Wednesday, November 16, 2016

AV Club 12:40 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 3:10 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jim Peredo’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I knew where we were headed from the first theme answer. I enjoyed the trip, nonetheless, and there was still a surprise at the end.


NYT 11/16 puzzle, solution grid

Each theme answer has circles that contain related – expressions? sounds? exclamations? interjections?

  • 21a [City called the “Silicon Valley of India”] = BANGALORE.
  • 34a [Little Italian girls] = BAMBINAS. I’m sure this is correct. It’s also not the most familiar form of the word to non-Italian-speaking USers.
  • 45a [Post-lunch pick-me-up] = POWER NAP. Now this, I like. I gather the thing to do is drink coffee and immediately go to sleep. In theory, you wake up after twenty minutes, when the caffeine hits, and the sleep and coffee act synergistically. If I tried that, I’d be shaky and tachycardic and not any better off.
  • 55a [Hendrix famously used one in his Woodstock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”] = WHAMMY BAR. Is it just me, or does that sound like it should be a kind of candy?

And the revealer at 71a [1960s TV icon whose name follows a pair of letters found, appropriately, 16 times in this puzzle’s Across answers] = BATMAN. The pair of letters is NA. Remember the theme from the TV show? “Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na…BATMAN.” The circles, of course, give us the cartoon “sound” effects.


I love this theme. I just love it. I’m a child of the ’60s (and I do mean child) with fond memories of that TV show; we had to watch it at other people’s houses because my mother thought it gave my brother nightmares. The reason for the circles was obvious; it’s the NA NA NA NA that makes it genius.

The fill doesn’t detract from the theme, which is all I ask.

  • Drinks! ALES  and ADES and NECTAR and things that are ON TAP.
  • Names! Arthur ASHE and Loretta LYNN and Desi ARNAZ  and Silas DEANE and GEENA Davis and Bart and Ringo STARR and our old (and I do mean old) friend NITA Naldi.
  • I liked the clue at 48d [Question repeatedly posed by Ferris Bueller’s teacher] = ANYONE?
  • 49d [Indian drums similar to bongos] was a gimme. I have actually played a TABLA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Jimi Hendrix used a WHAMMY BAR when he played at Woodstock.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Foot Paths” — Jim’s review

Holy cow, this felt like a breath of fresh air! Alex has been enjoying a recent rash of crossword success and deservedly so. This one has a modest (word-following-another-word) but modern theme and the grid is full of fun.

Our revealer is KICKSTARTER at 61a, [Crowdfunding choice, and a hint to the beginnings of the starred answers]. Ergo, we’re looking for words that can precede KICK.

WSJ - Wed, 11.16.16 - "Foot Paths" by Alex Eaton-Salners

WSJ – Wed, 11.16.16 – “Foot Paths” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [*Eco-commuter’s path] BICYCLE LANE. Bicycle kick. I didn’t recognize this as a proper phrase at first, but the more I said it to myself, the more it inched out of my memory banks. It’s a soccer move (football for you non-American types) in which the player leaps backward up into the air and kicks the ball backward over her head.
  • 24a [*Pedestrian’s path] SIDEWALK. Sidekick. Dr. Watson or Robin, e.g.
  • 37a [*Motorist’s path] FREEWAY. Free kick. Another soccer term. Minor demerit for that (but not really).
  • 50a [*Ethical person’s path] HIGH ROAD. High kick. Now what is this exactly? I’m thinking Rockettes, but is there another use for this term?

There is some inconsistency in that three of the phrases are terms for actual kicks where one is not. Sidekick’s origins are unclear.

I love the title and its relationship to the themers (think the path a foot follows as it goes through the motion of a kick). At first you’re thinking the puzzle is about pathways because of the title, the clues, and the theme entries themselves. They are so tightly intertwined. Alex chose themers that could be consistent in that way. He didn’t have to; it’s not necessary for the theme to work. But it’s that extra level of effort that shows a lot of dedicated thought went into the grid.  So all along, you’re thinking of pathways. Then you get to the revealer and zing! You come to find out that’s not the theme at all; it’s really just words to precede KICK. Now ain’t that a kick in the pants!

And then there’s a huge supply of fun and interesting fill, and not just in the long stuff either. I love OVER AND OUT, PORTUGUESE, FAY WRAY, COLD BEER, and KEY GRIP. In the mid-range, we get COMICS, SEA GOD, NEW ERA, ROSITA, ATHENA, and EPIPEN (with a timely clue [Pricey medical device in 2016 headlines]). Even the short stuff seemed unusually fresh: RAVEL, ME TOO, I QUIT, and DUKES (as in things you put up).

