Saturday, November 14, 2015

NYT 5:45 (Amy) 


LAT 7:27 (Derek) 


CS approx. 5:30 (pannonica) 


Newsday 27:50 (Derek) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Kameron Austin Collins’ New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

It’s Kameron! Whose [HIGH:low] crosswords come out twice a month, and who has graciously offered to mentor women who want to master the art of constructing themeless crosswords. (Details here.)

NY Times crossword solution, 11 14 15, no 1114

NY Times crossword solution, 11 14 15, no 1114

In this 70-worder, the grid’s packed with crisply contemporary fill—answers that put the spotlight on black folks, who are underrepresented in crosswords, and espouse a comfort with LGB people and feminism. To wit:

  • 1a. [Place like Chicago’s Boystown or San Francisco’s Castro, in modern lingo], GAYBORHOOD. Loooove this clue, as Boystown is near and dear to my heart. There was once a Team Fiend meeting at a gay bar there.
  • 48a. [Heroine of ABC’s “Scandal”], OLIVIA POPE. Kerry Washington’s powerful (and well-dressed) character.
  • 52a. [Democratic talking point beginning in 2010], WAR ON WOMEN. It continues apace.
  • 10d. [“CNN Tonight” host beginning in 2014], DON LEMON. Ugh. Numerous people I follow on Black Twitter loathe Lemon.
  • 26d. [Jordan, to worshipers], HIS AIRNESS. Michael Jordan. How many of you were trying to think of an Arabic/Islamic name for the country? (Would have liked it if SLOTS weren’t clued with [Airtimes], though.)
  • 28d. [Uses pickup lines, in slang], SPITS GAME. Black slang, right?
  • 32d. [Do for the African-American community?], CORNROWS. This … does not sound like a clue that Kameron would have written. It smacks of the recent AFROS clue that garnered a lot of complaints. Would be so much better to clue hairstyles by specific examples. Alicia Keys has worn cornrows, just as you could pop Lenny Kravitz in an AFRO clue. This clue we have here? I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be tricking you into thinking. It’s just awkward. Perhaps such things are likely to show up when the NYT crossword’s entire editorial/fact-checking/test-solving team is white? Never hurts to bounce something off a person of color for another perspective.

Other hot fill: “I’M AFRAID SO,” FAN FICTION, CEVICHE, BFF, THE NATURAL, GAG LAWS (so seldom are these good things), hilarious “ICE ICE BABY,” and ON THE ROAD.

A few more things:

  • 36a. [Like players on opposing teams, often], GIBED. Say what? Who uses this word like that? We use it as a past-tense verb far, far more than we make it play the part of an adjective. “They are so GIBED!” No, I haven’t encountered that usage before.
  • 54a. [Where California and Missouri put bears], STATE SEALS. Cute clue.
  • 2d. [Grammy alternatives voted on by the public, for short], AMAS. As in the American Music Awards. Nice switch-up from a stale Latin clue.
  • 23d. [Yearly Library of Congress appointee], POET. How much does that pay?
  • 41d. [Revolution in basketball?], PIVOT. Okay, the clue befuddled me, and I was pleased when the crossings pointed me at PIVOT.
  • 45d. [Real gem of a car?], OPEL. Punning on opal, kinda terrible and kinda fun.

Fill I didn’t love: BLO, HIT AT … that’s about it.

4.5 stars from me.

Barry C. Silk’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 7.23.46 PMThis puzzle wasn’t too difficult this week, and had some great entries, but I had one entry I really detested. I will mention that in the notes below, but I will give kudos to the triple stacked 9s and 10s in the puzzle. The entries there are some of the best I have seen in a while for longer entries. Most I like will be mentioned below. Rating? How about 4.1 stars. Some comments:

