Friday, February 7, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 7:26 (Jim P) 


NYT 4:41 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 7:58 (Rachel) 


Universal tk (Rebecca) 


Mary Lou Guizzo & Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 7 20, no. 0207

So much to like in this 70-word themeless! We’ve got PADMA LAKSHMI, Burroughs’ weird NAKED LUNCH (never read it, saw the movie, remain haunted), MASTER BREWER, “I BLAME MYSELF” and “WE’RE ALL SET” (both incredibly natural spoken remarks), AUTO WORKER, and APPALACHIA. Raise your hand if you didn’t know [Pittsburgh is its most populous city] because you didn’t know Appalachia encompassed Pittsburgh.

Just five things because I’ve got an early morning ahead:

  • 51d. [Muay ___ (martial art)], THAI. Not a common clue for THAI. I like it!
  • 30a. [Big name in cosmetics], AVEDA. Timely, as my friend who swears by Aveda hair products is celebrating her birthday on February 7. I might quibble with the clue, though. Aveda is primarily about hair care, with some skin care. I view cosmetics as meaning makeup. The Aveda website has a Makeup tab … but there are no products listed there.
  • 1d. [Tanning agent], SUN. We would also have accepted [Burning agent] or [Carcinogenic agent].
  • 49a. [Comics title character who says “Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery”], CALVIN. Cartoonist Bill Watterson did not forget what it’s like to be a kid. As an adult, mind you, I much prefer an inch of snow to getting enough snow to declare a snow day.
  • 57d. [Intensifying suffix, in modern slang], ASS. That’s a wholeass thing, you know. This wasn’t quite an easyass puzzle, compared to my expectations for a Friday puzzle. It was right on target for Friday difficulty.

Four stars from me.

Joanne M Sullivan’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Switch-Hitters” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/7/20 • “Switch-Hitters” • Sullivan • solution • 20200207

Wow! Very impressed with both theme and construction here. There’s a lot going on here. Let’s run through the theme entries first, then discuss.

  • 17a. [Chronicle of skid row that hit the market in 1983 … and 1987] IRONWEED.
  • 26a. [Father-daughter grift caper that hit the market in 2002 … and 2003] MATCHSTICK MEN.
  • 44a. [Zest-for-life tale that hit the market in 1946 … and 1964] ZORBA THE GREEK.
  • 56a. [Cultural-enrichment group expressing what’s contained in each set of circled letters (two answers “share” correctness, affecting four Downs)] BOOK / FILM CLUB.
    • 56d [Sleuthing hindrance in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”] BOG / FOG.
    • 53d [Join inextricably] BOND / BIND.
    • 54d [Punishment for a potty mouth] SOAP / SLAP.
    • 38d [Unbroken line] STREAK / STREAM.

Hi. Me again. So we’ve got (1) a Shrödinger revealer with BOOK and FILM, endeavors which are incidentally common fodder for the Chronicle and its sadly departing crossword.  The two years in each of the other clues refer respectively to the dates of publication for the books and film adaptations thereof. (2) each of the titles contains a word that can be considered a type of CLUB: iron, stick, bat. That last is echoed by the title, as baseball has ambidextrous switch hitters as well as bats; further, switch signals the two possible letter sequences that precede CLUB in 56-across. As a fun bonus, the clues for the three titles use the formulation “hit the market”.

Impressive stuff, and well executed. My only nit would be the way the (admittedly complex) theme is explained in the parenthetical hint of the revealer. As I was solving, I thought the “two answers” were two of the three themers above, rather than the potential answers for 56-across itself, which then led me to wonder where—let lone what—the heck the four down entries would be. Only after figuring it all out was I able to parse that correctly.

