Sunday, August 18, 2019

LAT 8:25 (Jenni) 

 


NYT 10:27 (Amy) 

 


WaPo puzzle: 7:04 meta: DNF (Jenni) 

 


Universal 8:47 (Vic) 

 


Universal (Sunday) 10:16 (Jim P) 

 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Revolutionary”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 18 19, “Revolutionary”

The “Revolutionary” theme includes two 12-letter entries, a row of four rotating BALLs in circled squares, and four long entries that include the 4 letters of BALL in one of those rotated orders:

  • 24a. [Drives around awhile … as suggested by this puzzle’s circled squares?], GOES FOR A SPIN.
  • 119a. [1965 #1 Byrds hit … as suggested by this puzzle’s circled squares?], “TURN, TURN, TURN.”
  • 3d. [Kicks things off], GETS THE BALL ROLLING. A perfect first themer showpiece. The BALL in this phrase rolls from the B through the A-L-L and on down to ROLLING.
  • 20d. [1973 play featuring a sign with a burned-out “E”], THE HOT L BALTIMORE, with the BALL now rolling in LBAL order.
  • 49d. [Full of empty talk], ALL BARK AND NO BITE, with the BALL rotated one more notch over to LLBA.
  • 42d. [Baker or dry cleaner, maybe], SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, with the BALL in fourth position, ALLB. The next rotation would return us to the original BALL.

The other three entries intersecting each of the spinning BALLs are entirely smooth, with just one abbrev. Now, it surprised me that the BALLs are in a row in the top half of the grid, rather than symmetrically slotted with two above, two below—but it’s easier to see the rotational progression with them all lined up this, so I think it works.

The overall fill is smooth, too. Could always do without ESSE and a Latin state motto FITB clue, but having REGIFTS at 1-Across was a lovely start.

Five more things:

  • 23a. [Celebratory Native American feast], POTLATCH. Ooh, neat thing to learn. Here’s a 2008 NYT article about the potlatch tradition from the Pacific Northwest region. It’s all about gift-giving.
  • 8a. [What 13-Down means in poker], I CHECK / 13d. [See 8-Across], KNOCK. Ugh, too much poker content.
  • 72a. [Ones generating buzz in the music world?], KAZOOS. A literal buzzing sound, not excitement. Took me a while to figure out where this clue was going.
  • 2d. [Romaine concern] E. COLI. For real. When the government cuts back on food inspections, we end up with more foodborne infections, which pose a particular risk to those of us whose immune systems have been rendered flimsy. All sorts of reasons why certain salad greens are vulnerable to bacterial contamination … which sucks because salad is a healthful thing!
  • 36a. [Challenges for infielders], HOPS. I tried POPS, thinking of pop flies. Ugh, baseball terminology. There are lots of non-sportsy ways to clue a word like HOPS, of course. “Challenges for infielders” isn’t one I’d come up with in a hundred years.

Note that when you watch poker and baseball on TV, you see mostly men playing them. Are crossword puzzles—which are every bit as popular among women as men, if not more so—running the risk of alienated a big group of solvers by skewing male in the content? Probably to a degree, yes.

Four stars from me. Well-executed theme, particularly with the apt GETS THE BALL ROLLING start to it.

David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword, “Flexible Location”—Judge Vic’s write-up

David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword, “Flexible Locations,” Aug. 18, 2019, solution

THEME:
The reveal is key here:

  • 14d [Multipurpose, say … or a hint to the starred answers’ starts] INDOOR-OUTDOOR. I’ll reveal a tad more by saying that both indoor and outdoor may precede the first unit of two-unit items of good fill.

The themers, arranged in a pinwheel, come at us thusly:

  • 18a [*Pheasants and such] GAME BIRDS
  • 49a [*One may teach English] POOL SHARK
  • 10d [*Range finder?] VOICE COACH
  • 25d [*X-ray device] CAT SCANNER

Even with all that theme, Editor Steinberg, using the pinwheel to his advantage, has managed some nice fill:

  • 14a [Exasperated words] I’M SO DONE
  • 16a [Supreme Egyptian god] AMEN RA
  • 17a [One who recently said “I do”] NEW BRIDE
  • 27a [Like Jack Sprat’s diet] NO-FAT
  • 54a [Cookie with green creme] MINT OREO
  • 56a [Film in which Margot Robbie plays a skater] I TONYA
  • 57a [Tesla Model 3, e.g.] CLEAN CAR
  • 19d [Candy worn on a finger] RING POP

With nothing much to complain of anywhere. Nicely done! 4.2 stars.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Flower Arrangements” – Jenni’s writeup

August 18 is Evan’s wedding anniversary, and he took advantage of his bully pulpit to send a public note to his wife. The puzzle notes say “Make some rearrangements to spell my note to my wife, whose name you’ll find in this puzzle.”

