Thursday, November 6, 2014

NYT 4:17 (Amy) 
LAT 4:20 (Gareth) 
CS 8:49 (Ade) 
BEQ tk (Matt) 

Fireball write-up coming Sunday night in the 11/10 post. Contest puzzle! Non-impossible meta!

Nikki Gloudeman at Ravishly interviewed me for her article, “Does The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Have A Sexism Problem?” Gloudeman asks: “But if solvers are pretty much equally divided among the genders, and there was a time when female constructors served in an equal capacity to men, is it really true that men like to do puzzles more? Or is it, perhaps, that this is a false and damning presumption entrenched at the top?”

Also, Brendan Quigley will be posting his regular Thursday crossword later on this evening. We’ll blog it soon thereafter.

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 6 14, no. 1106

NY Times crossword solution, 11 6 14, no. 1106

The theme is Passover:

  • 37a. [See 19- and 54-Across and 11- and 41-Down] clues PARTING, which parts RED and SEA at the unclued 36a and 39a.
  • 19a. [Leader of a noted 37-Across], MOSES.
  • 54a. [Location of the 37-Across], EGYPT.
  • 11d. [Beneficiary of the 37-Across, in modern times], ISRAELI. *nose crinkles* I don’t like this substitution of ISRAELI for the biblical Israelite.
  • 41d. [Loser on account of the 37-Across], PHARAOH.

This was the passing over that’s memorialized in Passover, which is also known as 25a. [Feast of unleavened bread], PESACH. Passover takes place in the spring (usually March or April), so it’s highly unusual that PESACH is not tied specifically to the theme (it’s opposite SPARSE and not something relevant) and that the puzzle’s running in October. Matt said he submitted the puzzle this June—I wonder if began working on it after last Pesach?

I liked OBI-WAN, HEDONIST, warm ST THOMAS and HONOLULU and SAO PAULO, BEER PONG, PTOMAINE poisoning, and “I’M ON IT.” But I wasn’t wild about EERIER, plural AVAS, EBAN and SADAT dangling unthematically in an ancient Israel/Egypt theme, ODD ONE (is that any different from STRANGE ONE? ODD ONE OUT would be better), IDAS, OSTE-, NISI, and ALEE.

3.5 stars from me.

Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Like Falling Off a Log”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.06.14: "Like Falling Off a Log"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.06.14: “Like Falling Off a Log”

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!

I hope this puzzle today was a mere bag of shells for you, as the theme of today’s grid, produced for our solving pleasure by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is composed of four three-word entries that would be said by many to describe easy tasks.

  • NOT A PROBLEM: (17A: [“Smooth sailing!”])
  • SIMPLE AS ABC: (27A: [“Couldn’t be easier!”]) – Thought it would be “simple as pie” for a second.
  • NOTHING TO IT: (47A: [“That’ll be a snap!”])
  • PIECE OF CAKE: (64A: [“A Walk in the Park!”])

The “ear worm alert” entry of the day is won by BAHA, and, if you have their hit song stuck in your head now, good luck trying to get it out anytime soon (56D: [____ Men (“Who Let the Dogs Out” group])!! I have a sweet tooth that almost rivals anybody else’s, but, for the life of me, I have never been a fan of the CREAM PIE (33A: [Coconut or Boston confection]). Weird. Not only do we have Olav with a “v” today instead of an “f,” it’s in plural form, OLAVS (53D: [Five Norwegian kings]). A friend of mine just landed in NARITA to continue work in Japan after moving from Chicago, so I definitely am wishing her the best of luck…as well as giving her a shout out here (48D: [Airport serving Tokyo]). Outside of the theme answers, none of the other entries really stood out, though FILIAL gets an honorable mention (8D: [Befitting offspring]). And as I’ve said before on here, I need to watch more HBO (66A: [“Curb Your Enthusiasm” network]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELAM (11D: [Retired NFL placekicker Jason]) – One of the most reliable kickers in NFL history, three-time All-Pro kicker Jason ELAM played 15 of his 17 seasons with the Denver Broncos, from 1993-2007. (He played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 and 2009). Elam was a member of the Broncos’ two Super-Bowl winning teams after the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and, in 1998, he tied a then-NFL record for the longest field goal made with a 63-yard field goal converted in a game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Friday’s getting closer!! Have a great day, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Take care!


Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 141106

LA Times

Thanks to Doug for filling in for me with aplomb!

A fairly simple letter string addition puzzle, without a revealer, not that one is really necessary here. All the phrases have the prefix SUR tacked onto them; additional tightness is provided by the fact it is the first word each time, although if you were lucky enough to spot this, you get three free letters each time! I think that latter fact is why Rich Norris chose to run this on Thursday, not Friday, as he usually does with themes of this nature. I found the entries consistently amusing, and quite elegant in their changes:

  • [Scoop a major news magazine?], SURPASSTIME
  • [Sheriff of Nottingham’s plan?], SURROUNDROBIN
  • [Hearst Castle?], SURREALESTATE. Why is Hearst Castle surreal? It just seems big…
  • [Banner advertising overstocked shelves?], SURPLUSSIGN

One across is always important in determining the solver’s initial reaction to the puzzle. It sets the mood. [Actor who spoke the line, “I’d show him who was king of the forest!”] is a great clue to offset the use of LAHR!

OCA/OCALA is a big trap for the non-crossword-ese-literate! This assumes OCALA isn’t a universally familiar city to Americans, but I don’t >think< it is.

Random observation: [Window units, briefly], ACS – Americans abbreviate their abbreviations much more than those using Commonwealth English. We talk about aircons. See also ads (US) versus adverts (us).

Other choice morsels in the puzzle included:

  • [“You can’t be serious”], COMENOW. Lovely bit of colloquial language!
  • [Anxious place to be], HOTSEAT
  • [Purse counterpart], MANBAG. Explain handbags to me. I manage to survive out in the world with just a wallet, a cellphone and car keys just fine.
  • [Frank quality], CANDOR

4 Stars

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22 Responses to Thursday, November 6, 2014

  1. Good catch on PESACH, Amy. Quite a few of the initial commentators on the Rex blog have noticed this too.

    There was an interesting misdirect with 27-Down. The October 1973 Yom Kippur War was launched by Anwar SADAT (the correct answer), but as a solver, it was certainly reasonable to try Moshe DAYAN in this space. DAYAN first came to prominence in the June 1967 Six-Day War, which was also when the eloquent Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Abba EBAN, became a household word (at least in Jewish households) … and memorialized in many crosswords for his last name (84 Shortz era mentions) as well as his first name (not nearly as many, due to a Swedish pop group) and even his full name (5x in Shortz era).

  2. Avg Solvr says:

    Tots = adds? Does anyone actually use tots that way?

    • Bencoe says:

      Tots up, adds up. I think the “up” helps make the equivalency.

      • Avg Solvr says:

        Okay, thanks for responding, but does anyone use tots-up? The Google search definition says it’s British, while other sources don’t. I’ve never heard it used and wondered about it’s usage.

        • Molson says:

          I’ve never used it or heard it used. The clue definitely could have used an (up) at the end to make it clearer. I had kiDS in there for a long time, which really hurt me since the –DS was correct, didn’t see GOOP right away and had no idea on PTOMAINE, so I was trying to up with a word that started -UkR. Made for a really hard corner for me.

        • Bencoe says:

          It is very possible that I know the expression only from living overseas and through my wife’s family, who are English. I assumed it was a common expression, but it obviously is not common in the US, to judge by the reaction on the blogs.

        • Avg Solvr says:


  3. David L says:

    Speaking as a gentile, I found PESACH obscure enough already — tying it to the theme would have been even more mystifying.

    The clue for SPARSE doesn’t seem right to me. You can say that Siberia is sparsely population, or that Siberians are sparsely distributed, but you don’t say, oh, look at those Siberians! How sparse they are!

  4. CY Hollander says:

    Nikki Gloudeman at Ravishly interviewed me for her article, “Does The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Have A Sexism Problem?”

