Wednesday, January 7, 2015

AV Club 6:33 (Amy)  
NYT 4:30 (Amy) 
LAT 3:41 (pannonica) 
CS 6:52 (Ade) 

Greg Johnson’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 7 15, no. 0107

NY Times crossword solution, 1 7 15, no. 0107

I hate it when whoever is prepping the puzzle file screws with our expectations for what will be accepted as a solution. Really, people? The center square demands an 8-letter word that will scarcely be visible, and when you try entering just an initial M to stand in for the whole word, the puzzle tells you you’re wrong? What happened to the convention of accepting just the first letter as correct, too?

Okay, so the theme is about the minotaur:

  • 13a. [Maze runner?], THESEUS.
  • 15a. [Item used by 13-Across to navigate the 22-Across], THREAD. To trace his path.
  • 22a. [Home of the [circled letters]], LABYRINTH.
  • 48a. [Ruler of 30-Down], KING MINOS.
  • 63a. [Avoid, as the [circled letters]], ESCAPE. Feels like a little bit of a stretch for the theme.
  • 64a. [Daughter of 48-Across who helped 13-Across], ARIADNE.
  • 26d. [Weapon used to slay the [circled letters]], SWORD.
  • 30d. [Home of the [circled letters]], CRETE.

The circled letters, read from top to bottom, spell out MINOTAUR, and unless you enter that whole 8-letter word in the unnumbered center square (which the NYT’s online crossword skips over when you hit return after filling in the answer to the left), your solution’s rejected. Which is kinda dumb, if you ask me, as an 8-letter word displays terribly, and the MINOTAUR is atomized into those eight circled letters anyway. Why is the beast in the puzzle twice? That makes no thematic sense. Pick a minotaur location and go with it.

Five more things:

  • 21a. [Late TV newsman Garrick], UTLEY. He might be bad fill, as he wasn’t really a huge name in TV news (never reached the network anchor level) and he’s not current (retired in 2002). But! He is that rare thing: a crossword answer I’ve met in person. I gave him his alumni reunion packet at Carleton College as a student worker.
  • 28a. [Registered workers?], CLERKS. I didn’t understand this clue until right this minute. It means “workers who work by the cash register” rather than “registered” anything. Meh, it’s a weird use of “registered.”
  • 7d. [Sports dept.], ATH. Short for “athletics”? Blah.
  • 20d. [Basics of education, colloquially], RRR. Except doesn’t everyone say “the three R’s” and not “RRR”? One of those crossword-only things like U-TWO and A-ONE.
  • 41d. [They stick together in the playroom], LEGOS. Do not let my Dutch uncle hear you using any plural but “Lego.”
  • 42d. [Third-largest French-speaking city in the world [hint: it’s in Ivory Coast]], ABIDJAN. Or Cote d’Ivoire, as trivia aficionados will refer to the country.
  • 43d. [Some salon workers], RINSERS. Not convinced anyone uses the word “rinsers,” as opposed to, say, “Agnes will shampoo you now.” “One of our rinsers will work you over in the sink now”? No.
  • 48d. [Big name in the film industry], KODAK. If you go to the Kodak website, you will be hard-pressed to find any information about their film for cameras. Motion picture film, sure. They hide it in some dark corner of the site.

I like many of the 7s in this grid, like slangy SHOULDA and YAMMERS. And I like the mythological theme, save for the MINOTAUR duplication. Overall vibe, 3.5 stars from me.

Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/7/15 • Wed • Bain • solution

LAT • 1/7/15 • Wed • Bain • solution

Here it is: 56d [Religious leader associated with the ends of the four longest puzzle answers] POPE. Hence,

  • 18a. [Black-eyed peas dish] HOPPIN’ JOHN. Associated with New Year’s, appropriately enough.
  • 27a. [Pretend nothing’s going on] LOOK INNOCENT. As opposed to the “innocent eye”.
  • 47a. [Brunch fare] EGGS BENEDICT.
  • 59a. [Country star with an un-countrylike name] KEITH URBAN.

Irked a little that two of these themers are the names of foodstuffs, while the other half aren’t, and also don’t pair with each other.

