Friday, March 2, 2018

CHE 6:36 (Laura) 


LAT 2:08 (Andy) 


NYT 5:33 (Amy) 


Rachel Maddow & Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 2 18, no 0302, OMG IT’S RACHEL MADDOW!!

I suspect that everyone who’s on the liberal-to-moderate side of the spectrum has a crush on Rachel Maddow. Lesbians, straight men, gay men, straight women, bi or asexual folks—Rachel’s got a sexy mind and she’s cute af, so what’s not to like? This might be the coolest of the celebrity bylines we’ve seen atop the NYT crossword.

Highlights in the grid: Maddow’s fellow TV HOSTS, an FOIA REQUEST (that’s a Freedom of Information Act request for government documents), ROCK FANS, CONTESSA, CRITIQUE, “IF YOU CAN.”

Top clues:

  • 1d. [Those who’ve seen both Europe and Asia, say], ROCK FANS. Oh! The bands, well past their heydays, called Europe and Asia. Raise your hand if you’ve seen both bands perform live. Anyone?
  • 50a. [Stud of the sports world?], CLEAT. As in a little nubbin that provides traction, not a studly dude.
  • 4d. [Keeper of the flame?], WICK. On a candle.
  • 12d. [You’re not in it if you’re out], CLOSET. Boom. (If you’re not out, I would never push you to come out unless you’re ready, but I will support you 100% when you do. And before then.)
  • 13d. [Car model originally called the Sunny in Japan], SENTRA. Trivia! This may be useful some day. (I compete in the online trivia league called Learned League. It’s hardcore.)

Other notes:

  • 38d. [Programming manager’s specialty], SLOTTING. Oh, hey. I do a lot of that. I slot 365 crosswords a year, and then some. I generally call it scheduling rather than slotting, but that’s legit.
  • 32d. [“Uhhh …”], ERM. You all realize that this is basically just a British spelling of “um,” right? They aren’t pronouncing that R the way Americans read it. (See also: A generation of Americans thinking that the singer Sade’s name is pronounced “shar-day,” because Brits said so … but those Brits weren’t hitting that R sound. Shah-day. And yes, I’m still mad at the American media for blithely running with that “shar-day” nonsense.)
  • 18a. [What might help a hacker go undetected?], COUGH BUTTON. I had absolutely no idea what this meant, and figured it was a weird regionalism for cough drop. But no! It’s a broadcasting thing, basically a mute button you hit to avoid airing yourself coughing. I’m guessing that it was Rachel’s idea to seed the grid with COUGH BUTTON and FOIA REQUEST. Bartender Joe might’ve pitched SAZERAC, but hey, maybe that’s Rachel’s favorite drink, I dunno.
  • 9d. [Jacket letters], ISBN. While the ISBN number on a book jacket is all digits, the code is preceded by “ISBN,” which is spelled with letters.

Overall, the puzzle skewed a little on the hard side for a Friday NYT. How’d you fare? And what’s your favorite thing about Rachel Maddow? 4.25 stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Good Bookends” — Laura’s write-up

The ends of the themers are books of the Good Book, a.k.a. The Bible.

CHE - Burnikel - 3.2.18 - Solution

CHE – Burnikel – 3.2.18 – Solution

  • [17a: Hamlet’s title]: PRINCE OF DENMARK. Mark, second book of the New Testament.
  • [27a: Throw off 23-Across]: FACE FACTS. Acts, fifth book of the New Testament.
  • [27a: Setting of the cable drama series “Manhattan”]: LOS ALAMOS. Amos, book three of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible.
  • [61a: Fudge, maybe]: STRETCH THE TRUTH. Ruth, from the Megillot, a subsection of the Ketuvim, or Writings, of the Hebrew Bible (although I’m told that Christian Bibles put Ruth in a slightly different order, hence the title of Lyle Lovett’s excellent 1992 album Joshua Judges Ruth).

Trivia Tidbit: The phrase the whole megillah comes from the tradition of reading the entire book of Esther twice on the holiday of Purim (which was two days ago). (Apparently there’s an Irish version: the whole McGillicuddy — which wouldn’t be the first time Irish culture adapted Judaism for its own purposes.) Like most Jewish holidays, Purim boils down to: they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat! I’m not the only one to argue lately that the heroine of Purim, Esther, is a figure for our time. How’s that for a bit of midrash with your crossword commentary?

