Wednesday, March 1, 2017

AV Club 7:30 (Ben) 


LAT 3:31 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:55 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


David Phillips’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

March is coming in like a lamb, at least in the NYT puzzles. This one fell very quickly.

Our theme is words that start with A and can be parsed as A+noun. To wit:

NYT 3/1 puzzle, solution grid.

  • 17a [Read up on a woman, old-fashionedly?] is STUDY A/BROAD. I guess I should be grateful that the clue acknowledges that “broad” is not a current term for a woman. It still made me wince a bit.
  • 24a [Take a chance on a work of poetry?] is to RISK A/VERSE.
  • 35a [Cite a chap for speeding?] would be TICKET A/GENT.
  • 48a [Coax a lost dog to follow you?] gives us LEAD A/STRAY.
  • 58a [Check the aroma of a few beers?] leads us to SNIFF A/ROUND.

All the base phrases are solidly in the language and the theme is fresh (at least it feels fresh to me; it may have been done before, but it’s not overdone).

A few other things:

  • 4d [Monster beheaded by Perseus was MEDUSA. You might wonder how Perseus managed that, since all who looked on Medusa’s face were turned to stone. Perseus had a polished shield and he looked at Medusa’s reflection. Clever.
  • I like the juxtaposition of Richard BRANSON  and JETSETS. I’m not crazy about [Travels in high style] as the clue for JETSETS, but I’ll forgive it because I liked seeing them next to each other.
  • I also didn’t much like  ACUTER and UEYS.
  • The [Sex and the City Quartet, e.g.] would probably refer to themselves as GAL PALS. The expression sets my teeth on edge, especially in a puzzle that is using BROAD as a synonym for “woman,” but it’s in the language and the clue fits.
  • 34a gets kind of meta with [What crossword clues with question marks often are] and the answer, of course, is PUNS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that only three of the four members of ABBA are Swedish. It turns out Anni-Frid Lyngstad is Norwegian. She also holds the titles of Princess Reuss and Countess of Plauen with the style of Her Serene Highness, courtesy of her third marriage.

I leave you with this classic. Her Serene Highness is in the upper left at the beginning of the video.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Negative G-Forces” — Jim’s review

(Isn’t there a physicist in the house around here?) In layman’s terms, negative g-force is that feeling of weightlessness as you crest a hill in your car or go sharply down in a roller coaster. You know, when your blood is floating up into your head.

Alex Eaton-Salners is back and takes that phrase in a different direction. Here he subtracts G’s from the ending of certain words.

WSJ – Wed, 3.1.17 – “Negative G-Forces” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” royalties?RAISIN MONEY. The clue isn’t referring directly to the Marvin Gaye classic, but instead to the “California Raisins” of ’80s commercial fame who sang that song and achieved nationwide popularity. Did you know they released four studio albums!
  • 26a [Rejected toilet paper mascot?] PRINCE CHARMIN. I like this one. It’s time for a replacement to Mr. Whipple. Let’s start a petition. You ever wonder if Mr. Whipple and Mr. Hooper are sitting in rocking chairs somewhere playing checkers?
  • 42a [Extras in a Bayer commercial?] ASPIRIN ACTORS. It works.
  • 55a [Spool on the iSew machine?] APPLE BOBBIN. I usually hear the phrase “bobbing for apples” instead of “apple bobbing,” so this one’s a little bit of a stretch. I’d bet Alex considered “BOBBIN FOR APPLES,” especially since it’s a grid-spanning 15, but it breaks the form of the other entries and would thus be inconsistent (plus it would be harder to clue).

I’m not sure what the connection is between the g-subtracting theme and commercial products, but the themers are consistent in that way.

More importantly, they’re consistent in the fact that the g-subtracted words are completely different words and not just elided versions of the original word.  That doesn’t strictly have to be an element of the theme, but it elevates it tremendously and gives ample opportunity for humor.

It would have been great if all the G’s in the grid were excised, especially the one at the end of EKING as it’s the most distracting. But I’m sure that would have made the grid much tougher to fill.

Overall though, an enjoyable theme. On to the fill! I love, love, love COTTONED TO (11d, [Fancied]). You don’t get much more evocative than that. I would have thought that phrase had a southern U.S. origin, but it goes back to jolly olde England (having to do with the fact that cotton was known for adhering to other materials). Other fun entries are DAY CAMP, SCROOGE, HANKIE, PAN OUT, UNDERSEA, and SCIENCE.

