Wednesday, January 13, 2016

NYT 7:50 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


LAT 5:29 (Gareth) 


CS tk (Ade) 


AV Club 9:24 (Ben) 


BuzzFeed 4:34 (Amy) 


Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up


NY Times crossword solution, 1 13 16, no 0113

We have a clever syllable-drop theme today involving words ending in -RROR, revealed centrally with THREE RS [Elementary education … or feature of the last words punned upon in 17-, 29-, 49- and 66-Across]. There are four common phrases or characters that become punny when the last syllable of the -RROR word is dropped:

  • 17a. [Frost mixed with pebbles?] ROCKY HOAR (Rocky Horror of the musical The Rocky Horror Show and the cult classic movie based on it, The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
  • 29a. [Priest getting what’s coming to him?CLERICAL HEIR (clerical error)
  • 49a. [Pond admired from the back porch?] REARVIEW MERE (rearview mirror)
  • 66a. [Chiffon mishap?] SHEER TEAR (sheer terror)

It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on with the theme, which contributed a lot to my slower than average time today. The hoar/horror connection clicked first, and although I was slowed down more by “The Time Warp” floating to my head, I was very pleased. The one entry that didn’t wow me was REARVIEW MERE, as I did not know that “mere” could mean a lake or pond. Otherwise, the sound of the remaining syllables are consistently the same after the syllable drop, and the puns are cute.

Jeremy brought some other good wordplay, particularly [Wraps around the subcontinent] for SARIS, [Market not to be bullish in?] for CHINA SHOP, and [Oil spot?] for MUSEUM. The volunteer’s phrase I SURE WILL!” is just so wholesome-sounding and contrasts nicely with BUM A SMOKE. Overall the fill is solid, especially with so many long non-theme entries. My one quibble is the partial A HOME, but things are shiny in general.

Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens

Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens

If anyone decides to visit TOKYO, the Imperial Palace is worth a visit. It was built on the former site of Edo Castle (EDO!), and while the palace itself is usually not open to the public, the grounds are, and they are lovely. The East Gardens are absolutely gorgeous, peaceful and colorful and I wish I could live there. (There are better pictures at the link above, but this is the one I could find from my honeymoon.)

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Turning the Music Back On” — Ben’s Review

Turning the Music Back On

Turning the Music Back On

Lots of exciting announcements accompanied this week’s AVCX puzzle. Erin Rhode (who helped organize the 2014 Mystery Hunt, which was a lot of fun to solve) and Kameron Austin Collins (who writes great themeless puzzles) are both joining the constructor rotation this year. I’m excited to solve their puzzles already.

This week’s puzzle was a 4/5 in difficulty from BEQ, and I’d say that’s about right. There was a little delay for me in getting the proper “Aha” moment with what was going on with the theme clues, but this felt like a clever twist on things:

  • 17A: Beats Audio figure who also builds Ubuntu machines?  — COMPUTER NERD DRE 
  • 25A: Make use of the sheer power of “Electric Warrior”? — EXERT T-REX
  • 30A: 1970s Ohio proto-punks, left on the shelf, never played? :( — UNLOVED DEVO
  • 40A: Cuddles with Calvin Broadus? — SPOONS SNOOP
  • 49A: Equally communistic compared to the singer of “Smooth Operator”? — RED AS SADE
  • 58A: “Lightning Crashes” band, laying waste to Earth, with raw contempt for humanity, sparing none? — FORCE OF EVIL LIVE

All of these bands (with their mirror images) weren’t the only musical references this week – the puzzle also included mentions of ELO (2D), DUOs The Black Keys and The White Stripes (32D), and a timely (if unplanned) reference to the may ERAs of David Bowie at 59D (RIP).

Other fill I liked in the puzzle this wee: learning that the Toyota CELICA (1A) was involved in a promotion for Star Wars, the “guns and rosés” clue for ATF (37A), which I think I’ve seen BEQ use before, and a reference to Harry Potter’s NEVILLE Longbottom at 42D.

4/5 stars.

Ryan McCarty’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What a Handful!” — Jim’s review

Ryan McCarty is giving us the finger. Actually, five of them.

The Down themers in today’s puzzle identify each of the fingers of the human hand, in order, from left to right.

WSJ - Wed, Jan 13, 2016 - "What a Handful!"

WSJ – Wed, Jan 13, 2016 – “What a Handful!”

  • 25D [Sneakernet storage] THUMB DRIVE
  • 5D [Investment option] INDEX FUNDS
  • 16D [King Theoden’s home] MIDDLE EARTH
  • 27D [Criminal mastermind] RINGLEADER
  • 10D [Make a promise, as kids do] PINKY SWEAR

Alternate title for the puzzle: “High Five”, since each of the fingers appears in the upper part of the theme answers. (I’ve given this some thought previously because I started to develop my own version of this theme once, but gave it up because of inconsistencies.)

