Saturday, October 21, 2017

LAT 7:03 (Derek) 


Newsday 23:20 (Derek) 


NYT 5:58 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sam Donaldson & Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 21 17, no 1021

There’s some cool stuff in this puzzle, but there were also scattered bits that left me cold. First up, the goodies: Huda’s beloved hometown, DAMASCUS. Cartoonist HILARY B. Price, who once replied to an fan email I sent her. HOSTESS TWINKIES, which, it turns out, are surprisingly terrible (and probably always were? I mean, I loved Space Food Sticks but discovered in adulthood that I’d been nostalgic for utter grossness). MR. MAGOO and COACH K, a sensible pairing if you think about it. WOBBLY, M.C. ESCHER, ROGUE ONE, the great COSMIC JOKE, and ZIMBABWEAN with its unusual-in-English BW combo, also good.

I can’t say I’ve encountered the term SET MENU in restaurants, however. IMARETS, OMSK, and LAPP are things I’ve encountered in crosswords at least 99% of the times I’ve seen them anywhere. IN A TIE feels awkward as clued, with [Knotted]. SEGNO is one of those musical terms (less familiar than D SHARP) I know only from crosswords (but I assume Brad knows all the musical terminology thanks to his opera fandom). 55a. [Sext symbols] are HOT PEPPER EMOJIS?? I only know of the eggplant emoji standing in for a penis. I just texted my husband three hot pepper emojis and … it just looks like the notation beside a really spicy dish on the menu at an Indian restaurant. Plural ELENAS and NAES … meh. Not sure about this [Shared vow], WE DO—have you been to weddings where this is the couple’s approach? I haven’t been to any weddings in years, so maybe this is a thing now.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Open, one-seated horse-drawn carriage], STANHOPE. Who doesn’t love horse-drawn carriage names? *raises hand* I wonder if Brad and Sam initially had comic Doug Stanhope in mind for the clue. I don’t think I’d enjoy his material much, based on this interview. You know what comedian I like, though? Kumail Nanjiani, who hosted SNL last weekend, Nanjiani also cowrote and starred in the story of how he and his now-wife got together, The Big Sick. Just watched it on-demand tonight and man, was it good.
  • 43a. [Display of glee], JIG. Have you … have you ever literally done a jig because you were so pleased? If so, please provide details and, if available, video.
  • With 46a being SUNNI Islam, I wonder if 48a ARAB was originally clued in relation to the Arab peoples rather than [Steed noted for its stamina].
  • 60a. [Put in another light], RECAST. To an editor, recasting is rejiggering a sentence so that it works better.
  • 9d. [Add water to, say], THIN. Dang it, I drink a ton of water and yet I’m not getting any thinner.

3.6 stars from me. I usually enjoy both Brad’s and Sam’s work more than this particular puzzle, and will look forward to seeing their next collabo.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Yes, I made a couple of errors, as you can see in the grid. I don’t remember what I had instead of AIR VENT at 17A, but whatever it was I am sure made a whole lot less sense than the correct answer! I will mention it again, but this style of grid is a bit easier to solve, especially since there are no answers in the grid longer than 7 letters! Oddly enough, there also isn’t a single 6-letter entry in this grid, but fully half of the entries are 7-letters! Nice fun puzzle; not too tough, which is OK by me! 4.4 stars.

A few notes:

  • 18A [Creamy rice dish] RISOTTO – I would love to go to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants and try his version. On Hell’s Kitchen it looks delicious!
  • 20A [California region named for a literary hero] TARZANA – Is this really where the name came from? That seems … weird.
  • 55A [Please, please …”] I BEG YOU – One of my favorite entries in the grid!
  • 59A [Asphalt] BITUMEN – I first learned this word in the Bible. Noah used it to coat the ark. I picture him covered in tar from head to toe!
  • 4D [Bloke’s address] GUV – Not sure why British people use this term, but still a nice clue.
  • 14D [Like the wind] ERODENT – I had EROSIVE, since ERODENT is a lot rarer. Perhaps a tad high on the difficulty level.
  • 39D [Hog’s call?] ALL MINE! – Another great phrase used as a entry. Pretty good pun as well!
  • 43D [Source of some annoying online messages] NAGWARE – Is this two words? I have no idea. I had to ask my son about this one. another new term to me. These are those annoying boxes that pop up and you have to actually do something to close them. Nice entry!

