Sunday, November 17, 2019

LAT 9:18 (Jenni) 


NYT 9:31 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:12 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) tk (Rebecca) 


Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword, “Report Card”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 17 19, “Report Card”

The theme is phrases reinterpreted as if the last word is a teacher’s assessment of the first word’s quality, and the clue assigns a corresponding letter grade:

  • 23a. [Parenting: A+], MOTHER: SUPERIOR. Guilty as charged.
  • 35a. [Taming wild horses: D-], BREAKING: BAD.
  • 49a. [Valet skills: B+], PARKING: FINE. B+ seems high for “fine,” but my husband says fine = A–, B+.
  • 62a. [Hosting a morning news show: C+], SCARBOROUGH: FAIR. Simon & Garfunkel song meets the MSNBC show Morning Joe. I suspect this one lost some solvers.
  • 81a. [Stuffing tip jars: D], BUCK: PASSING. If you want an A+ in tipping, you need to go past 30%.
  • 91a. [Employee efficiency: D+], WORKING: POOR. Bit of a sour taste here, with the sort of inherent slam on the working poor, who can’t be faulted for the depredations of capitalism and not starting life on third base.
  • 109a. [Baseball skill: C], BATTING: AVERAGE.
  • 16d. [Stereo quality: B], SOUNDS: GOOD.
  • 69d. [Fashion sense: A], TASTE: GREAT.

Theme’s okay.

The fill and clues largely had a creaky, old vibe, with entries like R.E. LEE, MASSE, woeful plural ONE-A’S, Thom MCAN, old automotive ROYCE and REO (good lord, that REO clue, [Alternative to a Maxwell]! The Maxwell stopped production almost a century ago, but who’s counting?), ET SEQ, and a bunch of older pop culture names (EUBIE, EGGAR, ARIE, GREER). I prefer my fill and cluing to be more contemporary, less early-mid 20th century and more 21st century.

Two entries popped up here, and I’d commented on them in other recent puzzles. 45d. [Metro areas, informally], URBS—still wondering who’s jabbering about urbs in their informal chats. And 51d. [The other guys], NOT US—a weird phrasal entry that I feel is newish and unwelcome.

Word I have never, ever used: 77d. [One-eighth part], OCTILE.

117a. [Afterword], ENDNOTE. Say what?! Endnotes are like footnotes, citations that appear at the end of a book rather than at the bottom of the pages where the info is cited. Afterwords are epilogues, not endnotes. So say us all.

Time to cook dinner. 2.75 stars from me, wanted more freshness.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Dined In” – Jenni’s write-up

Each of the theme answers adds ATE to a base phrase. Wackiness results.

Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2019, Pam Amick Klawitter, “Dined In,” solution grid

  • 15d [“That’s not a baby bump?”?] is SURELY YOU GESTATE (…jest). I know this is joking; let’s be clear that one should never ask a woman if she’s pregnant. Not unless the baby is crowning.
  • 22a [Note to self before appearing on “America’s Got Talent”?] is CAPTIVATE AUDIENCE (captive…).
  • 37d [Liven up the science fair?] is ACTIVATE VOLCANOS (active…) My science-educator husband’s favorite saying about science fairs: It’s not science, and it’s not fair.
  • 59a [Ancient Greek warrior’s pet monkey?] is an AMAZON PRIMATE (…prime). According to the Amazons dwelt in the region of modern-day Ukraine. {Insert political joke here}
  • 79a [Try to cure the effects of a skunk invasion on a semi?] is AERATE FREIGHT (air…).
  • 118a [Best Reader Award winner?] is PICK OF THE LITERATE (….litter).

All the base phrases are solid and most of the altered states are pretty funny. A nice Sunday theme.

A few other things:

  • Seems like I’ve seen STILE in puzzles a few times in the last week or so. Haven’t seen it anywhere else because it’s a fairly fusty word.
  • We see the adjectival version of SMARM more often than the noun.
  • 39a [Where to find Reubens and Cubans] is a DELI, because they are sandwiches.
  • EDA LeShan has been dead for 17 years. Her name lives on.
  • Morton Salt’s motto is “When it RAINS, it pours,” because it doesn’t clump. If you haven’t read Samin Nosrat’s book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” you should. We haven’t watched her Netflix show yet but we are enchanted by the book, and even more enchanted by her recent appearance in Philadelphia.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ARIES is a fire sign.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Mistaken Identity” – Jim Q’s writeup

Easy puzzle today! No extraordinarily high I.Q. needed to solve (too bad “iq” isn’t a word!).

THEME: Phrases with two-letter abbreviations are interpreted as if they are two-letter words instead, clued wackily.


  • 23A [Those who haven’t paid their dues?] UN-MEMBERS. N

    Washington Post, November 17, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Capital Loss” solution grid

    ot U.N. MEMBERS. 

  • 29A [Piece of jewelry worn by Sigmund Freud?] ID BRACELETS. 
  • 43A [One working on the set of a 1990 horror miniseries?] IT PROFESSIONAL. Throwin’ back to the Tim Curry days! I like it!
  • 59A [Educational titles earned by one’s mother?] MA DEGREES. 
  • 69A [Part of town where actor Pacino, politico Gore and weatherman Roker all live?] AL CENTRAL. 
  • 79A [“Oh, um, physicians”?] ER, DOCTORS?
  • 97A [What we’re made of?] US CONSTITUTION. 
  • 110A [Battery-powering devices used while singing scale notes after sols?] LA CHARGERS. 
  • 118A [Computer networks used by one’s father?] PA SYSTEMS. 