  • 1A [Musical group founded by a Civil War vet] BOSTON POPS – This is referencing a man named Henry Lee Higgins. I had to look him up, but maybe if you’re from the Boston area, you knew this already. Great piece of trivia in the clue.
  • 15A [Symbol for the NFL’s Bears] UPPER CASE “C” – Minor squabble here; upper and lower case Cs look the same. Maybe a reference to a proper name would be more correct, like [Canada’s founding?] perhaps? The logo is definitely a c, of course. Go Bears!Bears
  • 30A [King of pop] CAROLE – As in the 70s pop star Carole King. If you have never heard her album Tapestry, go to Spotify or Apple Music or whatever you use, block out an hour, and listen. Several hits off of that album. One of my favorite albums of all time.
  • 48A [Course outlines] SYLLABI – A weirdly spelled word, but a great entry. All the more difficult because it crosses 45A (More on that later..)
  • 4D [___ elbow] TENNIS ELBOW – My favorite sport! And no, I’ve never had tennis elbow!
  • 12D [Five-time 1960s Emmy-winning actor] DON KNOTTS – I had no idea he won so many Emmys! Maybe it’s because there were only three networks way back then….??!!
  • 14D [Literally, without lines] SANS SERIF – A common font. Actually kind of an easy clue, but I like it anyway!
  • 27D [Florida surfing mecca] COCOA BEACH – Why anyone would want to get out with those sharks is beyond me!
  • 32D [Traditional cajun dish] DIRTY RICE – I love cajun food. Now I’m hungry…
  • 42D [“I can remember when the air was clean and ___ was dirty”: George Burns] SEX – A great quote!
  • 45D [Ethylene, for one] ALKENE – If you hadn’t guessed by now, I don’t like this entry. Seems too obscure. Yes, it is in the dictionary. “Any of numerous unsaturated hydrocarbons having one double bond.” I have never used this word. Just seems way too technical, at least to me.
  • 51D [Dark times abroad] NUITS – Not my favorite either. Abroad could be anywhere. Nuit is French for “night,” but how well known is that?

So, in recap, just a couple of minor quibbles for me. ALKENE may have been necessary to fill the grid, though, in Barry’s defense. To keep the three 9s, there is probably no better choice, so I will defer to the constructor who is way better at his craft than I am! Until next week!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

IMG_0074Ouch. Ouch, ouch, and ouch. What a great puzzle! SUPER hard this week. I struggled mightily with this one. Note to self, have coffee BEFORE you begin the puzzle! Once again, I finished near the upper left area; the highlighted word is my final entry. Lower left was easiest, then the bottom, then the upper right. But there were several errors made by yours truly, as you can see by the gray spots in the grid! All in all, I liked this puzzle a lot. When a puzzle is really hard, isn’t the solving experience more satisfying upon completion? You feel like you actually DID something when the grid is hard to fill! 4.5 stars from me!

Some puzzle notes:

  • 1A [Secretive tribunal] STAR-CHAMBER – I didn’t know this word/phrase. I had to look it up. But that’s OK, I know it now! Dictionary has it as an adjective, though…
  • 27A [Mercedes factory city] BREMEN – There is a Bremen, Indiana, actually not too far from me. They have a great pizza place! And their football team actually just lost last night in the state playoffs. A good friend of mine is one of their assistant coaches. But, seriously, is Bremen, Germany, where I go when I buy my Mercedes and drive it on the Autobahn first before it is shipped here? ;-)
  • 38A [Bowl expanders, for short] OTS – I thought this might be sports related. I would say [Bowl extenders, for short] myself. It seems more accurate.
  • 60A [Form a sect] SCHISMATIZE – What a word! I thought SEPARATIVE or something similar, but it wasn’t long enough! Once I got this, the whole corner fell easily.
  • 1D [Two-time NOW president] SMEAL – As in Eleanor Smeal, who I have never heard of…
  • 7D [Biblical defier of Nebuchadnezzar] ABEDNEGO – This one I HAD heard of, as in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three Hebrews who survived the fiery furnace. Nice clue.
  • 12D [How Livy said “heavy”] PONDEROSA – I had no idea this meant “heavy,” but sure enough, the dictionary says, under ponderosa pine, that the Latin terminology actually means “heavy pine.” I thought PONDEROSA meant some kind of prairie, from the TV show!
  • 26D [It surpassed Mich. in auto production in 2004] ONT – As in Ontario, Canada. This was surprising to me. I guessed IND, as in Indiana, at first, but I knew it was probably wrong. Has Detroit fallen that much? I know there are plants all over Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky now.
  • 30D [Show too little willpower] MELT – In an empty grid, one would think this could also be FOLD or WILT. Or is that just me…
  • 39D [Literally, “a seeing all at once”] SYNOPSIS – In a similar manner, in an emptier grid I thought PANORAMA might fit here. You understand now why I had several errors?
  • 47D [Without foundation] MYTHIC – I had MYOPIC here. Is Brad doing this to me on purpose??
  • 53D [Jeweler’s aid] SIZER – Good misdirection here, too. You’re thinking an actual tool he might use, not a simple ring sizer!

