Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of good stuff in this 70-worder, and also some stale bits. Highlights:
- 1a. [Prison design that allows surveillance of any inmate at any time], PANOPTICON. So that’s how that word is used? It’s a cool-looking word. Dictionary tells me the word is “historic.” Seems like it should have non-penal applications.
- 33a. [Mutual dislike], NO LOVE LOST. The phrase has never made sense to me. Isn’t all of the love lost? None of it is left?
- 63a. [TV host who succeeded Jimmy Fallon on “Late Night”], SETH MEYERS. My favorite part about this is that I actually forgot Seth had a show. Could remember that James Corden had a show, but forgot Seth’s existence. Nobody ever seems to post viral Meyers videos on social media…
- 3d. [“The gloves are off”], NO MORE MR. NICE GUY. Zippy phrase.
1d: PAPA DOC is a “lively” entry, but he was a terrible man. “Dictator who created the Tontons Macoutes” doesn’t spell out that Duvalier’s special forces murdered 30,000 to 60,000 Haitians. Haiti’s current population is about 10 million. That would be like murdering 1 or 2 million Americans in today’s population. Horrible.
2d. [Cassim’s brother of folklore], ALI BABA? Didn’t know Cassim, but I had the final BA and guessed ALI BABA.
Blah fill that I wasn’t keen on seeing here includes CEES, OBE, ENOLA, ADES, ONEONTA, OTOES, NENE, and ADEPT AT. LIRAS, SO DO I, TSO, ROREM and LE CID … these aren’t making me smile, either.
41d. [Like E.T. riding Elliott’s bicycle] clues REARLIT. That’s a word? OneLook.com says “Sorry, no dictionaries indexed in the selected category contain the word rearlit.” Backlit, I know. Not liking this REARLIT … which is now making me think of people lighting their farts on fire.
39a. [Products once advertised with the slogan “Hello boys”] offends me as a clue for WONDERBRAS because that slogan really ought to have a comma in it, don’t you think? (See also: 26a.)
3.5 stars from me.
Sam Ezersky’s BuzzFeed crossword — Jim’s review
Good, solid grid today from Sam Ezersky highlighting hip hop artist Kendrick LAMAR (29D) and his major label debut album GOOD KID, M.A.A.D CITY.
But good luck to you if you didn’t know that album title, as I didn’t. Even expecting that there would be some strange spelling involved, that double-A in the center caused me to doubt RADON, especially since I’d never heard the word CANARD (34A [Unfounded rumor, such as “All crossword constructors are nerds”]). And HONDO was slow in coming. (Kept trying to squeeze HATARI in there.) This was the last section of the puzzle to fall for me, but if I’d gone with my instincts, I’d’ve saved a lot of time.
I also struggled in the NE and SW. Didn’t know of the deal between Starbucks and GOOGLE WIFI (12D). Tried MOBILE WIFI in there first which hung me up for a while. In the SW, I had NEWTS on the brain for 49D [Critters sometimes licked to get high (it doesn’t work, trust…my friend)]. The correct answer is TOADS. That fail is on me.
I like the NW combo of TICK TOCK and EASY CHAIR. They give a rather uncharacteristic, sedate feel to a BuzzFeed puzzle. Also loved the inclusion of The DAILY SHOW. DELAWARE, LOOP-DE-LOOP, ROLL TIDE, and PALCOHOL round out the rest of the nice long answers. I didn’t know PALCOHOL (26A [Controversial just-add-water booze]) but have learned it’s a portmanteau of “powdered alcohol” and which is, right now, banned in 5 states.
Best looking section of the grid is the NE in my opinion with CATFIGHT atop AU REVOIR atop DRUM SOLO with all solid crossers if you don’t mind FEMDOM.
But I can’t say I enjoyed the puzzle. There was just too much of a bro-centric vibe in the clues with all the sophomoric references to porn and masturbation. Case in point: FAP (43A [Slang for masturbation that comes from the sound of masturbation]). The “male” in the clue is assumed because, why wouldn’t it be? Seriously, put “male” in there and you probably get away with it.
