Saturday, December 23, 2017

LAT 9:30 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:57 (Derek) 


NYT 5:22 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Matthew Sewell’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 23 17, no 1223

CHANCE THE RAPPER makes for a great 15, doesn’t he? He was charming and funny when he hosted SNL this fall (see video), he cares deeply about local philanthropy here in Chicago (supporting struggling public schools, to name one of his giving ventures), and he’s presumably a decent rapper though I haven’t heard him on the radio lately. He’s also super-cute, and maybe someday he’ll be dubbed SEXIEST MAN ALIVE by People magazine.

STUDIO EXECUTIVE felt a tad jarring because it reminded me that Harvey Weinstein used to be one. Moving on without him!

Seven more things:

  • 42a. [CVS offerings], RXS. I might’ve cussed them out tonight when the prescription I tried to order a refill of prompted the CVS site to tell me that one couldn’t be ordered online.
  • 45a. [Name often said before this clue’s number], COLT. As in a Colt 45 gun or the malt liquor. Dang, the first 4-letter word that came to mind in association with the number 45 was … not COLT.
  • 3d. [Product once known as “The Miracle Cream of Baltimore”], NOXZEMA. Neat little trivia clue for this skin-care product.
  • 7d. [Shade of light brownish-gray], BUTTERNUT. That makes no sense if you’ve ever seen a butternut squash. Looking at the results of a Google image search for butternut color, I’m really not seeing much in the “gray” family.
  • 14d. [Prestigious women’s college in Atlanta], SPELMAN. Hey! I like that it’s just tagged “prestigious” without a mention that it’s also a HBCU. Notable alumnae include Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.
  • 47d. [Japanese native], AINU. I used to view this word as a stale old bit of crosswordese, but the Ainu are an indigenous people with their own culture and (endangered) language. Here’s a recent WaPo photo essay on the Ainu.
  • Not thrilled to see these bits in the grid: SATRAPS, plural UMS, A-TEST, RST, ESS. There were other blah entries as well.

3.5 stars from me.

Lara Stephens’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Christmas Bonuses” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/23/17 • Sat • “Christmas Bonuses” • Stephens • solution

Pressing matters here, so another brief write-up. New constructor name to me—possibly a newly-minted Shenkian pseudonym.

  • 96dR [Winter figures, made from the “bonus” letters in this puzzle’s theme answers] SNOWMEN. I’ve circled them in the solution grid for clarity.
  • 24a. [Two items on a bird lover’s Christmas tree?] STAR AND FEATHER (tar and feather).
  • 37a. [Christmas tree branch?] A PIECE OF THE PINE (a piece of the pie).
  • 54a. [Places where the acoustics are lousy for Christmas singing?] CAROLS-BAD CAVERNS (Carlsbad Caverns).
  • 67a. [Period spent preparing the presents?] WRAP SESSION (rap session).
  • 80a. [Supervision of a creche display?] MANGER MANAGEMENT (anger management).
  • 100a. [Decoration for Genghis’s door?] THE WREATH OF KHAN.
  • 115a. [Mired-down in reindeer mishap?] ST NICK IN THE MUD (stick in the mud).

Plus, plenty of Christmas- and winter-tinged clues throughout. Feel free to hunt them up if that’s your thing.

Just a very few points:

  • Unusual comparative form at 1-across partially establishes a negative pall for the solving experience. [More widespread] RIFER. That there are a few more similar constructions in the rest of the puzzle sustains that sense. 95d EAGERER, 99d PENNER (a noun). 123a LIENEE doesn’t help, but it is the WSJ.
  • An actual typo! 90a [Fish also know as black grouper] BONACI. I checked; it’s in the .pdf as well.
  • 65a [Norse pole, e.g.?] MAST. Huh? Norse ≈ ship?
  • 28a [Amazon smart speaker] ECHO. Listener as well as speaker. Knows if you’ve been bad or good. All the virtual assistants: ECHO, ALEXA, SIRI, et al. Seriously, who needs that much intrusion? Perhaps I’m being ableist, but they are dangerous. BE SAFE (77d), sleep tight.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

The clever Jeffrey Wechsler has this Saturday’s LAT challenger puzzle. This is a 68-worder with a very different grid pattern. It must not have been easy to cross those 15-letter entries with a stack of 3 10s, but Jeff accomplished it, and did it quite well. A tad tougher than the usual Saturday challengers, as this one took me nearly 10 minutes. Normally for me, these take between 6 and 7 minutes, whereas the Newsday Stumpers are at least 15 minutes on a good day! I enjoy solving Jeffrey’s puzzles, and I hope to see him coming up at Stamford in a few months! 4.6 stars today.

