Monday, November 28, 2022

BEQ 3:47 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:58 (Stella) 


NYT 3:38 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 11:15 (Amy) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Chloe Revery’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme: HOPPING MAD – words that mean “mad” are split between two answers, broken by a black square.

New York Times, 11 28 2022, By Chloe Revery

  • 17a [Pepper measuring over 1 million on the Scoville scale]/ 19a [“Veni, ___, vici” (Caesar’s boast)] – GHOST CHILI/VID
  • 23a [Chanel No. 5, par exemple] / 25a [They’re the picture of innocence, in the pictures] – PARFUM/INGENUES
  • 37a [The whole ___] / 40a [What a flour grain may grow from] – SHEBANG/RYE SEED
  • 50a [French farewell] / 54a [Relaxed] – AU REVOIR/AT EASE
  • 62a [Really miffed … or a hint to the circled letters] – HOPPING MAD

This is a cute theme! I figured out vaguely what was going on pretty quickly with the split angry words, but the revealer still surprised me when I reached it. I like the mad words Chloe chose, that they’re all about the same length, and that the split happens in the middle of each of them. The consistency helps tie the puzzle together and feels quite elegant.

One problem that can arise when the theme of the puzzle is not strictly tied to its longest answers is that the longest answers can instead feel boring and solely in service to the theme as opposed to being sparkly themselves. Some of the half-theme answers today are true standouts, like GHOST CHILI, AU REVOIR, and the whole SHEBANG. Others, like VIDI or PARFUM, don’t really add much.

I liked a lot of the fill in this puzzle – MOON ROVER and OLD PAL are my favorite entries, but the entire big NE and SW corners are very well filled with almost no dreck. However, I think the top left of the puzzle could be tricky for some solvers. SIG EP, OCHOA, AMFAR, and HAIFA all have the potential to be unknowable, and if you’re like me and misspelled both ALLAN and INGENUES with E’s, it’s not going to help. FBI FILE is a fun answer too, but it’s hard to parse from only a few letters. I personally had to come back to the top left after finishing the rest of the puzzle in order fix up my errors.

Overall, though, this puzzle did the opposite of making me hopping mad! Congrats to Chloe on a great NYT debut.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Potter’s Field”—Jim P’s review

Theme: QUIDDITCH (58a, [Wizarding sport whose positions are the ends of the starred answers]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words are also QUIDDITCH positions. If you have no time for Harry Potter in your life, you might just want to skip on past this one.

There are seven players on a QUIDDITCH team: 3 Chasers, 2 Beaters, 1 Keeper, and 1 Seeker. I tried to list the positions’ jobs from memory below, but I failed and resorted to looking them up.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Potter’s Field” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 11.28.22

  • 17a. [*Whisk’s kin] EGG BEATER. The Beaters throw the bowling ball-like Bludgers at the opposing players to disrupt them.
  • 21a. [*Antiaircraft missile] HEAT SEEKER. The Seeker is the star player on the team whose sole goal is to catch the elusive ping pong ball-sized Golden Snitch which flits about the pitch. When one of the teams’ Seeker catches the Snitch, the game is over and points are awarded.
  • 37a. [*Unprincipled lawyer] AMBULANCE CHASER. The Chasers throw the soccer ball-sized Quaffle back and forth and aim to throw it through the hoops on the opponent’s side of the pitch to score points.
  • 52a. [*Controller of access] GATEKEEPER. The Keeper defends their side’s hoops from the opposing Chasers.

I had to chuckle when I got to the third entry on this list and figured out what was going on. I loved the perfectly apt title as well. Fun theme and theme entries for those of us who have enjoyed the HP books/films at one point or another.

TOOK A PASS, “ABOUT TIME,” BEER MUG, LARAMIE, Wyoming, and BASMATI rice top the fill. Nothing to balk at either although there are a couple of partials (AN ERA and A BEE) and some tough-for-Monday clues.

