Wednesday, January 2, 2019

AV Club 6:55 (Ben) 


LAT 3:45 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:55 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 2 19, no. 0102

Have you had etiquette training in proper table place settings? Have you worked in fine dining and learned which forks go with which course? Today I learned that there are specific forks I never knew existed. Stulberg takes five particular forks that you probably use less than your standard dinner forks, and finds two words that fit the category for that type of fork—and ensures that the two foods start with the same three or four letters and that he can “fork” one of the food words off diagonally. So the fish fork at 16a gives you SHARK and SHAD. The cocktail fork (did not know that was a thing) has MARGARITA and MARTINI. Your common salad fork presents a GREEK salad and a GREEN salad. The dessert fork gives you CHERRY PIE and CHEESECAKE (awkwardly, CHEESECAKE’s diagonal butts up against an I from MARTINI and messed up my head). Last but not least, I never knew a “fruit fork” was a thing, but I’ve noticed since childhood that PEACH and PEAR start with the same letters (a vegetable, at that!). So this is an elegant concept and I like the execution much better than I usually do when there are diagonals forcing extra grid constraints.

Five notes from my solve:

  • 48d. [Follower of yes or no in the military], SIR. Omigod, not this again. Just clue it with reference to men! And quit pretending that the whole military is made up of male commanding officers. We are not here for that.
  • 23a. [Last ruler of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway], OSCAR II. You almost have to laugh at this.
  • 68a. [Big brand of petrol], ESSO. A friend (crossword constructor Adam Cohen) had recently posed a question to his Canadian friends, wondering if “petrol” is used in Canada. It appears not to be a thing there, according to his sources in a variety of provinces. However! They do say “petrol” in the UK, and Esso is a brand there. Apparently Esso has 11% of the market share in the UK. (Note to constructors: While this is useful info if you’re cluing ESSO, it’s still a sucky answer to include in a U.S. crossword.)
  • 54d. [River originating in Pittsburgh], OHIO. The river was just in the news in recent days—six barges sank and spilled 9,000 tons of coal into the Ohio River near Louisville.
  • 11d. [“Heavens to Murgatroyd!”], EGAD. If you’re my age or older, you probably associate the clue’s phrase with old cartoons and are having fond reminiscences right about now.

LEAN-TO TENT feels weird, and I wasn’t wild about ESSO ETHNO OSCARII EEE TSARDOM COHEIR. But I did like the forking theme, and WEARY OF spoke to me. Four stars from me.

Joseph Kidd’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Put A Lid On It!” — Jim P’s review

We have a WSJ debut today, so congratulations, Joseph!

The revealer is at 70a [Word that, when affixed to the first word of each starred answer, refers to a type of person], i.e. POT.

WSJ – Wed, 1.2.19 – “Put A Lid On It!” by Joseph Kidd

  • 18a [*Sleep restlessly] TOSS AND TURN. Tosspot, i.e. a heavy drinker. More of a British term than an American one. Usually shortened to “tosser.”
  • 23a [*Reasons for some R ratingsSEX SCENES. Sexpot. I suppose any theme that adds –POT to words to describe people is likely going to include “sexpot,” but I sure wish we could do better than this. Yes, it’s a phrase that people use, but it’s also sexist and perpetuates the objectification of women, so it would be great if we could rise above it.
  • 38a [*Pretentious displayFUSS AND FEATHERS. Fusspot. I’ve never heard this theme entry before.
  • 51a [*Item used in some juvenile pranksSTINK BOMB. Stinkpot.
  • 58a [*Begin to grin] CRACK A SMILE. Crackpot.

This is an interesting theme. I find it fascinating that each of these becomes an insult with the addition of –POT. Is there an etymological reason for this?

Beyond the theme we have really nice fill in EXCUSE ME, ON THE DOT, and my favorite, JAMMIES. The usual clunkers are there, too (TSE, ELS, and STAS being the worst of it), but nothing over the top. There are a heck of a lot of 3-letter words (25 by my count), where the upper limit is usually around 20.

