Wednesday, January 20, 2016

NYT 5:42 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


LAT 4:43 (Gareth) 


CS 6:21 (Ade) 


AV Club 10:27 (Ben) 


BuzzFeed 5:33 (Amy) 


Herre Schouwerwou’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 20 16, no 0120

NY Times crossword solution, 1 20 16, no 0120

Today’s puzzle is about the components of a common cocktail:

  • 17a. [Like some top-quality kitchen oil] EXTRA VIRGIN
  • 26a. [Delta locale] RIVER MOUTH
  • 38a. [Exchange program for preschoolers?] DIAPER SERVICE (Usually preschoolers are potty-trained or in Pull-Ups, so not going through many diapers)
  • 49a. [Cocktail made by combining the ends of 17-, 26- and 38-Across] DRY MARTINI
  • 60a. [Dickens classic … and, phonetically, two garnishes for a 49-Across?] OLIVER TWIST (“olive or twist”)

The theme is nicely executed, between the ingredients hidden at the ends of the first three theme entries, the revealer with the drink itself, and the added bonus garnish pun. Alcohol references are ubiquitous in media, so I do not expect crosswords to be any different, but I wonder if such a theme would detract from the solving experience of those who do not drink alcohol, are too young to drink, cannot drink, etc.

The fill is decent as well, with a few entries which seem difficult for a Wednesday. AMA as an acronym for Ask Me Anything might be difficult for those not familiar with Reddit, especially crossing AJA, which I only know from crosswords (and often see clued as “palindromic album title” or “album pronounced like the name of a continent”). MORAINES is new to me (but I’ll forgive it, after browsing some pictures, like the medial glacial moraine here).

The N in Joe ORTON crossing NAP (clued as [Tennis ball fuzz]) was the last letter to fall for me and was a bit of a guess. Finally, I enjoy seeing POP MUSIC next to AUTOTUNE (a criticism, maybe?), and IDRIS Elba can show up in my grid any day.


Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Symbol Minded” — Jim’s review

Straightforward theme today from Mike Shenk’s alter ego, Damien Peterson. 63A spills the beans: [Symbol used by the answers to the asterisked clues] = STAR. (Notice the clue says “asterisked” instead of the more common “starred”.)

WSJ - Wed, Jan 20, 2016 - "Symbol Minded"

WSJ – Wed, Jan 20, 2016 – “Symbol Minded”

  • 17A [*Shoe maker] CONVERSE
  • 19A [*Oil company] TEXACO
  • 35A [*Sports franchise] DALLAS COWBOYS
  • 55A [*Service branch] U.S. ARMY
  • 57A [*Brewer] HEINEKEN

And that’s pretty much it. I was expecting more wordplay when I uncovered CONVERSE first. Not only is it a normal word in its own right, but it seems ripe for multiple kinds of wordplay with the various meanings of its prefix and the root “verse”. You could even give it a clue like [“Ode to the Slammer”, e.g.?] or something.

But then I uncovered TEXACO and it all went pretty much straight down the middle. So yes, I felt a bit let down.

Even the title made me think we would be using different symbols in interesting ways. I was thinking of @ and & and # and wondering what new thing we would see today. But ’twasn’t TO BE. Oh well. Can’t win ’em all.


The puzzle is of course solidly made. AD AGENCY, LICENSES, and SCORNED anchor the NE while TRIBUNE, DRONES ON, and AUCKLAND solidify the SW. I had a tough time in the center because I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of BASENJIS or ORESTEIA (and the latter, crossing ARDEN, almost Naticked me). More things I didn’t know: GAYNOR at 45D [Janet who won the first Best Actress Oscar] and ROCCO at 40A [“Fidelio” jailer]. I liked CATTY and TWITCHY and LOONIE and INKY, but SHAG at 42A [Coarse cut tobacco] means something different to me.

Simple, but clean puzzle. A little too straight for Wednesday in my opinion, but with the shorter week, maybe it’s this week’s Tuesday.

