Saturday, May 19, 2018

LAT 7:15 (Derek) 


Newsday 17:10 (Derek) 


NYT 4:48 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 19 18, no 0519

Well, this write-up may be a bit scattered, because I’m half-watching Ozark and half trying to find the rest of the Spelling Bee words (the new NYT online puzzle), which, if you do the math, doesn’t leave a whole lot of focus for the blog.

Unfamiliar things: AIR BAZOOKA; 18a. [E. S. ___, game company that produced Yahtzee and Bingo], LOWE; RED WORM; ORES clued as [Contents of some dollies], a use of “dollies” that’s new to me, and the dictionary doesn’t help much, unless the sort of wheeled dolly a heavy camera rolls on is also used in mines; CAMBERS, only faintly familiar as [Slight upward curves, as in roads or beams]; and OKE as old slang for “okay.” Yesterday’s 64-worder had fewer oddball entries than this 70-worder.


On the crosswordese end of the spectrum: BRAE, ROES, EDER.

25a. [Ham go-with?], CAMERA. Better than Swiss cheese, if you ask me. My favorite part of Swiss cheese is the holes.

3.6 stars from me.

Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

The guru and my buddy Jeff has today’s LAT puzzle. If I remember correctly, he has young ones in his house, so I am impressed that he is able to continue to concentrate on the puzzle craft! I know when I first had kids, my constructing days were put on hold! And yes, I noticed the NINE Js in this puzzle! I was wondering if this was maybe going to be an initial thing, but there is only one C! A solid 4.6 stars today!

A few highlights:

  • 21A [NBA great __ Olajuwon] HAKEEM – He has been sighted at Rockets games recently, and I assume he still features prominently in their community. The Rockets have a chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995. (And they wouldn’t have won those two in ’94 and ’95 if Michael Jordan wasn’t fooling around playing baseball!)
  • 25A [Insert into an email, as a video] EMBED – I do a fair amount of EMBEDding into this blog. I don’t know what I am doing half the time!
  • 37A [Source of trial figures] JURY LIST – I had JURY POOL. Close!
  • 53A [Dessert analog to turducken] PIECAKEN – I gotta try one of these! Here is an “embedded” image!
  • 11D [Eponymous explorer of Australia] TASMAN – Abel Tasman is the namesake behind Tasmania, which we all know only because of watching the Tasmanian devil in Bugs Bunny cartoons! (Or is that just me?) Here is his Wikipedia page: learn something.
  • 13D [Make one’s eyes pop out] STUPEFY – These Saturday crosswords often STUPEFY me.
  • 22D [Ringgit spenders] MALAYS – Worth about $0.25 in USD. Never heard of it.
  • 34D [Part of it was a 2106 campaign issue] U.S. BORDER – It still is.
  • 39D [Scores, with “a”] PASSEL – I still am not sure why that “a” is there, but I guess you never do say this word without it!
  • 47D [“Mayor” author] KOCH – Makes sense, as he is likely one of the most famous mayors ever!

I could go on and on, but a new P and A Mag comes out today! (And it is also Jennifer’s and my anniversary coming up!) Have a good weekend!

Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Not bad. My time I mean! I consider it a triumph if I finish in under 20 minutes these days, and if I ever break 10 minutes I may cry. I am still not tracking my times like I would like to, but I think my record on these Stumpers is around 12 1/2 minutes. Perhaps I will try to break 12 by the end of this year!

Brad Wilber and Matthew Sewell are behind the Andrew Bell Lewis pseudonym, and they usually, when constructing solo, cause me many fits. This one wasn’t horrible once I got a toehold. If you follow these Stumper write-ups that I do, you may recall that there are usually a sea of error marks in my grid images, but today there are only 4! This is a really fine puzzle with effortless entries in the long stacks, and I didn’t feel like chucking my laptop across the room! 4.7 stars for this one.

