Wednesday, August 10, 2016

AV Club 8:10 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:23 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:24 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


David C. Duncan Dekker’s New York Times crossword  – Jenni’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 8 10 16, no 0810

NY Times crossword solution, 8 10 16, no 0810

When I finished the puzzle and looked at the timer, I was shocked. I thought it took a lot longer than 6:24 – I would have sworn I was flailing around for over ten minutes. I usually don’t have great swaths of white space in Wednesday puzzles. Phew.

This is not my favorite kind of theme. 33a is the revealer [Like each letter of the alphabet in this puzzle, at minimum] and the answer is QUINTUPLE. I’m taking this at face value. I didn’t count. Some of the fivesomes are obvious; there’s a cluster of Q’s in the middle of the puzzle and a row a K’s  in parallel, plus three Z’s in a bunch.

All those scrabbly letters create a pretty challenging vibe, especially for a Wednesday, which is not helped by the cluing. In particular, the cross-reference at 5a [43-Across in one’s ___ ] stopped me in my tracks. It’s an odd construction, and the only obvious answer in crosses was 7a APE for [Copycat.] In retrospect, it’s obvious that 5d [Pokémon Go, e.g.] must be CRAZE but it wasn’t clear to me in the moment (and what do you think that clue was originally? I figure it was changed shortly before publication.) I left nearly the whole section blank and moved on. It was unsettling, and I wonder if a less experienced (or less stubborn) solver would have just thrown up her hands.

There were some enjoyable moments.

  • The Q cluster gives us QUIRK, QUAFF, QUICK, QUINTUPLE and my favorite of the bunch, DOWN QUARKDOWN QUARK is clued as [Part of a neutron’s makeup] which did not help me much; I got it mostly from crossings. I just like the words.
  • 14d [“Good ___!”] is a FITB, and I like it anyway. The answer is GRAVY.
  • Rhymes! DIVER and JIVER at 44d and 49d, respectively. JIVER is a roll-your-own, I think; I’ve never heard it used in a sentence. The rhyme saved it.

But oy, the obscurity and crosswordese. ORYX, FOHN, RAKI, TSWANA. Ugh. Not a fun theme. Not great fill. Just not my kind of puzzle.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that RAKI existed at all. Apparently it’s a type of brandy. O-kay.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “What’s the Catch?” — Ben’s Review

What's the Catch?

What’s the Catch?

Today’s AVCX puzzle is from Aimee Lucido and has a 3.5/5 difficulty rating.  Let’s take a look at what’s going on with the theme clues:

  • 17A: Type of plumbing circuit that might prevent a Squirtle — WATER LOOP
  • 21A: Exeggcute again from the top — DO OVER
  • 22A: One who’s quite Oddish — WACKO
  • 38A: Daughter of your Slowbro, e.g. — NIECE
  • 46A: Citrus so sour that it might cause Koffing — LEMON
  • 60A: Amoristic Geodude — ROMEO
  • 62A: Take action when feeling Drowzee — TURN IN
  • 68A: Game in which characters invade different cities, and a hint to what needs to happen for the cities invaded in this puzzle to return to normal — POKEMON GO

It’s another POKEMON GO-themed puzzle, so hopefully you learned your Pokemon after BEQ’s outing a few weeks ago.  This time it’s the clues that are invaded, rather than the answers, which works to varying degrees of success – some, like Oddish and Drowzee, fit naturally, others, like Koffing and Slowbro, feel just a smidge forced in.  That’s not all that’s going on, though.  As 68A suggests, ridding the letters from POKEMON from the theme entries themselves gives you a list of cities invaded: WATERLOO, DOVER, WACO, NICE, LEON, ROME, TURIN.

