Wednesday, May 24, 2017

AV Club 11:02 (Ben) 


LAT 4:21 (Gareth) 


NYT  3:38 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

A punny stroll through the life of a plumber. Fun theme!

NYT 5/24, solution grid

  • 20a [Vacillates, as a plumber?] is, of course, RUNS HOT AND COLD.
  • 26a [Exhausted, as a plumber?] is ALL TAPPED OUT.
  • 43a [Wasted, to a plumber?] would be DOWN THE DRAIN. I put TUBES at first. I was wrong. This is better. This is why I don’t construct.
  • 52a [Anxiety, to a plumber?] is that SINKING FEELING.

I’m starting to feel sorry for our plumber. He’s not having a good day. I enjoyed the theme because it was amusing and easily solvable without being predictable or repetitive. It’s difficult to come up with good early-to-midweek themes, and we should appreciate the good ones. This is a good one.

A few other things:

  • 17a [Audibly appalled] is AGASP, which is one of those words no one ever uses. It should be retired.
  • Homer appears twice. Not the Greek poet; the animated Simpson. We have the classic D’OH and Homer’s dad, ABE. Everything I know about the Simpsons, I learned from crossword puzzles.
  • I like the long non-theme down answers in the SW: I’M NOT SURE, clued as [“Maybe ask someone else] and [One doing sketch work?], which we know from the ? is not going to be an painter. It’s a GAG WRITER.
  • I also liked the clue for 53d: [Initialism whose third initial often isn’t true]. The answer is IMHO. Methinks he doth protest too much.
  • 51d [Having one’s wisdom teeth pulled, e.g.] will give lots of solvers a sympathetic wince. The answer is AGONY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a family in Game of Thrones named STARK. I’m going out on a limb and guessing they have nothing to do with Iron Man. Everything I know about GOT, I learned from crosswords.

I leave you with a classic from The Electric Company.

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Non-Puzzle” — Jim’s review

To make sense of the theme, re-parse the title. It’s not really a “Non-Puzzle,” it’s a “No-N Puzzle.” This is made clear by the theme entries which are missing their Ns.

WSJ – Wed, 5.24.17 – “Non-Puzzle” by Pancho Harrison

  • 17a [Siesta for a Panera employee?] BAKER’S DOZE. …dozen.
  • 24a [Marriage-age Mumbai boy, maybe?] PROMISED LAD. …land. Why India? Is this practice common there?
  • 35a [Diploma?] GRAD PRIZE. Grand… It’s that time of year!
  • 49a [Result of van Gogh’s depression?] EAR DISASTER. Near… Are we okay with making light of van Gogh’s self-mutilation? I confess I’ve clued ear-related words in similar fashion in puzzles I’ve made, but I don’t think they ever made it to publication.
  • 58a [“That dress looks great on you,” maybe?] CLOTHES LIE. …line. I don’t think this is the right lie. The stereotypical lie is, “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat.” Not that I condone such behavior.

After I figured out what was going on with the theme answers, a glance at the title got me to re-parse it as I stated above. That of course led me to think, “With a title like that, there better not be any Ns in the grid.” And there aren’t. Not an N in sight.

No doubt this was pretty difficult to achieve, what with N being one of the most common letters. And no doubt this is the reason why we see more icky fill than usual like SLA, SSTS, ESE, ISR, and ODESA.

But my initial feeling was that the theme entries should be tightened up by applying some additional constraint. The fact that they had Ns taken away isn’t usually enough. There needed to be some other commonality.

But when you take away Ns from the whole grid, that really ups the ante and probably provided enough of a challenge for the constructor to come up with something relatively clean.

Plus all the corners feature three 7s (wow!), and we get a couple of 9s (OVERTURES and CEASELESS) thrown in for good measure.

On the whole then, while there are some less savory bits of fill, this is an impressive grid given the constraints.

