Thursday, November 7, 2013

NYT 6:19 (Amy) 
Fireball 6:10 + meta (Amy) 
AV Club 4:05 (Amy) 
LAT 3:48 (Gareth) 
BEQ 6:07 (Matt) 
CS 13:29 (Dave) 

Alan Derkazarian’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 7 13, no. 1107

I couldn’t tell you why my rebus squares were marked wrong. First letter of the rebused word? Check. Should have worked. Oh, well. Moving on.

Neat theme:

  • 18a. [Casino sights] are slot machines, or one-armed bandits. We have {ARMED} BANDITS, with one {ARMED} square crossing 7d. [Overran], SW{ARMED}.
  • 24a. [Small-time thieves] are two-bit crooks, or {BIT}{BIT} CROOKS crossing RARE{BIT} and INHA{BIT}.
  • 54a. [Con game] is three-card monte, or {CARD}{CARD}{CARD} MONTE crossing SPORTS {CARD}S, INDEX {CARD}S, and {CARD}AMOM.
  • 62a. [What an intersection may have] is a four-way stop. {FOUR}{FOUR}{FOUR}{FOUR}-WAY STOP crossing John {WAY}NE, {WAY} IN, S{WAY}ED, and SEA{WAY}.

Isn’t that elegant? And it’s not the easiest thing in the world to wrangle ten 3- and 4-letter rebus squares into submission. Plus we’ve got AUDIOBOOK and RETURN FIRE livening up the non-theme fill. (A TOUCH OVER seems off base and STEAM PIPEis a tad on the dull side, though.) I also liked seeing IKEBANA—the [Japanese flower-arranging art] that Martin H. can tell us all about, because he and his wife have strived to impress the masters with their ikebana arrangements, and he had some entertaining stories about that—and the German reversal pairing of EIN (“a” or “an”) and NIE (“never”).

I confess that the Scowl-o-Meter was rather active tonight. Good gravy, crosswordese RIATAS right there at 1-Across? That sets the wrong tone. -INI, -ARD, ORSON, ARRS, OPORTO, AFTA, and OLIO? Oli-NO.

And after the last time Shylock was in the NYT clue and evoked a fair amount of controversy, I am surprised as hell to see AVARICE clued as [Shylock trait]. What’s worse, the last time the Shakespeare character was simply used to clue the answer JEW. People got upset because the negative stereotypes that Shylock embodied have been used to attack Jewish people for centuries. I would argue that the Shylock/JEW clue was innocuously literary (and the constructor who wrote the clue, Victor Barocas, is himself Jewish and meant no offense), but then again, I’m not Jewish. But! This time, the clue and answer skew definitively negative. It seems like an unfortunate editorial call.

4.5 stars for the theme, 2.75 stars for the fill. Let’s call it 3.75 overall.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Mark My Words”

Another contest puzzle! This one had me perplexed for a while, suspecting that in-depth baseball knowledge would be required and therefore irked. And then the shoe dropped, and I was much happier. Neat theme and meta, about which we will discuss nothing specific. 4.25 stars.

Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “It Beats Waiting Tables”

AV Club crossword solution, 11 7 13 “It Beats Waiting Tables”

Trivia theme this week: Celebrities who’ve been on game shows (not counting Celebrity Jeopardy!). Tyler dug deep and presented four items I had not known, rather than taking the easy route and listing actors who’ve appeared on The Dating Game.

  • 17a. Talk show host who won on “Press Your Luck”], JENNY JONES. I forgot she existed.
  • 28a, 44a. [With 44-Across, “Bridesmaids” director who won on “The $25,000 Pyramid”], PAUL FEIG.
  • 57a. “The Office” actor who lost on “Match Game” (the lamer ’90s one)], OSCAR NUNEZ. Oscar!
  • 11d. Actress who won on “The $64,000 Question” (but she cheated!)], PATTY DUKE. 
  • 34d. Actor who lost the Showcase Showdown on “The Price Is Right”], AARON PAUL. I went to college with a guy who won an Alfa Romeo in the Showcase Showdown.