A few final clue notes:

  • 2A: Met ___ — GALA (my sister was in town this week and is studying fashion, so we made a trip down to NYC to see the current exhibition, Manus x Machinus, on Saturday.  It’s amazing craftsmanship – go, before it closes Labor Day!)
  • 29D: Celebrity-obsessed Haverford of “Parks and Recreation” — TOM (Someone has been exploring what P&R would have done with Pokemon Go, and it’s pretty great.)
  • 4D: Eyebrows on ___ — FLEEK (Explanation of “eyebrows on fleek”, on fleek)
  • 39D: U.K. town whose name is seen on bath salts — EPSOM (the good kind of bath salts, not the other kind of bath salts)

This had nice fill, even if the theme felt a bit underwhelming to me.  Maybe I’m just Pokemon Go’d out.


Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Joint Ticket” — Jim’s review

It’s an election year and VP candidates were announced a couple of weeks ago, so it seems a good time for this theme. The revealer is RUNNING MATE at 34a [Candidate’s choice, or what both halves of the starred answers can be]. That is, each half of our theme entries can be paired with (actually, follow) the word RUNNING.

WSJ - Wed, 8.10.16 - "Joint Ticket" by Gary Cee

WSJ – Wed, 8.10.16 – “Joint Ticket” by Gary Cee

  • 16a [*9:30 a.m. for NYSE traders] START TIME. Running start, running time.
  • 24A [*Source of a halo effect] BACKLIGHT. Running back, running light. We usually see running lights (plural) with respect to vehicle lights that remain on while it is in use.
  • 47a [*Risk, e.g.] BOARD GAME. Running board, running game. Running boards are those narrow steps on the side of trucks and SUVs. Even Wikipedia doesn’t know how the term originated. Fun fact of the day: it’s also a term used for walkways on top of railroad boxcars. (The more you know…) Not sure what’s being referred to in “running game.” In football, the “ground game,” which may also be called the “running game,” refers to the offense’s ability to move the football forward by just carrying the ball (as opposed to passing the ball). But solvers who don’t watch much football would be forgiven for having never heard the phrase.
  • 56a [*Utter buffoon] TOTAL JOKE. Running total, running joke. TOTAL JOKE sounds a bit arbitrary, but I’m sure I’ve heard it, and I like it.

Very nice corners in this puzzle: ELONGATE and NAUGHTY in the NE, ROTARIAN and PROTEGE in the SW (though I can’t stop spelling that word protOge), and especially the SE with GLOOMY, HANKIE, and TWEETS all crossing MR RIGHT. Lovely. Also, AKIMBO.

Unlovely stuff: ORT, OLLA crossing ATRIAL, and ADMEN. I think this last one is dated and uncommon, let alone sexist. However, looking at Google’s Ngram Viewer, its usage has increased over the last few years no doubt due to the TV show Mad Men. Still, it seems like these days, it’s best clued with respect to that show.

Did not know what a SKIMMER was (21d, [Wide-brimmed straw hat]). Turns out, it’s just another word for a boater. In the US we see them every four years, often at party conventions. In the UK, some schools still use them as part of their uniform, as do some sausage vendors and Scudamore’s Punting Company in Cambridge.

Clues of note:

  • 28d. Favorite clue: [Nine of diamonds?] refers to INNINGS
  • 33d. [It gets taken to the cleaners] refers to a STAIN. Do you really take a STAIN to the cleaners or the article of clothing the STAIN is on?
  • The clue for 50a [Somebody you might call Mom who’s not your mom] (though not necessarily the answer IN-LAW) is dedicated to NBC announcer Al Trautwig.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 160810

LA Times

Well, any puzzle will seem fun after that trainwreck of a NYT… Here we have a common theme trope – hidden words – with functional answers, but a delightful revealer. COMEBACKKID is as great as a punchline for your puzzle as you could wish for. I’d already worked out that each answer contained a synonym for “make fun of”, but was still pleasantly amused when the revealer revealed itself.

