CS 8:13 (Sam)
WSJ (Friday) tba
June 1? That means (as I mentioned Thursday morning) a new crossword shall be posted at Patrick Blindauer’s site. PDF only, so there’ll be something that violates the (considerable) limits of Across Lite. Those of you without access to printers, I grieve for you. Look for Matt Gaffney’s review here on Saturday.
Some of you may be thinking June 1 also means a new Muller Monthly Music Meta, but we’ve got a few more days to wait. Pete’s next contest puzzle goes up next Tuesday (and will also be on the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial Facebook app on June 10). You can sign up at Pete’s site to be emailed when the puzzle’s out so you don’t miss it.
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
So the grid has 52 words? Big whoop. I don’t solve word counts, I solve crosswords. For the words. The ones in the grid and the entertaining or informative clues they facilitate. Sad to say, this neat-looking four-leaf clover of a grid has so many words that are put in not because they’re inherently cool words, but because they make it easier to fill a grid that is wickedly hard to fill. What, I ask, is the purpose of using such a challenging grid if the solvers must slog (but quickly! it’s a Wednesday-easy themeless even though there’s only one entry in the 3- to 4-letter range that usually populates easy crosswords) through BROODER and RECHOSE and USUALS and REGER? That last one—thank goodness the clue tells us the German composer’s name is palindromic, because I’ve never heard of him/her. If he/she were truly notable, he/she would be in puzzles all the time, what with those crossword-friendly letters. And yet!
I didn’t recall children’s writer Eleanor at 1a, but once I had the S in 2d: SERGEI, I filled in ESTES because a grid like this promises to be jam-packed with such common letters. Three quarters of the way through the puzzle, I thought to myself, “I’ll have to count up all the -S, -ES, -ER, and -ED answers.” And then I hit 38a: RECHOSE and laughed, saying aloud, “That’s not a word!” It might be an actual word, but when I Googled it “rechoose” just now, a bogus dictionary site in the search results said “Rechoose is a common misspelling or typo for: rechoosed, rechooser, rechooses.” Ha!
Now, 25a: LITERATURES may look like an utterly bogus plural, but a zillion colleges and universities have programs such as “Romance Languages and Literatures” so I’m okay with this.
33a’s clue might be lying to us. FUTURE RESULTS are [What past performance may portend]? Not in stocks and mutual funds, baby. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, really in any endeavor. Maybe a vague portent. Like, who’s to say Dan Feyer will ever win the ACPT again? He could totally start sucking at crosswords.
To be fair, a good 40 of the entries are perfectly fine by me. It’s just the other 10 or so that grate, and I don’t care to see more than a handful of Scowl-o-Meter answers (RETILE your MASKERS and EMBAY your STERES!) in any given crossword. 2.75 stars.
That’s my 2¢. How’d you like the puzzle?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Conflict of Interest” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This Bob Klahn crossword features a seven-part [Bob Hope quip]: A BANK IS A PLACE / THAT WILL LEND / YOU / MONEY IF / YOU / CAN PROVE THAT / YOU DON’T NEED IT. It certainly helped that I knew the gist of the quip from the very beginning, though I still lost a few minutes in trying to crack into the bottom five rows of the grid. As usual, I made it a lot harder than it had to be, as I kept thinking the answer to [Spare no expense] had to start with SPEND instead of being SPLURGE, that the [Barracks boss, briefly] was SGT instead of NCO, and that the [ER VIPs] were MDS and not RNS. Those early errors as I was in search of a toe-hold proved costly.
I never fail to find new little tidbits in one of Klahn’s puzzles. Here were the items that were new to me:
- There’s a 3-D movie called “Magnificent DESOLATION” that’s about walking on the moon.
- The [“Angels & Demons” antimatter org.] is CERN, an acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Of course.
- It’s [Holmes’s “Elsie] VENNER, not BORDEN.
- It’s Jack ELAM that [played Jake in “Big Bad John”]. When you know neither the actor nor the role, you know only that you’re in trouble.
From a construction standpoint, it’s interesting that Klahn broke up the 13-letter middle (YOU MONEY IF YOU) into three parts. That seemed strange to me, especially since it essentially created duplicate YOUs in the grid. I realized that a centered 13-letter entry would have required the use of even more “helper” black squares (what some pejoratively call “cheater squares”), but then I wondered if the 13’s that appear at the beginning and end could have been pushed to one side instead of centered–that would have reduced the number of helper squares. Given the final grid has an unusually high 44 black squares, one would think this would be desirable. So, for shi-giggles, I tried to see if I could make it work. Right away, though, I saw the problem, which you can see for yourself with the grid that’s pasted to the right.