We would also have accepted [Lambda Legal lawyer who won $2.6 million on “Million Second Quiz”], of course.

Did not know: 15a. [2013 WNBA finals MVP Moore], MAYA.

Five more things:

  • 55a. [Beginning of many a modern, masculine portmanteau], BRO. For example, brotisserie chicken, Broquefort cheese, BROTFL, brollerskating party, saying the brosary, a dozen broses.
  • 5d. [Delta accrual], SKYMILES. Great entry. I like VIBRATO and MAN OF STEEL a lot, too.
  • 30d. [First name in Perry Mason-creating], ERLE. How can you not love a clue like that?
  • 42d. [Carmelite, for one], FRIAR. I thought Carmelites were strictly nuns. Also! Today I learned that the San Diego Padres’ mascot is called the Swinging Friar. Hawt!
  • 51d. [Has out the wazoo], OOZES. Listen, people, if you are oozing out the wazoo, seek medical attention.

Overall, smooth and lively fill, fresh clues. Four stars.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Earth in the Balance” – Dave Sullivan’s review

The title of this puzzle is from a 1992 book by Al Gore, often touted during his presidential campaign as an example of his ecological concern. Here, it’s a reference to a quip:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 11/07/13


Those who are regular visitors to this blog (and we certainly hope that you are!), will know I’m not a big fan of quip puzzles, which instead of the normal 4-5 shots at some theme amusement, just have one shot that, in this case, lands with a loud thud. (Which may be the sound of dirt hitting the ground.) I get that “losing ground” is an idiom for falling behind and is here taken literally, but even if you’re throwing dirt around, it’s not lost per se, it’s just not where it once was. It would only be lost if you threw it a very long way away.

Anywho, the brilliance in Bob Klahn puzzles can be found in the clues for the fill, and without enumerating all my FAVEs, I’ll just list these three and call it a day:

  • [Where to find a lion lyin’] was a DEN – I had ZOO at first.
  • [Sonar signal] appears twice, with ECHO right above BLIP.
  • [Census acronym that almost sounds like a line of disciples] was POSSLQ – not sure I get the disciples part (is it apostles queue?), but it stands for “Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters,” so I guess Gary and I are the sibilant PSSSLQs?

Evad out.

Brendan Quigley and Joon Pahk’s website puzzle, “Taking the Fifth” — Matt’s review

Brennie and Joon team up for today’s BEQ, “Taking the Fifth.” When I saw the title I thought we’d be removing the fifth letter from base phrases, but instead we’re adding the fifth letter of the alphabet to base phrases. Here’s what happens:

17-a [The Wilson sisters covering “Another Green World”?] = ENO BY HEART, from “know by heart.” Brian Eno did the album (I think it’s an album, could be a song) “Another Green World,” and the Wilson sisters (Ann and…? I forget) formed the core of the 1980s band Heart.

23-a [Someone who gets the lead out really fast?] = SPEED ERASER. From “Speed Racer.”

38-a [Nickname for a brutally tough course on supply and demand?] = THE WRATH OF ECON. From “The Wrath of Khan,” and not far off from “The Wrath of Klahn.”

48-a [Wicket surfing?] = EWOK ON WATER, from “walk on water.” Is Wicket the name of one of the Ewoks? Yes. Creepy-looking!

This one sounds a little off to my flat, mid-Atlantic non-accent. The other four all replicate the exact sound of the base phrase word with just that long E attached, but this one sounds like the pan used in Chinese cooking rather than the word “walk.” But who knows how Bostonians Joon and Brendan pronounce it, and they won the World Series so theirs is the only accent that matters.

59-a [Manning, after being sacked yet again?] = ELI IN RUINS. From “lie in ruins.”

Works for me. SPEED ERASER is my #1 pick of the bunch, and could also describe Dan Feyer or Tyler Hinman.

