Scott Yut’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
My emotional response to this puzzle will last far, far longer than the three minutes and twenty-eight seconds I spent solving it. I thought, back in 2015 when Will apologized to Jezebel for using [Exasperated comment from a feminist] to clue MEN – I really thought he might have learned something. And then earlier this year when we had [Decidedly non-feminist group] as the clue for HAREM, and Slate took him to task, I thought “Now! Now he’ll get it.” Well, I’ve got another answer for [Decidedly non-feminist group] – NEW YORK TIMES PUZZLE EDITORS (apologies to Margaret Farrar. I didn’t know the woman).
This time it’s not one clue/answer pair – it’s the whole frickin’ theme of the puzzle. And it’s not just tone-deaf – it’s the crossword equivalent to street harassment. Yes, The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, that august institution, is taking its cue from a creepy guy on the street who likes to scream sexual suggestions at women. And no, I’m not exaggerating, and no, I’m not over-reacting, and God help anyone who suggests that I am, or who takes me to task for the tone of my post without also taking Will and his bros to task for the tone of their puzzle. Yeah, I’m angry. In case you haven’t noticed (and since you’re here on teh interwebz, I’m guessing you’ve noticed) we are two weeks away from the end of one of the foulest, most degrading, most openly sexist political spectacles ever visited on this country. The Republican candidate was videotaped bragging about sexual assault, and he’s made a second (or third or fourth or fifth) career out of catcalling and insulting women on Twitter. The only halfway decent thing to come out of this campaign (aside from Hillary Clinton winning) is that we might – maybe – actually have raised the consciousness of some people about the ubiquity of sexual assault. That consciousness-raising comes at the expense of women who are reliving their assaults every time they watch the news or read racy magazines like The Economist. So don’t give me crap about my tone. Just – don’t.
What am I ranting about? We have three theme entries and a revealer (and boy, is THAT ever an appropriate turn of phrase). Each theme answer has a word hidden inside. Take a look. So to speak.
18a [Source of start-up cash, perhaps] = BANK LENDING. Let me take a deep breath and acknowledge that even without the execrable sexism, this is just a lousy puzzle. BANK LENDING isn’t even close to being in the language. Bank loan, sure. Bank lending? Nope.
- 25a [Guava or papaya] = TROPICAL FRUIT.
- 43a [“Fast Times” school] = RIDGEMONT HIGH.
Do you see it yet? No? Well, here’s the kicker. So to speak.
- 55a [Not dress overmodestly … or what 18-, 25- and 43-Across do?] = SHOW SOME LEG.
Look, boys, this is not cute. This is not funny. This is using women’s bodies for sport. The parts of her leg are even arranged bottom-to-top as if she’s lying down with her leg in the air – and the first theme answer crosses LIBIDO for good (or bad) measure.
Great job, Times dudes. You have reminded me that even though I’m a kickass mom and a devoted wife and a really good doc and a loving daughter and a writer and a decent first alto, what I am first and foremost is a body. A woman’s body. And you’ve taken away one of the few corners of the world – certainly one of the few corners of the internet – where I thought I might escape the knowledge that men are always looking, and often touching, whether I want them to or not. I’m the mother of a teenage daughter. God forbid I should spend three minutes and twenty-eight seconds dwelling in the delusion that she is an actual human being.
And, by the way, how much leg should we show, boys? Because we will be judged no matter what we do. Ankle? Calf? Thigh?
There’s supposedly a “breakfast test” that guides Will’s decisions about what material is too distasteful for the puzzles. Adolf Hitler doesn’t pass the breakfast test (or so I’ve been told) although Idi Amin apparently does (but this post is about sexism, not racism). If I had done this puzzle over breakfast, I would have thrown my plate of eggs and toast against the wall and sent the cleaning bill to Will Shortz. Here’s another clue for you [Evidence of male privilege and insensitivity]. Give up? The answer is THIS HORRIBLE EXCUSE FOR A PUZZLE. And that’s definitely in the language.