    Geez, much ado about nothing! The centerpiece of the article is an entry for an actress surnamed DELPY, which was changed to DELTA on the grounds that it would be known to more people. But, since Julie Delpy is a woman and Will Shortz is a man, this must be evidence of sexism. This is the crux of the article, which it comes back to again and again.

    I’ve never heard of Julie Delpy. Apparently, neither had Will Shortz or his assistant. I’m sure that many women haven’t heard of her either. Furthermore, “Delpy” is not a common name, and it crosses with WALDO PEPPER, also trivia. From a pure crossword editing standpoint, if you don’t want a puzzle to be reliant on trivia, changing the entry was a clear improvement.

    I’m sure Will Shortz has made many similar changes involving proper names that happened to belong to men. He’s the editor of a crossword puzzle. Making changes like that is his job. Of course, nobody would have written a long articles about this if the name DELPY had belonged to a man. Obviously, men aren’t discriminated against in this world—they are the privileged sex. Certainly Will Shortz wouldn’t discriminate against them—he’s a man himself! Ah, but if the name belonged to a “strong, accomplished, contemporary woman”, and the male editor excises it, the decison becomes “curious”, a “puzzle” that creates an “uproar”. “Hacking the name out of the grid seems…uncouth” (the words of our dear host, Amy).

    It seems that for an editor’s decisions to have credibility, to some people, he must restrict his excisions to male names. Even if he thinks his decision is made for crossword-aesthetic reasons, if the name is female, his decision was probably swayed by insidious bias. Or the editor could be a woman, of course: no one could accuse her of being motivated by sexism.

    But wait—isn’t C. Y. Hollander a man? You may as well ignore his whole lengthy comment: obviously he is going to defend the status quo—he has a vested interest in suppressing women, whether he knows it or not. Had a woman written the comment—well, then, it might have credibility.

    Thus those with an ideological axe to grind impose their vision on the world.

    • huda says:

      I will start by saying that I would not have known DELPY, but don’t mind the opportunity to learn about her. I would feel the same way regardless of gender. The puzzle often leads me to learn about people who are accomplished whom I have missed (a very large pool).
      I grant you that the replacement of DELPY by DELTA is no proof of sexism per se, and may not be compelling to everyone as the way to frame the issue. But the broader point is important to consider. We see this in many venues, where the gender balance seems harder to achieve than one would have estimated. It’s definitely true in my area of science and academia. Many young women are attracted to the field, but for many years we have observed their trajectory to be rather different (on average) and bumpier, in spite of the fact that some certainly make it to the top. I don’t see evidence of overt discrimination on the part of the men in charge, or the women for that matter, although there is scientific evidence that a more subtle type of gender bias does exist (in both men and women, against women).
      I don’t think it is productive to lay blame, but it seems to me important to ask why? And to remain open minded enough to accept various explanations, often not the ones we expect. I like the Patrick Merrill investigation because it sought evidence. In human affairs, the causes are likely complex and interactive, but we cannot parse them by taking sides, or taking umbrage.
      If you believe as I do that fairness and opportunity granted equally to all people is both morally right and healthier for humanity in the long run, then it seems reasonable to wonder why they seem hard to accomplish. If there is hidden inequity, it seems right to address it. And if the answer is that these are truly free choices, then that would be great to know. But first, we need to ask.

      • CY Hollander says:

        A very calm and balanced reply. I always enjoy reading your comments, Huda. I agree with the thrust of your post: these questions are worth asking, but not by taking sides first and then cherry-picking evidence to support them.

        As I said to pannonica, I think a blind study of whether there is a gender bias in crossword-rating would be both a productive contribution to the discussion, and relatively easy to carry out, if some of the movers and shakers in the crossword world (Amy?) took an interest in it.

        I imagine a large sample of crossword solvers all solving and rating the same crosswords, the only difference being in the byline, which would be randomly assigned to a male name or a female name. The details of this are up for debate—but would anyone care enough to undertake a study like that?

