Saturday, August 4, 2018

LAT 7:25 (Derek) 


Newsday 28:58 (Derek) 


NYT 8:42 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 8 4 18, no 0804

Okay, this puzzle messed. me. up. I’d fill in some answers, and then I’d hit something with a cross-reference in the clue, and change the x-reffed answer to what made sense with that other clue, which means I’d have to delete a crossing I’d already filled in. Well! The gimmick (on a Saturday!!) finally clicked when I had most of 56a. [With 1-Down, literally, downright dastardly] filled in and knew it had to be BAD TO THE BONE but there were only 10 squares. Aha! The “literally” in these x-ref clues modifies that apparent clue number rather than the phrase that follows. “1-Down, literally” is the number/word ONE, going Down in the grid. So BAD TO THE BO turns downward to complete the ONE and give you BAD TO THE BONE.

The other themers are:

  • 18a. [With 10-Down, literally, now and then], EVERY SO OFT with TEN going down, EVERY SO OFTEN.
  • 23a. [With 7-Down, literally, neither wins nor loses], BREAKS EVEN with the SEVEN down. I had ROXANE at 15a, and tried to make 7d into EVEN, but OXES was working with the crossings and the 7d clue didn’t at all fit for EVEN. Lo, I was confuzzled.
  • 50a. [With 8-Down, literally, one just taking up space], DEADWEIGHT with the EIGHT down.

I don’t generally like a stealthy theme stuffed into a Saturday puzzle, but a brain-twisting gimmick is always welcome. (YMMV.)

Four more things:

  • 1d. [Makeshift technique for female modesty], HAND BRA. I have never once heard this term.
  • 26a. [Some spicy brews], RYE BEERS. No idea what these are, or what sort of spices. Scandinavian spices?
  • 29d. [Unwanted state for a would-be lover], FRIEND ZONE. Can we not? Can we not legitimize this misogynist/incel framing? (Comments complaining about this note, demanding explanation, rebutting, or purporting to explain why “friend zone” is defensible may well be trashed. You know who you are.)
  • 43d. [It’s performed on hands and knees in yoga], COW POSE. I don’t do yoga and did not know this was a thing. I assume the yoga practitioners low gently when they assume the position?

Best fill: THE ARTIST, GENE POOL, CLIF BAR, POD RACE (maybe a bit dated, though), VERMEER, HEAD HOME, and MODEL U.N.

Worst fill: TRA AARE EES AMCS. I’m glad, though, that BELA wasn’t clued via the odious Karolyi—I’m still mad at him for lying about Kerri STRUG‘s vaulting on an injured ankle. He claimed afterwards that he’d told her it was totally her call, when actually we all saw him exhorting her, “You can do it!” so that she did a second vault and injured herself worse.

4.5 stars for the gimmick, but the inclusion of FRIEND ZONE with that clue knocks the puzzle down to 3.9 stars.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

It has been a minute since I have seen a C.C. puzzle! She has cranked out a lot of easier Tuesday puzzles that I have solved, but here we have another one of her themeless productions. We have a fairly wide-open 70-worder this week for the LAT Saturday challenge, and it seemed just a tad tougher than normal. I feel like I keep saying that! I still gotta go buy those noise-cancelling headphones for solving …

Lots of lively stuff in this one, and yes, I did make an error or two. Perhaps I am relaxing a bit since it isn’t ACPT time. I would love to be able to attend some of these other tournaments, but for us folks in the Midwest, it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps when I retire! A solid 4.5 stars from me.

Some notes on the puzzle:

  • 16A [Walks caused by walks, perhaps?] TRIPS TO THE MOUND – Best clue in the puzzle! Baseball season is still droning on, and it is hard to keep interest every day for 6 solid months. Perhaps someday they will shorten the too-long season.
  • 22A [“Battle of the Sexes” co-star] EMMA STONE – The event this movie is based on was just a little before my time; I had just turned 4 in September of 1973. I just saw this  movie a week or so ago, and Emma Stone is really good in it.
  • 34A [11th-century navigator] ERICSON – I feel like there are eight different ways to spell this name! Shouldn’t there be 2 Cs? Or a K somewhere??
  • 52A [Oct. 2017 Dodgers-Cubs matchup] NLCS – Baseball again! Perhaps a preview of a series this fall? Go Cubbies!!!
  • 61A [“Hamilton” Tony winner Leslie __ Jr.] ODOM – Famous now for his Nationwide commercials! One of these days I will go see this play!
  • 3D [‘That was a fact!”] “I DIDN’T LIE!” – Another natural phrase in a C.C. puzzle, and these are some of my faves.
  • 7D [Sch. in the 2008 film “21”] M.I.T. – I believe you! While I have seen Battle of the Sexes as mentioned above, I have not seen this movie. Time to scour Netflix …
  • 10D [Mars in music] BRUNO – I like his music; he is one of the few artists I will actually spend money on. I sometimes but hi-def versions of some music. Just got a fancy pair of high-end headphones, and it does make a difference!
  • 31D [Holdings for many seniors] AARP CARDS – I have one!! (Try not to laugh at my feeble attempt at redaction! And no, I am not 50 yet!!)
  • 32D [Aid in changing a light bulb] STEP STOOL – Or possibly [Holding by many a senior]!
  • 45D [“Being and Nothingness” author] SARTRE – Sounds deep!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

This was one of the hardest Stumpers I have seen in a while. I have also been watching the uber-talented solvers try to solve these Stumpers using only the down clues, and when I saw this puzzle, I was immediately hoping that someone was going to tackle this puzzle this week. It looks like, at the time of this writing, Andy Kravis is going to take the plunge. I almost feel sorry for him! At the same time, I am extremely curious to see how well he does. If you haven’t seen any of these videos, firstly, block out half of a day! Erik Agard solves the 7/21/18 Stumper with downs-only, and the vid is FIVE HOURS. On 7/28/18, Joon Pahk takes a stab. His video is only THREE AND A HALF HOURS, and he doesn’t finish!! I am trying to see if I can get the twitch feed to play on my living room TV while I do something else as Andy is in his agony!

About the puzzle now: as stated, it is a doozy. My timer said 28+ minutes, and it wasn’t on the entire time! If you like the agony that the Stumper provides, this is the week you’re in hog heaven. Matthew Sewell’s Stumpers seem to be getting tougher as he makes more of them. I may have to start watching out for his byline just like I watch out for Longo and Wilber! 4.6 stars for a puzzle I think I will be seeing a lot more of this weekend!

A few more things:

  • 1A Mini-mouthful in Mallorca TAPA – There is a restaurant around my house that has a tapa style brunch buffet on the weekends. I am getting hungry.
  • 18A “Cold shoulder” dress invented (1992) KARAN – Never heard of the term. A pic perhaps?
  • 20A [“Mamma Mia!” or “Escape to Margaritaville”] JUKEBOX MUSICAL – Wow. This is tough. This is one of the key entries I am waiting to see when it is solved.
  • 40A [Her first husband (1956-1962) was a Japanese composer] ONO – I made this harder than it is. It totally makes sense! As a matter of fact, who ELSE would it be at three letters?
  • 1D [Where singles gather in bars] TIP JAR – This will be a key answer to get. That J makes it hard, but I got this one rather quickly, so perhaps this solve may not be as bad as I fear it may be!
  • 22D [Co. that knows your address] ISP– I thought it might be IRS!!
  • 35D [Very comfortable] IN CLOVER– Who says this anymore??
  • 36D [Typical farmers’ market patron] LOCAVORE– I was thinking something along the lines of a vegan or vegetarian, or maybe a naturalist. This is my favorite entry of the puzzle.
  • 44D [Tennis pro Andy Murray, since 2017] SIR– I don’t think I remember seeing this! I know he got married, so my guess here was DAD! I think he has had a child recently.
  • 55D [Clothier Bean’s first name] LEON– Admit it: you didn’t know what EITHER L stood for!!

I could go on; there’s a lot of great stuff in here. Again, keep your eyes peeled on crossword Twitter for news of a live downs-only solve. And I think there may be many more coming.

Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Universal Pre-K” — Jim’s review

I wasn’t aware of the title’s meaning so I had to look it up. It’s a movement to make preschool education available to all children in the same way Kindergarten is.

That aside, it serves as our hint to the theme. I guess it can be interpreted to mean, “Everything before the K,” which is not a bad basis for a theme. Today we have phrases whose final word normally ends in K, but said K has been removed changing the meanings of the phrases. Clues have been altered wacky-style.