Patrick Blindauer’s AVCX crossword, “Use as Directed” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 7.04.18 AM

Use as Directed

This week’s puzzle took m waaay longer to crack than it should have this morning, but getting 1A towards the end of the puzzle probably didn’t help that.  Patrick Blindauer’s offering for the AVC was rated at a 4/5, but used a familiar twist as its theme:

  • 1A: What several answers (containing a logical hidden word) each make in the grid  — U-TURN 
  • 6D: Groups purposefully breaking traffic laws? — DRUG CARTELS
  • 17A: TMZ topic in the winter — OSCAR BUZZ
  • 24D: Traditional corrido popularized by the Mexican Revolution and then again by Speedy Gonzalez — LA CUCARACHA
  • 39A: Certain Central Americans — NICARAGUANS
  • 51D: Spade, in a game of Spades — TRUMP CARD
  • 60A: “CSI: Miami” star — DAVID CARUSO

In case it’s not clear from the clues above, all the CARs in the puzzle are making U-TURNS.  It’s some really well done cluing for the clues that end up turning, even if it did take me far too long to catch on to what was going on this morning.  I’ll chalk that one up to still being a little underslept from Mystery Hunt this past weekend.

Other fill of note: I loved seeing “And all that jazz…” used as a clue for ETC at 36A, as well as seeing the ingredients of a POTPIE listed as “meat and veggies and goop” at 10D.  I think I missed something for 64A‘s clue – I recognized the word as ICES from the letters I had and general context, but “Draws naughty pictures on, perhaps, as a cake” felt like it either had a few too many words or was missing a few extra ones.

4/5 stars – a clever theme and some pretty good fill.

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Talking Heads”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.20.16: "Talking Heads"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.20.16: “Talking Heads”

Good afternoon, everyone! Now who thought that today’s crossword puzzle, given the title, would be brought to you by David Byrne? Well, that’s not the case, but it’s not bad to have some Talking Heads music in my mind right now. (“Burning Down the House!”) Today’s grid was done by Ms. Gail Grabowski, and in it, each of the theme entries are multiple-word answers in which the first would could also precede the word “talk.”

  • BACK COUNTRY (17A: [Remote rural region])
  • TRASH BARREL (27A: [Refuse container])
  • FAST FORWARD (45A: [Remote function])
  • DOUBLE BOGEY (61A: [Two over par]) – If I ever shot that on one particular hole, let alone for a whole round, I would do cartwheels on the green!

After back-to-back puzzles where I had finished in just over six minutes, was hellbent in trying to break the six-minute barrier today, and thought I was going to before hitting a snag late. Oh, well. Fun puzzle to do, though none of the fill really stands out. Probably the leading candidates for that were the two paralleling down entries of STEAM ROOM (11D: [It’ll make you sweat]) and ART STUDIO (35D: [Place for creative purists]). Liked the clue for ADVERB as well (49A: [Again or anew]). I’ll admit that, for a while, I got hooked on watching Doctor Who on BBC America for about a few months, and was quickly thinking I was going to go head first into it, like many others have (63D: [“Doctor Who” network]). But, I never really followed up. Not sure why. Maybe I was so spoiled by David Tennant’s version of The Doctor that I didn’t have time to watch anyone else play the character. At least that’s the story that I’m sticking to!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BUCS (56D: [Tampa NFLers]) – This is really just an excuse to post of the most awesome logos in sports history, the first logo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – or, BUCS for short. The name of the logo is known as “Bucco Bruce,” and the winking pirate logo is associated with the massive amounts of losing the team did in the first 20 years of the franchise’s history. But, again, it’s an awesome logo. (Yes, it’s unbelievably campy, but it was the 1970s!) What do you think?


Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160120

LA Times

The theme is VAMPIRE protection: GARLICBREAD, CROSSTIE, STAKE, and MIRRORIMAGE. The middle two are more better separated in meaning, but what other usage is there for GARLIC? Also, I thought vampires just don’t appear in mirrors, but I don’t remember any harm coming to them? Not an area of expertise.

