Wednesday, September 21, 2016

AV Club 20:30 (Ben) 


CS 11:43 (Ade) 


LAT 3:40 (Gareth) 


NYT  4:01 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Matthew Sewell’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

A reasonably lively and entirely Wednesday-appropriate puzzle with a revealer that is simultaneously completely clear and left me scratching my head. Let me explain.

It’s easy to spot the theme answers since they have circles.

  • 17a [Flying furry friend from Frostbite Falls, formally] = ROCKET J SQUIRREL 

    Screen Shot 2016-09-20 at 10.30.20 PM

    NYT puzzle 9/21, solution grid

  • 23a [New York sports fan’s purchase] = METS JERSEY
  • 36a [Rigoletto, for one] = COURT JESTER 
  • 49a [1962 François Truffaut film classique] = JULES ET JIM

There’s no question about the connection – it’s the same four letters, mixed up. So we come to our revealer:

  • 57a [Spring into action … or an apt directive for 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across] = SCRAMBLE THE JETS. 

It was obvious because I could see what was in the circles. It left me scratching my head because I’ve never heard the expression. confirms the definition. I guess Will and Matthew are trying to appeal to people younger than I am (and there are more of those than I care to admit.) It’s a solid, consistent theme, with the “scrambled” letters crossing more than one word in every entry. All the theme entries are in the language. Do the people who say SCRAMBLE THE JETS also know who ROCKET J SQUIRREL is? Seems like two different demographics.

A few other things:

  • I like subtle clues that we’re looking for the British spelling of a word. See, for example, 14a [Unit for a lorry] – TONNE.
  • Added Mets bonus at 6a [Citi Field predecessor] which of course has to be clued without the name of the team that played at SHEA.
  • Crosswordese animal sighting! IBEX at 19d.
  • I like the juxtaposition of [Phone screening service] at 36d and [Movie screening service] at 37d, with different meanings of “screening,” giving us CALLER ID and ON DEMAND.
  • The Peter Gordon very long clue award goes to 47d [19th-century author who wrote “Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief”] which is, of course, AUSTEN.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that RENT begins and ends on Christmas Eve. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen it.

Bonus footage, because I couldn’t resist

Damien Peterson’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Tubes” — Jim’s review

Problems with the WSJ site meant I wasn’t able to pull up this puzzle until the version on the Fiend site went live. If you are still trying to get the puzzle from the WSJ site, go here instead.

66a tells us there are [Tubes found inside this puzzle’s six longest answers]. Those “tubes” are TVS. That is, each two-word theme entry has a TV spanning the two words.

WSJ - Wed, 9.21.16 - "Inner Tubes" by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Wed, 9.21.16 – “Inner Tubes” by Damien Peterson (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Blue Book listing] MARKET VALUE
  • 61a [Orchestra VIP] FIRST VIOLIN
  • 9d [Estate on the banks of the Potomac] MOUNT VERNON
  • 11d [It results from not signing] POCKET VETO
  • 24d [Owl’s asset] NIGHT VISION
  • 29d [Cause of leaf discoloration, perhaps] PLANT VIRUS

Good to great theme entry choices. Except for PLANT VIRUS. It may be a real phrase, but I can’t believe it’s anywhere near the level of the others.

That’s a heckuva lot of theme fill, though. By my count…a high number (which I’m too lazy to figure out at the moment).

The only real trouble I had was in the SW. No doubt it was all due to that revealer (TVS) at 66a which requires an entry of the form xxxV at 51d. Your choices of fill are much more limited when trying to end a word in V.

So if you didn’t know LIEV [Schreiber of “Ray Donovan”], good luck to you, because the surrounding fill and clues weren’t puppy dogs and primroses, I’ll tell you. 50d is CANT which is clued [Jargon]. Huh? Why make this corner extra tough when it doesn’t have to be? 50a is CLIO which is clued [Muse of history]. My brain can only hold one Muse at a time, and that’s ERATO. 60a has the also-tough clue [Hang out] for AIR. And the cherry on top is 63a [Fresh, to Friedrich] which is of course, the German word for “new,” i.e. NEU. So in that corner alone, you needed to know an actor’s unusual first name, an uncommon word in CANT, a Greek Muse, a left-hookish definition for AIR, and German for “new.” Ouch. All of that with the themer PLANT VIRUS which is already suspect in my eyes.

