Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fireball 6:32* (Amy) 
NYT 4:11 (Amy) 
AV Club 3:28 (Amy) 
LAT 5:16 (Gareth) 
BEQ 7:54 (Matt) 
CS 6:25 (Dave) 

Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Clogged Hearts”

AV Club crossword answers, 1 30 14 "Clogged Hearts"

AV Club crossword answers, 1 30 14 “Clogged Hearts”

Yet another AV Club puzzle in which my perception of the difficulty level is at variance with the rating Ben reports. 3 out 5 difficulty? I’m thinking more like 2. (Note: This is not remotely troubling, just curious.)

I like the theme. For all those times we see lame fill like OLEO or SUETY in other crosswords, finally we have them hidden within larger phrases where we don’t have to contend with oleaginous clues.

  • 17a. [Footwear for RuPaul], DRAG HEELS. Hiding GHEE, the Indian clarified butter.
  • 23a. [Concert stage about three hours west of Dollywood], GRAND OLE OPRY. OLEO, tucked away where we can pretend we didn’t see it.
  • 39a. [How some shows may be brought back], BY POPULAR DEMAND. There’s your LARD, which I do not eat. My favorite pie place, Hoosier Mama Pie Company, uses butter in their delicious crusts. And my favorite restaurant doesn’t use lard in their refried beans because that wouldn’t be halal (and what’s not to love about an Algerian-owned Mexican joint?).
  • 51a. [Bluster], ISSUE THREATS. SUET is from the kidneys (!) and loins (!) of cattle, sheep, and random other animals. That seems troubling.
  • 63a. [Processed food staples, or what span the middle of this puzzle’s theme answers], TRANS FATS. Most of our puzzle’s fats are saturated fats, but they are TRANS FATS in that they go across (trans) two words in each theme answer.

Now, when the trans fats or saturated fats clog things up, it’s generally the coronary arteries rather than the heart (the puzzle’s title is “Clogged Hearts”), but we’ll allow poetic license since the AV Club is not a biomedical journal.

Five more things:

  • 70a. [Breakfast order including bacon, sausage, eggs, and potatoes], FRY-UP. This is a noun? Totally unknown to me. Sounds like it’s got a lot of artery-clogging potential.
  • 16a. [Hecuba’s sister, and Priam’s murder victim], CILLA. Never heard of her.
  • 52d. [Film about leftover food?], SARAN. Great clue.
  • 4d. [Chance to spin], DJ GIG. Slightly arbitrary phrase?
  • 9d. [Delivery people whose jobs were obviated by refrigerators], ICEMEN. I hate the ice door outside my kitchen wall because it’s impossible to insulate and my kitchen cabinets are bonus fridges in the winter. The peanut oil has been solidified for weeks.

Fave fill: FOX MULDER. Other fave clue: 49d. [The German way?], BAHN. BAHN isn’t a great answer, but the clue redeems it.

Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest crossword, “What’s the Final Score?”

Hmm. Oversized (15×19) puzzle with seven presumable theme entries, and the instructions to figure out “What’s the Final Score.” Contest entries due by Sunday evening. Hmm. I think this one’s tougher than many of Peter’s meta/contest puzzles because I haven’t figured it out yet. Good luck to the rest of you Fireball subscribers!

No star rating from me yet because I don’t know if I admire the contest or not. (And no solution grid, obviously.)

Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 30 14, no. 0130

NY Times crossword solution, 1 30 14, no. 0130

Okay, it’s essentially a double-quip theme with a little Schrödinger’s-cat square rebus dealio:

  • 17a, 27a. [With 27-Across, an old riddle], WHAT’S BLACK, WHITE, / AND RE(A)D ALL OVER?
  • 49a. [Answer to one spelling of the riddle], THIS NEWSPAPER.
  • 63a. [Answer to another spelling of the riddle], A SUNBURNED PANDA.
  • 24d. [Box ___] can clue either SET (crossing the RED panda) or SEAT (crossing the READ newspaper).

