Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Jonesin' 3:37 (Derek) 


LAT 4:48 (Derek) 


NYT 3:08 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:23 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 360), “When in Germany…”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 4/24 (No. 360)

Well, I’ve never been to Germany, but that didn’t stop me from easily catching on to today’s punny gimmick. Four themers—each reliant on a familiar base-phrase—get a punny twist, wherein the pun is the name of a well-known German town. For my money, a genuine ASSET of this puzz is Liz’s utter shamelessness in sharing this daft wordplay with us (with entry one more daft than others) In no way do I make this a CRIME. In fact, I’m here today to ABET her in this endeavor. From across the interwebs [sic] I hear the groans and MOANS. [“This is SO NOT happening!”]. Yes, dear Readers, it SO is, and neither is my taste in (low) humor so high that I fear I DEMEAN myself in doing so. If puns simply aren’t your thing, still try not to be too HARSH. Count to TEN. Breathe A BIT. You’ll think you DREAMED the whole solving experience. And before you know it, it’ll be next week and you’ll have a new puzz. For everyone else, here’s hoping there was no WOE involved, that you had fun solving and that you were able to FIND some pleasure encountering:

  • 17A. [Hot-and-humid forecast in Germany?] STICKY BONN Sticky bun. You probably don’t want one in hot-and-humid weather anyway, but oh, a good sticky bun is a treat. My mom used to make schnecken. Yum. (For some recipes, scroll down in the article to those external links.)
  • 26A. [Hit song by The Bangles, in Germany?] “MUNICH MONDAY” (“Just Another) Manic Monday…” This was a big hit in 1986 and was written by… Prince.
  • 43A. [“Jaws” star, in Germany?] COLOGNE SHARK (co)Loan shark. This is the stretchiest. I wouldn’t want all of them to include additional SYLLABLES, but this is the one I consider the most daft—and the one I liked best. And I also think the other three are pretty darned good. (Btw, [Two of seven?] is one tricky clue for SYLLABLES, no?—having nothing to do with being the equivalent of 6:58. Hard to parse without adding extra words and punctuation. To wit: [Two {may be found using the example} of {the word} “seven”]. Feels like a loooong way to go for an answer…)
  • 58A. [They think alike, in Germany?] GREAT MAINZ Great minds. And sometimes, as I’m wont to say, they even run in the same gutter…

Flower of Hades? Not the STYX this time! It’s the right color anyway…

I’ve already cited DREAMED and SYLLABLES, but let me add to the list of longer, stronger fill the well-clued TAKE-OUT [Moveable feast?], a clue which, for some, may recall the Hemingway memoir; and also ISLANDERS, clued as [Samoans and Hawaiians, e.g.]. Yet another Hawaiian allusion. Third one this month. Hmmm. Just makes me wonder if our constructor has been experiencing A BIT of wanderlust. ;-)

Experienced solvers probably understood the [Flower of Hades] STYX combo, but n00bs? How’d you do? The “flower” here is not of the “flora” variety but is the noun version of the verb “flow.” Only in crossworld is a “river” a “flow-er.”

Am seeing more and more of the flora sort in these parts. And the flowering trees are coming into bloom. But yeesh! Only now, in the final week of April, is the thermometer rising to spring-like temps, and dare I say it? I think they’re gonna stay there. Hope it’s lovely where you are. Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good week, come by again next Tuesday and… keep solving!

Benjamin Kramer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Air Play” — Laura’s review

WSJ - 4.24.18 - Kramer - Solution

WSJ – 4.24.18 – Kramer – Solution

  • [18a: Olympic trap shooting target]: CLAY PIGEON
  • [29a: Feathered flyer that’s sliced and shot]: SHUTTLECOCK (in badminton)
  • [45a: Quarterback’s wobbling pass]: WOUNDED DUCK
  • [59a: Baseball blooper]: DYING QUAIL
  • [3d: Shutout score]: GOOSE EGG
  • [39dR: Fighting birds, or an apt description for the starred answers]: GAME FOWL; or, gamecocks if they’re roosters, not to be confused with game birds, which are avian creatures hunted for sport. The Gamecocks are also the mascot of the University of South Carolina; visit Columbia and you’ll see the bros with their COCKS baseball caps. WOUNDED DUCK and DYING QUAIL were new to me; I’d heard GOOSE EGG of course, but not in the context of a score.

