Kameron Austin Collins, one of my favorite newish themeless constructors, talks the talk and walks the walk. In addition to honing his craft with a fresh low-word-count themeless every two weeks via his newsletter, he’s also offering to address the male/female imbalance in themeless bylines by mentoring women interested in making themeless crosswords. You can be a newbie, you can be a seasoned constructor who just hasn’t ventured into making themelesses yet, whatever. This is a terrific and generous offer, and Kameron’s got other volunteer mentors lined up to handle overflow. Details here.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Standard Friday difficulty, 68-worder of standard Berry smoothness.
I’m disappointed that 21a. [People who are under a lot of pressure] wasn’t STRESS MONKEYS, though. Any of you using that phrase? Different kind of pressure—DEEP SEA DIVERS.
Long day, straight to 10 things:
- 14a. [Product whose jingle was based on the 1923 hit “Barney Google”], RICE-A-RONI. Know the “San Francisco treat” jingle, remember the “Barney Google” comic strip, have no idea what this 1923 song was.
- 23a. [Wine of the palomino grape], SHERRY. Really? There’s a palomino grape? Wine trivia I didn’t know.
- 27a. [Hands-on sites?], HIPS. Nice clue. Arms akimbo!
- 33a. [Soldier in the Battle of Helm’s Deep], ORC. Tolkien. I really hope somebody tried REB here.
- 46a. [Line of women’s clothing?], SHOULDER STRAP. Could be a bra, could be a cami or tank top, could be a dress … could be digging in uncomfortably.
- 55a. [Pod : whale :: raft : ___], OTTER. Did not know the collective term for otters was raft.
- 2d. [Diane Sawyer’s actual first name], LILA. Another bit of trivia I didn’t know. Learned League’s new season began this week, so I am all about the trivia.
- 8d. [SpongeBob SquarePants lives inside one], PINEAPPLE. Compare to the Learned League question for the same answer (which one has to come up with without Googling, looking it up, or asking around): “Varieties of this fruit—a composite formed by 100-200 berry-like fruitlets that provide its tessellated appearance—include smooth cayenne, Natal queen, Red Spanish, and sugarloaf.” That was a gimme for South African Gareth because his mom had a distinct preference. I don’t think American supermarkets label the pineapple varieties, do they?
- 9d. [Nice extra], FILLIP. Finding this nifty word in a crossword is a nice little fillip.
- 36d. [Go from point A to point B?], DIGRESS. What was I saying?
Least favorite fill: AQUIVER. Who says that? I do like SHAFTED, ACEY-DEUCY, “IT’S A PLANE,” HONEST ABE, and “SAY CHEESE.”
4.2 stars from me.
Natan Last’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s write-up
Making his BuzzFeed debut today is Natan Last, who has a healthy number of NYT themelesses under his belt. Let’s take a look at what he has on offer today.
There are a number of nice things in the grid. RON SWANSON and SHOWMANCE up top, MARIO KART and SOPHMORIC down below. Cutting right through all those is PRINCESS DIARIES with POSSE CUT and BIG MOMMA flanking it symmetrically. Very nice. And the worst thing in those sections (N, S, NE, and SW) is an EMILE.
But this is a very segmented grid. There are four distinct sections. It’s undesirable to have a single square which, if changed into a block, would cut off a whole section of the grid. This is true of the I and O in MARIO KART and their symmetrical partners in SHOWMANCE. With only one way into the NW or SE, if you struggle in there, you’re on your own.
But the worse offense is to have a single square divide the grid in two. Such is the case with the S dead center in CBS TV. The reason being, again, that it’s not entirely fair to the solvers. If they have trouble in a section, they might not have a chance to come at it from a different direction.
Segmentation aside, I like most of the grid. In addition to all the good stuff listed above, BELLA SWAN and ELDER WAND make a fitting partnership in the SE. In the NW, IN TOO DEEP is great. SLUT SHAME and MAN WHORES on the other hand…
I get that it’s hip and edgy to put phrases like these in your puzzle, but there are limits. Just as some felt that yesterday’s PuzzFeed went too far in its pop culture references and slangy clues, there’s a limit to a puzzle’s sex shock-value. I’m no prude, but I bet this back-to-back in-your-facery was a turn-off for more than just me. One of these is probably fine, but both together add up to a bit much. And while we’re at it, why are we SLUT SHAME-ing MAN WHORES?
