Thursday, September 1, 2016

BEQ 8:06 (Ben) 


CS 8:29 (Ade) 


LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 


NYT ~5 minutes (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Ben Tausig’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 1 16, no 0901

NY Times crossword solution, 9 1 16, no 0901

So I solved the puzzle but didn’t get the thumbs-up from the solving software because I pretty much ignored the end of the clue for GENDER-FLUID, 37a. [Having a variable identity, as suggested by four squares in this puzzle]. This isn’t a tournament, and it is late in the evening—so I didn’t bother reviewing the whole puzzle to find them, I just used the “check” function and homed in on the squares that I’ve circled. I had an M or F in each of them, but I needed to enter both of them. 1a. [Part of a house] was a weird clue for ROOM … and it’s also a weird clue for ROOF. F and M, your gender-fluid options here.

To 4d. [Fabricate] something is to MAKE it, or lie and FAKE it. 5a. [Old-seeming] clues both MUSTY and FUSTY (I prefer FUSTY). This one crosses 5d. [Reveal a secret, say], FESS UP or MESS UP (by violating a confidence, a bit stretchier of a clue there).

61a. [Topic to ask a fortuneteller about] is FATE or MATE45d. [It’s combined at the beginning] clues PREFIX or PREMIX.

67a. [Tough stuff to walk through] is MIRE or FIRE. 60d. [Word that can precede sex] crisply clues both SAME and SAFE; I wonder if this was the seed for the puzzle.

So it’s sort of a Schrödinger theme, but with the letters that change strictly limited to M and F. Although in a GENDER-FLUID puzzle, sometimes those letters might be both, or neither. *deep thoughts*

Three more things:

  • 12d. [Snake’s place, partly], OREGON. That would be the Snake River. This whole corner was tough. TORO clued as sushi (which I cannot eat, so don’t give me any crap about my unfamiliarity with the ways of sushi), a tricky clue for XEROX ([Run off, in a way]), the uncommon phrases GO NEXT and LOW ART … it’s a good thing I encountered AC/DC’s “TNT” during my adolescence to help out here.
  • 1d. [Cause of some allergy flare-ups], RAGWEED. You know what? I’ve only been hit by seasonal allergies once. It was in May 2007, in England. I thought I had the worst cold of my life until I tried an antihistamine (one that’s not available over the counter in the U.S., which is a shame because it was amazing) and was 95% cured. I was lucky on the allergy front (but I make up for it in other ways).
  • 10d. [Best-selling author who was a neighbor of Twain in Hartford], STOWE. Harriet Beecher Stowe, I presume. I’d have gotten this a lot faster if she were clued by her work rather than the guy who lived nearby.

4.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Back In School” — Ben’s Review

Back In School

Back In School

It’s September already!  Feels like we were just starting the summer.  6 years on from graduation, there’s something in my brain that’s still attuned to the academic calendar – living in a massive college town like Boston doesn’t do much to tamp that down, either.  2016 may have started in January, but September still feels like a new year in Cambridge.

BEQ seems to be in the same spirit with this week’s theme entries:

  • 18A: Sly’s emo boxer? — SULLEN ROCKY
  • 20A: Letters from a Muslim’s deity? — ALLAH NOTES
  • 30A: Rouse Martin known for nailing tenets to a church door? — AWAKEN A LUTHERAN
  • 42A:  “I need help getting this into English”? — HELP ME TRANSLATE
  • 57A: Mos uncomfortable place to sleep for overnight guests? — WORST FUTON
  • 60A: Wreck Italy’s capital? — DESTROY ROME

It’s all about going back to school – a college’s name is backwards in each entry.  From top to bottom, we have CORNELL, SETON HALL, TULANE, TEMPLE, TUFTS (the first entry I got since it’s basically in my backyard), and EMORY.