That’s a lot of difficulty for one 3×4 corner. Much more than the rest of the puzzle combined where we find nice stuff like TAKE ROOT and BELT LOOP and CAVEATS. The entire center section is quite nice.

Clues of note:

  • 34a. [Four-time portrayer of Sgt. Murtaugh] is Danny GLOVER in the Lethal Weapon films.
  • 14a. [“In questa reggia,” for one] refers to an ARIA from Puccini’s opera Turandot.
  • 27d. [Automaker whose models included the Statesman and Ambassador] is NASH. New to me. NASH Motors existed from 1916 to 1954.
  • 62d. [Doc of the bay] is VET. I believe this is referring to horses.

Overall, not a bad puzzle at all. A standard theme, lots of theme entries, and pretty good fill. But that one corner feels inconsistently difficult when compared to the rest of the grid.

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX crossword, “AVCX Themeless #9” — Ben’s Review

AVCX Themeless #9

AVCX Themeless #9

It’s a KAC Themeless week at the AV Club (which also starts its run over at Slate with an easier bonus puzzle by Angela Olson Halsted)!!!  Kameron’s themelesses are some of my favorite themelesses.  With this one, I worry I’ve maybe done too many of them, because while good as always, I felt like something was missing.  Fill was sparkling as always, but seemed to be missing the ultra-modern lexicon that feels like a signature of KAC’s work.  Again, perhaps I’ve just had too much of a good thing that I’m now starting to be picky about it.  Some of my favorites this week:

  • 1A: Food court staple founded in Brooklyn — SBARRO (to paraphrase comedian Kurt Braunohler, Sbarro is Italian for “Don’t put that in your mouth“)
  • 16A: Vaseline additive — ALOE VERA (it’s so rare we get to see crossword standard ALOE’s full christian name in the puzzle.  ALOE VERA sounds like what Mame Dennis says when she needs to moisturize)
  • 18A: Ruins, perhaps, as Wrner Brothers did to “Suicide Squad” — RECUTS (the only person I heard a good review of Suicide Squad from was my former roommate, who had terrible taste in both good AND bad movies)
  • 30A: Fewer and fewer interns :( — WAGE EARNERS ( :((((((((((((( )
  • 33A: Crusher of cloves — GARLIC PRESS (this is one of those long pieces of fill that was super satisfying to get without crossing letters.  If you truly want intense garlic flavor, upgrade from a press to a microplane grater – it shreds through all the cells that make up a garlic clove to give you all of the enzyme that makes garlic garlic-y)
  • 48A: “Rooster sauce” — SRIRACHA (Love me some rooster sauce.  And sambal oolek.  And basically any chili pepper/garlic sauce)
  • 4D: Clarinet case inclusions — REEDS (I read this as “clarinet case instructions” for multiple passes of the clue when I kept thinking it was REEDS and had R??DS in the grid.  Ugh.)
  • 14D: Pulpy Southern side dish — CREAMED CORN (I didn’t realize this was “Southern”, but it’s still tasty stuff)
  • 36D: Bikers’ security blankets (just don’t YouTube how fast thieves can cut them) — U-LOCKS
  • 43D: “___ Si Bon” (Eartha Kitt hit) — C’EST (It was recently the 50th anniversary of the 60s Batman movie, which sadly did not have Ms. Kitt’s over-the-top portrayal of Catwoman)

AVCX themelesses are always lovely, but I wanted slightly more from this one, fill-wise, remembering past editions.

3.5/5 stars

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160921

LA Times

It sure isn’t Hard G and CC’s fault, but we just had almost the same puzzle… Cast your mind back to 070916. From that review, “not toss, chuck, pitch, fling, or cast”. Well, here is where we find CHUCK, CAST and PITCH along with FLIP, which feels like not precisely the same as the others, and the sole repeat – THROW.

