Wednesday, May 17, 2017

AV Club 8:33 (Ben) 


LAT 4:29 (Gareth) 


NYT  5:17 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

The fill played like a Tuesday and the theme played like a Thursday so I suppose together they land on Wednesday. Fun puzzle!

The theme is not immediately obvious, since it seems the clues and answers don’t really have anything to do with each other.

NYT 5/17, solution grid

  • 18a [… for a loop, say / Area that an N.B.A. team has eight …] tells us something is up. It’s a two-part clue, and both parts are incomplete. The answer is DOUBLE BACK, although I initially had BUCK because they are an NBA team. Nope.
  • 23a [… seconds to clear / Successful detective’s …] turns out to be COURT CASE. That at least seems somewhat connected to “detective” but what the heck is “seconds to clear?”
  • 23a [… declaration / Critical computer …] is CLOSED CIRCUIT. Again, CIRCUIT  and computer make sense, but the rest is opaque.
  • 54a [… component / Dreaded words in a video …] is BOARD GAME. Now I’m lost. What?
  • 59a [… arcade / Knocked …] is our last theme answer, and it’s OVERSEEING. No revealer. Hmm.

Ellipses indicate an incomplete sentence. Maybe the clues concatenate in some way. Let’s see: [Area that an N.B.A. team has eight seconds to clear] is not, as I originally thought, a reference to the shot clock. In the N.B.A., the team in possession has to bring the ball out of the BACK COURT  in eight seconds or less. Ohhhh. The last word of 18a is BACK and the first word of 23a is COURT. Aha! Following this pattern, we have:

  • Successful detective’s declaration is CASE CLOSED.
  • Critical computer component is CIRCUIT BOARD.
  • Dreaded words in a video arcade is GAME OVER. And finally, connecting the bottom to the top…
  • Knocked for a loop, say is SEEING DOUBLE.

Very nice. All the phrases are solidly in the language, the theme is fun to solve and not predictable, and it was satisfying to figure out. I liked this a lot.

A few other things:

  • 11d [Gives the slip to] could always be EVADES  or ELUDES. Since I put BUCK in for 18 a at first, I had ELUDES. Turns out it’s EVADES.
  • 22a [Laughing gas and rust, for two] are, respectively, nitrous and iron OXIDES.
  • 24d [“Hello, Dolly!” singer, informally] is SATCHMO. I wonder if this puzzle was submitted before the current revival opened. Louis Armstrong sang the song in the movie; in the original Broadway production it was performed by Carol Channing.
  • 58a [Like light beers] is WATERY. I wonder if they mean “lite” rather than “light.” There are plenty of decent pale ales and lagers that are not at all watery.
  • 41a [John’s running mate in 2008] is SARAH and 36d [Nicknames for 41-Acrosses] is SADIES. I don’t generally like that kind of plural, but the vision of Sadie Palin is so funny I’ll get over it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that THAIS play elephant polo. The game seems to have a different pace than polo played with ponies.

Martin Leechman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Give It a Go” — Jim’s review

The title tells you exactly what to do: Add GO to certain phrases.

WSJ – Wed, 5.17.17 – “Give It a Go” by Martin Leechman

  • 17a [One inciting mortals in the mother of all battles?] MATERNITY WAR GOD. Maternity ward. I liked this one best. The contrast of a god who is at once motherly and bellicose is interesting. Makes me think of an angry mama bear.
  • 25a [Sergeant who barks out racial slurs?] DRILL BIGOT. Drill bit. I really don’t like this one. The clue is just too close to reality unlike the others which are fanciful. It’s certainly not funny.
  • 37a [Topic at a lexicographers’ slang symposium?] STATE OF THE ARGOT. State of the art. Had trouble thinking of “art;” my brain wanted “union.”
  • 46a [Billy who’s been bumped off?] DEAD HE-GOAT. Dead heat. Another not very fun one. I’m wondering what Evad thinks of this since he got some goats recently.
  • 59a [Two things that meet when the maid does the sink?] SPIGOT AND POLISH. Spit and polish. I’m neutral on this one.

I certainly appreciate the wordplay here, but a couple of the choices gave me negative vibes, and the others weren’t quite positive enough to offset them. And I also appreciate the amount of theme material. It’s quite high considering three of the entries are grid-spanners.

Yet even with all the theme material, we still get some nice long Downs: HERBAL TEA, SAFE ROOMS, POWER TIE, and OLD LATIN.

I took Latin in high school, and I didn’t know OLD LATIN was a thing. I thought all Latin was OLD LATIN. But apparently there’s also New Latin, Classical Latin, Medieval Latin and Vulgar Latin (which apparently is not the same as what we taught each other during after school study sessions).

There were a few things in the puzzle that irked me. The clue for POWER TIE, [Politician’s wear], assumes said politician is male; why do this? [Businessman’s accessory] would work just fine without being sexist.

CALS Ripken

And 49a‘s CALS, aside from being a plural first name, is clued as [Baseball’s Ripkens], which includes a plural last name. Technically I suppose it’s fine, but it sure made me look at it funny.

