Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NYT  6:16 (ugh) (PuzzleGirl) 
AV Club  7:15 (Ben) 
LAT  3:34 (Gareth) 
CS  9:48 (Ade) 

Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword – PuzzleGirl’s write-up

08.11.15 NYT GridWell, I’m not going to lie to you. I had a lot of trouble with this puzzle. I was talking to a couple people about something this past weekend at Lollapuzzoola that came into play here today. I sometimes have trouble reading long down answers. If I have some of the letters, but a couple are blank, there’s just something about the vertical placement that makes it impossible for me to figure out. If I’m solving on paper, what I’ll do is write the word out horizontally along the bottom of the page and oftentimes that’s all the help I need to “see” it correctly. Well, I was solving this particular puzzle on the computer and because all the theme answers were downs, this puzzle was a lot more difficult than it would have been had I solved on paper. That’s my story anyway.

The theme is SELF-REFLECTION (11D: Activity on Lent or Yom Kippur … or a quality of every letter in the answer to each starred clue). Basically, all the letters in the theme answers are symmetrical. If you flipped each of them left-to-right, they would still look the same.

  • “TOMAYTO TOMAHTO” (3D: “Same difference”). I Googled the Gershwin song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and took a look at several lyric sites that came up on the first page of hits. None of them spelled “tomato” “tomayto.” Obviously, this doesn’t prove anything, but it seemed to confirm my suspicion that this spelling is a little off.
  • “MAMMA MIA” (4D: Musical that includes the song “Take a Chance on Me”).
  • “WHAT A HOOT!” (8D: “That sure was funny!”).
  • “OUT WITH IT!” (31D: “Stop hemming and hawing!”).
  • THATAWAY (38D: Where “they went,” in old westerns).

Kind of cool in theory, but it didn’t really add anything to my solving experience. I’ll be interested to hear if the theme led to any “aha moments” for you all. Also, I believe there are other entries in the grid that have that same characteristic but they’re not theme answers (MAY, TIM, OMAHA, AWAIT, MAHI MAHI, and MAW). Inelegant? I vote yes.

Did I like anything about this puzzle? Well sure I did!

  • 18A: RPM (Turntable measure, in brief). One of those moments when being old is an asset.
  • 31A: The Wizard of OMAHA (nickname of Warren Buffett). Actually read this is “Jimmy Buffett” and was pretty sure he wasn’t the wizard of anything.
  • 41A: TOEHOLDS (Points of entry).
  • 50A: STACHE (Something just under one’s nose, slangily). Has anyone had PORN STACHE in a puzzle yet? BEQ maybe?
  • 50D: Rock’s All-STARR Band. I’m sure somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this was the name of Ringo Starr’s band, but as I filled it in it felt like I was simply figuring it out on the fly.
  • 20A: PANGOLIN (Scaly anteater). Wait, did I say I liked this? No, that’s a lie. I didn’t like this at all. Never heard of it. Is this well-known? As I keep looking at it, it kind of looks like a cool word though. Maybe I’ll warm up to it eventually.

Erik Agard’s AVCX crossword, “Soul Cycle” — Ben’s Review


It’s an Erik Agard puzzle in this week’s AV Club! I saw Erik over the weekend at Lollapuzzoola, and really enjoyed solving the puzzle he included in the Indie Puzzle Pack the AVCX and a number of other indie crosswords handed out at the tournament on the bus ride back to Boston.

That said, this week’s AV Club wasn’t my cup of tea when it came to the theme clues. I do a lot of different types of puzzles, but apparently my brain can solve clues OR anagram, but not at the same time, which made this week’s puzzle, “Soul Cycle”. It’s all about taking some soul classics and finding interesting remixes:

  • 18A: 1973 soul classic by Marvin Gaye – LET’S GET IT ON
  • 24A: 1975 soul classic by Chaka Khan and Rufus – SWEET THING
  • 37A: 1967 soul classic by Aretha Franklin – RESPECT
  • 39A: Remix of 37A (ft. Ben E. King, Queen Latifah, and Prince)? – SCEPTER
  • 48A: Remix of 24A (ft. Gram Parson and Tha Dogg Pound)? – NET WEIGHTS
  • 55A: Remix of 18A (ft. John Legend, John Coltrane, John Denver, John Fogerty and Dr. John)? – GENTS TOILET