, BUCKETHEAD (!!), OPEN DOOR, FROWNS ON and KARMA are all things you want in your crossword. Can’t believe no one has thought of [Elite club?] for ACE before, which is excellent. As is [Hard to please?] for ERECT.

4.02 stars.







Andrea Carla Michaels & Gregory Cameron’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Thank you again to Jeffrey for filling in most wittily. Sorry I seem to be making a habit of it.

Ok, on to today’s puzzle! NY Times constructing regular Andrea Carla Michaels teams with unknown (to me) Gregory Cameron to give us… wine puns. It’s as good a topic as any to make up puns about, I suppose. However, I don’t think I’m this puzzle’s target audience. Why? a) I’m no wine connoisseur. I’m of the opinion most wine tastes basically the same and the supposed finer differences (i.e. outside of sweet/dry, red/white etc.) are down to marketing and a form of mass hallucination. b) I get the feeling from doing crosswords that the wine varietals popular here and in the U.S. differ dramatically. See for instance here and here as to what I’m commonly exposed to.

  • 17a, [Wine enthusiast’s list of killer reds?], SEVENDEADLYZINS. Only know zins/zinfandels from crosswords – I assume they’re well-known in the States.
  • 36a, [Wine enthusiast’s “That’s how it goes”?], QUESYRAHSYRAH. Never heard of SYRAH at all, although crossers sorted it out. Dictionary says it’s the same as shiraz, but asserts the latter is a variant. Despite this, I’ve encountered shiraz fairly frequently, but syrah not at all. Also, the new phrase doesn’t make a lick of sense but I recognize this as a frequent pun crutch.
  • 57a, [Wine enthusiast’s philosophy?], LIFEISACABERNET. I know that one!

Only three theme entries, but Andrea is fond of throwing “bonus” entries. [Effervesce, as some wine], SPARKLE and [Champagne choice], BRUT appear. This didn’t really add much for me but YMMV.

Other remarks:

  • [Brian McKnight/Vanessa Williams duet with the line “It conquers all”], LOVEIS. I don’t know the song (and judging by the artists I don’t want to), but I do know the schmaltzy comic strip, featuring a pair of naked lovers curiously lacking in sex organs, breasts and certain other features.
  • [Hoover underlings], FBIMEN. New phrasing for me: I know GMEN and FEDS.
  • 52a, [Helter-__], SKELTER. I don’t know Mr. Cameron, but when I see a Beatles reference I assume Andrea put it there!
  • 62a, [First novel in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle], ERAGON. How many books are there now?

I don’t think I’m qualified to evaluate this puzzle’s worth, so I’m going to abstain from voting.


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42 Responses to Thursday, November 7, 2013

  1. Evan says:

    Clever idea, but I’m not sure why FAIN was necessary. Could easily make that RAIN.

    Wasn’t the controversial cluing of JEW in the LAT, not the NYT?
    (Yes, yes it was.)

    • bananarchy says:

      Was wondering the same thing. RAG and ALA would make for RAIN, ALT, and GAS in the down answers. That’s just the first alternative that came to mind, but there are many others. Crosswordese and obscurities irk me less than they do many others on this forum, I find, but laziness I cannot abide.

      • bananarchy says:

        I should add, though, that I did enjoy the puzzle quite a bit and thought the theme was neat.

        • Richard says:

          Jeff Chen mentioned an email exchange he had with the constructor regarding FAIN. Based on the response, it is clear that it was not used out of laziness. Personally, I am glad he went with it instead of rain.

          • Evan says:

            Why? There’s no downside to RAIN, whereas FAIN is an archaic word that no one uses anymore and isn’t necessary to make that corner work. If he had used RAIN instead, would you or I or anyone else have cared that he didn’t use FAIN?

          • bananarchy says:

            Yeah, I read that after I commented. Different strokes for different folks, then; fair enough.

      • Brucem says:

        I guess it shows just how out of touch I am. I think “fain” is far preferable because it is interesting, unusual, somewhat challenging, evocative, rather than boring, trivial, banal and within the vocabulary of the average 1st grader. I cannot for the life of me see how the latter characteristics make for a superior entry.

