Monday, May 14, 2018

BEQ untimed (Laura) 


LAT 5:17 (Nate) 


NYT 3:31 (Amy)  


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


The New Yorker 6:22 (Jenni) 


Andrea Michaels’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 14 18, no 0514

The theme revealer is FIGHT CLUB, 62a. [1999 Brad Pitt movie hinted at by the beginnings of 17-, 21-, 39- and 52-Across], and those four phrases begin with words that double as things you might do in a physical fight:

  • 17a. [End of a drinking hose], BITE VALVE. I have never heard of a BITE VALVE or a drinking hose. Is this a component of one of those Camelbak water carriers? (That’s what my husband suggested. He’s used a Camelbak; I never have.)
  • 21a. [Get going, as an old motorcycle or a new company], KICK START.
  • 39a. [Like some magazine perfume ads], SCRATCH AND SNIFF. Really? I thought all the scented magazine ads had those unfold-the-edge scent strips rather than scratch and sniff. Scratch and sniff would spew less stank on the rest of the magazine or mail.
  • 52a. [Party vessel with a ladle], PUNCH BOWL. Aw, man. “Party vessel” has got me thinking of booze cruises.

So if you are fighting someone and you’re biting, kicking, scratching, and punching, this is not what’s considered a “clean” fight, but if you’re defending yourself against an attacker, you go right ahead and also gouge eyeballs, jam the throat, knee the groin, and slap as needed.

Really surprised to see some beginner-hostile fill in this Monday grid. Answers that might give a newbie pause include fragment OBLA; uncommon POULT; foreign ARTE, ANO-without-its-ñ, AMIE, FRAU, ET TU, and DIEM; Port St. LUCIE; wildly uncommon EOSIN (!!); AROAR; dated abbrevs PCB and BMOC; and wildly uncommon PLASM. If you were brand new to trying the NYT crossword and somebody told you “Start with the Monday puzzles, they’re really easy”—well, would you keep at it if you discovered the puzzle’s vocabulary included lots of stuff you don’t know?

Three more things:

  • 10d. [Not just playing for fun], OUT TO WIN. The phrase isn’t striking my mind’s ear as super-familiar, but Googling it showed me that there’s a recent documentary by that name. Out to Win is about LGBT athletes, and that is a great title!
  • 29d. [Uses a rotary phone], DIALS. I’m curious to know how many rotary phones are still in use. Certainly landline phones that are plugged into a jack, handset attached to the base via a spiral cord (vs. cordless, rechargeable phones), are no longer common, and nearly all of those are touchtone phones. I also wonder what the age cutoff is for using the word DIALS for entering a phone number in order to place a call. 45? 35? 30?
  • 47a. [Tribal leaders], ELDERS. Probably also the moral leaders of a number of families, congregations, etc., not just “tribes.”

2.75 stars from me. BITE VALVE’s unfamiliarity and all the not-common-enough-for-Monday fill knocked this one down.

Celia Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Share and Share Alike” — Jim’s review

Our theme is STOCKHOLDERS (52a, [Share owners, and, broadly, what the starred answers all are]). Each theme answer “holds stock” though in different senses of the word.

WSJ – Mon, 5.14.18 – “Share and Share Alike” by Celia Smith (Mike Shenk)

  • 9a [*Card game with sets and sequences] RUMMY. I’ll admit I don’t know how “stock” relates to the card game. *Checking* Ah, I guess the stock is the pile of cards from which players draw. We normally call that the “deck.”
  • 20a [*Place with a wide variety of goods for sale] GENERAL STORE. “Stock” as in products to be sold.
  • 31a [*Cowhand’s workplace] CATTLE RANCH. “Stock” as in moo-cows.
  • 44a [*Cold comfort?] CHICKEN SOUP. “Stock” as in soup base. Ever wonder what’s the difference between stock and broth? Wonder no longer.
  • 65a [*Biathlon need] RIFLE. “Stock” as in the opposite end from the barrel.

That all works well enough. Simple, but effective enough for a Monday.

Not a lot of zing in the fill though, PEP TALKS notwithstanding. CATALAN is also good, but I always get held up when pluralizing Latin-based words like aurora because you never know if it will be modernized (AURORAS) or the original (AURORAE), as it is in this case.

NON-ACTOR is our last long Down, and I stared at _ONACTOR for tens of seconds at the very end of the solve trying to figure it out. The crossing (39a, [P.O. boxes have them]) wasn’t help me see NOS, so I had to run the alphabet. Finally finding the N wasn’t so much a-ha as meh.

