turns into CASINO EVIL, or [Being addicted to gaming, perhaps?].
  • [Vegas, in a way] is a BETTING ZOO, playing on "petting zoo."

A couple unusual answers in the fill—S. NEV., short for Southern Nevada, is [Where Vegas is, in gazetteer shorthand]. Wow, "gazetteer shorthand"! I don't think I need that much. This answer crosses NEAME, or [Ronald who directed "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"]—never heard of the guy.

Oh, dang. I meant to do the 6/14 PI puzzle and blog it, skipping last week's—and here I did the 6/7 puzzle. I think the 6/14 isn't posted at Merl's blog yet and I assumed it was this weekend's; I was using Lloyd's Across Lite file. Got to add another puzzle to my to-do list...

Updated Sunday morning:

Will Nediger's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword,"Watch the Birdie"

In golf, a birdie is ONE UNDER PAR, and that's the unifying answer at 69-Across. In 10 precisely symmetrical spots in the grid (I circled those squares for clarity and was astonished to see the perfect symmetry), ONE appears right under PAR. The coolest part of this is ONE UNDER PAR itself, with a PAR (in PARD) above the ONE and a ONE (in IONE) below the PAR. Often, the explanatory answer describing the theme doesn't exemplify the rule it sets forth, but this one does—twice.

You'd think the fill with PAR and ONE in it would lead to some tortured fill, but some of my favorite entries are in the ONE-under-PAR sections. There's J.R. EWING, the [TV shooting victim on 3/21/1980]; MR. PEANUT, the [Monocled food mascot]; APOLLO IX, or [Lunar Module test mission]; and a BEANPOLE who is, physiologically speaking, an [Ectomorph]. Right beside the PAR/ONE chunks are a bunch of great longish multi-word answers, including IT'S A BOY, or [Delivery notice?]; LEFT HOME, or [Moved out]; a SKI MASK, or [Holdup cover-up; OPENED UP, or [Bared one's soul]; and LIBEL LAW, or [Attorney's specialty]. And PALINDROMIC is a great word to put in the exact middle of a puzzle with heightened symmetry; it means [The same either way].

Favorite clue: TAN is [One of two Crayola colors with the shortest name]; the other is red. ZISSOU, BENELUX, CZECHS, and PLAIN JANE add to the Scrabble score here.

Much more on the puzzle from L.A. Crossword Confidential's PuzzleGirl, who absolutely loved this theme. (It inspired the use of many exclamation points, in fact.)

Merl Reagle's L.A. Times Calendar puzzle, "This Bud's for You"

I think this is the puzzle that's appearing in the L.A. Times Calendar section today. Let me know if it's not.

The theme answers are all flower puns, and I like flowers so this theme was right up my alley. Merl has a whopping 12 theme entries spelling out 11 puns:
  • 18A. ASTER OUT puns on "asked her out" and is clued [Invited a lady to the Flower Ball?].
  • 23A. Violet and violent are just a letter apart. VIOLET TENDENCIES are [What people with Flower Power exhibit?].
  • 30A. Trilliums are three-petaled wildflowers that sound like "trillions." ONE TRILLIUM DOLLARS is [What you might win in the FTD Sweepstakes?].
  • 50A. [Flowery adventure film?] is BACK TO THE FUCHSIA (Back to the Future). Given the American pronunciation of this flower/color, hardly anybody spells it right. They go with "fuschia," completely disregarding the flower's eponym, German botanist Leonhard Fuchs.
  • 57A. [Flowery courtroom remark?] is IRIS MY CASE ("I rest my case").
  • 62A. [With 74 Across, parent's flowery warning about video games and comic books?] is THAT JONQUIL / ROT YOUR MIND. ("That junk'll...")
  • 81A. SAVE A PEONY is clued as [What a Southern flower-grower can hardly do nowadays?]. She can hardly save a penny nowadays? Is that the original phrase?
  • 86A. [Flower shop come-on?] is AZALEA CAN'T RESIST ("a sale you can't resist").
  • 104A. An Enemy of the People turns into ANEMONE OF THE PEOPLE, or [Ibsen play with the most flowery language?].
  • 118A. "Thanks for being a pal" becomes THANKS VERBENA PAL, or [Response to someone who sent you flowers?].
  • 125A. The last theme entry is my favorite for sheer weirdness. GERANIUM is a [Parachuting florist's cry as he leaves the plane?]. Why say "Geronimo!" when you can say "Geranium!"?

A few other clues and answers:
  • 63D. [Alexander and Addams] are JANES, the actress and the famous reformer. A similar clue is 51D, [Burt or Hurt, e.g.], for ACTOR. William Hurt and...Burt Reynolds?
  • 61A. [Basic cable, basically] is PAY TV. If you don't have cable, a dish, or a digital TV, did your TV go away this weekend?
  • 96D. [How to "carry moonbeams home"] is IN A JAR.
  • 55D. This one's the very worst answer in the weekend puzzles I've done so far, but it's still easily gettable. IEIO is clued as [E followers in a farm tune], "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

Merl Reagle's June 14 Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Tri-V-ial Pursuit"

Each theme entry has some tri-V trivia, where the answer phrase contains the letter V three times. With nine theme answers, that's 27 V's in the puzzle.

