Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NYT 4:56 (Amy) 
AV Club 6:06 (Amy)  
LAT 3:55 (Gareth) 
CS 7:38 (Ade) 

Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 21 15, no. 0121

NY Times crossword solution, 1 21 15, no. 0121

The theme all pays homage to the big T in the grid’s center. 50a. [Following the nine black squares in the center of the grid, a hint to five pairs of answers in this puzzle] clues FORMATION, and those five cross-referenced answer combos all appear in a T formation. 5a/7d is WATER/TIGHT, crossing at the T. The other four pairs also cross at the T. 26a/28d is AFTER/TASTE, 29a/30d is OFTEN/TIMES, 52a/54d is TITLE/TRACK, and 56a/57d is DUTCH/TREAT. No wordplay or humor to the theme, just “here’s how the answers are laid out.”

The theme’s dryness would have been easier to swallow if the fill hadn’t been so unpalatable. Plenty of crosswordese—EDILE, AGUE, NEWEL, AWN, OAS, TO LET, A TEN, ERI, U NU, and so aptly clued as [Pointless], INUTILE. I could see a lot of mid-level solvers giving up on this puzzle because of the fill. ANON, MOL, MEW, PUF, ENE, IDI, ORR, LEADETH, A-BOMB, IRENA, variant spelling ARAPAHOE, dated Michael NOURI, and COATI aren’t helping matters much.

On the plus side, SNIPPET, the FAR LEFT, PAST TENSE, and SOUL FOOD are great.

2.5 stars. I was surprised to see so many now-seldom-seen entries in this 2015 grid. I suspect it was constructed several years ago and has been languishing in the files ever since.

Francis Heaney’s AV Club crossword, “Words With Ends Fray”

AV Club crossword solution, 1 22 15 "Words With Ends Fray"

AV Club crossword solution, 1 22 15 “Words With Ends Fray”

I tell you, I don’t know whose solving experiences Ben Tausig bases the AVX difficulty rating on, but it seldom bears a connection to my reality. 2.5/5, far easier than most AVX puzzles? Not for me. Granted, I should have read the puzzle’s title (a play on Words with Friends), as it would have helped me grasp the theme much faster. But still, I’d call this a 3.5 difficulty. The oddball symmetry (mirrored across the NW-to-SE diagonal) and complete lack of theme symmetry didn’t speed recognition of the theme, either. GOLDEN RING is the longest Across answer but not thematic.

The theme is Pig Latin pairs, in separate entries but clued together as goofy phrases:

  • 20a. With 21-Across, where to put certain fish being sent to another department?], TROUT / OUT TRAY.
  • 30a. With 32-Across, swear to indulge in some extreme S&M?], PLEDGE / EDGE PLAY. “Edge play” isn’t a familiar phrase for me. And I sort of feel that lemony furniture polish would’ve been more fun than the verb for PLEDGE.
  • 51a. With 58-Across, sort of charming, from a certain perspective?], WINSOME / IN SOME WAY.

In the debit column, we’ve got two 6-letter partials (HEAR NO, I WANNA), ILA, EM PICA (23d. [Space that’s the length of a dash], for real? Despite my publishing background, I’ve never encountered this term), plural YMCAS, variant spelling AGISM … and ROGUING as a verb? I checked two dictionaries, and both list the only verb sense as “to weed out inferior, diseased, or nontypical individuals from a crop plant or a field.” Perhaps another dictionary out there reflects the [Living like a knave] sense but certainly it hasn’t been a broadly familiar usage. Also, the ORE clue feels incorrect: 14a. [Valuable metal]? The ORE is the rock that the valuable metal is found in, not the metal itself.

Likes: The Onion’s AREA MAN, BUG EYES, the AMATI clue (57a. [Y’know, we always hear how great this guy’s violins were, but maybe now it’s all psychological that we think they sound so awesome]), and LADYHAWKE starring Rutger Hauer.

Did not know: 41d. [Cincinnati or pullback, e.g.], TAP STEP. No, sir, I don’t know tap dancing terminology. Don’t know how much TAP STEP is a lexical chunk, either.

3.33 stars from me. Usually a Heaney puzzle pulls over 4 stars from me, but this one wasn’t to my liking.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150121

LA Times

I like the spin Zhouqin chose on the revealer FRONTMAN. The more obvious theme is ??? MAN words, but that’s kind of broadly defined. Instead there are colloquial synonyms for a male friend concealed at the beginnings of each answer: BRO in BROKENIN, CHAP in CHAPELHILL, LAD in LADDERCOMPANIES, and BUB in BUBBLEBATH.

I like the sometimes obligatory-feeling two long downs, both fresh: PROMOCODE and KINGJAMES. I’d gone a more Biblical route for the latter, but vive la difference. Quality control is evidenced by the extra “helper squares in the top-right and bottom-left – you get MADCAP & IMDONE as a result of these and the rest is all ver clean.

We’ve been down this road before ECOLI a [Bad bacteria], but actually it’s almost always commensal / mutualistic.

