Jesse Eisenberg and Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
This is a banner week for constructors. Yesterday we had the youngest constructor ever published in the NYT and today we have Patrick Blindauer co-constructing with Jesse Eisenberg, who is best-known for playing Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network.” Nice puzzle, boys!
Our theme is food used in unorthodox ways (and I don’t mean treyf). It was not particularly challenging but it was lots of fun.
- 17a [“We used some food to make a snowman. Under his arms we put ____”] CHERRY PITS.
- 27a [“Then we gave him ___”] BUTTERFINGERS
- 44a [“On top we put a ___”] HEAD OF LETTUCE
- 58a [“Finally, we stuck in two ___. Yum!”] EARS OF CORN.
No carrot nose, so this isn’t Frosty.
A few other things:
- Am I the only one who dropped in NEMO for 6a [Captain of literature]? The actual answer is AHAB.
- It’s nice to see ALTO clued without reference to a choir. I am an alto and I sing in a choir and I’m still tired of those clues.
- 35a [Half a kisser] is LIP. Cute.
- 49d [Grammy category] is JAZZ. If you watched a lot of Grammy coverage, you may have seen my brother.
- Valentine’s shoutout at 32a with [Touch of love]. Hope some of you had a nice CARESS today.
- My other misstep was at 63a [Counterfeiter, e.g.] where I entered FAKER. The correct answer is FELON.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ACAI berries came from Brazil.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Memo-rable Beginnings” — Jim’s review
Common phrases starting IN RE___ are re-parsed for wacky results.
- 17a [Tennis pro’s memo opener?] IN RE SERVE
- 21a [Driving instructor’s memo opener?] IN RE TURN
- 27a [Optometrist’s memo opener?] IN RE VIEW
- 43a [Hitting coach’s memo opener?] IN RE RUNS
- 52a [Photographer’s memo opener?] IN RE POSE
- 58a [Odist’s memo opener?] IN RE VERSE
In general I like re-parsing themes. They cause you to look at old things in new ways. Hopefully, in funny ways. And these aren’t bad. All the original base phrases are solid, and all the re-parsed ones are unexpected. Not exactly funny, but clever enough.
But basing your theme on, in my opinion, one of the ugliest bits of crosswordese doesn’t really do much to redeem it. Do people actually use the term IN RE? I know I never have, but then, I don’t do much memo writing.
Still, I would have been okay with this puzzle, but there is a crushing weight of sub-par fill. When the puzzle starts IDENT, AFUSE, and CESTA, you know there will be challenges ahead. ALAS, there’s OEIL, ADATE, EARTO, and ENDO, plus UNWON (when the clue [Not yet taken] really wants UNWED) and OBESE (clued jocularly as [Too big for one’s britches?]). This last one just depressed me. There are other ways to clue that word without making fun. And then there’s plural SEDIMENTS and weird adverb SLENDERLY [How Little Susie was fashioned in a Michael Jackson song].
All that just sucked the fun out of the puzzle. So while the theme wasn’t really all that bad, it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the fill. And I will leave it at that.
The one highlight for me was 44d [Rhyming Russell]. Do people remember NIPSEY Russell? We watched a lot of game shows while I was growing up in the 70s, and there were certain recurring celebrities that I always admired. NIPSEY was one of them.
Byron Walden’s AV crossword puzzle, “Moving Right Along” – Jenni’s writeup
I’m filling in for Ben (Smith) today. Ben (Tausig) billed this as a 4/5 in difficulty, and either I missed something (not unprecedented) or it wasn’t as hard as I expected.
We have three theme answers, the ends of which tell us we’re “Moving Right Along.”
- 16a [Diamond gift?] is an INTENTIONAL WALK. Pitchers and catchers, y’all! This week!
- 33a [Outing atop a double-decker bus, say] is a SIGHTSEEING TRIP. I initially had TOUR instead of TRIP and I still prefer it. I think you take a TRIP to New York (or London, or wherever) and then you take a TOUR on a double-decker bus to see the sights.
- 51a [Outfit that inspires giggles] is RIDICULOUS GETUP. This is also an answer that inspires giggles, at least to me.
So you WALK, you TRIP, and you GET UP, thereby “Moving Right Along.” I’m sure someone will let me know if I missed something. If I didn’t, the theme is a bit underwhelming, especially after I was expecting a nice chewy Byron Walden puzzle. It’s still nice – just not quite as chewy as I might have liked. EDITED TO ADD: Ben Tausig comments below and points out that there are five theme entries. And of course, once I knew they were there, I found them immediately:
- 20a [Proof of purchase] is SALES SLIP.
- 42a [Prime time for leaf watchers] is EARLY FALL.
So now we have walk, slip, trip, fall, get up. This feels more complete, and since I didn’t totally get the theme, clearly was more difficult than I initially thought!
A few other things:
- 5a [Hank Aaron had 2,297 of them: Abbr.] is RBIS. If you don’t know baseball, you may not know that this is the most anyone has ever had in the history of the sport. Mickey Mantle once said that Aaron was the best baseball player of his generation, and the most underrated. Aaron started in the Negro Leagues and finished his career in Atlanta, breaking the most hallowed record in baseball despite horrifying racism. He remains a gentleman and an ambassador for the game.
