Friday, November 17, 2017

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:53 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:41 (Amy) 


Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 17 17, no 1117

Long day/week for me, or tougher than the standard Friday NYT for you, too? A lot of the fill was on the uncommon side, phrases that we don’t often encounter in crosswords. There are four “I” phrases: AS IF I CARE, I NEED A RIDE, I FORGOT, and I CAN WAIT. DO NOT IRON, a [Pressing warning]—I like this! STOP AHEAD, weird FRET AT, awkward TESLA CARS (we say Teslas, Fords, Subarus, not “Subaru cars,” etc.), plural INNER EARS, unfamiliar-to-me TOKYODOME, IS OK, SENT HOME (rock-solid, but not commonly seen in the grid). I feel like these things all slowed me down a good bit.

Seven things:

  • 4d. [Lame excuse], “I FORGOT.” Rude use of “lame” as an insult. [Pathetic excuse] or [Flimsy excuse] would work without being remotely ableist.
  • 36a. [Aetna rival, informally], PRU. On what planet?? Aetna sells health insurance. Prudential sells life insurance. These are not competing products.
  • 12d. [Android app store], GOOGLE PLAY. This is a great entry. So is 1a. [Wheels for rent in the Big Apple], CITIBIKES (thank you, Dan Chall, for telling your FB friends about your CitiBike adventures so this was easier!). Here in Chicago, they’re called Divvy Bikes.
  • 44d. [Source of updated news and blog postings], RSS FEED. I haven’t used an RSS feed/reader in at least five years. How many of you are still using one?
  • Crosswordese! OGEE and SMEW appear in symmetrical spots in the grid.
  • 63a. [Chain unit, maybe], ATOLL / 7d. [Chain units, maybe], KARATS. I tried STORE and STORES, then KIOSKS. Dang it! Duped twice.
  • 28d. [Pen name], ERASERMATE. I used to use those, but then I switched to nice mechanical pencils for my erasable solving needs. Pentel TwistErase III, 0.9 mm leads! Accept no substitutes.

3.3 stars from me for this 70-worder. Not my favorite themeless from Zhouqin—usually I like her Fri/Sat offerings a lot more, and I look forward to the next one.

Kurt Krauss’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Grecian Formula” — pannonika’s write-up

CHE • 11/17/17 • “Grecian Formula” • Krauss • solution

Names of Greek letters replace their homophones in familiar phrases. Helping to harmonize the theme, insinuation of the Greek elements are signalled by evoking a more or less relevant deity.

  • 17a. [Dessert invented by Athena?] PI À LA MODE (pie …). Hmm, Hestia is goddess of the hearth, Dionysus included in his purview decadence in food and drink. Athene embodied among other things wisdom and knowledge, which could arguably include mathematics. But I don’t think that’s how the relationships in the other theme answers shake out. Let’s see:
  • 25a. [Favorite Steinbeck novel of Apollo?] CANNERY RHO (… Row). Apollo’s domain claimed poetry, which seems appropriate as I doubt there was much prose literature in classical Greece.
  • 36a. [Sneaker brand preferred by Hermes?] NU BALANCE (New…). Hermes the messenger, he of the winged sandals.This is … this is … uhm, quite possibly the most Eighties thing that’s ever been Eightied:
  • 52a. [Sports car driven be Eros?] ALPHA ROMEO (Alfa…). Hmm,  I guess the “Romeo” part evokes romantic love. So I guess the relationship between the deity and the theme element isn’t so rigidly prescribed. I hereby rescind the speculation over 17-across. Incidentally, Eros is the only deity here who isn’t one of the twelve main Olympians (the Dodekatheon).
  • 62a. [Military motto for Ares?] SEMPER PHI (… Fi). This comports with the Marines’ pronunciation (long i), but in my opinion that’s incorrect. However, I’m not going to be the one to tell them that. Oh, and crossword-common ARES is of course the god of war, often described in clues as belligerent.

So that’s a fine little theme, one befitting the Higher Education Vibe™.