Oh, and I’m especially keen on VAL with its clue [Batman portrayer between Michael and George] in light of my NYT puzzle reviewed by Jenni above. ;)

The only thing I grumbled about was IRANIS. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone refer to the Iranian people as anything but Iranians.

But other than that, this was a really fun puzzle with a nice twist in the theme and plenty of good fill.

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX crossword, “AVCX Themeless #11” — Ben’s Review

AVCX Themeless #11

AVCX Themeless #11

I’ve been a big fan of the themelesses Kameron makes for the AV Club, and this was no exception, but from a purely visual sense, I think this is one of the most beautiful grids I’ve ever seen from him.  The fill that went in it was just as top quality – here’s a few notes from my solve:

  • Loved the trio of DESERTED ISLE, FAKE EYELASHES, and OKLAHOMA CITY cascading down the middle of the puzzle
  • Other great down fill: Chuck Berry’s entendre-and-a-half “My DING-A-LING“, EATING CROW, BANANA CHIP, HODA Kotb, and Trent REZNOR
  • Acrosses were great too – particularly loved the parallel STRIP POKER (“Game in which winners get less exposure”) and SCHERZANDO (which, along with 22D‘s “loud notation” of FFF, was great for my music theory knowledge)
  • Other great entries there: ASSONATE, TAYE Diggs (Taye is short for “Scotty”, BTW.  Now you know.), WHITE LIE, PINE NUTS, SPIDERY

5/5 stars – this is a gorgeous grid with fill that strikes a great balance of categories without getting too crosswordese-heavy.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 161116

LA Times

The theme is “words describing a type of person derived from a specific person”. HATEDTOGO, WEEDEATER, ARMEDESCORT and TATTLETALES are not thematic, though you’d be excused if you thought they were while solving. POINDEXTER is apparently from Felix the Cat, though I didn’t know that until post-solve Googling. SHERLOCK is from Doyle of course and EINSTEIN from Albert. METHUSELAH is Biblical.








3 Stars

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40 Responses to Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Thanks, Jenni. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope others do as well. If it played easy, that’s because it was clued as a Tuesday. Will had it cued up to run yesterday but swapped it with David Kahn’s Cubs puzzle at the last minute. Not sure why.

    • Jackson says:

      Was it very difficult to construct with all those pairs?

      • Jim Peredo says:

        It was pretty tricky, especially with the long theme answers in place and my self-imposed requirement of not having any NAs in the Down direction. Fortunately, I felt I had a bit of leeway where I could place my NAs, so with quite a bit of massaging, I found a formation that worked.

  2. Nene says:

    My guess is that very few solvers got the NA NA NA part of the theme and fewer still understood the 16 reference.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I suspect that’s generational. I was born in 1960 and I suspect anyone five years on either side of my age would get it.

      • David L says:

        Batman was a staple of BBC children’s programming — the 5 o’clock hour, more or less — in the 60s, so this was a trip down memory lane for me too. The sheer goofiness of it made me smile (unlike Mr Crankypants at that other place…)

      • Jim Peredo says:

        I suppose it’s generational, but there’s an internet meme that pops up now and again, so I expected more millenials to get it too.

        In the meme, you don’t get the joke until the punchline (when you see BATMAN at the end). I tried to replicate this by hiding the NAs. Of course, if you don’t know the show, or the theme song, or the internet meme, I’m sure this puzzle was no fun.

        In essence, my crossword is an attempt to put these meme images into puzzle form:

        • Jenni Levy says:

          I’d forgotten about the first one you posted and I’ve never seen the second one. Thanks for sharing! Very funny.

  3. Amy L says:

    I had to come here to understand the NA NA NA NA……..s. Thank you, Jenni.

    Q: What did Batman say to Robin before he got in the Batmobile?
    A: Robin, get in the Batmobile.

  4. Billbee says:

    *Loved* the AVC puzzle today!

    “Be strident.”

    • Papa John says:

      Billbee: Your post is as enigmatic to me as was the AVC puzzle. Don’t know what the asterisks mean. What’s “Be strident” got to do with anything and why is it in quotes”

      AVC puzzle-52D “‘Get off my lawn’ types, slangily” OLDS

      Really? And this didn’t provoke a response from our in-house PC squad?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Is OLDS pejorative, or merely descriptive? It is indisputable that old = older than young people.

        Also, for the love of all that is good, PLEASE do not use the term “PC squad.”

        • Papa John says:

          Okay, how would you rather we refer to the faction on this blog that often brings up politically correct comments?

          BTW, I meant nothing untoward by that phrase nor do I have any ill-feelings against that group or what they say. It just seemed an apt term.

