Jeff Stillman’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Today’s theme is male pseudonyms of female authors:
- ELLIS BELL (pen name of Emily Brontë)
- ISAK DINESEN (Karen Christenze Dinesen)
- ROBERT GALBRAITH (Joanne “Jo” (J.K.) Rowling)
- GEORGE ELIOT (Mary Ann Evans)
- ANDY STACK (Anne Rule)
I like the theme idea, and I like learning new things. It would be great if taking on a male or gender-neutral pen name was not necessary for a lot of good books to get publishing deals, though. Emily Brontë’s pen name is new to me, and I had not heard of ANDY STACK or Anne Rule. This caused me problems in the SE corner, as I had ITHACA instead of ITASCA and had to guess a little on the S after I realized [Fashion editor Wintour] was either ANNE or ANNA and not ANNH.
The fill has some interesting bits, such as HAIKU, Via VENETO, BARONY, and RIPSAW in particular. I’m not in love with entries like BEDIMS, MINIM, or MLI (or any Roman numeral, really).
Not much else for me to say about this puzzle. I was going to write a HAIKU to include here, but I’ll spare you all. Instead, here are some pretty CIRRI.
Matt Skoczen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ain’t Misbehavin'” — Jim’s review
They’re having trouble over at the WSJ puzzle website (it wouldn’t even load the puzzle at all this morning), and recently, their iPad app has inexplicably been missing the puzzle. So I’m sure a lot of their regulars are pretty upset right about now with all the upheaval and changes. Fortunately, the puzzle can be found here on the Fiend by clicking on the “Today’s Puzzles” link up top.
So if you managed to find the puzzle and solve it, good on you. It comes to us from Matt Skoczen, who I hope can give us some pointers on how to pronounce his surname.
Maybe his theme is appropriate for today as I imagine all the irate solvers in WSJ-land. His advice to them is to mind their PS AND QS (29a: [Something to mind, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]).
- 17a [Series of documents waiting to be output] PRINT QUEUE. A gimme for me.
- 59a [Class surprises] POP QUIZZES. Another easy one.
- 11d [Ivy League team] PENN QUAKERS. Didn’t know this. I could guess PENN, but didn’t know they were the QUAKERS. Would that make them the “Fightin’ QUAKERS“?
- 26a [Carpenter and playwright in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”] PETER QUINCE. Didn’t know this one, either, having never read that play.
So the themers fell into two camps for me: Absolute gimmes which I didn’t need any crossings for, or things unknown to me. This made for a somewhat disjointed solve.
But on the whole, it’s a nice grid. All the Qs are handled well—not a single abbreviation among them. The non-theme Q-words are: INQUESTS, EPOQUE, QANTAS, QUAALUDE, ROQUE.
Really nice, presuming you know how to spell QUAALUDE and have heard of ROQUE. I did neither. Consequently I was Naticked at the first two letters of 52a RAINS ON [Spoils, in a way]. I don’t think I would have ever guessed that QUAALUDE was spelled with two As; I tried Y, I, E, L. Nothing worked, obviously. And ROQUE? Apparently it’s an American variant of croquet which was popular in the early 20th century. It was even an Olympic sport in 1904…but just the once.
I like the international feel in the grid with entries VENEZIA (nice), THEBES, SHIVA, TAI-PAN, ASSAM, and the aforementioned QANTAS. Also French NON and MARDI. Some people don’t care for foreign language words in their puzzles, but I think these are all pretty fair with ASSAM and TAI-PAN being crosswordese.
Other favorite entries are PANSIES, NATCH, MR SULU, and ZOT (61d, [“B.C.” sound effect]).
So despite my struggles with half of the theme answers and being Naticked, I give the grid a thumbs-up, especially given all the Q-challenges our constructor faced. So let’s mind our PS AND QS and hopefully we can all just get along.
Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “Head of the Department of Redundancy Department” — Ben’s Review
After last week’s challenging and fun guest puzzle from Natan Last, Aimee Lucido provides this week’s AV Club puzzle, whose 2/5 difficulty is offset by its slightly larger size – 17×17 instead of the usual 15×15. The title of the puzzle made the theme entries very clear:
- 19A: Superfluous result of a TV host being promoted to sovereign leader? — EMPEROR KING
- 34A: Superfluous result of the creator of “Silicon Valley” being elected to the Supreme Court? — JUSTICE JUDGE
- 48A: Superfluous result of Vermont’s former governor taking the helm at one of its high schools? — PRINCIPAL DEAN
- 65A: Superfluous result of a certain rat back member being ordained? — FATHER BISHOP
- 82A: Superfluous result of the actress playing Hellen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” ruling over land in the U.K.? — DUCHESS DUKE
Again, this was a charming theme whose gist I knew before I started the grid, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of discovering the answers. For many of these, I had half the answer (Mike JUDGE before JUSTICE, Patty DUKE before realizing it was looking for DUCHESS as the title), which still gave it a little challenge as I worked on the corresponding downs. Elsewhere in the grid:
- 22A: Hamburger ___ — MENU
- 44A: Anime show and trading card game with an exclamation point in the title — YUGIOH (Of the many shows like this that popped up in the late 90s, I was always more into Pokemon)
- 53A: Instrument in Mariah Carey’s “Hero” — OBOE (A new twist on some old fill!)
