Wednesday, March 8, 2017

AV Club 11:30 (Ben) 


LAT 3:46 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:52 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

NYT 3/8 puzzle, solution grid

Seeing Paula Gamache’s byline on a puzzle makes me happy. I know it will be smooth and creative and a joy to solve. This one was no exception.

Our theme answers have something missing. Just one letter – but that changes everything.

  • 17a [“How’s it goin’, Washington?”] is WHAT’S UP DC. Add an “O” and you get “what’s up, Doc?”
  • 26a [E.R. worker who sprained an ankle?] would be a HOPPING MD. This time we need to put a “A” in to make it “hopping mad.”
  • 37a [Prescription for a prehistoric carnivore?] is a grid-spanning TYRANNOSAURUS RX, which is just an “E’ away from “Tyrannosaurus rex.” When I filled that in, I thought they were all going to have a medical flavor.
  • 48a [“Keep that record in its case!”?] is ZIP YOUR LP, so we’re done with medical terms. It would have been a lot to ask to have a theme and a subtheme. We add an “I” to get “zip your lip.”
  • 57a [Mistake a shiny disc for a cookie?] is CHEW THE CD. Hmm. We’ve added an O, and A, an E, and an I. I think we get an extra layer to this theme after all – we need a “U” to make this “chew the cud.”

Brilliant. The last two themers are not quite as well-accepted as the first two; I think of “zip your lips” and “chew your cud/chew its cud,” but this theme is so good I don’t really care. I like a theme that makes you think a little even after you’ve figured it out. I especially like one that makes me smile when I get the payoff. Lots of fun for a Wednesday.

A few other things:

  • I fouled myself up by putting ISTS for 5a [Ending with Lenin or Stalin]. The answer is GRAD.
  • And I also messed up 9a [Mixed ___] by filling in GRILL instead of MEDIA.
  • 32d [Animal that might be found curled up on a windowsill] is an INDOOR CAT. Both my husband’s siblings are vets and they are strongly opposed to outdoor cats. I don’t know how our resident vet feels about this. Gareth?
  • 27d [One who leads a quiet, measured life] is not how I think of an OLD SOUL. To me, that suggests a preternaturally wise youngster.
  • 46d [Bridge units] isn’t asking about river crossings but about the card game. The answer is TRICKS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that COLOMBO is the capital of Sri Lanka. Geography is not my best thing.

Clive Probert’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sandwich, Anyone?” — Jim’s review

Vegetarians may want to skip this puzzle. MEAT sandwiches are the order of the day. What MEAT you ask? That’s the mystery.

64a clues MEAT as [Filler in a deli sandwich (and in the four longest Across answers)].

Our four theme answers each have a different kind of MEAT hidden (sandwiched) inside. This works well enough for me as a conceit.

WSJ – Wed, 3.8.17 – “Sandwich, Anyone?” by Clive Probert

  • 20a [Ethical dilemmaMORAL AMBIGUITY
  • 26a [Eastern or Western] NBA CONFERENCE. This seems to me the weakest of the given phrases. But how many phrases have bacony goodness inside? Not many.
  • 43a [Tlingit, for example] NATIVE ALASKAN. The Tlingit have a matrilineal hereditary system which seems like it would probably work much better.
  • 51a [Justification for silence] FIFTH AMENDMENT. As in, “pleading the fifth.”

I’m not too keen on the title. It doesn’t really add anything, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the question. But I can’t seem to come up with any good alternatives. I like “Mystery Meat,” but then you’d need to scrap the revealer and you’d lose the sandwich conceit.

(By the way, just saw this on the web. No surprise that bacon, processed meats, and red meats are linked to a large number of deaths in the US.)

I love the long fill today! OVER AND OUT, TO DIE FOR (bacony goodness, e.g.), NO NONSENSE, CIABATTA (great for a sandwich), and TSUNAMI are all absolutely wonderful and sparkly.

I also love Jack PALANCE, as an answer and as an actor. I was reading about him the other day after the Oscars debacle. There was a rumor that spread after Marisa Tomei won Best Actress for My Cousin Vinny in 1993 that it was a mistake, and it was all due to Jack PALANCE misreading or saying the wrong name. But this has been proved false over time (if you watch the video, PALANCE is clearly reading her name), and with the swift response by the Oscar officials that we saw recently, it’s pretty clear they would have stormed the stage if he had gotten it wrong.

One nit though: 46a [Bettor business, for short] is OTB which stands for off-track betting. Slight dupe there.

