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Is Sifton Going Easy On Restaurants?: A Statistical Analysis

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Close followers of NYT restaurant critic Sam Sifton may have noticed that he's been handing out a lot of deuces and three spots lately, and very few goose eggs. All of this begs the question: is Sifton going easier on restaurants these days? We crunched the numbers to find out. The results may surprise you.

Sifton started as a critic almost two years ago; his first review was published on October 14, 2009. So, he's been filing reviews almost every week for the last 22.5 months (he skipped a few weeks here and there, to go on vacation and to write about London and Eataly). So, we split up his reviews into two even sections based on the weeks he's worked so far. He reviewed 50 restaurants over this first period (some were twofers), and 46 in the second. On to the charts and graphs:

Star Distribution During Each Half of Sifton's Tenure:
2011_sifton_review_numbers1.jpg

2011_first_half_second_half1.jpg
[Pie chart]

2011_first_year_bar_graph1.jpg
[Bar Graph]

2011_entirety_charts_graphs1.jpg

So what do these charts and graphs tell us? Technically, Sifton has doled out more three spots and less two spots and goose eggs in the second half of his tenure, but he's really only awarded two more stars, total. His star-to-review-average (STRA) for Phase 1 is 1.4* stars, versus 1.5 in Phase 2. In other words, he is awarding the same number of stars more or less now as he was before. So, no, he's not going easier on the restaurants of New York nowadays. If anything, this shows that he's kept a remarkably even hand with the star ratings throughout his entire career as critic.

Of course, stars are only one piece of the puzzle. To find out how Sifton really feels about a restaurant, you need to look closely at his prose, and use of superlatives. Here now is a word cloud compiled from his last eight reviews.

2011_sifton_word_cloud2.jpg
[Click Here To Enlarge]

If you want to take a stroll down memory lane, here are links to all of Sifton's reviews, broken down first into the two halves of his tenure, then by star rating, then alphabetically:


The First Half of Sifton's Tenure (October 2009-Mid September 2010):
Three Stars
Colicchio & Sons, 3/17/10
La Grenouille, 12/23/09
Marea, 10/21/09

Two Stars:
A Voce Columbus, 11/25/09
ABC Kitchen, 06/01/10
Annisa, 06/22/10
Aquavit, 07/20/10
Casa Lever, 1/6/10
DBGB, 10/14/09
Il Matto, 08/31/10
Maialino, 1/20/10
The Mark, 4/28/10
Má Pêche, 07/13/10
Novita, 2/10/10
Oceana, 11/18/09
Prime Meats, 05/25/10
Recette, 3/31/10
SHO Shaun Hergatt, 4/21/10
Strip House, 3/10/10
Tamarind Tribecca, 08/03/10
Torrisi Italian Specialties, 06/08/10
Vandaag, 09/21/10

One Star:
Aureole, 11/11/09
Balaboosta, 06/29/10
The Breslin, 1/13/10
Chin Chin , 3/24/10
Fatty Cue, 5/12/10
Faustina, 4/7/10
Fornino, 09/07/10
Imperial Palace, 10/28/09
Le Relais de Venise, 11/4/09
The Lion, 07/27/10
Madangsui, 12/9/09
Motorino, 2/17/10
Nuela, 09/14/09
Pulino's, 5/5/10
Purple Yam, 12/30/09
SD26, 12/2/09
Takashi, 06/15/10
Tanoreen, 2/24/10
Tanuki Tavern, 12/16/09
Toloache, 08/17/10
Wall & Water, 08/24/09

Zero Stars
Choptank, 3/3/10
Ed's Chowder House , 12/16/09
Kenmare, 07/06/10
Le Caprice, 1/27/10
Mia Dona, 5/19/10
Nello, 4/14/10
Plein Sud, 08/24/10

The Second Half Of Sifton's Tenure (Late September 2010-August 2011):

Four Stars:
Del Posto, 09/28/10

Three Stars:
Masa, 06/15/11
Gotham Bar and Grill, 05/18/11
Brooklyn Fare, 04/27/11
Veritas, 03/16/11
Ai Fiori, 02/23/11

Two Stars:
Boulud Sud, 08/10/11
Brushstroke, 07/13/11
Ciano, 01/12/11
The Dutch, 07/13/11
The John Dory, 01/26/11
Junoon, 03/30/11
Kin Shop, 12/15/10
The Leopard at Des Artistes, 08/03/11
Lincoln, 11/24/10
Marc Forgione, 10/05/10
Millesime, 01/05/11
M. Wells, 04/06/11
Red Rooster, 03/09/11
Riverpark, 12/08/10
Roberta's, 08/24/11

One Star:
Anella, 12/22/10
Bar Basque, 02/16/11
Colonie, 05/04/11
Danji, 08/17/11
Desmond's, 06/22/11
Empellon, 06/29/11
Fat Radish, 02/02/11
Gastroarte, 04/20/11
Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan, 02/09/2011
Hurricane Club, 11/17/10
The Lambs Club, 10/27/10
La Petite Maison, 03/23/11
Lyon, 01/19/11
The National, 05/11/11
Niko, 04/12/11
Osteria Morini, 12/22/10
Palm, 07/27/11
Palm 2, 07/27/11
Peels, 03/11/10
Tenpenny, 06/01/11
Tulsi, 03/30/11

Zero Stars:
Fishtag, 03/02/11
Imperial No. 9, 06/08/11
Lavo, 11/10/10
Xiao Ye, 10/12/10

*The actual star average is: 1.36 per review, so we rounded up.

· All Previous Editions of Overthinking Sam Sifton [~ENY~]

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