The problem lies with the central Down entry. What five-letter entry fits the L?E?R pattern? Um, nothing good, it appears. Likewise, I came up empty with the nine-letter I?L?E?R?N pattern, as well as the 11-, 13-, and 15-letter variations. I thought about shoving the second and fourth quip lines up or down, but the resulting combinations looked similarly unworkable. This is all a long way of saying that while the YOU / MONEY IF / YOU arrangement looks a little awkward, at least it makes the puzzle do-able. I admire Bob for pulling this off, as I simply would have tossed the idea to the side as unworkable. Now I want to send him other ideas that I couldn’t make work just to see if he could.
Favorite entry = CRIME NOVEL, the [Piece of hard-boiled fiction]. Favorite clue = [It’s hardly a cutting-edge sport] for EPEE. As the discussion here explains, fresh clues turn Crosswordese into fun fill.
Joe DiPietro’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I was looking for more to unify the theme phrases than “blank in the/one’s blank” phrases redefined, and the LEAVES/PLANT in the first two and CHIPS/ROLL in the second two had me thinking of greenery and food. But what the theme’s doing is changing the first word, a verb, into a noun, so the theme’s tighter than I initially thought. There are other “verb in the noun” phrases that can be read as “noun in the noun,” but the change doesn’t always alter the meaning dramatically. For example, “walk in the park” keeps the same basic meaning for “walk” no matter the part of speech, and you don’t get a colorful image.
- 17a. LEAVES IN THE DUST, [Litter in an abandoned library?]. Not sure if these leaves have been torn out of books or if someone left the doors open on a windy autumn day. Must be book pages because otherwise the clue wouldn’t specify a library. Off the subject, isn’t a dusty, abandoned library a sad image?
- 31a. PLANT IN ONE’S MIND, [Imaginary nuclear facility?].
- 45a. CASH IN ONE’S CHIPS, [Singles among the Pringles?]. How awesome would that be, to open a can of Pringles and find cash money? I wouldn’t eat the chips then, but I don’t care for Pringles anyway. (This one changes the CHIPS more than the CASH.)
- 58a. ROLL IN THE AISLES, [Bread seen while finding theater seats?]. This one doesn’t quite work because a single roll can only exist in one aisle, and you’d have to kick it pretty hard to get it past all those seats to the next aisle.
So I like the theme concept of verb-into-noun/significant change in meaning, but I don’t think Joe nailed the execution.
Elsewhere in the puzzle:
- 28d. SIDE HILL LIE, [Golf ball-on-a-slope challenge]. Strange-looking phrase for someone who (like me) has never seen it before.
- 19d. HIDERS, [It’s quarry]. Wha…? Oh! Hide and seek. The person who is “it” is after his or her quarry, the HIDERS. Tough clue to parse.
- 25d. BOX WINE, [Libation pooh-poohed by some]. Box wine is especially handy for picnics and heavy drinkers.
- 1d. KELP, [Laminaria, for one]. I had no idea it was seaweed. My only frame of reference for laminaria is knowing of its ob/gyn usage.
- 53d. KILT, [Skirt often worn with ghillie brogues]. G(h)illies are shoes worn for Scottish country dancing. Brogues are shoes of untanned leather formerly worn in the Scottish Highlands and Ireland. (According to the New Oxford American Dictionary.) Scottish shoes go with a KILT.
- 43a, 67a. BUT IS / IT ART?, [With 67-Across, museumgoer’s musing]. Colorful phrase split into two partials. Slightly ugly, but helped greatly by the two parts both running in the same direction and the first part appearing above the second (and not too far away). Cross-references that go topsy-turvy are irritating.
- Twenty-eight 3-letter answers? And lots of 4s? Meh. Though this one was a bit lovely: 25a BUD, [Harbinger of spring].
Composer Max Reger is the source of perhaps the most famous anti-critic quote of all time. After reading a particularly nasty review of one of his new compositions, Reger dashed off this note to the offending critic:
“I am sitting in the smallest room in my house with your review in front of me. It will soon be behind me.”
