Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 396), “Let’s Call it a Jay!”—Ade’s take
Happy New Year, everyone! I am sure all of you are starting your 2019 in style and, if you’re starting it with crosswords, that’s even better! Today’s grid is a homage to the start of the New Year, with each of the four theme entries being a variant description/interpretation of the repeating clue, “Jay,” with the final theme entry, FIRST OF JANUARY, literally describing the first letter in the word “January” and, also, what today’s date happens to be (62A: [JAY (or a time to make a fresh start…Happy New Year!)
- TV FUNNYMAN LENO (16A: [JAY])
- CRESTED BLUE BIRD (29A: [JAY])
- GATSBY OF WEST EGG (47A: [JAY])
Lots of long, lively fill outside of the theme entries in this grid, and loved the clue to WINERIES, something that I, sadly, have never been to in my life before (11D: [Pressing concerns in California]). Throw in OENO and this grid surely is suggesting that you should have a nice, soothing drink during your New Year’s Eve/Day (13A: [Winemaker’s prefix]). Oh, and then there’s SIP as well in the grid, so, as long as you’re of legal drinking age, you can’t help but have a wine glass in your hand at the moment (38A: [Wee champagne sample]). Definitely get jealous when I see friends of mine on Facebook post pictures of their times at wineries. If there is a winery in the Bay Area that I should visit (hoping to be in the area in March), let me know of a couple of good spots. (Red wine drinker here, in the Malbec/Bordeaux mold.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PEP (27D: [Vigor]) – Regarded as the best coach in world football (soccer), Josep “Pep” Guardiola is currently the manager of Manchester City Football Club in the English Premier League. As a player, Pep played 263 games as a midfield for famed soccer club FC Barcelona, helping the team win the Champions League in 1992. Pep embarked on his illustrious coaching career when he became manager of Barcelona in 2008, where he led the Blaugrana to three top-flight Spanish league titles (2009-2011), two Spanish Cup/Copa del Rey titles (2009, 2012) and two UEFA Champions League trophies (2009, 2011). Pep then led German superpower FC Bayern München to three straight top-flight German titles (2014-16) before arriving in England.
I hope you all have a PEACEFUL (36D: [Serene]) time in ringing in the new year, and also hope you OPTIMIZE the time you have in being with family and friends while putting 2018 in the rear view (37D: [Make the best of]). Thank you so much for the time that you continue to devote to reading the thoughts of all of the bloggers and reviewers on Fiend, especially to start the new year! Here’s to you! Have a wonderful day, everyone, and, as always, keep solving!!
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay, including 2-Down is a terrible way to start the crossword’s year. In the interest of expediency, let me refer you to Jeff Chen’s discussion of that entry in his notes at XWordInfo. Baseball fans call a [Pitch to the head, informally] a bean ball, and BEANER is more commonly used as a racist slur aimed at Mexican people. Jeff also points out the quick-and-easy fix, changing ABEL and ANI to AHEM and ALI, making 2d HEALER instead (that would also require a change to the opposite corner’s ALI, which could easily be ADS instead). It pisses me off that (a) the constructor included this in the grid and (b) that Will Shortz rationalized its retention when it would be so simple to fix it. Can we all try to be better in 2019, please? To expect more of ourselves?
The theme revealer is PASSABLE, and the theme answers begin with things that can be passed. HAT TRICK, pass the hat for donations. TORCH SONG, pass the torch to your successor. TIME SIGNATURE, pass the time. BUCK TEETH, pass the buck and avoid accountability.
What else? I like ONCE-OVER, I like the proper TAPAS (instead of the iffy TAPA that’s in too many grids), I like the TREMBLE/RAMBLE echo.
Possibly out of place in an easy Tuesday puzzle: ABA, ASP, TABU, KOLAS, GEKKO, ERVIN, and (!!) 39d. [Hammond ___, writer of “The Wreck of the Mary Deare”], INNES.
3.5 stars for most of the puzzle, 0 stars for 2d.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Not the Best of 2018″ – Derek’s write-up
For a year-end review, how about some low points? Kind of like ESPN’s Not Top Ten plays of the year. You get the idea:
- 17A [Extremely annoying kids’ song (“doo doo doo doo doo doo”) which also featured in themed clothing like a pajama set or graphic T) BABY SHARK
- 20A [Action sequel called the worst movie of 2018 by multiple critics (with hastily-edited ads ending in “Rated R”)] THE PREDATOR – This got a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Holmes and Watson has, as of today, an 8%!
