Saturday, August 29, 2015

NYT 6:25 (Amy) 
LAT 10:12 (Derek) 
CS tk (Ade) 
Newsday 32:51 (Derek) 

You know the Funny or Die website cofounded by Will Ferrell? There is a new comedy video there called “Will Shortz Wants to Get In Your Shorts.” The actor playing Will nailed the mustache.

Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 29 15, no 0829

NY Times crossword solution, 8 29 15, no 0829

I think the last time I did a themeless by Evan was when competing in the Indie 500 finals on May 30, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading clues and filling in nothing other than the occasional terminal S. A Saturday NYT is not meant to stymie solvers as much as a tournament finals puzzle, so this one fell much faster. (P.S. Evan regularly publishes themelesses at his Devil Cross site. Check it out if you haven’t.)

Let’s take it straight to our bulleted list of ten things:

  • 20a. [Much-debated grammar subject]. OXFORD COMMA. Just read something, I forget where, that argued you follow your employer’s policy on serial comma or not, if you work for an entity with a style preference; and if you don’t, you just use it or not, whichever you prefer, and there is no right or wrong. (Anyone else count the letters in SINGULAR “THEY” to see if it would fit here?)
  • 2d. [Microsoft release of 2013], XBOX ONE. This is that rare crossword answer: a phrase that contains ONE as a number but is not using the word in lieu of a numeral. The product’s name is Xbox One, not Xbox 1. Yay!
  • 12d. [High class?], ECONOMY. Lowest class of airline seating, but up high in the sky. Great clue.
  • 31a. [Forced out at home?], DEPORTED. Well, that’s grim. Maybe when a word pertains to families being split up, we go with a straightforward definitional clue rather than cutesy-poo?
  • 38a. [Where a bowler might go on a date]. HAT CHECK. I don’t know how many people are wearing bowlers these days, nor how many places still offer a hat check stand, but the clue’s good.
  • Stacked rock stars: WEIRD AL and AXL ROSE, together again. Nice! One does parody and the other only parodies himself.
  • Other juicy fill: SEX APPEAL, SCARE QUOTES (example: “That’s a real nice ‘crossword puzzle’ you’ve made, Evan”; scare quotes connote dismissive scorn), WALLENDA, BRUCE LEE, “LAY IT ON ME, OK CORRAL, TV SPECIAL.
  • 24a. [One getting a beating in the kitchen?], YOLK. This puzzle needs a trigger warning for survivors of domestic violence. “One” typically means “person” rather than “inanimate object,” so it’s jarring and unpleasant. Can we please never have ha-ha violence jokes in the clues?
  • 41d. [Mideast diet], KNESSET. I had hummus, falafel, and halal meats on the mind rather than the legislative type of “diet.” D’oh!
  • 28d. [Lady love?], TRAMP. Cartoon dogs from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. There’s also a winking “ha ha, the lady is a tramp and she’s totally a loose woman” vibe here that I don’t like.

I-BAR, unfamiliar COE, and semi-arbitrary RED DOT (I’ll bet Evan tried to get REDDIT to work here) were lowlights in my book.

3.8 stars from me.

Don Gagliardo’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 5.15.48 PMTime a little slow this week; my excuse? I had a tooth pulled on Friday, so I am a little loopy from painkillers. This Saturday morning has been a lot more pleasant, so I should be OK from here on out. Another fine LAT Saturday puzzle this week, and once again, the upper left corner is the last for me to fall! Lots to comment on:

  • 16A [With 12-Down, 1995 Hugo Award winner for Best Related Work] I, ASIMOV: A MEMOIR – I have mentioned before I don’t like clues related to other clues, just because you have to hunt all over the grid sometimes. Or you need to use a clue you don’t have filled in. These cross each other, and this particular set seems clever and well done to me.
  • 19A [“The Road to Wealth” author] ORMAN – I will blame this one on the painkillers for stumping me. I had O???? and still took a while to some up with Suze Orman. And I used to watch her show all the time!
  • 26A [Zippo]  NOT ONE – When going back through this puzzle, I saw NO TONE. Is that culpable? [House phone problem], perhaps?
  • 33A [Score update phrase] AT THE HALF – With the immense popularity of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, usually referred to as March Madness, their halftime show, literally called At The Half, could be referenced possibly.
  • 52A [Heroine in Auel’s “Earth’s Children” books] AYLA – These are some THICK books. She has written 6 in this series, with 31 years between the first and the most recent. She is now nearly 80 years old, according to her Wikipedia site. Maybe I’ll read them since there won’t be any more!
  • 60A [Discoverer of Jupiter’s four largest moons] GALILEO – Figured this had to be him; seems like too long ago to be him!
  • 4D [Tailless rabbit relative]  PIKA – If you say so. This is a new one on me, but it apparently IS a real animal. Chalk it up to something new to learn. At least for me!
  • 5D [Sparkly Skechers style for girls] TWINKLE TOES – I will let PIKA slide, especially when you can include great answers like this!
  • 13D [Hockey Hall of Fame city] TORONTO – I’ve seen the outside of this place. Should have gone in. Next time I’m in Toronto, it’s going to happen!
  • 21D [“The Dragons of Eden” Pulitzer winner]  CARL SAGAN – This is a tough but good way to clue this guy. Nice.
  • 39D [Excuse for lateness]  I FORGOT – Or excuse your kids use a lot!
  • 41D [Popular hanging-basket flower] LOBELIA – Another new one on me. I don’t buy flower baskets that often. Or ever, for that matter. Here’s a pic!lobelia

