Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What a neat little three-piece theme! Three longish composer names happen to end with a shorter composer name, and Jacob’s carefully placed them in the grid so that the short name begins in the next numbered square within the long name. And! The pair of composers share a birth country.
- 17a. [& 18. Italian-born composer], MONTEVERDI/VERDI.
- 34a. [& 35. German-born composer], OFFENBACH/BACH.
- 59a. [& 60. Austrian-born composer], SCHOENBERG/BERG.
The rest of the puzzle plays like a themeless, only with perhaps somewhat less juicy fill (YSER, ARNO, EEKS, VOID OF, SRIS, etc.) than a standard themeless has, what with the three themers. I wonder if the puzzle was submitted when BENEDICT XVI was topical fill rather than the guy who stepped down about three years ago. Fill I like: NOM DE GUERRE, DAWDLES, “I WANT IN,” SEND-OFF, SUCCOR, LAERTES, and BOILERS (I am on close terms with the boiler in my basement, let me tell you).
Five more things:
- 20a. [It’s often hooked], BRA. Yep. Some of your casual and sports bras are pull-over, but most have hook fasteners. Nice to have a non-cringeworthy BRA-related clue here.
- 29a. [“A ___ champion never handled sword”: “Henry VI, Part I”], STOUTER. The Shakespeare quotation clue saves the entry.
- 1d. [“Austin Powers” villain], FEMBOT. Who filled in DR. EVIL first? Everyone?
- 3d. [Longtime grandmotherly “General Hospital” actress], ANNA LEE. This is probably not good fill at all for anyone who doesn’t know the late Lila Quartermaine actress. I watched my share of GH back in the day, though.
- 7d. [Hazel relatives], ALDERS. Hazels are trees?? Interesting that we have walnut and chestnut trees, but the tree that yields hazelnuts is called the hazel.
3.8 stars from me. The trio/six-pack of composers is such a neat little trivia set, isn’t it? It’s a 4.5-star reduced-portion theme in a grid that wasn’t quite as smooth as I’d have liked—but I’ll grant you it isn’t so easy to wrangle 29 theme squares in a 72-worder.
David Phillips’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Themeless Challenge”—Derek’s write-up
This was most certainly a challenge. I got the upper left rapidly, then got stuck pretty good. Got a foothold in the middle and upper right sections, after some blank staring, and finally the puzzle fell. I had an error at 51D, which I thought was NO-NO instead of NO GO. I believe I actually saw the Oscars from 2004 where Billy Crystal said, “Gentlemen, start your EGOS!” But I couldn’t remember the exact quote while solving!
Lively long entries in this themeless; too bad they are kind of unrelated, or there would have been some sort of fun theme! It could almost have been ridiculous made-up words, except for the last long entry!
This one took me just over 10 minutes. For a hard puzzle at Stamford, I would be delighted with this kind of time. Of course, I need to make sure I proofread every answer this year! I cannot keep making silly mistakes, as they just eat me alive.
4.3 stars for a fun themeless. Some good, some bad, but mostly good:
- 10A [French cookware company that had to remove an “e” from its name when moving to the U.S. because DuPont said so] T-FAL – I wonder where the “e” was?
- 41A [Street bum?] BADONKADONK – Awesome!
- 46A [Rock legend John named “the best drummer of all time” by Rolling Stone readers] BONHAM – This is the drummer from Led Zeppelin, in case you were wondering!
- 64A [“ZOMG! That’s too friggin’ hilarious”] ROFL – Isn’t this ROTFL? It must be either. Threw me for a little while since it was only asking for four letters! Or maybe because “zomg” is based on an error? I am so unhip…
- 3D [Samus ___ (“Metroid” protagonist)] ARAN – If you say so! Not my favorite entry; quite obscure it seems, at least to me!
- 28D [Big name (well…technically, names…) in mail-order sex toys] ADAM AND EVE – Is it bad that I got this immediately…? ;-)
- 31D [Mara of “Carol”] ROONEY – I think I read somewhere that her name is from the two famous football families that own the Steelers and Giants. Don’t think I have ever seen one of here movies, though…
- 39D [Words of surprise to/from an old chap] I DARE SAY – I like this one!
- 47D [Belly button type shared by Kelly Ripa and John Stamos] OUTIE – No pics will be posted here! Who has outies, really?!
Again, lots of fun. Until next Friday’s BuzzFeed puzzle!