Steven E. Atwood’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Prefixations” — Jim’s review
Nice grid today from Steven Atwood who’s usually good for a clever twist of word. Nothing new that we haven’t seen before, but it’s a solid theme executed well.
We’re given normal English words that each already have a prefix. But those prefixes are clued as if they were actual separate words.
- 18a [Design of a navy vessel with different features?] SUB VERSION. This clue feels a bit awkward for a rather bland entry.
- 28a [Pressure of dealing with a former spouse?] EX TENSION. Nice.
- 35a [Carfax report?] AUTO BIOGRAPHY. Good clue.
- 42a [Educational opportunity for prisoners?] CON COURSE. Fine.
- 55a [Company that composes insults for its clients?] DIS SERVICE. Funniest of the lot. Reminds me of this Monty Python sketch and specifically the Complaints Department at 3:58.
- 24d [Like a very small fireplace?] MONO LOG. This was a surprise to have one Down themer in addition to the five Acrosses. It’s impressive that this one crosses three other themers (all at the Os!), but the clue doesn’t follow the pattern of the others. It’s not a bad attempt at humor, but it’s definitely not right. It still uses the prefix as a prefix (meaning one). Instead, the clue should read [Account of the spread of the kissing disease?] or something similar.
All in all though, a fun theme. I enjoy themes that use existing phrases in different ways.
Moving on. Or “in,” I should say. 8d is MOVE IN [Take up residence], and you know what I did today? I took up residence in a new home in Washington state. We’ve been living out of suitcases and temporary lodging for over three months, so today is a big day for our family. We are super happy to finally be in a home. All the furniture arrives tomorrow, though, so I’m going to be wrapped up unpacking and such. Tomorrow’s post might be a bit abbreviated.
Back to the grid. Good fill: UNAMUSED MONGOLS involved in a SKIRMISH. Speaking of British comedy (see Monty Python sketch above), SKIRMISH is the name of a fictional “military-based general knowledge quiz show on digital cable television channel, UK Conquest” hosted by fictional character Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan), is a “tactless and inept” radio personality whose deep insecurities would be depressing if he wasn’t so funny at making an ass of himself. I’m Alan Partridge is definitely my favorite British comedy since Monty Python. If you’re already a fan, be sure to check out the very recent fan podcast Monkey Tennis which goes over every episode in hilarious detail.
Okay, sorry about the detour. I also like the clue for EATER [No faster?] and the entry PROLIX [Long-winded]. BEAR OFF (31d, [Final stage of a backgammon game]) is completely new to me, but then I’m not a backgammon player.
Not much that made me scowl overall, but then I just watched some Monty Python and Alan Partridge videos, so I’m in a pretty good mood. Nice puzzle overall.
Erin Rhode’s AVCX crossword, “Cold Serial” — Ben’s Review
Hey, it’s the first puzzle from Erin Rhode since she was announced as a new addition to the constructor rotation at the AV Club earlier in the year! This one’s a 3.5/5 in difficulty, although the theme felt a little familiar to me:
- 18A: Streaming dramatic series about teens playing Yahtzee in the Bronx in the 1970s? — THE GET DICE
- 23A: Streaming mystery series filmed by putting GoPro Cameras on parasitic insects’ heads? — TOP OF THE LICE
- 49A: Streaming comedy in which Aziz Ansari brilliantly considers the feelings of others? — MASTER OF NICE
- 58A: Streaming comedy in which Liz Lemon works at Uncle Ben’s? — THIRTY RICE
- 37A: Modern date, and an apt description of this puzzle’s theme — NETFLIX AND CHILL
The theme this week gave me a little bit of deja vu – I feel like sometime in the last year I’ve solved a crossword that was riffing on “Netflix and chill”, and it may have even been the AV Club. The theme mechanic felt just a smidge inelegant to me, replacing the last three letters of currently streaming series on Netflix (The Get Down, Top of the Lake, Master of None, and 30 Rock) with ICE doesn’t quite pass muster with me. At this point I’m nitpicking, but 30 Rock was originally a network show (unlike the rest of the shows used, which all originated on streaming services), and isn’t spelled out as Thirty Rock, so it felt like the odd man out here.
