Saturday, December 9, 2017

LAT 4:23 (Derek) 


Newsday 21:39 (Derek) 


NYT 5:12 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 9 17, no 1209

This puzzle tried to win me over with 1d ERIC IDLE, but it lost me with 1a ESAS (who doesn’t love a nonspecifically clued [Spanish pronoun]?) and 14a RONA Barrett clued ([Longtime first name in gossip]) as if she’s so famous she needs no last name in the clue. (She retired 26 years ago and ended her last regular TV gig 36 years ago.) Feh.

This is a 66-worder and it’s not by Berry, so you’d expect the grid to have some junk in it. I’m not keen on ASFIT, ONAPLATE, ARMAS, MEESE, INALIE, SONE, TEHEE (ugh), SEENAS or PAYEXTRA.

There’s a general vibe of fustiness, aside from the central Down, FREAKING AWESOME. Of all the ways to clue the aspirin bran ANACIN, we get [Product with the old catchphrase “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”]?? When you’re middle-aged and a crossword clue makes you feel decades too young, you know the clue skews old.

I do like CORNBREAD a lot, and learned last month that in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, cornbread is a much more frequent Thanksgiving side than it is elsewhere in the country. (And folks in the Northeast have squash, while Westerners have their Thanksgiving salad.) I reckon I could do Oklahoma Thanksgiving.

Five things:

  • Did you think 41a. [Waters in Washington] should be PUGET or POTOMAC? It’s Congresswoman MAXINE Waters, whom I adore. “I’m reclaiming my time.”
  • 43a. [Passing concern], ESTATE TAX. Nah, this is a bullshit clue. The estate tax is only a concern for the wealthiest 0.2% of people. When the other 98.2% of people die, there’s no damn estate tax. It’s propaganda, pure and simple, that’s convinced millions of people that it’s an unfair “death tax” that they should fight against. But they would never have to encounter it anyway! Sigh.
  • 47a. [Gladly, old-style], LIEF. This is one of those archaic words I’m quite fond of. Let’s bring it back, people. Somebody demonstrate how we might use it in a modern sentence, please.
  • 2d. [Baby shower], SONOGRAM. Technically, it’s showing a fetus or an embryo.
  • 34a. [Doctor of 1960s TV], KILDARE. Sure, by all means, drop a reference to a TV show that ended 51 years ago into the clue instead of the Irish county. I feel like County Kildare is one of the handful of Irish county names that Americans might actually recognize. (Cork, yes. Westmeath, no.)

The Scowl-o-Meter was pinging off and on throughout my solve. 3.2 stars from me.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Well under five minutes! Yes, I jammed through this one, but that is also a compliment to the constructor. To make a 66-word themeless puzzle with virtually no unfamiliar terms is a feat. It does help that this grid pattern has no words longer than 9-letters, but still: this puzzle seemed extremely EASY. But also enjoyable! Since it is hard to make a themeless puzzle that is this easy, I will award a solid 4.7 for this one. Well done! I don’t know too much of Craig Stowe’s previous work, and I don’t think this is a pseudonym, so this person has to make more puzzles!

Just a couple of things:

  • 31A [Apparent] OSTENSIVE – This may be the hardest vocab word in the puzzle. And it’s not that hard, which is my point from earlier!
  • 1D [Quake] SEISM – This one is probably my least favorite, as it feels to me like a crossword only word. Or maybe poetry. But it is fair, so I will let it slide!
  • 41D [“Did Hamlet so __ with his envy …”: Shakespeare] ENVENOM – Yes, this is barely a word, but appearing in Shakespeare legitimizes a lot of entries!
  • 45D [Alternative nickname to Mattie, perhaps] TILDA – Would a reference to Tilda Swinton be too easy here?

Have a great weekend! It is snowing here!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

This one was going great until I got to the SE corner! I was feeling quite full of myself until then; I had most of this puzzle done in about 10-12 minutes! But although most of the entries down there are clued fairly in hindsight, I had all kinds of issues figuring that corner out. But another solid 72-word themeless by Frank, and you can add it to his list of gems. Nothing too objectionable as long as you have a pretty decent vocabulary, as most of the solvers of this type of puzzle are likely to have. 4.4 stars today.

