Wednesday, September 26, 2018

AV Club 6:58 (Ben) 


LAT 5:08 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:52 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “C Through” — Jim’s review

IOO is the hidden “word” of the day as revealed at 73a with the clue [Arabic equivalent of C hidden in this puzzle’s five longest answers].

Looking at those entries you’ll find the improbable letter string of IOO right there spanning across actual valid phrases.

WSJ – Wed, 9.26.18 – “C Through” by Alan DerKazarian

  • 18a [“The Andromeda Strain” threatBIOORGANISM
  • 24a [Feature of some entertainment websitesAUDIO ON DEMAND. I don’t know that I’ve heard this (Video On Demand seems more common), but I don’t doubt it’s a thing.
  • 40a [Source of a soundtrack, oftenSTUDIO ORCHESTRA
  • 52a [Ham, e.g.RADIO OPERATOR. Do you refer to the actual operators as “hams”? I did not know this.
  • 63a [Where Michael Phelps won the last five of his 23 gold medals] RIO OLYMPICS. This one sounds a little made-up, but I’m sure I heard it at the time the Olympics were going on.

When I first grokked the theme, I didn’t think there was any way our constructor would have actual in-the-language phrases with that letter string. I presumed that they would be bodged together in some way.

But lo and behold, he did. And for that reason alone, I’m digging this puzzle. And you can’t deny that IOO looks a lot like 100 in the grid (of course IOO is actually 4 in binary). The double-O is responsible for a couple of nifty stacks in the grid as well: “OH, HI” and OHIO in the middle as well as OOMPH and OOPSY at the bottom which I thought was pretty fun.


BLIND DATE and SUPERFOOD make for great long fill of course, but there were some scowly moments as well, specifically PSEUD [Intellectual poseur, informally] and that whole SE corner with KFC and EEC crossing ORFEO and ROCCO. When you have two uncommon proper names crossing two acronyms, that’s a rough section for the solver. I would have replaced EEC with EEK and ROCCO [Madonna’s eldest son] with ROCKO. The wallaby star of the cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life may be no better than ROCCO, but at least EEK is more gettable than EEC [Common Market, for short].

Oh yeah, one more scowly moment: [South Carolina’s senior senator] Graham, who said he’s already made up his mind even before any testimony from Ford or Kavanaugh is given. Ugh.

Other than those low points, this is a decent puzzle and the surprising thematic finds made this fun for me. 3.5 stars.

Melinda Gates & Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 26 18, no 0926

I like what I know of Melinda Gates’ philanthropic works, but I confess I did not love this puzzle. The theme takes terms that start with a stand-alone letter that’s followed by a word, and that first letter is doubled. The resulting phrase is clued accordingly:

  • 17a. [Part played by women and girls?], XX FACTOR. No, no, no. You’ve lost me with the first theme answer and clue. First of all, FACTOR and “part played by” feels like a weird equivalency. And more importantly, there are lots of women with XY chromosomes and men with XX chromosomes. Some of these transgender folks are our friends, and these chromosomal clues piss me off.
  • 29a. [Area below “To:” in an email?], CC SECTION. A bit dull?
  • 37a. [Ones on set with 2009’s “Star Trek” director?], J.J. CREW. J.J. Abrams. If you’re not up on your pop culture (I am), maybe you were confused by this clue.
  • 40a. [Any one of the 12 steps?], AA LINE. Playing on an A-line cut in fashion. This one would work better if the next row didn’t have that extraneous AAA drawing the eye, and if anyone thought of the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous as “lines.”
  • 46a. [Group of buildings housing a King?], B.B. COMPLEX. As in B complex vitamins and B.B. King, but not the various Kings of Musical Genres (Michael Jackson, Elvis, etc.).
  • 64a. [Lover of Cummings’s poetry?], e.e. READER.

I do like SAM RAIMI, J.M. BARRIE, BONE UP, OTTERS, and (just because it’s a pretty word) CYCLADES.

Five more things from the puzzle:

  • Before I read the clue for 58a, I had RAT**CK filled in and my first thought was RATFUCK. (Which has a solid history in politics! Woodward and Bernstein trotted it out in 1974’s All the President’s Men.) But no, it’s that [Group in the original “Ocean’s 11” movie], the RAT PACK.
  • 16a. [Musical run with four sharps], E SCALE. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this term before. I wonder if more Americans know who J.J. Abrams is than what E SCALE means.
  • 7d. [Irony?], FERRIC. Cute clue.
  • 12d. [Horse with evenly mixed black-and-white hairs], BLUE ROAN. This is not, I don’t think, remotely common knowledge. Also, I’m pretty sure that horse would look gray.
  • 31d. [Quahog or geoduck], CLAM. Wikipedia tells me that the quahog’s scientific name is Mercenaria mercenaria, and I want to know why that is. Also, I’m sorry it’s come to this, but just in case any of you don’t know what a geoduck looks like, here’s a video.