Eye roll after gleeful eye roll for me. The themers are so absurd (and equally so!) that it works quite well.

Grokked the theme easily at ID BRACELET and filled in steadily moving south from thereon in before going back to finish in the NW which I’d left largely blank. Couldn’t see UN-MEMBERS for what felt like forever, despite having the UN part.

Short write-up today- I have to go to my nephew’s birthday party, which he’s chosen to have at a paintball park. So I’m preparing to get my ass kicked by a bunch of 12-year-olds.

Fun puzzle! Enjoy your Sunday!

I got my piano tuned last week. Does anyone say they had it RE-TUNED? Well, I suppose if the first tuning didn’t go so well, and then someone tuned it immediately after… but still.

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16 Responses to Sunday, November 17, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    I had PARKING PASS for a long time, which I think is a better phrase than PARKING FINE. (I hadn’t gotten to BUCK PASSING yet.)

    I don’t think this theme is quite consistent. The first word is sometimes the activity performed by the theoretical student (WORKING, BREAKING, PARKING, BATTING), sometimes seems to refer to the student themself (MOTHER, SCARBOROUGH), and in one case is an item that would be used by the student (BUCK). I liked the overall idea, though.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    I very much enjoyed the NYTimes puzzle, but one clue/answer still has me scratching my head. 27A (Number of people in an office?). Apparently the answer is DENTIST, but I don’t understand how/why. I know there’s a question mark after the clue, but still….

  3. sara says:

    In NYT I was confused by the inclusion of both “on up” (64D) and “on it” (29A). I thought 2 answers weren’t allowed to use the same word. Is that not the case?

    Also didn’t like “Arie” crossing “Greer.” And “Taste great” was weird and seemed inconsistent with “sounds good.”

    • pannonica says:

      Avoiding duplications is more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule. Editors vary in their approach.

      The inconsistency is mollified if they’re parsed—as Amy did—as ‘sounds: good’ and ‘taste: great’.

      • My personal policies on duplications, for what it’s worth:

        I don’t mind duplicating short and extremely common words (I, the, a, an, it, two-letter prepositions, etc.) in the fill. While I try to limit it where possible, I won’t hesitate to duplicate them if it will still produce a smoother fill than the alternatives. There have been instances where I’ve repeated the word “I” three times in a single puzzle, and no one’s really complained. I wouldn’t blink at ON IT and ON UP in the same puzzle (except that I’m not a fan of partials like ON UP).

        I take a harder line on longer, less common words, or different forms of the same word; I’ve ripped out whole sections of my own puzzles when I’ve discovered things like SELL/SOLD or USER/USING in the same grid. One exception, though, is if the puzzle has a highly constraining theme and the duplicated words can be clued in sufficiently different ways. One of my puzzles (a meta with a ton of theme material) had ASH and ASHEN and there wasn’t much way around it without resorting to answers I considered to be worse, but I clued the former as the Pokemon trainer so at least there was some way to make the two entries distinct.

        And since it comes up on occasion here, I do try to avoid clue-answer duplications (like having the answer ICE and a clue like [Ice cream holder] for CONE elsewhere), but I’ll make exceptions for that too, like:

        1) If the duplicated word is short and very common as mentioned above (I, the, it, etc.).

        2) If rewording the clue to avoid the duplication makes the clue way more awkward than necessary. If I have the word SING and then a bunch of singers elsewhere in the puzzle, there are only so many ways one can avoid using the word “singer” in those clues before they start sounding strange. Why use “vocalist” when the word “singer” is more common in everyday language and just makes more sense?

        3) If I think the clue with the duplicated word is unique or funny, or if I’m not likely to see that answer again soon. One time I had the clue [Trouble spot?] for the answer GAME TABLE, but I had SPOT as an answer in the same grid. It’s rare that I’ll have an answer like GAME TABLE, so why give up a clue that I liked just because of a small duplication like that?

        Again, these are just my personal rules. Your mileage (and editors’ mileage) may vary.

  4. MattF says:

    OCTILE is a technical term in descriptive statistics— so I knew it and have even used it. But I can believe that it’s unknown in the outside world. Otherwise, I agree that NYT was rather creaky.

  5. RunawayPancake says:

    WaPo – Hey, Jim Q! Clue for 79A s/b [“Oh, um, physicians”?].

  6. Paul Coulter says:

    I like David’s title “Unconventional Conventions” for my 15x Sunday Universal grid. My title was “Assembly Lines.” I also support his decision to cast the theme answers as meetings held by people in various professions. My clues were more whimsical, featuring inanimate objects. This would have probably confused the audience. For the record, here they are:

    SECURITYCOUNCIL – Where locks get together?

    CHANCEMEETING – Where dice get together?

    WOOLGATHERING – Where itchy sweaters get together?

    PRESSCONFERENCE – Where irons get together?

    • John says:

      Paul, your original clues certainly would have taken longer to suss out. I bristled at the 3D clue. Dow implies the DJIA which is used in all everyday news reports and Twitter isn’t part of that. It may be part of a more esoteric index that Dow publishes.

      Enjoyed all the long downs especially “singalongs”. Good puzzle. Thanks.

  7. Joan Macon says:

    Hi, Jenni, thanks for the book tip! Is there really a person named Pam Amick Klawitter, or is this some kind of puzzle?

  8. John Malcolm says:

    In Sunday’s Birnholz special, titled Capital Loss, neither my wife nor I could relate the puzzle’s title to the assorted state, national, and NGO abbreviations:
    NGO = UN
    WTF = ER (Emergency Room?)

    What are we missing?

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