Theme answers:

  • [Spread some gossip], DISHTHEDIRT. RIDE
  • [Hybrid toaster oven snacks], PIZZAROLLS. RAZZ. Seems to be some American brand.
  • [He has a nest at 123 1/2 Sesame Street], BIGBIRD. RIB. Evocative extra-info clue!
  • [Stayed on], HUNGAROUND. RAG


  • [“…Mr. Tambourine Man, ___ song for me], PLAYA. Also, Spanish for beach. 9/10 I’d go with the Spanish. Also, I’m sure you can tell a lot about a person by whether they prefer Dylan’s version or the Byrds’…
  • [Philips electric toothbrush brand], SONICARE. Eight letter brands in puzzles are rare! I’ve never heard of it, it must be said. Mind you, I use toothbrushes that cost around R7 (50c U.S.) Still think it’s a fun entry to have!
  • [Wild], MADCAP. That word is just fun to say!

3.5 Stars

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31 Responses to Wednesday, August 10, 2016

  1. David Phillips says:

    Wow! I can only imagine what great crosswords Mr. Dekker could make if he weren’t so hamstrung by his fatuous obsession with pangrams.

    • janie says:

      >hamstrung by his fatuous obsession with pangrams.

      um. a little harsh, no? happily for him, this “obsession” has led to some terrific puzzles. pangrams may not be your thang, but apparently will finds the work fit for publication (me, i like ’em — especially in multiple iterations like today’s). and who knows what lies ahead where david d.’s palette of puzzle ideas is concerned. with any luck, “we’ll soon find out”!


  2. Nene says:

    I knew this puzzle would be a drag when the northwest asked for the abbreviation to the key of an obscure quintet. I think we can do a lot better.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      I was happy to see that clue since I just performed (the piano part of) this quintet a few weeks ago :-) It’s very far from obscure: the “Trout” must be one of the five most often performed piano quintets (the others would be Schumann, Brahms, Dvořák, and I guess Shostakovich); also the only one with a familiar nickname (from the Schubert song — on a text by Schubart [sic], as it happens — that’s the theme for the fourth-movement variation set), and the unique canonical piece of chamber music for any combination that includes a string bass. There might be a few better-known pieces to clue A_MAJ (Beethoven 7th, maybe) but the Trout route is unimpeachable.

  3. placematfan says:

    NYT: JIVER seems peculiarly avoidable: JIVES or JIVED could cross GRAS or GRAD.

    • David C. Duncan Dekker says:

      See, where I provided the alternative grid to “JIVER” in my notes.

      The change was made from “GEES” to “GEAR” without consulting with me, due to the dupe of “FAVOR”/”FAVE” sharing the same root; however, I felt my cluing diverted from seeing or feeling the dupe – It felt the cleanest to me & the use of “HEE” worked with the “HAW” entry in my puzzle as well, so I went with it when I submitted the puzzle.

      Overall though, I should have been consulted with first before any changes were made to a puzzle I poured my mind into – And, ultimately, I would have NEVER went with “JIVER” given the other alternatives available, i.e. GRAD/GRAS/GPAS/GEES – Why Will and his squad chose “JIVER” over the other alternatives, I don’t know… ? …Or, do I?

  4. huda says:

    NYT: One thing that helped a lot: The concentration of the same unusual letter in particular neighborhoods. I thought that was very interesting. By the time I got to the SW, I got one X, and thought hey, it’s the neighborhood of Exes (all these folks who split up or got divorced) and promptly got XEROX and all the rest.

  5. Gareth says:

    If you have DXIX in a closed 4×4 area of grid, it’s clear your puzzle is a no-go and you should move on…

    PS, I may be the only person who tried TSONGA before TSWANA. I did backtrack half a second later…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I went with TSOTSI before backtracking.

      I think Americans parse your neighbor as Bots-wana or Bot-swana rather than Bo-tswana, but that 75% chunk of the country’s name is helpful for remembering the name of the language.

