This week’s AV Club is from Brendan Emmet Quigley and features a meta contest. We’ll have the review for this puzzle up after the deadline for that has closed.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
You will notice that my grid has the little marks that show I checked the solution. I went over it and over it and couldn’t find a mistake, so I checked it. All the theme answers had one wrong letter. I revealed one of them and it turns out that they wanted the wrong letter…so my grid was actually correct. I’ll explain more below. I left the timer running while I did all that, which is why I’m putting this as untimed.
So what’s the theme? 17a [Tomorrow, in 43-Down] gives us a start. The answer is MAÑANA, crossing PIÑATAS at 2d for [They’re broken at parties]. Hmm. What else do we have?
- 18a [Mexican president Enrique] PEÑA NIETO crossing 7d [Bathrooms, in 43-Down], BAÑOS. Here we go again with 43D.
- 37a [Drink often served with a miniature umbrella] is PIÑA COLADA, which is the reason we have a 16×15 grid. Our 43D cross-reference is AÑO.
- 60a [Peppers milder than habaneros] are JALAPEÑOS, crossing SEÑOR for 53d [Mister, in 43-Down].
- Finally, we get to 43d [Language that utilizes the letter “ñ”] which is, of course, SPANISH. Our last cross-referenced theme answer is 44d [43-Down, in 43-Down], which is ESPAÑOL. This crosses EL NIÑO, which frequently shows up in crosswords, but not usually as a theme answer.
All the theme answers are in Spanish, and all of them have an ñ. Apparently it is possible to enter the ñ correctly on the Android apps, but not on the NYT applet and not in my solving software. The software should accept N, but apparently wanted ã instead – see the revealed square in 34 D on my grid. I hope that will be corrected by the time many of you do the puzzle. Those of you who solve on paper, of course, will not have any such issue.
Technical difficulties aside, this is a very cool theme. I am not usually a fan of cross-references, but here it adds to the fun, especially since all the cross-referenced clues are the downs. Nice touch. We get two crosswordese answers worked into the theme (AÑO and the aforementioned EL NIÑO) which I find amusing. SEÑOR is also a common entry. Using the ñ as the linchpin of the theme is elegant. I really liked this puzzle.
A few other things:
- 13a [Result of a sock in the eye] is a SHINER. Good old slang. No fun to experience.
- At first, I read 8d [Tuned too high] as “turned” and tried to enter “loud.” The correct answer is SHARP.
- 28a [Persona ___ (welcome guest)] is GRATA, which I have never heard. It was not hard to figure out, since PERSONA NON GRATA is well-known, and I suspect Alex and Will were trying to avoid it. A Google search for “PERSONA GRATA” turns up mostly definitions on the first two pages.
- Shout to Erin at 29a with [1987-94 “Star Trek” series, briefly]. It’s TNG, or The Next Generation. Make it so.
- It’s coming up on prom season around here, so 66a [Attaches, as a carnation] seemed very appropriate to me. The answer is PINS ON, although if Emma gets a corsage for prom, she will not be able to pin it on The Dress.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that [Forrest Gump’s C.O.] was LT DAN. Never seen the movie.
Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Choice Words” — Jim’s review
Paolo is a relative newcomer, but he does good work. This one doesn’t disappoint.
The theme is simple—phrases of the form “x IT OR y IT”—but they’re all solid and the rest of the fill sparkles.
- 17a [ABC Family series about teen gymnasts] MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. Not familiar with the show but it seems solid enough. I lost interest in that channel when they were airing shows I didn’t want my young children watching. They eventually acknowledged this and re-branded as Freeform, whatever that means.
- 27a [Incredibly divisive] LOVE IT OR HATE IT.
- 43a [“Outta my way!”] MOVE IT OR LOSE IT. Love this one.
- 57a [Final offer words] TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. A strong finish. It’s as if our constructor is saying, “Enjoy the puzzle…or not. Makes no difference to me.”
Six squares is a lot of repetition in every theme answer, so I’m mildly surprised that this type of theme can make it to publication. But all the phrases are strong and lively which should make up for the repetitive nature of the theme.
And then there’s the great fill: BIKINI LINE, VIDEO POKER, FESTIVUS, and OPEN SEAS are your long Downs today and don’t they just shine? Plus a very nice center with a clutch of Scrabbly Zs.
Clues of note:
- 52d [Class where you’d use the SOHCAHTOA mnemonic]. TRIG. The mnemonic is a way to remember how to find the sine, cosine, and tangent of an angle. Sine equals Opposite over Hypotenuse, Cosine equals Adjacent over Hypotenuse, Tangent equals Opposite over Adjacent.
- 13d [Team with a basketball-bearing-a-B logo] NETS. The B is for Brooklyn.
- 58d [Somewhat, suffixally] ISH. Whaddya know? “Suffixally” is an actual word.
- 59d [Majors in broadcasting?] LEE. This is going back a ways—way before young Mr. Pasco’s time, I presume. LEE Majors played Steve Austin, aka The Six-Million-Dollar Man.
- 48a [Not in a private area?] AWOL. Good misdirection on this one.
