Saturday, September 14, 2019

LAT 5:51 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:44 (Derek) 


NYT 4:33 (Amy) 


WSJ 19:51 (Jim P) 


Universal 5:00 (Jim Q) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Living”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Certain professionals use common phrases to describe their work. In each case the second word can also be a synonym for “occupation” or “endeavor.” In most cases, but not all, the first word changes meaning as well.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “It’s a Living” · Gary Larson · Sat., 9.14.19

  • 22a [“It’s a ___,” said the pig farmer] HOG CALLING
  • 24a [“It’s a ___,” said the salsa maker] HOT PURSUIT
  • 40a [“It’s a ___,” said the accountant] NUMBERS RACKET
  • 62a [“It’s a ___,” said the carnival barker] FAIR TRADE
  • 86a [“It’s a ___,” said the comic strip artist] FUNNY BUSINESS
  • 108a [“It’s a ___,” said the newspaper reporter] DAILY GRIND
  • 110a [“It’s a ___,” said the interior decorator] SPACE CRAFT
  • 37d [“It’s a ___,” said the sawmill operator] BOARD GAME
  • 48d [“It’s a ___,” said the party planner] BALL FIELD

I liked this well enough. There’s nothing terribly exciting here, and some little inconsistencies can be found, but on the whole the relationship between the end phrases and occupations are strong enough to hold the theme together. I especially like HOT PURSUIT; both words change meaning and the end result feels natural.

Dr. EGGMAN from “Sonic the Hedgehog”. No relation to John Lennon’s EGGMAN.

Highlights in the fill: PENELOPE, SNAP PEAS, ARMY TENT, STATE BAR, WIPEOUTS, PLATEAU, SENECAS, EGGMAN, and “O CAPTAIN!”. I’m not so keen on generic-sounding STEELMEN.

New to me are TASSE [Skirtlike piece of armor] and PALPATE [Examine by touch]. I think I would have gotten the former with a [Cup in Cannes] clue (or at least I could have inferred it), and the latter seems like—and apparently is—related to the word “palpitate.”

How are you with your medical crosswordese? I feel like we’ve gotten every scan on offer with ECG, EEGS, and MRIS. I hope you have good insurance.

Cluing was mostly straightforward though there were some highlights like [Spare parts?] for PINS.

Solid puzzle. 3.6 stars from me.

Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 14 19, no. 0914

Ugh, no. This is not a good puzzle, and I’m honestly not sure why it was accepted for publication. A matrix of five 15s might be neat structurally, but there is so much dreck in the fill, it just was not fun to solve. And it’s a 68-worder, not a really low word count, so there’s no reason for the fill to be so bad. How do I dislike thee? Let me count the ways: crosswordese/obscure vibe in ARNO, RIEL, ELOI, OCTAL, EDATE, UBI, RUHR, ERI, HRE, CLE; lifeless ASHIER, NAIL HOLE, RESOLE, EGRESS.

One of the 15s is a phrase that is basically a big “fuck you” from conservative types to anyone who espouses any sort of social justice: 10d. [Sharing of a moral viewpoint to gain social approval], VIRTUE SIGNALING. And it’s so hypocritical! Are you not doing exactly that when you carp about them lib’ruls and their virtue signaling? It’s also deeply cynical, as if I can’t say “I support trans and nonbinary folks’ rights to use the public bathroom they’re comfortable in” to express actual support rather than to make people like me for my lib’rul ways. Such a bullshit term, and used so disingenuously. It’s “fresh fill,” sure, but the clue buys into the right-wing framing of the term.

There were some weird clues for crusty old fill that made short entries sort of arbitrarily hard: 5d. [Form of the Italian “to be”], ERI, instead of that crosswordese aria “Eri Tu” / 32a. [“My God!,” to Jesus], ELOI, instead of the crosswordese race from the H.G. Wells novel.

I know that the reclining sort of LIE and the deceitful LIARS are etymologically distinct, but it would be best not to have LIE and LIARS in the same grid. Could’ve made it BEECH/BIO/HMO/partial AM NO and gotten rid of that.

Four more things:

  • 1a. [Picked up a split, e.g.], SPARED. Bowling lingo at 1-Across, when other senses of SPARED are much more common. Not sure I’ve ever seen SPARE used as a verb rather than a noun in the bowling context.
  • 47a. [Excel spreadsheet function], EDATE. I have zero idea what this means and no interest in learning it.
  • 41d. [Marriageable, quaintly], NUBILE. Such a gross word.
  • 55d. [Hoppy medium, for short?], IPA. Cute clue. Keep those IPAs away from me, though. Blecch!

Two stars from me. It just wasn’t fun.