The entries are:

  • [“Good Guys Wear Black” star], CHUCKNORRIS
  • [Post-performance celebration], CASTPARTY
  • [Stroke with a wedge], PITCHSHOT
  • [Display for lecture illustrations], FLIPCHART
  • [Sofa decor], THROWPILLOW

The grid design features four stacks of 7’s, which are an interesting set: DUCHESS/OPHELIA in the top-left; SHORTIE (don’t know that as a nightgown?)/HOWDYDO in the top-right; ATFAULT/CALLNOW and mystery TRIMSPA in the bottom-left; and LASALLE and KISSOFF (not clued via the Femmes though…) in the bottom-right.

In isolation, 3.5 Stars

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Bearing Fruit” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.21.16: "Bearing Fruit"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.21.16: “Bearing Fruit”

Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, has a pretty slick theme; each of the theme entries are puns in which phrases/nouns are altered by replacing part of the phrase with a homophone (or something close to it) that also happens to be a type of fruit.

  • ORDERED PEAR (17A: [Piece of fruit brought online?]) – Ordered pair.
  • CURRANT EVENT (27A: [Big sale on jelly-making fruit?]) – Current event.
  • HONEYDEW LIST (47A: [Part of a fruit grower’s inventory?]) – Honey-do list.
  • SHREWSBERRY (61A: [Small fruit for Shakespeare’s ill-tempered heroine?]) – Shrewsbury.

Fun puzzle, but definitely took me much longer to get a foothold in this grid today. Without some of the crossings put in for a while, it was hard for me to come up with “currant event.” Also not up on my Old English, which made BAIRN also a tough get as well (35A: [Highlands tot]). Also, I was thinking of a name of a mythical being when I saw the clue for ARROW, so that threw me off also (29D: [Heart piercer of myth]). Oh, well. I hadn’t seen any Yiddish words featured in a grid for a while, and that streak ended with SCHLEP (55A: [Drag]). Southwest corner of the grid was the easiest part for me, with MOUNT HOOD being filled in without any crosses (34D: [Oregon’s highest peak]). Have been to Portland a couple of times, but not long enough where I could swing by and see the majestic mountain. Maybe one of these days, I’ll do just that.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HOARD (44A: [Cache]) – Former professional football player Leroy HOARD spent 10 years in the National Football League as a fullback. Even though he spent a decade in the NFL, mostly with the Cleveland Browns, the biggest highlight of his career probably took place in the 1989 Rose Bowl, when Hoard, playing for the University of Michigan, scored two touchdowns and ran for 146 yards to win Rose Bowl MVP as the Wolverines defeated the University of Southern California 22-14.

Thank you for your time and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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22 Responses to Wednesday, September 21, 2016

  1. Ethan says:

    METS JERSEY is just a weeeeeee bit arbitary, isn’t it? I had METS JACKET originally and frankly, that’s just as good. G[ETSJ]IGGYWITHIT would have been a cool 15, right?

    • arthur118 says:

      When you attend a baseball game or watch it on TV, (let’s say the Red Sox, for example), a look at the folks in attendance will show thousands of fans wearing uniform tops with the name of a favorite player, Ortiz, Pedroia, Porcello, Ramirez, the list goes on and on.

      These uniform tops are known to all sport fans as “jerseys”.

      • Ethan says:

        Yes, thank you, I’m aware of what a jersey is. You can also buy a windbreaker jacket for all major league teams. The point is that METS JERSEY is quite arbitrary, as any pro sports team has its own jersey. There is nothing idiomatic or collocative about the pairing of “Mets” with “jersey.” That Other Crossword Blogger made the exact same point as me, and even brought up that it could have been “jacket”.

        • pgw says:

          I don’t understand why Mets jersey is any more arbitrary than Mets jacket – or indeed why either one is arbitrary at all. If your gripe is that either one fits so you can’t tell at first what the answer’s going to be, that’s what the crossings are for.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            It’s a “green paint” type of entry. The team name that goes with JERSEY or JACKET is arbitrary, and it’s not as if METS JERSEY is somehow more of a “thing” than, say, BULLS JERSEY, CUBS JERSEY, GIANTS JERSEY, etc. There are dozens of team names that can precede the noun, with equal validity and arbitrariness.

