Friday, October 18, 2013

NYT 6:12 (Amy) 
LAT 4:59 (Gareth) 
CS 5:51 (Dave) 
CHE 7:03 (pannonica) 
WSJ (Friday) 10:45 (pannonica) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 10 18 13, no. 1018

I really enjoyed 95% of this wide-open 62-word puzzle, but that other 5% had some unfortunate crossings. You know the ones, don’t you?

  • 35a. [Turkey ___, baseball Hall-of-Famer from the Negro leagues], STEARNES. Wholly unfamiliar name for me, but of course the Negro leagues players got short shrift. Wikipedia says the “Turkey” nickname referred to the way he ran.
  • The first E in STEARNES crosses 33d. [Musician who arranged the theme for “2001”], DEODATO. With that ≥50% vowels name, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it in more crosswords. Did not know the name.
  • 36d. [Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Virtue and others], TESSAS. There have been other TESSAs in crosswords, but I don’t recall seeing this one. Had TESSES for a good long while. The A was in 45a. [Division d’une carte], ETAT. ETAT is French for “state”; is carte a map as well as a menu?

In my top 7 list, we have the following zippy entries:

  • 1a. [1999 rap hit featuring Snoop Dogg], STILL DRE. I had no idea, mind you, but STILL is a word and Dr. Dre is also name-checked in Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre.” Dre, we ascertained over dinner, was in NWA along with Ice Cube, before Ice Cube made terrible movies.
  • 23a. [Diamond deal], TWIN BILL. This means “doubleheader,” right? I’m guessing here. Have seen TWIN BILL in other contexts.
  • 25a. [Mode of transportation in a 1969 #1 hit]. JET PLANE. This song. (Hey, Steinberg: What’s with all the references to songs that were pretty much before your parents’ time?) JONI Mitchell, SANTANA at Woodstock, Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor PASA,” the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack…
  • 43a. [Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin led it], LABOR PARTY. I went with LIKUD first. Don’t mock me.
  • 46a. [Place of outdoor meditation], ZEN GARDEN. Peaceful.
  • 25d. [“Wordplay” vocalist, 2005], JASON MRAZ. Don’t know the song. Don’t know any of his songs, actually. But I dig the spelling of his last name.
  • 30d. [Italian region that’s home to Milan], LOMBARDY. That is one great place name. The Italians call it Lombardia, mind you.
  • Honorable mentions: CONEHEADS, the LIMBIC system, LEONTYNE Price (but BATTLE isn’t clued as opera’s Kathleen), SCARFACE, SNOW TIRES, GET REAL, properly spelled AMOEBAE.

Tough clues? Yes:

  • 16a. [45 degrees, for 1], ARCTANGENT. Been a long time since I had trig, and this doesn’t ring a bell.
  • 20a. [Cuban province where Castro was born], ORIENTE. Plausible Spanish word, but no, I don’t know my Cuban provinces.
  • 35d. [Where to bury the hatchet?], SHEATH. I was working the crossings and almost tried THE ASH. … What?

It would’ve been neat to clue 10d: LEAN IN ([Try to hear better, maybe]) by way of the best-selling book by Sheryl Sandberg.

Despite the struggles in the lower left quadrant, I enjoyed this Saturday-tough (for me) puzzle. Four stars.

Updated Friday morning:

Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Train Set” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Types of trains complete theme phrases in today’s CrosSynergy puzzle by Doug Peterson:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 10/18/13

  • [Traditional topping for mashed potatoes] was BROWN GRAVY – a “gravy train” is something one is on if they are getting some type of regular benefit or payment–I think of it as not being deserved, is that how others see it?
  • [Precursor to the family minivan] clued STATION WAGONWagon Train was an old west TV series, right? I think it’s also a brand of dog food. (No time to check this morning, so let me know in the comments how far off-base I am!)
  • [Unit of ammo for a werewolf hunter] was SILVER BULLET – I think of Japan when I think of “bullet trains,” but wasn’t the one that just had an accident in Spain?
  • [1965 Beatles album that followed “Help!”] clued RUBBER SOULSoul Train was a TV series that was a lot like American Bandstand, featuring primarily (or solely?) African American performers.

