Monthly Archives: June 2018

[in which once again we open with discussion of the NYT’s “Spelling Bee” puzzle…]


Lena Webb: I’m just entering TODAY’S E-BEE finds and I’m short! And that means I’m pissed.

Rex Parker: Short?

Lena Webb: Short of genius.

Rex Parker: Oh I cannot even get into the idea of that app measuring my “genius.”

Lena Webb: Today’s genius thing is 85 and I only have 83.

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Rex Parker: THOUGHTFUL jesus that was the easiest ever

Lena Webb: My mom just texts me “did u get gene?” for the Longo Bee on Saturday morning.

Rex Parker: THUG LOFT

Lena Webb: I came up with that one too! We get double-triple psychic points.

Rex Parker: HOT GULF

Rex Parker: GOLF HUT lol


GOLF HUT —®Rex Parker

Lena Webb: Adam has HOLO TUTU and THUG HUG

Rex Parker: I have issues with the crossword. One big issue.

Lena Webb: Ah okay, shoot

Rex Parker: ALPINE. ALPHORN. Veto.

Lena Webb: Yeeaaaaahhhhhhh not even an elephant in the room, just like all the elephants having a big party

Rex Parker: A million times no. It’s such a bad dupe I can’t believe someone on the team didn’t squawk. Dear overruled team member: blink twice for yes.

Lena Webb: I thought I was WRONG because of it! I thought “surely they wouldn’t…”

Rex Parker: I know. I wrote in ALP part of ALPHORN sooooo late (last, in fact). AIRHORN? I like the idea of some dude in lederhosen just blasting an airhorn and scaring the ibex or whatever

Lena Webb: lol but was the image worth it?

Rex Parker: All images are worth it. But I’d rather 2xALP just didn’t exist. Did you know there was a person named LESS? Or is that a title… It’s probably a title, now that I think of it. Yep, looks like. I thought people won Pulitzers.

Lena Webb: I did not know it, but it’s the title. And I did not know the ALLIE being referred to.

Rex Parker: You’d think you’d include the author’s name. It can’t hurt you. It doesn’t make answer obvious. I mean, you know that book or you don’t. And author is not famous. I mean, not Danielle Steel famous.

Rex Parker: Wait back up. You don’t know “KATE & ALLIE!!”?

Lena Webb: No.

Rex Parker: I mean I guess you were barely born but still. Iconic galpal sitcom– I think it lingers in crossworddom specifically because of ALLIE.

Lena Webb: I don’t think of BLONDE ALE(S) as being hoppy.

Rex Parker: Me either, but I am no expert. Are they hip?

Lena Webb: and I had DIG for SEE and wanted some kind of I-PXX

Rex Parker: DIG LOL. I’M HEP.

Lena Webb: I don’t know that they’re hip, but I think of them as mild and not hoppy

Rex Parker: I had SAPS for VACS (52D: Suckers), which resulted in the setting for “Call Me By Your Name” being SILLA, which I was ready to believe was some Italian place (never saw that movie)

Lena Webb: I liked [Lic. to drill] DDS; I chuckled

Rex Parker: You are easy! That is such a dad clue.

Lena Webb: OH WAIT WHAT VACS? I have SACS– like maybe octopus suckers?– so I too have SILLA. This is where biology knowledge can get the best of you.

Rex Parker: I wouldn’t know 🙂

Rex Parker: I thought this one really needed an editor

Rex Parker: What is the context where a WUSS is [Someone likely to sing]? Like is he being tortured for info and because he gives out the info he’s a WUSS? I need background.

Lena Webb: There’s not a lot of bad fill BUT YES OMG I had the same thought! We are True Detectives. I thought that was super unfair to the person likely being tortured in this clue.

Rex Parker: Also I really really wanted a […say] at 55A: Makes a bowline (TIES A KNOT)

Lena Webb: Isn’t it just some nautical thing though?

Rex Parker: Presumably there are a million knot types…?

Lena Webb: and the bowline is one of them, perhaps

Rex Parker: I mean, that clue feels like the reason the [….say] was invented

Lena Webb: to me …say would imply some innuendo. But if it’s just some dumb boat knot…

Rex Parker: ??!?!? Is that what “say” is? I thought it was just another “for example”

Lena Webb: are you just saying that TIE A KNOT is too general? Yeah, but I think this one should be an “e.g.” if anything because it’s a boring sea knot.

