Wednesday, September 17, 2014

AV Club 8:40 (Amy) 
NYT 2:59 (Amy) 
LAT 3:58 (Matt) 
CS 12:27 (Ade) 

Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 17 14, no. 0917

NY Times crossword solution, 9 17 14, no. 0917

Is it just me, or was this Wednesday puzzle easier than its Tuesday predecessor? In fact, I flew through the puzzle swiftly enough that I didn’t even see the whole theme—62a POLLINATION is the [Job done by the insects seen above the circled words in 17-, 26- and 50-Across], and there is a stealthy BEE hovering above each of the flowers in those three theme answers.

  • 17a. [Drink made with Jameson, maybe], IRISH COFFEE. The BEE in BEEF sits above an IRIS.
  • 26a. [Genie’s reply], YES, MASTER. The BEE in Geoffrey BEENE alights on the ASTER.
  • 50a. [Literary hybrid], PROSE POEM. The ROSE is pollinated by the BEE in BEETLE. If I were a bee, I might steer clear of a bloom that was occupied by a beetle.

I like a good botanical theme, and I like a good Quigleyesque embedded-word-on-top-of-another-embedded-word theme. And bees! Bees are great. Just heard about these apicentric hives made of straw, aimed at keeping bees happy rather than maximizing honey production. The honeybees need all the help they can get, lest we run out of food pollinators.

The paired 9s are excellent fill—SWEET TALK and TENNESSEE opposite CAMBRIDGE and COME OF AGE (those two both fit the C*M****GE pattern. Does anything else?). SHEET cake pleases me (WANT CAKE NOW), as does EYEBALL clued as a verb (10d. [Look over, informally]).

Five more things:

  • I just learned that 21a. [Eric, in Finland] is EERO.
  • 31a. [Spartan serfs] are HELOTS. This is old-school crossword fill, with us for about 2,500 years.
  • 61a. [Author LeShan], EDA. EDA! I feel like it’s been ages since I saw her in the puzzle.
  • 59d. [Old dagger], SNEE. There are three things on Wikipedia’s “Snee” disambiguation page, but no old daggers. This, my friends, is crosswordese.
  • With BEEtle, pROSEpoem, and POLLINATION taking up space in the bottom six rows, boy, that bottom middle section ends up having a lot of the same letters. ELOISE crossing OLE LOL ELLIE?

3.75 stars from me for this one. The theme and the long fill sold me on the puzzle, but some of the crosswordese tried to push me away.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Matt’s review


Four theme entries today, with a central revealer:

16-A [*Butcher’s appliance] = MEAT GRINDER

24-A [*Prankster’s balloon] = WATER BOMB. This doesn’t ring true as a thing for me. Back in the day, at least, we just called them “water balloons.”

50-A [*Allowance for the cafeteria] = MILK MONEY. Now there’s an old-school phrase. Is it still in use?

57-A [*Monet work] = OIL PAINTING.

And then at 36-A: [Fruit that can be the source of the starts of the answers to starred clues] = COCONUT. Coconut meat, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil. Nice that these are all natural parts of the coconut. Different between #2 and #3? Wikipedia tells us that coconut water is “the clear liquid inside young green coconuts,” while coconut milk is “the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a brown coconut. It should not be confused with Coconut water.” So now I’ve typed ‘coconut’ 12 times in this paragraph. Coconut coconut coconut. Coconut.


*** I blazed through this in 3:58. Can’t recall the last time I solved a 15×15 in under four minutes.

*** Sweet crossing of OJIBWA and DJANGO at the J.

*** Lots of nice multiword action: CALL ME, ALLOW ME, BY HAND, GLAD RAGS, I’M LATE and IN GEAR.

4.05 stars. I like the tightness of the theme and the fill was a cut above as well.

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bring in Da Noise”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.17.14: "Bring in Da Noise"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.17.14: “Bring in Da Noise”

Hello once again, and welcome to Wednesday! Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, comes in with lots of noise, as each of the four theme answers, two going across and two going down, are puns which are created by adding the word “din” to common terms. I hope to bring the noise with this review, but if I’m too loud, please let me know and I’ll turn it down.

  • ODIN BROTHER: (21A: [Norse mythology’s Vili or Vé?]) – From “O, brother.”
  • CABLE CARDIN: (48A: [Send a telegraph to designer Pierre?]) – From “cable car.” Not up on my designers, so thank goodness the “din” was pretty much built in for me.
  • DINGO DADDY: (3D: [Outback pack patriarch?]) – From “Go Daddy.”
  • BIG BANDING: (31D: [Ornithologists’ major bird-tagging event?]) – From “Big Bang.”

