Monthly Archives: May 2018

250px-Empire_State_Building_(aerial_view)…are going to stray / right through the very heart of it / the new New Yorker Puuuzzzz.

That’s right, welcome back to NGOTB! Michael and I will be Google Doc-scussing the New Yorker puzzle every Monday night and posting it here. I’m going to try to include a little “Spelling Bee Bonus” which may come in the form of a silly cartoon based on a made-up “pangram” or just me yelling.

What follows is me and Michael back in the blog bullpen, tossing it back and forth and warming up with the first four puzzles and thoughts about the New Yorker puzz in general. And then we yell about the Spelling Bee.


M: My feelings about this puzzle, which I was sooooo happy to hear about, are that it started very strong and has kinda waned a little each week. Actually, I think there’s a massive gap in “feel” (??) between the first two and the second two—a gap that is almost certainly generational—

L: I love how you go straight for the jugular

M: Dude … I haven’t touched the jug.—

L: I think I went into the New Yorker experience with a real placid attitude, like ohhh this is gonna be nice– and it was. I also felt the different “feels” (I know you love the feels) between each puzzle but I think it’s just the newness. Gorski’s puzzle was a breeze and I kind of appreciated that.

M: Yes, well Gorski’s puzzle felt like crosswords I’d been doing forever and ever and ever; there wasn’t any new frame of reference. Whereas Anna’s puzzle (do they have numbers? 4/30/18) Anna’s had stuff like MIDCULT (8A: Not quite highbrow, per Dwight Macdonald)—I dont’ even know who Dwight Macdonald is. I assume he writes for the New Yorker?). It also had GIG ECONOMY, which is fresh, if terrible in actuality, and OPI, which is hot little lady-oriented thing. OPI > OPIE.

L: AND BIKE LANE! Can’t remember the clue but it was clever and involved “the shoulder.” Any mention of bicycling and infrastructure is appreciated because it’s a valid form of transportation and normalization through inclusion in crosswords is important!

M: [41A: It might be next to the shoulder] (BIKE LANE). Constructors, if you wanna make Lena ecstatic, crowd your grid with bike stuff, exclude all car stuff. What are those things that protect cyclists? Bend posts? Crash pavilions? Crumple zones?—

L: FLEXPOSTS (9) and VISIONZERO (10) will satisfy your scrabblefuckerous needs!

M: Aw yeah. Put that in your grid and smoke and/or vape it—Or SHARROW, LOL

L: It’s useless on the road but helpful in a grid

M: MIA SHARROW … is that a theme?

L: We definitely already have SHARROW CROW…

M: Anyway, Anna’s puzzle felt more Now and also more “hey fellow college-educated New Yorker-reading types, here are some terms we all know, right?” See NEOLIBERAL (31D: Like policies that result in the 27-Across (27A=GIG ECONOMY). And, I mean, UPDIKE? Come on.

L: You nerded out way more and kept like a journal of completed New Yorker puzzles. CUT TO: Lena throwing away wine-stained grids, pawing fevershly at the bloated pile of finished grids on my clipboard to pull out the last three, no memories of solving.

M: Ya gotta keep a binder; especially if, like me, you can’t remember anything.

L: I’m looking at Liz’s puzzle and it was just so easy I didn’t internalize much. I did like CLOTH DIAPER  

M: I thought CLOTH DIAPER was the best thing about this—the clue, anyway (35A: Bum wrap?). And it’s the central answer, so that’s good.

L: I do love a good clue. These are the saviors of a too-easy grid.

M: Right. But Patrick’s and Liz’s had fewer of these, I think. They just seemed more straightforward, generally. Liz’s had Sean SPICER, which has the virtue of being current, and the non-virtue of making me want to vomit. I guess you can’t really leave politics *Out* of a puzzle, esp. A New Yorker puzzle, but I don’t really want to remember that particular press secretary.

L: Since I didn’t take notes or save the puzzles I can safely say that Patrick’s puzzle was wholly unmemorable. Although it was hard for me to internalize Liz’s puzzle due to the quickness of filling the grid, I did remember [Bum wrap?].

M: That is fair re: Patrick. I have it here. DOLLAR MENU and MS PACMAN were the only things that made me smile. PLEASE HOLD, also not bad. But there’s no personality here. Just solid workmanship.

L: And then we have Kameron’s puzzle

M: I thought Anna’s was a cocktail party and Kameron’s was a P-TRAP party … which is a thing I made up based on one of the answers in his grid. It’s got more eye-poppery and wtf-ery. BLAGO!? LOL, that one really took me back … to, what? 2008? When was Rod Blagojavich (sp?)? CAPOEIRA nearly broke me in half. And RUIN PORN!!! Wow. That sounds like a terrible “revenge porn” variant.—

L: Is ____ PORN the new green paint? People have Instagram accounts of… doors. There is an account devoted solely to brutalist architecture… BRUTALIST PORN?

M: Check out my popcorn instagram, CORN PORN. Some porns are stronger than others I guess. FOOD PORN seems real. Same with REVENGE. After that, it gets a little dicier, I think.

L: Hmm appears that my housemate got his hands on it and did most of this puzzle. Most all. I got HUSTLE and FSTOP and that’s about all my handwriting I see…

M: Kameron’s has ELVIRA Mistress of the Dark and Tina Fey’s BOSSYPANTS and ANNA WINTOUR. An eclectic group of women.