A geoduck clam

Clues of note:

  • 31d [Geoduck or quahog]. CLAM. A geoduck seems like one of those car/boat things they use to take tourists out onto lakes. But it’s pronounced “gooey duck,” and it’s, um, another kind of MEAT (pictured to the left). Quahogs are the ones you normally get at restaurants or seafood markets.
  • 32d [Scatter in record stores?]. ELLA. She scats. Good clue.
  • 42a [Mount Rainier’s former name]. TACOMA. I did not know this despite living on the city’s outskirts. Since Mt McKinley is no more, the debate over Mt Rainier has intensified. Perhaps it will change back one day.  Wikipedia says it’s one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. That’s comforting.
  • 54d [Viking destination]. MARS. Favorite clue of the puzzle. I was thinking of the European people first, then the football team second. Once I revealed the answer I couldn’t understand why either of those Viking peoples would be going to Mars. Duh! NASA’s Viking program launched two probes to the red planet in the late 70s / early 80s.

If you have an aversion to MEAT, then this probably wasn’t the puzzle for you. But otherwise, there was a lot to like in it, especially the sparkly fill.

Patrick Blindauer’s AVCX crossword, “Group of Eight” — Ben’s Review

It’s super frustrating when you can just tell something is going on under the surface of a puzzle, but can’t quite figure out what.  That’s where I’m at with today’s puzzle from Patrick Blindauer.  With a name like “Group of Eight” and the following themers, something seems afoot:

  • 19A: It’s mostly dark matter — MILKY WAY
  • 47A: Breaking up without drama, à la Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin — CONSCIOUS UNCOUPLING
  • 79A: Former member of this puzzle’s featured group that I just couldn’t bear to leave out — PLUTO
  • 81A: Composer of “The Planets” — GUSTAV HOLST

Again, with fill like that (especially how SUN is literally the center of the puzzle, acting as a lone rebus square), something has to be going on.  It’s clearly the planets, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out just how.  Given that there are 8 “rings” of answers around the puzzle’s SUN, I’m sure there’s one per ring, but exactly how eludes me.  Feel free to clear things up in the comments, since I’m clearly overthinking this one.

EDIT: It turns out either the .PUZ I solved from (or the tool I solved in) didn’t have the shading on the squares (or circles to indicate where they were. That’d do it! I’ve updated the screenshot above. We’ve got one planet’s starting letter per “ring”, just like I thought.

Agnes Davidson and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Starts with themes are pretty basic. This one has LOOKINGGOOD, which is a punchy answer, and then LOFTYGOAL, LOCALGOVERNMENT and LOVEGODDESS, which is, more or less, filler. LOGO (LO/GO)-PHILE is a-plus revealer, and sort of makes up for the generally bland theme answers.

An unusual name that is worth noting: [Lisa who host CNN’s…], LING

3 Stars

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12 Responses to Wednesday, March 8, 2017

  1. Steven says:

    Also note that the missing letters are all vowels, and that there is one each of AEIOU. nicely done!

  2. Lise says:

    WSJ: I’m a geocacher, so I envisioned a geoduck as my caching companion for searching for caches on/in/around a lake. Or, as the container one would be hidden in – a small container hidden in a rubber duck. But I guess it works as a clam too [smile].

    The MEAT theme was fine with this vegetarian! My feeling is, if you want meat, eat meat. If you don’t, don’t. It shouldn’t be a big deal either way.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I’m a cacher, too. It was my enjoyment of puzzle caches that brought me to crosswords. I have yet to make a crossword-based puzzle cache, but I probably will one day.

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    NYT — surprised this isn’t rated higher. I thought this was a terrific Wednesday. Theme was well-executed, clean in-the-language phrases, solid fill, just a pleasure.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Love love love the AVCX. LOVE IT.

    • janie says:

      ditto ditto ditto. ditto! but for me — because of some of the cluing and because of the “putting it together” part — the difficulty was a 3, maybe 3.5. but a 5-star concept and execution, w/ that lovely group of themers. bravo patrick and ben.

      really loved paula’s nyt, too, once again for that terrific theme / themers / execution synergy!


  5. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    In the AVCX writeup, I can’t tell from your printout and summary whether you saw the circled/shaded squares. They reference the planets from closest to furthest from the sun.

  6. AV Club: the gray squares contain the initials of the eight planets: JVEMSUN… but there are nine gray squares and Pluto is accounted for in the answers, so the ninth gray square is for the sun.

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