Wednesday, September 7, 2016

AV Club 21:38 (Ben) 


CS 7:26 (Ade) 


LAT 4:44 (Gareth) 


NYT  6:33 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Kary Haddad’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Today’s puzzle has its own back-to-school vibe, or at least a back-to-school-food vibe. I like this theme; it’s fresh and funny and not too hard for a Wednesday puzzle. It does kind of screw up the Fiend protocol of placing clues in brackets, since each of these is already in a bracket. I’m not double-bracketing them.

  • 18a [Place in crisping sleeve; microwave for 2 minutes] = HOT POCKET.

    Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.14.11 PM

    NYT 9/6 crossword, solution grid

  • 24a [Boil contents for 3 minutes; stir in seasoning packet] = RAMEN NOODLES. I suspect the instructions actually say “Boil noodles…” and Kary had to change it for obvious reasons. Anyone got a ramen packet they can check?
  • 39a [Put yesterday’s General Tso’s in microwave; heat for 2 minutes] = LEFTOVER CHINESE. This is my least favorite theme answer (although it’s by far my favorite of the theme foods.) We don’t say LEFTOVER CHINESE in my house. We either say “leftover Chinese food” or “Chinese leftovers.” Or, more often, “I’m sorry. Were you planning to eat that? I came home for lunch.”
  • 47a [Boil contents for 8-10 minutes; drain; add butter; stir in bright orange powder] = MAC AND CHEESE. I know Kraft doesn’t call it “bright orange powder.” To me it’s either “macaroni and cheese” or “mac & cheese.” Even I think that’s being ridiculously picky, though. My daughter says “mac and cheese” (frequently, and she hates the one with the bright orange powder) and I doubt she uses an ampersand.
  • 60a [Explanation one might give for following the directions of 18-, 24-, 39- and 47-Across?]= I CAN’T COOK.

Even with my minor quibbles, it’s a fun theme.

I’m not proud of my time. I got myself thoroughly fouled up in the NW by tossing in MOTTO  for 3d [“He who hesitates is lost,” e.g.] It’s obviously MAXIM. I like the way it crosses ADAGE at 14a [“Look before you leap,” e.g.] If you look before you leap, then you hesitate, right? Contradictory ADAGEs. Very cool.

Then I got stuck in the SW; I put HOW TO COOK in for the revealer at 65a and crossed it with LOGO at 56d [Safari’s is a compass.] It didn’t help that I had never heard of EDM  for [Genre for much Top 40 radio, for short] at 58a. I finally realized it was ICON instead of LOGO and the rest fell into place.

Not a lot of crosswordese: Santa ANA winds, ERATO, Krazy KAT (which counts as crosswordese because the comic was last published in 1944). I’m ambivalent about ON LIVE for [Not taped] at 21d. I think we just say something is “live”, don’t we? All in all, not much to grumble about. 4.5 stars from me. It’s got a beat, and you can dance to it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music. Sure.

So are you hungry now?

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “So Sad” — Jim’s review

Don’t cry if you didn’t catch on to the theme, I’m here to help.

WSJ - Wed, 9.7.16 - "So Sad" by Zhouqin Burnikel

WSJ – Wed, 9.7.16 – “So Sad” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 3d [Tombstone figure] WYATT EARP. Nice misdirection on this one. Makes you think of a shape or character you might see on a grave marker.
  • 24d [Cinnamon-coated pastry also called a palmier] ELEPHANT EAR. A Napoleon yesterday and a palmier today. I definitely need to do more research in this field!
  • 7d [Group in gray] CONFEDERATE ARMY
  • 10d [Daily occurrence at O’Hare] LATE ARRIVAL. Why pick on O’Hare? Is it worse than any others?
  • 35d [Signs of sorrow, and an alternative title for this puzzle] TEARDROPS

If you didn’t notice, the word TEAR appears in every Down theme answer and spans each pair of words.

