According to Ben Tausig, there’s a “light meta” in today’s AV Club crossword that’s worth a 3-month subscription extension for one lucky solver who sends the correct answer in. Come back on Monday (once the contest is closed) for the write-up on this week’s puzzle.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Zhouqin’s Wednesday puzzle provides a bit of four-play — each long across entry has four of a certain letter/sound, revealed cleverly in a corresponding down entry:
- 4d. [What 17-Across (ANTARCTIC CIRCLE) has, phonetically] FORESEES (four Cs)
- 26d. [What 38-Across (THAT’S A MOOT POINT) has, phonetically] FORTIES (four Ts)
- 47d. [What 61-Across (FANTASY BASEBALL) has, phonetically] FORAYS (four As)
I like the revealer for each across theme entry and how the corresponding down/across entries for each pair cross each other. I feel like this is more or less a collection of 15s that have four of the same letter in any location, though — it might seem tighter if the “for/four” entries could be related to their across entries. For example, FORAYS / “four As” stands out for me because it could refer to the baseball team the Oakland A’s. Another thing that would tighten the theme is removing or changing the word “phonetically” in the clues. Each entry has the letter in question four times, but in FANTASY, the second A is generally a schwa \ˈfan-tə-sē, -zē\, which phonetically is its own sound and could be represented by any vowel. It wouldn’t be an issue if the clues did not refer to phonetics, though.
The fill is a treat overall. Solid interesting entries such as STRIKE TWO and OCELOT, nothing that seems like crosswordese to me. Love seeing women of color like AVA DuVernay and Nina SIMONE in crosswords. The fill does skew younger, with entries like DuVernay, KESHA, and VONAGE. Just a couple days ago a VONAGE commercial aired, and my husband commented that he’s surprised broadband-based phone companies are still in business. Apparently they’ve been around since 2001, so they’re older than I thought. They’re probably best known for their commercials such as this one. (Either you’re welcome for the earworm, or I’m so sorry.)
People love to hate on them, but I like ARBY’S. Their Arby’s and Horsey Sauces speak to me in ways no other sauces have. I’m not a fan of super spicy things, so these sauces have just the right amount of kick for my taste buds. Finally, a friend of mine was a Georgetown alum and remained an avid HOYAS basketball fan years after graduating, so finding HOYAS in the grid brought a smile to my face.
Have a lovely Wednesday.
Winston Emmons’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “You Are There” — Jim’s review
This one works. The past couple days have felt just a little off, but today everything’s back on track. This is a new byline to me, and it appears to be a genuine WSJ debut. Mr. Emmons has one other puzzle in the database, a CHE puzzle from February.
Almost the same theme, too. In that one, he added UP, today he’s adding U R. As in “You Are There”.
- 17a [Reporter’s assignment to cover a prairie dog village?] BURROW BEAT. Browbeat. The first one I uncovered and which revealed the theme to me. It looked promising.
- 24a [Training for fresco artists?] MURAL PRACTICE. Malpractice. The last one I uncovered because that NE section was toughest for me. Good entry that made me smile. Turns something negative into a positive.
- 46a [Mischievous young twins?] DOUBLE URCHINS. Double chins. “Mischievous” alone doesn’t say URCHIN to me, but I guess I’m okay with it. I like this one because URCHINS are my nemeses ever since I stepped on one on my honeymoon (a real one, not a child).
- 56a [Poison oneself with an arrow poison?] TAKE CURARE. Take care. This was darkly funny. I like dark humor.
So…fun theme, good wordplay, and a nice helping of humor. That’s what I like to see in a puzzle theme.
The rest of the grid is good, too. In Winston’s previous puzzle, and as noted by pannonica, he had Y DNA in the grid as well as O’ER A. Nothing like that today. Sure, there are some acronyms and abbreviations: SMU, DOA, GPA, ALG, ACLU. But nothing unrecognizable.
Instead, we get good stuff like THRUMMING, BANDSTAND, SETBACKS, COBALT, POINTER, PROGRAM, TRIBUTE (clued with respect to The Hunger Games), and DESERTER. This last one wins best clue award for the puzzle: [Front runner?].
The one thing I noticed which may bother some, is the prevalence of trivia in the clues, such as:
- 19a [Syracuse’s orange mascot] is OTTO.
- 20a [George W. Bush Presidential Ctr. site] is SMU.
- 28a [City that hosts the Gasparilla Pirate Fest] is TAMPA.
- 39a [Stone incorporated into Beijing Olympics medals] is JADE. Ok, this one’s inferrable.
- 13d [Transylvania Company hire of 1775] is BOONE.
- 29d [Eponymous skater Paulsen] is AXEL.
- 38d [Org. that submits many amicus curiae briefs] is ACLU.
- 59d [Ford press secretary Nessen] is RON. This goes with the prior clue for ARI Fleischer, but it’s still trivial.
But aside from all that, the theme and theme entries won me over, so I have to conclude this was a most enjoyable puzzle.
By the way, You Are There, for those of us younger than, say, 50, was a radio and TV show hosted by Walter Cronkite. It was sort of a blend of news and re-enactments taking listeners and viewers to key points in history. Edited to add: I love the patriotic cheesiness of this video, especially the ominous echo-effect on the “You Are There”. Also, see if you can spot Fred Gwynne (aka Herman Munster).