4 Stars

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

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.21.15: "Open Case"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.21.15: “Open Case”

Hello once again, and Happy Hump Day! Today’s crossword, offered up to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is an open and shut case, as in each of the four theme answers are entries in which the first two letters are “CA” and the final two letters are “SE,” with a whole lot of letters in between!

  • CAMEMBERT CHEESE (17A: [Limburger cousin]) – I guess I wouldn’t be a fan of this cheese, since I’m not a fan of Limburger.
  • CABBAGE ROSE (25A: [Fragrant flower])
  • CANADA GOOSE (43A: [V formation flyer])
  • CAMPAIGN PROMISE (55A: [“I will not raise taxes,” for one]) – Anyone else have George H. Bush’s voice in their heads as well? “Read my lips…”

Once again, any crossword that features a Looney Tunes character gets my seal of approval, and this get the seal after filling in LE PEW (46D: [Romantic skunk Pepé]). Seeing the full name of TOM JOAD was pleasant, not only to remind myself of The Grapes of Wrath, but also because it’s a change form just seeing “Joad” in a grid (5D: [Movie character who said, “Seems like the government’s got more interest in a dead man than a live one”]). I must not know my beers very well since I was not familiar with some of those brews for PABST (1A: [Brewer of Rainier and Olympia]). The symmetrical answers of CHASTISE (36D: [Chew out]) and MACHISMO were fun fill, especially since I ooze machismo on a daily basis (9D: [Masculinity, to the max])…ha! If anyone out there can teach me how to MASSÉ, or perform any type of trick shot at the pool table, I’ll owe you beers (or a non-alcoholic beverage of your choice if you don’t drink) for a year (31D: [Trick shot by Minnesota Fats]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ADAM (2D: [NBA Commissioner Silver]) – The man officially responsible for finally ridding Donald Sterling from the game of basketball, NBA Commissioner ADAM Silver is a lawyer who assumed the role of commish almost one year ago, February 1, 2014. Silver was named deputy commissioner in 2006, and then became commissioner of the NBA after outgoing commissioner David Stern, who held the position since 1984, stepped down. Silver was the man who banned former Los Angeles Clippers owner/housing discrimination louse Donald Sterling for life last April after his racist remarks to his then girlfriend were recorded and released to the public.

Have a good rest of the day, and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!


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11 Responses to Wednesday, January 21, 2015

  1. Neil says:

    Didn’t like it. Another point – the grid is nearly separated. The upper left and right corners are almost on their own.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: the crossing at a T was a good extra Twist.
    AGUA crossing AGUE was almost funny.
    NOUR, NOURI, NOURIEH all are related to lighting– Nour= Light, Nouri= a guy who’s lit (well, full of light or brings light) and Nourieh = the female counterpart. I would have thought NOURI Al-Maliki would have been a more contemporary clue.

  3. PJ says:

    NYT – Hayley Gold’s comic at struck me as particularly clever today.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: Not only was much of the fill suspect, but the cluing was awfully clunky. The worst two, I’d say, are 48a [Alarm clock’s purpose] AROUSAL and 65d [Buck passer, maybe] DOE. Special mention, too, for 40a [Chem. unit] MOL. The abbreviated ‘chemistry’ in the clue indicates that the unit is ‘molecule’ and so we understand that the entry is MOL. as an abbreviation. Considering the esotericism of the crossword’s fill in general (see Amy’s litany, above), it seems foolish not to just go ahead and use the very common MOL variant of MOLE, the base chemical unit. True, it is etymologically an abbreviation of Molekulargewicht, but at least it doesn’t require a period (or a parallel abbreviation in the clue).

  5. Gary R says:

    The NYT theme didn’t do a lot for me, but I did like the five theme answers. Had they shown up in a different grid as regular ten-letter entries, I think they would have been nice – all familiar and in the language, reasonably clued for a Wednesday. Any significance to the fact that the top three are all single words and the bottom two are two-word phrases?

    Most of the fill, other than the three-letter stuff seemed okay to me (inutile and edile being the exceptions). But the three-letter answers were mostly pretty ugly.

  6. Lois says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT today, although it took me a while to get into it. I thought it was an amusing theme, and I liked the phrases. I thought that some of the misdirections were amusing (14a, 20a, 22a, 23a). All the “gluey bits” that have been complained about at least were crossed well and gettable.

  7. pannonica says:

    AV: Francis Heaney; just an observation.

    LAT: I stand with Gareth in bemoaning the prevalent ignorant/fearmongering negative cluing of E. coli.

  8. twangster says:

    Thanks for the explanation of the LAT theme … I could not for the life of me figure out what it was.

  9. Greg says:

    I’m not getting the hatin’ on the Times today. I thought it was pretty clever and, despite a bunch of crosswordese, pitched just right for a Wednesday.

    Speaking of crosswordese, does anyone ever still clue “aten” as “solar disc” (as opposed to 61D’s “…__-foot pole”? It seems to me I haven’t seen “aten” clued that way since the Maleska era. Also haven’t seen too many “adits,” for that matter. Not that I miss them, particularly.

  10. jae says:

    I usually like C.C’s work and this was no exception. @Twangster – I stared at the theme answers for at least 5 minutes before it hit me.

    @Amy – I agree, the AV puzzle played tougher than 2.5 for me too.

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