Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This puzzle played like a Friday to me, which makes some sense because the Friday puzzle played like a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Fave fill: “HOPE TO GOD” (which is a complete and idiomatic phrase as is), LAS VEGAS, BELOW ZERO (People! The summer solstice has passed and the days are growing shorter. Winter is coming), ON THE MAP, the dreadful childhood game of KEEP-AWAY (the short kids never get the damn ball!), MALIA OBAMA, DEMOLITION DERBY, and the throwback NOXZEMA/NEET combo.
Stalest answers: I-BAR, ALAR, SETTEES, DIADEMS, suffix –STER, BOLES, ODILE ([Von Rothbart’s daughter, in ballet]? If you say so).
Oddest overlap: The Teletubbies character LAA-LAA (the yellow one) and the random singing of “LA LA.” If you haven’t ever seen Teletubbies, you are in luck! There’s a whole YouTube channel devoted to it. Here’s a 2017 episode that hews to the exact same formula from 15 years ago, when I watched some with my then-toddler. The highlight is the video segment about 4 minutes in, with some British toddlers enjoying the heck out of honking horns. And then the video ends, the Tubbies say “Again! Again!”—and the video plays again. It’s trippy.
- 15a. [Audible sign of age], CREAK. Is this about floorboards or knees? Asking for a friend.
- 19a. [Bean in a pod?], ALAN. Great clue. Alan Bean was an astronaut. The pod in question might be an Apollo 12 command module or something along those lines.
- 22a. [New Age retreat in Big Sur], ESALEN. Would you believe it still exists? It’s been closed since February but they claim they’re reopening this summer.
- 31d. [Combination undergarment], CORSELET. A combination of a corset and … what? Actually, it’s a girdle/bra combo, aka merry widow. Dated—Nordstrom, which sells a lot of lingerie, doesn’t seem to offer any of these contraptions.
3.75 stars from me for this 66-worder.
Mark Diehl’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
One of the themeless greats has this Saturday’s LAT challenger puzzle. I found it quite a bit tougher than normal ones, and my time shows that. I had one error after it was all filled in, and I will blame it one some fatigue I am experiencing this week. I need to plan that vacation!
A solid 4.8 stars for this one. 66 words, only 26 black squares, and tremendously wide open with virtually no dreck at all. I am blown away by some of the constructions that Mark is able to produce. A total joy to solve!
A few notes:
- 17A [Fed with a wand] TSA AGENT – Right off the bat, I thought this was the best clue in the entire puzzle! Clever and diabolical all at once!
- 27A [Poor working conditions] SWEATBOXES – I had SWEATSHOPS in here at first. I think a SWEAT BOX as more of a torture device, so maybe that’s why I was a tad off.
- 30A [One with all the answers?] ALEX TREBEK – I saw ALEX…, and I immediately started thinking of the Amazon voice gizmo! Man, the world has changed; these voice machines can answer most any question, although my phone won’t let me send a text to my son, even though his number is in my contacts!!
- 37A [Certain racing vehicle] BURLAP SACK – Another awesome clue! I haven’t participated in a sack race since the early ’80s!
- 41A [Eighth of 24] THETA – Rule of thumb: usually when crosswords mention 24 of something, it’s the Greek alphabet. At least it seems that way to me!
- 8D [Like a trenta at Starbucks] EXTRA-EXTRA LARGE – Just right for the typical American appetite!
- 9D [The Beatles’ “Help!” is one] TITLE TRACK – I had MOVIE ALBUM in here, which caused LOTS of issues in that corner!
- 11D [“What __ bid for …”] AM I – I don’t know this phrase. At all. Someone please explain the reference.
- 38D [Jack in a box lunch] CHEESE – Clever! Yes, I just read it as Jack in the Box lunch, and we don’t even have those restaurants near my house!
Running a 5k this morning! Hopefully it doesn’t rain!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I think I am getting better! Brad’s are usually pretty tough, but I got this one down in only 15 minutes! Maybe after a couple of years of solving his puzzles regularly I am figuring out how his brain works! Lots of tough stuff in this one, and some great clues. 72 words in this one, and I cannot find one entry that is bad. Some a tad obscure (PIT SAW, SYLPH, GYRE), but depending on one’s experiences they may be quite familiar. All seemed to be gettable, especially with the crossings that made perfect sense. Brad is a master! 4.4 stars for this one.
