Saturday, November 3, 2018

LAT 5;55 (Derek) 


Newsday 31:33 (Derek) 


NYT 5:09 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 11 3 18, no 1103

Weird-looking 62-word grid, with just the three squares in the middle row connecting the two halves. The fill is better than I’d expect for that word count—NONHERO, the contrived IN A TRAP and “AMUSE ME” (not sure if CAR PAINT is contrived or good), uncommon UNIPED, and the who-uses-this-form-of-the-word SERENER are the lowlights, but the rest of the fill ranges from solid to sparkling.

Highlights: Nobel Peace Prize winner MALALA Yousafzai, VICODIN, DORA THE EXPLORER, SAINT PETERSBURG, Megan RAPINOE, mythically evocative STYGIAN, tennis’s MARTINA (Navratilova and Hingis), and ANTI-VAXXERS as an entry.

Comments on seven things:

  • 10d. [When to start on a course], TEE TIME. If you’re like me, you were thinking along the lines of “as soon as that course is served—we’re hungry!” rather than golf.
  • 12a. [1998 Paul Simon/Derek Walcott musical, with “The”], CAPEMAN. I would have guessed it had to do with Cape Town, given Paul Simon’s African-inspired music from the ’80s, but no, it’s about Puerto Rico.
  • 4d. [Le Pen pal?], AMI. Gross. If you are a pal of Marine Le Pen, the BIGOTED French politician, I don’t want to know you.
  • 12d. [Singer in Jewish services], CANTOR. It’s upsetting that in the days following the dreadful anti-Semitic massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, even New York City has seen an uptick in anti-Jewish hate crimes. A Jewish friend of mine who’s a lifelong Brooklynite is no longer feeling like Jews are safe there.
  • 6d. [Ones not calling the shots?], ANTI-VAXXERS. Another dismaying entity. People who refuse to immunize their children or themselves are posing a very real risk to those of us who are immunosuppressed or otherwise medically vulnerable. If you’ve gotten a flu shot this fall, you have my personal thanks!
  • 21d. [Press secretary who inspired C. J. Cregg of “The West Wing”], DEE DEE MYERS. How long until a fictional character is based on Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
  • 43a. [Sporty Pontiac of old], TRANS AM. Ah, yes. The Firebird Trans Am, tied for coolness with the Camaro in the ’80s. Not sure I’ve ever been in either one! Corvettes, of course, were even cooler, and I’m certain I’ve never sat in one of those.

I worked through all the names in the puzzle with no trouble, but I’m good with names. Those of you who shrink from proper nouns (“trivia”) may have foundered a bit.

3.9 stars from me.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bipartisanship” — Jim’s review

I eventually finished this grid with no clue as to the theme. It wasn’t until after I went for a drive to pick up my daughter from school that it came to me.

The revealer, CROSS THE AISLE, is appropriately going straight down the middle of the grid. It’s clued as [Eschew partisanship, as illustrated eight times in this puzzle]. This seemed to indicate to me that things were moving left to right or right to left, but I couldn’t seem to make that happen with the entries. I kept looking for REP or DEM or even IND, but those aren’t to be found. What I eventually realized was that Rs became Ds and Ds became Rs. I’m not sure that this is really indicative of bipartisanship or “crossing the aisle” — after all, being able to work together to come up with a compromise doesn’t mean you’re switching teams for good — but I guess it makes an interesting basis for a puzzle.

For whatever reason, there are two instances of change going on in each answer.

WSJ – Sat, 11.3.18 – “Bipartisanship” by Samuel A. Donaldson

  • 26a [Heel’s come-on?] ROTTER LINE. Dotted line.
  • 28a [“I Love Lucy” star, when broadcast in Japan?] DUBBED BALL. Rubber ball. There’s nothing Japanese about the answer, but I guess some foreign country had to be used.
  • 50a [Jabbed a Mordor mountain?] POKED DOOM. Poker room. There’s zero surface sense here. Why on earth wouldn’t you clue this with respect to Marvel villain Dr. Doom?
  • 60a [Cocktail lounge furnished with caned chairs?] WICKER BAR. Wicked bad. Is “wicked bad” that in-the-language? I didn’t think so.
  • 75a [Lowlife who advises against flossing?] DENTAL CAD. Rental car.
  • 85a [Derrière assessor?] BACK RATER. Back-dated. Does anyone refer to their derrière as their “back”? I didn’t think so. Plus, the clue feels pretty skeevy, anyway.
  • 110a [Just between kings?] SIRE TO SIRE. Side to side.
  • 112a [Hood penalized with a pay cut?] PUNK DOCKED. Punk rocker.

