NYT 5:37 (Amy)
LAT 5:43 (Gareth)
CS 5:57 (Dave)
WSJ (Friday) untimed (pannonica)
Blindauer 11:30 (Matt)
Barry C. Silk and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
Yay! Reason for a new portmanteau name: Barry and Brad have teamed up to make this puzzle, and I shall call them Barbra.
Lots of great stuff here, and one utterly unfamiliar thing that didn’t look plausible even though the crossings checked out: 24d. [Common British Isles shader], WYCH ELM. Wych?? Huh.
Highlights: PETIT FOUR, DONNA REED, Laura Bush the LIBRARIAN, GO-GETTERS, PIDGIN, GNOCCHI, FOREVER STAMP, TWITTERVERSE, BEANBAG, EXPEDIA, and WIPEOUTS.
Mystery of the sort-of-junky-fill variety: ERI is [“Cap’n ___” (Joseph C. Lincoln novel)]?? Did not know the NICOLAI clue, [Gedda or Ghiaurov of opera fame]. Opera “fame” might be pushing it a bit, though I have no doubt that both names are entirely familiar to opera-buff Brad. I would only have known this one if the clue were [Amy’s 7th-grade math teacher Mike]. Mr. Nicolai was a little dreamy, since he taught the gifted kids about computers with that TRS-80 machine.
Am visiting family with a toasty warm fireplace, but that fire is hell on my sensitive eyeballs, so I’ll sign off now and rest my eyes. 3.95 stars, a little under 4 what with ENIAC and ERI.
Patrick Blindauer’s January website puzzle, “Here’s Looking at You” — Matt’s review
Before you read my review, take a minute and check out Patrick’s sweet new site redesign:
Too cool. That’s an appropriate phrase to introduce this review as well, since 14(!) squares in this month’s puzzle take a rebused double OO. You’ll forgive me for not listing all 28 (OO) words, but some highlights:
***I’m well beyond being surprised when an answer I know is correct doesn’t fit into a Blindauer grid. The one that gave the game away here was 45-across, where [1990 movie based on a Nicholas Pileggi book] is certainly going to be Scorsese’s classic GOODFELLAS. That’s a 10-letter movie going into nine boxes, so I knew tomf(oo)lery was af(oo)t.
***The big payoff comes at 61-across, where [1974 Rolling Stones hit] is D(OO) D(OO) D(OO) D(OO) D(OO). That l(oo)ks very nice, but I’ve seen the Stones in concert twice and I don’t think I know this song. Let me Y(oo)T(oo)be it to jog the old memory. OK yes, I do know that song but thought it was called “Heartbreaker.” Wiki tells me it hit #15, so definitely legit.
***Long solving time for me (11:30), due to not knowing where those OOs were lurking plus some tricky clues. Such as [You might put one on a horse] for BET, [Exercise performed while seated] for ETUDE, and [Layer of flooring] for TILER.
Fun puzzle. There is no other rating I can give it but 4.(00) stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Good Dog” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases begin with commands one might give to a dog:
- [Take it easy] clued a nice 15, SIT BACK AND RELAX.
- [Ignore one’s bedtime] clued STAY UP LATE.
- [Kraft coating mix] was SHAKE ‘N’ BAKE. A staple of my adolescence. “Shake” is a bit unusual as a command to a dog; I guess it only works with larger dogs who can lift their paw to human height when seated.
- [“I just remembered …”] clued another nice 15, COME TO THINK OF IT.
Not very original as theme ideas go, but I did enjoy the conversational tone of these particular theme entries as well as the consistency of the commands starting each phrase. I first suspected a rebus with 1-Across: [Hit video game that has players emulating musicians], which I assumed was Guitar Hero. I’ve never heard of this ROCK BAND version and wonder if it’s a similar idea? [Crow with a distinct voice] was a deliberate ploy to not have you think of the musician SHERYL Crow. Never watched a full episode of [Showtime series about a psychopath], but DEXTER is a nice entry in that lower left quadrant. Had my hardest time in the lower right–I had Analyze THIS before THAT, so it took me a long time to see ANOINTED for [Oiled in a way] and TEMPESTS for [Boating dangers]. The crossing KIP-up as a type of gymnastics move was a real head-scratcher as well. Here’s a video of someone doing one. Don’t try this at home folks, that guy is a professional!
