Wednesday, April 15, 2015

AV Club 5:49 (Amy) 
NYT 4:07 (Amy) 
LAT 3:47 (Gareth) 
CS tk (Ade) 

Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 15 15, no 0415

NY Times crossword solution, 4 15 15, no 0415

Now, technically, a word with 44a/46a BILATERAL SYMMETRY would be something like ATOYOTA, where the letters also exhibit left/right symmetry and a mirrory image would look largely the same. Or a palindrome, with symmetrical letters. Joel’s theme takes trigrams, 3-letter chunks, and repeats them on both sides of a central letter:

  • 14a. [*Southern pronoun], ALL Y’ALL. I like to say this even though I’m far from Southern.
  • 15a. [*Angered], MADE MAD. Awkward as a crossword entry, and it duplicates a key word in 35a: MAD MEN.
  • 16a. [*Designer Armani], GIORGIO.
  • 24a. [Landmark that exhibits 44-/46-Across], TAJ MAHAL. Yes, that is bilateral symmetry.
  • 28a. [Insect that exhibits 44-/46-Across], BUTTERFLY.
  • 59a. [*Animus], ILL WILL. Keep yourself healthy, Mr. Shortz!
  • 62a. [*Enjoyed home cooking], DINED IN. 
  • 63a. [*Square dance moves], DO-SI-DOS.

Works well enough, provided you’re willing to buy DINED IN, et al, as bilaterally symmetrical. You know what this grid needed, though? Left/right symmetry instead of radial symmetry!

Seven more things:

  • 8d. [Tylenol producer, for short], J AND J. I did a Sporcle quiz the other day that asked me to identify the owner of various brands, including Tylenol. Dammit! All I could come up with was Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil, which is the name I think of for Tylenol. (So I got this answer right away, and wish I’d done the quiz after this puzzle.) Not wild about AND replacing an ampersand.
  • 8a. [Illinois city about 40 miles SW of Chicago], JOLIET. Right next to my sister and cousins’ town. The Blues Brothers’ prison there is no longer in use.
  • 19a. [Encircle with a belt], GIRD UP. This seems like a terribly unnatural phrase for a crossword. Not sure I’ve ever encountered it before.
  • 39a. [Predicament], BAD SPOT. As in “He’s really in a bad spot.” See also: tough spot, bad way.
  • 64a. [Vet, at times], SPAYER. I’ll leave it to Gareth to declare whether this is a solid word or an awkward added -ER instance.
  • 29d. [“So I guess that’s a thing now”], “UM, OKAY.” I reckon many a solver is saying the clue about this answer.
  • There are a few clunkers in the fill, but the entries are surprisingly unbad overall given the inclusion of, what, 76 theme squares? I might forgive Joel for including a creepy EARWIG.

3.9 stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times  150415

LA Times
150415

The revealer is MILESAPART and the puzzle does what it says on the revealer. The theme phrases are bookended by the letters of MILE split M/ILE, MI/LE, MIL/E. Note the progression. MASTERFILE is filler, but the other two lean more to the killer side of that dichotomy. I’m surprised that we don’t seen BUBLE alone used much. MILKMUSTACHE is misspelt, but that’s Americans for you.

The theme is a four-part 44-worder, and the fill breathes easily because of it. Hey, hey, hey! it’s FATALBERT here to RUNAMOK. MRSULU is beside him in TV nostalgia land. DEMOTAPES is also an excellent answer. The long standalone words are even fun, Tutulike STALEMATE and INSINUATE. OREILLY is mostly known outside of the U.S. as that guy who doesn’t know how tides work.

In other news, ERLE gets a tough clue – not Stanley Gardner, but Halliburton! Who knew there were two? I presume the med. condition referred to as OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder and not osteochondritis dissecans. Contrived answers – three: RAKER, SOYS and STS.

3.5 Stars + 0.5 for the bounty of fun fill.
Gareth

Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “Back on Top”

AV Club crossword solution, 4 15 15 "Back on Top"

AV Club crossword solution, 4 15 15 “Back on Top”

Strange theme here. 37a. [Powerful political gp., or, read another way, an illustration of what’s added in front of this puzzle’s theme answers] clues PAC, which is CAP backwards, and the theme answers have headwear spelled backwards tacked onto the front of familiar phrases, forming nutty new phrases:

  • 17a. [Pilfer a grooved wheel?], NAB RUTTED TURNER. Turban, Ted Turner. You know what? Nobody calls a wheel a “turner.” A turner is a damn kitchen tool. And neither a food turner nor a wheel is too likely to be rutted—a wheel can form ruts in the ground. This one’s a mess.
  • 25a. [Spinoff about Andy Griffith with his laundry?], MATLOCK AND LOAD. Tam, lock and load.
  • 45a. [What Pavarotti went into when performing in Marion County, Florida?], TENOR OCALA MODE. Coronet, a small crown, and a la mode. Surface sense of the theme answer is terrible, no? Maybe he would be in Ocala tenor mode. TENOR OCALA MODE seems so stilted.
  • 59a. Controversial Yankee’s bonus for playing hard?], A-ROD EFFORT WORTH. Fedora, Fort Worth.”Effort worth”? What on earth is that supposed to mean? This is not how we put words together, people.