Lots to mention:

  • 23A [German mathematician who inspired Einstein] REIMANN – Have you proved his hypothesis yet? You could win $1,000,000!
  • 42A [It can illuminate the senses] USAGE NOTE – At first I didn’t get this clue, but now I think it may be the best in the puzzle. A usage note appears in the dictionary to enhance the “sense” of a word’s meaning. Very nice!
  • 48A [Word from Old English for “lightly boiled”] RARE – I tried RABE here, like broccoli rabe, which is totally wrong!
  • 63A [Eleventh hour] LAST-DITCH – I suppose this works. The sense seems slightly off, in a noun-adjective sort of way.
  • 2D [Suspension in a kitchen] AIOLI – Another candidate for best clue. A lot of people hang pots and pans from the ceiling, and that was my mental picture on reading this clue!
  • 9D [D.A. portrayer in “Crash”] FRASER – I had the longest mental blank trying to remember George of the Jungle’s real name!
  • 11D [Opposite of “lean”] ADIPOSE – This word describes body fat. Not commonly used, but a good clue nonetheless.
  • 27D [Make sweet-smelling, in a way] CENSE – As in incense? Not my favorite, but I did find it at least gettable.
  • 43D [Teacher’s activity] ERASING – A tad vague, but it still applies, even though it’s mostly whiteboards now. In my day, there was usually a student or two tasked with erasing the blackboard (not to mention washing them every so often!). Whiteboards also eliminate that annoying fingernail scratching sound that some people love to annoy me with!

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Predisposition” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/9/17 • “Disposition” • Stone, Shenk • Sat • solution

Words/phrases receive a DIS– prefix for wacky results. Sooo, pre – dis – position = DIS pre – position.

  • 23a. [Vandalize the faces on statues?] DISFIGURE HEADS (figureheads).
  • 27a. [Merinos that have been marked down?] DISCOUNT SHEEP (count sheep).
  • 44a. [Something many tween boys do?] DISCOVER GIRLS (cover girls).
  • 54a. [Job in a cab company’s office?] DISPATCH WORK (patchwork).
  • 72a. [Public speaker?] DISCOURSE PRO (course pro). Golf.
  • 77a. [Model of Pogo that’s not for sale?] DISPLAY POSSUM (play possum).
  • 99a. [Bring shame upon a “Live!” co-host?] DISGRACE KELLY (Grace Kelly). Ms RIPA.
  • 105a. [Choose not to take the country seriously?] DISMISS AMERICA (Miss America).

Couple of the themers rejigger the word spacing, as you can see. No spelling changes (e.g., ‘DISSUADE GLOVES’). And a good job keeping the theme from being relentlessly negative, which is a real liability. Rough! So no, I won’t be throwing a temper tantrum.

  • 11d [High Sierra runners] IMACS, 39d [Freeze fixer] TECH, 75d [Place to sip and surf] CYBER CAFÉ.
  • 9d [“Honey in the Horn” musician] AL HIRT, but of course I only filled in A––––RT, waiting to see if would be Herb ALPERT.
  • 21a [One might stay in a lot] LEMON. Cute. Its misdirection, however, is undermined by the following clue, whose misdirection works in a complementary way: 22a [Vans liner] INSOLE. First one is actually about automobiles, second one is actually not about automobiles.
  • 78d [Bird and King] LARRYS, 94d [Kakapo or cockatoo] PARROT.
  • 98a [Big blows] GALES, 110a [Reacted to a big blow] REELED.
  • 87a [Valuable deposit] ORE, 115a [Rock sample] DEMO TAPE. Wondering if that obsolescent term is still used; I suspect it may be.

Gotta run, busy day.

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37 Responses to Saturday, December 9, 2017

  1. salm says:

    Fully asumed “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” was a slogan for a pasta sauce company, or some other food. Pictured a son in the kitchen getting ready to throw his first family reunion trying to bat off his overly helpful Italian mother, insisting he had the family recipe down. Then slyly pouring a jar of Ragu into the pot once she leaves. Exit image: Mom winking across the table at good ol’ son, who has done her proud.