Amy already quoted that REGER quote tonight (in another, more private place). Critic-bashing is (usually) the last refuge of an insecure person who cannot articulately defend his/her terrible work.
Didn’t love it but 40 out of 52 sounds like a higher rating than 2.75 stars.
It’s not horrible, but I kept thinking “yeah, yeah, yeah” as I was solving. No really zippy answers, and it’s amusing to think that STRESS TESTS was a seed entry. I’m presuming there were seed entries.
Amy, agree with your eval, with one minor exception. Both my grandparents had farms and raised lots of chickens and BROODER is the name of the gizmo, usually home-made, that was used to warm the uber-cute newly-hatched peepers during cold weather. Often it was nothing more than a cardboard box with some shredded pages from a Sears & Roebuck catalog and a bare light bulb.
Sylvia Plath makes “rechose” poetry. Context is everything.
I loved it, personally. There was really nothing terrible in there IMO, and I like the unique challenge of a wide-open grid like this from time to time. I agree with Joe Krozel when he says that filling in vast white spaces offers “the feeling of having conquered something which initially looked impossible.” (snipped that from the “War on Fill” comments)
Liked it, didn’t love it… High points SLIMING, CALIBER ( clued as “round numbers?”) and SEANCE (“attempt to recall the past”). Anyone else see that the vertical rectangle in the center contains common three letter crossword answers? ERE, RAT, ATO, SST… Not sure about EME. Then again i might be seeing something that isn’t there… I say at least 3.5 now that I’ve COME TO TERMS with it
Yup a BROODER is an important part of rearing chickens (though I initially wanted the too long INCUBATOR that’s also used…) But yes RE/ER-AGOGO.
Joe Krozel’s NYT was fine by me for a Friday — even left me enough time to do the WSJ early for a change, wherein hides a brood of Columbus’ countrymen…
Also, 48 black squares, fwiw. And M-STAR/TIN STAR, and RUNNIER crossing RUN LAPS. (I’m kind of surprised no one’s mentioned these things by now)
Minor emendation: The clue for SEANCE is, of course, “Attempt to recall the passed?” not “past”-which makes it much easier to twig, more like the rest of the puzzle – making it better or worse – depending on one’s “past” performance?
Daniel – “attempt to recall the passed” reminds me of a story of a friend whose toddler swallowed one of her expensive rings. . .
“Critic-bashing is (usually) the last refuge of an insecure person who cannot articulately defend his/her terrible work.”
So true, Rex. You made my day! Whereas puzzle-bashing is (usually) different, right?
Good eye on the duplicated word roots, @Jangler. (46, not 48, though.) My eyes were filled with RECHOSE, which, of course, Martin H was ready to defend just as he is ready to defend every single clue and answer in an NYT puzzle.
@Gareth: RE-ER-a-go-go! I like that.
The significance of the 46 black squares Jangler mentioned is that Frank Longo’s 52-worder from 1/21/05 had 38 black squares. So while XWord Info points out that today’s puzzle ties that one for word count, I hereby decree that such ties are broken by black-square count and thus Frank remains King of the Super-Low Word Count.
Hm, yes, quite. I do see what you mean, propeller-headed loren. With this meaning, the answer might still, with a, um, stretch, be séance, but it would be a rather rum séance indeed!
I can only hope your friend was successful in her…undertaking.
Uh, Amy. “Context is everthing” means “a word so ugly in a crossword can be so natural in Sylvia Plath prose.” How did you parse it?
I’m quite ready to defend RECHOSE as well. I wouldn’t want to cross the ghost of Sylvia Plath, even in a séance.
Amy, since you brought up the record, Frank Longo retains sole ownership of a couple of related and, I think rather amazing ones. The grid at the top of this page is unique and it’s a safe bet we’ll never see a grid with fewer across words than this modern masterpiece.
Martin, a sizable percentage of your comments here are to rebut something I said about an NYT crossword, defending the clue, defending the answer. It’s actually kind of funny. “Here he comes! Now I will know why I am wrong yet again.”
I would never object to “that’s a lousy word.” I only pipe up when someone (even you) says “that’s wrong” (if it’s not). If a blogger says something like “it might be an actual word, but” the rest is an opinion, which I respect.
On the other hand, “that is not a word” when it’s in all dictionaries, or “nobody says that” when lots of people say that, will get my attention. It’s a fairness thing.
If you look back, many of my comments that are corrections don’t relate to defending the puzzle. Like Rooster Sauce not being Thai.
