Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NYT 3:47 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


LAT 3:47 (Gareth) 


CS tk (Ade) 


AV Club 15:12 (Ben) 


BuzzFeed 4:42 (Amy) 


Money-saving way to get all the AV Club crosswords without subscribing: buy the previous year’s puzzles in a bundle. The 2015 bundle is $10, and the 2014 bundle has dropped to $8. This is roughly what you’d pay for a book with 50+ crosswords, right?

John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 10 16, no 0210

NY Times crossword solution, 2 10 16, no 0210

Time to return to math class with today’s puzzle. We have four seemingly unrelated theme entries in 17a. NATURAL DISASTER, 22a. WHOLE BEAN COFFEE, 46a. RATIONAL THOUGHT, and 55a. IMAGINARY FRIEND. The central revealer has us pay attention to the beginning words of these phrases: [The first parts of 17- and 22-Across are always this, the first part of 46-Across is sometimes this, and the first part of 55-Across is never this]. “This” is the revealer, INTEGER.

I had to refresh my memory on some of these terms. To summarize (feel free to skip this paragraph if don’t need a refresher), an INTEGER is a number (including zero) without a fraction or decimal and can be either positive or negative. NATURAL numbers are positive integers and start at either zero or one, depending on whom you ask. WHOLE numbers are positive integers (usually including zero). RATIONAL numbers are numbers that can be written as fractions or ratios. They can be integers (for example, 15 is equivalent to the fraction 15/1), or they can be fractions not resulting in whole numbers, such as 3/5. Finally, IMAGINARY numbers arise from multiplying any non-imaginary number by the square root of -1.

I feel like this theme could be hit or miss, depending on the solver’s feelings towards math. I like it, even after having to remind myself what natural numbers are. The theme phrases overall are good; WHOLE BEAN COFFEE is not something I hear said a lot in conversation, but it is absolutely a thing.

Other than a couple questionable long entries (SEA ROVERS and NAUTILI), the fill is pretty smooth and satisfying. There is a nice mix of older crossword staples such as ORRIN Hatch and Broom HILDA with newer pop culture such as Kristen WIIG and Jimmy FALLON. This appears to be the American-style NYT crossword debut for SIPHONING as well. Finally, I nearly laughed out loud when I realized the answer to [___-backwards] was indeed ASS.

This was a pretty fun solve for me despite my unfamiliarity with some of the math terms, and it went quickly, even faster than last Wednesday’s NYT. 3.8 stars.

Becky Melius’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fire Proof” — Jim’s review

Another WSJ crossword, another new byline.

Debut? Or not debut? That is the question. In this case, I think not. The name anagrams to “Clues by Mike” (presumably editor Mike Shenk), although I could be wrong and it really anagrams to “Mickey’s Lube”.

But if the clues are by Mike, who made the rest of the puzzle?

Regardless, we have a puzzle to solve. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there’s fire there’s ASH. So at one point, all our theme answers today were smoking and on fire but all that’s left is the residue of added ASH.

WSJ - Wed, Feb 10, 2016 - "Fire Proof"

WSJ – Wed, Feb 10, 2016 – “Fire Proof”

  • 17A [“Separate whites from bright colors” and the like?] WASHING TIPS. From wingtips.
  • 24A [Mirrored item in a disco?] FLASHY BALL. Fly ball.
  • 43A [Vampire with spirited style?] DASHING BAT. Dingbat.
  • 57A [Trade-in?] CASHABLE CAR. Cable car.

Not bad, but I think I like all the base phrases better than their modified versions, especially dingbat.

I also prefer it when there is some sort of jokey revealer for the wordplay, like “DATA input” or “ANT infestation”. Here, our revealer at 65A is quite simple and unadorned [Fire proof added to the four longest Across answers].

But be that as it may, we still have wordplay going on, and that’s always a good thing. WASHING TIPS sounds like something you’d really see on a clothing label or in a washing machine manual. CASHABLE CAR is just not that exciting. FLASHY BALL is pretty good, but I like DASHING BAT best. Some people are bat fanatics despite their apparent ugliness (the bats, not the bat fans). So a well-dressed and handsome bat strikes me as humorous.

