Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NYT 4:00 (Amy) 
LAT 4:17 (Gareth) 
CS 10:07 (Ade) 
AV Club 6:25 (Amy) 

Ned White’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 1 15, no 0701

NY Times crossword solution, 7 1 15, no 0701

So I solved this puzzle and was underwhelmed by the theme. I checked out the constructor’s notes over at Xword Info and was surprised to see that the theme answers evoked a “self-satisfied laugh” when he was making the puzzle, because really, there isn’t anything funny about a lisp. Yours truly had speech therapy as a kid for my “S” sounds, and to this day, even with hearing aids, I am probably not making an “S” sound just like most of you do (probably a little more “sh” than “th” here). So if you ask me, the theme is rude. Probably hurtful, needlessly hurtful, to some folks. (Nobody turns to the crossword puzzle hoping to be mocked.) Here are the theme answers:

  • 1a. [With 68-Across, release philosopher John Stuart from cryonic suspension?], THAW / MILL. I sure don’t like using first and middle name severed from the last name like that.
  • 9a. [With 66-Across, slow learner in the litter?], THICK / PUPPY. Okay, this is rude on two levels. There are a zillion people with learning disabilities who might be termed “slow learners.” Thanks a whole helluva lot for calling them “thick.”
  • 20a. [Turkey servings for the famished?], THIGHS OF RELIEF.
  • 38a. [Quadrennial competition for hitchhikers?], THUMBER OLYMPICS. Not sure anyone anywhere has ever used “thumber” to mean “one thumbing a ride.” Puns are better when not tortured.
  • 53a. [TV critic’s approval of a show’s opening tune?], THEME’S OKAY TO ME.

Summary of my review: THEME’S NOT OKAY TO ME.

Aside from the theme, how do I like the puzzle? Well, the puzzle would be better off without THAW/MILL, given the hideousness of OMRI crossing EMAG in the southeast corner. T-NUT, H-BAR, H-BOMB. ONE CARD?? KER- and -HOO. Plural ALS, singular EDA. Adjacent Latin words ASTRA and NIHIL, are you kidding me? There’s too much theme material in this grid if this sort of fill can’t be eliminated.

Three more things:

  • 35d. [Grp. with defibrillators], EMS. I don’t think emergency medical services = a “group.”
  • 30d. [Web giant], AOL. Subsidiary of Verizon. Does it still qualify as a “web giant”? I know AOL owns HuffPo, but I don’t know of anything else AOL has on the web that I’ve ever looked at (aside from AOL’s page of legal trademarks, checked for editorial reasons).
  • 67a. [Something that has low stakes?], TENT. Is there anything that has literal, physical stakes that aren’t low, i.e. embedded in the ground?

2.5 stars from me. Puns are better when the joke isn’t on people with speech impediments.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Three Strikes and…”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.01.15: "Three Strikes and..."

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 07.01.15: “Three Strikes and…”

Not only is it Hump Day for this week, we’re on the top of the hump for the year, as the second half of 2015 begins! (And we got an extra second to boot? Nice!) I hope you’re doing well, and hope you got to enjoy this “coming out party” puzzle by Ms. Donna S. Levin. Each of the four theme answers have common phrases altered by adding the letters “OUT” at the very beginning of the phrase.

  • OUTCAST IN STONE (20A: [Granite statue of Poker Flat’s John Oakhurst?]) – From “cast in stone.”
  • OUTRIGHT ANGLE (26A: [Obvious attempt to gain an advantage?]) – From “right angle.”
  • OUTBACK BURNER (44A: [Ayers Rock arsonist?]) – From “back burner.”
  • OUTFIT FOR A KING (53A: [Ermine cape and purple velvet surcoat?]) – From “fit for a king.”

