Wednesday, June 29, 2016

AV Club 13:08 (Ben) 


CS untimed (Ade) 


LAT 4:40 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:52 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Derek) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 6 29 16, no 0629

NY Times crossword solution, 6 29 16, no 0629

Today’s puzzle gives out some FREEBIES — each theme entry is a literal interpretation of a phrase synonymous with “not costing extra.”

  • 19a. [It’s on the house] WEATHERVANE
  • 53a. [It carries no charge] DEAD BATTERY
  • 10d. [It’s complimentary] RAVE REVIEW
  • 27d. [It’s free] EMPTY CHAIR

It took me to the end of the puzzle to figure out what the theme was, as the entries themselves seem completely unrelated. “Carries no charge” brings to mind the whole “An electron walked into a bar…” joke, which made me smile, but as for being related to not costing anything, “carries no charge” seems a bit awkward to me. Still, it was fun finding the theme after the fact.

Fill is pretty good overall, with some nice longer entries such as MURALS, BUTT DIAL, SPY RING, and DIG DEEP. There are some recurring fill concepts as well, with EMOTE / HAM UP towards the center of the grid and ALE / BREW / SUDS in the SE corner.

Let’s end with a commercial for the [Brand once billed as “the soap of beautiful women”], CAMAY. Maybe I’m not a little lovelier each day because I’ve been bereft of finest pink cold cream. Or maybe I’ve just been doing it wrong since I don’t have a bunch of lipstick on when I wash my face. Just look how happy she is!

David Kwong’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I’m Out!” — Derek’s write-up

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.57.26 AMI love David Kwong’s puzzles! I was amazed by this TED talk and I love his YouTube video where he does a neat trick with Scrabble tiles! His crosswords aren’t bad either, and this one is no exception. Were you wondering what the title had to do with the puzzle? The central answer at 38-Across explains what is going on:

  • 17A [Contentious point of view?] POLEMIC POSITION 
  • 27A [One with an underground sense of humor?] COMICAL MINER
  • 48A [Soft cells?] SILK MICROBES
  • 62A [New York Yankees call up Mantle?] MICKEY TO THE CITY
  • 38A [Rap battle winner’s act, and what the long answers in this puzzle need] MIC DROP

I suppose this practice originated with rap battles, but now it is done by comedians and musicians to signal an end. Even the President of the United States is in on the game!

This puzzle actually seemed fairly difficult at first. I had ALOE instead of BALM for 3D [Skin soother], and that forced me to start filling in other areas. Solved this one with pencil and paper, so I don’t have a solving time, but it was probably in the 7-8 minute range. A clever theme for a midweek puzzle; 4.3 stars from me!

Some favorites:

  • 1A [Leia strangles him in “Return of the Jedi”] JABBA – I am not a big Star Wars  fan, so I didn’t know this immediately. Haven’t seen that movie in 30 years!
  • 14A [Millipede maker] ATARI – As in the arcade game Millipede! That game is so old that this stumped me, too! I’m pretty sure I am older than David Kwong…!
  • 21A [Brand with a Grill Mates variety] S.O.S. – I was thinking this was some sort of bratwurst company! Imagine my surprise when the answer was totally NON-edible!
  • 45A [Felix Salten’s Faline, e.g.] FALINE – This is a Disney reference, so of course I had no idea this was a character in Bambi!!
  • 13D [Brand pitched by Michael Jordan] HANES – I thought Nike at first, but then I saw it was 5 letters!hanes
  • 27D [IRS experts] CPAS – As in Certified Public Accountants, which I will be one of these days!!
  • 36D [Julia’s “Ocean’s Eleven” role] TESS – If you say so. Never saw any of these movies. Maybe a good candidate for a lazy Sunday afternoon!
  • 47D [Cyborg built by Omni Consumer Products] ROBOCOP – I HAVE seen this movie, and even saw the remake made just a few years ago!! Had no idea what the name of the company was, though! Nice piece of trivia!
  • 59D [Fruta tropical] PIÑA – No tilde in the grid, but this is Spanish for pineapple. Now I am in the mood for a piña colada…

Hope everyone enjoyed the puzzle as well! Until Saturday!