Fun puzzle filled with lively phrases and snazzy fill.
Mark MacLachlan’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The puzzle is a list theme, and one that will please those who are fascinated by the quirks of language. THREESOMES is the revealer and the first and last three letters of each of four words is the same: IONizatION, ANTioxidANT, INGestING, UNDergroUND.
The clue in [*Beneficial substance in berries], ANTIOXIDANT is repeating as fact something with little evidence or plausibility; it just goes to show if you shout something loud enough it can become established as “fact”.
CONGEE is an unusual and interesting word. It doesn’t >look< appetizing.
Not a lot of truly weak entries, but both ABCD and XLVI are “rip it up and start again” bad. Both are, in truth, just strings of letters. It’s true the X??I is in place with the grid as designed, but if you are going with that, and not redesigning, soccer star XAVI would be a huge improvement, as long as the crossings are all basic answers.
NYT: I believe Ñ came originally from doubling N, which is why its presence at the intersection makes a lot of sense and adds to the elegance of the theme.
Speaka da English, please. I don’t understand Emoticon.
I don’t understand Emoticon either but I did love the puzzle because I do speak the language themed and I thought it was very clever of the constructor to find so many apt vocabulary crossings.
Erin is giving me a loving smile and a “Live Long and Prosper” salute for my Star Trek shout-out.
I haven’t been able to get to the WSJ. Is there another link?
Martin posted a link in Tuesday’s comments.
NYT: Non-theme 50a [Naps south of the border] SIESTAS, really? SPARE ME (26d). Also, crossing of 11d MUTOMBO and 35a BASSOS could easily be confused for an E. On the other hand, my unadorned Ns were accepted by the solving app (Xword), but perhaps the file’s code has been corrected since last night.
That crossing meant a DNF from me. Shouldn’t there be some indication that we are supposed to use the Italian plural BASSOS rather than good ol’ English BASSES? I sort of knew MUTOMBO, but not enough to get the vowels right (I think I had MATEMBE or something at first — I corrected the first two vowels but not the last one).
On the other hand, my ignorance of Spanish was an advantage here, since the issue of tildes or not went over my head.
I solved in Across Lite and Mr. Happy Pencil popped up with N’s in the crossing spots were a tilde should be. No problem-o. Interestingly, Across Lite indicated a rebus puzzle with symbol in the task bar. I don’t know what that is about and, like David, I don’t know what the theme is about. I don’t get what Jenni means about “cross reference”. I’m stumped but it’s no biggie. I’ll just move on to the next puzzle.
I’m stumped by the call out regarding SIESTAS, too. What’s that about?
enjoyed doing the WSJ acrosses-only and slowly unearthing those sumptuous longdowns
By the time I solved this (4/5 at about 10:30 Eastern) the online app at nytimes.com accepted ‘N’ for the theme squares.
Lovely theme. Liked this one a lot. Easy for a Wednesday.
It’s possible that it was my software that was the problem – in any case, the issue distracted me from mentioning SIESTAS, as pannonica pointed out. I meant to. Didn’t have an issue with BASSOS/MUTUMBO but that’s probably because my HS voice teacher always bellowed “BASSOS” at them.
Wow!! Huge props to Mark M. for a terrific LAT!
60A saw them last night in concert! Beatles tribute band, if ever they are near you, go see ’em, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
That 55A tho, Sweet!!
NYT: Cute theme idea… that I completely didn’t pick up on. The issue for me is that the tilde-n is usually ignored in crossword puzzles, and there is not much that forces you to not ignore it here. In fact, some of the entries are legitimate English words that have been co-opted from Spanish that we spell without the tilde (e.g., JALAPENOS and PINATAS).
By the way, count me among those who was never bothered by the tilde-N indelicacy of ANO. I understand that that means something totally different than year in Spanish. But when we transliterate things into the standard English alphabet (which we usually do in crossword puzzles) we drop the tilde from the N. If this makes the word mean something very different that looks funny to native speakers, well, that happens sometimes when you transliterate things. It’s how we end up with an NHL player whose last name is Satan.
hmm does it “look funny” or does it “not pass the breakfast test” though
There’s some near-analogues of this phenomenon among English entries, also. STD appears and is clued as an abbr. for “standard” when I think most English-speaking adults, just looking at the grid, would think it doesn’t pass the breakfast test. Similar story with HEP in my opinion; outside crosswords in my experience this is almost always followed by C (or A or B). I imagine it’s pretty rare for people to spend time examining clue-less grids, so whether these entries bother people in a breakfast test-failure sense seems it will vary depending on how readily they make the associations themselves, from clues to entries to other words that are spelled the same as those entries.
I don’t especially have an opinion about how likely this is to happen, or whether these entries are worth avoiding (they don’t bother me personally, but not a lot that isn’t specifically discriminatory / triggering does), just an observation.
Good point. Since I don’t speak Spanish very well (at all), I’m sure I’m less bothered by it than somebody who does.
Also, I’m probably influenced by the fact that ANO is so useful in constructing, and I hate partials (A NO, AN O), so I want ANO to be legit.