WSJ – Sat, 8.4.18 – “Universal Pre-K” by Randolph Ross

  • 23a [Head D.C. lobbyist?LEADER OF THE PAC. I sussed out the theme right off the bat, and that made getting the rest of them a lot easier.
  • 30a [Disney dwarf on a raft?FLOATING DOC. This one was pretty obvious once you know the theme, even with no crosses.
  • 48a [Fender photo?GUITAR PIC. Good misdirection in the clue.
  • 61a [Fashionable leather jackets and studded bracelets?] BIKER CHIC. I like this one despite, or maybe due to, the pronunciation change.
  • 77a [Mythical fledgling?] LITTLE ROC
  • 88a [Lobby in a meat market?] BUTCHER BLOC. I’ve always heard it as “butcher’s block.”
  • 102a [Play caller’s pouch?] QUARTERBACK SAC. We won’t elaborate.
  • 37d [Dodge a Tampa Bay tackler?] PASS THE BUC. Another good one.
  • 42d [Response to misidentifying an alligator?] THAT’S A CROC. Hrm, I think I normally hear “What a crock.”

I wasn’t too enthused about the theme at the start, but it grew on me, so I give it the thumbs up.

And there’s some good fill and a few sterling clues here, but there are a couple of difficult crossings as well.

First the good: AD NAUSEAM, (I had AD NAUSEUM at first), OUTBURST, SMACKER, and UPPER CUTS. HEPATITIS is not a nice thing, but I don’t mind it as an entry. Also good, “TRY THESE,” WINE BAR, and somewhat timely PODESTA [Hacking victim of the 2016 campaign].

I wasn’t too keen on the VIOLETTA [“La Traviata” courtesan] / ATACAMA [Chilean desert crossing]. The T made sense, but not knowing for sure, other letters might have worked as well.

Similarly, the RESTCURE / DOTTIE / CHA combo in the NW befuddled me. None of the clues made any sense to me: [Old treatment for a nervous disorder] / [West of Nashville] (I figured this was after a person’s name, but I didn’t know who) / [Oolong, in Brit slang]. I’m still perplexed that RESTCURE is an actual term, and I’ve never heard the slang CHA despite living in England for seven years.

Also, the abbreviation for quarter (QTR) at 102d crossing QUARTERBACKSAC. What’s up with that? Oh, and HUAC [Gp. that investigated the Hollywood 10]? Which crosses SUNG [Performed at the Met]? Don’t tell me you didn’t put SANG in there at first and finished the grid with the erroneous HAAC. Because that’s what I did. (HUAC stands for House Un-American Activities Committee, which I suppose is something I should know, but still. Icky fill.)

There were numerous other trivia-based clues that got to me. However, there were a couple diamonds in the rough, as it were:

  • 13a [Man in a monkey suit]. SCOPES. Brilliant! But this really ought to have a ?, in my opinion.
  • 4d [Alarm setting]. BEDSIDE. Sneaky!
  • 74a [Where you might discover a great white]. WINE BAR. Very nice!

Overall, I enjoyed the theme, some of the long fill and a few of the clever clues, but there were other really befuddling moments in the solve that killed the buzz. 3.2 stars.

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35 Responses to Saturday, August 4, 2018

  1. Dr. Fancypants says:

    Seconding the complaint about FRIEND ZONE. It’s a garbage concept, for dudes who simply can’t accept the idea that attraction is a two-way street.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      I feel like I’ve heard a lot of women complain about the same phenomenon but presumably it’s more frequent for men.

    • Richard says:

      As one over 70, I had not heard of the term “friendzone.” I understand that it has become a term used by a sex-driven male as a putdown of females and I do not respect men who have this perception of women as sex objects. However, I tend to give intelligent people the benefit of the doubt. Hence, I do not think that the constructor and the editors condone this view. Rather, I am assuming that the constructor and the editors perceive this term to be satire. Given that some of you know Will, I wonder if my interpretation is plausible

      • pannonica says:

        Protip: One way not to perceive women as objects is to avoid calling them ‘females’.

        Female as an adjective is fine, but female as a noun should be reserved for professional biological and sociological work. I say this—somewhat underminingly—as someone with experience in biological science who is very firm on making sure everyone is reminded that humans are animals too. Society can be tricky and paradoxical, eh?
        *Obviously, this is true for male as well.

        As to your theory about Will&Co: judging by the track record, I’d say it’s more likely tonedeafness than satire.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Agree 110% that “female” as a noun is a lousy way to refer to women. The exception is if it’s a scientific paper and the study population includes both girls and women. But if you’re specifically talking about a single age group, use “girls,” “women,” “young women,” etc.