Paul Coulter’s AVCX crossword, “Playing with Matches” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.54.12 AM

Playing with Matches (I recommend clicking on the image above to see what’s going on in all of the double-letter squares)

It took me a few minutes after finishing the grid to figure out what was actually going on in today’s AVCX, but I think that’s good when the puzzle’s rated as a 4.5/5 in difficulty.  At first I thought there was some lax application of a theme element, then realized I was quickly wrong.  Let’s cover the theme entries first before I get to that explainer, though:

  • 4A: 1990s sitcom abou identical siblings — SISTER SISTER
  • 9A: Feel more than a platonic affinity towards, casually — LIKE LIKE 
  • 35A: 2012 film about Snow White, with Julia Roberts as the evil queen — MIRROR MIRROR
  • 50D: Statistical achievement in basketball (and part of a line from the witches in “Macbeth”) — DOUBLE DOUBLE
  • 38D: Paired clothing, and what’s found at several points in this puzzle — TWIN SET 

On the surface, this feels pretty straightforward – theme answers with one word repeated as an answer.  But in the grid, these answers (save the revealer at 38D) are made up of the double letters in their crossing entries.  Initially, I thought all that was going on in the grid was just a removal of all the doubled words AND doubled letters, except that last part wasn’t being consistently applied – SEE, RE-ENACT, and TSETSE were all entered normally, so something deeper was going on.  As I started to write the missing double letters in on the lines between squares on my paper copy, it finally fell into place.  Here’s a detailed breakout on how this works for the one horizontal theme entry, MIRROR MIRROR (or, MM II RR RR OO RR, as it actually shows up in the grid if you’re solving in Across Lite):

  • 33D: Jordan’s capital — AMMAN
  • 29D: Others, to Octavian — ALII
  • 26D: Fab Four member — STARR
  • 36D: Amtrak stop: Abbr. — RR STA
  • 37D: “My bad” — OOPS
  • 30D: Dance studio fixture — BARRE

Once I realized that this was how things were working, my rating of this puzzle shot up significantly.  I would’ve loved to see this theme be symmetrical, but that may have been a constraint too far, given what’s going on.

A few quick final notes from this puzzle:

  • 28A: Video game company that made King’s Quest — SIERRA (I picked up a bunch of point-and-click adventure style games in the sale that’s going on at Steam right now and it’s bringing me a bunch of joy to either play or re-play these games)
  • 31A: Corey Lewandowski’s network — CNN (This had to have been a recent edit to the puzzle, given that Mr. Lewandowski just left the Trump campaign at the end of last week.  Timely references FTW!)
  • 53A: Judgy gendered insult: Var. — FLOOSIE (I’m not sure I buy this as a variant spelling instead of a misspelling, but I appreciated the “gendered” callout after yesterday’s HAREM kerfuffle.)
  • 53D: Kooky comedy — FARCE (I saw the British play “One Man, Two Guvnors” last Thursday through a re-screen at my local moviehouse and it was some masterful farce, y’all.  I then came home to the Brexit news, which was decidedly less fun.)

I was a little picky on the symmetry of the theme answers, but this was a cleverly-executed theme with some fun fill.


Tony Caruso and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160629

LA Times

PETS is the hidden word in today’s hidden word puzzle. The revealer is not a fuzzy, warm reference to humans’ best friends, but simply STEPUP – step being pets backwards. The themers are vertical to tie in with the ‘up’ part.

So we have:

  • [Armstrong improvisation], TRUM(PET) (S)OLO.
  • [Stop on a redecorating spree], CARPET) (S)TORE. Both answers seemed a little quirky before I remembered to look for a theme!
  • [King novel set in a graveyard], (PET) (S)EMATARY. Tricky spelling!
  • [Nominally sovereign country], PUP(PET) (S)TATE.

Bits and bobs:

  • [Lacking scents], ODORFREE. How many of us tried ODORLESS first?
  • [Piece of a pansy], PETAL. “Bit of a” might’ve been clever though in extremely poor taste…
  • [MapMyWalk statistic], MILES. That app is now so mainstream it’s in crossword clues? I know it chiefly from one regular poster here, who goes by “===” among other names…
  • [Dilapidated place], RATTRAP… And you’ve been caught.
  • [Vegetable container], PEAPOD crossing IPOD. Foul? No foul?
  • [Make more toys?], BREED. Clever clue, though given my line of work, one I feel deeply ambivalent about. Especially having worked in a small town overrun by wannabe Peke and Pom breeders who didn’t factor the semi-inevitable after-hour dystocias into their get-rich-quick schemes…
  • [Rock’s __ Lobos], LOS. A great track that not everyone may know they play on…

3.5 Stars
Gareth, leaving you with a fuzzy PETS video (with a nod to Amy, who shared it before me…)

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Words With Friends” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.29.16: "Words With Friends"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.29.16: “Words With Friends”

Friends from the beginning. Friends until the end. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, has five theme entries in which either the first word or the second word is a synonym to the word “friend.”

