AV Club 5:52 (Amy)
NYT 3:07 (Amy)
LAT 4:10 (Gareth)
CS 13:58 (Ade)
David Poole’s New York Times crossword
Playful, unstale theme today. The name of CHUCK BERRY (56a. [One of the original Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, whose name is a hint to the answers to the four starred clues]) instructs us to enter the theme answers after chucking the “berry” portion:
- 17a. [*Drifter of literature], HUCKLE FINN.
- 28a. [*Potent potable in “Arsenic and Old Lace”], ELDER WINE.
- 33a. [*Nicole Kidman, hairwise], STRAW BLONDE.
- 43a. [*1985 Prince hit], RASP BERET.
In each case, “berry” would normally end the first of the two words. The theme phrases (with their berries) are a lively bunch, and CHUCK BERRY is always welcome.
I suspect the constructor intended this as a Thursday puzzle, given the openness of the corners and the word count of 72. But the clues took the venture down to near-Monday/Tuesday difficulty.
Four more things:
- 20a. [Sorrowful 1954 Patti Page hit], “I CRIED.” Didn’t know the title but the clue pretty much gave it away.
- 32a. [Big ___ (hallux)], TOE. Hallux valgus is the clinical term for bunions.
- 39a. [___ Savage, player of the boy on “Boy Meets World”], BEN. And the player of the dad (the same character, older) on Girl Meets World. Never saw either show.
- 22d. [Plane’s parking place], APRON. You don’t say.
You know that thing Matt Gaffney is wont to mention when he reviews an NYT puzzle? That the clues could all have been written a decade a more ago? The only clue I see that runs afoul of that is 15a. [Internet giant that purchased Flickr in 2005], YAHOO, with a 9-year-old fact. It wouldn’t be hard to freshen up the clues a bit. [Screenwriter Sorkin] was writing movies in the ’90s, but he won an Oscar for his Social Network script in 2010, for example. BEN Savage, as I said, is on a current show.
3.75 stars from me.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Reception Lines”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning everybody! Beware the Ides of October! (Wait, is that how it goes???)
Yesterday’s puzzle ushered in the funny with a riddle, and today’s grid, offered up to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, does more of the same, with puns relating to happenings at wedding receptions, with the resulting answers being popular idioms. And I have to say that it’s a very nice execution of the theme as well.
- DON’T GILD THE LILY: (17A: [Line to the wedding florist about excessive arrangements?])
- STAND AND DELIVER: (37A: [Line to the best man at speech time?])
- CATCH AS CATCH CAN: (57A: [Line to the crowd at the throwing of the bouquet?])
For about two seasons, I watched every episode of The Vampire Diaries at the request of, and as a favor to, a good friend (Thanks, Mariel…???), so getting NINA was an absolute cinch (3D: [Actress Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries”]). I’m not up on it now, but I’ll have to ask my friend about the happenings of Elena and Co. during this current season. All this is to say that I know more about TVD than I should, including abbreviating the show’s name as such.
Not only do I have TVD in my mind, but I also have DEAN MARTIN and his popular tune in my head as well, and love seeing his entire name in the grid (28D: [“That’s Amore” crooner]). We also have a little music theme as well, with the presence of BANJO (1A: [Instrument that might have five strings]), USE ME (42A: [1972 Bill Withers hit]) and ARLEN (10D: [“The Wizard of Oz” composer Harold]). Oops, forgot another music reference with AFROS (49A: [The Jackson 5 have five]). I also had an AFRO comparable to the heights of the afros of each Jackson at one point, and the next time the entry (afro/afros) appears in a grid on CS/WaPo, I’ll try to produce a picture of me in my youth with my hair reaching to the sky.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KIDD (30D: [Basketball’s Jason]) – Because I know next to nothing about JET SKIING (4D: [Riding the waves, as in a personal watercraft]), I’ll stick with the hardwood and stay out of the water. Jason KIDD is currently the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks (after engineering his departure as coach of the Brooklyn Nets earlier this year) and, as a player, was one of the best point guards the league had ever seen. He retired from the game after the 2013 season ranking second all-time in NBA history in assists and steals, and third in three-pointers made. He also was one of the most versatile players in NBA history, as he recorded 107 career regular season triple-doubles – double figures in three basketball statistical categories (disregarding turnovers) in the same game.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you on Thursday!
Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Crossing the Tracks”
Songs with matching letter counts get their final words swapped, with the resulting faux titles clued in goofy ways:
- 11a. [Conga line that began in Nazareth?], JESUS TRAIN.
- 16a. [Parkour techniques?], CRAZY WALKS. “Jesus Walks” and “Crazy Train” are two songs I don’t know at all.
- 58a. [Prince’s passion?], PURPLE FIRE.
- 62a. [Group tasked with organizing sorority rush week?], RING OF HAZE. Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
- 9d. [Guy who prefers Afghans and bassets?], HOUND MAN.
- 10d. [Chopin’s nickname, among his close peeps?], PIANO DOG, or whatever the Polish or French equivalents thereof may be. Elvis’s “Hound Dog,” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
- 35d. [Hip-hop song about where Thanksgiving stuffing is supposed to go?], IN DA BIRD.
- 36d. [Offer on the golfing section of Craigslist?], FREE CLUB. “In Da Club,” not sure who that’s by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.”
Favorite theme answer: IN DA BIRD. Recipe rap is the wave of the future, people.
Having JESUS TRAIN as the first themer in a puzzle called “Crossing the Tracks” did make me think everything would have a railroad angle. I forgot the rule that “track” always seems to mean “song” in indie puzzles.
Five more things:
- 2d. [Spinal column bone accorded mystical qualities in Judaism and Islam], LUZ. Say what? With the sort of weird clue for the L crossing (1a. [High mountain, in a certain back-formation] for ALP), this was a slow spot to complete.
- 30a. [Mil. bigwig], COMDR. Weird-looking abbreviation. It’s in the dictionary, though, as short for “commander.”
- 47a. [West of Hollywood], MAE. Also the name of new baby Tausig. Just a little bit of fame and she could find crossword immortality.
- 5d. [Label word after lo-], CAL. Can you find me a current example, outside of crosswords, in which a food package says “lo-cal” and not “low-“?
- 31d. [Neither Christopher Columbus nor Grover Cleveland], OHIOAN. I just heard this week that a bank in Ann Arbor, Michigan (home of University of Michigan) refused to honor the Columbus Day holiday because Columbus, Ohio is home to Michigan rival Ohio State. I’m fine with refusing to recognize Genocidal European Heritage Day, but not for a silly reason.
Neat theme, didn’t love the fill as much. 3.75 stars.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
BACKUPPLAN becomes NALP hidden in theme phrases in today’s LA Times. A sound concept, though the resulting phrases are a touch dry:
- [Project windup], FINALPHASE
- [Subject of an antique auto owner’s quest], ORIGINALPART
- [Me, for one], PERSONALPRONOUN
- [Badlands or Death Valley], NATIONALPARK
Other PERSONALPRONOUNs can be found in the grid: HERESTOYOU, MAYI, IMIN
- [Take turns?], STEER
- [Vulgar language?], LATIN
- [“The Big Bang Theory” star], JIMPARSONS. Fails my breakfast test – horrible, simplistic characters that perpetuate stereotypes plus just plain unfunny.
- [“___ Free”: Minute Maid spec], PULP. Why would anyone not want the pulp???
I enjoyed the Chuck Berry theme in the NYT puzzle. Also 14a Mozart title, “COSI Fan Tutte” since I just got back from seeing the new production of “Don Giovanni” at Chicago’s Lyric Opera, directed by son-in-law Bob Falls. Fabulous update, with well-deserved rave reviews!
I really enjoyed this one for a Wednesday puzzle. Never opposed to a Prince or Frasier mention. Relatively low on stock clues, with STAB, COSI, AEON, and the immortal APE. Good to see a new actor, BALE (for maybe the the first time since a Newsies mention years ago), instead of everyone’s favorite Hollywood starlet Sela Ward.
“You know that thing Matt Gaffney is wont to mention when he reviews an NYT puzzle? That the clues could all have been written a decade a more ago?”
Even though COSI was a gimme for me, I must stress that I’m not and have never been a member of Mozart’s generation.
