NYT 4:29 (Matt)
AV Club 10:36 (Sam)
LAT 3:33 (Gareth)
CS 21:17 (Ade)
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s review
I didn’t spot the trick here until the revealer, which is what’s supposed to happen. But I knew there was something brewing, since five grid-spanning theme entries is an awful lot, and they’re vertical instead of horizontal, so there’s gotta be a reason for that. They are:
3-D [Expansionist doctrine] = MANIFEST DESTINY. As the great Roland Orzabal put it, everybody wants to rule the world.
4-D [Election loser’s cry] = I DEMAND A RECOUNT. Great entry, but who ever wins on the recount?
7-D [Text on tablets] = TEN COMMANDMENTS. Old-school tablets there, not those iPads folks carry around.
9-D [Big 1975 boxing showdown] = THRILLA IN MANILA. Ali vs. Frazier. Ali won.
11-D [Darwin work … with a hint to three consecutive letters in 3-, 4-, 7-, 9- and 11-Down] = THE DESCENT OF MAN. We’re all apes! Don’t tell anybody.
So you can see the word MAN descending in orderly fashion through the five theme entries, as illustrated in the solution grid.
Let’s appreciate the masterful touches here: 1) the key trio of letters in the five theme entries progresses uniformly through the grid, instead of arbitrarily; 2) there are five 15-letter entries involved, which is visually pleasing for consistency’s sake. The authors could have snuck a couple 11’s in at the second and fourth theme columns and no one would have complained, but this looks nicer. 3) This one is the really nice flourish: the final entry is both the revealer and the logical final piece to the puzzle, as MAN occupies the bottom three rows in the grid, and THE DESCENT OF MAN tells us what we’re looking for.
It certainly doesn’t have to be done that way; for example, in a very fine 2011 example of this theme type, Joel Fagliano used a central revealer that wasn’t part of the theme itself. Which is completely legit and in fact the normal way to do it, but it’s also cool that Mary Lou and Jeff found a perfect 15-letter phrase that both explains and finishes off the theme. Bravo.
Now, let’s take a look at the fill. With a quintet of grid-spanners already in place, it’s going to be tough to keep this clean; let’s see if our constructors can limit the carnage. First, the good stuff: RUBIK, STIR UP, OH THAT?, KAFKA, HIT UP, SONY, HYATT, PANINI and ASHANTI. Not bad work sneaking a little elegance in there amongst those five giants.
And yeah, there are some grid compromises, as expected, but they’ve been kept to acceptable levels. The Five Worst Entries Test produces ASSADS, ESSES, OUT A, A TUNE and ERNE, which isn’t bad considering the theme constraints. I’m much more forgiving of rough patches when the theme is ambitious and interesting, as here, than when it’s pedestrian, as it was yesterday
The clues seemed less musty than yesterday’s, though as I look through them now I see that, yet again, not a single one of them couldn’t have been written 10 years ago. Actually, not true: [“The Rachael Ray Show” creation] for MEAL works, since that show debuted in 2006, eight years ago. But still.
Clues I liked: hmm, well. [Gator’s tail?] is good for ADE, but that’s the third time this exact clue has been used for this answer in the NYT in 2014, so no points there. [One with a checkered existence?] for CAB is good, though the phrase is “checkered past,” not “checkered existence.” Not much else fun here, so the clues are pretty lifeless on the whole.
Excellent theme, excellent execution of said theme, very good fill considering everything, just OK clues: 4.45 stars. That’s a very nice crossword.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Backrest”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to Hump Day once again!
Today’s puzzle being a Bob Klahn grid meant that I went straight to putting my thinking cap on while going to battle with the tough clues that I was sure to encounter! The grid’s theme was straightforward enough, with each of the theme answers containing a letter combination of T-S-E-R, or the word “rest” backwards. After getting the first two theme answers at the top relatively quickly, the other two themes (which were harder for me to get) became a little easier to chip away at knowing that I had four of the letters given to me.
- GET SERIOUS: (18A: [Stop fooling around]) – Something that I rarely do!