Overall, this is a finely constructed puzzle with a good theme. It’s just that a couple of the entries were downers. With as wide open a theme as this, I’m sure there are other thematic possibilities that would fit.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX crossword, “Fall Menu” — Ben’s Review

Goodness, but it’s nice when you’re just on a puzzle’s wavelength the whole way through.  After getting frustrated with processing what was going on in today’s NYT, Aimee Lucido’s AVCX this week was refreshing.  There’s a few things working together here to create what I think was a clever, creative theme.  First, some down clues:

  • 19D: New, Save, Open —  FILE
  • 26D: Undo, Copy, Paste — EDIT
  • 52D: Search, Check for Updates, Report an Issue– HELP
  • 70D: Zoom In, Zoom Out, Full Screen — VIEW

For whatever reason, I decided to start with the downs today, and immediately caught that these are all clues that lead to a specific menu that a computer program might have.  That, combined with the puzzle’s revealer (86A: “Like some menus, and what parts of this puzzle’s theme answers do” — DROP DOWN) helps crack what’s going on with the across theme clues:

  • 19A: Tender cut — F(ILE)T MIGNON
  • 25A: Chase convenience — CRE(DIT) CARD
  • 50A: Freestyler of note — MICHAEL PH(ELP)S
  • 76A: Process for a scholarly article — PEER REV(IEW)

Each menu drops down and provides part of the across answer’s letters.  As I said at the top, I thought this was creatively done and cleverly executed.

Other things I liked: Realizing that since I had half of Mario Batali’s palindromically-named OTTO, I also had the other half, NINTENDO clued as “Switch maker” (that’s their new, currently very-trick-to-find-in-stores console system), The Floor Is Made of LAVA, mistakenly putting down CERBERUS when the Chamber of Secrets in Harry Potter clearly contained a BASILISK, XANADU, remembering that JOE CAMEL used to be a thing.

4.5/5 stars.  This was fantastic! Hope you enjoyed solving it too.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Short tree words is a well-mined theme well, to mix some metaphors. That said, this version is tightly executed, with TREETOPS implying each long down answer begins with a tree. Some trees are longer than the first word in the entry, some are shorter. I particularly liked the five letter (MAP LE)GEND concealment; the rest are (ELM)ER FUDD, (PINE)AL GLAND and (FIR)E HYDRANT.

What else? SQUAREROOT is placed cleanly. It’s not the most exciting Q entry, but at least it was used judiciously. The grid generally felt made with care, though there was little to note. I have never heard of a board game called CAREERS, but that was guessable enough. As with many Wednesday LA Times’s, not a lot of notable clues either, but nothing irksome either. I do think he needs to clean out his doghouse, though!

3.5 Stars

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11 Responses to Wednesday, May 17, 2017

  1. Ethan says:

    I think the theme had promise, but it would have been more playful if more of the before & afters, well, *played* on the meanings of the middle word. I mean, in the expression CASE CLOSED, the CASE in question is a COURT CASE, isn’t it? No play on the multiple meanings of CASE. Likewise, in both CIRCUIT BOARD and BOARD GAME, BOARD means “long, flat, rectangle.” I have had many wordplay themes rejected because from base phrase to pun phrase some of the words kept the same meaning.

  2. David L says:

    I breezed through the NYT by ignoring the clues for the theme answers and plonking in familiar phrases, guided by the crosses. It took me a little while after I’d finished to make sense of it all.

    I’m feeling bad for Cheri OTERI. Seems like her only gig these days is occasional appearances in crosswords, and I don’t suppose the royalties for that amount to much. I always thought she was pretty funny — whatever happened to her?

  3. Bruce N Morton says:

    The elephant polo clip was hilarious. The attractive female cheerleaders set the mood by their slow dancing and posing. Each elephant appears to have two riders, one to swing the long polo mallet, the other to steer the elephant. The elephants have painted or chalked on identification numbers. I wonder if someone doing play by play would get excited and scream goooooooal or speak calmly and slowly.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Neat NYTheme. Tried to solve from the Downs only at first; as usual on Wednesday, didn’t come close, but got far enough to find 59A:OVERSEEING and wonder if the theme was hidden poetry (as in oVERSEeing) — which didn’t help me any. Didn’t get far enough to wonder whether 33A:THAIS would be clued as Massenet’s opera Thaïs (which would be unusual for a Wednesday). I now learn that there was also an unrelated historical woman by that name.


  5. Ethan says:

    My take on the AVCX:


    (FILE)TMIGNON raised my hopes that all the menu words would appear in food items going across. That would have a been cute tribute to the other meaning of “menu.” But I guess it wasn’t possible to find food items that worked for the other rebus entries. Bummer.

    I do not know what the connection between bachelor parties and Advil is. Is it a gross stripper thing?

    I always thought that Steve Buscemi’s character in the Big Lebowski was Donnie, but I learned from this puzzle it is DONNY.

  6. Margaret says:

    I had an absurd amount of trouble with 48A in the LAT. So sure the answer was SAY, because if I have my SAY, it’s all up to me. And yet NOTOa isn’t a thing! Took me so long to realize it was SKY. So long. Might be a rough day ahead.

  7. Harry says:

    I loved the clue in the LAT “Square Root.” The theme was trees, and they all have roots.

  8. Bruce N Morton says:

    Just to give a contrary opinion, I cannot imagine a puzzle less on my wavelength than the AVVCX. I had no idea what many of the clues meant. I didn’t come close to finishing it and even when I looked at the answers in despair, I had no idea what they meant, even after I understood that letters had to be added.

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