Some highlights:

  • 1A [Chipotle’s category] FAST CASUAL – Great 1-Across entry. I don’t care how much salmonella they infect people with: I LOVE their food!
  • 28A [Florida Thoroughbred center] OCALA – Don’t ask me how I know this. I don’t get horse racing at all, but I am sure I may be near a TV when the Preakness Stakes is being run today.
  • 33A [Coping saw?] I GET BY – Great clue, and, as always, I love the use of casual phrases.
  • 38A [Potter’s employer in “… Cursed Child”] MINISTRY OF MAGIC – I may have mentioned this before, but I have neither read one of these books nor seen one single movie. This particular title is evidently a play based on the same characters. This was purely a guess for me.
  • 65A [Tiny fuel pump display, say] IDIOT LIGHT – Yes, that little light that tells you that you have no gas, even though you already know you don’t!
  • 67A [Half a Wimbledon match-up] TENNIS SHOE – Best clue in the puzzle! (And not just because I am a big tennis fan!)
  • 5D [Pipe up with a claim] CALL DIBS – As is a “claim” for riding shotgun!
  • 12D [Surfer’s friendly gesture] SHAKA SIGN – Also known as “hang loose,” and I have now learned a new name for this sign!
  • 26D [What Tibetans call “man bear”] THE YETI – Do we need the THE here?
  • 51D [Common Arabian utterance] NEIGH – 2nd best clue in the puzzle!

I could go on, but I will stop there. School work to do! Have a great weekend!

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sun Spots” — Jim’s review

I had a heckuva time trying to figure out this theme. Each answer is clued [Spot #X] where X = a specific single digit (in order, going down the grid). So the clues were no help in grokking the theme. And in general, I dislike themes that have clue-like entries as themers. One of the great pleasures of crosswords is getting a few crossings of an answer, recognizing the letter pattern as a word or phrase that you know, and then satisfyingly plopping it in. That doesn’t happen in a theme like this where you have an entry like NEW JERSEY CITY.

I had filled in about 95% of the grid still with no idea of the theme (I figured the Sun had to do with it, based on the title, but this wasn’t helping). The only themer I had left was TE___SACEWILLIAMS, which sure looked like it wanted to be TENNESSEE WILLIAMS. Finally the penny dropped and I filled in TENNIS ACE WILLIAMS. That moment was about 25% relief at getting the answer but 75% groan at the awkward phrasing.

Still, that cracked the theme open for me. After wondering at first if it referred to Serena or Venus (Serena obviously has had the more successful career), I put it together with the title and realized what was going on. Venus was in [Spot #2], i.e. the second position. So we’re talking planets here. A-ha!

WSJ – Sat, 5.19.18 – “Sun Spots” by Alan Arbesfeld

  • 23a [Spot #1] LIQUID ELEMENT. Mercury.
  • 40a [Spot #2] TENNIS ACE WILLIAMS. Venus.
  • 49a [Spot #3] SOLID GROUND. Earth. This entry and the first one were among the first I uncovered leading me to think, erroneously, that the theme involved states of matter.
  • 63a [Spot #4CANDY BAR MAKERS. Mars. Plural?! I realize we often pluralize a company when saying, for example, “The makers of Snickers.” But we wouldn’t pluralize it in this case. It should be CANDY BAR MAKER.
  • 73a [Spot #5MOZART SYMPHONY. Jupiter. I will admit I didn’t know this. Is there a particular movement of this symphony that is most recognizable?
  • 86a [Spot #6] AUTO COMPANY. Saturn.
  • 95a [Spot #7] FATHER OF THE TITANS. Uranus. Identifying this one with respect to the gods feels like a bit of a cheat since all the planets (except Earth) were named in such a way. I would have rather seen this one as, say, oh I don’t know, THE BUTT OF A JOKE (don’t @ me).
  • 119a [Spot #8] NEW JERSEY CITY. Neptune. I’ll take your word for it. Never heard of it. The wiki tells me there’s a Neptune Township and a Neptune City, neither of which seem crossword-worthy.

I gotta admit, once I had that final, frustrating a-ha moment, I liked this theme idea, especially the play on words where “Spot” more closely equates to “position.”

But the execution is what got me. I will grudgingly accept clues as theme answers if that’s the way it’s gotta be, but the fill was loaded with obscure names and words and the stalest of crosswordese.

