Monday, July 13, 2020

BEQ tk (Jim Q) 


LAT 2:02 (Stella) 


NYT 3:15 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 14:17 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 5:13 (Jim P) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 7 13 20, no. 0713

It’s Amy filling in for the vacationing Jenni, and happy to see Erik’s byline awaiting me. I knew where the theme was heading after the first two themers, but didn’t know the names of all the various suits and tiles. There’s also a lot of variation in what’s included, depending on the country.

  • 20a. [Flower of the tree Prunus mume], PLUM BLOSSOM. Feels like a hard clue and entry for a Monday, but the crossings were all pliable.
  • 33a. [Bringer of cold weather], NORTH WIND.
  • 39a. [Winged beast on the Welsh flag], RED DRAGON.
  • 50a. [Game piece on which 20-, 33- or 39-Across might be pictured], MAHJONG TILE.

I’ve never played mahjong, but my in-laws picked up a set of tiles a few years ago and there’ve been some games played when we’re visiting. Who knows when it will be safe to visit them again? I am familiar with most of the tiles from one of those solitaire mahjong games on my iPad, try to clear the board by matching the tile pairs, emptying out your mind along the way.

Representation matters: CHER, RUTH Bader Ginsburg, TWISTS and WEAVE both with [Hairstyle option] clues that apply to Black hair, Lindsay LOHAN, ENYA, filmmaker Dee REES, [Alpha Kappa Alpha, for one] as a Black SORORITY, Anne HATHAWAY (I wonder if Erik originally clued this name via singers Donnie or Lalah) are all out here representing women and/or people of color. The closest thing to spotlighting a white man in this puzzle is, I think, a Dashiell Hammett book included in the NOVEL clue. And the theme has an Asian focus. Refreshing!

Five more things:

  • 46a. [“Take that!”], “BOO-YAH!” I like it.
  • 29d. [Comment made with a pat on the back], “GOOD FOR YOU!” How many of you hear this with sarcasm vs. sincerity?
  • 31d. [Bird whose head doesn’t make a sound?], WREN. That silent W at the “head” of the bird’s name.
  • 35d. [When tripled, a liar’s mantra], DENY. As in “Deny, deny, deny.” This … doesn’t come up in my life.
  • 42d. [A.P. ___ (high school English course, for short)], LANG, short for language and composition. I think my son took that?

Paul Coulter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Stella’s write-up

LAT 7.13.20 by Paul Coulter

LAT 7.13.20 by Paul Coulter

I vaguely remember a clue from I wish I knew what crossword, in which the word SET was clued as something like “word that has a page and a half of definitions in the OED.” Although my memory is imperfect, you get the idea: There are as many kinds of SETs as you can imagine, and Paul Coulter took advantage of that to generate a SET LIST (35A), clued as “Itemized concert songs in playing order…and what all the words in answers to starred clues comprise”. That is, in the six starred clues, the answers consist of two words that can each be placed before SET to make a new compound word or phrase, like HEADSET or HEAVYSET.

  • 17A [Rock group since the ’80s with the worldwide hit “Creep”] RADIOHEAD
  • 25A [*0-0, in tennis] LOVE ALL
  • 28A [*Improving trend] UPSWING
  • 42A [*The two-engine F-15 Eagle, e.g.] TWIN JET
  • 44A [*Greeting card for an ailing friend] GET WELL
  • 56A [*Lack of subtlety] HEAVY HAND

Some of these SET pairings work better than others. WELL SET feels a little contrived, and LOVE SET, just as LOVE ALL, uses LOVE in a very specific tennis sense. (Today I learned that a LOVE SET is one in which the winning player doesn’t lose any games.) On the other hand, going from UPSWING to UPSET and SWING SET feels like a fun twist.

I also didn’t love that 11D and 27D are both longer than any theme entries, which is why the theme entries are starred (to help you pick them out in a crowd). 27D, VENTILATOR, feels particularly ill-timed, although that’s not the constructor’s fault. 2.5 stars from me.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Somehow it is the middle week of July! Here’s a puzzle from Patrick Berry to kick it off. It’s packed with medium-length entries of variable interesting-ness, a few clues I loved, and a corner that took me about as long as the rest of the puzzle combined. Let’s dig in, in all bullet points!

