Wednesday, April 12, 2017

AV Club 8:28 (Ben) 


LAT 5:04 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:21 (Ade) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Ade’s write-up

New York Times crossword solution, Wed. April 12, 2017

*Taps microphone.* Is this thing on?!?!?!?

Hello there, my fellow crossword friends! How are you today? This is Ade, rising from the crossword puzzle ashes to pinch-hit for Jenni in talking about today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Emily Carroll. The grid features circles on each end of each theme entry, which, when filled in and put together, happen to form the last names of famous people with the first name of “Bill.” The fifth theme entry, SPLIT THE BILL, acts as the reveal (54A: [Go Dutch…or a hint to 20-, 28-, 37- and 44-Across]).

  • GUESSTIMATES (20A: [Ballpark figures]) – Bill Gates.
  • HOME INVADER (28A: [Unwanted guest]) – Bill Hader.
  • WALL STREET CRASH (37A: [Black Tuesday event]) – Bill Walsh. If you don’t know who Bill Walsh was, then the sports reporter in me has to say “shame on you!” The crossword lover in me will politely tell you that he was the great head football coach of the San Francisco 49ers who led the franchise to three Super Bowl wins in the 1980s (XVI, XIX, XXIII) and is known as the person who perfected the West Coast Offense, a strategy of offensive football which relies on a series of short to intermediate passes.
  • MARX BROTHER (44A: [Any one of the stars of “Duck Soup”]) – Bill Maher. I’m sure you all know who Bill Maher is.

Let me tell you a true, funny and somewhat heart-breaking story. In seventh grade,
I participated in the school spelling bee at St. Rita Elementary School in Brooklyn (now closed), and I ended up finishing second place overall. The person who ended up winning, Tiffany McGuire, and I went into, I guess, overtime, as she and I spelled words well past the projected time to have the competition end. One of our teachers/hosts announced that she and I would get one more word to spell, and if we both got it right, we would be co-winners. I went first. The word I got? DYNAMITE (8A: [“Awesome!”]).

I spelled it wrong.

I #$@$!# spelled “dynamite” wrong!!! What?!?!

Because I had watched Good Times in syndication over and over again when growing up, I spelled it the way Jimmie Walker would say it: dyn-o-mite. When I heard the bell ring to signify a misspelled word, and then heard Tiffany spell it right, my heart sunk. And I mean SUNK! I played it off with my friends as if it was nothing, joking that I spelled it like it sounded from Jimmie Walker’s mouth (which I did), but that moment scarred me for a long while. To this day, I avoid watching more than a couple of minutes of the Scripps National Spelling Bee because it always reminds me of my stupid, brainless gaffe back in seventh grade that cost me a spelling bee title.

You can commence laughing hysterically now.

Now that I got that out of the way, I can ask the rest of you whether you actually still use the word “dynamite” in the way that it is referenced in the clue. If someone does, then the more power to you! This was a fun grid to do, though I hesitated at MAN UP at the beginning because I thought something else might fit better than that (1A: [“Don’t be such a baby!”]). It also didn’t help that I thought about the Greek poet instead of The Simpsons character when seeing the clue for MARGE (1D: [Homer’s love]). Actually, I now just noticed that we have two animated women in the grid with the addition of WILMA (51D: [One of the Flintstones]). With Scott Pruitt now leading the EPA, I thought about different ways in how to rewrite the clue that was in the grid today (12D: [Org. concerned with ecology]). My best effort was “Org. that once gave a damn about ecology and its well-being.” You give it a try now!

Can’t say that I was too familiar with the slang for CAR SEATS, but I know I have heard that (“bucket seat”) in passing a couple of times, so I wasn’t too concerned in filling that in once the entry started to take shape (40D: [Buckets, perhaps]). As it pertains to cars, getting PORSCHES from the clue was a cinch (5D: [Cayman and Cayenne]). It doesn’t hurt that I used to – and sometimes still do – work in LIVE TV, but that’s not the reason that I liked that fill as well (9D: [Broadcast shown as it happens]). Probably my biggest gripe I have with the grid is the spelled-out “and” in ATANDT (19D: [T-Mobile rival]). I saw the “A” at the beginning and the “T” at the end and first said, “I thought I knew how to spell ‘Sprint.'” Overall, a lot of fun solving the grid, and the theme, while not complicated, was executed very nicely.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAPLE LEAF (57A: [Toronto athlete]) – When I go down to Washington D.C. on Thursday to start covering the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, guess which team I will also see up close and in person? You guessed it, the Toronto MAPLE LEAFs! One of the “Original Six” franchises in the National Hockey League, the Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup on 13 occasions, the second-most Stanley Cup victories in league history. (The Montreal Canadiens have 23 Stanley Cup victories in the NHL era.) Unfortunately, for the die-hard Leafs fans, Toronto hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967, a source of derision for many fans who just like to laugh at the Maple Leafs’ barren run. One of the great players to ever put on a Maple Leaf uniform is Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, who remains the only person in NHL history to score 10 points in a single game. On Feb. 7, 1976, he scored six goals and had four assists in an 11-4 Maple Leaf victory over the Boston Bruins.