I actually broke my diet to eat this:

Not the greatest picture, but this is a venison sandwich from Arby’s! For the record, I only ate half of it. Not bad! Deer season is a big thing in this part of the country; they are all over the place. Back to my vegan ways now! Have a nice weekend!

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

OK, I actually have a gripe with this one! While solving, when I got to 57A, I of course had no idea what this answer was early on, but as I progressed, I saw the first word was CHOICE, and I immediately thought I must have had something wrong, because the word “choice” appears in the clue for 58D. I’m not totally sure, but isn’t it highly preferred, if not an outright convention, to not have an answer word appear in a clue in the same puzzle? Obviously minor articles or “THE” may have to make repeat appearances in the final product, but this seems easily avoidable. Other than that, I found this a typical stellar Stumper. The 72-word count makes for a slightly more robust vocabulary, and this has some really good entries. But that repeat word really bothers me. 3.5 stars for this one.

More highlights:

  • 19A [Activity in Showtime’s “Billions”] INSIDER TRADING – I have not seen this show, primarily because I don’t have Showtime, but usually the shows on HBO and Showtime seem to be much better made than other network offerings. Maybe after I finish my masters classes I will have time!
  • 25A [He directed Celeste and Marlon to Oscars] ELIA – As in Elia Kazan. This was a point of entry for me into the puzzle. I seemed to remember he directed On the Waterfront. I remember the protest against him at the Oscars when he received a lifetime award, but a lot of the stuff concerning why he was hated was a little before my time.
  • 47A [Chess tactic, briefly] SAC – A SACrifice is the only thing this could be that is three letters. I think. Matt Gaffney, are there other possibilities for this answer?
  • 62A [French form of “Steve”] ETIENNE – Not sure if this has an accent anywhere in it, but this was also an entry point for me due to taking French classes in middle school!
  • 2D [Certain spinet] PIANOLA – This was a new word to me. I played for years, and my father was/still is obsessed with piano playing, but I have never heard of one of these.
  • 12D [Paleozoic supercontinent] PANGAEA – You had me at “supercontinent!” 
  • 28D [Chain testing solar-panel packages] IKEA – This sounds intriguing. I wonder what they are selling? I know some of their lamps in their stores are solar powered, if I remember correctly.
  • 40D [Steel-center euro coin] ONE CENT – I think this is an excellent clue! I have never held a Euro in my hand because the European countries I have visited didn’t use this currency. Very clever!
  • 55D [Ride for Elmo] TRIKE – I never did like that Elmo …

Michigan has a big game today, and they likely will get stomped. Yikes! Have a good Saturday!

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Quiet Time” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/21/17 • “Quiet Time” • Sat • DiPietro • solution

Variations on a—um, in a? of a?—theme.

  • 22a. [Remark meant to silence … a chiropractor?] NO MORE BACK TALK.
  • 36a. [… a Del Monte employee?] CAN IT ALREADY.
  • 67a. [… an  FBI agent?] STOP BUGGING ME.
  • 99a. [… a careless plumber?] SHUT YOUR TRAP.
  • 116a. [… a bad writer?] NOT ANOTHER WORD.
  • 15d. [… a washing machine repairman?] PUT A SOCK IN IT.
  • 62d. [… a pushy waiter?] I’VE HAD ENOUGH.

Interesting how it was decided that some apparently need to have disparaging qualifiers.

Just so.

Theme works, crossword does the job.

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26 Responses to Saturday, October 21, 2017

  1. salm says:

    Re: “We do”

    Not familiar to me as a wedding vow, but I recall it clearly as a baptismal vow.

    “Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?

    Godparents: We do.”

    • Zulema says:

      You are absolutely right.

    • pannonica says:

      Shouldn’t the response to a question phrased like that be “We are”?

      • PJ Ward says:

        From the UMC Baptismal Covenant…
        The pastor addresses the congregation, and the congregation responds:
        Do you, as Christ’s body, the Church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ?
        We do.

    • Anne says:

      At my wedding, all four parents said “We do” when the celebrant asked, “Who gives these people to be married to each other?” Episcopalian, upstate NY, long time ago now :)

  2. Zulema says:

    In the NYT puzzle, this was not caught. 41 Across, Makarova’s name is not ELENA but Ekaterina. When this crossword is edited for reprinting, it will be easy to change the clue from Makarova and substitute Vesnina. But to me, it is inexcusable that the constructors did not bother to look it up. I guess Will trusted them also. This error got me out of bed! Sorry.

