Thursday, November 16, 2017

BEQ untimed in this timeline (Laura) 


LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:11 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball 5:50 (Jenni) 


Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword “Before and After” —Jenni’s write-up

I finished the puzzle without understanding the theme, and then I thought I had it figured out, except it made no sense. Then I looked at the title and went over it again and actually said “aha!” out loud.

The theme answers are normal phrase made wacky by the addition of a letter before and after.

Fireball 11/16, solution grid

  • 17a [King who is considered a deity?] is DON THE GOD, referring to Don King, the boxing promoter. Take away the D’s at the ends and you have ON THE GO.
  • 24a [Generals working their hardest?] are STRAINING BRASS. This is the one that bollixed me up, because if you take out some letters in the middle, you get STRING BASSNone of the other theme answers worked that way and the letters that have to be removed make no sense. Take away the S’s, however, and you get TRAINING BRAS. That’s when I said “aha!”
  • 40a [The process of cultivating tin cans?] is GOAT MEAL RAISING (oatmeal raisin). One of my college roommates raises goats.
  • 51a [Firelit room where I give a lecture?] is HALL OF MY HEARTH (all of my heart).
  • 62a [Couple’s serious fight?] is LOVER DUEL (overdue), which is the weakest of the entries. Seems to me it should be “lover’s duel.”

A few other things:

  • 7d [Oxford Dictionaries 2015 word of the year, for example] is EMOJI. The actual choice was this “face with tears of joy”:
  • 9d [Country whose capital is Tarawa] is KIRIBATI, which lies in the central Pacific and causes the International Date Line to be indented to keep the entire nation on the same day. The easternmost islands have the most advanced time in the world, UTC + 14 hours. Yes, fine, I got all that from Wikipedia.
  • 27d [Businessman buried at Hershey Cemetery] is REESE, inventor of the cup. I live about an hour from Hershey. There is indeed chocolate everywhere.
  • 24d [British invasion participant] is not about 1960s pop music; it goes back much further than that. The answer is SAXON.
  • More islands! 52d ]Hispaniola is directly north of it]. The answer is ARUBA.
  • 63d [Chow checker] refers to the dogs, not the slang for food. It’s VET.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: anything about KIRIBATI. I also didn’t know (or at least hadn’t remembered) that MR ROBOTO was a cut off the album “Kilroy Was Here.”

I leave you with the “Unplugged” version of LAYLA.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shifting Gears” — Jim’s review

The revealer (69a, [Gearshift letters, in the order they’re shifted in the starred answers]) is PRNDL. Each theme entry is a well-known phrase in which the initial letter of the first word has been shifted to the end of that word.

WSJ – Thu, 11.16.17 – “Shifting Gears” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 18a [*Rollicking royal?ROMP QUEEN. Prom Queen.
  • 26a [*Withhold his favorite chew toy?] ANGER ROVER. Range Rover.
  • 37a [*Bit of godly graffiti?] AMEN TAG. Nametag.
  • 48a [*Enthusiasts of newspaper columns?] OP-ED FIENDS. Dope fiends.
  • 61a [*Having a fly-by-night cost?] OWL-PRICED. Low-priced.

Nice theme. I solved from top to bottom, so didn’t uncover the revealer until the end. I felt adequately befuddled until having my a-ha moment.

One thing, though. Are Park, Reverse, etc. actually gears? During the solve, I was looking for “first,” “second,” etc. And I was also thrown off by the presence of OWL since it’s an anagram of LOW, one of the gears in question. That feels a bit inelegant. (Other possibilities might be LEAR/EARL, LEE/EEL, LANA/ANAL. Hmm. I’m sure someone here can come up with a clue for ANAL TURNER). Plus, OWL-PRICED lacks a certain amount of surface sense; perhaps a Harry Potter clue might have improved it.

But aside from those nits, I enjoyed the wordplay, and the shifting of “gears” made sense enough for this to be fun. The consistency of the shift (from first position to last) is another nice tough.

Fill-wise, I really enjoyed BOURBON, EUPHORIA, and MOOD RING. IN DISGUISE is nice as well. ANEAR is decidedly not nice, but I do like the clue [“For two cents I’d leave the blamed country and never come ___ it agin”: Huck Finn].