          • pgw says:

            @Amy – hence “New York” in the clue. (Happily, Tij O’Brien is a pretty damn unlikely name.)

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            But it’s still an arbitrary ENTRY. You can clue GREEN PAINT as [Emerald-hued enamel, say], but it doesn’t make it a good entry, just a gettable clue for an arbitrary entry.

          • pgw says:

            I can agree that your view on this is reasonable, but I don’t share it. Fair enough?

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            No worries. Those of us who object to arbitrary phrases will continue shoring up the bulwark against crap fill.

          • Jim Firenze says:

            Nothing arbitrary about it if you’re a baseball fan. Mets JACKET would be arbitrary, yes. But if “Mets Jersey” doesn’t sound “right” to you, then you haven’t been around baseball all your life.

            The “Green Paint” moniker is over-used, in that you can pick out perfectly fine fill and use the same definition on things you wouldn’t even think about, that you are intimately familiar with so doesn’t pull it out for scrutiny.

            My brother is known for wearing his Mets Jersey a little too much, in inappropriate places — he wore it to the opera for God’s sake — so maybe it’s just a personal matter for me. :-)

          • Jim Firenze:

            I am a baseball fan — more a lifelong basketball and football fan, actually — and METS JERSEY sounds as arbitrary to me as KNICKS JERSEY and GIANTS JERSEY and any other “green paint” kind of answer.

  2. jim hale says:

    Scramble the jets is a military term… actually pretty common. Interesting how everyone’s in their own bubble. I know nothing about current actors and rock groups.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    In the AVCX, I wanted the Southern dish to be “croc monsieur” rather than CREAMED CORN… but it didn’t quite fit!

  4. Jim Peredo says:

    WSJ: Regarding the site problems, I received this email today from the Assistant Digital Features Editor: “Our site made a change to some backend technology yesterday and it caused a temporary glitch with the puzzles blog being behind the paywall. You should be able to access and download our puzzles as you normally do now.”

  5. Ken Kimesh says:

    Damn, Mike Shenk sure does make a lot of the puzzles that he edits (publishes), to a singular degree. I don’t know how to qualify that, weird. Does anyone else do that?: I seem to recall Rich Norris doing that every once in a while, but not chronically. “Shenk” is, to my ears, the stuff of legend. But is this, maybe, abuse of authority? autonepotism? Isn’t it like managing a radio station and playing an inordinate amount of tracks from the band you’re in? Because that would be cheesy; that is easy to qualify. And I only mean to expound on my subtle pique of the concept of a contemporary mainstream editor publishing his own puzzles, often… not–repeat NOT–the quality or whatever of said puzzles. I mean, does anyone talk about this? I can only recall bloggers’ cavalier acknowledgement of it.

    • Martin says:

      There’s a continuum from the sole constructor/editor model (Merl Reagle and now Evan Birnholz) through dual constructor (Hex and BEQ) through closed stable (CrosSynergy) to editor-as-occasional constructor to editor-never-constructs. Even Will Shortz occasionally provides variety puzzles on Sunday.

      If Mike Shenk (and his many pseudonyms) is an outlier, it’s because he does such an incredible job of turning out and editing great puzzles with very little assistance. In my opinion, he’s not given enough credit for the amazing job he does.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I suspect it’s that he’s got to publish four 15×15, non-contest puzzles a week and a 21×21 puzzle, but doesn’t get enough submissions from outside constructors that meet his standards.

      Rich Norris and Stan Newman have both run plenty of their own puzzles with pseudonym bylines, and when Peter Gordon edited the New York Sun crosswords, there were some puzzles by Roger DePont and Ogden Porter. What these three have in common with Mike Shenk is that they were all superb constructors before they became editors.

      • Jim Firenze says:

        I’ve been curious as to why — even though Fireball pays more than the NYT (yes, not by much, and partly to make a point) — Peter Gordon has been writing most of them lately. Maybe in this case it’s mostly economics? Meaning, since it’s subscription based, PG can’t really afford to keep up with the Times payment-wise, not that he doesn’t get enough submissions?

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