Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hex/Quigley tk (Gareth) 


LAT 8:08 (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo (9:46 (Jenni) 


Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “Game Hunting”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 14, 18, “Game Hunting”

It’s a board game theme this week, with familiar (or not so familiar) phrases clued as if a key word is the name of a board game rather than a regular word. And the clue and answer are things someone might say when trying to select a game to play.

  • 23a. [“We can’t play that game – I can’t reach it on our shelf!”], “THE RISK IS TOO HIGH!” Um, no. This doesn’t feel like a thing people say often enough that you can riff on it for a theme.
  • 23a. [“We can’t play that game – I can’t reach it on our shelf!”], “SORRY NOT SORRY.” Awkward grammatically, but 100% in-the-language now.
  • 54a. [“We can’t play that game unless we borrow someone else’s”], “I HAVEN’T A CLUE.” Well, this one’s weird because you don’t say that you have a Clue or a Connect Four or a Monopoly.
  • 76a. [“I’m begging you, let’s not play that game!”], “PLEASE DON’T GO.” And this one’s off-kilter too, because the game Go isn’t a verb.
  • 85a. [“No, that game would be over in a flash”], “LIFE’S TOO SHORT.” Well, it doesn’t take as long as Monopoly, but I wouldn’t call Life a quick game!
  • 103a. [“I’ve finally decided! I’m …”], “…ASKING FOR TROUBLE.” You gotta love that Pop-o-Matic action.

So I’m about 50/50 on this theme, which is not a good ratio. I do like the random long fill, though I kept trying to find game names in those. GENDER FLUIDITY, the ONES COLUMN (two letters off from being an OP-ED COLUMN—gotta read the clues), MERE MORTALS, FATHER TIME, TRUE COLORS, SPICE RUB.

Eight other things:

  • 93a. [“If you are always trying to be ___, you will never know how amazing you can be”: Maya Angelou], NORMAL. Oh! This is lovely.
  • 39d. [Like albino alligators], RARE. Slightly less rare are leucistic alligators, which are whitish and may have blue eyes, vs. the pink eyes of a true albino alligator.
  • 18d. [Kind of number not much seen nowadays], FAX. Unless you are talking to a health insurance company, in which case they really think that faxing things to them makes sense. I assume most people required to fax something just scan it or take a phone photo, and then use a website or app to “fax” it.
  • 53d. [Blandishment], CAJOLERY. I never remember what blandish means, since it sounds so much like brandish. And CAJOLERY is not a commonly used form of that word.
  • 83a. [Info in dating profiles], TYPES. Listen, friends. If you have a “type,” and that type specifies the race or ethnicity you’re interested in dating, you are doing it wrong.
  • 82d. [Secondary loan signer], CO-MAKER. This is not a term I’d ever seen before, and I’d be OK with never seeing it in another crossword.
  • 112a. [Bead source], PORE. Man, I was working the crossings, and then 102 [Go on and on] could be YAK or YAP equally plausibly. Eventually I figured out that the bead in question was a bead of sweat. Oof!
  • 96a. [Praise for a picador], OLÉS. I don’t know that a “hooray!” is praise so much as a cheer or encouragement.

3.25 stars from me. Some lovely fill wasn’t quite enough to offset the thematic struggles and the other fill that wasn’t to my liking.

Edited to add: After seeing a discussion of this clue on Twitter, I wanted to call out that [M –> F –> M] clue for GENDER FLUIDITY. It really misses the point. It’s maybe not an easy term to define concisely enough for a crossword clue, but this clue seems wedded to that M/F gender binary, and that’s entirely inconsistent with the concept of gender fluidity. It includes people who identify as non-binary, neutrois, male, female, and other. If you know anyone who’s non-binary, you know that they’re absolutely not flip-flopping as “male yesterday, female today, male again tomorrow.”