This blog went much, MUCH longer than I had originally expected. It’s probably (definitely) because I miss being here and I love the interaction that you guys have in talking about crossword puzzles and other things on here, even if I was relatively inactive in the comments section over the years here. I really do thank you so much for your time, even if it’s not the usual incisive commentary that you’re used to on Wednesdays with Jenni. I hope to see you guys once again down the road, if you’ll all have me back.

Take care, everyone!


Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “More People” — Jim’s review

Occupations ending in an -er sound are given a rhyming comparative adjective.

WSJ – Wed, 4.12.17 – “More People” by Nancy Cole Stuart

  • 17a [Court worker who’s more playfully shy?] COYER LAWYER
  • 25a [Depot worker who’s more diminutive?] SHORTER PORTER
  • 42a [Manor worker who’s more artful?] SUBTLER BUTLER
  • 56a [Church worker who’s more unhealthy?] SICKER VICAR

I thought this was pretty cute and I appreciated the harder-to-rhyme LAWYER and the uncommon (in America) VICAR. That being said, SUBTLER BUTLER doesn’t work for me nor most of the pronunciation sites I’ve seen online which by and large use the 3-syllable pronunciation for SUBTLER. However, I’m sure I’ve heard the 2-syllable version in the past so I suppose it passes muster. But on the other hand, there is a pretty good 13-letter alternative (see my list two paragraphs down).

More subtly (see what I did there?), I appreciate that the occupations chosen aren’t ones where -er has been tacked on to a verb (as in baker, banker, painter, etc.). I don’t know why, but that makes it feel more elegant or at least consistent.

I thought this seemed like a fun idea, so I spent a few minutes looking for other potential theme entries. The search proved more difficult than I expected, but I came across several good ones: ranker banker, faker baker, elder welder, fainter painter, hipper skipper (or stripper), grayer mayor, and hotter potter. If you have any you’d like to add, post it in the comments.

Partials! A LOG, A PAIR, and ON A, along with AT A TIME which certainly feels like a partial without “one” or “one day” to lead it off. And since it’s crossing the depressing SHOOTING (50a,  [Like some pains]), I’d rather see that corner re-worked.

LESSER EVIL almost feels like a partial as well since I more often see it as “the lesser of two evils,” but it can certainly stand on its own. I like OMAR SHARIF, ASHTRAY, PUTZ, and RUN OVER (clued [Go long]), but ONE TERM, NARRATE, RE-EMERGE, and SET ASIDE are all rather ho-hum.

Michael ROOKER

There are a couple of unusual entries in the middle: 28d‘s RATTLY [Like a lemon’s engine] (which is decidedly NOT pronounced with only two syllables) and 24d‘s ROOKER [Michael of “Guardians of the Galaxy”]. I would never know this actor’s name, but I’ve certainly seen him many times over the years in many different roles.

Oh, and I like the word FLAK. How many words end in a short vowel and a K? Not many. Okay there’s trek. And Shrek. And Dalek. But how about a short A and a K? Okay, there’s Kodak and anorak. And then there’s the island of Truk although that’s debatable since the natives spell it as Chuuk. And then there’s batik and beatnik. And wok and grok and Ragnarok. You know what? I like words that end in a short vowel and a K. They’re tough, ugly, and have attitude (kinda like Michael ROOKER). They break the rules and they don’t take no lip. “Yeah, I’m going to end in a short vowel and a K. Whaddya gonna do about it?”

Clues of note:

  • 1a [Too-generous Shakespeare character]. TIMON. I’ve commented on this before in these pages. How much of a Shakespeare geek do you have to be to know the play Timon of Athens?
  • 9d [Come out of hiding]. RE-EMERGE. Shouldn’t there be an “again” at the end of that clue?
  • 32a [Flock holders]. PEWS. Did you try PENS in there at first like I did?

