Tuesday, May 21, 2013

NYT 3:33 
Jonesin' 3:42 
LAT 3:12 
CS 4:15 (Dave) 

Patrick McIntyre’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 21 13, no. 0521

Today’s theme is 67a. [Journalism staple], THE FIVE W’S. Five random questions that begin with the five W words fill the grid:

  • 14a. [Defiant response to an order], WHO SAYS SO? I don’t know who says “Who says so?” Feels mighty contrived.
  • 20a. ["Can you explain this?"], WHAT GIVES? I do like to say “What gives?”
  • 29a. [Searcher's query], WHERE ARE YOU? I would ask that far more often over the phone as opposed to when searching for someone.
  • 45a. [Antsy premeal question], WHEN DO WE EAT? Contrived.
  • 52a. ["Is it any use?"], WHY BOTHER? I like this one.

None of these questions, of course, are remotely journalistic, so the theme concept feels a little rough to me. Something like WHENDIDITHAPPEN, for example, would be more reportorial.

Most of the long fill is quite good. SOUND BITE, a boxer’s LONG REACH, ON THE NOSE—these are zippy. But that plural ALOE VERAS (63a. [Soothing lotion ingredients]) chafes. Are there really multiple aloes vera that are specifically used in lotions? Because the clue promises us that. There is other fill that grated, too. We’ve got the transliterated-from-Ukrainian-instead-of-Russian 5-letter spelling of ODESA (34d. [Black Sea port, to locals]). The locals don’t spell it ODESA, they spell it Одеса. This is the second (!) time this spring that the NYT puzzle has contained ODESA and the last time, I think it was Martin Herbach who rallied to its defense as preferred by Ukrainians. Ah, but the NYT doesn’t care. The newspaper still uses the Odessa spelling. (Memo to constructors and Will Shortz: Stop trying to make ODESA happen. We’re not buying it.) (And furthermore, the puzzle is trying to piss off Ukrainians by spelling 51d as KIEV, not Kyiv.)

Also on my “no, thanks” list of fill: ARETE, ESSO, STAGER, ASCH on a Tuesday, EFT, EL-HI, and the “What the…?” term E-DATE (32d. [Online time stamp]). How is this E-DATE used in a sentence, anyway?

I’m iffy on the theme with the inclusion of contrived and thoroughly non-journalistic questions, and I’m negative about too much of the fill. (Memo to all constructors: When you make an easy sort of theme, it would be terrific if you could also fill the grid with Monday/Tuesday-grade fill. We don’t want to frighten off the newbies. We want to expand the ranks of puzzlers by easing them into things.) 2.5 stars.

Updated Monday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Time Lines” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four phrases in the form of X OF THE [time period]:

CS solution – 05/21/13

  • [Special at most restaurants and diners] clues SOUP OF THE DAY
  • The longish clue [Major League Baseball announcement recognizing top performance] leads us to PLAYER OF THE WEEK
  • [Produce gift that keeps on coming] clues FRUIT OF THE MONTH. I’m familiar with monthly wine and coffee clubs, but haven’t heard of the fruit variety. Would be nice to have fresh fruit delivered to our northern climes in the middle of winter.
  • [Annual Time title from 1927 to 1999] clues MAN OF THE YEAR. Time magazine’s last award in 1999 went to Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos; starting in 2000, the award was renamed “Person of the Year,” but has still only gone to men if you don’t count the group awards to 2002′s “The Whistleblowers,” 2003′s “The Soldier,” 2005′s “The Good Samaritan,” 2006′s “You” (representing the importance of individual content on the World Wide Web) and, most recently, in 2011, “The Protestor.”