One clue/entry combo made me raise an eyebrow: TORCHY (29d, [Like many Billie Holiday songs]). Is this a roll-your-own adjective or is it real? Online dictionaries are telling me it means “Of or relating to a torch song or torch singer.” Great. What’s a torch song or torch singer? “A sad or sentimental song, typically about unrequited love.” Okay, chalk that up to learning something new.

One of my favorite torch songs (even though I didn’t know it was a torch song) is “Stormy Weather.” Back when I was doing my field training (think boot camp but for officers, so…a little bit cushier than real boot camp), my two roommates and I, though we didn’t know each other beforehand, discovered that we all knew and liked this song. This was circa 1990, so it seemed an unlikely song for us to bond over. But many is the time we would belt out the chorus trying to de-stress after a day of getting yelled at. Good times.

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

LAT 5.14.18

LAT 5.14.18

I suspect that folks will either quite enjoy this puzzle or really dislike it. Each bit of theme fill joins with the next bit of theme fill to create a chain of compound words/phrases throughout the puzzle:

  • 14a: FIRE [With 15-Across, station with a hook and ladder] – FIREHOUSE
  • 15a: HOUSE [With 16-Across, indoor chores] – HOUSEWORK (I genuinely appreciated the non-gendered clue here.)
  • 16a: WORK [With 28-Across, tireless sort] – WORKHORSE
  • 28a: HORSE [With 31-Across, big biting insect] – HORSEFLY
  • 31a: FLY [With 32-Across, sticky strip] – FLYPAPER
  • 32a: PAPER [With 40-Across, bills to pay with] – PAPER MONEY (Is this a phrase that currently-living people regularly use?)
  • 40a: MONEY [With 42-Across, financier] – MONEY MAN (Did you know that non-male folks can be financiers, too?)
  • 42a: MAN [With 43-Across, strength needed for a team job] – MANPOWER (Similar snarky comment as above.)
  • 43a: POWER [With 61-Across, turn off, as a computer] – POWER DOWN
  • 61a: DOWN [With 62-Across, Australia] – DOWN UNDER
  • 62a: UNDER [With 63-Across, attempt] – UNDERTAKE
  • 63a: TAKE [With 14-Across, become ignited] – TAKE FIRE (I think this would have been better clued in terms of taking enemy fire – perhaps that was the constructor’s original bent here.)

This puzzle used 52 total squares for its theme entries, which is a bit higher than average for a 15×15 puzzle…and felt like way more than that while solving it. I would have had a much easier time with this puzzle if I’d solved all downs first to avoid the interdependent theme for as long as possible. I got the first few themers quickly, but then got to the odd cluing of [With 40-Across, bills to pay with] and decided to deal with the theme later.



I certainly award bonus points for having all the theme entries in symmetrical locations and for having relatively clean fill, given the constraints of all the theme entries, but it wasn’t a joyous solve and there was certainly some tough fill for a Monday puzzle: THRUM (I’ve heard of strum, but not thrum), ARAN, POESY, EROSE, DOYEN, RUHR and RUR, YSER. I did enjoy #RESISTER, DEAD SET, and MULAN, though!

In retrospect, I think a puzzle like this would have had more sparkle if the bits of theme fill changed meaning from one compound word/phrase to the next. For example, you could string together bits like WATER WELL BEING or WADING POOL TABLE, etc. A more dynamic theme set would make up for the grid being so immensely interconnected.

One more thing: Following up on my post from last week, Will Shortz recently alleged low submission rates by women as a (the?) cause for low rates of female NYT puzzle bylines. Even if we take him at his word (a big ask for me, but let’s go with it just for a moment), it still remains incumbent on all of us in CrossWorld to support and advocate for newer female/non-male constructors however we can. Let’s help get more non-male submissions into Will Shortz’s mailbox so that he has no choice but to publish many, many more non-male voices!

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

BEQ - 5.14.18 - Solution

BEQ – 5.14.18 – Solution

Five things:

  • [29a: Event with a lot of flukes?]: SHORE DINNER. A shore dinner is to New England as a fish boil is to Wisconsin. It’s like a clambake with lobster, and sometimes the fluke referenced in the clue, which is a kind of flounder. They’re tasty, but best to wait until later in the summer when lobsters go down to less than $5/lb unless you want to [18a: Spend profligately]: SPLURGE.
  • [32a: Preparation location]: STAGING AREA, which is also a kind of [19d: Place for a transfer of goods]: LOADING DOCK
  • [39a: Like a man’s man?]: GAY. If you haven’t gotten your copy of Queer Qrosswords yet, what are you waiting for? And why not donate to a woman-centered charity for Women of Letters, while you’re at it?
  • [43d: Real jerk]: AHOLE. Generally someone with an enormous [30d: When it’s big, it could be a problem]: EGO.
  • [52a: “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” singer]: Neil SEDAKA. It’s tough to overemphasize how influential he was on pop music during the Brill Building era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went out of style later in the 1960s, but had a resurgence in the 1970s when artists like Elton John and ABBA recorded his songs. [33d: Salty hello]: AHOY MATE to the Captain and Tennille.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I am really enjoying The New Yorker’s new puzzle feature. Who doesn’t want a good and chewy themeless on a Monday? It’s a great way to start the week! It doesn’t hurt that they’ve chosen some of my favorite constructors, including (of course) Patrick Berry. I found this one a bit easier than the first two. The west half fell very quickly, and then I found myself groping around in the center and east for a while.

Some things I noticed:

New Yorker 5/14, solution grid

  • I love the juxtaposition of 14a [Intermittent McDonald’s promo], DOLLAR MENU, right over 17a [How rare goods may be sold], AT A PREMIUM.
  • When I saw 20a [Vendedor ambulante offering] I missed “vendedor” and thought “ambulante” would have something to do with “ambulance” (no, I don’t speak Spanish). Wrong. The answer is TAMALE. I looked again, extrapolated from French, and thought “walking seller?” Close. Wikipedia says it’s a hawker, and elaborates: “A hawker is a vendor of merchandise that can be easily transported; the term is roughly synonymous with peddler or costermonger. In most places where the term is used, a hawker sells inexpensive items, handicrafts or food items.” “Costermonger” is a word you don’t see every day.
  • 24d [Joint proposal?] is an ESCAPE PLAN, the “joint” in question being the pokey, hoosegow, pen, clink, or cooler.
  • 41d [Earthenware in country kitchens] is DELFT. I never really associated it with “country kitchens,” unless the country in question is Holland. My grandparents had Delft pieces and there was nothing country about their kitchen.
  • 53a [Old-timey cry of disgust] is NERTS, which I always think of as frustration more than anything else. Or maybe anger – “NERTS to you.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that OKEFENOKEE means “trembling earth,” and that the GUILLOTINE started out as the “loiusette.” Wikipedia tells me that OKEFENOKEE is a “Native American word,” which is sort of like saying that “louisette” is a European word.

I leave you with the version of PAPER ROSES I remember. The version referenced in 26d was recorded by Anita Bryant, who is better known for orange juice and homophobia.



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29 Responses to Monday, May 14, 2018

  1. Ethan says:

    When I read Amy’s comment about dialing, I thought to myself, “I bet some hipster app developer made an app that replicates a rotary phone dial on your smartphone’s touchscreen,” and boy oh boy, I was not disappointed. There are dozens of apps like that. So there are least a few people out there stubbornly dialing.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Several years ago, my Chanukah present to my husband was a rotary phone that works as a mobile phone handset.

  2. Michael Tong says:

    So much unfamiliar fill for a Monday — wish it were cleaner, as Mondays should be. Re the comment about new solvers, imagine trying to solve this as your first puzzle while also not knowing the movie Fight Club!

    I do like how all of the themers have the fight word used in a different context (scratch and sniff I guess is more or less the same), though I wish that the “club” part of the revealer was some sort of pun, and not just that this is some “club” of answers.

  3. Jim Quinlan says:

    I 100% agree with Amy’s comments… here’s why:

    I love “selling” quality crosswords to my students in school. I coach them through it. In a group setting during a study hall, I post it for all to see and give them written hand-outs. They love- LOVE- it. But there’s really only two days I can do this… Monday and Friday. Friday because crosswordese is at a minimum and Mondays because crosswordese is introduced. Help me out, Crossworld! I promise you, I’m doing my part- but when I- after years of adult solving- struggle at the BMOC/EOSIN crossing, I guarantee others do too. Theme was just fine… but c’mon. I can’t sell this one to the less erudite of my middle school class. And that bums me out.

    Let’s build an audience.

    My philosophy in the classroom is to make things just “…a little too hard.” That seems to work. For me. And for my students. But let’s not overlook the “a little” part of that.

    BMOC/EOSIN (amongst other tough-to-sell stuff) = [a group of students turned off by puzzling]. I’m not at all suggesting we lower the standards. Not at all. But I’ve made my own tiny dent in creating puzzlers. Throw me a bone!

    • David L says:

      BMOC is pure crosswordese. I don’t know if it ever had any real currency in the wild, but it has a very 1950s aura to me. Time to erase it forever!