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Four Degrees of Separation”—Ade’s write-up
It’s Friday once again, everyone! Hope you all have a great weekends in store! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, features four theme entries that all start with the letters “PH,” with the second word in each theme starting with the letter “D”. (I’m going on the wild side now and placing the period outside (!) of the quotation marks.) The reveal, PHD, concludes all of the across clues (66A: [Degree separated four times in this puzzle]).
- PHIL DONAHUE (18A: [Pioneering talk show host])
- PHONE DIRECTORY (27A: [Book of listings])
- PHYSICAL DAMAGE (44A: [Insurance coverage that includes Collision and Comprehensive]) – Why do I look at this answer and think “Physical Challenge” from the kids’ TV game show Double Dare?
- PHYLLO DOUGH (57A: [It’s often used when making Middle Eastern Pastries])
It’s always fun to guess correctly what the theme may be even before starting to solve the puzzle, and just had a sneaking feeling that Ph.D. would be separated in each of the themes…and it was. Actually, there was a real tricky intersection that tripped me up for a while, and that was with REATA (31D: [Rodeo rope]) and EOS (35A: [Canon camera]). Initially had an “I” where the “E” should be and didn’t think too much of it, although I was unintentionally confusing the Canon Eos with the Apple iOS. Untangled that soon enough, and that was the only real hang-up. Nice to see ESTELLE get a shoutout in a crossword, as I feel like she gets the least mention of any of The Golden Girls quartet in crosswords (41D: [Actress Getty of “The Golden Girls”]). I usually try to pick an ATHLETE for the next graph that has stood out on the playing field for all of the right reasons, but today is going to be an exception (49A: [Jock]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BENNETT (9D: [Legendary singer Tony]) –Although projecting the success of an amateur player at the professional level is an inexact science, I think it’s safe to say that current Toronto Raptors basketball player Anthony BENNETT might be one of the biggest draft day busts in professional sports history. Taken No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft out of UNLV by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bennett did not have a game in which he scored 10 points until his 33rd career game, an NBA record drought for a No. 1 pick to begin his career. Having already been traded (by Cleveland) and released (by Minnesota) in less than two years, Bennett is currently averaging 1.5 points per game for the Raptors, and has played in only 15 games this season.
Have a great weekend, everybody! Hope you all have fun and stay out of trouble!
Steven J. St. John’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
This is an early-week theme – three vertical answers end in an extremely loose synonym for “FOGGY”. This is revealed at FOGGYBOTTOM. I needed most of the crossers to get that revealer, which is only barely familiar to me, although I’m not American.
To list, themers are:
- [Suspected of misdeeds], UNDERACLOUD
- [Psychedelic rock classic of 1967], PURPLEHAZE
- [Spent], OUTOFSTEAM
Strangely, despite the easy theme-type – no “?” or otherwise disguised theme answers – I found this to be of typical Friday LAT difficulty. I can’t point to why though in retrospect…
Some notable points:
- [Write-off], TOTALLOSS. I found this clue simple, yet cleverly opaque.
- [Big name in hairstyling], SASSOON. I first encountered that name when I got a Pocahontas Vidal Sassoon gift pack at age 10. It was an odd gift… The name was memorable though!
- [Relative of Rex], FIDO. I put down a FIDO yesterday, sadly. He was a surrender to our kennels, but unpredictable with people and had gotten into a fairly bad fight with another dog; as always, we are bursting at the seams so the big picture comes into play…
- [Run up the score on], HUMILIATE. Not sure I’m familiar with the phrase in the clue as used; I was trying to come up with a word like shellac or skunk, only with more letters. Is that the sense it’s being used in?
- [One may begin with “In a world…”], TRAILER. Opaque clue. Needs the “trailer voice” to be obvious…
P.S., here’s a preteen tribute to a left-handed genius:
Alisa Rosenthal and Matthew Sewell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Flipped Classrooms” — pannonica’s write-up
After completion—which took longer than a typical 15×15 due to the I hope understandable delay in recognizing that the theme entries were reversed—I thought it was challenging yet enjoyable, but also random.
Aha, but I was conscientious this time; took a few seconds to see if “flipped classroom” might be an actual phrase rather than just a description of the mechanics. Indeed it is, and something personally unfamiliar as it’s an educational approach adopted after my time in schools, and only enabled by on-line ubiquity.
So there’s a method to the madness, or to be more accurate, there is no madness to the method. And I’m not mad about that.
Annnnyway, each of the six themers is an ‘unorthodox tool’, which simply means that said item is rendered back-to-front.
- 18a. [Unorthodox tool in a journalism class?] SWEVIFEHT (the Five Ws). The pluralized initial makes this the toughest one to parse, which makes it a little cruel as a first theme entry.
