Saturday, November 2, 2019

LAT 5:02 (Derek) 


Newsday 10:07 (Derek) 


NYT 4:45 (Amy) 


WSJ 17:55 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Learning to Be a Politician”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Various non-political phrases are re-imagined as instructional terms for those seeking political office.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Learning to Be a Politician” · Randolph Ross · Sat., 11.2.19

  • 24a [Instruction for a future congressperson?] HOUSE TRAINING. This works.
  • 32a [Lessons on managing a financial crisis?] CRASH COURSE. This doesn’t work as well. The clue does not necessarily have anything to do with politics.
  • 56a [Seminar for politicians who want to appear humble?] MODESTY PANEL. Never heard of this phrase which is apparently a part of a desk.
  • 76a [Lessons for budget management?] ECONOMY CLASS. Again, not necessarily political, but certain politicians are charged with overseeing the economy, so it works a little better.
  • 94a [Practice exercises on being in charge?] POWER DRILLS.
  • 108a [Where to learn how to be nominated?] PRIMARY SCHOOL.
  • 3d [Curriculum for a left-leaning politician?] LIBERAL EDUCATION.
  • 42d [Where a politician can learn how to win the presidency?] ELECTORAL COLLEGE. Sad, but true, since it doesn’t matter if more of the populace votes for you.

Some good ones here, some not as good. But overall, despite mostly being non-partisan, I expect it might still evoke some unpleasant feelings. One thing people enjoy about crosswords is that they’re a short escape from the real world, and these days, the real world is filled with ugly politics. I’m not sure why a constructor would want to wade into those waters.

But the puzzle lost me at 49a EX-OILER [Gretzky of the NHL or Moon of the NFL]. Never mind that the X crosses XTINA [Aguilera, to her fans], which is ultimately gettable, though I stuck hard and fast to STINA, which seemed plausible to me. And never mind that 25d [Shake awake] could easily have been ROUST instead of ROUSE. So yes, I did Natick at the X. Because, who has EX-OILER in their grid!?! Let’s just go ahead and add all the other teams to our word lists, shall we? EX-JET, EX-MET, EX-BUC, EX-BROWN, EX-BILL, etc., etc. Bleah!

There were a few high points in the grid like “OH I GET IT,” TRIFECTA, and METONYMS. But there were also more sub-par entries than I’d like to see: green painty EVIL ONE, long partial A TINGE, lesser known proper names WEILL and HEGEL, and crosswordese INGE, ELAND, AGA, OPA, AT NO.

Overall, not the funnest outing for me. 2.8 stars.

Paolo Pasco & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 2 19, no. 1102

Dang! I was not expecting to hit a never-heard-this-one at 1-Across. [2008 Lil Wayne hit whose title is slang for lots of money], “A MILLI,” that came out before I started listening to rap on the radio (advantage of radio: I get the radio edits and miss the words that aren’t radio-friendly). Just watched the video, and the song doesn’t grab me. The “milli” of “million” was inferrable enough, though.

Fave fill: “COME AT ME,” ACTOR/DIRECTOR (might’ve been nice to spotlight a woman like Jodie Foster in the clue—and wow, very few women have been signed to direct themselves), BEAT POET, MIAMI HEAT, SEMORDNILAP (why did I misremember this as SEMILORDNAP? pandrolimes are not a thing!), and DREAM DATE.

Six more things:

  • 17a. [Laffy Taffy flavor], BANANA. This angers me. Laffy Taffy is terrible for the teeth, and banana flavor is terrible for candy. *bangs gavel*
  • 25a. [Tool used in angioplasty], STENT. Okay, so the clue doesn’t talk about surgery anymore, that’s good. But how many “tools” does a doctor intentionally leave inside the patient? Not sure “tool” is apt here. Where are my interventional cardiologists to weigh in?
  • 9d. [Despot with a nuclear arsenal], KIM. Kardashian, of course.
  • 13d. [Round up?], DOMED. This is one of those Agardian clues, I reckon. If a building is round, up there at the top, it’s DOMED.
  • 37d. [Best of all possible whirls?], DREAM DATE. I don’t get this clue at all. “Whirls”? Help me out here.
  • 32a. [___ party (all-female get-together)], HEN. Ugh, this is terrible. Paolo, Erik, please tell me this wasn’t your clue.

Touching base with the cruciverbal Bechdel test: random EDNA, biblical NAOMI, SERENA Williams, +3. Allen Ginsberg, biblical Abraham, Jack Nicholson, Jack Schaefer (who?), Ben Jonson, and Pope Francis in clues, North Korea’s KIM, –7. Adds up to a negative 4. Huh.

Four stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you, good FIENDs?

Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 11/02/2019

Kyle Dolan has another LAT themeless for us this week. Just over 5 minutes is my solve time, which is about right for a Saturday LAT. I am not sure I can solve these much faster, but I better figure it out now, since the ACPT is coming quickly! They have opened up room reservations already, meaning I better scarf one up quickly! Anyway, I digress. It would be great to see Kyle again at the ACPT, so here’s hoping he comes again! 4.6 stars for this one.