At this moment, one of the four tennis Grand Slams, Wimbledon, is currently going on, and I almost always used that as a signal that summer is here. In turn, for a long time, I also used the US OPEN (47D: [Event at Arthur Ashe Stadium]) as a sign that summer is pretty much DONE (1A: [Ready to come out of the oven]). Grid was filled with short, multiple-word entries: OF A SORT (5D: [Broadly speaking]), NEXT TO LAST (3D: [Penultimate]), GO STRAIGHT (30D: [Forswear one’s criminal ways]), and GOT A B, the entry that made me think that, if the clue was rewritten, it should be said as “Go Tab,” as if a group of people were encouraging a soda can while on the dance floor (28D: [Scored in the 80s]). Some of those were good, while others, like “got a b,” were so-so. And then there’s the clunky ERE I (7D: [Fourth and fifth words of a Napoleonic palindrome]). Despite that, I loved the one-word clue to DOPE, even though that word has started to become a little dated in the hip-hop community (12D: [Phat]). It’s just a sight to see that one word be the entire clue, without any qualifier afterward.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: A.J. FOYT (46D: [Champion race car driver with four Indy 500 wins]) – Arguably the greatest American-born racer in history, A.J. FOYT not only won four Indianapolis 500 races (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), he also won a Daytona 500 on the NASCAR circuit, in 1972. He raced well into his forties, as he finished ninth in the 1992 Indy 500 at 47 years old. Foyt also has won the Indy 500 as a car owner (A.J. Foyt Enterprises), as Kenny Bräck won the race driving a Foyt-owned car in 1999.

See you all on Thursday, and have a great rest of your Hump Day!

Take care!


Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Arduous Hike”

AV Club crossword solution, 7 1 15 "Arduous Hike"

AV Club crossword solution, 7 1 15 “Arduous Hike”

The rebus theme here involves the letters RENT, but they need to be entered upwards in the Across theme answers because 53a: the {RENT} IS GOING UP. The Down crossings for the rebus squares contain TNER, RENT backwards.

You get IN PA{RENT}HESES crossing VIN{TNER}, BELLIGE{RENT} crossing SHA{TNER}, LEDGE{R ENT}RY crossing KEVIN COS{TNER}, and 53a crossing PAR{TNER}ING. I feel like 53a would flow better with THE at the beginning, but that’s not a major omission. Renters certainly are familiar with the whole rent increase issue, and I like how it’s used to rationalize the RENT/TNER rebus theme. I didn’t bother reentering all my RENTs as TNERs.


Clues of note:

  • 28a. [Name in a chicken and waffle joint’s name], ROSCOE. An L.A. landmark.
  • 45a. [Present resenters], INGRATES. “Resent” is in both words.
  • 63a. [Source of vegetables you’ve got to decide what to do with: Abbr.], CSA. I can’t do the CSA boxes of produce. I don’t want to receive kale and turnips, which would begin to rot or liquefy before I used them up. Don’t nobody give me no recipes.
  • 4d. [One whose first product is a must], VINTNER. Know your wine-making terminology!
  • 9d. [Place to lay your head between two legs?], INN. No idea what this “between two legs” part means here.

Least good fill: ISR, ANTONS, BARA, RIA.

Four stars from me.

Frank Virzi’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150701

LA Times

We have a tighter than usual “words that follow” theme today. The game is BASE/BALL; the theme answers end in words satisfying “___BALL” that make kinds of baseball pitches: A FORKball (never heard of that one!) in SALADFORK; A FASTball in HARDANDFAST; a KNUCKLEball in BAREKNUCKLE; and a CURVEball in BELLCURVE.

The grid struck me as on the edge of being too strained. A lot of awkw. plurals and abbrs.: STADIUMS (vs. STADIA), CREMES, TNS, AUTH, ECUA – not over the top, but enough to stick out. DIETRC/BLUELAW/KAHLUA was a nice quasi-stack, but the price: BEI/SECS/ECUA/ISAW may be too high…

Baseball bonuses: [Fenway Park and Wrigley Field], STADIUMS; [10-time Gold Glove winner Roberto], ALOMAR; [Diamond smack], LINEDRIVE. There are a few more if you’re creative! Other minithemes! [Talmudic scholar], RABBI and [Early Talmudic scholar], HILLEL. Also: [The Andrews Sisters, e.g.], TRIO and [“__ Mir Bist Du Schoen”: Andrews Sisters hit], BEI.


