This week’s AV Club has a meta due by the end of Sunday. We’ll have the write-up of the puzzle posted after entries for that have closed.
Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword—Jim Q’s write-up
What’s this? A new take on one of the oldest tricks in the crossword book? I’ll take it!
This was a heck of a lot of fun to figure out, and it’s a fine Wednesday puzzle. Anyone who has solved crossword puzzles for a length of time has seen the word ladder gimmick again… and again… and again…, but Dolan gives us a fresh twist by making the clue the word ladder, rather than the answers themselves.
Instead, when the word ladder is properly completed, a common phrase becomes the answer.
17a. […SLID SAID SAND SANE SINE NINE…] SLIM TO NONE. That is, the word SLIM– with one letter change- becomes SLI(D). SLID becomes S(A)ID. And so forth. Until there is NONE.
31a. […DOTE DOLE DOLL DELL SELL…] NOTE TO SELF. (Note to self: Sell your Bob Dole Bobblehead Doll on ETSY)
47a. […HERD HEAD HEAT SEAT STAT…] HERE TO STAY.
64a. […OMEN OPEN OPED SPED SHED SHAD SHAM WHAM WHAT…] AMEN TO THAT. A fine concluding theme answer.
Once cracked, the theme has the added bonus of helping with some of the fill, which was a bit tougher than normal for me. I floundered around this puzzle before getting a solid grip in the southwest corner. Whenever I’m daunted by 1-Across on an early week puzzle [Actress and former mixed martial arts champion Carano], I am the type of guy who immediately flees elsewhere. Anywhere. Perhaps looking for a good ONO or OREO. And I found that refuge in EDEN, where ADAM was present, but Eve had already left the building.
- 50d. [Hits hard]. SMITES. Well, gee. Doesn’t this need some sort of qualifier… like “…biblically” or something? I mediated a fight between two girls in school today. It’s laughable to think how the conversation might’ve gone using variations on the word SMITE.
GIRL #1: So, I was at the mall, and GIRL #2 wasn’t supposed to come, so I told her I’d smite her unless she left!
GIRL #2: It’s a public mall! And I’ll smite anyone who tries to smite me!
ME: Have you two smaught in the past?
GIRL #1: I smote her once. But it’s been a fortnight at least.
GIRL #2: Liar! I haven’t smitten her in at least a score of fortnights!
ME: That’s not what smitten means.
BOTH GIRLS: Whatevs…
That really is the gist of an actual conversation today. I’ll be sure to put “Student smites too often” in their REPORT CARD comments.
- 8d. [Portmanteau in 2016 News]. BREXIT. I get it. It’s a hot new word. But I’m about BREXITed out now. I feel like it’s been in a ton of crosswords lately.
GIRL #1: Yo, Mr. Q… Why you gotta be disrespectin’ portmanteaus, yo? I mean, you’re talkin’ trash about stuff that’s actually relevant to us!
GIRL #2: TSK TSK.
GIRL #1: Brexited ain’t even a word, yo. You can’t go makin’ neologisms all willy-nilly and whatnot.
ME: True ‘dat!
(Awkward silence and blinking ensues.)
Thanks, Mr. Dolan. This was a fun one. Especially on that day of the week where no one knows quite what to expect.
4 stars from me.
David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Opinion Pieces” — Jim’s review
Theme entries are synonymous phrases used to preface a factual statement (i.e. not fake news).
Our revealer at 51a is [Fastest route, in theory, or a punny clue for the starred answers], i.e. a STRAIGHT LINE. (Good use of wordplay there.) The four theme answers get the same clue [*Opinion piece].
- 19a IN ALL HONESTY
- 25a NOT GONNA LIE. Love this one.
- 37a FRANKLY SPEAKING
- 45a TRUTH BE TOLD. I had TRUTH TO TELL at first.
Nice set of themers. All are in the language, all mean roughly the same thing, and there’s no duplication of any words. And then having them all fit symmetrically is quite impressive.
For the most part, this was a fun solve with a very youthful vibe, which makes sense given young Master Steinberg’s age (he is currently an undergrad at Stanford). I’m not sure how the WSJ crowd will fare; I’m sure there will be some hiccups along the way.
Consider these youthful clues/answers:
- 15a [Unassertive dude]. OMEGA MALE. Not a term I’ve heard before, but fresh and evocative.
- 11a [Like most Grindr users]. GAY
- 59a [Post-college process]. JOB SEARCH
- 6d [Happen, slangily]. GO DOWN
- 8d [Internet sensation]. MEME
- 9d [Good grades may boost them]. EGOS
- 30d [Sensitive piercing site]. LIP
- 49d [___ prof.]. ASST
Also, 21a [Open-mouthed Facebook reaction]. My first thought was OMG, but then it needed an initial W, so I thought WTF(?!) Given the vibe in the grid, I thought it might just fly. But it turned out be the more sedate WOW.
One thing that sounded decidedly old school was 18a [Mailings to labels] DEMO TAPES. Do people really send tapes anymore?
Another evocative entry is 63a [Low martial arts move] FOOT SWEEP. Fun entry, but those two unusual crossings 52d RAWR and 46d HIGH PH made this one of the last to go in the grid.
Speaking of unusual entries: 34a [Jim of “Parks and Recreation”] O’HEIR is new to me and completely unguessable. Thankfully the crossings were fair. But there was one unfair crossing at 64a and 55d: [Grandfather, in Genova] and [“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” Author Anita]. I made a lucky guess with NONNO and LOOS, but other vowels could’ve easily gone in that square. At least give us a fighting chance with a British toilets clue.
Favorite clue: 24d [Really dig?] for TUNNEL.
