Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hex/Quigley 12:51 (Laura) 


LAT 9:14 (Amy) 


NYT 7:45 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:25 (Laura) 


Neville Fogarty & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, “Love at First Site”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 13 18, “Love at First Site”

The theme is familiar phrases reimagined as make-believe dating sites:

  • 22a. [Good name for a deep kissers’ dating site?], FRENCH CONNECTION. French Connection is a British clothing brand (you may know their FCUK logo), and The French Connection is a Gene Hackman movie from the ’70s.
  • 51a. [Good name for a dating site full of hot dudes?], STUD FINDER. Nice one! A stud finder is a doodad you use to find the studs hidden behind drywall.
  • 57a. [Good name for a dating site of massage therapists?], RUBBER MATCH. I think that’s a term from the card game bridge.
  • 76a. [Good name for an extreme sports dating site?], ACTION ITEMS.
  • 83a. [Good name for a non-monogamist dating site?], OPEN FLAMES. Cute. Flames that are open obviously—as opposed to … what? What’s a closed flame?
  • 115a. [Good name for a dating site for lovers of natural foods?], ORGANIC CHEMISTRY. Also cute.
  • 15d. [Good name for a carpentry dating site?], BOARD MEETING.
  • 60d. [Good name for a “High Noon”-themed dating site?], WESTERN UNION. This is not that far removed from the (actual) farmers’ dating site, is it?

Works well enough, no outliers that are terrible or overly clunky.

Cool bits in the fill: The verb BARRELED, Xi JINPING, Tracy Chapman’s “FAST CAR” (here’s the YouTube if you want to have a listen), catchphrase “MAKE IT SO” ([Command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard]), EVIL GRIN (though that [Satanic look] clue is mighty weird), and BESTIE.

Six more things:

  • 124a. [Something taken on a field?], KNEE. A reference to Colin Kaepernick and others taking a stand/a knee for justice.
  • 73a. [George ___ University], MASON. Recently in the news, which made it easy for me to snap to the answer.
  • 31d. [Back-of-newspaper section], OBITS. The back? Is that so? I’ve been consuming news online for years, and don’t know how accurate this is.
  • 48d. [Swing time?], RECESS. This is about the school playground, not the folks on the OPEN FLAMES dating site.
  • 10d. [Group dance with stomps and claps], STEP. And, judging from what I see on YouTube after searching for best step show performance, there’s often some narrative going on, and some of the performances begin with cinematic videos that tie in to the dance that follows. As a white person who went to a majority-white college, I’ve had very little exposure to step. Here’s a video for you, especially if you’re as ill versed as I am:

  • 43a. [Actor whose first and last names look like they rhyme, but don’t], SEAN BEAN. “Shawn Bawn.” “Seen Bean.” Great clue, and a great entry!

Four stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Bad Hair Day” — Laura’s writeup

WaPo - 5.13.18 - Birnholz - Solution

WaPo – 5.13.18 – Birnholz – Solution

(Laura here, in for Erin, who is having a good heir day with her kids.) We’ve got a bunch of circles in the themers, and some numbers in parentheses. And some flavortext: “NOTE: You’ll need to do some restyling to find an apt nine-letter word for this puzzle.” Hmmm, restyling, eh? … what if I rearranged those letters in parentheses? I get hairstyles (or aspects of hairstyles):

  • [23a: Agricultural aircraft (1)]: CROPDUSTERS. updo
  • [25a: Some Coppertone or Neutrogena products (3)]: SUNBLOCKS. bun
  • [38a: Special counsel in 2018 headlines (6)]: ROBERT MUELLER. mullet.
  • [59a: Heroic companion of Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov (3)]: FLASH GORDON. shag
  • [66a: Many successfully converted “and one” scores in basketball (3)]: THREE POINT PLAYS. ponytail
  • [80a: Causes (4)]: BRINGS ABOUT. bangs
  • [96a: One working for kicks? (7)]: MARTIAL ARTIST. rattail
  • [115a: Dealt with (3)]: ADDRESSED. dreads
  • [117a: Something that signals impending doom (3)]: KISS OF DEATH. fade
Robert Mueller, in his law school yearbook picture (1973). Not in a mullet.