Oh yeah. And somehow KELP gets a Spongebob gay sex clue. Wha-huh? (37A [___ Forest, place where Spongebob and Squidward probably go to do shrooms and sex stuff].)
There is an interesting dichotomy in play here. On one side SLUT SHAME (1D [Belittle for having basic sexual urges and acting on them as one sees fit]), and on the opposite side EPISTEMIC (33D [Relating to how you can ever really know something, to philosophers]). We’re asking people to know both those terms? If you put them at opposite ends of a sliding scale representing the breadth of knowledge a solver should have, there probably aren’t that many solvers who can stretch that far. (My own breadth of knowledge didn’t extend to either extreme.)
Cluing was extensive. Too extensive. Some editing would have been welcome. For example: 47A [The way you REALLY play is you can’t be driving your character while you’re drinking your beer BUT your beer has to be finished before you cross the finish line]. How about [Game where it’s okay to drink and drive] or [Drinking game that involves some driving]?
A few more things:
- Did not know the RANI. I of course wanted to put MASTER in 57A [“Doctor Who” renegade Time Lord, with “The”]. You have to go back to the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) in the mid-80s to find episodes with the RANI.
- OONA Chaplin (18A [Granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin who plays Talisa on “Game of Thrones”]) is named after Charlie’s fourth wife OONA. OONA the Younger played Robb Stark’s wife…until they both came to a colorful end. Also: I love HODOR, but unless you know “GoT”, that one was probably tough.
- Serendipity: As of two days ago, Nick Offerman, who played RON SWANSON, is currently starring in an adaptation of John Kennedy TOOLE‘s “A Confederacy of Dunces” in Boston. Performances run through Dec 20.
- 40A HILDI. Who? Don’t care.
- 9D CRONUT.
Neville Fogarty’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “+2” — pannonica’s write-up
By title alone, this would seem to be a sequel to last week’s CHE (“U. Can Have It Both Ways”), but the theme itself is markedly different.
That said, I wasn’t considering the title during the initial stages of the solve. To wit, the first theme entry, 20-across, TURING CYCLE, [What a Bletchley Park computer pioneer might have ridden to work?], I interpreted as a homophonic pun for touring cycle. Not so!
- 32a. [“The first occupant of the White House to be born west of the Mississippi River,” e.g.?] HOOVER DATUM.
- 42a. [Law passed in Columbus?] OHIO STATUTE.
- 58a. [Oktoberfest band’s piece without oom-pah-pahs?] TUBA’S RELIEF.
As you’ve no doubt perceived by now, each possesses the bigram T-U, which has been sneakily thrust into the original versions: [The] Ring Cycle, Hoover Dam, Ohio State, bas-relief. The title is a bilingual pun. Julius Caesar’s famous rejoinder, well-known to crossword solvers, is “ET TU, Brute?” (“And you, Brutus?”); take the and (=’plus’, +) from the English column with the tu from the Latin, and the loose rationale for the title is evident. Oh wait, I’ve only just noticed the revealer (which is one of the standard locations for such entries): 71a [Caesarean cry … or an alternate title for this puzzle] ET TU. I guess the actual title, then, may further be interpreted as “adding two (letters)”?
I can’t say the quartet of theme answers wowed me. Three are proper nouns, while one is a (well-integrated) French loanword. The first one loses surety without the definite article. The third is kind of random, merely requiring a four-letter state name; Ohio State is no more or less prominent than Iowa State, though both probably possess more cachet than Utah State University.
Then, smack dab in the center, this crossing: 40a [Wedge-shaped symbol in vector calculus] DEL and 34d [Preceder of Tishri on a calendar] ELUL. A moderately obscure mathematical notation (yes, I realize it’s the Chronicle of Higher Education) intersecting the name of a Hebrew month? Even with the ‘wedge-shaped’ descriptor evoking delta it’s still tough. And besides, it appears that, technically speaking, DEL indicates the function while the symbol itself is more properly called nabla. Honestly, why not reclue 31a [Neighbor of Wash.] IDA as, say, the 2015 Best Foreign Film Oscar winner and delegate the three-letter state abbrev. here, to represent Delaware? Or even a music-related fill-in-the-blank, DEL Shannon/Amitri/tha Funkee Homosapien (yes, I realize this isn’t the BEQ or MMMM)?
- Longdowns: 3d [Post-digression musing] WHERE WAS I?, 35d [Test-taker’s concern?] TIME LIMIT. Longish acrosses: 25a [Not likely to drift off, say] AT ANCHOR (sly, misleading clue), 51a [Famous fictional realm since 1900] LAND OF OZ.