I also like INTRANET though the clue, [Group of local computers], is a tad off. (It doesn’t say anything about them being connected to one another.)

There were a couple of cringe-worthy entries: PARI [___-mutuel (form of betting)] and ABLUSH [Reddening]. This last one occurs ominously at 1a but thankfully is not indicative of the rest of the grid. For me, I didn’t fill it in until late in the solve, so it wasn’t too noticeable.

Clues of note:

  • 14a [Grapefruit-lime soda brand]. FRESCA. Do people actually drink such things?
  • 3d [Ben Solo’s mother]. LEIA. Clever. I had forgotten Kylo Ren’s birth name.
  • 13d [Blue-furred X-Man]. BEAST. I knew this even though I never read much X-Men nor saw most of the movies. (I was always a Spidey guy.) Maybe it’s the blue fur that sticks in my memory, but I always thought he just looked like a blue Wolverine.
  • 43d [Brazilian player for the Houston Rockets]. NENÊ. Beyond my knowledge. (Don’t shake you’re head at me, Ade.) NENÊ‘s birth name is Maybyner Rodney Hilário but he had it legally changed. Maybe with that last name, the pressure to be funny was just too much.
  • 27d [It might get the drop on you]. RAIN. Nice clue there.

Fun puzzle!

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

LA Times

My first impression of this puzzle came out of the top left. It’s a big, if confined, stack for a themed puzzle. But INJOKES/TOPSIDE/ENMASSE/KISSME all interacting with thematic JPMORGAN is a great opening to a puzzle. I feel like I’ve seen the puzzle theme before, but I can’t find any evidence. Regardless, it’s tight, and, more importantly for me, the J’s don’t come at the expense of the puzzle.

The revealer is JCREW, and we get five dudes who go by their initials, and whose first initial is a J. Two James’s, a Jonathan, a John, and a Jeffrey. JCPENNEY and JPMORGAN are from commerce; JJABRAMS and JKSIMMONS are from TV; the author JMBARRIE rounds out the set. JKSIMMONS feels a good couple of orders of magnitude less famous. JKROWLING is the same number of letters; I don’t know if the author felt one woman made the theme less consistent, but consarn it, I’d definitely have gone with ROWLING, personally.

4.5 Stars

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX crossword, “AVCX Themeless #13” — Ben’s Review

It’s time in the AVCX constructor rotation for another one of KAC’s themeless grids.  This one, like so many of his, was as lovely to solve as it is to look at.  Here’s some of the highlights:

  • A bunch of great modern phrases like I WAS LIKE and KEEP IT ON THE DL
  • References to KRISPY KREME, TEENYBOPPERs, Kevin Smith’s MALLRATS, Harold and Kumar’s multiple adventures to WHITE CASTLE, and the DRAMATIC IRONY/PHENOMENOLOGY combo sitting in the center of the grid.
  • Mmmm, AREPAS
  • ORYX and Crake!  Who else is reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for a book club right now?  Just me?
  • OLAY and OLE referencing each other’s clues was cute.

4.5/5 stars.  Keep knocking ’em out of the park, KAC.

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26 Responses to Wednesday, March 1, 2017

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    I enjoyed Alex’s WSJ a lot, a fun, smooth, nearly perfect midweek puzzle. I would point out that ASPIRIN/ASPIRING is not as strong as the rest, since they are related in a way. When Bayer patented its trade name for acetylated spiræic acid, it did so not only for the syllables found in the compound’s chemical name, but for Aspirin’s near homophone with the English word Aspiring. It’s sort of like making a pun on Levitra’s similar sound to levitate, which was, of course, an intended association on Bayer’s part, too. Good puzzle, though. Really liked the theme.

    • Norm says:

      I also didn’t care for the non-theme related long i to short i shift between ASPIRING and ASPIRIN, but that’s a minor knock on a very nice puzzle.

  2. ktd says:

    Interesting to compare this puzzle with the same theme concept as done by Lynn Lempel for a Monday puzzle in 2015: Notably, each puzzle has a unique set of five theme answers (though A/ROUND is one of the re-parsed theme elements in both).