Highlights, which will include the stacked 11s in the middle:

  • 19A [Have no weaknesses] DO IT ALL – I don’t think I ever did it “all.” As I get older, I do less and less!
  • 25A [A mechanic usually keeps one handy] RAG – I am working on my bike mechanic skills. If I ever learn to swim I still want to do a triathlon!
  • 31A [“The Vanishing Hitchhiker” subject] URBAN LEGEND – Not exactly sure what this story is about; I will look it up!
  • 34A [Misty tropical ecosystem] CLOUD FOREST – Similar to a rain forest, no doubt …
  • 35A [Edge] BEAT BY A NOSE – As in a horse race! Great entry.
  • 45A [Six-time NBA All-Star Kyrie] IRVING – The NBA has started back up, and my hometown Chicago Bulls are TERRIBLE.
  • 1D [Alexis of “The Handmaid’s Tale”] BLEDEL – I still haven’t watched this show. (I am still neck deep in Puzzle Boat 6!) This actress could easily become crossword famous!
  • 11D [Colombia is this gem’s largest producer] EMERALD – I did not know this.
  • 28D [Natural enemy of aphids] LADY BEETLE – These are called ladybugs, aren’t they??
  • 33D [Some Ernst works] EROTIC ART – Familiar with Ernst, but not any erotic art. Again, that’s probably a good thing!

That is all!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 11/02/2019

This was certainly Less Ruff this week, for sure. I had most of this grid filled in after only about 7 minutes, but my final time was just over 10 minutes. I struggled with the NW corner again; it seems as if I can never finish the part that is usually where everyone starts! But this solve was fairly smooth, so I will take it. That also means watch out next week! 4.3 stars for this one.

  • 17A [What ”the hoi polloi” actually is] REDUNDANT – According to Google Translate, this literally means “the many,” so using the extra “the” is the problem.
  • 20A [German much-honored by Jews] SCHINDLER – I have mentioned before that there isn’t a large Jewish presence here in Indiana. Is Schindler really that revered by them? I can obviously see why, but is this true?
  • 22A [Where you can sleep in 50+ countries] HYATTS – Wow, 50 countries, yet there is only a Hyatt Place here in Mishawaka, IN!
  • 31A [Croutons, often] STALE BREAD – See also French toast!
  • 37A [When many yard sales start] TEN A.M. – The hardcore yard salers I know are HOME by 10:00 am!
  • 41A [They can’t handle the truth] SORE LOSERS – And the truth is, you lost!
  • 59A [Source of triglycerides] ANIMAL FAT – This sounds unhealthy on several levels!
  • 63A [”America’s firelog”] DURAFLAME – We had one or two of these in our fireplace when I was a kid! We have a fireplace in our home now that we never use. If this winter gets harsh, we may give it a whirl!
  • 12D [Post-revelation exclamation] “WELL I’LL BE!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 13D [General Pencil product] GUM ERASER – I haven’t used one of these in years. I just bought a pack on Amazon to fix that!
  • 31D [”Enterprise” reckonings] STARDATES – Ah yes, each Star Trek episode does start with a stardate. Question: is this one word or two?
  • 32D [Showroom ritual] TEST DRIVE – One of these days I am going to test drive a BMW. I still don’t think I ever have!

Have a great weekend!

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42 Responses to Saturday, November 2, 2019

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Good puzzle. Gave me a typical Saturday workout. The NW was the last to fall… No clue re 1A, I had to come at it from the bottom up.
    For a while I had PALINDROMic (backwards as intended) rather than PALINDROMES. Something about the clue made the plural seem wrong.
    “NO FEAR” is more British than American, right? I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use it in the US as clued…
    Liked “IN LEAGUE”, and the clue for EDNA was fun!

  2. RSP64 says:

    Amy – you may not like the term “hen party” but it is commonly used by women in the UK.

  3. Jeff says:

    Banana laffy taffy is best laffy taffy, don’t @ me

    • Lise says:

      I don’t know what Laffy Taffy is, but if it’s anything like Starburst Fruit Chews, banana is the best. Hands down. Or hand up, for banana. I don’t eat them anymore but I seem to be salivating now…

      Great puzzle day. On to the Stumper and a lesson in humility…

  4. Dan Katz says:

    Lovely NYT puzzle, but was anybody else disappointed by the use of “fan” in a clue for an entry (35A) crossing ELECTRIC FAN?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Me. I ended up with ELECTRIC DAN, which I knew was wrong, because I had no idea who the daughter was in the crossing clue, and I might have gotten FAN if not for the dupe.

      Or maybe not.

  5. P says:

    WSJ: Jim, you’re the one who routinely injects your (very) partisan opinions into your evaluations, not only of this puzzle but others as well. Nothing in the clues shows any particular political leaning; your analysis is an object lesson in confirmation bias. That’s what’s “sad.”

  6. Alan D. says:

    Re: LAT. Any one else reluctant to put in BRIT for 37-across when the word is used in the 43-across clue? I know editors aren’t too concerned about these dupes but this one seemed egregious.

  7. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Give it a whirl is idiomatic and is one of several ways to make an initial attempt: give it a try, take a stab at. A dream date could either be someone you have always hoped you could go out with or someone who is out of your league but you never know. Give it a whirl and see what comes of it.

