Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Jonesin' 4:23 (Derek) 


LAT 3:52 (Derek) 


NYT 3:28 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:20 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 363), “Page Six”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 5/15 (No. 363)

As readers of the New York Post know, “Page Six” is their well-known gossip sheet. This puzzle is not about that “Page Six”—but it’s not without its newspaper references either. What we get instead are six theme phrases whose last word can precede the word page. This is a time-tested gimmick and as always, what keeps it lively are the themers themselves as well as the new phrases they generate. Today’s set works quite well: all are from the world of letters, with the first three coming from the world of journalism, then one from the world of books, and two from the digital world. In a perfect world, we’d’ve had a three-thee split, but from where I sit, there’s more here to like than not.

  • 17A. [Gracious winners or losers] GOOD SPORTS –> sports page.
  • 22A. [Leading the pack] IN FRONT –> front page.
  • 28A. [Gesture of encouragement] PAT ON THE BACK –> back page.
  • 44A. [What “Black Mask” was to “Pulp Fiction”] WORKING TITLE –> title page. And a cool piece of cinema-trivia, too.
  • 51A. [Struck a chord] HIT HOME –> home page. For some reason, this is my fave clue/fill combo of the lot. Can’t say why, but really, somehow it simply “struck a chord” with me.
  • 59A. [Lacy Halloween decoration] SPIDER’S WEB –> web page. But don’t we usually say SPIDER WEB?… This one feels a tad iffy to me.

So, a pretty solid—and lively—execution of a definitely solid theme-type for n00bs and more experienced solvers alike. Six themers with two in each half of the grid that share some overlap. That’s some nice constructing. Plus, we get some excellent and well-clued longer fill with the likes of the humorous [Re-purposed fruitcakes, perhaps] for DOORSTOPS and the not-just-for[Rageaholic’s outbursts] for MELTDOWNS. Anyone pushed to their limits may, uh, need a bit of a release. (Ask anyone who’s ever cared for a tired child, e.g.) Other fave fill includes SHERPA and TOBRUK [Port city of Libya] (but which sounds to me like a place you’d hear of near the Arctic Circle…), NOODGE and GO DEEP [Hit a homer, in baseball slang], and the once-ubiquitous (in the 1960s and ’70s especially) [WAH-WAH pedal (electric guitar accessory)].

Fill I think new (also younger) solvers especially may have had trouble with: SNEAD [Golf legend Sam] (he may be unfamiliar now, but he’s a crossword go-to name), EPOS [Heroic verse] (this word shows up with some regularity, too), and (!) HOBS [Fireplace shelves]. Yikes. The pictures tell it all, but that’s one I had zero familiarity with—don’t recall ever encountering the word, and I’m a hundred and seven years old! (Not quite…) If I ruled the world, I’d change HOBS (also a word for hearths) to HOBO and RAPS to CAPO. While I’m at it, I think I’d rather see GOOSE than GOONS. But no one’s askin’! ;-)

Prior to solving, only knew the word BEVY from the idiomatic phrase “a BEVY of beauties.” Am very happy to make the acquaintance of its avian association, [A flock of quail]. This link will take you to a web page that references James Lipton’s book An Exaltation of Larks, but also provides a quick list of some forty names of different groups of birds. The magic of language!

And on that thought, I’ll DEPART for the day. Hope all’s well in your part of the world, that spring has really and truly arrived, and that even if you’re happily dealing with spring fever, you’ll also…keep solving!

Natalia Shore Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Friendly Embraces” — Laura’s review

WSJ - 5.15.18 - Solution

WSJ – 5.15.18 – Solution

Synonyms for friend are embraced by four entries, and those synonyms appear elsewhere in the grid. And is it a puzzle by a woman constructor? [19a: “Yeah, right!”]: I BET — NATALIA SHORE is an anagram for ANOTHER ALIAS.

  • [17a: One out of every eight United Arab Emirates residents, roughly]: ABU DHABIAN; [32d: Friend found in 17-Across]: BUD
  • [26a: Shade in the sand]: BEACH UMBRELLA; [48a: Friend found in 26-Across]: CHUM
  • [42a: Some Juilliard staffers]: DRAMA TEACHERS; [13a: Friend found in 42-Across]: MATE
  • [58a: It might contain a canceled series]: STAMP ALBUM; [35a: Friend found in 58-Across]: PAL

Theme works fine, symmetry is clever, but this is a short review because I’m recovering from a root canal and I’m not feeling [9d: With compassion]: TENDERLY toward this puzzle today. I feel that it lacks a certain [37d: Magnetic quality]: CHARISMA. Also, why was this song not the title?

