Monday, April 9, 2018

BEQ 8:25 (Laura) 


NYT 3:39 (Laura)  


LAT 2:03 (joon—paper) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Erik AGard’s New York Times crossword—Laura’s write-up

NYT - 4.9.18 - Agard - Solution

NYT – 4.9.18 – AGard – Solution

  • [20a: *Actor in “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)]: ALEC GUINNESS. My favorite film with him is Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) (I also liked Star Wars (1977)).
  • [27a: *Actor in “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001)]: ANDY GARCIA. My favorite film with him is Ghostbusters (2016).
  • [46a: *Actress in “Mogambo” (1953)]: AVA GARDNER. My favorite film with her is Night of the Iguana (1964). Small observation: acting-type people who identify as female tend to call themselves actors, but in crossword clues we still use the term actress, to hint at gender.
  • [52a: Setting for the answers to the three starred clues — appropriately enough, given their initials]: SILVER SCREEN … because the chemical symbol for silver is AG, as are the first two letters of our constructor’s last name. Other people who could’ve been entries in this puzzle, along with my favorite film with them in it, are ART GARFUNKEL (Catch-22, 1970), ALICE GHOSTLEY (Grease, 1978), and ANA GASTEYER (Mean Girls, 2004).

HECK YES [14d: Enthusiastic agreement], this is a fine Monday puzzle, suitable for either a n00b or an [65a: Aficionado]: EXPERT. If you don’t know the actors, the crosses are fair; maybe there are a few that might give folks trouble. I have shopped at ULTA [1d: Big name in beauty supplies], eaten NIGIRI [28d: Sushi consisting of thin slices of fish over rice], and know people who work at DREXEL [29d: University in Philadelphia]. If you haven’t seen or done the [39d: Rhythmic group dance of the 2010s]: SWAG SURF, I’ll leave you with a video of some very proud graduates:

Maxine Cantor’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Final Exams” — Jim’s review

It’s not really final exams season; that would be more like next month and heading into June. But that’s our theme today. Each theme entry is a phrase whose last word can precede TEST (70a, [Exam that can follow the last word of each starred answer]).

WSJ – Mon, 4.9.18 – “Final Exams” by Maxine Cantor (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [*Vinegar component] ACETIC ACID
  • 19a [*Original film in the Rambo series] FIRST BLOOD
  • 38a [*Not extreme] MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
  • 58a [*Syllabic accent] WORD STRESS
  • 62a [*Spot for wipers, on a lorry] WINDSCREEN

You don’t see a straight word-that-can-follow-another-word theme much these days. Mostly this type of theme has gone by the wayside unless added justification can be brought to bear. In this case, the title performs that function by identifying where in the phrase the pertinent word is to be found.

A nice set of phrases for the most part. I especially liked FIRST BLOOD and WINDSCREEN. ACETIC ACID is the first six-letter acid listed when searching (and sorting for commonness), but it feels a little bland to me. FORMIC ACID (the one found in ant bites and stinging nettles) could’ve made for an interesting alternative, though it would’ve forced the entry AFB at 14d. WORD STRESS is interesting to us logophiles, but it sounds like a condition for someone who can never find the right word to say.

IDLE HANDS and ESCALATOR make for great long Down entries, and I especially love the clue for the latter [Nonstop flight?]. That is just too good. I also liked PIEMAN, NEW CAR, and SLIDER.

Your entry of the day is DEMOND (39d [Wilson of “Sanford and Son”]). He played the son, Lamont, to Redd Foxx’s Sanford. In real life he became an ordained minister in 1984, and since then has been helping to rehabilitate former prison inmates, writing Christian books, as well as performing on stage.

Clues felt fresh overall. In addition to the lovely ESCALATOR clue mentioned above, other standouts were [Depressing direction?] for SAY AH and [Remote spots?] for SOFAS.

A fairly straight theme to this puzzle, but a pretty solid offering I think. 3.5 stars.

Lila Cherry’s LA Times crossword—joon’s write-up

lila cherry is “really rich” norris, who has a nice monday theme for us, as spelled out by the clue to the central down answer: {Words that connect each pair of four-letter words intersecting at a circle} AS A. where are those circles?

