Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I almost never love word ladder puzzles, but I especially don’t love word ladder puzzles on Thursday, when I could get something much more interesting and tricky.
That said, today we get a word ladder containing ROLL / CALL / VOTE [With 44- and 76-Across, way to put legislators on record … or the start, middle and end of a word ladder]. I won’t bother listing clues for all the steps in the word ladder because they’re all of the form [Second word in the word ladder], but we get ROLL / POLL / PALL / PALM / CALM / CALL / MALL / MALE / MATE / MOTE / VOTE. PALM and CALM are just there to make the word ladder symmetrical, as you could just go from PALL to CALL. The most impressive thing about this puzzle is that every four-letter across entry is thematic (all 11 of them!), which is really hard to do in 78 words… which is partly why this one gets an extra column and goes up to 81 words. (Also, to have a central four-letter entry, the puzzle needs to have an even number of columns.)
- LOVERS’ LEAP and CHOKE COLLAR are both a little grim for the NYT puzzle, but ROYAL BLOOD and AERIAL PHOTO are both very nice at the other two long spots.
- LETTER I is a bad entry, but [Start to instigate?] is a solid clue.
- TV/VCR should start being clued as [Obsolete dual-purpose viewing equipment].
- I liked seeing the artists WILLEM de Kooning and Andy WARHOL.
- Hooray for LGBT! Meh to VSO.
- Most of the other fill was pretty good–I particularly liked MENS REA and TABLET PC–but I could’ve also done without SOON AS, RASA, and CENTO.
All in all, I did not enjoy solving this. I hope you felt differently! Until next time!
Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword “Janus-Faced” —Jenni’s write-up
Janus is the Roman god of the threshold. He is usually depicted as having two faces to show his connection to the passage of time.
The theme answers in this puzzle are all two-faced. They incorporate words that are their own opposites – known as Janus words or contronyms.
- 20a [Hid problems *or* Showed solutions to problems] is SCREENED FIXES. You can try to hide the fix you’re in, or you can show everyone how you repaired something.
- 37a [Approve the removal of fine particles *or* Show disapproval toward the sprinkling of fine particles] is SANCTION DUSTING. I never noticed before that “dusting” can mean either cleaning a surface or covering a surface.
- 57a [Quickly look at supervision *or* Carefully look at a failure of supervision] is SCAN OVERSIGHT. I’m not sure the “carefully look at” sense of SCAN is in common usage compared to the “superficial glance” sense.
It’s an interesting use of a linguistical oddity. There’s no wordplay in either the clues or the answers. Since the answers are not in the language, the clues have to be straightforward. They seem a bit too obvious for the FB, though. There was a tiny aha! moment when each one fell into place, but overall it felt too obvious to be much fun.
The rest of the fill is more interesting than the theme answers. That’s mostly good, but not entirely.
- 1d [They may be clonic or tonic]. I love medical gimmes. The answer is SPASMS. “Tonic-clonic” is a common type of seizure in which tonic (rigid) spasms alternate with “clonic” (jerking) spasms.
- 5a [“Heartbreak House” writer] is SHAW. Not one of his better-known plays. It’s a riff on Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”
- 11d [ “The Phantom Menace,” in the “Star Wars” series] is EPISODE I (not fond of using I for 1 in only one direction). 12d, REN, is clued with the animated dog rather than the Dark Side warrior, son of Han and Leia, who killed his father. Or did he?
- The HEGIRA at 49d is studied by the IMAM at 60d.
- April and October birthstones make an appearance: DIAMOND and OPALS, which describe my engagement ring.
I said some of it was not good. I was thinking of 61a. [Like, but don’t consider as a romantic partner, in modern slang] which is FRIEND ZONE. Yes, in theory someone of any (or no) gender can be FRIEND-ZONEd by someone of any (or no) gender, and the clue is scrupulously non-gendered. We all know the primary usage of this term, though. It’s het men who are FRIEND-ZONEd by the women who refuse to sleep with them even though the men are perfectly nice and don’t do anything wrong and don’t hit the women or anything like that, so of course they should get laid as a reward. FRIEND ZONE derives directly from the idea that heterosexual men are entitled to sex with any women they choose, and those of us who hold the radical idea that we have autonomy and can choose our own sexual partners are at best castrating bitches and at worst victims of violence. This is the language of the misogynist hate group called “incels.” Language matters. Normalizing this crap by using it in puzzles and pretending it’s not gendered is not a good look.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that STEELY DAN is named after a dildo depicted in “The Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs. I was OK not knowing that.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Singled Out” — Jim’s review
DAB’s back and he’s taken the phrase “Singled Out” and re-parsed it as “Single-D Out.” That is, he found two-word phrases where the first word ends in D and the second one begins with a D. In each case, he removed the second word’s D to humorous effect.