I’ll keep my other notes short and sweet this time, since I need a bit more coffee:

  • 9D: “___ was crazy and could be grounded” (“Catch-22”) — ORR (Finding a new clue for ORR is admirable, but I read Catch-22 earlier this year and I couldn’t place this answer without the crossings.)
  • 36D: Supposedly unscripted programming — REALITY TV (I can tell I’ve been programming again because I was trying to parse this into some name of a programming language.)
  • other fill I liked: CADRE, REEBOK, BUGLE CALL, CO-HOST

4/5 stars.

Tracey Gordimer’s (Mike Shenk’s?) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back to School” — Jim’s review

Four-letter school names are found backwards in four theme answers.

WSJ - Thu, 9.1.16 - "Back to School" by Tracey Gordimer (Mike Shenk?)

WSJ – Thu, 9.1.16 – “Back to School” by Tracey Gordimer (Mike Shenk?)

  • 16a [Signal to start playing] MUSICAL CUE & 47d [School back in 16-Across] UCLA
  • 24a [Resistance-measuring device] BRIDGE CIRCUIT & 25d [School back in 24-Across] RICE
  • 42a [Jambalaya seasoning] CAYENNE PEPPER & 49d [School back in 42-Across] PENN
  • 54a [Art director’s creation] PAGE LAYOUT & 33d [School back in 54-Across] YALE

The theme is fine. BRIDGE CIRCUIT is a little out there as a theme entry, though. Heck, I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and I didn’t even know the term (Note: I’m not claiming to be a good electrical engineer).

But the puzzle gets completely bogged down in trivia and proper names. Here’s the list: NILS Lofgren, E Street Band guitarist (among many other things) and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer; GIA [Scala of “The Price of Fear”]; James ARNESS, [Marshall Dillon’s portrayer] in Gunsmoke, and the only name from this list I recognized; [British historian A.L.] ROWSE crossing ELIAS [Literature Nobelist Canetti] — yikes(!); and [Saxophonist Beneke] (TEX), associate of Glenn Miller and soloist heard in “In The Mood.” Lastly, we needed to know that Grant Wood was an IOWAN; he’s the painter of American Gothic, by the way.

But wait, there’s more: PAVANES are [Stately dances of the Renaissance]; EGER is a [Hungarian town known for its red wine] — not by me, though; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is apparently a pub in London that serves up ALES; and finally, “tintinnabulation” means PEALS, though Wikipedia describes it as “the lingering sound of a ringing bell that occurs after the bell has been struck.” Interestingly, the word was coined by good ol’ E.A. Poe.

More things that irked: A [Horn sound] is not a BEEP or TOOT, but a BLAT, and I’ve never heard that CHI CHI meant [Pretentiously stylish]. [“___ unrelated matter…”] sounds to me like IN AN, but nope, it’s ON AN. And SYL is just plain bad [Pronunc. part]. I didn’t even know “pronunciation” could be abbreviated.

There are some highlights in the grid: ROCKET SHIP [Tom Swift’s Star Spear, e.g.] — more trivia, I know — FRIENDED, and OVERACT. We also get IN EXCHANGE and TOP LAYER (or TO PLAYER, if you prefer).

So while the theme is okay, it’s completely dominated by uncommon proper names and trivial clues, and yes, a few sub-par entries.

Let’s end on a good note, though, just as the puzzle did. 61a is [2015 film that got a Best Picture nomination]. I don’t recall hearing about the film, but ROOM looks very powerful.

Al Hollmer and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

lat160901Interesting concept – otherwise unrelated settings for different types of strikes. Two are sports venues: BASEBALLPARK and BOWLINGALLEY. The FRONTLINE (of a war, though not specified) and a UNIONSHOP (wasn’t sure what that precisely was; it seems to be a workplace where union membership is required). All valid phrases, not roll-your-own ones, which is a big strength. What other options were there? Perhaps MININGCLAIM or similar, though can’t find a punchy way of connecting that sense of the word. Anyway…

The top left stack is great: CAMERASHY and TRIMESTER; I would’ve preferred a pregnancy clue for the latter, personally. PALOOKA and ABALONE are also vibrant one-word choices. The latter is usually called perlemoen here.

