Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NYT 4:51 (Amy) 
AV Club 6:27 (Ben) 
LAT 3:50 (Gareth) 
CS 6:14 (Ade) 
WSJ 7:10 (Sam) 

Joel Fagliano and Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 16 15, 0916

NY Times crossword solution, 9 16 15, 0916

Product placement! Joel and Finn parse familiar phrases as having to do with retail chains, and have the theme entries complete a sentence, Merl style:

  • 20a. [“Welcome to the mall! Make sure you don’t ___”] MISS THE TARGET. Around these parts, Target stores are stand-alone or in strip-mall shopping centers, and not part of an actual mall.
  • 26a. [“The food court offers much more than just your typical ___”] SUBWAY FARE. Good one!
  • 48a. [“Some people hate the next store, but I don’t ___”] MIND THE GAP. Another good one! I just bought my kidney some new jeans from the Gap.
  • 55a. [“I don’t really know the employees in the tech store anymore because there’s been a lot of ___”] APPLE TURNOVER. I prefer cherry turnovers, but Apple is solid.

Really a good mid-week theme, light and fun.

Four more things:

  • 3d. [“Psycho” character who is (spoiler alert!) actually a corpse], NORMA BATES. Man, I was thinking there had to be a rebus somewhere because I failed to use my critical thinking about the clue and wanted to fit NORMAN in here. Didn’t recall that Mother was named Norma.
  • 7d. [Bygone game show filmed in a moving vehicle], CASH CAB. Tony Orbach and his son were on that once! Discovery Communications made YouTube take down the piratical video of it.
  • 31d. [Vehicle clearing a no-parking zone], TOW CAR. What?? First TOWAWAYS and now this? Around these parts, it’s a tow truck, never a TOW CAR.
  • 11d. [Tobaccoless smoke, informally], E-CIG. If you smoke but have trouble quitting, you really ought to consider vaping/e-cigarettes. You get the addictive nicotine without the carcinogens of burning tobacco, so it’s 95% safer for you.

Pretty good fill overall, with some lively long entries. The only SLOP is ABAA, EFTS, and perhaps the plural HPS. 4.25 stars from me.

Jeffrey Harris’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “They Live” — Sam Donaldson’s review

wsj sep 16So at least one source says that the new WSJ puzzle is not supposed to get harder as the week progresses, but again today my solving time is nearly a minute slower than the day before. Maybe I just get increasingly tired as the work week marches along. But this puzzle felt just a hair trickier than the first two offerings.

The theme is simple enough–lodging puns. Specifically, we have three common phrases ending with a word that has an occupant-related homonym. The puzzle uses the homonym in lieu of the regular word, with hilarity thus ensuing.

  • 20-Across: A “natural border” becomes a NATURAL BOARDER, or [One who was born to live as a lodger].
  • 35-Across: “I heard a rumor” turns into I HEARD A ROOMER, clued as [“These ears don’t lie–there’s no way you live alone”]. Great–now I’ve got ’80s music stuck in my head.
  • 51-Across: Watch English film and television actress Victoria Tennant turn into VICTORIA TENANT, a [Certain British Columbia apartment dweller?]. 

Now 41 theme squares is not exactly over-achieving, so we should expect a lively grid. Jeffrey delivers, as we would expect from an accomplished constructor. We get two corners of triple-stacked 6s crossing a 4-5-5-14-7 stack, together with stacked 8s in each of the other corners; it all gives the 72/36 grid an open feel (hey, there’s only 72 answers–very low for a themed puzzle). Some of the highlights include GO AT IT, RED ROVER, LAB RAT, BLEEP, and REST AREA (with its clever clue, [The truck stops here]).

As the 17-year owner of a Van Dyke beard, I’m not sure I buy that a GOATEE is the signature [Feature of a stereotypically evil twin], but perhaps I should consult with my good twin. But I can let that slide. Now as I said before, I found this one a little trickier. A good example is the clue for KEN, [Mattel product introduced in 1961]. If I didn’t have the K in place when I got to the clue, I might have added another 30 seconds to my solving time. Then there’s the (increasingly hard to be) original for OREO, [Treat consisting of 29% creme]. Or the clue for YULETIDE, [Present time?]. These are definitely Wednesday-like clues, so maybe the puzzle really is getting harder as the week goes along. (Fingers crossed!)