Shall we start a debate here, predicated on the recent discussion of GO OK, as to whether SPIC, even clued as [10a: ___ and Span (cleaner brand)] is acceptable fill? I believe someone mentioned this as a counterexample. If I were an editor (and I am not), I’d take it out, and as a constructor I’d rip out the NE and redo it rather than let that stay there without context. But other constructors and editors make different decisions.

Fill-wise, we’ve got some classics, like ORCA OBOE ALTO BEAU EGO IRE GNU. Both EDYS and EDDY! I am fond of words like LEAFS or KNIFES looking like misspelled irregular plurals but being correct (yo linguists, I’D BET there is a term for that). Please TRANSMIT, IN CASH, to the NEEDY. Here’s some [26a: Bedrock for Spock]: LOGIC:

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 24 18, no 0424

The [John Donne quote disproved by 17-, 25- and 43-Across?] is NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, and those three themers are novelist BRET EASTON ELLIS, actor CUBA GOODING JR., and actor IDRIS ELBA. Two have island surnames (Ellis, Elba), one has an island given name (Cuba). Between the 1 writer + 2 actors imbalance and the 1 first name + 2 surnames imbalance, the theme looks a bit lopsided.

In the rundown of “hard for a Tuesday, no?” fill, we’ve got EIRE, HRE, CCV, TENON, ISMS, GDANSK, and the odd 3-worder HD TV SET.

Three more things:

  • I count ≥17 proper nouns outside of the theme entries, which suggests that those solvers who don’t care for “trivia quizzes” on names will be less than pleased with this puzzle.
  • 40d. [Primitiveness], CRUDITY. Huh. Crudeness feels much, much more common and familiar than CRUDITY.
  • 29d. [“Memory” singer in “Cats”], GRIZABELLA. Am I the only one who not only has never seen a production of Cats, but also has never had the slightest interest in the show (or the Eliot poems it’s based on)?


3.4 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Elements of Surprise” – Derek’s write-up

Solved in under 4 minutes! This may be my best Jonesin’ time yet. I am trying to track these now, but I am still not used to it, and I don’t think I have a great spreadsheet set up. Suggestions, anyone?

This week’s Jonesin’ requires a rudimentary knowledge of chemical symbols, and then this will make sense:

  • 17A [Phobic of element #4?] BERYLLIUM AFRAID (be afraid)
  • 35A [“Element #33? That’s unlikely!”?] ARSENIC YOU WISH (as you wish)
  • 44A [The odds  that it’s element #102?] NOBELIUM CHANCE (no chance)
  • 67A [Element #53 knew what was up?] IODINE THOUGHT SO (I thought so)

I am sure this idea may have been done in some other form before, but this was executed very well by Matt. My OCD wants them to be in atomic number order, but the lengths surely wouldn’t allow that. Also, they get funnier as you go, and that always works well. I am typing this a little hyped up on painkillers, since I did something to my elbow this afternoon, so perhaps everything is a little funny to me this evening! 4.5 stars since I am in a good mood and the Toradol is talking!

