This week’s AV Club puzzle is arriving on Thursday – look for a review of this tomorrow.
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Let’s celebrate New Year’s Eve…Eve with an appropriately themed Wednesday puzzle! In this grid, three names contain the title of the Robert Burns poem sung after the ball drops December 31, “AULD LANG SYNE“:
- 20a. [Physics Nobelist who pioneered in quantum mechanics] PAUL DIRAC
- 37a. [Federal Reserve chairman under four presidents] ALAN GREENSPAN
- 51a. [Football Hall-of-Famer with a nickname befitting his elusiveness on the field] GREASY NEALE
- 64,65,66a. [With 65- and 66-Across, when to sing the song in the shaded squares] NEW / YEAR’S / EVE
Overall, I enjoy the mirror symmetry and the smiley face. The theme is appropriate for this week, and there isn’t the trickery required for a Thursday puzzle, so a New Year’s Eve-themed puzzle a day early is fine by me. AULD, LANG, and SYNE spanning the first and last names in each theme entry is a plus, too. My major issue was that I was not familiar with PAUL DIRAC or GREASY NEALE, which made solving difficult. (Apparently Neale played Major League baseball, then pro football, before becoming a college and pro football coach. Busy guy.) I was eventually able to get the names from crossings, so it didn’t detract too much from the solving experience.
The fill had some great spots. The one cringe area for me was NLER (54d. Met or Card), which with its partner ALER, only seems to appear in crosswords. I love HEALTHY GLOW, BOB AND WEAVE, BIOPIC, MINUS SIGN. ASTERIX was new to me, and I enjoyed PC CLONE once I parsed it correctly.
That’s it for me for 2015! Happy New Year!
Peter Wentz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Authors of the Year” — Jim’s review
There seems to have been some discrepancy between the print and online versions of the WSJ puzzle this week. This puzzle, “Authors of the Year”, ran in Monday’s printed paper, while Monday’s online puzzle “Oxy Music” ran on Tuesday. I am assuming yesterday’s online “Beastly Behavior” will run in today’s paper. I suspect certain people who make these decisions are on vacation this week resulting in this hullabaloo.
But on to today’s online puzzle: It’s a fitting title for an end-of-year puzzle. But our theme isn’t authors who’ve made a splash this year. Instead, Peter Wentz gives us authors who have written books with a year for a title. Let’s take a closer look.
- 16A [Intellectual who wrote the historical novel “1876”] GORE VIDAL. Part of his Narratives of Empire series which begins with Burr and ends, seven books later, with The Golden Age. Together they tell a story of America from the Founding Fathers to the turn of the twenty-first century. 1876 focuses on the “theft” of the American presidency by Rutherford Hayes over Samuel Tilden.
- 29A [Former congressman who co-wrote the alternative history “1945”] NEWT GINGRICH. In this novel, GINGRICH and co-author William Forstchen present a post-war America in a cold war with Nazi Germany which succeeded in dominating Europe and forcing a truce with the Soviet Union.
- 47A [Comedic actor who wrote the dystopian novel “2030”] ALBERT BROOKS. This is BROOKS’ debut novel which presents a future America that is not whiz-bangily technological, but is saddled with debt, generational discord, and overpopulation.
- 63A [Humorist who wrote the off-color satire “1601”] MARK TWAIN. Not a full-blown novel, but considered a “squib”. According to Wikipedia, it “purports to record a conversation between (Queen) Elizabeth (I) and several famous writers of the day. The topics discussed are entirely scatological, notably farting and sex.” TWAIN wrote it in 1876 but didn’t admit authorship until 1906. It was considered unprintable by mainstream publishers until the 1960s. It reminds me of some of Woody Allen’s early writings which take famous characters and put them in base situations.
An interesting collection of (male) authors whose books are all placed in different eras. Too bad they couldn’t be listed in the puzzle in chronological order, but crossword symmetry must be obeyed!
