Michael Wiesenberg’s New York Times crossword
Good day everyone! Today’s guest blogger in the New Scooby Doo-Movies/NYT blog for Fiend is me, Ade (AOK). First off, let’s wish our fearless leader Amy all the best in feeling better!
Also, I wish you all had a good time in doing today’s chunky crossword, brought to us by Mr. Michael Wiesenberg. Fridays, even more than Saturdays, are harder for me to do, but this wasn’t too bad in terms of difficulty. A lot of long answers to keep you on your toes and have you (possibly) marveling at the fill. It didn’t hurt that our constructor started this puzzle off with a bang…well, an INTERROBANG (1A: [?!]). Along with my writing background, I probably type that at the end of every fifth sentence to someone when I’m excited. (“He really ate 50 chicken wings in 10 minutes in that eating contest?!”) Wasn’t too hard to fill in the rest of the Northwest after that, with the toughest task having to figure out which specific “kids speak” started with an “I.” Turned out to be IS SO (1D: [Childish comeback]). I can’t wait until “YOU SO” is used as fill, as in “You so crazy!”
My eccentric solving strategy on Friday/Saturday puzzles of first reading the clues to the long answers (because those answers just seem to pop into my mind without any letters filled in) paid off in the Southeast. Immediately was typing in “red blood cell” for 55A, only to look at “RED BLOOD CEL” and go, “WTH?” No problem, as ERYTHROCYTE was right around the corner in my head (55A: [Hemoglobin carrier]). I definitely listened in my biology class in high school!! That answer made the biblical adjacent answers of MYRRH (42: [Gift in a Nativity scene]) and DEUT, short for Deuteronomy, slam dunks (44D: [Book after num.]). Speaking of religious figures, hello there ADAM AND EVE (25D: [Earliest figures?]). Getting VET deep in the Southwest – and observing that intersecting “V” – was all I needed to act on my suspicion of Adam and Eve (52A: [One testing woofers?]). After not ever encountering the word until seeing it in crosswords about a few months ago, seeing “alcopop” again made WINE COOLER an easy get (26D: [Alcopop alternative]). Let’s break out the Bartles & Jaymes!
The corners weren’t hard, but had a tougher time filling in the middle of the grid, with SIGILS being just a total guess (40A: [Symbols with supposed magic power]). Took a lot of scratching and clawing to get L’APRÈS MIDI, thought I knew I was going to deal with/have to fill in foreign words for it by its clue (12D: [Time for Debussy’s “faune”]). If I’m going to be heading to the French Open tennis tournament this May (which I hope to be doing this year or next), I better have some French nailed down between now and then!! Near that answer, I loved the clue for, and the fill of, SAINTS’ DAYS (14D: [February 14 or March 17]). This was a puzzle for food lovers as well, especially for those who go to the JUICE BAR often to get their drinks (33D: [Place to get a healthy drink]) or like the taste of a SWEET POTATO (17A: [Good source of beta carotene]). Is there anyone who doesn’t like sweet potatoes? If so, why?! (Interrobang sighting.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEB (39D: [Sidon’s setting: Abbr.]) – Of all the puzzles I’ve had the pleasure to blog here, this is by far the toughest in trying to excise a clue and give a sports tinge. I ended up choosing LEB, short for Lebanon, and will point out a couple of athletes of Lebanese descent who you might be familiar with. Probably the most famous Lebanese athlete who made good in North America was Beirut-born Rony Seikaly, who played basketball collegiately at Syracuse in the ’80s (Let’s Go Orange!) before embarking on a 11-year NBA career at center, playing mostly with the Miami Heat. Probably the most prominent athlete of Lebanese descent who’s currently active is hockey player Nazem Kadri, who currently plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kadri, one of the few practicing Muslims in the NHL, was born in Canada, though his parents were born in Lebanon.
If you were expecting a real incisive breakdown of the grid, as well as the breakdown of structure of it (e.g. word count), then my sincerest apologies for really disappointing you. But I hope you had fun with the read, regardless. Take care, and I’ll see you on the CrosSynergy/Washington Post blog a little later on!
John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher of Education crossword, “Tom Swift Considers a Major” — punnonica’s write-up
Or, “Tom Swift Considers a Major, [Academically]”, because we know these are merely idle thoughts. Quite a lot of mid-size theme answers here.
- 17a. [“I’m pining to be in forestry,” Tom said __ ] SAPPILY.
- 18a. [“Culinary arts could whisk me off to fame and fortune,” Tom said __ ] SAUCILY. Years later, unsuccessfully rising no higher than line cook, Tom looked back on this decision ruefully.
- 29a. [“I could make hay in agronomy,” Tom said __ ] BALEFULLY.
- 37a. [“Transportation and logistics is the route to take,” Tom said __ ] CIVILLY.
- 48a. [“If I were sharp, I’d pursue music education,” Tom said __ ] NATURALLY.
- 58a. [“A law diploma is a paper I could chase,” Tom said __ ] BRIEFLY.