More goodies:

  • 22A [“Rent” heroine] MIMI – This is still on Netflix. I love “Seasons of Love,” which is the opening number from this play/movie. But I didn’t/still don’t remember any character’s names!
  • 57A [“Lucky Jim” author Kingsley] AMIS – Another work by a crossword famous author I have never read.
  • 72A [Barinholtz of “The Mindy Project”] IKE – I have seen her show once or twice, but I don’t remember him. He was in Suicide Squad, but I don’t remember his character in that either. He looks like a Wahlberg.
  • 4D [Gary of “Diff’rent Strokes”] COLEMAN – The late Gary Coleman, that is. Amazing how troubled all of the young actors from this show turned out to be.
  • 19D [List appearing once each in a supervocalic] AEIOU – I get the posts from the supervocalic Facebook group, and today is a supervocalic day! (April twenty-fourth!) Some people catch these all the time; I just don’t notice things like this. I should be more aware!
  • 46D [Fast-food drink size] LARGE – Along with the ONE POUND box of candy in the LAT from today, this is also not a wise choice!

Keeping it short today since I am slightly impaired. Until next week’s Jonesin’!

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

My friend Bruce has the Tuesday LAT puzzle this week. With a theme answer in the middle, there is an odd number of 79 words in this one. But this is one of my favorite types of themes: you have no idea (at least I didn’t!) of what the theme is until the puzzle is nearly done. The revealer is the last theme entry:

  • 17A [Video game preview] DEMO VERSION
  • 23A [Exemplary] ABOVE REPROACH
  • 38A [Romantic jewelry item] LOVE RING
  • 48A [Latin phrase about certain effects of alcohol] IN VINO VERITAS
  • 59A [Social sin … and what 17-, 23-, 38- and 48-Across are guilty of?] OVERSHARING

Clever! Especially since all of these are very easy phrases, except for perhaps the Latin phrase! Unless you are a lot more used to speaking Latin than I am. Or you’re a doctor. Or a lawyer. Which I am not. A solid 4.4 stars today.

Notable entries:

  • 34A [Arresting image?] MUGSHOT – My choice for the best clue here.
  • 54A [Long look] EYEFUL – I’ve had “eyefuls” of some things I wish I could UNsee!
  • 66A [“Spider-Man” actor Willem] DAFOE – Surely this is not his most famous role, is it? It is to ME, but I am from the golden age of comics, so I am a big fan of any superhero movie.
  • 15D [Candy box size] ONE POUND – Not a wise choice in most circumstances!
  • 25D [Of the Great Lakes, only Ontario is smaller than it] ERIE – I flew over Lake Erie on the way home from the ACPT. It was a clear night, and the views were spectacular!
  • 34D [Pop’s __ Vanilli] MILLI – Surely they can live on in crossword fame, which is preferable to lip-sync INfamy!
  • 35D [Fertility clinic egg] OVUM – This seems a little too, I don’t know, clinical maybe, for an easy puzzle? Nitpicky I know, but just my opinion. No problem with the entry, just the clue choice. Not sure why; maybe I’m just sleepy.
  • 47D [Yucatán native] MAYA – I had INCA in here at first. I told you I was tired!

Have a wonderful week!

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18 Responses to Tuesday, April 24, 2018

  1. Ethan says:

    The inconsistency that bugged me (didn’t even think about the author/actor thing or the first/last name thing) is that Ellis Island isn’t called just “Ellis.”

  2. jim hale says:

    This puzzle embodied the NATICK principle for me. Way too many uninteresting and obscure names. Surprised Mr. Shortz let this one through his net.

  3. e.a. says:

    re: WSJ 10a –

    so you want to ban a whole word from crosswords just because it happens to be super racist? what’s next, outlawing [50 other slurs i’m always looking for any excuse to use without reproach]? what about [word that’s totally innocuous, except for this one contrived context that nobody would ever think of]? if we follow your draconian PC logic, soon there won’t be any words left to make puzzles with!

    (just wanted to save certain people on here the trouble)

  4. Burak says:

    I have been regularly solving NYT crossword puzzles for about 15 months now, and I am starting a get a feel for certain constructors. When I saw Peter Gordon’s name my immediate thought was “uh-oh, this is going to be a proper noun fest :/” Fortunately, all those people are in fields right up my alley, so I wasn’t stuck trying to figure out who an obscure star from the 70s could be.

