Wednesday, January 11, 2017

AV Club 7:23 (Ben) 


CS 7:39 (Ade) 


LAT 3:15 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:54 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter A Collins’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Erin and I decided to make a switch. I’ll keep doing the Wednesday NYT puzzles and she’ll take on the Sunday Washington Post gig. So here we go!

We have circles in a familiar looking shape running down the center of the puzzle, along with four theme entries in the grid.

  • NYT 1/11, solution grid

    4d [Co-discoverer of the contents of the circled letters] = CRICK

  • His counterpart at 47d, with the same clue, is WATSON
  • 11d [With 55-Down, form of the contents of the circled letters] = DOUBLE  and HELIX.

The circled letters are a helix made up of DNA. I was half-expecting the helix to be GCTA, for the nucleotides, but that would have required a true double helix. I’m happy with this. I don’t think it’s commemorating any DNA-discovery-related date. My only quibble is that Rosalind Franklin isn’t mentioned, but there’s a long history of that.

That’s a fair amount of theme material and some compromises must be made. There’s one Roman numeral, one geographic obscurity*, suffix –ERO, ENDO and INRI, as well as the partial Rent A-COP. I’ll take it in the service of an unusual theme.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Infomercial pioneer] is the late, lamented (or not)   still extant RONCO.
  • 10d [Ernie Banks, to fans] = MR CUB. I’m not a Cubs fan but I knew that.
  • 32d [Lead-in to boy or girl] = TOM. Tomgirl? Really?
  • 53d [Talks like Sylvester] is LISPS. Sufferin’ succotash!
  • TAR is not just a “cigarette stat.” It’s a toxic substance. Just saying.

*What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BRINDISI is a port city at one terminus of the Appian Way.

Susan Gelfand’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Gas” — Jim’s review

Simple theme, but an evocative choice of themers today. Each one conjures up sights and sounds as they LET OFF STEAM.

WSJ – Wed, 1.11.17 – “It’s a Gas” by Susan Gelfand

  • 17a [*Yellowstone attraction] OLD FAITHFUL
  • 25a [*Its home is on the range] TEA KETTLE. Nifty clue on this one.
  • 35a [*It departs from Platform 9 3/4] HOG WART SEX PRESS HOGWART’S EXPRESS. Nice grid-spanner!
  • 49a [*Post-workout refresher] HOT SHOWER. Wouldn’t a cool or cold shower be more appropriate after a workout?
  • 58a [Release pent-up emotions, or what the starred answers can do] LET OFF STEAM

Nicely executed theme, but I found myself distracted by short, unsightly fill. I’m okay with EIN and ETA and EPA and ANI and even OHS and YSL. But SST at 7d is really past its prime. I know it’s used constantly, but I really wish it would be retired like its namesake. Then there’s the AAR and AVES section in the middle right ([Rhine tributary of Switzerland] and [Birds, biologically], respectively. No doubt those are both the result of the X in EXPRESS. Lastly, and worstly, FAC at 59d [Univ. staff] really got a cringe from me.

Perhaps it’s all due to the largish corners (3×6 and 3×7). They don’t seem to be necessary for the theme, and yet we still get numerous “cheater” squares in the center of the grid. I’m thinking some restructuring might help alleviate some of the pressure.

Still, there are numerous things to like in the grid. I especially like SPRITZ, EPAULETS, THATCH, and THISTLE. (“The Thatch and Thistle” sounds like a good name for a pub.) Also, ELEGANT is elegant but COARSER is coarser.

Final note: 51d is WATER but doesn’t get a shout-out from the theme. It gets a cute clue [Fire fighter], but it feels like it should have been included thematically or eliminated altogether.

In truth, this wasn’t a bad puzzle by any stretch. I enjoyed the evocative theme and most of the long fill. But too many little things got in the way of the fun for me.

Sam Donaldson’s AVCX crossword, “Senior Moment” — Ben’s Review

Good morning! This week’s AV Club puzzle is a guest outing from Sam Donaldson titled “Senior Moment”.  I totally did a double take to make sure I had opened the correct .puz file this morning – four sections of ABCDs had already been filled in!  The rest of the puzzle was pretty quick work:

  • 17A: Second on a ticket — RUNNING MATE
  • 26A: Ewan of “Angels & Demons”– MCGREGOR
  • 45A: Throbs — PULSATES
  • 57A: “Sex and the City” actress — KIM CATTRALL

It’s simple enough (the circled letters are standardized tests to go along with the ABCDEs in the grid), but the puzzle’s not done here – AARS, BIOPICSD, BARMYMAN, and ELSE don’t really answer the clues they go with.  There’s one more clue to explain that:

  • 7D: Tool that might be used to darken the correct multiple choice answers in this puzzle, thus revealing other correct solutions — NUMBER TWO PENCIL

Yep, just like your standard standardized test, some shading is required.  Filling this in according to the repeated clue “Field with an entrance exam hidden in N-Across: (A) Business, (B) Law, (C) Acting, (D) Medicine, (E) Philosophy” correctly for each of the clues turns AARS into ARS (as in ARS Nova, a work by Horace), BIOPICSD into BIOPICS, BARMYMAN into ARMY MAN, and ELSE into ELS (as in”Lines for Chance the Rapper and Kanye West”).  It’s cute, but I think I would have loved it a little more if I had to put ABCDE into the grid and have that reveal rather than have it already in the grid for me – give me that full aha moment!

Other things I liked this week: 19A’s clue for RIC (“Wrestler Flair whose catchphrase is ‘Wooo!'”), IHOP, MRS. C (as in “What the Fonz calls Richie’s mom, on “Happy Days”), and KRAZY KAT.  I was less krazy about ALGREN and some of the other more obscure trigrams that populated this grid, but given the constrained nature of the theme, those may have been unavoidable.

