Monday, September 16, 2019

BEQ tk (Jim Q.) 


LAT 4:57 (Nate) 


NYT 2:56 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 13:53 (Rachel) 


Universal Untimed (Rebecca) 


WSJ 3:53 (Jim P) 


Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This is Amanda Rafkin’s NYT debut with her mentor and collaborator, Ross Trudeau. Welcome! This is a very nice Monday puzzle and I’m excited to solve more of Ms. Rafkin’s work in the future.

We have three theme answers and a revealer. I figured out the connection partway through, and the revealer made me smile.

New York Times, September 16, 2019, #916, Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau, solution grid

  • 17a [Adjudicator of an attempt at a physical feat, say] is the GUINNESS OFFICIAL. My high school had a Media Center rather than a library – this was back in the 1970s when the “media” in question was mostly filmstrips and cassette tapes. Each fall, the librarians would create a reference scavenger hunt as part of the orientation, and the prize was a current copy of The Guinness Book of World Records. After I won it three years in a row, they politely asked me to stop entering. I was somewhat surprised in college to discover that there was a beer named after the book.
  • 27a [Vocalist who doesn’t tour] is a STUDIO SINGER.
  • 45a [One versed in shorthand] is a STENOGRAPHER. Are there any stenographers left aside from court stenographers?

And the revealer: 58a [“To be totally clear” … or why to bring in a 17-, 27- or 45-Across?] is JUST FOR THE RECORD. It would be clearer if the clue was “why one would bring in” but I suspect that would have been too long for the print edition. And that’s a very very small quibble. This is a smooth, solid, accessible Monday theme that was still fun for an experienced solver. Yay for new female constructors! (Don’t bother complaining about “reverse sexism,” which isn’t a thing. Ben Tausig wrote about this problem six years ago. It remains a problem. Ross Trudeau is one of the established constructors trying to increase the diversity of constructors, and this blog heartily supports that effort).

A few other things:

  •  11d [June observance commemorating the Stonewall Riots] is PRIDE MONTH, sitting close to GAYER, which amusingly enough has a straight clue, [More gleeful].
  • 20a [Early birds?] is a great clue for EGGS.
  • Today’s entry in “Jenni likes this sort of clue” is 31d [“Nuh-uh!”] for NOT SO.
  • See also 42d [“Yadda, yadda, yadda …”: Abbr.] for ETC.
  • UBERMENSCH and CARPACCIO are interesting long non-theme entries.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ORCA are found in every one of the world’s oceans, and that LA has an Arts District called NOHO.

Peter Silzer’s Universal crossword, “Redefined”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Words starting with “de” are redefined as words that have a “de” prefix

Universal crossword solution · Peter Silzer · “Redefined” · Mon., 9.16.19


  • 22A [Moved the kids to their own bedrooms?] DEBUNKED
  • 27A [Shook a following sleuth?] DETAILED
  • 45A [Reneged on a contract?] DESIGNED
  • 51A [Erased the exam scores?] DEGRADED

I really enjoyed this theme. Each answer gave made me smile in its clever ridiculousness. DEBUNKED was hands down my favorite clue, but they’re all pretty great. If I had a complaint about the theme, it would be that I wanted more of it – both from a grid side of things as well as just to have more to enjoy.

With such a light theme, I would expect the fill to sparkle a bit more, but there was still certainly enough to like to keep the puzzle moving for me. Being unfamiliar with NIGELLA, I got a little stuck in the SE corner, but I can always find a WET BAR to come to my rescue. The clue for GPS [One may give you directions] kind of works for SEER also so those crossing was fun. And of course Rihanna making an appearance representing BARBADOS is always great in my book.

Final note – as if this theater geek is going to let a Hamilton reference go by- favorite clue of the puzzle goes to DUEL [Event near the end of “Hamilton”]. Here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House back in the good old days.

3 stars

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back to Work”—Jim P’s review

Yet another beautiful Monday grid from Zhouqin Burnikel. Her theme is JOB TURNOVER (27d, [Human resources concern, and what each set of circled letters reveals]). Each theme answer (going in the Down direction) includes a hidden occupation circled and going upwards.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Back to Work” · Zhouqin Burnikel · Mon., 9.16.19

  • 3d [Simple illustration] LINE DRAWING. Warden.
  • 9d [Si Newhouse or Rupert Murdoch] MEDIA MOGUL. Maid.
  • 25d [Port down the coast from Beirut] TEL AVIV. Valet.
  • 31d [Dessert often topped with cream cheese frosting] CARROT CAKE. Actor.