    • pannonica says:

      Focussing on DELPY is misleading, both in the article and in subsequent argument (which I’ve witnessed in other forums). Nevertheless, that shouldn’t be taken to indicate that a salient issue does not exist.

      • Bencoe says:

        I agree. I know Julie DELPY from the Linklater films, but I think that the article’s focus on that point distracts from the real issue, which is that there is a smaller percentage of construction done by women than there was in the past.

      • CY Hollander says:

        I’ll readily concede that the relative paucity of female constructors might reflect some sort of systemic issue, and, while I’m not inclined to think it does, I’d be open to being shown otherwise. If anyone were motivated to conduct a blind study of this, I imagine it would be relatively easy to carry out, with the cooperation of some of the constructors who take an interest in the matter. Even discussing the possibility of carrying out a study would be a productive contribution to the topic, IMO.

        What irks me about the article is its singling out of the DELPY affair as proof positive of bias—especially since, as a regular crossword-doer, I give you my word that I would consider Will’s edition to be a good one whether the name belonged to a man or a woman, for the reasons I mentioned above (not extremely well-known, not typical enough to be guessable with a few letters, and crosses another proper name).

        • Bencoe says:

          I don’t know why there is a relative paucity of female constructors, only that there is one. I don’t buy the ideas that women are scared of computers or of being criticized on blogs. I also don’t think there is a conspiracy to keep women out, and I believe Will Shortz when he says that he gets far fewer submissions by women. The strange thing, to me, is that there are at least as many female solvers as male ones, and that the ratio among constructors was more even in the past, which is against the general trend of women’s increasing share in the workplace.

      • Lois says:

        Focusing on Delpy might not be ideal for some, but for us Delpy lovers, we just can’t believe that you others have never heard of our Julie. Therefore the passion. One should explore this issue with other public figures as examples, certainly, and it is also an important point in Shortz’s defense that the name would have been crossing a name of a film character.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      “Thus those with an ideological axe to grind impose their vision on the world.”

      And there are those who are blind.

  5. Zulema says:

    Agree with Amy that Israeli is way off, and Siberians being sparse I think is off also, but grammatically. SAO PAULO was just one of the venues of the 2014 World Cup, but the clue seemed to make it the only one. Not to be totally negative, I admired the clever parting of the Red Sea.

  6. Gareth says:

    Not normally the biggest fan of x-referencing, but it worked well ito building up suspense here. Central answer was very elegant! ISRAELI less elegant. But any puzzle with PTOMAINE already has me smiling – I’m not sure why that word makes me smile given what it is! The passing over in PESACH is actually nothing to do with the RED SEA, but the 10th plague where the first born son of every EGYPTIAN is killed, but the Israelites spared provided they mark their door with the blood of a lamb.

    Also loved the clues here, especially 1A, 42A, 46A (first reaction – how is this going to not end up being racist!), 64A (classy!)

    Don’t see the point of “of 500,000+” in the clue for ESSEN.

    Some classic ska to make up for lack of ISRAELITES in puzzle.

  7. Avg Solvr says:

    Being the NYT had a Jewish theme: Are Dodge trucks in Israel said to be Ram tough or mazel tov?

  8. ahimsa says:

    LAT: I enjoyed this one a lot. I did manage to notice that starting SUR early enough to help fill in the final two theme entries.

    By the way, thanks for the link to that article. If nothing else, it encouraged me to get a subscription to Crossword Nation. :-)

  9. Margaret says:

    Gareth, women’s pants (skirts/dresses/shirts/jackets) nearly always have tiny or nonexistent pockets, so no place to put wallet, cell phone or keys. (And even when pockets exist, women’s clothes are usually cut to fit much more closely than men’s, meaning unpleasant lumps and bulges when things are in the pockets. Let’s just say I can’t carry my phone in my nonexistent breast pocket like my husband can.) In addition, women often need to carry certain other products that men don’t need to carry. That said, if I’ve got jeans on, I’m shoving phone, credit card and keys in my pockets and going purse free.

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