The New Yorker crossword solution • Patrick Berry • Monday, July 13, 2020

  • My own (somewhat arbitrary) views of the varying levels of excitement in the medium-length entries:
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Grounds crew?] for BARISTAS
    • [They may pounce upon your return?] for AUDITORS
    • [Roll of grass] for DOOBIE
  • Corner that destroyed me: the Northeast. Just could not get into this, mostly because I kept trying to figure out how to squeeze “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” into 8 letters…
  • Representation:
    • White men: ED O’NEILL, Thomas Hardy, Schwarzenegger, George Miller, Gilbert & Sullivan, LOUDON Wainwright, POSEIDON?, Frankie Yankovic, NED Kelly
    • Everyone else: Emma Donoghue, OMAR Vizquel

And on that last point, this is the sort of “no-culture” puzzle that Kam mentioned and that I’ve promised to point out when it appears. Patrick Berry is a master puzzlemaker, and this puzzle, like so many others he has made, seems on its surface to be this sort of “platonic ideal” of a crossword: all solid entries, no cringeworthy fill, some interesting trivia/exciting wordplay in the clues. BUT if you scrutinize it a little more deeply, you notice that it does, in fact, have a cultural viewpoint, and that viewpoint is a masculine white middle class culture (Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, golf, baseball). Not going to belabor the point, but it does bear noting.

A good amount of stars from me for the solid construction, but I wish there were more new and interesting things in this puzzle. See you on Wednesday folks!

Mark Wilson’s Universal crossword, “Violating Norms” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/13/20 • Mon • “Violating Norms” • Wilson • solution • 20200713

Fairly self-explanatory theme.:

  • 56aR [One whose behavior differs from the usual, or any of the fantasy creatures in the starred clues?] NONCONFORMIST.
  • 20a. [*What an unusual shape-shifter does?] STAYS COMPOSED.
  • 27a. [*What an unusual dragon does?] PUTS OUT FIRES.
  • 48a. [*What an unusual vampire does?] DONATES BLOOD.

Gentle, Monday-appropriate theme.

  • 39a [Standard paper size: Abbr.] LTR. Speaking of norms.
  • 5a [Long, angry blog posts] RANTS. Never heard of ’em.
  • 22d [“Fix” starter, aptly] PRE-. Can’t decide whether I like this clue or dislike it, but I’m not neutral on it.
  • 29d [Baby __ (candy bars with peanuts] RUTHS. Is this better or worse than [ __ Chris Steakhouse]. Of which, here’s the origin of that weird name: “Over four decades ago, Ruth Fertel, a divorced mother of two, mortgaged her home for $22,000 to buy a small 60-seat restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana named Chris Steak House. Shortly thereafter, a fire forced her to change the original location and she renamed the restaurant, ‘Ruth’s Chris Steak House.'” That’s from the company’s website.
  • 47d [Ceiling coating] PLASTER. I, uh, tried POPCORN first, and was prepared to complain. That sort of thing happens more often than I care to admit. Anyway, we can segue from there to 25a [Kernel holder] EAR, and thence to 38d [General’s vehicle] STAFF CAR.
  • 50d [Off course] ERRANT. (see above)
  • 18a [Italian’s “Enough!”] BASTA. And now, readers, I’m going to share one of my favorite hidden/private songs. It definitely describes some non-conformist behavior, and is delightfully weird. Reissued on Netherlands’ Basta Records:

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back Breaking”—Jim P’s re-cap

The puzzle was very late in posting today, so this’ll be a quick re-cap.

53a is clued [Make a start, and what you might do to the ends of the starred answers] and is answered with GET CRACKING. The other theme answers end with things that might get cracked.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Back Breaking” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 7.13.20

  • 16a. [*Like some tuna] DOLPHIN SAFE. Crack a safe.
  • 23a. [*Vote wrangler in Congress] PARTY WHIP. Crack a whip.
  • 32a. [*Weapon in a fist] BRASS KNUCKLES. Crack your knuckles.
  • 45a. [*Flipping] GOING NUTS. Crack your…No comment.