3.75/5 stars

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Breezy Reading” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.11.17: “Breezy Reading”

Good day, people! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, is a tribute to The Three Little Pigs fairy tale, with the first three theme entries ending in words that make up the main elements of the famous refrain uttered by the grid’s fourth theme entry, THE BIG BAD WOLF (51A: [Literary villain whose modus operandi is described by the ends of 20-, 34-, and 41-Across]).

  • LEAVES IN A HUFF (20A: [Leaves angrily])
  • POWDER PUFF (34A: [Makeup table item])
  • LETHAL BLOW (41A: [Coup de grâce])

Sadly, because I was bored at least two times in my life, I’ve watched TIMECOP, from beginning to end, twice (5D: [Futuristic 1994 Van Damme movie]). What can I say? I was intrigued by Van Damme’s martial arts and had to give it a look. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen Bloodsport when I was a kid. Speaking of 1980s movies, I definitely will never get enough of Carl Weathers playing APOLLO Creed in the Rocky franchise (25A: [Rocky’s foe, in the first film]). Nothing else really stood out in the grid, except for the fact of being reminded that Valentine’s Day is around the corner when seeing RED HEART (9D: [Valentine graphic]). If that didn’t remind me of how close Valentine’s Day is, then seeing all the ginormous stuffed bears with hearts in department stores already being displayed definitely will do the job. I’ll probably walk past one of those stores in the next five minutes after I finish this blog and walk outside.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DEFOE (19A: [Crusoe’s creator]) – British soccer player Jermain DEFOE is a forward who currently plays for the Premier League club Sunderland A.F.C. Defoe is one of 25 players to score 100 Premier League goals – the Premier League started in 1992-93 – and currently ranks as the seventh-highest goal scorer in Premier League history with 154 PL goals. Defoe spent most of 2014 playing in North America with Toronto F.C. of Major League Soccer.

Thank you once again for the time. Know that I just don’t copy and past this line every day. Your attention is definitely appreciated each and every day. Have a great rest of your Wednesday.

Take care!


Robert E. Lee Morris’ LA Times crossword

LA Times 170111

The theme is phrases ending in synonyms for money, reimagined as being remuneration for a specific vocation. We have DAILYBREAD for a reporter; HEDGEFUNDS for a landscaper; PIZZADOUGH for a delivery driver; FUNNYMONEY for a comedian; and BACKPAY for a chiropracter.

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16 Responses to Wednesday, January 11, 2017

  1. Martin says:

    Both Ronco (the company) and Ron Popeil (the founder) are very much with us.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Great idea from Sam in the AVCX. I loved the unique twist. Could have done without the clue for PEGS, but still, five stars from me.

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: Siddhartha Mukherjee does Rosalind Franklin justice in his excellent book “The Gene”. There’s quite a bit in there about her photographs and the conflicts with Crick and Watson. Definitely worth reading.

    Also, I am firmly on the side of a hot shower after a workout!

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Rosalind Franklin should certainly be added to the Nobel Prize awarded to Watson, Crick, and Wilkins. Unfortunately, the guidelines established by Alfred Nobel don’t allow for posthumous recognition.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I love that it’s science theme! And I think it’s well executed. Lots of points for that. I know Watson (published a paper with him) and I knew Crick– both very interesting people. But I agree that Rosalind Franklin was not appropriately acknowledged and I keep hoping that more will be taught about her.
    My nit with the puzzle is the clue for ROIS: the R was the last to fall (I did’t know MR CUB). If the answer is in French, then the plural of Louis is… Louis not Louises… Just plain wrong in my book.

    • huda says:

      PS. My Across Lite app is doing this crazy thing of not advancing to the next square. I fill a square and it stays right there until I advance it manually. I can’t find any hints in the FAQs. If anyone has any insights, I’d love to hear them.

      • Norm says:

        Did your Edit/Options/Solving options get reset somehow? That’s where the “skip to next blank” choice is.

        • Martin says:

          Opening the bad (early) version of the Sunday puzzle would corrupt those settings. Just reset them and they’ll be fine again.

  5. sharkicicles says:

    I liked ALGREN, but then again I live a few blocks from the Nelson Algren Fountain.

  6. Renee Silverstein says:

    The across lite function seems to be malfunctioning again. specifically the wjs daily.

  7. Bruce N Morton says:

    I don’t know what fitbit is, and googling is surprisingly unhelpful. I gather it’ s some sort of chronometer, or pedometer since the answer is “footstep.”

    A piece of trivia — Brindisi is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.

    I too am familiar with Rosalyn Franklin as superb scientist. Unfortunately another thing I know about her, perhaps because of my late wife Michele, is that she died at a young age of ovarian cancer.

    • Ben Smith says:

      A FitBit is like a pedometer on steroids – in addition to steps taken, it can track heart rate and other factors.

      I happened to know that fact about Brindisi – in highschool, the all-district choral ensemble (which I was part of that year) performed Ernest Toch’s “Geographical Fugue”, a spoken piece (really, the only notable spoken chorus piece AFAIK) filled with place names that are fun to say, like Popocatepetl, Honolulu, and Lake Titicaca. Needless to say, there was a session on pronouncing the place names correctly.

  8. Ethan says:

    LIBBER should have been changed to LOBBED, IMO. Of course, it’s easy to be an armchair constructor.

  9. placematfan says:

    WSJ: There are only two cheater squares in the grid, after DEN and before AIL; the blocks before TEA KETTLE and after HOT SHOWER have cheater-square immunity due to their positions of theme-entry construct. Re: “I really wish [SST] would be retired like its namesake.”: Awesome comment.

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