    That being said, still some weird entries. DRMOM sounded weird to me, esp. with the clue. I mean, who doesn’t check for a fever with their hand? HDTVSET was another one that felt forced.

    Overall, a fun-enough theme for a Tuesday, and mostly fair crosses saved this one. I don’t mind a couple of eye rolls while solving a puzzle if I can finish it relatively groan-free.

  5. Brian says:

    Having never heard of 17-Across in the NYT, I had CRETE ASTON ELLIS in the puzzle for way too long.

  6. Ethan says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard DR. MOM outside of these old commercials:
    Not sure if those are enough to make this a legit entry.

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: A frustrating puzzle for me, because I proposed the very same theme and was rejected over a year ago, complete with IDRIS ELBA and CUBA GOODING JR. I also included MILOS FORMAN (acclaimed director who just passed away) and RAY RHODES (1995(?) NFL Coach of the Year). Will’s objection was that people wouldn’t know Milos was an island or remember who RAY RHODES was. Alternatively, I tried CECIL RHODES (Rhodes Scholar dude) and actress JILL IRELAND.

    When I started looking, I thought it would be a snap to come up with theme entries. It wasn’t. Especially since I ruled out names like Ellis or Long, since those have “Island” in the name (as Ethan pointed out above). But there are very few good examples, hence the lopsidedness in the theme.

    Why do I care? It’s not uncommon to see a theme you developed appear before your eyes as a published puzzle. It’s not fun, but it happens. But this was to be a tribute to my grandfather. During World War II, he did something heroic which earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There was even a B-movie made of the incident titled No Man Is an Island starring Jeffrey Hunter, not as my grandfather, but as the Navyman my grandfather rescued. My Guamanian grandfather, grandmother, mom, and the rest of the family were played by Filipino cast members.

    Of course, nobody knew that, and there’s no reason why someone else couldn’t develop the same puzzle theme. So I’m mostly frustrated with myself for not persisting enough to come up with something publishable. Mostly.

    • LauraB says:

      That’s an absolutely fascinating story about your family, Jim! I just read the Wikipedia synopsis, and wow — I can imagine your family being frustrated, to say the least, with the film.

      I have also had the experience of an editor rejecting a puzzle because “Peter Gordon just sent us one with the same theme, but better” (actual quote).

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Yowch. Customer service at its finest. Fostering newer constructors is definitely not their strong suit.

        The film was very Hollywoodized. They changed names (our proud family name of Artero became Cruz), gave Tweed, the protagonist, a love interest in one of the daughters (presumably my aunt Josephine who was in truth about 3 at the time), and greatly diminished the role of my grandfather. We take it for what it is, but still, it’s our family claim to fame.

  8. Joe Pancake says:

    I’m with Laura regarding WSJ 10-A. In my opinion, the standard should be as follows: If a typical person sees an entry in the grid without context and the thing that most prominently comes to mind is a patently offensive term, then it shouldn’t be used. I think both GO OK and 10-A fail this test — in both cases I would have to strain to come up with a “legit” definition if I just saw the answer.

    This doesn’t rule out a word just because somebody somewhere came up with an offensive definition for it and added it to Urban Dictionary. But it does disallow those words for which the offensive definition is the first definition people think of.

    • john farmer says:

      If a typical person sees an entry in the grid without context and the thing that most prominently comes to mind is a patently offensive term, then it shouldn’t be used.

      Serious question: Does anybody see an entry in a grid without context? The crossword solver sees the context first (i.e., the clue), before he or she writes the answer in the grid. The idea that words exist without context doesn’t jibe with my experience doing crosswords.

      In regard to SPIC, the thing that comes most prominently to mind for me is not a patently offensive term. I guess different people have different sensitivities to what is offensive. I certainly know the derogatory use of the word, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard anyone use it that way. If I had to guess, I’d say it was probably when I was a kid growing up in NY during the ’60s. In those days there was a slur for virtually every ethnic and minority group. Not that we heard them all the time, but we knew what the words were, and I’d guess they were used more often by an older generation (and not always with vitriol) than my own. Time went on, and most of those words fell out of use. Some of those words got repurposed and now have a positive sense (e.g., dike/dyke, queer).

