Friday, 11/23/12

NYT 4:31 
LAT 5:37 (Gareth) 
CS 9:12 (Sam) 
CHE 6:08 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 23 12, 1123

Are you as sleepy as I am? I feasted on Thanksgiving food from 1 to 3 this afternoon, and have only had a little pecan pie since then. I think it might have been supper.

Things that came to me comparatively slowly include ALTO HORNS ([Instruments also known as mellophones]), RHYTHM STICK ([Elementary school percussion instrument]), the minor-league Toledo MUDHENS (started with REDHENS), and AT A LOW EBB.

Favorite bits: CHIHUAHUA clued as a [Big-eyed toy], ARMY BRATS, EGGSHELLS clued as [White trash?] (but if you refer to people as white trash, you’re rather trashy yourself), CHERRY STONE (I love cherries), and DAYMARE.

Interesting clue for RACISM: [What excellence is the best deterrent to, per Oprah Winfrey]. Yes, Oprah, but that leaves just plain average people out of luck, doesn’t it? Not everyone manages to achieve excellence, but no one should be thought lesser because of their ethnic origin.

ERSKINE Bowles is in the middle of a topsy-turvy MADE/EDAM sandwich. ¿Is [Queso relleno cheese] really EDAM? Yucatan Today says .

3.75 estrellas.

Updated Friday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sniggling and Giggling”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 23

It might have helped if I knew that to “sniggle” means (per my dictionary) to “fish for eels by thrusting a baited hook into their hiding places.” That’s because this puzzle’s four theme entries involve eel puns. You read that right–eel puns. Here they are:

  • 17-Across: The [Sniggler’s love song?] is THAT’S A MORAY. Sure, I know the moray eel, but with just this first one in place I had no clue that all the theme entries would be about eels.
  • 26-Across: The [Sniggler’s version of the end of a Napoleonic palindrome?] is ERE I SAW ELVER. Apparently there’s an elver eel. Maybe it’s Santa’s favorite.
  • 46-Across: [How sniggler’s fall in love?] is HEAD OVER EELS. By the time I got here I had forgotten I already had the MORAY entry above. So I was thinking the theme just involved puns. I think I was confusing “sniggler” with “sniglet,” the “neologism” from comedian Rich Hall. 
  • 59-Across: The [Sniggler’s instruments?] are CONGER DRUMS. This one was just one of many problems I had with the southeast corner. See more below.

Ah that southeast corner. It added three minutes to my solving time. I got A CAPELLA and ELMER Fudd with no trouble (though I didn’t know the former was a variant spelling–apparently the normal spelling is a cappella). But the rest just gave me fits. To [Prohibit] is to DEBAR, and the correct plural for [Mosaic pieces] is TESSERAE. I kept thinking the answer to [Pomeranian, perhaps] involved a horse, and with L?P in place to start, only LIPIZZAN came to mind. Imagine the embarrassment when I finally got LAP DOG. For the life of me, I couldn’t come up with SLUSH as the [Kind of fund] even with the SL- in place. Not my finest performance. I blame the Tryptophan.

Favorite entry = HAYSEEDS, the [Yokels]. Favorite clue = [Pie in the sky?] for UFO.

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

In today’s puzzle, Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter adds “IX” four times, creating wacky “?”-style answers. There’s no revealer that I can find, although IX seems to be suggesting “nine.” I was tickled by FIXITFORAKING and MIXINGDYNASTY. I’m only vaguely familiar with CRUST as dated(?) slang for “chutzpah”.

There also quite a few medium-length vertical answers today: BOXOFFICE, EYEEXAM, FARADAY, PETEROUT and BIGSKY make for a great set of answers!

Some more comments on individual entries and then I’m out of here:

  • I don’t understand [Bottle in a crib] for BABA.
  • [Cry near the sty] for SOOEY. I’ve encountered this only in books and crosswords. Is it still used? Effective?
  • I am familiar with Sheena EASTON, but not EASTON, PA, the town of 26,800 souls. I initially had ERIEPA despite the clue, [Pennsylvania site of the Crayola Factory], already mentioning the PA part.
  • [Trash can scavenger] COON. Around here baboons fill that particular synanthropic niche.
  • [Threats to Indiana Jones] ASPS. See also…
  • [Where a smash is welcome], BOXOFFICE. I misread this as [Where smash is welcome]… Eww, smash is disgusting.
  • [It’s hidden by a ponytail], NAPE. I miss my ponytail sometimes. On the other hand, there’s that unruly in-between length hair stage…
  • [It might be in the spotlight] for XENON is an A-plus clue!

Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Sound of Science” — pannonica’s review

CHE • 11/23/12 • “The Sounds of Science” • Berry • 1123 • solution

Extensive puns based on the names of scientific phenomena. How apt that I was solving the puzzle and am composing this write-up while listening to a broadcast of the 2012 Ig Nobel Awards on the radio!

  • 20a. [Makes fun of a school director] MACH’S PRINCIPLE (mocks principal).
  • 30a. [Cook cabbage salad in hot water?] BOYLE’S LAW (boils slaw).
  • 41a. [Row of shapely legs?] GAMMA RAYS (gam arrays).
  • 50a. [Chocolate cake on the go?] BROWNIAN MOTION (brownie in motion).

Quite a clever and amusing bunch of transformations! Although all involve altering two words, the final theme answer unfortunately involves three words, and the last bit “motion”) remains unchanged in both spelling and meaning; it’s a slightly off-note to end the procedures on.

More science:

  • 15a [ __ concolor (cougar’s taxonomic name)] PUMA. Amazing coincidence! Actually, for a very long time and until relatively recently, pumas were classified in the genus Felis, along with many of their smaller cousins, including housecats.
  • 26d [Astronomer who famously observed a supernova in 1572] TYCHO BRAHE. Also famous for having a nose prosthesis made of metal.
  • Hmm. I thought there were more. Oh well.

Other stuff:

  • Both 10d MILLSTREAM and 44a DOOR KEY are compound constructions that misleadingly seem a bit redundant. I ended up liking them in the grid.
  • The great outdoors! 16a [Walk in the woods] HIKE, 62a [Backpacking burden] TENT, 18a [Climber’s goal] APEX.
  • Favorite clues: 47a [One’s final stand?] BIER, 27d [Went through channels?] SWAM.
  • 1d SPAM, 36d SMARM.
  • Higher Education vibe: 9d [1940s U.S. poet laureate Karl] SHAPIRO, 32d [Architecture critic __ Louise Huxtable] ADA, TYCHO BRAHE.

Strong theme, great non-theme highlights, flowing construction. A very enjoyable puzzle.

Natalia Shore’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Black Friday” — pannonica’s review

WSJ • 11/23/12 • “Black Friday” • Fri • Shore, Shenk • 1123 • solution

Well, if you live in the United States, it’s been practically impossible to remain in blissful ignorance of the so-called Black Friday, what with the controversy over Walmart and its ilk opening their stores ever earlier for ever more enticing sales and offers. Juiced also because the state of the economy is a front line topic.

As announced by (the unbalanced) 111-down [Observe Black Friday (and a chunk of the eight longest answers)] SHOP, the inundation of SHOPping is enough to make the average solver drop.

  • 23a. [His first film role was Goon in “Rebel Without a Cause”] DENNIS HOPPER.
  • 40a. [Where Spiro Agnew studied chemistry] JOHNS HOPKINS.
  • 43a. [Its champion wins the Claret Jug] BRITISH OPEN.
  • 65a. [Lottery winner’s choice] CASH OPTION.
  • 69a. [Flowering plant also called miterwort] BISHOP‘S CAP.
  • 95a. [Minty cocktail] GRASSHOPPER.
  • 98a. [Japanese age that began 100 years ago] TAISHO PERIOD.
  • 119a. [Despairs] ABANDONS HOPE.

All solid entries. Good variation of SHOP placement (location, location, location) among them. I might not be thrilled by the choice of theme, but it’s well executed and makes sense in a venue such as the financially oriented Wall Street Journal. Black Friday is so named because many retailers see their annual profits go “into the black” during the mania  of this manufactured occasion.

What struck me most, however, during the solve was the wealth of great clues. In fact, there were so many that I strongly suspected that “Natalia Shore” was an additional pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk, since his hand is so distinctive. Sure enough, Ms Shore is indeed a fabrication, an anagram of another alias.

How about this? I’ll just read through all the clues and pick some of the best ones, and let that list comprise the remainder of this write-up.