In any case, a grid like this must entail some lousy fill. It seems the question is whether it should be deep-sixed or run as an interesting example of the art. I don’t understand 2.75 stars (presumably because of some lousy fill). I could understand zero or one star (“a grid like this is not worth the unavoidable lousy fill”). But excessive hatin’ on the unavoidable lousy fill seems a bit beside the point.
In any case, I agree that RECHOSE is lousy fill. Even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t object to your thinking it was.
@Martin H: Now, if your initial comment had been “Sylvia Plath makes ‘rechose’ poetry. Sadly, no crossword constructor can pull off that feat,” I might’ve understood the point you meant to make.
I had forgotten that Sriracha was merely Thaiish and devised by some guy in California.
2.75 stars because the most fun I had solving the puzzle was when I laughed at RECHOSE. When the Scowl-o-Meter comes to life, the fun factor goes way down. A mathy type could probably devise a formula to calculate how many incredible answers (e.g. BAZOOKA JOE) are needed to counteract a single terrible answer. Ordinary answers settle themselves into the 3-star range but personally, I really need a lot of “wow” factor to offset ugly compromises.
I supppose I agree with both Amy AND Martin. RECHOSE is an ugly word, so is “rechoose”, but a word, nonetheless, as evinced in the OED and here.
Amy’s blog entry on it seemed to me playful rather than mean-spirited, and Martin’s Sylvia Plath link was delightful. It depresses me when things degenerate into ad hominem or, as the gender may be, ad feminam posts. Then again, I don’t understand the star system at all and never participate in it.
Sorry to have interposed myself here, but I felt that since I entered the fray on RECHOSE, I was duty-bound to further explicate.
Gee, I didn’t see anything mean-spirited or ad hominem. I thought we were having a polite conversation. In this case I didn’t take exception to anything Amy said, but didn’t express that clearly. I’ll try better next time.
Daniel – She was bit flustered, unglued, really, but her initial panic rapidly ebbed. Then she was teed off. But presto! Old ring was safe. C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? (After one wash it was fine.)
To answer your question, I liked it just fine, better than the consensus, though obviously it’s on the easy end of the Fri. scale. It is reassuring that I am not the only one guilty of the “if I haven’t heard of it, it must be hopelessly obscure” syndrome. Max Reger is one of the most interesting, prolific composers of the late 19th – 20th century. Controversial, ahead of his time, yes. (I would have trotted out the famous quote too.) Wrote lots of contrapuntal, polyphonic, severe, uncompromising orchestral and organ pieces (a huge set of orchestral variations on a Mozart A Major piano sonata theme comes to mind) along with many wildly chromatic, almost late Brahms on acid, piano pieces. Much of it fascinating, individual, distinctive. One of the more underappreciated composers in music history, in my view. (Not to be confused with Wallingford Riegger, also a fine, underappreciated composer, probably less well-known than Reger.
Every day I do I puzzle I come across something bizarrely obscure to me which everyone else seems to know about. Apparently there is a person called “Pink.” Apparently there is a band called “Sharona” though when I saw it in a clue, I assumed it was a person. (I was applauding myself for knowing about Sharona in the Monk TV show.) If one Max Reger frustrates you (even when the cluer sees fit to give it away by identifying the palindrome), imagine if most of the puzzles you do include 3, 4, 8, 10 Max Regers. I’m dreaming of that day. Wish me luck.
“Embay” bothered me more than “rechose.” There isn’t quite the same latitude to “roll your own words” in English as in German, but there is some flexibility in mixing and matching morphemes. “My first trip to the smorgasbord I didn’t like what I chose, so I went back and rechose.” Not my all-time favorite word, but it doesn’t bother me that much.
Martin-As I was discussing with a friend several weeks ago, conveying TONE is so difficult on cyberspace.
loren-LOL-Glad to hear that everything came out alright in the wash.
I don’t know the specifics about Reger, his level of insecurity, or the offending critic, but I’ll just add that critics should not be above criticism. Critics who offer thoughtful criticism will more likely get a thoughtful response. Critics who bash will probably get bashed. Or ignored.
There’s always been a tension between artists and critics, and the list of the former who had problems with the latter includes many of the greats.
Fwiw, I’ve always enjoyed Mel Brooks’s take on the subject.
