Monday, October 19, 2015

NYT approx. 3:45 (pannonica) 
LAT approx. 3:30 (pannonica) 
CS 8:45 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:24 (Amy) 
WSJ 6:17 (Jim) 
BuzzFeed 2:12 (Andy) 

Bruce Venzke and Victor Fleming’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 10/19/15 • Mon • Venzke, Fleming • no 1019 • solution

NYT • 10/19/15 • Mon • Venzke, Fleming • no 1019 • solution

Six themers, four across and two down, in expected locations. The revealer, too, is situated conventionally as the final across answer. It says, [Binds … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the six starred clues] TIES.

  • 17a. [*TV installation not requiring an antenna] CABLE OUTLET.
  • 24a. [*Crime involving a Nigerian prince, maybe] WIRE FRAUD.
  • 50a. [*Electric Slide or Cotton-Eyed Joe] LINE DANCE.
  • 62a. [Tall, skinny sorts] STRING BEANS.
  • 11d. [Signature Muhammad Ali ploy] ROPE-A-DOPE.
  • 31d.  [*Protective medieval gear] CHAIN MAIL.

Perhaps not all of these hold together with the revealer equally strongly, but it seems secure enough a theme, and probably one that’s been perpetrated before. More than once, I would think.

A quartet of seven-letter entries—row eight and column eight—crosshair the central block: EXHORTS, KNEEPADART FILM, and ASCRIBE.

Just a few points, as I’m ailing this evening (it’s too soon in the season to get a cold!):

  • 15a/57d [Nincompoops] MORONS, ASSES.
  • 9d [Smallish computer storage unit, for short] ONE MEG. Random.
  • 65a [Hag] OLD BAG. Unsavory.
  • 44a [Three times, in a prescription] TER. Yuck fill. Its symmetrical partner FAM (for family) isn’t a whole lot better.
  • 29a [Nafta, for one] PACT. Not all-caps for the acronym?
  • Most surprising clue/answer (for an early-week offering): 51d [“The Faerie Queen” woman whose name means “peace”] IRENA.
  • 66a [French girlfriend] AMIE, 25d [Pâté de __ gras] FOIE, 41d [Born: Fr.] NÉE, 4d [“Here’s to you!,” in Toulouse]  SALUT. Not so much, that last one; more of a greeting. The cognates salud (Spanish) and salute (Italian) more typically serve as toasts. Santé is a French equivalent.

12d [French goodbye] ADIEU.

David Steinberg’s Buzzfeed crossword, “Zzz”—Andy’s review

10.19.15 BuzzFeed puzzle, "Zzz," by David Steinberg

10.19.15 BuzzFeed puzzle, “Zzz,” by David Steinberg

Another Monday, another week of PuzzFeed to look forward to. It’s only been a week, but a lot has changed since last Monday. Caleb has definitely heard solvers’ feedback (based on comments he’s made here and here). The cluing has already changed since last week, though the voice is still thoroughly BuzzFeed-y. It’s awesome to have such a responsive editor.

This puzzle by David Steinberg is a lovely little Monday. It’s particularly interesting to me because the theme and grid could certainly have run in any other venue (unlike, say, the NETFLIX AND CHILL or “Which Disney Princess Are You?” puzzles from last week). It’s the cluing that makes this distinctively a BuzzFeed puzzle.

Four phrases are clued as [Buzz source]:

  • 18a, BUMBLEBEE [Buzz source].
  • 28a, GOSSIP WEBSITE [Buzz source].
  • 44a, MORNING COFFEE [Buzz source].
  • 57a, CELL PHONE [Buzz source]. 

The meaning of “buzz” changes slightly each time (except with BUMBLEBEE and CELL PHONE, though I wasn’t particularly bothered by that). With 78 words, an easy theme, and nothing particularly “new” to mainstream crosswords in the grid (with maybe the exception of ASUS), this is the ideal puzzle for a beginning solver. I’m a fan of these themes where the theme clue doesn’t change but the meaning changes, and I thought this was well done.

Like I said before, just looking at the grid and the theme, this could have been a puzzle from any venue. Not just that, but it could have gotten boring, straightforward clues and still been the best, cleanest Monday puzzle to run today. BRAINSTORM, END OF STORY, “SO THERE!”, OCELOT, THOR, and EFRON are all nice additions to the grid.

