Wednesday, March 15, 2017

AV Club 11:30 (Ben) 


LAT 3:48 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:01 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I hope everyone had a good Pi Day. We had apple. Mmm.

After Pi(e), I did this straightforward puzzle by Bruce Haight. There are a whole lot of circles in the grid; those clues are the revealer that tells us what connects the theme answers. The other theme answers have asterisks.

NYT 3/15 crossword, solution grid

  • 9a [*Bonzo and others] are CHIMPS. Bonzo’s real claim to fame was co-starring with Ronald Reagan.
  • 7d When one [*Can’t stomach] something, one ABHORS it.
  • 33a [*”And so it ___”] BEGINS. I wanted to fill in GOES, because I am a child of the Vonnegut age, but it didn’t fit.
  • 45a [*Fabric with a cheap-sounding name] is CHINTZ. I always figured that chintz was cheap, and that’s how we got “chintzy” as an adjective. It appears that, for once, I was right.
  • 49d [*Elegantly designed trinkets] are BIJOUX. Very French.
  • 69a [*”You just missed!”] if you ALMOST hit the target.

What do all these words have in common? The circled answers are all clued “see blurb,” which led me to poke around for a solving note, which didn’t exist in the AL file I solved. The newspaper version says “The five rows of shaded squares reveal an unusual feature of this puzzle.” The unusual feature?


When there are puzzle notes, I try not to look at them, especially for early week puzzles, and I wouldn’t have missed the note if the clues hadn’t pointed me to it. I would have preferred it without the note. It’s Wednesday. It’s not Monday.

The starred clues and the circled revealer phrase give us a lot of theme squares, and this is a larger-than-usual puzzle (16×15). I would expect the fill to suffer a bit, and I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, we have a time zone (CDT), a non-standard state abbreviation (ARIZ) and a Latin phrase clued as a fill-in-the-blank (SUI generis). That’s about it. Not bad at all.

A few other things:

  • Music I remember: 9d [1950s-’60s hit with the lyric “Ah, you made me love you/Now, now, now your man is come.”] That’s the immortal CC RIDER, of course.
  • More recent music with [“The Lion King” soundtrack composer], ELTON JOHN.
  • 6d [Chocolatier’s lure] continues to trend of cluing AROMA  as a nice smell. We like aromas. We don’t like odors, or so crosswords would have us believe.
  • 39a [Sound like a jackass] is BRAY. {political comment redacted}
  • 38d [Wrong answer!] turns out to be BZZT. Not sure where the T comes from. This makes me think of “Family Feud.” When I was in college, we used “X BUZZ” as a (fairly obnoxious) way of telling someone they were wrong. There was never a T.

What I didn’t know before doing this puzzle: I’d never heard of “Katie Went to Haiti”, the Cole Porter song referenced in 15a. When I first filled it in, I figured it was an obscure verse to “K-K-K-Katie, beautiful Katie.” Then I looked it up, and it’s a jazz standard from the score of “DuBarry was a Lady.” I was going to give you Bobby Short’s elegant version, and then YouTube kept going and gave me this clip, which starts and ends with a very young Lucille Ball. In between, we have a jazz orchestra dressed like the Continental Congress and the marvelous Jo Stafford (dressed like Martha Jefferson) singing the song.

Steven E. Atwood’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just a Passive Fancy” — Jim’s review

Our theme is two-word phrases in which the first word, originally a noun used as an adjective, is clued as if it was a verb used as an adjective (a past participle in other words).

WSJ – Wed, 3.15.17 – “Just a Passive Fancy” by Steven E. Atwood

  • 17a [Bowler everyone loves to touch?] FELT HAT
  • 23a [Associate who’s been ejected from a club?] CAST MEMBER
  • 35a [Dollar bills that have been torn up?] RENT MONEY
  • 48a [Hamburger made from venison?] GROUND GAME. If you don’t know football, the original phrase here refers to how a team approaches running the football against its opponent (as opposed to the air attack).
  • 57a [Worn-out firearm that’s no longer usable?] SHOT GUN

I’ve said before that I like themes that look at old phrases in new ways, as long as the constructor uses the clues to inject some humor into the puzzle. Mr. Atwood does, so I give the theme a thumbs up. I especially like RENT MONEY and SHOT GUN.

As to the long fill, like yesterday we have four big corners, but maybe they aren’t quite as sparkly. I like SWABBIE, COLLEEN, and BIGFOOT. We also get HUMBLY and STAMINA which are nice. Oh, and so is TOASTY BOSOM (hmm…I’ll keep that one in mind next time I have to update a password).

