Saturday, October 6, 2018

LAT 5:56 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:22 (Derek) 


NYT 11:34 (Ben) 


WSJ  untimed (Jim P.) 


Lewis Dean Hyatt’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s write-up

Ben here, filling in for Amy with what appears to be a debut for Lewis Dean Hyatt in the NYT!  That’s not a name I recognized from past solving and it didn’t pop up already when I was tagging this post.  Congrats, Lewis!

Let’s take a look at what’s up for grabs in this Saturday NYT Themeless:

  • OREO THIN: a new, skinnier way to get OREO into your local crossword grid with fewer calories and more squares!
  • “Me-first attitude” parses to SELF-IMPORTANCE – that one tripped me up for a little bit until I had most of the crossings.
  • The “Verb repeated throughout Exodus 20” is SHALT – that’d be the Ten Commandments, BTW.
  • Something about the word IRONICAL just doesn’t parse as a word for me.
  • DORADO is close to DOREDOs, so I’m closing out today’s post with some Moldovan singing courtesy that group.
  • Lots of nice big down phrases – SLICED AND DICED, THAT’S THE SPIRIT, EVIL INTENTIONS, and HEARTS AND MINDS all play nicely in the grid.

I would have loved a few more bits of contemporary fill – Mort SAHL crossing ARCO tripped me for a while – and there were a few word-ish things like ZINCED and the aforementioned IRONICAL that felt iffy for me, but all in all a decent Saturday debut.  Well done, Lewis!


Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Disharmony” — Jim’s review

Orchestral puns!

WSJ – Sat, 10.6.18 – “Disharmony” by Pancho Harrison

  • 23a [The orchestra was in turmoil; the conductor didn’t ___ …] KNOW THE SCORE
  • 29a […but the trombonists were willing to___…] LET IT SLIDE
  • 42a […the violinists were in favor of___…] PULLING STRINGS
  • 61a […the organist wouldn’t ___…] PIPE DOWN
  • 69a […the governing board decided the situation called for ___ …] DRASTIC MEASURES
  • 82a […the guitarist was constantly ___ …] FRETTING
  • 97a […the drummer was tired of ___ …] STICKING AROUND
  • 117a […the pianist was___…] ALL KEYED UP
  • 123a […and the brass section kept ___] LOCKING HORNS

This was pretty fun. I like the consistency in that each entry shows the respective orchestra members dealing with the stress in their own particular way. The phrases are all perfectly apt, though FRETTING is the stand-out for not actually being a phrase. But I guess we can LET IT SLIDE.

The only downside for me is that I wanted a conclusion to the story. I solved from the top down so I uncovered each entry in order, and I felt like the tension was building. I wanted some kind of payoff, like a punchline or at least some resolution to the conundrum they were in.

An alternative might have looked like this. With the central entry describing the “governing board” stepping in, the natural result would be that the bottom entries would show the results of their intervention. I would move some of the entries around, but after the tension builds in the top half and the governing board institutes DRASTIC MEASURES, the bottom half might look like this: […they got the guitarist to stop FRETTING], […they got the violinist to stop PULLING STRINGS], […they got the trombonists to LET IT SLIDE], […and they got the brass section to stop LOCKING HORNS]. Or come up with a general conclusion, like […and they got everyone to COMPARE NOTES], or something. I like this idea of crossword puzzle as a story medium.

Anyhoo, this was still fun as it is. Plus there are some goodies in the fill. I like RED LETTER, CLIENTELE, ACT OF GOD, CUSS WORD, KITSCHY, and VACAY. TOSSPOTS [Juicers] is British slang for heavy drinkers and is usually shortened to “tosser.” I don’t think I was aware of “juicer” having that meaning as well. I thought a juicer was a steroids user.

Contrasting the good fill are some real eyebrow-raisers: LAICS [Flock members], HOP TO [“Get moving!”] (don’t think I’ve ever seen this without a final “it”), SAMI [Lapland people] (this looks like pretty standard crosswordese, but for some reason, I don’t recall seeing it; maybe I’ve blocked it out), the Battle of BOYD’S Creek (thank goodness for crossings on this one), and LAWN SALE. Is this last one a regional term? I’ve only ever heard “yard sale,” “garage sale,” and “sidewalk sale.”

The final entry I’ll note is TROTTER [Harness race entrant]. This of course reminds me of the D.A. in the very funny My Cousin Vinny.

Overall, a pleasant Saturday grid. Definitely worth more than TWO STARs. I’ll say 3 and a quarter.