- 37A [College football team ranked 121st out of 129 by CBS sports (between New Mexico and Kent State U.] RUTGERS – Not good when you are battling in the Big Ten Conference!
- 48A [Entertainer criticized for a racially insensitive tweet in October–not a good look fo the Divine Miss M] BETTE MIDLER
- 53A [Canceled Fox sitcom with a first episode aptly titled “Pilot” (that’s Pilot with a capital “P”)] LA TO VEGAS – Never heard of it. Easy come, easy go …
Don’t think I won’t post that Baby Shark video just to annoy you! My 6-year-old knows all about this. Nice final compilation for 2018. I wonder what dreck will come about in 2019? 4.6 stars.
A few things:
- 9A [Club counterpart] SPADE – Counterpart?? I guess. I am just tired and cranky; perhaps I need a nap!
- 33A [Words in an infomercial disclaimer] PAID AD – I suppose they have to say this before someone sues them for misleading information, even though that is precisely what these are: ads!!
- 41A [“The Shape of Water” director Guillermo del __ ] TORO – I thought this movie wasn’t bad. Best Picture? Maybe not, but still good. Weird, but good.
- 62A [Nine, in some “Sesame Street” episodes] NUEVE – Any accents in this spelling? I hope not!
- 23D [A bunch] OODLES – This made me smile. Not sure why!
- 28D [Greg who missed the entire 2007-08 season after his #1 NBA draft pick] ODEN – He is from nearby Indianapolis, so I followed his story. It is amazing that these huge men stay healthy at all. He only played 105 games over 7 seasons, four of which he never saw the court. He was 7’0″ and 250 lbs!
- 37D [Progressive online news site since 2004] RAW STORY – I have seen a few clickbait links to this site from social media. Nice entry; no NYT hits!
- 54D [Ph.D. hopeful’s exam] GRE – I can never remember this acronym. Perhaps because I don’t have a PhD!
That promised video!
Derek Bowman’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
The constructor has a cool name! And we feature an author I’ll bet you didn’t know has a birthday on New Year’s Day:
- 21A & 27A [50-Across classic] THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
- 45A [50-Across work featuring the two youngest Glass siblings] FRANNY AND ZOOEY
- 68A [Title heroine in one of 50-Across’ “Nine Stories”] ESME
- 50A [Author born 1/1/1919] J. D. SALINGER
I don’t think I have ever ready anything by this author. That is on me; I am sure these are in the public domain by now; if not, it cannot be that expensive. I think I will try to read more in 2019! Look for me on GoodReads. 4.3 stars.
A few more things:
- 1A [Language of southern Africa] BANTU – I feel ignorant not knowing exactly which country or countries this is spoken in. I hate that feeling, but there are literally thousands of languages and it is hard to know them all.
- 32A [“Neither snow __ rain …”] NOR – I don’t have to worry about these things anymore! (I am a retired UPS driver!)
- 37A [Words repeated after “Whatever” in a Doris Day song] WILL BE – From the song “Que Sera Sera” from The Man Who Knew Too Much, I believe. I won’t put a copy here and get it stuck in your head! (Although it may be already!)
- 3D [Cavs’ org.] NBA – Their center recently stated that, until someone else wins it, they are still the Eastern Conference champs. Technically true, but with LeBron in L.A., they are unlikely to even make the playoffs.
- 7D [“CBS This Morning” co-anchor O’Donnell] NORAH – Who watches CBS in the morning??
- 29D [Olive Oyl’s guy] POPEYE – There are special edition fountain pens with him on there!
- 39D [“Mary Poppins Returns” actor __-Manuel Miranda] LIN – Has anyone seen this yet? It is at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, much higher than Holmes and Watson‘s 8%!
- 42D [Like some audiobooks] ON CD – Who still uses CDs??
- 56D [Japanese pufferfish] FUGU – Isn’t this the one that is poisonous if not properly prepared? Yummy!
Time to watch more football!
New Years resolution for 2019: stop getting offended by everything. Nothing wrong with 2d. As an avid baseball fan, I can affirm those pitches are called beaners by anyone who plays or watches the game. It isn’t a racist term in that context, and it is not racist in the context used in the puzzle. A day does not pass with something offensive being found in these puzzles….
New Year’s resolution: Start trying to understand why these things offend people, and care about not offending people.
dude there’s a gigantic universe of difference between putting an overtly racist term in a puzzle and “something offensive being found in these puzzles everyday” – this one’s not okay, regardless of it having a second baseball definition. Google 2d and tell me what page you find a baseball-related definition. I gave up after page 10.