Dead center is 38a [“Also Sprach Zarathustra” composer] Richard STRAUSS; Zarathustra = Zoroaster, he of Zoroastrianism, a Persian monotheistic religion. Below that is 44a [Pillar of Islam subject] ALMS; Islam is one of the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions, along with the Popes’ Christianity (var. Roman Catholicism). Not seeing any similarly relatable clues for Judaism, though, the oldest of those. Well … perhaps, for the sake of consistency and symmetry  (though certainly not accessibility!), instead of referring yet again to [Petri dish gel] for AGAR, it could have been clued as [Mother of Ishmael (var.)]?


  •  25d [Gable/Gardner classic set in Africa] MOGAMBO. Factette(s): The title is a nonsense word, and legend has it that it’s an alteration of Hollywood’s famous Mocambo nightclubMocambo was the term for the communities of runaway slaves in colonial Brazil; make of that what you will. Additionally at subsequently, there have been a racehorse and a notorious Indian movie villain named Mogambo (“Mogambo khush hua!”).
  • 23a [Notable gap] CHASM. The longest interregnum between popes was two years and ten months, between Clement IV (see clue for 11-down) and Gregory X.
  • Clue-answer dupe involving 28d [ __ hygiene] ORAL and 61d [Oral health org.] ADA. Everyone knows about ADA Lovelace these days, right?
  • 3d [It’s tender in Johannesburg] RAND. Just in case you forgot that Gareth’s from the RSA.
  • 5d [Picnic area barrel] ASHCAN. Not in my experience. How much currency does this application have in today’s USA? I’d prefer to see a reference to the namesake art movement. It isn’t too obscure for a Wednesday.
  • Favorite clue: 37a [Informal pass] NAH.

Low CAP Quotient, fairly solid theme, good cluing, decent crossword. And that’s no bull.

Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Oh, It Happened All Right”

AV Club crossword solution, 1 7 15 "Oh, It Happened All Right"

AV Club crossword solution, 1 7 15 “Oh, It Happened All Right”

People sometimes express skepticism (or a prurient interest) by responding to an intriguing tale with “Pics or it didn’t happen.” This week’s theme insists it did happen, as there is a PIC added to each of six familiar phrases presented in stacked pairs in this tall 16×15 grid:

  • 17a. [Device for bringing wild animals along as you enjoy dip and cold cuts on a lovely day?], PICNIC CAGE. Nic(olas) Cage.
  • 20a. [Trucking activity for a head cheese supplier?], HAULING ASPICS. Head cheese, *shudder*. That … is no cheese.
  • 35a. [Mall walker’s gait through an accessory store for teens?], HOT TOPIC TROT.
  • 38a. [Really big business?], EPIC COMMERCE.
  • 56a. [Row of Indian dishes still waiting for the garam masala?], SPICING BACKUP.
  • 60a. [Sadie Hawkins Day activity?], BOY PICKING.

All six words with PIC are unrelated, and the base phrases (Nic Cage, hauling ass, hot to trot, E-commerce, sing backup, and Boy King) are a nice assortment as well. Elegantly wrought, but not much ha-ha factor in the +PIC phrases.

Five more things:

  • 22d. [Bass, but not guitar or drums], FISH. Are you kidding me? Nobody on the AVX team has gone fishing, or knows of the fish called the freshwater drum? I think my dad used to catch those in Midwestern rivers. They’re native to North and Central American rivers and lakes.
  • 3d. [Decorative plant holder], CACHEPOT. It’s quite possible I learned this term from crosswords, but it’s become a daily-life thing for me since a neighbor keeps our front steps stocked with cachepots holding other pots of flowers. We’ve got seasonal branches and berries for the winter.
  • 5d. [Round trip?], CYCLE. I feel like I’ve seen this clue numerous times, but for ORBIT.
  • 21d. [Formulaic and mainstream, as humor], SITCOMY. Not too familiar. In Polish, SITCOMY is an inflected form of sitcom.
  • Dupe! CAPT is 40d, clued as [Hook, e.g.: Abbr.], but the unabbreviated form’s in the clue for GEORG, 67a. [Captain Von Trapp’s given name].