        • pannonica says:

          I think it should have been OBI and reclusive Irish playwright Brian O’AIN. Or possibly VAIN and VBI (Venomous Blowfish Index).

        • Sarah says:

          The only way RAIN becomes a lame entry is if it’s consistently clued in the same ways over and over and over again due to lousy editors/constructors….there’s gotta be 200+ different ways to clue it?

          The amount of repeat clues in various crossword venues is rather pathetic.

  2. Evad says:

    So why wasn’t it Hawaii OOOOO (which would fit, btw)?

  3. HH says:

    Could Tyler not have known about [TV letter-revealer who never got past Contestant’s Row on “The Price Is Right”?]

    • Tyler says:

      Nah, I saw that one. But it would have repeated a show, and it was hard enough to fit in what I did. Judging by the ratings, I didn’t do a very good job. :-P

  4. Evad says:

    Anyone else recall Patrick Merrell’s KKKKKKKKKKRACE ?

  5. CY Hollander says:

    FWIW, I’m Jewish and don’t find the “Shylock” clue offensive.

    I think “Just above” for A TOUCH OVER passes muster, as in, “He was driving _________ the speed limit.”

  6. Jason F says:

    Great NYT puzzle today!

    I always find it odd that the crossword world uses the spelling “Oporto” rather than what I believe to be the more common English spelling, namely “Porto”. I recently had a fabulous visit to the city and I do not recall encountering the “Oporto” spelling at all. In contrast, Porto always seems to be clued with a partial like “____-Novo”. (I do note that “Oporto” is a listed variant, so it is fair game in a pinch – but the disparity bothers me).

    • Gareth says:

      I’d say Oporto and Porto have equal status in English and are equally common. However I’d also say that Berne and Teheran are far more commonly used than Bern and Tehran in my world, so what do I know…

  7. Tracy B. says:

    I like FAIN on a Thursday. Archaic, but oddly fresh. I fain would have more such whimsy. I paused at the Shylock clue (lots of other clues would do). It’s a strong debut theme and I appreciated the neat little clue for 4-Down.

    LAT was punny! I always dig those groaners.

  8. ethan says:

    Not sure why the Shylock clue is offensive. He was Jewish (as am I); he was also avaricious. Cluing without reference to Judaism means the clue/answer combo isn’t derogatory in way as far as I’m concerned. Would “Othello trait” = JEALOUSY be insulting to black people?

    • Tracy B. says:

      I’m not offended by it, but I’d avoid it anyway, because there’s historic precedent for that negative stereotype outside of Shakespeare’s characterization. There’s room and some reason for someone to take offense, and so I’d err on the side of not doing that I guess. I don’t begrudge the constructor or editor’s choice on this though. I’m not going to be thinking or worrying about it tomorrow. (I was much more offended by the appearance of COULTER as an entry. Shudder.)

      Othello doesn’t borrow from a negative stereotype that we’re meant to laugh at or feel contempt for. He’s more of a fallible protagonist with whom we’re meant to identify. That feels different to me.

      • Gary R says:

        I’m not really offended by it, but I’d avoid the repeated snarky “Coulter” references anyway.

        I realize that we’re all readers of the NYT, where the editorial “center” is socialism, but “offense” at the mere mention of the name of someone on the other side seems over the top to me. But I suppose that “extremism in the defense of liberalism is no vice.”

        • Tracy B. says:

          Redundant snarky references would more aptly describe the situation. (It’s only been twice…)

          Point well taken though.

  9. Daniel Myers says:

    A matter of taste in sooth, but I too would fain have more of these antiquities.

    • Pete says:

      Dan – I didn’t find the article interesting, but thanks be to The Guardian, I found the next article more so. You know, the one where they posted the video trailer for The Nymphomaniac deemed too pornographic for you tube.

      Gotta love British newspapers.