When I accepted this puzzle, I knew a lot of solvers (and bloggers) wouldn’t like it, because a) it relies on mostly common letters, and b) some of the vocabulary isn’t wonderful (RECHOSE and EMBAY, particularly).
If this sort of puzzle appeared all the time, that would be a bore. But once in a while I think it’s interesting to see how far the English language can be stretched. I thought Joe did a masterful job with this 52-word grid. And it does have a lot of fine entries — YES IT IS, IT’S ELEMENTARY, FUTURE RESULTS, TIN STAR, RUN LAPS, ROSES ARE RED, COME TO TERMS, ELLA MAE, and others. I wouldn’t run a puzzle just to set a “record.” it has to have a lot of content of interest.
If someone doesn’t like the result, that’s understandable. But I don’t understand a 1-star rating. For what it tries to achieve, this is a pretty handsome construction. A puzzle of this sort has to be judged on its own terms. And, yes, some allowances have to be made for a superlow word count. Not every puzzle has to be judged by the same criteria.
“He (Dan Feyer) could totally start sucking at crosswords.”
Shameful sacrilege. I’m still trying to figure out how to beat his time on a puzzle that I write and review directly before doing it.
P.S. I almost never leave comments on the crossword blogs. I figure I’ve had my say in putting out the puzzles. Let others have their say in responding. Even when I strongly disagree, so be it. That’s the way the system works.
So I don’t understand why, when someone writes a critical response to a blogger, a blogger has to answer with a counter-response. Sometimes not a nice one.
The blogger has had a chance to deliver his or her opinion. Then I think it’s time to let others have their say.
None of us is above criticism.
I don’t think I’ve ever blogged a puzzle that truly deserves 1 star. By my rubric, a 1-star puzzle is so patently awful it shouldn’t have been published, and the very worst of the puzzles that are reviewed on this blog are above that level. A 1-star puzzle is the dreck that is published only in other venues, with insanely obscure words in the fill, clues that don’t work, unchecked letters, a massive glut of blocks, word counts well exceeding 80, etc.
That said, some people are emotional voters and go with 1 star for any puzzle that they really didn’t enjoy or that they just couldn’t solve.
Like Bruce, I found it easier than a typical Friday and liked it rather more than most did, because I liked the long fill and just the look of the grid. But I didn’t care for the shorter fill, mostly for reasons Amy already cited, although can’t say SLIMING, SPENCE, and ELLA MAE made a corner easier for me either.
I agree that one shouldn’t give a puzzle 1 star for bad fill or even for a lousy solving experience, but for what shouldn’t have been published. In fact, that was going through my head yesterday, when for the first time I did give 1 star. It was not unpleasant at all. (Liz would never be all that unpleasant.) I just thought that Will S was totally cheating by publishing an ELO theme in a way that wasn’t right.
My best guess is that we like to talk amongst ourselves, Will. And that, sometimes, we like to argue amongst ourselves.
Keep in mind that the vast majority of solvers and subscribers are not expert or experienced solvers, but more casual participants. They do not blog, note specifics in fill or themes, etc. They will generally simply try to solve the puzzle as best they can to pass some time on the commute, relax over coffee, etc. Many do not attempt puzzles beyond mid-week. (This is extrapolated from anecdotal evidence gained from speaking to several people, of course. Not scientific).
So this puzzle seems to offer an open themeless grid to a wider range of solvers. There’s some quite good fill in there, and while there is a lot of stuff that you or I will scowl at (or just wrinkle our noses a bit), and it is not my personal favorite style, this has its place and adds to diversity of puzzle styles.
Just my reasons why I do not critically pan it for lack of Scrabbliness. Your mileage may vary, etc.
Well, since I don’t give stars, I will say here that I liked it but I didn’t love it, to second what someone else posted. I thought the puzzle needed another positive response, so decided to post. I am also happy WS chose to respond.
Once again, you have chrystalized our thoughts exactly.
Well, I will lower the tone of this erudite discussion by saying that while I haven’t done the NYT puzzle I did read Amy’s comments, and feel called upon to mention that Eleanor Estes was a very well known and appreciated author of children’s books, having won one Newbery Award and several Honor Newbery awards as well. I believe that her books are still in libraries and in private book collections, including mine. Amy,her books are generally more popular with girls than boys, so that may be the reason you are unfamiliar with her. And just think, in five weeks when this puzzle comes out in my newspaper I will know at least one answer right away! So then I will read these comments again and no doubt be as entertained then as I am now.