    • David C. Duncan Dekker says:

      A question to the Crossword Constructing World – Why would the use of letters as numerals be a bad thing to crossword puzzles as a whole? Roman numerals allow calculations to be inserted into one’s clues, giving crosswords yet another layer of education to them.

      DXIX could’ve easily been turned into division, multiplication or other fitting calculations, depending on the difficulty a constructor wants attach to their puzzle, without roman numerals having to feel like there is only a fixed set of ways to clue them.

      Really, get over it! Roman numerals WILL always be a part of crossword construction – and, if you choose to bash them to the point of classifying them as bottom-feeding fill – then, make sure you never ever find yourself in a corner where, YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THEM!

      • David C. Duncan Dekker says:

        And, on top of that, Roman Numerals are still used to this day in international events (the Olympics and the Superbowl), which causes them to become easily recognizable & easily converted.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          And if they’re clued by reference to Olympics and the Superbowl, I’m fine with that.

          In general, though, I prefer the difficulty to come from artful cluing rather than specific letters. I’m not impressed with clever constructor tricks, and I’m even less impressed with someone who scolds those who disagree with him.

        • Gareth says:

          They remain a cheap fill crutch that allows one almost endless choices. Same goes for ?MAJ and ?MIN and ?STAR and ?AS(IN) and UTWO and all its contrived cousins.

    • Dave says:

      Garth, how ’bout wiping your trash!

  6. Philr says:

    But, if you knew that you probably knew the language is setswana

    • Gareth says:

      In the same way that French is Francais… And Tsonga is xiTsonga and Zulu isiZulu, but in an English language puzzle ZULU is more correct really…

      • Philr says:

        I only knew it was Setswana rather than Tswana from other Americans, but maybe they also insist that French is Francais. They probably also insist on putting that squiggly thing under the c in Francais.

  7. Lester says:

    LAT: PESTY (70A) for “like mosquitos” is baloney. Maybe an eggcorn for PESKY. I Googled it, and the first hit I got was the dictionary definition of pesky. American Heritage dictionary doesn’t recognize it at all.

  8. Joel Roman says:

    Apart from the plethora of vowels and many R’s, there wasn’t the usual heavy reliance on S’s… and we found this a really fun, if sometimes challenging puzzle. We think Mr. Dekker deserves a lot more credit for the wide variety of clues / answers. We are appreciative of his talents.

  9. Alan D. says:

    Anytime I suspect a pangram in play, I chart and count them out. Like from Patrick Jordan. I find it fun so I found this puzzle particularly fun! And for the record, my great grandfather used to make bootlegged raki in Watertown, MA in the 1950s…though I never knew how to spell it!

  10. David C. Duncan Dekker says:

    Just received this e-mail:


    Don’t bother sending me any more puzzles.


  11. Martin says:

    Mr. Dekker, a few years ago a very bitter crossword constructor with your identical name made some highly dubious claims on Kevin’s Cruciverb web forum.

    What were these claims? Let me tell you about this person who has the same name as you:

    – He was obsessed with a certain NYT (not me) constructor, and claimed to have beaten his then recent record-breaking low-black square count puzzle that had been published in the NYT.

    -This particular Dekker person also claimed the world record for himself, and then proceded to show a series of highly improbable unfilled grids, which he then claimed nobody had the right to use, because he had thought of the grid patterns first.

    -it was then pointed out to this Mr. Dekker that:

    a) blank grids were not usually copyrightable, and …

    b) if in fact he had actually filled them, in order to claim the record, the puzzle would need to be published in a reputable paper or site. I never recall seeing these puzzles (with the exception of a different NYT reject of his, that he was very upset about).

    -the above points did not sit well with this particular Mr. Dekker at the time, and his response was, shall we say, somewhat rambling and incoherent. Moreover, the fact that these counterpoints were being made (politely) by a number of experts in the field appeared to be utterly lost on him. He appeared to refuse any advice (underline “appeared”).