Garry Trudeau & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 18, no 0515

Whoa! All these years I’ve seen Ross Trudeau’s puzzle byline, I never knew he was Doonesbury cartoonist Garry’s son. They’ve teamed up for a STAND-UP COMICS (33a. [Dave Chappelle and Dane Cook … or a literal hint to the answers to the eight starred clues]) theme in which eight comic strip titles “stand up” as Down answers. The comic strips are all clued in non-comic-strip ways. We’ve got TIGER (don’t know it), old LIL ABNER (read it as a kid), BABY BLUES (have read it), OPUS (I don’t think I read it but I did have an Opus shirt when Bloom County was big), POGO (read it, and so did my grandma), DICK TRACY (read it, but god only knows why—but then, I was one of those kids who read the cereal box over breakfast), GARFIELD (see also: Garfield Minus Garfield), and MUTTS (this one started in 1994, well into my adult years—doesn’t grab me). I did read Doonesbury throughout my youth and earlyish adulthood, including some paperback collections of the older ones from before I was reading the newspaper. Thumbs up for Joanie, Lacey Davenport, dreamy Rick Redfern, and the concept of someone remaining a college sophomore for something like 13 years (which nobody can afford to do anymore!).

Fave fill: J-POP, DO-OR-DIE, JURIS because my cousin just picked up a master’s degree at Loyola School of Law, old-school DRIVE-INS, and AFLAC DUCK. MEAN GIRL in the singular is solid, too. Least favorite: ORANG, SEEST, ASANA, BUONO, ATILT, ASPIC. Can you use those six words in a single reasonable paragraph?

AP BIO is in the middle because my kid just took that exam (as did many thousands of other students) this very morning. Fave because it’s a real thing and also the title of a new network sitcom, unfave because stress.

Three more things:

  • 27a. [Showbiz reference site], IMDB. Styled as IMDb, Internet Movie Database. Man, I spend a good half hour on the site today, checking movie release dates for work. (My job also entails watching movie trailers from time to time. I love my job!)
  • 36a. [___ Ewbank, 1969 Super Bowl-winning coach], WEEB. I filled in WEBB first. This is a name I know only from crosswords, so I don’t always remember him right. Wikipedia tells me his real name is Wilbur but his little brother pronounced it more like “Weeb” and the nickname stuck.
  • With TROLLEYS crossing TIGER, I can’t be the only one thinking of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary opens June 8. (I checked the date on IMDb!)

3.5 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “The Curly Shuffle” – Derek’s write-up

A tad easy this week, which is fine with me! When the theme is readily evident, then it is fun trying to figure out the other theme answers with no crossers! I got some, but 65A is a little tricky!

  • 17A [Naomi Campbell or Cindy Crawford, e.g.] SUPERMODEL
  • 33A [It’s a real grind at dinner?] PEPPER MILL
  • 39A [Top of the corporate ladder] UPPER MANAGEMENT
  • 46A [Place to extract some chalcopyrite?] COPPER MINE – Becase we all know that is a type of copper!
  • 65A [2001 Nintendo video game with a really thin premise?] PAPER MARIO – Yes, I tried SUPER MARIO! But I guess all of those titles include “Bros.” as well, right?

Again, not too convoluted, and still full of fun stuff. Again, Matt is always good for an obscure pop trivia ref, so pay attention in the ensuing comments for 28A! A solid 4.3 stars today.

Those aforementioned comments:

  • 24A [Channel with “Wheel of Fortune” repeats] GSN – I enjoy some of their original shows as well. I grew up watching game shows a lot, and I still enjoy The Price is Right every now and then!
  • 28A [Primus frontman Claypool] LES – I don’t even know who or what Primus is!!
  • 58A [Ending of many nonprofit URLs] DOT ORG – I know some of you solvers don’t like this, but I think this is clever. It makes you think, and even if you don’t see this ever written out, you HEAR it all the time.
  • 48D [Nissan SUV named for a suburb of Venice] MURANO – Another great piece of trivia! I have owned one Nissan, and it was one of the better cars I have ever had. It was so quiet I nearly ruined it trying to start it several times when it was already running!
  • 50D [“Z” director Costa-__ ] GAVRAS – I have vaguely heard of this movie starring Yves Montand, but I don’t know this director and his weird one-named hyphenated handle. I have learned something today!

Have a great week!

Joe Kidd’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Another new byline! (At least to me!) Sometimes a different name leads to a longer solving time, but perhaps that is more the case on the weekend themeless puzzles. This one was a breeze, and, of course, the circled letters always help! The revealer is hidden at 35D:

  • 17A [Purina product for a young tabby] KITTEN CHOW
  • 22A [Nickname for Coolidge] SILENT CAL
  • 51A [Toe-tapping number] DANCE TUNE
  • 57A [Riviera gambling destination] MONTE CARLO
  • 35D [With “a,” someone undesirable … and what’s found in the circled letters?] BAD PENNY

Nicely done. Some people have said that I keep turning up like a bad penny … which I guess is worse than I thought according to this clue! I am sure they are only joking! (Aren’t they??) I am game for more puzzles from Joe Kidd. 4.2 stars.