A Brown Turkey FIG

The LOG/FIG crossing was rough given the clues [Footing for birling] and [Black Mission or Brown Turkey]. Birling is the game where lumberjacks balance on a floating LOG and try to outlast an opponent. Why did I think this was just called log rolling? And I’m not a FIG eater, so I don’t know FIG varieties.

Thursday clues are often have a trivia bent, and that’s also true today, but it was all gettable with the help of crossings. I did like these clues in particular, all because of tricksy misdirection:

  • 54a [One might be on top of the deck]. SAILOR.
  • 54d [Berlin product]. SONG.
  • 62d [Highest suit?]. CEO.

Overall, a fun puzzle with good wordplay and fill, and a satisfying a-ha moment.

Alex Eylar’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 11.16.17 by Alex Eylar

A debut byline this Thursday! Congrats, Alex!

Interesting concept this week. Some answers are cross-referenced with other answers to humorous effect:

  • 17a, TAUTOLOGY [See 58-Across], and 58a, TAUTOLOGY [See 17-Across]. One of the rare puzzles to have a duplicate entry, but here it’s thematic. Admittedly, I was never quite clear on what did or did not constitute a TAUTOLOGY, but I guess the fact that these two entries reference each other and are the same is a TAUTOLOGY.
  • 25a, RECURSION [See 25-Across]. [See 25-Across]… okay. *looks at 25-Across* [See 25-Across]… okay. *looks at 25-Across*…
  • 36a, A WILD GOOSE CHASE [See 66-Across]. There is no 66-Across. The NYT applet messes this one up a bit; it doesn’t know how to handle the nonexistent cross-reference, so it highlights 1-Across instead.
  • 46a, AMBIGUITY [See ??-Across]. 

    “There is no 66-Across.”

I have to admit that I mostly ignored the theme while solving. In hindsight, it’s pretty cute. It’s not a theme type you see often, and it was refreshing to get something unusual.

I’ve never heard GALE used as a [Burst of laughter], though I have heard “PEAL of laughter.” Not sure why ZOD and ZOO instead of GOD/GOO or BOD/BOO or MOD/MOO, except to sneak in the Scrabbly Z. I liked the clue for 40a, SET [22+ pages of the Oxford English Dictionary]. It does not, however, have the longest entry in the online OED, according to Jeopardy!.

Let’s talk briefly about the clue for CIS: [Prefix with gendered]. On the one hand, hooray! The Times is talking about cis- and trans- identity! Looking back at clues, they’ve been cluing CIS this way since roughly 2016. And, relatedly, let’s not forget this Ben Tausig GENDERFLUID NYT puzzle. A big thumbs-up from me.

On the other hand, the word “cisgendered” is, to the best of my knowledge, strongly dispreferred to the word “cisgender,” or at best simply outdated. The Times has gotten this right before, in clues that refer to CIS as a [Prefix for gender]. I’m not sure why the change to “gendered” now, other than to have a different clue for difference’s sake. Whether the distinction between “cisgendered” and “cisgender” is very important, that’s not for me to say. But it’s a strange choice, and I wanted to point it out.

The rest of the fill was very clean, which I appreciated. The grid isn’t that constrained: there 5 themers, most of which are short. At 76-words, the grid has room to breathe, so there’s really no dreck to speak of. Like, none. BAR BET looks weird in the grid, but that’s a fine entry. I already mentioned ZOD, but it was clearly intentional to put that in the grid — plenty of solvers will see that as an asset.

