Wednesday, November 2, 2016

AV Club 9:02 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:47 (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Andrew Kingsley’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Riddle-me-ree….it’s a riddle puzzle. These are never my favorites and this one is not a great example of the genre.


NYT 11/2 puzzle, solution grid.

We have four theme answers.

  • 18a is the [Start of a Mad Hatter riddle that went unanswered], and we finish at 23a: WHY IS A RAVEN LIKE A WRITING DESK?
  • Then we have 45a [Start of a possible answer to the riddle], finishing at 50a: BECAUSE POE WROTE ON BOTH OF THEM.

Yeah, I suppose. Poe wrote “on” a raven if you take “on” to mean “about,” which is technically correct. It’s a stretch, especially since the riddle was meant to be nonsensical; the Mad Hatter is, well, mad. He poses this riddle to Alice so she realizes she’s now in a nonsensical world. Answering a riddle that has no answer is at best unnecessary.

It doesn’t seem like that much theme material, and yet the fill is remarkably blah, as if the constraints of the theme were overwhelming. A few things that caught my eye:

  • I don’t think of MILK DUDS as “caramel bites.” I started trying to “Milky Way” in there somewhere, even though they’re not made by Hershey. I probably haven’t eaten a Milk Dud in forty years. It’s probably my memory that’s off; I think of them as malted milk balls.
  • 13d [Traded verbal barbs] for SPARRED seems a tad tough for a Wednesday; people spar with their fists, too.
  • 1a [African land whose capital is N’Djamena] is at least not an election-related clue for CHAD, but also seemed a bit difficult for a Wednesday.
  • I agree that KRAMER was a doofus; was he really a hipster? So much I don’t know about pop culture.
  • 33a [Small European finch] is apparently a SERIN. I won’t even call that crosswordese. It’s just obscure.
  • I know that NOGS help many a constructor out of a tough spot. No one uses the word. [Often-rummy holiday drinks] are EGGNOGS, if you absolutely must use the plural, which you really don’t. Have to, I mean.
  • What I did like: JEDITEA COZYVAPE. 
  • I had a good day, but I still wouldn’t say I RULEWho says that?

My rating is a solid meh. Better than feh, not as good as rah.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that DE SICA directed “Two Women.”

Morton J. Mendelson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take It in Stride” — Jim’s review

We get a before-and-after theme today in which the after-word is the same for all four entries: WALK, located at 55d. The theme entries are clued as if WALK was part of the phrase.

WSJ - Wed, 11.2.16 - "Take It in Stride" by Morton J. Mendelson

WSJ – Wed, 11.2.16 – “Take It in Stride” by Morton J. Mendelson

  • 18a [With 55-Down, classic movie about a dreamy hike?] THE BIG SLEEP
  • 27a [With 55-Down, high-stepping dance for brides and grooms?] WEDDING CAKE
  • 45a [With 55-Down, highlights of a trip to Atlantic City?] BED AND BOARD
  • 56a [With 55-Down, two cosmonauts outside Mir?] DOUBLE SPACE

I think this is clever and works really well. We’re not subjected to the same word repeated in each entry (thereby eliminating dupes), and each phrase is altered enough to have a completely new and not unhumorous meaning. My only nit is with the entry BED AND BOARD. I’m familiar with “bed and breakfast” and “room and board,” but not BED AND BOARD.

There’s plenty of good non-theme fill all around: ARTERIES, SANTA CLARA, ARGUED OVER, HOUSE SIT, START LOW, BAD SPOT, LAB TECH, SPLENDA, ROYALE, and NELSON.

There are a few questionable entries: WADIS [Arabian valleys] crossing the unsavory SSR [Outdated map letters] and plural DOHS. But for the most part I was enjoying the fill and theme and trying to guess what the next one would be. A most satisfying solve.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – what Gareth wrote

LA Times 161102

LA Times

SHIFTYEYES uses the first part as an anagram indicator. EYES doesn’t have useful anagrams, so the old “spanning over two parts of an answer” trick is called into play.

The plus part about the theme is the entries: SPIDEYSENSE and JANESEYMOUR, particularly. The other two are SEEYALATER and a lone POPPYSEED.

