Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
Don’t believe what you see on the NYT’s applet about my solving time. I had a blank white space in place of the puzzle and refreshed the page a couple times, so I started the puzzle with 50 seconds gone.
Baseball terminology as the grand unifying theory of the theme doesn’t do much for me, and then there were the reservations I had about the way the theme played out. First off, this is one of those themes in which most of the theme entries are the sorts of phrases you’d ordinarily see in a clue, while their clues are single words. And also:
- 17a. If you’re having a [*Ball], you’re having a GREAT TIME.
- 24a. [*Strike] clues a WORK STOPPAGE.
- 29a. Another sort of [*Ball] is a LAVISH PARTY. This answer doesn’t look any better than GREAT TIME.
- 40a. Another [*Strike] is a BOWLER’S COUP. Is it really a coup? Bowling a perfect 300 is a coup. Getting a strike is the sort of thing even I can pull off on occasion.
- 46a. TV COMEDIENNE is a rather horrible entry, isn’t it? “TV comedienne” isn’t a lexical chunk. And I’m no fan of the -enne ending. What, a woman can’t be a comedian?
- 59a, 61a. FULL-COUNT / PITCH is when there are three balls and two strikes, and the next pitch will force a decision (unless the batter hits a foul ball or gets a hit, there’ll be a walk or a strikeout, but really, given how many fouls you can hit, there could be a bunch of full-count pitches in a row, no?). Wait, it has to be split into two entries? And the symmetrical partner for PITCH is SNAPE? Inelegant.
Do they still sell books ON TAPE (10d: [Like some audiobooks])? They’re not all CDs or MP3s now? I have zero interest in listening to a book, so I have no idea.
33a: EGG is a [Frittata need]. Yesterday’s dinner was a frittata of sorts. Scrambled eggs + pesto mixed in + mozzarella = yum. If you like pesto or you’re just looking for a way to make green eggs & ham, look no further!
Nothing really called out to me in the fill as being particularly lively or loathsome.
One reader mentioned to me that she didn’t care for the word GYP (35d: [Swindle]) the other day, so I looked that up in the New Oxford American Dictionary widget. It says the etymology is “late 19th century, of unknown origin.” That sounds harmless enough, right? Then I spent the next 45 minutes reading a wide-ranging discussion of “gyp” at the well-regarded Language Hat blog. I will join Language Hat in eschewing the word, as there are Gypsy/Romany Americans who bridle at its usage. I like to err on the side of not causing offense.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I didn’t see where this theme was going until I finally worked my way down to 63a: POSITIVE is the [Word (suggested by the black shape in this grid’s center) that can precede the answers to starred clues]. Rather than just applying to one part of a compound word or phrase, POSITIVE can modify all five complete answers:
- 17a. [*Survey response] provides FEEDBACK, which can be positive or negative.
- 21a. If you’re THINKING, you may be [*Trying to remember]. Pessimism has recently been associated with living longer, so who needs positive thinking?
- 26a. Good [*Prospects] = positive OUTLOOK.
- 48a. [*Disposition] = MINDSET.
- 55a. If you have a [*Cocky manner], you’ve got a lot of ATTITUDE.
There have certainly been crosswords that happened to have a plus sign made of black squares in the center, but they generally just sit there. It’s cute that this one is there for a thematic reason. John Lampkin strikes me as a positive person. (Heck, a lot of crossword constructors are!) He took a picture of a pair of crimson-fronted parakeets in Costa Rica last month—two lovebirds courting on Valentine’s Day. Aren’t they cute? A pessimist would suspect that a predator ate them shortly after this photo was taken.
A dozen more clues:
- 1a. I must respectfully disagree with this clue that the HOLE is the [Inedible Swiss cheese part?]. The hole is the only part of Swiss cheese that I’m willing to eat.
- 20a, 68a. [Juliet’s volatile cousin] is TYBALT and a TYRANT is an [Oppressive boss]. I like the visual echoes between these two words.
