Friday, November 20, 2015

NYT 5:36 (Amy) 


LAT 4:51 (Gareth) 


CS 8:44 (Ade) 


BuzzFeed ~23 on my phone (Jim) 


CHE untimed (pannonica) 


The Friday NYT themeless is by a woman, and we don’t see many themeless crosswords made by women. To build the ranks of female themeless experts, Kameron Austin Collins has offered to mentor women interested in making themeless crosswords, and he has additional volunteer mentors lined up to handle the overflow. Details here.

Other news on the “why aren’t more women making crosswords?” front: Ben Tausig, American Values Club Crossword editor, reports that 40% of the applicants for the opening for a new AV Club constructor are female. You know why? Because his call for applications said “In the interest of equal representation and also of producing a more welcoming vibe in the universe of publishing/intellectual life, we strongly encourage submissions from women and/or people of color.” One wonders what would happen if the various newspaper crossword editors specifically encouraged submissions from women.

Kameron and Ben are terrific feminists (and/or feminist allies), and I think they’re both the bee’s knees.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 15, no 1120

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 15, no 1120

We haven’t seen too many themelesses by women in recent years—Karen Tracey, Sherry Blackard, Dana Motley, and Paula Gamache all used to make a fair number of themeless puzzles. So I’m delighted to see Mary Lou’s puzzle here, with GABRIELLE / GIFFORDS, Nancy PELOSI, and Zooey DESCHANEL in the grid. I hope nobody grouses when Kameron puts more African-Americans in the grid and Mary Lou puts more women in the grid—after all, we’ve never lacked for white men in the grids made by white men, and that’s every bit as much “identity politics.”

This puzzle played a little more like a Saturday puzzle for me. I made good progress until I had only 33a: ACLU feeding into the southeast chunk of the puzzle. Then I filled in 52a: SNOG, 46d: PEON, and 48d: MGS, and eventually that corner resolved itself too. But I definitely had to work harder to get through that area. Presumably, some solvers had a tough time progressing from the northwest corner to the large midsection, too.

Fill I liked: CADILLACS with a Detroit trivia clue, OLD FOGIES (Note! It’s the fogeys’ stodgy attitudes that are key, not their age—according to the four dictionaries I consulted), USE FORCE, MACARENA because it’s still goofy, SHREWD, PAT RILEY, Nelson ALGREN (with a clue that makes you think of Lou Reed), ABSOLUT, BUM RAP, and ACROSTICS (11d. [NEWS for the four directions, and others]).

Less keen on the abbreviation MUS. (though the clue is great: [Field of note?: Abbr.]), RELAP and REICE (the latter duplicating ICEE), and LAICS.

Five more things:

  • 2d. [Joe of the Eagles], WALSH. Oh, those Eagles! I was trying to guess a football player rather than a rock guitarist/singer. Here he is performing “Life’s Been Good,” which has the most delightful rhymes.
  • 10d. [Yarn label specification], DYE LOT. Can’t help thinking that most male constructors don’t have this in their word lists, and that more female solvers will find this one to be a gimme. I don’t knit, so I had to work for this one.
  • 35a. [One-up], TRUMP. This clue is solid and won’t traumatize or anger anyone.
  • 24d. [Seat of Alabama’s Dallas County], SELMA. Didn’t know Selma’s county, but how many county seats have 5 letters ending with A?
  • 45d. [Closing line that stays with you?], SCAR. Going on four months since surgery, and oof. The scar zone gets achy easily.

4.25 stars from me. Keep ’em coming, Mary Lou!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s write-up

BuzzFeed - Fri, Nov 20, 2015 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

BuzzFeed – Fri, Nov 20, 2015 – Brendan Emmett Quigley

Terrific themeless today from BEQ! There’s so much good stuff in it, I’m afraid this post is just going to be a litany of great entries.

I have to start with MARC ANTONY (17A [“Friends, Romans, countrymen, J-Lo if I had an extra H” speaker]). Yesterday, this wouldn’t have been a gimme for me, but last night I had the pleasure of watching my daughter perform this role in a high school production. (She NAILed it.)