Instead, David and Caleb gave us fresh, interesting, young clues. Some of my favorites:

  • 1a, ROBES [Dress code for Hogwarts students]. Right off the bat, we get away from the standard [Court attire] (which would be a decent, tricky clue] or [Judge’s vestments] or [Fluffy hotel amenities]. It’s a good way to start the puzzle.
  • 37a, THOR [Avenger who talks like a Shakespeare character]. Spoken like someone who’s actually seen the movies.
  • 38a, BERET [Hat for someone who is very pre-French-ious (a word I just made up)]. “Pre-French-ious” captures the spirit of the beret in a way “arty” no longer does. Something else I’ve noticed quite a lot of in this past week of PuzzFeed is a lot of first-person cluing (that is, using “I” as a way to speak directly to the solver). Generally, I think this gives the puzzle a much-needed dose of familiarity. One of the reasons this hasn’t been done as much in the past in mainstream puzzles is because the editor and the constructor are usually two different people, so it’s unclear who the “I” is. I hope that, if Caleb is inserting these “I”s, he’s clearing it with the constructors whose names are attached to them.
  • 53a, SITH [“Only the ___ deal in absolutes”]. This one took me a while, since I’m not a Star Wars buff, but it was oddly satisfying once I figured it out.

I suspect some people will find the clue for 1d, RACK [Medieval torture device where they slowly stretch you apart] to be a violation of the Breakfast Test. I liked it, but it did make my joints hurt a little. If I have to nitpick, I was a little squicked out by 26d, ABLE [Ending to fashion or fuck]. In a vacuum, the word “fuckable” gives me the value-judgment/male gaze heebie-jeebies (although admittedly Amy Schumer gave it some very humorous context). It probably goes without saying, but LANGUAGE WARNING for that clip.

Alrighty. To sum up: Really good stuff, looking forward to more in this vein. Until next time!

Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Body Count” — Jim’s write-up

Damien Peterson is our constructor today. We’ve seen his byline before—twice in the WSJ and once in the LAT. It appears to be yet another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. It anagrams to EDITOR’S PEN NAME which would be quite the coincidence if it was a real name.

WSJ - Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Body Count

WSJ – Mon, Oct 19, 2015 – “Body Count”

But on to today’s theme: Batman! No, not really, but you’ll see why I said that in a minute. We have three familiar phrases whose first word is a sequence (ONE, TWO, THREE) and the second word is a body part (hence the title, “Body Count”).

  • 17A [Money machines at the Mirage] ONE-ARMED BANDITS
  • 32A [Duplicitous scoundrels] TWO-FACED LIARS
  • 50A [Popular picnic contest] THREE-LEGGED RACE

Batman slot machine: ONE-ARMED BANDIT

Batman foe Two-Face: TWO-FACED LIAR

Batman and Robin in a THREE-LEGGED RACE

(See? Batman!)

This is not a novel theme nor is it even a novel use of these theme answers. According to Cruciverb, these exact theme entries were used in 2002 in the New York Sun by Robert Ward. While I’m not claiming the puzzle was out-and-out copied, it does go to show that crosswording minds think alike, and it’s not unusual for common themes or even common theme entries to appear. I think it is unusual that our editor would re-hash a puzzle with the exact theme entries (either knowingly or unknowingly—it was pretty easy for me to look up and find in just a few minutes). But I suppose enough time has passed and the theme entries are rock-solid. (Interestingly, both puzzles have ORACLE in them and in the exact same place on the grid!)

This grid is slightly superior to that 2002 grid, with every section smooth and clean. Those NE and SW corners are especially nice with LOITERER, ARTISANS, and RESCIND in the NE and SHEATHE, THATCHER, and WISTERIA in the SW. We also get OPERATIC and DOTING ON. Even the shorter stuff is nice with HOT AIR, BLOOP, and RIGBY. Also MAMAS with the a propos clue at 24D [Half of the “Monday Monday” singers].

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” —Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”

My favorite entry is BAG END. I thought it should be SHIRE at first, but BAG END came to mind shortly thereafter.  I was surprised to see it in a Monday puzzle, and I suspect a lot of solvers won’t know it, but the crossers are mostly fair.

So, summing up, we get a clean grid with a solid, though familiar theme.  I’ll take it on a Monday!


C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 10/19/15 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

LAT • 10/19/15 • Mon • Burnikel • solution

36a reveals an [Anonymous writer, maybe, and a hint to the devotee hidden in 17-, 25-, 50- and 60-Across] SECRET ADMIRER. So, what SPANS (52d) across words in those long answers? FAN, of course.

  • 17a. [President’s last days, e.g.] END OF AN ERA.
  • 25a. [Pre-cable reception aid] ROOF ANTENNA.
  • 50a. [Commentator dissecting chips and putts] GOLF ANALYST. 18d [Links warning] FORE.
  • 60a. [Usual sitcom length (including ads)] HALF AN HOUR. A clue designed to discourage pedantry, obviously.