Pinkie Pie

The main problem is that the word “finger” can follow each of the words in question except THUMB, so that makes THUMB an outlier. The other problem is that the finger is  directly referred to by one theme answer. You can’t PINKY SWEAR without the use of pinkies. All the other fingers are disguised as other things except this one. Possible alternative: PINKIE PIE, one of the “My Little Pony” ponies.

B-2 Bomber

The grid is also challenged by the 11-letter MIDDLE EARTH. Being a fan, I love it (though King Theoden’s home is more accurately ROHAN) plus NARNIA at 1A. I appreciate that the fingers are presented in order which necessitates the MIDDLE finger going in the center of the grid, but the 11-letter choice results in the huge B-2 bombers in the north and south. Possible (but boring) alternative: MIDDLE DISTANCE.

But if you’re willing to overlook some of those inconsistencies, as I’m sure a lot of people are, then the puzzle is perfectly fine. Due to the five hefty themers and the high block count, there’s not a lot of flashy fill—MARIANNE and WHITE ASH being the longest non-theme stuff.

I did not know MARIANNE Moore nor Nick FALDO nor CIARA (though I saw the latter sing the National Anthem just the other night ahead of the College Football National Championship game). I had the greatest trouble in the SW. In fact, I was Naticked by the STEVIA / TAV / CIARA crossings. I don’t know most of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, nor had I ever heard of STEVIA (which has a score of 35 / 100 in my word list). STERNA (plural of “sternum”) works better there I think, giving you TAR and TERN instead of TAV and TERI.

Damon Gulczynski’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Two Peas in a Pod”

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 1 13 16 "Like Two Peas in a Pod"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 1 13 16 “Like Two Peas in a Pod”

Two peas in a pod are pretty close together, and 7d. [Extremely close…or how six pairs of answers are situated in this grid?] clues LIKE WHITE ON RICE. The thematic pairings are 10a JACK White on 16a ANNE Rice; 14a BETTY White on 17a JERRY Rice; 25a MEG White on 30a TIM Rice; 45a RON White on 50a JIM Rice (I didn’t know either of these people); 59a VANNA White on 62a ELMER Rice; and 60a MIKE White on 63a GLEN Rice (didn’t know Glen). I had no trouble filling in the three theme names I didn’t know via the crossings. Neat theme! You might expect the stacking of short themers to produce terrible Down fill, but Damon stacked the deck in his favor by isolating four of the pairs in teeny, cut-off sections. (Good move!)

I really enjoyed the cluing throughout. These ones amused me:

  • 15a. [Country singer LeAnn when she was single and cold and frosted?], RIME. A playful hint for a fusty bit of fill.
  • 29a. [The (married) girl from Ipanema?], SENHORA. Portuguese/Brazilian gambit.
  • 31a. [Top-ranking suit, in cards…obnoxious suit, in politics], TRUMP. Heh.
  • 51a. [Activity in which people talk to the dead (but not really) (but maybe)], SEANCE. Stacked parentheses!
  • 54a. [“Lola” or “Layla” or “La La,” for example], SONG. I only know two of these songs but the titles make a nice set.
  • 32d. [“Blech…not those barbarian-looking boots again!”], UGG. Um, yes.
  • 34d. [Noted pitier of fools], MR. T. The “noted” really makes this clue sing.

Favorite fill: GUEST STAR, THROATY, Aragorn aka STRIDER, DEPECHE MODE, SHRAPNEL, BEAVER STATE, “IT’S ON ME.” Did not care for PLEB and plural CODS. Normally don’t care for VEE in a crossword, but 59d. [Season 2 “Orange Is the New Black” antagonist] saves it. Lorraine Toussaint’s character terrified me and I was pleased with how the writers wrapped up her story arc.

4.4 stars from me.

C. C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160113

LA Times

Nice reveal: [Catalog come-on … three ways to do it begin 18-, 37- and 61-Across], ORDERNOW. You order by MAIL (MAILCARRIER), ONLINE (ONLINEAUCTION), or PHONE (PHONERECORD). The theme phrases use those order methods in the same way as the theme itself; I’m not a fan of that, in general.

LUDDITE is my favourite answer. These days Luddites take many many forms; I don’t think of people who don’t use smart phones as Luddites sensu stricto; perhaps the loudest and shrillest are the anti-GMO crowd, very few of whom could cogently explain the central dogma of genetics… ACUTECARE is also an excellent, and fresh-feeling answer. The stack of [Bite-size cookie], MINIOREO and [Co-screenwriter and star of “The Gunman”], SEANPENN was also noted and appreciated.

[Texting protocol initials], SMS is used the way Americans use “text” here. “I SMSed you earlier,” etc. but I don’t think it’s as established on your side of the pond.

[Hemsworth who plays Gale in “The Hunger Games”], LIAM is going to leave Gallagher and Neeson in the dust soon as crosswords go-to LIAM!

[Shark hanger-on], REMORA – That image tickled me, for some reason!

