Saturday, June 16, 2018

LAT 5:40 (Derek) 


Newsday 18:40 (Derek) 


NYT 6:56 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I’m filling in for Amy while she’s away. I usually do the Saturday puzzle in the paper on Saturday morning while drinking a cup of coffee and I don’t usually time myself. Under seven minutes feels fast to me, and this puzzle felt a bit easier than the average Saturday.

It also played more like an indie puzzle than an NYT. I daresay, even without consulting a database, that there are two entries in here that have not previously graced the puzzle pages of the Gray Lady. I trust you all will correct me if I’m wrong. I’m thinking of NETFLIX ORIGINAL and EXCUSE YOU, both excellent additions. I suspect the fifteen-letter central feature was the seed entry for the puzzle.

Other things I enjoyed:

NYT 6/16, solution grid

  • 2d [Path of an overnight star] is ZERO TO HERO, which may also be a new one for the NYT. I don’t know if this originated with Disney’s Hercules, but that’s where I know it from.
  • 6a [Villain’s part, often] is BASS. Why is this? The same reason that ingenues are sopranos and funny sidekicks are altos.
  • 10a [Letters before Q] are LGBT. If you haven’t yet gotten your edition of Queer Qrosswords, it’s not too late. Make a donation to an LGBTQ+ charity and get a pack of very fine crosswords by LGBTQ constructors. I’ve done them and they are EXCELLENT.
  • 31a [Doctors’ orders?] are AHS. I’m embarrassed to admit this was the last entry I filled in. Duh. 18a [Antibiotic ointment], on the other hand, was a gimme – it’s NEOSPORIN (a highly allergenic and not particularly useful substance).
  • 36d [The King, late in his career] was, indeed, FAT ELVIS.
  • More contemporary lingo shows up in the cluing for 44a [Embiggen] (for ENLARGE) and the answer to 48a [Flawlessly styled, in modern slang]: ON FLEEK.

It’s a very Scrabbly puzzle. In addition to the aforementioned EXCUSE YOUZERO TO HERO  and NETFLIX ORIGINAL, we have AZERABENTO BOX and I OBJECT. I didn’t see a Q, so I don’t think it’s a pangram.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Anderson Cooper hosted THE MOLE and that “Jay LENO’S Garage” won an Emmy.

Harold Jones’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Forefathers” — Jim’s review

About a month ago in these pages, I asked, “Does this mean we will be seeing a PA-inserted theme next month?” And here we are.

WSJ – Sat, 6.16.18 – “Forefathers” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Chief of the kitchen police?PARING MASTER. Ring Master.
  • 28a [Template for making prison release decisions?PAROLE MODEL. Role model.
  • 47a [Line at a stop sign?] PAUSED CARS. Used cars.
  • 60a [“Would you consider giving me liberty instead of death?”?] PATRICK QUESTION. Trick question.
  • 81a [“Chopped” or “Top Chef”?] PALATE SHOW. Late Show.
  • 96a [Uproars over infringing inventors’ rights?] PATENT FLAPS. Tent flaps. Unlike the others, the second word here has a complete change in meaning. While that makes it a stronger entry, it’s not consistent.
  • 104a [Walkout in response to unruly kids?] PARENT STRIKE. Rent strike.

An okay theme, but after you get the pattern the first time, the rest is pretty straight-forward.

Further, there are unthematic PAs in the grid, including PAS at 94d [Dance step]. Also, PANT LEG, OPAL, SPATS, “I PASS,” SPATE, PAIL, and PARIS. I’m of two minds on this. As a constructor, I would try to avoid that bigram except in the theme answers, but as a solver, I can’t say that it was distracting.

My high school grad (as of tonight) who will be attending U. of Denver in the fall which features some fine TUDOR-STYLE architecture.

On the plus side, the fill is much better than the MA-themed grid from last month. That one had a plethora of iffy fill and tough proper names. This one not so much. LAVALAVA (25a, [Samoan’s skirt]) is pretty unusual, but I think I recall seeing it in the WSJ before. What’s more, there’s “NO CAN DO,” JELLIES, GO ALL IN, ICY STARE, FLIPPERS, “LOVE ME DO,” SIDE TRIP, TUDOR STYLE (67d, [It incorporates decorative half-timbering]), and the nifty trio of HAUNTED, TELL-TALE, and PULSATE (though no POE or HEART).

As a matter of fact, I can’t really find anything in the fill that gives me pause. There’s the partial A MILE, but that’s it. Amazingly clean for a 21x grid!

