Sunday, November 27, 2016

CS tk (Ade) 


Hex/Quigley untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 6:06 (Andy) 


NYT 9:27 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:36 (Jenni) 


Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Mixology”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 27 16, "Mixology"

NY Times crossword solution, 11 27 16, “Mixology”

The theme answers were presumably gathered by having a computer search for words that can combine in an interspersed way to form new words/phrases:

  • 23a. [Infant + straying = noted coach], BEAR BRYANT. The BABY letters are circled, the uncircled letters spell ERRANT, and BEAR BRYANT was a college football coach.
  • 25a. [Less polite + wildly unconventional = epicenter], GROUND ZERO. Ruder, gonzo.
  • 34a. [Urban woe + squirms = pool accessory], SWIM GOGGLES. Smog, wiggles.
  • 43a. [Delay + dodos = some compromises], PLEA BARGAINS. Lag, peabrains.
  • 60a. [Remain + “Hmm …” = R&B great], BO DIDDLEY. Bide, oddly. (Not digging “Hmm…” as the clue for ODDLY.)
  • 70a. [Bill producers + Western wear = info for events], STARTING TIMES. ATMs, string ties.
  • 80a. [Show, informally + African capital = Adonis], DREAMBOAT. Demo, Rabat. The only themer that’s a single word rather than a two-word term.
  • 97a. [Pasty + vacation expense, maybe = hospital specialty], PRENATAL CARE. Pale, rent-a-car. Apparently our editors have never been pregnant, because the vast majority of prenatal care is provided at obstetricians’ offices or clinics. Neonatal intensive care is a hospital thing, but not prenatal care.
  • 103a. [See + umbrella alternative = warming option], RADIANT HEAT. Date, rain hat.
  • 119a. [Regarding + undercoat = network with 303 stations], PARIS METRO. As to, primer.
  • 122a. [Day of the month + succeed = some recital pieces], PIANO DUETS. Ides, pan out. Grid also contains RAT OUT.

Given that there’s no compelling reason to include all 11 of these theme answers (it’s not as if they make a complete set of some sort), I really wish Matt had dropped a couple of them to facilitate a markedly better fill. When your opening corner includes A SEC, EFREM, and SABRA (with that tough clue, [Negev native]) crossing US OF A and SCLERA, there’s room for improvement. ELKO, SNAILED, SERE, ATE A TON, both URSA and OSA, RUTHS, EDDAS, AGAMA (man! been a long time since I’ve seen that old crosswordese), awkward GET A B, APIA, ON NOW, AGNATES (!), PLAIN FACT (that doesn’t seem like a crosswordable phrase), AEREO, OTERI, SSTS…. Do you remember my Scowl-o-Meter? It lurched back into action tonight. Knock out a pair of theme answers and see if you can’t eliminate a lot of the unseemly fill.

Five more things:

  • 1d. [“Jinx” breakers of 2016], CUBS. Why is “jinx” in quotes? And more important, why is anyone using that word in relation to the Cubs, when it’s the “curse” that is what’s been talked about for decades. Utterly tone-deaf from a Cubs fan standpoint.
  •  81d. [After Rainier, highest peak in the Pacific Northwest], MT. ADAMS. I’m not from the PNW and I’ve never heard of this mountain, Washington’s second tallest.
  • 83d. [Island whose volcanic eruption is rumored to have destroyed Atlantis], SANTORINI. I didn’t know this about that Greek island, but I liked learning it.
  • 48d. [Chain that sells chains], ZALES. Gold chains, jewelry store. Zales is in the news today because a conservative Christian group is up in arms over a commercial showing a pair of brides among the other couples.
  • 105d. [Hulk Hogan trademark], DO-RAG. Uh, no. That’s his trademark bandana.

2.75 stars for me. The theme idea is neat, but doesn’t bring any humor or whimsy to the table.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Puzzle Imperfect” — pannonita’s write-up

CRooked • 11/27/16 • "Puzzle Imperfect" • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

CRooked • 11/27/16 • “Puzzle Imperfect” • Cox, Rathvon • bg • solution

One thing we who write about crossword puzzles have a tendency to do is nitpick, whether it be for pet peeves or some other sort of compulsion, to pad the text, to generate lively discussion among commenters, and so on.

Herewith, 67a [Find 20 flaws with this puzzle?] NITPICK. I’ve added corresponding circles to the grid.

