Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NYT 3:25 (Amy) 
AV Club 8:11 (Ben) 
LAT 3:35 (Gareth) 
CS tk (Ade) 
WSJ 6:01 (Jim) 

Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword

NYT - October 7, 2015 - Julian Lim

NYT – October 7, 2015 – Julian Lim

Fun theme, provided you didn’t stop paying any attention to pop music 20 or 30 years ago. Familiar phrases that include words that double as one-named singers are the theme answers:

  • 17a. [Amused the singer of “Raise Your Glass”?], TICKLED PINK.
  • 25a. [Enchantment of the singer of “Raspberry Beret”?], PRINCE CHARMING. I wish this were clued by way of “Little Red Corvette,” as that song is much lewder.
  • 35a. [Favoring the singer of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”?], PRO BONO.
  • 42a. [Medical procedure for the singer of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”?], STING OPERATION. “Surgical” would be more precise than “medical,” but it’s Wednesday, not Monday.
  • 57a. [Coached the singer of “Kiss From a Rose”?], TRAINED SEAL. Heh.

I give this theme an A.

Favorite fill: CAKE MIX (dang it, people keep talking about cake and I HAVE NONE), RABBIT HOLE, DYNAMIC DUO, MAD MEN, TATER TOTS, DRIVE-THRU.

Worst: plural ALIS, TEK, abbrevs PKGS and RECT, ELL and ZEE, ULAN (the current default spelling is Ulaanbaatar and Wikipedia says “Ulan Bator” is “archaic), OOP, L. RON.

What about 5d. [Coke Zero alternative], DIET RC? That’s a thing? It’s not just Diet Rite anymore? Googling … The label appears to say Diet RC, but the company website calls it “RC Cola Diet,” which is a terrible name. Diet Rite comes in diet cola and four fruit flavors.

4.25 stars for the theme, 4.5 stars for the juicy fill, 2 stars for the fill I didn’t like, so approximately 4 stars overall. A diverting enough solve so that the worst bits of fill didn’t distract me much while I worked the puzzle.

Tom Uttormark and C. C. Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Echoes” — Jim’s write-up

Variations on a theme today. Tom Uttormark and C. C. Burnikel team up again to give us homophones of the word SELL. Theme entries are phrases that end with these homophones.

WSJ Wed Oct 7, 2015

WSJ Wed Oct 7, 2015 “Echoes”

  • 17A [Home to about 2.2 million in the U.S.] PRISON CELL. Fine entry but a rather depressing clue. How about [Breakout site, maybe] or something similar?
  • 24A [Collectible frame] ANIMATION CEL. Sorry. It’s a thing, but it’s not a stand-alone phrase.
  • 50A [Realty ad phrase] PRICED TO SELL. Good!
  • 62A [Artisanal seasoning] FLEUR DE SEL. Tough. (1) Not as well-known a phrase and (2) no indication that the answer is French. I’m sure foodies have no problem with this however.

This type of theme doesn’t excite me so much because there’s not much wordplay going on. And in this case, the theme entries are hit-or-miss. Unless all my theme phrases are sure-fire winners, I would look for different set of homophones.

The title isn’t very telling, either. Any homophone-themed puzzle could have the title “Echoes”. Instead, how about “Bear Market”?

Outside the theme, the construction is very nice. Good non-theme material and a minimum of dreck. This indicates meticulous construction and/or strong editorial oversight. For the most part, this is typical of a Mike Shenk joint.

Good stuff: CANNIBALS, MIRACLE-GRO, ARE WE ALONE, E-CIGARETTE (in its full form), WASABI PEAS with ARIGATO (nice!), and STREET ROD. Fantastic!

Today's quiz: Which is the E-CIG and which is Doctor Who's Sonic Screwdriver?

Today’s quiz: Which is the E-CIG and which is Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver?

Bad stuff: FNMA, the acronymic version of Fannie Mae which, according to my sources, last appeared in a major publication puzzle in 2011; YGOR, the “Son of Frankenstein” role which I always thought was spelled Igor; and ARR with the strange clue [DEP’s counterpart]. I kept thinking DEP was going to be some politician’s initials, like Dwight E. Piesenhower (good name for a baker!).

So, a ho-hum theme and some slightly off-target theme entries, but good construction and excellent non-theme fill.

In closing, since we have OSLO crossing HOLE, let me take a moment to plug Jo Nesbø’s excellent Nordic Noir crime thrillers set in OSLO and featuring the flawed and very very very very unfortunately-named detective Harry HOLE. If you can get past the name, you’ll find an excellent series of novels starting with “The Bat” and ending 10 books later with “Police”.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Make-up Game” — Ben’s Review


I’m kind of surprised I didn’t catch what was going on with the theme clues more quickly this week, but there’s a lot going on in the grid.  Right from 1A, there’s a hint that the grid is going to be filled with “something, in certain spots”, but if you’re like me and try to do a full pass of the acrosses before digging too deeply into the down clues, it wasn’t clear what was going on in the theme clues:

  • 17A: “That constellation looks like Orion’s butt,” et al.? — SPACE BARBS
  • 24A: “My cheap Milwaukee beer fell!” — PABST DOWN
  • 39A: Hard-edged soul music with Gwen Ifill on bass, David Brooks on guitar, and Charlie Rose singing? — PBS FUNK
  • 50A: Bumper sticker spotted in the parking lot of a dog show? — I LOVE LABS
  • 62A: Tale of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme? — HERBS STORY

Once I hit the downs and realized that many of the personal details doled out in the rest of the clues this week were all LIES, everything fell into place.  The theme clues are literally filled with BS (how I somehow missed SPACE BAR and PAT DOWN in the first two clues continues to shock me).  Here’s some of the other fibs in the grid:

  • 8D: Alcoholics Anonymous founder who was my great grandfather — DR BOB (first pass-through of this clue: “that’s interesting!”.  Second pass-through: “duh!”)
  • 9D: Basketball stat that I got when I played briefly for the Utah Jazz in the early 2000s — ASSIST
  • 27D: “Hot ___ Time Machine” (film for which I was an executive producer) – TUB
  • 53D: Hat I wore as an army ranger — BERET

Overall, the fill this week was good, although I questioned whether having ELLA and ETTA in the same grid was allowed – last week we had SANTA CLARA in the grid near a clue about Santa Claus.  Still, it’s a minor nitpick that didn’t ruin my experience of the puzzle.