          Just because cops (or frat bros, or …) use “females” doesn’t mean everyone else should.

          • kristin g says:

            I’m just surprised that, 1) a “hand bra” is a thing, and 2) it passes the breakfast test. Would a term for a hand touching a bare te*ticle or other traditionally “private” part pass that test? [Sorry if this is inappropriate – trying to use biological terms!] Also, I could be wrong on this, but it’s just my two cents.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Hi, kristin g. The content of your comment is totally kosher here—though WordPress may have flagged it!

              HANDJOB isn’t going to pass muster in a newspaper crossword, though that’s more obscene.

  2. Jim Hale says:

    The NYT really crawled until I figured out the trick. It was a toughish Saturday puzzle for me but doable. Didn’t know “two face”, “rye beer”, “friend zone” or “cow pose”. Liked Rex, CNET, and Bozo. Still remember watching “Bozo the Clown” on TV as a kid, though have no nostalgic desire to view old episodes on YouTube.

    • Derek Allen says:

      For Two-Face, think of the Batman villain. He was always flipping a coin in the comic books as well as the movies. I don’t remember him on the campy Adam West TV show, but it has been a minute since I have seen that show!

      • Robert White says:

        There was a “False Face” (Malachi Throne) on the TV show. It’s pretty easy to see why Two-Face didn’t make the cut!

      • Jim Hale says:

        I was never a big reader of Batman comics… mostly the TV series and the movies with The Joker and The Penguin. I lived near Burgess Meredith as a kid and played with his son… he played The Penguin on the TV show. As for comics, I always preferred Superman and Archie comics which still seem to be going strong lol

  3. Dave S. says:

    I thought this puzzle and its gimmick were the best I’ve seen in the NYT in a long time. Difficult but worth the time. Very clever. Wow!

    • Derek Allen says:

      Dave, I agree. I loved it. All twenty minutes of slogging through it! I actually like gimmicks, even on a Saturday. It keeps you on your toes!

  4. Steve Manion says:

    My yoga instructor does not use the term COW POSE. She uses the phrase CAT COW. You are indeed on your hands and knees and when you raise your back up from that position you are in CAT POSE (think angry cat) and when you move your stomach toward the mat, you are in COW POSE (think-I guess-a cow’s udder). It is a warm-up exercise that focuses on your breathing as you go back and forth between cat and cow.

    Hard but excellent puzzle.


  5. maxine nerdström says:

    i had FREETOROAM for 29d for a long time. when i realized what the actual answer was i was so angry.

    i found the puzzle very challenging. i probably could have slogged it out and figured out the gimmick, but i got too frustrated so i just gave up. now that i understand it, i’m not that disappointed in myself. id have enjoyed it more if it was a thursday, i think.

  6. Sorry to stray from discussing today’s puzzles but here’s an announcement about the next two WaPo Magazine crosswords:

    The Aug. 5 puzzle can be fully solved in .puz format but it has a feature that can’t be reproduced in Across Lite, so you may want to print out the PDF (available here at 6 pm ET tonight) to solve on paper. The Aug. 12 puzzle, however, will not be available for electronic solving at all. That’s because it won’t be a regular crossword, but instead a variety metapuzzle. I believe that will be available to print out here next Saturday at 6 pm ET, but also on the WaPo website at midnight on Aug. 12.

    • Lise says:

      Ooh, can’t wait!

    • Robert White says:

      Evan, thanks for the news…will you be releasing future WaPo Sunday puzzles at 6pm the previous day? That would be realllllllllllllllllly nice!!

      • The puzzles are always available at 6 pm ET on Saturdays at least in Across Lite format. You can download them from the Today’s Puzzle page on this website. I don’t know about making the PDFs available earlier from the Post’s website; I’d have to ask my editors about that. But if ever there’s a puzzle where the PDF significantly differs from the .puz I always put a note in the .puz file explaining that and can usually get the PDF available for download at 6 pm on a one-off basis.

  7. Dook says:

    NYT was difficult. But I am still a bit puzzled. Why do the theme answers end with the first letter of clue number? e.g. – BADTOTHEBO is the answer to BADTOTHEB-ONE. Since I am answering the clues “literally” then this would now be BADTOTHEBOONE since the first letter of the number is repeated twice.

    • Rob says:

      Look at “Breaks Even”, as an example. The “Breaks” goes across and then starting at the s, “seven” goes down. So you read the answer as “Break” (going across) and “seven” going down. Same with “Bad to the B” going across and then “one” (going down). You get the idea.