- 14a [“Danse macabre” composer] is SAINT SAENS. I would have used an upper-case M for “Macabre,” and I would have been wrong.
- Recent events cluing at 23a [Word whose lookups spiked after the final Clinton-Trump debate]. It’s HOMBRE.
- 41a [Old slang for “square”] was the last answer I filled in and I had to look at it for a while before I understood it. The answer is L-SEVEN; if you hold the fingers of one hand in an L and the other hand in a 7, and put them together, they sort of look like a square. Sort of.
- I am glad that Byron clued SNOT as [Disrespectful twerp].
- Best clue in the puzzle: [Doctor who sold his soul to the devil (nope, BEN CARSON doesn’t fit)] at 43d. The answer is FAUST.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that APOCOPE is the Omission of terminal sounds that produces a new word, as in “obituary” becoming “obit.” Luckily gettable from crossings.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Well, that was quirky, and got a snort out loud from me when I connected the dots. GOODBYES = “GOOD BUYS” and TO(TWO)AFAULT, FOUR(FOR)SEASONS, WON(ONE)BYALANDSLIDE and SAIL(SALE)THROUGH gives us TWO/FOR/ONE/DEAL. It’s different, and a bit of variety in our crossword themes is always good!
The FAST/FOOD and SEAN/PENN crossers are not thematic, they’re grace notes of a sort. You may have suspected FAST/FOOD of being a themer on its first presentation, I know I did! AXL/AXILLA crossing also amused me for some reason.
Anyone else here go to a primary school where caps were compulsory, and where DOFFing of said hats was enforced? I got expelled after four years, as it happens…
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Alchemy on Parade” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! I hope you’re all doing well in the middle of the month of February. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is a word ladder, something we haven’t seen on here for quite a while (unless there was one in one of the puzzles I wasn’t able to get to in the recent past). The transition starts with the first word of the first theme entry, which is lead, and ends with the first word of the last theme entry, which is gold.
- LEAD-FREE GAS (17A: [Fuel lacking a certain hazardous compound])
- LOAD THE BASES (27A: [Get three runners on])
- GOAD TO ACTION (48A: [Incite])
- GOLD RESERVE (64A: [Fort Knox holding])
The theme was OK, and the theme entries were good but nothing else really stood out. OK, maybe OBVERT, since I hadn’t come across that word in a good long while (15A: [Obvert]). One of the CRAIGS referenced, Kilborn, for about a little bit of time in the early-to-mid 1990s, was as popular of a show presenter as there was on cable television, and I definitely was a fan of his after he jumped the ship from ESPN to Comedy Central (9D: [Kilborn and Claiborne]). Initially put “poser” for HOSER, and that cost me a little bit of time in solving (22D: [Got a move-on, old style]). Oh, I actually did like G-FORCE (25A: [Liftoff sensation]). OK, time to skedaddle and head to the Garden State for an assignment.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TY COBB (51D: [Baseball Hall of Fame charter member]) – There were five greats who were inducted into the first Hall of Fame class back in 1936: TY COBB, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. Oh, and just in case you come across a crossword in which one of these players are referenced, know that Cobb’s nickname was “The Georgia Peach,” Johnson’s was “Big Train,” and Mathewson’s was “Big Six.” Hey, you never know when some up-and-coming constructor, who happens to like sports, adds that sort of thing in a grid that you might be doing! *Wink, wink.*
Thank you so much for your time once again, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.
NYT was entertaining– though I think FAKER is a better answer than FELON for 63a– FELON assumes the FAKER was convicted.
Does it though? You could argue that if I commit a felony, I’m a felon — even if I haven’t been convicted of the crime. I’m not a convict, certainly. But I’m someone who committed a felony, aka a felon.
No. You are not a FELON until you have been convicted. You can be an accused felon or an alleged felon, but you are not a FELON. Until you are convicted, you are NOT “someone who committed a felony”; you are someone who has ALLEGEDLY committed a felony. Let us not forget this in these days of ignoring what the Constitution says.
I am in the FAKER camp. A felon is someone who has been convicted of a felony. I mention this only because I hate the phrase CONVICTED FELON. I suppose the fact that that phrase exists provides justification for the use of FELON in today’s clue.
I do not know of any misdemeanor crimes that use the word COUNTERFEIT to describe some low level passing off of imitation products.
Fun puzzle today.
Enjoyed this edible snowman as well, but bothered by the Doc/DOC repetition, even though they had different meanings.
Thanks! There’s quite a bit of discrepancy between editors as to whether dupes like that are really dupes. I try to avoid them in my own stuff, but it can be a little like chasing one’s tail.
Way too easy for a Wednesday puzzle.
Yeah, I barely even needed the clues!
Anybody have any idea of the theme of the AV Club puzzle, “Moving Right Along”?
Some of the fill seems to indicate some sort of depth I’m not immediately seeing….
It’s a sequence of small events.