  • 15a [Tapped-out character] DIT. Morse code. Dit and dah are the spoken equivalents of the transcribed dots and dashes. Fitting in crossword featuring a phonetic theme.
  • 30a [Pal of Karen and Cubby, on an old TV “Club”] DOREEN. Is this the Mickey Mouse Club? I know that Annette and Frankie were famous personalities in it. Not going to look it up, so maybe this’ll be comment fodder.
  • 58a [How-to presentations] DEMOS. Also, Greek for ‘people’.
  • 64d [Penn or Pitt, e.g.] ACTORS Sean and Brad, not Colonial Williams.
  • 66a [Pondered] MUSED. Ya, the nine Muses, uh-huh.
  • 5d [Coal-rich region of Germany] SAAR. I auto-filled RUHR here. That was a mistake.
  • 9d [Eddie who is the only jockey with two Triple Crowns] ARCARO. As I’m writing this well in advance on Tuesday, I’ll note that today’s NYT theme referenced “triple-doubles” of different sorts.
  • 10d [Self-sacrificing type] MARTYR. You’d better believe that’s a very Greek word. Originally meant ‘witness’.
  • 41d [Golden quality?] SILENCE. Aphoristically.
  • 49d [“Wondrous” Egyptian lighthouse] PHAROS. One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the lighthouse at Alexandria. You got it, Greek word. Mediterranean Egypt was lousy with Greeks back then.

There’s plenty more Greek etymology lurking among this crossword, but that’s the nature of English, isn’t it?

Anyway, a solid puzzle though not an astounding one.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ LA Times – Gareth

LA Times

Theme entries in a ring encircling a puzzle are hard to fill around. It’s not a favourite trope of mine. Today’s ring is a GREATWALL – a ring of answers with an implied GREAT needed for their clues to make sense. I’ll run through them quickly and annotate if necessary: SCOTT, JOB, MINDS; SUCCESS (the clue answers SUCCESS just as effectively, a big weakness in this theme trope), BRITAIN; DANES, APE (see SUCCESS), BASIN (the Great Basin is an area, centred on Nevada, where water flows not into the ocean, but internally; the Okavango in Southern Africa exhibits a similar phenomenon); SMOKIES (more – unknown to me – US Geography, a Southern part of the Appalachians; the clue had me singing John Denver, of course) and PYRAMID (I thought all 3 were the Wonder? Antipater of Sidon seems to agree).


  • [Arkansas’ __ National Forest], OZARK. Carries on the US geography![Kit__ bar], KAT. Weird lack of space in that clue? Also bar is not part of the name and bar is not referred to in that manner?
  • [Comedian Rogan], JOE. Not familiar, though I’ve apparently watched, incidentally at least, shows he is the star of.
  • [__ Island: NYC prison site], RIKERS. I know this basically from Law and Order; anyone else?
  • [Gumby’s pony], POKEY. I think this is children’s TV, late 80’s? Like a bendy plasticine man type thing?
  • [Workers’ rights org.], NLRB. National Labor Relations Board, I’m told. Was just letters while solving.
  • [Line score initials], RHE. More letters. Apparently separated R. H. E. and found in baseball scores.
  • [Train syst. across Russia], TSR. Trans-Siberian Railroad. Wanted an E, influenced by Trans-Europan Express…
  • [Tragic heroine], DEIRDRE… Also unfamiliar, to the Wikipedia machine!
  • [“You’re safe with me”], IWONTBITE. Shoe-horn – if you bring your dog to me (or another vet), and he says “I’m going to bite you”, and you interject with “He won’t bite” we believe the dog, not you…
  • [Some field starters], RYESEEDS. Vague clue for a slightly awkward entry.


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22 Responses to Friday, November 17, 2017

  1. Penguins says:

    “…phrases that we don’t often encounter in crosswords.”

    Phrases can be tough in general

  2. Douglas says:

    The link for The Week crossword should be, not

  3. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I apologize if my comments yesterday were too confrontational. We all have strong feelings on some issues, and clearly, on the subject of language etiquette, mine are at odds with our host’s and most of the commenters here, but I don’t like starting unpleasant arguments, so I’m sorry for doing that yesterday.

    To leave the disagreement on a better footing and because I honestly wish to know, I would like to nonconfrontationally ask the rationale behind the related issue of “ableism” in words like LAME. This seems different to me from other “-isms”, because the word in question isn’t about a population, but a handicap and the handicap itself is surely a bad thing to have. What’s the concern about using it as an analogy for other shortcomings? Is it about actual, people who are lame seeing the word used and feeling bad about themselves? Is it something subtler about the way language shapes our thought patterns? I’d really like to know how you see this, and I promise not to start an argument over it.

    • e.a. says:

      if you google ‘lame + ableist’ and click around – even just into the first result – i think it should answer most of your questions, and help you understand why this nonconfrontational ask is (despite your best intentions) just as hurtful as using the word. bing probably also works for this, i did not try it.