What a lively set of theme answers. All interesting. All solid. I had a ten-minute look to see if I could find any other viable theme answers, and couldn’t find a one. I’m sure there are some, but none that I could find readily available, making this set that much nicer.

Even with those five long theme answers, Zhouqin still manages to provide other fun fill like ICE BATH, REGROUP, REAR ADMIRAL, and my favorite, BRAGGADOCIO. Plus, BANJOS, USURY, YUCCA, and NEATO. Fun stuff.

There’s not much else to say because the puzzle is so clean and smooth. What a great grid to start the week on. 4.2 stars.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s write-up

This puzzle was a splendid way to kick off a week! The triple stacks in the NW and SE are lovely. I particularly enjoyed the SE, where I initially couldn’t believe I was actually writing in GOCOMMANDO, and then laughed out loud at DESERTRATS. I’ve never heard a gerbil called such a thing, but I can totally see it. This is why I have a cat.

The smoothness of the corners did not quite match the challenge of the middle; the last letter I put in was the H in NOH/HELICES, which I was only 80% sure would work; I can never remember if NOH is NOH or NOE, and I’ve never heard the word HELICE before. MACKERELSKY and THATCHERISM are also new to me, though of course both are completely fair game. I knew MACKEREL to be a type of pattern because of the aforementioned cat, who is a mackerel, so I got there eventually. For the free-market ideology, I started typing in INVISIBLEHA, ran out of space, and decided to jump to a different part of the grid — economics is not my thing.

New Yorker, September 16, 2019, Kameron Austin Collins, solution

A few other things:

  • I don’t feel great about the clue on MANIA (State of completely losing it). It comes off as a little stigmatizing of mental illness
  • Not a huge fan of some of the fill: ATEATON seems kind of tenuous as A Thing, TAMU is an unfortunate abbrev., and so are MGR and CSTORE  But if I can only find four fill issues to complain about, I’d call that a success!
  • I love deep-fried OREOS. That’s it, that’s the whole comment.

One more thought about the grid: I like this grid layout a lot! Stacks never fail to impress me, and this puzzle not only has the triple stacks in the NW and SE, but also has vertical stacks of almost the same size in the NE and SW. Very lovely bit of construction.

Overall, this puzzle is a standard New Yorker themeless: fun, fresh, a bit challenging, and an example of what themeless puzzles can be when they are held to high standards.

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

9.18.19 LAT Solution

9.18.19 LAT Solution

17A: RUNNING GAME [Football non-passing offense] – running play and game play
30A: DOUBLE DOWN [Get one more card for twice the bet, in blackjack] – double play and down play
47A: HORSE POWER [Car engine measure] – horse play and power play
63A: START OF PLAY [Opening kickoff, say, and what both parts of 17-, 30- and 47-Across can be]

Each theme entry can be split in two, with each word being the START OF (first word before) PLAY. I tend to like this type of theme, especially when both of the theme entries lend themselves to the task at hand – it always feels like a nice when you can turn HORSE POWER into horse play and power play, for example. The only themer that didn’t really sing to me was RUNNING GAME, which turned into running play … which feels like the same thing as a RUNNING GAME? I tend to prefer themes where plays on words deviate from the original meanings of the themers instead of duplicating them, which the constructor does well with his other theme entries.

This puzzle felt quite dude-ish, at least in its theme entries, what with all the sports, gambling, and cars. I was almost ready for an action movie SMASH somewhere in there!

Other thoughts:
– Huge props for using the term Latinx in the clue for EAST LA!!!!
– I appreciated the double clue for REAR END as well as the clue for MARXISM. There were also some nice long down entries (WEREWOLVES, UPPERCRUST, TAPESTRY).
– As usual, there were verrrry few women in the puzzle today (NANA, AUNT Em / Dorothy, HEIDI) vs. soooo many dudes. Sigh. We at least have COLE and ASHE to represent for people of color in the grid, but that ratio in puzzles could also be substantially improved.

