Announcement: This week’s American Values Club crossword is free to non-subscribers! Visit the AVCX site on Wednesday to get the puzzle. Every penny of subscription money that comes in on Wednesday will be donated to Planned Parenthood.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
SO close to my first under-three-minute time! This is one of my favorite early-week puzzles ever (if Wednesday counts as early-week…) I suspect the response will be bimodal, depending on how many of the theme answers were familiar to solvers.
All the theme answers are the characteristic curse words used by TV characters. We have both live-action TV and cartoons represented.
17a [“@#$!” from Deputy Dawg] is DAGNABIT. Deputy Dawg was a Terrytoons character. He had his own show. I know this in part because my grandfather was friends with Paul Terry, who founded Terrytoons. While my generation knows Deputy Dawg from TV, Terrytoons (best known for Heckle and Jeckle) were originally shown in theaters.
- 24a [“@#$!” from Colonel Sherman Potter] is HORSE HOCKEY. Colonel Sherman T. Potter, the second CO of the 4077th M*A*S*H, was an old cavalry officer and a true horseman.
- 39a [“@#$!” from Mork] is SHAZBOT. Mork was half of “Mork and Mindy,” which was actually a “Happy Days” spinoff (go figure). I thought this was SHAZBAT and was corrected by crossings. I suspect Robin Williams invented this word.
- 50a [“@#$!” from SpongeBob SquarePants] is now getting into territory of shows I’ve never watched (yes, I watched “Mork and Mindy.” I was in college. Don’t judge). I do know that Spongebob is actually a sponge, as in the sea creature, so when I had a few letters, I was able to infer OH BARNACLES.
- 61a [“@#$!” from Frank on “Everybody Loves Raymond] was also not familiar to me. I’ve watched a few episodes in reruns but wasn’t enough of a fan to learn Frank’s catchphrase. I go JEEZALOO from crossings.
The non-theme fill is on the easy side for a Wednesday, which helps with the theme answers that aren’t real words. I liked every part of this theme. I enjoyed seeing the grawlixes in the clues. I had fun discovering the answers I didn’t already know. And it was nice to hear Harry Morgan’s voice in my head. An easy puzzle and a lot of fun.
A few other things:
- 2d. Competitor of Ivory and Coast is DIAL. The clue is more interesting than the answer, which always helps in an easy puzzle.
- 12d [Like dull-as-dishwater writing] is my least favorite answer in the puzzle. It’s PROSY, which I’m sure is in a dictionary somewhere even though I’ve never seen it before and can’t imagine using it.
- RUMOR HAS IT is the best of the long non-theme downs.
- 60d [Took a load off] is SAT. My kid is a junior in HS in the thick of test prep, and I can’t see this as anything but the dreaded entrance exam. I forget it’s also a regular word.
- 25d [Devil-may-care] is RASH, which is technically correct but seems a bit off to me. I think of devil-may-care as sort of madcap or carefree, not foolishly impulsive. That could be just me.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: two of the theme answers. I also didn’t know that SNAPCHAT was the most downloaded app of 2016. I’m not surprised, though.
Alex Eaton Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Something’s Cooking” — Jim’s review
Alex Eaton-Salners is turning up the heat with cooking puns.
- 17a [Cowboy contraptions for making stew on the go?] BRAISING SADDLES. Blazing Saddles.
- 27a [Snow White’s doughnut-making helpers?] GLAZING ANIMALS. Grazing.
- 46a [Trails used for immersing vegetables in boiling water?] BLANCHING PATHS. Branching.
- 62a [Rocky and Conker making some fair food?] FRYING SQUIRRELS. Flying. I don’t know Conker despite my penchant for video games. I do know Sandy Cheeks from Spongebob Squarepants, though.
So, certain phrases have had their initial sounds changed. Did you notice we swapped L and R sounds? Is there something to that? Left and Right? Near as I can tell, no.
There is some consistency; the first and last phrases change L-to-R and the middle two change R-to-L, but that’s not where I have my problems.
I normally like Alex’s grids, but here I have two main issues. One, some of the base phrases aren’t up to snuff. “Grazing animals” and “branching paths” are nowhere near the level of “Blazing Saddles” and “flying squirrels.” They just aren’t strong lexical terms.
Second, the clues don’t work for me. A saddle with which you make stew? A path you use for blanching vegetables? These are silly, and not in a good way.
It seems as if the first word should not be an adjective, but a noun (gerund, to be exact). For example, BRAISING SADDLES would make more sense as [Desperate cowboys’ solution when there’s nothing else to cook] or something like that. The rest might work the same way (with the exception of BLANCHING PATHS; that one just needs to go), but animal- and squirrel-lovers probably wouldn’t like a grid where critters are glazed and fried.
As for the rest, I do like WHITMAN, ST. BARTS, EN-SUITE, ENDGAME, and TAG TEAM. But IN ESSE and, especially, AUER feel too crutchy. Perhaps it was left in for the sake of EAT UP.