Neither a particularly imaginative theme nor an exciting batch of theme entries. But then, it’s ‘just’ a Monday crossword.

  • Unannounced brand names: 5d [Pipe clog dissolver] DRĀNO, 22d [Vodka order, familiarly] STOLI (Stolichnaya, Столи́чная).
  • 2d [Typically 18-inch-long baseball collectibles] MINI BATS. Not to be confused with microbats.
  • 63a [First chip in a pot] ANTE. Sounds like the clue at 50-across.
  • Favorite clue: 26d [Memorial column, for short] OBIT.
  • 7d [Prez on a penny] ABE. As well as on a fin, or a five-spot. Alex Hamilton appears on TEN | SPOTS (47a, 48a).
  • Three-letter TRIumvirate (33a) of female entertainers near the center: 34a Rapper LIL’ Kim, comedic AMY Schumer crossing Tina FEY (35d, 42a).
  • Quite a lot of fill-in-the-blanks, abbrevs., and prefixes. Bit off-putting.

In sum, an average, workmanlike crossword.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ crossword solution, 10 19 15 "Themeless Monday"

BEQ crossword solution, 10 19 15 “Themeless Monday”

Fresh stuff:

PASTICHE, which is a great word and the name of a restaurant I liked about 20 years ago. Recent pop hit CHEERLEADER—provided the Jamaican singer OMI has subsequent hits, prepare to see OMI (nickname for Omar, his given name) in crosswords forever. RAE SREMMURD, a duo whose name is wordplay (ear and drummers backwards). JUMPER CABLE, solid 11. RAN OUT ON, colorful verb phrase. CONGOLESE and PIERRE, SD, geo terms that aren’t in many crosswords. SOULMATE, always lovely. SHORT HAUL, solid. “GOD, NO,” unexpected; have you seen the Steve Carell clip from The Office featuring a flip of that phrase? “SHEESH,” I like.

Blah stuff: NINE TO, blah by itself and further dented by the appearance of NINTH in the same grid. YSER and ISTLES, crosswordese. Plural KORANS, is that halal? SWAT AT, probably not what anyone hitting a piñata says they’re doing. ERG would be blah but it’s clued as [Indoor rower, slangily], which salvages it.

3.85 stars from me.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Nitty-Gritty”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.19.15: "Nitty-Gritty"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 10.19.15: “Nitty-Gritty”

Hello there, crossword savants! I hope you’re doing well to begin your week. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, includes four theme answers – two across and two down – in which common phrases are altered by changing the first letter of “N” and replacing it a “GR.” I was going to come up with a sly clue in which the answer would change from “neat freak” to “great freak,” but my mind isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, so I’ll leave that up to you to come up with that clue. 

  • GRAIL FILE (17A: [Chalice-smoothing tool?]) – From “nail file.”
  • GRAVY SEAL (63A: [Closure on a jar of savory sauce?]) – From “Navy Seal.”
  • GROVEL IDEA (10D: [Notion to show subservience?]) – From “novel idea.”
  • GRANNY GOAT (27D: [Kid’s elderly relative?]) – From “nanny goat.”

Pretty easy going of the grid, and even remembered PRIG after not seeing it in a puzzle in a pretty long time (54D: [Stuck-up sort]). I’m sure others would have looked at that and jokingly said that the entry is one letter short, leave the first three letters alone and then adding the abbreviation/monogram of the company Calvin Klein. I can’t say that I SWAM naked anytime recently, or at all, and this time of the year is definitely not the time for that (1A: [Went skinny-dipping]). And no, I’m also not planning on doing one of those Polar Bear Plunges during the winter as well. Didn’t really get the gist of the clue for ZINE (23A: [Mag for devotees]), but was on the wavelength that the abbreviation of “magazine” might be what was needed. Definitely don’t mind the earworm given to me now with DEVO (41A: “Whip It” band])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EAVES (53D: [Common sights for Christmas lights])  – Professional hockey player Patrick EAVES is currently playing forward for the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League. Eaves’ best season to date might have very well been his rookie season, in 2005-06, when he scored a career-best 20 goals for the Ottawa Senators. Though born in Calgary, Eaves has played internationally for the United States in junior tournaments, and also played his college hockey at Boston College.

Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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54 Responses to Monday, October 19, 2015

  1. janie says:

    >29a [Nafta, for one] PACT. Not all-caps for the acronym?

    seems the style rule allows for some longer acronyms to capitalize the first letter only. the music performance-rights organization Ascap gets the same treatment.

    two words for you: ginger tea!


