Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014, David Steinberg


I think I know too much about David Steinberg. Or perhaps I have made too many assumptions based on the little knowledge that I have. I know primarily that he is young. A crossword wunderkind, according to some. I know, also, that he is spearheading a project to digitize and render searchable and analyzable all the crossword puzzles run in the New York Times prior to November 20, 1993, the date the current editor, Will Shortz, assumed that role. He is obviously wise beyond his years, extremely well-versed in crossword clues and answers, and the possessor of a mind to be reckoned with. Still, I sometimes can't shake the feeling that some of his fill is more "looked up" than "known." Am I prejudiced against him unfairly? Am I jealous? Does it matter? And doesn't "looking up" eventually, ideally, mean "knowing?"

I have seen him respond to accusations leveled in the comments of another blog about how he "couldn't possibly know" certain things. He argues that he puts a great deal of time, care, and research into his puzzles, and I don't doubt that it's true. Why should it matter that SEXYSADIE (62A: She "made a fool of everyone," in song) came out nearly thirty years before he was born? It's a song by the most influential and popular band ever. Why shouldn't he, too, have gone through a Beatles phase? I loved the movie "Breaking Away," and maybe he does, too. And maybe he went a step farther than I did and noticed who directed it (YATES (61A: "Breaking Away" director)). OTIS (19A: Old sitcom sot)? Hey, the Andy Griffith Show is probably still in reruns somewhere, and besides, it's famously fertile ground for crossword names, so why shouldn't he be familiar with all the characters? (Besides, using the crosswordese "sot" in the clue could almost be seen as helping, in that it refers to another bit of crosswordese… or maybe I'm over-thinking it.)

OK, I'm glad we've had this talk. I think I've come to a better place about the situation. David, if you're reading (we've appreciated your comments in the past, and if you're still checking in, Thanks!), I'm going to say right now that I'm over it. I'll still complain a bit about ARIOSI (46D: Some opera passages) and KIP (9D: 100-at currency unit), and CONDOR (31D: Hole in one on a par 5 hole) and ARAGONESE (60A: Like Francisco Goya) seem a bit recherch√©, as Frannie put it, but overall, this was a very nice grid.

Frannie started this off with some good long fill like APOLLOXII (15A: It included a moonwalk), EXHALES (7D: Uses a drunkometer, e.g.), and CLARITIN (13D: Big name in allergy relief), but it still took us quite a while to fill things in completely. And speaking of that "drunk-o-meter" clue, this puzzle seemed a little alcohol-heavy for having been made by a minor! STOLI (16A: Spirit of St. Petersburg?) (nice!) crossing/mixing with COKEZERO (12D: Tab alternative), ROSSI (6D: Martini accompanier), and then a MOJITO (34A: Havana highball) ("highball" here seems a stretch)? Sounds like somebody is looking forward to college! :)

My favorite clue/answer might have been NEST (41A: Beech house?), and Frannie's was META (29A: Prefix with data), but only 'cause she's a nerd. She also enjoyed 26A: Turn the air blue (SWEAR), but only after we understood was meant by that odd construction. There were other good things, but this is getting pretty long, so I'll leave it to our myriad (ok, two, sometimes four) commenters to mention their own favorites.

Good luck, everyone, in the ACPT!

- Horace


  1. Untimed, because I forgot to start the timer. But it went relatively quickly for me. Some lovely stacks of 9-letter answers here: I particularly like GOOGLEBOT, ARAGONESE, and SEXYSADIE, which changed my ARIOSo to ARIOSI, appropriately plural given the clue. SETTEE reminds me of one of our family's current favorite songs, "Do I Want To Know," by Arctic Monkeys. Some things have become so natural when you solve a Saturday puzzle. I had SWEAR in almost immediately, off of APATOW, and IONIZE followed when I had BOZ in. ATILT was also a quick fill thinking in Saturday mode (perhaps an unnecessary question mark on "Slightly biased?"). But I had the hardest time with EXHALES because I had APOLLOten and then APOLLOsix, which just goes to show how much I know about the NASA space missions. BIGHOAX was also excellent, with good cluing. I very much enjoyed this puzzle, a good Saturday to follow a good Friday. How are the Crossword contest puzzles going?

  2. BTW, SEXYSADIE is maybe my favorite song off the White Album, so all in all a great corner for music.

  3. After the first puzzle, we're sitting in the top ten, though I expect we'll drop precipitously as the day goes on.

  4. Top-ten of online solvers, I should add.

  5. Apollo XI was the first moonwalk mission, so I knew that it was either XII, XIV or XVI (as we know, XIII was doomed as a moonwalk mission, and it's too many letters). I also take exception to ARIOSI (mostly because I'd never heard the term), but I did like the stack that Colum mentioned the most (of the four long stacks). I also like that the puzzle is booze-heavy. I had OTIS starred. I also starred SWEAR. That was great cluing. Finally, I enjoyed the Sophocles quote in there.