You walk, you trip, you get up, and move right along. Yawn. But the fill was challenging in places and thus interesting on that score.
Thank you. I see it now, but it is a pretty thin theme, to me, and some of the tough grid full made me think there was some wordplay to it (obv the APOCOPE).
There are actually 5 theme entries. Getting the middle to work necessitated the two long nontheme entries going across. I had hoped having the 5 themers uninterrupted and symmetrically placed about the middle would have overcome the distraction. Probably should have starred the clues.
Just posted my review and didn’t see the other two theme entries. Going back to look. ETA: Found them and updated my review. D’oh.
Ha ha. I missed the slip & fall. Cute.
RIDICULOUS GETUP/SAWUP/BLOWUP, APOCOPE/EPOS, and SUNIN/INONESENSE/INLA had me wondering if there was more to the puzzle than the WALK, SLIP, TRIP, FALL, GET UP angle. Like when you do an MGWCC and questionable fill makes you suspect that the meta is lurking in those areas of the grid.
APOCOPE/EPOS got me.
Today’s CS: 40A “Petite pastries” TARTS
Huh? Am I missing something? Didn’t you guys tell me that tarts have nothing to do with size? Do I still have this wrong?
Many tarts are in the 3-4″ category. They don’t have to be, but a crossword clue doesn’t have to be exclusive either.
NYT–Cute and enjoyable, though it was very easy. Not sure I understand Macs = non-PC types. I would like to have seen Jarrett clued as the excellent crossover pianist Keith, rather than Valerie. Jenni are you familiar with the Brahms Alto Rhapsody? Superb piece and a great vehicle for an alto. I wonder what the division of labor was between Jesse and Patrick.
Macs vs. PCs. Windows computers are known as “PCs.” Macintosh computers are “Macs”
Oh right. I still choke on those trendy computer clues even though I try to train myself that clues I can’t make sense of usually involve rock bands or computers
Technically a Mac is a PC, but colloquially this is correct, especially after those memorable Apple commercials.
I am not familiar with the Brahms. I will seek it out. Thanks!
I saw Keith Jarrett play when I was in college – wrote a review of it for the college paper, actually. Amazing.
Yes, he’s terrific. He has even given an atypical, but interesting and musical performance of the Bach Goldberg Variations.
That’s what I heard all those years ago. Really interesting.
We did everything together. Brainstormed many food-related theme ideas over the phone, then made the grid together through the magic of technology, then back to phone calls for the clues. Some favorites on the cutting room floor:
[Gentle touch, or an anagram of SCARES] whose gist got relocated to the STENO clue
[“Abandon ___ hope, ye who enter here”: Dante’ “Inferno”]
[Where they once hated Spartans]
I enjoyed the Faust clue in today’s AVCX. It gave me a real chuckle in a week of news that grows more and more repugnant.
Question for the stats-heads here:
Last week JESSE EISENBERG was an answer in the NYT. Today he’s a constructor.
Is he the first constructor to also be an answer in the puzzle?
I remember David Steinberg once put DAVID STEINBERG in a puzzle but the clue referenced the comedian not the constructor. I thought it was still a clever touch.
Will SHORTZ has appeared in a few crossword puzzles, although never an NYT puzzle, as he said he wouldn’t allow it.
By the way, for those looking for a good Jesse Eisenberg movie, I recommend “The Squid and the Whale,” especially if you like moves about messed up people where nothing really “happens.” (Personally I usually love such movies.) Jesse is great in it, as is Jeff Daniels.
Dana DELANY has been an answer twice and co-constructed the Sept 4, 2011 puzzle.
Here’s an URL that Nancy Shank provided on C-L with this intro: “CBS This Morning ran a segment today about the 75th anniversary of the appearance of a crossword puzzle in the New York Times…”
Is that the love child of Nancy Shack and Mike Shenk? ;)
Nice feature but I wish it had been more carefully assembled. Apolo Anton ONO?!
Patrick, I left a comment on the CBS YouTube page about that ONO/Ohno error. Fake news!
“Alternative crossword answers”
Arrrgh, I get so tired of people referring to crosswords as “escapism”. To my mind, cruciverbalism is a singular, superior art. And, to me, that is self-evident. To a reader to whom that conceit should warrant elucidation, may it suffice to note that through history great societies value great art…. Wait a minute, I’m ranting at a statement made by the NYT editor…. Again, arrrgh.
I thought the NYT made for a very different kind of Wednesday crossword and I definitely enjoyed all the comments today, even those on puzzles I don’t work. Brahms is not my favorite composer by far, but oh, that glorious Alto Rhapsody! Thank you, Bruce for giving it a shout-out.
I was happy to learn the word apocope. somehow it reminds me of the medical term “tuft fracture” at the end of a finger.
Bruce, I am familiar with tuft fractures and I don’t see the connection.
Jenni, I’m aware that you are a physician. My reaction is just free association. Apocope involves cutting off the end of a word. A tuft fracture is an injury to the fingertip. Just my overactive imagination drawing a strained comparison.
I sense a puzzle theme ….
Ah. Got it. I was looking for a similarity in the words. You were being much more subtle :)