- 22a. [Unorthodox tool in a chemistry class?] ELBATCIDOIREP (periodic table).
- 31a. [ … in a political science class?] PAMLAROTCELE (electoral map).
- 40a. [ … a ceramics class?] LEEHWYRETTOP (pottery wheel).
- 50a. [ … an anatomy class?] NOTELEKSNAMUH (human skeleton).
- 58a. [ … a music class?] EMONORTEM (metronome).
Even though such apparent gobblydegook, as it coalesces in a crossword grid like a developing photographic print, is totemic of radical wordplay—and most commonly simple reversal—it inevitably induces wavering confidence in the solver until a firm grasp is attained. Which means it takes longer, especially if one, say, forgot to look at the title, or forgot to be Dan Feyer or one of those other super-solvers (ACPT coming up, you know).
- 1a [Vegan salad topping (really!)] BAC-OS (not BACON); 53d [Disquieting, maybe] EERIE.
- 3d [Participates in the Reek Sunday pilgrimage, say] CLIMBS; 5d [Reek Sunday honoree, familiarly] ST PAT. 53d [Disquieting, maybe] EERIE. Yes, I know. If there had been three, that’d definitely be a sign of unhealthy obsession.
- 37d [Saxophonist Beneke who sings on “Chattanooga Choo Choo”] TEX. Not to be confused with cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. The recording was released in 1941 by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, but in ’41 Beneke was also part of the Sratslla Emonortem ensemble.
- 35d [Cynical coinage for the sentimentality of films like “It’s a Wonderful Life”] CAPRACORN. New to me, and I like it. “Pomp and Sirkumstance”, anyone?
- Adding to the difficulty of that themer at 18-across was my confusion with three stacked crossing down answers: 9d [Poetic coda] ENVOI (totally blanked on this), 19d [Camp David Accords signatory: Abbr.] ISR (was thinking of a person’s initials, e.g., JEC, MAS (?), M?B, and was more than nonplussed), 10d [“Dreamgirls” role] EFFIE. Ouch ouch ouch.
- 4d [Tuba output, stereotypically] OOM-PAH-PAH. Obliged to mention the non-partial representation, which of course I’m partial to here.
- 6d [Washboard __ ] ABS. I … uhm … confidently filled this in with SAM. I blame it on the oompahs and benekes. Heck, even 33d [2015 Pulitzer nominee for “Lovely, Dark, Deep”] OATES made me think of Jay C Higginbotham!
- 56d [Seagoing novel featuring the roguish Doctor Long Ghost] OMOO. Quintessential crossword fill, but clued with fresh information, at least for this solver.
Mostly clean fill, very solid theme, and tougher than most.
Hand up for DR EVIL (*places ringed pinky finger to right of mouth*)
Puzzle was pretty easy for me in spite of being musically challenged and getting off to a bad start at the had to be answer for 1D.
I was surprised and delighted to see a puzzle focused on music I not only know well, but could hum if I wanted to (which mercifully I don’t.), and I’m also happy to see it reviewed positively. But until I got to 34a, I couldn’t figure out why the qualification “-born” was necessary for the theme clues. Jacques Offenbach was in every respect a French composer — except that he was indeed born Jakob Offenbach in Germany. The “German-born” description is almost as irrelevant and misleading as calling John McEnroe a “German-born tennis player.”– Also true.
The music of Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg is problem the least generally familiar of the composers featured. They both belong to that genre variously referred to as “atonality,” “12-tone” and “serialism.” I prefer the term “serialism” and don’t like “atonality”, but it would probably take too much of a discourse to fully explain why. The important factor in serial technique and the way in which the 12 chromatic tones of the octave are deployed and treated.
Perhaps because I was already positively disposed, I found the puzzle easy. My thanks to Jacob, Will and Amy
I will add this: The serialists are viewed by some as difficult and inaccessible. The Schoenberg and Berg pieces I would most recommend would be Schoenberg’s 2nd String Quartet, where a soprano mysteriously comes in at the end. There is also his string sextet Verklarte Nacht which probably evinces most clearly the gradual transition from 19th century Viennese Romanticism to serial technique.
For Berg it would clearly be his great violin concerto, with its stunning ending, as the violin ascends slowly and quietly into the heavens. He also wrote an excellent piano sonata, and the opera Lulu, which is — OK.
I like the Lyric Suite; my introduction and hence reference version is the Kronos Quartet, with Dawn Upshaw.
Jeez. “probably,” that is, not problem.