David Alfred Bywaters’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

LA Times puzzle 3.2.18 by David Alfred Bywaters

Hi all–this is Andy, filling in for Gareth today, who’s dealing with a power outage.

The revealer is at 71a, SWISS [Deli cheese … or, in three parts, a hint to the five longest across puzzle answers]. “In three parts” means that we should read SWISS as “SW” is “S,” so the five longest across answers will replace “sw” in common phrases with just an “s,” to humorous effect. Like so:

  • 17a, SINGING BOTH WAYS [Ratting to the cops and carrying a tune?]. Swinging both ways.
  • 24a, SAP MEETS [Dupe gatherings?]Swap meets.
  • 39a, SEEP UNDER THE RUG [What rain may do to a bad toupee?]. Sweep under the rug.
  • 51a, SEAT SHOP [Place to buy a chair?]. Sweat shop.
  • 62a, SADDLING CLOTHES [Cowboy outfit?]. Swaddling clothes.

A ton of theme material in this one. Five fairly long theme answers plus the revealer is a lot to pack into a 15×15 grid, and David did a pretty good job here. Nothing too exciting in the fill (the long downs are SPARE TIRES and OPEN-HANDED), but also nothing unusually crosswordese-y for a weekday puzzle (the usual ERTE and OMNIA and IDE and SHUI, etc.).

That’s all for this week. See you next Thursday!

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57 Responses to Friday, March 2, 2018

  1. Allen says:

    Rachel Maddow has been leading us on for months. You wait and wait and wait for the big whoopee gotcha on Trump and Russia but it never comes. In the meantime my paycheck take home is up. My 401k is up. My home equity is up. I can now pay for my daughters college. My vote for Hillary was a big mistake. Thank goodness not everybody voted like me. I’m gonna start watching Fox News cause Maddow doesn’t deliver and to my huge surprise, Trump does!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      What does that have to do with the puzzle?

      Also, you missed an apostrophe up there.

      • Dr. Fancypants says:

        It’s so cute the way people act like the president is responsible for the state of the economy, though.

        • Martin says:

          Or property values in Natick.

          • Papa John says:

            …or the stock market when he (the president) raises the tariffs.

            The president can, indeed, affect the economy. Think what happens to it when they take us to war. Does the president have as much influence as the international bankers? No, but his affect is felt.

      • john farmer says:

        Carl Sagan once said something wise about extraordinary claims. So I find Allen simply incredible. But nice try.

        The puzzle, on the other hand, was quite enjoyable. Some great clues (like 1D), new (to me) vocab (SAZERAC), and a shade more of a challenge than the typical Friday. Kudos, Joe and Rachel!

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Agree with John F on the incredibility. If such unicorns existed, dyed-in-the-wool liberals who regret voting for Clinton and now like Trump (because, I guess, progressive policies don’t actually matter to them?), I’m pretty sure the news media would have breathlessly profiled them over the past year.

    • Martin says:

      Hey Allen,

      I’m a crossword puzzle constructor, and I’d like to say that Trump has benefited me enormously.

      Back in the pre-Trump days, I only had 783 clues for the three-letter word “SAD”. But now I have 784.

      And it doesn’t get much better than that.


      -Martin Ashwood-Smith

    • Frank says:

      Actually I watch Rachel Maddow quite frequently and she’s already established a collusion link with Trump and Russia.
      You’re probably one of those Russian trolls. Anybody who watches Rachel Maddow every night knows that there is a ton of evidence that shows that Trump knew all about the Russians doing what they did behind the scenes and then got in front of the American people and lied about it so you can talk all you want to Pal

    • Harry says:

      Hey Allen, too bad your knowledge of puzzles isn’t matched by a little bit of good sense. The collusion is obvious to anyone with an open mind, as is the fact that Trump has little to do with the success of this market (aside from the dumb tax cut that will undermine middle class America for years to come).

  2. Dr. Fancypants says:

    Crazy hard for a Friday on my end. Like, slower than my average *Saturday* time by a lot.

  3. Allen says:

    You asked, “what’s your favorite thing about Rachel Maddow?” So I thought you wanted to discuss things about her. Anyway life in Natick is the best it’s been in a while and I think you’re awesome. Great Blog.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      And you listed things you hate about her, which is … not the same as your favorite thing. And it’s terribly rude to snipe at your crossword constructor for things other than the contents of the puzzle!