      Maybe “spic” is still a common slur in NY or other places, but I don’t hear it anymore. I’ve lived in Southern California since the ’80s. If I hear anyone speak of Latinos in a derogatory sense, the word they most often use is “Mexicans” (with a certain disdain in their voice). The word gets used with plenty of ignorance. It’s applied to people whose heritage goes back to other parts of Latin America and also to people who are as American as apple pie (which is tasty made with piloncillo). (Not to mention, where I live was Mexico before it was the U.S., Spain before that, and for most of the past several millennia, the land of the Chumash.)

      Like another old slur, “wetback” (which I only hear when people talk about Operation Wetback, the deportation program under Eisenhower), “spic” seems like a relic from another time. So I think we’re making progress. That may seem an unpopular opinion at this particular moment of our history, but in the long run, I believe that’s true.

      Words used as slurs can be hurtful and of course should be avoided. But words do have different meanings and connotations, and people who do crosswords generally can appreciate that. So when encountering the word “spic” in the context of “spic and span,” a common term meaning “clean, like new,” with a long history going back more than four hundred years, I don’t see the offense. Any derogatory use of the word is not what comes first to my mind.

      If you choose to take offense at words absent of their context, and where no offense is intended, don’t be surprised if people find you to be overly sensitive.

      Another time perhaps we can discuss “Anglo” or “gringo,” words that I don’t find offensive though some people for various reasons do. The first has entered mainstream usage, the second is the title of a movie now playing in theaters. Both make it into crosswords on occasion. I guess there’s no problem with that, right?

        • john farmer says:

          Thanks, Erik. Racism, and the use of “spic,” is not dead. I didn’t mean to claim nobody uses the term anymore, in case it sounded like that.

          I did want to speak to my experience. First, to counter the notion that those four letters automatically trigger an offensive slur in the solver’s mind. Doesn’t work that way for me. Second, the fact that racists still use the word does not change the fact that use of the slur and others like it is not the same as it once was. What I recall is use that was far more prevalent and far more casual. Today, I would guess, far fewer people have the word in their vocabulary, and those who use it reserve it for a particularly hateful effect. That’s not to say it was not hurtful in the past. But it was different. They were different times. In my experience, almost everybody drew some ridicule for their ethic or minority status. Media (comedians in particular) depicted members of certain groups as low class or as the butt of jokes (when they were visible at all). It was also a time when denial of rights for many was law of the land. But things changed, and they are different now. And better.

          I don’t think I’ve led a particularly sheltered life, but I don’t hear the word SPIC today. Not among friends or family, not at work, not in community activities. And not as a casual term in media (if at all, only for specific effect). Hate lives on, yet still, people on the whole have far more respect for one another’s cultural and ethnic backgrounds today than they did long ago.

          I am glad that Syracuse University suspended the frat. Impossible to say for sure, but I doubt that suspension would have happened half a century ago. The frat’s use of slurs might not have made a ripple back then. If there was any negative reaction, it might have been: boys will be boys, what are you gonna do?

          The fight against racism goes on. It’s important work. But I think it’s important to keep in mind the progress we’ve made.

          That said, I guess we won’t all pick the same battles, or have the same response to regarding the word in today’s puzzle.

  9. Dave S says:

    Amy, in response to your question about Cats, the answer is “no.”

  10. scrivener says:

    NYT: I hate myself for not figuring out that Grizabella is spelled with a Z and not an S. I’m so familiar with the showtunes that it never occured to me that I was wrong, even when I couldn’t figure out what the heck SEST was supposed to be. 8:25 for me, which is on the slower end of my Tuesday average range. What a boso.

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    Leonard Nimoy’s participation in this video is not logical.

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