Wednesday, February 21, 2018

AV Club 8:06 (Laura) 


LAT 5:38 (Gareth) 


NYT  5:10 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Ori Brain and Zachary Spitz’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle would probably have seemed easier on a Thursday, because I don’t expect a rebus theme on a Wednesday. Once I figured that out, it fell easily. I prefer non-symmetrical rebuses (rebi?) since they’re somewhat more challenging, and this one was fun to solve.

The revealer at 41a tells us what we’re looking for: 41a [Certain mailing address, for short … or a hint to 14 squares in this puzzle] is PO BOX, so we have to put PO  in one box. That means there are 28 theme answers, which is a whole lot of theme material in a 15×15 puzzle. It’s quite an accomplishment that it doesn’t feel forced and that the rest of the fill doesn’t suffer. Very nicely done.

NYT 2/21, solution grid

Our 28 theme answers:

  • 20a [Belch fumes, say] crosses 1d [Something to keep in a band?] to give us {PO}LLUTE and TEM{PO}.
  • 24a [Ultraliberals, to ultraconservatives] is {PO}LAR OP{PO}SITES, crossing 4d [Do something about]  and 9d [Dr. Seuss book that introduces phonics]. That’s ACT U{PO}N and HO{PO} ON {PO}P, respectively. I figured out what was going on from Dr. Seuss. That’s a very long book; before Emma learned to read, I used to skip a lot of pages.
  • 18a [Marx with a curly wig] is HAR{PO}, crossing the first rebus in HO{PO} ON {PO}P.
  • 10a [Cheerleader’s handful] is {PO}M {PO}M, crossing 10d [Like cartoons on the editorial page] and 12d [Coppers], {PO}LITICAL and {PO}LICE. If this theme showed up in an indie puzzle, I bet the revealer would be some variation on “po-po.”
  • 35a [Game fish that can breathe air] is a TAR{PO}N, crossing 37d [Salk vaccine target] which is of course {PO}LIO. [rant about anti-vaxxers deleted].
  • We get a bit risqué with 29d [Woman’s erogenous zone], the oft-mysterious G-S{PO}T, crossing the much more humdrum 39a [Place to board a bus or train], DE{PO}T.
  • 49a [Underworld boss] is a CA{PO}, crossing 50d [Relative of a dolphin], or {PO}R{PO}ISE.
  • 53a [One doing a locker room interview] is a S{PO}RTS RE{PO}RTER, crossing 54d [Self-important, as an ass] and 57d [Always saying “please,” say]. Those are {PO}M{PO}OUS and {PO}LITE.
  • 59a [Survey] is {PO}LL.
  • 64a [Barely ahead] is U{P O}NE, which took me a little while to parse.
  • 60a [Marsupial with a grasping tail] is O{PO}SSUM, crossing 47d [“Hurry up!”], which is STE{P O}N IT.

Lots and lots of theme material. Fun stuff.

A few other things:

  • 15a [Amy Winehouse, vocally]  is a fresh non-choral clue for ALTO.
  • 23a [Genius Bar staffer] is  TECH. Is that a word we use for people now? I’m old. I still say “techie.”
  • We get another [Underworld boss?] at 44a. This one is SATAN.
  • ISIand IBIS sit nearly side-by-side, which I found amusing.
  • 58a [___ Clooney, human rights lawyer] is AMAL, a remarkable person in her own right, even before she married some guy named George.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that President Obama’s stepfather was LOLO Soetoro.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Voice Overs” — Jim’s review

Theme: Put your LIPs together and…well, you know the rest.

54a‘s clue is [Emulating Milli Vanilli, or what’s happening four times in this puzzle]. The answer is LIP SYNCHING, and sure enough, there are four sets of doubled-up LIPs.