  • {Rich} WELL-HEELED crosses {Thoughtful} DEEP, giving DEEP AS A WELL.
  • {2000s best-seller involving flying toys, with “The”} KITE RUNNER crosses {Tipsy} HIGH. HIGH AS A KITE.
  • {Protective bar on a flat roof} SAFETY RAIL meets {Skinny} THIN. THIN AS A RAIL.
  • {Object of the puddy tat’s pursuit} TWEETY BIRD meets {Priceless?} FREE. FREE AS A BIRD. although it’s a cute clue for FREE, i was a little surprised because the clues for DEEP, HIGH, and THIN all use the same sense of the adjective that’s used in the implied simile. for consistency, i’d have preferred to see a clue like {Unfettered} for this one.

before i noticed the clue for AS A, i spent some time scratching my head over the possible avianness of the theme. TWEETY BIRD is obviously a bird, but a KITE and a RAIL are also birds. i couldn’t make WELL-HEELED fit, though.

the fill was a little hoarier than i would have liked to see on a monday, with EERO crossing ARLO in the NW corner a shaky start. however, the four 4×4 corners are where there were crossing theme answers, so they were quite a bit more constrained than the rest of the grid. i liked {Sound equipment that may pick up a private remark} HOT MIC and seeing NERO and WOLFE clued together—although the clue was highly off-putting. “seriously overweight fictional sleuth”? why? why not just “fictional sleuth”? i get that he’s explicitly written to be a very large man (not exactly THIN AS A RAIL), but what’s the point of bringing “seriously overweight” into the clue? i could maybe see it if there were some kind of clever tie-in with the author’s name (rex STOUT), but no, it’s simply gratuitous fat-shaming.

anyway, that’s all i’ve got. enjoy your monday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themeless Monday crossword — Laura’s Review

BEQ - 4.9.18 - Solution

BEQ – 4.9.18 – Solution

Five things:

  • [37a: First crossword constructor for the New York Times born in China]: ZHOUQIN BURNIKEL. There’s no puzzle by her blogged today? Unusual. I suspect her name is tagged on the Fiend in any given year almost as many times as BEQ’s. And she’s only been publishing since 2012. If in six years from now I’ve constructed only a fraction of what she’s accomplished and someone puts my name (also 15 letters) into a themeless grid, I’d be inordinately proud of myself.
  • [8a: Wedding reception staple]: CASH BAR. Some years ago I’m in St. Paul at the wedding of some college friends of my husband’s and there’s a CASH BAR. I had never encountered one before at a wedding (seemed a bit schlocky, nu?) and was informed that it was a strategy to keep the alcoholic uncles in line.
  • [12d: John Paul Jones founded it: Abbr.]: Not LED ZEP, but USN: the United States Navy, founded by John Paul Jones (1747-1792).
  • [11d: “Baloney!”: HORSESHIT. If it were up to me, there’d be much more of this sort of language in grids.
  • [47a: Toots in a restaurant]: SHOR. Legendary restauranteur of midtown Manhattan, Bernard “Toots” Shor grew up above his parents’ candy store in Philly and attended DREXEL (see my NYT writeup, above), before moving to New York City and finding work as a nightclub bouncer. He owned a series of restaurants in the West 50s (speakeasy and nightclub central) from the 1930s to the early 1970s. The only establishment left (not owned by Shor) from that era is the 21 Club, at 21 W. 52nd St.

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13 Responses to Monday, April 9, 2018

  1. David and Heather says:

    Slow Monday puzzle for me, at over 8 mins, but it was fair even tho I’d never heard of ULTA or NIGIRI. Fun on the whole!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I love the blend of Art and Science!!!
    Never heard of ULTA… I don’t know where I’ve been…
    Oh and that video of the SWAG SURF is joyous. Love it!

  3. cyberdiva says:

    I too enjoyed Monday’s puzzle. I’d never heard of ULTA or SWAGSURF, but I loved the video Laura provided and, indeed, her whole writeup.

  4. John says:

    Given how many people (myself included) seem to have missed ULTA, and given that “Get 10-15%” could just as easily be “Make a Cut” I grumble that they could have changed that corner a little.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m OK with an entry that’s more likely to be a gimme to women than to men. There have been an awful lot of entries over the years that skew somewhat more male—your baseball players of the 1950s, your motorsports figures. Including some names that are more familiar to women helps balance the scales.

      • Matthew G. says:

        I didn’t know ULTA (which shocked my non-puzzle wife) but nevertheless I agree with Amy on this one. I like my baseball entries so I’ll pay the ULTA price for them.

    • David L says:

      I don’t know ULTA either, but I thought TAKEACUT was a good and familiar crossing answer. MAKEACUT doesn’t ring any bells with me.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    The advantages of having a makeup-obsessed teenager: ULTA was a gimme. I was there just last week.

    Loved the puzzle.