Cute enough. The quip-themeness of the theme doesn’t especially grab me, but at least we get two punchlines and a two-way square to juice it up.

I’m always surprised to see 58d: ANIL ([Blue dye source]) in any contemporary puzzle. It’s actually included in Stan Newman’s updated Newsday crossword editorial guidelines (coming soon to a Cruciverb near you) in the category of “uninteresting/obscure answer words” (along with things like AGA, ALEE, APSE, ASEA, and ASTA, just looking at words starting with A). I would be perfectly fine never seeing any of these words in a crossword ever again, frankly. I took a minute or so to try to get rid of ANIL in this grid. You can do it with ANON crossing Queen NOOR and OWNS, or more go modern-lingo with MOOR and PWNS. All it takes is a commitment not to allow ANIL in one’s grid. (In my work with Daily Celebrity Crossword, our constructors manage to keep the not-really-familiar-to-noncrossworders vocabulary out of the puzzles. It is absolutely hard work, don’t get me wrong. But apparently there remains a large contingent in the puzzle business that wholeheartedly accepts such fill as a necessary evil, or even a neutral non-evil presence. Me, I don’t care for it.) In sum, NOOR and PWNS aren’t as good as NOIR and OWLS, but ANON is several rungs better than ANIL. I would vote for ditching ANIL. (Memo to constructors: You could do worse than to strike those lame words from your word list. They don’t improve a puzzle.)

Five more things:

  • 6d. [Home is one corner in it], BALLYARD. Is this about baseball? Never seen BALLYARD before.
  • 59a. [Capital in 2004-05’s Orange Revolution], KIEV. Ah, yes. In the proud days when the people had power and weren’t tormented by the government’s police. Horrible, what’s going on in Ukraine now.
  • 1a. [___ Beach, city near San Luis Obispo], PISMO. I may have been there one time. And I may have been excited because I had heard of the place before … through crosswords. Not a rousing 1-Across.
  • 28d. [Fictional character who says “I am not what you call a civilized man!”], NEMO. That is because Nemo is a darling little clownfish, of course.
  • 43d. [Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas,” recordwise], SIDE B. “Recordwise”! That makes me laugh. “What’s in the fridge, milkwise?” “How is it outside, humiditywise?” Can we add -wise to anything?

EPHEMERA is a lovely word. It should be a girl’s name.

3.25 stars from me.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Main Course to Follow” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Theme phrases which begin with something that might precede the main course:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 01/30/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 01/30/14

  • [Crazy for] was NUTS ABOUT – I think of nuts (and some of the following entries) as not so much an appetizer as a party dish. Guess we have a combination of both here.
  • [Oil-checking item] clued DIPSTICK – the dipstick on my F150 is very hard to get to, and I’m over six feet tall!
  • [Readings of the present?] clued ROLL CALLS – is a “roll call” a reading or is it always verbal? I think of a teacher calling out names and students replying (or not) “Here!” Anyway, I guess we’ve moved from the nuts and dip into the meal itself with a roll to begin with.
  • [“Run! Here come the cops!”] was CHEESE IT!” – funny, a recent Fireball had DESIST clued as this same slangy sense of cheese, and I had forgotten that already. My mind’s a sieve! Anyway, cheese brings me back to the party more than a meal.
  • [Times of youthful innocence] were SALAD DAYS – a fun phrase; I wonder if the phrase comes from a salad beginning a meal (at least on this side of the pond).

Lots of theme entries in this one, making it pretty difficult for this solver. I also found it hard to grab much of a toehold anywhere in the grid, as I kept encountering entries that gave me pause. ON THE QT is great, but not the first thing that comes to mind with the clue [Secretly]. Funny how I plopped in BON JOVI for SINATRA, clued as [Larger-than-life singer from Hoboken]. (I see here that Bon Jovi is from Sayreville, which looks to be about 30 miles south of Hoboken.) There were comments on this site yesterday about OAST; how do you feel about it being clued as a [Tobacco-drying device]? I’m guessing KSU stands for Kansas State, and not Kent State, and that it’s also located in Manhattan, KS, but these are all just semi-educated guesses on my part.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Starter Quit” — Matt’s review


K becomes QU at the beginning of words (cf. “starter kit” with the title), with the following results:

17-a [Cheap hand protectors from London?] = QUID GLOVES. Kid gloves. Good.