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/14/2019

Stacks! We have 15 stacks at the top and bottom of this grid, which is one of my favorite themeless configurations. Like most people, I usually cannot get any of the 15s at first glance, but by parsing through the downs, the answers then become fairly clear. This one took my about 6 minutes, so it isn’t too terribly tough, but still quite a fun solve. I’ve mentioned it before, but I enjoy Greg Johnson puzzles also, so this was a win-win for me! 4.4 stars.

Some highlights, including all of the 15s:

  • 1A [Suggestion for stress relief] TAKE SOME TIME OFF – I need to follow this suggestion1
  • 16A [Enjoying a solo walk in the woods] AT ONE WITH NATURE – This is not me at all. Not sure why …
  • 17A [It makes a good point] PENCIL SHARPENER – This is actually one of the better clues in the puzzle. With all of the high-tech writing utensils out there, there is still something about a good wooden pencil. Hot tip: try a Palomino Blackwing!
  • 32A [Tricky hoops move that’s often an assist] NO LOOK PASS – Lots of ball players have done this move over the past several decades, but Magic Johnson made this cool in the 80s.
  • 40A [Treatment for dry skin] BODY BUTTER – I use lotion. This is a thing??
  • 56A [Pasta for vegetarians] MEATLESS LASAGNA – I have had this. It’s one of my favorite dishes!
  • 62A [“Pass”] “I’M NOT INTERESTED” – It seems like this phrase has popped up a lot in several puzzles recently.
  • 63A [Scopes Trial site] DAYTON, TENNESSEE – Got the DAYTON part easily; had no idea which state it was!
  • 3D [Hawaiian coffee district] KONA – The Ironman Triathlon championship in Kona is coming up next month. One of these days I am going to learn how to swim and do one of these!
  • 27D [2001 Apple debut] IPOD – It’s been that long?
  • 38D [NFL ball carriers] RBS – Football is back in full swing, although I find my interest is starting to wane. The games are losing quality in play, in my opinion because the best athletes often choose a sport not as likely to leave you with CTE. It is still the top TV draw on several networks, college and pro, so we will see if that changes in the coming years.
  • 45D [“Indeed”] “SO I SEE” – This looks like a weird French word in the grid!

Michigan won’t lose this week: they don’t play! My blood pressure should be good for another week at least!

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 09/14/2019

I was going good for about 8 minutes, then I hit the SW corner. You can plainly see the “battle scars” in the grid image (put another way, error marks!). Great puzzle but this duo, which if I remember correctly is Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson. Please correct me if I have that wrong! This one wasn’t as thorny as usual, save for that lower left corner, so next week should be a doozy! 4.5 stars for this one.

Some favorites:

  • 16A [Curser of Capulets and Montagues] MERCUTIO – I recognized the Romeo and Juliet reference in the clue, but I don’t know Shakespeare as well as others. That will be my downfall if I ever make it to Jeopardy!
  • 25A [She was 9-7 against Navratilova] SELES – Nice way to clue this crossword-famous tennis player. At least it is different, as well as highlighting that she had a winning record against the Hall of Famer who was, in her prime, almost unstoppable, especially at Wimbledon. This tennis lover is starting to ramble, so I will move on …
  • 40A [Holy Week candle-snuffing service] TENEBRAE – I would call this a snuffer. I don’t think I have ever heard this term.
  • 55A [Light pop style] DIET COLA – Yes! We call it “pop” here in Indiana, not “soda”, so I got this one quicker than I maybe should have!
  • 57A [”Couldn’t say”] “I DUNNO” – I say this a lot!
  • 61A [Biodiversity insurance] SEED BANK – There is one of these in Sweden, I believe, perhaps for after the nuclear war?
  • 2D [Drumstick center] TIBIA – This took me a second; possibly the best clue!
  • 4D [Pitch dismissal] I’M NOT INTERESTED – I said in my LAT review that this has popped up a lot recently; I think I encountered it in a NYT puzzle recently as well.
  • 10D [Koi pond filler and filter] SUBMERSIBLE PUMP – Great 15 entry. I am still not putting a koi pond in my front yard.
  • 34D [Copyist of old] SCRIVENER – This is also the name of a writing app that seems popular. One of these days I am going to write a book, but it won’t be today!
  • 40D [Raw material in leather making] TAN BARK – I definitely don’t know that this is. I had TAN BACK in at first. Is this even two words??

Have a great weekend everyone!


Roland Huget’s Universal crossword, “Horsing Around”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Types of horses can be found within the theme answers


  • 17A [List headings for decision-making] PRO AND CON. Roan. I always think

    Universal crossword solution · Roland Huget · “Horsing Around” · Sat., 9.14.19

    PROs and CONs in the plural sense when it comes to a list…

  • 23A [Bond investor’s concern] COUPON YIELD. Pony. New term for me.
  • 39A [Make a bundle] FILL YOUR POCKETS. Filly. 
  • 49A [Not be a stranger] KEEP IN TOUCH. Pinto. 
  • 61A [One pitching to a doc] PHARMA REP. Mare. 

