Exciting announcement from Ben Tausig about hiring two new constructors for the AV Club crossword team:
The new constructors are Kameron Austin Collins and Erin Rhode. Kameron has published in the New York Times, the American Values Club, and runs his own puzzle feature, HIGH: low. Erin was director of the 2014 MIT Mystery Hunt and has published in the New York Times. The puzzles submitted by each were top-notch (the selection process was extremely difficult!), and we are proud to have them on board. We look forward to their work in the months and years to come.
Among the applications, nearly 40% came from women. In our call for submissions, we suggested that work by female and minority constructors was especially welcome, given historical and continuing underrepresentation. It is exciting that, in 2016, there is reason to be optimistic for diversity in the puzzle community.
You can read more about Kameron and Erin at The Observer.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword
I wasn’t really rushing through this puzzle, but I was surprised to end in a Weds/Thurs amount of time anyway. Did it feel harder than a typical Tuesday to you, or I was just lollygagging through the puzzle?
The theme revealer is the 16-letter INTERIOR DESIGNER, clued as 41a. [Elle Decor reader … or any of the names hidden in 18-, 28-, 52- and 66-Across?]. (I would have thought that the magazine appeals more to people who wish they could afford to hire an interior decorator.) The other four theme answers are hiding fashion designers in their “interiors”:
- 18a. [Most of the leading characters in “Babe”], FARM ANIMALS, Giorgio ARMANI.
- 28a. [Things kids make in the winter], SNOW ANGELS, Vera WANG.
- 52a. [Aerial navigation beacon], RADIO RANGE, Christian DIOR. “Radio range” really doesn’t sound like any sort of beacon, does it?
- 66a. [Serious setback for a kicker], ANKLE INJURY, Calvin or Anne KLEIN.
Solid theme, though RADIO RANGE feels drier than the rest of the theme to me.
I wonder if C.C./Zhouqin designed this puzzle as a Wednesday crossword. There’s a good chunk of fill that doesn’t strike me as Tuesday-easy. LEDA the [Queen of Sparta] (I, uh, don’t expect Tuesday clues to stump me), MUSCAT, plural OEDS, SES and ALSACE, MIR, REBS (tough clue, [Lee side, informally]), awkward LO-FAT, S-STAR, ARYAN, DEY …
Four more things:
- 61a. [Any of las Filipinas], ISLA. No. No, no, NO. Stop this. Stop using the Philippines in Spanish-language clues. (Not the first time I’ve blogged about this, I’m pretty sure.) Spanish has no official recognition in the Philippines. Official languages are Tagalog (aka Filipino) and English, and more than 15 regional languages also are recognized. Spanish? No. The Tagalog word for “island” is ISLA, but the country name is Pilipinas. You might as well use [Any of 6,852 in Japón], if you just want a random island country in your Spanish-word-for-island clue. (I consulted someone who just spent the holidays in the Philippines for this paragraph. He’s learned Tagalog and Pangasinan.)
- 47a. [“See?!”], “TOLD YA!” My favorite entry here. BITTER END, BOCELLI, STEADY JOB, GILDA Radner—also nice.
- 1d. [Lite, on labels], LO-FAT. I suspect that no mainline food product sold in the United States has the phrase “lo fat” on the label. It’s spelled “low.”
- 30d. [Looked up, in a way], GOOGLED. Would you believe I tried to think of an answer that comported with the “hey, things are looking up now!” sense of the verb phrase. Whoops.
3.5 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Worst of Pop Culture, 2015″ – Derek’s write-up
We have a year-end review in this week’s Jonesin’ puzzle, but not a review of the best! We are talking some of the worst in entertainment offerings! Matt squeezes 5 thematic entries into a grid with vertical symmetry only. Here are those entries:
- 19A [2015 superhero film reboot with a 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes] FANTASTIC FOUR – I just saw Taken 3, and its score wasn’t much higher…!