  • [Iditarod, e.g.], RACE – Husky sledding is more-or-less illegal in South Africa.
  • [Like Venus, to Serena], OLDER. If they win their 3rd round matches they have to do battle again in the 4th round of Wimbledon.
  • [“The Lion King” lion], NALA. A common large-breed dog name here: in America too?
  • [Type of cake made with egg whites], ANGELFOOD. Long partial – yes/no?
  • [Sink clutter], DISHES. Living on one’s own when no-one ever visits you leads to domestic laxity. Fact.

3.25 Stars

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23 Responses to Wednesday, July 1, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    I saw a substitution theme, not a lisp theme. For one thing, the entries are clued as their substituted selves, not some reference to the unsubstituted phrase mispronounced.

    But upon some reflection, I realize that the unsubstituted “S” in each of the long entries precludes lisping being intended, and that’s why I never considered it. A lisper would not say “Olympics.”

    I certainly understand your sensitivity but it seems unfair to accuse the constructor of smugly making fun of a speech impediment when there’s evidence it’s just coincidence.

    • Aaron says:

      Personally, I think it’s fair game to use lisps to make crossword themes, since it’s still a form of word play, even if it’s not exactly “play” to some people. (I see such devices used without question in cryptics.)

      That said, substituting “th” for “s” is, for the most part, the stereotypical association with a lisp, and I don’t think there’s many a solver who didn’t make that connection, even if it was only the first sound to be changed. Moreover, the theme itself falls apart even further, especially without a revealer, because of its inconsistence. Only the first sound? For what end?

      Couple that with the extremely weak fill, particularly in the SE corner, and it’s just a bad puzzle. No offense intended, just my personally dissatisfied takeaway.

  2. David S says:

    Martin is right. The theme isn’t ‘lisping,’ it’s substitution, as evidenced by the Ss that were left in some of the phrases. The puzzle was fun — especially THUMBER OLYMPICS and THICK PUPPY — and it was great that a midweek puzzle had 5 theme answers instead of the usual three.

    Although you spent too much time whinging about lisps, you rightly pointed out that there was some bad fill and tough crossings (especially for solvers who aren’t up on their Latin), and obviously those were a consequence of the extra theme answers. I found the puzzle to be a bit harder than usual for a Wednesday — it took me and my wife fifteen minutes over breakfast — and only made quick progress after the theme had been deduced, but that was a fun moment that made it all worthwhile.

    You gave this puzzle far too low a score because of your overly sensitive misread of the puzzle. I’d have given it at least 3 or 3.25.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Nah, any puzzle that sandwiches ASTRA and NIHIL together but isn’t in the Chronicle of Higher Education takes a huge ding for poor fill.

    • ArtLvr says:

      Second and third the motions: it was a very clever substitution theme, no pain intended… And the two bits from Latin are quite common in state motto and words like nihilism!

      • Papa John says:

        Give it up, ArtLvr. Like I’ve said so many times before, it’s all subjective. Amy didn’t like the puzzle, no matter her rational, so that’s that. Given Amy’s fondness for the low brow “humor” displayed in such works like today’s AVC and others of its ilk, I’m surprised she didn’t find a lisp joke acceptable. (Was it too personal?) I wonder if she likes South Park. It seems to me it falls in the same avant garde venue as her beloved Indies. It’s loaded with barbs and jokes at the expense of many disadvantaged, as well as a bevy of potty j0kes. The way I see humor like South Park is an attempt to OWN whatever handicap the characters may struggle with.

        Personally, I was a bit put off by the same thing Amy saw with the lisp angle, but I dispelled that notion for the same reasons Martin and others did and carried on.