There’s no common vibe for the original phrases the CAPs are added to, no mention of dudebros wearing caps backwards, no unifying theme in how the hat-added phrases play out.

Three more things:

  • 9d. [What you do usually a tenth of a second before noticing a typo], HIT “SEND.” D’oh!
  • 10d. [Patricia Highsmith title character], MR. RIPLEY. Talented guy. I like this one and 9d a lot, but there are also a lot of bits like ETNA, RDA, IDEM, URAL, and LETT that do nothing for me.
  • 29d. [440 Hz, musically], A NOTE. Does this mean “the musical note of A” or “any random musical note”? And is either A NOTE phrase crossword-worthy?

2.75 stars from me. The theme seemed weirdly conceived and uncomfortably executed, and the 72-word grid wasn’t packed with delights to make up for the theme. Tyler’s got mad crossword skills but I don’t feel like we saw them here.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, April 15, 2015

  1. Jared Hersh says:

    I’m just happy Joel was willing to use any letters of the alphabet he saw fit. It feels downright indulgent after yesterday.

  2. David L says:

    I liked the starred answers (well, MADEMAD not so much) but trying to pass them off as having BILATERAL SYMMETRY (even ‘in a sense’) didn’t work for me, and the comparison with BUTTERFLY and TAJMAHAL doesn’t really help. I can’t help thinking it would have been better to have more answers with the translational symmetry of the starred fill and leave the bilateral stuff out.

    GIRD UP is awkward. If clued as part of a biblical phrase, it’s fine, but in that context it doesn’t mean ‘encircle with a belt.’ I take ‘gird up your loins’ mainly as a metaphorical command meaning ‘man up,’ but taken literally it’s an injunction to put your pants on, not just a belt…

    • Martin says:

      The original girding up of loins had nothing to do with pants, but with tunics. And it didn’t involve putting anything on — rather reconfiguring your current raiment (thanks, Stan).

      The bulk of the tunic becomes the “belt.”

      • David L says:

        Hah! That’s interesting. But it’s a generous interpretation to say that the tunic becomes a belt — more like a diaper, as the instructions you link to say.

  3. pannonica says:

    Repetition does not symmetry make.

    • David L says:

      Well, TOMTOM would be an example of true translational symmetry. ALLYALL is really not, because of that Y in the middle, but it’s a better description than bilateral.

      • pannonica says:

        Agreed. I just invoked that term a couple of weeks ago in regard to B Haight’s Monday NYT with the flocking.

        • huda says:

          this feels like it needs a new term… modular symmetry with the trio being like an unbreakable module.

          I too found the TAJ MAHAL and BUTTERFLY distracting. Especially that they did not display the same type of modular symmetry as the starred entry, but more of a mirror image symmetry. So, they underscored the peculiar definition in the starred items.
          I can see the puzzle took a lot of doing, but it’s a bit ornate. Sometimes less is more.

  4. Ethan says:

    I have to disagree with Joel’s comments on XWordInfo. I did find the MADEMAD/MADMEN duplication distracting. Since they have not just MAD in common but also the double M’s, I really did assume that MADMEN was part of the theme, “reflecting” MADEMAD perhaps, for a long time.

    • Gary R says:

      Maybe there’s a new theme in this – we could include MADE MAN and MAN MADE and a MAD MANE of hair!

  5. Howard B says:

    I have to confess that I really did not know what was going on in the Times puzzle.

  6. Gareth says:

    SPAYER – somewhat defensible, I think I’ve heard things like “she’s a very fast spayer”, but hardly ideal. Normally teetotal me has bought a quart of Hunter’s after todays spays though. Including an additional large-breed dystocia that was a disaster, so who knows…

    • Martin says:

      It reminds me of the bumper sticker, “I ♠ MY DOG.”

      I’m not sure about drowning your sorrows in cider, though.

  7. Norm says:

    I don’t get the CS title. The ends of the theme answers are all things that it is perfectly proper to blow. (BEQ would have a field day with this theme). Why “Don’t Blow It?” I’m obviously missing something …

    • Martin says:

      Probably because “Things That You Can Blow” is a major spoiler, while “Don’t Blow It” has an element of misdirection. Navigating between the Scylla of obvious and Charybdis of sophomoric would have taken some care, I’d think.

      • Norm says:

        I suppose that’s the explanation, but it still seems extremely weak to me. BLOW BY BLOW might have worked. I’d even prefer YOU DON’T NEED A WEATHERMAN … For me, DON’T BLOW IT isn’t just misdirection; it’s flat out wrong. So it goes.

  8. joon says:

    i agree that the avx theme was weird and not exactly hilarious, but some of the fill and (especially) clues were top-notch. HIT SEND and its clue were inspired. DEBT clued as {Major U.S. export}, ouch. not pulling punches! the clues for AHEM and LETT and LOAN FEE all had the zing i’ve come to expect from the avx puzzle in general and tyler in particular.

  9. Aaron says:

    Terrible nyt theme. That’s simply not what symmetry is by any stretch of the word. Butterfly ARE bilaterally symmetrical, but so is LITERALLY every insect. Similarly, the Taj Mahal is hardly unique for its symmetricality, nor is it renowned for its symmetricality.

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