Thursday, September 14, 2017

NYT 3:06 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


BEQ 9:00 (Ben) 


LAT 3:44 (Gareth) 


Fireball is a contest this week. The review will be posted once the entry deadline has passed.

John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 9.14.17 by John Guzzetta

Let’s dive right in, shall we? First, there are three theme answers spread across black squares:

  • 17a/18a, TOOT / HIS OWN HORN [With 18-Across, what a boastful guy might do]. An odd choice of base phrase, but it turns out to be necessary for the theme.
  • 35a/37a, DO UNTO / OTHERS [With 37-Across, start of an ethical rule]. “… as you would have them do unto you” is roughly how I remember that ending.
  • 54a/57a, SPREAD TOO / THIN [With 57-Across, overextended].

And, oh hey, there’s a revealer at 52a, [Formal term for the gap suggested by 17/18-, 35/37- and 54/57-Across]. So what’s a DIASTEMA?

So it’s a GAP TOOTH (TOOT HIS OWN HORN, DO UNTO OTHERS, SPREAD TOO THIN). Quick question: Why wasn’t GAP TOOTH the revealer? It could easily have been clued as something like [Feature suggested by…]. Not sure what putting the unfamiliar DIASTEMA adds that wouldn’t be better served by GAP TOOTH (or TOOTH GAP). The only explanation I can think of is that maybe the phrase is more commonly GAP TEETH than “tooth,” and the separated letters were TOOTH rather than “teeth.” If that’s the case, though, then I don’t think the revealer works, since the “gap suggested” by the entries is TOOTH GAP.

That all is nitpicky, I guess. This has a shockingly low word (69) for a weekday puzzle. The fill is solid throughout, though there aren’t a ton of constraints. I liked some of the long stuff, like SEED PEARLS, RUSTLED UP, AMOUNT TO, and REVEILLE. A little weird to have MADDEN and NFC so close, as well as DO UNTO and SURE DO, but c’est la vie.

I was hung up for a while on 26a, [What comes before a clue?]. Tricky, tricky: it’s GET, as in “GET a clue.” Which I have now done.

Solid Thursday. Until next week!

Heidi Moretta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Re:” — Jim’s review

Theme: The first words of various phrases or names are sandwiched by the letters R and E. Hence, we have words that are “in R E.” Somewhat reminiscent of the NYT mini puzzle from yesterday (GLO = “L in GO” = LINGO).

WSJ – Thu, 9.14.17 – “In Re:” by Heidi Moretta (Mike Shenk)

  • 18a [Inveigh against Target Field players?REVILE TWINS. Evil twins. Did not know what inveigh meant. In fact, I didn’t know it was a word. As it’s used in the clue, it looks like a proper name.
  • 25a [Stop for a Vintners’ Expo visitor?] RED WINE BOOTH. Edwin Booth. Nice find changing “Edwin” to “red wine.” I didn’t recognize the name, but Mr. Booth was one of the most popular and well-known American actors of the 19th century. He is often overshadowed by his bro who shot that president. Yeah, that guy.
  • 43a [Logistical concern for Amazon shipments?] ROUTE OF ORDER. Out of order. Nice. Did you hear that Amazon is looking for a location to build a second but equal headquarters? Yup, it’s got Seattle’s city leadership up in arms that perhaps someday Amazon might pull up stakes completely.
  • 54a [Possible commemorative choice for renaming Boston Common?] REVERE GREEN. Evergreen. The clue makes all the difference. My feeling is that verbal phrases (like REVILE TWINS above) are inherently weaker than noun phrases. This phrase could’ve easily been clued as [Adore CeeLo?] and it would have been fine. But I prefer the imaginative clue Mike Shenk came up with because it provides a more tangible feel.

It took a little while to figure out exactly what was going on here. The matter was confused by the fact that the first two entries both had RE and IN in them. But once I caught on, I enjoyed the wordplay, and that made it worth it.

Not a lot of sparkly fill today aside from BIRD SONGS. I also like EREWHON, but Samuel Butler’s book title has always gnawed at me. I can’t look at it without wanting to transpose the W and H. *shakes fist* Butler!

LIGHT DIET [Convalescent’s fare] struck me as green paintish. Is this something that people actually say? The clue is also unfortunately timed after the recent news coming from a Florida nursing home.

There are a couple more icky bits in 26d ERTE and 58a ROAR AT. The rest of the fill, though, is functional; it’s the theme that takes the prize in this grid.

