Saturday, June 9, 2018

LAT 9:15 (Derek) 


Newsday 20:00 (Derek) 


NYT 5:48 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Roland Huget’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 9 18, no 0609

I approached this grid with great trepidation—not because it looked hard to solve, but because it looked like it would hold a lot of junky fill gluing together the eight 15s and the wide-open center. It was perhaps markedly less terrible than I’d feared, but still had its share of woeful entries.

LAST THE DISTANCE sounds unfamiliar and wrong to me. I think it may be a British version of go the distance.

Lots of affixes and plurals, with SALUTER being the clunkiest. There’s a plural abbrev I’ve never seen: 11d. [Residents: Abbr.], CITS. Eww.

The best entries include RESULTS-ORIENTED, SUPERGLUE, cool BIOLUMINESCENCE, common-letter-packed-but-not-stale TESTED THE WATERS, COHABIT, the BATPOLE, and ASKANCE. I also dig 19a. [Viking poet], SKALD—those English words with Norse roots are always cool.

Assorted foreign fill: Spanish OYE, German ACH, French ICI et ETE. All reasonably common words in their languages.

  • 45d. [Pianist Jorge], BOLET. Never heard of this Cuban-born musician, who died in 1990. From his Wikipedia page, this unexpected tale: “In 1937, he won the Naumburg Competition and gave his debut recital. In 1942, Bolet joined the US Army. He was sent to Japan as part of the Army of Occupation. While there, he conducted the Japanese premiere of The Mikado.” War is hell?
  • 29d. [Popular author most of whose work is written in anapestic tetrameter], SEUSS. That’s four da-da-DUM anapests in a row. Have you got a favorite Dr. Seuss line?
  • 28d. [Zaftig], PLUMP. Any reason to use a female-specific clue when PLUMP can also refer to men, babies, and edible produce?

3.8 stars, I think? What’s your take on the puzzle?

Judith Seretto’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Urban Renewal” — Jim’s review

Like the byline, theme entries include an anagram. Unlike the byline the base phrase (in each case, a U.S. city) is listed first. (The byline’s base phrase is “Just the Editor.”)

WSJ – Sat, 6.9.18 – “Urban Renewal” by Judith Seretto (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Territories controlled by a Wisconsin city?] MADISON DOMAINS
  • 28a [Offerings at a Massachusetts city diner?] SALEM MEALS
  • 34a [Grueling test in a Texas city?] LAREDO ORDEAL
  • 54a [Cuban immigrants in a Georgia city?] SAVANNAH HAVANANS
  • 78a [Recoveries of wrecks in a Nevada city?] LAS VEGAS SALVAGES
  • 96a [Censuses conducted in an Arizona city?] TUCSON COUNTS
  • 101a [Herd of cattle in a Delaware city?] DOVER DROVE
  • 113a [Salon goo in a North Carolina city?] RALEIGH HAIR GEL

Most of these work pretty well, and I found the theme to be pleasant. SAVANNAH HAVANANS is fun to say, and RALEIGH HAIR GEL is a nice find. But SALVAGES as a noun doesn’t strike me as very common, and I wanted the TUCSON entry to be about vampires (although the census slant makes more sense). One American city (LARAMIE) and one state (OREGON) make it into the grid without being thematic.

The rest of the grid felt solid, smooth, and very clean. I felt like I progressed from start to finish without any major tie-ups.

But I’m struggling to find anything very flashy in the fill. I like TEEN BEAT, “YES, LET’S,” LIVE ACT, ONE-SHOT, ARAPAHO, SAUCY, and FLOTUS although, truth to tell, my initial thought on the clue on that last one [Melania designation] was that “Melania” was some kind of disease, I guess because it’s only a couple letters away from “melanoma.”

While there aren’t any long marquee non-theme entries, everything still felt solid and interesting. I found some intriguing pairings in COMEY and COMMIE, APEMAN and MERMAN, LIVE ACT and ENCORES.

Some more things;

  • 93a [Professional offer?]. ASSASSIN. Love this clue!
  • 21a [Female character of old TV played by a series of male performers]. LASSIE. Ain’t that just the way?
  • 69a [Mother board?: Abbr.]. PTA. While I could claim this is sexist, as a stay-at-home dad for all three of my kids, I actively tried to avoid being heavily involved in such organizations (though I didn’t always succeed).
  • 121a [Veto on movie night]. “SEEN IT.” I could not imagine what this answer would be, but once it became clear, it made perfect sense.
  • 122a [Social services]. TEA SETS. Clever.
  • 9d [Merlin Olsen, for his whole NFL career]. RAM. You young ‘uns probably didn’t know Merlin Olsen, but he was also a cast member on Little House on the Prairie. What’s that ya say? “Little House on the whatsits?”
  • 17d [Crib call]. MAMA. In my experience, no one called anyone by name from the crib. It was usually just “WAAAAAAAH!”
  • 43d [10 on the pain scale]. AGONY. We would also have accepted DALI for this clue. (See picture.)