My goodness, I've been blogging a lot of puzzles. It's almost time for an IHOP pancake break. But first, the tri-V-ia theme includes these answers:
  • 62A. [Famed victory speech] is Julius Caesar's VENI, VIDI, VICI, or "I came, I saw, I conquered." What an ass. Am I right?
  • 72A. One of many schools that could be called the [Wildcats' home] is VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY.
  • 84A. [1964 musical about a race car driver named Lucky Jackson] is VIVA LAS VEGAS. When I see "musical" I think of the stage, but some musicals really demand cinema, don't they?
  • 119A/129A. The VELVET DIVORCE is the [Term for Czechoslovakia's peaceful breakup in 1993] into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Velvet Revolution (also three V's) was the peaceful end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Writer VACLAV HAVEL was [Czechoslovakia's leader before its breakup]. Havel visited the White House during the Sosa/McGwire home run derby, and referred to "Sammy Soser."

Five assorted clues: [What RNA has that DNA lacks] is URACIL. Ivan PAVLOV was a noted [Dog studier] (6D). Why is 48D SKID ROW [No place to be somebody]? Is that from a song? To [Yield to desire] is 54D INDULGE, as in "indulge yourself with some Lindt dark chocolate/raspberry truffles." 79A/80A are the two-part answer AIR BALL, [With 80 Across, a court gaffe].

Updated Sunday afternoon:

Aw, pancake break was cancelled.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite, "Essay Questions"

This puzzle had a lot of "meh" fill around the entertaining theme (in which SA, which sounds like "essay," is added to phrases to alter their meaning), but I'll give Henry props for the gutsiness of stacking all the theme entries. Really, who does that? The eight theme entries appear in stacked pairs in each corner of the grid:
  • POPULAR SAUSAGE began as "popular usage." The punny clue is [Best of the wurst?]. This answer sits atop SATRAP SHOOTING, or [Ruthless ruler's assassination?]. I'm just nerdy enough to appreciate a bit of wordplay that produces a crosswordese sort of word, SATRAP.
  • Moving to the upper right corner, we start with SAVANNA WHITE, or [Snow on a tropical grassland?]. Good play on Vanna White! The AB negative blood type becomes SAAB NEGATIVE< a [Point in Volvo's favor?].
  • Continuing clockwise to the Florida corner, we have a [Chapter in lettuce's autobio?], WHEN I WAS A SALAD, and the double +SA play of SALINE OF SAFIRE, or [Columnist William's lens cleaner?]. If you're gonna have just one theme entry that goes beyond what the other ones do, the last one in the grid is the place to put it, so score one for Hook.
  • The last pair includes EERIE SAMOANS, or [Polynesians who scare you?]. "Eerie moans" isn't remotely an in-the-language singular unit of meaning, but I do rather like EERIE SAMOANS. A turn signal becomes SATURN SIGNAL, or [Extraterrestrial communication?].

What did I mean about "meh" fill? Things like prefix ANEMO, AMAIN, STOA, EMAG, TIU (that's a [Germanic war god] who seldom appears in crosswords), and an unfamiliar MOORHEN. The clue for NETH. is given as [Du. land] and boy, I've never seen "Dutch" abbreviated that way. Maybe in the etymology note in a dictionary definition or something. I'd have gone with [Dutch land: Abbr.], personally. Fancier fill: KEY WEST, the "VOLSUNGA Saga" of Icelandic legend, documentarian Morgan SPURLOCK (whom a bunch of us met at Sundance), Beatrix Potter's squirrel NUTKIN, and ACADIAN clued as the [Word that gave us "Cajun"].

Will Johnston's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

Crazy-looking grid, isn't it? I don't remember ever seeing one like this. Between the triple stacks at the top and bottom is a roiling midsection that zigs and zags. The difficulty level seemed about usual for a themeless CrosSynergy puzzle, didn't it? Some clues and answers of note:
  • [Advertiser who may be on a lot?] is a USED CAR SALESMAN.
  • [Naval battle of 1571 in which the Ottomans were defeated as a sea power] is LEPANTO. Say what? The Battle of LEPANTO is not in my ken. With the ANTO in place, I wanted LECANTO (a Florida town near my in-laws' place) or OTRANTO (an Italian place I know from crosswords).
  • [Binge] is the verb, not the noun, cluing GO ON A BENDER.
  • In Latin, [In the meantime] is AD INTERIM.
  • [Hector, in Italian] is ETTORE.
  • The RIGHT LANE is the [Way to an off-ramp, usually]. Chicago's Eisenhower Expressway has some left lane exits that throw me off.
  • KAOLINITE is a [Clay mineral used in glossy paper]. I know kaolin, the clay, but not KAOLINITE.
  • "GUN IT!" is clued ["Put the pedal to the metal!"]. I'll bet you could Google up a slew of misspellings. "Put the petal to the medal." "Put the peddle to the meddle."
  • Never heard of this IRINA: [Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Shayk].