And I’m saying this as both a lifelong baseball fan and the guy that fucked up yesterday and clued AUNT as [__ Jemima]
I’m also an avid baseball fan, going back to the 70’s. Played as a kid, coached little league as an adult.
You say “those pitches are called beaners by anyone who plays or watches the game.”
I have literally heard NO ONE call them that in my life. Beanballs? Of course.
Chin music? Brush back? High and tight? Close shave? Buzz? Yes.
Beaner? Never once. Ever. Do I dispute that someone, somewhere has called a bean ball a “beaner?” No. Is it some tertiary definition in a dictionary? I’m sure it is.
But anyone who plays or watches?
Here’s a glossary of baseball terms and lingo, which you’d imagine would contain this term you say anyone who plays or watches would know.
Nope. Not in there.
My resolution for 2019: I will continue not to be offended by “everything.”
I’ll just limit being offended to offensive crap.
As someone unfamiliar with the term in either context, I Googled it… and got page after page of discussions and definitions of the racial slur. The baseball term appears once many pages down in the results. When the dominant definition is the offensive one, the word has no business being in the puzzle.
I also winced at 2d, and was comforted by the knowledge that Amy would call it out. That’s one of the things I love about this blog. It’s reassuring and heartening to know that I’m not alone and even more heartening to know constructors and editors are reading and learning (thanks, Brian).
I’m with you, Bill. Just because one CAN be offended, doesn’t mean one MUST be offended. Why must crosswords be an SJW vehicle at all times?
Listen, @Ch, when you use a term like “political correctness” or “social justice warrior,” it is a huge red flag, like the vivid colors on a poisonous frog.
That “correctness” and “social justice” became insults boggles the mind.
I wasn’t aware that SJW was pejorative, figured it was a banner worn proudly. That yet something else is taken as an insult, that’s not surprising.
In general I try to keep quiet because I respect that it’s your blog and I’m here for the actual crossword stuff. However, since you brought it up, it’s actually not that mind-boggling that those terms might be wearing thin on both sides maybe. For my part, when language is being corrected at every turn, the school marmishness gets a bit wearisome.
The people who use “SJW” are the people who mock or threaten them. See also: Gamergate.
I know lots of people who are fighting for social justice, and not a one of them says “I’m an SJW!”
You are, of course, welcome to start your own crossword blog if this one displeases you. Team Fiend isn’t changing anytime soon.
I wouldn’t expect your blog to change just because I may disagree with much of the outrage over whatever. And I don’t need to start my own blog, thank you. I’m perfectly happy to take the wheat with the chaff here.
I apologize that I lost my temper last evening. That was wrong, and so were ranting and dominating the conversation. I just felt that I was being singled out unfairly, for two reasons.
First, I hadn’t started low ratings or had them uniquely. I joined a thread on last week’s TNY contest after others had complained about the level of trivia and wondered if they’d be discussed here. And then I joined one yesterday on the Monday TNY puzzle after at least two others had said they were left with multiple naticks, and I just agreed.
Second, I’d never dream of saying that puzzles shouldn’t have things I don’t know. That’d make everything a gimme, reducing everything to a Monday level, and I prefer hard puzzles. I’ve commented often recently on things I didn’t know that didn’t reduce my liking for a puzzle, like CAPE homes. I just want less of a slog and fair crossings. Isn’t that what a natick for others meant? And I definitely don’t appreciate being called incurious.
Happy new year.
As was discussed on the Rex Parker blog, someone not from the West Coast is less likely to know about the perjorative meaning of the word. The puzzle author is an East Coast radio personality (as seen in his readily available bio), so as a solver I don’t know, do constructors have “no go” lists they need to vet every word through?
In any case, it’s the editor’s responsibility to catch such things, especially given that Jeff Chen apparently pointed this out to the editor in advance.
As for the constructor’s culpability, the whole concept of beanballs is somewhat archaic, as a throw to the head results in an automatic serious suspension nowadays. Generally a pitcher will “plunk” a batter somewhere such as in the ribs in retaliation for something (which I still think degrades the game). So the constructor is at least guilty of using a very dated concept, and using a weak secondary choice of a word at that.
I’m a Chicagoan and I knew the term.
A friend’s son was called a “dirty beaner” at an Evanston school not long ago. The kid’s Jewish and not Latino, so his mom turned to the internet to see if the word had other meanings. I think Urban Dictionary is where she found a mention of some obscene sexual practice along with the prevailing ethnic slur … and obviously the school bullies weren’t using it as a baseball term. So Midwestern suburban kids know the term as well, and are closer to the East Coast than the West.