  • 1a [Homer, e.g.] POET, 1d [Wave-function symbol in the Shrödinger equation] PSI. Yeh, I went with TOON and TAU. Also, tacit nod to the theme!
  • 64a [Self-important minor official] TIN GOD. Not a phrase I’m familiar with, though it seems related to tinpot dictator/despot/etc. Did cause me to flash on the bands Hindu Love Gods (basically Warren Zevon + ¾ REM) and Têtes Noires, whose 1987 album Clay Foot Gods contains probably the best song ever about a wet t-shirt contest.
  • 66a [“__ and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” (Paul Simon ballad)] RENÉ. Strange. I had been under the impression (or perhaps the surrealism) that the name of the dog was actually After the War (or, Après la Guerre), but that seems a misapprehension as I can now find no evidence for that.
  • New clue alert! 13a [NASA telescope lunched in 2018] TESS, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
  • 22d [Israeli “A Tale of Love and Darkness” memoirist] AMOS OZ, not often seen in crosswords as a full name.
  • 24d [Giant who was 5′9″] OTT. Cute clue, and one I’ve not seen before.
  • Less thrilled with the cleverness attempted by 45d [“Athlete” likely to make a quick buck?] BRONCO. Can’t quite explain why.
  • 41d [Label for some delicate material] R RATING. Equally applicable for some crude material.
  • 59d [Carrie Fisher’s is a facsimile of a giant Prozac pill] URN. Factette! All the photos I could find seem to distant paparazzi-types from the funeral.
  • 60d [Top seed’s privilege, often] BYE. Fittingly it’s the final clue in the puzzle. Remember, the final CHE crossword will be 28 February. I presume Brad will be preparing something special for the bittersweet occasion.


Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

There’s some good stuff in here, for sure, but this puzzle from Elizabeth Gorski didn’t quite do it for me today. I love ANTHONY BOURDAIN across the middle (although I totally disagree with his take on truffle oil), and some of the long entries are fun and clever, but the fill not what I’d hoped, and some of the long entries disappointed as well. That said, some of the cluing was top-notch, and I enjoyed the overall “voice” of the puzzle quite a bit!

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • Friday, February 7, 2020

Entries I liked:

  • ANTHONY BOURDAIN – excellent grid-spanning 15 and a fun clue
  • OBOE SOLO – not sure why, but I liked this a lot!
  • SPYGLASS – I just finished reading Philip Pullman’s The Amber SPYGLASS, and I think this is a fun word

Favorite clues:

  • MIDWIVES – Their work is labor-intensive?
  • DESSERTS – Menu heading for crumbles, buckles, and fools
  • NOSIEST – Most buttinsky-like

Things I didn’t like:

  • GO AHEAD ASK – this just doesn’t read well to me. I think “GO AHEAD and ASK” is more of a thing, and as written, I just don’t think this is a standalone phrase?
  • Similarly, WAS DUE TO feels a little contrived
  • The “SO-SO” Fill: A TALE, A DEE, ON OR, ISE, IRT
  • Speaking of IRT, I just had to run the alphabet at IRT/GIGUE, never having heard of GIGUE and not being enough of a New Yorker (ha!) to know IRT.

Overall, not my favorite puzzle of the week, but still several stars from me.

Andrew Linzer’s LA Times crossword—Jim P’s review

Jim P here, in for Jenni.

It’s Friday and that means it’s party time! Each theme answer in this happenin’ grid ends with a word that can be a synonym for “soiree.” The entries are then wackily clued as soirees for the people related to the first word in the term.

Los Angeles Times crossword solution · Andrew Linzer · Fri., 2.7.20

  • 20a [Soiree for woodchip manufacturers?] SPLINTER PARTY. Ha! I like this one. A party celebrating splinters sounds painful but funny. Definitely need a few kegs for this event.
  • 26a [Soiree for certain divers?PEARL JAM. Nice.
  • 37a [Soiree for spreadsheet creators?CELL RECEPTION. Nice, but I think I would’ve gone with a prison angle like [Soiree in the Supermax?] perhaps. Or is that kinda depressing?
  • 47a [Soiree for fake coin makers?] SLUG FEST. We would also have accepted [Soiree for malacologists?] (new word I just learned: malacology—the study of mollusks including snails and slugs) or [Soiree at U.C. Santa Cruz?]. Oh, wait. That’s a real thing.
  • 55a [Soiree for army enlistees?PRIVATE AFFAIR. Solid.

I should also note the theme-adjacent CATERER [Need for big dos] who is no doubt providing the snacks for all this frivolity. Fun theme with enjoyable cluing.

Fill-wise, highlights include NEWSPAPER, CASPER, LIFE VEST, FOIBLE, MOTEL ROOM, LOOK-SEE, and HARA KIRI [Samurai ritual]. This last one is always a challenge for me to spell. I think I tried HARI KARI at first because in my mind I want it to rhyme and sound like the name of legendary sportscaster Harry Caray.

The rest of the fill is strong, too, with nothing to draw a scowl. The AGRA/AGARS crossing isn’t great, but it’s a minor nit.

