Friday, March 1, 2019

CHE 19:48 (Vic) 


Inkubator 6:48 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:04 (Amy) 


Universal 9:05 (Vic) 


Matt Gaffney has a 21×21 crossword in New York Magazine every two weeks, and guess what? Starting this Sunday night, these puzzles will be available online for free, no magazine subscription required. The weeks in between Matt’s puzzles will have older crosswords from the New York archives.

Stu Agler’s Chronicle of Higher Education Crossword, “Metal Compactor”–Judge Vic’s write-up.

Stu Agler’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Metal Compactor,” 3-1-19, solution

Stu Agler reports that he is a lifelong crossword fan, who retired a few years ago and has now decided to try his hand at crossword construction. This is his first published crossword.  And it is a dandy!

While metal compactor is not a term that’s found in the dictionary, we all know what one is from Breaking Bad, right? It’s one of those big crane-like devices that crushes and crunches cars and ALL THAT kind of stuff into little sandwich-pail size blocks, for some reason. Well, Stu has taken that concept and elaborated on it a tad, so that we have what I’m calling a two-fold rebus.

At 17a [Reverting to traditional practices], we need GOIN{G OLD} SCHOOL, but in the crosser 15d [Red-haired biblical twin], we need ES{AU}Au is the elemental symbol for gold; ergo, we then are prepared to encounter TIN:
24a [Seuss’s rainy-day visitor] THE CA{T IN} THE HAT;
26d [Contemptuous smile] {SN}EER; then IRON:
49a [Patio furniture with a backward-sloping seat] AD{IRON}DACK CHAIR;
51d [August Wilson play for which James Earl Jones won a Tony] {FE}NCES; then LEAD:
60a [Two plus two, e.g.] SIMP{LE AD}DITION;
47d Charles Dickens’s Kit Nubbles, e.g. SHO{PB}OY.

Phew and whew! That was a long sentence and it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to lay out. I’m no expert typist; there was a lot of hunting and pecking going on. But now that I am able to look at it, I am reminded of a remark Bill Clinton made in Wordplay: “That’s an amazing thing! Half the time, I work these things just to see what people are thinking about.” If Stu Agler is thinking about more of this kind of thing, then I can’t wait to see what further crosswords he produces!

And the glitz does not end with the theme. There is some really top notch fill elsewhere in the puzzle. Such as:

  • 28a [Boeuf bourguignon meat, often] OX CHEEK–Great phrase … and who knew?!
  • 33a [Make gestures to establish a tempo] BEAT TIME–Not in Ginsberg’s database, so we’ll call this a grand first-timer!
  • 41a [Sharply observant] HAWK-EYED–Making only its second appearance ever in a crossword!
  • 6d [Tentacled Spider-Man foe, familiarly] DOC OCK–For you non-Spideys, yup, it’s Doc Ock, short for Doctor Octopus, not Louis’s brother, Doco.
  • 10d [Superior, in slang] ALL THAT–I’m having trouble making this clue work, even though it’s the equivalent of several that I see have been used before. But I trust Brad Wilber 100% and but I love this entry, which I don’t remember seeing before. Clearly an ILSA, as in “Poet, musician, cruciverbalist! He/she is all that and more!”
  • 45d [Garden-remedy drink] HERB TEA–I could use a shot right now. I think I’ll rein this review in, go home for the day, and have a cup of herb tea.

4.5 stars! Great work, Stu!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 1 19, no. 0301

It’s been a long week and it’s nowhere near over yet, so my brain is not in that puzzle-blogging headspace. So: What I liked best in the fill is XI JINPING (interesting clue: [The world’s most powerful person, per a 2018 Forbes list]), HYACINTH (spring is coming! I’m not sure when, but eventually! we will see the HYACINTH and IRIS blooming), PAPYRUS, FULL-TIMER, AD-LIBBING, a Casual Friday NO JEANS policy, and “HEY JUDE.”

Awkwardest neighbors: “I WAS HAD” and PINE OIL. Neither of these is a phrase I ever use.