          My comment was more about the clue. I’m an “olds’ (if that’s what you want to call me) but I resent being grouped with “Get off the lawn” types. I’m guessing “Get off the lawn” types are grouchy, unpleasant, unsocial, nasty, impatient and so forth,; so I’d say, yes, in this case, OLDS is a pejorative term.

          • e.a. says:

            why does it have to be a faction? you’re in the house, aren’t you? you’re calling out something “politically incorrect,” aren’t you? why not count yourself as part of “that” squad?

            fwiw, i appreciate your speaking up and cogently dissecting OLDS, and i agree with your assessment of it.

          • Papa John says:

            Erik: I’m trying desperately to overcome my prejudices and biases, although I doubt I’ll ever completely succeed. I’m grateful when an offense is pointed out.

            I don’t believe I’m sensitive enough to be a part of “that” squad. Still, I call ’em as I see ’em.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Papa John, you’re older than I am, and I’m pretty sure I now fit into the OLDS category. And I dunno, complaining about the “PC squad” seems a tad get-off-my-lawnish to me!

            I despise the term “political correctness.” It’s not some cultish dogma—it’s treating people with respect and striving not to be hurtful.

          • Kameron says:

            I wouldn’t say OLDS is pejorative—but it’s certainly not a term of endearment. It is absolutely a dig. But it’s beyond the PC squad’s purview, because the target isn’t all older people: just the assholes.

          • e.a. says:

            @Kameron – but “old” is Right there in the word, so how is it not targeting older people / linking oldness with a-holery idgi

      • Ben Smith says:

        Hi PJ! Nope, wasn’t offended by OLDS.

        Billbee’s quoting what Ben Tausig wrote in today’s email that went along with the puzzle. As to what it’s about, have you checked the news lately? It’s a real kerfuffle out there.

      • Billbee says:

        Papa John:

        The asterisks were for emphasis; I prefer *Loved* to LOVED.

        Rather than the usual message about the constructor, the difficulty level, and other administrivia, this week’s AVClub puzzle included only “Be strident.”

        I took it to mean that those of us who are unhappy with the outcome of last week’s election should continue to “be strident” rather than acquiesce or succumb to depression. I found it to be a short, simple, compelling message that resonated with me; thus I included it in my praise of the puzzle. YMMV.

        Regarding the slang term OLDS…I’m certainly far past young and have a brace of teenagers in my household. If the worst they ever call people of my generation is (the) OLDS, I’ll count that as a minor blessing. I certainly prefer it to RENTS, which was, and perhaps still is, slang for “parents.”


  5. cyberdiva says:

    Well, I finished the puzzle, and by going through all the across words I saw that the NA combination appeared 16 times. However, I had to come here to see what that meant. And now I know. For at least a few more minutes.

  6. JohnV says:

    Thus Senior Solver got nothing out of the NYT offering. Way past Mr childhood.

  7. Dook says:

    I studied acting in college. I first applied to a prestigious program for which I had to audition – a monologue and a song. I sang a song from a Broadway show. I did all right, but I didn’t get it. A year later, I applied again. I did a monologue and for my song, I ran around the room, waving my hands in the air and sang the Batman theme. I got in.

  8. Joe Pancake says:

    Seeing today’s NYT puzzle was very strange for me. I submitted a similar puzzle to Lollapuzzoola just a few months ago. Very weird — it’s not like the Batman theme song is an obvious crossword puzzle subject!

    You can see my grid here.

  9. Papa John says:

    Amy: Why do you think I was complaining? I wasn’t.

    Did you read the post wherein I say I appreciate the work that “that” squad does? Sheesh, it hard for me to catch a break with you.

    You still haven’t offered a better term than PC squad. (Given Kameron’s post, I’d say it might be catching on…)

    Now I have to ask you for a better term for political correctness?!? Why? I take these words literally and attach no judgement to them. I don’t understand why you despise the phrase. It is what it is.

    • David Phillips says:

      Disclaimer: I don’t advocate/approve of the term I’m about to mention.

      I’ve usually heard the term “PC Police” used for the “group” to which you’re referring. FWIW, “PC Police” (in quotes) googles about 32 times better than “PC Squad.”

      [Exits room as quickly as he entered]

  10. Uriah says:

    If “Olds” is acceptable, LeBron couldn’t rightly complain about the inclusion of “Posse”, right?

  11. Mark McClain says:

    WSJ – Irani is a variant of Iranian (per RHUD) so marginally legit, but it doesn’t appear that pluralizing it with an ‘s’ is appropriate – “The Irani are mostly Persian”.

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