His wife is VICKI JONES; she appears at 65a and 68a, clued as [Gotham City journalist Vale (and my wife’s first name)] and [Marvel superhero Jessica (and my wife’s last name)], respectively.

The rest of the theme answers have numbers in the clues and circles in the answers:

Washington Post, August 18, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Flower Arrangements,” solution grid.

  • 25a [Certain engagement announcement (3)] is SHE SAID YES.
  • 27a [How an engaged couple might speak to each other (1)] is ROMANTICALLY.
  • 54a [Reside with each other, as an engaged couple might (1)] is LIVE TOGETHER.
  • 76a [They often get tugged on during the recitation of wedding vows (4)] is HEARTSTRINGS.
  • 89a [What an engaged couple may anticipate if they plan to have children (4)] is FAMILY LIFE.
  • 107a [Old monetary pledge affirming there was no legal reason a couple could not be wed (4)] is a MARRIAGE BOND.
  • 110a [“I do” (4)] is ABSOLUTELY.

I figured out that there were anagrams  in the circle. I got LILAC and ROSE and then I got stuck, and then I had to leave town for Lollapuzzoola. Jim Peredo bailed me out. The anagrams are DAISYLILAC, ROSE, VIOLET, ASTERLILY, BEGONIA, and LOTUS. That’s not a phrase. Jim figured out that if you take out the letter indicated in the number of each theme clue, those letters spell I LOVE YOU. Awww.

Evan and Vicki won the pairs championship at Lolla on Saturday! Happy Anniversary to you both!

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of a MARRIAGE BOND.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Done to a T” – Jenni’s write-up

LAT • “Done to a T” • 8/18/19 • Coulter • solution

Each theme answer  has an extra T with wacky results.

  • 22a [Naughty young athlete?] is a SPORTS BRAT (sports bra).
  • 24a [Materials on a king’s palette?] are ROYAL PAINT (royal pain).
  • 34a [“Don’t worry about that, Mr. Gingrich”?] is IT’S NOTHING, NEWT (it’s nothing new).
  • 52a [“The Alien Simpsons” character?] is MARS BART (Mars bar). This is my favorite.
  • 55a [Watery world?] is a SEA PLANE(sea plane).
  • 77a [Defective phone download?] is a BAD APPLET (bad apple).
  • 79a [Large pub band?] is a BAR NONET (bar none).
  • 94a [Tiny golf course rental?] is a  SUBCOMPACT CART (subcompact car).
  • 111a [Strategy using a heavily pine-tarred bat?] is a STICKY BUNT (sticky bun).
  • 113a [Tiff about a checkup?] is a HEALTH SPAT (health spa).

This is a solid, amusing theme.

A short review tonight – Lolla was fun and I am tired. Good night!

Gary Larson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “In the Beginning”—Jim P’s review

Jim P here once again, filling in. Let’s look at the theme entries before we discuss the theme.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “In the Beginning” · Gary Larson · Sun., 8.18.19

  • 22a [“G” as in grocery store event?] GRAND OPENING
  • 30a [“S” as in Super Nintendo Entertainment System rival?] SEGA GENESIS
  • 38a [“B” as in ballpark souvenir?] BOBBLEHEAD
  • 65a [“C” as in candidate’s early concern?] CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
  • 90a [“F” as in football penalty?] FALSE START
  • 98a [“L” as in lordly gesture?] LADIES FIRST
  • 113a [“R” as in roaring send-off?] ROCKET LAUNCH

So let’s see if I have this straight. The theme is phrases whose first letter is also the first letter of another word that clues it? Am I missing something? Because that feels very, very loose.

Let’s see if I can come up with my own themers. Okay…How about FIREPLACE [“F” as in flaming locale?]. Or DOG TIRED [“D” as in droopy?].  Or TEDDY BEAR [“T” as in toddler’s toy?].

I could go on (and on). Do you see what I mean? There are very few constraints here meaning the theme in and of itself is rather unsatisfying.

But if you were to solve this as a themeless, it’s much better, especially once you include some of the surrounding stellar fill like: FINE TUNE, EVEN KEEL, SPANX, SYNERGIES (somehow the plural makes this oft-used business term even more esoteric), GAIN FAVOR, BEST BETCOURTNEY, TOO SMALL, MONK SEAL, CANTEENS, KLEENEX, POLE CAT, LOW RATE, MCENROE, BAFFLES, SEA BASS, ARMS SALE, GOES MAD, and MA BARKER. Wow! That’s a lot of good stuff.

There are a few rankling entries, mostly centered around GAIN FAVOR for some reason. I had trouble with the G in ORIG [Copy machine insert, briefly]. Maybe because “briefly” implies (to me) that it’s something people say, which in this case they don’t. If the clue had been [Copy machine insert, abbr.], I think that would have made more sense. The other two I had trouble with were SULFA [Antibacterial drug] (never heard of it) and VILAS [Argentine tennis star Guillermo] (never heard of him). But beyond those, any other little nits I encountered fell well within the noise.

