Wednesday, December 14, 2016

AV Club 11:46 (Ben) 


CS 10:21 (Ade) 


LAT 3:56 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:36 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Alan DeLoriea’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Now I have the Munchkins stuck in my head. You, too?

Today’s theme is [Something to follow]. That’s the definition for all of our theme answers.

  • NYT 12/14, solution grid

    17a reminds me of “Family Circus.” It’s a DOTTED LINE.

  • 24a is a GOOD EXAMPLE of a theme answer.
  • 39a spans the grid and caused my earworm: it’s the YELLOW BRICK ROAD.
  • 48a is up to date: TWITTER FEED.
  • 61a rocks with an OPENING ACT.

All the theme answers are in the language and they all fit the theme. I like this type of theme and I enjoyed this one. It seems well-pitched for a midweek puzzle.

A few other things:

  • 4d is not entirely accurate; not everyone on Medicare is retired (the answer is abbreviated RETD).
  • 5d [“It’s not my first ___”] RODEO made me smile. I like that expression. I’m sure it’s overused, but I enjoyed it.
  • 11d [Their characters jump off the page] is POP UP BOOKS. Much more fun that pop-up ads. If you’ve ever enjoyed a pop-up book, check out the work of Robert Sabuda. He is an artist and a paper engineer and his books are amazing. His website also has templates and instructions to make your own pop-ups. Have fun!
  • Tech-y, contemporary references: UBERSPAM in Email, EMOJIMACROS referring to computer shortcuts, the aforementioned TWITTER FEED.

What I did not know before I did this puzzle: that LARA Spencer of Flea Market Flip is now the co-anchor of Good Morning America. You can tell I watch more HGTV than infotainment.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Exchanged Vowels” — Jim’s review

Usually by Wednesday we get more in the way of wordplay, but not so much this week. The title is promising in that it seems to tell us we’ll be trading vowels in various words, probably effecting some new level of hilarity. But alas, we just get a vowel run in the first word of the theme answers.

WSJ – Wed, 12.14.16 – “Exchanged Vowels” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Hardly great literature] HACK WORK. Is this a phrase? If so, it’s new to me.
  • 21a [“All right!”] HECK YEAH. This one I love, though.
  • 36a [Hayseeds’ hamlets] HICK TOWNS. Another good, evocative one.
  • 52a [Pawn place] HOCK SHOP. Hmm. I don’t think this is anywhere near as strong a phrase as “Pawn Shop.”
  • 57a [Widow Douglas’s adoptee] HUCK FINN. Nice finish.

Likes: HONKY TONK and KID SISTER, plus the stacked 7s in the corners to include MAHATMA, AL DENTE, OUTCAST, and NACELLE. This last is clued [Engine housing, as on the Enterprise]. Now, I’ve heard the word, but only in relation to Star Trek. But still, I wasn’t sure if the clue was referring to the starship or the aircraft carrier. Turns out the clue is referring to the starship, but NACELLE is a real word referring to a streamlined engine housing.

Dislikes: PELF [Filthy lucre].

Clues of note:

  • 28a [Site of the 13-mile-high volcano Olympus Mons] is MARS. If I had really read the clue and if I had known that Mt. Everest is only 5.5 miles high, I would’ve known something was up.
  • 56a [“Let’s go!” to Luigi] actually should be “Let’s-a go!” not “AVANTI!”
  • 41d [Old timer] is, of course, a SUNDIAL. Best damn clue, right there!

Overall, the theme was fine, but a bit of a letdown for a Wednesday. Fill is mostly good, though.

Patrick Blindauer’s AVCX crossword, “Floss” — Ben’s Review


It’s that time of week for the AV Club puzzle!  Patrick Blindauer has today’s 3/5 difficulty entry, “Floss”.  It was easy to figure out what was going on with the surface level of the puzzle:

  • 20A: Perpetually cool? — LAME RESISTANT
  • 34A: “2001” computer, fixed so he’s no longer prone to murder? — BETTER HAL
  • 39A: Princess at the bar every night? — ROYAL LUSH
  • 48A: Metric for predicting the durability of a big fib? — LIE EXPECTANCY

All of these, of course, are common phrases that have lost an F (F-LOSS.  Get it?).  We have FLAME RESISTANT, BETTER HALF, ROYAL FLUSH, and LIFE EXPECTANCY.  What kicks this up a notch is that there are also a number of down clues which extend outside the grid, giving you SAY AAAAAAAAAH at the top and bottom from the first and last letters of SALSA, ADORE, YANKEES, AIOLI, ALI, ASSENT, ARON, NOVA, GMA, PRADA, RICOTTA, ALPHA, and CLOTH.  This was well-executed, but I felt like it needed a call-out in the puzzle itself – the two-square answers in the grid weren’t entirely clear enough that there were some shenanigans going on above and below the puzzle.


A few other notes on this puzzle:

  • Loved the shout out to Jerri Blank and Strangers with Candy at 17A (“I was a boozer, a USER, and a loser”, from the show’s intro)
  • I tend to thing of the abbreviated for Universities as UNIS, not UNIVS as at 55A
  • I’m surprised we didn’t get a shout out to the upcoming film LA LA land at 58A, instead getting “Off in ___ land”

3.25/5 stars – concept was nice, but I still felt a little underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Stick With It” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.14.16: “Stick With It”

Good morning, everyone! How are you? I’m back up for air after a few days in a row reporting stories on location. Anyways, we’re talking crosswords, right? Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, has five theme entries, four of which are multiple-word entries in which the first word, when standing alone, can also precede the word “pin” to form a specific type of pin. The fifth theme entry, PINHEADS, is the reveal (62A: [Ninnies, and what the first words of the answers to the starred clues literally are]).