I had a hard time initially sussing out the theme–I guess with the “wagon” entry, I was thinking that we were talking parts of a train initially, but they finally fell into place. Scrabbly fill around them–I enjoyed the J action of JURIST, JABS, JELLO and JEWS. VROOMS for [Drag race sounds] seems a bit awkward to me in the plural, but it’s fun to find entries that begin with VR.

Craig Stowe’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Area of Interest” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 10/18/13 • “Area of Interest” • Stowe • solution

In this crossword, the constructor has discovered one way to achieve the impossible, that is, squaring the circle. Well, sort of.

First, it took me a while to realize that I had a puzzle with so-called rebus squares (virtually) in my hands. Then, it took me a further while to isolate which sequence of letters needed to be crammed into single boxes. They ended up being PIR, which made no immediate sense to me until working out the revealer at 62-across [Theme of this puzzle], which also was delayed, as at 54a [Any knight] –I–, I had HIM rather than SIR, which left me for some time with H–EA at 54d [Shrub of the rose family]. Eventually I put it all together for S(PIR)EA, SIR, and (PI R) SQUARED – πr2 – which is of course the formula for the area of a circle. That revealer precluded the puzzle having a less oblique title. Such as, oh, I don’t know, say, “Squaring the Circle.”

  • 17a/1d. [Port Royal sight] / [Judger of fairness at times] (PIR)ATE SHIP / UM(PIR)E.
  • 19a/11d. [Do curls, maybe] / [Beasts with prominent snouts] PUM(P IR)ON / TA(PIR)S.
  • 27a/26d. [Setting for Faulkner or Twain] / [High points?] MISSISSI(PI R)IVER / S(PIR)ES.
  • 45a/40d [Grist for a Dan Brown novel] / [Realm] CONS(PIR)ACY THEORY / EM(PIR)E.
  • 60a/50d. [Amazon menaces] / [Cheerleader’s asset] (PIR)ANHAS / S(PIR)IT.

Very clever theme, and quite dense in execution. Six entries in total, two at 14 letters and the other pairs sharing a single row each. The ballast fill is neither flashy nor trashy, so it just does the job of counterbalancing the theme. Starting the proceedings with UTE at 1a is clunky though, but at least I learned something from the clue, [Black Hawk War combatant]. Oh, and the two rows (5 and 11) that consist solely of three-letter junk—NSC/SSN and E’EN/OAT—they’re distasteful. So, revised assessment: the ballast fill isn’t entirely untrashy.

Longest non-theme entries are the CHE-worthy EINSTEIN [Author of the “Annus Mirabilis” papers] and VALLETTA [Maltese capital].

Favorite clue: 8d [1/768 gal.] TSP, for its absurdity.

IN TOTO (64a) an above-average crossword.

Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

A bit of a bland theme for me. [Busy one that has made its mark in this puzzle’s five longest answers] is BEE explains it. I don’t think the puzzle needs a revealer, but simply putting BEE in the grid was a bit of an anti-climax. None of the puns really spoke to me either, especially considering that the number of potential answers for a +B puzzle is pretty vast. That said, I recognise that the humour in “wacky” puzzles tend to break down pretty unpredictably among the puzzle solving populace. For all I know, most of you enjoyed them!

So the theme was as follows:

  • [Hipsters who prefer old-school programming languages?], COBOLCATS
  • [Tiny Timex?], BABYWATCH
  • [Golf club used as a dance pole?], LIMBODRIVER. I think this one worked better than the first two, because it didn’t alter the syllable count and still sounds somewhat similar to the original phrase.
  • [Furrier’s assessment?], SABLESTAX
  • [R2D2’s bar order?], ROBOTBEER

Outside of the theme, we have a well-constructed grid with some interesting longer answers. I battled most with the top-middle, where I didn’t know EEOC and wasn’t sure about ABIE; the clues for VACATE, [Get out] and especially VANE, [Wind instrument] were tricky to say the least.