The bottom line? For the theme I’d say 2.5 stars, for the fill 4 stars. Average that out to, let’s say, 3.25.

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22 Responses to Sunday, August 18, 2019

  1. Victor Fleming says:

    “[W]hen you watch poker and baseball on TV, you see mostly men playing them.” I happen to catch a whole lot of softball on TV. Fast-pitch, college softball, played by only women. Competitive poker on TV does seem like it is all-men most of the time, but there’ve been some movies and TV shows of late featuring women highly involved in poker. “Molly’s Game” and “Bosch” come to mind,

    • Lise says:

      Okay, complete non sequitur, as well as meaningless coincidence: my neighbor has two tiny Schnauzers named Molly and Bosch. Bosch is quite the pistol (he’s named after the spark plug). Molly is sweet. They’re both adorable.

      More to the point: I loved this NYT. As it revealed the layers of theme I enjoyed it more and more. And the fill: POTLATCH beneath REGIFTS! Buzzy, underappreciated KAZOO! Great clue for CADBURY, also.

      I look forward to doing what looks like a sweet WaPo. This is a great Sunday lineup.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I presume you aren’t suggesting that softball is as widely followed in America, or that a couple works of entertainment featuring women in poker offset the many other appearances of men playing poker with other men in TV and film. I feel like sitcoms have taught us all that poker is something men play with their manfriends in order to get away those burdensome women in their lives, a boys club.

      • Martin says:

        In my house, at least, the woman is the baseball fanatic, despite (I think) the gender of the players. Among my friends and extended family, there seems to be no correlation between sex and love of baseball. It seems weird to suggest that because baseball players are male, baseball entries might alienate women.

        On second thought, could watching a bunch of young, athletic guys in tight pants be a part of the draw for Elaine? Nah.

      • R says:

        Softball is certainly not followed to the degree that baseball is, but it’s played by girls and young women at comparable rates to baseball. If the standard is that referring to a sport (even once, in the case of this 140-word puzzle; twice if we count the similarly gratuitously hockey-clued SLAP) where the men’s division is more widely followed is detrimental to the crossword-solving community, there are very few acceptable sports left to mention.

    • Stephen B Manion says:

      Only 3.7% women of the players this year in the main event at the World Series. At Casino Arizona, which has 50 tables and is one of the biggest poker rooms in the country, it is about 10-15% women. About half the dealers are women.
      I do not detect a discernible difference for the most part in the betting style between women and men players in the relatively low stakes game I play, which is half Omaha and half eight or better stud, although, in my experience, comparatively speaking there are very few women who play as completely aggressively (and often stupidly) as some men. Over time, the best style of play is tight aggressive (wait until you have a good hand and then bet it aggressively) and most good players –men and women–play something close to that style.

      Fun puzzle.

    • DH says:

      In reading Amy’s post expressing her dissatisfaction with “too much poker” or “too much baseball”, I was thinking less about players and more about interest.

      Statistically, while it’s true that in the world of “fandom” MLB and NFL lag in the gender-balance category (~30% women), anecdotally in my life both sports are female dominated. In fact, I had no interest in baseball until I met my wife, who was a very avid fan. My mother told me that she used to keep score for all the Pittsburgh games, an interest she shared with her father. And my 95-year-old Aunt Ruth can name every Red Sox player and cite stats- watching a game with her is more interesting with the sound turned off because her color commentary is much more fun than what the broadcasters offer. And each one of these women is (or was) an avid crossword solver. (My wife and I do the puzzles together – she’s always the one to come up with the first names of the Alou brothers, or “Tino” Martinez, or the Cy Young winners). Although they are in the minority, I’d hate to have to see them have to accept fewer of these clues for the sake of some sense of balance or equality.

      Interestingly, the demographics of baseball fandom are similar to those of crossword culture, a phenomenon discussed by Anna Shechtman in a 2014 article here:

      http://theamericanreader.com/puzzle-trouble-women-and-crosswords-in-the-age-of-autofill/

      Anna’s article focuses primarily on creators (an imbalance that has been mentioned here) rather than players – but she does mention that male solvers outnumber females in a statistically nontrival way. Ben Tausig, in an essay last year, suggested that there may be an implicit by-line bias inherent in the male-dominance of editors, and that unconscious bias may inform the decline in female constructors. (I can remember my father-in-law, an ACT competitor himself, griping aloud on Sunday mornings during the Will Weng era … “Margaret Farrar would never let a clue like this slide!”)

