Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
This week of NYT puzzles is blowing my mind with how much unappealing fill there has been. Day after day, an onslaught—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and now today. Yes, the Friday puzzle has a little theme in the middle, three Across answers in the center with a clue theme going on. And there are four 15-letter answers in the fill. But then you also wind up with partials (A TALE, ALL BY, IN HER, IF SAY), foreign words (Latin MEA, EST, and VIS; Hawaiian/crosswordese LOA; Spanish NEGRO, ESA, and Spanish/crosswordese CESTA), crosswordese (ERTE, ENOL), a plural name (LOLAS), a densely Roman-numeraled pope (LEO VIII), awkward verb phrase (ROAM OFF), and, for Pete’s sake, a six-letter word that’s repeated in the grid (CAPITAL LETTER and RAISED LETTERING). Far too many compromises to accept, even if one is delighted by the following quasi-theme:
- 31a. [B, for one], CAPITAL LETTER.
- 34a. [Bb, for one], MUSICAL NOTE. I had no idea.
- 35a. [Bb6, for one], CHESS MOVE.
The grid has to have left/right symmetry to accommodate that set of themers. Is the grid design supposed to somehow relate to the letter B? It looks like a spider or something.
Seven more things:
- 10d. [Player with Legos, for example], ERECTOR. Yes, that’s what we call people playing with Lego. Erectors. *scoff*
- 17a. [Part of a bridge truss], ENDPOST. END POST? I checked onelook.com for the one- and two-word versions and found exactly zero dictionaries listing this term. Lovely.
- 15a. [Short coming?], ARR. Abbreviation for “arrival.” Meh.
- 36a. [Score at the half?], DECADE. A score is 20. Now, I call foul, because a DECADE is specifically 10 years, whereas a score is 20 of anything. Just because Lincoln used the number with “years” doesn’t make it a year-specific term.
- 56a. [They might catch some rays], ORCAS. So killer whales prey on manta rays and whatnot? Neat.
- 22d. [Giggles], TWITTERS. Say what? I checked three dictionaries, none of which have a laugh/giggle sense for twitter. Perhaps the puzzlemakers were thinking of titter?
- 53d. [Spanish demonstrative], ESA. The old Tribune Media Services crossword used to clue ESA as the European Space Agency, which was such a nonentity to American solvers. But this week, the ESA landed the Philae probe right on that comet hurtling through space! I don’t know if many Americans have encountered the ESA abbreviation, though.
I sure hope the Saturday puzzle breaks this horrible streak of puzzles with so much subpar fill. 2.75 stars for this puzzle, 1 star for the cumulative week of editing.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Dot What?”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everybody, and welcome to Friday!!
First of all, I hope all of you will have a great weekend, and, if you’re on the East Coast or Midwest, hope you stay warm in the next couple of days. Today’s puzzle, brought to us today by Ms. Donna S. Levin, is a fun one, as common terms/proper nouns are altered by adding types of URL endings to the beginning of those terms. Let’s log on, shall we?
- ORGANDY DICK: (17A: [Private eye who works in the textile industry?]) – ORG, from Andy Dick.
- COMPOST OFFICE: (27A: [Fertilizer distribution center?]) – COM, from post office.
- NETHER MAJESTY: (42A: [Impressiveness of the Earth’s mantle?]) – NET, from Her Majesty.
- EDUCABLE GUY: (55A: [One who can be trained?]) – EDU, from cable guy. Number of times I’ve audibly heard the word “educable” in my life? Three times, maybe?