Just a few notes:
- 16A [“No prob”] I’M OKAY! – I had I’M ON IT instead, which caused some issues. Finished the upper right corner last!
- 36A [Offering from Google or Microsoft] WEB BROWSER – Nice misdirection, at least for me. I was thinking cell phones since I spoke to someone recently who said they had a Google Pixel phone.
- 42A [Elementary sextet] NOBLE GASES – Oh, THAT elementary! Best clue in the puzzle.
- 63A [Electronically ready] HOOKED UP – Better than some other less tasteful clues for this phrase!
- 1D [Sweet Easter serving] BABKA – I don’t think I have ever had this cake. There are no Jewish restaurants near me unless I venture to Chicago. Road trip?
- 11D [Warrior daughter of Zeus] WONDER WOMAN – I don’t recall this detail from the comics! And I still need to see this movie!
- 21D [Tone characteristics] TIMBRES – As in music tones, not colors. I was fooled again!
- 31D [Sarong’s lack] SEAM – I tried SASH. This also caused issues …
- 44D [Worth getting an autograph from] SOMEONE – Another great clue. My mind went to “noted” or “notable” or some synonym like that. Makes sense after you solve it!
Off to my niece’s graduation party this weekend! Everybody have a great weekend!
Tracey Gordimer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Added Fees” — pannonica’s write-up
Syllable \ˈfē\ inserted for punniness. Spelling varies. (79d [Won, for one: Abbr.] HOMophone.)
- 23a. [Dietary supplements that taste like steak?] BEEFY VITAMINS (B vitamins). 52a [Full of substance] MEATY.
- 28a. [Friends included in a phone pic?] SELFIE MATES (cellmates).
- 33a. [Domestic servant at Eddie’s Hollywood estate?] MURPHY MAID (mermaid). Would ‘worker’ be better than ‘servant’?
- 61a. [Chef who’s expert at preparing duck in its own fat?] CONFIT ARTIST (con artist).
- 72a. [Exercise employing sneakers with cushioned insoles?] COMFY RUNNING (come running).
- 97a. [For a thick-coated dog, it’s like seven human ones?] NEWFIE YEAR (new year). That’s Newfoundland.
- 107a. [Botany, agriculture and forestry?] LEAFY MAJORS (Lee Majors).
- 115a. [Headline announcing “Red Hot Mama” Tucker’s commencement address?] SOPHIE TO SPEAK (so to speak).
- 42a [Buyer be where?] STORE. That’s … hypergroanworthy. But hey maybe another iteration will make it better? 112d [Buyer be where?] MALL. Answer: no. You need at least six repetitions before an awful pun begins to have INANE (74d) and ironic humor.
- Something satisfying about seeing NEMESIS and LEGUMES next to each other (47a, 50a). Purely visually, I mean—nothing to do with their meanings. Something about those interior Ms. Also: nothing to do with the repeated ME, ME. You know, this explanation isn’t going well.
- 56a. [Chantelle product] BRA. Rather high end. But I can vouch for their quality,
- 102a [Mom’s pop] GRAMPA, 109a [Mom’s mom] GRAN. 29d [Gallic girls] FILLES, 45d [Gallic pal] AMI.
- 118a. [1992 animated musical film by Bill Plympton] THE TUNE.
- 13d [B&B in Brighton Beach?] CAPITALS. Clever clue. My favorite of the crossword.
- Considering that it follows 69d [Mammoth trapper] TAR, 70d [Paleozoic, e.g.] might have been more appropriately replaced with [Cenozoic, e.g.] as a cue for ERA.
- 83d [Deep discounts] CUT RATES. Usually see this in adjective form, no?
Pleasant Saturday morning distraction. Loosened me up for the ol’ Newsday Stumper.
This pretty smooth themeless grid. So, thumbs up!
But, in the puzzle notes, the constructor says this:
“The seed for this grid was LAP DANCERS, but Will preferred TAP DANCERS. Go figure.”
OK, I’ll go figure:
Will is right!
Why? Well, if we completely ignore the fact that some (or many) solvers may, or will consider LAP DANCERS offensive. Here’s my question:
– How do you suggest Will (and assistants) to clue LAP DANCERS?