    (or: chicken soup…)

    • Martin says:

      The Times has a four-letter-or-greater rule for acronyms (they are initial-cap only) that causes lots of consternation. The worst I recall is when a clue included “Nascar.” People were coming out of the woodwork to complain about that one.

      • pannonica says:

        This sounds familiar now. I probably said it the other time(s), but a more appealing stylistic choice would be SMALL CAPS.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    It would be nice if sexist terms like OLD BAG didn’t appear in the crossword. (Any comment complaining that I don’t criticize male-targeted words like “geezer” will be summarily deleted. That isn’t sexism unless men are oppressed by society.)

    It would also be nice if the “special” New Ideas week in the NYT crossword had included just one puzzle by a woman. (One of six is a mere 17%!) Before New Ideas week got rolling, there was discussion on Twitter as to how many female constructors would be included. Smart money, apparently, was on zero. I’m not the only one who’s disgruntled by that. After New Ideas week concluded, Hayley Gold pointed out the lack of women in her latest Across and Down webcomic. And it’s not just women who are irked. Fair-minded men are also mad about this.

    Any suggestions, people, for how we can bring about change/progress in the crossword business? How can people harness their anger and energy toward working for change?

    • Finn says:

      Change clearly will never come by keeping the status quo, by keeping on keeping on. I hope editors across the board act affirmatively on crosswords written by women, minorities, and others underrepresented in crossworld. This means not only accepting but also actively soliciting puzzles by these populations. As far as I can tell, only Ben Tausig has done this (Exhibit A, last week’s call for a new AVCX contributor).

      I would also love to see some sort of Internet Age–updated how-to manual on crossword construction. My expectation (/hope) is that BuzzFeed reaches a new demographic of cruciverbalists. If they Google “how to make a crossword,” will they find anything useful? This might be a great communal project for those of us interested in seeing diversification in the pool of crossword constructors.

      • e.a. says:

        amy, thank you so much for getting this discussion in motion!!

        i 100% agree with finn on all points.

        my question is: how do we get editors – like the one who was quoted in an interview last year saying “I don’t think [the gender imbalance in constructing] matters” and “I say let’s celebrate our differences and move on” – to wake up and take a more active role in breaking with that status quo and ensuring ample representation for all?

        • Jeffrey K says:

          And when was the last woman constructor in Buzzfeed (so far, never) or WSJ? This isn’t only a NYT issue. LAT seems to have the highest percentage of women.

          • Caleb says:

            I haven’t received many submissions by women constructors. 5 or so, all accepted. The first one will be this Thursday. I hope that BuzzFeed’s style (since its demographic is mostly female) will inspire more women constructors to submit. I’m trying to address the inherent broey vibe in male puzzledom with a sense of irony/sarcasm, but that seems to come across sometimes as genuine broeyness. Anyway, I anticipate an initiative like Ben’s when the puzzle is running smoothly (ha!).

    • Martin says:

      “Old coot” and “old bag” are not equally sexist. But they are, to use pannonica’s term, equally unsavory.

      • e.a. says:

        martin, i’m really glad you’ve decided to lend your voice to the movement, and i’m looking forward to hearing from you the next time OLD COOT appears in a puzzle! it’s been 25 years since its last NYT usage, so it’s pretty much due for an appearance.

        until then, though, i guess there’s just not that much utility in mentioning it at all! and if you do feel the need to bring it up, i’m sure you won’t just do so every time there’s a serious discourse on misogynist slurs in crosswords. because that would be what’s called an “erasure.” or a “derailment”? i don’t know. maybe both.

        anyway, #staywoke, and keep that comment button finger at the ready. you never know when your time might come! except today. it’s for sure not today.

        • Martin says:

          FOGY, COOT, GEEZER and MOSSBACK have all appeared within the past few years. “Old codger” is a favorite clue for GEEZER, for instance. These entries are no rarer than the sexist ones.

          I just don’t agree that being nasty to non-oppressed classes is any less nasty. I’d like to see all such entries used very sparingly. I’m NOT trying to neutralize any complaint about misogyny.

          Of course people have different concerns and passions and in one’s blog one may voice one’s opinion accordingly.

    • Matt says:

      I think one tactic is to really concentrate on cases that unmistakably cross the line. And the current example does exactly that.

    • Tracy B says:

      Last week’s CHE puzzle by Joanne Sullivan was as crafty and cool as any of the unusual NYT puzzles. Mary Lou Guizzo has also been inventive in her grid designs and is solidly late-week in her creations. I would like to see more of their work generally. I anticipated something by Liz Gorski last week—but I don’t know whether she was asked and said no.

