Friday, February 10, 2017

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 4:29 (Amy) 


Kyle Mahowald’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 10 17, no 0210

Well, if you didn’t like the entry PITY PARTY when it made its NYT debut seven days ago, you probably still don’t like it. Will and Joel, come on—space these puppies out a bit! Showy marquee answers are memorable for at least a few weeks.

Answers I like: JAMA (former medical editor here), “SMALL WORLD,” DATA SCIENTIST (my friend Doug Brown, an NYT solver, is a data scientist—read his interview here), JOE COOL, TREVOR NOAH, “AND … SCENE,” JESSE EISENBERG, “I’LL DRINK TO THAT,” MINECRAFT, and ALLEY CAT.

Assorted notes:

  • 13a. [Seducer of Josef in Kafka’s “The Trial”], LENI. Who??  I guess it’s nice to be spared a mention of the Nazi propagandist Riefenstahl, but …
  • 20a. [Tony’s cousin], EMMY. This is, of course, a Sopranos reference.
  • 60a. [Enemy of ISIS, with “the”], WEST. An oversimplification. All those Syrian refugees? The Kurds? The Yazidi? They’re not Westerners.
  • 24d. [Historic isle in the Tyrrhenian Sea], ELBA. Over at Daily Celebrity Crossword, our ELBA clues reference actor Idris rather than the island. At the Times, it almost always seems to be the island. Sigh.
  • 28d. [Librettist for Verdi’s “Otello” and “Falstaff”], BOITO. LOL, no. I cannot name a single librettist.
  • 48d. [Wardrobe item for which Obama claimed he was “unfairly maligned”], JEANS. No, that was fair.

3.7 stars from me.

David C. Duncan Dekker’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Space Invaders” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/10/17 • “Space Invaders” • Dekker • solution

Before arriving at the revealer, it seemed there was a different pattern emerging among the marked theme entries. 15- and 42-across shared the same distinctive clue, so it seemed obvious there was a connection.

55aR [Urban square … or what the answers to the pairs of starred clues seem to have between them?] CITY BLOCK. And this seems to be a double entendre: each pair of entries combines to form the name of a city, so do the black squares (aka ‘blocks’, or at least components of larger ‘blocks’, in cruciverbal terminology) represent blocks associated with those cities, or are they blocking the cities from being cohesive entities?

  • 15a. [*__ Blanc] MEL.
    16a. [*Titular Ludlum amnesiac] BOURNE.
    Melbourne, not to be confused with the actual Mel Bourne ( Melvin Bornstein). The original English Melbourne signifies “mill stream” (mileburne).
  • 17a. [*Fashionable] CHIC.
    15a. [*Fourth word of the “Star Wars” opening crawl] AGO.
  • 34a. [*Dessert wine] PORT.
    35a. [*Bring in, as a big client] LAND.
  • 42a. [*__ Blanc] MONT.
    44a. [*Unfeigned] REAL.
    Montreal. Unlike most of the other theme entries, the MONT here means exactly the same thing in the clue as well as the city name.
  • 62a. [*”__ vs. Wild” (Bear Grylls show] MAN.
    63a. [*Laguna contents] AGUA.
    Managua. Wikipedia informs me that “[t]he name Managua originates from the term Mana-ahuac, which in the indigenous Nahuatl language translates to ‘adjacent to the water’ or site ‘surrounded by water’.” Does that mean that the Nahuatl word for water was coincidentally close enough to the Spanish one that it could easily be adapted? Or was it a loanword? Curious, no?
  • 64a. [*Relay-team position] ANCHOR.
    65a. [*Most hope to do it gracefully] AGE.

Preceding the first theme pair is 14a [Entr’__ ] ACTE. Commentary? Winking introduction?

  • 37a [Biopic starring Will Smith] ALI. Kids, don’t pronounce “biopic” to rhyme with “myopic”—it’s short-sighted. I made this observation many years ago, after hearing it in the wild, but was reminded of it fairly recently when a facebook acquaintance complained about it.
  • 41a [Asparagus-like sushi veggie] UDOAralia cordata, also known as Japanese spikenard (spikenard!) and mountain asparagus. Nice to have a change from cult actor UDO Kier and other named folk. Also, I am irked by ‘veggie’, especially when I see it in more supposedly proper contexts (e,g,, store signage, restaurant menus). Get off my lawn, et cetera.
  • Adjectives you don’t see every day: 10d [Adjective for traditional dice] CUBICAL, 22d [Peaked in the manner of ecclesiastical headgear] MITRAL (this is also the etymology for the eponymous valve in the heart).
  • 30d [They have arms but no elbows] SOFAS. But sectional sofas can be described has having ells, for what it’s worth.
  • Unnecessary cross-reference: 46d [48 Down light source, perhaps] OIL LAMP, 48d [Swinging-door establishment] SALOON. Despite being sequential in the clue list, they’re on opposite sides of the grid, which introduces significant separation. At least in the way that (I believe) most people tackle crosswords.