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35 Responses to Monday, September 16, 2019

  1. Mark Abe says:

    Re NYT 36a: Los Angeles actually had a rather nondescript area called “North Hollywood”. Then it got a subway station, started to gentrify, and renamed itself “NoHo”, playing on the fame of the Soho area of London and SoHo in New York. This makes for a fantastic mis-directing crossword entry.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Yup! I dropped SOHO in to start with.

    • pannonica says:

      “… renamed itself “NoHo”, playing on the fame of the Soho area of London and SoHo in New York.”

      There’s been a NoHo (North of Houston (Street)) in Manhattan almost as long as there’s been a SoHo there.

  2. BethA says:

    I click on wsj but get NYT. Is there a link problem?

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    “Helices” is the plural of “helix.” Having a geneticist in the family helps with that one.

    Maria SHARAPOVA plays tennis well. She also was suspended for PED use and has been outspokenly racist about Serena Williams. The fanboyish clue in the puzzle bothered me.

    My problem was YEH and HABIT. Never heard of the former and it took me a while to see the latter, although it’s a totally fair clue.

    • David L says:

      I wasn’t sure whether it would be HELICES or HELIXES but this being the New Yorker I went with the former. I was troubled by CS at the start of 45D, but the crossing words were clearly correct. I’ve never heard of CSTORE — is this is a regional or NYC kind of a thing?

      Ultra-picky nitpick of the week: most elements come in different isotopes, so it’s not quite accurate to say that each element has an ATOMICMASS — they may have several, depending which isotope you mean.

      I don’t care for Sharapova either but I thought the clue was pretty neutral — I suppose you could argue over whether she’s a ‘great’ or just a ‘good.’

      • David L says:

        My dislike of Sharapova goes back to when she first started playing. After every point (win or lose) she would go to the back of the playing area, turn her back on the court, and spend some time fussing with her hair or her sweatband or smoothing her skirt or some such silliness, until she decided was ready to turn around and start the next point. This was such a selfish and childish and ill-mannered way of controlling the tempo of the game that I was an anti-fan of hers from the outset. Novak Djokovic used to do a funny and accurate impression of her antics, until he was told off by the authorities…

        Later developments only confirmed and strengthened my opinion of her.

      • JohnH says:

        Since I’d never heard of C-STORE either, I doubt it’s a New York thing. As usual with a Monday New Yorker, the puzzle is full of stuff I don’t know and doesn’t really interest me. I ended up guessing at RAVED vs RAGED, since neither across choice made any sense to me.

    • RunawayPancake says:

      Regarding your comment that Sharapova has been outspokenly racist against Williams, do you have an example you can site? I couldn’t find any (even though there apparently is no love lost between the two).

      • pannonica says:

        I did a search for  sharapova racism  and it seemed to garner relevant results.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          Sorry, I don’t have time to Google. I’m sure pannonica’s strategy would work. I recall frequent comments about Williams’ size and strength, and specifically remember Sharapova saying that she wouldn’t lift weights to look like that because she wanted to remain feminine and claiming that put her at an unfair disadvantage when she played Williams because Williams is so strong. Yes, you smug little thing, SHE WORKS AT IT.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      oh HELIX-es! That makes so much more sense, thank you. Solving at 6am in order to have the review up before I go to work is definitely handicapping me on these New Yorkers!

  4. AStoutLass says:

    >I was somewhat surprised in college to discover that there was a beer named after the book.

    Very much the opposite — the idea for the book came from a ‘pub-style argument’ (actually while shooting gamebirds, about the fastest gamebird in Europe) to the manager of Guinness Breweries. (He did not compile the facts, but instead one of his coworkers at Guinness recommended twin brothers with whom he went to school for the job.)

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Not so in love with the WSJ, pretty thin theme, decent fill.

    NYT – positively, no OREO to be found!
    Knew NOHO
    EGGS for early birds? too non-specific, must have paired gametes for a zygote.
    Will disrespects Biological Science yet again

    GAYER – I’m waiting to see the first irate comment on another blog about this one from a straight clue, tee-hee

    Probably better than average Monday stuff both.

    • pannonica says:

      The EGGS clue didn’t bother this biologist. Question mark working a little overtime, but passable enough as a clue. also, no need to capitalize biological science.