26-a [Spar precisely?] = BOX QUITE. Maybe you need to be English to appreciate the syntax here. From “box kite.”

35-a [How a cranky comedian gets lulz?] = QUIBBLES ‘N’ BITS. From the dog food Kibbles ‘n’ Bits. Nice one.

48-a [The thrill one gets when using an inkwell?] = QUILL JOY. Killjoy.

57-a [Put down posthaste?] = PLACE QUICK. Placekick. Meh on that one.

Mixed bag there, but five Q’s will tip the scales in the theme’s favor. Scrabbly for the win.

I’ve been blogging the NYT puzzle over at Rex Parker’s place all this week, and spending a certain amount of time complaining about the lack of fill zip there. I even invoked BEQ’s name at one point:

There’s not a single marquee piece of fill, and a grid with just four medium-size themers (and no revealer) should have been full of them. If Brendan Quigley had filled this thing there’d be six or eight pieces of stellar longish fill that no reviewer could fail to mention; here there’s not really a single one. None of the four rare letters make an appearance, either.

With the fill here you can see what I mean: five theme entries (and that Q quintet) do not stop the master from dominating at three-point range: EDIT MENU, SELF-DOUBT, TAKE TIME, DANZIG, RED-HOT and ANTEATERS are all nice. With shorter fill we have QDOBA, BBQ (not BEQ, BBQ), SHAQ and USA! USA!. Although this isn’t the perfect BEQ example, since the short fill gets a little more raggedy in places than we’re used to from Brendan (ERTES, ARA, OLEO). Actually I thought there were more — now that I write them out it’s not too bad.

Let’s look at the clue for EAU, [___ My (George Takei’s perfume)]. Now, no one would’ve complained if he’d just put [Water, in France] or [Evian, par exemple] or one of the other standard clues. Instead he takes a few minutes and gets a hip reference (yes, Mr. Sulu is hip these days on Facebook) that you don’t even have to know to get the joke: the perfume’s name echoes “oh, my” while poking fun at the word “eau” that’s in every perfume name. That’s an excellent clue that gave me a laugh, and I’d never heard of the fragrance. Awesome.

4.10 stars.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140130

LA Times

A cute concept, TROJANHORSES implying hidden horse words. The problem for me is that the 3 hidden words don’t go together: MARE, SIRE, PONY. MARE is paired with STALLION, SIRE with DAM… PONY isn’t related to either and is a subtype of horse, usually one less than 14 and a half hands and exhibiting different proportions (smaller horses that are in proportion are miniature horses). Anyway, I feel the puzzle as constructed is flawed. For completeness’ the answers are:

  • 20a, [Emulate the successful bounty hunter], CLAIMAREWARD
  • 29a, [“To the best of my memory”], ASFARASIRECALL
  • 48a, [“Shalom aleichem”], PEACEBEUPONYOU. Great answer! Didn’t know the Yiddish? phrase, but recognise it as the pseudonym of “The Fiddler on the Roof”.
  • 55a, [Devious traps, and a hint to surprises found in 20-, 29- and 48-Across], TROJANHORSES.

It felt like there were a lot of traps today. Either that, or I fell for them all! I had cAT before BAT; fNMA before GNMA; Arut before AJAM; bONEDUP before TONEDUP; mETS before JETS; and tPr before BPS (I’m not sure I like that answer, but I’m more than open to being convinced it’s genuine…) FWIW, I haven’t seen the medical shorthand TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) in a puzzle – at least I don’t think I have. Do Americans use it? I also haven’t seen the medical shorthand TFBUNDY (totally f—ed but unfortunately not dead yet): I’m not holding my breath on that one though!


