NYT 4:06 (Amy)
LAT 17:38 (Gareth, paper)
CS 10:01 (Ade)
CHE tk (pannonica)
WSJ (Friday) tk (pannonica)
Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword
Low word count today, just 62. Funky 8-shaped grid. The stairstepped corners allow nice 11/13/15 stacks, with GRACE PERIOD/PRISONER OF WAR/THIS IS SPINAL TAP and STEPHEN JAY GOULD/STORAGE SPACES/SPARE THE ROD. Could definitely do without ENSE crossing one of those stacks, but overall the fill is quite good for a 62-worder. You don’t expect the sparkle of four-word movie titles and three-part names.
- 17a. [Certain shooter], CAT’S-EYE. Why on earth is there a marbles clue? What is this, 1937? Cat’s-eye is also a semiprecious stone.
- 20a. [Musical phrase in which a single syllable is sung over several notes], MELISMA. This is that thing that Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston really nailed and now every woman on American Idol tri-i-i-i-i-i-ies.
- 43a. [We] clues YOU AND I, and then the very next answer includes that clue word? 48a. [“Ready to go?”] clues “SHALL WE?” Rather hard to overlook when the answers are adjacent like this.
- 8d. [First name in gossip], RONA. Rona Barrett retired from TV in 1991. [First name in gossip in the preceding century], more like. It’s all Perez Hilton and TMZ now.
- 11d. [Relative of a Fig Newton], DATE BAR. Apparently the Newton people have dropped the “Fig” from the name. “Newtons” still come in a fig variety, mind you, but rebranded.
13d. [Some old-fashioned hosiery], RAYONS. Never seen this in a hosiery plural form. Perhaps one of our more senior female readers can tell me if this is an “Oh, yes, of course!” or “Huh?” clue/answer combo.
- 33d. [Nuts], IDIOTS. What? This makes no sense. Is the clue suggesting that aficionados are idiots, or that people with mental illness are idiots? If it’s the latter, right on the heels of FUNNY FARM in the puzzle … And then at 51d, [Nuts] clues LOCO.
Four stars from me.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Road to an A”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Friday usually means school children all over are ready to bolt from school and start the weekend. And, of course, all of those kids during their days off from school will do what Mr. Bruce Venzke suggests in today’s crossword puzzle. Each of the theme answers are actions that students hypothetically would engage in to get good grades, and supposedly in the order in which the answers appear in. OK, maybe not every kid will do these actions during this weekend. Maybe they’ll do it next weekend! Or the one after that. Or….
- GO TO THE LECTURES (17A: [Step #1 on the road to an A]) – Guess this would be referring more to college students than anything else.
- READ THE MATERIAL (28A: [Step #2 on the road to an A])
- REVIEW YOUR NOTES (48A: [Step #3 on the road to an A])
- STUDY FOR THE EXAM (62A: [Step #4 on the road to an A])
Pretty straightforward theme, with three of the four answers essentially having an ‘___ the ___’ pattern. I’m a fairly picky eater, and, unlike many people, am not fond of having an AVOCADO (4D: [Guacamole essential]). Usually when I eat a slice of avocado, it’s by accident. Not averse to it, but not a big fan. When I first got a MacBook back in 2008, a friend and I used ICHAT quite a lot, but now I can’t remember the last time I’ve used that program (32D: [Apple messaging program]). I’ve been to Florida about 10 times, but only have gone down to MIAMI twice, and both of those times, I’ve had mixed reactions to being there (58A: [_____ Gardens (2007 Super Bowl city)]). Sure, the weather and the beaches are an allure, but, for some reason, but my experience down there was marked by twice being the first car that had to stop as one of the drawbridges had to be lifted. After the second time, I totally had the thought in my mind of making like Knight Rider and pressing the turbo button on my car and zooming from one side of the bridge to the other in dramatic fashion!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WOLF (49D: [Fairy tale villain]) – Here’s a shout out to one of the famous radio and television sports anchors of modern times, former Washington D.C. and New York sports anchor Warner Wolf. I grew up with Warner when he was anchoring sports for WCBS-TV in New York, and his signature catchphrase was “Let’s go to the videotape,” an utterance he made right before the highlights rolled of the game he was recapping. Definitely one of my earliest inspirations in becoming a sports reporter.
Have a good weekend, people! See you for tomorrow’s puzzle.
John Farmer’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Fun, early-week theme, but with clueing that ramped things up to Saturday NYT level for me. I assume the germ of the idea was that ITWASALLADREAM (a common trope in Dallas, I seem to recall learning by osmosis) hides DALLAS backwards. In case you didn’t figure it out from the circles, or from the revealer, SHOWSUP, each entry conceals a backwards TV show, which appears to run upwards when the entries are placed vertically. Two entries were particularly hard for me to tease out ITWASALLADREAM (super vague clue!) plus THISCANTBELOVE (it has the same number of letters as Labi Siffre’s ITMUSTBELOVE, FWIW).
So, CSI is in THISCANTBELOVE; COPS is in HOCUSPOCUS; GLEE is in IFEELGOOD (another answers that works in two ways!); KOJAK is in CRACKAJOKE (fancy!) and as stated DALLAS is in ITWASALLADREAM.