I definitely knew of AMY GRANT, but I guess I didn’t know her music as much as I first thought given the clue (43A: [Christian pop darling]). Thank goodness for G CLEFS giving me the “G” to correctly guess Grant, or I might be still stuck in that area of the grid (44D: [Staff leaders?]). I remember when news of CBGB getting ready to close down made headlines, and it was such a sad day for many of my friends who I got knew that were part of the music industry (6A: [Bygone NYC club whose name was an acronym for the music genres it featured]). Yes, I have a few friends that love their punk rock, even though the acronym stands for country, bluegrass and blues.  The laptop that I’m using at the moment doesn’t have a PGDN button, so I just have to use the spacebar if I want to rapidly go down a page, at least when I’m on a web page (39A: [Key label on some laptops]). Even with the scrolling wheel on my mouse, sometimes I still use the spacebar to go down a page.  I know, I’m weird.  This grid was far from weird, however, and a pleasant solve for sure.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MARE (1D: [The old gray one ain’t what she used to be]) – From 1997 to 2012, Olindo MARE (pronounced Mar-ay) was a placekicker in the National Football League, playing the majority of his career with the Miami Dolphins. His most productive season came in 1999 as a Dolphin, as Mare led the league in field goals made (39) and attempted (46) as he was named to the Pro Bowl and was the First Team All-Pro selection at kicker that year.

Thank you for your time, everyone, and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!


Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Mark My Words”

AV Club crossword solution, 9 17 14 "Mark My Words"

AV Club crossword solution, 9 17 14 “Mark My Words”

This plus-sized puzzle (17×17) was billed as having a difficulty level of 3.5 out of 5. I think it was harder than that! It took me till the end to suss out the theme and what to put in the first square of those unclued 2-letter “entries.” Diacriticals! Spell out the name of the mark in the Across answer, rebus-style, and interpret it as the diacritical mark itself sitting atop a letter in the Across answer below that square.

  • 19a. [“That child has the *sweetest* face!”], WHAT {A CUTE} BABY / acute accent over the second E in 22a. [Ballet leap], JETÉ.
  • 39a. [Certain Viking burial], BOAT {GRAVE} (which … I did not know was a thing) / 45a. [With ice cream on top], À LA MODE.
  • 49a. [Calculating again], REFIGU{RING} / 60a. [Autonomous island chain where Swedish is spoken], ÅLAND. These islands are not so well known to Americans, are they?
  • 78a. [Former Fox sitcom about marriage], {TIL DE}ATH / 81a. [Peppers with ample 87-Across], HABAÑEROS. Nope, nope, nope. Spanish speakers do not use a tilde there. It’s just a habanero, from the city La Habana (Havana). It’s the English speakers who assign the pepper an “ny” sound and ñ spelling.

A funky theme, fresh and fun and challenging and twisty, but marred by an unfortunate choice of Ñ word.

Favorite fill: BLACULA, BOYHOOD clued as the movie (which I liked), EMO HAIR ([Straight, dyed-black cut]), CHIA PET clued as [Creature with green locks], MAH-JONGG, DRY-CLEAN, PAWN SHOP, STRAW MAN, ARSEHOLE. Room in the spacious grid for all these goodies.

Did not know: 83d. [Oft-sampled soul musician Johnson], SYL.

I didn’t scowl at any of the fill, so that’s a huge plus in my book. 4.25 stars from me—would have been 4.5 with a more defensible Ñ word.

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21 Responses to Wednesday, September 17, 2014

  1. Martin says:

    The little BEEs hovering above the plants made me smile. Very nice!


  2. golfballman says:

    Okay its wednesday when do we get the HH sun. write up.? I wasn’t particularly impressed, not up to HH,s usual quality.

  3. seahedges says:

    With a delightful theme–bees hovering over flowers–masterfully compiled, I hardly noticed this puzzles few drawbacks. “Dumb as a box of rocks” = DENSE, one of several clever, original clues, the lack of pop culture, the discovery of the honey makers, all made this one great fun. Yes, master-ful.

  4. Gareth says:

    Are you sure it’s a bee and not a beetle pollinating that rose? Beetles do at least as much rose-pollinating as bees y’know.

  5. Martin says:

    Wow. Fives for the AV, even with a fatal flaw in the theme?

    • David L says:

      Except that Merriam-Webster lists habanero-with-a-tilde as a legitimate variant. Obviously it’s incorrect as a Spanish word, but once it’s taken into English all bets are off.

  6. David L says:

    I thought the clue “Neanderthal” for OAF in the NYT was demeaning to early humanoids (not that they’re around to take offense, but still). OK, so Neanderthals didn’t come up with cave painting or beer or crosswords, but they were around for quite a while, and the Victorian notion that they were knuckle-dragging versions of our good selves has been laid to rest, I think. I mean, you wouldn’t call a modern gorilla an oaf, at least not to its face.