      • David Malik says:

        In Max Shulman’s “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” (eventually on TV and featured Maynard G. Krebs) introduced me to the term, BMOC. And yes, it was a 1950s book. So I was happy to enter it.

        • Lois says:

          If I’ve had any one big influence in my life, it was Maynard G. Krebs from TV (though I don’t remember BMOC from there). OK, reduce the number of tough abbreviations in each puzzle, and the number of tough clues in Monday puzzles, do not allow crosses of things like BMOC with EOSIN, but keep a little of everything for occasional use, please. Baby boomers are still numerous though we are dying away rapidly.

  4. Lise says:

    NYT: I thought the theme was very nicely executed, and I liked it very much. Unfortunately, I got up this morning feeling out of sorts (not the constructor’s fault; it’s not you, Ms. Michaels, it’s me :) ); that and some unfamiliar fill in the puzzle gave me the surreal feeling that I had somehow been transported to Wednesday.

    I thought the puzzle was good, but perhaps more appropriate for a later weekday. Again, not the constructor’s fault. I like Ms. Michaels puzzles very much, and am glad she has contributed to the women’s puzzle pack (loving it!).

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: I ended where you did, Jim. Had to run the alphabet as well.

    Thanks for the link defining the difference between chicken stock and broth. Now, if someone could tell me the difference between icing and frosting, that would be great. ;)

  6. Burak says:

    Oof. I’ve been grading NYT puzzles every day for 6 months now based on four categories (Fill, Theme/Long Answers, Clues, Pleasurability) and oh boy, this is the 3rd worst puzzle overall in that span.

    BMOC/EOSIN is a dreadful cross on any given day of the week, but on a Monday? That was a warning sign that shouldn’t have been ignored. Very weird fill that seldom gets rewarded by good/fun entries, dull cluing even for a Monday and an meh-at-best theme. Oh well, NYT puzzles have all been good lately, so we were due for an offering like this one. Won’t complain too much.

    1.8 stars.

  7. Papa John says:

    I’m baffled by the recurring conversation about making Monday puzzles too tough for beginners. As I see it, entry into NYT puzzles is higher than the ones found in TV Guide. There are plenty of venues that offer super easy puzzles. Why is so important that the NYT take on that role?

    The rest of the newspaper assumes its readers can read and comprehend above, let’s say, a seventh grade level. “Dumbing down” is a reality in our society. I see no reason why the NYT puzzle has to follow suit.

    The huge number of NYT puzzle-solvers has been discussed on this blog. I’m not sure dumbing down Monday puzzles would add greatly to that population. My guess is that most of them came to the NYT puzzle via some other route, such as the TV Guide or syndicated puzzles. In my case, I was lead to the NYT in the San Francisco Examiner because it ran both a syndicated puzzle, which was on the easy side, and the daily NYT. Caught by the crossword puzzle bug, I was determined to work my way up to the NYT. Keep in mind that that happened during the Farrar/Maleska eras. I had a lot of DNF.

    Let’s say, the NYT is an acquired taste.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      So you expect the average 35-year-old college graduate to have encountered both BMOC and EOSIN? It’s not “dumbing down” to avoid obscure words that most educated people would draw a blank on. PLASM as a blood component when we’ve all learned it as plasma? Pass. Maybe in a late-week puzzle where a sterner challenge is expected, but the story for years has been “The Monday NYT puzzle is the easiest.” If you throw such gnarly stuff into a Monday grid, it’s sending an awful message to beginning solvers (and I’m not talking about folks who muddled through high school, I’m talking about people with college degrees who would have no reason to have encountered this vocab).

      • Dr. Fancypants says:

        What Amy said. I have multiple advanced degrees, and consider myself to have a pretty wide-ranging set of interests, yet EOSIN and PLASM are words I’ve never seen outside a crossword puzzle. If I hadn’t been doing puzzles for over 20 years I’d have been stumped on those.

      • john farmer says:

        So you expect the average 35-year-old college graduate to have encountered both BMOC and EOSIN?

        EOSIN, maybe not; but BMOC, absolutely. A quick search shows the term dates to the 1930s, was the title not too long ago for an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s “The Cleveland Show,” and (per Ngram Viewer, at least) was more popular ten years ago than in any previous decade. I’d say some assumptions in the comments today don’t match the word’s history or usage. (My recommendation: only use the word with a touch of irony.)