Our four long Downs are wonderful: ON LOCATION, MATA HARI, OPERA HAT, and best of all, CASABLANCA. Oh wait, there are two more 8-letter Downs: RENAULTS and BAD DEBTS. Pretty good, but both of those would work better in the singular. BAD DEBTS has a great clue: [They can’t be collected].

There are also two 8-letter Acrosses: PLOW INTO (good) and LA LA LAND (great), although the clue for the latter at 53A [Home to many celebs] seems like it needs a “slangily” in there. I guess the shortened “celebs” is hinting at a colloquial name, but it still seems a bit off to me.

Plenty of great 6s as well: SCANTY, AMAZES, BALLAD, GLITCH, I’M LATE, ICICLE, and AT EASE. TINCTS (61A [Shades]) is less great.

Other things:

  • 1A [Player across the diamond from I Don’t Know] WHO refers to the old Abbott and Costello bit.
  • I did not know that OHIO‘s (35A) flag is non-rectangular.
  • The pairing of anagrams CAST (22A [Group that 28-Across]) and ACTS (28A [Anagram of 22-Across]) works well and is not one I ever thought of.
  • I still don’t know how 32A‘s clue [Torpedo’s target, perhaps] is RAT. Anyone?
  • If you didn’t know that the ESSO (52D) sign means “Happy Motoring”, watch this:

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX crossword, “AVC Themeless #5” — Ben’s Review

AVC Themeless #5

AVC Themeless #5

Kameron Austin Collins is back for the AV Club puzzle this week with another themeless, and it’s another really nice one, even at a tricky 4.5/5 difficulty.  I usually prefer puzzles with a theme, but clues like these have me changing my mind:

  • 24A: Homemade bar  — LYE SOAP
  • 26A: They may be toasted in curry — SPICES
  • 33A: Curry is the toast of it — NBA
  • 57A: Updated mom on your bunkmate, that rash, and your favorite camp counselor, maybe — WROTE HOME
  • 5D: Secret behind the shed? — DIET PILL
  • 8D: Lines with handles, say — EMAIL SIGNATURES
  • 35D: Infamous pen — ALCATRAZ

And that’s just a (slightly oversized) handful of the great cluing and fill.  This one’s a challenge (and took me about twice as long to solve as a normal AVCX puzzle), but it’s a fun solve the entire time.  Highly recommended


Sam Donaldson’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Swipe It Like It’s Hot”—Amy’s write-up

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 2 10 16, "Swipe It Like It's Hot"

BuzzFeed crossword solution, 2 10 16, “Swipe It Like It’s Hot”

The theme involves Tinder swiping. Swipe right on the appealing people, swipe left on the unappealing ones (who are spelled from right to left here):

  • 17a. [Person you should swipe right on (like in this puzzle)], DREAMBOAT.
  • 27a. [Person you should swipe left on (like in this puzzle)], REBOOG. GOOBER backwards. Is this current slang??
  • 28a. [Person you should swipe right on (like in this puzzle)], EYE CANDY.
  • 45a. [Person you should swipe left on (like in this puzzle)], DAEHTTUB. BUTTHEAD—which is a trait not always apparent without speaking to someone.
  • 47a. [Person you should swipe right on (like in this puzzle)], HOTTIE. Would have preferred not to have “Hot” in the puzzle’s title with HOTTIE in the theme.
  • 58a. [Person you should swipe left on (like in this puzzle)], GABEHCUOUD. DOUCHEBAG—like BUTTHEAD, not always obvious from a photo and short profile. Although if the guy’s got his collar popped …

The theme’s fun enough, though having the Acrosses PLATONIC and ONE UNDER longer than REBOOG and HOTTIE throws off visual recognition of the theme entries.

Dupe alert: DEARS next to MY BOY clued with [“Dear lad”].