  • 6a, [“Hurlyburly” playwright David], RABE. I learnt of him via crossword puzzles. See also 16a, LEMA (tragically, he died after winning only one major, at the age of 32). Does that fact make those bad answers? Or does it just mean I’m not omniscient.
  • 5d, [Finger painting?], NAILART. Beautiful answer! Perfect clue! My not-into-cosmetics female colleague (is there a word for that? like a metrosexual, but in reverse) received a free day at a spa and came back with leopard print nails! They’re still going strong 2 months later!
  • 6d, [Hilton rival], RADISSON. There’s one a few blocks from here; it opened a couple of years back… Very larney!
  • 44d, [Like most new drivers], TEENAGE. I was obstinate and only got my license at 22…
  • 58d, [Bout of beefy battlers], SUMO. Love that clue!

As I said, I really didn’t care for the theme, outside of its reveal. Otherwise above average in my book…
2.5 Stars

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47 Responses to Thursday, January 30, 2014

  1. EB says:

    Thought “Amy’s not going to like this” when I filled in BALLYARD.

    I always thought it was an odd choice, but the adverb suffix in Newspeak is “-wise” (as opposed to “-ly”, obviouswise), so apparently you actually can throw it on the end of pretty much anything.

  2. Keenan says:

    Ugh at BALLYARD. Not a real thing.

    Loved FOXMULDER in the AVC puzzle, though. That fill alone made me give it a thumbs up!

  3. Ethan says:

    A lot of people in the blogosphere are up in arms over BALLYARD for some reason. It’s in my dictionary, the crossings were fair, so I don’t know why it should be discouraged.

    To me the problem with the puzzle conceptually is that the riddle, at least the version of it whose answer is “newspaper”, would never actually be written out. It’s part of the design of the riddle that it’s to be told orally and the hearer misinterprets “read” as “red.” The other version of the riddle I think is a deliberate sort of “anti-joke” that plays on the original, more familiar, version. So it’s just weird to see these jokes written out, with the ambiguity. I also think it felt like more of a Wednesday, both in terms of the concept and the overall difficulty.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: As I wrote BALLYARD I thought: “Man, I should get out more. Why don’t I think this is a real word?” So, I’m sort of glad that others are reacting to it, even if it is a legitimate word. It just doesn’t sound like one. BALLYARD: 160K hits; Ballpark: > 4 million.

    I’m with Ethan re the puzzle, both the level of difficulty and the theme. The point of that whole puzzle/joke is that your mind is in the color category and you have to do this little mental twirl to get out of it. The moment you spell it out, it loses something. But, that being said, the execution embracing the ambiguity is about as well done as I can imagine, and that Box clue for SET/SEAT is excellent.

    ANKARA is interesting but does not hold a candle to Istanbul which is quite an amazing place, geographically, historically and culturally. If your alien friend is coming from outer space and could visit only one city on earth, where would you send them? I think I might suggest Istanbul…

  5. S O B says:

    Harry Caray used to often comment after a Cub victory “It was a great day at the old Ballyard.” If it was good enough for Harry, it’s good by me.

    • Papa John says:

      I don’t know — all the carping about BALLYARD sounds like more of the same complaint about words not known by the solver. What ever happened to the joy of learning a new word from doing crosswords?

      AMY — I cannot follow your reasoning for the value you assign to various words in crosswords. How is it that anon is “several rungs better than ANIL”? What criteria do you use to make such assessments? A counter argument to your continuing assault on the use of such words has been put forth that I find convincing; there are a limited number of three- and four-letter words, as well as a limited number of ways to clue them. I’m of the camp that thinks they are a “necessary evil”, although not evil, at all, just necessary. I think uninteresting and obscure words have their place in crosswords.

      Furthermore, isn’t there a bit of satisfaction in knowing these words, even if only to complete a crossword puzzle? Doesn’t your knowledge of these words aid you in accomplishing such quick times in finishing a puzzle?