Nice alignment to have the time periods increase as the solver works down the grid. Probably one of my quickest weekday solves as well since I recognized the theme pattern early on, allowing me to prefill much of the subsequent theme entries. My FAVE entry was becoming acquainted with the new-to-me term OVERS for [Printer's extras]. My quick cursorial glance over the internet only shows a cricket reference to the noun form of this word, but it makes sense that extra printings of some publication might be given this term. My UNFAVE today is the very awkward partial LEG OF, clued as [Words before lamb]. A FITB clue [___ lamb] might’ve called less attention to it, but its prominence in the middle of the grid is hard to overlook.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword solution, 5 21 13

The LA Times puzzles are missing from Cruciverb at the moment; perhaps Kevin M. is out of town. So I solved today’s puzzle in the uclick.com Flash player, which has navigation that drives me nuts. So I simply marched through the Downs, consulting Across clues as needed, and filled in the puzzle with a couple mouseclicks here and there but mostly proceeding smoothly and not speed-typing in the wrong squares or fighting with the controls (which I never remember) for changing direction. Might’ve been a little faster in .puz form, might not.

Gareth’s theme is PASTA, with pasta shapes found at the end of four theme answers:

  • 18a. [Sculling competition craft], RACING SHELL.
  • 28a. ["Support our troops" symbol], YELLOW RIBBON. What’s the Italian name for ribbon pasta? Is this just any flat noodle like fettuccine?
  • 47a. [Convenient neckwear], CLIP-ON BOWTIE.
  • 62a. [Disorder on the court], TENNIS ELBOW. Great clue!

In my family, we call ‘em blond brownies rather than BLONDIES, but I know that name is what’s out there and it’s a cute entry. I like blondies provided you don’t put those nasty “butterscotch chips” in them. Nice to see RICKY Gervais in the puzzle, too.

Least favorite entry: 49d. [Remain close to], BE NEAR. No, no, no. This is no kind of crossword answer, is it?

Trickiest clue: Call me a ninny, but I read 53d: [Soaring hunter] and thought of “way up high in the sky” rather than “flying, with wings,” and filled in ORION before the EAGLE hatched.

In the “meh” zone, we have ELIHU, plural OLES, letter CEE, initials GBS, ALCOA, UTICA, and ORONO. Surprised to see this many such answers in a Tuesday puzzle.

3.5 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “That’s the Thinga”

Jonesin’ crossword solution, “That’s a Thinga,” 5 21 13

Add a schwa sound to the end of a word, use the letter A for that schwa, adjust the spelling as needed to make a real word, and clue accordingly:

  • 17a. [Xbalanque, for instance?], MAYA WORD. “My word!”
  • 25a. [The Dalai Lama?], LHASA LEADER. Loss leader. I’m in the camp that pronounces loss with an [aw] sound, rhyming with boss, as in “I solve crosswords like a bawse.” The “lahss” pronunciation is also kosher, though.
  • 37a. [Talks that may ask "What's it like having a palace in Tatooine"?], JABBA INTERVIEWS. Job interviews.
  • 50a. [Creature that fire-roasts its own pies?], PIZZA DRAGON. Pete’s Dragon.
  • 62a. [End of a deep sleep?], COMA OVER. Comb-over.

I like the variety of spelling changes happening here, the motley assortment of lively original phrases, and the humor payoff of 37a and 50a.

For 34a: [Port type], I could only think of seaports and port wine. USB! *shaking fist*

Likes:

  • 5a. [Rear admiral's rear], AFT. C’mon, you thought this would be Navy slang for “derriere,” didn’t you? (Like.)
  • 46a. ["Whatevs" grunt], MEH. (Like.)
  • 64a. ["___ always money in the banana stand!" (George Bluth)], THERE’S. Arrested Development comes to Netflix this Sunday! All-new episodes! (Like.)
  • 39d. [USSR head known for his bushy eyebrows], BREZHNEV. I spelled it right on my first try. I wonder if there’s ever been a Chia Brezhnev? (Like.)
  • 52d. [Neckwear for a Mystery Machine passenger], ASCOT. Fred! (Like.)

Mehs: The 3s ERN LEN TEM AMO GTE; the MOI/MES French dupe.

3.8 stars.