Solid puzzle with some fun wordplay. 3.6 stars from me.

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I think the last Greg Johnson LAT Saturday puzzle I solved also gave me fits. Again, I don’t track my times like a lot of you; I tried, but after years and years of solving, I know how long certain puzzles should take me, and I am not overly concerned with my “fastest time ever” on a certain puzzle. Having said all that, this puzzle took me nearly ten minutes, and normally for these my time is 5-7 minutes. I have stated before that Greg’s puzzles give me fits, and this one fits that bill. This is also a feat of construction: the triple stack of 13s in the middle is crossed by 9 and 10 letter entries. All packed in a 72 word grid. Extremely well done, Greg! 4.5 stars today.

Highlights, including those 13-letter entries:

  • 5A [Foolish] DIPPY – I have only heard my wife use this term. I won’t say who she uses this adjective to describe! ;-)
  • 18A [Unlikely to become a decorator] COLOR BLIND – Another adjective my wife has used to describe a certain someone!
  • 35A [Part of a gift that needs to be returned] CASSEROLE DISH – Slightly misleading clue, but that is the goal isn’t it? Nowadays, if someone makes a dish for someone as a gift, don’t they use disposable aluminum foil cookware?
  • 39A [“I figured as much”] WHAT A SURPRISE – Excellent.
  • 40A [Skeptical words] THIS I GOTTA SEE! – Also stellar.
  • 65A [Noticeably bored] YAWNY – Is this really a word??
  • 31D [PGA Tour Champions golfer Jay] HAAS – There is a Tommy HAAS that played/plays pro tennis, but he is 25 years younger! There needs to be another famous person with this surname, but for now, golfer Jay is certainly crossword famous!
  • 40D [“Silent Sunday Nights” network] TCM – I did not know this! Perhaps I will pay attention tomorrow. While Westworld is not on, that is!

As always, I feel like I could go on and on! Great puzzle all around. Have a great weekend!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Twenty minutes with no error correction marks in a Frank Longo Stumper. I’ll take it! Maybe I am getting better at these after 20 years of solving them! It has been a while since one of these has made me overly frustrated. Perhaps it’s the warm weather that is finally now here! I thought I saw a typo, but there are 10 9-letter entries in this grid. And it is quite hard. I will be anxiously scanning the comments later today to see how tough others found this one. Frank is still a master. 4.6 stars for this gem.

Some notes:

  • 17A [Gazebo amenity] PARK BENCH – I suppose that gazebos ARE in parks, but I think of them more in backyards. This misdirection cost me a lot of time!
  • 20A [Common court symbol] NIKE SWOOSH – This was omnipresent during the recently concluded NBA Finals, and it is also on the tennis court during the French Open women’s final that I am watching as I type this up!
  • 22A [James Bond type] MAN’S MAN – This is obviously a term, and the clue is fine, but something here seems a bit off; not every man aspires to be James Bond I suppose is my thought. But I am no snowflake!
  • 32A [Anthony Hopkins’ birthplace] WALES – This star of Westworld is back for Season 2! If that is a spoiler for you, too bad! At least I won’t tell you how!!
  • 54A [Northern terminus of the Reunification Express] HANOI – I still highly recommend the Vietnam War docuseries by Ken Burns that recently aired. It was excellent; I am just young enough to not remember most of these events. OK, I don’t remember this much at all!
  • 3D [Aldo’s alternative to “amata”] CARA – These are Italian terms of endearment? Google says “amata” is “loved,”, while “cara” is “dear.”
  • 12D [Cruise’s ex in “War of the Worlds”] OTTO – As in Miranda Otto. This seems really hard. I am not a rabid movie buff, but I am also fairly aware of who this is. According to, this is her most famous role after her Lord of the Rings work.
  • 31D [Lead actor in “Silk Stalking”] ESTES – This is referring to Rob Estes, and this is even harder than the Miranda Otto reference. It is a Stumper, though!
  • 33D [One use for a school bus] FIELD TRIP – They are always hurting for school bus drivers around here. Who WANTS to drive those little hoodlums around?! ;-)
  • 45D [1997 Emmy sitcom for comedy writing] ELLEN – I guessed this, since there isn’t any other sitcom that I could think of in that time period that was five letters long!

Time for a nap! Enjoy your Saturday everyone.