The problem is that LAP DANCERS (if deemed acceptable) would need to be clued with little or no cleverness.
I’m sure there are plenty creative ways LAP DANCERS could be clued, but those clues would likely compound the issue of insensitivity (and that’s an understatement, IMO).
Also, LAP DANCERS is one of the longer “marquee entries”, meaning that a very straightforward clue (such as: “Some exotic entertainers”, or whatever) is hardly going to get much of a rise out of solvers… at least the solvers who don’t have those dancers on their laps. Yes, I’ve just made a joke, but I’m not sure how LAP DANCERS could be given a witty, clever, or pun-related clue, without resorting to something that many solvers would take offense to. So, IMO, the entry LAP DANCERS has two strikes against it.
On the other hand, TAP DANCERS (while admittedly a much older word) is:
– Unlikely to cause offense.
– And lends itself to some creative and clever clues. For example, the published clue for TAP DANCERS:
“Company with striking footwear”
… is IMO, a textbook example of a great clue. It’s completely accurate, but also has a thoroughly misleading “surface sense”.
Furthermore, the grid change was easy, so it seems like a no-brainer for the editor to opt for TAP DANCERS.
Anyway, that’s how I figure it :)
Would “Grinding machines” be insensitive?
I think you pretty much got that right.
If the NYT deems LAP-DANCER insensitive, then it exposes its hypocrisy. I believe STRIPPER has been clued as “Ecdysiast”, no?
Lap dancer? Stripper? The only difference I can see is proximity.
I’m sorry, but do I really need to explain the difference between “strippers” and “lap dancers”?
Yes, lap dancers are indeed strippers, but strippers are most definitely NOT all lap dancers. And to the best of my knowledge, male strippers who may lap dance, are not anything like as common as female lap dancers.
I could explain the “mechanics” of lap dancing (which varies from city to city, etc.) … but let me just say that in some areas it involves almost direct sexual contact, and in quite a few places direct, and prolonged sexual contact, for sizable tips.
(If anyone’s wondering why I should possess such detailed knowledge: I drove night-shift cab for over two decades, and gained a lot of knowledge that I’d prefer not to know.)
I came up with “Finnish wrigglers?” which is a bad pun that manages to offend two different audiences at once. So there you go, Will Shortz & Co. Queue forms at the right.
[Finnish wrigglers?] is not a workable clue because Lapp and lap are entirely different things. I don’t see that as the sort of pun that would actually work in a crossword clue.
How about “Reindeer who’ll pull Santa’s sleigh for a drink?”
NYT: NE was a namewreck with ODILE, OVETT and DIADEM being obscure enough to make the grid there useless.
Your “name wreck” obscurities are the meat that make the Times’ Saturday puzzles the sheer delight that so many of us look forward to each week.
Words like ODILE, OVETT and DIADEM are welcome and wonderful answers that make Saturday puzzles special to determined solvers.
I appreciate your view but you help make my point: If the solver doesn’t know ODILE or DIADEM and OVETT it doesn’t matter how determined they are.
If the solver doesn’t know the answer they can google for it or, if that’s not acceptable, they can wrap it up as a “did not finish”.
There’s no shame in not knowing an answer but for the determined solver it only happens once.
I’m not sure why ODILE is causing such comment. Isn’t she the Black Swan in Swan Lake Suite? Hasn’t this name appeared in crosswords before? DIADEM. too, has made puzzle appearances in the past, no? ( I don’t know how to check for word usage in puzzles. If I did, I’d know the answer.)
This is ODILE’s 29th occurrence in the Times crossword. (ODETTE gets 24.) This is DIADEM’s 43rd.
How many common nouns get to participate in a name wreck? Or is DIADEM just credited with an assist?
I liked this one, and found it mostly straighforward except for the SE. CORSELET was my last entry — not familiar with it, needless to say. NOXZEMA didn’t come to mind easily, didn’t know ATOY, couldn’t decide between MEGA, TERA, GIGA…
The clue for ALTEREGO doesn’t ring true for me. The classic case of an alter ego is Dr Hyde vis a vis Mr Jekyll. Some dictionaries offer a secondary meaning of someone who is close enough to yourself to be a twin, but even that is not a good example of a ‘bosom buddy,’ who could be someone you are very close to but who is totally different from yourself.