Best answers: USBPORT, ODDSARE

3.5 Stars

David Steinberg’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Work Hard, Play Hard”

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 1 20 16 "Work Hard, Play Hard"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 1 20 16 “Work Hard, Play Hard”

Good title for this theme concept. The revealer LABOR PARTY ties together a theme with four occupations that correspond to verbs that also mean “drunk”:

  • 17a. [At the 57-Across, the ___ got wasted…], GARBAGE MAN. Some sanitation workers are women, of course.
  • 24a. […the ___ got hammered…], CARPENTER.
  • 37a. […the ___ got blasted…], ROCKET SCIENTIST. Oof, bad timing, given the SpaceX rocket that just exploded (luckily with no people near enough to be hurt).
  • 47a. [….and the ___ got lifted!], CAB DRIVER. Okay, I’ve never heard “lifted” as a synonym for drunk, and cabbies don’t “lift,” they “give people a lift.” Also, an ellipsis should not have four periods in it!

So the theme gets a 75% from me.

Six more things:

  • 48d. [Period that starts foolishly?], APRIL. What?? This isn’t about menstruation? Rip-off!
  • 26a. [Good place to drop an anchor?], DESK. As in the anchor desk on the TV news. Maybe these people aren’t being “dropped,” though.
  • 14a. [Slangy specifics], DEETS. I like this word, but I fear not enough people know it for me to use it.
  • 20a. [Place in a no-fly zone?], ENCAGE. Because … you’re putting a bird in a cage? Meh. Boring answer, at any rate.
  • 41a. [Encryption sites?], TOMBS. Dark, but I like the clue.
  • 26d. [Housing when you first move out of your home, usually], DORM. Not sure what percent of people go away to college, vs. commuting to school. I suppose the commuters are likely to stay at home rather than springing for an apartment, though …


3.8 stars from me.

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14 Responses to Wednesday, January 20, 2016

  1. lemonade 714 says:

    I thought the OLIVER TWIST twist made the puzzle special. Good job Herre, seeing lots of your work lately

  2. PJ Ward says:

    Help, please. I’m clearly not looking at AVCX correctly. I see answers taking right turns and left turns at a “U.” I don’t see the U turns.

    • pannonica says:

      No, you’ve got it correct. It’s just that the conventional definition of what constitutes a “u-turn” is apparently overriding your willingness to go along with the wordplay.

      • PJ Ward says:

        Thanks. Guess I’d better loosen up this morning.

      • anon says:

        I think it’s clear that the across and down answers are “making” u-turns, or turning on the “u”. No problem there. There still seems to be an element unexplained: the “CAR” in each half of the long across answers. In his review, Ben makes reference to the CARs making u-turns, but I’m not sure I’m getting this specific point. Is it just that the answers that include CAR have “made a u-turn”?

        (This may have less to do with the actual puzzle and more to do with the somewhat unclear review explaining the puzzle.)

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: The “Oliver Twist” pun is an old one, but it works. As a technicality, I’d wager that the majority of martinis are ordered ‘up’, which means the mixture is strained (unlike the theme, which although fairly smooth has essentially been done before, probably more than once) to remove the ICE.

  4. Jason F says:

    I learned about moraines when I moved to Ann Arbor many years ago. They exhibit here as rolling hills that make for nice, gentle elevation changes for running, biking, etc.

    Kames are another leftover from the ice age around town, but it looks like KAME/KAMES hasn’t been in the NYT since 1983.

    • huda says:

      “I learned about moraines when I moved to Ann Arbor many years ago. They exhibit here as rolling hills that make for nice, gentle elevation …”

      I was going to say the same thing, almost verbatim. And they are very cool. My son, when he was a little boy would find fossils as he played with his digger in the yard… all kinds of creatures. And was rather confused when someone gave him a store-bought, shined up version. He told me they were better if you discover them yourself. I knew right then he was going to be a scientist.

  5. Tony says:

    Rather anal of me I guess, but the only part of Patrick’s AVCX puzzle I didn’t like was calling Lebron a “prodigal” son of Ohio. While he might be a bit extravagant with his money, he didn’t waste it or spend it foolishly.

  6. Tony says:


    You owe it to yourself to listen to AJA, arguably one of Steely Dan’s greatest albums. Only has 7 songs, but they are all great. “Deacon Blues” is one of my favorite songs

  7. Argyle says:

    LAT 13-Down is theme related : SUNSPOT.

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