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51 Responses to Tuesday, May 21, 2013

  1. Martin says:

    The spelling of Odesa in Cyrillic is beside the point. What matters is that the government of Ukraine has asked that Odesa be used in the Roman alphabet. And while the Times hasn’t adopted it, the US government has. You’re free to refuse but it seems a tad mean.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I just rolled my eyes so hard, I pulled a muscle.

      • RK says:

        Stop being mean, Amy. And have that muscle checked.

      • John from Chicago says:

        Amy, one of Martin’s favorite movies is the original Miracle on 34th Street and his favorite scene is when the USPS dumps all those letters addressed to Santa Claus on the Judge’s bench to prove that Kris Kringle was the one and only Santa.

    • Gareth says:

      Also note: Remove Cairo from your wordlists. From now on the official Egyptian name al-Qahirah is to be used in crosswords…

    • Papa John says:

      I’m not sure why Amy is rolling her eyes. Did Martin say something untoward?

      I’m not going to say anything about what Martin said but I would like to comment on the apparent inconsistency of NYT policy. Shorts will still use “Eskimo” and “Lapp”, even though these groups have said they would prefer not to be called either term; yet – assuming Martin is spouting policy – if a government expresses a preference, that’s good enough and Shortz adapts.

      • Martin says:

        I’m not privy to editorial policy beyond the published style guide and Will’s public posts, so no, I wasn’t speaking officially.

        And you are confusing Will promoting “Odesa” as a standard spelling (which he didn’t do) with using it as an entry, clearly signalled as the Ukraine-preferred spelling.

        These are very different things. As Amy points out, the A.P. and the Times haven’t changed although it would be the (literally) diplomatic thing to do. I personally couldn’t care less who uses “Odessa” — or “Burma” or “Peiping” for that matter. My point remains that a government’s specified spelling, in the Roman alphabet, for a city in its jurisdiction should be ample justification for that spelling’s use in a crossword.

        I think both ODESSA and ODESA have long futures as fill, and I see nothing wrong with that. I don’t see it as any different from SANA and SANAA both appearing, depending on the needs of the fill.

        Besides that, I don’t understand the response, “Why should I change?” to a statement that the Ukrainian people find the double-S a bitter reminder of an imperialist history that they’re trying to overcome. I was only half-serious, with tongue in cheek, calling it mean, but it certainly is a surprising, if not quite reactionary, attitude. But that debate is absolutely unrelated to the question of whether ODESA is a thing, which seems incontrovertible.

  2. Bencoe says:

    I only really liked YAZOO. What a word.
    I spell all Ukrainian cities “radioactive”.

    • pannonica says:

      Yazoo and the Yazoo River are storied places in blues music. A notable reissue record label, begun in the 1960s, takes the same name. The name comes originally from a Native American tribe.

      • bencoe says:

        Yes! I have some of their records…Blind Lemon Jefferson comes to mind. I went to the Mississippi delta. Saw Robert Johnson’s hometown and crossroads and many icons’ graves.

        • bencoe says:

          Oh yeah..and when I was at the Vicksburg national memorial site, they had a huge warship, sunk in the civil war, which had been pulled from the bottom of the Yazoo and restored. Pretty cool, recommended for history buffs.

  3. Jackie says:

    Theme: Contrived, Monday-ish. Nothing to write home about.

    ODESA, ODESSA… both are crosswordese, so I’d just prefer if both went back to the Ukraine where they belong. KIEV is common enough and the only way I’ve seen it spelt it in newspapers, so I have no issues with that. ESSO, a huge gasoline brand in Canada, be surprised if there was anyone here in the True North Strong and Free who didn’t know what ESSO was. CHG just feels awkward and contrived to me. Repetition of “I” in I THE, I WIN, I SAW” (never mind the two partials) is something I would like if they were holding up top-quality stuff…but they just aren’t. E-DATE’s a different take on the way it’s been used in other crosswords…would have no problem with it being used once, but on a Tuesday..let’s just stick with what amateur solvers know, shall we?