    • Sarah says:

      Find more women that like to make crosswords. But I think the reality is, more men enjoy this than women. And that’s OK, I guess.

      • Bencoe says:

        The solving community seems to have at least as many women as men. Yet everything I’ve read suggests that the constructing community is overwhelmingly male. Young female crossword fans need to get into construction! And women who solve who want to see more crosswords by women writers: be that writer! Don’t wait for the next generation.

    • Dan F says:

      I would love for more women to be published in major crossword outlets, but I don’t think I want editors to institute some sort of “affirmative action” to accomplish this. How would that jibe with the oft-expressed opinion (which I generally share) that the NYT should have higher standards for the “gold standard” of crosswords?

      • e.a. says:

        hi dan! sorry if i’ve got the wrong impression, but i’m not sure i’m understanding the conflict between soliciting/accepting more puzzles by women and maintaining high standards for puzzle quality – can you unpack that for me?

      • john farmer says:

        I agree with Dan.

        I see three ways to get gender balance:
        a. Set a quota for women and men.
        b. Get rid of the freelance model and hire a balanced staff of constructors.
        c. Build a community that encourages and supports more women constructors getting into the business.

        a. and b. would be trading quality (not to mention, fairness) for balance. I think the freelance model offers great benefits (and diversity in ideas, etc.) and it would be a shame to lose it.

        c. is harder, takes longer, but is the way to go. (I don’t see this as primarily an editor’s job, though.)

        • Dan F says:

          I understood Finn’s comment as advocating more acceptances of female-made puzzles, meaning some of them wouldn’t have been otherwise accepted. Soliciting more puzzles from women (and other underrepresented people) is a different issue — it would be awesome if more women were writing puzzles, and that is clearly the primary goal here.

  3. CC says:

    I thought the AVCX announcement this week was a nice step in the right direction.

  4. Shawn P says:

    WSJ: Jim, you hinted to, though missed the most important Batman reference in the puzzle: ORACLE!

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Wha?! You just blew my mind with that. I never knew her as Oracle. Clearly I’ve been away from comic books too long. Her arrival as Oracle is right about the time I stopped reading comics. My loss, it appears. Thanks for that insight and the link!

  5. M Sharp says:

    The star ratings are a joke, esp. re: BZF. I mean, there have always been those here who vote for their own puzzles a bunch of times (I see you) and those who live to give BEQ one star for no good reason, but if you think today’s NYT is better than today’s BZF, then you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near voting machinery. It’s a rout. And it’s gonna be a rout. A lot.

    Also, this: “I just don’t agree that being nasty to non-oppressed classes is any less nasty” is so much typical white man nonsense I can’t Even. Here, let me try to explain: old white men own everything and have never been systematically oppressed or imprisoned or degraded in this country ever. So even if GEEZER were a slur, it is different, v. different, in its effect, than OLD BAG, ILLEGAL, etc. “GEEZER” hurts no one; the others support a real, tangible, current power imbalance of one kind or another. As an aging white man myself, I do Not understand how people like me (and much much older) can’t grasp this.

    Do you have to explain this crap every day, Amy? Must drive you mad.

    • janie says:

      re: submitting ratings — only once per puzzle per computer. system won’t accept attempts to stuff the ballot box, so to speak. and it’s been that way for quite some time. but i certainly do take your point about the haters!

      re: today’s buzzfeed. looking at the finished grid, it’s a beaut. tight theme and terrific fill. the experience of solving, on the other hand, was such a mixed bag for me. finding the balance between the female demographic and the broey vibe, as caleb tells us, *is* going to be a challenge. hard for me to believe that cluing ABLE with [Ending to fashion or fuck] is going to do anything but turn off young women. the goal may be to attract more men — but to balance the numbers by sending away the young women feels counterproductive. to me, at any rate.

      and while the narrative, autobiographical style of cluing is not without its charms at times (in genuine moderation), i get the sense that at the particular rate we’re seeing it right now in bzd, the millennials will be out-“me”ing the “me” generation in no time. i say that w/ all due respect — because this is still a **very** new venture, so it may be way too early in the game to know how this aspect of the puzz will evolve. (not to mention the fact that caleb probably edited these first few weeks of puzzles weeks or maybe even months ago!)

      wishing the venture all and only the best!!


      • Caleb says:

        [Ending to fashion or fuck] is not gendered at all to me. Aggressively sexual, maybe, but in my experience just as many girls as guys call people “fuckable”.