Five more things:

  • 23a. [Psychedelic drug that induces a spiritual approximation of a near-death experience where you see small otherwordly beings called “Machine Elves”], DMT. Say what? I wonder if Sam originally had something like GEARS crossing the GMT time zone.
  • 25a. [Holder’s agcy.], DOJ. Eric Holder stepped down last spring—the Dept. of Justice is under Loretta Lynch now.
  • 41a. [Wd. with approx. the sm. mnng.], SYN. Wow, made-up abbreviations like sm. and mnng. are hideous.
  • 42a. [Platform for writing?], SHELF. Meaning the books that have already been written and live on your bookshelf, not the things you’re writing now. Tricky!
  • 22d. [Barked like a poodle], ARFED. What? No. Arf is an exclamation, not a verb. Wonder if this was ARCED/CEE originally.

This puzzle felt a good bit rougher than most of Sam’s other work (which I usually like!). 3.3 stars from me.

Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160210

LA Times 160210

It’s a definitions-as-answers theme. The definition is [Lift]. The answers are SKIERSTRANSPORT, BRITSELEVATOR and HITCHHIKERSRIDE. Three defs, and the first two are pretty much the same.

Outside of the theme, there are few phrases, only GETHOT and GOSOLO and I guess ONEA. The most interesting corner is the top-left with CASKET (clued via jewellery??), ALKALI, POIROT, CAPON, and KARAOKE.

[Pet shelter mission], RESCUE is a modern phrasing, and one I find absurdly overly emotionally charged.

2.5 Stars
Dull theme.

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32 Responses to Wednesday, February 10, 2016

  1. rm says:

    I, for one, am a big fan of these recent math themes! That was a nice Wednesday that fell pretty quickly.

    • huda says:

      Yup, Math themes are a good thing. And this one was very well done.

      Waiting for science themes —but not holding my breath… we are way low on the totem pole of interesting topics or shared concepts, it seems. I expect to see quilting first… (nothing against quilting, crocheting, bicycle racing, or orienteering). May be it’s the failure of scientists to communicate the importance of some fundamentals.

      And yeah, Pannonica, whenever I see ATP I think why is a tennis association more familiar than a major source of energy in every cell…

  2. Sarah says:

    A whole number and an integer are exactly the same thing. Massive fail there for this puzzle.

    • dave glasser says:

      Typically, negative numbers are excluded from “whole number” and included in “integer”.

      • Sarah says:

        Not so typically. I checked two dictionaries, each one listed whole numbers and integers as synonymous.

        • dave glasser says:

          It’s certainly typical in a formal math setting. I see says it works both ways but that was news to me after a math degree.

        • anon says:

          Thankfully, mathematics isn’t taught from dictionaries.

        • sbmanion says:

          Whole numbers are positive counting numbers and 0. 0 is a whole number even thought it is neither positive nor negative.

          0 is an integer. Integers include negative whole numbers. Whole numbers do not include negative integers.

          If dictionaries say otherwise, they are contrary to the wealth of math websites that agree with the above. Google: what are whole numbers? for the many sites in accord.

          “Integer” and “positive integer” (positive integer does not include 0) are two terms that all students taking the SAT need to be familiar with.

          Whole number is not a term used in standardized testing.


    • Joe Pancake says:

      Some of these definitions are not cut-and-dried and might be slightly different in different contexts (for example, in my set theory books 0 is usually considered a natural number, but it’s not in my basic algebra books).

      Zero is almost always a special case. You could argue that 0 is an imaginary number (it’s on the imaginary axis of the complex plane), and it is certainly an integer, so the puzzle is technically wrong since it states an imaginary number is never an integer. However, one could also argue that 0 is not imaginary because an imaginary number must have an imaginary part and no real part (a + bi, where a is zero and b is non-zero).

      I’m more partial to the former argument, but because of the ambiguity, I don’t think the puzzle is definitively wrong.

  3. Bencoe says:

    Sorry I haven’t commented in a while, but I haven’t been doing crosswords recently. I won’t be at the ACPT this year, which I hate (not being there), but I will be overseas in Europe then, which I love. Just wanted to check in.