    Speaking of what amateur solvers don’t know…ARETE, ENO, YSER, OST, ASCH, REINE, DOHA (someone needs to come up with a cool alternative meaning!), ROES, LETO, YAZOO, and OTOE. And that’s just what I don’t know…*shudder*

    Take it from a solver who’s done plenty of easy puzzles: I quit after doing 2 NYT’s a couple months ago, both Mondays, cause they just had too much crap to deal with. Not even overly dense themes like yesterday’s NYT crossword.

    Sadly don’t see it changing anytime soon unless the novice solvers really start rebelling. Luckily, there’s the Newsday crossword for me; EPEE and ERE are about as bad as it gets there M-W, with the occasional ASTI.

    • Michael says:

      “Take it from a solver who’s done plenty of easy puzzles: I quit after doing 2 NYT’s a couple months ago, both Mondays, cause they just had too much crap to deal with.”

      You clearly weren’t able to stay away from the Monday crossword for long! I agree, they can be addictive.

      • Jackie says:

        I don’t do NYT crosswords anymore, period.

        Gareth: DOHA’s a capital, sure. But how many of your neighbors could tell you what country it’s the capital of?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Michael, some people don’t solve a puzzle but are happy to take a look at someone’s finished grid to see what’s out there.

    • Gareth says:

      Doha’s a national capital… Seems fair game for an early week puzzle. Just like the major deserts of the world…

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked it better than most, I think… I agree that “WHO SAYS SO” seems contrived. Sez who?

    But WHEN DO WE EAT is heard in our house, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, when a big meal is in the offing.. and no they’re not all a bunch of foreigners.

    I love that SOUND BITE goes with the media/news theme. That expression is so weird, when you think about it! And ON THE NOSE seems to echo the sensory functions–

  5. Martin says:

    Keats to publisher:

    “You may not have liked my last poem, but I promise you my new ___ good one”

    (alternate clue for ODESA)

    Also, I enjoyed the puzzle: 5 theme entries and a revealer … OK, 6 theme entries.

    -MAS

  6. Howard B says:

    Google “edate timestamp”. Do you know how many relevant records you find amongst the other fill? Zero.
    Now search “e-date”. What are the results? Mostly internet dating. A few references to spreadsheet functions for dates, and a few definitions of electronic dating from dodgy online dictionaries.

    In my field, we frequently use these “e-dates” to accurately track computerized records. We call them “timestamps”. In a few older documents, I have seen the phrase “electronic timestamp”.
    “E-date / edate” may have had some validity at some point, but at least from one solver’s perspective and professional experience, I have never seen it in the wild.
    Even if there is proof of it, I would just recommend to retire this phrase. It has about the same currency of any word or phrase starting with “cyber-” or “virtual”.

    My 2 cents are now spent ;).

    • ktd says:

      Apropos of MAS’s Odesa clue, how about this for EDATE:

      “Mr. ___ a bag of oats for breakfast.”

    • Davis says:

      I fear we’ve gotten to the point where constructors get themselves out of a tight spot by putting “E” in front of generic words, and then putting “online” in front of the clue. It’s silly and it’s lazy, but the editors are letting it slide.

      And I strongly agree with this sentiment:

      It has about the same currency of any word or phrase starting with “cyber-” or “virtual”.

  7. Evad says:

    Could a ramp onto the internet highway be referred to as an eMerge?

    • bencoe says:

      And in Charlotte, it could be EMerge, N.C.
      There’s a theme answer to drive people crazy.

  8. Brucenm says:

    Gee, I liked the puzzle fine for a Tuesday. The point in the review that startled me the most is the opinion that “When do we eat?” sounds contrived. Huh? Who says so? To me, “When do we eat” is the opposite of contrived; it is an utter cliché, like the kids saying on a driving trip “Are we there yet?” Kids say “When do we eat?” all the time. Also spouses being annoying, (or affectionately annoying.) And I use the word “spouse” advisedly, having been the primary food and meal preparer. Everyone says “When do we eat?”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “When’s dinner?” “What time are we eating?” “When will we be eating?” “When are we eating?” These all feel as familiar to me as “When do we eat?,” probably more so. Would they all make good crossword entries? I doubt it.