Lots of sportsing going on the centre: Rene LACOSTE, IAN Woosnam (not his golf contemporary Baker-Finch) and CAL Ripken in the same area as the two thematic sports venues. Might have been an idea to spread those names around a little…


  • [Shady garden denizen], HOSTA – the clue’s use of “shady” for “shade-loving” felt a little too loose and cute for me.
  • [Psychologist May], ROLLO – Not a name I know.
  • [They’re often found in dens], RECLINERS – the clue of the puzzle!

3.5 Stars

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Get It While It’s Hot” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.01.16: "Get It While It's Hot"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.01.16: “Get It While It’s Hot”

Happy Thursday, everyone! Oh, and Happy September, the best month of the entire year! (OK, I might be a little biased because my birthday is this month.) Today’s puzzle was brought to us by Buster Poindexter…oops, I mean David Johansen…oops, I mean Mr. Jeff Chen. Here’s hoping the audience reading this is old enough to know why I just made those references. If not, you’ll see near the very end of my blog. The theme is straightforward, so I won’t explain it here. I’ll let the upcoming YouTube video do that.

  • STOLEN CAR (17A: [It’s hot!])
  • LATEST FAD (24A: [It’s hot!])
  • SPICY FOOD (35A: [It’s hot!]) – Love my spicy foods!
  • LOVE SCENE (50A: [It’s hot!])
  • SUMMER DAY (57A: [It’s hot!]) – This entire summer in New York has pretty much been scorching!

You see OHO in grids a lot (39D: [“What do we have here?”]). You see AHA in grids a lot as well (46A: [“By George, I think I’ve got it!”]). But OHO crossing AHA? Well, that’s new for me in terms of seeing that in a grid. Loved all of the theme entries, as none of the themes seemed to be a stretch. Also liked the paralleling answers of I DISAGREE (34D: [“That’s bunk”]) and FULL BLAST, with the latter being something I’m finding myself saying more and more (4D: [At maximum power]). Before heading out though, I think I’m converting one of my new friends here inside of the USTA Media Room, Ben, into a crossword junkie. We’ve been talking crosswords for the past two days, ever since I saw him work on yesterday’s New York Times at the front desk.Have to head out as the tennis matches are resuming after a rain delay. But don’t think that I forgot about the video. Here’s it is…and it’s Hot! Hot! Hot!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OTIS (62A: [Redding who sang “The Dock of the Bay”]) – Though the New York Mets wanted to make him an infielder, former Kansas City Royals star Amos OTIS went on to become one of the best two-way outfielders in Major League Baseball in the 1970s. Otis was a part of some great Kansas City Royals teams of the 1970s, as he made five All-Star Game appearances and won three Gold Gloves. In the 1980 World Series, Otis hit .478 with three home runs and was the Royals’ best hitter in their series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

TGIF tomorrow! Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you then!

Take care!


This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Thursday, September 1, 2016

  1. Uncle Vinny says:

    Lots of LGBTQ-familiar answers in the grid: ICON, EQUUS, DANDY, QUEER, XENA, SPUNK(!), maybe even OUTIES. Fun puzzle! Even if the M/F squares weren’t distributed as evenly as one might hope.

  2. Master Misters says:

    I completed it with Acrosslite using only Ms so the gimmick eluded me. If you want you can give my one star rating to the Acrosslite programmer although the fill was mediocre, the clue for Oregon worst of the year material and the gimmick retread if memory serves.

  3. joecab says:

    I had RUSTY and DUSTY before MUSTY/FUSTY. That’s a lot of similar meanings for four words only differing by their first letter.

  4. Evad says:

    I was definitely showing my feminine side this morning as all the M/F’s were F in my finished grid and I was looking instead for X/Y changes when done. (The great Merl had a X/Y gender-bender in an ACPT puzzle 5 as I recall.)