- CONCERT SERIES: (27A: [Kennedy Center package])
- KNIGHTS ERRANT: (45A: [They traveled widely in search of adventure])
- LIST SERVER: (59A: [It can distribute daily digests])
Of all of the answers that I got in which I pulled it out of my, um, posterior, the one I was proud of the most without needing any of the crossings was ABERDEEN (6D: [Scotland’s “Granite City”]). Don’t know why or how the word/city popped in my mind, but thank goodness that it did. BOTTICELLI was not one that readily came into my head, at least as a game, but it was a fun entry to gaze at in the grid (3D: [Yes-no guessing game]). Also, how awesome was the sight of IDIOT LIGHT (29D: [Dash bulb for a dim bulb])? Well, if you own a car that constantly needs service and has idiot lights flashing on the dash like Christmas lights, like my Ford Taurus, then an idiot light is far from an awesome sight. What a great piece of information in the clue to UNICORN (10D: [Genghis Khan reportedly decided not to conquer India after meeting one on a mountaintop]). That’s the type of clue/answer combination that makes you stop for a couple of minutes and ruminate over it, which I totally did after that one. Overall, I didn’t struggle too much with the grid, despite my time suggesting as such. (Anything under 25 minutes for a Klahn puzzle is considered hyper speed for me.) Now it’s time to think about the COMBO that I might get for breakfast and/or lunch today (1D: [Fast-food twofer]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ODOR (14A: [“What died?” elicitor]) – First of all, what an amazing clue, and totally was on the answer the second I saw it. This season in Major League Baseball saw the MLB debut of minor league prospect Rougned ODOR (pronounced oh-DOOR), a Venezuelan second baseman for the Texas Rangers. Seeing his name on the back of his jersey for the first time made me do a double take, until I heard his name pronounced and it sounded different from the typical pronunciation of the word. As for the player himself, he hit .259 with 9 home runs and 48 RBI in 114 games for the Rangers this season.
Have fun for the rest of the day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club Crossword, “Drink Up!”–Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s a rebus, but it’s not really a rebus. Does that make it a faux-bus? 38-Across identifies KEG STANDS as [Campus party maneuvers, and features of six answers in this puzzle]. In six Across answers, you’re tempted to write KEG into a single square. (Hence the “ah, this is a rebus” sensation.) But with the crossing Downs, you realize that the K-E-G letter sequence “stands” upright, with only the letter G used in the Down answers. (Hence the “well, wait, this ain’t a rebus after all” sensation.) Ultimately, I left just the G in the six affected squares, and Crossword Solver told me I got it all right. So I’m declaring victory.
It might help to enumerate the crossing theme entries:
- To STRI(KE G)OLD is to [Get rich quick]. Here the KEG would need to fit into a single square. But it crosses KEGISELE, what appears to be a nonsense answer to [Scapegoat for some dumb New England Patriots fans]. But it’s really a KEG standing on GISELE Bundchen, the spouse of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
- TUS(KEG)EE is the [Alabama town with many connections to the civil rights movement], and here the KEG stands atop [Role-playing game pioneer Gary] GYGAX, resulting in the answer KEGYGAX. Imagine the Scrabble points you could get for that!
- Soren KIR(KEG)AARD is the [Philosopher who wrote “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom”]. Here the KEG stands on the G in PLUG, the answer to my favorite clue from the puzzle, [“Find more great clues like this in the author’s Winner Circle Crosswords!,” e.g.]. The resulting answer looks like PLUKEG, which, in turn, sounds like a Norwegian breakfast dish.
- The answer to [Prepared to build] is BRO(KE G)ROUND, and the crossing KEG stands on the G in LAG, the [Streaming annoyance]. That gives us LAKEG, which eerily resembles another lake entry coming up in a couple of bullet points.
- To [Succeed] is to MA(KE G)OOD, and the crossing KEG stands on the G in BOGEY, the [Scorecard blemish] that’s not nearly as bad as most of the blemishes I enter on a golf scorecard (there’s a reason my golf nickname is Mr. Snowman). That gives us BOKEGEY, a great name for a fraternity band.
