Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NYT 3:42 (Amy) 
AV Club 3:13 (Amy) 
LAT 4:12 (Gareth) 
CS 13:30 (Ade) 

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 7 9 14, no. 0709

NY Times crossword solution, 7 9 14, no. 0709

Our revealer is STAR-STUDDED: 60a. [Like the Oscars … or the answers to this puzzle’s seven asterisked clues?]. Now, while I was solving the puzzle, I noticed the hidden TARs. Close!

  • 17a. [*Words on a birth announcement], JUST ARRIVED.
  • 26a. [*Quota for a rep to achieve], SALES TARGET.
  • 37a. [*Oldest continuous democracy in Central America], COSTA RICA. Had a good run in the World Cup! Small country of 4.6 million. I have my eye on a Costa Rican restaurant here in Chicago but I won’t tell you about it because I hear from my Tico cousin that it’s too crowded already.
  • 51a. [*Where to find money exchange shops], TOURIST AREA.
  • 13d. [*Cigarette ad claim], LESS TAR.
  • 27d. [*Prefight psych job], STARE. Not symmetrically paired with another STAR answer. I wonder if it was an accidental addition to the theme.
  • 40d. [*Ancient fertility goddess], ASTARTE.

I like COSTA RICA and JUST ARRIVED, but the rest of the themers felt a tad dry to me. Somewhat off-putting, too, that the lovely MADAGASCAR and WISECRACKS are longer than a few of the theme answers.

Best clue: 11d. [Opposite of six-pack abs, ironically], BEER GUT. Beer, six-pack, heh.

Dupes: We GO around twice with the terribly ungainly 5d: THAT’S A GO and 12d: AT ONE GO (which I initially filled in as IN ONE GO, despite the “in” in the clue; BIL and ENE are no worse than BAL and ETE).

Never pleased to see 56a. ADMEN with a gender-neutral clue like [Pitchers?].

Did not know: 23d. [Alice, to Dennis the Menace] and 25d. [Henry, to Dennis the Menace] are MOM and DAD, respectively.

I wonder if restless legs syndrome isn’t a far more familiar expansion of RLS by now. 59a. [“Kidnapped” monogram] is so old-school. And CSA could be clued as community-supported agriculture rather than 44d. [Rebs’ org.]—just Google CSA and tell me how prominent the Confederacy is in your search results. (Nearly absent—my first seven pages of search results had no Confederacy whatsoever.)

Secret hidden theme: TEE on top of EST to the left of ESTEE. (Yawn.)

Three stars.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Reel Yawners”

AV Club crossword solution, 7 9 14 "Reel Yawners"

AV Club crossword solution, 7 9 14 “Reel Yawners”

In an uncommonly easy (as promised) AV Club puzzle, Aimee envisions three really boring movie plots based on their titles:

  • 20a. [154 minutes of Whoopi Goldberg just mixing red and blue paint?], THE COLOR PURPLE.
  • 38a. [83 minutes of Ashton Kutcher walking around a mall parking lot?], DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?
  • 57a. [124 minutes of Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore doing nothing to distinguish themselves?], ORDINARY PEOPLE.

I’m sure this treatment could be done for lots of other movie titles. Looking at the AFI top 100 films, On the Waterfront, Gone With the Wind, Sunset Boulevard, High Noon, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Taxi Driver, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Third Man, City Lights … these and plenty of others could all get the theme treatment as yawners. (This is not a criticism of the theme, just a mental expansion of the possibilities.)

Favorite clues:

  • 45a. [Licorice paste for calluses, e.g.], REMEDY. Who knew?
  • 65a. [Biblical maritime breeder], NOAH.
  • 5d. [Loosen, as one’s butt], UNCLENCH.
  • 7d. [Dante or Randal, in a 1994 Kevin Smith comedy], CLERK.
  • 10d. [Game show with an exclamation point], JEOPARDY!

Did not know 54d. [Like, in Reddit slang], UPMOD. Not a Redditor.

I suspect Aimee has read the dystopian YA series since we have PEETA, TRIS, and EVERDEEN here. Good to have an alternative to old baseballer Tris Speaker, no?

Four stars.