Clues of note:

  • 1d [Waist management program]. DIET. Nice. That reminds me, trash day is tomorrow.
  • 24d [Ear pieces?]. I had COBS in there at first, but then COB showed up later at 58d. This one became CORN which threw me because of the plural clue, but then, obviously, it’s correct.
  • 32d [Stable staple]. OAT. This one really should be plural. Who feeds their horse a single OAT?
  • 48d [What you will]. ESTATE. Lovely clue.

A nice debut. 3.6 stars.

Brendan Emmet Quigley’s AVCX, “Year-End Review” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/31, BEQ — “Year-End Review”

Happy New Year, All!  Now that it’s 2019, we can look back at 2018 with full clarity.  Specifically, we can look at the AV Club’s “Year-End Review”, from Brendan Emmet Quigley, with clarity, as it’s this week’s puzzle.  The name of this one gives the game away pretty smoothly:

  • 17A: Whence “thy kingdom come” — LORD’S PRAYER
  • 26A: Blasé — WORLD WEARY
  • 39A: “What little there is of them” — SUCH AS THEY ARE
  • 54A: Kind of vacuum tube in screens — CATHODE RAY
  • 63A: Pop singer with an eight-octave range (!) — MARIAH CAREY


This was a great puzzle to stumble into 2019 with – I loved the way the last across clue (“Put the kibosh on”, for NIXED) blended nicely into the first down clue (“Doesn’t put the kibosh on”, for ALLOWS).  Other nice fill: LORAX, Hall and Oates’ “MANEATER”, SOLARIUM, UNIT TEST, MATRIX, and SPAYED (clued as “Prevented from littering?”).  I didn’t love UBER RIDE – it felt a little green paint-y.

4/5 stars.

Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Apologies for the very late blogpost.

Today’s post is revealed with FISHHEADS, alluding to a notorious novelty song from 1978. Both parts of four theme answers satisfy ___ FISH, and although there are myriad fish types ending in fish, only a few are examples of such, Robin opting for more varied phrases. The entries are typically simple, but functional, though SWEDISHROCK is rather generic. So: WHITEGOLD, as immortalised in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is made up of WHITEFISH (seems to be a town in Montana?) and GOLDFISH. SWEDISHROCK is made up of SWEDISH FISH, a sweet brand in America, and ROCKFISH, another type of fish. SHELLGAME consists of SHELLFISH, molluscs, and GAMEFISH any type of fish considered for sports fishing. TROPICALSUN is made of TROPICALFISH and SUNFISH.

Your old-timey crossword-ese word to remember if you haven’t yet is AVISO, a small Portuguese (and historically) French warship.


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38 Responses to Wednesday, January 2, 2019

  1. Bill Richmond says:

    Most commanding officers do happen to be men, though. Even the most novice solver I’m sure was able to get that clue directly because of this prevalence. As with yesterday, everything need not be deemed offensive. The reason many people object to this PC nonsense is because it invades aspects of our lives that ought to be an escape from political nonsense, not an extension of it.

    As to your remark about social justice and political correctness yesterday, the issue is that correctness and justice are perfectly noble concepts to strive for. When we add modifiers like “political” and “social” we distort the meaning of the words without these unnecessary modifiers. Instead of valuing fact, we value not offending people (correctness vs political correctness.). Instead of equality of opportunity and fair treatment under the law, we judge opinions and worth by immutable characteristics rather than character and action (justice vs social justice.) All I’m saying is that people will always be offended by things that are said. Hell, I’ve been offended by plenty of things on this blog. That’s FINE. But policing what can and can’t be in a stinkin crossword puzzle based on what you believe is and is not offensive is foolish.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      Everything in life is political. You just don’t notice it when the people around you agree with you (or hide the fact that they disagree).

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      @Richard, if we were “policing” it, we would be enforcing our preferences upon the people who publish crosswords—and you’ll note that we are not. We merely hope to encourage them to be more mindful that their language has effects they may not recognize (or that they do recognize but don’t care about).

