Wednesday, February 25, 2015

AV Club 5:01 (Amy) 
NYT 3:49 (Amy) 
LAT 7:52 (Gareth, paper) 
CS 10:52 (Ade) 

People of earth! I have exciting news for you. If you have the slightest interest in learning to construct crossword puzzles of your own, you can now own Patrick Berry’s seminal handbook (which includes 70 puzzles that illustrate his points … and are also lovely Patrick Berry crosswords in their own right) for $10. The out-of-print “Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies” book (such a misleading title!) will set you back you over $100 on Amazon, or you can get the updated PDF edition, now accurately titled Crossword Constructor’s Handbook, directly from Patrick for $10. The puzzles will come in .puz format as well as PDF as a nice bonus. If you know someone who’d like to learn to construct, surprise them with this book. I’m excited to be able to point newbies to Patrick’s fresh edition now!

And if you’re more into solving, Patrick also has a mini-puzzle extravaganza called “Vicious Circle,” a suite of puzzles with a meta contest answer. Contest ends April 25. Puzzle pack costs $10, or $15 if you want his delicious bonus puzzles. Available here.

Michael Shteyman’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 2 25 15, no 0225

NY Times crossword solution, 2 25 15, no 0225

Really an odd sort of puzzle for a Wednesday. It’s a 70-worder that’s practically a themeless puzzle with a mini-theme on steroids—instead of having a couple linked 15s, this one has three linked 15s intersecting a fourth Midwestern capital with 13 letters. We get LANSING, MICHIGAN; LINCOLN, NEBRASKA (though I would argue that OK, NE, SD, and ND are the Great Plains more than the Midwest, as they’re so far removed from the Great Lakes area); ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA; and DES MOINES, IOWA. It’s neat that they intersect in the grid just so, but it isn’t exactly an entertaining sort of thing for me.

Michael’s notes at Wordplay tell me he reworked his very first NYT puzzle submission (rejected circa 1999), with the three 15s, by adding Des Moines. Eh. It’s an architectural achievement but not at all a wordplay one.

Likes: That ROLLED R at 1-Across, CAN’T-LOSE, and … well, despite the grid’s openness, there isn’t a ton of juicy fill aside from your city/state combos.

Five more things:

  • 10d. [Final stanza in a poem], ENVOI. That’s more Friday-grade fill, isn’t it?
  • Doctor, doctor! Young Dr. Shteyman, who was just a punk kid back in ’99, is now an anesthesiologist like my father-in-law was pre-retirement. So we get a medical CHART and an ICU and a patient calling out “NORSE!” Michael made more crosswords back when he was a pipsqueak, and they were impressive.
  • 49d. [Trevor of the N.B.A.], ARIZA. Unfamiliar name for which I needed every crossing.
  • 13d. [German steel city], ESSEN. The most crossword-friendly of all 5-letter cities, is it not? It is.
  • 21a. [1,000 kilogrammes], TONNE. Could be British-variant English, could be French. What it isn’t is American spelling.

Hmm, 3.33 stars from me. Not much fun and games here. Just make us a straight-up themeless, Doc! I like a good themeless.

Aimee Lucido’s AV Club Crossword, “Inside Jokes”

AVX crossword solution, 2 25 15 "Inside Jokes"

AVX crossword solution, 2 25 15 “Inside Jokes”

Aimee’s theme is phrases whose central 3 letters are the title of a movie comedy:

  • 17a. [Like the first item on a to-do list, perhaps], TOP PRIORITY. Didn’t see Rio.
  • 23a. [People somewhere between three and six on the Kinsey Scale, collectively], LESBIGAYS. Big starred Tom Hanks and if you think, “Oh, my kid would love this movie,” don’t forget the scene where the 13-year-old child in a man’s body gets laid by a grown woman.
  • 37a. [Channel where the circled offerings might air, and a spatial description of those offerings within the theme entries], COMEDY CENTRAL.
  • 53a. [Part of a rock kit], SNARE DRUM. Red! My kid did like that one. Quite violent (like so many action movies). He wanted to see Helen Mirren, his grandma’s age, wielding military-grade weapons.
  • 61a. [British dessert with an oft-mocked name], SPOTTED DICK. Ted was that Seth MacFarlane teddy bear movie I had no interest it.

Tops: AIRBNB, EARGASMS, YO-YO DIET29a. [Modern prefix with -grammer or -gressive] to clue BRO30a. [Soul or Fusion] for CAR. (My uncle who turns 80 next month bought himself a Kia Soul last year. Alien green.)

Bottoms: ARF ARF, ENO/ARP combo, SEM, ARTE, STN. Also, there have been some complaints out there about the stereotyped gender essentialism of the STIES clue, [Frat houses, often]. And by “some,” I mean “probably just one.”

Didn’t know:

  • 41d. [App used by women to rate men], LULU.
  • 12d. [Domain of King Tyndareus], SPARTA. Tyndareus?
  • That BETTED was a valid past tense, not just BET.

3.8 stars from me.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No-Hitters”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.25.15: "No-Hitters"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.25.15: “No-Hitters”

Good day, crossword lovers! Hope you’re doing well on the final Wednesday in February. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, provides us five theme answers, as each of the themes are multiple-word entries in which the final word happens to also be an instrument that, if you wanted to, could be used to sock someone over the head with! Essentially, they’re all types of sticks, but I didn’t want to say the word “stick” since that word is part of one of the entries. Well, I used “stick” now, so there goes some of the suspense, huh?

