Friday, June 8, 2018

CHE 7:03 (Laura) 


LAT 6:03 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:36 (Amy) 


Gareth Bain’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Pencil Case” — Laura’s review

CHE - 6.8.18 - Bain - Solution

CHE – 6.8.18 – Bain – Solution

It’s our F(r)iend Gareth! We at the Fiend are always pleased to blog one of our own.

  • [17a: Like an obsessive mind]: ONE TRACK
  • [23a: Incorruptibility, maybe]: MORAL FIBER
  • [34a: Gorbachev birthmark]: PORT WINE STAIN
  • [49a: Contract details]: FINE PRINT
  • [57a: What detectives might do with the end of 17, 23, 34 or 49 Across]: GET A CLUE

Any novice constructors out there looking for a solidly executed example of a classic theme-type, look no further, and use this puzzle as a model of the thing where you have four seemingly unrelated phrases with a clincher of a revealer. Well done, Dr. B.

Fill-wise, we have a few entries that shout, I am a puzzle printed in the Chronicle of Higher Education: [14a: Lalo opera based on a Breton legend about a flooded city]: LE ROI D’YS; unusual avian vocab [53a: Young turkey]: POULT and [60a: Stilt cousin with a curving bill]: AVOCET; a six-letter [18a: Canonized archbishop of Canterbury] who is neither BECKET nor THOMAS but ANSELM; FIONA clued vis-à-vis Brigadoon and not Shrek.

Favorite clue: [34a: It “begins as a lump in the throat,” per Robert Frost]: POEM. Makes me think of Emily Dickinson, who had a similar reflection on the embodiment of language: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

Here are Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues singing [15a: “Miss ___ Regrets” (dark Cole Porter song)]: OTIS as an Irish murder ballad — for the 1990 Cole Porter tribute/AIDS fundraiser Red Hot + Blue:

Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 8 18, no 0608

Lots of extra-tasty crispy fill in here, and I’m not talking about the plural KFCS. I like BEATS BY DRE, the verb OCCASIONED, THE MET GALA (at pub trivia a few days after the Gala, our team name was Pope Rihanna), TRANSGENDER (Happy Pride Month, everyone! I see you, I support you, I vote for people who will protect your rights), pretty PIANO SONATA, GO COMMANDO, ILLUMINATI (Q: What’s the Illuminati’s favorite pizza? A: Deep-dish from Lou Malnati’s.), CINNABON, YOGA PANTS, GINORMOUS, FRIZZLES, and COKE ZERO (though it’s unfortunate that this was the base for a theme answer just 24 hours prior).

Not so keen on the ACES IT, TAP ON (the clue doesn’t work so well because you generally tap someone on the shoulder, not just “tap on a shoulder”), IN ON IT, SHOO-IN, and IT IS SO, with all the ECHOES of 2-letter words. Also bored by LEI clued as [Romanian currency units], plural abbrev ESTS, POLLER (yeah, the word is pollster), plural interjection WAHS, old abbrevs SSR and RDA, RETIME, ELOI, and variant EGIS.

Five more things:

  • 31a. [Taking on a new identity, in a way], TRANSGENDER. This feels a bit off. For starters, if you’re trans, you are trans—it doesn’t hinge on “taking on a new identity,” coming out, or transitioning. If you know inside your mind that your assigned gender doesn’t fit, you’re transgender. The clue’s use of the verb “taking on” also pushes aside the fact that a transgender person is still trans, even if they completed that “taking on” decades earlier. Happy to see the word in the grid, especially during Pride Month, but the clue needed work. Perhaps “true” instead of “new”?
  • 22a. [Queen Elizabeth spells her name with one], ZED. Better than the typical ZED clue! I see from the Cruciverb database that a similar clue was used in a 2013 David Steinberg puzzle: [Part of Queen Elizabeth’s makeup?]—also good.
  • 1d. [Fifth place?], BOTTLE. As in a fifth of liquor. Hey! I was in fifth place in my Learned League division this morning. In the bottle.
  • 38d. [Anvil, hammer or stirrup], OSSICLE. A little bone. / 56d. [___ drop], MIC. On a related topic, Mike is short for micycle.
  • 33d. [Hu-u-uge], GINORMOUS. The clue is stressing me out, but I have adored the answer since seeing Elf. (Clip below.)