      Anyway, it’s fun to hear you go on about it, but, trust me, I doubt any constructor will take you up on your challenge to expunge their word lists.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Really, how many educated Americans know the word ANIL? If they know it, either they do a lot of crosswords or they work with dyes/chemistry. Whereas ANON can be a rather gettable abbreviation for “anonymous” or a word found in the Shakespeare plays we read in high school.

        It can be like pulling teeth to get constructors to differentiate between the ANIL/ASEA type words that hardly anybody ever encounters in real life and the sort of vocabulary that is common even outside crosswords. It mystifies me that people can mix up the two categories. Just because it’s in the crosswords a lot doesn’t make ERNE a familiar word! (ERNE is as bad as ANIL and ENOL, if you ask me.)

        • Andy says:

          Another suggestion to get rid of ANIL:

          LOOSE for LOUSE; NEWSREEL for DOWAGERS; ANNO for ANIL; UNA for UNO. I think ANNO + UNA is miles better than ANIL.

        • Stan Newman says:

          Yes, yes, and yes, yea and verily!

          A proper, unabridged discourse on this topic is long overdue. Not right now. But for now, here is what I believe: There are words everyone knows, there are words not everyone knows but are worth knowing for some purpose beyond crosswords, and there are words that are known only in crosswords that serve no other useful purpose but to quicken a constructor’s work. Thoughtful people might disagree on where a particular word might fall, but every constructor must be dedicated to maximizing the entertainment and educational value of the puzzles they create, which by necessity includes keeping out useless obscurities. Especially when the technology now exists to avoid them. Editors must take an active role in this. Without which, constructors will be encouraged by default to keep using useless obscurities.

          We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

      • Sarah says:

        As a constructor myself, I would never want to remove any words from my word list. In one of my future puzzles, ANIL might be the key word that allows me to make the rest of the grid 100% clean. But, I am not holding my breath.

        I’d say 95% of the time, ANIL can be removed from a puzzle and the grid can be made cleaner. I wouldn’t agree that replacing ANIL with ANON would make the grid much cleaner due to the addition of NOOR, but I’m confident that with a complete grid rework, the crosswordese in this puzzle could almost entirely be removed (not that I felt this puzzle was anywhere near horrible in that regard).

  6. arthur118 says:

    Radio and television play-by-play announcers across the country, often describe a home run in baseball as going “yard”, meaning it went out of the ballpark, er, ballyard.

  7. If you watch the Brit-coms on television, you hear “fry-up” a lot as a noun. It’s what would constitute a full breakfast here instead of an early morning tea and toast sort of thing, and it’s often used pejoratively if someone expects one at your house on short notice or makes pigs out at a restaurant.

    Linda Chalmer Zemel
    Buffalo Books Examiner

  8. Stan Newman says:

    Why are all of you good folks guessing/speculating if BALLYARD (or any other word, for that matter) is in current use? In our Internet Immediate Gratification World, the answer is always just a couple of clicks away. Read my lips: CHECK GOOGLE NEWS. Per which, on the first page of hits, though not at all widespread, BALLYARD has been used in the past week in the LA Times and Plain Dealer.

    Case closed.

    If Google News fails, try Google Books.

    A puzzle editor of my close acquaintance checks every questionable word in his received submissions with Google News and Google Books. If it passes it’s fine, if it doesn’t, it’s out.

    So you have something else of much greater import to speculate about, how about: Why does he seem to be the only editor doing this?

    P.S. ANIL flunks these tests miserably.

    • Brucenm says:

      Stan, no offense, but perhaps the reason is that not everyone is unequivocally willing to acknowledge that this one source is uniquely authoritative. I realize that your source is intended to be a compendium, an amalgamation of many sources, but still, not everyone thinks that Google is the be-all and end-all of all research and analysis.

      (Are “be-all” and “end-all” words? As you put it amusingly, they’re not ham sandwiches.)