- As good as 25-across was, an even trickier clue was my favorite: 4d [Quiet as a mouse, e.g.] SIMILE, not SILENT.
- Stereotypical crossword fill: ELHI, ILIUM, NENE, ELIA, AGHA, ALOU.
- Not to cast further aspersions, but my first instinct for 26d [Stuff] was CRAP, not CRAM.
Sorry, I just wasn’t feeling it for this one.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Mr. Wechsler gives us an interesting variation on the “hybrid” theme type. The left side is a job; the right side is a famous person. They meet as the second half of the occupation is that person (man to be precise)’s name. The clues are all written so as to imply the famous person is doing the job in which his first name is imbedded.
We get APOTHE(CARY CARY)GRANT, WEAT(HERMAN HERMAN)WOUK, TRUM(PETER PETER)BOYLE, and OPTIC(IAN IAN)FLEMING. Two actors, two authors – balanced, if rather unadventurous. I’d like to suggest that Peter Boyle is several orders of magnitude less famous than the other three. Not “doesn’t deserve to be in a puzzle” less famous, just noticeably less celebrated. Still, FINCH and LORRE are about peers in that regard.
The grid is very segmented. The top-right was my favourite – VWJETTA is showy and the crossing JIGSAW intersects two themers. And the ballast fill is clean too. The opposite side has the fun to say BORSCHT. [Red bowlful] had me thinking chilli though!
The weakest of the segments was the middle-left: EXALT and AXIOM give us some X action, but AIDER and TOYOU are less than ideal and that isn’t the best place to introduce [Tony winner Huffman], CADY into the mix…
I appreciated a non-1984 clue for [Fiji’s region], OCEANIA. Amy will probably appreciate the dated clue choice [Here Come the ___”: 1945 college comedy] if not the presence of COEDS in the fill.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Let Me Seethe”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday to you all, crossword lovers. I hope you’re having a good day heading into the weekend, and also hope you’re not feeling some of the emotions that also happen to be the theme of today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan. Each of the four theme answers – two across and two down – end with words that also describe feelings similar to that of one seething.
- RABBIT STEW (17A: [Elmer’s frequent motivation for hunting Bugs]) – Hmm. Wouldn’t/Shouldn’t the real correct answer be “Wabbit Stew?”
- GUITAR FRET (57A: [Ridge on a Stratocaster])
- LOBSTER BOIL (10D: [Seafood dish prepared in a large pot])
- FREEZER BURN (25D: [Cold storage problem])
First thing I noticed after completing the grid is the rhyme-time intersection of LAVA (45D: [Obsidian, originally]) and JAVA (54A: [Applet programming language]). Actually, what I should have noticed first is the heartbreak at JILT (54D: [Abandon unfeelingly]) followed by the return to relationship bliss with REMARRY (42D: [Take another spouse]). Throw in SATES (50D: [Appeases fully]) and GLEE to go along with the theme entries and there’s a lot of feelings being shown in this grid (53D: [Fox series set in Lima, Ohio]). Please tell me that someone is still old-fashioned and says FIE (59D: [Old-fashioned “Bah!”]). Isn’t “bah” pretty old-fashioned in its own right?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WEBB (32D: [Jack of “Just the facts” fame]) – I’m sure many sports fans remember Spuld WEBB, the former guard in the NBA who played with the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings who was known for winning the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in Dallas. So here’s a question for you: Do you know Spud Webb’s given first name? Got it? Give up? OK, enough of the faux suspense. It’s Anthony.
Have a great rest of your Friday and a good weekend to boot! See you tomorrow!
NYT: “Barney Google, with the goo-goo-googly eyes.”
Maybe RICE-A-RONI can come out with a Halloween version of their product: “Rice-A-Roni, with the goo-goo-googly eyes”.
A nicely constructed puzzle, as expected, but I don’t understand a couple of the clues. What does it mean to steal ALARMS, and why would it be ironic? If the HOUSE is the casino management, why would they be gambling opponents? They want you to lose your money! WHITEFLAG as ‘standard of negotiation’ doesn’t seem right to me. The white flag is what you raise to surrender — and once you’ve surrendered you’ve given up your chance to negotiate.
But very stylish, overall.