Having solved the puzzle, it’s really clever (and there are some great finds here), but mid-solve I was getting frustrated with the remixes because I had some of the letters from crossings, but couldn’t get the “aha” on the commonality between artist names to get the full transposal of the original song titles.  The rest of the fill felt pretty standard, but there was some nice cluing to spice these up:

  • 30A: “Actor Vigoda who turned 94 this year despite being reported dead as early as 1992” – ABE.  (I also thought Mr Vigoda had died.  Thank goodness we have this page)
  • 29D: “Halfway to crossfaded” – INEBRIATED (I learned a new slang term today.  I’m not sure I get it, but I learned one.)
  • 41D: “Marching bands?” – FITBITS

Overall, trying to remix the letters of some soul classics ended up frustrating me, even though I liked the final product.  I’m giving this 3/5.

C.C. Burnikel & Gary Schlapfer’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150812

LA Times

A simple hidden word theme with a germophobic subtext. LYSOL fights GERMs hidden in four theme answers. The two across answers don’t make a symmetrical pair; Ms. Burnikel and Mr. Schlapfer use a design with left-right symmetry to get around that snag. I don’t care for the revealer – too far removed from the theme, meaning the revealing clue has to really stretch to tie things together. And yes, I don’t care for the germophobic subtext, though I’m not “subtracting points” for it. Most environmental “germs” are harmless except in extraordinary circumstances. Their ubiquity in the environment is unavoidable. This Mitchell and Webb clip better summarises the paranoia some people have…

The theme answers are:

  • [*Temper-tempering strategy], ANGERMANAGEMENT.
  • [*Toon rodent superhero with a hamster assistant named Penfold], DANGERMOUSE. We all sang the theme tune while writing this in, yes?
  • [*Insect with patterned wings], TIGERMOTH
  • [*CBS weekend anchor during the Cronkite era], ROGERMUDD. Have never heard of him. This does not make it a bad answer. You can’t go around expecting not to have answers you don’t know in a crossword. That would be madness.

Parus cinerascensI’m looking around, and finding it hard to find something else to comment about, good or bad. The other longer answers are all good choices: GOESAWOL, TEAROSE, HOMESICK, MOTOWN. There are few if any weak / contrived answers here, which is big, if subtle, plus point. Clue-wise, I’d question whether Britcom is really a GENRE, rather than any simply any comedy show made in Britain. There’s little common ground other than Britishness between say Ever Decreasing Circles, Red Dwarf and Absolutely Fabulous say.

3.25 Stars

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Therein Lies the Rub”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.12.15: "Therein lies the Rub"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 08.12.15: “Therein Lies the Rub”

Good day, everyone! Actually, I should say “Bonjour!” It’s Day No. 2 for me here in Montréal and, at the moment, I’m watching 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal play tennis right in front of me. Guess I can’t complain too much, right?

Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, takes common phrases and turns them into puns by consecutively adding the letters “RUB” someplace inside of the entries.

  • MAD RUBE IN HEAVEN (17A: [Alfred E. Neuman on cloud nine?]) – From “made in heaven.”
  • ROB RUBBER BARON 28A: [Rip off Charles Goodyear?]) – From “robber baron.”
  • BRUBAKERSFIELD (49A: [Penology, in a 1980 Redford film?]) – From “Bakersfield.”
  • GRAY LADY RUBDOWN (64A: [Massage for grandma?]) – From “Gray Lady Down.” Has anyone seen that movie before? It was a nautical movie, correct?

How did I not know the fact associated with ACLU before today (1A: [Organization that frequently defends PETA])? It’s far from surprising, obviously, but didn’t know that was the case. Speaking of something I hadn’t heard before (but actually had heard before), I couldn’t have told you before today that a skullcap was a type of HERB (19A: [Skullcap or trillium]). Honestly thought to myself for a second, “I’ve never heard of a trillium hat before.” Are we sure now that the current reaction associated with people seeing Justin Bieber nowadays is a SWOON (20A: [Bieber fever reaction, often])? Probably the better five-letter entry for that would be “groan.” Well, I am currently in the country that produced “Biebs,” so maybe I’ll ask some locals what they think of him now! Oh, and the entry of NEPAL just made me think of The Golden Child, the not-so-awesome, yet widely well-known movie that starred Eddie Murphy back in the day (33D: [Starting point for a Mount Everest climb]). Why did I think of that movie? Well, here you go. Viva Nepal!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PENS (13D: [Ranch enclosures]) – Short and simple today. When sports fans say the PENS, they’re usually referring to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the National Hockey League team that has won three Stanley Cups in its franchise history: 1991, 1992 and 2009.

Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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13 Responses to Wednesday, August 12, 2015

  1. Evad says:

    Hey PG, you weren’t alone on this one–with a lot of the letters of the final vertical revealer in place I put in LEFTIES where -LECTION sits and thought these were letters that one types with their left hand on a keyboard. The whole experience was a MIASMA for me.

  2. Glimmerglass says:

    The symetrical aspect only works with vertical letter. If you draw a line through a horizontal letter (horizontally, of course), the halves are not mirror images (except for O, I, H, X,).

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: it took a while to figure out the theme. That TOMAYTO business really threw me. But I never thought about symmetrical vs. Asymmetrical letters, so it was kinda cool afterwards.
    PANGOLIN! no idea… Rhymes with mandolin…

  4. Howard B says:

    Pretty cool theme, but on 3-Down, I could not parse it after using all crossings. (My mind insisted that TO was a separate word). Had to come here for the explanation, so that was kind of a bummer for an interesting theme idea.

  5. David L says:

    Well, I liked this! I didn’t figure out the theme until the end, and as Glimmerglass says the down answers are symmetric but the across ones with the same letters are not. But it would have been more accurate for the revealer to say that ‘self-reflection’ was a quality of the whole answer, not just of the letters in them, because the latter is also true of eg 56A.

    Pretty standard Weds time for me, but then I got PANGOLIN immediately. For some reason it sticks in my mind because of a picture book I had when I was little. It looks kinda like an armadillo, only it’s Australian, mate.

    • David L says:

      And when I say “Australian,” what I mean is that it lives in parts of Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, but not Australia itself. Thank you Wikipedia. But hey, I did remember the name and what it looks like!

    • pannonica says:

      Unfortunately, all four species are threatened—even more acutely in recent years—by hunting, as bushmeat delicacy as well as illegal trade in pelt.

  6. anon says:

    AV: 48A, Remix ft. Gram Parson and Tha Dogg Pound = NET WEIGHTS – I don’t understand what’s going on here.

  7. janie says:

    i **really** like erik’s puzzle but think it’s at least 4-star-hard and no way a 2 1/2. i’m also gonna guess that the reason for the lowish scores is related to this — and that others, expecting/anticipating an easier solve, felt thwarted in their efforts, so graded lower. it took me a while to even realize that this was an anagram puzzle, but once i had the “aha,” i found the remixes (and their punny clues) to be fresh and terrific (imoo…). also learned that “ft.” is a music-industry term meaning “featuring.” JAIME ESCALANTE?; OUTSPORTS? [also new to me]; the aforementioned FITBITS and INEBRIATED (plus its slangy, movie-industry-sounding clue)? all top o’ the line. but a 2 1/2 for difficulty? “omma don’ know”…

    a rich, rewarding solve? for me, two thumbs up!


    • joon says:

      this, exactly. the puzzle was brilliant, as pretty much all of erik’s puzzles are. the theme, fill and cluing were way tougher than 2.5/5 as ben (tausig) suggested in the email. it wasn’t just a matter of being familiar with the songs—as ben (smith) pointed out in his writeup, the theme is pretty subtle, with both anagramming and a punny clue tie-in to different artists. compared to a newspaper crossword (nyt/lat/cs), i would say it is in the 99th percentile of theme complexity. my own solving time was fairly typical of a nyt saturday.

  8. joon says:

    Also, I believe there are other entries in the grid that have that same characteristic but they’re not theme answers (MAY, TIM, OMAHA, AWAIT, MAHI MAHI, and MAW). Inelegant? I vote yes.

    i vote no. all of those answers read across, not down, so they don’t have reflexive symmetry across any axis. the entirety of each theme answer is symmetric across its vertical axis. very cool puzzle.

  9. Finn says:

    As usual, was right on Erik’s wavelength with the AVCX. I might have placed the difficulty at 3/5, but I grokked the theme early with RESPECT/SCEPTER and the fill came pretty easily as well – solved it faster than most NYT Thursdays. 5 stars from me, this was an awesome puzzle with a tight theme executed flawlessly and some really excellent fill.

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