Four stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I like the basic conceit of this puzzle. SH’s change slightly to TCH’s and we get new, wacky phrases. The effect is actually quite pleasing when you say the answers out loud. Today’s answer set is WASHTCHINGMACHINE, DISHTCHNETWORK, BUSHTCHLEAGUER and MASHTCHEDPOTATOES.

A lot of one-and-a-half word phrases today: HEMIN, BEEPAT, GOTSORE, GAINEDON, BYNATURE (I really liked that one, especially after changing it from INNATURE, which I was squinting at…), SEEMSOK.

My favourite clue answer pair was: AUTOSAVE, [Crash insurance?]

[Fine art and antiques, say], ASSETS; those are mighty upper class assets. For most of us, it’s more likely a car, some white goods and maybe a house (which the bank owns more like).

[Org. offering puppy love?], ASPCA. I work at a similar kind of organisation, an Animal Welfare Society, here in South Africa. Had a rough week trauma-wise; two puppies with crushed skulls, a small dog with its jaw ripped off, another with bite wounds that they left for a week and now the whole leg is full of “gangrene”, some seriously awful mvas, and I’ve actually lost track of what else. It’s been that kind of week… So that’s the flip side of puppy love.

[Bit of winter wear], MITTEN. For must of us, more effective in the plural.

[Two-faced god], JANUS. After whom January is named.

[Global sports org. concerned with wickets], ICC. A gimme for me, and probably any US solvers of South Asian or West Indian heritage, the International (previously Imperial) Cricket Council. International Criminal Court would probably have broader recognition.

3.25 Stars

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26 Responses to Friday, June 8, 2018

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    I confidentially put in SENNHEISER for 1A, so happy to get a running start. Alas, no audiophile brand today – oh well.

  2. Martin says:

    “Poller” and “pollster” are both real words, but to my ear they’re not quite synonyms, although today’s clue would work for either. “Pollster” has a marketing/political connotation that “poller” is missing. For instance, if a judge polls the jury at the request of a defendant just found guilty I can see calling the judge (or bailiff) a poller, but not a pollster.

    Most dictionaries associate “poller” with the verb “poll,” but have a distinct entry for “pollster.”

  3. Ethan says:

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’m all for using a brand name like OREO or IKEA when the alternative is unfamiliar crosswordese, and credit to Will for the change in editorial policy, but people really need to stop seeding their puzzles with brand names. I don’t want an advertisement in 1-Across of a themeless, especially one that already has KFCS, COKE ZERO, and CINNABON. Enough already.

    • Sarah says:

      I personally don’t see the issue. Brand names exist, and they are a part of everyday life. I do not see it as an issue.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      Like Sarah, I don’t see it as an issue. Will’s rule, IIRC, is that anything that occurs in the rest of the paper is fair game, and BEATS BY DRE, KFC, COKE ZERO and CINNABON are all names that could show up in Music, Business, Dining, etc.

      Maybe a TAD heavy on them today, but didn’t bother me.

    • Richard says:

      You say “advertisement,” but do you really believe that Apple (or any of these others companies) paid to be represented in the crossword? And, to your general point, it’s hard enough to get natural, interesting words and phrases into grids at all, so I’m not sure that brand names should be off limits.

    • john farmer says:

      Agree with Ethan (OP). Company and brand names can be useful, especially short ones that can allow for more interesting fill. But when used as seed entries, it’s a negative. And when three corners of a puzzle are anchored by BEATSBYDRE, COKEZERO (2nd day in a row), and CINNABON, it feels like a David Foster Wallace nightmare of what crosswords will become.

      Corporations provide a useful function for society, but they are not BENIGN entities with our best interests in mind. They are powerful enough without us making them the cultural icons they desire to be. Give them an inch and they will take over our culture, our minds, our lives. We should resist.

      It’s hardly a problem if there’s an occasional brand name in a puzzle. But as a general rule, if companies want to see themselves on the crossword page, let them buy an ad.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: Very good puzzle with some cool long answers. I laughed at Amy’s comment re the GINORMOUS clue. There were echoes of yesterday, not only because of COKE ZERO but also because like many others, I entered OLD SAW yesterday as well.
    I chuckled at the SCRIPT clue. It was a gimme because it’s causing my husband all kinds of aggravation. He’s a doctor with terrible handwriting and he writes notes longhand during meetings, even though he’s a tech geek otherwise . But now we have a young office assistant who is great in every way except she can’t read script to save her life. And she’s not about to learn it. So, he’s learning to type better or dictate or teach his tablet to read his scribbles. The times, they are a changin…

    • Huda says:

      Amy, re your comment about TRANSGENDER cluing. It also struck me as off. But may be a clue could be: “Taking on a new social identity?”. I say this because I remember the old terminology of transsexual, and I see the newer use of the word gender as making a distinction between biology and social perception. To my mind, the use of gender justifies the “trans” part– you are not changing how you perceive your own sexuality, but how you are identified socially and culturally by others.
      Not sure if I’m making sense…

      • Ethan Friedman says:

        That’s how I saw it. It’s not the trans person’s internal identity but their outward identity. What they are showing to others.