PS No, I have never heard the phrase ‘stress monkeys’…
Stealing a burglar alarm system, somehow, despite it involving wiring in the house, would be ironic? Stealing a travel alarm clock would have zero irony.
You’re not competing against the other people at the casino table, you’re playing against the house. And, they say, the house always wins.
And a white flag is also used as a request for a truce/an opportunity to negotiate.
There are two types of gambling games in which the house is directly involved: parimutuel and banking. In parimutuel wagering, the house takes a percentage of the amount bet off the top and the remainder is paid to the winning bettors. The house makes money regardless of who wins except in the rare case of such a prohibitive favorite winning that a negative pool is created. In banking games, if you win, the house loses. You are betting directly against the house.
Fun, unusually easy puzzle for me today.
NYT: Great start of the day. Makes me want to talk like Strawberry Shortcake…
I had the ending– VERS– filled in and plunked down High achieVERS instead of the deep sea divers.
I originally thought Google had picked their name from googly eyes, symbolizing how we would all be as we search for and take in all the cool info they provide. It makes sense that it’s a riff on Googol, but I imagine that somewhere in there the allusion played into the name choice.
Damn that was a lovely NYT. Berry is amazing.
As others have said, “Who steals alarms?” I’ve never heard of that being a thing.
AQUIVER didn’t bother me, Amy. Not in everyday speech, but not crosswordese either.
It’s nice to see a clue where nice is not pretending to be Nice for a change. I was looking for the French word for “extra.” It’s like a reverse misdirect.
Yes! Retired French teacher here, always looking for French words as an easy entry into a puzzle.
BuzzFeed: Not sure why you would suggest anyone who knows SLUTSHAME doesn’t know EPISTEMIC or vice versa. Those aren’t mutually exclusive spheres of knowledge. Similarly, the only clue with some sex shock value was for KELP; SLUTSHAME and MANWHORES are both clued pretty straight. I liked that pairing (also the pop-culture pairing in the opposite corner of BELLASWAN and ELDERWAND).
Anyway, I loved this puzzle. Made me laugh a few times. Especially the totally made-up Kipling clue.
I did know both, but to clarify, I would not have been able to come up with a clear definition of EPSITEMIC if asked without a c(l)ue. (Not my favorite college class).
I derived its solution from EPISTEMOLOGY, which is the more general philosophy of knowledge.
As for SLUT SHAME, I don’t like the term and the concept makes me squirm, but it was clued straightly and it’s in the language; so I was OK with it from that point.
What gets me in the BuzzFeed puzzles are the pop culture names that I just need to learn :).
Hodor. Hodor Hodor.
I knew both terms as well, but I don’t think of my knowledge base as normal.
I think SLUT-SHAMING is much more of a political term than an in-your-face sexual one. It’s usually used to address why women who have a lot of sex are labelled “sluts” while men…well, there is MANWHORES, although it’s a much more recent invention.
A recent South Park episode addressed the concept of “shaming” with a character in front of starving third world children, saying, “We won’t rest until America is completely shameless.”
I would think most people who know EPISTEMIC know it from “epistemic closure,” a term that’s gone semi-viral in recent years and a very useful one for understanding how our politics is changing. Surprised it wasn’t clued that way.
I’m with Finn, I liked this puzzle a lot, especially the SLUTSHAME and MANWHORES section. I don’t get the rationale why one of them is OK, but not both.
I’m not with Finn, I did not enjoy the BELLASWAN and ELDERWAND section. But that’s just because I don’t know anything about “Twilight” and know little about “Harry Potter”. Although if I keep doing these BZ puzzles I expect to be an expert in both very soon.
Lots of fun, especially at ITSAPLANE (clue and answer), but absurdly easy. You know when you keep plunking down answers and you actually pause because you think there must be something wrong because it shouldn’t be this easy? I guess there’ll be a David Quarfoot or Paula Gamache on Saturday to stomp on me for my hubris…
Bencoe has the right idea.
Jim, I’d just encourage you to keep in mind Buzzfeed’s audience. We’re largely talking about college-educated 20-30 somethings — meaning, people educated post-culture wars, who spend a lot of time on the internet, hearing/reading a lot of profanity and a lot about race/gender/etc. and making these debates a part of their language.
Calling this a desire to be “edgy” is the wrong way to think about it.
NYT’s Breakfast test is spoken of purely in crossword terms, usually, but it’s helpful to remember that the NYT writ large has editorial standards for its content that the crossword must follow — regarding profanity, for example.