        • janie says:

          i think it’s that “aggressive” component that is the turn-off. as it was (for me) with the SNORT clue. just tmi. where engaging cluing goes, wit goes farther w/ me, whether yer cluin’ drugs or sex or rock ‘n’ roll — all of which can make for lively fill.

          just talkin’ balance and tone here…


        • Papa John says:

          In keeping with my current trend of not be able to access certain puzzles, I now find I can’t get today’s Buzz Feed. The message I get is “403 Forbidden”.

          Got any hints at how I can get around this?

      • Sarah says:

        I had no problem with the ABLE clue afterwards (but during, it took me a while to finally fill that one in!)

        I thought that Friday’s BuzzFeed crossword was better than anything during New Ideas Week.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Ah, but the determined ballot-box stuffer will vote for his own puzzle while he travels the country and visits fresh IP addresses!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The NYT average rating today is now lower than BuzzFeed. Take heart!

      Thanks for your feminist-ally support, Michael. I don’t have to explain it every day, but it is exhausting to deal with the derailments. Certainly the more prominent Internet feminists deal with far more crap than I do—they get MRAs, trolls, foul language, rape threats, and death threats. They are heroic for withstanding and battling that endless sea of crap.

  6. john farmer says:

    I applaud the effort to get rid of gender bashing. But I don’t think we should discriminate on what puzzles get called on it.

    Today the NYT has OLD BAT, and BuzzFeed has ABLE clued “Ending to fashion or fuck.” I’m with janie above. I think “fuckable” is where the greater offense lies. I don’t think it’s even close.

    I see Caleb believes it’s a gender-neutral word. I don’t agree. It’s a word with a history, meant to offend. My immediate thought was of Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” video that Andy linked to above. It’s true that Amy and her pals use the word frequently, but the entire premise and the humor is built on the fact that the word is not at all neutral — it’s one that men have used to victimize women for years. The women use the word fuckable the way black comics use the word nigger. Here’s a sample:

    Amy: Who tells men when it’s their last fuckable day?
    Patricia: Honey, men don’t have that day.
    Julia: Never.
    Tina: They’re fuckable forever. They can be a hundred and nothing but white spiders coming out but they’re still fuckable.

    Funny, but the pain is right there. I just don’t see how that word is neutral. To paraphrase many comments I’ve read on this blog, is that the best you can do for cluing the word ABLE?

    Also per janie, the clue for SNORT. “Roll a dollar bill into a nose straw and suck some of that good good into your honker.” Well, that too is not an neutral clue. We were all young once. Some of us grew up. I didn’t want any advice back in those days but I’ll share some anyway: The glory of drugs is bullshit. If you want to be cool, don’t make drugs cool. Don’t wait to find out your friend jumped off a building in Chicago or a cousin died of AIDS from using dirty needles. Drugs have destroyed a whole lotta lives and caused incalculably more damage than use of terms like OLD BAT. My two cents, based on some life experience.

    I don’t mean to be coming down on PuzzFeed. All in all, I’m happy to see the new puzzles and hope it’s a successful ride for all involved. I appreciate the in-your-face, over-the-top style, like the appeal of BuzzFeed itself, which is not my first stop on the internet but that’s okay. Still, it helps to have a few boundaries, otherwise you don’t know what you’re pushing against.

    • Jeffrey K says:

      Well said.

      To me, Buzzfeed is being clued for the amusement of the editor and the constructor, and maybe some like-minded friends. And that is why I have disliked every one of the puzzles so far. Perhaps it will do well in its little corner of the universe. I hope so; there can never be enough puzzles. But if the cluing continues this way, it will always be rated lower than the New York Times by me (if I bothered to solve it), and deservedly so.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Oh, look! Today, the women’s blog Jezebel published a piece about the new Canadian PM-elect, Justin Trudeau. Headline: “Canadians Elect Guy Named Justin as Their Leader.” First sentence: “And he is non-controversially fuckable.” So there are indeed women using the word about men.

      • pannonica says:

        Oh, look! m-w suggests a jezebel is “an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman”. Just the sort!

        (I don’t have an issue with the use above, in the name of equality.)

        • Bencoe says:

          They love their Justin. As Pierre “Peter”‘s son, he has been the darling of Canadian media since he was a child. As close to royalty as they have, barring the Queen, who really doesn’t matter there.

  7. john farmer says:

    I was looking at the Xword Info page on women constructors. So far, 2015 is setting a new high for men at 86%, and a new low for women, 14%. Not a good trend for anyone who likes to see more diversity.