    • Howard B says:

      Will miss ya Ben, but enjoy every moment of your trip.

    • janie says:

      ESTES PARK in today’s avcx had me thinking of you — love the synchronicity. and i don’t know — stamford? europe? stamford? eur — ? yeah — europe!


  4. Matt says:

    Liked the NYT– perhaps needless to say. As is common in ‘almost technical’ puzzles, specialists will note differences between dictionary definitions and ‘correct’ definitions of various terms, but I’ll let it go…

    • Zulema says:

      Exactly. It was a very nice NYT Wednesday puzzle and some expected nit-picking does not affect our enjoyment of it.

  5. Norm says:

    Agree that the AV Club puzzle was great. Very difficult but very satisfying and the opposite of boring.

    • dave glasser says:

      Yeah, great puzzle but wow was the northeast tough for me! Everything was obvious once I got it, though… fair but hard.

  6. pannonica says:

    WSJ: “Some people are bat fanatics despite their apparent ugliness …”

    Going to provide some resistance here. There are well over 1200 species of bats. The typically ‘grotesque’ ones are the highly specialized, echolocating microbats, but a significant proportion are the larger, diurnal megabats. Many people regard them as cute. And there’s arguably beauty among the other species too, since such things are always subjective.

    In fact, I have a (non-biologist) facebook friend who frequently posts about bats, from cute videos of baby fruit bats being bottle-fed to ecological concerns such as environmental encroachment and white nose syndrome. Then again, he’s kind of obsessed with Bat-Man. But he is an adult.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I agree that bats can certainly be cute. They are also crucial in certain ecosystems but are losing their food supply in many city areas.

      I guess I was thinking of the “ugly” vampire bats when I wrote that because that’s what’s in the clue, but failed to specify in my snarky comments.

  7. JohnV says:

    LAT 10A ZONK: feels wobbly, 128,000 hits on Google For ZONKOUT. cross with KAT Dennings not so wonderful, IMHO.

    • Gareth says:

      I think I see it mostly in the form ZONKED. ONO/NCR/KAT is a long way to go for a Z in the service of that and ZIPPO. That isn’t a good trade-off in a section with probably hundreds of available combinations…

  8. Jon says:

    OK, I give up. Why is “To complement” = FRO ? Loved the AVCX puzzle, BTW. Great clue/answer combos throughout.

  9. CC says:

    That might have been the hardest AV Club puzzle yet but I’m not complaining. Love Collins’ cluing, both here and in the HIGH:low puzzles.

  10. Jim Peredo says:

    WSJ: Duh! Today is ASH Wednesday! “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

    Good thing no one here does the WSJ or comments on it to call me out! (Sorry. I was trying to give up snark for Lent. Oh well. There goes that one.)

  11. Thomas says:

    Hey, a theme that gives me an excuse to show off my girlfriend’s art.

    Real Number Nesting Dolls

    • Becky56 says:

      I love them! Are they for sale anywhere? And what is the smallest one? (I can’t tell from the picture, and despite being a math major many moons ago I’m not sure what it would be.)

      • Thomas says:

        Thanks! The smallest doll is natural numbers. (The source we referenced defines the natural numbers as the whole numbers, excluding zero.) She is counting on her fingers.

        There are several other doll sets on her Etsy shop. The number dolls aren’t listed there because she intended them for herself, but. You know. She would sell if somebody really wanted them.

        You can email me (cephalopodd at gmail) if this is something you’d like to discuss.

    • PhilR says:

      The sizes are wrong – Rational Numbers, Integers, Whole Numbers, Natural Numbers should all have the same size – they can all nest within one another!

  12. Joan Macon says:

    So where is the LAT today?

    • Joan Macon says:

      Amy, I tried your suggestion of last week but my computer is almost as old as I am and it cannot open a great many posts, including that one.

    • Gareth says:

      I don’t what has happened to the post. It must have been erased with the various revisions that happen… I still have it in draft though.

Comments are closed.