I would like the record to show that Ms. Levin would have had the ability to stop the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop beef if this crossword came out about 20 years ago, since both TUPAC (60A: [Shakur who costarred with Janet Jackson in “Poetic Justice”]) and Biggie Smalls were both mentioned in the puzzle, two RAP legends that represented areas on opposite coasts (34A: [Genre in which Notorious B.I.G. was big]). Yesterday, I got to talk about when The WB network was formed in the mid 1990s, and I can do the same now with another network that formed right around the same time, UPN (39A: [Station on which “Star Trek: Voyager” debuted]). I remember a few shows that were on the network, and I think the term that was used for when people tuned in to watch shows on UPN was that those viewers were “OOPIN,” as if saying UPN phonetically. Pretty sure my favorite show that was on UPN was the animated cartoon Home Movies. Anyone remember that show? I loved it!! As someone who used to sport a big afro when I was young, and not always keeping it in perfect shape, I have had experience in having a BAD HAIR DAY or two (11D: [It’s commonplace in humid climates]). Outside of that, BAD HAIR DAY is a great entry, and so is COUNT TO TEN (27D: [Exercise restraint, in a way]). I don’t think I’ve ever had to count to ten to either calm myself down or prevent myself from doing something that I might regret later on. However, I might have bitten a pillow or two to achieve the same result as counting to ten is supposed to yield.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROUEN (35A: [City where Joan of Arc met her end]) – Just a few days ago, I got to talk about Jason ELAM, longtime kicker for the Denver Broncos in the 1990s and 2000s. In many of the years during that same time period, the punter for the Broncos was a guy named Tom ROUEN, the team’s all-time leader in punts. Rouen was in the news recently because his wife, six-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Amy Van Dyken, was paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident in June. Through the ordeal, Amy and Tom have been upbeat, and Amy is making great progress in her recovery. Click here for a video update from September on Amy’s recovery, and her determination to live as normal of a life as possible with her disability.
See you all on Saturday, everybody! Thank you for the time, as always!
Steve Salmon’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I got quite far through the puzzle, and ignored quite a lot of the theme answers, before discovering the theme. I did so on being forced to consider GOVER(n)MENT as an answer! I think I’ve seen this theme done once before. Still, it’s a nice a-ha moment, especially if you fought against filling the wrong spellings! I like the touch that MIS(s)PELLINGS is misspelled! The others are EMBAR(r)ASSING, AG(g)RESSIVE and FL(U)ORESCENCE.
I seem to have written a whole bunch of notes on various other entries. So here they are:
- Although I see [Colored part of the iris], AREOLA is from a dictionary, I question it. The whole iris is coloured, the AREOLA is merely the >visible< part of the iris.
- [Country named for its location], ECUADOR. Fun trivia! Apparently, it means “equator” in Spanish. Did not know that.
- [Thanksgiving staple], YAM. I’m pretty sure that the things Americans eat at Thanksgiving are not yams.
- [Selling points], MALLS. Nice, subtle clue redirection!
- [Pre-WWII pope], PIUSXI – clue suggests he hasn’t got many other distinguishing characteristics!
- [Behind], INBACKOF. Do Americans say this regularly? I only know it from the Weird Al Yankovic parody “Trapped in the Drive-Through” (link not provided, for sanity’s sake).
- [Literary collections], ANAS. Personally I’d have preferred [Duck genus that is being targetted by splitters], than a highly arbitrary plural. YMMV, but I wish there were more genus names in crosswords.
- [Easy __], ASABC. I thought it was “Simple as ABC” these days. I put PEASY first based on the A.
- [Douglas and others], FIRS. Flawed clue. Douglas Firs are not firs, although they are related.
- [ICU hookup], IVDRIP. Nice answer!
- [Mid-11th-century year], MLIII. Abominable answer. Non-answer in fact. If your grid design and theme arrangement force you into that, start again.
Fun theme, mostly fun solve, with only one or two clunks (although they were big ones). 3.5 Stars
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Swinging Singles” — pannonica’s write-up
Revealer in the center: 64a [Bruce Willis sci-fi film, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] TWELVE MONKEYS. The three letters of APE appear as a unit hidden in a dozen theme entries. I’ve circled the squares in the solution grid.
Before the customary list of said theme entries, I’m obligated to point out that monkeys are not apes, and apes are not monkeys. Both, however, are primates. The revealer sidesteps to a degree this distinction by using the word “hint”, but it’s still a bit dodgy. Not barbarous, but dodgy. Further, regarding the title, one of the many distinctions between the two taxa is the ability of apes to brachiate, that is, to swing below branches using their arms. The anatomy of monkeys precludes this feat; they can, however, swing below branches using their prehensile tails, or from branch to branch—or tree to tree—by employing vines, lianas, and the like.
That dispensed, here we go:
- 20a. [“The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them” speaker*] DON DRAPER. Ooo, cynicism.
- 22a. [Nursery item that deals with bum wraps*] DIAPER GENIE. It “is a baby diaper disposal system … The resulting string of sealed diapers is colloquially known as a ‘diaper sausage'” (Wikipedia). Well, that’s nice.
- 34a. [Service station?*] CHAPEL.
