Wednesday, June 7, 2017

AV Club 9:10 (Ben) 


LAT 5:27 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:03 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This is probably a personal best for me on a Wednesday crossword – or possibly on any NYT. I don’t think I’ve gotten under 3:00. It played like a Monday puzzle with a Monday theme. I didn’t get 1a until I had a few crossings but everything else fell right away.

NYT Solution Grid- 6/7/17

The third theme entry gave me the connection.

  • 16a [Slimy outdoor pest] is a GARDEN SLUG.
  • 24a [Item in the lingerie department] is a GARTER BELT. Not quite obsolete but these days worn primarily for, um, recreational purposes.
  • 33a [Classic 1976 Ramones song that begins “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!”] is BLITZKRIEG BOP.
  • 45a [Diamond-patterned footwear] is the classic ARGYLE SOCK.
  • 54a [Improvised] is OFF THE CUFF.

SLUG, BELT, BOP, SOCK and CUFF are all kinds of punches. That’s the whole thing. Consistent, well-clued, and not particularly interesting. We might consider 55d [Boxing decision, for short] part of the theme, although it’s not clued that way. It’s TKO.

Our esteemed blogmistress just told me she found the theme hard to discern. Interesting. What say you all?

A few other things:

  • 1a [Worthless mounds] turn out to be ASH HEAPS, which makes me think of The Great Gatsby. Emma read Gatsby for English this year. She didn’t like it. Sigh.
  • 11d [Hardy work shoe feature] is not STEEL TOE. It’s STEEL TIP, which I haven’t heard used in reference to shoes, although Google tells me it’s common usage.
  • 21d [Like antlers and pitchforks] is probably the most interesting clue in the whole puzzle. The answer is PRONGED.
  • Props for cluing SISSY as [Actress Spacek] instead of a slur aimed at gay men.
  • 49a [“I’ve seen better”] is how I feel about this puzzle. Definitely MEH. I’ve also seen worse, to be fair.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Amazon calls its Kindle technology E-INK.

I leave you with the Ramones. Of course. I apologize for the lack of visual interest.

Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Know Your Place” — Jim’s review

Phrases beginning with “IN” are used to locate, literally, certain words identified by the clues.

WSJ – Wed, 6.7.17 – “Know Your Place” by Jeff Chen

  • 16a [Reef’s place?] IN FREEFALL
  • 23a [Copa’s place?] IN LOCO PARENTIS. Not sure that I like the inconsistency here where LOCO actually means “place.” It might be serendipitous, but it’s also a bit distracting.
  • 46a [Twit’s place?] IN CONFLICT WITH. This phrase feels weakened by the final preposition. The others are solid “IN phrases,” but this is a bit roll-your-owny.
  • 56a [Hero’s place?] IN THE ROUGH

It wasn’t until after I had fully uncovered two theme answers (the last two) before I started to get an inkling of what was going on. And then it wasn’t so much “Aha!” as “Oh.” As in, “Oh, that’s it.”

I think maybe it’s just that third theme entry that’s got me down. The rest are really quite good.

There are a great many interesting non-fill words in the grid like MOUNT FUJI, MEL GIBSON, ONE AND ALL, PLAY CUPID, TREFOILS, and SNIFTER.

But what I think is really eating at me is that the clues seemed overloaded with trivia. Cases in point:

  • 1a [Visits a souk] SHOPS. A souk is an Arab marketplace or bazaar.
  • 15a [MGM co-founder Marcus] LOEW. Hint: He’s not Metro, Goldwyn, nor Mayer.
  • 20a [“Dachsund Doll” sculptor]. ARP.
  • 44a [Audrey’s “Robin and Marian” co-star]. SEAN. That’s Connery, SEAN Connery.
  • 51a [Lego brand for youngsters]. DUPLO. A gimme for me since we still have a binful in the house, but maybe not so easy for others.
  • 52a [Former baseball commissioner Vincent]. FAY.
  • 62a [Ransom of automakers]. OLDS. I know we just saw a similar clue recently, but still.

That feels like a lot of trivia; and that’s just the Acrosses. There are more in the Downs, the toughest one being 4d‘s [Capital of Mauritius] (PORT LOUIS). Yeesh!

And one other entry irked me: IT’S A JOB clued as [“Pays the rent”]. I think most people would say “It’s a living” instead.

Looking at the finished grid, it’s filled nicely, like yesterday’s puzzle. It should be more fun than it is. But where yesterday’s was enjoyable from start to finish, this one felt bogged down with trivia-laden clues.

One final note: 55d [Bill’s partner] is COO, as in, apparently, “bill and COO,” which means to kiss and cuddle. I have never, ever heard this. Is this in the common vernacular?

P.S. Hey, I got one for ya…[David’s place?]

Jake Halperin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Today’s theme is fairly by the book. The revealer is SPLITHAIRS, and the theme answers have the pattern HA*IR. There are only three themers, and I had only heard of one of them. That doesn’t happen to me too often, but both seem perfectly legitimate. HANDBELLCHOIR seems to be a (American) thing; never even encountered the word HANDBELL before, though it seems to be a… bell; and HAITIANDOLLAR was mysterious, if inferrable. I know what HOMEREPAIR is, at least!