I’m sufficiently impressed! Way to go, Alex. Until next week!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Worst. Puzzle. Ever.” — Laura’s Writeup

BEQ - 11.16.17 - Solution

BEQ – 11.16.17 – Solution

Ben is in <checks Instagram> Europe, so his evil counterpart from an alternate universe is here on a gloomy, sleety, blustery day (seriously, there’s actual snain), blogging for you in the DARKEST TIMELINE [7d: Worst possible existence, in a meme, and a hint to six squares in this puzzle]. What are those six squares? I’ve filled them in for you in the grid, using some kind of magic image-editing software. Did you notice how a bunch of the downs on the sides didn’t seem to fit? Well, they do now, because the darkest (i.e. black squares) timeline (i.e. ERA and AGE) has provided the missing letters, fading in from another dimension. I love the time-travel and alternate-history subgenres of science fiction so much, it would be difficult to select just one meme, but let’s go with this one from the Best Episode Ever of Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory“:

Other acceptable cultural references would have been, for starters, the “Time and Punishment” segment of The Simpsons‘s “Treehouse of Horror V,” the “Cause and Effect” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the 1998 film Run, Lola, Run. If you enjoy reading fiction about the alternate-timeline trope (and who doesn’t?!), I highly recommend Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter or something from the GenX retro-popular Choose Your Own Adventure series.

Stray thoughts from a fractured narrative:

  • [11a: “Nothing’s going right today,” briefly]: FTW. As in fuck the world, not for the win. I originally had FML, as in fuck my life. Fits nicely with the theme.
  • [15a: Rods]: PHALLI. Dick jokes are yet another example of the freedom constructors enjoy by going editor-less on their own websites.
  • [28a: Mouse drawn by Lucy Cousins]: MAISY. My kids loved the Maisy books and videos, about a gentle yet independent mouse and her friends Tallulah the chick, Cyril the squirrel, Charley the crocodile, and Eddie the [38d: GOP symbol]: ELEPHANT.

Jason Chapnick & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times – summary by Gareth

LA Times

I had to go and check what the beer chases in a BOILERMAKER – whisk(e)y it seems. Each of four entries in today’s puzzle has a BEERCHASER in that their distal end is a variety of beer, and the puzzle covers most of the more common types drunk by those poor masochists who drink beer: TVRE(PORTER); MERCURYVIL(LAGER); CA(STOUT) – the only one where the beer spans two words; and HAIRRAISINGT(ALE).


  • [El Misti’s land], PERU. Congratulations on making the World Cup! Unlike say, South Africa or the US!
  • [MLB playoff event], ALCS. That was just letters for me, but I can’t help feeling it is still a markedly better entry than ALER.
  • [Means of spreading dirt?], RUMORMILL. Most pleasing clue/answer of the day…
  • [Pet pendant], IDTAG. Microchips are much more reliable though; unless of course the finder never bothers to take them to a shelter / vet and just holds on to them (which happens remarkably often).
  • [Order clothes], HABIT. The toughest clue here, at least for me. Order as an nounal adjective not a verb…

3.5 Stars

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33 Responses to Thursday, November 16, 2017

  1. Brian says:

    Someone put together a visualization of the distribution of black squares in NYT puzzles by the day of the week – it’s pretty neat!

  2. Scott says:

    NYT. Somewhat entertaining. Basically solved without thinking about the theme. Good debut though!

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I too am “sufficiently impressed”… Although I’d love to know more about Andy’s scale of impression– what’s the top rung?
    I thought it was a fun solve… I too started by ignoring the theme. But then, I got TAUTOLOGY in the bottom half and then plunked it in the top and that somehow triggered the RECURSION response… felt good. There’s an Escher feel to the whole thing. Very well done!
    We talk about Cis- and Trans- on a regular basis, but in the context of gene regulation. I remember scratching my head the first time I heard (ages ago) someone saying “regulated in cis” — something recursive about that kind of regulation.

  4. PJ Ward says:

    WSJ brought this scene to mind. It’s from Green Acres. Probably too lowbrow for this audience.

    1a – I think of a standard transmission when I think of a STICK.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    The LAT was neatly done. All four examples were well concealed, so the revealer came as a nice surprise. The fill was very clean, and I haven’t seen this category used as a theme before. All in all, a very pleasant solving experience.

  6. pannonica says:

    NYT: I believe Andy’s sense on –gender vs –gendered is correct. Other issues: I feel 8d [What a mess!] for STY is a bit too much of a stretch. 30a [Strike out] OMIT seems unequivocally wrong; omission suggests non-inclusion from the start, not expulsion.

