Wednesday, December 20, 2017

AV Club 5:32 (Ben) 


LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:28 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Laura) 


Talitha Randall’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I really want to like puzzles by new constructors, especially women. I hope Talitha Randall gives us more, because this one….did not thrill me. You have to use the grid to solve this puzzle, and I do mean “solve.” When I saw 2d [Month number 60-Across: Abbr.] I thought it was just an annoying cross-reference. The answer is SEPT, so clearly 60a is NINE. So much for that. Except…

NYT 12/20/17, solution grid

  • 21a [With 22-Across, certain way to make 60-Across] is ONE. If you look at the grid you will see the blocks in between 21a and 22a form a + sign. So ONE plus EIGHT equals NINE.
  • 33a [With 34-Across, another way to make 60-Across] is FOUR plus FIVE.
  • 46a [With 47-Across, a third way to make 60-Across] is SEVEN and TWO.

But wait! There’s more! We also have:

  • 7d [60-Across, in baseball] for TEAM.
  • 26d [___ 60-Across (state of euphoria)] would be CLOUD, as in CLOUD NINE.
  • 28d ]A cat is said to have 60-Across of them] is, of course, LIVES.
  • 49d [Prefix meaning 60-Across] is NONA.

Counting 60a itself, that gives us (wait for it) NINE theme answers (counting each addition problem as one answer – there are thirteen theme words in the grid).

I do not care for cross-references. I didn’t actually have to look at 60a to figure out the answers, so it was less annoying that most cross-references. I think the theme was too easy and the volume of theme material constrained the fill, with predictable results:

  • Foreign directions x 2: ESTE and OVEST.
  • 8d [Person native to an area] is an INDIGENE. I’m sure it’s in a dictionary and it was inferable by analogy to “indigenous,” but I’ve never seen it before and can’t imagine using it now that I have.
  • The SW has both EDENIC and SONANT.
  • And I just don’t like LIAISE.

I’d rather have less theme material for a somewhat more challenging theme (even on Wednesday) and fill that has words that people actually use.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re; INDIGENE.

Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Get My Drift?” — Laura’s write-up

WSJ - Erickson - 12.20.17 - Solution

WSJ – Erickson – 12.20.17 – Solution

  • [17a: Guarantee that your deception won’t be given away?]: SNOW JOB SECURITY
  • [23a: Chore involving seven little pairs of pants?]: SNOW WHITE WASH
  • [46a: Tag played on the slopes?]: SNOW BOARD GAME
  • [56a: Armed for a winter battle?]: SNOW BALL BEARING
Mae West

It’s possible she never said this, but I like it anyway

Phrases that begin with snow- are glommed on to phrases that begin with the word that follows snow in the first phrase, making funny new phrases. Two of the base phrases use snow figuratively (Snow White and snow job), while two are literal things that one does or makes with actual snow (snowboard and snowball). This being the season for snow (where I live, we already have about a foot and many of the ski areas have opened) and winter holidays, many clues invoke seasonal cheer.

A few things:

  • [9d: It can make for frenzied flocks]: LOCOWEED. I hadn’t heard of this term for plants that produce toxins that harm livestock. But it’s a good one, and has many grid-friendly vowels.
  • [25d: Home of the Maple Leafs]: TORONTO. It is unwise to annoy Ontarians (Ontarioans? Ontologists? Unitarians?) by referring to this team as the Maple Leaves, just as it is unwise to annoy Bostonians by referring to their local basketball team as the Celtics with a hard c.
  • Lots of music-related entries and clues: a diva’s TRILL, the 1884 opera MANON, EDGAR Winter of “Free Ride” (instead of Allan Poe), R.E.M.’s “The ONE I Love,” and references to several Christmas carols (but not to my favorite, “Good King Wenceslas” — who doesn’t just love belting out “Bring me flesh and bring me wine!”?).
  • Here is [11d: Parisian chanteuse]: EDITH PIAF singing a sad Christmas song about a poor waif who won’t get any presents:

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “It’s TIME” — Ben’s Review

Aimee Lucido has the second-to-last AVCX of 2017, a 2/5 on the difficulty scale.  I don’t always agree with those difficulty ratings, but this one’s spot on.  Hope you’ve been paying attention to your current events – if not, “It’s TIME” to catch you up – there are four places in the grid where answers seem to spread over two consecutive grid spaces:

  • 17/18A: Sub-rosa — HUSH HUSH
  • 25/28A: The next one will mark the start of 5779: Var. — ROSH HASHANA
  • 53/57A: Oboe-like instrument whose name is, ironically, translated from the original French — ENGLISH HORN
  • 68/71A: Period of gridlock — RUSH HOUR

As 43D explains, the theme of this puzzle is the 2017 TIME Magazine person of the year: SILENCE BREAKERS.  Each theme entry has a SHH broken across the two answers.  A well-executed, timely theme.