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was great. And figuring out the theme helped me in the SW, since TENACE and SUTTON were not at my fingertips.
    I liked that the oxymoronic fluid squares were not symmetrical. It would have been too easy if they had been.
    Some interesting juxtapositions– DYSTOPIA, SOONERS, ODYSSEY

  6. Norm says:

    Nice enough puzzle although a tad easy for a Thursday, and the unwilling of AcrossLite to accept FM as a correct answer was extremely annoying.

    • pannonica says:

      I again blame the patriarchy.

      • huda says:

        Honestly, I have enough computer geeks in my lab and in my family to know that this should be totally fixable and made significantly more flexible to accommodate varied options for rebus and alternative fill in a given square. Someone needs to care enough about the solving process, get feedback from users and commission the next generation of AcrossLite.
        I don’t know who owns what in the context of the NYT puzzle, but if you are contracting with someone as a vehicle for your product (in this case the puzzle) you can certainly define your expectations within reason. It stands to reason that the electronic platform should function at least as flexibly as the old fashioned paper and pencil.

        • Martin says:

          Across Lite is a fossil. It hasn’t been maintained for years and won’t be. Some solvers, myself included, love it because it allows solved puzzles to be saved as tiny files. But the Times, or anyone else, can’t get it improved.

          The Times would love to drop it, and has been encouraging solvers to use their own app. I hope that the complaints about how primitive AL is never rise to the level that would justify dropping it. But that’s really the only alternative to accepting its weaknesses.

        • pannonica says:

          You’d think the technical shortcomings would have been addressed more sensitively on This Of All Puzzles. At the very least, if no true flexibility were possible, then ensure that two of the ‘rebus’ squares default to F and the other pair to M.

          • Papa John says:

            While I’m not familiar with the history of Across Lite, I do remember when it was last “upgraded” and the authors elicited feedback from the users on the ersatz NYT Forum. I was dismayed at the limited amount of change that was actually done. (None of my suggestions were incorporated in the upgrade). Complaints about those limitations have echoed through the halls of Cruciverbia ever since.

            Like Martin, I still very much enjoy the software and prefer it to any of the online applets (if that’s the right term), despite its shortcomings.

            It’s probably as much about not having to teach an old dog new tricks as anything. I’ve learned how to deal with it, such as, knowing that the order of the M/F rebus is not a product of any willful sexism but, rather, the way A/C works. The across entry in the rebus square always goes first in that square.

            Long live Across Lite!

          • pannonica says:

            This isn’t an issue of across or down, as either letter works in both directions. My criticism stands.

            For the record, I prefer the .puz format too (but use Mike Richard’ XWord program, which I feel has a better interface).

          • Papa John says:

            When I wrote that about the order of the rebus letters, I didn’t realize that they worked in both directions. I don’t think I’ve ever run across FUSTY, so it didn’t even cross my mind that it was anything else but MUSTY. Doh!

            So let me get this straight — are you actually implying that it is willful sexism?

          • pannonica says:

            I was joking and serious at the same time. But one must admit that it undermines the theme’s overtures.

          • Gary R says:

            It strikes me that making the requirement MF for two of the squares and FM for the other two would make the puzzle even more frustrating for the AcrossLite solver – it becomes a guessing game as to which are MF and which are FM.

            If I understand the GENDER FLUID concept, it’s not just a single transition from an “at birth” gender assignment to an experienced gender identity – but rather a situation where an individual goes back and forth over time with her/his identity. So, maybe it would be more appropriate to consider the four theme squares as a single sequence MFMFMFMF.

            As an aside, there was an “Upshot” article in the NYT about a year ago that looked at estimating the prevalence of transgender, and concluded that MF transitions are about twice as common as FM.

          • pannonica says:

            “… it becomes a guessing game as to which are MF and which are FM.”

            Maybe that uncertainty would be more simpatico?

            Also, you’re correct in that interpretation of the GENDER FLUID concept (which seems a bit capricious to me).

            I suspect there are both societal and medical reasons for the apparent predominance of MtF vs FtM transgender people, and also that that ratio will regress closer to the mean in years to come.

  7. JohnH says:

    Not that I have access to the Thursday Times, but the Times would have ruined this one for me running an article about the puzzle! (I’d never heard of the theme phrase, but live and learn.)

