Wednesday, September 23, 2015

NYT 4:19 (Amy) 
AV Club 10:49 (Ben) 
LAT 3:37 (Gareth) 
CS 8:23 (Ade) 
WSJ untimed (Amy) 

Michael Maurer’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 9 23 15, 0923

NY Times crossword solution, 9 23 15, 0923

Football theme! Football terms are playfully redefined in other contexts:

  • 17a. [Appetizer, usually?], FIRST DOWN.
  • 24a. [Exile from?], KICK OFF. The question mark is your only cue that this 7-letter answer is a theme answer (until you’ve filled it in and say, “Oh, sure, football kickoff”). The 7-letter theme answers are in rows with nonthematic 7s, so that’s a small demerit.
  • 33a. [“I am not guilty,” e.g.?], DEFENSIVE LINE. This one is the best themer. “It wasn’t me!” and “I didn’t do it!” sound more defensive.
  • 50a. [Cuba or North Korea?], RED ZONE. North Korea isn’t precisely Communist. Cuba and China, that would be a better pairing. Juche!
  • 57a. [Beauty queen bride, quaintly?], BLECH. I mean, FAIR CATCH. Blech. Why not something you catch at a carnival/fair?

Theme’s okay, not great. Better than plenty of early- to mid-week themes.

Didn’t care for EMOTER, certainly not as it’s clued. If you do a Google book search for EMOTER, you get a bunch of psychology books rather than anything about acting.

Five more things:

  • 9d. [Out of the ordinary], ESPECIAL. If you are American and you use this word, please stop now.
  • 63a. [Part of a bun], TRESS. Are you all aware of the man-bun trend? Every single one of these “28 Men Who Prove Man Buns Are Beyond Sexy” would look better with a bunless hairstyle. Sigh.
  • 15a. [Country whose flag has a dagger and two swords], OMAN. Fun little vexillological trivia.
  • 26a. [“The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet,” per H. L. Mencken], MARTINI. My preferred cocktail, the Tom Collins, is un-American.
  • 46d. [“The Imitation Game” subject], TURING. I wanted ENIGMA or CODING or something. The puzzle’s answer is better. Didn’t see the movie, but I finally watched the first couple episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock, with Turing portrayer Benedict Cumberbatch. Entertaining! Now I see why people are fond of Mr. Clamberbunch.

Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Hidden Levels” — Ben’s Review


BEQ’s contribution to the AV Club Crossword this week (correctly graded as a 4/5 on their difficulty scale) is pretty fantastic.  I had an inkling of what was going on when I knew the cult comedy with Mr. T at 1D was DC CAB, but only had four blanks.  Realizing that its neighbors were also affected revealed this week’s theme: four black BELTs (the kind you might get in DOJOS, as mentioned at 40A) are hidden in the grid, affected the surrounding entries.  Here’s an example of one of the affected corners – all of them can be seen in the grid to the right:

  • 51A: Back up strategy – PLAN B
  • 52A: Breakdancer, in old hip-hop slang – B-BOY
  • 60A: “Shipping Wars” channel – A AND E
  • 61A: Money deposits made in US currency but left in a Continental bank – EURO DOLLARS
  • 63A: Fictional guitar god Tufnel – NIGEL
  • 64A: Former NPR host Hansen – LIANE
  • 66A: Hagar’s pet – SNERT
  • 67A: Manages, as a bar – TENDS

After a few weeks of puzzles with slightly more standard cluing, this felt like a nice return to form for the rest of the puzzle’s fill and cluing.  A lot of nice entries without much for me to be picky about.  Here’s some gems from the rest of the grid:

  • 5A: Bad thing to drop in polite company – F-BOMB.  (Before I realized what was going on with the grid my initial thought on this one was TROU.  Both of those are correct, and yet for these purposes, one is particularly wrong.)
  • 44D: Palindromically titled 1976 Album with “Evil Woman” – OLE ELO.  (I filled this into the grid far faster than someone my age should have.  Love me some ELO, though.)
  • 48A: Marijuana blunt laced with PCP (bad night folks, don’t do it, I speak from experience) – SHERM
  • 49A: The parenthetical comment in 48-Across, e.g. – LIE (if it’s possible for a pair of crossword clues to have perfect comedic timing, this was the pair.  Right as I was thinking “really?”, the punchline hit)

4/5 stars.  Loved the theme and the clues.

Patrick Jordan’s’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Writers Bloc”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.23.15: "Writers Bloc"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.23.15: “Writers Bloc”

Hello again, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, is a family affair, as each of the first three theme answers is a celebrity whose first name is also the first name of a BRONTË SISTER (51A: [20-, 31-, and 42-Across each share a first name with one]).

  • CHARLOTTE RAE (20A: [Edna Garrett’s portrayer on “The Facts of Life”])
  • EMILY BLUNT (31A: [She played the baker’s wife in “Into the Woods”])
  • ANNE MURRAY (42A: [“Snowbird” singer])

Because my father had way too many flashlights in our apartment, there were way too many C-CELL batteries laying around (23D: [Common flashlight battery]). That also probably means that our family lost way too many things in our place when I was growing up. For some reason, I had —AS but put in “auras” instead of NOVAS  for a bit (12D: [Stellar flare-ups]).  The bottom left corner definitely had some testy feelings in it, with ABHOR (47D: [Regard with repugnance]) crossing HATE (56A: [Find unbearable]). Where’s the love, Patrick?!? Well, there’s definitely some love given to the New York Yankees in this grid, starting with the presence of JETER (39A: [2014 Yankee retiree Derek]). And to boot, here’s a sendoff to one of the all-time great Bronx Bombers…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BERRA (6D: [Yogi who played in 75 World Series games])  – Here’s a brief bio on one of the great catchers, baseball players, and people to ever grace this earth, Lawrence Peter BERRA, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

See you Thursday.