A few notes:

    • 1A & 1D[“Gadzooks!”] JUMPIN’ JEHOSAPHAT – My Bible spells it Jehoshaphat (yes, that is a Biblical king), so that threw me momentarily. I am sure either spelling is acceptable in English.
    • 26A [Sacha Baron Cohen persona] ALI G – I am not sure I like his brand of humor. He is fairly funny in conventional roles (he was in Les Misérables recently), but Borat and Bruno, as well as Ali G, just seem to annoy me more than humor me. Having said that, I have not seen an episode of this show in it’s entirety, so maybe I should watch it. But I don’t want to watch it!
    • 42A [Eco-friendly wheels] TESLA – I am waiting for the electric semis to hit the road!
    • 54A [Camera initials] SLR – I have always wanted to buy a really nice camera. I am saving this wish until my retirement days!
    • 8D [“Soldier of Love” Grammy winner] SADE – She was big time when I was younger. So surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, she is now nearly 60 years old! Here is one of my favorite songs of her’s:

  • 28D [Like much museum art] NOT FOR SALE – Awesome. On, not a single hit!
  • 40D [Flowering plant in the legume family] LUPIN – I thought there was a fictional character or celebrity with this name, but I am thinking of Ida LUPINO. This is a toughie, unless you’re a botanist!
  • 51D [“I am __ / More sinn’d against than sinning”: King Lear] A MAN – I think there are tons of quotes that have this phrase in them. Using Shakespeare makes it seem more legit, while at the same time making it harder!

Time to rest up for a few days!

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

It has been a while since I have used my iPad to solve the Stumper! Yes, I did pay the $9.99 for it quite a while ago. But I have paid more than that for some Merriam-Webster dictionaries that Apple no longer supports! I did see they have the Oxford English Dictionary on there; perhaps that will be one of my next investments!

This one was hard. Several entries in here were totally unfamiliar to me. But a lot were really good! This was a good 70-worder, and I am now exhausted! 4.5 stars.

Just a few mentions:

  • 17A [Bay of Naples city] SORRENTO – The Kia minivan has only one R.
  • 18A [Adoptee, perhaps] PET CAT – My sons want a cat! We may go the adoption route here soon. We shall see.
  • 31A [Prelims of a sort] QUALIFYING EXAMS – Great entry for a 15. I think I may even have taken one or two of these tests at one time or another!
  • 53A [French novelist admired by Zola] STENDHAL – If the Zola reference was supposed to be a hint, it didn’t help me. I am not sure I know  at all, although I have heard of a couple of his works. (After I Googled him!)
  • 9D [Conquest conspirator in “Wonder Woman” (2017)] ARES – I will watch this this weekend!
  • 15D [Possible fatigue from a wine tasting] NOSE BLINDNESS – I am not a wine connoisseur by any means, although I may have weaseled a bottle or two into my house during these holidays. This also is a great entry.
  • 31D [Undeclared America-France conflict of 1798-1800] QUASI-WAR – OK! I have never heard of this before.
  • 33D [French brandy variety] ARMAGNAC – Never heard of this either. I said I don’t know wine, but evidently I don’t know my brandy either!
  • 38D [Designation of two US senators] IND – I thought this might be a state and party answer, like IL-D. I was fooled!
  • 40D [“Presents … __ absents”: Charles Lamb] ENDEAR – Wow. This was hard, too. No idea what work this is from. I am assuming one of his essays? Another quote I did not know

I said it was hard! Good thing I have several days off to recuperate!

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23 Responses to Saturday, December 23, 2017

  1. Martin says:


    This is in no way a disagreement with your note that “butternut” doesn’t seem very gray, but it is sort of interesting that the color is named for the nut, native to the American south, called the butternut. It is a relative of the walnut and its husk was used for home dying clothing. In fact, Confederate soldiers were derisively called “butternuts” because of home-made uniforms of this color.