  4. Allen says:

    You also said, “I suspect that everyone who’s on the liberal-to-moderate side of the spectrum has a crush on Rachel Maddow.” Well now you know that isn’t true. That kind of broad brushing could alienate really nice people. It’s never nice to stereotype. However, I’m sure you knew that and I forgive you. Your puzzle analysis was excellent, as always. It was harder for me.

    • Mark Simpson says:

      Allen, Amy if you haven’t realized is co completely accepting of any positive commentary that promotes her far-left agenda. She is fine at crosswords. Not so much with the real world unfortunately. Sorry you had to get this backlash for delivering a dose of reality.

      • Mark Simpson says:

        It’s quite funny to see this play out to be honest. Maddow has established a collusion narrative with Russia. Yeah…I’m sure she has. Must be something mueller has missed the past half year. As to the tariffs,Bernie Sanders was right on board with this during his campaign. Weird how they disagree now. I used to laugh at people claiming trump derangement syndrome but it’s hard to argue with them bow

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        LOL, the “reality” of someone who purports to have developed warm feelings for Trump was clearly never a real progressive. Caring about investment returns but not climate change, environmental destruction, punishment of Dreamers, chipping away at LGBT rights, strengthening student loan debt collectors, enriching coal mining companies while black lung is resurgent, and menacing broad access to health care … yeah, right.

  5. Sam says:

    I think netter may be even less present in the real world than cager. And yes I did a google news search for both. Minus 10 for fictitious sports journalism terms.

  6. Penguins says:

    NW NYT was tough with all the trivia crammed in there.

    LAT has a really nice revealer.

    Rachel’s show is too much Rachel and I can read the paper myself.

    • DH says:

      Agree re: LAT; somewhat similar as yesterday’s WORD. Also noted the coincidental inclusion of “ERS” at 55A.

      Re: Rachel Maddow – my favorite thing about her is our shared Russian-Jewish heritage, and that to me, she symbolizes the fact that generations of people can escape from such repression and abuse and come to a country where they can be entirely different in so many ways, but free to express themselves without fear of government reprisal.

  7. LindaB says:

    A rare satisfaction for me, I found this puzzle considerably easier than most Friday offerings.

    My favorite thing about Rachel Maddow is that I am quite free not to watch her show.

  8. huda says:

    NYT: My favorite thing about Rachel Maddow is her remarkable, analytical mind and her communication style. And I bet she’s really funny in real life.

    But even more important is that she is part of the American press. Whether I agree or disagree with the beliefs, approaches or conclusions of any member of the media, my gratitude to them knows no bounds. They embody this country’s greatest of gifts– free speech, and not for a minute do I take that for granted.

    So, thank you Rachel for all you do, and for bringing a special twist to a most enjoyable puzzle!

    • huda says:

      PS. I once served on a search committee for a president of a state university. Maintaining confidentiality was important if we were to attract some highly placed candidates, and we learned early on: “There’s nothing to fear but FOIA itself.”

    • Martin says:

      And her self-deprecation goes a long way, for me. In introducing the puzzle tonight she actually called herself a “potbellied lesbian.” She does not wear her doctorate from Oxford on her sleeve, does she? We watch very little TV, but hers is an hour we never miss.

    • Lise says:

      Huda, I love your post(s). Your point of view sets a wonderful example.

      I also thought it was a great puzzle. It chewed up my brain and spit it out, and provided an effective distraction from the howling wind outside. Thanks to both constructors. Excellent entries, quite a few that were unfamiliar to me, and lovely clues.

  9. Zulema says:

    Well, at 9:59, I heard Rachel tell about the puzzle, and what she said was she was so thrilled about its publication that if no one liked it, it would be ok. It was being published in the NYT that was her greatest thrill.

    As for the puzzle, it was easier than I was led to believe reading Deb’s introduction (but not the spoilers) and the NW top corner fell first. My true first entry was “Countess” at 20D, which then had to be replaced by CONTESSA. I follow tennis and have yet to hear or read NETTER anywhere.

    One more comment about Amy’s “stereotype.” My grandson, who lived in Japan until he came to the US for college, watched Rachel’s program religiously there.

  10. Martin says:

    Here is a very interesting discussion, complete with videos, of the uh/erm topic.