- 40a, 46a. [Push-up sound, perhaps] is a GRUNT. This is not about a BRA, or [Push-up garment]. Me, I like to make fun of the exertion-grunters at the gym; don’t they know how ridiculous they sound? I used to like Push-Ups, the orange-sherbet pops.
- 2d. Tough clue for OBEY, this [Carry out]. If you carry out my orders, you’re obeying my orders.
- 6d. Did you know the classic clear plastic Bic ballpoint had a fancy name? BIC is clued as [Cristal maker]. I was thinking champagne rather than pens.
- 8d. [Best-seller] clues HOT ITEM, which I’m not sure is a “thing.”
- 18d. BLOOPERS! Great entry.
- 37d. [Pierre’s state] isn’t S. DAK. C’est un ETAT.
- 49d. [Like staccato notes] clues DOTTED. One of those things I just don’t know.
- 60d. [Brutus’ bird] is an AVIS, Latin for “bird.” I think the plural is aves.
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Remember the good old days when the national and world news was alarming and gripping, and yet the news cycle was still fixated on Charlie Sheen? It’s time to take a Bad News break and indulge in some Sheeinsanity. Tyler’s puzzle is light and silly, even though the grid extends to a serious 16 columns wide.
The theme features CHARLIE SHEEN and his TIGER / BLOOD, the BI-WINNING ways of a ROCK STAR FROM MARS with ADONIS DNA. I don’t recall learning the phrase EXPLODED BODY during Charliemania; is that Tyler’s own addition of a dangerous side effect. Anyway, Tyler ties these utterances together into pharmaceutical ad for a “new drug called CHARLIE SHEEN,” since Sheen said the only drug he was on was Charlie Sheen. It’s a creative approach to spinning a theme out of things Sheen said.
My only criticism of this theme is that it does not include anything about Vatican assassin warlocks.
Highlights in the fill: fresh DEMOING, literary and Scrabbly KAZUO Ishiguro, fun-to-say DEBUNKS.
- 22a. [“The Outsiders” rich kids] were the SOCs (pronounced “soshes,” derived from “Socials”). I think the clue ought to be in the singular, but I like a reference to The Outsiders.
- 8d. [Internet abbr. that rarely seems to be sincere] clues IMHO. If you’re not humble, why not just go with IMO?
Least familiar answer:
- 74a. [Faithful friend in”The Aeneid”] is ACHATES. I’m better with the Iliad than the Aeneid.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ocean Crossings”—Janie’s review
In case you hadn’t figured it out on your own, Patrick provided a helper clue/fill combo to clarify the gimmick (and the puzzle’s title) at 59-Down: [Ocean “crossing” this puzzles four longest answers (abbr.)] for ATL (the Atlantic…). But I’m going to guess that that, given the title…, solvers here were readily able to make that connection themselves, finding the embedded abbreviation within:
- 17A. MEAT LOCKER [Refrigerated storeroom]. Remember Sylvester Stallone as Rocky in the meat locker with Burt Young? The first movie. One classic scene.
- 10D. MUSKRAT LOVE [1976 Captain & Tenille hit]. Same year as Rocky… Somehow I don’t imagine this was Rocky and Adrian’s song—but hey, one never know. At first I thought all of the theme entries were going to be M/L phrases, but I was disabused of that notion soon enough with
- 25D. THREAT LEVEL [Homeland Security chart listing]. May it always be low; and
- 57A. GREAT LAKES [North American quintet]. Which we remember with the mnemonic HOMES, for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Was a little surprised by this particular theme entry, since it mixes the metaphors (so to speak) by introducing another type of “body of water.”
When it comes to ocean crossings, make mine on the QE2. Sinbad made seven VOYAGES […trips], each one offering exotic adventure if not creature comforts. While he did encounter the (crossword-familiar) Roc, am not sure that any of the tales make mention of his encountering DOLPHINS [Swimmers with blowholes]. Did a Persian equivalent of the [Smoky-voiced singer Edith] PIAF sing a Siren-like song to him? Read your Arabian Nights to find out! (And did Ms. Piaf acquire that smoky voice by inhaling too many MENTHOLS [Some cigarettes]…)?