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review
This is an unusually subtle theme for the LA Times… In fact, although I did glance at the explanation at 52d, I was never really compelled to figure out the theme while solving the puzzles. The crossings provided the theme answers without too much effort. The official LA Times policy is no rebuses, but this is pretty close to one! Four black squares have invisible BRIDGEs (a la that common fantasy trope) that end/start two adjacent answers. Presented “before and after” style they are: FOOT(BRIDGE)HANDS. MRANDMRS(BRIDGE)THEGAP. I hadn’t heard of the former answer. DENTAL(BRIDGE)OFFICERS. NASAL(BRIDGE)HEAD. I think about every meaning of BRIDGE has been used, which is a nice touch, even if it means answers like BRIDGEHANDS that are a touch arbitrary: you could have [any card game]HANDS really.
Other bits and pieces:
- [Creepy thing] for MOSS is avery clever clue to start with indeed!
- [Lit at the table, perhaps], FLAMBE has a clever, if dated clue and is generally a zippy answer.
- [“Shaddap!”], CANIT. Very brash, but it’s a lively shorter answer nonetheless.
- STELE is the type of answer people love to complain about, but if you do any reading about archeology the word will pop up. Specialty words (from whatever field) are perfectly acceptable in moderation in my boat.
- I don’t get why the cash in a COINCASE should be petty. Why should it be?
- [Tip], DOFF. We were taught to doff our required-to-be-worn-when-in-uniform caps at the first primary (elementary) school I was expelled from…
Another strong theme. It’s been a good week theme-wise at the LA Times! 3.75 Stars
Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Morning Addition” — pannonica’s write-up
The title’s a play on “morning edition,” descriptive of newspapers and by expansion some radio and television news offerings. In its modified form, it explains the mechanism of the theme, inserting AM—ante meridiem—into phrases to make new ones.
- 23a [Turkish bath catering to vagabonds?] BUM STE(AM)ER (bum steer). A mentioned in an earlier write-up (or perhaps in the comments), not a fan of equating vagabonds and hobos with bums.
- 25a. Small Chinese alternative to Noah’s Ark?] LIFE S(AM)PAN (life span). Implies that “life ark” (or even “life boat”) is a reasonable description of that vessel? That question mark in the clue is carrying an awfully large tonnage.
- 42a. [How “McHale’s Navy” cast members appeared?] AS SE(AM)EN ON TV (“as seen on TV”). Cute, though it might conjure up watching licentious videos for some perverse solvers. Like me, I guess. ps: ick.
- 55a. [Truck driver still in his trial period?] BETA TE(AM)STER (beta tester).
- 80a. [How away parties got back to the Enterprise?] BE(AM)ING THERE (Being There).
- 93a. [Alliance of those who attack from hiding?] (AM)BUSH LEAGUE (bush league).
- 11a. [Paintings depicting one of the Four Horsemen?] F(AM)INE ARTS (fine arts).
- 114a. [Early page in a children’s 3-D book of the presidents?] POP-UP AD(AM)S (pop-up ads, not papadams).
- 3d. [Large items thrown overboard?] JUMBO JETS(AM) (jumbo jets). Far and away my favorite themer.
- 67d. [Mariner who can be broken?] T(AM)ABLE SALT (table salt).
Just a few genuinely amusing concoctions, and I became distracted by the preponderance of E → EAM conversions, nearly half of the entries, including the first one across.
- 1a [Rihanna, by birth] BAJAN, which means she’s from the Caribbean island Barbados, not the Mexican peninsula Baja.
- Favorite clue: [Make a cameo] CARVE.
- Initially mis-parsed clue: 104a [Bobby’s title] CONSTABLE. Bobby who? Bobby Kennedy? Oh, just “bobby.” Not even Bobby Peel.
- Least favorite fill: 9d [Bank, often] MORTGAGEE. That it crosses 50a PAYEE just makes it that much more offensive.
- 118a [Most hominoids] APES. Most? Did someone confuse hominid and hominoid?
- 56d [Like 60% of all people] ASIAN. Me? My torso, left arm, and right foot (exclusive of fourth toe) are Asiatic.
In general, the CAP Quotient™ is low and there’s enough variety throughout to keep the solve interesting. Good puzzle.