Clues of note:

  • EMMA gets a Harry Potter clue (33d, [Watson who played Hermione]), but strangely YATES doesn’t (6d, [“Breaking Away” director Peter]). I’ve seen Breaking Away multiple times and enjoyed it, but I couldn’t have told you who the director was. On the other hand, I know that director David YATES took the helm for at least two or maybe even three of the Harry Potter films. Check that. He directed four of the HP films and all of the Fantastic Beasts films. If your theme is Harry Potter-based and you wind up having YATES in your grid, it seems fitting to clue the name with respect to the de facto HP director.
  • 44d. [Napoleon’s birthplace?]. BAKERY. Tough clue for a Monday. I had forgotten that a napoleon was a pastry. Per this website, the baklava-like treat didn’t get its name from the famous general but from its origins in Napoli (Naples, to you and me).

Fun puzzle if you don’t mind it being Harry Potter-based. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to downvote it to oblivion. 3.75 stars from me.

Janice Luttrell’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/28/22 by Janice Luttrell

Los Angeles Times 11/28/22 by Janice Luttrell

Little time today, so I’ll just explain the theme on this one. The revealer at 61A [Features of some formal jackets, and what the ends of the answers to the starred clues literally are] is COATTAILS. Each starred clue leads to a word that can follow, or be the “tail” of, the word COAT.

  • 17A [*Source of endless funds] is a MONEY TREE.
  • 23A [*”Peter Pan” pirate] is CAPTAIN HOOK.
  • 39A [*Pre-employment screening process] is a BACKGROUND CHECK.
  • 49A [*Suspenseful ending to a series] is a CLIFF HANGER.

Three of the four themers lead to COAT* phrases that refer to something you can hang a coat on, and the other (BACKGROUND CHECK) leads to COAT CHECK, something you can hang a coat in.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review

It’s not often I’m already thinking about these writeups while solving, but today’s from BEQ had me there – I think it will be one of the more memorable puzzles I solve this month.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 11/28/2022

The appealing staircase design had me completing the grid a bit anticlockwise, through some truly enjoyable entries: MY OH MY, Diego RIVERA, EMOLLIENTS (I just like saying this word) and clues — [It’s on a roll] for PAPER TOWEL, [River in a forgettable trip?] for LETHE, and [Aliens who speak with trilled R’s and choked G’s] (presumably Klingon phonetics can be represented in IPA, but BEQ eschews that here) for KLINGONS. In general, the difficulty was spot-on to get out of a post-holiday lull; entries took some thought but it’s a steady difficulty.

Two minor exceptions to that smoothness in the NW and SE corners. I found the cluing and fill in the SE a bit of a distraction. I’ve never seen plural ACNES [High school students’ marks?] and am not sure what [Tangerine element] is going for for UGLI — I understand the UGLI to be a blend of grapefruit or pomelo with mandarin orange or tangerine, not the other way around. [Loses characters, say] for ELIDES slowed me down, because I understand elision to be in speech, where characters aren’t really in play. Perhaps “elision” is also used to refer to poetic shortening in text, but I’m not as familiar with it there.

By contrast, new-to-me RABBET JOINT [Connected groove in woodworking] crossing ATTAR (with a more difficult clue than the more common connection to “rose petals” and “oil,” new-to-me THOBE [Ankle-length long-sleeved garment worn by Arab men], and known-to-me-but-perhaps-tough connection from “Cevapi” to SERB was where I finished, after an enjoyable few seconds deciding on a semi-confident guess for “RABBET.” I recognize the joint from a childhood watching the New Yankee Workshop and This Old House, but not the term.

A few notes:

  • I mentioned THOBE above — upon Googling I’m very familiar with this garment, which a number of my friends and coworkers wear. I’m well overdue to have learned the word.
  • BEQ didn’t clue MY OH MY to legendary Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, but I’m sure it crossed his mind. With BATS IN and BASEMAN (by the way, some infielders aren’t basemen, no?) already in the puzzle, maybe wise to find a non-baseball angle.
  • As is often the case, I didn’t recognize JOELY Richardson nor have I seen much of her filmography. But I know Nip/Tuck is well regarded, so perhaps I’ll add it to my list.
  • I’m a sucker for mythology clues – LETHE is one of the rivers of the underworld, helping the dead forget their time on Earth.
  • AW GO ON still doesn’t look right to my brain in the grid, even now.

Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 11/28/22 – Husic

Super-tough crossword for me, with quite a few entirely unfamiliar terms and names: BREAK BEATS, ghungroo on your ANKLE, Indonesian rice deity Dewi SRI, Italian economist Vilfredo PARETO, 5,000-person town UTQIAGVIK, Spanish word FRONTERIZO with zero cue that the word’s not English, ROOT clued as [Note that defines a chord], and OPAL being a [Player on the Australian women’s national basketball team] (Australia being a major source of opals, I guess it’s not surprising the team would be called Opals, but the clue didn’t pin down whether we were looking for an individual player’s name or the team name).

Re: the LESBIAN BAR clue, [Type of establishment of which fewer than twenty-five remain in the U.S.], here’s a Chicago Tribune article on the evolution of lesbian bars into more broadly inclusive establishments, such as Nobody’s Darling, a women-centered bar in Andersonville that welcomes trans women, queer folks and POC, and gay men, along with lesbians. The article notes that nowadays women can find dates in a zillion places besides lesbian bars. There sure are still a lot of gay bars drawing a mostly male clientele, though, so I’m not sure the writer’s conclusions really explain things. Anyway, I was astonished by the teeny number in the clue!

Fave fill: LESBIAN BAR, INS AND OUTS, YOU TELL ME, PLAY-TESTED (my day job is crossword editor for a mobile gaming company, so play-testing is a familiar entity, and I like the [Was a game-changer?] clue).

Does this work in chess terminology, [A castle can never be one] to clue OPENING MOVE? Do you say that the piece moved is the move?

3.5 stars from me.

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23 Responses to Monday, November 28, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Cute puzzle. I agree that the NW needed some reworking for a Monday. The rest was on target. WELL AIMED.
    I think Chloe Revery has an evocative name. And I enjoyed her video called “The Taming of the Clue” about her adventures creating a bot that solves crossword puzzle! I wonder how fast it can do it?

    • Hi says:

      That video was a little nerdy above my head but I loved it. Thanks for that. I thought her puzzle was great too. And definitely a great name.

  2. Seattle Derek says:

    There are multiple great crossword constructors out there, and for me, Evan Birnholz and Matt Gaffney are my current longtime favorites because of their ability to create puzzles that are fun, educational, humorous; and that appeal to all demographics.
    When I started doing Erik Agard’s puzzles, at first I was frustrated that he “bent” the unwritten “rules of crosswords”. But he eventually won me over too!
    Through the Muggles website I found a crossword genius who is “too punny”, and his cluing and answers fit right in my wheelhouse. His name is Mike Graczyk and here is a link to his weekly crossword.

  3. steve says:

    new yorker was a bit obscure
    seeing mr. happy pencil was a bit of a pleasant surprise

    • Mr. [Very Very] Grumpy says:

      Obscure? I’d say effing ridiculous. Term of endearment for PAPI with no indication we were looking for a non-English word? Some video game [I assume] reference for KARTS? GHUNGROO? Part of the name of an “Indonesian rice deity”? Some Italian economist? UTQIAGVIK? Give me a break. Brooke is rapidly becoming my least favorite constructor — and that was a high bar.

      • marciem says:

        Have to say I agree, at least about the obscurities. I enjoy learning new and obscure things, but also ask for fair crossings or some inferability to get there for words or names I’ll have to look up. This didn’t afford a lot of those (fair or inferable crossings).

      • PJ says:

        I’m ok with it. A lot I didn’t immediately know but could generally infer after working up some crosses. For years I check in on the winter weather in Barrow, AK. Recently I noticed the change to its Iñupiat name. A big help today.

      • Tyler Hinman says:

        Lot of “this puzzle sucked because I couldn’t solve it” energy here.

        • Mr. [Very Very] Grumpy says:

          No, Tyler, it sucked because Brooke filled the grid with obscure and arcane crap. It’s what I call a “f***you” puzzle. I don’t like it when you do it, and I did not like this one. Feel free to pretend I’m a sore loser. I just like a fair shot at solving a puzzle. This one did not prove that opportunity.