Pablo Schreiber as George “PORNSTACHE” Mendez

Every corner is packed with good stuff. I love PORNSTACHE and MARC ANTONY. (ARE YOU COOL seems a little off.  Its clue is [“We’re not fighting, right?”]. This would seem to beg the answer ARE WE COOL, but that would duplicate the “we” in the clue. But this is a nit.) Also in that corner is COOTIES and ELY cathedral (where my daughter will be singing in the choir next week #shamelessplug #proudpapa).

ELY Cathedral

ELY Cathedral

In the NE, SO INCLINED is nice, as is PROTEGEE, LOVE SET, and the lovely YO-YO DIET. The SW is not as strong, but I like TABLE LINEN and ART BUYER. Finally, the puzzle closes out in the SE with I GOT NOTHIN (which I debated might be I GOT NUTHIN) and KEEP IT REAL. CONSOLE gets a great clue at 43D with [Make someone feel better, perhaps by playing some Wii or Xbox]. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Other nice clues include 27A [Team building?] for ARENA and 26D [Circles once burned for entertainment] for CD-ROM. There was also a noticeable brevity to all the clues, if you like that sort of thing.

Things I really didn’t know: Joan MIRO at 16A, Duane READE at 29A, NANCI Griffith at 54D, MOTT Street (I’m more familiar with San Francisco’s Chinatown), and SPINEL at 51D.

Finally, in all seriousness, speak to your kids about COOTIES (8D [Controversial vaccination subject in children]). Immunization can be administered at any time by anyone (even another child) and has no known side effects. Don’t let your child be like the ones in this video:

Jim Leeds’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Total Recoil” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/20/15 • "Total Recoil" • Leeds • solution

CHE • 11/20/15 • “Total Recoil” • Leeds • solution

Saw the title for this one and had a quick flashback to this past Sunday’s O-adding CRooked offering, but this one has an entirely different thing going on.

It’s a rebus puzzle, and the interjection ICK! is the name of the game. As is often the case with such themes, it took a while to reconcile likely answers with an insufficient parcel of squares. In this case it was the crossing 24-across and 21-down that broke it open for me.

  • 18a. [Doomsayer of kiddie lit] CH[ICK]EN LITTLE. Perhaps ‘children’s lit[erature]’ would have telegraphed it too much?
    6d. [Jesse James specialty] ST[ICK]-UPS.
  • 24a. [Subject of 21 Down’s first novel] P[ICK]W[ICK] PAPERS. By not referencing the title explicitly the clue obviates the need for one of those awkward “, with ‘The'” qualifiers tacked on.
    2d. [Some Benny Goodman improvisations] HOT L[ICK]S.

    21d. [Creator of the fictional Pecksniffs and Peggottys] D[ICK]ENS.
  • 52a. [Midlife-crisis movie of 1991] CITY SL[ICK]ERS.
    40d. [Adjective for 18 Across] PAN[ICK]Y. Nifty in-theme callback.
  • 59a. [Gift for a diehard fan, perhaps] SEASON T[ICK]ETS.
    53d. [More obtuse] TH[ICK]ER. Blood is more obtuse than water.

Well-executed albeit standard-type theme.