        I’m also not sure why the 35-y.o. college grad should be the gold standard for what a solver should or should not be expected to know. Even if you think an occasional word sounds “oldish,” let’s remember older folks solve crosswords too, including easy ones like Mondays. Do they not count? I don’t see them asking to banish words that cater to the slang and pop culture tastes of younger folks, which happens regularly (not to mention, younger folks have some crossword outlets that market specifically to them). Likewise, there’s no need to ban words (assumedly) from before one’s time, as David L would like. We all have our own sweet spot, but we shouldn’t expect every answer in every puzzle to hit it.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          John, how many people who are, say, 60+ are just starting out on the NYT crosswords *for the first time*?

          • john farmer says:

            No idea. How many are 35?

            I started at 40+. I started other things in my 50s I never had done before. My mother, as I recall, picked up puzzles in her 50s and 60s. My wife this month started learning the ukulele. People pick up new things all the time. Retirees and empty-nesters start to do new things because they have the time. Some of them pick up crosswords.

            Still not sure why different answers can’t appeal to different generations in the same general-interest crossword puzzle, even on a Monday. Is the younger generation the only one allowed to have a puzzle answer cater to them?

            One solver’s gimme is LORRE, another’s is LIL’ KIM. Seems fair to me.

          • Lois says:

            Amy, as I think I’ve said before to you, I started most of my solving at age 60, when I retired. There must be many like me, and I happen to be in a large population group. John, I greet your comments rapturously as a perfect expression of my feelings.

        • David L says:

          To be clear, I’m not saying that any word or phrase from before my time should be banned. The point about BMOC is that I have never encountered it except in crosswords, so to me it’s just an odd string of letters that constructors sometimes use to fill an awkward hole.

          Admittedly I didn’t go to college in this country, so perhaps there is a thriving world of BMOC use that I am unfamiliar with.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            @David L: Oh, there is not a thriving world of BMOC use anywhere.

          • john farmer says:

            Amy’s right that there’s not a “thriving world of BMOC use.” On the other hand, I believe most U.S. college grads have at some point “encountered” the word have at least a passing familiarity with it.

        • Sarah says:

          Maybe some words are more familiar to younger people than older people, and vice versa. EOSIN, however, is familiar to almost no one who doesn’t solve hundreds of crosswords.

          Despite so many word lists and computer software, it feels like many crossword puzzles are still 10-20 years behind where they should be. Garbage entries like this don’t need to be used any more.

  8. Dr. Fancypants says:

    I’m 40 and we had a rotary dial phone when I was a kid, so I expect the age where familiarity with DIALing fades out is younger than that.

  9. alex says:

    I missed the announcement of the New Yorker puzzle a few weeks ago and just did all three, and they’re amazing. Very happy about this constructor lineup.

  10. MattF says:

    In fact, I got EOSIN as ‘the color of wild fruitfly eyes’. It’s, um, well-known among geneticists.

  11. andrea carla michaels says:

    Puzzle and fill were designed to be a Tuesday. It ran on a Monday, so now it’s a bad puzzle? I thought it would be a lot of fun to have BITE, SCRATCH, KICK, PUNCH and then a “punch”line on top of it all!
    I am quite proud of this puzzle, had no control over which day it was to run, but most importantly, I did NOT design it for first time solvers…
    BMOC is common, at least in my world, never occurred to me it would be such an obstacle.
    I still say “dial” (then again I have kept my landline as a backup, don’t trust it all not to go down!).
    Granted, EOSIN was new to me too, but (gasp) I learned something new, along with BITEVALVE and included it in my submission. This is my 60th puzzle for the NYT, so to be told it’s among the third worst of all time or whatever that Burak commenter said, bites! Like a punch to the gut! Oof! (Scratch and) sniff sniff :)

    • Lois says:

      I thought it was a pretty nice puzzle, but not up to your usual smooth standards. I suspected that it was used on a Monday because (as I read here) the New York Times has a shortage of Monday puzzles, and because the theme was “punchy,” lively and easy to understand. I was able to complete the puzzle, because although I didn’t know EOSIN, I did know BMOC, which crossed it. That is not an ideal crossing. Though it was a blemish, for me it was not a grave defect. POULT and a couple of other bits made things a bit bumpy, though not fatal.

  12. Amanda says:

    I wish we could retire ANO or at least clue it properly. Without the tilde, it’s Spanish for anus!

    • Lois says:

      I didn’t know that! But it’s a long-standing American English crossword convention that diacritics and punctuation marks are disregarded, no matter how important in the original language. There have been riffs on this convention. I remember a nice Sunday New York Times puzzle that used punctuation, but it was supposed to be an unusual twist.

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