    • Billy Boy says:

      New Yorker Puzzle Comments – was OK

      What Sharapova is being criticized for is ‘Gamesmanship’ perfectly legal. It is extremely prevalent in the Match Play form of Golf as showcased in this past weekend’s stellar Solheim Cup (Best golf event of the season so far), whether or not the methodology is offensive to some. In sports, timing is occasionally delicate, but aggressively being a gamer is ironically encouraged. Go figure.

      I must criticize 48 A & D. A is offensive to D.O.’s, the forgotten fully legitimate Medical Doctors without an M.D. I hold the latter and have worked with some stellar members of the former who are often looked upon unfairly as non-equals.

      Having lost a sister to Bi-Polar Disease, I object to the casual misuse of MANIA.

  6. Gale G Davis says:

    NOHO is North Hollywood – a place that definitely celebrates Pride Month. Also crossing gayer with manly was a hoot.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I can’t for the life of me understand why the New Yorker themelesses typically have average star ratings (caveat: not statistically valid data!) well below mine. They mostly fit into my 3.5 to 4.5 stars window, and I’d call this one a solid 4 stars. Who are these people assigning it an insulting 1 or 2 stars? I’d love to hear your reasoning.

    My main gripe with Kameron’s puzzle today is that SECOND crosses the clunky RESEED, whose clue contains the word “second.” Perhaps the New Yorker puzzle crew is in the Will Shortz camp of “who cares?” but I do find such overlaps inelegant.

    • Ethan says:

      I don’t usually solve the New Yorker puzzle (it’s not a principled stand or anything, I just don’t), but if the entry RESEED is in reference to tournaments, that’s totally a thing that can happen on a round-by-round basis and therefore not clunky, IMO. For example, I was a #2 seed in the first round but the #1 seed was knocked out in the same round, so now I’ve been reseeded to be #1 in the second round.

      Agree that it probably should have been clued without SECOND.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        It was an agricultural clue relating to a second harvest.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Also, you can have the New Yorker email you each Monday and Friday to remind you there’s a new puzzle! That’s what I do.

      • Norm says:

        Kameron’s puzzles are usually filled with too many names and too much modern junk for my taste. This one wasn’t too bad on that score. 18A? I should care? 34A? Who? 43D? Give me a break. But I appreciated SHILOH and the clue for GO COMMANDO was funny, if rather obvious. I did not care for BRITICISM crossing THATCHERISM but that’s about the extent of my gripes, so this was a nice puzzle.

        But CSTORE? Is that some “hip” term for a corner store? That’s the sort of thing that I find very annoying, but the crosses were fair enough that I wouldn’t seriously ding the puzzle for that one. So, yeah, 4 feels about right.

        • RunawayPancake says:

          I’ve often encountered CSTORE (business shorthand for convenience store) in the context of commercial real estate. Don’t think it’s anything to do with hipness.

  8. Hisboi L Roi says:

    Re LAT 64D


    • Paul Coulter says:

      Thank you for noting Ric Ocasek’s sad passing. Before they became famous, The Cars once played a party gig at our fraternity house in Cambridge, Mass. When our social chairman auditioned them, I happened to be working in the kitchen on one of my days as dinner cook. I looked out into the adjoining dining room when I heard them playing, and I remember thinking, “Hey, these guys are pretty good.”

  9. David Roll says:

    Could someone please enlighten me as to why Warden and Actor would be a ” human resources concern” related to job turnover? Just asking.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      1. Job turnover is a human resources concern.
      2. Warden and actor are both jobs.
      3. The jobs are “turned over” in that those words appear backwards in the puzzle.

  10. arthur118 says:

    While MACKEREL applies to cats with certain markings, the name most likely came from Middle Age French commercial fishermen who called the distinctive striped, saltwater food fish “maquerel”, which is French for pimp and in the time honored tradition of fishermen’s humor, somehow, it likely fit their relationship with the little rascals.

    I suspect that cats piggy back on the name because of the stripes, not the derivation of the word. (Though, of course, those who are feline-phobic may differ).

    MACKEREL SKY also most likely comes from French fishermen, who named it for the cirrocumulus clouds that looks like fish scales.

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