But why not include GEORGE ORWELL instead of NEWT GINGRICH (both 12 letters)? 1984 is a far more important work than 1945. Maybe because that would give us two dystopian novels in the collection? BROOKS’ novel doesn’t seem very dystopianish, so maybe a different descriptor could have been used in that clue. I would just much rather see a socially significant ORWELL than escapist fiction from GINGRICH.
But there are actually quite a lot of books with years for titles—much more than I thought. No doubt 1776 author DAVID MCCULLOUGH, at a grid-spanning 15 letters, was also on Peter’s short list for inclusion in the puzzle. Of course, most of the books are not by big-name writers or celebrities.
Moving away from the theme, the grid is well made with interesting non-fill words. We get DOUBLE BED with the comfy clue [Cozy place to cuddle], CADETTE [Girl Scout level two above Brownie], WHAT THE, ORIGAMI (cross-referenced with CRANE), SOLARIS, and HESTER in keeping with our literary theme.
I don’t care for the inclusion of CHARLI XCX. This was not a name I knew and so I had a hard time filling that ending bit in. But that’s not why I didn’t care for it. Seems like it was included to be a debut word and to give us some Scrabbly Xs. But those result in the terrible entries of XLI and EXTS. Not a good trade-off in my opinion.
But other than that choice, a solid puzzle that gave me a lot to think about (mostly as I wrote up this review).
Since she is featured so prominently in the puzzle, here’s CHARLI XCX with “Boom Clap” as seen in the film, The Fault in Our Stars:
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Don’t Let Me Down”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Happy New Year’s Eve eve! As I’m blown at the football stadium in Charlotte, I’m now thinking all of the different states I have done one of these blogs in. I think it’s now nine: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Tennessee, California, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Should I make it a goal to blog from each and every state?
Today’s crossword puzzle, from Mr. Tony Orbach, is far from a letdown, as common phrases and/or nouns are altered by adding “UP,” creating some nice puns.
- FAIR SHAKEUP (20A: [Change of management at an exposition?]) – Fair shake.
- STICK-UP FIGURE (27A: [Robbery suspect?]) – Stick figure.
- FLYING STARTUP (49A: [New air taxi service?]) – Flying start.
- CHECKUP BOOK (55A: [Written record of a patient’s yearly visits?]) – Checkbook.
The letter arrangement – and irregularity – to JODHPURS might have thrown off some, but it was great to see, as my horse racing knowledge, though not extensive, was able to bail me out there (5D: [Riding pants]). Usually, jockey’s pants are called breeches, but had heard of jodhpurs a good number of times. The trick was/is how to spell it. Probably the best fill of the day came with NO LOVE LOST (11D: [Bad blood]). Seeing ENS clued the way it was, have to wonder if “EMS” has/had ever been clued in referencing typography as well (10D: [Print measures]). Now that I’ve said that, watch me come across that in a grid in the next week or so.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UGG (22D: [Australian boot brand]) – Which four-time Super Bowl winner currently has UGG as one of his sponsors? Well, he’s none other than Gisele Bündchen’s main squeeze…
See you all on New Year’s Eve!
Michael Dewey’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today, we get a chunky synonym theme. Four marquee acrosses – 2 15’s and 2 13’s – all end in one of a set of formal synonyms: ATTEMPT / ENDEAVOR / TRY / EFFORT. The phrases all use that word in the same sense. I wasn’t too fond of the entries barring OLDCOLLEGETRY. The others felt dry and / or a bit arbitrary… For completeness, there’s TAKEOVERATTEMPT, JOINTENDEAVOUR and GOODFAITHEFFORT.
I didn’t know MAZOLA, but that’s not something foreigners are likely to be exposed to; FWIW, I saw Quaker Oats for the first time in a supermarket here today… the invasion is underway! BREZHNEV in that same corner is a fancy-shmancy name to work into your grid! Other nice touches included MAKENICE, as well as MALTSHOP.
2.5 Stars Gareth. Wasn’t feeling this theme, and not even some fun downs could change my feelings… Since we have BREZHNEV in the puzzle, I leave you with this Waters / Floyd classic; I had no idea there was a video!