      • Brucenm says:

        Maybe a regional thing. To me “When do we eat?’ is way more idiomatic — a totally hackneyed phrase, unlike any of the alternatives.

        • Gareth says:

          I agree. I think the “Are we there yet?” analogy is good too. Sure, there are other ways of phrasing that but for what ever reason that one has crystalised into the clichéd phrase.

  9. Brucenm says:

    I hereby decree that henceforth, in order to match the pronunciation more closely, Odes[s]a must be spelled “Adyessa”.

  10. zulema says:

    Good for you, BRUCE. And speaking colloquially and quickly the final A often gets dropped.

  11. Golfballman says:

    What is the problem with getting the monday LATs I couldn’t get it until today. But last week I got by lunch time on mon. 10 Q for any explanation.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Kevin McCann’s Cruciverb.com is largely a one-man operation. If Kevin doesn’t get a chance to do something, forgets to do it, loses internet service or electricity, gets sick, leaves town, etc., some of the site’s housekeeping issues miss a beat. I am willing to cut Kevin a lot of slack since he does so very much for the crossword community (maintaining the massive Cruciverb database, which I refer to regularly in work and blogging; running the Cruciverb-L discussion list; maintaining the archive of LAT .puz files not offered elsewhere).

  12. Jeff Chen says:

    The Highly Democratic and Not at all Autocratic Republic of Jefflandia declares JEFFESA as the correct spelling of ODESA. All misusers will be politely asked to remove their heads.

    Signed,
    The Great and Wondrous Philosopher King

    • Jeffrey says:

      WHAT GIVES? Jeff Chen is King? WHO SAYS SO?
      Jeffesa? WHERE ARE YOU?
      Ah, WHY BOTHER? WHEN DO WE EAT?

      • Jeff Chen says:

        The name JEFFREY has generously been removed from the approved list by our benevolent leader. All JEFFREYs should graciously submit for gentle questioning and persuasion.

  13. Martin says:

    “But how many of your neighbors could tell you what country it’s the capital of?”

    Any neighbours that were following the invasion of Iraq. Qatar was the base of operations.

    -MAS

    • John E says:

      If anyone wants to brush up on their world capital knowledge, I would recommend a visit to Sporcle.com’s geography section (Amy, I know you used to have this linked on your website, so I hope you don’t mind the reference).

    • bencoe says:

      Yer thinking way too much uv us Amercans.

  14. Matt J. says:

    Anything yet? :)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I forgot. Email was acting up and I didn’t get the puzzle yesterday as a reminder to blog it. Forgot today.

  15. John from Chicago says:

    I cannot believe how everyone has got it wrong! It’s not WHEN DO WE EAT?

    It’s WHEN DO WE WEE AT?

    I like it when Amy is mean. Her Blog is much more interesting. Deb chased Martin off for defending ALOE VERAS and he comes here for Amy’s ODESA. After reading Deb, Rex and Amy I’m getting the impression that this is a bad puzzle.

    • bencoe says:

      I think “Aloes Verae” makes more sense as a plural.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Too much! Either Aloe verae or Aloes vera.

      • Martin says:

        Not a lot of gardeners here, I guess. All this yucking over a very natural way to talk about varieties of a species. For instance, we speak of the thousands of cultivars of Japanese maple as Acer palmatums. “Aloe veras” doesn’t sound the least bit odd to my ear. (The other “suggestions” certainly do.) It must be people who dig dirt versus the others.

  16. pannonica says:

    Minor bit in the Jonesin’: 8d ["Huh?" from José] is not the literal QUÉ (“what”) but the idiomatic COMO (“how”).

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