- 75A: Green smoothie addition — KALE (Please stop putting kale in everything. I’ve come around to liking the stuff, but enough is enough)
- 1D: Figure opposite Marian, Eleanor, and Martin, on the new $5 bill — ABE (I am SO excited by the new changes coming to the various US bills – it’s nice to see our money better reflect the diverse tapestry of people that have had an impact on the growth of our nation)
- 9D: Prince’s st. — MINN (RIP. Purple Rain is wonderfully cheesy, and Prince was always an export of my home state I could be proud of.)
- 15D: Homes for widows — WEBS (I thought this clue was very clever)
- 60D: Yellow ___ (East China Sea segment) — SEA (I’m assuming this was allowed because of the puzzle’s redundancy theme? UPDATE: As it turns out, this was an infelicity that didn’t get caught. If you got the puzzle later this morning, this should have been corrected)
- 63D: Sweet, to Versace, or a Versace rival — DOLCE (this was another clever clue)
If that big list of clues/fill wasn’t an indication, I really liked this puzzle. Clever and straightforward, which is nice every once in a while.
Mike Doran’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Heterographs! A well-worn theme path. Still, this an interesting set – with four of the five spellings I can think for SAKS. GENESAKS’ estate will be writing letters shortly… The other are split evenly between plurals and singular. We have POTATOSACKS, AMNIOTICSACS, GOLDMANSACHS, and BARITONESAX (didn’t know what type of SAX Ms. Simpson played, and didn’t know there were other saxes beyond tenor and alto…)
The puzzle’s fill is mostly benign. There’s not many particularly special answers, but apart from your RAMMER and your SNORER, nothing that particularly offends either.
- [Old anesthetic], ETHER. Still used in birds, at least here.
- [Nobel Prize subj.], ECON. The prize has nothing to do with any of the Nobels, and was tacked on later. Alfred’s descendents are not impressed…
- Which of the four was THE/AMEN/BEATLE?
[Modern birthday greetings], ECARDS – people do this?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “All About Nothing” —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Hope all is well on this Hump Day. Today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, includes multiple-word theme entries in which a word synonymous with nothing spans the two-word answers.
- BIKINI LINE (17A: [Result of a day at the beach, perhaps])
- WURLITZER ORGAN (25A: [Instrument heard at theaters during silent films])
- BANANA DAIQUIRI (41A: [Rum cocktail])
- RENO NEVADA (55A: [“The Biggest Little City in the World”])
Initially had “gloat” instead of BLOAT (46A: [Puff up]), which made the sports reference for BATS turn into “gats,” making me wonder for a second if someone’s letting in firearms at a baseball field (46D: [Ball club ball clubs?]). That clue for “bats” was a tongue twister as well. Probably my favorite fill of the day was ALL-NIGHTER, something I pulled off a couple of thousand times when I was in school (11D: [College cram session]). Does anyone use the term TREED anymore, when describing someone/something that’s in a jam anymore (27D: [In a jam, in a way])? Of course, this grid is going to get extra love from me since it has my nickname, ADE, in it (20A: [Fruit drink]). Just make sure you don’t pronounce it like you’re saying “aid,” and we’ll be ok!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOATS (5A: [Castle protectors]) – In 2004, then Louisiana Tech University running back Ryan MOATS announced himself onto the national stage, rushing for 1,774 yards en route to becoming the 2004 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. A few months later, he was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, and he spent parts of five seasons in the National Football League.
Thank you, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
NYT: I really wanted to love this, because we don’t often get puzzles celebrating great women. But while Isak Dinesen and George Eliot are authors who are best known under their pen names, Emily Bronte’s and JK Rowling’s real names are better known than their pseudonyms. I vaguely heard of Ann Rule, but never as Andy Stack, and neither is in the same league as the others. I wonder whether the puzzle would have been better with only 4 theme answers, and some cluing that recognized the two subgroups of authors…
NYT: C’mon! Women authors and peppy fill! Plus it made me feel smart since I knew them all until I got to Andy Stack…even though I can never get the vowels straight in Dinesen…
Gender reversal reminded me of the famous dog star Lassie, as all the dogs portraying Lassie in films through the years were male.
Loved the theme of the NYT today, even if it made me realize my own blindspot in knowing the pen names of these authors. That said, I knew ROBERT GALBRAITH right away, which likely speaks to which of these books I read most recently.
Today’s AVCX, as sent out, contains an infelicity. It has been corrected, and solvers later in the morning received the edited version. Apologies to others.