WSJ – Wed, 2.21.18 – “Voice Overs” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 16a BICYCLE CLIP atop 21a LIPITOR
  • 29a SLIP-ON atop 35a FLIP
  • 37a LIPO atop 40a TULIPS
  • 48a PAY SLIP atop 54a LIP SYNCHING

The theme is cute and it helped me out in at least one place since I had PAY STUB instead of PAY SLIP. But that being said, the doubled-Is resulted in some difficult fill.

YOGIISM is fine and inferable, and I don’t mind WIIS since I’m a Nintendo fan, but maybe others aren’t. WWII ACE looks ungainly in the grid but still seems acceptable to me. But the most difficult one is 27d RIIS [Photojournalist Jacob] especially stacked with crosswordese OLLA (26d, [Earthenware pot]) and crossing another proper name NOREEN (25a, [Corcoran of TV’s “Bachelor Father”). That section felt pretty unfair, especially for someone new to crosswords who’s not up on their crosswordese and 1950’s sitcom co-stars. I managed to get it all right, but not without some grumbling.

Elsewhere there are more partials and crosswordese weighing down the grid like DREW A, A SEAT, IN ESSE, WAS I, OOO, etc.

But there are high points as well, like JACKIE O, PEP PILLS, and DR PEPPER.

And some of the cluing was particularly nice:

  • 12a [“Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” writer]. OBAMA. This is a nice shout-out coming just after Presidents’ Day. By the way, BHO has moved up as the eighth-best president of all time on the annual survey of noted political scientists. The current occupant has ousted James Buchanan for the very bottom position.
  • 28a [Curling target, informally]. BICEP. Tricksy! With the Olympics going on and doping in curling of all things in the news, I did not see where this clue was going.
  • 1d [Musician who’s a relative of Herman Melville]. MOBY. I don’t think I knew that. Good to know!
  • 11d [Elementary school award]. STAR. I don’t know why, but I just find this to be a fun clue.
  • 14d [Bob hope?]. APPLE. Very nice.
  • 41d [Accesses, as a previously inaccessible game level]. UNLOCKS. Nice, modern clue.

I’m not sure the theme was worth some of the compromises in fill, but once I got past that, I enjoyed some of the long fill and fresh cluing.

Amy Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Four tack-y idioms are clued relating to cowboys. Blinkers (apparently also called blinders? Who knew?) are worn by horses, mostly racehorses these days, so that they can only see in front of them and are not distracted / spooked. The other three are CHAFINGATTHEBIT, BACKINTHESADDLE and HOLDINGTHEREINS. Simple concept, but tightly and cleanly executed. Much appreciated.

Not too much else to say. I watched enough Simpsons that peripheral characters like [Bart and Lisa’s bus driver] OTTO are insta-gets, but it still fascinates me how many answers from this show appear frequently. NCIS is a similarly long-lived ratings powerhouse, but I don’t think I’ve seen ZIVA even once, for example…

3.75 Stars

Jeremy Newton’s AVCX, “No End in Sight” — Laura’s Review

AVCX - 2.21.18 - Newton - Solution

AVCX – 2.21.18 – Newton – Solution

Ben is on a boat, so you’ve got me again. [67a: “Already?!”]: SO SOON?!

  • [3d: Catchphrase in a 1995 film]: TO ∞ AND BEYOND. The film is Toy Story, and the catchphrase belongs to Buzz Lightyear.
  • [8d: Places to swim with boundless-seeming edges]: ∞ POOLS. These look like elongated hot tubs; they have a current that you swim against, kind of like a water treadmill.
  • [14d: 2015 film starring Dev Patel as math theorist]: THE MAN WHO KNEW ∞. Patel played Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920).
  • [24d: 2018 superhero flick with a villain seeking omnipotence]: AVENGERS ∞ WAR. It will be released on May the Fourth, which my son thinks should instead be the release date for the Han Solo biopic. Think of it this way, I told him — in eleven weeks we’ll get another movie with Black Panther in it. (Also, what villain in a superhero flick doesn’t seek omnipotence? Just wondering.)
  • [48d: “So much more than you even said!]: TIMES ∞. Totally.