      I don’t think why you think you can separate out social justice and put it far away from regular justice. Regular justice is fine with mass incarceration of black and brown people, and unequal enforcement of drug and traffic laws (in practice—because this is exactly the system we have). Social justice sees the status quo as falling well short of the ideals of “justice” and seeks a better way forward.

      And what you people call “political correctness,” the rest of us call “just being mindful not to hurt people.” If trying not to be an asshole towards people who aren’t at the top of society’s heap is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

      Count the percentage of presidents, congressional representatives, senators, governors, corporate CEOs, and college presidents and you’ll see that white men hold the majority of those seats. You’ll note we have few insults that can hurt straight white men, and a zillion insults that hurt women, people of color, LGBT people, etc., a zillion ways to belittle and diminish these people. Why not avoid speaking in ways that reinforce second-class status for everyone else?

      • pannonica says:

        Fun fact: “Political correctness” and “social justice warrior” are both disparaging terms originated and popularized by right-wingers.

        That they have flag-planted the terminology to such an extent speaks volumes about how lopsided and mired the conversation has become, has been from the outset.

        This is basic decency, people! It’s synthesizing new, relevant information. As crossword solvers ostensibly interested in the pursuit and utilization of knowledge, you all should embrace these concepts—which are distinct from mere trivia and superficialities.

        • john farmer says:

          True that “p.c.” is used pejoratively by right-wingers, but it didn’t originate with them. It’s a term that was used by feminists and progressives going back in the ’70s, and it has a history that predates that.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Regardless, John, the term is skunked in so far as it can’t really be used neutrally or positively anymore.

      • Dr Fancypants says:

        One of the lessons I’ve taken away from this kerfuffle is that white dudes are ridiculously thin-skinned, and completely unable to accept even the mildest criticism. (I include myself in this category, because I know it’s something I struggle with as well–but at least I’m trying to learn to actually listen to other people rather than always putting my own sensitivities first.)

        Case in point, the complaint here was “hey, a lot of people find this word here offensive–you shouldn’t include it in your crossword puzzles”. That is about as mild a criticism as it gets. And yet somehow that elicits numerous unhinged responses about “SJWs” and “political correctness”, and about how people need to “not be offended” (never mind the irony of those commenters apparently being offended by the slightest hint of criticism).

        We’ve got a long way to go in this country.

        • David R says:

          This comment doesn’t help either, there are plenty of “white dudes” that get it. There needs to be a uniform education and awareness with some groups and individuals needing more then others. For me the whole business can be put in one succinct thought. If something is hurtful to another nationality, religion, or gender then don’t do it. Don’t argue that it isn’t hurtful, if they say it is then move on.

          • john farmer says:

            If something is hurtful to another nationality, religion, or gender then don’t do it. Don’t argue that it isn’t hurtful, if they say it is then move on.

            That sounds like a simple solution. But it’s not always that simple. When an individual or group objects to language or speech, the objection ought to be considered. The objection may have merit, or it may not. That’s an evaluation people need to make on an individual case basis. If by default we always cede the argument to anyone making an objection, then we may end up stifling free speech. That too would be objectionable.

            Case in point: We had a big to-do last month in L.A. about a decision by the school district to remove a painting of Ava Gardner at RFK School in Koreatown. A group from the Korean-American community had complained about the painting because of its background, a sun emanating rays, which was an image for them too close to that of the Imperial Japanese flag, a hateful symbol in their eyes. I have no doubt the image caused real pain for members of the community. But the painting was not a depiction of the Japanese flag, and there a number of dissimilarities (number of rays, color, etc.). It may have evoked the flag unintentionally, but it used a common starburst image found in many other paintings around town and elsewhere. After the school district’s decision to whitewash the painting, there was an outcry from others in the community, including members of the Kennedy family and Shepard Fairey, best known as an Obama portraitist, who asked the district to also remove his painting of RFK at the school (it’s on the site of RFK’s assassination) if the painting of Gardner was to be removed. So despite some objections to the painting, people argued that removing it would be a greater injustice. I agree with them. The school district has since put its decision on hold.