Gary J. Whitehead’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140709

LA Times

The theme had me at [One with a busy engagement calendar], SOCIALBUTTERFLY – a perfect 15 – you can put answers like that in about any puzzle and I’ll be happy! This is one of three entries, the other two being [Recording industry technician], SOUNDENGINEER and [Kitchen appliance], FOODPROCESSOR. I for one wasn’t seeing where this theme was going at all: it reveals itself with a bang in the last two acrosses: THEY/MIX. What a delightful idea! I’d personally have dropped the THEY as it’s superfluous: [What 20-, 38- and 57-Across do] answers MIX just as effectively as THEY/MIX. I think that it’s included because of the theme having only 41 squares and 3 entries – i.e. it’s padding. Personally, a perfect three part theme is just that – perfect. I’m pretty sure editors agree in general terms despite there sometimes seeming to be pressure (self-applied?) on constructors to include more theme squares.

Now the nice thing about having a light-weight theme is there’s a lot of pressure taken off the fill? Right. Erm. While this puzzle doesn’t seem excessive in its weak answers, many of them seem particularly bad, and avoidable given only 3 themers. NUT/THE strikes me as obviously superior to NUS/SHE – plural Greek numerals are purely a constructor’s crutch.

So are random Roman numerals: CDIV, and the crossing spelled-out-route-number ITEN. You’d probably have to rework the whole corner and lose DOVETAIL and possibly MODELT, but I’m betting there are plenty of better solutions.

In general I find obscure answers, in moderation, less of a crutch than say most of the above. But OOLA is really, really not crossworthy. And I’m pretty sure abbrs. for ancient countries fall into a similar category: ASSYR I’m looking at you. The thing is, those probably require bigger edits, and actually I really do feel another draft / new grid arrangement was in order here. The THEY also places additional constraints on the grid design BTW, another mark against it. I know (personally) that Rich Norris is not afraid to ask for such, and I’m sure he had reasons why he didn’t here, but I feel strongly this could’ve been filled a lot better.

5 Star theme, but less 2.5 at the very least for substandard fill.

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rainforest”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, 07.09.14: "Rainforest"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, 07.09.14: “Rainforest”

Hello hello once again, and happy Hump Night!

Before I start on reviewing this puzzle, would it be ok to start with how much I loved FEM BOT in the grid (1D: [Sexy villain in Austin Powers])???? To digress, I’m not sure exactly what the theme is, other than the fact that there’s the word RAIN embedded in each of the theme answers. Outside of that, I have no idea what’s up, and it might be because of the Texas heat and humidity that I’ve been exposed to for the past three days. The heat and humidity might be as much as that in the Amazon!!

  • BIG GRAIN LOSER: (20A: [One who bet wrong in corn commodities)
  • BRAIN PRACTICE: (38A: [Solving crossword puzzles)]
  • CALCULUS TRAIN: (57A: [Amtrak ride that offers high-level math courses])

I’m sorry, but I did NOT get caught up in the Jay Leno/Conan O’BRIEN The Tonight Show snafu (34A: [Leno’s successor who didn’t succeed]). To be honest, I didn’t watch enough Conan to really think whether he was funny or not, and a friend actually turned me on into the SCOT more, Craig Ferguson (67A: [Andrew Carnegie, for one]). Unlike what most T-shirts and funny slogans say, anything with a bacon is a non-starter for me, and therefore, no BLT (42D: [Short order?) will ever be on my plate. Sadly (and not so sadly for manny people), there won’t be a BEET on that same plate either anytime soon (42A: [V8 vegetable]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ARENA (16A: [American Airlines, in Miami])– All you need to know about American Airlines ARENA is that this was the arena the Miami Heat basketball team lost its last home two games of the 2013-14 playoffs, to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs’ triumph in the NBA Finals this past spring may have marked the last time LeBron James plays a home game in the arena, as speculation is that he might return to Cleveland as a free agent this summer.

Hope to come at you with a harder-hitting Thursday as I’ve lost a few inches from my height walking around a college campus by having it melt away. Have a great day!!

Take care!


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24 Responses to Wednesday, July 9, 2014

  1. Gary R says:

    It could just be me/my background, but it seemed like there were several “not in the language” answers in the NYT. Has anyone out there ever used the word “sororal” in conversation? The phrase “at one go?” “That’s a go?” (maybe that’s military?)

    Amy, would you have been equally displeased if the answer to the gender-neutral “Pitchers” had been “saleswomen?”

    • Slowpoke Rodriguez says:

      Not that my anecdotal evidence is sufficient, but my pals and I use “that’s a go” in faux military tone regularly.