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Ultimate Crossword” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is one to savor until the very end, especially since the theme is about…endings. The first words in all of the four 15-letter theme entries can combine to make a phrase (Last, but not least…), which is explained further by the revealing entry of FINALLY (39A: [Adverb synonymous with the phrase formed by the first words of 17-, 27-, 47-, and 63-Across]).
- LAST DAY OF SCHOOL (17A: [Big event in June]) – Unless you’re in college, where a good number of schools have their last days of school in May, which is even sweeter. Of course, that means school starts earlier, in August.
- BUT I WANNA TELL YA (27A: [Bob Hope catchphrase])
- NOT SO FAST, BUSTER (47A: [“Whoa!”])
- LEAST RESISTANCE (63A: [What the east path offers])
There was definitely a little mini-theme in this grid as well: actresses with names, first or last, that consist of four letters. We start out with MILA, who’s now starring in commercials for Jim Beam (1D: [Kunis of “That ’70s Show”]). There’s also the similar-sounding first name of MIRA (25A: [“Mighty Aphrodite” star Sorvino]). To top it off, there’s ALBA, the Jessica who I had almost always mistaken with Biel for about a couple of years a while back (53D: [“Fantastic Four” actress Jessica]). When I put in the “t” first for PELT, I desperately wanted to put in “hurt” when reading the clue, just to be funny (51A: [What hailstones do]). Seeing TANG made me think of a student I went to school with in elementary school who always brought the drink to school and made me wonder how it tasted (55D [Citrus taste]). My parents bought it for me once and made it. Can’t say that I liked it back then. I was a Kool-Aid and Hi-C person all the way back that. Oh, and chocolate milk.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FOX (70D: [“Family Guy” network]) – In the late 1980s and early ’90s, the fledgling FOX Network was gaining traction as a major network power, with the help of shows like The Simpsons, The Tracey Ullman Show and Married…With Children. But it wasn’t until late 1993, when FOX acquired the rights to broadcast the National Football League, when the network, at least in my opinion, made its biggest impression yet to viewers in the United States. Fox, helped by a $1.5 billion bid, acquired the rights to television games of the National Football Conference (games in which an NFC team plays away from home), starting in the 1994 season. At the time, CBS – which previously held the rights to NFC games – was left without an NFL contract for the first time since 1955. (CBS now has the contract for American Football Conference games.)
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
WATERWATER/EVERYWHERE is a phrase my grandfather would say quite often, though I can’t imagine contexts in which one could plausibly say it in conversation… Anyway, the cute part of the revealer is the WATERWATER bit, as both parts of the theme answers are completed by WATER. A 20-letter revealer has one inherent problem, especially in a 15x puzzle – there’s not a lot of space left over for the rest of the theme!
There actually are another four entries though: 2 8’s and 2 10’s. PIPELINE can form WATERPIPE and WATERLINE; POWERPLANT makes WATERPOWER and WATERPLANT; SUPPLYSIDE leads to WATERSUPPLY and WATERSIDE; finally, MAINGATE can be made to create WATERMAIN and WATERGATE. The entries themselves are fairly staid, but that tends to be par for the course with these themes.
- [Herring prized for its roe], SHAD. For some reason I immediately thought of the Charlie’s Angels movie with someone yelling out “The shad is great!” Forgettable, dull film, except for, apparently, that one line.
- [Shore eagles], ERNES. This answer is tolerated far more than it should be! A largely obsolete word for a specific bird not found in the U.S… I wouldn’t expect Americans to know EREMOMELA or CAMAROPTERA and those are the currently-used names for local bird groups.
- The long downs are TRANSPORT / EATENAWAY / GUILTLESS and UNDESIRED. Those are not a thrilling set, but that’s because of the six-part theme.
- [Suntan lotion numbers, briefly], SPFS is a rather contrived plural.
3 Stars. The clever revealer is the main thrill in the puzzle…
very fast, fun theme, though it certainly helped that i saw the main conceit before in a mini puzzle from noam elkies: http://math.harvard.edu/~elkies/all41.html
i could have done without the “phonetically” part of the clues, but that might’ve pushed it to thursday territory. still, a large amount of good fill, which, i think, is all that one can ask for, especially when one has seen the theme before, because i enjoyed this puzzle very much despite that.
(throwing myself on the mercy of the fiends: i accidentally gave today’s nyt puzzle a 3-star rating on my way to giving it a 5-star rating. can someone please right my wrong)
I’d be happy to fix it if I knew how. Amy? Another blogger with knowledge of the rating system?
This is a job for Evad.
I’m on it.
Great puzzle. Learned some things and it brought back memories of others.
Re: the NYT puzzle’s use of “phonetically”:
“Phonetically” refers to the “four” answer, not the long answer. For example, FORAYS doesn’t literally say “Four A’s,” but it phonetically says it. Each down clue means: “When this answer is read phonetically, what [long answer] has.”
That makes a lot more sense, Seth. Thank you for clearing that up for me and for anyone else who read it the wrong way. (Which may have just been me.)
Not just you – I read it that way at first, frowned, reconsidered and then came to the same conclusion as Seth.