    • Penguins says:

      Per Wikipedia , Elena Alekseyevna Makarova is a former tennis professional and Ekaterina Valeryevna Makarova a current one.

      • Zulema says:

        It would have been better to have a clue that said “former” since Dementieva is also retired. The clue is still very misleading if not totally wrong.

  3. Thom says:

    I’m one of the oddballs who, in fact, loves horse-drawn carriage names—I think because there are so many and they are so specific. I now have one more for my list.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, I’m on a streak, yesterday my name, today my hometown! Thank you Amy for remembering! And in 1A no less, clued with the best clue ever. To this day, I have a Proustian memory whenever I smell jasmine. I was in Los Angeles this week and walked by a bush and interrupted my conversation to pick a tiny bloom and smell it. Made me happy. We used to collect bowlfuls of jasmine in the summertime, right out of the garden and string some into bracelets. Can’t figure out how to grow them in the midwest. If anyone knows a sturdy version of jasmine, I’d be in your debt forever.

    That single entry opened the NW for me and it all fell in like a minute, STANHOPE included.

    The HOT PEPPER part of the EMOJIS took a while to come… good to know. Next time, be a romantic instead and send jasmine.

  5. David L says:

    The Stumper had me stumped in the top middle section — I had BONDO, AWGEE, SNORE, giving me OEEH for the biblical name — clearly wrong but I couldn’t figure out which letters had to be fixed (SNORT for a ‘harsh breath’ doesn’t seem quite right to me…)

    Also, I object to the clue for HELIO — ‘starter like soli-‘ — on the grounds that I know of no English word beginning with soli- that has to do with the Sun.

    Other than that, not super difficult, even with the online version omitting several of the last down clues, as it tends to do.

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    I found today’s NYT smooth and straightforward. I did think about you, Huda, at 1a. Yesterday, by contrast was a complete train wreck for me, starting with 1a and continuing throughout the grid.

  7. steveo says:

    Omsk is a place I enjoy visiting on Google Street View. I also believe it’s coverered in a great Siberian road trip book by Ian Frazier.

  8. Lance says:

    I do the Newsday Saturday crossword because I appreciate the challenge, but I’m often underwhelmed by several clues or entries, and that was definitely the case here.

    I definitely noticed the CHOICE repetition, which is an unfortunate oversight. But I also thought the clue for 66A was unnecessarily weird. I’m also just plain not a fan of Newsday’s “etymologically related” clues–in part because that’s exactly the sort of thing you’d typically avoid in clues (would you accept “Make a choice” as a clue for CHOOSE?), and in part because they’re typically not very interesting. Learning that “Igor” is related to “Inga” feels like the least interesting fact I could learn about the name Igor.

    Sometimes the puzzle can overcome Newsday’s quirkiness; I didn’t think this one did.

  9. placematfan says:

    Re: “Isn’t it highly preferred, if not an outright convention, to not have an answer word appear in a clue in the same puzzle?”

    Two things crossword bloggers care about that crossword editors don’t (i.e., if you’re constructing a crossword and seeking an editor’s acceptance, you don’t really need to concern yourself with these; if you’re wanting to avoid blogger criticism, concern yourself with these):

    1. Duping grid material and clue material. Editors do, or allow, this all the time. To my knowledge there is no Submission Guidelines page that says “Do not repeat entries in the grid in your list of clues.” Editors are chiefly concerned with multiple grid entries that a) are different forms of the same word, or b) share etymologies. DARE and DARING in the same grid, BRING and BROUGHT in the same grid, TAKE and TOOK in the same grid, not a good thing; BETH and LIZA (both are derived from “Elizabeth”), MONT BLANC and BLANCH (both are derived from some old word that means “white”), TETRIS and NEON TETRA (both use that “tetr-” prefix), not a good thing. The duping of short, common words (THE, AND, ME) are often permitted, though these still carry an element of risk; length and frequency are good risk barometers: if you’ve got IF in two grid entries, that’s a lot safer than a longer, less frequent word like WHEN or MAKE or FREE. Homophones are fine. Words that look alike but have different word histories, fine. Also fine: repetition within a single entry; BEST OF THE BEST or COME ONE, COME ALL or CLAP ON, CLAP OFF are not what an editor would consider a dupe. MULTIDIMENSIONAL and MULTIMEDIA is a risky dupe, because “multi-” is a long prefix and not as common as, say, “pre-“.