- 22A [Iggy Azalea/Britney Spears collaboration, listed no Entertainment Weekly’s Worst Singles of 2015] PRETTY GIRLS – It IS horrible!! For your torture…
- 45A [Short-lived Rainn Wilson cop show, listed on Yahoo’s Worst TV Shows of 2015] BACKSTROM – No, it is not on Netflix yet…
- 61A [2015 Adam Sandler movie that got an epic ten-minute review/rant from “MovieBob Reviews” on YouTube] PIXELS – Didn’t see this yet. Not the biggest Sandler fan. And if its horrible, hard to bring myself to spend two hours watching dreck. The review is a little blue; I’ll let you Google to find the rant!
- 62A [Much-maligned 2015 reality show which put contestant couples in the titular enclosure (later to be interviewed by therapists)] SEX BOX – I got nothing….
Nicely done! Not too hard, but fun nonetheless. We will call it 3.9 stars. Filled with Matt’s usual good fill. Here are some of my favorites from the grid:
- 23A [“Mission: Impossible” character Hunt] ETHAN – I just saw the newest one of this franchise, and THAT, in contrast to Fantastic Four and Pixels, was a good movie!
- 60A [Mix it up (var.)] SHMOOZE – I need that C! This doesn’t look right!!
- 23D [Trinket in “The Hunger Games”] EFFIE – Took me a bit to remember the character’s NAME is Trinket! Great clue.
- 27D [“___ a stinker?” (Bugs Bunny catchphrase)] AIN’T I – One of his many catchphrases. Hooray for a Looney Tunes reference!
- 52D [Get from ___ (make progress)] A TO B – My grandmother used to tell me I “didn’t know A from B!”
Great puzzle again from Matt! Until next week!
Robert E. Lee Morris’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I wonder if the entry at 17-Across was included in this week’s Tuesday puzzle on purpose or was it just a coincidence? I am really curious! The theme has nothing to do with Alabama, though. The common bond is explained in the final theme entry:
- 17A [Alabama team] CRIMSON TIDE
- 11D [Raspberry] BRONX CHEER
- 24D [Tinseltown trade] SHOW BIZ
- 28D [Dieter’s concern] WEIGHT GAIN
- 62A [Lengthy litany … and, literally, what the ends of the answers to starred clues comprise] LAUNDRY LIST
Do you get the joke? All of the second words of the starred clues are laundry soap brands! Another nice, simple theme that still elicits a grin while solving. A solid 3.8 stars today. Lots of good fill, as usual in these LAT puzzles:
- 20A [Fisherman’s Wharf entrée] SEA BASS – Derek needs to lose about 30 pounds, so sea bass may find its way into my diet!
- 36A [“Veep” channel] HBO – A funny show! Is Game of Thrones back on yet … I will have to catch up before the new season starts!
- 45A [Dietary supplement obtained from predatory fish] SHARK OIL – Have not used this on my diet yet….
- 68A [Lear daughter] REGAN – Shakespeare is not my strong suit, but I know this from crosswords!
- 8D [Suffix with psych] OTIC – Am I the only one who put OSIS in here?
- 46D [Nonpro sports org.] AAU – I have heard some horror stories about what goes on at AAU basketball tournaments. With big money flying around now for pro athletes, the pressure is on a lot of kids nowadays to be the best. I’m sure there is more good than bad, but unnecessary pressure on kids is a sore spot with me.
That got depressing! It is still a good puzzle! See you next Tuesday!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 241), “Crying Fowel?”—Janie’s review
A punny title tips us off to the wordplay within today’s grid. “Fowel” would be some kinda mash-up of “foul” and “vowel”—and while there’s no foul play to be found, there’s some lively vowel play to be enjoyed. And if you don’t wanna take my word for it, 48D. will settle the score: A, E, I, O, U [String that inspired the puzzle theme (see answers to the starred clues)]. And how does this string of vowels manifest itself? Why, through the first word of some terrific phrases that present an aural progression in which each long vowel sound is preceded by an “ef” sound. Here’s how:
- 17A. *FAYE DUNAWAY [“Mommie Dearest” star]. And how serendipitous that CLYDE [Bonnie’s beau] should cross FAYE at the “Y,” since Ms. DUNAWAY is also a [“Bonnie and CLYDE” star].