The grid is pretty open, with the 7-stacks in two corners, the three-pronged expanses in the other corners, and that chubby midsection. Four stars from me.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Coming to Blows”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.07.15: "Coming to Blows"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.07.15: “Coming to Blows”

Happy Hump Day, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, authored by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, takes us down fairy tale lane, as the first three theme answers in this grid have first words which, combined, make up “Three Little Pigs.” A fourth theme answer, HOUSE (40A: [Target of the 64-Across]) is in the middle of the grid, and the fifth, BIG BAD WOLF, acts also as a reveal of the theme (64A: [Nursery rhyme villain, and a hint to the first words of 17-, 25-, and 52-Across]).

  • THREE PIECE: (17A: [Like some suits]) – Number of three-piece suits I own? More than two.
  • LITTLE TOE: (25A: [Small digit])
  • PIGS OUT ON: (52A: [Stuffs oneself with]) – What should I pig out on for lunch right now?

Fastest solve of a CS puzzle to date, so I’m pleased with that. Also pleased with the puzzle, as some long down answers really gave it some zip, specifically MONSIGNOR (31D: [Priest’s title]) and AMINO ACID (12D: [Tryptophan or lysine]). Now why am I getting sleepy after reading the word tryptophan??? Anyways, we also have some similar-sounding entries in the grid, the first of which are SNORT (48A: [Angry bull’s sound]) and SNORED (61A: [Slept soundly]). The other pair is SABRE (33A: [Buffalo puck-pusher]) and SABLE (13D: [Valuable fur]). Anyone here use SCOPE instead of Listerine, or any other brand of mouthwash (5A: [Listerine competitor])? I’m a Listerine guy through and through…whatever that may mean. Definitely going to need the Listerine after having some PASTA that I’m planning to cook this week: spaghetti with meatballs made from scratch (52D: [Angel hair, e.g.]). I won’t be using angel hair spaghetti, though. Way too thin for my liking. Anyone else on the same page with me about angel hair being too thin for your taste?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LIMA (16A: [Andean capital]) – Former Major League pitcher José Lima (1972-2010) spent 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, most notably with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros. In 1999, Lima has his best season in the Majors, as he won 21 games for the Astros, helping to lead them to their third consecutive National League Central division title. Lima was also known for his flamboyant celebrations on the mound, usually after he would record a strikeout. On May 23, 2010, Lima died due to a heart attack at age 37.

See you all tomorrow!

Take care!


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30 Responses to Wednesday, January 7, 2015

  1. dgates says:

    The Minotaur is in the center of the maze in the myth – hence the Minotaur in the center of the grid.

    Nonetheless, I am with you. I lost a full 30 seconds after I typed in the M and it didn’t work. I assumed I must have misunderstood the clue…

    I also thought the fill was un-Wednesday-ish with all the Greek names. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Utley so I was even less enthused than you were.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      What in the myth explains the eight Minotaur bits scattered throughout the grid?

      I fully acknowledge that Utley is bad fill; if he hadn’t been a “noted alum” from my college, I likely would not know his name at all.

      • PJ says:

        By chance I re-read this myth in Edith Hamilton yesterday. The Minotaur was free to roam within the labyrinth. The Athenian youths were faced with moving through the maze and maybe coming upon the beast or not moving and have it suddenly appear.

      • Bencoe says:

        I don’t understand why they didn’t use the far more relevant Chase UTLEY, who plays for the Phillies. I don’t even watch baseball and I know his name.

      • Molson says:

        >if he hadn’t been a “noted alum” from my college, I likely would not know his name at all.

        He’s a “noted alum” from my college as well and I’ve never heard of him.

  2. john farmer says:

    Maybe it’s my lucky day. The M alone worked for me.

    In defense of Mr. UTLEY: I never met him but knew him instantly from his many years — 30? 40? — in TV news. Though he was never the #1 network anchor, he was the host of “Meet the Press” for three years and a regular presence on TV in the days when everyone got their TV news from the networks. Those days are gone, obviously. David Muir is a #1 guy now and who even knows him.

    • Evad says:

      Another successful M solver…I downloaded the AL version early this morning, so I wonder if it was fixed by then.

      Some groan-inducing fill (IT’S AT might be at the top of my list), but I really appreciated the Greek vibe of this one.

    • Phil says:

      I know David Muir, I know him as the worst interviewer ever. Typical example:

      [Mother sobbing over the loss of a child] .. unintelligle sobbing… I’m devistated
      [David Muir] So, you’re devistated
      [Mother] … more unintellible sobbing… I don’t know how I can go on
      [David Muir] How will you go on?

