Friday, November 1, 2019

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 5:50 (Jenni) 


NYT 3:58 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 7:22 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 1 19, no. 1101

It’s always a delight to see Robyn’s byline on a themeless, because her puzzles are uniformly good and fresh. Take a gander at the sparkle here. We’ve got some ART HISTORY atop an indispensable RICE COOKER (if you think rice cookers are dumb but there are no Asians in your household, hush). There’s a STRIP MALL with a fun clue, [Shopping destination that sounds risqué]. A dismal MINOR CHORD atop a chiding ACT YOUR AGE. LICKETY-SPLIT, SLAPSTICK, and DECODER RING are fun. A cinematic DIRECTOR’S CUT and the axiom TIME IS MONEY. And the worst stuff offsetting the juicy fill is ASLOPE, TELE, IONE, SYR, HRE, and PST, none of which are beyond the pale for a themeless or have knotty crossings.

Seven more things:

  • 17a. [Steam-powered device?], RICE COOKER. Love the clue.
  • 19a. [Schmutz on Santa’s boots], ASH. Schmutz is among my favorite Yiddish words.
  • 48a. [Arab nation once colonized by the Portuguese]. OMAN. Didn’t know the colonial history.
  • 4d. [Marine mollusk exoskeleton vendor, in a tongue twister?], SHE. This clue confused the heck out of me. “She sells seashells by the seashore,” she isn’t a mollusk and doesn’t have an exoskeleton, but she sells seashells. I don’t think it’s zoologically accurate to call shells “exoskeletons,” though. Can I get a biologist to weigh in?
  • 8d. [Nursery], PRESCHOOL. Haven’t really seen nursery used in that way. The school I attended before kindergarten was called a nursery school, though.
  • 26d. [Ones turning up the volume?], LIBRARIANS. They’re not all that likely to shush you these days, and they excel at finding the book (volume) you’re looking for. Did I ever tell you about my college work-study job at the Carleton library? I was a searcher, who would hunt down books that were missing. Not checked out of the library, just misshelved somewhere. I had a knack for figuring out the LoC call numbers where a book might be misplaced. A deeply satisfying job, to restore order to the library shelves!
  • 45d. [Dangerous kind of shark], LOAN. Watch out for their usurious teeth!

4.3 stars from me.

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Why, of Course!”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: G/J sounds swapped with Y sounds

Universal crossword solution · Gary Larson · “Why, of Course” · Fri., 11.01.19


  • 17A [Egg part, redundantly?] INSIDE YOLK
  • 27A [Barbra Streisand’s 1983 headspace?] YENTL ON MY MIND
  • 41A [Lemon mousse, to a non-foodie?] YELLOW PUDDING
  • 56A [Scream from the other bathroom when someone flushes the toilet?] SHOWER YELL

This theme is so well done here – with really entertaining results across the board. YENTL ON MY MIND was my favorite as far as an answer, but as I was unfamiliar with the song “Gentle on My Mind”, it didn’t help much with figuring out what the theme was. I also loved that the spelling of each word had to be completely changed to make the ‘y’ sound work – not just a letter swap.

Low word-count for a themed puzzle, with just 72, with nothing obscure or unfair – very impressive. The VOYAGERS, OPERETTA, TALENTED corner was my favorite.

Some SADE to start your day…

3.5 Stars

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Well, I just spent half an hour in a google-and-wikipedia rabbit hole reading about the brilliant ANNA JULIA COOPER and only stopped because I realized I still had to write this review. What a *gorgeous* puzzle and solving experience! For starters, that is a hell of a central entry: not just a perfect 15-letter entry, but also someone I definitely should have known about, and am so grateful to the constructor for bringing her into my awareness.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Erik Agard • November 1, 2019

If that had been the only selling point of this puzzle, it still would have been excellent, but there is so much goodness packed into these 62 (!!) words. I adore this unique grid construction. The unusual and attractive (ENTICING?) block pattern make the middle of this puzzle into essentially one giant staircase of 7-letter words across and 8-letter words down, and every single entry through the staircase is fabulous. Just, wow.

Some highlights include:

  • MUSCOGEE – the MUSCOGEE (Creek) nation is currently involved in a Supreme Court case to determine the future of a vast swath of Oklahoma, which I learned from a fantastic podcast.
  • Notaroesque delivery for DEADPAN – that would be my favorite comedian, Tig Notaro.
  • UNICORN (Titular horned pet in a Brie Larson movie) – Just spent another 10 minutes on wikipedia reading about Brie Larson’s movie UNICORN store, which she directed/produced/starred in
  • GOAT (Acronym often applied to Simone Biles) – the Greatest (gymnast) Of All Time
  • TUE (Second night for “Bachelor” two-nighters: Abbr.) – I lol’d. As a long-time Bach(elor)(ette) fan, I very much enjoyed seeing this low-brow culture mixed in with the typically high-brow New Yorker stuff like Yayoi Kusama’s POLKADOTs.
  • METAMAN (Succeeded on Scruff, perhaps) – appreciate the non-heteronormative clue on this!