  6. DH says:

    Well, I’ve never heard of ULTA (I toyed with OLAY up there for a while), but fell into the trap of overconfidence when I put SOS instead of SPF. So many areas in life where holding on to our old beliefs keeps us from moving forward! Cute coincidence at the bottom of the LAT with “Tress Test” – I noticed that before actually looking at the theme. “Tonsorial Final?” Or, reading across the entire bottom, “Olde name for a contemporary 5:00 haunt?” (This is why I don’t make puzzles)

  7. Mike M says:

    As a graduate of the esteemed DREXEL University in Philadelphia, I’m gratified to see my Alma Mater finally show up in a crossword. XWord Info indicates that the entry has appeared six times in the NYT puzzle, but this is the first time I’ve come across it.

    Thank you, thank you Eric Agard!

    Drexel University Class of ’79

  8. Beach bum says:

    Re joon’s comments about the LAT clue for NERO WOLFE (“seriously overweight fictional sleuth”) being “simply gratuitous fat-shaming.” (I use “joon” instead of “Joon” since I saw “joon’s writeup” etc.)

    First, making clues a little more helpful is absolutely okay on a Monday. Adding “seriously overweight” to “fictional sleuth” makes for an easier solve, for a more “Monday-ish” puzzle. For that reason, the charge of gratuitousness doesn’t hold water for me.

    Second, having read all but a few of the Nero Wolfe novels, I think it safe to say that in every one of them Archie, Wolfe’s assistant and the narrator, mentions Wolfe’s weight, epic overeating and sedentary lifestyle. In earlier novels Wolfe was described as “a seventh of a ton;” in the American Magazine version of the novella “Before I Die” Archie says that Wolfe’s weight ranges from 310 to 390. In “Fer-de-Lance,” it’s mentioned that Wolfe once ate half a sheep in two days; in “Rubber Band,” Wolfe is on a fat-losing regimen of … throwing darts for 15 minutes a day. There is mention of Wolfe’s desk chair, custom made to be wide and strong enough to bear his weight, with specially strong springs. For almost all of every book, Nero Wolfe is parked in his special chair doing nothing other than thinking and having an occasional beer brought to him. Author Rex Stout did make Nero Wolfe seriously overweight.

    Third, the term “fat shaming” as used here seems to be an insult in search of a real victim. Whose ox is being gored here? Is the fictional Nero Wolfe supposed to bothered because a crossword puzzle constructor called him overweight? Is the deceased author Rex Stout supposed to feel guilty because he wanted to create an overweight, petulant genius of a detective? Is the crossword puzzle constructor supposed to feel bad because his clue was descriptive and truthful?

    • joon says:

      thanks for your reply, beach bum. no, obviously the fictional character won’t feel bad upon reading this clue. but perhaps a solver who is conscious of being overweight might read the clue and feel worse about their own body, for reasons that don’t make the puzzle any better. if the goal was to make the clue monday-easy, why not just put rex stout into the clue?

      i don’t know why rex stout decided to make the character notably overweight, but that’s in the past and can’t be changed. what we (puzzle constructors, editors, and—albeit indirectly—bloggers and solvers) can change is the way that we talk about nero wolfe now. is his weight really the most noteworthy thing there is to mention about this character? not his solving habits, one of his famous cases, the name of his assistant, or even the author who created him? even if, for some reason, wolfe’s size is the one thing you want to put in the clue, it could have been done in a way that doesn’t convey such disdain. {Larger-than-life fictional detective} has the same denotation without nearly as much negative connotation.

      • Beach bum says:

        Thank you for a thoughtful reply, joon. Certainly, avoiding the subject of body weight would offend fewer people, especially nowadays. In the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was running the gauntlet of primary and secondary schools, many people might have preferred being called “seriously overweight” to what they were called. The taunters seemed to prefer rhyming insults when possible, then alliterative ones.

        But I associate “larger than life” with having a big personality or with having performed heroic deeds. T.E. Lawrence (of “Lawrence of Arabia”) and Charlie Chaplin were 5’5″, yet they are “larger than life.” Wolfe was a genius with a domineering personality, and because “larger than life” still has a faint whiff of referring to Wolfe’s body weight, I actually prefer your clue to the original.

        FYI, for a couple of years I ate all meals after weighing the foods to the gram. I used food codes and put the food codes and weights into a spreadsheet that included data I had copied in from the USDA food database SR22; formulas returned the calories, protein, carbohydrate, and fat values of the meals I ate. I learned how much fat was in a handful of peanuts vs. a teaspoon of olive oil, for example. I can’t recommend this enough for people who are not only interested in losing weight but knowing what the foods they are eating are made of. For instance, a person who ate only 1,800 calories of chocolate during a day would have eaten a reasonable number of calories but would have eaten way too many grams in lipids. One side benefit was that all information from candy bars had to be keyed in manually from the wrappers, and because the writing was so small, that was hard to do. Thus, I ate less candy during this period.

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