Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I dunno, mang. This puzzle had a years-old vibe to it, with crosswordese ARECA expanding into a bigger role in ARECA PALM. Why?? This 71-worder is 16 squares wide to accommodate that central staggered stack, but I don’t know that the ungreat SEX AND VIOLENCE 14 (sandwiched between METABOLIC RATE and ENTREPRENEURS) merits the grid expansion. The corner stacks with 9-letter answers weren’t any more exciting, and starting out 1-Across with AT AN ANGLE having the dull/stretchy clue [Not true] … it lost me from the get-go. I was rendered dyspeptic from start to finish.
- 36d. [What may be salted away for a special occasion?], CURED HAM. Hey! You know what? If it hasn’t been cured, it isn’t ham, I gather from Wikipedia. (I don’t eat pork, so don’t @ me.) Useless word in the entry.
- 28d. [Establishment offering horses for hire], LIVERY. My great-great-grandfather owned a livery stable at 2560 S. Halsted back in the 1880s. I just looked it up on Google Maps and … that address is beneath the Stevenson Expressway. My ancestor died of pneumonia at age 34, leaving behind six children. We don’t want to abuse antibiotics, but they sure are useful for preventing that sort of death.
- 41d. [Like a good plot], ARABLE. I really wanted this to pertain to a juicy fictional plot, but no. A plot of land suitable for farming. Meh.
- 10d. [Mark Twain story that begins “My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian”], A DOG’S TALE. Inferrable from the clue, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of this story. Have you read it?
- 13d. [“Blithe Spirit” role], ELVIRA. Know your Noel Coward plays and the characters within them! Because this puzzle is quizzing you on that.
- 21d. [Reflective pair], MIRROR SHADES. What? No. MirrorED sunglasses or mirrorED shades. “Mirror shades” looks goofy.
- 44a. [“___ Conchos,” 1964 western], RIO. What the …? Never heard of it.
Favorite fill: MGM LION. Least favorite: ARECA PALM, SETTEE, ATL, TAE, EKES, A STAR, NAPAS, SEE ME, REROOT, PMS.
2.75 stars from me. I just didn’t have fun solving the puzzle. I did enjoy the themeless from Erik Agard and Paolo Pasco that arrived in my email this morning. You can get it from Erik’s Glutton for Pun site. If the Friday NYT left you wanting a freestyle palate cleanser, go to it!
Adam T Cobb’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “What Larks!” — pannonica’s write-up
“What larks, Pip! What larks.”
The internet tells me this is from Dickens’ Great Expectations. Hints that some avian-inspired fun is to be had herein.What’s going on is this: take the common name of a bird originally in the form toponym + type, transpose the two words, and clue the nonsensical result.
- 17a. Provide sudden stimulus for Justin Trudeau’s country?] GOOSE CANADA (Branta canadensis).
- 30a. [Opt against a Chinese-language course?] DUCK MANDARIN (Aix galericulata).
- 47a. [Suggest “Use your Prime account to watch ‘Mozart in the Jungle'”?] PARROT AMAZON (this would be a genus, Amazona, comprising
>checks Wikipedia<about 30 species). Guessing this particular show was chosen because it ticks a few boxes: ☑ Amazon-produced series, ☑ invoking Mozart for Higher Education vibe™, ☑ jungle ∼ Amazon, but that’s rather tautological in clue context.
- 61aR [What this puzzle may be accused of doing?] BIRD MOCKING. Also, mockingbird. So this is a quasi-revealer, quasi-themer. It doesn’t fully explain the theme (I suppose that’s one of the purposes of the equivocating ‘may be’), and it doesn’t work precisely the way the others do—although the mechanism is the same, it doesn’t contain a toponym and the original bird is a single compound word.
Got to admit that this theme seems better in concept than execution. How ironic.
- 21a [Nonprofit’s URL ending] ORG. Ideally this is so, and that was the original concept. However, (1) being a nonprofit isn’t a requirement to be allowed to use the
.orgdomain, (2) many nonprofits use (or also use) other domains, especially
.com, because they’re more easily located that way. Even so, the clue is certainly intuitively understandable.
- Check out MOOD and DOOM stretching away from the same black square. 2d [What an emoji often indicates], 24a [Ensure the failure of].
- 9d [One with shaving cream in his Christmas stocking, maybe] DAD. I have no idea if this is a gift or a prank.
- 40a [Kuwait or Abu Dhabi, e.g.] EMIRATE. 26d [Mideastern country whose with a dagger on its flag] OMAN, which is a sultanate.
- 41d [Selectric typewriters, e,g,] IBMS. Grew up with a Selectric II in the household. See also the misdirecting 3d [Small unit in typing?] BLOOD CELL.
- 51d [Like the smell of burned rubber] ACRID. And of course the similar-sounding Akron, Ohio is—or was—the rubber capital of the world.
- 59d [Swimming-pool meas.] LGTH. Ouch. Was imagining some four-letter abbrev. for gallons or liters, not thinking at all of linear dimensions.
