Friday, July 7, 2017

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:03 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:07 (Amy) 


Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

It’s Andy! Hi, Andy! Hello, Andy’s puzzle! This is an opportune time to mention a new venture Andy’s undertaking: the Grid Wars weekly grid-constructing challenge. Newbies and seasoned pros alike are encouraged to throw their hats into the ring. The inaugural challenge is to make a themeless grid where 1-Across is an ice cream flavor and the last Across is a body of water or a hot tub or something; assorted other oddball restrictions apply, and it’ll be neat to see how various constructors decide to meet the challenges. Readers will vote on which grid is their favorite. Sounds like a cool way for constructors to hone their skills and learn from their peers—so if you’re at all inclined to make crosswords, check out Grid Wars.

NY Times crossword solution, 7 7 17, no 0707

We now return to our regularly scheduled puzzle review. Highlights: A NAIL SALON right up top. The movie MOONLIGHT. A handy little SEWING KIT (although the clue, [Where to stick a needle], had me thinking of antecubital veins). The modern verb VAGUEBOOKS (an example would be making a Facebook that says only “Well, that’s a shame,” with no additional info or antecedent to give you any idea what motivated those sentiments). NEIL SIMONLINOLEUM because of the Bert and Ernie “La La La” song. ASTI, because while it’s fairly stale crossword fill, I love a sweet white wine, with or without bubbles. INSTA, short for Instagram, because that’s what people say. The Key and Peele mention in the MADTV clue.

What I learned: That there is such a thing as the ALL-NBA TEAM, [Kobe Bryant made it 15 times]. This is more elite than the All-Star team, I gather. But ick, Kobe Bryant. The awesome Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (love his writing!) and Tim Duncan also have 15 nods.

Also did not know: 47a. [Title Roman tribune of an early Wagner opera], RIENZI. If you don’t know it either and want to see a synopsis or history, here you go.

I wonder who wrote the clue for TONGUE, [Mandarin or Mandingo]. I’m not sure that Mandingo is still in wide use—do we have any linguists with expertise on African languages who can weigh in? Wikipedia points towards Mandinka rather than Mandingo.

4.25 stars from me.

Matthew Sewell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Cabin Boy” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 7/7/17 • “Cabin Boy” • Sewell • solution

Right away one notices the unusual grid. Four isolated squares dead center. That even number should also clue you in that it won’t have the standard 15 columns—indeed there are 16.

So what’ve we got?

That isolate, 39a, is the [Noted residence for this puzzle’s subject, found in the “walled-in” letters in left-to-right order] POND.

As I’d already been through much of the surrounding material and seen the other theme clues, I knew in general what the subject was even if I hadn’t fully filled in those answers nor did I understand quite how the circled squares worked, as the crossings seemed problematic.

Turned out there was no fancy multiple-letter-rebusing or transcendental Schrödingering—they were simply ignored for the down answers. Sometimes the answer is simplicity.

  • 18a. [July 12, 1817 birthplace of this puzzle’s subject] THOREAU FARM. This also communicates the rationale for the puzzle, as it approximates the anniversary.
    3d. [Make an effort] TRY.
  • 24a. [Maine’s highest point, climbed by this puzzle’s subject while living at 39 Across] MOUNT KATAHDINKatadhin is Penobscot for “the greatest mountain” so the English name has a “Sahara Desert” thing going on.
    19d. [Sun Devil rival] UTE.
  • 52a. [“Lead-ing” workplace for  this puzzle’s subject before and after living at 39 Across] PENCIL FACTORY.
    52d. [Father of Eros, in many sources] –ARES.
  • 63a. [Where this puzzle’s subject had an involuntary one-night stay while living at 39 Across] CONCORD JAIL.
    65d. [Babe of folk-tale fame, e.g.] –OX.

The subject is of course Henry David Thoreau.

As per the instructions, reading the circled letters left to right provides POND, as in Walden Pond, or as the revealer clue punned, ‘walled-in’. Ya, if you thought that was a groaner, the ‘lead-ing’ in 52a was far worse.

Not entirely sure how or even if ‘walled-in’ indicates that those letters aren’t to be used in the vertical answers, but I do appreciate how even with them included those entries are legitimate crossword fill: Troy, Utne, pares, and dox.

One additional theme-related entry: 64d [Monogram of the literary figure who was the landowner of the residence at 39 Across] RWE, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Literariness! 11d [Metaphorical “goon” in Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From the Goon Squad”] TIME, 17a [“__ the stuff to drink / For fellows whom it hurts to think”: A.E. Housman] ALE’S, 23a [“The Road to Emmaus” poet Spencer __ ] REECE, 46a [“1984” superstate inhabitants] EURASIANS, 71a [Bardic order to leave] EXEUNT … hmm, not much among the downs, 54d will have to suffice: [Site of Hercules’ lion-related labor] NEMEA.

  • 1a [Movie monster shooting laser beams from her antennae] MOTHRA. 35d [Studio that spawned 1 Across] TOHO.
  • 10d/22a [Throw some shade?] DIM, TINT. 29d [Indian spiritual teacher, perhaps] GURU, 30d [Egyptian spiritual teacher, perhaps] IMAM.
  • Favorite clues: 69a [Places for clippers and cutters] SEAS, 6d [Org. for many residents] AMA, 1d [“It was my understanding that there would be no __” (Chase “SNL” line] MATH (Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, debating Jimmy Carter (Dan Aykroyd)).
  • 47a [Like some tubers] AFLOAT. Riparian recreation, people. However, for future reference:

    A simple method that can be used to separate high and low specific gravity potatoes is to prepare an 11 percent brine solution of one cup salt per 9 ½ cups of water. The resulting solution will have a specific gravity of close to 1.080, the figure used to measure the high quality of solids content in a Russet Burbank potato. Potatoes that sink in the solution will have a high specific gravity and a light, mealy texture when cooked. Low specific gravity potatoes will float, have a lower starch content, and may have a waxy, soggy texture. – Idaho Potato Commission

  • 59d [Diamond Head’s island] OAHU, 44d [Brian who produced Devo] ENO.
  • 68a [“D’oh!” opposite] WOO-HOO, though I tried EUREKA for quite a long while. The correct answer is more precise, as it’s also a Homersimpsonism.