Robert Mueller’s law school yearbook picture (1973). Not in a mullet.

So far, I’d say [75a: “It’s ___ (“Things are getting exciting!”)]: LIT! For the bonus hinted at in the flavortext, if we take the letter in each unscrambled hairdo that corresponds to the parenthetical number, we get UNTANGLED! Which is what we did to all the circled letters! Cool meta, bro, in both concept and execution. I dug the [10d: Organized whole, from the German word for “form”]: GESTALT. Clues I liked: [11d: The one for 11 Down is 11 Down]: ANSWER; [31a: New Jazz star, e.g.]: ROOKIE; [53a: Exchange in a window]: CHAT. That’s all for tonight, since I [1a: Need a drink]: THIRST; your blogger is pouring one as she [90d: Confirms the transmission of an email]: HITS SEND on this post.


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked Crossword, “Echo Chamber”—Laura’s review

CRooked - 5.13.18 - Cox & Rathvon - Solution

CRooked – 5.13.18 – Cox & Rathvon – Solution

We’ve got words with reduplicated phonemes at the end, resulting in silly phrases, like:

  • [23a: Toy in its early development?]: EMBRYO YOYO
  • [25a: Central American dam?]: PANAMA MAMA
  • [44a: And Dorothy’s little dog, too?]: DITTO TOTO
  • [53a: Tin Man’s dance?]: OILCAN CANCAN
  • [76a: Malian dancer’s dress?]: TIMBUKTU TUTU
  • [85a: Louisiana farewell?]: DELTA TATA
  • [108a: Nursemaid to a lizard?]: IGUANA NANA (my favorite)
  • [111a: Dumb Texan?]: LAREDO DODO
  • [3d: Staying in the sun too long?]: ALBINO NONO
  • [16d: African art form?]: UGANDA DADA
  • [69d: Doozy from Arnaz and Ball?]: DESILU LULU
  • [73d: Blue disco?]: INDIGO GOGO

This solved like a charm! (With Evan’s WaPo and the superfun NYT from Erik and Neville, this has been a sweet Sunday for puzzles.) Nice consistency to have the reduplicated terms match the base words exactly, so [“Modern art — meh”?]: PICASSO SOSO or [Mexican musical elegance?]: MARIACHI CHICHI or [Greek tragedy about a Hawaiian goose?]: ANTIGONE NENE rather than [Peruvian temple train?]: MACHU PICCHU CHOOCHOO.

And that’s all I’ve got. Happy Mothers’ Day, to all — however how many mothers you have, or have lost, are, or never were.

Amy Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Mother’s Day”—Amy’s recap

LA Times crossword solution, 5 13 18, “Mother’s Day”

The theme answers are formed by inserting a MA into familiar phrases:

  • 23a. [Foppish fed?], MANICURED LAWMAN.
  • 37a. [Hotel housekeeper’s concern?], BLANKET FORMAT.
  • 67a. [Woman’s surprise party for her kids’ kids?], GRANDMA SCHEME.
  • 96a. [“One man’s trash … “?], JUNKYARD DOGMA. Cute.
  • 115a. [Sniffle over some Austen?], READ EMMA AND WEEP. I like it!
  • 16d. [Ask for a doggie bag?], TAKE THE REMAINS.
  • 49d. [Frequent February craft project?], MAKING OF HEARTS. Stilted.

Least favorite entry is 58a. [Muppets’ address, briefly], SESAME ST., as nobody really uses that. See also: 7d MR. ED, when the show is called Mister Ed.

3.3 stars from me. Off to continue my Mother’s Day!

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29 Responses to Sunday, May 13, 2018

  1. Phil Wilcox says:

    Interesting, Amy. The protests of Colin Kaepernick and others didn’t even enter my mind when I read the clue to 124A. I thought the reference was to a quarterback “taking a knee” to run out the clock at the end of a game once victory has been assured.

  2. Guy says:

    Fun puzzle… on the easy side, for me (which means less than 40 minutes!). Just so you know, “takking a knee” isn’t necessarily, or likely, a reference to Kapaernick. It’s a common term for when the quarterback doesn’t attempt to throw or hand off the ball, usually at the end the half or game when the game is either decided or no play is useful, and drops to his knee to signal that he intends to just run the clock and not attempt to make a play.