In each case, the meaning of the word changes from the given phrase (although “knuckles” is pretty close to its original meaning). The last one, however, doesn’t feel as “in the language” as the others. Is it supposed to be “crack some nuts” or “crack a nut” or just “crack nuts”? Obviously a nutcracker is a thing, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say, “I’m going to go crack some nuts.”

Fill highlights: “OH, BEHAVE!” cross-referenced to AUSTIN Powers, BEDOUINS, and FIG TREE.

3.25 stars.

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18 Responses to Monday, July 13, 2020

  1. Anne says:

    NYT: Where I live, the NORTH WIND brings hot weather. It’s those cold winds from the Antarctic that make me shiver. But never mind, I know to put on my North American spelling and mindset when I do these puzzles. Which I much enjoy.

    (My North American mindset is sadly lacking in many areas).

  2. GlennP says:

    The Monday WSJ puzzle seems to be MIA this morning. Not on their website or here.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    NYer – solid if unspectacular. Lacking a full spanner or so, it really fell into four solving quadrants, the resistant 11D (haha) made it all fill in in that final quarter. Funny, I remember the debut of the FORD EDGE, seemed the biggest thing I’d ever driven (rented) then.

    WSJ (delivery, thus solved over coffee), NYT – not much to say, a very clean day, very little except I learnt HIDEY – hole, new to me!

    Relaxing set.

  4. Alan D. says:

    The amazing thing about the Patrick Berry puzzle is it’s only 66-words and yet it doesn’t FEEL like a 66-worder. Look at those giant NE and SW corners. So smooth you don’t even notice their size.

  5. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Can someone please explain how “Dolphin safe” in 16A relates to “Like some tuna”? Thanks.

  6. Bonnie G says:

    As an avid mah jongg player, I have never heard the term “Blossom.” It is generally called a “Flower.” Also according to the National Mah Jongg League, this is the preferred spelling of mah jongg.

    • Martin says:

      I’m not a player, but there are lots of references to there being four Flower tiles in may sets: plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo. “Plum blossom” is, of course, the ume (Japanese) or bai (Mandarin), the symbol of incipient spring because it blooms first. (The four Flower tiles represent the seasons.)

      Because the ume is a tree with multiple uses (the fruit is preserved and also macerated to make “plum wine”), it makes sense that the bloom be described as “plum blossom” and not just “plum.” As we would think it a bit odd to label a picture of a flower as “apple” and not “apple blossom” (or a rose hip a “rose,” for that matter), the translation of seems reasonable.

      In any case, the clue doesn’t imply the Flower tiles are all called Blossom tiles.

      • Bonnie G says:

        Martin, you are somewhat correct. However, North, East, South and West tiles are collectively called Winds. Red, Green and White (Soap) tiles are collectively called Dragons, all the names you mentioned are collectively called Flowers. So the theme entries are not consistent. You would then need the clues to say, for example, Blossom, North and Green. I hate to nitpick but for this to be a Monday puzzle and my familiarity with mah jongg, it would have been difficult for me to suss out.

        • Gary R says:

          In the spirit of Kam’s recent comments on “representation,” we should probably also include the subject of 44-A, ROCKETMAN – a gay man.

  7. RunawayPancake says:

    TNY – In re Omar Vizquel – Just because you’re from Venezuela it’s assumed you’re not white? According to Venezuela’s 2011 National Population and Housing Census, 43.6% of the population identified themselves as white, and a genomic study has shown that about 61.5% of the Venezuelan gene pool has European origin.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      Hi, thanks for raising this! I thought a lot about this (particularly as it relates to Vizquel!), and although I think “Non-Latinx White Guys” is a rather long name for a category, I hoped readers would infer that I was including people of latinx ethnicity, also an under-represented group, with “everyone else.” Clearly I’ll need to do some more thinking about my category names :)

  8. David Steere says:

    TNY: Thanks, Rachel, for your fair-minded write-up of today’s puzzle by Patrick Berry. Your thoughtful and gentle nudge toward more inclusiveness is to be applauded. I find Patrick’s puzzles the best constructed and most fun to complete of any puzzle maker. But, his focus should shift a bit toward some of those concerns you mention. Oddly, when I’m waiting for the next Berry, I’m doing mostly puzzles by women. Thanks for caring!

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