Gareth Bain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Our friend Gareth has the Saturday LAT challenger today! There are a couple of entries in here that I absolutely LOVED, and that will be the major theme of the words I highlight in the list below. And yes, I messed up a couple of answers, as you can see in the grid. Those were typos!! (!) One of these days I am going to get back into constructing, and perhaps you will see my byline someday! A solid 4.6 stars for this one!

Those promised highlights:

  • 20A [Spin-off with a bluesy theme song by John Lee Hooker] NCIS NEW ORLEANS – I have never seen this show. Which one is LL Cool J on? Haven’t seen that on either! But a superb entry!
  • 37A [Longfellow’s “The Bell of __”] ATRI – This is tough. Learn it if you haven’t already.
  • 50A [Catcall?] HERE, KITTY KITTY! – Another great long entry! Not too difficult, but high on the smile-inducing scale!
  • 57A [“Obviously!”] NO DUH! – Homer Simpson has made famous the “Doh!” interjection, but I heard this phrase all the time when I was in grade school.
  • 3D [Old Dodges] OMNIS – Omni is also a hotel, but this is probably the better way to clue this word as a plural. Or is it … ?
  • 7D [Wisconsin college] RIPON – Really tough! Never heard of this place. Looks like it is in central Wisconsin, where it’s cold and people eat a lot cheese!
  • 11D [“It’s save to sit next to me”] I DON’T BITE
  • 12D [Onetime accessory for Britney Spears and Keri Russell] MOUSE EARS – I vaguely remember watching The Mickey Mouse Club in syndication or something when I was really young, but I have no idea where these two would have appeared. The Disney Channel perhaps? That would explain why I never saw them, since I avoid that channel like the Black Death!
  • 28D [Modern folklore] URBAN MYTHS – I know “urban legend,” but I don’t think I have heard this term. I am also not in an “urban” area!
  • 30D [Annual observance celebrating commitment to the planet] EARTH HOUR – Really? A whole hour? Is this actually a thing??
  • 43D [Vital vessels] AORTAE – I never know how to pluralize this! Is it E or A? Probably whichever is convenient for constructing, and in this case it is squarely the E!

Have a great weekend!

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

Slightly tougher than normal, but I think after years of blogging these I may be getting the hang of this! I could just be getting more comfortable with that uneasy feeling that you get when you are stuck; you know it will work out in the end. It just may take a few moments! But what used to frustrate me for 30-45 minutes now takes around 15-20 at most on typical Stumpers, which is satisfying. Just in time for my getting old and nearing the inevitable slowdown! 4.5 stars for another Brad Wilber gem.

Several highlights to mention:

  • 18A [Author who edited her husband’s poems] MARY SHELLEY – As in the Frankenstein writer? Yes. Her husband was the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. I did a little mini Wikipedia research here. Not so fun fact: The husband drowned at 29 years of age.
  • 19A [2007 Emmy winner as Beatriz Suarez] FERRERA – America Ferrera starred in Ugly Betty, no doubt the reason that the full name of the character is used in the clue. I have not seen one millisecond of this series, but I always heard it was really good.
  • 29A [Nonparticipation worry, in texts] FOMO – I think I have been guilty of Fear Of Missing Out at times, but as I get older, not so much!
  • 39A [What good pitching can overcome] SALES RESISTANCE – See 2-Down
  • 60A [Esprit de corps] CAMARADERIE – This stumped me for a bit because I didn’t know this was how it was spelled!
  • 2D [What good pitching may convey] URGENCY – I see what you guys did here! Clever clue tie-in, and neither has to do with baseball, which is on my mind with the playoffs among us now. Nice!
  • 5D [Woz employer in ’73] ATARI – This, I believe, is referring to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Why the abbreviations in the clue?
  • 11D [What was once called a “fountain brush”] FELT TIP – They still sell these, but when I was a kid this meant a Flair pen. Now it means a Sharpie.
  • 30D [Older of the only mother-daughter Nobel Prize pair] MARIE CURIE – Oddly easy. They just handed out the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to two people I didn’t know at all.
  • 41D [Any of nine guys at a scrimmage] LINEMEN – Where does the number 9 come from in this clue? In football, there are 5 offensive linemen, but there can be any number from 2 to 5 on the defensive line. The offense also has to have only 7 men actually lined up at the line of scrimmage. So someone will have to explain to me where the number 9 was derived.
  • 51D [One posting at] HIRER – Did anyone else think this was going to be a Spanish answer?

That is all for this week’s Stumper. Enjoy your weekend!