Particularly hard areas include the top-left, with vague [Still-life subject], PEACHES intersected by [Kool-aid alternative], HIC (= random letters for me); [Detergent with Oxi Booster], ERA (letters again) and the tricksy [Some audiobooks] for CDS. Top- and bottom-right were also very hard for me.
- [“Battle it out” quintent], AEIOU. If the penny hasn’t dropped, look at the vowels in the enquoted phrase.
- [“Love in the Time of ___”: Garcia Marquez work], CHOLERA. Not a disease you see often in crosswords. Still, these days its mostly a third world killer, so distanced enough for crosswords.
- [Title girl in a 1965 #1 hit], RHONDA. Originally sans H. If that version had been a hit, it’d be seen far more often in crosswords.
- [Brief facilities?], LAV. The only person I’ve known who used that word was my grandpa!
I followed Stephen Jay Gould’s career and his long and successful battle against mesothelioma and have read The Panda’s Thumb. He started at Harvard in my freshman year, although I don’t recall every hearing anything about him while in college. My interest in his work didn’t begin until the early 1980’s.
That entry made the bottom much easier than the top for me.
Excellent puzzle. My father was a POW in WWII, so the POW reference was especially interesting for me.
I would never call a person with a low IQ an IDIOT, but I would have no hesitancy in calling an otherwise normal or intelligent person one if he or she was acting in a nutty/ridiculous/off the wall/ignorant/etc. way.
In years past, IDIOT was a classification for children whose IQ was lower than 70. I had a girl in French class who was unable to learn the French alphabet, and it turned out that she didn’t know it in English either. She’d always tested at 70, not below, and thus wasn’t eligible for special ed classes, just passed along through elementary grades — and when her mother was interviewed she had no idea her daughter had a problem!
NYT: Parts of this were tough for me and others fell like a Tuesday.
Steven Jay Gould was also very easy for me and opened up the South. I have met him a few times at conferences, and I really like his thinking. Just today, I sent someone a link to his well-known article: the Median is not the Message– ” a small story about the utility of dry, academic knowledge about science ” in which he wrote about his hopeful (and as it turns out accurate) analysis after hearing of his diagnosis of mesothelioma.
I did not know MELISMA… Interesting to learn! Fewer hits than Steven Jay Gould, which is rather comforting… Did you see that sad recent survey with the statistics about the number of Americans who can name a living scientist? Being in a movie (Stephen Hawking) or on TV (Neil Degrasse Tyson) helps a lot. Although it leads some to list Dr. Oz. as THE scientist they can name.
I am familiar with that article. :-)
Huda, one of the distinctions among various styles of Western Gregorian Chants of the 10th through 13th centuries, is between syllabic and melismatic chanting. (One note per syllable versus many notes.) But interestingly, one of the most important musical environments for melismatic chanting is Arabic music, which often features quarter tones and micro tones used to create a subtle and highly emotive effect over drawn out single syllables.
Thanks, Bruce. I was actually wondering whether MELISMA is what I know from Arabic music. Just last week, I was telling my daughter-in –law how in piano lessons taken as a child with the French nuns, I used to be unable to label certain notes as wrong because they were quarter tones and sounded right to my ear.
I think it’s seen more as the adjectival form “melismatic”.
Google doesn’t employ bots (19 across). Bots are most commonly encountered in malware. Also not a fan of “group of people” cluing “homo.”
Sure they do.
Trust Tom on this. It’s his job to know such things.
This blog gets crawled by bots regularly, from Google and other search engines. Without the tireless bots, the search engines wouldn’t be able to assemble updated lists of search results. Being able to Google the solution to a brand-new crossword is probably thanks to bots.
Our genus is “Homo” so the clue works nicely. A “group” for “people” (H. sapiens) is “Homo”.
And as Tom already said, Bot works for Google worker.
This was a nice puzzle but seemed very easy for a Friday. My only stumble was that I had MYTH instead of HYPE for too long.
I don’t see the problem with “nuts” for IDIOTS. He’s a nut; he’s an idiot (and to me, both are sufficiently familiar bits of idiom that I don’t see any cause for offense).
As a more senior female, I concur with your “Huh?” on RAYONS. I had NYLONS first, but the Y didn’t work. Looks like you have to be even more senior than me. http://www.vintagedancer.com/1940s/1940s-stockings-history/, though still not sure about using it in the plural.
P.S. Happy birthday to sbmanion!
Women wore cotton stockings before rayon was invented. They were thrilled to have a silky fabric instead of heavy cotton. I read about nylons until the 2nd world. I guess they were much better than rayon stockings as the women were crazy about them.
Found the top of the NYT very tough not knowing so much asked. Enjoyed the LAT.
I really enjoyed the LAT, and wonder if John thought about other show patterns than the 3,4,4,5,6 that emerged.
Enjoyed the NYT and comments above… re CATS-EYE, gems that display the cats-eye or chatoyancy effect are rare and fascinating. I have a favorite ring of silver gray chrysoberyl with a wider white chatoyant stripe than seen in most other forms, very striking, & I’ve never seen another like it!
