Saturday, July 7, 2018

LAT 8;00 (Derek) 


Newsday 36:57 (Derek) 


NYT 6:30 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 7 18, no 0707

This one’s got some interesting long fill, but the overall vibe was one of awkward filler gluing everything together. First up: I liked TWINKLE, “TALK TO ME,” LITTLE-KNOWN FACT, KEEPS IT TOGETHER, the silly DANK MEMES (we store these in the dankest cellar we can find), IDIOLECT, LAFAYETTE, ATOM ANT (just now, I typed ADAM ANT first), and THE MASK. Oh, and WACKY TOBACKY … though I had to wait for the crossings to figure out how TOBACKY was being spelled.

In the debit column, we find 1-Across ABLARE (raise your hand if you’ve never said that a radio was ABLARE), the awkward BEAT ON/ASKS TO/AS A SET/STAY IN foursome, plural AYS atop singular SCISSOR (the latter is OK, but the contrast …), now-stodgy NETSURF, HE-GOATS (we call ’em billygoats), and really, most of the 3s.

Four more things:

  • 56a. [One waiting for the captain?], MESS BOY. Is this … like … a 17th-century English nautical sort of thing? I don’t read those books.
  • 29d. [Loss of a sound at the start of a word, as “opossum” to “possum”], APHERESIS. Whoa Nelly! I don’t think I knew this linguistic sense of the word. I’m more familiar with it from kidney friends undergoing plasmapheresis, which is one of several types of therapeutic apheresis. Dropping a sound from the beginning of a word is much easier to tolerate than medical apheresis.
  • 44d. [Moves at a crawl?], SWIMS. As in doing the front crawl. Cute clue!
  • 48a. [Internet in-jokes that have gone viral, in modern lingo], DANK MEMES. I have no idea how the word DANK got repurposed to be a good thing. Now, if you are a traditionalist soul who reflexively derides anything that is called an Internet meme, let me draw your attention to assorted Twitter parodies of the William Carlos Williams poem, “This Is Just to Say.” Some folks riff on the poem while following WCW’s structure. Some combine the short “saddest story” of “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” with WCW’s plums poem. Some put WCW’s plums concept into parodied pop lyrics. Read here and here for a sampling. (Disclaimer: I love these dang memes, especially the “I have eaten the plums” ones.)

3.6 stars from me.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “For the Record” — Jim’s review

Our theme is revealed at 127a with the clue [Record, or, read differently, a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. The answer is DISC or, re-parsed, D IS C. In the theme answers, (most) Ds get changed to Cs. Bonus points if you also re-parsed “Record” as “Re: C or D.” I don’t know if this was really intended, but it’s kind of a cool coincidence.

WSJ – Sat, 7.7.18 – “For the Record” by Pancho Harrison

  • 23a [Nickname for a geezer with exceptional painting skills?] THE ARTFUL CODGER. I like this entry best, but really, it should not have been allowed into the puzzle. It features the only D in all of the theme entries. With a revealer that says D IS C, I expect all Ds to become Cs (in the theme entries at least).
  • 33a [Attack a Colorado brewery?] STORM COORS. Why would you do this? There are so many other better beers out there.
  • 40a [Sit and share tears with a grieving friend?] HANG OUT TO CRY. Kind of the opposite of the base phrase, right? The clue feels awkward though. Something like [Have a sob session?] feels more natural.
  • 59a [“Place stamp here,” e.g.?] POSTAGE CUE
  • 81a [Noah’s 38-Down?] FIRST CRAFT. 38d being ARK.
  • 94a [Scam involving nonstick pans?] THE TEFLON CON
  • 101a [Results of some IRS audits?] TAX COLLARS
  • 118a [Busted pot grower awaiting arraignment, say?] FARMER IN THE CELL

None of these struck my funny bone too hard though I did like the first one pretty well. The last one, too, is pretty good. I’d like to hear the rest of the song. Gives a whole new meaning to the line, “The farmer takes a wife.” Also, it would make a good entry for a set of fractured nursery rhyme songs. Other songs in the set might be “Mary Had a Little Scam” and “Little Bo {Bleep}.”

Highlights: COOL CAT, TAPIOCA, GOAL POST, MAHALO, ARAPAHOE, and HEDGEHOG. The clue for COOL CAT threw me. I thought [Hipster] was a newish term, but it goes back to the 40s.

Not-s0-high-lights: OTOES, OILMEN, TSR, plural ECRUS, NAHA [Okinawan port], ERDE [Our planet, to Kepler], and NYRO [“Wedding Bell Blues” songwriter Laura].

All in all, a pretty standard change-a-letter theme. Nothing really stands out as especially sparkly, and while there’s some rough fill, the crossings are fair enough. 3.2 stars from me.

I could close out with the NYRO song (as performed by The 5th Dimension in 1966), but I’ll just link to it. It’s pretty cheesy.

I’m going to opt to try to tickle your funny bone with the best known use of TAPIOCA.

Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

My friend Kyle Dolan has today’s LAT puzzle again this week. This is a clean 70-worder that played just a tad tougher than usual for me, although I don’t remember exactly trying to rush through this one. The conditions for a fast time have to be there, and with a 6-year-old here, they aren’t always there! My next project: noice cancelling headphones! I have had a cheap pair before, but not a nice pair, like Beats or Bose. Perhaps the slightly cheaper Sony or JBL versions might be the way to go. I will keep you posted!

And yes, there is a typo in the grid, and I am ashamed that I spelled Harry CARAY‘s name wrong! OK, I will instead say that I didn’t know the Bob Dylan song! 4.5 stars for Kyle’s Saturday challenge.

Some notes:

  • 1A [Shiloh’s parent’s familiarly] BRANGELINA – Unbelievably, this got no hits at I could have sworn I have seen this in a puzzle before, but evidently not in a NYT. Aren’t they split up now? I get my celeb info from the tabloids in the checkout aisles!
  • 17A [2005 Cusack/Thornton thriller/comedy, with “The”] ICE HARVEST – Here is a movie I have never heard of. Let’s rent it today!
  • 43A [Some code taps] DITS – My uncle was a big ham radio enthusiast, and he taught me Morse code years ago. It is rarely used now, but it comes in handy a lot in puzzle. Dits are the dots, dahs are the dashes, and this was how you described the letters when speaking them out.
  • 44A [Shell-shaped dessert brand] CHOCO TACO – This sounds good on these hot days!
  • 55A [Shel Silverstein poem “Hug __”] O’ WAR – Aww! So cute!
  • 2D [Tamiflu manufacturer] ROCHE – With Wimbledon going on, a clue for Tony Roche might be appropriate, but he played a long time ago.
  • 5D [Feigned enthusiastic greeting] GLAD HAND – Ah, the old politician move. Best entry in the puzzle.
  • 10D [Constitution’s ratification section] ARTICLE VII – How many of you knew this right away? Yes, me neither.
  • 32D [Rich pasta dish] CARBONARA – I was a big fan of Quizo’s chicken carbonara sandwich back when we had Quizno’s in the area. I don’t really eat these rich dishes anymore.
  • 43D [Prima __ ] DONNAS – This seems like it needs a plural indication. Perhaps this is where you could say [Summer and Shalala] or something like that.

That is all for today. Next LAT writeup for me is Tuesday.

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

My elation after cruising through last week’s Stumper has been quickly quashed by the agony of this week. I shouldn’t say agony, since I knew I would crack it at some point, but this one took, let me see, FIVE TIMES as long as last week’s puzzle! We have a typical Longo Stumper this week. Difficult, but they always seem to look a lot easier once the grid is filled in. There is basically nothing in the grid that I am unfamiliar with, but the clues are so hard that I felt a little stupid at times. But sometimes these puzzles that are this difficult literally make me a little angry; this one was enjoyable. It is a beautiful morning here in northern Indiana today, and how nice to enjoy a puzzle on a nice morning. A solid 4.8 stars for this roughie.

Some notes:

  • 24A [Chinese American designer] ANNA SUI – Why do I think of architects first when I hear this clue? Perhaps because I don’t know fashion at all.
  • 27A [Who Priebus succeeded in 2011] STEELE – This guy has made a lot of news in the Trump era, but this clue takes you all the way back 7 years, which makes it a tad tough.
  • 42A [It’s ignored in “Alphabetisierung”] EINE – Someone will have to explain this to me. It’s obviously a German thing.
  • 10D [Irons, in “The Man in the Iron Mask”] ARAMIS – Tricky!!!! First, you think they’re talking about the fetters or something. Then I confidently filled in JEREMY, even though that J seemed like trouble. But the answer is the role he played. Well played, Frank!
  • 25D [Like Clement Moore’s children] NESTLED – Someone will have to explain this one too. (Never mind: I looked it up myself. He is the supposed author of The Night Before Christmas, which describes children “nestled all snug in their beds.” You’re welcome.)
  • 32D [Oceanarium brand] MARINELAND – There are several of these around. Even though I haven’t heard of these in a while, easily gettable with crossing letters.
  • 44D [SST contract awarder (2018)] NASA – I heard they were building these again, but I didn’t think it was NASA doing it. Another toughie, which means I should watch the news closer!
  • 46D [“Wheels When You Want Them” sloganeer] ZIPCAR – I have never heard of or used this. That makes it tough!
  • 55D [It’s north of Kansas City on I-35] AMES – There are a lot of towns north of KC! A common crossword answer clued in a very tough way.

I could go on, because there are so many good ones in this puzzle. Have a great weekend!

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30 Responses to Saturday, July 7, 2018

  1. David L says:

    DNF for me because of DANKMEMES, which I’ve never come across before. I had THATSSONOTON for 7D, and I realized DANNMEMES must be incorrect, but I couldn’t come up with the right letter.

    ABLARE is a silly word, especially at 1A. If you’re going to use that kind of thing, please tuck it away in another part of the puzzle.