  10. Alan D.(erKazarian) says:

    It’s funny what sets people off. This “fain” thing is being debated all over the crossword blogishere – here, Rex’s, Wordplay. I simply used the word since I find it interesting how some words just disappear. It’s used 67 times in Shakespeare – more than many other “normal” words. I figured if Will didn’t like it, it would be very easy for him to correct. But he didn’t.

    Also, I’ve learned that the public basically doesn’t care about crosswordese, cheater squares and the like. This theme seems to have excited them, and that’s all that really counts.

    Personally, I wasn’t thrilled with the amount of crosswordese. The fill was a bear, so many of these were necessary for me. I also didn’t like the look of the grid much, but it made the four WAYs work. Finally I never even noticed the inconsistency that FIVEO created! That was something I would have tried to keep out of the grid if I had only noticed (sigh). But, again, the majority of solvers don’t seem to care about that, either.

    • Gareth says:

      ” I’ve learned that the public basically doesn’t care about crosswordese” – I strongly disagree with that statement. Every occasional/non crossword solver I know and have talked to about crosswords complains that they have too much esoterica. I realise this is anecdotal but I’m pretty sure “crossword-ese” is a major barrier to new solvers (especially ones with poorer general knowledge.)

      • Alan D. says:

        I guess I was basing that statement on something someone said over at Wordplay. He said that if the theme was interesting enough then he’s more able to forgive lesser problems. And that sentiment was more or less reiterated throughout today’s blog.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Crossword blog commenters are not remotely a representative group when it comes to “the public.” The people who try to work a crossword but are instantly turned off because of junk words they don’t know (and might feel dumb for not knowing–when actually, there are plenty of common crossword answers that it is entirely reasonable for an educated American not to know, such as OLEO), drop the puzzle, and say “I can’t do those things” forevermore.

          • Alan D. says:

            That’s a really great point, Amy (and one that I hadn’t thought of). Thanks!

          • Gary R says:

            Yes, OLEO is rather foreign – I grew up in Wisconsin, where we only had butter.

            OLIO is at an entirely different level of obscurity. ;-)

          • Sarah says:

            I’ve never been mad at OLEO, only the cluing of it, which often is unoriginal (and that’s not because it doesn’t have cluing potential). I feel OLEOmargarine makes the entry well-known. I’m no expert, of course, so feel free to ask around and prove me wrong about that.

            There are only 4 commonly used entries that share 3 of those letters in the same spot: OLES , OLEG, OREO, OLIO. That, combined with the common letters, means we see it open.

            Personally, I think it’s become one of those entries that’s a symbol of crosswords: like ERE and ARIA.

    • Sarah says:

      I don’t know if you actually constructed this puzzle (it would be so easy to imitate someone else, wouldn’t it?), but I’ll respond, knowing full well that this could be a trolling attempt.

      I declare your premise that the public basically doesn’t care about crosswordese wrong: I believe if puzzles had less crosswordese, more people would solve them.

      Proof: Me.

      Based on what I know about society, this puzzle has about 15 entries that go into the not well known column. About par for the course. When ~20% of your entries are stuff regular people don’t even know, how are newbies supposed to solve them? Where’s the footholds? If I took away every word/fact you’ve learned from crosswords, your time would double/triple/quadruple?

      Putting FAIN in the grid, when RAIN can be used without even changing anything else, just adds insult to injury. A good way to make new solvers say WTH. It’s precisely why I called the NYT crossword pathetic when they published a Monday with the JIBS/JADE crossing, when both FIBS and FADE had amazing clue potential left.

      My main point is, when the NYT crossword uses crosswordese in a puzzle, they are basically shooting themself in the foot.

      None of this is neccesarily particular to your puzzle, almost all NYT puzzles suffer from way too much crosswordese.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        BTW, “Sarah,” unlike you, the vast majority of commenters here log in with real email addresses that often reveal (to me) their real names, and also unlike you, they usually stick with a single name. The world of crossword constructors is far too small for anyone to get away with passing himself or herself off as a particular constructor.

