Saturday, May 12, 2018

LAT 10:02 (Derek) 


Newsday 25:05 (Derek) 


NYT 6:59 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Alex Eylar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 12 18, no 0512

Oops, forgot to line up a sub for blogging this puzzle—was out at She the People, an all-women sketch comedy show at Second City. (It was fun! Go see it if you’re in Chicago, Toronto or L.A.!) And it’s late and I’m tired and that’s not the optimal setting for wrangling a Saturday puzzle. Had a couple wrong turns in the northwest corner that tied me in knots (yes, turns can tie knots)—SOUS-CHEF instead of IRON CHEF and LUSTS for LONGS, mainly. I put in AKITAS and AVALON and AROUND, and I took them out. OUCH. 2d. [Beat someone?] is a terrifically misleading clue for Beat writer Jack KEROUAC. Oh! I worked the rest of the puzzle and found my way back to this corner, had that AC at the end, and filled in SHELLAC, which undid the other stuff I had. Sigh.

Five things:

  • 14d. [“Balderdash!”], HORSE HOCKEY. Is that a Sherman Potterism?
  • 28a. [The last pair you’ll ever wear?], CEMENT SHOES. Boy, that is … grim.
  • 11d. [Pull one’s hair out?], TWEEZE. Hey! What’s the question mark doing here? That is literally what tweezing is, it’s pulling out hairs.
  • 53a. [Faux gold], OROIDE. Nope, never seen that one before. Did we all try PYRITE here? Or possibly ORMOLU? Merriam-Webster has a definition for OROIDE: “an alloy chiefly of copper and zinc or tin that resembles gold in color and brilliancy and is used in making cheap jewelry.” So it’s pretty much the same concept as ormolu, but more obscure. Gotcha.
  • 7a. [Like a virgin], CHASTE. Tell me, how often is CHASTE used to describe men? Also, it’s entirely possibly for a virgin to engage in all sorts of sexual activity that doesn’t qualify as intercourse, so CHASTE is not necessarily applicable.

3.9 stars from me. Good night!

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I must need a vacation! It took me a solid 10 minutes to finish this one. I know some readers may think something along the lines of “it must be nice to finish in 10 minutes! It takes me much longer!”, but after literally decades of practice, I am usually able to finish a Saturday LAT puzzle much faster. This is more a commentary on the puzzle being slightly harder than normal. Also, I think something similar happened to me with a puzzle by Greg Johnson, so for whatever reason we just may not be on the same wavelength. And that’s OK! Perhaps after a few more of his that will improve. This grid, in typical LAT style, has very little obscurity, but masterfully intertwines several long answers into a neat 68-word puzzle. 4.4 stars today.

Some notables, including where I got tripped up:

  • 18A [Superstitious warning] DON’T JINX IT! – Well done. I am assuming this has zero NYT hits. (I was wrong: it has one!)
  • 34A [Assurance of honesty] TRUST ME – See next entry.
  • 36A [“That’s a little better”] “IT HELPS” – These two answers sound like something a snake oil salesman would say!
  • 43A [Workplace negotiator] LABOR LAWYER – I have had my fair share of experience with these people after working at UPS for nearly 30 years.
  • 59A [Spaghetti Western director Sergio] LEONE – I like these movies. I should watch one or two of these this summer!
  • 1D [Undesirably rapid hardening of concrete] FLASH SET – Some concrete you WANT to set quickly, like if you’re setting a post. But if it cures to fast, you may not be able to etch your initials into it!
  • 5D [Billboard #1 song in 1975 and 2001] LADY MARMALADE – Great clue. I am not sure which version I like better. Probably the original; Patti LaBelle was/is extremely talented.
  • 8D [Loaded with heat] EXTRA SPICY – I tried ULTRA first. That could explain my “extra” time!
  • 10D [Lesser component of “The Legend of Zelda,” say] MINIGAME – I wonder why Zelda was referenced here? Is each room a minigame? Or are we referring to a hidden game somewhere in it? It has been almost 30 years since I played this!
  • 19D [“Let every heart prepare him room” song] JOY TO THE WORLD – Is this the hymn version of this song, and not the Three Dog Night version? And is this a mini-theme of music in this puzzle with 5D?
  • 44D [Former Soviet premier Kosygin] SERGEI – It was either this or ALEXEI. My middle name is ANDREI, which is also similar. Not sure why my parents chose the Russian spelling of it though …

See you on Tuesday for the next LAT writeup from me.