    • Gareth says:

      See also, earlier use of CRETIN as a general insult in a puzzle. Juvenile hypothyroidism has largely been eliminated, at least in the first world, but it’s still just plain insensitive. It’s not PC speak (which is what bigots use to disguise their bigotry), it’s being a decent, sensitive human being.

  4. anon says:

    CHE: I liked the theme in general, but I found the Alfa/ALPHA themer to be inelegant/nontransformative as “alfa” and “alpha” are the same thing.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      I had the same complaint but looked it up and it turns out ALFA is not α but an acronym: Wikipedia says ‘ “[Società] Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili”, “Lombard Automobile Factory Company” ’.

      If you complain about the long i in SEMPERΦ then the same complaint applies to ΠALAMODE. But English pronunciation is often illogical.

      I too wondered about the choice of some of the Greek god(desse)s, which seemed to confuse rather than enhance the nice theme concept.

      Also, way too many YAWN entries, including several “Natick” spots where one Yet Another Wretched Name crosses another: 30A:DOREEN crosses 9D:ARCARO (and also 26D:EDEN which doesn’t have to be clued as anybody’s name), and 61A:SNERD crosses 61D:SAM and 50D:LANDRY (could just as well be SNERT/LANTRY for all I remembered or knew; that guess was wrong). Even 40D:UTA could have been UNA, changing TIPPLE to NIPPLE.

      More interesting than any of those random names is learning the original Greek sense of 10D:MARTYR; as Wikipedia explains, “(Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, “witness”; stem μάρτυρ-, mártyr-)”. So thanks for that.


      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I don’t understand your complaints here. I’ve never seen Dareen, Dereen, Direen, Dureen, or Dyreen as names, and Dora/Doreen/Nora/Noreen are not that uncommon. And there’s no way that [Get a bit sloshed] would clue NIPPLE. Agree that EDEN clued as a name is harder, but the intended audience here is scholarly and 20th-century British history isn’t wildly obscure. SNERD is incredibly dated and I wish constructors would quit using it.

        Interesting that you had no complaint about SNERD’s crossing with PHAROS, which many solvers would find more obscure than Tom LANDRY.

      • Brad says:

        My fault if the divinities in the CHE seem strained….Kurt had an interesting clue set that went another direction, using Greek scholars and literati from antiquity. This was one of those themes where the rule “Clue only the transformed version of the phrase – don’t also try to reference the base phrase, let it speak for itself” had to go out the window somewhat. Combining references with brevity so that theme clues didn’t become unwieldy – easier in some places than others.

        • Noam D. Elkies says:

          I was suggesting that the grid would be better if UTA/TIPPLE were changed to UNA/NIPPLE, not that that cross was a Natick (it isn’t). Anthony EDEN is certainly better than the horse jockey, but with so much other namage in the grid there was no need to go to that brackish well yet again for this word.

          49D:Re PHAROS, I’d expect the CHE audience to be more familiar with it than the typical (say) NYT solver. It’s at least as fair as cluing 26D:EDEN with UK history. If I didn’t recognize it, I’d be much happier to spend a few minutes reading about it on Wikipedia than about yet another random sportz player or coach.


  5. Pat says:

    Hi, Loved the funny posts, i.e. tipple / nipple!
    Would someone please explain to me the concern about the long “i” pronunciation with Semper Fi and Phi. My experience is that both have a long “i'”
    Laughter ensued reading Gareth’s write-up about knowing Rikers from Law and Order. That was my immediate thought when I saw the clue!
    Also laughed at Gumby being from a 1980’s TV show. He’s almost as old as I am! Look it up if you want to know my age. He’s got his own web site.
    Happy crosswording!

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I’m still using an RSS reader. Since you asked.

  7. Ethan says:

    While I’m glad that Will Shortz opened the gate a little bit for brand names, his spec sheet does still say they should be “nationally known” and used “in moderation.” Having CITIBIKES, GOOGLE PLAY, and ERASERMATE be the marquee entries in 3/4 of the corners in the puzzle is too much, and CITIBIKES is not a national thing.

  8. roger says:

    How is “girt” “ready for action”. Girt is the past participle of gird, which is what “ready for action” means. For it to be girt, wouldn’t it have to be “readied” for action?

    Any English grammar folks around?

  9. roger says:

    How about “He was girded for the trial”?

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