My favourite answers were TRAPDOOR, INTEGERS, LOSTABET, ISOTOPE, TRICKLE and LADYBUG. In general, the choices of long answers entertained me.

A well-made grid couldn’t quite lift this puzzle’s dull (for me) theme. 2.75 stars.


Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A&E Network” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/18/13 • “A&E Network” • Fri • Stuart, Shenk • solution

The original versions of the theme answers are phrases with a word containing the vowels A and E, whose positions are sweppad around for a wacky result. More specifically, they’re two-syllable words in which those are the only vowels. The results are quite amusing.

  • 23a. [Cheesy drink garnish] TWIST OF FETA… fate). Okay, just ignore that feta cheese has no rind to twist and that it would crumble if you tried to perform the operation on the cheese itself.
  • 25a. [Ballet rail used by a Kundalini practitioner?] YOGI BARRE… Berra). This one postponed my comprehension of the theme, as I persisted in thinking of Yogi Bear.
  • 40a. [Weatherman, at times?} STORM CALLER… cellar).
  • 48a. [Headquarters for a disaster-relief org.?] HALL OF FEMA ( … fame).
  • 60a. [Why they have to ask if you want paper of plastic?] BAGGERS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS (beggars … ). 21-letter spanner, quite probably the seed entry. Also the first themer not to have the altered word last.
  • 77a. [Prison transport?] PENAL TRUCK (panel … ). Now the second; will the bottom set all have this configuration?
  • 84a. [“I didn’t steal the giant’s treasure” and the like?] JACK’S DENIALS ( … Daniel’s). Guess not.
  • 101a. [Portion of a nation that borders on Uganda and Lake Victoria?] KENYA WEST (Kanye … ). Northern, or “North” Tanzania also borders both places, but obviously doesn’t work in context.
  • 103a. [Brick that’s part of a fireplace shelf?] MANTEL BLOCK (mental … ). And the last two are back to the first word.

Simple theme idea, entertaining in execution. It’s a minor nit and probably one that most solvers won’t notice or care about, but I did find the imbalance of the locations of the words with the transpositions to be a distraction.

Nothing astonishing in the rest of the grid, just solid fill with good clues.

  • 57d/64d [Open to bribery] VENAL / CROOKED. 33d/51a [Lustful looker] OGLER / EYER>shudder<  See also: 18d [Litigious lot] SUERS, 97a [Plaintiff’s goal] DAMAGES; 92d [Bolshevik leader] LENIN, 96d [Nicholas II, for one] TSAR.
  • Favorite clue: 5d [Give and take, e.g.] ANTONYMS.
  • Unknown to me: 59d [Classic build-a-bug game] COOTIE. Wikipedia tells me it’s been around since 1949 and has been owned by giants such as Tyco and Hasbro/Milton Bradley. Would rather have seen a clue for classic jazz trumpeter COOTIE Williams, but that’s just me. Factette: “cooties”, the affliction grade-school children often accuse each other of, is thought to derive from the Malay kutu, for body louse.

Additionally, a handful of medium-length fill, such as MANDRAKE, ENSEMBLE, SLIP INTO, TRADE WAR, and … erm, JUDO MAT. Hardly any junk of the CAP Quotient™ variety, so a very solid puzzle overall.

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28 Responses to Friday, October 18, 2013

  1. sbmanion says:

    There was much that I knew in this puzzle, but I still found it to be exceptionally difficult. here are some thoughts:

    Remember SOHCAHTOA. Tangent is opposite over adjacent. In a 45-45-90 triangle, opposite and adjacent are equal so the tangent is 1. ARCTANGENT is the angle that creates a tangent equal to 1–in this case 45 degrees. Arctan has never appeared on an SAT test to the best of my knowledge. It could plausibly appear on an ACT test, but I have never seen an Arctan question. I do tutor kids for math including trig and calculus, but I constantly need to refresh myself as most of these terms don’t stick these days.