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Yup, this was a typical Frank Longo Stumper! I battled this one, and I’m surprised I was able to finish at all. I ended up in the upper left corner at the finish; I wonder if these sadists (Frank and Stan!) make the corner where you typically start the hardest on purpose? And I unashamedly show all of my error marks in the grid snapshot! I trust I am not the only one solving in Across Lite whose grid looks like this! But this one was still in the fun range and not quite in the frustrating range, but it was close! 4.6 stars for this tough 70-worder.

Some of my favorites (and where I was tripped up!:

  • 1A & 45A [What some ranges are called] AMANA & RIDGES – Nicely done! I thought AMANA was the answer at 1A, but I couldn’t get it to work at first. Lesson: your first thought is usually right!
  • 34A [Stand with tangy products] CITRUS GROVE – I had ORANGE GROVE. I think a “stand” is a group of trees in one sense, and not always the roadside “stand” I was thinking of!
  • 53A [First Best Oscar/Supporting Actor Oscar winner] LEMMON – He won Best Supporting Actor in 1955 for Mister Roberts, and Best Actor in 1973 for Save the Tiger, two movies I have never heard of until now. Since then, Kevin Spacey and Denzel Washington, among others, have also pulled off this rare double.
  • 60A [Tree trunk, to botanists] BOLE – I believe you.
  • 2D [One working on a bed] MINER – Oh, THAT bed! This one was tough. Perhaps the hardest clue in the grid.
  • 9D [Name on a “2001 …” space shuttle] PAN AM – I don’t get this reference. Is this from the Space Odyssey movies?
  • 32D [Turning red over, perhaps] ASHAMED OF – I tried ENRAGED OF. Wrong kind of red!
  • 35D [Symbol of Utah] SEA GULL – There are no seas in Utah! Why isn’t this answer BEEHIVE??
  • 46D [Port of Brittany] ST. MALO – OK, maybe THIS one was the hardest one. At least for me. Why does it feel like I have never seen this town before in a puzzle??
  • 51D [Work through] SOLVE – Which I eventually did!

Have a great weekend!

Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Putting Mother First” — Jim’s review

I filled this grid twice. The first time, Friday night, was after a couple glasses of wine, and I recall being annoyed at a lot of little nits. After that, honestly, I didn’t feel I was in much condition to blog. The second time, this morning, went much more nicely and I enjoyed the wordplay and a lot of the fun fill.

It being Mother’s Day weekend, we have a mom-theme. MA is placed before certain well-known phrases. Does this mean we will be seeing a PA-inserted theme next month?

WSJ – Sat, 5.12.18 – “Putting Mother First” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

  • 22a. [Cheer at a Lanza performance?] MARIO BRAVO. Rio Bravo. I’m more of a Mario the plumber kinda guy, but it makes more sense to go with the tenor for this entry.
  • 24a. [Getting over a cold in one day, say?] MALADY LUCK. Lady Luck. Slight pronunciation change.
  • 37a. [Primers in Kuala Lumpur schools?]. MALAY READERS. Lay reader. This one I didn’t like because I don’t know what a LAY READER is, but I do know what a LIP READER is.
  • 47a. [Painter from “The Heart of Georgia”?]. MACON ARTIST. Con artist.
  • 65a. [Documentary about Upton Sinclair’s writing process?].  MAKING OF THE JUNGLE. King of the Jungle. Very nice. I wanted MAKING OF THE CASTLE at first.
  • 83a. [Gain from flipping an early Impressionist painting?]. MANET PROFIT. Net profit. Biggest pronunciation change for this one, but I like the wordplay.
  • 91a. [Lapping from a dog bowl?]. MASTIFF DRINK. Stiff drink.
  • 111a. [Perry?]. MASON IN LAW. Son-in-law. I really liked this one because of the change in meaning for “IN LAW.”
  • 115a. [Eschewing a costumed squad rooter?]. MASCOT-FREE. Scot-free. I kept reading the clue as “…rooster,” which somehow still made sense.