But the big problem here is the short fill. It’s chock full of acronyms and abbreviations: NFC, TBA, SCI, HRS, ENE, MASC, OTO, STA, CST, ASST, and RTS (especially RTS clued as [Subj. of early Amendments]). I really felt hammered by the end of the solve (and not in a good way).

The culprit appears to be the fact that we have 7-letter themers in the third and 13th rows. These cause a block to appear in the central column which then results in a lot of short fill in the first two and last two rows (not to mention that there are other 7-letter entries in the area). I would’ve tried to switch those theme entries out with the 10-letter themers in order to give more breathing space at the top and bottom of the grid. Maybe our constructor did that and it resulted in worse fill, but I don’t know. As it is, the puzzle works, but it’s really hampered by all those short compromises.

243 IDA and its moon Dactyl

A few other notes:

  • 56a. OUTSOLE. [Where the rubber meets the track?]. I’ve heard of an insole, but not an OUTSOLE. I thought the outer bottom of a shoe was just called the “sole.”
  • 50d. DALAI. [Mongolian word for “ocean”]. Curious factoid.
  • 9d. APPLE. [Baldwin, for one]. Nice misdirection. I don’t know the Baldwin APPLE so this is new to me. My favorite apples are russets.
  • 41a. IDA. [Asteroid with a moon]. Didn’t know this one either, not even from crosswords. More specifically it’s called 243 Ida and it’s moon is named Dactyl. Keep that one in your memory banks as well.

Overall, a good theme to this puzzle and some good fill, but the short fill really erodes away the goodness.

Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

A simple enough theme, BMOVIES is here interpreted as B.. B.. films; I’m sure this has been explored before, but it’s a varied set: BRONCOBILLY and BOEINGBOEING from the 20th Century, and BATMANBEGINS and BROTHERBEAR from the 21st.

Not much to say about the fill. I’m curious if people introduced to PCs after DOS know about EXEs, since Windows hides extensions by default these days. BBA/BEAME could trip some up.

3.5 Stars

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Move On Up” — Ben’s Review

Today’s AVCX was challenging but fun, and fully earned that 4/5 (though I might have rated it a 4.5 difficulty for some of these clues).  It took me most of the solve to figure out what was going on with the theme clues, and I should have just looked at the title, “Move On Up”.  As clued in the grid, you get the following set of answers:

  • 20A:1970s; electro, early hip-hop — THERO
  • 27A:2000s; hip-hop — DOU
  • 37A:1910s-30s; big band — FOXT
  • 52A:1960s-70s; funk, early hip-hop — POP
  • 58A: Late 18th century forward; various Latin-American styles — BOL
  • 68A: 1990s; flamenco/novelty — MAC
  • 43A: What to pay attention to, in executing this puzzle’s theme answers — STEPS

It’s that revealer that pulls it all together – instead of trying to figure out what musical style was derived from these influences (as I initially tried to do), by looking a step up diagonally, you form various dance styles that emerged from these genres – THE ROBOT, DOUGIE, FOXTROT, POPPING, BOLERO, and of course, the toast of the 1996 DNC, the MACARENA.

As I noted at the top, there was a TON of difficultly-clued fill scattered throughout this puzzle, including GIE (in a Robert Burns reference from 24A), UNSET, PEARL Bailey, Pak SE-RI, the Andrea ROSEN Gallery (where one could once find BRIE at openings before it closed last month), whatever ROOSTER TAIL is in relation to a rowboat, and many others.

4/5 stars.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Wednesday, March 15, 2017

  1. Sarah says:

    Not a fan of AAS, CDT, EMO and ITT in this puzzle.

  2. janie says:

    *love* that “katie” clip, but oh, have the lyrics been cleaned up (by the hays office, i’d guess). here’re cole porter’s sophisticated and far more risqué lyrics—by 1939 standards anyway—(from some “poetry” site…), originally sung by ethel merman.


    p.s. also from dubarry…, the single-entendre [sic]-filled “but in the morning, no”. porter at his perkiest!

  3. Armagh says:

    RE: NYT – The Lion King soundtrack composer was Hans Zimmer. Elton John wrote some of the songs but Zimmer is the soundtrack composer – check with Hollywood.

    CCRider was a hit long before the 50s/60s. Ma Rainey first recorded it in 1924, and virtually every blues musician from then on did a version. The fact that it was confined to recordings circulated largely in minority communities until white America started using blues and R&B as source material doesn’t change its status as a “hit.”

    • Joe Pancake says:

      The clue doesn’t specify if it’s the movie or the musical. I’m hardly a theater buff, but from what I can gather, Elton John did compose the music for the soundtrack of the latter.