    TWIN BILL is indeed a doubleheader in baseball.

    Leaving on a jet plane, Santana and several other clue/answers were definitely baby boomer friendly.

    I thought it was a great puzzle.


    I believe Turkey Stearnes appeared in a previous NYT puzzle. I knew the name, but very little about him.

  2. RK says:

    Funny thing. I went over to the NYT crossword puzzle section and walked into a trivia assault. I would’ve given it more than two stars if Mr. Steinberg had tried a just a little harder to cram even more trivia on top of each other. Effort does count for something.

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: Had OCCLUDES for 3d [Covers], which led to completing 1a, then STOL–DR– (with some of those not 100% certain though they turned out to be correct), as STOLI DRY. Hung me up for some time.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: beautiful design which, I feel, carried a certain responsibility– to make each of the isolated domains penetrable, since they are barely intersecting. I felt the South East was gorgeous but the SW was impossible. I make it a rule not to complain when I don’t know things– I have a realistic appreciation of the depth of my ignorance. I try to imagine a better version of me judging the assets of the puzzle. But sometimes, it seems a little too self-indulgent and detracts from the overall impact.
    I chuckled when DESERET finally emerged. I had literally heard it an hour earlier on Jeopardy (I’m behind on my episodes due to travel ). That definitely helped.

    CARTE: Amy, it just means Card so it’s used for menus, maps, visiting cards and open possibilities (Carte Blanche).

    LIMBIC: also was a big help to me, but the definition did not need to include “long term “. The Limbic System, which is a somewhat outdated concept, is important in short term memory as well.

  5. Brucenm says:

    Eumir Deodato is an interesting, quite talented Brazilian composer, arranger, pianist. Stylistically, he is eclectic, with lots of crossover between classical, jazz, funk, Brazilian dance rhythms, old fashioned big band sounds, etc. His greatest talent is not as an original composer but in doing almost Peter Schickele – like take-offs on classical pieces — Strauss, Ravel, Gershwin etc. He did achieve probably his biggest success, as the clue said, with his version of Also Sprach Zarathrustra — which is a really neat arrangement. Not the most important musician of his generation, but I like him.

    I liked, but didn’t love the puzzle, for the reasons, both positive and negative, already stated. Also had the same problem with the SW, notwithstanding Deodato. I keep forgetting that name “Mraz” even though I’ve seen it in puzzles. I was sure “Zen Garden” had to be right, even though I’ve never heard the expression, but then, I couldn’t come up with “theorems” for a while.

  6. Matt says:

    Me too, re the SW corner. I finally just looked up the names– usually this doesn’t bother me, but three obscure names plus unusual French plus semi-obscure popcult is ‘way over the line. Besides the SW, a good puzzle.

    • Bencoe says:

      I think there is an important difference between difficult fill and bad fill. I didn’t like TESSAS, as a plural first name, and people could make an argument against PASA, as a partial, although I liked it as I like both the S and G song and the original Peruvian folk song it’s based on. But the rest of the SW corner, in my opinion, is perfectly decent fill, obscure as it might be. Sure, it took me a little longer to figure out, but what’s the point of a puzzle you don’t have to puzzle over?

      • RK says:

        It’s not a question of bad versus good fill. It’s that when you intersect so many proper nouns you no longer have a crossword puzzle, you have a trivia quiz.

        • Bencoe says:

          Perhaps I don’t really understand the difference. To me a crossword puzzle inherently contains the elements of a trivia quiz, or else it would be a grammar school language exercise. Even obscure words, without being proper names, are a form of trivia. To say that a common noun is per se a better crossword answer than a proper noun seems pointless to me.