Not a lot of remarks on the clues/entries, for better or worse. Another moment of culture shock was [Soda machine freebie] for STRAW. How does that even work?? WATERRIDE, RAGTRADE and ONMYHONOR were among the choice bits in the longer answers…

Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “Heady Mixture” — Ben’s Review

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  It was great to see people and say hi at the Indie 500 this year, and I’m already looking forward to Lollapuzzoola in August.  Let’s get to today’s AVCX, which felt oddly straightforward to me:


After last week’s fantastic puzzle, this felt oddly disappointing.  I fully admit there’s something else (or an overarching theme) to these clues/answers I may be completely missing, but the CLUE –> ANAGRAM OF CLUE + ANAGRAM INDICATOR structure of the theme clues felt like something I’ve seen many a time before, which is fine.  But it’s just fine, not great.

Things I liked: WAFT clued as “Float like a fart”, SLAP bass, AIDES (as in “Veep extras”), ESTRAGON, ALL-TERRAIN, broccoli FLORETS, agreement from AVCX that ADAM Sandler’s movies are synonymous with “peak white mediocrity and cashing in forever on a modicum of fame”, and completely losing it at “Prepare, as a package before a date?” as the clue for MANSCAPE

3/5 stars.  Okay puzzle is just okay – there are some great clues in there, but nothing new is brought to a fairly straightforward theme, and I expect more from AVCX.

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20 Responses to Wednesday, June 7, 2017

  1. Davis Doherty says:

    I similarly ended with a Monday-like time on this one. I prefer a little more bite in my mid-week puzzle. This one went so fast I didn’t even think to notice the theme.

  2. Mira says:

    Definitely my best time for a NYT Wednesday by far. Below my average Monday time by a bit. I did not get the theme, seems a bit thin, especially with no revealer.

  3. Ethan says:

    Wow. 70 words with 5 theme entries. Eight entries were debuts, including TAKE A KNEE and LOW RIDER which are stacked. That SE is an absolute marvel.

    Sometime I think this blog should do an experiment where the reviewer has to do and review the puzzle without knowing what outlet published it. (Something would have to be done to scrub the puzzle’s identifiable hallmarks, like the mini-essays that Fireball and AVCX sometimes use as clues.) I can say without exaggeration that today’s NYT was as impressive as anything AVCX has put out in the last couple of months (I didn’t get a Fireball subscription this year, so I can’t speak to that), but without the indie label and cred, it’s not going to get the praise it deserves on this site, I’m afraid.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I am generally unimpressed by feats of construction. I don’t construct, so I probably don’t have a full understanding of what goes into it. I care about the solve. Some of the contributors to this blog are constructors and might have had a different reaction. Maybe.

      If this had been an indie puzzle, the cluing would have been much more interesting and the solve much more fun. The SE has three stacked interesting entries. The clues are straightforward definitions, and that makes it boring to solve. The grid is only one part of the puzzle; if the grid is solid (which this one is), the clues make or break the experience and difficulty for the solver. I also blog the Fireball; if I find one boring, I’ll say so.

    • Cindy Lawson says:

      Yep, agree. AVCX was clunky, gets a pass, NYT was phenomenal, gets a ho-hum. Gets old. Jenni isn’t as bad as Amy in this regard.

      Of course, neither are as bad as Michael Sharp, who just comes off as unhinged these days.

      Came here just to see if anyone found the Sandler clue in AVCX as offensive as I did. I know Adam and he’s a super nice guy, who doesn’t deserve the race-baiting clue, just continue not watching his movies and move your holier-than-thou self along.

  4. David L says:

    STEELTIP doesn’t sound right to me either. I googled ‘steel tip…’ and the first footwear-related item that came up was a page of ads for sneakers, all described as ‘steel toe.’

    I thought FEASTON SETON NOTIN SOLDTO BLAREOUT were a little too much. I didn’t get the theme about synonyms for ‘hit’ and I thought the thematic element was going to be something to do with all the prepositions tacked on to the end of two-word entries.

  5. janie says:

    while STEEL TOE went into my grid first, and is definitely on the ascent, STEEL TIP appears to be more than legit.


    • Jenni Levy says:

      I know. I still don’t like it much, but I don’t have a steel to to stand on :)

    • ahimsa says:

      I don’t know anything about STEEL TIP shoes/boots but I didn’t mind the entry itself.

      But I’m curious about the use of ngram in this case. If you click through there are no references to shoes or boots on the first few pages. I did see a few references to STEEL TIP darts, which is something that I have heard of.

      Again, not complaining about puzzle, just curious rambling.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    Easy, clean NYT. Had no idea what the theme was, but love the fill!

  7. Bruce N Morton says:

    E-ink???? You gotta be kidding. At least it was easy to hold my nose and enter it from the crossings.

    • Beth says:

      Actually, E ink is a real technology. It’s why I have a Kindle for reading books instead of using an app on a tablet.

  8. Slice says:

    If anyone is interested, I would love some constructive feedback on my puzzle. You can find it at

  9. Papa John says:

    I was really hoping for some explanation of the AVX but Ben seems to think its too obvious to discuss. Rats! Anagrams? Of what? Anagram indicator? Huh? I have no idea.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      The first word of each answer is an anagram of the clue, and the second word is the “anagram indicator,” which tells you how you got from the first answer word to the clue. GRUBER is a BURGER FLIPPER – if you “flip” BURGER, you get GRUBER. Does that help?

  10. ggsf says:

    Re: WSJ and Ben’s unfamiliarity with “bill and COO”. Hate to say it, but that’s definitely an in-the-language phrase, Ben, for those of us of a certain age.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks for that. It was me, though, not Ben.

      Ben is of a certain age (in this case, younger than me), so he may not know it either.

  11. Bob says:

    Lik Amy had difficulty discerning the theme. Didn’t really like the puzzle overall and to whomever brought it up EINK is terrible in my book

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