Erin Rhode’s New York Times crossword
Congrats to Erin Rhode on a sparkling themeless debut! Lots to appreciate here. MANSPLAIN! It’s clued as 1a. [Patronizingly point out, in modern lingo], but if you’d like to learn about omnivoresplaining and straightsplaining, read this McSweeney’s humor piece.
“I’M AT A LOSS,” PORKY Pig, SALT SPRAY (which I don’t think would put waves in my hair—my hair has one mode no matter the atmospheric conditions, and that mode is straight), HIT A NERVE, HAVE IT ALL, PUP TENT, “IS IT GOING TO RAIN?,” and SWEETPEA also pleased me. And PROTEAN—that’s also a neat word. The LUSITANIA/U-BOAT combo is better than a U-BOAT by itself.
I’m not sure what to make of 12d. [Non-apology apology], “SORRY I’M NOT SORRY.” The thing people are using (far too much) these days is “sorry not sorry.” My son says nobody says it, they just write it. And he hasn’t encountered the version at 12d, either.
We’ve got some trade-offs for the zippy fill, with the crosswordese STERE; ODESA, a Ukrainian spelling/transliteration that is not echoed in the Texas city Odessa; ALERS; A-ONE with the spelled-out number; SLOES; and OYER.
Don’t miss Deb’s Wordplay post with Erin’s remarks about how she handcrafted the puzzle (and about her MIT Mystery Hunt involvement).
Three more things:
- 27d. [Does fieldwork?], PLOWS. In a literal farm field, as opposed to doing research fieldwork.
- 36a. [Patron saint of chastity], AGNES. Did not know this. “Chastity” is overrated.
- 48a. [Food items in shells], TARTS. Ah, yes. The “make them enter TACOS” gambit.
4.2 stars from me. Dropping MANSPLAIN at 1-Across does a lot to offset the bits of crosswordese.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Protest Plans”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everybody! How’s your weekend looking?! Today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, has four theme answers in which the first word of each of those entries are synonyms of each other, all having to deal with actions during a protest.
- STRIKE THREE (21A: [Umpire’s call]) – “Yer out!”
- MARCH MADNESS (26A: [Annual basketball event])
- RALLY DRIVING (43A: [Motorsports competition])
- PICKET FENCE (50A: [Decorative backyard border])
Tore through this grid, and was hoping I could break the seven-minute barrier with this one. No real trouble spots, and long answers like SAYS WHO (5D: [“Oh, yeah?”]) and FINE ART were easy to come by, even with just one letter filled in before catching on to both (42D: [Gallery display]). Does anyone call mosquitoes SKEETERS these days (9D: [Pests in the sticks])? Can’t tell you that I have done so before, nor have I heard someone refer to them as that. The only Skeeter that I’m familiar with is a character from Muppet Babies. (By the way, for those who remember Muppet Babies, here’s a hilarious article on Funny or Die about some elements to the show, including Skeeter.) As much as Flo is all over television these days, give me Dennis Haysbert in those ALLSTATE ads over her any day of the week (37D: [Progressive competitor]). Nothing against Flo, but I’ve definitely suffered Flo fatigue! Instead of dance, I associate the TOE TAP much more with baseball, and the timing mechanism that batters use when trying to square up a pitch (25A: [Line dance step]). Now it’s time to get a hold of the NYT puzzle today (and not read about it on here before getting underway).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SEVE (19A: [Golfer Ballesteros]) – One of the greatest golfers of all time and the lynchpin of the rise of talented European golfers over the past four decades, Severiano “SEVE” Ballesteros (1957-2011) was a five-time major tournament winner, claiming three British Open titles (1979, 1984, 1988) and two at The Masters (1980, 1983). In 1976, a 19-year-old Ballesteros announced himself to the golf world by leading The Open Championship (a.k.a. British Open) by two shots going into the final day before finishing in a tie for second place. Outside of the Spaniard’s five major titles, Seve won 45 European Tour events and four other PGA Tour events in his career. In 2008, he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and, on May 7, 2011, Ballesteros passed away at the age of 54.
Have a good weekend, everybody! See you tomorrow!
Jeff Chen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Give Me a Ring” — pannonica’s write-up
No, not a wedding ring, despite this morning’s historic Supreme Court decision.
Today’s offering proffers a retelling of one of the most celebrated anecdotes in both chemistry and psychology.
- 24a. [The structure of ___ was not known until …] BENZENE. C6H6
- 26a. [… chemist August Kekulé, lost in ___ …] REVERIE.
- 41a. [… envisioned ___, a symbol of a snake swallowing its tail] OUROBOROS.
- 60a. [… which helped Kekulé conceive of the carbon atoms in 24 Across in the shape of a ___ ] HEXAGON.
These four moderate-length entries don’t constitute much theme content, but there’s another level, as revealed by the circled squares. They represent the six carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms bonded in the molecule’s structural arrangement, per Kerkulé. I’ve overlaid upon the solution grid a common diagrammatic version. The central hexagon is entirely regular, so it doesn’t align perfectly with the crossword’s grid, whose squares aren’t perfectly square; consequently, the angles (not to mention the lengths) of the bonds between carbon and hydrogen are not accurate.
A slightly more expansive narrative from Wikipedia:
I was sitting, writing at my text-book; but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis.
Nice story, but the veracity is dubious. Consult this profile from the New York Times in 1988. If you’re still intrigued, the full text of Professor John Wotiz’s manuscript compiled after the announced symposium is available here.