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The only other match I for C*M****GE that I could find in several wordlists is COMMONAGE (not “common age” but a single word that Google defines as “1. [British] the right of pasturing animals on common land; 2. the common people; the commonality”).

  8. Linda says:

    I imagine that as the holidays approach, there will be more crossword themes about turkeys, trees, etc. I’ve been studying up, and am not sure if the first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth area means that Mass. residents still make it a point to do it up big there, or if other New England states are even bigger on the idea. I’ll have to do more research, and if only I can figure out the crossword software in my spare time, I’ll try it.

  9. Matt Gaffney says:

    “When used in English, it is sometimes spelled (and pronounced) habañero,[1] the tilde being added as a hyperforeignism.” – Wikipedia

    That’s how I’ve heard it pronounced commonly. Suboptimal perhaps, but it doesn’t kill the puzzle.

    • Dan F says:

      No, what kills the puzzle is BOAT GRAVE (huh?) and ALAND (double huh?) and the structure where all those key theme squares are unchecked. The HABANERO semi-blooper is icing on the underbaked cake. (Honestly, Matt? You’re OK with that as a theme answer, when there are hundreds of legitimate “ñ” words to use?) Sorry, Ben and Aimee, you are both awesome but today was a fail — and still I don’t think any less of the AVX brand, because this is the kind of creative puzzle I happily pay for.

      (P.S. while I’m piling on: Honestly, Amy? No scowl at the OCHS/BUON/ALOE/SNES pileup?)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I enjoyed the challenge, so even though the Danish islands and the BOAT GRAVE were unfamiliar, I didn’t mark the puzzle down for that. I would just have billed the puzzle at 4 to 4.5 difficulty rather than 3.5. And what makes ALOE an offensive part of that corner, Dan?

        • Dan F says:

          (sorry for late reply!) Nothing wrong with ALOE, but ideally it’s not the strongest of the five 4’s in that corner. I enjoyed the challenge too, but I can’t wave away the fact that the puzzle is unsolvable without outside sources! Andrew says it much more eloquently below.

  10. Matt Gaffney says:

    Dan — it’s suboptimal, as I said. But I don’t agree that it’s fatal as Martin said above. I think Amy’s .25 ding is reasonable.

  11. Matt Gaffney says:

    Wait I didn’t see that David L has a Merriam-Webster citation with the tilde version listed as a variant spelling. Still would strongly prefer if Aimee had used an uncontroversial entry there, but reducing it to a .2 ding now.

    • Brucenm says:

      An analogous tilde – no tilde issue is discussed at length in musicological circles with respect to the Habenera dance form. As everyone has said — no tilde in Spanish. But interestingly, it appears that in the famous Habanera from Carmen, Bizet wrote the tilde in his autograph copy. And to confuse matters, it is sometimes written as “Havanera” sometime with, sometimes without tilde, with the ‘v’ substituting for the ‘b’, as closer in pronunciation to the Spanish bi-labial fricative. (Mostly I wanted the opportunity to say “bi-labial fricative” in polite society, without being chastised or made to sit in the corner for half an hour.)

      The great Saint-Saens virtuoso violin piece is variously referred to as Habanera (sometimes with sometimes sans tilde), or in French as “Havanaise.”

      The Havenera dance form, (aka Cuban contradance), is actually a slow dance, in a slow 2/4 meter, which sounds more like 4/4, with a dotted eighth on the first beat, followed by a 16th, and then 2 eighth notes on the second beat. Sometimes the dotted eighth on the downbeat is replaced by 16th-8th-16th, for a total value of a quarter note, followed by the two eighths on the second beat. Da dum . . . da Dump dump . . . For those of you who were brimming with curiosity about all this. The Argentine tango is based on the Habanera rhythm, though with several stylized (and somewhat complex) rhythmic variants.

      There are folk etymologies suggesting that the dance and the pepper have similar etymologies. I don’t know, but I doubt it. I think the dance and the city Habana is related to “haven.”

  12. Andrew says:

    AVX: As with two of Patrick Blindauer’s latest puzzles, it’s pretty apparent that solvers are more apt to be miffed when unchecked squares are a big part of the theme. I had a similar reaction to Dan with Aimee’s puzzle today. I didn’t mind the HABANERO bit, because that’s where I grokked the theme (I do think it is inelegant, however, seeing as the preferred spelling does not include the tilde). But it was disappointing to uncover the rest of the theme answers. ACUTE made sense, so no foul there. But BOAT GRAVE was never going to come, even though I realize the second word needed to also be the name of the diacritical mark in ALAMODE. Even rougher was the RING mark; even though A makes the most sense, ALAND is a complete mystery.

    I love the inventiveness of the theme and what it’s trying to be, but I felt the execution was off. Still, it was my favorite puzzle of the day.

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