- LA(KE G)EORGE is an [Upstate New York vacation spot], and to [Successfully prank] someone is to GET someone. With KEG on top we get KEGET, which looks like an alternative pelvic exercise.
I always appreciate how Tyler advances the art of crosswords. This strikes me a novel hybrid of the rebus (shape or multiple letters in a square) and visual interpretation (the word KEG literally stands in the grid) forms, both of which we have seen many times before. Not all crossword gimmicks lend themselves to mash-ups, and in less capable hands I fear this one could have been a disaster. But while it took me some time to figure out exactly what was happening with those Downs, and while I might have appreciated the puzzle even more if the six thematic Gs were the only Gs in the grid, I found it a very satisfying solve.
Keep in mind you have 13 theme entries here (occupying 79 squares!), and while the crossing KEG/G squares aren’t symmetrically placed, the six themed Across answers are. And yet you don’t see obscure fill or other signs of compromise. Indeed, you get fun entries like BIG TUNA, UNMASKS, VALPAK, and BR’ER BEAR. That’s the sure sign of a pro, people.
Oh yeah–Amy normally assigns a star rating that’s impossible for readers to submit using the voting menu. I should follow suit. Let’s see, innovative mash-up, intricate construction, solid clues. Check, check, and check. I’ll go with 4.724 stars.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
An oddball phrase-completion theme today. Theme phrases begin with [___ ECLIPSE] words. They form two pairs, as the most commonly referred-to eclipses are LUNAR or SOLAR. Any eclipse in turn can be PARTIAL or TOTAL.
- [Rooftop energy generators], SOLARPANELS
- [Removable denture], PARTIALPLATE. I haven’t got to the point in my where I’m au fait with dental equipment…
- [Apollo 11 achievement], LUNARLANDING
- [Eidetic memory], TOTALRECALL. Small bonus for using the word “eidetic” in the clue.
- [Subject of a historic 1919 sports deal, with “The”], BABE. I thought he was much more recent than that… Like the 50’s or so. You can be shocked, provided you can tell me with which decade George Headley is most associated…
- [Farrier’s file], RASP. Horses also get their teeth filed with a rasp. Ouchy!
- [Mushy food], PAP. You can order a KFC pap meal here… Pap specifically being maize meal. Definitely a good choice for those looking for satiety for cheap.
- [“Bloom County” reporter], MILO. Haven’t learnt this from crosswords yet. Apparently an 80’s US comic strip…
- [Fraud], CHARLATAN. Nice vocab! [Filled with rage], IREFUL and [State of seclusion], ALONENESS on the other hand, are more clunky.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Descent of Man puzzle… and for a delightful academic romp focused on missing Darwinian artifacts at the Oxford University Museum, I highly recommend Jane Langton’s mystery “Dead as a Dodo”.
NYT: Genius! Genius with elegance! Do you know how rarely geniuses are elegant?
And crossing ASSADS with MANIFEST DESTINY and a clue that says “Slightly Cracked”… What can I say… more genius (likely inadvertent, and I’m projecting).
But her first cooking show, 30 Minute Meals, made its début in 2001, 13 years ago. So, in concept and spirit, the clue is ‘of age’.
Creative, clever, colorful, Chen.
Klahn’s clues are always artful — I especially liked the OWL, member of a parliament, and the UNICORN mentioned above. Never heard of BOTTICELLI as a game!
Botticelli is a great game, at least if you like high brow, high culture, artsy, self consciously intellectual showing off. Not sure where you’d find anyone like that, though. In spirit, it’s not much different from a bar trivia game.
One player who is “it”, or on the hot seat, so to speak, (not a technical term, just what I’m calling it), assumes the identity of a famous person. By tradition that is an artist, author, musician, historical or political figure, perhaps a scientist. I suppose there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a rapper, or a TV show character, but that’s just not the tradition.
