Saturday, December 1, 2018

LAT 8:00 (Derek) 


Newsday 17:40 (Derek) 


NYT 5:44 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 12 1 18, no 1201

The constructor has stretched the grid to a 16-square width to accommodate a staggered triple-stack of 14s with no short (3-4 letters) crossings and some nice corner stacks. The center of the grid’s pretty, with the undulating wave of white squares.


Seven things:

  • 34a. [Ibizan inn], POSADA. I wondered if they speak Spain’s standard Spanish in/on Ibiza. Apparently they speak Catalan rather than mainland Castilian—but Google Translate tells me inn = posada in Catalan.
  • 38a. [Activity involving a leader and a follower], PARTNER DANCING. I kinda thought that was pretty much just called “dancing.” Just me?
  • 1d. [“E lucevan le stelle” source], TOSCA. Guessed it with the O and maybe the S in place. The thought process was “Italian phrase? Must be an opera thing. Five letters, second letter is O? Could be TOSCA. Or maybe NORMA, is that an opera or a character?”
  • 6d. [England’s Isle of ___], ELY. This is more or less a desperation entry, isn’t it? “It’s clueable, though mighty obscure to Americans.”
  • 26d. [Golfer’s approach, often], IRON SHOT. Golfers, is this a common term, an actual thing rather than a green-paint answer? Chip shot, I know. IRON SHOT, utterly unfamiliar to me.
  • Head games19a. [High as a kite], BAKED / 36a. [Head shot], BOTOX INJECTION / 42a. [Derby head], LOO / 29d. [People with great head shots?], SOCCER STARS / 39d. [Was blue], FELT SAD / 52d. [Parts of some neuro exams], MRIS.
  • 59d. [Mean in school, for short], GPA. Ah! Arithmetic mean rather than prone to bullying. Good misdirect.

4.25 stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?

Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Housework” — Jim P’s review

Our theme is existing phrases re-imagined with respect to home ownership.

WSJ – Sat, 12.1.18 – “Housework” by Randolph Ross

  • 23a [Exciting news about paperwork on a house purchase?] THE DEED IS DONE. Good one. A strong start.
  • 37a [Conflict about house ownership?] TITLE FIGHT. I have had to fight with a particular title company in the past, mostly because their ineptitude kept introducing errors into the process.
  • 47a [Finds somewhere to build one’s new house?] LIKES A LOT. This feels a bit roll-your-owny.
  • 66a [Bad investments for house traders?] FLIP FLOPS. I like this one best. The house two doors down was flipped within the past year. Previously, it was our neighborhood haunted house; now it’s very nice.
  • 79a [House broker who doesn’t charge?] FREE AGENT
  • 92a [House near the Alabama coast?] MOBILE HOME. Meh.
  • 109a [Final price for one’s new house?] CLOSING NUMBER
  • 16d [Choice location for an author’s house?] WRITER’S BLOCK
  • 59d [One of a billionaire’s houses?] FOURTH ESTATE

Fairly solid entries. There’s some inconsistency regarding which word changes meaning, whether it be the home-related word, the other word, or both. The better ones have the home-related word changing meaning (DEED, TITLE, BLOCK, FLIP, etc.). The one I liked least, MOBILE HOME, changes the non-home-related word, leaving the other meaning intact.

There’s so much theme material that there’s little room for long non-theme fill. I do like BOER WAR, FARM TEAM, ANTELOPE, CHRONOS, ANTES UP, and PODIATRY. I’m not so sure if BOHR ATOM [Model used in physics class] is a legit phrase. I’ve had physics classes, but I’m no physicist, and I don’t recall what makes a BOHR ATOM more notable than just a plain old run-of-the-mill atom. Physicists, what say you?

There’s a good bit of crosswordese: ANO, OTO, ALIS, AT AN, etc., and the roll-your-own duo of OPTER and LACER. Plural PSSTS is just plain ridiculous.