  • 1a [Its cards include 30 clubs] TOPP’S. Not TAROT (yes, oops).
  • 82a [It might get you a wrap sheet] TOGA PARTY.
  • 112a [Christmas or Easter: Abbr.] ISL. (not HOL.).
  • 115a [Cry from a gull] “I BEEN HAD!
  • 4d [Busy worker after a strike] PIN SETTER. Although, is there anyone who still does this manually? Or can it refer to the mechanism?
  • 7d [Group that may be at your service] CHOIR.
  • 18d [Order follower] NUN.
  • 38d [Following] AS PER (not AFTER).
  • 42d [Union contracts?] PRENUPS.
  • 43d [Maker of big bucks] BRONC.
  • 46d [One might look you in the eye] OCULIST.
  • 56d [Lead a lush life] TOPE.
  • 62d [From Land’s End, perhaps] CORNISH.
  • 93d [Unmistakable] DECIDED.
  • 108d [Calls for] NEEDS.

All right, in the course of my tour I found a few extraneous aspects I could mention, but—I’m not going to. I’m married to the idea of simplicity here (see 42d).

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35 Responses to Friday, 11/23/12

  1. Papa John says:

    Amy, your comment about the RACISM fill and Oprah intrigues me but I don’t fully grasp the concept. Excellence in what, exactly?

  2. Mark says:

    Baba is what a baby might call a bottle. At least ours did.

    • Gareth says:

      I’m a bachelor. Cut me some slack… Although the fact that (I assume) baba is derived from bottle is also an issue, perhaps?

  3. Yves L. says:

    “Interesting clue for RACISM: [What excellence is the best deterrent to, per Oprah Winfrey]. Yes, Oprah, but that leaves just plain average people out of luck, doesn’t it? Not everyone manages to achieve excellence, but no one should be thought lesser because of their ethnic origin.”

    Precisely Oprah’s point: We’re not thinking ‘lesser’ of people because of their ethnic origin if we’re instead considering their achievements regardless of race. Excellence trumps race and thus racism. When, say, blacks achieve excellence, it invalidates the basis for racist (il)logic against them. ‘Just plain average people’, of every ethnicity, are indeed ‘out of luck’ if the topic at hand is excellence—but not because of their color.

    Fill in the blanks with ‘sheeny’ or ‘white trash’:
    ________ is sometimes legitimate to use, but __________never is.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ah, but it’s not so simple. Barack Obama was elected president twice, was president of the Harvard Law Review, wrote best-selling books, etc. Lots of excellence in his résumé. It’s double-edged: Some people use his example to say “See? We’re in a post-racial society, and racism doesn’t even exist,” but they’re full of it because at the same time, we have people like Trump suggesting that Obama’s achievements are fraudulent because he’s not really excellent. “Bill Ayers wrote his books for him.” “He got into good schools only because of affirmative action.” “He’s so dumb, he needs to read from a teleprompter.” And Obama’s election has absolutely not stopped plenty of people from talking in racially coded ways about “those” people, “takers,” on welfare and food stamps—having a black president does nothing to deter racists from saying horrible things about African-Americans at all levels of society.

      Then there’s Charlotte Whitton’s famous quote: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” So the goal is to be super accomplished but still be thought half as good? That’s a lousy outcome.

  4. Argyle_Scott says:


    THEME: Appendix, as in Append IX, adding IX which is the Roman Numeral for nine which has absolutely nothing to do with the theme.

  5. Yves L. says:

    Oprah said ‘deterrent to’, not ‘elimination of’. Obviously there will always be racists and racism—for example, those non-whites who employ ‘white trash’ to refer to people, not eggshells. But just as the performance of Jesse Owens erased any legitimate argument for the concept of Aryan superiority, today the excellence of people of color further erodes the bogus and small-minded arguments of die-hard racists.

    Obama doesn’t get elected without the votes of a huge number of fair-minded whites. And many whites (and others) who voted against Obama did so for what they sincerely judged to be poor performance—not because of his color.

    • Martin says:

      I’m with Amy on this one. Doing things to convince racists they’re wrong is a dumb idea. Oprah seems to be implying that “yeah, the sterotypes are right so we need to have some examples of black people who aren’t lazy.”

      It’s wrong because it assumes there’s a rational basis in racism. It’s wrong because it puts the solution to racism in the lap of the targets. It’s wrong because it won’t work. Remeber Sununu and others calling Obama “lazy”?

    • Phil says:

      Yeah, Jesse Owens sure changed Hitler’s mind and stopped that whole racial war he was waging. I believe Hitler became a Unitarian after the ’36 Olympics.

  6. cyberdiva says:

    Though indeed one person’s excellence may be a deterrent to that individual’s being considered inferior, I’m afraid it doesn’t carry over to the group, especially if racist or sexist assumptions regard that group as inferior. One African American graduating at the top of his or her class does little to dispel the racist notion that African Americans are intellectually inferior. And, as Charlotte Whitten and others have observed, a woman who distinguishes herself needs to be twice as good as a man to be seen as capable. And even when she is recognized as “exceptional,” that recognition does not tend to change sexist perceptions of women in general.