In any case, why is this a problem? I understand that BEQ and others want to make “freshness” part of their deal for the crosswords they produce, but that doesn’t mean the NYT is somehow falling short because it has a different philosophy. Or maybe Mr. Shortz has crass commercial reasons in mind, because he wants to be able to publish books of NYT crosswords in the future. Reliance on general knowledge from the classical era — more than a decade ago! — is not something that bothers me at all.
Yes, but then a brand-new book collection plays like a 15-year-old collection of puzzles. And in another 10 years, the 2014 puzzles might feel like they’re 25 years old. I fail to see the value in that.
“Boy Meets World” and “Frasier” hardly constitute the “classical era,” they’re just pop culture that’s a little dated in 2014.
On the other hand, puzzles filled with super-hip contemporary references could look even more dated a few years from now, because fads have a way of fading. At least Frasier has proved its staying power…
But really, I’m not objecting to having newer stuff in the puzzles. It’s the idea of automatically deducting style points for lack of such stuff that I find a little puzzling.
I’ve refrained from commenting explicitly on this point, which is often voiced here, (though I’ve certainly made my view pretty clear) — but in my view the glorification of everything that is 10 minutes old (OK, ten years) and the denigration of anything older than that, is simply a subjective preference, even prejudice, with no intrinsic, quasi-objective justification whatsoever. There is nothing intrinsically more interesting or more worthwhile, to knowledge relating to matters 10 years old, or 30 years, or 200 years, or 1,000 years. It is simply a matter of subjective prejudice. I confess that my prejudice is very much to the contrary, but I acknowledge it as a prejudice.
Liked the revealer a lot! Chuck Berry was a genius! Surprised the phrases weren’t clued wacky-style though…
PS, DECLAWing of cats not done for medical reasons is still common in the United States, but banned / considered unethical in most of the rest of the first world, and even in South Africa. See also docking of dogs’ tails.
I love Chuck Berry (!) and think he was –(*Is*. As far as I know, he is still alive) — a talented musician, and by far the best and most important of the late 50’s rock and rollers. He was probably the single most important influence in exporting Delta Blues harmonies, rhythms and riffs into 50’s rock and roll. Some of the legal issues he endured may have been racist persecution, but unfortunately, it appears that there may be substance to some of them.
One of the memorable musical experiences of my life was returning to the US from France; stopping at a gas station on a cross country trip to California, and hearing Chuck Berry’s *Johnny B. Goode* and Bill Haley’s *Rock around the Clock* blaring from loudspeakers. I loved it. I was entranced. I had never heard anything like it. Perhaps it will amuse some of you that my parents were shocked, appalled and horrified that I liked it so much.
I therefore liked the puzzle more than I might have otherwise. The revealer was clever.
I also loved the AV. Congrats to Ben. I have a question — perhaps nit — but I will wait until the review.
(Also not a fan of declawing cats. It’s done simply for the convenience of the humans. I guess it’s not painful, but I still think it’s a form of animal abuse.)
It is painful – exactly as painful as having one of your fingers amputated. Yes, the pain will subside, but given claws are important for defense, it really is unfair on the cat!
That makes it even worse. I’m completely with you on that.
That’s because it literally is a partial amputation. Of the distal phalanges. Not just the claws.
I liked the theme, but am I the only one who would have preferred that the answers be clued as puns, with the base phrases being reanalyzed as wacky phrases with the removal of BERRY? E.g. STRAW BLONDE = “What a gentleman scarecrow prefers?” Otherwise, it seems abitrary.
Agreed. That was a missed opportunity, NYT.
while i thought it warranted a full 4 in “difficulty level,” i really loved what ben did with the theme in today’s avcx. am also trying to imagine the scene in the labor/delivery room: “three minutes between contractions? great. i’ll just have time to clue ‘PSYCH!’ and ‘I AM NOT!’ that okay with you, honey?”
*major* congrats to mom, dad and brother julius who now has a new baby SIS. but inquiring minds want to know: ERICA? ESTEE? MAE? LUZ?
Somebody didn’t slavishly read my post. ;-(
true! *skimmed* — but did *not* “slavishly read.” which, i guess, makes me a FREE BIRD of sorts…
MAE in october? lovely. even as it was in nyc today: kinda like may in october!
Horrible Natick on LAT cross, 23A and 10 down.
You’re supposed to know Edgar Allan POE, even when clued via fresher trivia. He lived in Baltimore and the NFL team was named after the Poe poem!