    As you would expect, the biggest differences in pronunciation of the filler word are found between rhotic (midwestern American, Irish, Scottish) and non-rhotic (British, New England) dialects. (Rhotic dialects say “yard” and non-rhotic dialects say “yahd.”)

    But the vowel of the British “erm” is different than that of the midwestern “um.” It does sound like the back part of a Brit’s “worm,” which of course has no “r.”

    This is the second appearance of ERM in the Shortz era. There was some discussion of it when it was used last year, clued similarly. Maleska used it often, clued as the abbreviation of ermine. I think the fur is best retired, but agree that a Brit. signal would be good.

    • DH says:

      My wife and I have been binge-watching British crime dramas on Netflix lately. (“Shetland”, “Happy Valley”, “Broadchurch” etc). Sometimes the accents are difficult for us to understand, so we turn on the closed-captioning. We hear “UM” quite frequently (sometimes “EM” or “EHM”), but read “ERM”.

      • lemonade714 says:

        I have exactly the same experience with “erm” in the CC function. I would add Death in Paradise to the shows to watch.

  11. Steve Manion. says:

    ERM was my only WTF in an otherwise excellent puzzle. NW was tough for me, but the rest fell quickly. For Rachel, my one published NYT puzzle is one one of the biggest thrills of my life.


  12. Penguins says:

    Deb Amlen wrote, “I found the puzzle challenging…and a little bird tells me that editor Will Shortz had to ease up some of the clues that were submitted to make this a Friday-level puzzle.”

    Any way we can see the originals?

  13. artlvr says:

    Congrats to Rachel and her mentor! Landing on a Friday for a debut is quite a feat.. Yes, I’m a great fan, but relieved that she’s dropped the cocktail performance. White House news gets ever worse!

  14. David L says:

    Good but very tough puzzle, with a couple of exceptions. NETTER is just crazy. The other thing that has me perplexed — and yes, it’s a science thing again — is DIODE for “cellphone component.” Googling turns up a lot of nutty stuff about protecting yourself from electromagnetic radiation by attaching some sort of “diode” to your phone. This page is a good example, and offers “all natural” diodes (made from alfalfa, I guess).

  15. Tim in NYC says:


    Another misplaced R that rankles me is in Brett Favre’s name, pronounced “farve”. If it’s so hard to pronounce Favre in a French way (as it is hard to pronounce Sartre), then why not just “favor”? Doesn’t “favor” sound more pleasant and Sunny than “farve”?

    I’ve been listening to Rachel since the days of Air America (R.I.P.), and was always impressed by her ability to build an argument and deliver a punch at the end. Yes, she does have a great analytical mind with the gift of a storyteller.

    • Evad says:

      I agree, it’s one of the few shows we watch where I feel like I really learned something after I’ve watched it. She really takes the time to explain things fully and asks questions that may appear self-evident, but she knows we’re all asking the same questions in our living rooms as we watch. I love her “thanks for explaining things so fully for us and helping us to understand a very complex issue” sign-off with each guest. With a handshake to boot! A class act for sure.

  16. SAM SZUREK says:

    Can’t believe how quickly I rushed to the NY Times xword site the moment I heard Rachel promote the puzzle she helped construct. Ms Maddow is soooo talented!!

  17. Papa John says:

    Amy asked what’s not to like about Rachel Maddow. For me it’s her gushing emotionalism and exuberant liberalism. I like my news delivered in the manner of Brokaw, Mudd, Cronkite, Woodruff or Fuldheim. Journalists’ political persuasions are of little interest to me, whether it’s the liberal views of Maddow or the conservative views of Limbaugh.

    For most of my life I was ardently non-political. I didn’t vote until the first Bush ran for office. Since then, I’ve become a bit of a political/news wonk, spending many hours pouring over the numerous newsletters, etc, that come to my inbox. TV news is on the bottom of my list of sources. It’s more entertainment than raw news.