Overall, an enjoyable theme makes this a winner for me. Some of the fill wasn’t so sparkly, but I’m giving extra points just for the word FLAK. Whaddya gonna do about it?

Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “There Oughta Be a Law!” — Ben’s Review

After last week’s easy meta, this week’s AVCX puzzle was a nice step up, challenge-wise.  Byron Walden’s “There Oughta Be a Law!” managed to stump me on what was going on with the theme clues until I was about 2/3 of the way through the puzzle:

  • 21A: Senate bill to redo the chambers with earthtone furniture from Pier 1? (Sponsors: D-OH, R-MS) — BROWN WICKER
  • 25A: Senate bill to provide underground habitats for masked critters? (D-DE, D-MA) — COONS WARREN
  • 36A:Senate bill to formally recognize the president as distracted and incompetent?(D-RI, R-AZ)– WHITE HOUSE FLAKE
  • 43A: Senate bill to authorize FDA clinical trials of joint alternatives? (R-MO, D-MT) — BLUNT TESTER
  • 51A: Senate bill to lower the drinking age? (R-IN, R-SD) — YOUNG ROUNDS

Yes, each of these theme clues is made up of the names of two current members of Congress, which I didn’t figure out, even with the credits after each clue, until I finally cracked the one that contains my own Senator, Elizabeth Warren.

(As it turns out, if the crossword puzzle includes bills and/or laws, I have to include this clip with my review.  Government!)

I don’t know, y’all – I thought this one was just okay.  I think I’ve seen this theme before, or it at least feels like the sort of crossword that can be done on a semi-regular basis, given how senators and representatives turn over, and that takes away a certain freshness.  Luckily, there was some other fill/cluing that caught my eye this time around

  • 16A: “___ the Virgin” — JANE (this and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are the two CW shows that I always mean to come around and watch and consistently forget to check out)
  • 40A: IQ alternatives for MENSA qualification — SATS
  • 58A: Vacuum — EMPTY SPACE (this and it’s partner PEREMPTORY in the upper left were odd outliers that seemed like they should have been another theme clue’s space)
  • 59A: Luau serving — POI (A lifetime of seeing this stuff in crosswords and popular media references prepared me for it to be much more flavorful and much less grey than it actually turned out to be when I finally had it.

3/5 stars.

Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

ASTUDENTS and BVITAMINS in and I thought I was in for a dull letter progression. Turns out it’s a little more sophisticated with the other themers ABTESTING and OPIONEERS leading one to BLOODTYPE. In short, it’s a complete list theme.

The grid features laboured-over “big” corners that mostly pay off. BENNIFER is a curious entry, falling into an “uncanny valley” of recent datedness. GEORGIA / AZALEA / BEREA provide a Southern minitheme. HOTMESS is the most intriguing answer, even if its definition is rather eely.

3.75 Stars

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27 Responses to Wednesday, April 12, 2017

  1. Rsp64 says:

    Who the hell is Bill Hader?

  2. Lise says:

    Ade and Jim, fabulous reviews! How about amok – another good short vowel and a K word? Not as cool as Ragnarok, for sure.

  3. artlvr says:

    Smaller caller, fresher thresher, cuter scooter — this is addictive!

  4. pannonica says:

    PSA: Ratings have been lost to the ether as of 8am EDT. You can register your ratings anew, if you so care.

  5. JohnH says:

    For the WSJ, I actually reread Timon of Athens just a few months ago, and I also read it in my 20s. (I’m slowly getting around to rereading them all.) That was a gimme for me. ROOKER and RATTLY were not, and I didn’t like that section. (It didn’t help that I’d tried “press” instead of PLATE, but that’s my error.)

    I didn’t care for A PAIR. Doesn’t sound like a real stand-alone idiom. Indeed, I at first guessed that this was some kind of rebus puzzle, with an as yet undetermined symbol preceding PAIR. I also don’t really get AT A TIME for “in succession.” Aren’t those opposing ways of proceeding?

  6. David L says:

    A straightforward theme but a clever revealer – nice puzzle.

    I was perplexed by THRALL = “one in bondage,” but apparently the historical definition of ‘thrall’ is a noun meaning a slave or servant or suchlike. Hence the modern use of the word. But I thought this clue was an outlier in a Wednesday puzzle.