  • 35a [Picked] CHOSE. Perhaps [Selected] would have been a better option?
  • Check out the eight-stacks! ACTIVATE / MILLINER / STEADILY has more panache than CHESS SET / HASHEESH (36d [“The ___ Eater” (19th century memoir describing altered consciousness)]) / OSTINATO. Whoa, how about that punctuational pile-up!
  • 54d [Twisting], 28a [Gym shoes, colloquially], 68a [Machinating] SNAKY SNEAKS SLY.
  • Plenty of evocative clues simpatico with [Machinating], above. 4a [Laryngitic] RASPY, 20a [Walk wearily] PLOD, 62a [Whence ambergris is collected] SEA, 3d [Like a neglected lawn] UNMOWN.
  • Favorite clues: 50a [Where hands are kept busy] SHIP, 46a [Darn things, etc.] SEW. But 51d [Monterrey jack?] for PESOS seems tired.
  • 47d [Military slang synonymous with “leatherneck” or “jarhead”] GYRENE (first known use, ca. 1894: origin unknown).
  • 30d. [Pelé’s homeland] BRAZIL. Perhaps it was the accent, but I plunked in BRASIL. As the crossing answer for 44a [Stage name of Wu Tang Clan’s de facto frontman] is RZA, I can see how some solvers who reacted similarly to 30-down might not think RSA is wrong even though it would more likely be clued as an abbreviation for the Republic of South Africa. Then again, 32a NYE isn’t clued as ubiquitous bony science celeb Bill, but with old-timey [Louis who often had Steve Allen in stitches].
  • Inexplicably, editor Brad Wilber decided to go for an opera clue rather than a Billy Joel one for 23a ATTILA: [Verdi opera in which Huns are extras]. Color me shocked, shocked.

This one was far from repugnant.

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Who Was That Man?”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.20.15: "Who Was That Man?"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 11.20.15: “Who Was That Man?”

Good morning, everybody! Happy Friday to you all we’re counting down to another holiday. If you wanted a little bit more bite to your CrosSynergy/WaPo grids, Mr. Randolph Ross definitely did just that with his submission today. The theme entries are all from the fill-in-the-blank variety, with all titles starting with “The Man Who.”

  • FELL TO EARTH (17A: [“The Man Who _______” (David Bowie film)])
  • MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT (30A: [With 33- and 37-Across, “The Man Who _________” (Oliver Sachs book])
  • KNEW TOO MUCH (51A: [“The Man Who ________” (James Stewart film)]) – Tom Swift, Jerry Quarry (Hall of Fame boxer).

If you were familiar with each theme entry before solving, as a lot of you – myself included – might have, then this played pretty easy. If not, then this had the possibility to really trip you up, especially in the center of the grid. Not only do you have the theme there that might have been unfamiliar to some, you also have the lively yet tough-to-unravel entries of VISAGE (26D: [Looks]) and TITIAN that could have slowed you down there as well (24D: [Venetian master]). To be honest, had never heard of/seen TODDLES used before today, and I wasn’t too sure of it once I put it down as an answer (24A: [Takes baby steps]). There were traps all over the place where you could get stuck, and where I got in a rut was not remembering ARPELS immediately, and needing the crosses to get it (41D: [Van Cleef’s partner]). I’m usually on top of my French jewelry, but I guess today was a different story. Oh, and thank you, Mr. Ross, for the earworm that’s now creeping in with ORLEANS (4D: [Group that sang “Still the One”]). I say “thank you” is somewhat of a sarcastic tone, though it’s definitely not a bad song…as long as I hear it infrequently. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: APARICIO (35A: [Hall of Fame shortstop from Venezuela]) – It’s possible this could have played harder than any other clue in the grid. Indeed, Luis APARICIO is in the baseball Hall of Fame, and was the first Venezuelan to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, back in 1984. Known for his speed and remarkable defense, Aparicio, who played the majority of his career with the Chicago White Sox (1956-62), Luis led the American League in stolen bases in nine consecutive seasons and also won nine Gold Gloves at shortstop. He was a key member of the 1959 “Go-Go White Sox” team that surprisingly made it to the World Series, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Have a great weekend, everybody! See you tomorrow!

Take care!


Jascha Smilack’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151120

LA Times

I’m having an “Is this really all there is?” moment while analysing the theme. Unless I’m missing something, I can’t really see how this is a publishable crossword theme. It looks like we have three theme answers, occupying 37 squares. I don’t have an issue with that, but it does mean you have to make every bit of your theme count.

The theme appears to be a set of two-word phrases both words of which end in -ER. Five of the six “-er” words are reimagined to other meanings of variable actual usage. Timer doesn’t seem to change in meaning much. That some of the new “-er” words are not in real usage is also not an issue – it’s a wordplay theme!