Wiki has interesting notes on Alban Berg, including: “Even to have an association with someone who was Jewish could lead to denunciation, and Berg’s “crime” was to have studied with the Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg. Berg found that opportunities for his work to be performed in Germany were becoming rare, and eventually his music was proscribed and placed on the (Nazi) list of degenerate music.”
Very nice contrast in tone today between the NYT and BZF. I enjoyed both of them, even if I am a classical music ignoramus (I knew Verdi and Bach at least).
Small demerit in BZF for the TFAL/AMICI section (both of those are bad enough without crossing) and for the clue for SLAM (“Move that may follow a Cobra Clutch”). Although I’m sure you can a find match in which a slam follows a Cobra Clutch somewhere down the line, there is no natural progression between the two moves. (It’s a bit like saying a pass play may follow a field goal in football — true, but very inapt.) In fact, the Cobra Clutch is typically a submission hold, so often nothing follows it, slam or otherwise.
Nice puzzle, although it took me a long time to understand the doubly-clued acrosses. I misread them as meaning that the down answer for the second part was relevant, which left me wondering whether SCHOENBERG BOY was how he was referred to by his contemporaries.
The NW was tough. The ENNIS/ANNALEE/FEMBOT combo was hard to suss out.
I suppose ARNOLD was a gimme for lots of people, but not me. I never watched that show much, and it seems a long, long time ago now. Because it was.
Bruce — thanks for the music recommendations. I hear BERG occasionally on WETA radio in the DC area, but they stay away from SCHOENBERG. On the other hand they seem inordinately fond of Ludwig Spohr and Johann Nepomuk Hummel, two distinctly minor composers who, I’m guessing, wrote a lot of short pieces that are handy for filling in those small gaps in the programming schedule.
Hummel is on my list of very good, not quite first-rate composers. He was a virtuoso pianist and piano composer, and long-time friend of Beethoven. My recollection is that he played at Beethoven’s funeral.
That NW was very hard for me, especially because my 1a was wrong for so long and I didn’t know FEMBOT or ANNALEE.
Bruce, I did very much appreciate your comments about Schoenberg and Berg. As for our local music station, what they use for fillers (sic) is the Mendelsohn Octet, over and over and over. Nothing wrong with it per se, of course.
Obligated to point out that I was pleased that ARNOLD wasn’t cross-referenced with SCHOENBERG.
Also pleased to see Ida clued as the recent Polish film, which I’ve encountered in crosswords only once or twice but wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more.
Re NYT – I loved it, though Fridays are hard for me and this one took a long time. But I got it. Of course Dr. Evil first. I know nothing about Austin Powers or Happy Days, and that’s not all I know nothing about.
I was thrilled to hear Jacob Stulberg DJ-ing Columbia University’s Bachfest in December (the most fun event of the year). What a guy!
Lois, I agree.
It’s a little late to post this, but of course the Happy Days ARNOLD was a puzzle bonus for Arnold SCHOENBERG. I got this only late yesterday, and then was away from a computer. I would have preferred the Austrian ARNOLD (I’ll be back!) to Happy Days, but I guess it’s a little something for everyone.
Thanks, Zulema! And thanks Jacob!
I at first missed Pannonica’s note about ARNOLD above, although I had quickly looked for a similar note, but I’ll leave my comment instead of asking for a deletion.
I’ll kvetch again about the Reply system over a chronological listing of comments, but one can’t fight today’s trends.
As a former “classical” music jock during my graduate student days, I would have loved to hear that: [intoned in my best deep radio voice] — “WBBF FM Rochester: the station which respects the tastes and welcomes the comments of its listeners.” :-) I’m sure it has long since moved on to other things.
Thinking of Robert Klein’s “FM Disc Jockey”.
Stulberg was basically playing music.
I wasn’t able to appreciate the fine points of Pannonica’s recommendation because my husband is vacuuming. I’ll try to get back to this later.
LAT: Way too many “stretches” (i.e. hams =EMOTERS, fry=SAUTE)) – ask any cook or acting coach – and commercial logo tie-ins (i.e. maple syrup target = EGGO) tire me – where can we escape from commercialism being jammed down our throats? This one barely registered on the Clever Scale.
I’m with you on the ouch, ouch, ouch corner. It was the last area to fall, and even the “fall back” gain was eluding me for a while. At one point — after I had ENVOI and EFFIE, I finally wrote this down outside the grid:
And I’m saying , “WTF? Even written-down un-reversed it makes no sense!” Then I finally got ISR and SEHR.