Good puzzle, but kind of busy in theme, especially considering the inspiration.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

The theme is simple – A becomes U in several theme answers. In each case, the changed vowel is found alone, though the sounds are not consistent. We have B(U/A)NKROBBER, D(U/A)NCEPARTNERS, B(U/A)NGLEBRACELETS, CLOTHESH(U/A)NGER and EXHAUSTF(U/A)N.

A lot of clues and areas felt quite tough today, although I didn’t finish too slowly, apparently. I thought IDIG was inapt for [Slangy “Got that?] but was slow to change. That made the top the last to fall. Also [“I sure don’t want that”] is weird for EEK. I had UGH, and was even more reluctant to move that. Just across, the [Mogul Emperor…] and, as clued, [Izu Islands city], which turned out to be plain ole TOKYO, were some tough trivia.

It got easier down below, but I’m sure I’m the only sports illiterate to look skeptically at TIANT as a plausible name…

3.5 Stars

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15 Responses to Friday, July 7, 2017

  1. Brian says:

    Grid Wars looks cool!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Excellent puzzle, fun solve. I really like it when 1A is a real thing, not an abbreviation or something so convoluted you can’t possibly figure it out in its own right. It’s like entering a new place– it should be welcoming, somehow.

    I’m not a Facebook person so VAGUEBOOKS was news to me. Good to know. And I like the idea of being mysterious!

    And a million points for minimal crosswordese. You look at the grid after it’s finished and you recognize the words. Good way to start a Friday!

    • huda says:

      The Grid Wars does sound cool, with 1A guaranteed to be something we recognize. I’m hoping Pistachio will show up in someone’s grid. Aleppo (as in “What is Aleppo”) is famous for awesome pistachios.

    • Lise says:

      Also there was a BIB.

  3. Lise says:

    LAT: I asked my husband who TIANT was (thinking I must have had something wrong) and he responded with a really good imitation of Luis TIANT’s unique pitching windup. You can see it on YouTube here: (Luis TIANT, not my husband)

    Three great puzzles today! Clever CHE, excellent and sparkly NYT and very fun LAT. A very satisfying start to Friday, imo.

    • Brian says:

      Agreed, LAT was very nice and I’m surprised by the low ratings. Everything about 24-Across is fantastic.

    • Glenn (the other one) says:

      > Clever CHE, excellent and sparkly NYT and very fun LAT.

      Can’t say anything about the NYT (yet).

      The CHE was great overall in execution, but sometimes (as that grid goes) the information can be too specialized, and I think that happened here. I know there’s a whole controversy over whether having to Google stuff constitutes properly solving a puzzle or not, but sometimes it can get pretty frustrating in any grid you deal with.

      The LAT suffers from a certain degree of Whiskey Tango Foxtrotery (for lack of a better more genteel and accurate way to put it). This factor has several categories of things, though, a lot related to the relative experience of the person involved in terms of number of grids seen and their location (culture often dictates different knowledge and words used – the NYT is incredibly bad at times in being Northeast-centric). A lot of today’s LAT trends towards the category of plausibility. If you put the clue and the answer together, does it make reasonable sense (i.e. not confusing) or at least possible that some of it can be caught by crosses?

      Of course, it’s a late week grid so there’ll be more of that to be expected, but at times some of them become more of a stretch that can be bought, which arguably a bit of this LAT happened. If you want a discussed example of what I’m trying to relate, the WSJ-gate of yesterday is a good one, possible ethnic slur not withstanding. Never heard of that term used in the way the clue dictates. At all. Hence, that section of the grid ended up costing it a * yesterday from me.

      Just how it goes sometimes.

  4. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Amy, thanks for the Bert and Ernie video. When we were kids, my cousin had a record (vinyl) of Sesame Street songs. We listened to it over and over again. I still know most of the words to this song.

  5. mmespeer says:

    Favorite phrase of the day: “transcendental Schrödingering”

  6. Steve Manion. says:

    Easiest Friday puzzle for me in a long time.

    The all NBA team (there are actually 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams) has huge implications for the salaries of players. Two of the league’s premier players, Paul George (Indiana) and Gordon Hayward (Utah) would have been eligible for supermax deals from their teams if they had made one of the three all NBA teams–salaries in the range of $50,000,000 a year. This would have been hard to turn down even in today’s obsession with playing on a team with a chance to win the championship. Neither one made it, so Hayward signed with the Celtics and George with the Rockets.

    I got a kick out of Nail Salon as one of my poker friends just yesterday told me to watch the video by Anjelah Johnson:


    • Correction: George is with the Thunder. Though I admit a team with James Harden, Chris Paul and Paul George would be amazingly entertaining to watch (to be fair, Harden and Chris Paul alone is still really entertaining).

      • Steve Manion. says:

        Thanks. I forgot that it was Chris Paul who signed with the Rockets. I must be fantasizing that some team can emerge to compete with the Warriors.


  7. Tim in NYC says:

    Yesterday Andy told us to be gentle. He needn’t fear. And at Rex Parker’s place everyone is ecstatic, including Rex himself, which you don’t see too often.

  8. Gareth says:

    Very fun NYT, but one of the hardest Fridays in living memory for me…

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