Rex Parker: I’m saying that the clue is one example of a broad category answer, and the clue should indicate that.

Lena Webb: and I’m agreeing with you but preferring an “e.g.” to a “, say.” Maybe it’s just the way we exaggerate “SAAYYYY” when we co-solve? It makes it sound like there’s some bawdy undertone.

Rex Parker: I’m gonna keep an eye out for “say” clues. I have never heard said ‘bawdiness’ but i’m on alert now

Lena Webb: Oh, I LOL’d at AS AM I for [“Same”] because AS AM I is such stuffy old fill. I had ME TOO and even considered I ALSO.

Rex Parker: The DEVIL is a [Slick one]? I think I just don’t know some of this terminology, or these idioms, or whatever. How is a CONSOLE WAR different from just playing video games against someone?

Rex Parker: ASAMI! It’s one word (in my mind)

Lena Webb: Instead of “same” I am going to say “as am I” very solemnly

Rex Parker: “ah SAH me” is how you must say it. Like it’s Japanese.

Lena Webb: I have no idea what a CONSOLE WAR is– like, if you have the same console you’re probably playing the same game as your, uh, LAN buddies or whatever?

Rex Parker: LANBUDDIES (10)

Lena Webb: We are n00bz

Rex Parker: [Makes good on sweater weather, maybe]—I don’t understand how “makes good on” is being used here. You make good on a promise, i.e. you fulfill your promise. I don’t know other meanings of the phrase.

Lena Webb: Yeah, now that you mention it I think I finished in the NW and did not like that clue. I guess it’s like “Takes advantage of” but, yeah– weirdly evasive.

Rex Parker: REPOSSESS should be [Take back]. Why is there an “it” in that clue (60A: Take it back)?

Lena Webb: So that we’d be misdirected into thinking it was some kind of RETRACTION. I was also stuck on believing that IN AMONG being IN A four-letter-word

Rex Parker: YES. In a (H)mong.

Rex Parker: 24D: Ones looking for a cause (CORONERS) seemed annoyingly underclued to me. Like … put something death-y in your clue.

Lena Webb: I came around on that clue fairly quick– the “…of death” is implied and I liked it

Rex Parker: Hang on it’s not “implied,” it’s omitted. Like, you can see that it’s omitted after you get it, but “implied”? Side-eye.

Lena Webb: It’s in limbo between needing a question mark and not. I think I’m okay with letting this be an implied question mark clue

Rex Parker: I should say I liked a lot of this. BAD KISSER (1A: One whose tongue is constantly in a twist, maybe) and NO PICNIC (21D: Tough) were particularly tough/entertaining.

Lena Webb: Yes! BAD KISSER(S) are the worst. I did like that one. And NO PICNIC felt novel yet classic.

Rex Parker: I learned who Tracy Letts was this morning (!?) from a Peter Gordon Fireball puzzle about DEMONYMS (which was a word I did not know). And now here’s Tracy Letts and his (his? her?) play “August: OSAGE County” (which I know of only because it was made into a movie a few years back)


Rex Parker: SRSLY, IDNO!

Lena Webb: SAWV the puzzle

Rex Parker: LOL

Lena Webb: WAPO


Lena Webb: LOL

Lena Webb: <dies>

(time passes) (Rex tries to post his GOLFHUT drawing)

Lena Webb: ru having trubz w ur GOLFHUT

Rex Parker: yeah i cannot figure out layout at all it’s nuts. Like the view is different. OK.

Rex Parker: I should’ve drawn GOTH FLU

Lena Webb: ohhh brilliant. Today’s best fake one I got was OPPO-NOT– someone not even in your league.

Rex Parker: I thought this was the hardest New Yorker crossword yet. But maybe not. I could’ve just been in a bad headspace, man. Loved HOMOEROTIC (43A: Like John Singer Sarget’s “Male Nudes Wrestling”), but started out with the -OE- and that’s just … hard to figure out

Lena Webb: I got that one very quickly– I started in that corner and it fell easy but the rest not so much.