Cluing is mostly straight-forward, but a few clever ones here and there kept it fresh. But since it’s almost time for me to get ready for my son’s high school graduation, I’m going to cut this short. Summing up, the theme is serviceable, but the cleanliness of the grid and fun fill make this one a winner. 3.7 stars from me.

Happy Father’s Day to those who celebrate!

Neville Fogarty & Andy Kravis’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I don’t remember exactly when I solved this puzzle, but it was a relaxing time evidently, because I jammed through this one. 72 words in this one, and normally a word count in a themeless higher than 70 means the fill is better, and that seems to be the case here. When you get down to 70, 68, or even less entries, you’re forced into longer entries and maybe not always the best choices. This one seems nice and lively, but with the duo named in the byline I am not surprised! 4.6 stars this morning from me.

Some highlights:

    • 15A [Traditional November race] TURKEY TROT – Gotta do a workout before all of that food, right?
    • 22A [Needle holder] TONEARM – I think this is one word! I have a pair of audiophile headphones coming later this summer, and I also have a rudimentary amp. The amp DOES make a difference in listening, and we will see if the headphones are worth it. I say all this because true audiophiles use vinyl on a record player, and that is the type of “needle” referred to in this clue.
    • 30A [Laker teammate of Magic] KAREEM – There is a lot of debate on who is the GOAT in the NBA between Jordan and LeBron, but Kareem’s résumé holds up to both of them. LeBron is still going, so when it is all said and done he likely may match up better to Kareem than Jordan did. MJ would have quite a story if it wasn’t for the baseball experiment!
    • 60A [Booted, in old football] DROP-KICKED – Watching football as I write this! World Cup fútbol, that is!
    • 68A [1999 Pacino/Crowe film about a whistleblower] THE INSIDER – I’ve never seen it. Imagine that!
    • 11D [Subtitle of #48 in AFI’s “100 Years…100 Songs”] QUE SERA, SERA – From The Man Who Knew Too Much, a Hitchcock classic. It won an Oscar!

  • 12D [Cosmopolitan essential] TRIPLE SEC – I like this drink! I am not a heavy drinker, but I am a fan of fruity tastes, and triple sec is basically an orange liqueur.
  • 26D [Law recipient] MOSES – A tie-in with 50D [Jewish authority] TORAH seems like a natural here. I am kinda surprised they didn’t do that.
  • 53D [Quaint contraction] ‘TWERE – I don’t know if I have the apostrophe in the right spot, but this is the only tough entry that I found obscure.
  • 56D [Grammy winner India.__ ] ARIE – I am sure I have mentioned her before as being crossword famous!

Enjoy the soccer! Have a great weekend!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

I awoke this morning, checked my Facebook, and saw a post by Erik Agard mentioning “a gorgeous stumper.” I couldn’t agree more. There isn’t an entry longer than 9 letters in the grid, so that usually makes these themeless puzzles a little easier. Usually. I got through about half of the puzzle in about 5-6 minutes, and I was excited to finally get close to my ten minute goal. Then it turned into a classic Wilber and I ground to a halt. Lower left was the easiest, but you can plainly see my error marks all over the right side of the grid. There are a few toughies in the grid, but it is a Stumper, after all! A solid 4.7 stars for this one.

Lots to discuss:

  • 17A [Guy discomfitted by progressive attitudes] BROFLAKE – Very nice. New term to me, but I get what it means.
  • 22A [Nautically agile] YARE – I don’t own a boat, and this is also a new term to me. But the dictionary says it’s good! No indication in the def that it is strictly a nautical term, but I will go along!
  • 58A [Tanini-based confection] HALVA – I have had tahini paste recently, but I have not had this. I will have to investigate this!
  • 67A [Setting for many mass movements] MINOR KEY – This was the head-slapping entry of the grid for me. Arguably my favorite clue in the puzzle.
  • 3D [German Dada artist] GROSZ – In my liberal arts studies, I learned about the Dada movement, and I vaguely remember this painter. Here is an example of his work:
  • 11D [Apt name for a pet Mexican lizard] IGGY – As in short for iguana? Sure!
  • 21D [Slot-machine bonus] FREE SPIN – We have a new casino right here in South Bend, but I am not a gambler. I hear they have good food, though!
  • 53D [“Make getting together effortless” site] E-VITE – I got an “evite” earlier this year! Which means I’ve been getting spam from them as well. Still don’t know this slogan

I could go on, but the World Cup is on! I’ll leave you with this:

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35 Responses to Saturday, June 16, 2018

  1. David says:

    I still don’t get how sediment is LEES

    • Jeff says:

      Webster might help out…

    • Jenni says:

      It’s a wine term. The “lees” are the solids at the bottom of the bottle.

