Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jonesin' untimed (Derek) 


LAT untimed (Derek) 


NYT 4:04 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Xword Nation untimed (Janie) 


John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 27 17, no 0627

The theme is things softball or baseball players do at bat when they’re not succeeding:

  • 20a. [Slight sense that something is seriously shady], WHIFF OF SCANDAL. I’m not fully sold on WHIFF OF SCANDAL as a dictionary-grade, crossword-worthy term. When the batter whiffs, she swings and misses.
  • 32a. [One who really brings out the crowds], FAN FAVORITE. Another swing and a miss with fan.
  • 40a. [Military unit assembled for sudden attack], STRIKE FORCE. That third strike is trouble.
  • 48a. [Fight to the bitter end … or a hint to the starts of 20-, 32- and 40-Across], GO DOWN SWINGING.

My husband, who watched the Cubs beat the Nats tonight in TV, likes the theme.

Obligatory list of “What are these doing in a Tuesday puzzle?” answers: PACA ARNO SEGO DIRK STYE NOLE AMICI GYRE. I’d have liked GYRE better clued with reference to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch instead of [Circular or spiral motion]. I’m sure some of these entries could have been removed from the grid with a little more effort.

On the plus side, PRE-ALGEBRA, the UNDERWORLD, HALF-LIFE, and ROSE GOLD are lovely.

Three clues:

  • 5d. [Bad state to be in], CHAOS. Is it really, though? It doesn’t make my top five bad states to be in (despair definitely outranks chaos).
  • 28d. [Quaint dagger], DIRK. The world needs a new famous dude named DIRK, because this crosswordese is musty.
  • 43d. [Annoying critic], GADFLY. Hey! Watch it. :-)

3.3 stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Downloads” — Jim’s review

Blogging while on vicodin. We’ll see how this goes…

Today we have a synonym theme in which the second word of or our theme answers can be taken to mean “a lot of.”

From left to right:

WSJ – Tue, 6.27.17 – “Downloads” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 28d [Future building spaces, perhaps] VACANT LOTS
  • 5d [Inflatable transports] RUBBER RAFTS
  • 17d [Sports game outcomes] FINAL SCORES
  • 24d [1955 hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford] SIXTEEN TONS
  • 11d [Refuse piles] TRASH HEAPS. In the UK, “piles” means “hemorrhoids,” so I took the clue to mean, “Just say no to hemorrhoids.”

Really solid entries that do the job cleanly. The only common word I can think of that’s missing is “oceans.” Oh, and “boatloads.” Any others you can think of?

As usual, Zhouqin fills the great with great phrases, especially those of the spoken kind. In that SW corner alone is “WHO’S THIS?” “NOT THAT!” and “SO SUE ME!” Fantastic! Elsewhere there’s “OH SURE” and “GO TO IT!”. Other sparkly bits include the modern ROOMBA, as well as BEASTIE, FIRE LANE, PETUNIAS, STERLING, and ENIGMA.

All that with very little to dislike, and certainly nothing that would count as egregious.

Ok. Meds are really kicking in, so I’ll say adios until mañana.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 317), “Having Contractions”—Janie’s take

It’s officially summertime now, when “the livin’ is easy.” And in that vein, oh boy, is the solvin’ today smooth. While the title might suggest an obstetrically themed puzzle, chillax. No labor pains involved. Just three long, two-word themers (one a grid-spanner), following the same pattern: {X}body’s ___. This is the non-possessive “apostrophe ‘s’,” btw, the contraction for the word “is.” And this description is sounding far drier than the results, so lemme get to ’em.

  • 20A. NOBODY’S PERFECT [Children’s book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney]. If you don’t know Ms. Matlin, (among many other things) she’s also a hearing-impaired actor who picked up an Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser God. Director Randa Haines won a Berlin Silver Bear “For a movie which brings an extraordinary theme to public attention in a sensible way.” Worth a look.
  • 37A. “SOMEBODY’S CRYING” [1995 single by Chris Isaak]. Hope it’s not you! Completely new to me. The backstory is pretty genre-appropriate and also (as he describes it) both kinda pathetic and kinda charming. Sometimes art can be very therapeutic…
  • 54A. EVERYBODY’S FINE [2009 Robert De Niro/Drew Barrymore film]. Never saw it, but I think I put it on my Amazon Prime “watch list.” From the description, I think this, too, may be worth the look.

