David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up
Ben here, filling in for Amy as your Substitute Friday NYT Crossword Review Person. Fill out your worksheet and then we’ll get to watch an episode of Mathnet until the bell rings.
It’s a themeless Friday puzzle from David Steinberg. Here’s some highlights:
- AVIATE as answer for “Do high-level banking?” is very clever.
- The 1A/1D SEETHING/SEE THINGS is some absolute cutesy BS – too generic on the 1D for my liking.
- Managed to pluck RABBLE from the part of my brain that’s still running through Jesus Christ Superstar after NBC’s live version at the start of the month.
- Loved the long fill in this grid – I CAN TAKE A HINT, LOSE SLEEP OVER, ETHICAL DILEMMAS, and CABLE TELEVISION are all great fill (though that last one is one place where I’d love an AV-style clue that tells just what percentage still have cable these days)
- My main reference for ODETTA‘s work is her name being dropped by crossword favorite PIA ZADORA in the original version of John Waters’ Hairspray
This one was a solid 3.5/5 for me. What did you think?
(I did promise an episode of Mathnet)
Jeff Eddings’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Ask Me How I Know” — Laura’s review
We have a vowel-shift-clued-wackily thing happening here, as indicated by the title, such that generally /aʊ/ sounds change to /oʊ/ sounds. (And yes, I’m using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), and also drinking an IPA (India Pale Ale)).
- [17a: River in a flash flood?]: WILD FLOWER
- [30a: Artist sketching a secretary?]: DESK DRAWER. In the sense of a secretary as a kind of desk, not an administrative professional. There are likely some regional American accents where drawer (the open-topped box you pull out of a desk) and drawer (a person who sketches) are pronounced the same.
- [36a: Tailor with a spotless shop?]: SANITARY SEWER. This one has a different vowel shift too: not how to know but who to know.
- [44a: Truck carrying heavy pieces to the horologist?]: CLOCK TOWER
- [56a: Birth-announcement photo?]: BABY SHOWER
This theme set didn’t feel 100% consistent to me, but it works, and the clue-puns are nice. Fill was decent too, though lots of 3s and your abbreviations like SSR SRA IPO LCD AFR ACA FDA. Someday I’d like to construct a puzzle where the only three-letter abbreviations are from the song in Hair: “LBJ took the IRT/ Down to 4th Street USA./ When he got there/ What did he see?/ The youth of America on LSD.” It’s a funny song, but anyone who lives in New York will tell you that the IRT doesn’t go to 4th Street. (Positively.) Speaking of New York, [10d: Storied apartment building west of Central Park, with “the”]: DAKOTA was where John ONO Lennon was murdered, in 1980, when he was only 40. Let’s end with him.
David Alfred Bywaters’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The revealer tells all, but I’m sure unless you started there, it was obvious by then anyway. PREINSTALLATION is clever, but takes up a lot of space to tell you that PRE is installed in unsuspecting theme answers, specifically at the beginning of the second word. The results are on the functional side for me – didn’t really hit my wacky bone.
Between the “free” PRE letters and quite easy clueing, this was an easier than usual Friday for me. The grid is well-balanced and cleanly filled.
The Hecate/trepan cross was potentially brutal, but Hecate faintly echoed deep in memory, so I got it on the first try. Agree on the one across/down way too cutesy — ie, annoying. Avanti/patness tough but inferable. Long answers great. I agree with 3.5.
Bit part in MacBeth?
Or the lovely E.L. Konigsberg book “Jennifer, HECATE, MacBeth, William McKinley, and Me”, because people would totally know that.
That’s where I remembered it from!
In “The Sword in the Stone,” Merlin and Madame Mim have a wizard’s duel, changing themselves into various plants and animals as they attack and defend, and Hecate is the referee.
i liked 1a/1d in the nyt!
ditto! like it *a lot*. so was *hoping* there might be another set at 67a and 35d, but ’twasn’t to be. dang.
but wow — this puzz played saturday-hard for me. meaning it took a while to get any kind of traction. which i finally did in the SW. after which, things fell and fell and fell. but i sure had my doubts!
Count me in the pro-SEETHING/SEE THINGS camp. You have to make a dupe pretty clever to claim an exception from the no-dupe rule, but to me, this one passed that bar. I laughed.
Also agree that it was Saturday-hard. Well north of my typical Friday time.
I accidentally clicked the rating button before changing the stars, so I mistakenly rated it 3 instead of 4. Can someone fix?
HECTATE/TREPAN/ENTRECHAT was a bad cross in an otherwise very good puzzle imo. (Can Steinberg make a bad one?) LAT and CHE were very good too I thought. Nice Friday round.
Can Will Shortz’ toast fall on the floor jelly-down?