Itgtbatu-02 can’t fault the fill or the clues, though I can’t find much to say about either. I think we’ve said everything about IRANIS that needs to be said, though it hasn’t made a whit of difference! ENNIS is also quite a crossword-ese deep cut! The 11th largest city in Ireland!

3 Stars

Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “AVX Themeless #10” — Ben’s Review

AVX Themeless #10

AVX Themeless #10

It’s a themeless week for the AV Club this week, although from Byron Walden rather than Kameron Austin Collins.  It’s rated 3.5/5 in difficulty, and here’s the notes from my solve as I commuted home from work tonight:

  • 1A: Zoo movies that are black-and-white and blue all over? — PANDA PORN (I’m assuming this is a real thing because it’s in the crossword but I refuse to google it) 
  • 19A: John of keys — ELTON (this took me FAR too long to get, and I’m still not really keen on the wording of this clue)
  • 55A: “There are no words…” — I CAN’T EVEN (as someone who’s been using this phrase a lot lately, I’m warmed to see it show up in the crossword)
  • 57A: Something orange and odious that we should all try and finish off by next week– CANDY CORN (AGREED.  Candy corn is terrible, don’t @ me.)
  • 24D: “James Brown In Dead” duo who are actually Dutch, not Californian — LA STYLE (This is the first techno song to make the Billboard 100!  But I don’t think the group’s quite notable enough to make the grid, especially since that was in 1993)
  • 29D: Chainsaw operating mode with a diminished air supply — HALF CHOKE
  • 31D: Finger-waving utterance — TUT TUT TUT (it’s “TSK TSK” or “TUT TUT”, but not “TUT TUT TUT”, IMO.  Sorry.)

Mayb it’s just due to the quality of the previous themelesses the AV Club has run, but this just felt a little underwhelming to me.  PANDA PORN was clearly a seed entry here, but some of the rest of the fill felt a little underwhelming.  3/5 stars

Here’s a can of Chef Boyardee being consumed by lava:

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29 Responses to Wednesday, November 2, 2016

  1. Howard B says:

    Yep. Milk Duds are chocolate-covered caramel bites; those suckers will pull your fillings out if you’re not careful.
    Now seeing one Dud in the singular was the surprise for me there. (Whoppers are the malted balls)

  2. Ethan says:

    I realize that crossword blogging isn’t the author’s full-time job, and she wants to get the post out there as quickly as possible, but is three minutes of Googling too much to ask?

    -The Poe answer to the raven/writing desk riddle was suggested over a century ago. Lewis Carroll had proposed a different answer. Who exactly are you calling out with your criticism?
    -It’s not “probably” your memory that’s off, it is definitely, verifiably your memory that’s off.
    -“Hipster doofus” is a phrase from Seinfeld itself.
    -Notable example of “I rule”:

    Not to mention the implicit Eurocentrism of suggesting that knowing the capital of Chad is too much to ask of Wednesday solvers. The population of Chad is greater than that of Austria, is Vienna too obscure?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You seem to be in a bad mood tonight. Hope your tomorrow is better!

    • e.a. says:

      speaking as someone who’s written a handful of xword blog posts (probably not nearly as many as jenni) – yes dude three minutes is a long time, 33 minutes is so much longer than half an hour, also i trust i have wonderful commenters like you to come along and very politely fact check me so it’s nbd

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I deliberately don’t look some things up, because people like to feel their knowledge is superior. Sometimes I ask readers to explain something rather than Googling it, because what’s the fun in providing all the answers and having people quietly read it and then go away?

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I’m in a good mood — Florida was called for Clinton, based on 3.7 million early votes total now in and tallied: 28% of registered Republicans voted for HRC, while 6% of Dems voted for Trump, making the projection 48 to 43 in her favor.

    • Jim Hale says:

      Don’t know where you read that. Trump is on Clinton by 4 points in Florida and will likely take it.

  4. Nene says:

    The riddle and its answer both have a form of the word WRITE in them.

    Doesn’t that break an unwritten rule of riddles? (Pun intended)

  5. VB says:

    I normally try not to post or respond to rants because it only fans a fire that I find uncomfortably warm to start with, but Ethan’s Eurocentrism comment seems to me to invite a broader discussion that is worth having.