The other players try to determine the identity of “it” by firing questions, asking if the secret identity belongs to a certain category of people. If the answer is negative “it” must identify a specific person who belongs to that category and deny that he is that person. If the answer is “Yes”, subsequent questioners must name a specific member of that category. Illustrations work better:
Q1. Are you a 15th century Florentine painter?
A. No, I am not Botticelli.
The next player then asks a question. The next question can request a completely different category, or can try to pile up on the same category e.g.
Q2. Are you a 15th century Florentine painter?
A2 No, I am not Fra Lippo Lippi.
As I said, if the answer to 15th Century Florentine painter question is “Yes” subsequent questioners must keep identifying one until the correct answer is reached.
There can be disagreements as to how precise the categories have to be, as to whether a response really fits the category, as to whether the chosen identity is really suitable, (i.e whether it is too obscure), but in theory, these are resolved and smoothed over.
Scoring rules differ. You can get a point for stumping “it”. You can get points for identifying the secret person. Some people play that “it” can get points for correct responses. You can lose a point if you don’t identify a particular member of a category when required to. Face it — I’m not sure of the scoring rules. Either they are not hard and fast, or I have forgotten them; but the game was fun, at least to those of us with a certain mentality.
Nice write-up, Bruce, but I disagree that the answer could have been Fra Lippo Lippi. When I used to play it for fun and not to show off my alleged intellectual arrogance, the person we had to guess had to be at least as famous as Botticelli, which I thought was the basis for the name of the game. There is a band named Fra Lippo Lippi and a poem by that name by Robert Browning, but I would cavil at the inclusion of the artist.
Elegant puzzle in any event.
The most noteworthy election I can think of in which the recount in the election resulted in a reversal was the Al Franken-Norm Coleman Senate race.
Yes, but the Browning poem centers on the artist. It is a rambling seemingly endless, blank verse meditation on the sacred and the profane, the relationship of art and religion, realistic vs. stylized iconic art, and so forth. As I recall, Lippo Lippi got into deep doodoo at the monastery both for his personal carousing, and for the way he painted religious subjects.
Browning, incidentally, was said to have been one of the two finest pianists among people who achieved extremely high distinction in other fields, the other being the physicist Erwin Schrodinger.
Nice puzzle but (science gripe alert), ATOMS for “positrons’ places” is wrong — there are no positrons in atoms
yes! bothered me too.
Positrons would be in atoms in an anti-matter universe.
Didn’t bother me half as much as claiming that Beethoven 7 was in the key of E. :-)
It’s a little odd… going so far out of your way to provide an incorrect clue for ATOMS. Nice puzzle, though.
CERN makes antihydrogen atoms and keeps them stable for up to 15 minutes for study. These are real atoms that contain real positrons.
I hope you aren’t implying that that validates the clue.
Why wouldn’t it? The clue doesn’t imply all atoms have positrons. Some real atoms do. Sounds like a good clue to me.
Some very few, under extreme circumstances.
addendum: I now see the discussion was continued, one reply-level up, below.
True, but IMO a clue like “positrons’ places” wants an answer that is somewhere you would generally expect to find a positron. Which would not be ATOMS in general.
What if I clued “shoes’ places” for the word OVENS, and explained that I once saw a show on HGTV with a guy who lived in a tiny apartment in New York and kept his shoes in the oven because he never cooked?
In the same vein, the CS puzzle has a clue “genes material” for which the answer is RNA. The only genomes that include RNA are in viruses, as far as I know, and I don’t think that’s what Klahn had in mind. The clue is technically correct, but not for the reason the constructor thought, I’m willing to bet.
I wouldn’t bet against Bob Klahn knowing something. But be that as it may, clues are generally not exclusive. USA is not the only TBS competitor.
We’re just quibbling over how much “some” can be. I bet “Neutrons’ homes” wouldn’t bother you even though most atoms in the universe don’t have any neutrons. Sure there are more atoms that do have neutrons than have positrons (as far as we know), but that doesn’t make “some atoms” any less correct for antihydrogen than for “atoms that aren’t hydrogen.”