Overall, a fun, lively puzzle.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Double Trouble” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword was brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, who, judging by the theme today, listened to the entire Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill album as he was constructing this grid. In the grid, each of the four long theme entries is a two-word answer in which the letters ILL appear consecutively in both the first and second word (62D: [Trouble that you’ll find doubled in each of the longest entries]).
- CHILLY WILLY (17A: [Animated penguin that debuted in 1953]) – The number of times I watched Chilly Willy cartoon shorts sandwiched in between two Woody Woodpecker cartoons after school is enormous. I’m sure I can go back home and find my old VHS tapes in which I recorded all these episodes. Oh, the memories!
- KILLER DILLER (27A: [Awesome, in old slang]) – The goal for today is to utter “killer diller” at least once before I hit the hay tonight.
- MILLI VANILLI (45A: [Duo stripped of their 1989 Best New Artist Grammy]) – Massive earworm creeping in right now!
- Bill O’REILLY (60A: [TV host who touts his show as a “No-Spin Zone”]) – Did I tell you about the time Bill O’Reilly asked me where his press seat was at a Harvard-Yale football game in Cambridge three years ago? More on that later.
Well, seeing both EDAM (34D: [Paraffin-coated cheese]) and DELI together in the grid is definitely a sign that I should have some sort of sandwich – or head to famous Murray’s Cheese Bar – later in the day (35D: [Supermarket section]). Oh, and there’s SALAD as well nearby, so I can have that on the side, too (43A: [Leaves in a bowl]). Wait a minute. A salad as a side while eating a sandwich? That’s a little odd. Well, if the Milli Vanilli entry made songs of theirs pop into your head, maybe you can drown them out with some metal and think about ONE (38A: [Metallica’s first Top 40 hit]). At my apartment right now, I have a WALL CLOCK that’s on one of my tables yet is not hanging on the wall (36D: [Ticker that’s hung]). A while back, I thought I needed a wall clock in my room and I had borrowed one of my dad’s old wall clocks, but then I never got to hanging it up. Then I realized – and realize now – that I really don’t have any use for it. Now that that’s the case, watch me hang it up once I get home for no reason other than talking about it in this space right now. I’ll keep you updated.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BILL O’REILLY (continued from 60A) – The 2014 edition of the Yale-Harvard game, which marks the season finale for both schools, was one of the most-anticipated games in the rivalry’s long history: Harvard was a perfect 9-0 and looking for an undefeated season, while a Yale win would a) spoil Harvard’s bid for perfection, and b) tie Harvard for the Ivy League crown with matching 6-1 records in league play. I attended that game, and when I entered the press box, I didn’t expect the best seat in it because of the media attention it was getting nationally before it. (ESPN’s wildly popular pregame show, College Gameday, was on location in Cambridge.) There are two rows of seats in the press box, and I immediately waked towards the second row, as I anticipated my seat being up there. Nope. I walked to the first row and I found my assigned seat…at the 50-yard line, next to the timekeeper. BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE! Now, as I was looking at the second row of press seats, I noticed one name that caught my eye: Bill O’Reilly. A few minutes after I took my seat, a man walked over towards me, then asked if he knew where his seat was, expecting that it would be close to where my posh seat was. That person was Bill O’Reilly. I answered that I wasn’t sure. (My mind was saying about 25 other things, but none of those thoughts came out of my mouth.) By the way, here’s the visual proof that the both of us attended that thrilling game…a game that Harvard won, 31-24, to clinch an undefeated season.
Thank you for your time and I’ll see you all tomorrow!
Jascha Smilack’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
It turned out there was an above average, intricate theme; however, it required slogging through a lot of subpar fill. When your first answered filled in include ANODAL, OAST, ALOG and ROLLO you’re already despairing…
The theme is six-part, with pairs of themers intersecting in the top-left and bottom-right corners. Not coincidentally, that top-left is where the first pile-up is found. SEEINGRED is the title, and the other five are potentially red items, only each example is not red, but another colour… A YELLOWBRICK, a GOLDENROSE, a BLACKCHERRY, a SILVERBEET and BLUEBLOOD.
While the theme accounts for some of the compromises, it doesn’t account for all: IEST is in a quiet, confined centre. It is the most desperate of desperate fill. A Q that is in AQUA/QUIDS is not adequate trade-off.
My error was RIJO/LIMB. I know the spanish rioja, but not rojo. ROJO is one of several gratuitous colour reference that were distracting more than they were elegant.
[Neurologist’s order, briefly], EEG. Fiancee has developed terrifying attacks of shaking extremities and increased pulse. A lack of any leads at GP after numerous bloods and an ECG, means a neurologist may be the next step. Always impossible to keep crosswords 100% escapist, I know.
NYT: Tons of fun…
and funny write-up Jim Q!
I’m with you on the floundering and fleeing strategy… and the fact that the theme, once cracked, was most helpful.
AMEN TO THAT!
Fun NYT puzzle, and love the writeup, Jim. You smaught me.
That was a blast of a midweek NYT. Gave it five well-deserved stars
With respect to Francis Heaney’s AV Club, the puzzle itself was incredibly easy. I couldn’t understand the 4.5 rating, whereas I would have given it 1. But the meta is brutal — it involves identifying 13 pairs of answers, so that’s the reason for the rating.
Hey, no spoilers yet!
Not a spoiler. The meta is described on the face of the puzzle.
Not described quite so literally though. So, kind of a spoiler, yes.
so, where’s the AVC contest writeup? i submitted my answer this weekend and am waiting on pins and needles to find out if i was right! :)
Ben plans to write up the puzzle after work today.