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28 Responses to Saturday, June 9, 2018

  1. Martin says:

    I’m not fond of the PLUMP clue (“Zaftig”) either. It’s unfortunate that in English “plump” and “attractive” are not usually synonyms (and “pleasingly plump” sounds like a left-handed compliment or a consolation prize), but in Yiddish “zaftig” is complimentary. Literally “juicy,” the deliverer of this opinion is, by definition, appreciative of every curve.

    As with any comment on personal appearance, including a compliment, context is everything and of course it may be unwanted. But in an era of body-shaming, “zaftig” between consenting adults is a valuable word that has no exact English counterpart. “Plump” is not close.

    • Huda says:

      Haha, in Syrian Arabic, a local term for zaftig is M’lazlaza. It’s weird even in Arabic, but it evokes, affectionately, a love of curves, almost the urge to hug the person, because it would feel wonderful. I think of it as echoing zaftig in conveying the sense that some meat on the bones can feel and look good.
      I realize it’s sexist. The ending in “a” is the conjugation for the feminine form and I can’t ever remember it in the masculine form of the word. But somehow, it reminds me of my mother and makes me smile.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The sheer grossness of referring to a human as if she were a piece of fruit … ugh.

      • Richard says:

        I don’t know, it’s pretty hard to talk about physical attractiveness (or really anything at all) without using metaphorical language. As long as that kind of talk is coming from a welcome source, you could do a lot worse than being compared to a fruit. I mean, “cute as a bug” is a pretty common phrase that doesn’t offend many people.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Can you just not do this?

          I’m sensitized to it by the testimony of so many black and brown people who are exhausted by lazy writers always describing their skin tone in terms of food (but somehow white people’s skin doesn’t usually get that treatment). If you can show me an equal volume of descriptions of men’s physical attractiveness in terms of food, I’ll ease up. Until then …

          • Tim in NYC says:

            Cheesecake to refer to women, beefcake for men. They’re both old and totally weird. At least cheesecake is a thing. I’ve never seen an edible entity called a beefcake.

          • Tim in NYC says:

            Also, the word “hunk” has been used primarily for food (it dates back only to the early 19th c. according to the OED).

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Nice try, thanks for playing! Nobody’s snacking beefcake or hunk unless they’re cannibals.

          • Tim in NYC says:

            OK, this is my last try. “Honey” is food, and it’s used both for men and women.

          • Richard says:

            There’s more description of women’s physical attractiveness in general than description of men’s physical attractiveness. Similarly, non-white skin is more marked as different in society, so it’s more marked as different in description. Blame society for that, but don’t blame language.
            Fruit metaphors are just as likely to be genuinely complimentary and respectful (apple of my eye, top banana, cherry on top, peach) if coming from complimentary and respectful sources as others are from bigoted or other problematic sources.
            I’m really not trying to be trolly here (though I realize am being trolly), but dismissing huge areas of language as bigoted always raises my hackles.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Check your perspective—dark-skinned people in Africa may not even view themselves as “black” because that’s the default. And if you’re a black American, your skin isn’t “different” until white people make it so.

              Here’s the problem with “I’m praising her with complimentary fruit metaphors”: Maybe she doesn’t want to be likened to food. If you could just BE a woman for a year, you might well find it exhausting, the constant thread of dehumanization that weaves through so much of our language and behaviors. I mean, we women are mostly used to it, because we’ve grown up with this shit, but that doesn’t make it charming or respectful.

    • LauraB says:

      An NYT editor who understands Yiddish!? We should be so lucky. #ZaftigPride

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Margaret Cho did a bit many years ago about being described as “zaftig” in a review & becoming so haunted by it that she thinks a waiter is saying it when he’s actually offering her a “soft drink.”

  2. Robert White says:

    And don’t forget PLATIES, AWACS, TASSETS…at least the grid looked nice!

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I can tell this was quite tricky to construct. That sense of effort permeated the solving experience as well, and EMANATED from the long answers: TESTED THE WATER, RESULT ORIENTED, LAST THE DISTANCE… None of which convey a sense of joyous and exuberant adventure.
    The answer that saved the day: BIOLUMINESCENCE… It’s a truly beautiful phenomenon. And it has been used in so many scientific contexts to literally illuminate the secrets of nature. It also begat a Nobel Prize

  4. Lise says:

    Holy socks, Batman, this one was a challenge. I started with SEUSS (“Ev-ry WHO down in WHOville liked CHRISTmas a LOT) (not that one would read it that way) and I agree that BIOLUMINESCENCE is a truly inspired and beautiful entry. Thanks, Huda, for the link.

    I was thwarted at the crossings of TASSETS/AWACS, and HERB/EYELINE/BOLET, and since for some reason I had AhAB for 26a I was stuck at MINARET/SKALD, where I could see the A in SKALD being pretty much any vowel. Same problem, at the crossing of PLATIES, RIO RITA, and PLUMP. I thought the long entries were excellent.