    The butternut squash is not named for a resemblance in color or otherwise to the nut or its dye. The developer said it was “smooth as butter and sweet as a nut” and applied the name to market his new squash breed. The color is the color of cloth dyed with the nut husk, which can be anything from a light orange to a dark brown, complicating the identification of the color, but it is not associated with the squash at all.

  2. Brian says:

    That 29d clue :/

  3. artlvr says:

    AINU brings to mind the sculptress Malvina Hoffman, who studied with Auguste Rodin and went on to travel the globe in order to create 100 bronze sculptures for the Field Museum in Chicago in their Hall of Man, from AINU to ZULU, over five years from 1930. A stunning achievement, I was disappointed at my last visit there to find the entire exhibit was now broken up and spread around the building, diminishing the impact. You can read about that unique and arduous quest in her book “Heads and Tales”.

  4. Nene says:

    Kudos for constructing four snappy 15-letter answers into a cohesive grid.

  5. golfballman says:

    bygone can opener, a real lousy clue. Beer cans,pop cans, sardine cans, soup cans all have ring or pull tabs.

    • Martin says:

      Not all pull tabs are ring tabs. Ring tabs are the kind that come off the can with a small, sharp, piece of metal. They were banned years ago because some were swallowed.

  6. Joe Pancake says:

    The outside of a butternut squash *does* look kinda gray.

  7. animalheart says:

    The clue for 45A in the dead-tree edition reads, in full: “.45 <–, for example." Was it different in the online puzzle? If so, I approve of the change, since this clue struck me as both overly whimsical in conception and a little off besides ("Colt” as an example of a .45 seems more natural to me than ".45" as an example of a Colt, though I realize that Colt manufactures weapons of other calibers.)

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Just seems like “Indianapolis player” or “Baltimore to Indianapolis export?” would be a more straightforward clue. The latter might have been a nice partner for the NOXZEMA clue (but may have riled some people up).

  8. Pat says:

    I really love this blog for all the interesting things I learn here.
    When pull tab didn’t work for the answer, I thought ring tabs were those strips that went around the top of the cans of frozen juice some years ago. Pulling it around removed the whole lid. Mercifully, somebody of my generation gained a position of power in one of those companies and nixed that method before my fingers got too old to be able to pull that tiny little plastic tab. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

    As for “dangerous metal,” I’m boycotting Campbell’s soups and any others that have a pull tab that takes off the whole lid which whips back into one’s finger. Happened to me – bad gash, took forever to heal.

  9. Ben says:

    can someone explain ING in the Stumper for “It’s seen in much verbal communication”?


    • Pat says:

      Could it be that many verbs in communications end in “ing”? That is, in much “verb”al communication “ing” is seen. This is the only thing I could figure out. Anyone else have another thought on this?

      • Ben says:

        Yes, Pat, that’s it. I realized “ing” had to do with verbs but got stuck on seeing “verbal” as spoken rather than of verbs, a definition I wasn’t aware of but should’ve figured.

        On a somewhat related note, one of the things that causes me, and I suspect others, problems, and which constructors do on purpose at times, is misreading a word’s usage in a clue, a verb for a noun, a noun for an adjective, etc.

        Thanks for you help.

  10. lemonade714 says:

    The LAT haters are out in force again with three (3) people rating it a one (1). Funny considering that Derek rated it highly. Also, there is never a comment explaining these ridiculous ratings. Is it all LAT puzzles or just Mr. Wechsler’s? Stop being cowards and speak your piece and tell us what we all missed.

    Thank you, Jeffrey, I particularly enjoyed GUERILLA, GALLERIA, ESIASON, JEHOSAPHAT and HAD NO GOOD REASON

  11. Margaret says:

    Derek, old school crosswordese would have the Lupin clue be gentleman thief/detective Arsene Lupin, but I bet the fictional character you were thinking of was Remus Lupin from Harry Potter. Both are more familiar to me than the flowering plant which I thought was lupine with an e.

  12. JohnH says:

    I thought the WSJ had a lot of garbage, including, yeah, the puzzling “Norse” for presumably a seagoing people, as if no one actually lived on land in Scandinavia. My last to fill was Build-a-Bear Workshop, which I’d just as soon not learn more about.

  13. JakaB says:

    WSJ had too many popular singers and loose stuff for my taste, fun otherwise, but I had to mark it down a full star as it all could have been re-done.

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