  1. ORNITHOLOGY, 23a [Bebop tune by Charlie “Bird” Parker]. No idea why the nickname was included.
  2. MUNITIONS, 3d [War supplies].
  3. COUSIN ITT, 25a [“Ooky” mound of hair]. From the Addams Family.
  4. LENITY, 28a [Quality of mercy]. Akin to leniency. A bit strained?
  5. LIGNITES, 9d Brown coals].
  6. PRIMOGENITOR, 35a [Earliest ancestor].
  7. INCOGNITO, 52a [Undercover].
  8. CHICHEN ITZA, 16d [Mayan pyramid site].
  9. NITE, 50d [Informal evening].
  10. NITPICK, 67a [Find 20 flaws in this puzzle?]
  11. SNIT, 72d [Towering rage, downsized].
  12. MANZANITA, 81a [Chaparral shrub].
  13. SOLZHENITSYN, 93a [1970 Nobelist of Russia].
  14. MONITOR, 100a [Civil War ironclad].
  15. SEAN HANNITY, 66d [Radio host on the right]. Shouldn’t “Right” be capitalized?
  16. ANITA HILL, 109a [Figure in a 1991 hearing].
  17. IN IT TO WIN IT, 111a [Motto of a competitor].
  18. IN IT TO WIN IT, 111a [Motto of a competitor].
  19. WALL UNIT, 84d [Modular set of shelves].
  20. CLOSE-KNIT, 78d [Sharing a tight bond].

That’s 13 across NITs and 7 down ones. But who’s counting?

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Fare Play”  – Jenni’s writeup

On the menu this Sunday: puns!

  • screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-11-35-15-am

    WaPo 11/27 puzzle, solution grid

    23a [50 Cent lunch item?] = GANGSTA WRAP (rap).

  • 25a [Filleted fish vehicle?] = SOLE TRAIN (soul).
  • 40a [Fruit purchased in a Big Apple borough?] = PEAR OF QUEENS (pair).
  • 50a [Party with spicy bean dishes?] = CHILI RECEPTION (chilly).
  • 70a [Horse track meat?] = PREAKNESS STEAKS (stakes). The three S’s in this one threw me for a little while.
  • 92a [Helpful dinner bread?] = SUPPORTING ROLL (role).
  • 102a [Spoiled milk, e.g.?] = CEREAL KILLER (serial).
  • 122a [Shellfish vehicle?] = MUSSEL CAR (muscle).
  • 124a [Period when the only topic of conversation is a blackthorn fruit?] = SLOE NEWS DAY (slow). Evan saved the best for last – I loved this one.

All the base phrases are in the language and the puns are amusing. This is a nice diversion for the last day of a long holiday weekend.

A few other things:

  • 5d [Libertine marquis] is one word for DE SADE.
  • 45a [Grier of “Foxy Brown”] = PAM, of course. Child of the ’70s checking in.
  • 85d [Coastal predator] is GULL. I don’t think of gulls as predators, unless the prey is dropped French fries.
  • 83d [Dive bars?] = KARAOKE. I don’t think karaoke is limited to dives, is it? Funny clue, and I’m OK with puns escaping from the theme.
  • 133a [Is totally awesome] = RULES. The slangy usage is signaled by “awesome.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there is a US soccer star named MEGAN Rapinoe. I’m always happy to see women clued as sports figures without qualifiers.

Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Do Stuff”—Andy’s review

LAT Puzzle 11.27.16, "Do Stuff," by Gail Grabowski

LAT Puzzle 11.27.16, “Do Stuff,” by Gail Grabowski

As soon as I saw the title of this puzzle, I knew it would be about 118d, GEL [Styling product hidden in eight long puzzle answers]. Indeed, the eight theme answers are all two word phrases whose first word ends in -GE (mostly -AGE, except for one) and whose second word begins with L-. They are:

  • 23a, SAUSAGE LINK [Breakfast item]. Feels almost sad to say in the singular.
  • 33a, STORAGE LOCKER [Bus station compartment]. 
  • 43a, CARRIAGE LAMP [Decorative outdoor fixture]. This, apparently. Never heard of it.
  • 60a, PAGE LAYOUT [Category including spacing and margins]. 
  • 77a, MILEAGE LOG [Vehicle usage record]. 
  • 92a, LUGGAGE LABEL [Curbside check-in freebie]. “Luggage tag” is much more familiar to me.
  • 98a, STAGE LIGHTING [Broadway director’s concern]. 
  • 117a, GEORGE LUCAS [“American Graffiti” director].