Some more notables:

  • 13A [Universal blood type, for short] O NEG. – Or can be read as ONE G, a gravity unit!
  • 19A [Actress Hagen] UTA – She is definitely crossword famous!
  • 27A [Popeye’s energy source] SPINACH – I used to hate spinach when I was younger, which is likely the impetus for the whole Popeye-eating-it premise. Now I eat most anything. I have been hungry once, so maybe that is why!
  • 10D [How people react to slasher films] IN HORROR – Include me in this group. I don’t watch these. Just not my thing AT ALL.
  • 14D [Book of drawing paper] SKETCH PAD – I used to draw quite a lot when I was older. I wasn’t bad. I need more creative outlets in my life. Perhaps I will grab a pad this weekend (oh wait: There is a new P and A mag this weekend!)
  • 47D [Nighttime noisemaker] SNORER – My wife says I snore. I disagree!

See everyone on Saturday!

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15 Responses to Tuesday, May 15, 2018

  1. Robert White says:

    Theme answer cluing did detract from this puzzle…maybe “‘Put ‘Em Back’ musical” for 25D and “Character played by Ralph Byrd and Warren Beatty” for 28D?

  2. Will says:

    NYT was a quick solve, but as a younger solver (who didn’t pay any attention to the theme), I don’t know any of those comics other than Garfield and Mutts. I guess I knew Lil Abner was a thing, but only from puzzles. Buono, aspic and asana are all phrases that I feel quite familiar with due to Master of None, good food, and yoga and Hinduism being common things.

    • Michael Tong says:

      Yeah it was definitely a puzzle for the older generation I feel. Didn’t pay attention to the theme at all and half of the theme answers were just answers to me, not indicative of some comic strip. Pogo? Opus? Mutts? Baby blues? Just words to me.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I knew all the comics and enjoyed the puzzle. I loved the write-up in Wordplay even more. Fun Tuesday all around!

  4. GLR says:

    I didn’t pay much attention to the theme while I was solving, which is just as well because I only know about half of the comic strips involved. In looking at the theme after the fact, it seems a little uneven, in that Li’l Abner and Dick Tracy are clued with direct references to the comic strips (or in the case of Li’l Abner, a stage adaptation of the strip), where all of the others are clued without reference to the strip at all.

    I wonder if digital is killing comic strips? When I received a hard copy of my local paper, I would almost always at least scan the comics section, and had two or three strips that I would look at pretty regularly. Since switching to a digital subscription, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at the comics.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      No as with most things, digital is transforming comics, not killing them. Web comics are where a lot of the talent is going nowadays.

      If you’re in the tech / science world for example, xkcd (http://kxcd.com/) is now the must-read that The Far Side was for techies and scientists 20 years ago.

      • Art Shapiro says:

        That URL goes to a foreign “domain for sale” link.

        I read 38 comics online each night. My favorite, for what it’s worth, is Retail. I thought I was well-versed in the genre, but certain ones in the puzzle such as Baby Blues were unfamiliar.


  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    One of my favorites of the celebrity collaborations! What a blast

  6. Ethan says:

    I have a feeling I’m alone in this thought, but isn’t STAND UP COMICS a little off when the “comics” are running DOWN? Shouldn’t the names of the comics have been backwards?

    Other than that, count me as one of the solvers who thought cluing DICK TRACY as the comics character but, for example, GARFIELD as the president was too great of an inconsistency to make this puzzle work.

  7. JohnH says:

    I heartily dislike the pseudonyms and think there should be more women setters, but I still don’t dislike the pseudonyms BECAUSE there should be more women setters. I just don’t see the connection. I can’t seriously believe that Shenk cares so much about women and is also so stupid that he tallies up the bylines, counts the number of female names, and then feels let off the hook. He’d have to be far better intentioned and willfully blind to the point of mental retardation. Besides, he could use only male pseudonyms, and the outcomes wouldn’t change one bit.

    Indeed, if this is the route to more women setters, we could have the rule that he can’t write puzzles, but I’m sure it’s just something he wants to do. Obviously more women setters will have to mean fewer puzzles by men and by the editor himself, but no reason to put it all on the latter and on pseudonyms.

    I just hate them because they’re precious, a bad inside joke, and utter hypocrisy: if there’s a rule against editing oneself, then the veneer of pseudonyms should not appease his readers.

  8. Burak says:

    Not a huge comics fan, well actually let me rephrase that: I definitely enjoy them, but not growing up in the US made my comics portfolio a little different. I was 23 when I first read Baby Blues and I loved it! Garfield was an international phenomenon, and Dick Tracy is a movie star, so no problems there. Lil Abner is a cultural must-know, so I’m familiar with him. The other half, I’m not even vaguely familiar with.

    That being said, I really appreciated the celeb-collab-appropriateness (there is definitely a better way to say this) of the theme. The fill had some bumps though as noted by Amy, so I won’t repeat (but SEEST?!?!) The clues were very meh. I would have definitely enjoyed this one more in a different life, but alas. Still, a good Tuesday puzzle. 3.25 stars.

  9. Gareth says:

    Yeah. I read the comics page fanatically when younger, but I’ve discovered a lot of American ones weren’t run here… The only one I never “got” was crossword favourite Prince Valiant – it didn’t help that they never ran them in order! I notice one comic I grew up with weekly in the Sunday Times – Rhymes with Orange – is an appropriate favourite of our esteemed host.

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