Wednesday, May 11, 2016

AV Club 16:52 (Ben) 


CS 10:22 (Ade) 


LAT 3:16 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:45 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Pawel Fludzinski’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up


NY Times crossword solution, 5 11 16, no 0511

Today’s theme is quotations with “be” and “do”:

  • 20a. [Words from Shakespeare] TO BE OR NOT TO BE
  • 28a. [Words from Socrates] TO BE IS TO DO
  • 41a. [Words from Sartre] TO DO IS TO BE
  • 52a. [Words from Sinatra] DOOBY DOOBY DOO (DOO BY DOO BY DOO?)

The theme is cute, but these quotations have definitely been grouped together before, from scribblings on bathroom stalls to Kurt Vonnegut’s Deadeye Dick. The main thing that bothers me is that I’m used to seeing the Sinatra lyrics as “Do be do be do,” so DOOBY DOOBY DOO really threw me off. A Google search for “Do be do be do Sinatra” generates about 20 million hits, compared to “Doo by doo by doo Sinatra” with about 500,000 and “Dooby dooby doo Sinatra” with only 22,600. (Not that this is a scientific way to determine the relative frequency of things, but that’s a pretty big difference in results returned.)

Other things that could have shown up in the theme: Scooby Dooby Doo, Yabba Dabba Doo, and Yoda’s “Do or do not. There is no try,” if you wanted to put it in a Sunday-sized puzzle.

This puzzle is open enough to grace us with some nice longer fill, such as DEAR SANTA, CALL SIGNS, AMARETTO, CIABATTA, and ISOTOPES. There really is not much in the way of ick…ENTR is not great, and I do not love SOT, even clued as [W.C. Fields persona], given the actor’s real-life struggles with alcoholism. Overall, the fill is lovely, which helps offset the familiarity of the theme material, and also seems on the easy side for a Wednesday, which led to a very quick solve for me.

That’s it for me. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Ron Toth’s and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Resounding Actions” — Jim’s review

WSJ - Wed, 5.11.16 - "Resounding Actions" by Ron Toth and Zhouqin Burnikel

WSJ – Wed, 5.11.16 – “Resounding Actions” by Ron Toth and Zhouqin Burnikel

We just saw CC a few days ago, and now she’s back, this time with sometimes-partner Ron Toth. Let’s see what they have for us.

  • 20a [Hands over certain trig functions?] CONSIGNS SINES
  • 28a [Gives up bird food?] CONCEDES SEEDS
  • 45a [Hides marine mammals?] CONCEALS SEALS
  • 52a [Emulates a spiritual counselor?] CONSOLES SOULS

So, words starting with CON have their second halves duplicated and then homophoned (that’s a verb, right?).

That’s a perfectly fine theme, but the first entry doesn’t work for me for two reasons. First, it has no surface sense where the others do. You can concede a seed, conceal a seal, and console a soul, but how do you consign a sine? That themer, right at the beginning, left me a little grumbly in my tumbly.

Secondly, it duplicates the surrendering action of the second themer. Seeing “Hands over” and then “Gives up” in the first two themers made me think that’s what the theme was about. The third one, “Hides”, almost felt related, but it wasn’t. So needless to say, this was distracting. Better to just get rid of that first one and find something new. Possible 13-letter alternative: CONDUCTS DUCKS? (Well, maybe not.)

Also, I don’t know the significance of the CON prefix. I’m guessing the constructors chose to limit their entries to it in order to keep things consistent. But does that mean there is a PRO version of this puzzle coming down the pike? PRODUCES DEUCES, PROMOTES MOATS, PROTECTS TEX (or TEXTS)?

I do like the title. It had its own “Aha!” moment.

Having all 13-letter themers means they get pushed together vertically toward the center of the grid. There’s the usual muck (OSH, DAL, ILE, ETAS, ERSE, ELS), but on the whole I didn’t feel these too badly in light of all the great long fill.


There’s a delicate, feminine feel with fully-named ANAÏS NIN, PETITE, TRINKET, TRESSES, and LASSES. But then there’s “SIR, NO SIR!” and *cough* ANACONDA *cough*. We also get SKELETON, CANAPE, and SCALENE (to go with the first themer and satisfy the math nerds).

Clues of note:

  • 1a: Good bit of trivia telling us that GRANT was the first prez who graduated from West Point. Ike did as well, and Carter graduated from Annapolis.
  • 65a: [They may be loose or tight] is ENDS, but the clue also works for LIPS.
  • 6d: Is PETITE an actual [Short dress size]? I always thought it just meant a category of smaller-sized clothes.
  • 59d: I did not get the clue [High rollers?] for ELS until just now. Duh!