You do know the clue refers to the cat’s eye marble, right? That’s the “shooter” part of it and why Amy is disappointed that a more “modern” reference wasn’t used, despite the fact that cat’s eye marbles are still being manufactured and sold, even today.
Poor Rona Barret apparently gets the same treatment from Amy, even though Rona is still alive and quite active. She’s as pretty and vivacious as ever, by the way, although she must be near 80 years old.
Yes, Rona’s busy, but it’s with her charity and her lavender business and not “gossip.” She stopped being the “first name in gossip” 24 years ago!
I think we’re taking “first name” to be two different things. I’m taking it literally as, in this case, the first name of Rona Barrett is Rona; whereas, I think you mean in the sense of prominence or celebrity, the headliner.
And again there, it’s likely to alienate the solvers in the 13-40 range. If the clues mentioned marbles and “Barrett,” at least they’d have learned what they just filled in. Without, it’s mighty nonspecific and unhelpful. If you can’t include difficult initialisms that the solver won’t understand even after solving correctly, how many things like this do you want in the puzzle?
I thought they used the clue “certain shooter” for CAT’S EYE only so they could use it again for BBGUN.
The second clue I read was 13a, and I immediately plonked PRISONEROFWAR down. I find stacks like this play either really easy or really hard, depending on if one can puzzle out one of the long answers early! So that is why, unlike Steve, the top was easy and the bottom medium for me.
I played with marbles as a kid. I don’t think that was that long ago, even if it is somewhat quaint.
In America, we had way more TV than you did. The game of marbles was pretty much a quaint old thing here by the 1960s.
While I grant you that marbles are “quaint” in the US, the game is still played throughout the world – think cheap and no-batteries-needed. Wikipedia tells me that a world competition is still held in Britain.
After having said that, what difference does it make to the value of the clue? The fact that you know that “shooter” refers to the game must mean it’s not all that forgotten and still holds some relevance.
I may have mentioned it before, but I’m baffled by your derision of things from the past — or is it the near past, the previous generation or a decade ago? I’m not certain of time constraints of your criticism.
I only know that “shooter” refers to marbles because I have done a crapload of crosswords since I was a kid. I have never encountered TAW or other marbles terminology outside of crosswords.
But picture a new crossword solver, age 13-40. Shooter = CATSEYE is likely going to be a complete and total mystery. There’s no context at all. “Shooter” has at least four different definitions and there’s no hint as to which one it is here. If you don’t know that CAT’S-EYE marbles are a thing, and that “shooter” is a marbles word, and that there is a game called marbles, you’re left finding the crossword a weird and inexplicable thing. Cat’s-eye as the stone is timeless and relies less on a very particular sort of cultural literacy.
‘If you don’t know that CAT’S-EYE marbles are a thing, and that “shooter” is a marbles word, and that there is a game called marbles, you’re left finding the crossword a weird and inexplicable thing.”
That’s kind of like I feel when I run across a BEQ or Tausig clue/fill dealing with geek-isms, technical argot or hip-hop references. There are, in fact, many clues/fills I don’t know, but I don’t see how that devalues the clues. Your youngsters (“13-40”) simply have to bite the bullet and admit they “don’t know”.
From what you say, there must have been that moment when you made the connection between SHOOTER-[marble]-CAT’ EYE and some of the weirdness and inexplicitly of the puzzle disappeared. Isn’t that the very essence of crosswords? Isn’t it more about trivia than trendiness? Isn’t there a learning curve to solving puzzles?
Doesn’t timeliness matter? I feel like a game all the kids play now is more relevant than a game all the kids played 60 years ago. Pop culture ephemera isn’t usually important as historical data, and currency matters. To me crosswords have always reflected the language and interests of the times (at their best) and are intended to be consumed immediately rather than hold up over the ages.
That said, I also recognize the value of occasional nostalgia. For many solvers, marbles is probably a highly nostalgic memory. But I still have never heard of a TAW anywhere but in crosswords!
This got me to look up “taw”. I called that a ghoen, which is a specifically South African term. Looking at the lists online, I note that a lot of the terms seem very regional…
A BIG Amen to PJ’s comment (re derision of anything other than trendy, “modern” clues.) I have often made the same point myself. (See, e.g. my post at the end of the chain on Monday Feb. 23rd, which I’m sure was ignored and probably unread because I posted it a day later, on Tuesday.)
Re Monday Feb. 23rd: read and replied to.
Not being much of a history nut (idiot?), I had enough letters such that MINISTER OF WAR fit in place, although it struck me as curious. Eventually, reality struck.
MELISMA is quite common in baroque opera, but I tend to avoid that era in my listening. More in my wheelhouse is, say, Benjamin Britten, who used lots of melisma writing in his operas, e.g. the apparitions of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel in “Turn of the Screw,” Aschenbach in “Death in Venice,” Peter Grimes, etc.
Gareth in the US the prepackaged drink HI-C is a drink choice at MacDonalds.
John, I loved your LAT today. I’m out there in the left field of the ratings. It’s theme both entertaining and fertile which would probably support other puzzles.