This puzzle exhausted me. Going to take a nap today! Another note to self: Beware of Longo AND Wilber!

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Running Backs” — pannonica’s blithely ignorant write-up

WSJ • 11/14/15 • "Running Backs" • Sat • Fisher • solution

WSJ • 11/14/15 • “Running Backs” • Sat • Fisher • solution

Was just about to work up an accounting proclaiming my lack of knowledge of NFL running backs’ names, and how I was grateful there were no alterations to the theme answers, but I’ve just now achieved insight. The answers comprising the themers contain the name of an NFL team reversed. id est, running backward.

  • 23a. [Everly Brothers hit (with a Buffalo running back)] WHEN WILL I BE LOVED AGAIN (Bill). Maybe SUSIE, beneath it at 27a, woke me up to the theme mechanics?
  • 34a. [It goes over most people’s heads (with a New York running back)] PRIVATE JOKE (Jet). Or, how the theme appeared to me for a long while.
  • 49a. [Sweet-tart fruit (with a Chicago running back)] BRAEBURN APPLE (Bear). Good variety to throw into the mix for apple pies. The best pies include a few varieties.
  • 64a. [TV series set in Mystic Falls (with an Oakland running back)] THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (Raider).
  • 81a. [NFL relocated in 1997 (with a Detroit running back)] HOUSTON OILERS (Lion). Meta!
  • 95a. [Barracks sights (with an Indionapolis running back)] FOOT LOCKERS (Colt).
  • 111a. [Harbor ulterior motives (with a running back from a city found elsewhere in this grid) HAVE AN AXE TO GRIND (Texan). HOUSTON, seen in 81a.

And then—as I now see in no way intruding on the theme—117a [Running back Bush] REGGIE. More of a flourish.

With the exception of Bear/BRAEBURN, all of the reversed names span at least two words. Perhaps that one, with the unusual vowel sequence, was intentionally meant to highlight how the theme works? Not how it happened with me, but it seems plausible.

  • Additional content tangential to the theme: 78a [Series of gridiron plays] DRIVES, 12d [Brought back] REVIVED, 30d [Fran Tarkenton’s retired number] TEN.
  • AT A, IF AT, AT RIP, IN IT. (Plus more, but these seem a cohesive group.) Meh.
  • Triple-stacked nines in the northeast and southwest corners: ECONOMIST, full-name ELIA KAZAN, DARNEDEST; GOES FIRST, ANCHORITE, SCHROEDER.
  • 26a [Color of encre de Chine] NOIRAka India ink.
  • The latest chapter in my ongoing struggle with a particular pun clue: 5d [Flight parts] “Aha, not fooling me this time! STAIRS, even though it’s more an equivalent than a part, but it fits!” … (Some time later) … 77a [Flight unit] STEP (“I am so smart, but it troubles me that 5d is not working with surrounding fill.” … (Some further time later) … “Oh, 5-down is NEWELSCurses, foiled again!” And not a LEG or STAGE (aside from 93d STAGER) to be found elsewhere in the grid (for a double-fakeout).
  • Favorite clues: 84a [Be a resounding success?] ECHO, 92a [You can deal with them] DECKS. Runners-up: 85d [Craft that may reach hundreds of knots?] MACRAMÉ, 78d [Pier group] DOCKS. Trickiest clue? – 75d [Pianist in panels] SCHROEDER.
  • 45d [Resistor unit] MEGOHM. Soon to be a popular baby name, when people are finally exhausted by Megan, Meaghan, Megyn, Meghann, et cetera.
  • 41d/66d [Preparatory periods] LEAD-UPS, EVES. Weakly echoed by 67d [Plan for retirement] SAVE UP.
  • Further duplication (though the etymologies are different): 74d [Religious recluse] ANCHORITE directly beneath 38d [Free of the bottom, as an anchor] AT RIP.
  • Last part to solve: 73d [Is a pioneer] GOES FIRST, which I initially had as GOES FORTH, causing consternation with the crossings.
  • Sad little trio of three-letter entries to close out the grid: EMP (electromagnetic pulse), -ERN, ORC.