      • Stan Newman says:

        Google isn’t the be-all or end-all, but usage in well-known publications is precisely how lexicographers decide what definitions get into dictionaries, or which words are worthy of inclusion in the first place.

        But this gist of my previous comment is: No editor (or solver, for that matter) should equate what he/she knows with what is a “good word.” I have found Google News and Google Books indispensable in keeping me from doing just that. There are no others that I know of that can give me this answer as quickly and reasonably authoritatively.

        If anyone else has found other ways that are just as good or better, please share them.

  9. Brucenm says:

    I believe that “fry-up” is mostly a British expression. (Perhaps some people here can address that). I’ve seen on menus the description of a large baking dish, with onions, peppers, potatoes, bangers, oven roasted in butter (or maybe high quality, unhydrogenated lard); then towards the end of the cooking process, several raw eggs cracked on the surface; then returned to the oven for the eggs to to cook — the whole tray serving several people. Never tried it, but sounds good.

  10. JohnV says:

    Thought the NW of the AV puz was hard. Otherwise, I agree with Ben’s 3.

  11. Don Chandler says:

    “Alee” is hardly obscure. Ask any sailor. (I know you have sailboats on Lake Michigan!) “Alee” refers to the sheltered or downwind side of a boat. The command to tack a boat (swing the bow through the wind) is “Hard alee”, meaning push the tiller quickly and decisively (hard) to the sheltered side of the boat (alee).

    • Stan Newman says:

      The point is that ALEE is obscure to anyone who isn’t a sailor. Likewise ALOU is obscure to anyone who isn’t a sports fan (contrast PELE and A-ROD), EDY’S ice cream is obscure if you live in that part of the US where that brand isn’t sold, and Brian ENO is obscure for anyone not very interested in rock music. IMHO, factual clues in a general-audience crossword should ideally require only “general knowledge” that someone not very interested in a specific subject is likely to know or be interested in.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I poked around the internet and found this: “Today, fewer than 2% of Americans sail.” At sailing’s peak popularity several decades ago, it was about 5%. It’s also generally a pursuit for the affluence, and I don’t care for crossword content that caters to the 1% but alienates many others. I would wager than even if NYT solvers tend to be relatively affluent compared to other Americans, the number who sail is still a teeny minority.

      If one is trying to expand crosswords’ appeal to new solvers, ALEE isn’t likely to help.

      • Brucenm says:

        Amy, I am *extremely* loath and reluctant to jump into this discussion — but — it seems to me that you make at least two unjustified assumptions: (a) that terminology which relates principally, (though not exclusively), to a particular activity will be familiar only to those who actually engage in that activity; and (b) that terms which relate principally to an activity engaged in by a small percentage of the population will “alienate” those, (even “many of those”), who do not engage in that activity.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Bruce, I come from this angle: The puzzles I work on for my job are exclusively solved online or on mobile devices. The puzzles are aimed at beginners and Stan Newman developed our original guidelines for fill. You know what? When a puzzle puts up a challenge, we can see people abandon a puzzle mid-solve and never come back. Outside of work, I’ve also heard plenty of people say, “Oh, I can’t do crosswords.” I am rather certain that unfamiliar fill does indeed alienate a lot of people and deter them from doing more crosswords, especially if English is their first language but they’re encountering all sorts of words they’ve never seen before. Why make someone feel like the problem is them rather than lousy fill? I want MORE people to get into crosswords, and that means having more puzzles that welcome new solvers and get them hooked on that feeling of accomplishment. Yes, some people are stubborn and welcome a challenge and will keep at it, but others just say “Screw it, this isn’t fun for me” and never touch a crossword again.

          • HH says:

            “Why make someone feel like the problem is them rather than lousy fill?”

            Because that’s the only part of the job I still enjoy.

          • Jeff Chen says:

            Hear hear; well said, Amy. Whatever we can do to broaden the audience for solvers (without alienating too many existing solvers). Being a bridge fanatic has taught me a few things about evolution being necessary to survive and thrive in the future.