I don’t mind things like SABRA (1a, [Native Israeli]) or ANDANTE (25a, [Medium tempo]). I can learn from those. The things that get to me are obscure trivia and crosswordese like MIES (30a, [Architecture’s ___ van der Rohe]), ILENE (33a, [“The L Word” co-creator Chaiken]), SERIA (69a, [Opera ___]), OSTIA (94a, [Ancient port of Rome]) crossing ANIL (83d, [Indigo-yielding shrub]), ANNEALS (14d, [Tempers, as metal]), ERSE (111d, [Gaelic language]), and JRR (121d, [“The Hobbit” cover initials]), despite my Tolkien-fanboyism.

Other things that irked:

  • TRURO (104a, [Cape Cod town]). I had CRURO at first (seemed legit to me) because 99d [National Do Not Call Registry org.] seemed like it ought to be the FCC. (It’s not; it’s the FTC.)
  • SOCKO (53a, [Super, in show biz lingo]). Is it really? In this century?
  • POPDUO (58a, [Pet Shop Boys, e.g.]). Like the theme entries, this feels like a clue that wormed its way into the grid.

There are some things I liked like CHECKMATE and THRACE and SHUT-EYE, but that’s about all that really stood out to me.

So while I liked the concept of the theme, the fill really sapped its strength and there weren’t enough shiny bits to redeem it.

Finally, I liked learning that ULTIMA meant the [Last syllable, in linguistics]. But of course, the entry made me think nostalgically of the old series of computer games by Lord British. Oh wow! Apparently Ultima Online is still around and you can play for free! See you later!

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Saturday, May 19, 2018

  1. john farmer says:

    …half trying to find the rest of the Spelling Bee words (the new NYT online puzzle)…

    Question about that. Is there a way to know how many words you have left? The Rankings page gives the minimum score for each level, but once you reach the top level it’s guesswork how much further you have to go. The bee appears if you get ’em all, but otherwise hard to tell if you have 1 … 2 … 5 words to go. I sent in feedback but curious in the meantime if there’s a way to know or figure it out.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I don’t see anywhere to tell how many are left. Pannonica and I worked together and have 58/239 … but did not get the “you found them all” message. So we think Peedee has a word we’re missing, because when he and Pannonica were way ahead of me, their scores didn’t sync up.

      • Martin says:

        Words reported that the app won’t accept:

        Not a great dictionary, it seems.

        • john farmer says:

          HATH was accepted for me. AROAR was not, but I can live with that. No credit for ARGOT was disappointing.

          • Martin says:

            Yep, just tried it. HATH works. ARGOT? PROA? I can see PARAPH and AGRAPHA even though they’re in the Collegiate, but argot?

            • john farmer says:

              No RAGA, ROTA, GARROT (duck) either. I can see not including every unabridged entry, in which case what is cut will not satisfy everyone.

              Final tally: 60 words for the day.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              All my group was missing was AGOG and GOTTA.

        • Ellen Nichols says:

          The puzzle for the 17th wouldn’t accept CORM.

      • john farmer says:

        I haven’t seen the bee (but heard from NYT she’ll arrive at the end). The other day, absent any note, didn’t know if I was done after getting 40 words. Found out next day I missed two. Probably would have stayed with it if (a) I knew there were more, and (b) I knew I was close. Found 51 words today (not counting a few others, inc. “argot,” which wasn’t accepted), and I’ll see what I missed tomorrow. Feels OK missing “colorific” yesterday but not sure how I missed “loci.” Anyway, I think more about word counts than points, but reverse engineering (a very small sample), I figure minimum points for top level is about 71% of total possible. If right, today’s max would be about 242 points. You should be close.

    • GLR says:

      Interesting to see this puzzle on-line – the Times has been running Spelling Bee in the Sunday Magazine for several months now, but the rules are a bit different. In the magazine, all words have to be five letters or longer and all words score one point except a pangram, which is worth three.

      They indicate a score required for “Good,” “Excellent,” and “Genius” rating, which varies week-to-week, and also provide a score for the words in the Times’ solution. Unlike other puzzles, the answer for the Spelling Bee is provided in the same issue as the puzzle. They include a disclaimer – “If you found other legitimate dictionary words in the beehive, feel free to include them in your score.”