            When people object, I think we need to consider the validity of the objection, and consider the concerns of others. We should do that in good faith, but not always cede the argument to whoever objects. As RFK once said, “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.”

            FTR, as I noted last time it appeared, I don’t see any problem with the SIR clue in today’s puzzle (btw, none of us are women officers here, afaik; my sister was an officer in the Army, as was our dad, and I am quite aware officers can be any gender). OTOH, yesterday’s B-word was a big problem and deserved an apology.

            Happy New Year, all!

            • Bill Richmond says:

              Well said, John. I think it’s just exhibit A right here. I was dismissed as a “white guy.” Why does my race matter? (I’m black, for the record, not that that should have any weight on the validity of my ideas.). I just wish there were some sense of truth-seeking going on for such an undoubtedly intellectual crowd. We’re ok with mass incarceration? The people who are in prison have committed crimes (with very few exceptions.). Don’t commit crimes if you don’t want to go to prison. The data is overwhelming when it comes to equality of policing. There are dozens upon dozens of studies that have come out just within the past 5 years from top universities on this very topic. Based on your statements, the results will surprise you. Roland Fryer, a black Harvard professor, considered his study to be the most surprising result of his career. Stop worrying so much about how many people of a certain race, gender, and sexual orientation are in Washington, and start worrying about how many good men and women there are in Washington. The vast majority of people aren’t going out there trying to be assholes. But as Mr. Farmer points out, there will always be people offended by just about everything. And when it comes down to giving in to the protests of the few taking offense at the expense of the free expression of others, there is far less danger in erring on the side of free expression. And for pete’s sake, stop all this “white guys this, white guys that” language. I know y’all would never put women or any other race in there, and it’s just as much a racist statement if you say it about white men.

            • Bill Richmond says:

              Also, my name is Bill. Not Richard. Should I be offended?

      • christopher brisson says:

        Amy, regardless of whether I primarily agree with your opinion or with Richard’s, I cringed when I came across your use of “you people.” Never a good term to employ when attempting to bridge a disagreement–particularly in an argument that hinges on semantics–as it telegraphs implicit derision (whether intended or not). I can think of no instance when I’ve heard it and thought it came across as a neutral or positive expression. Just sayin’.

        • christopher brisson says:

          Typo; I duplicated your error of “Richard” (it’s Richmond).

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I’m pretty sure that explaining my stance on the term “political correctness” isn’t going to persuade those people who think it’s a bad thing and use it as a bogeyman (typically with all the derision they can muster), even if I am extra-super-polite and respectful towards them.

          That said, I’ll take your words under advisement, Christopher.

    • pannonica says:

      “But policing what can and can’t be in a stinkin crossword puzzle based on what you believe is and is not offensive is foolish.”

      How do you think societal change occurs? Magic?

      Whether such a teleological change for the better is gradual or abrupt, there is unquestionably an element of applied impetus.

    • Elise says:

      What if instead of “political correctness,” we say “polite correctness”?
      I’m fairly new to crosswords, but as soon as I saw NYT 48d, I questioned why it wasn’t clued differently. Would the clue be the same if the answer were MAAM?
      I appreciate Amy’s vigilance on these issues, and I wonder why the editor doesn’t easily correct such things?

  2. PhilR says:

    “The reason many people object to this PC nonsense …” The reason most people I know who object to PC nonsense is that they’ve predetermined it be nonsense and just plain old don’t give a damn what it’s actually addressing.

    What could your objection to someone looking forward clues/answers identifying superior officers as women possible be?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Yup. This. All the clue needs is an added “at times” or “sometimes” or even “often” and it’s sufficiently fair. Why is that so difficult?

  3. anon says:

    WSJ review: ‘ Tosspot, i.e. a heavy drinker. More of a British term than an American one. Usually shortened to “tosser.” ‘

    I think you are mixing up two different Britishisms. That’s not what “tosser” means.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      You’re right. I usually fact-check myself but missed this one. “Tosser” doesn’t mean “heavy drinker,” but it usually means “fool” or “idiot,” (or else something more sexual). “Tosspot” can also mean “fool” or “idiot” and Wiktionary shows them as being synonyms, so maybe I’m not that far off.