    2. Repeating strings of letters. The other day I read a rant about this. It was inferrable that the greatest contributing force behind and justification for this quibble was the fact that Crossword Compiler, perhaps the most widely used software for puzzle creation, has a feature that keeps track of repeated three-letter strings in the grid your making. This is the best software can do in arming you against unacceptable entry dupes; it’s a tool (not a guideline) with which you can assay a list of instances of repeated letter strings and better pick out the dupes that share base words or word histories. If your grid has THOUGHT, BOUGHT, and WROUGHT, or BAYER, PLAYER, and DRAGONSLAYER, or VOODOO, DOO-WOP, and COUNT DOOKU, your editor’s appraisal of the repetition of letter strings (o-u-g-h-t, a-y-e-r, or d-o-o) will be focused on entries that share base words or word histories, and it’ll probably end there. Got MIGHT, TIGHT, RIGHT, and FRIGHT in the same grid? Your editor probably won’t care, but if your puzzle gets blogged it might get pointed out. Got GROAN and GROWN in the same corner of your grid?, got NATURE crossing STATURE?, got SLAY above SLEIGH above WEIGHT? Your editor probably won’t care, but if your puzzle gets blogged it might get pointed out.

    Over recent years, the collective puzzle-editor psyche (which doesn’t exist, as editors have distinct personas and preferences) has been notably stimulated by the blogosphere most notably by the provocation of a heightened sense of political correctness (a propriety/decency/awareness thing), the war on crosswordese, and the notion of the Natick; regarding the latter two, most Submission Guidelines mention one or both, which I suspect may not have been the case before the Rise of the Crossword Blog.

    I’ve found it a fundamentally good idea, before making a puzzle, to draw four circles in my head and Venn-diagram the importances of Whom I’m Making the Puzzle For: myself, the solver, the editor (i.e., getting it accepted for publication), and the blogger; and it’s easy to lie to myself about how much I care about that last one. I wonder, if, like, Patrick Berry comes on Fiend and reads a review of one of his Saturday themelesses. You know? The most vivid “Man, I want to be that person” moment I can recall was when I saw Johnny Depp on Letterman and Johnny Depp relayed an incident, bidden by David Letterman to do so, wherein he wielded a big stick or something to protect his family from a harassing paparazzo, and then Johnny Depp, again bidden by David Letterman, talked about how he doesn’t watch the movies he’s in because his job is Actor and his part of the movie, his work, is done when the filming is done, and that’s all he cares about, the art and the work, and everything else isn’t his concern and he’s not interested in anything but the art and the work, and then David Letterman looks over at Paul and says something like, “Paul, I have to say, Johnny Depp is the coolest guest we’ve ever had”, and, being a big fan of both Johnny Depp and David Letterman, I thought, What a cool moment, and, Wow, how cool would it be to be Johnny Depp and David Letterman says you’re the coolest guest he’s ever had? Mostly though, I sensed a great deal of functionality and virtue in that kind of puristry, and part of me would love to have that.

    There’s a performance on YouTube of Lady Gaga, before she called herself that, at an NYU talent show or something, singing a song she wrote and playing piano. It’s exquisite, pristine. I could watch it over and over. And I do. Just her, a piano, her song. Lyrics, music, performance: all 10 out of 10. But then, it’s not that hard to find concert footage of Lady Gaga talking to her fans about how she adores them, about how they’re the reason she does what she does and all that. And I lose interest in the later stretches of many a musician’s oeuvre because something gets lost when the artist starts to create works that ostensibly he or she thinks the audience will like or whatever. I bet it’s a hard question to answer, a hard diagram to Venn: How much should I care about what people think, about how much they’ll like it? Because, so often it seems, a pureness or an integrity or a veracity lessens the more weight is given to perceived reception.