So look at this succinct and sweet theme set: a young adult book, a rockabilly hit, and a film that’s both decent and recent. A trio that moves from NOBODY’S to SOMEBODY’S to EVERYBODY’S. There’s an understated elegance in the (ostensible) simplicity of this progression that sings to me—and I hope that you took as much enjoyment from it as I did.

I also took great enjoyment from MUMBO-JUMBO and AMITYVILLE (clued in connection with The AMITYVILLE Horror), and (because procedurals-can-be-fun) PROFILER with its Criminal Minds tie-in. ROOT ROT is not something produce farmers much like to encounter, but I confess to liking the way its looks in the grid, where I see it as ROO TROT. And then there’s the cousin to MUMBO-JUMBO [Gibberish], in the cluing of ALL TALK as [Like many gasbags]. (Draw your own parallels to Washington, DC.)

While I liked the specificity of [Old Fashioned or Mojito, say] as a clue, I’m not convinced that BAR ORDER is a “real thing” as such. If you’ve got the BOOZE at home, you don’t need be at a BAR to enjoy either. And COCKTAIL (my first thought) would fit the grid. BAR ORDER sounds a bit made up to me and might work more convincingly in relation to legal matters. Or not. Either way, [“I REST my case!”] And… ymmv.

The Scrabbly LARYNX looks good in the grid, not to mention THE NEA [PBS funder]. Let’s hope that congress will manage to see the value in continuing to provide some federal funding for cultural programs. Sheesh!

The image-making clues [Bench-clearing brawl] and [Remove excess lipstick] do lots to enliven MELEE and BLOT. And there’s more visual appeal to be found with the [Rainbow creator] PRISM resting in proximity to those [Shimmery birthstones] OPALS. Finally, in the clues-that-made-me-sit-up department, recalling a lot of the lively commenting here, I smiled broadly at the pairing of [Un-PC purchase?] and IMAC. (Oh, oh—and also at the non-geographic [Wild West of film] MAE pairing!)

A terrific “first Crossword Nation puzzle of the summer” in my book, and in yours, too, I hope. Also hope you’ll be inclined to check in below (or above…) with your own response to the puzz. Regardless (and you know the drill…), keep solving and do stop by next week!

(You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you?) 1D. [Wonder Woman’s alias] DIANA

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Parts on Back-Order” – Derek’s write-up

In the title, the word “back” appears, hinting at something possibly appearing backwards, perhaps in the circled letters? Those intuitions proved true, although the backwards appearing body parts are well hidden, and virtually unnoticeable if NOT for the circles! Only a true NPL member would find this theme!

  • 17A [1999 Drew Barrymore rom-com (and James Franco’s film debut)] NEVER BEEN KISSED
  • 37A [His first public jump in 1965 was over rattlesnakes and two mountain lions] EVEL KNIEVEL
  • 43A [Star of “The Birds” and grandmother of Dakota Johnson] TIPPI HEDREN
  • 64A [“Enough already!”] YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR!

Slight quibble that a VEIN is not as obvious a body part as the other three, which could also describe various regions of your body, but it’s still a part, and for crossword puzzle purposes, I am still impressed that Matt found enough examples to make this theme work! Now when are you going to write a flat for The Enigma that uses this same convention?! 4.4 stars.

Just a few notes:

    • 67A [Constitutional amendment that established Prohibition] EIGHTEENTH – I really should memorize these amendments. They come up all the time!
    • 70A [Online magazine once owned by Microsoft] SLATE – I think I had heard this before, but still a fun fact. And a gimme if you knew this already!
    • 1D [Frank Herbert sci-fi series] DUNE – My wife loves this series, but she loves all things sci-fi. I think I saw the movie a million years ago, so maybe I will dig it out and watch it with my son someday.
    • 10D [“Pretty sneaky, __” (Connect Four ad line)] SIS – I haven’t seen this in forever. I wonder how Matt thought to use this clue? Here is the ad!

  • 27D [Via __ (famous Italian road)] APPIA – The Appian Way, in English. I think this road was around in Bible times. I will go to Italy one day and walk on it, on my way to a pizzeria!
  • 35D [Fictional beer on “King of the Hill”] ALAMO – Another great trivia clue! They are always standing there drinking beer, I just didn’t know what it was!
  • 37D [Wallace of “Stargate Universe” or Wallach of “The Magnificent Seven”] ELI – Or [Wallach of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”], which is how I remember him!