      • Martin says:

        Actually, lees are mostly the dead yeast found at the bottom of a fermentation vat. Wine is “racked” off the lees after a suitable time, depending on how yeasty the winemaker wants the wine to be, but are not bottled.

        Sediment that is thrown during bottle aging is not usually called lees — it’s just sediment. An exception is the lees produced by the second fermentation, in the bottle, during Champagne production. It is removed by a process called disgorgement, after which the Champagne receives its second and final cork.

        Some Champagne is labeled RD for “recently disgorged” (in French), which indicates that it was aged on the lees as long as possible to add yeastiness. Some white wines are “sur lie,” aged on the lees, for the same reason.

        About lees.

        • PJ Ward says:

          One of my favorite white wines – Muscadet – is often aged on the lees. Muscadet is inexpensive and a wonderful wine. Known for being paired with oysters, it goes very nicely with other seafood.

          Muscadet is not named for a place. This is very unusual for a French wine. I’m sure there are others but I can’t think of one.

          • Martin says:

            We love Muscadet and Sancerre, too, as great alternatives to expensive white wines.

            Wines of Alsace are often labeled by varietal and not place, but other that (which of course has historical reasons for being anomalous) I don’t know of another example either. It’s doubly odd because Muscadet is hardly “musky” or muscat-like.

  2. Chairchick says:

    I’m surprised WON OVER and WIN AN OSCAR made it into the same grid. I guess standards have loosened up.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      well, at least it’s too different senses of WIN — to persuade vs. to achieve an award

  3. alexa shortbush says:

    “Fat Elvis”, though true, seems mean. “Fat Elvis, can I have your autograph?”
    Don’t be cruel.

  4. Steve Manion says:

    This was a hard puzzle for me. I thought that there were several strange entries: WIN AN OSCAR (roll your own IMO), IDAHO STATE (uninteresting long entry), and FAT ELVIS (no complaints from the PC crowd?).

    AZERA, BENTO BOX and ON FLEEK were new for me. I enjoyed ZERO TO HERO.



    • Jenni Levy says:

      “FAT” is an adjective. It’s not hate speech (and I say that as someone who has been fat for over forty years). The clue simply says that Elvis was fat late in his career, which he was. It does not say he was disgusting, ugly, or piggish. Nothing to see here. We can all move on.

      • john farmer says:

        True, “fat” is an adjective and can be used in a neutral sense. But it’s also a highly charged adjective that can be demeaning, so most of us would be very careful before calling anyone fat to their face. Schoolkids learn at an early age not to call other kids Fat Freddie or Fat Fiona because it’s not nice. They can point to the dictionary but the teacher is still going to tell them to stop being mean to their classmates.

        I’m with Alexa above. FAT ELVIS felt gratuitous to me, and at the very least could have used a different clue to put it in context (maybe something like an “in tabloids” tag).

  5. Martin says:

    How soon we forget. “Fat Elvis” entered the language in 1992 when the Post Office had the public decide whether the Elvis commemorative stamp should depict the early-rock icon or the Las Vegas icon. Although not the official labels (which were “A” and “B”), people called the stamps “skinny Elvis” and “fat Elvis.”

    • David T. says:

      Stamp or no stamp, 36 Down is unkind. I kept avoiding filling in the first three-letter word because I couldn’t believe FAT ELVIS would pass muster as the answer. I’ve never been an Elvis fan but am still bothered by this characterization. I must disagree with Jenni’s dismissal and concur with the thoughts of John Farmer, Alexa, Dook and Howard B. I substantially down-rated this puzzle due to this and the roll-your-own WIN AN OSCAR. Funny, too, about NETFLIX ORIGINAL. Yes, an original production for NETFLIX. But, a retread of the far superior true originals from the UK in the 1990’s.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        I know this is a minority opinion. I think it’s important. The idea that “fat” is “unkind” (and, for girls, the worst possible insult) is part of our eating-disordered culture. And as Martin pointed out, “Fat Elvis” was the common term when the stamps came out. I’m not surprised that people cringed when they heard it. I think it’s worth thinking about that and pushing back at it.

        A few months ago I called out a clue that was fatphobic, and was corrected (and excoriated) in comments. This time I didn’t call one out because I don’t think it’s fat-phobic and find the same thing happening. That’s interesting.