Back to the crossword. By necessity of the lengths of theme entries, it has bilateral symmetry. Would have been super-splendiferous with full symmetry (horizontal + vertical, a combination which creates typical 180° rotational symmetry) to match the molecule’s (ignoring the distribution of single- and double-bonds). No simple way that I can see to achieve that.
- A sextet of long vertical entries in the top half of the grid. 2d [Unfailingly generous] ALL HEART, 3d [Lucien’s “Later!”] À BIENTÔT, 6d [Skilled chiseler] STONEMASON, 8d [Process facilitated by silica gel] ADSORPTION, 11d [Sources of aromatherapy oil] TEA TREES, 12d [Bases of operation for tiny workers] ANT HILLS.
- 14a [Island in a famous palindrome] ELBA, 63a [Middle of 14 Across’s palindrome] ERE.
- 19a [Scandal suffix] -GATE. Scandalgate is one of my favorite bits of jargonese.
- 32a [St. Pete stadium, with “the”] TROP. For Tropicana, I presume. Seemingly spurious sports abbrevs. are de trop, to me.
- 44a [Pinch] SOUPÇON. It never fails to tickle me how the cedilla in this word suggests a miniature ladle. Factette: cedilla derives from Spanish, meaning ‘little Z“.
- 64a [Margaret Atwood novel whose heroine paints the Virgin Mary holding a marble] CAT’S EYE. Deft clue, and perfect for the CHE.
- 45d [Available for engagements] ON HIRE. More of a Briticism, I think.
Very fun and elucidatory theme, clean fill, good cluing. A better-than-average crossword.
Joseph Groat’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This looks to be a debut. I’m going to take a deep breath and say that this puzzle is not in a publishable state. The theme is unnecessarily uneven, the fill is unnecessarily weak. A bit of workshopping with a mentor on either / both fronts would have improved this puzzle a whole lot.
The theme: ST or sometime just T is added to make wacky-style phrases, altering spelling as necessary. Or, well, you could say T is added, provided you accept that some of the theme answers have been arbitrarily pluralised. FAUXFUR(S) becomes FAUXFIRST; GOESONASPREE becomes GHOSTONASPREE; FINGERSANDTOES becomes FINGERSANDTOAST; ROSEOFSHARON becomes ROASTOFSHARON; USERFEE(S) becomes USERFEAST. ROASTOFSHARON is by far the most elegant of the changes.
A theme arrangement of 9/13/15/13/9 is ambitious at the best of times, but for a newbie especially so. The temptation is always there, no matter ones experience, to try and cram as much theme as possible in. Experience should tell you where to draw the line. Here, I think the fill is beginning to strain a tad too much. For the most part, I don’t have hang-ups about specific answers, but an accumulation of high-end and contrived entries, especially when concentrated in specific areas, becomes problematic.
EMAG in a self-contained corner like the top-left looks really glaring. Its neighbour to the right has LOOS (as the author) with COROT and MOSSO for company. The middle has [Plural medical suffix], OSES crossing SETT. Plural suffixes should be utter desperation stuff. Middle-right has partial ASIN next to butt-ugly abbr. STMT. We also get Afrikaans insult HOERS in the middle-bottom. Many of these look like they’re in fairly blacked-in zones, but it’s the pressure of so much theme causing the short stuff to squelch out from the sides…
Some songs to end on a happier note: MAMAS and Seether (FAKEIT). On a more whimsical note, I’m not sure if [Confessional genre] is referring to EMO band Dashboard Confessional, or just that emo songs are frequenty confessional in nature. Anyone?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Still Standing” — pannonica’s write-up
Another crossword with visual elements and left-right symmetry! (See today’s CHE.)
91-across instructs the solver to [Circle this word and nine identical instances to reveal a game formation] PIN. Instead of circling individual squares, I’ve superimposed an image over each trigram, because I’m on a kick today. The dectet’s arrangement is that of an inverted pyramid, the same—save for relative distances and element orientation—as that in bowling. To be thoroughly exacting, the figure is a tetractys, an equilateral triangle with four equidistant points on each side,
As with the Chronicle’s crossword—though almost in precisely the opposite direction—the primary part of the theme occupies a relatively small amount of real estate, and there is an additional element to flesh things out. Here, there are four long answers variously related to the game in question.
- 24a. [You press it to prepare this puzzle’s theme] RESET BUTTON. Completely mystifying until the theme is revealed below it. Difficult even to parse.
- 111a. [Invitation to play suggested by this puzzle’s theme] LET’S GO BOWLING.
- 70d. [This won’t touch the puzzle’s theme] GUTTER BALL.
- 77d. [They end with some of the puzzle’s theme still standing] OPEN FRAMES.
Not exactly the most amazing bunch of answers, and their specific relationships to the theme pins are strained to some degree. But something needed to augment the base and it seems unlikely anything better could have been achieved. It almost feels as if the aggressive long-stacking—not only along three of those four extra theme answers—but in two additional places—is tacit acknowledgment and atonement for the shortcoming. GUTTER BALL / APRIL FOOLS, OPEN FRAMES / EXTRADITES, RESET BUTTON / TRADE UNIONS (sometimes they strike)/ SAGEBRUSHES (scowling at -es pluralization), SOAPINESS / ASTONISHED, KEEPING ON / INHALATION. Plus, EASTER EGGS and SPIDER’S WEB.
You know, it’s after 4pm and I don’t feel like mining the crossword for more bits to highlight. So let’s spare the ceremony and just say it’s a fine puzzle, the visual aspect is admirably executed, and that’s that.
Oh wait! Favorite clue: 11d [Latin quarter word] UNUM. Note the lowercase Q in quarter.