I am so hyped up for this movie where Sandra Bullock & friends rob the Met GALA.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S NOT OUT UNTIL SUMMER.
  • “The only state where the majority of the population belongs to one church”: UTAH.
  • In response to 23D‘s “Prince had an exceptional one”, I really wanted to post his song “Wonderful Ass” as this week’s video, but it turns out that it’s not on Youtube (which isn’t surprising with Prince), plus it doesn’t feature his FALSETTO, which is what the clue is actually looking for.
  • BEEFALO definitely fits the bill for “certain cattle hybrid”.
  • I like that in the Extended Bruno Mars Universe (the EBMU, if you will), Julio both drives the stretch limo and serves the SCAMPI.
  • My favorite version of the Classic parental “We’ll SEE” (which generally means “no”) is this one from MST3k:

Send AVCX some love in their tip jar this week – they’ve more than earned it with their constantly amazing puzzles.

4.25/5 stars.

Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

WHATSFORDESSERT is answered by four circled words hidden within long across answers in today’s puzzle by Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel. SORBET in JACKSORBETTER is by far the most elegant answer, with the six letters spanning all three words in the answer. The others are a torte in a LIEDETECTORTEST, a PIE in OPIETAYLOR, and a FLAN in PLOTOFLAND.

With so much theme, the rest of the puzzle is mostly doing a great job holding itself together, but there are little nuggets: TONTO, NUTMEG, ELIXIR, TIGRIS – all one-word, but still kept things peppy.

3 Stars

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10 Responses to Wednesday, December 20, 2017

  1. jim hale says:

    Completely agree with Jenni’s write-up. On the slightly more negative side, I didn’t appreciate the names in the North East quadrant. Never heard of any of them and Thom/Marc was a Natick for me particularly since I also didn’t know the Disney film.

  2. PJ Ward says:

    Gotta agree with the tone of the review. I do like the black square plus signs in the sums.

  3. Dook says:

    Gee, i enjoyed it.

  4. Pete Collins says:

    Gee, with three plus signs in the grid, I thought the feedback would be more positive (ok — bad joke). Talitha — I thought the concept was refreshingly novel and the execution excellent. I really liked it!

  5. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I also finished wondering why this was theme-worthy, but that was because I didn’t recognize the plus signs for what they were. Once I did, I thought the concept was cute and clever. In addition (haha), having all the number words fit symmetrically in the grid is nicely serendipitous.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    I think the NYT review is a little harsh. Give the grid design some credit too — it’s literally showing that a PLUS b equals nine with the plus signs.

    That said there was a greater than desirable amount of subpar fill. LIAISE is common to me so that didn’t bother me. And INDIGENE I liked as a new piece of vocab and totally inferrable.

    But SONANT etc. are ugh.

  7. JohnH says:

    BTW, finally finished the monster-size Sunday print puzzle. Put it in the category of supposedly fun things I’ll never do again. Takes many times longer than a succession of ordinary puzzles adding up to the same size, given the need to spread out all the paper and then keep shuffling back and forth to track down corresponding clues or grid spaces. Fill a mix of very easy stuff, maybe Tuesday level, with more of a weekend array of proper names.

    I’d say the theme wasn’t so great anyway, since you had only three theme entries, compared to maybe five for a puzzle a tenth its size. Personally, I didn’t find the cartoon captions as clever as I’d hoped, given how much I respect Patrick Berry. I’m not going to submit them. Still, definitely pride of a sort in being done.

  8. Lise says:

    NYT: Besides using the plus signs in the way in which they were intended, I subconsciously added together the words above and below the theme entries (example: POWER SASS). This was from a brain without enough coffee.

    Nice debut, Ms. Randall. I’m hoping for more!

    I also enjoyed the heavily food-laden LAT, the very quiet AVCX, and the rather snowy WSJ.

  9. Rick Narad says:

    I was wondering about WSJ not including a plural indicator on “Diva Delivery” for ARIAs. It took me a while to get to TRILL since I had to fight against the RABBI and ITS crossings.

  10. anon says:

    AVX: SOCA? NEWSY? And that clue for ASAP – ugh.

    Liked the theme overall, though.

Comments are closed.