Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Today’s theme is FOURTEEN POINTS [Proposal of Woodrow Wilson … or what the scoring values of 18-, 27-, 55- and 66-Across total], in which the number of points gained by scoring one each of the four theme answers:
- Baseball’s GRAND SLAM (4 points/runs)
- Hockey’s HAT TRICK (3 points/goals)
- Basketball’s FOUL SHOT (1 point)
- American Football’s TOUCHDOWN (6 points)
I like the overall concept a lot, and I do not mind a bit of math with my crossword puzzle, so the arithmetic is a nice touch. The inconsistency I find in this puzzle, however, is that only two of the four sports actually report the score in points. As mentioned above, a GRAND SLAM brings in four runs, and a HAT TRICK is three goals in a game. Neither are really called points. Still, it’s a neat concept.
Fill is pretty smooth, with little dreck (CDI, RATA). I feel like we see AFROs frequently in crosswords, but [Hairstyle maintained with a pick] is a solid clue compared to some we’ve seen in the past several months. My one sticky spot was in the NE corner with the OIL CUP/SCORIA crossing. OIL CUP was not intuitive, and SCORIA was new to me.
Apparently the name for this igneous rock comes from the Greek word for “rust,” which is fitting, as it is often rust-colored. It really is amazing how something as destructive as lava can produce so many different types of beautiful rock. Anyway, the rest of the fill was pretty lovely, especially WASH ME, JANUS, CHOMPED, and TEA HOUSE.
Until next week, Wednesday buddies!
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal Crossword, “What’s The Deal?” — Jim’s review
If you’re into Texas hold ’em, this one must have been a breeze.
- 1a [3-3, in Texas hold ’em] CRABS
- 18a [4-4, in Texas hold ’em] SAILBOATS
- 29a [8-8, in Texas hold ’em] SNOWMEN
- 37a [A-A, in Texas hold ’em] POCKET ROCKETS
- 46a [K-K, in Texas hold ’em] COWBOYS
- 60a [J-J, in Texas hold ’em] FISHHOOKS
- 69a [2-2, in Texas hold ’em] DUCKS
This was pretty far outside my wheelhouse as I’ve never played Texas hold ’em nor do I have any interest in doing so. Therefore it was difficult to makes sense of the theme answers.
I uncovered 1a first and was pretty turned off by it, expecting that I needed to know the lingo in order to finish the puzzle. But it turns out the number/letter pairings in each hand are related to their shapes. CRABS is not inferable from 3s (I guess it’s because CRABS can kinda make a 3 shape if you look from the top down and imagine the crab facing left), but I can see SAILBOATS for 4s, SNOWMEN for 8s, and FISHHOOKS for Js (Jacks).
I can also see POCKET ROCKETS for As (Aces), but I always thought POCKET ROCKETS were something else.
I can vaguely see DUCKS for 2s, but it’s a stretch and not guessable if you don’t already know it. I’d say 2s look more like SWANS, but SWANS are highly-valued whereas 2s and DUCKS aren’t. I don’t get COWBOYS for Ks (Kings) at all other than their common, manly, solitary characteristics.
You can see a full list of playing-card nicknames here. A pair of Queens usually gets a vulgar nickname (the best option is “Ladies”). My favorite for a pair of 2s is “Desmond” (Desmond Tutu).
So the theme didn’t do much for me, but of course, YMMV. How is the grid in general?
Expertly made, as you’d expect. It’s similar to yesterday where we also had a 13-letter central themer, but this time, Samuel decided to forego the extra blocks in any of the corners leaving them all wide open. Each of them is at least 6-letters down. I CAN WAIT is nice in the top right, but I especially like the SE with OLD VIC and YORICK. Looks like Hamlet has been put on numerous times in the past at the OLD VIC.
The SW was last to fall for me. PASHMINA (37d, [Soft shawl]) was new to me and DUTIFUL (41d, [Conscientious]) just wasn’t appearing. The fact that I didn’t know the 2001 J. Lo song at 55a (I’M REAL) didn’t help; I had __ REAL, so I tried SO REAL and UNREAL to no avail.
AGELESS and CRUSTY are both good, but my favorite entry is 32d LL COOL J [“Mama Said Knock You Out” singer]. I distinctly remember this from my college days, so this was one of the few things that went straight into the grid. Crossing CUJO at the J was a bonus.
Finally, 9d is BULB with the clue [Future tulip, say]. As my family and I just visited Holland last week and Keukenhof Gardens in particular, this clue spoke to me. So I have to attach one of my favorite shots I got during our visit.