Rex Parker: DEVIL as [Slick one] just didn’t compute. Anyway, I blame ALPHORN. Is that “alp space horn” or “alforn”?

Lena Webb: I wanted ALP SHOE

Rex Parker: SHOE HORN I get it

Lena Webb: Maybe this is a rebellion against the singular ALP so often seen in NYT puzzles?

Rex Parker: That answer was NO PICNIC. I think I’m done.

Lena Webb: AS AM I.


GOTH FLU – Housemate Adam

Welcome to another installment of Michael and Lena chat about the New Yorker crossword. Today, it’s the newest puzzle from Anna Shechtman (Jun. 4, 2018)

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Rex Parker: Sup?

Lena Webb: ugh I’m getting sick. I blame it on the hellish car rides TODC and FROMDC.

Rex Parker: I was sure DC was gonna give me a cold.

Lena Webb: I also didn’t like this puzzle.

Rex Parker: This puzzle is great wtf.

Lena Webb: way too many proper names for me.

Rex Parker: Well there were a lot it’s true.

Lena Webb: and when they’re all the long ones, or many are… idk, it just was a slog.

Rex Parker: I’ve heard of them all, and only RENATA ADLER really gave me fits.

Lena Webb: It just feels forced to cram so many women. Like I get it, I really do, but maybe spread them out over a few puzzles tho…

Rex Parker: Each in its own quadrant. I don’t think that’s “crammed.”

Lena Webb: I meant within the puzzle as a whole

Rex Parker: Much more ish with WESER (?) and LEONTES tbh

Lena Webb: Yeah, that all contributed to my unhappiness for sure

Rex Parker: BAKU! I love that capital name and wish I saw it more. It reminds me of a cute little demon.


Lena Webb: what do you think of TOEER?

Rex Parker: It is (in)human. I dinged the hell out of the NE corner. LIRE / EMER / RES going thru WESER, no thx. Also TNS was not famous enough to earn that abbr. But I do want to do a theme now that somehow involves ETHERIC Ocasek.

Lena Webb: Haha I have no idea what TNS is or who Larry Willmore is. Basically it seems most of this puzzle is outside of my wheelhouse. I had PANNING instead of SIEVING for a while there which also stymied my progress.

Rex Parker: “The Nightly Show”; Wilmore (black humorist / comedian) was on “The Daily Show” for a bit, then got his own late-night show on Comedy Central, then it got canceled.

Lena Webb: That would explain my ignorance then– I just haven’t had cable for so long, and those kind of shows are just something I find myself watching if they were on but don’t really seek out.

Rex Parker: Four women writers made for a great mini-theme, imho. And again, PK and RA and JD all have specific histories with the New Yorker, and I enjoy the meta-ness of … that. LYDIA Davis too, I think. No idea if AUDRE LORDE ever wrote for the New Yorker, but between her appearance here and GWENDOLYN BROOKS appearing right down the middle of Erik Agard’s LAT puzzle on Saturday, let’s just say it’s probably been the best week in the history of black women poets, crosswordwise. Huge positive.

Lena Webb: I agree. Inclusivity-wise this puzzle is slamdunking. I feel like a jerk for saying I didn’t enjoy it tbh. Oh, there’s also another mini-theme going on here: GOOGLE MAPS, AMAZON PRIME and [Acrobat, e.g.] PDF READER. I did love that clue, but tech stuff makes me feel icky these days. Maybe that contributed to my feelings.

Rex Parker: Good point re: Amazon and Google. “This Feminist Crossword brought to you by … Our Tech Overlords”

Lena Webb: TESLA INC would have pushed me right over the edge.


Lena Webb: (22)

Rex Parker: DRIVE ONE’S SPACEX (15)

Lena Webb: LOL(OLOL). So… is GETS A GRADE, like, GETS A-GRADE or simply receives a grade of any kind?

Rex Parker: Yeah, I dunno about that one.

Lena Webb: Do TEL [Lofty line(s): Abbr.] lines even work anymore?

Rex Parker: Here is some fill that is on my Enemies List: EDER, RIAA, EMER, THES, TOERR, ACELA, and now, ETHERIC.