Pretty solid crossword, and I’m mildly pleased that I wasn’t discouraged by not appreciating the theme earlier.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Battle Fronts” — pannonica’s write-up

CS • 11/14/15 • "Battle Fronts" • Sat • Grabowski • solution

CS • 11/14/15 • “Battle Fronts” • Sat • Grabowski • solution

I’m, ah, pinch-hitting for Ade this evening. More like a last-minute substitution. No guarantees, but there probably won’t be a Sports Will Make You Smarter segment to this edition. We’ll see how it goes.

Battle Fronts, per the title, indicates words meaning ‘conflict’ form the first part of theme phrases. They all happen to be two-word phrases.

  • 17a. [Some recyclable material from product manufacturing] SCRAP METAL.
  • 30a. [Raised piece of corrugated pavement] RUMBLE STRIP. No “Rumble in the Jungle” reference here, which would be too obvious anyway.
  • 45a. [One of a percussion pair] CLASH CYMBAL. More on this below.
  • 65a. [Springtime dessert] RHUBARB PIE. In addition the the generalized slang sense of RHUBARB as a run-in, there is a baseball-specific one, for a brawl. But this is a sports-free zone, dammit. Factette: “Rhubarb rhubarb (rhubarb)” traditionally functions as an audio analogue to the graphic “Lorem ipsum” (c.f.) and has been used in film and radio to provide an indistinct simulacrum of conversation.

Meet Lixus concavus, the rhubarb curcolio, a species of weevil. ©otas32 (at DeviantArt)

Functional theme, with a good title.

My solve time was protracted because I was unaware of CLASH CYMBALs and had confidently filled that in as CRASH CYMBAL, even though I knew they aren’t usually paired in drum kits. Combined with my misfill for 35a [Go after and bring back] as SNAG rather than SHAG (yes, you’d better believe I blame baseball), I was wondering just what kind of obscure beastie a GNOUR might be as an [Evil spirit] (28d). Other words that flitted across my brain were GNOME, GENIE and the quite unrelated KNOUT. Correct answer was of course GHOUL. Returning to the subject at hand, CLASH CYMBALs are the kind you see played together, one in each hand, as seen in classical orchestras, marching bands, and by toy mechanical chimpanzees worldwide (I will spare you an image, let alone an animated GIF).

  • Interlinked in the northeast: 21a [Abroad] OVERSEAS, 8d [Go places] TRAVEL, 10d [Education-related excursion] CLASS TRIP.
  • Other long fill included 56a [“You can’t be serious”] OH COME ON and 36d [1995 crime/comedy film costarring John Travolta] GET SHORTY, which was one of the first places I saw James Gandolfini. Adapted from an Elmore Leonard book. Never did succeed in making minivans cool, or am I thinking of the sequel?
  • Clues that struck me as mildly odd choices: 18d [Lute-shaped fruit] PEAR, 64a [Armoire part] DOOR.
  • 37a/39a [Zero[ NIL, NONE.
  • 29a [Driver who originally had an eight-member team] SANTA. That meddling Rudolph!

All told, a fine little crossword.

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26 Responses to Saturday, November 14, 2015

  1. Andy says:

    How many times can I give this KAC puzzle 5 stars? Asking for a friend. (The friend is me.)

  2. Evan says:

    “Ugh. Numerous people I follow on Black Twitter loathe Lemon.”

    For good reason, I’d expect. Here’s one example where Don Lemon asked a Muslim human rights lawyer who strongly condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks if he supports ISIS. Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to that guy’s commentary in the wake of the latest violence in Paris.

    As a crossword answer, though, I say thumbs-up to DON LEMON. He’s a big name on CNN. Thumbs-up all around to the puzzle, too.

    • Bencoe says:

      It’s more because, like Bill Cosby, he likes to preach to other black people about how they should behave.
      I found the clue for CORNROWS strangely worded, but recently I’ve heard a lot of talk about whether or not white people should wear them.

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Excellent Stumper from Brad in the Newsday. For those of us who enjoy tough themeless puzzles, it took a bit of scrambling to find a toehold, then another once that one ran dry, but it was well worth the effort once I did. 4.5 stars from me.

  4. Tracy B. says:

    I heart Kameron

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Really liked both the NYT and the Stumper today. Yes to everything Amy said about the NYT, including the eye-roll for the CORNROWS clue. I know “10” was a long time ago, but that was a white woman in cornrows. GAYBORHOOD and SPITS GAME were both new to me, and still completely gettable from context. I wish the Dems did a lot more talking about the WAR ON WOMEN. Back in the 90s, I was reading a book called “The Republican War on Women” while I was in Florida with my family. A gentleman by the pool took it upon himself to tell me what he thought of the title. My mother made short work of him. I learn from the best.