Nicolai Gedda was one of the major tenors in the second half of the 20th century. He was frequently heard on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. That was a gimme for sure, although I don’t think I’m familiar with Mr. Ghiaurov.
A pleasure to have a cultural clue.
NYT- I love that TWITTERVERSE in the middle of the puzzle. I plunked it down with no hesitation. Then my luck ran out for a while. just substitutions all over the place, like SPLIT UP in lieu of SCATTER or PIE PANS in lieu of OREGANO (hey, the E and O were in the right place). After a few of those I decided to pay attention to the crosses and it was pretty smooth, except for that wild and crazy ELM…
I liked seeing ST. PETER near the cross in the middle. And Amy, I liked ENIAC and its clue!
Nice going, Barbra!
Nicolai Gedda is indeed an “opera name of fame”, IMHO. And, yeah the ERI clue is kind of obscure by today’s standards, but it was one of Maleska’s standbys back in the “good” old days… that’s the only reason it was a gimme for me.
Nice teamwork guys!
I’ve heard of Cap’n Eo, but not Cap’n ERI. Googled it and it has been released in many different editions. It was made into a silent film in 1915. And it is available to read free online thanks to Project Gutenberg. Sounds kind of like one of Conrad’s earlier works, but I don’t know it.
Got Donna Reed instantly for the most unusual reason — my dad dated her in high school. She and my dad and Art Carney were friends. They used to hang out under the wychelm (not).
Amy Amy Amy. (Is there an emoticon for affectionately-intended frustration?!)
Nicloai Gedda would be on most people’s list of one of the three greatest tenors of all time, along with Jussi Bjoerling, probably Caruso, possibly Domingo, and couple other suspects. OK, he wasn’t a pop icon like the “3 tenors”, but in my view he was superior vocally, and certainly musically, to 2 of the 3, (and I’m including as an exclusion the overhyped screamer Pavarotti.) Gedda had I think, the greatest ringing but powerful and unforced high tenor range in history, but also power and flexibility in the mid and low tenor ranges. Very rare among great tenors. The closest is Domingo, but he didn’t have Gedda’s high range. Also, as it happens, I heard his major operatic debut in the 50’s, as a 7 year old child at the Paris Opera, in the title role of Weber’s *Oberon.* Needless to say, I didn’t fully appreciate what I was hearing. And he is the most recorded tenor in history. (OK, I had to google for that one.) Did I mention how diffident I am about expressing musical opinions?)
Nicolai Ghiaurov is probably the consensus pick as *the* greatest basso in operatic history, with a few others garnering votes (but not including Jennifer.) He was married to the great Italian soprano Mirella Freni. They reportedly had a shockingly stable and happy marriage, and became something of a celebrity duo.
I liked Barbra’s puzzle a lot. Racy Bras would work as a cognomen too. Maybe I can get a vote from HH on that one.
Bruce, I always greatly enjoy reading your posts, but I disagree with the idea (not expressed, but I believe implicit) that a puzzle that mentions a classical artist is superior to one with a pop reference. I actually listen to opera and knew Gedda, but popularity is relative. Nicolai Gedda has 614,000 Google hits while Dr. Dre has 45,000,000. To the extent that Google hits is an indicator of fame, Gedda is on a par with Jaheim, a rapper with a great voice, but still a rapper. Imagine the reaction to a clue that required you to know Jaheim.
I have learned a lot about classical music in my many years of following this blog and the NYT forum and blog, so I am not complaining (I am grateful), but it rekindles my long time feeling that cruciverbalists consider some topics to be worthier than others.
The NYT has greatly improved its once tone deaf cluing of sports, but sadly, the number of sports references has declined pretty dramatically over the last few years, most likely the product of constructors fearing rejection if they submit a puzzle with too many sports and, God forbid, R&B references.
I meant implicitly operatic tenor. I’m sure Michael Bolton, who is a pretty damn good high tenor in his own right, has more recordings and certainly more sales. I’m sure Mario Lanza has more sales. And I didn’t say anything about superiority of one puzzle over another. Maybe it seemed implicit, but not really.