But there’s one even worse offense (IMHO): IPS [Tape measure: Abbr.]. I’m still not even sure what this is after. Instructions Per Second? Inches Per Second? Something else? It didn’t help that it crossed the very uncommon IMITABLE [Qualifying as a role model] (which I wanted to be INIMITABLE). Making matters more difficult for me was that I had LET LIE at 68d [Drop, as an argument] which I never went back and questioned because I was sure it was right. This made 82a [Cough syrup ingredient] look like COLE_NE. I’m not too up on my cough syrup ingredients, so I just assumed this was something I didn’t know. In the end, I finished with three errors in that section. I should have been able to get CODEINE; that’s on me. But IMITABLE crossing IPS is rough and warrants a re-tooling of that section as I see it.

In the end, my view of the grid is colored by those distasteful elements. The theme is good as is much of the fill, but I feel some of those questionable entries should have been excised. 2.9 stars.

Frederick J. Healy’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

A tad tough! Frederick J. Healy is a new byline to me, or at the very least a constructor I am not familiar with, so this one took a tick longer than normal, but still cracked in just about 8 minutes. Kudos for the stacked 11s criss-crossing in the middle of the grid. This is a stellar 66-word grid that was a blast to solve. A solid 4.8 stars from me today.

Some high points:

  • 19A [Novak Djokovic’s org.] ATP – A gimme for me!
  • 34A [Scrooge types] CHEAPSKATES – This one prompted a grin once solved.
  • 35A [Fruity treat] BANANA SPLIT – One of my all-time favorite foods, but I am trying to lose weight.
  • 52A [Traditional Dixie dessert] PECAN PIE – This is not my favorite dessert, but I am not from the South, either.
  • 1D [Award-winning ESPN writer/reporter Jeremy] SCHAAP – I remember is father Dick Schaap as well, who was also excellent as an investigative sports reporter. If you’ve never seen a piece from either of these men, you are missing out.
  • 5D [Old Ritz rival] HI HO – They don’t sell these anymore? I am not a crazy fan of Ritz either, but I remember Hi Ho crackers from when I was younger.
  • 14D [Stage makeup staple] GREASE PAINT – Another one of the stellar 11-letter entries in the middle.
  • 17D [Programmer’s problem] ENDLESS LOOP – I consider myself trying to learn programming, but I am not good at it. I do understand that if your statements aren’t constructed well, you will end up with one of these, which will crash your program!
  • 24D [Gulf of __: Baltic Sea arm] BOTHNIA – This is over between Finland and Sweden. Here is a map:
  • 34D [Use a certain two-handed signal] CALL TIME – Actually called a “T” for the signal made with the hands. Best clue in the puzzle.
  • 53D [Some Windows systems] NTS – Does this still exist??

Enjoy your weekend!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

I thought I had this one quickly. I raced through about 80% of this puzzle in like 6 minutes, but that NW corner absolutely killed me. 1-Across did not come very quickly, and it was nearly the very last entry I filled in. What started as a possible 8 minute solve turned into a nearly 20-minute slog. As is usually the case, everything is fair, but suffice it to say I learned a new word or two, which I will be sure and mention below. Battered and bruised by a Stumper that, at least in one corner, was anything but “Les Ruff!” 4.4 stars today.

That promised list of highlights (and lowlights!)

  • 15A, 28A, & 67A [With 15 or 28 Across, oater farewell] ADIOS AMIGO/SEÑORA – A lot of work for a not-too-difficult answer, but still cleverly tied together.
  • 20A [Churchill was born in one] PALACE – I believe you!
  • 31A [Toon first called Stinky] PEPE LE PEW – I am sure there may need to be accent marks in this name somewhere! Great clue.
  • 35A [They make money from misspelled URLs] TYPE SQUATTERS – Remember those new words I said I learned? This is one of them. Totally new to me.
  • 44A [Its entrance has a Jackie Robinson Rotunda] CITI FIELD – I have been to about a dozen or so different MLB parks, but not this one. Road trip! I bet it is beautiful since it is still a fairly new park.
  • 63A & 64A [Bag for chefs] KNIFE ROLL – An iconic scene of Top Chef is when a contestant is kicked off and is told to “pack your knives and go.” I have seen them roll up their knives in this very case.
  • 2D [Cousteau, for instance] OCEANAUT – This is definitely that other new word. Wow.
  • 10D & 11D [Slotted for service] IN-LINE/COIN-OP – Another clever tie-in.
  • 21D [“Bachelor of the Year” co-awarder] COSMO – I am mildly curious as to who the other “co-awarder” is. Getting this answer was a key to cracking that devilish NW corner.

