Wednesday, January 4, 2017

AV Club 9:11 (Ben) 


CS 9:04 (Ade) 


LAT 4:30 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:13 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Samuel A. Donaldson’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle was not like pulling teeth. It’s a nice midweek divertissement, warming us up for Thursday shenanigans.

NY Times crossword solution, 1/4/17, no 01014

Each theme clue starts a sentence about a dentist, and the answers finish – with a punny twist. Are dentist jokes a thing, like lawyer jokes?

  • 17a [The new dentist wanted to make a good …] FIRST IMPRESSION.
  • 24a [The dentist helped the patient afford the visit with a …] BRIDGE LOAN.
  • 45a [The dentist sorted all the bristled instruments into …] = BRUSH PILES.
  • 58a [When it was time for the filling, the dentist asked for, well, …] YOU KNOW THE DRILL,  or perhaps YOU KNOW, THE DRILL. Either way, this is the best of the bunch.

A solid theme; all the answers are in the language, all the puns work, and it was fun to solve without being too difficult for a Wednesday. This is one of my favorite recent NYT themes, and the fill is strong (with the exception of the roll-your-own RESLIDES at 4d). Thanks, Sam and Will!

A few other things:

  • 1a [Bee ball?] stumped me until I had a few of the crossings. It’s SWARM.
  • Why do I always confuse OPUS DEI with Optimus Prime? I’ll take “Movies I never saw” for $100.00, Alex.
  • Loved GO KAPUT down the middle of the puzzle. We used to patronize a mechanic who had a marked Eastern European accent. He once told me that the problem with my car was “Ess kaput.” It was, too.
  • I wonder if CRACKED UP and YUKS (for [Big laughs]) are subliminal suggestions that we should giggle at the theme.
  • 37d [M M M] has nothing to do with Hanson. The answer is MUS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Seth Rogen made a movie called “Sausage Party.” I think I preferred not knowing that.

Erik Agard’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Change-Ups” — Jim’s review

An Erik Agard byline usually means something fresh and interesting is coming, so I was pretty excited to see it, especially since I don’t recall seeing one of his grids in the WSJ ever.

“You can fool some people sometimes…”

As usual, I didn’t know where the theme was going for a while. I usually skip around until I start to see patterns develop.

Eventually I saw the STAKES in PULL UP STAKES and understood them to refer to the ten bucks in the clue: [Ten bucks that your opponent loses his grip on the bar, say?]. But I couldn’t figure out where the bar came in. I was picturing a couple of guys standing at a bar (i.e. a tavern) and gripping the railing. Were they trying to pull it up from the bar?

“But you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Finally I saw you were supposed to hyphenate the first two words. The bar in question wasn’t a drinking bar at all, but one on which you could do PULL-UPs. Once I got the first two theme entries, I thought, “That’s a pretty good change-up from the original phrase…but it still feels fairly standard.”

The first three entries are:

  • 24a [Ten bucks that your opponent loses his grip on the bar, say?] PULL-UP STAKES. The original meaning of breaking camp is altered to become the wager involved in a round of pull-ups.
  • 30a [How fast your truck goes?] PICK-UP SPEED. “Accelerate” becomes a stat for your F-100, say.
  • 40a [Camera store that only sells zoom lenses?] CLOSE-UP SHOP. This one requires an additional change that the others didn’t. The first word is also altered in meaning and pronunciation. “Closing the store” becomes a shop that sells lenses for getting CLOSE-UPs (i.e. zoom lenses).

“And now you see the light!”

The fourth themer at 48a eluded me until the very end; I just couldn’t parse it. Slowly, it emerged that there were two UPs, but were they both part of the theme? And what to do with that crazy clue: [“WHAT is the DEAL with cargo shorts? Are you a freighter?” and the like?]?!

Finally it all clicked in one moment of clarity. The clue was some GET-UP STAND-UP (i.e. shtick about clothes). Despite the fact that I was hoping for something just like this, it was still so unexpected and funny that I laughed out loud. And that hasn’t happened with a WSJ puzzle in a long time (or maybe with any puzzle).

So while the first three entries felt good but fairly standard, I now knew they were just the build-up — the set-up for the punchline that was the fourth entry. And, to mix metaphors, it was a homer.

As soon as I was done with the puzzle I had to jump in the car. I pulled up Bob Marley’s classic song and continued laughing as I drove.

WSJ – 1.4.17 – “Change-Ups” by Erik Agard

So here is the full grid. As you can see, there is other stuff in it, but I’m just so in love with Erik’s punchline that I’ll let you pore through the rest of it on your own. It’s mostly good to great except for a few pockets. The long themers meant they had to be squished together in the center of the grid causing some constraints. But it was all worth it, in my opinion.

Kudos to Erik for coming up with the clever theme and finding fitting entries. Kudos to him again for submitting it to the WSJ. And kudos to Mike Shenk for running it.

“You got to stand-up for your rights!”

I like that idea! Instead of protests or sit-ins or hunger strikes, do stand-up for your rights! Maybe if people were telling jokes all the time, everyone would be in a better mood and wouldn’t be so mean to each other. Maybe if the Palestinians and Israelis were telling jokes to each other (preferably not about each other), we’d have peace in the Middle East. Something to think about…

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I think I’ve seen a few “things with wings” puzzles before; this one sticks to 3 longer, colourful entries – GUARDIANANGELS and a SUPERBOWLPARTY have, more or less, the same kind of flapping wings; the central THEWHITEHOUSE has a West Wing etc.