    Thanks, Huda, for your interesting zaftig-related explanation. I’m glad the feeling conveyed by the word M’lazlaza makes you smile.

  5. David L says:

    The long acrosses were pretty good, with the exception of the LASTTHEDISTANCE, which to my mind is not an idiomatic phrase either in British or American Engligh (I googled ‘last the distance’ and was presented with a page of results for ‘go the distance’).

    The quality of the rest of the puzzle wasn’t so great, though. BOLET? TASSETS? SKALD? RIORITA crossing PLATIES? (I have heard of the former only because of crosswords, never heard of the latter).

    Do modern pharmacists actually use PESTLES? When I pick up my prescriptions from CVS all I see behind the counter is a lot of containers. I know there are compounding pharmacies where they make customized meds of various sorts, but I somehow doubt there are rooms full of people grinding stuff up with pestles…

    • GLR says:

      If you google “last the distance” (with the quotation marks), you’ll get plenty of hits. Most hits come from the UK or areas that were once part of the British Empire.

      • David L says:

        Well, I’m from England and it sounds weird to me. But maybe I have forgotten my native idioms.

  6. Burak says:

    The upper half of the NYT was nicely executed (despite CITS/SKALD). The bottom half though… RIORITA/PLATIES wtf? AWACS/ACTA huh? TASSETS? OYE?

    The long answers were mostly very good (I don’t feel much warmth towards CEREMONIALSTART and I had never heard of LASTTHEDISTANCE) That’s a solid foundation. But maybe sacrifice a couple of them, still give us a pleasant puzzle to solve and get rid of all that glue in the bottom half that makes one go “whhhhyyyyyyyy”. I don’t know.

    Again, it was still kinda pleasant to figure out all the crosses and for that only this one is an above par puzzle. But only a tad above it. 3 stars.

  7. Lise says:

    I really liked the LAT, especially the long acrosses in the middle and the long downs – are any of those debuts?

    NUTRIA reminds me of the ones I’ve seen in the Outer Banks. Apparently they’re kind of pesty, but I think they’re sort of cute.

  8. placematfan says:

    Wow, that Newsday Longo is a sight to behold. What humble grandeur! Evidence to me, at least, that you crossword bloggers’ voice has raised the bar for what the individual constructor, newbie or master, holds for him- or herself. I mean, look at that thing: spotless. And I love the contrast of the innocuously good 1-Across that enables an, I’ll say it, near-perfect themeless with the recent NYT that had DR DRE’s whatever at 1-Across at the expense of rougher fill (of course, word-count consideration makes things complicated, but still). I was checking out a Longo grid from 2008, I believe, that had the same grid pattern as today’s NYT (q.v. today’s xwordinfo), and the crosswordese comparison is quite striking. And it makes me consider the issue of How Much Has Solvers’ Voice Affected Constructors’ Work? And that Saturday Stumper doesn’t just come off to me as a puzzlemaker’s puzzle meant to satisfy pen and eye, but a florist’s shock intended to seduce, slowly and completely, the mind and the heart of the solver. Props to the constructor.

  9. Art Shapiro says:

    Bioluminescence is worth a + half star!

    Jorge Bolet was a magnificent “old school” pianist; I have a number of his recordings. Hearing him play a Bösendorfer rather than an ordinary Steinway is a proverbial feast for the ears.

  10. Papa John says:

    Today’s NYT puzzle was really good. I mean, really good.

  11. Destroyed says:

    Stumper absolutely destroyed me. Not even close.

  12. Joan Macon says:

    “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

    Horton the elephant

  13. scrivener says:

    I meant what I said and I said what I meant
    An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!

    The fill in NYT was rough, but the grid is pretty and I was pleased to nail BIOLUMINESCENCE upon seeing the clue, which helped me with the lower half.

    21:59 with one bad square (the Y in EYELINE and OYA; I took Japanese, so Romance languages baffle me with no context).

    The LAT was fun as well! Two straight weeks of clean Saturday LAT solves for me. I’m on a roll? 21:36.

  14. JohnH says:

    NYT grid did look intriguing and much of the long fill worked. The rest, so-so. I got BOLET from crossings even without recognizing EYELINE either. I correctly guessed TASSETS rather than, say, “taskets,” but then AWACS seemed to make no sense at all. (I confirmed it online.)

    I had “batcave” first but got past it. Still, the crossing of RIO RITA and PLATIES was way overboard, and there I drew a blank. I’d say there was enough interest in the long entries and the top to offset this, so I’ve seen worse, but I do have to qualify my praise.

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