Wednesday, May 10, 2017

AV Club 10:05 (Ben) 


LAT 3:03 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:10 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


People! There’s less than a month to go till the Indie 500 crossword tournament in Washington, D.C. It takes place on Saturday, June 3, from mid-morning to late afternoon. The puzzles are uniformly terrific every year, it’s a great event, and there are amazing miniature pies that are so small, you can have a few different kinds of pie without sacrificing your dietary virtue. The Indie 500 is held on the campus of George Washington University, in the Foggy Bottom area of D.C. (I really go just so I have a reason to say “Foggy Bottom.” Well, plus the crosswords. The wonderful people. The tiny pies.) Oh! And the constructor line-up’s a good one: Andy Kravis, Angela Olson Halsted, Erik Agard, Neville Fogarty, Tracy Bennett, Paolo Pasco, and (new to me) Allegra Kuney.—Amy

Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Today’s puzzle gives us a visual representation of a common backyard sport – at least it was a common backyard sport in my neighborhood growing up.

We start right off with the theme at 1a [Something needed to play the game depicted in this puzzle], which turns out to be RACKET. Then we have 7a [Starts the game depicted in this puzzle], which is SERVES. I thought we were talking about tennis; then I started filling in the circled clues.

NYT 5/10, solution grid

  • 17a [Avoid a beanball, maybe] is DUCK.
  • 24a [Boast] is CROW. With that, I knew what sport we were looking for.
  • 38a [Wacko] is LOON.
  • 43a [Toy on a string] is KITE
  • 51a [Slow-witted sort] is a DODO
  • 59a [Ice cream bar brand] is DOVE.

Two more theme answers anchor the bottom of the puzzle:

  • 71a [Call after the 72-Across crosses the 16-Down seven times and lands here] is ITS OUT.
  • 72a [Something needed to play the game depicted in this puzzle … or a hint to the six circled answers] is, of course, BIRDIE.

And finally, 26d, neatly splitting the puzzle in half, is the final revealer: 16d [Divider in this puzzle’s game] and that is, as you’ve no doubt deduced, BADMINTON NET. I like this theme. We have six different birds plus the visual aspect with the net going down the middle and the volleying finally ending with 71a. I especially enjoyed having a game of badminton that didn’t require someone getting a ladder to get the birdie off the roof of the house.

Cramming that much theme into an unusual grid requires a fair number of crosswordese 3-letter answers: IDI, PES, CTA, ENC, AIL, OSS, NAS, and my least favorite, the partial ON A. I liked the theme enough that I didn’t mind them overly much.

A few other things:

  • 13a [Suzuki with his first name on his jersey] is ICHIRO. It was quite the furor when he came over from Japan and asked for his first name. No one had ever done that before and baseball is, of course, a game of tradition. That’s why we have the DH and relief specialists and instant replay. Tradition.
  • 80s movie reference! 9d [“Footloose” hero ___ McCormack] instead of Kylo REN.
  • 28a is [Meat in a classic Monty Python skit]. Sing it with me now: lovely SPAM.
  • 39d [Tsunami cause] is SEISM. The last time I ran across this word in a grid I asked my resident geologist if it was really used. He said yes, but usually as “microseism.” I have lived with him for 35 years and gone to a lot of geologist parties in earthquake country and never heard it used in conversation.
  • 69a [Facetious subject of many articles in The Onion] is AREA MAN. That made me giggle. Enjoy (NSFW).

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Ed ASNEwon seven Emmys. I knew that he was the only actor to win a comedy Emmy and drama Emmy for the same role, and I knew he won an Emmy for ROOTS but I didn’t know the final count was seven.

I leave you with badminton that doesn’t look anything like our old backyard game.

Aaron L. Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ordered Headlines” — Jim’s review

Our theme today: Two-word phrases, in which the second word ends in the -ord sound, have that second word replaced with a homophone.

WSJ – Wed, 5.10.17 – “Ordered Headlines” by Aaron L. Peterson (Mike Shenk)

  • 19a [“Building Addition Is Gutted for Renovation”] EXTENSION CORED. …cord. I had GORED at first.
  • 23a [“Panini Found to Be Completely Bland”] SANDWICH BORED. …board.
  • 40a [“Horse Soldiers Transported by Air Force”] CAVALRY SOARED. …sword. The O (crossing OLAND) was the very last letter I put in the grid and I had to run the alphabet to get it.
  • 45a [“Surgeons and Nurses Clashed With Administrators”] HOSPITAL WARRED. …ward.

I like how each base word (cord, board, etc.) is spelled differently to get the same sound. It would have been a touch more elegant if all the modified phrases had the same feature (instead we get two -ORED words).

I’m still trying to makes sense of the title. Is there some play on the word “Ordered” going on? Something to do with the fact that the changed words all have the “-ord” sound but are changed to include the “r-e-d” ending? I’m not sure; grasping at straws here. If you have any insights, let me know.

I really struggled with CAVALRY SOARED. I don’t think I ever heard that phrase before, and Google Ngram Viewer backs me up. I’ve only ever seen it referred to as a “saber” (or “sabre”). It sure didn’t help that the letter in question was crossing an unusual proper name.