    Considering N’Djamena more obscure than, say, Vienna is undoubtedly Eurocentric. It is also undoubtedly true for most NYT solvers. I don’t have the data, but I suspect that almost all NYT solvers are Americans and/or were educated in the U.S., which has a highly Eurocentric education system (and news media) for some very good reasons (our origin as a European colony being the most obvious one). In the same way, I think that most solvers would find the clue “State whose capital is St. Paul” to be less obscure than “State whose capital is Wiesbaden” even though Minnesota and Hesse have comparable populations (thanks, Google). I occasionally try to do the London Times puzzle. I can handle the cryptic and loose nature of the British style puzzle, but the slang and local geography is beyond me. Does that bother me? Not at all. I am not their target.

    The question, then, is this: To what degree should a puzzle attempt to broaden the worldview of the solver rather than cater to the narrower one that currently exists? Or, for that matter, what should the blogger do? Or is there no “should” because both the puzzle and the blogger are things created for the enjoyment of the audience, and if one doesn’t like it, one can simply remove oneself from the audience?

  6. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked the riddle answer because it uses two interpretations of “wrote on”, in the same sentence. There’s a word, which I can’t recall, for that type of structure.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to learn more world capitals, no matter their location or size. I learned that one (and others) from “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego”. Also, does anyone remember the music of Chad and Jeremy? That makes a nice mnemonic hook.

    I liked both the NYT and the WSJ (which played harder for me than usual, which was fun) today.

  7. David L says:

    Do any TEENERS of today know what a transistor radio is?

    • Evad says:

      My thought as well. Don’t some iPods receive FM stations now? And of course, there are online radio stations you can stream too.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I legitimately don’t understand this answer. Is TEENER short for teenager in this context? If so, was your average teenager once a “typical user of a transistor radio”? That’s not an association I ever would have come up with on my own.

      • David L says:

        I don’t care for TEENER either (not a word I’ve seen outside of crosswords), but back in ancient times a transistor radio was a typical teenager thing. We spent a lot of time with earpieces in our ears, fiddling with the dial to hold on to the scratchy, staticky sound of Radio Luxembourg as it faded in and out…

        Kids today, etc etc.

  8. Hup hup says:

    Rather than knowing the specific capital of Africa, the question is “How many countries of Africa have only four letters, besides Mali?”

  9. e.a. says:

    “what is this ‘breakfast test’ you speak of” – 61-across clue in today’s WSJ

  10. ArtLvr says:

    WSJ – Often for seniors: Sharing Bed and Board … Co-habitation is on the rise in the U.S., especially for older Americans.

  11. Sarah says:

    Unoriginal riddles aren’t great. Nor are unoriginal palindromes…

  12. Jenni Levy says:

    I meant to mention TEENER. Assuming it means TEENAGER, it’s way out of date. The teenager in this house has no idea what a “transistor radio” is.

    • Gareth says:

      I think that’s the point. It’s 50s slang for a teenager, a bit like bobbysoxer (though the latter is gendered), hence the transistor radio clue, hey hey.

  13. Noam D. Elkies says:

    The xwordinfo site reports that the Poe answer to the Mad Hatter’s riddle is “attributed to the great puzzler, Sam Loyd.” Not noted is that there was (and maybe still is) something of a tradition of proposed answers, one of which was created after the fact by Carroll himself: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!” [Yes, Autocorrect, I (and Carroll) meant to write the word that way.]

    I knew the riddle but not the answer, and fun piecing it together. Yes, ERAGON and TEENER were not fun, especially crossing at the N . . .

    N . . . DE

  14. Gareth says:

    There were serins calling from the trees near my workplace today. It should be noted that the species here are not referred to as such, even though they are of genus Serinus (they were Cape canaries – S. canicolis; most of our other Serinus canaries got split into Crithagra).

  15. Len Elliott says:

    CS — 17-Across polar bears are not grizzlies. the constructor could have used
    Ursus maritimus (in italics) in the clue.

  16. Joan Macon says:

    Today’s complaint; the grid for the LAT is the wrong one. I think it was from a few days ago, but it’s not today’s, though the comments are correct for today. Alas, another LAT problem!

Comments are closed.