Friday, January 24, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 5:01 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:32 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 7:03 (Rachel) 


Universal tk (Rebecca) 


Scott Earl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 24 20, no. 0124

Today’s constructor has been published previously in the Queer Qrosswords puzzle pack (with a newsy puzzle called “Queer in Review”), and I loved the representation inherent in the current puzzle: LOVE, SIMON; ELLEN DeGeneres; SIS with a [Term of address for a drag queen] clue; and the icon CHER.

Other fill I enjoyed: BLAME GAME, “I CAN’T GO ON,” SIDETRACKS (there’s a gay bar in Chicago’s Boystown called Sidetrack, and yes, I did check whether its name was plural or not), “DON’T CRY,” BLANKET HOG, RIDESHARE, TRIAL RUN, MAMMA MIA, “ALL RISE,” and TWERKS. And BLIMEY!

Five more things:

  • 46a. [State capital with fewer than 20,000 residents], AUGUSTA. Not the smallest state capital, either! Pierre and Montpelier are smaller.
  • 51a. [Interview conducted online, for short], AMA. That’s “ask me anything,” on Reddit. I’m waiting to see AITA, which is Reddit shorthand for “Am I the asshole?” (The replies are often a barrage of YTAs, “you’re the asshole.” There’s also NTA, “not the asshole,” and ESH, “everyone sucks here.”)
  • 64a. [Things that get hot-wired?], OVEN RACKS. Great clue!
  • 13d. [Young rooster], COCKEREL. Not sure I could have told you that was the word’s definition.
  • 39d. [One-named singer whose name sounds like a goodbye], SIA. Took me a while to grasp this. Is her name pronounced more like “see ya” than “see a”? I’ve assumed the latter, but probably haven’t heard Ms. Furler’s name spoken aloud by someone who knows.

Four stars from me.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup

This puzzle from Aimee Lucido speaks directly to my millennial soul. There’s so much good stuff in here, and many of the clues are written as if they were narrowly tailored to appeal to people born between 1987 and 1992, which is truly my sweet spot for cluing (although I can see solvers with a different frame of reference struggling mightily with some of this).  So I’m going to review today’s puzzle and then have a brief aside about something I’ve noticed with the ratings on these New Yorker puzzles.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Aimee Lucido • Friday, January 24, 2020

First, to give the long stuff its due, we’ve got ROLLER DERBY / PREPOSITION in the SW and BLACKSTREET / ILLUSIONIST in the NE. All are great long entries, and I loved seeing ROLLER DERBY in a puzzle. The clue for PREPOSITION (“On or about?”) is delightful as well. Other good longer entries include DREAM LOGIC, THUNBERG, HEDY LAMARR (with such a great clue!!!), and HIVEMIND.

The abundant youthy (youth-adjacent? We millennials are getting older…) entries include:

  • OK BOOMER (I do love avocado toast and do not yet own a house so….)
  • ACE (short for asexual, part of LGBTQIA)
  • HBIC (which I am pleasantly surprised to see passed muster as fill given the B of HBIC)
  • ROME (clued for a 2002 Olsen Twins movie that I definitely watched and rewatched throughout 7th grade)
  • FANG (clued for Twilight vampire Edward Cullen)

A few other notes:

  • I have always pronounced GROTTY with a long o and assumed it was slang for “gross” but apparently it’s a real word with a short o! And speaking of GROTTY, I lol’d at 49-down being in the puzzle (and its clue).
  • Fill I didn’t know: OLLA, OGIVE, OGEES, DYNE, ALCAN
  • As an upstate New Yorker, I bike on the ERIE canal 1-2x/week when it’s not covered in snow, so the inclusion of ERIE really drove home my feeling that this puzzle was written for me.