    • Pseudonym says:

      BADTOTHEBO is being mean to Mr. Diddley and/or Ms. Peep

  8. MattF says:

    NYT was tough and generally fair– doable if you persevere. Didn’t care for OXES– not a word, in my opinion, and an ox is big and dumb… but buffoonish?

  9. e.a. says:

    LAT made my day – so smooth, gorgeous 16a clue, and first time i’ve seen the delicious 49d in a puzzle

    • Lise says:

      I agree completely, and I have a question: How could that puzzle possibly warrant a 1-star rating from anyone?

      • jack_f_gladney says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever done a C.C. Burnikel puzzle that I’d rate lower than a 3. Even if I’m not crazy about the theme, I’m always impressed by how clean the fill is. There have been times when I’ve started a puzzle without looking at the byline, got through a quarter or so, thought to myself “damn, this is squeaky clean”, and looked up to see her name.

  10. AV says:

    Loved the theme and the puzzle! But with a minor complaint … the same complaint I voiced with a recent “Hands Down” DiPietro puzzle. ONE and EIGHT stood alone going down, but SEVEN and TEN did not!

  11. Karen says:

    Stumper: I thoroughly enjoyed today’s Stumper. I cannot imagine finishing (or getting very far) using only the down clues. Doing the Stumper reminds me of when I first started doing crossword puzzles. I would have to put the puzzle down and give my brain a break. When I came back to the puzzle, an answer or two would fall into place. Repeat.

    • Derek Allen says:

      I have heard solving with downs only is a great tool to gain speed. But on a Stumper? I could never! That is why I am curious to watch the live solve!

  12. jack_f_gladney says:

    Out of curiosity — does anyone even enjoy the Stumper? I find it enjoyable maybe a few times a year, only when the grid is so good that I can overlook the annoying tryharding in the cluing.

    Don’t get me wrong: I love hard puzzles. I don’t think there’s any puzzle I look forward to more than Tim Croce’s on Tuesdays and Fridays. But the difficulty in those puzzles comes from cleverness and misdirection. The Stumper relies on vagueness and esoterica. Solving it is almost always a joyless slog.

    • Derek Allen says:

      These Stumper puzzles, in my opinion, have a specific place. Some solvers are SOOOO good, that the only way to challenge them is to make them quite hard. But in the end, they are always fair. I have more trouble trying to solve a Maleska NYT or an older Dell Expert than with tough themeless puzzles from today. But sometimes these Stumpers ARE so hard that I almost get annoyed. But finishing is still rewarding.

      Also, there is the approach that the harder the puzzle, the better that satisfaction can be. For Cryptic fans, solving a Kevin Wald cryptic will make your head spin and literally take days, but the payoff in the end is worth the anguish. I think that is why people solve these types of puzzles.

  13. Noz says:

    WSJ. After my bit of a vent about constant themes of adding letters being too predictable, one where we subtract the last letter. And yet nearly as predictable as last week, so that not only did I guess the theme before entering a single letter in the grid, but once I got the first one ending in C, I plugged C’s into the last letter of all the other answers and gee, whaddaya know, every one was right.

    I really don’t like predictable themes. So I think I’m just going to take a vacation from the WSJ puzzle, the puzzle I used to save for last (after all the Sunday puzzles) because I liked it best. You’ll notice I did it Saturday this week. Started Saturday morning, figured out the theme, and put it away 1/3 done (did finish in some post-dinner boredom, though).

    I mourn, yes. But.

    (Mike Shank: again I point you to the Nov. 18 2017 puzzle. Inventive and a little silly and a bit hard – and a real smile-out-loud pleasure when you solve it.)

    • Noz says:

      Um. Just want to modify the start of that 2nd paragraph a little.

      I don’t *enjoy* themes that I can guess right out of the starting gate. Somehow there is a fine line between “like” and “enjoy”, and it’s the enjoyment I’ve been missing.

      (And I realize I am extra particular toward the Nov. 18 2017 puzzle. It was my mother’s birthday, and she was a master with all sorts of yeasty sweet roll -type treats – her cinnamon rolls were highly in demand all the decades she was making them. So that puzzle was especially stand-out for *me*, at least.)

  14. JohnH says:

    I much appreciated the challenge of the NYT. There was, apart from the theme, a fair amount I didn’t know, and I had incorrectly “memo pad” and “peek at,” among other indirections. But it all worked out.

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