Wednesday, June 22, 2016

AV Club 10:21 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:02 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:19 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fred Piscop’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 22 16, no 0622

NY Times crossword solution, 6 22 16, no 0622

We have a lovely twist on the anagram theme, where four words are rearranged into common pairs separated by AND:

  • 17a. [What NOTICING can anagram to] GIN AND TONIC
  • 29a. [What MEDITATE can anagram to] DATE AND TIME
  • 44a. [What MARTINET can anagram to] NEAT AND TRIM
  • 59a. [What SKILLETS can anagram to] KISS AND TELL

It was fun to see that the allotted spaces in the grid were longer than the words given in the clues and then figuring out the trick. The pairs are all common duos, and while it would be really remarkable if the new words were related to the base word, I do not think it would be possible to find enough matching sets for a theme. Also, GIN AND TONIC makes me think of this quote, which makes me want to read The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams again.

There is some great long fill, including JAZZ SINGER, EVIL EYES, SMOLDER, and WORKAHOLIC. Did not know EMBED [Certain war zone correspondent], referring to a journalist embedded into a group such as a military unit. Not many proper names in general, which is fine by me. Finally, I must admit that I got TREADS [Pirelli patterns] not by initially knowing that Pirelli is a tire company, but by remembering it was a tire company after recognizing the name due to its convention-breaking calendar this year. 

Hope everyone is enjoying summer so far, and is able to stay cool. I leave you with a synthesizer showdown from the 1985 Grammys, including Howard Jones and Herbie Hancock on KEYTAR, Thomas Dolby, and Stevie Wonder. (Thomas Dolby is now a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and can still rock a synth with the best of ’em. <3)

Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Both Sides Now” — Jim’s review

Yesterday we had things going back and forth, today it’s for and against. Certain phrases have a PRO or a CON prepended to make something wackily new.

WSJ - Wed, 6.22.16 - "Both Sides Now" by Kurt Krauss

WSJ – Wed, 6.22.16 – “Both Sides Now” by Kurt Krauss

  • 9a [Like a morning person?] PRO-A.M. Am.
  • 17a [“Remember the Maine,” for one?] PRO-WAR SAWWarsaw.
  • 25a [Stock up on laundry detergent?] PROCURE ALL. Cure-all.
  • 50a [Moratorium on sweepstakes?] CONTEST BAN. Test ban.
  • 59a [Item pulled by some Central African oxen?] CONGO CART. Go-cart. I call foul on this one. I believe it’s almost always “go-kart.” Right?
  • 65a [Note sung by the Folsom Prison Glee Club?] CON DO. Do.
  • And the revealer at 36a [Evaluation criteria, and the puzzle theme] PROS AND CONS.

Did you see the inconsistency? The first and last ones don’t match the middle four. In the four middle theme answers, the prefix is added to an existing word or phrase. In the first and last one, we get existing phrases (PRO-AM, a tournament featuring professionals and amateurs alike, and CONDO, a place to live) that already have the PRO and CON built-in. These are then just re-clued as if the prefixes were separate.

At least the two are symmetrical in the grid, but those two entries are working under a completely different theme than the others. You could say that the prefixes were just added to AM and DO, but then they shouldn’t make existing words once done. Just as there’s not really a thing called a CONGOCART, there shouldn’t be a thing called a CONDO.

Am I missing something? I don’t see anything that would explain this inconsistency. Those two should definitely have been RIPped OUT, especially considering there are 27 3-letter words when the upper limit is usually around 20. A little more breathing room would have been welcome.

I love PHONED IN (36d, [Like a job that’s performed perfunctorily]) and THWACK (8d, [Hit with a paddle]). Also, LOONIE and BUCOLIC.

I don’t love PATER with that clue (20a, [Pop, in Portsmouth]). I only know the word from Latin; I didn’t know it was British slang for father despite me living in the UK for 7 years (that doesn’t mean it’s wrong; I’ve just never come across it).

Also did not love BEHAN (39a, [“Borstal Boy” author]), a British author of an autobiographical book in 1958. We’re supposed to know this?

mimI also didn’t know the name LEDER (57a, [“Deep Impact” director Mimi]), but she is much more relevant today. I found it interesting to learn she is one of the few women to break into the action genre of filmmaking. She’s also directed The Peacemaker and Pay It Forward and loads of TV episodes from L.A. Law, ER, China Beach, and many others.

So, hit and miss with this puzzle, or to put it another way, PROS AND CONS. Unfortunately, it’s mostly CONS for me with the inconsistent theme answers.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Nuclear Reaction Buttons” — Ben’s Review

Nuclear Reaction Buttons

Nuclear Reaction Buttons

This week’s AV Club was another 2.5/5 in difficulty, which is nice after a few weeks of super-challenging puzzles.  Ben Tausig gives us a puzzle where it was pretty easy to figure out what was going on in the shaded/circled squares:

  • 20A: [Note to farmer: please milk next Holstein, this one out-of-order]? — COW INOPERATIVE
  • 32A: Soirees headlined by The Cure that require many attendees to arrange babysitting? — MOM GOTH BALLS 
  • 42A: Chin-up routine for Thomas Edison? — MENLO LAT WORK
  • 57A: Designing necklines without regard for gender? — LOW CUT EQUALITY 

The “nuclear reaction” buttons of the title are those that appear at the bottom of sites like Buzzfeed to indicate a reaction to an article: WIN, OMG, LOL, and CUTE.  I snickered at both MENLO LAT WORK and LOW CUT EQUALITY, and MOM GOTH BALLS totally reminded me to check in with a friend who saw The Cure at Madison Square Garden a few days ago to see how it was.