Lots of extra MAs are found in the grid: MAGMA, AROMA, MAMMAL, ACKERMAN, EN MASSE, etc.

Lots of little nits made me SNEERY: RESAW, A TEAR, NARY A, OPA [Inflation-fighting agcy. of 1941], YMHA [Jewish Community Ctr. forerunner], NAGGER, MATELOT [Sailor, in British slang], ENA [Spain’s last queen], and SUERS. Bleh.

Lots of proper names I was iffy on: SARTON [“Journal of a Solitude” author May] crossing HAMPTON [Vibraphonist Lionel], ACKERMAN [“The Zookeeper’s Wife” author Diane], MCNAMARA [1960s defense secretary], OLD GOLD [Cigarette brand advertised by Babe Ruth], and the spelling of EARVIN [Magic Johnson’s real first name].

But still, I enjoyed lots of fun fill: TSINGTAO [Beer from China], MR. BEAN [Buffoonish alter ego of Rowan Atkinson], BAD PRESS, PAN PIPE, TAG TEAM, LOVE LIFE, OINKERS, and DE CARLO [Yvonne of “The Munsters”] (maybe just another tough proper name for some, but hey, come on, The Munsters!)

Ok, I’m going to call it quits there. Mixed feelings from me on this one, so I’ll call it 3 and a quarter stars. Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate!

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30 Responses to Saturday, May 12, 2018

  1. maxine says:

    re: virginity, it all depends how one defines intercourse. i think the general idea is that penetrative sex “devirginizes,” but it really is an arbitrary concept, to the point of being useless. and yes, obviously also a sexist construct that places a higher value on chaste/pure/whatever women.

    personally, am of the view that many kinds of non penetrative sex are still sex.

    unrelated: i definitely tried pyrite first for OROIDE. And at 1a/1d I had Hyenas/Heaven for a long time. that corner was the last to fall for me.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I loved the looks of this puzzle. And to me it felt like an easy Saturday.

    That center diamond is rather remarkable. Reading it after the fact, I’m even more impressed. Maybe one could complain about FENSTER being an usual foreign entry, but even that was not so much of a stretch. Every other interwoven entry was somewhere between good and excellent. My hat’s off to the constructor.

  3. Stan Newman says:

    So glad you asked. HORSE HOCKEY is most definitely a Potterism. This is one of my internal trivia collections that will never be a crossword theme, for me anyway. Others in the same pot include BUFFALO BAGELS, MULE MUFFINS, MULE FRITTERS, PONY PUCKS, COW COOKIES, and the rather lame BULL DURHAM.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Nothing with FEATHERS? I seem to recall something with FEATHERS. Or maybe I’m conflating it with the general term HORSEFEATHERS.

    • Stan Newman says:

      Ah, yes. There are also DONKEY DONUTS.

    • scrivener says:

      “HOT SAUSAGE!” is one of two contributions I made to the old FAQ on the usenet, this one in the list of Potterisms. My favorite TV program ever.

  4. Alan D. says:

    I laughed out loud when I got CEMENT SHOES. Orca consideration? Thought this one was pretty smooth considering the constraints. Four stars.

  5. David L says:

    Pretty straightforward, and I liked the big middle section (I had Jack SPRAT before FROST), but I don’t know why AVALON is clued as a “place of eternal happiness.” It’s where King Arthur is buried, supposedly, and has other mythical connotations, but it’s not like Eden or Nirvana or whatever, as far as I know.

    And one can stand many ways — aside, apart, down, up etc — but I wouldn’t include ALOOF in that list.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes that was an odd choice for a clue. It’s more about how shyness can be misinterpreted. And there are numerous other ways to clue it without invoking shyness or standing.