          • Gareth says:


          • RK says:

            The point is not that this puzzle “contains elements of a trivia quiz,” but that at least a major swath IS a trivia quiz. And I have to disagree about a puzzle becoming a language exercise if it lacks trivia. To me, a good puzzle, the essence of a puzzle, lies in its cleverness, clues or answers. In doing puzzles for a while now, it seems to me that constructors don’t necessarily look to include trivia, (although I think Steinberg does it deliberately here to a fault) but are forced to due to the problematic nature of having words cross.

  7. Amy L says:

    I wanted to follow-up from yesterday’s conversation. It was a particularly thought-provoking thread with fascinating input from so many. I too have complaints about what is considered general knowledge for crosswords. Every time there is a football or golf term, I want to see a knitting or cooking term. I’m getting a little tired of the pop culture terms (e.g., Still Dre, Jason Mraz). When anyone looks at these puzzles in ten years, will they have any meaning? I’m starting to miss the Maleska years when the words, even if obscure, had a history. I suppose rap has been used a lot because of all the unusual spelling, but I’d really rather do without it.

    Oh, no! I sound like an old codger, but I’m not that old, really!

    • Gareth says:

      “Still Dre” sold four million copies in the U.S. Because you don’t like that genre of music you feel it shouldn’t be in puzzles? Strange. FWIW, I didn’t know it either, but there’s a difference between “things I don’t know” and “things that are obscure.”

      • sbmanion says:

        In the same general area, Grand Theft Auto 5 had $800,000,000 in sales—in its first 24 hours. My son tells me that rap is pretty much crossover mainstream and that rap and a type of music that he calls simply dance music are currently the most popular music genres on college campuses. While Amy L and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to sports, which I respect totally, it does bother me that low culture is considered obscure in the cruciverbal world and high culture mainstream, when the opposite is actually true.


        • Bencoe says:

          I strongly agree with your assessment regarding high vs. low culture in the crossword community. Of course, it is the minority of people who embrace “high” culture who determine that what they like is so much better than what so many other people like. Also, I would like to add that crosswords are meant to be a throw-away medium, in my opinion, like a newspaper itself. What is news one day, or crossword-worthy, isn’t meant to be relevant next year, necessarily, let alone in a decade. Pop culture, therefore, fits perfectly. Of course, there is the phenomenon of things becoming relevant again after years of irrelevancy, which can explain how popular curiosities from yesteryear can hold some interest for us if we haven’t been reminded of them in a long while.

  8. Thanks for the great write-up, Amy, and for all the nice comments, everyone! I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle. As for the song references, I enjoy including pop culture from a variety of eras so there’s something fun for different generations of solvers!

  9. Karma Sartre says:

    Once I had the Z in ZENGARDEN I immediately filled in YESNOWITZ for the Wordplay singer.

  10. Patrick Jordan says:

    Regarding Dave’s comments on the CS puzzle, he is probably thinking of Chuck Wagon dog food, which used to have a miniature covered wagon in its TV commercials:

  11. Gareth says:

    My mistake: LOMBARDI/LEONTINE. It seems perfectly reasonable to me. Top-left was hardest for me, until I guessed CONEHEADS. It didn’t help that I only thought of the Forbidden City in Beijing and not Lhasa. Mostly satisfying puzzle.

    • Zulema says:

      I also could not get away from Beijing for a while, but LEONTYNE was my first entry and underpinned the whole East side, but oh, the SW!!

  12. Davis says:

    THEOREMS is clued incorrectly. If it’s a theorem, then it’s proven. End of story, nothing to “test.” (If it’s not yet proven, then it’s not a theorem.)

    • Amy L says:

      I would have liked THEOREM to have been clued as “a type of painting done with stencils.” That’s what I mean when I talk of broadening the areas crosswords could include. Yes, it’s obscure, but is it more obscure than Turkey Stearnes?

      • Davis says:

        I’m on board with this–that’s a really fun bit of knowledge. Finding an obscure and interesting clue for an ordinary word is a million times better than aiming for “tricky” but hitting “wrong.”

  13. Greg says:

    Loved the puzzle. Right at the outer limits of my common knowledge — which is how I like Friday and Saturday puzzles.

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