- 23A. *FEE-BASED [Like a service with a fixed price]. Not the PEPpiest kinda fill. But this seems to be endemic to a lotta financial-industry jargon. Ça va. Still… any lack of sparkle here is more than made up for in the grid-spanning
- 37A. *PHI BETA CANNABIS [Frat in “Reefer Madness“]. Worth the price of admission, this one. Not only does it fill the requirement of “progressing” the vowel sequence, but it mixes up the game a bit, by giving us our “ef” sound with a “ph-” rather than an “f-.” Plus, Reefer Madness? (this is a link to the original); CANNABIS? Unexpected and all the stronger for that.
- 47A. *FAUX FURS [Cruelty-free coats]. And, often, trés chic as well, no?
- 58A. *FOO FIGHTERS [Grammy-winning “Best of You” band]. Not so much my wheelhouse, musically, but that’s a great name, which originates with WWII pilots who (Wiki tells me) used the term FOO FIGHTER to describe UFOs and/or aerial phenomena over both European and Pacific theaters of operations.
If a vowel progression theme isn’t your idea of a ground-breaking puzzle concept, take a moment to admire the genuinely excellent themers that bring this one to life. That counts for plenty in my book. Ditto so much of the vertically-running longer fill. PRIME RIBS and PICK-ME-UPS, TRAP DOOR and LEAVES IN, BY WAY OF and POKED AT. This last one had me thinking I’d include a picture of someone being [Jabbed with a finger], and that led me to the item I’ll share with you instead: a description and history of the so-called Fingerpoke of Doom. “OH, NO!” Yikes.
BAUBLES and ASSYRIA work well, too. The latter is clued as [Nineveh’s land], which conjured up the song from (the classic and Tony-winning, but definitely old-timey) Kismet, “Not Since Nineveh“; and from the same show, “BAUBLES, Bangles and Beads.” See how this all works together to keep the solve bubbling? Ditto that crossing in the SE of TAE (Thomas Alva Edison) and TESLA, reminding me that “crossing” one another is something these two were famous for.
Where did I get hung up? A couple of places. RAHU [Hindu eclipse demon]. Say wha’? Am not sure how much you know about Hindu demons, but this was entirely new to me—and not entirely inferrable. By virtue of the crosses, I’d filled in RA_U. But until I properly grokked [20%], it took me a while to realize that the missing letter in the crossing FIFT_ was “H” and not “Y,” giving us (one-) FIFTH…
Then, while it didn’t hang me up in the same way, I really don’t understand why [USO visitor] is cluing NCO. Isn’t any member of the armed forces welcome? The answer is “yes.” And their families, too, I see here. So this pairing simply drew attention to itself, and (imo…) not in a constructive way. And are a lot of folks familiar with [Walter READE Theaters] these days? They stopped being a chain decades ago—and even then, this was very much a mid-Atlantic coast concern. Today there’s a Walter READE Theater at Lincoln Center that runs year-round and is home to the New York Film Festival. But we’re still looking at a kind of provincial reference. Not sure that this kind of cluing is any puzzle’s friend.
On the other hand, having just seen Straight Outta Compton, I encountered the [Dre forte] RAP pairing with a whole new respect. If you’ve not seen this film and you are even remotely curious about the (innovative and seriously talented) good Doctor and the how-and-why of RAP’s existence; if you want to see an incredibly strong ensemble cast in action; if you want to get some insight into the not-so-distant past and what it means for the present, see it. There’s a great story there. A few great stories, actually. Strong language to be sure (a lot of it), but a strong story to go with it.
And with that, I leave you until next week. In the meantime… you know the drill: keep solving! ;-)
David J. Kahn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Legal Case” — Jim’s review
David J. Kahn’s up today, and I hope you brought some spending cash, cuz we’re going bar-hopping!
36A gives us the deets: [Court conference, and a hint to twelve answers in this puzzle] for SIDEBAR.
So what are the twelve answers and what is the hint? They are the twelve perimeter (or SIDE) words, and they are all words that can precede the word BAR. Going clockwise we have SALAD, RAW, TAPAS, SPACE, ROLL, MARS, CROSS, WET, TOWEL, FRUIT, WINE, and SAND.