  7. John E says:

    I would just ask who the intended audience is of Oprah’s quote – it’s certainly not racists themselves. It’s absolutely a motivational message to the people that are being discriminated against. So the question of what racists actually think is really moot.

  8. Gareth says:

    Rock solid Berry as always! To quote the song I know 4d from “Das ist gut ja? Fantastik!” The second half of “Biblical prophet who railed against idolatry” seems tautalogical; didn’t they all do that? My fave answer was CURARE! Conjures up Christie novels! One corner pushed my time from Friday to Saturday, I couldn’t get any traction in the bottom-left. Wanted OPEC to be USMC; RACISM to be SEXISM or AGEISM for some reason; and also for ORION to be IXION – the last one I can’t fathom my previous thought processes for!

  9. RK says:

    Oprah is always the go to person for profound insight on complex matters of the human condition.

    ANTIHERO in the WaPo was a good entry I’ve never seen before.

    • Yves L. says:

      Yes, in a discussion of her own brief comments about racism and excellence, the last person we should ‘go to’ is the source of those words herself—a black woman who has gone from nothing to become one of the most admired and successful people in the world, of any color, of either gender. Way to school her.

      Look, I’m no apologist for Oprah. Not a fan of her show, nor the magazine that trumpets her to absurd extent. But for true arrogance, one need only read the overwrought dissection here of a simple, thoughtful comment.

  10. sandirhodes says:

    Just to be clear, and trying to not offer any opinions whatsoever on the subject other than that the whole idea of racism is ridiculous, the definition of racism is the belief in the inherent superiority (or inferiority) of a race. If you start talking about hating a race or disparaging individuals, you’re into the realm of bigotry, which is another subject. Many folks have problems distinguishing between the two, but I chalk that up to their individual intelligence, not that of their race. We are all limited by our individual intellegences. We are all members of homo erectus, and that is the bottom line.

  11. sbmanion says:

    I have four children–my oldest has a black mother and the other three, an Asian one. Most of my friends are white jocks, many of whom played Divison 1 sports, but who have a resentment that they could not play professionally because they were not as inherently athletic as blacks. In the 1980’s, as chairman of the local schools and scholarship committee for Harvard for many years, the third highest SAT score for a black applicant I saw in 10 years was 1220. The highest belonged to two blue-black brothers born in Africa who scored 1460 and 1490.

    I despise racism more than just about anything, but it is not a simple issue and I am inclined to agree with Oprah.


    • sandirhodes says:

      Tests are only as accurate as the demographic they are intended for. Many factors other than race determine abilities. Even environmental and social factors play a huge part in determining success. It has long been shown that IQ tests, placement tests and the like are biased, whether or not intentionally, for SOME demographic, no matter what you do. Some individuals are ‘inherently’ more atheletic than others, and some are ‘inherently’ more intelligent. It takes a lot of hard work no matter what you do to succeed in your chosen field.

      Like I TRIED to say earlier, we are all members of homo sapiens, and that is the bottom line when one tries to determine the ‘superiority’ of any one race within that set. I am fully confident, however, that we are all superior to, for example, any homo erectus.

      • Tuning Spork says:

        Yeah, but homo erectus had those awesome brow ridges. I think they could win any boxing match at the 1st round’s staredown before the bell rang.

        • pannonica says:

          Please, everyone, for my sanity. The genus is always capitalized, the species is always lowercase. Seeing both in lowercase is just as grating to my eye as the far more common mistake of capitalizing each part of the binomial. Actually, it feels like a bit of hypercorrection.

          It isn’t necessary for them to be italic, but they should be distinct from the surrounding text; hence they most often appear italicized because most text is roman. However—for instance in captions, where the text is often italic—the reverse format may be called for. Underlining can be used in a pinch, also.

          Thank you.

  12. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I believe there is a mistake in the Saturday NYT, (though there is a spinmeister interpretation which could perhaps rescue it.) Since it hasn’t been blogged yet, I probably shouldn’t say more.

  13. Kristi McLean says:

    CS: Sam’s review….. An elver is a small eel, not a type of eel…

    I know, I agree, it should be eelet,but I guess the dictionary folks decided that was too weird sounding, like elver makes any more sense.

  14. Tuning Spork says:

    Rest easy, Pannonica.

    We live only to torture you.

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