A fine theme as usual. There are three ways to break up a four-letter word, but only two make an appearance in this puzzle (no TEA/R). Good choices of theme entries though—all solid and interesting.

Plus, we get a lot of great non-theme fill. LAMOTTA and VOTES NO are in the Down direction but are the least interesting IMO. Acrosswise, we get ACROSS TOWN, “THE NERVE!,” EYE CANDY (with the innocuous clue [Visual razzle-dazzle]), and sure to be every puzzler’s favorite, AHA MOMENTS.

There are some tired entries like ELIA, OLEO, OSS, and IRAE, but they didn’t grate too much.

A few notes:

  • 22a. I thought [Diaz’s “Sex Tape” co-star] was ROGEN, ‘cuz…well, just ‘cuz. Turned out to be Jason SEGEL. Sadly for me, the two names share the G and an E in the same position, so I got thrown for a few seconds longer.
  • Doggie mini-theme! Yay! NIPS, WOOFS, and ARF!
  • Fave clues: 34a [Check for shots] = BARTAB, 37d [Honey bunch] = BEES, and 60a [Lyon king] = ROI.

I was gonna end with a song about tears—”Tears On My Pillow,” perhaps? But, nah! How about doggies instead!

Francis Heaney’s AVCX crossword, “Smile, You’re on Camera!” — Ben’s Review

Smile, You're On Camera

Smile, You’re On Camera

One of my favorite quotes about puzzles (which I can only half-remember at the moment, so no quote marks) is that they should be a battle between the constructor and the solver that’s skewed in the latter’s favor.  Today’s AVCX puzzle from Francis totally fits that bill – it was a battle that fit every bit of its 4/5 difficulty rating, but was also extremely satisfying throughout the solve.

Explaining the trick to this one has been a bit tricky (I’ve tried and deleted a few different attempts this morning both pre- and post-coffee), so I’ll start with the clues and answers that appear where the theme clues would normally go.

  • 20A: Where manufacturing happens — FACTORY FLOOR
  • 33A: Foot-stomping musical gathering that might be held in a barn — HOOTENANNY
  • 38A: Removing, as a wisdom tooth — EXTRACTING
  • 54A: Blues singer whose album “Let It Burn” earned her second Grammy nomination in 2012 — RUTHIE FOSTER

Like I said, those are simply the clues that appear where one would expect something to be going on with the theme clues.  The actual theme to the puzzle appears in the lines between those answers and the ones directly below them, where extra letters in the (many) crossing downs spell out the camera brands LEICA, NIKON, KODAK, and GOPRO.  I just helped my sister pick out a NIKON for one of her photography classes this fall, so it was definitely on my mind and actually helped me pick out what was going on after about 10 minutes of staring at the grid’s down clues wondering what was up with the various entries that all felt a letter short.  Figuring out the lines where these went one by one was very satisfying.

A few other notes:

  • 7A: Knight rescued rom Castle Anthrax in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — GALAHAD (I haven’t seen the movie in at least 7 years and yet my brain immediately recalled this scene)
  • 24A: It had PED issues in the ’90s — MLB (I had to look this up because my sports knowledge really only extends to if an image looks like it’s of a picture of sports or not.)
  • 3D: Flight parts for putting your tray table up, returning your seat to its upright position so the passenger you tortured for the past hour can relax, etc. — DESCENT (This is the C in LEICA.  Francis and I have obviously sat in front of the same passengers on flights.)
  • 21D: Acronymic anxiety felt while seeing people’s cool lives on social media — FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those unfamiliar.  It’s one of those things millennials have like Anxiety Over The Fact That Society Seems Mad That You Don’t Want To Buy Houses But You Can’t Get A Loan And You Have A Bunch Of Student Loan Debt, or AOTFTSSMTYDWTBHBYCGALAYHABOSLD.)
  • 38D: Brand of cookware (ookware ookware ookware) — EKCO (the first K in KODAK, this was a great way to clue that you shouldn’t just put OXO in the grid and move along.)
  • 40D: Some videotapes, by brand — TDKS (The D of KODAK.  “I had to return a few videotapes to Blockbuster last night” is a very old-fashioned sentence, to half-remember a bit by comedian John Mulaney)

This puzzle was the best kind of uphill climb for me as a solver.

