Just a reminder that The 2nd Annual Indie 500 Constructor Contest closes in just 10 days! You have until 11:59pm on Jan 15 to submit the best puzzle you can make. The winning entry will be used as a tournament puzzle in this year’s Indie 500. Details here: http://www.theindie500.com/contest2016.html
Jules P. Markey’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
It’s time to review the first Wednesday NYT of 2016!
Jules P. Markey provides us with a nod to the good old Oxford English Dictionary, crossing OED with itself at four almost symmetric spots in the grid, and ties it together with the central CROSS REFERENCES [“See also” notations … or what can be found in the shaded squares in this puzzle?].
Given the limited list of entries containing OED, there are some great crossings. ZEROED IN ON / OEDIPUS REX is wonderful, as is RADIO EDITS / PIGEON TOED. (Many infants and children walk with their feet pigeon toed or rotated inward, and it usually resolves with time on its own). COED/ SOLOED is fine. I didn’t know the crossing for HOED, JOE DON Baker.
The fill is enjoyable save a couple spots (CHRON, mostly). TEAC is new to me, but like its tech neighbor ACER, it’s gettable from crossings if not known from the clue. Another name I did not recognize is ORNETTE Coleman, and that is my loss.
If not for psychology classes and medical school, I would have needed the crossings for 47d. BROCA [Sagan wrote about his brain]. I love seeing him here, but since this is his NYT debut, I could see more casual solvers who might not be familiar with OTOE getting tripped up with that crossing.
What I enjoy most about the fill is the grouping of related entries in a few places, such as 20a. [Like some wines] DRY and 21a. [Some wines] REDS, as well as 48a. [Dummkopf] IDIOT and 49a. [Dummkopfs] DODOS, and the nearly-symmetric placement of the moons PHOEBE and TRITON.
Overall, a fun solve. Fast for a Wednesday for me, since getting one OED crossing helped unlock the other circled areas quickly, but entertaining nonetheless.
Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Later Years” — Jim’s review
Add-a-word theme time! Today’s theme requires us to add AGE at the end of phrases to make wacky new ones.
- 20A [Site at a store’s Black Friday opening?] ENTRANCE RAMPAGE
- 37A [Dressing for a foot soldier’s wound?] MARCHING BANDAGE
- 50A [Absolutely vital treatment for an aching body?] CRITICAL MASSAGE
- 7D [Looting by somnambulists?] SLEEPING PILLAGE
All solid entries, all with colorful base phrases, and all 15-letter spanners. And one of them is crossing straight through the three others! That gets a Wow!
My favorite was ENTRANCE RAMPAGE with its Black Friday clue. But shouldn’t that be “sight” instead of “site” in the clue?
I also liked SLEEPING PILLAGE and imagining a horde of sleepwalkers shambling zombie-like through a village looting and generally causing a ruckus. Plus, “somnambulist” is one of my favorite words.
Further, we get non-theme goodies CHESTNUT, PYTHON, POETIC, CAPRIS, GO SOLO (Alternate clue: [Cheer for Han?]), PAGODA, and WHO AM I.
Things get a little dicey in the north and south where the Down themer crosses the outer two. That gives us matching partials 9D‘s A PLAN and 47D‘s A CASE. We also get MBAS crossing ETES. But that’s as bad as it gets (and it’s really not that bad at all).
We have some curious rows today starting in the 3rd: TRIPE DEAL MENU (no doubt, the least popular MENU at McDonald’s). There’s an “I DO” PANEL in the 5th row (more life-affirming than those death panels we used to hear about). TOPS THIS LISTS is in the 6th row. I kinda like EKE WHEN POETIC telling us that if we’re all a bit more POETIC, we’ll get by. There’s a SMALL DUO in the 11th row (a large DUO would be sumo wrestlers). But the best is the attention-grabbing headline PYTHON PEGS KEN. Poor KEN.
Back to our show. This theme has been done before. I found two instances in cruciverb. The first, 19 years ago by Rich Norris, was a Sunday NYT with eight themers including ENTRANCE RAMPAGE and CRITICAL MASSAGE. The second, 14 years ago by Jay Sullivan, was a Sunday LAT also with eight themers including CRITICAL MASSAGE, but seven other, wholly different themers. My point is not that the theme’s been done before but that there are a lot of possible theme entries to choose from. (A lot of words end in –AGE.) So our constructor had a healthy number of options to choose from to find a set of four 15s where one can cross the other three. I’m sure that made it easier for him, but it’s still quite a feat.
Favorite clue: 49D‘s [One who puts you in your place?] for USHER. Also of note: OSHEA gets an updated clue at 43A [“Straight Outta Compton” co-star ___ Jackson, Jr.]. Anyone else put JESSE in there to begin with? O’SHEA Jackson, Jr. is the son of rapper Ice Cube. Wait a sec, that must mean…yup…Ice Cube’s real name is O’SHEA. And all this time we’ve been using Milo O’SHEA clues?! Yeesh!
This is a really good puzzle, solidly made, with just enough bite in the clues. And the crossing of the grid-spanning themers is truly quite impressive.