Your original assertion was “there are no positrons in atoms.” That’s quite different than “there are no positrons in most atoms.” It’s a critical distinction to this discussion.
I still don’t think the clue is a good one. By your logic, I could write a clue “Englishman’s place” and have the answer be CANADA, because there are some Englishmen living in Canada, or so I’ve heard. (And there are far more Englishmen in Canada than atoms containing positrons. And probably more NYC ovens with shoes in them).
Oh, and not to go on and on, although evidently that’s what I’m doing, “neutrons’ homes” for atoms would be fine by me, because an atom is where pretty much all neutrons live. Whereas of the few positrons that do exist, most (I’m guessing) are in cosmic rays, and the rest in particle accelerators. Which comes back to my point about Brits in Canada and shoes in ovens.
I’ll shut up now.
As I was writing my first comment on this, I actually wondered whether at the moment of emission you could argue that positrons are associated with atoms I did not know about the CERN atoms…but these are notable because they are exceptions… It’s a feat.
So, I come down on the side of the shoes in the oven argument. I’m willing to bet that the clue was not based on deep knowledge or clever misdirection. Even if remotely technically correct I don’t believe it is an appropriate Wednesday clue for ATOM.
I’m general, the science accuracy of puzzle clues needs more help… But Martin, if I’m ever in trouble, I’d definitely want you on my defense team.
I assure you this clue was discussed before publication.
I probably should clarify my position: this clue is correct, but arguably not the best Wednesday clue. In general the “rarer” a clue’s applicability is, the better the clue is for Thursday through Saturday. But it’s not a perfect curve and a clue that’s correct on Saturday is correct on Monday. It just might not be as good. I agree with Huda here.
Nothing to do with this clue, but positrons aren’t found in cosmic rays because they generally don’t travel very far before they mutually annihilate with the first atom of matter they encounter. Most positrons are the decay products of certain radioactive isotopes. PET scans (positron emission tomography) use such isotopes. The scanner detects the annihilation event when the emitted positrons meet electrons in the scanned tissue. The point is that positrons are not merely theoretical, but real particles used in medicine every day. But these emitted positrons are not part of a stable atom, so I wouldn’t justify the clue with them.
There are some positrons in cosmic rays — a small fraction, to be sure, but since cosmic rays are so numerous it amounts to a fair number of positrons in total, I guess.
You’re correct. The tiny percentage of anti-matter in cosmic rays actually are seen by some as evidence of dark matter. But that’s still pretty theoretical.
This is an interesting discussion. You mentioned, Martin, that this clue was discussed in the test solving stage. This implies that the clue was either Chen/Guizzo’s original clue, or a Shortz clue after the first edit.
If you and others had reservations about the clue, I’m wondering why it wasn’t changed, or at least modified to something like “Positron’s places, sometimes”.
In my dealings with test solvers, I’ll change a clue 100% of the time if the objection is fact-based. In situations where the clue is wordplay-based or punny, it’s not as clear-cut. But based on the “factually controversial” nature of this clue, as evidenced in this comment thread, I would conclude that it was a mistake to run the clue as is. If it requires the kind of verbiage you displayed to justify its correctness (you lost me at “relativistic”), it might be easier for everyone if the clue is changed to any of dozens of possible straight-forward clues that wouldn’t have registered any comments here.
But I do appreciate your giving a bit of the behind-the-scenes process of test-solving the NYT puzzle.
There is an idea that much of one part of our universe consists of antimatter–that the amount of matter and antimatter in the universe is even, but we happen to live in one of the areas which consists mostly of matter. In this case, most positrons (by far) would be found in atoms, rather than particle accelerators and cosmic rays.
That was “as far as we know” part. We still don’t know for sure whether the universe favors matter over anti-matter, or whether it’s a local condition. That’s one of the reasons that CERNs ALPHA project makes antihydrogen atoms to study.
As another solver who balked at this clue, I’d just like to add some weight to this observation.