    I think this Stumper may have been a personal best for me. I don’t usually finish them in one sitting. 1a was a gimme and I thought it would be smooth sailing….and then I got to the SE and came to a crashing halt. That’s not a complaint. I count on the Stumper to put some chewiness in my Saturday, and Brad and Stan did not disappoint. Great puzzle. Nice way to start Saturday!

  6. ArtLvr says:

    I nearly conquered the Stumper, but for one letter: I couldn’t see MOAT for the bonsai pest control because I had an uncle who was an expert in the art and I never saw him create a moat in a container. So that left _CL. Looking it up afterward, there is Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Drat! But the rest was terrific, and I learned something.

    • David L says:

      I knew ACL so had _OAT in place. I desperately wanted the answer to be GOAT — little teeny tiny goats guarding bonsai trees.

  7. DJ says:

    Re: The “picture about a pitcher” clue in the NY Times, wasn’t Roy Hobbs in “The Natural” an outfielder, not a pitcher?

    • Joe Pancake says:

      He started out as a pitcher (remember he struck out the Babe Ruth-type character at the fair?), but for most the movie he was an outfielder. His character was based in part on Lefty O’Doul (who occasionally makes a crossword puzzle appearance), who was a hot pitching prospect (who allegedly struck out the real Babe Ruth in an exhibition as a youngster) before he hurt his arm. He converted to outfield and was briefly one of the best hitters in the game.

      I thought the NYT puzzle was TREMENDOUS, by the way. The LAT was meh. Not one of Silk’s better offerings.

      • pannonica says:

        Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud (whose consonant-vowel alternating name also sometimes appears in crossword puzzles).

      • john farmer says:

        I read “The Natural” in college and loved it. Baseball lore, Arthurian legend, a tragic American hero. It was one of my faves. It’s hard to describe the sense of betrayal I felt when I saw the movie and watched Redford round the bases in exploding lights during his pennant-winning home run. I’ve gotten over it, mostly. It’s an okay movie, but a lesson in the kinds of stories we allow ourselves to tell anymore (especially when Hollywood gets involved). Read Malamud for the real story.

        • janie says:

          i’ve never read the book, but friends of mine who did (and loved it) and then saw the film always referred to this adaptation as The Unnatural.


  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: “[Like players on opposing teams, often], GIBED. Say what? Who uses this word like that? We use it as a past-tense verb far, far more than we make it play the part of an adjective. “They are so GIBED!” No, I haven’t encountered that usage before.”

    What does it say about my character that I thought the answer was IN BED?

  9. P. Ulrich says:

    I get the section with Sunday Challenge bundled with the Saturday Washington Post. This week they mistakenly reprinted last week’s Sunday Challenge. Now I have to wait for the subscription puzzle late tonight. My Saturday morning was ruined. Had to make do with today’s puzzle and recycled Reagle. At least they’re going to start having original 21×21 puzzles again soon.

  10. gurgle says:

    7. How much is the U.S. poet laureate paid?

    The poet laureate currently receives a $35,000 annual stipend, plus $5,000 for travel expenses.

    8. Is the poet laureate paid by the U.S. government?

    No. The poet laureate’s position is funded by a private gift from Archer M. Huntington.

    • john farmer says:

      So, about what the median welder gets ($36,300), but not as much as a mid-career philosopher ($81,200).

      This may be helpful information during a presidential debate.

  11. Paolo P. says:

    Best NYT themeless in years, possibly ever. The super-fresh NW and SE corners especially are breathtaking.

  12. Slow Stumper Solver says:

    Such a tough Stumper. I’m very proud to have done all of it in 2.5 hours, missing only the ‘d’ in abednego and the ‘z’ in schismatize. Sat with the SE blank except for SYNOPSIS for about an hour. Didn’t like CBER nor MOE (as clued, isn’t it usually the same 2nd person a second time? rather than a 4th person?). The rest is great. Nearly impossible clues for RETARDANT/OARLESS/MYTHIC. Fun to see AESOP, AEGIS, BLITHE. Learned something about Welsh Rabbit (ew?), triodes and AmonRa.
    Favorite clue: [Bagful of diamonds]=ROSIN.

    Also, so glad to see KAC getting supreme love. The hi/low puzzles have been exceptional, need to check my inbox for the mid-Nov one now!

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