Other fill that caught my fancy would have to include QUOTABLE [Worthy of being repeated], the crunchy GRANOLAS [Cereals in health food stores] and FOR GOOD [Permanently]. ( Entered FOREVER initially. Anyone else?) Also liked the poetic cluing of [Versified rhapsody] for ODE and [“The windows of the soul”] for EYES. The clue with “new information” (to me, anyway) was [Appaloosa marking], which is SPOT. Now that’s one interesting breed!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Terror From Above”
This theme mostly operates in the Down dimension because when THE SKY IS FALLING, those celestial objects are falling down. (This, of course, posits that the earth’s gravitational pull could exert its effects on far-flung orbs. Pretend you don’t know science, OK?)
- 34a. THE SKY IS FALLING is a [Doomsday expression, or what you might start to think if you stare at the Down answers for too long]. From left to right…
- 35d. [Java company, casually] is SUN MICRO(systems). The SUN is falling down in the grid.
- 5d. [Meteorologist’s area] is the CLOUD LAYER.
- 29d. STAR SEARCH was an [’80s-’90s Ed McMahon talent competition show].
- 10d. [Boat feature for divers and drillers] clues MOON POOL. Never heard of this thing before, which made that corner of the g rid especially rough for me.
It’s fairly subtle as themes go.
- The 6×4 and 8×3 corners.
- 2d. AMARANTH is a [Long-lasting flowering plant often mentioned in poetry] with a pretty name.
- 6d. LINGUINI is a [Pappardelle alternative].
- 12d. [His “Symphony No. 1” was written at age eight] clues MOZART. When I was 8, creating cacophony on a xylophone was about the best I could do musically.
- 36d. The FILLMORE is a [San Francisco rock venue associated with psychedelic posters, with “The”]. Are you like me? Do you always want to spell it out “F, F, FIL! L, L, LMO! O, O, ORE! Fillmore Junior High!” because of that one Brady Bunch episode?
- 45d. NAME IT. [“Whatever you want”].
- 23a. “EAT MY DUST!” is a great answer and it’s clued as a [Drag racing taunt].
- 26a. [Adonis ___] clues DNA. Hee.
- 16a. [Response to fireworks] gets you the 3-O OOOH.
- 48a. [Self: Pref.] clues AUT. We usually have an O on the end of that, but the O has been transferred to 16a.
- 59a. [Saudi Arabian province] is ASIR. Hey! That one’s not even crosswordese I know.
- 60a. [Options above “all of the above”] is the four-word A, B, OR C.
- 62a. CATO [___ Institute (Charles Koch’s think tank)].
- 7d. ANIL’S [“___ Ghost” (Michael Ondaatje novel)].
A little OUT of it tonight, slow to CATCH on, trying to fit the theme answers with the game revealers rather than the starred Clues themselves. A rowdy party could carry on at FULL PITCH, as could Lucille BALL, but I had to COUNT myself too drowsy for the penny to drop! Also, I must remember it’s UHURA, not UHURU, one of these days!
i had to guess at one square: DUF_Y crossing _LA. should i know marco island? what is it notable for? i tried aLA and DUFaY, which is at least plausible (it’s the name of a major renaissance composer). oops, i see how i could’ve worked this one out: ALA is elsewhere in the grid. i guess i have to be more careful.
To all at the ACPT: Good Luck. I tried the 2010 xwords on the site today, and the BEQ made me cry. (Made me cry out very bad words). I didn’t come close to finishing. Eff you, BEQ, you sadistic bum.
Go Joon, Amy, and the crew!
P.S. BEQ, I still love your puzzles.
“I like to err on the side of not causing offense.”
That’s where you and I differ. You can’t please everyone … but it’s easy to p*** everyone off. And a lot more fun.
MOPSY/MSU crossing didn’t bother anyone else?
Surprised to see “GYP” in the NYT. Will another three letter word for “drive a hard bargain” soon appear?
HH, you make yourself sound like an internet troll! I appreciate that you rein in your impulses here on my site.