4.75/5 stars

Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160907

LA Times

The theme is THROWBACKS, and each of three answers ends in a synonym for ‘throw’. I appreciated the less-obvious synonyms chosen – not toss, chuck, pitch, fling, or cast: HEAVE, LAUNCH and CATAPULT. All are used as nouns in the theme answers; there isn’t too much difference in meaning in some cases, but if one of your verbs is CATAPULT, that’s all the pizzazz you need!

Theme answers:

  • [Cold weather groundswell that can cause pavement damage], FROSTHEAVE.. This subtropical denizen did not know the answer, my last square being ADAS/HEAVE. It is a 100% legitimate theme entry though.
  • [Ancient siege weapon], ROMANCATAPULT. Played enough Age of Empires to be exposed to trebuchets, mangonels, onagers and scorpions. Not sure which of these are classified as Roman catapults though…
  • [Manufacturer’s coming-out event], PRODUCTLAUNCH. Nice one!

The rest:

  • [Wright who wondered, “What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’?”], STEVEN. Love him, though can only watch him for ten minutes at a time. His routines are…
  • [Needing wheels], CARLESS. Waited over a week to get my clutch fixed. Luckily angel girlfriend also works at the shelter and ferried me around. We’re off to Jozi Friday for a week’s holiday, but I will endeavour to still post as usual.
  • [Beach bird], TERN. . There are two excellent terneries near me!
  • [X-rated stuff], SMUT. Obligatory link that I’m sure I’ve linked to before… You can never link to too much Lehrer though!

4 Stars
Simple theme well-executed, and the grid was peppered with nuggets like MONTPELIER, MABELL and DRIVETRAIN.

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “You’re Up!” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.07.16: "You're Up!"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.07.16: “You’re Up!”

Hello there, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel – third woman in as many days bring us puzzles – takes us out to the ball yard for an bat. Sort of. In the grid, the second word in common phrases/nouns are altered so that the second word takes the form of person you would see in the batter’s box at a baseball game.

  • BABY SWINGER (17A: [Ballplayer in the very, very little league?]) – Baby swing.
  • GARDEN SLUGGER (28A: [Ballplayer tromping on the flowers?]) – Garden slug.
  • RUNAWAY HITTER (48A: [Ballplayer who’s a no-show at the plate?]) – Runaway hit.
  • FRUIT BATTER (62A: [Player using an orange for the ball?]) – Fruit bat.

Liked the execution of the grid, at least with the theme entries. Not sure too many others would like it since it’s a hybrid sports theme. Speaking of sports, it’s football season now, so get ready to hear about a lot of people scoring TDS and the like for the next 4-5 months, including the Minnesota Vikings (11A: [Viking achievements, e.g.]). Outside of the whole trying to secede from the Union thing, I loved seeing the entirety of ROBERT E. LEE, as well as the trivia nugget of a clue it had (30D: [1850s Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point]). Can’t say that I’ve ever been on a HAYRIDE before, and someone has to let me in as to whether it’s really fun (4D: [Fun activity on a farm]). Well, have to go cover some more tennis right now. Bear with me, as I’ll be here for only a few more days covering tennis and being haphazard with my post times.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GRAY (60A: [Looking like rain]) – Last season was a breakout year for Oakland A’s pitcher Sonny GRAY. The 2011 first-round pick out of Vanderbilt University finished third in the American League in Cy Young voting in 2015, as he tied a career high in wins with 14 to go along with 2.73 ERA. In 208 innings pitched, Gray only allowed 166 hits and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you on Thursday!