  3. peedee says:

    FWIW, I read the KNEE clue the same as you, Amy, but I don’t know beans about football. I had never heard of SEAN BEAN and put SEAN PENN in for the longest time.

  4. PJ Ward says:

    A quarterback taking a knee has been a thing in football a long time. When the team with the ball can run out the game clock, usually because the losing team has exhausted its timeouts, a QB will not risk a handoff and simply take the snap and kneel. Also, CK’s protests have, I think, taken place on the sideline and not on the field.

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    Amy, RUBBER MATCH started in bridge yes, but has come to be widely used in sports to refer to the deciding game. E.g., if the Cubs and Yanks split the first two games of a three game set, you’re guranteed to hear some announcer refer to Game 3 as the “rubber match”

    OBITS is at least traditionally accurate; at least, it is for the physical NY Times so it would make sense — I remember my grandmother flipping to the back of whatever section they were in so she could see if (who) she knew who had died.

    My limited understanding is that a closed flame is one (mostly) enclosed in glass (like an old-fashioned lantern) versus a candle’s OPEN FLAME. The former is safer at least in theory for areas with lots of flammable materials like old libraries.

    Finally, while I love the idea that taking a KNEE might be a reference to Kaepernick, as others have said it’s a common play. In fact, more common than has been indicated so far — it’s not just the QB who takes a knee. The kickoff returner will very frequently do it when the ball is kicked too deep into the endzone to return.

    So a KNEE will be “taken” on the field a dozen times a game, aside from any pre-game protests.

    So actually I wish it had been clued specifically with respect ot eh protests. Ah well.

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’ll bet there are countless solvers out there who, like @peedee and me, know the “take a knee” angle in football primarily from Kaepernick’s social justice protest, and who don’t think much at all about the finer points of the sport itself.

    So thank you, Gentlemen of the Internet, for informing me that I’m probably wrong, but you don’t know any better than I do what the cluer’s intent was here.

    • Martin says:

      Hate to pile on (another football term?), but Colin famously took a knee off the field, during the National Anthem. No players were on the field at the time. Substitute “off” for “on” in the clue and it’s certainly about him; as written it’s certainly not, or at least not accurately.

      • PhilR says:

        Methinks you’re confusing the field of play with the generic field here. Also, I think you’re confusing “hate to” with “can’t wait to”.

        I would also like a reference for the game where there were a dozen instances of a team taking a knee to run out the clock.

        • Martin says:

          btw, punt returners also take a knee to signal a touchback.

          Of course it’s possible that “field” here is a metaphor, but Occam’s razor would suggest that since “field” is a defined term, and that the clue has a reasonable meaning using that definition, there is no reason to assume otherwise. Both touchbacks and late-game kneels are common occurrences; I don’t see why we’d need a dozen in one game to justify a literal reading of the clue.

          As for the ad hominem dig at my supposed lack of respect for Amy, I see no point in distinguishing that with a response.

          • jim hale says:

            Spot on response. For the record, I really appreciate Amy taking her time writing these columns even though I may disagree with some of the analysis and views put forth. It’s sure it’s a thankless job at times but much looked forward to from her audience.

          • PhilR says:

            Occam’s Razor (per wikipedia) Occam’s razor (also Ockham’s razor or Ocham’s razor; Latin: lex parsimoniae “law of parsimony”) is the problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions.
            I would suggest having a knowledge of the precise definition of a football field as defined by the NFL rule book fails the “fewest assumptions” test as above. Everyone has an idea of what a football field is. They’ve met a boy or a girl at the football field after school, and never once worried whether they were with the 160×360 confines of the regulation field of play. Maybe you’re a football fanatic and have absorbed every detail of the rule book to the point where it’s your “fewest assumptions” benchmark, I don’t know. What I do know is that you, specifically you, don’t get to decide what the common understanding of a football field is. Therefore telling Amy that she was specifically wrong about others not knowing what the clue writer’s intent is both wrong and offensive. You don’t get to tell her, or me, or anyone else what a football field is. I’d offer to take this out to the parking lot, but the discussion of what actually constitutes a parking lot would likely kill me.