      It’s not unusual for me to find legitimate words the Times didn’t have in their answer. I wonder if they generate their word list manually – if they use a program, there’s no reason for them to miss legitimate words.

      • Gareth says:

        Correspondence with the Times suggests they use a program and then manually weed out words they deem “too obscure”, many of which are found not infrequently in their crosswords… Amusingly, today CUNT and CUNTY were not accepted. Well now. (Surprised they even ran a grid where one COULD make that… Though from playing Boggle, I know it turns up more often than most swears.)

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          It is indeed silly that AGHA and RAGA, which plenty of crossworders encounter more in the grid than in real life, were turned down, but AGAR and ARHAT were accepted. If you’re going to refuse crosswordese in Spelling Bee, then start refusing it in the crossword, too!

          • GLR says:

            In the intro to the puzzle in the magazine, it says “How many COMMON (emphasis added) words of 5 or more letters …” So there’s some rationale for the methodology Gareth described. But I didn’t see “common” in the instructions for the on-line version of the puzzle.

            Maybe they need to have three possible responses to words the solver enters in the on-line version: (1) Yes – good job! (2) No – that’s not a word. (3) Yes, that’s a word – but it’s not common enough.

      • JohnH says:

        I don’t subscribe to the Times puzzles but do get the weekend paper, so I see the Sunday “Spelling Bee.” I’m probably better off not seeing more, since I let it distract me longer than most puzzles. I keep looking back to it.

        I always compile two lists, one for words I think they’ll count and one for words they might but I doubt it. I’m always wrong on at least one word in both my lists, and their process is plainly subjective, so when (if ever) I get all the ones they score is still a crap shoot.

  2. Papa John says:

    Steve, if you have the time, how about some notes on today’s Preakness? How did you bet on the Triple Crown?

    • Steve Manion. says:

      Hi John,

      The race appears to be such a mortal lock for Justify that I just decided a few minutes ago not to bet the race. Justify will go off at something in the neighborhood of 2 to 5, meaning that you have to bet 5 to win 2. Good Magic will be a prohibitive second choice at about 3 to 1 and the exacta of Justify and Good Magic will probably pay about even money. The trifecta of Justify, Good Magic and Lone Sailor (my choice for third) will probably pay about $10 for a $1 bet. That is not very much for a trifecta and there are several horses (Bravazo and Quip to name two) that have as good a shot at third as Lone Sailor.

      My bet would be 7-5-2.

      I bet $41 in trifectas all with Justify on top in the Derby, but did not include Good Magic so I didn’t cash.


      • Papa John says:

        If you say so, Steve… The betting world has its own jargon, doesn’t it?

        The race must be over, by now. So, who won?

      • Papa John says:

        As you predicted, the heavy favorite, Justify, won.

        • Steve Manion. says:

          The race was closer than I and most thought it would be. Justify and Good Magic dueled for almost the entire race with Justify eventually prevailing. But the duel took a lot out of both of them and deep closing longshots Btavazo and Tenfold got up for second and third. Justify was an “odds on” favorite so it was not much of a prediction.


  3. Jane Lewis says:

    Maybe ham in the crossword refers to a person hamming in up and wanting his or her picture taken – pretty much obsolete these days now that it seems everybody is captured somewhere on a smart phone.

  4. golfballman says:

    Todays LAT just a little too cutesy for my taste.

  5. Burak says:

    Just like yesterday’s puzzle, today’s NYT had some amazing long answers and was fun enough to solve. But unfortunately, it had more questionable clues (SPERMDONOR one is, um, weird) and more unsatisfying short fill. In a nutshell, it was a worse version of yesterday’s. Thus 3.2 stars.

  6. NMG says:

    “I will grudgingly accept clues as theme answers if that’s the way it’s gotta be, but the fill was loaded with obscure names and words and the stalest of crosswordese.”

    My thoughts exactly! Give us one or the other, but this was a terrible slog.

Comments are closed.