In the end, the theme wasn’t my cup of tea, but others may have enjoyed it just fine. The fill was mostly good with certain exceptions.
One good thing about AUER though. Its clue, [Violinist Leopold], made me think of this:
Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Of the Free World” — Ben’s Review
A statement was released as part of this week’s puzzle from AVCX editor Ben Tausig, who also wrote the puzzle. I definitely recommend reading it, whether before or after you solve.
We’re in interesting times, politically, but one thing that’s irked me about some of the “mainstream” puzzles I do lately (the NYT in particular) is how they’ve already started updating clues to refer to the current administration. They’ve done this in the past (as with SASHA and MALIA), but with so much division over this last election and reactions to the current administration even before it’s started, it feels a little in poor taste to see. I think Ben’s statement here (about not being as reticent to publish themes of a political nature going forward) is good to hear – I think mocking politicians tends to be dull as well, but it’s good to know that in a time when we’re seeing the Twitter of the National Parks Service get silenced for publishing facts about climate change, it’s good to know some outlets are going to be unafraid to voice their dissent loudly.
As for the puzzle itself, it didn’t feel as overly political as I expected it to be from the statement, but the concept of the theme (removing NEWS from the theme entries to reveal opinions of a Certain Public Figure) was definitely of a political bent:
- 5A: Group that reveals the truth by covering the stuff in this puzzle’s circles, which you might also cover to reveal a true description of a public figure — PRESS
- 20A: Stable sound — WHINNY
- 21A: Showing the most skin — RACIEST
- 53A: Moved like a penguin — WADDLED
- 54A: Aimless walk — STROLL
I thought this was straightforward, fun, and acted as a nice reminder of what Ben found important in making that statement. The rest of the fill was filled with plenty of other nods to recent events that felt timely without being one of those puzzles where that’s the only gimmick to the point it gets tiring.
- 35A: Gp. that supports guns in elementary schools — NRA
- 64A: Fear-driven, egotistical villain who says openly sexist and prejudiced things — IAGO
- 67A: Putin’s response to “Is it OK if we fight Assad, continue sanctions against Russia, or remain in NATO?” — NYET
- 24D: Org. that received $15 million in donations in November 2016 (compared to $28,000 in November 2012) — ACLU
- 26D: Channel recently derided as “fake” (just before a Breitbart reporter was called on) — CNN
- 34D: Health statute based on a Heritage Foundation proposal: Abbr. — ACA
- 40D: What a dictator might threaten to do to a journalistic organ that grows too critical — SUE
- 44D: Media company destroyed in a case financed by RNC speaker Peter Thiel — GAWKER
- 45D: Like the thin skin of someone who might think this puzzle’s revealed description refers to him — ORANGE
I dig this, I dug the sentiment behind it, and I love that Ben is not only offering refunds for those who feel this is too far beyond the pale, but donating proceeds of any subscriptions purchased today to Planned Parenthood. Based on only the last 48 hours of executive orders, the days of hoping for polite dialogue are gone. I look forward to supporting this and other outlets that aren’t afraid to call things out (though I do hope that the puzzles doing the calling out are at least as good as this one).
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme-summary
Today we have a slightly wonky category theme. The revealer is DIGIT, and the first four themers end in, in order, the four X fingers. We then have thumb, which is not called a thumb finger… So: LIVEALITTLE, BOXINGRING, MEETINTHEMIDDLE, STOCKINDEX and RULEOFTHUMB.
I could handle “branching paths,” but I did wonder about “grazing animals.” There I also scratched my head at how Snow White entered the picture. Surely she doesn’t have the last word on animals. And I did puzzle at whether we needed a specific motivation to the swapping of left and right. I’d have rather an entry somewhere in the diagram took that up.
But what bothered me more was that three of four simply swapped those letters, which I assumed to the end was the theme, whereas BRAISING does not.
That’s a fair point about consistency, but since the first one I uncovered was BRAISING, I knew we weren’t strictly looking at spelling but primarily at sounds.
AV Club: Push an agenda and shill for worse (puzzles for idiocy)? Not w/ my $$ anymore.
The AVCX welcomes requests to cancel subscriptions, and offers full refunds with no questions asked. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org in that event.
We have our principles and we accept all risks that come with expressing them, especially in moments of extreme need, as I hope everyone will do.
Ben, just a word of support: Keep up the good work!
Trump ran a campaign (and now is running the country) with an express goal of breaking political norms — and he did just that. He broke all norms of civility, compassion, inclusiveness, and adherence to reality we expect from a leader, even one with whom we disagree.
So now, we — the sane, reality-based opposition — have to respond in kind. This means breaking some norms of our own, such as “stick to puzzles” and “keep politics out of it.”
Also thanks for the link on your site to Puzzles for Progress. I already have AVC through Slate Plus, so I donated to get these puzzles instead. Oh, and I liked “Of the Free World” too!