Nice puzzle. 3.9 stars. A little more challenging than normal. Or again, it’s my painkiller haze!

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

IMG_0050Yes, the time listed above is correct. Well over 30 minutes. This one kicked me hard. Extremely difficult. Stared at a nearly blank puzzle for a good minute or two; first answer filled in was 29D [Frowned-on pot additions]  IOUS. Don’t know why I got that so quickly, but started there, got most of that side and the middle, then ground to a halt. I sound like a broken record, but the last to fall for me, once again, was the upper left corner! 17A was a KILLER clue. And 1A also stumped me, although I was on the right track! Here are my observations:

  • 1A [Dodger’s former home] FLATBUSH – This was just plain mean. Did you fill in BROOKLYN immediately? I started to, but no crossings worked. Especially at 4D, which you know has to be TIO or TIA. Slapped my head when I finally figured out 2D [It’s often wrapped around a horn] LASSO! Then slapped my head again when I got FLATBUSH. Might come quicker to a native New Yorker!
  • 17A [Man’s man] ISLANDER – This was even meaner. Even after the answer was filled in, I was like, “What the…OOOHHHH!” Man as in Isle of Man! Tricky!!
  • 28A [Prominent feature of the Batmobile] TAIL FINS – I’m going to nitpick this clue. The Batmobile from the 60s TV show certainly had tail fins:batmobile 1

But the version from recent times most certainly does not:batmobile 2

This would also be the one in the wildly popular new Batman video game, Arkham Knight.

  • 32A [Model getting a 2001 facelift] MIATA – Ah, one of the most popular crossword car models. According to Wikipedia, this car did indeed get a facelift in 2001, but this clue still seems way to vague.
  • 43A [___ lane] HOV – There isn’t an HOV lane within 75 miles of where I live. I never think of this right away!
  • 57A [Overture that ends quickly] ROBO CALL – I haven’t heard this term before either. It refers to the computer that cold calls you? Evidently it ends early when you hang up!
  • 7D [Title starter of Pacino’s Oscar film] SCENT – As in Scent of a Woman. This one took me too long. Clue syntax seemed to stump me a bit. Well done.
  • 11D [Underhanded throw] PICK-OFF MOVE – I am going to nitpick this one a bit, too. If the cluer means underhanded as in “sly,” then maybe it works, but pick-offs in baseball usually happen when the baserunner is caught leaning a bit and the throw is on the money. They certainly aren’t literally thrown “underhanded!”
  • 24D [One of two in Mötley Crüe] METAL UMLAUT – What is this? Ah, Google teaches us! Umlauts used in heavy metal bands names are called this! I am learning a lot this weekend!
  • 32D [Heinz 57] MUTT – Clever. This one also took a while. I filled this in very near the end of the solving ordeal!
  • 41D [Sony production] POP SONG – This one also seems way to vague. True, but still seems a tad too hard.

Having said all that, great puzzle! I WANT to be stumped on Saturdays, and this one certainly fit the bill! 4.1 stars.

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25 Responses to Saturday, August 29, 2015

  1. Evan says:

    Yeah, that clue for YOLK was definitely not mine. Don’t know what they were thinking with that one.

    And that northeast corner was a bear to fill, surprisingly. I tried to change that out a few weeks ago simply because of RED DOT, but the powers that be told me it was too late. Le sigh.

  2. Jason Mueller says:

    RED DOT would work fine if clued as: “Seinfeld” sweater flaw.

  3. Dude says:

    “And that northeast corner was a bear to fill…” Yes it was. TMI overall for me to like the puzzle. LAT was quite good I thought.

  4. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I was shocked and dismayed to learn of Merl’s death. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

    Best Wishes to Amy and all my friends here.


  5. Loren Smith says:

    Amy – first thing I did was count the letters in SINGULAR THEY. I like debating this topic much more than the OXFORD COMMA.