Jeffrey, I was thinking that Potter had rabbits named MOPSY and TOPSY and thus the Spartans college sports trivia was the deciding factor, but they’re Mopsy and Flopsy. So I erased the “worst crossing” sentence I had written and moved on.
GYP’s appeared before, and the connotation is divided and questionable, with no proof of origin, which is how it still sneaks in from time to time. I agree though, that maybe we shuold retire that one.
HH, feel free to sprinkle that stuff liberally in your puzzles though, as I also like a few surprises. Keeps life interesting. Only a few can get away with offensive in a smart way. Mel Brooks was also pretty damned good at it in his prime ;).
I knew Julia DUFFY from Newhart, so that wasn’t unfair (to me). MOPSY was also in my ken… but I had written in USC Trojans already, so it didn’t come immediately.
I think I could’ve done without the PITCH part of the tie-together. FULL-COUNT describes what’s going on, and that gets rid of the nasty SNAPE problem. I didn’t dislike this puzzle as much as most others here, apparently. Maybe the longer you look at it, the more you like it? (Rationalizing my slow solve.)
I liked this puzzle. It had the feel of a themeless for me. The tie-in answer is interesting. FULL COUNT PITCH is not an expression you would normally hear. An announcer would probably note that the count is full and then possibly announce “Here’s the pitch,” or “The pitch is on the way.” On the other hand, the pitch when the count is full is of course the FULL COUNT PITCH. I did not think that the phrase needed to be an in the language idiom to be appropriate and effective.
South half of the puzzle was definitely tougher for me than the north.
“Full count pitch” sounded fine to me so I googled it. There are a couple of hundred thousand hits, including FullCountPitch Magazine. Maybe it’s only some announcers, but I swear I hear John Miller calling “the full-count pitch is high and Posey is on base again.”
“Full count pitch” definitely seems like a familiar phrase, but only within the sphere of baseball. I’ve heard it spoken and written many times in recaps and color commentary.
So if you’re familiar with baseball terms, this is completely natural. If not, I can see where this theme might be “juuust a bit outside” of the strike zone for some.
I liked the puzzle idea. Pretty clever. There’s no real problem with “full count pitch,” a term that’s probably been spoken by announcers many times, and is even a magazine, as Martin points out. The only issue is that the inside-baseball term would be “payoff pitch,” which sounds better to my ear, though it may have been a head-scratcher for non-baseball fans (or is that baseball non-fans?).
There oughta be name for these terms that are acceptable, even supported by Google, but sound either a little off or just not as good as something else. I had “lion trainer” in a puzzle I was working on recently but decided to rework the grid and go with something else. I found plenty of support for it, but to my ear it still sounded like a mix of “lion tamer” and “animal trainer,” both better fill, making “lion trainer” sound a little off.
Re: the Wed NYT, curious what others think. Is EILAT really known widely enough to justify being in a puzzle? Looking for serious answers only – it seems fairly arcane to me. Malindi is a port in Zanzibar, Arica is a port in Chile – would solvers also need to have these in their arsenal? What is acceptable in terms of geographical reference?
Otherwise liked the puzzle and a great welcome to a new season of baseball.
@John E: Oh, absolutely not! But with two super-common consonants and three vowels, it’s one of those crosswordese place names that recurs. I suspect EILAT has a low score in ranked constructor word lists.
Note to all those wishing to expunge GYP from the English language: Amongst others, you’ll need to expurgate your copies of The Great Gatsby, along with works by P. G. Wodehouse, John Dos Passos, Sir Walter Scott, Thackeray etc. If you’re serious about this word causing offense, I suggest you discontinue reading these authors since they were so obviously such crass fellows. Better YET, become a literary TORCH and indulge in some pleasant book-burning.
I wasn’t impressed by the payoff in the NYT. For the Onion on the other hand, Charlie Sheen’s rants, while completely non-newsworthy, are fun to fill in. But, ACHATES? All crosses.