3.25 stars from me.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Hounded at Work” — Ben’s Review

Today’s AVCX is from editor Ben Tausig and it has a really cute theme:

  • 17A: Sprinting shoe, or the name of a 65-Across for railroad workers? — TRACK SPIKE
  • 24A: United Kingdom flag, or the name of a 65-Across for labor rights advocates? — UNION JACK
  • 37A: Supply chain, or the name of a 65-Across for people in cubicles? — OFFICE MAX
  • 56A: FM ad, or the name of a 65-Across for ham operators? — RADIO SPOT
  • 65A: Calming presence in the workplace — THERAPY DOG

A theme based around office dogs is always going to be my jam.

Other things I liked: POLAR Seltzer (both as fill and over La Croix/Bubbly/lesser fizzy waters), turning a bunch of the three-letter horizontal fill into fun combos (IOS SAG: what happens when you try to upgrade your old iPhone to the new IOS was a favorite, as was ONO LIU: SKA GAL), EUROPOP like Ace of Base, SNL SKIT

4/5 stars.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s Summary

LA Times

The symmetrical arrangement of B-I-N-G-O is the neatest thing in this puzzle by far. BINGO stands alone as a revealer, and is spelt out in (B)VITAMINS, WHOAM(I), ALL(N)ALL, (G)FORCE, STANDING(O). The middle answer is something of a deep cut, acknowledged the puzzle with a leading clue. Still, I checked, and it had Fantasy and Serpentine Fire (which charted higher, though I’d never have guessed that!) Do you have a craving for Philip Bailey right now?

What else? Didn’t know JOGBRAS (they seem to just be sports bras? If there’s a difference, my Google search didn’t clarify.) Don’t mind a new bit of fill, but not sure it was worth three chestnuts in HAJJ, OMOO and AMA… The best area is definitely PERUVIANS/SRILANKA/ULYSSES, even with crossing SHARERS and SOYS.

2.75 Stars

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32 Responses to Wednesday, September 26, 2018

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: That video is hilarious. That thing is disgusting. And I had noooo idea it’s “gooey” duck. It looks like it’s from a different geologic time, it definitely deserves to be GEO duck…
    And while I’m confessing ignorance– I thought it was ESCALE, one word, for the French word for stopover– you play it and it feels like a landing place… No? You don’t think?
    I had ESCA-E and it could not be ESCAPE so this French word jumped out of the recesses of my mind and seemed so perfect. You’re sure that’s not it?
    But if perchance you’re right, Amy, then I am bothered by the fact that it starts with a stand-alone letter that is not repeated- given the theme. To me, that’s a bit more dissonant than AAA, which is not ideal.
    But I like the theme concept. Pretty original.

    • Ben says:

      In music, pieces in the key of E Major have four sharps – F#, C#, G#, and D#.

    • Lise says:

      The video, eek. I know how to pronounce geoduck. I know that it is a clam. But I had never seen one until just now, and can’t now unsee it. The recipe in the video would be great, if one left out the geoduck.

      I thought ESCALE and JMBARRIE distracted a little from the theme. But I love Peter Pan, so thanks for including Mr. Barrie. Also liked FERRIC, and OTTERS (the more, the better!), and was a big e.e. cummings fan in high school.

  2. Bill Richmond says:

    There is nothing wrong with XXFACTOR. I’m sorry you are offended by biology, but no, you are not a woman because you think you are a woman. For someone who seems to prize science based on some of your other posts, it’s a shame to see such inconsistency. This is not to demean transgender people. Just let’s not ignore basic biology for the sake of appeasement.

    • Chukkagirl says:

      Hear, hear. Prepare for incoming…

    • This sentence:

      “… you are not a woman because you think you are a woman”

      literally demeans every transgender woman even though you claim it doesn’t.

      • Ethan Friedman says:

        ^ this. It’s like those people who say “I’m not racist but … ”

        saying “I am not demeaning transgender people” while, you know, demeaning them IS STILL DEMEANING THEM

    • Ben Tausig says:

      What a mean-spirited and ill-considered post. Biology does not regulate identity.