  • DUCK SOUP (16A: [*Marx Brothers film set in Freedonia])
  • BOBBY DARIN (24A: [*”Beyond the Sea” role for Kevin Spacey])
  • ROLLING BLACKOUT (48A: [*Power-saving strategy during heat waves, e.g.])
  • SAFETY VEST (50A: [*Garment that’s usually high-visibility yellow])

Fun puzzle to solve, but I made it harder for myself when putting in “dry” instead of GIN, causing me to leave the northwest corner to try and find some footing (1A: [Martini option]). If I had seen the “Duck Soup” clue earlier, I probably would have untangled myself much sooner over there. So went further down the grid and seeing the clue to RON HOWARD was my first breakthrough in really putting a dent into the grid (35D: [“Arrested Development” narrator]). That show is amazing, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see it as much as I want, though my brother has burned all of the seasons of the show onto multiple DVD discs. (Don’t ask how he did that!) Probably my favorite entry of the day is FIVE-O, as I remember I thought I was cool when I was a kid and said that term when referencing cops (52D: [Danno’s outfit, familiarly]). Haven’t watched any episodes of the recent reboot of the series, but definitely caught more than enough of Jack Lord when watching the show in syndication while growing up. Alright, time to go before I get too nostalgic on you!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROMO (54A: [Quarterback Tony]) – Starting this season, you can add the term “back-up” in front of this clue. For many years, Tony ROMO was the face of the Dallas Cowboys franchise, becoming the starting quarterback in 2006 and making the Pro Bowl four times in his career. But a series of injuries has led Romo to miss a good number of games during his career, and his latest injury, a back injury suffered before the start of the 2016 regular season, has allowed rookie Dak Prescott to flourish as the Cowboys quarterback this season. (P.S. Expect to see “DAK” in a few crossword puzzles coming up, especially is America’s Team wins the Super Bowl this year.)

Thank you for the time, everybody! I’m back in headquarters for a few days, so you’ll definitely see me tomorrow.

Take care!


Alex Eaton-Salners’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

What a clever theme. The two part theme phrases make a continuous chain. LETTERBOX, (BOXSEAT), SEATWORK, (WORKDAY), DAYCARE, (CAMPFIRE), FIRECODE (CODEWORD), WORDCHAIN, (CHAINLETTER). It seems like that would take quite some effort to pull off, and with WORDCHAIN as your final answer too!

Hope no-one had SENIORITIS!

5 Stars
Gareth, am I too easily impressed?

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17 Responses to Wednesday, December 14, 2016

  1. Aura says:

    ACVX: This makes two of the last three puzzles that have used the letters-off-the-grid conceit. Gimmicks get old fast.

    • Ben Smith says:

      Agreed – I thought I had said that in the review, but apparently not. That’s part of what dropped my score – this lacked some of the freshness I’ve come to expect from the AV Club.

    • Norm says:

      The recurring use of the theme made it easier for me to see what was going on, so I didn’t mind it.

      Ben, wasn’t the Notepad enough of a callout? It certainly worked for me.

      • Ben Smith says:

        As it turns out, the one time I choose to solve digitally rather than on paper, I totally miss the clue that would help the weird thing make sense.

        (I generally don’t notice the notepad in Across Lite when I solve, and since I usually solve AV on paper, I didn’t even think to check today)

      • Papa John says:

        Dentist don’t ask their patients to say ah, so the Notepad doesn’t make much sense to me, as did the overdone gimmicks — one or t’other, but not both. It’s quite a stretch to connect “Say ah” to floss.

        Because the Notepad icon was so far to the right in the title line, I didn’t see it, so I didn’t read it until coming here. Despite that, I quickly caught on to both gimmicks but was a bit stumped by the arbitrary placements of the off-grid letters.

        If I were to classify this puzzle, I’d file it under Baroque.

  2. Glenn says:

    WSJ: 2 comments about today’s clues: 14A, a little too soon after 11/8 for this clue. 34D: unfortunate timing given the recent firing of Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) for her anti-LGBT rant — should have found another “kid sister”.

  3. David L says:

    I liked the NYT but it’s unfortunate that the first theme answer, ‘follow the DOTTEDLINE,’ seems altogether unidiomatic to me (Family Circus notwithstanding).

  4. janie says:

    re: avcx — loved the f/loss component, but full enjoyment of the “say aaaa…h” part was impacted (so to dental-speak) by the clue tie-in, which doesn’t quite meet up for me. at the doctor’s office i “open wide and “say aaaa…h”; at the dentist’s office i simply “open wide.”

    strictly fwiw…


  5. Jerry says:

    How do the Yankees have a longer world series drought than the Red Sox or Cubs?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      The Yanks last won in 2009. The Cubs won in 2016, of course, and the Sox in 2013. So, currently, the Yanks have a longer drought. Historically, not so much.

  6. chris says:

    re: AVCX, there’s also rivera at 46D with a missing A

    also, the first two Fs to disappear were also at the edge of the grid, so it threw me that the second two disappeared from the middle of the base phrases

  7. Seth C says:

    Re: AVCX, FLAME RESISTANT is also an apt answer for “Perpetually cool?” I thought at first that all the theme answers would make sense both as the original well-known phrase and as the one-letter-less phrase. That would have been pretty sweet. I wonder how hard it would be to come up with more theme answers with this property?

  8. maura says:

    Welcome back, Ade! I’ve missed you.

  9. Lennie S. says:

    AVCX: Ben, you missed one of the bottom As. The clue at 46 Down, Communist muralist Diego, should yield RIVER(A).

  10. sharkicicles says:


  11. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Hey, PELF is a fun word! Related with “pilfer”.

  12. dave glasser says:

    AVX: look, I’m just saying, the Titanic musical would have been better with a duets between GATORS.

Comments are closed.