Crossword Puzzlements

Ok, old friends, I’ve been thinking about commenting on the New York Times Crossword for a long time now, emulating my hilariously excoriating mentor, Rex Parker. I don’t pretend to his skill levels, but I do have opinions of my own and will express them here, acknowledging that I’ve learned a lot from Rex.

Why can’t I find a puzzle I like?

Christopher Adams and Adam Aaronson

New York Times June 30, 2021

Wednesday puzzles are generally themed, and mostly pretty easy. This one, however, did not bring me joy. It brought Rex joy, but then . . . .

Rex and I disagreed in two ways, that I can see. First, he didn’t know who Ted Chiang is. That this puzzle had TWO clues referencing fantasy and science fiction in the downs at the top was bliss for me. 2 down Science fiction writer Ted Chiang with four Hugo awards and 7 down Philip Pullman’s “____ Dark Materials.

Per usual there was the usual stupid heavy glut of sports clues, including slang that sets my teeth on edge.

One of two for the 1990’s Chicago Bulls. Answer “threepeat”. This word does, I believe reference basket ball 3 pointers.

Another answer I hope never, ever to see again:

11- or 12-year-old. Answer “tweener” (oh, please)

The second disagreement I had with Rex is about the theme, which left me feeling like really I don’t care. It’s a song lyric, a thing I can’t hate as much as sports references mostly because I am terrible with song titles and lyrics. The clue linking 7 across clues is (57 down) Woman in a 1982 hit who can be reached using the starts of the answers to the starred clues.

The answer–wait for it–is “Jenny”.

I got the crosses pretty quickly, and the tune associated with the answers came into my head, although I couldn’t remember all the numbers . . . and if you want to know what the song is, go here.

Puzzle Shame

Kameron Austin Collins

The New Yorker, June 7, 2021.

So here it is, the “challenging” New Yorker Puzzle for this week. Arrrrggh.

Besides having to look up several answers (I do have my scruples–only clues for which I have NO idea, or don’t WANT to know, like college coaches and golfing terms), I really got nowhere fast. Pride in puzzle solving is thoroughly quashed.

I use ink because I can’t see pencil on the shiny paper and erasing on the shiny paper is a smudgy nightmare. Also I am handicapped with large hand writing, and I have to twist my brain to write small enough so that I can cross out a wrong answer and still have room for the correction.

Number one hate-answer:

You can see it noted for 8 down. “Title acquired with marriage”. Answer: “mrs”

My baked-in feminist heart, forged in the 1970’s, exploded. I know it seems ok to many gen x-y-z etc women that taking the man’s name is ok when you sign the license. I still can’t find giving up your own name to a man is an ok thing to do. And to call it out as a “title”, when the male involved already has one, and so does the female involved–is “Ms” that un-hip in the current modern era?–reeks of male gender bias (feels like the teehee joke of a male of a certain age, too.)

At least there wasn’t a single college coach or a golfing term clue

Andrew J. Ries

Friday, May 27, 2021

Clues that were eyes-wide unbelievable.

1 across: “Building with many drafts”

Right off the bat (to lazily use a baseball term), I entered “brewery”. Odds are always good that Friday puzzles are pun-loaded. But the answer in the end that I did NOT want to enter but did with nose pinched: “beer bar”. Ummm. Where, in any English lexicon, has such a term come into common usage? This is how I knew I was going hate this puzzle. (Upon seeing that the constructor was male, I was already skeptical.)

A list of groaners, some marked as so, some not.

“Roll in the hay?” Answer: “bale”

“Model’s makeup, often”. Answer “balsa”

“90’s groups”. Answer: “honor rolls”

“Ones who might use oils in a pan”. Answer “art critics” [aaarrrgh]

“Cat’s ‘sup?” Answer: “meow’ [this one is kinda cute]

“Leaves a grave impression, perhaps” Answer: “etches”

The impossible, who-ever-hear-of, clues“.

16 across: “Space between the ribs of an insect wing”. Answer: “areola”. Umm, ok, if you say so. I could have parsed this one out with crosses, but didn’t bother.

38 across: “Renowned football club founded in 1899” Answer: “AC Milan”. What? Who? Of course, everyone knows that, of course!

Then there were “Angel pie” (Heavenly” dessert with a lemony filling), “Scroll saw”, (Curve cutter), “Transicon” (Gay rights pioneer Marsha P. Johnson, for one) and “Karachi” (Home of Jinnah International Airport).

“Transicon”. This is not a term familiar to me, and I feel like I pay attention to gender jargon, having once worked in HIV vaccine clinical trials and aware of identifying language.

Yes I’ve heard of “Karachi” but Jinnah Int’l Airport is not an airfield that comes up in everyday conversation.

And finally, the most revolting clue in the puzzle today.

40 across: “”Vice” principal”. Answer: “Dick Cheney”

Not an enjoyable puzzle at all. I promise to post about one I’ve liked as soon as I run across it!

Friday, May 20, 2021

Sam Ezersky

Clues that drive me up the wall of outrage.

34 across: Competitor of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Answer: “REI

First, has Mr Ezersky ever shopped at REI? Doesn’t he get that on the environmental destructiveness scale of 1 (least harmful) to 10 (infinite wasteland unable to support life of any kind) Dick’s earns a 25? Compare a hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing equipment seller to a shop that sells guns? I ask you.

Clues that annoy the hell out of me.

44 across: “Land sakes alive!”

Exclamation point and all, but “land sakes alive!” does not equate with “oh gee” on any scale.

47 across: Men’s grooming items

Why would I even think about men’s beards at all, beside the fact that there is such a thing as a beard comb?

52 across: Investor’s “no deal”

“I’m out” belongs in a poker game. I was expecting something like “No puts today, please.”

Clues that are just stupid.

51 across: Colleen. Answer “lass”

Right away I wanted “girl”. First I entered “lass” then thought, no colleen is the Irish term for “girl” and “lass” derives from Norse, by way of Scotland. Basically, I was annoyed by this one is I think it’s careless to equate an Irish term with a Scottish one, as if dumb Americans think the two countries’ languages are interchangeable. Just compare these terms to English ones, ok? Don’t assume I’m a dumb ass, even though sometimes I am.

49 down: Homie

God, I hate this clue. Sam’s answer though, thank the goddess, was “bud” not “bro” (which just makes me want to puke.)

12 down: Playoff positions. Answer “berths”


One more instructive point from Rex: why does Will (for Will Shortz, venerable puzzle editor of the NYTCW) not publish more female constructors?