- 60a. [“Petroleum engineering would leave me well-equipped,” Tom said __ ] CRUDELY.
- 10d. [A chemistry degree will provide the base I need,” Tom said __ ] ACIDLY.
- 47d. [“I have high hopes for aviation science,” Tom said __ ] AIRILY.
“That’s right, 9 theme answers in a 15×15 grid,” she said pushily.
As you may know, I have soft spot—a weak spot—for Tom Swifties, so I certainly appreciated this theme. A deft consideration was to include a second-tier, more specific hint in each clue (i.e., pining, whisk, hay, route, sharp, paper, well-equipped(?), base, high hopes).
A downside—”Not quite an Achilles’ heel,” she said tendentiously*—to this theme is that a solver will know that each theme answer will be an adverb ending in -LY, and those letters can be filled in without a second thought. Further, such an abundance of Ls can (and in this case, does) beget more Ls, as it often pairs up with itself. These constraints make it doubly likely that lesser fill will be required to successfully fill the grid. So it isn’t terribly surprising that entries such as SYLL, CYLS, ILWU, LTYRS, as well as OOID, EDA, and AMS, are found here.
- This puzzle seemed determined to be daunting right away, with one-across [A crane may extend across it] drawing on a lesser-known sense of crane, a holder for a pot or kettle in a HEARTH.
- For the record, I was glad to see the 60%-L Charles LYELL in the puzzle, though the clue [Geologist who was a colleague of Darwin] reflects how sadly underappreciated this very important pioneer is in non-scientific circles.
- Similarly, the gratuitous biological specifics in some clues won my heart: 23a [Ant-lion pit, e.g.] TRAP, and 25d [Oyster thief or mermaid’s wineglass, e.g.] ALGA.
- 51d [With 8 Down, hors d’oeuvre base created by Auguste Escoffier] MELBA | TOAST. Always more palatable when cross-referenced clues can be arranged symmetrically in the grid. Obviously, this is dependent on the two parts being the same length.
- TENCH. 49d [Carp cousin]. I’d venture that the fish is not so well-known, but I suspect still more widely familiar than musician Benmont Tench. (‘Benmont’, incidentally, is a portmanteau of Benjamin Montgomery.)
- 40d [Company whose logo features a crooked vowel] DELL. Also applies to another erstwhile Texas-based company, crossword-favorite ENRON. In fact, it’s the same letter, E. Of course, ENRON was crooked all over.
- 30d [Fast-growing houseplant] FICUS. Vaguely dissatisfied because Ficus is a tree. On the other hand, it’s often cultivated in pots indoors, and taxonomically, all trees are within the kingdom Plantae and are unquestionably plants. On yet another hand, ‘tree’ is a variable and imprecise appellation, especially colloquially. Also, housetree isn’t a popular term.
- Favorite clues: 7d [Help-wanted letters] SOS, 38d [Wind instrument] VANE.
“Solid, fun crossword,” she said squarely.
*Substandard on my part; there’s an extraneous SYLL.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “2-V Is To Do”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! For those who did the NYT puzzle today (and even for those who chose to pass on it), glad you can join me here as well. Today’s puzzle, offered up to us today by Ms. Gail Grabowski, is a nice way to head into the weekend of more treacherous crosswords, as each of the theme answers are two-word offerings in which the first letter of each word starts with the letter “V.”
- VIRAL VIDEO (18A: [YouTube sensation])
- VIETNAM VETERAN (28A: [One of over 58,000 memorialized on a Washington wall])
- VINTAGE VEHICLE (49A: [1929 Studebaker Dictator, e.g.]) – Does anyone own a vintage vehicle that they want to talk about on here? I always catch a glimpse of those Barrett-Jackson car auctions on television and imagine what it would be like to own a vintage/classic car. Also, I imagine what it would be like to have tens of thousands of dollars in my possession to even bid on one of those cars!
- VROOM VROOM (64A: [Speedway sounds]) – The car my sound usually makes is more along the lines of “cough, hack, wheeze.”
Obviously, what jumped out at me were all of the “V”s, including the entries that had more than one V that wasn’t a theme answer, like IVAV V (29D: [He reigned along with Peter I]) and AVIV (50A: [Tel ____]). Some may gripe at the Ivan V entry, but I’m cool with it, especially if that was his official title. Initially typed in “tea tax” instead of TEA ACT (4D: [Cause of the 1773 ‘party’]). Seeing the clue for IRAN made me remember that it’s pretty close to Academy Awards time (56D: [“Argo” setting]). I’m not much of a moviegoer these days (sadly), but I definitely wouldn’t mind someone handicapping what we might see at The Oscars next month, something that I’m sure I’m about to see on my Facebook/Twitter feed over and over in the next few weeks! Not that I’m complaining about that…and I’m definitely not complaining!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LOVE SET (9D: [Lopsided court success]) – In the third round at Wimbledon back in 2012, Yaroslava Shvedova produced a LOVE SET while defeating No. 10 seed Sara Errani, 6-0, 6-4. Even more impressive than putting up that love set, Shvedova actually achieved what is called a “golden set,” as she won all 24 points in that first set against Errani. Talk about a whitewash!