      • Jenni says:

        Actually, I think Amy has a pretty clear idea what the cluer’s intent was, since it was partly Erik’s puzzle, and she knows Erik. I know the traditional football use of the term, and I also know Erik, and I immediately thought of Kaep when I solved the puzzle.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Though it turns out that this wasn’t Erik and Neville’s clue (I asked).

          Martin, I don’t know why you’re assuming an ad hominem attack on you when I wrote my comment before you’d even entered the thread.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      “Take a knee” is the term for a boring (but necessary) action taken on the football field. When players started doing it during the anthem, commentators began using the same term, out of contempt or sheer laziness. The latter is better known because it’s controversial, but its progenitor is the former.

  7. xepia says:

    TIL, thanks to all the sports comments: that in football “taking a knee” has been a common term for a standard play.

    So obviously there’s more than one layer/approach to the KNEE clue. That’s something I appreciate in a crossword, and I’m not sure why other solvers would try to narrow this down to one perceived “proper” sense.

    (I’m sure the cluers were well aware of both.)

  8. Steve Manion. says:

    Wikipedia lists “RUBBER MATCH” as originating with the British version of lawn bowling. It is at best redundant to refer to it as originating with bridge. A rubber in bridge is winning two straight or two out of three games. The word “match” is superfluous.

    In sports, where the first two matches between competitors are split, the third match between the same competitors is the rubber match. The term is most frequently used in boxing, although I have heard it in a variety of sports contexts.

    Today’s dialog about taking the knee is yet another example of what I have perceived as the dripping contempt of non-sports-oriented solvers for the idiom of sports.


    • Christopher Smith says:

      Apparently they omit the extra noun across the pond. In British football, a “dead rubber” is a match where the result has no overall bearing on the competition (promotion or relegation, advancement or seeding in a tournament, etc).

  9. David L says:

    My main complaint about the puzzle is that it just wasn’t very funny, IMO. On the other hand, the back and forth here about ‘taking a knee’ is entertaining. (I’m in the camp that it’s a standard football phrase first and foremost).

  10. jim hale says:

    A pretty good puzzle a bit on the easy side. The commentary and responses were entertaining as well. I thought the theme hints worked well, the fill was interesting and derivable. Can’t ask too much more from a Sunday puzzle other than possibly learning something interesting.

  11. Ethan says:

    I have never played organized football, but in TV shows and movies I’ve definitely heard coaches order the players in practice to “take a knee,” meaning kneel around him while he gives some kind of speech or lecture.

    • GLR says:

      My high school coach used the phrase this way frequently. I guess that’s why it’s the sense I had in mind when I worked the puzzle. The other two interpretations discussed here never occurred to me, but they certainly seem equally valid.

  12. Steve Manion. says:

    I wonder how many of you are aware that in the first three games in which he protested, Colin Kaepernick did not in fact take a knee– he sat on the bench. His protest went unnoticed until a photo showed him sitting on the bench. It wasn’t until the final preseason game that Kaepernick, after discussing what to do with a football player who was a former Green Beret, took the suggestion of the player that he take a knee.

    Another undiscussed aspect of taking a knee in football involves the situation where a player is or may be seriously injured. Players from both teams routinely take a knee in such situations although it is a subject of some controversy as to whether they have to or should.

    Still another instance (which I haven’t noticed one way or the other at the end of games in the past few years) is when players join in prayer at midfield at the end of games.

    The idiom is the quarterback kneeling to run out the clock and all other (admittedly plausible) usages are unidiomatic, which has been my pet peeve for the past 20 years.


  13. Burak says:

    I’m late to the party, but this was definitely one of the best Sunday puzzles ever. Mostly smooth fill, actually smart puns that are consistent, some fresh entries and clues here and there. This is already above standard fare, but with some zanier clues and just a tad smoother fill, it would have been an undisputed Hall of Famer.

    4.25 stars from me.

    P.S.: The “knee” commentary was amusing to read. I mean, yes, “take a knee” is a good old football term, but it was used in the political context a whole lot of times last year, so who knows what the constructors were thinking? Either way, it’s a great clue.

  14. Penguins says:

    failed test

  15. Penguins says:


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