This version by TAJ Mahal and ETTA James, original by INEZ and Charles FOXX. Was also covered by ARETHA Franklin and RAY Johnson.
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
This is one of my favourite LA Times “?” themes of late. I started this sedated on adcodol (codeine, caffeine, paracetamol cocktail), but I was jolted awake soon enough. The theme riffs on “unfinished symphony”, but instead of a revealer, it is only hinted at in the clues, leaving more space for grid fun. Each classical work is truncated by two or three letters, creating new wacky compositions: MADAMABUTTER[FLY], THEMAGICFLU[TE], THEFOURSEAS[ONS], MOONLIGHTSON[ATA] and FURELI[SE].
The grid is a pinwheel, and lacks the bigger swathes of open real estate that later-in-the-week grids are associated; which is to say that, theme or not, it didn’t play too tough. It is also worth noting that the grid is extra-wide to accomodate 12-letter pinwheel arms. I did start with EMUS not LAMB, which does not even fit the clue properly (Adcodol!) I finished at FLEABAG, because I think of a FLEAPIT as a hotel, and a FLEABAG as a dog. [Oral soporific?] for LULLABY is a cute clue situated directly below.
[Persian murmur], PURR. As in cat. I have a scar just lateral to my left eye now from a new tiny stray kitten, about six weeks. Cattery assistant wanted me to listen to breathing, which led kitten to promptly slap me upside the head. He now goes by the name Swiper (No swiping!) In other stray kitten news, we also have a Canapé, who was rescued from the jaws of a neighbourhood pitbull without so much as a scratch!
A ham that is not cured is called “fresh ham.” It’s a thing. I agree that cured is the default if the reference is just “ham,” but if you require precision it’s a fresh ham or a cured ham.
At an angle: TRUE was easy as the concept of leveling is very important to builders.
bring (an object, wheel, or other construction) into the exact shape, alignment, or position required.
Wouldn’t leveling be something that probably makes builders sad?
Hello to Jason Isaacs!
Enjoyed the NYT considerably more than you did.
A few of your comments felt off-base to me: according to Wikipedia, chewing betel nuts, the fruit of the ARECA PALM, is an “important and popular cultural activity” in ” Pakistan, the Maldives, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Palau, Yap, Guam, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. ”
That’s a beyond significant portion of the world’s population, and makes this a good entry to my mind. Sure, we encounter ARECA in crosswords far more than we do in real life — but so what?
…and not an “important and popular cultural activity” in the US, where the majority of solvers just happen to live.
In other words, an entry that does little to nothing to enhance the enjoyability of most people’s solving experience.
I also had a different take than Amy on the NYT: I liked this Friday more than most. A lot of the clues and entries felt fresh to me: I liked SEX AND VIOLENCE and ENTREPENEURS, for instance. ARECA palm was the low point of the crossword to me, mainly because it’s fairly obscure and hard to guess if you don’t know it, and I didn’t. Crossing ALLAN (Allen?) and CORA didn’t help. But I was able to guess it after all, so I guess it’s kosher.
Kind of a dull slog for me. The NE, with SAUL, ELVIRA, and the MGMLION (which Ivy Mascot is that?) was the last to give in. And then it took some time to make sense of SEEME…
I don’t understand the clues for EKES: “Gets (by)” — is ‘eke by’ a phrase people use? Or is ‘eke’ on its own supposed to mean ‘get by’? In my experience, ‘eke’ is only used in conjunction with ‘out,’ and even then it’s most often used in a way that suggests the user doesn’t quite understand what it means.
I’m coming down with a cold so maybe that’s why I’m extra grumpy this morning.
The Ccolumba Lions are a perennial Ivy League doormat (they lost 24 straight a few years ago), but this year they won their first six games and almost won the Ivy League.
>>>Sure, we encounter ARECA in crosswords far more than we do in real life — but so what?<<<
Exactly! Isn't this one of those things that makes puzzle solvers special?
28d. [Establishment offering horses for hire], LIVERY. My great-great-grandfather owned a livery stable at 2560 S. Halsted back in the 1880s.
My dad’s uncles owned a livery stable in Brooklyn in the 1880s, near where you’d now find the Williamsburg Bridge. No idea what happened to the place. In 1914 my dad’s family moved out to Long Island, where he (and eventually I) grew up. They bought a house from a couple, two Broadway actors, and one of the items left behind, oddly enough, was a 1904 first edition of Mark Twain’s “A Dog’s Tale.” My aunt gave it to me years ago, and it’s on my shelf. Just 36 pages, not one of Twain’s best-known works, but it does have a great first line.
Very nice round of Friday puzzles.
I liked the CHE better than pannonica. The revealer/last entry made me grin, and since I’m tired and anticipating cleaning snow off my car in long-term parking in a couple of hours, that’s an accomplishment.
I’ll bite. What is PMS as an answer to 57d, “May and others, for short”?
Prime ministers. Theresa May and others.
Amy beat me to it by seconds :)
Thank you. I should have kept wracking my brain longer. Stopped too soon.