    – Not content to stop there, this Mr. Dekker proceded to double-down, and then display a series of wildly improbable (unfilled) stack-style grids, and claimed to have multiple fills for all of them.

    Now, I’m no miracle-worker, but I think I can make a reasonable claim to some degree of expertise in the area of constructing multi-stacked grids. And quite frankly, to put it mildly, the churlish Mr. Dekker may not have been aware that some of the people who were reading his claims (including me) with his zero proof to back these claims up, were well aware that his claims were utter bovine manure. Plus his long semi-incoherent, self-aggrandizing, claims appeared to be very far removed from reality. He also went on to say that no constructor had the right to use similar grids (or words to that effect).

    I’m telling you the above, Mr.Dekker, because, I think you should be aware of this possible imposter. Since he strikes me as exactly the kind of person who would most likely harass normally very patient crossword editors.

    So perhaps you need to investigate this forthwith. Or perhaps not… as the case may be.

    May I also point out that it is considered very poor form to quote verbatim personal mail as you have done here.

    (Incidentally, everything I have discussed was written on a public forum)


    (Incidentally, I thought Wednesday’s quintuple panagram puzzle a rather remarkable feat, especially considering the huge constraints. It was, in my opinion a far better puzzle that many critics considered it to be). But “stunt” puzzles like that have their critics. To each his or her own.)

    • Dave says:

      To be ostracized by William is feat in itself! – And, it was due to defending myself against his meddling to the guts of MY work without MY consent. This all could have been avoided if he wasn’t such a closet bully editor.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’ll agree with you that the JIVED/GRAD tweak would have been an improvement on the iffy JIVER. But when you sign the NYT contract to publish the puzzle and get that paycheck, you’re signing over all rights. Every single clue can be changed, and the fill can be tweaked. (The crossword would be uneven and unenjoyable if there were no “meddling” to ensure editorial consistency, fact-checking of clues, application of house style, etc.)

        Some editors (like Peter Gordon, for Fireball Crosswords) run changes by the constructor prior to publication, but many (myself included) do not. Constructors are free to self-publish their work without changes from an editor, but their audience is going to be markedly smaller and the income may be negligible.

  12. Martin says:

    “… it was due to defending myself against his [Will’s] meddling to the guts of MY work without MY consent.”

    Ok, ignoring your other comments. It’s time for a reality check:

    When the NYT editor accepts your crossword, that’s it. The NYT has agreed to buy it from you lock, stock and barrel. It’s that simple. The NYT now under the contract you signed OWNS your puzzle. It editor is free to change what he or she wishes. Sometimes a puzzle may be returned to the constructor for alterations, but once the editor says quite clearly “So this is a yes”, it means that your puzzle has been sold. You don’t own the rights to it.

    Furthermore, editors frequently make changes, mostly to the clues, and often to parts of the grids.

    The bottom line is that editors rarely consult constuctors over changes like this. They don’t need or have to ask for your consent. The puzzle is no longer your property. Furthermore to accuse an editor of “meddling” is ridiculous and insulting. (That part is my opinion, BTW).

    That’s all I can say. I can’t speak for any editor, but I can speak from experience.


  13. Dave says:

    Are you kidding MAS, possible a pseudonym Will wears… ? …I know the laws & “Work Made For Hire” is one of those ambiguous laws people like to slip around & in & within & whatever other dabblings an individual might have up one’s pad.

    It’s about etiquette, sir! Etiquette, I say!

  14. Martin says:

    Mr. Dekker,

    As ridiculous as this is:

    I have to formally state that “MAS” (Martin Ashwood-Smith) is NOT a pseudonym for Will Shortz.

    I stated quite clearly that I did NOT speak for ANY editor, but I was just giving you some info and my own personal opinions, based upon my experiences as a crossword constructor.,

    Google my name.

    I feel that it is ludicrous that I have to post this. But I obviously have to under the circumstances.


    Martin Ashwood-Smith,
    Victoria, BC,

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