    But now i know it’s for an aspirin brand, it’s a much darker script I’m imagining. Like now there’s mom in the kitchen fussing about whatnot, and son’s like “leave me alone, you’re giving me a f’ing migraine. I wanna do it myself.” Exit image: Son smiling across the table at good ol’ mom who ain’t so bad now he’s self-medicated.

    • Martin says:

      That’s pretty much it but it was always an irritable woman, snapping at her saintly mother who was just trying to help. Basically, Anacin decided to market itself as a cure for PMS before people understood what PMS was. “Out of control for no reason? Anacin is the answer.”

      Those ads belong in the sexist ’60s Hall of Fame. And the useless medication Hall of Fame.

      • Papa John says:

        FWIW, my mother suffered from horrible headaches and swore by the relief she got from Anacin. Who knows? Given the culture of the times, perhaps she did use it for PMS, a verboten subject at our house.

    • Zulema says:

      My recollection, and I saw the commercials, is that the mother needs the Anacin, which BTW, is not a brand of aspirin, but is “like a doctor’s prescription” (sic), containing aspirin, caffeine, and I don’t remember what else. It was very effective for many pains, especially adolescent PMS. It’s been so long I may be misremembering.

  2. Lee says:

    Anyone else sickened by 10D “Ones whose work may have sticking points” showing up as TOREROS? A light-hearted punny clue, with thoughts of acupuncturists or sewers, suddenly turning gruesome as those points become ones that cause anguish then death to a beautiful creature who arguably has as much right to life as the cluer. Tone deaf, I’d say.

  3. roxanna gunderson says:

    Bloggers often dis clues that refer to a name, a brand, a product, etc. that only older folks might have knowledge about. I would hope that puzzle bloggers know that the average puzzle solver is a white woman/man in their sixties. I understand wanting to lure young people to crosswords. I understand and agree with using, names, phrases, idioms and events that are part of the world at this moment. It’s fresh, new, hip… and fun. But, we are never going to draw a significant number of our newest generation to a game that is a flat, one dimensional square with a whole bunch of small black and white squares inside. For them it’s like Pong to us now.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      But I’m over 50 and needed the crossings for that one. It’s bizarre to be this old and still encountering clues that make me feel the puzzle is targeted at older solvers!

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Not sure if a “significant number” of people in any generation have made a habit of doing Saturday NYT crosswords. Or any crosswords. We’re kind of an odd bunch. Sweeping generalizations may not apply.

      Anyway, I disagree with Amy on ESTATE TAX. I don’t support the politics behind it (it’s actually 99.8% if the other number is right) just don’t believe that disqualifies it for a puzzle.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        The entry ESTATE TAX is perfectly fine. It’s the clue I objected to.

        • Christopher Smith says:

          There doesn’t seem to be much wrong about it though. A lot of these types of clues don’t apply universally. If they added “for a few” or even “for a fortunate few” (which builds in a sly irony) would that be better?

        • Nene says:

          The ESTATETAX is also applied at the state level and affects millions of households. Here in NY state about 20% of estates pay the tax. Many more are close and have to plan for it so it may be a “passing concern” for most NYT xword solvers.

        • JohnH says:

          I’ll support the clues for both ANACIN and ESTATE TAX. I don’t think the first is meant as trivia for the older crowd, but rather as a common enough answer that you’ll get it, as I did, from crossings. (I think too many clues from contemporary culture are the other kind, where you’re supposed to be proud of knowing it.)

          For the second, I’m strongly in favor of keeping the tax and am not convinced by NENE’s numbers, so I do think it affects few, but still: by definition, it’s a concern only in the event of death, so the pun worked for me. Even made me smile.