Lena Webb: not a fan of the high-speed rail? Speaking of Elon Musk!

Rex Parker: The rail is fine, it’s just ACELA is NE-specific and also primo crosswordese. Hey, I know you have been critical of OCD clues in the past. What about this one? [Anxiety disorder, for short].

Lena Webb: This is a perfect, factual clue for OCD and I think a lot of people don’t understand it as an anxiety disorder, but that’s what underlies all the rituals (if that’s how it manifests in a particular individual)– debilitating anxiety that is only alleviated by performing the actions. So, definitely a great clue for that!

Rex Parker: Yeah, I thought so too.

Lena Webb: How about [Mansplainers have two] for CENTS?

Rex Parker: OK I did not like that for the following reasons!:

EVERYONE *has* two cents. Mansplainers *offer* theirs unbidden *to women.* So … I admire the effort there, but that missed for me. And it ESPECIALLY missed crossing CLE wtaf!? I had ILE de Peau and that seemed just fine, but I couldn’t figure out why mansplainers would have two IENTS

Lena Webb: Same, same, same.

Rex Parker: [hi five]

Lena Webb: Also regarding mansplaining, I think of it as when a man explains something to a woman that she is already an expert on in her field, assuming she doesn’t know anything.

Rex Parker: Again, true

Rex Parker: I liked that the women writers are all clued by what other women writers said about them. But I want to validate your “holy crap the proper nouns!” sentiment. In that NW corner, for instance, the first *five* abutting Downs (GOOGLE MAPS, AUDRE LORDE, TREE OF LIFE, SNIDER, TNS) = all proper nouns. That is, as the French say, “crammed.”


Lena Webb: Yeah, and I think I wouldn’t have minded so much if the rest of the fill had been less crosswordese heavy.

Rex Parker: I didn’t think it was *that* heavy, compared to your avg NYT, but I hear you. I can tolerate some when the longer fill is good, which I thought this puzzle’s was.

Lena Webb: Your lists of “enemy words” Is pret-ty long though. And just to REREITERATE, I feel guilty, like I’m a bad woman for not knowing a bunch of the women included in here.

Rex Parker: Oh I understand and sympathize. I mean LIBERAL ARTS and literature in particular is my thing and I still had that feeling I had when I was in my 20s, which went something like this, “OMG everyone in my grad program is smarter than me why can’t I be the kind of person who listens to NPR and reads the New Yorker and went to Yale and buys, like, organic plums or whatever!” [palms sweaty, heart pounding]. I am now the kind of person who can fake intimate knowledge of this shit because I’ve been soaking in English Departmentness for 3 decades.


Rex Parker: LOL. You know I only learned the word “drupe” two years ago. I think you were in the room when it happened.

Lena Webb: It was a SLOE march towards understanding

Rex Parker: I had no good fuck-ups today, except for BAT instead of GAT (1A: Hit maker?), which then made me think 1D Aid for the directionless had something to do with BOOGIE-ing

Lena Webb: I also briefly entertained MOB there, thinking 1D would be MAP-something

Rex Parker: Hey, for 14D: Brief word, is it RES because it’s a *legal* brief and a legal matter is RES in Latin legalese? Am I smart boy now? Can have treat?

[time passes]

Rex Parker: ANSWER ME! (9D)

Lena Webb: Haha sorry the neighbor rang my doorbell and I panicked

Rex Parker: LOL


Rex Parker: Every doorbell / knock has me hiding under desk, I get it

Lena Webb: But yes, you can consider your head patted on that one. But I grappled with dark existential feminist demons

Lena Webb: … the hottest kind

Rex Parker: Say more…

Lena Webb: basically this puzzle made me hate myself and I need to visit the TREE OF LIFE for some dangerous self-love

Lena Webb… of the hottest kind

Lena Webb: oh wait

Lena Webb: that was AUDRE I’m supposed to visit. Not the tree

Lena Webb: SEE?! I’m going to bed to lay in the dark and stare into the void.

Lena Webb: …This is when you’re like NO Lena it’s AUDREL ORDE, don’t you know anything?