      I think it’s fair to also point out that in the NYT today, 127-A (BOTOX) is heavily skewed toward women – of the roughly 7 million botox procedures done in 2018, less than a half-million patients were men. (Of course, one might take up the “player vs fan” argument here, making the point that many women get botox injections to please their male fan-base. One might, but not this one).

      And while he didn’t appear in today’s puzzle (and I have no real statistics other than my own opinion or “feeling”) it seems to me that Tim Gunn makes appearances in crosswords with a fairly high frequency. (“Project Runway” boasts an audience of about 2.3 million, with fewer than 500,000 of them men).

      Coincidentally, in today’s Wall Street Journal there was an article about the Aurora Games in Albany, NY later this month. This event is billed as “An international all-women’s multi-sport competition showcasing approximately 150 world-class athletes from nearly two dozen countries.” I think this is a great idea, one whose time is way overdue – but the fact is (as pointed out in the WSJ) that ticket sales are soft, much to the dismay of the promoters and those who champion gender balance in sports.

      I’m not trying to be argumentative here, just offering some additional food for thought. Amy’s desire for more female representation in crosswords is oft stated and well taken.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Anecdotal examples don’t outweigh actual statistics, of course, just as the existence of a couple of poker movies featuring women doesn’t mean there’s any sort of parity.

        The male preponderance among the fastest speed solvers is NOT representative of the entire universe of crossword solvers.

        Please don’t use BOTOX as an example of female-skewing fill. Why is it that women get more cosmetic Botox than men? Because the damned patriarchy tells them their value is tied to looking young and pretty, that’s why.

        Also, while you may feel like Tim Gunn is in the puzzle all the time, the stats don’t bear that out. Looking at Cruciverb’s database, very few of the GUNN appearances in the past decade have been clue via Tim, and very few of the TIMs were Gunn. Perhaps those few appearances jump out at you because they *don’t* fit the mold of the usual preponderance of OTT and ORR and such.

        • M483 says:

          Re: Sports and poker clues in crosswords. It is certainly OK for anyone, male or female to dislike these clues. I’m a female and I’m fine with a few of these in a crossword. I really don’t like all the pop culture, rapper, and “celebrity” questions, but I don’t want to say “stop appealing to the younger population.” Just as I’m always worried when I see complaints about questions that are “before my time.” Please don’t stop appealing as well to those of us who now have time to do lots of crosswords since we retired.

          • Brenda Rose says:

            I agree with you. Plus I strongly disagree with the “sports will make you smarter” phrase. In my opinion it does not, it just makes for more of that arcane fill you pointed out. Most of the voting bloc that will change the gender equality in sports aren’t solving crosswords nor drawing their decisions by reading bickering bloggers. Voting is our power & we must encourage everyone to exercise it.

        • DH says:

          Amy, I don’t think you get my point. I thought I was pretty clear about acknowledging that my personal experience was just that, but apparently I wasn’t clear enough.

          As I said, though, your desire for more female representation in crossword puzzles is oft stated and well taken; I understand it and as long as you’re the one writing the blog, have at it.

          It’s not the hill I want to die on, I’m just expressing an opinion.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Hey, DH. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Your ~30% figure for MLB seems about right, but according to this 2018 Forbes article, women comprise close to 50% of NFL viewership and are about 30% more likely than men to actually pay attention to the game.

  2. John says:

    re: LA Times 17-Down. Pitt is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. It hasn’t been in the Big East for the last six years!

  3. Lise says:

    The WaPo has me reaching for tissues. It’s so sweet and romantic. Congratulations on your anniversary and your big Lollapuzzoola win! ❤

  4. Billy Boy says:

    NYT: Specifying E. coli to Romaine is a bit much, if not torn from the headlines. In Med School, Escherichia coli was an innocuous bacteria way back then, used in University as well as the graduate level as an unremarkable Gram (-) stained rice-shaped touchstone.

    That is until it was weaponized (conspiratorialists gather here, please)

    Happy Sunday kids, go outside and play.

  5. Scott Weiss says:

    In the Universal puzzle, the second half of each theme entry is a word meaning “beginning”: OPENING, KICKOFF, LAUNCH, etc. So the letter “G” would be a GRAND OPENING, for example.

    • Norm says:

      Exactly. Gary took the constructor’s trick of using a synonym for start or end to signal the letter in question and turned it around, so the solver had to come up with what would commonly have been the clue. I thought it was extremely clever.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Ah! Thanks for this. I thought the theme felt too loose, and now I know why. My apologies to the constructor for missing this layer. This definitely raises my view of the grid.

  6. M.Gritz says:

    Nothing to say on the puzzles yet, but had a great time catching up with folks at Lollapuzzoola yesterday and enjoying the puzzles. Always wondeful to get together and see you all! If you’ve never been, consider coming to a tournament – it’s really a blast.

  7. Pseudonym says:

    very nice puzzle, evan

    happy anniversary

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