    • Pat says:

      I’m a white, female over 70. I do quite well in my solving. I am willing to learn and remember new things and people such as are prevalent in pop culture ( which I really have no interest in) in order to improve my solving. Since I’m willing to do this, I keep hoping that those younger than me will stop complaining about answers relating to things before they were born. I feel each crossword puzzle should as often as possible have a range of references for multiple ages, interests, backgrounds, etc. Let’s keep them inclusive, not exclusive. Having gotten this off my chest, I wasn’t at all thrilled with the Anacin clue either!

  4. roxanna gunderson says:

    I forget who said it, but there is a fabulous response by a constructor to a solver who had a couple of nits about their puzzle. ” I apologize for not thinking about you when I made it”

    • Mike Hodson says:

      That sounds like Stan Newman. A commenter once carped about obscure vocabulary in the northeast corner which resulted in his downgrading the Stumper from a 4 to a 2.5. This at 9 p.m. Saturday.
      Stan responded 1 p.m. Sunday: “Please send me a list of all the words you know so I can edit better. Thank you.”

  5. roger says:

    The old explorer asks, “Can you get me a cup of tea?”

    “Lief Erikson.”–yes, I know the spelling is different but it sounds the same :)

  6. David L says:

    I don’t normally get peevish about words whose meaning drifts over time, but I don’t like the way MANSE has become a word for stately home. I think of it as journalese and real-estate lingo, a very slightly shorter way to say something that sounds like ‘mansion.’ But that’s far from the original meaning. But this battle has been lost, I guess.

    Clever clue for DROWNEDOUT — took me a while to see the correct meaning.

    I liked MATE as the answer for “Dating service success.” How did your date go? Freaking awesome, we got to mate!

    • Zulema says:

      I already made a couple of comments, but a MANSE doesn’t need to be statetly at all. I once bought and lived in a former MANSE in San Jose. It was a nice house that had been a local minister’s living quarters. which is its (or was its) original meaning.

  7. Russell says:

    I found the stumper to be a frustrating, joyless slog. I finally gave up after being unable to get a foothold in any part of the puzzle. After seeing the answers, I’m now even more frustrated.

    * There’s obscure, and then there’s the clue for BARRED OWL.
    * I’m fairly well-read, and I’ve never seen that use of SALLY. (Even the OED is ignorant of it.)
    * There was too much esoterica. AGILE for TRIPPING? MODE for MANIFESTATION? I’ve been working crossword puzzles since the 90s and I’ve never seen these before.

  8. Huda says:

    NYT: Amy you reminded me. My late mother in law was born in Oklahoma and lived in Louisiana. She not only made wonderful cornbread but had the most wonderful recipe for cornbread stuffing for turkey dinners. Given all the gluten free people in our family, I need to resuscitate that! Freaking Awesome stuff.

  9. DM says:

    States have estate taxes too, not just the feds. And they apply to lots of estates.

    • Steve Manion. says:

      And also in some cases inheritance taxes. Different rates apply depending on who inherits. I don’t think any state is below $500,000 as a threshold, so it is still a pretty small slice.

      But if they eliminate all estate and inheritance taxes, what happens to all those lawyers who toiled over the Rule Against Perpetuities: No more fertile octogenarians?

  10. GabeLuis says:

    Re: Stumper — are the Flamers a sports team or a group of rowdy fans or some Romans I didn’t know about?

  11. Penguins says:

    Not knowing any of the trivia in the Stumper made it excruciating. Took a good while, almost gave up a several times, NE was the last to fall. The clue “It sounds like ‘Who cooks for you'” had me completely lost.

    • Pat says:

      I finally decided that the clue “It sounds like ‘Who cooks for you'” must mean that the call of the Barred Owl sounds like that phrase.

  12. David says:

    Having partied well, I would lief call for an uber.

    (“lief” is almost always paired with the subjunctive mood)

  13. Joan Macon says:

    I have a wonderful recipe for southern cornbread dressing which I learned from my mother in law, and I would be glad to share it with anyone who is interested. I make it every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  14. JohnH says:

    Like Amy, I found the NW hard but with fewer regrets. I enjoyed the challenge of this one. I had a nice gimme with “ie skaters,” given the I in my first guess (AS FIT), which of course proved to be wrong. (Never heard of the actual fill.)

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