Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AV Club 9:45 (Ben) 


LAT 3:57 (Gareth) 


NYT  4:10 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Yawn. I had about three hours of fractured sleep last night and drove all over three counties for work today, and had choir rehearsal. This will be short.

This is a quip puzzle. I am not particularly fond of quip puzzles unless the quip is REALLY funny. This one is a little bit funny. (I realize that’s a judgment call; I’m the one making the judgment. Feel free to make your own). Since the punchline was obvious (at least to me) it made the puzzle easier than I would prefer a Wednesday to be. So not my favorite. Let’s get to the quip.

5/3 NYT puzzle, solution grid

  • 20a is the first part: [Start of a punny quip about two professionals] and the answer is WHEN A DENTIST. We go on to
  • 28a AND A MANICURIST NOTE: As someone pointed out in comments, this is not what the puzzle says. The puzzle says “AND MANICURIST,” which makes it sound as if the dentist and the manicurist are the same person. In my sleep-deprived state, I read right over that. Thank you, commenter-I-don’t-know.
  • 38a ARGUE
  • 53a was the one I filled in without any crossings: TOOTH AND NAIL.

Get it? Dentist and manicurist? Tooth and nail?


A few other things:

  • The long non-theme Down answers are TICKET TAKER and POLE VAULTER. Both perform a valuable service.
  • 19d [Crosses off] is XS OUT. That just looks wrong; it seems like it should have an E in it somewhere, although XES OUT doesn’t look right either.
  • We get ELIHU Yale and EZRA Cornell. John Harvard, Nicholas Brown and William Penn are filing a grievance.
  • SARAH Silverman would undoubtedly make a joke about the fact that her name crosses SECTS  and IM HOT.
  • 43d [Pre-Easter purchase] is EGG DYE. Is that what you call it? Serious question. “Hey, hon, while you’re at the store, would you pick up some egg dye?” I’ve never dyed. Enlighten me.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that PRAVDA was founded in 1912.

And to all a good night.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Preposition Players” — Jim’s review

Existing two-word names and phrases are re-parsed to humorous effect. Each entry’s first word/name ends in a different preposition which is separated out, thus creating a three-word phrase.

WSJ – Wed, 5.3.17 – “Preposition Players” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [Water resistance?] DRAG ON BOATS. Dragonboats. Yup, I suppose that’s true.
  • 11d [Area full of illegally parked cars?] LOT TO TICKET. Lotto ticket.
  • 25d [Jousting feint?] BOB BY KNIGHT. Bobby Knight (college basketball coach). This one is the most awkward.
  • 53a [Emulated a Roman senator?] SAT IN SHEETS. Satin sheets. I like this one best. It also occurred to me that its spoonerized form might nonsensically answer the same clue: SHAT IN SEATS.

Good solid wordplay here, and I like the fact that each one uses a different preposition, adding to the variety. Some don’t work as well as others, but my sense is that it can’t have been easy to come up with a viable theme set for this.

The vast majority of the fill is really nice. The longest bits of fill are NIGERIA, PANDEMIC, DESIGNER, ESPRESSO, SET LISTS, and SISTERS. That’s some nice stuff. But there’s also a lot of sparkly mid-length fill: CATNAP, MILTON, GABRIEL, PAGE ONE, SONNET, SCATTER, KATANA, VANILLA, ADONIS, and ANTMAN are my favorites.

However, there are a couple thorny areas. Up north, ZINE [Enthusiast’s pub] crosses PIA [___ mater (brain membrane)]. I still had no idea what the first one was referring to until just now. Here, “pub” is short for publication. This is much too confusing when you’re given a tough crossing. This section could easily be fixed with CLAD and LONE in place of IPAD and ZINE (giving CLOD and LOA in the Down direction).

The other area is tougher to fix. 42a‘s SKUA is apparently a [Gull’s cousin]. Yikes; I don’t think that one’s in my memory banks anywhere. But that K is part of a theme answer, so it’s fixed in place. There’s also an unfortunate plural name in that area (ERICS). No easy fix comes to mind, so for me, this is a good candidate for a cheater square. I’d try putting one where the S is in ERICS and seeing if any good would come of it.

Finally, SIR KAY raised my eyebrows for a bit until I could parse it correctly and realize the clue was referring to King Arthur.

There was one tough, but good clue of note: 30a [Set sibling] is ISIS. I found the clue somewhat distracting since the entry SET LISTS is nearby, but it is a very good clue. Set is the ancient Egyptian god of storms, desert, evil, war, chaos, etc. And how’s this for a dysfunctional family? Set marries sister Nephthys. Brother Osiris marries other sister Isis. Set murders and mutilates Osiris. Isis re-assembles Osiris long enough for them to conceive son Horus (fun!) who then seeks revenge on Set. How is this not an HBO series yet?!

Overall, this is a nice grid with a solid theme and really lovely fill.

Laura Braunstein’s AVCX crossword, “Museum Closings” — Ben’s Review

New constructor alert!  This week’s AVCX puzzle is the constructing debut of Laura Braunstein, who I know from seeing on Crossword Twitter occasionally.  It’s a 2/5 difficulty puzzle called “Museum Closings”, so let’s dive in and see what’s going on:

  • 20A:”That expert pilot? He’s over there, near that video installation …”? —  ACE IN THE HOLZER
  • 30A:”You leave us no choice but to buy another Marilyn Monroe silkscreen …”? — THIS MEANS WARHOL
  • 40A:”We’ll eventually have an exhibit of self-portraits critiquing gender stereotypes in the adjacent gallery …”?– THAT’S FOR SHERMAN
  • 53A:Beyond the threshold of irony and self-reference, artistically, and an alternate title for this puzzle — POST-POST-MODERN 

Okay, I loved the revealer here, but I felt like the rest of the theme was underclued, particularly the artist portion.  I knew enough about contemporary art to be able to quickly pick out WARHOL, HOLZER, and SHERMAN, but I think those last two (HOLZER in particular) could be tricky if you’re not as familiar with their work. The “video installation” clue for HOLZER is a little underbaked, too – I’d a mention of the work being text-based or on an LED sign/bench rather than just “video” in order to get to the right artist starting with HOL-.