I wonder how many of those 45,000,000 people googling Dr. Dre do crossword puzzles. The best puzzlers have a lot of general knowledge and recall, and of course quick response to letter order and other puzzling skills. They tend to be stronger in the more sophisticated areas, such as classical music, literature and science, than the general population. They also seem to have a wide range of interests (that’s not me, nor do I have the qualities I mentioned earlier). Bruce wants Amy to feel that certain knowledge about opera is important and widely enough known among solvers, not the general population. My particular lacunae led to a big failure with this puzzle, with NICOLAI being one of very few gimmes.
I grew up with both hip hop and crossword puzzles. I grew up with Dr. Dre’s NWA song “Express Yourself”.
I also studied classical music from an early age. I have a degree in music production from Berkelee School of Music and people like Dr. Dre were part of the curriculum.
I do not like the highbrow/lowbrow duality of culture and when people assume that pop music is unsophisticated. If you think it’s so easy, let’s see you record a hit song! There is no objective ideal when it comes to matters of taste that proves that what you like is better than what other people like.
Wait, Steve, you’re saying there isn’t (or aren’t, as you please) enough sports in NYT crosswords??
Did others sing this to themselves after reading the first line of Bruce’s comment?
Good link, Sam. I actually knew that song when I posted, and I’m a secret fan of Amy Winehouse, though I guess the secret is out. Somehow she reminds me of Janis — very neat, charismatic, talented ladies with equally sad outcomes.
You may be surprised to hear that most people wouldn’t be able to compile a list of greatest tenors… Or, alternatively, you may not.
I just learned yesterday that Ezio Pinza was a bass. I was listening to Lea Salonga (my personal favorite) and saw this old clip from South Pacific:
I know a tenor, Alexander Hamilton.
Tut, tut, tut.
nb: That’s at least a three-tiered response. Quite possibly four-tiered.
Bruce, surely you realize that probably fewer than 1 in a million Americans went to the Paris Opera during their childhoods? It is hitting me as ridiculously elitist to chide me, no matter how affectionately, for not knowing the names of opera singers. I have reached my limit in taking crap from people about not being well-versed in opera and classical music. Hearing loss my entire life—how the hell am I supposed to gravitate to enjoying what I can’t fully appreciate? I’m done.
Amy, I think you’re misreading me a bit, or at least misinterpreting what I intended. You remarked that “opera *fame* might be pushing it a bit.” I took that as meaning that the universe within which we were operating was opera singers. I was making the point that within that universe, that reference class, the clue referred to two persons who are clearly famous in that universe. I’m sorry you were offended, but I’m not suggesting that everyone is or should be familiar with that universe. I wasn’t intending to “chide” you, though I admit that I feel just as chided (and get annoyed for being called chided), for not knowing hundreds of rock groups, or the 2nd through 5 place finishers of every American Idol show that has ever aired. The idea that my having heard someone as a child in itself makes it suitable for a crossword was intended as a joke. If they are suitable for a crossword it is because they are famous opera singers — if one thinks that a crossword may legitimately include a reference to opera singers. (Note that the clue was drafted in such a way that one had to have heard of only one of them.) If the topic of opera singers is not suitable for a crossword, then obviously, the clue was unfair.
I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder too. From my perspective crosswords tend to be obsessively focussed on things I know little about and have little interest in, whereas the things I am well versed in are regarded (by some) with contempt and condescension.
And at the same time, do you not express contempt and condescension for most pop music and TV material in crosswords?
You may find it tragic, but “opera fame” is pretty much only fame in opera circles while “pop fame” and “TV fame” are fame that permeates the American media for mass audiences.
“From my perspective crosswords tend to be obsessively focussed on things I know little about and have little interest in…”
They why do you do them, unless you’re at gunpoint?
Amy, I’m sorry to know about the hearing loss, so I’m also sorry that I tried to push Magic Flute on you. So in future (if I ever have) I won’t try to pull a “You don’t know that??” on you, when you know so much more than I do about most things. But perhaps you should not project your reaction onto most crossword solvers in the area of classical music, if you are inhibited from enjoying it yourself. However, you can only speak from your own perspective, and most of the time your reviews are insightful and helpful.