- 44a. [Kids with routes in their community*] NEWSPAPERBOYS. Punny.
- 48a. [They heat up your food*] JALAPEÑOS.
- 53a. [It’s all downhill from here*] APEX.
- 82a. [Look of wonderment*] GAPE.
- 85a. [Form*] TAKE SHAPE.
- 87a. [Sub exits*] ESCAPE HATCHES.
- 94a. [Table linen*] NAPERY.
- 111a. [Roll around a painted area*] MASKING TAPE.
- 113a. [Dulcimer’s silhouette*] TRAPEZOID. Interesting clue.
Admirably, or let’s say responsibly, there are no other appearances of APE to be found elsewhere among the fill. Nor are there any specific apes or monkeys. The closest we come is 40d [TV’s “__ the Bear”] BJ AND, which ran from 1979 to 1981, wherein Bear was the name of itinerant crime-solving trucker Billy Joe’s cabmate chimpanzee. The show debuted a year after Every Which Way But Loose, featuring Clint Eastwood as an itinerant trucker whose truckmate was an orangutan named Clyde. Coincidence?
Also smack-dab from that era is 19a [Former Renault model] LE CAR, sold in this country from 1976 to 1983.
55a [Notion, across the ocean] IDÉE; 71a [One with a mortgage, e.g.] LIENEE. Incidentally, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys is based on Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée.
73a [Author of “Presumed Innocent”] TUROW; 77a [Julia of “Presumed Innocent”] RAUL.
86a. [Wily fellow] SLY DOG; had SLY FOX first, which made 99a [“__ Ever” (Elvis song from “G.I. Blues”] the decidedly weird FIDJA rather than DIDJA.
63a [34th U.S. President] DDE; do not see also 55d [Mike’s candy partner] IKE.
Of the long non-theme fill, I really liked the symmetrical acrosses DREAM TEAM and METRONOME. The prevalence of plurals among the downs wearied me: LORETTAS, CANTEENS, TSARISTS, SPLEENS, PUSHOVERS.
Average puzzle, but the monkey-ape thing really irked me, probably more than the typical solver.
Jacob Stulberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Primrose Path” — pannonica’s write-up
14-across informs us, [With 68-Across, 20th-century opera that ends in Bedlam … or what the answers to the four stars depict] THE RAKE’S | PROGRESS. Nifty how the title breaks evenly into two seven-letter parts, ready for symmetrical grid placement. Curious that Igor Stavinsky’s opera (libretto by WH Auden and Chester Kallman) was invoked in the clue, rather than the series of eight pictures by William Hogarth upon which it is based. The 1951 opera was preceded by a ballet (1935) and a film (1945). Ah, I see now; Hogarth’s series uses the indefinite article, whose length is no good for the grid.
Based on the title and the revealer, it seems as if the theme should involve the letters RAKE progressing from left to right, relative to the grid as a whole. Instead, the quartet moves through the theme fill in a relative sense (2–5, 3–6, 4–7, 5–8), but zigzags in the absolute. My initial expectation was reinforced by the fact that RAKE from 14a occupies columns 4 through 7, and is immediately followed by the one in 19a, which runs from column 5 through 8.
- 19a. [*Atlantic-Pacific connector in the Southern Hemisphere] DRAKE PASSAGE.
- 32a. [*Groups of them are sometimes called “chatters”] PARAKEETS.
- 45a. [*African city where pilgrims visit the Tombs of the Seven Saints] MARRAKESH. Rake’s Progress, Pilgrim’s Progress, whatever.
- 58a. [*Coast guard?] PARKING BRAKE. Oh wait. In this answer the four letters go from position 9 to 12. Whoa, that’s a big skip from number 5. Never mind what I wrote in the explanation above.
So the theme in execution feels unpolished. Also, I find the parallel syntax of the puzzle’s title and the revealer’s title to be too close to be appealing.
- Favorite clue: 4d [Resting place for boaters?] HAT RACK.
- 11d [Leapers at kennels] FLEAS. Though of course kennels try to discourage their presence.
- 20d [Highly magnetic celestial bodies] PULSARS. With the tail letters in place, went with QUASARS.
- 66d [“Dulce et decorum __”] EST, meaning “It is sweet and honorable”, which neatly undermines the subject of the theme. A fitting way to end the crossword.
Enjoyed the fill and cluing throughout, but the theme leaves something to be desired. Okay crossword.