@Daniel: There is a vast difference between USING a word that may offend and censoring literature. We can leave the N-word where Twain used it in his 19th century novel, but good lord, man, I won’t defend the right of any non-black person to use it as an epithet! Do you really not see the difference between USING insensitive language oneself and merely leaving it in its historical place in previously published works?
The difference is that the vast majority of people who use “gyp” do not know the possible association with “gypsy,” and certainly don’t mean to disparage the Romany. That is very different than someone using the n-word or even “jew” as a verb.
My evidence is the dictionary, which does not flag the word as offensive. Don’t get me wrong. Like “squaw” and other words we did not know were offensive, it’s a nice idea to avoid the word. But to use an association (not even definitive) that most speakers are unaware of to scream insensitivity seems a bit insensitive in itself. And as Will Shortz pointed out, sometimes a puzzle can’t be filled without GYP. Is it appropriate to deep-six a puzzle for this reason?
“nd as Will Shortz pointed out, sometimes a puzzle can’t be filled without GYP.”
Anyway, who can resist a “no-vowel” word that’s also a 9-pointer in Scrabble?
What’s with the cluing for OLEAN and BEANO in the CS, you’re given a goldmine and you produce a variation of Bingo?! My eyes must’ve deceived me.
@Amy: “Do you really not see the difference between USING insensitive language oneself and merely leaving it in its historical place in previously published works?”
No, in the case of GYP, I do not. In fact, I think I’ll start using it more often. I don’t think many people will even blink an eyelid, whatever their ethnic extraction.
Further, this notion of leaving a word cosily “in its historical place” scotches the relevancy of such works that employ the term. Do you not think Joseph Conrad knew what he was doing when he titled one of his great works “The N-word of the Narcissus.”?
@Daniel: Right, until the one time you’re overheard by someone of Romany extraction who thinks you an absolute boor for using the word. What the heck is wrong with using “rip off” or “swindle” or “cozen” instead? Why pretend that there are no workable synonyms? And I’m quite certain that if Conrad were publishing today, he wouldn’t find a publisher willing to use that title. Times change. Perspectives change. The human race advances, bit by bit.
And don’t use “cozen” around my cousin, who’s very touchy about that one. ;-)
Early on I noticed that FEEDBACK and THINKING were theme entries and thought the connection was that they could both be NEGATIVE. Does that make me a pessimist.
Amy wrote: “The human race advances, bit by bit.”
As the human race advances – towards overpopulation and self-destruction – I shall concede and start referring to GYPsum as hydrous calcium sulphate, lest a mineralogist of Romany extraction deem me a boor.
@Papa John: I don’t think that when I look at adults, but my son’s generation has some pretty cool kids in it.
For all of the conversation today about gyp, was I the only one who also found the clue for bum to be tone deaf?
No, Meem, you weren’t. I only had so much time and energy here, but given that BUM has other meanings—ski bum, bum a ride, bum out, bum around—I agree with you that going the destitute-beggar route was unwelcome.
I wasn’t enthralled by Mr. Lampkin’s theme (I guess I’m the pessimist), but I really liked the grid and the fill. One of the more elegant constructions I’ve seen there.
Not a big fan of the Crossynergy. One, the word hidden in the long phrases shouldn’t be an abbreviation, unless it’s something used in common speech. And two, ATL is Atlanta, not the Atlantic. In my mind, anyway.
I thought the BUM clue was fantastic. That doesn’t mean that it needs to be used again and again, but it deserves a place in the rotation.
I do not recall such hand-wringing with the four instances of “Cadge”, equally disparaging in my opinion, but wrought to appear otherwise:))
Actual thought and content here today. Cool!!!
“Smoky-voiced” is perhaps the last way I would describe Edith Piaf’s voice, even in her later years.
For the AV 13 down I saw P _ _ _ _ with a clue Gay _____.
I immediately filled in PRIDE, and thought it was a great clue, but it turns out it was PAREE.
I had TOPSY / TSU for the longest time. Searching for that error turned my 6:54 into a 12:15. What a gyp.
Spork, you really meant to say “bummer”!