So, brief soapbox moment: I believe that solving a crossword puzzle, and particularly a themeless puzzle, is a deeply subjective experience. The degree to which you enjoy the solve is going to depend substantially on your own personal relationship to the entries and cluing, and whether it captures your frame of reference and the words you use or that have meaning to you in your own life. I loved this puzzle because it was so directly and explicitly on my wavelength, but I also know that that will not be the experience of many other solvers. To some extent, this is the voice of the New Yorker puzzle; most of their constructors are millennials, and so solvers who find this voice off-putting or inscrutable may push back against this style (or give these puzzles lower ratings, which I’ve noticed on this site). I think it’s fantastic that the New Yorker puts out this distinctive puzzle that is shifting the tone of mainstream crosswording to be more inclusive of new voices, and I hope solvers are able to adjust and appreciate this publication for what it’s doing, even if the voice is foreign to them. The quality of the construction is consistently high; the fill is clean, the long entries sparkle, the clues are interesting and often clever.  It’s a GOOD PUZZLE. /steps off soapbox

Overall: many, many stars from me for this fabulous Friday morning puzzle from Aimee Lucido. Here’s a picture of the ERIE Canal.

The Erie Canal

Peter Gordon’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Thumbing His Nose”

CHE • 1/24/20 • “Thumbing His Nose” • Gordon • solution • 20200124


  • 17a/21a/35a/53a [… quote from Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in a 1937 biography] A STATUE HAS | NEVER BEEN | SET UP IN HONOUR | OF A CRITIC.


  • 59a. [Subject of a bronze sculpture called “C U at the Movies” that sits outside the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois] ROGER EBERT, noted critic.

Posthumously erected in 2014, so Ebert did not have a literal opportunity to thumb his nose at Sibelius’ statement. The double-entendre of a man famous for his thumbed verdicts, however, is quite good.

Anglocentric spelling of ‘honor’ comes in handy for symmetric purposes.

  • A very CHE clue for ELTON—not as the erstwhile Reginald Dwight but the [Vicar rejected by Jane Austen’s Emma]. (26a)
  • 27a [Unit for a grain of sand]. This one fooled me multiple times. First I put in SECOND, prepared to be grumpy about how a grain of sand in an hourglass does not correlate to a second, or any specific timespan. But it didn’t work with crossings, so then it was MINUTE with the same preparatory complaint. But no, it’s MICRON, a measure of physical length.
  • Ooh! I knew a baseball answer! 47a [Mets reliever Jesse who saved Game 7 of the 1986 World Series] OROSCO. Yes, readers, even I could not avoid Mets fever that year. It permeated the City.
  • 61a [Thin coin[ DIME.
  • No Sibelius elsewhere in the crossword, but plenty of overt musical references—both classical and ELSE (9d).
    • 3d [Intermission music] ENTR’ACTE.
    • 43d [Singer of Wagner’s so-called “Narrative and Curse] ISOLDE.
    • 49a [Georg of Chicago Symphony Orchestra annals] SOLTI.
    • 62a [Next #1 hit for the Rolling Stones after “Brown Sugar”] ANGIE.
    • 65a [“Girlfriend” boy band] NSYNC.
  • Favorite clue, though I’ve seen something like it before: 39d [Plug in … or unplug] RECHARGE.
  • 32a [Suit with a boomerang logo] SPEEDO. (1) Did not know that was a boomerang. (2) Did not know that Speedo was originally an Australian company.
  • 37d [Winning tic-tac-toe line] OOO. 55d [Soooooo much] TONS.

Fun, clever crossword.

p.s. Oh hey, there’s a statue of literary critic Northrop Frye over in New Brunswick.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

Very quickly, just under the wire: each theme answer turns a corner.

Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2020, Paul Coulter, solution grid

  • 16a [Blamed for personal advantage] is THROWN UNDER THE {BUS}, where BUS is also 18d, [Clear].
  • 31a [Punch with force, maybe] is GIVE A FAT {LIP}, with LIP defined as 34d, [Backtalk].
  • 44a [Chanoyu ceremony essential] is JAPANESE {TEA}, matched with 46d, [High __].