      • pannonica says:

        Was going to be smartalecky and write, “… or to anyone who’s, say, read Moby-Dick, even in abridged form.” But as a precaution I searched the text and found only eleven occurrences, each bound by an a b and an n—that is, within baleen. Nor does it appear in Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, Melville’s Piazza Tales (including Billy Budd and Benito Cereno), Conrad’s Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, Typhoon, or the other one, Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands, and so on.

        Then again, who among us is unaware of his highness Nizam ALEE Khaun, Soobah of the Dekhan, as biographized in 1805 by William Hollingbery and Robert ORME?

      • ArtLvr says:

        Amy — Sailing is part of our collective history, and hundreds of common words and phrases are part of our language. “Above board” came from “on or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything.” (vid. Gov. Christie) Have a look via google at “sailing terms” in wikipedia… You might rethink your dismissive attitude!

        As for sailing as a pastime, I would note that youngsters living near waterways are keen to experience the pleasure of sailing: my son started a club for kids in the school where he teaches in Vermont, and found a cohort of devotees in Burlington willing to share boats and instruction for the novices each summer. And here on the Hudson River, the late Pete Seeger also ran sailing classes for years for those who cared to learn about the importance of our waters being kept clean… R.I.P.

  12. Huda says:

    The discussion about crosswordese is interesting to me. When I started solving, about 5 years ago, I found it discombobulating. I’d stumble on it even in supposedly easy puzzles, and I’d think: Really? Everyone knows that? I was not questioning the puzzle, the constructor or editor, only myself because English is my third language and it made me feel like I still had a long way to go before I mastered it, even though I’ve been in the US for decades and speaking it before many of the constructors were born. So, it was baffling, somewhat disorienting.
    I came to realize (in good part thanks to Rex Parker’s blog) that crosswordese is not considered desirable fill, even though I agree that it does not hurt to know it. I’m all for increasing my vocabulary, learning new words and expressions. But it seems like crosswordese shows up not because the constructor wants to challenge you, make you chuckle, appreciate the whimsy of a phrase. It’s in service of the rest of the puzzle. It’s like a seam. And making things appear seamless is of some value because it does not distract from the design.
    ANON would have confused me less than ANIL. ALEE would be somewhere in between. I think that Amy, even though she is an amazing solver, is in touch with her inner TYRO…

  13. Kameron says:

    ANIL never bothered me because of the (lovely) Michael Ondaatje novel, “Anil’s Ghost.” I’ve not seen it clued or defended on those terms, though, so that’s probably not a well-known-enough example. Still, since the word itself doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, I’d much rather have a reference to a Booker Prize-winning, xword-worthy author in a puzzle than a definition that’s incapable of making the word seem interesting, tbqh.

  14. HH says:

    À la Bill Maher, I propose — New Rule: Henceforth, no crossword entry can be familiar to anyone.

  15. Tracy B says:

    I really like Huda’s description of crosswordese as a seam you can see. Recently I had the experience of asking a linguistically sophisticated but non-regular solver to test-solve a puzzle not intended for the NYT/LAT crowd. It was eye-opening! I solve daily, and have been doing so for years, so my ear for odd words is really different from hers. She solved it in the time I was hoping for, but circled all kinds of entries I took totally for granted. The worst three offenders: AMAIN, LATH and OATER. I ended up reworking half the grid, but it was much, much better because of this feedback. Five dense theme entries, and it still has one bad seam: IN A PET. But one compromise instead of five in a finicky grid is worth working for. (Zero even better, obviously.)

    • Lois says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with “in a pet.” It is a familiar phrase (not from puzzles) even if not current. Certainly much better than the name of a maid in a situation comedy I’d never seen (I think that was a recent NYT one).

  16. JohnV says:

    So, for me, EVERYTHING I know of pop culture is learnt from the Times crossword puzzle. I expect a well constructed puzzle to expand my vocabulary. Bring on the new. Bring on Big Gene.