I can’t look at 35D WHO AM I, without hearing Colm Wilkinson’s Jean Valjean in my head. So here you go:
Erik Agard’s AVCX crossword, “Animal Husbandry” — Ben’s Review
After the tricky wordplay and logistical monopoly over all of the crosswords I regularly do last week, this week’s AV Club feels like a nice sorbet for the new year. It’s a 2/5 difficulty from Erik Agard, and the theme, “Animal Husbandry”, was simple but cute:
- 20A: The giraffe bride wore an ___ — ELEVATED TRAIN
- 27A: The weasel grooms exchanged ___ — POP BANDS
- 35A: The leopard wedding was followed by a ___ — SPOTTY RECEPTION
- 42A: The newlywed Siamese fighting fish fed each other ___ — BEEF CAKE
- 50A: The fireflies’ first dance was a ___ — HIGHLIGHT REEL
After all of last week’s wordply in the center, this was a nice straighforward puzzle that fell pretty easily for me (although I know many a good pun, which could be why this one went so quickly).
Other fill I liked this week, to keep things short and sweet like the puzzle: Idris ELBA, CHAI LATTE, the continued crossword prevalence of Key & PEELE (which is a fantastic show you should watch), and the clue for TRIG (“Class where sin isn’t always negative?”). A nice start to AVCX in 2016.
Todd McClary’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Frozen Over”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Todd McClary, includes either multiple-word entries or compound words in which each word could follow the word ICE, which also is in the grid as the reveal (66A: [Word that can precede both the first and second parts of 17-, 26-, 44- and 59-Across]).
- COLD CREAM (17A: [Makeup remover]) – I can’t say that I haven’t used this before…because I have! Ponds, baby!
- FISHING BUCKET (26A: [Angler’s container])
- CRYSTAL PALACE (44A: [Bygone London exhibition building) – That’s also the name of an English Premier League soccer team.
- BATHHOUSE (59A: [Steam room setting])
Very strong fill in this grid, whether you take a look at some longer entries in LIQUICAP (9D: [NyQuil option]) or some of the shorter fill with ICHOR (27D: [Blood of Greek gods]), which pannonica used quite adeptly when summing up my lack of fondness for mayonnaise, in saying that mayo was the ichor of the gods. That always stuck with me! Love the shoutout to Central New York – where I spent four great years during my college days – with ONEIDA (24D: [Lake near Syracuse]). Just a few months ago, I spent some time with some great friends (all whom I initially met while in Syracuse) for a birthday celebration in New York City at Barcade, a bar which features a slew of old arcade games, and one of them was Q*BERT (19A: [Orange-colored arcade star]). My friend who celebrated his birthday that night was playing that game most of the night, while my other friends were killing it at Tetris. One thing I knew I needed to do after that night was to dust off my arcade game-playing skills and get with it (except for NBA Jam, of course). That, and I have a whole bunch of arcade coins still in my possession after that night, so I might have to make a return trip soon! Only real nit to pick was the pluralization of IHOP, with IHOPS (4A: [Locations that offer Rooty Jr. breakfasts, briefly]). Other than that, a pretty fun grid to solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LOCHTE (46D: [Olympic swimming star Ryan]) – Mentioned in the same breath as all-time swimming great Michael Phelps many times, Ryan LOCHTE has won 11 Olympic medals in his three appearances, with his first medals – and first gold medal – coming at the 2004 Athens games, winning gold as a member of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay team that handed Australia its first lost in that discipline in six years. Lochte has seven individual Olympic medals, including setting a new world record in the 200-meter backstroke to win gold in Beijing in 2008.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Matt Scoczen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The onset of the theme was jarring for me: [Visitor’s first attempt], DINGDONG seemed nonsensical. I decided, as I frequently do, to solve around the theme and figure it all out later. Thus, it was only gazing afterwards that I grokked. Essentially, it’s a sequence involving a caller and an absent (or cowering behind a couch with the lights off) callee. First, they ring the doorbell: DINGDONG; then, they knock: KNOCKKNOCK; no joke! Then they call out, ANYONEHOME; finally, they leave, uttering FORGETIT. It seems a fairly plausible interplay, and elegantly wrought in its conciseness.
The theme is only 8/10/10/8 – which creates an expectation of both cleanness and playfulness in the rest of the fill. It is true that the entry KNOCKKNOCK is no constructor’s friend. That string of CKKN is a design nightmare! Notice the black square placement that divides it into two sections though!
On playfulness it certainly delivers: JAIALAI is way more fun in its full-length glory, and next to it are the parallel pair of RUNDOWN and GRUNGY. I’m ambivalent on the dupe of CONMAN and MADMAN – they’re both good answers in isolation. INBULK, MOTOWN and the quirkily spelt VLASIC are also excellent choices.
There are two partials: ADOG and ONHER. ADOG is easily avoided by changing IDO into AGO. The awkward 3’s UNE and SYN also seem easy to ditch. PAD/LIEU reduces the problem by one: ANI.