  6. Animalheart says:

    Had a great time with this one, though for a time I wondered if I’d ever get a toehold. (OKCORRAL did the trick. What a great movie that is.) I hesitated over Oxford Comma because of a lingering belief that punctuation is not, strictly speaking, grammar, but that may be some idiosyncratic peculiarity on my part…

  7. SoFlaProgressive says:

    Are we getting a bit too politically correct in our micro-analysis of the clues? I’m just saying…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Any time someone uses the term “politically correct,” it sends up a huge red flag for me. The term is a pejorative for “hey, I just like to use language that doesn’t offend or hurt people.” I don’t understand how being considerate to others has become a negative.

      • animalheart says:

        Have you seen the internet meme that says something like: “Whenever you’re tempted to use the phrase ‘political correctness’ in a sentence, replace it with the phrase ‘treating other people with respect’ and then decide whether you still want to write that sentence.” I like that.

  8. pannonica says:

    As far as I’m concerned the only debate should be whether it’s called an Oxford comma or a serial comma (which also fits the grid).

    Great to see you here, Bruce!

  9. klew archer says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed today’s NYT puzzle, written by my Lollapuzzoola tablemate.

  10. David L says:

    Good Saturday puzzle — took me a while to get going, and there some obscurities. I thought God in Hebrew literature was YAHWEH, but what do I know? Despite being a long-time reader of the Washington Post, I am not at all familiar with long-time theater critic Richard COE (Sebastian is too well known for a Saturday?).

    As for OKCORRAL — what does that have to do with “Oh my darling Clementine,” a song about the California gold rush? Is this — gasp! — a mistake, or is there some connection I don’t know about?

    I also didn’t care for the DEPORTED clue, which on top of being insensitive seems inaccurate — forced out from home, surely.

  11. Gareth says:

    One of my favourite NYT themelesses this year! So much win! So many wrong answers for me too! YAWHEH crossing AWARDSHOW. YAHWEH changed to ELOHIM. ELOHIM finally changed to ADONAI! HATCHECK was HATSTAND for the longest time. MILEY was MANDY (Moore). TABLES for TABLETS. VIRUS for COLDS (didn’t see that ‘s’!). All pleasant to find. I thought REDDOT was a more than fine entry…

    • Gareth says:

      Oh, and YALIE and ROMA too. I’m normally cautious enough, even solving electronically to have few missteps. Evan was really diabolical today!

  12. Byron says:

    The YOLK clue made me flinch, and I can see the DEPORTED clue as problematic for some, but I don’t mind it. But for the life of me, I can’t see any objection to the TRAMP clue. Unless I’m showing my cisnormativity, Tramp is a he. His name has nothing to do with sexual mores, but with his material circumstance, and even there it doesn’t belittle him or transients in general. To say that this clue is disparaging of women, is to anathemize the entry even when clued as [“Lady and the ___”]. It contains exactly as much offense as [__ it in the bud], which is hopefully none.

  13. Avg Solvr says:

    Stumper was tough but made more so by not knowing a METAL UMLAUT by name. Just another reason to dislike names in a puzzle. Hey, I’m in Mobile format!!

    • Derek Allen says:

      I actually filled in VOWEL UMLAUT at first. As mentioned, I had no idea this was was a thing. Don’t you feel smarter knowing some heavy metal terminology? ;-)

  14. anon says:

    LAT: I wanted to like this more, but 29D was a huge minus to me.

  15. Harry says:

    Derek, the flower is lobelia.

  16. Bob says:

    LAT a challenge but completed it – DISLIKED the Asimov entry – not clever, just obnoxiously elitist to sci fi fans

  17. Slow Stumper Solver says:

    Late Stumper comments ….. Hmm. It’s Tuesday. Talk about slow!
    Lost Saturday to other pursuits. Spent a hungover hour Sun. AM, only achieving the NE. Spent an hour Monday, managed the rest sans NW/SE. Spent a half-hour Tues., finally giving up and googling for Flatbush (could not get past brooklyn), leaving the impossibly arcane and/or vague SE ….. ERTE, OWLET, POPSONG, RAOUL, ROPETOW, ELEGISTS … all fine entries other than ERTE, but clued beyond my reach when they are all together.
    Weird clues:
    “Just like that” = ALSO
    “Muscle____” = INON
    “Ending in buckyball’s alias” = ENE
    “Prickly invasive plant” = TEASEL
    “Heinz 57” = MUTT
    “Panel group” = LCDS
    and, as mentioned by others, the clues/entries for pickoffmove and metalumlaut were rather odd or mis-referenced.
    I actually loved the inclusion of PUSSYFOOT (I thought only my 80-yr-old father said this, usually in reference to an athlete who can’t decide what to do with the ball!), TESLACOIL, MCESCHER, great clue for INCASH, great clue for FRIED, great clue for ISLANDER, great clue for CTEAMS, etc.
    A few too many pre-WW2 proper names to make me feel like I “should have known” these. As Derek said, you have to love being stumped, though I’d rather be stumped by cleverness than by inexactness? I’m beaten.

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