    I first got interested in puzzles about 2000-01. Those years were a time of some very creative puzzles, and it was a high-water mark for gender balance, with nearly 100 Times puzzles a year by women. I was thinking about what’s different between then and now. Plenty, actually, and one thing that’s changed is the online crossword community.

    The community then was an inviting place, where solvers and constructors both shared feedback and ideas about puzzles on a daily basis. It was a great place to sit back and learn, or to chime in when you had something to add. I was a solver at first and only got the itch to try making puzzles from listening to many constructors share their ideas over months and years.

    Today I don’t think an online community for constructors really exists. (Xword Info and Cruciverb are fine resources, but the dialog today is lacking compared to what the community provided then.) The blogs are driven by solvers now, and demanding ones at that. It’s much more intimidating to be a new constructor today. There was criticism back then, but attacks and rants and scowls and ratings games generally weren’t part of the picture. Now, you better grow some thick skin day one if you want to break into the business. I’m glad I got my start when I did.

    Does the current environment have anything to do with the drop-off in women constructors? I don’t know. It may be just coincidence.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Women on the internet are incredibly tough, John. You wouldn’t believe the crap a lot of them put up with from horrible men—on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, anywhere. The crossword blogs are nothing compared to that. Scowling at subpar fill < death threats or being called the C word. I don't know why constructors who wish there were a better place for them to discuss the business don't start up a website or a Facebook group. What are you waiting for? Fix the problem instead of pointing it out.

      • john farmer says:

        A website for constructors would be welcome. I like puzzles and talking about them and I’m sure I’d enjoy it. But launching a site is not in the cards for me. I am busy with projects, tied up with various commitments, and have a family, and I don’t even have the time to make puzzles at the moment, so to start and maintain a daily crossword site is beyond what my schedule permits. Certainly not now. I appreciate those of you who do run xword blogs, but you should know that “start your own site” is not a realistic option for most people.

        And by the way, I didn’t comment here just to complain about the dearth of constructor-focused sites. I was responding to complaints that women are not publishing enough crossword puzzles. Various commenters imply — and you directly state below (“I’m sure some effort on the part of crossword editors to encourage women to construct puzzles would get results”) — that the editors ought to fix the problem. My comment above was to suggest that maybe something else is going on other than just a lack of editor outreach. I’m not claiming I have all the answers, but I am pretty sure that editor behavior has little to do with the declining number of women making crossword puzzles.

        I appreciate that Ben is looking to add another woman to the AV team. Far as I know, he has Aimee and Zoe on board with about a half dozen or more men. He’s moving in a positive direction. Good for him.

        But Ben is working with a much different model than an editor of a freelance venue. Through this whole sometimes-illuminating / sometimes-tiresome discussion, I don’t recall seeing a single specific recommendation for what an editor like Will Shortz, say, is supposed to do to correct the gender imbalance problem while working within the business and legal limitations of editing puzzles at the New York Times.

        The invitation to submit puzzles is always open. Is Will supposed to say, “Women, I really mean it now. Please send me your puzzles. I’d like to see more of your work?”

        Do you think that would make a big difference?

        Would that imply those “incredibly tough” women who have put up with crap from “horrible men” are avoiding puzzle constructing just because they have not yet received the proper invitation?

        As I’ve said, I tend to think the problem, and solution, lies elsewhere.

        • e.a. says:

          john, if you believe attacks and rants and scowls are responsible for the drop-off in women constructors, a simple, not-too-time-consuming thing you could do to help out would be to keep your fellow commenters (and, importantly, your fellow males) in check when they start getting too unwelcoming – like mr. “dull,” below, who seems to have sprung into existence solely to prove your point.

          as for things that people don’t recall seeing: this always-open invitation you speak of, the one for women to submit puzzles to the times – where did you find this? was it in the newspaper? can you post a link? i’d love to share it around. i had just kind of assumed it didn’t exist, because for such a thing to exist, the editor in question would first have to recognize the gender imbalance in constructing as an actual problem that needs remedying.

          finally: those punctuation marks you put around “incredibly tough” and “horrible men” look kinda like scare quotes. i’m sure they’re not, because that would be asinine, but i just thought i’d point it out.

          • Bencoe says:

            Perhaps some young indie-type constructors need to start mentoring more aspiring women and people of color?
            I do feel like jumping into construction is intimidating for most people. It is for me, and I understand puzzles pretty well. I think more mentoring and more resources for everyone on the basics of construction would really help to open up the community of constructors, especially with women who already love to solve.
            I do kind of feel like the microcosm of Crossworld probably won’t ever accurately reflect demographic trends nationwide. It’s a strange and archaic hobby that we have chosen, in many respects, no matter how much we want dress it up in modern culture and slang.