There are only three theme answers, but the grid is very open. There are only a few ugly answers, though LOORA and LEOI are quite far to the “avoid at all costs” end of the spectrum. DELETIONS seems like an ugly plural, until I thought of the word as used in genetics; it wasn’t clued that way though.

Both sets of long corner downs, especially PHOTOOPS and PONYRIDE plus SUDOKU and THERON (pronounced tuh-RON) balance things out.

3.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Tandem Bikes” — Ben’s Review

Tandem Bikes

Happy New Year, all!  Hope your 2017 is off to a good start and that any lemons that get thrown at you this year make tasty, tasty lemonade.  Let’s check “solve an AV Club crossword” off your resolution list with this week’s entry from BEQ:

  • 21A: Civet’s cousin in the North Carolina statehouse? — RALEIGH MONGOOSE
  • 41A: Fifty-foot person who does one thing, and does it well?– SPECIALIZED GIANT
  • 59A:Long journey to the East Coast, say, for an Arizona baseball player? — DIAMONDBACK TREK

It’s a short theme this week, but fairly clever.  I didn’t immediately figure out what was going on here, but the puzzle’s title (“Tandem Bikes”) nudged me to google to see what bike brands are out there.  As one could probably infer, each theme answer is composed of two bike brands: RALEIGH and MONGOOSE, SPECIALIZED and GIANT, and DIAMONDBACK and TREK (which happens to be the only of the six I think I recognized without Googling once I confirmed that this was in fact what was going on

The simplicity on the theme really worked here, at least to my solving experience.  Other things I liked in the grid: “Outcome of every Vikings, Bills, Eagles, Bengals, and Panthers Super Bowl appearance” pointing to LOSS, COIFS, IGUANA, and the OCHO “tentáculos on a pulpo”.  I was less fond of EQED and KOP, but this one added up to a pretty fun experience overall.

3.75/5 stars

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “The Starting Gate” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.04.16: “The Starting Gate”

Good day, everyone! Apologies for the late post, but definitely wanted to get to talk about today’s fin grid, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin. In it, the four theme entries are multiple-word entries in which the first word can also come before the word “gate.”

  • BOARDING SCHOOL (17A: [Harrow, e.g.])
  • WATER HAZARD (33A: [Unfortunate place for your balls to fall]) – Great clue! Oh, and get your head out of the gutter! (OK, maybe I’m talking about myself on that one.)
  • GOLDEN RATIO (41A: [Colorfully named mathematical relationship also known as the “divine proportion”])
  • FLOOD INSURANCE (52A: [Costly expense for most New Orleans homeowners])

All the theme entries were lively, and, once you notice that, the rest of the solving experience can be pretty enjoyable The fill around the themes were great, too, with EPERGNES standing out for me (4D: [Elegant branched centerpieces]). Then there was LAP DANCE, and seeing that alone made think this would be an enjoyable grid to solve (39D: [Naughty performance of a sort]). Obviously, the main reason this grid was great to solve was the appearance of my name, ADE (36A: [Gator tail?])!!! Of course, if you pronounce it as “aid” in front of me, I might give you a scowl! But the scowl won’t last too long, and I’ll probably give you a bro hug or a high five before too long.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HALL (28D: [Corridor]) – Who was the person who replaced the legendary (and infamous) Adolph Rupp as head coach at the University of Kentucky? He would be Joe B. HALL, who led Kentucky to its fifth national championship in men’s basketball in 1978.

Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Take care!


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13 Responses to Wednesday, January 4, 2017

  1. pannonica says:

    Miffed at GREEK triplicate, when a very common* genus, Mus, is perfectly applicable. Yes, I’m biased.

    Also, ‘Diana’ clue crossing DYAN? (60a/51d)? >hmmph<

    * worldwide distribution, human commensal (primarily, for M. musculus).

  2. Glenn says:

    WSJ: the ‘E’ in GETUP was my last letter into the grid.

    Thanks to all for getting the WSJ puzzles working again!

  3. golfballman says:

    Hav en’t done any of the CS puzzles for a while but I hope Ade recovers soon.

  4. sharkicicles says:

    Where did the MGWCC article go off to?

  5. sandra stark says:

    Where is the AV write-up for 1/4?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Blogger Ben has a job that takes priority over volunteer blogging duties. I imagine that he’ll get to it when he has time.

      If you have a specific question about the theme or a clue, feel free to ask in the comments and another solver may well be able to help you out.

    • Ben Smith says:

      What Amy’s said – I’m usually up early enough to get to the AV Club before I head to work, but sometimes life happens and I don’t get to the puzzle right away and my 9-5 has to take precedence. Review’s up now, though – hope you enjoy!

  6. Gareth says:

    YOUKNOWTHEDRILL was a fantastic note to finish on!

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    What? No love here in the comments for Erik Agard’s hilarious bit of wordplay in the WSJ? Speaking as a constructor, I don’t think there’s anything worse than coming up with something clever and then have it greeted with deafening silence.

    If you liked it, let us know why. Or if you’re one of the ones who rated it 2.5 or less, let us know that, too. Same holds true for the other puzzles that don’t get many comments on here. Any discussion is better than none at all.

    • Lise says:

      I loved the WSJ – rated it a 5. I was delighted when I saw his name as the constructor and knew I would have a fun time with it.

      I liked how the title hyphen was repeated in the theme answers, and the long downs were great, although I had not heard the term SCRIPT NOTE. It was nice, also, to put in SERI PAK’s entire name.

      Very clever indeed!

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