Rex Parker: LOL I mean if you don’t know the parsing then why *not* AUDREL ORDE? Or RENA TAADLER. But xwords do bring us face to face with the demon that is Our Own Ignorance, and that can be … uncomfortable, For Sure.

Rex Parker: That’s my two IENTS

Lena Webb: There is no I in ENTS

Rex Parker: Actually, my two IENTS are AMB and GRAD

Lena Webb: [Grad final?]

Rex Parker: “There’s no I in ENTS!”—ENT coach of ENT little league team, right before they play the Orcs

Rex Parker: If I ever am desperate enough to put IENT in a grid, I am totally stealing [Grad final?]. Nice.

Lena Webb: Do they just use themselves as bats?

Rex Parker: Yes. They don’t have pitchers. They just hit it off the tree. It’s Tree-ball.

Lena Webb: Okay I’m happy again

Rex Parker: Yay! I think we’re done here. Mwah.

We’re posting this 10 days after-the-fact … we’ll get our timing right eventually, I swear

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One of us has good handwriting; the other has actual crossword tournament awards, plural, for Worst Handwriting

Rex Parker: Hey everyone, welcome (back). This week’s (5/28) New Yorker offering is from Natan Last. I solved it at the ballpark during the Memorial Day clash between the Bowie Baysox and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Where did you solve, Lena?

Lena Webb: Flopped on the couch after a 33 mile bike ride to Walden Pond– I was Thoreauly exhausted.

Rex Parker: Nice one. I did a brain game thing while watching athletes do manly things, so I’m really feeling like a CEREBRO right now (31A: Professor X’s mutant-finding device in “X-Men”).

Lena Webb: I was lounging with my friends-who-puzzle and I immediately asked them for that one. I was all over HOMEBREW (11D: What you might do for your own sake?). Just brilliant.

Rex Parker: Yeah, that was great, but do people make sake at home?

Lena Webb: People make all kinds of shit at home, and if sake is fermented rice wine I bet we could google “sake homebrew” and make credibility bank

Rex Parker: I associate HOMEBREW exclusively with beer, and beardy (cere)bros.

Lena Webb: I have a kombucha SCOBY the thickness of an ottoman cushion, so my horizons have been expanded.

Rex Parker: I like how you all-capped SCOBY, so as to give all the constructors out there good fermented fill ideas.

Lena Webb: It IS an acronym! So, in addition to that excellent question mark clue there were four others– but it felt like there were so many more!

Rex Parker: Yes, it definitely felt awash in “?” clues, but as soon as I finished, I counted. Just 5. Weird that we both felt inundated by them.

Lena Webb: I also immediately counted. I guess the individual clues were just hyper-questionmarky? I think TREASUREMAP (8D: Instructions for a chest examination?) felt most forced.

Rex Parker: I didn’t mind that much. [Ask a loaded question, maybe?] for SLUR is pretty great. I wanted [Pitching staff?] to be ADMEN—SALES was very tough for me to come up with. That whole SW corner gave me minor fits.

Lena Webb: Yep, me too– ADMEN and my experience in that corner. KINFELLA is… well, nothing I’ve ever called a friend.

Rex Parker: Ha ha why would you think KIN-? Oh, KODAK YELLOW, lol. That makes all kinds of sense, strangely (34A: 2017 No. 1 hit with the lyric “I don’t dance now / I make money moves”).

Lena Webb: In terms of what? I’m not familiar with the song

Rex Parker: I mean KODAK has yellow in its color scheme, right. The real answer is BODAK. “BODAK YELLOW.”

Lena Webb: Whoaaa what is 34D: Alternative to “buddy” then?

Rex Parker: BIG FELLA

Lena Webb: Whoa. Okay well that was a disaster for me then.

Rex Parker: KINFELLA is like Shakespearean hip-hop. “Hail, good KINFELLA! What’s good?”

Lena Webb: lol and I rationalized HAN (39A: “A freckled whelp ___-born”: Prospero’s cruel description of Caliban in “The Tempest”) as like some abbreviation of “hand” and that being “han’ born” is somehow bad? I also had LIVE BIRTH instead of GIVE BIRTH (54A: Emulate Marni Kotak, say, in her 2011 performance-art piece).

Rex Parker: I was wondering about how you got to HAN. “Is Caliban Chinese?”