  17. Gareth says:

    The question is always “What’s black >and< white"… This version managed to include the "and" just fine… Never heard it as a sunburnt panda – always zebra or penguin, but then again, why not a panda…

    What the heck is wrong with AGA (both meanings) or APSE??? I've encountered those in real life just fine, not often, but enough that if you're paying attention you should know them! A pity more Americans won't start following cricket (although all the Americans of recent Indian/Pakistani/West Indian/South African origin do, I don't know how many that comes to…), ANIL Kumble is #3 on the all time top test wicket-takers list.

    • Gareth says:

      I’m all for getting rid of words that truly aren’t known, but some people mistake words that >they< don't know for words that aren't known…

    • ahimsa says:

      I was also wondering what happened to the first “and” of the riddle.

      Re: ANIL, I also vote to clue it as a name. But that’s probably because I have a family member (by marriage) with that name.” :-)

      I don’t know sports, but what about Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor? He was also in Slumdog Millionaire.

    • Brucenm says:

      As you often point out, everything is relative to one’s own field of knowledge and interest. As a onetime semi-decent hardball, American ball, squash player — (a game which, alas, has almost entirely lost out to the boring soft ball game) — to me, “Anil” will always be Anil Nayar, arguably the greatest hardball player in history. Except that this always has to be qualified by “except for Hashim Kahn, of course”; which is like calling anyone “the greatest composer in history,” except for Bach, of course.

    • Lois says:

      If it can be a panda and not a zebra, then you also don’t need the familiar first but redundant “and.”

  18. Avg Solvr says:

    If you’re into sports, especially baseball, to any degree you’ve no doubt heard or read Ball Yard although that answer made me grimace. I think Huda has it right and I’ve said as much in the past: crosswordese and proper nouns is essentially puzzle caulk. And I was given a complete by the online NYT with only an E in the circled square.

  19. ahimsa says:

    NYT: Amy, thanks for a great write-up which started such an interesting discussion.

    This seemed much easier than usual for a Thursday. My only slow spots were pYRO before TYRO and BALLpARk before BALLYARD (I don’t object to the word at all, I just didn’t know it). Other than that it went very fast. And I hasten to add that I am not a speed solver!

    LAT: I quite liked the TROJAN HORSES theme. Somehow I saw the hidden SIRE and MARE early on. I was expecting either colt or foal in the third entry when I found the PONY – cute!

  20. Zulema says:

    I won’t get into all those arguments and counter arguments, except to say the NYT crossword was a Monday or Tuesday to me. And ANIL had an important place in Colonial 18th Century agriculture, which is where I know it from, and Brian Eno does not just belong to the world of rock music. Every time you turn on “Windows” you hear his composition, for instance. Of course, most people don’t know that. But APSE is no more crosswordese than NAVE or NARTHEX, just because it’s found as fill more often. And if crosswords don’t put up challenges, what are they for? What we seem to differ on is what sort of challenges they should be.

  21. lemonade714 says:

    So in the end, what is the correct answer? Is the goal to advance to be solely re-cluing known fill using wit and misdirection, or do British flowers smell sweeter in a puzzle than when you are ALEE? Are the new crossword which make us ooh and aah to all be gimmicks? If you eliminate sports, celebrities and hobbies, are we back to 18th century public school knowledge?

  22. Brucenm says:

    Re BEQ: What does {Hoped for pick up at a singles bar} for “digits” mean?

    What does {“Mother” metal man} mean? Is “Mother” a rock band? That whole NE was a total mess. OK — I’m too annoyed to look up “Mother”, or whoever “Foxy Brown” (or ____ Marchand) may be.

  23. Bit says:

    “Mother” was the 1988 hit single by “metal man” Glenn DANZIG. I’m guessing that DIGITS is some sort of slang for phone number, though I’ve never used it that way myself. I agree with you that the NE corner was a bit “meh”, even though I filled it out correctly. I guessed on ARI and INGA…

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