Enough griping for now – there were plenty of things to like in the rest of the fill:
- 20A: Innuendo-laden eggplant, for one — EMOJI
(we had a pumpkin carving thing at work last Friday and my team carved the ghost emoji into ours)
- 47A: Where Godwin’s Law originated — USENET (tried to make this THE NET at first, which is sort of correct, but not fully)
- 65A: Online marketplace where you can buy many kinds of bedazzled leaf crown — ETSY (if you’re in the market for a faux floral crown, let me know. I have a cousin who does this)
- 10D: Language on the Cadfan stone in Tywyn — OLD WELSH (nailed this one on the first try with no crossing letters and felt mighty proud, y’all.)
- 38D: “Alien” workers? — FILM CREW (thought this was clever)
- 46D: Former Twins pitcher Jim with sixteen Gold Glove awards — KAAT (this is the clue where, even without an author credit, I would have known Erin Rhode wrote the puzzle)
- 52D: A goat-related one will allegedly prevent the Cubs from winning the World Series — CURSE (nooooooooooo! Rooting for you, Chicago!)
- 54D: Code with a deprecated blink tag — HTML (remember when every webpage had blinking text? I would say those were the good old days, but we deprecated that functionality for a reason.)
3/5 stars for me – the theme here still needed a little polish, but the rest of the fill was pretty good.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Add-Ons” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and/or having lunch as good as the spaghetti and meatballs I’m having at the moment. Oh, this is a crossword blog, not a food blog. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, is all about puns, as well-known nouns are altered by adding “ON” to them and creating a new phrase and meaning.
- FLAGON WAVER (20A: [Customer trying to get the barkeep’s attention?]) – Flag waver.
- DILLON PICKLE (27A: [“Gunsmoke” marshal’s sticky wicket?]) – Dill pickle.
- DRAGON RACING (49A: [Sports contest where the mounts have fiery breath?]) – Drag racing.
- BATON MOBILE (61A: [Ozawa-Calder collaboration]) – Batmobile.
If you like your crosswords with hints of politics in it, then this definitely is the grid for you, with the clues and/or entries pertaining to GORE (18A: [Bush-whacked 2000 candidate]), LLOYD (37A: [Bentsen who told Dan Quayle he was “no Jack Kennedy”]), KOCH (30D: [New York City mayor who became a television judge]) and, in a way, the NRA (50D: [Gun lovers’ lobby (abbr.)]). Also, there’s a whole bounch of idyllic places to reside in, both real and mythical/biblical, including UTOPIA (54A: [Shangri-la]), EDEN (32D: [Paradisiacal place]) and OAHU, a place I really want to go to sometime soon (14A: [Diamond Head’s Island]). But I’ll be in a paradisiacal place tomorrow: Pittsburgh, PA. At least, according to Pittsburghers, it’s paradise.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SERENA (24A: [Star that’s close to Venus?]) – What more needs to be said that hasn’t already been said about the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, women’s tennis player of all time, SERENA Williams? Well, I won’t say anything, but I will put up a picture of her that one of my photographers, Robert Cole, shot of her while we were covering the 2016 US Open early last month. Fierce, isn’t she?
Have a great rest of your Wednesday, everyone! I’ll be coming to you from the Steel City tomorrow.
Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
This theme isn’t much – 11/13/11 – you might say it’s mere [Peanuts] – CHICKENFEED, SMALLPOTATOES or even CHUMPCHANGE.
It does make it easy to construct a clean puzzle. In fact, I’d say this makes a very good Monday for a Wednesday. It’s clean, but there aren’t so many standout answers – mostly vocab like GEWGAW and STARSHIP (no link) – and the clues are Monday-level: over the plate.