Solid puzzle, jam-packed with theme entries.

Alex Eaton-Salner’s LA Times Crossword

LA Times

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35 Responses to Friday, February 10, 2017

  1. Martin says:

    Cool puzzle!

    Regarding the actor Idris ELBA (that you mentioned in your review)… I fully agree. He definitely needs to be used more in puzzles, and not just for his first and last names (his first name is Welsh, FYI), but because he is such a damn good actor.

    I first saw him in a season of the American “The Office”. In which he plays an an American, by-the-book manager, who accidentally thinks Dwight is competent and Jim is the idiot. All of this is due to unfortunate timing. Needless to say, eventually disaster ensues. And Elba’s cool demeanor of authority stole the show (for a few episodes!).

    Then I saw him in other major roles on the BBC playing entirely different characters with different accents. I only then just realized that he was British (not that it makes him any more important). He was superb in everything I saw him in.

    Lately, as some may know, he may be the next James Bond. History will be made, and if anyone’s wondering why: Google his picture!


    • huda says:

      “his first name is Welsh, FYI”

      Seriously? No way! Idris is Arabic, the name of a prophet in the Moslem religion, means the one who studies…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There’s a Welsh Idris, no relation! Elba’s first name is short for Idrissa. His dad’s from Sierra Leone, his mom’s Ghanaian.

      • Martin says:

        Thanks for the correction, Amy. I’m half-Welsh and recognized the name. Hence my mistake (which could have been avoided, if I’d remembered to Google!)


        • huda says:

          It’s so weird that the name exists in Welsh, Arabic and Urdu!

          When you google Famous People Named Idris you get quite a hodgepodge:

          Idrissa Akuna “Idris” Elba, British actor
          Idris, King of Libya
          Idris I and II, Kings of Morocco
          Idris Shah II of Perak
          Idris Shah, Indian Sufi author
          Idris Muhammad (born Leo Morris), American jazz drummer
          Idris Davies, Welsh poet
          İdris Güllüce, Turkish politician
          Idris Rahman, British musician

          • Lois says:

            How about the Arabic name Rim, meaning white antelope, and the Russian name Rimma, meaning from Rome? I always confuse those two friends’ names.

    • Penguin Party says:

      “Lately, as some may know, he may be the next James Bond. History will be made, and if anyone’s wondering why: Google his picture!”

      A ripped James Bond is going to be historic?

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Lots to love– DATA SCIENTIST being front and center is excellent! Do you all know about the upcoming March for Science, on April 22?
    No PITY PARTY, that, but a Celebration of the power of science. A member of my research group is on the organizing committee– (and she’s a mom, expecting another baby soon, a scientist and physician, like some of the members of Team Fiend). So proud of her!
    I of course knew JAMA and even knew to enter MINECRAFT, but that MENA/EVAN neighborhood was not my shining moment.

  3. Martin says:

    Some librettists I bet Amy could name:
    Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Alan Jay Lerner, Stephen Sondheim, W.S. Gilbert, E.M. Forster (he wrote the libretto for Britten’s Billy Budd), W.H. Auden (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress), Gertrude Stein (Virgil Thomson’s The Mother of Us All, about the life of Susan B. Anthony), Bertolt Brecht and Doris Lessing (Philip Glass’s operatic treatment of her novel The Making of the Representative for Planet 8).

    • Dan F says:

      Sondheim has never written a libretto. (I wouldn’t pick that nit with anybody else, but I imagine Martin’ll appreciate it…)

      • Martin says:

        Yeah, I know. But his lyrics can be so libretto-like that I tossed him in even though he doesn’t write the book. With a lyricist like him doing the songs for, say Sunday in the Park with George, who needed a libretto?

  4. Lee Glickstein says:

    Anyone else deeply saddened by “Lamb, e.g.” as the clue for MEAT?

    • Martin says:

      I did have POET first.

      English usually allows us to deny that human carnivores eat cute sentient beings. Unlike many languages, the animal and their flesh are described by different words. Veal is not cute like a calf is. Pork is not someone’s pet pig. Cows have big eyes while beef is inert.

      This is a gift of our languge’s dual Saxon/French history. Unfortunately “mutton” in English implies an older sheep, leaving us to fall back on “lamb” when we want to specify we’re eating a younger animal.