    Much of the WSJ fill feels like sheer desperation.

  8. Joe Pancake says:

    I heard so much buzz about today’s NYT before it was released that I felt a bit let down after solving it. This isn’t to say it’s not a good puzzle — because I think it is — but perhaps it’s a bit overly hyped.

    I love the theme idea, but most the Schrödinger entries are awkwardly clued. F/MUSTY and SAF/ME are both very good. But the others range from kinda contrived (ROOF/M) to downright forced (F/MESS UP).

    The degree of difficulty on this one was incredibly high (it might not even be possible to pull off smoothly), so I definitely appreciate the crafts(wo)manship of the constructor. But overall, for me, this one belongs in the “Hall of Pretty Good” rather than the all-time “Puzzle Pantheon.”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m in about 95% agreement with everything you say here.

      • Ben Smith says:

        Same here! It’s a big moment that the puzzle is using words like this, but all the hype (and the SEO-happy line in the Slate article’s URL) is a bit much. By the time I got to the puzzle this morning, I expected slightly more, given the hype. Pretty good? Yes. One Of The Best Of All Time? No.

  9. Martin says:

    BEQ has the word “help” in the clue for an entry that has the word HELP. (It actually slowed me down a bit.)

    Stuff like that gets jumped all over when the Times does it, but rarely in other puzzles. Maybe because not as many people do the other puzzles? Just curious.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I cast a jaundiced eye on such things, but didn’t solve this puzzle. (I solve very few puzzles that I’m not blogging. The down side of a career in crosswords is that it cuts down on time for enjoying crosswords at leisure!) And yes, with a small fraction of the NYT’s audience, fewer people remark on the indie puzzles and the puzzles from smaller venues (such as the Chronicle of Higher Education).

    • Linda Murray says:

      That bothered me, too, Martin

  10. dave glasser says:

    I admittedly got stuck for a few minutes because I was confident the revealer was GENDERQUEER rather than GENDERFLUID. Finding the down QUEER (not to mention crossings) fixed that. The former term is one I hear a little more often than the latter, I think…

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I did the same thing and fixed it when it became clear that Q didn’t work in the crossings. Then I found QUEER later in the puzzle. I don’t think GENDER QUEER and GENDER FLUID are quite the same thing…but I’m no expert.

  11. Phil says:

    Interesting that BEQ and WSJ had the same theme., which was also the theme of Sunday’s WaPo. Time to retire this idea?

    • Ben Smith says:

      This feels more like a “great minds think alike” situation – everyone’s thinking back-to-school, so it’s not too far off to think that multiple constructors could think of the exact same way to play with that in a grid.

  12. Papa John says:

    What’s the rub with the clue for 1 across? How is a ROOM or a ROOF not “Part of a house”?

    It took me a while to parse the rebuses but, on the whole, I thought this was fair and enjoyable puzzle. I cottoned on to OREGON and LOWART in the northeast corner right away, so that didn’t slow me down. Don’t ask me why, but I filled in GENDERFLUID from only the first two letters. I can’t say I’ve ever heard gender queer but, like Jenni says, “I’m no expert”.

    AMY: I feel your pain about not having the luxury to solve leisurely. I’m sometimes saddened by the negative reviews of puzzles I’ve just done that I thought were quite fun. Deconstruction often displaces the joy of that being analyzed. Don’t ask me why I love my wife. I just do.

  13. Greg says:

    Loved the Ben Tausig NYT puzzle. I figured out from “gender fluid” that it might have a Schrodinger angle, but was led astray as I looked in vain for interchangeable X and Y combos.

    My initial entries were (fittingly enough) gender-balanced: MFFM.

    Really nice, even if not quite in the same league as the all-time great ’96 “Clinton/Bob Dole” Election Day Schrodinger puzzle.

  14. joecab says:

    If you’d like to try a good third-party alternative to Across Lite on the Mac, I recommend Black Ink from Red Sweater Software.

Comments are closed.