I need a nap now!

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25 Responses to Saturday, December 1, 2018

  1. Steve Manion says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle, but I thought there were several roll your own expressions:
    IRON SHOT: accurate in a sense, but definitely not idiomatic
    Sort of roll your own


    • CC says:

      I think AIRPORT BAR is more than legit. It’s got over 180K Google hits (surprised it’s not way higher). It’s specific, and evokes a very specific mood. (Like … there’s a special kind of weariness and vibe in airport bars you don’t get other places.)

      • Huda says:

        Agreed with the overall sense that some of the entries felt like a stretch, although not really wrong. I had DANCING and SAMBA and kept trying to guess the first half of that entry- Latin, Ballroom, Dirty Dancing get millions of hits- PARTNER DANCING also in the ~200K range.
        The whole left side felt harder than the right… But I do admire the construction and some of the snappy entries– BOTOX INJECTION and BROMANCE were my favorite.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      We might give a pass to INKBLOT TEST & AIRPORT BAR. So roll-your-owns are just the 15% of the puzzle then.

      I can think of a lot of SOCCER STARS throughout history (Pele, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, others similarly sized) not known for “great head shots.”

      Star Wars is becoming a way for the NYT to paper over poor puzzle construction with random letter combinations. JANGO Fett is particularly obscure.

      This puzzle was an atrocious slog for me.

  2. janie says:

    >”…Or maybe NORMA, is that an opera or a character?”



  3. Lise says:

    My eraser got quite a workout (for which it didn’t have to LACE up (where I had ANTE instead)) today. I had AVG for GPA, hadn’t heard of JANGO and had BOBBA, which I know now is not how it’s spelled, EEG for MRI, SRI for SIR, SETH instead of SEGA… Those are all on me, and I enjoyed the challenge.

    I was surprised to see SHOT in the puzzle after seeing it in a couple of clues. I thought the clues themselves were fabulous, very creative.

    My brain thanks you for the workout and for the clever clues, Mr. McCarty.

  4. David L says:

    Mostly a good Saturday puzzle but it’s pity that the central answer, PARTNERDANCING, is not really a thing, as far as I can see. And FITNESSCENTERS is pretty random.

    Didn’t know LEILA or JANGO, couldn’t remember HORNE for a long time, had SENECA before HORACE … etc etc … but got there eventually.

  5. Clay Patrick says:

    Re: LA Times puzzle, I’m surprised nobody (including the LA Times Crosswords Corner reviewer) caught that Healy also included 16 sets of double letters in this grid. When I got ATP and AHAB, I saw that AA and since I didn’t know the name Schaap, I questioned it, but then got SALAAM and thought this might be a theme, which I think it is.

    • Doug says:

      Wow – nice catch! Actually, going back over the grid, I think I count 18 doubles, 12 in the downs alone, and half are double vowels. There are two double doubles in ENDLESSLOOP crossing THREECHEERS right in the middle of the grid. An impressive detail in an already-impressive puzzle.

      • It’s possible I’m missing something but I don’t see what makes the double letters in this puzzle noteworthy. Do these pairs spell something relevant, or is it just more than the usual number?

  6. Judge Vic says:

    Great going, Ryan! 17 solid ILSA’s in my book: I added them as a group to my default word list, and it told me that 8 were new entries. That’s huge.
    IRON SHOT is a golfing term I recognize (I’ve played the game competitively for 55 years). WOOD SHOT is too, but it’s less common. Yes, CHIP SHOT is probably the best-known shot among non-golfers, but there are also PITCH SHOT, SAND SHOT, BUNKER SHOT … and, in case you were interested, simply GOLF SHOT. In my dad’s generation, especially, it was common to hear someone say–right after another person had hit, “Golf shot!” And that was a compliment.
    BROGRAMMER and OMEGA DOG were new to my consciousness, I think. IMO, the green paint splotches show on FELT SAD–it, plus its relatives FEEL SAD, FEELS SAD and FEELING SAD show in Ginsberg to have appeared in only a total of 10 puzzles previously.