Speaking of which, there are a number of toughies in this grid. In addition to OLAND [Warner who played Charlie Chan], there’s [Long-distance runner Zatopek] EMIL, [“A Passage to India” heroine”] ADELA, and [“Our Lady of the Flowers” author] GENET. I didn’t have any problem with [Rutger of “Blade Runner”] HAUER, but some people might. And I’m not counting AGNEW or KLEE, because those are names you should know. But the rest? Yeesh. I think it got to be a little much.

A couple more frowny-face words: RIVE and VETOER.

But I do like HARD ROCK (as an entry—as a genre, not so much) and “WANNA BET?” And I looove COTTON TO clued simply with a [Like]. GONE NATIVE and EXPEDITION are nice, but they have the unusual distinction of being 10-letter-long non-theme entries in the same direction as the theme entries. Maybe a little distracting, but not so much once you recognize the headlinish clues that mark the theme entries.

Overall, some decent wordplay here, but I wish some of the proper names could’ve been smoothed out. They got in the way a little bit.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Unfinished Business” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX puzzle is all about “Unfinished Business”, which worked out exactly how I thought it would after reading the first clue and IMMEDIATELY needing lots of downs:

  • 19A: Kids’ book about, er, a plush toy Talmudic scholar that the grandma gives to the boy and then … give me a break, OK, it was 35 pages? —  THE VELVETEEN RABBI
  • 35A: Alright, so, Henry James, character study of a family, maybe somebody gives somebody else a present in heavy, expensive wrapping? — THE GOLDEN BOW
  • 58A: I got through some of this … Murakami just LOVES Vikings and fjords and “The Scream”?– NORWEGIAN WOO
  • 78A: Early Orwell book, gonna say it’s all about the author’s quest to find the best dessert in working-class England? — THE ROAD TO WIGAN PIE
  • 87A: Shorthand when you can’t get through the whole text, and what the omissions from this puzzle’s theme answers yield — TLDR 

Oh, man, having the revealer right in the last across clue was really satisfying, y’all.  These were some delightful revealers, and I legitimately grinned at getting THE VELVETEEN RABBI.  The rest of the books here don’t feel quite as well known (I’m a voracious reader and none of the other 3 have been on my reading list, much less crossed off it), but seem clued well enough that you could confirm when you had the right book.

Other things I liked: FX’s ATLANTA getting a shout out (it’s so good, y’all.), SONIC waves and booms, no DANA (only Zuul), TESLAS, Mark RONSON being credited for “Uptown Funk” (Bruno Mars is just the featured artist!  This concludes today’s Music Pedantry Corner)

4.25/5 stars.

Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I bet crossword constructor and sled dog enthusiast Loren Muse Smith wishes she made this puzzle! The revealer is LEADDOGS and the two-part “words that precede” theme is based on “dog”. So: UNDER(DOG)ATTACK(DOG); not a fan of the connotations of attack dog… STATE(DOG)POLICE(DOG); 12 US States have state dogs… HOT(DOG)WATER(DOG); RED(DOG)GUARD(DOG); guard dog / attack dog – very similar concepts. I’m also not sure what a red dog is, outside of Clifford… WILD(DOG)FIRE(DOG).

Not much more I’d like to say: REDGUARD , ANG/LEE and YANG provided a Chinese mini-theme. I also think SIMOLEON is just an incredibly fun word to say, even if it is done so rarely…

3 Stars

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19 Responses to Wednesday, May 10, 2017

  1. e.a. says:

    was about to comment “name a more iconic duo than davidson & burnikel i’ll wait” then realized i commented exactly the same thing exactly one month ago

  2. GlennP says:

    I can’t download the .puz version of the WSJ puzzle this morning. Is there a problem?

  3. dook says:

    Is the elevated train in Chicago referred to as the “L” or the “El”? Given that is a shortened version of elevated, I assumed the latter. The “L” train is in New York, leading to MTA, not CTA. Annoying trick.

    • Norm says:

      We always called it the El back in the 70s, but the CTA appears to have made L the official designation.

  4. David L says:

    I used to play badminton at school in England — it’s a great game and very physically strenuous if done well. But I’d never heard of the term ‘birdie’ until I came to the US. It was always shuttlecock or shuttle.

    I go with RACKET as the standard spelling for the thing you bash the birdie with, but the preferred American spelling seems to be RACQUET. No idea why.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      Actually according to grammarist, RACKET preference is strongest in the US:

      • David L says:

        Interesting — I also played squash and in the US racquet seemed to be the preference for that sport (also racquetball rather than racketball).

    • JohnH says:

      Both MW11C and RHUD prefer RACKET as well. I’d have said that it’s U.S. usage myself.

      On WSJ, I did run into difficulty with HUEYS / HAUER but guessed OK. GENET was a gimme for me, as was OLAND, the latter through crosswords.

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    BTW the badminton video you posted is blocked by the IOC from embedded playing; you have to go to YouTube.

  6. Steve Manion. says:

    I have always said RACQUET, primarily because of RACQUETBALL.

    When we think of “dirty” sports, I think that number one on most people’s list would be cycling or maybe weightlifting. Certainly not badminton:

    Fun, easy puzzle.


  7. Lise says:

    Terrific AVCXword! The theme entries were excellent all by themselves, but the revealer added a level of cleverness, and it made me laugh. Thanks!

  8. Bruce N Morton says:

    Does TLDR mean something? Is it an acronym, an abbreviation? What’s going on?

  9. Bruce N Morton says:

    Thanks, Meg. I’ve never seen nor heard of that abbreviation.

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