Obviously, the theme gave me fits while solving because I never figured it out. And once I did, the a-ha moment wasn’t that momentous. Another reason I’m only feeling so-so about the theme is that nothing here tickled my funny bone.

There are, however, some really bright spots in the grid. I’m looking at G’DAY MATE, BEE STINGS, SPEED DEMON, BLACK RAIN, DISCO ERA, SEAFARER, AIRHORN, and ATE DIRT. Very nice!

There were also some eyebrow-raisers. WATERBOARD does not evoke a pleasant image. I didn’t know ONE HEART (neither the Bridge bid nor the song). A hotel door has a PEEPHOLE, not an EYE HOLE, in my book. And NAVAHOES looks plain weird without the J and with an ES. If it were up to me, I’d spell it Navajos. But I guess it could go either way.

And that brings us to the “No” column, in which we find BE HAD [Fall victim to a con]. I’m sorry, but just “No” to that. And then there was the whole IONESCOBEGUINE/AUREOLES/SYOSSET/OLEN pile-up. Feel free to throw in crosswordese ETUI in there as well. That took some doing to unravel. Way, way, way too many proper names and obscurities crossing there. And that clue for BEGUINE (which I didn’t know, btw)? [Fox trot relative]? Why is there a space between fox and trot. Google it. You’ll be hard pressed to find the dance ever written that way. Oh, and one more tough crossing: MCTEER [“Albert Nobbs” Oscar nominee Janet] and EMAC [Apple aimed at the school market]. How many people finished with an I instead of an E there? Count me as one. (And NESBIT crossing both CARILLO and TAL is yet another potential pitfall.)

Clues of note:

  • I enjoyed the ZEES/ZEDS/ZETAS combo with their nap time angles ([What an American napper catches], etc.).
  • [Summer time?] is a great clue for DISCO ERA.
  • Likewise, [Story that often goes unfinished] for ATTIC.

But despite a few good clues and some lovely fill, there were a lot of negatives here that stole the show. Unfortunately for me, the theme wasn’t able to rise above it all. 2.9 stars.

Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Fast time this week! Amazingly, as the Stumper killed me (see below), this one fell easily. Sometimes you are in the zone, sometimes not! I have seen enough of Brian Paquin’s puzzles to recognize the byline, but a great puzzle nonetheless. I truly had fun solving this one! A solid 4.2 stars this week.


  • 1A [“No problem”] “I CAN DO THAT” – Great casual phrase at 1-Across. Not too difficult, but elicits a grin. Maybe that is why this was a fun solve!
  • 31A [Bat coating] PINE TAR – This came after I had a few letters. I still remember George Brett going into a tirade over this!
  • 36D [Like Dorothy’s slippers] RUBY RED – I think this is exactly how they are described in the movie. Something in my memory tells me they were a different color in the actual book, but I could be mistaken.
  • 38A [Oprah, at times] ACTRESS – I have not seen a single movie she was ever in. Not that I don’t want to; I just haven’t. (Wait a minute: I did see Lee Daniels’ The Butler!)
  • 41A [Largest USA steel producer] NUCOR – I didn’t know this, but the crossings helped. If they are so big, why doesn’t Trump buy from them? (I couldn’t resist!)
  • 47A [Foxglove] DIGITALIS – I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorite entries in the puzzle!
  • 59A [Friend of Wyatt] BAT – A great way to clue this!
  • 8D [Attention-getting marker] HI-LITER – In my fountain pen craziness, there is also a similar YouTube obsession with a good highlighter. Also, kudos for the brand name spelling! (At least I think that is what this is!)
  • 9D [“Supernatural” co-star Jensen __ ] ACKLES – I don’t know this actor, but the blanks here make this a little too easy?
  • 15D [Depart, in totspeak] GO BYE BYE – Best entry hands down!
  • 33D [They’re constantly picking up] NEATNIKS – I liked this clue a lot. Probably the best one in the puzzle.
  • 42D [One eying a basket] CAGER – As in slang for a basketball player. This one also was an extremely good clue.

I will stop here. Have a great day, everyone!

Erik Agard’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Nice! Our recent favorite Jeopardy! contestant has this week’s Stumper, and this one certainly stumped me. I haven’t been feeling the best, but for some reason I just couldn’t get some of these answers this week, some of which I have never heard of. Some of them I certainly knew, but came after waaay too long of a time. Did I mention I am on cold medicine? 4.6 stars for a truly “stumping” Stumper, in my opinion!