Lots of clues to get through:

  • 21d [Grant Wood, for one]. IOWAN. If you don’t know this painter’s name, learn it. His most famous work is American Gothic, and he seems to pop up in WSJ puzzles on a not-infrequent basis.
  • 13d [Sportin’ Life gives her a dose of happy dust]. BESS. What a crazy clue that, to this moment, I still don’t understand. Is Sportin’ Life a magazine? If so, what kind of happy dust did they give to BESS Truman? Ha! I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s opera. Sportin’ Life and BESS are characters in Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess. The happy dust is cocaine.
  • 29a [Norman delivery]. ARIA. That’s Jessye Norman the soprano, another operatic name I didn’t know. In other opera news, I did hear today that Dame Kiri Te Kanawa announced her retirement.
  • 30a [Lewis with the 2008 #1 hit “Bleeding Love”]. LEONA. From opera to pop. Sadly for me, my musical interests lie elsewhere, but apparently this was the biggest-selling single in the UK and US in 2007 (per Wikipedia).
  • 32d [Product from un penseur]. IDEE. IDEE translates to “idea,” and penseur translates to “thinker,” as in “Le Penseur de Rodin.”
  • 33d [It may come to a head]. BEER. This clue would also work for “idea.”
  • 47d [“Gaspard de la Nuit” composer]. RAVEL. According to this site, RAVEL set out to create a fiendishly difficult piece of music, and he succeeded. Apparently, the mere mention of it is enough to frighten most pianists. But watch the video below to see part of it (Scarbo, the most difficult portion) performed masterfully by Ukrainian-American Valentina Lisitsa (the video starts out quietly, but gets louder as it goes).

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “No Great Shakes” — Ben’s Review

This week’s BEQ is a quote puzzle!  I tend to dislike these, but my interest was peaked by the quote being from John Oliver, who I think only lags behind Samantha Bee in terms of incisive political humor these days:

  • 17A: Start of a quote by John Oliver — DEMOCRACY IS LIKE
  • 28A: Quote pt. 2 — A TAMBOURINE
  • 37A: Pt. 3 — NOT
  • 42A: Pt. 4 — EVERYONE CAN
  • 52A: Pt. 5 — BE TRUSTED WITH IT 

I’m not sure on this one, y’all.  This feels like a joke that works best when you’ve got the speaker’s exact cadence – seeing it written out doesn’t quite have the same effect from a comedy perspective.

Aside from that, I liked FILAS (though I tried to have it be PUMAS for too long), KOOL and the Gang, LATERAL, LEMON TORTE, SKIMP ON, KELLY RIPA (who has the same enumeration as Brian DUNKELMAN,  co-host of S1 of American Idol), I GOT NOTHIN’, and PEARL GRAY.  Less fond of the plural IGAS, STOP GO traffic (which really needs an -and- between those two words, IMO), and other too-common fill like TET.

3.75/5 stars

Clive Probert’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Our letter addition puzzle this week has come a day early. Hear “T-” is added to four long answers: SINGLES(T-)BAR, LOSEYOUR(T-)SHIRT (the weakest by far, as the meaning isn’t changed much), GIVEADOGA(T-)BONE (I have no idea what “Ruth’s Chris” is supposed to mean), and OEDIPUS(T-)REX. Nice concept but not particularly or elegant interesting wacky answers for me.

The grid design is challenging – 11/14/14/11 is a difficult arrangement, but everything is held together surprisingly well. The STODGY stuff is there, but carefully distributed so it doesn’t stick in the teeth. I don’t really see much in terms of answers or clues I feel the urge to comment on.

3 Stars

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30 Responses to Thursday, September 14, 2017

  1. It could be just me, but I had to blindly guess on two crossings: R?DELL/SH?EST (I or Y, as I’ve never seen “Grease”) and DI?STEMA/NUTRI? (many letters seemed plausible here). I got them both right since I had a feeling I’d seen NUTRIA show up in my word list once or twice before, but it wouldn’t surprise me if those crossings trip up a fair number of people.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      Agreed. I went with the I in the former crossing. Not really a fair one.

      The latter I only got from visiting Baton Rouge years ago, which was having a serious nutria problem at the time.

    • MattF says:

      I knew nutriA, but the other crossing was just a coin toss, and I initially got it wrong.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I had exactly the same problem, except that I didn’t have the R either. How did you get that one if you’ve never seen Grease? To me, TYDELL, BIDELL, etc. all seemed roughly as plausible as RYDELL.

    • Matthew G. says:

      NUTRIA I knew, but count me among those who tried SHIEST/RIDELL first. It seems both SHIEST and SHYEST are considered acceptable spellings; but nobody would write, say, UGLYEST, so it seemed to me that the default spelling for the superlative of a Y-ending adjective ought to be to turn the Y into an I. And yet, upon googling, it appears that SHYEST is somewhat preferred.

      Anyhow, yeah. Bad crossing.

  2. jim hale says:

    “Centaur who was killed by Hercules” crossing “Twitter site” made this impossible for me to complete without guessing. Also, “ach” is getting old… but pretty much describes my feeling for this puzzle.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      I think of myself as a “casual fan” of Greek mythology, and NESSUS was definitely not on my list of known names.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      Impossible? NEST is a pretty basic word. If it had occurred to you that Twitter did not necessarily refer to the website, you’d have gotten that one.