Clues of note:

  • 5a: [Off-road vehicle maker?]. TONKA. I tried DEERE first. Good clue. Please make sure your kid’s TONKA is not driven on the road.
  • 19a [Genesis problem]. Does this have to do with the Sega Genesis? The band Genesis? Or the Genesis device in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? No, it’s the biblical book and all that RAIN Noah had to contend with (not CAIN like I tried at first who could be described as a problem child).
  • 25a [Inspection]. LOOK-SEE. Hmm. The answer feels far more informal than an “inspection.”
  • 30a [Govt. stipend]. SSI. That “I” is tough because it crosses HARA KIRI and because I associate SSI with Scuba Schools International from whom I got my diving certification way back in the day.
  • 3d [Times, at times]. NEWSPAPER. I’m not sure about the “at times.” “For example” would make more sense to me, but I guess the clue is going for the repetition.

All in all, fun theme, strong fill, clean grid, and lightly challenging clues. A good time was had by all. Four stars.

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40 Responses to Friday, February 7, 2020

  1. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Very tough puzzle for me, especially the center. SWINE instead of SLOBS started it and QUIERO and KATANAS didn’t make it any easier.

    If you want to see MUAY THAI in action, google Anderson Silva. Muay Thai is kickboxing on steroids. The fighter uses knees, elbows and any other body part that can strike or clinch in addition to the standard kickboxing elements.

    I have taken kickboxing classes strictly for exercise, all taught by females who give the lie to “fight like a girl.”


  2. Lise says:

    NYT: In my PDF version, in the 17A clue, William S. Burroughs was spelled “Burrows”. I haven’t read it either, so I thought my memory might be wrong, but no. I feel like that’s an unusual error for the NYT to make.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle, though. There were lots of fresh entries. Now I need to reread all my Calvin and Hobbes books…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Wow, wow, wow. Yes, the “newspaper version” PDF is still showing “Burrows” this morning.

      • Mary Lou Guizzo says:

        It was correct in our original submission. I missed it in the preview as I only quickly scanned for changes in the clues. I BLAME MYSELF. My apologies.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          OMG, how how how did the editorial process change a correctly spelled name to an error?!?

          • Jim Peredo says:

            I BLAME AMLEN.

          • Mary Lou Guizzo says:

            From Wordplay and Will Shortz:

            Will Shortz
            New York, NY2h ago
            @Rich in Atlanta For the record, here’s what happened: When the puzzle was originally typeset, the name had a typo — “Boroughs.” One of the test-solvers, by phone, alerted me to the error, saying the name started with “Burr-,” so I “corrected” it to “Burrows.” Argh!

            There was a big missed chance to fix this, too: I used the puzzle as the playoff at the annual Westport (CT) Library Crossword Contest last Saturday, which 130-some people attended — and no one said anything about the misspelling!

            My deep apologies. The mistake been corrected for online and syndication, but nothing can be done about it for print

      • Martin says:

        I missed it too when I test-solved. I remember thinking something wasn’t right, but it didn’t click. I blame myself too.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      UGH. when I solved last night in the iPhone app it was correct.

    • Gary R says:

      It was “Burrows” in the Across Lite version when I downloaded it last night, probably about 10:30 EST.

      No wonder I didn’t have the answer right away ;-)

  3. MattF says:

    I found the NYT rather tough, but doable. Nearly every letter of PADMALAKSHMI was a head-scratcher. And EQUALLY/EQUABLY tied me up for a while.

    • JohnH says:

      Hard for me , too. I’m afraid I never got the crossing of the chef and Samurai swords, and I’m not sure I blame myself. I’m annoyed at myself that it took me so long to remember the Spanish and NAKED LUNCH, although the author was spelled right when I got to it. I didn’t know AVEDA or Muay THAI, but crossings were just fine.

  4. David L says:

    NYT was about average for me, time-wise, but I didn’t care for it all that much. SANDP at 1A is a bad start – it’s S&P – and plural AHAS is ungainly. I don’t mind some foreign words and phrases but QUIERO and KATANAS were beyond my ken. EXHIBITA is highly unlikely to be a “case opener.”

    I don’t understand the clue for PRESSRELEASE. It’s P.R. in one sense, and in another sense…?

  5. Trent H. Evans says:

    CHE was superb today.