  6. Burak says:

    When I first saw the grid, I was afraid that it was gonna be one of those Saturdays; I’d get stuck in one of those disconnected corners over a proper noun I had absolutely no frakking clue about. But no! All those corners were relatively smooth sailing, and the middle section was a delight to tackle! (I don’t know how I would feel about it without my intermediate German though)

    Some rough spots in the fill (OCEANO, OROIDE), and I would have liked a couple more punny clues, but a very, very solid sophomore effort from Alex Eylar. 4.05 stars.

  7. bonekrusher says:

    Absolutely brilliant 5-star Saturday NYT. “FENSTER” cluing was tricky but gettable in that the only foreign-sounding English word evoking windows that I could think of is the classic “defenestrate,” (and its less common cousin “fenestrate”) which would allow one to get close to the answer.

  8. Zulema says:

    Really liked today’s NYT. Would someone explain DAT as “Single dose?” 53A in the LA Times?

    • Jeff says:

      They’re both Brooklynese: plural DOSE (those) guys, singular DAT (that) guy.

    • Guy Wood says:

      It’s a pun on bad pronunciation – this, that, these and those becomes dis, dat, dese and dose. That’s how native New Orleanians speak.

  9. Greg Johnson says:

    I have started a free puzzle project. Twitter, FB or direct link Feedback welcome. Thanks

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m curious: Why Alexa Shortbush if your name is Greg Johnson?

      • Greg Johnson says:

        Why not? Think Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines. I had an Xbox Rock Band avatar with that name and everyone thought it interesting.

        • Greg Johnson says:

          Oh, and I’m eccentric.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Although on the heels of Monday’s energetic discussion of male crossword editors using so many female-coded pen names for their own puzzles …

          • Greg Johnson says:

            I don’t hide my identity. Google my name and you get some racist person in Seattle as the top result. Alexa is unique and, if you don’t stir the soup it gets icky on top. Or something like that.
            (insert appropriate emoticon here)

            • Greg Johnson says:

              …and there’s something to be said that “Alexa” is automatically a female name? What about Alex A.? Could be that too and Alex could be short for a number of names.

    • jj says:

      You wanted feedback, so here’s some:

      Your “Hygrids” is an interesting concept, but I would strongly suggest finding a cryptic clue mentor. You’re using indirect anagrams, for one, a common rookie mistake. Your example clue: [Artist creates “cluttered couch 101”] = DAVINCI requires the solver to figure out a synonym for “couch” first (divan) and then anagram it. Cryptic anagrams always need to have the anagrammed letters shown in the clue, so at the very least it needs to be [Artist creates “cluttered divan 101”]. Also, it’s arguable whether “creates” is used appropriately here as well; typically transitional words like this take the clue from the wordplay sense to the literal sense, not the other way around.

      On top of this, the surface sense of your clues are just lacking. The above amended example isn’t even a very good cryptic clue, because it’s basically just a series of broken English that doesn’t have much of a surface sense. This is the hardest thing about writing cryptic clues, and you’ll only get better after lots and lots of practice.

      At least finding a good cryptic test solver or two will go a long way to getting these cryptics into respectable territory. As it currently is, they’re not ready for prime time, unfortunately.

  10. Barbara says:

    Re WSJ. Jim, a lay reader is a person, other than the preacher, who reads a Bible verse at a church service.

  11. Mike E. says:

    To Derek: Wasn’t there some legend about a seagull leading the Brigham Young or Joseph Smith party to Utah?

  12. JohnH says:

    I liked the Times a lot, too, although I didn’t know HORSE HOCKEY and got messed up with MOD, OROIDE, and DEFCON. Definitely haven’t heard of the faux gold.

  13. Garrett says:

    Loved Derek’s remark, “these sadists (Frank and Stan!).”


  14. Garrett says:

    @Derek — The reason the seagull is Utah’s state bird is rather interesting:

    And this clue [Name on a “2001 . . .” space shuttle] is intentionally abbreviated to fool you. The “2001 . . .” is a reference to the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In the movie, a space plane is approaching a space station and the blue Pan Am logo is on the plane.

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