Favorite entry = HOTWIRE, clued as [Started with a shock]. Favorite clue = [Building with several levels, perhaps] for TOOL SHED.

Zoe Wheeler’s AVCX crossword, “F’s in Math” — Ben’s Review


This week’s AV Club from Zoe Wheeler is another 2/5, which felt about right for this puzzle in terms of solve difficulty.  I figured out that something with F replacing other letters was going to be happening from the title, but didn’t quite figure out the rest of the title’s meaning until I had all of the theme clues lined up:

  • 17A: Just a regular guy who can help you improve your luggage organization? – JOE FIX PACK
  • 23A: Protest chant for those opposed to the jailing of braille-reading rodents? – FREE BLIND MICE
  • 54A: Measure of entertainment for each penny spent? – THE FUN PERCENT
  • 66A: Buzzfeed feature about the best wetlands? – TOP FEN LIST

Each F is phonetically replacing the first sound of a number, giving the “Math” portion of the title.  Like last week, this week’s puzzle felt a little straightforward to me, with less of the usual wit I look for in the AV Club’s cluing and theming.  That’s not to say that it was completely devoid of gems this week:

  • 34A: Star Trek captain’s order – ENGAGE.  (It was both shocking and not shocking at all to me how quickly my brain solved this clue with no connecting letters.)
  • 41A: Law and Order show recently parodies by internet comic Sean Tejaratchi – SVU.  (Treat yourself to Mr. Tejaratchi’s fantastic faux-captions.  Warning: don’t check out the rest of his site until after work, since there’s some NSFW stuff there from time to time.)
  • 45D: They’re a hit at parties – PINATA (True.)

3.5/5 stars.  Somewhat stale fill brought down what was otherwise a nice little puzzle, theme-wise.

C.W. Stewart’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150916

LA Times

Don’t know about your weather, but here we had a few days of Spring, only for winter to come back and have one last go at freezing us. Word is spring will be returning in force on the weekend though. Today’s puzzle celebrates the CHANGEOFSEASONS by rearranging the letters of the four seasons and spanning them between two-word phrases. It is 3/4 successful. None of the phrases are that exciting, but they work, and the theme concept is at least a little more interesting than most. First we have DESSERTWINE with a clue referencing […Sherry…] Sherry and the Four Seasons. Hmm, looks like I’m obligated to provide this link. Next FALL hides a ROYALFLUSH. HUMMERSUVS is the big phut. HUMMERs are SUVs yes. That doesn’t mean I buy HUMMERSUVS as an in-the-language answer. I recognize that SUMMER anagrammed is not easy to span across two words. I don’t have a better suggestion. But it needs to be noted. With a Spring BUYINGSPREE we’re back onto solid ground though.

Not too much else to report on. Answers are similarly solid, but nothing is really jumping out at me to comment on. The clues were quite playful though. I was tricked the first time when [Square things] was REPAY, but knew better when I got to [Square things], ATONE. [Only article in a U.S. state capital name], DES is a nice extra-effort trivia clue.

3.25 Stars

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “City Engineering”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.16.15: "City Engineering"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.16.15: “City Engineering”

Good day, everyone!  Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, builds upon city names, specifically the ends of the city names, as the last letters of the city in questions are doubled up at the end, creating puns.

  • BIRMINGHAM HAM (20A: [Easter staple in Alabama?])
  • LEXINGTON TON (28A: [Standard pickup truck capacity in Kentucky?])
  • HONOLULU LULU (44A: [Humdinger in Hawaii?])
  • PENSACOLA COLA (53A: [Soft drink in Florida?])

From heading to many different sporting events, I have collected a whole bunch of STENO PADS because of the hosts providing complimentary swag to the media (34D: [Tables with a spiral binding]). Because I’m a borderline hoarder of media swag, I now have about 20 reporter notebooks sitting in my room. If you want my most recent haul, a U.S. Open (tennis) spiral reporter notebook, just let me know. I have five of them!