Have a great weekend, everyone! See you tomorrow!
Marcia J. Brott and George Barany’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “NoTHing to See Here” — pannonica’s write-up
The little revealer, in one of the prime revealer spaces (not, say, second-rightmost vertical entry at the bottom) spells it out for the solver, and adds some more subtle information about the puzzle: 110a [Quantity of our language’s most common bigram in today’s grid and clues] NONE. Note that the clue can’t name the bigram directly, nor can it mention the ‘theme’ specifically.
So not only are the theme answers dethorned for new and wacky meanings, but TH doesn’t appear anywhere else in the grid, and further, it’s been expunged from the clues as well. Worked around and rephrased, that is, not simply eliminated. So the crossword is entirely … lipobigrammatic?
- 23a. [Fan of cutting-edge cuisine?] AVANT-GARDE EATER (avant-garde theater).
- 28a. [What bookish nature lovers did by the poolside?] READ BARE (threadbare).
- 35a. [Tip a canoe?] ROW OFF BALANCE (throw off balance).
- 38a. [Where to find Piatigorsky in an alphabetical list of great cellists?] AFTER MA (aftermath). Ma Yo-Yo.
- 58a. [What picnickers did when raindrops began to fall?] SCATTERED UNDER SHOWERS (scattered thundershowers).
- 82a. [Refilling site for fountain pens?] INK TANK (think tank).
- 84a. [Eden?] EARLY PARADISE (Earthly paradise). Clue works before and after.
- 90a. [Sugary, as well?] SWEET, TOO (sweet tooth).
- 97a. [Perp’s complaint after a stressful burglary?] ROBBING HEADACHE (throbbing headache).
Nine themers, four short and five long. But it’s all much more impressive in light of the other constraints. For those of you who are curious, here are a table and graph of bigram frequencies, drawn from a corpus of 40,000 words (top three are: th, he, in).
It’s testament to the prowess of the constructors that the omissions weren’t glaringly obvious. To be sure, there were more than a few noticeably odd or off-kilter clues (e.g., [Like porcini mushrooms] for EDIBLE; [Cuddly helpers of Han and Leia] for EWOKS; 72d [Clear of writing] for ERASE), but nothing superficially outlandish.
- 61d/80d [Wardrobe relative] DRESSER / ARMOIRE; see also 66a [Story in a French house] ÉTAGE (the root of étagère). 42a [Lightning byproduct] OZONE; see also 24d [Patisserie creation] ÉCLAIR.
- More connections. 56d [“Strange” particle] QUARK; 32d [56-Down binding particle] GLUON. 19a [Like grease or yogurt] SEMISOLID; 53d [Covered in grease, say] GUNKY. 44a/54a [Oscar nominee for “Platoon”] DAFOE / STONE. Less auspiciously, 70a [Exams for future attys.] LSATS; 95a [Exam for future M.D.s] MCAT.
- 30a [Joltless joe] DECAF. Is this why Joe DiMaggio was a spokesman for Mr. Coffee? Am I just realizing this now, or did I know it and forget it?
- 71a [Ink color to be avoided] RED. Clue duplicates the answer in the not-so-far-away themer 82a. -5 pts, tsk, tsk.
- Least favorite fill: 62d [Make sudsy again] RESOAP.
- 4d [Cuckoo clock weight] PINE CONE, not PENDULUM. 48d [Makes a lot] PAVES, not RAZES. 2d [Gun] REV, not ROD. I made all of these errors.
Not the most onerous lipogrammatic challenge conceived of or executed in crosswords, but suitably impressive and well done.
(Total number of words in write-up – 536; total number of characters – 3220; instances of th – 52)
Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
I spotted the theme halfway through the first entry. Why? Cos it’s in my “stuck” file. Marti duGuay-Carpenter (aka HeartRX) had the same experience with one of my recent offerings that pre-empted hers. Now it’s my turn! I gave up on this one cos I just couldn’t come up with enough answers I liked. ADDINGTWOCENTS, as in two instances of C, isn’t an easy one to pull off, so props for getting it publishable Mr. Lim. CHARDCROCK is one I did come up with. CHANSCARP is a stroke of brilliance, although whether Mr. ARP is famous enough for wordplay is a fair enough question. CRAMPEDCUP and CONANDCON both use prepositions, which seems a little weak. The latter is a great transformation though and works nicely in its transformed sense.
Anyone here think changing XENA to PENA would not improve the puzzle? XENA and PENA are about the same – proper names Gen X-ers will probably recognize. PER is a real word, XER is super clunky. While I’m here the sugar highs intimated in HYPER do not exist. A classic example of confirmation bias if ever there was one. Children are always HYPER is the bottom line.