      • VAMPIRE BAT (17A: [Bloodsucker named for a bloodsucker]) – For some reason, this answer remind me of this exchange from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Hocus Pocus

      • SOUTH POLE (26A: [Site of the Amundsen-Scott Station])
      • PEPPERMINT STICK (41A: [Red-and-white-striped treat])
      • WAIT STAFF (51A: [Restaurant hirees])
      • TURKEY CLUB (65A: [Sandwich shunned by vegans]) – My lunch, maybe? Hold the mayo, and I’ll be good to go!

I knew that Spanx sold the undergarments from the chest to below the waist, but didn’t know that they actually sell BRAS as well (64A: [Some Spanx sales]). Well, I guess I shouldn’t feel that bad that it wasn’t common knowledge for me, huh? For ICE BAG, I initially had the first two letters (I-C-___) and then filled in ICY HOT (22A: [Ache or pain soother]). I don’t think that answer is that far-fetched, is it? How awesome was the clue to BIRD CALLS (38D: [Tweets without hashtags])? For a split second, I thought, “Are my non hashtagged tweets actually termed ‘bird calls’ in the Twitter world?” For a while, some of my favorite programming that I watch is on the Investigation Discovery network (ID), and one of the shows that’s part of their lineup is a documentary called Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry? (10D: [Censor’s recourse]). As a matter-of-fact, I spent a couple of hours before the Super Bowl earlier this month watching a marathon of a show called Wives With Knives. Educational programming, I know! Fun puzzle today, especially with having five themes in offer.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SARGE (13D: [Beetle Bailey’s reprimander]) – Former Major League Baseball outfielder Gary Matthews, nicknamed SARGE, played 16 seasons in the pros, winning the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year as a member of the San Francisco Giants. In 1983, Matthews won the National League Championship Series MVP as he led the Phillies to a seven-game series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers en route to the Fall Classic. Matthews went on to be a longtime broadcaster on television with the Phillies before not being retained by the club heading into the 2014 season.

Have a good day everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150225

LA Times

I’m less sure of the revealer, but the theme concept itself is super tight. Four phrases describing generic types of film roles have their adjective re-imagined to be describing the vocation of the role itself. This is summed up by the phrase TYPECASTING. So we have a shepherdess as a LEADINGLADY, a jeweler making a CAMEOAPPEARANCE, a horse trainer with a BITPART, and a weightlifter as a SUPPORTINGACTOR.

The rest of the puzzle was a mixed bag. Some interesting longer stuff – PUPTENT, POMPEII, ILLPASS and HIJACK – but also a lot of really awkward short answers of the contrived variety. IUM and ISE are pretty desperate as suffixes, and yet their areas don’t look deserving of such desperation.

Via Excelsior Press.orgRemarks:

  • [Mutinous Kubrick computer], HAL. I’d have credited Clarke myself.
  • [Boyfriend], BEAU. A word I’ve encountered chiefly while reading Nancy Drew novels as a kid.
  • […based on my abilities], ASICAN. Use it in a sentence??
  • [Stephen of “Breakfast on Pluto], REA. I’m more of a Chris man. I love the joke at 1:10 here.

4 Stars. Very strong theme, but with a few mushy spots in the grid.

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11 Responses to Wednesday, February 25, 2015

  1. huda says:

    NYT: The puzzle captures something about the midwest– it’s forthright “what you see is what you get” style. And I thought it was so cool that there was a rhythm to these capital/state combos so they all fit together so well. I wouldn’t have noticed that on my own.
    The SKORT- KAFKA adjacency made me smile. I found myself really liking the whole thing, almost as a counterpoint to the silliness of some themes.

    • ArtLvr says:

      I liked the NYT too. It was clever to find those interlocking capital cities… The French flavor was a fun sidelight with ENVOI, MENAGE, & REGIME. However, I had a nit with the AMEBAE : if using the Latin plural, you’d expect the full “amoebae”! It just looks wrong as it is.

  2. sbmanion says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle.

    Trevor Ariza is someone everyone should know, only because he has played in so many different cities: New York, Orlando, Houston (twice), Washington and Los Angeles. He played one year at UCLA then entered the draft. He has had a solid 10-year career to date.

    The only reason I know anything about him other than my general love of sports is that I was tutoring a boy who was a 5-star recruit in the same year as Trevor Ariza and I happened to pick up on his career. It was the first year I was actively interested in the rarified air of what it takes to be a 5-star recruit. My student averaged close to 40 points a game in high school, but did not have the academics to get into a D-1 school.


    • lemonade714 says:

      Perhaps the young person could have gone to a prep school before college and thus increased both his learning and his marketability. I hope he was able to use his obvious skill to develop others.

  3. Zulema says:

    Since I dislike most tortured themes, I liked the NYT puzzle very much, and also finding out what Michael was doing these days. How time passes! I liked the fill too, though perhaps it was on the easy side. One thing is I do not consider Michigan Midwest.

    • Gary R says:

      Interesting – I grew up in Wisconsin and have lived in Indiana and now Michigan. I’d consider all three to be in the Midwest. Like Amy, I don’t usually think of the stack of states from North Dakota to Kansas as Midwest.

      The Census Bureau defines four regions – Northeast, South, Midwest and West. Their definition includes the 12 states from Ohio to the N.D. – Kansas stack.

  4. Michael says:

    Didn’t expect such a simple theme to hit the sweet spot for so many. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. jae says:

    I’m with @Gareth – Solid Wed. for the LAT.

  6. 7d5a9b1 says:

    As to Patrick Berry’s conveniently reissued book–when will Amy Reynaldo’s “How to Conquer the New York Time Crossword Puzzle” come out in some such format? It’s now available new only for $94 from various odd places. This is too bad.

  7. Aaron says:

    Really tough fill for me in the NYT, even after I got all the theme answers.

Comments are closed.