  3. pannonica says:

    Why focus on GAP TOOTH or whatever as a missed-opportunity revealer? That isn’t the primary sense of diastema unless you’re being anthropocentric (which I concede crossword puzzles tend to be).

    • Andy says:

      The three theme answers all feature a GAP in the word TOOTH… it seems weirdly roundabout to use DIASTEMA as the revealer instead of GAP TOOTH or TOOTH GAP.

      • pannonica says:

        Diastema is the precise word. The other constructions are relatively crude and furthermore would introduce a non-broken TOOTH to the grid.

  4. pannonica says:

    WSJ: “I also like EREWHON, but Samuel Butler’s book title has always gnawed at me. I can’t look at it without wanting to transpose the W and H. *shakes fist* Butler!”

    Get revenge by calling him ‘Bulter’?

  5. David L says:

    I guessed wrong on SHIEST/RIDELL. Bad crossing!

    Never heard of DIASTEMA but as Andy says it’s incorrect as a revealer. The answers don’t have a gap between teeth, they have a cracked tooth. But then GAP TOOTH would be wrong also.

  6. Nene says:

    The fatal flaw was the use of the esoteric word DIASTEMA as the central answer and revealer. Unless you are a dental zoologist you likely never heard it before.

    • pannonica says:

      Just a zoologist, or even someone who’s studied a little vertebrate anatomy.

      nb: I’ve measured thousands upon thousands diastemata. So, yes, I’m not objective at all when judging how the average solver should react. Then again, it’s solid opportunity to learn a useful word.

      And while we’re here, another name for NUTRIA is the crossword-ready COYPU. Scientific name is Myocastor coypus, which basically means ‘mouse-beaver–coypu’ (the local tribal name for the rodent).

      • David L says:

        Well! I know NUTRIA and COYPU, probably from an ill-spent youth riffling through encyclopedias and the like, but I had no idea they are the same animal. So I’ve learned two things today, and it’s not even noon yet.

      • Norm says:

        DIASTEMA a “useful word”? In what life? Not mine. Have not ever come across it in any of the 1000s of autopsy reports I have had to read, and I think I will do my best to forget it immediately. I need to save my limited supply of aging brain cells for the oddly-named singers and rappers that BEQ and the young ‘uns insist on including in their puzzles. :)

  7. Ethan says:

    I wonder if there was any thought to ALFRED E NEUMAN being a revealer. It probably would have required an orientation other than rotational symmetry.

  8. artlvr says:

    “EREWHON” brought back memories of my great-uncle who loved word-play — and the xword puzzle I concocted for him, which he nixed for me because I’d misspelled that title!

  9. FrankC says:

    I really liked the concept behind the NYT but am surprised that no one mentioned the total lack of symmetry either in the main entries or the revealer. I wonder how many constructors would have chucked the whole concept for lack of good symmetrical entries, thinking either that there was a lack of “elegance” or that the editor would have considered that a “fatal” mistake. Does symmetry matter anymore, or put another way is asymmetry acceptable even if that asymmetry is not an intrinsic part of the theme? Does this make any sense or am I missing something here

  10. Zulema says:

    What does ACT stand for in the NYT answer to 1D “It’s the law” clue? It may end up as a duh, but I have tried, I assure you.

  11. Robin says:

    Ruth’s Chris is a chain of steak houses.

  12. Gary M says:

    No one remarked on a feeling of “bad clueing” in the southwest corner of BEQ’s “No Great Shakes”? I got it ultimately because there was some obvious stuff (“bugle”, “bet”, even “pearl gray”) — but 60 Across, “2015 American Dialect word of the year”, being “they”. Did anyone actually know that, or that such award exists? Similarly, “Beth” Mowins, first female NFL announcer? And just as bad — 49 Down, “Progressive magazine” as “Utne” — when its actual name is the Utne Reader, and it’s never referred to as simply “Utne”.
    Like 32 Across, “StopGo” regarding traffic — I don’t think a puzzle can/should essentially just make up phrasings. And I think that when the puzzler is using real obscurities, they should take care not to group them in the same sector. (And that on top of the fact that the theme quote, which permeated all sections, was extremely obscure, too.)

    • pannonica says:

      “‘2015 American Dialect word of the year’, being ‘they’. Did anyone actually know that, or that such award exists?”

      Short answer: yes. Slightly longer answer: know your audience. Honestly, I’m surprised there haven’t been more references here. Nevertheless, I believe a lot of people on this site are well aware of the American Dialect Society and various entities’ (e.g., Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster) word of the year announcements.

      STOP/GO traffic, from Google Ngrams:

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