    • M483 says:

      I only played golf recreationally so I only ever heard an approach shot called a chip shot.

      • Chris says:

        Chip shots are generally taken from green side while an iron shot can occur anywhere from tee to green. Definitely a legit answer to me.

  7. David L says:

    Stumper was easier than today’s NYT for me. The NW corner was most troublesome — I had AQUANAUT for a while and wasn’t convinced DAMPMOP was a thing. Otherwise pretty straightforward.

    Re: WSJ — yes, the Bohr atom is a real thing. It was the first quantum model of the atom, soon supplanted by more sophisticated models. I remember learning about it long ago as a gateway to quantum physics. I guess it could well still be in the curriculum.

    • Penguins says:

      “The NW corner was most troublesome — I had AQUANAUT for a while…”

      For me as well. Liked the cross-referencing of clues. Not a tough Stumper but an enjoyable one.

      • Doug says:

        Ditto. I have not come across the Brit usage OCEANAUT before, and only reluctantly accepted that it must be correct. Why a British term for a French oceanographer in an American puzzle?

        I am also going to dispute the assertion that EDNA is somehow “related” to Aidan. Aidan is an Irish male name meaning “fiery”; it has no female counterpart. EDNA is a Hebrew given name meaning “delight”. The only possible argument I can see is that Aidan is sometimes Anglicized as Eden, a Hebrew-derived name from the same root as EDNA. But that’s a pretty loosey-goosey connection. The fact that Aiden and Eden are near-homophones does not make (Hebrew) EDNA “related” to (Irish) Aiden.

    • David Glasser says:

      AQUANAUT went great with 14A DQED, which I still think is better for “Tossed off” than ACED (how does that even work?).

  8. DH says:

    Both AIRPORT BAR and INKBLOT TEST are very much “in the language” for me, I didn’t give them a second thought, except for the clue for the former. Is that a tie-in to “aircraft”? But …but … you’re not on the craft if you’re in the bar, are you?

    “when I told my wife that I didn’t notice a change in her appearance after her Botox injections, she didn’t look surprised”.

    • Huda says:

      That was clever… :)

      But the idea of botox freaks me out. We use that toxin in research studies and it’s nasty stuff… Sometimes, I can’t believe what we push on people who don’t know the ins and outs of products. In spite of claims that the botox amounts are tiny, look at the possible side effects:

      “Postmarketing reports indicate that the effects of BOTOX and all botulinum toxin products may spread from the area of injection to produce symptoms consistent with botulinum toxin effects. These may include asthenia, generalized muscle weakness, diplopia, ptosis, dysphagia, dysphonia, dysarthria, urinary incontinence and breathing difficulties. These symptoms have been reported hours to weeks after injection. Swallowing and breathing difficulties can be life threatening and there have been reports of death.”

      Is it worth it, just to hide wrinkles?

    • M483 says:

      Good one!

  9. Doug says:

    WSJ: I enjoyed this a whole lot more than Jim P did. The themers struck me as pretty solid, and several made me smile, including MOBILEHOME and WRITERSBLOCK. The crosswordese was minimal, I thought, given the density of themers. IPS is inches per second, the standard speed unit for reel-to-reel audio tape machines.

  10. Chukkagirl says:

    The Ibiza reference brought back fond memories of this earworm from The Vegaboys “We’re Going To Ibiza!” When my kids were little, they thought the chorus (at :56) was “We’re going to eat pizza!”

    FWIW I found this puzzle extremely challenging.

  11. JohnH says:

    NYT was a real hard one for me, for reasons others have already noted. I, too, started with “ante” and “Seneca” and was stymied for some time by first words on the left that might have given me, say, DANCING PARTNER and IRON SHOT. But I do feel fine with AIRPORT BAR and FITNESS CENTER, hard as they were, and felt good about finishing.

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