I was convinced [“That Girl” star Thomas], MARLO was MARLA and GEICO was GEKCO (mixing it up with EKCO) so I had DACKLE for [Not likely to bite] for a while.

3 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with Kackel DACKEL, possibly the strangest toy ever invented…

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Wednesday, January 13, 2016

  1. SEA says:

    Absobloominlutely gorgeous puzzle. Bravo Jeremy Newton! Bravo Will Shortz!

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: “Otherwise, the sound of the remaining syllables are consistently the same after the syllable drop …”

    Not for me. None of the four were quite the same. Mirror/mere was closest, though.

    • David L says:

      It took me a while to suss this out because of my British vowels. For me, HEIR and ERROR have the same initial vowel, as do TEAR and TERROR. Not true for the other pairs. I know some Americans (midwestern, typically, I think) for whom MIRROR and MERE are almost exactly homophones.

      But any puzzle involving pronunciation is going to have such troubles. This was a clever idea and a nice puzzle.

      • Gary R says:

        You’re right, David, about the inherent difficulties of this type of theme. I think we have fewer vowel sounds in the Midwest – all of the theme answers worked for me.

        I had a roommate in college, Jerry, who was from New Jersey. After multiple confusing phone conversations with my mother, he explained to me that our names don’t rhyme (they do in Wisconsin). He also explained to me that “berry” “Barry” and “bury” don’t rhyme (they do in Wisconsin – or at least the part of Wisconsin where I grew up).

  3. huda says:

    NYT: The theme is original and unexpected, and I admire a lot about the puzzle now that I’m done. But it was challenging to solve, and I try not let that influence my judgement.
    Now that I’ve slept on it, I still see two issues:
    a) the revealer seems disconnected from the essential feature of the theme. The essence of the theme is that the sound ‘ror’ was removed from the “punned upon” words. Yet the revealer focuses on a second layer, which is that each of the words has 3 R’s. What the words have is an “error” that was supposed to happen but was forestalled. I think a revealer that somehow captured that thought would have made a very big difference.
    The more minor quibble is that it was hard to tell the theme from other long entries. I loved the CHINA SHOP clue and answer, and thought for a while that the theme might be in the cluing of regular phrases. Obviously that was not sustainable, but the stacking of equally sized theme and non-theme answers in the puzzle was a little disorienting.
    (And Erin, clever choice of a place for a honeymoon!)

  4. pauer says:

    /mear/, n.
    1. Chiefly Brit. Dial. a lake or pond.
    2. Obs. any body of sea water.
    [bef. 900; ME, OE; c. G Meer, ON marr, Goth marei, OIr muir, L mare]

    Huh. That was a new one to me. I could’ve done without the Hitler ref, too.

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      e.g. Lake Windermere in England, not surprisingly in the Lake District.

      But this puzzle brought back an amusing recollection to me. When I was in 8th grade, a friend of mine announced, or at least what I heard him announce was “This evening I’m going to a whore movie.” I thought – that sounds pretty cool. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, and I wonder if that pronunciation is a regionalism.

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    BZF: Appreciate the write-up. If anybody is interested in some constructor notes on this puzzle, just click here.

  6. janie says:

    >All of these bands (with their mirror images)…

    don’t you mean “…with their MERE images…”?


  7. Slow guy says:

    AV: thought for sure the “70s proto-punkers” clue would be to do with Pere Ubu. Hmmm, aren’t Devo a little more identifiable as art-punk or (falsely, but understandably) new-wave? Also, clues that say “Kevin” and “Celtics” still elicit an auto-filled MCHALE from us in the older set – Doh!
    Why is Conway Twitty ‘creepy’?
    Seeing quite low ratings for this, wonder if it’s an aversion to all the alt-music refs? Or just that it was ‘easier’ than a 4/5 ought to be (it was an easy 3/5 for me, but the music stuff was very much on my wavelength).

    • Norm says:

      “Seeing quite low ratings for this, wonder if it’s an aversion to all the alt-music refs?”

      That would be my guess. I guess I can understand a 3, but the 2.5 and below seem unduly harsh. The AV puzzles trend way younger than my knowledge set in general, but I don’t mind learning (and trying to remember) new names, and (a) the crosses were pretty gentle and covered a lot of territory, so you would think that anyone who bothers to subscribe would be able to work through them to get the theme answers, and (b) those bands/singers weren’t all that obscure — at least, not compared to what BEQ puts out on his own site. Yes, I’m talking about you, Monday’s ART OF NOISE. ftw?

  8. Mark McClain says:

    Re: WSJ – Enjoyed seeing this theme. Nice execution except for the aforementioned Natick. I used this theme in my forthcoming book “Unplugged Crosswords” with a bit different treatment, arranging the down themers so the middle finger is the highest and PINKY and THUMB the lowest (the latter two being standalone entries to enable this configuration, and also to avoid the issue mentioned by Jim that they don’t go with FINGER as the others do). Sorry for the shameless plug. Keep up the good work!

Comments are closed.