The problem with the clue is not that you’ll never find a positron in an atom. The problem is that a clue of the form “X’s place” asks for the location where you can typically find X.
Is an ATOM where you can typically find a positron? Regardless of whether you mean “typically for an atom” or “typically for a positron”, the answer is clearly no.
I get the objection, but it’s really a matter of how good you think the clue is, not how correct. “Typically” is not in the clue contract. Clues that use untypical places (“Shark’s place” [SANJOSE] or “Place for rods” [RETINA]) are normally later in the week, but there’s no hard and fast rule.
I’m happy to concede that “this is not a good clue” is reasonable. But “this is a wrong clue” is no more correct than “there are no positrons in atoms.”
The clue is incorrect because of what the term “X’s place” has come to mean in the English language.
These are not analogous clues. Your examples rely on ambiguity regarding what constitutes a “rod” or a “Shark.” Once you land on the intended definition of those words, then (a) San Jose really is a place for Sharks, and (b) a retina really is a place for rods.
The shoes-in-the-oven example is far more analogous to this clue. Would you argue that [OVEN] as “Shoes’ place” is correct, but just not a good clue? (I would also claim that’s incorrect, but perhaps you disagree on that point.)
The “natural” place for a positron is an anti-matter atom. It’s the first place one would expect to find one. It’s not like the shoe-in-the-oven.
The goal posts have been moved a couple times today from “there’s no such thing as antimatter” to “there aren’t many antimatter atoms” to “antimatter atoms aren’t typical.” Theoretically, positrons live in antimatter atoms. Experimentally, we can make and study those atoms. For me, it’s enough to make the clue a true statement.
For you it’s not.
I’m afraid we have to leave it at that.
Something that’s wrong 99% of the time doesn’t mean that this clue is “correct” because in extremely rare studies directed by scientists positrons were located in atoms. That’s the exception, not the rule, which is the intent of clues such as this. “Pitcher’s feat” cluing GRAND SLAM might be “correct” in your book, but it’s just plain stupid to clue it as such.
I’m not sure what “99%” refers to. Relativistic quantum mechanics asserts that it’s 50%, or we have CPT theorem and Lorentz violations. But baryogenesis is probably the greatest mystery in cosmology today, so your guess is as good as mine.
Fundamentally there is no justification to say any statement that is true of an electron is not true of a positron (except for reversing some signs). Someday we may know better, but my guess is that we will confirm that.
Until then, your rejection of the clue is as valid as my acceptance of it.
Martin, I’m sure I’ve already said too much today, but I feel compelled to respond to what you said here:
The “natural” place for a positron is an anti-matter atom. It’s the first place one would expect to find one.
Now that I just can’t agree with. There’s nothing natural, in our part of the universe, about an anti-matter atom. If you wanted to find a positron, you certainly wouldn’t start by looking for an anti-matter atom. As I’m sure you know, positrons were originally discovered in cosmic ray collisions. (Someone with a name remarkably like mine wrote about it here. That was a naturalish event, at least.
Now I really will shut up, unless I don’t.
Loved your stuff with Henry Kaiser, by the way.
I too liked Tyler’s AV puzzle a lot (which pleases me, because I may have dumped on a couple of his in the past. The one which involved real words created by moving your hand one position on the QWERTY keyboard was brilliant.)
I didn’t entirely understand how this worked, though. It appears to me that for each of the kegs, you have to ignore the letters keke to answer the down clues, i.e. Gisele, plug, lag, get, bogey. It’s a consistent rule, but if there is more to it than that, I’m not getting it. Also, is a “keg stand” a real, recognized party game. What is it? Do you stack the kegs on each other? Do handstands on the kegs? Still, great puzzle.
You do a handstand up against the keg with the help of a couple of other people, then drink upside down directly from the keg while people count off how long you last. Not much of a “game”, but it can liven up a young people’s kegger.
>Great entry, but who ever wins on the recount?
Al Franken did.
Great NYT puzzle, one of the best Wednesdays ever, I dare say.
The masterful touches were appreciated here too! Very masterful!