I should officially write down the number people/last named referenced any time I see SERGEI in a grid (6D: [Composer Prokofiev]). By my unofficial count, I might have come across at least eight different Sergeis over the years when doing crosswords. Does anyone use YAHOO as their search engine, instead of Google (38A: [Internet search engine])? Just interesting to see what people use for that, and I’m sure a lot would go with Google. All I know is this: when I had to reset by browser, and I had Bing automatically installed as my default search engine, let’s just say that I wasn’t too happy with that! Given that, I bet someone at Microsoft is reading this and is cursing me out as we speak!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ORSER (32A: [Skating champ Brian])  – Canadian figure skater Brian ORSER won the silver medal in men’s singles in both the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo and the 1988 Winter Olympics in front of many of his fellow Canadians in Calgary. Orser also won the 1987 World Championships. After competing, Orser became a coach, and coached Kim Yuna to the 2010 gold in women’s singles in Vancouver and Yuzuru Hanyu to the gold in men’s singles in the 2014 Sochi games.

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

Take care!


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13 Responses to Wednesday, September 16, 2015

  1. Howard B says:

    Can someone explain the NY Times clue for “HATE”? This wrecked me a bit – I see it’s some schadenfreud-y phrase on lookup related to TV, but I can’t quite grasp it. I feel very old tonight :). Thanks. That one clue and a typo resulted in a tailspin that resulted in a Friday-like time on this one.
    Loved the theme, struggled with the clues and fill.

    • Finn says:

      Hey Howard! Hate-watching is what you do when you still take in a TV show even though it’s terrible or grates on you, like what I did with “The Newsroom” or what many people do with “Girls” after season 1.

      Glad you enjoyed the theme! :)

      • Howard B says:

        Thanks Finn, nice puzzle! My TV-watching (on or offline) has really dropped in recent years, so that explains my canyon-sized knowledge gap here :).

      • john farmer says:

        HATE-watch. I understand the term. I don’t understand the activity.

        Why? Social pressure? Understand that watching TV is never ever something that you have to do. Hate what you’re watching? Turn it off. Your life will be better. Guaranteed.

        Tonight might be a good night to start.

        I liked the theme (and the tough-for-Wed. cluing) too.

  2. Evad says:

    Really enjoyed the theme of this one, but like HB, struggled with some of the fill, particularly that small NW corner. I was thinking of ERGOT for the corn menace, LIMO for the wheels, PIC or DOC for the email attachment and didn’t know Norman’s mother’s name in “Psycho.”

    That aside, a snappy theme and grid for a Wednesday for sure!

  3. anon says:

    LAT: 39D is factually incorrect; as clued, the answer should be GMAT not GRE.

    The MBA in the clue should have been changed to MS or something similar.

    • Gary R says:

      Most MBA programs require either a GMAT or a GRE score for admission (including Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, and Chicago).

      That said, the clue would have been a little more straightforward if it used a non-business degree.

      • anon says:

        Hmm… looks like that is now the case, but relatively new.

        “The GRE has been gaining prominence since 2006, when the Educational Testing Service, which administers the test, dissolved a non-compete agreement with the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which publishes the GMAT.”

        In any case, would have been better without MBA in the clue.

  4. David L says:

    Same here — great theme but some perplexing fill. TOWCAR just isn’t a real thing, right? Never heard of AKON or CASHCAB (I figured CASHCAZ/ZETA was a whole lot less plausible). I don’t see how BCC is an email add-on (I was thinking PDF or somesuch), and calling an ION “a bit of a shock” is a stretch, to say the least.

    I wanted to like this more than I did, is what I’m saying. Or maybe I’m just feeling old and grumpy.

  5. Jeffrey K says:

    WSJ: Tried to fit my name into 51-A but it wouldn’t fit.

  6. Alex B. says:

    So at least one source says that the new WSJ puzzle is not supposed to get harder as the week progresses

    To be fair, that link says they won’t get *markedly* harder. They’ll probably increase in difficulty the same way the Newsday puzzle does.

  7. andreacarla.michaels says:

    Here is TOny Orbach and son Peter on CASHCAB 7/20/2007 archived from this site!

  8. Harry says:

    Great LAT puzzle! That took some work.

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