Lots of highlights:

  • 1A [Engineer a tank] LOSE – One of many contenders for best clue. A hot topic in this country, where mediocrity is rewarded with high draft picks, not relegation to a lesser league.
  • 5A [Minister with a “Malcolm X” cameo] AL SHARPTON – I can see this scene vividly in my mind, since it is one of the most memorable in the movie. Then why couldn’t I remember this dude’s name??
  • 23A [Norse Armageddon] RAGNAROK – I just saw this movie in the Thor series a few weeks ago!! And I STILL couldn’t come up with this until a forehead-slapping 15-20 minutes into this puzzle!
  • 36A [“Post-graffit” street painter] GUERRILLA ARTIST – This is certainly one of the most unique 15-letter entries I have seen recently, probably because it is a new term to me!
  • 47A [Ink-shooting Nintendo game] SPLATOON – My son knew this; I did not.
  • 1D [Blood-chilling locales] LAB FRIDGES – It is still a bit “Hallowe’en-y” out here, so this clue invokes some horror-movie grisly scene. Wow, what a pivot! Again, arguably the best clue in the puzzle.
  • 3D [The westernmost Old World mainlanders] SENEGALESE – Wow. Totally fooled. I wrote PORTUGUESE in here immediately, which caused tons of issues.
  • 28D [Line between pants] AM I TOO LATE?” – Wow, another best clue nominee. I think I may like this one the best! The mental picture this evokes is excellent!
  • 30D [Apt catwalk support] KITTEN HEEL – I sound like a broken record, but ANOTHER awesome clue. This is what that is:
  • 27D [Literally, “Let it be done”] FIAT – I had AMEN in at first, then FINI. Yes, there are several error marks in this section of the grid!
  • 50D [Edible pentagonal piece] OKRA – With OKLAHOMANS correctly guessed at 54A, I tried SKOR here. Is that even pentagonal? Is okra, now that I think of it?? Great misdirection, even if unintended!

I could go on, but I have a busy weekend! Go Blue!

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25 Responses to Saturday, November 3, 2018

  1. Martin says:

    AHD goes with “fox trot,” M-W uses “fox-trot” and the OED “foxtrot.” (I’d link them all except the software flags posts with too many links.)

    That’s a sign that the name is maturing in the language, and will probably settle permanently on “foxtrot” at some point in the future.

    OTOH, it’s still always “turkey trot,” probably because it’s not as important.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    So are we all OK with GIMP in the NYT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Probably not, and I’d love to hear from some folks who know more about the term’s use and (potential) hurtfulness.

      DIS/SIMP would have also included an insulting word,and DIP/PIMP would only serve to remind people about sex trafficking. DIL/LIMP would have been the most neutral option, but adding a name from Rugrats to an already name-dense grid wouldn’t be good.

      The lesson is: if your grid is backing you into a GIMP/SIMP/PIMP choice, consider ripping out some fill and finding alternatives.

      • sps says:

        My feelings exactly. You could have kept GIMP and clued it quite differently. For me, the word evokes summer camp and braiding colored cords (which we called gimp) into bracelets.

    • David L says:

      Some years ago, when I was recovering from surgery, I went out to dinner with some friends, including an older woman who used a walker. As we were (awkwardly) getting seated, one of the group said “what a bunch of gimps!” But this was among friends.

      My problem with the clue is grammatical — gimp is noun, and while hobble can be a noun, its meaning in that sense is not equivalent.

  3. David says:

    Amy – Sarah Huckabee Sanders _is_ a fictional character.

  4. Lise says:

    NYT: I had a tough time in the NW. “Classified” is a fine clue for WANT AD but I had WANTED, which didn’t help, and I had CAVE MAN, not having heard of the CAPE MAN musical, and since I had never until today encountered the word APPARAT, AVPERAT meant just as much to me as the correct answer. Oxford Dictionaries online defines it as “the administrative system of a communist party” and the first several google hits refer to a musician.

    However, I feel that if I was interested enough in it to look it up and learn about it, it was a worthy entry.

    This is one hazard of solving on paper, but I still find it a better experience. I do Monday on-line and am getting better at using the NYT software, at least.

    The pun resulting from “Le Pen pal?” is not worth the effort, I believe. It’s a way controversial clue to get to an ordinary word like AMI.

    Most of the entries in the puzzle were good, and made me think a bit.

  5. Norm says:

    WSJ: Would have preferred CROSS PARTY LINES for the revealer, and it took me a long time to catch the theme as well, but I liked it a lot when I did.