Natan Last’s AVCX crossword, “Seat of Power” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AV Club puzzle is a guest construction from Natan Last (who had an NYT Sunday puzzle the weekend of ACPT I really liked) with 3.5/5 difficulty. A few clues were stymieing me when the expected answer didn’t work out, but then I hit mid-puzzle and it all started to make sense:
- 21A: Naturalist for whom an island, mountain, hundreds of animal species, and an Australian city are named (dude!) — CHAR
- 31A: Lord of the Rings actor who was in the whole trilogy, has directed, has done a ton of voiceover work, and is now working in politics (bruh!) — SEA
- 46A: Rapper with 22 million Twitter followers (leave some for the rest of us!) — KAN
- 56A: “Six Feet Under” actor who’s appeared on more than 100 TV shows (other people need roles!) — JAM
- 39A: Public act of self-entitlement…and what the figures in 21A, 31A, 46A, and 56A are doing — MANSPREADING
MANSPREADING (or being an ass on the train and sitting with your legs fully spread apart because your testicles supposedly “need to breathe”) cracks open why the answers for the rest of the theme clues don’t quite make sense…they’re spread across other across entries in the grid. 21A‘s answer is the more sensical CHAR/LES/DAR/WIN, 31A is SEA/NAS/TIN once 32A and 33A get involved, 46A‘s confusing KAN becomes the obvious KAN/YEW/EST and 56A is revealed to be JAM/ESC/ROM/WELL once the full row is involved. I liked this theme a lot, and it totally excuses what I otherwise thought had just been some sub-par fill (KAN? really?)
There was plenty to like elsewhere in the grid, too:
- 15A: Great Lake with the longest shoreline — HURON
(I totally got this by running through HOMES in my head to figure out which of the Great Lakes were 5 letters long)
- 16A: Soul singer Blacc with a soothing-sounding name — ALOE (I love that there’s a new way to clue this word, y’all)
- 18A: People’s rival — US MAGAZINE (Nitpick here: Yes, their web address is usmagazine.com, but the magazine’s title is US WEEKLY)
- 45A: “Trap House” artist Gucci — MANE (Hip-hop culture is a part of popular culture, and popular culture should be in the crossword. Also, yay, a new way to clue MANE!)
- 47D: Batgirl player Craig — YVONNE (I knew this right away because I’ve been reading Glen Weldon’s fantastic The Caped Crusade, which is about the evolution of Batman and nerd culture over the hero’s lifetime. It’s super-fascinating stuff, and I say that as someone who’s generally not that into comic books. Get the audiobook – Glen does voices really well)
I’m sure this kind of theme has been done in other venues, but I liked the tie-in to recent (unfortunate) trends. Hopefully you did too.
Jeffrey Harris’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tolerance” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Mr. Jeffrey Harris brings us today’s crossword puzzle, and we have puns that actually are also common phrases/nouns as the theme for today.
- BEAR TRACKS (17A: [Tolerate songs on a CD?])
- STOMACH EXERCISE (35A: [Tolerate working out?])
- BROOK TROUT (54A: [Tolerate some fish?])
Loved the fill around the theme entries, though, I mistakenly spelled FAZE (46A: [Disconcert]) with an “s” instead of a “z,” which I’m sure didn’t make ANA ORTIZ too happy (23D: [“Devious Maids” star]). Though I haven’t seen TAKEN, I think that was the movie that reignited the career of Liam Neeson, as it seems he’s now in almost every other thriller released on the big screen (40D: [Liam Neeson action movie of 2009]). Liked the clue and the fill of ROM-COM, though, as I read the clue and filled in the answer, all I had in mind was her role in Speed, definitely far from a rom-com (18D: [Many a Sandra Bullock flick]). Really liked the separation of YOKO ONO, and having each of the words be in the same row (20A: [With 21-Across, “Double Fantasy” artist]). Honestly, of all the earworms one can get from doing a crossword, I don’t think you can get any better than hearing RESCUE ME over and over (9D: [1965 hit for Fontella Bass]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PHILLY (47A: [Home to Ben Franklin’s grave]) – For the second consecutive day, I pick an entry in which its clue referenced the resting place of a famous person. Anyways, big news in PHILLY sports today, as the Eagles have moved up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, completing a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Presumably, the Birds will take a quarterback, whoever is left between California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz after the Los Angeles Rams make their selection at No. 1. Definitely some promising news for sports fans in Philly, who have seen almost all of their professional sports teams turn into laughingstocks.
See you all tomorrow, and have a good rest of your Wednesday!
Clive Probert’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Simple enough theme, but very restrictive: phrases with the initials C.C.C. CHILICONCARNE and I suppose CHACHACHA (though that’s a little cheap) are the only obvious phrases missing, but they’re a different length to the 3 we get: CHINNYCHINCHIN (14), COCACOLACLASSIC (15) and CAPECODCOTTAGE also (14).
Not a lot more to note. [Bakes, as 50-Acrosses], SHIRRS is the hardest piece of vocabulary here, but crosses are fair. [“Star Wars” staples], ETS feels clumsy – unlike say Star Trek, Star Wars is set in a galaxy where earth isn’t really used as a frame of reference. [Medication used for dilating pupils], ATROPINE felt straight from work; use the eye drops for that, but also atropine injectable for carbamate poisoning. That is probably the most common way people deliberately poison dogs here, not sure about the States. Sadly extremely effective too.
Mostly easy, except for that NE corner. I had ODDITY before ODDONE, TRACES before SPECKS… And OILCUP crossing SCORIA? C is the only crossing letter that makes sense, but I hadn’t heard of either.
A HATTRICK can’t really be called a ‘scoring play,’ seeing as it’s three separate plays making up one feat, but it’s hard to see how you could clue all four theme answers in the same way.