          • e.a. says:

            ben that’s a lovely idea and if you know any such aspirers please feel free to send them my way – cruelandunusualpun at gmail.

  8. WordWizard says:

    The Trouble w/ BuzzFeed Puzzles:

    The six puzzle themes thus far have been pretty decent; however, the cluing is over the top & taking away from the essence of each puzzle & its theme.

    By “over the top”, I mean that the clues are trying waaay toooo hard. They’re much too personalized, like someone’s desperate to make new friends by bringing folks all up into their kitchen & sharing diary entries like giggling school girls that only get the jokes & the language they use to tell them.

    A few of those lengthy, personalized clues may be ok, but NOT over half the clues! – That’s, like, you know, like, way too much, like, ya know!?! – Nobody wants to read that many fucking lengthy clues, all in the hopes of getting some giggles based on extra cheese – No, please!

    The edginess, cuss words & slang terms work, as long as their kept to a handful & used appropriately, unlike the “Roll a dollar bill into a nose straw and suck some of that good good into your honker” clue – Quite inappropriate to promote shit like that to a young audience full of monkeys that can’t wait for their next “buzz”!

    Overall, I don’t think they’ll succeed unless they tone it down, balance it out & most importantly get the “buzz” generated out there – The audience seems minimal, their feedback is mostly negative & on top of that, if you Google “buzzfeed cro…”, it comes up “crockpot”, followed by “crossfit”, then “crossword”. Once “buzzfeed crossword” has been clicked on, you get no direct link to the crossword itself – that’s pretty bad!

    There was NO “buzz” given to the promotion of these new up & coming puzzles – Where were they?!? Someone wasn’t doing their job. Do they expect the audience to grow based on a bunch of monkeys pressing “like” over time… ? …That’s quite a waste of well-deserved recognition that these first bunch of puzzles are not getting. If I were the constructor, I’d be quite upset at the loss of “buzz” that should have already been generated all because of rookie mistakes! Who did you consult with, Mr. Ed.? – Yourself!?

    This very well could turn out to be a loss for the crossword community, as this was to be a great opportunity for indie constructors to showcase their talent & to have available to them a much needed alternative route/avenue for the crossword world to branch out into…

    • rm says:

      I agree with many of your sentiments, especially about the cluing. The issue that I see is, if Buzzfeed takes away their cluing what will distinguish their puzzles? I appreciate what they’re trying to do, but the puzzles I have done remind of that one friend you have that tries too hard to make up for a lack of personality. Ideally, these puzzles would deliver impressive grids with fresh theming/fill and avoid using clues as a crutch.

      Also, agree that their SEO is in fact terrible. You have to really want to do one of these puzzles in order to find them.

      • austin says:

        ya’ll are crazy, the buzzfeed clues are good af.

        anyway, follow @buzzfeedpuzzles on Twitter and they’ll let you know whenever there’s a new one! seo issue solved!

        ps – never done cocaine before, but that buzzfeed clue convinced me to give it a shot! what idiot called it good good instead of GREAT GREAT, amirite?

  9. CoffeeLover says:

    About the gender discrepancy in crossword construction, my thoughts on why there may be more men than women:

    By way of introduction, I am a 62 YO retired professional woman, and was a single parent for 10 years of my son’s childhood. I did not take up crosswords until I retired and am proud of my progress through the levels of difficulty and some of the varieties. Rex Parker’s blog was the first I found, and it was of great use in learning to solve, thanks, Michael and community. I am, and will probably always be, slow. I no longer care about that.

    Is it possible that many women simply do not have time to even solve crosswords, much less construct them? There is still so much discussion of the second shift; who could add a third?

    And yet, I know there are men who are both otherwise employed and are involved parents who blog extensively and construct. And there are some working mothers with demanding avocations. But at least in my case, I didn’t have the mental power left over, and when I did the anxieties of everything else I “should” be doing got in the way of concentrating on almost any hobby.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I agree with you a lot on the effect of the second shift and the sense of obligation many women feel to put their own needs last.

      However, I agree with Finn and e.a. (up near the top of this comment thread) that we need crossword editors to take a cue from Ben Tausig and stop being so laissez-faire about who sends in puzzles. “Women aren’t submitting puzzles, it’s out of my hands, who cares anyway?” A ton of other industries have been able to recruit more women and make things less of a boys’ club. I’m sure some effort on the part of crossword editors to encourage women to construct puzzles would get results.

  10. Matt Skoczen says:

    Another dull puzzle by CC Burnikel. Really.

Comments are closed.