I guess I’ve seen KEEPAWAY before in crosswords, but I have no idea what it is.
In certain neighborhoods of NYC ‘keepaway’ is called ‘saluji’ (sp?).
Oddly, that doesn’t dispel my ignorance…
“Keep Away, also called Piggy in the Middle, Monkey in the Middle, Pickle in a Dish, or Pickle in the Middle, or more popularly known as “Monkey”, is a children’s game in which two or more players must pass a ball to one another, while a player in the middle attempts to intercept it. The game could be considered a reverse form of dodgeball, because instead of trying to hit people in the middle with the ball, players attempt to keep the ball away from them. The game is played worldwide.” Wikipedia
Oh — I know it as Piggy in the Middle — this was in England. Thanks for the information!
Oh, and that’s different than saluji. We also had monkey/man in the middle.
Derek – “What am I bid for . . .” is supposedly an auctioneer’s phrase inviting people to start the bidding. As in, “What am I bid for this beautiful Tiffany lamp?” I have no idea if auctioneers actually say this, because I’ve never been to a real auction, but I’m familiar with the phrase.
Auctioneers actually do say it … in movies, at least.
And long ago Marlene Dietrich sang “What Am I Bid for My Apple?”
I must have picked it up from the movies!
“1D [Sweet Easter serving] BABKA – I don’t think I have ever had this cake. There are no Jewish restaurants near me unless I venture to Chicago. Road trip?”
Uh, I think the clue implies that not only Jewish restaurants bake babka.
I can’t say I’ve ever heard the term “Jewish restaurants”. Is that the same as kosher restaurants?
Most “kosher-style” restaurants are not really kosher. Delis that serve lox and ham omelets, for instance. I guess “Jewish deli” is a common phrase rather than “kosher-style.” There are also Jewish dairy restaurants, although they tend to be strictly kosher. But “Jewish restaurant” doesn’t sound odd to me. Going to one for an Easter treat does, though.
So, what constitutes a Jewish restaurant? The menu? The diners? The decor? The owners?
I grew up in Cleveland and Jewish delis were common enough. Most of them were madhouses at lunchtime, everyone jostling for their favorite sandwich, always served with a huge dill pickle. (My fav was tongue.) The stampedes were reined in with the invention of the “Take a number” machines. Along with the Jewish delis, there were German, Polish and Italian delis. Ah, don’t you love cultural diversity?
I frequent a place called Eli’s Jerusalem Grill. I don’t recall it being overtly Jewish or kosher, but I notice there’s no pork on the menu.
I’d say the menu. Reading between the line, PJ, you seem to agree “Jewish deli” is a thing but not “Jewish restaurant.” Maybe the question is what makes a restaurant a deli?
The other thing to note is that “Jewish food” in this context really means “Ashkenazi versions of Central European food.” Babka, bagels, bialys, knishes, pastrami, lox, kasha, stuffed cabbage, etc., etc., are all just German or Polish or Russian recipes made without pork. (That’s how this thread started, after all.)
Because the Jews in American are predominantly Ashkenazi who settled in New York, we tend to consider their culture “Jewish” culture. The food in a Sephardic community, in Israel, say, is quite different.
Oh no, Martin, I don’t deny there’s such a thing as a Jewish restaurant. I merely said it’s not familiar to me. Aside from a Jewish deli, I’ve never been in a food joint with an exclusively Jewish menu.
“What makes a restaurant a deli?” No seats, no?
I want to add that your quip about going to a Jewish restaurant for an Easter treat was pretty funny. Comedic posts need more acclaim.
I went to a great Jewish restaurant in Brooklyn during one of the ACPT’s last couple years in Brooklyn. Super-casual place where you order at the counter and take your tray to the table. But yummy falafel and the like. This is not remotely a deli.
Then there’s the acclaimed Israeli-British chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, whose cookbooks are best-sellers. You can get his recipes online, too: http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/recipes
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the kosher BBQ joint in my neighborhood. Don’t try to go there on Friday night, because they close for the Sabbath and reopen Saturday at sunset.
I’ve eaten and made babka. I did not know it was an Easter treat. Around here people bake an Easter bread with hard-boiled and dyed eggs nestled in the braids.
Stumper was gentle but very fun.
Thanks for the Van song pannonica. What a great album Moondance is.