Not a particularly exciting theme. LUGGAGE LABEL in particular didn’t strike me as a common phrase, but otherwise a solid set of answers. Very little sparkle in the surrounding fill, but also very little to gripe about. TOORA is one of my least favorite things to see in a puzzle. A few partials/weird constructions/foreign words (IS HOT, AMAS, ÉTÉS, I DARE, MAKE MAD, AS AN, ON ME), but I enjoyed seeing CIVIC DUTY, PAPYRI, ENERGY BAR, and a decent clue for DO-RAG [Biker’s headgear, maybe]. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do SOMETHING ELSE: BINGE LISTENING to podcasts while eating some ORANGE LEAF froyo. Until next time, WAGE LABORERS!

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27 Responses to Sunday, November 27, 2016

  1. Jan says:

    This puzzle was just fine. I don’t get the complaining.

    • pannonica says:

      My experience: Figured out the mechanics of the theme answers after getting about one-and-a-half of them filled in. Subsequent, I felt no compulsion to laboriously tease apart the rest. Needed only to look at the third part of each clue—the part after the equals sign—to maintain a regular solving experience.

      Even when the puzzle was completed, I had no interest in post-mortem dissection because it seemed there was little to be gained from such an undertaking. The only ways such a collection could have been amassed is through either dedicated and long-term accumulation, or more likely (especially considering M Ginsberg’s association with Dr Fill) massive database crawling. And that randomness seems evident (I’ve admitted my bias).

      Even knowing that the components would be laid bare in Amy’s write-up, I wasn’t even excited to find out what they were. Add to that a good hank of subpar ballast fill, and that’s a blah puzzle.

      And now I’ve spent more time and effort “complaining” as a response and explanation than I did on the crossword. Which I certainly hadn’t intended to do.

  2. David L says:

    Tougher for me than the usual Sunday, and I agree on the Scowl-o-meter response. AGAMA was new to me, and it’s been a while since I saw EDAMES (I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up; definitely a crosswords-only person to me). Also SNAILED — “moved at a crawl”? Not in my lingo…

    I don’t understand the clue for SIPHON: “Suck it up?” You don’t suck a siphon up, you use a siphon to suck something else up (not gasoline, kids, it’s bad for you).

    And why is ETA the “letter at the end of three other letters”? What other three letters, and when?

  3. David and Heather says:

    We loved the NYT puzzle at first, mainly because we were having fun with the impressive theme answers, most of which were great. But then as we got closer to finishing – especially near the bottom – there was so much crosswordese and tough fill that our experience with the puzzle was totally soured. As you noted, fewer theme answers would have been the way to go. I realized this as soon as we hit AGNATES (a word only a few of us know; in my case, it’s thanks to my having studied words like that for Scrabble tournament play).

    I’d have given the top 4 stars but the bottom just 2, so I guess I’ll split the difference.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I really liked the theme. It was good Sunday fun… Agree that the crosswordese took it down a notch, but I guess I’m getting used to it, so it didn’t annoy me as much as it used to.

  5. Norm says:

    Tedious and very little amusement value.

  6. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Joplin’s The Entertainer is a DO RAG. Or possibly an UT RAG.

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: When RATT qualifies as above the median in your fill, it’s not a good puzzle. NOYES, NAURO & DADS root beer also belong in the parade of grievances.

  8. Uncle Vinny says:

    I was having a huge PEABRAIN moment trying to understand ETA as “letter at the end of three other letters”. But I finally get it: ETA, thETA and zETA are all Greek letters!

  9. Papa John says:

    Jenni: “I don’t think of gulls as predators, unless the prey is dropped French fries”

    I’m not sure how to take this. Is it a joke? Of course they’re predators with a smorgasbord of treats from mussels to nesting chicks to the crickets that plagued the Mormons and other insects that are stirred up behind the combines at harvest time.Yes, they eat fish. (Interestingly, many people don’t think of robins or humming birds as predators, either.)

    Back in the day, when I was living in Mission Beach, north of San Diego, I would amaze my fellow beach-goers by enticing gulls with popcorn until they were within reach and I would snatch them up with my hand. They were also adept at catching the popcorn that I would toss into the air. Gulls are considered quite intelligent despite their clownish actions and raucous cries. Now, living almost in the shadow of Mt. Adams limits my opportunity to enjoy these majestic creatures. I make do with the crazy antics of the Steller Jays (also a predator) that visit my feeders. Alas, they’re a lot harder to nab.

