Monday, March 20, 2017

BEQ 16:05 (Jenni) 


LAT 3:34 (Amy) 


NYT 2:59 (Amy)  


WSJ untimed (Jim)  


Neil deGrasse Tyson and Andrea Carla Michaels’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 20 17, no 0320

The newest in the series of celebrity constructor partnerships features astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the theme seems right up his alley. The theme answers are various celestial bodies and entities, clued as if they’ve got nothing to do with astronomy:

  • 20a. [Toe testing the waters?], LITTLE DIPPER. I might’ve gone with an inadequately sized spoon in a punch bowl or soup tureen.
  • 24a. [ExxonMobil?], GAS GIANT. With ExxonMobil in the news of late (Russia! Tillerson!), I might have preferred a [BP or Shell?] clue, though certainly the company in the clue can’t be confused with anything else.
  • 37a. [Oscar nominees’ gathering?], STAR CLUSTER. I’m envisioning that group selfie with past Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres with Lupita Nyong’o et al.
  • 52a. [Bashful?], RED DWARF. Snow White’s housemate who was perhaps prone to blushing.
  • 57a. [Total hottie?], HEAVENLY BODY. No, the total hottie has a heavenly body, you don’t say that they are a heavenly body. [What a total hottie has?] is not as crisp but it feels more workable to me.

I like the theme concept—it feels fresh. I’m not convinced that HEAVENLY BODY is a term used in astronomy, but maybe it is. Ask Dr. Tyson—he’s the one with four degrees in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, not me.

Six more things:

  • 63a. [“Me as well”], “I, TOO.” This could also have referenced the Langston Hughes poem. “Besides, /  They’ll see how beautiful I am / And be ashamed— / I, too, am America.”
  • 1d. [Wore an upside-down frown], SMILED. Cute clue.
  • 8d. [E-commerce site formerly owned by eBay], PAYPAL. Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I feel like PayPal facilitates the use of e-commerce sites by offering ways to move money around, but that e-commerce connotes the buying and selling of goods and services. PayPal is selling only the movement of money, no?
  • 21d. [“The Scales” constellation], LIBRA. Bonus astronomy with a hint of astrology! (Sorry, Neil.)
  • 40d. [Having an aftertaste, as some barbecue sauce], TANGY. Say what? Tanginess is about having a certain bite to it, not about the flavor lingering after you’ve swallowed the food.
  • 45d. [140-character messages], TWEETS. Here’s the @neiltyson Twitter page. A couple weeks ago, he tweeted this: “If one evening you feel sad enough to cry, look up. Your tears will not fall and the starry night may bring joy to your soul.” That only works, this cynic points on, if it’s not a cloudy night. And if you live in a bright city, you won’t see many of the stars in the firmament.

The fill is smooth and while the RED DWARF, STAR CLUSTER, and GAS GIANT are rather scientific, the puzzle feels pretty darned accessible. Four stars from me.

Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 3 20 17

Bruce takes a different angle from the usual “first or last word in each theme answer can precede/follow X” theme by making the key words part of longer words rather than stand-alone units of meaning. The GRAND FINALE revealer (59a. [Climactic show ending, and a literal hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]) points to the way the circled words can be “finales” that follow the word GRAND:

  • 17a. [Change one’s route to avoid heavy traffic, say], TAKE A DETOUR. Grand tour.
  • 23a. [Likely successor to the throne], HEIR APPARENT. Grandparent.
  • 37a. [“You’re confusing me”], I DON’T UNDERSTAND. Grandstand.
  • 48a. [Sprained ankle, often], SPORTS INJURY. Grand jury.

I like this riff on an all-too-common theme variety, and I like that the “grand___” terms are evenly split between one- and two-word phrases.

POOL NOODLE and HUNGER PANG are colorful 10s in the fill, and they offset the unsavoriness of a singular DRIB. (Too many constructors fall back on the DRIB. Don’t do it!)

HUNGER PANG reminds me that I’m hungry for lunch—which I will be having with Team Fiend’s own Adesina Koiki! He’s been in town to cover the Milwaukee venue of March Madness, and we’re heading to a Costa Rican restaurant called Irazu (named after the volcano). Bon appétit!

Four stars from me.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inside Joke” — Jim’s review

The title had me thinking HAHA would be hidden in various phrases, until I uncovered 52a [Texting “ha-ha!”]. I wasn’t far off, though. 56d says we’re looking for GAG.

WSJ – Mon, 3.20.17 – “Inside Jokes” by Dan Fisher (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [18 years, in the U.S.] VOTING AGE
  • 26a [Concert arranger] BOOKING AGENT
  • 41a [Relatively recently] NOT SO LONG AGO
  • 54a [T. Rex song subtitled “Get It On”] BANG A GONG

This puzzle was late in posting, so I didn’t solve it until after I’d done the NYT. While that one felt fresh and clean and fun, this one, well, didn’t.

Perhaps I’ve had enough of the “Inside X” trope, since there really is no wordplay about it. If what’s hidden inside is different in each themer (if say, in addition to GAG we also had JEST, PUN, and QUIP, say) then that would feel more varied and interesting.

GAGging with a spoon

Still, at 74 words, there’s some impressive fill here: KARAOKE BAR, HARD SELLS, and BOATSWAIN. And certainly that huge swath of white space from NE to SW is striking to behold. However, it results in some tough-for-Monday fill like TIGON and the ORRIN/ORKIN/ORLON triumvirate.