I sent you a private Email of thanks and support, Ben, and I will say so publicly as well. You are speaking for your principles and accepting the consequences from those who disagree.
These are not ordinary times. They demand extraordinary responses – and puzzles are of the world, no matter how much we may wish they were not.
Well put both Damon and Jenni, and I completely agree.
Email sent, subscription cancelled.
Thanks, Ben. Good job, excellent intent. Everybody needs to do what they can and you are doing just that!
Ha ha ha. I’d been thinking of canceling, since the puzzles tend to be a bit modern for me (not in my roundhouse by any means), but not now …. Gotta print this one out and take it to my 95-year-old retired rabble-rouser mother on my weekly visit this Saturday. May have to pre-fill some of the 21st century stuff, but she’ll love it.
The center square was a challenge if you don’t speak Orkan (Mork’s language) or know obscure industrial dyes types (AZO).
True. AZO is also hoary crosswordese, which makes it easier for those who have done enough old puzzles…
Loved the AV Club. Brilliant.
The center square crossings were a challenge if you don’t speak Orkan (Mork’s language) or know industrial types of dye (AZO).
I had the SHAZBAT/SHAZBOT quandary too… but, after finishing the puzzle I checked with Google, who says it’s SHAZBOT, and who am I to disagree? I knew most of the theme words, except for Sponge Bob’s. Good puzzle.
Thank you for speaking up. Silence is no longer a viable option. Those days are gone.
Did anyone else have a problem with today’s NYT 19A, “Hid from the cops, say” being “LAY low?” Shouldn’t clue have been “Hide from the cops, say?”
You lie in wait or did lay in wait. “As I Lay Dying” is another use of the past tense of lie, lay.
There it is! Always those few people eh? More like Puzzles for Degeneracy, am I right folks?
Not a bad idea to offer refunds though.
Just did the AV. From the comments here, I was expecting a really insulting puzzle. Are the people who are so offended bothered by the one mild twit (ORANGE), or is the notion of freedom of the press offensive?
Well, there are four others that involve a mechanism.
I was a little put off by Ben’s statement that accompanied the puzzle. I’m all for dissent and resistance, but I can’t tell if Ben is saying that the AVCX will actively seek more political themes, or will start cluing otherwise innocuous fill with a left-wing slant. Some of that is to be expected, and the constructor personality/perspective/flavor is a great feature of the AVC puzzles, but I hope there isn’t a big “editorial shift.”
Honestly, if today’s puzzle had been published without any caveats, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash, nor, I suspect, would some of the “cancel my subscription” commenters, who are surely used to the AVCX tone by now. To me – probably most of us – puzzles are a diversion, and it’s hard enough to escape the horrific situation we’ve landed in without having to be reminded of it by our entertainment choices. I don’t want all my TV shows getting overly political either.
To be clear, I support Ben and company’s decisions regardless, and I know there will be no lack of head-in-the-sand crosswords to solve, just wanted to offer a perspective from somebody who agrees 100% with the editorial slant of today’s excellent puzzle.
I can’t speak for Ben, but I interpreted the statement as being mainly about today’s puzzle. I certainly intend to keep writing basically the same sort of thing I usually contribute (wordplay & snark with some light editoralizing), while directing the majority of my dissent-style energy to projects with a Here There Be Liberal Politics legend on the map.
To be specific, take the circled letters out of the words where they are embedded.
Even more specific: cover them, as in the 5-A clue.
I meant to rate the NYT a 4 and instead i put in a 3. If it’s not too much trouble, could that be changed? Thank you!
Also just want to chime in to say that I loved Ben’s puzzle as well. Joe and Jenni both expressed everything I was thinking but said it better than i ever could. Thank you, Ben.
Happy to oblige.
thanks very much!
Thank you for the timely and principled AVCX crossword, Ben.
Agreed. Thanks for a puzzle that is fun, funny, and scary at the same time. As an AVCX subscriber, I’m proud to be associated with the Crossword Resistance movement.
By the way, if anyone else wants to rag on Puzzles for Progress, at least maintain alliteration in your insults. Puzzles for Preposterousness, Puzzles for Perverts, see how easy it is? Thanking you in advance for your efforts —
Hey, Francis, sorry to bug you in public, but I’ve sent you two Emails about subscribing to PfP and haven’t had a response…just checking to see if you’ve gotten them. Thanks!
I’ve gotten both and replied to both. Maybe check your spam folder? I’ll try resending from another address.
Well, that’s odd. I didn’t see anything from you or related to crosswords in spam…thanks.
Got it! Thanks. For some reason, Gmail didn’t think you were “important” and buried you in the nether regions of my inbox. Little do they know.
Love the NYT simply for the inclusion of SHAZBOT.
This commentary today gave me more pleasure than solving the NYT puzzle, whose theme entries I could only fill in through their crossings. Thank you Jenni, Ben, etc., for your contributions.