  6. Ethan says:

    I don’t really get the clue for LAND, and for a long time I was sure it was really LANDMINE and there was a Saturday gimmick about being unselfish or something where MINE gets deleted.

    I also was technically DNF because I had DIS/SIMP. I don’t really know what GIMP is other than something that the artsy-craftsy girls used to make bracelets in fifth grade, and I think a Pulp Fiction character? (I have only seen parts of it on TV.) But I guess it’s a slur, too?

  7. Penguins says:

    “…for some reason I just couldn’t get some of these answers this week, some of which I have never heard of.”

    You’re surprised? It’s a deliberately difficult E.A. puzzle, a trivia trapped slog that makes you long for your hair shirt. :) And, yeah, I finished it.

  8. Billie says:

    I enjoyed all the fun stuff in the LAT, but didn’t like to see PINE TAR and TARS in the same puzzle.

  9. Chukkagirl says:

    In my universe GIMP is used as in hobbling around, it’s not pejorative unless being slung as an epithet.

  10. christopher brisson says:

    RE: Jim’s Review of WSJ: Jim, I enjoyed your detailed review. I’m with you on the ambivalence of the execution of the theme. Since the letters are flips, the device, as you said, doesn’t really line up (no pun intended) with the premise of deconstructing bipartisanship. In fact, when flipping the letters I got this image in my head of all the Dems physically crossing the chambers over to the GOP side, and vice versa, leaving everybody the same distance from each other at the end of the movement as they were at the beginning (like some weird political ballet). As to figuring out the flip itself, it only came to me after solving about 95% of the puzzle; and I wish I could say otherwise, but it descended in a flash, so I can’t really claim to have figured it out, per se–it just sort of presented itself, if that makes any sense.

    I agree with you regarding NAVAHOES. I thought that was pretty lame, as I typically do when encountering largely abandoned alternate spellings in puzzles (it just comes across as a constructive cheat on the part of the puzzle-maker). I was not in Cub Scouts, so AKELA escaped me; I only got it by virtue of filling everything else and then looked it up once I was done.

    I knew McTEER, so I never ended up with a misfill of EMAC; rather, with McTEER in place I initially wrote in EPAD, thinking perhaps that it was a type of IPad for the educational market; I had forgotten that they had called those orange- and turquoise-monitored computers, c. 1999, EMacs.

    My favorite entry in the puzzle was “Summer time?”/DISCO ERA, which I thought was quite brilliant. The clue is so simple and in such plain language, but pairs beautifully with the specificity of the answer (since Donna Summer is, after all, the indisputable queen of disco).

    I am going to part ways with you, however, on IONESCO (the clue is arguably his most famous play) and I actually really liked BE HAD [fall victim to a con]–it brought a smile to my face–because I pictured a natty older gentleman or an imperious dowager realizing they’ve been bamboozled and declaring in high dudgeon, “Egads, I’ve been had!”

    Hardest cross for me was the DYNE/DEKE corner, as I had no familiarity with either word, so despite having the first three letters in each, had no idea which vowel was the right choice for the shared letter. And ETUI–what the hell, I speak French and I have never ever encountered that word before. My family (French-Canadian lineage) still says things like “my valise” instead of “my suitcase,” so it surprises me that I’ve never come across or heard that word before…but, oh well, I guess such discoveries are part of the beauty, fun and reward of solving these things.

    Thanks again for the entertaining write-up.

  11. Bloke says:

    Bring out the Gimp!!

  12. JohnH says:

    I agree with the write-up of the WSJ. I enjoyed the theme, but I too objected to the same two theme clues, drawing on Tolkein for DOOM and the odd “wicked bad.” And lots of so-so fill, including MCTEER, which I just got wrong, trying the more familiar “iPad.”

    Felt like they had a great potential puzzle but just didn’t care enough to get it right. Or maybe we had a fine setter (and a nice break from the editor writing his own puzzles) but another sign, consistent with the consistent low ratings here, that Shenk isn’t a talented editor.

  13. Zulema says:

    I think LEADETH is misclued in the NYT. It is singular, while “shepherds” is plural, and the Bible is in this case misquoted anyway. Sorry for the very late comment. It took me forever to finish this puzzle.

    • Chukkagirl says:

      I agree!

    • john farmer says:

      The clue tries to be tricky, maybe a bit too much, but I think the clue/answer do agree.

      Psalms 23:2

      “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
      –King James Version

      “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”
      –New American Standard Version

      Both are third-person singular present-tense verbs. “Shepherds” is also (a verb meaning “to guide”), though as a noun it is plural.

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