Six more things:

  • 15a. [Sole mate?], ODOR-EATER. There are a number of trade names in the plural that get singularized in crosswords. In addition to Odor-Eaters, there’s Q-tips. I’m not particularly bothered by this, and I’m now realizing that when I want a tissue, I should ask for a Puff.
  • 41a. [Most cookies, essentially], DISCS. There’s a limited-edition Oreo variety called Easter Egg, with oval-shaped (but not egg-shaped) cookies and purple creme. And yes, I take pictures of the new Oreo varieties when I’m at the store. #clueresearch
  • 1d. [Kit], FOX CUB. FOX CUB isn’t a term I’ve seen, I don’t think.
  • 10d. Word from the Greek for “abyss”], CHAOS. I had the first three letters and filled in CHASM, since that’s more synonymous with abyss. Anyone else?
  • 54d. [“How you ___?”], BEEN / 38d. YOU RULE. I’d be happier without the double-you action here.
  • 59d. [“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” network], TBS. I would call TBS a channel rather than a network, though Wikipedia describes it as an “American multichannel television network.” No idea what they mean by “multichannel” here. Cable channel TBS and local broadcast channel WPCH?

Not excited to see UTA HOI ATILT, but overall the fill is fairly smooth. 3.8 stars from me.

Rich Proulx’s Universal Crossword, “Reprogramming”–Judge Vic’s write-up

Rich Proulx’s Universal Crossword, “Reprogramming,” 3/1/19, solution

This is one of those that I will have to reason through as I write the review. Thus, on to what appear to be the theme entries:

  • 18a [TV reboot about treating zombie apocalypse victims?] MONSTER MASH–Hmm. Title of a 1962 novelty song. The second word of which is the title of a popular TV show.
  • 23a [… about Baltimore sewers?] UNDER THE WIRE–Hmm. In-the-language phrase meaning, essentially, “at the last moment.” The last two words of which are the title of a popular TV show.
  • 50a [… about plane crash survivors in heaven?] PARADISE LOST–Title of a 17th-century John Milton epic poem. The last word of which is the title of a popular TV show.
  • 59a [… about drinking with friends in an NYC borough?] BRONX CHEERS–In-the-language phrase that means certain derisive sounds. The second word of which is the title of a popular TV show.

This is a cool theme. And, with its punny clues, it evokes smiles and laughter. There is some other good stuff in this puzzle as well:

  • 32a [Feel euphoric] WALK ON AIR–Here’s an answer we don’t see too often.
  • 38a [Like life, some say] NOT FAIR–Nice clue for this phrase.
  • 44a [Question of indignant surprise] SINCE WHEN–A tip of the hat is in order here, as this really nice answer does not appear in the Ginsberg database.
  • 10d [Dated women?] DAMSELSDamsel is a dated word that connotes certain women; that women may be dated in another sense gives this clue a double dip.
  • 4d [Its capital is Yaounde] CAMEROON–This tops my list of what I learned from this puzzle.
  • 43d [Start tearing] RIP INTO–I really wanted this clue to be [Start tearing up], which, without a ?, would give it a possible second meaning.

This is a competently constructed puzzle, from theme development to final clue.

3.5 stars.

Robyn Weintraub’s Inkubator crossword, “Themeless #1″—Jenni’s write-up

The first themeless from the Inkubator crew is a good one! It fell smoothly for me with very few bumps and some really fun stuff.

I raised an eyebrow at INTRAY for 3d, [Location where work piles up]. INBOX is much more common.

The rest of the puzzle was a joy. I love the woman-centric cluing of this project. RABBI at 10a is clued [The first female one in Reform Judaism was ordained in 1972]. Thank you, Sally Priesand.  Just below Sally we have 16a [Computer first programmed by six women], ENIAC, back when computer coding was considered women’s work.

Inkubator 2/28, solution grid

I liked the central stack of 11’s:

  • 33a [“Thanks for nuthin’!”] is YOU’RE NO HELP.
  • 37a [One who can’t leave his bed?] is a GARDEN GNOME.
  • 38a [Where babies come from] is a NESTING SITE – not quite as interesting, but a nice match for the other two.

Other things I enjoyed: TATER TOTSNICE ONE for “Impressive!”, semi-misleading [Grim character] for REAPER, and the clue for YES MASTER, which is nicely understated: 63a [Catchphrase in “I Dream of Jeannie” (that now seems rather … patriarchal)].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AMOLE is a Southwestern plant used as soap. Since I couldn’t think of MIFF for [Offend], that was the last word I filled in.

Robert E. Lee Morris’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Letter addition Friday is back. Today’s letter is X, and we actually have a revealer, XFACTOR. The X is always at the end of the second word, and in the first two answers adds an “ex” sound. The next two break that pattern. So: QUEENANNE(X), LOSTTIME(X), INSIDEMAN(X), ASIANFLU(X). Queen Anne is au courant due to The Favourite.