      • Bencoe says:

        You don’t hear it as often, but SORORAL is just as valid as “fraternal”.
        I think the gender neutrality of the clue for “pitchers” was necessary because of the desired ambiguity.
        AT ONE GO and THAT’S A GO in the same puzzle tripped me up for a moment. Didn’t think they’d both end the same way.

    • sbmanion says:

      I have always thought of “That’s a go” as something that would be said in a NASA space flight countdown.

      I can’t remember ever saying “at one go,” although, perhaps embarrassingly, I have said “in one fell swoop.”

      I also thought six pack/beer gut was a great combo.


  2. Pete says:

    Costa Rican food is disappointing. Not bad, just disappointing, and not worth a crowd.
    I have several Costa Rican friends, the males play on a futbol team named The Ticos, and not one of them can explain why Costa Ricans are called Ticos.

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    NORIEGA/ETONS/HALOGEN replacing TORTUGA/EARNS/BEER GUT gets rid of the ridiculous and obviously accidental STARE. Took me three minutes. Bizarre that no one fixes these things.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Three minutes! Why so slow, Matt?

    • Jon88 says:

      Might take another few seconds to get rid of the now-duplicate ATE bottom center.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Correct, a few more seconds. Sadly, we had to lose ACRED, TSE and ESTEE in the process.

        It’s amazing how often the fill in the NYX can be vastly improved with 5 minutes of someone’s time. You almost never see this in Fireball, the AVCX, etc.

    • bananarchy says:

      Not to mention that BAL, ETE, EOS, and TOR become HAL, ATE, LOS, and NOR. A vast improvement overall, imo, even with the loss of BEERGUT.

  4. CY Hollander says:

    Even if you take admen to be gender-specific (and I’ll admit there’s a slightly better case for that than for most of the words that some feminists get up in arms at, like salesman or policeman), ad men are pitchers, even if not all pitchers are ad men. Would “Some pitchers?” be an improvement for you, Amy?

  5. arthur118 says:

    An awkward STARE seems a small price to pay in order to keep a best of puzzle BEERGUT.

  6. Matt Gaffney says:

    For one nice piece of fill you’d let the carefully-crafted symmetry of the seven theme entries get ruined? That’s an expensive piece of fill.

  7. Sam says:

    The Color Purple, Ordinary People and the Kutcher flic were in fact yawners; whereas On the Waterfront, Gone With the Wind, Sunset Boulevard, High Noon, North by Northwest, Rear Window, and the rest from your list were amazing, exciting films. Has it occurred to you that the constructor thought the 3 movies in the puzzle were truly boring?

  8. Chris says:

    Changing ESTEE to ERNIE takes care of the ATE problem nicely.

    • Gary R says:

      And turns “acred” into “acrid” – a word some of us have actually used at some point in our lives!

  9. Sarah says:

    LESSTAR to me in a puzzle like this says that the constructor was EXTREMELY desperate. LESSTAR to me is so ******* bad to me that it’s almost makes it a one-star puzzle by itself. LESSTAR is the kind of fill I would expect to see holding up a low-count word puzzle, or used as a revealer. There’s several better 7-letter options out there: BASTARD, CUSTARD and STARVED, for instance.

    Never mind the other theme answers, which outside of COSTA RICA and STAR STUDDED, feel rather dull.

    If I had rejected this, it wouldn’t be to fix a corner or theme answer or something. It would be to get a full rewrite on it…cause it’s that bad.

    • bananarchy says:

      I’m of the opinion that if you feel so strongly about something that you use profanity, you shouldn’t bleep it out. I mean, what’s the point? Censoring makes sense when you have to use the word in a discussion (like if it were an entry in a puzzle, say) but want to be delicate about it. It doesn’t make sense in a vitriolic sentence like this, imo. If you don’t want to swear then just don’t swear.

      Also, I have no problem at all with LESS TAR. In fact, I prefer it to a lifeless, quotidian word like STARVED.

    • JPM says:

      Sarah you sound like a very accomplished constructor, by the tenor (read sour grapes) of your criticisms however, I wonder if you’ve ever been published. Lighten up!

      • Sarah says:

        I’ve had over a dozen puzzles published in the last year, thank you very much.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Where have these puzzles been published and under what byline? Unlike the majority of constructors who comment here, you don’t use your real name or a valid email address.

  10. JohnV says:

    AV Club puz was a real clunker, to me. Way, way too heavy on proper names, pop obscuratta. Rating of 1.5 difficulty was off by at least 3. All from 57A down was a wipeout.

  11. David Stein says:

    Rain for EST




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