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21 Responses to Saturday, October 6, 2018

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I agree with Ben’s general take on this… Several very good long phrases, especially vertically. To me the cluing of SELF IMPORTANCE was off. It means an exaggerated sense of one’s own value, an inflated ego. “Me first attitude” is more about being selfish, not caring what happens to others — “Après moi, le déluge”.

    Also a little bothered by the intersection of GEARED UP and SPIT UP.

    On the positive side, I liked the cluing of KNEECAP and DREAM and finding out about OREO THINs! Gotta check those out…

    And Congratulations on the first puzzle in the NYT!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      OREO THINs are a delight! The ratio of crunch to creme is superior to that of the regular Oreo, the cookies are vegan, and there are so many flavors to choose from. The pistachio and the salted caramel aren’t to my taste, but the lemon works. I’m not a coconut fan, but a friend reports that coconut Oreo Thins are awesome.

  2. John Lampkin says:

    WSJ: Good point, Jim, re the lack of a GRAND FINALE of some sort, a LAST MOVEMENT, say.

  3. Marty D says:

    119D. Naval academy newbie is a plebe, not a pleb. My dictionary says pleb is an ordinary person.

  4. BarbaraK says:

    I loved the WSJ. My only complaint is that there was nothing about the woodwinds.

  5. Gene says:

    Actually found this the easiest Stumper in a long time. And the most common defensive alignment is four defensive linemen (4-3 defense).

  6. Penguins says:


    • David L says:

      I had SIA at first — no idea who SZA is. But that clearly wasn’t working and I reluctantly accepted ZINCED.

      Even SPA/PINCED would have been better — PINCING being what a crab does to your toesies.

    • e.a. says:

      because SMA didn’t put out the best album of 2017

    • GLR says:

      I haven’t run across ZINCED before, but not hard to infer if you are familiar with galvanized steel. Both American Heritage and M-W support it. It’s not unlike “bronzed,” I guess.

  7. Victor Fleming says:

    Great debut, Lewis!
    IRONICAL is a great word!
    A creative writing professor used it in conversation with me, critiquing a poem I wrote in 1972, and I’ve never forgotten his sentence: “How do I know Fleming is not being ironical?”
    The poem was a parody of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
    The prof was Charles Cornwall at Davidson College. Former spouse of Patricia Cornwall. He used the word in conversation.
    So what if it was 56 years ago?! In the context of the moment, there was more in the word ironical than in the definition of ironic as I understood it.
    Long live IRONICAL! That extra syllable is NOT superfluous.
    I’m reminded of a conversation in which I asked my good friend Bruce Venzke the difference between NONETHICAL, which he had used in a themeless puzzle, and UNETHICAL.
    He replied, “That’s easy, Vic: nonethical fits in the grid; unethical doesn’t.”

    • john farmer says:

      From another Fleming, Ian Fleming, the introduction of James Bond:

      His last action was to slip his right hand under the pillow until it rested under the butt of the .38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel. Then he slept, and with the warmth and humour of his eyes extinguished, his features relapsed into a taciturn mask, ironical, brutal, and cold.
      Casino Royale (book 1, chapter 1, of the series)

  8. Steve Manion says:

    I thought that self-indulgence fit better than self-importance. That took a while to unravel.

    I once did the legal work in connection with the acquisition of a zinc processing company. Learned galvanized at that time and have always remembered it.

    Except for the above mistake, it was pretty easy today.


  9. LaurieAnnaT says:

    LATimes – Yes, Earth Hour is a thing. Per Wikipedia:

    “Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The event is held annually encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off non-essential electric lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on a specific day towards the end of March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet. It was started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. Since then, it has grown to engage more than 7,000 cities and towns across 187 countries and territories.”

  10. Philip says:

    Do you ever cover the WSJ monthly Hex cryptics? I thought this week’s was especially good.

  11. JohnH says:

    I hated much of the WSJ fill, with such clusters as TNN, LING, SAGET and SAMI RAKED BOYDS. I haven’t looked it up, so still have no clue what EVOO is. I did like the theme, though. Welll, maybe the interruption of musicians for “governing board” felt odd .

  12. JohnH says:

    An easy Saturday NYT for me, but I didn’t object as the grid with its very long entries seemed so like a Saturday, and solving was enjoyable enough. I’ve no trouble with IRONICAL, as a recognized alternative to the standard IRONIC and maybe used more for people than for phrases.

  13. Garrett says:

    So, what part of the world sounds like Erica?

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