The revealer: 62a [Hotel amenity, and a hint to three puzzle answers] is TURNDOWN SERVICEBUS SERVICELIP SERVICETEA SERVICE. Very nice multi-layered theme, well-executed and fun to solve.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there were trials of WEREWOLVES in the Renaissance in Europe.

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25 Responses to Friday, January 24, 2020

  1. Nate says:

    Scott Earl’s NYT puzzle today brought me so much joy!

  2. Norm says:

    HBIC crossing HODOR? GMAFB

    • JohnH says:

      Yeah. Adjusting to new voices is all well and good, but how can she expect someone to learn the language? I didn’t know DALY either, so that corner was definitely DNF. (I was able to guess BLACK, FANG, BOOST. and SNOG there because they felt right, ditto FOCUS although I always thought of it only as a verb and not the actual part of the camera I used.) I’d also appreciate language learning more if, say, I could go without the post here from ACE to what it’s short for. I could not. I speculated that maybe it came about because an ace is kind of like 1 in cards, and maybe that means alone. But no, I guess.

    • pseudonym says:

      a poor crossing that marred a good puzzle

    • Zulema says:

      Re The New Yorker, I definitely agree, Norm.

      As for a PAELLA being made in an OLLA, (that’s how I used to make it when I still cooked), but the very wide open traditional pan in Spain is actually called a PAELLA.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        A Puerto Rican friend of mine mentioned the olla her grandmother back home uses. When I see someone use a word I always considered crosswordese, it restores the word to my good graces! Now I think of her enjoying family time and loving every minute of it when I see OLLA in a puzzle. I’m sure we all have personal/emotional resonances with certain words that pop up in crossword grids.

  3. PhilR says:

    My only problem with HBIC is the redundancy – if she is IC she’s the H. And not necessarily a B. And no, I didn’t know what HBIC meant (yes, the H could as well have been a T ), nor have I watched more than 5 minutes of GOT.

    My problem is that you don’t use an OLLA to cook paella. You cook palla in a pan shallower than your average frying pan, not in a pot. That’s major league wrong.

    • andreaborn says:

      Totally agree on OLLA not being a paella pan (I own the latter!) I put OLLA in and took it out 2 or 3 times. If HBIC had in any way indicated it was an abbreviation, I would have had an easier time, because my letters weren’t cooperating, grrrr. And I love a trivia-filled puzzle, in general!

  4. Boston Bob says:

    TNY: Didn’t know HODOR or HBIC, which made that a difficult crossing. OLLA, OGIVE, OGEES, DYNE, and ALCAN are all crosswordese from the Maleska era, so were gimmes for this OK BOOMER.

  5. anon says:

    TNY: Seems like OGIVE and OGEE(S) is essentially a dupe

  6. R says:

    Listening to a couple dozen examples (, a few speakers do give equal stress to the two syllables of SIA similar to “see ya,” but more only stress the first syllable more like “see a.”

  7. janie says:

    re: ratings at this site — my take? haters gonna hate. be it the ny’er, the nyt, avcx, fireball, wxord nation — you name it. this particular system — like most — is broad and (as a result) imperfect. it doesn’t allow for one score for concept, one for execution; one for it-hit-my-sweet-spot, one for it-didn’t; one for i-learned-something-and-that’s-cool, one for how-was-i-supposed-to-know-that?? w/ any given puzz, i think solvers choose the one metric that most closely aligns w/ their solving experience. i sure as hell wish the folks who dole out 1s and 2s would give us some insight as to why — but i’m not holdin’ my breath. ;-)

    then, re: >Fill I didn’t know: OLLA, OGIVE, OGEES, DYNE, ALCAN.< can you say "crosswordese"? ;-) the first four have certainly been in xwords Forever. they may not be beauties, but constructors do need 'em on occasion. and when, like today, they are surrounded by vibrant fresh fill, i tend not to notice them / pay them too much attention. but for any noob out there: best to learn these words and tuck away for safe keeping. like 'em or not, imho they're not *likely* to be permanently retired by most constructors. my 2¢ -- ;-) p.s. looks like boston bob made his point while i was still writing mine...