Solid puzzle, but I’m wishing an alternative to the first theme entry could have been found.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Getting the Band Back Together” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 9.27.08 AM

Getting the Band Back Together

You’re going to want to look at the enlarged version of the screenshot for today’s AVCX puzzle – there’s a lot going on in some of the squares that’s tricky to fit in the small spaces.  BEQ has today’s puzzle, and it certainly earned its 4.5/5 difficulty.  That said, it’s really lovely once you figure out the trick:

  • 17A: Character in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video — (JAN)ITOR
  • 1D: South American who lives high up — AN(DEAN)
  • 20A: Starting to break free — BECOMIN(G UNS)TUCK
  • 9D: Shrinks might address them — NEU(ROSES)
  • 37A: Road game vibe, say — HOSTILE ENV(IRON)MENT
  • 31D: Wet quality in the morning — DE(WINE)SS
  • 55A: “Funny you should say that” — AS A (MATT)ER OF FACT
  • 51D: Break-in covering — S(KI M)ASK
  • 69A: Butler’s hand covering — KID G(LOVE)
  • 63D: “SNL” skit featuring Dieter and his monkey Klaus — SP(ROCKETS)

Each pair of entries features a musical group of the form X and Y whose name parts form a rebus square – Jan and Dean, Guns and Roses, Iron and Wine, Matt and Kim, & Love and Rockets. Depending on how you feel about band names of various levels of notoriety appearing in your morning puzzle, you’re either going to like this one or hate it.

Other fill/cluing of note:

  • 28A: Letters that start all Matador Records catalog numbers  — OLE (Is it nice to fine a new clue for what’s otherwise a clued-to-death trigram?  Yes.  Is it nice that this is a music-related clue in a music-related puzzle?  Yes.  Is it still a smidge too obscure to be a good clue?  YES.)
  • 48A: Musical format still sold at Best Buy (who knew?) — CDS (I was waiting to see if this would be CDs or LPs) 
  • 52A: “___ a Pill in Ibiza” (Mike Posner hit) — I TOOK (this has been this week’s edition of What The Youths Are Listening To)
  • 64A: “Bag that might hold guyliner” — MURSE (this is a terrible portmanteau that should die with the rest of the “metrosexual” hubbub from a few years ago)
  • 13D: Studs in the bookshop — TERKEL (I got this from the crossings and had to look it up after solving to find out if this was an author I had never heard of before or part of a bookshelf’s construction I had never heard of before)
  • 35D: Musical B or C — MEL (These are Sporty and Scary Spices of the Spice Girls, respectively)
  • 46D: Mall pizza chain name — SBARRO (Comedian Kurt Braunohler said Sbarro is Italian for “Don’t put that in your mouth!”, and that’s stuck with me every time I see one in person)

I loved this one, but your mileage may vary.


John Guzzetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160511

LA Times

Cute theme idea, though maybe quite limiting in terms of theme options; not sure of the latter. Both parts of five two-part theme answers begin with an ‘f’ sound. One is spelt ‘ph’ and the other ‘f’. The order is F/PH twice and PH/F thrice. Curiously, the letter f’s Greek ancestor, digamma, was pronounced ‘w’.


  • [Communication device also called a clamshell], FLIPPHONE. A largely passe design.
  • [Verne’s circumnavigator], PHILEASFOGG. Full name fictional character. Stylish!
  • [Gym teacher’s concern], PHYSICALFITNESS.
  • [Reunion memento], FAMILYPHOTO.
  • [Ben & Jerry’s flavor inspired by a Vermont rock band], PHISHFOOD. I assume this isn’t that big a thing, but it’s quirky and inferrable in several ways!

The grid is largely limited to containment, due to the five part theme. There is little that is flagrantly bad.


    • [“Carmina Burana” composer], ORFF – not to be confused with orf, a skin virus of small ruminants.
    • [Starting point for Frisbee golfers], TEEPAD. Not known to me, but I think frisbee golfers will be happy to have their pastime acknowledged!
    • [Brand of beard trimmers], WAHL. I own one!
    • [Nina of “The Ten Commandments], FOCH. Not heard of her, though she seems to have a reasonable career. Ferdinand is my go-to Foch!

4 Stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Together with Your Ex” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.11.16: "Together with Your Ex"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 05.11.16: “Together with Your Ex”

Hello there, everyone! Ladies Week continues on CrossSynergy, as Ms. Lynn Lempel steps up to the plate for today’s crossword after Donna (Levin) and Gail’s (Grabowski) crosswords on Monday and Tuesday. In today’s grid, “EX” marks the spot, as those letters are added to common phrases/proper nouns to create some cool puns.