What is an issue are the base phrases. A SWEATERDRAWER is a conceivable thing to have, just like >any other item of clothing< drawer is. That doesn’t make it a discrete thing you can put in a crossword. TOASTERs have TIMERS. It isn’t common to refer to TOASTERTIMERS though. That means 2/3 of your theme answers are questionable.

So, in full, the theme answers are [One keeping tabs on the best man?], TOASTERTIMER. Here, TOASTER changes from an appliance to a person proposing toasts, and timer changes from a part measuring time to a person doing so, which isn’t much of a change. In [Portrait artist at a gym?], SWEATERDRAWER, SWEATER goes from a garment to a person who sweats and DRAWER goes from a cupboard part to a person drawing. Finally, with [Coach for a newspaper employee?] PRINTERTONER, PRINTER changes from a printing machine to a person working as a printer and TONER changes from ink to a person making another toned.

So, three answers and 37 squares, there will be plenty of space for the crossword to breathe, right? It must be said that the 12’s push the theme answers one closer together and the 13 leads to design constraints. The grid has 42 black squares, but a low 74 words. A lot of the areas are quite isolated from each other, but many of these areas are quite large too. Long story short, there aren’t a lot of splashy answers in the grid, which is partially understandable.

What is less understandable is the bottom-right section. Those areas are NOT wide open. WIZARDRY is not such a special answer that it justifies ICAN/ECOL/RANI/NEA/ITALIA/DEP. Most of those are fairly mild crossword-ese, but they are so easily avoided that it makes it noteworthy…

2.25 Stars

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21 Responses to Friday, November 20, 2015

  1. john farmer says:

    “DYE LOT. Can’t help thinking that most male constructors don’t have this in their word lists, and that more female solvers will find this one to be a gimme.”

    Per Cruciverb, the answer’s been used twice before, both by men. I think most men and women constructors have it in their word lists. But men would likely not use it unless they had to. Speaking for myself, it doesn’t resonate with my experience and feels like it may be marginal fill. Not the case, I see, but maybe that may explain why an alternative like DYNAST (a word I know but don’t ever remember seeing or using) has appeared 15 times, in comparison.

    Crosswords are best when the words mean something to solvers. That’s the value of having constructors like Mary Lou, Kameron, and others, making crosswords — to broaden the audience for whom puzzles resonate.

  2. Dook says:

    Liked the NYT, though a few things were bothersome: Would anyone say “vanilla colas”? It’s vanilla Cokes. Also, not sure about MATING. I don’t really understand the relation with the clue.

    Why do you think fewer women are doing themeless puzzles – as opposed to thematic ones?

    • Michael says:

      It’s a chess reference. I don’t get Looney.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      Well, the endgame in chess consists of trying to checkmate your opponent. But that reminds me of something I ask strong chess players like Matt Gaffney. Notwithstanding the popular assumption, what proportion of reasonably strong chess games actually end in checkmate? It is minuscule, I assure you. There is a James Bond movie where the opening scene shows someone (maybe James Bond!) checkmating his opponent. Nonsense!

      I liked the NYT, but had a couple small gaps, and a couple fortuitous guesses, such as Selma and Ptrap.

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        I should have written “checkmate rather than resignation.”

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Bruce — yes, mates are rare in master-level chess. The vast majority of decisive (i.e., non-drawn) games end in resignation, and a small fraction end in a loss on time. Usually mate only happens if a player is in a desperate position in severe time trouble and doesn’t see the mate is coming until it happens.

        Only other two times I can think of: 1) if a player is being openly disrespectful for some reason and playing until they’re mated instead of resigning, but that’s extremely rare. 2) Somewhat more often but still rare is when a player unexpectedly unleashes a beautiful forced mating combination (i.e. there is no way to avoid mate at all, even at disastrous material loss) and the mated player chooses to allow the mate on the board as a bit of gallantry. This is looked upon as a chivalrous and classy thing to do in these cases, though it’s not rude if you just resign, either.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Here’s a recent example of 2): at the St. Louis tournament earlier this year, Wesley So allowed Hikaru Nakamura to deliver the mate on the board since Naka had played a beautiful game and the mate was coming anyway. So is just the kind of class act who would do this.