- 17a [Really impressive little strummed instrument?] GRAND UKE. …Duke.
- 23a [Defective printer supplies?] BAD REAMS. …Dreams.
- 35a [Part of a canoeist’s itinerary?] DESIGNATED RIVER. …Driver.
- 44a [Uncomfortable hairpieces?] HARD RUGS. …Drugs.
- 55a [What a new ice skater may unpleasantly encounter?] COLD RINK. …Drink.
I didn’t chuckle too much at these, but neither did I grumble. COLD RINK feels a little too on the nose, but HARD RUGS is funny, DESIGNATED RIVER makes for a nice grid-spanner, and I enjoyed imagining what “The GRAND Old UKE of York” nursery rhyme would sound like, especially given its new sense of alliteration. On the whole, an enjoyable theme.
And the long fill is equally enjoyable, thanks to a theme set that consists of only a 15 and four 8s. My favorites are BANANA PIE, MINI MARTS, EVOLUTION, GAS RANGE, BIG CAT, SAY YES, PIÑATAS, and SALIENT. Those NE and SW corners are huge (5×6) and there’s nothing at all bad in them (partial A CLAM and so-so ENLACE are the worst of it).
Clues of note:
- 19a [Page link]. STAPLE. Love this clue. It’s not as high tech as it first appears.
- 43a [Rick’s old flame]. ILSA. Holy cow! Why can’t I remember that she’s ILSA, not ELSA. I think I had it straight before Frozen came along; the Born Free lioness was ELSA and the Casablanca role was ILSA. But somehow adding another ELSA in there muddled me up. But now I think I’ve got the solution: Ingrid=ILSA. All else is ELSA. Yeah? Let’s try that.
- 50a [Party animals]. PIÑATAS. Cute.
- 56a [Sprinkle with sugar or flour]. DREDGE. Is this true? I thought it meant to coat by laying the food item on top of or dragging it through the sugar or flour.
- 59a [Give one’s blessing]. SAY YES. This clue is kind of blah. Something more fun might be [Excited urging] or [Hopeful appeal to a decider].
- 18d [CXI + CXI + CXI + CXI + CXI]. DLV. Yikes. Sometimes it feels like clue writers go out of their way to torture us with Roman numeral math. Okay, upon reflection, this really isn’t that hard; it just looks intimidating. But I admit I just got the D by counting the Cs and left the rest to the crosses.
All in all, a clean and clever puzzle to end the regular solving week. I’ll put it at 3.7 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Finale” — Ben’s Review
Don’t take the title of this week’s BEQ Thursday literally – he immediately mentions in the accompanying blog post for this puzzle he’s not stopping any time soon – but do take it figuratively. It’s a key to what’s happening in the theme answers.
- 20A: Place to learn how to do recaps? — SUMMARY SCHOOL
- 25A: Things played in Budapest? — HUNGARY GAMES
- 41A:One who only likes red lollipops? — CHERRY PERSON
- 46A:Drink that might be mud, might not be? — MYSTERY COFFEE
There’s a final phonetic “E” sound added to each theme answer’s phrase: SUMMER SCHOOL, HUNGER GAMES, CHAIRPERSON, and MISTER COFFEE all get transformed.
Quick fill rundown: IS IT I never quite works for me as an actual thing people say outside of crosswords, I was hoping “TV Actor Scott” meant ADAM, but it’s actually BAIO, SCROD is a lie, and OH I SEE NOW felt real tenuous as far as fill goes.
Joe Kidd’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The theme is RAISEARUCKUS and four vertical entries contain very loose synonyms: MELEE, BRAWL, ROW and STIR.
Fill was frustrating, in part because four 12’s caused the theme to be too crowded, as in the RUDIN/USDOT/IFOLD/OFTEA/ANDA/ILE pile-up. However, I can’t fathom a reason for AHEAP/HAMMS/AGUA.
Jenni – in your discussion of Fireball 11d, you accidentally repeated the clue instead of giving the answer (EPISODE I).
I may have enjoyed the NYT less than Andy. Feh.
NYT: It felt like a long run for a short slide (I’m amazing myself by thinking in sports terms). The insertion of two terms that were unnecessary to make the transition (PALM, CALM) felt especially bothersome and made me hesitate about their accuracy. I kept looking for some hidden reason.