  • TINY TIMEX (18A: [Wristwatch for Barbie?]) – Tiny Tim.
  • EXPLAIN PEOPLE (28A: [What psychologists do?]) – Plain people.
  • POLICE SEXTING (47A: [Reason for a cop’s dismissal?]) – Police sting. Best of the bunch, by far!
  • TEXACO BAR (58D: [Spot for a gas station libation?]) – Taco bar.

Very cool grid, though, for some reason, I got off to a real slow start in the Northwest when my mind couldn’t come up with SHAFT quickly (1A: [Arrow or spear part]). The down answers up there I wasn’t 100 percent sure of, so I hopped around the grid to get some traction. If the clue to TOAD HALL referred to the bar that’s in the SoHo section of Manhattan, that would have been a slam dunk (5D: [“The Wind in the Willows” grand residence]). Not only was there a reference to a sext, with police sexting, TEXT also made its way in the grid today (13D: [Phone message, often]). Of course, props to this grid for the African geography with the inclusion of GHANA (17A: [West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea]). Alright, time to head out and get some dinner before one LOSES IT and gets hangry (37A: [Snaps]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TEBOW (23A: [2007 Heisman winner who took a knee to pray or play]) – When Tim TEBOW won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, he became the first sophomore in NCAA history to win the prestigious award, given to college football’s best player. As a junior, he finished third in the Heisman voting (Sam Bradford of Oklahoma won the award in 2008) and, as a senior, finished fifth in the voting (Mark Ingram of Alabama won in 2009). You can catch Tebow now as a football analyst on the SEC Network, an ESPN-created channel that almost no one in New York City gets.

Thank you very much for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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16 Responses to Wednesday, May 11, 2016

  1. Akil says:

    NYT: I had not seen this theme before, so it totally cracked me up. It was definitely an easy solve, though.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    The NYT was only so-so for me; hadn’t heard of CIABATTA… I really liked the WSJ, happy to see GRANT, who is underrated as President. He did outlaw the KKK, even if it persists today in certain political guises.

  3. rick says:

    AVX rocked!

    • Bruce N. Morton says:

      That’s not the past tense verb I would have chosen. Mine differed by only two letters (the first two). Having said that I do appreciate its merits to anyone who had heard of the rock groups. I did get the theme from Becomin(guns)tuck and neu(roses), the only group in the puzzle that I had heard of.

      To the surprise of many people, I’m a Guns and Roses fan, including some of their most aggressive, heavy metal sound. But they can be surprisingly lyrical at times, e.g. their excellent performance of “Sweet Child O’Mine.” If you haven’t heard it, I recommend it.

    • David Steere says:

      Another AVX embrace of pop culture but an awfully clever one. I thought I’d completed it* even though I’d never heard of “Smells like Teen Spirit,” “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” Matador Records, “Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” Mike Posner, Steve Vai, Skyy (sorry, I don’t drink), Tess Holiday, “ute” as a car term, “Mel,” Tim and Eric, Groupon, “Dieter and …Klaus” (sorry, haven’t watched SNL in over 20 years), Iron and Wine, Matt and Kim, Love and Rockets. A lovely construction of a puzzle if I was still able to finish it…almost. *Not knowing “Love and Rockets,” I thought perhaps a butler’s glove might be called a “kidge” so I didn’t feel another theme entry was in the lower right corner–definitely wicked! Would someone kindly explain to me the clue/answer pair “Musician B or C’ and “Mel?” Thanks.

      • Ben Smith says:

        I mentioned it in my writeup, David – Mel B and Mel C were Scary and Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls.

      • Francis says:

        Sprockets was an early ’90s SNL sketch, so you were actually watching at the right time to remember Dieter and his monkey.

  4. CC says:

    Was the AVCX .jpz seriously messed up for everyone or just me? The clues were completely different from the puz or pdf. I thought the puzzle was EXTREMELY difficult until I went back into my email and looked at the other files.

  5. I had the same problem with the jpz for the AVCX. Came here to see why I couldn’t make any headway at all and saw it was a completely different puzzle.

  6. brn2rnjk1 says:

    Same problem for me on AVCX. First I thought it was BEQ’s way of making it extremely difficult. But just maybe an electronic mess up.

  7. Gareth says:

    Move over Frank, here’s Zolani!

  8. Gareth says:

    A puzzle lifted from an anonymous joke, with misattributed “quotes” – seems a very timely puzzle all-told!

  9. CoffeeLover says:

    I would have preferred to see 33A clued as Major employers on SOME reservations. Western reservations far from population centers cannot draw enough traffic to support a casino. And I so wish there were other major employers on those reservations. We (the US) have not met our treaty obligations.

  10. Nancy Wilder says:

    Lynn Lempel’s answer to 10 Down is incorecct: The singular of “frijoles” (Bean in Mexican cookery) is “frijol” not “frijole” In Spanish, you add -es after a consonant to form the plural.

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