Wednesday, 11/28/12

NYT 3:39 
LAT 4:59 (Gareth) 
AV Club untimed 
CS 5:18 (Sam) 

Do any of you remember Peter Valentine’s daily poems created from words in the NYT crossword? Peter took a 7-year hiatus but is back in the poet’s saddle (what? is that not a thing?). “The ‘across’ section of the poem uses words from the across clues. The ‘down’ section uses words from the down clues. The ‘answers’ section are words from the answer grid.” Visit his site and see where the puzzle muse has taken him. The riff on Tuesday’s puzzle is even kinda steamy.

Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 11 28 12, # 1128

If my son weren’t already in bed, I’d run this theme by him. X PLUS Y IS SIXTEEN and X MINUS Y IS FOUR? It might be a little advanced for 7th-grade algebra—I think they’re about to venture into the Land of More Than One Variable but they have not explored it yet.

So the answer is the nonsensical-looking XISTENAN D. YISSIX, or x = 10 and y = 6.

The only rationale I can see for this theme is that (a) X’s can be fun to squeeze into the grid, (b) the theme answers look so nutty without word spaces and symbols, and (c) the constructor likes math and is tired of all the word action in crosswords. And the numbers were chosen because they fit the grid in a symmetrical way, I imagine, and not for any underlying reason of “Wow! These numbers are great in these equations!” Talking about the theme is a bit like blogging a sudoku puzzle.

I’M IMPRESSED and THE GRADUATE are both stellar fill, and “YES, YOU” takes me back to the movie Sixteen Candles (though I think Jake mouthed, “Yeah, you”). Nothing else in the grid really stands out. SES IRED ITE STDS AHME and NEDS are rather flat, and the trio of BIX, ARP, and TSO is nutty too. 3.25 stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Taxi!”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, November 28

63-Across tells us that I’LL TAKE A CAB is a [Downtown transport decision (and a hint to 17-, 28-, and 49-Across)]. It’s a hint in that those three entries have the initials C.A.B., where the “A” in each case is “and.” See for yourself:

  • 17-Across: COCK AND BULL refers to something that’s [Improbable]. That’s a nice, lively entry.
  • 49-Across: To [Suffer a spectacular fall from grace] is to CRASH AND BURN. Likewise, this one’s a gem.
  • But then, speaking of crash and burn, we get 28-Across: CUBS AND BEARS, the [Windy City baseball/football teams]. Unlike the others, this one’s pretty arbitrary. It’s not at all naturally in the language, at least not to my knowledge. Ever hear a Chicagoan yell “Cubs and Bears!” at a crowded L stop?

I have a few problems with this theme. First, I’LL TAKE A CAB feels like it’s gratuitously adding the I’LL to make it pair with COCK AND BULL. I can see TAKE A CAB as a “downtown transport decision,” for the “decision” is to “take a cab.” Adding the I’LL just for the symmetry feels too forced.

Second, the clue for I’LL TAKE A CAB feels off. It misses the personal element added from the “I’LL.” If we have to use I’LL TAKE A CAB, the clue needs to include the personal element, maybe along the lines of [“Walking that far is not for me”].

Third, how is I’LL TAKE A CAB really a “hint” to three entries with the initials C.A.B.? The connection is loose at best. The hint should tell solvers to be looking for initials or to be searching for three C.A.B.s in the grid. So FIND A CAB would be a better “hint” than I’LL TAKE A CAB, at least as it pertains to this puzzle. (Every time I write I’LL TAKE A CAB, I want to add FOR $200, ALEX.)

Fourth, why do the three theme entries all use AND for the middle initial? Sure, the consistency has its appeal, but the use of a conjunction three times over proves awkward here. When we think of phrases in the form of “__ and __” that we commonly reduce to initials, we don’t usually refer to the “and” as “A.” Dungeons and Dragons is “D-and-D,” not “DAD.” A bed and breakfast is a B-and-B, not a “BAB.” Research and development is “R-and-D,” not “RAD.” You get the idea.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you know a theme based on expressions with the initials C.A.B. is pretty weak when only two of them are naturally in the language, as I argue above. So for all these reasons, I’m not a fan of this particular puzzle.

On a happier note, the fill is pretty awesome. The four stacked 9s are all terrific. We get street cred with DAWG and NARC (on some streets, at least). Other highlights include TOO BAD, INK SAC, ASK UP, BICEP, and AFL-CIO (we rarely get both unions in the same grid).

Favorite entry = SLAP-HAPPY, or [Punch-drunk]. Honorable mention to SAM, the [“Twistin’ the Night Away” singer Cooke]. Favorite clue = For ABE we have [___ Froman (Ferris Bueller impersonation)]. Great memory!

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review

The most surprising thing about this puzzle’s theme is it’s revealer, RESIDENT EVIL. Very familiar to the under 40 crowd, but I can see some of the old fogies scratching their heads here! I’ve never played any of those games. I played Alone in the Dark I at age 6; that first scene when you start in the attic and some dog thing jumps through the window is pretty terrifying for a six year old!