Do you guys get that “rebus feeling” when you’re solving? When you’re like, I know the answer to this but it can’t possibly fit, so I’ll just run with it until I get the gimmick. I solved this immediately after today’s NYT, so I was on a bit of a kick with the ol’ rebus. Thing about Across Lite, the rebus-entering function takes way too much time, so I filled in the entire grid except the /OO squares, then went back to take care of them. I liked this TIMES ∞. Three fill thoughts:

  • [41a: Cybernetic “Star Trek” foes]: THE BORG. Because the internet exists to show the average person what some nerd thinks about Star Trek, let me just say that THE BORG are more precisely cybernetic organisms, since they are organic-android hybrids; hence, cyborg, or ‘borg for short.
  • [7d: Partygoer who was never formally invited]: HOST. Excellent misdirect, like a logic riddle.
  • [44a: Comedian/writer/burlesque performer Margaret]: CHO. She is one of my very, very favorites. She is so funny and profane and fearless. There are a few lines from her routines that I use as catchphrases.

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16 Responses to Wednesday, February 21, 2018

  1. FPBear says:

    I have been a paper solver for 50 years. Can someone tell me how to access one of the computer based solving apps with instructions for use.

    • Norm says:

      You can get AcrossLite (.puz files) here. It’s pretty self-explanatory once you look at the various options — e.g., how to move around the grid, changing colors, etc. I’ve never used any of the other programs.

    • GlennG says:

      Second vote for Across Lite. It’s about the only way to go, especially since every web app seems to have its own rules and behaviors (that you have to configure every time you load them sometimes). Probably will write a primer on it on my blog very soon (been doing stats on 2017 WSJ puzzles lately).

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Loads of fun. Beyond the POs in the boxes, there were loads of other O’s– including in one of the constructor’s names. Is this is a record number of O’s in a puzzle?
    Didn’t know LOLO either. If you’re getting a stepfather, a name like Lolo makes him more relatable.

  3. David L says:

    I had a dentist appointment tomorrow that was moved up to today. Now tomorrow’s crossword has appeared this morning.

    The heavens are off their axis.

    Nice crossword. I hesitated at MONET/LOLO — or should it be MANET/LALO? But went with the right painter, fortunately.

  4. JakaB says:

    WSJ ruined by OLLA, RIIS, (obscure) NOREEN all crossing each other. Nice grid until that.

    Another vote for A-Lite, each applet has its own rules so I backtrack a lot.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Nice Wednesday rebus. (Since I solve on paper I ran across the revealer clue soon enough — I think I had only parts of the bottom filled in by then.) The total number of theme answers is less than 28 because some of them contain two rebus squares — nicely including some of the shorter entries like 10A:[PO]M[PO]N, not only the 12-square, 14-letter marquee entries at 24- and 53-Across.

    There’s a number of other cluing routes for 15A:ALTO that don’t involve random pop-singer names (or names of classical altos for that matter — though in opera they’re usually called either “mezzo” or “contralto”); there’s viola clef, and at least two Spanish senses: one cognate with the voice part (originally “alto” < "altus" meant high, and "soprano" was from "superius" — above even the usual high part), the other with "halt".

    Sign of the times: 51A:OCTAGON clued for the first time as the shape of the "cage" for unarmed combat (previously seen were stop signs, unusual building shapes, and 135-degree angles).


    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      P.S. The “halt” sense of “alto” in Spanish means that in Mexico it is common to see ALTO on an OCTAGON (try searching the web for a Mexican stop sign).

  6. WSJ: I liked the theme idea, but I was surprised to see the SLIP-ON / PAY SLIP dupe. I realize it probably wouldn’t have been easy to get something like BLIP in there (or maybe PHILLIP where PAY SLIP is), but still.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Wow. Can’t believe I missed that. I guess I still had PAY STUB in my brain. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. Brian says:

    Love everything about the AVCX. Favorite part was the snazziness of the semi-theme across answers (idk what to call them, but don’t want to spoil either). Fantastic puzzle.

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