      • janie says:

        w/all due respect, joe — the latter is a cast album or cast recording, and while many folks will *call* a cast album a “soundtrack,” you won’t hear people in the industry (or those otherwise familiar w/ the distinction) call it that…

        from wiki’s cast recording article: “Soundtrack albums fill a very similar function for films with music. Soundtrack and cast albums sometimes have much in common, especially when the film concerned is a motion picture version of an original stage musical, and it often makes sense for record shops to put the two genres in the same section. But the cast album of a stage musical is very specifically not a soundtrack.”

        tmi. again…


        • Joe Pancake says:

          Fair enough.

          However, as you mention, colloquially the term “soundtrack” is used for stage productions. And you can find it in at least one dictionary explicitly defined as such (“3. a recording or tape of a stage musical”).

          Clearly it’s not a very good clue. I don’t think it’s outright wrong, but it should be reworded.

  4. Howard B says:

    The VERN/EGAN/ANNA name block on the left was a rough combo; thankfully I knew ANNA out of the three.

  5. Greg says:

    At first glance, the Times starred answers appear underwhelming in their ingenuity. But apparently there are only 12 six-letter words in English that have this feature: that is, the letters unfold in alphabetical order. And of those 12, four are words that would have likely provoked universal groans from solvers (begirt, beknot, dehort, and ghosty).

    So I think Mr. Haigt did a pretty good job in squeezing in six of the eight decent such words, and also putting in a detailed explanation of what he was doing.

  6. Tim in NYC says:

    Thanks for bringing up Jo Stafford. Through Wikipedia we learn that in the 70s she did an intentionally awful version of “Stain’ Alive,” which can be found on YouTube. It’s pretty funny.

  7. Ethan says:

    Since CDT, EMO, AAS, and ITT are also in alphabetical order, they really should not have been included in the grid as they were confusing the issue for me (and CDT, AAS and ITT are not good entries anyway). At least, that is, until I saw Greg’s note that a 6-letter word in alphabetical order is a Big Deal among people who are interested in such things. But it would have been a lot better if no other part of the fill was in alphabetical order.

  8. Sandra Stark says:

    Where’s the write-up on the AV Club puzzle for today?

    • e.a. says:

      March 1, 2017 at 5:47 pm
      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!

  9. Ethan says:

    One other thing: just read Bruce Haight’s note at XWordinfo and originally the crossing in the middle was RUMI/MAR but was changed to RUDI/DAR. I do not understand that edit at all. Not only is one of the most famous poets in world history swapped out for an obscure newswoman, but an actual word gets replaced by an org. abbreviation in the process?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      One of the most famous poets in world history whose work probably isn’t taught in the vast majority of American lit classes? (But ditching MAR is a bad move. Never heard of a famous RUDI, so…)

      • Ethan says:

        Does a poet have to be taught in American lit classes to be famous? Do people encounter Shel Silverstein through American lit classes?

        • Alan D. says:

          I, too, don’t understand the reticence on using “Rumi.” I’m a librarian and our library has multiple Rumi collections that are all quite popular! If I remember correctly I once had a puzzle rejected by an editor who listed “Rumi” among the fill that he didn’t like.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          When I was a kid, my mom bought me a couple Shel Silverstein volumes. She never gave me any Rumi!

          • e.a. says:

            from “on american lit syllabi” to “on amy’s mom’s bookshelf,” i feel like we’re inching closer to a good standard for which poets are xworthy, but maybe not quite there yet

          • Francis says:

            And probably she shouldn’t have given you any Rumi, with verses like “If anyone asks you / how the perfect satisfaction / of all our sexual wanting / will look, lift your face / and say, // Like this.”

            Anyway, Rumi is a major poet, and the fact that American lit classes tend to focus on American and European work doesn’t change that. Obviously not suited for a Monday or Tuesday puzzle; fine for Thursday and up for sure. Wednesday is on the edge.

      • Martin says:

        Never heard of a famous RUDI

        Have you truly never heard of Rudi Gernreich, or do you just not consider the inventor of the topless swimsuit acceptable fill?

  10. Tim in NYC says:

    I used to water ski a lot, so am very familiar with the wakes of motorboats. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard them related to a ROOSTER TAIL.

  11. Mark McClain says:

    LAT – Thanks, Gareth for the 3.5 stars on this one. Don’t think the B – B movie thing had been done before . . . maybe someday editors will start knocking out file extensions, but so far they’re cool. The name is McClain, with 2 c’s. Cheers.

Comments are closed.