    Tough puzzle for me.


  8. David L says:

    NYT: I don’t know of any justification for calling the center of a Bell curve the NORM. It’s the mean, mode, and median, which are all the same in this case because of the symmetry of the distribution. But in mathematical terminology a norm is a different thing altogether.

    The Stumper was fairly straightforward but I had most trouble with the NE. I confidently put in POSSE at 10A, which took a while to undo. I don’t know what a GUMERASER is (as opposed to any other kind of eraser) and don’t understand ACED for ‘got one.’

    • MattF says:

      My immediate reaction to that clue was the identical list of three things at the peak of a bell curve. And, yes, it was disconcerting that the ‘correct’ answer turned out to be ‘none of the above’.

    • Ben says:

      Good Stumper this week – only the second time I’ve been able to solve one without Googling. I think that means my crossword muscles are getting stronger! Though I still don’t get the clue for 41D (“Mountains and armies”).

    • Ben says:

      As for “aced” – this may be a stretch, but maybe it’s referencing the golf term? An “ace” means a hole in one. Though “got a one” would be a better clue in that case.

      • Pseudonym says:

        i took it as a golf clue – one of the first entries I filled in

        thought the puzzle was more likely constructed by Lester Goode than Lester Ruff but the Stumper can’t be great every week I reckon

  9. Judith K says:

    The Washington Post Sunday Crosswords by Evan Birnholz are absolutely dreadful. Join me in contacting the Post to get a competent constructor to make their puzzles. These are horrifically bad every week.

    • David L says:

      Au contraire, Evan’s puzzle is the best Sunday crossword out there. I just did tomorrow’s and liked it a whole lot.

    • pannonica says:

      I’m curious if you have any specific critiques.

      I find the Sunday WaPo crosswords in the main to be of high quality in concept and execution.

    • Hector says:

      Yeah I’m gonna disagree.

    • MattF says:

      Also disagree, vehemently. Birnholz’s puzzles are a Sunday treat. Maybe a bit too easy, but smart and well-done.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Many of us on this site are fellow constructors — the consensus seems to be we find Evan’s work consistently excellent. I’d be curious to know what you dislike. Maybe among the general audience, tricky puzzles don’t go over as well as they do here? Respectfully, Judith, is there something in particular that sets you off?

      • Thank you, and I appreciate you sticking up for me, but if the complaint is that tricky puzzles don’t go over as well with solvers who aren’t regularly on Fiend …. so what? I’ve been mixing up the difficulty of my puzzles ever since I started at the Post. That gives both novice solvers a chance to conquer easier puzzles and advanced solvers a chance to sweat over tougher ones. Not everyone can finish Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday NYT puzzles either, but that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea for the NYT to stop publishing difficult puzzles altogether.

        And just my opinion but someone trying to start a campaign to get me fired for no reason at all doesn’t deserve respect.

    • DS says:

      Highly doubtful anyone will join you

    • Dave C says:

      From his first NYT puzzle (B2B) to his current WaPo gig, Evan has given us all superb offerings – week in, week out.

    • Andy says:

      Gosh, the response to this has been unanimous. I don’t ask this to pile on, but because I’m intensely curious — To anyone who doesn’t like the WaPo Sunday puzzle, what crossword do you like, and why?

    • Sheik Yerbouti says:

      Strongly disagree. They are consistently good, and frankly consistently better than NYT. If this were Twitter, we’d be here for the ratio.

    • David Steere says:

      I can only assume that Judith K’s comments were meant as a joke…and perhaps a spur to see how many of us would speak up for Evan’s peerless work every week.

    • Judith:

      Too bad for you that, in addition to those here who spoke up in my defense, the people at the Post in charge of publishing my puzzles are quite happy with my work and have been happy with me for almost four years. So your little campaign will *never* succeed.

      I truly hope one day you reach a place where you’ll realize that trying to get me fired for no other reason than you just don’t like my puzzles is a way worse thing to do than whatever my puzzles did to you.

      Thank you to everyone else in this thread for your kind words.

      • Norm says:

        I wonder if she ever did Merl’s puzzles. You were a grand choice to carry on the tradition of lovely WaPo Sunday puzzles, and you’ve done a great job. Not to say that I’ve loved every puzzle, but I don’t love every book I pick up either. I’m giving you a solid “A” for your tenure.

    • Mark B says:

      Commenting for the first time on this site to join the chorus: the WaPo Sunday crossword is the part of my weekly routine that I am most faithful to. Thanks Evan!!

  10. Karen says:

    WSJ: For 49A I had E_OIL__. I knew Wayne Gretzky and Warren Moon and who they are, but the only thing I could come up with (being a Francophone) was ETOILES. Now that would be the least apropos word possible for a male sports hero. It took re-reading to find the “or” (not and) in the clue and the R in CREATORS to remember the Edmonton team. Laugh of the day. And I thought the puzzle was excellent, great clever clues all around.

  11. Billy Boy says:

    How offensive would a Hen Party in a She-Shed be?

Comments are closed.