      And on and on.

  3. pannonica says:

    Garrick Utley, subtly reminiscent of Chet Huntley.

  4. Jason F says:

    A much better approach (for the online NYT app) would have been for the minotaur to appear automatically in the center square after the rest of the puzzle was solved. I always like a good puzzle based on mythology, so nice otherwise.

  5. Zulema says:

    In my printed puzzle, I drew a creature with four legs and horns in the central square. Liked the theme, did not see what the circles accomplished – too subtle for me perhaps.

  6. Winnie says:

    I liked this puzzle, good for the older solver who still remembers mythology. Garrick Utley was well known to me. And since speed is not my thing and I solve in the paper an “M” did the trick. In fact I feel pretty good that I was able to finish a Wed puzzle!!

  7. Papa John says:

    I thought today’s NYT was weird but not all that bad. It had more legs than a typical Wednesday puzzle.

  8. pannonica says:

    Zulema, Papa John: Remember, the Cretan Minotaur had just two legs. Human body, bull’s head.

  9. Gareth says:

    NYT: First puzzle printed with new printer, which skipped half the lines delineating the blocks. Only 2x my average online speed! I agree with Dutch uncle, LEGOS is one of the most grating Americanisms known to man. MINOTAUR appears twice I assume to avoid the unchecked square rule.

    LAT notes: Pannonica would’ve liked an entry that I was sad to leave on the cutting room floor: PANTHERALEO. The lengths wouldn’t balance correctly. In any case, Rich said it would’ve been too specialised an answer. This puzzle inspired the MOBILE puzzle, but that puzzle got published first!

  10. cascokid says:

    Another tough AVC. 65 min. 13 googles. SHOULDA been 14 as I guessed wrong with Scotty played by PEte Simon rather than Simon PEGG. All of the wacky long acrosses were functionally unclued, so all of the crosses had reduced checking and no help during the solve. There was no unifying feature until the post mortem when I noticed PIC could be deleted from the zany acrosses giving a phrase with meaning, except for NICCAGE, which be a hispter’s thievery. So I googled expecting an urban dictionary neologism, and found only Nicolas Cage, whose presence sadly didn’t help make sense of the PIC-added bits. I’m still wondering if there is a missing interpretation of the theme. PIC=pediatric intensive care. So? Well, that’s as useful as anything else.

    This was a solvable puzzle, so my criticism can only be so harsh. Some new words worth knowing: fondant, ERSe, cachepot, Massenet opera LE CID (which had me thinking the game would be El Le tranformations) and murse (which I entered as MAlern for MANBAG as murse has two meanings). NANANA was doubly awful, both as fill and as clued.

    As I was solving I couldn’t help thinking that zany clues come from frustrated constructors who quit before they make it really work. But this one had a theme which means it was following at least a few rules, so Byron deserves a pat on the back for making it work. What IT is is still obscure, but IT had rules, and so IT worked.

  11. lemonade714 says:


    A very fun puzzle with the Popes popping nicely and the Hoppin’ John appearing so soon after LAT had HOPPING JOHN in its theme. I would have had a great deal of difficulty with the PANTHERA LEO fill as I did not know the genus. It was interesting to look it up and learn things like the ability to roar be a common element of the group. I like the theme answers and sense Pannonica would have found something to not like in that fill as well. The AGAR suggestion was HORRIBLE.

    • pannonica says:

      I’ll just pretend you said that in a Cockney accent.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:


      • Bencoe says:

        That brings to mind a quote from Peep Show. I could hear it in my head–the drug-addled SuperHans, speaking to a woman panicking on mushrooms:
        “It’s time to make a decision about which way to go. Because one way is heaven and the other…well, best not to talk about that. But it’s f—ing ‘ORRIBLE!”
        My favorite British comedy, and the source of my trivia team name, SuperHans.

  12. twangster says:

    Thanks for the explanation on the AV club puzzle. I was not familiar with the phrase it was based on, and I thought the base phrase in SPICINGBACKUP was SPICINGUP. This left me wondering what was the significance of “PIC, PIC, PIC, PIC, BACK, PIC,” which sounds like something from a kid’s cartoon.

  13. Thomas says:

    Solving in the Shortyz app for Android, I can’t even select the central minotaur square. Had to “Reveal Puzzle” to finish.

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