Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NYT 4:17 (Erin) 


WSJ 8:56 (Jim) 


BuzzFeed 5:29 (Amy) 


AV Club 12:03 (Ben) 


LAT 5:02 (Gareth) 


CS tk (Ade) 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 11 15, no 1111

NY Times crossword solution, 11 11 15, no 1111

(Write-up to follow when Erin gets back to the hotel from Epcot!)

(Note from Amy: And because I had to look at Wordplay to find out what the theme was, I’ll give a brief explanation along with the grid while Erin finishes Disneying. Read 62a as FORTY-NINE R’S—there are 49 R’s in the grid. That constraint accounts for all the terrible fill.)

Sorry for the delay, Tuesday night folks! It took a while to catch a bus back from Epcot after Illuminations. Speaking of flashy things, David Steinberg is looking for gold with today’s NYT puzzle. As Amy mentioned above, the theme is FORTYNINERS, clued in 62a. as [Old rush participants … or a three-part hint to what can be found in this puzzle’s grid or clues], which can be parsed as the two-part phrase FORTY-NINERS, who descended upon California looking for gold, or the three-part phrase FORTY-NINE R’S.

Fitting exactly 49 Rs into the grid with at least one R in each entry without completely ruining the fill is an impressive feat. The long fill was good overall. I loved seeing two women in the longer entries – crossword editing pioneer MARGARET FARRAR and film star AVA GARDNER. I also enjoyed BAD PERM and GUITAR SOLO. ORRERIES was a new word for me, but I think I like it. The short fill suffered more, especially in the NE corner with the GRE/UAR/ISR combination. Other not-so-great entries include SARD [1d. Variety of chalcedony], GASSER [6d. Funny, funny joke], and ARMA [18d. “___ virumque cano” (“Aeneid” opening)]. Thanks to a recent Erik Agard puzzle, I can now remember NCR as the ATM maker, because it stands for National Cash Register.

Cluing should have more leeway, but limiting it to 49 Rs led to some pretty dry clues with little to no puns or wordplay.

If you like puzzles that break letter or word count records, this one smashes the previous record of 30 and has a great revealer. If you prefer clever clues and solid fill, this probably isn’t your bag. If you’re a pirate, on the other hand, your solving experience was probably more remARRRkable. Three stars. Now here’s some “Stairway to Heaven.”

Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fight Club” — Jim’s write-up

Yesterday we were runnin’ nekkid through the puzzle. Today we’re going behind enemy lines to infiltrate their theme answers.

Harold Jones has inserted the word VET into three well-known phrases, as we’re told at 59D [November honoree inserted into the three longest answers].

WSJ - Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - "Fight Club"

WSJ – Wed, Nov 11, 2015 – “Fight Club”

  • 20A [Best housing on campus?] COVETED DORMS. From co-ed dorms.
  • 34A [Item in talk show host Dick’s childhood nursery?] CAVETT’S CRADLE. From cat’s cradle (or Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”). You aren’t going to find anyone much below 40 who knows who Dick Cavett is.
  • 51A [Matzo dumpling on the range?] STOVE-TOP BALL. From stoop ball, which probably only city slickers are familiar with.

I’m not a fan of just plunking a letter string into other phrases without some sort of basis for doing so. There should be a reason—like an ET invasion or a SPY infiltrating an organization.

Why are these VETs being inserted into these phrases? Not sure. I just made up the bit up top about going behind enemy lines; the puzzle doesn’t give us any reason. I guess we’re just meant to go with it.

Dick Cavett

So let’s go. We only have three theme answers and they’re adequate. However, as I said, most younger people won’t have ever heard of Dick Cavett, but then the WSJ crowd probably skews older. And stoop ball is probably only an inner city thing. (Is that right? I’ve never heard of it, so I don’t know.)

The use of only three theme answers allows for nicer fill entries. Favorites are SHOCKWAVE, ROADSTER, DARK RED, TAKE THAT, and ED WINLAND.

The clue for that last one at 33D is [Polaroid founder]. This was completely unknowable by me, but I had the E to start with and tried valiantly to fit EASTMAN in there. It just didn’t work. Once I solved the puzzle, I had to google Mr. Winland.  This is what I came up with:

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.23.10 PM

Really? Our puzzle today features somebody you can’t even google? Boy, this guy sure left his mark. I tried a different tack and googled “Ed Winland polaroid”.
Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.24.09 PMOh! Duh! And thus the penny dropped. Thanks, Google, for figuring out what I meant.