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Fall Guys”—Jenni’s write-up

I figured out the theme on this one very early. It was still fairly challenging, since the theme answers aren’t signaled in any way, so each one felt like a little bit of a surprise – and I didn’t find one of them until I went back and looked. They are symmetrical, but I tend not to notice that kind of thing while I’m solving.

We have ten answers that leave something dangling. I’ve highlighted them in the grid.

WaPo 10/14, solution grid

  • 23a [Landing site during Operation Neptune] is NORMANDY, with ANDY dropping down as party of SHANDY. “Operation Neptune” was the official code name for D-Day.
  • 24a [Steep, as meat] is MARINATE.
  • 26a [Ball VIPs] are BELLES. That’s the one I didn’t see while I was solving – filled it in by crossings and didn’t look too closely.
  • 30a [Without a brand name] is GENERIC.
  • 70a [Ride to a certain station] is a POLICE VAN.
  • 72a [Louis Armstrong, e.g.] is a TRUMPETER.
  • 116a [High-ranking military official] is a MARSHAL.
  • 119a [Former muscle car featured in “Smokey and the Bandit”] is a TRANS AM.
  • 113a [Wine repositories] are CELLARS.
  • 122a [Scheduled] is SLATED.

Evan (who used his own name in the puzzle!) ties it all up neatly at 57d [“There’s an injured soldier here!” … and a hint to 10 answers in this puzzle]. The answer is MAN DOWN because each of the names goes down.

I really like this theme. The small inconsistencies (some four-letter and some three-letter names, and some spanning two words while others don’t) do not bother me at all. It was fun and satisfying to solve.

A few other things:

  • 29a [Investment option, for short] is IRA, not clued as a name, which is good.
  • 54d [Toast topper, at times] is AVOCADO. For a long time, avocados were the only green food my kid would eat.
  • I don’t generally think of an ANEMONE as a “stinging ocean predator” because they’re so lovely. That’s not very smart of me.
  • 77d [Dutch city where the painter Johannes Vermeer was born] is DELFT. I fell in love with Vermeer when I was 14 and first encountered his work at the Frick Museum in NYC (and if you haven’t been there, it’s a gem). This was a gimme for me.
  • We have [Channel associated with a ticker] twice. It’s at 1d for CNN and again at 124 a, clued with a question mark, for AORTA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Operation Neptune. I had also never heard of TV princess Elena or her kingdom, AVALOR. She is apparently a Disney princess who came on the scene long after my kid got too old for Disney princesses.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “For Starters” – Jenni’s write-up

Each theme answer is a list of items in the same category; their first letters tell you what they are. All the clues are [Three types of (see circled letters)]

LAT 10/14, solution grid

  • 22a is MERCATOR AREA POLITICAL, which gives us MAP.

Not my favorite kind of theme, but it’s well done.

A few other things:

  • 31d [Star of the animated short “Two Scent’s Worth”] is LE PEW. At least they didn’t style him as a “lover.” Pepe is really a sexual harasser. When kids watch those cartoon, they are normalizing stalking. This is rape culture.
  • 30d [Stand-up sort] is MENSCH, which I guess has now fully entered the English lexicon since it’s clued without any reference to Yiddish. Since I grew up with Yiddish words sprinkled in our family’s vocabulary, I have no idea which ones are widely known outside of the Jewish community.
  • 80a [“Chestnuts roasting __ open fire”] gets us away from Biblical definitions for ON AN. Thank you.
  • When you have both OLEO  and OLIO in your puzzle, you should either get rid of them or clue them with reference to each other. Or something to show that you understand they are crosswordese (especially OLIO, which I never see outside of crosswords).
  • 113a [He’s got the life] is RILEY. A quick search suggests that the origin of this phrase is unknown.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: That OLAF I only ruled for five years.

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19 Responses to Sunday, October 14, 2018

  1. Dr. Fancypants says:

    Corporate lawyer here. I review lots of contracts, including some debt agreements. COMAKER has never once appeared on my computer screen. (I do see “Maker” once in a while, but I give it the side-eye for being a bit stodgy.)