    • Bob Rodes says:

      It’s unfortunate that most people (at least most Americans) who see gulls nowadays see them in the context of picking through our garbage somewhere along the coast of California. If you get out somewhere unspoilt and see them there, they are very different.

      I once at age 16 camped for a couple of days near Kerrera Sound, not far from Oban in Scotland. One afternoon while I was out walking I got so fascinated by the gulls that I just sat watching them for two or three hours. The call that sounds raucous in a mall parking lot is much muted by open spaces and distance, and I found myself transported watching them glide about in their effortless manner, swooping down from time to time to pick something out of the water or off of the shore.

    • pannonica says:

      See also: grizzly bears in national parks.(Historically, though efforts are being made to correct that sad state of affairs.)

  10. Papa John says:

    pannononica: “…when the puzzle was completed, I had no interest in post-mortem dissection..”

    So. may we assume you killed this one? Good for you!

    BTW, can you think of a bird that isn’t a predator? Parrots, maybe…

    • pannonica says:

      Your example of hummingbird works. Feeding on nectar from flowers isn’t generally what people consider to be predation.

      As a side note, the colloquial idea of “birds of prey” is probably more hindrance than help here.

      • Papa John says:

        I used hummingbirds as an example of birds that are usually thought of as non-predatory; yet do, in fact, consume a large quantity of insects — caught on the wing — as well as spiders. Most, if not all, chicks are fed some kind of protein-rich diet of insects, grubs and other such tasty morsels.

  11. Jackson says:

    The NYT was pretty dull, including the theme entries, but I thought thought worthy of a high rating due to impressive construction. If a computer was behind it the puzzle drops to below average.

    Anyone seen Elle (2016) yet?

  12. Matt Ginsberg says:

    Amy wrote: The theme answers were presumably gathered by having a computer search for words that can combine in an interspersed way to form new words/phrases.

    Well, let me tell you how they were actually gathered.

    I had the idea for a puzzle like this.

    And then, yes, I wrote a program to find all of the words that “worked”.

    There were thousands. And I looked at them all. Not some computer, me. I tried to find the ones that somehow tickled me in some way.

    And then I tried to fit them into a puzzle, finding the right balance between putting in as much theme material as possible and keeping the crossword dreck to a minimum. I probably started over about a dozen times. I *think* I got the balance about right, although obviously other folks may differ.

    But a computer didn’t make this puzzle. I did.

    • Huda says:

      Matt, I appreciate the clarification. I actually wondered who had written such a program, and for what purpose. It’s very cool that you did. As I said earlier, I thought it made for a fun solve, while also being a novel theme with impressive construction.

      As a neuroscientist, I’m very interested in how different minds work… The distinct ways we express creativity and the different things that we find enjoyable. Today, the puzzle seems to have triggered a full range of reactions.

  13. pannonica says:

    NYT: 83d. [Island whose volcanic eruption is rumored to have destroyed Atlantis], SANTORINI. I didn’t know this about that Greek island, but I liked learning it.

    There’s also been speculation that a tsunami subsequent to the eruption was the origin of the parting of the Red Sea story in the Bibble. Waters recede dramatically as the wave makes its final onshore approach, contributing to the rapidly towering mass.

  14. JohnH says:

    Normally, the more the setter constrains his or her work, and the cleverer that makes the outcome, but more I like it. But here I never once smiled or had that treasured “aha!” It was just work without a payoff. I can see why it felt to Amy like a computer construct.

    When I got to the bottom, with APIA and RATT crossing BIAS TIRE (at least for a New Yorker who has limited experience with cars), with ED AMES not far away, it was just no fun, if not downright impossible. I don’t care for SNAIL as a verb either.

  15. TammyB says:

    I finally broke down last week and bought a monthly subscription to the NYT puzzles. Eager to get busy, I printed out a few Sundays from the archives, and thought “Wow! I feel like I’m working puzzles written in a foreign language.” I was glad I’d only paid for a month.

    But finally Sunday rolled around, and I got my first “fresh” puzzle. I breezed through in record time, and came online expecting to find everyone complaining it was too easy.

    I’m now wondering if I share some genetic code with Matt or something – thanks for the explanation of how you wrote a program to create the themes. :-)

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