    So, the artisanry of puzzlemaking includes my distinguishing What an Editor Will Accept and Not Accept from What a Blogger May Praise or Criticize. The artistry of puzzlemaking includes an awareness of how much stock I’m going to put into, for example, a blogger’s post. My heart’s been broken by a bad review of a puzzle I made–this child o’ mine I raised from a little seedling Thought that out of nowhere ensconced itself in my brain while I was taking a shower and watched grow into an adolescent Grid with Theme-Entry Placement and then mature, finally, into an Email with Attachment–but the resultant “Yeah, I could’ve done that better” and the opportunity to learn how to take criticism are quite priceless. My daily perusal of crossword blogs didn’t really manifest until the day after I’d had a puzzle published I felt guilty not reading reviews of other people’s puzzles when the day before I’d read reviews of mine, or a few rounds of that–I mean, I couldn’t, just couldn’t, be that person who shows up for the last fifteen minutes of a poetry open mic and wants to read and be listened to. For a while, when I found my Fiend star rating unsatisfactory, I would take the time to calculate the number of ratings above four stars versus the number of ratings below two, or whatever, and then feel good about that, or if necessary, continue to tinker with further possible rating-system adjustments until I found a result I could feel good about. Then I’d start to see myself as a saccharine Lady Gaga communing with her “monsters” (as she called them), just caring way too much, and in a fit of self-disgust and a desire to be that earlier Lady Gaga or that Johnny Depp I’d find myself wanting to fall in love again with some new idea for another puzzle.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s funny that you speak to what crossword editors do, without yourself being one. I am a crossword editor (Trip Payne and I co-edit the daily Crosswords With Friends), and we do, in fact, work hard to edit out any overlaps between entries such as UNO and ONE. We also try to avoid using noticeable clue words that also appear in the grid (eg, ACT and [Actress Cameron who…], SUNG and [“Poker Face” singer Lady ___], and our fact-checker/clue-vetter, Jon Delfin, flags the ones Trip and I missed. We don’t get them all out, but we do clean things up a lot prior to publication.

      Also, Johnny Depp is gross. Abusive partners are not cool.

  10. Nene says:

    Too many arcana, e.g. SEGNO, THE MGS, IMARETS, ELENAS, and OMSK for my taste.

  11. oh really says:


    Occasional solver (and on some of those occasions, consulter of Fiend) and, like a recidivistic alcoholic whiffing his first scotch in a year, found myself sucked into the sedentary abyss of addressing a passel of the LA Times’ grids through the Washington Post website–I’ve only just learned that CrosSynergy and WaPo have parted company and that the latter now draws from the LAT for its puzzles. Moreover, I’d never attempted one from this well until the eight just now: though I was able to complete all of them, they seem more challenging than the CS. As a solver who welcomes a good think, a number of the clue-response pairs have been rewarding, but I miss the satisfaction, if false, of completing posthaste one of the erstwhile non-Sunday puzzles in my local paper. My renewed solving speed could be likened to the running of molasses in the tundra.

    And so, a few words regarding today’s challenge which I found difficult to complete and a few about the review of it.

    The upper right corner, the, yes, tyrannical obstacle between more hair pulling and that green-bannered congratulatory box (let’s never mind the “you completed the puzzle in eleventy-four eons..”), which I approached from corner bottom with “Maine” and “segment” and then quickly with “risotto,” foiled me for the longest as I foolishly did not more rapidly revisit “idol” in place of “icon.” And so there I sat, grousing, twiddling thumbs, picking nose, for what seemed an eternity. “Sat in on,” filled, but “yes, dear” and “pet mice” were not evident, and even with “I do” and “Assam” settled, “tyrants” and “traipse” would not emerge until I returned to puzzle with fresh eyes after a 20-minute break, pshaw. “Erodent”: never heard of or seen the word, anywhere. (And neither has my spell checker for this blog comment. After completion, I hunted definitions and found some dictionaries, perhaps in their abridged versions, do not list a relevant meaning–TheFreeDictionary, for one, names only its connection with a medicine.)

    In reading the write-up, I wondered how the solver approached this corner. “Erosive” suggests that “yes, dear” and “traipse” may have been inserted before the easiest response, “Maine” (there are only two other states with five letters), and before “segment” and “mid.” Furthermore, after passing seven minutes and three seconds working on a puzzle, how does one not recall the two letters incorrectly filled in, presumably vowels? In the years I have here-and-there consulted Fiend, I have yet to see any summarizer unable to complete a puzzle, so I appreciate the transparency.

    But forgive me, I found the write-up neither insightful nor interesting, and parts of it, not at all relevant. Hope that Fiend reviewers of the LAT grid, as it appears that this is the one I may now periodically try to solve, may be rotated.

  12. jefe says:

    Stumper: [Tacky stuff]=BONDS? I don’t get the meaning here.

  13. Tim Rueger says:

    Speaking of clue/answer overlap in the Stumper, what about 49A VERSA echoed in its clue “Half of an in-reverse phrase”? Reverse is derived from the Latin versa, right?

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