  2. GLR says:


    I’m not much into internet memes, so DANK MEME was totally unfamiliar to me (I kept thinking that “N” must be an “R”). After googling, I guess I get it, but to your point, it doesn’t really sound like DANK is a “good thing” here.


    “Dank meme refers to viral internet content that, due to overuse or passing trends, has lost its value or currency. It can also refer to exceptionally unique or odd memes.”

    I’m also not sure the clue quite reflects either of these senses.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m not sure that definition quite reflects actual use. My 18-year-old says dank memes are good ones, not stale ones. I’ve only known the phrase in that counterintuitive sense. Will Shortz has Joel Fagliano and Sam Ezersky in the office, both in their 20s, and I’d assume they’re both attuned to current usage among young people.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      P.S. I don’t give the same credence I give Oxford, Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Macmillan, and other dictionaries with a long track record of knowing their stuff.

    • Milo says:

      This young person can confirm that DANK is a good thing, most often in reference to WACKY TOBACKY with a strong smell, which I imagine is the etymology of this use. Also used to describe food, music, and (facetiously) memes — anything good in an overwhelming, sensory way.

      See also: funk, funky

      • GLR says:

        The article mentions the positive sense of “dank” with regard to pot, and notes other adjectives (bad, sick) that have had their sense flip from negative to positive in slang. But it then talks about “dark meme” as a flip of the flip – back to negative. I’m lost – but it probably won’t make a lot of difference in my life.

        Amy, I agree about the “authoritativeness” of I went to AHD and M-W first, but neither one had a listing, so googling led me to

      • alexa shortbush says:

        Love those dank nugs. Wish I had some

  3. PJ Ward says:

    WSJ – Laura Nyro was wonderful. Jim, you should get a copy of “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession” and give it a listen. Her influence on other songwriters is widely acknowledged. But don’t believe me, watch Elton John and Elvis Costello (sorry about the Spanish subtitles).

  4. Norm says:

    I was quite amused by the ASJ, but wondered: Are we supposed to be able to parse the “For the Record” title as well? The C or D at the end makes me think there might be something there, but I can’t make sense of the rest of it. Anyone?

    • pannonica says:

      “Bonus points if you also re-parsed ‘Record’ as ‘Re: C or D.’ I don’t know if this was really intended, but it’s kind of a cool coincidence.”

      • Norm says:

        Yeah. I posted before your review was there, I think, and if that was intended, I give a yellow card for the useless “FOR THE” letters.

        • pannonica says:

          Not mine, Jim’s.

          And I didn’t cross-examine the timestamps.

          • Norm says:

            Okay, “the review” — and “if that was intended” was a reference to the constructor’s choice of title. :)

  5. Lise says:

    Derek: EINE, “A”, is ignored in Alphabetisierung (alphabetization). That was my interpretation, anyway. Someone who speaks German might have a more correct explanation.

    I too fell for “Jeremy”. The NE was the toughest area for me but I am thrilled with how well I was able to get the rest of the puzzle. I may someday be ready for the Fireball.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: Generally liked it but there were a few too many “LITTLE KNOWN FACTS” in some cases intersecting each other…

  7. Richard says:

    Loved the linguistic minitheme (IDIOLECT and APHERESIS) along with the pot nanotheme (DANK and WACKYTOBACKY) in the NYT.

  8. Burak says:

    NYT was fun, but was a DNF for me because I couldn’t figure out ASIAM and MESSBOY despite playing the alphabet game for a while. I had ALIAS and SESSBOY which in retrospect is silly, but felt like my best choice at the time. I also had question marks about BENJAMITE/ITT and MAJA/JOSIAH so I wasn’t exactly sure of what to change.

    But anyway, for those and similar other reasons, Mr. McCarthy’s puzzle didn’t totally do it for me. I always enjoy his theme ideas, longer entries and clues; but I feel like his fill choices aren’t always the best which makes his puzzles less pleasant to solve than it should be. But the potential is there, and I get excited when I see his name in the byline. Also, apparently it’s his wedding day today so congratulations!

    3.55 stars.

  9. Ethan says:

    It’s hard to see LITTLE KNOWN FACT without thinking of Cliff Clavin from Cheers. I wonder if the original clue referenced him.

    • placematfan says:

      Agreed. “Cheers” rocked my face off in so many ways… and set so many standards.

  10. Gene says:

    LITTLEKNOWNFACT – the answer to 3D in the Stumper is the clue to 46A in the NYT.

  11. Chris Wooding says:

    NYT: My information comes from oceanography, but I imagine many ships (any Navy Xworders?) still require a worker in the galley, producing food to be served in the mess. In my day, this person was called a messman, but I imagine a more PC term now exists.

  12. JohnH says:

    NYT had so much I didn’t know, between proper names, contemporary phrases, and linguistics. I’m not sure how I finished it without cheating, although the crossing of MALIK and ITT was just a lucky guess, as was the mary jane entry with its consequences for crossings. So I want to admire the novelty. Still, unlike the phrasing of a clue, I didn’t find the trivia fun.

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