In sum: this was truly one of my favorite puzzles I’ve done in some time, and all for the low, low price of IONE/OBI/ASTI. Such a bargain! All the stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

I don’t get the theme to this puzzle. Is it media from the 1950s?

There are two grid-spanning entries and a central linked crossing:

Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2019, Ed Sessa, solution grid

  • 16a [1957 title role for Michael Landon], TEENAGE WEREWOLF.
  • 30a [One on many covers since 1954] is ALFRED E NEUMAN, and 17d [30-Across catchphrase] is, of course, WHATME WORRY?
  • 50a [Show that has appeared in various versions for six decades], THE NEWLYWED GAME.

They’re all interconnected, which must mean something, but I have no idea what. Maybe that’s because I’m writing this at 7:00 AM Pacific time and I haven’t yet had breakfast or coffee. Anyone figured this out?

A few other things:

  • I dropped in OPTIMA for 1a, [Kia sedan] and then took it out because I thought 5d, [Parts of gigs], was SETS. Nope. It’s MEGS.
  • 7a [Nincompoop] is a SAPHEAD. I’ve  never heard the word. The first page of a Google search gives nothing but definitions. Google Ngrams tells me it peaked in the 1920s. OK.
  • I had SPIFFED for 14a [Made dapper, with “up”], but it’s SPRUCED.
  • 33d [Peripatetic bell ringer] is the AVON LADY. Do they still call their sales reps “ladies?”
  • 55a [One way alternative?] is ANOTHER, which gave me this earworm.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Emeril LAGASSE is known to say “Pork fat rules!”

Neville Fogarty’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Now You See Him …” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 11/2/19 • “Now You See Him …” • Fogarty • solution • 20191101

Solved this on Wednesday, writing about it Friday morning. In between, we were treated to Brauner and Chen’s Thursday NYT crossword, which employs a similar gimmick. To wit, letters essential to the themed across entry that are ‘optional’ for the crossing downs.

I this puzzle, the letter string, M-A-N (which I’ve circled for for convenience) is the pivotal element, befitting a Halloween-adjacent offering.

  • 65aR [1897 science-fiction classic whose title lends clarity to 11 mysterious Down clues in this puzzle] THE INVISIBLE MAN.
    • 62d [Big initials in shipping] U{M}PS.
    • 63d [Marital or mature lead-in] P{A}RE.
    • 64d [Female otter] S{N}OW. Crossed by 61a [Otter litter] PUPS.

But wait! you may say, 4 entries × 3 letters = 12 so why isn’t it 12 mysterious down clues? Ah, because one of the down clues passes through two theme entries. MYSTERY SOLVED.

  • 17a. [Entertainment merger of 1881] BARNUM AND BAILEY.
    • 5d [Streakers in the night sky] CO{M}E{N}TS. This is that one.
    • 6d [Have a go at] TR{A}Y.
    • 7d [Succumb to gravity, in a way] SA{N}G.
  • 7a. [Mathematician’s method of writing a sum using a capital Greek letter] SIGMA NOTATION. Oh yes, I recall that from junior high.
    • 18d [Conjunction paired with “neither”] NOR{M}.
    • 24d [Word on most gift tags] T{A}O.
    • 5d (see above)
  • 49a. [Straight in Puget Sound] TACOMA NARROWS. Of notorious ‘Galloping Gertie‘ fame.
    • 51d [Boxing legend] {M}ALI.
    • 31d [Pack (down)] TAMP{A}.
    • 41a [The Hawkeye State, on an env.] IA{N}.

Nifty theme—even if it may not be as much of a surprise as intended—and exceedingly well-executed.The rest of the grid suffers a bit, with a plethora of medium- and short-length fill, rather mundane entries and abbrevs., but this is not unexpected in such a theme-dense crossword.

  • 13d [Olympians swear oaths upon it] STYX. Good mythological factette.
  • 42d [It’s thumbed down] SPACE BAR.

    In the Space Bar, no one can hear you cry into your beer.

  • 45d [Disdainful one] SCORNER. Probably the weakest entry, for its roll-your-ownishnessitude, though it gets a run for the money from 50d [Onetime British secondary-school exam] O Level: ‘O’ for Ordinary; nowadays you mostly just hear about A Levels.
  • 52d [Plastic Clue weapon] ROPE. Always seemed so distinct from the metal ones. Fun fact: in early editions of the game, the lead pipe was made from actual lead, which was a bit of a health risk. Fun!
  • 60d [Second-oldest member of the Jackson 5] TITO. Is the oldest … Marlon? >consults interwebs<  No, it was Jackie, who was the second-oldest of the children. The oldest was Rebbie, whom I’ve never heard of.
  • 71a [Doing the tarantella, say] AWHIRL.