Lena Webb: I was screwing up left and right

Rex Parker: O man, GIVE BIRTH was one of many answers where I had No Clue but got it from crosses. There was a heady mix of those and then gimmes. So it all worked out. For me, anyway…

Lena Webb: Those were my only snags, but the one was pretty epic. I thought I was right!

Rex Parker: Me, solving 24D: Dramatic principle similar to foreshadowing: “CHEKH…? Well I’m out.” I know the quote about if someone has a gun in act I it has to go off in act III but I have never heard of CHEKHOV’S GUN as a concept. Even after I was like “Oh, CHEKHOV!” I still sweated those last three letters.


[“I don’t find it fantastic or think it absurd / When the gun in the first act goes off in the third”]

Lena Webb: CHEKH yourself before you wreck yourself! Oh, is KEN OLIN related to LENA OLIN?

Rex Parker: Yes

Lena Webb: Coooool.

Rex Parker: I almost reached my tolerance level with pop culture today. Like, hurray, it’s current! But this took me right up to the edge. REKT! (33A: Whupped but good, in gamer slang)

Lena Webb: Yeah, I think I did too. Now that we’ve seen puzzles from all of the constructors, how do you see the overall tone of the New Yorker puzzle experience playing out?

Rex Parker: This confirmed the generational split I mentioned last time. Very current and playful and slangy, which I really like. But I think it’s probably good for the constructors to have different voices and different predilections.

Lena Webb: I definitely think it’s a good thing, and I look forward to many more Mondays. The BEQ themeless Monday has to share the clipboard now.

Rex Parker: I have been falling behind on all my indie puzzles. But clippy (the clipboard) is getting a lot more work now that it’s summer. I should add that Penelope (my wife) wrote in a few of these answers, notably SLUSH PILE  (17A: Stack for a publisher’s assistant, colloquially) and LSD TAB (35D: Alternative to a shroom cap). I felt bad just doing the puzzle by myself while she was sitting right there, so I took the beer and she took the puzzle for a bit.

Lena Webb: I gave my friends other puzzles to solve while I did the New Yorker and there were beers for all! A nice afternoon, and a nice puzzle.

Rex Parker: These were some of my gimmes: REHAB, BODAK YELLOW, Moaning MYRTLE, EGAN, ASTOR (first answer!), ULAN, NTH, THE TOAST (which saved my ass in the SW). No idea about: CEREBRO, CHEKHOV’S GUN, or The IMP. Loved FAN ART (a real comics thing). Despise FAKE NEWS in all contexts, but not enough to dislike this puzzle overall, which I think is aces.

Lena Webb: Yeah, the clue for FAKE NEWS was too “innocent” for me not to side-eye it (21A: “What a bunch of baloney!”).

Rex Parker: Thought Coleridge’s moon was going to be HORRID, and really thought 3D: Lewd was gonna turn out to be SLUTTY. So close! (it’s SMUTTY)

Lena Webb: As for the…


…today’s “pangram” was TWINKLE and words like TINKLE and KITTEN were present while yesterday’s had DICK, COCK, and PRICK.

Rex Parker: I didn’t look at today’s Bee. But yesterday’s, yeah, that was DICK PORK city. My best fake answer was DIRK ODDPRICK, P.I. Gonna make him the star of a series of very short and boring mysteries. I drew a picture of him.

Lena Webb: Oh man I can’t wait to see! I drew a ton of dick pics for yesterdays, including a COCK PROP, DICK CORK and a DORK COP. My work there is done. But I do want to call attention to my “BEE YOURSELF” print-version E-BEE campaign

Rex Parker: What does the campaign entail?

Lena Webb: I’ve made a template hive and pop in the E-BEE letters and print it out like I would a Longo Bee. Then I do 5-letters first, then the 4-letter scraps. Then I just use the web interface to input my words and get the score. So far I’ve maxed out the genius scale every time. Except of course they/it wouldn’t take IRIDIC.

Rex Parker: Cool. That’s good for tonight, I think. Thanks for chatting. Til next week: BEE … something punny! Wait, BEE is actually in the crossword. Did we acknowledge that? I hereby acknowledge that!



®2018 Rex Parker