Buzzfeed has no such limitations. This is a place where you can read about hockey players with the nicest butts as well as about Syrian refugees and LGBT violence in Russia.
So when you ask whether a puzzle can fairly expect solvers to have such range, please remember where the puzzle appears: a publication with said range, with an audience that made the publication popular for precisely that reason. We should all work to evaluate puzzles in their respective journalistic contexts, not according to some vague, lofty ideal.
Also Finn has the right idea, browser wouldn’t let me edit but I didn’t forget you Finn :)
I’m absolutely aware of the BuzzFeed target audience (and I know I’m not in it).
I am, however, skeptical that the *general* BuzzFeed audience is college-educated which is what was behind my comment about EPISTEMIC. I expect a BuzzFeed audience to know SLUT SHAME (popular slang), but not EPISTEMIC (philosophy). I never said they were mutually exclusive just that that broad a range of knowledge is not typical of the “Bored at Work” and “Bored in Line” crowd (the “official” target audiences of BuzzFeed).
Maybe I’m totally wrong on this and guilty of stereotyping the typical BuzzFeed user. But with its clickbait and listicles and Disney princess quizzes, well, you can see where the idea comes from.
This is not to say the PuzzFeed crowd isn’t already an erudite bunch, but if Caleb wants to pull from the BuzzFeed gen pop, EPISTEMIC (with its philosophy clue) doesn’t help.
Putting SLUT SHAME and MANWHORES at 1 and 2 Down is not demonstrating a desire to be “edgy”? Not even a little? You’re telling me there’s not some element of “see what I just did there?” there?
I’ll back off on SLUT SHAME. I see now how that it’s mostly used in a political context. (Picture Rush Limbaugh here.) I guess I’m having a problem with the double standard. You can’t call a woman who “gets around” a SLUT, but you can call a man who “gets around” a MAN WHORE…which still carries all the WHORE baggage with it. Why even go there?
Look, I’m absolutely not holding BuzzFeed up to a NYT standard. I don’t want them to have the same standard. I never mentioned a breakfast test. I want BuzzFeed to be free and loose and slangy and crass and edgy. It’s better for all of us.
But there is a line somewhere. Maybe this puzzle didn’t cross it, maybe it did. But there is a line. There has to be. Caleb’s not going to have SLUT and WHORES in the next grid, is he? No.
And I will continue to hold up each puzzle to an ideal. Why would I not? What is the point otherwise? But of course I will do it in the appropriate context, as always.
In the NYT that ideal is often approached by Patrick Berry. For the BuzzFeed themeless, I’m still using Paolo Pasco’s week 1 puzzle as the ideal. That grid was silky smooth and fresh.
I can see that the language seems equivalent. But I’ve never really heard people use the term “MAN WHORE” in a purely negative sense. It’s more like a frat boy saying to his bro, “Dude you’re a total man whore!” (High five.)
Again Jim – see what you’re saying, but Buzzfeed publishes serious investigative journalism alongside those cat listicles, with its hubs in Russia and the Middle East. The son of the most famous living Investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh — who broke the stories on My Lai and Abu Ghraib — writes in-depth investigative features on Russia for Buzzfeed.
If that’s the breadth of the site, it should be the breadth of the puzzle. Younger audiences don’t see the high/low divides you’re describing as quite so fixed.
SLUT SHAME and MANWHORE are not edgy by Buzzfeed standards; the site regularly uses that kind of language.
Patrick Berry is not everyone’s ideal. If what you value is cleanliness and cleverness, sure. If what you value is cultural breadth, or culture period — a dominant part of Buzzfeed’s vibe — then no. Not at all. Not even close.
Fair enough. I will consider that the BuzzFeed population might be more worldly than I expected. As I type this, the current headline on the BF site is “Terror in Paris” as one would expect/hope. This is followed immediately by “Which Starbucks cup are you?”
But the puzzle admits to its SOPHOMORIC humor, and EPISTEMIC is tough, sub-par fill in BuzzFeed, NYT, and maybe even CHE.
It sounds like you’re saying that I expect a BuzzFeed puzzle to emulate a Patrick Berry puzzle. If I gave that impression, then that was a mistake on my part. But perhaps you didn’t see my reference to Paolo’s earlier themeless.
Fantastic puzzle by Patrick Berry–another good piece of study material for themeless constructors!
And thanks Amy!!!
I really enjoyed the LAT – especially APOTHECARY GRANT. just my speed…