But, back to the puzzle. Here are a few more things:

  • We have some interesting women gracing the grid. SIMONE, ALICIA, and DIANA. Thank you, ladies.
  • Is EBONIES really used to describe piano keys? (BTW, I love the double use of the clue [Keys of music] for this entry at 50A as well as ALICIA at 46A.) I’ve heard of “tickling the ivories”, but do you “tickle the ebonies”? Or is there another verb you do to EBONIES? EBONIES could have easily been EBONICS by changing ERIE to ERIC, but then, that introduces some unwanted controversy.
  • Second-favorite clue: [Joint tenant?] at 48A for INMATE. Nice.
  • Favorite clue: 36D [Punch line?] for TAKE THAT. Love it! Especially in a puzzle titled “Fight Club”. Along that vein we have 1A‘s [Fights] for WARS and 57D‘s [Fight] for VIE. I also like the use of the title to refer to military veterans although not every military member sees fighting action. The vast majority are in support roles.

So, a fine puzzle with good wordplay, but lacking a central conceit. Once you’re done with the puzzle, make sure you..thank_a_vet_american_flag_bumper_sticker-raa7e4e6f764f40f3a38478ea6249a7ad_v9wht_8byvr_324

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “In and Out of Character” — Ben’s Review


I completely forgot to check the difficulty or other notes on this week’s puzzle, so I was pleasantly surprised by how tricky the latest offering from Aimee Lucido was.  I found last week’s puzzle tricky, but this week I had some theme material to try and help along the way.  It took me a while to crack what was going on, especially with some of the inter-clue dependencies:

  • 9A: Crossover 63A/44AFORD ESCAPE 
  • 24A: Compact 63A/44A  — FORD FOCUS 
  • 63A/44A: Versatile Hollywood type, or a descriptoin of this puzzle’s theme — ACTOR/MODEL
  • 94A: Full-size 63A/44AFORD EXPLORER
  • 9D: Wise king of Israel (“Star Wars”) — (SOLO)MON
  • 24D: Itching (“The Last Crusade”) — (JONES)ING
  • 67D: Plus-size brand (“Patriot Games”) — LANE B(RYAN)T

It took me a while to crack that there were squares doing double duty in this puzzle, with a Harrison Ford character for the down clues, and a Ford auto model for the across clues.  I liked the theme once I caught on, but it seemed a bit thinly applied – I had to comb the grid a few times when writing today’s post to make sure I hadn’t missed a fourth Ford character or car (no FORD TAURUS?).  With only three entries, I would have loved to see either more variance in where the FORD square was placed, or for all entries to start out with it for consistency.

Enough griping about the theme – there was a lot of nice cluing/entries to make up for some of those oversights.  There’s something so satisfying about when your joke entry for a clue turns out to be correct – like 85A‘s “word shouted at an agressive driver” being ASSHOLE.  I liked most of the words in that stack, with CHIA PET and HOT MESS bringing some nice character to the grid.  As someone who’s been digging the AV Club story about slowed down ALVIN and the Chipmunks recordings (go! listen), it was nice to see him pop up in the grid at 52A.

3.5/5 stars.

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 11 11 15 "*burrrrpppp*"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 11 11 15 “*burrrrpppp*”

It took me a good long while to piece together the theme here, given my resistance to putting BEER at the start of the revealer. 61a. [Mild abdominal obesity, slangily…and a hint to what you can find in 18-, 20-, 38-, and 55-Across]? That doesn’t scream BEER BELLY to me. Recent health news about abdominal obesity and the waist/hip ratio weren’t helping me find the BEER here. (Note: Always read the title! It is often helpful!) Anyway—each themer has a type of beer hidden within it:

  • 18a. [Cup contents that settle into your future?], TEA LEAVES, ale.
  • 20a. [A little wide, to a baseball play-by-play announcer], JUST OUTSIDE, stout.
  • 38a. [Major motion picture company behind the “Matrix” trilogy, “The Lego Movie,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”], VILLAGE ROAD SHOW, lager. The “Road” in the clue duplicating an answer word threw me off here.
  • 55a. [Message indicating a refusal to put out (electronically, that is)], EXPORT ERROR, porter. Not a familiar phrase to me.

Those are your major beer types (IPA is covered by “ale,” as are many other specific ale types; pilsner is a lager), so the theme feels complete, brewski-wise. The fill is fairly solid—IRE, EER, STYE, and things like C MAJ are sorely overused, but the grid pops with “GIVE ME THAT!,” SELF-ESTEEM, and PROTIP. The cluing freshens up a number of other answers. To wit:

  • 15a. [Major part of a plot], ACRE. Made you think of literary or cinematic plots, right?
  • 16a. [New Zealand symbol that never quite took off?], KIWI. Flightless, hence “never took off.”
  • 37a. [Cultured and aesthetic-minded, slangily], METRO.
  • 44a. [Brand of men’s body spray with advertisements that manage to demean both women and men], AXE.
  • 51a. [2013 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film about a Polish nun], IDA.

Three more things:

  • 67a. [Job for someone in between jobs, perhaps], TEMP. Not keen on this clue. The job is “working as a temp,” the position is TEMP. Feels fuzzy.
  • 27d. [Mythical jellyfish sting antidote], URINE. Solid! Are there really any solvers so squeamish that they would be upset to see this word in a crossword?
  • 48d. [Fictional character Jane Goodall admits to crushing on pretty hard as a kid], TARZAN. That’s some terrific trivia right there.