          Note that the actual mate is so unusual that the name the wags at gave the game (“Mate Me in St. Louis”) reflects it.

          • sbmanion says:

            Great game. I played it out. I am pretty sure that “the Game of the Century,” in which 13-year-old Bobby Fischer sacrificed his queen also ended in checkmate.


    • pannonica says:

      Where I come from, ‘coke’ is not a synonym for ‘soda’, or even ‘cola’. This is why, on the rare occasions I request one, I say ‘Coca-Cola’ (nb: not ‘co-cola’). My term for the item in the crossword would be ‘vanilla soda’.

  3. David L says:

    I liked it! The small boy lurking within me liked THRONES for ‘going places.’ Speaking of plumbing, I have unclogged and repaired a fair number of sinks in my lifetime, and I’ve never referred to the U-bend underneath as a P-trap. Google says it’s a standard term but this is the first time I’ve come across it. Curious.

    SNOG = “canoodle”? I think of SNOG as meaning specifically osculation, whereas canoodle means fooling around in a more general sense.

    • huda says:

      I agree re SNOG and canoodle. But the clue has the right vibe, something that’s fun for all concerned… Maybe it should have said “less than a canoodle…”?

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Nice! It was not easy, because of the proper nouns, which is hard for some of us OLD FOGIES. Amy, it’s interesting that you wrote OLD FOGEYS, because I spelled it that way myself. I see that both are acceptable.

    I like all the women’s name in there. CADILLACS was a gimme, given where I live. I also liked the NASA destinations.

    And smiled at DYE LOT, which was easy for me and I guessed may put up some resistance for others. I don’t knit now, but in my youth, I used to crochet when it was the hippie thing to do. I was doing my thesis work and had to wait two minutes between trials in a study, which was not long enough to read but long enough to crochet. I still have stuff from those times that I can’t make myself throw away– not too many things have been crocheted in a research lab at UCLA.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Good Randolph Ross CS today. Original and consistent theme that runs through it and dominates the middle. I wish more of them were of this quality. 4.5 stars from me.

  6. Tracy B says:

    DYE LOT came easily for me. I know a lot of knitters, though I don’t knit myself. And I love seeing crafty words in the grids. My word list has some jewelry making terms that I haven’t used because I’m sure they would be a hard sell to editors: SEED BEAD, JUMP RING and the like. But crafters know these words, and I think our communities overlap, at least aesthetically and temperamentally, in that crafting and crosswording both involve patience, discipline, and the drive to work diligently to create (or solve) something beautiful involving symmetry and patterns.

  7. PJ Ward says:

    A timely inclusion. Happy Birthday, Joe Walsh!

  8. sbmanion says:

    Did anyone else put in POPOVICH for the 3-time NBA Coach of the Year? That “gimme” held me up for quite a while in what was otherwise a pretty easy puzzle for me. I enjoyed the puzzle. I think it was easy because GABRIELLE GIFFORDS is still in the news in Arizona and that provided access to the entire top of the puzzle.

    Belated welcome back to Bruce.


  9. Joe Pancake says:

    Some very nice themeless puzzles today in the NYT and BZF.

    The quasi-fake re-words (would anybody ever use RELAP, REICE, or RERATE in organic conversation?) are definitely eyesores, but they are the only knocks against MLG’s and BEQ’s nice work. Well done.

    Three favorite answers of the day:

  10. bob says:

    LAT: Gareth’s right – a theme that is decipherable only to the constructor in NOT a theme. This puzzle has quite a few stretches as to “cutesy” defs (i.e. Lit group = ARTS – defense choice = ZONE). I hope this puzzle doesn’t start a trend at LAT. Perhaps a new editor is needed??

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