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24 Responses to Friday, November 1, 2019

  1. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Excellent puzzle. I was surprised to see that Monty Python’s genre is slapstick. For me, the Three Stooges is slapstick. I know that Monty Python had slapstick elements, but my adjective is surreal. Life of Brian is my personal favorite.


    • huda says:

      Same here

    • pannonica says:

      Same. Absurdist as well.

    • anon says:

      On the apparent Monty Python mis-attribution, it seems that we can blame the (co)author of the “slapstick” Wikipedia page (and maybe the constructor/editor who might have put too much reliance on it). I went to that entry to make sure I hadn’t had the wrong idea about slapstick all these years. Nodding my head as I’m reading, “Three Stooges, yep”, “Jackass, uh-huh”, and then I got to the Monty Python and Fawlty Towers mentions near the end and was left shaking my head.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Late to solving this one, so I came here to see if this (otherwise excellent five-star) puzzle had been justly taken to task for calling Monty Python “slapstick.” You all did not disappoint me!

      Although you can point to specific instances of slapstick by the Pythons (the fish-slapping dance comes to mind), by no means is it one of their principal genres. And when they used it, they were usually parodying it.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Excellent puzzle. Seeing SYR in the puzzle always does something to me… Sometimes a smile and sometimes a MINOR CHORD…
    To my mind, the concept of “TIME IS MONEY” is quintessentially American. I literally never thought of the connection until my early 20’s when I came to America and heard the expression. My then boyfriend/current husband had to explain it to me. My own concept of time is still somewhat elastic…

  3. Slagheap says:

    How I wound up on this website (for the first time) : I had Lick*i*tySplit (‘is instead if ‘e’), and therefore had no clue what the clue “cast opener” was about (“tile”? Huh?). Hunted through the puzzle for 20 minutes looking for my error.

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    Amy it’s been many years since my undergraduate biology degree, but IIRC an EXOSKELETON is any hard, protective, external protection for an invertebrate. Sure, we think of them mostly in context of insects’ (and other arthropods) chitinous exoskeletons, but a mollusk shell would qualify too. Let’s google …

    Merriam-Webster: 1 : an external supportive covering of an animal (such as an arthropod)

    Google definition result: a rigid external covering for the body in some invertebrate animals, especially arthropods, providing both support and protection.

    Finally, this Scientific American article opens with: “The exoskeletons of snails and clams, or their shells in common parlance, differ from the endoskeletons of turtles in several ways.”

    So that clue is zoologically AOK I think.

    Secondly, your review was on point for me. That was a lovely puzzle, crisp and solid.

    • JohnH says:

      RHUD gives as its sole example to clarify its definition the shell of a crustacean, so seems fine by me.

      I could have lived without ASLOPE, I must admit.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        *ahem* Crustaceans are arthropods and not mollusks. Lobsters, crabs, and crawfish don’t have what we call seashells.

        • Martin says:

          About 90% of authorities cited online call a clamshell an exoskeleton. Several Wikipedia articles go with that terminology. A few purist conchologist object, saying it does not support the body. Personally, the muscular attachments to the shell — like the adductors — make it an exoskeleton.

  5. Pseudonym says:

    “It’s always a delight to see Robyn’s byline on a themeless, because her puzzles are uniformly good and fresh. Take a gander at the sparkle here.” Seconded.

    EA is on a tremendous roll. Best Fri TNY in memory.

  6. lemonade714 says:

    The LAT is a themeless with a tribute mini-theme -Mad Magazine – ALFRED E NEUMAN crossing WHAT ME WORRY Alfred’s tagline.

    Here is the ARTICLE from the LA Times.

    You might reconsider you ratings

  7. cyco says:

    Will there be a review of the bonus Inkubator?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We generally do not review the bonus puzzles that come out from various venues, such as AV Club and Inkubator.

  8. Gene says:

    Had the AL of 6A, confidently fell into the clear trap of ALTO.

    • RM Camp says:

      Same, except I didn’t have the AL, I just assumed *vocal* range over *mountain* range and no other four-letter ranges came to mind (not like Liesl would have sung bass anyway).

  9. CluelessInSeattle says:

    “Wheel” deal = TRIP (LAT) Can someone explain this?


  10. Noam D. Elkies says:

    CHE: “Solved this on Wednesday [before] Brauner and Chen’s Thursday NYT crossword, which employs a similar gimmick” — me too, with the same déjà vu experience yesterday. Enjoyed this one too, and of course was particularly happy to see 27A:SIGMA NOTATION as a theme entry: I often mark a Σ next to a clue for a math entry (and likewise ? or sometimes ♪ for classical music), but this is the first time that I had a Σ marking an actual Σ !). There’s another Σymbol for 8D:SUBSET; not surprisingly Neville Fogarty is a fellow mathematician.


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