    • Cynthia says:

      Janie, I agree with your point about not having a more detailed rating system. That’s why this comment section is so valuable. If some aspect of a puzzle is particularly impressive or fun, I try to mention it here, even if the puzzle overall was just average for me.

      As far as asking for insight into low ratings, I don’t usually like to give negative feedback. I’ve tried creating puzzles myself, and it gave me a healthy respect for those who manage to do so and get them published. But in general, my biggest pet peeve is a puzzle that feels like work. I do the Universal each morning because it’s fun and relatively quick. If I have to practically do algebra or geometry to figure out the theme, forget it.

      Other things that make a puzzle less fun for me, as others have stated before: anagrams, “name hidden in” clues, too many very obscure clues (especially when they are crossed with each other) and too many overused fill words in one puzzle. However, if a puzzle has an outstanding theme, I can easily overlook one or more of these in the interest of an overall fun solve.

      • Norm says:

        I’m a harsher “grader” than you, I fear. A constructor gets dinged for impossible crosses even if the rest of the puzzle is good. If you ruin [or severely damage] my solving pleasure with something like that, you “pay” [to the extent any constructor really cares]. That’s my rubric.

  8. Stephen B. Manion says:

    I think there are several variations of GROTTY. I don’t know that I have ever written it down, but I have always said and pronounced it as GROATY. GRODY and GROTTIE are also available. They all seem to mean nasty or disgusting (think GROTesque).


  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: Did the sun rise today? If so, there must be a Paul Coulter puzzle to do. WEREWOLVES {30D: Subjects of European trials during the Renaissance}, aye? Huh. I did not know that.

    Good stuff, PC. You beat me with ADELA {12D: “A Passage to India” heroine}/MAS {26A: “Uno __”: cantina request}. I had ADELe/MeS. Clearly, I don’t know Spanish.

  10. scrivener says:

    I had a ball with the NYT but the VAC/OLAV crossing in the middle really stuck me. Had to ABCDE the V. Of course I understood it once I saw it, but argh. 18:00 for me. :s

  11. Billy Boy says:

    OK BOOMER was weak

  12. Billy Boy says:

    What I meant, I want my OK Boomers to be more worthy.
    Mrs. Boomer loves her avocado toast.
    As an entry it’s fine and I have no quarrel with the insult.

  13. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Re Rachel’s soapbox rant: You love the New Yorker puzzle, great. You wish others would like it as much as you do, fine. But when you write, “…solvers who find this voice off-putting or inscrutable may push back against this style (or give these puzzles lower ratings, which I’ve noticed on this site)”, you’re making unjustified assumptions about people who think differently than you: ‘They didn’t like the puzzle? They must have a problem with the youthful fill.’

    Frankly, the editing of the New Yorker’s crossword is a notch below that of such esteemed crosswords as the New York Times’, in ways that have nothing to do with the modernity of the fill. To take this one, as a case in point: Norm has pointed out the problematicness of the HODOR/HBIC crossing: a proper noun–admittedly, from a popular series, but a fantasy series, so not an easy name to guess if you happen to be among those who aren’t familiar with this character–crosses a whimsical initialism, which, again, is difficult to surmise, if you haven’t come across it before. Impossible? Perhaps not, but very difficult, especially given the redundancy noted by PhilR.

    Anon noted the [possible] redundancy of OGIVE and OGEE (apparently it’s not certain that the latter comes from the former, but it’s likely). A worse redundancy, IMO, can be found in 48D, where GILTS are clued as GOLD coverings. This could have been avoided with more careful cluing.

    I have no problem with those who like The New Yorker’s crossword. In fact, I enjoy it myself. But please don’t be so quick to make assumptions about the opinions of people who think differently from you.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      Hi C.Y. — thanks for your response. I just wanted to note that I am responding to comments I’ve seen over the past few months, not merely assumptions about what I think people are responding to.

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