A couple clues of note to end with:

  • 15a [Lou who produced Carole King’s “Tapestry”]. ADLER. We’re supposed to know that? Sherlock Holmes’s “The Woman” has much more currency given the popularity of the BBC show.
  • 5a [Company that bought about a million feet of blue ribbon in 1892]. PABST. Back before printed labels were the thing, bottles were embossed. The company, whose product had won numerous awards, decided to make their beer stand out on shelves by hand-tying silk blue ribbons to every bottle. The more you know

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX crossword, “Sound Off” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AV Club puzzle took me a sec to get what was going on, but once I did, it was a very clever execution:

  • 18D:Totally done with an old Clooney drama, perhaps ready to binge-watch “Chicago Hope” instead? —  OVERPOWER
  • 26A:Sniffles offered as a promotional trial? — FREEZING COLD
  • 55A:”Ted” compared to “Mary Poppins,” e.g.? — ZAPRUDER FILM
  • 66A:Place where this puzzle’s author can always drink? — WHAMMY BAR
  • 38A: Like some headphones, and what the solver must engage in to hear this puzzle’s theme answers properly — NOISE CANCELING

I cracked 66A first and promptly had NO idea how that tied in to the theme, other than knowing that 38A suggested there was something I was going to need to do to make that answer, WHAMMY BAR, make sense with the clue, which seemed to indicate some kind of BAR other than the WHAMMY varietal.  Once I got that they were NOISE CANCELING headphones, and FREEZING COLD, it all fell into place – each of these answers contains a noise that must be cancelled out for it to resolve to what’s being clued:


Another week, another clever theme. ZAPRUDER FILM turning into RUDER FILM was possibly my favorite of the batch.

(These are fifteen or so VERY IMPORTANT minutes from a podcast I love, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, talking about everyone’s favorite Ghostbusters ghost, SLIMER, who is 52D in today’s puzzle)

Other things I liked: Congresswoman MAXINE Waters, BEL Paese cheese, FAT LIP, SKYLAB, SNOWCAP, ONE OR TWO, PFFT, NON-URBAN, EZ PASS, and F THAT

4/5 stars.  Really dug this one, hope you did too!

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

LA Times

Today we’re playing dot to dot… The theme is CONNECTSTHEDOTS and letters DOT are found between two words in several answers: TORPE(DOT)UBES, AN(DOT)HERS, JU(DOT)HROWS and AVOCA(DOT)REE.

When used poorly, stacked theme answers leads to a lot of junk, but Ms. Burnikel manages it effortlessly. EGYPTAIR and NEONCARROT are both themeless-grade non-theme entries, and very little caused much in the way of frowning, except MEBE which provided the single, big “clunk”.

Somewhat bland theme, but well-executed and a carefully made grid: 3.5 Stars, Gareth

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9 Responses to Wednesday, May 24, 2017

  1. Evad says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen TREE used as a verb before.

  2. JohnH says:

    WSJ: Why India? My thought exactly. (I thought ODESA was icky, too. ISR and SST in singular or plural seem to turn up often, though. I vaguely remember Lou Adler but without being able to say what music he produced. His name turns up in a Simon and Garfunkle song I half remember as well. I suppose as an alternative clue for it there’s always the psychoanalyst.)

    • Martin says:

      Odesans think “Odessa” is icky. Odesa is the transliteration from Ukrainian. Odessa is the transliteration of the Russian word. Ukraine has asked English-speaking countries to adopt Odesa but the world, once again, turns a blind eye to Russian imperialism, cultural in this case.

  3. ahimsa says:

    WSJ: The PROMISED LAD theme entry brought up thoughts of underage marriage which is pretty icky. And it doesn’t just happen in other countries. It also happens in the USA.

    And just because this happens mostly to girls, and the theme entry was a boy, didn’t make it any better for me.

    Sorry to be such a downer.

  4. David L says:

    I didn’t do the WSJ puzzle but I imagine the PROMISED LAD answer is meant to refer to arranged marriages — although I think it’s usually the woman who’s promised to the man rather than vice versa.

    I’m not going to touch the question of whether it’s a distasteful clue/answer or not….

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the AVCX once I cracked it, which took a while.

  6. jagoandlitefoot says:

    Got way too tripped up by I’M NOT SURE on the NYT – first filled it in as I DON’T KNOW, then I DON’T CARE. Maybe that says something about me, haha.

  7. Tim Rueger says:

    AVCX was nice work. But should 54A NEO have been clued as “Agent Smith’s archenemy”? I don’t recall an Agent Jones in the Matrix movies.

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