Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This post is dedicated to my brilliant and snarky friend Julie, who is a new convert to the NYT crossword! This puzzle was kicking her ass (I mean, as much as anything intellectual will kick her ass, which is not much), and it’s not surprising because it definitely plays like a Saturday puzzle. Way too much difficult stuff—unusual words, tough clues—to feel like a typical Friday offering.
Here are the parts that felt hard to me:
- 28a. [Part of an armada], SHIP OF THE LINE. I’ve never seen this term before. “That’s not an answer at all. I believe you made that up,” says a member of my household.
- 31a. [Instructions on where to go?], HOUSE TRAINING. As in training a puppy not to pee on your floors unless there’s a thick heap of newspaper or something. Does HOUSE TRAINING include teaching a dog to hold their output till they go out for a walk?
- 50a. [Agricultural outfit], OVERALLS. As in apparel worn down on the farm. I like the clue but it wasn’t easy.
- 28d. [Conversation piece?], SOUNDBITE. Clue seems weird to me. Soundbites often come from speeches and scripted remarks and not “conversation” per se.
- 36d. [Seven ___ (Civil War battle site)], PINES. Easy if you know your Civil War sites, but I live well away from those areas.
- 20d. [Lay-by : England :: ___ : America], REST AREA. Makes perfect sense when the crossings lead you there, but “lay-by” was new to me. Also, I feel like they’re rest stops in the Midwest and not rest areas.
- 30d. [They meet at a summit], HILLSIDES. Wasn’t sure if we were talking political summits or physical ones.
- 38d. [Things that take guts?], E COLI. I don’t think you call an individual bacterium a “thing,” first of all, and I wouldn’t say that E. coli “take” one’s intestines. This erstwhile medical editor used her Scowl-o-Meter on this clue.
Then I made things harder on myself by blithely filling in POUND SHILLING in place of POUND STERLING. D’oh! That’s not Patrick’s fault.
This 64-worder is pretty dang smooth for the word count, because of course it is. Patrick made this puzzle, and that’s how he rolls. Fill I liked: artistic TRUMBO and DELOVELY, nice GNEISS and quaint GADABOUT, Hot Lips HOULIHAN, and “I GOT THIS.” DEBAR, on the other hand, is a rather blechhy bit of fill. I know it’s a legit word, but I don’t have to like it.
- 15a. [Sea that Homer called “wine-dark”], AEGEAN / 49a. [“She understands her business better than we do,” per Montaigne], NATURE / 6d. [Who said “I’m so mean I make medicine sick”], ALI. I hate a quote theme but love a good literary quotation or a line from a famous person.
- 23a. [Golf cart foursome], TIRES. Tiresome golfers optional.
- 27a. [Crown cover], DO-RAG. Crown = top of the head. Nice to see a DO-RAG clue that doesn’t scream “this puzzle is for white people, and black people are other.”
- 34a. [Grate catches?], HEELS. If you’re wearing high-heeled shoes with spike heels, the heels can catch in a sidewalk grate or sink into soft ground.
- 3d. [Earthworm trappers], MOLES. Anyone else picturing husky men dressed like lumberjacks, schlepping through woods like 1700s trappers, hunting worms?
Four stars from me.
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s Chronicle of Higher Evolution crossword, “Evolutionary Ladder” — pannonica’s write-up
Uh-oh. I’m going to take a variety of issues with this crossword. Not in the construction or general content, but in the theme—both idea and execution.
Generally speaking my complaints involve the perpetuation of long-abandoned misconceptions about the process and nature of biological evolution.
First, reportage of the theme: 51a [With 54 Across, what each successive trio of circled letters might be called] A STEP IN THE RIGHT | DIRECTION. Stacked!
The referred trios appear, within longer entries, at regular intervals (columns 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11) from row 2 through 4. They comprise a word ladder from APE through APT – OPT – OAT – MAT to MAN. The grid has left-right symmetry.
Foremost is the strong suggestion of a teleological basis, that evolution has an intended direction. Next, the notion that biological evolution takes the form of a regular, linear progression rather than the more accurate idea of varied proliferation and many dead-ends. (I recognize the temptation of the word-ladder metaphor is strong here.)
To a lesser degree I feel the use of the double-entendre ‘right’ (i.e., ‘correct’ as well as simply directional (as our writing moves from left to right) in this context evokes and reinforces the same teleological ‘elevation’. While it’s true that cladograms typically present development in a rightward fashion, they can easily go in any direction. Perhaps a better choice for this crossword would have been a top-to-bottom arrangement; after all Darwin followed up his Origin of the Species (1859) with The Descent of Man (1871).
Last, and least critically, the premise of APE → MAN implies that humans might not be apes, and perhaps that Homo sapiens developed from some of the ape species we see around us today, rather than reflecting how all hominoids evolved from shared ape-like ancestors (some of which also were taxonomically ‘apes’).
The modifying “might” of the revealer’s clue doesn’t exonerate these transgressions. That this puzzle appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education rather than some other, less pedagogical venue, is all the worse.
I appreciate how the role of the mutation of GENES as a component of the evolutionary process is nodded to by its appearance as a central entry, 24-across. It’s somewhat undermined by the reuse of the clue—in the singular—for another entry unrelated to the theme: 33a [One in a certain pool] STENO.
Less common word forms seen in the grid, clustered in the bottom third: 58a [Forces into lowly work] ENSERFS, 62a [Person out of sync with society] ISOLATO, 65a [One headed for a secret rendezvous] TRYSTER, 53d [Augsburg article] EINER.
Might’ve been fun to clue 24d GEORG via the explorer and naturalist Steller instead of [Name of the von Trapp paterfamilias].
48d [Conch-shell shape] SPIRAL. Duck genitalia also, and that’s an interesting evolutionary tale.
Moving on, there are two 10-letter down entries: 28d [Carnival prize with a topknot] KEWPIE DOLL, as currently seen with the namesake mayonnaise brand from Japan; 32d [Blasphemy] UNHOLINESS.
Ahoy! 26a [Assent asea] AYE, 63a [Shove off] SET SAIL, 8d [Enjoyed the sound, say] BOATED. Great clue on that last.
Other favorite clues: 37d [Bit of celery?] SOFT C, 40d [Substitutes for forgotten lyrics] LAS, 41d [“The taking and giving of beauty,” per Ansel Adams] ART.
Jeff Chen and Seth Geltman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Really enjoyed the revealer, both as an answer an as the bow tying the crossword theme together. FUZZYMATH is used to indicate that several maths terms are redefined in non-maths ways. So: [Bizarre entr’acte?], ODDNUMBER – it woulda helped if I coulda remembered what an entr’acte is! [Cue from the wings?], LINESEGMENT – also theatrical; [L.A. or N.Y. publishing equipment?], TIMESTABLES – meta! and [Upbringing involving unhip oldies?], SQUAREROOTS. Smart and fun!
- [Suffix for “leader”], ARCH. As in TETRARCH, I guess. We all put SHIP of course.
- [Animal in una arena], TORO. :(.
- [Reserved box, maybe], VIPSEAT. I put BOXSEAT, which wasn’t very smart…
- [Muse of memory], MNEME. A five letter muse that is NOT ERATO!
- [Ending for many schools], ISM – of thought.
- [Go whole hog on Thanksgiving], EATATON – when one has ALOTONONESPLATE!