    • huda says:

      It’s true that there has been a big shift in the press, from an effort to be as neutral as possible to being clearly non-neutral. And for me as well, it has taken some getting used to. But I think the key elements that set great journalism apart from the rest include the choice of questions being asked, and how the evidence is gathered and presented in addressing them. To my mind, factual evidence, as thoroughly gathered and presented as possible, should be the centerpiece.
      I see parallels with scientific research reporting. The questions are biased by how the mind of the scientist works– that’s how we put our stamp on the field. But we need to specify why and how we asked the questions. We need to present the evidence as honestly and thoroughly as possible. We usually add our interpretation to it. While it’s supposed to be dispassionate, it is often colored by our intent. But the data can be independently analyzed by others who might reach completely different interpretations, now or in the future, possibly in light of other knowledge and additional information.
      So one thing I respect about Rachel Maddow is that she seems to take evidence gathering seriously. The information itself is thorough, well supported and checks out. That’s not common in today’s world of misinformation and is quite valuable in these confusing times.

    • Penguins says:

      Maddow and MSNBC is really commentary, not news.

    • john farmer says:

      I wouldn’t compare Rachel Maddow with Cronkite, Mudd, and the others. They are/were journalists, for one thing. Maddow is not — not the way I see it anyway. She’s a TV HOST (!) of a show the focuses on politics. She doesn’t present “the news.” Her show offers commentary and context on a small slice of it.

      I have many beefs with TV news and the broader world of journalism. But whether it’s news or commentary, what I’m looking for isn’t a particular political slant. What I want is honesty and truth. And the truth is, these days you’re a lot more likely to find that on one side of the political spectrum. So if you want honest news or honest TV, a good chance you’ll find it comes — or at least agrees — with a liberal p.o.v. Generally speaking, I don’t think liberals distort their sense of reality because of their political views, certainly not to the degree the other side does. I think reality happens to coincide more often with the liberal view.

      So I enjoy the Maddow show. My biggest quibble is that she sometimes takes a long time to get around to making her point. That said, I think in the Trump era she’s been more focused and covers some non-TV-friendly stories in a clear way. And though no one’s perfect, she’s honest. And unapologetically liberal, which I believe is rather middle-of-the-road all-American and appropriate for our times.

      Politics aside, a couple of things she does that is quite innovative: (a) her delivery has a virtually unscripted feel, which is much more spontaneous and engaging than the deadly boring reading of the teleprompter that most newscasters practice, and (b) her opening story breaks many old-school journalism standards, and it’s usually worth the time to watch where it eventually leads.

  18. Burak says:

    NYT: Cute puzzle, cute cluing, too difficult for a Friday. I liked how personal the celeb puzzle was. If only the fill was a bit easier/less trivia-y.

    The last time I watched Rachel Maddow was when she encaptured social media’s attention saying that they have Donald Trump’s tax return from 2000-something a few months ago. It turned out that the document meant nothing and it was the type of document that someone in the President’s camp would leak. I thought that was an irresponsible journalistic practice, because they clearly had not vetted it (or even worse, they knew it didn’t mean anything but still went along with it)

    So yeah, a former fan, not so much after that.

    • Penguins says:

      That show was a low, ratings over integrity, moment for Maddow. I lost a lot of respect for her too.

  19. Nene says:

    Tip for constructors:
    If you are stuck with an intractable three-letter answer the fallback clue is “Uhhh…”

  20. Brenda Rose says:

    I always look forward to the Friday NYT’s puzzle & it’s byline. What’s not to like in today’s offering aside from erm? What if it was Alex Jones’ byline today? So what? My dear fellow cruciverbalists, remember puzzles are amusements & they too will fade into memory just like Millard Fillmore’s presidency. Wag more, bark less.

  21. BH says:

    Love the site and all the smart people here. I can do without the politics. Puzzling for me is a pastime and an escape.

  22. Fletcher B. says:

    Chronicle of Higher Ed, 13D “Don’t swing at, in a way”, is “take”. How come? Is it a baseball term?

  23. Kathy Osborn says:

    I found all comments fascinating. The one touting Trump was fascinating. Yeesh. I am lousy at puzzles and it literally takes me hours to do them. On a Friday – if I get all of them – I’m beside myself. As for Rachel being proud to be published in the the New York Times – boy do I get it. I have a friend upstate who knows as much about art and culture as I do about sports – we’re talking absolutely nothing. Actually, I don’t know much about culture either. When I told my friend that my mother was on Jeopardy (1968) she went freaking nuts. I’ve illustrated 20 covers for the New Yorker (a long time ago) and she made pleasant- isn’t that nice sounds – she doesn’t know the New Yorker from Readers Digest. We both volunteer at a cat shelter – which is how this unlikely friendship formed. Um – I digress. I did not like this puzzle – it made me feel like an idiot.

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