    • John says:

      Yes it was. Solved using Across Lite. Was stymied in spots, kept on plodding away and got the happy music with just “book club” as my 58A. My reaction was “well I got it but I don’t get it”. Needed the write-up to fully see what was going on. Top notch puzzle. Going to miss the CHE.

  6. Esther says:

    I am often Do not find a review for the LAT puzzle. A completion time is listed and it is highlighted like there should be a link to it, but there is no review. Is this a problem on my end, or is it that there is no write up for the LAT puzzle on certain days of the week, or some other issue?


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We are all volunteers here, with busy lives, and the usual Fri LAT reviewer is at a conference. Nobody else volunteered to cover it, so I guess I’m stuck with it … even though I blew two hours this morning on a medical visit and need to work. So it might be a while yet…

      • Me says:

        There is a writeup for the LA Times crossword puzzle virtually every day, but it often seems to be later than the others, so you may have to return to the site to see it. I don’t know if it’s because LA is on the West Coast and the time difference plays a role (it’s released online after the NY Times one; also perhaps the reviewers live on the West Coast), or if it’s just the way things work out. But it’s there almost every day (for which I am very grateful!).

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    TNY: Agree with Rachel on the weird phrases, but I’m 100% here for the old-school IRT entry

  8. Billy Boy says:

    ANTHONY BOURDAIN – considering all the borderline foods he had eaten, his take on Truffle Oil was as he lived – for attention. Although, I must say I prefer the White Truffle 10 to the nth power over Black Truffles.

    OBOE SOLO was ‘part’ first.

    Decent enough Friday NYorker.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ve only ever had actual truffles once, 20+ years ago. Truffle oil is indeed, as Bourdain said, a sign that you are in the wrong restaurant and should walk out. Not only don’t I order anything with “truffle” oil (which contains 2,4-dithiapentane rather than truffles), I discourage my tablemates from ordering it. And when someone a few tables away has it, I can smell the stink and it gives me a headache.

  9. pseudonym says:

    CHE’s “two answers “share” correctness…” isn’t unnecessarily awkward at all.

  10. M483 says:

    In case we don’t get a write-up for the Universal puzzle, would someone please explain to me the theme answer “MONSIEUR CUE.” I can’t figure out what phrase is being punned with that one. Thank you.

    • Martin says:

      If you use French pronunciation, it sounds like “miss your cue,” which was my guess. Admittedly, I’d love to hear I’m wrong.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        The base phrase was indeed Miss your cue. One I liked that didn’t make the cut was MIJNHEERMIRACLE – Dutch guy who works wonders? But David felt that many solvers would be unfamiliar with the Dutch form of Mister, or its pronunciation.

  11. C. Y. Hollander says:

    New Yorker: For G_GUE, I’d think it would be sufficient to run the vowels. Either way, crossing an initialism with a relatively obscure word seems a bit problematic, but if there’s only one such intersection in the puzzle, at least running through the possibilities is an option. It becomes a bigger problem when there are two such crossings, which, thankfully, this puzzle did not have (that I noticed).

    • David Glasser says:

      One way to remember GIGUE is that it’s etymologically related to the better-known JIG!

      • David Glasser says:

        And I always remember the IRT from the song from Hair which starts “LBJ took the IRT down to 4th Street USA”.

  12. Joanne Sullivan says:

    Thanks to Brad for editing “Switch-Hitters,” to Amy for hosting the puzzle files and review on this blog, and to pannonica for your kind and insightful review.

    “Bittersweet” describes my feelings when Brad told me that this puzzle would be one of the last ones run in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I think CHE is a fitting venue for “Switch-Hitters” and am grateful and honored that Brad chose it, but I’m sad that this unique venue is ending soon. I hope the crossword world won’t be deprived of Brad’s excellent editing skills for long.

    • Joanne Sullivan says:

      The excellent clue for 24-Down is Brad’s. It’s so perfect that I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it before, especially since the answer is so common.

  13. norm says:

    Universal: I do not get the third themer. Anyone?

    • M483 says:

      I asked the same question. See answer above – “miss your cue” I didn’t think that was the French pronunciation of Monsieur. I learned it as MO with a long “O.”

  14. Nietsnerem says:

    Can someone please explain 10D? Rasher?

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      I don’t know if a rasher is a quantity of any other food in addition to bacon, but it is an expression for strips of bacon.

  15. David Glasser says:

    One way to remember GIGUE is that it’s etymologically related to the better-known JIG!

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