Overall, the fill is mostly good here, but the theme feels tired to me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “You’re Solving….With What?” — Jenni’s review

Brendan is getting us ready for ACPT this weekend by re-running some of his previous tournament puzzles, so we don’t have a themeless this week.

I’m not sure what the title has to do with the theme. Someone will undoubtedly enlighten me in comments. This is why you’ll never see me up on the stage. Was this a Puzzle 5?

BEQ 3/20 puzzle, solution grid

  • The first pair of theme answers are 19a [Go, with 76-Across]. 19a is CONFORM. 76a is THE FLOW. Go with THE FLOW is a loose synonym for CONFORM. We’re being literal here. We don’t put 19a and 76a together to get the answer; we use 76a to fill in the blank in the clue for 19a.
  • 20a [Damn, with 52-Across] is PATRONIZE; 52a is FAINT PRAISE. Damn with FAINT PRAISEPATRONIZE.
  • 27a [Handle, with 74-Across]. 74a is KID GLOVES. Handle with KID GLOVES gives us USE GREAT CARE for 27a.
  • 41a [Pass, with 61-Across] decodes to “pass with FLYING COLORS,” or SAIL THROUGH.

It took me a while to unravel the theme, and then I got bogged down with some of the fill. ISTLE at 10d for [Cord fiber] crossing 17a [“Exceed Your Vision” sloganeer] just did not look right to me. The “sloganeer” is EPSON. I also struggled with 73d [Mr. T’s last name], which is TERO. Who knew? I always thought it was T.

A few more things:

  • 4d [Lowland created by platetechtonics] stopped me in my tracks; I wasn’t sure if that was a typo or a theme entry. It’s a typo; the answer is RIFT VALLEY. Living with a geologist for 35 years gives me some advantages.
  • We get more geology at 71a [Time it takes mountains to form] which is AEONS. Subduction leads to orogeny.
  • Obscurities: SLAV defense in chess, ANTAE in temples, the aforementioned ISTLE, and a weird abbreviation for [N.C.’s capital] – RAL.
  • Names: William HANNA (of Hanna and Barbera, creators of Yogi Bear and Tom and Jerry), Curtis SLIWASUZIE Templeton, Buck OWENS, Buck ONEIL, the above-mentioned Mr TEROAILEEN Stanley (apparently a “1920’s singer known as  the Phonograph Girl”).
  • Could have been clued as a name: RAINS. Instead of invoking Claude, Brendan makes it easier on us; it’s [Wet season].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Mr T and AILEEN Stanley. I also did not know that J. Willard Marriott came from Utah. Come to think of it, I didn’t know his name was J. Willard.

See you in Stamford!

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18 Responses to Monday, March 20, 2017

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: awesome puzzle! A little science, a little whimsy, a lot of smoothness…and stargazing! what’s not to love?

  2. Martin says:

    It’s about two hours past when the WSJ crossword is supposed to be posted and it’s not there. Lately it’s been pretty unpredictable. My new hack is to let the conversion script run hourly for six hours beginning at the official release time, until it finds the day’s crossword.

    I’ve had a long day so I’m heading off to sleep. If the puzzle is there in the morning, Litz-o-matic worked. If not, I’ll look into it when I’m up.

  3. pauer says:

    80 words? Well, I never!

    Just kidding (I have). Fun puzzle, ACME and NDT. See you this weekend, Andrea!

  4. Norm says:

    Technical question. When the WSJ puzzle is not available in puz format [bless you for doing that, by that way], I resign myself to the Java version. But lately it insists on thinking my computer is a phone and gives me the on-screen keyboard. Can’t figure out how to make that go away. Anyone have any ideas?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Since I’m usually trying to solve the puzzle as soon it’s published (i.e. before the .puz file gets posted), I usually use their online version, but I have not experienced the same problem you’re having. Perhaps it’s the browser you’re using? Unfortunately, I don’t see any setting which could be used to change the format.

      • Norm says:

        Same browser that I’ve used since forever. Thanks. Reassuring to know that I haven’t missed something obvious.

  5. Ethan says:

    The NYT was charmingly corny. That HEAVENLY BODY pun is something straight off the cover of an Archie comic.
    Veronica (bent over looking at night sky through telescope): Oh Archie, don’t you just love looking at heavenly bodies?
    Archie (winking and giving us the thumbs up): Sure do, Ronnie!

  6. Martin says:

    WSJ is up now.

  7. austin says:

    I was not prepared for BEQ to drop an ACPT #5 today. I need to limber up before I try to tackle that one.

  8. Matt Kelly says:

    Alternate clue/entry for the NYT:

    [Chairman Mao?] for RED GIANT.

  9. k c anderson says:

    Here’s wiki on Mr. T:

    Born: May 21, 1952 (age 64 years), Chicago, IL
    Height: 5′ 10″
    Full name: Laurence Tureaud

    Couldn’t reference the Tero.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’ve never seen Tureaud before and have long known his non-stage name to be Lawrence Tero. The first footnote in Wikipedia (gotta check the sources!) cites his autobiography: “The name that appeared on my birth certificate was Lawrence Tureaud (my father later changed it to Lawrence Tero).” He likely wasn’t going by Tureaud when he adopted the stage name of Mr. T.

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