    • Papa John says:

      Oxford online dictionary gives these examples as synonyms: delete · eliminate · erase · rub out · cross out · expunge · strike out. Try thinking of it as a suggestion during a review or editing; “Let’s omit the third entry in the list.”

  7. C. Y. Hollander says:

    NYT: I also liked the freshness of the theme. A couple of issues with some clues:
    30A: To omit is to leave out, not to “strike out”. One might strike something out of a draft as a sign to omit it in the final copy, but that’s not the same thing.

    46A: An ambiguity, to a purist, is something that might refer to either of two possibilities (ambi- means “both”, as in ambidextrous). It’s commonly extended to something that might refer to any of a number of possibilities, but using it for something like “??”, which, rather than being open to different interpretations, simply has the relevant information redacted, is dubious. Even if you’d accept such a usage, it turns out that the “??” doesn’t, in fact, refer to anything at all: you can’t replace the “??” with any real entry number and have the clue make sense. So this one doesn’t work, in my view.

    As for “cisgendered” instead of “cisgender”: tempest in a teapot, IMHO. Both are words in the dictionary: what more do you need for a crossword clue? You prefer “cisgender” for conversation, go ahead and use it. Encourage others to use it, if you want. But objecting to the statement “‘cisgendered’ is a word” is going a little far in the language policing.

    • pannonica says:

      (Descriptionist) dictionaries reflect usage, regardless of correctness. Editors of all stripes should endeavor to promote the best or better usages.

      Also, your various critiques as expressed seem to lack relative consistency.

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        (Descriptionist) dictionaries reflect usage, regardless of correctness. Editors of all stripes should endeavor to promote the best or better usages.

        The usage of “cisgendered” in “‘cisgendered’ is a word people sometimes use” is a rather boring, unexceptional, true statement, and that’s the only statement the clue implies. If the word were particularly offensive, I’d understand the objection, but as it is, it seems one has to be on the cutting edge of the P.C. movement to even be aware that it’s been deprecated.

        Also, your various critiques as expressed seem to lack relative consistency.

        The clues for both “omit” nor “ambiguity” don’t even fit with the dictionary definitions for those words, let alone best usage. And there’s only one usage for “cisgendered”, and it’s consistent with the clue that refers to it. Nobody’s arguing about what that word means; rather, some people are saying they don’t think it should be used. I think I’m being perfectly consistent in being concerned for using words in accordance with how they are and have been used, and not being concerned with censoring words that are out of vogue.

        • pannonica says:

          The usage of “cisgendered” in “‘cisgendered’ is a word people sometimes use” is a rather boring, unexceptional, true statement, and that’s the only statement the clue implies. If the word were particularly offensive, I’d understand the objection, but as it is, it seems one has to be on the cutting edge of the P.C. movement to even be aware that it’s been deprecated.

          So you’re being disparaging and couldn’t be bothered because it’s just some marginalized group?

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            If you read my whole critique of the crossword’s usage of “ambiguity”, you’ll see the part that explains why I don’t think the clue fits with any dictionary definition I’m aware of, including the ones you cite. There’s no uncertainty as to the meaning of “??” in 46A, because in fact, it has none. It refers to nothing at all.

            So you’re being disparaging and couldn’t be bothered because it’s just some marginalized group?

            Nobody’s being disparaging here! Well, all right, I was a little disparaging of political correctness, but “cisgendered” is not disparaging of anyone, let alone a marginalized group. I’m guessing from your objection to it that some people argue that it reflects some implicit assumption that implicitly disparages people with gender dysphoria? I don’t even really know what that would be. But in any case, I see no evidence that the word has ever been used with disparaging intent, and I simply can’t support a crusade to eradicate all evidence of its existence.

            • C. Y. Hollander says:

              Actually, I’m tired of arguing, so let me try saying things that you might agree with.

              1. On second thought, perhaps I understand your take on “ambiguity”: the clue is an example of ambiguity because it could stand for any number of statements. That none of those statements would be a valid clue is unimportant, because the actual statements are not the clue. A statement like “My favorite color is ??” would be an equally valid clue of this sort, albeit less consistent with the theme of the puzzle. Do I have that right?