    • PhilR says:

      I always love it when someone says “Science stops here!” Newtonian physics was good enough to get us to the moon and back, explain the motion of planets and stars, to predict everything we see on a daily basis. Why not stop there, as it explains (almost) everything? Because it doesn’t explain everything that isn’t immediately obvious. You couldn’t have your GPS system without Einstein showing how Newton wasn’t right 100% of the time.

      That’s why it’s not a good thing to say Science Stops Here! when the science you want to be a period on knowledge only explains 95% of reality.

    • Brian says:

      I mean even if you’re saying having XX chromosomes means your biological sex is female, you are wrong – there are chromosome recombinations that can cause a genetically XX person to have male genitals, and vice versa. Not everything can be explained by “basic biology”. Source: wife with a masters in biology.

      • pannonica says:

        To wit, a simple example is androgen insensitivity syndrome. Many individuals with this condition are XY women who are not transgender.

        Your professed devotion to biology, Mr Richmond, apparently stops at the point where it’s convenient to your proconceived notions. This is the opposite of how science actually works.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Here’s a quick explanation of why “XX = female, XY = male” is wrong, from an evolutionary geneticist on Twitter:

      • Ben Tausig says:

        Thanks Amy. I’ll also add a recommendation for the journal Transgender Studies Quarterly, which is non-medical, run and written by non binary people, and super duper smart, as a resource for deeper knowledge about such matters.

      • Lise says:

        I recently read a book by Carl Zimmer called “She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity” which really underscores the necessity of letting go of the idea of rigid definitions of the functions and characteristics of genes and chromosomes. In short, DNA is weird stuff.

        And what PhilR says about physics is another good example. We need to keep an open mind; some concepts do not fit into a nice easy pigeonhole.

  3. Dinesh Krithivasan says:

    Quahog shells were used by Native Americans to make wampums which were adapted as a form of currency by colonists. Hence the biological name Mercenaria.

  4. GlennP says:

    E SCALE, as clued, specifically refers to an E major scale. No music teacher would ever say “Play me an E scale”. The student would immediately ask “Major or minor?”

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Fully agree with Amy on chromosomes.

    Note, however, that E.E. Cummings did not lowercase the initials in his name. That’s a common misconception. Although he used capitalization idosyncratically in his poems, he did not apply that stylization to his own name or signature.

    • David L says:

      “Although he used capitalization idiosyncratically…”

      Just like our friend Mr Parker!

    • Norm says:

      My copy of Poems 1923-1924 has a reproduction of his signature on the cover, and those certainly look like capital Es and a C, but right next to it on the shelf is “i six nonlectures e e cummings” — from the “harvard university press” of “cambridge, massachusetts” so maybe they were just being cute.

  6. Papa John says:

    Just to keep us all on the straight and narrow, Mercenaria mercenaria is the scientific name for an East Coast delicacy, the quahog. Our phallic friend, the geoduck, is known as Panopea generosa. It’s one of the longest living animals, reaching more than a hundred years old.

    panonnica: Correct me if I’m wrong.

  7. Ben says:

    I agree that it could have been clued much better, but per today’s Wordplay, Melinda Gates wanted to highlight the work of an existing initiative called the XX Factor:

    That organization’s name is probably due for an update, itself.

  8. PhilR says:

    Blue roans, in general, do look gray, you just can’t call them Grays because that’s already taken. A Gray is born black or steel gray and gradually turns white over time until, if they live long enough, they’re pure white, or white with black socks. Blue roans stay the same gray from 1 year old onwards.

    • Papa John says:

      I once owned a gorgeous blue merle sheltie and have ever since wondered how blue came to designate gray. I’ve done some online research and cannot find anything to explain it.

      To add to the confusion, at the time I worked at a veterinary clinic and would use bluing on his white chest hairs and dry him in a cyclone dryer which fluffed up his hairs and made him look even more gorgeous.

      • pannonica says:

        Extemporizing here. Greys are traditionally divided into cool and warm families, blue and green/yellow respectively typifying each. Probably seems more exotic to designate something as blue?

      • GLR says:

        My wife and I have adopted retired racing greyhounds. One of the least common colors among greyhounds is gray – and their “official” color is blue.

  9. Lise says:

    Almost forgot! I liked the theme in the WSJ, especially the symmetry of having BIO first and RIO last and AUDIO, STUDIO, and RADIO in between. The word length expansion and contraction gave the puzzle a little extra panache.

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