Take care!


Gerry Wildenberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150923

LA Times

Wow. That’s a pretty thin theme premise. It’s just phrases starting with L?N going through the 5 vowels and Y. The L?N is merely part of the word and the sound varies between short and long. With such a broad concept, you’d expect stellar entries, even with a six-part theme. We have:

    • the somewhat unsavoury [Aggressive property seizure], LANDGRAB
    • [Red Square shrine], LENINSTOMB
    • a [Pet hair picker-upper], LINTROLLER
    • the [Green Hornet’s great-uncle, with “The”], LONERANGER, clued via an interesting in-universe factoid: he is related to the Green Hornet!? This is similar to how Commander Keen is the grandson of BJ Bazkowicz I guess!
    • [Stretch between new moons], LUNARMONTH. Had cycle first.
    • [Sharp-sighted], LYNXEYED

There is a CA…ER mini-theme with CARPOOLER and CANOPENER.

Another mini-theme is binoculars, with PENTAX clued as a [Binoculars brand] crossing the pricy LYNX(eyed) brand of binoculars. Mostly, I see Nikon (I have Nikon Monarch 8x42s) and Bushnell, with Swarovski the main aspirational brand around these parts.

Fill was for the most part above average: ICHING, and WINEBAR can be added to the previous. TREPAN is a difficult answer clued as a [Rock-boring drill]. I’ve mostly encountered it as a verb meaning “to drill into the skull with a trephine” myself. This may be more upsetting to our breakfasting crossword solvers. I don’t think it was a deliberate choice looking at the letters, but the odd offbeat, difficult word counts as a positive for me.

I’m not solipsistic enough to assume that my experience is in any way universal, but I have never seen the “Cab” in [Place to get a Cab], WINEBAR outside of crosswords. Is this something wine people say? It doesn’t sound snobby enough!

3 Stars

Jim Peredo’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dude, Where’s My Car?”—Amy’s brief write-up

WSJ crossword solution, 9 23 15 "Dude, Where's My Car?"

WSJ crossword solution, 9 23 15 “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

Didn’t solve the puzzle—the solution grid is taken from the following day’s puzzle. The theme is familiar phrases clued as if they’re about specific car models:

  • 17a. [Stealing Jeeps?], TAKING LIBERTIES.
  • 30a. [Missing Kias?], LOST SOULS. My 80-year-old uncle drives a Soul.
  • 40a. [Can no longer find one’s Honda?], HAD A FIT.
  • 49a. [Woman mourning her missing Volkswagen?], GOLF WIDOW. Ha! good one.
  • 64a. [“My Ford was right here!”?], THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

I love a theme that actually has kinda funny theme entries, and this puzzle hits the mark. The long Down fill includes the zippy WAKE-UP CALL and URGENT CARE. I didn’t solve the puzzle, as I said, so I don’t have any impressions of the overall fill and cluing. But I’ll give the theme 4.5 stars. Great Wednesday-level playful theme.

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10 Responses to Wednesday, September 23, 2015

  1. steveo says:

    I wonder how many times “vexillological” has appeared in Shortz era puzzles….

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Aargh! 13D in the NYT is plain wrong! The plural form of sheaf is sheaves. Always.
    Note the well-known hymn, “Bringing In the Sheaves”, a popular American Gospel song used almost exclusively by Protestant Christians (though the content is not specifically Protestant in nature). The lyrics were written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw, who was inspired by Psalm 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Shaw also wrote music for these words, but they are now usually set to a tune by George Minor, written in 1880.

  3. steveo says:

    For sheaf, some dictionaries list both plurals. It also works as a verb, according to the Google dictionary:

    3rd person present: sheafs
    bundle into sheaves.”

  4. sbmanion says:

    Cumberbatch is very good as Whitey Bulger’s brother in Black Mass. Johnny Depp is brilliant.

    Thanks for the word VEXILLOLOGICAL, which I did not know. Latin prefix, Greek suffix.

    I always enjoy a sports-related theme. In spite of all the off-field distractions, football is more popular this year than it has ever been. This past Monday night’s game had a higher rating than any seventh game of a World Series.

    I wonder how many sports phobes know what RED ZONE and FAIR CATCH signify.


  5. anon says:

    NYT: I did not like 20A. Skeet is a game (along with trap and sporting clays). The targets are called clay pigeons or clays. Nobody calls them SKEETS.

  6. Norm, says:


    I’d never grab a Cab, but I might very well note that such and such winery has a good Cab. Same way I would laud a Navarro Gewurtz. You don’t have to be snobby to enjoy good wine.

  7. Lois says:

    I thought the NYT was a very good puzzle, even though I know nothing about football. I was impressed with myself that I figured out it was a football puzzle, and with Michael Maurer, who created a football puzzle that non-fans could complete. Not only that, but I thought there was a lot of variety in the fill. Fun and satisfying.

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