But thanks Andy for describing the construction challenges and constraints, the fact that no 4 letter words occurred outside the theme. That is probably what put a CHOKE COLLAR on the rest of the grid… I usually like Joe Krozel’s puzzles. Looking forward to the next one.
Dredge is NOT sprinkle, agreed.
My original clue was “Add flour to, or remove mud from.” I’m not convinced anyone deserves blame here; but if you think otherwise, don’t blame me!
Since I posted this, my conscience has been bothering me. So I’ll let you all in on another of my original clues: for 68 Down I had CII+CII+CII+CII+CII, which of course comes to DX. Embarrassing! The least a solver should expect of a constructor desperate enough to resort to Roman numerals is a clue that calculates them accurately. If I had felt any annoyance about the new clue for DREDGE, then, it would have been outweighed by my gratitude for the new clue for DLV. Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson: from now on I’ll be flouring my chicken with a dredge rather than a plate. I’m off to buy one now.
Those shakers used for powdered sugar and the like are called dredges. And M-W has a definition: “to coat by sprinkling (as with flour) .”
In my family, the powdered sugar shaker was a powdered sugar shaker. My mother owned sterling-silver pickled-onion spears and she still didn’t call the sugar shaker a “dredge.” When I dredge something, I place it in a dish and turn it over until it’s coated. When I sprinkle something, I have the flour/sugar/whatever in my hand and drop it gently on to the (whatever). Language evolves. Try to keep up.
Not sure which direction “dredge” is evolving. I just ordered a dozen and if you don’t know they’re called dredges they’re not as easy to find. In any case, a perusal of any restaurant-supply site will show it’s current usage as opposed to predating our parents.
I find dredges a much more efficient way to dredge something with a spice blend or flour, btw. Much less wasted material. That’s why I use them by the dozen.
For those of us who don’t masquerade as amateur chefs and just, you know, cook, it’s already evolved. As I think I explained, but by all means go ahead and tell me what I said. You do it so well.
I’m really not sure what you’re saying. I think it’s that the clue is bad because it’s dated but I’ll admit that with the ad hominem stuff (which I certainly don’t get), I might be misreading it.
It’s not the biggest deal to disagree about.
Not sure I follow either. Maybe I missed something.
Huh – never thought about using a shaker to dredge my chicken. Seems like a good idea – as you say, when I use the “drag through the flour on a plate” method, it always seems like I throw away a lot more flour than what ends up on my chicken. Thanks for the tip!
Just be forewarned: they can be addictive.
Cool! I learned something.
Are you not concerned about freshness, since the dredges are not air tight?
For some, like salt and sugar, it’s not an issue. For others, I only fill them 1/4 or so full and go through that much in a couple of weeks. The spices for refilling are all kept in the freezer.
It helps to cook a lot.
Can someone explain the Fireball clue for 31D to me? I got it from the crosses, but I just do not understand it at all. Thanks in advance.
From the PDF answer key:
“•• and – are Morse code for I and T, while India and TANGO are those letters in the NATO phonetic alphabet.”
In Across Lite the clue reads “31. : :: India:__”. In the .puz file they look like unknown unicode. I assume AL cannot render dots (though it clearly can render dashes). Usually such problems are accompanied by a note about the software’s limitations, but not here, so far as I can tell.
I had to go back and look at the PDF to see what that clue was meant to be. Once I got the aha, I loved it. It was my favorite clue in the puzzle.
Thanks, Evan. That one gets a yellow card from me. :)
I guess it’s because it’s Thursday, but unclued theme entries was just annoying. If you don’t follow the route of the cussed word ladder you just have to solve around those answers; the puzzle wasn’t hard, at least there was that.
What’s interesting about FRIEND ZONE is that it was coined (by the writers of “Friends”) in a more innocuous way. In the first season (so early to mid-90s) Joey and Ross have this exchange.
JOEY: It’s never gonna happen. You and Rachel. You waited too long to make your move and now you’re in the Friend Zone.
ROSS: I’m not in the Friend Zone.
JOEY: Ross, you’re mayor of the zone. I’m telling you, she has no idea what you’re thinking.
If you don’t ask her out soon, you’re gonna end up stuck in the zone forever.
The scolding is 100% towards Ross for concealing his feelings and letting a non-romantic relationship develop to the point where it would be too awkward to come clean. There is zero blame put on Rachel because “she has no idea what [he’s] thinking.”
Of course, the Fireball clue presents FRIEND ZONE as a verb, of which the crushee is the subject and the crusher is the object, and that usage is very much tied to unjustified male grievance and female objectification.