It should be noted that if you didn’t solve in Across Lite, the clues asked you to count letters in theme answers to find the types of horses. Ya’ know, because Universal has trypophobia.

My recurring plea:

That’s it. 3.5 star puzzle becomes 2 stars for the simple lack of visual aid.

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19 Responses to Saturday, September 14, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    The modern phenomenon that could most aptly be described as “virtue signaling” is that silly flag lapel pin that the president has had to wear at every public appearance ever since 9/11. (And boy did Obama catch hell when he showed up somewhere without one.) It is quite literally a token of no intrinsic value that “signals” the “virtue” of patriotism.

    But sharing a moral viewpoint? That just sounds like saying what you believe. It’s only virtue signaling if those beliefs aren’t sincerely held. And like Amy said, referring to the expression of an opinion as such implicitly accepts the framing that “us on the right, we speak the commonsense truths that PC liberals *think* but are too *afraid* to say out loud!”

    So can we please reclaim the phrase “virtue signaling” for things like the first example?

  2. Matt M. says:

    I was just telling a friend the other day that I think VIRTUE SIGNALING is possibly the worst phrase.

  3. Martin says:

    Tanbark is one word. It’s any tree bark that’s has a lot of tannin so it can be used in tanning leather. That’s where the word “tannin” comes from. One weed tree around my house is the tanbark oak.

  4. Stephen B Manion says:

    In the sports will make you virtuous department, I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of Matt Stairs until today’s puzzle. It turns out that he is a Canadian who played for 13 teams between 1992-2015.

    Spared is used with moderate frequency (he spared in the sixth and seventh and then struck out), but it is more usual to say “he made the spare.”

    I also had never heard of the phrase “virtue signaling” until today’s puzzle. I have always been disgusted by right wing radio stations that label themselves “the Patriot,” but I did not think much about it beyond the fact that the right does not have a lock (or perhaps even a handle) on patriotism.


  5. RM Camp says:

    Any accusation I get for “virtue signaling” is met with, “no, I *have* virtues, I don’t need to pretend.”

    Trash fill, not fresh, if you ask me.

  6. R says:

    Virtue signaling used to be a perfectly normal neutral economics term before being coopted by right-wing trolls to mock any voiced concern for humanity or decency. There’s something particularly infuriating about specific technical terminology being appropriated and debased for cheap sniping.

  7. KarenS says:

    Stumper: BOVA at 53 down was obscure even for a Stumper.

  8. Dr Fancypants says:

    I am a fairly heavy user of Excel, and have never needed to use the EDATE function (and never even heard of it until now). Ugh.

    • gourmand says:

      Ditto. Per Excel, the function “returns the serial number of the date that is the indicated number of months before or after the start date.” (My apologies if you read this, Amy!) I’ve never had the need for it, but I can see how it could be useful. That said, it’s not good fill. My guess: this clue replaced something about Tinder
      or OK Cupid.

  9. Gene says:

    Notable- YEMENI in both the MYT and the Stumper.

  10. Theresa Horan says:

    I had Bear (Greg) in place of Ben BOVA , messing up my SW. I see in Wikipedia that Bear won an ENDEAVOuR award in 2000 .

  11. Billy Boy says:

    Comment withheld.

    • pannonica says:

      Is that some sort of signal?

      • Billy Boy says:

        It is irony intended as humor – thus a lead balloon of an attempt at a funny, I guess … I’m still researching virtue signaling and its assumptions, ramifications, implications and insinuations. I really like words and phraseology.

        The term was introduced by this puzzle to my world, I am trying to come to grips is why it is thought unipolar (My beliefs are mostly centrist with left lean but some right in them). It has long seemed to me it is a common function of the internet to raise ire no matter what one’s comment is, the internet has long been a place for the true believer – perhaps leading to the V-signaling ‘phenomenon’. I discussed this Groupthink with a Psychiatrist colleague of mine who noted that Erik Hoffer’s book “True Believer – Thoughts on the nature of Mass Movements” – crystalized this concept for him. (I stopped discussing an artistic endeavor hobby of mine on line as it is so hard to get one to read more than 141 characters any longer). Congratulations if you are still reading.

        Much of the internet is very unpleasant if you do not participate in groupthink when offering opinions.

        e.g. I stopped comments on my local newspaper feed (FB) when comments, meant to be helpful and instructive, based upon professional knowledge of absolute certainty were trolled both ways.

        No good deed goes unpunished.

        Please let me know if I should stop commenting, I will still follow this blog.

  12. C. Y. Hollander says:

    40A [Holy Week candle-snuffing service] TENEBRAE – I would call this a snuffer. I don’t think I have ever heard this term.

    The adjective tenebrous could help with an educated guess.

Comments are closed.