  3. arthur118 says:

    Curiosity sent me to the CrosSynergy link at the Wash. Post today and found that the Post is offering the current LA Times puzzle instead of a CS creation.

    Mimicking an aggressive Tweeter, “Sad”.

    • rock says:

      I was really hoping for reruns like on Merle’s site, although I don’t know if that is possible. Again, many thanks to the CS crew and Ade and the crew here.

    • Dave S says:

      As a hard copy solver, I’m pleased to see it. At least based on today’s puzzle, it seems a step up from the CS puzzles.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I got a puzzle from CSXWords today with this message…

      February 28 marks the end of puzzles distributed by CrosSynergy, and the corresponding publication of those puzzles in the Washington Post. Today’s puzzle comes from a former CrosSynergy constructor, and we’re working to bring you more puzzles from some of those same great people, with the consistent style and level of quality you’ve come to expect over the years.

  4. pannonica says:


    NYT:“You might wonder how Perseus managed that, since all who looked on Medusa’s face were turned to stone. Perseus had a polished shield and he looked at Medusa’s reflection.”

    Specifically it was the AEGIS (EGIS) given him by Athena.

    WSJ: “The clue isn’t referring directly to the Marvin Gaye classic …”

    The Smokey Robinson (+Miracles) and Gladys Knight (+Pips) versions both preceded the Marvin Gaye version. Not too familiar with the first release, but the Knight version is quite different. Less sweeping, more raw. They’re both good, but very different. Was a time I professed preferring the Knight version, but that was just posturing.

  5. sandra stark says:

    Where is the AV write up?????

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I came looking for it too.

      Well, I guess I can do my own: It was very enjoyable!

    • Ben Smith says:

      Hi Sandra!

      In addition to the write-ups I do here, I have a normal 9-5. Sometimes I’m able to get to the puzzle before I head into work, but some days I don’t and the place that pays me has to come first. Glad to know you’re a fan!

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    NYT I would go even further than Amy. 1. I think “broad” as a synonym for “woman” is offensive and unacceptable. I don’t think the qualification “old fashioned” rescues it. 2. I do not think “jet set” can be used as a verb, but only as a noun.

    • Zulema says:

      Bruce, totally agree.

    • Ethan says:

      Besides the offensiveness of BROAD, isn’t that interpretation of “study abroad” like, the oldest “college” joke in the world? It’s like something a great-uncle would say to his college-aged nephew at a reunion while elbowing him. “Yeah, I studied abroad, too. Studied. A. Broad. Get it? Ha!”

      A crossword theme entry based on wordplay should be a brand-new pun.

      Also, ASTRAY and STRAY are about as related in derivation and meaning as two words can be, so that’s some slight, slight wordplay.

  7. David L says:

    It’s funny how, back in the day, all the cool kids like me* thought that Abba’s music was hopelessly blah, but now I find it stands up better than the Sex Pistols and the Damned.

    Also, I took a look at Anni-Frida’s wikipedia biography — I had no idea that she had such a complicated early life. Or that having married a German aristo, who then died, she is now shacked up with a minor British aristo. She seems to have come through it all well, though.

    *I was never cool. Not remotely.

  8. Cyrano says:

    Meant to rate KAC’s AV 4.5 but hit 3 stars accidentally. If you can fix it, thank you.

  9. Matthew G. says:

    I cannot get enough of Kameron’s themelesses. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: he is better at making themelesses than anyone else out there right now. I would subscribe to AVX for his work alone.

    This one was right up there. I had to guess on the CATE/TYRESE crossing, since actors’ names are forever my crosswording Achilles heel (especially since I had children and stopped going to the movies basically ever), but thankfully I guessed correctly.

  10. e.a. says:

    in the AV puz, is [Physically adept Newton] supposed to be a play on physics + isaac newton, or something? am i missing anything there? for me it evoked the way sportscasters often talk about black athletes (high emphasis on physicality, little credit for intelligence), which really bothered me – i mean, he won the MVP award for playing quarterback, you have to be extremely mentally adept to do that

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yes, I’m pretty sure it was some punny misdirection playing off Isaac Newton. It didn’t even occur to me that race might have subconsciously informed this clue (and given who the constructor is, I sincerely doubt that it did).

  11. k c anderson says:

    AVCX Themeless #13

    7 down – Forest part? (IDI). Would anyone like to inform me of the connection?

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