        So, agreed the clue needs a little work.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          But if you’re trans and you haven’t begun transitioning, you aren’t showing a different/new identity to others—you’re still transgender. It’s not about the external presentation.

    • Gareth says:

      How does one write notes quickly (e.g. in class) without writing in script???

      • Brian M says:

        On their laptops. It’s a different world, my friend.

        • Gareth says:

          I graduated from university in this decade. Don’t remember more than one or two people with a laptop in a class of 120…

      • Jenni Levy says:

        My husband’s printing is much faster than cursive. My cursive (what remains of it) is completely illegible, even to me, so I also print if I have to write by hand. My kid taught herself cursive and has the best handwriting in the family.

  5. Brad says:

    Constructors should take ACE IT and forms thereof out of their word lists, period. It can’t be clued well — and isn’t here — because the entry already contains the object, awkwardly. The object is a weird tagalong and not a necessary part of a phrasal lexical entry. WATCH IT, FORGET IT, MOVE IT, yes. ACE IT, ROAST IT, VARNISH IT, no.

    [Words of encouragement to a student leaving for the SAT] is about the only thing that feels legit, to me.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Speaking of the SAT: one of my first jobs was writing items for the SAT. Later I was shifted to write for foreign language tests, under a new hiree who’d neglected to provide for machine scoring in the contract she’d signed…. We ended up hand-scoring those, very tedious! Not long after that, I quit, went back to teaching in Princeton schools….

  7. Burak says:

    In NYT, the longer answers were all amazing. All of them. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of eyebrow-raising shorter fill.

    SW corner, with the BYRNES/YENTE/RDA crossing killed me. Like, OK, I can accept [Health abbr.] = RDA; but in that area, with those crossings? [Health abbr.] = *DA could be ADA (American Dental Associaton), FDA (Food and Drug Administration), NDA (nondisclosure agreement?), PDA (a type of heart defect) I mean, yes I’m probably pushing it but would a little more specificity hurt that much?

    Clues for GOCOMMANDO and EMMA were top notch, but I had the same pause Amy had for TRANSGENDER, LEI etc. Overall, a good puzzle to tackle, but when the puzzle feels unsolvable it really brings me down. There were a couple of spots that felt that way to me. 3.6 stars.

  8. David T. says:

    NYT: I have a question for Amy as I remain confused by Caleb’s clue for 30A. Some discussion here and on Rex’s blog but no real answer. Isn’t the person “taking a survey” the one who fills out a questionnaire or answers the questions? Isn’t the person conducting the poll the one normally referred to as the pollster, or here, as the poller? I don’t see how this somewhat odd use of “poller” fits the clue. I can find lots of definitions for “poller” but all refer to the person asking the questions and not the one answering them. If the clue had been “one conducting a survey,” then “pollster” or, if you must, “poller,” would fit.

    • john farmer says:

      A search for “take a survey”: context almost always means to answer questions (“take a survey and win a prize”).

      A search for “taking a survey”: context almost always means to ask questions (“you can collect data by taking a survey”).

      I think the clue is explicitly ambiguous. It can mean either the asker or the answerer (or askster/answerster, if you prefer).

      That’s kind of how I felt about poller/pollster. Though pollster is more common and usually preferred, poller is an okay word, as Martin pointed out above, and may be just as good in some contexts. One example, from the NYT:

      Diary of an Exit Poller
      Like Blanche DuBois, exit pollers depend on the kindness of strangers.

      • David T. says:

        Thanks, John, very much for your insightful reply. I can’t help but wonder if the ambiguity of the clue was intentional or accidental.

  9. Ellen Nichols says:

    RDA had a threepeat today (NYT, CHE, LAT). These coincidences bother me. I am not sure why. Only CHE clued the abbreviation properly, in my mind.

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