    Which is to say, I do not expect any normal, non-lawyer human to make sense of that word.

  2. Lise says:

    WaPo: After getting ANDY, NATE, and ERIC, I wondered if all of the names would be shoutouts to crossword constructors. That’s pretty impressive! And if there’s a way to make a puzzle honoring women constructors too, that would be awesome.

    Another interesting grid week, too! And I learned a new word: tetrodotoxin. Thanks for the biology lesson.

    All-around great puzzle!

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: That has to be the best clue for “NORMAL”!
    I liked the puzzle overall. I understand some of the issues that Amy raised, but I didn’t need to reach too far to get the answers. For a Sunday, I consider it a win.
    The names of these games were probably primed by the fact that we just cleaned our storage area and I found a huge box of games, which I pared down to about a dozen or so…including many in the theme. I guess Scrabble and Monopoly were not easy to slip in…

  4. JohnH says:

    My problem with the NYT was a bit different. I found the theme entries idiomatic enough, although SORRY NOT SORRY is unfamiliar to me. More that the clues were kept so vague, no doubt to avoid making the puzzle too easy, that I never had a smile or aha on finding the answers. More like “well, ok, I guess.” Hard to like.

    Lots was new to me, like SADDLE JOINT as a bone connection, the volcano, cricket, and that weird CO-MAKER, but at least they aren’t pop culture trivia (unlike the De Niro movie, The Incredibles, and Despicable Me), so I enjoyed my learning moment.

  5. Pseudonym says:

    SORRY NOT SORRY made me chuckle

  6. DH says:

    I understand Amy’s issues with the tenses and usages of the theme clues, but unlike her, I just got past them and found them whimsical and fun. De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum, I guess.

    On the other hand, I didn’t like the clue for 72D. It may be technically correct, but if we are staying “in the language”, to me that would be a decimal. A period comes in a sentence, a dot in a URL.

    Believe it or not, I first heard the phrase “sorry not sorry” last week. Isn’t there a word for that phenomenon – where you hear something for the first time and then hear it again and again?

    Finally, here’s a fun fact: John Lennon was the world’s worst Clue player – “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”? Really? (with a nod to Readers’ Digest)

  7. roger says:

    when you start with UNHURT and ENHALO, you are asking for trouble.

  8. Dedie says:

    Watched a remake of Cape Fear with Robert DeNiro. SORRY, won’t GO to the TROUBLE why… not a CLUE to the RISK it would make for a good night sleep

  9. Jim Hale says:

    Not an enjoyable puzzle imo. Lots of stuff in left field, clunky, obscure and uninteresting. I would just repeat would others have said, so no point enumerating.

  10. Jeff H. says:

    One other impressive element for the WaPo: For each of the Across entries that provides the lead-in to a “man down,” the part that remains in the Across row is still a legitimate (unclued) entry: NORMA, MARIN, GENE, BELL, POLICE, TRUMP, MARSH, TRANS, CELL, SLAT.

  11. Margaret says:

    Jenni, in the LAT the Life of Riley means “a luxurious or carefree existence” but if you were referring to the fact that no one really knows how “living the life of Riley” came to mean that, you’re completely right of course. It’s interesting to read the various theories, though! I always assumed it came from the old TV show but apparently the phrase was around way before the show.