        I agree with the inclusion of NIHIL and ASTRA, too. It is a Wednesday puzzle, after all, not a Monday. Novices have to learn things like astra if they ever hope to progress to more difficult fare. Is there to be no challenge, at all?

      • ArtLvr says:

        Well, annihilation is in the dictionary…

    • e.a. says:

      “obviously this is not a strict letter substitution puzzle” – the author. not sure the leftover-S evidence holds any water.

      more to the point, though – it’s clear that your interpretation of the theme differed from amy’s, and that’s fine, and there are plenty of fine ways to express that. not fine: language like “whinging” and “overly sensitive,” which patronizes and trivializes perfectly legitimate concerns.

      how very toshian (schumerian?) of you all to leap to the defense of the theme, the joke, instead of the people who might be hurt by it.

    • bonekrusher says:

      I definitely saw this as a substitution theme and not at all a lisping theme (and this is coming from somebody who also lisped; thanks Mrs. Treger, my speech therapist!)

    • Jeff C. says:

      How about we keep the discussion civil? Even if you disagree with her, it’s Amy’s right to be offended. Attacking her for that is uncalled for.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Thanks, Jeff. I know you liked the theme yourself, but I appreciate your standing up for civility.

        • Papa John says:

          Assuming Jeff is replying to David’s comment that began this thread, I don’t see a civility issue or an attack on Amy. Please explain. (This request is directed at Jeff.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      In a world where people of color, women, LGB folks, trans folks, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, fat people, immigrants, and other marginalized groups still deal with a lot of crap that doesn’t affect those with more privilege, I will never apologize for being “overly sensitive.” If I err, I would rather err on the side of supporting the out-groups.

      • Avg Solvr says:


      • David S says:

        I disagree with the notion of PC mindfulness in general, but I also don’t want to offend people unless they’re asking for it (eg: Donald Trump) or looking for fun (eg: people at a comedy joint). So you and I had a different take on whether this puzzle was ‘lisping’ or substitution. Fair ’nuff.

        What was interesting to me was to read Rex’s blog after yours. He HATED the puzzle. He was livid. But his commenters, like me and some of the folks here, were generally ok with the puzzle. I get how that works. You and he are experts, and to you, a puzzle that has weak fill (and this one was rather awful, I admit) is a greater sin than one with weak theme answers.

        Anyway, I continue to love your blog.

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: I was surprised to see a relatively arcane ‘rare breed‘ of dog included. IOEBA (56d). It was, of course, easily gettable for those unfamiliar, via spelling cues in the clue.

  4. Zulema says:

    Agree with Amy on disliking this puzzle, though not perhaps for the same reasons. A lot of NYT Wednesday crosswords are a stretch. Latin is fine with me.

  5. Avg Solvr says:

    Thought the NYT had an obvious lisp theme and found some answers clever and funny. That doesn’t mean some won’t find it offensive or that it needed to be published.

  6. Francis says:

    The “two legs” in the INN clue are two legs of a journey.

    • john farmer says:

      Funniest clue I’ve seen in about forever. Below the belt, bush league, and all that, but definitely one for the ages.

      • Eliza says:

        Agreed – one for the ages. I need to scrub my filthy, filthy mind. Also, John Farmer, you win this discussion.

  7. PJ Ward says:

    Maybe today is a bad day but the contrast between NYT, LAT and the indies is sharp. I think the AV is clever and well executed. I don’t recall the lowbrow humor, but I’m pretty much a Dothraki. The Fireball puzzle was a blast to solve. Took me longer to completely get the theme than it should but it was worth the work and wait. I’d like to see the (non-specific gender) guys get together and put out a puzzle a day. But then I don’t fully understand the dynamics of competing with Goliath.

  8. Gareth says:

    As a kid, The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels were a big deal. There was even a Feature Film. The kid’s name is OMRI. I got told this OMRI was too obscure. Is this true? Surreal.

Comments are closed.