      However, this page says “tosser” comes from “toss off,” meaning to masturbate, and not from “tosspot.”

      Good catch. Thanks for the correction.

  4. Norm says:

    Interesting question about the impact of adding “pot.” I had the same “I wonder why they’re all insults” moment. TOSSPOT appears to comes from drinking or tossing back many pots of beer back when the container in a pub was known as such. SEXPOT appears to be a backward formation from SEX POTENTIAL. FUSS-, CRACK- and STINK- may all be using pot as a slang synonym for head, although I’m less sure about STINKPOT because pot might again be a container in that usage. A real linguist could undoubtedly be more informative.

    • Alan D. says:

      Maybe I’m wrong but I can’t find any dictionary support that -pot is a suffix at all. As Normal says, it’s probably more a derivative of other words than a proper suffix, per se.

      • pannonica says:

        They look like compound words, not affixed.

        Besides, everyone knows that pots are inherently evil.*

        *source: Mr Kettle J Kettlesworth (personal correspondence)

    • JohnH says:

      RHUD has CRACKPOT deriving from an old adage (not given) about a cracked pot and STINKPOT from an actual pot filled with odorous stuff and then thrown as a weapon (or at least nuisance). No doubt you’re right that TOSSPOT derives from dated usage about tossing back “pots” of ale. RHUD gives the etymology of the others as adding POT in its definition 1, which is to say ordinary container. It doesn’t support SEXPOT, then, as deriving from “potential.” I’ll guess, rather, that those three older words were enough that adding POT would have negative connotations.

      I agree with Jim’s review that the theme would have worked better if it didn’t include a Britishism, a word that could be demeaning, and, with FUSSPOT, a less than widely used term. I’ll add that TOSSPOT is awfully dated as well. So overall not a puzzle likely to bring out a lot of delighted discoveries. Most speakers of contemporary usage will need the spoiler clue to connect the dots, or pots, I bet.

      • JohnH says:

        Apologies. I meant I’ll add that STINKPOT is awfully dated as well. The line before had already mentioned TOSSPOT.

  5. A says:

    Can’t get the Puzzle Society Crossword to open.

    • M.Gritz says:

      It seems to have ended, per David at

      But it also seems he’s now editing the Universal Crossword, which I find at

      Apologies in advance if the links aren’t clickable in this comment system.

      • Alan D. says:

        Whoa! This is huge news! Today’s is by Sam Donaldson and Doug Peterson. Big improvement! David what gives? What are your plans as new editor????

      • Robert White says:

        It seems David started 12/31. A couple of clues at that link would definitively indicate Timmy’s reign of error ended 12/30….

      • Lise says:

        When I click the crossword link (the second one) I get the USA Today crossword, which today is called “A Different Animal”, by Paul Coulter. It looks fun but is not the Universal Crossword.

        How did you get the UC By Sam Donaldson and Doug Peterson?

        • M.Gritz says:

          Sam and Doug’s is yesterday’s – within the applet you can access past days by clicking the grid button in the upper right.

          That said, I use this link for the USA Today puzzle, which I’m seeing as a Gail Grabowski offering today:

          I’m still mourning the loss of CRooked, hopeful that Fiend helps keep CHE available, and trying to keep track of these changes, especially on the daily puzzles.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            It bears noting that while Universal had kept Parker on for some time, USA Today canned him one or two years ago and hired Fred Piscop to edit the USA Today puzzles. Those are an entirely separate venue from the Universal Crossword.

  6. David L says:

    It is true that there are separate items called salad forks, dessert forks, fruit forks and fish forks. In my house, however, they all look remarkably similar.

    Cocktail fork I can’t help you with.

  7. Zulema says:

    My tiny only objection to the “forks” was the SHARK as a fish food. Would have preferred a different five letter fish in that NE corner, one more acceptable to many people.

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