It’s an early week grid layout, with “small” corners and flow. I didn’t have much trouble tearing through it. The clues felt simpler and less tricky than many Fridays as well.

Other musings:

  • [Felicity’s “Desperate Housewives” role], LYNETTE. Didn’t know there were any famous people by that name, though it feels fairly common here.
  • [Jimi Hendrix classic], FOXYLADY. Most of his songs didn’t really chart in the US, though they definitely have “classic” status.
  • [“Give me __ and nothing but”: Tom Lehrer lyric], SMUT. I think I have linked to this song before here.
  • [Mixed martial artist Ronda], ROUSEY. Worth noting her first name too.

3 Stars

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10 Responses to Friday, March 1, 2019

  1. Evad says:

    I had a LOL moment when I had just the M of [One heeding a “Do Not Disturb” sign] and put in MIME, even when I think they can be disturbing (but not out loud)!

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: A Friday that fell as easily as a Wednesday, which makes me feel smart, which then gives me good feelings about the puzzle and the constructor… So, based on this totally self-referential perspective- I loved it.
    But that aside, I think it has some really cool stuff, and I especially appreciated a sort of Asian vibe, with a Chinese president, some NINJAS, some flowers like IRIS (which always make me think of Ikebana). But there was also a classical Western history vibe– with ARTEMIS, CHAOS, PAPYRUS and the HOI Polloi…
    Hands up for entering CHASM –CHAOS feels swirly in my head, not abyss-like.
    (and: YOU ROCK before YOU RULE…)

    • David L says:

      It was easy for me too — somehow I guessed right on all the clues where there was several possibilities.

      For non-crossword-related reasons, I happened to be looking into the meaning of ‘kaos’ recently. In ancient Greek thought, kaos was the void, the abyss out of which the universe formed. The antithesis of kaos was kosmos, meaning order — so that order came from the void, the cosmos came from chaos.

      In that way we also get the English meaning of chaos, the opposite of order in a more familiar sense. And the word ‘gas’ is also etymologically derived from kaos.

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Along the same lines as ODOR EATER, I remember discussions about whether or not you can have a single DORITO (I vote yes) or a single ITUNE (I vote no).

    On the flip-side, is LEGOS legitimate? Outside of America, LEGO seems to be the preferred plural, and all “official” documentation I can find online says something like LEGO BLOCKS or LEGO BRICKS. (I think LEGOS is perfectly fine, though.)

    Once I put NINTENDO WII in a puzzle and was worried it would be rejected on the grounds that its name is actually just WII. But it was accepted and ran and nobody said anything about it.

    Anyway, I love these little idiosyncrasies of language.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    CHE: neat concept, though I think I’ve seen it done this way before, possibly even in the CHE. In any case I guessed the theme as soon as I ran across the ES[Au]/GOIN[GOLD]SCHOOL crossing, though it was still fun to figure out the others.

    Fortunately I somehow remembered 6D:DOC_OCK; if I hadn’t known it then that entry, stacked with random golf name 7D:OCHOA (I don’t care if it’s an XX HoFer, it’s still golf), would make that grid segment very mysterious. Unfortunately I also remembered that OCK stands for “octopus” — and there’s 15A:OCTAL crossing that entry (albeit at the other O). Doc Ouch! I don’t see an immediate fix; 15A could be OSMOL crossing 7D:O’SHEA and amusingly mooving MOO from 21A to 9D, but OSMOL is undesirable even in the CHE. But surely something could be done at the cost of 28A:OXCHEEK.

    I too wondered about 10D:ALL_THAT, but I think it works fine in the negative: “you think you’re all that?” FWIWiktionary gives “all that adjective (US, slang): Of especially good quality; particularly excellent.”


    • Rob S says:

      Figuring out the theme on this puzzle was one of my finest AHA moments in the years and years that I have been solving puzzles! What a wonderful debut for Mr. Alger!

  5. M.Gritz says:

    Great news re: Gaffney’s New York Magazine puzzle!

  6. Steve Faiella says:

    Inkubator: That puzzle was great! Really fun solve, with very little crossword glue (my only nit was the same as Jenni’s re INTRAY).
    Robyn is a favorite of NYT editors and solvers and for a good reason – her grids are fun, fresh, and really well constructed. Thanks for another gem, Robyn!

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