I hate to be nit-picky on a debut like this, but when the contemporary artists are a big part of the theme, it feels important to get them clued right.

Other things I liked: the band CHIC being clued, sloths with three TOES, HOT ITEM, GONZO

Other nitpicks: even if broken up, the ever-present JAI/ALAI, and other less-great fill pieces like ON AT,  YAYAS, RSVP, ATVS, etc.

Even if I felt the fill/execution could have been stronger, I really liked the concept behind this puzzle’s theme.  I look forward to your next puzzle, Laura!

3/5 stars.

Thomas Takaro’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

The central idea is a nice riff on “a words that go with both parts” theme, as the key part is two words OUTOF. So OUTOF: (WORK/SPACE), (BREATH/CONTROL), (COPYRIGHT/DATE) and (SIGHT/LINE).

The rest of the grid, well, it has some nice longer answers: IWOJIMA/DEJAVU, names VITTORIO/ANDRETTI and LEASALONGA, but the whole thing is rather clumsily executed. IWOJIMA/DEJAVU is not worth IEST/ORES/OTE/COSI/ASHOW/ITAT/MENO/IVANI – maybe one or two of those answers is acceptable, but all of them is de trop.

CKS was completely avoidable. Change TOKE to TOIL and you have CIS which is at least real. Seriously, three and four letters are part of the crossword too, and throwing high value letters at a grid isn’t worth it if it doesn’t create more interesting answers!

2 Stars

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19 Responses to Wednesday, May 3, 2017

  1. RP64 says:

    My biggest issue with the NYT theme was accidentally (I think) corrected in the write up. There should be an “a” prior to manicurist, but it is missing in the puzzle. The way it is presented in the puzzle, it sounds like the dentist and the manicurist are the same person.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Oops. You are correct on both counts and I read right over it in my sleep-deprived state. Will edit the post.

  2. Nene says:

    Theme pun should be clever and substantial. This one was silly and dull. Not worthy of the Times, IMO.

    • Bruce N Morton says:

      I had the same issue as others over the missing indefinite article. I thought the quip was moderately clever and amusing, invoking, as it does both the literal and the figurative senses of “tooth and nail.”

  3. Jim Q says:

    Don’t think I’ve seen EGG DYE as an answer before… but my mind is blown that it is in the both the A/V and the NYT today IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT. I really want to talk with my co-workers about this, but I don’t think anyone understands here.

    • Tracy B says:

      I sometimes think puzzle synchronicities hint at glitches the matrix.

    • Dave says:

      I had the identical reaction. That’s why I read comments once in a while.

      • Laura B says:

        For the record, I put that grid together about a month ago, right before Easter, when there actually were EGGDYES in the grocery store. So I was also somewhat stunned to see EGGDYE (singular, w cheater square) this morning in the NYT. Several possibilities: there is nothing new under the sun, there’s some kind of meta that I didn’t know about, or we were just using similar dictionaries.

    • Glenn (the other one) says:

      The Universal Conspiracy of Crossword Constructors strikes again!

      The repetition of non-filler words happens more frequently than not, I’ve noticed.

  4. John Waters says:

    I can never remember where to go on the site to see the write up of a puzzle like the Museum Closings one I just solved. I loved the puzzle

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Right here, but later on. Ben usually doesn’t get a chance to blog the puzzle early in the morning before work (who gets up early to blog crosswords? nobody), so check back in the evening.

  5. Robin M says:

    WSJ – The “Set sibling” clue really tripped me up, I couldn’t get the connection to Isis. Thanks for clearing that one up, Jim.

  6. Papa John says:

    I wish Ben had elaborated more on the theme to the AV Club puzzle. It completely eludes me.

    • pannonica says:

      You may not have noticed Ben’s HTML links to examples of each of the artists’ work. Some browsers, especially mobile devices, don’t show links as underlined text.

    • Ben Smith says:

      Thanks for pointing this out, Papa John! I meant to go back and add that after getting links in place for the artists and completely spaced on that.

      After each phrase, another phoneme has been added to turn the ending (ACE IN THE HOLE, THIS MEANS WAR, THAT’S FOR SURE) into the name of a post-modern artist (Jenny HOLZER, Andy WARHOL, and Cindy SHERMAN)

      • Norm says:

        I would have liked a fourth theme answer rather than the very blah POSTPOSTMODERN. Is Laura an art history major? This puzzle was not my cup of … anything.

        • RP64 says:

          I’m with you Norm. If you’re not into art (and I’m not), this did not hit home. Warhol was the only artist I had heard of previously.

      • Papa John says:

        Hmm…that’s pretty much what I could see in the theme. Not much and I agree with the criticism that it’s a rather arcane theme, too. Those who are keen on the NY art scene should have no trouble recognizing the artists, for others it would seem nigh impossible. I caught on to the added phoneme, but could find no connection between them, other than what’s needed to make the common phrases into puns; are the names supposed to be puns or just what you see — nonsense phrases? The SHERMAN fill doesn’t seem to agree with other two theme answers.

        I guess I was looking for more that what’s there. Solving was enjoyable, anyway.

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