      I respect vegan sensibilities, but wouldn’t personally vote for one more constraint on cluing. Sorry, Lee, but yes I am sometimes torn as a carnivore.

      • Lois says:

        Yup, I felt a problem and also don’t like constrictions (I admit I’m a meat-eater). I think the problem was with the slight attempt at a humorous misdirection, the non-straightforwardness of a Friday. The harshness of the answer was too much.

        I was always going to love this puzzle, though. I love Trevor Noah!

  5. Brad says:

    Boito also a composer in his own right as well as a partner on some of Verdi’s best work. Boito’s MEFISTOFELE, one of many operas based on the “Faust” story, is not exactly standard fare but is not languishing in obscurity, either. Done by most major US venues in the last 20 years.

    • Lois says:

      I saw Samuel Ramey do a wonderful somersault in this opera playing that role. What do you call a somersault when you just spin upside-down and land on your feet, without your body touching the floor? That’s what he did.

      • Bruce N Morton says:

        Reminds me of when I saw the Finnish bass Martti Talvela do a dead man’s fall from his full 6’8, as Boris Godonov from the top of a staircase. He landed on his stomach and front with his arms over his head, which probably helped him brace his fall. But it was amazing, and the audience was stunned.

  6. Tim in NYC says:

    Doesn’t everyone know at least one librettist, namely Lorenzo Da Ponte (three Mozart operas)? He ended up in New York City teaching Italian literature at Columbia. People think he might be buried in Queens.

  7. Brad says:

    Chagrined to discover that the CHE crossword has not been posted yet for this week. There IS one, to be sure, and I have a call into the web team. Those of you on the Puzzle People Facebook group may have seen that the Chronicle of Higher Education are going to reinstate the print version of the puzzle beginning Feb. 24, after two months of an (ahem)…experiment with online-only.

    • Martin says:

      I solved the CHE a while ago. It turns out the file is there but it’s not linked from the CHE puzzle page. Clicking on the AcrossLite link on the Puzzle Page here will serve it up.

  8. Ethan Friedman says:

    BOITO is a pretty major figure in operatic history — those are not minor operas. Plus he composed some in his own right. Obscure, yes, but fair game.

  9. Bruce N Morton says:

    NYT: Generally excellent and surprisingly easy for a Sat.I was preempted, but Arrigo Boito was a good, though not great composer, also an excellent poet, writer and librettist clearly deserving of inclusion in a puzzle. Someone mentioned the other major librettist who merits inclusion in a puzzle — Lorenzo da Ponte. The only obscurities, Mena and Evan crossed each, always an annoyance, but the correct guess seemed likely

    • Lois says:

      The constructor, Kyle Mahowald, has a funny story in Wordplay and XWord Info about how that MENA clue came to be – and also the details of how some of us got our gift of BOITO.

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The opera buffs seem to have mistaken insider knowledge of a fairly “niche” area of culture for general knowledge. Never heard of BOITO or da Ponte, no. And I would absolutely call a foul if most of those librettists Martin mentioned were clued as such. It’s really not what people like Stein and Brecht are best known for, and you know it.

    • Martin says:

      My comment was really meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and pointing out that we all know a lot of librettists, even if we don’t think of them as librettists.

      But I certainly don’t think [“Threepenny Opera” librettist] would be an unfair clue for BRECHT.

    • Lois says:

      OK, the opera buffs got a little involved in ourselves, and we wish more people would know about opera. But crosswords are also a niche area of culture. I would imagine that most of the general population would do even worse than I do on weekend puzzles. The people solving those weekend puzzles are supposed to know more about everything, which I do not always do. Weekend solvers, being in a niche themselves, often know more about opera, literature, science and so on (not me particularly). You now know about da Ponte, so good. Crosswords need all kinds of culture for material, but the rest of culture doesn’t really need crosswords, so please go gently with us. You know that I personally like actor clues from any era, so those were good for me, even though I don’t remember what those two look like right now. And please notice that EVAN and MENA are crossing each other, as Bruce pointed out (though the crossed “a” is gettable), and BOITO is not crossing any proper nouns, and its crosses are not bad.

  11. Joan Macon says:

    Where is the writeup for the LAT? Again?

  12. Jim Leonard says:

    The Mena/Evan groaning interspersed with discussions of obscure librettists shows a discussion board out of touch with modern times. Neither of the actresses is as obscure as Boito.

    • Lois says:

      Back to The Simpsons (I appreciate them, but I’m not knowledgeable), Harry Potter, cars, colleges and Amana we go.

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