  • CRONY CAPITALISM (17A: [Abuse of the free market economy])
  • SECOND MATES (22A: [Merchant ship officers])
  • BUDDY SYSTEM (32A: [Safety strategy for children at camp])
  • THREE AMIGOS (46A: [Film starring Martin, Steve, and Chevy])
  • COMPANION PIECES (51A: [Books in a series, e.g.])

OK. A AND (36A: [36A: [Texas ___ M])?? A and? A AND?!?! Ouch! I wasn’t even sure what was being asked when I first saw the clue, probably because the last thing I was thinking was the university in College Station. Definitely an eyesore. Also not a fan of seeing DJED (23D: [Worked at a party]) but that entry allowed for the rarely used JAPER, which I somewhat am warmer to despite never using that word in my life before (28A: [One who mocks]). Can’t mock this grid too much because of some of the nice long fill, with BALSAMIC making me want to have a salad with some balsamic vinaigrette right now (32D: [Vinegar variety]). Though CBC makes the most sense, I don’t know why I was thinking TSN when first seeing the clue (1A: [Toronto media inits.]). I think it’s been because I’ve talked with TSN reporters a few times, most recently when I was in Toronto last month to cover a Blue Jays game. Too much sports in the brain, I guess.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SOSA (35D: [1998 National League M.V.P.]) – What do you make of Sammy SOSA being the all-time home run leader among foreign-born players and the only player to hit 600 home runs in three straight seasons given his alleged (performance-enhancing drugs) and proven (caught with a corked bat) cheating?

Thank you once again for your time! Now it’s time for a rotisserie chicken dinner!

Take care!


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19 Responses to Wednesday, June 29, 2016

  1. Norm says:

    Great AV Club puzzle. I wish 31A, 62A & 12D could have been avoided, but that did not detract from the fun.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Thanks for the review, Ben, and the above comments, Norm, Jenni, and PJ. Also, much appreciation for the opportunity to Ben Tausig. His deft hand improved this puzzle tremendously. He convinced me that adding “like” like, which I hadn’t thought of, was worth the loss of thematic symmetry. I originally had paired revealers in the NE and SW. Ben’s suggestion was extraordinarily useful to expand the theme phrases from three (which did feel thin to me) to four. I love Ben’s title, too. It was originally, “Same Again, Please” to hint at twinned words connoting sameness, but “Playing with Matches” is wonderfully clever.

  3. DRC says:

    Re: WSJ Faline should be “DOE”

  4. David Glasser says:

    In case anyone else spent a while staring at two puzzles searching for the secret cross-venue meta, Peter Gordon assured me over email that his choice to send out the Fireball a day earlier than usual within minutes of AV Club’s puzzle by the same author was merely based on his personal schedule.

  5. lemonade714 says:

    I very much enjoyed John Lampkin’s consistent wit in locating phrases that all express something for nothing leading to different fill. Dead Battery and WEATHERVANE were inspired.

    I also amazed at the mentoring success C.C. has achieved in the fine tradition of Nancy Salomon and her male contemporary, Jeff Chen. Thanks again

  6. pannonica says:

    AVCX: So, does the observation that 9-down doesn’t have a complementary symmetrical themed entry constitute a paradox?

  7. Tony says:

    Loved the AC puzzle. Not sure it was 4.5/5 since once I knew what the trick was, it made spotting it easier.

    Best part though, was I didn’t have to worry about spelling CARI(BB)EAN wrong!! For some reason, I want to always put two Rs instead of two Bs. I have the same issue with perennial fill Errol Flynn.

    • pannonica says:

      Two suggestions: (1) Learn about the Carib peoples (and/or make a further association with carob), (2) associate it with Colossus or better yet the Colosseum, where the doubled consonant falls in the same location (ignore the erstwhile New York Coliseum).

  8. JohnV says:

    Wsj could not get anywhere.

  9. Bob Margolis says:

    In re: Tuesday’s New York Times crossword puzzle…
    NYT Crossword Puzzle Accused of Being Sexist, Offensive
    The answer to 31D is “harem.”

  10. Bob Margolis says:

    “Why is the New York Times Crossword so Clueless About Race and Gender” in connection with my above posting.

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