I grew up in the 90s when the “friend zone” still had this innocuous and universally recognized sense. Then, only in the last couple years, it has gained this extremely toxic and contentious usage in some circles, but I think most people still have that older understanding of it.
I agree that the “Friends” example doesn’t blame Rachel, although “Friends” was so full of gender essentialism and frat-boy bulls*** that I hesitate to use it as an example of anything.
I don’t really care what “most people” understand it to mean (although everyone I asked understands it as I do). It’s still worth pushing back on and speaking out about the toxic definition and the vile sense of sexual entitlement and misogyny that it connotes. Not sure what you mean by “contentious.” If you’re suggesting that I’m contentious, you’re damn right I am. My daughter leaves for college in two months. I would prefer she not be murdered because she declines to sleep with some guy who thinks he’s entitled to her body.
I think sometimes on this blog it’s hard to tell the difference between the reviewer “I object to this clue-answer pair because of the offensive assumptions it makes” vs. “this word/phrase is inherently offensive regardless of the clue.” So it’s valid to object to the way it was clued, but I don’t know if simply banning all uses of FRIEND ZONE from polite society is productive towards ending misogyny. What if the clue was “short-lived MTV reality show where people confessed their romantic feelings toward their buds”?
It’s been my experience that people who are deep into feminist or anti-feminist discourse read it the way you do, but most people who are not think of the Friends episode or the general, relatable feeling of having unrequited romantic feelings. By contentious, I just meant that it’s a term that makes people angry and fight.
In general, I think you’re right to let people know what that term has metastasized into, but I’m sympathetic to people that feel genuinely blindsided by how toxic the talk is around what has long been an innocuous and goofy phrase.
Unfortunately we are not longer in the Friends friend-zone zone.
This is the best possible response.
Worst part of the NYT was ROYAL BLOOD, which is based on the disgusting idea that some people are better than others because of their bloodlines.
My working theory is that virtually all of us are descendants of royals, if you search back far enough. On the other hand, we all have some crooks in our family trees, if you search back far enough. Some kings and killers may even be the same ancestors. What’s more disgusting we each can decide.
Yup, that’s what monarchy is. I don’t think this puzzle should be taken as an endorsement of monarchism.
I often visit this site to check my solutions and read the, often witty, commentary. I do not come here to read the diatribe posted by Jenni. It’s a friggin’ crossword! Remember that.
Dude…you don’t get to go to an openly feminist blog and complain about it being feminist.
Where did that rule come from?
It’s not an actual rule, just seems absurd to me.
And, Brian, Fred came here to complain about Jenni’s “diatribe”, not against her feminist bent.
Oh come on, Jenni’s “diatribe” about gendered language is clearly coming from a feminist perspective. I highly doubt she’d get the same reaction if she ranted about traffic or the weather. Fred’s post is essentially “shut up and dribble” in crossword-land.
Fred’s post was essentially, “There is a time and place for everything. This is neither the time nor the place for the opinions expressed.”
Incorrect, Fred. Team Fiend has determined that this is indeed the time and the place for such things. You’re welcome to start your own crossword blog where such things are never mentioned.
Fred, if you come here for the commentary, surely you realize it’s going to be feminist, anti-racist, welcoming of LGBTQ+ people, globally concerned, and so on. If you don’t like those parts, you don’t have to read them. And no, they won’t be labeled for you.
Today’s NYT was too much effort for too little reward. That being said, it wasn’t the worst puzzle I solved unlike what the current average rating suggests. I like that it wasn’t just a ladder puzzle and there was a twist to it, that gets a couple of execution points from me. Some interesting fill, a couple of interesting clues. Overall, meh. 2.8 stars.
Re: BEQ review.
What means “SCROD is a lie”?
There is no such fish as a “scrod”. Way way back, fancy Boston hotels like the Parker House would want only the top level of fish (surest to be the youngest and freshest) from the day’s catch. They didn’t know whether that was going to be cod or haddock or pollack or some other white fish, so they began listing it on the menu as “scrod”. That way, they weren’t promising haddock when they actually had cod.
“Scrod” (from a Cornish word for “split”) is more about the preparation of a fish too young to filet or steak and not really about refusing to commit to the species, btw. But yes, any gadid will do.
The clue says “seafood alternative,” not “species of fish.” Assuming you know that scrod means small, split, fish from the cod family and order it from a seafood menu, the clue seemed spot on. Still not sure what the lie is, unless we assume that people think it’s filet of scrodfish.