3.9 stars from me.

D. Scott Nichols & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 151111

LA Times

It’s the 150th anniversary of ALICE in WONDERLAND. We get a rather superficial list of notable characters / scenes from the book. RABBITHOLE, CHESHIRECAT, TEAPARTY, CATERPILLAR, DORMOUSE are featured – plus the two-part revealer already mentioned. On the one hand, most of the best-known bits are mentioned, on the other hand that makes it feel a rather rote theme.

Aside, I’m not sure if it’s good, but this webcomic based on Alice in Wonderland is certainly unusual:

There’s some neat grid-filling going on when you fit NOHITGAMES and ZENMASTERS (even with gratuitous pluralisation) into areas with crossing themers! MAITRED, BODEGA and YAYME are also fun shorter choices. Not too many of the short answers caused a scrunchy face. The [Phone button trio] clue for ABC has to be the blandest possible way to clue that, though! Ugh.
3.25 Stars


Leaving you with an appropriate piece of classic rock:

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17 Responses to Wednesday, November 11, 2015

  1. Gail says:

    Maybe it’s because I did the NYT puzzle in the middle of the night, but I had to read the blog to get the theme…the “fortyniners” clue and answer didn’t help at all.

  2. Mark says:

    Definitely a constructor’s puzzle (which I don’t mind per se, being a constructor), and if only I could have figured it out, would have been brilliant, but like others, I was left scratching my head, wondering how the green paint BAD PERM made the grade, until I read this blog. And I guess there are also 49 Rs in the clues, right? Just needed a better reveal . . . not sure how that would be possible.

  3. David L says:

    I read the revealer as meaning there were 49 9-letter words in the puzzle and the clues, combined. But I didn’t care enough to see if that was true.

    This puzzle seemed positively Maleskan to me, with SARD and ORRERIES and ARMA. Haven’t we been seeing a lot of Mr Ed lately? Is he on a comeback tour?

    BAD PERM — two random words plunked together.

    Perhaps I am unusually grumpy this morning but this struck me as a dull puzzle constructed for a silly theme idea. I say RAH (not).

  4. Norm says:

    It’s Veteran’s Day. That’s the only reason for using VET as your key.
    Interesting synchronicity, with WSJ and CS having the same theme. I thought Orbach did a much better job — and the “Redeployment” title was clever.
    It’s too early to toast Dad yet, but I’ll definitely have a cold one in honor of the Colonel later. RIP, Dad, all the fallen who served.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I understand it’s Veterans Day, but I’m saying there’s no conceit for placing VET in the theme answers. IMO, the puzzle is more elegant with a conceit.

      Orbach does do this better with his “Redployment” title. I can almost buy the fact that VETs are being redeployed out to new locations (i.e. the theme answers). Unfortunately, the fact is that VETs don’t deploy or redeploy. They’ve done their service and are back home stateside. GIs deploy however, so that could make for a solid theme.

  5. rm says:

    The LAT times today totally got Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit stuck in my head!

  6. Gordon says:

    Wasn’t the original name of the company (or the camera) “Polaroid Land”?

  7. Gareth says:

    Jim: I once made an EDWINLAND quote puzzle! MARKETINGISWHAT/YODOWHENYOUR/PRODUCTISNOGOOD. It was rejected (is anyone surprised?) On to the LAT!

  8. huda says:

    NYT: remarkably, I got the theme… I had to parse the clue a couple of times. It made me groan/smile :)
    And I liked the long answers, but yeah, too many abbreviations with some intersecting.

    Hey, BAD PERM is a thing. An evil thing. Way worse than a bad haircut or a bad hair day, or may be even a bad grade. On a par with bad karma. David L, thank your lucky stars that you don’t think it’s a thing. You’d know it if you’d had one.

  9. Gary R says:

    I generally enjoy Mr. Steinberg’s puzzles – but this one, not so much. Quite a bit of obscure and/or crosswordy fill combined with not very entertaining cluing.

    After coming here to understand the theme, I at least got a little chuckle out of the clever parsing of 62-A. But in my mind, that payoff doesn’t make up for the pain of the solve.

    Mark (above) described this as a “constructor’s puzzle,” and I can understand a constructor’s interest in taking on such a challenge. Unfortunately, in this case, I think that given compromises involved, from a solver’s perspective, it is a challenge not well-met, or maybe a challenge not worth taking on.

  10. wilsch says:

    re: WSJ. I’m old enough to remember both Dick Cavett and Edwin Land. I actually had a Polaroid Land Camera. Very innovative then, but primitive today.

  11. Amy L says:

    I’m probably too late to get an answer, but did the NYT have 49 Rs in the clues? I can only find 45. Or do I have to include the Rs in AcRoss, NovembeR, SteinberRg, and ShoRtz?

    Huda explained bad perm perfectly. I can’t say any more or I’ll start crying like I did in the salon.

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