WASHME — it always amuses me when I see that on a dirty vehicle. My brothers and I used to do that, little daredevils that we were.
NYT: I became immediately soured on this one when I hit 27-Across and realized the answer was HATTRICK, as there is no way I can see a hat trick being interpreted as a singular hockey “play”. It is the composition of three goals that were scored on three distinct “plays”. I’m quite surprised the clues weren’t changed to something more defensible like “scoring event” or something along those lines. Even then HATTRICK would still be an outlier — all the others are, in fact, one play — but at least its clue wouldn’t be wrong.
I agree with your assessment of HATTRICK. Before I realized the length was one letter short, I tried OPENNET thinking at the time the puzzle was just about scoring plays.
NYT: this question is deeply rooted in my ignorance (although I knew all these scoring opportunities, but not necessarily their values)… But is their a unifying connection to the revealer, except that they add up to 14?
Nope — and in fact it seems to me that of all 20th C presidents, Woodrow Wilson was probably the least likely to be a sports fan, what with him being a snooty-tooty Princeton prof and all.
Well, maybe Nixon too, but for different reasons — he was just too awkward and insecure to think of sports as fun.
Actually, Nixon was an obsessive football fan.
I have been married to a geologist for over 30 years and I know more geological terminology than the average non-geologist. I can define (and spell) allochthonous, terrane, gneiss, scarp, alluvial fill, tuff, decollement, and a whole lot more. SCORIA isn’t just new to Erin; it’s completely unfamiliar to to me. I’m sure the definition is correct and can be found in a dictionary. I’m also sure it doesn’t belong in a Wednesday puzzle (or any other made for a non-technical audience.) If David weren’t on a grant deadline, I’d ask him if he thinks it’s obscure. And OIL CUP? Really? What kind of machine?
I’m not crazy about the theme, either, for all the reasons others have enumerated. That wouldn’t have bothered me, though. The SCORIA/OIL CUP crossing is the sort of thing that sends less committed solvers away completely. It’s odious.
Oddly, I knew SCORIA but don’t know why… As for the gimmick in the AVCX, I’m glad I checked back in this afternoon for the revelation. Terrific! Thanks… Never heard of MAN-SPREADING though. Egads.
Yeah, I knew SCORIA, too, and I”m not sure why. I’m thinking from previous puzzles..?
OIL CUP is also familiar to me, although, with the use of sealed bearings, they’re not used as much as they used to be.
Still no word on panonnica… Why the silence?
I loved the AVCX. Great, timely, topical theme, very well done. Just to prove I’m not terminally cranky :)
As part of spring cleaning, I recently refilled the oilcup on a motor that pumps water in a water feature in my garden. They’re found on many such “fractional horsepower” motors that operate all sorts of machines. It’s got a little spring-loaded lid that you lift with one hand and stick the spout of an oil can in the revealed hole. Squeeze the oil can until it’s full and you’re set for another year. 3-In-1 Oil comes in a special grade just for filing motor oilcups.
Next time you meet an electric motor, look for the little trap door and you’ve found an oilcup.
On the WSJ puzzle, I have likewise never played Texas hold ’em, and probably never will, so this one was a little bit of a slog for me. However, as you noted, some of the slang terms do represent the shape of the cards, so when I realized that it made the solve a little more interesting as I tried to guess the slang term from the shape. With respect to the 3s, I imagined that the center was the eyes, and that the claws formed the top and bottom–so kind of just the front without the body. I also thought the twos looked more like swans, but then saw on one website that ducks is actually a play on the word deuces.
Poker players rarely if ever use the terms in the WSJ puzzle, although they are well known. I would never use SAILBOATS to describe a pair of 4’s in an actual hand, nor any of the other terms for that matter, unless I was discussing nicknames for various terms with other players.
There are few accepted exceptions such as BROADWAY for an ace high straight and WHEEL for a straight to the five. Players will routinely use these terms to describe their hands.
I did not have a problem with the NYT and enjoy any puzzle that is sports-related.
loved this week’s av club puz!
Why do you no longer publish crossword puzzle answers daily for the Los Angeles Times?
They do. Did you not see the write-ups yesterday, Monday, and each day before that?
The LAT reviewer doesn’t live in the US and thus often posts the reviews later than the rest of us.
I know. I was just pointing out that the premise of the original question was false.
Great LAT theme. A great theme clue could have been “300 in old Rome, and a clue to today’s longest answers.” Answer: CCC
Wsj. Completely hated it. Theme completely inappropriate for a general audience.
The AVCX drove me insane, even though I got MANSPREADING early in the game. I had to cheat in order to complete it, and even with the full answer staring me in the face, it took a few minutes before I finally realized what had been done to me. I still haven’t forgiven the constructor, and I can’t decide whether the theme was brilliant or dirty. Brilliant and dirty is how I’m leaning. :)
I always liked SHO ME as a better mnemonic for the Great Lakes. They present the lakes in order, from west to east across the north, and west to east again across the south.
CS: Huh, I’d never seen BROOK used like that before. Is it common, or regional?