          • steve says:

            a common MO with brooke

            i often just move on with many of her puzzles
            this was the new yorker, i stuck with it and mr happy pencil danced for me

        • steve says:

          hahaha, i was afraid to say that, good on ya

      • JohnH says:

        Yep, totally unfair and unpleasant. I’m nowhere near finished after a couple of hours or more, although not all spent concentrating on it alone. And what I have involved most guesswork. As grumpy says, not even obscure much less a worthy challenge, but simply ridiculous.

      • Nick says:

        100 percent agree. Hard because of the obscure and random trivia required, not due to clever or creative wordplay.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Hoo boy! Ms. Husic sure knows a different world than I do. I definitely wouldn’t say that she’s my least favorite constructor since I enjoy most of her puzzles, but she’s certainly one of the most challenging for me.

      There were a ton of learning opportunities for me here. In fact, there were so many that I could only complete about 70% of the puzzle without cheating (and I was happy that I got through that much of it). I only rarely need to Google even once to complete any of my six dailies (NYT, LAT, WSJ, Universal, USAT, TNY), but I had to do four look-ups to get through this one (FRONTERIZO, ghungroo, UTQIAGVIK and LAYNE). Even beyond these, there were at least five other answers that might as well have not been clued at all as far as I was concerned (SQUEAKY TOY, SRI, RDS, PARETO and KARTS). Ouch.

      • Christopher Smith says:

        Yes the Monday still tends to teeter from the Challenging to the No Way in Hell level PRETTY regularly.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          This is the most No Way in Hell-ish New Yorker puzzle I’ve ever solved, I think. The Mondays usually range from 5 to 9 minutes for me. 11+ is a pretty big jump. Newsday Saturday Stumper level, but with the difficulty coming from unfamiliar entries rather than tricky clues. Certainly it would have been more educational to mention the imperialist name Barrow for the Alaskan place–as clued, I don’t think a ton of solvers are going to have that click of “Oh! They finally dropped the Barrow name.” I sure didn’t; thought it was just a piece of geo trivia.

      • rob says:

        TNY: At least Brooke’s puzzle was properly placed on a Monday, unlike her last TNY puzzle that was misplaced on a Tuesday. I too found this puzzle beyond challenging, but I did finish it with a few Googles. I tend to circle clues that I don’t in any way know. I circled 12 clues, which seems like a lot, even for me (I do not even pretend to be at the level of many commentators on this blog).

    • Eric H says:

      There were more things I didn’t know than I usually encounter, even in Brooke Husic’s NYT puzzles. It might’ve helped to know that Barrow, Alaska, has an Iñupiaq name now. (It makes me wonder how I’ve missed that for the last several years.) FRONTERIZOS is new to me, though fairly gettable if you’re familiar with “La frontera.”

      But I had a few gimmes — BAD ART, DINER, ATTA — to get started, which helped.

  4. Greg says:

    I enjoy the Monday New Yorker puzzle, but, for the second time in about a month, I think today’s was slightly off, in terms of calibration. Some great fill, but too many Naticks and highly obscure answers.

  5. mitch says:

    Castle can be a verb as well as a noun in chess terminology. The move called “castling” involves the castle piece.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The clue says “a castle,” which connotes a noun rather than a verb, adding to the clue’s difficulty.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Like a moth to a flame, I can leave no controversial chess clue unaddressed.

        The most natural way to express this would be [Castling can never be one]. The idea behind the clue is good, though, and the entry itself (OPENING MOVE) is excellent.

        To all constructors with a chess clue they’re not sure about: my email is I respond to chess clue questions with unfailing alacrity.

  6. As a composer, I took issue with ROOT clued as [Note that defines a chord]. What is meant by the “definition” of a chord? For example, the C Major chord is made up of the notes C, E, G. The first note is indeed the ROOT, but that doesn’t “define” the chord in a way that musicians understand it. No, the ROOT note (C) merely names the chord. What “defines” a chord is its QUALITY. There are many types of C chord; for example, any layman will have heard of a major chord and a minor chord. (There are others; a C diminished chord, a C augmented chord, and so on.) Most musicians would think a chord as being DEFINED by its quality — most basically, as either major or minor. This major/minor quality is always defined by the chord’s middle note. For instance, the C Major chord is spelled C-E-G, while a C minor chord would be spelled C-E flat-G. For me, the root (C) NAMES the chord. The note that DEFINES a chord would be know by musicians as the third.

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