I think Shortz prefers preserves.
Mathnet! I would watch that with my son, and both of us loved it. We still remember lines from it (“Mathematicians! Freeze!” while holding out calculators). Oh, and the Fibonacci sequence art episode… It was the best math show this side of Ventura Boulevard. Thanks for the video and the memories.
I liked the 1A/1D cross in the NYT because it is a good example of the versatility of parsability (parsitude?) of the English language.
Overall, the puzzle was hard for me to break into. I started with DESERT in the SW but stared at the puzzle for a long time before I got anything else. I thought it was a wonderful puzzle and a good challenge.
Enjoyed seeing ODETTA — I first saw her at the 1983 Folk Festival while on my honeymoon! Bob Dylan hadn’t brought his guitar, so someone had to loan him one… The people who’d given us use of their apartment had left instructions on how to remove the alligator from the bathtub — but we skipped that. Luckily, there were outdoor showers where we could hose off in bathing suits!
had a blast with the NYT, but PATNESS? PATNESS?! really, that was a stretch to put it mildly
This puzzle was an absolute delight for me It’s not often that I get to work a puzzle with a STONER.
The HECATE entry sent me on a Web surfing journey to remind me why, at a time when Classical Mythology was more important in my life, I was so infatuated with her. Now I remember – she’s my kind of woman.
I, too, was disappointed with the opposite corner not echoing the cleverness of 1A: “Ready to explode SEETHING and 1D: “Hallucinate” SEE_THINGS. Still, back in the day when way too much of my income went into BEER_MONEY, many a plain woman in the bar would be transformed into EYE_CANDY.
I was surprised to discover that PATNESS is a thing. (It’s true, Ethan. I looked it up.)
Are more people watching TV via the Internet, these days? From Wikipedia (for Ben):
“Cable television first became available in the United States in 1948, with subscription services following in 1949. Data by SNL Kagan shows that as of 2006 about 58.4% of all American homes subscribe to basic cable television services. Most cable viewers in the U.S. reside in the suburbs and tend to be middle class; cable television is less common in low income, urban, and rural areas.
“According to reports released by the Federal Communications Commission, traditional cable television subscriptions in the US peaked around the year 2000, at 68.5 million total subscriptions. Since then, cable subscriptions have been in slow decline, dropping to 54.4 million subscribers by December 2013. Some telephone service providers have started offering television, reaching to 11.3 million video subscribers as of December 2013.”
Am I missing something here? I enjoyed the puzzle and was able to figure out the theme answers to the extent that they fit and worked – but the title “Let’s split the last one” implies that the dangling ends of the last words might appear somewhere else in the puzzle, which I didn’t see. “Split” as opposed to “Lop”, I guess – but maybe I’m splitting hairs. Was there something I missed?
WSJ Friday is the weekly meta contest, meaning it has an extra answer to figure out. We don’t discuss it in the regular Friday posts. The time and place to talk about them is after the contest finishes in Dave Sullivan’s WSJ contest posts which go up on midnight ET on late Sunday/early Monday.
Got it, thanks. Apologies for any spoilers …
NYT: Brilliant long answers, fun clues, a pleasurable solve… except for NW. The intentional dupe -which I didn’t realize until after- made that corner slightly insufferable, and on top of that stuff like TREPAN/HECATE made it too much to bear for me. Also, there was atypically a lot of crosswordese for a Friday puzzle. That took away from the experience. If the constructor had gotten rid of that 1A/1D gimmick and given us a cleaner puzzle, I would have appreciated it much more.
But still, a decent work so 3.5 stars from me.
As Janie said, once it fell, “it fell and fell.” On my first go-round, nothing but ATE IN and ERMA. Very enjoyable puzzle to solve. When I first heard ODETTA, it was probably 1952 or so, and she was going by ODETTA Felious, her stepfather’s last name, but soon dropped it to just be ODETTA. She was fabulous! Thank you for bringing her back to remind us.
CHE was a mess. FLOWER, TOWER, and SHOWER are all ow-to-oh vowel changes, and the title fits it perfectly. But DRAWER doesn’t work at all – the clue indicates that it’s wanting a person that draws, and unless you pronounce “draw” to rhyme with “grow”, the resulting phrase is an oh-to-aw vowel change, thus negating the title and three of the other themers. Then there’s SANITARY SEWER (hardly an in-the-language base phrase to begin with), which is an oo-to-oh change, also at conflict with the title.
Either a title that indicates a more general vowel change rather than the current precise title, or dropping the DRAWER and SEWER themers and redoing the grid with the three OWERs (and/or finding a fourth OWER themer) would have been a better way to go imo.
I can’t say the NYT was enjoyable but it was fulfilling for me. The NW was tough as mentioned.