That is all for today! Have a great week!

Herre Schouwerwou’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

This is the first time I am encountering Herre Schouwerwou’s byline, and I hope it isn’t the last! A good puzzle, a seemingly fresh idea, tightly executed, and lots of good, easy entries. Did you know there are at least four ways to spell the “our” sound?

  • 17A [Time for discount drinks] HAPPY HOUR
  • 23A [Homicide: Life on the Street” Emmy winner] ANDRE BRAUGHER
  • 48A [Dictator’s authority] ABSOLUTE POWER
  • 59A [Kiefer Sutherland’s “24” role] JACK BAUER
  • 36A [Old group of movie kids that, in a way, the answers to starred clues could be a member of] OUR GANG

So we have -our, -augher, -auer, and -ower. Like I said: well executed, and a nice revealer entry in the middle of the grid. This one was fun! 4.5 stars.

Just a few mentionables:

  • 14A [Honking birds] GEESE – The only negative to my morning runs on the local Riverwalk in the morning: geese everywhere.
  • 29A [King’s scary St. Bernard] CUJO – I have never seen this movie, but I do like Stephen King’s brand of storytelling. The Dark Tower comes out this year, but do I have time to read all seven books??
  • 54A [Wrestling’s __ Flair] RIC – I am NOT a fan of wrestling. It has been around for years, and some of these wrestlers are household names, but I don’t get it.
  • 8D [“Programs! Git __ programs here!”] YER – Imagine a barker at a baseball game, and you will hear this phrase!
  • 28D [2017 “Twin Peaks” airer, for short] SHO – The reboot of Twin Peaks came on Showtime. Didn’t see either version!
  • 49D [Stick passed on a track] BATON – Just watched the US Track and Field Championships this weekend to determine who makes the US squad for the World Championships in London this August. There are relay races at the Worlds, but there were none at this meet!

I will see everybody this Saturday for the Challenger puzzle!

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9 Responses to Tuesday, June 27, 2017

  1. Ethan says:

    This theme had promise, but maybe needed some extra time in the oven.

    WHIFF* and FAN are pretty much synonymous. They can be intransitive verbs, so a batter can whiff or fan, or transitive verbs, so a pitcher can whiff hitters or fan hitters. But STRIKE doesn’t belong in the same category. Three strikes, as in the noun sense, are obviously a strikeout, but there is no verb STRIKE with a meaning that would parallel WHIFF and FAN. Plus a STRIKE isn’t necessarily an instance of swinging and missing, which WHIFFING and FANNING are, and which the theme revealer suggests.

    *I agree with the reviewer that WHIFF OF SCANDAL doesn’t quite work. I think of it as being a negative polarity item, as the linguists who do syntax say. It works in sentences with negation like, “we can’t afford there to be even a whiff of scandal” but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in a positive statement like, “there was a whiff of scandal.” Having said that, I did kind of like seeing it, just because it was evocative and interesting. FAN FAVORITE was also a nice debut entry.

    • Steve Manion says:

      I don’t disagree with your comments. I usually think that the pitcher fanned the batter. The batter whiffed at the pitch.

      Fun puzzle


  2. Lise says:

    I did not know that WHIFF and FAN are baseball terms. But I know I’m in the minority. There seems to be a fairly high correlation between baseball fans and crossword solvers, and Now I Know.

    I thought the long non-theme answers were excellent. DIRK was okay with me. I’ve been listening to the Outlander books (for the second time): lotta DIRKs in there.

    WSJ: Absolutely excellent!

  3. artlvr says:

    WSJ — one more for “a lot of” : celebrated horse Seattle Slew, Triple Crown Winner

  4. Sarah says:

    NYT theme is too specialized for a general audience. That definition of FAN is quite obscure.

  5. Brian says:

    In case you missed it, Finn Vigeland whipped up a much better Harry Potter tribute puzzle than yesterday’s: https://twitter.com/fvigeland/status/879567686900084736

  6. doug says:

    Re: WSJ – finished it, but boring. Didn’t get the theme until reading this blog, and after reading it, meh. Sorry.

  7. Jeff says:

    WHIFF OF SCANDAL was fine by me. But I’m not a baseball watcher and had no idea FAN was a baseball term, so the theme was confusing to me.

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