Other similar sniggering male-centric clues:
- 7A CATFIGHT [Girl-on-girl action?]
- 3D LAVA [Peak ejaculation?]
- 10D FEMDOM [Porn fetish category with men strapped to tables, for short]. Oh wait. This one’s ok because the woman is not being objectified. Yeah right. As if FEMDOM porn was aimed at a female audience.
Plus all the “shits” and “fucks” and “fuckboys” that were in clues that just didn’t need them. Example: HAVOCS at 17A is clued as [Situations where shit is fucked up]. Why? No reason. Just cuz. SCAT, ASPERSES, and CADS get similar treatment.
This is all to say it just felt gratuitous. It felt as if the effort was not put into making the best puzzle possible but into getting as many “shits”, “fucks”, and sex references as possible into the grid. I like this quote from Ben Tausig when the AVCX was recently looking to hire a new constructor, “We’re more open to adult language than the mainstream puzzle, and pop culture references are welcome, though elegance, originality, and humor come first.” I’ve never felt the AVCX puzzles were gratuitous nor male-centric, but his is not the first time I’ve felt it coming from BuzzFeed.
I like this grid. I do. It’s solid and got great long entries. The cluing just needed to be tweaked to make it a little more inclusive and less bro-ish.
Ed Sessa’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Leap Year” — pannonica’s write-up
This marks the third time this year I’m describing in these pages a crossword as acknowledging a sesquicentennial, but only the second time for a CHE offering.
Despite the upcoming 2016 being a leap year, that’s unrelated to the specifics of the theme here.
Thirteen-across begins the multi-part answer: [Start of a short-story title (aptly rendered) that first appeared December 16, 1865]. THE | CELEBRATED | JUMPING OF | CALAVERAS | COUNTY FROG, and 35-across is MARK TWAIN, the [Author of the short story]. (13a, 16a, 24a, 50a, 59a)
The parenthetic ‘aptly rendered’ refers to how FROG has leapt from its customary place (here, in 24a, after JUMPING, at the right margin of row 5) down to the end of the title (i.e., the right margin of row 13).
It’s a cute though minor theme. My only qualm is the inclusion of THE in the grid without a counterbalancing symmetrically placed theme component, like some sort of superfluous appendage. The alternative would of course be the differently unappealing inclusion of a “, with ‘The'” qualifier in the clue for 16-across, so it’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t dilemma.
Two amusing factettes about the story: First, many editions include the charming description, ‘Profusely Illustrated’. Second, a translated version provided an opportunity for Twain to entertainingly revisit his work thus: “In English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil”. That is, he back-translated the French edition to humorous effect—and you can bet that he reaped further compensation for republishing it in an edition three times the length of the original!
- Does 48a GET DOWN intentionally obliquely reference the theme’s conceit?
- 14d [Long-term security, for short] T-BOND, 42a [“Currently serving” military status] ONE-C, 46a [Roster of elite invitees] A-LIST.
- 57d [URL beginning] HTTP, 62d [URL ending] GOV. 45d [“Anderson Cooper 360°” channel] CNN, 68a [Network that aired “The Osbournes”] MTV.
- 60d [ __-Ulm (Bavarian district] NEU. I suspect many might be annoyed by this clue and answer, both being crosswordese and achieving a sort of synergy.
- 4d [Shenandoah Natl. Park’s state] VIRG. Meh.
- 43d [Spurious remedy] NOSTRUM. I like this word, and would have guessed that the height of its popular use would have been the 19th century, Twain’s era, but that period seems to have been the preceding century.
Mostly clean crossword, and a gentle lead-out for the year.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Live Jazz”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everyone! I hope all of you are doing well as we’re just one week away from Christmas Day. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by the extremely talented musician, Mr. Tony Orbach, is an interesting take on “live” events. Each of the four theme entries are puns derived from common phrases that, in any other case, would feature the word “live,” but, in this puzzle, anagrams are created from that very word. Or something like that.
