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Hi and welcome to our first-ever discussion of the new “Solve the Internet” crossword, which you can find at Motherboard (new puzzles every week). Today’s conversation is between me (REXPARKER) and Ben Smith (B-Side). Enjoy.

Today’s puzzle: “Solve the Initials” by Caleb Madison

SolveInitialsCaleb

B-Side Hi Rex!

REXPARKER Holy crap what is happening?

B-Side IRC Chat.

B-Side As long as we’re solving the internet, I figured we could go old school as far as the internet goes

B-Side Also this was the first thing that popped up when I searched for an in-browser chat client

REXPARKER Is this the Matrix?

B-Side Probably a little closer to AOL chat?  So, basically.

REXPARKER Perfect

REXPARKER It’s so old-looking, I love it

B-Side That was partially why I chose this 1

REXPARKER I have printed out the “Solve The Internet” puzzle because F— the Internet (their web interface is not bad tbh, tho the bar is low)

B-Side I have a bunch of them open in tabs.

B-Side I was able to go through and solve the archive while waiting for this to get fully set up and for you to join

REXPARKER Wait, are we going back in time, because I’ve only solved today’s (though I did the first couple, whenever it launched)

B-Side I wasn’t sure how many we were going to cover, but today’s is a really good example about why I’ve mostly been hatesolving these

REXPARKER Good, let’s stick to today’s, though feel free to reach back for whatever you need. I’ll just nod knowingly.

B-Side I am assuming that I am the target audience for these (millennial, reads sites like Motherboard) and I do not like these puzzles

B-Side And the interview that kicked off the puzzle Did Not Help Things, as far as tone

REXPARKER Aren’t you a millennial?

B-Side I am!  And yet the tone in the cluing rubs me entirely the wrong way for the most part.

REXPARKER Yeah, the whole “Not Your Grandma’s Xword!” vibe of the kickoff was like … “who do you think can even appreciate exactly what you are trying to do here Except people who solve ‘normal’ xwords”?

Screen_Shot_2017_07_13_at_1.09.20_PM.0.pngB-Side It’s a combo of trying really hard to make every clue feel some variety of “contemporary”, and Vice’s whole “wow we’re so edgy lol” thing

B-Side and the end result often feels *very Steve Buscemi In 30 Rock voice* Hello Fellow Teens

B-Side The main way it seems to be “disrupting” the standard crossword is using a smaller size

REXPARKER Also their copyright is ©STI, which I always read as “sexually transmitted infection,” so there’s that.

B-Side (sidenote: I work in tech, at a startup, and I hate the whole “disruption” culture thing for a multitude of reasons)

REXPARKER Yeah, disruption per se is just dumb. I think this is ambitious, and I like how he’s trying to obliterate format restrictions, in some ways.

B-Side but the Buzzfeed crossword also occasionally crossed over to this style of cluing, and the end result feels very contrived.

B-Side On one hand, I’m all for more non-standard grids, but I think these are too small.

REXPARKER I like the different shapes / sizes of the grid, the willingness to go w/ non-symmetry (tho I do think symmetry is generally your friend—keeps you from being lazy af)

B-Side It’s great to break the rules, but sometimes the rules are there for a reason

REXPARKER Small is OK w/ me, but not if I’m just getting one / week.

REXPARKER Break rules strategically. Otherwise it’s all a formless mess.

B-Side yeah, if it’s a weekly, just do a 15×15 grid!  You can pull from what’s happening in web/pop culture and still do a full size puzzle!

REXPARKER Like why is today’s puzzle the shape that it is?

B-Side Right.  You can put BDE in a grid!  And have it be a full size grid!  So you don’t have to fill the rest up with abbrevs.

REXPARKER No, really, WHY? It’s so small, I keep thinking there must be a reason to go all not-quite symmetrical

B-Side (side note to other constructors: if I see ANYTHING about BDE in a real grid, I will stop solving.  I do not need to think about the phrase BDE ever again and have already blocked it on Twitter)

REXPARKER oh shit what is BDE and who is Pete Davidson (hi kids, I’m 48)

logo_BDEB-Side Pete Davidson is an SNL cast member (their youngest, currently – I think he was 20 when he joined)

B-Side He’s currently dating Ariana Grande

REXPARKER I got BDE from crosses and thought clue must be [Almost letter string?]

B-Side He apparently has a very large penis, and she revealed that in a tweet, and that set off a whole thing about who has Big Dick Energy and who doesn’t

B-Side Please stop making me explain BDE

REXPARKER Oh, I looked it up and The Internet said it stood for “Best Day Ever”

REXPARKER I wondered why everyone was going on about Big Dick Energy. Ugh, the puzzle needs fewer dicks.

B-Side YUP

B-Side Back to these puzzles – the grid sizes feel super arbitrary

REXPARKER What is the concept here? Just … a bunch of abbrs.?

B-Side appears to be

B-Side the smaller size leads to a lot of smaller fill to support whatever seed entries

B-Side which means we’re getting a lot of clunky crosswordese I’d give a dirty look to in a full-size grid ALSO has a long clue that’s trying to be clever and failing

REXPARKER Are they “seed,” though, if the grid is so small and just filled with three-letter stuff you wouldn’t want in your normal puzzle?