It’s a straightforward theme, but the entries themselves make a grand set don’t you think? They’re Split 2/2 between being spread over two words and being within a single word. Without further ado:

  • 20A, [*Darth Vader, e.g.], MOVI(E VIL)LAIN. Certified fresh answer!
  • 28a, [*City near Sacramento], ROS(EVIL)LE. Heard of it, even if it took a lot of crossers to recall!
  • 38a, [*Weekly newspaper with three Pulitzers], TH(E VIL)LAGE VOICE. Another great entry, even if it’s sort of a rival publication!
  • 46a, [*Bottom-feeding fish], D(EVIL) RAYS. Only that clue is wrong, devil rays are pelagic, not benthic. I think I’ve seen this mistake before?

Other stuff:

  • 1a, [Blue toon], SMURF. Went surprisingly blank on my first pass here!
  • 24a, [Place to see long lines, briefly], DMV. That’s your traffic department, I think? It’s funny how here people blame the long lines at government institutions on living in a third world country…
  • 42a, [It’s ground in a Southern side dish], HOMINY. I mostly know this as hominy chop, a common cattle feed.
  • 63a, [Pizzeria order], SLICE. Here’s another cross-cultural comparison. There’s only one pizzeria franchise I can think of that sells individual slices. Most offer a “personal pizza” as their entry level meal.
  • 64a, [Folk singer associated with Dylan], BAEZ. I think they were lovers? I know he wrote the songs on some of her albums and sung together like here. (Well I presume that’s kosher. I’ve now spent over a half an hour trying to play it, but it won’t. Any overly bloated webpage and my connection make for a lethal combination) Isn’t her song “Diamonds and Rust” meant to be about him?
  • 5d, [Motel come-on], FREETV. Weird concept. Nice save for the pattern ???E?V which doesn’t seem to conjure many alternative answers…
  • 22d, [Joint tsar with Peter I], IVANV. Doesn’t seem a particular notable tsar; but easily inferable from his more famous predecessor Ivan IV.
  • 28d, [“Orange, Red, Yellow” painter Mark], ROTHKO. Required all the crossings. Link. I see from that that the painting is a steal for around $87 million. I’m a philistine. I don’t see what makes that worth that much. But hey you can do whatever you like with your own 87 million bucks…
  • 46d, [It’s usually barely passing], DMINUS. Funny an F is a pass here in high school…
  • 51d, [Hit back], BSIDE. Great clue!

In another news, can you spot a vrot entry in this grid? I can only see IVANV, which isn’t so bad! Anyhow, That’s me out!

Zoe Wheeler’s American Values Club crossword

AV Club xword 11 28 12

Hello! Tardy blogging here. If you want to continue receiving the AV Club crossword on a subscriber basis (since the Onion’s A.V. Club discontinued the feature), join the party at Same editor (Ben Tausig), same gang of unruly constructors (plus newcomer Zoe Wheeler), same saucy content—but with Fireball-style private distribution to subscribers. I’m in!

Oh! If you’re flat broke, you can continue to access the puzzle via the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial app on Facebook. The AV Club puzzle runs on Wednesdays there (released Tuesday night). The most salacious material may be expunged there, however.

Zoe’s theme takes B words and turns them into BR words, sometimes changing the spelling for the word’s vowel sound. “Best in show” becomes a nip-slip BREAST IN SHOW, always embarrassing. “Where’s the beef?” is a legalese WHERE’S THE BRIEF? “Bedtime story” becomes BREAD TIME STORY. Mmm, bread. I love carbs. “Laguna Beach” turns into LAGUNA BREACH. Solid theme, fairly fun. I don’t quite grasp the theme revealer answers: 37d. [With 27-Down, brewery event, and an apt title for this puzzle], BEER FEST. Does this hinge on pronouncing BEER more like “B-R”?

33a. [Lash with a whip] sounds all S&M/Fifty Shades of Greyish, but no. It’s Lash LARUE, popular movie cowboy of the 1940s and ’50s! Hey, he coached Harrison Ford on his Indiana Jones whip moves.

3.5 stars.

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12 Responses to Wednesday, 11/28/12

  1. Matt says:

    Well, I rate it as a four-star, at least, and IMIMPRESSED, but one could argue that, as THEGRADUATE of various technical curricula, I’m also prejudiced.

  2. Daniel Myers says:


    Ask your son if they’ve covered simultaneous equations yet. Also, 4D might have borne mention as thematic if not dramatic.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I just did the latest Fireball, and I’m still smiling over the last across answer… No spoiler, but wow!

  4. pannonica says:

    LAT: Gareth, I’ve called out “bottom feeder” type clues for DEVIL RAY / MANTA RAY at least twice already. Wikipedia is incorrect, last time I checked.

  5. AV says:

    If NYT had used all X’s as “TEN”s and Y’s as “SIX”s in the down answers, that would have been one heck of a puzzle. Absent that, I thought this was a random simultaneous equation (as Amy surmises).

    Edited to add: Initially I thought X = TEN was cute, and spent a couple of seconds wondering why Y (instead of VI) was = SIX, but clearly I was looking for something more in this puzzle.

    • Daniel Myers says:

      Geeky Nit Note: There is no such thing in Maths denominated a Simultaneous Equation (singular). There are always at least two simultaneous equations (plural).

      The ones in this puzzle are

      x + y =16

      Solved thusly:

      x + y = 16
      x – y =4
      ———– Add both sides of the equations w/ the”y” variable cancelling out nicely.

      2x=20 Divide both sides by 2


      Put 10 back into either equation instead of x – say the first:

      10 +y = 16 Subtract 10 from both sides of the equation:



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