- LEVI FROM NEW YORK (17A: [Strauss out of Manhattan])
- RECORDED LIEV (29A: [TiVO’ed Schreiber’s “Ray Donovan?”]) – Two of my friends have said to me “Ray Donovan” is one of their favorite shows?. Has anyone here seen it?
- VILE FOR TODAY (47A: [Brutally honest meteorologist’s forecast about some miserable weather?])
- AS LONG AS YOU VEIL (62A: [“OK, just be sure to cover up?”])
Another fun puzzle from Mr. Orbach with theme answers that were pretty lively. Funny thing is, if not for the “S” in its entry, ELVIS would have been another anagram of “live” (3D: _____ has left the building (phrase at the end of a certain rock show)]). Maybe we can make the plural form of all the Elvis impersonators “ELVI,” and then it would fit today’s theme! Who’s with me? Of course, the theme song to GOOD TIMES is now in my mind as we speak (11D: [Better days]). Only clue in which I was pretty clueless was the one for DIAGON, as I really need to step up my Harry Potter game (31D: [______ Alley (where Harry Potter shops for wands]). How cool is shopping for wands? Wands should definitely be added onto any Christmas shopping list, right? If the CAP’N were to be demoted in military cereal land, would his new title then be ENS’N Crunch (55D: [Crunch’s rank])? By the way, did you know that Cap’n Crunch had a full name? Horatio Magellan Crunch, according to Wikipedia. The more you know, huh?!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ISIAH (15A: [Thomas of the NBA]) – Which ISIAH Thomas is being referred to here? The retired Hall of Fame guard and two-time NBA champion who starred for the Detroit Pistons in the 1980s and 1990s – and who also became a monumental failure as a coach, executive and president, who was at the center of a sexual harassment suit against Madison Square Garden that was won by his accuser, Anucha Browne-Sanders? Or does the clue refer to the Isaiah Thomas (no relation) who currently plays as a guard for the Boston Celtics and leads the C’s in scoring (21.2) and assists (6.6) so far this season? Obviously, the spelling difference (extra “A” in the Celtics version of Isaiah) makes it clear, but just wanted to highlight that there’s another Thomas in the NBA with a homophonic first name to the basketball legend/calamity-of-an-executive version.
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow! Oh, and if anyone is going to be in the Charlotte area on the days of Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, let me know. I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the neighborhood.
Robin Stears’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Ooh, look! It’s nice to find a truly puzzling LA Times theme. There are no ?’s in the clues, and until I got to the bottom, I didn’t have enough letters in the theme answers to know what the heck was going on, other than some answers wanted to be right, but couldn’t quite fit! The theme is PIGLATIN: specifically words that, when PIGLATIN-ised, become other real words. So the clue for ASHTRAY describes TRASH; the other pairs are UNDERPLAY/PLUNDER, EASTBAY/BEAST and OVERSTAY/STOVER. Never heard of that Stover, who founded a chocolate company. The fodder detritus is very familiar to me. I’m probably more up on my agricultural byproducts than most solvers, it must be said… The other three pig latin answers translated to words not names, so that is not the same as the other theme answers.
Just 39 theme squares makes for plenty of space for other fun. With five theme answers, the theme also didn’t feel too sparse. I liked the OT twofer of JOSHUA under the REDSEA, STEPON and BOXSEAT in the bottom-left, DRYRUNS centrally in the vertical axis, all three of the top-left stack: STOMACH (clued cunningly as an [acid producer]), NOVELLA (also clued trickily!), and OPENBAR (the best clue of the puzzle – [Spot for free spirits]).
Not familiar with [Court surprise], NETBALL; I think I call those NETCORDS? NETBALL is a sport related to basketball, but traditionally played by woman in my world; I’ve tried to play that exactly once and it’s so confusing and counter-intuitive. You get the ball and… have to stop moving??? Also, would love to see CONTRA clued as the NES game once…
Strangest clueing angle: ILLER as a [Danube tributary].
Lastly I’d redo the ICI/CID/PAC area. That would take five seconds to improve.