Take care!


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21 Responses to Wednesday, September 7, 2016

  1. golfballman says:

    Somebody please explain 55A open mic night? 10Q

  2. golfballman says:

    never mind I got it like a comedy club has open mic night.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Jenni, I agree it’s a breezy, original theme. It made me smile, and read a little like a confessional :).

    Not the healthiest of foods, either.
    I think a lot of people do say “Let’s go out for Chinese”, or “Leftover Chinese”. I know it’s not the most PC thing to say… but it did not seem contrived.

  4. Jeff says:

    Agree with Ben on the rave review for Francis Heaney’s AVCX, but there’s an additional, amazing level that he missed: Within each of the four “theme” entries (FACTORYFLOOR, HOOTENANNY, EXTRACTING, RUTHIEFOSTER), there’s a series of letters that lie above each of the hidden “cameras.” Those letters form four types of people who might be captured on a camera: ACTOR, NANNY, EXTRA, THIEF. (Ben’s screenshot of the grid illustrates this perfectly.) Thus, by virtue of their position in the grid, these people are quite literally *on* camera.

    • Ben Smith says:

      I knew I was likely missing something going on here – that’s what I get for not being fully caffeinated. Totally explains the why of the entries I called out – it wasn’t just oddly themeless, as I thought. Thanks for calling this out, Jeff!

    • pannonica says:

      That’s a pretty amazing crossword. Would have enjoyed solving it.

  5. Howard B says:

    EDM / CDC wrecked me. I don’t know why I thought CCC and not CDC, but it took ages to find that typo :(.

  6. Ben Smith says:

    Really dug today’s NYT (and not just because I had a relatively fast solve of it on the T this morning (2 stops! That’s ~6-8 minutes on paper). Fill and cluing felt fresh and breezy throughout. I have a feeling the pop-culture averse aren’t going to be as ebullient about this puzzle as I am, but it was nice to be fully on the same wavelength with the NYT first thing this morning.

  7. Zulema says:

    The NYT is one funny puzzle, as opposed to yesterday’s less than sunny theme.

  8. David Glasser says:

    NYT: Surprised that 23A (EDS clued via editors) and 54D (EDITS) don’t count as a dupe.

    AVC: Has Francis Heaney ever made a non amazing puzzle? Embarrassed that I missed the ACTOR/EXTRA/etc though… Gotta start solving on paper :)

    • Lois says:

      Of course it’s a dupe. The only question is whether it was an oversight or left in on purpose, as the “best” option. People say here that Will doesn’t care much about dupes.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’m guessing this sort of dupe actually does bother Will. “Edit” is a much less common word than the more frequent I/IN/NO/ON sort of dupes. I don’t think Will would object much to “edit” appearing in a clue as well as in the grid, but two of them in the grid is far from ideal.

  9. Gareth says:

    Even if you “can’t cook”, my grandparents’ (I know it as my grandpa’s, but apparently nana made it first…) macaroni cheese recipe is super easy, and super tasty, and very easy to turn into a lunch box. Cook macaroni as normal. Layer greased baking dish with first macaroni, then mature cheddar, then macaroni again, cheese again… until reaching the top, ending with cheese. Mix 2 cups of milk, 2 eggs and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour over. Bake @ 180 for 45 minutes, more or less. I like to do a middle layer of bacon and mushroom (or similar). I’m told this is slightly different to what Americans think mac and cheese should be – it makes a solid meal you can eat with your hands!

    Having technical issues, not sure how I’m going to get the LAT post up for now. Stand by.

  10. Rabi says:

    It took me a very long time (as in, reading this explanation twice) to fully get Francis’s puzzle. At first I didn’t notice ACTOR/NANNY/etc, so it really bothered me that LEICA was “above” the letters it was rebused with, while all the others are below. The asymmetry still isn’t ideal to me, but once I fully grasped what was going on I was much more impressed. Pretty crazy construction feat.

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