L: Just noticed CREAMPUFF over MOUSSE


L: I like French in my grids, and thanks to all their vowels and esses I get my fill. ←- OHHHHH

M: [Choux]!

L: Bless you

M: Anyway, I’m looking forward to next Monday’s. I assume it’s Natan, since he’s the one constructor on the team we haven’t heard from yet.  I hope that the puzzles skew hard (like NYT Fri/Sat) and New Yorkery (no reason a puzzle shouldn’t vibe with its publication—hurray for personality).

L: Agreed! Okay, now let’s rip into the…



Apparently KIRK is “not a word”—tell that to Scotland

M: I don’t do the SPELLING BEE. I do the one in the Sunday Magazine, but only until I get the bingo (or *a* bingo)—where I figure out the word that uses all the letter at least once. After that, I stop caring. Usually.

L: I have to get the bingo INSTANTLY. Oh, oops, “pangram,” the E-BEE calls the bingo, or the big one, a pangram.

M: Wait, the app calls that a “pangram”?

L: Yes. When we do the down-home Longo Bees we call it The Big One. The Longo Bee is the original Frank Longo delight that hides in the “A Little Variety” section of the NYT Puzzle Hellscape. You have to be brave to find it.

M: How many letters is in that one?

L: Same number of letters, but the E-BEE allows 4-letter words; the Longo Bee cutoff is 5.

M: I have a permanent aversion to the word “pangram” because of its being a horrible crossword idea. “I’m gonna put the whole alphabet in my grid!” “Why?” “Dunno. Don’t care! Alphabet!” “Congrats, you ruined your grid.” “But it’s got two Qs!”

L: Hahaha– I absolutely have negative associations that were realized when that word appeared in response to my attainment of Bee Perfection. THIS was my reward? A dumb crossword thing that I hate?

M: I am down for thinking about this puzzle more. It is my understanding, though, that it’s essentially a bust right out of the gate because the app doesn’t know … words?

L: Oh yes, we have to discus the invalidation here. The thing tells you “not a word” and SHAKES ITS HEAD AT YOU when you have put in a perfectly valid entry.

M: Oh yeah f that I would not enjoy that under the best of circumstances. What’s the most egregious screw-up you’ve seen?

L: Allowing WOOT and not FINO. Actually just allowing WOOT at all. That killed me. It was an unfortunate acceptance of a word, or utterance I guess, that makes me cringe, combined with the rejection of a pale sherry wine (THE VERY DEFINITION OF THIS VERY REAL WORD) I happen to enjoy very much.

M: But it must get worse than FINO. People are losing their shit online about the weak wordlist…

L: They say it’s an algorithm! And yet the response to the twitter fury is that “WE FEEL” a word was not commonplace enough to include in the list. This is the type of thing I boycott entire cities over.

M: I’m not sure why this is even an algorithm. Like … won’t a giant wordlist work? Like from a dictionary. Culled for single words only?

L: That’s what I would have thought. Here’s my Bee Hack: screenshot and print out the E-BEE HIVE and play it like you would a Longo Bee, and then add in the four letter scraps when you’ve exhausted your decadent supply of fivers. Use Merriam-Webster as your house dictionary when confirming words.

M: This is one of those things where I can’t imagine enjoying this online / screen, graphics and sounds be damned.

L: Yeah and I don’t need the constant perfunctory praise of “nice!” and “solid!” every time I tap in some bullshit like CROP.

M: Yeah, I hate when ATMs thank me so you know I’m not gonna like this. A.I. can STFU. Don’t condescend to me, HAL– I don’t want machines talking to me with their manipulative praise.

L: #RESIST! Self driving cars will save us all (HARD NOPE). Oh, I hear you so very loudly. They are playing into the outdated notion that anything technological will make our lives better and more enjoyable.

M: Honestly, I feel like the Bee, while a great little concept, is just a shiny thing to keep us from noticing CAPITALISM and the NYT’s utter failure to pay crossword creators properly. Also … it’s just letters? How is that a puzzle? I mean, it is, but … 😦

L: The Longo Bee is just fine. It’s a Friday thing, you have no choice but to print it if you want to do it, and as a kid who was raised on Text Twist and Boggle I think it’s a fine way to spend some time. So as much as I was happy to see a Daily Bee, I was sad in a John Prine kind of way regarding its digitization. Many people still think crosswords are generated by computers, and the more we app-ify the puzzles that real and talented people create the more we will depersonalize this fantastic craft. I tried to make a Spelling Bee puzzle– out of the desperation my mom and I felt to get some Bee Action outside of Fridays– and I failed. It’s NOT straightforward, and it takes skill.

M: The last thing I need is *another* thing keeping me looking at my fucking stupid distractophone. All those tech utopianists were are and always have been wrong. Rich bros will thrive and everyone else will die or become complacent. Distracted, sad consumers. That is what all this automation is doing to us. The last crucial invention was penicillin. Internet shminternet!

L: Fuck we need to log off.

Will our heroes log back in and blog the Monday puzzle, or did they flee to the desert to build yurts with composting toilets? It can’t be both, so stay tuned to find out!