3.75/5 stars.

Howard Barkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 151007

LA Times

This US sports theme meant little to me. However, before we get to that theme I’d just like to mention tonight’s sports numbers, “64-0”. OK then, the theme meant little to me, but it seems pretty tight? I’d have thought ROUGHING(IT) and HOLDING(WATER) are like FIGHTING(CHANCE), only less severe, but what do I know? I can’t imagine what BOARDING(PASS) is. If ice hockey players are waterboarding their opponents Abu Ghraib-style, then things have gotten a little out of control! Anyway, doing those things will put you in the PENALTYBOX. I don’t know if those are the only things that can put you there. I know ICING is an ice-hockey offense of some sort. Is it lesser?

Some interesting choices in the medium-length fill. There’s not much truly long fill outside of the theme in this design. WINGOLD looks like WING/OLD, but it’s WIN/GOLD. HAIGHT, SAIDNO and DENIRO are somewhat interesting. The GL of HEIGL looked wrong before I saw the clue. Unexpected letter patterns are always nice to have! This goes for TBIRDS as well!

I’d definitely have redone the top-right. DENIRO is not worth an area with plural abbr. ENCS and SDAK. Such a small corner should have plenty of better options. Starting from RINSE in place of RISKY there are a whole stack.

Clues: [Start of a spelling rule broken by deists?] is a fantastic, if utterly transparent clue. [Great Salt Lake component, to a chemist], NACL on the other hand, felt needlessly padded, and [Charging cable, e.g.], WIRE oddly specific.

3.5 Stars

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15 Responses to Wednesday, October 7, 2015

  1. John says:

    ABMS crossing DAMN was a lucky guess for me, as it could have easily been ABRS crossing DARN.

  2. Dook says:

    Liked the NYT. Don’t understand the answer to the easter egg clue – DVD. Can someone explain? Is Diet Rite the same as RC? Maybe not. RC stands (or stood) for Royal Crown cola.

    • Evad says:

      This page does a good job of explaining how Easter eggs relate to DVD’s (and other media).

      I think they are more common in the video gaming world–undocumented features such as pressing the ‘B’ (“boss”) key mid-game play would replace the game screen with a spreadsheet or another key sequence that would show the names of all the developers who worked on the project.

  3. David L says:

    Cute puzzle, and I enjoyed seeing TATERTOTS. A few weeks back I was at a little neighborhood pizza place with a faintly hipster vibe, and you could order seasoned tater tots as a side. So I did. Yum!

    I don’t see how the clue for PRINCECHARMING works. How do I interpret it to agree with “Enchantment of the singer…”?

  4. Gary R says:

    Enjoyed the theme and the longer downs in the NYT. 35-A though, seems a little off because the pronunciation doesn’t seem to work. I’ve always heard the phrase pronounced with long-o’s, but I believe the singer’s name has one short-o and one long-o.

    • Howard B says:

      Interesting, but I think if you consider it a visual theme and not phonetic, then it’s OK. (Bono is also pronounced here with the first O short, second long).

  5. JohnV says:

    Did not like IRIS/ARR/TIES mash-up in WSJ offering. Otherwise, fine puz, pretty easy for a Wed.

  6. huda says:

    NYT: Pleasant surprise… I saw it and thought it’s the kind of theme I’d suck at, proper nouns, pop culture, I’m done for. But, in spite of being jet lagged, I found it on the easy side because the theme hangs together well and the fill has enough solid phrases to provide a work around. I’m always impressed when a puzzle helps me overcome my weaknesses.

    I’m with John re that crossing. ABMS= Antiballistic missiles?

    • Lois says:

      ABMs must have been very familiar a long time ago, because I found that one easy and I don’t know so much. But the constructor looks young!

  7. Gareth says:

    Loved the theme so much! Amy’s summary is almost exactly what went through my mind at the end of the puzzle, and I also came up with 4 stars!

    As it happens, a vastly inferior variant of this theme was my first published puzzle. I checked the date, and it’s December 2008. I can’t believe this at all!

    For those of us of my generation, singing the Prince answer possibly evoked this?

  8. austin says:

    avc was great this week. liked the extra touch that every clued lie touched a B or an S.

  9. Zulema says:

    Not jet-lagged but sleepy and thought “good NYT puzzle” because got all of it not knowing any of the music cited. I figured it wouldn’t matter and it didn’t. The phrases mostly worked. It’s not easy to construct a Wednesday puzzle.

  10. pannonica says:

    LAT: ICING is more of a procedural infraction, akin to but different from offsides; no-one is sent to the penalty box for that. Those comprising the theme are much more serious and potentially injurious. BOARDING constitutes hitting a player into the … wait for it … boards enclosing the rink, but not from right up against them. From a distance away such that the opponent is sent more or less headlong into the boards.

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