Born and raised in the NYC metro area and I know it’s a slur
I’m from the Midwest and heard the term growing up (rarely, thankfully). Seeing it in the grid was so jarring that I was sure I had made some sort of mistake. I’m also a baseball fan and never heard the word used in that context.
Happy New Year everyone!
Every new year should start with a scientific factoid, wouldn’t you say? So here goes:
I liked the cluing of GENE with freckles… We have them in our family, and I seem to have passed them on to two of my grandkids. We’ll see whether the third (who is half Chinese) will escape. Freckles and red hair are actually both due to a mutation/allelic variation of a gene called MCHR1 (Melanin Concentrating Hormone Receptor 1). MCH itself controls not only skin color but feeding and energy and other matters critical for survival. Think of a frog and how it adapts to the environment– it involves control of energy, and changing skin color. I always wonder what would it would have been like for us humans if our skin color would change on a regular basis and span the gamut…
I love this! Thanks for the New Year’s science lesson and interesting follow-up question. Another one tomorrow? :)
I thought the word was out a while ago that the NYT was done with “..or what the starts of the answers to…” theme puzzles?
Seems like they continue to run them every few weeks.
Jonesin’: There’s an apt hidden element to the crossword.
I solved it too fast and didn’t see it. The clues to the themers are the key. Good catch!
I still don’t see it. Could you elaborate?
You can put together the single letters in the clues to make an apt word that goes with the title of the puzzle.
Got it. Thanks!
I find it inexcusable that WS did not change 2D because a) JC alerted him to the problem and b) there was such an easy fix. It appears as if he was being arrogant and or had a knee-jerk reaction against political correctness. Regardless, he owes the crossword community a public apology that should be posted on each of the three main blogs.
From Wordplay: ( https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/crosswords/daily-puzzle-2019-01-01.html )
I’m very sorry for the distraction about BEANER (2D) in today’s fine puzzle by Gary Cee.
Neither Joel nor I had ever heard the slur before — and I don’t know anyone who would use it. Maybe we live in rarefied circles.
In researching this puzzle, we discovered the other meaning of the word as a slur. Later, Jeff Chen over at XwordInfo brought it to our attention as well.
My feeling, rightly or wrongly, is that any benign meaning of a word is fair game for a crossword. This is an issue that comes up occasionally with entries like GO O.K. (which we clued last April as “Proceed all right,” but which as a solid word is a slur), CHINK (benign in the sense as a chink in one’s armor), etc. These are legitimate words.
Perhaps I need to rethink this opinion, if enough solvers are bothered. I want your focus to be on the puzzle rather than being distracted by side issues. But I assure you this viewpoint is expressed with a pure heart.
Meanwhile, for any solver who was offended by 2-Down in today’s puzzle, I apologize.
The best way for the focus to be on the puzzle and not side “distractions” is for the puzzlemakers to consciously strive to avoid language usage that many solvers find problematic. Perhaps the test-solving team needs to be more diverse if truly nobody else flagged BEANER before Jeff Chen saw the completed puzzle days before publication. If the constructor, the editor, two assistant editors, a fact-checker, and a team of test solvers all saw no problem here, something is wrong. A large number of solvers saw that word in the puzzle and were instantly shocked, so it can’t be that hard to find people who would have flagged it.
And responding to Jeff’s flagging by pooh-poohing the concern was not the right approach. Will, please listen when people point these things out, and fix them. It will make you and your puzzle look a lot better.
@Derek: The BANTU clue is in fact wrong. BANTU is a language >family< not a language. A bit like calling GERMANIC a language… (In fact, since the word means people, isiNtu is sometimes favoured, e.g. in my SA Concise Oxford, but that isn't in general usage.) And yet I immediately knew that that was going to be the answer and not XHOSA or SHONA or VENDA or SWAZI or SOTHO or TONGA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_languages#/media/File:Niger-Congo_map.png
On another note, has 70s/80s Oz band Cold Chisel ever gotten any exposure in the US? . Not sure if a song about abortion could have gone Top 20 in 1979 in the US?
That makes me feel less ignorant, Gareth! And that is a good thing!
I have actually met Shona speakers, and the speak Xhosa in the Black Panther universe. I just need to travel to Africa one of these days and really get an education. Do you have an extra room?
Bean ball is in the language and somewhat archaic because of the severe penalties mentioned by Mr. G. If a player is hit in the head, the usual parlance is that he got beaned. I have never heard the pitch called a beaner.