Also, at least in the early version, the clue for 47D is “bumbling fool”, duping 37D. Didn’t take away from the fact that I loved the puzzle, though.
NYT: Interesting to see the placement of the theme answers in this grid which create the 5×5 white space in the NE and SW. 11/9/15/9/11 would also have been possible, reducing the size of the open areas but also potentially allowing more long Downs.
NYT: That ANNA/ITASCA crossing was brutal — total Natick. Probably would have been better to go with “Actress Kendrick” as the clue for ANNA. If Google is to be believed, she is much more well-known than Anna Wintour.
Interesting — that didn’t bother me at all. Obviously, any time you have proper names crossing there is Natick potential, but how do you decide what counts as reasonable general knowledge versus obscure arcana? Google counts are one way to go, I suppose. Or you could ban all proper name crossings, but I guess that would make life hard for constructors.
For me, the crossing of ELLISBELL and CHEN was tougher. I don’t know who Ms Chen is but (after a moment) I remembered ELLIS. Could’ve been ALLIS, though, in principle.
“How do you decide what counts as reasonable general knowledge versus obscure arcana?”
Obviously it’s a judgement call, but there are a few rules-of-thumb I follow when constructing.
1. If it’s a common name with no common alternative then you don’t need to worry about it too much. For example, if ANNA/ITASCA crossed at the first A in ANNA, it would be fair because A is by far the most reasonable guess. At the last A, the solver is basically guessing between E and A, if they’ve never heard of either cross. (This is also why I wasn’t bothered by CHEN/ELLIS despite not knowing either. Sure, it could be ALLIS, but that’s not a common last name. ELLIS, on the other hand, is quite common.)
2. I think Google hits are a decent (but imperfect) measure of popularity. I try to not use any names with under 100,000 at all and consider anybody with over 1 million more or less fair game (i.e., I don’t worry about crossing with other proper nouns).
3. If I do use a potential Natick, then I try to clue each entry in the most familiar way possible. That’s mainly why I didn’t like the cross. Anna Kendrick gets over 12 million Google hits to Anna Wintour’s 660 K.
A well-known movie, The Devil Wears Prada, was based on the character of Anna Wintour. That is not enough of an argument against your number-of-hits argument perhaps, but to me she’s more famous than Anna Kendrick (although I know who that is).
“Palindromic name” would remove all ambiguity, if necessary, but it’s tougher. Or, go with one of the many other famous Annas. Shoddy decision, cluing ANNA the way it was.
I disagree. Anna Wintour is well known to me. Kendrick is not. To each his or her own. But Andy Stack was unknown to me, the others well known. Enjoyed the theme, definitely.
Perfect response. “Shoddy” is a pretty strong and arrogant word for ignorance.
You’ve hit upon a pet peeve of mine: When people judge what’s common knowledge or what’s “crossworthy” based on what they themselves know and do not know. This is a fallacy. It’s like judging the demographics of the world based on the people in your neighborhood.
Unlike you (and Lois) , I actually have multiple sources of empirical evidence to determine what’s “crosswordy”.
Good luck next time.
Looks like, as part of the changes to the WSJ puzzle site, you can no longer comment without signing in. The choice is between subscribing, which I imagine is what they’re hoping to encourage, or to sign in with Facebook or Google+, giving them information about your tastes, which I imagine is something else they wouldn’t mind, to target advertising. No less revealing sign-in, such as Disqus. Not nice. (Also an extra click or two just to get the puzzle.)
I’ve definitely read “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a classic. In high school I also got to see the now legendary Peter Brook production with the faeries on trapezes, one of those experiences I can truly say changed my life. Shakespeare also obliged me to correct my first entry to 1A, with SOAR for “Coast,” rather than SOAP. Yes, ROQUE was totally new to me.
The trick (I learned from British trivia) to remembering the Bronte sisters’ pseudonyms is to remember that the initials match up. Anne is Acton Bell, Charlotte is Currer Bell, and Emily is Ellis Bell.
Not sure if whoever did today’s comments on the WSJ will see this, but my name is pronounced like GOES-IN with the “S” sound in front. SGOES – IN. That’s the US pronunciation.
It’s Polish, and pronounced in Polish as SKUTCH-EN.
Thanks for the comments on Ps and Qs, nevertheless!
or, in Polish: Dzienkuje! JEN-KOY-YEH
Thanks for the response, Matt, and the linguistics tips. My wife and daughter will be taking a trip to Krakow in July. Got any recommendations?
My only recommendation is: TAKE ME!
I have never been to Poland, but it is my dream. When I turned 50 (last year), I wanted to treat myself to a trip. Alas, no work, and, thus, no money stopped me.
I wish I could give recommendations! May they enjoy their trip!
Does anyone happen to know why we haven’t seen the LAT in AcrossLite format for a couple of days? I’m appreciative of whomever it is who goes to the trouble of providing it.
Short answer – Kevin McCann is having server issues.