    “Some run to get into it” — I put HOUSE before SHAPE. Because I’ve spent too long in the DC area, I guess.

  7. Mark McClain says:

    NYT – When I got the first themer, I thought, “WOW – this is going to be a bookends theme where the bookend is an alternate answer to the clue!”. GUESSTIMATES and GATES both being believable answer for “Ball park figures”. Alas, it was not to be – what a theme that would be! I’ve done a couple somewhat like that but with a shorter answer hidden inside the longer answer. Oh, well. It was a fun puzzle anyway, and Bill Hader is a very funny SNL veteran and comic actor.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I’m right there with you on that one. I still really liked the puzzle, but I was very excited to see how the rest of the theme answers were going to play out. It was a bit of a let down when I got to the second one and couldn’t understand why Bill HADER would be an “Unwanted guest.” He seems like such an affable guy!

      By the way, I once submitted a “double” puzzle like this to NYT. A few of the themers:

      Al Pacino double-feature? T(H)(E)GODF(A)(T)HER
      Double-team in basketball? (N)UGG(E)(T)(S)

      I thought it was really clever, but it didn’t make the cut.

  8. Joe Pancake says:

    NYT: Liked the puzzle; loved the writeup.

  9. Jenni says:

    Thanks, Ade! You can pinch-hit for me any time. Nice job.

  10. Lorraine says:

    Loved your write up Ade! Very warm and engaging and i miss your regular “sports will make you smarter” segment. : )

    Perilous. That’s the word that haunts me (LOL). Somehow in my nerves (yes i was in the same position as you — in a “spell-off” to determine the winner), i heard “periless.” Even though, you know, there’s no “peri” you can have “less” of. Sigh. In my everyday life it’s very easy to never say the word “perilous” nor even think it. When i do come across the word I cringe. : )

    Enjoy the Stanley Cup playoffs!

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    Ade: Great write-up. But readers want to know: You said you can’t watch more than a few minutes of the National Spelling Bee, but how are you with Good Times?

    I was one of the finalists at my school spelling bee in seventh grade, too. I think the teacher wanted me to win because I can still see her look of disappointment when I goofed up (can’t remember the word). My daughter won her school spelling bee, but she fell to ersatz at the regionals. Ah well.

  12. DJ says:

    Re: NYT – would anyone who is a) under 40 and b) not a sports fan know who Bill Walsh was?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      If they live in NoCal, probably. He was still an advertising icon for years after he retired from coaching – same as Bill Parcells around NJ.

  13. Gareth says:

    I’ll accept your shame, provided you can tell me of your love of Bob Woolmer…

  14. Steve Manion. says:

    Fun puzzle and superb write-up.

    When I was in 5th grade, 6th and 7th grade, I won the spelling bee each year (beating older students) but lost in the regionals. In the eighth grade, I lost in a spell-off with one of my lifelong friends, but because we had tied at the end of regulation, we both got to represent the school in the regionals. I was really prepared, but Ade’s column reminded me that I am still angry at the format in the regionals. Instead of a spelling bee, we got a two page document with 50 sentences and had to find all the misspelled words and spell them correctly. There were at least 10 British spellings (favour–is that right or wrong?), but what annoyed me the most was the dependency on vocabulary as much as spelling. My father looked at me with that your not as smart as you think you are look when I asked him if UNINDATED was spelled correctly and what did it mean. For years after that, he would ask me if I was flooded with work.


  15. maura daly says:

    Loved the spelling bee references. I went down on absorbent. Put in a A instead of E. Cringed at paper towel ads for a while there.

    Ade, nice to have you back. I miss your blogging, and, truth to tell, I miss CrossSynergy.

  16. Thank you for your kind words, everyone! Absolutely warms my heart to see so many people a) reply in general, and b) reply with their own stories of spelling bees of yesteryear – and especially from those who literally experienced the same thing that I did way back when. It’s crazy how those unintended consequences can arise from a misspelled word, albeit on a very public stage. Belated congratulations to those who won their spelling bees as well!

    Jim: After this, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for an episode of Good Times in the very, very near future!

  17. Nene says:

    Dear Amy,
    Please don’t invite ADE to fill in on this blog. It’s one thing to drop an anecdote, but when 90% of the blog is personal I think one is going too far.

  18. Armagh says:

    RE: ACV
    Do we really need a puzzle that focuses on the aggregation of idiots in Washington D.C.?

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