Other notes from this puzzle:

  • 19A: Fox song-and-dance show that ended in 2015 — GLEE (My brain kept trying to make this IDOL even though I know American Idol only ended this year.)
  • 25A: Minimalist composer Steve with “Different Trains” — REICH (He’s also been recently referenced by the Hello Steve Reich remix of David Bowie’s “Love is Lost” and Wild Nothing’s “Reichpop”)
  • 27A: Beyonce, by birth — TEXAN (Did anyone have part of “Formation” play in their head as they solved this clue?  I did.)

    54D: Squad Goals

    54D: Squad Goals

  • 40A: Architect who turns 100 in 2017 — I.M. PEI (Even though his career started in the 1950s, it still shocked me that I.M. Pei is going to be 100 next year, y’all.)
  • 37D: Key of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?”, briefly — E MAJ. (Whenever I encounter a clue about musical keys, I enter the “M”, since Major or Minor, the second letter’s always going to be an M.  If it’s a fully spelt out musical key, I can slot in the OR as well.  From there, it’s a matter of the crossings.  In this case, I thought about the song, realized it wasn’t a minor key after humming the first line, and put in MAJ.  This has been this week’s edition of Ben Overexplains How He Solved One Of The Clues)
  • 39D: Like non-digital recording — ANALOGUE

    54D: Squad Gulls Goals

    54D: Squad Gulls Goals

  • 54D: ___ goals — SQUAD (this was popularized by Taylor Swift’s ever increasing group of female friends taking photos together, but my favorite examples usually involve animals/food.  See the examples studded throughout this post)

Good fill, fun theme.  Nice puzzle!


Ellen Leuschner & Mary Lou Guizzo’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160622

LA Times

Ah today it’s a double “words that follow” theme. The themers run down to make WHITECAP more appropriate as a revealer.

OUTHOUSE can make WHITEOUT (the weather phenomenon, as I think the Tippex brand is WITE) and The WHITEHOUSE. WALLBOARD, which I think is just plasterboard, is formed from WHITEWALL and WHITEBOARD. WHITEBOARD is the more modern version of a BLACKBOARD; I’m not sure what WHITEWALL is. Google is not giving me a definite answer. It could be some sort of tyre? SEAHORSE can create WHITESEA (not that well-known, though the city of Archangel abuts it) and WHITEHORSE. Fun fact: most white horses are actually grey… GOLDGLOVE (nice clue!) can form WHITEGOLD and WHITEGLOVE. What the latter is , beyond a glove that is white, I am not sure? Apparently an adjective meaning meticulous? WHITECORN is presumably what Americans call white mielies, though I’ve never encountered it outside of South Africa… WHITECHIP is… something? I don’t know? Possibly some sort of chocolate chip? Maybe?

It’s possible I’m an outlier here, but with so many unfamiliar or vaguely terms I’m not sure that I am… Most theme components in a puzzle like this should be a) broadly familiar and b) definite things, not “green paint” answers… I don’t think this passes muster.

Rest of the puzzle is solid, though with six themers, the rest is mostly about containment. There are few iffy answers, so that is all in order.

I suspect this puzzle is enjoyed far more if you ignore the theme entirely and don’t dwell on the occult WHITE answers…


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14 Responses to Wednesday, June 22, 2016

  1. ArtLvr says:

    NYT – very clever and satisfying, except for that last answer RARED up! I had to check it out, but it does seem to be an actual idiom.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Very cool and innovative theme!
    How could a FOUR happen in the NFL? It says “near-impossible”

    • austin says:

      Two safeties will get you 4 points.

      • Gary R says:

        I think a team can also score two points now by returning a blocked extra point attempt to the opposite end zone. So maybe it’s a little less impossible than it used to be.

    • Steve Manion says:

      FOUR has happened in a predecessor league to the NFL, never in the NFL. It has happened in college football. Canadian football (CFL) had a one-point rouge kick–the receiving team of a punt must get it out of its own endzone or the kicking team gets one point. I am not sure if that is still the rule.

      Seemed like an odd clue, but I enjoyed it. During football season at many casinos, there will be a football promotion based on the score of the game. Players get a ticket with a score–say 3-2. If a quarter ends with the units digit of the score matching the ticket, the player gets a prize, usually $200 or $100. My friends and I are always positing bizarre possibilities (including two safeties) in the hope springs eternal department.


  3. Mike says:

    I too missed RARED, but my big problem was BEGAT instead of BEGOT

    • Lois says:

      Since BEGOT and BEGAT are both right, the problem was with the crossing on the “o” — LAMOUR, one of my few quick gimmes today. That’s interesting to me, because this actress of the 1940s was still famous for decades after that, but I guess the fame is much more limited now. Your not knowing her is a lot less painful to me than some of the other generational differences that arise.

  4. Arthur Shapiro says:

    Huda: Four can happen in the NFL with two safeties or a field goal + the exceedingly-rare one-point safety.

    • Gary R says:

      If I understand it correctly, a one-point safety is awarded to a team that was making a conversion attempt – which would mean that already have at least six points on the board.

  5. austin says:

    i don’t get the “nuclear” part of the AVC puz. what about these reaction buttons makes them nuclear? is it just that they’re in the middle (nucleus) of the entry?

    • Armagh says:

      Wondered the same thing. I don’t speak hipster, so I don’t know.

      • Ben Smith says:

        I _do_ speak hipster and I’m not entirely clear myself. I like Austin’s theory, but not all of the “buttons” are in the middle of their respective entries.

  6. Lou says:

    Thanks for the write up Gareth. Whitehorse is the capital and largest city of the Yukon, white chips are casino tokens or baking chips, and whitewall tires have a white stripe. White glove is a Michael Jackson trademark and white-glove treatment is a fairly common term for meticulous care.

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