  12. Marycat says:

    LAT: Just when I think this puzzle can’t possibly get any worse, they published this absolute dreck today. One of the worst puzzles ever. A bore and a chore to struggle through, with nothing to redeem it at the end. Moldy, old, rehashed X-wordese (ALAR, METE, APES, OLE, AAS, ONAN, ARIA, ORCA, YSL, DELE, OASES, HASPS, ABOIL, ICER, ADZ,) that no one uses in the real world. Too much reliance on foreign words and places (UNIS, DAR, BANO, UNA, DAMA, XIAN, NAGOYA, BRAE), obscure names (GIA, CLIO, OLAFI, AGEE, ARNETT) and an overabundance of abstruse arcana like ANION, TIF, TOPE, NYALA, PARSECS (really, PARSECS?), and EDUCES. “Eagerly enjoy: LAP UP” and “Eagerly enjoy: EAT UP” in the same puz. “OLEO” and “OLIOS” in the same puz. The word “AND” or “A” dropped gratuitously between letters to create SANDP, QANDAS, and TOAT, wtf? And as usual, a plethora of 22 abbreviations, some of which aren’t clued as such. (PERM for “permanent”, DELE for “delete” and LATS for “latissimus” may indeed be in the language, but they’re still abbreviations; indicating that in the clues is one of the first rules of crosswords.) It seems every week the constructors, and especially the editor, just keep getting lazier. What ruined the puzzle beyond hope is forcing themers into it that don’t match, aren’t funny, give no “aha” moments, and from the painfulness of the results, attempt cleverness but fall flatly and squarely onto their faces. Jumbos and turbos are kinds of jets, OK, but an executive jet is a description of someone who rides in it, not a mechanical type. This could have been wacky/funny by cluing vastly different types of jets (from spas, a garden hose, the Elton John song, an ink printer, etc.) But instead it just… sits there, and fails to do anything, including being consistent. Do most people know what a mercator map is? I doubt it. It’s certainly not familiar enough to use in a themer. More importantly, though, a mercator and area map both depict specific land masses with set borders. Political maps do not; the red and blue states shown during elections are hazy generalities at best. Calico and tabby are colors of cats; Abyssinian is a breed. OK, no issues with the names of car manufacturers; if unimaginative, at least they matched each other. But the Art themer misses the mark yet again; avant-garde describes more of an approach or mindset across many art movements, rococo a style of design and architecture in Europe from 1730-80, and tramp art is, well, more of a handicraft involving remaking cigar boxes. The three terms just don’t seem to fit together, like, for example, Cubism, Impressionism and Surrealism. What irritated me the most was the “man” themer. Sorry, Paul and Rich, the terms Anchorman and Newspaperman went out in the 1960s and there’s a reason for that- they were sexist. We now use the term Anchor for both men and women in the former case, and Reporter or Journalist in the latter. Which makes Minuteman, a revolutionary war term, stick out like a sore thumb. With such a weak theme (and terrible title, BTW), completely remiss of humor, you could’ve at least gotten each of the three words to fit the same category or description. It’s like you didn’t even try. And Rich is also to blame. A house shutter doesn’t flap, it slams or bangs; this should have been clued differently. Pics are taken by cameras, not cams. No one describes the healthiest person in the gym as the “halest”. People don’t un-pot plants, they re-pot them. Omegas are “zees” to no one but a crossword constructor or editor. To snap at someone is to respond rudely, but is hardly a verbal attack. The person who frosts your cake is a decorator, not an icer. While pluralizing “spawn” as a noun and referring to more than one “oasis” at a time is awkward, pluralizing the singing note “la” is just plain wrong. Enough is enough. A crossword should be fun, educational, and show respect for the English language. If you can’t make that happen, maybe it’s time to step aside and let someone else do so.

    • David Steere says:

      My gosh, what a rant. My approach to weak crossword puzzles has been to say nothing about them and give my two cents in my rating. So, I rarely make any comments any longer about NY Times Sunday puzzles…except when one is very good which is almost never. Evan’s consistently fine Sunday puzzles in the Post, on the other hand, frequently inspire me to express my praise in comments here. You know…”If you don’t have something nice to say,…” To suggest the editor leave seems extreme and a bit unkind. I’m sure some of your specific points are valid. I, however, loved the puzzle.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Whereas when someone leaves a low rating and doesn’t comment to explain it, other people get mad.

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