        • Martin says:

          One final point on this particular usage: I don’t think many of the people who talked about “fat Elvis” and “skinny Elvis” when the terms were coined had any pejorative intent. Elvis was, and remains, an idol to most people and the folks that were engaged in the discussion regarding which stamp to issue were even more worshipful.

          Of course, if it causes you to wince today that’s your personal reaction and is valid. But the context of the coinage is another reason that “fat Elvis” and “fat slob” are very different invocations of adipose tissue.

  6. David L says:

    The Stumper was good although not as high on the Stumperation scale as it often is. The NE corner was toughest for me — ANN, IGGY, YARE, and DISARRAYS (as a verb).

    I wasn’t familiar with SCALAR except as the mathematical/physical term, but evidently ‘ladderlike’ is its original and etymological meaning. ‘Stairlike’ is not quite the same, but that’s OK.

    The clue for HERO — ‘Popular Super Bowl party centerpiece’ — conjured up in my mind a rather pathetic scene of a loud and noisy get-together with a sad and lonely sandwich sitting on a large plate in the middle of the action.

    • alexa shortbush says:

      Did you know that when you order a ?-foot long party sub, you’re really getting many shorter subs put together (with the loaf ends cut off)?

      It is a scam. Besides, what oven could bake such a monster bread?

  7. Martin says:

    Not sad and lonely. Lots of places deliver six-foot heroes (heros?) to Super Bowl parties. It’s an easy, if unimaginative, way to feed a crowd.

  8. Lise says:

    I just now printed the Stumper and discovered that the clue for 63d is missing. I found it on the online version; in case anyone else has just noticed this, the clue is

    63 down: Keep away

  9. Penguins says:

    NYT felt like a quiz.

    Stumper’s SE corner was nasty with DASHY, AMARANTH, SCALAR, RABELAIS, HALVA. Clues for AMI and MINOR KEY were nice though.

    Really enjoyed the LAT.

  10. Burak says:

    Two great puzzles in a row in NYT! Just like yesterday’s, this one had a couple of problematic spots and the cluing game could’ve been better, but nonetheless, a very enjoyable puzzle to solve. ONFLEEK made it to the CrossWorld. Amazing. If only it had a few clues that got a chuckle out of me. (AZERA/RIOJA held me off a little bit too)

    4.05 stars.

  11. ahimsa says:

    NYT: This is way too picky but I lived in South Carolina. The state flag has a palmetto tree, not a PALM tree (26 Down). I don’t know whether that’s a type of palm but I’ve never heard anyone call it anything other than a palmetto. :-)

    Here’s one article I found about the flag:

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Have to agree – this one raised my proverbial eyebrows. Palms are more likely to be found out here in Southern California. After all, isn’t SC the “Palmetto State”?

      • Martin says:

        The palmetto is a kind of palm. It means “small palm.”

        • ahimsa says:

          “The palmetto is a kind of palm.”

          True. But just as a palmetto is a type of palm, a husky is a type of dog. Would it be okay to clue DOG as “U Conn mascot?”

          I hope this does not come across the wrong way. I’m really not trying to argue! This answer has simply made me wonder where the boundaries are on any “X is a type of Y” situation.

  12. Ah Chang says:

    Due to my high demand job, I just found the time to check the two week’s past WSJ puzzle, “Identity Theft.” I find it amusing that a “man”who’s a stay at home dad who allows his wife to go out and ‘earn the bread’ and claims military time doesn’t know/identify/remember that an ADC is an aide-de-camp yet finds it appropriate to insult the commander in chief of that military.

    Jim, you can keep your political comments to yourself unless (and it’s unlikely) you’re man enough to withstand the ‘slings and arrows’ of men and women who actually appreciate having someone in White House who has the cajones to confront adversaries of our (again becoming a) great nation. See also Syria I, Syria II, DPRK.

    Like most who consider themselves as smarter than the rest of us, I’m certain that my comments make me a sexist, racist, xenophobe. Yet another reason to vote Trump in 2020 . . . . making the left crazy.

    By the way, Jim, if “Resident Rump” is the best you have, you truly aren’t smarter than the rest of us.


  13. JohnH says:

    I liked the NYT. Liked learning ZERO TO HERO, BOSS, and ON FLEEK. “letters before Q” kept me guessing quite a while. The SE was my last to get a foothold in.

    One thing I didn’t like was not being able to guess the crossing of the TV show and soccer star, whereas VING was gettable from crossings.

  14. Ed says:

    Another week with the Saturday puzzle easier than the Friday one.

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