              I could go along with that, I think. Maybe that part of my criticism was off-point.

              2. Even if “cisgendered” should never, ever be used in reference to people, does it have no valid usage, in your view? What about something like “cisgendered language”, meaning language that reflects a cisgender perspective? “Cisgender language” would sound like it means “language that cisgender people use”, which is different.

            • Ethan says:

              My two cents:

              First, I largely agree with C.Y. Hollander re: AMBIGUITY. In semantics, there is a difference between ambiguity and underspecification. If I say “I’m having dinner with someone,” the matter of with whom I am having dinner is not “ambiguous,” it is underspecified, that is, I withheld the information. The word “someone” does not give rise to multiple interpretations of the meaning of the sentence. An ambiguity arises from a lexical item that has different senses, e.g. “I found a bat in the attic” or string of words that can have different syntactic parsings, e.g. “We watched the movie with Brad Pitt.” Were I the NYT editor (I am not), I maybe would have clued AMBIGUITY as something like “see clue #20” which I think could genuinely have two interpretations, either 20-Across or the actual twentieth clue in the list of Across clues.

              As far as “cisgendered” is concerned, I do not agree with Mr. Hollander. My understanding is that trans people feel the “-ed” ending reflects an underlying assumption that gender is something that is externally imposed on someone (by God? by society?) and suggests passivity. (I supposed because passive participles in English typically end in -ed.) Trans people would prefer that gender identity be thought of as inherent. I don’t find this wholly convincing, because we can call someone “strong-willed” or “kind-hearted” without implying that a strong will or a kind heart aren’t inherent characteristics. But, while I don’t agree with the logic, it’s not my call to make, nor is it the NYT crossword’s call to make. It should have been “prefix with -gender.” The NYT crossword should be further ahead of the curve than the dictionary, anyway.

            • C. Y. Hollander says:

              Ethan, you put very well the point I would have made about the suffix “-ed”. The perceived offense is a phantom one. Politeness would dictate that, if talking to a transgender(ed) person who prefers the term “transgender”, one nonetheless use the term that person prefers. But to go from there to proscribing not only “transgendered” but “cisgendered”, not only when talking to someone who cares about the distinction but in any context at all, and from there to even acknowledging “cisgendered” as a word—well, to me, that seems topsy-turvy.

        • e.a. says:

          having or seeking out a basic awareness of what people want to be called and then calling them that thing is a low bar for being on the cutting edge of anything, but “the P.C. movement” sure is a weird way to spell “human decency”

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            You’ll notice that the word in question is “cisgendered”, not “transgendered”. The page you link to says nothing about that term and if it had, it wouldn’t have been about what people want to be called, but what about they want others to be called.

            Anyhow, as I point out above, the adjective “cisgendered” can be applied to things other than people, such as language (I presume that usage would be unexceptionable), so culture war aside, the NYT crossword should be in the clear in any case, here.

            • Jenni Levy says:

              It is REALLY important to you that “cisgendered” be declared Acceptable and I have no idea why. It’s true that it doesn’t directly apply to transfolk, and it’s also true that the use of “cisgendered” will inevitably lead to acceptance of “transgendered,” so transfolk do have some skin in the game, so to speak. Your reluctance to consider that a valid point of view is puzzling.

            • C. Y. Hollander says:

              What—”transfolk have some skin in the game” and nobody else does, in a word that literally describes everyone else? That’s absurd.

              Even in the days when “black” (in the racial sense) was deprecated, I never heard anyone suggest that calling people “white” was offensive.

  8. Gareth says:

    The Lybiidae feel collectively ignored today.

  9. austin says:

    odd that the filled black squares in the BEQ don’t do anything in the acrosses. what’s the logic that they only appear in the downs?

    • Laura B says:

      That did start bothering me re the central long across. Unless a SHORT FUSE is what catapults you through the wormhole into the alternate timeline?

  10. haari Meech says:

    WSJ as any Canadian kid who grew up in the eighties would know “birling.”

  11. dp says:

    NYT turned out to be a real pleasure in the end…

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