A tale of two puzzles… Top-left, bottom-right and most of the middle was set at a Tuesday difficulty. Then I ground to a complete halt. Had no way into both bottom-left and top-right corners. I have vaguely heard of a FOREVERSTAMP but even with FOREVERS??MP I chose SLUMP??? Didn’t know GANNETT or NICOLAI, GNOCCHI is not a pasta I would come up with without a lot of letters. Top-right: had STPETER, TENSE but could get no further. Couldn’t remember the meaning of “salmagundi” and most of the other clues were hard. Is there a concrete link between Nirvana and analgesia??? I did try “HOP on Prop” and crossed it with ORLON as the 1946 invention… So what could have been a 5 minute crossword suddenly turned into a Saturday. I can only assume the hard corners were down to Brad, he and I do not share a wheelhouse… [Instagram filter] failed my breakfast test. [It’s snowy in Florida], however made me smile. WYCHELM was easy enough, once I ditched yuM…
This is late, but the “nirvana” in the clue refers to the Buddhist concept, not the band. That said, there is considerable disagreement within Buddhism as to whether the lack of suffering referred to in the concept of nirvana refers to physical pain or only to mental/emotional stress.
Excellent, sparkly puzzle. Maybe a little weak in the 3 or 4 letter words, but I barely noticed.
Gareth: Yeah, Wikipedia says gnocci is a kind of pasta– but in traditional Italian restaurants where I’m from, it’s potatoes served family-style (out of a single large bowl for a table). And delicious, I might add.
Also, the dumpling style varieties tend to look like maggots, which is always a plus.
Good puzzle, Friday-tough, but fair in all respects. Surprising, OFT off-beat clues (forgoing the obvious Romanov hint for ANASTASIA; recalling the former FLOTUS’s career as LIBRARIAN).
Apropos Steve’s complaint about the decline in sports references, it was perhaps a lost opportunity here to clue IRON HORSE as the nickname of Lou Gehrig (apart from MLB immortality, almost certainly the Ivy League athlete who had the greatest impact as a pro, notwithstanding the achievements of Bill Bradley, Calvin Hill, Jeremy Lin and many others).
“Man bites dog” moment: when recalling the name of the junior senator from Texas was actually pleasant and useful.
FYI: The original clue for IRON HORSE was “Murderer’s Row nickname.” But that sports reference was replaced with Will’s clue.
Could someone please give the LAT puzzle 4.5 stars? That way we’d have at least one vote for each of the nine possible ratings. Nine votes thus far covering eight of the nine ratings–always nice to see a consensus.
LOL. I don’t quite understand that. I can’t see anything that would make it have such varied appeal. Maybe the subtle/unconventional theme? But with those you normally see a bimodal distribution. At least I think you do?
I think I’ve created a monster. My new nickname should be Frankenstein.
Isn’t it the professed goal of the NYT and its editor to be more “high-brow” than other such as the LAT? Since the editors have final and arbitrary cluing control, the results will always reflect the editors’ view even more than the constructors’.
Textbook example today of how knowledge-based fill is a problem. I had the puzzle almost entirely solved but didn’t “see” Forever Stamp even though I had “stamp” and a few other letters. I concede that I should’ve gotten it and if I’d walked away for a bit, as I used to, it probably would’ve come. However, if I knew just Petit Four (I needed the F as I guessed the P in Pidgin) I get Forever Stamp and finish the puzzle. Or just WVA. Or just Wych Elm. I’ve a remedy for knowledge based answers but I’ll share another time.
What answers aren’t knowledge-based??????????????????????????????????????????????????? You still either know or don’t know vocabulary words. And if, taking an example at random, you don’t know what a SUSURRUS is then heaven help you try and infer any of the letters!
I think the distinction to be made (and maybe this is what Avg Solvr meant, too) is the difference between trivia and wordplay. I tend to use names and titles, so even a normal word with fun cluing possibilities can be given a trivia-based clue to increase the difficulty. This doesn’t usually increase the fun factor for most solvers, but a handful of trivia can really jazz up a puzzle. It’s easy to overdo it, too, since an original trivia clue is much easier to write than an original wordplay clue.
Every time I click on the WSJ Fri. puzzle link, it takes me to wsj131227. Any idea how I can get wsj140103?
Quick workaround: copy the link URL, paste it into the location bar, manually substitute the appropriate date. In this case:
In the meantime, I’ll notify Dave that something is hinky there with the links page.
Thanks!! Big help.