B-Side there was also a whole grid that did iHOb-style rebrands

B-Side which I think is the closest this has come to a standard theme puzzle

REXPARKER Oh yeah. That was a better puzzle, in my memory

B-Side (which is fine: I love themelesses and we need more of them at all levels)B-Side This grid seems entirely constructed around putting ZERO FUCKS in a puzzle.

B-Side which, fine, but it also felt very “this isn’t your GRANDMA’s crossword!” *does donuts with a dirtbike*

REXPARKER The longer answers here are just fine (SOULCYCLE, AFTER PROM, BEER BONGS). But then they poured three-letter dreck all over them. It’s like beautiful, fresh greens smothered by a half gallon of ranch dressing.

B-Side I like that analogy

B-Side SOULCYCLE is great fill!  Stop ruining it with a bunch of garbage!

REXPARKER This whole endeavor feels like [the band] fun., i.e. they are telling me they are young, and I’m like You are aging and sad (join the club)

REXPARKER Again, superdown for the innovation, supernotdown for the skateboarding / record scratch / allaround Poochiness of it all!

REXPARKER (Kids, look up Poochie, I am 48)

B-Side Every time I solve one of these it makes me crochety (which, I am already The Internet’s Oldest Thirty Year Old, but I’m _trying_ to stay with it)

B-Side It’s very Poochie.

REXPARKER I got confused with the cluing a bit. Like, I couldn’t tell what part of speech [The last time we’re ever going to party with each other before we all leave for college!! I’m going to miss you guys so much. Let’s stay friends forever.] was asking for

REXPARKER Technically, everything after “college” in that clue is bs

B-Side I am fine with longer clues, especially when they’re trying to have fun with the material, but a lot of these just feel long for the sake of long

B-Side a very corporate sort of “edginess” that rings fake

REXPARKER CORPORATE EDGINESS

REXPARKER THINK DIFFERENT

REXPARKER Long clues, fine. But do not leave me hanging, clarity-wise, on part of speech. I feel like the teacher who’s like “grammar actually matters, kids” and then there are spitballs and texting and I quit my job. Something like that.

B-Side So often these long clues aren’t adding anything

BEE_GEES_CHILDREN+OF+THE+WORLD-261112B-Side for example:

B-Side “Where no one should go to outbid me on an original 1976 Bee Gees promotional Children of the World glass mirror” for EBAY

REXPARKER I don’t miiiiind it

REXPARKER I mean, true, it adds nothing clue-wise, but it’s wacky / whimsical … I dunno.

B-Side I feel like it could still communicate all that and be whack/whimsical in a more concise way

REXPARKER Post Malone clue = just fine. Good, even. ([Post Malone’s other favorite thing besides Bentleys] = BEER BONGS)

B-Side This made me have to think about Post Malone for more than five seconds and I did not enjoy that.

B-Side But otherwise, yes.

REXPARKER [Important initials if you are choking] really shouldn’t be EMT. You don’t have that kind of time. CPR is the only answer there.

REXPARKER Actually, scratch that: HEIMLICH

B-Side I WAS ABOUT TO SAY

B-Side (I totally entered CPR there first, but then had the same realization)

REXPARKER “Oh, you’re choking, hang on, let me dial…” FLATLINE SOUND

B-Side “Important initials for having the machine that’ll allow you to watch your childhood copy of “The Lion King” <3″ (VCR) could completely drop “Important initials for having” and still scan

REXPARKER True. Concision is a thing. A good thing.

REXPARKER I’m happy to see DSA in a grid, though I wrote D-NY (1A: Important initials after the political victory of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez)

B-Side Exactly.  That’s the main thing that irks me about these – a lot of the clues feel one revision away from being better versions of themselves.

REXPARKER Editing!

REXPARKER I think editing your own shit is hard, tbh. You need outside eyes.

B-Side YES.  I wrote a Jeopardy for the National Puzzlers’ League convention next week and it was made infinitely better by having (a few) editors/testers look at it.

REXPARKER OK I’m done with this one, how ’bout you?

B-Side Yep!

B-Side Pleasure chatting with you!

REXPARKER Yes. Can you get this convo into some kind of post-(Malone)-able order?

[Ben sends Rex txt file, Rex lightly edits it, end scene]

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

aaa

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.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 7.38.08 PM

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

IMG_1363

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)

Lena Webb: IDNO I GIVE UP

Rex Parker: SRSLY, IDNO!

Lena Webb: SAWV the puzzle

Rex Parker: LOL

Lena Webb: WAPO

Rex Parker: EWAN I SAWV DIS PUZZ

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.

IMG_20180613_065919

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)

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 9.16.05 PM

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.

speedboat

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.

Rex Parker: ELON MUSK SPACEX TESLA BRO

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.”

audre-lorde-hires-cropped

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.

Lena Webb: DOMESTIC DRUPES!

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

Lena Webb: WHO DARES RING MINE BELL

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

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.57.32 PM

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…

SPELLING BEE:

…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!

kirk

IMG_1238

®2018 Rex Parker

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

M: Over OMELET

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…

SPELLING BEE

kirk

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!