There’s good variety in the theme choices and uses of the word BAR. Most of the theme words are solid choices except for FRUIT BAR. I get the concept, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that phrase. It googles at a much lower level than all the others (~400k vs. multimillions), but I suppose 400k is nothing to sneeze at.
We’re also playing fast and loose with the definition of SIDE. Usually SIDE means the sides (left and right). The top and bottom “sides” are usually referred to as “top” and “bottom”. But hey, that’s cool. Let’s just go with it.
I’ve never built one of these perimeter-type grids, but I hear they’re a bear to do because of the constraints all over the grid, especially in the corners. Maybe that accounts for the segmentation of the grid (three separate sections running from northeast to southwest). But fill-wise, there’s nothing too distracting or off-putting.
We get some nice non-theme material, even in the Acrosses, like AMERICANA, NAVIGATOR, CONESTOGA, and OVEREAGER. I didn’t know those covered wagons had a name, but now I’m glad that I do. The more you know…
Even the shorter stuff is nice like CRAVEN, ROCKER, PORTAL, and FRANKS. ROCKER had a cute clue [Not a seat to sit still in], but too bad it wasn’t Bowie-related. A few days off, I guess. Also, PORTAL could have had a video game clue, but maybe not everyone would have appreciated that.
The long Downs are NATURAL LAW and PUTTING OUT, which gets the decidedly unBuzzFeedy clue of [Extinguishing] and yet is not paired with 43D ON FIRE. Speaking of PUTTING OUT, it dupes the OUT in 5D‘s DIG OUT.
- Never heard a Brit exclaim I SAY (30A) except on the telly.
- Never heard of ROLF (49A) having anything to do with massaging. But apparently it’s a registered trademark of the ROLF Institute of Structural Integration. Wikipedia calls it an “alternative medical treatment”.
- Haven’t sorted out the title yet. Was hoping it would come to me by the end of the post, but it hasn’t. Is it a play on the word “case” as in a container you put things in? If so, I’m not sure how it’s “legal” other than the law connection in the revealer. It’s more just a “BAR Case”, whatever that is.
Not much else to say. Solid grid with good fill all around and a theme just a notch trickier than a Monday.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Happy Together”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! On sports reporting duty here in Brooklyn (first hockey game I’m covering for this season), so have give you an abridged review of today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. It’s definitely a happy grid, as each word in the two-word theme entries can also come after the word “happy.”
- MEDIUM TALK (17A: [“I see a long and prosperous future for you?”])
- BIRTHDAY RETURNS (25A: [Exchanges of some gifts?])
- ANNIVERSARY MEAL (42A: [Annual romantic dinner?])
- CAMPER FACE (56A: [Front of a Winnebago?])
Initially wanted LATTE instead of DECAF at the beginning, and that pretty much made me have to finish the Northwest much later than I would have initially thought (1A: [Starbucks order]). The year 2016 marks an Olympic year and, in the Northwest, two Olympic-related entries intersect, with APOLO (14A: [Speed skater Ohno]) and EPEE (2D: [Sport where the contestants are wired up]). Somewhat have to nitpick with I MEAN, as the sounds referred to in the clue could also mean a few other emotions (26A: [“Er…uh…”]). When I end up uttering that, what I’m relaying is, for the most part, “I’m stalling for time…I really have no idea what I’m talking about.” Any grid that has RIPSNORTER in it always makes the grip pop out a little more (27D: [Humdinger]). I wonder if I’ll remember MY WORLD as The Beebs’s debut going forward (41D: [2009 Justin Bieber debut]). My guess is probably not. OK, so I said my blog would be quick…it wasn’t. My apologies!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: INDIAN (43A: [Progressive Field ballplayer]) – No matter if you’re a Cleveland INDIAN or any other player in Major League Baseball, Progressive Field – still nicknamed “The Jake” after the original name of the park, Jacobs Field – always ranks as one of the best stadiums across the Big Leagues, in terms of aesthetics and fan atmosphere. The park opened in 1994 and, for the most part, signaled Cleveland’s rise to the top of baseball after a long run of ineptitude.
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!