Friday, May 5, 2017

LAT 6:45 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:02 (Amy) 


CHE untimed (pannonica) 


Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 5 17, no 0505

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.

Favorite clues:

  • 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

CHE • 5/5/17 • “Evolutionary Ladder” • Guizzo, Chen • solution

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 APTOPTOATMAT 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

LA Times

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!

The rest:

  • [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!

4 Stars

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25 Responses to Friday, May 5, 2017

  1. Chukkagirl says:

    NYT seemed a perfect Friday difficulty for me. For some reason both yesterday and today many of the answers came somewhat easily (a pleasant yet unfamiliar sensation). SHIP OF THE LINE, though? Never heard of it.

  2. Dgkelly says:

    ‘Ship of the line’ is a standard term in the British navy – used until the 19th century and very familiar to British history buffs. Nelson’s ‘Victory’ is a notable example.

    • artlvr says:

      Agreed — it was a great puzzle for history buffs, British & American Civil War & Greek literature!

  3. Julie says:

    Ha, thank you for the shout-out. I was doing some shouting of my own, YAWPing for help as I worked the southwest corner. But what a fun puzzle today. (It wasn’t until just now, reading your recap, that I parsed DO-RAG, though. Oops.)

    • huda says:

      I was yawping right along… Saturday level for me. I think much depends on whether SHIP OF THE LINE is something you’ve heard of. It occupies enough strategic territory to make a real difference…

  4. Ethan says:

    I know what a lay-by is from the Mungo Jerry song “In The Summertime.”

    When the sun goes down,
    You can make it, make it good in a lay-by

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    Interesting. SHIP OF THE LINE was an instant get for me once I had the last two letters. Very familiar term.

  6. Tim in NYC says:

    Anyone who’s read Patrick O’Brian will find 28A a gimme. I recommend his Aubrey-Maturin novels.

  7. Nancy Coburn says:

    Also got Ship of the Line having recently read the Poldark novels (Winston Graham) that cover the Napoleonic wars.

  8. Boston Bob says:

    NYT Anyone else try “aye” instead of “oui” for 46d?

  9. Lise says:

    I enjoyed pannonica’s CHE writeup. Very on-target and educational. And what a beautiful Ansel Adams photo.

  10. Martin says:

    I find it hard to get worked up over the CHE’s perpetuating evolution-as-a-ladder when the rungs between APE and MAN are APT, OPT, OAT and MAT. It’s a word ladder that has very little to do with human origins other than the reveal. I can’t imagine anyone learning anything about evolution from this crossword, much less being informed that it is an ordered progression of some sort.

    That particular word ladder is a pretty thin expression of the theme. I think that’s a more fundamental criticism of its execution.

    • Papa John says:

      I think you’re responding to pannonica’s review.

      If so, I’m not sure if she actually wants you to “get worked up’ over this or any other review she writes. What matters to me is that she DOES get worked up and the result is most often, as Lise says, “on-target and educational”, as well as entertaining, often illustrated and — above all — SHE’S worked up! I love it! I thank her for her generosity in sharing what’s going on her beautiful mind. (You too, Martin. I always look out for your posts.)

      I’d also like to add that she reduced the ladder to APE-MAN, so her essay still seems cogent to me, albeit worked up.

    • Glenn (the other one) says:

      Indeed. If anything, the axe to grind caused a proper review of the puzzle itself to be thrown aside (389 words of 538 words or 72% of the total review devoted directly to said axe).

      More formative to the puzzle itself, and the thing to “get worked up over” is that the theme is a weak one – the word ladder itself really being the only attraction, the “revealer” having little to do if none at all with the word ladder, nor even really necessary to the word ladder.

      Beyond that, the grid only functions as a themeless grid with a left-right symmetry. The symmetry itself is a question, since it is not clear that it services anything. There is no clear/good grid art, nor clear function to the state of the grid in servicing any kind of theme.

      As the grid itself appears, the only logical reason for the symmetry seems that the constructor was in love with ASTEPINTHERIGHT/DIRECTION, and could not come up with equivalent fill for the top half of the grid. Then as mentioned, the grid has some very strange fill. While the fill isn’t necessarily a huge strike against it, I have to think it happened in service to whatever the constructors were trying to do with the grid.

      Overall, I started the CHE grids because I have noticed ever since that generally very high quality puzzles have appeared there. That makes the appearance of this one a surprise, as this is easily the most poorly executed theme I’ve seen in the last six months. I ranked it earlier and can’t remember if I gave it 2.0 or 2.5, but minus the theme and symmetry, it would have been much better.

      • pannonica says:

        “… a proper review of the puzzle itself to be thrown aside …”

        I strongly feel that that’s my prerogative in this capacity. My experience was that it indeed eclipsed the other aspects of the crossword. Nevertheless, those weren’t completely ignored.

  11. Zulema says:

    AMY, yes, to me HOUSE TRAINING has always meant teaching the dogs to hold it till they are outside. Have never done the other indoor training.

    Very difficult NYT puzzle indeed!

    • Papa John says:

      I would call a dog who has been trained to do its business outdoors is “house broken”. Many dogs are, indeed, house trained to do to their business in particular area.

  12. roger says:

    puzzle, schmuzzle

    Yanks 3
    Cubs 2

    • Amy Reynaldo says:


    • Lorraine says:

      yay! : )

      great NYT, too! SHIP OF THE LINE came very easily to me, I’m not sure why — i haven’t read any of the nautical works referenced in others’ comments. I thought the NYT was very hard but very fair (for me).

Comments are closed.