  11. Alan D. says:

    As per Matt’s Quigley review: It’s funny but to my ear wok and walk sound exactly the same. It’s con and Khan that sound different to me (and I’m from Boston, too). Khan has a little more “a” in it.

    • joon says:

      pronunciation is a funny thing. i understand that there’s more than one way to pronounce “walk”, and some people don’t say it the same as wok. similarly with khan and con. but to me, those are not “close enough”s; they’re exactly the same. i didn’t worry about it.

      what i did worry about was SPEED ERASER, because most people don’t pronounce “eraser” with a long E. (all of the other theme answers get long E sounds prepended.) but brendan found it listed as an alternate pronunciation so we went with it. for what it’s worth, the barenaked ladies song “eraser” does pronounce it with a long E (… but then again, they also pronounce the third syllable as “sore” in some places). we left a number of fun entries like FLAMING ELLIPSE and ERECTS STOUT on the cutting room floor because the initial sound isn’t a long E. for a theme that hinges on a pronunciation change, we wanted to be ultra-consistent.

      alan, fantastic puzzle in the NYT. i found [ARMED] quickly enough, but it took me waaaay too long to figure out what was going on in the rest of the puzzle. and put me in as one more data point in the plus column for FAIN. my only trouble with it was i didn’t have any crosses when i got there, and so i hesitated over FAIN vs LIEF. ;)

  12. @Gareth!
    Thank you for the writeup, but since you don’t drink (nor do I) and were unfamiliar with the puns/wines, i think it didnt give you enough to enjoy.
    I’d like to fill it in a bit as a crossword as i don’t want Gregory’s debut to go uncommented upon!

    We met at a tournament in Alameda a few years ago. He brought his adorable whippet Axel and we became pals. He’s a speed solver and had never made a puzzle. When I was approached by Dan Feyer to construct a puzzle for a Napa tournament, Gregory and I decided to collaborate.
    This is a variation on that one.

    Gregory was more familiar with wines, and I believe QUESYRAHSYRAH was the original impetus.

    By reducing to just three long themers, (we dropped MARILYNMERLOT) we were able to get into the fill:
    (And as you noted: SPARKLE, BRUT)
    Plus we paired the wines with TAPAS and other TIDBITs…

    Not a pangram, no JX, but lots of QKZ action!
    AND of course SKELTER was my tip to the boys!

    We live in tasting/spitting distance to the most famous wine country in the States/world, come visit!

  13. Lemonade714 says:

    I really enjoyed your collaboration ACM, tell us more about Gregory, please.

    Gareth, as you not familiar with Doris Day and Que Ser Sera, whatever will be will be?
    LISTEN .

    • Gareth says:

      A couple of people misinterpreted what I was saying… Very familiar with song. What I was saying was that a) never heard of SYRAH the wine, at least by that name; b) the new phrase, QUESYRAHSYRAH doesn’t form a coherent thought. I repeat though that this isn’t all that unusual among pun entries.

  14. Martin says:

    FAIN is not crosswordese. FYI, hard words are simply hard words, and they do have a place in crosswords, if the constructor/editor sees fit to use them. To be sure, RAIN would be a far better word for an easy puzzle, but this is a Thursday puzzle where (as I’m sure you know) you will get some harder words in the grid.

    As a constructor, I probably would have used RAIN if it were my puzzle…. but it’s not my puzzle! If we all did things the same way, crosswords would be exceedingly dull, and very predictable (or duller and more predictable if one’s cynical).

    As for scaring off newbies, I agree, hard words and crosswordese should be kept to a minimum… in early-in-the-week puzzles.


    • Lois P. says:

      Everyone used to have to read Shakespeare in school with footnotes explaining the tough old words. Is that not true today? “Fain” was commonly encountered. I consider myself one of the more ignorant solvers, but “fain” is not that hard, just fun. Just because “rain” can possibly be clued in an interesting way doesn’t mean that it has to replace “fain.”

Comments are closed.